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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrank Merriwell's Chums - Chapter 34. The Ring Disappears
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Frank Merriwell's Chums - Chapter 34. The Ring Disappears Post by :Dioqq Category :Long Stories Author :Burt L. Standish Date :May 2012 Read :3252

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Frank Merriwell's Chums - Chapter 34. The Ring Disappears

CHAPTER XXXIV. THE RING DISAPPEARS

"Bart!"

The exclamation of mingled surprise and reproach came from Frank's lips.

Hodge had made a move to conceal the cigarette, but discovered he was too late.

His face turned crimson, and he hung his head with shame.

Frank closed the door, and came to the side of his roommate, on whose shoulder he gently placed a hand, as he asked:

"How does it happen, Bart?"

Bart started to say something, choked a little, and then forced an unpleasant laugh.

"Oh, I'm a liar!" he burst out, hotly. "I have broken my pledge at the first temptation!"

"Why did you do it? You know you said you could leave off smoking cigarettes easily."

"I thought I could."

"And you found out the habit was fastened more firmly on you than you thought?"

"That's about the size of it. I have been longing for a cigarette all day, and, when I came by accident upon this one, finding myself all alone, I could not resist the desire to have a whiff."

"That shows the habit had a firmer hold on you than you thought."

"Yes. I fancied I could leave it off readily enough; but I was mistaken. It seems a fellow never knows what a hold the nasty little things have on him till he tries to stop smoking them."

"And were you going to give up the struggle without another effort?"

"Oh, no! I didn't mean to smoke only this once. That is, I didn't mean to at first, but after I got to smoking I thought it would be a good plan to taper off."

"Which meant that you were going to tamper with the stuff again, and, finally, you would smoke as much as ever, and would not leave off at all."

"Perhaps you're right," confessed Hodge, who showed his shame.

"I am sure I am right; but you will give over the plan of tapering off--you will stop at once. You are not weak-minded enough to let cigarettes get a hold on you that you cannot break."

"Well, I thought I wasn't; but I don't know about it now."

"Oh, this is bad, but it doesn't mean failure. I don't believe you are the kind of a fellow to give in thus easily to an enemy. You have more fight in you than that."

Frank spoke in a confident tone, as if he did not doubt Hodge's ability to conquer the habit, and Bart gave him a grateful look.

All at once, Bart jumped up and opened the window, out of which he fiercely flung the half-smoked cigarette.

"If I hadn't been a fool by nature, I'd never lighted the thing!" he cried, in supreme self-contempt. "Your confidence in me, old man, has given me confidence in myself. This settles it! I am done with cigarettes forever. You'll never again discover me with one in my lips!"

Bart had meant to keep his pledge in the first place, but Frank's failure to reproach him for falling, and Frank's confidence in his ability to stop smoking gave him the needed confidence in himself--filled him with a determination not to be defeated. And from that hour he never again smoked a cigarette.

"Now we're all right again," said Merriwell, heartily, as Bart came back from the window. "Sit down while I relate a very interesting tale to you."

Bart sat down, and Frank told what he had seen and heard through following Snell.

"That sneak makes me sick!" cried Hodge, fiercely. "I'd like to get another chance at him! Why, he's the biggest sneak in this school!"

"That's right."

"Gage couldn't hold a candle to Snell."

"Gage was bolder; Snell is a bigger sneak."

"That's about the size of it. What are you going to do with the fellow?"

"I think it would be well to catch him in company with the man in black when they meet to-morrow night."

Bart slapped his thigh.

"Just the scheme! But who's going to do the catching?"

"It would be a good plan to have an officer from the village on hand for that job."

"Good! You can swear out a warrant for the man for felonious assault, attempted highway robbery, or something of the sort, and have him sent where he won't trouble you again for some little time."

"That's what I thought."

"It seems the only way to get rid of him, and he is mighty dangerous."

"He is desperate."

"Yes; he means to have that ring anyway. I'll find a way to-morrow to draw those lines on paper. I don't care if that man does say the ring is of no particular value, I know better. If the lines are taken off, you will stand a show of finding out what they mean."

Frank was eager to have an enlarged copy of the lines made, for he felt that he could never be sure that he would not lose the ring, even though the mysterious man in black should be disposed of effectually.

"Snell is determined to get himself into serious trouble," said Frank.

"Oh, money will hire him to do any mean, sneaking thing!" came scornfully from Bart's lips.

"If he is caught with this scoundrel in black to-morrow night, he will be under a cloud here."

"He is under a cloud now. Twenty fellows saw me knock him down, and they'll never give him any rest till he sends me a challenge."

"Well, I don't fancy he will send you a challenge."

"Then his life will be made wretched while he remains at Fardale Academy."

"He has brought it on himself."

"Of course. A fellow can't be a sneak and have the respect of anybody who is decent. I found that out long ago."

The following forenoon Bart obtained permission to use the microscope long enough to make a drawing of the lines on the stone set in the mysterious ring.

Before going to recitation, Frank surrendered the ring to Bart, who hesitated about taking it.

"What if I should lose it?" he said.

"You can't," smiled Frank. "There is no danger of that."

"Still, I rather wish you were coming along."

"I can't do that without getting dismissed from recitation, and that isn't possible."

"Well, I will do the job quickly, and I'll have it finished by the time your class is through reciting."

So they parted, and, with the precious ring in his possession, Hodge hurried to the room where the microscope was kept, having provided himself with the necessary materials for making the drawing.

He lost no time in getting to work, and he made rapid progress. As the drawing developed, he grew excited and enthusiastic, for he plainly saw it must be a map of some wild bit of country.

"I'll bet the man who can read this correctly and knows where this country is located, can go straight to a fortune!" muttered the lad. "But I do not see how it is going to benefit anybody who does not know what section of the country this map represents."

It was a warm spring day, and Bart had opened a window near the table at which he was working. A pleasant breeze was stirring.

Although he took care to be quite accurate, it did not take the lad long to complete the drawing.

He was examining it carefully to make sure he had omitted nothing and had made no errors, when a strong wind sucked through the building, swinging open the door of the room.

He rose hastily to close the door, when another breath of wind set the paper on which he had been drawing fluttering across the table. He sprang to catch it, but it avoided his fingers and fluttered out of the window. Thrusting his head forth, he saw it sail away and settle slowly at the foot of one of the great trees amid which the academy buildings stood.

Out of the room darted Bart, and down the stairs he bounded. He was soon outside, and, recovering the paper, which he readily found, he hastened back.

"Great Scott!" he muttered. "I left that ring under the microscope!"

The thought that he had allowed the ring to escape his sight for a moment filled him with anxiety.

What if he should not find it where he had left it a few moments before?

A cold sweat started out on his face, and he literally tore up the stairs and rushed headlong into the experimenting room, the door of which he had left open.

And then, when he looked for the mysterious ring, he found it had vanished!

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