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- The Boys of Bellwood School - 20/27 -
misunderstanding, complications arise out of this extraordinary midnight-- er--invasion, I simply act as attorney for my client. Here's a document. It is to be signed by you. In consideration of the same, at a later date, my client is to remit to some school or other the money to pay for your schooling four years in advance."
"Don't say a word but 'uh-huh,'" whispered Dan quickly to Frank. "You'll be glad if you do it. It's all right."
"Uh-huh," said Frank obediently, but thinking somethings that would have startled the men with him if they had guessed them.
"_Ipse dixit, de facto,_ as we say in the law," proceeded the judge pompously. "That's all, I think."
The speaker dipped a pen in ink. He set before Frank a two-paged document. Its first page was turned over. Its second page our hero was not given time to read, but Frank's keen glance took in words and phrases that plainly indicated to him that the document alluded to a guardianship of some kind.
Frank signed a name that was no name at all. It was a meaningless scrawl. He believed it would bring about a crisis, but he was now ready for just that. The document was drawn from his hand, but before the judge could look at it there was a ring at a telephone at the end of the room. The judge hastily thrust the document into a drawer and hastened to the telephone.
He spoke to somebody over the phone and nodded to Jem, and said:
"No need of us waiting," responded Jem. "Here's my half of that card, judge. I suppose you know the arrangement."
For reply the judge walked to a safe standing in the corner of the room, opened it, took out a little box and handed it to Jem.
Frank felt somehow that this was the diamond bracelet that had been stolen from Samuel Mace back at Tipton. The thought connected with the talk he had overheard at the cabin near Bellwood about two pieces of card. He theorized that it was the reward to Jem and Dan for agreeing to kidnap Ned Foreman.
"Got it?" spoke Dan eagerly, edging up to Jem. "Then our part's done. Let's get away from here."
Frank took a last glance around the room. It was to note a row of law books that had written on their calfskin backs the name "Grimm." Frank treasured this clue. He did not doubt that it was the name of the "judge." He did not know what town he was in, or how far away from Bellwood, but he believed he now had learned the name of the "judge," and that it would afford a starting point in a later investigation.
Frank smiled to himself as, the bag again over his face, he was taken back to the covered wagon. He wondered what the "judge" and Brady would say when they found a meaningless scrawl to the document they had gone to so much trouble to have signed.
He made up his mind that, although he was a minor, the signature of Ned Foreman to that paper meant something important. It probably gave some power to Brady over Ned. What this was Frank felt sure that he could soon find out, and he planned upon his return to Bellwood School to go straight to Professor Elliott with the whole story.
"Now, then, youngster," observed Dan as the wagon started up, "you've behaved fine. Nobody is hurt, and you've done yourself some good. I'll promise you that your schooling bills will be paid, and you just want to forget everything that's happened to-night. Don't be foolish and stir things up. It'll be no use. You'll be provided for until you're of age, and that's a good deal for a fellow who was grubbing for every cent yesterday."
Frank went to sleep after that. He was roused by Dan in broad daylight, and Jem opened the back of the wagon. Dan walked a few steps with Frank.
"You're about two miles from your school," he said. "I've taken quite an interest in you. If I was the right sort, I'd kind of like to adopt you. Good-by."
"Good-by," answered Frank, starting in the direction of Bellwood School.
Frank walked on for a distance. He observed that the wagon had not started up immediately, and he believed that the two men would satisfy themselves that he was not delaying or lurking around before they resumed their journey.
Frank chuckled to himself. He had gone through a night of considerable mystery, but he fancied he had gathered up some pretty important points as to the reason for all the planning and plotting regarding Ned Foreman. He felt pretty well satisfied with himself.
"I don't want to pat myself on the shoulder any," was the way he put it to himself, "but I think I've done pretty well for a young fellow about my size. They would have it that I was Ned Foreman. They would have me sign that paper. I didn't tell any lies, but I wonder what that lawyer will say when he reads that signature? Grim he'll be, sure enough."
