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For the six weeks following, Mr. Morton gave lessons twice a week to the boys. At the third lesson they received their muskets, and thenceforth drilled with them. A few, who had not been present at the first two lessons, and were consequently ignorant of the positions, Mr. Morton turned over to Frank, who proved an efficient and competent instructor.
At the end of the twelfth lesson, Mr. Morton, after giving the order "Rest!" addressed the boys as follows:
"Boys, we have now taken twelve lessons together. I have been very much gratified by the rapid improvement which you have made, and feel that it is due quite as much to your attention as to any instructions of mine. I can say with truth that I have known companies of grown men who have made less rapid progress than you.
"The time has now come when I feel that I can safely leave you to yourselves, There are those among you who are competent to carry on the work which I have commenced. It will be desirable for you at once to form a company organization. As there are but fifty on your muster-roll, being about half the usual number, you will not require as many officers. I recommend the election of a captain, first and second lieutenants, three sergeants and three corporals. You have already become somewhat accustomed to company drill, so that you will be able to go on by yourselves under the guidance of your officers. If any doubtful questions should arise, I shall always be happy to give you any information or assistance in my power.
"And now, boys, I will bid you farewell in my capacity of instructor, but I need not say that I shall continue to watch with interest your progress in the military art."
Here Mr. Morton bowed, and sat down.
After the applause which followed his speech had subsided, there was a silence and hush of expectation among the boys, after which Charles Reynolds rose slowly, and, taking from the seat beside him a package, advanced toward Mr. Morton and made a brief speech of presentation, having been deputed by the boys to perform that duty.
"MR MORTON: I stand here in behalf of the boys present, who wish to express to you their sense of your kindness in giving them the course of lessons which has just ended. We have taken up much of your time, and no doubt have tried your patience more than once. If we have improved, as you were kind enough to say, we feel that it is principally owing to our good fortune in having so skilful a teacher. We wish to present you some testimonial of the regard which we have for you, and accordingly ask your acceptance of this copy of 'Abbott's Life of Napoleon.' We should have been glad to give you something more valuable, but we are sure you will value the gift for other reasons than its cost."
Here Charles Reynolds sat down, and all eyes were turned toward Mr. Morton. It was evident that he was taken by surprise. It was equally evident that he was much gratified by this unexpected token of regard.
He rose and with much feeling spoke as follows:
"My dear boys, for you must allow me to call you so, I can hardly tell you how much pleasure your kind gift has afforded me. It gives me the assurance, which indeed, I did not need, that you are as much my friends as I am yours. The connection between us has afforded me much pleasure and satisfaction. In training you to duties which patriotism may hereafter devolve upon you, though I pray Heaven that long before that time our terrible civil strife may be at an end, I feel that I have helped you to do something to show your loyal devotion to the country which we all love and revere." Here there was loud applause. "If you were a few years older, I doubt not that your efforts would be added to those of your fathers and brothers who are now encountering the perils and suffering the privations of war. And with a little practise I am proud to say that you would not need to be ashamed of the figure you would cut in the field.
"I have little more to say. I recognize a fitness in the selection of the work which you have given me. Napoleon is without doubt the greatest military genius which our modern age has produced. Yet he lacked one very essential characteristic of a good soldier. He was more devoted to his own selfish ends than to the welfare of his country. I shall value your gift for the good wishes that accompany it, and the recollection of this day will be among my pleasantest memories."
Mr. Morton here withdrew in the midst of hearty applause.
When he had left the hall a temporary organization for business purposes was at once effected. Wilbur Summerfield was placed in the chair, and the meeting proceeded at once to an election of officers.
For a week or two past there had been considerable private canvassing among the boys. There were several who would like to have been elected captain, and a number of others who, though not aspiring so high, hoped to be first or second lieutenants. Among the first class was John Haynes. Like many persons who are unpopular, he did not seem to be at all aware of the extent of his unpopularity.
But there was another weighty reason why the choice of the boys would never have fallen upon him. Apart from his unpopularity, he was incompetent for the posts to which he aspired. Probably there were not ten boys in the company who were not more proficient in drill than he. This was not owing to any want of natural capacity, but to a feeling that he did not require much instruction and a consequent lack of attention to the directions of Mr. Morton. He had frequently been corrected in mistakes, but always received the correction with sullenness and impatience. He felt in his own mind that he was much better fitted to govern than to obey, forgetting in his ambition that it is those only who have first learned to obey who are best qualified to rule others.
