“Wondaireful! wondaireful!” cried L’Estrange. “You are so ready
to—to—what you call eet?—to catch on!”
The time was mid afternoon following the evening when the finals were
“pulled off” at the great Omaha athletic club. Frank had met the fencing
master, according to agreement, and for some time they had been engaged
with the foils, Hugh Morton being the only witness. They were resting
“Look you, sare,” said the enthusiastic Frenchman, “in six month I could
make you ze greatest fencer in ze country—in one year ze champion of ze
world! Yes, sare—of ze world!”
“I fear you are putting it a little too strong, professor,” laughed
“O-oo, no, no! I did think Meestare Darleton very clever, but you are a
perfect wondaire. You catch ze idea like ze flash of lightning. You try
ze execution once, twice, three time—perhaps—and you have eet. Zen eet
is only to make eet perfect and to combine eet with othaire work and
othaire ideas. Three time this day you touch me by ze strategy. You work
ze surprise. Twice I touch you in one way; but after that I touch you
not in that way at all. I tried to do it, but you had learned ze lesson.
I did not have to tell you how to protect yourself.”
“He seemed to hold you pretty well, professor,” put in Morton.
“_Oui! oui!_” cried L’Estrange, without hesitation. “He put me on ze
mettle. Meestare Merriwell, let me make you ze greatest fencer in ze
world. I can do eet.”
Merry smilingly shook his head.
“I am afraid I haven’t the time,” he said.
“One year is all eet will take, at ze most—only one little year.”
“Still too long.”
“Zen I try to do eet in six month!” desperately said the fencing master.
“In six month I have you so you can toy with me—so you can beat me at my
own game. I know how to teach you to do that. You doubt eet?”
“Well, I don’t know about——”
“Eet can be done. You know ze man who teach ze actor to act on ze stage?
He make of him ze great actor, still perhaps ze teacher he cannot act at
all. He know how eet should be done. I am better teacher than zat, for I
can fence; but I know ze way to teach you more zan I can accomplish. You
have ze physique, ze brain, ze nerve, ze heart, ze youth—everything. In
six month I do it.”
“But I could not think of giving six months of my time to such as
“You make reputation and fortune if you follow eet up.”
“And that is the very thing I could not do, professor.”
“Why not? You take ze interest in ze amateur sport. You follow eet.”
“Not all the time, professor. I have other business.”
“You have money? You are reech?”
“I am comfortably fixed; but I have business interests of such a nature
that it would be folly for me to give six months over to the acquiring
of skill in fencing.”
“What your business?”
“O-oo; you have ze mine?”
“One in Arizona and one in Mexico. I must soon look after those mines. I
have been away from them a long time. All reports have been favorable,
but a great company is soon to begin building a railroad in Mexico that
will open up the country in which my mine is located. The mine is rich
enough to enable me to work it and pack ore a great distance. When the
railroad is completed I shall have one of the best paying mines on this
continent. You will see from this explanation that I am not in a
position to spend months in acquiring perfection in the art of fencing,
and that it would be of little advantage to me in case I did acquire
such a degree of skill.”
L’Estrange looked disappointed.
“I thought you were ze reech gentleman of leisure,” he explained.
“I am not a gentleman of leisure, although I occasionally take time to
enjoy myself. When I work, I work hard; when I play, I play just as
hard. I have been playing lately, but the end is near. I thank you,
professor, for your interest in me and your offer; but I cannot accept.”
“Eet is a shame so great a fencer is lost to ze world,” sighed the
Frenchman. “Steel, sare, if you evaire have cause to defend your life in
a duel, I theenk you will be successful.”
Nearly an hour later Morton and Merriwell entered the card room of the
club—not the general card room, but the one where games were played for
Two games were in progress. Several of the players had met Frank the
night before, and they greeted him pleasantly.
Among the few spectators was Fred Darleton.
“I observe Darleton is not playing,” said Frank, in a low tone, to his
“He never plays in the daytime,” answered Morton.
“Never in the daytime?”
“But he does play at night?”
“Almost every night.”
“Poker. He is an expert. I’ll tell you something about it later. He’s
looking this way.”
Darleton sauntered over.
“I presume you are quite elated about your victory over me, Merriwell?”
he said unpleasantly.