Frank at first was quite content to return to the academy. The wagon had started up at a clattering rate and he did not attempt to follow it. Suddenly, however, a crash and then the echo of loud voices halted him.
"Something happened to that wagon," decided Frank. "Jem and Dan are discussing things at a great rate, too. I'm going to see what's up."
Frank made a short cut through the shrubbery and reached the road at the point whither the loud voices of the two men led him. He came upon the wagon with one hind wheel stuck in a muddy rut and the other one smashed at the hub. From the shelter of a handy bush Frank surveyed the situation and listened to what the recent captors were saying.
"There's no use, Jem," remarked Dan. "She's a goner and you've just got to leave her here."
"But what about getting to Rockton?"
"Ain't that plain?"
"Not to me," asserted Jem.
"Why, unhitch the animal, and make it on horseback."
"Me?" hooted Jem. "Why, I never rode a horse twice in my life, and then without a saddle--not much."
"Well, unhitch, anyway; it isn't far to the town. Let the livery stable man come back after the wagon here and give you a new rig."
"There's no other way to do that I can make out," agreed Jem. "Yes, that's just what we'll do."
Frank became interested in watching them unhitch the horse from the wagon. They finally started off, Jem leading the horse. Frank was about to go about his business, when a casual remark of Dan acted like a magnet in attracting his attention away from his former purpose.
"I say, Jem," he observed in a somewhat anxious tone, "you are sure we can settle the bracelet business right away?"
"Yes, right away," assented Jem.
"Ready money, sure."
"Hope you will. I want my share so I can get away from these diggings and the crowd into some new district and among new people."
"Oho! Going to turn respectable, are you?" jeered Jem.
"I'm going to try," announced Dan manfully. "I'm afraid of Brady. He's the kind of a man who goes from bad to worse. He will be sure to get you in trouble if you stick with him long enough."
"Well, as long as he pays the bills as he agrees I'm his man," said Jem.
"I'm not, and I'll cut loose just as soon as I get my share of the plunder."
That little talk decided Frank that he would not return to the academy at once. He resolved to play the detective, for a little time at least.
Frank believed that what he had done would result in the upsetting of all the plans Brady had set on foot regarding Ned Foreman.
He felt certain that when he related the circumstances of the case to Professor Elliott, the latter would speedily devise a way to protect Ned and ferret out the object of the lawyer, Grimm, and also Brady, in securing some kind of guardianship over the orphan boy.
About the bracelet, however, that was a different affair. From what Frank had just heard he was convinced that Jem had this now in his possession.
"Yes," mused Frank, as almost involuntarily he followed Jem and Dan at a safe distance, "that little box the lawyer gave Jem surely contains the bracelet stolen from Lemuel Mace, back at Tipton. It's sure, too, from what these men just said, that Jem is going to dispose of it right away. Why, if that's so, all trace of it would be lost, and good-by to my chances of ever convicting the real thieves. This man Dan, the best of the lot, is going to disappear, and, of course, Brady and Jem will never admit they stole the bracelet. I sort of feel that if I let these men slip me now I'll never be able to clear myself of the charge of stealing Mace's jewelry."
Frank was so impressed with these ideas that he trailed on after the two men. He did not know that it would do much good, but that bracelet was a kind of a lodestone, and he felt that he would give a good deal to get it into his possession.
The little procession covered about three slow miles, arriving finally at a little sleepy town. Frank had never been there before. Jem led the horse down the main street of the place, and finally turned into a vacant lot, at the rear of which stood a livery stable. A lantern was burning just beyond the wide open door of the place.
Frank lined a board fence that bounded one side of the livery stable yard. When he got opposite the open doorway where Jem had halted, he posted himself at a crack in the fence, where he could see and hear what was going on.
"Hi, there, somebody--wake up!" bawled Jem loudly.
A sleepy-eyed hostler made his appearance in a few minutes. There was a lengthy explanation as to the broken wagon. Jem seemed to make this all satisfactory in a money way. Then he told the hostler that he must have a
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