Part 3 out of 4
"If you please," nodded Dick. "Our boys will want everything
ready when they reach the grounds."
So the two chums were quickly carried beyond the noise and confusion.
A few minutes later the wagon turned in at the Fordham Athletic
The Fordham High School boys were out in the field, practicing.
As seen in their padded togs they were an extra-bulky looking
"Great Scott!" grunted Darrin, half disgustedly. "Each one of
those Fordham fellows must weigh close to a ton."
"The more weight the less speed, anyway," laughed Dick good-humoredly.
"And, look! I wonder how old some of those fellows are," continued
Darrin. "I wonder if, in this town, men wait until they've made
their fortunes and retired, before they enter High School. Why,
some of these Fordham fellows must have voted for president the
last two times."
"Hardly as bad as that, I guess," smiled Prescott. "Still, these
Fordham boys do look more like a college eleven than a High School
Dave continued to gaze over at the home team, and to scowl, until
the wagon was halted before dressing quarters. Here the teamster
and another man made short work of carrying in all the tog-bags.
A few minutes later the other fellows arrived.
"Say, which team is it we're fighting to-day?" demanded Hudson.
"Harvard, or Yale?"
There was general grumbling comment.
"I think," insisted Tom Reade, "that the Fordham team wouldn't
like to stand a searching hunt into the eligibility of some of
"They've surely brought in some who are not regular, fair-and-square
High School students," contended Dan Dalzell.
There was much more talk of this sort, some of the Gridley boys
insisting that Fordham ought to be compelled to account for the
size and seeming age of some of the home players.
"We're up against a crooked line-up, or I'll give up," muttered
"Now, see here, fellows," laughed Captain Dick. "I don't believe
in making any fuss beforehand. We'll just go ahead and take what
comes to us."
"It would be too late to make a kick after we've played," cried
"You fellows," continued Dick, "make me think of what I heard
Mr. Pollock say to Wilcox, chairman of the campaign committee
"What was that?" demanded half a dozen.
"Why," chuckled Prescott, "Mr. Pollock said to Wilcox: 'Now, see
here, there's always a chance that the election will go our way.
So never yell fraud until after the election is over.'"
"I guess that's the wisest philosophy," laughed Coach Morton,
who had taken no part in the previous conversation.
"If that's the Fordham team," continued Dick, "it's one of pretty
sizable fellows. But we'll do our plain duty, which is to pile
out on to the field and proceed to stroll through any line that
is posted in our way."
Just before the Gridley youngsters were ready to go out for preliminary
practice the big Fordham fellows came off the field.
"Hullo!" piped Dave, as the Gridley boys strolled out to the gridiron.
"You ought to feel happy, Dick. There's a big section of West
Point over on the grand stand."
Nearly two hundred young men in black and gray cadet uniforms
of the United States Military Academy pattern sat in a solid block
at one point on the grand stand.
"No, they're not West Pointers," sighed Dick. "See here, those
fellows, of course, are students at the Fordham Military institute.
They wear the West Point uniform. And that's the military school
that Phin Drayne went to."
"The sneak!" grunted Dave. "I wonder if he's over in that bunch,
"I'm not even enough interested to wonder," returned Prescott.
"He's where he can't do us any harm, anyway."
"But, if the Fordham boys put anything over us, I'll bet Drayne
has things timed so that the military boys will do a big and
noisy lot of boasting."
"They will, anyway, if we allow them a chance," answered Dick.
"Now, spread out, fellows," he called, raising his voice.
In the next moment the ball was in lively play.
The first time that a fumble was made a jeering chorus sounded
among the military school boys.
"I expected it," growled Darrin.
"We don't care, anyway," smiled Dick. "Let 'em hoot! I don't
draw the line until they throw things."
"If they knew Phin Drayne as we do, they'd throw him first," grimaced
A minute later another hoot went up. It was plain that the military
school boys had been primed for this.
But the gray-clad youths, it was very soon evident, were not the
only ones who had come out to make a noise. Half of the Fordham
crowd present joined in the volleys of derision that were showered
down on the practicing boys from Gridley.
"It's nothing but a mob!" declared Darrin, his eyes flashing.
"Careful, old fellow," counseled Prescott coolly. "They're trying
to get our nerve before the game begins. Don't let 'em do it."
This excellent instruction Dick contrived to pass throughout his
team. Thereafter the Gridley boys seemed not to hear the harsh
witticisms that were hurled at them from all sides of the field.
Just in the nick of time the Gridley Band began playing. That
stopped the annoyance for a while, for Fordham had neglected to
provide a band.
Yet when the Gridley High School song was started by the band,
and the Gridley boosters joined in the words, the answer from
Fordham came in the form of a "laughing-song," let loose with
such volume that the Gridley offering to the merriment was drowned
"I hope we can give this rough town a horrible thumping---that's
all," muttered Dave, his eyes flashing.
"Don't let them capture your 'goat,' and we will," Dick promised,
as quietly as ever.
The plain hostility of the home crowd was wearing in on more than
one of the Gridley boys. Dick felt obliged to call his eleven
together, and to give them some quiet, homely but forcible advice.
Coach Morton followed, with more in the same line.
Yet it came as a welcome relief to the Gridley youngsters when
the referee and the other officials came to the field and game
Dick Prescott won the toss, and took the kickoff.
That, of course, sent the ball into Fordham ranks. In an instant
the solid Fordham line emitted a murmur that sounded like a bear's
growl, then came thundering down upon the smaller Gridley youngsters.
There was a fierce collision, but Gridley held on like a herd
of bulls. The ball was soon down.
For five minutes or so there was savage playing. Fordham played
a "slugging" game of the worst kind. Several foul tackles were
quickly made by home players, yet so quickly released that the
referee could not be sure and could not inflict a penalty. Sly
blows were struck when the lines came together.
The average football captain would have claimed penalties, and
fought the matter out.
But Dick Prescott let matters run by. He was waiting his opportunity.
So hard was the "slugging," so overbearing and ruthlessly unfair
was the Fordham charge that, at the end of five minutes, Gridley
was forced to make a safety, losing two points at the outset.
"Yah!" sneered an exultant voice from the ranks of the military
school. "That's the fine Captain Prescott we've heard about!"
Tom Reade, in togs, was standing among the Gridley subs at the
Tom recognized, as did all the Gridley boys, the voice of Phin
"Yes!" bellowed Tom, facing the gray-clad group. "And that last
speaker was a fellow who was expelled from Gridley High School
for selling out his team!"
It was a swift shot and a bull's-eye. The Fordham Institute boys
had no answer ready for that. Half of them turned to stare at
Phin Drayne, whose guilty face, with color coming and going in
flashes seemed to admit the truth of Reade's taunt.
"Dick," growled Darrin, as they moved forward, after the safety,
to Gridley's twenty-five yard line, "these Fordham fellows are
simply ruffians. They're fouling us every second, and they'll
smash half our fellows into the hospital."
"We'll see about that!"
Dick Prescott's voice was as quiet and cool as ever, but there
was an ominous flash in his eyes.
"We'll Play the Gentleman's Game."
At the next down Dan Dalzell held up his hand, making a dash for
"I claim a foul!" he called.
"Captain, this is for you," announced the referee, turning to
Dick. "Be quick, if you've any complaint to make."
"Come here, Dalzell," called Prescott. "What was the foul?"
The Fordham players crowded about, muttering in an ugly way---all
except one man, who skulked at the rear.
"There's the hoodlum," continued Dan excitedly, one hand over
his left breast. He pointed to the Fordham player skulking at
the rear. "That fellow deliberately gave me the elbow over the
heart when we came together."
"What have you to say, Captain Barnes?" demanded the referee,
turning to the Fordham leader.
"It's not true," retorted Barnes hotly. "Daniels, come here."
The matter was argued quickly and hotly, Gridley accusing, Fordham
"Can't you Gridley fellows play with anything but your mouths?"
snarled Captain Barnes.
"We play a straight game," retorted Dick coldly. "We play like
"Do you mean that we're not?" demanded Barnes swaggeringly.
