“Gone!” exclaimed Mrs. Tucker, stopping short, with a saucepan in her hand.
“Gone!” ejaculated Zeke, his mouth wide open.
“I don’t believe it,” said Mrs. Tucker positively. “He couldn’t go. He’d have to jump out of the third-story window.”
“Sure enough!” said Zeke.
“I can’t help it—he’s gone,” declared Mr. Tucker. “He tied a clothesline to the bedstead and let himself down from the window. Now, I want to know who left a clothesline in the room?”
“There wasn’t any,” said Mrs. Tucker.
“Maybe he had one in his pocket,” suggested Zeke.
But this suggestion was not considered worthy of notice by his parents.
“Now I know who hit me in the nose!” exclaimed Mr. Tucker, light flashing upon him. “There was two of ’em—the ones I took for burglars.”
“Then the other one must have been Frank Dunbar,” said Mrs. Tucker.
“Zeke,” said his father, “go right off and tell Squire Pope that Philip Gray has escaped. Ask him if I can’t have him arrested for assault and battery. It’s likely he’s at Frank Dunbar’s now. We’ll have him back before the day is out, and then I’ll see he don’t get out!”
“All right, dad! As soon as I’ve had breakfast I’ll go.”
The result of Zeke’s message was that Squire Pope hurried over to the poorhouse and held a conference with Mr. and Mrs. Tucker.
The next step was that he and Joe rode over to Mr. Dunbar’s, to demand the return of the fugitive.
They found Frank splitting wood in the yard. To him they made known their errand, requesting him to call Philip out.
“He isn’t here,” answered Frank.
“Isn’t here? I don’t believe it!” said the squire hastily.
“Sorry you doubt my word, Squire Pope, but it’s just as I say.”
“Where is he, then?” demanded the squire suspiciously.
“He has left town.”
“Left town?” repeated the squire and Joe Tucker, in dismay. “Where is he gone!”
“He’s probably ten miles away by this time,” answered Frank, enjoying their perplexity. “I guess you’d better wait till he comes back.”
Joe and the squire conferred together, but no satisfactory result was arrived at, except it wouldn’t pay to pursue Philip, for two reasons—one, because they were quite uncertain in what direction he had gone; another, because, even if overtaken, they would have no authority to apprehend him, since he had been guilty of no crime.
Finally a bright idea came to the squire.
“Bring me out his fiddle,” he said to Frank. “I’m his guardian, and I will take care of it for him.”
“He carried it away with him,” said Frank. The squire’s lower jaw fell. He was defeated at all points. “I guess we can’t do nothing, under the circumstances, squire,” said Joe Tucker, scratching his head.
“I shall have to reflect upon it,” said Squire Pope, in a crestfallen tone.