“Oh, not at all,” answered Merry, annoyed. “It was not anything to feel
“You are right,” said Darleton. “If we were to meet again to-night the
result would be quite different. I confess that you gave me a surprise;
but I was in my very poorest form last night. I am confident it would be
a simple matter for me to defeat you if we fenced again.”
“Want of conceit does not seem to be one of your failings.”
The fellow flushed.
“I presume you are one of those perfect chaps with no failings,” he
retorted. “At least, you are, in your own estimation. You are very
chesty since you secured the decision over me.”
“My dear man,” smiled Merry pityingly, “that was a victory so trivial
that I have almost forgotten it already.”
This cut Darleton still more deeply.
“Oh, you put on a fine air, but you’ll get that taken out of you if you
remain in Omaha long. I shall not forget you!”
“You are welcome to remember as long as you like.”
“And you’ll receive something that will cause you to remember me, sir!”
“Look here,” said Frank earnestly, “I do not fancy your veiled threats!
If you are a man, you’ll speak out what you mean.”
“I fancy I am quite as much a man as you are. You’re a bag of wind, and
I will let down your inflation.”
“Hold on, Darleton!” warmly exclaimed Morton. “This won’t do! Mr.
Merriwell is the guest of the club, and——”
“You brought him here, Morton—that will be remembered, also!”
“If you threaten me——”
“I am not threatening.”
“You hadn’t better! Perhaps you mean that you intend to lay for me and
beat me up. Well, sir, I go armed, and I’ll shoot if any one tries to
jump me. If you want a whole skin——”
“What’s this talk about beating and shooting?” interrupted one of the
members. “It’s fine talk to hear in these rooms! Drop it! If we have any
one in the club who can’t take an honorable defeat in a square contest
of any sort, it’s time that person took himself out of our ranks. I
reckon that is straight enough.”
“Quite straight enough, Mr. Robbins,” bowed Darleton; “but it doesn’t
touch me. I can stand defeat; but I am seldom satisfied with one trial.
The first trial may be for sport, but with me the second is for blood.”
Having said this, he wheeled and stalked out of the room.
“We’ll never have peace in this club while he continues to be a member,”
asserted Hugh Morton earnestly.
“I beg your pardon!” exclaimed one of the card players. “Don’t forget
that Mr. Darleton is my friend, sir!”
“I’ve not said anything behind his back that I am not ready to repeat to
his face,” flung back Morton.
“Well, you’d better be careful. He can fight.”
“I think this is quite enough of this fighting talk!” said the man
called Robbins sternly.
“It’s getting tiresome!”
These exclamations came from various persons, and Darleton’s friend
closed up at once.
Morton looked both provoked and disgusted.
“This is what the Darleton crowd is bringing us to,” he said, addressing
Frank, in a low tone. “They have formed a clique and introduced the
first jarring element into the club. In the end they’ll all get fired
out on their necks.”
Frank and Morton sat down in a corner by one of the round card tables.
“I don’t mind Darleton’s talk,” protested Hugh, “for I reckon him as a
big case of bluff. You called him last night, and he’s sore over it.
Usually he makes his bluffs go at poker. He’ll find he can’t always make
a bluff go in real life.”
“You say he is a clever poker player.”
“Clever or crooked.”
“Is there a question in regard to his honesty?”
“In some minds it’s more than a question.”
“Is that right?”
“Well, in that case, it doesn’t seem to me that it should be a very hard
case to get rid of him.”
“Crooks are not generally permitted in clubs for gentlemen.”
“But no one has been able to catch him.”
“Oh; then it is not positively known that he is crooked?”
“Well, I am confident that there is something peculiar about his
playing, and I’m not the only one who is confident. He wins right
“Never more than a few dollars, while he frequently wins several hundred
at a sitting.”
“It seems to me that catching a dishonest poker player should not be
such a difficult thing out in this country.”
“We’ve had some of our cleverest card men watching him, and all have
given it up. They say he may be crooked, but they can’t detect how he
works the trick.”
“You stated, I believe, that he never plays in the daytime.”
“Have you noted any other peculiar thing about his playing?”
“No, nothing unless—unless——”
“Unless it is his style of wearing smoked glasses.”
“He wears smoked glasses when he plays?”
“Well, he claims the lights here hurt his eyes.”
“That seems a very good reason why he should choose to play by day.”
“Yes; but he always has an excuse when asked into a game in the
Merriwell’s face wore an expression of deep thought.
