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Frank and Dick Merriwell are main protagontist of Standish's series of adventure novels and short stories. The models for all later American juvenile sports fiction, Merriwells excelled at football, baseball, basketball, crew and track at Yale while solving mysteries and righting wrongs. They are half-brothers, but there is a marked difference between them. Frank usually handles challenges on his own while Dick has mysterious friends and skills that help him. William George "Gilbert" Patten (1866-1945) was a writer of adventure novels, better known by his pen name Burt L. Standish. He wrote westerns and science-fiction novels, but he is the most famous for his sporting stories in the Merriwell series. Table of Contents: Frank Merriwell's Limit (Calling a Halt) Frank Merriwell's Chums Frank Merriwell Down South Frank Merriwell's Bravery Frank Merriwell at Yale (Freshman Against Freshman) Frank Merriwell's Races Frank Merriwell's Alarm (Doing His Best) Frank Merriwell's Athletes (The Boys Who Won) Frank Merriwell's Champions (All in the Game) Frank Merriwell's Return to Yale Frank Merriwell's Cruise Frank Merriwell's New Comedian (The Rise of a Star) Frank Merriwell's Reward Frank Merriwell's Backers (The Pride of His Friends) Frank Merriwell's Triumph (The Disappearance of Felicia) Frank Merriwell's Pursuit (How to Win) Frank Merriwell's Son (A Chip off the Old Block) Frank Merriwell's Nobility (The Tragedy of the Ocean Tramp) Frank Merriwell, Junior's Golden Trail (The Fugitive Professor) Dick Merriwell's Trap (The Chap Who Bungled) Dick Merriwell Abroad (The Ban of the Terrible Ten) Dick Merriwell's Pranks (Lively Times in the Orient)
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Everybody yawned. A dawn party after the prom. is likely to be a dull affair, and this one in Frank Merriwell's room was no exception to the rule. All were tired. Even little Stubbs' fund of wit and repartee seemed pretty well exhausted and he had almost given up his desperate attempt to prove entertaining to Stella Stanley, with whom he had fallen head-over-heels in love at first sight. Stella was tall and stately and little Bink voted her a "peach", a "stunner," a "queen." When a Yale man calls a girl a queen, he is giving her the highest possible compliment.
Stella had found both Stubbs and Griswold amusing little chaps, and she enjoyed being amused. She did not know they had come to the verge of blows over her; she did not know that Griswold had sworn that he would have Stubbs' heart's blood. But Bink had carried her off in triumph to Merry's dawn party after the prom., and he was the happiest fellow in New Haven. He was hard hit; possibly that explains his sudden loss of sprightliness and wit. He longed to sit still, hold her hand, and gaze into her face; but Stella was not one of the handholding kind, and it did not go with her.
"What's the matter with you?" she laughed. "You were awfully funny an hour ago. Drinking tea seems to have dampened your spirits."
"Oh," said Browning with a lazy grin, "the spirits which preceded the tea were damp enough The tea seems to have dried them up."
"If it will dry you up, take some more tea-do," begged Bink.
"Now you are beginning to talk foolishly," declared Bink.
"I do that so that you may understand me," shot back the little fellow.
Browning grunted. He could not think of anything just then that seemed to fit the occasion, and so he turned to renew his attempt to entertain Mrs. Hodge, who was chaperoning the party. He found her lying back in her chair, her eyes closed, apparently asleep.
"Hush!" he said, with a warning gesture to the others.
There was silence for the space of ten seconds. It was broken by Hodge, who observed:
"It must be nearly morning. He rose and looked out of the window, drawing the curtains aside for the purpose. The ground was bare on the campus and a grayish sky could be seen over the leafless trees. "It looks like spring," Bart added. "I believe we shall have an early spring."
"I think so myself," said Bink. "Only yesterday I saw a cat watching a hole in the wall with her back arched, and I consider that a sure sign of an early spring."
Hodge dropped the curtain and sat down beside Elsie Bellwood again. Close by, Frank was murmuring something to Inza Burrage.
"You're doing better, my little man," said Stella Stanley, patting Stubbs on the back.
"Don't do that-please don't!" entreated Bink. "'Little man!' It makes me warm."
"Small pots get hot quickly," smiled the actress.
Browning chuckled revengefully, but Bink paid no attention to him. Instead, he lowered his voice, saying:
"Miss Stanley, to-night we met for the first time in person, but I feel that we have met before in spirit."
"Do you?" she murmured, lifting her eyebrows.
"I do. I am serious. Please don't smile. I have pictured you in my mind a thousand times, divinely tall, graceful as a goddess, beautiful as a-a-anything. You're it! I said so the moment my eyes rested on you. I felt something in my heart that I had never felt there before- a pain that--"
"My dear fellow, you should consult a physician at once. I'm sure you smoke too many cigarettes. That's bad for the heart, you know."
"Now you're guying. Don't guy! I'm serious. I love you!"
"Ha! ha! ha! I believe you are more comical when you try to be serious than when you try to be funny. You don't know how amusing you really and truly are."
Bink looked pained. He tried to take her hand, but again it avoided his itching fingers.
"Listen to me!" he breathed. "I'm getting desperate! I don't like to be taken for a clown all the time. People seem to think everything I say is in jest."
"That's not 'jest' right," smiled Stella.
"Don't pun! I can't stand it! I swear I'll never pull again! Won't you take me seriously once?"
"Oh, no; I'll not take you at all. You're a goose! You've been very entertaining. Don't spoil it."
Bink realized that it wouldn't "go."
"It's all because of my size!" he hissed. "I'm not to blame for that! If you won't listen, I-I-I'll--"
"I'll commit suicide as fast as I can! Browning, hand me the cigarettes!"
But Bruce was dozing. Stubbs looked round helplessly. Hodge was doing his best to entertain Elsie, while Frank continued to talk to Inza. In a corner Buck Badger and Winnie Lee seemed very contented.
