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HOME > Classical Novels > Boys of the Central > CHAPTER III. SECTION D TAKEN BY SURPRISE.
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 If a bomb had exploded in the room, the pupils in section D could hardly have been more than they were a few days later, when, after the opening exercises, Mr. Horton quietly remarked:—  
“Every boy that owns a key to the we use will please rise in his seat.”
There was a moment’s pause, then Freeman and two other boys arose.
“Freeman,” said the teacher, “how do you use the key?”
“I do the examples first, and then see if I have the correct answers. If I have not, I keep trying till I get them,” said Freeman , but with a very red face.
“Thank you,” said Mr. Horton. “You may be seated, boys. Now, I want every other boy in the room who uses a key, whether it belongs to him or not, to rise.”
Nearly half the school stood then, and Mr. Horton’s keen eyes the glances cast at some who did not rise, and read their meaning clearly.
“That will do,” he said. Then he looked about the room slowly and searchingly.
“Clark,” he said, “you never use a key?”
“No, sir,” was the quiet reply.
“And you, Crawford?”
“No, sir,” said Crawford .
The boys did not realize how much the teacher could read in their faces. He read something in several faces as Crawford gave his positive denial, and he thought to himself once more, “Crawford will bear watching.” Then aloud he said:—
“I am sorry to find that so many have been using keys; but with those of you who have frankly and honorably acknowledged it, I have no fault to find, since I have never forbidden the use of them. I do forbid it now, however, and I wish every key that any of you have here or at home, handed to me to-morrow morning. If I find any boy making use of one hereafter, I shall not let him off easily. Now take up your work.”
At D section gave attention to nothing but the matter of the keys. Those who had risen at Mr. Horton’s request were inclined to look with scorn and contempt upon those who had used the keys, but had not seen fit to acknowledge it.
“I say, Crawford, you certainly were cheeky! You’ve used my key more than I have myself, and you had the to deny it,” said Barber.
Crawford yawned with pretended , then answered coolly:—
“’Twas none of Bobby’s business what I had done. He said himself that he’d never forbidden it.”
“Humph!” said Barber, and turning, walked off to the other side of the playground.
Crawford had the grace to color a little at this, but he turned to Henderson and his shoulders as he said, “Huffy—’cause I’ve borrowed his key. He’ll get over it. But now see here—the thing I want to know is, who put Bobby up to this ?”
“Of course ’twasn’t any of the fellows that use the keys,” said Henderson.
“Right you are!” exclaimed Crawford, emphatically. “It was some sneakin’ saint who never stains his holy fingers with such polluted literature as algebra keys, and I don’t know anybody so likely to have done it as Clark.”
“Oh no,” cried one, “I don’t believe it was Clark.”
“You don’t, hey! Well I do, then. It takes a coward to do a thing like that.”
“You always blame everything on Clark,” cried Freeman, “and I think it’s mean of you, Crawford.”
“You think,” repeated Crawford, scornfully, then turning to the others, he went on, “Who knows anything about Clark, anyhow? He only entered[22] the school this year. Does anybody know where he came from?”
“I believe he only came to the city just before school opened. Isn’t that so, Freeman?” said one.
Freeman colored, and looked uncomfortable.
“Yes,” he said.
“Where’d he live before?” said Crawford.
“In—in Albany,” Freeman, flushing uneasily.
Crawford looked at him sharply, then turned again to the others.
“I believe it was Clark,” he repeated, “and it just makes one more thing we’ve got to pay him off for. We’ve grounds enough now, Green, for doing what we were talking over the other night.”
Green hesitated, then said slowly, “I think we ought to have some proof that Clark is to blame for this, first.”
Crawford’s face darkened. He leaned over and whispered something in Green’s ear—something unpleasant evidently, for Green shrank, and said hastily, “Oh, well, if you’re so sure he did it, I’ll back you up, of course. If he did it, he deserves all he’ll get.”
“Yes, if he did it. We know well enough he did it,” cried Crawford, “and if the rest of you will let it pass, I won’t.”
“What you going to do about it?” asked another.
“We’ll send Clark to Coventry for one thing. If I see any fellow chumming with St. Clark after this, I shall know what to think of him—that’s all.”
One or two a word in Clark’s behalf, but he had been so little while among them, and was so grave and reserved that he had made no friends. Hamlin had been strongly attracted to him, but Hamlin was so bright and popular that he was always surrounded by a of boys, and had seldom had the opportunity to see much of Clark. Freeman’s mother and Clark’s mother were cousins, but the boys, having until recently lived in different cities, had seldom met until Clark entered the school.
Now, the majority of the boys believed that Clark had shown the white feather in refusing to fight Crawford, and is one of the hardest things to forget or forgive.
