Frank Merriwell's Limit

CHAPTER II.
AT DAWN.

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.

Stella laughed.

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.

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