Frank Merriwell's Alarm: or, Doing His Best
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“Stop him – don’t let him come in here! Hark! There is another step! They are both there! They have come for me – come to drag me back to a living death!”
“Why, he is raving!” exclaimed the doctor.
Bang! – open flew the door. Without stopping to knock or ask leave to enter, a tall, dark-bearded man stepped into the room.
At this man’s heels came a crouching figure that seemed half human and half beast. It had a short, thick body and long arms that nearly reached the floor. Its face was pale as marble, save for a red scar that ran down the left cheek to the corner of the mouth. The eyes were set near together, and they glistened with a savage, cruel light.
Frank stepped between the intruders and the bed, but the boy had seen them, and he sat up, uttering a wild scream of fear, then fell back on the pillow.
“Who are you? and what do you want?” demanded Merriwell, boldly confronting the man and the creature at his heels.
“Never mind who we are; we want that boy, and we will have him!” declared the man. “He can’t escape us this time!”
Frank glanced at the figure on the bed, and then turned back, crying with great impressiveness:
“He can and has escaped you, Bernard Belmont; but he will stand face to face with you at the great bar of justice in the day of judgment!”
“What!” hoarsely cried the man, starting back and staring at the ghastly face of the boy on the bed; “he is dead!”
CHAPTER XII. – AT LAKE TAHOE
Poised like a sparkling gem in a grand and glorious setting of mountain peaks, lies Lake Tahoe, the highest body of water on the American continent.
The sun was shining from a clear sky when Frank Merriwell and Harry Rattleton reached a point where they could look down upon the bosom of the lake, from which the sunlight was reflected as from the surface of a mirror.
“There it is, old man!” cried Frank, enthusiastically – “the most beautiful lake in all the wide world!”
“That is stutting it rather peep – I mean putting it rather steep,” said Harry, with a remonstrating grin.
“But none too steep,” asserted Frank. “People raved about the beauties of Maggiore and Como, and thousands of fool Americans rush over to the old world and go into raptures over those lakes, but Tahoe knocks the eye out of them both.”
“I think you are stuck on anything American, Frank.”
“I am, and I am proud of it, too. Rattleton, we have a right to be proud of our country, and we would be blooming chumps if we weren’t. It is the greatest and grandest country the sun ever shone upon, and a fellow fully realizes it after he has been abroad and traveled around over Europe, Asia and Africa. I’ve been sight-seeing in those lands, my boy, and I know whereof I speak.”
“You are thoroughly American, anyway, Frank.”
“That’s right. I love my native land and its beautiful flag – Old Glory! I never knew what it was to feel a thrill of joy that was absolutely painful till I saw the Stars and Stripes in a foreign land.The sight blinded me with tears and made me feel it would be a privilege to lay down my life in defense of that starry banner.”
“Well, you’re a queer duck, anyway!” exclaimed Harry. “I never saw a chap before who seemed cool as an iceberg outside and had a heart of fire in his bosom.”
“Every man is peculiar in his own way,” he said “I never try to be anything different than I am. I am disgusted by affectation.”
“We have found Lake Tahoe, but that is not finding the ‘buried heiress,’ as you call her.”
“But we will find her.”
“I scarcely think it will be an easy task.”
“Nor do I think so, but I gave George Morris my word, and I am going to keep my promise to him, poor fellow!”
“You never seem to consider the possibility of failure, Frank.”
“The ones who consider the possibility of failure are those who fail, old fellow. Those who succeed are the ones who never think of failure – who believe they cannot fail. Confidence in one’s self is an absolute requisite in the battle of life.”
“There is such a thing as egotism.”
“Yes. That consists in bragging about what you can do. It is most offensive. It is the fellow who does things without boasting who cuts ice in this world. The other fellow often spends his time in telling what he can do, but never does much.”
“I think you are right; but let’s get down nearer the lake. I’ve heard that the water is marvelously clear.”
“It is so clear that a small fish may be seen from the surface, though the fish is near the bottom where the lake is the deepest.”
“Then it can’t be very deep.”
“It is, nevertheless. In many places it is thirty or forty feet – even more than that.”
“Then who invented the fish story?”
“The fish story is all right,” laughed Merriwell. “I know.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been here before.”
“Here – at Lake Tahoe?”
“Well, say!” cried Rattleton, in astonishment, “I’d like to know where you haven’t been!”
“Oh, there are lots of places where I haven’t been, but this is one of the places where I have been. That’s all.”
“What brought you here?”
“I came here in pursuit of a young lady in whom a friend of mine, Bart Hodge, was interested.”
“I think I have heard you speak of Hodge.”
“Yes, he was my chum when I was in Fardale Military Academy. We were enemies at first, and Hodge did his best to down me, but we became friendly after that, and Hodge turned out to be a very decent fellow.”
