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CHAPTER IX


DAVE TALKS TO THE POINT


It was not long before Blodgett and Volney put in an appearance. They had had several glasses of liquor at the tavern, and walked along as if very well satisfied with themselves.

"So you are here," said Blodgett, striding up to Gus Plum and holding out his hand. "Shake, my boy!"

"I don't care to shake hands with you," replied the former bully of Oak Hall.

"Oh, so that's your lay, is it?" sneered the man. "Very well—but I thought you were a better loser."

"Let us have this meeting over as soon as possible," put in Volney. "Have you got the money?"

Instead of replying. Plum looked at Dave, and then for the first time the two sharpers noticed that the lad they had come to meet was not alone.

"Who's your friend? Thought you'd come alone," said Blodgett, somewhat roughly.

"I believe your name is Blodgett," remarked Dave, drawing himself up and looking as business-like as possible.

"That's my name, yes. What of it?"

"And your name, I believe, is Volney," went on Dave, turning to the second rascal.

"Yes. Who are you?"

"Never mind that just now. Both of you come from Hartford; isn't that so?"

"What if we do?" asked Blodgett.

"Some time ago you got this young man to gamble with you, and he lost considerable money. Now you want him to pay up."

"Hadn't he ought to pay up?" asked Volney. He was growing uneasy.

"He isn't going to pay you a cent."

"What's that?" came quickly from Blodgett.

"I say he isn't going to pay you a cent, Mr. Blodgett. Is that plain enough for you to understand?" answered Dave, sharply.

"Who are you, I'd like to know, to interfere with our dealings!" cried Jack Blodgett.

"Perhaps I'll tell you who I am later on. I found out about this just in time, it seems. You came from Hartford, but you have been in Albany lately. While you were in Albany you swindled a man named Dodsworth Sadler out of a large sum of money—at least twelve or fifteen hundred dollars."

"Say, look here——" began Blodgett, and his tone became nervous.

"You used marked cards, just as you did when you played with this young man. I think when you find yourselves in the hands of the police——Hi! stop, don't be going in such a hurry!"

For, turning swiftly, Blodgett had rushed from the depot. Volney followed him.

"They are running away!" cried Gus Plum. He could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses.

"Let us give them a good scare while we are at it," answered Dave, and he ran outside and after the swindlers, who cut across the tracks and made for the freight-house. Here a freight-train was just starting out, and the men hopped aboard and were soon out of sight.

"There, I guess you have seen the last of them, Gus," said Dave, when he and the big youth had given up the chase.

"Do you really think so?"

"I feel sure of it."

"Maybe they took you for some officer of the law."

"I don't know as to that, but they were thoroughly scared. I don't believe they will ever show their faces near Oakdale again."

"But they may write to Doctor Clay."

"I shouldn't worry about that, Gus. They will make themselves as scarce as possible, for they will now know that Dodsworth Sadler is on the lookout for them."

"Don't you think we ought to let Dodsworth Sadler know about this? I might write him an anonymous letter."

"You won't have to, Gus. I'll write him a letter, telling of what I heard. That won't bring you into it at all, and as I had nothing to do with Blodgett and Volney, those fellows can't hurt me."

"Oh, Dave, what a head you've got for things!" cried the former bully, admiringly. "I suppose you'll say you simply overheard the talk while you were In Oakdale."

"Yes, and I'll add that when the swindlers found out I knew the truth, they jumped on a freight-train and ran away."

When the two boys returned to Oak Hall, Gus Plum felt in better spirits than he had for a long time. He returned the money to Dave and thanked him over and over for all he had done. Dave penned the letter to Dodsworth Sadler without delay, and it was posted early Monday morning.

"I hope I get a letter from my uncle to-day," said Dave to Roger. But no communication came, for Dunston Porter had gone to Boston on business, and did not return to Crumville for several days.

The weather was now clear and bright and the wind had swept a good portion of the river clear of snow. As a consequence many of the boys went out skating, while a few brought out the ice-boats they had constructed.

Among the latter affairs was the Snowbird, built by two students named Messmer and Henshaw. It was not a handsome craft, but it could make good speed, and that was what the boys wanted.

"Come on for a sail, Dave!" called Henshaw, after school-hours on Tuesday. "It's just grand on the river."

