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HOME > Classical Novels > Boys of the Central > CHAPTER XIII. THE ELECTION.
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 The next day, Thursday, when Hamlin reached the school-room, he found there a group of boys eagerly discussing the election and the sudden and unaccountable change in the sentiments of Company C.  
“I can’t see through it,” Raleigh was saying as Hamlin entered. “Yesterday morning one of the boys told me that thirty-three of the company were pledged to vote for Griffin, and in the meeting after drill you know that Coyle declared that thirty-three were pledged to vote for Graham. There’s something snaky about it all, I believe.”
“So do I,” declared Hamlin. “Coyle’s up to mischief. You know he hates all of us who have tried to put down disorder in the class, and I don’t believe he means to vote for Graham any more than he means to vote for his royal highness, St. John.”
“So I say,” cried Reed. “Coyle’s awful slippery, and he’ll stop at nothing when he’s made up his mind to put a scheme through.”
Freeman, though not in the battalion, was as deeply interested as those who were, in the matter under discussion. As he listened to the talk, he was idly turning the leaves of a copy of the school catalogue which was lying on his desk.
Suddenly he sprang up and held the book open before Hamlin’s eyes, while he pointed excitedly to a name in the list of senior pupils. Hamlin looked at it in a perplexed way for an instant, then he cried out, “I say, fellows,” but stopping suddenly, he looked keenly around the room, and then ran and shut the door into the hall.
“Well, what’s the matter with Hamlin? Evidently he’s not all right,” cried one wonderingly, as Hamlin began:—
“There’s not one of Coyle’s crowd here, so I’ll tell you what’s the matter with Hamlin. I believe we’ve got hold of Coyle’s scheme, thanks to Freeman. Look here!”
He held up the catalogue and pointed to one of the names. It was Thomas Graham Griffin.
“Don’t you see?” he went on. “Coyle and his crowd are going to vote for Graham, as he said, but it’s Graham Griffin, not Alec Graham. He counted on our not remembering that Griffin’s middle name is Graham.”
“That’s it, sure as sneezing!” exclaimed Reed, “and Coyle said it to keep us from trying to get[171] votes for Graham. Well, I call that a right down mean trick.”
“Here comes Gordon,” cried Freeman, as the door opened, and at once Gordon was surrounded by the excited group, all trying to tell him the story at once. He listened with a troubled face.
“Oh, it’s too bad,” he said, when the clamor subsided a little. “If this is so, Graham won’t be elected at all, and Griffin is no kind of a fellow to be captain of Company C.”
But now the boys came trooping in, as it was approaching nine o’clock, and with a hasty word of caution to let no hint get to Coyle of their understanding of the real state of things, Gordon took his seat.
It was not easy for him and some others, however, to give their usual attention to their studies, and they were glad when recess set them free to think and speak of all that was in their thoughts.
Gordon asked permission for a few of the boys to remain in the school-room during the intermission, and then the situation was earnestly discussed. The list of members of Company C was carefully scanned. Some, they knew, would vote for Griffin; some, they were sure, would not. But there were twenty doubtful ones.
“We must manage to see every one of these twenty,” Gordon said. “Some of them, probably,[172] are pledged to Griffin, but some, I’m sure, would rather have Graham over them.”
“Unless Coyle has managed somehow to set them against Graham,” interposed Hamlin.
“How could he set them against Graham?” said Gordon.
“I don’t know how, but he’s capable of lying to any extent to do it. We all know that,” answered Hamlin.
“That’s so,” cried several voices.
“Why can’t we go to some of the nice fellows in the company and ask them point-blank about it?” suggested Clark.
“Yes, why not? Seems to me that’s the thing to do,” said Reed.
“Who’s the best one to do it, then?” questioned Gordon. “If Coyle has told ’em a lot of stuff to set ’em against Graham, likely he’s said as much about Hamlin and me, and all the rest of us.”
“Yes, but all the same, some in Company C are real good fellows, and if they found that Coyle had been lying to them about Graham, they wouldn’t stand by him or his candidate,” said Hamlin.
“I should think four or five of us could do the business. Each one of the four, say, might see five of the twenty fellows between now and school time to-morrow and try to get to the bottom of this, and at the same time try to get as many as possible of the twenty to vote for Graham,” said Sherman.
“It’s the best thing we can do,” said Gordon, “though, if they’ve promised Griffin their votes—” he added doubtfully.