“It seems to have the elements of a Sherlock Holmes case,” he finally
remarked. “I’d like to be present when Darleton is playing. I think it
is possible I might detect his trick, in case there is any trick about
“Are you a card expert?”
“I make no pretensions of being anything of the sort,” answered Merry
promptly. “Still I know something about the game of poker, and I did
succeed in exposing card crooks, both at Fardale and at Yale.”
Morton shook his head.
“I think I’m ordinarily shrewd in regard to cards,” he said; “but I
haven’t been able to find out his secret. I don’t believe you would have
any success, Mr. Merriwell.”
“There is no harm in letting me try, is there?”
“The only harm would be to arouse Darleton’s suspicion if he caught you
rubbering at him. I know he has thought himself watched at various
“Leave it to me,” urged Frank. “I’ll not arouse his suspicions.”
“But it won’t do a bit of good.”
“If he is cheating, I’ll detect him,” asserted Merry, finding that it
was necessary to make a positive declaration of that sort, in order to
Hugh looked at him incredulously.
“You’re a dandy fencer, old man,” he laughed; “but you mustn’t get a
fancy that you’re just as clever at everything. Still, as long as you
are so insistent, I’ll give you a trial. Meet me in the billiard room at
eight o’clock this evening. Play seldom begins here before eight-thirty
“I’ll be there,” promised Frank, satisfied.
It was nine o’clock that evening when Morton and Merriwell strolled into
the card room. They seemed to be wandering around in search of some
amusement to pass away the time.
“Come on here, Morton,” called a player. “Bring your friend into this
game. It will make just enough.”
Hugh shook his head.
“No cards for me to-night,” he said. “My luck is too poor. Dropped more
than enough to satisfy me last week.”
“The place to find your money is where you lost it,” said another
“I’m willing to let it rest where it is a while. I have a severe touch
of cold feet.”
“How about your friend?”
“He may do as he likes.”
“I know so little about cards—so very little,” protested Frank. “What
are you playing?”
He shook his head.
“I have played euchre,” he said.
“Quite a difference in the games,” laughed a man. “I suppose you have
played old maid, also?”
“Yes,” answered Merry innocently, “I have. Do you play that?”
“He’ll spoil your game, fellows,” laughed Morton quickly.
“How do you know I would?” exclaimed Merry resentfully.
“Reckon Hugh is right, Mr. Merriwell,” laughed the one who had invited
Frank. “You had better keep out of the game.”
Fred Darleton was playing at one of the tables. He regarded Frank with a
sneer on his face.
“An innocent stiff,” he commented, in a low tone. “They say he never
takes a drink, never swears, never does anything naughty.”
“He’s rather naughty at fencing,” reminded a man jokingly; but Darleton
saw nothing to laugh at in the remark.
Morton was heard informing Merry that he must not ask questions about
the game while play was in progress, as by so doing he might seem to
give away some player’s hand.
“Oh, I can keep still,” assured Frank smilingly. “I’ve seen them play
“No one would ever suspect it,” sneered Darleton under his breath.
This fellow was wearing dark-colored glasses, after his usual custom.
Merry found an opportunity to inspect the lights. While they were
sufficiently bright for all purposes, they were shaded in such a manner
that Darleton’s excuse for wearing smoked glasses seemed a paltry one.
“His real reason is not because the lights hurt his eyes,” decided
What was the fellow’s real reason? Merriwell hoped to discover before
the evening was over. He seemed to take interest in the play first at
one table and then at another, but finally settled on the one at which
Darleton was seated.
As usual, Darleton was winning. He had a lot of chips stacked up before
“Why did you drop your hand after opening that last jack pot, Darleton?”
inquired one of the players.
“Because I was satisfied that you had me beaten,” was the answer.
“You had two pairs to open on, and you drew only one card.”
“What of that?”
“I took three cards.”
“Well, you wouldn’t bet your two pairs, and I raked in the pot. How did
“I decided that you bettered your hand. My pairs were small.”
“I did better my hand,” confessed the man; “but I swear you have a queer
method of playing poker! I don’t understand it.”
“My method suits me,” laughed Darleton, fingering his chips.
“It is a successful one, all right; but I never lay down two pairs after
opening a jack pot, especially if the only player who stays in with me
draws three cards.”
“You lose oftener than I do.”
“No question about that.”
“Then my judgment must be better than yours. Let it go at that.”
