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HOME > Classical Novels > Boys of the Central > CHAPTER II. HAMLIN SPEAKS HIS MIND.
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 One boy had been absent from section D that day. This was David Hamlin, a big, handsome fellow, a general favorite, and the acknowledged leader of the better element in the class. He was at school early the next morning, and listened with the greatest interest to the story of the previous day’s happenings, which the boys were eager to tell.  
“Well,” he said, looking from one to another when the story was ended, “where were all you decent fellows that you didn’t ? If I’d been here, I’d have stood up for Clark. Coward indeed! He showed pluck enough, I should say, in refusing to fight that Crawford.”
But at this, a of went around the group. It was plain that for once Hamlin was not to have the popular support even of all his friends.
“No, no, Hamlin,” said one, “you can’t make me believe that a fellow with the right sort of stuff in him would let anybody give him the lie direct and a blow in the face to boot, and not strike back. That’s not my idea of courage.”
“Nor mine. Nor mine,” cried half a dozen voices.
Hamlin looked from one to another, reading the same opinion in every face.
“No,” he said scornfully. “It is quite evident that it is not your idea of courage. Haven’t you sense enough to see that Clark showed a courage as much higher and finer than Crawford’s as his was higher than that of—a mad bull, I was going to say”; he stopped and half laughed, as he added, “That’s a poor comparison however, for I don’t think that Crawford’s courage was one higher or better than a mad bull’s.”
Hamlin was with his back to the door. A little stir, and a change in some of the faces turned towards the door, made him glance around to find Crawford himself standing just behind him with a on his dark face.
“So,” he said, “I seem to be the interesting subject under discussion. Go on, go on. Pray don’t let me interrupt you.”
“I don’t mean to”; and as he , Hamlin wheeled quickly around so as to face the other. “I’d just as soon, and in fact a little sooner, speak my mind to your face. Crawford, if I’ve heard the story straight, you did some mean, , cowardly things, yesterday. I think such doings are a disgrace to our section, and I tell you now once for all, that if this sort of thing can’t be stopped I shall[12] ask for a transfer to some other section, and I shall tell Professor Keene just why I want a transfer, too.”
There was a moment of silence while Crawford, choking down his rage, looked from face to face to see on which side were the sympathies of the boys. Had any other than Hamlin said all this, Crawford would have either laughed it to scorn or answered by a and a blow, but Hamlin was too popular and stood too high in the class to be treated in that way. He belonged, too, to a wealthy and family, and these facts weighed heavily with Crawford; so, though his eyes were full of anger, he only said gruffly, “Seems to me you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. I gave that cad of a Clark a slap across the mouth which he was too cowardly to return. That’s all there is about it, and I don’t see, for my part, why you are taking it up, and making such a row over it, Hamlin.”
“I don’t know Clark very well,” replied Hamlin, “but I’ve never seen anything sneaky or cowardly about him, and I don’t believe he is either. I know a fellow always gets the name of a coward if he won’t pitch in and strike back like a prize fighter when anybody insults him; but I’m beginning to think that the honor that can only be proven by making a of one’s self, isn’t worth very much anyhow. But that blow of yours that Clark had the courage not to return, Crawford, was only one of the[13] things that you were responsible for, yesterday, if all I’ve heard is true. You all know,” he went on, turning to the boys, “how often little Freeman is sick, and how much he is absent on that account. Perhaps some of you don’t know that he has no father, and that his mother is working a good deal harder than any woman ought to work, to keep him in school. Freeman himself is very anxious to get to work and help his mother, and the position he gets after he graduates will depend largely on his school record; yet you, Crawford, tried yesterday, to make him fail, when he knew his lesson , and not satisfied with that, you pitched into him after school and rolled him in mud and water in the street. It was a shame, Crawford—a little delicate chap like him, not half your size! I can’t see, for my part, how any decent fellow could have stood by and seen it done without interfering”; and Hamlin’s eyes blazed with righteous indignation as he looked around the circle.
“Oh, come now, Hamlin, you’re putting it on too thick,” said Crawford; “I”—but whispers of “Here comes Bobby!” cut short the talk, and the boys slipped into their seats as Mr. Horton entered the class-room.
“Bobby” was the class name for the teacher of section D.
Clark did not appear until the last moment—just[14] in time to avoid the mark. His face was very grave, and he looked neither to right nor left as he took his seat, so he did not see Hamlin watching eagerly for a chance to give him a friendly smile, and Hamlin had to content himself with the thought, “I’ll have a talk with him at .”
But at recess the principal, Prof. Keene, sent for him and kept him so long in his office that the recess was over before he was at liberty, and half an hour before school was dismissed Clark, after a word with Mr. Horton, left the room and did not return.
So Hamlin, breaking away from half a dozen boys who surrounded him when school was out, hurried after Freeman who was walking off alone.
