Frank Merriwell's Limit

CHAPTER VIII.
HOW IT CAME ABOUT.

Coming along the corridor Frank heard some one say:

"It's true. Merriwell hath both tho the girlth on the twing. He hath made love to them both, and they are all bwoke up over the cad. They thay he's a wegular devil the with the girlth, and he'll fool Mith Burrage and Mith Bellwood, jutht the thame ath he hath the otherth."

Then Merry had Lew Veazie by the collar, having caught him in the midst of set of college gossips, who were listening to his stuff, ready to spread it.

"You miserable little wretch!" exclaimed Merry, his eyes flashing. "I'll teach you to talk about ladies your dirty tongue is not fit to mention!"

Then he whipped Veazie over his knee, face downward, and proceeded to give him a good sound spanking.

Lew kicked and squawked:

"Help, fellowth!" he cried. "Don't let the big brute murder me! Take him off!"

But those fellows had no heart to tackle Frank Merriwell, and they slunk away in a hurry, leaving Veazie to his fate.

Frank did the job to the queen's taste, and Veazie bellowed lustily.

"Oh-oh dear!" he cried. "Don't-pleathe don't! You are hurting- oh! ow! I beg your pawdon! I-ow! ow!"

He sobbed and choked.

"There," said Frank, as he stood the caddish little wretch on his feet, "that's just a taste of what you really deserve, and it's a warning, of what you'll get if I ever hear you mention those young ladies again! You have told your dirty stories about me till you have reached the limit, along with the rest of your set. Go tell them what has happened to you, and tell them what has happened to you, and tell them I'll serve them one and all the same if they give me reason."

Then Frank let him go.

Of course it was known in short order that Merriwell had spanked Veazie, and it began to be evident that Frank had tired of ignoring the malicious foes who sought to injure him by their gossiping tales.

Hodge was rejoiced when he heard of it.

"Merriwell has awakened," he said, "and there is bound to be something doing now, when he gets started, he clears the atmosphere for a while."

Chickering's crowd, to whom Veazie belonged, was very indignant. They talked it over in Chickering's room, amid the perfume of musk and the odor of cigarettes.

"He had to pick out the smallest man he could find," said Tilton Hull, his col- lar holding his chin high in the air, as usual.

"It's a good thing he didn't try it on me!" grated Gene Skelding, his vest unbuttoned to show the broad expanse of his new pink shirt.

"What would you have done, Skeld?" asked Julian Ives, patting his bang down on his forehead.

"I'd-I'd killed him!" declared Gene, as savagely as possible.

"I didn't have anything to kill him with," said Veazie.

"Why didn't you get out your knife and cut him?" asked Skelding.

"I didn't have anything but a little penknife, you know."

"Poor Merriwell!" said Chickering. "He is just a low, common brute. I'm sorry for him,"

"Rot!" said Ollie Lord. "Poor Lew! Think of being spanked! It's awful!"

"It ith awful," sighed Veazie, snuggling up to Lord and putting an arm round him. "The fellow's hand hurt Wretched, I never wath hurt tho bad before."

"What are we going to do about it?" solemnly asked Hull. "It's an outrage we can't overlook."

"What can we do?" asked Ives. "Lay for him-sandbag him!" grated Skelding.

"That's all right," said Hull; "but he's a bad man to try that on. I fear we'd not make a success of it alone."

"If we had a good man to go with us-a fighter."

"But we haven't," sighed Lord; "and Merriwell is a fighter."

"Oh, you're all afraid of him!" sneered Skelding.

"I don't suppose you are?" asked Ives, sarcastically,

"No! He's an athlete, and I'm no match for him. I know that, but I'm not afraid of him. I'd like the chance to crack him with a club."

"Will you take a hand in this, Chickering?" asked Hull.

Chickering looked nervous.

"You don't suppose," he said, "that we might fail and that he would-he would-ah-serve us all the way he served Veazie?"

It was ludicrous, but not one of them smiled. The fear that Merriwell might spank them all in turn seemed to settle on them, Skelding was the only man that ridiculed it.

"But," said Chickering, "I think Skelding is right in saying we need a fighter to go with us. Where can we find one? If you think it is absolutely necessary to administer chastisement to Merriwell, let's go about it in the right way."

"There's Badger," said Lord.

"He called me a hypocrite," said Chickering.

"He called me a puppy!" squawked Veazie.

"He insulted me," said Hull, with attempted dignity.

"And he said I was sickening!" murmured Chickering.

"Said I was crooked," grated Skelding.

"But he can fight," they all admitted.

Then they looked at each other in silence. After a time Hull added:

"And he hates Merriwell."

"He came to us after that," said Ives, "and wanted us as witnesses against Merriwell when he thought he had the fellow in a snap."

"And we gave him the slam down when we found he was off his trolley on the affair," muttered Skelding. "We told him he was too cheap for us to associate with. I think that settles it as far as Badger is concerned."

"I don't know," murmured Rupert, "Lots of time has elapsed since then. He hasn't too many friends, and he may be ready to join with us again. Let's try him."

They talked it over, and finally decided to approach Badger. Thus it happened that Buck was stopped by them that day on the open campus, and he listened to them in grim silence, while they proposed to back him in anything against Merriwell. When they had finished, he gave them a shock.

"You're an ornery set of scabs, the whole bunch of you!" said the Westerner with scorn. "I've had my fill of you and your like! If I knew you could do Merriwell, I'd not join you. Instead of that, I'd go to him and warn him to look out for you, you set of snapping, mongrel curs!"

Skelding ground his teeth together.

"I knew it!" he hissed. "Badger's been broken by Merriwell, and he's turned crawler. He'll be wiggling round after Merriwell with the others after this."

"You're a liar!" said Badger, coarsely. "I have no more to do with Merriwell than with you! You can bet your pile on that!"

"Then," said Ives, "it's because Merriwell will have nothing to do with you."

"You're another!" retorted Buck, "It's because I don't choose."

"You're afraid of him!" sneered Skelding. "I know you've been keeping still lately. He's taken all the nerve out of you. You don't dare open your face."

"I dare knock the stuffing out of you if you don't close yours! Dry up!"

"Come away, fellows," urged Chickering.

"We don't want a fight with the low ruffian. He's been cowed by Merriwell, and all the college is talking of it. I've heard twenty men declare that Badger doesn't dare say his soul's his own while Merriwell is round."

Then they walked away, leaving Badger in a very unpleasant frame of mind.

"I wonder if that is what the men do think," speculated Buck, when he was alone in his room. "I suppose it is. It must seem queer that I keep so still. I'm in the habit of expressing any mind. I can't stand it long."

He walked up and down, fancying that the students were saying all sorts of things about him behind his back. He could not endure being regarded as a coward; nothing could gall him more than that.

"I'll show them!" he finally muttered, mopping the sweat from his face. "I did think I'd keep still and let Merriwell alone. After I thought the whole thing over, I began to believe I was in the wrong, and it made me fancy I'd change my course; but I'm in so deep that I can't turn back now without being called a coward. Somehow, it seems that I've got to fight Merriwell or knuckle to him, and a Badger never knuckles to any man."

So the spanking of Veazie caused a change in Badger's course of action.

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