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HOME > Classical Novels > Boys of the Central > CHAPTER XI. NEW PUPILS IN SECTION D.
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 School reopened the second Monday in September, and long before nine o’clock the boys and girls began to gather about the steps, waiting for the janitor to open the doors.  
Hamlin had overtaken Clark and Freeman, and when the three reached the schoolhouse gate they found a goodly number there before them, and many voices called out greetings, especially to Hamlin.
“There’s a newcomer,” Clark said; “up there near the door.”
“The chap with the rosy locks?” answered Hamlin. “Yes, he’s new, but he seems to be making himself very much at home. He’s talking away with the old fellows as if he had known them all his life. There! Jimmy’s opening the doors. Let’s wait here a bit. I don’t care to hustle through that crowd.”
“Evidently, he of the rosy locks doesn’t either,” remarked Clark, noticing that the red-haired boy had not passed in with the throng, but remained on the upper step with two or three other boys.
“Look at him, will you! Well, if he isn’t a cheeky cad!” exclaimed Hamlin a moment later, as the boy they were watching pulled off his hat and made a low bow to a group of girls passing to the other door. Among these girls was Gordon’s sister, and Grace Harlan, a cousin of Hamlin’s.
“I’d like to punch his head for him. He doesn’t know those girls—not one of them spoke to him,” Hamlin added.
“Wonder if he’ll be in our section,” said Clark, as the three boys passed up the steps.
“Hope not,” replied Hamlin. “We don’t want any of his sort in section D.”
A shout of welcome met them as they entered their own class-room, and Clark felt happier than he had ever felt before in that school-room as one and another called out a friendly greeting. Several took pains to speak to Freeman, whose sensitive face showed his appreciation of the kindness.
“Wonder if Green isn’t coming back,” said Gordon, noticing his vacant seat.
“No,” volunteered Coyle, “he’s gone to work.”
Gordon and Hamlin exchanged glances of satisfaction at this information, and both thought, “One less of the Antis.”
Green had been one of the most disagreeable boys in the class, and very few felt sorry that he would come among them no more. Several other seats[140] were vacant, but only one of the L. A. O.’s had failed to return. That one was Bates, who had gone to boarding-school.
Soon after the opening exercises were over, Prof Keene appeared with four new boys, and Hamlin threw a doleful glance at Clark, for the first of the new-comers was the red-headed boy whom they had seen on the steps. The second was a tall, handsome lad of perhaps seventeen, and the other two were ordinary looking boys of ordinary ability, not destined to have much influence one way or the other on the standing of section D.
Of course the school could not get into smooth running order that first day, and the recess was prolonged to nearly twice its usual length. A group of the L. A. O.’s quickly got together in a corner of the playground, and, as Hamlin, Gordon, Raleigh and Sherman were among the number, the talk soon drifted to the subjects dear to all their hearts—the L. A. O. and the standing of D section.
“Say, fellows,” Hamlin began, “with Green and Henderson gone, seems to me we might get the few Antis left to join us now. If they’d only do their best, we could easily put old section D at the top this year.”
“There’s Crawford left—and Coyle,” remarked one, doubtfully.
“Coyle’s a bad lot, I know, but he’s only one; and[141] somehow, I’ve a notion that Crawford has come back with different ideas, this term,” said Gordon.
“Why—what makes you think that?” questioned Raleigh.
“I don’t know really,” answered Gordon, thoughtfully, “only somehow there’s a different air about him. There he is over there, now.”
Every eye in the group followed Gordon’s glance to where Crawford stood leaning against the fence. There was no one near him, and something in his attitude, and in the expression of his face, convinced more than one of the boys that Gordon was right, and that Crawford was changed somehow.
“Suppose there’d be any use in asking him to join the L. A. O.?” questioned Sherman, after a moment’s silence.
“I should say ask him, by all means. He can’t do more than refuse,” said Gordon; “and we must ask the new fellows, of course. Hamlin, will you interview Rosy or the black-eyed chap?”
“Neither. I’ll take the other two fellows,” said Hamlin, promptly.
“All right, then I’ll see to the black-eyed fellow; and Sherman, you might interview Rosy. I’m going to speak to Crawford, now.”
Crawford looked greatly surprised as Gordon approached, and yet more surprised when the latter made known his errand. He dropped his eyes, the[142] color mounted in his dark cheeks, and for a moment he was silent. Then he looked Gordon full in the face and said slowly:—
“Do you really want me, Gordon?”
“I certainly do, or I would not have asked you,” was the quiet reply.
“And the other fellows?” questioned Crawford.
“I think we shall all be glad to have you join us, Crawford,” said Gordon.
