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- The Boys of Bellwood School - 6/27 -
"So, if you'll consider this five-dollar gold piece the right thing," resumed Dobbins, "you're mightily welcome to it, and say, Frank--you're a bully boy!"
"How's that?" inquired Frank.
"Oh, you know," asserted Dobbins. "Take it quick, before I change my mind."
"Take the five dollars, you mean?" questioned Frank.
"Why should I do that? You don't owe me anything."
"Don't?" cried Dobbins. "Why, boy, I owe you everything. No nonsense between friends, you see."
"I don't see--" began Frank.
Old Dobbins placed a finger beside his nose in a crafty, expressive way. He winked blandly at Frank, with the mysterious words:
"That's all right, Frank, boy. No need of going into particulars, but--you know right enough. Mum's the word. Take the five dollars."
AN ASTONISHING CLUE
"But I don't know," declared Frank forcibly, "and as I have _not_ earned any five dollars, of course I can't take it."
"Sho!" chuckled old Dobbins, dancing about Frank, as spry as a schoolboy and poking him playfully in the ribs. Frank had to smile.
"See here, Mr. Dobbins," he observed, "it appears to me that you feel pretty lively for a man who has just had his house all smashed to pieces."
"That's just it--that's just it," retorted Dobbins in a tone almost jubilant. "Where would I be if it hadn't happened? Why, boy, when I think of what you've done, I--I almost would adopt you--that is, if you weren't too big an eater."
There was some mystery under all this, Frank discerned. He wanted to get at the plain facts of the case.
"I'm afraid I don't entirely understand," he began when his eccentric visitor interrupted him.
"Ho! ho!" he guffawed. "You will be _sharp_, you young _blade_, won't you? Got some _temper_--hey? True as _steel_--hi! When the rope gave out you _cut_ for it--ho! ho! ho!" and the speaker went into spasms of merriment over his own wit.
"'Blade, temper, steel,'" quoted Frank. "Are you getting off a pun, Mr. Dobbins?"
"Put it that way if you like," returned Dobbins cheerfully. "There was a knife. That's the long and short of it, don't you see? A boy's pocket knife. It sawed the big moving cable. Snap! Bang! Away went the house. Whose knife? Aha! Dear me--who can tell? Sly, hey--Frank, boy? We ain't going to tell. No need of it. Artful dodgers--ho! ho! ho! Take the five dollars."
Frank gave a vivid start. He was partly enlightened now. He had mislaid his knife near the house that had been anchored on the hill side. Somebody had found it and had cut the cable with it.
"What you are getting at, then," said Frank, "is that a knife cut the rope loose?"
"Ah, just that."
"And my knife?"
"Oh, yes, it was your knife, Frank--no doubt about that at all."
"How do you know it was my knife?" asked Frank.
"Because it had your name on it. Of course I didn't see the knife used, but Judge Roseberry found it the next morning right under the windlass."
"Who?" fairly shouted Frank.
"Judge Roseberry. The knife fitted to the cut. Judge Roseberry came to me with it. 'Dobbins,' says he to me, 'business is business. I have made a discovery. The person who smashed your house is Frank Jordan, and I can prove it.' Then he told me the rest."
"And what did you say?" cried the astonished Frank.
"Well, feeling pretty perk over a discovery I had just made, I listened to the crafty old varmint."
"And what did he say?"
"He told me that you had stolen a diamond bracelet from Mace, the jeweler."
"Which was a falsehood," asserted Frank with vehemence.
"Yes, I can believe that," nodded Dobbins, "seeing that Roseberry said so. He then began to tell me how they were trying to have you give up that bracelet. He said that if I would have you arrested for smashing the house, it would break you down and make you confess about the bracelet. Anyhow, it would look so bad for you that your father would settle all the damage."
"The villain!" commented Frank.
"Them's my sentiments, too, Frank. Mebbe, if things hadn't turned out as they did, I might have acted mean and measly, too, but I was so tickled over the way they did come out that I just laughed at your boyish mischief of letting the old shack slide downhill."
"But I had no hand in anything of the sort," declared Frank stoutly.
"Let it pass, Frank, let it pass," chuckled Dobbins unbelievingly. "You see, when I came to look over the old ruins I come to where the old storeroom wall had busted out. You know it's always been a mystery to me what had become of my wife Sairey's scrapings and earnings?"
"I've heard you tell so--yes," nodded Frank.
"There they were, boy!" cried old Dobbins in a sort of ecstasy. "She'd hidden them in a hole in the wall. The wall broke out in the crash. Confidentially," and the narrator looked around cautiously and lowered his voice to a mysterious whisper, "I found in gold and silver a heap of money amounting to nigh three thousand dollars."
"Well!" ejaculated Frank.
"So, you see, it was a lucky day for me when you cut that rope."
"Which I never did," replied Frank vigorously. "If you will come over to the house, Mr. Dobbins, my aunt will assure you that I was in bed hours before and after the crash happened."
"Well, anyway, it was your knife."
"Yes," assented Frank, and explained about it being mislaid. Apparently Dobbins was convinced. He was thoughtful for a moment or two, exchanged the coin in hand for another in his pocket, and extended this to Frank with the words:
"I guess it's worth ten dollars, then."
"No, Mr. Dobbins," said Frank positively, "I can't take your money. I'll tell you, though, if you really feel kindly toward me."
"I do, for a fact, Frank."
"And want to do me a favor?"
"Try me, Frank."
"I want you to come up to the house and satisfy yourself that I have told you the truth about being home last night, and then I want you to go to town with me."
"Why, Frank, I don't doubt your word."
"No; but others may, and I want to settle this affair."
"All right, Frank, though I'd feel better if you took the money."
Miss Brown looked rather curious and perplexed when confronted by Frank and Dobbins, but satisfactorily answered the questions put by her nephew.
"Oh, Frank," she said, as he and his companion left the place, "if you are going to town I wish you would stop at the post-office."
"I will," replied Frank. "I hope there will be a letter from the folks. I shall not take much of your time, Mr. Dobbins," he explained to his companion as they started for the village.
Frank ran into the post-office as they reached it. The postmistress handed out a paper from the Jordan letter-box. Frank stuck it in his pocket a little disappointedly, for he had expected a letter from his father.
He led Dobbins from the post-office to the village tavern. As he had expected, Judge Roseberry was lounging on the bench outside, spouting politics to some loafer companions.
"Keep right with me, Mr. Dobbins," directed Frank. "I shall need your services."
"Drat me, if I can understand what you're getting at, lad," said Dobbins desperately, "but I'll stick, if I can be of any use to you."
Frank marched straight up to the crowd in front of the tavern.
"Judge Roseberry," he said calmly, but with an impressive seriousness, "I will thank you to return my pocket knife."
"Hey--h'm!" spluttered the judge, taken off his balance. "Your knife?"
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