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Title: Frank Merriwell's Pursuit - How to Win
Author: Standish, Burt L., 1866-1945
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Frank Merriwell's Pursuit - How to Win" ***

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THE MERRIWELL SERIES No. 117

Frank Merriwell's Pursuit

By Burt L. Standish

[Illustration: Cover, showing Frank outrunning a landslide while
carrying Inza]



Frank Merriwell's Pursuit

OR,

HOW TO WIN

BY

BURT L. STANDISH

Author of the famous Merriwell Stories.

[Illustration: Publisher's logo]


STREET & SMITH CORPORATION PUBLISHERS 79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York


Copyright, 1904 By STREET & SMITH Frank Merriwell's Pursuit

(Printed in the United States of America)

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian.



[Transcriber's Note: No Table of Contents was present in the original
edition. The following Table of Contents has been prepared for this
electronic edition.]

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I.        THE OATH OF DEL NORTE.             5
CHAPTER II.       THE TERROR OF O'TOOLE.            12
CHAPTER III.      NEW ARRIVALS AT THE LAKE.         21
CHAPTER IV.       TWO GHOSTS.                       28
CHAPTER V.        THE WOLVES.                       32
CHAPTER VI.       IN THE GRASP OF DEL NORTE.        46
CHAPTER VII.      THE SENTINEL.                     56
CHAPTER VIII.     AT THE FOOT OF THE PRECIPICE.     67
CHAPTER IX.       THE KNIFE DUEL.                   73
CHAPTER X.        THE LANDSLIDE.                    82
CHAPTER XI.       BURIED ALIVE!                     90
CHAPTER XII.      IN THE CAVE OF DEATH.             98
CHAPTER XIII.     HOW RAILROADS ARE BUILT.         109
CHAPTER XIV.      ANOTHER OBSTACLE.                122
CHAPTER XV.       HAGAN SECURES A PARTNER.         137
CHAPTER XVI.      ARTHUR HATCH.                    144
CHAPTER XVII.     EVIL INFLUENCE.                  169
CHAPTER XVIII.    THE POLICE RAID.                 182
CHAPTER XIX.      ALVAREZ LAZARO.                  192
CHAPTER XX.       THE AVENGER.                     200
CHAPTER XXI.      THE FIRST STROKE.                208
CHAPTER XXII.     THE SECOND STROKE.               217
CHAPTER XXIII.    OLD SPOONER.                     226
CHAPTER XXIV.     THE FLAMES DO THEIR WORK.        239
CHAPTER XXV.      THE PATIENT AND THE VISITOR.     246
CHAPTER XXVI.     A SURPRISE FOR FIVE THUGS.       258
CHAPTER XXVII.    A DUEL OF EYES.                  269
CHAPTER XXVIII.   AT NIAGARA FALLS.                284
CHAPTER XXIX.     IN CONSTANT PERIL.               300
CHAPTER XXX.      THE END OF PORFIAS DEL NORTE.    306



FRANK MERRIWELL'S PURSUIT.

CHAPTER I.

THE OATH OF DEL NORTE.


Rain had ceased to fall, but the night was intensely dark, with a raw,
cold wind that penetrated to one's very bones.

Shortly after nightfall three men crossed the east branch of the Ausable
River and entered the little settlement of Keene.

Of the three only one was mounted, and he sat swaying in the saddle,
seeming to retain his position with great difficulty.

The two men on foot walked on either side of the horse, helping to
support the mounted man. At intervals they encouraged him with words.

A few lights gleamed from the windows of Keene. Before a cottage door
the trio halted, and one of the men on foot knocked on the door.

A few moments later a man appeared with a lighted lamp in his right
hand, shading his eyes with his left as he peered out into the darkness.

"Who are you?" he gruffly asked, "and what do you want?"

"We want a surgeon or a doctor as soon as we can find one," answered the
man at the door. "One of our party has been wounded by accident, and we
wish to have his wound dressed."

"Another city sportsman shot for a deer, eh?" said the man in the
doorway, with a touch of scorn in his voice. "It's the same old story."

"Yes, the same old story," acknowledged the man at the door. "He may die
from the wound if we do not find a doctor very soon."

"There's no doctor nearer than Elizabethtown."

"Is there none in this place?"

"No."

"How far is Elizabethtown?"

"Twenty-five miles."

"How is the road?"

"It might be worse--or it might be better. You can't follow it
to-night."

"We must. This is a case of life or death. See here, my friend, if you
will help us out we will make it worth your while. We will pay you well.
Have you any whisky in the house?"

"Mebbe so."

"It's worth five dollars a quart to us, and we will take a quart or
more."

"I reckon I can find a quart for you," was the instant answer.

"If you will secure two horses and a guide to take us over the road to
Elizabethtown to-night we will pay you a hundred dollars."

This offer interested the man with the lamp.

"Bring your friend in here," he said, "and I will see what I can do for
you. Perhaps I can get the horses, and if I can----"

"Do you know the road?"

"I have been over it enough to know it, but it will be no easy traveling
to-night. Better take my advice and stay here until morning."

The man outside, however, would not listen to this, but insisted that
the journey to Elizabethtown must be made that night. He returned to his
companions, and the mounted man was assisted to descend from the saddle.
One of them held his arm while he walked into the house, and the other
took care of the horse.

The lamp showed that the injured one had bloody bandages wrapped about
his head. He was pale and haggard, and there was an expression of
anxiety in his dark eyes. At times he pulled nervously at his small,
dark mustache.

"Bring that whisky at once," said the wounded man's companion, as he
assisted the other to a chair. "He needs a nip of it, and needs it bad."

The whisky was brought, and the injured man drank from the bottle. As he
lifted it to his lips, he murmured:

"May the fiends take the dog who fired that bullet! May he burn forever
in the fires below!"

The liquor seemed to revive him somewhat, and he straightened up a
little, joining his companion in urging the man who had procured the
whisky to secure horses and guide them, over the road to Elizabethtown.

"We have money enough," he said, fumbling weakly in his pockets and
producing a roll of bills. "We will pay you every cent agreed upon. Why
don't you hasten? Do you wish to see me die here in your wretched hut?"

The man addressed promised to lose no time, and soon hurried out into
the night. He was not gone more than thirty minutes. Those waiting his
return heard hoofbeats, and the light shining from the open door of the
cabin fell on three horses as they stepped outside.

"It's fifty in advance and fifty when we reach Elizabethtown," he said,
as he sprang off. "I will not start till the first fifty is paid."

"Pay him the whole of it," said the wounded man, "and shoot him full of
lead if he fails to keep his part of the bargain."

Stimulated by the whisky, this man had revived wonderfully, and soon the
four rode out of Keene on the road that followed the river southward.

Through the long hours of that black night the guide led them on their
journey. The road was indeed a wretched one, winding through deep
forests, over rocky hills and traversing gloomy valleys. As the night
advanced it grew colder until their teeth chattered and their blood
seemed stagnating in their veins. Many times they paused to give the
wounded one a drink from the bottle. Often this man was heard cursing in
Spanish and declaring that the distance was nearer a hundred miles than
twenty-five.

Morning was at hand when, exhausted and wretched, they entered
Elizabethtown. Soon they were clamoring at the door of a physician, into
whose home the wounded man was assisted as soon as the door was opened.

"Examine my head at once, doctor," he faintly urged, as he sat back in a
big armchair. "Find out where that infernal bullet is. Tell me if it's
somewhere inside my skull, and if I have a chance of recovery."

In a short time the bandages were removed and the doctor began his
examination.

"Well! well!" he exclaimed, as he saw where the bullet had entered. "How
long ago did this happen? Yesterday afternoon? Forty miles from here?
And you came all this distance? Well, you have sand! At first glance one
would suppose the ball had gone straight through your head. It struck
the frontal bone and was deflected, following over the coronal suture,
and here it is lodged in your scalp at the back of your head. I will
have it out in a moment."

He worked swiftly, clipping away the hair with a pair of scissors, and
then with a lance he made an incision and straightened up a moment
later, having a flattened piece of lead in his hand.

"My friend," he said, "you have grit, and I don't think you'll be laid
up very long with that wound. You're not at all seriously injured. It
must have been fired from some one below you. Was he shooting at a
deer?"

"Yes, señor," was the answer.

"Very strange," said the physician. "This is a thirty-two-calibre
bullet, and it's not like the kind used to shoot deer. Most remarkable."

He hastened to cleanse and dress the wound, again bandaging the man's
head.

"You are certain, señor, that this injury is not serious?" questioned
the wounded man, when everything had been done.

"I see no reason why it should be," was the answer. "It is not liable to
give serious trouble to a man of your stamina, endurance, and nerve."

The doctor's bill was paid, and then they sought a hotel, where they
found accommodations, and the wounded one was put into bed. Ere getting
into bed he shook hands with his two companions and said:

"It's not easy, señors, to kill one in whose veins runs the blood of
old Guerrero. They thought me dead, but the dog that fired the shot
shall pay the penalty of his treachery, and I swear I will yet crush
Frank Merriwell as the panther crushes the doe. That's the oath of
Porfias del Norte!"



CHAPTER II.

THE TERROR OF O'TOOLE.


Watson Scott, familiarly known as Old Gripper, was a man of great
hardihood and endurance, and, therefore, for all of his recent
experience with Frank Merriwell's enemies, for all that he had been
imprisoned by his captors in a natural well and had stood for hours in
water up to his hips, he rapidly recovered after arriving once more at
the cottage of his friend and business associate, Warren Hatch, on Lake
Placid.

But Old Gripper had been aroused, and he was determined to make it hot
for his recent captors, who, led by Porfias del Norte, had gone to
desperate lengths to obtain valuable papers which were the basis of a
business combination that threatened the interests of Del Norte and his
associates.

"Unless they move on the jump I'll have the bunch of them nipped before
long," Old Gripper declared.

To his vexation he found it was impossible to properly swear out a
warrant for the arrest of Del Norte's companions without making the
journey to Saranac Lake.

"I'll do that the first thing in the morning," he said.

In the morning, however, he found himself stiff and lame, and he was
induced to delay until noon.

During the forenoon he decided to return without further delay to New
York. Having settled on this, he sent a message to Saranac Lake, stating
his charges against Porfias del Norte's band of desperadoes, and asking
that the warrant be drawn up and brought to him at the station as he was
passing through. He also gave instructions that officers should be on
hand to immediately take up the work of running the gang down.

Before noon Belmont Bland, Old Gripper's private secretary, was
apparently taken ill, and when the time came for Scott to depart Bland
seemed unable to travel. He asserted that it was one of his usual
nervous attacks, and declared he would be all right by the next day.
Therefore it was arranged that he should remain at Lake Placid.

Frank Merriwell had given in to the urging of Warren Hatch, who almost
begged him to stay over another day and fish again in the morning.

"It's not often I strike a fisherman after my own heart," said Hatch.
"When I do I don't like to let him slip through my fingers. Stay over
until to-morrow at least, Merriwell. There is no reason why you should
tear away in such a hurry."

"You can stay, Merriwell," declared Scott. "We have settled the railroad
deal right here. Bragg and I will get things to moving in the city.
Leave that to us."

"I'm very willing to leave it to you," laughed Frank. "I'll stay one
more day, Mr. Hatch."

"If we can have another good morning to fish--ah, we won't do a thing!"
chuckled Hatch, ending with a cough.

"You ought to stay up here for the next month," declared Old Gripper.
"That cough of yours----"

"Oh, it's nothing! I've had it for a year, and it's not serious in any
way--only annoying."

At Saranac Lake Scott saw that the warrant for Del Norte was placed in
the proper hands and the machinery of the law set in motion.

When Frank and Warren Hatch returned to the cottage of the latter they
were surprised to find the place locked, the shutters closed, and an air
of desertion hanging over everything.

But it was not deserted.

While Hatch was fumbling on the door they heard a stir within and a
voice shouted:

"Be afther getting away from there, ye divvils, ur Oi'll blow yez full
av lead! It's arrmed Oi am to th' tathe!"

It was the voice of Pat O'Toole, an Irishman who had been one of Del
Norte's gang, but out of gratitude, had saved Frank's life and had been
actively concerned in the rescue of Old Gripper.

"O'Toole!" cried Frank; "why the dickens have you locked yourself up
this way?"

"Is it you, Misther Merriwell?" cried O'Toole, joyously. "It's a great
relafe to hear your foine, musical voice wance more! Wait a minute
unthil Oi open th' dure."

The door was unlocked and thrown open. O'Toole stood with a rifle in his
hands, looking pale and agitated. Around his waist was a belt holding a
pair, of pistols and a knife.

"What's the matter, man?" asked Hatch. "You look like a walking
arsenal?"

"It's me loife Oi'm ready to defind to th' larrust gasp," declared the
Irishman.

"Your life? Why, what----"

"Oi'm in danger of bein' murthered."

"In danger?"

"Ivery minute av me ixistence."

"What makes you think that?"

"Oi don't think it; Oi know it. Afther ye wint away to th' shtation Oi
sat on th' verandy shmokin' me poipe an' thinkin'. The longer Oi thought
th' more froightened Oi became. It wur Porrfeeus dil Noort thot paid me
well to assist him in a litthle schame to trap a certain young gintleman
named Frank Merriwell. Oi took his money and promised to rinder me best
assistance. Oi know this parrut av th' counthry well, an' so Oi was
valuable to Dil Noort. Oi towld him about th' owld hut in th' valley
an' th' natural well. Oi towld him a man dhropped inther thot well
moight shtay there an' rot widout ivver bein' found. That wur pwhere he
meant to dispose av you, Misther Merriwell. Afther that it was yersilf
thot saved me loife at Sarrynack Lake. Thin Oi says, says Oi, 'O'Toole,
ye miserable divvil, av ye don't git aven wid thot foine young gint, ye
ought to be hanged fer a shnake.' Oi knew ye would be thrapped thot same
noight, Misther Merriwell, an' Oi rode loike th' ould bhoy to cut yez
off an' get me finger in the poie. You remimber pwhat happened."

"I remember that you aided me to escape from the hands of Del Norte and
his paid desperadoes," nodded Frank.

"An' got mesilf disloiked fer it. Oi knew Dil Noort would be ready to
cut me throat on soight. Oi thought th' safest thing wur to hilp capture
Dil Noort, an' thot's pwhat took me here, pwhere Oi arrived just in
toime to hilp in the search fer Misther Shcott."

"And help us you certainly did," nodded Merry. "Aided by you, we lost no
time in finding the valley and the well in which Mr. Scott was
imprisoned."

"But it's th' divvil's own doin's there was before thot," said O'Toole.
"Oi wur in a bad shcrape whin Oi run inther th' hands av Bantry Hagan
an' he marruched me to thot old hut, where Oi was bound hand an' foot.
Nivver a bit did Oi drame th' drunk aslape on th' flure av th' hut an'
shnorin' away wur yersilf, Misther Merriwell. Aven whin Oi lay chlose to
yez an' ye began to untoie me bonds Oi couldn't suspict it was yersilf.
Whin Dil Noort showed up Oi knew it meant throuble, an' sure it wur a
relafe to feel in me hand th' pistol ye put there. Th' divvil bent over
me wid a knoife in his hands, an' Oi saw murther in his oies. Thin Oi
didn't wait, but Oi shot him through th' head."

"But I don't understand what all this has to do with the fear you
profess to feel," said Hatch. "I didn't fancy you were a coward,
O'Toole."

"No more Oi am; but Porrfeeus dil Noort is a moighty dangerous mon, and
he----"

"Is dead. You're not afraid of dead men?"

"It's dead Oi saw him before me," nodded the Irishman; "but Oi wish Oi
had seen him buried, so Oi do. Whin we returned afther pulling Misther
Shcott out av th' well Dil Noort's body wur gone."

"His companions carried it away," said Merry.

"Mebbe thot's roight," said O'Toole; "but afther ye left me here, wid
Joe gone an' mesilf all alone, it's nervous Oi became. Oi took to
thinkin' it all over, an' in th' air Oi hearrud a voice whisper,
'O'Toole, yure goose is cooked, fer, dead ur aloive. Porrfeeus dil
Noort will get aven wid ye!' It made me have cowld chills down me back,
an' out in th' grove yonder Oi saw shadows movin' an' crapin'. Oi began
to ixpect a bullet through me body, an' afther a whoile Oi joomped up
an' run inther th' cabin, jist shakin' loike Oi had a chill an' me tathe
knockin' togither. Oi fashtened th' dures an' closed th' shutters av
ivery windy. Thin Oi arrmed mesilf, an' nivver in all me loife did Oi
hear swater music than whin ye shpoke outside, Misther Merriwell."

Merriwell laughed.

"I declare, O'Toole, I'd never expect a man of your courage and wit to
be frightened in such a manner. Del Norte is dead, and it's almost
certain his companions have taken to their legs to get away as fast and
as far as possible. Mr. Scott will have officers searching high and low
for them. They are fugitives from justice. Even though they were not
under the ban of the law, with Del Norte gone, there is not one chance
in a hundred that any of them would ever lift a hand to annoy or molest
you or me. The fall of their leader put an end to their work, and they
will scatter and keep under cover until the storm blows over."

"That's right, O'Toole," declared Warren Hatch. "You rendered Mr.
Merriwell and the rest of us a great service when you fired the shot
that brought Del Norte down. They won't dare have you arrested for that
shooting, as no one would venture to appear against you. If they escape
from the officers, I expect we'll hear in a few days how Del Norte's
body was carried out of the mountains and expressed to friends
somewhere."

"They may not dare do that," said Frank. "They may bury him here in the
mountains, rather than take any chances of being captured themselves. At
any rate, it's foolish for you to worry, O'Toole. Of course it's not a
pleasant thing to think you have shot a man, but you did it in
self-defense, and were justified."

"It's roight ye are on thot point, me bhoy; but it's a long toime before
Oi'll rist aisy from thinkin' av it an' belavin' me own loife in danger.
Oi'll be afeared av me own shadder in th' darruk. Porrfeeus dil Noort
wur th' firrust man Oi ivver saw that made me fale as if bullets
wouldn't kill him an' kape him dead. Wur he to roize before me this
minute nivver a bit surphrised would Oi be."

Although Merry jollied the Irishman, it was no easy matter to relieve
O'Toole's nervousness.

Later Belmont Bland appeared at the cottage, having sought the advice of
a physician who was spending an outing at the little settlement on the
southern shore.

"I'm feeling better already," said Bland. "The doctor gave me some
medicine to quiet my nerves. I'll be all right to leave for the city
to-morrow, I hope, although I feel that I need several days of rest."

Frank wondered why Bland had lingered at the lake.



CHAPTER III.

NEW ARRIVALS AT THE LAKE.


Late that afternoon Warren Hatch and Frank went out to fish and remained
until after nightfall.

Lights were gleaming from the cottage windows as they rowed slowly back.

Away at the southern end of the lake were other lights, indicating the
location of the little settlement of cottagers. Lake Placid was a
popular resort at this season of the year.

Joe, the man of all work, came down to the shore and took care of the
boat.

"Take care of the fish, Joe," called Hatch, as he hastened after Merry,
who was striding toward the cottage.

The shades were drawn and the place seemed silent enough until Frank
opened the door and stepped inside. Then he was surprised and startled
to find himself seized by four pairs of hands, which hustled him about
amid bursts of laughter and shouts of welcome.

"Hold on! hold on!" he gasped, in the greatest astonishment, for he
recognized his four assailants as his friends, Bart Hodge, Bruce
Browning, Inza Burrage, and Elsie Bellwood. "Where in the world did you
all drop from?"

"We have run you down at last," said Hodge; "but you gave us a merry old
chase."

"It's been the greatest game of hide and seek I ever played," grunted
Browning, ceasing from his attack on Frank and dropping lazily on a
chair, which creaked beneath his weight. "Just when we would think we
were going to put our hands on you sure you would disappear like a
wizard."

"Aren't you glad to see us?" demanded Inza.

"If you're not, we'll go right away," said Elsie.

"Glad!" cried Frank. "I'm speechless with delight. But I don't
understand it yet."

Then they explained how they had followed him to Boston and from that
city to New York, and how in the latter place, after no end of trouble
and detective work, they learned that he was off for Lake Placid, in the
Adirondacks. Arriving at Newman late that afternoon, they had driven
over to the cottage of Mr. Hatch, which they reached while Frank and his
host were still out fishing.

"Here is Mrs. Medford, Frank," said Inza, calling his attention to a
smiling, middle-aged lady who sat near the open fireplace.

Mrs. Medford was a relative of Inza's who often accompanied her as
companion and chaperon.

"Mrs. Medford," said Merry, hastening to clasp the smiling woman's hand,
"I am delighted to see you again. I'm quite overcome with surprise and
pleasure. It's evident I am, for I have forgotten Mr. Hatch."

No wonder Mr. Hatch had been overlooked, for he had stepped back and
remained quiet during all the chatter and laughter of the meeting
between Frank and his friends.

"I am greatly pleased to meet your friends, Mr. Merriwell," he declared,
as Frank introduced one after another. "If the accommodations at my poor
cottage----"

"Oh, we wouldn't think of putting you to the slightest inconvenience!"
declared Inza. "We can find accommodations in Newman, Mr. Hatch, and we
wouldn't think of----"

"Unless it is too uncomfortable here," Hatch hastened to say, "I shall
consider it a favor to entertain you as the friends of the cleverest
fisherman and finest young man it has been my good fortune to meet in
twenty years. Anything and everything here is yours as long as you
choose to remain, and you can't remain too long for me."

That was quite enough, for they saw he was in earnest. He could thaw out
and be genial and pleasant when he chose, and this was an occasion when
he had no difficulty in thawing. He called Joe and gave orders about
supper, and soon the delightful odor of cooking fish came faintly to
their nostrils.

While supper was being prepared Frank related the story of the many
adventures which had befallen him since he hastily left Maine in pursuit
of the Mexican who had stolen one of his valuable papers.

As she listened Inza flushed and paled by turns. She was elated by his
success, and she found it difficult to check a tremor as she realized
how many times he had been in deadly danger.

"Where is O'Toole?" cried Hodge, as Frank finished. "I want to
congratulate him on his job in ending the career of that snake, Del
Norte."

O'Toole was aiding Joe in the cook house, and he was finally induced,
under protest, to appear in the cottage. He stood before Frank's
friends, grinning bashfully and bowing awkwardly.

"O'Toole," said Bart, shaking the Irishman's hand, "you never did a
better bit of work in all your life than when you shot Porfias del
Norte."

"It's not so sure Oi am av that," declared the man. "It's nivver a bit
will Oi shlape till Oi know fer sure th' baste is dead an' burried six
fate under ground."

"Why, Frank said you shot him through the head."

"Oi did thot, but whin we returned to th' hut pwhere he was it's up an'
gone he had."

"Frank says the body was carried off by his friends."

"Mebbe it wur, Oi dunno; but whoy th' ould scratch they wur afther
takin' all thot throuble an' risk is pwhat bates me. Somehow Oi'm
thinkin' th' mon up an' walked away all by hissilf, an' it's cowld
chills Oi git from thinkin' he may be lookin' fer me to sittle our
account."

"You'll get over that feeling after a while," said Hodge. "Frank knows
when a man is dead, and you heard him pronounce Del Norte dead."

In Browning's ear Frank whispered:

"I confess I'd feel better satisfied if I had seen him buried; but I
don't intend to tell O'Toole that."

In due time supper was cooked and served in the plain but comfortable
dining room. The death of Del Norte was forgotten, and it was a jolly
crowd that gathered about the large table.

"Hold me!" cried Browning, as he drank in the odor of baked potatoes,
cooked fish and steaming coffee. "If you don't look out I'll wade in
here and create a famine. I feel as if I might eat everything on this
table without half trying."

"There is plenty of everything," said Warren Hatch. "Joe tells me there
is more fish. Here he comes with some of his hot biscuits right out of
the oven."

Joe appeared with a heaping plate of biscuits, and soon all were
enjoying the meal.

Inza was unusually vivacious, her cheeks being flushed and her dark eyes
sparkling. The pleasure of being with Frank again was enough to put her
at her best, and indeed she was a most beautiful girl.

Elsie was quieter, but there was no mistaking the expression of deep
satisfaction which hovered on her sweet face. The fact that Inza was
happy was enough to give her pleasure.

In the midst of the meal there came a rapping at the door. Mr. Hatch
answered the summons and was gone some time. When he returned he
explained that there was to be a masquerade dance at a pavilion used for
dances and picnics down at the cottage village, and, having learned of
the presence of guests at his cottage, invitations had been extended to
them all.

"Perfectly jolly!" cried Inza. "But we have no costumes."

"Never mind that," said Mr. Hatch. "Without doubt there will be others
in the same predicament. You can easily manufacture some masks, and,
being strangers here, no one outside your own party will recognize you.
I'm sorry I can't assist you in the matter of dress, but I can help the
male members of the party. I have a full Indian rig and a cowboy outfit,
which will do for two. The third can dress in old clothes, like a hunter
or guide. The whole thing can be arranged somehow if you care to go.
Where there's a will there's a way, you know."

"Oh, say," grunted Browning, "count me out. I'm no dancer. Besides that,
I'm tired."

"The same old complaint," laughed Frank. "What do you think about it,
Elsie?"

"If Inza wishes to go, I'm ready," answered Elsie. "We might have a good
time."

Hodge expressed a willingness to go along, and then Frank cried:

"It's a go, my children! Let's enter into this thing in earnest and have
a high old time. Bruce, you ought to be ashamed of your laziness."

"Don't begin that old song!" said the big fellow. "There's not enough
laziness in this world. Everybody howls about strenuousness and hustle,
and people wear themselves out and die before they should. I'm setting a
good example, and I'll continue to set."

"Or sit," nodded Merry. "All right, Lazybones, stay here by your
lonesome and content yourself thinking what a fine time we're having."

"Thanks," grunted Bruce.



CHAPTER IV.

TWO GHOSTS.


The colony on the south shore of Lake Placid was about to break up. Cold
weather was setting in. Already many of those who had spent much of the
summer there were gone. Others were going. Soon that region would be
left entirely to the hunters and the fishermen.

Before returning to the city the cottagers had planned a last grand time
in the form of a masquerade dance. They did not call it a "ball." There
was to be nothing formal about it.

Thus it happened that the party at Warren Hatch's cottage received an
invitation.

Mrs. Medford was tired; she would not attend the dance; but she offered
to assist the girls in getting up their costumes.

"Costumes!" cried Inza. "Where will we find them? We'll have to go
without special preparation in that line. Frank and Bart are the lucky
ones."

"Come with me," smiled Mrs. Medford, after consulting in a low tone with
Mr. Hatch, who smiled and nodded. "Perhaps we can find something."

The girls followed her to the upper part of the cottage, leaving Frank
and Bart to make up below.

Merry gave Bart his choice of the two rigs, and Hodge took the Indian
outfit, leaving the cowboy costume for Frank.

At intervals the sound of laughter came from above, indicating that the
girls were making progress.

Mrs. Medford came down first and announced that the girls would follow
in two or three minutes.

"They are putting on the finishing touches," she said.

She professed to be alarmed by the fierce appearance of Merriwell, who
swaggered toward her in "chaps," woolen shirt, and wide-brimmed hat, a
loose belt about his waist, with a pistol peeping from the holster,
while his face was hidden by a mask in keeping with the rest of his
outfit.

"It's a whole lot tired we're getting of waiting for them yere gals,
madam," said Frank. "I opine they'd better hurry some, for we'll have to
hike right lively if we shake a hoof at this dance to-night."

Then Hodge danced forward in his Indian rig, flourishing a tomahawk and
uttering a war whoop.

"Heap right," he cried. "White woman bring gals."

"Mercy!" gasped Mrs. Medford, retreating toward the table and suddenly
turning the lamp very low.

Then came a rustling sound on the stairs, followed by a low moaning, and
into view glided two ghostly figures in flowing robes of white. These
figures paused in a corner of the room where the shadows were deepest,
and the surprised witnesses seemed to see through their white draperies
the gleaming outlines of the upper portions of two skeletons. The ribs,
the waving, bony arms, and the horrible, shining skulls were plainly
beheld. After a moment the two apparitions advanced.

"Heap spook!" cried Hodge, while Frank pretended to be greatly alarmed.

Browning sat bolt upright, uttering a grunt of surprise.

As the forms came forward into the dim light the skeleton figures faded
and disappeared.

"I reckon these are the real things, Injun," said Frank.

"Much so," nodded Bart.

Then the girls broke into laughter and Mrs. Medford turned up the lamp.

With the aid of two sheets, a needle and thread and a few pins, Mrs.
Medford had made some very ghostly garments for the girls, fitting them
with a skill which partly revealed and partly concealed the graceful
outlines of the wearers. Eyelets had been cut, and the general effect
was indeed striking.

"But the skeletons we saw?" questioned Frank.

"A little phosphorus produced them," explained Mrs. Medford. "I drew the
skeleton outlines on the sheets with phosphorus. Of course they'll be
visible only in the dark."

"Mrs. Medford, you're a wonder!" declared Hodge. "Now we're all right.
There'll be ghosts abroad in the Adirondacks to-night."

After a general inspection of their costumes, the party prepared to
start.

"Almost wish I had decided to go," confessed Browning. "But I'll stay
here and take care of Mrs. Medford."

"If you wish to go, I can take care of her," assured Warren Hatch.

"It's too late now," said Bruce quickly. "Besides that, it's quite a
walk over there, and I'd get tired of dancing in short order. I'll stay
here and rest."

They paused a moment on the veranda. The night was very still, and the
moon was just rising above the treetops, silvering the mirror-like
surface of the lake.

From far away on the southern shore came the sound of music and they
could see the gleaming lights.

"Take care of those girls, boys," called Mrs. Medford. "If anything
happens to them I'll never forgive myself for letting them out of my
sight."

"Don't worry," advised Frank. "You may rest assured that they are quite
safe in our care. We'll guard them with our lives, but there is no
possibility of danger to-night."

Little he knew what would happen before the night passed.



CHAPTER V.

THE WOLVES.


The pavilion was brilliantly lighted. Hundreds of Chinese lanterns were
suspended from the beams and cross timbers. The musicians were hidden by
an arbor of green at one end of the floor. The floor itself swarmed with
dancers wearing all sorts of grotesque and beautiful costumes.

Amid the whirling throng two ghosts were waltzing, the partner of one
being a cowboy, while the right arm of a redskin encircled the waist of
the other.

The waltzing of these couples was the poetry of grace and motion. They
seemed to glide over the floor without effort of any sort. The ease of
their movements was admired by many.

"Isn't it delightful, Frank?" enthusiastically whispered one of the
ghosts; and her cowboy partner answered:

"It's all the more delightful being unexpected and unplanned, Inza. I
feel to-night as if I hadn't a care in the world."

"Why have you any great cares to worry you now?" she asked. "All your
great business projects are coming out right, and the man who could make
you trouble has paid the penalty of his villainy. He'll never interfere
with you again."

"That's right. With him out of the way, his railroad plan and mining and
development company will never mature."

"I see no reason why you should hurry back to Mexico now. Can't you
remain in the East longer?"

"I'll know better about that after consulting with Watson Scott. If
possible to linger, I'll be in no hurry to go."

They swept past a solitary man who stood watching the dancers. His mask
was the head of a wolf. Through the twin holes of the mask his eyes
gleamed strangely as they followed Merry and Inza.

Another wolf approached and touched the first on the shoulder.

"Have you found him yet?"

"Look!" exclaimed the first. "See the girl in flowing white?"

"With the Indian?"

"No; with the cowboy."

"I have noticed both."

"Well, it is the cowboy I want you to watch. Listen near him. Hear him
speak. I think it is our man. If so--well, to-night I strike the blow
that makes me the master!"

"Your head----"

"Never mind. I have taken pains to hide well anything that might betray
me. The dead seldom rise, and I am dead, you know."

"It's the greatest wonder in the world that you are not."

The music stopped. Frank escorted Inza to one of the great, open
windows, through which came a grateful breath of the cool, still night.
Through the trees outside they could see the lake, with the silver
moonlight shimmering on its bosom.

"It's a beautiful spot here," said the girl. "See how peaceful
everything is out there, Frank."

After a few moments they strolled out together beneath the trees, where
the shadows were heavy. Arm in arm, they walked up and down, pausing at
intervals to listen to the music which came from the pavilion, where the
dancers were again whirling over the polished floor.

Suddenly they came face to face with a silent figure beneath the trees.
This figure started back, uttering a low exclamation, turned suddenly,
and almost fled round a corner of the building.

Frank laughed.

"You gave him a start, Inza. The phosphorus skeleton shows plainly here,
you know."

"Somehow I didn't fancy that was why he fled so quickly," she said.

"What other reason could there have been?"

"I don't know, but there seemed something familiar in his movements. It
was fancy, I suppose."

"It must have been. We know no one here, save Hodge and Elsie."

"Let's go in. Somehow a feeling of apprehension is on me. I'm not often
nervous, you know; but something is the matter with my nerves now."

He laughed at her, but they returned to the floor and danced out the
latter part of the two-step.

When this dance was over Merry left Inza, departing to find and bring
her a glass of water.

Barely was he gone when she was surprised to hear a harsh voice at her
elbow saying:

"I'll not believe your ghostly garments hide nothing save the hideous
skeleton I saw a few moments ago. I must confess you gave me a shock."

One of the wolves had paused close at hand.

Knowing the dance was informal, as masquerade affairs must be, she was
not surprised to be addressed in this manner.

"Then it was you who fled before me?" she laughed. "It seems that even a
wolf may be frightened by a ghost."

"Quite true, fair wraith; but you are not the only ghost at this dance
to-night."

"I have a sister ghost with me."

"It was not your sister I spoke of," growled the wolf. "There is still a
third ghost present."

"Indeed? I have not seen----"

"I think you will later. For all of your awesome aspect I would entreat
you to favor me with one dance were it not that something I cannot
explain denies me the pleasure of dancing to-night."

"Why do you growl in that manner? Are you trying to disguise your voice?
It is not necessary, for I know only my own friends at this dance."

"It is natural for wolves to growl," he retorted. "Although you know few
here, it is possible you are known. I think I can describe you."

"I doubt it."

"You are dark, with black hair and eyes."

"Wonderful guessing."

"Your lips are like the reddest rose, and your teeth are so many
pearls."

"Flattering, at least."

"Of your sex you are the fairest ever beheld by the eyes of wolf."

"You forget you have not seen me."

"If that is true, I'll convince you that the sagacity of some wolves
passes human understanding. Your name is--Inza!"

She fell back in amazement, betraying her surprise by the movement.

From behind the wolf mask came a low, growling chuckle.

"It is enough!" he declared. "To deny it now would be useless. The
cowboy returns, and cowboys do not like wolves, so I will slink away."

Filled with amazement, Inza watched him as he walked swiftly away. Frank
came up and she clutched his arm, pointing at the retreating figure and
almost panting:

"Who is that man?"

"I don't know, Inza. Has he bothered or insulted you? If so, I will----"

"Frank, he knows me!"

"Impossible!"

"He spoke my name! He called me Inza. His words were strange and
somewhat faltering. He spoke with a growl that I am certain he assumed
to disguise his voice. There is something familiar about him--something
familiar in his movements and his walk. Frank, I know him! Is there no
way to find out who he is?"

Merry was aroused.

"Drink, Inza," he said, "and I'll find a way to discover who he is.
Perhaps Warren Hatch has put up a joke on us. If so, we must turn the
joke."

Bart and Elsie came up. Frank left Inza with them as he returned with
the empty glass.

Leaving the glass, he set out to find the wolf. As he was passing one of
the wide windows he saw two wolves standing outside. Immediately he
stepped through the window and joined them.

"Howdy, pards," he said, with an assumption of the cowboy manner. "I
opine one of you two was chinning with my friend, the ghost, a few
moments ago. Now, even a wolf won't take advantage of a lady, and so, as
you happened to call her name, I reckon it's up to you in natural
politeness to give her yours in return."

They appeared somewhat startled, but one of them said:

"You're mistaken, sir; neither of us has spoken to a lady since arriving
here to-night. We have not danced yet, and therefore have not had
occasion to speak to any of the fair sex."

Frank rested his hands on his hips and eyed them searchingly.

"I have the word of the lady herself," he said. "I don't opine you're
going to dispute a lady?"

"You are at liberty to opine what you like," sneered the second wolf;
"and I advise you to go about your business, unless you are looking for
trouble. If it's trouble you are after, you may get more than you want."

"I never hunt trouble; but I thought it possible that, out of
politeness, the one who spoke to the lady would give his name."

"Get about your own business and leave us alone," advised the pugnacious
chap. "If you don't you'll get your make-up ruffled."

Now, Frank had not confronted them with the idea of pressing a quarrel.
His first thought had been to draw them into conversation that he might
hear their voices, thinking it possible he would recognize one or both
of them. There was nothing familiar about their voices, however, and now
their offensive atmosphere aroused him and caused his blood to stir
warmly in his body.

"Although there are two of you," he said, "I would advise you some not
to try any ruffling business with me. It might work unpleasantly for
you."

This angered them, and suddenly they both attacked Frank.

Instantly there was a stir within the pavilion, for men uttered
exclamations, and women gave cries of alarm.

Hodge had remained with Inza and Elsie, but at the first alarm, thinking
Frank might be in trouble, he left the girls and dashed across the
floor. Elsie called to him, starting to follow. Suddenly she stopped,
turning back to Inza, whom she had left by the open window.

Inza was gone.

"Where is she?" gasped Elsie, looking around. "I am sure----"

She paused in bewilderment, a sudden feeling of terror seizing her.

From somewhere in the grove outside the pavilion came a smothered cry of
distress.

Elsie Bellwood had left Inza standing close to the huge, open window.
Barely was Elsie's back turned when the heavy folds of a blanket were
thrown over Inza's head and she felt herself lifted bodily and snatched
through the window.

Remarkable though it was, no one within the pavilion saw this happen.
The attention of all was turned toward the opposite side of the
building, where the encounter was taking place between Frank and the two
wolves.

At first Inza was stunned and bewildered. Her hands and arms were
enfolded in the blanket, and she was unable to make anything like
effective resistance. The blanket was twisted about her until she could
not cast it off, and she felt herself lifted and carried away in a pair
of arms that held her tightly.

Had she been of a nervous or timid nature she might have fainted at
once. But she was brave and nervy and she struggled hard for her
freedom, seeking to cast off the blanket which was smothering her and
giving her a sensation of agony.

The man had not carried her far when she nearly succeeded in getting her
head clear of the blanket. She uttered a cry that was broken and
smothered, for, with an exclamation of dismay, her captor again twisted
the blanket tightly about her head and neck.

It was this cry which reached the ears of Elsie, who had just missed her
friend.

Inza continued to struggle, kicking and uttering muffled cries beneath
the blanket; but she was helpless, and, holding her thus, the man, who
wore a wolf mask, almost ran through the grove to the shore of the lake.

By the time the shore was reached the girl's struggles had become very
weak, and the only sounds issuing from the smothering folds of the
blanket were choking moans.

As Inza's captor approached the water he uttered a low, peculiar
whistle.

It was answered by a similar whistle.

The answer served to guide the man with the wolf mask to the spot where
a canoe lay floating with its prow touching the shore, guarded by a man
who stood straight and silent on the bank.

"Ben!" excitedly yet softly called the man with the girl.

"Here," was the answer.

"Ready with the canoe! Back there you hear them shouting. Thank the
saints the señorita no longer struggles! She has fainted."

"What got?" asked the man on the shore, who was a full-blooded Indian
guide, known as Red Ben. "Big bundle."

"Never mind what I have here. I paid you to wait and be ready to take me
away in a hurry, and now it is in a hurry I must go. Swing the canoe so
I may put her in it."

The shouts of men and excited voices of women came to their ears from
the pavilion.

"Let them bark!" muttered Inza's captor. "I'll soon be far away, and the
water will leave no trail for Merriwell, the gringo, to follow. Once he
trailed me, but I have taken precautions this time."

Unhesitatingly he stepped into the water beside the canoe, in the bottom
of which he placed Inza, with the blanket still wrapped about her. A
moment later he was seated in the canoe, which Red Ben pushed off from
shore, springing in himself and seizing a paddle.

"Keep in the shadows near the shore," directed the wearer of the wolf
mask. "Paddle hard, for much trouble it might make us both should we be
seen."

"You steal gal?" questioned the curious Indian.

"She belongs to me," was the answer. "My enemy claims her, but she is
mine. Don't talk, Ben--paddle for your life. Were we to be seen now----"

"Point out there," said the redskin. "We go by him, nobody back there
see us."

"Then get past the point at your finest speed, and it is doubly well you
shall be paid for this night's work."

The Indian made the canoe fly over the surface of the water. He kept
close to the shore of a little cove and then swept out in the shadow of
the trees along the rim of the lake, soon reaching the point.

As Ben sent the canoe shooting past that point it came near colliding
with another canoe that contained a single occupant, who was smoking a
pipe and paddling along leisurely.

"Look out, you lubbers!" grunted the man with the pipe. "What are you
trying to do?"

It was Bruce Browning, who, after all, had found it impossible to remain
at the cottage. In Joe's canoe Bruce was leisurely paddling over to the
south shore, thinking he would look in on the dancers. He had not heard
the approach of the other canoe and knew nothing of its presence until
it shot past the point and nearly struck him.

