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   Chapter 15 THE SEA GIVES UP.

Frank Merriwell's Nobility; Or, The Tragedy of the Ocean Tramp By Burt L. Standish Characters: 7870

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The pumps were going, in an attempt to flood the hold, but the men did not attempt to fight the fire in anything like a reasonable manner.

The knowledge of the cargo down there in the hold turned them to cowards and unreasoning beings. They were expecting to be blown skyward at any moment.

Of a sudden the engines stopped and the "Eagle" began to lose headway. Men were making preparations to lower the boats.

"Well, I'll be hanged if they are not going to abandon the ship!" exclaimed Frank. "The case must be pretty bad. I wonder how the fire started,"

"I set it!"

At his feet was Harris, whom he had just rescued from the hell below, and the fellow had declared that he set the fire!

"You?"

"Yes," said the wretch. "I was crazy. I found a match in my pocket, and I thought I was willing to roast if I could destroy you, so I set the fire. Pretty soon I realized what I had done, but then I found it too late when I tried to beat it out. The old steamer will go into the air in a few minutes, and we'll all go with it, unless we can get off in the boats right away."

"It would have served you right had I left you to your fate!" grated Frank, as he turned away.

He ran down to his stateroom to gather up some of the few little valuables he hoped to save. He was not gone long, but when he returned, he found two boats had been launched and were pulling away, the persons in them being in great haste to get as far from the steamer as they could before the explosion.

Three or four women were in the first boat.

It was rather difficult to lower the boats in the heavy sea that was running, but the men were working swiftly, pushed by the terror of the coming disaster.

A little smoke curled up from the battened-down hatches.

As Frank reached the deck, he nearly ran against M. Rouen Montfort, who was carrying a pair of swords in scabbards, which seemed to be treasures he wished to save.

The Frenchman stopped and glared at Merry.

"Cursed Yankee!" he grated. "I would like to put one of zese gude blades t'rough your heart!"

"Haven't a doubt of it," said Merriwell, coolly. "That's about the kind of a man I took you to be."

Another boat got away, and the last boat was swung from the davits.

A sailor counted the men who remained and spoke to the captain. The latter said:

"At best, the boat will not hold them all. There is one too many, at least. Let the fellow in irons stay behind."

Harris heard this, and fancied his doom was sealed. He began to beg to be taken along, but one of the men gave him a kick.

The Frenchman turned on Frank.

"Do you hear?" he cried. "One cannot go. Do you make eet ze poor deval in ze iron? or do you dare fight me to see wheech one of us eet ees? Eef you make eet ze poor devval, eet show you are ze cowarde. Ha! I theenk you do not dare to fight!"

He spat toward Merry to express his contempt.

"Let me fight him!" panted Diamond at Frank's elbow.

"See that Harris is put into the boat!" ordered Merriwell. "I fancy I can take care of this Frenchman. If you do not get Harris into the boat I swear I will not enter it if I conquer Montfort!"

Then he whirled on the Frenchman.

"I accept your challenge!" he cried in clear tones.

Montfort uttered an exclamation of satisfaction. He flung off his coat, saying:

"Choose ze weapon, saire."

Frank did not pause to look them over in making a selection. He caught up one of them and drew it from the scabbard.

Montfort took the other.

"Ready?" cried the American youth.

"Ready!" answered the Frenchman.

Clash!-the swords came together and there on the deck of the burning steamer the strange duel began.

Frank fought with all the coolness and skill he could command. He fought as if he had been standing on solid ground instead of the deck of a ship that might be blown into a thousand fragments at any moment.

The Frenchman had fancied that the

Yankee would prove easy to conquer, but he soon discovered Frank possessed no little skill, and he saw that he must do his best.

More than once Montfort thrust to run Frank through the body, and once his sword passed between the youth's left arm and his side.

Merry saw that the Frenchman really meant to kill him if possible.

Then men were getting into the boat. There were but few seconds left in which to finish the duel. Rattleton called to him from the, boat, shouting above the roar of the wind:

"Finish him, Frank! Come on, now! Lively!"

The tip of Montfort's sword slit Frank's sleeve and touched his arm.

"Next time I get you!" hissed the vindictive Frenchman.

But right then Frank saw his opportunity. He made a lunge and drove his sword into the Frenchman's side.

Montfort uttered a cry, dropped his sword, flung up his hands, and sunk bleeding to the deck.

Merry flung his blood-stained weapon aside and bent over the man, saying sincerely:

"I hope your wound is not fatal, M. Montfort."

"It makes no difference!" gasped the man. "You are ze victor, so I must stay here an' die jus' ze same."

But Frank Merriwell was seized by a feeling of horror at the thought of leaving this man whom he had wounded. In a moment he realized he would be haunted all his life by the memory if he did so.

Quickly he caught M. Montfort up in his arms. He sprang to the side of the steamer. The boat was holding in for him. His friends shouted to him. The captain ordered him to jump at once.

"Catch this man!"

He lifted M. Montfort, swung him over the rail, and dropped him fairly into the boat!

"He has chosen," said the captain. "The boat will hold no more. Pull away!"

It was useless for Frank's friends to beg and plead. Away went the boat, leaving the noble youth to his doom.

Forty minutes later there was a terrible flare of fire and smoke, a thunderous explosion, and the ill-fated steamer had blown up.

Harry Rattleton was crying like a baby.

"Poor Frank!" he sobbed. "Noblest fellow in all the world-good-by! I'll never see you again!"

Tears rolled down Bruce Browning's face, and Jack Diamond, grim and speechless, looked as if the light of the world had gone out forever.

* * *

Some days later the passengers and crew from the lost "Eagle" were landed at Liverpool by the steamer "Seneca," which had picked them up at sea. The "Seneca" was a slow old craft, but she got there all right.

A little grimy tender carried Bruce, Jack, Harry and the tutor from the "Seneca" to the floating dock. It was a sad and wretched-looking party.

On the dock stood a young man who shouted to them and waved his hand.

Jack Diamond started, gasped, clutched Browning and whispered:

"Look-look there, Bruce! Tell me if I am going crazy, or do you see somebody who looks like-"

Harry Rattleton clutched the big fellow by the other side, spluttering:

"Am I doing gaffy-I mean going daffy? Look there! Who is that waving his hand to us?"

"It's the ghost of Frank Merriwell, as true as there are such things as ghosts!" muttered Browning.

But it was no ghost. It was Frank Merriwell in the flesh, alive and well! He greeted them as they came off the tender. He caught them in his arms, laughing, shouting, overjoyed. And they, realizing it really was him, hugged him and wept like a lot of big-hearted, manly young men.

Frank explained in a few words. He told how, after they had left him, he had belted himself well with life-preservers and left the "Eagle" in time to get away before the explosion. Then he was picked up by an Atlantic liner, which brought him to Liverpool in advance of his friends.

Thus he was there to receive them, and it seemed that the sea had given up its dead.

* * *

[THE END.]

* * *

The next number (159) of the TIP TOP WEEKLY will contain "Frank Merriwell's Backer; or, Among London Sports," by Burt L. Standish.

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