"It's enough to drive anybody to suicide!" declared the little fellow, pathetically, getting the cigarettes for himself. "I'm the only out that's left. Every other fellow is satisfied, even Browning."
"Did you ever hear," said Stella, "that the general prizes most the fort that takes the longest siege?"
"Then you do mean--"
She was baffling, and that made her all the more fascinating. He asked permission to light the cigarette, and she granted it. Then she begged him to tell her something funny, and he desperately tried to comply, but he was not nearly as funny as when he did not try at all.
The gray light began to sift in through the curtains.
"Won't you have some more tea?" asked Frank rising.
But nobody wanted tea.
"Tired out, done up," said Merry. "I don't wonder. Elsie looks completely fagged; so does Inza."
"I danced almost every dance," declared Elsie.
"And an average waltz," said Merry, "takes a person over about three-quarters of a mile. A square dance takes one over half a mile. Your programmes were well filled. You danced twelve waltzes and four square dances. That's eleven miles. It's likely that in strolling about and visiting the dressing room, you traveled nearly another mile. You see you have covered twelve-miles each to-night, which is pretty strong exercise."
"It makes me tired to think of it!" laughed Elsie.
"But the music, the flowers, the lights, and the handsome boys!" exclaimed Inza. "It was splendid! I've had the loveliest time of my life!"
"And I enjoyed it intensely," smiled Elsie, a bit wearily.
"It was good of you to invite us to come, Frank."
"Not at all; it was good of you to come. Think how lonesome I should have been if you had not."
"Now, that won't do with us!" cried Elsie, shaking a finger a him. "You were the most popular man on the floor. Every girl ran after you. If we'd not been here, Inza--"
"I know," laughed Inza. "But he's not to blame. It's a wonder to me that all this attention has not spoiled him completely."
"It has," declared Hodge.
"How?" they gasped.
"Why, he's been so afraid of getting the swelled head that he's grown soft. He picks up any old thing. He lets any kind of fellow insult him, and then he is friendly with that fellow."
Badger looked across at Bart, but Hodge was paying no attention to him.
"I can't think that of Frank," said Inza slowly.
"Frank is always just," declared Elsie.
"You're wrong," persisted Bart. "Justice means retribution for the fellow who is nasty.. Merry lets him off."
"Not always, Bart," protested Frank.
"Convince me that a fellow is thoroughly bad, and I'll aid in giving him his just and merited dues."
"That's all very fine, but you won't be convinced."
"Oh, yes, I will! I have been more than once."
"When a man kicks me," said Bart, "I kick back. If a man kicks me when I'm down, I kick him twice when I get up."
Badger moved restlessly.
"What's the matter?" asked Winnie Lee, who had been so interested in her own chatter that she had not noticed what the others were saying. "Why do you scowl so?"
"I beg your pardon!" Buck exclaimed, in a low tone. "Did I scowl ?"
"Oh, you looked black as a thundercloud!"
"I didn't know it. But it's like me, Miss Lee. I hope you won't mind it much. I reckon I have some unpleasant ways, but you know I'm a Westerner, and I have not the polish of these Eastern chaps I'll acquire it in time, don't you think?"
"I rather like you just as you are," confessed Winnie.
"Do you?" he whispered, and the look of pleasure that came to his face made it almost handsome. "If you really and truly like me, I do not care who dislikes me."
"But I wish you might be friends with Frank Merriwell. Can't you?"
Buck drew back.
"It's a mighty hard thing," he said slowly. "I don't like him, and I'll allow he has no cause for liking me. Anyhow, I've taken pains never to give him reason to like me."
"He may not like you," said Winnie "but he has confidence in your honesty. Won't you try to be friends with him-for my sake!"
She was unusually sweet and pleading in her manner.
"For your sake," said Badger, huskily, "I'll try-I'll try!"
The gray light of morning was creeping through the shades and mingling with the artificial light. The combination made the members of the party look rather wan and worn. Mrs. Hodge slept with her mouth open. Browning snored.
"It's morning," said Elsie, with a weary sigh.
Hodge looked out again.
"I think we can call it dawn." he said.
"There is no hurry," said Frank. "We might as well make a full might of it, Perhaps more tea will revive us. What's the matter with Stubbs? He's silent as a clam."
"Haven't got anything to say," mumbled the little fellow, sourly.
"Well, it's the first time in months that your mouth has had a rest-unless you were sleeping," laughed Frank.
"Very good, but rather too pointed, as the fish said when he swallowed the bait," returned Bink.
"Griswold says you talk in your sleep," grinned Frank.
"Shoot Griswold! He's a -fabricator. Some day I'll sit on him hard."
"How can you do it," laughed Stella "you're so soft."
That squealched Stubbs. He looked at her reproachfully for a moment, and then announced that he was ready to throw up the sponge.
"I can't say anything back," he sighed, sadly.
He snapped the stub of his half-smoked cigarette at Browning and it struck fairly on the big fellow's chin, with a burst of sparks. Bruce awoke with a roar, and that caused Mrs. Hodge to start up. The big man made a jump for Stubbs before he realized there were Ladies present, but the little chap easily avoided him. Then Hodge again announced that dawn had arrived.
"Never saw the Elephant move so sudden before," said Stubbs, from behind a couch, where he had taken refuge.
"Dear, dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Hodge, looking round. "Have I been asleep?"
"No, indeed," protested Browning; "but I'm afraid I dozed."
"You're a big sleepy-head, anyhow," said Stubbs, who was feeling rather malicious and not at all good-natured.
"Mr. Hodge is a it anxious to get away" said Elsie.
Bart protested that he was not, but Mrs. Hodge rose hastily and asserted that that such dissipation was very bad for college men, which made Stubbs chuckle.
"Come, children," said the chaperone, in a motherly manner, "it is time for us to go. Mr. Merriwell has been very kind."
