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Unlike the Harkaway novels, which Patten was supposed to follow, there is no snobbishness in Merriwell. In Jack Harkaway at Oxford , for instance, Sir Sydney Dawson, one of the better-minded characters, shows he has a kind heart by musing, "I wonder what a poor man at Oxford is like. I should like to see him. Perhaps an hour or two with a poor man would do me good, always supposing he's a gentleman. I can't stand a cad." But to Patten, who styled himself an embryo socialist, such sentiments were unthinkable. In point of fact, the most villainous of Merriwell's enemies at Yale are well-to-do. There is Roland Ditson, who betrays the freshmen by informing the sophomores about their plan for the crew race. ("Ditson's parents were wealthy, and they furnished him with plenty of loose change, so that he could cut quite a dash.") To Frank, Ditson was a traitor, "a contemptible cur," and he gives him "a shake that caused the fellow's teeth to click together." "Tar and feather him!" shouts an outraged freshman, but Frank advises, "Let him go. He is covered with a coating of disgrace that will not come off as easily as tar and feathers." Ditson sneaks away, "the hisses of his classmates sounding in his ears."
In Merriwell's sophomore year there are tougher opponents: Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton. The Dartmouth football players are "full of sand...being mostly sons of farmers and country gentlemen." Against Princeton, Frank stops the Tigers on the one-yard line and then scores the winning touchdown with only seconds left. At New Haven he rows with such ferocity against Harvard that he swoons as the shell cuts across the finish. "Did we win?" he asks, coming to. "You bet! It's hard to beat Old Eli!" "I am satisfied!" gasps Merriwell, swooning again. A stranger hurriedly offers a flask, but Frank revives to turn it away. "I never touch liquor," he says firmly. "I do not want to start now."
To keep the series going, Patten arranged to have Merriwell leave Yale temporarily. It develops that Frank has lost his fortune because of bad investments by Professor Scotch, and he goes to work for a railroad, settles a strike and writes a hit play, John Smith of Montana . Yale is sorely pressed by his absence. Harvard, Jack Diamond writes, is "arrogantly jubilant," while the nine is "putting up the yellowest kind of ball." When Yale plays the New Yorks at the Polo Grounds "in that city," the team is "white-washed, shut out, monkeyed with." Diamond laments for Old Eli, and the very mention of Merriwell causes Bruce Browning to grind his teeth and shake "his huge fist at the empty air."
Frank is downcast. "Dear old Yale!" he writes....
I see in fancy the elm-shaded campus, the fence, the buildings, my old room and—dearer than everything else—my friends, the friends I love! I see them gathered about me at the fence; I listen to their talk, their jokes, their laughter and their songs. Oh, those dear old days! Oh, those dear old songs! In fancy I am beneath the elms; you are there, Browning is there, Jones is there, Rattleton is there, Hodge is there! We are singing Stars of the Summer Night, Bingo, Here's to Good Old Yale...
I can't write about it, Jack—I can't! My heart is too full. Oh, I long to be back there again! I long to come back in time to have you with me. I long to line up with the eleven again. I long to pull an oar with the crew! I long to go into the box for the nine! And, by heavens! I want Bart Hodge behind the plate to catch when I pitch. He can handle my pitching as no other fellow ever handled it!
Frank does return to New Haven, with a new smash hit, True Blue, the finale of which shows him on stage in a racing shell. But since he has "been away from college, winning fame and fortune," he is obliged to spend the summer abroad catching up on his studies. In the British Isles, further adventures await: he beats the Irish Gamecock in a sparring match, even though blinded, buys a horse that wins the Derby (he outrages some onlookers by shaking hands with Toots, the colored jockey) and plays golf at St. Andrews, where he ties the course record after a few lessons.
Back at Yale, he rejoins the eleven. But by the time of the Harvard game, he is a frightful mass of bruises. Although he tries to hide his injuries, he has obvious difficulty trying to stand up. "What's the good of saying anything?" he asks. He sits out a scoreless first half, then yields to the demands of the crowd. "Well, how are you going to stand it out on the field?" Jack Diamond inquires. "I'll have to stand it there," was the grim answer. With a minute to go, he pounces on a Harvard fumble.
Frank felt a fearful pain running through him. It seemed to stop his wind, but it did not stop him.
"I must do it," he thought.