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    Chapter 23

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    Chapter 24
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    AN ELECTION OF OFFICERS

    "Election of officers to-morrow!"

    "As if every cadet at the school didn't know it, Pepper."

    "Well, Andy, have you made up your mind how you are going to vote?"

    "Sure I have," replied the acrobatic youth. "I am going to vote for Bart Conners for major, since Jack don't want to run again."

    "That's the way I am going to vote, too."

    "How about the two captains?" asked Joe Nelson.

    "Well, I think I'll vote for Dave Kearney for one," answered Pepper. "I am not so sure about the other."

    "What's the matter with Harry Blossom?" asked Bert Field. "He seems to be a nice sort."

    "He is."

    "I understand Reff Ritter wants to be a captain," put in Stuffer.

    "Sure, an' he'd be afther wantin' to be major, only he ain't popular enough," came from Emerald.

    "Coulter is out for a captaincy, too," said Jack, who had come up during the talk.

    "Do you think either of them will be elected?" asked Andy.

    "Not if I can prevent it," replied the young major. "Neither of them deserves any office."

    "I understand Dan Baxter wants to be major," said Stuffer. "Talk about gall! What has he ever done for the school? Nothing."

    "He won't get the office," said Jack.

    "Is Bart going to have a walkover?" asked Pepper.

    "Hardly. Both Dave Kearney and Harry Blossom will run against him, and so will Bob Grenwood, and they all have their friends."

    "Well, let the best fellows win, say I!" cried Andy, and then he ran off, to do some fancy "stunts" in the gymnasium.

    The excitement attending the disappearance of Bart Conners's stickpin and Dan Baxter's money had somewhat subsided, and now the cadets could think of nothing but the coming election.

    "How many cadets are there to vote?" asked Pepper, as he and Jack walked away to the river to skate.

    "Eighty-three."

    "Then it will take forty-two votes to elect anybody."

    "That's it."

    "Well, I hope Bart gets the forty-two votes."

    "I have been doing a little figuring, and I think he can count on at least thirty-one votes. But I am not so sure of the other eleven."

    The election of officers was made the occasion of a holiday at Putnam Hall. Immediately after breakfast, the battalion was formed and marched around the campus and then to the gymnasium. Here Captain Putnam made a little speech, in which he announced that the balloting for a major would be immediately followed by the balloting for one captain and then the other, and then for the lieutenants.

    "It is now nine-thirty," concluded Captain Putnam. "Balloting for a new major will take place promptly at ten o'clock."

    "Captain Putnam, may I say a word?" asked Major Jack, saluting with his sword.

    "Certainly, Major Ruddy."

    "Fellow cadets," began Jack, in a clear, steady voice. "All I wish to say is this: As major of the Putnam Hall Battalion I have enjoyed myself very much, and I trust my successor, whoever he may be, will have as good a time. I understand that some of you want to vote for me again. Let me say that I am not a candidate, and will not accept the office even if elected. I expect to leave this institution next June, and in the meantime hope to devote my time mostly to my studies. I thank you for your attention."

    "Hurrah!" shouted a number of the cadets.

    "Three cheers for Major Ruddy!" shouted Pepper, and they were given with a will.

    "We'll never get a better major!" called out one enthusiastic cadet.

    After that there was a great canvassing for votes. Dan Baxter was unusually active, and Jack and Pepper felt certain that he was trying one of his old tricks, namely, that of buying votes. Some of the poorer cadets had very little spending money, and it was a great temptation to them to have money offered for their ballots. Of course, buying votes was dishonorable, and Baxter had to work on the sly. Ritter also tried to buy votes, but soon found out that very few of the cadets would even listen to him, because of the way he had misled them in the past.

    At last came the time to vote, and the ballot-box was placed on a table in charge of two cadets and George Strong, who had consented to act as judge of the election.

    "This is for a new major only," announced George Strong. "You will step up and vote as your names are called."

    It took but a few minutes to cast the eighty-three ballots. Then the vote was tabulated, while the boys stood around on the tiptoe of expectation.