"Mr. Merriwell!" exclaimed Merry, reproachfully.
"Frank, then, if you like it better," said Bart's mother.
"I do like it better," he nodded. "Won't you have some more tea, Mrs. Hodge-something to brace you before going out?"
But she protested that she wished no more tea, and Merry threw aside the curtains, allowing the full light of morning to enter by the windows, outside which the bare trees were pointing toward the cold sky with their sapless branches.
Inza looked out and shrugged her shapely shoulders.
"My!" she exclaimed, "I never dreamed it could seem so lonely here. It must depress you when you see it like this."
"When he sees it like this!" chuckled Stubbs. "Don't believe that ever happened before. We all have to make a sprint for it mornings to get into our togs and reach chapel in time."
"That's because you stay up late nights", said Inza.
"Grinding," winked Frank, and Stubbs choked. "That's slang for studying, you know."
"Do you have to study so hard?" said Mrs. Hodge, sympathetically.
"We do if we cut any ice," admitted Stubbs; "but most of us are not in the ice business. It's only Merriwell and Badger who are greasy grinds."
"You forgot me," put in Browning.
"You!" sneered Stubbs. "No man in college ever knew you to study. You'll never graduate unless you take a brace."
"Oh, the worst is over now," came shamelessly from the lazy giant. "I've managed to crib along so far, and I've been dropped only once, so I have hopes of going through."
"No one can call me a grind," said Frank. "I study when I can, but that's not half what I ought."
"You're a phenom.," said Hodge. "You always managed to pull through recitations, somehow."
"I'm afraid you are all very bad boys," smiled Mrs. Hodge, "and I am not going to permit my girls to associate with you any more to-night."
"To-day," corrected Inza, with a laugh.
So they prepared to break up the party, and Badger found all opportunity to whisper a few final words in the ear of Winnie, who looked fresher and less wearied than the other girls.
Stella Stanley grasped Binks' arm and looked down at him seriously, saying:
"You have deceived me!"
"Eh?" gasped Stubbs. "I must have been in a trance when I did it."
"I thought you were funny."
"Oh, hang it! I wish somebody thought something else of me! I told you I was tired of being regarded as a clown."
"It's your only chance. I expected you to keep it up, but you have failed. Henceforth I give smiles to you friend Griswold."
"My friend! Don't call him that! he's no friend of mine! That little, sawed-off runt! I choose men for my friends." And Bink stretched himself as much as possible in order to reach the five foot mark.
There were hand-shakings and fare-wells. The girls told what a "perfectly delightful" time they had enjoyed. Then they were escorted down to the large closed cab Merry had waiting for them. The cab rolled away, and it was over.
Back in his room, Frank dropped on an easy chair before the fire that smouldered in the grate, and thought it over. He had been puzzled by Elsie's behavior. She had not been cold or distant, and yet he had obtained but two dances with her, against four with Inza. All her other dances had been taken. She had seemed to prefer the company of Hodge, and Bart had waltzed with her four times. Frank felt jealous, and yet he wondered if he had any real right to feel so. Perhaps it was all diplomacy on Elsie's part.
And lnza-well, she had been the belle of the prom. There was no question about that. Elsie had been a great favorite, but it was dark- eyed, dashing Inza who created the sensation. Every one sought an introduction to her, or asked questions about her. Every one envied Frank because he knew her so well.
There he sat, with the fire dying out on the hearth, thinking and wondering, when there came a knock on the door.
"Come in," he called, surprised.
But he was still more surprised when Buck Badger entered.
"Yes." Frank got up. "Don't rise" said Badger.
"Have a chair," invited Merry.
Badger sat down.
"Cold morning," he said.
"Yes, chilly," said Frank.
Both felt awkward for a moment, but Merry quickly recovered, although the Westerner did not. Frank sat down again, and there was a pause. Merry eyed his visitor steadily and searchingly, but the other stared at fire embers amid the gray ashes on the grate. Frank resolved to let him speak.
"I reckon," said Buck, "that it's in place to thank you for inviting me here with the others."
"Don't mention it."
"But I have to. I allow I would not have come, but Winnie-er-Miss Lee said I must."
"Then I have her to think for the pleasure of your society."
Badger made a gesture, a hot flush in his cheeks.
"Don't be sarcastic, Merriwell!" he exclaimed. "Confound sarcasm!"
"Didn't mean it that way."
"Hanged if it didn't sound that way."
"All right. But I know my company was not particularly pleasant."
"I think it was-to Miss Lee."
Frank bit his lip to repress a smile, and Badger scowled at an ember on the grate, which glowed out bright and died down, as if winking at him in a knowing manner.
"Look here," said Bink, suddenly, "you've made me feel mighty disagreeable!"
"That was the farthest thing from my thoughts," he declared, sincerely.
"Of course. Did you think--"
"I didn't know, I don't understand you, but I've begun to see you have a way of getting square with your enemies that is all you own."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, I reckon you sort of put them in your debt, return good for evil, and all that sort of thing, so that they feel mighty cheap if they don't knuckle down and eat humble pie."
"Do you think so?"
"I do, and I want to asseverate right here that I don't like it none whatever. That's plain. I like it a heap sight better when a fellow comes back at his enemies with both feet and knocks 'em west-end-and crooked if he can. That allows he has a temper, an' I naturally take to a man with a temper."
Frank laughed in honest amusement.
"My dear fellow," he said, "it's plain you are a hard man to suit; but I want you to understand one thing at the start, and that is that I did not invite you here on your account to-night. If it had not been for Winnie Lee you'd received no invitation. Now that is straight and plain."
Somehow, this did not make Badger feel any better; on the contrary, it caused the scowl on his face to become even blacker, if possible.
"All right," he growled, "and you can be mighty sure I'd not come if it hadn't been for Winnie Lee. I don't want you to think I'm any whatever like those other chaps who hang round you on all the time and fawn over you. I'm not built for fawning."