"So far you've played like a lot of sluggers."
"See here! I've a good mind to thrash you, Prescott!" quivered
"It's always the truth that stings," retorted Dick, with a cool
"My fist would hurt, too."
"That's what we're asking you to do---to save all your slugging
and bruising tactics until after a straight and gentlemanly game
has been played," retorted Dick, with spirit.
Barnes clenched his fists, but the referee stepped squarely in
between the rival captains.
"Cut it!" directed that official tersely. "I'll do all the talking
myself. Captain Barnes, return to your men and tell them that
slugging and tricky work will be watched for more carefully, and
penalized as heavily as the rules allow. If it goes too far I'll
declare the game forfeited to the visiting team."
"This is a shame!" fumed Barnes. "And the whole charge is a mass
"I'll watch out and see," promised---or threatened---the referee.
"Back to your positions. Captain Barnes, I'll give you thirty
seconds to pass the word around among your men."
"That black-haired prize-fighter with the mole on his chin tries
to give me his knee every time we meet in a scrimmage," growled
Hudson to Dick. "If he carries it any further, I think I know
a kick that will put his ankle out of business!"
"Then don't you dare use it," warned Dick sternly. "No matter
what the other fellows do, our team is playing a square, honest
game every minute of both halves!"
The referee had signaled them to positions. The Gridley boys
leaped into place.
Play was resumed. In the next three plays Fordham, under the
now more keenly watchful eyes of the officials, failed to make
the required distance, and lost the ball.
Gridley took the ball, now. In the next two plays, the smaller
fellows advanced the ball some twelve yards. But in the next
three plays following, they lost on downs, and Fordham again carried
"The Fordham fellows are passing a lot of whispers every chance
they get," reported alert Dave.
"I don't care how much they whisper," was Dick's rejoinder. "But
watch out for crooked tricks."
Minute after minute went by. Gridley got the ball down to the
enemy's fifteen-yard line, then saw it slowly forced back into
their own territory.
Now Fordham began to "slug" again; yet so cleverly was it done
that the officials could not put their fingers on a definite instance
that could be penalized.
Bravely fighting, Gridley was none the less driven back. From
the ten-yard line Fordham suddenly made a right end play on which
the whole weight and force of the team was concentrated. In the
mad crush, three or four Gridley boys were "slugged" in the slyest
manner conceivable. Fordham broke through the line, carrying
the pigskin over the goal line with a rush.
Fordham boosters set up a roar that seemed to make the ground
shake, but the two hundred boys from the military school took
little or no part in the demonstration. Tom Reade's reply to
Phin Drayne had silenced them.
Swaggering like swashbucklers Fordham followed the ball back for
the kick for goal. It was made, securing six points, which were
added to the two received from Gridley being forced to make that
safety earlier in the game.
"Of all the miserable gangs of rowdies!" uttered Dave Darrin,
as the teams rested in quarters between the halves.
"I have two black-and-blue spots to show, I know I have," muttered
"We'll have some of our men on stretchers, if this thing keeps
up," growled Greg Holmes.
"What are you going to do about this business, Captain?" demanded
two or three of the fellows, in one breath.
"As long as we play," replied Dick Prescott, "we'll play the same
gentleman's game, no matter what the other fellows do. We may
quit, but we won't slug. We won't sully Gridley's good name for
honest play. And we won't quit, either, until Mr. Morton orders
us from the field."
"You have it right, Prescott," nodded the coach. "And I shan't
interfere, either, unless things get a good deal worse than they
have been. But the Fordham work has been shameful, and I don't
blame any of you for feeling that you'd rather forfeit the game
and walk off the field."
Besides being coach, Mr. Morton was also manager. At his call
the team would have left the field instantly, despite any other
orders from the referee. It always makes a bad showing, however,
for a team to leave the field on a claim of foul playing.
"All out for the second half!" sounded a voice in the doorway.
The Gridley boys went, fire in their hearts, flame in their eyes.
Gridley's Last Charge
"Remember, Captain Barnes!" called the referee significantly.
"Why don't you talk to Prescott, too?" demanded the Fordham captain
"I don't need to."
"You----don't---need to?" demanded Barnes, opening his eyes in
"No; Prescott and his fellows have a magnificent reputation for
fair play, and they've won it on merit."
"You're down on us," growled Captain Barnes.
"I'm only waiting till I can put my finger on some slugging to
stop the game and hand it to Gridley," retorted the referee, with
"Be mighty careful, fellows; be clever," whispered the Fordham
captain to his most "dependable" men.
"Are we going to throw the game?" demanded the slugger who had
so angered Hudson.
"No; but don't get caught at anything. Better not do anything.
We've got those milk-diet infants eight to nothing now. Play
their own kind of kindergarten game as long as we can hold the
score without rough work."
Barnes's own instructions would have sufficiently stamped his
team, had these orders been heard by anyone else.
At the beginning of the second half Fordham played a much more
honest game, and Gridley began to pick up hope that fairness might
Gridley's own game, in the second half, was as swift and scientific
as it had ever been. By sheer good playing and brilliant dashes
Dick and his men carried the ball down the field, losing it once
on downs; but after the first ten minutes of the half they kept
the pigskin wholly in Fordham territory.
Back and forth surged the battle. Fordham, despite its greatly
superior weight and bulk, was not by any means superior when under
the utmost watchfulness of a referee avowedly anxious to penalize.
Yet, until the game was nearly over, Fordham managed to keep the
ball away from its own goal line.
Then, while the lines reformed and Dick bent over to snap back,
Dave Darrin called out a signal that electrified the whole Gridley
line. It called for one of their most daring plays, that Prescott
himself made famous the year before.
While the start, after the ball was in play, seemed directed toward
the right wing of Gridley, the ball was actually jumped to little
Fenton, at the left end, and Fenton, backed solidly by a superb
interference, got off and away with the ball. In a twinkling
he had it down behind Fordham's goal line.
Then the ball went back for the kick. The band played a few spirited
measures while the wearied Gridley boosters suddenly rose and
whooped themselves black in the face.
The kick, too, was won.
"Oh, well." growled Barnes, "we have two points to the good yet,
and only four minutes and a half left for the game. Don't get
rough, fellows, unless you have to."
As the Gridley boys sprang to a fresh line-up their eyes were
"Remember, fellows, the time is short, but battles have been won
in two minutes!"
This was the inspiring message flashed out by Captain Dick Prescott.
With all the zeal of race horses the Gridley High School boys
flung themselves into their work.
After a minute and a half of play, Gridley had done so much that,
just before the next snapback Barnes let his sulky eyes flash
about him in a way that was understood.
Fordham must rush in, now, and hold the enemy back, no matter
at what cost of roughness---if the roughness could be done slyly
Then it came, a fierce, frenzied charge. The ball was down again
in an instant, and Hazelton, a Gridley man, lay on the field,
unable to rise.
Physicians hurried out from the side lines.
"Broken leg," said one of them, and a stretcher was brought.
"Have we got to stand this sort of thing?" demanded Hudson, in
a hoarse whisper. "Say the word, and I'll send two of their men
"Don't you do it!" snapped Dick sharply. "It would disgrace our
school colors and our school honor. Don't let knaves make a knave
Tom Reade came out on a swift run from the side lines to take
"We ought to be allowed to carry guns, when we play a team like
this one," blurted Tom indignantly.
"We'll pay them back in the score," retorted Dick soberly, though
his eyes were flashing.
Dave, in the meantime, was swiftly passing some orders Dick had
whispered to him. These orders, however, related to plays to
come, and did not call for retaliation on Hazelton's account.
Play was called sharply. "Pay in the score," became the battle
cry raging in every Gridley boy's heart.
Four successive plays carried the ball so close to the Fordham
goal line that Barnes and his followers were in despair.
They still used whatever rough tricks they thought they could
sneak in under the eyes of the game's officials, and some of
these made the Gridley boys ache.
Then came a signal beginning with "three" which stood for reverse
signal. The numerals that came after the three called for the
same trick that Fenton had put through so splendidly.
