“Here we are,” said a low voice.
The hack had stopped. Several persons sprang down from the top. The door
was flung open and others issued from within.
“Drag him out.”
At this command a helpless figure was pulled forth.
The night was dark and the place the outskirts of the city of Omaha.
Near at hand rose the black hulk of a silent and apparently deserted
“All right, driver.”
The door of the hack slammed, the driver whipped up his horses, and the
men were left with the helpless one in their midst.
“Make him walk,” said the first speaker. “He’s conscious, for he tried
to get his hands free inside.”
They moved, forcing along their captive. Close up to the wall to the
wall of the building they halted.
“Have you the key?” asked one.
“Yes; here it is.”
“Open the door. Hurry up. The watchman may see us, and it will be all
“That’s right,” put in another. “You know somebody tried to burn this
place a week ago.”
Soon the man with the key opened a door and the captive was pushed into
the building. Every man followed, and the door was closed.
Ten minutes later all were assembled in a bare room of the old building.
One of them had brought a number of torches, which were now lighted. The
light showed that there were ten of them in all, and with the exception
of the captive, whose hands were tied behind his back and whose jaws
were distended by a gag, they wore masks which effectually concealed
The captive was Frank Merriwell.
One of the men stepped before Frank.
“Well, how do you like it?” he asked tauntingly. “What do you think is
going to happen to you?”
It was impossible for Merry to reply.
“Remove that gag,” directed the taunting chap. “Let him talk. Let him
yell, if he wants to. No one can hear him now.”
The mask was removed from between Frank’s teeth.
“Thank you,” said Merry, after a moment. “That’s a great relief to my
“Oh, it hurt you, did it?” sneered the taunting fellow. “Well, you may
get hurt worse than that before the night is over.”
“I suppose you contemplate murdering me, Darleton,” said Frank, his
Immediately the other snatched off his mask, exposing the face of Fred
“I’m willing you should know me,” he said. “You do not know any of the
“I am quite confident that your chum, Grant Hardy, is one of them.”
“You can’t pick him out. You couldn’t swear to it.”
“If you put me out of the way, like the brave men you are, I’ll not be
able to swear to anything.”
“Oh, we’re not going to murder you, you fool!”
“You surprise me!”
“But I have had you brought here in order that I may square my account
“In what manner? Are you going to mutilate me?”
“I may carve you up some before I am through with you. You think you are
a great fencer, but I am satisfied that you are a coward. If you were
forced to fight for your life you would show the white feather.”
“Do you think so?”
“I know it.”
“Give me half an opportunity.”
“I will, and you shall fight me!” cried Darleton viciously. “You did
some very fancy work on exhibition. Now you can show what you’re capable
of doing when your handsome body is at stake.”
“What do you mean?”
Darleton turned to his companion.
“Where are the rapiers?” he asked.
One of the masked men held out something wrapped in a black cloth.
“Here they are.”
“All right. Set him free. He can’t get away. Release his hands.”
A moment later Frank’s hands were freed.
“Strip down for business, Merriwell,” commanded Darleton, flinging aside
his coat and vest and removing his collar. “You are going to fight me
“A genuine duel?” asked Merry.
“That’s what it will be.”
Frank did not hesitate. He flung aside his coat and vest, removed his
collar and necktie, and rolled back the shirt sleeve of his right arm.
The readiness with which he accepted the situation and prepared for
business, surprised some of the masked men.
Before long Darleton and Frank were ready.
In the meantime, the cloth had been removed from the rapiers, revealing
two long, glittering weapons.
“Give him the choice,” cried Darleton, with a flourish.
The man with the weapons stepped forward, holding them by the blades and
having them crossed. Frank accepted the first that came to his hand. His
enemy took the other.
“On guard!” cried Darleton savagely; “on guard, and defend your life!”
Steel met steel with a deadly click.
There was no fooling about that encounter. From the very start it was
deadly and thrilling in its every aspect. The duelists went at it keyed
to the highest tension.
Merry saw a deadly purpose in Fred Darleton’s eyes, and he knew the
fellow longed to run him through.
On the other hand, only as a last resort to save himself did Frank wish
to seriously wound his enemy.
Aroused by his fancied wrongs, Darleton handled the rapier with
consummate skill. He watched for an opening, and he was ready to take
advantage of the slightest mistake on the part of his opponent.
The torches flared and smoked, casting a weird glow over the scene. The
fighters advanced and retreated. The rapiers glinted and flashed.
“Do your best, Merriwell!” hissed Darleton.
Frank was kept busy meeting the swiftly shifting attacks of the fellow,
who was seeking to confuse him.
“I know your style,” declared the vengeful chap. “You can’t work the
tricks you played on me at the Midwestern. Try any of them—try them
Frank made no retort. He was watching for a chance to try quite a
Suddenly the opening came. He closed in. The rapiers slipped past until
hilt met hilt. With a snapping twist Frank tore the weapon from the
fingers of his foe and sent it spinning aside.
Darleton was at Merry’s mercy. Frank had been forced into this
engagement in a way that made it something entirely different from an
ordinary affair of honor. He was surrounded by enemies. No friends were
present. He could have ended Fred Darleton’s life with a single stroke.
Instead of that, he stepped quickly aside, picked up the rapier and
offered it to his foe, hilt first.
Chagrined by what had happened, Darleton snatched it and made a quick
thrust at Merry’s throat.
By a backward spring, Merry escaped being killed.
Instantly a wonderful change came over Frank. He closed in and became
the assailant. Twice he thrust for Darleton. He was parried, but he
guarded instantly and prevented the fellow from securing a riposte.
