Frank Merriwell's Son
A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
BURT L. STANDISH
Author of the famous MERRIWELL STORIES.
STREET & SMITH CORPORATION PUBLISHERS 79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York
Copyright, 1906 By STREET & SMITH Frank Merriwell's Son
(Printed in the United States of America)
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I. A NEW LIFE. CHAPTER II. THE BIRTHMARK. CHAPTER III. ON THE VERANDA. CHAPTER IV. A MAID OF MYSTERY. CHAPTER V. THE SURPRISE. CHAPTER VI. THE FACE IN THE WATCH. CHAPTER VII. A BLACK SAMSON. CHAPTER VIII. THE SUBSTITUTES. CHAPTER IX. SPARKFAIR'S HIT. CHAPTER X. A MOONLIGHT MEETING. CHAPTER XI. THE TRUTH. CHAPTER XII. A HEART LAID BARE. CHAPTER XIII. THE PLEDGE OF FAITH. CHAPTER XIV. THE SIGNAL FOR SILENCE. CHAPTER XV. KIDNAPED! CHAPTER XVI. FOR THE SAKE OF OLD DAYS. CHAPTER XVII. A CALL TO THE "FLOCK." CHAPTER XVIII. A MAN OF THE PEOPLE. CHAPTER XIX. AN INTRUDER. CHAPTER XX. OLD FRIENDS EN ROUTE. CHAPTER XXI. AT MERRY HOME. CHAPTER XXII. ANOTHER PILGRIM. CHAPTER XXIII. IN THE NOOK. CHAPTER XXIV. ON THE CLIFF. CHAPTER XXV. A STARTLING DISCOVERY. CHAPTER XXVI. A LIVELY GAME. CHAPTER XXVII. MURILLO'S FAREWELL. CHAPTER XXVIII. A COMPACT. CHAPTER XXIX. THE PROOF. CHAPTER XXX. THE EDUCATED HORSE. CHAPTER XXXI. A CHALLENGE. CHAPTER XXXII. A HARD PROPOSITION. CHAPTER XXXIII. THE VOICE OF THE TEMPTER. CHAPTER XXXIV. A TROUBLED MIND. CHAPTER XXXV. REMORSE. CHAPTER XXXVI. A FRIEND WORTH HAVING. CHAPTER XXXVII. A PROTEST. CHAPTER XXXVIII. A CONFESSION. CHAPTER XXXIX. JOLTS FOR BULLIES. CHAPTER XL. A DETERMINED FRONT. CHAPTER XLI. THE HOUR AND THE MAN.
FRANK MERRIWELL'S SON.
A NEW LIFE.
Lizette, the French nurse, came softly and lightly down the stairs and found Frank Merriwell pacing the library floor, while Bart Hodge and Elsie Bellwood talked to him soothingly.
"Madame will see you now, saire," said the nurse, with a little curtsy. "Ze doctaire he is gone now some time. Madame she is comforterbill. She say she see you—alone."
Frank was all eagerness to go. He bounded up the stairs, two at a time, scarcely heeding the white-capped nurse, who hurried after him, softly calling:
"Not on ze rush, saire. You make ze rush, you gif madame ze start."
"That's so," muttered Merry, checking himself at the head of the stairs and waiting for the cautious nurse. "Lizette, lead the way."
The girl, stepping softly as a cat, gently opened a door for him, thus revealing a chamber where the light was softened by drawn window shades. Within that chamber Mrs. Merriwell reclined amid the snowy pillows of a broad bed.
"Ze mastaire is here, madame," said the nurse, as Frank entered.
In a moment Merry was bending over his wife.
Something small and pink, in a soft white garment, nestled on her arm. It uttered a weak little cry—the cry of a new life in the great seething world—which was sweet music to the pale woman on the bed and the anxious man who bent over her.
"Oh, Frank," murmured Inza, "he's calling to you! He knows his father has come."
Merriwell kissed her lightly, softly, tenderly. Then, with that indescribable light in his eyes, he gazed long and fondly at the babe.
"It's a boy, Inza!" he murmured. "Just as you wished!"
"Just as I wished for your sake, Frank," she said. "I knew you wanted a son. This is the happiest moment of my life, for I have given him to you."
"A son!" exclaimed Frank softly, as he straightened up and threw his splendid shoulders back. "Why, think of it, Inza, I'm a father—and you are the dearest, sweetest, handsomest, noblest little mother in all the world!"
The nurse ventured to speak.
"Madame is so well! Madame is so strong! It is wonderful! It is grand!"
"You've been very good, Lizette," said Inza. "We'll not forget it."
The nurse retired to the far end of the room, where she stood with her back toward the bed, pretending to inspect and admire a Donatello upon the wall.
Frank took the chair beside the bed and found Inza's hand, which he clasped in a firm but gentle grasp.
"What shall we name him?" he asked.
"Why, haven't you decided on a name, dear?"
"Without consulting you? Do you think I would do such a thing, Inza?"
"The name that pleases you will please me," she declared. "What shall it be, my husband?"
"Why not the name of my most faithful friend? Why not call him Bartley Hodge Merriwell?"
"If that satisfies you, he shall be called by that name."
Somehow Frank fancied he detected a touch of disappointment in her voice.
"But you, sweetheart—haven't you a suggestion to make?"
"If you would like me to make one."
"You know I would, Inza."
"Then let Hodge be his middle name. Let's call him Frank Hodge Merriwell. The initials are the same as your own. Bart will be pleased, and to me the baby will be little Frank."
"Fine!" laughed Merry, in great satisfaction. "That is settled. That shall be his name. Hello, there, Frank Merriwell, the younger! I'll make an athlete of you, you rascal! I'll give you such advantages to start with as I never had myself."
"No matter what you give him, no matter what you do for him," murmured the happy mother, "he can never become a better or nobler man than his father."
Frank kissed her again.
"Where are Bart and Elsie, Frank?" asked Inza.
"They're in the library."
"I want them to come up. Tell Lizette to call them."
The soft-footed nurse flitted from the room, and a few moments later Elsie Bellwood and Bart Hodge appeared. Hodge followed Elsie with an air of reluctance and confusion, which caused Inza to smile.
In a moment the golden-haired girl was bending over the bed, caressing her bosom friend, and murmuring soft words of affection.
"You're such a brave, brave woman, Inza!" she exclaimed. "Oh, you make me feel like a coward!"
"Come here, Hodge," urged Frank, drawing his friend round to the other side of the bed. "Here's the boy. Here he is—Frank Hodge Merriwell."
"Frank Hodge Merriwell?" echoed Bart, fumbling for Merry's hand and grasping it with an almost savage grip. "You've given him my name?"
"We did it—both of us together, old man."
"Merry, I—I don't know what—to say," stammered Bartley. "You've completely upset me. It's the greatest honor——"
"There, there," smiled Frank, "don't splutter and mumble like that, old fellow. You don't have to say a word. Just make a bow to the new-born king."
Elsie was not one to gush, but, with clasped hands and flushed face, she expressed her admiration for the child.
"You ought to feel proud, Bart," she said. "You ought to feel almost as proud as Frank."
"Proud?" laughed Hodge. "Why, I—I—— My chest has expanded three inches in the last thirty seconds. Proud? I'll bet my hat won't fit me! He's a star, the little rascal!"
"He has ze star on his left shouldaire," said Lizette. "Shall I show it, madame? Shall I show zem ze beautiful mark?"
"Please do," said Inza.
The nurse loosened the child's clothes and exposed the small, shapely shoulder. There, at the very base of the arm, was a small, perfectly formed pink, five-cornered star.
"I was right!" cried Hodge. "There's been a wonderful addition to the universe! A new star has risen!"
"It's a birthmark," said Frank.
"Oh, isn't it very strange!" breathed Elsie. "It gives me a superstitious feeling of awe. It seems to me that he is marked by fate to be something grand and wonderful."
"It was so good of you, Elsie, to come to me when I wanted you," breathed Inza. "And Hodge—he traveled so far."
"Oh, everything is coming as smoothly as possible at the mines," declared Bart. "There's a first-class foreman at both the Queen Mystery and the San Pablo. I could leave as well as not, and the old trains couldn't run fast enough to bring me here after I received the wire from Frank, saying that Elsie would be here. You bet I was glad to shake the alkali dust out of my clothes."
"You've done great things for me at the mines, Bart," said Merry. "Everything now seems to be going right for me everywhere in the world. The Central Sonora Railroad is practically completed, and the San Pablo is paying enormously. But these are not things to speak of on an occasion like this."
After a few minutes Bart and Elsie retired, the nurse took the baby, and Frank lingered a while longer at the side of his wife.
On returning to the library, Elsie stood at one of the large windows and looked out upon the grounds and across the broad road toward the handsome buildings of Farnham Hall. There was a strange expression of mingled happiness and regret on her fair face. Something like a mist filled her eyes.
Hodge came up behind her and put his arms round her.
"A penny for your thoughts, Elsie," he said.
"I don't think I could express them in words," she confessed. "Do you think me a jealous person, Bart?"
"Jealous?" he exclaimed. "Far from it!"
"But I am—I'm jealous. I'm dying of envy."
"You—you jealous—of whom?"
"Inza. Look how all the best things of life have come to her. She has a grand husband, who is doing a magnificent and noble work. Look at those splendid buildings. Every one acknowledges now that Frank has done and is doing more for the upbuilding and the uplifting of American boys than any person has ever before done in all history. Inza is his wife, and they have a son."
