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The Boys of Bellwood School
by Frank V. Webster
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"He may tell you, too, where to find that lawyer," suggested Bob.

"Grimm—yes," answered Frank. "There's something he's been up to with Brady that is of interest to Ned here—I am sure of that."

Frank felt certain that affairs were now on a basis where a good many things would come to light within the next few hours.

He was up bright and early the next morning, and was somewhat disappointed to learn that Professor Elliott had not yet returned to Bellwood School.

Ritchie came up to him on the campus after breakfast and took him to one side.

"I say, Jordan," he began in a confidential tone, "there's a good deal of mystery going on around these diggings."

"How's that?" inquired Frank with a smile.

"Banbury's crowd are up to something, and I feel sure it concerns you in some way."

"I can't understand how that can be."

"Nor can I," said Ritchie; "but one of our scouts says they were hobnobbing late into the night. That Gill Mace went to town last evening and sent off a rush telegram somewhere. This morning the crowd are buzzing like a lot of bees, whispering together and looking at you, and Mace walks around with his eye in the direction of the town, as if he expected something to happen. Look there, now—what's up?"

Gill Mace had hurried toward the campus of the school to meet a man coming up the road. Accompanying the latter and acting very important and excited, he advanced across the campus toward the spot where Ritchie and his friends stood.

"That's the boy," pronounced Gill Mace in a loud tone, pointing to Frank.

"Is your name Jordan?" demanded the stranger of Frank.

"Suppose it is?" inquired Frank.

"Then I've come to arrest you, that's all," said the man. "I'm a constable, and the charge is stealing and having in your possession a certain diamond bracelet belonging to Samuel Mace of Tipton."

"Yes," cried Gill Mace, "he's got it about him. I saw him with it last night."

"Oh, then you are the sneak who was spying over our transom last night, eh?" said Frank, with a glance at Gill that made him quail.

"Search him, officer—get that bracelet," vociferated Gill. "He stole it from my uncle."

"Come with me, young man," ordered the officer, extending a hand to seize Frank's arm.

"Hold on," spoke up Ritchie suddenly, stepping in between the two. "You don't arrest Frank Jordan until we know the particulars of this affair."



CHAPTER XXIV

CLEANING UP

The constable of Bellwood drew back a trifle at the warlike demonstration of Dean Ritchie and his friends. He probably had heard of the treatment of some of his kind who had been mobbed, ducked and sent home ingloriously when they had tried to interfere with the sports of the students at the school.

"Hold on, fellows," said Frank quickly, moving his champions aside. "This man is only doing his duty."

"There's the president!" exclaimed Ned Foreman, and he ran forward to the front of the academy, where Professor Elliott had just been driven up in a carriage.

"I will go with you," said Frank, ranging himself up by the side of the officer. "I would like to speak to Mr. Elliott first, though."

"Certainly," acceded the constable willingly, awed by the crowd and pleased with the gentlemanly manner of his prisoner.

Professor Elliott stood awaiting the approaching crowd, staring in a puzzled way at them through his eye glasses. Frank walked straight up to him.

"Professor Eliott," he said, "I have just been arrested by this officer, on the complaint of Gill Mace, I am led to believe."

The academy president stared in astonishment at Frank, and then at Gill, who had kept up with the coterie.

"Yes, I had him arrested," proclaimed Gill.

"Indeed," spoke Mr. Elliott. "Upon what charge, may I ask?"

"He stole a diamond bracelet from my uncle's jewelry store at Tipton," declared Gill.

"There is the bracelet in question, Professor Elliott," said Frank, promptly placing a little parcel done up in tissue paper in the hands of the professor.

"I told you he had it. Didn't I say so?" crowed and chuckled the triumphant Gill.

"However, I didn't steal it," continued Frank. "There is a story I should like to tell you, Professor Elliott. Its telling now may save some trouble later on."

"Yes—yes," nodded Mr. Elliott in a somewhat disturbed way. "Of course there is a mistake. Officer, please come with me to the library. I wish to look into this affair."

"I would like to have Gill Mace and my friend, Ned Foreman, come with us, sir," suggested Frank.

"Certainly, Jordan. Charged with robbery! Dear me! Officer, this is a pretty serious action on your part."

"I'm only doing my legal duty, sir," insisted the constable.

"You have a warrant for the arrest of our student, then?"

"No, sir, I haven't," acknowledged the officer, "but the sheriff said I had a right to act in the premises."

