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   Chapter 4 UNMASKED.

Frank Merriwell Down South By Burt L. Standish Characters: 5804

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Hans and Professor Scotch uttered exclamations of horror, starting back from the sight revealed by the light that came from the window set deep in the adobe wall.

Frank's teeth came together with a peculiar click, but he uttered no exclamation, nor did he start.

This seemed to affect the old man unpleasantly, for he turned on Frank, crying in an accusing manner and tone:

"Have you no heart? Are you made of stone?"

"Hardly," was the reply.

"This finger-it is the second torn from the hand of my boy by Pacheco, the bandit-Pacheco, the monster!"

"Pacheco seems to be a man of great determination."

Professor Scotch gazed at Frank in astonishment, for the boy was of a very sympathetic and kindly nature, and he now seemed quite unlike his usual self.

"Frank, Frank, think of the suffering of this poor father!"

"Yah," murmured Hans; "shust dink how pad you vould felt uf you efer peen py his blace," put in Hans, sobbing, chokingly.

"It is very, very sad," said Frank; but there seemed to be a singularly sarcastic ring to the words which fell from his lips.

"Have you seen your son since he fell into the hands of Pacheco, sir?" asked the professor.

"Yes, I saw him; but I could scarcely recognize him, he was so changed-so wan and ghastly. The skin is drawn tightly over his bones, and he looks as if he were nearly starved to death."

"Did he recognize you?"

"Yes."

"What did he do?"

The man wrung his hands with a gesture of unutterable anguish.

"Oh, his appeal-I can hear it now! He begged me to save him, or to give him poison that he might kill himself!"

"Where is he now?"

"In a cave."

"Where is the cave?"

"That I cannot tell, for I was blindfolded all the time, except while in the cave where my boy is kept."

"It is near Mendoza?"

"It must be within fifty miles of here."

"Perhaps it is nearer?"

"Possibly."

"But you have no means of knowing in which direction it lies?"

"No."

"Your only hope is to raise the five hundred dollars?"

"That is my only hope, and that can scarcely be called a hope, for I must have the money within a day or two, or my boy will be dead."

"Hum! hum!" coughed the professor. "This is a very unfortunate affair-very unfortunate. I am not a wealthy man, but I--"

"You will aid me?" shouted the old man, joyously. "Heaven will bless you, sir-Heaven will bless you!"

"I have not said so-I have not said I would aid you," Scotch hastily said. "I am going to consider the matter-I'll think it over."

"Then I have no hope."

"Why not?"

"If your heart is not opened now, it will never open. My poor boy is lost, and I am ready for death!"

The old man seemed to break down and sob like a child, burying his face in his hands, his body shaking convulsively.

Frank made a quick gesture to the others, pressing a finger to his lips as a warning for silence.

In a

moment the old man lifted his face, which seemed wet with tears.

"My last hope is gone!" he sighed. "And you are travelers-you are rich!"

He turned to Frank, to whom, with an appealing gesture, he extended a hand that was shaking as if with the palsy.

"You-surely you will have sympathy with me! I can see by your face and your bearing that you are one of fortune's favorites-you are rich. A few dollars--"

"My dear man," said Frank, quite calmly, "I should be more than delighted to aid you, if you had told the truth."

The old man fell back. He was standing fairly in the light which shone from the window.

"What do you mean?" he hoarsely asked. "Do you think I have been lying to you-do you fancy such a thing?"

"I fancy nothing; I know you have lied!"

"Frank!" cried Professor Scotch, in amazement.

"Shimminy Gristmas!" gurgled Hans Dunnerwust, in a dazed way.

The manner of the old man changed in a twinkling.

"You are insolent, boy! You had better be careful!"

"Now you threaten," laughed Frank. "Well, I expected as much from a beggar, a fraud, and a scoundrel!"

Professor Scotch and Hans fell into each other's arms, overcome with excitement and wonder.

Frank was calm and deliberate, and he did not lift his voice above the tone used in ordinary conversation.

Still another step did the man fall back, and then a grating snarl broke from his lips, and he seemed overcome with rage. He leaned forward, hissing:

"You insulting puppy!"

"The truth must always seem like an insult to a scoundrel."

"Do you dare?"

"What is there to fear?"

"Much."

Frank snapped his fingers.

"Your tune has changed in the twinkling of an eye. You are no longer the heart-broken father, begging for his boy; but you have flung aside some of the mask, and exposed your true nature."

Professor Scotch saw this was true, and he was quaking with fear of what might follow this remarkable change.

As for Hans, it took some time for ideas to work their way through his brain, and he was still in a bewildered condition.

For a moment the stranger was silent, seeming to choke back words which rose in his throat. Finally, he cried:

"Oh, very well! I did not expect to get anything out of you; but it would have been far better for you if I had. Now--"

"What?"

Frank asked the question, as the speaker faltered.

"You shall soon learn what. I am going to leave you, but we shall see more of each other, don't forget that."

"Wait-do not be in a hurry. I am not satisfied till I-see your face!"

With the final words, Frank made a leap and a sweep of his hand, clutching the white beard the man wore, and tearing it from his face!

The beard was false!

The face exposed was smoothly shaven and weather-tanned.

"Ha!" cried Frank, triumphantly. "I thought so! This poor old man is Carlos Merriwell, my villainous cousin!"

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