Merry’s third attempt was more successful.
He caught Darleton in the shoulder and inflicted a superficial but
somewhat painful wound.
Exclamations came from the masked witnesses.
Infuriated by his poor success and the wound, Darleton threw caution to
the winds and sailed into Merry like a tornado.
“It’s your life or mine!” he panted, as he made a vicious thrust at
The thrust was turned.
Then a cry of horror broke from the spectators, for Frank seemed to have
run his antagonist clean through the body.
Darleton fell. One of the masked men, who seemed to be a surgeon, knelt
at once to examine the wound.
“I’m sorry,” said Frank grimly; “but I call on you all to bear witness
that he forced me to it. As he said, it was his life or mine.”
The following day Frank visited Darleton in the hospital whither the
unfortunate fellow had been taken. The wounded man’s injury had been
pronounced very serious, but not necessarily fatal. The course of the
steel had been changed by a rib, and only Darleton’s right side had been
The moment they were left alone, Darleton said:
“You did the trick, Merriwell. I didn’t believe you could, but you were
justified in defending yourself. I made every man there take a solemn
oath that he would keep silent no matter what happened.”
“I have been expecting and waiting for arrest,” said Frank. “I supposed
you would have me arrested.”
“You’re wrong. You’ll never be arrested for this affair unless you go to
the police and peach on yourself. They say I’ll get well, all right. I
want to. Do you know what I mean to do?”
“I’m going to practice until I can defeat you with the rapiers, if it
takes me years. When I am confident that I can do the trick, I’m going
to find you, force you to fight again and kill you. It would be no
satisfaction to me to see you arrested for last night’s work. Unless
you’re a fool, you’ll not be arrested. If you were arrested and told the
truth, you could not be punished for defending yourself.”
“That’s the way I feel about it,” said Frank; “but I regret that you
still thirst for my blood. I came here to find out if there is anything
I can do for you.”
“I wouldn’t take a favor from you for worlds. I know I’m in the wrong,
but that makes me hate you none the less. Go now. But expect to face me
again some day and fight for your life.”
And thus they parted, still deadly enemies, much to Frank’s regret, for,
in spite of Darleton’s dishonesty, there was a certain something in the
make-up of the man that had won for him a feeling of sympathy in Merry’s
heart. More than that, the courage displayed by Darleton in the duel
caused Frank to think of him in a light of mingled admiration and
regret. Although a scoundrel, not all the elements of his nature were
The town of Cartersville is situated in the southern part of the State
of Iowa. This was the first stop Frank and his party made after leaving
Omaha. Their first view of the town was not particularly inviting, as
the railway station, after the disagreeable habit of nearly all railway
stations, was situated in the most unsightly and forbidding portion of
the place. In the immediate vicinity were unpainted, ramshackle
buildings, saloons, cheap stores and hovel-like houses. In front of the
saloons and stores lounged a few slovenly, ambition-lacking loafers,
while slatternly women and dirty children were seen in the doorways or
leaning from the open windows of the wretched houses.
On the station platform had gathered the usual crowd, including those
who came to the train from necessity and those drawn thither by
curiosity. There was also a surprisingly large gathering of boys of
various ages, from six to eighteen.
Frank walked briskly along to the baggage car and noted that the baggage
belonging to his party was put off there. Then he glanced around, as if
in search of some one.
“I wonder where Mr. Gaddis is?” he said. “He was to meet us at the
A big, hulking six-footer, with ham-like hands and a thick neck, stepped
forward from the van of a mixed crowd of about twenty tough-looking
young fellows who had flocked down the platform behind Merry and his
“Are you Frank Merriwell?” asked the huge chap, who was about twenty
years old, as he held the butt of a half-smoked cheroot in the corner of
his capacious mouth.
“Yes, sir,” answered Merry promptly. “Do you represent Joseph Gaddis?”
“I should say not!” was the retort. “Not by a blame sight.”
“I thought not,” said Frank.
“Oh, ye did? What made ye think not, hey?”
“You are not just the sort of man I expected to meet. Do you know Mr.
“Do I? Some!”
“Isn’t he here?”
“I reckon not.”
“Where is he?”
Although the manner of the big fellow was openly insolent, Merry did not
seem to notice it.
The motley crowd accompanying this man were grinning or scowling at
Merriwell and his friends, while some of them made half-audible comments
of an unflattering sort. They were tall, short, stout, and thin, but one
and all they carried the atmosphere of tough characters.
“It’s rather odd, Bart,” said Frank, speaking to Hodge, who was
surveying the crowd with dark disapproval, “that Gaddis should fail to
keep his appointment to meet us here.”
“No it ain’t odd,” contradicted the big chap. “He knowed better than to
be here. You made some sort of arrangement with him to play a game of
baseball in this town, didn’t ye?”
“Well, fergit it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Fergit it. You’ll be wastin’ a whole lot of time if you stop here, an’
you’ll put yourselves to a heap of inconvenience. You won’t play no
baseball with Gaddis’ team, so you’d better hop right back onter the
train and continue your ride.”
Merry now surveyed the speaker from his head to his feet.
“I happen to have a contract with Mr. Gaddis,” he said. “How is it that
you have so much authority? Who are you?”
“I’m Mat Madison, and I happen to know what I’m talkin’ about. Joe
Gaddis has changed his mind about playin’ baseball with you. He ain’t
goin’ to play baseball no more this season.”
“Did he send you here to tell me this?” demanded Frank, his eyes
beginning to gleam with an ominous light.