Bart's arms dropped at his sides, and he turned away.
In surprise, Elsie turned and saw him move from her. In a moment she had him by the arm.
"What is it, Bart?" she exclaimed, in dismay.
He shook his head, seeming unable to speak.
"Tell me what it is. Tell me what I did to hurt you," she commanded.
He faced her again, looking deep into her blue eyes.
"You called up the past, Elsie," he said, in a low tone. "I can't forget that once I thought Frank loved you—and you loved him. You've confessed a feeling of jealousy toward Inza."
"Oh, no, no, no!" she said quickly. "You didn't understand me, Bart—truly you didn't! It was not the sort of jealousy you mean. I'm not jealous of her because she is Frank's wife—never! never!"
He seemed puzzled.
"Then what did you mean—what did you mean?" he asked.
"Why, can't you understand? Can't you see how it is? Fortune or fate, or whatever you may call it, has been against me—against us, Bart. Have you forgotten how we planned on a double wedding? Have you forgotten——"
"Forgotten?" cried Hodge. "I should say not! It was the bitterest disappointment of my life! You know I urged you, Elsie—I used every persuasion in my power."
"But I could not consent. I was an invalid, and I feared my health would never return."
"It has returned, little sweetheart. You're well again. You're stronger and handsomer than ever before in all your life. You put me off then, but you can't do it now! I won't let you!"
"You mean that——"
"I mean that when I left Mexico I made a resolve—I swore an oath. If I go back there—if Frank wants me to go—you will go with me."
"You must go with me," he repeated.
"I have said it. Look here, Elsie, I know you're not jealous of Inza because Merry is rich."
"Oh, no, no!"
"As a rule, I have told you everything, my girl, but I now confess that there is one thing that I have not told you. I have a secret."
"A secret from me?"
"Yes, a secret from you. You heard Frank state how well the San Pablo is paying. You heard him say that I had been faithful in my work for him. Perhaps you do not know that ere we entered into an agreement by which I took charge of his two mines and acted as overseer for both of them—perhaps you do not know that we nearly quarreled."
Elsie looked astounded.
"Nearly quarreled?" she exclaimed.
"Why, how could you?"
"Because he insisted on a certain condition in our agreement. Because he insisted that, after a lapse of time and at the completion of the Mexican railroad, I should accept a third interest in the San Pablo Mine. I fought against it. I told him it was not right. I even threatened to quit and have nothing to do with the work he wished me to perform. He was inexorable, unyielding. I pointed out that my service was not worth what he offered. I showed him that he could get experienced and expert men to do the work for an infinitesimal part of what he proposed to give me. He asserted that he was not giving me this merely for my labor, but on account of past favors and things I had done for him which could not be paid for in money. Even though I did not permit him to force me into consenting to take this share of his mine, I finally remained and did my best. I arrived in Bloomfield three days ago. The day I reached here he placed a paper in my hands. That paper makes me one-third owner of the San Pablo. I'm rich, Elsie. The future is assured for me and for you. That very day I went to the town clerk and had another paper made out. Here it is."
He took a document from his pocket, opened it, and placed it in her hands.
"Why—why, what——" faltered Elsie.
"It's a marriage license," said Bart. "I've made all arrangements, and to-morrow, God willing, you and I will be made man and wife."
It was even as Hodge had said. On the morrow, at her request, they were married in Inza's chamber.
ON THE VERANDA.
It was a beautiful sunny morning some three weeks later.
Inza and Elsie sat on the broad veranda of Merry Home, while Lizette, the nurse, trundled the baby up and down beneath the shady trees on the broad lawn.
Over at the east of Farnham Hall a group of laborers, among whom were fully twenty of the Farnham boys, were completing the foundations for Merriwell's new manual-training school building.
A glimpse of the distant athletic ground showed a number of boys hard at work on the track and the baseball field.
There was a look of serene happiness on Inza's face, while Elsie was positively rosy. After chatting a while, they sat some moments in silence, busy with their own thoughts. Finally their eyes met, and Inza laughed.
"No one would ever dream now that you were at one time determined to be an invalid, Elsie," she said.
"Determined to be?" exclaimed Elsie. "Why do you use that word, Inza?"
"Why, you remember that I laughed at you—you remember I told you a hundred times that you would be well and strong again."
"Yes, you were most encouraging, Inza, and I'll never forget how faithfully you stuck by me. Still, there were reasons why I feared for my future health."
"Oh, no, Inza; not silly. You can't call them that. You know my mother was never strong, and she finally became a chronic invalid."
"But your father——"
"Oh, he was a rugged man."
"You know it's said that girls generally take after their fathers and boys after their mothers."
"But in my case it was different. A thousand times my father told me how much I looked like my mother. I had a picture of her, and I could see I was becoming more and more like her every day."
"You're a person who worries, Elsie. When things are not going just right you give yourself over to fears for the future. I have absolute courage and faith."
"Oh, I know my failing," admitted the golden-haired bride. "You and Frank were made for each other. You're both courageous and trustful. Frank has done marvels for Bart in the way of giving him unwavering confidence and courage. You know Bart used to be quick-tempered, resentful, and inclined to brood. He has learned, through Frank's example, to overcome such failings, and he's now almost as confident and optimistic as Frank himself. I think Bart will help me in that respect."
"We're both extremely fortunate," said Inza gravely. "If other girls could have such good fortune, this world would be a happy place. You are going to stay with us this summer?"
"Oh, I don't know. Bart thinks it his duty to return to the mines. If he goes, I shall go with him."
"But Frank says Bart will not be needed there for three months, at least. You're not going to settle down to live in Arizona or Mexico, Elsie?"
"Oh, I don't expect we'll live there all our lives," was the smiling answer. "But while duty keeps my husband out there, I shall remain with him."
"That's fine—that's splendid! But Frank says there is no reason why Bart should spend more than five or six months of the year at the mines. Frank wants you to have a home in the East—here in Bloomfield."
"Oh, I hope we may!" cried Elsie. "I'm sure Bart would like that."
"Then you'd better make your plans for it. There's a fine building lot down the road, and Frank owns it. You know you were married so suddenly we had no opportunity to make you a wedding present. If you can induce Bart to build, Frank and I have decided to give you that lot as a wedding present."
Elsie sprang up, her eyes dancing, flung her arms round Inza's neck, and kissed her repeatedly.
"It's too much—too much!" she cried.
For a few moments their words and laughter were mingled in such confusion that the record would produce a senseless jumble. Finally Elsie sat down, appearing utterly overcome.
"Oh, what a glorious world!" she murmured. "What a grand, inexpressible thing real true friendship is! Still, such a gift is——"
"Now don't feel that this is a case of charity," laughed Inza. "I want you here—we want you here. Bart doesn't need charity. His interest in the San Pablo makes him independent. He could buy a building lot anywhere he chose in Bloomfield; but it happens Frank owns the best lot near us, and our selfish desire to have you close by is one motive for the present."
"Selfish, Inza? There never was a selfish bone in you or in your husband. I understand and appreciate the spirit of the gift, and I'm sure Bart will. Oh, won't it be the finest thing to plan our new house, to watch while it is being built, to furnish it, and finally to move into it and start with a real home of our own!"
Again they were silent.
Amid the trees birds were calling, mate to mate. A proud redbreast danced across the lawn, pausing to capture a fated insect, then flew up into one of the trees to feed its mate upon a nest.
Elsie was watching the maid, now bending over the carriage and crooning softly to the baby.
"Did you ever notice how queerly Lizette does her hair, Inza?"
"Yes, I've noticed," was the answer. "There are several queer things about her. Her skin is strangely dark, almost as if stained, and I know she makes up her eyebrows. Sometimes I've noted that her French, when she speaks in her own language, is anything but correct, yet she seems a girl of some education. Her intonation is occasionally a trifle different from that of most French people I've met."
"But she's very faithful."
"Yes, she is very faithful and very kind with the baby. But I believe Lizette has a secret."
"Why do you think that?"
"Occasionally she looks at me in the most peculiar manner. I've caught her looking that way several times. Once I discovered her glaring at Frank's back in a way that was almost savage."
"How singular! What do you suppose it means?"
"Oh, I don't know, unless it may be that she envies Frank and me. It may be that some time she was disappointed by an unfaithful lover."
"Poor girl!" breathed Elsie. "If such is the case, I think I realize how she feels. But look, Inza, here come the boys now. They're coming over from the Hall."
The "boys" were Frank and Bart, who were approaching side by side, two splendid specimens of American manhood.
A MAID OF MYSTERY.
Frank and Bart waved their hands and lifted their hats. Hodge dashed up the veranda steps to join his wife, while Merry paused to bend over the baby carriage.
"Why, he's wide awake," laughed Merry, as he surveyed the baby. "He's chipper and bright as a new-minted dollar, but he isn't raising much of a racket."
"Oh, he has ze most splendid tempaire for ze baby zat I evaire see," said Lizette. "He no make ze cry, ze squawk, ze squeal all ze time, like some babeez. When he is hungaire he hollaire some. Zat is naturaile."
"Quite," laughed Merry. "When I'm hungry I'm inclined to put up a holler myself. Hey, hey, toddlekins, you're getting a dimple!"
He touched the baby's cheeks, and the tiny hands found and grasped his finger. A moment later that finger was in the baby's mouth.
