Part 3 out of 4
face you down. Not ten fellows in the corps will even guess that
you could possibly be guilty of anything mean!"
Wouldn't they? West Point cadets have such an utter contempt
for anything savoring of cheating or lying that the mere suspicion
is often enough to make them hold back.
As the cadets moved to their places in the formations scores of
cadets passed Prescott.
Short as the time had been, the news was already flying through
Usually Dick had a score of greetings as made his way to his place
in line. Today dozen cadets who had been among his friends seemed
not to see him.
Dick recoiled, inwardly, as though from a stinging blow in the
face. None of his comrades meant to be cruel. But most of them
wanted to make sure that the seemingly reliable charge was not
true. They must wait.
Utterly dejected, Prescott marched to dinner. On his way back
to barracks a new and overwhelming thought came to him.
Laura Bentley and her mother, and Belle Meade were due at the
hotel the next afternoon, and he and Greg had arranged to drag
the girls to the Saturday-night hop.
"Greg, I can't leave quarters," muttered Dick huskily, as he threw
himself down at his desk and began to write rapidly. "You'll
have to attend to sending this telegram for me."
"On the jump!" assented Greg,
The telegram was addressed to Laura Bentley, and read:
"Don't come to West Point tomorrow. My letter will explain."
"I'll send it before the drawing lesson," Greg uttered, and vanished.
Confined to quarters in close arrest, Cadet Prescott put in more
than two miserable hours endeavoring to get that letter written.
But he couldn't get it penned. Then a knock came the door, and
a telegram was handed in. It read:
"Wife and girls have left for shopping trip in New York. Don't
know where to reach them."
It was signed by Dr. Bentley. The yellow paper fluttered from
Prescott's hands to the floor. Mechanically he picked it up and
carried it to his study table.
"I can't stop them," he muttered dismally. "Nor shall I be out
of close arrest by that time, either. There's nothing I can do.
I can't even see them---and I've been looking forward to this
Again Dick Prescott buried his head in his arms at the study table.
To have Laura come here at the time when he was in the deepest
disgrace that a cadet may face!
Greg came back to find his chum pacing the floor in misery.
"Well, it can't be helped," muttered Holmes philosophically.
"Of course you and Anstey can drag the girls to Cullum."
"Surely," muttered Holmes listlessly, "if the girls would go at
all under such circumstances."
"I've made their trip a mockery and a bitter disappointment,"
"No, you haven't ramrod," retorted Greg. "Fate may be to blame,
but you can't be held accountable for what you didn't do. Have
no fear. I'll see to the ladies tomorrow afternoon. But I'm
a pile more interested in knowing what is to be done in your case.
The superintendent and the K.C. may see the absurdity of this
whole thing against you, and order your arrest ended."
"But that won't clear me, Greg, and you know it. There would
still be the suspicion in the corps, and---O Greg!---I can't endure
"Pshaw, old ramrod, you won't have to, very long. We'll bust
this whole suspicion higher than any kite ever flew. See here,
Dodge is responsible for your humiliation, and we'll drag it all
out of him, if we have to tie him up by the thumbs!"
A knock at the door, and Anstey entered.
"I really couldn't get here before, old ramrod. But I'd cut you
in a minute if I thought it really necessary to come here and
tell you that I don't believe any charge of dishonor against you,
Prescott, could possibly be true."
"It's mighty pleasant to have every fellow who feels that way come
and say so," muttered Dick gratefully, as he thrust out his hand.
Another knock at the door. Cadet Prescott must report at once
at the office of the K.C.
Down the stairs trudged Dick, across the area, and into the office
of the commandant of cadets.
"I want to know, Mr. Prescott," declared that officer, "whether you
can throw any added light in regard to the occurrence in Captain
Abbott's section room this morning."
Dick had to deliberate, swiftly, as to whether he should say anything
about having loaned Mr. Dodge his handkerchief briefly.
"I reckon I must speak of it," decided the unhappy cadet. "I
mean to have Dodge summoned, if I'm tried, so I may as well speak
of it now."
That, and other things, Dick stated. The K.C. listened gravely.
It was plain from the officer's manner that he believed Prescott
was going to have difficulty in establishing his innocence.
"That is all, Mr. Prescott," said the K.C. finally. Dick saluted
and returned to his room.
In the few minutes that had elapsed, Anstey had done much. In the
room were a dozen yearlings who were known to be among Dick's best
friends. All shock his hand, assuring him that nothing could shake
their faith in him. It was comforting, but that was all.
"You see, old ramrod," muttered Greg, when the callers had left,
"there are enough who believe in you. Now, you've got to justify
that faith by hammering this charge into nothingness. Someone
has committed a crime---a moral crime anyway. In my own mind
Dodge is the criminal but I'm not yet prepared to prove it."
In the meantime Cadet Albert Dodge was over in the K.C.'s office,
undergoing a rigid questioning. Dodge freely admitted the episode
of handkerchief borrowing but denied any further knowledge.
When Bert returned to barracks he was most bitter against Dick.
To all who would listen to him Dodge freely stated his opinion
of a man who would seek to shield his own wrong-doing by throwing
suspicion on another.
"There were plenty who saw me borrow the handkerchief," contended
Dodge stormily. "Whoever saw me take it also saw me return it.
I'll defy any man to state, under oath, that I returned more
than the handkerchief."
"How did the smear happen to be on your hand?" asked Dunstan,
who, besides belonging to the same mathematics section with Prescott
was also a warm personal friend.
Bert hesitated, looked uneasy, then replied:
"How about the smear? Why---I don't know It may have come from
"Yes, what about that smear? How did it come there?" cried Greg,
when Dunstan repeated Dodge's words.
Through Greg's mind, for hours after that, the question insistently
"How about that smear?"
Yet the question seemed to lead to nothing.
The next morning, Saturday, it was known, throughout cadet barracks,
that a general court-martial order for Prescott would be published
On the one o'clock train from New York came Mrs. Bentley, Laura
and Belle. They entered the bus at the station, and were driven
up, across the plain, to the hotel.
After dinner, the girls waited in pleasant expectancy for Dick
and Greg to send up their cards.
Greg's card came up, alone.
Anstey was back in quarters with Dick.
FRIENDS WHO STAND BY
"Well?" cried Dick, darting up, his eyes shining wildly when Greg
finally threw open the door.
"Oh, bosh!" cried Greg jubilantly. "Do you think those girls
are going to believe anything against you?"
"What did they say?" demanded Dick eagerly.
"Well, of course they were dazed," continued Greg. "In fact,
Mrs. Bentley was the first to speak. What she said was one word,
"There's a woman aftah my own heart, suh," murmured Anstey.
"Belle got her voice next," continued Greg. "What she said was:
"'You're wrong, Mrs. Bentley. It isn't even preposterous.'"
"Miss Meade surely delighted me, the first time I ever saw her,"
"Laura looked down to hide a few tears," continued Greg. "But
she brushed them away and looked up smiling. 'I'm sorry, sorry,
sorry for Dick's temporary annoyance,' was what Laura said. 'But
of course I know such deceit would be impossible in him, so I
shall stay here until I know that the Military Academy authorities
and the whole world realize how absurd such a suspicion must be.'"
"She's going to remain here?" faltered Dick.
"All three of 'em are. They couldn't be driven off the reservation
by a file of infantry, just now. But both of the girls insisted on
sending you a note. Which will you have first?"
"Don't trifle with me, Greg," begged Prescott.
Anstey rose to go.
"Don't take yourself off, Anstey old fellow. Just pardon me while
I read my notes."
Dick read Laura's note through, thrilling with the absolute faith
that it breathed:
"Dear Dick: Don't be uneasy about us, and don't worry about yourself,
either. I couldn't express what I think about the charges, without
having a man's license of speech! But you know all that I would
write you. Just keep up the good old Gridley grit and smile for
a few days. We are going to be here to attend that court-martial,
and to give you courage from the gallery---but I don't believe
you need a bit. Faithfully, Laura."
Belle's note was much shorter. It ran:
"Dear Dick: What stupid ideas they have of comedy here at West
And, as Belle knew that she wasn't and couldn't be Dick's sweetheart,
she had not hesitated to sign herself, "Lovingly, Belle."
Dick passed each note in turn to Anstey.
