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HOME > Classical Novels > Boys of the Central > CHAPTER X. A PUBLIC APOLOGY.
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 The interest and excitement over the drill had by no means died out when the school assembled on Monday morning. Nothing else was discussed by the pupils who were there early, and all sorts of reports as to the punishment of those who had been guilty of such flagrant misdeeds were current.  
Eager eyes watched for the appearance of Henderson and the members of his company, but when nine o’clock struck, none of them had been seen, and Freeman’s seat was also vacant.
Crawford did not appear until the last moment, and then he dropped into his seat with an evident desire to avoid notice.
Mr. Horton looked grave and troubled, and his brief morning prayer was so full of deep feeling that it impressed even the most careless of his pupils. As soon as the opening exercises were over, he told the class to form in line and march to the hall, and much more silently than usual, and in perfect order, the boys passed up to the hall, where, in a few minutes, the whole school was assembled.

All the teachers except Professor Keene were on the platform, and every face was grave and sad.
Never had those nine hundred boys and girls gathered there on an occasion like this, and never had such a breathless silence reigned in any of their gatherings as reigned now during the few moments while they awaited the appearance of the principal.
They had not long to wait. He came upon the platform, followed by Freeman and eight of the members of Company C, but Henderson was not among them.
Professor Keene’s words to the school were very brief, but very grave and earnest. Then he turned to the boys on the platform, and gave them such a severe reprimand as he had never before given in public to any of his pupils.
Turning again to the assembled school, he said: “To perform such a duty as this, is almost as hard for me as for those whom I am obliged thus publicly to reprimand, but I am very glad to be able to add that every one of these schoolmates of yours has made to me private acknowledgment of his wrong-doing, and has promised henceforth to do his duty in the school, and to try, by his conduct in the future, to efface from all our memories the dishonorable doings of last week; and similar acknowledgment will now be made before us all.”
As the professor took his seat, Freeman stepped forward. His face was colorless, and his voice so low and husky that only those near the platform could hear him at first. Then he caught sight of Clark’s face, full of loving sympathy and encouragement. He seemed to gather strength from that look, and drawing himself up, he made a frank, manly apology to his teachers and to the school, and earnestly declared that it should be his purpose in the future to do his duty in the school as faithfully as he possibly could. As he dropped into the nearest chair, the professor held out his hand, and said in a low tone, “You did well, Freeman, and I am sure that you will live up to what you have promised.”
Baum was the next to speak, and perhaps to no boy in the school could the ordeal have been more trying than to him. He was one of the most silent of boys, never speaking unless spoken to, and then replying in the fewest possible words. He never originated any mischief in the school-room, and would certainly not have done what he did at the drill, but for his intense and bitter mortification over his blunder, and Henderson’s angry, scathing censure before the company. Desperate over all this, he snatched at the opportunity to redeem himself in his captain’s estimation, without stopping to think about the right and wrong of the services required of him.
But in the two days past, he had had time to think the matter over, and he was sincerely ashamed now of what he had done. As he stood there facing the school his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and his heart beat so that he could scarcely breathe, while the perspiration stood in great drops on his forehead.
“Go on, Baum,” said the professor, in a low tone, and the boy burst out, “I don’t know how to speak, boys, but if I should talk all day, I couldn’t begin to tell you how I despise myself for what I did, and for lying about it afterwards. If I ever cut up so again, hope I may be shot.”
Had the boys dared, they would have given a hearty cheer for Baum, but they knew better than to attempt it; but when, feeling sure that he had made a fool of himself, he dropped into his seat with flushed face and trembling hands, he had really risen many degrees in the estimation of his classmates—though he would not have believed it had any one told him so.
The other seven boys made their apologies with more or less sincerity, and then the classes were sent to their separate rooms. But the intense feeling of the morning had unfitted them for study or recitation, and both teachers and scholars were glad when the bell gave the signal for recess.
“Say, Gordon, let’s go and speak to Baum. He[129] came out like a man in the hall this morning,” said Hamlin. “There’s too good stuff in him to be wasted on that rough crowd he goes with.”

“That’s what I was thinking this morning,” said Gordon, as he followed Hamlin. Baum was leaning against the fence watching the various groups. He looked surprised when the two boys approached him, and when they stopped and spoke to him, his plain face lighted up with pleasure. To be thus publicly sought out by the captain and lieutenant of the prize company was an honor that Baum knew how to appreciate, and from that hour he ceased to find pleasure in the companionship of the Antis, and privately resolved that, if possible, his name should be on the list of L. A. O.’s next quarter.
“Where’s Freeman?” asked Hamlin, as he and Gordon joined Clark.
“He’s gone home. Horton told him to. He was not fit to come to school to-day, anyhow, but he wanted to be in the hall this morning,” answered Clark.
“He spoke well there,” said Hamlin, “and it must have been an awful hard thing for him to do.”............
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