Neither Red Ben nor his companion made any retort. The Indian swerved
the canoe aside and continued to ply the paddle, flashing past Bruce.

Browning stared in surprise, for the moonlight fell full and fair on the
redskin's companion, showing the wolf mask.

"One of the dancers, I judge," he mumbled. "Nice, sociable fellow! Never
said a word when they came so near cutting me in two. What's he doing
now?"

Bruce swung his canoe so he could watch the other without cramping his
neck, for he saw that something like a struggle was taking place, the
masked man seemingly holding some object helpless in the bottom of the
frail craft.

"Queer doings," growled the big fellow. "I'd like to know what it
means. There seems to be some sort of excitement going on yonder."

He turned from the canoe to listen to the sounds on shore.

"Guess I'll poke along and find out what all the racket is," he decided,
as he resumed his lazy paddling, giving no further attention to the
other canoe.

Arriving at the landing, Bruce made his way to the pavilion. Ere he
reached it he was certain something of an unusual nature had taken
place. Persons were searching with lights in the grove, and he
encountered a party of four, who surveyed him searchingly and passed on.

He had reached the pavilion when he encountered Hodge, who was doing his
best to quiet Elsie, the latter apparently being on the verge of
hysterics.

"What's the matter, Bart?" asked Bruce, wonderingly. "What's happened
here, anyhow?"

Hodge clutched him by the shoulder.

"Inza!" he exclaimed. "She has disappeared mysteriously."

The big fellow immediately threw off his apathy. His careless, lazy air
vanished in a twinkling and he asked some questions that brought a brief
but complete explanation from Bart.

"Where is Frank?" demanded Browning.

"He is with the searchers."

Bruce lost no time in looking for Merriwell, soon coming face to face
with him in the grove. Frank's face was pale and stern, and there was a
dangerous, desperate gleam in his eyes.

"You're wasting your time here, Merry," declared Bruce. "Hodge has just
told me of the men who wore the wolf masks. There must have been three
of them. While you were having that set-to with two of them the third
carried Inza off."

"But where is she?" asked Frank hoarsely. "Where did he take her?"

"You won't find her on shore. Look on the lake."

"The lake?"

"Yes."

"Why----"

Immediately Browning told how he had seen one of the men wearing a wolf
mask in the canoe which so nearly collided with the one he occupied.

"There was something in the bottom of that canoe. I fancied a struggle
was taking place. I thought it mighty singular."

"By Heaven!" cried Frank, "if a hair of Inza's head is harmed the guilty
wretch shall pay the penalty with his life!"



CHAPTER VI.

IN THE GRASP OF DEL NORTE.


There are two large, heavily wooded islands in Lake Placid. Into a
little cove of the northern island Red Ben ran his canoe. His companion,
still wearing the wolf mask, stepped out and lifted the helpless girl,
bearing her along a path that led to a little opening where the
moonlight fell brightly. He placed her on the ground and stood gazing
down at her, his arms folded. He had removed the stifling blanket from
her head and shoulders.

"By my soul she is beautiful!" he murmured, and the words were spoken in
Spanish. His voice was soft and musical, quite unlike the growling
hoarseness of the wolf with whom Inza had conversed at the pavilion.

A silent shadow slipped into the opening and stood near. It was the
Indian.

"Much dangerous business," he said. "You tell Ben you want to square old
score with Merriwell man. Tell me be ready to take you quick away in
canoe. No tell me you carry off gal."

"I did not know she would be there," explained the wolf. "When I found
her there my plans I changed. It can make no difference with you. You
have been paid, but I will pay you doubly if you stick by me to the
end. You know every mile of these mountains and forests. You can help me
get away, and by it you shall lose nothing."

The Indian shook his head.

"Much bad! much bad!" he declared. "What you do with gal?"

"I shall keep her."

"How you do it. Mebbe she no want to stay. She have many friend. They
hunt you same like a real wolf."

"Then they shall find that the wolf has teeth. I expect her gringo lover
will hunt. Ha! ha! ha! It is the joy of my soul to wring his heart and
make it bleed! I hate him! Between him and me it is a struggle to the
death, and in my body runs the blood of old Guerrero, who feared no
peril and never paused to count the cost when he struck at a foe. Could
I leave him dead, even as he thought me dead, my path would be clear.
The prize is worth the peril, for it is a double prize, the fairest
señorita and a great fortune. Listen, Ben: if by me you stay fast and I
slay my enemy, five hundred dollars shall be yours. Think of that. Five
hundred is as much as you can obtain as guide in a season."

"But the white man's law," said the Indian. "I know him. Once I steal a
hoss. White man officer arrest me, take me to court, where white man
judge say go to jail one year. I go. No want some more like that. Once
I 'most kill man down at Long Lake. White man officer hunt me long time.
I remember jail. No want some more. I hide. Send word no let um officer
take me alive. Bimeby they no hunt me some more. 'Nother time I git
drunk, burn house. Have to hide again long, long while till snow come,
an' nobody look for me some more. If I help you do some bad things now,
mebbe git officer after me 'gain."

"You will not be to blame for anything I do, and the money will pay you
so you can afford to hide until the trouble is past. My friends will
join us here, as we planned. After that we can get away into the woods.
With you to guide, we can baffle all pursuit. But I pray the señorita's
gringo lover seeks to follow, so that we may meet. I'll leave him for
the wild beasts, with my knife in his heart!"

"But gal she hate you then."

"I'll teach her to love me. I have sworn she shall be mine, and the oath
of a Del Norte is never broken. Leave everything to me. Go back and
watch for our friends. They will come as soon as they can get away and
reach us without being seen."

Silently the redskin turned away and disappeared into the path.

Then the wolf once more turned to the girl. He was somewhat startled to
discover her eyes were wide open and fastened upon him. Quickly he bent
over her, speaking softly and with an effort to reassure her.

"Fear not, señorita; you are not injured, and in my hands you are safe,
for I will guard you with my life. A thousand pardons I ask if I have
caused your heart to beat with alarm."

With an effort she rose on one hand, holding up the other as if to ward
him off.

"Don't touch me, you monster!" she gasped. "I shall scream!"

"Spare yourself the effort, fair one," he said, "for though you were to
shriek with all your strength no one could hear you. You were
unconscious, and while thus I brought you here."'

"Where am I?"

"Many miles from the spot where I found you, señorita."

"That voice!" she whispered, shrinking in terror. "It cannot be that you
are---- I am dreaming!"

"It is no dream, sweet one. Could you see into my heart you would fear
me no longer. Trust me and all will be well."

"Trust you! Trust a monster who has done what you have done! I fear you
as I would fear a venomous reptile!"

"Ah! how little you understand, señorita!"

He knelt on one knee before her, holding out his open hands.

"If you would only believe in me and trust me, my beautiful gringo
flower! You will learn in time to do so, for I shall teach you. Some day
you shall bless your guardian angel that to-night I found you and
snatched you from your boastful lover."

To his surprise, she leaned toward him, as if to permit him to clasp her
in his arms. A moment later, with a swift movement, she caught at the
wolf mask and tore it from his head.

"Porfias del Norte!" she cried, falling back and staring at him as he
knelt with the moonlight shining on his face and his bandaged head.

He smiled in that remarkable manner that ever made his face seem
handsome to a wonderful degree.

"Yes, señorita," he murmured, with that strange sweetness in his voice,
"I am Porfias del Norte."

"Not dead!"

"Far from it, fair one."

"But Frank said----"

"He thought he had left me dead in the old hut where I was shot down by
a treacherous dog who shall pay the penalty with his life. The bullet
struck me here, but Heaven changed its course and spared my life. My
time had not come, Señorita Inza."

"Heaven had no hand in it!" cried the girl. "Some evil spirit protected
you!"

"Some time you will think differently."

"Never! You monster, how dared you do what you have done to-night?"

"Dare!" he laughed. "Have you yet to learn that a Del Norte dares
anything? Have you yet to learn a Del Norte will risk anything to secure
the woman he loves?"

She fought against the great terror that threatened to overcome her and
rob her of consciousness once more.

"You must be deranged!" she said. "You cannot realize what your act will
bring about. It is plain you do not yet know Frank Merriwell. If you did
you would not fancy you could do this thing and escape the punishment he
will surely bring upon you. Why, he will find you and make you suffer,
even though he had to employ a hundred men and rake over every inch of
these mountains. Once arouse him, as he must now be aroused, and he will
follow like a Nemesis on your trail. There is but one escape for you."

"Only one?" questioned the man, with a touch of mockery in his voice.

"Only one."

"And that is--tell me what, señorita?"

"You must permit me to return to him without delay. You must see that I
return unharmed. If you do that, I give you my promise to keep him still
long enough for you to get far away. If you are wise you will make all
haste back to your own country."

Del Norte laughed softly.

"You have yet much to learn of me. In this game I hold the winning
cards. In my employ is an Indian who knows where in these mountains we
may hide so securely that a thousand men cannot find us. In one of these
hiding places I shall keep you secure. If your gringo lover comes, I'll
meet him. I'll fight him to the death. One of us will conquer, and no
man ever triumphed over one in whose blood was the spirit of old
Guerrero. If we meet in fair battle and I am his master, then you will
realize how much superior I am to the boasting Americano you thought you
cared for. In time you will learn to love me a thousand times more
deeply than you ever loved him."

"It's plain you reckon all women on the standard of such women as you
have known. Only women of savage races transfer their affection from
dead lovers to their slayers. But you do not yet comprehend the fearful
task before you. Your conceit is colossal. In single combat with Frank
Merriwell you would not have one chance in a thousand."

He could not help feeling the scorn and contempt in her face and words,
but still he laughed.

"Time will show you your mistake, señorita; words cannot. Do not fear
me. I have sworn that you shall love me, and to win your love I'll be as
tender and considerate as possible."

"Tender and considerate!" panted the trembling girl. "After this night
I shall fear and loathe you a thousand times more than ever before. Keep
away! Don't touch me!"

"It saddens me to see that you fear me so," he sighed, rising to his
feet and standing with folded arms. "I have ventured everything on this
move, and I shall carry it through. You American women love wealth and
power. Señorita, all the vast wealth that is coming to me will I place
at your feet. Yours shall be all the power it can command. As my wife
you shall some day be admired and envied by all women."

"Now I know you are deranged!" she declared, also rising. "Any man in
his right mind could not think to win the love of a woman after such a
fashion. Porfias del Norte, that wound has made you a madman!"

"It is love that has made me mad, my Northern flower. Since parting from
you on the crown of Mount Battie, up in Maine, I have thought of you,
and dreamed of you, until you took possession of my whole being. I felt
that I must have you for my own to keep always until death came between
us. I have felt that to have you thus I would face a thousand deadly
perils. To-night I saw you at the dance. Even though your face was
hidden, my heart gave a leap the moment my eyes rested on you. By your
grace I recognized you, yet I was not certain until I found an
opportunity to speak with you. I watched my opening and grasped it the
moment Merriwell left you. Even though I felt that you might discover
my identity and betray me, I ventured to speak with you."

"I believed you dead; otherwise I should have recognized you, even
though you disguised your voice."

"No doubt, señorita. I feared then that you might tell him, and he would
make a move that should baffle me. I spoke to my comrades. Fortune aided
me in the wild plan I quickly formed. He saw them and engaged in
altercation with them, which gave me the opening I sought. You were
again left alone, and in a moment I acted. I carried you away, but in
the struggle your garment of white was torn from you, and it lies in the
canoe that brought us to this spot. I have no doubt that my comrades
will join me soon, and then we shall move again. By daybreak we will be
safely hidden in one of the many safe places known to the Indian who is
with me."

Inza was desperate. She did not know they were on an island, and now her
terror led her, having somewhat recovered her strength, to wheel
suddenly and flee as fast as her feet would carry her. By chance she
struck into the path and came quickly to the shore where lay the canoe,
with Red Ben standing near it.

"Help!" she cried, appealing to him. "Save me! You shall be
paid--anything, anything you ask!"

In her excitement she clutched his arm. He turned toward her a grim,
immovable face. Not a word did he speak in reply.

Del Norte issued from the path and deliberately approached.

"It is useless, señorita," he declared. "Flee whither you will, there is
no escape. You are on an island. This is my Indian comrade."

"Others come," said Red Ben.

"Where?" asked the Mexican anxiously.

"There."

The redskin lifted his arm and pointed away over the surface of the
silent lake.

"My friends!" gasped the girl. "They are coming to rescue me."

In the distance a black spot lay on the water. The faint clanking of
oars was heard.

Del Norte whistled a sharp signal.

In return there was a similar answer.

"Señorita," he laughed, "you are wrong; those who come are my friends."



CHAPTER VII.

THE SENTINEL.


With the sun slipping down toward the western peaks, another day was
passing.

Hidden on the side of a wooded mountain, yet having a position that
commanded a wide expanse of country, with a view of the lower hills and
valleys, Red Ben lay prone on his stomach. At his side lay a loaded
rifle.

In front of the Indian was a precipice, over which he peered at
intervals, his keen eyes searching the valley below.

Finally he stirred quickly, sat up and turned with the rifle in his
hands.

A man was approaching, but the moment this man appeared plainly in view
Red Ben put down the rifle.

Del Norte came hurriedly forward.

"Have you seen anything of pursuers?" he anxiously questioned.

The redskin nodded.

"They near," he answered.

"You have seen them?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Down there," with a motion of one brown hand toward the valley beneath
them.

"When?"

"Hour ago."

"How many?"

"Five."

"Whither did they go?"

"So," with another gesture up the valley.

"Then they are not on the trail. Your trick in covering our tracks in
case they found and followed the trail was successful. Are you sure they
were pursuers? Perhaps they were hunters looking for deer."

"No," asserted the Indian decidedly. "Ben he know. Make no mistake. They
hunt for lost gal."

"They'll never find her. In that cave she is as safe as if buried a
thousand feet underground. Even if they passed within ten feet of the
entrance they could not discover it. Was Merriwell with them?"

Ben shook his head.

"No can tell. Ben not know him. Two young men; others older."

From a pocket the Mexican drew a pistol, which he examined, making sure
it was in perfect working order. His usually handsome face wore a look
that transformed it, while there was a deadly glitter in his black eyes.

"Listen, Ben," he said; "I will describe the hated gringo to you. If he
is near, I wish to find the opportunity to meet him again face to face.
Twice he has nearly destroyed me, but my escapes have told me my life is
charmed, and I know it is next his turn. When again we meet I'll leave
him food for the wolves, with this in his heart!"

He suddenly produced and flourished a keen dagger. His description of
Frank was accurate and flattering, for he confessed that the young
American was handsome and manly in appearance, with a resolute face and
a fearless eye. He declared that the redskin could not mistake
Merriwell, as the very appearance of the latter proclaimed him a leader
among his companions.

"Of course," he added, "I wish no chance to face him in company with
many of his friends, but I pray the Virgin he may give me the
opportunity alone."

"Not much chance," grunted Red Ben. "How gal?"

"She is wonderful in her courage and defiance. Never did I see her
equal, and it is this spirit that makes me love her all the more. How
long do you think we'll have to hide here in the cave, Ben?"

"Can't stay long. Little grub."

"If necessary you could bring food at night."

"Mebbe so. Much dangerous to stay long. First chance we best go quick.
Your friend they watch her?"

"Yes, they are guarding her now."

"She run quick she git chance."

"She'll have no chance."

The redskin surveyed Del Norte curiously.

"You want marry gal?" he asked.

"I have sworn to make her my wife."

"No good! She no do it. You waste time. You fix um your enemy, better
leave her, git out fast. Canada up there. You reach Canada, have chance
to git 'way."

"Even with the gringo dead, my triumph would not be complete if she
escaped me. I will take her to Mexico."

"Where Mexico?" asked the Indian. "No hear of it any before."

"It is far from here, my own fair land!"

"Gal make heap trouble 'fore you git um there. Ben him know. Him see in
her eye how she hate you. Gals no good. Alwus make bad trouble for
anybody. Men big fools over gals. Ben know. Once him git foolish over
'nother man's squaw. Heap fight over her. Prit' near git um head shot
off. Let squaws 'lone sence that."

"You cannot understand," declared Del Norte, with a gesture. "This thing
I have set myself to do I will do, and all the powers of earth shall not
thwart me."

Ben grunted and shrugged his shoulders.

"When white man gits that way him go it lickety split till him finish up
done for. All right. Ben he got nothin' to say. No waste talk. You pay
him, he do all he can for you."

"That's all I ask and all I want. Keep your eyes open. If the hunters
come near, give me warning. If Merriwell strays alone, let me know and I
will hasten to meet him."

A few moments later the redskin was again left as a sentinel on the
mountain side, while Del Norte retraced his steps to the cave where he
had sought concealment with his fair captive.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun was touching the tip of a rocky western peak. For a long time
Red Ben had been watching a solitary man who was making his way slowly
and cautiously up the mountain. The eyes of the Indian glittered and his
fingers closed firmly on his rifle, which was ready for use.

Nearer and nearer came the unsuspecting man. At times he disappeared
from view amid the timber, only to reappear at some point anticipated by
the watcher.

Finally he drew near the spot where the Indian lay. Slowly Red Ben
pushed forward his rifle, bringing the butt against his shoulder. The
muzzle covered the heart of the unsuspecting man, who also carried a
rifle.

At that moment the man dropped like a flash and rolled over twice until
he lay behind a sheltering bowlder.

Red Ben was astonished, for he realized that the other had scented
danger, yet how this had happened was more than the redskin could
comprehend.

"Howld on there, ye spalpane!" cried a voice. "Don't be afther shootin'
yer bist friend. Oi know ye're there, fer Oi saw th' bushes wiggle a wee
bit. If it's Red Ben ye are, ye ought to know Pat O'Toole, so ye had."

The astonishment of the Indian increased, but for some moments he
neither spoke nor made a sound.

"Nivver a bit av good will it do to kape so shtill," declared he of the
rich Irish brogue. "Oi know ye're there. It's not often Pat O'Toole
makes a mishtake."

The Indian sat up, exposing the upper part of his body.

"Come," he invited. "Ben no shoot."

O'Toole rose from his place of concealment, grinning triumphantly.

"Begorra, Oi think Oi saved mesilf a foine hole in me shkin," he
chuckled, as he advanced. "Whin Misther Browning towld me about th'
Injun in th' boat wid the wolf, sez Oi to mesilf, sez Oi, 'Oi'll bet me
loife Oi know th' mon, an' it's Red Ben.' Misther Merriwell wur sure th'
spalpane he's afther must be somewhere here, an' it's the counthry all
over they are searchin'. Oi took it on mesilf to invistigate this soide
av th' mountain, but Oi had me oies open all th' toime. Something towld
me ye'd be on th' watch if ye wur with them; an' it's sudint Oi
dhropped whin Oi saw th' bushes move."

"How," said Red Ben, accepting O'Toole's extended hand.

"Howdy yersilf. Long toime no see, eh?"

"What you do here?"

"Pwhat th' divvil are you doin', Ben? It's a bad shcrape ye're afther
gettin' yersilf in through this girrul business. Arter Oi saved ye from
bein' shot full av lead fer foolin' round Bill Curran's woife Oi thought
ye'd know betther than to iver monkey wid a female again."

"Ben he no monkey. White man him gal crazy."

"But ye're afther hilpin' him, ye lunatick, an' it's a schrape ye'll
foind yersilf in. Oi've known ye tin year now. We've worruked togither
guidin' more than wance, and nivver a bit av a quarrel did we have. Oi'd
not tell ye a loie, an' Oi want ye to know thot Frank Merriwell will
rake these mountains down an' lay them level av he don't foind thot
girrul. It's a big oath he has taken to make anny wan shmart thot has
caused her wan minute av distress."

"How you know so much 'bout him?" asked Red Ben, a heavy frown on his
face.

"It's a long shtory, an' Oi'll not tell ye the whole av it. Oi wur paid
to hilp do him a bad turn, an' Oi troied to bate th' head off him. It's
a foine lickin' Oi got. Afther thot he saved me loife whin a mad buck
had me down an' wur about cuttin' me to pieces wid his hoofs. Sure Oi
found him a foine young gintleman, an' it's his friend Oi became. Wid me
own hand Oi put a bullet through the head av thot shnale Porrfeeus dil
Noort; an' now it's some av Dil Noort's gang that's seekin' to git
square by carryin' off Merriwell's girrul. As yer friend, Ben, Oi ax ye
to give th' spalpanes th' double-cross an' hilp Frank Merriwell git back
th' girrul. Av ye do thot Oi promise ye Oi'll see that nivver a bit av
throuble do ye get into. Av ye refuse it's more than wan year ye'll be
afther spindin' in jail fer your foolishness."

The Indian had listened with the frown growing deeper.

"Mebbe you go back on me?" he questioned. "Mebbe you tell um Merriwell
Red Ben help carry off gal?"

"Oi didn't have to tell him. His bist friend saw ye in your canoe afther
ye shtarted wid th' girrul. Ye're in fer it, Ben, me bhoy, onliss ye
turrun roight-about-face an' do pwhat ye can fer th' girrul an' to have
the indacint rascals pwhat shtole her poonished."

"Sit down," invited the redskin, motioning toward the ground at his
side. "We talk it over."

O'Toole accepted the invitation and squatted on the ground.

"Ben he must think," said the Indian. "He must have time to make up him
mind."

"Take yer toime, me bhoy," nodded O'Toole, in his pleasantest manner;
"but don't yez fergit Oi'm yer friend, an' it's fer your good Oi'm
advisin' ye. Th' divvils pwhat shtole th' girrul can't git away, fer
Merriwell has tilegraphed it all over this parrut av th' counthry, an'
it's big rewards he has offered fer th' apprehinsion av th' rascals.
Whin th' shtorm comes, Ben, ye want to git out from under. There'll be a
terrible crash, moind pwhat Oi say."

"Ben him git big money for what him do."

"It's litthle good money will do yez wid yer neck shtretched, an' th'
bhoys are carryin' ropes fer th' gints pwhat run off wid th' girrul.
Oi'd not fool yez fer th' worruld," O'Toole continued, in his most
convincing manner. "Says Oi to mesilf whin Oi made up me moind ye wur
wid the gints pwhat done ut, said Oi, 'Pat, me bhoy, Ben is yer friend,
an' ye are his friend, an' it's up to ye to go along an' foind him an'
give him a tip to git under cover before it rains.' Oi'm here. It's
roight foine luck Oi found yez. A foine broth av a bhoy is Frank
Merriwell, an' whin he knows ye hilped save th' girrul, Oi'll shtake me
loife he pays ye well fer it."

The Irishman was doing his level best to win the Indian over, and his
words were not without effect. After a while Red Ben said:

"You go to um Merriwell, ask how much he give Ben to bring gal. Ask if
him swear Ben no git hurt. Ask if him dare meet Ben an' swear he no git
hurt to bring gal. Come soon, tell what him say."

"It's darruk it will be, fer th' sun is down now."

"Ben stay here. Men who steal gal leave him to watch. He stay. You know
owl hoot. When you come back make owl hoot so Ben no think it somebody
else an' shoot um. Must know what Merriwell him say. Must have him
promise."

Evidently the Indian was determined to drive the best bargain possible,
and at the same time he was resolved to take every precaution to insure
his own safety in case he betrayed Inza's captors.

O'Toole knew the redskin well enough to comprehend quickly that further
argument and pleading would be a waste of words. Once Red Ben had set
his mind on anything he was stubborn as a mule.

"All roight me bhoy," said the Irishman, rising. "Oi'll do jist pwhat ye
say; but don't yez be afther lettin' thim carry off th' girrul whoile
Oi'm spinding toime this way. It's a bit nervous Oi am about thrampin'
round through th' woods afther darruk since Oi shot thot divvil Dil
Noort, but it's no more he'll bother any wan at all, at all, an' soon Oi
think some of his foine friends will be in th' same box wid him."

"You shoot um Del Norte?" asked Red Ben, with a show of interest. "Him
say Irishman do it, but Ben no think it him friend."

"He said so?" cried O'Toole. "Begorra, thot's th' firrust toime Oi
ivver knew av anny wan thot had hearrud a dead mon talk!"

"You think you kill um Del Norte?" asked the Indian.

"Oi know Oi did onless a man can live wid a bullet clean through his
head," declared the Irishman.

Out of the shadows suddenly appeared a man, who exultantly cried, as he
pointed a finger at O'Toole:

"Diablo! I have you! Traitor, this is my time of vengeance!"

As O'Toole saw before him Del Norte, with a white bandage about his
head, the face of the Irishman turned ashen gray and his knees smote
together.

"Howly saints!" he groaned. "It is the dead aloive!"

A moment later, uttering a wild shriek of terror, he turned and ran
blindly toward the precipice close at hand, over which he rushed, being
unable to check himself when he reached the brink.

As the poor fellow fell he uttered another shriek, which was followed by
the silence of death.



CHAPTER VIII.

AT THE FOOT OF THE PRECIPICE.


The strange disappearance of O'Toole, who was unaccountably missing,
caused much wonderment among the searchers for Inza Burrage and her
captors.

There were at least thirty of these searchers in that vicinity, Frank
Merriwell being their leader.

Some hunters camped on the northeastern shore of Lake Placid had seen
Del Norte and his companions, having the girl a captive, land at a
certain point after leaving the island, conceal the boat and canoe
there, and then strike into the wilderness.

These hunters had aided the party of searchers led by Frank to pick up
the trail early on the morning following the kidnapping of the girl.

Merriwell's skill as a trailer had enabled him to follow the villains to
a point in the vicinity of the mountain where, at the suggestion of Red
Ben, Del Norte had sought concealment in a cave, the mouth of which was
hidden by thick shrubbery.

The craft of Red Ben in covering the trail had bothered and baffled the
pursuers for some time. They had broken up into smaller parties for the
purpose of scouring the woods thereabouts. Belmont Bland had insisted on
accompanying them, and he clung to Merriwell with a persistence that
annoyed Frank, who could not help suspecting the man of treachery.

It was Merry's belief that Bland had been well paid by Del Norte while
in New York to betray Old Gripper's plans and keep the Mexican posted on
Frank's movements. He had no proof of this, but all Bland's actions had
seemed suspicious down to his seeming illness that had prevented him
from returning to New York with Watson Scott.

Merriwell communicated his suspicions to Hodge, whom he urged to keep a
close watch on Bland. He then divided the searchers into five parties,
leaving Bart in charge of the one including Bland, while he took O'Toole
with him.

The Irishman had disappeared, and, having appointed a definite spot at
which to meet, Frank's party scattered to look for O'Toole and continue
the search at the same time.

Was it chance or fate that led Merry to the vicinity of the foot of the
precipice over which O'Toole plunged in his unreasoning terror? At any
rate, Frank was down there in the gloom of the valley. He heard the last
cry that came from the doomed man's lips as he fell, and a few moments
later, a short distance away, there came a crashing amid the trees,
followed by a sodden thud and silence.

Merry shuddered, for he knew the cry had been that of a human being,
and he felt that he would find the unfortunate wretch at the spot where
the crash and thud had sounded. With his rifle ready for use, he tried
to obtain a position which would command a clear view of the brink of
the precipice far, far above him, but this was not easy, and up there on
the mountain no living thing seemed stirring.

Darkness was gathering in the silent valley. Through the trees the
western sky glowed redly, but this glow was fading and dying behind the
black peaks.

That a terrible tragedy had occurred Merry was certain, but whether a
human being had fallen from the mountain by some misstep or had been
hurled to his doom he could not say.

He did not hesitate long.

Advancing swiftly, alert and ready for anything, he sought the one who
had fallen. His keen eyes soon discovered a dark form sprawled on the
ground.

"I was not mistaken," he muttered, as he knelt beside the form. "It is a
man. Here is where he crashed down through the branches of this tree.
Poor devil! Who can it be? I wonder if he still lives."

He turned the man upon his back, discovering signs of life as he did so.
Hastily lighting a match, he held the blaze protected by his curved
hands and threw the light upon the man's face.

"O'Toole!" he gasped.

The Irishman was breathing faintly, and instantly Frank did what he
could to restore him. In a few moments the poor fellow moaned a bit.

Striking another match, Merry found O'Toole's eyes were wide open, but
he was bleeding from the mouth and presented a ghastly appearance. He
was conscious, however.

"O'Toole, where are you hurt?" asked Merry.

"Me back is broke," was the faint answer. "Oi'm a dead mon."

"What happened? How did you fall? Tell me, for, at least, I may be able
to avenge you."

"It's the dead returned to loife!" gasped the dying man. "Oi saw him up
there, me bhoy!"

"Who did you see?"

"Thot human divvil Porrfeeus dil Noort."

"Impossible! Del Norte is dead."

"Thin it wur his ghost, fer Oi saw him, with his--face pale--an' a
whoite bandage about his head. This is me punishmint--fer havin'--fer
havin' anything to do wid th' loikes av him!"

O'Toole labored through this speech with failing strength, and Frank saw
he was sinking rapidly.

"Tell me quickly, man," urged Merry, "just where you saw him."

"Up yonder, me bhoy. Red Ben is there. Oi found him, an' Oi wur--talkin'
wid him. Oi know Ben, an' Oi saved his loife wance by--by stroikin' up
the hand av a mon who wur--goin' to shoot him."

It was with the greatest difficulty that O'Toole labored to draw his
breath. Frank was deeply moved by the dying agonies of the unfortunate
fellow, for Merry's experience convinced him that the Irishman was
indeed dying.

However, Frank felt it his duty to learn everything possible while
O'Toole could speak, and so he urged him to go on.

"It's me best Oi--did fer ye, Misther Merriwell--an' fer th' girrul. Oi
had Red Ben ready to--ready to turrn on th' villains--pwhat carried her
off. It's your promise av protiction he asked fer if he--done thot. Oi
wur comin'--to foind ye. Jist thin th'--the divvil--dead ur
aloive--walked out, pointin' av--his finger at me. Oi shtarted to run
away, an' thin--an' thin Oi fell. Thot's all, me bhoy."

Remarkable and unaccountable though it seemed, Frank came to believe,
while O'Toole talked, that Del Norte still lived. That explained the
kidnapping of Inza. Merry had wondered that Del Norte's late companions
should make such a move; but now, knowing the Mexican's passion for her,
the motive of her capture was clear.

The thought of Inza in the hands of that villain fired Frank's blood.

"If Del Norte lives, O'Toole," said Merry, "I swear to you now that you
shall be avenged, for never will I know a moment of rest until Inza is
rescued and he is dead beyond the shadow of a doubt."

A gurgling groan came from the Irishman. Striking another match, Frank
saw the man was dead.



CHAPTER IX.

THE KNIFE DUEL.


The moon came up in due time and flooded the wooded mountain wilds with
its mellow light.

With the caution of a creeping panther Frank Merriwell had climbed the
mountain side. He had waited patiently for the moon to rise, believing
it would aid him on that unfamiliar ground. He was now in the vicinity
of the top of the precipice over which the Irishman had plunged to his
death.

Suddenly a sound reached his ears, causing him to crouch on the alert,
with his rifle ready for use.

He quickly decided that some one was approaching the precipice, and in
this he made no mistake. Twice he caught a glimpse of the man before the
latter appeared in the full moonlight. When this man did appear, Frank's
heart gave a mighty bound of exultation, and the butt of the rifle
leaped to his shoulder.

"Halt, Del Norte!" he commanded, in a low, distinct voice. "Stand in
your tracks! If you try to run I'll shoot you dead!"

Del Norte it was, and he stopped like a man turned to stone.

"Up with your hands!" ordered Merriwell. "Your heart is covered by my
rifle!"

For a single instant it seemed that the villain would make an effort to
reach cover. Had he attempted it Frank would have shot him down. This
Merry did not wish to do, as he intended forcing the scoundrel to give
Inza up.

The Mexican's courage to attempt escape by a plunge into the shadows
failed him, and reluctantly he lifted his empty hands, snarling an oath.

"Keep them up!" ordered Merry, as he slowly advanced.

But when he was fairly in the moonlight another voice issuing from the
shadows near at hand brought him to a halt.

"Drop um gun! Ben him ready to shoot!"

It was the redskin sentinel.

Frank glanced round without turning his head, but he could see nothing
of Red Ben.

"Shoot, Ben--shoot him down!" panted Del Norte.

"Ben got him foul," was the assurance. "Him shoot you, Ben shoot him."

"Shoot first, you fool!" snarled the Mexican.

"No shoot 'less have to," was the retort. "Ben he no want hang for
murder."

Frank realized that he was in a trap. Were he to fire at Del Norte it
was almost certain the hidden redskin would shoot from cover. In his
eagerness he had stepped into a bad snare. His wits worked swiftly to
discover a manner in which he might extricate himself.

"Del Norte," he quickly said, "listen to me. We have met here face to
face, and we are deadly enemies. The end of our enmity must be
destruction for one of us. There can be no other end."

"You are the one, Señor Merriwell," declared Del Norte. "Had you shot me
from cover you might have escaped. But now----"

"I never strike a foe from cover. We are face to face, and I propose
that we settle our trouble man to man in combat. I challenge you to
fight me."

"Heap fair," said Red Ben, from the shadows, satisfaction in his voice.

"Why should I agree?" cried Del Norte. "I have the best of you now. A
friend of mine has you covered, gringo dog, and he can shoot you down."

"Ben him no do it 'less forced," declared the hidden Indian. "Him make
fair offer. Let best man win. You kill him, you have gal. He kill you,
he git gal. Heap fair."

Plainly the redskin was delighted with the proposition, and Frank saw
this was the only way out of the trap.

"Select the weapons, Del Norte," he said. "I accept Red Ben as the
referee. It's plain he believes in fair play."

The Mexican realized there was no method of avoiding the encounter, so
he cried:

"It shall be knives, and I'll drive mine through your heart, cur of a
gringo! With pistols you would be my equal, but I know the art of
fighting with the knife, and I'll cut you to pieces!"

"Knives it shall be," agreed Frank, still holding the man covered. "If
you have a pistol, cast it aside. Should you try to shoot as you pretend
to drop the pistol, I'll drop you where you are."

Uttering a sneering laugh, Del Norte removed and flung aside his coat,
saying his pistol was in it. He produced a knife, the blade of which
glittered in the moonlight.

"I have no weapon of that sort," said Merry. "Have you another?"

"Here," called Red Ben.

Something whizzed through the air and fell at Frank's feet.

It was the Indian's hunting knife.

Del Norte was advancing, the moonlight showing a deadly look of hatred
on his face.

Merry dropped his rifle and flung off his coat in a twinkling. Stooping,
he caught up Red Ben's knife just as his foe rushed upon him.

With a quick, sidestepping movement, Merry flung up his hand and deftly
parried the blow of Del Norte's blade, steel clashing against steel.

"Ha!" panted Del Norte, as he was flung back by a surge of Merry's
powerful arm. "Next time, gringo--next time!"

He was at Frank again in a twinkling, but once more the young American
met and baffled him.

Out of the shadows stalked Red Ben, holding his rifle in both hands and
standing near as if ready to use it in a twinkling. The moonlight fell
full on his dusky face, showing there an expression of savage
satisfaction in the battle he was witnessing.

"Best man shall have gal," he muttered. "Ben he see fair play. Merriwell
him best man, Ben stand by him."

The ground was somewhat rough. Over its broken surface the men dashed,
and leaped, and turned, and circled. Once Del Norte uttered an
exclamation of satisfaction as he struck, but Merry leaped away and the
keen blade of Del Norte's knife simply cut a long slit in his shirt
front.

"Near it that time, gringo dog!" panted the Mexican.

"A miss is as good as a mile," retorted Frank.

As the blades clashed together again Frank's knuckles were slightly cut
and the blood flowed freely.

"First blood!" exulted Del Norte.

"A scratch," was the retort.

But soon that scratch began to prove troublesome, for the flowing blood
covered the haft of the knife and made it slippery. This came near
proving fatal for the American youth. Again the blades clashed, and,
with a twisting movement, the Mexican wrenched Merry's knife from his
grasp.

The weapon rattled on the rocks ten feet away.

"Now you die, gringo!" snarled Frank's enemy, with a wolfish laugh.

He launched himself at the defenseless youth with frightful fury, but
Frank managed to clutch the wrist of his foe and check the stroke that
would have been fatal. With a surge he flung the Mexican aside, at the
same time springing toward the spot where Red Ben's hunting knife lay.
The moonlight revealed it plainly, and Merry had it in a twinkling.

Del Norte had followed him up, and was at him with a madness that was
almost irresistible. He sent Frank staggering from the shock, and Merry
tripped over a stone, nearly falling.

Seeing this, the Mexican uttered another cry of exultation, which turned
into a curse as he saw the youth regain his footing like a cat.

"Much good fight!" muttered Red Ben.

"I'll get you yet, gringo!" panted the Mexican. "I have sworn to leave
you dead, with my knife in your heart. Then the beautiful Señorita Inza
will be mine--all mine! With you dead and gone, I'll have your mine and
your sweetheart."

In this manner he sought to infuriate Frank and lead him to some act of
rashness.

Although Frank's blood was burning like lava in his veins, outwardly he
was wonderfully cool. As always happened in a time of great danger, he
laughed outright.

"You boaster!" he exclaimed.

Del Norte was beginning to breathe heavily from his exertions. Again and
again he struck at Frank, but each time the strokes were parried,
blocked, or avoided. At last he began to realize that the American was a
wonderful fighter with a knife, and, to his dismay, he saw Merriwell
appeared almost as fresh and vigorous as when the fight began.

"Must end it quick," thought Del Norte.

But when he lunged again Frank leaped aside and struck him in the
shoulder, from which the blood flowed swiftly, staining the Mexican's
white shirt.

"The fiends must protect you, gringo!" hissed the wounded man.

"Fair fight!" muttered Red Ben. "Merriwell him win, he git gal."

For a few moments Del Norte's injury seemed to make him fiercer and more
dangerous. A little while he kept Frank on the defensive, and then he
was slashed in the forearm.

Clapping his free hand to the wound, he leaped backward, Spanish oaths
flowing from his lips.

"Him beaten!" whispered the watching Indian. "Merriwell kill him soon
now."

Frank followed Del Norte up.

"Stand up to it, greaser," he urged. "The fight has just begun. You have
threatened to leave your knife in my heart. I could have split yours a
dozen times, but I have spared you. When you are well cut up, I'll wring
from your lips the secret of Inza's hiding place."

"Never!" vowed the Mexican. "If die I do, I'll tell nothing. But I'll
not die! I'll yet kill you!"

Fancying he saw an opening, as Frank's hands were both hanging by his
sides, Del Norte leaped in. He was sent reeling back with another wound,
this time in the ribs.

Frank followed up his failing foe, forcing him to the edge of the
cleared space. He kept close, fearing Del Norte might attempt to flee.
Instead, the man danced round Merry till his back was toward the centre
of the cleared space, while the dark shadows of the scraggy timber was
behind Frank.

Again Del Norte rushed, but this time his wrist was seized and given a
wrench that brought him, with a gasping groan of pain, to his knees.

"Fight done now!" muttered Red Ben, as he saw Merriwell lift his
blood-stained blade.

"You're at my mercy, Del Norte," said Merry. "I can kill you with a
single stroke. I'll spare you if you speak the truth. Where is Inza
Bur----"

Out of the shadows behind Merriwell darted a figure. A heavy club
crashed on Frank's head.

Thus treacherously struck down, the brave youth dropped his knife and
fell senseless to the ground.



CHAPTER X.

THE LANDSLIDE.


When Frank regained consciousness and opened his eyes he found he was
lying on the rocky floor of a cave, his arms being bound at his sides.
The place was lighted by two flaring torches thrust in crevices of the
rocks.

Near at hand were three men. One was Del Norte, pale from loss of blood,
yet with a murderous light gleaming in his eyes. Another man was Red
Ben, who stood with folded arms, silently watching. The third man was
unknown to Merry.

The Mexican uttered an exclamation of satisfaction as he saw Frank's
eyes unclose.

"At last he is conscious," said Del Norte. "I wished him to have his
reason when he died. Look you, dog of a gringo, your time has come. I
bear many wounds on my body and limbs made by the knife in your hand.
You have only one scratch on your knuckles. But soon you will have this
knife of mine in your heart!"

He displayed the weapon, stooping to sweep it flashing in the torchlight
before the eyes of the helpless youth.

Frank did not shrink in the least.

"Oh, you're defiant, I see, Señor Gringo!" snarled Merry's enemy. "Soon
I will make you groan with agony. Your sweet señorita is near in this
very cave, but you shall not see her. She is guarded by one of my
faithful ones. When I take her from here we'll leave your lifeless
carcass behind. Have you still a grain of hope in your soul? Cast it
away. Even though thousands of your friends were near they could not
find you in this place. You are doomed."

He took savage pleasure in taunting Frank thus. Again he swept the knife
before the eyes of the helpless youth, repeating his threats.

"Beg, gringo dog!" he exclaimed--"beg for your worthless life!"

"A thousand greasers could not make me do that!" declared the defiant
captive.

"Do you think so? We'll see! Remember that once I vowed to cut from your
mouth your stinging tongue? That was when we stood face to face in New
York. You thought my opportunity to keep that oath would never come, did
you? It has come at last! Before I kill you I shall cut out your tongue!
Ha! ha! ha! How like you the prospect, brave gringo?"