"Your town suhtinly raises real girls!" was the southerner's quiet
Dick felt like a new being. He was pacing the floor now, but
in no unpleasant agitation.
"Did you impress the girls with the knowledge that I begged them
to go to the hop tonight?" asked Prescott, stopping short and
"Did you think I'd forget half of my errand, old ramrod?" demanded
Holmes indignantly "I delivered your full request, backed by all
that I could add. At first Mrs. Bentley and Laura were shocked at
the very idea. But Belle broke in with: 'If we didn't go, it would
look as if we were in mourning for some one. We're not. We're just
simply sorry that a poor idea of a farce keeps dear old Dick from
being with us tonight. If we don't go, Dick Prescott will be more
unhappy about it than anyone else in the wide world.'"
"Miss Meade suhtinly doesn't need spectacles," murmured Anstey.
"She can see straight!"
"So," continued Greg, "I'm going to drag Laura tonight, and Anstey
is going to do the same for Belle."
"And we'll suhtinly see to it that they have, outside of ourselves,
of course, the handsomest men in the corps to dance with!" exclaimed
Anstey. "If any fine and handsome fellow even tries to get out of
it, I'll call him out and fight him stiff, suh!"
"I'm glad you have persuaded the girls to go," nodded Dick cheerily.
"That will give me a happier evening than anything else could
do just now."
"What will you do this evening, Dick?" asked Greg.
"I? Oh, I'll be busy---and contented at the same time. Tell that
to Laura and Belle, please."
Yet it was with a sense of weariness that Dick turned out for
supper formation. There were more pleasant greetings as he moved
to his place in ranks, and that made him feel better for the moment.
At his table at cadet mess he was amiably and cheerily included
in all the merry conversation that flew around.
Then back to quarters Dick went, and soon saw Greg and Anstey,
looking their spooniest in their full-dress uniforms, depart on
the mission of dragging.
Prescott hardly sighed as he moved over to the study table. He
read over a score of times the notes the girls had sent him.
Then came an orderly, who handed in a telegram. Dick opened this
with nervous fingers. His eyes lit up when he found that it came
from Annapolis. The message read:
_"Dear old Dick!
You're the straightest fellow on earth! We
know. Don't let anybody get your goat!_"
_"Darrin And Dalzell,
U.S. Naval Academy."_
"Dear old Gridley chums!" murmured the cadet, the moisture coming
to his eyes. "Yes, they should know me, if anyone does. Those
who know me best are all flocking to offer comfort. Then---hang
it!---I don't need any. When a fellow's friends all believe in
him, what more is there to ask? But I wonder how the news reached
Annapolis? I know---Belle has telegraphed Dave. She knew he'd
stand by me."
It was a very cheery Prescott to whom Anstey and Holmes returned.
Anstey could remain but an instant, but that instant was enough
to cheer the Virginian, the change in Prescott was so great.
In the few moments left before taps sounded, Greg told his chum
all he could of the hop, and of the resolute conduct of Laura
and Belle in refusing absolutely to be downcast.
"Have you sent any word home?" asked Greg.
"To my father and mother? Not a word! Nor shall I, until this
nightmare is all over," breathed Dick fervently.
"Laura wanted to know," Holmes explained. "Of course Mrs. Bentley
had to send some word to her husband, to account for their longer
absence, but she cautioned Dr. Bentley not to let a word escape."
To himself, as he reached up to extinguish the light, Greg muttered:
"I believe that unhanged scoundrel, Dodge, will see to it that
word reaches Gridley!"
In this conjecture Holmes must have been correct, for, the next
forenoon, there came a telegram, full of agony, from Prescott's
mother, imploring further particulars at once. Mrs. Prescott's
dispatch mentioned a "rumor."
"That's Dodge's dirty work," growled Holmes. "So that fastens
the guilt of this whole thing upon him---the dirty dog!"
Yet how to fasten any guilt upon Dodge? Or how force from him
any admission that would aid to free Cadet Prescott from the awful
charge against him that had now been made official?
That Sunday, Greg, besides paying a long visit in the hotel parlor,
and seeing to the dispatch of Dick's answer to his mother, also
called, under permission, at the home of Lieutenant Topham, of
the tactical department. Prescott had decided to ask that officer
to act as his counsel at the court-martial.
Prescott's case looked simple enough. Nor did the judge-advocate
of the court-martial need much time for his preparation of the
case. The judge-advocate of a court-martial is the prosecuting
officer. Theoretically he is also somewhat in the way of counsel
for the defence. It is the judge-advocate's duty to prosecute,
it is also his duty to inquire into any particulars that may establish
the innocence of the accused man.
Mr. Topham at once consented to act as Dick's counsel, and entered
heartily into the case.
"But I don't mind telling you, Mr. Prescott," continued Lieutenant
Topham, as he was talking the matter over with Dick in the latter's
room, "that both sides of the case look to me, at present, like
blank walls. It won't be enough to clear you of the charge as
far as the action of the court goes. We must do everything in
our power to remove the slightest taint from your name, or your
position with your brother cadets will never be quite the same
"I know that full well, sir," Cadet Prescott replied with feeling.
"Though the court-martial acquit me, if there lingers any belief
among the members of the cadet corps that I was really guilty,
then the taint would not only hang over me here, but all through
my subsequent career in the Army. It is an actual, all-around
verdict of 'not guilty, and couldn't be,' that I crave sir."
"You may depend upon me, Mr. Prescott, to do all in my power for
you," promised Lieutenant Topham.
ON TRIAL BY COURT-MARTIAL
Tuesday was the day for the court-martial.
In the Army there is little patience with the law's delays.
A trial must move ahead as promptly as any other detail of the
soldier's life. Nothing can hinder a trial but the inability
to get all the evidence ready early. In Cadet Prescott's case
the evidence seemed so simple as to require no delay whatever.
The weather had been growing warmer within a short time. When
Dick and Greg awoke at sound of reveille, they heard the heavy
rain no sign of daylight yet.
When the battalion turned out and formed to march to breakfast a
more dispiriting day could not be imagined. The rain was converting
deep snow into a dismal flood.
But Dick barely noticed the weather. He was full of grit, burning
with the conviction that he must have a full vindication today.
It was when he returned to barracks and the ranks were broken,
that Dick discovered how many friends he had. Fully twoscore
of his classmates rushed to wring his hand and to wish him the
best kind of good luck that day.
Yet at 7.55 the sections marched away to mathematics, philosophy
or engineering, according to the classes to which the young soldiers
Then Prescott faced a lonely hour in his room.
"The fellows were mighty good, a lot of them," thought the accused
cadet, with his first real sinking feeling that morning. "Yet,
if any straw of evidence, this morning, seems really to throw
any definite taint upon me, not one of these same fellows would
ever again consent to wipe his feet on me!"
Such is the spirit of the cadet corps. Any comrade and brother
must be wholly above suspicion where his honor is concerned.
Had Dick been really guilty he would have been the meanest thing
in cadet barracks.
At a little before nine o'clock Lieutenant Topham called. To
Cadet Prescott it seemed grimly absurd that he must now go forth
in holiday attire of cadet full-dress uniform, white lisle gloves
and all---to stand before the court of officers who were to decide
whether he was morally fit to remain and associate with the other
cadets. But it was the regulation that a cadet must go to court,
whether as witness or accused, in full-dress uniform.
"I'm going to do my best for you today, Mr. Prescott," declared
Lieutenant Topham, as they walked through the area together.
Into the Academic Building counsel and accused stepped, and on to
the great trial room in which so many cadets had met their gloomy
At the long table sat, in full-dress uniform, and with their swords
on, the thirteen Army officers of varying ranks who composed the
At one side of the room sat the cadet witnesses. These were three
in number. Mr. Dunstan and Mr. Gray were there as the two men
who had occupied blackboards on either side of Prescott the Friday
forenoon before. Cadet Dodge was there to give testimony concerning
the handkerchief episode in the area of barracks before the sections
had marched off to math.
Captain Abbott, of course, was there, to testify to facts of his
knowledge. Never had there been a more reluctant witness than
that same Captain Abbott, but he had his plain duty to do as an
Army officer detailed at the United States Military Academy.
Lieutenant Topham and Dick, on entering, had turned toward the
table reserved for counsel.
