Frank Merriwell's Limit
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
"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
"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
"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.
"What's up?" asked Diamond.
"Merriwell was down," said Stubbs.
"Go on," they all urged.
But both Frank and Bart took off the gloves and declined to
continue the bout. There was a great deal of guying, which Frank took
laughingly. Hodge protested that it was an accident, but Merry said it
was an accident well planned. When he was alone with Bart again, he
"You're getting there, old man. You did it fair and square. I was
"Oh, but you weren't expecting me to hit so hard. You opened up
to give me a chance to get in the blow."
"Nothing of the sort," asserted Merry. "Don't know how it
happened, but I didn't open up intentionally. If you do it as slick is
that with Badger, you'll have him-you'll do him."
Hodge was impatient. He wanted to find occasion to pick up the
quarrel with the Westerner right away.
"No," said Merry. "Let him bring it on, that will put him in the
wrong. He'll give you plenty of show in time."
"But why is he keeping so blessed still?" asked Bart.
"He is. Why, he hasn't opened his clam since that morning in
your room. I expected he would hold forth on every and all occasions.
What does it mean?"
"It can't be that he's decided to quit, can it?" asked Bart,
fearfully. "That would be a wretched shame."
"It may be."
"I won't have it!"
"What will you do?"
"I'll have him to force his hand."
"If you do, I'll withdraw."
Bart was hot in a moment.
"All right!" he cried. "I can manage that. You've shown me his
weak points, and I'll go to him whether you stick by me or not."
"You'll need me behind you when you go up against him, and you
know it. If I'm not there to hold you steady, you'll lose your head and
get the worst of it. Don't be a fool, Hodge."
"Thanks! But what if the beast keeps corked up and never gives me
"That will be the end of it."
"You mean that I can't fight with him?"
"Not without putting yourself in the wrong. If Badger has
concluded to be decent, we must let him alone. I'll not sympathize with
anybody who tackles him."
Hodge was desperate.
"You're a queer one, Merriwell," he said. "You know this fellow
has rubbed dirt over us, and now, simply because he chooses to close his
face and pretend that he does not know we are on earth, you are willing
to let him off. As for me, his manner of ignoring me is even more
insulting than his bragging."
Frank could not repress a smile.
"You're the same old Hodge," he said. "You've got to get over
it, my boy. You ought to be able to hold your head just as high as this
"But I'm not. He knocked me out! I can't forget that! It's
been a sore spot ever since, and it is sorer now than ever. It's all
right for you to talk about holding up your head, for you did him up.
With me it is different."
Frank could not help sympathizing with Bart, for he understood
the proud, sensitive spirit of his friend; and still, if there was to
be a fight, bruiser fashion, he wished the blame to rest entirely with
"I think he'll give you chance enough in time. It's my opinion
that he can't keep still long, for he is a natural braggart. It hurts
him to keep still."
"Well, Merriwell, I'd do almost anything for you, and so I'll
wait; but I'm impatient."
"We'll keep up the practice all the time."
Thus it went on, and Hodge grew more and more skillful under
But now a queer thing happened. It became known that Merriwell
and Hodge were practicing boxing in Frank's room, and the story got out
that Hodge had knocked Frank down. That set everybody wondering, and it
produced discussions. Hodge-why, how could he do such a thing? Badger
had whipped him, and Badger had proved easy fruit for Merriwell.
The fence took it up. Football was over, and interest in the
baseball team of the coming season was not fully aroused. The men had
to have something to talk about.
"It's a fake yarn," declared Bell Halliday. "Hodge isn't built
right to do it."
"Who invented the story?" asked Puss Parker, in derision. "He
ought to be shot!"
"There were witnesses," asserted Bob Brewster.
"Name one," commanded Phil Porter.
"Bink Stubbs," said somebody.
Then there was a shout of scorn.
"Did it come from him?" asked several.
"Then it's a canard."
"Somebody ought to wring Stubbs' neck!" exclaimed Pink Pooler.
"I'd like to see the man who can do it!" piped Stubbs himself,
appearing on the scene.
Then he was seized by a score of hands and dragged into the midst
of the throng.
"Don't tear the clothes off a fellow!" he cried. "I didn't say
I'd like to see you all do it; I said one man. Put one man up against
me, and I'll lick him if he catches me before I get away!"
"Look here, you little prevaricator," said Bob Brewster,
confronting the little chap threateningly, "What's this tale you've been
telling about Merriwell and Hodge?"
"Dunno. What is it?"
"You said Hodge knocked Merriwell down when they were boxing in
"You know that's rot."
"You go to-down below! Its straight goods. I saw it."
"Browning, Rattleton, Diamond, Jones -we all saw it. Opened the
door and walked in just as Hodge dropped Merriwell."
"Alas," said Jones, as he slowly walked into their midst, "he
speaks the sad, sad truth."
Their he corroborated Stubbs' story, whereupon there was wonder
and amazement to no small extent. It caused the tongues of the gossips
to wag all the more freely, and Bart Hodge was looked upon with added
interest and respect.