Again Frank looked around. Surely he could expect no assistance from
either of the mad Mexican's companions. The white man stood looking on
with an air of indifference. Red Ben was motionless, his rifle leaning
against the wall at his side.

"You see there is no escape," laughed Del Norte. "At last you begin to
understand. You have triumphed over others, but in me you meet your
master."

"My master--no! I had you at my mercy when I was treacherously struck
down from behind. This Indian knows it, for he saw it all. Porfias del
Norte, of all vile things in human form you are the vilest! The mongrel
dog that bites the hand that feeds it is your superior. You are----"

With a furious oath, the taunted man flung himself on the speaker,
clutching him by the throat.

"Out with your tongue!" he cried. "I'll choke you till it protrudes from
your mouth, and then I'll cut it off!"

A feminine shriek rang through the cave, and out of the darkness into
the light of the flaring torches rushed Inza Burrage, followed by the
man who had been guarding her. She sprang at Del Norte with both hands
outthrust and flung him from the prostrate form of her lover, sending
him rolling over and over on the rocky floor of the cave, snarling forth
profanity in Spanish.

He dropped the knife, and she caught it up, ready to stand over Frank
and defend him to the last.

But to the aid of the frenzied girl came most unexpectedly another. Red
Ben grasped his rifle and with the butt of the weapon struck down the
man who had pursued Inza. Quickly reversing the weapon, he held it ready
to shoot, at the same time saying:

"Red Ben him say he see fair play an' best man git gal. Merriwell him
best man, but he no have fair play. Now Ben see him git it! I shoot
first man who touch him or touch gal!"

They knew he meant it. Del Norte sat up, his pale face contorted with
fury.

"Um better stay still," said the redskin, turning the muzzle of the
rifle on the Mexican.

"Quick, Inza!" urged Frank--"cut these ropes! Set me free! It's our
opportunity!"

Immediately she stooped and obeyed. Frank rose as quick as possible.

"Red Ben," he declared, "you'll not lose by this act of manhood! I'll
remember you."

"Take gal that way," urged the Indian, with a jerk of his head. "Git out
of cave that way! Quick! Ben him foller."

Merry did not delay. Grasping Inza, he hurried her into the darkness.
The cave narrowed, the walls closed in, and the roof came down.
Crouching and feeling their way, they pressed on. Almost on hands and
knees they crept out into the open air amid a thick screen of brush and
shrubbery that concealed the mouth of the cave.

"Thank Heaven!" murmured Inza, on the verge of collapsing.

"Where is that Indian?" cried Frank. "I cannot leave him alone to face
those men."

"No leave him," said a voice, as Red Ben came leaping out from the cave.
"Him here. Back up, keep um odders front of gun all time. They come now
prit' quick. Go, Merriwell, with gal. Ben stop um here."

He sought cover near the mouth of the cave, urging Merry to get Inza
away. Then came one of the baffled villains hurrying from the cave. A
spout of flame leaped from Red Ben's rifle and the report awoke the
mountain echoes and started a few loose pebbles rolling on the steep
slope above them.

The pursuer dropped just outside the mouth of the cave. If others were
close behind him, they halted instantly, not caring to show themselves
and share his fate.

Frank had lifted Inza and carried her through the brush and shrubbery.
As he emerged he found himself face to face with several men, and his
heart bounded when the voice of Hodge joyously shouted his name. With
Hodge was Bruce Browning, Belmont Bland, and others.

"Merry, you've found her--you've rescued her!" burst delightedly from
Hodge.

"Listen!" gasped Belmont Bland. "What is that sound?"

On the steeps above there was a murmuring movement, and, looking upward,
they seemed to see the mountain stirring slightly in the moonlight. The
rushing murmur grew louder, and pebbles began to rattle amid the
bowlders and ledges near at hand.

"A landslide!" shouted Frank, horrified. "Flee for your lives!"

As he uttered the words he saw Red Ben come leaping like a deer from the
shrubbery.

"Follow!" cried the Indian as he passed them, and fled along the side of
the mountain.

What ensued was like a terrible nightmare to Merriwell. He remembered
lifting Inza bodily and running for their lives with her in his arms.
Pebbles and small stones rained about him, while the rushing murmur grew
louder and louder. Beneath his feet at one time the whole mountain side
seemed sliding into the valley. A great bowlder, weighing many tons,
went bounding and crashing past them like a living thing seeking escape
from the awful peril. Small trees were slipping and moving toward the
valley.

On and on Frank raced, straining every nerve. Not one of his companions
was burdened like him, yet not one of them made greater speed in the
effort to escape. His exertions were almost superhuman. It seemed that
the knowledge of Inza's awful peril actually lifted him over every
obstacle.

Finally some one clutched and stopped him. He found it was Red Ben, who
said:

"All right now. Mountain him no run down hill here."

It was true Frank had escaped from the track of the landslide and had
brought his sweetheart to safety. Behind them the avalanche of earth,
and stones, and timber was heaping itself on the tiny plateau and
pouring over the brink of the cliff in a cascade that thundered into the
valley below. All around the rocky slopes and wooded steeps were roaring
back the sounds like monsters awakened from peaceful slumber and enraged
at being thus disturbed.

All this had been brought about by the shot fired by Red Ben. That small
concussion had started rolling a single pebble that was the keystone.
Recent rains had loosened that pebble. Others followed it, and a bit of
earth began to slip downward. This dislodged larger stones, and soon the
landslide was under way.

It ceased almost as quickly as it began. The grumbling, roaring
mountains continued raging for a few moments, and then they, too, became
silent. The bright moonlight revealed the change wrought by the
landslide, and it told those who had escaped that the mouth of the cave
that had been the hiding place of Del Norte and his companions was
closed forever by tons of earth, burying the wretches in a living tomb.

Slowly Frank's friends gathered around him. They were all there; all had
escaped. Of the entire party Belmont Bland was the only one missing. One
remembered having seen Bland running blindly toward the brink of the
precipice, apparently having forgotten its existence. No human eye ever
beheld him afterward. If he did not rush blindly over the precipice, it
is likely he halted on the brink and turned to escape in another
direction when it was too late, being swept over by the rushing
landslide.

At the foot of that precipice the body of Pat O'Toole was also buried
where Frank had left it when he lost no time in climbing the mountain
side.



CHAPTER XI.

BURIED ALIVE!


As Frank and his party left the mountain side there remained two men
buried alive in the cave whose mouth was closed by the landslide!

"Where are you, Del Norte?" cried one of the imprisoned men, in a
gasping, frightened voice when the roar and rumble of the landslide had
ceased, and they began to realize their terrible position.

"I am here," answered the other. "What can we do, Ridgeway?"

"Do? Why, we can die like dogs! There is nothing else for it. You're
sure there is no other way out of this cave?"

"No other way. Perhaps we can dig out."

"Not in a thousand years! What have we to dig with--our bare hands?"

"I have my knife--the knife with which I was going to cut out the tongue
of that cursed gringo, Merriwell! Why didn't I do it?"

"You know why. Red Ben went back on us, may the fiends take the redskin
cur! He helped Merriwell get away with the girl. When Sears tried to
follow the Indian shot him, and he's buried out there somewhere beneath
that landslide. But he's better off than we are, for he is dead, and we
must die! I can't die, Del Norte! I'm not ready to die! I'm not fit to
die!"

Then the poor wretch began to weep and pray in the utmost anguish of
soul.

Del Norte seemed cowed. He had burned many matches in order that by
their faint glow he might examine the great mass of earth and stone that
was piled on and crushed into the place that had once been the entrance
to the cave. He had seen that a mighty bowlder was blocking the greater
part of the former entrance. That stone alone would be enough to
imprison them hopelessly, but the sounds of the landslide which had made
the mountain roar and shake had satisfied him that the bowlder was held
in place by a mass of earth and timber through which, with the best
implements, it would be impossible to dig in a week.

"Merriwell has triumphed!" muttered the Mexican. "He will have no more
trouble from me."

"Fiends take you!" snarled Ridgeway. "Why did you ever cross my path,
and tempt me to such a death with your money? For the love of Heaven,
light another match!"

"I have but three more."

"Can't you find a brand from the fire? Let's have some light! We had
torches. Where are they?"

"They were extinguished by the rush of air when the slide took place.
I've tried to find them, but failed. I'll try again."

"I'm going mad--mad!" groaned Ridgeway.

Del Norte began to search for the extinguished torches. After a time,
during which his companion wept, prayed, and cursed by turns, he
discovered one of them.

Then he carefully struck one of his matches. The extinguished torch was
a piece of resinous pine, and it burned up quickly, giving a flaring
light and sending up a wavering stream of black smoke.

By the light the two men gazed into each other's ghastly faces. Their
eyes were distended with horror. Their mouths were dry and their lips
drawn back from their gleaming teeth. They looked like beasts.

"Curse you, Porfias del Norte!" snarled Ridgeway. "It was you who
brought me to this!"

"Bah! It was your greed for the money I paid you that brought you here."

"Had I not met you----"

"You might have been hanged for some crime. Dying this way will save you
from hanging."

"Don't talk of hanging!" panted Ridgeway. "If ever a man deserved it you
are that man!"

"But I was not born to be hanged."

"Better that than this kind of a death! At least, you would be out in
the open air, with a chance to breathe. I am stifling! I feel these
walls crowding in upon me! They are going to crush me! Keep them off!
keep them off!"

The wretch flung himself on the ground and writhed with agony and fear.

With the torch in his shaking hands, Del Norte stepped forward and
kicked his abject and fear-tortured companion.

"Get up, here!" he snarled. "We will take one more look. We will see
once more if there is any chance of escape."

Although Ridgeway declared there was no hope, he got up. With the
Mexican leading, they passed back into the cave, being forced several
times to bend low in a crouching position to avoid striking their heads
against the rocky roof.

There were three chambers and only one straight passage from chamber to
chamber. It was a simple matter to explore the entire cave. When they
came at last into the third chamber they soon found themselves at the
end of it, with the dank wall of stone before them.

For some moments they stood quite still, staring helplessly at this
wall.

Suddenly a shriek burst from the lips of Ridgeway.

"Doomed!" he cried. "No escape! I feel the mountain collapsing! The
walls are crowding in upon us! It's the end! Oh, for just one more
breath of free air! For just one more sight of the world outside!"

With that cry, he dropped flat on his face and lay still, as if death
had come to claim him, also.

"Get up!" harshly ordered Del Norte, again kicking the man. "Get up, or
I'll leave you here alone. I am going back."

Why he desired to return to what had once been the mouth of the cave he
could not tell, for there he would be no nearer liberty than in his
present position.

The smoke from the torch was filling the place and making the air foul.

"We'll smother in a little while!" thought the Mexican. "It's a wonder
we have not smothered already."

Again he kicked his companion and called for him to rise.

Ridgeway lifted his head and stared with terrible eyes at his comrade in
misery.

"Did you have a mother?" he asked.

"Of course I did!"

"Did you promise her you would be good?"

Del Norte swore in Spanish.

"I'll not stay here a minute longer!" he declared. "If you stay, you'll
remain in the dark."

"Hold on!" commanded Ridgeway, lifting himself on one hand and
stretching the other out to the Mexican. "Don't you dare leave me!
You're the man who brought this on me! Some one fired a bullet through
your head, but it did not kill you. I wish it had! You thought you bore
a charmed life; you thought nothing could kill you. Lead failed to do
it, but God sent the landslide, and you are as good as dead. Ha! ha!
ha!"

Del Norte started away.

"Stand where you are!" yelled Ridgeway, leaping up with amazing
quickness. "You were not killed by the bullet, and now, for all of the
landslide, you still live. You're a fiend, and you ought to die! I am
commanded to kill you! I must do it!"

The Mexican did not dare turn his back on the raving man. Again he
started away, but this time he moved backward, keeping his eyes on
Ridgeway, who came creeping after him, crouching a little and seeming
ready to spring.

Suddenly Ridgeway leaped. His arms shot out and his fingers closed on
Del Norte's neck.

"I must kill you!" he yelled. "I am the one chosen to do it! Your time
has come!"

The torch fell to the floor and lay there, spluttering and flaring. By
this dim and flickering light a fearful struggle took place.

Ridgeway had obtained a powerful clasp on Del Norte's throat, and the
Mexican could not hurl him off. They staggered against the wall, which
seemed to fling them off. They swayed from side to side, once staggering
over the spot where the torch lay.

Then the Mexican succeeded at last in drawing something from his bosom.
It flashed brightly in the dim torchlight as he struck with it. There
was the impact of a muffled blow, and Ridgeway gave a great start,
seeming to grow suddenly straight and tall.

Again the Mexican struck, but now, instead of growing straighter, the
other man seemed suddenly to collapse. His breath escaped from his lips
in a husky groan, and he dropped in a sprawling heap on the ground at
Del Norte's feet.

The man who remained erect backed off a little, staring at the other.

"I had to do it!" whispered Del Norte. "The fool drove me to it! He was
mad! He had me by the throat, and he would have killed me! I had to do
it!"

Over and over he kept repeating those words:

"I had to do it!"

He felt himself shaking from his head to his feet. On his forehead were
great, cold beads of perspiration. His heart seemed choking him.

The man on the ground moved and groaned.

"I had to do it!" whispered Del Norte.

The torch was going out. The man on the ground lay stretched squarely
across the floor of the cave, which was not more than eight feet wide at
that point. In order to reach the torch it would be absolutely necessary
to step over him.

Del Norte started and then stopped. His teeth were chattering, and his
cheeks were fully as pale as those of the poor wretch at his feet.

The torch burned dimmer.

At last the Mexican summoned all his courage and stepped over the body,
catching up the torch. He swung it until it blazed up brightly.

"I'm sorry," he muttered. "I'm sorry, Ridgeway; but you forced me!"

He stepped back over the body and turned with the torch in his hand to
take a last look. The eyes of the stricken man were staring straight up
at the rocky ceiling, and there was on his face a strangely altered
expression, at which Del Norte wondered. In truth, his look was one of
peace and happiness, and he smiled a little. His lips moved, and faintly
he whispered:

"Mother--it is--your boy--Jack!"

Then those lips were hushed forever.



CHAPTER XII.

IN THE CAVE OF DEATH.


With the smoking torch gripped in one shaking hand and the knife that
had done the terrible work in the other, Porfias del Norte hurried from
the scene of that frightful underground tragedy.

"I'm the only one left," he muttered thickly. "I can't last long in this
infernal hole."

He stopped in the central chamber.

"Where does all the smoke go to?" he exclaimed. "By this time the torch
should have filled the place to suffocation."

There was smoke enough in the chamber, but, as he stood there, he could
see it creeping across the roof above his head, striking the lower arch
of the passage, and passing on in a slow, gentle current.

"It finds an outlet somewhere!" he whispered, feeling his heart giving a
sudden leap in his breast. "What sort of an outlet?"

The faintest ray of hope had shot into his soul. Still he realized that
smoke might go where a human being could not pass. Nevertheless, with a
burning sensation of eagerness creeping over his hitherto chilled body,
he bent low and hastened onward into that low passage.

All the time he kept staring upward at the smoke.

Suddenly he stopped.

He had found the place where the smoke escaped!

It was directly over his head, a long crack across the roof, scarcely
wider than a man's hand. Into this the smoke was pouring in the same
slow, deliberate manner.

He stared at that crack in bitter, heart-crushed disappointment.

Smoke might escape through that narrow fissure, but a human
being--never!

The agony of disappointment that he felt nearly robbed him of his
strength and caused him to collapse. He fell back against the wall, a
groan coming from his parched throat.

"No chance!" he said hoarsely. "Ridgeway was right! We were both doomed
when the landslide came! But he is the better off, for his agony is
over!"

Then he thought of his pistol. As a last resort he could blow out his
brains and have it ended.

He thrust the deadly knife back into the bosom of his shirt,
straightened up, and thrust his fingers into the crack. He tried to
force his hand through, to reach up appealingly to the free world far
above.

A few pebbles and a little dirt came rattling down and rained over him,
bounding from his head and shoulders. Some of the tiny particles of
stone struck him on the face.

Then suddenly he began clawing like a madman at the crack, as if he
would pull the whole mountain down upon him.

His efforts brought down more stones and earth.

He found a niche into which he set the torch, and then he fell on his
knees, calling on the saints.

When he rose again to his feet he bethought himself of the knife and
once more took it from the place where it was hidden. With that knife he
began digging at the crack. He was compelled to stand in a cramped,
crouching position, but he worked fiercely, furiously.

More and more the earth rattled over him and the tiny pebbles rained
upon him. His eyes were filled and half blinded, his mouth and nostrils
inhaled the dust and caused him to cough. The smoke of the torch choked
him.

Still he worked on. It seemed a mad, hopeless task, for he knew that
above his head the slope of the mountain extended far upward. Should he
make an opening large enough for his body as far as he could reach, what
then could he do?

Even though he knew that the chances were a million to one against him,
he continued to labor at the roof of the cave, digging out the rocks and
earth with his knife. The stuff thus set free began to heap itself in a
little circular rim about his feet.

Once he stopped. The torch was dying down, and a glance showed him that
it was almost burned out.

The thought of being again left in that frightful darkness made him
quickly catch up the bit of burning wood that remained and hasten back
to seek for more of the extinguished torches. With its aid he found two
of them. He lighted one and returned to the spot where he had been at
work.

It seemed that already he had spent many days in that cave of death. He
wondered that he was not overcome with hunger, and he felt an awful
longing for water. Oh, for a drink, for a swallow, for a drop!

"There's plenty of water outside," he snarled. "There are streams, and
rivers, and lakes! I'd give my everlasting soul to drink from one of
them now!"

Dig! dig! dig! He was working in the same frantic manner as before. His
strength still held out, and he was glad of that. Even if he could not
escape, this was something to occupy his mind for the time and prevent
him from going mad.

Suddenly a considerable mass of earth, set free by his efforts, fell
into the cave. A stone, the size of a man's fist, struck him on the
shoulder, but he did not mind the pain.

"I'm dragging the mountain down upon me!" he grated. "I don't care! I am
glad! Let it come! Let it fall!"

He stood with one shoulder against the roof, reaching up into the hole
he had made, still cutting away with this once keen knife, which was now
dulled and blunted.

Suddenly something snapped--something fell on the heap of stones and
earth at his feet.

It was the blade of the knife, which had been broken in the middle!

As he stood staring at the broken blade he found the light again growing
dimmer, and then he saw that the second torch had burned to the point of
expiring.

He lighted the last torch.

When that was burned out he could not escape the dreadful darkness that
would close over him.

But the broken knife--the only tool with which he could work was
useless!

He dropped in a sitting posture on the ground and covered his distorted,
terror-drawn face with his hands. For some time he sat thus, without
moving, without making a sound.

The silence was broken by a pattering sound like hail. He lowered his
hands and saw that earth was still falling from the hole he had made. It
came in little starts and spurts.

The captive of the cave sprang up once more. He thrust both arms up into
that hole and tore with his fingers. This he continued until the nails
were worn away to the quick and his hands were cut and sticky with blood
and dirt.

Finally he stopped from sheer exhaustion. Even his frantic energy was
beginning to fail.

Then he heard something like a soft movement above him. He rolled his
eyes upward and beheld the roof of the cave directly above him moving
the least bit. At first he thought this movement was not actually taking
place, but that he imagined it.

Only an instant; then he saw that a part of the roof was settling and
seemed about to fall.

He leaped backward to escape from beneath it.

Barely in time.

It fell, and a portion of it hurled him down and caught his feet and
legs, pinning him fast.

The torch was extinguished.

At first Del Norte thought the end had come. As he lay with the weight
of earth holding his legs fast, he fully expected another mass to follow
the first and end his life without delay.

A sudden feeling of indifference came over him, and calmly he waited for
the end.

"Come, death!" he urged. "Get it over quickly!"

But no more of the roof fell.

After a little he found himself looking upward into the opening, and
far, far away, seemingly miles distant, he imagined he could detect a
ray of light.

Lifting the upper part of his body, he began dragging away, with his
hands, the earth and stones which had fallen on his legs. It did not
take him long to clear his feet.

Next he sought for the torch, but it was buried and lost beneath the
fallen mass.

This mass had made a great mound almost as high as the roof of the
passage.

He crawled upon it and finally succeeded in straightening up in the
opening left when it fell. This opening was plenty large enough for his
body; he could move his arms freely; and with his outstretched elbows he
was able to touch either side.

Standing there, he tipped back his head and looked upward.

His heart gave a fearful throb as if bursting, and through it shot a
sharp pain.

It was no fancy, no hallucination of his deranged brain; away up there
he could see light!

"If I could climb up there I might escape!" he whispered. "But how can I
do it--how?"

With his hands he felt of the rocky sides of the place where he stood.
The walls were rough, with many niches and protrusions.

He resolved at once to make the attempt, well knowing it might cause
another fall of earth and rocks, which would crush him to death.

He found a niche on one side for one foot and a protruding bit of ledge
on the other side for the other foot. He fastened his fingers in a cleft
and slowly succeeded in dragging himself up into the crack, which was
now quite wide enough for him to accomplish this.

He felt about and found other cracks and protrusions. Little by little
he climbed higher.

Once his foothold gave way and he came near falling. By bracing across
the cleft he succeeded in preventing such a calamity.

Then he found the cleft was growing narrower and narrower. It closed in
until it threatened to stop him.

He choked as he thought of the possibility. It was the most fearful
thing thus almost to get a taste of liberty and then have it denied him.

At last he was checked. For the time being he could force his way no
higher.

He felt his strength leaving him. A dizziness came upon him, and he knew
he was on the verge of falling. But he maintained his hold and began to
feel about. By working his way cautiously some distance along the cleft,
he finally came to a point where the walls were wide enough apart for
him to slowly drag his body through. Above that point was a narrow
ledge, on which he paused to rest.

Still that rift of light was far above his head. Could he ever reach it?

For some time he rested on the ledge, seeking to summon back all the
natural strength he possessed. Finally he resumed his almost superhuman
efforts.

Occasionally he paused to look up at the cleft of light. At first it had
seemed very narrow, but now it was growing wider. Each time he looked it
appeared wider than before.

"I'll reach it!" he told himself, with absolute confidence. "Porfias del
Norte still lives, Señor Merriwell, as you shall have good cause to
know!"

Now the air seemed sweeter and purer. He realized how stagnant and
stifling it had been away down there in the cave of death. He turned his
face up to it and drew in deep breaths.

Finally he came to a place where the cleft widened on either hand until
it was impossible to mount higher by clinging to opposite sides.

At that point he seemed baffled.

Was it possible he could fail and perish with life and liberty almost in
his very grasp?

There was but one course for him to pursue. He would have to abandon the
attempt to climb with the assistance of both walls; he must take to one
wall and make his way up that in some manner.

A little light came down to him from the opening, enabling him to choose
the holds for his feet and hands.

At last he came to another ledge, where he lay at full length and
rested, although the fear of slipping from it and falling back through
that fissure into the heart of the mountain caused him to suffer
intense torture. His fancy led him to imagine himself slipping, sliding,
falling, seeking to grasp the walls with his torn hands, but failing
utterly and dropping at last into the cave, where he found the dead man
laughing at him.

Above the ledge at that point he could creep no farther. He aroused
himself and crawled slowly along it. It led him out to a place where the
light shone in and the cleft was wide above his head.

"Almost free!" he panted.

Had it not been for his life that he was struggling he could never have
made that last ascent. In some mysterious manner he accomplished it,
dragging himself at last by the aid of some bushes on the brink over the
edge and dropping unconscious on the rocky mountain side.

In a little time the air revived him. He lifted his head and looked
around. A cry of joy burst from his lips, and he managed to stagger to
his feet. Around him on every side lay the beautiful world, the
mountains, the autumn-tinted woods and the blue lakes. Above him was the
sapphire sky and the gloriously golden sun, for the night had passed and
another day was well advanced. He drew in deep breaths of the clear,
sweet air, and his blood leaped in his veins.

Yet a marvelous change had taken place. At the time when he entered that
cave his hair was as black as a raven's wing; now his face was like
that of an old man, and his hair was snowy white!

"Free!" he cried. "I have escaped! But how I have suffered! That dog of
a gringo, Frank Merriwell, caused it all! He thinks me dead and out of
his path forever. I am alive, and I swear to make Merriwell suffer even
as I have suffered! I'll not kill him at one blow, but I'll rob him of
all he holds dear, his sweetheart, his beauty, his strength, his wealth,
and then I will find a way to destroy him at last!

"This is the oath of Porfias del Norte!"



CHAPTER XIII.

HOW RAILROADS ARE BUILT.


Four men of great power and influence in the financial world had
gathered in the offices of Scott & Rand, brokers, New York City.

Of course, old Gripper Scott himself was one of the four. Two more were
Sudbury Bragg and Warren Hatch.

The fourth was a slender, smooth-faced, cold-eyed, thin-lipped man of
uncertain age, whose name was Basil Jerome. The latter had just
appeared, and had been greeted by the others assembled.

It was several days after the landslide that had brought the stirring
events in the Adirondack Mountains to a close--events that were directly
traceable to the great business consolidation that these capitalists
were now discussing.

"Mr. Jerome, gentlemen," said Watson Scott, "has expressed his
willingness to come into our railroad project in case he is satisfied
that it will be carried through in a manner that will insure success and
profit to us all. You have expressed your willingness to take him in if
he will enter on the same terms as the rest of us. Mr. Merriwell should
be here now, and----"

"He is," said a voice, and Frank Merriwell, himself, entered the
office. "I hope I have not kept you waiting, gentlemen. My cab got into
a jam on Broadway, and I was delayed full fifteen minutes."

"You are in good season, Merriwell," said Old Gripper. "Let me introduce
to you Mr. Basil Jerome, the gentleman I spoke to you about last
evening. Jerome has been concerned in the organization of many a big
project, and he stands ready to take a corner in the Central Sonora
Railroad deal."

"Providing," said Jerome, "that I become satisfied that the deal is to
be carried through properly and there are no serious obstructions in its
way."

Frank did not like the man's look, nor the cold voice that corresponded
so well with his frigid eyes and face.

"Just what do you mean, sir," he questioned, "when you state you are
ready to come in if the deal is carried through properly?"

Jerome sat down, and Frank followed his example. They faced each other,
and something told Merriwell there was to be a clash between them.

Jerome surveyed Merry from head to feet, taking him all in. Without at
once answering the question, he observed:

"You are a very young man to be the promoter of a project of such
magnitude."

Frank flushed, for there was something most annoying in the manner and
words of the fellow.

"I fail to see what my age has to do with it."

"Youth lacks experience and judgment. It is liable to be flighty and
build great projects on moonshine."

"I think you will admit, sir, that Watson Scott is not a man to be
dazzled or deceived by moonshine. He is actively concerned in this
business."

"Mr. Scott seldom makes mistakes," admitted Jerome.

"Besides," added the youth, "I object to the word 'promoter' as you
applied it to me. I am not a promoter. I propose to put a good, round
sum of hard cash into the combined fund of the syndicate."

"Oh, you do?"

"Yes, sir."

"Which goes to prove that what I have just said is correct--youth lacks
experience and judgment."

Frank was surprised.

"I fail to see how you make that out. If the plan is a promising one,
and I am satisfied that the railroad will be a paying venture, why
should I not invest my money in it? If I were not confident that it
would pay, I'd not be advocating it."

Jerome made a slight gesture.

"No such project can be absolutely assured of success at the outset," he
asserted. "It is a great venture, and the men who get in on the ground
floor are certain to protect themselves from loss in any case."

Merriwell frowned, a puzzled expression on his face.

"How is that possible?" he asked. "If we are assembled here to organize
and build that railroad, how is it possible for us to be protected
against loss if the railroad does not prove a paying piece of property?"

A cold smile flitted across the face of Jerome.

"I knew you were inexperienced. Young man, there are several ways of
doing it; but undoubtedly the simplest way is to organize a stock
company and sell stock to the public. Let the public in general build
the railroad, while we reap the profits, if there are any."

"But if the public owns the stock, I fail to see how we can reap the
profits if the railroad is a financial success."

Jerome looked with something like pity at the questioning youth.

"It is a simple matter. I will explain it in a few words. To begin with,
it is not necessary for us to invest one dollar of our own money in the
scheme."

"What? And still we may hold an interest in it?"

"The controlling interest, Mr. Merriwell."

"Go on, sir."

"We will suppose at the start that we organize the Central Sonora
Railroad Company and capitalize it for--well, just as an example, let's
say ten millions of dollars. Before deciding on this we will have made
surveys and estimates that have convinced us beyond question that the
road may be built and placed in operation for four millions of
dollars."

"Then why should it not be capitalized for four millions?"

"Because that is not business--safe, conservative business. Because that
would make it impossible to raise the money needed without ourselves
taking chances of great loss. Let me proceed. Having organized in a
legal manner, and having issued certificates of stock to the extent of
ten millions of dollars, we can next proceed to raise the money required
to begin active building operations."

"By placing the stock on the market?"

"Not yet. Every man here, with the possible exception of yourself, Mr.
Merriwell, is known to every great banking institution in the country,
and his credit is unlimited. At the outset we will take four million
dollars' worth of our stock to some institution and secure from it on
that stock the full sum required to build the railroad. Thus, you can
see, we will not have to put up a dollar of our own money; but we will
build the railroad with the money of the general public, which has been
deposited at the bank from which we secure it."

"I see," nodded Frank, his eyes shining queerly. "It's a fine little
scheme you have, Mr. Jerome!"

"I am letting you into the secret methods of capitalists who build
railroads and organize great business projects without using a dollar of
their own money," said Jerome. "Having secured our money, we will
proceed to put our railroad through."

"We'll build it, and the general public will pay the bills?"

"Exactly. Having it constructed, by successful manipulation--the easiest
thing in the world for those who know the trick--we'll unload four
million dollars' worth of stock on the public and square ourselves with
the bank. At this stage of the game the public will have paid for the
railroad, which was built with the public's own money; but we shall
still hold six million dollars' worth of stock in that road, or the
controlling interest."

Frank felt his blood growing hot within his veins.

"In short," added Jerome, "we take no chances whatever, for at the start
we know the road will cost a million less than half the amount for which
it is capitalized, we have borrowed the public's money to build it, we
are certain we can sell stock enough to pay back every dollar, and still
hold control of the railroad, and we are in a position to come out ahead
whether the railroad proves to be a paying piece of property or not."

"And this is the way railroads are built?" muttered Merriwell. "But what
if we find, after the railroad is put in operation, that it is a losing
venture--that it will not pay a dividend on the amount at which it is
capitalized, and is running behind?"

"Then it becomes a simple matter for us to step out from under, and as
we step out we can take with us in our own pockets a few millions in
profits. If we become satisfied that the railroad is a loser, we'll
again work the stock market, and, by certain manipulations, boost the
price of Central Sonora to the highest possible point. When we are
satisfied that we have it up to the top notch, we'll dump every dollar's
worth of stock in our possession, pocket our profits, and smile as we
see Central Sonora slump and go to the dogs."

"In short," said Frank, "after we have built the railroad with the money
of the general public, overcapitalized it in a criminal manner, and
discovered that it will not pay a dividend on its watered stock, you
propose that we perpetrate another outrage on unsuspecting investors by
selling back to the public our holdings of stock that actually belongs
to the public anyhow!"

"Your inexperience is again shown by the manner in which you apply the
term 'watered' to that stock. Watered stock is new stock issued by a
railroad or other corporation that already has a certain amount of stock
in existence, but claims that it does not fairly represent, through
increase of the value of a property and franchises, the increase of
actual capital. We capitalize at the start for more than double the
actual cost of building and putting in operation, and therefore our
stock may not justly be called watered. In case this railroad should
thrive wonderfully, and should pay wonderful dividends on our ten
million dollars' worth of stock, we might then water it by issuing more
stock. I hope I have made the whole thing clear to you, Mr. Merriwell."

"You have!" cried Frank. "You have made it clear that what you propose
is criminally dishonest, is a gigantic swindle, and that parties
concerned in such an outrageous fraud should be amenable to the law and
sent to the penitentiary!"

Frank had risen to his feet, his eyes flashing and his whole aspect one
of righteous indignation.

Although he had thus pretended, he had not been entirely ignorant of the
dishonorable methods of stock jobbers, but he had feigned ignorance in
order to draw Basil Jerome out and lead him to fully expose the true
inwardness of his reprehensible plan of operation.

Jerome gazed at the indignant youth with a mingling of surprise and
pity.

"My dear boy," he said, "you are excited. Don't permit yourself to
become so wrought up and to use such violent language. I have simply
explained to you the usual method of building railroads, as Mr. Scott
and the other gentlemen will attest."

"Then the usual method of building railroads is a rotten and dishonest
method!" exclaimed Merry. "Mr. Scott, do you approve of such a scheme?"

"What if I should tell you that I do?" asked Old Gripper, his stolid
face calm and unreadable.

"Then here and now I would lose no time in announcing my withdrawal from
the project," retorted Merriwell. "I am not a poor man, but did I not
possess a dollar in the world, and you were to show me beyond question
that I could make five millions as my own share by entering into such a
dastardly operation, I would refuse to have anything to do with it."

"Very well," said Jerome, with one of his cold smiles, "it will be a
simple matter to leave you out of it. If I have been correctly informed,
your principal reason for wishing this railroad constructed is to give
you better facilities for handling the production of a mine of yours,
located in Eastern Sonora, near the line of the proposed road. Am I
right?"

"If you are--what then?"

"We may build the road, and you need have nothing to do with it. The
desired result will be obtained, for your mine will have an outlet by
rail to the rest of the world, and you will no longer find it necessary
to pack ore or bullion hundreds of miles to the nearest railroad
shipping point."

"Then you are ready to carry this thing through without me?" asked
Frank, holding himself in check.

"If these other gentlemen are ready to take hold of it in the proper
manner, they will find me ready to stand with them."

"And the proper manner is the dishonest manner you have just explained
to us! Not only do I decline to take a part in such an operation, but I
refuse to permit it to be carried out!"

"What?" cried Jerome, surprised out of his icy reserve for once. "I
don't think I understand you. You refuse to permit us to carry it out?"

"That is what I said, sir. Evidently you understood me perfectly."

"You refuse?" repeated Jerome.

"Yes, sir."

The man smiled.

"I fail to see what effect that can have on us. To begin with, you are
crazy to make such ridiculous talk. Don't you want that railroad?
Wouldn't it be of benefit to you?"

"I want the road, and it would be of great benefit to me," confessed
Merriwell; "but not even to obtain that benefit and advantage will I
permit the road to be constructed in a manner that I regard as criminal
from start to finish."

"You talk about not permitting it, young man. In case we decide to
build, I don't see how your permission or your refusal will have the
slightest effect on us. Will you explain how it can?"

"Yes."

"How? What will you do?"

"I will expose the whole rotten scheme to the public! I will let the
public know just how its money is being used for the purpose of
defrauding it. I will publish the story from one end of the country to
the other. You may borrow four million dollars and give as security the
stock of the Central Sonora, but I promise you I'll let daylight into
that thing so that the gullible public will decline to buy your stock,
and in the end you'll have to make that four millions good out of your
own pockets."

Again Jerome surveyed Frank Merriwell from his head to his feet, unable
to keep from his cold face a slight expression of wonderment. What sort
of a young man was this who not only refused to share in the profits of
such a deal, but threatened to stop the whole thing by exposure, even
though the construction of the railroad was greatly desired by him and
would be of incalculable value to him?

"I confess that you are beyond my comprehension," he said. "It is
possible, however, that Mr. Scott may be able to do something with you."

There was a queer look in the eyes of Old Gripper.

"I have found," he said, "that Mr. Merriwell is not easily turned aside
once he has determined on any course."

"But you," said Jerome--"you and the other gentlemen present know that
the plan I have proposed is the only safe and conservative way of
building this railroad. Here is Mr. Hatch--he has been concerned in
similar deals."

"But I have never had as an associate a man like Mr. Merriwell,"
confessed Warren Hatch, stroking his full beard with his thin hand. "In
fact, I think it wholly improbable that the whole of us could turn
Merriwell a whit, even if we set about the task in unison."

"Do you mean to admit," asked Jerome, "that you are willing to be
governed by this fellow, who is scarcely more than a boy? I can't think
it of you!"

"Perhaps we have good reasons," grunted Sudbury Bragg.

Jerome gazed at them each in turn, his show of wonderment increasing.

"And do you mean to say," he questioned, "that you propose to invest
your good money in this railroad project of his? Is it possible that men
like you, who are familiar with all the methods of pushing through such
a project without risk, will let this young fellow inveigle you into
jeopardizing yourselves?"

"We have become satisfied," said Scott, "that the scheme promises well,
and we are willing to take the risk. Unless you wish to come in and join
your money with ours in backing the deal, I think we'll have to get
along without you."

"We'll get along without him under any circumstances," said Frank
grimly.

"Why----"

"Nothing in this world could induce me to become concerned in any
business venture with Mr. Jerome as a partner, for I would be in
constant expectation that in some underhand method he would undermine
and defraud me."

"You have heard Mr. Merriwell's decision, Jerome," said Watson Scott.
"That lets you out."

Jerome's pale face was unusually so as he rose to his feet. His thin
lips were pressed together, and his mouth drooped a little at the
corners. After a moment of silence, he said:

"Very well, gentlemen; I will depart and leave you to organize. I wish
you all the success you deserve to obtain through a wildcat scheme of a
simple boy, who knows just about as much about business and business
methods as a yellow dog knows about algebra. Good day, gentlemen!"

With a contemptuous movement, he walked out of the office.



CHAPTER XIV.

ANOTHER OBSTACLE.


As Basil Jerome left the office of Scott & Rand he came face to face
with a thickset, florid-faced man and a slender, dark-eyed youth, who
had just stepped from the elevator.

"Howdy do, Mr. Jerome! Is it yourself?" said the man, with just the
slightest hint of an Irish brogue. "It's a bit glum you're looking.
Anything wrong?"

"How do you do, Mr. Hagan," responded Jerome. "Didn't know you were in
town. Haven't seen you for months."

"I've been moving around a bit, but I'm back again, large as life and
just as natural. Saw you coming out of Old Gripper's den. I'm bound
there myself, for I understand there's a little matter going on in which
I'm a trifle interested."

"You don't mean that Mexican railroad affair, do you?"

"Why, yes, me boy, that's it; but how did you guess so quick?"

"I was invited to take a hand in that myself, but I prefer to keep out.
In the manner they propose to do it, I want none in mine. If you're
thinking of butting in, take my advice and stay out."

"As a friend, would you mind telling me why? You have aroused me
curiosity."

"If you investigate closely I fancy you'll find out why, Hagan. This
youngster, Merriwell, who is promoting the scheme, is altogether too
finicky about the manner in which the deal shall be financiered. He's
old-fashioned in his ideas of honesty and business methods. How Old
Gripper can swallow him is more than I can understand, and Gripper has
inveigled Warren Hatch and Sudbury Bragg into it. Keep out, Hagan--keep
out."

Hagan laughed.

"Thank ye for the advice," he said; "but I have a little trick of my own
to turn with those gentlemen. I'm glad to know I'll find them all ready
for me. Don't worry about Bantry Hagan. He seldom gets left. So-long,
Jerome."

Hagan passed on, with the dark-eyed youth at his heels, and entered the
office of Scott & Rand.

The four men left in the private room were settling down to business
when the office boy appeared and announced that Mr. Bantry Hagan wished
to speak with Mr. Scott at once on very important business.

Old Gripper seldom betrayed astonishment, but he could not conceal it
now. There was likewise indignation in his face and voice as he
exclaimed:

"Hagan? That man here? Why, confound his cast-iron cheek! how dare he
show his face in my office! What do you think of him, Merriwell?"

"It's just what I should expect of him," declared Merry. "He has gall
enough for a regiment."

"Many thanks for your fine opinion of me," said the voice of Hagan
himself, who had boldly followed the boy. "It's you, Mr. Merriwell, I'm
wishing to chat with, too, and I'm lucky to find ye here with Mr. Scott.
And here are Mr. Bragg and Mr. Hatch! Come right in, Felipe."

The somewhat shy-appearing youth of the dark eyes followed him into the
room as he pushed the office boy aside.

By this time Watson Scott was on his feet, his face dark as a storm
cloud.

"Bantry Hagan, you scoundrel," he cried, "how dare you show yourself to
us!"

"Now, Mr. Scott; don't excite yourself," said the intruder. "You are
said to be a man with iron nerves, but your behavior this moment belies
your reputation. Why shouldn't I show myself to you?"

"You know well enough, you villain! You know there is a warrant for your
arrest now in the hands of the sheriff of Essex County."

"And I also know the sheriff of Essex County is not here to serve it. I
further know he never will serve it."

The cool assurance of Hagan was almost staggering.

"It's an easy matter to swear out another warrant here in this city, and
Mr. Merriwell is just the man to do it."

"Mr. Merriwell is just the man not to do it. Were he to take so much
trouble, what would he prove against me?"

"He could prove that you were concerned in a dastardly attack upon him
up in the Adirondacks, being at that time the worthy associate of
Porfias del Norte, who came to a well-merited death, together with two
other ruffians, by being buried by a landslide."

Hagan grinned.

