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- The Boys of Bellwood School - 10/27 -
wrong. In the second place, I've promised your stepfather to take you to the academy."
"What of it? I didn't agree."
"No; but I never break my word. I'm going to fill my contract, if I have to carry you to Bellwood School."
"You'll have to do it, then," retorted Bob Upton. "I shan't budge an inch."
"I won't argue with you, Bob," said Frank evenly. "I'll give you some advice----"
"Don't want none," flared up Bob.
"Then I'll give you two minutes to resume the tramp."
Frank took out his watch and held it in his hand, surveying his opponent with a pleasant smile. Bob Upton with scowling brows dug his shoes into the ground for sixty seconds, and then began to back away.
"It won't do," said Frank, stepping after him and seizing his arm firmly. "Come, now, be a good fellow."
"You let me alone."
There was a vigorous struggle. Bob was stoutly built, but he was no match for Frank. The latter laughed at his threatening struggles.
"Give me a chance to fix my shoe, will you?" growled Bob as he gave up the fight and Frank released him. Then he stood patiently awaiting his pleasure, while his companion fumbled at his feet.
Bob's back was to Frank, but the latter suspected no trick. Of a sudden, however, Bob whipped off both shoes, flinging them into the creek, his cap after them, stripped his coat from place and tossed it also into the water. Then he flopped flat to the ground.
"I won't go another foot," he declared. "I'll rip every stitch of clothes on me to tatters and I'll fight like a wildcat before I'll make another step."
Frank's eyes flashed. His settled will showed in his resolute face.
"All right," he said quietly. "If you want to be handled like a wildcat, I can give you the treatment."
Quick as a flash Frank sprang to a plank reaching a few feet out into the stream. It appeared to have been a landing place for small boats. Lying across it was a piece of rope, evidently used in securing some water craft. Seizing this, Frank made a leap back to his stubborn companion, jumped squarely astride of him, and snatching his knife from his pocket, cut the rope in two. In a jiffy he had bound the struggling hands of Bob. He performed the same function for his feet. Then, arising, he looked down steadily at his helpless captive.
"I can carry you easily that way," he observed.
Frank went along the banks of the stream until he found a long branch. There was little current to the rivulet, and he soon fished out the floating coat and cap. One of the shoes had sunk, but it was in shallow water, and he managed to rescue this also.
"You're making a good deal of trouble, Bob," he remarked, "but you'll think better of it when you get cooled down."
All the stubborn resistance began to fade from the face of the wretched lad. He realized that he had found his master. The mute misery and helplessness in his eyes appealed more strongly to Frank's sympathies than had his former unpleasant mood.
"See here, Bob," said Frank, sitting down beside his companion, "while these articles are drying, better listen a bit to reason from a fellow who wants to be your friend. Will you?"
Bob turned his face away, his laps puckering.
"Oh, leave me alone," he sobbed. "I've got no friends. I never had any. I wish I could die and be out of everybody's way, that's what I wish."
"See here, Bob," said Frank, "that's downright wicked, if you mean it. I'd like to know what's the matter with you? Can't you see any sunshine in life?"
"Sunshine!" retorted Bob hotly. "Oh, yes, lots of it. Blazing, blistering sunshine in the harvest fields, where those big, selfish louts my stepfather told you about were loafing. Many a night I've crawled up to bed so tired and sore I could hardly get there, to have those fellows torment me or kick and cuff me because I wouldn't sneak down into the cellar and steal cider or preserves for them. I tell you, my stepfather has treated me wrong. I tell you, that heartless family of his had made my life so dark, I'm just discouraged."
Bob Upton broke down and cried bitterly. Frank felt very sorry for him.
"Bob," he said, "I'm glad you told me all of this. I begin to understand now. They haven't given you a fair chance; I see that. They've cowed you down and have nearly broken your spirit. All right. Show them that you're going to make something of yourself, all the same. We all have our troubles," and Frank told something of his own irksome, unpleasant life with his fault-finding aunt.