"I fancy not. But don't get a foolish notion into your head, Mr. Badger- don't think for a moment that I am anxious for your friendship. I'm not. I have plenty of friends without you."
"Don't worry; you'll not have it in any great hurry."
"It is positively a pleasure to hear you say so. As an enemy you have proved very interesting; as a friend, I fancy you would be a great bore."
The Kansan felt like rising and smiting Merriwell fair on his smiling mouth. He had not expected anything like this. He had come to that room with the plain intention of freeing his mind and declaring
that it was impossible for him to be Frank's enemy in the future, even though be might not be a friend; but Merry had cut him short and turned him on quite a different tack, and he realized that he was not cutting a particularly handsome figure.
"That's right!" he snarled. "Talk right out! I like it better when you talk that way!"
"I'm glad you do. I've longed to tell you some things for quite a while, and now I have the opportunity. To begin with, you are by nature an obstinate, selfish, belligerent fellow. Your bump of combativeness is abnormally developed, and your good sense does not control it. You had rather fight than eat, and you're never happy unless there is some one you can hit. You are a natural born fighter, and that's the full size of it."
Badger gasped, "Anything more?" he asked.
"Lots. If you're going to make a success in this world, you'll have to get sense enough into our head so that you can control your ugliness. It's all right for a man to want to fight sometimes, but it's all wrong for him to want to fight all the thus. Besides that, when you form an opinion on any point, you never change your opinion."
"That allows you lack good sense. It's very well for a man to stick to his opinions as long as he has any ground to stick on; but the wisest men change their opinions when they discover beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are wrong.
"Yah!" snapped Badger.
"You formed all opinion about me sometime ago--"
"I've stuck to it!"
"All right. Just the same, down in your heart, you know you are wrong."
"You do! Don't contradict; it'll do no good. You have resolved to hate me, and you mean to stick to it, That's all right. It does not worry me."
"Glad of it!"
"Now, Badger, there is another side to you, and I am free to say that I admire you for it. You are a square enemy. I never knew you to do but one dirty thing and you did that under the impulse of intense passion."
"What was that?"
"When I was down, in the Dartmouth game, you kicked me in the head, which came near sending me off the field on a stretcher. That, Badger, was a dirty thing!"
Badger actually hung his head. All at once, he looked up.
"I did kick you!" he said. "I couldn't help it! I felt like kicking your head off!"
"Haven't a doubt of it. But it was a piece of dirt, just the same."
"I hated you enough to do anything then."
"Don't doubt it, and still I never gave you any real reason to hate me. Your own selfishness made you hate me. You did it because you fancied I might fill some position that otherwise would fall to you. Don't deny it, Badger, for you know it's true. You think I've been soft toward you? Ha! Ha! Why, my dear fellow, I've read you like an open book. But under all your outward crust of ugliness I fancied I could catch a glimpse of a strong, honest heart. I may have been wrong, but I don't think so. I believe you stand at the parting of the roads; one road leads to crookedness, meanness, vileness, while the other leads to uprightness and honor. I think you call choose your course. I hope you will choose the right one, and, somehow, I believe you will."
Badger sat limp as a rag, staring at Merry with wide open eyes, utterly flabbergasted. After a time, he gasped:
"Well, I swear no onery critter ever talked to me this way before! If anybody'd told me a week ago that I'd stood for it from you, I'd thumped him instanter. But I can't do that with you-here-now."
"Don't let your nasty pugnaciousness get the best of you, Badger. I've talked straight to you, and now--"
"And now," cried Buck, springing to his feet, "by the eternal Rockies, I'm going to talk straight to you! Do you hear? You have had your say, Frank Merriwell, and now I'll have mine. I reckon you'd best sit right still and listen!"
"Go on," smiled Merry, blandly.
Badger had tried to hold himself in check, but Merriwell's straightforward manner of speaking had proved altogether too much for him, and now he was excited. He walked up and down, finally stopping in front of Frank.
"You have applied adjectives to me that I don't like any whatever," he grated. "You have called me selfish, mean, ugly, dirty! Why, blame your insolence! I'd like to thump you good and hard for it! I'd like to make you swallow it all!"
"That's impossible," declared Frank, unruffled. "I believe I've also said some things that were rather complimentary."
"Bah! You called me honest. What of that? Any fellow that his the least self-respect is honest."
"There was a time, Badger, when I was not at all sure that you had the least self-respect."
"What do I care! I don't care whether you think me honest or not! I'm not honest because I want to win your re- spect, and you call stake your dust on that. But I'm just as honest in my dislike for you as in other things."
"That's what makes you interesting, Badger. You are quite different from the other snobs who hate me because I'll have nothing to do with them, and who would crawl round after me quick enough if I'd pick them up. Those chaps are sickening."
"They are," he agreed. "I reckon I know some of them. Don't put me on the list."
"I never have."
Badger showed grim pleasure.
"Glad to know it. All the same, you've put me in a mighty bad box."
"Well, you've made me seem all in the blame, While you posed as injured innocence. I hate a fellow that'll do that!"
"You exaggerate, my dear man,"
"Don't 'dear man me,' Merriwell! Don't patronize me! I won't have it! I'm as good as you!"
"At least, you think so.
"I know it!"
"Very well, let it go at that,"
"But, in your crafty manner, you've made it seem that I'm cheap. You've put me all in the wrong."
"And you're none to blame? Did you ever take boxing lessons of Buster Kelley?"
"And did he teach you a certain little trick whereby you might break an enemy's neck in a clench?"
"What of it?"
"I don't suppose you were thinking of me when you learned that trick?"
"I never used it."
"Because I was on, and I warned you to go slow."
"Bah! Nothing of the sort! It was because I did not care to use it. I learned it--"
"And I knew it long before you learned it. It would have been dangerous for you had you tried it on me."
"Do you think I was scared?"