"It would be easy enough to make such a charge, but quite another matter
to prove it. Who could appear as witnesses against me? Could you swear,
Mr. Scott, that I had anything whatever to do with this matter of which
you speak? No? Well, certain it is that your trusted private secretary,
Belmont Bland, will never appear to furnish evidence for any one, nor
will O'Toole. It is easy enough to have any man arrested, but proving
him guilty is quite another matter."

"It's a shame, Hagan," said Frank, "that you were not in the cave with
Del Norte when that landslide occurred."

"That's the way you look at it, me boy," nodded the Irishman; "but I
have a different feeling about it, and I thank the saints that I was
spared. I fancy you thought yourself well rid of all your troubles when
Del Norte met with that little misfortune, and you're now ready to go
ahead with your great railroad scheme. But before you lead these
gentlemen into it I have a little revelation to make that may interest
them and you a bit."

"Say the word, Merriwell, and I'll have the man kicked out," growled
Watson Scott.

"Let's hear his revelation," suggested Frank, "and then he may have the
decency to take himself off of his own accord."

"Now you are coming to your senses," chuckled Hagan. "When you have
heard what I'm going to tell ye it's in no hurry you'll be to have me go
without a little understanding and agreement between us. Porfias del
Norte had a plan of his own that bothered you some, for he convinced you
that he was the rightful heir of Guerrero del Norte, who years ago had
obtained an extensive land grant in Eastern Sonora, and on this land
claimed by him your San Pablo Mine is located. Del Norte had parties
working in Mexico to obtain a reaffirmation of that old concession. With
Del Norte dead and gone I fancy you thought your troubles ended. Me boy,
you were wrong. Although you did not know it, old Guerrero was not the
only one who obtained concessions in Eastern Sonora."

"What's the man driving at?" growled Scott. "Is he here with another
cock-and-bull story about land grants?"

"It's no cock-and-bull story you'll find it," asserted the Irishman.
"The grant to old Guerrero, Porfias del Norte's grandfather, was made by
President Pedraza in 1832. Am I not right?"

"What if you are?"

"It means a great deal to Mr. Merriwell, as I will demonstrate. I have
lately learned that there was an earlier claimant to that same
territory. The first Mexican republic was organized in October, 1824,
with General Don Felix Fernando Victoria as president. You are quite
familiar with Mexican history, Merriwell, me boy. Am I correct in this
statement?"

"You are."

"Very well. Now I'm coming to me point. One of General Victoria's chief
assistants, and a gallant officer in his army, was Colonel Sebastian
Jalisco. As a reward for this man's services, when Victoria became
president he granted him a great tract of land in Eastern Sonora,
covering practically the same territory as that afterward conceded to
Guerrero by Pedraza. This grant of Victoria's was never revoked or
annulled, and therefore Jalisco was the rightful claimant to it all the
while. Jalisco was ill for many years of a mental derangement, and
neither he nor his heirs ever disputed Guerrero's right to the
territory. Later, however, as you know, President Santa Anna revoked
the Guerrero grant. The one made to Jalisco has never been revoked, and
it holds good to-day. It happens that chance has thrown me in with
Colonel Jalisco's only surviving heir, his great grandson, and this,
gentlemen, is the boy."

Hagan waved one of his square hands toward his dark-eyed companion.

He had thrown a bomb into the meeting, and he smiled to see the havoc it
created.

Warren Hatch was on his feet, while Sudbury Bragg had leaned forward on
the square table, resting on his elbows, his jaw drooping. Watson Scott
grasped both arms of his chair and leaned forward as if to rise, but did
not get up.

Of them all Frank Merriwell was the only one who did not seem
thunderstruck.

"Who is this boy, Hagan?" he asked.

"The great grandson of Colonel Jalisco, I have told you. His name is
Felipe Jalisco, with a whole lot of fancy middle names thrown in."

"We have your word for it, but it takes something more than the mere
word of Bantry Hagan to cut any ice."

"Does it, indeed, me lad?"

"It does."

"Then you shall have something more. In fact, Mr. Merriwell, I fancy I
can give you all you require. What do you want?"

"Proof."

"Felipe can establish his relationship beyond the doubt of the most
skeptical."

"But the old land grant to Felipe's great grandfather----"

"Is in me possession!" cried Bantry Hagan, as he dramatically produced a
yellow parchment-like document and waved it triumphantly above his head.

He laughed aloud as he surveyed the men before him, but never a smile
came to the dusky face of Felipe Jalisco, his companion.

"Gentlemen," he said, "before you set about building any railroads
through that part of Sonora I advise you to transact a little business
with me. It will save you lots of trouble later on."

"Will you permit us to examine that document?" asked Frank, still with
perfect self-possession.

"On your word of honor as a gentleman--which I know ye are--to return it
as soon as you have made the examination."

"You have the pledge," said Merry, stepping forward.

Hagan unhesitatingly handed the document over to Frank, who immediately
spread it out upon the table.

The others pressed about Merry to obtain a look at the paper.

"The dashed thing is in Spanish!" gurgled Sudbury Bragg, in disgust.

"Of course it is," nodded Hagan.

"I can't read it," admitted Bragg.

"But I can," said Frank.

He hurriedly yet keenly scanned it through, inspecting the signature and
seal, and finally straightened up with it in his hand.

"Gentlemen," he said quietly, "the document seems to be genuine."

"Seems to be?" said Old Gripper. "Then you think there may be a doubt
about it?"

"There may be."

"But there isn't!" cried Hagan. "It's all right. Now, Merriwell, me boy,
perhaps you'll not disdain to do a bit of business with Bantry Hagan."

Frank refolded the paper and returned it to the Irishman.

"What are you after?" he asked.

"Money, me lad--money. Of course Felipe Jalisco might raise a fuss and
make you no end of trouble; but I have talked the matter over with him,
and he is willing to surrender his claim to the concession made to his
great grandfather in case he is well paid. You are rich, Merriwell; you
have been making a fat thing out of your mines, and you can afford to
pay. We have settled on a price, and we'll take not a dollar less.
Either you'll come to our terms, or we'll cut the ground from under yer
and leave you nothing but empty air to stand on."

"What is your price?"

"Five hundred thousand dollars!"

"Quite modest!" said Merry sarcastically.

"Will you pay it?"

"Not a dollar of it!"

Hagan was set back, for he had fancied the youth weakening.

"Not a dollar?" he repeated, in astonishment. "Do ye mean it?"

"I always mean what I say."

"But--but you're crazy!"

"I think not."

"It's the devil's own broil ye'll find yourself in if you refuse."

"Then I'm certain to have a lively time, for I utterly and absolutely
refuse to give up a dollar."

"You just said the document was genuine."

"I beg your pardon; you misunderstood me."

"I heard you say so!"

"I repeat, you misunderstood me."

"Then what did you say?"

"I said it seemed to be genuine."

"But you doubt if it is?"

"I do."

"How can ye?"

"There are various things which lead me to doubt."

"Will you name them?"

"I don't mind naming some of them."

"Do so."

"In the first place, before investing heavily in the San Pablo Mine, I
took the trouble to investigate thoroughly the solidness of my title to
the property, knowing how insecure most titles are in Mexico. I
overhauled old records and probed into history. I found out all about
the grant of President Pedraza to Guerrero del Norte. I found the
concession had been reaffirmed by Santa Anna when he first received the
presidency, and I afterward found that, later on, because old Guerrero
preferred to remain a bandit and a plunderer, Santa Anna had revoked and
annulled the grant."

"Well?"

"Well, that left me no doubt whatever in regard to the legality of my
title. In all my investigating I found no record of any grant to Colonel
Sebastian Jalisco. In all my probing into the history of Mexico and her
struggles to rid herself of the Spanish yoke I am certain I found no
mention whatever of any such person as Sebastian Jalisco, who held in
the patriot army the commission of colonel. In short, Bantry Hagan, I do
not believe any such person as Colonel Sebastian Jalisco ever existed!"

As far as Frank Merriwell was concerned, the bomb hurled by Hagan had
missed the mark completely.

In spite of himself, Hagan was staggered by the bold stand of the youth
that nothing could daunt. Not only was he staggered, he was enraged.

"It is a wonderful knowledge of Mexican history you have, me boy!" he
cried. "But you're due to find out that you don't know near as much as
you think you do. This poor boy has a claim to property you are holding
and working, and as true as me name is Bantry Hagan, I'll see that he
gets his rights!"

"Go ahead," said Frank quietly. "It's not the boy you are looking after;
it's Hagan, and I can give you my opinion of Hagan in a very few words.
From his toes to the hair on his head he is a thoroughbred rascal."

"Your talk is very bold, but you'll come down before we are done with
you," snarled the Irishman, in exasperation. "I'll bring you to your
knees and have you begging."

"I have no fear of that. You have taken up altogether too much of our
time. Will you have the decency to retire and let us go on with our
business!"

It was not a request; it was a command.

Hagan's belligerent nature was aroused, and it seemed that he was
inclined to remain and create further annoyance. From Frank he turned to
the others.

"Gentlemen," he cried, "you have heard our claim and you have seen the
document by which we propose to back it up. If you know anything of
Bantry Hagan, you know he enjoys a good fight and he sticks to a thing
to the bitter end. I propose to stick to this thing. In the end this boy
will secure his rights, and Merriwell will not hold one inch of property
in Mexico. But let me give you warning that if you attempt to build that
railroad you will find yourselves involved in a matter that will cost
you more money than you can count in a week. In the end you will meet
disaster. Before you go any further, either you or Merriwell must settle
with Felipe Jalisco."

Then he stepped toward the Mexican lad, on whose shoulder he placed a
hand, observing:

"You have heard, Felipe; the man who is usurping your rights refuses to
do you justice, and proposes to continue robbing you."

The black eyes of the boy flashed.

"I will have my rights!" he exclaimed, in good English. "Either he shall
pay me or he shall die! I will kill him!"

"Softly, my lad! Don't make such threats before witnesses, for it is bad
business."

"It is what I mean!" shouted the boy, who had suddenly grown greatly
excited.

He flung off Hagan's hand, and sprang out before Frank.

"You rob me!" he panted. "Pay me--pay me, or I kill you!"

"Better take him away, Hagan," said Merriwell, "or I'll turn him over
to the police, which I do not care to do."

"He's dangerous, if he is young," said the Irishman. "I'm afraid you'll
be sorry you did not listen to his demand for justice."

"If there were a grain of justice in his demand I would be ready enough
to listen," returned Merriwell. "You are behind this business. Having
failed in your other project, through the death of Del Norte, your
fertile brain has originated this daring, yet foolish, scheme. Do you
think you are dealing with children? Did you fancy you could frighten or
browbeat me into paying you money before I had thoroughly investigated
this Jalisco business and sifted it to the bottom? Why, you know that
were you in my place you would not give up a dollar on such a demand.
Take him away, Hagan, and be quick about it, or I swear I'll telephone
the police and have you both arrested for attempted fraud!"

That Frank was in earnest now there could be no doubt.

"We'll go," nodded Hagan. "Not because we are afraid of the result
should you have us arrested; but we know your power--you and the men
behind you--and we care not to suffer the humiliation and inconvenience
of temporary confinement. The Jaliscos are hot-blooded and revengeful,
and you now have one for your bitterest enemy. Take my advice, me boy,
and watch yourself day and night, for you can't tell when Felipe will
strike at you."

Then the Irishman grasped his companion by the arm and urged him toward
the door.

At the door, ere leaving the office, Felipe turned to glare over his
shoulder at Frank, hissing:

"You rob me! I will kill you!"



CHAPTER XV.

HAGAN SECURES A PARTNER.


"The fight has begun, Felipe, me boy," said Hagan, as the two left the
brokers' office and stood waiting for the elevator to carry them down to
the ground floor. "I knew it would be no easy thing, but it was worth
trying."

"I will kill him!" repeated the Mexican lad, in a savage whisper.

"No, no; better not."

"He robs me!"

"But it is not safe to kill in this country."

"Always the Jaliscos kill their enemies."

"If you were to do that in this State it would be the electric chair for
yours."

"If they prove not that by me it was done----"

"You were foolish, me lad; you threatened. Besides that, to kill him
would be to kill the goose that must lay the golden egg. You can see the
folly in that. If you were to kill him, how could you force him to pay
you the money you demand?"

"But what is it I am to do? I hate him! He is bold and he does not take
the fright."

"Sure he's a hard boy to frighten," nodded the Irishman.

"But I will drive fear into his heart!" hissed Felipe. "He shall soon
know that death is near him everywhere. Ah! that is what I will do! I
will frighten him until he is glad to pay to escape the death that may
strike him any time. I have friends who will stand by me. They are here
in this city, and soon I can find them. They will help me to frighten
the bold American. We will find a way."

"Perhaps you may, but I have me doubts. Here is the car."

The car stopped, the sliding door rattled, and they stepped in, being
swiftly carried to the ground floor, from which they emerged upon lower
Broadway.

"A little while ago," said Hagan, "I was in a scheme with Porfias del
Norte to bring this Merriwell to his knees and denude him of his Mexican
property. He defied us all, but I believe we might have succeeded had
Del Norte lived. It was his game to frighten or destroy Merriwell. We
followed the fellow up into the Adirondacks, but when I found that Del
Norte actually meant to murder Merriwell I declined to remain and be
concerned. It was carrying the thing too far for Bantry Hagan. I left
and returned to New York. Well for me that I did. As near as I can get
at it, Del Norte did capture Merriwell, aided by two other men, and got
him into a mountain cave. But just as Del Norte was on the point of
putting an end to Merriwell his Indian guide turned on him and helped
the prisoner to escape from the cave. Then came a landslide that
covered the mouth of that cave with tons of earth and bowlders and
buried Del Norte and his comrades in a living tomb. The death they
experienced there must have been a horrible one."

He shrugged his thick shoulders at the thought of it.

"Evidently," he went on, "Merriwell congratulated himself on the death
of Del Norte, for he fancied that would put an end to all his troubles
and he would be able to carry through his great schemes without
opposition. He must be a bit disgusted now. He'll find Hagan a stayer.
But he has strong backers behind him, and we need some men equally good,
Felipe. There's Jerome--Basil Jerome! Just the man! He'll go into
anything that promises big, and he knows how to carry any scheme
through. He can make dollars grow on elder bushes, that man! His office
is round here on Nassau Street. Come along, Felipe, and we'll see if we
can find him."

They walked through Wall Street to Nassau, passing the Stock Exchange on
their way. Turning up Nassau, they soon came to the building in which
Basil Jerome had his office.

Jerome was in, and, on receiving Hagan's name, he agreed to see his
visitors at once.

"Sit down," he invited, motioning them to chairs in the private office
to which they were admitted. "Didn't expect to see you again, Hagan, in
such a hurry. You must have rushed through your business with Old
Gripper and his crowd. How did you come out?"

"By the door," answered the Irishman; "and it's little good it did us to
go in."

"Did you take my advice as a tip in regard to that railroad deal?"

"It's no advice I needed, for I wasn't thinking of pushing into that."

"There might be money in it if they put her through in the proper
manner; but it's Merriwell's idea, I reckon, to capitalize her at her
proper value; and that will make it necessary for the men who build to
take just as much risk as the general public who buys the stock. It
doesn't seem possible that a shrewd old fox like Watson Scott can be
dragged into such a dangerous affair. Now, if you and I were doing it,
Hagan, we'd do it in a way that would leave us practically without risk,
and I think we'd clean up a good thing out of it."

"Why can't we do it?" exclaimed Hagan, as if struck by a sudden thought.

"Why can't we?" questioned Jerome, in some surprise. "Why, that other
gang is in it."

"We'll block 'em, me boy! We'll hold their scheme up, and reap the
harvest ourselves!"

"How can it be done? Oh, no; I'm not looking for trouble with that
bunch. It isn't necessary to build railroads in order to make money.
There are plenty of roads in existence that can be manipulated and
squeezed dry. There is no need to go searching round for new roads to
build."

"But there is something more to squeeze in this than a railroad. What if
I show you how we can get an interest in a vast tract of land in Eastern
Sonora--a tract that is rich in minerals in one section and may be
opened up for ranches and plantations in another?"

"Ranches and plantations? I've heard that all of Northern Mexico is
barren and arid and practically worthless."

"Much of it is."

"How would you get hold of this land and obtain a railroad land grant
from the Mexican government?"

"The grant is already in existence."

Hagan then explained to Jerome as clearly as possible Felipe Jalisco's
claim to a great area of land in Sonora.

"The boy is without influence with the government," confessed Hagan,
"else he would make application for his rights. Unfortunately, the
politics of his family have run in the wrong direction, and he knows he
would be turned down if he should try to secure his rights. But he
actually owns the very land possessed by Merriwell--the land on which
Merriwell's mine is located. And that mine is said to be fabulously
rich. He will accept a fair sum as his share of the spoils; the rest we
can divide between us."

"There's something in it," nodded Jerome.

"Here is the document," said Hagan, displaying Felipe's paper. "Can you
read Spanish?"

"No."

"Well, even Merriwell, who can read Spanish, confessed that it seemed
genuine. You see the opportunity, man; come in with us and make a good
thing for yourself."

Jerome considered.

"There is no reason why we should attempt to build that road, Hagan," he
said. "If you want me as your partner, I believe we can make a big thing
out of it without ever constructing a rod of railroad."

"How?"

"Dead easy. We'll form a company, with the avowed purpose of putting the
road through. We'll buck the Merriwell crowd just as if we meant
business. If we do it in the proper manner, we can jar them some. But
it's best to wait a bit until they get started, for it wouldn't do to
frighten Scott and the others out before they were fairly under way. We
will come down on them like a ton of bricks at the right time. If we
scare them so they are on the verge of abandoning the whole deal, it's
likely Merriwell will cough up a fancy sum just to have us drop our game
and let them go on. There you are. It's money made on pure bluff."

"Fine enough!" chuckled Hagan, in satisfaction. "I knew I was coming to
the right man when I came to you, me boy!"

"What am I to receive?" asked the Mexican lad, who had been listening
with deep interest.

"Your share," answered Hagan.

The boy sprang up.

"I have another way!" he exclaimed. "I have the way of my own. Señor
Merriwell shall find death creeping at his heels day and night. He shall
know it is I, Felipe Jalisco, who threatens him with destruction; but I
will take care to keep beyond his reach. He shall know that the only way
to escape the peril that follows him is to pay me all I ask."

"We'll have to hold him down, Hagan," whispered Jerome. "The little fool
is liable to murder Merriwell and ruin everything."



CHAPTER XVI.

ARTHUR HATCH.


That afternoon Frank Merriwell accompanied Warren Hatch when the latter
left the city to return to his home on the Hudson. They took a train at
the Grand Central Station.

When they were comfortably seated on the train, Mr. Hatch observed:

"Well, Frank, the thing is settled at last, and now it will be pushed
through as fast as possible. We'll have that railroad built in a hurry,
and you don't have to lift a hand. You have business enough to look
after, and so----"

"I was not particularly anxious to become actively concerned in the
construction of our railroad," said Merry; "but, of course, I stood
ready and willing to do my share."

"Which you did by pledging yourself to take a good big lot of the stock
when issued. As this road is to be capitalized at its actual value, it
ought to become a rich thing for every stockholder. Leave it to us to
take care of everything, Frank. There will be no delays."

"Unless Bantry Hagan and Felipe Jalisco cause them."

"But you were absolutely confident that Jalisco's document was a
forgery."

"Absolutely confident, Mr. Hatch. I can't say whether Bantry Hagan
worked up this scheme or not, with the idea of squeezing something out
of us; but if he did he must have worked swiftly after the death of Del
Norte. I'm more inclined to believe that by some chance he ran across
Jalisco and was himself convinced that the document was genuine. The
fact that I have so thoroughly investigated everything that might have
the slightest bearing on the legality of my title to the San Pablo makes
me absolutely confident that the Jalisco grant is a forgery."

"Well, you have settled Watson Scott's mind on that point, and Scott is
not a man to make mistakes. The rest of us are ready to follow his
lead."

"It's something of a relief to me," confessed Merry. "Of course, I was
confident of coming out ahead of Del Norte, but the man kept me moving.
As it has turned out, I don't feel it necessary to make a rush to
Mexico, and I'll take my time about going West. If things pan out all
right, I'll have some of my friends along, and we'll stop on the way at
St. Louis and other places. I'm almost tempted to seek recreation in
athletics and sports."

"You can choose your own course about that, Frank. If your business
admits of it, I don't blame you for enjoying life through those sports
in which you seem to take such a great interest. But you must stop with
me a day or two. I want you to meet my boy, Arthur. He's a fine chap,
but just a little inclined to be wild. I have to watch him closely to
hold him down, and I'm afraid I don't hold him down all the time. I
believe you'll like Art."

They chatted in this manner until Irvington was reached, where they left
the train and entered Mr. Hatch's private carriage, which was waiting.

They were driven from the beautiful village to the splendid home of Mr.
Hatch, which overlooked the Hudson.

A boy of seventeen or eighteen, with his head bare and his hands in his
pockets, was standing on the veranda as they approached.

"There's Art now!" exclaimed Mr. Hatch. "Hello, Art!"

"Hello, dad," coolly responded the boy, without stirring.

"Here, Art, is Mr. Merriwell," said the banker, when they had left the
carriage. "Mr. Merriwell, my son."

"How are you, Mr. Merriwell," said Arthur, with a touch of cordiality,
as he shook hands with the visitor. "Father has been telling me about
you. Says you're a corking fisherman. That was what put you right with
him. He's the biggest crank on fishing that I ever saw."

Arthur Hatch was a chap it was not easy to fathom at first sight. He
resembled his father slightly, but he was larger and better built,
although somewhat too flat across the chest. He seemed to affect a
drawl, and the grasp of his hand was not exactly hearty.

They entered the house.

"I'll take care of Merriwell now, father, if you don't mind," said the
son. "Perhaps I can entertain him until dinner time."

"You'll find I don't need entertaining," laughed Frank. "I particularly
dislike to have any one put himself out to entertain me. I feel easier
when no effort is made."

"Come up to my room," invited the boy.

They ascended to Art's room, which was on the second floor, and proved
to be almost luxurious.

"Now, make yourself at home, Merriwell," drawled the boy, with an air of
familiarity. "There is the bathroom."

Frank removed his coat, pulled back his cuffs, and washed his face and
hands, which gave him a feeling of freshness.

In the meantime, on returning to Art's room, he found the boy had
produced a flask and glasses.

"Here's some fine old rye," he said. "We have lots of time to touch it
up a little before dinner."

"Excuse me," said Merry, shaking his head.

"Don't you care for rye? Well, I have some bourbon here. Perhaps that
will----"

"I'll have to be excused from taking anything."

"Really? It will do you good. You've been having a session with the
governor and those Wall Street sharks, and it seems to me you need
something after that."

"I don't think I need anything, thank you."

"Well, later on we can have a cocktail before dinner. Which do you
prefer, a Manhattan, or a----"

Frank was now brought to the point where it was necessary for him to
state that he did not drink Manhattans or cocktails of any sort.

Young Hatch eyed him with an expression of doubt.

"You don't seem to be stringing me," he said. "Don't you drink at all?"

"No."

"Never?"

"Never."

"I can't understand it," said Arthur. "Everybody drinks nowadays."

"Not everybody. You are mistaken about that."

"Well, there are precious few who don't. Young men who are up to date
all take something."

"Then I'll have to confess that I'm not up to date."

"Strange," muttered the youth. "Have a cigarette?"

"I do not smoke them."

"Well, I keep a box of cigars for my friends who do not care for
cigarettes. They are----"

"I do not smoke at all."

Arthur sat down, slowly rolling a cigarette between his fingers, eying
Merry all the while.

"I didn't believe it," he finally muttered.

"Didn't believe what?"

"I've heard of you, you know, and what I've heard led me to think you a
corking chap, one of the boys, you understand."

"I think those who know me well have always considered me 'one of the
boys,'" smiled Merry.

"But really a fellow who never drinks nor smokes--why, he can't have any
fun!"

"I beg to differ with you on that point. I do not believe any chap ever
got more fun out of life than I have."

"Then you used to drink and smoke?"

"Never."

Arthur lighted his cigarette, took several whiffs, staring at Frank all
the while, and finally observed:

"When the governor came home and told me about you, he said you didn't
touch liquor and didn't smoke; but I sort of fancied you had been
playing it clever with him for reasons of your own."

Merry flushed a little.

"In short," he said, "you thought I was fooling him?"

"Well, I thought it rather clever of you, for you were trying to get dad
and a lot of those men of dough into some sort of a railroad scheme,
and I reckoned you were playing it fine with them."

"That's not my way of doing things."

"Beg pardon; no offense. Everybody is slick in these times, you know.
You'll find the men you are dealing with are all sharp as steel. They
never play any game frank and open."

Frank looked doubtful.

"Of course you do not mean to place your father in that class?"

"Well, I fancy the old boy knows all the tricks," laughed the lad
softly. "He's been able to hold his own with the rest of them. How did
you get through college without drinking?"

"That was easy. When the other fellows found I was sincere in letting
the stuff alone they respected my principles, and I had no trouble at
all."

"You were a great athlete?"

"I made a fair record."

"Well, didn't you ever see the time when you felt that, just as you were
about to take part in some contest, a drink might give you vim and
energy?"

"Never. By letting the stuff alone and keeping constantly in the best
possible condition, I had vim and energy enough. Had I drunk, it must
have robbed me of some of my vim and energy."

"Oh, come, now! Not if you had drunk moderately and discreetly. Not if
you had used liquor with good judgment."

"Liquor never gave a thoroughly healthy man any strength that was not
false strength. It makes men feel stronger, but in truth it weakens
them. I don't care to preach you a temperance lecture, Arthur, but you
sort of forced this out of me."

"I'm glad to hear what you think about it. I can't agree with you, you
know; but you interest me. You don't mean to say that drinking has ever
hurt me, do you?"

"It has never done you a particle of good, and the chances are that it
has hurt you."

"I can't believe it. Look at me, and then look at my father. I'm better
built, healthier and stronger in every way than he ever was. I've taken
an interest in athletics always, and he has encouraged me, saying he
made a mistake when he was in college by not doing so."

"Well, you owe much of your good condition, it is likely, to your
inclination toward athletics and physical culture; but I believe you
would be in better condition if you let liquor alone, and did not smoke
cigarettes. Your father has weak lungs, and you are not properly
developed across the chest. Still you injure the delicate tissues of
your lungs by inhaling the smoke of cigarettes. At the same time you are
weakening your brain power and your force of character. I am absolutely
certain of this, for no fellow who indulges in those things escapes
injury."

There was something in Merry's manner that impressed the boy. Frank had
a way of convincing listeners when he spoke.

"If I thought so----" muttered Art.

"Would you give up cigarettes and liquor?"

"Well, I don't know. It would be pretty hard."

"Do you mean that your habits have such a hold on you already?"

"If I could go somewhere away from here where there was no whisky and no
cigarettes, and I could see none of my chums who drink and smoke, I
suppose I might break off."

"Why not here? Are you at your age a slave to cigarettes?"

"Well, you see it's this way: all the fellows know I drink and smoke,
and they would laugh at me if I should say I'd stopped. They wouldn't
believe it. They would keep at me until they shamed me into keeping on."

"Then you confess that you have not the will power to refuse and stick
to it. Can't you see that your will power is weakened?"

"It's not that; it's because I don't wish to be laughed at and jollied."

"Which is a confession of weakness. Let them laugh; in the end, if you
stick to your good resolutions, they will stop laughing and learn to
respect you."

"Perhaps that's right; but I've seen some mighty mean, narrow,
contracted men who never drank, never smoked, and never swore. I've seen
some rascals who had none of the small vices, and usually they are the
meanest sort of rascals."

"I don't doubt it; but does that prove that all men, or even the
majority of men, who have none of the small vices are mean or rascally?
I don't fancy you believe that. You know it's natural to suppose that a
bad man should be a drinker, a smoker, and a swearer. When you see a bad
man who does none of these things, it is so unusual that you immediately
look on him as a representative of his kind."

Art nodded.

"Perhaps that's so," he acknowledged. "Of course, I do know men who have
no vices, and who are good fellows. I swear, Merriwell, you've almost
converted me."

Frank smiled.

"Would that I might wholly convert you!" he exclaimed. "Does your father
know you drink?"

"Lord, no! I wouldn't have the governor know it for anything! He takes a
little himself, but he thinks I'm on the water wagon yet--thinks I'm not
old enough to get out with the boys and whoop her up."

After a moment he dropped the half-smoked cigarette on an ash tray.

"I believe I'll quit!" he exclaimed. "I've been working for chest
development, and it's coming slower than any other part of me. Perhaps
smoking is holding me back. I believe I'll let tobacco alone for a few
months and see if I improve."

"Good!" cried Merry. "But you should knock off drinking at the same
time."

"I will! It's going to be a hard thing to do, but I'll try it."

"Give me your hand on it, Arthur! Don't merely try, but make up your
mind that nothing shall cause you to break your resolution. Show that
your will power and determination have not been weakened."

They shook hands.

Frank was well pleased over the resolution of Arthur Hatch. He was
beginning to like the boy.

They were talking in the most friendly fashion by this time, and Arthur
began questioning Merry about college days and his life at Yale.

"I'd like to go to Yale," he said; "but the governor has made up his
mind on Harvard, and it's Harvard for me."

"A fine college," said Frank.

"Somehow it seems to me that the fellows at Yale have better times."

"In a way, I believe they do. Harvard is more given to cliques. You
know it has been called the rich man's college. Yale is more democratic.
I have a brother not far from your age who is fitting for Yale."

"Where is he fitting?"

"He has been at Fardale Military Academy; but just now he is traveling
abroad in company with his tutor, Professor Gunn, of Fardale."

"Traveling abroad! That must be fine. You have traveled a great deal,
haven't you, Merriwell?"

"I have seen a part of the world. I went abroad myself when I was quite
young with Professor Scotch, of Fardale, who was my guardian, as well as
my tutor. We saw a great many countries."

"But none equal to this country, I'll wager?"

"None equal to this country for an American."

"Seems to me I heard the governor say something about a mine or mines of
yours down in Mexico."

"I have a mine in the State of Sonora, Mexico. This projected Central
Sonora Railroad will assist me greatly in handling the products of that
mine."

"I see. Have you been in Mexico much?"

"Quite a lot."

"How do you like the people down there?"

"Well, you know that about two-thirds of the country's population
consists of Indians. They are the descendants of the once mighty Aztecs,
but there is nothing very warlike about the most of them. They seem
crushed, poverty-stricken, and sad. They labor like slaves for a mere
pittance when they work at all, and their condition is truly pitiful."

"But the progressive citizens, the ruling class--what do you think of
them?"

"I have met some very pleasant people among them."

"I know a fellow from the City of Mexico."

"Do you?"

"Yes; he's here in New York now. His father sent him here to learn
something about our ways of doing business. He seems like a pretty fine
fellow, too. I invited him out for dinner to-day, but I'm not sure he
will come. He knows he's welcome to drop in any time."

"What's his name?"

"Carlos Mendoza. His father is a great gun down in Mexico."

"The Mendozas form an important family."

"I hope he comes out, for I'd like lo have you meet him."

Less than ten minutes later Carlos Mendoza himself knocked at the door
of that room.

"I came right up, Arthur, my dear friend," he laughed, showing his
handsome teeth as he entered.

"That was right," said Hatch. "Let me introduce you to Mr. Merriwell,
Carlos. Mr. Merriwell, the friend I mentioned, Mr. Mendoza."

The young Mexican straightened up, and looked at Merry with an
expression of the keenest interest.

"Mr. Merriwell," he said, "I am happy to know you. I believe I have
heard of you before."

There was nothing of genuine American heartiness in the handshake he
gave Frank.

Mendoza had the atmosphere of his race, easy and languid. He dropped
gracefully on a chair and reached out for the cigarettes, the open case
of Arthur Hatch being near.

"Forgot my papers," he smiled, "so I can't roll one of my own. I won't
rob you, Arthur?"

"You'll not rob me if you take them all."

"You're always generous."

"Nothing generous about that, old man."

"Oh, I know cigarettes are inexpensive, especially to the son of an
American money king; but----"

"I shall not want those things any more," said Art, as if determined to
let his new visitor know without delay of his resolutions. "I have quit
smoking, Carlos."

The Mexican lad lifted his eyebrows in surprise.

"Quit?" he questioned. "Are you joking?"

"No; I'm in earnest. I've knocked off for good."

"How foolish!" laughed Carlos. "Why, how can you bear to deprive
yourself of such a comfort and luxury? Oh, the enjoyment of a good
cigarette! Nothing can take its place. A fellow loses a great deal if
he doesn't smoke. Next thing you'll tell me that you have stopped
drinking."

"I have."

Mendoza almost dropped his cigarette.

"What?"

"I don't wonder that you stare, but it is true. I have sworn off."

"Pardon me for smiling!" exclaimed the young Mexican, lifting his
slender hand to his mouth. "I fear it is not good breeding, but I can't
help it."

Young Hatch flushed.

"That's all right, Carlos!" he exclaimed. "I have a right to knock off
any of my bad habits if I wish to, I suppose."

"Oh, why do you call them bad habits? I see no sense in that, Arthur.
Every one smokes and drinks, you know. Down in my country----"

"Not every one," interrupted Arthur. "Merriwell does not."

Mendoza shrugged his shoulders like a Frenchman.

"Then he doesn't know what he's missing. Oh, stop if you wish, Arthur;
you'll be at it again within a week."

"I'll bet you ten dollars on that!" cried Hatch warmly.

"You'd lose. But be careful; perhaps Señor Merriwell is so very
scrupulous that he does not believe in betting. Perhaps he never bets.
Ha, ha, ha!"

The laughter of Mendoza was most irritating.

By this time Frank's dislike for the fellow was most pronounced. In
Mendoza he saw one of the companions of Arthur Hatch who was bringing to
bear a most evil influence on the boy. It was the laughter and ridicule
of such fellows as this that Arthur dreaded.

"I do not believe in betting," admitted Merry, at once. "By that I mean
that I do not believe in betting for the purpose of making profit, and
particularly am I opposed to betting on games of chance."

"I am afraid," said Carlos, with sarcasm, "that you're a trifle too
good, Señor Merriwell, for association with the rest of us. Did you
never bet?"

"Yes," admitted Frank, "I have done such a thing."

"Ah! Then you have reformed? You've had your fun, and now you think
others should not have theirs. Did you never play cards?"

"Yes."

"For money?"

Frank admitted that he had played for money.

"Then you have not always been a saint," observed Mendoza, in that same
irritating manner. "You have really lived--a little."

The insolence of the fellow in talking to Frank in such a manner was
felt by Hatch, who hastened to check him.

"Mr. Merriwell is no softie!" he exclaimed, seeming to feel that Frank
needed defending. "He was a famous athlete at Yale College. He made a
great reputation as a baseball and football player."

"Baseball--paugh!" cried Carlos. "I have seen the senseless sport you
call baseball. Sport! There is no sport in it. It is tame. Football is
better, but that is not much. For real sport, Señor Merriwell, you
should see a Mexican bullfight."

"That is what you consider real sport, is it?" asked Frank.

"It is--it is grand sport! It is fine to see the bullfighters in the
ring, to see the bull charging one after another, to see them fleeing on
their horses, to see the horses gored and brought down, while the riders
barely escape by a hair, and at last to see the chief bullfighter meet
the charge of the bull and slay the creature. You should witness a
bullfight, Mr. Merriwell."

Frank smiled into the face of the callow Mexican lad. No wonder he
smiled, for, years before, in Spain, as a mere boy, while traveling with
Professor Scotch, Frank had leaped into the ring at a bullfight in order
to save the life of Zuera, the lady bullfighter of Madrid, and with a
sword dropped by a frightened espada had himself slain the bull.

"Mendoza," he said, "I have seen your Mexican bullfights, and I once
witnessed such a spectacle in Madrid. A Spanish bullfight is bad enough,
but a Mexican bullfight is the most disgusting and brutal thing
imaginable. Usually your bull is frightened and runs around seeking some
avenue of escape from the torturers who pursue him, assailing him with
their banderillos. At last he may be goaded and driven to a sort of
desperate resistance. When he turns on his tormentors they permit him to
gore the wretched old horses which have been provided as a sacrifice to
glut the thirst of the populace for the sight of blood.

"I have seen three or four of those poor beasts dying in a Mexican bull
ring at the same time, some lying on the ground, and feebly trying to
rise, or staggering weakly around with their bodies ripped open. I have
seen the bull at last stand exhausted and cowed while the one chosen to
dispatch him walked up and did the job. I have heard the crowd roar with
delight as the sword was plunged into the neck of the bull and the
creature's blood gushed forth. Don't talk to me about such sport!"

Frank's words and manner seemed to scorch the Mexican for a moment, but
he quickly recovered, snapping his fingers.

"Like most Americans, you quail and grow sick at the sight of a little
blood," he sneered. "We hear about the courage of Americans, and, of
course, some of them are brave; but I doubt the courage of any man who
gets sick over the sight of a little good, red blood."

"Gentlemen," cried Hatch, in dismay, "I hope you are not going to----"

"Don't worry, Arthur," interrupted Frank. "It is plain that Mendoza and
I hold quite different views. It is the difference between two races.
There will be no further discussion."

Mendoza sprang up.

"You are right," he admitted; "it is the difference between my people
and your people. We do not understand each other. If I have been hasty
in anything, forget it. I presume Señor Merriwell is right--from his
standpoint. Let it pass."

Hatch was relieved.

"Let's go out for a little air," he suggested. "I wish to show Merriwell
round the place."

"A lovely place," nodded the Mexican lad. "The home of my good friend
Arthur Hatch, who, although an American, is a man I do not believe would
turn squeamish at sight of a little blood."

Frank was quite willing and ready to go out.

The sun was hanging low in the west, its last rays shimmering upon the
surface of the broad Hudson. The air was chilly and rapidly growing
colder.

"It's fine here in the summer," said Arthur, as they strolled about;
"but I prefer the city just now. Later, when there is ice boating, we
have some great sport up here. Yes, that is real sport! Making a mile a
minute on an ice boat is enough to satisfy any one. I'd like to have
you up here for some of that, Merriwell."

"I know I would enjoy it," smiled Frank. "I've done a little ice
boating; but not on the scale that it's done up here."

As they walked about, Mendoza gradually fell behind.

"I'm afraid your friend is sulking," said Merry.

"Let him sulk!" exclaimed Arthur, in a low tone. "He had deuced bad
taste in making the talk he did, and I'm rather sore on him. Don't pay
any attention to him."

Thus it happened that Carlos was left behind and dropped out of sight.

He was passing a thick hedge, when suddenly from the opposite side rose
the head and shoulders of a boy nearly his own age, and somewhat
resembling him in general appearance. This boy whistled a soft signal
and called the name of Carlos, who turned in surprise and saw him.

For a moment Mendoza stood staring in a surprised and bewildered way.
Then his eyes gleamed, and he exclaimed:

"As I live, it is Felipe Jalisco!"

The boy beyond the hedge spoke in Spanish.

"I have been watching for you, Carlos, for I saw you enter that house.
Join me quickly."

There was an opening in the hedge, and through this Mendoza hastened,
the two boys falling into each other's arms like long-lost brothers.

"How comes it that you are here?" questioned Carlos, still betraying his
amazement.

"Come away into the wooded hollow down yonder," invited Felipe. "I will
then tell you. I do not wish to be seen by any one but you."

Together they descended into the little hollow through which ran a
stream that was spanned by a rustic bridge. They sat down on the bridge
staring at each other with a strange expression of delight and affection
in their eyes.

"I knew it would surprise you to see me," said Felipe.

"Is that strange? When last we met it was thousands of miles away in our
own country. I told you then that my father had promised to send me here
to learn some of the business ways of these miserable gringoes."

"I remember; and I told you that I had found an old document that would
make me very rich."

"Yes, Felipe. Are you rich now?"

"Not yet; but I shall be soon."

"I am glad, for you are my dearest friend. Did your search for riches
bring you so far?"

"Yes."

"But you told me the old document would give you much land in Mexico."

"So it should, Carlos; but the document was never recorded. It was made
when Mexico first came to be a republic, and then there was much
confusion and little method. It gives me a great strip of land in
Sonora, and on that land, as I have learned, is one mine alone rich
enough to provide me all the money I could ever desire. But that mine is
held and is being worked by a cursed gringo. It was to find him that I
came so far."

"And have you found him?"

"Yes, and demanded what is rightfully mine."

"His answer----"

"Was to laugh at me! All I wished was that he should pay me well. Why
should he not, when he is getting richer and richer from property that
is mine? Had he given me my right, I could have everything I need. I
meant to let him go on working the mine if he gave me one-half it
produces; but first I sought to frighten him by demanding a great sum. I
asked for five hundred thousand dollars. I showed the document. He told
me not one dollar would he ever pay me. Carlos, this gringo even told me
the document was a forgery!"

"It is like them all! I hate them, Felipe! Not one have I found that I
can really care for. Still I take pains not to let them know what I
really think of them. It is to learn their business ways and tricks I am
here, and I will succeed. This day I am visiting Arthur Hatch, who
thinks me his friend. Ha, ha! I took pains to make his acquaintance
because his father is one of the great business men I wish to watch. I
want to find out how it is he succeeds so wonderfully. But there are
other reasons why I stick close by Hatch. He spends much money, and he
knows many gringoes it is good for me to meet. Sometimes I feel like
telling him what a great fool I think he is; but it would not be wise."