Hard days followed for Stanley Clark. The belief quickly gained ground that he had informed Mr. Horton that keys were used in the class, and this added to the cloud already resting upon him. Soon, not a boy in the section spoke to him or noticed him except Freeman. Proud and sensitive, Clark felt this keenly, and withdrew more and more into himself. He would have remained in the school at recess, but this was forbidden, so he was obliged to go out. He never stayed in the playground, however,[24] but spent the twenty minutes walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the school. At first, Freeman used to join him there, but after a little Clark sent him away. Freeman was hurt and grieved at this, never guessing that his cousin was too generous to let him fall under the shadow that rested on himself.
So Freeman went more and more with the other boys as the days and weeks went by.
One day he was on his way home when Crawford overtook him, and to his great surprise, instead of passing him with a rough word or a as usual, fell into step and walked on with him.
“I say, Freeman,” he began, “I’ve been wanting to say a word to you. I used you rather roughly a while ago.”
“’Deed you did,” said Freeman coldly.
“Yes, I acknowledge it, and I’m sorry for it. A fellow can’t say any more than that—can he?”
Freeman looked up in great surprise, half suspecting that Crawford was trying to make game of him; but the big fellow was looking down at him in a friendly fashion, and now held out his hand saying, “Shake hands on it, boy, and let bygones be bygones, won’t you?”
“Of course, if you really mean it,” said Freeman, hesitatingly giving his hand.
“To be sure I mean it, and to prove that I do, I’ll[25] take you for a drive to-morrow—if you’ll go. I’ve a jolly pair of . What time can you go?”
“Why—any time, as to-morrow’s Saturday,” said Freeman, still doubting, unable to understand this sudden change of manner.
He thought of it again and again that evening, and finally talked it over with Edith.
“It’s the queerest thing,” he said; “I don’t yet believe that he really meant it. Don’t believe he’ll come for me at all, to-morrow.”
“I hope he won’t,” said Edith quickly; “I don’t want you to be friends with such a fellow.”
“Not much danger of that,” Ray answered, “but it’s better to have him for a friend than for an enemy, isn’t it?”
“I doubt that, Ray. You know what mother says, ‘You can’t handle pitch without getting sticky fingers.’ From what I’ve gathered, Crawford is pitch of a pretty bad sort.”
“Well,” said Ray discontentedly, “I don’t see what I can do except go with him to-morrow. It isn’t likely he’ll ever ask me again, and if he does I needn’t go; but after I’ve accepted his invitation, he’d be mad if I didn’t go this time.”
“Y—es, I suppose so,” said Edith doubtfully; “but I just can’t bear the thought of your being with such a fellow even for one drive, Ray.” Crawford appeared promptly the next day at the[26] hour appointed, and though his talk with Edith had made Freeman uncomfortable, yet he could not repress a thrill of very real pleasure, as the horses bore the light carriage so swiftly through the wide, smooth streets. Crawford exerted himself to be entertaining, and he could be very entertaining when he chose, and before the drive was over, Freeman wondered how he could ever have considered his companion ugly and disagreeable.
“I’ve had a jolly good time, Crawford,” he said , as the carriage stopped again at his own door. “Thank you ever so much for taking me along.”
“Glad you’ve enjoyed it,” replied Crawford. “We’ll repeat it some day soon.”
As he drove off, he and said to himself, “Little fool! ’Twill be easy enough to get hold of him. And the innocent way the baby told me about St. Clark. Oh my! If it wasn’t rich!”
He drove around for Henderson, and told him what he had wormed out of the unconscious Freeman, and the two put their heads together and planned that which was to bring shame and deep sorrow upon Clark.
As to Freeman, he was so loud in his praises of Crawford and his kindness, that Edith began to wonder if she could have misjudged him, and to think that it might have been merely thoughtlessness[27] and boyish roughness after all, instead of meanness and cruelty, as she had thought, that had made him treat her brother so.
Freeman looked at Crawford doubtfully when he saw him at school on Monday. Even yet, he could not feel quite sure that his new would be , but Crawford called out a gay greeting and summoned him to join the group about him, and the others followed Crawford’s lead, wondering somewhat at this sudden friendliness towards “little Freeman,” but ready enough to take him in; and he, flattered by Crawford’s notice, and always too ready to follow, soon began to be counted in as one of “Crawford’s crowd.”
One morning a week or two later, Crawford and Henderson were the first to enter the class-room. After a hasty glance around, Crawford exclaimed, “You stay here at the door, Henderson, to see that nobody comes.”
Whatever Crawford had to do was quickly , and he and Henderson were lounging in the hall, when the other boys began to come in, and all went into D class-room together, where, perched on desks and backs of chairs, they dropped into lively conversation.