Frank had listened to all this, and he, likewise, was puzzled to
understand why Darleton had decided not to risk a bet after the draw. It
happened that Merry had stood where he could look into the other man’s
hand. The man held up a pair of kings on the deal and drew another king
when cards were given out. His three kings were better than Darleton’s
two pairs; but Darleton knew he had the man beaten before the draw. How
did he come to believe the man had him beaten after the draw?
Frank found an opportunity to look round for mirrors. There were none in
Darleton was not working with an accomplice who could look into the
other man’s hand. Merry was the only person able to see the man’s cards
as he picked them up.
“I don’t believe he’ll suspect me of being Darleton’s accomplice,”
This was only one of the things which increased the mystery of
Darleton’s playing. The fellow seemed to know exactly when to bet a hand
for all it was worth, and once he persisted in raising a player who was
bluffing recklessly. Finally the bluffer became angry and called.
“I have a pair of seven spots, Darleton? What have you got? I don’t
believe you have much of anything.”
“Why, I have a pair of ten spots, and they win,” was the smiling retort.
“Bluffers, both of you!” cried another player. “But I swear this is the
first time I’ve ever known Darleton to bluff at poker. And he got away
with it on a show-down!”
The entire party regarded Darleton with wonderment, but the winner
simply smiled a bit behind his dark goggles.
Morton glanced swiftly at Frank, as if to say: “You see how it goes, but
you can’t make anything of it.”
Merriwell was perplexed, but this perplexity served as a spur to urge
him forward in his desire to solve the mystery. For mystery about
Darleton’s success there certainly seemed to be.
With an inquiring and searching mind, Merry was one who disliked to be
baffled by anything in the form of mystery that might be legitimately
investigated. A mystery amid common things and common events aroused him
to insistent investigation, for he knew there should be no mystery, and
that which was baffling should, in case it was natural, eventually
develop to be simple indeed.
He now felt himself fully aroused, for he did not believe it possible
that by any occult power or discernment Darleton was capable of reading
the minds of his companions at the card table and thus learning when to
drop two pairs and when to bet one very ordinary pair to a finish.
“The cards must be marked,” decided Frank.
At this juncture the player who had called Darleton asked for a fresh
Merry saw the cards brought in by a colored boy. They were still sealed.
He saw the seal broken, the joker removed from the pack, the cards
shuffled, cut, and dealt.
“Now we’ll note if Darleton continues to win,” thought Merry.
He knew the fresh pack could not be marked. They were sealed, just as
purchased from the dealer, when thrown on the table.
Morton spoke to Frank.
“Are you getting tired?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” was the immediate reply. “I am enjoying watching this game. I
have nothing else to do to-night.”
Hugh pushed along a chair, and urged Merry to sit down. Frank accepted
the chair. Without appearing to do so, he continued to watch Darleton.
Morton leaned on the back of Frank’s chair.
“Have they ever looked for marked cards after playing with Darleton?”
asked Frank, in such a low tone that no one save Hugh could hear and
“Never found them marked?”
“Never. They are not marked. I fancied you might think they were. We’ve
had experts, regular card sharps, examine packs used in games when he
has won heavily.”
Still Merry was not satisfied on this point.
“If they are not marked,” he thought, “Darleton must have an accomplice
who gives him tips. The latter seems utterly impossible, and, therefore,
the cards must be marked.”
Occasionally Darleton glanced at Merriwell, but every time it seemed
that Frank was giving him no attention at all.
Yet every move on the part of the successful player was watched by the
young man who had resolved to solve the mystery.
For some time after the appearance of the fresh pack of cards Darleton
did little betting. Still he seemed to examine each hand dealt him, and
his manner of examining the hands was very critical, as if weighing
their value. The cards interested him greatly, although he did not bet.
“Your luck has turned,” cried one of the players. “You haven’t done a
thing since the fresh pack was brought.”
“Oh, I’ll get after you again directly,” smiled Darleton. “I’m waiting
for the psychological moment, that’s all.”
Frank noted that the fellow frequently put his hand into the side pocket
of his coat. Although he did this, he did not seem to take anything out
of that pocket. Still, after a while, the watcher began to fancy these
careless, but often repeated movements had something to do with the
At last, Darleton seemed to get a hand to his liking. It was on his own
deal, and two other players held good hands, one a straight and the
other a flush.
When Darleton was finally called he exhibited a full hand and raked in
“You see!” muttered Morton, in Merry’s ear.
