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CHAPTER IX THE TRICK EXPOSED.
“The cards must be marked!” was the thought that again flashed through Frank Merriwell’s mind.

But if they were marked and it was impossible to detect the fact, there was no way of exposing the crooked player. If they were marked, however, Merry believed there must be some way of detecting it.

Frank kept very still. Slipping his hand into an inner pocket, he brought forth something he had purchased that very afternoon, after talking with Morton concerning Darleton’s success at poker and his methods. Quietly he adjusted his purchase to the bridge of his nose.

He had bought a pair of smoked glass goggles!

The cards were being shuffled. The goggles changed the aspect of the room, causing everything to look dim and dusky.

The man who was dealing tossed the cards round to the different players. As this was being done, Frank detected something hitherto unseen upon the cards.

On the backs of many of them were strange luminous designs, crosses, spots, circles, and straight lines. These marks could be distinctly seen with the aid of the smoked glasses.

Lifting his hand, Merry raised the glasses.

The glowing marks vanished! A feeling of satisfaction shot through the discoverer.

“I have him!” he mentally exclaimed. “I have detected his clever little trick!”

It happened that Darleton received a pair of jacks and a pair of sixes on the deal.

One of the players “stayed” and Darleton “came up.”

On the draw Darleton caught another six spot, giving him a full hand.

He seemed to be looking at his cards intently, but Frank observed that he had watched every card as it was dealt.

In the betting that followed Darleton pressed it every time. At the call he displayed the winning hand.

But just as he reached to pull in the chips his wrist was clutched by a grip of iron.

Frank Merriwell had grasped and checked him.

“Gentlemen,” cried Merry, “you are playing with a crook! You are being cheated!”

Instantly there was a great stir in the room. Men sprang up from their chairs.

Darleton uttered an exclamation of fury.

“What do you mean, you duffer?” he snarled. “Let go!”

Instead of obeying, Merry pinned him fast in his chair, so he could not move.

“Yes, what do you mean?” shouted one of Darleton’s friends, leaping from another table and endeavoring to reach Frank. “Let go, or I’ll——”

Hugh Morton grappled with the fellow.

“I wouldn’t do anything if I were you,” he said. “Take it easy, Higgins. We’ll find out what he means in a minute.”

“Find out!” roared Higgins. “You bet! He’ll get all that’s coming to him for this!”

“Explain yourself, Mr. Merriwell,” urged one of the players. “This is a very grave charge. If you cannot substantiate it——”

“I can, sir.”

“Do so at once.”

“These cards are marked.”

“It’s a lie!” raged Darleton.

“You must prove that the cards are marked, Mr. Merriwell,” said another player. “They were but lately unsealed, and it seems impossible.”

“They have been marked since they were opened.”

“How?”

“With the aid of luminous marking fluid of some sort, carried in this man’s pocket. I have watched him marking them.”

“Liar!” came from the fellow accused; but he choked over the word, and he was white to the lips, for he had discovered that Merry was wearing smoked goggles, like his own.

“Let me get at him!” panted Darleton’s friend; but Morton continued, with the assistance of another man, to hold the fellow in check.

“Under ordinary conditions,” said Frank coolly, “the marking cannot be detected. Mr. Darleton has pretended it was necessary for him to wear dark-colored goggles in order to protect his eyes from the lights. Why didn’t he play in the daytime? Because he would then have no excuse for using the goggles, which he does not wear as a rule. With the aid of the goggles he is able to see and understand the marking on the backs of the cards. This makes it possible for him to tell what every man round the table holds. No wonder he knows when to bet and when to drop his cards!”

“It’s false!” muttered the accused weakly.

“If any one doubts that I speak the truth,” said Merry, “let him feel in Mr. Darleton’s coat pocket on the right-hand side.”

A man did so at once, bringing forth a little, tin box, minus the lid, which contained a yellowish, paste-like substance.

“That is the luminous paint,” said Frank.

“Further doubts will be settled by taking my goggles, with which I detected the fraud, and examining the backs of the cards.”

He handed the goggles over, releasing his hold on Darleton, who seemed for the moment incapable of action.

The excited players tried the goggles and examined the cards, one after another. All saw the marks distinctly with the aid of the smoke-colored glasses. They discovered that the four aces were marked, each card with a single dot, the kings bore two dots, the queens three dots and the jacks four dots. The ten spot was indicated by a cross, the nine spot showed two crosses, the eight a straight line, the seven two parallel lines, the six a circle, and there the marking stopped. Evidently Darleton had not found time to finish his work on the remainder of the pack.

And now Darleton found himself regarded with intense indignation and disgust by all save the fellow who had attempted to come to his aid. Indeed, the indignation of the men was such that they threatened personal violence to the exposed rascal.

It seemed that the fellow would not escape from the room without being handled roughly. Before the outburst of indignation, his bravado and nerve wilted, and he became very humble and apprehensive.

No wonder he was alarmed for his own safety. Several of those present had lost heavily to him, and they demanded satisfaction of some sort.

“He has skinned me out of hundreds!” snarled one man. “I’ll take it out of his hide! I’ll break every bone in his dishonest body!”

Two men placed themselves before the infuriated one and tried to reason with him.

“What are you going to do?” he shouted. “Are you going to let him off without doing anything?”

“We’ll make him fork over what he has won to-night.”

“Little satisfaction that will be!”

“We’ll find how much money he has on his person and make him give that up.”

