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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrank Merriwell Down South - Chapter 17. Led Into A Trap
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Frank Merriwell Down South - Chapter 17. Led Into A Trap Post by :Karl_Augustine Category :Long Stories Author :Burt L. Standish Date :May 2012 Read :2290

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Frank Merriwell Down South - Chapter 17. Led Into A Trap

CHAPTER XVII. LED INTO A TRAP

Frank ate alone, and went forth alone to see the parade. The professor remained in bed, apparently in a state of utter collapse.

The night after Mardi Gras in New Orleans the Krewe of Proteus holds its parade and ball. The parade is a most dazzling and magnificent spectacle, and the ball is no less splendid.

The streets along which the parade must pass were lined with a dense mass of people on both sides, while windows and balconies were filled.

Shortly after the appointed time the parade started.

It consisted of a series of elaborate and gorgeous floats, the whole forming a line many blocks in length.

Hundreds of flaring torches threw their lights over the moving _tableau_, and it was indeed a splendid dream.

Never before had Frank seen anything of the kind one-half as beautiful, and he was sincerely glad they had reached the Crescent City in time to be present at Mardi Gras.

The stampede of the Texan steers and the breaking up of the parade that day had made a great sensation in New Orleans. Every one had heard of the peril of the Flower Queen, and how she was rescued by a handsome youth who was said to be a visitor from the North, but whom nobody seemed to know.

Now, the Krewe of Proteus was composed entirely of men, and it was their policy to have nobody but men in their parade. These men were to dress as fairies of both sexes, as they were required to appear in the _tableau of "Fairyland."

But the managers of the affair had conceived the idea that it would be a good scheme to reconstruct the wrecked flower barge and have the Queen of Flowers in the procession.

But the Queen of Flowers seemed to be a mystery to every one, and the managers knew not how to reach her. They made many inquiries, and it became generally known that she was desired for the procession.

Late in the afternoon the managers received a brief note, purporting to be from the Flower Queen, assuring them that she would be on hand to take part in the evening parade.

The flower barge was put in repair, and piled high with the most gorgeous and dainty flowers, and, surmounting all, was a throne of flowers.

Before the time for starting the mysterious masked queen and her attendants in white appeared.

When the procession passed along the streets the queen was recognized everywhere, and the throngs cheered her loudly.

But, out of the thousands, hundreds were heard to say:

"Where is the strange youth who saved her from the mad steer? He should be on the same barge."

Frank's heart leaped as he saw the mysterious girl in the procession.

"There she is!" was his thought. "How can I follow her? How can I trace her and find out who she is?"

As the barge came nearer, he forced his way to the very edge of the crowd that lined the street, without having decided what he would do, but hoping she would see and recognize him.

When the barge was almost opposite, he stepped out a little from the line and lifted his hat.

She saw him!

In a moment, as if she had been looking for him, she caught the crown of flowers from her head and tossed them toward him, crying:

"For the hero!"

He caught them skillfully with his right hand, his hat still in his left. And the hot blood mounted to his face as he saw her tossing kisses toward him with both hands.

"What's it mean?" asked a spectator.

"Don't know," answered another.

But a third cried:

"I'll tell you what it means! That young fellow is the one who saved the Queen of Flowers from the mad steer! I know him, for I saw him do it, and I observed his face."

"That explains why she flung her crown to him and called him the hero."

"Yes, that explains it."

"Three cheers for the hero!"

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

The crowd burst into wild cheering, and there was a general struggle to get a fair view of Frank Merriwell, who had suddenly become the object of attention, the splendors of the parade being forgotten for the time.

Frank was confused and bewildered, and he sought to get away as quickly as possible, hoping to follow the Queen of Flowers. But he found his way blocked on every hand, and a hundred voices seemed to be asking:

"What's your name?"

"Where do you belong?"

"Won't you please tell us your name?"

"Haven't I seen you in New York?"

"Aren't you from Chicago?"

Somewhat dazed though he was, Frank noted that, beyond a doubt, the ones who were so very curious and who so rudely demanded his name were visitors in New Orleans. More than that, from their appearance, they were people who would not think of such acts at home, but now were eager to know the Northern lad who by one nervy and daring act had made himself generally talked about in a Southern city.

Some of the women declared he was "So handsome!" and "So manly!" to Frank's increasing dismay.

"I'd give a hundred dollars to get out of this!" he thought.

He must have spoken the words aloud, although he was not aware of it, for a voice at his elbow, low and musical, said:

"Come dis-a-way, senor, an' I will tek yo' out of it."

Frank saw Manuel Mazaro close at hand. The Spaniard--for such Mazaro was--bowed gracefully, and smiled pleasantly upon the boy from the North.

A moment Frank hesitated, and then he said:

"Lead on; I'll follow."

Quickly Mazaro skirted the edge of the throng for a short distance, plunged into the mass, made sure Frank was close behind, and then forced his way through to a doorway.

"Dis-a way," he invited.

Frank hesitated.

"Where does it lead?"

"Through a passage to annodare street, senor."

Frank felt his revolver in his pocket, and he knew it was loaded for instant use.

"I want to get ahead of this procession--I want to see the Queen of Flowers again."

"I will tek yo' there, senor."

"Lead on."

Frank passed his hand through the crown of flowers, to which he still clung. Without being seen, he took his revolver from his pocket, and held it concealed in the mass of flowers. It was a self-cocker, and he could use it skillfully.

As Mazaro had said, the doorway led into a passage. This was very narrow, and quite dark.

No sooner were they fairly in this place than Frank regretted that he had come, for he realized that it was a most excellent chance for assassination and robbery.

His one fear was of being attacked behind. He was quite ready for any that might rise in front.

"Dis-a way, senor," Mazaro kept repeating. "Dis-a way."

Frank fancied the fellow was speaking louder than was necessary. In fact, he could not see that it was necessary for Mazaro to speak at all.

And then the boy was sure he heard footsteps behind them!

He was caught between two fires--he was trapped!

Frank's first impulse was to leap forward, knock Mazaro down, and take to his heels, keeping straight on through the passage.

A second thought followed the first quite swiftly.

He knew not where the passage led, and he knew not what pitfalls it might contain.

At that moment Frank felt a thrill of actual fear, nervy though he was; but he understood that he must not let fear get the best of him, and he instantly flung it off.

His ears were open, his eyes were open, and every sense was on the alert.

"Let them come!" he almost exclaimed, aloud. "I will give them a warm reception!"

Then he noticed that they passed a narrow opening, like a broken door, and, the next moment he seemed to feel cat-like footfalls at his very heels.

In a twinkling Frank whirled about, crying:

"Hold up where you are! I am armed, and I'll shoot if crowded!"

He had made no mistake, for his eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness of the passage, and he could see three dark figures blocking his retreat along the passage.

For one brief second his eyes turned the other way, and it seemed that Manuel Mazaro had been joined by two or three others, for he saw several forms in that direction.

This sudden action of the trapped boy had filled these fellows with surprise and dismay, and curses of anger broke from their lips, the words being hissed rather than spoken.

Frank knew he must attract attention in some way, and so of a sudden he fired a shot into the air.

The flash of his revolver showed him several dark, villainous faces.

"Upon him!" cried Mazaro, in Spanish. "Be quick about it!"

"Back!" shouted Frank, lifting the revolver. "I'll not waste another bullet!"

"Thot's th' talk, me laddybuck!" rang out a familiar voice. "Give th' spalpanes cold lead, an' plinty av it, Frankie! O'im wid yez!"

"Barney Mulloy!" Frank almost screamed, in joyous amazement.

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