    "I will read the result," announced Captain Putnam, after receiving a paper from Mr. Strong, and he read as follows:

    "Whole number of votes cast, 83. Necessary to a choice, 42. Paul Singleton has 4. Henry Lee has 5. Harry Blossom has 7. David Kearney has 9. Reffton Ritter has 12. Daniel Baxter has 18. Bart Conners has 28."

    "Nobody is elected," said Pepper, in a disappointed voice.

    "Boys, you will have to try it again," said Captain Putnam.

    "I beg to withdraw my name from the list of candidates," cried Paul Singleton. "All who voted for me will kindly vote for Bart Conners, who is my choice."

    "We must beat Ritter and Baxter!" said Andy, in a low voice.

    "That's right!" cried another of the cadets. "But how?"

    "Let us try to make up a slate," proposed Jack, who was something of a politician. "Harry Blossom and Dave Kearney might withdraw in favor of Bart Conners if the fellows promised to support them for the two captaincies."

    "Let us see if it can be done," returned Pepper, quickly. "Hustle now, for we've got to vote again in fifteen minutes."

    They hurried around and interviewed Blossom and Kearney, and about twenty other cadets. As a consequence, the pair named said they would withdraw in favor of Bart Conners if supported for the captaincies later. In the meantime Henry Lee said he would drop out also, since he expected to leave school in June.

    Once again the ballots were cast, and now it was easy to see that Bart, Ritter and Baxter were exceedingly anxious. Both Ritter and Baxter did their best to gain the votes dropped by Henry Lee and Paul Singleton.

    "I will read the result," said Captain Putnam, a few minutes later. And amid a breathless silence, he read the following:

    "Whole number of votes cast, 83. Necessary to a choice, 42. Robert Grenwood has 5. Reffton Ritter has 10. Daniel Baxter has 12. Bart Conners has 56."

    "Hurrah for Bart Conners!" shouted half a dozen cadets in chorus.

    "Bart Conners is declared elected major for the ensuing term," went on Captain Putnam. "Major Conners, allow me to congratulate you," and he came forward and held out his hand.

    "And let me congratulate you, too," added Major Jack, and he shook hands also.

    A great number of cadets, and some teachers, come up to shake Bart by the hand. Ritter and Baxter were conspicuous by their absence. Each of the bullies was chagrined at the poor showing he had made. Instead of gaining on the second ballot they had lost.

    "That shows how much one can depend on his friends," growled Baxter to Mumps.

    "Never mind, Dan, maybe you'll be elected a captain," answered the toady and sneak.

    "I don't want to be a captain; I want to be a major or nothing," grumbled the bully.

    A little later the balloting for a captain for Company A was started. There were half a dozen candidates, including both Ritter and Coulter, and Ritter did all he could to get the boys who had voted for Baxter to support him, and then bribed Coulter to step out in his favor. But Jack, Pepper and Bart Conners worked hard for Harry Blossom, as agreed, and as a consequence Harry was elected on the third ballot by fifty-two votes.

    "Hurrah for Harry Blossom!" was the cry, and the newly-elected captain of Company A was congratulated on all sides.

    This election was followed by that for a captain for Company B. Here the struggle was as fierce as before, but Dave Kearney won out on the sixth ballot. Then came ballots for the lieutenants, and Bob Grenwood came out strong with fifty-five votes. Dale Blackmore was made the new quartermaster, much to his delight, although Dale cared more for athletics than he did for military matters.

    Not one of the Ritter or the Baxter crowd got an office, much to their disgust. Baxter went off by himself to sulk, but Ritter and Coulter denounced their rivals openly.

    "I reckon votes were bought," said Ritter.

    "Sure they were bought," responded Coulter.

    "So they were, by Ritter & Company," retorted Andy, who overheard the talk.

    "Oh, give us a rest, Snow!" muttered Ritter. "I don't want the old office anyway, and all my real friends know it."

    "Sour grapes," answered the acrobatic youth.

    "Don't you get fresh, or I'll punch your head!" cried the bully, savagely.

    "Will you?" answered Andy. "Just you try it, if you dare!"

    "I will!" came hotly from Ritter, and leaping forward he hit Andy a sharp blow on the chin.

    The assault came so suddenly that the acrobatic youth had no time to defend himself. He staggered and fell, and as he went down the bully gave him a sharp kick in the side.
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