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   Chapter 11 THE HORRORS OF THE HOLD.

Frank Merriwell's Nobility; Or, The Tragedy of the Ocean Tramp By Burt L. Standish Characters: 6068

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


To the surprise of the four youths, M. Montfort utterly ignored them on the following day, instead of seeking "trouble," as had been anticipated.

"Well," said Jack, in disgust, "he has less courage than I thought. He is just a common boasting Frenchman."

"He is not a common Frenchman." declared Frank. "I believe he is a rascal of more than common calibre."

"But he lacks nerve, and I have nothing but contempt for him," said the Virginian. "I didn't know but he would challenge me to a duel."

"What if he had?"

"What if he had?" hissed the hot-blooded Southern youth. "I'd fought him at the drop of the hat!"

"That's all right, but you know most Frenchmen fight well in a duel."

"I don't know anything of the kind. They are expert fencers, but I notice it is mighty seldom one of them is killed in a duel. They sometimes draw a drop of blood, and then they consider that 'honor is satisfied,' and that ends it."

It was midway in the forenoon that Frank met Mr. Slush on deck. The little man was looking more doleful and dejected than ever, if possible.

"The-ah-the moon showed rather yellow last night," he said. "That is a-a sure sign of disaster."

"Well," said Merry, with a smile, "I think the disaster will befall you, sir, if you do not steer clear of the crowd you were in last night."

Mr. Slush looked surprised.

"Might I-ah-inquire your meaning?" he faltered.

"I mean that you are playing poker with card-sharps, and they mean to rob you," answered Frank, plainly.

"I-I wonder how you-er-know so much," said the little man, with something like faint sarcasm, as Frank fancied.

"It makes little difference how I know it, but I am telling you the truth. I am warning you for your good, sir."

"Er-ahem! Thank you-very much."

Mr. Slush walked away.

"Well, I'm hanged if he doesn't take it coolly enough!" muttered Frank, perplexed.

Frank felt an interest to know how Sport Harris was getting along. He walked forward and found the captain near the steps that led to the bridge.

In reply to Merry's inquiry, the captain said:

"Oh, don't worry about him. There are rats down there in the hold, but I guess he'll be able to fight them off. He'll have bread and water the rest of the voyage."

After that Merry could not help thinking of Harris all alone in the darkness of the hold, with swarms of rats around him, eating dry bread, washed down with water.

Frank felt that the youthful villain did not deserve any sympathy, but, despite himself, he could not help feeling a pang of pity for him.

When he expressed himself thus to his friends, however, they scoffed at him.

"Serves the dog right!" flashed Diamond. "He is getting just what he deserves, and I'm glad of it!"

"He will get what he deserves when we reach the other side," grunted Browning.

"No," said Merry; "he is an American, and he'll have to be taken back to the United States for punishment."

"Well, he'll get it all right."

"Well, I don't care to think that he may be driven ma

d shut up in the dark hold with the rats."

This feeling grew on Frank. At last he went to the captain and asked liberty to see Harris.

The request was granted, and, accompanied by two men, Frank descended into the hold.

Down there, amid barrels and casks, they came upon Harris. Frank heard the irons rattle, and then a gaunt-looking, wild-eyed creature rose up before them, shown by the yellow light of the lanterns.

Frank Merriwell had steady nerves, but, despite himself, he started.

The appearance of the fellow had changed in a most remarkable manner. Harris looked as if he was overcome with terror.

"There he is," said one of the men, holding up his lantern so the light fell more plainly on the wretched prisoner.

"Have you come to take me out of here?" cried Harris, in a tone of voice that gave Frank a chill. "For God's sake, take me out of this place! I'll go mad if I stay here much longer! It is full of rats! I could not sleep last night-I dare not close my eyes for a minute! Please-please take me out of here!"

Then he saw and recognized Frank.

"You?" he screamed. "Have you come here to gloat over me, Frank Merriwell?"

"No," said Frank; "I have come to see if I can do anything for you."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Harris, in a manner that made Frank believe madness could not be far away. "You wouldn't do that! I know why you are here! You have triumphed over me! You wish to see me in all my misery! Well, look at me! Here I have been thrown into this hellish hole, amid rats and vermin, ironed like a nigger! Look till you are satisfied! It will fill your heart with satisfaction! Mock me! Sneer at me! Deride me!"

"I have no desire to do anything of the sort," declared Frank. "I am sorry for you, Harris."

"Sorry! Bah! You lie! Why do you tell me that?"

"It is the truth. You brought this on yourself, and so--"

"Don't tell me that again! You have told it enough! If I'd never seen you, I'd not be here now. You brought it on me, Frank Merriwell. If I die here in this cursed hole, you'll have something pleasant to think about! You can laugh over it!"

"You shall not die here, Harris, if I can help it. I'll speak to the captain about you."

The wretch stared at Merry, his eyes looking sunken and glittering. Then, all at once, he crouched down there, his chains clanking, covered his face with his hands and began to cry.

No matter what Harris had done, Frank was deeply pitiful then.

"I shall go directly to the captain," he promised, "and I'll ask him to have you taken out of this place. I will urge him to have it done."

Harris said nothing.

Frank had seen enough, and he turned away. As they were moving off, Harris began to scream and call to them, begging them not to leave him there in the darkness.

Those cries cut through and through Frank Merriwell. He knew he was in no way responsible for the fate that had befallen the fellow, and yet he felt that he must do something for Harris.

He kept his word, going directly to the captain.

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