“No, I don’t see,” admitted Frank; “but I mean to.”
Morton was growing tired. He yawned, straightened up and sauntered
Frank rose, stretched himself a little, looked on at another table a few
moments, and finally brought himself to a position behind Darleton’s
chair without attracting Darleton’s attention.
From this point he once more began to watch the playing in which he was
so keenly interested.
Morton observed this change, but said nothing, although to him it seemed
like wasted time on Frank’s part.
From his new position Merriwell was able to see into Darleton’s hands,
and the style of play followed by the fellow surprised him even more. At
the very outset he saw Darleton drop two pairs, kings up, without
attempting to bet them and without even showing them to any one. In the
end it developed that another player held winning cards, having three
five spots; but this player had drawn three cards, and before the
betting began there seemed nothing to indicate that he could beat kings
On the very next hand something still more remarkable happened. The
first man after the age stayed in and all the others remained. Observing
Darleton’s cards, Merry saw he held the deuce, six, seven, and king of
diamonds and the seven of spades. He split his pair, casting aside the
seven of spades, and drew to the four diamonds.
The card that came in was the ace of diamonds, giving him an ace-high
Two of the other players took two cards each; but Merry decided that one
of them was holding up a “kicker”—that is, an odd card with his pair.
This estimation of his hand Frank formed from the fact that the man had
not raised the original bettor before the draw, although sitting in a
fine position to do so. Had the man held threes he would have raised. It
was likely he had a small pair and an ace, and also that he knew the
style of play of the original bettor and believed this person was
likewise holding a “kicker,” probably for the purpose of leading the
other players into fancying he had threes.
This being the case, Darleton’s ace-high was a fancy hand and would be
almost certain to rake down the pot.
Even supposing it possible that both players who called for two cards
held three of a kind, it was not, in the natural run of the game, at all
likely they had improved their hands.
Still when the original bettor tossed four blue chips into the pot and
one of the others called, Darleton dropped his handsome flush, declining
to come in and, remarking:
“I didn’t catch.”
He lied, for he had “caught” and filled a flush.
What was his object in lying?
A moment later the original bettor lay down three jacks and a pair of
The hand was superior to Darleton’s flush.
Beyond question Darleton knew he was beaten, and therefore he chose to
pretend he had not filled his hand.
But how did he know?
“The cards must be marked!” was the thought that again flashed through
Frank Merriwell’s mind.
But if they were marked and it was impossible to detect the fact, there
was no way of exposing the crooked player. If they were marked, however,
Merry believed there must be some way of detecting it.
Frank kept very still. Slipping his hand into an inner pocket, he
brought forth something he had purchased that very afternoon, after
talking with Morton concerning Darleton’s success at poker and his
methods. Quietly he adjusted his purchase to the bridge of his nose.
He had bought a pair of smoked glass goggles!
The cards were being shuffled. The goggles changed the aspect of the
room, causing everything to look dim and dusky.
The man who was dealing tossed the cards round to the different players.
As this was being done, Frank detected something hitherto unseen upon
On the backs of many of them were strange luminous designs, crosses,
spots, circles, and straight lines. These marks could be distinctly seen
with the aid of the smoked glasses.
Lifting his hand, Merry raised the glasses.
The glowing marks vanished! A feeling of satisfaction shot through the
“I have him!” he mentally exclaimed. “I have detected his clever little
It happened that Darleton received a pair of jacks and a pair of sixes
on the deal.
One of the players “stayed” and Darleton “came up.”
On the draw Darleton caught another six spot, giving him a full hand.
He seemed to be looking at his cards intently, but Frank observed that
he had watched every card as it was dealt.
In the betting that followed Darleton pressed it every time. At the call
he displayed the winning hand.
But just as he reached to pull in the chips his wrist was clutched by a
grip of iron.
Frank Merriwell had grasped and checked him.
“Gentlemen,” cried Merry, “you are playing with a crook! You are being
Instantly there was a great stir in the room. Men sprang up from their
Darleton uttered an exclamation of fury.
“What do you mean, you duffer?” he snarled. “Let go!”
Instead of obeying, Merry pinned him fast in his chair, so he could not
“Yes, what do you mean?” shouted one of Darleton’s friends, leaping from
another table and endeavoring to reach Frank. “Let go, or I’ll——”
Hugh Morton grappled with the fellow.