"When I came up here to-day," said Felipe, "I did not once dream that I
should find you. I have some friends in New York, but none like you,
Carlos--not one. I came here because of the American who has my mine. He
has sworn never to give me a dollar of what is rightfully mine, but to
his face I told him he must pay or I would kill him."

"That was right. Did he turn pale?"

"Not at all; he laughed."

"It will do you no good to kill him."

"It would give me the greatest pleasure, but then I could not frighten
him into paying me what I will have. It is to begin to frighten him I am
here. I wish him to know his life is in danger all the time. I will
follow him night and day, and make him understand in time. I saw him
shortly before you came along by the hedge."

"Did you, Felipe?"

"Yes; he was with the boy whose father lives in that house."

Carlos was surprised.

"Do you mean Frank Merriwell?"

"He is the one! It is he who is robbing me of what is mine. He laughed
at me when I demanded money. I hate him!"

"Felipe, I love you more because you hate him! I have seen and talked
with him, and my pleasure would be to put a knife between his ribs!"

Again those boys embraced.

"Carlos, you can help me," said Felipe.

"How?"

"If we could meet him together in the dark and fall upon him. Together
we could beat him down and nearly kill him. Then I would tell him that
next time Felipe Jalisco would finish the job unless he paid to me that
money. The gringoes are cowards. They laugh and pretend they are not
afraid; but when real danger comes they have no courage at all."

"It would do me good to help you," said Carlos. "Have you a plan?"

"Could you not induce him to walk down here after dark? I would be
waiting here, and would spring on him from behind."

"He does not like me. I fear he would not walk with me at all. I don't
think it can be done."

"I must find a way to strike at him my first blow to-night."

"Wait," said Mendoza. "He will stay here overnight."

"Yes?"

"So will I."

"What of it?"

"I think I know the room he will have. I can point it out to you. If you
could attack him in that room and give him a great fright----"

"How is it possible?"

"It will be cold to-night, but you are wearing your heavy coat. If you
could wait until all had gone to bed, then I might let you into the
house. I might show you his room. But, Felipe, you would not kill him
to-night?"

"Not to-night."

"Then, if you wish, I will dare it. I will let you into that house, but
you know what it means if you should be caught there. Will you take the
chance?"

"Can it be arranged so that I may get out quickly and easily?"

"I believe it can."

"Then I will dare anything that I may let him know Felipe Jalisco means
to keep the oath he has taken."



CHAPTER XVII.

EVIL INFLUENCE.


It was a pleasant dinner hour at the home of Warren Hatch when Frank met
Mrs. Hatch, who proved to be a strangely modest, motherly sort of woman.
Merry decided that she had been a country girl, and that the change in
fortune that had lifted her from humbleness to her present position as
the wife of a very wealthy man had not changed her character in the
least.

Mendoza was exceedingly agreeable at table. He was not forward, but
seemed to take just the proper interest and proper part in the flow of
conversation, and not once during the meal was he offensive in the
slightest degree. But for his first unpleasant impression of the fellow,
Merry might have fancied him quite a decent chap.

The Mexican was very frank in stating his desire to learn everything
possible about American methods of business while he remained in New
York, and he asked a few questions of Mr. Hatch, but never pressed a
point when the gentleman seemed reticent over it.

"I don't presume you are looking for a business opening here?"
questioned Hatch. "Why, Americans have their eyes on Mexico, which they
say is very rich and offers innumerable opportunities for the man of
brains, business, and capital. You have fine plantations, splendid
ranches, and some of the richest mines in the world. Are you going to
let Americans open up all your mines and work them?"

"Oh, no," laughed Carlos. "Americans have not all our mines, by any
means. Many Americans have obtained mines in my country to which they
have no legal right. For instance, there were the great Santa Maria
Mines, which were secured and operated by a syndicate of Americans. They
thought they had a claim to those mines that could not be disputed, and
they laughed at any one that suggested the possibility of trouble over
them. One day a man by the name of Casaria came along and told them that
the property was his, and that they must either pay him well for the
privilege of working them, or get out. They told him to go away. He
went. Then he began proceedings against them, and in less than a year
they were ousted and compelled to abandon every building they had
constructed, every piece of machinery they had put in, and all that.
Casaria had beaten them, and he turned round and leased his property to
another company that pays him well for the privilege of working it. The
same thing is likely to happen to other Americans in Mexico."

Frank surveyed Mendoza keenly, wondering if the boy had told this for
his benefit; but apparently the lad was wholly innocent that it might
apply to any one present.

After dinner Merry spent the evening with Mr. and Mrs. Hatch, while
Arthur and Carlos retired soon to Art's room.

Finally Mr. Hatch asked Frank if he wished to retire, and Merry
expressed a desire to do so.

It happened that Frank's room was not far from that of Arthur Hatch. As
he followed Mr. Hatch past Art's open door, Mendoza called to him.

"Going to bed so soon, Mr. Merriwell?" he inquired. "Come in for a
moment before you retire."

Having been shown to his room, Frank decided to accept Mendoza's
invitation. It was a queer feeling that impelled him to do so, for
Arthur had said nothing.

As he entered Art's room, he detected a quick movement on the part of
young Hatch, who hastily rose to his feet, asking Frank to sit down. His
face was unnaturally flushed, and there was a peculiar expression in his
eyes.

Carlos was smoking a cigarette, and the air of the room was heavy with
smoke. About him there was a certain air of suppressed satisfaction.

There seemed no particular reason why the boys should wish Frank to drop
in before going to bed. Indeed, Arthur seemed ill at ease and talked
little. He seemed to be making an effort to appear natural.

It was not long before Merry divined Mendoza's object in calling him.

The Mexican had induced Arthur to break the pledge recently made to
Frank.

Although Carlos was smoking, on a little ash receiver beneath the table
near which Hatch had been sitting lay a freshly lighted cigarette, from
which a vapory bit of blue smoke was rising.

Arthur had been smoking and drinking with Carlos.

The young Mexican had wished Frank to see that his power over the boy
was strong enough to make him break his pledge.

Having decided on this, Frank felt like seizing Mendoza and giving him a
thorough shaking up. Inwardly he was angry with the fellow, but
outwardly he was undisturbed.

Carlos took special delight in trying to induce his host to talk,
apparently hoping Hatch would make some sort of a break.

Frank knew it would do no good to talk to Arthur Hatch then. Instead, it
would almost surely anger and shame him to such an extent that he would
become resentful, announce himself as his own master, and declare his
perfect ability to look out for himself, without the advice or
assistance of any one.

"The smoke is somewhat too thick for me here, boys," said Merry. "I
think I'll turn in."

"Sorry you can't sit up with us a while longer," said Arthur, but he
could not hide his relief and satisfaction.

He was glad Frank was going, and Merry knew it.

"As in other things," smiled Carlos, "you seem to have some
old-fashioned ways about sleeping. I don't believe any man half lives
who sleeps too much at night. Ah! New York and upper Broadway is the
place! There something is doing nearly all the night."

"If the occasion demands," said Merriwell, "I can stay up with any of
them; but just now I feel like bottling up a little sleep, as the
expression goes."

"I hope you may enjoy your rest," said Carlos. "I hope nothing may
disturb you. Good night, señor."

"Good night," said Frank. "Good night, Arthur."

In his room Merry fell to thinking of the two boys as he undressed.

"Carlos Mendoza is Arthur's evil genius," he decided. "The influence of
the fellow on Hatch is wholly bad. What is the best course for me to
pursue? Had I better warn his father? Is there not some other way to
open Arthur's eyes? If I go to Warren Hatch, the man may become angry,
and give his son a raking down that will do more harm than good."

After getting into bed, Merry continued to meditate on the matter,
finding it was not easy to decide on a course.

He thought of many other things. The memory of his recent encounters
with Porfias del Norte haunted him. He thought of the manner in which
he had been trapped by Del Norte up in the Adirondacks, and thanked his
lucky stars that O'Toole, the Irishman, out of gratitude, had aided him
to escape from the murderous Mexican.

"Poor O'Toole!" he murmured. "When he became my friend he was faithful
unto death."

The memory of his own desperation and distress on learning that Inza
Burrage had fallen into the power of Del Norte caused him to twist and
turn on the bed. Only for O'Toole, he might have been baffled in
following Inza's captors. Through the acquaintance and friendship of
O'Toole with Red Ben, Del Norte's Indian guide, had come the rescue of
Inza.

Once more Frank seemed to be standing in the depths of the Adirondack
wilderness at the foot of the mountain, and again he seemed to hear the
shriek of terror which escaped the lips of the Irishman as he fell from
the precipice, and came crashing through the treetops to strike the
ground a short distance away. Then Merry lived over once more his knife
duel with Del Norte on the cliff, the escape from the cave, and the
struggle to get away from the landslide, when, with superhuman efforts,
he had carried Inza in his arms to a place of safety.

"Del Norte is dead," he muttered; "but he seems to be reincarnated in
Felipe Jalisco. I have not seen the last of Jalisco. That man Hagan is
dangerous, too. Without the backing Hagan will try to give, Jalisco
would give me little trouble in regard to the mine. His claim is a
forgery beyond doubt; but he seems to think it genuine. Were it not for
Hagan, I might do something for the boy, if his demands were anywhere
near reasonable. Hagan is determined to get his finger into the pie, and
he'll want a large slice. He'll get nothing."

Finally Frank slept; but he was awakened by something that pressed
sudden and hard across his throat. He tried to start up, but that thing
across his throat held him helpless.

Besides that, there was a sudden weight on his breast, as of a hand that
thrust him back.

Through the window of his room came a dim light, by which he discerned a
dark figure that seemed crouching on the edge of the bed.

He knew instantly that some person was there. Through the gloom a pair
of gleaming eyes, like those of an animal, seemed to look into his.

"Be still!" came a hissing whisper. "Make a sound and you shall die!"

By this time Frank was wide-awake, with every sense aroused.

He wondered if it was a burglar.

"Don't cry out!" again commanded his assailant. "One little cry from you
will be your last! Do you feel this?"

Something keen pricked Merriwell's throat.

"It is my knife," declared the unknown. "With a single stroke I can open
the vein in your throat, and nothing in all the world can save you."

The situation was one to send a thrill through the strongest nerves.

"What do you want?" asked Merry, in a low tone.

"Softer than that!" hissed the fellow with the knife. "Don't speak
louder than a whisper if your life to you has any value."

"What do you want?" whispered Merry.

"Ha! That is right! Now let me warn you further. There is a stout cord
across your neck, and you cannot lift your head if you attempt it so
much as your strength will admit. The cord is made fast to both sides of
the bed beneath you. You are perfectly helpless. First it is that I want
you to know. Even if the cord should not be there, with my knife I could
kill you when you tried to struggle. Now should you with your hands
grasp me you would be like a child to destroy."

"Having made all this plain, go ahead and tell me what you are after,"
urged Merriwell.

"Are you not afraid? I expected to hear your teeth chattering together
like castanets. I expected to feel your body shaking, as if with a great
chill."

There was disappointment in these whispered words.

"What good would it do me to be afraid?"

"Can you reason like that in a moment when your life is in the most
terrible danger? Have you ice in your veins?"

"Why should you do me an injury? If you are here to rob me----"

"I am not! I am here to make you stop from robbing me. I told you I
would have my right or kill you. You laughed at me. Now you do not
laugh!"

"Felipe Jalisco!"

"It is my name," was the bold confession.

Frank was amazed.

"How did you get into this house?"

"I find the way. When I told you that, night or day, asleep or awake,
there would never be one moment that you would not be free from the
peril of death at my hand, you laughed. You do not laugh now!"

"This isn't my time to laugh," confessed Frank. "Only fools laugh at the
wrong moment."

"You were a fool when you defied me. You did not know me. You did not
know the blood of the Jaliscos in me. To-night you thought yourself safe
from harm. You did not dream it possible that Felipe Jalisco might
strike his knife into your heart while you slept. When I told you that
not one moment would you be safe, you thought it the foolish talk of a
boy. Now you see."

"It is too dark for me to see very well."

"I am here to make you swear to give me what is mine. If you do it not,
then you die!"

"And you will go to the electric chair at Sing Sing. Should you kill me
to-night, Jalisco, you would be executed for murder."

"Paugh! I fear it not."

"Do you fancy you could escape?"

"I could."

"How little you reckon on the power of the law in this country. For you
there would be no escape. You threatened my life, and that threat was
heard before many witnesses. Those witnesses are all rich and powerful
men. Should I be killed here and now, the first thing those men would do
would be to bring all their combined influence to bear on having you
arrested immediately, and convicted of that murder. Even if you were not
guilty, and by some chance an unknown party should murder me, you would
find it almost impossible to escape punishment for the crime. All those
men would believe you did it, and they would bend every energy and the
influence of their great wealth to carry you to the death chair. Did you
attempt to prove an alibi, with all their influence and their wealth
they would overthrow the proof, and show your witnesses were liars and
perjurers. You cannot harm me without bringing destruction on yourself."

In this manner Frank forced the belief that he spoke the truth upon
Felipe. Although he could not see the dark face of the Mexican, he felt
that Jalisco had received his check.

"I have not come to kill you now," confessed the boy. "I want you to
know I can do it. I want you to feel the constant danger. I want you to
understand that when I am ready to strike I can do so, and strike to
destroy. Perhaps not in New York or any great city like this shall I do
it. I will follow you like a shadow. Where you go, there I will be.
Unless you give me what I demand, I will some day kill you, having
chosen the spot and time. Then I will escape, and no power may stop me.
Fool of a gringo, you must give me my own! I will leave you in
possession of the mine, but you must pay me one-half of all the money
you make from it. It is the only thing that will save you. Señor Hagan
asked for a big sum all at once, as he thought thus to get his share
right away. I would have had him accept half the profit. Swear now that
I shall have it! Swear you will pay----"

"Not a cent!" answered Merry grimly. "You have taken the wrong method of
getting anything from a Merriwell. Not a cent shall you ever have!"

Felipe swore in Spanish.

"Then you are doomed!" he panted.

Suddenly he paused and lifted his head. A sound had reached his ears
from some distant part of the house. It seemed that some one was
stirring.

"Lie still!" he hissed. "If you try to follow, at the door you shall
die!"

He sprang away with the soft step of a cat, and darted out at the door.

In a twinkling Merry slipped from beneath the cord, leaped from the bed,
and made the house echo with the shout he uttered.

Unmindful of Jalisco's threat, he was out of that room and after the
fellow in an amazing hurry. It must have been amazing for Jalisco, for
the fellow was overtaken by Merry at the head of the stairs. He whirled
and struck at Frank's breast, but the strong arm of the young American
swept the blow aside.

Merry seized his foe, and together they went bounding and rolling the
full length of the stairs.

When they landed at the bottom, Frank was on top, and the Mexican was
pinned to the floor.

By this time the whole house was in commotion. Voices were calling, and
lights were beginning to gleam.

"This way!" cried Frank. "I have him!"

He heard a sound on the stairs behind him, and supposed some one was
rushing to his assistance. There was a patter of feet, and then the
smothering folds of a blanket were flung over his head, and he was
dragged backward to the floor, his hold on Felipe Jalisco being broken.

When Merry succeeded in flinging off the blanket, he found some one had
turned on all the lights of the house. He saw Mr. Hatch, Arthur, Carlos
Mendoza, and one or two servants near at hand. The front door stood wide
open.

"A thousand pardons!" cried Mendoza, in apparent consternation and
distress. "It was a sad mistake I made!"

"You flung that blanket over my head and dragged me off the fellow!"
said Merry. "You permitted him to escape!"

"A thousand pardons! I thought you were the other. I thought he had you
down. It was dark. I could not see."

"You deliberately aided him to escape."

"No, no; I swear I made a sad mistake--I swear it!"

"And lie when you take the oath!" retorted Frank, unable longer to
restrain his feelings toward the fellow. "Mr. Hatch, you have a snake in
your house, and there he is!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE POLICE RAID.


Felipe Jalisco made good his escape that night, thanks to the assistance
of his friend, Carlos Mendoza.

The following morning Frank swore out a warrant for the arrest of
Jalisco, and this he took with him in order to have it ready when the
proper time came.

He was determined to get back at the fellow without delay.

Believing Jalisco was stopping in New York, Frank gave a description of
him to the police, and set them on the lookout for the fellow. He
likewise told them that Jalisco might be found in company with Bantry
Hagan sooner or later.

Two days passed without the apprehension of the Mexican lad being made
or any trace of him discovered. On the forenoon of the third day Frank
suddenly came face to face with Bantry Hagan in front of the Vendome
Hotel, on Broadway.

The moment he saw Merry, the Irishman stopped, planting himself fairly
in Frank's path.

"Sure it's a word I'd like to have with you, young man," he growled,
frowning blackly.

"Well, I have little time to waste on you," retorted Merry.

"I want to know what you mean by it!" said the Irishman.

"By what?"

"By giving me the devil's own annoyance with the police. For two days
I've had some of them following me round in plain clothes, and I'm tired
of it. Call them off, me boy--I warn ye to call them off!"

"When they find Felipe Jalisco I think they'll not bother you further."

"So you're going to have the boy arrested? It's a bad mistake you're
making by putting the coppers after him, for he has a nasty temper, and
next time he gets you under his knife he's certain to cut your throat.
I've warned him against it, but when you get through talking to one of
those Mexicans they're worse than when you began. If it's sensible you
are, you'll listen a bit to the boy's just demand. It may save your life
if you listen."

"If there was a particle of justice in his demand, I would not refuse to
listen. If anything happens to me it's pretty certain you'll find
yourself arrested as the accomplice of Jalisco."

Then Frank passed on.

That night, after leaving a theatre which he had attended, Merry
encountered, at Herald Square, a plain-clothes man, whom he knew, an
officer by the name of Bronson. He had paused to speak with this man
when he noticed on the opposite side of the street several youngsters
who seemed to be having something of a hilarious time.

"They're pretty well started," observed Bronson, noting Merry's glance;
"but they're still able to keep out of trouble. One chap is pretty
full."

"I know him," said Frank. "I know the fellow who has him by the arm."

He had recognized Arthur Hatch and Carlos Mendoza. Arthur was unsteady
on his feet and rather boisterous.

Frank's first inclination was to cross the street immediately and to get
Arthur away from his companion; but something caused him to decide on a
different course.

"See here, Bronson," he said, "have you any particular duty on hand just
now?"

"No, sir; not just at present. I'm on the lookout for crooks and sharks
along here. You know we have orders to keep this part of Broadway clean
of them."

"Can you come with me? I wish to follow those chaps. The one who appears
to be in the worst condition is the son of Warren Hatch, the banker, and
his associates are helping him go to the dogs as fast as possible. I'd
like to find a way to break up his friendship with that crowd."

Bronson was willing to accompany Merry, and they followed the boisterous
young men down Sixth Avenue some distance. Finally the boys disappeared
into a cigar store.

"Hanged if they haven't gone into Spice Worden's!" said Bronson.

"Who is Spice Worden?"

"The proprietor of a gambling house. I know him, but I've been tipped to
let him alone. There's graft in it for somebody, and I fancy I know who
gets the rake-off, though I wouldn't like to say."

When they looked into the cigar store Hatch and his companions had
disappeared.

"The entrance to the gambling house is through the store," explained
Bronson. "Do you wish to go in?"

"Yes."

"Come on."

They entered the store. A young man behind the counter looked startled
when he saw Bronson, and made a motion that the plain-clothes man
checked.

"Don't bother with the buzzer, Tommy," said the officer. "There's
nothing doing to my knowledge. This friend of mine wants to reach a chap
who's inside. Call Worden, will you?"

A moment later Spice Worden himself appeared, and Bronson quickly
convinced him that it was "all right." Worden seemed fearful that they
were getting evidence, but the officer assured him to the contrary, upon
which they were conducted behind the rear partition, through a dark
passage, up a flight of stairs, and finally admitted to Worden's
gambling joint.

The place was not luxurious, although it was comfortably fitted and
furnished. The air was heavy with tobacco smoke, and a great crowd of
men were playing roulette, faro, and other games.

Frank quickly discovered Arthur Hatch, who was "bucking the tiger," his
recent companions around him.

But what was more interesting was the discovery of both Felipe Jalisco
and Bantry Hagan in the group.

In a moment Merry had pointed Jalisco out to Bronson, and placed the
warrant in the hands of the officer. Then he strode forward, pushed into
the group, placed his hand on the shoulder of young Hatch, and said:

"Come, Arthur; you're going to come out of this place with me."

Bantry Hagan gave a cry of surprise and anger.

"It's Merriwell!" he shouted. "Jump him, boys! Do him up!"

Felipe Jalisco drew a knife, but suddenly found his wrist seized, the
knife taken from him, and a pair of handcuffs snapped on his wrists,
while Bronson said:

"I'll have to take you with me, young fellow. Better not make a row
unless----"

"Don't let him arrest Felipe!" cried Carlos Mendoza. "Take him away from
the cop! Come on!"

At this moment, however, there came to the ears of all a sudden
hammering and crashing, together with the whirring sound of a buzzer.
Instantly the entire place was in confusion.

"A raid!" was the cry, and the men started on a rush to get out.

There came further crashing at the door of that room, which fell before
the blows, and a squad of officers with drawn clubs poured in.

"Oh, goodness!" gasped Arthur Hatch, horrified and sobered. "We'll all
be pinched and locked up. The governor will hear of it! If my mother
finds out---- What shall I do?"

He was on the verge of collapsing.

"I'll try to get you out," said Merry. "But you must swear to cut your
bad companions and to forever quit drinking and smoking."

"I swear it!" panted the boy. "Anything to get out of here. I'll keep
the oath, too!"

In the meantime, the gamblers had rushed, and shouted, and struggled,
and fought to escape; but all their efforts were useless. They were
captured to the last man of them.

Spice Worden was arrested in his own gambling den. In the grasp of an
officer he came face to face with Bronson, who had Jalisco.

"I didn't think it of you, Bronson!" he said, his face pale. "I thought
you a square man."

"I swear I knew nothing of this raid," said Bronson. "I have my game
here. I never lied to any man yet."

Frank and Arthur were close at hand, and Merry appealed to Bronson.

"How are we going to get clear of this trap?" he asked. "I don't fancy
going to jail with a lot of gamblers."

"I'll take care of you," promised Bronson.

"And my friend here, too?"

"Your friend, too."

He turned Jalisco over to another policeman, and told Frank and Art to
follow him. There was a back door that was guarded. When this door was
reached, Bronson held a short, low-spoken conversation with the officer
in charge there, after which he motioned to his companions, and the
three descended the stairs and finally came out upon a street that ran
from Sixth Avenue to Broadway.

"Here you are, Mr. Merriwell," said Bronson. "Sorry that raid happened
just then, but I reckon there's no harm done. I suppose you'll be on
hand to appear against Jalisco in the morning?"

"Without fail," said Merry. "Good night, Bronson. This has been a
fortunate night for me."

"And for me!" exclaimed Arthur Hatch, as Bronson departed. "Good Lord!
but I was frightened when those officers came! I saw myself scorned by
my father! I saw my mother broken-hearted! In one moment I realized what
my bad habits had brought me to. I broke my first pledge to you, Frank
Merriwell; but, with the help of God, I'll keep my second one!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank Merriwell had just taken his cold plunge the next morning, when
the telephone in his apartments rang.

Immediately Merry answered the summons.

"Hello!" he called into the phone.

"Hello!" was the answer. "Is this Frank Merriwell?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm Sam Bronson."

"Oh, good morning, Mr. Bronson."

"I'm afraid you'll not be so good-natured, Mr. Merriwell, when I tell
you what has happened."

"Eh? What's the matter? Anything gone wrong?"

"I should say so! You know that Mexican that I arrested on the warrant
you gave me?"

"Of course."

"Well, I turned him over to the rest of the boys who had the whole crowd
rounded up, while I helped you get your friend, Hatch, out of the place,
you know."

"Yes. I am to appear against Jalisco in court this morning."

"You don't have to appear."

"Why not?"

"He wasn't with the bunch locked up last night."

"Impossible!"

"It's true, unfortunately."

"How could that be? I don't understand it."

"Nor I. I'm doing my best to get at the bottom of it. Neither he nor
Bantry Hagan were locked up. Both got away somehow."

Frank was more than vexed over this information.

"There's something crooked about this, Bronson!" he exclaimed. "Why, you
put the irons on Jalisco."

"I know I did, and I'm shy a good pair of bracelets."

"He could not have escaped from the handcuffs unless they were removed
by an officer. I should say this thing needs investigating, Bronson! And
Hagan was not locked up either?"

"No. Neither Jalisco nor Hagan was with the bunch when it was rounded up
at the station house last night. Both got away somewhere between
Worden's and the station house. You know this man, Hagan, is pretty well
known to the police, and he has influence. I'm going to make a roar over
the business, and somebody's head will come off if I can fix the blame
anywhere. It's the best I can do. I'm sorry, but I know you can't blame
me."

"I'm sure you were not to blame, Bronson. This is bad business. I
wanted to teach Jalisco a lesson. He's a dangerous young thug, and he's
taken an oath to kill me unless I cough up a lot of cash to him. Do your
best to get at the bottom of the matter and to get track of Jalisco at
the same time. If you set eyes on him again, pinch him at once."

"Leave that to me," said Bronson. "I'm pretty sore over it. I'll call
round to see you in an hour or so. Thought I'd phone you and let you
know what had happened."

"Thank you, Bronson. Good-by."

"Good-by."

Frank hung up the receiver.



CHAPTER XIX.

ALVAREZ LAZARO.


That morning Watson Scott had a visitor who gave his name as Alvarez
Lazaro.

Lazaro was a slender man of medium height, with snow-white hair and face
that seemed to indicate he had passed through great suffering of some
sort, for it was strangely drawn and deeply lined. His age seemed
uncertain, but Scott, who was an excellent judge, would have placed him
well along in the fifties, although his step and carriage was like that
of a much younger man.

He was expensively dressed, wore a big sable overcoat, and had on his
fingers a number of rings set with precious stones.

Old Gripper surveyed the visitor with unusual interest. There was
something about the man that fascinated him--something that attracted,
yet repelled.

"I'll not take up much of your time, Señor Scott," said Lazaro, in a
soft, musical voice. "I know you are a very busy man. I have called to
make inquiries about this railroad they say is soon to be built in my
country. I hear you are president of the company."

Scott knitted his heavy brows. "Where had he heard that voice before?"
he asked himself.

"You are from Mexico, Mr. Lazaro?" was his question.

"I am, señor."

"What do you wish to know about the Central Sonora Railroad?"

"It is settled that the road will be constructed?"

"Yes. Every preparation is being made to begin work upon it."

"The company is formed and the stock issued?"

"The stock is not yet issued."

Lazaro had taken a seat on a chair toward which Scott had motioned him.

"But it will be----"

"As soon as we think proper."

"You are confident that the road will pay?"

"If I did not think so, I'd not be so deeply interested in it."

"Naturally not, for I understand you are a very shrewd man of affairs,
señor."

The complimentary words of the Mexican were wasted on Scott, who
believed a man usually dealt in compliments when he was seeking
something to his own advantage.

"Who are your intimate associates in this great project, if I am not
presuming too far by asking, Señor Scott?"

"Mr. Warren Hatch, Mr. Sudbury Bragg, and Mr. Frank Merriwell are in the
company."

"It seems that I have heard of Señor Merriwell. Has he not a rich mine
down there somewhere in Sonora?"

"He has."

"Then it is likely he will be the one most benefited by the building of
this road?"

"It certainly will be a great thing for him."

Lazaro nodded slowly. He knew Watson Scott was surveying him in a
puzzled manner, but he seemed wholly unconscious of the fact.

"The stock of this company you think will be a profitable investment for
those who may purchase it, señor?"

"I believe so."

"Of course your company intends to retain a controlling interest in the
road?"

"Exactly."

"Does Señor Merriwell intend to hold a large amount of the stock?"

"I believe he has pledged himself to take a certain amount of it."

"I have heard that he has other valuable mines besides the one in
Mexico."

"You seem very much interested in him?"

"Not particularly, although to my ears there has come a rumor at some
time that his claim to the mine in Mexico is a very flimsy one and that
he may lose it."

"Wind, sir--nothing more. The rumor was founded on the claims of a
countryman of yours, Señor Porfias del Norte, who held an old and
worthless land grant to the territory in which Merriwell's mine is
located. The grant had been revoked, and Del Norte could have done
nothing had he lived."

"Then he is dead?"

"Dead and buried so deeply that nothing but the horn of old Gabriel can
ever bring him up."

"Then it is likely that Señor Merriwell may escape some annoyance, at
least. I think he will be glad of that."

"I'm not sure about it," said Old Gripper, with a flitting smile.
"Merriwell is a fighter, and he seems to enjoy trouble. But we are not
progressing. You have asked me a lot of questions, but have not yet
stated your business."

"I am contemplating investing in Central Sonora when it is placed on the
market."

"Ah!"

"Yes, señor. I have some money I wish to invest in something solid and
promising. I presume you will be ready enough to put out much of that
stock, and it may start a little slow. On your assurance that you
believe it a good thing, I will take some shares."

"How much do you contemplate investing?"

"What will be the par value of the stock?"

"One hundred dollars a share."

"Then," said Alvarez Lazaro, with perfect nonchalance, "you may put me
down, if you are willing, for one thousand shares."

Old Gripper blinked.

"That is one hundred thousand dollars," he said.

The Mexican bowed.

"Which will be as much as I care to invest in a single enterprise."

The interest of Watson Scott was at a high pitch now.

"It happens that I know nothing whatever about you, Mr. Lazaro," he
said. "I have had other men come here and make similar propositions; but
have found, on investigation, that they had not a dollar behind them. If
you can produce credentials or letters from----"

"I can produce plenty of letters, señor. I have them from many notable
men of my country, including President Diaz. I do not carry them with
me, you understand; but I can produce them whenever I choose. If you
wish, I will make an appointment with you, at which I'll satisfy you
beyond a doubt that I am exactly what I represent myself to be. If it is
possible, I should like to have you dine with me to-night at the
Waldorf. I hope you may find it convenient to accept my most urgent
invitation, señor."

Now, under ordinary circumstances Watson Scott would not have
contemplated such a thing. Lazaro had appeared unheralded and
unannounced, and Scott knew absolutely nothing of the man. Yet all
through that interview Scott had experienced an almost mastering desire
to know something about him. He could not understand why he should take
such unusual interest in the stranger, but from the moment the man had
entered the office Old Gripper was beset by a conviction that this was
not their first meeting.

"I don't know," he said, in a hesitating manner that was wholly
unnatural with him who was generally so settled and decisive. "I
suppose----"

"You will accept," nodded Lazaro, as if it were decided. "At what time
will it be most convenient for you to come."

"Why--er--when do you dine?"

"Whenever Señor Scott chooses," bowed the man with the snowy hair. "Any
hour from six to nine will please me."

"Well, I'll be along between six and half-past," said Scott, and then
wondered why he had said it.

"It is well," bowed Lazaro, rising. "I will now intrude no more on your
precious time."

Scott stood up.

"Hang it all!" he exclaimed. "I'd swear I know you! Isn't it possible we
have met before. I can't seem to remember your face, but your eyes and
your voice seem to stir some forgotten memory within me."

The Mexican slowly shook his head.

"I have traveled much," he said, "and have met many people; but I am
certain it has never been my good fortune to be presented to you, Señor
Scott. Of course it is possible that you may have seen me somewhere and
some time in the past; but I would swear that never until I entered this
office did I place my eyes on you. Your face is one not easily
forgotten."

"And yours is one no man should forget, sir. I presume I am mistaken."

Lazaro paused at the door.

"If you found it convenient to bring along one of your associates in
this railroad deal, say Señor Hatch or Señor Bragg, I should be glad."

"Not likely I can. It is barely possible I might bring Merriwell."

"As I understand, he is too young, Señor Scott. I had rather meet men
older and wiser. I cannot tell why, but the youth of Señor Merriwell has
somehow prejudiced me against him."

"When you meet him, if you do, you'll find him wise far beyond his years
and as keen as a rapier."

"No doubt you are right, señor; but I do not care to make an effort
before him to establish my responsibility. I should feel that the
situation ought to be reversed and that he should be seeking to satisfy
me."

"I believe I understand your feeling on that point, Mr. Lazaro; but you
feel that way because you do not know him. However, we'll leave him out
to-night. Good day. Look for me at the time set."

"Thank you, señor. Good day."

Alvarez Lazaro bowed himself out of the office with the grace of a
Frenchman.

Old Gripper stood quite still a number of moments, frowning deeply.

"Confound it!" he cried. "The impression that I have met that man grows
stronger and stronger. But where--where?"



CHAPTER XX.

THE AVENGER.


A man in a heavy overcoat and a slouch hat was walking rapidly through
one of the streets of New York leading into a squalid quarter of the
East Side. Twice he stepped past a corner and stood there some time,
observing the persons who passed in the direction he had been walking.
Once he stepped quickly into a doorway and stood there peering back
along the street until he seemed satisfied and concluded to resume his
walk.

Plainly this man feared he might be followed.

Finally on a block not far from the river, where everything looked
wretched and poverty-stricken, he ascended the low steps of a house and
quickly entered a doorway. The uncarpeted hall was dirty and dark. The
stairs were worn and sagged a little.

Two flights of stairs did the man climb, and then, in a significant
manner, he rapped on a door at the back of the house. There was a stir
within the room. The door was flung open by a slender, dark-faced,
dark-eyed boy, who joyously exclaimed:

"Welcome, Señor Hagan! You were a great time coming."

The man stepped into the little room, and the door was closed behind
him.

"Lock it, Felipe!" he exclaimed. "Take no chances of having some one
walk in on us without warning, me boy."

The key was turned in the lock.

There was a bed, a chair, and a washstand in the room. The floor was
uncarpeted and the walls unpapered.

"It's a poor sort of a hole you're cooped in, Felipe," observed the
visitor, flinging off his hat and unbuttoning his overcoat.

"Paugh! It is vile!" exclaimed the boy, with an expression of disgust.
"But here you say they will not look to find me. It was here you brought
me, and here I have remained, only sneaking out at night to buy food.
Tell me the truth, Señor Hagan, are the police still looking for me?"

"It's your life you can bet on it, me lad. Frank Merriwell has them
rubbering for you, and it's myself who has been watched and shadowed all
the time since the night we were pinched. If he had anything good and
sufficient against me, Merriwell would have me nabbed in a jiffy."

"You're sure the officers did not follow you here?"

"Trust Bantry Hagan," laughed the Irishman. "I took good care of that. I
fooled the plain-clothes chap who was following me round, gave him the
slip, and then came to see ye. Lucky for us I had a pull with one of the
bluecoats the night of the raid at Worden's. It would have been easy
for me to get assistance in ducking that night; but I wouldn't go
without ye, and you had the irons on. It looked bad."

"The handcuffs are yet to be made that will hold those hands, Señor
Hagan," said Felipe, with a laugh.

"Sure you made me wink when you slipped your hands out of them slick and
easy. Then it was not so hard to bribe the police to let us both slip
away in the darkness as they marched the prisoners downstairs and out
through the passage. At that we could not have done it only for my pull
with Riley. It's surprised Mr. Merriwell must have been in the morning
when he learned that neither of us had been locked up."

"Fiends destroy him!" cried the boy. "How I hate him! I would love to
kill him!"

"It's that thing ye'd better not do, unless you want to ruin your
prospect of ever handling any of the money he is making from that mine."

"I failed to frighten him that night when I had him with my knife at his
throat. He told me I would not kill him, and I am sure he believed it."

"Oh, he's a nervy lad, all right," nodded Hagan. "Del Norte found that
out. If he had lived----"

There was a step outside; a sharp knock on the door.

Felipe leaped back toward the window, outside of which was the fire
escape. In a moment he had the window open.

Hagan stepped quickly to the door, against which he placed his solid
body, at the same time calling:

"Who is it that knocks? and what do you want here?"

"It is I, Señor Hagan," answered a voice that made the Irishman gasp and
caused his eyes to bulge. "Have no fear. Open the door!"

"It's the voice of the dead!" gasped Hagan, his usually florid face gone
pale.

"Who is it?" questioned Jalisco.

Instead of answering, with fingers that were not quite steady, Hagan
turned the key in the lock and opened the door.

Into the room boldly walked a man who wore a sable overcoat, had hair of
snowy white, and eyes of deepest midnight.

Hagan stared at this man in amazement.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am Alvarez Lazaro, of Mexico," was the answer, in that same soft,
musical voice that had so startled the Irishman.

"But that voice--that voice!" muttered Hagan. "And those eyes! Man, ye
gave me a start! Why do you come here? What do you want?"

"I have come to meet the enemies of Frank Merriwell."

"The divvil ye say!" cried Hagan, his excitement flinging him into the
brogue he so nearly avoided in quieter moments. "Why do ye come here for
that?"

"Because I know you both are his enemies."

"And you--if I didn't know Porfias del Norte to be dead and buried----
But even then you'd not be the man. You're thirty years older; but you
have a little of his looks and his voice in perfection."

"Do you think so? Then perhaps it came through my long acquaintance with
him. Dear friends sometimes acquire each other's mode of speech and
little mannerisms, it is said."

"Were you Del Norte's friend?"

"His nearest and dearest friend in all the world. This may seem strange
to you, considering the difference in our ages, but it is the truth.
From me he never had a secret. I knew all his plans, his hopes, his
ambitions--everything--everything that he knew and felt."

"Strange he never spoke to me of you," muttered Hagan.

"Not strange, for he was not given to talking freely to any one but me.
And now he is dead! But I am here to avenge him. I have learned that he
was buried alive in a cave, and the thought of his frightful sufferings
before he died has torn my soul with anguish. They say the real cause of
his death was the gringo, Merriwell. I am the avenger of Porfias del
Norte, and I have sworn to make him suffer even as Porfias suffered,
and then to destroy him at last. It is an oath I shall keep."

"My, but you Mexicans are fierce at revenge and that sort of a thing!"
said Hagan, with a look on his face that was almost laughable. "Here's
Felipe--I've been cautioning the boy and holding him in check to keep
him from slicing up Merriwell."

Lazaro turned to Felipe.

"What great wrong has Merriwell done you?" he questioned.

Then Felipe hurriedly told how Frank was working a rich mine on land
that had been granted to Sebastian Jalisco by the first president of
Mexico, General Victoria, and how the American had declared the grant a
forgery and had refused to pay a dollar of tribute to Felipe.

"Dear boy," said Lazaro, with an air of gentleness, "I do not blame you
if you can compel the gringo to give you anything; but Porfias had the
only real title to that property that was worthy of consideration. Had
he lived, he would have wrested everything from Merriwell. Now that he
is dead, I shall take his place and do the work as he would have done
it."

"Of course, you think Señor del Norte's claim the only rightful one,"
said Felipe; "but the grant to Guerrero del Norte was made eight years
after that of President Victoria to Sebastian Jalisco. Besides, señor,
President Pedraza's grant was revoked by President Santa Anna, and
therefore is now wholly worthless."

"There is no need to discuss it," said Lazaro, "You have my sympathy;
but I must urge you, for your own sake and for mine, to attempt no harm
to Merriwell. Leave him to me, and you shall have the pleasure of seeing
all his plans go wrong, his fortune dwindle, his friends drop away, his
sweetheart taken from him, his strength sapped, his beauty destroyed,
and, at last, his life crushed out of his broken body."

"It's a big job ye've contracted," said Bantry Hagan. "I'm afraid, me
man, you don't realize what you're up against."

"You think I cannot accomplish it?"

"I have me doubts, and big ones they are."

"Time will convince you. I learned of the existence of Felipe Jalisco,
learned he was in this city, wished to see him, but knew not where to
find him. I found you, and I said you should lead me to the boy. You did
so."

"You don't mean to tell me ye followed me here?"

"I followed you, even though you fooled the officer who was watching
you. I followed you, even though you stopped at corners and watched all
who passed, seeking to make sure you were not followed. I saw you stand
in the doorway and gaze back along the street; but you did not observe
me. Thus you led me to Felipe Jalisco. To-night I strike my first blow
at Frank Merriwell."

"How?"

"In my own way. First I will ruin his scheme to build a railroad in
Sonora. For that purpose the first blow shall be made this night."

"You're like Porfias del Norte turned into his own father!" declared
Hagan. "When you talk you are him to the life, only that you are an old
man with a furrowed face and snow-white hair. He was in the very flush
of vigorous youth."

A sigh escaped Lazaro's lips, and that sigh was precisely like many a
one Hagan had heard Del Norte heave.

"Ah, yes," said the man, with pathetic sadness; "I have looked in a
mirror, and I know I am an old, old man. But Frank Merriwell shall not
find me too old to wreak vengeance upon him!"



CHAPTER XXI.

THE FIRST STROKE.


The main dining room of the Waldorf-Astoria was well filled, almost
every table being taken. The place was brilliantly lighted, the guests
fashionably dressed, and the scene one to impress the unaccustomed
visitor. The hidden orchestra was discoursing music to suit the taste of
the most critical.

