When Philip came in sight of the almshouse—which he had often seen, and always considered a very dreary-looking building—he was strengthened in his determination not long to remain a tenant.
Mr. Tucker drove up to the front door with a flourish.
A hard-featured woman came out, and regarded the contents of the wagon with curiosity.
“Well, Abigail, can you take another boarder!” asked Mr. Tucker, as he descended from the wagon.
“Who is it?”
“Well, it ain’t likely to be Squire Pope!” said Joe facetiously; “and Zeke and I are regular boarders on the free list.”
“Is it that boy?”
“Yes; it’s Phil Gray.”
“Humph! boys are a trial!” remarked Mrs. Tucker, whose experience with Zeke had doubtless convinced her of this fact.
“I sha’n’t trouble you long, Mrs. Tucker,” said Philip. “I don’t intend to stay.”
“You don’t, hey?” retorted Joe Tucker, with a wolfish grin and an emphatic nod of the head. “We’ll see about that—won’t we, Squire Pope?”
“The boy is rather rebellious, Mrs. Tucker,” said the selectman. “He appears to think he knows better what is good for him than we do. You may look upon him as a permanent boarder. What he says is of no account.”
Philip said nothing, but he looked full at the squire with an unflinching gaze. If ever determination was written upon any face, it was on his.
“Come down there!” said Mrs. Tucker, addressing our hero. “You’re at home now.”
“Mr. Dunbar won’t know what has become of me,” said Philip, with a sudden thought. “They will be anxious. May I go back there and tell them where I am?”
“Do you think I am green enough for that?” Mr. Tucker, touching the side of his nose waggishly. “We shouldn’t be likely to set eyes on you again.”
“I will promise to come back here this evening,” said Philip.
“And will you promise to stay?” asked Squire Pope doubtfully.
“No, sir,” answered Philip boldly. “I won’t do that, but I will engage to come back. Then Mr. Tucker will have to look out for me, for I tell you and him frankly I don’t mean to stay.”
“Did you ever hear such talk, squire!” asked Mr. Tucker, with a gasp of incredulity. “He actually defies you, who are a selectman and an overseer of the poor.”
“So he does, Mr. Tucker. I’m shocked at his conduct.”
“Shall we let him go?”
“No, of course not.”
“I agree with you, squire. I know’d you wouldn’t agree to it. What shall I do about his wantin’ to run away?”
“It will be best to confine him just at first, Mr. Tucker.”
“I’ll shut him up in one of the attic rooms,” said Mr. Tucker.
“I think it will be the best thing to do, Mr. Tucker.”
Philip took all this very coolly. As to the way in which they proposed to dispose of him for the present he cared very little, as he did not intend stay till morning if there was any possible chance of getting away. The only thing that troubled him was the doubt and anxiety of his good friends, the Dunbars, when he did not return to the house.