Again the ball started toward the right wing. This time the Fordham
players were sure they understood---and like a flash massed their
defense against Gridley's left.
But on that reverse signal the ball continued to move at the right.
Before Barnes and his followers could comprehend, another touchdown
had been scored by the visitors.
And then came the kick for goal, and it was a splendid success.
The kick came just at the end of the second half. That kick
won the game for Dick's sorely pressed team.
Gridley's score, won by a cleanly played game against bruisers,
stood at twelve to eight!
Now, indeed, did the Gridley boosters turn themselves loose, the
Barnes and his ruffians skulked back to dressing quarters, there
to abuse the referee, the "Gridley kickers" and everyone and
everything else but themselves.
It wasn't long before some of the Fordham subs slipped out to
find their cronies and sympathizers in the crowd that was slowly
Then the word was passed around:
"Wait and be with us. Barnes is going to stop the Gridleys on
the way to the station. Barnes is going to make Prescott fight
for some things he said on the field! Of course, if you fellows
get generally peevish, and the whole Gridley team gets cleaned
out, there won't be many tears shed."
So scores of the sort of rabble in whom such an appeal finds
ready response hung about, eager to see what would turn up.
The Long Gray Column
One small urchin there was, so small that he escaped notice as
he hung about hearing the word passed.
But that urchin was a Gridley boy who had raised the money to
come and see this game. The boy possessed the Gridley spirit.
As fast as his legs would carry him he raced to dressing quarters,
and there told what he had heard.
"Thank you, kid!" said Dick. "You're a good Gridley boy," and
then he continued:
"So that's the game, is it They're going to mob us, are they I
guess they can do it---but, fellows, keep in mind to pass some
of the blows back! When we go down in the dirt be sure that some
of the Fordham fellows have something to remember us by for many
a day! I'm glad Hazelton has already been sent forward in an
As Dick finished dressing and waited for the others, he saw one
of the subs dropping a spiked shoe into an outer jacket pocket.
"What's that for?" Dick demanded sternly. "A weapon?"
"Yes," sheepishly admitted the other.
"Put it in your bag, then, and let it go on the baggage wagon.
Fellows, we'll fight with nothing but fists, and only then if
"But those scoundrels will probably use brickbats," argued the
fellow who had tried to drop the spiked shoe into his overcoat
"No matter," rang Dick's voice, low but commanding. "If we have
to, we'll fight for our lives as we fought for the game---on the
square! Good citizens don't carry concealed weapons until called
upon by the authorities to do it."
"Bully for you, Prescott!" rang the voice of the coach.
"You here, Mr. Morton?" cried Dick, wheeling and seeking the submaster.
"Mr. Morton, you're not a boy, and you don't want to be mixed
up in such affairs. Why don't you start-----"
"My place, Captain Prescott, is with the team I'm coaching," replied
the submaster. "And I think the signs are that we're going to
need all the pairs of fists that we have, and, more, too."
The baggage wagon came to the door. Dick, Dave and Tom coolly
loaded the baggage on. The wagon started off at good speed.
Then the two stages drove up to the door.
"Pile in, boys!" called one of the drivers.
Neither of the stage drivers was in the secret of what was likely
to happen down the road.
The start was made, the horses moving barely faster than a walk.
By this time the athletic field was practically deserted. There
was no sign of the presence of the Fordham High School team,
nor of the bad element that Barnes had enlisted.
It was not until the stages had proceeded nearly four blocks that
Dave, sitting beside Dick on the driver's seat of the first stage,
caught sight of some bobbing heads further up the road.
"There they are," whispered Dave. "Lying in wait at the next
corner. They'll jump out when we get there."
"Let them!" muttered Dick. "They'll have to start it---but after
The stages had almost reached the next corner. Grinning, or scowling,
according to individual moods, the roughs streamed out into the,
Gridley boys steeled themselves for a conflict, hopeless in odds
of five to one!
At this point a clear voice sounded in the distance.
"A Company, left wheel, march!"
Around another corner near by came a company of boys from the
Fordham Military Institute. It was followed by a second company,
a third and a fourth.
Then, by a further series of commands, one company was sent, on
the double quick, to march ahead of the first stage, while another
company fell in behind the second stage, while the other companies
formed and marched on either side of the stages.
While these hasty maneuvers were being carried out the fine-looking
young cadet major of the battalion lifted his fatigue cap to Dick
"Captain," called the boyish major, "you gave us such a fine exhibition
of gentlemanly football that we beg leave to show our appreciation
by marching as your escort of honor to the station."
The rough crowd in the street had fallen back to the sidewalks,
a savage mutter going up at the same time.
The Military School boys were without arms, save those Nature
had given them, but they, marched in solid ranks and stood for
two hundred pairs of fists!
So Barnes's last hope of vengeance vanished. Even his own rough
followers turned to eye him in disgust.
Before they left the grounds some of the Military School boys
had heard a whisper or two of what Barnes planned.
The soldier is drilled to fair play, and to detestation of cowardice.
These young military students passed the word quickly. They
left the grounds at once, but formed near by, on a side street
near where they learned that Barnes and his rough mob lay in ambush.
"I declare, that's the neatest, most military thing I ever saw
done!" laughed Dave Darrin.
"And done by the boys you made fun of as sham West Pointers!"
laughed Dick quizzically.
"But I didn't mean it," protested Dave, growing very red. "These
are splendid fellows. Evidently they think that they, too, are
entitled to say a word or two about the good name of Fordham."
"You didn't like the first look of these fellows, Dave, because
they had started to cheer for Fordham High School. But did you
notice that they cheered no more for Fordham after Reade answered
Phin Drayne so forcibly."
"It's a fact that these men didn't boost any more for Fordham,"
assented Dave. "By the way, I have one clear notion in my head!"
"What is it?"
"That Phin Drayne isn't marching in these close gray ranks about
Phin Drayne wasn't. At this moment Phin was back at the military
institute, his face twitching horribly as he packed his clothing
in the trunk in which it had come.
For, almost instantly after Reade had called out, some of the
military students around Drayne had demanded of him whether there
was a shadow of truth in what Reade had said.
Phin Drayne's "brass" had deserted him. He knew, anyway, that
these comrades could dig up his past record at Gridley very quickly.
Drayne knew that his days at Fordham were over.
"It was all my confounded tongue, too," muttered Phin dejectedly.
"If I had kept my tongue behind my teeth I don't believe any
of the Gridley fellows would have noticed me, or said anything.
Oh, dear! I wonder where I can go next!"
In the meantime the Gridley High School team and substitutes,
escorted with so much pomp, attracted a great deal of notice in
the streets of Fordham.
People turned out to cheer them, and to wave handkerchiefs and
ribbons. For Fordham wasn't all bad or rough; not even the High
School. The roughest element in the school had captured football---that
was all. Some of these boys belonged to the wealthier families,
and had been brought up to believe they could do as they pleased.
This was the High School in which Phin Drayne naturally belonged.
Down at the railway station the Gridley crowd and the Gridley
Band awaited the coming of the team. The fine sight made by the
gray military escort brought a hurricane of cheers from the Gridleyites.
Just at the nick of time the leader of the band bethought himself,
and signaled his musicians. As the stages drew up the band played,
and the Fordham Military Institute's battalion moved into line
of battalion front.
Dick feelingly thanked young Major Ransom.
"Oh, that's all right, Prescott," laughed young Ransom. "If we
hadn't shown up at all you fellows would have given a good
account of yourselves. But we had to do it. Fordham is our
headquarters, too, and the honor of the town, while we live and
study here, means something to all of us. Don't gauge even the
Fordham High School by what happened to-day---or came near
happening. There are some mighty fine fellows and a lot of noble
girls who attend Fordham High School. But Barnes---he's the curse
of the school population of the town."
Three or four days later Dick asked Darrin:
"Did you hear the outcome of the Fordham affair?"
"No," Dave admitted.
"I just heard it all up at 'The Blade' office. The fact that
the Military School cadets escorted us in such formal manner to
the railway station attracted a lot of attention in Fordham.
