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   Chapter 9 ORDERS FOR OVER THERE

Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9402

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


During the next drill period Sergeant Kelly, hearing an angry voice, glanced out through the window.

In the last draft to the company some green recruits had come in, men who had been drafted to the National Army and sent to the Regulars to fill up. Among them were Privates Ellis and Rindle.

"About face!" rapped out the crisp tones of Corporal Barrow, as he glared at eight men in double rank.

Badly enough most of them turned. "You poor mutt-heads!" rasped the corporal. "Do you think you'll ever make soldiers?"

In a jiffy Kelly reached for his campaign hat, put it on, and stepped out into the corridor, passing out and heading for the drill ground.

"Right dress!" called out Corporal Barrow. "Front! Rotten!

I wonder if you fellows think you'll ever be soldiers?"

Plainly the recruits were chafing under the lash of the corporal's tongue. But Barrow, a young man of twenty-two, who had received his chevrons after only four months of service, was in no mind to be easily pleased to-day.

"You're the most stupid squad in the regiment!" the young non-com went on. "Your place is in the bullpen, not in the ranks."

"Let the squad rest a minute or two, Corporal, and come with me,"

Sergeant Kelly called placidly. "I've a message far you."

Giving the required order, and lull of curiosity, Corporal Barrow stepped quickly over to Kelly, who, placing a hand on the young man's shoulder, walked him some distance away. Suddenly the top sergeant, his back turned to the squad, grilled Barrow with a blazing gaze.

"You poor boob in uniform!" rapped the sergeant. "Whatever made you think of taking up soldiering. And what made you think yourself fit to be in a regiment of Regulars? Do you know your left foot from your right? You know as much about the manual of arms as I do about Hebrew verbs. When you salute an officer you're a standing disgrace to the service! Do you know what you ought to be doing in life?"

His face growing violently red, Barrow soon forgot to be indignant in the excess of his wonder.

"Meaning--what?" he demanded, thickly, his lower jaw sagging in bewilderment.

"How do you like the way I'm talking to you?" asked Sergeant Kelly, his own strong jaw thrust out as though he were seeking to provoke a quarrel.

"Why do you ask?" demanded the corporal, with some show of spirit.

"Does any man enjoy being spoken to like a thieving dog?"

Instantly Kelly dropped back into a placid tone.

"How do you think the men of that squad like hearing you talk to them as I've just talked to you?"

"But they're such numbskulls!" declared Barrow.

"You won't improve their intelligence by turning the hot water on them all the time," Sergeant Kelly continued. "Could I make a better corporal of you by scorching you every time I saw you?"

"You know you couldn't."

"No more can you turn those rookies into soldiers by raging at them every time you speak. Take it from me, Corporal Barrow, the wise drill-master doesn't use any rough talk once a week, and not even then unless nothing else will answer. Talk to the men right along as I heard you doing, and they won't have a particle of respect for you. That being the case, you cannot teach them anything that it will be worth their while to know. If the captain had heard what I heard you saying to those men he'd put you back in the awkward squad yourself. Patience is the first thing a drill-master needs. Whom do you call the smartest corporal in the company?"

"Corporal Smedley," Barrow answered, without hesitation.

"Right, and he's going to be the next new sergeant. But Smedley is the most patient drill-master in the company. Shall I send him over to show you how to handle a green squad?"

"Don't, Sergeant!"

"All right, then; I won't--unless you give me new reason to think it necessary," smiled Kelly. Then his hand, still resting on the younger man's shoulder, he walked back to where the squad waited.

"I'll tell you more about it any time you want to know," was Kelly's last statement before he turned away.

"Attention!" called Corporal Barrow briskly. "Saluting is one of the things a new soldier is likely to do badly at first. I'm going to put you through a few minutes of it."

This time Barrow patiently singled out the soldier giving the poorest salute.

"You don't bring your hand up smartly enough," Barrow explained patiently. "Try it again. No; don't bring it up with a jerk. Do it like this--smartly, without jerk. No; that's not right, either. Hold your hand horizontally when it touches your hat-brim. Hold it the way I am doing. Don't be in a hurry to let hand fall, either. When saluting an officer, keep the hand at the hat-

brim until he has returned the salute, or you've passed him. There, you have it right now, Rindle. Do it three times more, dropping your hand when I see you and return the salute. That's it. Good work. Try it again, all together. Squad, salute!"

