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- The Boys of Bellwood School - 5/27 -
"It's a falsehood!" shouted Frank--"a falsehood as foul and dirty as the muck in that pool! That for you!"
Frank's arm shot out like a piston-rod, and into the mud-puddle, head over heels, went Gill Mace with a frightened howl.
THE RUINED HOUSE
"Well, it's been a pretty lively day for me, and every move I make I seem to be getting deeper and deeper into trouble."
This was the sentiment expressed by Frank as he retired to rest at the end of the most eventful day in his young life. The hours had indeed been full of incidents. He reviewed them all as he lay, his head on his pillow.
Frank smiled to himself as he remembered Gill Mace. The boy who had called Frank a thief was unable to repeat the vile accusation when he emerged from the puddle into which Frank had pushed him. His mouth was full of mud, his hair was a dripping mop, his clothes were plastered with it. Frank had waited to respond to any later move that Gill might decide on. The jeweler's nephew, however, made none. As he emerged from the puddle three schoolgirls, arms linked in friendly companionship, passed the spot. They noticed Gill and tittered, and Gill sneaked away without so much as even glancing at Frank again.
"I always thought you three fellows a pretty good lot," Frank spoke to the companions of Gill. "I'd hate to change my opinion by thinking you believe what Gill Mace said about my being a thief."
Frank looked so manly and earnest as he spoke these words that his hearers were impressed. One of them stepped up and shook hands with him. Another remarked that he believed no story until he had evidence of its truthfulness, and a third half intimated that he would have served Gill Mace just as Frank had done if he made an untrue accusation.
When Frank got home he discovered that his pocket knife was missing. He tried to remember what had become of it, and finally decided that he must have left it on the log frame or dropped it to the ground when he had started out to meet Gill Mace. Frank valued the knife as a pleasant reminder of Ned Foreman, and planned to get up extra early the next morning and make a search for it.
He was pretty well satisfied as he closed his eyes in sleep that the jeweler would not dare to have him arrested for the theft of the diamond bracelet.
Nothing would probably come of the ridiculous charge, except that the underhanded public insinuations of Mace would damage Frank's character. Now that he had taught Gill Mace a needed lesson, of course his family would be more bitter against Frank than ever.
"The thing will die down," decided Frank. "If they get too rampant, I'll-- yes, I'll actually sue them for slander."
It must have been about midnight when Frank awoke with a shock. The echo of a frightful rumble and crash deafened his ears, and he fancied that the bed was vibrating. A scream inside the house made him sit up and listen. He was startled and bewildered.
"Frank! Frank!" quavered the terror-filled tones of his aunt, as she knocked sharply at the door of his bedroom, "get up at once!"
"What has happened?" inquired Frank quickly.
"I don't know--something dreadful, I am sure!" gasped the affrighted spinster. "It felt like an earthquake. It shook the whole town. It must have been an explosion."
"Humph! Good thing you know I'm in the house," observed Frank, as he jumped to the floor and hustled into his clothes.
"Why is that, Frank?"
"Because it may have been a dynamite explosion blowing up somebody's safe, and of course Mace would say I did it."
"Don't jest, Frank," pleaded his aunt. "I'm chilled through and shaking all over. Get outside and see if you cannot learn what it all means."
"I think myself it was probably an accidental blast at the quarry down the river," said Frank; "but I'll soon find out."
He did not dress fully, and let himself out on the porch in his slippers. As he walked down to the gate Frank noticed lights appear in many houses nearer the village, as if their inmates had been suddenly aroused from sleep.
Then distant voices, a rumbling wagon, people talking in loud tones, boyish shouts and a vague chorus of sounds unusual for the midnight hour, were drifted to Frank's hearing. From all this, however, he could think out no coherent idea as to what might be going on nearer town.
"It's not a fire, for there's no glare," he decided. "There's some kind of a commotion over near the schoolhouse, it seems. Reckon I'll dress fully and investigate."
There was a certain attraction for Frank in the distant bustle and turmoil. He went back into the house to find his aunt seated in the front hall. She was wrapped up in a shawl, pale and shivering.
"Oh, Frank, what is it?" she chattered.
"I didn't find out, but I'm going to," he announced, as he hurried on to his room.
"Is--is it coming here?"
"Is what coming here?"
"The--the--whatever it is."
"It hasn't hurt us any, has it? And I don't think it will."
Frank got back to the road ten minutes later and started on a run toward the town. Taking the middle of the road, he nearly bumped into a man where the highway turned.
"Hi, there!" challenged the latter.
"Hello!" responded Frank, recognizing a truck gardner who lived just beyond the Jordan place. "What's happened, Daley?"
"Old Dobbins' house."
"What, the one they're moving?"
"Yes. It broke loose from its bearings and has rolled right back to where it stood."
"You don't say so?" exclaimed Frank, with something of a shock.
"Yes, it has," asserted Daley, "only it's the greatest wreck of bricks and plaster now you ever saw."
"No one hurt, I hope?"
"No, except old Dobbins' feelings. He's capering around at a great rate, saying that the town, or the county, or the government, will have to pay him for the damage."
"The movers couldn't have understood their business very well to have such a thing happen." said Frank.
"Looks that way," acceded Daley, and they parted at the gateway of the Jordan home.
Frank advised his aunt of the state of affairs and went back to bed. Naturally he was curious to have a view of the wrecked house. He got up early before breakfast and took a stroll over to the scene of the disaster. The lad, too, thought of his lost knife and bore that fact in mind.
He gave up all hopes of recovering the knife, however, as he reached the spot where he believed he had lost it the afternoon previous. Where the Dobbins house had been anchored on the hillside the ground was torn up and disturbed as though a cyclone had passed over the place. At the bottom of the hill, jammed half way through the rickety old stable, was what was left of the dismantled house.
Miss Brown made Frank stay in the house and study from eight until ten every morning. With all the exciting thoughts that were passing through his mind, Frank found it difficult to fix his attention on his books that morning. He was glad to get out of the house when ten o'clock came. His pet pigeons were his first care. Then he started for the post-office, hoping that he would find a letter from his father.
"Hi, Frank," a voice hailed him as he made a short cut through a little grove at the rear of the house, and a familiar form emerged from some bushes.
"Why, it's Mr. Dobbins!" exclaimed Frank in some surprise. He had expected to find the miserly old fellow in the depths of despair over the loss of his house, but Dobbins was grinning and chuckling at a great rate.
"So 'tis Frank," he bobbed with a broad smile. "Was looking for you."
"What for, Mr. Dobbins?"
The old man blinked. Then he laughed in a pleased, crafty way and put his hand in his pocket.
"See here," he cried, and Frank noticed that he held three coins in his palm. There was a twenty, a ten and a five-dollar gold piece.
"Um-m," observed Dobbins. "Double eagle a good deal of money, isn't it now, Frank?"
"Why, yes," assented Frank wonderingly, and the old fellow picked out the twenty-dollar gold piece with his free hand and put it in his vest pocket.
"It would be extravagant for a boy to squander even as much as ten dollars, hey?"
Frank did not answer, for he could not surmise what the old fellow was getting at.
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