“Come on up here, Hendy. What are you sitting off there for?” called Crawford, for Henderson had taken the seat nearest the door, where he could see any one approaching.
“I’m waiting for Coyle,” he replied, without turning his head.
“Oh, Coyle’s always half an hour behind time. He’ll be late at his own funeral if he don’t look out,” cried Green.
“Say, Green—got your examples done?” asked Crawford, glancing at the clock and keeping an eye on Henderson.
“No, plague it! Bobby gave us a double dose yesterday, an’ it takes such a time to prove ’em all.”
“If we only had the keys now, ’twouldn’t take half so long,” Barber.
At this moment Henderson coughed, and Crawford, whose back was towards the door, called out loudly, “Well, I say it’s no fair to take away algebra keys and let the Latin class keep their ponies. Clark and some others wouldn’t get the marks they do if Bobby should make a raid on their ponies.”
“Sh-sh-sh” went around the group, and Henderson strolled carelessly back to his own seat as Mr. Horton entered the room.
The other boys looked inquiringly at the teacher, wondering how much he had overheard, but they could gather nothing from his face. They were not left long in doubt, however, for, as soon as the opening exercises were over, he said:—
“When, a short time ago, I called for all the algebra keys, I supposed that I had put an end[29] to the use of helps of that sort, but from a remark that I overheard as I entered the school-room this morning, I am obliged to believe that I have been mistaken. I will give you the same opportunity that I gave on the previous occasion, and ask every boy who has, or who uses, any translation or other such help in preparing his Latin to rise.”
As Mr. Horton ceased speaking, one boy rose. There was a of laughter, for this boy—Vale—was the dullard of the class, but the teacher’s stern voice quickly checked the merriment.
“You may be seated, Vale,” he said. “And now I wish all the members of the Latin class, except Vale, to come forward.”
His order being obeyed, he left his seat, and, walking down the , looked into the desks of all except Vale. Four faces were full of dismay as he passed from desk to desk, but only one was turned toward him in blank surprise as he returned to his seat with five books in his hands.
“Barber, Green, Hopkins, Cox and Clark, remain where you are. The others may return to their seats,” he said.
Then he looked at the five boys before him with sorrow and sternness.
“Boys,” he said, “I am terribly disappointed in you. It is bad enough to find that you have been resorting to such methods to avoid work and[30] secure high marks, but you have added to your by lying about it. I had thought better of you than this.”
As he paused, Clark, whose face had shown strong emotion, stepped forward and said: “Mr. Horton, did you find one of those books in my desk?”
There was a touch of contempt in the teacher’s voice as he replied:—
“I did, sir, and I hope you will not lower yourself further by useless protestations.”
“Mr. Horton,” said the boy very quietly, “I should be doing wrong if I did not declare that I have never used any help in preparing my Latin except the notes in the book itself. I never saw the book you have there, and do not know how it came in my desk.”
Somebody then, but Mr. Horton promptly checked the .
“You can hardly expect me to believe you, Clark, with the evidence I have here,” he said, pointing to the fly-leaf of the book, on which were the letters “S. C.” Part of the leaf was torn out, leaving only those two letters.
The look of bewildered surprise in Clark’s eyes turned to one of proud as he saw those letters, and he did not open his lips again, not even when Mr. Horton said:—
“I shall give every one of you five a failure for[31] each Latin recitation during the past week, and for the remainder of the month I wish each of you to write at the top of your Latin exercises these words.” He wrote rapidly on the blackboard:—
“Lying lips are an abomination.”
The other four went to their seats with red faces and shamed eyes, but Clark’s face was very white, and his eyes were proudly uplifted, as if he dared his schoolmates to believe him guilty, in spite of the evidence against him.
“He doesn’t act guilty,” thought Mr. Horton uneasily, as he looked at the boy. “I wonder if it is possible that he is innocent.”
“St. Clark won’t be in good odor for a while to come,” chuckled Henderson on the playground at recess, glancing with eyes at the lonely boy pacing up and down the sidewalk.
“I don’t believe he used that , anyhow,” said Freeman. “He didn’t need to use it, for he had read Cicero long before he ever came here. It’s just review to him.”
“Hush up, you!” exclaimed Henderson hastily. “If it’s review to him, he’s no business to be marked higher than the rest of us who never took it before. Hold your tongue, youngster, if you know when you’re well off.” He whispered the last sentence in Freeman’s ear.
“Yes, yes, keep quiet, boy,” said Crawford; and[32] in a lower tone he added, “Don’t you . He’ll come out all right enough.”
But in his heart Crawford was thinking, “He won’t come out all right if I can prevent it, and I think I can.”

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