“I wouldn’t do anything if I were you,” he said. “Take it easy, Higgins.
We’ll find out what he means in a minute.”
“Find out!” roared Higgins. “You bet! He’ll get all that’s coming to him
“Explain yourself, Mr. Merriwell,” urged one of the players. “This is a
very grave charge. If you cannot substantiate it——”
“I can, sir.”
“Do so at once.”
“These cards are marked.”
“It’s a lie!” raged Darleton.
“You must prove that the cards are marked, Mr. Merriwell,” said another
player. “They were but lately unsealed, and it seems impossible.”
“They have been marked since they were opened.”
“With the aid of luminous marking fluid of some sort, carried in this
man’s pocket. I have watched him marking them.”
“Liar!” came from the fellow accused; but he choked over the word, and
he was white to the lips, for he had discovered that Merry was wearing
smoked goggles, like his own.
“Let me get at him!” panted Darleton’s friend; but Morton continued,
with the assistance of another man, to hold the fellow in check.
“Under ordinary conditions,” said Frank coolly, “the marking cannot be
detected. Mr. Darleton has pretended it was necessary for him to wear
dark-colored goggles in order to protect his eyes from the lights. Why
didn’t he play in the daytime? Because he would then have no excuse for
using the goggles, which he does not wear as a rule. With the aid of the
goggles he is able to see and understand the marking on the backs of the
cards. This makes it possible for him to tell what every man round the
table holds. No wonder he knows when to bet and when to drop his cards!”
“It’s false!” muttered the accused weakly.
“If any one doubts that I speak the truth,” said Merry, “let him feel in
Mr. Darleton’s coat pocket on the right-hand side.”
A man did so at once, bringing forth a little, tin box, minus the lid,
which contained a yellowish, paste-like substance.
“That is the luminous paint,” said Frank.
“Further doubts will be settled by taking my goggles, with which I
detected the fraud, and examining the backs of the cards.”
He handed the goggles over, releasing his hold on Darleton, who seemed
for the moment incapable of action.
The excited players tried the goggles and examined the cards, one after
another. All saw the marks distinctly with the aid of the smoke-colored
glasses. They discovered that the four aces were marked, each card with
a single dot, the kings bore two dots, the queens three dots and the
jacks four dots. The ten spot was indicated by a cross, the nine spot
showed two crosses, the eight a straight line, the seven two parallel
lines, the six a circle, and there the marking stopped. Evidently
Darleton had not found time to finish his work on the remainder of the
And now Darleton found himself regarded with intense indignation and
disgust by all save the fellow who had attempted to come to his aid.
Indeed, the indignation of the men was such that they threatened
personal violence to the exposed rascal.
It seemed that the fellow would not escape from the room without being
handled roughly. Before the outburst of indignation, his bravado and
nerve wilted, and he became very humble and apprehensive.
No wonder he was alarmed for his own safety. Several of those present
had lost heavily to him, and they demanded satisfaction of some sort.
“He has skinned me out of hundreds!” snarled one man. “I’ll take it out
of his hide! I’ll break every bone in his dishonest body!”
Two men placed themselves before the infuriated one and tried to reason
“What are you going to do?” he shouted. “Are you going to let him off
without doing anything?”
“We’ll make him fork over what he has won to-night.”
“Little satisfaction that will be!”
“We’ll find how much money he has on his person and make him give that
“That doesn’t satisfy me!”
“Then we’ll expel him in disgrace from the club.”
“That sounds better, but it isn’t enough. Just step out of the room, all
of you, and leave him to me. While you’re outside, you had better call
an ambulance for him.”
“I warn you not to offer me personal violence,” said Darleton, his lips
quivering and his voice unsteady.
“You warn us, you cur!” snarled one, shaking his fist under the rascal’s
nose. “Why, do you know what you deserve and what you would get in some
places? You deserve to be lynched! There was a time in this town when
you would have been shot.”
Frank stood back and let matters take their course. He had done his
part, and he felt that he had done well in exposing the scoundrel. It
was not for him to say how the man should be dealt with by the club.
Darleton drew forth a pocketbook and flung it on the table.
“There’s my money,” he said. “Go ahead and take it.”
“You bet we will!” was the instant response.
The money was taken and divided before his eyes.
Then the men of cooler judgment prevailed over their more excitable
companions, whom they persuaded to let Darleton depart in disgrace.
The fellow was only too glad to get off in that manner, and he hastily
slunk to the door.
