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   Chapter 24 CONCLUSION

Dick Prescotts's Fourth Year at West Point / Or, Ready to Drop the Gray for Shoulder Straps By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8402

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The graduating exercises at West Point had finished. The Secretary of War, in the presence of the superintendent, the commandant and the members of the faculty of the United States Military Academy, flanked by the Board of Visitors, had handed his diploma to the last man, the cadet at the foot of the graduating class, Mr. Atterbury.

Dick had graduated as number thirty-four; Greg as thirty-seven. Either might have chosen the cavalry, or possibly the artillery arm of the service, but both had already expressed a preference for the infantry arm.

"The 'doughboys' (infantry) are always the fellows who see the hardest of the fighting in war time," was the way Dick put it.

Now the superintendent made a few closing remarks. These finished, the band blared out with a triumphal march, to the first notes of which the first class rose and marched out, amid cheers and hand-clapping, to be followed by the other classes.

Five minutes later the young graduates were laying aside the gray uniform for good and all. Cit. clothes now went on, and each grad. surveyed himself with some wonder in attire which was so unfamiliar.

Out in the quadrangle, for the last time, the grads. met. There, too, were the members of the classes remaining, but these latter were still in the cadet gray, and would be until the close of their own grad. days.

Hurried good-byes were said. Warm handclasps sounded on all sides.

Few words were said, but there were many wet eyes.

Then some of the grads. raced for the station to board the next city-bound train.

Greg remained behind with Dick. After quitting the quadrangle, they bent swift steps toward the hotel, where awaited Mrs. Prescott, Mrs. Bentley, Laura and Belle.

Something else waited, too--a carriage, or rather, a small bus, for Dick and Greg were no longer cadets and might ride over the post in a carriage if they chose.

"It was beautifully impressive, dear," whispered Laura, referring to the graduating exercises.

"But, thank goodness, it's over, and I have my diploma in this suit case," murmured Dick grimly. "No more fearful grind, such as we've been going through for more than four years. No more tortured doubts as to whether we'll ever grad. and get our commissions in the Army. That is settled, now. And think, Laura, if I hear a bugle in the city to-morrow morning, I can simply turn over and take another nap."

"You lazy boy!" laughed Laura half chidingly.

"You spend four years and three months here, and see if you don't feel the same way about it," smiled Dick. "But I love every gray stone in these grand old buildings, just the same. West Point shall be ever dear in my memory!"

Greg's mother now came out and joined the ladies on the porch. A moment or two later Mr. Prescott and Mr. Holmes stepped out and grasped their sons' hands.

"We haven't a heap of time left if we want to catch the down-river steamboat," suggested Dick, with a glance at his watch.

So this happy little home party entered the bus, and the drive to the dock began.

They passed scores of cadets, who carefully saluted these grads.

Everyone in the party knew of the betrothal of Dick and Laura. Greg had had to stand a good deal of good-natured chaffing from his parents because he had not fared as well.

"The next girl I get engaged to," sighed Greg, "I'm going to insist on marrying instantly. Then there'll be no danger of losing her."

At the dock, Anstey, Durville, Douglass and other grads. waited, though the majority of the members of the late first class were already speeding to New York on a train that had started a few minutes earlier.

"I couldn't bear to go down by train, suh," explained Anstey in a very low voice. "I want to stand at the stern of the steamer, and see West Point's landmarks fade and vanish one by one. And I don't reckon, suh, that I shall want anyone to talk to me while I'm looking back from the stern of the boat."

"Same here," observed Greg, with what was, for him, a considerable display of feeling.

Then the boat swept in, and the West Point party went silently aboard. All made their way to the stern on the saloon deck.

That evening the class was to meet,

for the last time as a whole, at one of the theaters in New York. And the late cadets would sit together, solidly, as a class.

Friends of graduates who wished would attend the theater, though in seats away from the class.

Dick and Greg's relatives and friends were all to attend. More, they were to stop at the same hotel. The next forenoon the ladies would attend to some shopping. Then the reunited party would journey back to Gridley.

A dozen or so West Point graduates stood at the stern of the swift river steamer. The captain of the craft, a veteran in the river service, knew something of how these young men just out of the gray felt. For the first five miles down the river the swift craft went at half speed. Then, suddenly, full speed ahead was rung on the engine-room bell, and the craft went on under greatly increased headway.

"Well, gentlemen," murmured Anstey, moving around and walking slowly forward, "the United States Military Academy is the grandest alma mater that a fellow could possibly have. I'm glad to be through, glad to be away from West Point, but I shall journey reverently back there any time when I have any leisure in this bright part of the good old world."

How sweet the joys of the great metropolis! Yet these joys would have palled had our travelers remained there too long. The following afternoon they were again journeying toward what is, after all, the one real spot on earth--home!

Gridley well-nigh went wild over its returning West Pointers--though now West Pointers no longer.

One of Dick Prescott's first tasks was to go proudly to Dr. Bentley, to state that he had had the wonderful good fortune to win Laura's heart, and to ask whether her father had any objection.

"Objection, Dick?" beamed the good old physician. "Why, lad, for years I've been hoping--yes, praying that you and Laura would have this good fortune. Wherever you may be stationed in the world, you'll let our daughter come back to us once in a while, I hope."

Dick solemnly promised, whereat Dr. Bentley smiled.

"That's all nonsense, Dick," laughed Laura's father. "I know, in my own heart, that you're going to be as good a son to mother and me as you have been to your own parents. God bless you both!"

A new lot of High School boys Dick and Greg found in Gridley, but the new crop seemed to be fully as promising as any that Dick and Greg could remember in their own old High School days when Dick & Co. had flourished.

A fortnight, altogether, Dick and Greg enjoyed in the good old home town, hallowed to them by so many memories.

Then one morning each received a bulky official envelope bearing the imprint of the War Department at Washington.

How their eyes glistened, then moistened, as each young West Point grad. drew out of the envelope the parchment on which was written his commission as a second lieutenant of United States infantry.

More, their request had been granted. They had been assigned to the same regiment--the forty-fourth.

Their instructions called for them to start within forty-eight hours, and to wire acknowledgment of orders to Washington.

The Forty-fourth United States Infantry was at that time in the far

West, in a country that at times teemed with adventure for Uncle

Sam's soldiers.

Here we must take leave of Lieutenant Dick Prescott and of Lieutenant Greg Holmes, United States Army, for their cadet days are over and gone.

Readers, however, who wish to meet these sterling young Americans again, and who would also like to renew acquaintance with two former members of Dick & Co., Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, will be able to do so in Volume Number Five of the Young Engineers' Series, entitled: "The Young Engineers On The Gulf."

In this very interesting volume the young engineers and the young Army officers will be found to have some very startling adventures together.

Readers will also be able to learn more of the careers of Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes, as Army officers, in the "Boys Of The Army Series." Some of their campaigns will be described very fully, for these splendid young officers served as officers and instructors of the "Boys of the Army."


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