"How so?" demanded Mr. Elliott.

"This lad, Mace, came to us and declared that he had seen in the possession of the Jordan boy a diamond bracelet stolen from his uncle at Tipton, the town that both of them came from."

"Well?"

"He had telegraphed for his uncle to come on at once. He expects him on the eight o'clock train. The sheriff said that, in a way, the case being under the jurisdiction of another State, we might hold the accused as a fugitive from justice, pending identification."

"Fugitive, nonsense! identification, fiddlesticks!" commented the old professor testily. "Jordan isn't going to run away. As to his identification, he has turned the property in question over to me, and, knowing him as I do, I would stake a good deal that when he comes to explain matters it will clear up the situation so far as he is concerned. You have no legal right to apprehend Jordan, officer, and we certainly will not allow you to disgrace him through an arrest, except by due process of law."

"With every respect to you, sir," said the constable humbly, "what am I to do, then?"

"Go back to town, wait till this man Mace arrives, and bring him here to consult with me."

Frank gave the professor a grateful look. He felt at that moment that Mr. Elliott was indeed what Bob Upton had so enthusiastically declared him to be "a good old man."

"Now, then," continued Professor Elliott, waving the constable away as they entered the library, "we will get at the bottom of this matter. This is the bracelet in question, is it, Jordan?" he inquired, indicating the little parcel Frank had given him.

"I think it is, Mr. Elliott."

"How did you come by it?"

"If you please, Mr. Elliott," said Frank, "I would like to tell you my story in private. It involves another person, and also some facts about his relatives, which he might not be disposed to have made public property."

"Very well," answered the professor, and he led the way to his private office at the end of the library and closed its door.

Frank told his story from beginning to end, and he had an interested and sympathetic listener.

When he had concluded, the professor extended his hand, and Frank was proud to grasp it.

"Jordan," he said, "you are a noble fellow. I liked you from the first; I like you better than ever now. If every boy in the school came to me as you have done he would find in me a true friend. I hope you will tell the boys so."

"I don't have to," declared Frank. "They all know you are a good old—I mean, their friend," stammered Frank, checking his impetuous utterance just in time, "but they are a little shy."

Professor Elliott returned to the library and Frank accompanied him.

"Mace," said the former, "you may have acted on your best convictions, but I am assured that you have made a great mistake."

"I don't see how," muttered Gill stubbornly. "There's the bracelet. He had it, didn't he? So he stole it."

"That does not follow—except in your perverted opinion," observed the professor drily. "We will move no further in this matter until your uncle arrives. Foreman, I wish to have a word with you."

"Yes, sir," bowed Ned politely.

"I will give you a note to my attorney in Bellwood. You will tell him all that Jordan has told you, as to his experiences with the person who visited us in your behalf the other day. My lawyer will ferret out this mystery concerning you, and I feel pretty sanguine you will discover something of decided interest and profit to you."

"Thank you, sir."

"None of you three need report for studies today, as I may desire to see any or all of you later on quick notice."

The boys were dismissed. Gill Mace looked suspicious and mystified, Ned was radiant, Frank felt that his patience and loyalty to his friends were about to score a grand result.

Just then the door opened, and a blustering and excited form burst into the room.

It was Samuel Mace.



CHAPTER XXV

CONCLUSION

"Hello, Gill," said the jeweler to his nephew, and then, glaring at Frank and facing Professor Elliott in an insolent way, he added: "Now, what's doing here?"

"Is this Mr. Mace?" inquired the professor, advancing courteously.

"Yes, it is," retorted the jeweler in an ungracious tone, "and I want to know who's been interfering with my affairs, and where's the diamond bracelet that Jordan boy stole from me?"

"This lad stole no bracelet from you, Mr. Mace," said Professor Elliott positively, and placing his hand on Frank's shoulder.

"Hello! There's a scheme to cheat me and save him, is there?" flared out the jeweler. "The constable gave me to understand that. See here, Elliott— if that is your name——"

"I am Professor Elliott, yes," interrupted the academy president.

"Well, I paid my nephew's tuition to have him associate with decent boys— not with a thief that you seem to be shielding and harboring here."

"We are not used to this kind of language at Bellwood School, Mr. Mace," observed the professor with dignity and sternness. "You will kindly desist from using the same and act like a gentleman, or leave this room."