The principal of the High School there started a quiet investigation
of his own. Barnes and two other fellows on the Fordham eleven
have been suspended from school until the School Board can take
up their cases and decide whether they ought to be expelled.
The Fordham principal has also made it plain that next year's
team will have to be scanned by him, and that he'll keep out of
the eleven any fellows who don't come up to the tests. There's
a jolly big row on in Fordham, and Barnes isn't having any sympathy
wasted on him you can just bet."
"It serves him and that whole football crew just right," blazed
Hazelton's injury kept him out of school only a fortnight. The
supposed break in his leg turned out to be only a sprain.
While school teams like that commanded by Barnes are rare, they
are found, now and then. Yet the fate of rowdy athletes in the
school world is usually swift and satisfying. Other schools refuse
to compete with schools that are known to put out "rough-house
Dick & Co. had laid by their togs. They had said farewell to
In the winter's basket ball they did not intend to take part.
For the baseball nine, that would begin practice soon after the
new year, there was plenty of fine material in the lower classes.
"I feel almost as if I had been to a funeral," snorted Darrin,
when he came away from the gym. after having turned in all his
togs and paraphernalia.
"It's time to give the younger fellows a show," sighed Dick.
"You talk as though we were old men," gibed Dave.
"In the High School we are," laughed Dick. "We're seniors. In
a few short months more we shall be graduates, unless-----"
There he stopped, but Darrin didn't need to look at his chum.
Both knew what that pause meant.
The Would-Be Candidates
The big stir came earlier than it had been expected.
Every boy who has followed such matters in his own interest will
appreciate what the "big stir" means.
Congressman Spokes, representing the district in which Gridley
lay, had a vacant cadetship at West Point within his gift, and
also a cadetship at Annapolis.
_"On December 17, at nine A.M., at the town hall in Wilburville,
I will meet all young men who believe themselves to possess the
other proper qualifications for a cadetship at either West Point
So ran the Congressman's announcement in the daily press of the
Every young man had to be of proper age, height, weight and general
good bodily condition. He must, of course, be a citizen of the
Every young man was advised to save himself some possible trouble
and disappointment by going, first of all, to his family physician
for a thorough examination. If serious bodily defects were found,
that would save the young man from the trouble of going further
in the matter.
But at the Wilburville town hall there was to be another physical
examination, which every young man must pass before he would be
admitted to the mental examinations, which were to last into the
Dick Prescott read this announcement and thrilled over it.
For two years or more he had been awaiting this very opportunity.
Every Congressman once in four years has one of these cadetships
to give to some young man.
Sometimes the Congressman would give the chance to a boy of high
social connections, or else to the son of an influential politician.
A cadetship was a prize with which the Congress man too often
paid his debts.
Good old General Daniel E. Sickles was the first Congressman to
formulate the plan of giving the cadetship to the brightest boy
in district, the young man proving his fitness by defeating all
other aspirants in a competitive examination.
Since that time the custom had grown up of doing this regularly.
It is true, at any rate of most of the states of the Union.
In some western and some southern states the cadetship is still
given as a matter of favor.
The young man who receives the appointment goes to the United
States Military Academy at West Point. He is now a "candidate"
only. At West Point he is subjected to another searching series
of physical and mental examinations. If he comes out of them
successfully he is admitted to the cadet corps, and becomes a
The candidate must report at West Point on the first of March.
If he succeeds in entering the corps, and keeps in it, four years
and three months later the young man is graduated from the Military
Academy. The President now commissions him as a second lieutenant
in the Regular Army. Thus started on his career, the young man
may, in later days, become a general.
While the cadet is at West Point he is paid a salary that is just
about sufficient for his needs and leaves enough over to enable
him to buy his first set of uniforms and other equipment as an
West Point is no place for idlers, nor for boys who dislike discipline.
It is a severe training that the cadet receives, and the education
furnished him by the United States is a magnificent and costly
one. It costs Uncle Sam more than twenty thousand dollars for
each cadet he educates and graduates from the United States Military
The same general statement is true regarding the United States
Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. In the latter institution,
however, the cadet learns how to become an officer in the United
Now, here were both grand opportunities, offered together.
While Dick Prescott had been waiting, hoping and praying for the
cadetship at West Point; Dave Darrin had been equally wistful
for the chance to go to Annapolis.
"Our chances have come, old chum!" cried Dick, looking into the
glowing face of Darrin.
"Yes; and of course an Army or Navy officer should be a brave
man. But now the chance has come, I find myself an utter coward,"
"I'm in a blue funk for fear some other fellow will get it away
from me," confessed Darrin honestly. "And if I fail in this great
ambition of my life, I'm wondering if I'll have the nerve to go
on living afterwards."
"Brace up!" laughed Dick protestingly.
"Now, honestly, old fellow, aren't you just badly scared!" Dave
"Whisper, Dave! I am," Dick admitted.
"Well, there is nothing like having some one that you can confess
everything to, is there?" muttered Darrin.
"I guess it has done us both good to own up," laughed Dick. "But
"I simply won't allow myself to be scared."
"Then you're as keen for West Point as I am for Annapolis," retorted
"Dave, old fellow, you know what the Gridley spirit demands?
You know how we and the rest of the fellows managed to win eternally
in athletics? Just because we made up our minds that defeat was
"That's fine," laughed Dave. "But we'll probably have to buck
up against more fellows than we do on an athletic field. And
probably dozens of them go in with the same determination."
"I don't care," declared Prescott. "I want that West Point cadetship.
I've wanted it for years, and now the chance has come. I'm going
to have it!"
Dave Darrin gradually succeeded in working himself into the same
frame of mind. Yet there were many moments when he was tortured
by doubts as to whether the "Gridley spirit" would serve in bucking
a long line of young fellows all equally anxious to get to Annapolis.
The first step taken by Dick and Dave was to get excused from
the High School for the time.
Both boys had lists of the studies and standards required for
entrance to the Military Academy or the Naval Academy. Dick and
Dave, each in his own room at home, spent the next few days in
"boning" as neither had ever "boned" before.
"But we must get three hours in the open air each day, Dave,"
Dick insisted. "We mustn't go up for the trial with our nerves
shattered by moping all the time indoors."
Only Dick & Co., and a very few friends, knew what Dick and Dave
were planning. It was kept a secret.
The date of the High School senior ball was set for December 17.
"Can you be back in time to go to the ball?" Laura Bentley asked
"I'm afraid not, Laura. Besides, when I get back from Wilburville,
I'm afraid I'll feel pretty well tired out."
"You're not afraid of failing?" asked Laura anxiously.
"I'm not going to allow myself to fail. Yet, even if I win, I
shall be tired out after the ordeal. Wish the ball could come
a couple of days alter the ordeal. I wanted to go to it and to
dance with you, Laura."
"I'm sorry you can't go," sighed the girl.
Darrin, too, had given up all thoughts of attending the senior
ball, and this was the first time that either lad had "skipped"
the class ball.
"It seems too bad to be away," grumbled Dave. "But I know how
I'll feel on that night. If I carry off the honors for Annapolis,
no mere ball could hold me! I'll need air and space. I'll be
lucky if I don't get arrested on that night for building bonfires
in the streets."
Dave next sighed dismally and continued:
"If I don't carry off the Annapolis prize, I'll feel so disappointed
that I won't look anybody in the face! Dick, Dick! It's fearful,
this waiting---and wanting!"
"It won't seem like the class ball a bit without you two boys,"
declared Belle Meade, pouting, the next afternoon.
"But if we get through," muttered Dave, "think of the gay, splendid
times to which we can invite you at Annapolis and West Point."
"Indianapolis and Blue Point are far away," murmured Belle, purposely
misnaming both famous places.
"_Ann_-apolis!" flared Dave
"_West_ Point!" protested Dick hotly.
"Don't mind Belle," begged Laura quietly. "She's the worst tease
"If I get the appointment to Annapolis," continued Darrin, "you'll
be asking me, next, if I expect to be promoted, after a while,
to he helmsman, or fireman, on some cruiser."
