MoboReader > Literature > Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche

   Chapter 5 THE CAMP CARPENTER'S TALE

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10496

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


After a week of exacting office work and all but endless drill, Dick had the rare good fortune to find himself with an evening of leisure.

"Going to be busy to-night?" Dick asked Greg at the evening meal at mess.

"Confound it, yes," returned Captain Holmes. "I must put in the time until midnight with Sergeant Lund going over clothing requisitions for my new draft of men."

"My requisitions are all in, and I expect the clothing supplies to-morrow morning," Dick continued.

"That is because you got your draft of new men two days earlier than I did," grumbled Greg. "You're always the lucky one. But what are you going to do to-night that you want company?"

"I thought I'd like to take a walk in the moonlight," Dick responded.

"Great Scott! Do you mean to tell me you don't get enough walk in the daytime in the broiling sunlight?"

"Not the same kind of walking," Prescott smiled. "I want to stroll to-night and talk. But if I must go alone, then I shall have to think."

"Don't attempt hard work after hours," advised Holmes.

"Such as walking?"

"No; thinking."

Dick finished his meal and stepped outside in the air. The first to join him was Lieutenant Morris.

"Feel like taking a walk in the moonlight?" Dick asked.

"I'd be delighted, Captain, but to-night I'm officer in charge at the company barracks."

"True; I had forgotten."

Other officers Dick invited to join him, but all had duty of one kind or another, or else home letters to write.

"Did I hear you say you were going to take a walk, Prescott?" asked Major Wells.

"Yes, sir. By any great good luck are you willing to go with me?"

"I'd like to, Prescott, but as it happens there is the school for battalion commanders to-night. A talk on trench orders by the brigadier is listed, I believe."

"I'm afraid I shall have to go alone," sighed Dick "Yet I've half a mind to stroll over to company office and invent some new paper work. With every one else busy I feel like the only slacker in the regiment."

"If you really go alone," suggested the major, "perhaps you could combine pleasure with doing me a favor."

"How, sir?"

"My horse hasn't had any exercise for three days. I'd be glad if you'd take him out tonight, if it suits you."

"Nothing could please me better, sir," Dick cried eagerly, for he dearly loved a horse.

"How soon will you be ready?"

"At once, Major."

"Then I'll send around now for the horse." Just a few minutes later an orderly rode up, dismounted, saluted and turned the saddled animal over to A company's commander.

"This is luck, indeed!" Dick told himself, as he felt the horse's flanks between his knees and moved off at a slow canter. "I wonder why I never tried to transfer into the cavalry."

While waiting for the horse he had telephoned the adjutant, stating that for the next three hours he would be either in camp or in the near vicinity.

After being halted by three outlying sentries Prescott rode clear of the camp bounds, riding at a trot down a moonlit country road. Vinton was the nearest town, where soldiers on a few hours' pass went for their recreation out of camp. The road to Vinton was usually well sprinkled with jitney busses conveying soldiers to or from camp, so Prescott had chosen another road which, at night, was likely to be almost free of traffic of any kind.

"As this is the first evening I've had off in three weeks I don't believe I need feel that I'm loafing," Dick reflected. "It's gorgeous outdoors to-night. There will undoubtedly be plenty of moonlight in France, but there won't be many opportunities like this one."

Finding that his horse was sweating, Dick slowed the animal down to a walk. He had ridden along another mile when, near a farmhouse he espied a soldier in the road, strolling with a young woman.

As the horse gained upon the young couple the soldier glanced backward, then swung the girl to the side of the road and halted beside her, drawing himself up to attention and saluting smartly. The man was Private Lawrence of his own company.

"Good evening," Dick nodded, pleasantly.

"Good evening, sir," replied the private.

Dick didn't ask, as some officers would have done, whether the soldier had pass to be out of camp. He could ascertain that on his return to camp. Instead, he said:

"You must have this road pretty nearly to yourself, Lawrence, as far as soldiers go."

"There's at least one other, sir," the soldier replied, in a matter of fact way. "I saw one slip by in the field, close to the road. I won't be sure, but I think it was Private Mock, sir."

"He has friends down this way?" Dick asked casually.

"Not that I ever heard of, sir. There aren't many houses on this road. My friend, Miss Williams, lives in the house up yonder."

At the implied introduction Prescott raised his campaign hat, then rode on.

The instant that Mock's name had been mentioned it had flashed through Dick's mind that, when in Greg's office that afternoon, he had seen Mock's name on Top Sergeant Lund's list of men for pass, and Greg, he knew, had drawn a pen line through that name.

