Frank Merriwell's Alarm: or, Doing His Best
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“And so he might if you hadn’t helped me throw him off. You did it just in time, and I believe you saved my life.”
“Oh, but he had a knife – I could see it! And I knew he would use it. He has such wonderful strength.”
“He is strong.”
“Strong! I do not see how you held him off! But I could see him forcing the knife nearer and nearer, and I grew frantic, for it seemed that you would be killed before my eyes.”
“I was rather anxious myself,” confessed Frank, with something like a laugh.
“It was a nasty position.”
“I don’t know how I dared touch him, but I remember that I did. Then you flung him off and got up. After that, I remember that you were fighting, and I felt sure you could not conquer him. He would get the best of you in the end, and then he’d finish me. I was scared and tried to run away; but I did not go far before I became sick and weak, and – and I don’t remember anything more.”
“And you whipped Apollo?”
“Not exactly. I knocked him down a few times, but he seemed to spring to his feet almost as soon as he went down. Then somebody brought a light to a window and he was scared away.”
The boy clung to Frank.
“He did not go far!” he excitedly whispered. “He is not far away! He is liable to spring upon us any time! Bernard Belmont has sent him for me, and he will not rest till he gets me. Oh, I must get away – quick – to my sister! She is near – so near now! But my strength is gone, and – and – ”
The boy began to cough, and each convulsion shook him from head to feet. There was a hollow, dreadful sound about that cough – a sound that gave Frank a chill.
“Never mind if your strength is gone,” said Merriwell, encouragingly. “You’ll get along all right, for I’ll stick by you and see that you do.”
“You are so kind!”
“What’s your name?”
“Where do you live – here in Carson?”
“Oh, no, no! I live in Ohio.”
“That is a long distance away.”
“How do you happen to be here?”
The boy hesitated, seeming in doubt and fear, and then, with what appeared to be a sudden impulse, he said:
“I am going to tell you – I am going to tell you everything. Put me down here. Let’s rest. I am tired, and I must be heavy.”
They sat down on some steps, the boy seeking to keep in the shadow, showing he feared being seen.
“It’s – it’s like this,” he began, weakly. “I – I ran away.”
“Oh-ho!” exclaimed Frank.
The lad quickly, almost fearfully, clutched his arms.
“Don’t think I ran away foolishly!” he exclaimed, coughing again. “I – I came out here to find my sister, who is buried.”
“Then your sister is dead?”
“Not dead? You said she is buried. How can a person be buried and not be dead?”
Frank began to think it possible the boy was rather “daffy.”
“There – there’s lots to the story,” came painfully from the boy.“I can’t tell you all. The letter said she was buried – buried so deep that Bernard Belmont could never find her. That letter was from Uncle Carter.”
“My father’s brother, Carter Morris. He lives somewhere in the mountains west of Lake Tahoe. He has a mine up there, and he is very queer. He thinks everybody wants to steal his mine, and he will let no one know where it is located. They say the ore he has brought here into Carson is of marvelous richness. Men have tried to follow him, but he has always succeeded in flinging them off the trail. Never have they tracked him to his mine.”
“Then he is something of a hermit?”
“Yes, he is a hermit, and my sister is with him. He wrote that she was buried deep in the earth – that must be in his mine.”
“How did your sister come to be with him?”
“I helped her – I helped her get away!” panted the boy, excitedly. “I knew they meant to kill us both!”
“Bernard Belmont and Apollo.”
“Who is Bernard Belmont?”
“My stepfather. He married my mother, after the death of my father. He is a handsome man, but he has a wicked face, and he is a wretch – a wretch!”
The boy grew excited suddenly, almost screaming his words, while he struck his clinched hands together feebly.
“Steady,” warned Frank. “You must not get so excited.”
The boy began to cough, holding both hands to his breast. For some minutes he was shaken by that convulsive cough.
“Come,” said Frank, “let me get you to the hotel. You must have a doctor. There must be no further delay.”
“No, stop!” and the boy held to Merriwell’s arm. “I must tell you now. I seem to feel that my strength is going – going! I must tell you! He – he killed my mother!”
“Who – Bernard Belmont?”
“Killed her? You charge him with that?”
“I do. He killed her by inches. He tortured her to death by his abusive treatment – he frightened my poor mother to death. And then, when he found everything had been left to us – my sister and myself – then he set about the task of destroying us by inches. It was fixed so that he could get hold of everything with us out of the way, and he – ”
Another fit of coughing came on, and, when it was finished, the boy was too weak to proceed with the story.
“You shall have a doctor immediately!” cried Frank, as he lifted the lad and again started for the hotel.
CHAPTER X. – THE STORY
Frank succeeded in getting George Morris to the hotel, took him to a room, and put him on the bed.
“Do not leave me!” pleaded the boy. “Apollo will come and carry me off if you do. Stay here with me!”
“I’ll stay,” assured Frank; “but I must find some of my friends and send for a physician. You must have a doctor right away.”
Bruce, Diamond and Toots had gone out, but he found Harry, and told him what was desired. Harry started out to search for a doctor, while Frank returned to the boy, who was in a state of great agitation when he re-entered the room.
“Oh, I thought you would never come!” coughed the unfortunate lad. “You were away so long!”
He was thin and pale, with deep-sunken eyes, which, however, were strangely bright. He was poorly and scantily dressed, and the hand that lay on his bosom seemed so thin that it was almost transparent. One of his eyes had been struck by the fist of the brutish dwarf, and was turning purple. On one cheek there was a great bruise and a slight cut.
Frank’s heart had gone out in sympathy to this unfortunate lad, and he was filled with rage when he thought how brutally the poor boy had been treated.
Merriwell sat down on the edge of the bed, and took that thin, white hand. It felt like a little bundle of bones, and was so cold that it gave Frank a shudder.
“You are very ill,” declared the boy from Yale. “I believe you have been starved.”
“That was one way in which he tried to get rid of us,” said George.
“You are speaking of Bernard Belmont?”
“He tried to starve you?”
“Yes, and my sister also. Little Milly! You should see her! She is such a sweet girl, and she is so good! I don’t see how he had the heart to torture her.”
“This Belmont must be a human brute!” cried Merriwell, in anger. “He deserves to be broken on the wheel!”
“He is a brute!” weakly cried the boy. “He killed my mother – my dear, sweet mother! Oh, she was so good, and so beautiful! She loved us so – Milly and me! Listen, my dear friend,” and the the boy drew Frank closer. “I – I think he – poisoned her!”
These words were whispered in a tone of such horror and grief that the soul of the listening lad was made to quiver like the vibrating strings of a violin when touched by the bow.
“You mustn’t think about that now,” said Frank, soothingly. “It will hurt you to think about it.”
“But I must, for, do you know, dear friend, I feel sure I shall not have long to think of it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Merry, with a chill.
“Something – something tells me the end is near. Apollo, he hurt me – here.”
The boy pressed one hand to his breast and coughed again.
“You are excited – you are frightened,” declared Frank. “You will be all right in the morning. The doctor will fix you up all right. You shall have the very best food you can eat, and I’ll see that you receive the tenderest care.”
The eyes of the lad on the bed filled with tears and his lips quivered, while he gazed at Frank with a look of love.
“You are so good!” he said, weakly, but with deep feeling. “Why are you so good to me – a stranger?”
“Because I like you, and you are in trouble.”
“There are not many like you – not many! I know I can trust you, and I do wish you would do something for me!”
“I will. Tell me what it is. I promise in advance.”
“I don’t want you to promise till you know what it is, for I have no right to ask so much of you.”
“Very well. Tell me.”
“When I am dead, for I know I shall not last long – will you find my sister and tell her everything? Tell her how near I came to reaching her, and let her know that I am gone. She loves me. I am only fifteen, but she is eighteen and very beautiful. She looks like my angel mother. Dear little Milly! Will you do this?”
“I will do it, if the occasion arises; but we’ll have you all right in a short time, and you will go to her yourself.”
“If I recover, I shall not be able to go to her.”
“Bernard Belmont has followed me, and he will drag me back to the old prison – I know it.”
“He shall not!” exclaimed Frank, with determination.
“The law is with him,” said the boy, weakly. “He has the best of it, for he is my legal guardian.”
“At that he has no right to abuse you, and he can be deprived of guardianship over you. It shall be done.”
But no light of hope illumined the face of the unfortunate boy.
“It will be no use,” George said. “He has starved me and beaten me. He has drenched me with water, and left me where it was icy cold, so that I have been awfully ill. And all the time I had this – this cough.”
Frank leaped to his feet and paced the small room like a caged tiger, his soul wrought to an intense fury at the thought of the treatment the boy had received. He longed for power to punish the monster who had perpetrated such dastardly acts.
“Your sister,” he finally asked – “did this brute treat her thus?”
“Nearly as bad, but she was older and stronger.”
“Tell me, how did your sister get away from him?”
“We planned to run away together, and then I became so ill that I could not. I – I made her leave me. I told her she must find Uncle Carter – must let him know everything. It was our only hope. He must save us.”
“But how did she reach your uncle?”