"Hold on, you cannibal!" protested Frank, in great delight. "You're trying to eat your own father! Haven't you any heart or conscience! Haven't you any feeling for your dad! I believe he's hungry now, Lizette. I believe he's perishing! Lizette, you're starving him!"
"Oh, oh, monsieur!" cried the nurse. "I nevaire starve heem. He have all he need. You gif heem too much he git ze colic—he git ze cramp. You make heem sick. You know how to feed ze big boys to make zem strong and well, but you know not how to feed ze baby. You leave it to Lizette. She takes ze perfect care of heem."
"I fancy that's right, Lizette," said Merry, straightening up and looking at her. "You've proved that you know your business. I'll remember you well, my girl. But, say, Lizette, what makes you do your hair so queerly? What makes you hide your ears with it?"
The nurse seemed confused, and bowed her head until he could not see her face fairly.
"Oh, maybe I have ze very ugly ear, monsieur. Eef not zat, mebbe I like ze way I do ze hair. You know one time ze many girl do ze hair zis way like Cleo de Merode."
"Well, you don't need to advertise yourself, and that was one of Cleo's advertising dodges. Have you a brother?"
"Why you ask it?"
"Because there's something wonderfully familiar in your appearance. Because I've either seen you before or some one very much like you. Have you a brother?"
"I have not ze brothaire."
"Then it must be a coincidence, but somehow I seem to remember dimly a boy who looked like you. I may be mistaken."
"I have neither the brothaire nor the sistaire. I am all alone in ze world, monsieur. I have ze hard time to geet ze living once. It gif me ze great work."
"Well, don't worry about that any more, my girl. We need you right here at Merry Home."
Inza was calling to him, and Frank hastened up the steps.
"I didn't expect you'd be able to come so soon, Frank," said his wife, as he drew his chair close to hers.
"Oh, I arranged it to get off early this forenoon. Hodge has been helping me. Diamond and Browning are still hard at work keeping the boys pegging away."
"Everything is going well at the school?"
"Things couldn't go better. I don't know a boy who hasn't made great improvement, although some have done far better than others. Each day it seems that they take hold of the work with fresh enthusiasm and energy."
"You've got a great baseball bunch there, Merry," said Hodge. "I don't wonder they trimmed everything in their class hereabouts. As a pitcher, that fellow Sparkfair is the real article."
"You're right. Sparkfair is a wonder."
"But I can't quite fathom him," confessed Hodge. "If ever I saw a deceptive young scoundrel, it's that chap. At times he's so meek and modest that he dazes me. At other times he's so flippant and forward that I want to collar him and shake him out of his clothes. I wouldn't know how to deal with him, Frank."
"In some respects it was a problem with me," confessed Merry; "but fortunately I struck on the proper course. Once I found out how to manage, it was not hard to handle Sparkfair. He raised a lot of dust when he first landed at Farnham Hall. It didn't take him long to get arrested as a highwayman, and right on top of that I had to kill a fine horse in order to keep the horse from killing Sparkfair. He's as full of queer quirks and unexpected moves as an egg is full of meat. If there's a practical joke perpetrated, I generally look for Sparkfair at the bottom of it. About nine times out of ten I find him there. Still, he's not malicious, and in a case of emergency I believe I can depend upon him to be on the right side. For instance, when the boys started a rebellion against manual labor Sparkfair refused to join them, and it was his scheme that put a prompt and ludicrous end to the rebellion."
"I think he's a splendid boy," said Inza. "I took a liking to him the first time I saw him."
"He's done a great deal in the way of helping young Joe Crowfoot along," said Frank.
"There's another marvel!" exclaimed Bart. "If any one except you were to tell me that your Indian boy has made such astonishing progress from savagery to civilization in such a brief time, I'd disbelieve the yarn. I've been giving him points on his work behind the bat. He grasps everything almost instantly."
"He's remarkably apt," nodded Merriwell. "With his whole soul he's determined to learn everything the white man can teach him. Old Joe swore the boy to this obedience, and young Joe has never faltered or hesitated. Still, I know he is sometimes consumed with a longing for the wild life that's natural to one of his race. At times he wanders alone in the fields and woods. He takes pleasure in following the trail of any wild animal if he happens to find such a track. As a trailer, I believe he's almost as wonderful as a bloodhound."
The conversation wandered on to other topics, and finally Inza spoke of the wedding gift to Bart and Elsie. Hodge seemed quite overcome and unable to express himself.
"Not a word, old fellow!" cried Frank, glancing at his watch and rising quickly. "Come on if you're going into town with me."
"Are you going into town?" asked Inza.
"Oh, we won't be gone long," smiled Merry. "It's a little matter that requires attention. Perhaps we'll bring back a surprise."
"Oh, now you've aroused my curiosity!"
"I intended to."
"Aren't you going to tell me what it is?"
"Then it wouldn't be a surprise."
"But I can't wait."
"Just like a woman," chuckled Merry. "Give them a hint of a surprise in store for them, and they'll badger you to death until they spoil the surprise. Let's take flight, Bart. Let's get away before the girls coax it out of us."
He snatched a kiss and sprang down the steps, followed by Hodge.
"I think you're real mean!" cried Inza. "You just wait and see if I don't play it back on you! I'll have a secret some time and keep it from you!"
"Impossible!" said Merry. "No woman ever kept a secret."
"Especially from her husband," put in Hodge.
"Oh, you'll see—you'll see!" threatened Inza.
But the two laughing young men disappeared round the corner.
"Now, I'd just give anything in the world to know what they're up to," said Inza. "Aren't you dying to know, Elsie?"
"I am, but still I think I'll survive," was the answer.
Proceeding to the stable, Merry called Toots, who promptly appeared, jerking off his cap and bowing as he showed his teeth in a grin.
"How'd do, Marsa Frank—good mawnin', sah," he said. "How'd do, Mist' Hodge? What ken Ah do fo' yo' dis lubly mawnin'?"
"Hitch the span into the surrey," said Merry. "I want you to drive us to the station."
While the colored man was hitching up, Frank and Bart talked.
"I heard some of the things you were saying to that French nurse girl, Merry," said Hodge. "You seem to have an idea that you've seen her before."
"I can't get over the feeling," confessed Frank. "Still, it doesn't seem so much as if I'd seen her as it does seem that I've seen some one like her."
"You asked her if she had a brother?"
"She said no?"
"Do you think that she told you the truth?"
"I had no reason to think otherwise."
"You trust her?"
"She seems perfectly trustworthy to me."
"Well, you may be right. In old times I was forever suspecting some one you trusted. In most cases I was wrong, and I suppose I am wrong this time."
"Then you suspect Lizette?"
"I have a queer feeling about that girl. I can't give my reasons for it, Merry. Still, after you were through talking with her a little while ago and you started up the veranda steps, I saw her give you a queer look behind your back."
"What sort of a look?"
"I can't describe it. She just flashed you one daggerlike glance with those black eyes."
"Oh, well, that meant nothing. Are you ready, Toots?"
"Yes, sah, all ready, sah. Git right in, gemmans. Whoa dar, Flossie! Don't yo' git so nimpatient! Stop yo' dancin', old girl. You're gittin' Dick all fretted up."
Frank and Bart sprang in and took the rear seat. In a moment Toots was on the front seat, and the horses clattered out of the stable.
The eastbound express drew up at Bloomfield station. Among the passengers who got off was a slender, grave-faced young fellow, who carried a satchel, and whose hand was grasped almost as soon as his foot reached the depot platform. It was Frank Merriwell's old friend, Berlin Carson.
"How are you, Berlin, old boy!" cried Frank, shaking that hand warmly. "Here's Hodge."
Bart Hodge followed Frank in giving the traveler a handshake.
"By George, I'm glad to see you, Carson," he said.
The young man's grave face brightened and a look of seeming sadness vanished from his eyes as he surveyed Merry and Hodge.
"Glad doesn't express it with me," he said. "I can't find words, fellows. By Jove! you're both looking fine and happy as lords."
"Hodge ought to look happy." chuckled Merriwell. "Just married, you know."
"You've named her," nodded Frank. "She's the bride."
"Congratulations, Bart, old boy!" said Carson, again wringing the hand of Hodge.
"But hasn't Frank put you onto the other event?" asked Bart. "There's a new Merriwell in Bloomfield."
"A new Merriwell?"
"Three weeks old."
"And you never sent me word, Frank!" said Berlin, with a slightly injured air.
"How could I? Didn't know your address. Last I knew you were not on the ranch."
"No, I haven't stayed on the ranch much since father's death and since——"
Carson broke off abruptly, as if his lips had nearly uttered something he did not care to speak about.
"You were en route when I received your wire, Berlin," explained Merry. "You couldn't expect me to answer it, you know."
"Of course not. It's all right, Merry."
Merriwell led Carson toward the waiting surrey. Toots was standing on the platform, holding the horses.
"I believe you've met Toots, Berlin," said Frank.
"How'd do, Mist' Carson—how'd do, sah?" bowed Toots, his cap promptly coming off his kinky head. "Long time since Ah've seen yo', sah, an' Ah don' beliebe Ah'd known yo'. Yo's monstrous changed—monstrous changed."
"I suppose I have changed, Toots," said Berlin.
It was true, and both Frank and Bart had taken note of it. Carson was much thinner, and there was a certain wan and weary look about him.