Desirious of ingratiating himself with the boys, and so securing their votes, he had been unusually amiable and generous during the past week. At the previous lesson he had brought half a bushel of apples, from which he had requested the boys to help themselves freely. By this means he hoped to attain the object of his ambition.
Squire Haynes, too, was interested in the success of his son.
"If they elect you captain, John," he promised, "I will furnish you money enough to buy a handsome sash and sword."
Besides John, there were several others who cherished secret hopes of success. Among these were Charles Reynolds and Wilbur Summerfield. As for Frank Frost, though he had thought little about it, he could not help feeling that he was among those best qualified for office, though he would have been quite content with either of the three highest offices, or even with the post of orderly sergeant.
Among those who had acquitted themselves with the greatest credit was our old friend Dick Bumstead, whom we remember last as concerned in rather a questionable adventure. Since that time his general behavior had very much changed for the better. Before, he had always shirked work when it was possible. Now he exhibited a steadiness and industry which surprised no less than it gratified his father.
This change was partly owing to his having given up some companions who had done him no good, and, instead, sought the society of Frank. The energy and manliness exhibited by his new friend, and the sensible views which he took of life and duty, had wrought quite a revolution in Dick's character. He began to see that if he ever meant to accomplish anything he must begin now. At Frank's instance he had given up smoking, and this cut off one of the temptations which had assailed him. Gradually the opinion entertained of Dick in the village as a ne'er-do-well was modified, and he had come to be called as one of the steady and reliable boys—a reputation not to, be lightly regarded.
In the present election Dick did not dream that he could have any interest. While he had been interested in the lessons, and done his best, he felt that his previous reputation would injure his chance, and he had made up his mind that he should have to serve in the ranks. This did not trouble him, for Dick, to his credit be it said, was very free from jealousy, and had not a particle of envy in his composition. He possessed so many good qualities that it would have been a thousand pities if he had kept on in his former course.
"You will bring in your votes for captain," said the chairman.
Tom Wheeler distributed slips of paper among the boys, and there was forthwith a plentiful show of pencils.
"Are the votes all in?" inquired the chairman, a little later. "If so, we will proceed to count them."
There was a general hush of expectation while Wilbur Summerfield, the chairman, and Robert Ingalls, the secretary of the meeting, were counting the votes. John Haynes, was evidently nervous, and fidgeted about, anxious to learn his fate.
At length the count was completed, and Wilbur, rising, announced it as follows:
Whole number of votes...... 49 Necessary for a choice..... 25 Robert Ingalls.............. 2 votes John Haynes................. 2 " Wilbur Summerfield.......... 4 " Moses Rogers................ 4 " Charles Reynolds........... 10 " Frank Frost................ 27 "
"Gentlemen, I have the pleasure of announcing that you have made choice of Frank Frost as your captain."
Frank rose amid a general clapping of hands, and, with heightened color but modest self-possession, spoke as follows "Boys, I thank you very much for this proof of your confidence. All I can say is that I will endeavor to deserve it. I shall no doubt make some mistakes, but I feel sure that you will grant me your indulgence, and not expect too much of my inexperience."
This speech was regarded with favor by all except John Haynes, who would rather have had any one else elected, independent of his own disappointment, which was great.
"You will now prepare your votes for first lieutenant," said the presiding officer.
It will be noticed that two votes were cast for John Haynes. One of these was thrown by a competitor, who wished to give his vote to some one who stood no possible chance of succeeding, and accordingly selected John on account of his well-known unpopularity. This vote, therefore, was far from being a compliment. As for the other vote, John Haynes himself best knew by whom it was cast.
The boys began to prepare their votes for first lieutenant.
John brightened up a little. He felt that it would be something to gain this office. But when the result of the balloting was announced it proved that he had but a single vote.
There were several scattering votes. The two prominent candidates were Dick Bumstead, who received eight votes, and Charles Reynolds, who received thirty-two, and was accordingly declared elected.
