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- The Boys of Bellwood School - 2/27 -
as did he of all the interesting things in the woods. Frank drew his fishing-pole around and upward, until its willowy end rested against the straw-like strands by which the hornets' nest was attached to the limb.
Very gently he got a hold on the connecting strands of the double nest and detached it from the limb. Then he lowered it, carefully poising it with a swaying motion over the head of the stooping figure of the man.
"Now!" said Frank breathlessly.
Already the disturbed hornets were coming out of the cells in the nest, angrily fluttering about to learn what the matter was. Frank gave the fishing-pole a swing. He slammed its end and the hornets' nest right down on the head of the tramp.
Instantly a swarming myriad of the little insects made the air black about the man. The fellow gave a spring and a yell of pain. Then, his hands wildly beating the air, he darted down the river shore like a shot.
THE TINKER BOY
"You had better hurry over here quick, if you want to get away from that man," said Frank, coming out from cover.
"Yes, I will," responded the boy up in the tree.
He threw to the ground a flat stone he had been resting in the crotch of the tree, his only weapon of defense, dropped nimbly down after it, and started for the water.
"Hold on," directed Frank; "there's a crossing plank a little way farther down the stream."
"I'm wet, anyway," explained the boy, dashing into the water, and he came up to Frank, dripping to the waist.
"Don't be scared," said Frank, as his companion looked in a worried way in the direction the tramp had taken. "That fellow will be too busy with those hornets for some time to come, I'm thinking, to mind us."
"Oh, I hope so," said the lad with a shudder. "He's a terrible man. I must get away from here at once."
As he spoke the boy ran to where the wagon stood and climbed upon its front seat. As Frank, keeping up with his pace, neared the vehicle, he noticed across its box top the words: _"Saws, knives, scissors and tools sharpened scientifically."_
"I wish you would stay with me until I get to town," remarked the boy, seizing the lines with many a timid look back of him.
"Oh, you want to get to town, do you?" observed Frank. "All right, I'll be glad to show you the road."
The boy started up the horse with a sharp snap of the lines. The animal was old and lazy, however, and could not go beyond a very slow trot.
"Turn at that point in the rise," directed Frank, pointing ahead a little distance, "and it will be a shorter cut to town."
"Yes, yes. I want to get away from here," said Ned Foreman anxiously. "Oh, there he is again!"
Frank followed the glance of his frightened companion to observe the tramp in among the brush. He was slapping his face and body as if he had not yet gotten rid of all the hornets, but he was certainly headed in the direction of the wagon.
"Your horse won't go fast enough to keep ahead of that fellow," remarked Frank. "Don't tremble so. He shan't bother you again if I can help it. Keep on driving."
Frank leaped to the road. Keeping up a running pace with the wagon, he stooped twice to pick up two pieces of wood of cudgel shape and size, and then regained his seat.
"Now, then," he said, "drive on as fast as you can. It's less than a quarter of a mile to houses. If that man overtakes us you must help me beat him off. If we can't make it together, I'll pester him and keep him back while you run ahead for help."
"I'd hate to leave you--he's a cruel man," said the lad, "but I've got quite an amount of money, and it doesn't belong to me."
"Aha!" exclaimed Frank suddenly. "There's no need of our doing anything. I'll settle that tramp now."
From the cut in the road ahead they were making for, a light gig had just come into view. On its seat was a single passenger, with a silver badge on the breast of his coat and wearing a gold-braided cap.
"It's Mr. Houston, the town marshal," explained Frank, and his companion uttered a great sigh of relief. "Stop till he passes us. Oh, Mr. Houston," called out Frank to the approaching rig, "there's a man over yonder annoying this boy and trying to rob him."
"Is, eh?" cried the officer. "Whoa!" and he arose in the seat to get a good view of the spot toward which Frank pointed. "I reckon he's seen me, for he's making back his trail licketty-switch."
"Keep your eye on him so he won't follow us, will you, Mr. Houston?" pressed Frank.
"I'll do just that," assented the marshal pleasantly. "I'm after these tramps. There's a gang of them been hanging around Tipton the last day or two, begging, and stealing what they could get their hands on, and I'm bound to rout them out."
"There's your chance, then," said Frank, "for, from what this boy tells me, that fellow yonder is as bad as they make them."
The officer drove on slowly, keeping an eye out for the tramp. Frank's companion urged up his laggard horse. His face had cleared, and he acted pleased and relieved as they got within the limits of the town.
"Any place in particular you're bound for?" inquired Frank.
"Where is that?"
"I'm due at the town square."
"Then keep right on this road," said Frank, and within five minutes they arrived and halted on the shady side of a little park surrounded by the principal stores.
"I expect some one will be here to see me soon," said the lad. "I don't know how to thank you for all you've done for me. If that man had got hold of me he would have robbed me of every cent I had. I've been trying to keep away from him, fearing he might be looking for me and come across me accidentally. Now I'm safe."
"Won't he hang around and try it again when you leave town?" questioned Frank.
"But I'm not going to leave town," explained Ned Foreman, "that is, not on this wagon. I've been working for a man who runs half a dozen of these scissors grinders over the country. At Tipton here another employe will relieve me. I give him what I have taken in the last week, and he pays me my wages out of it. I'm going to give up this job now."
"Don't you like it, then?" asked the interested Frank.
"Well enough--yes, it isn't unpleasant; but I've an ambition to get an education, and have been working to that end," said Ned in a serious way that won Frank's respect. "I want to go to school. I have saved up a little money, and I shall start in right away."
"That's good," said Frank. "I'm only hoping to get away to school myself soon. Say, what kind of a traveling caravan is this, anyway?"
"I'll show you," said Ned promptly, and as both got to the ground he touched a bolt and the back of the wagon came down, forming steps. Reaching in he moved a bracket, and a section of the side of the wagon slid back, letting light into the vehicle. Frank noticed a sort of a bench, a lathe, and some small pieces of machinery.
Ned Foreman got up the steps and touched something. There was a click and a spark of light. He pulled a wheel around and then there was a chug-chug- chug.
"Now, what's that?" asked the curious Frank.
"It's a little gasoline motor," explained Ned. "Step in and see what a famous tinkering shop on wheels we've got."
"Why, this is just grand!" declared Frank, as he glanced around the interior of the wagon in an admiring way.
"Yes, it's clean, attractive and made up to date," said Ned. "The man who owns these outfits is working up some good routes. If you have anything to sharpen, now, I'll show you the kind of work we do."
Frank whipped out his pocket knife in a jiffy. Ned touched a lever near the motor, and things went whirring. There was a busy hum that made the place delightful to Frank. He was astonished and pleased to observe how deftly his companion handled the knife, putting it through a dozen operations, from grinding to stropping and polishing. Then he adjusted a little drill to a handle and said:
"I'll put your name on the handle, if you like."
"All right," assented Frank with satisfaction. "It's Frank Jordan."
"There you are," said Ned a minute later, handing the knife back to Frank. "You'll find a blade there that will cut a hair."
"Yes, that's fine work," declared Frank, looking over the knife in a gratified way. "You've got quite a trade, haven't you?"
"Oh, sort of," answered Ned carelessly, "and the knack of doing things like this comes in handy for a fellow who has to work and wants to work. There's my man," he added suddenly, as there was a hail outside, and Frank observed
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