Chapter III. The Models
 

I had been taken completely off my guard, but by instinct I tried to ward off my assailants. My effort was a useless one. In a trice I found myself on the ground, surrounded by half a dozen of the fastest young men to be found in Darbyville.

Prominent among them was Duncan Woodward, and I rightfully guessed that it was he who had organized the attack.

"Take it easy, Strong," exclaimed a fellow named Moran, "unless you want to be all broke up."

"What do you mean by treating me in this way?" I cried indignantly.

"You'll find out soon enough," said Phillips, another of the young men. "Come, stop your struggling."

"I'll do nothing of the kind. You have no right to molest me."

"Pooh!" sniffed Duncan. "The Models have a right to do anything."

"The Models?" I queried, in perplexity. "Who are they?"

"The Models are a band of young gentlemen organized for the purpose of social enjoyment and to teach cads lessons that they are not likely to forget," replied Moran.

"I suppose you are the members," I said, surveying the half-dozen.

"We have that honor," rejoined a boy named Barton, who had not yet spoken.

"And we intend to teach you a lesson," added Pultzer, a short, stout chap, whose father had once been a butcher.

"What for?"

"For your unwarranted attack upon our illustrious president."

"Your president? You mean Duncan?"

"Mr. Woodward, if you please," interrupted Duncan, loftily. "I won't have such a low-bred fellow as you calling me by my first name."

"I'm no lower bred than you are," I retorted.

"Come, none of that!"cried Moran. "We all know you well. We shall at once proceed to teach you a lesson."

I could not help smile-- the whole affair seemed so ridiculous that had it not been for the rough handling I had received when pulled from the carriage, I would have considered it a joke.

"You'll find it no laughing matter," said Duncan, savagely, angry, no doubt, because I did not show more signs of fear. "Just wait till we are through with you. You'll grin on the other side of your face."

"What do you intend to do with me?"

"You'll see soon enough."

I began to think the affair might be more serious than I had imagined. Six to one was heavy odds, and who could tell what these wild fellows would not do?

"I want you to let me go at once," I said decidedly. "If you don't, it will be the worse for you."

"Not a bit of it. We intend that you shall remember this occasion as long as you live," returned Moran. "Come, march along with us."

"Where to?"

"Never mind. March!"

For reply I turned, and made a hasty jump for the carriage, intending to utilize Jerry in a bold dash for liberty. I had just placed my foot upon the step and called to the horse when Moran caught me by the jacket and dragged me to the ground.

"No you don't!" he ejaculated roughly.

"There, Dunc, catch hold of him; and you too, Ellery. We mustn't let him escape after we've watched two hours to catch him!"

In an instant, I was surrounded. Now that Duncan had his friends to back him he was brave enough and held my arm in a grip of iron.

"Any one bring a rope?" went on Moran.

"Here's one," replied Ellery Blake.

"Hand it over. We had better bind his hands."

Knowing that it would be folly to resist, I allowed them to do as Moran had advised. My wrists were knotted together behind my back, and then the cord was drawn tightly about my waist.

"Now march!"

"How about the horse and carriage?"

"They'll be O. K."

There seemed to be no help for it, so I walked along with them. Had there been the slightest chance offered to escape I would have taken it, but warned by experience, all six kept close watch over me.

Away we went through the woods that lined the east side of the road. It was bad walking, and with both my hands behind me I was several times in danger of stumbling. Indeed, once I did go down, but the firm grasp of my captors saved me from injury.

Presently we came to a long clearing, where it had once been the intention of some capitalists to build a railroad. But the matter had drifted into litigation, and nothing was done but to build a tool house and cut away the trees and brush.

The building had often been the resort of tramps, and was in a dilapidated condition. It was probably fifteen feet square, having a door at one end and a window at the other. The roof was flat and full of holes, but otherwise the building was fairly strong.

"Here we are, fellows," said Duncan, as we stopped in front of the door. "Just let go of him."

The others did as he requested. But they formed a small circle around me that I might not escape.

"Now that I have got you in a place free from interruption I intend to square up accounts with you," continued the president of the Models. "You hit me a foul blow this morning."

"You brought it on yourself, Duncan," I replied, as coolly as I could, though I was keenly interested.

"Stop! How many times must I tell you not to call me by my first name."

"Well, then, Woodward, if that suits you better."

"Mr. Woodward, if you please."

"Oh, come, Dunc, hurry up," interrupted Moran. "We don't want to stay here all day."

"I'm only teaching this fellow a lesson in politeness."

"All right; only cut it short."

"See here, Moran, who's the president of this club?"

"You are."

"Well, then, I'll take my own time," replied Duncan, loftily.

"Go ahead then. But you'll have to do without me," rejoined Moran, considerably provoked by the other's domineering tone.

"I will?"

"Yes. I've got other things to do besides standing here gassing all day."

"Indeed!" sneered Duncan.

"Yes, indeed!"

I enjoyed the scene. It looked very much as if there would be lively times without my aid.

"You're getting up on your dignity mighty quick, Dan Moran."

"I don't intend to play servant-in-waiting for any one, Duncan Woodward."

"Who asked you to?"

" 'Actions speak louder than words.' "

"I'm the president of the Models, am I not?"

"Yes, but you're not a model president."

I could not help smiling at Moran's pun. He was not a bad chap, and had he not been to a great extent under Duncan's influence he might have been a first-rate fellow.

Of course, as is the fashion among men as well as boys, all the others groaned at the pun; and then Ellery broke in:--

"Come, come, this will never do. Go ahead with Strong, Dunc."

"I intend to," was the president's rejoinder. "But you all promised to stick by me, and I don't want any one to back out."

"I'm not backing out," put in Moran. "I only want to hurry matters up."

There was a pause after this speech, then Duncan addressed me:--

"Perhaps you are anxious to know why I brought you here?"

"Not particularly," I returned coldly.

Duncan gave a sniff.

"I guess that's all put on."

"Not at all. What I am anxious to know is, what you intend to do with me."

"Well, first of all I want you to get down on your knees and apologize for your conduct toward me this morning."

"Not much!" I cried.

"You are in my power."

"I don't care. Go ahead and do your worst," I replied recklessly, willing to suffer almost anything rather than apologize to such a chap as Duncan Woodward.

Besides, what had I done to call for an apology? I had certainly treated him no worse than he deserved. He was a spoilt boy and a bully, and I would die rather than go down on my knees to him.

"You don't know what's in store for you," said Dunce, nonplussed by my manner.

"As I said before, I'll risk it."

"Very well. Where is the rope, boys?"

"Here you are," answered Pultzer. "Plenty of it."

As he spoke he produced a stout clothes line, five or six yards in length.

"We'll bind his hands a little tighter first," instructed Duncan, "and then his legs. Be sure and make the knots strong, so they won't slip. He must not escape us."

I tried to protest against these proceedings, but with my hands already bound it was useless.

In five minutes the clothes line had been passed around my body from head to feet, and I was almost as stiff as an Egyptian mummy.

"Now catch hold, and we'll carry him into the tool house," said Duncan. "I guess after he has spent twenty-four hours in that place without food or water he'll be mighty anxious to come to terms."

I was half dragged and half carried to the tool house and dropped upon the floor. Then the door was closed upon me, and I was left to my fate.