ispered, as he hastened to the door, at which he paused to listen.
Hearing no alarming sound outside, he quickly turned the key and opened the door, stepping out briskly. His satisfaction was complete when 鏉窞鍝簺娲楁荡鏈夋椿 he observed no person in the corridor.
Again locking the door, he hastened downstairs.
Three men were in the 鏉窞瑗挎箹鍘讳笉姝ｈ鎸夋懇 office, and their words attracted the attention of Hollingsworth as he looked around for the bell boy, to whom he wished to restore the key.
鈥淚t鈥檚 a cinch that Frank Merriwell will win,鈥?said a slender man in black. 鈥淗e should have been barred from the race.鈥?
鈥淗ow is it possible to bar him?鈥?inquired a stout man.
鈥淥n the plea of professionalism.鈥?
鈥淏ut he 鏉窞妗戞嬁鎸夋懇鍝濂?is not a professional, you know,鈥?said the third man, who looked like a Spaniard and spoke with a slight foreign accent.
鈥淚f he isn鈥檛 he should be,鈥?declared the slender man.
鈥淚 don鈥檛 see why.鈥?
鈥淗e鈥檚 too good.鈥?
鈥淥h, not at this game.鈥?
鈥淵es, at this game.鈥?
鈥淲hat makes you think so?鈥?asked the Spaniard.
鈥淗e wins at almost anything he undertakes.鈥?
鈥淚鈥檝e never 鏉窞鎸夋懇娌瑰帇鍝噷濂?heard that he is regarded as an especial wonder as a runner,鈥?grunted the stout man.
鈥淣ever mind what you have heard; 鏉窞妗戞嬁鎸夋懇 he has a reputation that frightens people from risking any money on other contestants when he takes part. I came here to back Huntley,
but I鈥檓 not risking my good money against Merriwell.鈥?
鈥淵ou doped Huntley to win?鈥?asked the man in black, smiling. 鈥淲hy, man, if Merriwell wasn鈥檛 entered I鈥檇 take the field and give you big odds. I鈥檇 almost go you even, if 鏉窞鐢峰＋鍏荤敓spa necessary, that Pope would cut the mustard.鈥?
Hollingsworth was keenly interested, and he did not hesitate to 鈥渂utt in.鈥?
鈥淕entlemen,鈥?he said, 鈥淢erriwell is much over-rated. I don鈥檛 believe he could win if he ran, but he will not run.鈥?
The trio turned and stared hard at him.
鈥淗ello!鈥?grunted the stout man. 鈥淚 believe it鈥檚 the fellow who was pointed out to me 鏉窞妗戞嬁涓績600闅忎究鐜?as the trainer of the Ashport squad.鈥?
鈥淚 am Herbert Hollingsworth,鈥?stated the Englishman, speaking slowly and taking care 鏉窞妗戞嬁鍝噷钀ヤ笟 not to lose that troublesome initial letter from his name.
鈥淲hat makes you think Merriwell will not run?鈥?inquired the slim man.
Hollingsworth hesitated a trifle, and then said:
鈥淵ou were just saying he should be barred from the race, sir.鈥?
鈥淚f I am correctly informed he will be barred.鈥?
Naturally these words created a slight 鏉窞姘寸（浼氭墍 sensation.
鈥淲hat information leads you to think such a thing?鈥?was the quick demand of the Spaniard.
鈥淚 have it from a reliable source that he is not now a member of the Amateur Athletic union, and the rules governing this cross-country run will exclude any one who is not a member.鈥?
鈥淏ut he must be a member!鈥?cried the man in black.
鈥淗e is touring with 鏉窞涓濊濂硄q his own team of athletes.鈥?
鈥淏ut he has not taken part in any contest conducted under the rules of the A. A. U.,鈥?asserted Hollingsworth.
鈥淗asn鈥檛 he? Are you su