Merriwell had arranged that his assistants, Browning and Diamond, who were also old schoolfellows of Carson's, should be at Merry Home when Berlin reached there. And there was a great handshaking and much exclaiming over his appearance.
"I salute the little mother!" said the Westerner, as he bent over Inza's hand and kissed it. "And the bride, too!" he exclaimed, as he greeted Elsie. "Merriwell, Hodge, let me shake hands with you again! My grip must say the things my lips cannot."
"Where's the baby?" questioned Frank.
"Lizette has taken him in," answered Inza. "He's asleep now. Oh, this was a surprise, Frank! I'm still angry at you, and yet I'm glad you didn't tell me."
"And that's like a woman, too," smiled Merry. "Come, Carson, I'll show you your room. You look pegged out, but a wash-up and something to eat will brace you. Later on we'll have a royal chat over old times. Then I'll show you through Farnham Hall and around the grounds."
Berlin was left in his room, off which there was a bath. Instead of hastening to wash up when Merry was gone, Carson sat down on a chair, and the expression of weariness crept back into his sad eyes.
"And I might have been as happy myself!" he murmured. "I suppose it was not to be. I know I'm a fool, but I can't forget—I can't forget!"
After a few moments he arose and made preparations to descend.
At the head of the stairs he came face to face with Lizette, who was coming up. He gave her a glance, then stopped as if turned to stone. Like a flash he seized her arm.
"Bessie!" he exclaimed; "Bessie, you here?"
Lizette fell back against the wall, her face gone white and her lips parted. Her free hand fluttered up to her heart, and for a few moments she was speechless. Finally she forced a little laugh.
"Oh, how you frighten me, monsieur!" she exclaimed. "You catch me so queek by ze arm, and your feengaires hurt!"
Carson released his hold, but blocked her path.
"Bessie?" he repeated, but this time there was a note of inquiry in his voice.
The girl seemed bewildered, but she shook her head.
"Zat is not my name, monsieur. It is Lizette. I am ze nurse."
"That face! Those eyes!" breathed the agitated young man. "That voice, also! Bessie, you cannot deceive me!"
"You gif me ze fear," said the nurse, shrinking away. "You look so very strange. Why you glare at me wiz ze eye? Why you keep calling me Bess-ee?"
"Are you not Bessie—my Bessie?"
"You haf ze very strange idea in your mind, saire. I nevaire saw you before."
Berlin Carson was like one dazed and utterly bewildered. To all appearances he had badly alarmed the girl. As he faltered in seeking further words, she suddenly brushed past him and fled, her soft-falling feet making no sound.
For fully three minutes Carson stood there without speaking. Finally, with his hand on the banister, he started to descend the stairs.
"Am I deceived?" he whispered huskily. "No, by Heaven, it is she!"
THE FACE IN THE WATCH.
At lunch Carson was strangely silent and abstracted. The raillery of his friends failed to awaken him into anything like liveliness. He smiled a bit at their jokes and chaffing, but any one could see those smiles were forced.
"I should say it was high time you got away from the wild and woolly West!" cried Jack Diamond. "I've heard that loneliness on the ocean or the plains makes a man gloomy, and, by Jove! I believe it's true."
"Cowboys and cattlemen are not gloomy," returned Carson. "As a rule, they're a jovial, good-natured set, who thoroughly enjoy a joke or a bit of humor. It's not loneliness on the plains that affects me, if there's anything the matter with me."
"Anything the matter with you?" rumbled Browning. "Why, in the old days you were always light-hearted. This is the first time I've ever seen a depressed mug on you."
"Let me alone, and I presume I'll come out of it," said the young Westerner. "I'm sorry if I'm casting a shadow on an otherwise happy gathering. I didn't mean to."
"Oh, you're all right, Carson. I should say your liver might be out of kilter. You need something to stir it up."
"If there's anything that will stir up a man's liver more than a hundred-mile jaunt on horseback, I'd like to know what it is. I've been taking plenty such jaunts this spring. Although I haven't been at the ranch for a month, I was there when the snow came off, and rode the range with the rest of the boys to find out how our cows had come through the winter."
"Don't suppose you've been troubled any more by cattle thieves since the demise of that fake Laramie Dave?" questioned Merriwell.
"No, we put an end to the business in our parts. We had you to thank for it. You were the one who discovered how our brand of the B. S. was being turned into the Flying Dollars brand. You stopped cattle stealing in the Big Sandy region."
"Things were hot around there for a while, weren't they, Berlin?" laughed Frank.
"I haven't heard about this," said Diamond. "What's the story?"
Carson looked disturbed.
"I don't like to tell it," he confessed. "Still, I don't suppose Frank would give himself proper credit if he should tell you. Did you ever hear of Laramie Dave, the rustler?"
"My dear fellow, I've been living on the other side of the pond so long that I haven't heard of anything taking place out in your part of this country. Who was this Laramie Dave?"
"The worst rustler known in recent years. He carried on most of his operations on the big ranches to the north of us. He operated extensively in Wyoming and in Montana. At last the cattlemen became exasperated and made things hot for him up there. Next we knew Laramie Dave was said to be getting in his work in Colorado. We lost cattle right along on the Big Sandy, and the Bar S people had the same trouble. The Flying Dollars people also made a similar complaint. The Flying Dollars Ranch was owned by Colonel King.
"There was an old feud between my foreman and the foreman of the Flying Dollars. I was with Merry in Denver when I received word that the rustlers were hitting us hard, and I struck out for the Big Sandy, Frank accompanying me. We found our fences were being cut everywhere, which permitted our cattle to stray or to be driven off. We rode over our ranch, took a look at the Bar S cattle, and visited the Flying Dollars.
"The night following our visit to the Flying Dollars Merry sat up scrawling on a piece of paper in an aimless way, while I went to bed. He woke me from a sound sleep by uttering an exclamation of triumph. I think I growled at him, but he made me get up, and there on the paper he had drawn the different brands of the three ranches, the Bar S, the Big Sandy, and the Flying Dollars. He had combined all three brands into one. He showed how either the Bar S or the B. S. could be turned into the Flying Dollars by having the latter brand burned over them. But every one in those parts respected Colonel King. No one had ever dreamed that he was concerned in the rustling. Nevertheless, Merry's detective work put us on the right track, and in the end we learned beyond question that King was stealing and rebranding our cattle. His assertions that he was losing cows were lies.
"The climax came when a posse of officers and detectives cornered Laramie Dave, and some lead was pumped into him. Colonel King was a gray-haired, respectable-looking man, while Laramie Dave wore long black hair and a drooping mustache. But Laramie Dave's mustache was false, and his long black hair was a wig which covered the white hair of Colonel King. King was the real cattle thief. He was not, however, the real Laramie Dave, who was still up in Wyoming somewhere. He had simply made himself up to look like Laramie Dave, in order that the genuine rustler might get credit for the cattle stealing.
"That's the whole story."
"Sounds like a romance or a bit of fiction," observed Diamond. "Don't suppose such business could be carried on in the West at the present time."
"We put an end to it as far as Colorado is concerned," nodded Carson. "Merry deserves the credit for rounding up the last of our big cow thieves."
"Let me see," murmured Merriwell, "Colonel King had a daughter, didn't he? What became of her, Berlin?"
Carson shook his head.
"No one knows," he replied. "She disappeared after her father's death."
After lunch they again sat on the veranda and chatted a while. Finally Frank, Bruce, and Jack went over to Farnham Hall, to attend to their duties there.
"Show Berlin over the grounds, Hodge," said Merry, as he was leaving. "I'll take him through the buildings myself later on."
Hodge and Carson strolled about that afternoon, first visiting the picnic grove and from thence turning toward the lake and the boathouse. At the boathouse they rested a while, for the spot was cool and inviting.
"I'd like a camera," said Carson. "Jingoes, Bart, a fellow could get some great views here! The scenery is soothing. That's the word for it, soothing. It gives me a feeling of rest."
"Then take your time and rest as much as you like," said Bart. "Since coming here I've had my first opportunity in months to rest. I never fancied there was a lazy streak in me, but I'm getting lazier and lazier every day. I'm afraid it would spoil me to hang around here long. I wouldn't have any relish for Arizona alkali or Mexican dust and sunshine."
They sat in one of the boats that drifted beside the boathouse float, Carson dabbling his fingers in the water.
"It is a lazy spot," he murmured. "I should think Merriwell's boys would get the tired feeling."
"Oh, some of them do," smiled Hodge; "but Frank won't let them loll around long enough for it to become chronic. He keeps them up and doing."
After they had been there nearly an hour, Bart felt for his watch and found he had left it at the boathouse.
"What time is it, Carson?" he asked.
The young Westerner drew forth a hunting-case watch and opened it.
"Nearly three," he said. Then he sat staring at the watch.
But Bart observed it was not the face of the watch at which his companion was gazing with a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes. Leaning forward a bit, Hodge discovered that on the reverse side of the open front case there was a pictured face—that of a girl.
Finally, with a faint sigh, Carson closed the watch and slipped it into his pocket.
"You and Frank are very fortunate, very happy, Bart," he said. And again began dabbling in the water with his fingers.
"I know your secret now," thought Bart. "There's a girl behind it. By Jove! Berlin, old man, you're hard hit."
A BLACK SAMSON.
The sound of boyish voices at a distance finally aroused them.
"It must be the baseball squad over on the field," said Bart. "Don't you wish to go over, Carson?"
