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 Crawford’s mother had died before he was five years old. His father outlived her but a few months, and by the father’s will his lawyer, who was also an old friend, was appointed guardian to the child and trustee of the large property to which the boy was heir.  
This lawyer, Mr. Chase, was a scrupulously honorable man, but he was a very busy one, and, being a bachelor, knew little about the bringing up of a boy.
At six, Crawford was sent to boarding-school. His bills were promptly paid, and, from the time he was ten, he received a liberal allowance—far too liberal for his own good. His vacations were spent at school or at some gay summer resort, and he was allowed to do pretty much as he pleased, provided he did not run in debt. So that it was not to be wondered at that the boy had grown up wild and selfish and brutal. He had never had a home since he could remember, and thus far in life he had[61] found that money would secure about everything that he wanted.
Once or twice his guardian had remonstrated with him mildly about his low standing in his classes, or the reports of idleness and mischievous behavior in the school-room, but his private opinion was, “Boys will be boys, and he’ll settle down and be steady enough, after a while.”
It was at Crawford’s own request that he had been sent to the high school. The first year he had gotten on fairly well, but this second year his conduct had been so unsatisfactory, that Mr. Horton and Professor Keene had both written to Mr. Chase, and that gentleman had at last come to the conclusion that he must have a serious talk with his ward.
So, desirous to have it over as soon as possible, he went to Crawford’s rooms the next day after the trouble in section D. He found the boy stretched out in a big easy-chair, a cigarette in his mouth and a novel in his hand.
“Faugh!” the lawyer exclaimed in a tone of disgust, as Crawford sprang up; “do throw away that vile-smelling thing. A good cigar is bad enough, but how anybody can abide the smell of cigarettes, is more than I can understand.”
Crawford tossed the objectionable roll into the grate, as he said, with a laugh, “Pity you don’t smoke, sir. You don’t know how much you miss.”
“Pity you do, I should say,” replied Mr. Chase, sternly. “You’ll ruin your health and spoil your brains if you don’t stop it. In short, my boy, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s high time for you to turn over a new leaf. I am not at all pleased with the reports I have from your teachers.”
“Oh, you know, then,” exclaimed Crawford, in a tone of relief.
“Know what? That you’ve been idling away your time and playing silly tricks here, as you have at the other schools you’ve attended? George, there must be an end of this. You are not a little boy any longer. Here you are seventeen—nearly eighteen years old—almost a man. It is time that you showed some ambition, and set to work to make something of yourself.”
Crawford laughed lazily and indifferently, as he asked:—
“Did you get a note from Keene, to-day?”
“No,” said Mr. Chase, briefly.
“Well, you will to-morrow then, and I’ll tell you beforehand, the contents of it. Prof. Keene will write to inform you that I am suspended for two weeks. At the end of that time I may have the privilege of returning, provided I will make a sufficiently humble apology, and promise to be a good little boy for the future. Much I’ll apologize!” he added, with a scornful laugh.[63] He was wholly unprepared for the way in which his news was received.
“Suspended!” exclaimed the lawyer, starting up. “This is a pretty piece of business. Tell me what you have been doing. You needn’t try to smooth it over. Tell me the whole story, for I shall certainly see Prof. Keene about it to-day.”
Considerably taken aback, but still trying to preserve his careless manner, Crawford told what he had done.
“Well, sir, all I have to say is, that you richly deserve what you have got; and now let me tell you that you may as well make up your mind first as last, to go back at the end of the two weeks, and make the apology and give the promise that Prof. Keene requires—for that is what you’ve got to do.”
“Never! I’ll never do it,” cried Crawford, angrily.
“You will do it, or I’ll put you where you’ll have to behave yourself whether you like it or not,” was the stern reply.
“What do you mean?” questioned the boy.
“I mean, George, that I am beginning to realize that you’ve had altogether too much liberty. It is evident that you cannot be trusted to manage yourself and do as you choose. You do not choose the things or associates that I approve. I hear of you around with that wild young Henderson continually, and in places where you have no business to be; and[64] now you have disgraced yourself and gained a name at school that you ought to be ashamed of. I’ll give you just one more chance. If you attend to your studies for the next two weeks and keep up with your class, and at the end of that time make a suitable apology to your teachers, and hereafter behave yourself and try to redeem your character in the school—very well.”
“And if I refuse to do all this?” questioned Crawford, his face flushed with anger.
“If you refuse,” said the lawyer, slowly, “I will put you in a reform school, if I can’t find any other place where you will be forced to behave yourself.”