"Of course it may not have been Mock that Lawrence saw; Lawrence himself wasn't sure," Dick reflected. "Yet, if

Mock is out of camp to-night he is out without leave. Private Lawrence didn't realize that, or he wouldn't tell tales."

Soon the horse began to move along an up grade road between two lines of trees. Finding that the animal, instead of drying off, was sweating more freely, Dick drew rein and dismounted.

"It's hard work on a hot night, so you and I will walk together for a while, old pal," Dick confided to the borrowed mount. "There, you find it easier, don't you?"

As if to express gratitude the horse bent its head forward, rubbing against Dick's shoulder.

"Who says horses can't talk plainly, hey, old fellow?" Dick demanded. On together they walked, until Prescott felt himself perspiring, while the horse's coat grew dry.

"There, now, friend," said Dick, running a hand over the creature's flanks, "you're cool and dry, and this is one of the prettiest spots in Georgia, so I reckon I'll tie you and rest until I, too, am dry again."

Having tied the horse by the bridle reins, Dick strolled about, enjoying the dark and quiet after the bright electric lights and the bustle of camp. Presently he strolled down the road until he came to a break in the trees on his right. Though the moon had gone partly behind a cloud Dick found himself gazing down a clearing. He would not have been interested, had it not been that he caught sight of the unmistakable silhouette of a soldier, and, beside him, a somewhat stoop-shouldered man in darker garb.

"Why, I wonder if that can be Mock, and his carpenter?" reflected Prescott, recalling the note that had dropped so mysteriously into his extended palm.

Screened behind a bush Dick watched the pair until he saw them coming toward the road. Then Prescott drew back, finding better shelter, but he did not seek complete concealment. It occurred to him to wait there, in silence, and see if Private Mock displayed any uneasiness on coming face to face with his captain's chum.

"That will be a good way, perhaps, to test out the note," Prescott decided.

Though the two men appeared to be talking earnestly, only a mumble of voices reached Dick's ears when the men were no more than thirty feet away. Then they stepped into the road, where they halted hardly more than a dozen feet away from the screened captain.

"It's a pity you wouldn't have your nerve," said the stranger, to Mock. "You tell me you hate your captain."

"Wouldn't you, if he had treated you like he treated me?" demanded

Mock heatedly.

"Surely I would," agreed the stranger.

"And there's Holmes's friend, that fellow Prescott, who, he, you say, would spend all his time looking into anything that happened to Holmes. You could settle with them both, and then there'd be no one left to worry about."

"Say, just what are you thinking of doing to 'em?" demanded Mock, in a tone of uneasy suspicion.

"There are two things that could be done to them," continued the civilian. "One would be to put them out of the way altogether, and the other would be to bring disgrace upon them so that they'd be kicked out of the Army. That would break their hearts, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," muttered Mock, "but you're talking dreams, neighbor. I'm no black-hander, to creep up behind them with a knife, or take a pot shot at them. I'm not quite that kind, neighbor, and it couldn't be done, anyway."

"You could put 'em out of the way, and no one would be the wiser," hinted the stranger.

"How?"

"I'll show you, when I'm sure enough that you're game," declared the civilian. "I'd have to be sure you had the nerve."

"I haven't," admitted Private Mock.

"Do you know, I began to think that before you admitted it?" sneered the other.

"Not the way you mean," flared up the ex-sergeant. "I can be mean in order to get square with a mean officer. But I can get along without putting him under the sod. I'm a good hater, but my mother didn't raise me to be a real crook."

"You're a quitter, I guess," jeered the other. "Anyway, if you claim to be a man of sand you'll have to show me."

"And I guess it's about time that you showed me something, too," challenged Mock, looking furtively at the stoop-shouldered man.

"I'm ready enough to show you a whole lot of things, when I find out that you're man enough to stand up for yourself and pay back those who treat you like dirt," retorted the other.

"There's one thing you can show me, first of all," challenged Mock.

"Yes? What?"

"Show me why you're so anxious to have harm happen to Captain

Holmes and Captain Prescott."

"Because I like you; because I'm a friend of yours," returned the stoop-shouldered one.

"You're a pretty new friend," Mock went on. "I never saw you until that day when the captain caught me shirking and told off two men to prod me back into camp."

"That was the time for you to know me," declared the other brazenly. "That was the time when you needed a friend to show you how to get square like a man instead of like a coward and a quitter."

"Be careful with your names!" commanded Mock harshly. "Say, Mr.

Man, who are you, and what are you?"

"Private Mock, I believe I can answer that question for you!" broke in Captain Dick Prescott, stepping out from behind his leafy screen.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares