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Frank Merriwell's Nobility; Or, The Tragedy of the Ocean Tramp By Burt L. Standish Characters: 5921

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Well, that's hot stuff when it's burning," said Merriwell, grimly.

"Rather!" grunted Browning.

"If I'd known what the old boat carried, I think I'd hesitated some about shipping on her," declared Jack. "What if she did get on fire?"

"We'd all go up in smoke," said Merriwell, with absolute coolness. "That is about the size of it."

"Well," said Jack, "I heard two of the sailors talking in a very mysterious manner. They say the 'Eagle' is hoodooed and the captain knows it. They say he has not slept any to speak of since we left New York."

"Sailors are always superstitious. They are ignorant, as a rule, and ignorance breeds superstition."

"Do you consider Mr. Slush ignorant?" asked Bruce.

"Didn't have time to size him up, but he's queer."

"I shall feel that I am over a volcano during the rest of the voyage," said Jack. "What if there was somebody on board who wished to destroy the ship?"

"It wouldn't be much of a job," grunted Browning. "A match touched to a powder keg would do the trick in a hurry."

"But he'd go up with the rest of us," said Frank.

"Unless he used a slow match," put in Jack. "These captains always have their enemies, who are desperate fellows and ready to do almost anything to injure them. The steamer might be set afire by means of a slow match, which would give the villain time enough to get away."

"I hardly think there's anybody desperate enough to do that kind of a trick, for it would be a case of suicide."

"Perhaps not. The chap who did the trick might have some plan of escaping. Then I have known men desperate enough to commit suicide if they could destroy an enemy at the same time."

"Well, it's likely all this worry about this vessel and cargo is entirely needless and foolish."

"I don't believe it," said the Virginian. "I know now that the captain has been worried. I have noticed it in his manner. He is pale and restless."

"Well, it's likely he may be rather anxious, for it's certain he cannot carry any insurance on such a cargo."

"He was not at the table to-night."


"I'd give something to be on solid ground and away from this powder mill. You know that sometimes there is such a thing as an unaccountable explosion. A heavy sea must cause motion or friction in the cargo, and friction often starts a fire on shipboard. Fire on this vessel means a quick road to glory."

"Huah!" grunted Bruce. "I'm not in the habit of worrying about things that may happen. It's cold out here. Let's go back to the stateroom."

"It will be well enough to keep still about the nature of the cargo, Diamond," said Frank.

"Oh, I shall keep still about that all right!" assured Jack.

As they moved back along the deck they discovered somebody who was leaning over the rail and making all sorts of dismal sounds and groans.

"The next time I go to Europe I'll stay at home!" moaned this individual. "Oh, my! oh, my! How bad I feel! Next that comes wi

ll be the shaps of my twos-I mean the taps of my shoes!"

"It's Rattles!" laughed Frank, softly; "and he is sicker than ever. He's tried to crawl out to get some air."

At this moment a man opened the door near Rattleton, and asked:

"Is the-ah-er-moon up yet?"

"I don't know," moaned Harry. "But it is if I swallowed it. Everything else is up, anyhow."

"If the-ah-moon comes up red tonight, it will mean--"

"I don't give a rap what it means!" snorted Rattleton. "Don't talk to me! Let me die without torturing me! I'm sick enough without having you make me worse!"

Mr. Slush, for he was the anxious inquirer about the moon, dodged back into the cabin, closing the door hesitatingly.

Then Rattleton, unaware of the proximity of his amused friends, hung over the rail and groaned again.

Frank walked up and spoke:

"I see, my dear boy, that you are heeding the Bible admonition."

"Hey?" groaned Harry. "What is it?"

"'Cast thy bread upon the waters!' You are doing it all right, all right."

"Now, don't carry this thing too far!" Rattleton tried to say in a fierce manner, but his fierceness was laughable. "The worm will turn when trodden upon."

"But the banana peel knows a trick worth two of that. Did you ever hear that touching little poem about the man who stepped on a banana peel? Never did? Why, that is too bad! You don't know what you've missed. Listen, and you shall hear it."

Then Frank solemnly declaimed:

"He walked along one summer day,

As stately as a prince;

He stepped upon a banana peel,

And he hasn't 'banana' where since."

Rattleton gave a still more dismal groan.

"You are conspiring with the elements to hasten my death!" he said. "I can't stand many more like that."

"You should wear a sheet of writing paper across your breast, same as I do," said Diamond. "Then you won't be sick."

"I've got two sheets of writing paper across mine," declared Harry.

"You should drink a bottle of ginger ale to settle your stomach," put in Frank.

"Just drank three bottles of ginger ale, and they've turned my stomach wrong side out," gurgled the sick youth.

"You should allow yourself perfect relaxation, and not try to fight against it," from Browning.

"Oh, I haven't allowed myself anything else but perfect relaxation," came from Harry. "You all make me tired!"

Then he staggered into the cabin and disappeared on his way back to the stateroom.

Diamond and Browning followed, but Frank lingered behind.

Although he had kept the fact concealed, Merry was troubled with a strange foreboding of coming disaster. In every way he tried to overcome anything like superstition, but he remembered that, on many other occasions, he had been warned of coming trouble by just such feelings.

"I'd like to know just what is going on upon this steamer," he muttered, as he walked forward. "I feel as if something was wrong, and I shall not be satisfied till I investigate."

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