“If they’ve promised because of false statements made to them, they have surely a right to change their votes,” said Clark.
“That’s so,” said Raleigh; “but see here, can’t we keep this thing quiet, so that if we do succeed in making enough fellows change their votes to elect Graham, that Coyle and his crowd shall not suspect it?”
“It would be fine if we could keep them in the dark and turn the tables on them to-morrow at the election,” laughed Hamlin.
“Wouldn’t it, though!” chuckled Reed. “Let’s try for it, do!”
“I’ll be only too thankful if we can put Graham in, anyhow,” said Gordon in a troubled voice. “Griffin’s influence is bad—a good deal worse than Professor Keene suspects, or he’d never in the world allow him to be a candidate.”
“If that is so, Professor Keene ought to know it,” said Clark.
“Nobody in this crowd goes in for telling tales,” cried Lee, with a look at Clark that pointed the remark.
Clark colored and turned away, but instantly Hamlin’s arm was thrown across his shoulders, and Hamlin’s clear voice rang out indignantly:—
“For shame, Lee,” he cried. “We all know that Clark does not deserve that. I’d like to know if you consider it more honorable to keep still and let a bad fellow lead a dozen others into evil ways, than to warn the professor and so save them. For my part, I’d rather be called a telltale than to feel that I’d had a hand in any boy’s downfall.”
Lee’s face darkened, and he muttered something, under his breath, about “cowards and cheats.”
It was Gordon who broke the silence that followed.
“I can bear witness that Clark was anything but cowardly in that affair last year,” he said; “and since I’ve become better acquainted with him, I’ve been convinced that there was some underhanded work about that pony business. I mean that somebody else, and not Clark, was the one to blame.”
“And I know who it was,” added Reed.
At this, all eyes were turned on him, and half a dozen voices cried out:—
“Who, who?”
For a moment Reed hesitated, then he said, “Henderson had a hand in it.”
“Well, who else? Why don’t you out with it?” questioned Hamlin, eagerly.
“Bet a cooky ’twas Crawford,” cried Raleigh. “It was, it was!” he added, as Reed colored, and remained silent.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Gordon. “It’s too bad to have anything more come out against Crawford, now when he’s trying to live down last year’s record.”
“That’s so,” said Reed, earnestly, “and I’m sorry I spoke, but I’ve felt for a long time that it wasn’t fair to Clark to keep still about that. Say boys, if I tell you the whole story, will you all promise not to repeat a word of it to anyone?”
“Yes, yes,” cried every boy except Clark and Gordon. The latter, less excitable and more thoughtful than most of the others, said:—
“Hold on—I don’t promise till I’ve thought it all out. If we’ve been wronging Clark, we owe it to him to let the truth be known.”
But now Clark spoke. “Boys,” he said, “you have been wronging me, for I never saw that pony until Mr. Horton held it up before me; but if all of you here believe me, I’m perfectly willing to let the matter rest. Crawford is having a hard enough time as it is, this year. If he had a hand in this thing, I’m only too glad to forget it all, if the rest of you will do the same.”
“Three cheers for Clark!” cried Reed, but Clark interposed quickly:—
“No, no, don’t! We’ll have a crowd in here to know what it’s all about.”
Gordon walked over to Clark and held out his hand as he said:—
“I, for one, have perfect confidence in Clark’s honor, and I know he’s no coward.”
Clark’s eyes were not so clear as usual as he wrung the offered hand, but he knew that from that hour no shadow would rest on his name in the minds of those present. No shadow? Ah yes—even in that the happiest hour of his school life, the shadow of his father’s sin fell upon him—and the light faded from his eyes and his lips took their old sad curve, as he turned to Reed, and said:—
“Reed, you know that someone put that pony in my desk without my knowledge?”
“I do,” said Reed, promptly; “I heard the whole thing planned.”
“Well then, for my sake, I beg that you will never tell anyone anything more about it. And boys, once more for my sake, don’t let what Reed has said make any difference in your treatment of anyone in the school. Will you all promise?”
Very reluctantly was the promise given, but it was given.
After school it was decided that Gordon, Hamlin and Reed should see that day as many as possible of the twenty boys referred to, in Company C. Then the three were to meet at Hamlin’s house to compare notes and see if there was any chance of Graham’s election. If not, they must decide whether or not they should refer the matter to Prof. Keene.
At ten o’clock that night, Hamlin was walking impatiently back and forth in the librar............
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