Crawford fairly choked with rage.
“I’ll—I’ll run away first,” he sputtered.
The lawyer laughed. “I’ll risk that,” he said. “A very brief experience of roughing it, and earning your own living, would bring you to your senses. No, George, you’ve come to a turning place in your life. Now make up your mind to face the situation manfully, and make a record that you and I can both be proud of. I’ll be around again in a day or two, and I am sure that you will have made up your mind not to be so foolish as to throw away this chance.”
Crawford had never been taught to control his temper, and he gave full vent to his furious anger, after the departure of his guardian. He fumed and[65] raged like an overgrown child, and vowed that he would never “knuckle under to Keene and Horton to please old Chase.” He had just begun to cool off a little when Henderson appeared. His face was as black as Crawford’s as he flung himself into a chair saying:—
“You look about as I feel, Crawford; wonder if you’ve had as pleasant an interview with your old man as I’ve had with mine.”
“I’ve had a sweet lecture from old Chase,” replied Crawford, moodily, “and I’ve been trying ever since he left to decide whether or no I’ll cut the whole business and clear out somewhere. I’ve more than half a mind to go out west and go to work.”
“Oh, no, don’t think of that. You’d be a big fool to clear out when you can have all the money you want here.”
Crawford looked up quickly. “And you,” he said, “are you going to go back and promise to be a good little boy?”
“Expect I’ve got to,” replied Henderson, moodily.
“Well, I never would have believed you’d back down so quickly,” said Crawford, scornfully.
Henderson’s face flushed angrily.
“I’ve no choice in the matter,” he said, shortly. “The old man says if I don’t I can shift for myself hereafter.”
“Well, that’s my case too. Why not go out west[66] together? We’ve heads and hands of our own—why shouldn’t we earn our living for three years? Chase can’t keep me out of my money after I’m twenty-one.”
“Oh, it’s easy enough to talk about earning a living,” said Henderson, impatiently, “but I tell you what, Crawford, you’d sing another tune after you’d tried it a few months. You wouldn’t find it much like living as you do here, driving out when you choose, and always having your pockets full of money.”
“They are anything but full most of the time,” put in Crawford.
“Yes, but you can get all the credit you want. It would be a very different thing, I tell you, if you had nothing but what you earned. Neither you nor I have learned anything by which we could earn a dollar,” said Henderson, gruffly.
“But I say, Hendy, it will be mighty tough to have to go back to school and eat humble pie. Think how the fellows’ll chaff us if we meekly agree to be good little boys and keep the rules hereafter.”
“Let ’em chaff,” growled Henderson. “We’ll soon show them that we mean to play our little games in the future about as we’ve done in the past.”
“But we’ve got to promise not to do anything of the sort before we can go back,” objected Crawford.
“Promise!” echoed Henderson scornfully. “Who cares for a promise? We’ll get back on our promise and then forget all about it. What cuts me in this business,” he went on, moodily, “is that I’ve got to drop out of the company. I was a fool not to think of that before I told that yarn to Bobby.”
“I declare, I haven’t once thought of that. You’ll have to resign, of course,” said Crawford.
“Of course,” echoed Henderson. “It makes me mad as fury to think that I was such a fool to get into a scrape like this just now, when it’s so near the drill. I believe we’d have won the prize sure this year, for the fellows are so wild to get it away from Company A, that every man of ’em has worked with a will. I was going to give them extra drills once or twice a week evenings, for this last month, and now with a new captain they won’t stand half as good a chance.”
“I declare that’s too bad, Henderson. Wish now I’d never sent that note in to you.”
“You can’t wish it so much as I do,” said Henderson. “But there is no use crying over spilt milk. Maybe, Company C will win after all. We must try to think of some way to help their chances. But you see, Crawford, it’s enough sight worse for me to go back than for you—since you’ve no rank to lose.”
Crawford drummed on the table and looked thoughtful. After a moment’s silence he said, “It is harder for you than for me, Henderson, and I suppose if you are going back I must keep you company, since I got you into this fix.”
“Shake hands on it,” said Henderson quickly, holding out his hand. “I was awfully afraid you’d refuse, Crawford, and to have gone back without you would have been altogether too much for me.”
“We shall have to be mighty careful for a while at any rate. Bobby will watch us with all the eyes he has,” said Crawford gloomily.
