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As they stood thus, eying each other steadily, the two boys presented a strong contrast. The one who had lately been so free with foot and hand had a dark, handsome, cruel face. He was dressed in a plaid suit of a very pronounced pattern, had patent leather shoes on his feet and a crushed felt hat on his head, wore several rings on his fingers and had a heavy gold double chain strung across his vest, while the pin in his red necktie was set with a "sparkler" that might or might not be genuine.
The other lad was modestly dressed in a suit of brown, wore well-polished shoes and a stylish straw hat, but made no display of jewelry. His face was frank, open and winning, but the merry light that usually dwelt in his brown eyes was now banished by a look of scorn, and the set of his jaw told that he could be firm and dauntless.
This, of course, is Frank Merriwell, fresh off the train at Fardale, and the bully is Bart Hodge, destined to become, as most bullies were, Frank's "admiring and unwavering friend." Frank challenges Hodge to fight for cuffing the little popcorn vendor, but Hodge refuses and drives off to Snodd's boarding house, pausing only to lean out of the barouche and whip the poodle as he goes by. At Snodd's, Hodge further demonstrates his villainy by trying to kiss Belinda Snodd, the plump daughter of the proprietor. "Belinda—what a sweet name—how poetic!" exclaims Hodge. "You have the brown eyes of a fawn. The sight of those tempting lips makes me burn with a desire to taste their dewy freshness. Belinda, give me a kiss!"
Fat but frisky, she eludes him, and Hodge is further enraged at dinner when Frank makes sport of him with ventriloquism. Frank, it turns out, is a topnotch ventriloquist. When Hodge angrily leaves the table, Frank gets the other boys on his side: "Being a born diplomat, Frank decided that then was the accepted time to make himself solid at Snodd's, which he proceeded to do by keeping up a string of funny stories and witty sayings that convulsed the boys and made them decide that he must be a jolly good fellow."
Hodge arranges to have Frank slugged over the head and sprinkled with hard cider from Snodd's cellar. Despite Frank's protestations that "I do not know the taste of liquor," Snodd takes him for a thief and orders the popcorn vendor to drive Frank back to the railway station. But the little vendor refuses; as Patten put it, "The urchin was loyal." Snodd relents, and Frank and Hodge try to settle their differences with a fight. "You and I both can't attend Fardale Academy!" shouts Hodge during the melee. Though battered, Hodge refuses to give up. Frank offers to make peace, but Hodge shows himself to be "a sulker and a cad by his refusal to shake hands."
Enter Inza Burrage, who comes to picnic with Belinda and the boys. She is a dark-haired, red-lipped, jolly girl, and Frank is smitten. "For a moment Inza Burrage's dark eyes had looked straight into his brown orbs." (Later in the series, Frank would also be attracted by blonde Elsie Bell-wood. It took him years to make up his mind which one he preferred.)
Alas, Hodge gets Inza as his tennis partner in a doubles game, and Frank looks bad as he is forced to cover the territory of his partner, plump Belinda. Just as Frank is striving extra hard, the popcorn vendor runs wildly toward them screaming, "Run! run! run! Mad dog! Mad dog!"
Hodge, the cad, flees. Inza trips, but Frank gently picks her up and moves her to the side as he prepares to battle an obviously hydrophobic canine with a jackknife.
"What are you going to do?" panted Inza. "You are not going to fight the dog?"