"I was going skating with Roger and Phil," was the reply. "Otherwise I'd like to go first-rate."

"Tell them to come too," said Messmer, a lad who always liked to have company on his rides. The matter was quickly arranged, and Shadow Hamilton was also included in the party. The ice-boat was rather crowded, but that only added to the sport.

"Hold tight, everybody!" cried Henshaw, as he raised the sail. There was a good, stiff breeze, and in a minute the Snowbird was bowling along in grand style, the students shrieking their delight as they passed their numerous friends on skates.

"Come along and race!" cried Roger, to Sam Day.

"Give me a tow and I will," was the merry reply.

"Be sure to return when you get back!" called out Ben Basswood, and this remark caused a general laugh.

"Do you remember the ice-boat race we had with the Rockville cadets?" said Messmer.

"Yes, and the accident," replied Dave. "We don't want to run into anything again."

"I say, fellows, let us visit that cabin on the island!" cried Roger. "Maybe we'll find out something more about Pud Frodel and that other fellow."

The senator's son referred to a cabin located on a lonely island some distance from Oak Hall. Here it was that the lads had discovered the two robbers with whom Nick Jasniff had been associated, and had given to the authorities the information which had led to the rascals' capture.

"I'm willing to go," said Henshaw. "Only we can't stay on the island too long, for we'll have to get back before it gets too dark."

As the ice-boat swept along they passed quite a number of boys on skates. Presently they came to a crowd of six, all attired in neat semi-military uniforms.

"Hello, Oak Hall!" was the cry.

"Hello, Rockville!"

"Where are you going with that tub?"

"Looking for another Rockville boat to beat!" sang out Henshaw. How he had once won an ice-boat race against the military academy lads is already known to my old readers.

"Go along, we're going to build a boat that will leave you away behind," retorted one of the Rockville cadets.

"Brag is a good hoss, but Get-there takes the oats!" cried Dave, and then the Snowbird swept out of hearing of the military academy lads.

"They didn't like it at all, that we beat them," was Roger's comment. "Wonder if they will try to build a swifter boat?"

"Let them come on," answered Dave. "We can build another boat, too, if it's necessary."

"Say, their blowing puts me in mind of a story,'* came from Shadow Hamilton. "Two little boys——"

"Oh, Shadow, another?" groaned Messmer, reproachfully.

"Let him tell it, it will help to pass the time," remarked Henshaw. "I know it's all about two poor lads who were caught in a snowstorm and had to shovel their way out with nothing but toothpicks."

"No, it's about two boys who sold suspension bridges for a living," cried Dave, merrily. "They sold as high as eighteen a day, and——"

"Say, if you want to hear this story, say so," demanded Shadow. "These little boys got to bragging what each could do. Says one, 'I kin climb our apple tree clear to the top.' Says the other, 'Huh! I can climb to the roof of our house.' 'Hum,' says the first boy, 'I can climb to the roof of our house, an' it's higher'n yours.' 'No, 'taint.' 'It is so—it's got a cupola on top.' 'I don't care,' cried the other boy. 'Our's is higher. It's got a mortgage on it—I heard dad say so!'" And a smile went the rounds.

Not having any other name, the boys had christened the place for which they were bound, Robber Island. It was a lonely spot, rocky in some places and covered with woods and underbrush in others. The shore was fringed with bushes, through which the driven snow had sifted to a depth of two feet and more.

"Here we are!" cried Dave, as they came in sight of one end of the island. "Lower the sail, or we'll be sliding into the trees and rocks."

They made a safe landing, and then prepared to walk to the cabin, which was some distance away. Henshaw looked doubtfully at the iceboat.

"Think she'll be all right?" he asked, of Messmer.

"I think so."

"Oh, sure she'll be all right, with the sail down," added Roger.

"Wonder if there are any wild animals on this island?" questioned Shadow.

"Might be an elephant or two," answered Dave, "or half a dozen royal Bengal tigers."

"Quit your fooling, Dave. I reckon you wouldn't want to meet a bear or a wildcat any more than myself."

"No bears around here," said the senator's son. "Might be a wildcat though, or a fox. I'm going to get a good stick."

Each student provided himself with a stout stick, and then the whole crowd moved forward in the direction of the cabin in the center of the island, never dreaming of the astonishing adventure in store for them.