"Well, would you expect to be!" asked Belle, with an appearance
of great innocence.
"Don't, Belle," pleaded Laura. "The boy are too much in earnest.
It isn't fair to tease them, now. Wait until they've been at
West Point and Annapolis a couple of years. Then ask them."
"What would be the use then?" asked Belle dryly. "By that time
our young cadets will have met so many girls that they would have
to think back quite a while before they could remember our names."
Laura's pretty color lessened for an instant.
"Don't you believe it," broke in Dick promptly. "Just as soon
as I have a right ask for cards for a West Point hop I'm going
to ask for cards for Miss Bentley and Miss Deane, and their chaperon."
"The same here, for Annapolis," promised Dave solemnly. "So you
see, girls, you'll have to be prepared to do some traveling in
the near future.
"But you won't get to Annapolis, anyway, until June," replied
Belle, a bit more gently. "So you won't have any Annapolis hops
until next fall, will you?"
"Probably not," Dave admitted.
"But you won't go to Annapolis, anyway," suggested Laura, turning
to Prescott. "There may be some West Point hops between then
"I feel pretty sure there will be," nodded Dick cheerily. "And
you girls may be sure of my keeping my promise."
"And I'll keep mine for the very first hop that comes off at Annapolis
after I get there," Darrin assured them.
The laugh was on both young men, though neither they nor their
fair young companions knew it.
The poor "plebe," as the first year's man at either West Point
or Annapolis is known, would be in for a terrible experience at
the hands of his comrades if, during his "plebe" year, he had
the "cheek" to seek to attend a cadet hop. He must wait until
he has entered his second year before he has that privilege.
This is a wise regulation. In his first year the poor "plebe"
has so bewilderingly much to learn that he simply couldn't spare
any time for the cultivation of the graces of the ballroom.
In his first year, he has dancing lessons, but that is all that
comes his way.
Greg Holmes came to Prescott with a wistful, rather sad face.
"How are you coming on, Dick?" Greg asked.
"Are you going to be well prepared for the examinations?"
"As far as being able to pass with a decent percentage," Dick
answered, "I am not all uneasy. All that worries me is the fear
that some other fellow may have a slightly better percentage.
That would ditch me, you know."
"Oh, you'll win out," predicted Greg loyally. "And I just wish
I had a chance like yours!"
"Why don't you go in and try for it, then?" urged Dick generously.
"No use," uttered Greg, shaking his head. "You can beat me on
the scholastic examination, and I know it, Dick. The best I could
hope for would be an appointment as your alternate. And your
alternate to West Point isn't going to stand any show for a cadetship,
Besides the candidate each Congressman may appoint one or more
"alternates." These alternates also report at West Point. If
the "principal" fails there, the alternate is given a chance to
make good for the cadetship.
But Greg Holmes, though he was wildly anxious to go to West Point,
felt certain that it would be useless to go there as Dick Prescott's
"I hate to see you not try at all, Greg," declared Dick. "Why
don't you try? If you beat me out there won't be any hard feelings."
"I couldn't beat you out, and I don't want to, either," responded
Greg. "But wait! I may have something to tell you later on."
Dan Dalzell had much the same kind of a talk with Dave Darrin.
Dan felt the call to the sailor's life, but hadn't any notion
that he could slip in ahead of Darrin.
"Even if I could, Dave, I wouldn't try it," declared Dan earnestly.
"I want badly enough to go to Annapolis, and I admit it. But
I believe you're just about crazy to get there."
"I am," Dave admitted honestly. "But the prize goes to the best
fellow, Dan. Jump in, old fellow, and have your try at it."
Dalzell, however, shook his head and remained silent on the subject
To both Dick and Dave it seemed as though the next few days simply
refused to budge along on the calendar. Certainly neither of
them had ever known time to pass so slowly before.
"I hope I'll be able to keep my nerve up until the seventeenth,"
"Surely, you will," grinned Dick. "You've got to!"
"I've been studying until all the words on a page seem to run
together, and I don't know one word from another," complained
"Then drop study---if you dare to!"
"I'm thinking of it," proposed Darrin seriously. "Actually, I've
been boning so that the whole thing gets on my nerves, and stays
there like a cargo of lead."
"Let's pledge ourselves, then, not to study on the fifteenth or
the sixteenth," urged Dick.
"I'll go you, right off, on that," cried Darrin eagerly.
"And we'll spend those two days in the open air, roaming around,
and trying to enjoy ourselves," added Prescott.
"Enjoy ourselves---with all the load of suspense hanging over
our heads?" gasped Darrin.
"Well, we'll try it anyway."
To most people in and around Gridley the world, in these few days,
seemed to bob along very much as usual. Dick and Dave, however,
At last came the evening of the sixteenth! Both anxious boys
turned in early, though neither expected to sleep much. Both,
however, were soon in the land of Nod.
But Dick awoke at half-past four on the morning of the fateful
seventeenth. By five o'clock he knew that he wasn't going to
sleep any more. So he got up and dressed.
Dave Darrin was in his bath, that same morning, before four o'clock.
Then he, too, dressed, and wondered whether every other fellow
who was going into the contest to-day felt as restless.
The mothers of both boys were astir almost as early. Mothers
can't take these examinations, but mothers know what a son's
Dick and Dave met at the station a full twenty minutes before
Tom Reade Bosses the Job
"Ugh!" shivered Dave, as the chums met on the platform. "It's
cold out here!"
"Come inside, then, and get warm. But you're a great athlete,
to mind an ordinary December morning," laughed Dick Prescott.
Together they stepped into the waiting room.
"What time does our train go?" asked Dave, though he had known the
time of this train for the last week.
"Seven-forty," replied Dick.
"And it's seven-twenty, now. Whew, what a await!"
"I could have stayed home a little longer," nodded Dick. "Only
I told father and mother that I'd feel more like being started
if I got down here this far on the way."
"Sure thing," nodded Dave sympathetically. "My Dad had to hold
on to me to stop my leaving the house an hour earlier than I did."
Both boys laughed, though not very heartily. Each was under a
terrific strain---just from wondering!
"If I get through, and win out to-day," muttered Dick, "I know
I shan't feel half as anxious when it comes time to take the graduating
"No," agreed Dave. "Then you'll know you have a chance; but to-day
you can't be sure of that much."
Five minutes before train time the chums were astonished at seeing
another of the chums walk into the station. It was Tom Reade,
looking as jovial and contented as a youngster could possibly
"Hullo, Tom!" came from Dick.
"Howdy, Tom, old man!" was Dave's greeting.
"Hullo, fellows!" from Reade.
"Where are you bound?" inquired Dick.
"Fact!" Reade assured them.
"Going to the exams.?" Dave demanded quickly.
"Why, you never said a word about thinking of West Point," exploded
"You were making fun of Annapolis only the other day!" asserted
Dave, just as though making fun of Annapolis were one of the capital
"Hang West Point!" exploded Tom Reade.
"Oh! Then it's Annapolis you're after," grunted Darrin.
"Sink Annapolis!" exclaimed Reade.
"Then what on earth are you after?" demanded Dick.
"Have you any fool idea in your head, Tom, that you can take an
exam and stand a chance of getting Congressman Spokes's job away
from him?" Dave asked.
Tom threw himself into one of the seats, crossed his feet, thrust
his hands down in his ulster pockets, and surveyed the pair before
"I'll tell you what ails you two. You have a notion that the
sun rises at West Point and sets at Annapolis. Now, I know a
heap better, and I haven't an eye on either place. Can you fellows
guess why I've taken the day off from school and why I'm going
"We surely can't," declared Dave.
"Well, then, I'll tell you," promised Tom amiably. "I knew you
two good old chaps would be going to pieces with blue funk to-day.
I knew you'd be chattering inside, and turning all sorts of colors
outside. You'd try to cheer each other, but each of you is too
badly scared to be of any use to the other. So I've come along
to take up your minds, jolly you and stiffen your backbones alternately.
That's my whole job for to-day."
Looking in some amazement at Reade, the other two chums realized
that good old Tom was telling the truth.