“No, he didn’t send me; I come myself.”
“Then you haven’t any real authority.”
“Is that so! You bet I have! I’m giving it to you on the level when I
say you won’t play no baseball game in Cartersville, and the wisest
thing you can do is to step right back onter this train and git out. In
short, I’m here to see that you _do_ git back onter the train, and I
brought my backers. If you don’t git we’ll have to make ye git.”
By this time Frank’s friends were gathered at his back, ready for
anything that might happen. They scented trouble, although they could
not understand the cause of it.
“I have no idea of leaving Cartersville until I see Mr. Gaddis,” said
Merry, with cool determination. “If he fails to keep his agreement with
me, I propose to collect one hundred and fifty dollars forfeit money.”
“Oh, haw! haw! You do, do ye? Well, when you collect a hundred and fifty
from Joe Gaddis you’ll be bald-headed. There ain’t no time for foolin’.
The train will pull out pretty soon, so you want to hop right back onto
it and go along. If you don’t, I’ll make you hop. Git that?”
“If you bother me I’ll feel it my duty to make you regret your action.
“Why, you thunderin’ fool, you don’t mean to fight, do ye? I’ll knock
the head off your shoulders!”
“I don’t think you will.”
“Then take this!”
As he snarled forth the words, Madison struck viciously at Frank’s face
with his right fist.
Merry ducked like a flash, at the same time throwing up his left hand
and catching the fellow’s wrist. With this hold, he gave a strong, sharp
pull in the same direction that Madison had started, at the same time
jerking the fellow’s arm downward. While doing this, Merry stooped and
thrust his right arm between the ruffian’s legs, grasping Madison’s
right leg back of the knee. In this manner he brought the bruiser across
his back and shoulders in such a way that the fellow had no time to
recover and was losing his balance when Frank suddenly straightened up
with a heaving surge.
To the amazement of Madison’s friends, the fellow was sent flying
through the air clear of the platform, striking the ground on his head
Merry calmly turned to look after the baggage, not giving his late
assailant as much as a glance after the latter struck the ground.
Madison was somewhat stunned. He sat up, holding his hands to his head
and looking bewildered. A number of his friends sprang from the platform
and gathered around him.
The young toughs were astounded by the manner in which Merry had met
Madison’s assault. If before that they had contemplated an attack on
Frank and his party, the sudden disposal of their leader caused them to
falter and change their plan.
Hans Dunnerwurst chuckled as he looked after Madison.
“Maype you vill holdt that for a vile,” he observed.
“There is something wrong about this business here in Cartersville,
fellows,” said Frank; “but we’ll find out what it is. If Gaddis squeals
on his contract with me, I’m going to see if he cannot be compelled to
pay the forfeit.”
“That’s business,” nodded Hodge. “I’ll wager he sent these thugs to
frighten us away, so he wouldn’t be compelled to pay the money. If we
didn’t stop, he could get out of it.”
“Whereupon we’ll linger,” murmured Jack Ready.
“Somebody’s gug-gug-going to fuf-fuf-find out we mean bub-bub-business!”
“I opine one chap has found it out already,” observed Buck Badger dryly.
“It must have been a shock to him,” said Dade Morgan, a gleam of
satisfaction in his dark eyes.
“Glad he tackled Frank,” yawned Browning, with a wearied air. “I don’t
feel like exerting myself after that infernally uncomfortable car ride.”
“The gentleman experienced a taste of jutsuju—I mean jujutsu,” laughed
“Sorry Merry had to soil his hands on the big loafer,” said Dick
Starbright, taking off his hat and tossing back his mane of golden hair.
“It was a clever piece of business,” admitted Jim Stretcher; “but two
years ago, at a fair in Tipton, Missouri, I saw a little piece of
“Don’t tell it—don’t dare to tell it!” exclaimed Badger. “I’m from
Kansas, and I’m sick of hearing these powerful extravagant tales about
Missouri. If you mention Missouri in my hearing for the next three days
you’ll be in danger of sudden destruction. That’s whatever!”
“You’re jealous, and I don’t blame you,” said Jim. “If I lived in Kansas
I’d never acknowledge it. It was the last place created, and made out of
mighty poor material. Everybody in Kansas worth knowing has moved out.”
“Which is a genuine Irish bull,” said Morgan.
“All aboard,” called the conductor.
A few moments later the train pulled out.
In the meantime, Mat Madison had recovered and regained his feet. The
result of his attack on Merriwell had astonished him no less than it did
his followers. Even after recovering from the shock he could not
understand just what had happened to him, although he realized that, in
some manner, he had been sent spinning through the air. It had dazed
him. After regaining his feet he asked one of the young toughs what had
“Why,” was the answer, “he just grabbed you and throwed you, that’s
“Oh, he throwed me, did he?” growled Madison, a vicious look on his
face. “Well, I ruther think I’ll throw him next time. He’ll git all
that’s coming now!”
“That’s right, Mad!” encouraged his followers. “You didn’t hit him
because he dodged. Go for him again. Grab him this time before he can
“Just watch me,” advised the thug, as he sprang to the platform.
Without warning, Madison came quickly up behind Merry, throwing his arms
round Frank, in this manner pinning the arms of the latter to his sides.
“Now I’ve got ye, burn your hide!” snarled the ruffian. “You worked a
slick trick on me t’other time, but you can’t do it aga——”
He did not finish; Frank gave him no further time for speech.