“Gordon—I don’t suppose you know what it is to be ashamed of yourself through and through. I do—and I don’t enjoy the feeling.” There was a ring of pain in Crawford’s voice as he spoke, and Gordon could not question his sincerity. He held out his hand saying, heartily:—
“The best of us go wrong so often that we can’t afford to be hard on anybody who is honestly sorry, Crawford. I want you on our side this year to help us make the old Central proud of section D.”
Crawford grasped the offered hand and then turned away without another word, but Gordon felt that the look on his face was more eloquent than any words could have been.
When he went back to the group in the corner and reported his success, some of the boys looked doubtful. They found it hard yet to believe that Crawford was in earnest, but at least they were glad to be able to hope that he would no longer lead the idle and troublesome element into fresh mischief.
“If Coyle could only be gotten rid of, now,” remarked Raleigh, “we might hope to make a fine record this year, so far as deportment goes. It remains to be seen what kind of students these new fellows are.”
“That black-eyed chap looks as if he had brains,” remarked Reed.
“Looks to me as if he thought he had the monopoly of brains,” put in Hamlin.
“He does have rather a high and mighty air,” said Sherman. “May be only shyness, though. Some fellows put on airs like that when their hearts are in their boots.”
“He isn’t troubled with shyness—anything but,” retorted Hamlin.
“Neither is Rosy, for that matter,” remarked Clark laughingly.
“You’re right there, Clark,” said Hamlin; “but there goes the bell. Say, Gordon,” he added, as they moved towards the door, “can’t we have a meeting of the L. A. O. to-morrow, to let these new fellows get an idea of what we want to do this year?”
“All right,” responded Gordon, “we’ll say after school to-morrow, then.”
When, the next day, Gordon called the meeting to order, his face beamed with satisfaction as he looked around and saw that almost the entire section was present. The only exceptions were Coyle,[144] Barber, one of his special friends, and the black-eyed boy whom Gordon was to have invited to join them.
This was the first of these meetings at which Clark, Freeman or Crawford had been present, but certainly no one in the room was more interested than these three, who for such different reasons had hitherto been absent.
Gordon was usually very quiet and rather reserved, but he was very fond of the Central high school, as his father had been before him, and he had come back full of the desire that it should stand as high, if not higher, this year, than in the old days when his father was so proud of its reputation. So, to-day, he was so eager and so full of enthusiastic plans for raising the standard of the class, and gaining for it first rank in the school, that before long the other members of the L. A. O. caught something of his spirit, and all sorts of plans and propositions were made. It was unanimously resolved that every member should do his very best in class, and that not even the drill or ball games should be allowed to interfere with the great object.
Three of the new boys were present at this meeting, but only Dixon, or “Rosy,” as he was already dubbed in the class, made any remarks. He was on his feet half a dozen times, asking questions, making suggestions, or offering amendments.
When the meeting was over, and all but Gordon[145] and Hamlin had left the room, the latter threw himself into a seat exclaiming, “Well, I reckon we’ll get enough of that Rosy before the year is ended! He’s of a retiring disposition, isn’t he?”
Gordon laughed. “He won’t have so many questions to ask next time,” he said.
“Won’t? Don’t you believe it. He’ll always have a raft of ’em to reel off. He may be a very nice chap, but deliver me from having anything to do with any more of the sort. But how about his royal highness with the black eyes? Wouldn’t he condescend to accept the invitation?”
“No,” said Gordon quietly, though his face flushed at the question.
“Oh, come, Gordon, you might as well out with it. Your face gives you away. What did he say?”
“Well,” said Gordon with a half laugh, “he drew himself up and looked at me as if I were a toad or a snake, and remarked that he had come here to study—not to fool away his time in clubs or any such nonsense, and that he would thank me to leave him alone.”
“Whew!” whistled Hamlin, “he’ll be pretty popular here, won’t he?” Then he added, indignantly, “Well, if he isn’t a cool customer! I reckon he’ll be let alone emphatically, hereafter.”
“Yes,” said Gordon, “but there’s one good thing. If he’s a fine scholar, and I fancy that he is, he’ll[146] help the section that way, in spite of himself; and certainly, that sort of a fellow won’t be cutting up or getting others into mischief, so he won’t work against the L. A. O.”
“That’s so,” answered Hamlin; “but what a chump he is to take such a stand as that, and lose all the good times he might have here.”
“Yes,” assented Gordon, “but see here, Hamlin, let’s not tell the other fellows anything about this. It would turn them all against him, and I don’t think he’s likely to make many friends anyhow.”
“Evidently he does not care to make any,” said Hamlin.
“It seems not, but you know if the fellows get set against him, some of them will do their best to make it hot for him. You and I don’t want to have any hand in that sort of thing, so we’ll keep mum about this—shan’t we?”
“Oh, I suppose so,” grumbled Hamlin. “I feel as if I’d like to kick him myself, and I reckon most of the boys would feel the same way. We’ll let his royal highness severely alone, since that’s his pleasure. By............
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