Frank shrugged his shoulders, which caused Badger to grind his teeth with anger.
"You never saw the day you could frighten me, Merriwell! The reason why I never tried it on you is because it was trick-an underhand trick."
"I confess that I--"
"Don't confess. I know enough about you. If you keep on, I'll begin to think I was wrong in fancying you such a honest fellow."
"And I don't care for that any whatever. Think what you like. I confess did have an idea of trying it on you when I learned the trick. After I thought I over, I said no. It was not the kind of game I wanted to play."
"If I downed you at all, I wanted to down you on the level in a way that everybody could see was fair and square."
"That would give you far more glory."
"You beat me at the shooting match by a split shot. I made the split, and you scored the same number of shots, but without the split. If I had not made the split-if that had been a fair bull's-eye--"
"I'd made one more bull's-eye than I did. Don't you know that I threw away two shots, Badger?"
"That was what galled me most. You seem to think yourself infallible. You seem to think you cannot fail at anything!"
"That's better for any man than it is for him to think he may fail."
"Rot! It is incipient swelled-head."
"It may be, but did you ever notice any further indications of the disease in me?"
"That's just it, that's where I don't understand you. I allowed you must have swelled head, but you seem to hide it most successfully. How do you do it?"
Badger was not talking as bluntly as he had intended; somehow, he couldn't bring himself round to it.
"My dear fellow," said Frank, "I hope I haven't got it. It's the one thing I have guarded against, for I've seen it spoil plenty of chaps who were all right till they caught the affliction, I confess that it has attacked me several times, but I hope I've held it in check. You were going to say something to me. What?"
"It's this: I've found out that you've done me some good turns.
"Is that all?"
"It's enough! Why should you do me a good turn? I never did you one."
"Save the time in the car, when you kept two bruisers from jumping on me, while I knocked a few corners off their companions."
"I had to do that."
"You were a Yale man, and those chaps were ordinary ruffians. I'd done the same for any other Yale mail."
"All right. That is settled. Go on."
"On the other hand, when Chickering's gang jumped on me one night that I was dopey, you sailed in and walloped the whole of them."
"That was just after Winnie Lee threw me down because she thought I'd been doing you a crooked turn."
"That was her throw-down that drove me to fill up with red-eye, I don't like the stuff! I hate it!"
"Glad to hear that, Badger, 'Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging.'"
"I'm in earnest; I hate it. But I had to do something that night. I felt that you were the cause of all my trouble. That was the night when I cut clear of Chickering's set."
"A commendable move."
"Let up. I told the whole gang what I thought of them, and then I stowed away more red-eye. I don't remember much about anything after that."
"You would have made an excellent 'horrible example' at a temperance lecture."
Badger scowled. He did not like to be told this, and he felt heartily ashamed.
"I don't allow that it makes a fellow any more manly to get drunk," he snapped.
"There are lots of chaps who seem to think it does."
"Well, I'm not one of 'em. Next morning after quitting Chickering's gang, I woke up and found I'd been thumped. When I thought it over, it seemed to me that you did the job. I seemed to remember that you and your gang jumped me."
"When you were loaded? 0h, Badger! And that after our little bout when both were sober."
"Don't tell me you could have done it alone! I know you got the best of me in that scrap. What's the use to speak of it?"
"You hinted; you said as much; you did speak of it! Never mind. I thought you did the job: I've thought so ever since till lately."
"I found out. They were telling how they had attempted to do me when I was loaded, and how you chipped in and put 'em to the stampede."
"That was easy."
"But you might have stood still and had the satisfaction of seeing me done up by some fellows I'd associated With."
"I assure you it would have been no satisfaction."
"It would have been to some fellows. They said you got me into my room without being seen by the proctor and put me to bed."
"I did, Badger."
"And you never told about it!"
"What was there to tell?"
"Some fellows would have blowed it all over in less than twenty- four hours."
"It seems pretty hard for you to get it through your head that I'm not to be classed with 'some fellows.'"
"Still, I reckon you allowed it would all come out in time. You allowed it'd make me feel all the cheaper to know I'd been wrong all along."
"Is that what you think?"
"Well, think so."
"But there is one thing I don't understand."
"There are several, Badger-several."
Without heeding this, Buck went on:
"You did have a chance to queer me with Winnie Lee."
"She told me so. She told me that she sent for you and asked you about me."
"Girls always tell such things."
"If you had done that, I'd never known it, as she had thrown me down already. They say you don't drink, and I've heard that you have a poor opinion of any fellow who does. You had seen me loaded, and you might have told her of that."
"You didn't. You even told her that you were sure I had no hand in tampering with your automobile that time when it ran away with you."
"Which was true."
"Still, without saying so direct, you might have thrown suspicion on me so that I could never have shaken it."
"I know it. What you said to her fixed it so I was able to patch it up with her. I owe all that to you."
"It is that one thing that has made me feel cheap."
Frank uttered all exclamation of surprise.
"You feel cheap!" he gasped. "I didn't suppose anything--"
"Don't say it. I can't understand why you did it."
"To tell you the truth, Badger," said Frank, "I can't tell myself. More than that, it has worried me some. I was not sure then, and I'm not sure now, that you are a suitable fellow to associate with Winnie Lee."
"Blazes!" grated the Kansan, looking as if he longed to jump at Frank.
"But I saw that she liked you very much," Merry went on, with perfect calmness, "and there was a chance of making a mistake the other way."
"I might have queered you, made her miserable, and afterwards found out that I had done wrong, I've worried over it, for Winnie Lee is a fine girl, Badger. She has made up with you, and she is happy. Now, sir, see that you treat her right! If you do not, by Jupiter, I'll make you sorry you ever met her!"
Badger had his hands on his hips as Merriwell rose up before him and looked straight into his eyes. They stood there, silent, for some seconds.