Seated at a table on the Fifth Avenue side were two men who attracted
more or less attention. Old Gripper Scott was known by sight to many of
those present, and, being one of the great American money kings,
naturally received more than cursory notice.

But it seemed that the remarkable-appearing white-haired man, who sat
opposite Old Gripper, was surveyed with even more interest than that
accorded the great financier. His deeply furrowed face, his snowy hair,
and his black, piercing eyes gave him a remarkable look that was certain
to attract the second glance of any one who chanced to observe him.

"Who is he?" was the question asked by scores of diners.

"He's a fabulously wealthy Mexican who has come on to take a hand in
some of Old Gripper's deals," explained one man, who seemed to know
something about it.

Watson Scott found Alvarez Lazaro the soul of polished politeness. The
musical talk of the Mexican was very entertaining, yet strangely
soothing.

"After we have our coffee," said Lazaro, "I will convince you beyond
doubt, señor, that my pledge to take one thousand shares of Central
Sonora at par may be considered by you the same as the actual deposit of
the money for the stock. I never like to talk business while dining. I
know you Americans have your downtown luncheon clubs, where you go to
discuss business affairs while you eat; but I do not think I could ever
bring myself to adopt the habit."

"It has been found necessary in order to save time," said Scott. "With
the New Yorker of affairs time is money."

"I understand that, señor; but still my prejudice against it persists.
It will not take me long after dinner. You can spare a little more time.
I shall regret to part from you even then."

"Are all your countrymen so free with complimentary speeches?"

"Unlike you men of the North," retorted Lazaro, "we do not hide our
feelings, but speak them freely. Perhaps it is a failing, for I find
that Americans often become suspicious when praised or complimented; but
still, what my heart feels my tongue persists in revealing before I can
check it."

"All right," nodded Scott, with something like a touch of gruffness;
"but don't lay it on too thick."

"One question perhaps I may ask while we are waiting for the dessert,
even if it seems too much of business."

"Fire away."

"I would like to know that this scheme is assured."

"The construction of the railroad?"

"Yes, señor."

"Of course it----"

"If anything serious were to happen to important members of your
company--to you, Señor Scott, we will say?"

"Why, I suppose the others would push her through."

"But if something happened to Señor Hatch and Señor Bragg?"

"Well, now you're supposing a wholesale calamity! I don't know what
would happen if we were all knocked out before construction
began--before the stock was placed on the market."

"It might put an end to the project?"

"It might," admitted Old Gripper.

"That would be most unfortunate for Señor Merriwell," said the Mexican,
as if he almost feared something of the sort was going to take place.

Coffee was finally brought.

"Señor," said Lazaro, "I know it is impolite to turn to look behind
one, but sitting at the third table back of you is a tall, thin man with
a prominent nose, and I am certain I have met him somewhere, but I
cannot recall his name. If you could get a look at him without too much
trouble----"

Watson Scott was not given to great stiffness anywhere. He drew his feet
from beneath the table, placed them at one side of his chair and half
turned on the seat, looking round at the man indicated by Lazaro.

As Old Gripper did this the Mexican leaned far over the table and
reached out his hand as if to touch his companion on the elbow. Instead
of doing this, he seemed to change his mind; but his hand swept over the
small cup of black coffee that stood in front of the other man, and
something fell into that cup.

"That is Henry Babcock, of the Cuban Plantation Supply Company,"
explained Scott, turning back.

"Then I was mistaken," said the Mexican. "I have never met the
gentleman."

They sipped their coffee, Lazaro continuing talking.

Scott emptied his cup.

"I've had a hard day, but that will keep me awake for the next four
hours," he remarked. "I'm going to the theatre with a party of friends
to-night, and I don't want to nod over the old play."

After a brief time a vexed look came to his rugged face, and he swept
his hand across his eyes.

"Is anything wrong, señor?" questioned Lazaro.

"I'm afraid my eyes are going back on me. They're blurry now. I swear I
hate to take up wearing spectacles!"

Directly he leaned his head on his hand, with his elbow on the table.

"I fear you are not feeling well, Señor Scott," said the man of the
snowy hair and coal-black eyes.

"I'm not," confessed Old Gripper thickly. "Can't understand it. Never
felt this way before. I'm afraid I'm going to be ill. Let's get out of
here."

Already Lazaro had paid the check and tipped the waiter. They arose and
started to leave the dining room. With his second step Watson Scott
staggered.

In a moment his companion had him by the arm, expressing in a low tone
the greatest regret and anxiety.

"I want air!" muttered Scott. "I--I'm going home. Please get my topcoat
and hat for me. My check is somewhere in my pocket. Get a hansom, for
that will give me a chance to breathe."

Lazaro felt in Scott's pocket and found the check, for which he obtained
the man's overcoat and hat. He expressed his sorrow that this thing
should happen, and, with the aid of an attendant, assisted the tottering
man outside and lifted him into a hansom. Scott's wits seemed wholly
muddled, for he could not give his home address; but this was not
necessary, for the driver happened to know it.

The hansom turned away, and Alvarez Lazaro wheeled to reënter the hotel.

He found himself face to face with Frank Merriwell.

Lazaro halted.

Frank had stopped in his tracks, his eyes fastened on the man.

A moment they stood thus, and then the Mexican bowed, saying with cold
politeness:

"Your pardon, señor. You are in my way."

That voice gave Merry a greater thrill than had the sight of the man's
face. It was like one speaking from the grave, for the low, gentle voice
had all the soft music of one Frank believed forever stilled by death.

And those eyes--they were the same. But that snow-white hair and the
deeply furrowed face--how different!

Yet about the man's face there was something that strongly reminded the
youth of Porfias del Norte.

"I beg your pardon," said Merry, in turn. "But the sight of you gave me
a start. For a moment I fancied I knew you--that we had met before."

"But now you realize your mistake, señor; now you know we have never met
until this moment."

"It is not likely that we have; but still you remind me powerfully of a
man by the name of Porfias del Norte."

"I knew him."

"You knew him?"

"I did, señor. He was my bosom friend. Who are you that knew my friend?"

"My name is Merriwell."

Alvarez Lazaro seemed to straighten and become rigid, while into his
dark eyes crept an expression of hatred which he no longer tried to
hide.

"At last, Señor Merriwell," he said, the music having left his voice;
"at last we meet! On the morrow I should have sought you."

"For what purpose?"

"To let you know that I have come."

"How could that interest me?"

"You will be interested before you see the last of me."

Frank recognized the threat in the voice of the man.

"What are you driving at? I don't understand you."

"Possibly not. I have said that Porfias del Norte was my bosom friend."

"Yes."

"He is dead."

"Yes."

"It was through you that he came to his death."

"He brought it on himself, and richly he merited it!" declared
Merriwell hotly. "If ever a wretch got just what was coming to him it
was Del Norte!"

The eyes of Lazaro were gleaming with a smoldering fire.

"Why did he deserve it? Was it because he found you usurping his
privileges, enriching yourself from his property, while you refused to
acknowledge his rights?"

"He had no legal rights. He was a villain, every inch of him. He proved
it by his dastardly conduct. Yes, he richly merited all that came to
him."

"Have you thought what a terrible death he died? Have you thought of him
entombed alive, beating with his bare hands the stone walls within which
he knew he must die, suffering the most frightful tortures that a human
being may know? Have you thought of him smothering for want of air, his
throat parched, his head bursting, his mind deranged? Have you thought
of him praying to the saints, shrieking, moaning, sobbing, and dying at
last in that horrible darkness? And yet you say he received no more than
he merited!"

"Poor devil!" muttered Merry. "It was a fearful thing. Even though he
once tried to cut my tongue out, even though he meant to torture me and
then kill me, I would not have had him endure such suffering."

"You are so kind--so tender of heart!" sneered Lazaro. "Paugh!"

He made a gesture of anger that was precisely the same as Del Norte
might have done. Strange there was something about this old man that so
powerfully resembled the youthful Del Norte!

"You have his manner, his voice, his eyes! You might be his father."

"I am simply his friend, Alvarez Lazaro--his friend and his avenger!"

"Then you----"

"I have sworn to avenge him!"

The Mexican leaned toward Frank, swiftly hissing:

"I have sworn to ruin you, to wreck your ambitions and your life, to
make you suffer even as Porfias suffered in his last moments! Now you
understand me! Now you know what to expect from me!"

"You're insane! I see madness in your eyes! Be careful that you do not
bring on yourself the fate that befell Del Norte."

"No danger of that. I know how to accomplish what I have set myself to
do. All your great plans shall go amiss. When you see things going
wrong, when you find your fortune melting away, when the very earth
seems crumbling beneath your feet, think of me and know my hand is
behind it all. This night I have struck the first blow!"

Then Lazaro stepped swiftly to one side, passed Merry, and entered the
splendid hotel.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE SECOND STROKE.


Frank Merriwell and Inza Burrage were driving in Central Park the
following forenoon. At this early hour there was not the great number of
turnouts in the park that would be seen later when languid society came
out for its airing.

"Inza," said Frank, "I no longer feel it absolutely necessary to make
all haste back to Mexico. I shall take my time about it. The reports
from the mine are favorable, and everything is progressing well. Hodge
and Browning will return to the city to-morrow. They both expect that
I'll be ready to start straight for Mexico. They'll be surprised to find
I have it fixed so there is no need of haste."

"The railroad project----"

"Is settled."

"The railroad will be built without your taking an active part in its
actual construction?"

"Yes; the newly organized company will look after that. Leave it to
Watson Scott. I saw an item in a morning paper saying that Mr. Scott was
suddenly taken ill at the Waldorf last night; but that he was resting
comfortably this morning, and his physician did not apprehend any
serious result. If anything serious did happen to Old Gripper, it might
retard the railroad project for a time."

"Now that Del Norte is gone, it seems that you should not have any great
trouble, Frank?"

Immediately Merry thought of the man with the snowy hair whom he had
encountered in front of the Waldorf; but he decided to say nothing to
Inza of that meeting. He did not wish to alarm her.

"Yes," he laughed; "I feel like celebrating, and I have a little
scheme."

"What is it?"

"Why can't we make up a party to visit Niagara and St. Louis."

"Oh, splendid!" cried Inza eagerly.

"Then you like the idea, sweetheart?"

"I think it grand!"

"And Elsie----"

"I'm sure she'll be in for it. Although she has not said much, I know
she dislikes to have Bart go away."

"Then we'll carry out my plan. You may accompany us as far as St.
Louis--perhaps farther."

Inza bubbled with pleasure over this plan, beginning at once to talk of
the fine times they would have.

A closed carriage was passing them, going somewhat faster, in the same
direction.

Happening to glance toward the window of this carriage, Inza suddenly
uttered a low cry and grasped Merry's coat sleeve.

"Look look!" she exclaimed.

"What is it?"

"That man!"

"Where?"

"In that carriage. He was looking from the window, but he has leaned
back now. I looked straight into his eyes, and it gave me a fearful
shock, for they seemed to be the eyes of Porfias del Norte!"

"How did the man look?"

"He had a strange face that was deeply lined, and his hair was very
white."

"Alvarez Lazaro!" thought Merry. "The self-styled avenger is seeking his
opportunity."

Having driven in the park for some time, they finally halted at a little
restaurant, a man appearing to take charge of their horses.

Near at hand a man was stretched on the ground beneath an automobile,
engaged in tinkering at it.

Merry was about to enter the building with Inza when another man
appeared, approached the one who was working at the automobile, and
impatiently questioned him in regard to the progress he was making.

"There is Mr. Hatch," said Frank. "I'll speak to him. I'll join you
inside in a few moments, Inza."

He turned back and approached Warren Hatch, who was standing and
frowningly watching the efforts of the one who was tinkering at the
automobile.

"Good morning, Mr. Hatch," said Merry.

The face of Hatch cleared a little, and he shook hands with Frank.

"Glad to see you, Merriwell. Did you just drive up? Should have been
away from here thirty minutes ago, but something happened to this old
machine, and Casimer is having a dickens of a time fixing it. I've been
to see Scott."

"How is he?"

"A sick man--a mighty sick man."

"What is the matter?"

"That's the queer thing about it. Doctor hasn't told. Don't believe he
knows."

"It is rather queer."

"First the doctor fancied it might be something like paralysis or
apoplexy; but it's not. You know Scott was taken while dining at the
Waldorf with a man who claims to be interested in the Central Sonora
project and expresses a desire to take on one thousand shares of the
stock."

"I didn't know about that."

"Yes. I talked with Scott. He's weak and almost helpless. Can barely
wiggle a finger, but he can talk, and his mind is not affected."

"Why, the paper said he was very comfortable this morning."

"He may be; but I'd rather see him more frisky."

"You do not apprehend a serious termination?"

"I hope not. Scott has a constitution like iron, and he won't die
easily. Still, I shall be worried if he shows no signs of improvement
to-day. Do you know, he told me that the man he dined with last night
was a Mexican. I haven't much use for them. Found one here talking to
Casimer a short time ago--a fellow with the whitest hair I've ever
seen."

Frank started.

"I believe I've seen that man," he said. "He passed us in the park."

"He was parley vooing with Casimer and bothering him," said Hatch. "I
politely informed him that I was in a hurry, and asked him not to bother
my chauffeur. Say, he turned and looked at me with a pair of black eyes
that seemed as dangerous as loaded pistols. 'I beg your pardon, señor,'
he purred. 'If I have bothered your chauffeur or delayed you in the
least, I am very sorry. I trust you may get started soon and meet with
no more serious accident to-day than this little breakdown.' I swear
there was something in his manner so offensive that I felt like hitting
him, and yet he was the very soul of politeness."

Frank nodded, and Hatch noted a singular expression on the face of the
youth.

"What are you thinking of?" he inquired. "Something is running through
your head."

"It is. Did you ask Mr. Scott the name of the man with whom he dined
last evening."

"Yes."

"It was----"

"Alvarez Lazaro."

"I thought it!"

"Why, how did you know any----"

"The white-haired man you met here is Alvarez Lazaro."

"No?"

"And this Lazaro has boldly informed me that he was once the bosom
friend of Porfias del Norte and is now his avenger."

"What's that?" gasped Hatch. "Why, what does he propose to do?"

"He has threatened all sorts of things. Look out for him, Mr. Hatch. So
he dined with Mr. Scott, did he? And Mr. Scott was taken ill at the
Waldorf! Mr. Hatch, when I leave here I shall call on Mr. Scott's
physician and have a talk with him. My suspicions are thoroughly
aroused."

"You don't suspect foul play, do you?"

"As I have said, my suspicions are thoroughly aroused. This whole affair
is queer."

At this moment the chauffeur uttered an exclamation of satisfaction,
backed from beneath the machine, wrench in hand, and announced that the
breakdown was remedied at last.

Frank remained until the machine was ready to start and Warren Hatch had
stepped into it. Mr. Hatch waved his hand and was soon lost to view down
the splendid park road.

Just as Merry was on the verge of entering the restaurant, Inza, pale
and agitated, came hurrying to him.

"That man is here!" she said, her voice shaking. "I don't know why he
frightens me so. I was seated inside, glancing at a magazine, when I
happened to look up, and there he stood not more than five feet away. I
had not heard a sound, but he was there, and those eyes were fastened on
me in a manner that made my blood turn cold. I gave a cry and sprang up.
Then he spoke, and, if possible, his voice terrified me even more than
his eyes, for it was the voice of your bitterest enemy, Porfias del
Norte. Of course, I know Del Norte is dead, Frank; but this man alarms
me all the more because of that."

"What did he say to you?"

"He begged my pardon and said he had not meant to alarm me. He was very
courteous, just the same as Del Norte. Can he be a relative of your
enemy?"

"I don't think so, Inza. Where is he now?"

"He left at once by the door on the opposite side."

"I'd like to see him a moment," said Merriwell grimly.

"Keep away from him, Frank!" implored Inza, grasping his arm. "I don't
understand it, but I have a feeling that he will bring some trouble to
us."

It was not an easy matter to fully reassure her, but Merry laughed at
her and declared she was getting superstitious and whimsical.

At the first opportunity he went in search of Lazaro, but was just in
time to see the closed carriage he believed occupied by the Mexican
disappearing in the direction of Fifth Avenue.

Central Park is crossed by four sunken transverse roads, running east
and west. These roads are mostly used by heavy trucks and wagons
carrying merchandise. The park roads cross above them on massive
foundations of arched masonry. Almost everywhere the pleasure roads of
the park are guarded on either side by protecting walls at such places
as might be productive of accident by permitting a frightened horse to
plunge over into one of the sunken roads.

On the return drive Frank and Inza came upon a gathering of curious
persons at the end of one of these walls. They were gazing down toward
the road below.

On reaching the spot, Frank saw a wrecked automobile lying down there.
Evidently the machine had veered from the road, shot past the end of the
wall, plunged down the bank, and leaped off into the road, in its final
plunge turning completely over.

Something caused Merry to pull up and inquire if any one had been hurt.

"Yes, sir," answered one of the bystanders. "An officer told me that the
owner of the machine was badly--perhaps fatally--injured. The chauffeur
jumped right here as the machine left the road, and he escaped with a
few slight bruises."

"Seems to me that was strange behavior for the chauffeur. As a rule,
drivers stick to their machines to the last. Who was the owner?"

"Why, it was Mr. Warren Hatch, the----"

"Mr. Hatch?" gasped Frank.

"Do you know him, sir?"

"Yes. Where have they taken him?"

"To some hospital. The officer yonder will tell you, I think."

       *       *       *       *       *

On arriving at his hotel, Frank found a letter addressed to him. He tore
it open and read as follows:

     "The first and second blows have been struck!

                                    "THE AVENGER."



CHAPTER XXIII.

OLD SPOONER.


Felipe Jalisco always leaped to his feet like a cat when a knock sounded
on his door. He could tell in a twinkling if it was Hagan who knocked.
This time he knew it was not. The rap had been faltering and feeble.

Jalisco's hand sought the knife he always carried.

"Who is it?" he demanded.

The reply to this question was a repetition of the hesitating knocking.

"Who are you? and what do you want?" sharply cried the Mexican lad.

"I am very sorry to disturb you," said a cracked, unsteady voice. "I
have the next room. You can do me a favor."

Now Felipe was lonesome. Staying hidden in that squalid room had made
him wretched and homesick. He longed to talk to some one, and he
cautiously opened the door.

Outside stood a man bent as if with age, leaning heavily on a crooked
cane. He was the picture of poverty. His threadbare clothes had been
mended in many places. His dirty, gray hair was long and uncombed. The
soles of his shoes were almost wholly worn away, and the uppers were
broken in two or three places. He brushed his hair back from his eyes
with a trembling hand that seemed unfamiliar with soap and water.

"I hope I have not disturbed you," he said meekly. "I have torn the
sleeve of my coat on a nail. I would like to borrow a needle and thread
to mend it. I must keep myself looking as well as I possibly can, for my
lawyer may call any moment to inform me that I have won my suit and am a
very wealthy man."

"I am sorry, señor," said Felipe; "but it is not my fortune to possess a
needle and thread."

The old man lifted one trembling, curved hand to the back of his ear,
which he turned toward the speaker.

"I didn't quite get your answer," he said. "I am a trifle deaf--only a
trifle."

Felipe raised his voice.

"I have not a needle and thread. I would willingly assist you if I had.
I am sorry."

"I am sorry, too," sighed the old man, looking regretfully at the rent
in his sleeve. "I should be greatly mortified if my lawyer came and
found me in this condition."

The boy felt that this wretched old man would be better company than
none at all.

"Won't you come in and sit down?" he asked.

"Eh?"

"I would be pleased to have you come in, señor."

"Oh, I don't know. I'm not dressed for calling. But then, as we room
near each other, I presume you'll see me often in my working clothes."

He entered the room and lowered himself upon the chair that Felipe
placed. The boy sat on the bed.

"Did I understand you to say, señor, that you have the next room?"

"Eh? A little louder, please."

Jalisco repeated the question.

"Yes, yes," answered the old man. "I have just taken it. Had to pay a
week in advance, and it happens that it took all my money, therefore I'm
unable to purchase a needle and thread. But," he quickly added, "in a
very few days, when the law gives me my rights, I shall have money
enough to purchase all the needles and all the thread in this city
without realizing that I have spent anything at all."

"Then you expect to come into an inheritance, señor?" questioned the boy
loudly.

"Not just that," was the answer. "I shall obtain my rights. I shall be
given a just reward for the invention that was stolen from me and has
made other men rich."

Between the old man and the boy there seemed to be a bond of sympathy
which the latter felt.

"So you, too, have been robbed?" he cried.

"Basely robbed!" declared the visitor nodding his trembling head. "My
name is Roscoe Spooner. I invented what is known as the Guilford Air
Brake. The product of my brain was stolen from me by Henry Guilford, who
has made so much money from it that he is now a very rich man. But
everything he possesses, his splendid home, his carriages, horses, and
his yacht, are rightfully mine. He has enjoyed his stolen wealth a long
time, but it will not be his much longer. My suit against him must be
decided in my favor, and then I shall come into my own."

Felipe was interested.

"How long ago did you perfect this invention?"

"How long? It seems almost a hundred years; but it really was not
fifteen."

"How was it stolen by this Guilford, señor?"

"I trusted him. He told me he would furnish the capital and would place
my invention on the market. I believed him an honest man. I permitted
him to have my model. He patented it, calling it the Guilford Air Brake.
When I demanded my just share of the profits, he laughed in my face and
called me a crazy old fool. He even had me arrested for annoying him.
And my invention has filled his pockets with hundreds of thousands of
dollars."

"That was in truth a most dishonest thing, old gentleman. What then did
you do?"

"I found a lawyer to take the case and brought suit against him."

"I would have killed him!"

"I have thought of that. Once I did borrow a pistol and go in search of
him; but when we met I could not bear to think of the terrible thing I
had contemplated, and he never knew how near to death he was."

"It is not my way. At least, had you tried, you might have frightened
him into giving you something."

"Had I tried that, it would have cost me my liberty. I am sure he would
have lodged me in prison."

"Perhaps so," muttered Felipe. "You're a simple old fool, and you
wouldn't know how to work it."

"What did you say?" asked the old man, who had seen the boy's lips move,
but apparently had not understood his words.

"This Guilford must be a very wicked man. Your suit against him was
useless?"

"The verdict favored him, but I appealed. In the end I shall win. My
lawyer has told me so. He may appear to-day, or to-morrow, or the next
day, and inform me that I have won. I am looking for him any time."

"And he'll never come," muttered the boy.

"I shall not stay here long," asserted the old inventor. "My room is
very poor, but when I think that it is only for a short time that I must
occupy it, then I am contented. I had a room in another place, where it
cost a great deal more: but I decided to move and economize while
waiting for my rights."

Felipe wondered how the old man existed, deciding at once that he must
pick up a meagre living by begging.

"I, too, am waiting here until I come into my rights," said the boy.
"Like you, I have been robbed. Unlike you, I'll not wait so long. Either
I'll have what is mine, or I'll kill the man who has robbed me."

"'Thou shalt not kill.' To have the stain of blood on one's hands must
be terrible."

"The Jaliscos belong to a family that kills."

At this juncture there came another knock at the door, but this time
Felipe knew who it was.

He had the door open in a moment, and Bantry Hagan walked in.

"Oh, it's company you have, me boy!" exclaimed the Irishman, looking
wonderingly at old Spooner.

"A gentleman who has the next room. He dropped in to borrow a needle and
thread."

"It's careful you'd better be, Felipe."

"Never fear; it is all right."

The old man dragged himself up from the chair.

"I'll go back to my room," he said. "I hope I have not taken up too much
of your time."

"Not at all, señor. I shall be pleased to have you come again."

When old Spooner was gone and the door closed, Hagan observed:

"What cemetery did you dig him from, Felipe? Who is he, me boy?"

"A deranged old man, who thinks he has invented something and that it
was stolen from him. He expects to recover his rights and become very
rich. He has the next room."

"Then it's careful we'd better talk, for he may hear."

"No danger, Señor Hagan, for he is extremely deaf. I am glad you came,
for I was tired shouting to make him understand me. What is the good
news you bring?"

"Things are moving, Felipe. By my soul, I believe this vengeful being is
really keeping his oath to make it warm for Frank Merriwell. When I was
here last night I told you that old Gripper Scott had been taken ill and
that Warren Hatch was in the hospital from a smash-up that had broken
several of his ribs."

"_Si, señor._"

"Felipe, my eyes have been opened since last night. Alvarez Lazaro dined
with Watson Scott the night the latter was taken ill. He talked
confidentially with the chauffeur of Warren Hatch a short time before
Hatch was smashed up in his automobile."

"You think, Señor Hagan, you think--what?"

"Whist! Don't be after breathing that I told you; but it's a fancy I
have that Señor Lazaro could tell us the cause of the mysterious illness
of Watson Scott, and could explain just why the automobile of Warren
Hatch plunged down an embankment and smashed him up, while his chauffeur
leaped and escaped. Lazaro is striking first at the railroad builders."

"And I am cooped here!" cried the boy. "I'll stay no longer! Why should
I? I'm going out! I'm going to have a part in this!"

"And it's pinched you'll be in a minute."

"The police----"

"Are looking for ye now, just the same. Besides that, this Merriwell is
doing his best to get track of ye. I didn't wish to worry you, so I
didn't tell how he tried to follow me last night when I came here."

"Did he? Did he?"

"Sure he did. I don't know just where he ran across me, but first I knew
he was tracking me through the streets."

"You came just the same."

"When I had neatly given him the slip. Oh, I fooled him, Felipe. I left
him to wonder where I had gone."

"Lazaro followed you here."

"Because I did not get my eye on Lazaro, as I did on Frank Merriwell.
Don't worry, boy; he'll never find ye through me."

"If he came here, he'd not get away alive!" hissed Felipe.

"Make no mistake about him, me lad; he can fight with the best of them.
Some friends of his have arrived in town, and I think they're taking up
the most of his attention now. It's planning some sort of a trip they
are."

"I can't stay here in this place much longer, Señor Hagan. I shall go
mad!"

"Wait a little. I met Lazaro this morning on Broadway. Says he, 'If you
see Felipe to-day, tell him I will come and cheer his heart with good
news this night.' I'll drop round myself, so it's not lonesome you'll
be."

"Well, I will wait a little longer," said Felipe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Had it been possible for Hagan and Felipe to look into the next room
just then they would have been greatly surprised by the singular conduct
of old Spooner.

Between the two rooms there was a door, one panel of which was cracked.
No longer bent and shaking, the man in the adjoining room was standing
with one ear pressed close to the split panel. In spite of the fact that
he had seemed quite deaf while talking with the Mexican lad, his
appearance just now was that of one listening intently.

Shortly after Hagan left, Felipe heard the door of old Spooner's room
open and close, following which there was a faltering, shuffling step on
the stairs and the thump, thump, thump of a cane, growing fainter until
it could be heard no longer.

"The old man has gone out to beg," thought Jalisco.

After leaving the house, old Spooner faltered along the street, turned
several corners, and finally arrived at another house, which he entered.

Ascending one flight of stairs, he unlocked a door and disappeared into
a hall room, closing and locking the door behind him.

Fully thirty minutes passed before that door was unlocked and opened
again.

Out of that room stepped a tall, straight, clear-eyed, manly looking
youth, who bore not the remotest resemblance to the tottering old man
who had entered.

This youth ran down the stairs, left the house, and turned westward,
swinging away with long strides.

"Merriwell," he muttered, as he walked, "I almost believe you could have
been a successful detective had you chosen that profession."

Some time later he arrived at a Broadway hotel and found assembled in a
suite of rooms several persons, who greeted his appearance with
exclamations of great satisfaction.

"We were getting worried about you, Frank," declared Inza, hurrying to
meet him and giving him both her hands. "We had almost decided that
something serious had happened to you."

"Didn't know but this new freak with the snowy hair had gobbled you up,"
said Bart Hodge.

"Told you he was all right," grunted Bruce Browning, who was lounging on
the most comfortable chair in the place.

"You were so weary you didn't want to bother about going to make
inquiries for him," said Elsie Bellwood. "Mrs. Medford was on the point
of applying to the police."

"According to all the stories I hear," put in Mrs. Medford, "I believe
it best for you to get out of this wicked city just as soon as possible,
Frank."

Frank laughed.

"If everything goes well," he declared, "we'll be ready to start by day
after to-morrow."

"Tell us just where you have been and what you have been doing," urged
Inza.

"I've been doing a little character work."

"Character work?"

"Yes. I can't get over my old penchant for acting."

But, although they were very curious, he evaded making a complete
explanation then.

A little later he found an opportunity to speak with Bart and Bruce
without being overheard by the girls or Mrs. Medford.

"Look here, you two," he said, "I'm going to need you to-night. Don't
make any plans about dinner or the theatre. Provide yourselves with
pistols, for you may have to use them. Be ready when I want you."

"This is rather interesting," said Hodge. "What's the game, Frank?"

"The game will be to capture a nice little bunch of human tigers."

"Human tigers!" grunted Browning. "That sounds like the real thing, old
man. Can't you put us wise a little more?"

"Not now. I'm going to call up my friend Bronson, the detective, and get
him into it, for I believe he will be needed. I hope that this night
I'll be able to effectually checkmate some very dangerous rascals."

Merry did not use the phone in the suite, but went down to the booths in
the hotel lobby. There he called up police headquarters and asked for
Bronson.

"He's just come in," was the answer. "Have him to the phone in a
moment."

Directly Bronson himself inquired what was wanted.

"This is Merriwell," explained Frank. "Is there anything that will
prevent you from giving me your services to-night?"

"Well, nothing that I know of, if the business is important; but I'll
have to know what's doing in order to make it right here."

"I don't like to explain over the phone," said Frank. "If you can wait,
I'll jump into a cab and come right down to tell you all about it."

"I'll wait," was the assurance.

Merry lost no time in taking a cab for police headquarters, where he
found the plain-clothes man waiting for him.

"Bronson," said Merriwell, "I've found Felipe Jalisco."

"Have you? Well, it will give me some satisfaction to again get my hands
on that slippery chap."

"But I believe I have found something far more important. You know I
told you that I was convinced of foul play in the Watson Scott affair,
and also in the seeming accident that happened to Warren Hatch."

"Which seems entirely improbable to me."

"I think I'll be able to convince you to-night that I was not mistaken
in either case. Further than that, I hope to place within your grasp the
wretch who drugged Scott and bribed Hatch's chauffeur to bring about
that accident."

"If you can do that, and if we succeed in securing the villain, it will
be a corking piece of work. I think it will prove the sensation of the
hour."

"Listen," said Frank, "and I will tell you my plan."



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE FLAMES DO THEIR WORK.


Early that evening old Spooner returned, accompanied by an even more
disreputable-looking old man than himself.

Felipe heard them slowly and laboriously fumbling their way up the dark
stairs, recognized the sound of Spooner's cane, and flung open the door
of his room that the light of his oil lamp might aid them.

"Bless you, boy!" panted old Spooner. "These stairs are
dark--heathenishly dark."

"I see to-night you have with you a friend, señor,"' observed the
Mexican boy.

"Yes, poor fellow. I have seen him much on the streets. He stays with me
frequently. He is deaf and dumb."

"Two beggar cronies," muttered Felipe, in Spanish, as he closed the door
after they had vanished shufflingly into old Spooner's room. "Now I know
quite well how the old man lives, but it is a poor living he gets."

Once or twice Felipe fancied he detected faint, suspicious sounds in the
hall; but when he listened at the door he heard nothing more.

He did not see a number of shadowy figures which came up those unsteady
stairs in a marvelously silent manner and vanished into the room
occupied by old Spooner.

It was quite late when the listening boy fancied he heard a familiar
step on the stairs. In a twinkling he was close to the door. Two persons
were coming.

Then sounded a sharp, familiar knock, upon which Felipe flung open the
door, crying:

"Welcome, señors! I had begun to fear you would not come to see me this
night."

"Oh, we're here, me boy," chuckled Hagan, as he entered, with Alvarez
Lazaro at his heels. "It's suspicious our friend Lazaro became on
account of a queer thing. He's been shadowed by the police since
yesterday. Now you can't guess why he grew suspicious?"

"I cannot," confessed Jalisco, closing and locking the door.

"The coppers stopped watching him," laughed the Irishman. "Although he
tried to discover some one chasing him about, not a soul took the
trouble. When I met him all ready to come here, he told me the action of
the police worried him and made him suspicious."

"Had they continued to watch me," said Lazaro, "I could have given them
the slip and laughed; but when I could discover no one watching, I knew
not what to do."

"It's all right," nodded Hagan, as he took a seat on the bed. "Devil a
soul followed us here."

Lazaro did not sit down, although the boy offered the only chair and
urged him to take it.

"No," he said; "I choose to stand. I shall not remain long, but I came
to give you news that will cheer your heart. Señor Hagan says he has
told you of the sudden illness of Señor Watson Scott and of the accident
which happened to Señor Warren Hatch. Thus you see, Felipe, already two
of the great men who were going to build Frank Merriwell's railroad in
Sonora are flat on their backs, and why both of them are not dead is
more than I can understand. Señor Scott must have a constitution like
iron, for he drank all the coffee in which I dropped a powder that
should have ended his life."

"Then it was you who did it?" cried Felipe.

"Yes; I have begun the work of ruining Merriwell's plans, bringing him
to poverty and wretchedness and destroying him at last. Did I tell you
once that I was the bosom friend of Porfias del Norte? I am Del Norte
himself!

"Del Norte, a youth, died in that cave; but Del Norte, the old man you
see before you, rose from it. I am Del Norte, the old man; but to the
world I am Alvarez Lazaro, the avenger of Del Norte. I have sworn to
destroy Merriwell and make him suffer even as I suffered. I am losing no
time. I began with the purpose of blocking Merriwell's railroad scheme.
Human life is nothing to me.

"I poisoned Watson Scott. I bribed the chauffeur of Warren Hatch to send
him crashing over the bank. Next I will strike Sudbury Bragg. My plan is
made. I am ready. The railroad shall not be built. Great accidents shall
happen in Merriwell's mine. An evil spell shall fall on it. Men will die
or flee from it in terror. All Merriwell attempts shall fail. In the end
I will mock him and bring him to a terrible death."

Barely had Lazaro spoken these boastful words when the door fell with a
crash, and Frank Merriwell himself, with his friends behind him, stood
in the doorway. He had cast aside the wig and a part of his disguise,
and the startled trio of rascals recognized him before he spoke.

"Lazaro," he cried, "your tongue has betrayed you, and your vile
plotting is done. Even if Scott and Hatch live, you'll get twenty years,
at the very least. The house is surrounded by police. There is no
escape! Surrender!"

With a furious oath, Del Norte rushed at Frank, drawing a knife. He
struck at Merry's heart, but his wrist was seized and the knife was
twisted from his grasp.

Hodge and Browning crowded into the small room. A struggle followed, in
the midst of which there was a crash and a flare of fire.

The oil lamp had been overturned. Burning oil was flung all over the
room, and the flames leaped up eagerly.

In the midst of this excitement Bantry Hagan managed to get out of the
room. He saw policemen coming up the stairs, and he ran along the hall,
intending to flee up another flight. In the hall he struck against
Merriwell, who had Lazaro pinned to the floor.

Frank was knocked aside and his hold on the villain broken.

At the same moment he heard a cry of distress from Browning.

"Great heavens! Hodge is afire! He'll be burned to death!"

Hodge, Frank's dearest friend, was in frightful peril. That cry caused
Merry to leave Lazaro, thinking there could be no escape for the man.
Browning had torn some of the bedding from the bed, and this he wrapped
about Bart, assisted by Frank. Thus the flames were quickly smothered
and Hodge was saved.

"That's a bad fire in this coop!" cried one of the police. "The old trap
will go."

"Get the people out!" shouted Frank. "Save the people, even though
Lazaro escapes!"

"He'll not get out without being nabbed," declared Sam Bronson.

The whole building was in an uproar now. Men were shouting, women
shrieking, and children crying. They came swarming down the stairs,
falling over one another, pushing, shoving, fighting to get out.

In the room where the fire started, which was now a sea of flames, Frank
saw a figure groping with outstretched arms, clothing all ablaze.

Merriwell rushed in there, dragged the fellow out, beat at the fire with
his bare hands, stripped off his coat, muffled some of the flames and
finally extinguished them, just as he was swept down the stairs in the
midst of a human river. In his powerful arms he carried the one he had
rescued at the peril of his own life.

Out into the open air Merry was thrust. He clung to the moaning chap he
had dragged from the flames.

"Send in an ambulance call!" he cried to a policeman. "This boy has been
badly burned."

The eyes of Felipe Jalisco stared at him in wonderment, for all of the
agony the lad was suffering.

"Why did you do it--you, my enemy?" he marveled. "Why didn't you leave
me there to die? Then I would be out of your way and could give you no
further trouble."

"That's not my way of doing business," said Merry, as he carried the
Mexican lad to a place of safety and sat holding him in his arms until
the ambulance came.

Fire engines shrieked and roared their mad way to the scene of the
conflagration. The firemen hastened with their work, but the building
was doomed.

When Jalisco had been removed in the ambulance, Merry sought for
Bronson, and finally found him.

"Did you get Lazaro?" he asked.

"Couldn't find the fellow," was the regretful answer. "In that mad
turmoil it was impossible to do a thing."

"I wonder what has become of him?" said Frank.

"There is your answer!" shouted Bruce Browning, clutching Merry's arm
with one hand and pointing with the other to one of the upper windows of
the doomed tenement.

A man appeared in that window. Behind him was a glare of fire, and the
red light showed the man distinctly. His hair was white as the driven
snow.

For a moment it seemed that the man contemplated leaping. Those below
shouted for him to wait, and the firemen hastened with a ladder. He was
seen to turn and shade his face from the heat with his lifted arm. Then
he disappeared from the window.

Barely had this occurred when some of the inner portions of the building
fell and the flames poured forth from a score of windows. Within thirty
seconds the whole place was a roaring furnace.

"That's the last of Alvarez Lazaro!" said Bart Hodge, who had escaped
serious injury and was watching in company with Browning and Merriwell.
"His murderous plotting is finished. He'll never trouble you again,
Frank."



CHAPTER XXV.

THE PATIENT AND THE VISITOR.


In a private ward of a New York City hospital lay Felipe Jalisco so
hidden with bandages that scarcely more than his eyes could be seen. The
patient's hands and wrists were likewise hidden by bandages.

The door of the room opened gently, and a white-gowned, white-capped,
soft-footed nurse stepped in.

"A visitor to see you," she said, in a low tone.

She was followed at once by Frank Merriwell, who stepped quickly to the
side of the cot, a look of deep sympathy and regret in his brown eyes as
he gazed down at the patient.

The dark eyes that looked back at him seemed filled with wonderment and
surprise.

Stooping over the cot, Merriwell spoke in his gentlest tones.

"How are you, my poor boy?" he said. "They would not let me see you
before, saying it was best that you should be quiet and unexcited."

From amid the bandages a soft voice answered:

"They tell me I shall get well, Señor Merriwell, but I shall be horribly
scarred during all the rest of the life which I may live. It is good to
live, but it is terrible to be hideous."

"I am sorry for you, Felipe," declared Merry, in a tone that told of the
utmost sincerity.

For a single moment it seemed that the boy on the cot doubted.

"Why should you for me be sorry?" he asked. "It was I who swore to kill
you."

"Because you thought yourself injured and your passionate nature longed
for revenge. To you it seemed that I refused to give you justice. You
thought me powerful, and arrogant, and selfish, and you were aroused
against me until your heart was filled with fire."

"It is true my heart within my bosom burned," admitted the boy. "Since
the fire from which you dragged me I have thought much. You knew I hated
you, you knew I claimed your mine, you knew I meant to make you trouble,
you knew I might kill you--yet you beat out the flames, smothered them,
lifted me, carried me from the burning building, saved my life. Why
didn't you leave me to die and get me out of your way? I do not
understand."

Merry sat down beside the cot.

"I will try to make you understand. I sought to look at the whole matter
from your standpoint, and I fancied I knew how you felt about it. To you
I was a villain and a wretch. Instead of hating you because you hated
me, I longed to justify myself in your eyes. I longed for the
opportunity to show you that I was not the scoundrel you thought me."

"To me it seemed you did not care. I thought at me you laughed and
sneered."

"You see now that you were wrong, Felipe. It was not you I scorned; it
was your companion and adviser, Bantry Hagan, a scheming rascal, every
inch of him. Hagan is a fighter, and he does not acknowledge defeat.
When the plot of Porfias del Norte failed and Del Norte was buried by
the landslide in the Adirondacks, it seemed to Hagan that he had been
defeated, and the taste was bitter to him. When chance led you across
his path, he saw an opportunity to renew the battle against me, and he
used you to do so. Behind you I saw Hagan all the while."

"But you--is it now true that you deny the justice of my claim, Señor
Merriwell. It was to defy Señor Hagan that you denied it? Ah! I
understand at last."

"I am afraid you do not quite understand," said Merry, shaking his head.
"You have in your possession a document that seems to prove your right
to a certain tract of land, granted to your great-grandfather by
President Victoria in eighteen twenty-four."