Down Merry dropped to one knee, causing the man’s arms to slip up about
his neck. Before Madison could get a strangle hold, even as he dropped
to his knee, Frank caught the ruffian’s right hand and twisted it
outward, bringing the palm upward. With his other hand Frank secured a
hold on Madison’s wrist, and then he jerked downward, bending far
Mat Madison’s feet left the ground, his heels flew through the air and
he went turning over Merry’s head, landing flat on his back in front of
the undisturbed young man.
The town toughs, who had fancied their leader had the stranger foul,
were even more astonished than by Madison’s first failure.
Merriwell rose to his feet, stood with his hands on his hips and
regarded his fallen assailant with a pitying smile.
Frank’s friends—the most of them—seemed amused over the affair, and
either smiled broadly or laughed outright. Hodge and Morgan were the
only ones who betrayed no mirth.
“Jee-roo-sa-lum!” cried one of the tough youngsters. “Did you see that,
“How did he do it?” gasped another.
“Why, he throws Mad just as e-e-easy!”
“He’s a slippery chap!”
“Slippery! He’s quicker’n lightnin’!”
“Strong as a bull!”
“Full of slick tricks!”
The astonishment of Madison’s friends was somewhat ludicrous. They had
expected the bully to handle the clean, quiet young man with perfect
ease, especially when he seemed to obtain such a great advantage by
seizing Merry from the rear.
Madison’s arm had been given a severe wrench, but the fellow rose
quickly, not yet subdued or satisfied.
“I ain’t done with ye,” he snarled; “I ain’t done yet!”
“That’s unfortunate—for you,” declared Frank, wholly undisturbed.
“I’ll kill ye yet!”
“You frighten me.”
But the tone of voice in which Merriwell spoke the words told he was not
frightened in the least.
Madison was breathing heavily, his huge breast heaving, as he rose and
confronted Frank. With his hands hanging at his sides, the young man who
had twice taken a fall out of the bully seemed utterly off his guard and
unable to defend himself quickly.
The thug stepped in, suddenly shooting out his left fist toward Merry’s
solar plexus, hoping to get in a knockout blow.
Merriwell sidestepped in a manner that caused the bruiser to miss
entirely. With his right hand Frank caught the fellow’s left wrist,
giving the middle of his arm a sharp rap with the side of his left hand,
thus causing it to bend. Instantly twisting the man’s arm outward and
bending it backward, Frank placed his left hand against Madison’s elbow
and pushed toward the thug’s right side. In the meantime, Merry had
placed his right foot squarely behind Madison’s left. Madison found
himself utterly unable to resist, and, almost before he realized that he
was helpless, he was hurled over backward with great violence.
“Maype dot blatform vill lay sdill on you a vile,” observed Dunnerwurst,
as Madison fell with a terrible thud.
“Three times and out,” murmured Jack Ready.
“It ain’t no use!” exclaimed one of Madison’s backers. “Mat can’t do
this chap on ther level. He’s up against a better man.”
Madison thought so, too. He was beginning to realize that he had
encountered his master, although the thought filled him with rage he
could not express. For some time he had been the bully of Cartersville,
universally feared by the younger set of hoodlums, and in that period he
had not encountered any one who could give him anything like an argument
in a fight. He had expected to handle Merriwell with ease, and the ease
with which he was defeated made the whole affair seem like an unreal and
unpleasant dream. Furthermore, he knew that never after this would he be
regarded with the same degree of respect and awe by the young ruffians
of the town. Having seen him handled in such a simple manner by a calm,
smiling stranger, they would never again look on him as invincible.
The encounter had been witnessed by others besides those immediately
interested. Madison was well known and feared in Cartersville, and the
loafers about the station, as well as those who had business there, saw
him defeated for the first time in his career of terrorism. Although
some of them rejoiced over it, yet nearly all were still too much awed
by his record to express themselves.
The treatment he had received at the hands of Merriwell had wrenched and
bruised the ruffian, whose arms and shoulders felt as if they had been
twisted nearly out of their joints. The fellow got up slowly after the
Some fancied he would attempt to get at Merriwell again, but he had been
checked and cowed most effectively. He stood beyond Frank’s reach and
glared, his face showing his fury, while his huge hands twitched
The language that flowed from the lips of the ruffian was of a character
to make any hearer shudder in case he possessed any degree of decency.
“That will do!” interrupted Merry sharply, the pleasant expression
leaving his face. “Not another word of it! Close up instantly!”
“What if I don’t?” demanded Madison.
“Then what you have received from me is a mere taste beside what you’ll
get,” promised Frank.
Madison turned to his followers.
“What’s the matter with you?” he snarled. “What made you stand round and
see him do stunts with me? Why didn’t you light on him, you muckers?”
“We were waiting and pining for them to make some such movement, gentle
sir,” observed Jack Ready.
“Yah!” cried Dunnerwurst. “Id vould haf peen very bleasing for us to
seen id did.”
“You told us you’d do ther whole thing when we came down to the station,
Mad,” reminded one of the gang.
“We was waitin’ for ye to do it,” said another grimly.
“Of vaiting you haf become tiredness,” observed Hans. “You don’d blame
me vor dot.”
Madison started to pour forth vile language again, but Merry took a
single step in his direction and he stopped, lifting his hands to defend
“I don’t care to touch you again,” said Frank; “but if I hear two more
words of that character from your lips I’ll take another fall out of
“You’re mighty brave now!” muttered the tough; “but I ain’t done with
ye. No man ever flung Mat Madison round like a bag of rags and didn’t
regret it. You’d been better off if you’d took my advice and left on
that train. Now you can’t leave before to-morrer, and I’m going to
square up with you before you git away.”
