Dick merriwells trap; or.., p.12
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       Dick Merriwell's Trap; Or, The Chap Who Bungled, p.12
 

          
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  CHAPTER XII--A WARM MEETING

  There was excitement enough that night when the meeting was called inone of the classrooms to elect a member to fill the place made vacant onthe athletic committee by the resignation.

  Not all the students at the academy took an active interest inathletics, but the crowd that pressed into the room filled it to anuncomfortable degree.

  The friends of Chester Arlington had been hard at work that day, andthey were confident that Chester would win. He had resorted to themethods of a politician, many of which are questionable. He had money,and he knew how to spend it to make an effect.

  His most formidable rival was George Hardy, and Hardy had never been apopular man at Fardale. Still, it was said that Hardy would carry theday in case Dick Merriwell came out openly and took sides with him. ThisDick had been urged by his friends to do.

  "No," he said, shaking his head. "Already they say I run the team as Ichoose, that I have worked all my friends on to it, and that it is notfair. I am going to keep out of this affair and let the boys settle itas they like."

  Brad Buckhart pulled hard for Hardy, but he found it difficult to uniteDick's friends on that candidate. It was only by convincing them thatChester would surely win if they did not unite that he succeeded.

  There was a third candidate who entered the field late in the day. Itwas Joe Savage.

  Now, Savage was known to be friendly in his talk toward Dick Merriwell,and many of Dick's friends regretted that he had not decided sooner totake a hand in the struggle. As it was, the most of them had beenpledged to Hardy by the energetic and wily Buckhart.

  Brad had grown confident as the time for the meeting drew near.

  "If all the fellows who have talked favorable stand by Hardy, we've gotthat Arlington crowd buried," he said.

  But Buckhart had to learn that pledges and fair talk may not always berelied on, a fact that many a defeated politician has discovered to hissorrow.

  The Arlington workers continued their efforts right up to the time themeeting was called to order.

  Elmer Dow, who had managed the basket-ball team once, was chosenchairman and mounted the platform. Having called the meeting to order,he suggested that a committee of three be chosen to count the votes, forit was already settled that the candidate should be elected by writtenballot.

  Instantly Buckhart was on his feet, proposing the name of DickMerriwell. Somebody hissed. That hiss was enough to start an uproar. Ina twinkling it was demonstrated that Dick had plenty of friends--infact, that the great majority of those present were his friends.

  When silence was restored, Dick rose and was recognized by the chairman.

  "Gentlemen," he said quietly, "I think it will be far better to selecton that committee those who are not too closely connected with theeleven. For that reason I must beg you to excuse me from serving."

  "No, no, no!" roared the cadets.

  "Merriwell! Merriwell!" they stormed.

  The Arlington crowd seemed silent. Chester had not failed to note thatDick had not openly entered into the contest against him, although hehad expected something of the sort. However, he did not wish to see Dickon that platform.

  The outcries showed that the meeting insisted on having Dick serve aschairman of the committee to count the votes.

  "Mr. Merriwell," said Dow, "I think you had better reconsider. You canplainly see that you are wanted on this committee, and you will do afavor to the meeting by serving."

  "Merriwell, Merriwell!" came from every side of the room.

  "All right," smiled Dick. "If I am chosen, I will serve, Mr. Chairman."

  Dow put the vote at once.

  "All those in favor of Mr. Merriwell manifest it by a show of hands."

  "Up, up!" was the cry. "Up hands!"

  "It is a vote," said Dow, looking over the demonstration of upliftedhands.

  No one doubted it, and Dick was called to the platform. Ned Stanton'sname was next proposed, and there was no opposition. Then Brad Buckhartwas nominated. This raised another uproar, for Brad had plenty ofenemies. A strong opposition was shown at once.

  Brad said not a word, but mentally he observed:

  "Well, if I'm elected you bet your boots I'm going to serve! I am, Iknow!"

  The vote was taken by a show of hands. Brad's friends came out strong atthis, but the vote was immediately doubted. Then there was a showing ofhands, while the chairman surveyed the gathering.

  When he called for the contrary-minded it was seen that Brad had won,and he was called to the platform. He was given a round of applause ashe took his seat with Merriwell and Stanton.

  Then Dow got up and made a brief speech, in which he suggested theadvisability of getting as good a man as possible for the position. Afew moments later, amid the greatest excitement, the balloting began.

  "Here are your Arlington votes!" cried a fellow climbing on the seatsnear one aisle. "Right this way for your Arlington votes."

  "Arlington, Arlington!" shouted another fellow, standing on the seatsnear another aisle. "The entering class must have a man on thatcommittee. It's no more than fair. Vote for Arlington. Here you go!"

  In fact, it seemed that fellows with Arlington votes were everywhere,and these votes they urged on every one. Those who favored Hardy werenot as well prepared with votes, and Buckhart grew uneasy as he sat andwatched the workers for Chester Arlington getting rid of their ballots.