“What’s the matter with Clark? Why did he leave so early?” he asked, as he overtook the little fellow.
“I don’t know,” answered Freeman; then he added, speaking earnestly and quickly, “You don’t believe that it was because he was afraid that he didn’t fight Crawford, do you, Hamlin?”
“Of course not,” was the quick reply. “I don’t believe in fighting any more than Clark does, though I doubt if I should have had the moral courage to do as he did and risk being called a coward.”
“I’m to blame for it all. It was his standing up for me in class that began it,” said Freeman, with a troubled face.
“Don’t worry over that,” said Hamlin .[15] “I’ll stand by him, and I know some of the other fellows will too.”
“If you do, he won’t care much about the rest, I guess,” said Freeman, who, like most of the younger boys, looked up to David Hamlin as a model. He turned off presently at his own corner, and Hamlin walked on alone, saying to himself, “I’ll run around and see Clark after supper.”
But his kindly purpose was not to be carried out. When he reached home he was met by his little brother with the announcement, “Papa’s going to London to-morrow, and you’re going with him.”
It was even so. Unexpected business made it necessary for Mr. Hamlin to leave at this short notice, and it had been that David should go with him, and so his seat in section D was vacant the next day, and for many days after.
Stanley Clark was the first boy in the school-room the next morning, and he waited impatiently for the teacher’s appearance, as he wanted to speak to him alone; but Mr. Horton was later than usual, and several boys were in the room when he came in. Henderson’s seat was on the front row, and he strained his ears to hear what Clark was saying, but he only caught Mr. Horton’s reply, “You are sure that there is no mistake about this, Clark?” and then, “Very well, I will attend to it later.”
Clark took his seat, and the morning recitations went on as usual till just before the closing hour, when Mr. Horton ordered books put away and the attention of the class given to him. The order was quickly obeyed and all eyes turned toward him, while a most unusual silence .
“It has come to my knowledge,” began Mr. Horton, “that some very mean and contemptible methods have been employed in this class to prevent scholars who are really anxious to do well from making perfect recitations. If anything of this sort is done hereafter, I shall give the the severest possible punishment. The disorderly element in this section shall be put down or put out of the school. In the matter of scholarship I have no fault to find with you as a class, but you are fast getting the reputation of being the roughest and most disorderly section in the school. Surely there are some among you who are, to say the least, too gentlemanly to be willing to have your section so , and I call upon all such to see to it, that you use all your influence in behalf of law and order, and do your utmost to secure a different reputation for section D.”
Many and various were the opinions expressed, as, school being dismissed, the boys talked over the matter so forcibly presented to them. Crawford’s face was dark with anger as he walked on discussing[17] with his “crowd” the teacher’s severe remarks.
“I believe that Clark’s at the bottom of it,” he was saying angrily; “he was hobnobbing with Horton before school, and I’ll bet a cooky he put Bobby up to it.”
“Of course he did,” added Henderson. “I heard Bobby say, ‘You’re sure there’s no mistake about this, Clark?’ and then thank him for the information he had given.”
“Do you hear that, fellows?” cried Crawford. “That’s the sort of chap Clark is. Couldn’t lower himself to fight, but he can lower himself to tattle to Bobby.”
“But, Crawford, it might have been something else he was talking about. We don’t know that he was tattling,” said a boy named Graham.
“Know,” repeated Crawford impatiently. “As if there was any question about it. I don’t believe there’s another fellow in the room who would tell tales, and I move that we nip this thing in the bud, and put down blabbing and tattling once for all.”
“So say I,” shouted Henderson, while Graham cautiously inquired:—
“How do you propose to put them down, Crawford?”
“Make it so hot for the tattlers that they’ll get good and sick of it,” replied Crawford .
“But how—tell us how.”
Crawford looked from one to another of the group.
“Henderson, you and Coyle and Green come around to my rooms this evening, and we’ll fix this thing up,” he said, ignoring Graham, and two or three who had kept silence.
“Wonder what Crawford is up to now,” said one of these boys whom Crawford had not named, dropping back a step or two.
“Some trick, or other,” replied a second. “For my part, I’m sick of him and his crowd. I believe I’ll side with law and order after this.”
“Don’t know but I’d better, too,” replied the first. “I’ve half a mind to, anyhow.”
“Do,” said the other quickly. “Let’s start in to-morrow and see how many will join us.”
“Pity Hamlin’s away. He’s a power when he takes hold of anything,” put in Raleigh, the third boy.
“So he is,” said Graham, “and I wish he was here too. The only trouble with Hamlin is that he’s so full of fun that he gets to cutting up before he stops to think—but he never does a mean thing.”
“No, there’s nothing sneaky about Hamlin,” said Raleigh, as he turned off towards his home.

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