“I don’t fancy your threats, any more than your vile language. I’ll take
neither from you. We came to this town to play baseball, and we propose
to do so—or know the reason why.”
“You won’t play no baseball here, and don’t you think ye will. That’s
all settled. There won’t be no more baseball in this town as long as Joe
Gaddis tries to run things.”
“What’s the matter with Gaddis?”
“You’ll find out—mebbe. There ain’t no baseball team here now.”
“No ball team?”
“I don’t believe that.”
“It don’t make no difference whether you believe it or not. You go ahead
and investigate. Mebbe you’ll have a good time stopping in Cartersville,
but I don’t think it.”
“Oh, they’ll have fun!” sneered one of the crowd.
“Carey Cameron will see about that.”
“Shut up, Bilker!” snapped Madison. “You ain’t to call no names.”
“Who is Carey Cameron?” asked Merry promptly.
But no one would answer the question.
Madison turned away, after giving Merriwell another glaring look of
hatred, and the young ruffians flocked after him.
“Well,” said Merry, “that incident is closed for the present. Now we’ll
find a hotel and secure accommodations.”
It was not a difficult thing to find a hotel. Inquiry enabled them to
reach the Hall House, which was the nearest public house after leaving
the station. It was not a particularly inviting house on the outside,
being sadly in need of paint. It was a frame building, standing on a
corner, and a number of loafers were sitting about in front, smoking,
chewing tobacco, and gossiping. They stared curiously at the boys.
Frank led the way into the office.
Two men, one in his shirt sleeves and the other looking like a
countryman, were talking politics. They stopped and turned to look the
“Where is the proprietor?” inquired Frank, as he stepped briskly up to
The man in his shirt sleeves drawled:
“What yer want o’ him?”
“We want to put up here.”
“Can’t do it.”
“I reckon you’re ball players, ain’t ye?”
“This house don’t accommerdate no ball players.”
“But we are gentlemen, and we——”
“I tell you this house don’t accommerdate no ball players. That ought to
be plain ernough for ye. Go on about your business.”
“This is a public house, isn’t it?”
“Well, I demand to see the proprietor.”
“You’re lookin’ at him. Help yourself.”
“Are you the proprietor?”
“And you refuse to give us accommodations in your hotel?”
“All right. Your only reason for doing so is because we are baseball
players, is it?”
“I didn’t say so,” answered the man shrewdly.
“But you inferred it.”
“It sounded that way.”
“Well, there may be a dozen other reasons, young feller. I’ve been in
the hotel business ten years, an’ you can’t trap me. We ain’t prepared
to accommerdate ye. You didn’t notify us you was comin’, an’ so we made
no special preparations. Our help is short, there’s a case of typhus
fever in the house, my wife is down with the lumbago, and I’m some broke
up myself with the chills. So you see there ain’t no need to discuss the
matter further. We can’t take ye in. Good day. The Mansion House is up
the street three squares.”
“That inn did not appeal to my æsthetic sense of refinement, anyhow,”
observed Ready, as they filed out onto the street with their hand bags
and grips. “It looked somewhat soiled and out of condition. The Mansion
House seems far more alluring.”
“I don’t think much of being turned down in that manner,” said Merry.
“It is irritating.”
The Mansion House proved to be a brick building near the centre of the
business section of the place.
“I’m glad we were turned down back there,” said Morgan. “This looks
better to me.”
“Yah, I pelief id does haf a petterment look,” agreed Dunnerwurst. “I
think we vill peen accommodationed mit superiority here.”
The office was empty. They waited a few moments and no one appeared.
Then Frank found a bell on the desk and rang it. After another period of
waiting and a second ringing of the bell, a sleepy-eyed fat boy came in,
dragging his feet and looking both tired and disturbed.
“Here, boy!” exclaimed Merry; “what’s the matter with this place? We
want to stop here.”
“You’ll ha-ve t-o s-ee Mr. Jones,” declared the boy, drawling forth his
words with a great effort.
“Who is Mr. Jones?”
“He’s th-e pro-pri-e-tor.”
“Well, where is he?”
“I do-n’t kno-ow.”
“Stick a pup-pup-pin into him and wa-wa-wake him up, Ready!” cried Joe
“Do-n’t yo-ou lar-a-rfe a-ut me-e-e!” said the fat boy, still in that
weary drawl. “I do-n’t li-ke to ha-ave a pi-un stu-ck in-to me-e-e.”
Rattleton dropped on a chair and began to laugh.
“He cakes the take—no, takes the cake!” cried Harry. “He don’t li-i-ike
to ha-ave a pi-un stu-ck in-to he-e-e-um. Ha! ha! ha!”
“Do-n’t yo-ou lar-r-rfe a-ut me-e-e!” said the fat boy resentfully.
“This is a fine hotel!” exploded Hodge.
Dunnerwurst waddled over to the fat boy.
“Look ad myseluf,” he commanded. “We vish to pecome the jests uf the
“Guests, Hans,” corrected Frank, laughing.
“Yah, so id vos I said id. Ve vant to pecome der jests uf der house. Der
money we vill paid vor dot, und we haf id readiness. Now on yourseluf
got a mofement und pring righdt avay quick der brobrietor. Id is our
urchent objection to registrate righdt off before soon und to our rooms
got assignments. Yah!”
“Why-y do-n’t yo-ou ta-a-alk E-e-eng-lish?” inquired the fat boy.
“Vot?” squawled Hans excitedly. “Vot dit you hear me say? Vy don’t
Enklish talk me? Vot dit you caldt id? Dit you pelief I vos Irish
talking alretty now? Chust you got a viggle on und pring der chentleman
by der name of Chones vot this hodel runs.”