"_Si, señor._"

"It happens, Felipe, my boy, that I have made a close investigation and
study of the records in regard to that particular territory. I learned
by doing so that President Pedraza did make a grant of such land to
Guerrero del Norte in eighteen thirty-two; but that the grant was
afterward annulled when Guerrero was proclaimed a bandit by Santa Anna.
That disposed of the claim of Porfias del Norte, for had he lived he
could not have induced the Mexican government to reaffirm the old grant.
But, Felipe, there is no record that President Victoria ever made a
concession or grant of such territory to your great-grandfather."

"I have the proof! I have the document!"

"Unrecorded and worthless. Listen, my boy. Since you appeared and made
your claim I wired my agents in the City of Mexico, and they have been
investigating your right to any Sonora territory. To-day I received from
them a message which I have here. When you are better you shall read
it."

"It says what?" eagerly asked Felipe.

"It says that Sebastian Jalisco was at no time a colonel in the Mexican
army. That after his death certain parties did attempt to get possession
of valuable territory in Sonora by producing a forged land grant; but
that the rascals were soon forced to take to cover to save their lives,
after which nothing more was heard of 'Colonel' Jalisco's claim to
Sonora land."

Frank spoke slowly, in order that the boy might understand every word.

Felipe Jalisco lay quite still some moments, his breast heaving.

"If this, then, is the truth," he finally said, in a tone that was
scarcely audible, "it is I who am wholly in the wrong. The document is
worthless."

"It is worthless, Felipe, I give you my word of honor. I felt sure of it
after examining the document the first time. Had I believed it of the
slightest value, you would have received different treatment at my
hands."

Felipe moved his bandaged hands in a fumbling manner, and in his dark
eyes there was a peculiar look of mingled disappointment and
satisfaction.

"All the dreams I have had are done," he breathed. "Perhaps it is well.
I believe you. There is truth in your eyes. You saved me from death.
There is mercy in your heart. Even knew I my claim to be just, I could
not strike at one who had saved me from death. Perhaps for me it would
have been best to die!"

There was deepest pathos and despair in the final words.

"Oh, no, Felipe!" exclaimed Frank.

"For what shall I live now?"

"For your father and mother."

"I have neither."

"For your friends."

"I have none."

"Then let me be your friend," argued Merry. "I'll try to find something
that shall make life worth living for you."

"Enough trouble I have been to you already. You save my life! You send
me here! I am not in the free ward; I am where it costs. I ask who pay.
They tell me Señor Merriwell pay for everything. Then I think and think
a long time. First I think you do it because you know you have wronged
me much, and it is your conscience that compels you. Now I know it is
not that. Now I know it is your good heart. Still, I do not quite
understand. What more for me would you do? The debt I cannot now pay."

"Don't look at it in that light. I need a trusty fellow in Mexico--one
who speaks Spanish and the patois of the half-blood laborers. Maybe you
will help me. You might become invaluable to me. I will pay you----"

The Mexican lad quickly lifted one of his bandaged hands.

"Pay me!" he exclaimed. "How is it that by working all my life I can pay
you? For me do not speak of pay."

"All right," laughed Merry cheerfully. "We'll fix that after you get on
your feet again."

Felipe fumbled beneath the pillow, as if searching for something.

"It is here," he murmured.

"What do you want?"

"This."

He drew forth a creased, yellowed, tattered, time-eaten paper.

"It is the land grant to Sebastian Jalisco," he said. "Please for me
tear it up now. I have kept it here all the time. Please destroy it,
Señor Frank."

Frank took the paper.

Instead of doing as he was urged, after glancing at it, Merry carefully
refolded it and placed it in a leather pocketbook.

"I'll not destroy it, Felipe--at least, not now."

"Why not?"

"Some day you may change your mind."

"No, no!"

"Some day you may wish for it again."

"No, no!"

"You can't be sure, my boy. I will take care of this paper, and you may
have it on demand at any time. Were I in haste to destroy it, your
doubts might creep back upon you and give you regret and pain. I will
place it in a private vault with my own valuable papers, where it will
remain safe and undestroyed."

"It is trouble too much for a worthless old paper," said Felipe.

His estimation of its value had undergone a most profound change.

"No trouble at all," smiled Merry; "and it is worth preserving as a
curiosity, if nothing more. At any time you may have it. By preserving
it and holding it ready for you on demand I may save myself from
suspicion some future time when somebody shall try to convince you that
the document is really valuable."

Frank had settled that point.

"Now, Felipe, my lad," he smiled, "let me warn you to look out for that
man Hagan, through whom you came to this trouble. But for Hagan you
would not have resorted to certain measures to frighten me, I fancy. You
have found him a bad adviser. Had you succeeded in getting money out of
me, Hagan would have obtained the lion's share. That was his game."

"Señor Hagan escaped from the fire?" questioned the boy.

"Oh, yes, he got out all right."

"But not Señor Lazaro?"

"I think Señor Lazaro ended his career right there. After the engines
came, at a time when the building was wrapped in flames, he appeared at
an upper window. The smoke cleared for a moment, and the glare of the
fire showed him plainly. He seemed to look straight down at me with
hatred in his black eyes. Then he whirled and rushed back from the
window, as if seeking some means of escape. A few moments later the old
building collapsed and fell. His bones must be buried in the ruins."

"For you, Señor Frank, I am glad," declared the Mexican boy. "He did
hate you with terrible hatred, and he would have ruined you. The work of
it he had begun."

"Yes, the snake! I heard his boast that he was the reincarnated spirit
of Porfias del Norte, whom he would avenge. The man talked like a
maniac, for at the last moment he even asserted that he was Del Norte
himself."

"For you it is good he did not escape," said Felipe.

"Had he escaped from the fire, the detectives would have nabbed him. The
confession we overheard him make was enough to give him a good, long
time behind the bars, for he boasted that, in his plot to ruin my plans,
he poisoned Watson Scott and bribed Warren Hatch's automobile driver to
wreck the machine in hopes of killing Hatch. Sudbury Bragg would have
fallen next. That Scott stands a chance of recovering comes wholly
through his remarkable stamina and fine physical condition. That Hatch
was not killed is a marvel. Alvarez Lazaro was a human fiend, for, in
order to injure me, he was willing to murder innocent men--he even
attempted to murder two of them."

"Even I of him was afraid," confessed the Mexican boy. "It is not my way
to strike the innocent in order to reach the guilty."

"I believe you, Felipe. You did not even wish to strike me if you could
frighten me into giving you what you thought to be your just due. I
learned that the night you stole into the room where I slept at the home
of Warren Hatch and tried to shake my nerve by pressing your knife
against my throat."

"But nothing could frighten you," said Felipe. "You told me then I would
not kill. I am glad now that I did not. I shall never cease to be glad."

"Not even when Bantry Hagan again finds an opportunity to talk to you?
Hagan is slick, and he has a seductive tongue."

"Thanks for the compliment, me boy," said a voice at the door, and a
stout, florid man stepped heavily into the room.

"Señor Hagan!" cried Felipe.

"The same, me lad," was the cool answer. "I thought I'd come to see how
you were coming on, and this is the first time I could see ye. I find
you have a visitor already. It's slick he calls me, but I'll bet me life
he's been playing a slick game of his own with ye. Careful, me lad, or
he'll have that document in his fingers, and never again will you see it
at all."

"He has it now!" exclaimed the Mexican boy defiantly. "I gave it to
him."

"Then it's too late I came. A poor fool you are, Felipe!"

The patient became greatly excited and rose to a sitting position,
crying:

"Go you away! I want to see you no more! I will not listen to you!"

Hagan surveyed Merriwell.

"How you do it I can't say," he confessed; "but you have the trick of
making friends of any who may give you trouble. It's proud I am to say
you can't fool Bantry Hagan and turn his backbone to jelly. Del Norte is
dead, but Hagan is alive, and he'll keep you on the jump for a while."

Frank stepped past Hagan to the door. Looking out into the long
corridor, he called a young doctor who happened to be passing.

"Doctor," he said, "a serious mistake has happened here. Take a look at
this man who has forced his way in here. He is no friend of the patient,
and you can see for yourself that the patient is greatly excited and
wrought up by his intrusion. For the sake of the patient, will you see
that this man leaves at once, that he is observed at the door, and that
instructions are given to refuse him admittance if he has the cheek to
call again."

"Take him away! Take him away!" cried Jalisco.

Immediately the doctor addressed Hagan.

"I think you had better come, sir," he said.

"Oh, I'll go!" grated the Irishman, giving Merry a savage glare. "I'll
make no trouble about that. Good day to ye, Mr. Merriwell. Make the best
of your success now, but remember that Hagan is no easy mark, and he'll
get a rap at you yet."

His face purple with rage, the schemer strode out of the room and soon
left the hospital.

Outside the gate he paused, removed his hat, and mopped his forehead
with his handkerchief. Although it was nipping cold, he seemed to be
burning with the heat of an inward furnace.

"I'll walk a bit to cool off," he said, and set out, his head down, his
face grim, his manner absorbed.

As he was crossing a street a cab whirled up beside him and stopped. He
swore at the driver for his carelessness, but his profanity ended
abruptly when the door of the cab swung open and he saw a pair of
midnight eyes looking at him.

"By all the saints," gasped Bantry Hagan, actually staggering, "it is
the dead alive again!"

The man in the cab lifted a hand and motioned to him. In a low, musical
voice, he said:

"Señor Hagan, get in quickly. Come."

A moment the Irishman paused, seeming to hesitate; then he stepped
forward and entered the cab.

The door slammed, the driver whipped up his horses, and the cab rumbled
away.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A SURPRISE FOR FIVE THUGS.


Frank left the hospital on foot. He might have taken a car, but he
preferred to walk. Always when thinking deeply he chose to walk, and he
often became utterly oblivious to his surroundings, even on the crowded
streets of a city.

He now set out without regard to direction. His talk with the Mexican
boy had set him to thinking of Porfias del Norte and Alvarez Lazaro,
between whom there had seemed to be some mysterious connecting link. The
nature of that link was something to puzzle over, even though both men
were dead.

Many times Frank had thought of the strange declaration of Lazaro that
he was the avenger of Del Norte, even that he was Del Norte himself.
Such an assertion seemed that of a madman.

Still Lazaro was in appearance Del Norte grown old, his face
time-furrowed, his black hair turned snowy white. More than that, for
all of Lazaro's aged appearance, he had seemed to possess the vigor and
vim of a very young man. His eyes burned with the fire of youth, and
they were exactly like the eyes of Del Norte. His voice also was the
voice of Del Norte.

Dusk was gathering in the streets of the great American metropolis, the
street lights were beginning to gleam, laborers were homeward bound from
their toil.

Quite unconscious of the fact, Merry had wandered into a disreputable
quarter, and suddenly, without warning, he was set upon by a number of
men. One of them struck at him, while another attempted to sandbag him
from behind.

The attack in front caused Frank to dodge with a pantherish spring that
was most astonishing in its quickness, considering the fact that a
moment before he had seemed totally unsuspicious and unprepared. This
leap saved him from being stretched unconscious by the sandbag.

An instant later he was engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter with five
thugs who had marked him as their prey. A well-dressed young man like
Merry was sure to attract attention in such a quarter, and these
ruffians had singled him out as a chap worth plucking.

His sudden and astounding change from total unwariness to a fighting
youth with every sense on the alert was something for which they were
unprepared.

He struck one fellow a terrible blow, which sounded clear as the crack
of a pistol and sent the man turning end over end into the street, where
he sprawled. He seized another by the left wrist with his own left hand,
gave him a forward jerk to one side, at the same time striking him a
swift, sharp blow with the outer edge of his open right hand, which
landed on the fellow's neck just under the ear and turn of the jaw.

This man dropped like a stricken ox, and lay quivering on the broken
curbing of the sidewalk.

Ducking low, one of the men attempted to seize Merry about the waist.

The young American athlete leaped backward, his foot came up, the toe of
his boot struck the man under the chin, and over the ruffian went, flat
on his back, his lips cut and bleeding, and choking over several teeth
he had suddenly lost.

The street light at the corner sent a ray that gleamed on an uplifted
knife.

With a squirming movement, Merry escaped the stroke, which cut a slit in
his coat sleeve near the shoulder.

Then the man with the knife was seized, whirled round till his back was
toward the youth attacked, and flung clean over Merry's head, striking
on his head and shoulders on the flagging of the sidewalk.

The fifth thug paused in astounded hesitation. What sort of a chap was
this who could dispose of four men with the rapidity of lightning, using
only his bare hands? More than that, they had attacked him when he
seemed quite unaware and unprepared, yet they had brought upon him not
the slightest harm.

Frank's hand went toward his hip pocket.

With a yell, the fifth thug turned and ran for his very life, dodging
into a dark alleyway.

From the opposite side of the street a strapping big man came hurrying
toward Merry, crying:

"Give it to 'em! That's the stuff!"

Wondering if the fellow was another of the thugs, who might try to get
at him, Merry held himself on the alert, ready for anything.

The dim light showed that the big fellow had a beardless, youthful face.
He was dressed plainly, but his appearance was not that of a ruffian.

He paused, thrust his hands into his pockets, and surveyed the fallen
thugs, who were beginning to bestir themselves.

"Well," he said, with a laugh, "you certainly got away with that bunch
in a hurry. I saw them jump on you and made tracks to give you a hand,
expecting they would down you before I could get here. Instead of
downing you, they went down so fast that they looked as if they were
falling before a machine gun. Your style of fighting is much like that
of a chap I knew at college. It's the goods."

"Thank you," said Merry. "But I wasn't expecting trouble, and I came
near getting mine, all right."

"Eh?" cried the big fellow. "Your voice sounds familiar. It can't be
that----"

He stepped nearer, peering into Merry's face.

Suddenly Frank recognized him.

"Hello, Starbright!" he exclaimed, in delight.

"Frank Merriwell!" shouted the big fellow, leaping forward and grasping
Merry's hand. "Oh, eternal miracles! Am I dreaming?"

Such a handshaking as it was! Here was Dick Starbright, the big Yale
man, who had good cause to remember Frank with emotions of the deepest
gratitude and friendliness.

"What in the world are you doing here, Merry?" asked Dick.

"What in the world are you doing here?" was Frank's counter question.

"Why, I'm a newspaper reporter. Been digging up the facts in regard to
the Poydras murder. That brought me into this quarter. Now you own up."

Frank explained as briefly as possible.

"Want these fellows?" questioned Starbright. "They're getting in
condition to sneak."

Indeed, two of the thugs had "sneaked" already, having improved the
opportunity while the attention of Merry and Starbright was wholly
absorbed by the surprise of their unexpected meeting. Another fellow was
on his feet, and he ran the moment he heard Dick's words. The fourth was
on his hands and knees, apparently seeking strength to rise.

"I see no officer near," said Merry. "We might tackle a difficult job if
we tried to drag even one of them along until we could find a cop."

"That's right. His pals would be down on us, a dozen of them, at least.
I fancy they'll let us alone now if we don't linger here. Let's sift
along."

The last of the ruffians to rise to his feet staggered to the nearest
wall, against which he leaned, gazing after the two young men who were
walking away.

"Talk about choin-loightning!" he muttered. "It ain't in it wid dat
cove! He coitinly done der whole gang, an' done dem good. He was
sloidin' along in a trance when we went at him, but der way he come
outer dat trance was a shock to der bunch. He's got more foight in him
dan any ten blokes I ever seen before."

"I'm mighty glad I ran across you, Merry," said Starbright as they
walked away. "You are just the fellow to straighten Morgan up and set
him on the right track."

"Morgan?" questioned Frank.

"Yes, Dade Morgan. I can't seem to do anything with him, and he's fast
getting in a bad way."

"Is he in New York?"

"Oh, yes; and it would be better for him if he was anywhere else."

"What's he doing here?"

"He isn't doing much of anything now, and that's one thing that is the
trouble. You know what a proud, high-strung chap he always was. Well,
he's up against it, and it has completely upset him."

"How is he up against it?"

"Why, he hit the pike pretty hard when he came here. He had some ready
money, and he lived uptown at the Imperial. You know lots of sports and
bloods hang out round that hotel. Dade fell in with some of the bunch.
He got some tips on the races and made a few thousand dollars. It was
the worst thing that could have happened to him. Next he took a flyer in
stocks, trading on margins. He made some more money. I tell you, he was
flying high just about then. He thought he had the world by the scruff
of the neck. You should have heard him when he ladled out the talk to
me. Told me what a howling chump I was to plug away on a newspaper on
space. Offered to steer me right to coin money the way he was doing. I
tell you, Merry, it was tempting. There he was rolling in boodle and
living on the fat of the land, while I had a three-fifty hall bedroom
and was eating round at cheap restaurants. Some weeks I made as much as
twenty-five, and then I was rich; but perhaps the very next week it
would be seven or eight, and before long I was poor again. Reporting on
space is a mighty hard mill to go through; but a man learns something at
it."

"Go on about Morgan," urged Frank.

"There isn't a great deal to tell. The cards turned on him. He struck
the toboggan and he went down with an awful thump. All he had made was
wiped out at a single swipe. He followed it up, and in less than a week
he was dead broke. Had to give up his rooms at the Imperial. Came down
to a cheap hotel, and he's there now. He plays the bucket shops with
every dollar he can get, hoping the tide will turn. I don't think he
eats enough to keep a sparrow alive. The only thing that keeps him from
drinking is that he spends all the money he can get gambling."

"How does he get money?"

"Why, he--he--he gets it somehow--I don't know--just--exactly--how."

Frank felt that he could forgive the big fellow the fib. He knew well
enough that Dade Morgan was getting his money from Richard Starbright,
who, in order to earn anything, was working like a dog on a newspaper.
The fact that he was helping Morgan along Starbright wished to conceal.

Instantly Merry knew the situation was one to be investigated.
Starbright had told him enough for him to realize that Morgan was on the
road to ruin and very near the brink.

In the old days at Yale, Dade had been for a time Frank's bitterest
enemy, having been taught from early boyhood by his uncle and guardian
to loathe the very name of Merriwell; but in the end Merry's manliness,
bravery, generosity, and nobility had conquered Morgan's hatred and had
finally made the fellow Frank's friend.

Starbright was right in saying Dade Morgan was proud and high-strung. He
was not the fellow to long endure poverty and humiliation without doing
something desperate.

"Take me to him right away, Dick," urged Merry.

Suddenly Starbright seemed to hesitate.

"I don't know as Dade will ever forgive me for showing him up in his
poverty," he said. "He hasn't let any of his friends at home know of his
reverses. Keeps writing to them in the most cheerful manner, and I'll
bet they think he has New York at his feet."

"I'll make it all right with him," assured Merry. "Don't worry about
that, Dick. Let's get to him without the loss of a moment."

They had now reached Third Avenue, and they boarded a car southward
bound, which at that hour was comparatively empty, while the cars bound
in the opposite direction were packed.

While they were on the car Merry told Starbright something of his great
plan to build a railroad in Sonora that should tap his mining property,
and of his battle with Porfias del Norte and Alvarez Lazaro.

"Whew!" exclaimed Dick. "But you have been engaged in strenuous
affairs."

"Rather," nodded Merry. "But the sky is pretty clear now, and I feel
like taking a little relaxation. I have a plan that I will unfold after
we find Morgan. Inza Burrage, Elsie Bellwood, Bart Hodge, Bruce
Browning, and Harry Rattleton are in town, and they----"

"Great Scott!" palpitated the young reporter. "This is great! I'll have
to see them all if it takes me away from the paper long enough to get me
fired. Here we are. We get off here."

They had reached the Bowery.

Leaving the car, Starbright led the way to one of the cheapest downtown
hotels, over the door of which was a sign which stated that rooms could
be secured there for fifty cents a night, beds for fifteen and
twenty-five cents.

They mounted a flight of dirty stairs and came into the office, where a
number of poverty-stricken men were sitting about, reading papers,
smoking, and talking. Some of the men looked like hobos, and all wore on
their faces the stamp of blighted lives. A single glance made it plain
that drink had caused the downfall of nearly all of them.

Merriwell shrugged his shoulders as his eyes ran swiftly over the hotel
office and the loungers gathered therein.

"Dade Morgan stopping here!" he mentally exclaimed. "The immaculate,
almost æsthetic, Dade in such a wretched place! It seems impossible."

There was no clerk behind the desk.

"Come on," said Starbright. "I know how to find Morgan's room. This
way."

They turned from the office and mounted another flight of stairs, darker
and dirtier than the first. There was no carpet on the bare floor of
the corridor above, where a weakly flaring gas jet made a sickly break
in the gloom. There was a peculiar smell about the place that was
distinctly offensive. The door of a room stood open. Inside two
filthy-looking men, minus their coats, were arguing loudly and drunkenly
about "labor and capital," while a third man lay sleeping on a dirty
bed.

A man shuffled along the dark corridor and stared at Frank and Dick with
suspicious, resentful eyes. He was low-browed, sullen, and vicious in
appearance; just such a man as one would not care to meet alone on a
dark street late at night.

From another room came the sound of maudlin singing, and in still
another a man was swearing horribly.

Merry grasped Dick's arm.

"Haven't you made a mistake?" he asked.

"A mistake? Why----"

"Dade Morgan can't be stopping in a place like this."

"I know it doesn't seem possible," said Dick. "But he is here--at least,
he was last night."

They came to a door, which Dick unhesitatingly pushed open.

A sickly gas jet was burning within the room. Stretched across a
wretched bed lay a dark, silent figure.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A DUEL OF EYES.


Starbright leaped forward and bent over the form on the bed, clutching
at it.

"Dade!" he called, his voice full of alarm.

The figure stirred, and the big, yellow-haired youth drew a breath of
relief.

"What's the matter?" asked a dull, mechanical voice. "Oh, is it you,
Starbright, old man? Gods! I'm glad you came! Been getting some bad
fancies into my head. If I'd had money enough to buy a pistol, or even a
little poison----"

"What in the world are you talking about, Dade? Have you gone daffy?"

"No; but what's the use? This is the limit, and---- Who's that?"

Morgan saw Frank for the first time.

"I think you know me, Dade," said Merry, advancing.

The young man on the bed leaped up.

"Merriwell!" he gasped.

"Yes," said Starbright. "I ran across him by accident and brought him
here to see you."

Morgan lifted his clinched hand and placed his arm across his eyes for a
moment, the attitude being one of intense humiliation and shame.

"What made you bring him?" he muttered huskily. "I--I didn't want any
one but you to--to know anything about----"

Frank grasped the hand of the humiliated youth.

"You know I'm your friend, Morgan," he said earnestly. "I urged Dick to
bring me along. What if you have been up against hard luck? Every fellow
is pretty certain to face it sooner or later."

"But I--I----"

Morgan choked and was unable to go on. It was a terrible ordeal for him.

Merry understood, and the few words he uttered were deeply sympathetic
and earnest. Then, in a moment, his manner changed. He seized Morgan by
both shoulders, gave him a shake, and laughed in a manner that was both
encouraging and soothing.

"Why, it's a good thing for a fellow to get a taste of genuine hard
luck. It softens him, mellows him, and makes him more sympathetic for
other unfortunates--that is, if he's made of the right stuff. Let a chap
slip through the world without ever encountering misfortune and he
cannot sympathize with those who have to struggle hard to keep their
heads above the surface. Besides that, it stiffens and braces the right
sort of a fellow to overcome misfortune and rise in the world through
his own efforts. I know, Morgan, for I've seen my share of bad luck."

The flickering gaslight revealed the fact that a bit of color came into
Morgan's cheeks.

"I--I suppose that's right," he confessed. "But I never dreamed I'd come
to--this! It was the suddenness of the fall that took the sand out of
me, too. I ought to be ashamed--I am ashamed--for I actually thought of
suicide! You see, Merry, no one but Dick here knew I had gone to the
bottom like this. I've been writing home, telling all about my good
fortune and success. The thought of any one ever finding out what a
wretched failure I had made was more than I could endure. I tell you,
Merriwell, this town is a bad place for a fellow who happens to fall in
with the swift set. It was a fast bunch I dropped into, and I--well, I
made a confounded fool of myself. Result, I blew all my money, acquired
a taste for champagne, went broke, and I've been drinking beer and
whisky since to keep my courage up. Might as well make a clean breast of
it. Dick's been staking me lately, and I've been trying to hit it lucky
with the ponies in order to get a start. To-day I decided that luck had
set in to run against me for fair, and I felt like ending it by cashing
in my chips for good."

Morgan seemed to feel a little better after making this confession.

"Glad I had a streak of luck that brought me along at this point,"
smiled Frank. "You're going to get such foolish thoughts out of your
head right away. What you need is a change of air and scene. I can make
use of you."

"You can?"

"Yes."

"How?"

"Let's sit down a moment. I'll tell you about it."

There was one broken chair in the room. This Morgan hastily placed for
Merriwell, after which he and Starbright sat on the bed.

Frank made plain the events which had brought him to New York in
connection with the Central Sonora railroad scheme.

"Now that the business is practically settled, I have a little scheme
that I propose to carry out," he said. "I am going to organize an
athletic team, made up of my friends and comrades and make a tour."

"Great!" cried Starbright.

"It's a splendid scheme," nodded Morgan. "Can you get the fellows
together?"

"I think so. Hodge, Browning, and Rattleton are right here in New York.
Jack Ready and Joe Gamp are in Chicago. That makes six. With you and
Starbright I shall have eight, and----"

"Not me!" cried Morgan.

"Yes, you."

"Impossible! I'm out of condition. Besides that, I'm broke, and I
couldn't----"

"Don't worry about the money question, Dade. You know I have made
several athletic and sporting tours, and never yet has it cost me, or
any man connected with me, a dollar of our own money. I count on taking
enough gate money to pay all expenses and more. I don't think there is a
possibility of failure in this respect. I want you, Morgan, and you must
agree to become one of my new athletic team."

"But my condition----"

"We'll see about that. We'll see what you can do in the way of getting
into condition. You used to be hard as iron and supple as a willow. I
think I can take hold of you, and put you into fairly good condition in
a short time. As for Starbright, if I'm not mistaken, he is in the very
pink of condition."

"I am," agreed Dick; "but I--I'd have to give up my work, and----"

"You told me all about your poor success thus far. You've been drilling
at it through the summer months, and it's time to have a change. I don't
believe you'll lose anything. In fact, I happen to have some influence
with one or two Western papers, and I'll see that you get a chance to
show what you can do out there any time you wish to go back to the work.
Unless you think it will be a positive injury to you to let up here,
I'll not take no as an answer."

"I'm with you!" exclaimed Dick suddenly. "You may count on me."

"Then it is all settled, for----"

"Not yet--at least, not as far as I'm concerned," interrupted Morgan. "I
wouldn't be worth a rap to you, Merry. I must confess that I have
acquired some bad habits in recent years, and I--well, I'm afraid I
haven't enough backbone to make one of your crowd, even if I could get
into shape for it, which is doubtful."

"Let me be the judge in regard to that last point," smiled Frank.
"You're going to come with me, Morgan. There is talk about an
all-American football team playing the best college teams of the
country. I'd enjoy pitting my boys against this all-American team, even
if we were defeated. Don't say another word, Morgan. Let's get out of
here. I want you to buy some clothes and----"

"I have the pawn tickets for my own clothes," said Dade, in a low tone.

"Good! We'll have your wardrobe out of hock in a hurry. We'll have you
looking like yourself in short order. Day after to-morrow we'll start
for Chicago, stopping off a day at Niagara, as Inza Burrage and Elsie
Bellwood will accompany us as far as St. Louis, and both wish to visit
the falls. Fellows, it will be great sport! Makes me feel sort of bubbly
and flushed all over."

"You've mentioned only eight fellows in all," reminded Dick Starbright.
"Eight will not make a football team."

"That's all right," assured Frank. "Received a message from Buck Badger
this morning. He'll join us at St. Louis, and he thinks Berlin Carson
will be with him. If Carson is with Badger when we get there, we'll have
ten men. I expect to hear from two or three more of the old gang at any
time. Don't you worry, for I'll have eleven men and three or four
substitutes. Leave it to me, fellows--leave it to me."

"I'm perfectly willing to do that," nodded Starbright, beaming in
anticipation of the pleasures to come.

"So am I," said Morgan, who had cast off his despondency and now seemed
much like his old self. "But I wish one of you would stick me with a pin
or something. I want to make sure I'm not dreaming. It's too good to be
true."

"It's true, Dade," laughed Merry. "The troubles I've been through in the
last few weeks have been enough to make me feel the need of a little
relaxation. Why, it will be old times over again!"

Dade suddenly stared upward over Frank's head at the transom above the
door. His manner caused Merry to glance up quickly.

The transom was open, leaving an aperture of about three inches.

Through this aperture could be dimly seen the upper part of a face, with
a pair of coal-black eyes, which were fixed with an ominous and steady
stare upon Merry.

In those midnight eyes there was a gleam of unspeakable hatred, savage
malevolence, and deadly rancor. They were the eyes of one who longed to
do murder.

The awful look in those terrible eyes seemed to freeze both Morgan and
Starbright and turn them to stone. For some moments they remained
motionless and breathless.

As for Frank, he met that look squarely, and between him and the
eavesdropper at the transom a silent battle took place.

Dade and Dick suddenly knew this battle was occurring. They felt the
strain and intensity of it, and they seemed to realize that the master
mind would conquer. Neither of them moved, fearing to break the spell.
Both felt that they could not move if they so desired.

For at least a full minute the duel of eyes continued. The mysterious
man outside seemed putting all his strength of soul and will into the
struggle.

Was it a flickering flare of the gas jet, or did the midnight eyes waver
the least bit?

Without moving his head or his body, Dade Morgan turned his glance
toward Merriwell. What he saw in Frank's face gave him a feeling of
relief and unspeakable satisfaction.

Merriwell wore the look of a conqueror. He was the same undaunted,
undismayed Merry as of old. He was master of this mysterious foe beyond
the closed door.

Again Morgan lifted his eyes to the midnight orbs beyond the transom. A
sensation of triumph thrilled him like an electric shock.

The deadly eyes wavered!

The silent duel was ended!

Something like a muttered curse and a choking cry of rage came from the
lips of the man beyond the door.

Then the deadly eyes suddenly vanished.

There was a thud, as if some one had leaped down from a chair on which
he had stood.

At the same instant Merriwell sprang up and attempted to open the door.

It was locked.

On entering the room Morgan had left the key in the lock, and this key
had been softly turned by the mysterious eavesdropper.

There was the sound of fleeing feet in the corridor and a soft laugh,
which trailed away and grew fainter in the distance.

Frank Merriwell stepped back from the door and flung his shoulder
against it with fearful force.

With a splintering crash, the door gave way before the shock, and Merry
staggered into the corridor. He was followed by Starbright and Morgan.

Recovering his equilibrium, Frank straightened up and whirled to follow
and overtake the mysterious unknown if possible.

The man of the midnight eyes had disappeared.

The smashing of the door had startled and aroused others in adjacent
rooms, and they now came swarming into the corridor. One of them
clutched at Frank, but was flung aside; others dodged back to let him
pass.

Merry ran to the head of the stairs, down which he leaped.

A man was coming up the second flight.

"Anybody run past you just now?" asked Frank.

"Naw. Wot's der matter?"

Merriwell did not pause to answer the question, but whirled into the
office.

He was met at the door by a man in shirt sleeves, who grabbed at him and
demanded to know what was "doing."

One glance about the place was sufficient to convince Frank that the
eavesdropper had not fled in there.

Starbright appeared, followed by Morgan. The latter was known to the man
who had grabbed Frank, and his hasty explanation was sufficient,
although the "clerk" declared that some one must settle for the smashed
door.

"I'll do that," said Merry promptly. "The spy has escaped. Come back
with us, take a look at the door, and estimate the damage."

Merry had no trouble in settling to the satisfaction of every one, but
he could not repress his regret over the escape of the man who had been
peering through the transom.

Morgan had paid in advance for his room at the hotel, and therefore he
was at liberty to leave any time he wished. Merry and Starbright lost no
time in getting him out of the place.

Dick drew a breath of relief when they reached the open air.

"That place will serve for the class of men who patronize it," he
observed; "but I'm glad Morgan has left it for good."

"So am I!" exclaimed Dade. "The only thing I regret is that the fellow
who peered through the transom made his escape. Who could it have been?
Have you an idea, Merry?"

"Never yet have I seen but two men with such eyes," declared Merriwell.
"One man is dead. The other man, Alvarez Lazaro, claims to be Del
Norte's avenger. I thought him dead, but it must be that he escaped from
the burning building on the East Side. How he escaped I cannot tell;
but, as it was not Del Norte who peered through the transom, it must
have been Lazaro."

"Look out for him, Frank," urged Starbright. "I saw murder in those
eyes."

"I'll have the police raking the city for him without delay," said
Merry. "Let's go directly to police headquarters."

This they did, and Merriwell told his story. As it was known that Lazaro
had tried to poison Watson Scott and had bribed the driver of Warren
Hatch's automobile to wreck the machine with Mr. Hatch in it,
Merriwell's story was listened to with the greatest interest, and he was
given the assurance that, in case Lazaro still lived, no stone would be
left unturned in the effort to capture him.

From police headquarters the three friends of college days visited
several pawn shops, where Morgan recovered his clothing and trinkets.

Two large suit cases were purchased and the recovered articles packed
into them.

Merry called a cab, and they proceeded uptown. A room was engaged at the
Hoffman House, and Morgan reveled in the luxury of a bath and a shave.
In due time he appeared clothed in a respectable manner, and looking
wonderfully changed. There was color in his cheeks, life in his eyes,
and springiness in his step.

"Now," said Frank, "we'll away to Hotel Astor. Starbright has sent in
some copy by messenger to his paper, at the same time giving notice that
he has quit, and so things are pretty well arranged to my satisfaction."

A few minutes later they were again in a cab, northward bound.

"I'll leave Lazaro to the police," said Merry. "Now that they know the
man is not dead, having proof that he tried to murder Scott and Hatch,
they'll either capture him or make New York too hot to hold him. I'll
take care that Felipe Jalisco has every attention. But I don't propose
to let anything upset my plan of an athletic tour."

Upper Broadway was blazing with light. Morgan laughed with satisfaction
as they were carried along the street; but he grew sober suddenly as his
eyes fell on the Imperial Hotel.

"I made the mistake of my life there," he said; "but I think it taught
me a lesson I'll not soon forget."

They reached Long Acre Square and stopped in front of Hotel Astor.

"Here we are, boys!" said Merry, as he sprang out and paid the driver.

"Yes, and you've been gong enough letting here--I mean long enough
getting here," said a voice, as Harry Rattleton hurried forward.
"Browning is nearly starved. He's entertaining the girls. Hodge and I
have been watching for you the last hour, and we---- Great Halifax! is
this Stick Darbright and Made Dorgan--er, I mean Darb Stickbright and
Morg Dadean--er, er, no, I mean--I dunno what I mean! It's um! Oh,
thunder! what a jolly surprise! This is great--great!"

Rattleton had Starbright with one hand and Morgan with the other, and he
astonished and amused people in the vicinity by dancing wildly and
whirling them round as he wrung their hands.

"Look out, Rattles," laughed Frank. "If you're seen going through such
gyrations by a policeman he'll surely pinch you."

Bart Hodge advanced and tore Starbright from Rattleton, which gave
Morgan an opportunity to break away, and he did so laughingly.

"The same old Rattleton," he said. "Harry, you haven't changed a bit."

"Yes, I have," contradicted the curly-haired chap. "I'm more mignified
and danly--I mean more dignified and manly. See how sedate I am. Oh,
ginger! isn't this a jolly surprise! I believe even Browning will now
forgive Frank for being late to dinner."

Hodge shook hands with both Dick and Dade, and they all followed Frank
into the hotel.

A bellboy saw Merry and hastened to notify him that he was wanted at the
desk.

"Here is something for you, Mr. Merriwell," said one of the assistant
clerks. "It was just left here by a messenger boy, who stated that it
was very important and must be given to you personally."

He handed Frank an envelope on which his name was written.

Merry tore it open and drew forth a single sheet of paper, on which was
written the following ominous words:

     "You fancied Porfias del Norte perished in the Adirondacks and
     that Alvarez Lazaro was destroyed by fire. Neither Del Norte nor
     Lazaro is dead. Both live in one, and that One pens these lines.
     I am Del Norte and I am Lazaro. I am likewise the avenger of
     both. My one object in life is to make you suffer as Del Norte
     suffered before he escaped from his living tomb, coming forth an
     old man with snow-white hair. It is my object to make you face
     the torture of fire here on earth, even as Lazaro faced it. I
     know you have again set the police on my trail, but I laugh at
     them and defy them all, even as I laugh at and defy you. I want
     you to feel the fear of torture and death; I want you to know it
     is coming and that you cannot escape, and, therefore, I write
     this. Be constantly on your guard, but know that all your
     precautions cannot save you. You are doomed!

                                                        "THE AVENGER."

"What is it, Merry?" asked Hodge, seeing Frank frowning over it.

"Nothing but ridiculous nonsense," was Merriwell's smiling answer, as he
thrust the paper into his pocket. "Let's get the ladies and have
dinner."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

AT NIAGARA FALLS.


The trolley car from Buffalo, bearing Frank Merriwell and his friends,
was approaching Niagara Falls. The entire party was bubbling with that
enthusiasm and eagerness felt by all "sightseers" who find themselves
drawing near to this great natural marvel of America. Eagerly they
peered from the car windows in their desire to obtain the first glimpse
of the falls.

"I can see some mising rist--that is, some rising mist," spluttered
Harry Rattleton.

"Get off my pet corn!" growled Bruce Browning, jerking Harry back into
his seat, from which he had partly risen. "If you step on that corn
again you'll see stars!"

"It just takes an awful long time to get there," said Elsie Bellwood.

"Awful long," agreed Inza.

"I don't think you'll see anything of the falls until we leave this
car," said Merry.

"Girls, do be dignified," urged Mrs. Medford, who was chaperoning them.
"You are making the passengers smile at you. I greatly dislike having
any one smile at me."

"You can supply all the dignity for the party, Aunt Lucy," said Inza.
"We're not going to try to be dignified to-day. We're just going in for
the best time we can have, and let people smile all they wish."

"That's proper," laughed Dick Starbright, giving Inza an admiring
glance. "Two much dignity robs the world of half its fun."

Hodge and Morgan were the silent ones, but there was a light of
eagerness in their eyes, and Dade's thin cheeks were flushed.

The car entered the streets of Niagara, swung round a curve, slipped
into a huge, covered building and stopped.

"All out," called the conductor.

"Here we are!" said Merry.

"What'll we do now? What'll we do now?" eagerly asked Inza, grasping his
arm.

"The very best thing to do is to take a Belt Line observation car, which
will carry us over to the Canadian side and round the gorge, giving us a
chance to stop off wherever we like."

"This way to the Belt Line cars," called a man who had overheard Merry's
words.

They passed from the building to the street beyond, where the car they
wanted was waiting. Tickets were purchased without delay, and soon the
car was moving.

"But where are the falls?" palpitated Elsie. "I don't see the falls
anywhere."

"You will in a few moments," assured Hodge.

"But I want to right off. I can't wait! I've waited too long now!"

However, she was compelled to restrain her impatience until the car
descended a steep grade and bore them out on the great steel arch
bridge, when suddenly upon their view burst a spectacle that caused them
to gasp and utter exclamations of delight.

"Oh, look, look!"

"At last!"

"There they are!"

"Isn't it perfectly grand!"

Then they became silent, stricken dumb with the unspeakable admiration
they felt.

Above them and quite near at hand were the American Falls, with the sun
shining on them and a cloud of pure white mist rising in an
ever-shifting veil from the gorge into which plunged and roared the
mighty volume of water. Then came Goat Island, with Horseshoe Falls
beyond, shooting forth great boiling fountains of white spray and
sending heavenward billow after billow of mist. Beneath them rushed the
broad river, writhing and twisting, as if still suffering agonies after
its frightful plunge over those dizzy heights to be rent and torn to
tatters on the rocks below.

Inza's gloved hand crept into Frank's, and he felt it quiver a little in
his grasp.

With a single exception, every one on the car seemed to regard the
falls with interest. Even the motorman and conductor took a look at
them.

The exception was an old man, who wore a long cloak and carried a
crooked cane. His hands rested on the handle of his cane, and his gray
head was bowed on his hands. He did not once look up or turn his face
toward the falls while passing over the bridge. To Frank this seemed
remarkable, but Merry decided that he must be some one who was familiar
with the spectacle and to whom the sight no longer appealed.

Having crossed the bridge, the car turned upward toward the falls, and
at the point where the wonderful horseshoe began they got off.

Approaching the iron railing, they leaned on it and gazed in continued
and increasing wonderment. They were now where they could hear something
of the continuous thunder of the falls, and at intervals a little of the
spray fell in misty rain upon them.

"Oh, see!" breathed Inza, grasping Frank's arm. "Look at the beautiful
rainbow."

In the mist of the American Falls a gorgeous rainbow could be seen.

"I see it," said Frank; but at that moment his eyes were following the
strange old man in the black cloak, who had left the car with them and
was walking toward the very brink of Horseshoe Falls, leaning heavily on
his crooked cane and seeming quite feeble.

"I was wrong about him," thought Merry. "He is interested in the
falls--he is fascinated by them."