  "If that galoot is elected, Dick can blame himself," thought the Texan."He might have crushed Chester Arlington with a word, but he would notsay that word."

  Dow watched the voters closely as they filed past the ballot-box. He hada sharp pair of eyes, and he was looking for "stuffing" and for"repeaters."

  "Hold on!" he suddenly exclaimed, closing the box with a snap. "You havevoted before, Macomber! That kind of work will not go here, and I wanteverybody to understand it!"

  Macomber tried to pass it off as a joke.

  "I believe in voting early and often," he said.

  "You may vote as early as you like, but once on a ballot is the limit,"said Dow.

  Macomber passed on, and the ballot-box was reopened.

  "How is it going, do you think?" asked Stanton, of Buckhart.

  "Blowed if I know!" confessed Brad, in a low tone. "But I'm afraidArlington will carry it."

  "Too bad!" said Stanton, and the Texan knew for the first time just howthe third man on the committee stood.

  The entire counting-committee was unfavorable to the plebe who sought aposition on the athletic board.

  Arlington's friends knew this, and some of them commented on it.

  "What kind of a show has Chet got with those fellows to count thevotes!" said one.

  "He wouldn't have a show if Merriwell was not on the committee," saidanother. "Merriwell is square, and you can bet your life Chet will getthe position if he's elected."

  The voting took some time. When it seemed all over Dow rapped on thetable beside him and asked if the votes were all in.

  "Hold on!" was the cry from the rear.

  Into the room a fellow was dragged by three Arlington workers and rusheddown the aisle. He was red in the face, but cast his vote, laughing ashe did so.

  "Here comes another!" shouted a voice.

  Another fellow was marched down the aisle by an Arlington worker.

  "Bad!" growled Buckhart. "And no one working against the fellow likethat! Bad, bad!"

  At last there seemed no more to vote, and the polls were declaredclosed. A few moments later, amid breathless silence, the countingbegan. Would Arlington win?

  Ted Smart, Billy Bradley, Chip Jolliby, Bob Singleton, and Hugh Douglaswere in a group at the rear of the room.

  "Dear me!" said Ted. "How slow this is! Why, there's nothing interestingabout it!"

  Singleton was watching Buckhart's face.

  "I'm afraid Arlington has won," he said.

  "What mum-mum-makes you think so?" chattered Jolliby.

  "Buckhart looks worried."
>
  "Hi 'ave an idea it is very close, don't y' 'now," said Bradley.

  The votes had been sorted into three piles, and the committee went overthem again. The gathering was pretty quiet now, as it was a time ofgreat anxiety. Chester Arlington seemed confident. He was smiling andserene.

  Buckhart was seen making some figures, but Dick Merriwell, who watchedhim, shook his head and seemed pointing out a mistake. Brad nodded, andthen the slip of paper with the figures on it was passed to Dow byMerriwell. Dow rapped for order.

  "Gentlemen," he said, "you will listen to your vote. Whole number ofvotes cast, 238. Necessary for choice, 119. George Hardy has 102;Chester Arlington, 97; Joseph Savage, 39. Therefore, there is no choice,and another ballot----"

  The rest of his speech was drowned in the roar that rose. ChesterArlington had not won. Hardy led him by five votes.

  "Fraud, fraud!" cried somebody.

  Instantly there was a surging mob round the fellow who uttered theaccusing cry. Arlington's friends were disappointed. They hadanticipated throwing at least a hundred and fifty votes.

  "Shut up that fool who is crying fraud!" commanded Chester. "If youdon't, we'll get it in the neck sure."

  So the one who made the cry was choked off immediately.

  Another vote would have to be taken, and now the disappointed Arlingtoncrowd set to work with redoubled earnestness. Chester went among them,assuring them that he believed the count had been fair.

  "Then how can you account for our failure to poll the number weexpected?" he was asked.

  "Simply by the fact, as it seems, that a number of those who took votesand promised to support me failed to do so."

  A large number of cadets had remained away from the meeting, but now theworkers rushed away to various rooms, determined to bring out every onewho could be induced to come. Many a fellow who declined to come, ortried to beg off, was brought along by main force and rammed into thecrowded classroom.

  "It's going to be a heavier vote this time," said Dick.

  "You bet," nodded Brad, who still looked worried. "I opine Arlingtonwill carry it on the next ballot."

  "What makes you think so?"

  "I'll bet he has twenty fellows pulling 'em in. If he doesn't make it, Ishall be relieved."

  "If he doesn't make it this time," said Dick, "his chance will growslimmer."

  "What makes you think so?"

  "His friends have secured this vote for him by their hard work, andthey'll have trouble to hold the fellows they have dragged in here.Arlington is not really popular."

  But Brad grew more and more nervous as the voting continued. TheArlington crowd made lots of noise, and it seemed that the majority ofthose present must favor him.

  As before, Elmer Dow was keenly on the alert to prevent fraud, and"repeating" was not attempted. One "call down" had been given, and thatwas enough to make the tricky fellows wary.