"You don't have to threaten any whatever, Merriwell," said Badger, after a time, "There is not the least danger that I'll ever use her otherwise than is a gentleman uses a lady."
Frank saw that the Westerner was sincere, and he felt relieved.
"Then, no matter what may happen between us, Badger, I shall not be sorry that I did not queer you with her. That's all."
Frank sat down again.
Badger was not satisfied. He had started out to say something very stiff to Merriwell, and he realized that he had not accomplished his purpose. Somehow, even though he did it voluntarily, he felt as if Merry had forced a pledge from him. He realized that he had confessed himself in the wrong, or very nearly that, and he had meant to confess nothing of the sort. He had thought to demonstrate that Frank's apparent generosity was no more than a crafty manner of making an enemy appear at a disadvantage, and he had failed in that. Taken altogether, the Kansan was intensely displeased with himself, and not at all pacified toward Merriwell.
"I'm going," he said, "but let us have a complete understanding before I leave."
"Do," sighed Frank, and then he covered his month to conceal a yawn.
"I came to your dawn party because Winnie Lee wished me to."
"What's the rise to go back to that. You said so before."
"I tried to behave like a gentleman here."
"I've made no complaint."
"But I was insulted!"
"What?" Frank was surprised.
"Just that," nodded Badger; showing his broad white teeth.
"No. I'm willing to try to steer clear of you in the future, but your particular set of friends are different. Now, there's that fellow Hodge-he tries to get a fling at me every chance he can. He spoke about a fellow kicking another when he was down, and he meant me. He has used his mouth freely on other occasions about me, and the limit is reached."
"You're right, Badger, the limit is reached, and I think it is time to call a halt. You have not been any too careful about what you have said, and I fail to see that you have any right to make a kick if other have talked about you. I have not taken the trouble to remember the nasty things you have said about me, as I have not considered it worth while; but you know you have said nasty things, and you cannot deny it. Do you fancy that others have no limit, but that your dignity and your feelings must be respected?"
Badger was silent, and Frank went on:
"You know what I think of you, or you ought to know. But there are a lot of puppies who copy after you, and they are the ones who have overstepped the limit. I have disregarded them in the past, but patience has ceased to be a virtue. In the future, I propose to bring some of them up with a round turn." Buck made a gesture.
"I don't care what you do with them," he said. "I am talking about myself. I'm going to settle with this fellow Hodge."
Again Frank got upon his feet, showing impatience.
"I have a few final words to say to you, sir," he coldly remarked. "Hodge is my friend. When you strike him, you hit me. Understand?"
"Oh, I reckon! You mean that you'll chip into any quarrel between Hodge and myself. If you do, the old fight will be on between us,"
"Then you can reckon again, and this time you may be sure of you ground. You can't bully Hodge."
"As if I wanted to bully him! But he'll have to keep his mouth closed!"
"Between you and Hodge," said Frank, "under any circumstances I should have no hesitation in making a choice. If you are determined to pick up further trouble with Hodge, you may count on it that I shall be a factor in the game. I have let you alone as much as you would permit, but when you go over the limit I become aggressive. If I were to try, I rather fancy I could make it pretty warm for you."
"Go ahead!" snarled Badger, entirely losing his self-command. "I invite it! It'll be a good hot fight, and you can bet on that!"
"Is that all you have to say? We've spent considerable time talking, and we're right where we began. It's no use keeping it up."
"I'm going," said Badger; "but I'm going to free my mind about this fellow Hodge first. I'll tell you just what I think of him without mincing matters in--"
"If you have anything to say about me, say it to my face!"
Hodge stepped into the room,
Merry's door had been slightly ajar, and Bart had heard Badger from the outside as he came up. His face was black with anger, and his nostrils dilated, as if he scented blood. He walked in with a heavy step, advanced and confronted the Westerner.
Badger had turned, his hands clenched and his square jaw hardening, while a glitter of hatred came into his eyes. And there those two lads stood, face to face and eye to eye, bitterest hatred in their hearts.
They were much alike in many ways, as, Merriwell noted now as be looked them over. Badger was slightly the thickest about the shoulders, but the resemblance was strongest in the hair, eyes, complexion and contour of their faces, Badger was more square-jawed, and there was something that seemed to indicate the bulldog in him was developed to a greater extent.
Something like a look of scornful satisfaction came to the face of the Westerner,
"So you were listening outside the door," he sneered. "Well, I reckon this is further proof of the old saying that listeners seldom hear good of themselves."
"I was not listening!" shot back Bart. "If you say so, you lie!"
Frank stepped forward quickly, in a single stride.
"Ha! Ha!" laughed Badger, scornfully. "All the same, you heard."
"Because the door happened to be open a bit. Yes, I heard-heard you shooting your mouth off about me. Now, what have you got to say? I'm here; say it."
"You're one of Merriwell's followers. You've made a heap of talk about me."
"Nothing but I'll stand behind."
"Can you stand behind anything?"
"I'm ready to back up anything I've said."
"You've called me a ruffian."
"And that's exactly what you are!"
Badger's hand was lifted, and he seemed on the point of launching himself at Bart.
"Hold on!" exclaimed Frank, planting himself fairly between them. "I don't propose to have it here-in my room."
"Do you think I'll stand for his insults?" snarled the Kansan. "By heavens! I'll break his face!"
"Not here," repeated Frank,
"Somewhere-anywhere!" panted Badger.
"What are you doing with him, Merriwell?" demanded Hodge. "How does he happen to be here? Are you patching up with him? I believe you are!"
"Do you?" asked Frank, coolly.
"Yes! You've let this cur put dirt all over you, and now you are willing to be friends with him! All right; you may do what you like, but I'm his enemy now and always!"
"I'm glad to hear that," said Badger, with a harsh laugh. "I will make you look like a sick calf before I'm done with you."
"Bah!" from Hodge, "You're not built right. Merriwell, if you patch lip with this whelp, I quit you! I give you notice of it here and now! The moment you become friends with him, I am done with you! I mean it!"