He gave the fat boy a push, and the sleepy-eyed chap disappeared through
the door by which he had entered, muttering:
“So-ome fo-o-olks are al-wus in a naw-ful hur-ry.”
Five minutes later an undersized man with a reddish mustache came
pudging into the room. He was smoking a huge, black cigar, which he held
slanted upward in a comical manner. His hands were in his pockets.
“What do you fellers want?” he asked, in a voice like the yapping of a
“Are you Mr. Jones?” asked Merry.
“That’s my name,” yapped the little man.
“Well, my name is Frank Merriwell, and these are members of my baseball
team. We would like to know your rates.”
“Won’t do ye any good to know.”
“My house is full, an’ I can’t accommodate ye.”
“Oh, come!” exclaimed Frank; “we’ll pay in advance.”
“That don’t make no difference. Can’t take ye.”
“We’ll put up with accommodations of any sort.”
“Ain’t got any sort for ye. I tell ye the house is full an’ runnin’
over. That settles it.”
“Where can we find accommodations in this town?”
Frank was holding himself well in hand, although burning with
“We would like to know the meaning of this,” he said. “Do the hotels in
this town ever accommodate transient guests?”
“Certain they do.”
“There are only two hotels here.”
“Well, we have applied to both, and neither will take us in. Where are
we to go?”
“That ain’t none o’ my business, is it?” yapped the landlord. “If my
place is full you can’t force me to take ye in. Git out! I can’t bother
Merriwell felt like making trouble, but knew it would do no good and
might do a great deal of harm. He longed to talk straight to the
insolent little man who snapped like a bad-natured dog; but that, too,
he believed would be a mistake, and so he turned to his companions,
“Come on, boys.”
“Wait!” cried Bart Hodge, his dark eyes blazing—“wait until I tell this
imitation of a real man a few things!”
Before Bart could express himself, however, Frank had him by the arm.
“Keep still, Hodge,” he commanded, in a low tone of authority. “It will
be a mistake. Come away quietly.”
Although he felt like rebelling, Bart submitted in mute protest, giving
Jones one contemptuous look, and they all left the Mansion House.
“Vasn’t id a sadness to haf der coldt und empty vorld turned oudt indo
us!” sobbed Hans Dunnerwurst, as they paused in front of the hotel.
Jack Ready sang:
I ain’t got no reg’ler place that I can call my home,
I mark each back-yard gate as through this world I roam;
Portland, Maine, is just the same as sunny Tennessee,
And any old place that I hang up my hat is home, sweet home to me.
“Don’d dood id! Don’d dood id!” implored Dunnerwurst. “Id gifes me such
a melancholery. I vish I vouldt be more thoughtlesss uf your feelings!”
Browning growled and grumbled.
“I’m mighty tired of this business!” he declared. “We’re having a fine
time playing baseball in this town! I’m sick of this baseball business,
anyhow. It’s too much trouble. There’s always something doing. I’m going
to swear off and never play the game any more.”
Dick Starbright laughed and slapped Bruce on the shoulder.
“You’re a great bluffer, old chap,” he said. “You’ve been swearing off
ever since I knew you, but I’ll bet you’ll stick to the game until you
weigh three hundred pounds.”
“When I reach the three-hundred-pound mark I’m going to commit suicide.”
“Then you haven’t long to live.”
Frank stepped out and spoke to a man who was passing, inquiring about
boarding houses. The man was rather surly, but he told Merry of a house
kept by Mrs. Walker, and soon the party was on the way thither.
Mrs. Walker’s house proved to be a long, rambling, frame building, about
which hovered an atmosphere of poverty. They were met at the door by a
sharp-nosed, belligerent-appearing woman, who placed her hands on her
hips and demanded to know who they were and what they wanted.
Removing his hat and bowing low with grace and politeness, Merry
explained that they were looking for a place to stop overnight, at
least, and he hastened to add that they were willing to pay in advance,
emphasizing this statement by producing a roll of bills.
The eyes of the woman glittered as she saw the money.
“Are you baseball players?” she inquired.
Merry confessed that they were, whereupon she shook her head with an air
“Then I can’t have anything to do with ye,” she declared.
“What difference does that make, if we are quiet and gentlemanly and pay
our bills in advance?” inquired Merriwell.
“It makes a heap of difference. I can’t take ye in.”
“I wish you would be kind enough to give a satisfactory reason for
refusing us, madam.”
“I ain’t giving any reasons, and I ain’t talking too much. You can’t
“Not if we pay double rates for transients and pay in advance, Mrs.
“Not if you pay ten times regler rates and pay in advance,” was the grim
answer. “I judge that’s plain enough for you.”
“It’s plain enough, but still we cannot understand your reasons. I wish
“It ain’t any use making further talk. You’ve got my answer, and that
Saying which, she retreated into the house and slammed the door in their
“I’m so lonesome, oh, I’m so lonesome!” sang Jack Ready. “Children, we
are cast adrift in the cold and cruel world. We are stranded in the
wilds of Iowa, far from home and kindred. Permit me to shed a few briny
“This thing is getting me blazing mad!” grated Bart Hodge. “What do you
think about it, Merry?”
“There seems to exist a peculiar prejudice against baseball teams in
this town,” said Frank.
“This makes me think of a little experience of mine in Missouri two
years ago,” began Stretcher.
But Buck Badger suddenly placed a clenched fist right under Jim’s nose,
which caused the boy from Missouri to dodge backward, exclaiming:
“I beg your pardon! I’ll tell you about that some other time.”