  After a while the voting decreased. Three times Dow asked if all thevotes were in, and each time from the rear of the room came a shout forhim to hold on. He waited as one last voter was hurried down the aisleby the Arlington workers, and then he declared the balloting closed.

  "Arlington has carried it," said Singleton regretfully.

  "Hi don't believe hit!" exclaimed Billy Bradley.

  "I'm gosh-darn afuf-fuf-fraid of it!" admitted Chip Jolliby.

  The gathering watched the counting of the votes, seeing them singled outinto three piles. Then there was some figuring on paper, and DickMerriwell was heard to say: "That's right."

  The chairman rapped, but the meeting was silent and anxious already.

  "Gentlemen," said Dow, "listen to the vote. Whole number cast, 253."

  "Fifteen more than before," said Smart, to his companions.

  "Necessary for choice," announced Dow, "127. Chester Arlington has 111;George Hardy, 101; Joseph Savage, 41. Therefore----"

  "No vote!" was the shout that went up.

  Arlington had taken the lead on this ballot, but had not received amajority over both his opponents. Hardy had lost one vote, Savage hadgained two, and Chester Arlington fourteen.

  "Arlington!" was the cry.

  "If Savage would withdraw in favor of Hardy," said Ned Stanton to hiscompanions on the committee, "it would settle things in short order andknock Arlington out."

  Dick Merriwell said nothing, but he had seen a fellow he knew as anArlington worker approach Joe Savage and say something to him. He hadseen Savage shake his head, and then the fellow said something more,upon which Savage looked startled and seemed to remonstrate. At this,the fellow snapped his fingers and walked away.

  "Something doing there!" thought Dick.

  He was right.

  "Gentlemen," said Elmer Dow, "the polls are again declared open. Bringin your votes."

  Dick was still watching Savage. He saw Joe falter and look round; then,of a sudden, the fellow stepped up on a bench and cried:

  "Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the meeting, as there seems to be adeadlock, and as it is plain I have very little chance of being elected,I rise to withdraw from the field. At the same time, I wish to suggestthat those who have cast their votes for me now throw them for ChesterArlington, as I believe it fair and right for the entering class to havea representative on the committee."

  Then he stepped down, but he had exploded a bombshell, and there wasconsternation in the meeting.

  Brad Buckhart had shot to his feet as he heard Savage speak Arlington'sname, and now he dropped back, gasping:

  "I'll--be--shot!"

  "Arlington, Arlington!" was the mad cry that went up.

  Brad turned to Dick.

  "Partner, am I dreaming?" he asked. "Did I hear straight? Did that onerygaloot say Arlington?"

  "That's what he said," nodded Dick.

  "And he pretends to be your friend! Well, he ought to be lynched like ahorse-thief!"

  Dick had been astonished, but he was master of himself, and he did notshow his surprise.

  "It was worked somehow," he said. "I don't believe Savage really wantedto withdraw in favor of Arlington, but he was driven into it."

  "Driven? Driven how?"

  "I can't say."

  "He's just an onery, two-faced----"

  Dick's hand fell on Brad's arm.

  "Careful!" he said. "Don't raise your voice, old man."

  "Give me a gun," growled the Texan, "and I'll sure go out yon and shoothim up some!"

  The balloting had begun, and Arlington's friends were working harderthan ever.

  "We've got them now!" they sang joyously.

  The voting was rushed along at a lively rate, and there was no delay todrag in any one. In a short time the chairman declared the ballotingover, and then the counting of the votes began. As the members of thecommittee separated the votes into two piles it soon became apparentthat the vote was nearly a tie.

  Not all of those who had voted for Savage had swung to Arlington on therecommendation of Savage. Finally the votes were sorted, and a recountwas made.

  Brad Buckhart was pale.

  "He's got it, pard!" he whispered. "Got it by one vote! No, by thunder!He shall not have it!"

  Then Dick saw Brad, in running over Arlington's votes, cleverly slip twoof them into his palm.

  Ned Stanton, however, did not detect the trick.

  "What do you make it, Stanton?" asked Dick.

  "One hundred and twenty-three for Arlington."

  "That's right," said Buckhart huskily. "And Hardy has one hundred andtwenty-four."

  "Then Hardy wins!" said Stanton, with satisfaction.

  "Wait," said Dick. "Let's be sure of this. Let's count them over again."

  "What for?" asked Brad.

  "Because I want to make sure."

  Dick carried his point.

  "Brad," he whispered in Buckhart's ear, without looking toward hisroommate, "I want you to put back those two votes. Put them back, or Ishall have to expose you!"

  The Texan turned like chalk. His hands shook a
little, and the countingwent on.

  "By George, we were wrong!" said Stanton, as they finished. "Arlingtonhas one hundred and twenty-five! He wins by one vote."

  "Correct," said Merriwell, and he gave the figures to the chairman,whose announcement of the result was followed by a mighty cheer for thevictor.

 
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