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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrank Merriwell, Junior's, Golden Trail - Chapter 6. A Startling Discovery
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Frank Merriwell, Junior's, Golden Trail - Chapter 6. A Startling Discovery Post by :Dirk_Wagner Category :Long Stories Author :Burt L. Standish Date :May 2012 Read :988

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Frank Merriwell, Junior's, Golden Trail - Chapter 6. A Startling Discovery

CHAPTER VI. A STARTLING DISCOVERY

The entrance of Barzy Blunt into that mystifying tangle had been as sudden as it was unexpected. And yet, knowing Blunt as he did, Merry wondered that he had not thought of the fellow before.

Blunt was a young cow-puncher, who boasted of being a "homemade" athlete, and would take a back seat for nobody, least of all young Merriwell. He was not exactly "cracked" on the subject of his prowess in athletic sports, but his views were certainly warped. Obsessed with the idea that it was his duty to take Merriwell down a peg. Blunt was continually, and in the most weird and wonderful ways, contriving to force Merry into tests of strength and skill.

Merry had shown Blunt his heels in a hundred-yard dash, and at least once had put him on his back in a catch-as-catch-can wrestling bout. It was at Blunt's suggestion that the relay Marathon was run, with the professor's claim as the prize: and it was by a plot of Blunt's that Merry had been lured to the Bar Z Ranch, where, as Blunt had planned. Merry pitched against the cowboy in a baseball game. Frank and his chums had won the relay Marathon and Frank had pitched his cowboy team to victory. Yet Blunt still refused to be satisfied.

The "Cowboy Wonder," as Blunt called himself, had been reared by a man who had implanted in his growing mind a vast array of false notions. By these, the Wonder regulated his conduct, with a result that was ludicrous at times, and at other times almost tragic.

There was something about the queer fellow that young Merriwell liked. And yet, while he sympathized with Blunt to a certain extent, he was forced to condemn his rashness and dare-devil behavior.

"Clan." said Merry, as he and his chums moved on into the trackless desert, "while I sat in McGurvin's adobe it flashed over me, all at once, that we had forgotten something about Professor Borrodaile which might possibly explain his absence."

"What was that?"

"Why, you remember how we left Happenchance in such a hurry, the time we went to the place and found the prof?"

"We were chased out by Blunt and his puncher friends."

"Not exactly. We were hurrying out ahead of them in order to reach the automobile and beat Blunt to Gold Hill with the professor's location notice. Well we were in such a rush that Professor Borrodaile had to leave his luggage behind. Now, wouldn't it be the natural thing to suppose that the prof returned to Happenchance after his goods and chattels?"

"Holy mackerel!" exclaimed Clancy. "You've nicked it, Chip! That's just what the harmless old fossil has done. He wanted his trunk, and he slipped out of Gold Hill and went after it. We're thick, all right. It's a wonder that some of us didn't think of that earlier in the game. I shouldn't be surprised if we found the prof back in his old place in the only house left in Happenchance!"

"It's possible," said Merry. "Anyhow, that's the idea that flashed through my mind as I sat talking with McGurvin. And that's the reason I contracted for the canteens, the water, and the rations. Then, when McGurvin said what he did about Blunt, I was more anxious than ever to keep on to Happenchance."

"What do you think Blunt has got up his sleeve this time?"

"He's so full of wild ideas that there's no telling. If the professor is in Happenchance, then Blunt has some reason for following him there."

"And out of it all, Chip." declared Clancy, "there's going to come a contest of some sort between you and Blunt. The fellow's crazy on the subject of getting the better of you in some feat of strength and skill. Can't he ever be satisfied?"

"Seems not," Frank answered. "Sometimes I have a hunch that I ought to hang back and let Blunt make a winning. If that's what he wants, why not humor him?"

"Not on your life!" protested Clancy promptly. "You've got to meet Blunt at every point, and trim him well. I think he's 'yellow,' anyhow."

"You and I will never agree on that," said Merry. "There's good stuff in Barzy Blunt, and some day he's going to see the error of his way, and reform. When that happens, you'll find he has the making of an all-round star athlete."

Clancy muttered something under his breath. Whatever it was it certainty was not creditable to the Cowboy Wonder.