“What can we do?” exclaimed Morgan. “We seem to be up against it.”
“Perhaps we can get into a private house somewhere if we pay enough,”
suggested Rattleton. “I’m willing to doff the coe—I mean cough the
“We’ll have to try it,” said Frank.
They did try it, with the result that they were promptly refused at
three houses, although Merry resorted to all the diplomacy at his
They turned back into the main part of the town.
“What will you do now, Frank?” asked Morgan.
“I’m going to try to get track of Mr. Joseph Gaddis,” answered Merriwell
grimly. “When I do——”
The manner in which he paused and failed to complete the sentence was
“I don’t blame you!” cried Hodge. “Mr. Gaddis must explain why we have
been treated in this outrageous manner. He agreed to meet us at the
station and have accommodations for us at the best hotel in town. He has
broken his contract, and I’d like to break his face!”
“That wouldn’t help matters much, Bart.”
“But it would relieve my feelings in a wonderful manner.”
“There is something behind this affair that we do not understand,” said
Merry. “In order to understand it we’ll have to learn the facts.”
“You’re sure Gaddis was in earnest when he made that contract with you
in Omaha?” questioned Rattleton.
“If ever I saw a man who seemed to be in earnest, Mr. Gaddis was such a
man. He witnessed our great seventeen-inning game with the Nebraska
Indians and lost no time after that in seeking to arrange a game with us
to be played here. Stated that his team had beaten the Indians twice out
of three times last season, and Green, the manager of the Indians,
acknowledged that it was so. The inducements offered were satisfactory.
We could reach this town without going out of our way on the trip East,
and I finally made a contract with him. Here we are.”
“And where, oh! where is Gaddis?” sighed Ready.
Reaching the main street of the town, they entered a drug store and
inquired for Mr. Gaddis. The druggist looked them over in a peculiar
manner. He knew Gaddis very well, he said. Gaddis was out of town. Left
suddenly that very morning for Des Moines.
At this moment a handsome open carriage, in which sat a woman heavily
veiled, drew up before the door. The lady waited until the druggist’s
clerk stepped out to see what she wanted. A moment later the clerk
re-entered the store and asked if Mr. Merriwell was there.
“That is my name,” said Frank.
“The lady in the carriage wishes to speak to you,” said the clerk.
“What’s this? what’s this?” muttered Jack Ready. “How could she miss me?
My ravishing beauty should have appealed to her. I am fast coming to the
conclusion that beauty like mine is a decided disadvantage. It awes the
Wondering who the unknown woman could be and what she wanted, Merry left
“Are you Mr. Merriwell?” inquired the woman, as Frank stepped up to the
carriage and lifted his hat.
He had quickly decided that she was young, and diplomacy led him in his
uncertainty to address her as miss instead of madam.
Her veil was so heavy that it was absolutely baffling, permitting him to
obtain no view of her features that would give him a conception of her
looks. Her voice was musical and low and filled with strange, sweet
There was about her an air of mystery that struck Frank at once.
“I believe you are looking for some place to stop while in town?” she
“That is quite true, and thus far I have looked in vain.”
“It is a shame that a stranger here should be treated thus. The hotels
have declined to take you in?”
“Yes, miss; likewise the only boarding house and several private houses
where we have made application.”
“If you will depend on me I’ll find accommodations for you and your
Merry’s surprise increased. His face cleared and he gave her one of
those rare, manly smiles that made him so wonderfully attractive.
“You are very kind, but I fear——”
“Do not fear anything. I live here, and this outrage upon strangers has
awakened my indignation. If you will enter my carriage and ask your
friends to follow us I’ll see that you are taken care of.”
“I hope you will not be putting yourself to any inconvenience in this——”
“Not at all; it gives me pleasure and satisfaction. Do not hesitate.
Speak to your friends at once.”
Thus urged, Merry called his followers from the store and made known the
offer he had received from the unknown woman. Hodge surveyed her
suspiciously and then found an opportunity to whisper in Frank’s ear
without being observed:
“Look out for some kind of a trick, Merry.”
“Nonsense!” laughed Frank. “Come on.”
He entered the carriage and took a seat beside the lady, who made room
for him. Thus they were driven away along the street, the others
following on the sidewalk.
“You appeared just in time to save us, miss,” said Merry. “We were
beginning to get desperate.”
She urged him to tell her just what had happened, which he did, passing
over the attack upon him by the ruffian Madison.
“It’s all very mysterious to me,” admitted Frank. “I wonder if you can
throw any light on the situation.”
“All I know is that there is trouble in town over baseball affairs.
During a number of seasons, and up to last season, baseball here was
conducted by the cheapest element in the town, and the place acquired a
very bad reputation. Outside teams, I have heard, were robbed and mobbed
here. It became so bad that no manager who knew the exact condition of
affairs would bring his team here. Last season a number of people who
enjoy clean baseball resolved to put a stop to the hoodlumism. They
secured the ball ground through some stratagem, and the tough characters
found themselves out in the cold. A baseball association of respectable
people was formed and Mr. Gaddis was chosen manager. The ruffians made
him a lot of trouble, but he ran a team through the season. This year he
was warned that he would not be permitted to conduct a team here. He
paid no attention to the warning, but went ahead and made up his team.
Immediately there was trouble, and it became evident that an attempt
would be made to drive Gaddis out of baseball. The same ruffianly
element that had predominated before his appearance started to make it
warm for him. In doing this the whole place has been terrorized into
backing up the ruffians. No one seems to dare to do anything different.
