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   Chapter 2 JORDAN REACHES OUT FOR REVENGE

Dick Prescotts's Fourth Year at West Point / Or, Ready to Drop the Gray for Shoulder Straps By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 12575

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Hello, there, Stubbs!" called Jordan from the doorway of his tent.

"Oh, that you, Jordan?" called Stubbs.

"Yes; come in, won't you?"

Cadet Stubbs, of the first class, looked slightly surprised, for he had never been an intimate of this particular cadet.

"What's the matter?" asked Stubbs, pushing aside the tent flap and stepping into the tent.

Then, remembering something he had heard, Stubbs continued quickly:

"You're in a little trouble of some kind, aren't you, old man?"

"Oh, I'm in con." growled Mr. Jordan.

"Con." is the brief designation for "confinement."

"Some report this morning, eh?"

"Yes; that dog Prescott sprung a roorback on me. Sit down, won't you?"

"No, thank you," replied Cadet Stubbs more coolly. "Jordan, `dog' is a pretty extreme word to apply to a brother cadet."

"Oh, are you one of that fellow's admirers?" demanded the man in con.

"I've always been an admirer of manliness," replied Stubbs boldly.

"Then how can you stand for a bootlick?" shot out Jordan angrily.

"I don't stand for a bootlick," replied Cadet Stubbs. "I never did."

"Now, I don't want to play baby," went on Jordan half eagerly. "I'm not resenting, on my own account, what happened to-day. But it was an outrage on general principles, for the affair made a fool of me before a lot of new yearlings. Stubbs, we're first classmen, and we shouldn't be humiliated before yearlings in this manner."

"I wasn't there," replied Stubbs. "I was over at the rifle range, you know."

"Then I'll tell you what happened."

Cadet Jordan began a narration of the scene that had ended in his being relieved from engineering instruction that forenoon. Jordan didn't exactly lie, which is always a dangerous thing for a West Point cadet to do, but he colored his narrative so cleverly as to make it rather plain that Cadet Prescott had acted beyond his real authority.

"Still," argued Stubbs doubtfully, "there must have been some reason. I've known Prescott ever since he entered the Academy, and I never saw anything underhanded in him."

"I wouldn't call it underhanded, either," explained Jordan. "Prescott's manner with me might much better be described as overbearing."

"It would have been underhanded, had he reported you when you were really doing nothing unmilitary or improper," interposed Stubbs quickly.

"Are you trying to defend the fellow?" demanded Jordan swiftly.

"No; Prescott, I think, is always quite ready to attend to his own defence. But I'm astonished, Jordan, at the charge you make against him, and I'm trying to understand it."

"What I object to, more than anything else," insisted Jordan, "was his making a fool of me before new yearlings. That is where I think the greatest grievance lies. First classmen are men of some dignity. We are not to be treated like plebes, especially by any members of our own class who may be dressed in a little brief authority. Sit down, won't you, Stubbs?"

"No, thank you, Jordan. I must be on my way soon."

"But I want to get you and a half a dozen other representative first classmen together," wheedled Jordan. "I think we should all talk this over as a strictly class matter. Then, if I'm convinced that I'm in the wrong, I'm going to stop talking."

Crafty Jordan didn't mean exactly what he said.

He would stop talking, if convinced, but he didn't intend to be convinced. He was after Dick Prescott's scalp. Jordan well knew that, at West Point (and at Annapolis, too, for that matter) class action against a man is severer and more irrevocable than even any action that the authorities of the Military Academy itself can take. He wanted to put Prescott wholly in the wrong in the matter. Class action could, at need, drive Prescott out of the corps and end his connection with the Army. For, if a man be condemned by his class at West Point, the feud is carried over into the Army as long as the offender against class ethics dares try to remain in the service.

At the least, Jordan hoped to stir up class feeling to such an extent that, if Prescott were not actually "cut" by class action, at least his popularity would be greatly dimmed.

"So won't you take part in the meeting?" coaxed Jordan, as Cadet

Stubbs moved toward the door.

"I don't believe I will," replied Mr. Stubbs. "I'd feel out of place in such a crowd, for I've always considered myself Prescott's friend."

"Do you place your friendship for Prescott above the dignity and honor of the class?" demanded Jordan.

Stubbs flushed.

"I don't believe I'll stay, Jordan, thank you. But I can offer you some advice, if you feel in need of any."

"Yes? Commence firing!"

"Go slow in your grudge against Prescott. Personally, I don't want to see either of you hurt."

"Oh, Prescott won't really be hurt," sneered Jordan. "He told me flatly that he'd decline any calling out that I might attempt."

"You--you didn't try to call him out, did you?"

"I hinted that I might do so."

"Call him out for reporting you?"

"Oh, I didn't specify what the cause of the challenge would be," returned Jordan airily and with a knowing wink.

"Jordan, old fellow, you don't mean that you'd call a cadet out for reporting you officially? Why, that's against every tenet we have. And if such a challenge came to the ears of the superintendent, or of the commandant of cadets, you'd be fired out of the corps before you'd have time to turn around twice."

"Who'd carry the tale that I did call Prescott out?" retorted

Cadet Jordan, with a knowing leer.

"Prescott would, if he were a tenth part of the bootlick that you represent him to be," replied Stubbs.

"Better stay, old man; and I'll call in a few others."

"No, sir," returned Cadet Stubbs, with a shake of his head. "The further I go into this matter the less I like it. I'm on my way, Jordan."