"If I do, it will be to have that Jordan boy behind the bars mighty quick!" declared Mace.

"It would be the mistake of your life, Mr. Mace, and a costly experiment for your pocket. This boy is innocent of the outrageous, and I might say cowardly and unfounded, charge you make against him. I shall ask you to remain here for about an hour, while I attend to some details of this case which will enable me to give you a clear statement as to who stole your property."

"If it's no scheme to sneak Jordan away——" began Mace.

"Silence, sir!" ordered the professor. "Foreman, kindly show Mr. Mace to my private office and get him the morning paper from the city to read."

"I'll take my bracelet first, if you don't mind," said Mace, extending his hand.

Professor Elliott took out the little packet that Frank had given him, and turned it over to the jeweler. Mace opened it eagerly. Then he gave a jump and uttered a howl that fairly electrified those about him.

"What's this?" he yelled, displaying a piece of jewelry and nearly choking with excitement. "You're all in a scheme! You're all thieves! I'll have you all arrested!" and he flung the bracelet to the farther end of the room.

"What's the matter, uncle Sam?" inquired Gill Mace.

"Matter?" screamed the jeweler, hopping madly from foot to foot. "That isn't my bracelet at all."

"What?" involuntarily exclaimed the startled Frank.

"It's a cheap imitation affair with paste stones in it."

"Is this possible?" inquired Mr. Elliott in surprise.

"Yes, 'tis, and somebody knows it. Don't you crow nor laugh over me, Frank Jordan!" raved Mace.

"We had better not talk about crowing and laughing just now, Mr. Mace," said Frank seriously. "I think I understand about the bracelet, which I believed until this moment to be the one stolen from Tipton."

"Yah! Yes, you did!" derided the jeweler.

"I think I now guess out the mystery of this substitution. As that explanation and the fate of the real bracelet may hang on the words of a dying man, you had better get down from your high horse and help us reach the facts in the case."

Then in a low tone Frank told the professor that they had better see the wounded man, Dan, at the village hotel at once.

Mace was induced to await the movements of Professor Elliott, and within five minutes the latter and Frank and Ned Foreman were wending their way to the village.

It was arranged that Frank should visit the man Dan at the hotel, while President Elliott went to his lawyer with Ned.

It was an hour later when Frank, his mission completed, hurried his steps to overtake Professor Elliott and Ned, just returning to the academy from the lawyer's office. While in the town Frank stopped at the post-office and received a letter from his father, in which his parent stated that he was much improved in health.

"That's the best news yet," said the boy to himself.

"My lawyer believes that there is some plot afoot on the part of that man Brady to rob Foreman of some fortune," explained the school president. "He knows who this 'Judge' Grimm is, and will see that Foreman gets his rights."

"Yes," said Frank, "I have learned that this is true, and a good many other important facts in the case."

"Then the man Dan was able to see you?" inquired Ned eagerly.

"Yes, and he has told me everything," replied Frank. "He explained about the bracelet. It seems that Dan is not as bad as Brady and Jem, who stole it originally, right after I had visited the jeweler's shop. It was left in charge of Grimm, the lawyer. It was given with a sum of money to Jem after he and Dan brought me, supposed to be you, Ned, to the lawyer's office. After they brought me back to Bellwood, Jem and Dan went to the old cabin to settle up. Jem had the real bracelet. He palmed off a brass one on Dan. The latter discovered the fraud. There was a terrible fight. Dan is getting better. Jem has the real bracelet."

"Which Mr. Mace will have some trouble in recovering, I fancy," observed Ned.

"That is his business," remarked Professor Elliott drily. "We can now with the evidence of this man Dan positively prove your innocence, Jordan."

"About Ned, here," said Frank, "it seems that recently a distant relative left his dead stepsister a legacy consisting of some mortgages and a house and lot. Brady learned of this. His wife being dead, the legacy goes to Ned. What Brady was figuring on was to become Ned's appointed guardian so he could manage, or, rather, mismanage the estate until Ned was twenty-one years of age."

"We will soon have that phase of the case adjusted," observed the professor in a confident and satisfied tone.

* * * * * * *

"Hi, fellows, look there!" shouted Bob Upton.

It was two days after the arrival of Samuel Mace, the jeweler, at Bellwood School, and the boys were engaged in their usual late afternoon sports on the campus. Bob was up and around again now, not much the worse for his experience with the "doctored" shoes.

