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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrank Merriwell's Chums - Chapter 29. Bart Makes A Pledge
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Frank Merriwell's Chums - Chapter 29. Bart Makes A Pledge Post by :Dioqq Category :Long Stories Author :Burt L. Standish Date :May 2012 Read :3601

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Frank Merriwell's Chums - Chapter 29. Bart Makes A Pledge

CHAPTER XXIX. BART MAKES A PLEDGE

The following day Frank obtained permission to look at the ring through the powerful microscope belonging to the academy. Bart accompanied him to the experimenting room, and they were soon taking turns in looking at the marked stone.

"What do you make of it, old man?" asked Bart.

"It looks like a map," said Frank.

"Right!" exclaimed the other lad. "It looks like a map, and I believe that is what it is."

There is a river, or road, and mountains, something that looks like a lake, and then a tiny cross. The cross must be a landmark.

"Yes; and you will note that it is at the end of what looks like a river."

"But that must be a road."

"It is, if this is a map, for it runs over that range of hills, or mountains."

"That is plain enough."

"And you will see there is a tiny, snake-like thread that winds away from that spot, which looks as if it was intended for a lake."

"I see it."

"That must be a river, or stream."

The boys were now very excited. All doubts were fading from their minds; the lines on the black stone had surely been intended to represent a map.

But what portion of the face of the earth did it portray? That was a question the ring did not answer.

"Supposing it is a map," said Frank, helplessly; "what good will it do me? I do not know what it is a map of."

"But you may bet your last dollar the man in black knows."

"I don't see how that is going to do me any good.

"It will do him some good, if he gets hold of this ring."

"Well, I shall take care that he does not get hold of it."

The map--if it were a map--on the stone served to more fully arouse the curiosity of the boys, without in any way satisfying them concerning the mystery of the ring.

Frank became so absorbed in trying to discover the true meaning of the map and in getting some light on the mystery that he began to neglect his studies. This, however, was quickly noted by Hodge, who said:

"Be careful, old man; don't let that ring get into your head so that you will lose your chance of standing well up in your class. You are all right in drill work, and you should be appointed a corporal next month."

"Hang the old ring!" exclaimed Frank, petulantly. "I never had anything cause me so much bother before. Whenever I try to study I fall to thinking of it, and I dream of it every night."

Two days passed, and nothing more was seen of the man in black during that time, which led Bart to believe that the mysterious individual had left the vicinity.

"He must have fancied that you would have him arrested for attacking you on the road," said Hodge. "You are not likely to see him again very soon."

"Don't get that impression into your head," returned Frank. "He is not far away. I seem to feel that he is lurking near, awaiting his next opportunity."

"That's tommy-rot! You have let this old ring mix you all up. Don't slip any cogs now, Frank, or you may have the pleasure of seeing your new rival, Paul Rains, appointed a corporal, while you still remain an ordinary cadet."

Frank flushed.

"Rains is not a bad fellow," he said. "He is square."

"He may seem so to you," said Hodge; "but I am suspicious of any fellow who has much to do with Wat Snell and that gang. Frank, it is a wonder to me that you ever came to have anything to do with me afterward--well, you know."

"I shouldn't if I hadn't believed there was some good in you for all of appearances."

"Thank you, old man!" exclaimed Hodge, with genuine feeling. "You are white all the way through, and I believe it is to you I owe credit for still remaining a cadet in this school."

"Nonsense!"

"There is no nonsense about it. You know I tried two military schools before I came here, and I did not remain in either. I could not get along. You have helped me over the hard places, and you have stood by me, through thick and thin, although most of the fellows, disliked me at first, and thought you were foolish in doing what you did. I have been no particular aid to you, but I have led you into temptations and dangers you would have avoided but for the fact that we were roommates and friends. In return, you have saved me many bad breaks, and I am not liable to forget. I did hate you most intensely, but you shall find that I can be as strong in my friendships as I am in my hatreds."

This was saying a great deal for Hodge, who was usually silent and reserved concerning himself. But Bart knew he was speaking no more than the truth, and he felt that the time had come when such an acknowledgment would do him good.

Frank's generous heart was touched by this new revelation of his friend's nature, and he grasped Bart's hand warmly.

"If I have helped you in any way, I am glad to know it," he said, earnestly.

"Well, you have; and you have taken demerit on my account without a murmur. It is selfish of me to cling to cigarettes when 'tobacco smoke in quarters' has been reported against us so many times. By jingoes! I'm going to swear off! They don't do a fellow any good, and they get an awful hold on one. It won't be easy for me to give them up; but I am going to do it. If you catch me smoking another of the things, you may kick me till there isn't a breath left in my body! That's business, and I will stick to it!"

"Good!" laughed Frank. "You have been smoking a good many of them lately, and I have noticed that you complained of your lungs. How can your lungs be in any condition when you are constantly inhaling so much of that smoke! I know of a young fellow with weak lungs who went into quick consumption, and the doctors said cigarettes were entirely responsible. He smoked a number of packages a day. When he started he simply smoked now and then, but the habit grew on him, and at last he was unable to break it."

"I believe any fellow can break off smoking them if he has any will-power of his own."

"I think a fellow should, but you may not find it as easy as you fancy."

"Oh, it will be easy enough for me. When I make up my mind to a thing, I never give up."

"Well, I sincerely trust it will prove so. Every one knows cigarettes are harmful. Yesterday I read in a paper about a boy in a New York hospital who was said to have a 'tobacco heart' from smoking cigarettes. By a tobacco heart it was meant that his heart was so badly affected that it did not perform its action regularly and properly. Sometimes he is convulsed with terrible pains, and gasps for breath. Nearly all the time he moans and begs for cigarettes; but the doctors say he must never smoke another one if he cares to live. As it is, if he should get up, his heart is so weakened that it may go on a strike any time and cause his death."

"Oh, say!" laughed Bart; "that settles it. Now, I never will smoke again. I mean it--you see if I don't."

"I sincerely hope you do. You may become one of the best athletes in this school. Your only trouble has been shortness of breath when you exercise heavily, and that came entirely from smoking. If you give it up, you will soon cease to be troubled that way."

"Well, here's my hand on it, and it is as good as settled. No matter how much I may desire a smoke now, I'll not monkey with the deadly cigarette."

Their hands met again.

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