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首页 » 经典英文小说 » Frank Merriwell's Endurance » CHAPTER XVII THE VEILED WOMAN’S SECRET.
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CHAPTER XVII THE VEILED WOMAN’S SECRET.
“I assure you, Miss Blake, that I shall do my best to win,” said Merriwell wonderingly; “but I can’t understand what you mean by the statement that your fortune and your life depend upon it.”

“I am backing you.”

“You are?”

“Yes.”

“Why, I thought——”

“You know about the bet of ten thousand dollars on the result of this game?”

“Of course. A gentleman from Chicago, by the name of Doom, made that wager with Cameron.”

“Doom is my agent,” declared the woman.

“Impossible!”

“It is true. He wagered my money. It is all I have in the world. I also happen to know that ten thousand dollars is practically all Carey Cameron possesses. If I win he will be ruined. I must win.”

Frank was both perplexed and annoyed.

“I ask your pardon in advance for speaking plainly,” he said, “but I must tell you that I think you very foolish to take such a risk. You know all the chances are against us. If we win we must do so by strategy. I cannot understand why you should make such a venture.”

“I hate Carey Cameron!” she hissed. “I wish to ruin him—to strip him of his last dollar! He married my sister and treated her in the most brutal and inhuman manner until he forced her to give him all of her fortune, which he squandered in dissipation and gambling. After that he used her in the most inhuman manner, making her a prisoner in her own house. Her baby he starved and abused until the poor thing died. In the end my sister’s mind gave way, and he placed her in a madhouse.

“Why shouldn’t I hate him? Now you understand my reasons! I have sworn to ruin him, and for that purpose I am living here in Cartersville. He does not know me. He never saw my face, but I bear a strong resemblance to my sister as she looked when he married her, and I fear he might detect the resemblance should he behold me unveiled. For that reason I keep my face hidden constantly.

“You know my secret, Frank Merriwell. You are the first to whom I have revealed it since coming here. I hope to strike a blow at him to-day. If I fail—if you lose the game—my money will be gone, and I shall have no means of keeping up the struggle. What will there be for me then? I might as well be dead!”

At last Frank understood her secret, but that did not relieve him of his vexation on account of her folly, as he considered it. He saw that she was extremely impulsive. She had accepted this crude method of seeking revenge on Cameron, without sufficiently considering the danger that the result might be disastrous to herself; but now, as the struggle was about to begin, a full realization of the peril made her tremble and quake.

There was no rectifying her folly. The only way to save her was to win the game.

“Play ball! play ball!” howled the rough element of the crowed. “Put her off the field!”

“Merriwell has a mash!” shouted a man.

“Do your goo-gooing after the game,” advised another.

“Miss Blake,” said Frank earnestly, “you may rely on me to do my best; but I warn you in advance that the chances are strongly in favor of Cameron.”

“I have confidence in you,” she declared. “That is why I made that wager. I have had confidence in you from the moment when I first set eyes on you. Something tells me you are the sort of a man who triumphs. You will win—you must!”

“It would be a great misfortune for me to lose,” confessed Frank; “but you will be forced to bear uncertainty until the very end of the game, as we dare not take the lead too soon.”

Once more declaring her confidence in him, and seeming not to mind the cries of the crowd, she retired from the diamond and the game began.

Following was the line-up of each team:
CARTERSVILLE.     MERRIES.
Grady, cf.     Ready, 3d b.
Moran, ss.     Morgan, ss.
Johnson, 1st b.     Badger, lf.
Madison, rf.     Hodge, c.
Tonando, 3d b.     Merriwell, p.
Gibson, lf.     Gamp, cf.
Hickey, 2d b.     Browning, 1st b.
Collins, c.     Rattleton, 2d b.
Weaver, p.     Dunnerwurst, rf.

A yell of delight went up from the crowd as Grady met the first ball pitched and drove out a scorching single.

“We’re off! we’re off!” whooped Gibson, as he capered down to the coaching line back of first. “Keep it going, Moran!”

Moran responded by bunting and attempting to “beat it out.”

On the bunt Grady reached second, but Frank got the ball and threw Moran out at first.

“All right, chillun!” grinned Johnson, the colored player, as he ran out to hit. “Why, we’s gwine to make a hundred right heah.”

Frank gave him a swift inshoot.