"Well done, Corporal," chimed in the voice of Captain Prescott, who had come up behind the instructor, "Be sure that the squad has drill enough in the salute, for a man is never a really good soldier until he can render a salute smartly. Let the men break ranks, Corporal, and have each man pass me in turn, saluting the best he knows how."

As Captain Dick stood there, receiving and returning the salute of each rookie as he passed, the young company commander noted each man's performance with keen eyes.

"First rate for recruits, Corporal," Prescott said, as he turned away. "Give them daily drill at it, however."

Corporal Barrow gave his own most precise salute as he received his captain's orders. Then he called:

"In double rank, fall in! Mark time, march! Step more smartly,

Pelham. Hip, hip, hip! Squad halt! One, two!"

From the corner of the building Dick had paused an instant to glance back. Then he went into the company office.

"I've just been watching Corporal Barrow and his new recruit squad, Sergeant," Dick announced. "The men are doing first-rate for new men. Corporal Barrow is a patient and competent drill-master."

"Yes, sir," Kelly replied, without trace of a smile.

"The patient instructor is the only one who can teach a recruit, Sergeant. If you ever see a non-com in this company losing his temper set him straight at the first chance."

"Yes, sir."

"But don't make the correction in hearing of the squad unless the case is a flagrant one."

"No, sir," Sergeant Kelly promised, his eyes smileless.

"How near is the company to full strength this morning?"

"Only twelve men short, sir. A new draft, coining in on the 4.10 train this afternoon is expected to fill all companies to strength, sir."

Dick Prescott felt a sudden thrill. Filling up the companies of the Ninety-ninth appeared to promise that the regiment would soon be on its way overseas!

"If we get our full strength this afternoon, Sergeant, be sure to have the clothing requisitions for them all in shape by this evening. Then we'll try to draw to-morrow morning."

"Yes, sir."

"And--sergeant!"

"Yes, sir."

"I'm mighty glad that you applied for transfer to this regiment when I was ordered to it. I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Thank you, sir!"

Kelly had sprung to his feet. He now stood at salute as Prescott left the office.

The train due at 4.10 arrived after 8.30 that evening. Twelve new men, assigned to A company, were marched to barracks after ten. No man in the detachment had eaten since early morning. The mess sergeant had coffee and sandwiches ready.

It was midnight when Kelly, with the aid of other non-coms, had the measurements of the new men on paper and his clothing requisition ready. Dick Prescott was on hand to sign as company commander.

At six in the morning first call to reveille sounded from the bugles.

Like the other companies in the regiment A company tumbled out of its cots. Men dressed, seized soap, towels, brushes and combs, and hurried to the wash-room at the rear of barracks. Then back again, the final touches being administered. Outside a bugle blew, calling the men to first formation. Then mess-call caused two hundred and fifty hungry soldiers to file into the mess-room, kits in hand, and line up at the further end for food and hot drink.

At 7.46 Dick Prescott stepped briskly into the company office.

"Sergeant Kelly, have each man carry out his mattress to the incinerator and empty out the straw. Detail men to burn the straw. Have the cots piled at the end of each squad room. At 8.25 turn the company out with barracks bags and dismiss after the bags have been placed. At 8.40 turn out the company in full marching order, with arms and pack, for inspection. As soon as practicable thereafter the men will be turned out again for issue of razors."

"Yes, sir," Kelly replied with a quiver. "Of course you know what it means, Sergeant?"

"The regiment is moving, sir."

"Moving by rail to the point of embarkation, Sergeant. We're--at last we're going over!"

There must have been an eavesdropper outside the office door, for instantly, so it seemed, the news flashed through the building.

"Orders have come!"

"We're going over!"

"Now!"

"Stop that cheering, men!" boomed Dick Prescott's voice, as he stepped into the corridor. "This is Georgia, and you'll wake all the sleeping babies in North Carolina."

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