“Where is he now?”
“Give it up. Haven’t heard from Bart in a long time. Last I knew he was out here in the West somewhere.”
The boys had reached Tahoe on their wheels, there being a road to the lake. The road was not a very good one for bicycle traveling, but they had ridden a portion of the way.
Now they had left the road and pushed down to the lake by a winding path, along which they had been forced to carry their wheels at times.
They made their way down to the edge of a bluff, from the verge of which they could look over into the water.
“Say! it is clear!” cried Harry.
“I told you so,” smiled Frank.
“But – but – why, it almost seems to magnify! I can count the pebbles on the bottom. Look at those tiny fishes swimming around there.”
In truth the water was marvelously clear, and things on the bottom could be seen almost as plainly as if they were not beneath the surface.
“Why, it don’t seem possible that a boat can float on it!” broke from Harry.
“It is something like floating in the air.”
“Are there boats to be obtained near here?”
“There are a number of boats on the lake. There once was a man near here by the name of Big Gabe who owned a boat.”
“Let’s get it, if he is here now. I want to take a sail on this lake. How do we find Big Gabe?”
“I don’t know that we’ll be able to find him at all. He was a consumptive.”
“Oh, then he may be dead?”
“Not from consumption. He came here to die, but in less than a year he was stronger and heartier than he had ever before been, and he was so lazy that he didn’t care to do anything but lay around and take life easy. He said he was going to stay here till he died, but there seemed little prospect that he’d ever die. He – ”
At this moment there was a sudden wild snarl behind them, and, before they could turn, each lad received a powerful thrust that sent him whirling from the bluff to fall with a great splash into the water below.
Both lads had pulled their bicycles over the brink, so the wheels fell with a loud splash into the water which washed against the base of the steep rock.
The boys themselves had been sent whirling still farther out, and they sank like stones when they struck the water.
But they came up quickly, wondering what had happened.
“Blate glisters – no, great blisters!” gurgled Harry, as he spurted water like a whale. “Where are we at?”
“Christmas!” said Frank. “What struck us?”
And then, on the top of the bluff, they saw a creature that was dancing and howling with rage and satisfaction.
It was Apollo, the dwarf.
“May I be hanged!” exploded Rattleton. “It’s that thing!”
“It is!” agreed Frank; “and I supposed that thing must be hundreds of miles from here.”
“Belmont didn’t let any grass grow under his feet before he got out.”
The creature on the bluff danced and screamed and waved its long arms, while its hideous face was convulsed with expressions of rage.
“Oh, I’d like to get at him!” grated Frank.
“Thank you, I’d much rather keep away!” exclaimed Harry.
Then the boys started to swim ashore.
Suddenly the dwarf began throwing stones at them. He picked up huge stones from the ground and sent them whizzing through the air with great force and something like accuracy.
“Well, this is getting rather hot!” exclaimed Frank, as a huge jagged stone shot down past his head and sank in the water.
“Hot!” gurgled Rattleton. “I should say so – some!”
Another huge stone struck between them.
“If that had hit either of us, it would have fixed us!” came from Frank.
“Swim, old fellow! We must get away.”
But as they swam, looking for a place to go ashore, the dwarf followed along the top of the bluff, still pelting them with stones, while he uttered those savage cries.
One of the smaller stones struck Merry and hurt him not a little.
“Wait!” he muttered. “I’ll get a chance at you yet!”
Then, regardless of the shower of stones, he started to swim in toward the shore where he saw a place that they could get out of the water.
But another stone whizzed down, and there came a broken, strangling cry from Harry.
“What happened, old fellow?” asked Frank, who was now a bit in advance. “Did the cur hit you?”
Frank looked around, and found Harry had disappeared from view.
The dwarf on the bluff danced and howled with fierce delight.
As quickly as he could, Frank turned about, swam back a little and dived. It did not require a great effort to go down, for now his clothes were thoroughly wet, and he sank easily.
As soon as he was below the surface, keeping his eyes open, he saw his friend lying on the bottom. The water was so clear that there was not the least difficulty in this.
Down Frank went till he reached Harry, whom he grasped. Planting his feet on the bottom, he gave a great leap and shot upward.
The water was not more than eight feet deep, and he quickly reached the surface, immediately striking for the shore.
But his watersoaked garments and Harry’s weight dragged on him, and it was a desperate battle to keep from going down again.
“You must do it, Merriwell!” he told himself. “It’s your only show! Pull him out somehow!”
Several times his head was forced below the surface and it seemed that the struggle was over; but he would not give up, and he would not let go his hold on Harry.
“Both or none!” he thought. “If I can’t get out with him, I’ll not get out without him!”