“G’way dar, ma-a-an!” shouted Johnson. “Yo’ll sho’ hurt yo’ wing if yo’ tries to keep dat speed up.”

“One ball,” announced Starbright.

“Dat’s right, Mistah Umpiah,” commented the negro. “Make him git ’em ober de pan. If he do, I’s gwine to slam it right ober de fence.”

The next one was too far out.

“Two balls.”

“Come on, ma-a-an,” urged Johnson. “Yo’ll nebber fool dis chicken dat way.”

Merry tried a high ball, using lots of speed.

The batter hit it fairly and laced it on a line far into the field.

“Yah! yah! yah!” he whooped, as he scooted for first. “Dat pitcher was made fo’ me.”

Sitting on the bench, Carey Cameron saw Grady come home on the hit, while Johnson reached third base.

“This is going to be too easy,” said Cameron, to one of the substitutes. “It won’t do to run the score up too high and not give those poor dubs a show, for it will disgust the crowd and hurt baseball here for the rest of the season. I’ll have to hold the boys down the moment they get the game well in hand.”

The crowd began to ridicule Frank.

“Is that the great pitcher we’ve heard about?”

“He’s a fake!”

“That’s not the genuine Frank Merriwell!”

“Take him out!”

“Knock him out of the box!”

“Put him in the stable!”

Mat Madison was the next batter. The big bruiser made an insulting remark to Frank as he took his position at the plate.

“You’ll be a puddin’ for me,” he declared.

Instantly Merry resolved to strike Madison out. He gave Hodge a signal which Bart understood.

Frank began with the double shoot. Madison fancied the first ball pitched was just what he wanted and slashed at it with all his strength.

He missed.

“Strike one!” cried Starbright.

“Accident,” said Madison. “I’ll hit the next one I go after.”

Merry reversed the curve, and Madison missed again, much to his wonderment and disgust.

“Give me another just like that,” he urged.

“Here it is,” said Merry, and he actually pitched another of the same sort as the last.

“You’re out!” declared Starbright, as the bruiser missed the third time.

Madison was astounded and infuriated.

“Wait till my turn comes again!” he snarled, as he flung the bat down.

“Get-a ready to score, you black-a rascal,” cried Tonando to Johnson, as he danced out to the plate.

“I’s waitin’, ma-a-an,” retorted Johnson, dancing off third and back again. “Just yo’ git any kind of a hit an’ see me cleave de air.”

Tonando let one pass and then met the next, getting a safe single on a fast grounder that Rattleton failed to touch.

“Just as e-e-easy, chillun!” laughed Johnson, as he came home. “Why, dis is a cinch!”

The crowd now redoubled its ridicule of Merriwell.

Gibson prepared to hit, being overconfident. To his surprise, he missed twice. Then he put up an easy infield fly and was out, which retired the side.

Cartersville had made two runs in the first inning, and every man on the team felt that they might have obtained many more with ease.

Without letting them secure too many runs, Merry had placed them in a frame of mind that would enable him to deceive them for a while, at least, before they awoke to their mistake.

The first three batters for the visitors fanned the air, seeming utterly bewildered by the curves and speed of Weaver, the Indian pitcher.

“Oh, you’re pretty stickers!” derided a small boy. “You won’t git a hit to-day!”

In the second inning neither team scored, although it seemed more by bungling good fortune than anything else that the Merries held their opponents down.

The fact was that Cameron had warned his players not to get too long a lead. He was perfectly at his ease, fully believing his team quite outclassed the visitors and could win the game by heavy batting in a single inning, if necessary.

In this manner the game slipped along with neither side making further runs until the sixth inning.

In the last of the sixth the visitors sprang a surprise on Cameron’s men. Morgan led off with a hit, Badger sacrificed him to second. Hodge sacrificed him to third, and Frank brought him home with a slashing two-bagger.

That made the spectators sit up and take notice.

It also aroused Carey Cameron, causing him to realize the possible danger that the amateurs might make a spurt when such a thing was least expected. He was relieved when Weaver struck Gamp out.

“We must have some more runs, boys,” said Cameron, as his players gathered about him. “Jump right in now and make them. Not too many, but enough to have the game safely in hand.”

They responded by getting a single score, and it seemed that pure accident prevented the piling up of several more.

In the last of the seventh the Merries did not make a run, Weaver seeming to have them at his mercy.