"Of course, I'll admit," continued Reade, "that, if I were going
on the grill to-day, I'd be worse than either of you. But I'm
not. I wouldn't live in West Point, and I wouldn't be caught
dead at Annapolis, so I shan't have any scares or any nervous
streak to-day. I'll look after you both, the best I can, and
do what little lies in my power to keep your minds off your troubles."
"Well, who'd ever have thought of a thing like that but Tom Reade?"
gasped Dick gratefully.
"It's mighty good of you, old chum," declared Darrin fervently.
"Now, then,"`resumed Reade, uncrossing his legs, "as I'm on the
job to look after you, allow me to remind you that that is your
train whistling at this moment."
Three very jolly boys, therefore, piled out of the station building
and boarded the train.
Tom spoke to the conductor a moment before following the others
"You see," spoke Reade, "I'm even going to the trouble to make
sure that this is the right train, and not a belated express."
"I never though of that," muttered Darrin, turning a bit pale.
"Great Scott!" gasped Dick. "I can feel the cold sweat oozing
out at the bare thought. Suppose we had been harebrained enough
to get on the wrong train, and be carried so far past that we
couldn't get back to Wilburville by nine o'clock!"
"Drop all worry. Don't think of anything alarming, or even disconcerting,"
chuckled Tom. "I've taken charge of the whole job, and I guarantee
everything. One of the little things I guarantee is that you'll
both win out to-day."
"In algebra," muttered Darrin, "I hope they won't go too deeply
into quadratic equations-----"
"Cut it!" ordered Reade severely. "Likewise forget it! Say,
I heard a rattling good story last night. It carries a Dutchman,
a poodle, a dude and an old maid. Let me see if I can remember
just how it runs."
With that Reade got started. He soon had his two friends started
as well. They laughed until the brakeman at last thrust his head
in and called:
"Next station, Wilburville!"
"Stop and get out, young man!" called Tom. "Do you think we don't
know our way?"
Then into another story plunged Tom Reade. He spun it out, purposely,
until the train slowed up at Wilburville.
"'Bus right up to the town hall!" cried a driver, sizing the trio
"Thank you; that's our auto over there," nodded Tom, pointing
to a lunch wagon. Reade started the chums at a brisk walk. Of
the first native they met they inquired the way.
Tom was still talking at forty horse-power when they came to the
"That building holds our fate!" muttered Dave, as they drew near.
"Stop that!" ordered Tom. "Anyone would think that Annapolis
was all the candy in the land. What are you worrying about, anyway?
Haven't I taken all the responsibility for this thing upon myself?
Haven't I promised you both that you shall find your little toy
appointments in your Christmas stockings? Do you think I'm lying?"
"But the exams!" groaned Dave.
"Well, they're competitive," quoted Tom cheerily.
"That's just what ails 'em!" argued Dave.
"You make me think of my cousin, Jack Reade, of the militia,"
taunted Tom. "He's a captain. Now, Jack wanted to be appointed
assistant inspector general of rifle practice. He was ordered
up for his exam. Poor fellow spent three weeks, days and nights,
boning for that exam. The family had the doctor in twice, for
they were afraid Jack was studying himself crazy. Then the day
came for the exam. Jack went into the ordeal shivering. The
examiner asked Jack to write down his full name, the date of his
birth, and the date of his entry into the militia. Jack answered
all three questions straight, and got a hundred per cent. for
his marking. Yet you fellows talk about exams as though they
were really hard!"
Still laughing the three passed inside.
Dick Prescott had firmly resolved to do no more talking about
the ordeal. But Darrin hadn't. So, after the boys had entered
the building, and had climbed to the next floor, where the hall
was, and had taken a look inside, Dave drew back into the corridor.
"Great guns, did you look inside?" he demanded. "There are a
million boys in there already."
"Cheer up," soothed Tom. "Most of 'em want to go to West Point."
Tom fairly forced his chums inside. The boys already there, some
three-score, at least, turned to regard the newcomers curiously.
"The rest of you may as well go home," announced Tom laughingly.
"My friends have a first mortgage on the jobs you're after."
Presently, more fellows came in. Then some more, and still more.
"Let's go down and stand by the door, where we can get more air,"
"Yes," agreed Tom. "And we'll throw out any of the rest that
may have a nerve to try to step in here."
Hardly had they taken their stand by the door when the three chums
received a shock.
For the next arrivals were Phin Drayne, and his father, Heathcote
Phin was now in attendance at the Wilburville Academy, and his
father had come down, the evening before, to urge his son to try
for West Point.
Tom looked the newcomer over with especial disfavor. Young Drayne,
like many another "peculiar" fellow, was an unusually good student.
At any time Drayne would have a very good chance of coming out
even with, or just ahead of, either Dick or Dave.
The Draynes did not favor our three chums with any greeting, but
walked on down into the hall.
"Excuse me a minute," murmured Tom. "I want to find out how the
Tom thereupon walked boldly over to the Draynes.
"May I speak with you just a moment, Mr. Drayne?" asked Tom.
"Go ahead," replied Mr. Heathcote Drayne, not over-graciously.
"It is important, sir, that I speak with you aside," Tom went
Heathcote Drayne scowled, then stepped to one side, turning and
glancing down at Reade.
"Well, young man, what is it?"
"I thought it barely possible," continued Tom coolly, "that I
might be able to offer you a hint or two worth while."
"Worth whose while?" demanded Heathcote Drayne, suspiciously.
"Yours. Has your son come here to compete for either the West
Point or Annapolis cadetship?"
"What if he has?"
"Then has Phin his certificates of good character with him?" demanded
Tom, his blue eyes steely and cold as he looked straight and
significantly at the elder Drayne.
"Confound your impudence, Reade! What do you mean?"
"Just this," continued Tom readily. "Only boys of good character
are eligible for West Point or Annapolis. Now, the fact is, your
son was expelled from Gridley High School for a dishonorable action.
Are you content to have your son try for a cadetship, with that
record hanging over his head and enveloping his chances?"
"Who'll know anything about that record if you don't blab?" demanded
"Why, your son would have to state where he had attended school,
and furnish certificates of good character from his teachers,"
ran on Reade. "Now, honestly, do you think that Dr. Thornton,
of Gridley High School, would furnish a certificate on which
Congressman Spokes could appoint your boy to West Point or
Annapolis? Because, if you think so," wound up Reade, "go ahead
and put Phin in the running, to be sure."
With that Tom marched off back to his chums.
"What have you been up to?" asked Dick curiously.
"I'm manager for you two half-witted fellows, ain't I?" queried
"What have you been saying to Mr. Drayne?" asked Dave.
"Just watch father and son, and see how they seem to be enjoying
their talk," chuckled Tom. "There, what do you see now? I thought
it would end like that."
This was the first time it had occurred to the elder Drayne that
his son's character would be inquired into. In fact, Mr. Drayne
had had half an idea that the United States Military Academy
was a place that made a specialty of reforming wild boys and
making useful citizens of them.
When the Great News Was Given Out
At just nine o'clock Congressman Spokes came on to the platform
followed by two other men.
One of these latter was a town official, who, in a very few words,
introduced the Member of Congress.
Congressman Spokes now addressed the young men upon the vocations
they were seeking to enter. He explained that neither the Military
nor the Naval Academy offered an inducement to boys fond only
of their ease and good times.
"At either school," warned the Congressman "you will find ahead
of you years of the hardest work and the strictest discipline.
No boy whose character is not good can hope to enter these schools
of the nation. It is not worth any boy's while to enter unless
he stands ready to sacrifice everything, his own ideas and prejudices
included, to the service of his country and his flag."
Congressman Spokes continued in this line for some time. Then
he called for the boys who wished to try for West Point to gather
at the right side of the hall; those for Annapolis at the left
"This is the first time you and I haven't been on the same side
in everything, old fellow," Dick whispered smilingly, as he and
Dave Darrin parted.