"A fight!" exclaimed several, and there was a rush for two combatants, who seemed sparring in dead earnest on the outskirts of the Banbury contingent.

Banbury himself had just come striding from the school building in a great huff. He had rushed up to Gill Mace, and pulling him away from the others had engaged him in combat.

All the fellows knew that when Professor Elliott came home a few days previous quite a lot of complaints and delinquencies awaited him. Among these the only one very serious was the burning of a haystack belonging to a farmer named Wadsworth.

Suspicion had pointed to the Banbury crowd. The farmer had once caught several members of that group smoking in his barn, and had driven them out violently. Banbury had threatened revenge, and the day before Frank had returned from his trip in the covered wagon one of Farmer Wadsworth's haystacks had burned to the ground.

Banbury had been summoned to the office of the president. Just now returning from it, he had started the present fight.

As Frank and his crowd reached the scene of the conflict and joined the ring about the combatants Banbury struck out with a blow that sent Gill Mace reeling to the ground with a bloody nose.

"Take that, you sneak!" shouted Banbury furiously.

"Hello!" exclaimed Bob Upton. "He knows his right name at last."

"I'll fix you," blubbered Gill, "you great big coward!"

"You shut up, or I'll give you worse," threatened Banbury. "A nice fellow you are! Went and peached on me about that haystack."

"You lied to the professor about us, saying we had a hand in it," declared Gill.

"Well, you've got me suspended, sent home, and I'll probably be expelled."

"You ought to be!" yelled Gill, as a twinge of pain made him howl anew. "It was you who got me sick smoking cigarettes and thought it was funny. Yes, and it was you, too," blabbed the mean-spirited traitor, "who put those brads in Bob Upton's shoes, so he would lose the race."

"What?" shouted Dean Ritchie.

He made a vigorous break through the ranks of the crowd with the word. "The cat was out of the bag" at last, the secret told. Banbury saw the doughty Ritchie coming for him. He turned in a flash.

It was a race to the nearest school building. Banbury reached it first. The other boys, running after pursued and pursuer, arrived at the spot to find Banbury safe within the precincts of the classic temple of learning, and Ritchie fuming at the open doorway.

"I say, let up, Ritchie," suggested Frank. "We've had enough squabbling."

"Not a bit of it," demurred Ritchie. "No, sir. I said that if ever I found out who played that mean, low-down trick on Upton, the culprit or I would leave this school."

"Well, it was Banbury, and he's going to leave, isn't he?" argued Frank.

"Yes; but I said that one of us would go the worst licked boy in Bellwood. I mean to keep my word."

Remonstrances were in vain. With a grim, resolute face, Dean Ritchie took up his post at the entrance to the academy, pacing up and down and waiting for his chance to have another interview with Banbury.

It never came. Some of Banbury's crowd informed their leader of what was waiting for him, and Banbury managed to sneak out of the school by the rear, and reached the depot at Bellwood and was on his way home before Ritchie found out that he had escaped.

"Well, let him go. A good riddance," commented Ritchie, when he was informed of the fact. "His crowd needs a further cleaning out, though. I suggest a law and order vigilance committee. There's going to be a rooting up of all the cads and sneaks around here, if I have my way. This is a decent school; we've got a grand old fatherly president, and the fellow who can't have fun without meanness has got to leave, that's all."

* * * * * * *

"A box, you say?" observed Frank Jordan one day, as Bob Upton came up calling.

"Yes," returned Bob excitedly.

"Just arrived?"

"While you were out on the campus. Came by express, and directed to Mr. Frank Jordan, as big as life. What do you suppose it is?"

"Maybe some fruit from my folks in the South," suggested Frank. "What was in the box?"

"It's light. I shook it—nothing to indicate."

"Where is it?"

"I took it up to your room. Hey, Ritchie, and you, Foreman—come and be witnesses before Frank sneaks a box of goodies under cover."

The little group proceeded pell-mell up the stairs and were soon in Frank's room. Eager, curious eyes observed a box about two feet square on a little stand.

"There's holes in the top, and—hello! there's something alive in this box, Frank," declared Bob.

"Yes, I can hear it scratching," put in Ritchie.

"Oho!" exclaimed Frank, enlightened now. "This end up—handle with care. I know."

"Know what, Jordan?" inquired Ned.

But Frank did not answer. He had detached the shipping tag, and was reading some words written on its reverse side.

