Leaving Philip for a short time in the hands of his captor, we will follow Zeke on his errand. He didn’t have to go as far as Mr. Dunbar’s house, for he met Frank Dunbar about a quarter of a mile this side of it.
Now, between Frank Dunbar and Zeke Tucker there was no love lost. There had been a difficulty between them, originating at school, which need not be particularly referred to. Enough that it led to Zeke’s cordially disliking Frank, while the latter, who was a frank, straightforward boy, could not see anything in Mr. Tucker’s promising son to enlist either his respect or his liking.
There was a small river running through Norton, which crossed the main thoroughfare, and had to be bridged over. Frank Dunbar, fishing-line in hand, was leaning over the parapet, engaged in luring the fish from their river home. He looked up, when he saw Zeke approaching him. Not having any particular desire to hold a conversation with him, he withdrew his eyes, and again watched his line. Zeke, however, approached him with a grin of anticipated enjoyment, and hailed him in the usual style:
“Oh, it’s you, is it?” said Frank Dunbar indifferently.
“Yes it’s me. I suppose you thought it was somebody else,” chuckled Zeke, though Frank could see no cause for merriment.
“Well, I see who it is now,” he responded.
“Where is Phil Gray?” inquired Zeke, chuckling again.
“Do you want to see him?” asked Frank, rather surprised.
“Oh, no! I shall see him soon enough.”
And again Zeke chuckled.
Frank looked up.
He was expecting Philip to join him, and was, in fact, waiting for him now. Zeke’s mysterious merriment suggested that he might have met Philip—possibly bore some message from him.
“Do you know anything about Phil?” asked Frank, looking fixedly at his visitor.
“I reckon I do. I know all about him,” said Zeke, with evident enjoyment.
“Well. If you have any message from him, let me hear it.”
“You can’t guess where he is,” blurted out Zeke.
“He isn’t in any trouble, is he?” asked Frank quickly.
“No; he’s safe enough. But you needn’t expect to see him tonight.”
“Why not?” demanded Frank, not yet guessing what was likely to detain his friend.
“Because he’s at our house,” chuckled Zeke. “Dad and Squire Pope have carried him to the poorhouse, and he’s goin’ to stay there for good.”
This was a surprise. In his astonishment, Frank nearly let go his rod. He was eager now to question Zeke further.
“You don’t mean to say Phil has been carried to the poorhouse against his will?” he exclaimed.
“I reckon he was anxious to go,” said Zeke.
“Where was he when your father and Squire Pope committed this outrage?” said Frank indignantly.