What a hurried count the interested youngsters made! But Tom
Reade, who didn't belong to either crowd, probably made the most
accurate count. He discovered that sixty-two of the boys had
voted for West Point. Forty-one favored Annapolis. A few young
men present, like Tom, didn't care to go to either government
"When I am ready to give the word," continued Congressman Spokes,
"the young men who want to go to West Point will file out of the
door at this end of the hall. In the rooms across the corridor
they will find the physicians who are making the physical examinations
for West Point.
"The Annapolis aspirants will file downstairs and enter through
the first door at the left, where other physicians will make the
physical examinations for Annapolis.
"The examinations by the physicians here will not be conclusive
for the successful candidates. The final physical examinations,
like the final scholastic examinations, will be made at West Point
"Now, each young gentleman who passes the physical examination
will receive a signed card with his name on it. Such successful
young men are then excused until one o'clock. At one o'clock
sharp the young men who have certificates from the medical examiners
may report for their scholastic examinations. Do not come here,
however, for the scholastic examinations. West Point aspirants
will report at the High School, and those for Annapolis at the
Central Grammar School.
"Now, at eight o'clock this evening you return here. At that
hour, or as soon there after as possible, announcement will be
made, from this platform, of the names of the successful young
men and their alternates. Now the young men for West Point forward,
the Annapolis hopefuls downstairs!"
Inside of two minutes the town hall was bare, save for the presence
of Tom Reade, who, with his hands in his pockets, walked about,
In forty-five minutes Dick, flushed an breathless, broke in upon
Tom, as the latter sat waiting patiently for his friends.
"I've passed the doctors all right," announced Dick, producing
"That's all right, then," nodded Tom. "And the rest will be easier."
Twenty minutes later Dave Darrin join them.
"I've passed---that part of the trial," he proclaimed.
"Then, until twelve o'clock, there's nothing to do but go out
and kill time," declared Reade.
"Twelve o'clock" repeated Dick. "You mean one o'clock."
"I mean twelve," retorted Tom, with emphasis. "At twelve you
eat; you don't gorge, but you chew and swallow something nourishing.
Then you'll be in fit shape for the little game of the afternoon."
Both of the chums had reason to realize the weight of their debt
to jovial, helpful Reade; who was banishing care and keeping their
minds off their suspense. In fact time passed quickly until it
was time for Dick and Dave once more to part, to seek their separate
Just forty of the boys who wanted to go to West Point had passed
the doctors as being presumably fit in body and general health.
Twenty-seven of the Annapolis aspirants had passed the doctors.
Already three dozen disappointed young Americans were on their
way home, their dream over.
Tom Reade chose to walk over to the local High School with Dick.
Dave found his way alone to his place of examination.
Dick Prescott and the thirty-nine other aspirants were assembled
in one of the class rooms at the High School. On each desk was
a supply of stationery. After the young men had been seated the
examination papers in English were passed around. This examination
Dick thought absurdly easy. He finished his paper early, and
read it through three times while waiting for the papers to be
History was a bit harder, but Dick was not especially disturbed
by it. Not quite so with geography. Dick had had no instruction
in this branch since his grammar school days, and, though he had
brushed up much of late on this subject, he found himself compelled
to go slowly and thoughtfully. Arithmetic was not so hard; algebra
a bit more puzzling.
It was after six o'clock when the examinations were finished,
and all papers in. As fast as each examination was finished,
however, the papers had been hurried off to the examiners and
Faithful Tom was waiting as Dick came out in the throng.
"Congratulations, old fellow!" cried Reade, holding out his hand.
"You've passed," announced Tom gravely.
"Why, the examiners haven't fin-----"
"They don't have to," snorted Tom. "I don't have to wait for
the opinions of mere examiners. You've passed, and won out, I
tell you. Now let's go look for Dave."
It had been agreed that the three should meet, for supper, at
the same restaurant where they had lunched. Darrin was not there
yet. It was nearly seven o'clock when Dave came in, looking fagged
But Tom was up on his feet in an instant, darting toward Darrin.
"Didn't I tell you, old fellow?" demanded. Reade. "And my
"If you hadn't been such a good fellow all day I might be cross,"
sighed Dave. "Whee! But those examiners certainly did turn my
head inside out. Don't you see a few corners of the brain still
sloping over outside?"
"Cheer up," quoth Tom grimly. "Nothing doing. You haven't brains
enough to overflow. In fact, you've so few brains that I'm going
to do the ordering for your supper."
"Everything I can do, now, is over with, anyway," muttered Prescott.
"So I'm going to forget my troubles and enjoy this meal."
Dave tried to, also, but he was more worried, and could not wholly
banish his gloom.
Tom succeeded in making the meal drag along until about ten minutes
of eight. Then he led his friends from the restaurant and down
the street to the town hall.
Here, though most of the young men were already on hand, there
was nothing of boisterousness. Some were quiet; others were glum.
All showed how much the result of the examinations meant to them.
But the time dragged fearfully. It was twenty minutes of nine
when Congressman Spokes appeared on the platform and rapped for
order. He did not have to rap twice. In the stillness that followed
the Congressman's voice sounded thunderous.
"Young gentlemen, I now have the results from all the examiners,
and the averages have been made up. I am now able to announce
my appointments to West Point and Annapolis."
Mr. Spokes paused an instant.
"For West Point," he announced, "My candidate will be-----Richard
Prescott, of Gridley. The alternate will be-----"
But Dick Prescott didn't catch a syllable of the alternate's name,
for his ears were buzzing. But now, for the first time, Tom Reade
was most unsympathetically silent.
"For Annapolis, my candidate will be-----David Darrin, of Gridley.
Neither did Darrin hear the name of his alternate. Dave's head
was reeling. He was sure it was a dream.
"Pinch me, Tom," he begged, in a hoarse whisper, and Reade
"The young men who have won the appointments as candidates and
alternates will please come to see me at once, in the anteroom,"
continued Congressman Spokes, who, however, lingered to address
a few words of tactful sympathy to the eager young Americans who
had tried and lost.
"Come along, now, and let's get this over with as quickly as possible,"
grumbled Torn Reade. "This Congressman bores me."
"Bores you?" repeated Prescott, in a shocked voice. "What on
earth do you mean?"
"I don't like his nerve," asserted Reade. "Here he is, giving
out as if it were fresh, news that I announced two hours ago."
Congressman Spokes was waiting in the anteroom to shake hands
with the winners. He congratulated the candidates most heartily,
and cautioned the alternates that they also must be alert, as
one or both of them might yet have a chance to pass on over the
heads of the principal candidates.
Mr. Spokes then asked from each of the young men the name of his
school principal, the address of his clergyman and of one business
man. These were references to whom Mr. Spokes would write at
once in order to inform himself that the lucky ones were young
men of excellent character.
Then the Congressman wished the young men all the luck in the
world, and bade them good evening, after informing them that they
would hear, presently, from the Secretary of War with full instructions
for West Point, and from the Secretary of the Navy for Annapolis.
"Fancy Phin Drayne passing in his references for the character
ordeal!" chuckled Tom Reade, as the three chums walked down the
"What time does the next train leave for Gridley?" suddenly demanded
"In twelve minutes," answered Tom, after looking at his watch.
"Let's run, then!" proposed Dave.
"We can mope, and have five minutes to spare," objected Reade.
"Let's run, just the same!" urged Dick Prescott.
The three chums broke into a run that brought them swiftly to
the station, red faced, laughing and happy.
"Oh, what a difference since the morning!" sang Dick blithely.
"Say, just think! West Point really for mine!"
"Bosh!" grunted Darrin happily. "I'm going to Annapolis!"
Then, as by a common impulse Dick and Dave seized Tom Reade by
"Tom," uttered Dick huskily, "we owe you for a lot of the nerve
and confidence that carried us through to-day!"
"Tom Reade," declared Darrin. tremulously, "you're the best and
most dependable fellow on earth!"
"Shut up, both of you," growled Reade, in a tone of disgust.
"You're getting as prosy as that Congressman---and that's the
most insulting thing I can think of to say to either of you."
The train seemed fairly to fly home. It was keeping pace with
the happy spirits of the young men, who, at last, came to realize
that the great good news was actually true.