"We're getting into the hills," observed Clancy, shifting the subject, "and now, if we don't get lost, it will be because your bump of location is a lot better than mine."

Merry had the habit, at all times, of keen and careful observation, he had made but one trip to the old camp of Happenchance, but circumstances, at that time, had conspired to fix the route to it firmly in his mind. He had gone to the lost town of the Picket Posts in the Bradlaugh car, guided by Nick Porter, but he had ridden back to McGurvin's on a horse, accompanying the runners in the first lap of the relay race. So he had been able to use his faculty of observation to some purpose.

Could he follow the course by night, with the mountains a constant guide by day, all but blotted out in the starlight? He believed he could; and now the test of his confidence was at hand.

His keen eyes watched the ground as it ruffled into low foothills. Although he laid a zigzag course as his searchlight brought cactus clumps and thorn bushes into view, in the main he succeeded in dodging obstacles, and yet held to a fairly direct route. A mound of rocks, stark and almost shapeless in the gloom, guided him like a fingerboard; or a flat-topped hill, or a peculiar-shaped valley between two uplifts, set him on the right track. Mile by mile the black mountains came closer, and then Clancy himself began to pick up a landmark or two which he recognized.

"Chip," he cried, "you're a wonder! Unless I'm badly mistaken, we just passed the valley where we left the car when Porter led you, and Ballard, and I into the gap that cuts through the mountain wall to Happenchance."

"That was the valley, Clan," replied Merriwell, "and there's nothing very wonderful about getting back to it, either. It's just a matter of minding your P's and Q's, and remembering a thing or two. We couldn't take the car through the gap, but I believe we can make it with these machines. We'll go around the hills instead of over them."

Then began a sinuous weaving back and forth, following the seams in the uplifts and mounting steadily toward the narrow gap. The pace was slow and labored, but Frank unerringly traced the way until the motor-cyle lamps flung their round, yellow eyes squarely into the fissure of the mountain wall.

"Maybe there isn't anything wonderful about this," called Clancy, as Frank led the way into the narrow passage, "but--well, it gets my goat. Poor old Pink is missing the time of his life. Now, if we can find Borrodaile, and jog him into a realization of where he is and what he has done, we'll just about make a good night's work of it. It's a relief to know that the prof hasn't been in danger of being bunkoed out of his gold mine."

"We don't know that yet," Frank called back over his shoulder. "Don't take too much for granted, Red. This move on Happenchance may be putting us clear off the scent."

"I'll bet something it isn't," said Clancy, with supreme conviction.

Emerging from the pass, the boys descended into a circular valley, in whose center shapeless ruins covered all the old-time glories--such as they were--of a once bustling mining camp.

The searchlights pierced the vast heap of debris, and revealed the cluttered lane which had once been the town's main street. Carefully Frank steered through the passage and came at last to a halt in front of the only four walls in the place that remained standing. Here was the building in which they had discovered Professor Phineas Borrodaile, living alone in primitive surroundings and trying to imagine him self a troglodyte.

"Hello, professor!" shouted Clancy.

His voice echoed back and forth between the cliffs that rimmed the valley, but brought no answer.

"Not here!" he exclaimed, in a voice of profound disappointment.

"You really expected that yell would bring him?" Frank asked.

"I really did. Hang the luck! Say, Chip, I guess the theory won't hold water. The prof is still mysteriously absent, after all."

Merry had removed the lamp from his machine, and was standing in front of the old door. It was swinging by one rusty hinge, and he pushed it wide open.

"Look out for snakes, Chip!" warned Clancy.

Cautiously the boys pushed through the doorway and into the room that lay beyond. They looked around them, as Merry flashed the beam of light over the ruinous walls. Instinctively a gasp of surprise escaped them.

A cot had once stood at the side of the room, and there had been an oil stove in the place, and a shelf with some books, a chair, a trunk, and a few other odds and ends of primitive housekeeping. But now there was nothing. Every object had been cleaned out of the place and only the bare walls remained.

"Professor Borrodaile isn't here, Clan," said young Merriwell presently. "But he has been here, and made off with his plunder, that's plain. The question is where is the professor now?"

It was a startling discovery the boys had made; not in itself alone, but in the question to which it had given rise.

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