Within half an hour, however, Cadet Jordan had found three members of the first class who were willing to listen to him. The matter was threshed out very fully. Jordan, to his listeners, pooh poohed at the idea that he was "sore" on his own account. He posed, and rather well, as the champion of first-class dignity.

"I think you're on the right track, Jordan," assented Durville rather heartily. Durville was one

of the few who had never liked Dick well. Durville had always been one of the "wild" ones, and Prescott's ideas of soldierly duty had grated a good deal on Durville's own beliefs.

"The class won't take severe action, anyway," hinted Tupper. "We might vote to give Prescott a week's 'silence,' but any permanent 'cut' would be out of the question. The man has done too many things to make himself popular."

"Besides," chimed in Brown, "look at the place Prescott holds on the Army football eleven. Why he--and Holmes, too, of course--were the pair who saved us from the Navy last November. And we rely upon that pair to a tremendous extent for the successes we expect this coming fall."

Jordan's jaw dropped. In the heat of his anger he had lost sight of the football situation. Prescott and Holmes certainly were the prize players of the Army eleven.

"Well, it might do if the class decided on the 'silence' for Prescott for a week," assented Jordan dubiously.

Then, all of a sudden, he brightened as the thought flashed through his mind:

"If Prescott gets the 'silence,' even for a day, he'll be so furious that he'll do half a dozen fool things that I can provoke him into. Then he'll go so far, in his wrath, that the class will cut him for good and all, and he'll buy his ticket home!"

The more Jordan thought this over, while he pretended to be listening to what his classmates were saying, the surer the cadet plotter felt that he could work his enemy out of the corps within the next week or so.

"Well, I dare say that you fellows are right in advising milder measures," admitted Jordan at last. "Of course, though I try not to let my personal feelings enter into this at all, yet I suppose I can't keep my sense of outraged class dignity wholly untainted by my personal feelings. Besides, the 'silence' for a week will doubtless cover all the needs of the case, and I don't bear the fellow any personal grudge, or I try not to."

"That's a sensible, manly view, Jordan," chimed in Brown, "and it does you credit as a gentleman and a man of honor. Now, you know, it's a fearful thing for a man who has reached the first class to have to drop his Army career at the last moment. So we'll try to bring the majority of the class around to the idea of the week's 'silence.'"

"Now, lest it appear as though I were actuated by personal motives," continued Jordan, "I'll have to stand back and let you fellows do the talking with the other men of the class."

"That's all right," nodded Durville. "We wholly understand the delicacy of your position, and we can attend to it all right. Besides, all we have to do, anyway, is to ascertain how the class feels on the matter."

"Don't let it be lost sight of, though," begged Jordan, almost betraying his over anxiety, "that it is a serious matter of class dignity and honor."

"We won't, old man," promised Durville, as the visitors rose.

As soon as he was alone--for his tentmate was away on a cavalry drill, Jordan rose, his eyes flashing with triumph.

"Dick Prescott, I believe I have you where I want you! What a rage you'll be in, if you get the 'silence'! 'Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad,'" Jordan went on, under his breath, wholly unaware that he had parodied the meaning of that famous quotation. "You'll rage with anger, Prescott. You'll do the very things that will warrant the class in giving you the long 'cut.'"

The "silence" is a form of rebuke that the cadet corps, once in many years, administers to one of the many Army officers who are stationed over them. When the cadet corps decides to give an officer the "silence," the proceeding is a unique one.

Whenever an officer under this ban approaches a group of cadets they cease talking, and remain silent as long as he is near them. They salute the officer; they make any official communications that may be required, and do so in a faultlessly respectful manner; they answer any questions addressed to them by the officer under ban. But they will not talk, while he is within hearing, on anything except matters of duty.

An officer under the ban of the "silence" may approach a gathering of a hundred or more cadets, all talking animatedly until they perceive his approach. Then, all in an instant, they become mute. The officer may remain in their neighborhood for an hour, yet, save upon an official matter, no cadet will speak until the officer has moved on.

This "silence" may be given an officer for a stated number of days, or it may be made permanent. It has sometimes happened that an officer has been forced to ask a transfer from West Point to some other Army station, simply because he could not endure the "silence."

Very rarely, indeed, the silence is given to a cadet; it is more especially applicable if he be a cadet officer who is in the habit of reporting his fellow classmen for what they may consider insufficient breaches of discipline.

The "cut" or "Coventry" is reserved for the cadet whom it is intended to drive from the Army altogether. If a man at West Point is "sent to Coventry" by the whole corps, or as a result of class action, he will never be able to form friendships in the Army again, no matter how long he remains in the Army, or how hard he tries to fight the sentence down.

Cadet Jordan, as will have been noted, professed to be satisfied if the class voted a week's "silence" to Dick Prescott, for Jordan believed that by this time the tantalized young cadet captain could be provoked into actions that would bring the imposition of the "long silence" of permanent Coventry.

At the end of the busy cadet day, when the two cadet battalions stood in formal array at dress parade, Cadet Adjutant Filson published the day's orders.

One of these orders mentioned Jordan's confinement to the company street, and added the further infliction of "punishment tours" to be walked every Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.

"Oh, well," thought the culprit, savagely, "as I walk I can plan newer and newer things. I'll go into the Army, and you, Prescott, may become a freight clerk on a jerk-water railroad."

Unknown to either Jordan or Prescott at that moment, other storm-clouds were gathering swiftly over the head of the popular young cadet captain.

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