For a moment, Dick Prescott had raised his face to the gallery.
There he beheld Mrs. Bentley, Laura and Belle, all gazing down at
him with smiling, friendly faces.
Dick could not send them a formal greeting. But he looked straight
into the eyes of each in turn. His smile was steady, clear and
full of courage. His look carried in it his appreciation of their
Among the visitors there were also the wives of a few Army officers
stationed on the post. Nearly all of these knew Prescott, and were
interested in his fate.
Among the spectators up there was one heavily veiled woman whom
Dick could not see from the floor as he entered the room. Nor
did that woman, who had drawn back, intend that he should see her.
The president of this court-martial called it promptly to order.
The members of the court were sworn, then the judge-advocate
took his military oath. It was then announced that the accused
cadet wished to have Lieutenant Topham represent him as counsel.
To this there was no objection.
In a twinkling the judge-advocate was again on his feet, a copy
of the charge and specifications in his hand.
Facing the president of the court, standing rigidly at attention,
his face expressionless, his bearing every whit that of the soldier,
Cadet Richard Prescott listened to the reading of the accusation
In an impressive tone the president of the court asked what plea
the accused cadet wished to enter.
"The accused offers, to the charge and specifications, a blanket
plea of 'not guilty,'" replied Lieutenant Topham.
Captain Abbott was first called and sworn. In concise, soldierly
language the instructor told the events of the preceding Friday
forenoon. He described the dropping of the slip of paper, and
of his request that it be handed to him. "The paper," continued
the witness, "contained a crude, brief outline of the demonstration
which Mr. Prescott had just explained so satisfactorily that I
had marked him 2.9."
"Which is within one tenth of the highest marking?" suggested
"Had you noted anything in Mr. Prescott conduct or performance at
the blackboard that indicated any uncertainty, at any time, about
the problem he was demonstrating?"
"When he had gone a little way with the writing down of the
demonstration," replied Captain Abbott, "Mr. Prescott hesitated
for some moments, then asked permission to erase, which was given."
"Did he then go straight ahead with his work?"
"To the best of my observation and remembrance, he did, sir."
"Had Mr. Prescott been doing well previously?" asked the
"Only during the last week, sir. During the last week he displayed
such a new knowledge and interest in mathematics that I was prepared,
on his last week's marks, to recommend that he ascend two sections
in his class."
"Is it not true, Captain, that Mr. Prescott, in the last week,
showed such a sudden, new proficiency as might be accounted for
by the possibility that he had then begun to carry written 'cribs'
to the class?
"His progress last week was such as might be accounted for by that
supposition," replied the witness reluctantly.
"That is all, Captain."
Lieutenant Topham then took the witness in hand, but did not succeed
in bringing out anything that would aid the cause of the accused
"Cadet Dunstan!" called the judge-advocate.
Dunstan stepped forward and was sworn. He had testified that, during
the blackboard work, he had stood beside Mr. Prescott. Dunstan was
positive that he had not seen any slip of paper in Prescott's hands.
"Did you look his way often, Mr. Dunstan
"Not directly, sir; I was busy with my own work."
"Yet, had Mr. Prescott had a slip of paper held slyly in either
hand, do you think you would have seen it?
"I am positive that I would, sir," replied Cadet Dunstan.
Under the questioning of Lieutenant Topham, Dunstan stated that
he had witnessed Prescott's loan of his handkerchief to Dodge
before the sections formed to march to mathematics section room.
"In what condition, or shape, did Mr. Dodge return Mr. Prescott's
handkerchief?" ask Lieutenant Topham.
"The handkerchief was crumpled up, sir."
"So that, had there been a paper folded in it, the paper very
likely would not have been visible?"
"The paper most likely would not have been visible, sir."
"In what form was the handkerchief handed to Mr. Dodge by Mr.
"I am almost certain, sir, that Mr. Prescott passed it holding
it by one corner."
"So that, had there been any paper in it at that time, it would
have fallen to the ground?"
"What did Mr. Prescott do with the handkerchief when it was returned
"My recollection, sir, is that Mr. Prescott took his handkerchief
without examining it, and thrust it into his blouse."
"Are you sure that he did so?"
"I cannot state it with absolute certainty, sir. It is my best
Bert Dodge had sat through this testimony trying to look unconcerned.
Yet around the corners of his mouth played a slight, greenish
pallor. The testimony of the cadets had not been looked for to
be very important. Now, however, the president of the court regretted
that he had not excluded from the room all of three cadet witnesses
except the one under examination.
Cadet Gray was next called. He was able to testify only that,
while at the blackboard, Mr. Dunstan had stood on one side of
Cadet Prescott and the present witness on the other side. Mr.
Gray was strongly of the belief that, had Prescott been slyly
using a written crib, he (Gray) would have noted the fact. Mr.
Gray had not been a witness to the handkerchief-loaning incident
before formation of sections.
Dodge rose and came forward with a distinct swagger. He was plainly
conscious of the cadet corporal's chevrons on his sleeve, and
plainly regarded himself as a superior type of cadet. He was
sworn and questioned about the handkerchief-borrowing incident.
He admitted the borrowing of the handkerchief to wipe a smear
of dirt from the back of his hand. As to the condition of the
handkerchief at the time of its return, Mr. Dodge stated his present
belief that the handkerchief was very loosely rolled up.
Then Lieutenant Topham took the witness over.
"Would the handkerchief, when you handed it back, have held this
slip of paper?" questioned Mr. Topham, holding up the slip that
had brought about all of Prescott's present trouble.
"It might have, sir, had the paper been crumpled as well."
"Did you hand the handkerchief back with a paper inside of it?"
"Not according to any knowledge of mine, sir."
"Was there a paper in the handkerchief, Mr. Dodge, when Mr. Prescott
passed his handkerchief to you?"
"To the best of my belief, sir, there was not."
"Now, pay particular heed, if you please Mr. Dodge," requested
Lieutenant Topham, fixing his gaze keenly on the witness. Dodge
tried not to look apprehensive. "Did you have any paper in your
hand while you had Mr. Prescott's handkerchief in your own possession?"
"No, sir," replied Dodge with emphasis.
"Did you, knowingly, pass the handkerchief back to the accused
cadet with any paper inside of it, or touching it in any way?"
Lieutenant Topham continued for some seconds to regard Mr. Dodge
in silence. The witness began to lose some of his swagger. Then,
abruptly, as though firing a pistol, Lieutenant Topham shot out
"How about that smear of dirt on your hand, Mr. Dodge? How did
it come to be on the back of your hand?"
If Mr. Topham had looked to this question to break the witness
down he was doomed to disappointment.
"I do not know, sir," Dodge replied distinctly. "I am of the
opinion, sir, that it must have come from the blacking on one
of my shoes as I put it on before leaving my room."
There was no more to be gained from Dodge. He was excused. Now,
Dick Prescott rose a was sworn, that he might testify in his own
behalf. Yet he could do no more, under the military rules of
evidence, than to deny any guilty knowledge of the slip of paper,
and to repeat the handkerchief-loaning recital substantially as
Dunstan had given it.
This closed the testimony. The president of the court announced
that a recess of ten minutes would be taken, and that the room
and gallery would be cleared of all except members of the court
and the counsel for the accused.
As Dick turned to leave, he again turned his face toward the gallery.
He saw his Gridley friends and looked bravely into their eyes,
smiling. Then he caught sight of a veiled woman up there, who
had risen, and was moving out. Dicks started; he could not help
it, there was something so strangely familiar in that figure and
The cadet witnesses had already left, and we returning to barracks.
Lieutenant Topham touched Prescott's arm and walked with him to
"I shall do my best for you, you may be sure, Mr. Prescott," whispered
the cavalry officer.
"May I ask, sir, what you think of the chances?
"Candidly, it looks to me like almost an even toss-up between
conviction and acquittal."
Dick's face blanched. Then he turned, with starts The veiled
woman was moving toward him with uncertain steps.
"Lieutenant Topham, I did not know my mother was to be present,
but I am almost positive that is she."
Now, the veiled woman came a few steps nearer, looking appealingly
"I am told, sir, that my son is in close arrest," she called,
in a voice that thrilled the cadet. "But I am his mother. May
I speak with him a moment?"