The dwarf had disappeared from the bluff, which was a fortunate thing, as he would have been given a fine opportunity to pelt them with rocks as Frank slowly and laboriously swam ashore. Just then, if Merriwell had been struck on the head by a stone, it must have ended the whole affair.
“Oh, if my clothes were off!” panted Frank. “Then I could do it. I must do it anyway.”
He wondered how badly Harry was hurt, but it was impossible to tell till the shore was reached.
The water did not seem so buoyant as it should, and he almost felt that there was a force dragging him down.
Purely by his power of determination he succeeded in reaching the rocks and dragging himself out with his burden, when he sank down utterly exhausted.
“Thank goodness!” he gasped. “I did it!”
He had not been there many moments when he heard a cry above, and, looking upward, saw the dwarf had returned to the edge of the bluff.
The dwarf seemed astonished when he saw the boys had reached shore, and he sent a stone whistling down at them.
Frank dodged the missile, and then, with a fresh feeling of strength, hastened up the rocks toward the top of the bluff.
Apollo saw the boy coming and immediately took to his heels, quickly disappearing from view.
Finding the dwarf had escaped, Frank turned back, lifted Harry in his arms, and again mounted the rocks.
He reached the top and bore his friend to a place where he could rest on some short grass where he was sheltered from the sunlight.
Then Frank looked for Harry’s injury.
Rattleton had been struck on the head by a stone, which had cut a short gash in the scalp, and from this blood was flowing.
“It doesn’t seem very bad,” said Frank, as he examined the wound. “I rather think it stunned him, and that is all. He was not under water long enough to drown.”
Frank took a handkerchief from his pocket and wrung it out, intending to bind up Harry’s head with it.
At that moment, happening to glance up, he saw a pale, horrible face peering out from a mass of shrubbery.
It was the face of Apollo, the dwarf.
“That creature still here!” grated Merriwell, as he sprang up. “If he isn’t driven away, he may find a way to injure us further.”
Then he ran after Apollo, who quickly disappeared.
Frank pursued the dwarf hotly, hearing the little wretch crashing along for some distance, but Apollo succeeded in keeping out of sight, and, at last, he could be heard no more.
Merry was disgusted. He spent some time in searching for Apollo, and then returned to the spot where he had left Harry.
CHAPTER XIII. – A RACE ON THE LAKE
To Frank’s amazement, he found Rattleton reclining in a very comfortable position, with the handkerchief bound about his head.
“Hello, old boy!” Merriwell cheerfully called. “I reckon you are all right, for you are able to do up your own wound.”
“I say, Frank,” came eagerly but weakly from Rattleton, “what has become of her?”
“The fairy, the nymph, the beautiful queen of the woods! She was here a few moments ago – she was with me.”
“By Jove! that crack on the head has knocked him daffy!” thought Merriwell. “He’s off his trolley sure!”
“Why don’t you answer me?” Harry impatiently demanded. “I closed my eyes but a moment, and when I opened them again she was gone.”
“I hope you are not referring to the dwarf,” laughed Frank, lightly. “I hope you do not mean him when you talk about a fairy, nymph and beautiful queen of the woods?”
“No, no! Of course I do not mean that horrible creature! I mean the girl – the girl who was here!”
“There has been no girl here.”
“What? I know there has! I saw her, although it seemed like a dream. I saw her before I could fully open my eyes. She was kneeling here beside me, and she was so beautiful!”
“My dear fellow,” said Merriwell, gently, “that tap on the head has mixed you somewhat – there’s no doubt about it.”
Harry made a feeble, impatient gesture.
“You think I am off,” he said; “but I am not. I tell you I saw a girl – a girl with blue eyes and golden hair. Her cheeks were brown as berries, but the tint of health was in them. And her hands were so soft and tender and warm!”
“I’m afraid you are hurt worse than I thought,” he said, with no small concern.
“Oh, scrate Gott!” spluttered Harry. “I am not hurt at all! I tell you I saw her – do you hear?”
“Yes, I hear.”
“But you don’t believe me, and that is what makes me hot.”
“How can I? Look here, look at my head.”
“Yes, you did a very good job. I was about to do it up when I saw that dwarf again, and I chased him.”
“I didn’t do it up at all.”
“Not on your retouched negative!”
“Then who – ”
“The girl – the girl, I tell you! When I came to my senses, I felt some person at work over me, and through my eyelashes I saw her kneeling here at my side. I tell you, Frank, she was a dream – a vision! I thought I was in heaven, and I scarcely dared breathe for fear she would disappear.”
Frank was watching Harry closely.
“Hanged if the fellow doesn’t believe it!” muttered Merry.
Rattleton’s ears were sharp, and he caught the words.