"You're excited, Hodge."
"I'm not! I mean it, I tell you! I have had respect for you, but I can never have any more after you patch up with a thing like Badger!"
"Don't let that worry you, Hodge," said Badger, still sneering. "There is no danger that there will be any patching, for I have no idea of ever becoming friendly with Merriwell, no matter how much he may desire it."
Frank laughed in genuine amusement.
"You flatter yourself, Badger," he said. "Do you think you are a fellow any one could be eager to select as a friend? Oh, no! You are not popular, and you know it."
"Because I do not choose to be."
"Because you cannot be on account of your traits of character. You are conceited, and you are a braggart."
"What?" Badger looked as if he longed to turn on Merry.
"That is the truth, and you'll realize it if you will sit down and think calmly about yourself, You began the season by boasting of your abilities and promising that you would down me. You have not been able to keep your promise, but you keep right on boasting."
"I'll not listen to this! You're a right fine chap to pile insult on insult, and you two to my one!"
"I'm simply telling you the truth. I think it will do you good to hear the truth occasionally. I doubt if you ever heard it at home. You were made to think yourself the only thing that ever happened, and it has spoiled you. But for that, you might be a very decent fellow."
Badger gasped, but somehow it struck him then and there that there might be a germ of truth in what Merriwell said. However, that simply served to make him all the more furious. He did not fancy being told the truth about himself.
"Oh, you lie!" he snarled. "You lie, I say!"
"Hit him!" palpitated Hodge.
But Merry put a hand on Bart's arm, holding him in check.
"I told you, Badger," he said, his voice level and even, "that the limit has been reached. I meant it. Now you are overstepping the bounds. I am not looking for further trouble with you, and I shall let you alone as long as you do me; but if you give me any further trouble, just as true as we are standing here, I'll make you eat your words, and I'll give you something you've never yet received. That is straight from headquarters. I fancied a little time ago that, as far as you and I were concerned, we were to steer clear of each other and let it go at that; but now it seems that you are determined to revive the old quarrel between us, for all of anything that may have happened. So be it. You have your choice. I am tired of talking to you, and there is the door to my room. Get out!"
Badger hesitated, He had thought of walking out in a dignified manner, and it galled his soul to be driven.
"I have not finished all I have to say," he declared, "and so--"
"I have listened quite long enough-no, far too long! This is my room. Get out!"
"You're in a hurry."
"If I don't choose to go at once--"
"I'll throw you out!"
Frank Merriwell meant just what he said when he spoke like that, and Badger saw that he was preparing to make good his word. The Westerner uttered a muttered exclamation and turned toward the door, at which he paused to say:
"You are two against me, and I reckon I won't make a fight here. There is plenty of time. You, Hodge, I'll see again."
"Any time-anywhere," shot back Bart.
Then Badger went out.
"The beastly cad!" said Hodge. "What was he doing here, Merriwell?"
"I hardly know," admitted Merry. "I was surprised when he came back after the rest had gone. He seemed to wish to say something, but I fancy his original intentions did not mature. He has bored me."
"Look here, Merriwell, where do you stand?"
"That fellow. You know he's a low brute; he's shown it a score of times, and he showed it again this morning. Still you have acted mightily queer toward him. I've almost fancied you were anxious to make him your friend."
Frank's cool manner irritated Bart.
"I have! You've given me every reason to think so."
Bart said something that will not be put into print.
"Have you! You know it! Why is it? He's a brute, and you know that! What do you want of him? The rest of your friends will not chum with him, you'd have to choose between the friends you have now and Buck Badger."
"There was a time when I was given to understand the same about Jim Hoocker."
Hodge winced. That was a tender spot.
"It was different with Hooker," he said. "We were wrong about that fellow, but there can be no mistake about Badger. He shows that he is right on the surface; he does not try to hide it. Nobody accuses him of being a thief, but he's a ruffian!"
"He is," nodded Frank.
"And still you-you would take him for a chum!"
"You say so, but you've never heard me say so. You may suppose anything you please, Hodge; it will make no difference with me."
"I hate the fellow; so does Browning, Diamond, Rattleton and all the rest. We have sworn never to have anything to do with him. There you are. It's a case of choosing."
"Don't let it worry you. Can't I use a fellow decent without becoming chummy with him?"
"But why should you use him decent? He's never used you that way."
"And is that any excuse for indecency on my part? Must I lower myself because he chooses to do so?"
"Oh, I don't mean that! You have such a way of putting things! Do you lower yourself when you give a man as good as he sends?"
"Lots of times you do."
"But with this fellow-he can't be kept in place unless he is crushed into it and held there. Somebody's got to do it. You've tapped him up a little, Merriwell, but that hasn't done the job. He hopes to down you at something somehow. He's looking to even that score. Bet you anything he'd come round smiling like a basket of chips if he could do you in style at something. He'd be ready enough to make friends then. What are you going to do? Are you going to let him throw you in order to have peace with the cur?"
"Not a great deal!" answered Merry, with emphasis. "I tell you now, as I told him, that the limit has been reached, and I propose to call a halt."
"How'll you do it?"
"I don't know just how. I've given him a rattling good drubbing, but that doesn't seem to end it. By Jove!"
Frank slapped his knee, an eager look coming to his expressive face.
"What is it?"
"I have it!"
"You must do the job."
"You must fight him!"
"I'm willing enough for that, bet your life!" exclaimed Hodge; "but that won't stop it."
"How can it? It will make him worse. You know I had it with the fellow once."
"And got the worst of it."
"I didn't give up," said Hodge, bitterly. "He had to put me out, and then I wanted to have some more soon as I could stand on my feet, but he'd gone away with his gang."
"I know. I had my turn at him after that."
"And you put him out."
"But he was a hog, just the same as you. He wanted more as soon as he could stand."