“That doesn’t satisfy me!”

“Then we’ll expel him in disgrace from the club.”

“That sounds better, but it isn’t enough. Just step out of the room, all of you, and leave him to me. While you’re outside, you had better call an ambulance for him.”

“I warn you not to offer me personal violence,” said Darleton, his lips quivering and his voice unsteady.

“You warn us, you cur!” snarled one, shaking his fist under the rascal’s nose. “Why, do you know what you deserve and what you would get in some places? You deserve to be lynched! There was a time in this town when you would have been shot.”

Frank stood back and let matters take their course. He had done his part, and he felt that he had done well in exposing the scoundrel. It was not for him to say how the man should be dealt with by the club.

Darleton drew forth a pocketbook and flung it on the table.

“There’s my money,” he said. “Go ahead and take it.”

“You bet we will!” was the instant response.

The money was taken and divided before his eyes.

Then the men of cooler judgment prevailed over their more excitable companions, whom they persuaded to let Darleton depart in disgrace.

The fellow was only too glad to get off in that manner, and he hastily slunk to the door.

There he paused and looked around. His eyes met those of Frank Merriwell, and the look he gave was pregnant with malignant hatred of the most murderous nature.

The Midwestern lost little time in calling a meeting for the purpose of considering Darleton’s case. In short order the fellow was declared expelled in disgrace from the organization. Following this, it was agreed that Frank Merriwell should be tendered a vote of thanks for his service to the club.

The outcome of the affair gave all of Merry’s friends a feeling of satisfaction, for they believed that the scoundrel had received his just deserts.

Bart Hodge expressed a feeling of intense regret because he had not been present to witness Darleton’s humiliation.

“I sized him up at the start,” declared Bart. “I knew he was a crook, and I knew no crook could defeat Merry.”

That afternoon Frank came face to face with Darleton in front of the post office. The fellow stopped short, the glare of a panther that has been wounded leaping into his eyes.

“You—you—you meddling dog!” he panted huskily.

Frank would have passed on without speaking, but the rascal stepped before him.

“Kindly stand aside,” said Merry. “I don’t wish to soil my hands on you.”

“Oh, you’re very fine and lofty! You think you have done a grand thing in putting this disgrace on me, I suppose.”

“I’m not at all proud of it; but I did my duty.”

“Your duty! Bah!”

“It is the duty of any man to expose a rascal when he can do so.”

“Bah! You did not do that from a sense of duty, but to win applause and lead people to think you very cunning and clever. You’re a notoriety seeker.”

“I don’t care to waste words with you.”

“You have ruined my good name!”

“You ruined it yourself by your crookedness. Don’t try to put the blame on me.”

“You did it!” panted Darleton; “but you shall suffer for it!”

“If you make too many threats, I’ll call a policeman and turn you over to him.”

“No doubt of it! That’s the way you’ll try to hide behind a bluecoat! You’re a coward, Frank Merriwell!”

“Your opinion of me does not disturb me in the least, sir.”

“I’ll disturb you before I am through with you! You have ruined me; but I’ll square it!”

“I don’t care to be seen talking with you.”

“One moment more. I’ll have my say! You triumphed and gloated over me when I was humbled at the club.”

“I never gloat over the fallen.”

“Oh, you are very fine and lofty in sentiment! You try to make people believe you are a goody-goody. You play a part, and play it well enough to deceive most persons; but I’ll wager there are spots in your career that will not bear investigation. If some of your admirers knew all about you they would turn from you in disgust. I’ve seen chaps like you before, and they’re always disgusting, for they are always hypocrites. You pretend that you do not play cards! How was it that you were clever enough to detect my methods? You claim you do not drink, but I’ll bet my life you do drink on the sly.

“You seem to have no vices, but no chap travels about as you do and keeps free from little vices. Small vices make men more manly. The fellow who has no vices is either cold-blooded or more than human. If I had time I’d follow you up and expose you. Then I’d strike you as you have struck me. But I haven’t the time. Still you needn’t think you’re going to get off. I’ll strike just the same, and I’ll strike you good and sufficient! When I land you’ll know it, and I’ll land in a hurry.

“That’s all. I don’t care to say anything more. I have some friends who will stick to me. Don’t fancy for a moment that I am friendless. I’ll see you again. If you get frightened and hike out of Omaha, I’ll follow. I’ll follow until I get my opportunity!”

Having expressed himself in this manner, he stepped aside and walked swiftly away.

“He’s the sort of chap to strike at an enemy’s back,” thought Merry.

That evening Frank took dinner with Morton at the latter’s home. He met Hugh’s mother and sister, and found them refined and pleasant people. After dinner he remained for two hours or more, chatting with them and enjoying himself.

Kate Morton was a cultured girl, having attended college in the East. She talked of books, music, and art, yet she was not stilted and conventional in her conversation, and she proved that she had thoughts and ideas of her own.

When he finally arose to leave, Merry felt that he had passed a most agreeable and profitable evening. He had met a girl who thought of something besides dress, society, and frivolity, yet who must appear at advantage in the very best society, and who undoubtedly enjoyed the pastimes which most girls enjoy.

Hugh was inclined to accompany Frank, but Merry dissuaded him, saying he would catch a car at the first corner and ride within a block of the hotel.

Merriwell whistled as he sauntered along the street. His first warning of danger was when he heard a rustle close behind his back. Before he could turn something smote him down.


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