Mother and son were clasped in each other's arms for a moment.
What they said matters little. Then Cadet Richard Prescott
returned to his bleak room in barracks.
A VERDICT AND A HOP
Then followed days full of suspense for many besides the accused
Prescott went mechanically at his studies, with a dogged determination
to get high markings in everything.
Yet over mathematics more than anything, he pored. He fought
out his problems in the section room grimly, bent on showing that
he could win high marks without the aid of "cribs."
He was still in arrest, and must remain so until the finding of
the court-martial---whatever it was---had been duly considered
at Washington and returned with the President's indorsement.
All this time Dick's mother and three faithful Gridley friends
remained at the West Point Hotel. Dick could not go to them;
they could not come to him, but notes might pass. Prescott received
these epistles daily, and briefly but appreciatively answered
Then he went back furiously to his studies.
Grit could do him little good, except in his studies, if he were
fated to remain at West Point. Grit could not help him in the
settling of his fate. Either the court-martial had found him
guilty, or had found him innocent, and all the courage in the
world would not alter the verdict.
In the section room in mathematics, Captain Abbott did not show this
cadet any disfavor or the opposite. The instructor's manner and
tone with Prescott were the same as with all the other cadets.
When going to formations some of the cadets rather openly avoided
Prescott. This cut like a knife. But evidently they believed
him probably guilty, and they were entitled to their opinions.
He must possess himself with patience for a few days; there was
nothing else to do.
So the week rolled around again to Saturday. Now here were two
afternoons when the young cadet might have gone to his mother
and friends at the hotel, had he not been in arrest. There was
to be a hop that night, but he could not "drag" the girl who had
been so staunch and sweet.
On this Saturday, when he need not study much, Dick found himself
in a dull rage with his helplessness. The day was bright, clear,
cold and sunny, but the young cadet's soul was dark and moody.
Would this suspense never end?
Dinner was to him merely another phase of duty. He had no real
appetite; he would have preferred to sit brooding at his study
The meal over, the battalion marched back, halting, still in formation,
at the north side of barracks near the sally-port.
The cadet captain in command of the battalion read some unimportant
notices. Dick did not even hear them. He knew his fate was not
to come to him through this channel.
While the reading was going on the Adjutant of the Military Academy
came through the sally-port leisurely, as soon as he saw that
the men were still in ranks.
Dick did not see the Adjutant, either. If he had, he might hardly
have heeded the presence of that Army officer, the personal
representative of the superintendent.
But, just as the cadet captain let fall the hand in which he had
held the notices the adjutant called out crisply:
"Don't dismiss, Captain! Hold the companies!"
Between two of the companies stepped the adjutant, then walked
to the front of center. Drawing, a paper from his overcoat, the
adjutant began to read. It was a "special order."
Even to this Prescott listened only with unhearing ears---at first.
Then, though he betrayed no more audible interest than did any
of the other men in gray, Dick Prescott found his head swimming.
This special order referred to his own case. It was a report of
the findings, these findings having been duly approved.
Cadet Richard Prescott's head began to whirl. The bright day
seemed darkening before his dimmed vision, until he heard,
unmistakably, the one word:
What followed was a further order releasing him from arrest and
restoring him to the usual cadet privileges.
"That is all, Captain," added the adjutant, folding the order
and returning it to his overcoat. "Dismiss the companies when
"Dismiss the companies!" came from the cadet battalion commander.
The separate commands of the various company commanders rang out.
Ranks were broken---and friends in gray crowded about the yearling.
Then the corps yell was called for and given, with his name added.
Some of the cadets slipped in through the sally-port, sooner than
join in the demonstration.
"Thank you all---it's jolly good of you!" cried Prescott huskily.
As soon as these comrades in arms would let him, he broke through
and made for his room.
"Hooray!" yelled Greg, turning loose.
And Cadet Anstey thrust his head into the room long enough to add:
But Dick, half stripped above the waist, was at the washstand,
making a thorough toilet, though a hurried one.
Greg waited, his eyes shining.
"It's mighty good of you all," cried Dick, as he was pulling on
his cadet overcoat. "I wish I could stop and talk about it---but
there a duties that can't be hurried fast enough."
"Give my regards," called Holmes jovially after Prescott.
Crossing the barracks area, Dick strode into cadet guard-house,
nimbly mounting the stairs to the second floor. Here he stood
in the office of the O.C.
Saluting, he carefully phrased his request for leave to visit
friends at the hotel.
This being granted, Dick went down the stairs at the greatest
speed consistent with military dignity under the circumstances.
Out through the north sally-port and along the road running between
officers' quarters and parade ground he hurried.
By the time he had walked to the hotel he had cooled off his first
He signed in the cadet register, then laid down his card.
"To Mrs. Prescott, please."
As ebony-visaged "front" vanished from the office, Dick turned
and walked to the ladies' entrance, passing thence into the parlor.
Dick's mother was found at the dining table. So were her Gridley
friends. All were finishing a light meal without appetite when
the card was laid by Mrs. Prescott's plate.
"My boy, Dick---here?" she cried brokenly rising as quickly as
Mrs. Prescott passed quickly from the dining room, though her
friends were close at her heels. So they all rushed in upon the
solitary young cadet standing inside the parlor by a window.
As he heard them coming, Dick wheeled about. There was a tear
in his eye, which deceived them.
Halting, a few feet away, these eager ones stared at him.
Dick tried to greet them in words, but he couldn't at first.
It was Laura who found her voice first.
"Dick! Tell us in a word!"
But Belle Meade gave Miss Bentley a somewhat vigorous push forward.
"Use your eyes, Laura!" rebuked Belle vigorously. "In the first
place, Mr. Prescott is here. That means he's here by permission
or right. In the second place, you ninny---he still has the uniform
"That's right," laughed Dick. "Yes, mother, and friends, the
court-martial's finding was wholly favorable to me."
"Humph!" demanded Belle scornfully. "Why shouldn't it be? Wouldn't
you expect thirteen old West Point graduates to know as much as
four women from the country?"
Belle's hearty nonsense put an end to all tension.
Mrs. Prescott met and embraced her son. The others crowded about,
That night Dick and Greg "dragged" the Gridley girls to the cadet
hop at Cullum, and Anstey was a favored one on the hop cards of
both girls. Mrs. Prescott and Mrs. Bentley looked on from the
"It's the jolliest hop I've been to," declared Dick with enthusiasm.
"Humph!" muttered Holmes. "Of course it is. You old boner, you've
never been but to three hops!
"I understand," teased Belle, "that you're much more of a veteran,
Mr. Holmes, than your chum is."
Cadet Dodge "missed" that hop.
"A LIAR AND A COWARD"
Long, indeed, did the memory of that hop linger with Cadet Dick
It had come as the fitting, cheering ending of his great trouble---the
hardest trouble that had assailed him, or could assail him, at
the United States Military Academy.
"Well, you've been vindicated, anyway," muttered Greg cheerily,
one day. "So you needn't look as thoughtful as you do half of
the time these present days."
"Have I been vindicated, Greg?" asked Dick gravely.
"What did the court say? And you're still wearing the uniform
that Uncle Sam gave you, aren't you?
"Vindication, Greg, means something more that a court-martial
verdict of acquittal."
"What more do you want?"
"Greg, the verdicts of all the courts-martial sitting between
here and Manila wouldn't make some of the men of this corps believe
that I innocent."
"G'wan!" retorted Cadet Holmes impatiently.
"I see it, Greg, old chum, if you don't."
"You're morbid, old ramrod!"
"Greg, you know the cheery greeting, in passing, that one man
here often gives another when he likes and trusts that man. Well,
some of own classmates that used to give me the glad hail seem
to be thinking about something else, now, when they pass me."
"Who are they?" demanded Greg, his fists doubling.
"You'd provoke a fight, if I told you," retorted Dick. "This
isn't a matter to fight about."
"Then you don't know much about fighting subjects," grumbled Cadet
Holmes, as he leaned back and opened his book of everlasting
"Let me see, Greg; have you any show to get out of the goats in
"I'm in hopes to get out and step into the next section above,"
replied Greg. "I've been working hard enough."
"Then you'd better waste no thoughts on pugilism. Calculus will
bring you more happiness."
