Chapter XXIII. Balloting for a Second Lieutenant
 

"Back to Putnam Hall at last! How home-like the place looks!" Sam uttered the words as he leaped from the sleigh and ran for the main entrance, where Captain Putnam stood to receive them. He had heard of the accident, and was fearful that one or another of his pupils might have been hurt.

"Thank Providence that no one was killed or seriously injured!" he observed, as he wrung each by the hand. "Welcome, lads, and I trust you have all had happy holidays."

"he same to you, Captain Putnam!" cried one after another, and then they passed in to be greeted by George Strong and the new assistant.

Cadets kept coming back for three days, on the following Monday the regular school opened, to end in July. Soon the were as deep in their studies as ever before.

In the meantime Dick had concocted a scheme for sending Josiah Crabtree on a goose chase to Chicago. Tom had a friend in that city, and he was requested to mail without delay a certain letter which Tom enclosed with his own.

This letter was composed by Dick. It was written on a large letter-head upon which Dick printed the advertisement of the "Mid- West National College, Incorporated," doing the work on a small printing press used by some of the boys in getting out a school monthly. To make the letter even more imposing, Dick printed the body of it on a typewriter which was used by one of the classes taking a business course. The letter ran as follows:

"JOSIAH CRABTREE, A. M., Cedarville, N.,Y.

"CHICAGO, January 1, 189-.

"Dear Sir: You have been recommended to us by a New York scholastic employment agency as a first-class teacher in mathematics, history, and other branches. We are in immediate need at the opening of this term of such a teacher, and will pay two thousand dollars per year. Will you come on at once, at our expense, with a view to closing with us? Our institution is a new one, but we already have eighty pupils, of the best families of the Middle West, and are certain to have fifty more before the end of the year. We understand that you are a bachelor, which state just suits our wants. Kindly wire us and come on before Thursday the 10th, if possible. The two thousand per year is, of course, exclusive of board and suite of rooms, which, we provide for all of our instructors.

"Yours truly,

"ANDREW N. BLUFF, LL.D., President."

"If that doesn't make old Crabtree hustle then I miss my guess," said Tom after reading the communication. "He loves money too well to let that two thousand slide -- marriage or no marriage. Even if he wants to wed, he'll go West to try and fix it up to hold the position anyway."

The letter was posted to the friend in Chicago that very night. On the letter to Josiah Crabtree was placed an address in Cedarville which, was certain to catch him.

On the following day Captain Putnam, announced an election for second lieutenant of Company A. "Lieutenant Darman will not be here any longer, as his family have moved to England," he said. "I trust you elect the best cadet possible to the office. The election takes place next Wednesday at noon."

At once a lively discussion took place. There were half a dozen pupils who wanted the position, and among them were Dick, Fred, and Mumps.

"I ought to have that place," said Mumps, and on the quiet he started to buy up votes where he could not influence them in any other way. This move succeeded among the smaller lads, but the big boys turned from him with scorn.

It must be confessed that Dick was exceedingly anxious when the time for balloting arrived. Would he succeed or fail?

Just before dinner Captain Putnam brought out a square box into which ballots might be cast.

"The cadets will stand up in a row to be counted," he said. "Major Conners, will you will kindly count your command."

"Eighty-seven, including myself," announced the youthful major, after he had gone down the line and back with care.

"Are any cadets absent?"

"No, sir."

"Very well then, we will proceed to vote by having each cadet come up and cast a slip of paper with his favorite's name on it in the box. The line will march in single file, one pace from man to man. Forward!"

The captain stood by the ballot box, and up came the file, Major Conners first and Captain Blossom following. In a few minutes all of the eighty-seven ballots were in the box, and then began the sorting out.

"I will now read the result of the first ballot," announced Captain Putnam, holding up a paper with the figures, and amid a dead silence he began:

Whole number of votes cast 87 Necessary to a choice 44 Fred Garrison has 32 Richard Rover has 8 George Granbury has 15 John Fenwick has 12

"Consequently, nobody is elected. Another vote will be taken immediately after dinner," and then the companies were re-formed and marched into the mess hall.

"Fred Garrison is ahead!" came in a whisper from every side. "Good for you, Fred!"

"Mumps only got a dozen votes," came from one of the little boys. "He won't get my vote next time."

"Nor mine," chimed in his chum.

"Don't worry, Dick," whispered Tom. "The final result isn't reached yet. Somebody has got to drop out first."

The dinner finished, the boys gathered in knots to talk the question over. Soon the line was re-formed for a second ballot.

At that moment Fred Garrison stepped forward.

"Fellow students!" he cried. "One word before you vote. I wish to withdraw from the contest, doing so in favor of two of my friends, Dick Rover and George Granbury. I thank those who voted for me before from the bottom of my heart."

"Hurrah for Fred!" came from a score of throats, and a cheer rent the air. "We won't forget you next time, old man!"

Soon the second ballot was cast, and amid another silence Captain Putnam read it off:

Number of votes cast 87 Necessary to a choice 44 John Fenwick has 7 George Granbury has 23 Richard Rover has 57

"Richard Rover is declared elected second lieutenant of Company A for the balance of this term."

A cheer broke forth, and many of the cadets came up to shake Dick by the hand. Among the number were Fred and George Granbury. "You beat me fairly, Rover," said Granbury, a whole-souled fellow. "I am satisfied -- so long -- as such a cad as Mumps doesn't get an office."

"Mumps was badly left," put in Tom. "See, he is sneaking off to his room. I rather guess he wishes he hadn't run."

"I thank you all very much," said Dick, his face glowing. "I shall try to do my best as second lieutenant. Three cheers for all of the cadets of Putnam Hall!"

And the cheers broke forth with renewed vigor.

"Dick, you must do the square thing tonight," said Frank some time later.

"What do you mean?" asked the elder Rover.

"When a fellow is elected to an office he is supposed to treat his friends. All of the cadets will be sneaking up to your dormitory some time between ten and twelve o'clock tonight."

"Indeed!" Dick mused for a moment.

"All right -- I'll be ready for them, Frank; but mum is the word."

"You will treat?"

"I'll treat every cadet who shows himself and doesn't make any noise."

"Good for you! Then I can spread the word that it is all right?"

"Yes -- but, Frank..."

"Well?"

"Beware of Mumps. If he heard of what is going on I think he would try to spoil our game."

"I'll be careful," answered Frank, and hurried off in one direction, while Dick hurried off in another.

Both had scarcely disappeared than Mumps came forth from behind a hall rack which stood close at hand.

"How lucky to overhear their talk," said the sneak. "Will I spoil their game? Well, just wait and see, that's all!"