"Eh? Did you speak to me?" asked Berlin, glancing up from the pellucid water.
"Hear those chaps over on the field?"
"We haven't looked that field over, you know. It's very interesting. You haven't begun to inspect things yet, my boy. You want to see how Merry has fitted up for all sorts of sports here. You ought to see the bathhouse and the little clubhouse, the stand, the track, the diamond, and the field in general."
"I suppose so."
Carson displayed very little desire to move.
"Well, come on," urged Hodge.
Without protest Berlin stepped from the boat to the float and followed Bart. In a short time they were on the athletic field.
"What do you think of it?" asked Hodge, with a sweep of his hand. "Just take a good look."
"It's a splendid field, I should say; but I don't see where the people are coming from to fill that stand over yonder."
"That does look like a problem, doesn't it. The stand is almost large enough for a city race track. All the same, it has been crowded more than once this season."
"It doesn't seem possible."
"Certainly it doesn't."
"Why, it looks as if the stand could accommodate the whole of Bloomfield and have room to spare."
"Merry doesn't draw on Bloomfield alone. There are lots of towns around here, and they're already hot on athletics. Wellsburg isn't so far away, and more than once Wellsburg has sent trainloads of people down here. Pittston is larger than Bloomfield, and Pittston has the fever. I understand the citizens of this little town thought Merry crazy when he built that stand. They've changed their minds since."
"No one besides Frank Merriwell could build a stand like that and bring out people to fill it in a little country village. His old-time magnetism is as strong as ever. He draws people to him. Whatever he does, he arouses them, and they come out like magic."
"That's right. This was a sleepy village if I ever saw one. In fact, this was the sleepiest burg I ever did see. I was here, you know, before Farnham Hall was built. I was here before the old Merriwell house was remodeled and turned into Merry Home. This field was an uneven, rocky strip of land, and the lake down yonder was half drained, the dam having fallen into disuse. The metamorphosis seems almost as surprising as the magic changes worked by Aladdin's lamp. Frank is the modern Aladdin. He has the lamp hidden somewhere—I'm sure of it."
At the bathhouse they found the big colored man, Jumbo, who bowed most respectfully to Hodge.
"Hello, Jumbo," said Bart. "How are your muscles to-day?"
"Well, sah," grinned the darky, "dey am not painin' me so much as dey uster was. No, sah! Marsa Frank he sorter finds plenty ob work fo' to reduce de pain in mah muscles."
"Berlin," said Bart, "Jumbo is so strong that his muscles actually ache unless he can have some strenuous occupation by which to employ himself."
The big negro grinned and winked at Carson.
"That was what Ah tol' Marsa Frank when Ah come here," he said. "Ah wanted a job as perfesser in de 'cademy mos' monstrous baad. Dat gemman friend ob mine, Toots, he done tol' me dar was an openin' for a physicum destructor at de 'cademy. So, seem' Ah had all dat strength to spare, Ah jes' 'plied fo' de position. It happened Ah was about twenty minutes too late. De place was filled, but Marse Frank he gibbed me anudder job. In de first place, he made me 'sistant physicum janitor at the 'cademy. All Ah had to do was to keep things cleaned up around de place and fro out on de back ob dere necks dem fool people what come round to bodder Marsa Frank. Ah was so skeered for fear Ah wouldn't qualify fo' de position ob 'sistant physicum janitor dat Ah jes' scratched gravel night an' day, and it wa'n't long before the reduction of the pain in mah muscles begun to took place. I was plumb busted when Marsa Frank gib me dat position. Ah didn't hab a cent about me. Eber hear ob a coon what didn't hab a cent about him? Yah! yah! yah! Well, sah, dat was my condition. Now, sah, Ah'ze rich. Ah'ze gut eleben dol's in de bank, an' Ah'ze addin' to it continerly, sah—Ah'ze addin' to it continerly. If things keep up an' nuffin' goes wrong, Ah'll soon hab mo' money dan dat bloated bond holder, old Stranded Royle, an' dey say he's one ob de richest Creases dere am outside ob de Raithchils. But Ah ain't nowhere nigh as rich as at gemman friend ob mine, Toots. Bah golly! Ah bet dat brack nigger has gut pretty nigh a hundred dollars salted away. He suttingly belongs to de colored narrerstocracy. If Ah eber 'cumulates as much as dat, Ah'll buy a brownstone house in Pillumdelphy an' settle down dar to lib on mah income. Ah'd suttinly like to keep mah strength down the rest ob mah life a crippin' coupins off'n gover'ment bands. Neber see none ob dem gover'ment bands, but, bah jinks! dey mus' be de real stuff. Yah! yah! yah!"
At last, to the satisfaction of Hodge, Carson was genuinely amused, and he joined heartily in the infectious laughter of the big colored man.
After looking through the baths and the cozy little clubhouse, Bart and Berlin mounted the stairs to the observation cupola of the latter. From this point they could look down on the field or back toward Farnham Hall and Merry Home.
"Truly a most fascinating spot. That's a grand old house of Frank's. Makes me think of the fine old colonial mansions of the South."
"That was Merry's idea in remodeling it," nodded Hodge. "Although born in the North, Frank is a man of the whole country. He's cosmopolitan. He has absorbed the spirit of the South, the East, and the West. He's in every way what you may call a representative American. There's no question about the home atmosphere of those old colonial houses. They make one feel sorry for the dinky, finicky, filigree houses built by most people in these days."
There was a shout from the baseball field below, and, looking down there, they saw several boys scampering round the diamond.
"Somebody made a great hit then," observed Berlin. "It was a homer, and evidently the bases were full."
"That's the regular team at bat," exclaimed Hodge. "It's playing the second team."
"How many teams are there?"
"Four in all, although beyond the second team the other two are not particularly strong. The second team fancies it's as good as the regulars, and it has beaten the regulars once. Let's go down."
A few minutes later they walked onto the field, where a hot dispute seemed to be taking place. Guy Featherstone, the pitcher of the second team, was furiously arguing with the umpire, who threatened to put him out of the game.
"Put me out! put me out!" dared Feather. "You're robbing us, anyhow! You're giving Sparkfair's bunch everything! You passed Bemis when I had him fairly struck out, and that gave Sparkfair a chance to make that hit. Before that we had three to one and were trimming them in great shape. Now they're two runs ahead of us. I suppose you've fixed it up with Spark. He's bound to win, if he has to make a deal with the umpire to do it."
Dale Sparkfair, a handsome lad with blue eyes, broke into a merry laugh.
"Featherstone, your head is as light as the front part of your name and as thick as the rear end of it," he declared. "You know I'm not given to making deals with umpires. All I ever ask for is a square show, and I'll have that or take to the warpath."
"Well, what do I get, what do I get?" snarled Feather, showing his teeth. "You can't bully everybody, Dale Sparkfair! I demand a square show myself. I can tell when I strike a man out. I put the third strike over fairly, and Bemis never wiggled at it. Kilgore called it a ball and filled the bases."
The umpire was a boy with a queer, crooked mouth, one corner of which twisted up while the other drooped.
"You seem to think everybody's crooked, Featherstone," he said angrily. "I'm not umpiring this game for fun, but because you—you asked me to."
"I didn't suppose you were another of Sparkfair's sycophants!" flung back Featherstone. "You're as crooked as your mouth!"
An instant later, had not Sparkfair and others held them apart, Kilgore would have struck Featherstone.
"Stop where you are, both of you!" commanded Dale sternly. "We'll have no fighting here on this field."
"He'll have to swallow his words, or I'll punch him for them!"
"I'll play no further with that fellow umpiring!" declared Featherstone. "I am going to stop right here, and I think some of the rest feel the same. Come on, boys, let's quit."
"The quitters will quit," came from Sparkfair; "but I don't believe there are many quitters here, Feather."
Guy walked out and called for his men to follow him off the field.
"I'm with you," said one of them. "I think you're right, Feather, and I'm done."
"Yes, take Booby along with you, Feather," said Dale. "I thought likely he might hoist the white flag."
"We'll stop the game!" sneered Featherstone. "The team can't play without us. Kilgore can forfeit to you, and you may feel as proud as you like over your victory."
"Perhaps we'll be able to pick up a pitcher and a second baseman to fill the vacancies," said Sparkfair, looking around. "Who'll volunteer? Any one will do. We want to finish out this practice game."
"Come, Carson," urged Hodge, "let's you and I go into that game. I'll pitch, and you play second."
"I'm all out of practice," said Berlin.
"And I'm not a pitcher, you know," reminded Hodge. "We can limber up and have some amusement, anyhow."
He offered their services, and his offer was promptly accepted by the second team, not a little to the dissatisfaction and dismay of Featherstone.
"I'm the captain of that team," cried Guy, "and I order it off the field!"
Bart walked up to the angry boy, placed a hand on his shoulder, and looked straight into his eyes.
"I'm afraid you're just what Sparkfair has called you, my son—a quitter," said Hodge, in a low tone. "The rest of the boys are going to play. You and your friend had better run over to the Hall. Trot along, now."
Muttering and growling, Featherstone turned away.
Hodge and Carson removed their coats, vests, collars, and neckties, and prepared for business.
"How does the game stand?" asked Bart, as he walked out to the pitcher's position.
"Score is five to three against you, and this is the sixth inning," answered Sparkfair. "You have your last turn at bat."
"How many men out?"