“Bobby!” said Henderson with a sneer. “I reckon we’re sharp enough to hoodwink Bobby, and if with the help of Coyle and Green and the rest of our crowd we don’t make it lively for those precious L. A. O.’s, I miss my guess, that’s all. But now, see here—the governor says that if I don’t stand as well in class as I have done, or if I give Bobby any cause to complain of me hereafter, then that’s the end of it. I can drop out of high school and go where I like, but never a dollar will he give me if I starve.”
“Whew!” whistled Crawford. “He’s in earnest, isn’t he?”
“I should say so. I never would have believed he’d cut up so rough,” growled Henderson.
“My orders are much the same,” said Crawford;[69] “only, as the money belongs to me after all, Chase can’t carry it with quite such a high hand, you know. I hate the idea of it all, though. Think of going back and pegging away like Clark, and Gordon and that lot, and never have any fun,” grumbled Crawford, gloomily.
“Oh bosh! You’ve brains enough, Crawford, and after all it’s time you did brace up and work a little. It’s just laziness that has kept you so low in class, and if you half try, you can stand as high as Clark or Gordon. Only think how that would grind them.”
Crawford laughed. He was secretly pleased at the other’s estimate of his ability, and the idea of standing as high, or possibly higher than Clark and Gordon was an alluring one.
“I’ve half a mind to try it,” he said. “It would be something new under the sun for me to go digging, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes,” assented Henderson. “I fancy it would astonish some people; and see what an advantage it would give you, too. Bobby comes down on you twice as hard as he does on me, and it’s only because I stand high in class and you don’t. Now, you just go to work, and Bobby will soon be so proud of you, and so delighted at the change, that he will wink at lots of things that now he would not overlook; while Chase will be so pleased that everything will go smoothly in that quarter.”
“Oh, but, Hendy,” objected Crawford, “think how slow and stupid it will be—just deadly dull—all hard work and no fun.”
“No fun? Don’t you believe that. You and I will be models of good behavior in the school-room, but all the same if we don’t make life a burden to Bobby, then I miss my guess.”
“But how, how?” questioned Crawford eagerly.
“Why, this way. We’ll plan the mischief, and let the rest of the Antis execute it, and bear the blame. We’ll see all the fun, and go scot free.”
“They won’t agree to that,” said Crawford.
“You see if they don’t. It will cost something, but if I carry off the honors of the class, I’m sure my dad will be ready enough to increase my allowance, and Chase would do the same for you, wouldn’t he?”
“Probably, but what then?” questioned Crawford.
“Why—a spread for the Antis now and then, or an excursion down the bay—we footing the bills—will buy over all our crowd, I reckon. As to Green and Coyle, they’ve got to do as we say, till they can pay the money we’ve lent ’em.”
“Well, that is a scheme,” said Crawford, thoughtfully; “I wonder if we can carry it out.”
“Don’t see why not,” replied the other; “and by the way there’s another thing,—we must start in on it to-morrow.”
“Studying, you mean?” queried Crawford.
“We must do that, but that was not what I was thinking of. We must stir up a rumpus in the class-room to-morrow.”
“How can we? and why not wait till we go back?”
“Why, don’t you see that if there is no disorder while we’re away, and plenty of it after we come back, Bobby’ll lay it all at our door. As to how—let’s call a meeting of the Antis here this evening. We can plan enough to make things lively in the school-room for a week to come, and if we promise the fellows a spread next week, they’ll be ready enough to carry out our plans.”
So it was that a message reached every one of the Antis before six o’clock that evening, and almost every one responded to the call. Some of them were really bad boys, more were neither good nor bad, but ready to follow any leader who promised them “fun.”
The session that day had been the most quiet and orderly one of the year, and Mr. Horton had thought to himself that he might hope for a continuance of this state of things for two weeks, at least. He found out his mistake before an hour of the second day was over. There was no act of open disorder or disobedience, but the Antis were restless and noisy, ready to laugh at the slightest excuse, and to keep on laughing as long as they dared.
When, in the history recitation, one of them remarked that “Warren Hastings went to the same school and sat on the same seats as the pheasants of his native country,” an uproarious burst of laughter followed, and all through the session similar blunders were made in the gravest and most innocent manner imaginable, by different boys. When the hour came for the algebra recitation, an unusual quiet prevailed in the room, and when Mr. Horton sent Reed to the closet for a piece of chalk, more than one boy waited breathlessly for what was to follow.