Neither Dick nor Dave could think of walking home from the station.
They broke into a run. By and by they discovered that Tom Reade
was, no longer with them.
"Now isn't that just like old Tom?" laughed Darrin, when he discovered
that their friend was missing. "Well, anyway, I can't wait.
Here's where our roads branch, Dick, old fellow. And say! Aren't
we the lucky simpletons? Good night, old chum!"
Dick fairly raced into the bookstore conducted by his parents.
He almost upset a customer who was leaving with a package under
"Dad!" whispered Dick, leaning briefly over the counter and laying
a hand on Mr. Prescott's shoulder. "I passed and won! I'm going
to West Point!"
A look of intense happiness wreathed his father's face and tears
glistened in his eyes. But Dick raced on into the back room,
where he found his mother.
"All the luck in the land is mine, mother!" he whispered, bending
over and kissing her. "I won out! I go to West Point when the
month of March comes!"
Mrs. Prescott was upon her feet, her arms around her boy. She
didn't say much, but she didn't need to. After a moment Dick
"Mother, Laura Bentley will be glad to know this news. She's
at the ball of the senior class to-night, but I'll see if I can
get her father on the 'phone, and tell him the news for her."
But presently it was Laura's own sweet voice that answered over
"You?" demanded Dick. "Why, I thought you'd be at the ball!"
"Did you think I could be happy all the evening, wondering how
you were coming on with your great wish?" asked Laura quietly.
"Say, oh, Dick! How did you come out?"
Gridley Seniors Whoop It Up
"Oh, so many, so many congratulations, Dick!" came the response
to Prescott's eagerly imparted information.
"And so you missed the dance just because you could sympathize
with some one else's worry?" demanded Dick. "But say! The evening
is still young, as dances go. Couldn't you get dressed in a little
while? Then we could both go and celebrate my good luck."
"I'm dressed," came the demure answer.
"What? Oh---well, now, that's nice of you-----"
"I have been expecting this good news," laughed Laura. "And so
I've been dressed all evening, on the chance."
"And you'll go to the class ball if I come around quickly?"
"It would be mean of you not to come and take me, Dick!"
"I'll have to change," declared Dick. "But that never takes a
boy long. Won't I be around to your house in short order, though!"
Dick rang off and started to bound upstairs, but a new ting-ling
sounded on the 'phone bell.
"Here's another party been trying to get you," announced central.
"Hullo, Dick," sounded a low, pleased voice. "I hope you've called
"Just rang off, Dave."
"Then you know that the girls didn't go to the class ball to-night,
but just dressed and waited on the chance of hearing from us.
I'm on the jump to dress, but I'll meet you there, Dick."
Dick took only time to explain the change in his night's plans
to his parents. Then he bounded off upstairs, but soon came down
again, looking a bit dandyish in his best, and very happy into
When Dick arrived at Dr. Bentley's home an automobile stood in
front of the house. Dick recognized it, however, as the doctor's
machine with the doctor's man at the lever.
The instant that Prescott put his finger on the bell button Laura
herself opened the door. She was radiant of face and exquisite
in ball costume as she threw open the door and stood framed there,
the light behind her.
"Oh, I'm so glad, Dick, so glad!" came her ready greeting. "Come
in. I'm all ready but the wrap, but father and mother wish to
be among the first to congratulate you."
In the doctor's office stood Dr. and Mrs. Bentley. They greeted
Dick cordially and expressed delight over his success.
"But this is only the first ditch taken, you know," spoke Prescott
soberly, though in military phrase. "I have my chance now; that
is all. I have more than four years of hard fight facing me
before I am sure that the Army can be my career."
"You'll make it, Prescott, just as you've made everything you've
gone after at High School," replied Dr. Bentley heartily. "But,
now that we've congratulated you, we mustn't keep you an instant
longer from your classmates. I had just come in with my car,
and Laura told me, so I directed my man to wait. He'll take you
both along the road in short order. Good night, my boy!"
Laura brought her wrap, holding it out to Dick.
"If you're to be a gallant Army officer," she teased, "you must
learn to do this sort of thing gracefully."
Blushing, Dick did his best. Then the young people went out.
Dick helped his companion into the car, then seated himself beside
"We're going to pick up Dave and Belle," Laura explained, as the
car moved swiftly away. "Then we'll all go in together."
One fellow had beaten them to the class ball, and that fellow
was Tom Reade. How he ever did it no one will be able to guess,
but Tom flew home, got into his best, and had reached the ball
before these young people appeared on the scene.
The happy young candidates-elect went with their companions to
the cloak room. Then, Laura on Dick's arm, and Belle clinging
to Dave, the two couples entered the ballroom. The strains of
a waltz were floating out. Abruptly the music ceased in the
middle of the air, for Reade, standing beside the director, had
motioned him to cease playing.
"Classmates and friends!" bellowed Reade, "it is my proud opportunity
to-night to be able to be the first to announce to you some wonderful
good news. To-day Dick Prescott, of ours, defeated all other
competitors, and has secured the appointment from this district
to the United States Military Academy!"
"Wow! Whoop!" That announcement had them all going. There was
one tremendous, increasing din of noise. But Tom, jumping up
and down, waving both arms and scowling fiercely, finally secured
"Who's doing this announcing?" he demanded. "Who's master of
ceremonies, if I am not. You just wait---all of you! I'll give
you the cue when to turn the noise-works loose. As I just stated,
it's Dick for West Point, but or, and---it's Dave Darrin for Annapolis
at the same time. Yes, Dave is going to represent this district
The musicians were on their feet by this time. All with a rush
the sweet, proud strains rang out:
_"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing!"_
Instantly all stood at attention, the young men all over the hail
holding themselves with especial erectness. Not a voice was heard
until the good old refrain was through. To the two happy chums
"America" had a newer, stronger meaning. The spirited air came
to them with a new meaning that had never been plain before.
Dick felt the tears in his eyes. Foolish, o course, but
he couldn't help it! And choky Dave furtively wished that he
dared reach for his handkerchief with all those hundreds of eyes
turned on him.
As the music came to an end the High School boys filled their
lungs for a mighty cheer. Quick as a flash, however, the leader
of the orchestra tapped his baton, then swung it once more, and
the instruments leaped on into:
"_Columbia, the gem of the ocean_!"
That was for the Navy, of course, and one didn't have to keep
quiet, either. Words of the song, and cheers, mingled with the
And then it wound up in a cheer and a mad rush of yelling that
must have been heard for a mile.
An impromptu reception and hand shaking followed, but to Dick
and Dave, and their partners, it had more the look of a mob.
It was a joyous and big-hearted mob, though, and in time it quieted
down. After a very long interruption the dancing started again,
and Dick and Dave were able to whirl away with their partners.
As the next dance after that, started there was a sudden halt
by many of the couples, and soon a roar of laughter ascended.
For the orchestra had chosen, as the air, "The Girl I Left Behind
This air will always be associated with the United Service---the
Army and Navy. It is a rollicking, jolly, spirited old tune,
as it needs must be for "The Girl I Left Behind Me" is the tune
that is played when the country's defenders, in war time, are
marching away for the front, after just having said the last goodbye
to mother, sister and sweetheart.
Just now, however, the old air had none of the tragic connected
with it. It was all in the spirit of fun. Laura, blushing furiously,
and Belle striving to appear wholly unconscious, but striving
too hard, lent all the more merriment to the moment.
"It's that confounded old idiot, Tom Reade," muttered Dave to
his partner. "I wonder how many more such tricks he knows!"
Presently came "The Army Lancers," and that brought out a right
royal good cheer. Two numbers after that, came "A Life on the
Ocean Wave," and more cheers.
It was after three in the morning when the gay affair broke up.
But who cared for that? Class balls come but once a year.
Right after "Home, Sweet Home," which wound up the ball, the orchestra
added a number, "The Star Spangled Banner."
Both Dick and Dave reached home pretty thoroughly tired out, after
having seen their girl friends home. Neither boy rose much before