No one was more surprised by this announcement than Dick. He felt quite bewildered, not having the slightest expectation of being a candidate. He was almost tempted to believe that the votes had only been cast in jest.
But Dick was destined to a still greater surprise. At the next vote, for second lieutenant, there were five scattering votes. Then came ten for Wilbur Summerfield, and Richard Bumstead led off with thirty-four, and was accordingly declared elected.
"Speech! speech!" exclaimed half a dozen, vociferously.
Dick looked a little confused, and tried to escape the call. But the boys were determined to have him up, and he was finally compelled to rise, looking and feeling rather awkward But his natural good sense and straightforwardness came to his aid, and he acquitted himself quite creditably.
This was Dick's speech:
"Boys, I don't know how to make speeches, and I s'pose you know that as well as I do. I hardly knew who was meant when Richard Bumstead's name was mentioned, having always been called Dick, but if it means me, all I can say is, that I am very much obliged to you for the unexpected honor. One reason why I did not expect to be elected to any office was because I ain't as good a scholar as most of you. I am sure there are a great many of you who would make better officers than I, but I don't think there's any that will try harder to do well than I shall."
Here Dick sat down, very much astonished to find that he had actually made a speech. His speech was modest, and made a favorable impression, as was shown by the noisy stamping of feet and shouts of "Bully for you, Dick!" "You're a trump!" and other terms in which boys are wont to signify their approbation.
Through all this John Haynes looked very much disgusted, and seemed half-decided upon leaving the room. He had some curiosity, however, to learn who would be elected to the subordinate offices, and so remained. He had come into the room with the determination not to accept anything below a lieutenancy, but now made up his mind not to reject the post of orderly sergeant if it should be offered to him. The following list of officers, however will show that he was allowed no choice in the matter:
Captain, Frank Frost. First Lieutenant, Charles Reynolds. Second Lieutenant, Richard Bumstead. Orderly Sergeant, Wilbur Summerfield. Second Sergeant, Robert Ingalls. Third Sergeant, Moses Rogers. First Corporal, Tom Wheeler. Second Corporal, Joseph Barry. Third Corporal, Frank Ingalls.
The entire list of officers was now read and received with applause. If there were some who were disappointed, they acquiesced good-naturedly, with one exception.
When the applause had subsided, John Haynes rose and, in a voice trembling with passion, said:
"Mr. Chairman, I wish to give notice to all present that I resign my place as a member of this company. I don't choose to serve under such officers as you have chosen to-day. I don't think they are fit to have command."
Here there was a general chorus of hisses, drowning John's voice completely. After glancing about him a moment in speechless fury, he seized his hat, and left the room in indignant haste, slamming the door after him.
"He's a mean fellow!" said Frank Ingalls. "I suppose he expected to be captain."
"Shouldn't wonder," said Sam Rivers. "Anyhow, he's a fool to make such a fuss about it. As for me," he added, with a mirthful glance, "I am just as much disappointed as he is. When I came here this afternoon I expected I should be elected captain, and I'd got my speech all ready, but now I'm sorry that it will have to be wasted."
There was a general burst of laughter, for Sam Rivers, whom everybody liked for his good nature, was incorrigibly awkward, and had made a larger number of blunders, probably, than any other member of the company.
"Give us the speech, Sam," said Bob Ingalls.
"Yes, don't let it be wasted."
"Speech! speech!" cried Joseph Barry.
"Very well, gentlemen, if you desire it."
Sam drew from his pocket a blank piece of paper, and pretended to read the following speech, which he made up on the spur of the moment.
"Ahem! gentlemen," he commenced, in a pompous tone, assuming an air of importance; "I am deeply indebted to you for this very unexpected honor."
"Oh, very," said one of the boys near.
"I feel that you have done yourself credit in your selection."
Here there was a round of applause.
"I am sorry that some of you are still very awkward, but I hope under my excellent discipline to make veterans of you in less than no time."
"Good for you!"
"You cannot expect me to remain long with you, as I am now in the line of promotion, and don't mean to stop short of a brigadier. But as long as I am your captain I hope you will appreciate your privileges."
Sam's speech was followed by a chorus of laughter, in which he joined heartily himself.
As for John's defection, nobody seemed to regret it much. It was generally felt that the company would have no difficulty in getting along without him.
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