Frank Merriwell's Limit
FRIENDS OR FOES?
"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
"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
"That was the farthest thing from my thoughts," he declared,
"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
Somehow, this did not make Badger feel any better; on the
contrary, it caused the scowl on his face to become even blacker, if
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.