Frank merriwells athlete.., p.21
Frank Merriwell's Athletes; Or, The Boys Who Won,
CHAPTER XXI--THE RELIGIOUS RACE
Soon the sun dance was over and then came the religious race.
The track was a smooth strip of ground, stretching about four hundredyards from the bower in which the images had been placed.
The track was kept clear by old men, who were stationed at shortdistances up and down, armed with green branches to keep intruders outof the way.
At each end the contestants stood in a row, watching the track.
Each of the big community buildings was represented by sixteen runners,who were to take turns in the race.
The governor of the Pueblo made a short speech, and then, with startlingsuddenness two lithe figures darted out from the end nearer the bower,there was a wild shout of "hay-wah-oh," and the race had begun.
The two runners stopped when they reached the other end of the course,but already two other runners had taken their places, darting off likefoxes the moment the original two crossed a certain line that was markedby a bush that lay across the track.
This change was made at each end of the course, so all the sixteencontestants took turns.
But it was permissible to put the same runner in as many times asnecessary, and it so happened that, whenever one side would get a leadover the other, the best runners were called on to go in repeatedly.
Behind each of the runners chosen to take up the race next stood two oldmen, who were each holding a long eagle feather. With these feathersthey repeatedly touched the calves of the runners' legs, at the sametime muttering a prayer to the Sun Father, imploring him to give therunners the speed of the eagle.
The spectators showed much excitement as the race continued.
"Um-o-pah! um-o-pah!" they shouted, wildly waving their hands to thewinners.
They were urging them to "hurry up."
In vain the boys looked for John Swiftwing.
"It's strange he has not been chosen to take part in this race," saidFrank. "I have been told by one of the old chiefs that he was swifterthan all their other runners before he went away to school."
"Are there no other races?" asked Hodge.
"Yes; but this being the religious race, is of the most consequence, andusually the best runners are put into this."
"Perhaps Swiftwing is saving himself for some other race."
Inza watched the runners with great interest, but Miss Abigail soontired of the affair.
"I can't say that I see anything entertaining or intellectual in allthis," she sniffed.
"Yaw," nodded Hans, who still kept near her; "I peen feexed dot vayyourself. Der race vas on der pum. You agree mit yourself about dotexactly."
"Don't bother to agree with me about anything!" came stiffly from thespinster. "I don't care to have you agree with me."
"Oh, you don'd! Vell, you reminds me uf a feller vot I knowed vonce on atime. He vas alvays disagreeing mit eferydings. He wouldn't eat anydingvot he thought might agree mit him, und so he died der disbepsia of. Youvant to look out for dot."
With this shot Hans edged away, not liking the glare Miss Abigail gavehim.
"You pet me my life she don'd got der pest uf me all der times!" hechuckled.
While the religious race was taking place, Swiftwing suddenly appearedat Frank's side.
"If you wish to play ball," he said, "you may have a chance. Bring yourfriends. Come."
Frank spoke to the boys, all of whom, with the exception of Browning,were eager for the sport.
Bruce grumbled a little, but followed Frank.
Swiftwing led them away, but he had found time to speak a word in InzaBurrage's ear, and Frank had noted this.
Merry saw Inza start a little and then shake her head, while her facegrew pale and she pressed nearer to her aunt.
"I wonder what the fellow said to her," thought Frank, who was far frompleased. "She would not tell me if I asked her, so I'll have to continueto wonder."
The young Indian led the boys to a place not far from the bower, butbeyond the crowd of spectators.
"The ball game will be for sport," he said, "and, as you do not knowjust how Indians play ball, I have decided that you shall be divided.Four of you will play on one side, and five on the other. The rest ofthe players will be Indians, and there will be twenty on a side. Theyare preparing now. Get ready, for the game will begin right after therace."
So, with much joking among themselves, the boys pulled off theirsweaters and prepared for the race.
Swiftwing gave their superfluous clothes into the care of an old man,who was told to watch carefully that no Mexicans or Apaches stoleanything from him.
Then Swiftwing showed the boys the balls and the bats, which were likeold-fashioned "shinny" sticks, and explained to them how the game was tobe played.
This done, the Indian youth left Frank to divide his party, and hurriedaway.
Within three minutes a great shouting announced that the religious racewas over, and one of the buildings had won over the other.
Barely had this shouting ceased when, with yells like wild animals,thirty-one young bucks, stripped to the breechcloth, came from somewhereand rushed upon the white boys.
Hans gave a gurgle of fear and rolled over in a sudden attempt to takeflight.
"Here vas where you lose mein scalp!" he gurgled.
Toots was scared, and his teeth chattered.
"Oh, Lordy!" he gasped. "Mah wool am gone dis time fo' suah! I doneknowed I'd nebber keep dis wool on mah haid till I got back home!"
Barney Mulloy squared off, his hands clinched and his eyes flashing.
"Come on, ye spalpanes!" he grated. "It's a roight tough bit av a shcrapwe'll be afther havin', me laddy-bucks!"
"Gug-gug-good gosh!" stammered Ephraim Gallup, his face turning pale andhis knees knocking together. "We're ketched in a trap, by gum! I wish Iwas to hum on the farm!"
"What's the meaning of this, Merriwell?" cried Jack Diamond, clutchingFrank's arm with a strong grip. "Are we in for scalping--or what?"
"It's all right," assured Merriwell. "That's their way of attracting theattention of the crowd and informing them that the ball game is about tobegin."
"Is that all?" gurgled Ephraim, in great relief, seeing the youngIndians gather about but observing they did not offer hostilities. "Wal,darned if I ain't afraid I'll never be able to comb my hair ag'in! Itfeels as if it was stickin' up stiffer than quills on the back of ahedgehoag."
The shout from the young bucks had attracted the attention of thespectators and they were rushing toward the spot.
A hand touched Frank's arm.
"Come," said the voice of John Swiftwing. "A place for us to play willbe prepared."
John was one of the young bucks. He had cast aside the clothes ofcivilization, and, like the others, he was stripped to the breechcloth.
His physique was magnificent, and Frank regarded him with admiration.Such broad shoulders, such a deep chest, such hard and muscular limbswere not common among the Pueblos.
In Swiftwing's hair eagle feathers had been fastened, and it seemedthat, with his clothes, he had cast aside all the refining changes ofcivilization.
He was a savage again!
His eyes were flashing, and his head was poised proudly on his strongneck. The players looked to him as a leader, and they followed him tothe cleared space where the ball game was to take place.
Frank had divided his party. Rattleton, Diamond, Mulloy and Gallup wereon one side, while Merriwell, Browning, Hodge, Dunnerwust and Toots wereon the other.
It took but a few moments for all arrangements to be completed.
The sides of twenty men each were drawn up facing each other, with anopen space between them. The forty players were scattered overconsiderable territory. Each man stood in an expectant attitude, one ofthe rude bats in his hands, ready for the ball to be put into play.
The ball was small and hard, and the players could not touch it withtheir hands after play began, but they must keep it constantly in theair. The mom
This was the usual rule, but, on this occasion it was modified somewhat,as there were white players in the game, and it was not expected theycould do as well as the Indians who were familiar with the sport. It wasdecided that the ball must be driven to the ground twice on one side orthe other in order to insure a defeat. It was to be the "best two out ofthree."
Suddenly there was a shrill yell, a sharp crack, and the ball had beenbatted into play.
Frank Merriwell's Athletes; Or, The Boys Who Won by Burt L. Standish / Young Adult have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on15 votes