"Come here, catcher," invited Bart. "I'll have to know your signals."
Walter Shackleton hurried to meet Hodge and explained his system of signals. Bart listened and nodded.
"Give me a few minutes to get the kinks out of my arm, Sparkfair?" he asked, as he again resumed the position at the pitching plate.
"Sure, sure," smiled Dale. "Go ahead and unbend your wing."
Hodge threw a dozen balls to Brooks at first. Then, with Lander, the next batter, standing back, he sent two or three over the plate to Shackleton.
"All right," he finally nodded.
"Play!" called Kilgore.
Jake Lander stepped into the batter's box and smashed the first ball pitched by Bart. He drove it whizzing past Hodge, who did not have time to touch it.
Carson trapped it cleanly, scooped it up, and threw it to Higgins at first.
"Out!" shouted Kilgore.
"Great support, Berlin, old boy!" laughed Bart, as the second team trotted in, and Sparkfair's nine took the field.
"Now we want to take a little fire out of this bright Spark, boys," said Bart. "We need a couple of runs right off the reel. Who's the first hitter?"
"I am," answered Sam Higgins.
"What's your position on the list?"
"All right. Play your own game."
Higgins stepped out and swiped rather wildly at the first two balls, missing them both.
"Make him get it over, my boy!" urged Bart.
With Sam anxious to hit, Sparkfair did his best to "pull" him on wide ones, but Higgins let them pass, and three balls were called.
"Now you have him where you want him," came from Hodge. "If he doesn't cut the pan, you will saunter."
Sparkfair attempted to cut the pan with a swift one, but Higgins hit it. It was a hot grounder to Netterby, who fumbled it long enough for Hungry Sam to arrive at first in safety.
Tommy Chuckleson and Sam Scrogg were on the coaching lines.
"We're off again!" shouted Scrogg.
"Off again, on again, gone again!" piped Chuckleson. "It's up to you, Balloon! Don't take an ascension!"
Abe Bunderson, nicknamed "Balloon," was the next man to strike. Ere he left the bench, Hodge whispered in his ear:
"Bunt, my boy. You know what Joe Crowfoot can do throwing. Higgins can't steal. Sacrifice him to second."
He obeyed instructions, bunting rather awkwardly, yet skillfully, and sacrificing himself at first, while Higgins took second.
"Hodge next!" called the scorer.
"You're up against it now, Sparkfair," came from Lawrence Graves, as Bart stood forth to the plate.
"I'm scared to death!" laughed Dale. "See me tremble! See me vibrate!"
The infielders crept in for a bunt, while Sparkfair pitched a swift, high ball.
Hodge attempted to drop the ball just inside the first-base line, but made a foul tip, and the sphere plunked into young Joe Crowfoot's mitt.
"Don't pick 'em right off the bat, Joseph," remonstrated Bart. "If you get so close, you'll catch the ball before I have time to hit it."
The Indian boy smiled grimly.
"Mebbe that keep you from tying score," he said.
Sparkfair worked cautiously with Hodge, and, as a result, two balls were called after this first strike.
"Walking is easier than running, Spark," reminded Bart.
"Then I think I'll let you chase," said Dale. "I hope you chase the ball instead of chasing round the bases."
Hodge was watching Dale's every movement. He saw Sparkfair hold the ball, covered by his hands, close to his mouth. Evidently the pitcher intended to use the spit ball. Nevertheless, something warned Bart that Dale had turned the ball over and grasped the dry side. His pretense of trying a spit ball was all a bluff.
Whiz! The ball came whistling from Spark's fingers.
Crack! Hodge met it fairly on the trade-mark.
Away, away, away sailed the sphere, passing far over the head of Thad Barking, the center fielder, who had turned and was running as fast as his legs would carry him.
Guy Featherstone and Booby Walker had paused at a distance to watch the game a few moments.
Featherstone uttered a furious exclamation of anger.
"I'm glad he hit that ball, and yet it makes me mad!" he grated. "I might have done the same myself. Just look at that—just look at it! It's a home run! It ties the score!"
He was right.
Sparkfair sat down on the pitcher's plate and watched Hodge circling the bases.
"Hereafter," he observed, with a doleful grin, "I'll put my fielders over in the next county when you come to bat."
Bart's hit reminded Dale of Dick Merriwell's first appearance at Fardale. He recalled the fact that Dick had come to bat in the ninth inning, with two men out, the bases full, and three runs needed to tie the score. Merriwell managed to connect with the ball after two strikes had been called. He drove it far over Barking's head, clearing the sacks and coming home himself, thus winning the game by a single run.
That recollection was decidedly unpleasant to Spark.
"If I get to ruminating on such things, I'll spring a leak and weep real tears," he muttered, as he rose to his feet.
From the distance, Guy Featherstone shouted:
"Yah! yah! You're not so much, Sparkfair! You're pie for a real batter!"
With this parting taunt, Feather took Booby Walker's arm and led him away, both disappearing into the bathhouse.
Tommy Chuckleson was the next hitter to face Dale. "Why can't I do something like that?" exclaimed Chuck. "If I could ever hit the ball hard enough, you'd see me making a record round the bases!"
"Just set a few mice after you and you'd make a record, all right," laughed Dale, in return.
Then he proceeded to strike Tommy out in short order.
Lawrence Graves, his face as expressionless as a doormat, came up and batted a weak one into the diamond, being thrown out with ease.
The sixth inning ended, with the score tied.
Hedge returned to the pitcher's slab.
"We're going to trim you to-day, Spark," asserted Walter Shackleton, as he crouched froglike behind the bat. "There are no quitters on the team now."
"Don't alarm me—please don't!" implored Dale. "It's most unkind, Shack."
Fred Hollis was the first one up. He batted a grounder through Bubbs and reached second. Then came Brooks, who romped to first on an error by Netterby, although Hollis was held at second.
"Joseph," said Hodge, as young Joe Crowfoot stepped out, "I know your noble grandsire, and for his sake I'm not going to work you very hard to-day. I'll let you go right back to the bench in a moment."
"Mebbe so," muttered young Joe. "We see."
Then he picked out a good one and lifted a long fly into the field.
"Hold your bases! hold your bases!" shouted the coachers at Hollis and Brooks.
Bunderson, really looking something like a balloon with his round body, made a hot run for the ball and pulled it down close to the foul flag.
A moment before the ball struck in the fielder's hands both coachers shrieked:
Even as the ball landed in Bunderson's grasp Hollis and Brooks were off.
Abe lost a little time in turning to throw toward second. This lost time enabled Brooks to reach the sack safely, while Hollis landed on third.
Crowfoot skipped down to first, hoping his fly might not be caught, but he turned back in disappointment.
"I told you I'd let you rest, Joseph, my boy," said Bart.
"You near make bad mistake," retorted the young redskin. "You near guess wrong that time."
"I confess it," nodded Hodge. "You gave me a heart throb when you smashed the sphere."
"We need these runs, Barking!" called Sparkfair, as the next batter walked out.
"It's a deuced poor game, don't you know," said Barking. "I'm really getting sore on it, by Jove! I wish they would take up cricket. Mr. Merriwell ought to introduce some good English game into this school."
"Hello!" said Hodge; "here's a pickle from Piccadilly. Here's a blooming Britisher—in his mind. What are you going to do to me, Johnny Bull?"
Barking was actually flattered. He enjoyed being mistaken for an Englishman.
"Aw," he drawled, "it's such a blooming bother to run bases. I rawther think I'll walk, don't you know."
He did. In spite of Bart's best efforts Thad waited undisturbed and was finally passed to first on four balls.
"If I had my hat with me, I'd take it off to you, Johnny Bull," said Hodge. "You're clever—altogether too clever for us poor unsophisticated Yanks. How long have you been over?"
"How long has he been over?" sneered Sim Scrogg from third. "Why, he never saw the Atlantic Ocean. He was born inland, and he has never yet been two hundred miles away from home."
"Play ball, fellows—play ball!" cried Sparkfair. "The sacks are charged! The pillows are peopled! Only one out! Now's our time to settle this game! The new pitcher is a mark! Bump him, Bubbs!"
Little Bob Bubbs was a clever hitter, and he connected with the ball all right this time. He smashed it out on a line, and the crack of ball and bat was followed almost instantly by the smack of ball and mitt as Hodge pulled the sphere down with his left hand.
Without losing a moment to transfer the ball from the left hand to his right, Bart snapped it over to Scrogg at third, catching Hollis off the sack, and completing a breathless double play.
For an instant the regulars seemed dazed. For once in his life Sparkfair could not find appropriate words, and, silently shaking his head, he started for the pitcher's position.
"Ho! ho! ho!" rumbled Sam Higgins, as he lumbered in from first. "Just fooling with you, that's all! Just getting your courage up to take some of the swelling out of your heads!"
At bat Slick now faced Sparkfair. Oliver pulled his cap down hard on his well-oiled hair, smiled a greasy smile, and then struck out.
Carson was the next man.
"I don't believe I can hit a balloon," he muttered to Bart, ere leaving the bench. "I'm all out of practice, you know."
"You didn't appear very rusty at the start off," said Bart.
Berlin walked out, fouled the ball twice, and then lined it into left for two bags.
"Oh, yes, you're all out of practice!" laughed Bart. "You can't hit a bit, Carson!"
He was glad to see Berlin laughing on second.
"The old game's making him forget his troubles," thought Hodge. "That's the main reason why I wanted him to play."