Another man by the name of——”
She seemed to hesitate over the name, but quickly resumed:
“A man by the name of Cameron has organized a baseball team here. He has
announced that he will take possession of the ball ground to-morrow, and
that Gaddis will not be permitted to hold it longer. The members of
Gaddis’ team have been intimidated and driven out of town, Gaddis
himself has been threatened with personal violence. Without doubt, the
hotel keepers and people of the place were warned in advance to have
nothing to do with any ball team that came here to play with Gaddis’
team. Your team was chosen in particular, as it happened to be the first
to arrive here after—after Cameron came out boldly and announced his
intention. That is about all there is to it. At least, it is all I know
“Well,” cried Merry, in surprise, “it certainly is astonishing that a
whole town can be intimidated in such a manner by a set of ruffians. Is
there no law here?”
“If so, there is little danger that it will be enforced against the
scoundrel Cameron!” she exclaimed, with surprising bitterness, all the
music and sweetness gone from her voice. “He is a wretch who finds
methods of evading the law, even when he commits the most heinous
crimes! But vengeance will fall on him in the end! He cannot always
The depth of feeling betrayed by the mysterious woman told Frank that
she was the implacable enemy of Cameron and that she had reasons for
hating the man most intensely.
As they were passing the Mansion House two men came out and paused on
One of them was the bruiser, Mat Madison.
The other was a slender, red-lipped, dark man of thirty-five or more,
dressed stylishly and smoking a cigarette.
“There is Carey Cameron!” hissed the veiled woman.
For all of her evident hatred of Cameron, the mysterious woman made no
outward demonstration that could lead either of the men on the steps of
the hotel to suppose she had as much as noticed them. If her face
expressed the passion of hatred that was betokened by her voice, the
veil effectually concealed the fact, and apparently she sat looking
straight ahead without even turning her eyes in the direction of the
The two men who had chanced to come out upon the steps at that moment
quickly discovered Merriwell in the carriage and saw the others of
Frank’s team following on the sidewalk.
“What in blazes does that mean, Madison?” exclaimed Cameron.
“You know as well as I do, boss,” answered the bruiser.
“Who is that chap in the carriage with the woman?”
“That’s the feller I was just telling you about—the one who downed me at
“Frank Merriwell himself, eh?”
“Well, I swear he doesn’t look very much like a fighter. You should
handle a smooth-faced chap like that with ease. I’m disgusted with you.
Where is he going with that woman?”
“I judge she’s taking him to her house, and it looks like the rest of
the bunch is bound for the same place. They couldn’t git no
accommodations at hotels or other places, so she’s goin’ to take them
Carey Cameron flung aside his cigarette.
“Hasn’t she been warned?” he asked.
“No, for nobody reckoned she would be taking strangers in, as she’s been
so haughty and high-headed since comin’ here that she’s scarce spoke to
anybody, and she don’t have any dealings with the people in the town.”
Instantly Cameron descended the steps and hastened to the street, where
he planted himself in front of the horse, commanding the driver to stop.
“Madam,” he said, “it’s likely you don’t understand what you are doing.
I am led to suppose that you contemplate taking your companion and his
crowd into your house and giving them shelter. If such is the case you
had better change your mind instantly, or you will find yourself in
The woman did not answer, but, rising slightly from her seat, she hissed
at the driver:
“Whip up! Drive over that man!”
The driver’s whip was in his hand, but he hesitated about obeying the
order. Turning his head, he answered, in a low tone:
“I dare not, Miss Blake. He——”
Instantly she sprang erect, snatched the whip and, reaching over the
driver’s seat, hit the horse such a cut that the fiery animal instantly
By an agile spring, Cameron succeeded in escaping, although he barely
avoided the wheels of the carriage. His hand went to his hip as he
glared after the woman, but he did not draw a weapon.
Frank’s friends had seen this, but were not given time to come up and
take any part in the affair. Hodge was inclined to pitch into Cameron,
but the others advised against it, and all hurried along after the
There was a glare of fury in the eyes of Carey Cameron as he stood in
the street looking after the mysterious woman who had dared defy him.
Madison hurried up.
“Why didn’t you stop her, boss?” he asked.
Cameron turned on him, blazing with wrath.
“You idiot, didn’t you see what she did? She tried to run over me!”
“I should say she did, boss.”
“Confound her! I’ll make her regret it! She doesn’t know me! She doesn’t
know my influence in this town. I’ll drive her out of Cartersville!”
“Are you goin’ to let her take Merriwell’s crowd in?”
“I could stop it, but what’s the good? We’ve done enough, I fancy.
Gaddis is out of baseball, and the fine crowd that was backing him have
taken to cover. I don’t believe they’ll dare butt against us after this.
I wanted to show them just what we could do when we wished, and I
believe they understand. Half our new players are here now, and the rest
will arrive in the morning. The new Cartersville baseball team will take
the field the following day. Old Martin, who owns the field, is so well
cowed that he has told me to go ahead and use it, although Gaddis holds
a receipt for the season’s rent, which he has paid. I have no particular
quarrel with the Merriwell crowd.”
“Well, I have!” snarled Madison; “and I’m going to get a crack at
Merriwell before they pull out of Cartersville!”
“Go ahead,” nodded Cameron, as he took a gold cigarette case, decorated
with diamonds, from his pocket, and selected a fresh cigarette. “You
have my permission; but, according to your own story you’ll have to
catch him off his guard and lay him out stiff before he has a chance to
“Leave it to me!” growled the bruiser.