"Calculus was never designed to bring anyone happiness," retorted
Greg sulkily. "It's a torment invented on purpose to harrow the
souls of cadets. What good, any way, will calculus ever be to
an officer who has a platoon of men to lead in a charge on the
This could not very well be answered, so Dick dodged the subject.
"Remember the January exams., old fellow," warned Dick. "And
the general review begins Monday. That will show you up, if you
don't keep your nose in math. and out of books on the Queensbury
"Funny how Bert Dodge keeps up in mathematics, and yet takes in
all the pleasures he can find," rumbled on Greg, as he turned
the pages of his book, seeking what he wanted. "Dodge is in the
section just under the stars, and I hear he has dreams of being
in the star section after the January ordeals."
"Dodge always was a rather good student at Gridley High School"
"But he never led our class there in the High School mathematics,
which is baby's play compared with West Point math."
"Well, he gets the marks now," sighed Dick. "I wish we could, too."
The academic part of the cadet's year is divided into two halves.
The first half winds up in January. During the last few weeks
before the period for the winter examination, there is a general
review in some of the subjects, notably in mathematics. This
general review brings out all of a man's weak points in his subject.
Incidentally, it should strengthen him in his weak points.
Now, if, in the general review, a cadet shows sufficient proficiency
in his subject, he is not required to take the examination. If
he fails in the general review in mathematics, he must go up for
a "writ," as a written examination is termed. And that writ is
cruelly searching. If the young man fails in the "writ," he may
be conditioned and required to make up his deficiencies in June.
If, in June, he fails to make up all deficiencies, he is dropped
from the cadet corps as being below the mental standards required
of a West Point graduate.
Neither Dick nor Greg stood high enough in mathematics to care
to go on past January conditioned. Both felt that, with conditions
extending over to the summer, they must fail in June.
"I'd sooner have my funeral held tomorrow than drop out of West
Point," Greg stated.
Prescott, while not making that assertion, knew that it would blast
his dearest hopes life if he had to go down in the academic battle.
Dodge, who was so high in mathematics that he need have little
fear, was circulating a good deal among his classmates these days
"That hound, Prescott, made a slick dodge to drag me into his
disgrace," Dodge declared, to those whom he thought would be interest
in such remarks. "It was a clever trick! couldn't put me in disgrace,
for there is no breach of regulations in borrowing a handkerchief
for a moment. But Prescott made so much of that handkerchief
business that it served his purpose and dragged him out safely
before the court."
"Do you think Prescott was really guilty of a crib?" asked one
of Dodge's hearers.
"I can't prove it, but I know what I think," retorted Dodge.
"His effort to draw me into the row shows what kind of a fellow he
is at bottom."
"I'd hate to think that Prescott would really be mean enough for
"Think what you like, then, of course. But a fellow guilty of
one meanness might not stop at others."
Dodge talked much in this vein. Cadets are not tale-bearers,
and so little or none of this talk reached Dick's ears until Furlong
came along, one day, in time to hear Dodge holding forth on his
Yearling Furlong halted, eyeing Cadet Dodge sternly, keenly.
"Well," demanded Dodge, "what's wrong?"
"I don't know exactly," replied Furlong, with a quizzical smile.
"I think, though, that the basic error lay in your ever having
been born at all."
Dodge tried to laugh it off as a pleasantry. He had met Furlong
once, in a fight, and had no desire to be sent to cadet hospital
again with blackened eyes.
"I don't want to mind other people's business, Dodge," continued
Furlong coolly, "but you're going a bit too far, it seems to me,
in what you say about Prescott. Why should you seek to blacken
the character of one of our best fellows, and the president of
"Because he tried to blacken mine," retorted Dodge boldly.
"He didn't. All he did, at the court-martial, was to explain
the adventures of his handkerchief just before that piece of paper
fell to the floor of the section room."
"Wasn't that an insinuation against me?" demanded Cadet Dodge.
"Not unless your character here is on such a very poor foundation
that it can't stand any suspicions," replied Furlong coldly.
"Now, see here, Dodge, the general review is on, and Prescott
can't spare any time on private rows. After the general review
is over, if I hear any more about your roasting Prescott, I'm
going to call on you to go with me to Prescott's presence, and
repeat your statements to his face. I don't want to stir up any
needless personal trouble, Dodge, but I declare myself now as
one of old ramrod's friends. Any slander against him must be
backed up. I trust you will pardon my having been so explicit."
Furlong turned on his heel, striding away. The cadets to whom
Dodge had been talking bitterly looked at Bert curiously. A good
many men in the corps would have promptly resented such remarks
as Furlong's, and to the limit, by calling him out.
"Queer how many friends, of some kinds, a fellow like Prescott
can have," laughed Dodge sneeringly.
"Not at all," spoke up one of Dodge's listeners. "Everyone always
knows where Prescott stands, and he'll back up anything he says.
Furlong is another man of the same stamp."
With that the last speaker turned on his heel and walked away.
For some days after that, Bert Dodge was more careful of his utterances.
The general reviews came and passed. By sheer hard, undistracted
work, both Dick and Greg succeeded in pulling through without
having to go up for writs. For some reason Dodge did not do quite
as well in the general review, and was forced to drop down a couple
of sections. He still stood well, however, in math.
In the next week after the dangerous examination period Dick Prescott
began to forge upwards in mathematics. He was now in the section
fourth removed from the goats, and Greg was up in the section
next above the goats.
On the afternoon of the Friday when the markings had been posted
Dodge met Dennison, also of the yearling class.
"Say, what do you think, Dodge, of Prescott beginning to shoot
up through the sections toward you? He'll soon be marching at
your side when math. is called."
"He'll bear watching," nodded Dodge sagely.
"That's what I feel about it," replied Dennison.
"Prescott isn't the kind of man who can climb high in mathematics,
and do it honestly," continued Dodge. "Either he has the old
crib at work again, or has hit on a safer way of working crib."
"Of course he has," nodded Dennison. "We ought to post the
class---especially Prescott own section comrades. They can catch
him, if they're sharp, and then pass the word through the class
without bothering the authorities. If Prescott is doing such things
he must be driven from West Point."
"He will be---see if he isn't," retorted Bert sullenly. "I'm
going to pass the word to the class."
"And I'll post the men in the same section with him," promised
"Why not post Prescott first?" demanded a cold voice. A cadet
had halted behind the pair.
"Oh, you, Furlong?" snarled Dodge, turning.
"Yes," replied Cadet Furlong. "And I told you, on a former
occasion, what I thought about back-biters."
"Be careful, Furlong!" warned Dennison angrily.
"At your service, sir, any time," coolly replied Furlong, though
he was a head shorter than Dennison, who was one of the big athletes
of the yearling class.
"But the class ought to know some truths," retorted Dodge harshly.
"Here comes some of the class now," replied Furlong, as seven
yearlings, on their way back from the library, turned in at the
sally-port. "Tell them for a start, Dodge, and I'll listen.
Hold on there, fellows. Oh, you there, Prescott? That's lucky.
Dodge has some 'facts' he thinks the class ought to know, and
I want you to hear them. Now, Dodge, turn around and repeat what
you were just saying."
There was no help for it. Dodge had to speak up, or be considered
a cur that bit only in the dark.
So, with a show of defiance, Dodge spoke hotly giving a very fair
repetition of what he had lately said. Prescott stood by, his
fists clenched, his face white, but without interrupting or making
"Now, state what you said, Mr. Dennison," requested Furlong coldly.
Thus cornered, Dennison, too, had to state truthfully what he had
just been saying.
There was a pause.
Some of the yearlings looked straight ahead. Others glanced curiously
at the principals in this little drama of cadet life. None of
them took Furlong to be anything more than the stage manager.
"Have you said all you have to say, Mr. Dodge?" demanded Cadet
"Yes," flared Bert.
"Have you anything that you wish to add, Mr. Dennison?" demanded
Dick, wheeling upon his other foe in the corps.
"Nothing more, at present," replied Dennison coolly. He realized
how much bigger and more powerful he was than Dick Prescott.
"Then, as for you, Mr. Dodge," continued Prescott, fixing his
old-time enemy with a cold eye, "you're a liar and a coward!"