It was by slow degrees that Bob Upton livened up and then braced up. No one could help liking Frank Jordan.
"You're a cracking good fellow," said the farmer boy at last. "I hope it isn't like the spurts Jeff Upton used to have one day, and wallop me like thunder the next."
"I'll see to it that no one wallops you or jumps on you," promised Frank. "You keep right with me till you learn the ropes and unlearn all the bitterness those relations of yours have put into you. I'm going to have you and me paired off for the same room, if I can."
"Say," choked up Bob at this, "any fellow who would do that, after seeing how measly mean I can be, is a brick. Just wait. When the time comes that I can show you what I think of you, I'll be there, true as steel."
"I believe you will," said Frank heartily. "You've been a good deal of a martyr, Bob Upton, and--there's your chance to be a hero! Quick, for mercy's sake, stop that runaway!"
Frank shouted the words excitedly. He had removed the ropes from Bob's wrists and ankles, and they had been standing near the coat spread out on the grass while they conversed. A clatter and wild shouts had suddenly pierced the air, and whirling about Frank saw coming down a steep roadway toward the river a spirited team of horses attached to a light carriage.
It had two seats, but the front one held no driver. In the rear seat, clinging frantically to one another and swung dangerously about by the swaying vehicle, were two affrighted children.
Frank was speedy, but Bob Upton was quicker. It amazed and gratified Frank to see his companion dart off like a shot. He himself ran to where the road curved down to the river to obstruct the runaway's progress when it reached that point. Bob, however, who knew all about horses from his farm experience, had made a rush on a short cut to intercept the runaway horses before they reached a spot where the descent was sharp, and where deep ravines showed on either side of the winding roadway.
Frank ran with all his might up the road, but Bob Upton by his short cut reached the point where it narrowed in an incredibly brief space of time. He had to catch at saplings and bushes to make the ascent. He was so far in advance of our hero that, while Frank continued running, he foresaw that he could not be first on the scene, and he watched Bob's progress with admiration and suspense.
Bob Upton did a risky thing. He seemed to think only of diverting or stopping the runaway team--anything to keep the spirited horses from reaching the dangerous point where the road narrowed.
Frank saw him pick up a great tree branch lying on the incline. Bearing this before him, Bob ran at the fast approaching horses with a loud shout.
Squarely into their foam-flecked faces the farm boy drove the branch, dropped hold of it, and let it rest on the carriage pole. The horses reared and tried to turn. Quick as lightning Bob grabbed a bit strap in either hand, gave them a jerk, then grasped the nose of each horse, and brought them to a panting standstill.
A man, the driver, pale and breathless, came running up from behind as Frank reached the spot.
"Oh, you've saved them! Oh, I'll never leave them unhitched again! Boy, you shall have my month's wages--all I've got--for this!" shouted the man hysterically.
"Get the lines," directed Bob. "The horses are restive yet. Hold them till I see what the matter is."
His practiced eye had noticed one of the horses acting queerly with one foot. As the driver gained the front seat and held the team under control, Bob picked up the off foot of one of the animals.
"This is what started them," he explained, holding up a sharp, long thorn.
"Say, who are you--what's your name? I want to see you again about this."
"Nothing to see me about," responded Bob. "Glad I was on hand, that's all. If you loosened that check rein your horses will go a great deal easier."
"He's Robert Upton," spoke Frank, determined to give his valorous comrade all the distinction he deserved. "Bob," he added, as the restive team proceeded on their way, "you have been something of a martyr--now you are a positive hero."
"Pshaw! that little thing!" observed Bob carelessly, but his face flushed at Frank's honest compliment. "I've had a wild stallion drag me all around a forty-foot lot, and never got a scratch."
"You've made a fine beginning in the new life, Bob; you can't deny that," said Frank. "Come, get on your duds and let's travel."
Half an hour later, within the classic precincts of the big hall of learning on the hill, Frank Jordan and Robert Upton were duly registered as students of Bellwood School.
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