“It was this way: We knew where Bernard Belmont kept some money in a little safe, and I – I knew how to get into that safe. That money belonged to us – it was mother’s money. Belmont was not worth a dollar when he married my mother. It would not be stealing for us to take it. Sometimes he went away and left us to be cared for by Apollo, the dwarf. Such care! Apollo was a monster – a brute! Bernard Belmont hired him to torture us. This time, when Belmont went away, Apollo shut us up in a room, leaving some bread and water for us, and we were left there, while he visited the wine cellar and got beastly drunk. He thought we were safe in that room – thought we could not get out. But we had been imprisoned there before, and I had made a key of wire. We got out. We found the dwarf in a drunken sleep, and we tied him. Then we went to the safe and opened it. There was but a trifle over fifty dollars in that safe. It was not enough to take us both to Nevada – to Uncle Carter. Then I fainted, and I was too ill to try to run away when my sister restored me. She insisted on staying with me, but I commanded her to go. I begged her to go. I told her it was the only way. If she did not go, we were lost, for Bernard Belmont would discover what we had done, and he would make sure we had no opportunity to repeat the trick. She wanted to stay and care for me. I told her Belmont would not dare harm me till he had caught her. It might be some days before he got back. It was possible she could reach Uncle Carter, and then Uncle Carter could come East and save me. After a time I convinced her. She took the money, dressed herself for the street, and, after kissing me and weeping over me, left me. I have never seen her since.”
“But she escaped – she reached your uncle?”
“He made no effort to save you?”
“Why was that?”
“I know nothing, except that he is queer. Perhaps he thought I was not worth saving. It was nearly a week before Bernard Belmont returned. All that time I kept Apollo tied fast, and I rejoiced as the days went by. When Belmont came there was a terrible outburst. I was beaten nearly to death. He tried to make me tell where my sister had gone, but I would only say, ‘Find out.’ When I had become unconscious and he could not restore me to my senses to question me further, he started to trace Mildred. He traced her after a time, but she had reached Uncle Carter, and she was safe. He wrote a letter to Uncle Carter, and the reply he received made him furious. It told him that Milly was buried so deep that he would never see her again. She was dead to him and to the world. Then Bernard Belmont swore that I would soon be dead in truth. After that – oh, I can’t tell it!”
Frank saw it was exhausting the unfortunate boy, and he quickly said:
“Do not tell it; you have told enough. But you escaped.”
“After nearly a year. I escaped without a cent of money, and how I worked my way here I do not know. Several times I dodged detectives, whom I knew were in the employ of Belmont. I got here at last, but I found Bernard Belmont and Apollo were waiting for me. I tried to escape, but Apollo found me, and – you know the rest.”
CHAPTER XI. – ANOTHER ESCAPE
The poor boy relapsed into silence, closing his eyes and breathing with no small difficulty. A great flood of pity welled up in the heart of Frank Merriwell as he looked at that thin, bruised face, and he felt like becoming the boy’s champion and avenger.
Again Frank pressed the thin hand that looked so weak and helpless. He held it in both his own warm, strong hands, and he earnestly said:
“My poor fellow! you have been wretchedly treated, and it is certain that Bernard Belmont shall suffer for what he has done. Retribution is something he cannot escape.”
“Oh, I don’t know!” weakly whispered George. “I used to think so – I used to think that the wicked people all were punished, but I’m beginning to believe it isn’t so.”
“You must not believe it isn’t so,” anxiously declared Frank. “Of course you believe there is an All-wise Being who witnesses even the sparrow’s fall?”
“Then you cannot doubt that such a Being will visit just punishment upon the wicked man who has caused you so much suffering and pain. His way is past finding out, but you must trust Him.”
There was something noble and manly on the face of Frank Merriwell as he spoke those words, and the manner in which he uttered them told that he had the utmost and implicit confidence in the wisdom of the Being of whom he spoke.
At that moment it scarcely seemed possible that Frank was the same merry, laughing, lively lad who was usually so full of fun and pranks. Those who fancied they knew him best would have been amazed could they have seen him and heard his words.
Thus was shown one of the many hidden sides of Frank’s nature, which was most complex and yet honest and guileless.
The boy on the bed opened his eyes and looked at Frank in silence, for a long time. Finally he said:
“I see you really believe what you say, and you have given me new faith. I have suffered so much – so much that I had begun to doubt. It is hard to trust in the goodness of God when it seems that nearly all the wicked ones in the world are the ones who are prosperous. Bernard Belmont is believed to be an upright and honorable man in the town where he lives, and the people there think he was very kind to the two invalid children left on his hands when his wife died.”
“Some day they will know the truth.”
“It will be when I am dead!”