Reed flung open the door and reached up to the shelf for the chalk-box, but the next moment it fell from his hands, and with a cry, he sprang back and slammed the door, but not before a snake had slipped out into the room. It was a big black fellow, nearly three feet long, and as it wriggled about under the seats, there was such a commotion in the room, that for a moment the teacher could not make himself heard; and in that moment Green flung open the door, and the snake was quickly hustled out into the hall. A girls’ class-room was directly opposite, and to the delight of the disorderly element, the girls’ door stood ajar, and the boys succeeded in driving the snake accidentally through the opening. Then ensued shrieks and screams as the girls jumped up on desks and seats, some of them even mounting to the window-sills.
But in a moment Mr. Horton, understanding what the noise in the girls’ room meant, appeared there, seized the snake by the tail, and flung it from the window.
When order was restored, and the teacher questioned his own class, every boy denied all knowledge as to how the snake came to be in the closet, and although Mr. Horton had his own opinion on the subject, he had no proof, and could do nothing.
The next day was no better. Never had the class been more trying or more disorderly than in the two weeks that followed, and never had the teacher found it so difficult to decide whom to punish.
The L. A. O.’s were almost in despair. It was in the second week that a meeting was held, and the matter very earnestly talked over.
“It does seem a shame that a few mean fellows should be able to upset everything as they do in this class,” Gordon said indignantly. “I did hope that it would be different at least while Crawford and Henderson were away. I thought that they were at the bottom of it all, but that can’t be, for it has been worse than ever for the last week. Does anybody know who is the ringleader?”
“Seems to me the Antis are all ringleaders,” said Raleigh.
“I’ve found out who put the snake in the closet,” announced Hamlin.
“Who, who?” shouted a dozen voices eagerly.
“Green,” replied Hamlin.
“How’d you find out?” asked Gordon.
“I was in Smith’s bird-store down the avenue yesterday. I’ve bought fancy pigeons of him several times, and he’s a friendly sort of chap, and as I happened to think of that snake, I asked him if he had sold one within a week or two. He said yes—he sold one to a sandy-haired fellow about my size—a fellow with an anchor on his left hand. Well, that fits Green to a T.”
“So it does. So he was at the bottom of that; and I know it was Coyle that mixed up all our overshoes yesterday, so it took us an age to sort ’em out. I don’t see the fun in such tricks, for my part,” said Raleigh.
“Well, say, boys—what are we going to do about it? If every L. A. O. in the class should get a hundred this quarter, it wouldn’t bring our class record up to a decent mark, so long as the Antis cut up as they do.”
“Does every fellow except us here belong to the Antis?” asked one.
“Yes, all except Clark,” said Gordon.
“I say it’s a shame that Clark’s name is not on our roll,” broke in Hamlin. “I believe he’s a splendid fellow, and I don’t think we do right to shut him out just because of what his father has done.”
A silence followed, while the boys looked at one another uneasily.
“It isn’t all—his father,” remarked one.
“No—it’s the things that happened the first of the year,” said another.
“But I, for one, don’t believe that he deserved the blame he got in either of those cases,” said Hamlin boldly; “and no one can deny that he’s the best all-around scholar in the class; and as to deportment, no fellow could do more to help our record than he does.”
“He’s too much of a prig,” muttered one; while the Georgian, saying something about “convicts,” turned away and looked out of the window.
With a disappointed air, Hamlin dropped the so evidently unwelcome subject of Clark’s admission to the society, and the discussion of what should be done was resumed.
“Seems as if we might persuade a few of the Antis to come over to our side,” said Raleigh. “Some of the smaller fellows—Freeman and Vale, for instance.”
“Vale might possibly be talked over, but Freeman seems to be a hopeless case. I’ve done my best, but he’s too much in with the worst ones. I don’t think it’s any use to talk to him,” said Gordon.
“Well, let’s try Vale again. You tackle him, Gordon, and I’ll try Claflin, and the rest of you see if you can talk over anybody else,” said Hamlin.
“I wonder if it would be possible to get Bobby to divide the section, and mark the L. A. O.’s and the Antis separately,” suggested Gordon thoughtfully.
“We might talk to him about it. He’ll do anything he can to help us, I know,” said Hamlin.
For an hour the discussion was continued, but when the boys separated it was with a most uncomfortable sense of the fact that—try as they might—they never could change the reputation of section D so long as nearly half of their number were determined to do all in their power to prevent such a change.
Mr. Horton willingly agreed to keep the records of the Antis separately, but he told the boys that that could make no real difference, since the section must rank according to its marks as a whole.

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