The old man pressed forward until he was within the very edge of the
cloud of mist that rose from the depths below. He seemed totally
unconscious of the presence of others in the vicinity. At that point
there was no iron railing, and he leaned forward, planting his cane on
the wet stones beneath his feet, and peered downward, apparently
watching the little steamer, _Maid of the Mist_, which now came swinging
out of the spray at the foot of the American Falls and headed toward the
Canadian side.

"If he should slip there," thought Frank, "it would be all over with him
in a moment. I wonder that he ventures so near."

A sudden feeling of anxiety for the old man possessed him, and he
suggested to Inza that they should move up toward the brink of the
falls.

Leaving the others so absorbed in watching the tiny steamer far below
that the move of Merry and Inza was not observed they approached the
point where the old man stood.

"What is he doing?" questioned Inza, in surprise. "It must be very
dangerous there. Call to him, Frank; tell him to come away."

But Merriwell feared to startle the old man, and therefore he did not
call.

Above them the rapids came sweeping down toward the falls, the water
rushing with such volume and force that it created a feeling of dread,
for it was plain that anything once fairly caught in its clutch must be
carried, in spite of all human endeavor and strength, over the brink to
destruction.

"Remain here, Inza," advised Frank, being compelled to raise his voice
in order to make himself understood above the roar of the water. "I'm
going to step down there a little nearer. He may slip."

Reluctantly she permitted him to leave her. He did not know that she
followed him to the very edge of the rushing water a short distance
above the falls. Cautiously he approached the silent figure of the old
man, but just as he was on the point of stretching out a hand to grasp
the man's arm the latter turned, keeping his back toward Merry, and
moved along the edge of the rushing rapids.

Merry refrained from touching the stranger, but followed him as the man
approached Inza.

Apparently the old man did not see the girl until he was right upon her.

Then he slightly lifted his head, gave her a glance, and stepped to one
side, as if to pass.

This brought her between him and the rapids.

As he was passing his foot slipped on one of the wet rocks, he flung up
his hand with the cane, and the staff swept through the air in a half
circle directly at Inza's head!

Struck such a blow with the cane, Inza Burrage would be sent headlong
into the seething water, which would carry her over the falls in a
twinkling!

Fortunately Inza had been watching the old man with anxious eyes.
Fortunately, likewise, she was no common girl. Many a time she had
demonstrated the fact that she was wonderfully quick-witted and
resourceful.

Frank was a bit too far away to clutch the old man's arm and check the
sweep of his heavy cane.

Inza's fate lay wholly with herself. She saw the cane coming directly at
her head, and, like a flash, she "ducked."

Over her head swept the cane, brushing the plumes on her hat.

For an instant she tottered, seeming to sway toward the rapids in the
effort to regain her equilibrium.

In that instant Frank Merriwell's strong right arm had sent the
stranger, with one great surge, reeling to his knees some feet from the
water's edge, and then his left arm encircled Inza's waist and drew her
from the perilous spot.

She was white as the mist that rose in a great cloud close at hand.

"Inza!" cried Merry chokingly. "Thank Heaven you had presence of mind
and dodged!"

"Oh, Frank!" she murmured; "I nearly fell into the water after that!"

He gave her all his attention.

"That old man must be crazy!" he said. "No one at his age that is not
crazy or foolish would prowl about at the very edge of the river here,
where a misstep means almost certain death. He should be locked up!"

Then he turned to look for the stranger, but saw the bent form at a
distance. Without having paused to utter a word of explanation, apology,
or regret, the man was hastening away.

"Further proof that he's daffy," muttered Frank.

He longed to hasten after the stranger, but felt Inza clinging to him in
weakness, which prevented such a move.

And now their friends, having discovered for the first time that
something was wrong, came hurrying to the spot, asking many questions.

It was some time before Inza recovered, but in the end she flung off her
weakness with a sudden show of resolution, forced a laugh, and declared
that she was all right.

"Where is the chundering old bump--I mean the blundering old chump?"
spluttered Harry Rattleton. "Didn't stop to say a word? Well, somebody
ought to say something to him! I'd like the privilege. It would do me
good to give him an unvarnished piece of my mind."

The old man, however, had disappeared. Morgan said he had taken a
carriage after hastening from the immediate vicinity of the falls.

"I'm glad he's gone," declared Inza. "I'm sure he was frightened.
Perhaps he didn't know what to say under the circumstances."

"I'm afraid this terrible adventure will spoil your enjoyment here,
Inza," said Mrs. Medford.

"Not at all," was the answer. "It's all over now, and we'll forget it.
What shall we do next?"

It was agreed that the proper thing was to resume their trolley ride
around the gorge, and so they took the next car bound down the river.

This ride was one that none of them could ever forget. The tracks ran
close to the brink of the great gorge, so close at times that they could
look directly downward from the side of the car into treetops far
beneath them and see the fearful rush of the river through its choked
channel. It was a spectacle almost as impressive as that of the falls,
and in some ways, as the car skimmed along the brink of these mighty
precipices, it was even more "shuddery," as Elsie expressed it.

But the part that affected them the most was the return journey through
the gorge, after they had recrossed the river five miles below the
falls.

The car descended until it was running at the very edge of the river
that rushed through the channel between the two great bluffs. As the
whirlpool was approached the rush and swish of the water became fiercer
and more terrible. It was fascinating yet fearful to look upon, and
Elsie Bellwood shuddered and drew back, more than once averting her
eyes.

The whirlpool itself was a wonderful sight, but the rapids above it
proved the most awesome of aspect. There the water hissed and seethed
with a blood-chilling sound as it raced, and foamed, and whirled along
its course. The suggestion of terrible power possessed by this mad river
was simply appalling. The sound of the hissing water put one's nerves on
edge. In places the river boiled, and surged, and raged over hidden
rocks, leaping upward in mighty waves of white foam. There were
thousands of eddies and whirlpools, all suggestive of destruction.

The girls were genuinely relieved when the car began the ascent that
would take them out of the gorge.

"It was great," said Inza, as they finally reached the level above. "I
enjoyed every moment of it, but it made me feel so dreadfully mean and
insignificant. I'm glad we took the ride, but I don't think I'd care to
take it again to-morrow. Where shall we go now, Frank?"

"We'll stroll over onto Goat Island," said Merry.

They left the car when it finally reached the place from which they had
started on the American side.

Barely had they started toward the island when a carriage stopped
beside them and the driver importuned them to let him take them round.

"You couldn't take all of us in that carriage," said Merry.

"I'll call another in a moment," said the driver, and started to do so.

"Hold on," said Merriwell. "We prefer to walk."

"Not I," said Browning. "How much is it?"

"Twenty-five cents each," was the answer. "I'll take you round and show
you all the points of interest."

"Cheap enough," said Bruce, and he promptly climbed in.

In vain the driver urged others to get in. He was even somewhat insolent
in his insistence. Finally he drove off with Bruce lazily waving his
hand from the rear seat of the carriage.

Frank laughed softly.

"Browning will get enough of that," he declared. "Those fellows urge you
to get in for a twenty-five-cent ride, promising to show you numerous
points of interest; but almost before they get you over to the island
they begin suggesting a longer drive that will cost you a dollar, two
dollars, or even three dollars. They keep harping on it until they
destroy all the pleasure and enjoyment of the twenty-five-cent ride, and
if they find they cannot inveigle you into taking a longer ride they
become absolutely insulting and offensive. That fellow will be sore when
he learns that Bruce has been over to the Canadian side and round the
gorge."

There was plenty of time, and the party enjoyed the walk over the bridge
to Goat Island. Midway on the bridge they paused to watch the rush of
the rapids, where the water came bulging over a distant ridge, and swept
toward them with a hissing, roaring sound that was quite indescribable.

Having reached the island, they proceeded to cross the little bridge to
Luna Island, from which a near view of the American Falls was obtained.
Here again they saw a portion of the beautiful rainbow in the rising
mist.

From Luna Island they retraced their steps, and then sauntered along the
iron-railed lower edge of Goat Island. They were strongly tempted to
visit the Cave of the Winds under the falls, but Merry knew the
waterproof clothing furnished would not be sufficient to keep them from
becoming uncomfortably damp, and this, together with the fact that the
afternoon was rapidly turning cold, caused them to decide to refrain
from descending the wonderfully long stairway and crossing the
spray-dripping bridge to the cave.

From the outer extremity of Goat Island they obtained another fine view
of the Horseshoe Falls.

Deciding to visit the upper end of the island for the purpose of viewing
the wonderful rapids above the falls, they had not proceeded far before
they came upon Browning, who was sitting on a bench and looking very
sour and disgusted.

"Why, hello, Bruce!" called Frank. "All through with your drive? That's
odd."

The giant made a rumbling sound in his throat.

"Don't talk to me about that!" he exploded. "Why, that chap just bored
me to death trying to induce me to let him drive me over to the Canadian
side and around to other places. Couldn't choke him off. Told him I'd
been across. He kept it up. Asked me if I'd seen this, and that, and the
other. I said yes, yes, yes! Then I invited him to shut up. First thing
I knew he was taking me back off the island. He had closed up like a
clam. Asked him where all the places were that he was going to show me,
and he informed me I had seen twenty-five cents' worth. Then I was
ruffled. I admit I was ruffled. I stood up, took him by the collar, and
agitated him a little. The agitation shook some of the dust out of his
clothes. Then I got out and permitted him to proceed. I've been sitting
here meditating, and if you don't walk too fast I think I'll stick by
you until you get through seeing things."

The manner in which Browning related this was decidedly amusing, and all
laughed over it.

They followed the walk, and proceeded on their way toward the upper end
of the island. Near the upper end they approached three small islands,
known as the Three Sisters. A massive anchored bridge permitted them to
cross to the first of these islands. Beneath this bridge the water swept
with a continuous rushing roar, and the sight of it gave Elsie a renewed
feeling of nervousness, which was increased by the fact that the great
bridge swayed and moved beneath their feet.

Having crossed by other bridges to the outermost of the Three Sisters,
they now obtained a near and awe-inspiring view of the great rapids
above the Canadian Falls.

At a distance up the river the water seemed pouring over a great
semi-circular ridge. It swept down on the Three Sisters as if seeking to
overwhelm them. It tore past on either side with the velocity of an
express train, hissing and snarling in anger because the islands dared
defy and withstand its furious assault.

Elsie stood with clasped hands, her eyes dilated, as she stared at the
rapids which stretched far, far away to the Canadian side.

"Isn't it grand!" cried Inza in Elsie's ear, her face flushed and her
dark eyes shining.

"It's grand," admitted the golden-haired girl; "but it's terrible, and
it frightens me."

The little party had divided, seeking various vantage points from which
views of the great rapids could be obtained.

Frank and Bart lingered with the girls.

Mrs. Medford had remained on Goat Island, declining to cross the first
bridge, and asserting that she preferred to rest on one of the benches.
She refused to permit any one to remain with her, urging and commanding
them all to see everything worth seeing.

"A human being would have absolutely no chance if ever caught in the
edge of that current," said Hodge. "The instant he was swept off his
feet he would be doomed."

"It's fascinating, fascinating!" exclaimed Inza. "I almost seem to feel
something pulling me toward the water."

"It's a very dangerous feeling," smiled Merry. "You know that an average
of sixteen suicides a year take place here at the falls. People cannot
resist the fascination of the rushing water. Many times no real reason
can be given for these acts of self-destruction. You know there are
moments when every human brain falters and seems touched by the fleeting
finger of insanity. People who stand on great heights often feel an
almost irresistible longing to fling themselves down. Here they are
attacked by a mad longing to cast themselves into the clutch of the
rapids."

"Oh!" exclaimed Elsie, pale to the lips. "Let me get away--farther
away!"

Inza offered assistance, but Elsie forced a laugh and declared she was
all right. However, she leaned on the arm of Bart, and they retreated
from the immediate edge of the rapids.

Frank watched them, unaware that Inza had stepped out on a stone that
lifted its damp crest in the edge of the water.

Suddenly he was startled by a cry.

He whirled, and saw something that sent his heart into his mouth.

Inza was lying across the rock, with both feet in the water.

A man in black, the cape of his long cloak flapping about his shoulders
like demon wings, was running from the spot, flourishing a stout,
crooked cane.

As he passed Frank, fully fifteen feet away, the fleeing man--whom Merry
knew as the same one who had so nearly accomplished Inza's destruction
on the Canadian shore--cast at the youth one piercing look.

The eyes of the man were black as blackest night, but in their recesses
gleamed a baleful fire of hatred and triumph.

The same eyes had glared at Merry through the transom of the Bowery
hotel, in New York.

They were the eyes of Alvarez Lazaro, the avenger!

But they were also the eyes of Porfias del Norte!



CHAPTER XXIX.

IN CONSTANT PERIL.


The frightful peril of Inza commanded Frank's whole attention. He leaped
toward her. He saw her slipping from the damp rock.

The eddying, swirling, hissing water was dragging at her feet. Inza's
gloved fingers clutched vainly at the rock. She could obtain no
detaining hold upon it.

She turned her white, bloodless face toward Frank, horror and despair in
her dilated eyes. He reached her, swung out with one long stride to the
rock, stooping and clutching her just as she must have been swept away.

His fingers closed on her arms with a grip like iron. He swung her to
her feet and flung her into the hollow of his left arm. Then he turned
and leaped back to the solid ground.

Inza had not fainted. She was limp and nerveless, but still conscious.

Of course, just then Frank's attention was given entirely to her; but
the moment he realized she did not need him, he placed her gently on the
ground and turned to look for the man in black who had fled past him.

By this time the attention of Bart and Elsie had been attracted. They
saw something was the matter, and they hastened toward Inza.

"What is it--oh, what is it?" palpitated Elsie.

Frank turned to Hodge.

"Did you see that man?" he hoarsely asked.

Bart was startled and astounded by the terrible look on Merriwell's face
and the glare in his usually kindly eyes.

"What man?"

"The one in black--the old man who nearly knocked Inza into the river
over on the Canadian side."

"Was it him? I saw some one running, among the trees yonder. What
happened, Merry? How did----"

"Look out for the girls--guard them," commanded Frank.

Then he sprang away with the speed of a deer, quickly disappearing from
view in pursuit of the mysterious man, for he now knew that twice that
day had that man made an attempt on the life of Inza Burrage.

In the meantime, Elsie was kneeling on the ground, her arms about Inza,
trying to learn what had taken place.

"Your feet and the bottom of your skirt are dripping wet, dear," she
said. "Did you slip? Did you fall into the water?"

Inza covered her colorless face with her hands. The fingers of her
gloves were torn from her efforts to obtain a hold on the rock where
she had fallen. She was shuddering all over.

"Tell me--tell me how it happened," urged Elsie.

"That man----" gasped Inza.

"The one Bart saw running away?"

"Yes, yes!"

"What did he do?"

"He pushed me!"

"Pushed you?" cried Bart, astounded and horrified.

"Pushed you?" burst from Elsie.

"With his cane," shuddered Inza.

"The monster!" cried Elsie.

"I had stepped out on that rock," explained Inza.

"Where was the man then?"

"I don't know. I didn't see him until I turned to look back. Then I saw
him close by the edge of the water. I think he must have leaped out from
behind the thick cedars yonder. He looked at me, and the expression on
his face---- Oh!"

The quivering girl was overcome by the memory.

"Heavens!" palpitated Bart. "The old wretch tried to murder you! Is it
possible he did, Inza?"

"I saw murder in his eyes," whispered Inza. "They were the most terrible
eyes. He was a man with snow-white hair, yet he did not seem so very
old. And his face--I have seen it before! Where? When?"

"You saw him on the Canadian side."

"I did not see him plainly then. I did not get a good look at his face.
I know I have seen those eyes before. He seemed to laugh horribly as he
lifted his cane, but no sound came from his lips. I thought he was going
to strike me with the cane. Instead of that, he thrust the end against
me and tried to give me a push that would send me from the rock into the
rapids."

Elsie's arms tightened about her friend, and she trembled all over with
the thought of such a thing.

"Like a flash I understood what he meant to do," continued the
dark-haired girl. "I twisted about so that the full force of his thrust
was lost; but in doing so I lost my balance. I thought it was all over,
and I uttered a cry. At the same time, even as I was falling, I sought
to drop on the rock. I succeeded in doing so, and there I lay, with my
feet in the water. I could feel the water dragging at them! I felt
myself slipping, slipping, slipping!"

She choked and covered her face with her hands.

Some of the others now approached and were startled to learn what had
taken place.

The moment he heard about it a most astounding change came over Bruce
Browning. The big fellow had been loitering along, apparently so weary
that only by the greatest effort could he drag his feet; but in a
twinkling he awoke to astonishing animation, asked which way Merry had
gone, and a second later bounded away, covering the ground in mighty
leaps.

Starbright and Morgan followed. Rattleton remained with Hodge to look
after the girls.

There were other visitors on the islands. Soon the boys learned that the
strange white-haired man in black had fled across the bridges to Goat
Island, followed a few moments later by a young man.

When Goat Island was reached another man informed them that he had seen
the old man in black leap into a waiting carriage, upon which the driver
whipped his horses and sent them off at a great pace.

Merriwell had reached the spot a few moments later and had rushed across
through the woods in an effort to head off the fugitive.

While Browning was making inquiries he was overtaken by Starbright and
Morgan.

"There's only one way to get off this island," reminded Dade. "Come on!"

They raced through the leafless woods, causing all who saw them to turn
and stare after them in astonishment.

When the bridge to the mainland was reached they paused once more to
make inquiries.

A man and a woman had just crossed from the mainland. They had seen
Merriwell dash over the bridge and were sure a rapidly driven carriage
had preceded him by a brief space of time.

Frank was finally found talking to an officer in front of the Tower
Hotel.

"He slipped me, boys," confessed Merry, with an expression of regret;
"but the police have been notified, and they promised to do their best
to nab him. How is Inza?"

"She's all right," assured Starbright. "Of course, her nerves received a
great shock; but you know how quickly she recovers, so I don't think you
have any reason to worry about her. Hodge and Rattleton are looking out
for her and Elsie."

"Look here, Merry," said Browning, placing his hand on Frank's shoulder
and mopping his flushed face with a handkerchief, "who was the lunatic
that tried to push her into the river?"

"I think you have justly called him a lunatic," nodded Merry. "I am
confident the man is deranged. Boys, I believe--nay, I have no
doubt--that it was Alvarez Lazaro, the crazy Mexican who claims to be
the avenger of Porfias del Norte. I did believe Lazaro had perished in
that fire in New York; but now I am certain he escaped in some
unaccountable manner, and never until he is captured and punished can I
or any one of my friends know a real moment of safety. There is no
telling what the next move of this maniacal avenger will be. We must all
be on our guard, night and day."



CHAPTER XXX.

THE END OF PORFIAS DEL NORTE.


Frank's party returned to Buffalo, and, for all of the startling affair
at the falls, enjoyed a splendid dinner at the hotel where they were
stopping.

Inza had recovered in a remarkable manner, betraying not a trace of
nervousness, despite her late terrible experience. She was the life of
the party at dinner.

After dinner nearly all of them gathered in Merry's room to chat. Dade
Morgan was an exception. He was strangely restless and uneasy, and he
improved an opportunity to slip away without attracting attention.

Slipping on his overcoat, he sauntered forth for a stroll along the
principal street of the city.

As he was passing the Iroquois Hotel some one struck him a heavy blow on
the shoulder, and a voice exclaimed:

"Dade Morgan, as I live! Well, wouldn't this jostle you some!"

A young man who looked something like a swell, yet had a dissipated
appearance, grasped Morgan's hand and shook it warmly.

"This is a surprise!" he declared. "Saw you last at the Imperial in
little old New York the night after the ponies hit you such a bump. You
had accumulated a large load and were in a pretty mushy condition. Lost
track of you after that. Couldn't find you, you know. Didn't anybody
seem to know what had become of you. Was afraid you'd done something
rash. You're looking fine as a daisy. What brought you to this town?
Come in and have a drink and tell me about it."

The talkative young man forcibly pulled Morgan into the hotel, but Dade
finally stopped him, saying:

"I'm glad to see you again, Cavendale; but you'll have to excuse me from
drinking. I've cut it out."

"Oh, come, old man, don't----"

"It's straight goods," asserted Morgan grimly. "No more of the lush for
me."

"I can't believe it! And you were such a hot bunch! Well, come in to the
bar and watch me lap up something."

He insisted until Morgan finally consented to accompany him to the bar.
When they arrived there Cavendale renewed his urgent invitation, but
Dade stood firm as far as liquor was concerned.

"Well, have something for old times' sake," said Cavendale. "I'm going
to look on the rye. Take a lemonade, a ginger ale, anything to be
sociable. I want you to tell me about yourself."

Dade took a lemonade.

Although Cavendale had stated that he wished Dade to tell about himself,
he rattled off a rambling statement of his own affairs, claiming that
he was "in on a big deal" that meant thousands to him.

"It's a snap," he asserted. "It's the greatest thing I ever struck. I'm
bound to come out with my clothes lined with money. Hated to leave New
York, but the people I'm in with are running things, and I go where they
say."

Then he shivered as he saw Dade sipping the lemonade.

"That's rotten stuff for cold weather," he said. "Gives me a chill just
to see you taking it. What happened to you, anyhow? Did you get a fit of
remorse? Old Colonel R. E. bothers me sometimes, but I take a few
bracers and he vanishes. Tell me why you quit, old man."

Morgan suddenly decided to do so.

"I quit through the influence of a friend," he explained. "I went broke
in New York, Cavendale; but when I got hold of any loose coin I
generally spent a part of it for booze. I'm not going to tell you all
that happened to me, but I was clean down to the bottom when Frank
Merriwell found me."

Cavendale started.

"Seems to me I've heard of Merriwell," he muttered. "I'm sure I have. So
you're pretty chummy with him now?"

"You might call it so."

"Know all about his plans, I suppose? Sort of a bosom comrade, eh?"

"I believe Merriwell would trust me fully, although he found me pretty
near in the gutter in New York."

"Well, that's fine! Old college chums, and all that. Still I want you to
know I always had a liking for you, Morgan, old fellow--more than a
liking. When I saw you a few minutes ago, I said: 'The very chap; I'll
pull him into this deal and make a carload of money for him.' I believe
I can do it, too. I suppose you're ready to make a stake? It's easy
money and plenty of it."

"Why, every young man is looking for an opportunity to make money."

"Sure thing. Wait a moment. I want you to meet a friend of mine. He's
stopping right here in this hotel. He's one of the main guys in our big
game."

"But you haven't told me what the game is."

Cavendale tapped his lips with one finger.

"Discreetness," he grinned. "It's all on the level, but it doesn't do to
talk too much to outsiders. If my friend likes you, he may unfold some
of it to you. Oh, it's great! I expect to pull out forty or fifty
thousand as my share in a year. If you're taken in, you'll do as well."

"That sounds too good to be true," said Dade, with an incredulous smile.

"You wait," nodded Cavendale. "I want to step to the telephone. Be back
in a minute. Don't stir. I'll have Mr. Hagan--er--Mr. Harrigan right
down."

Cavendale hurried from the barroom.

"What did he say?" thought Morgan, who wondered over the manner in which
Cavendale had faltered over the name of the man he was going to call.
"He said Hagan, and then he changed it to Harrigan. Hagan, Hagan--why,
that's the name of the Irishman Merry told me about! That is the name of
one of Frank's enemies! Can it be Hagan is here? Why not? The other man
who calls himself Lazaro, is here--or was at the falls to-day. I scent
something! Oh, if Merriwell were here! If I could get word to him!"

At this moment something happened that filled Dade with unspeakable
satisfaction.

Dick Starbright looked into the room, saw Morgan, and hurried toward
him. Dick's face was pale, and he looked greatly concerned.

"What are you doing, Dade?" he demanded, with a touch of anger. "Been
looking round for you. Was afraid I'd find you at a bar. And you're
drinking! Is this the way you----"

"Now, cut it right there," interrupted Morgan. "Smell of this! Taste it!
It's lemonade. I can't explain how I happened here. No time. Something
doing. I want you to hustle back to the hotel and tell Frank that I'm
here. Tell him I'm about to be introduced to a man by the name of Hagan.
I don't know who this Hagan is, but I have my suspicions. Tell him I'll
try to hold Mr. Hagan right here long enough for him to arrive. He's
good at following anything up. If it's the right Hagan, Merry may find
some one else by shadowing him. Now skip. Don't waste a second."

"But----"

"I tell you to skip! Hagan may be here any moment. Wouldn't have him see
you for anything. Don't want him to know I've spoken to a soul since.
That's right! Dig! You'll have to hurry."

Starbright was somewhat bewildered, but he followed Dade's directions
and hastened from the Iroquois.

A few moments later Cavendale returned and announced that "Mr. Harrigan"
would be right down.

Five minutes after that a stout, florid-faced man walked into the room,
saw Cavendale and Morgan, and advanced toward them.

"Mr. Harrigan," said Cavendale, "I want you to meet a particular friend
of mine, Mr. Morgan."

"Glad to know you, Mr. Morgan," declared Harrigan, as he shook hands
with Dade. "What's in the wind, Wallace? You insisted that I should come
down right away."

"Because I know you are anxious to get hold of another young man on whom
you can rely implicitly, and I believe Morgan is the man you want. I
know him. He's a hustler. I give you my word that he's the very man for
you."

"You know him well, do you, Wallace? Of course there are plenty of young
men we can get, but we're looking for the right one. If you say Mr.
Morgan is----"

"I do. I give you my word for it."

"That is enough. Your word goes with me, but, of course, Mr. Morgan will
have to see the chief. He leaves Buffalo in the morning, and to-night is
the last opportunity to see him here."

"But hold on," remonstrated Dade. "I'd like to know what this thing is
that I'm going into. I haven't been able to get anything definite out of
Cavendale. Will you kindly clear it up for me, Mr. Harrigan? I'm not
going to plunge into anything, no matter what the inducement, with my
eyes blindfolded."

"Quite right, me boy," nodded Harrigan. "That's wisdom, and I like it."

Then he began to talk of great railroad projects and rich mines, and
kept it up in a rapid, yet rambling, manner, apparently explaining
fully, but actually making no explanation at all. All that Dade could
get from his talk was that the business involved mighty projects in
railroading and mining, and that all concerned in carrying the things
through would reap rich rewards.

"But still I'm in the dark," protested Morgan. "I may be dull, but I
confess that I need a little more light on this matter before I plunge."

Cavendale and Harrigan exchanged glances.

"The thing to do," said Harrigan, "is to have you see the chief. He'll
make it clear."

Dade demurred. He had not yet seen anything of Merriwell, although it
seemed that Frank had been given plenty of time to arrive. He plied his
companions with questions, sparring for more time.

And while he was doing so a door behind Harrigan's back swung open a
little. It was enough to give Morgan a glimpse of Merriwell outside.
Frank made a signal, and then the door closed.

Immediately Morgan seemed suddenly to agree to the proposals of his
companions.

"Oh, all right," he said carelessly. "If you won't make the matter clear
to me, then take me to this gentleman you call the chief. Perhaps he'll
enlighten me."

"He will, me lad," nodded Harrigan. "Come on. We'll call a cab."

"Then he's not stopping in this hotel?"

"Never a bit of it," said Harrigan. "He has a prejudice against hotels.
He's stopping with a friend at a private house."

They went to the office, where a cab was ordered.

As they left the Iroquois and entered the cab Dade looked round in vain
for a glimpse of Frank, but he was not to be seen.

It was a long drive through the streets of Buffalo. At first Dade tried
to keep track of the course, but soon the many turns and changes of
direction confused him, and he gave it up.

They stopped at last before a small, detached house near the outskirts
of the city. The house seemed dark and deserted.

Morgan began to wonder if he had been wise in accompanying the men, but
he quickly decided that there could be little or no reason for doing
personal injury to him, and so he unhesitatingly followed Cavendale up
the steps, while Harrigan came behind.

The cab rumbled away.

Cavendale pressed the push-button of the electric doorbell in a peculiar
manner. After a time there sounded from the inner side of the door an
odd knocking. Cavendale answered in a similar manner.

There was a sound of shooting bolts, but the rattle of a chain followed,
and the door was opened only a short distance. Plainly the chain was
still on.

Cavendale whispered to some one within. The door closed again, the chain
rattled once more, the door re-opened, and into the house of mystery
they walked.

The hand of Cavendale guided Dade through the dark hall, through a room
beyond and finally into still another room, which was dimly lighted.

"Here we are," said Cavendale, with affected cheerfulness. "Let's have
these lights up. The chief was abed, but he'll be down directly."

The lights were turned up. The room was plainly furnished, and had but
one window. That window was so heavily curtained that no gleam of light
could be seen from it by any one on the outside.

Hagan pretended to joke and talk in a lively manner, but his jokes were
forced and mirthless.

After a few minutes a soft step sounded outside, and a striking-looking
man in black entered the room. This man was slender and graceful, his
figure being that of a young man, but his face was one that proclaimed
him nearing seventy, and his hair was white as driven snow. One glance
at his eyes was enough for Dade, who knew instantly that they were the
same eyes he had seen peering through the transom of the Bowery hotel.

This was Frank Merriwell's deadly enemy, a monster who would hesitate at
no crime in order to injure the youth he so bitterly hated. This was the
man who had twice attempted to destroy the life of Inza Burrage. This
was the man who had poisoned Watson Scott at the Waldorf and had nearly
brought about the death of Warren Hatch in an automobile smash-up.

Morgan had good nerves. He managed to keep his face impassive as he was
introduced by Hagan, who said:

"Mr. Brown, this is Mr. Morgan, a young man who is willing to join us
and work with us when he is satisfied that the business is legitimate
and the reward sufficient."

"I am very glad to know you, Mr. Morgan," said "Brown," clasping Dade's
hand and looking into his eyes.

The voice was low and musical, but Morgan felt a thrill at the touch of
that hand, and in the steady, piercing glance of those eyes there was
something that caused a queer sensation of helplessness to creep upon
him.

"Sit down," was the invitation. "I will tell you all about it. Sit here,
where the light will not fall in your eyes."

He was urged into a chair. The man sat down before him, and on those
wonderful black eyes the light fell fairly.

The strange man began to talk in that low, soothing voice of his. He
talked--as had Harrigan--of mines, and railroads, and great projects.
His voice had an accent that was pleasant to hear, and at times the
formation of his sentences was peculiar. All the while, as he talked, he
looked steadily into Dade's eyes. At last, he leaned forward and took
Morgan's hands, continuing to talk.

Suddenly Dade realized that a spell was stealing over him. He was
growing drowsy. The man before him was telling him that he was tired and
should rest.

Morgan realized that he was being hypnotized!

Instantly he aroused all his will power to fight against it. At the same
time he resolved on a crafty course. He determined to pretend that he
was succumbing to the hypnotic spell.

This he cleverly did, his head sinking against the back of the chair and
his eyes closing. By closing his own eyes he shut out the view of those
terrible eyes, which he feared might conquer him.

There was a brief silence, and then the triumphant voice of the
mysterious man said:

"I have him now, and he is mine. From this night he shall do my bidding.
And he is the trusted friend and companion of Frank Merriwell! Ah!
through him I will strike Merriwell, even as I promised to strike him. I
told him I would ruin his beauty. Through this friend of his I will
accomplish the deed. Here I have a vial of vitriol. I always carry
several vials of poison with me. This one I will place in this chap's
pocket, and with it he shall do my command."

Then Morgan felt the man thrusting something into a pocket of his vest.
A moment later the soft voice spoke to him.

"Do you hear me?" it asked.

Morgan had witnessed hypnotic exhibitions, and so he answered in a low,
mechanical manner:

"Yes, sir."

"Good! I am your master, now and forever. Do you recognize and
acknowledge me as your master?"

"Yes, sir."

"Sleeping or waking, wherever you are, you must obey my commands. You
cannot refuse. What I tell you to do, while in your present state, you
must do while in a normal condition. You will obey me!"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. In your pocket I have placed a vial containing a liquid.
To-night, after returning to your hotel, you will seek Frank Merriwell's
room. If you find him in bed, all the better. You must take him
unawares. You must uncork that vial and fling the contents into his
face. This you will do!"

Although filled with indignation and horror, Dade answered:

"I will."

"Good! It is enough. I----"

He stopped speaking, interrupted by the furious ringing of a bell. Then
came another man rushing into the room, shaking with excitement, who
announced that there were many men at the door and others all round the
house. Apparently they were officers.

"Frank has turned the trick!" exultingly thought Morgan. "He has the
wretch trapped!"

But he remained motionless.

Hagan and Cavendale were greatly excited. They hurried from the room,
followed by "the chief."

The ringing at the doorbell continued. Then heavy blows fell on the
door, resounding through the house. There was the sound of smashing
wood.

"Come on, Merry!" laughed Morgan. "You have him this time! Don't let him
get away!"

He had leaped up. He heard the door burst open. He heard some one
approaching on the jump. With a spring he concealed himself behind a
high-backed chair in the corner.

Hagan burst into the room, followed by "the chief."

"It's caught ye are, Mr. Lazaro!" said the disgusted Irishman. "They
have us all! It's bad for me, but for you it means life behind the
bars."

"Never!" was the retort. "See this vial, Señor Hagan? It contains
poison. I shall swallow----"

A policeman appeared in the doorway.

The man of the terrible eyes and snowy hair placed the vial to his lips
and swallowed the contents. Then he flung the empty vial at the officer,
staggered to a chair, dropped upon it, and laughed a horrible laugh that
ended with what seemed a death rattle.

Morgan had risen. In a dazed condition he saw officers swarm into the
room, saw Hagan--who had been introduced to him as Harrigan--handcuffed,
saw Frank Merriwell bending over a limp, still form and declaring the
man was Lazaro.

"He has swallowed poison!" cried Dade, arousing himself at last, and
rushing forward. "I saw him do it!"

The eyes of Lazaro--those fearful eyes--were lifted to the face of Frank
Merriwell for a moment. A haze seemed spreading over them. The lips of
the man moved. Silence fell on the room, and all present heard him say:

"Merriwell, you have brought death to me at last. To escape you and to
escape imprisonment, I die at last. Even yet you shall not escape me. I
shall haunt you after death! I will bring you at last to your miserable
end! _Adios!_"

Then the lips were still, the eyes partly closed.

"He is dead!" said an officer.

"Not until I hear him proclaimed dead by a reliable physician will I be
satisfied," said Frank. "Bring in a doctor."

A short time later a doctor appeared. The physician knelt beside Lazaro
and made a careful examination, silently watched by the others. At last
the doctor rose to his feet, saying:

"There is no question about it, the man is dead."


THE END.



"Dick Merriwell Abroad" is the title of the next volume in THE MERRIWELL
SERIES, No. 118. A tale of Dick Merriwell's adventures in foreign lands
by Burt L. Standish.



[Transcriber's Note: This advertisement originally appeared at the front
of the text, and has been moved to the rear for this electronic
edition.]

BOOKS FOR YOUNG MEN

MERRIWELL SERIES

ALL BY BURT L. STANDISH

Price, Fifteen Cents                 Stories of Frank and Dick Merriwell

Fascinating Stories of Athletics


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1--Frank Merriwell's School Days
2--Frank Merriwell's Chums
3--Frank Merriwell's Foes
4--Frank Merriwell's Trip West
5--Frank Merriwell Down South
6--Frank Merriwell's Bravery
7--Frank Merriwell's Hunting Tour
8--Frank Merriwell in Europe
9--Frank Merriwell at Yale
10--Frank Merriwell's Sports Afield
11--Frank Merriwell's Races
12--Frank Merriwell's Party
13--Frank Merriwell's Bicycle Tour
14--Frank Merriwell's Courage
15--Frank Merriwell's Daring
16--Frank Merriwell's Alarm
17--Frank Merriwell's Athletes
18--Frank Merriwell's Skill
19--Frank Merriwell's Champions
20--Frank Merriwell's Return to Yale
21--Frank Merriwell's Secret
22--Frank Merriwell's Danger
23--Frank Merriwell's Loyalty
24--Frank Merriwell in Camp
25--Frank Merriwell's Vacation
26--Frank Merriwell's Cruise
27--Frank Merriwell's Chase
28--Frank Merriwell in Maine
29--Frank Merriwell's Struggle
30--Frank Merriwell's First Job
31--Frank Merriwell's Opportunity
32--Frank Merriwell's Hard Luck
33--Frank Merriwell's Protégé
34--Frank Merriwell on the Road
35--Frank Merriwell's Own Company
36--Frank Merriwell's Fame
37--Frank Merriwell's College Chums
38--Frank Merriwell's Problem
39--Frank Merriwell's Fortune
40--Frank Merriwell's New Comedian
41--Frank Merriwell's Prosperity
42--Frank Merriwell's Stage Hit
43--Frank Merriwell's Great Scheme
44--Frank Merriwell in England
45--Frank Merriwell on the Boulevards
46--Frank Merriwell's Duel
47--Frank Merriwell's Double Shot
48--Frank Merriwell's Baseball Victories
49--Frank Merriwell's Confidence
50--Frank Merriwell's Auto
51--Frank Merriwell's Fun
52--Frank Merriwell's Generosity
53--Frank Merriwell's Tricks
54--Frank Merriwell's Temptation
55--Frank Merriwell on Top
56--Frank Merriwell's Luck
57--Frank Merriwell's Mascot
58--Frank Merriwell's Reward
59--Frank Merriwell's Phantom
60--Frank Merriwell's Faith
61--Frank Merriwell's Victories
62--Frank Merriwell's Iron Nerve
63--Frank Merriwell in Kentucky
64--Frank Merriwell's Power
65--Frank Merriwell's Shrewdness
66--Frank Merriwell's Setback
67--Frank Merriwell's Search
68--Frank Merriwell's Club
69--Frank Merriwell's Trust
70--Frank Merriwell's False Friend
71--Frank Merriwell's Strong Arm
72--Frank Merriwell as Coach
73--Frank Merriwell's Brother
74--Frank Merriwell's Marvel
75--Frank Merriwell's Support
76--Dick Merriwell at Fardale
77--Dick Merriwell's Glory
78--Dick Merriwell's Promise
79--Dick Merriwell's Rescue
80--Dick Merriwell's Narrow Escape
81--Dick Merriwell's Racket
82--Dick Merriwell's Revenge
83--Dick Merriwell's Ruse
84--Dick Merriwell's Delivery
85--Dick Merriwell's Wonders
86--Frank Merriwell's Honor
87--Dick Merriwell's Diamond
88--Frank Merriwell's Winners
89--Dick Merriwell's Dash
90--Dick Merriwell's Ability
91--Dick Merriwell's Trap
92--Dick Merriwell's Defense
93--Dick Merriwell's Model
94--Dick Merriwell's Mystery
95--Frank Merriwell's Backers
96--Dick Merriwell's Backstop
97--Dick Merriwell's Western Mission
98--Frank Merriwell's Rescue
99--Frank Merriwell's Encounter
100--Dick Merriwell's Marked Money
101--Frank Merriwell's Nomads
102--Dick Merriwell on the Gridiron
103--Dick Merriwell's Disguise
104--Dick Merriwell's Test
105--Frank Merriwell's Trump Card
106--Frank Merriwell's Strategy
107--Frank Merriwell's Triumph
108--Dick Merriwell's Grit
109--Dick Merriwell's Assurance
110--Dick Merriwell's Long Slide
111--Frank Merriwell's Rough Deal
112--Dick Merriwell's Threat
113--Dick Merriwell's Persistence
114--Dick Merriwell's Day
115--Frank Merriwell's Peril
116--Dick Merriwell's Downfall
117--Frank Merriwell's Pursuit
118--Dick Merriwell Abroad
119--Frank Merriwell in the Rockies
120--Dick Merriwell's Pranks
121--Frank Merriwell's Pride
122--Frank Merriwell's Challengers
123--Frank Merriwell's Endurance
124--Dick Merriwell's Cleverness
125--Frank Merriwell's Marriage
126--Dick Merriwell, the Wizard
127--Dick Merriwell's Stroke
128--Dick Merriwell's Return
129--Dick Merriwell's Resource
130--Dick Merriwell's Five
131--Frank Merriwell's Tigers
132--Dick Merriwell's Polo Team
133--Frank Merriwell's Pupils
134--Frank Merriwell's New Boy
135--Dick Merriwell's Home Run
136--Dick Merriwell's Dare
137--Frank Merriwell's Son
138--Dick Merriwell's Team Mate
139--Frank Merriwell's Leaguers
140--Frank Merriwell's Happy Camp
141--Dick Merriwell's Influence
142--Dick Merriwell, Freshman
143--Dick Merriwell's Staying Power

In order that there may be no confusion, we desire to say that the books
listed below will be issued during the respective months in New York
City and vicinity. They may not reach the readers at a distance
promptly, on account of delays in transportation.


To be published in July, 1926.

144--Dick Merriwell's Joke
145--Frank Merriwell's Talisman


To be published in August, 1926.

146--Frank Merriwell's Horse
147--Dick Merriwell's Regret


To be published in September, 1926.

148--Dick Merriwell's Magnetism
149--Dick Merriwell's Backers


To be published in October, 1926.

150--Dick Merriwell's Best Work
151--Dick Merriwell's Distrust
152--Dick Merriwell's Debt


To be published in November, 1926.

153--Dick Merriwell's Mastery
154--Dick Merriwell Adrift


To be published in December, 1926.

155--Frank Merriwell's Worst Boy
156--Dick Merriwell's Close Call





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