"These back numbers seem to be onto your curves, Dale!" cried Bob Bubbs.
"Don't rub it in—please don't!" implored Sparkfair. "The way they slam me is simply awful! I did think I could pitch a little, but I'm afraid I was deceived."
He knew Scrogg's weakness, however, and, forced Sim to put up an easy infield fly, which Hollis handled.
Shackleton batted one into right field, and Carson attempted to reach home on it.
Sleepy Jake Lander was very wide awake, and he made a line throw to the plate.
Regardless of the fact that he was not in playing uniform, Carson slid. Crowfoot was there, however, and he promptly tagged Berlin. Kilgore declared it a put-out.
Hodge laughed at Carson and slapped him on the shoulder.
"These kids know how to play the game, old boy," he said. "We mustn't forget that Frank Merriwell is their instructor and coach."
Carson joined in the laugh.
"I thought I had that score recorded on the score sheet," he confessed.
In the eighth, with one out and the bases full, Brooks drove in a run.
Two men attempted to score, however, and the second runner was put out at the plate. A moment later another man was caught off his sack, making the third out.
But the regulars had the lead.
"As a pitcher I don't seem to be a howling success," laughed Hodge. "I thought they were going to make half a dozen that trip."
"We've got to get some now," said Carson. "If we don't I see our finish."
"There's another inning. We come to bat last."
"But we can't depend on winning out in the last of the ninth."
"That's right; we do need runs."
Once more Sam Higgins was up to lead off, and Bart spoke a few words of instruction in Sam's ear.
Higgins picked out an opening in the infield and drove a ball through it.
Bunderson bunted once more and was safe on Bubbs' bad throw to first.
"Look out, Spark—look out!" cried the boys. "Here comes Hodge again!"
Sparkfair used all his skill to deceive Bart, and the boy's shoots and curves were indeed enigmas. Hodge could not solve them, and a great shout went up from the boys as Dale finally struck him out.
Chuckleson lifted a foul that dropped into Shackleton's mitt.
"Two gone, Spark—two gone!" barked Bubbs. "Now you can hold 'em!"
Hodge whispered instructions to Graves. Graves walked out, held his bat on his shoulder, and stood like a post while Dale pitched. Somehow the very fact that Lawrence seemed so utterly unconcerned appeared to rattle Dale, who finally passed him to first, filling the bases.
"Too bad Slick is next," muttered Scrogg, as Oliver took his turn at bat.
Slick drove a sharp grounder at Netterby, who booted it into the diamond, and a run came in before the ball could be recovered.
Oliver was safe on first, and the sacks were still full.
The score was tied once more. Carson walked out and laced out a handsome single, which brought in two runs.
"How Featherstone would rejoice had he lingered!" muttered Sparkfair. "They're getting away with this game. I must stop it—I will!"
In spite of this determination, another error let in still another run, and Sim Scrogg reached first.
At last Sparkfair found a victim, and Shackleton fanned.
Still, to most of the boys the game seemed lost, for the second team had a lead of three runs.
"It's our last chance, fellows," said Dale gravely. "No fooling now. No sacrificing. We've got to hit the ball."
Barely had he uttered these words when an inspiration came to him. He called his players about him.
"Fellows," he said, "neither Scrogg nor Higgins are swift in handling bunts. We won't try sacrificing, but we'll try bunting, with the idea of bothering them. Don't bunt the ball where Hodge can handle it. Drop it toward first or third. Lead off, Crowfoot."
Young Joe stepped out and bunted handsomely, dropping his bat and scooting down the base line like a flash. Scrogg was seconds too late in securing the ball and sending it to Higgins. Crowfoot was safe.
Thad Barking followed with an equally successful bunt.
Hodge called Higgins and Scrogg in a bit.
"Look out for those tricks," he warned.
Bubbs glanced toward Sparkfair inquiringly. Dale nodded.
Bubbs followed with the third bunt, while Crowfoot and Barking moved up. Nevertheless, Scrogg managed to secure the ball and throw Towser out.
Netterby attempted to bunt, but popped up a little fly to Hodge and followed Bubbs to the bench.
"I rather guess it's all over," said Higgins. "The bunting game didn't work."
Bemis looked doubtful, but Sparkfair still held to his instructions. Hiram obeyed and laid down a bunt on the line toward first.
Unseen by any one, Scrogg hooked his fingers into Crowfoot's belt and held him at third. The Indian boy was angry and came near hitting Sim.
Hodge secured the ball too late to throw Bemis out, and the sacks were full once more. Crowfoot appealed to Kilgore, but the umpire had not seen Scrogg's trick and refused to penalize the second team on that account.
Sparkfair was given a hand as he walked out to the plate. Once more Dale thought of Dick Merriwell's feat on his first appearance at Fardale. The situation was nearly the same. Two men were out, the bases were full, three runs were needed to tie the score, and four to win.
"You'll have to check them, Bart," said Carson.
Hodge did his best with Sparkfair, and it began to look as if he would succeed in striking Dale out, for Spark missed two benders.
But Dale did not strike out. He finally found a ball that suited him and "found it good." It was a duplicate of Hodge's drive over center field. The regulars whooped with joy as runner after runner came galloping over the plate. They yelled like Indians as Sparkfair tore round the bases and came in from third. Four runs were secured, and once more the first team, had a lead of one tally.
"That's where you got even with me, Sparkfair!" called Hodge.
"I had to do it," laughed Dale. "You struck me out before."
With the sacks cleared, Hodge seemed invincible, for he quickly settled Lander's hash.
The game was not over, for the second team had another chance. Nevertheless, Sparkfair was at his best, and the three batters who faced him went down, one after another.
Hodge was the first to congratulate Spark.
"You're a good man in an emergency, and such men win games," he said.
"Thanks," smiled Dale. "Don't mind my blushes. I simply love to blush."
A MOONLIGHT MEETING.
In truth, the game had livened Carson up and taken his thoughts from unpleasant things.
The remainder of the afternoon was fully occupied, for Merry showed Berlin through the buildings and explained the methods of the school.
At dinner Carson seemed much brighter and joined in the talk and laughter. After dinner he accompanied Frank and Inza to see the baby. Little Frank was sound asleep, and one of the maids was watching over him.
"Where's Lizette, Maggie?" asked Inza.
"Th' poor crather do have a headache," answered Maggie. "She axed me would Oi look afther th' choild whoile she rested a bit."
"A headache? That's strange. Lizette has told me she never had an ache or a pain in all her life."
"Did yez notice, ma'am, if she touched wood whin she said it?" asked Maggie.
"I didn't notice."
"Thot's it, thot's it," declared the maid, with conviction. "Oi'm not superstitious, but Oi nivver brag about mesilf thot Oi don't touch wood. Mark me worruds, whin a person boasts and fergits to touch wood, something happens to thot person. I nivver knew it to fail."
"A fine baby, Frank," said Berlin, as he stood looking at the child. "You ought to be proud of him."
"No peacock was ever prouder," laughed Merry. "We hope to make a star of him, eh, Inza?"
"Oh, the star—the birthmark!" exclaimed Inza. "Can't you show it to Mr. Carson without waking the baby, Maggie?"
"Oi kin try, ma'am."
The maid gently slipped the clothes from the baby's left shoulder and revealed the tiny, perfectly formed pink star.
"Wonderful! wonderful!" declared Berlin. "Why, one would think it stamped there. I never saw anything so perfect in all my life. Frank, Inza, that child is marked for something great."
"Let us hope you're right," said Merry.
That night, after retiring to his room, Carson sat a long time at the open window, gazing out through the whispering trees toward the fall moon that was rising in the east. The old feeling of sadness and disappointment stole over him and gave him a sensation of uncontrollable loneliness in the world.
"I suppose I was mistaken about Lizette," he finally muttered. "I shall be able to tell when I see her again. I hoped to see her when they took me to look at the baby. Rather strange she wasn't there. Still, I presume it's true that she had a headache."
Finally he undressed, donned his pajamas, and got into bed.
Sleep did not come readily at his command. His brain was busy with many thoughts. He recalled the old days at college, when he first met Frank Merriwell. In those happy days ere meeting Bessie he was heart-free and care-free. It seemed so long ago—so long ago. It was something like a dream. Dimly he recalled the classroom, the campus, and the field. He saw his youthful comrades gathering about him at the old fence in the dusk of a soft spring evening. He heard their light talk and careless laughter. He heard them singing beneath the windows of the dormitories. He heard them cheering on the field as Old Eli battled for baseball honors or struggled to win new gridiron glory.
Ah, those were happy days, Carson, my boy! They were the happiest you have ever known. You did not appreciate those glorious days as they were passing, but you appreciate them now, and the memory is a precious one. Can such happy days as those ever again be yours?
Then he recalled old times on the ranch. He thrilled as he remembered his first meeting with dark-eyed Bessie. How she had bewitched him! How she had puzzled and fascinated him! At the very first he had felt her fascination dangerous, yet it was so delightful that he did not mind the danger.
Thinking of Bessie, he finally fell asleep and dreamed of her. On the bed he tossed restlessly, murmuring her name. He seemed to see her near at hand, yet gliding away before him as he vainly sought to overtake her. She turned her bewitching face and smiled at him alluringly. Desperately he strove to reach her, but always she kept just beyond his grasp. Yet she beckoned him on with her smile and with her hypnotic eyes. Finally, in mad desperation, he made one last great leap and seized her. He had her now! She was his! She could not get away! In that moment of triumph a marvelous metamorphosis took place, and as his arm bound her to his side he beheld her transformed into a boy. She was no longer Bessie, but young Tom King, reckless, taunting, derisive, and mocking.