Dodge doubled his fists, springing forward, but two of the yearlings
caught him and dragged him back, for old ramrod's back was already
turned. Dick was eyeing his other detractor.
"You, Mr. Dennison," continued Prescott, "are a dirty scandal-monger,
a back-biter and a source of danger to the honor of the cadet corps!"
THE FIGHT IN BARRACKS
"Let go of me!" roared Dennison, as two men held him. "Let me
"Any name that you would see fit to call me, Dennison, wouldn't
sting," retorted Dick. "You have forfeited the right to have
your opinion considered a gentleman's."
"Don't you ever call names?" hissed Dennison.
"Only to the faces of the men to whom the names are applied,"
"And that's right," agreed Furlong heartily. "We've been classmates
nearly two years, and I've heard old ramrod say disagreeable things,
once or twice, behind men's backs. But it was never until after
he had said the same thing to the man's face."
"This isn't fair," fussed Dennison, "to hold me back after I've
By this time, half a dozen more cadets had stopped. Three of
the newest comers were yearlings, one was a second classman and
two were first classmen.
"Will you let me act as one of your friends, old ramrod?" asked
"I think you've proved your right, on this and other occasions,"
laughed Dick quietly. "Go ahead, please, Milesy."
"This is not place for a fight," continued Furlong, "and this
crowd had better break up, or we shall be seen and there'll be
an inquiry from the tactical department. As Prescott's friend,
I will say that he is prepared to give full satisfaction to both
men. In fact, if they didn't demand it, he would."
Before so many, Bert Dodge had to appear brave.
"I demand the first meeting for satisfaction," Bert insisted.
"And I think you may count on getting the first meeting," nodded
Furlong coolly. "Now, Mr. Dodge, to whom shall I look as your
"Let me act!" begged Dennison hoarsely.
"Go ahead, Dennison," replied Dodge, who felt that he would draw
some comfort from having this big athlete of the class for a backer.
"Now, break up, please, gentlemen," begged Furlong. "We don't
want and wind of this to blow to official quarters. Dennison,
I invite you to come to my room."
Like soldiers dismissed from ranks, the sudden gathering in the
sally-port dispersed. Dick went on to his own quarters.
"Now, that's what I call huge!" chuckled Greg Holmes, as soon
as he heard the news. "But see here, old ramrod, I'm to be your
"Of course," nodded Dick.
"Then I'm off for Furlong's room at once. And again---hooray!"
There being nothing to prevent a prompt meeting, it was arranged
to take place that evening at 8.30. In the subdivision where Furlong
lived there was an empty room up on the plebe floor.
Sharp to the minute of 8.30 the men were at hand. Packard, of
the first class, had agreed to act as referee. Maitland, second
class, held the watch. Dodge and Prescott were in their corners,
stripped for the fray. Nelson, of the third class, was Dodge's
Both men looked in fine condition as they waited for the referee
to call the bout. Both had received the same amount of bodily
training, some of it under Captain Koehler at the gymnasium, and
a good deal more of it in infantry, cavalry, artillery and other
drills. Over the chests and between the shoulder blades of both
men were pads of supple muscles. Both men were strong of arm,
though neither too heavy with muscle to be quick and active.
"Gentlemen," announced Referee Packard, "this fight is to be to
a finish, with bare hands. Rounds, two minutes each. Time between
rounds one minute. There will be no preliminary handshaking.
Are you ready, gentlemen?"
"Ready!" quivered Dodge.
"Ready," softly replied Prescott, a smile hovering over his lips.
Dodge came forward nimbly, his head well down and his guards well
placed. Prescott was straighter, at the outset, and his attitude
almost careless, in appearance. Dick had been a clever fighter
back in the old High School days. Dodge, since coming to West
Point, had vastly improved both in guard and in offence.
It was Dodge who led off. He was not by any means a physical
coward, and possessed a good deal of the cornered kind of courage
of the fighting rat. Dodge's first two or three blows were neatly
parried. Then he began to mix it up in a lively way, and three
heavy blows landed on Dick's body. But Dodge didn't get back
out of it unscathed. One hard thump on his chest, in particular,
Then at it again went both men, fire in Dodge's eye, mockery in
The blows fell fast and furious, until the lookers-on wanted to
cheer. There was little of foot work, little of getting away.
It was heavy, forceful give-and-take until failing wind compelled
both men to draw back.
They kept at it, but sparring for wind until the call of time came.
Both men were then hustled back into their corners, sponged, kneaded,
fanned. A minute was mighty short time in which to recover fighting
trim from such mauling as had been exchanged.
Biff, bump, pound!
It was the style of fighting that Dodge was forcing, and it had
to be met. Yet all the time Dick was alert, watching for a chance
to land a stinging blow somewhere except on the torso.
Just before the close of the second round Prescott thought he
saw his chance. Feinting with his left, he drove in a hook with
his right, aimed for Bert's nose.
It touched, instead, on the lip, not a hard blow, but a tantalizing
one. As the men drew back at the call of time a blotch of red
was seen on Bert's lower lip. When he came back for the third
round, that lip was puffing fast.
"Third round, time!"
Again Bert Dodge started in with his heavy body tactics. But
this time Dick himself changed the style. With swift, clever
foot-work he danced all around his now furious opponent.
Dodge could follow the swift style, too, however, and defended
himself, finally coming back with the assault.
Half way through the round Dick received a sharp tap on his nose
that brought the red. Stung, Prescott became only the cooler.
For some time he fought for the opening that he wanted, and got
it at last, though Dodge's guarding left prevented the blow from
landing with quite all the force with which it had been driven.
Dick's middle knuckles raked that already swollen lip, but the
lower knuckles landed against the tip of Dodge's jaw with a force
which, while not complete, nevertheless sent Bert to the floor,
where he lay on his side.
"One, two, three, four-----" began Maitland, his gaze on the slipping
second hand of his watch.
"Take the full count, Bert!" warned Dennison.
"Nine, ten!" finished Maitland.
In that instant Dodge was on his feet again, head down and working
with great caution.
The third round ended ere Prescott could put in any finishing
touches. Yet, under the skillful hands of his seconds, Dodge
came up rather smilingly at the call for the opening of the fourth.
There was almost murder in Dodge's eyes now. He felt that he
was the better man, and yet he had been getting slightly the worst
of it so far. But he would show them!
Yet, after forty seconds of this work, when Dodge had just let
fly a blow intended to land over Prescott's heart, his fist touched
only air and he lurched forward. In the same instant Dick swung
a smashing blow on Bert's left ear. Bert went down, lying there
like a log.
In the silence that followed the finish of the count, and the
referee's awarding words, Dick Prescott's voice broke in, as soft
and cool as ever:
"In fifteen minutes, Mr. Dennison, I'll be ready for _you_!"
MR. DENNISON'S TURN IS SERVED
Furlong sprang forward to protest.
"See here, old ramrod, don't be foolish."
"I can handle it as well tonight as at any time," Dick laughed
as coolly as ever.
"But you've taken a lot of punishment."
"Fifteen minutes is all I need, with seconds like you and Greg."
"Will it be fair to yourself, Prescott?" demanded Packard.
"Wholly," replied Dick unconcernedly.
"Let him alone," urged Greg. "Old ramrod always knows what he's
"I'm not sure that we can get Dodge out of here and attended to,
and be already for the start in fifteen minutes," replied Packard.
"Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five," insisted Dick. "Whatever time
is necessary, so that we start in time to be through before taps."
"What do you say, Dennison?" asked Packard.
"I? Oh, I'll be ready," grinned the athlete.
"Will you serve Dennison?" asked Packard, turning to Nelson
"Yes; of course."
"Then, Nelson, confer with Dennison and see whom he wants to serve
with you. The rest of us will work over Dodge. Whew! Look that
ear puff up while you watch it!"
"Beauty, isn't it?" asked Greg grimly. "It will be a cauliflower
decoration, all right."
Nelson went scurrying, soon returning with Anderson. Any yearling
would gladly have served tonight, in order to see what doughty
Dick Prescott would do against his second man in the same evening.
With Nelson and Anderson came two other yearlings who had agreed
to see Dodge safely to the door of cadet hospital.
Bert Dodge had been brought around at last. He was a bit dazed,
but he grinned, as he went out, when Dennison murmured in his
"Never you mind, old man. I'll take care of Prescott. I'll twist
the ramrod into a figure 8."