Again in the eighth, although Cartersville got two men onto the sacks, no scores were made on either side.

The ninth inning opened with the score three to one in favor of the locals.

“That’s really lead enough,” said Cameron; “but one or two more runs will not spoil the game. I want you to make two scores, boys. You have a fine opening, for Moran starts it.”

“I’ll agree to get a hit,” said Moran, “if they’ll just help me circle the bags.”

He was positive he could get a hit then, but some of his conceit evaporated when he fanned twice and was fooled both times.

There had not been much complaint against Starbright’s work as umpire, for Cartersville was holding the lead and fancied that lead could be increased any time. Just now Moran was unable to kick, as he was swinging at the balls.

Apparently Merriwell put the next ball just where the batter wanted it.

But again Moran missed, greatly to his dismay.

“Oh, you’re a mark!” sneered Madison. “Wait till I git at him! I ain’t got no hits to-day, but I’ve been waitin’ for this chance.”

Johnson was in position to strike.

“Look out fo’ me, ma-a-an,” he grinned. “Dis time I puts it ober de fence. Allus does it once in a game.”

He tried hard—too hard, in fact. Like Moran, he fell an easy victim to Merriwell’s arts.

Frank was now pitching in his best form, having thrown off all attempt at deception.

Madison swore he would get a hit. He realized that his reputation as a heavy batter had suffered that day.

The crowd yelled and hooted at Frank, seeking to rattle him, but his face was perfectly grave and he seemed deaf to the uproar. In the stand he saw a veiled woman, who sat silent and rigid, her gloved hands clasped. He knew she was watching him, her heart heavy with despair, for it seemed that the locals had won.

At the beginning of the game Merry had resolved not to let Madison get a hit. Now, as the fellow came up for the last time, Frank pitched with bewildering speed, his curves being sharp and baffling.

Although every ball pitched was a strike, Starbright had confidence in Merry and declared two, at which the batter did not offer, to be “balls.”

Then Merry wound up with his surprising slow ball, which seemed to hang in the air, and Madison struck too soon.

“You’re out!” cried Starbright.

“Well, it’s all right, fellows,” laughed Cameron. “You have to hold them down, that’s all. It’s easy for Weaver. The game is ours.”

Frank spoke to his players in low tones as they gathered around him at the bench.

“We must go after it now,” he said. “There must be no tie. We must win it in this inning—or lose it. You’re the first batter, Bart.”

Hodge was grim and determined as he walked to the plate. He let the first ball pass, but hit the second and lined it out.

Hickey made a jump to one side, struck out his glove and caught the ball. It was a handsome catch of what had looked like a safe two-bagger.

Bart’s head dropped a moment as he turned back toward the bench, but it came up at once, and he spoke to Frank, making himself heard above the uproar, for the crowd was yelling like madmen:

“You can do it just the same, Frank. That was a case of horseshoes.”

Merry did not try for a long hit. One run would do no good. He attempted to place a safe single, and drove a liner into an opening in right field.

Gamp followed, but the hopes of the visitors sank when Joe fanned out in the most dismal manner.

The only chance now seemed for Browning to make a long, safe hit, and the big fellow tried for it. Instead of hitting as he expected, he sent a slow one rolling toward Moran.

Never in all his life did Bruce cover ground as he did then. Those who fancied him to be a huge, heavy, lazy fellow now saw him fairly fly over the ground, and he reached first a good stride ahead of the ball.

“Safe!” declared Starbright.

Sitting on the bench, Hodge groaned as he saw Rattleton, pale and unsteady, step out to strike.

“It’s all off!” Bart muttered. “Harry can’t hit that pitching!”

Weaver flashed over a speedy one.

Harry did not move.

“One strike!” declared Starbright, his honesty compelling him to declare it.

Weaver sent in another one.

Rattleton swung.

Crack!

Bart Hodge leaped into the air with a yell of astonishment and joy.

It was the hit of Rattleton’s whole career in baseball. Clean over the most distant portion of centre-field fence sailed the ball, disappearing from view.

A second yell escaped Bart’s lips, and he began “throwing cartwheels,” while Merriwell, Browning, and Rattleton capered round the bases and came home.

The spectators seemed dazed.

No one, however, was more dazed than Carey Cameron. He did not move from the bench.


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