“Believe it!” he weakly shouted – “I know it! I not only saw her, but I felt her hands as she gently brushed back my wet hair and tied this bandage in place. Look at it, Merry, old fellow; I couldn’t have put it on like that – you know I couldn’t.”
“Well, it would have been quite a trick.”
“I think she saw us thrown into the water, for she murmured something about it. She must live near here, Frank.”
Harry was fluttering with suppressed eagerness.
“If you saw such a girl, it is likely that she does.”
“If I saw such a girl! Oh, smoly hoke! will you never be convinced?”
“Perhaps so,” nodded Frank, as he examined the ground.
“What are you looking for?”
“If you were an Indian, you might find it; but no white man could find it here, as the ground is not favorable.”
“I think that is right,” admitted Frank, as he gave over the attempt. “If you saw such a girl, I have a fancy I know who she is.”
Harry started up, shouting:
“Then you saw her when you visited the lake before?”
“How is it that you are sure you know who she is if you never saw her before?”
“You are little numb just now, Harry, or you would have thought of it yourself. She must be the buried heiress.”
Rattleton caught his breath.
“Right you are!” he exclaimed. “Why, it must be her!”
“It strikes me that way,” nodded Frank.
“By Jove!” palpitated Harry; “she is a peafect perch – I mean a perfect peach! Merry, old chap, she takes the bun!”
“It’s not often you get this way, Rattles,” he said. “She must have hit you hard.”
“Right where I live, old man. I’d like to win her.”
“But you must not forget she is an heiress.”
“Oh, come off! That doesn’t cut any ice in this case. She was dressed like anything but an heiress, and – ”
“You know why. She is living like anything except an heiress, and still she is one, just as hard.”
“And that infernal dwarf is here searching for her!”
“We supposed he had gone East, with Bernard Belmont.”
“Instead of that, Belmont sent him here to find the girl.”
“Correct me, noble dook.”
Harry started up, in great excitement.
“We must defend her, Frank – we must protect her from that wretched creature!” he cried. “I am ready.”
“I see you are,” smiled Merry. “The thought that she might be in danger has aroused you more than any amount of tonics. We can’t protect her unless we can find her.”
“And you said a short time ago that we would not fail to find her.”
“We will not, and I hope we may be able to find her in time to be of assistance to her. To begin with, we must get our bicycles out of the lake. It is a fortunate thing they fell in the water.”
“It is pretty certain the dwarf would have smashed them if they had not.”
“That’s right. I never thought of it. He would have had a fine opportunity. It is fortunate.”
“We can remove our clothes and hang them in the sunshine to dry while we are getting the wheels.”
A look of horror came to Harry’s face.
“No, no!” he cried, wildly. “We can’t do that!”
“The girl – she is somewhere near here. What if she should see us? Good gracious; it hakes my mart – I mean it makes my heart stand still to think of it!”
Harry’s expression of horror and the way in which he uttered the words caused Frank to shout with laughter.
“Oh, my dear fellow!” he cried; “if you could do that on the stage! It would be great! You’d make a great hit!”
For once in his life Harry failed to see the humorous side of a thing, and he did not crack a smile.
“What’s the use to ‘ha-ha’ that way, Merry?” he cried, “You wouldn’t want a thing of that kind to happen, and you know it.”
“Of course not, old man, so we’ll have to keep on part of our clothing while we are recovering the wheels.”
They approached the edge of the bluff, and, as they did so, a canoe shot out from the mouth of a small cove nearly half a mile away.
There was a single person in the canoe and, immediately on seeing her, Harry cried:
“There she is – that is the girl!”
It was a girl, and she was handling the paddle with the skill of an expert, sending the light craft flying over the bosom of the lake.
“We must call to her!” exclaimed Harry. “She must stop!”
“We can’t stop her by shouting to her, Rattles,” declared Frank, quickly. “It would frighten her, that’s all.”
“But – but what can we do?”
“Unless we can find a boat, absolutely nothing.”
Rattleton was desperate.
“It’s terrible, Frank!” he cried. “We may lose the only chance of finding her! At least, she should be warned!”
“Look!” directed Merriwell, who was watching the girl closely. “She is looking back! See her use the paddle now! She is alarmed! She makes the canoe fly! She makes it spin along at great leaps! Surely something has frightened her! What is it?”
Harry’s excitement grew.
“It’s something, that’s sure. She is using all her strength! How beautifully she handles the paddle! See the sunshine strike her hair! It is like gold! And now – look! look!”
Around a point just beyond the cove came a boat in which two men were seated. Both men were paddling, but the boat was heavy, and they were not gaining on the fleeing girl.
“Great Scott!” exclaimed Frank. “It is Apollo, the dwarf!”
“Yes; and the other – the other is – ”
“Then he is here – he did not go East at all. That was a blind.”
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