"We must proceed as promptly as possible, gentlemen," rapped out
Mr. Packard. "We must be finished before taps."
"Dennison will be finished, by that time," muttered Greg in a
Holmes had never provoked a senseless fight. He was good-natured
almost to a fault. Yet, when a fight became inevitable, Greg
could act as principal or second with equal cheeriness.
Nelson had brought back with him togs for Dennison, and that athlete
was quickly ready.
Every minute of the time had been utilized well in getting, Dick
Prescott in condition for his second scrap of the evening. His
nose-bleed had been stopped, but it was wind and lung power that
he wanted most. He had taken some heavy body thumping, but rest
and rubbing had worked out most of the soreness.
"Get up and kick a bit. See what you can do," advised Furlong.
Dick went through a few irregular gymnastics.
"There's one good thing about old ramrod," declared Greg, in a
grinning undertone. "He's always ready, every minute of the time!"
Sharply, quickly, now, the combatants were brought face to face.
At the call of time, Dennison sailed in; Dick leaped forward.
Dennison was amused, more than half contemptuous over the easiness
of the work that he thought had come to him. But he felt in honor
bound to make the thing short. In the first place, he had to
avenge Dodge. In the second place, it would reflect upon himself
if Dennison allowed Prescott to string the battle out.
Some sharp cracks were given and taken, and many more dodged or
struck aside, when, up close to the end of the first round, Prescott
landed one between the big fellow's eyes that made him see stars.
Right in close Prescott followed, before his opponent could recover.
But the time-keeper's call prevented further doings.
"He's a mosquito, that's all," growled Denison to Nelson, in the
"Go in and swat him, then," grinned Nelson.
"Remember, then, that skeeters are dodgers."
"I'll saw him off, this time," grumbled the big fellow.
The call of time brought both men forward.
But Dick, the same quiet smile on his face, had planned new tactics
with Furlong during that minute's rest.
Now, Dick struck Dennison, not very heavily, on the right shoulder.
The next time it was a tap on the right chest.
Dennison strove to resent these indignities, but Prescott had
a definite plan of sustained assault, and the big fellow could
not read it in advance.
Twice Dick got caught by swings, though he was not sadly troubled.
He was lanching in, lightly, all over the less vital parts on
his man now. It did Dennison no harm, but the impudence of it
stung the big fellow.
"That's the b.j.-est skeeter I ever saw," grinned Nelson, as he
sprayed water over Dennison's biceps.
"You quit, Nelse!"
"All right. Don't get mad at me. Just catch Prescott on your
face and mash him!"
Again the men were called to the center of the room. They eyed
each other, "measured arms" in a few useless passes, then settled
down to business.
On Dick's part that business was to dodge about as before, touching
lightly here and there. Dennison's effort was to swing in one hard,
Just thirty-five seconds from the start of the round Dick found
his opportunity, and took it. His right smashed in fearfully
on the end of the big fellow's jaw bone, just under the ear.
Bump! Dennison's big, muscular body hit the floor like the falling
of a tree. Maitland counted, for he knew the big fellow couldn't
rise in ten seconds after a blow like that.
"Nine, ten," finished the time-keeper, and dropped his watch into
"I award the fight to Mr. Prescott," announced Packard. "Now,
what are we going to do with this big hulk?"
That was a problem. It would hardly do to take another cadet
to hospital that night. Anyway Dennison would need a stretcher,
and four cadets to carry him, for he still lay on the floor in
a stupor, from which the usual methods of reviving a man after
a knockout failed to bring him.
It was just ten minutes before taps when Dennison was finally
brought around and helped to his feet.
"Where's Prescott?" asked Dennison, after he had gulped down a
glass of water.
"Here," answered Dick, stepping forward.
"Prescott, I don't suppose I'm very clear headed yet," rambled
on Dennison. "But I want to apologize for my words this afternoon.
And---I'm glad you whacked me right tonight. Perhaps I'll really
learn something from it. But my apologies, anyway."
"Say no more," begged Dick, tendering his hand. "It is all forgotten."
Dick received hasty congratulations from the late officials of
the fights. Then they, and Prescott and his friends, disappeared
quickly to quarters. Dennison was helped to his room. When the
subdivision inspectors went through with their bulls-eye lanterns
immediately after taps, they found all present save Cadet Albert
Dodge passed a painful couple of hours until opiates won out and
he passed into drugged sleep.
In one respect Dodge got far less out of the fight than had Dennison.
Bert had not even learned, convincingly, that Prescott was a man to
A DISCOVERY AT THE RIDING DRILL
Having once got a hard gait in mathematics, Dick went steadily
on and up until he reached one of the middle sections. There
he stopped. It was as high as he could go, with all this competition
from the brightest young men in the country.
Greg, too, managed to get well away from the goats, and so was
Through the winter the yearlings, in detachments, had attended
the riding hall regularly during the afternoons.
Most of the men, as spring came along, had proven themselves very
good cadet horsemen, though all would have chance to learn more
during the two years yet ahead of them.
Dodge, who rode in the same detachment with Dick and Greg, was
credited with being the poorest rider in the class.
"When you get to be an officer, Mr. Dodge, you'll have to take
the yearly walking test for three days. You'll get over the ground
quicker and safer than you would on a horse," remarked the cadet
"Oh, well, sir, I'm going into the doughboys, anyway," grinned
Dodge. "It will be a good many years before I can get up far
enough in the line to be called upon to ride a horse."
The "doughboys" are the United States Infantry. No company officer
in the infantry mounted; only the field and staff officers of
the doughboys are provided with mounts.
One cloudy Friday afternoon Cadet Corporal Haskins marched a yearling
detachment down to the riding hall. Captain Hall, their instructor,
was already in saddle. He turned to receive the report of Haskins
after the detachment had been halted at the edge of the tan-bark.
"Stand to horse!" ordered Captain Hall.
The men of the detachments sprang over, each leading out his mount
for the afternoon.
"Prepare to mount!"
Instantly each young man stood with one foot in stirrup, one hand
at the animal's mane, and one at saddle.
In perfect unison the yearling cadets swung themselves up into
saddle, their right feet searching for and then resting in the
Then, at the command, Haskins led his men out in single file.
Thus they circled the riding hall twice at a walk.
"Trot!" came Captain Hall's command.
A few rounds of this was followed by the command, "gallop!" Around
and around the hall the cadets rode, every man but one feeling
the blood tingling with new life through his arteries. It was
glorious to stride a horse and to ride at this gait!
Glorious, that is, for all except one man. Dodge rode at the
tail end of the line, on a fiend of a horse that had proven
disastrous to more than one green rider.
As the "gallop" was ordered, Dodge's mount showed a longing to
bolt and dash up to the head of the line. Dodge, throbbing uneasily,
reined in hard. His horse began to chafe as it found itself forced
back. In another moment Dodge was lagging behind.
"Keep the pace, Mr. Dodge! Keep the pace, sir!" called out Captain
Bert obeyed, but in fear. He did not know at what instant this
uneasy animal would rear and unhorse him.
At last the detachment was halted and the line faced about. Now
the detachment rode in reverse direction around the tan-bark.
By this means Dodge became the leader.
Through the walk and the trot, he managed to get along all right,
though he was nervous.
"Stick to your saddle, Mr. Dodge!" called Captain Hall. "Don't
bump it, sir. Settle down and ride steadily."
Then, an instant later, just as Dodge was beginning to feel secure:
Dodge's wild mount gave a snort, then bolted.
"Whoa, you unruly beast!" roared Dodge. Behind him rode the
detachment, grimly merry, though with not a flicker of a smile
Bert's horse pulled away, and bolted, with Dodge tugging at the
Greg, riding behind him, endeavored to bridge the gap.
"Steady, Mr. Holmes!" shouted the cavalry instructor. "You may
set the pace until Mr. Dodge regains control of his mount."
Straight around the tan-bark went Dodge and his mount, until the
animal was in danger of colliding with Haskins' mount.
"Hard on your off rein, Mr. Dodge! Swing out into the center
and bring your horse down!" ordered Captain Hall sternly.