In that mysterious way of dreams, he now beheld himself gazing down upon a dying man, who lay stretched upon the ground, a bullet having passed through his body. He knew the man. It was Colonel King, the cattle rustler, who had carried on his criminal work disguised as Laramie Dave. There were other men standing about—armed men. The sheriff was there with his posse. At last, through the revelation and information furnished by Frank Merriwell, this cattle stealer had been captured and shot. And now he was gasping his life away, and soon his stain-spotted soul would stand naked before the judgment bar above.
Through his dream—if dream it was—a voice sounded, cutting him to the heart. That voice cried, "You have killed him, you devils!" Then young Tom King threw himself on his father's prostrate body, weeping bitterly. Carson attempted to lift the boy, but once more before his eyes a change took place, and Tom King became Lizette, the French nurse.
He awoke, shaking in every limb, with cold perspiration on his face.
"Did I dream," he hoarsely muttered, "or did I live the past over again?"
There was no more sleep for him. He rose and went to the window. The cool night beckoned to him. The soft moon smiled at him. The whispering leaves said, "Come out, come out."
Carson dressed, softly descended the stairs, and left the house.
He filled his lungs and stretched his arms. The moon had mounted into the eastern sky, and there were deep shadows beneath the trees. The restless young man walked amid those shadows.
Suddenly he paused, startled by the sound of voices. Near at hand two persons were talking. One voice, hoarse, harsh, suppressed, was that of a man. The other was a woman's voice.
"What does it mean?" thought Carson. "Who is here at this hour? I must know—I'll investigate."
Cautiously he stole forward, keeping deep within the shadows. He had not proceeded far before these words, spoken by the woman, came distinctly to his ears:
"I cannot—I will not do it!"
An instant later a shadowy figure came rustling toward him. It was the woman, and she was right upon him ere she discovered the silent man who stood there beneath the trees. With a little gasp, she turned and fled on. A patch of moonlight, shimmering through the branches, had shown him her face.
The face of Lizette!
His first impulse was to follow her. Then he stopped and stood waiting for the man. The man did not come.
"Where is he? who is he?" speculated Berlin.
After a time Carson turned toward the house.
"She's in her room long ere this," he thought.
But close by the wall a shadow lingered, and, as he approached, this shadow suddenly moved forward and confronted him.
"What is it you do here?" demanded the voice of Lizette. "I know you see me. I know you hear sometheeng. Why you watch me? Mon Dieu! would you hurt a poor girl?"
Carson took a firm grip on himself and was deliberate in speaking.
"Why should I wish to hurt you?" he asked. "You have done no harm, have you?"
"Oh, no, no, no! I haf done notheeng!"
"Then why do you fear?"
"You watch me. You follaire me."
"If you have done nothing wrong, you need not fear to be watched."
"But it is not honerable to play ze spy on a girl."
"I did not do so intentionally. I could not sleep, and I came out here to get the air. It was wholly by chance that I ran across you. Who was with you?"
"No one, monsieur."
"Tell me the truth," commanded Berlin, still in that calm, deliberate tone.
"It is ze truth."
"Think again. You place me in the awkward position of contradicting a lady. You were talking with a man."
"But I heard him."
"What deed you hear?" she fiercely demanded, as she clutched his arm. "Tell me what deed you hear heem say?"
"Then you acknowledge there was a man?"
"Oh, what is ze use to deny! Oui, oui, zere was ze man!"
"Who is he?"
"Perhap maybe he is my lovaire. Perhap he has promised me to marry."
For one instant Berlin seemed on the point of losing all his assumed self-control. His hands shook, and he made a move as if he would seize her roughly. He checked this movement just in time.
"Your lover, eh?" he said. "Well, what sort of a lover is he who meets you in this sort of a manner at night? Why doesn't he see you like a man, instead of sneaking around this way? Your lover, girl? What right have you to have a lover other than myself? You call yourself Lizette, and you speak with an accent, but I know you are Bessie King. I did think I might be mistaken, but now I'm positive there is no mistake. I am right. You are Bessie!"
She threw back her head and laughed softly.
"I hear ze madame say you are not well, monsieur," she said. "I theenk ze madame is right. It must be een your head. I am vary, vary sorree for you. You should not become so much excited."
"I knew you were a wonderful actress, Bessie, but you astonish me still. When you lived on the Flying Dollars Ranch you took delight in acting a part."
"What is ze Flying Dollairs Ranch?"
He paid no heed to the question.
"Yes, you were a great actress even then," he went on. "Colonel King had a beautiful daughter, and he was supposed to have a son—a harum-scarum, reckless lad, who went galloping over the ranges with the cowboys, roped cattle, took part in round-ups, and did all sorts of things like that. This boy was known as Tom King. Colonel King's foreman, Injun Jack, had a grudge against Frank Merriwell and swore to kill him. He found his opportunity and attempted to shoot Merriwell. In order to save Merriwell's life young Tom King shot Injun Jack. It was thought that Jack had been instantly killed. But while Colonel King lay dying a few hours later and Tom King was weeping over his father, Injun Jack appeared and made a revelation that astounded every one. The boy who had been known by that name was Bessie King, the colonel's daughter. You are that girl."
Again Lizette tried to force a laugh.
"It is so strange a crazee notion," she said.
"Why keep it up?" demanded Berlin. "You must realize you cannot fool me, even though, by the change in your appearance, by doing your hair in a peculiar manner, penciling your eyebrows and staining your skin, you have deceived Merriwell himself. He did not know you as I knew you. Look at me, Bessie. Have your eyes shown you no change in me? Have you not seen how altered I have become since your disappearance? I never knew how much I loved you until you had vanished and I could not find you. I have searched everywhere, and every hour since your vanishing has been an hour of restless torture for me. It seems to me that I loved you, Bessie, as no man ever loved a girl before. You gave me no opportunity to declare my love, but I declare it now. It's as strong as it was then—and stronger. I swore I would find you some time. I vowed you should be mine. I have found you, and I intend to keep that vow. What's this, little girl—you're weeping? You won't deny me longer? You are Bessie—Bessie, my own!"
"Yes," she answered chokingly, "I am Bessie!"
A HEART LAID BARE.
It was the truth at last. His heart leaped madly. But when he reached for her she started back.
"Don't touch me!" came huskily from her lips. "You must not!"
"Why, Bessie, I still——"
"You can't forget that I am the child of a cattle thief—a criminal!"
"That's not your fault, little girl. I can forget it. I have forgotten it."
"It's impossible," she declared, shaking her head.
"Such talk is folly, Bessie. Your father's misdeeds should not blight your life. I will not have it so! You were innocent."
She turned her face toward him, and those wonderful dark eyes looked sadly into his. There were tears trembling on the long lashes.
"You know I'm not foolish, Berlin Carson," she said, in a strangely hardened tone. "In the old days on the ranch I was no soft-hearted, light-headed girl."
"You were the most bewitching and fascinating creature the Colorado sun ever shone upon. There was always a mystery about you, and it bound me with a magic spell. The years since I saw you last have made that spell more potent and powerful."
"Still, I'm the daughter of a man who rustled cattle. He did not rustle them in the good old-fashioned way. Instead of that, he stole them after the manner that a sneak thief picks a pocket. He did his work by altering the brands. He posed as another man. He sought to lay all the blame on the shoulders of Laramie Dave, a known rustler."
"Why talk of that, Bessie?"
"I lived on the Flying Dollars Ranch. Dressed as a boy, I rode the range with my father's cattlemen, who helped him rustle. Do you think I knew nothing of what was taking place? Do you think I was silly enough and soft enough to be deceived? You must understand that I knew my father was a criminal."
Carson shivered a little, but it was not because of the cool night air. In all the weeks and months since her vanishing, in all his thoughts of her, this thing had never occurred to him. He had regarded her as the innocent, unfortunate daughter of a bad man.
Now, however, he sought an excuse for her.
"He was your father, and you had to protect him. You could not betray your own father. You must have suffered."
"You're too kind, too generous," she hoarsely explained. "It was no effort on my part to keep his secret. I knew what business he followed long years before I ever saw you. I knew it long before he purchased the Flying Dollars. Down in Texas he was a rustler, but, unlike other rustlers, he did not squander his money. He saved it and sent me to school. In a boarding school I was regarded as the daughter of a wealthy ranchman. I was popular with my girl schoolmates. No one of them ever suspected that my father was a cattle thief and that I knew it."
"For Heaven's sake, stop!" commanded Carson. "Don't seek to degrade yourself in my eyes! Don't try to turn me against you in this manner!"
"I'm simply telling you the truth, Berlin Carson. Do you wonder why I vanished after my father's death? Do you wonder why I never faced you again? You knew a part of the miserable truth. Had I been compelled to see you again, I knew I would tell you all, and I likewise knew what that meant."
"What it meant?"
"I knew it would shock you beyond words. I knew the effect it must have upon you. I could not bring myself to meet you, well knowing that you would shudder and shrink from me."
He lifted his hand.
"No, no, never!" he declared. "You were wrong, Bessie. You were frightfully mistaken. The trouble was that you did not understand me—you did not know me."