Frank Merriwell's Limit
PREPARING FOR THE FINISH.
"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
"There was a time when I was given to understand the same about
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
"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
"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
"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 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
"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
"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
"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.