“I am sure of it. Do you know, dear friend, Apollo hurt me so much to-night! It seems that he hurt me somewhere in – here.”
The boy pressed his hand to his side.
“But the doctor is coming, and he will make you well again.”
“Perhaps he can’t. I had rather not get well than be turned over to Belmont again and left for him to torture.”
George shuddered at this, and Frank ground his teeth softly, as he thought what intense satisfaction it would give him to see the man Belmont punished as he deserved.
“Why doesn’t Harry come with the doctor?” thought Frank, as he got up and impatiently paced the floor. “He has had plenty of time.”
A few moments later the boy on the bed beckoned with his thin hand.
Frank hastened to the bedside, anxiously asking: “Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes,” whispered George; “sit down and listen.”
“I wish you would save your strength. You must stop talking.”
“I must talk, for it is my last chance. I want to tell you again that I know my sister is somewhere in the mountains up around Lake Tahoe. You have said you would find her. Do so; tell her I am gone. She is an heiress, for all the money Bernard Belmont has will belong to her then. If you could do something to aid her in obtaining her rights. Will you try?”
“I will try.”
“Oh, you are so good – and you are so brave! How you fought that terrible dwarf! You did not seem afraid of him! It is wonderful! I never saw anybody like you! Yes, yes, I am beginning to have faith. How can I help it after this?”
He smiled at Frank, and there was something so joyous and so pathetic in that smile that Merry turned away to hide the tears which welled into his eyes.
When Frank turned back he was bravely smiling, as he said, in a most encouraging manner:
“Now you must have faith that you are going to get well. That is what you need. It will be better than medicine and doctors. Think – think of meeting your sister again!”
“Yes, yes!” panted the boy. “Dear little Milly!”
“How happy she will be!”
“And think of regaining possession of what is rightfully your own – of getting square with Bernard Belmont.”
A cloud came to the face of the boy.
“Of course I want what is mine – I want Milly to have her rights,” he slowly said; “but – but it is not my place to punish the man who has wronged us.”
“The law will do that.”
“God will do that! I believe it once more since talking with you. I trust Him fully.”
There were footsteps outside the door, a gentle tap, and Frank admitted Harry and a physician.
The doctor sat down in a chair by the bed and asked the boy a few questions, while Frank and Harry anxiously watched and listened. The doctor’s face was unreadable.
“Who is this boy, Frank?” whispered Harry. “Where did you find him?”
“Wait,” said Merry. “I will tell you later, but not here.”
The doctor declared that the unfortunate lad must have some light stimulating food without delay, and he wrote a prescription.
“Take this to a druggist and have it filled,” he said, handing it to Harry.
Harry left the room.
The boy lay back on the bed, his eyes closed, breathing softly. The doctor arose and walked to the window, motioning Frank to join him.
“How is it, doctor?” Merriwell anxiously asked, in a whisper.
The man shook his head.
“I can’t tell yet,” he confessed; “but I fear he is done for. He has been starved, and his lungs are in a bad way. What he needs most is stimulants and food, but everything must be mild, as his system is in such a weakened condition. As for the injury to his side, of which he complains, of course I cannot tell how severe that may be.”
Frank’s heart sank, for the doctor was more discouraging in his manner than in his words.
“Save him if you can, doctor!” he entreated.
“I will. Is he a friend or relative of yours?”
“He is an utter stranger to me. I never saw him before to-night.”
The doctor lifted his eyebrows in astonishment.
“Indeed! Then who is to pay the bills for his care and treatment?”
“I will,” Frank promptly answered. “Here, take this as a fee in advance.”
A bill was thrust into the physician’s hand.
After looking at the bill the doctor assumed a very deferential manner.
“He should have a first-class nurse,” he declared.
“He shall,” assured Merriwell; “the best one to be obtained in Carson.”
“This is very strange,” said the physician. “I can’t understand why you should do such a thing for one who is a stranger to you. You must have an object.”
“Ah! I thought so!”
“My object is to see this poor, abused boy live and get his just due. He has been misused, and the man who has misused him should be punished. I hope to live to know that man has been punished as he deserves.”
“Ah!” came from the doctor once more. “Then you have a grudge against the man?”
“I never saw him in all my life. I never heard of him before this night.”
The physician was more puzzled than before.
“Then I must say you are a most remarkable person!” he exclaimed.
Once more there were steps outside the door – heavy shuffling steps.
The boy on the bed heard those steps, and a gasp came from his pale lips, as he turned his head toward the door, his face distorted by fear.
“He is coming!”
The words came in a hoarse whisper from the injured boy.
Frank started toward the door and the boy wildly entreated:
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