"I am sending you my special pet, Rambo," the scrawl read, "because nothing is too good for you. Highly educated, gentle. I know you'll be good to him."

Frank recalled his new friend, Dave, with a smile of pleasure. He took the cover off the box. Nestled contentedly in some soft hay at its bottom was a wonder-eyed little monkey. Beside the animal was a thin, long chain.

To be sure, the boys made a lot of the cute little pet during the next hour. The word went around, and Rambo held quite a reception. A drink of water and a cracker put the animal in rare good humor, and he began to show off.

Rambo would sit in a chair and hold a book, pretending to read. He could whirl around, hanging by his tail from a hook in the ceiling. His agility, displayed in springs, curvets and climbing, was something prodigious.

Frank arranged the box comfortably, and lots of fun they had with the clever, friendly little animal.

Mace and his crowd, with their usual envy for the enjoyment of others, complained finally that the chattering of the monkey awakened them nights. This was not true, but obedient to the suggestion of the monitor, until the faculty could act in the affair, Frank shut Rambo up in a room in the unused attic nights, not wishing to trust him along with the other animals in the academy stables.

This was a providential move, it developed later. The second night of Rambo's isolation, toward morning, Frank was awakened by the crash of glass. He got up to find that the monkey had burst in through the outside window. Rambo was bleeding and shivering on the floor.

"Hello, this is strange!" exclaimed Bob, roused up also from sleep. "I say, Frank, I smell smoke!"

"That's so," replied Frank quickly. "Where does it come from?"

They ran out into the corridor, to quickly trace the smoke to its source. It evidently proceeded from the attic. Rushing there, Frank and Bob found some rafters on fire. They had evidently ignited near the chimney.

Rambo, it seemed, frightened at his danger, had broken through the attic window and had reached the boys' room in time to warn them. The fire was soon extinguished, but it might have been serious had it not been discovered in time.

That settled it for useful, vigilant Rambo. He was given permanent quarters in Frank's room, and was treated like a hero by the academy boys.

Another box came to Frank a few days later—from his father in the sunny South. It was filled with oranges, pineapples and other luscious fruits, and there was a gay supper in Frank's room that night. Even Gill Mace and his crowd were invited, and little Rambo was an honored guest at the banquet.

Frank felt that the disturbed air of the academy was clearing. Certainly his own affairs and those of Ned Foreman had come out most satisfactorily.

Samuel Mace had been convinced that Frank was innocent of any connection with the theft of the diamond bracelet. He had started out the officers of Bellwood to look up the real robbers, Tim Brady and his accomplice, the man Jem.

These two rascals had got an inkling of what was up and had fled the country—not, however, until they had disposed of the bracelet to an innocent purchaser. The jeweler had to pay out a large sum of money to recover it.

Gill Mace was compelled to retract in public his false charge against Frank, and the vindication of the latter was made complete. Then, to the surprise of our hero, came word from Banbury that Gill had once boasted of cutting loose a house that was being moved up a hill, using Frank's knife for that purpose and thereby getting our hero in trouble. This matter was investigated, and in the end Samuel Mace had to pay for the wrecking of the old building. This angered the jeweler, and he punished his nephew severely for his misconduct.

A pleasant position on a farm was secured for the man called Dan, who promised to lead an honest life in the future.

As to Ned, the homeless lad felt that the greatest happiness in the world had come into his life. The lawyer, Grimm, had been frightened into telling all about Brady's plot. The estate that belonged to Ned was traced, and Professor Elliott was legally made the boy's guardian.

The academy president called Frank, Ned and Bob to his office one evening, and informed them of the pleasant outcome of their affairs.

"Just think of it," said Ned, with happy tears in his eyes. "I'm sure of an education now, and all through the loyal friendship of the best boy I ever knew, Frank Jordan."

"I echo that sentiment," added Bob. "Why, say, I didn't know life was really worth living till I met Frank."

"Forget it, fellows," ordered Frank modestly, though flushing with genuine pleasure. "You may help me to win some battles yet."

"Jordan," spoke the bland old professor, handing a sealed letter to Frank, "you may feel very proud sending that letter to your father. It tells all the good things I know about a noble, honorable boy."

"Well, professor," replied Frank, "we've made you a good deal of trouble. Now we're going to get down to good hard work."

"And play," added Professor Elliott, with the kindly, earnest smile that made him the true friend of the boys of Bellwood School.

THE END

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