"Don't compare me with that brute!"
"All right; but I'm going to put you against him, and you'll make an end of this business."
"I'd like it, but I don't see how I can do it. You can bet I'll try. Won't you take a turn at him after he finishes me off?"
"He isn't going to finish you off."
"Not a bit of it," assured Frank. "You're going to do him this time. I don't like this business, and you know it. I hate fighting. It's brutal. But in this world there are lots' of human animals who never know their places till they are knocked into them. Badger is one."
Bart's eyes glowed and his nostrils dilated again, like those of an animal that scents its prey.
"I'll fight him!" he panted. "I've got good reason to do it! I know I shall have to do it anyway! But I've been afraid it might make it worse if-if--"
"If he got the best of it; but he won't...
"He did before."
"Because I wasn't there, Because you were not prepared for him."
"Yes. You will be this time."
"I had it with him, and I noted all his weak points. Sparred and fooled with him long enough for that."
"What good will that do me?"
"I don't see it."
"I am going to give you lessons."
"Getting at Badger's weak point. I am going to show you just how to do it."
Bart's face glowed.
"I will. In less than a week I'll have you so you can do him in a fair and square set-to."
Hodge felt like hugging Merry.
"Oh, if I can do it!" he cried. "That will take him down."
"Exactly; it will squelch him. If I'm not mistaken, it will put an end to his bragging and swelling around. I hate to do it-I hate to plan anything of this sort, but the case demands it. He has reached the limit, and I'm going to stop it-or rather, you are."
"If I do, I'll owe it all to you. I'll swallow everything I've said about you."
"Don't have to, old man. I understand you better than you understand yourself. I think I understand Badger, also. He'll not stand out at the fence and blow himself any more after you have finished with him."
"Are you sure you call put me on so that I can do it?"
"Hodge, let me tell you this: Badger knows something about fighting, but you are more scientific than he."
"Sure, my boy. But you have to keep your head. That's where you fail lots of times. You lose your head, get blind, and try to rush the other fellow off the earth. That's what whips you."
"I know it," admitted Bart; "but I can't seem to keep cool, the way you do. I've seen you fight like the devil and smile all the time. I don't understand that. I can't do it."
"No, and you never will. We are different. But I wish to tell you some more things about yourself. You never could keep cool at anything till I took hold and steadied you. You got angry and lost your head at baseball, football, any old thing."
"Now, with me in the box, you are a wonder behind the bat."
Hodge attempted to say that Merry was making it pretty steep, but Frank, both hands on the shoulders of his chum, said:
"You are a wonder. Everybody acknowledges it, and I know it. You are the best man I ever tossed a ball to."
Bart's pleasure showed in his face, but now he could not say a word.
"That is because I steady you-I help you keep your head. You do not fly off the handle. Am I right?"
"Very well. Now I am going to teach you how to get at the weak point of this man Badger, and then I am going into the fight with you. I am going to be your second. I am going to hold you steady every moment of the time with my influence. I am going to keep you cool, and you are going to give Buck Badger the worst licking he ever received. That's the way we'll put an end to this foolishness of his."
Hodge actually laughed!
"Merriwell," he cried, "I know you'll do it!"
"You'll do it, Hodge."
"No; it will be you. I feel confident now. I shall feel you there close at hand all the time, and your will power will control me. I shall knock Buck Badger out!"
"That's the way I want you to feel. Never feel any other way for an instant, no matter how hard he may give it to you. Keep your confidence, but do not let over-confidence spoil you. He's a bulldog. You know that."
Hodge was tingling all over. The thought that he was to whip the boasting insolent Westerner filled him with savage joy.
"When will you begin giving me lessons?" he asked.
"As soon as possible."
Bart ran to the wall and ripped down a set of boxing gloves.
"Now!" he shouted.
Frank shrugged his shoulders.
"All light," he smiled; "but only a little. I'll show you a blow I want you to practice."
They put on the gloves, sparred a moment, and then Merry bit Bart a peculiar swinging blow that landed on the neck just over the jugular vein: He did not strike hard, but the blow made Bart dizzy.
"Just note how I did that," instructed Merry. Then he went through all the motions again, opening Bart's guard with a feint, and showing how he got that queer swing in to land as it did.
"Now," said Frank, "I've found that Badger always opens up on that feint. All the same, you must not try it too often, but you must make it count when you put it in. The first one may set him giddy and cause him to drop his guard. Then you can put him out with one right on the point of the jaw. That's all."
He took off the gloves, and Bart did the same. Then Hodge prepared to leave.
"We'll end it, Merry," said the dark-faced lad, confidently. "I see the finish of Badger."
"Confound such business!" muttered Frank, when Bart was gone.
And so it happened that Merriwell gave Bart instructions in that particular line every day, and Bart caught on rapidly. Hodge was given his turn at trying to get in the blow on Merry, and Frank kept him at it till he was pretty skillful.
One day Bart went at Frank in earnest, getting rather excited in his efforts.
"Keep cool," Merry advised. "Remember what I've told you."
"This way?" asked Hodge, feinting.
"And this way?" inquired Bart, cracking Frank a dandy on the neck.
"And like this?" breathed Hodge, swinging full and fair on the point of Frank's jaw.
It was a surprise, and Frank dropped.
Just then the door banged open, and in trooped Stubbs, Browning, Diamond, Rattleton and Jones. They saw Hodge standing over Merriwell, who was down on the rug, and they stopped, their eyes popping in amazement.
"What's this?" squealed Stubbs,
"Ye gods!" grunted Browning.
"Merriwell-down?" muttered Diamond.
"Wonderful!" said Rattleton.
"How have the mighty have fallen!" droned Jones.
"Come in," laughed Frank, as he got up. "Just giving Hodge some pointers, you know."
"Looked like it," said Browning,
"What was he giving you?" grinned Stubbs.
"He can't do it again"' declared the loyal Rattleton.
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