There he paused and looked around. His eyes met those of Frank
Merriwell, and the look he gave was pregnant with malignant hatred of
the most murderous nature.
The Midwestern lost little time in calling a meeting for the purpose of
considering Darleton’s case. In short order the fellow was declared
expelled in disgrace from the organization. Following this, it was
agreed that Frank Merriwell should be tendered a vote of thanks for his
service to the club.
The outcome of the affair gave all of Merry’s friends a feeling of
satisfaction, for they believed that the scoundrel had received his just
Bart Hodge expressed a feeling of intense regret because he had not been
present to witness Darleton’s humiliation.
“I sized him up at the start,” declared Bart. “I knew he was a crook,
and I knew no crook could defeat Merry.”
That afternoon Frank came face to face with Darleton in front of the
post office. The fellow stopped short, the glare of a panther that has
been wounded leaping into his eyes.
“You—you—you meddling dog!” he panted huskily.
Frank would have passed on without speaking, but the rascal stepped
“Kindly stand aside,” said Merry. “I don’t wish to soil my hands on
“Oh, you’re very fine and lofty! You think you have done a grand thing
in putting this disgrace on me, I suppose.”
“I’m not at all proud of it; but I did my duty.”
“Your duty! Bah!”
“It is the duty of any man to expose a rascal when he can do so.”
“Bah! You did not do that from a sense of duty, but to win applause and
lead people to think you very cunning and clever. You’re a notoriety
“I don’t care to waste words with you.”
“You have ruined my good name!”
“You ruined it yourself by your crookedness. Don’t try to put the blame
“You did it!” panted Darleton; “but you shall suffer for it!”
“If you make too many threats, I’ll call a policeman and turn you over
“No doubt of it! That’s the way you’ll try to hide behind a bluecoat!
You’re a coward, Frank Merriwell!”
“Your opinion of me does not disturb me in the least, sir.”
“I’ll disturb you before I am through with you! You have ruined me; but
I’ll square it!”
“I don’t care to be seen talking with you.”
“One moment more. I’ll have my say! You triumphed and gloated over me
when I was humbled at the club.”
“I never gloat over the fallen.”
“Oh, you are very fine and lofty in sentiment! You try to make people
believe you are a goody-goody. You play a part, and play it well enough
to deceive most persons; but I’ll wager there are spots in your career
that will not bear investigation. If some of your admirers knew all
about you they would turn from you in disgust. I’ve seen chaps like you
before, and they’re always disgusting, for they are always hypocrites.
You pretend that you do not play cards! How was it that you were clever
enough to detect my methods? You claim you do not drink, but I’ll bet my
life you do drink on the sly.
“You seem to have no vices, but no chap travels about as you do and
keeps free from little vices. Small vices make men more manly. The
fellow who has no vices is either cold-blooded or more than human. If I
had time I’d follow you up and expose you. Then I’d strike you as you
have struck me. But I haven’t the time. Still you needn’t think you’re
going to get off. I’ll strike just the same, and I’ll strike you good
and sufficient! When I land you’ll know it, and I’ll land in a hurry.
“That’s all. I don’t care to say anything more. I have some friends who
will stick to me. Don’t fancy for a moment that I am friendless. I’ll
see you again. If you get frightened and hike out of Omaha, I’ll follow.
I’ll follow until I get my opportunity!”
Having expressed himself in this manner, he stepped aside and walked
“He’s the sort of chap to strike at an enemy’s back,” thought Merry.
That evening Frank took dinner with Morton at the latter’s home. He met
Hugh’s mother and sister, and found them refined and pleasant people.
After dinner he remained for two hours or more, chatting with them and
Kate Morton was a cultured girl, having attended college in the East.
She talked of books, music, and art, yet she was not stilted and
conventional in her conversation, and she proved that she had thoughts
and ideas of her own.
When he finally arose to leave, Merry felt that he had passed a most
agreeable and profitable evening. He had met a girl who thought of
something besides dress, society, and frivolity, yet who must appear at
advantage in the very best society, and who undoubtedly enjoyed the
pastimes which most girls enjoy.
Hugh was inclined to accompany Frank, but Merry dissuaded him, saying he
would catch a car at the first corner and ride within a block of the
Merriwell whistled as he sauntered along the street. His first warning
of danger was when he heard a rustle close behind his back. Before he
could turn something smote him down.