Bert managed to swing out of the line, but that was all. He shot
along on the inside, for the horse seemed to have a notion that
it was racing the entire detachment, lap by lap.
"Have you utterly lost control of your horse, Mr. Dodge?" shouted
Plainly enough the young man had, for, at that moment, the beast,
its mouth sore from the continued tugging against the bits, slackened
its pace, then plunged on its forefeet, throwing its heels high
in the air.
With a gasp of terror Dodge struck the tan-bark, one shoulder
landing first. But he still retained the bridle, and was dragged.
The vicious animal wheeled, rearing, and its fore-feet came down
aimed at Dodge's face.
Dick Prescott was the nearest cadet horseman at this moment.
Suspecting what might happen, Prescott had swung his own mount
sharply out of line, riding straight after Dodge.
"Drop your bridle!" called Dick sternly.
Then, just as Dodge's horse was bringing its fore-feet down, Prescott
rode against the angry animal, striking it against the flank and
shoving it sideways and back. The brute's forefeet struck the
tan-bark, but more than two feet from Dodge's head. Bert had
presence of mind enough to roll to one side.
In an instant Prescott was down out of saddle, holding his own
splendidly disciplined mount by the bridle while he bent over
Dodge lay on the tan-bark, his uniform awry and dirty, and his face
blanched with fear of the horse.
"Are you much hurt, Dodge?" asked Dick.
"No, confound you!" muttered Bert under his breath.
As if to prove his lack of injury, he sat up, then rose to his feet.
"Mount, Mr. Prescott, and join the line," noting all with quick
eyes. "Mr. Dodge, recapture your horse, mount and fall in."
That was the discipline of the tan-bark. If a cadet falls from
a horse and has no bones broken, or no other desperate injury,
he must wait until his horse comes around, catch it and mount
again. If the horse be excited and fractious, all the more reason
why the cadet should capture the beast and mount instantly. A
horse must always be taught that a cavalryman is his master.
The riderless brute had fallen in at the tail of the line now,
behind Cadet Corporal Haslins, and was going along peaceably
enough---until Bert Dodge made a lunge for the bridle. Then the
beast shied, and got past.
"Run after your horse, Mr. Dodge; catch him and mount him," called
Captain Hall, fuming that this episode should steal away drill
time from the other more capable young horsemen.
"Mr. Dodge," rapped out the cavalry instructor sharply, after
Bert had made two more efforts to get hold of the bridle, "are
you waiting for a groom to bring your horse to you?"
At this some of the pent-up merriment broke loose. Half a dozen
yearlings chuckled aloud.
"Silence in ranks!" ordered the instructor sharply. Then, patiently,
though with more that a tinge of rebuke in his tone, the captain
"Mr. Dodge, you've taken all the time we can spare you, sir.
Catch that horse instantly and mount!"
By sheer good luck Bert managed to obey. But his nerve was gone
for the afternoon. He made a sad bungle of all the work, though
he was not again unhorsed.
There was bareback riding, and riding by pairs, in which latter
feat one man of each pair passed his bridle to the comrade beside
him, then rode with folded arms. Then came riding by threes,
with the center man holding the bridles from either side, while
each of the outer men rode with folded arms. Then, cautiously,
the men were taught to stand on the bare backs of their horses
and to move at a walk. By and by they would be required to ride,
standing, at a gallop.
All through this drill, Dick Prescott rode with precision, power,
and even grace.
Yet never had his mind been further from the present work than
it was this afternoon.
Had Bert Dodge known more of what Prescott had seen as the former
lay for that instant on the tan-bark, Dick's enemy would have
fallen from his horse in a delirium of fear.
For, as Bert fell in the center of the tan-bark the left sleeve
of his coat had been pushed back, exposing the white linen cuff.
From the inner hem of that cuff, up to the middle, Dick Prescott
had gazed, for an instant only, on row after row of small, evenly
lettered words or rows of numerals. Prescott had not had time
to bend close enough to see which.
Yet no sooner had Dick vaulted back into saddle again than the
remembrance of that cuff flashed upon him.
"Dodge has been excelling in daily recitations, yet can't do as
well at general review!" flashed hotly through Prescott's mind.
"And Dodge, the high-souled one who loathes cribs! If that writing
on his cuff isn't a crib of today's math., then I'm a plebe!"
The thought would not down, even for a moment.
Dick became wilder in his thoughts the more he thought about it.
"The cribber! And he sought to blast me here on a false charge
of cribbing. For now I know in my soul that he put that paper
crib in my handkerchief that Friday morning months ago!"
Dick's indignation, as he rode, was more than personal. True,
he longed to show up the sneak who had nearly wound up another
and honest cadet's career here at West Point. But there was an
even higher purpose in Prescott's mind at the same time. The
corps of cadets loathes a cribber as it does any other kind of
cheat or liar. It is justly regarded as a moral crime for any
cadet, knowing another to be a sneak, stand by and silently allow
that sneak to graduate into the brotherhood of the Army.
"Dodge, you cur, every minute, now, is bringing you nearer your
own merited disgrace," muttered Dick savagely. "As soon as this
detachment is dismissed at barracks I'll denounce you before all
the fellows. I'll insist that you expose that cuff---and you'll
have to do it!"
Once Prescott caught himself wondering whether he might not fail
through being too hasty. Was it barely possible that the writing
on Bert Dodge's left cuff was wholly innocent?
"No! I'm not making any mistake, and I'll prove it to my own
satisfaction!" throbbed this cadet who had waited patiently all
these months for complete vindication before the corps.
Never had Dick known such relief at being dismissed from riding
drill. The detachment formed under Haskins' orders, and marched
up the road from riding hall, across the street to the Academic
Building, and then, with Corporal Haskins still at the head, turned
in at the east sally-port.
But here, right at the entrance to the port, stood Chaplain Montgomery.
"Corporal Haskins," called the chaplain, as he returned the cadet
officer's smart salute, "will you excuse Mr. Prescott that I may
speak with him?
"Mr. Prescott, fall out!" came Haskins' command.
With a feeling of horror and anguish Dick fell out, saluting Chaplain
Montgomery, for the chaplain, though an ordained minister of the
church, was also, by virtue of his post of chaplain, a captain
of the United States Army.
On moved the detachment, the feet of the cadets moving at a rhythmic
beat as these perfect young soldiers moved on across the barracks
And all Chaplain Montgomery had to say to Cadet Prescott was to
tell him in which bound file of a magazine at the Y.M.C.A. could
be found an article about which Dick had asked the churchman a
Dick returned thanks, though he meant no disrespect to the kindly
chaplain. Then, saluting, he hurried on after the detachment.
But more than a fatal minute had been lost at the sally-port,
and now the detachment was dismissed. The men had been in their
rooms for at least forty-five seconds.
"No use to go to Dodge now!" thought Dick despondently. "Whether
he knows that I saw that cuff or not, he has removed it and has
it safely hidden by this time. Oh, if Chaplain Montgomery could
have been a hundred yards further away at that moment!"
It was no use to lament. Dick concluded to wait and bide his
time. The chance might yet come to catch Bert Dodge red handed.
"Though, if he suspects that I saw his exposed cuff, he'll take
pains that there is not further chance!" decided Cadet Prescott.
After that he went to his room, where he told Greg what he had
"It's suspicious---mightily so," declared Holmes. "But it isn't
Nevertheless, Greg, once he had heard, could not get the matter
out of his mind either!
PITCHING FOR THE ARMY NINE
"Dick, old fellow, this is going to be a Gridley day for us!
It will carry us back to the good old High School days!"
Cadet Greg Holmes was radiant as he moved about their room in
quarters that Saturday morning while preparing for the call to
Until one o'clock these young men of West Point would be busy
in the section rooms, as on other week days. But the afternoon
of Saturday belonged to pleasure---on this Saturday to sport!
Lehigh University was sending over the strongest baseball nine
it could put up, in the effort to beat West Point on the Military
"It'll seem just like good old Gridley High School days," repeated
"Yes," smiled Dick darkly, "with the same rascal, Bert Dodge, to
keep my thoughts going."
"Dodge won't be in the game, anyway."
"He wasn't much in Gridley, either," smiled Dick darkly.
"Oh, well, forget him until the game is over."
Morning recitations passed off as usual. It was when the cadets
came back from dinner,