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   Chapter 4 GREG'S CASE OF BLUES

Dick Prescott's First Year at West Point; Or, Two Chums in the Cadet Gray By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8484

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Only a moment did Mr. Edwards need for the reading of Greg's note. Then the cadet lieutenant frowned at Dick.

"Mr. Prescott, what do you mean by perpetrating a poor-spirited joke under the guise of making an official communication?"

In an instant Dick saw clearly that be had made a military mistake.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said meekly.

"This may all be a joke to you, Mr. Prescott," went on the cadet officer dryly, "but I presume it is none whatever to Mr. Holmes."

As he hadn't been addressed, Greg did not venture to answer. He stood rigidly at attention, though both he and Dick were flushing.

The paper that Mr. Edwards now held in his hand read as follows:

"To THE SUPERINTENDENT,"

"THE UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY."

"Sir: I have the honor herewith to tender my resignation as a cadet in the United States Military Academy, the same to take effect immediately. I have the honor to be, sir,"

"Very respectfully,"

"GREGORY HOLMES."

"So that's the way you feel about it, is it, Mr. Holmes?" questioned the cadet lieutenant, after a second glance at the paper.

"Yes, sir," replied Greg.

"This is the fourth letter of the kind that I've seen this week," continued Mr. Edwards stiffly, though a curious smile played about the corners of his mouth. "I presume that two or three dozen, at least, of the same sort have been written by the new plebes. Mr. Holmes, do you know what was done with the other letters of resignation that I saw?"

"No, sir."

"Their writers tore them up," went on the cadet lieutenant stiffly. "Now, Mr. Holmes, if you persist in believing that you want to send this letter in to the superintendent, then I think it will be the best thing you can do; for if you still persist in wanting to resign, then you haven't manhood enough, anyway, to make a fit brother-in-arms for the comrades in your class."

This was severely said. Greg paled under the verbal thrashing.

"If you really wish to send in this letter," continued Mr. Edwards, "you have a perfect right to do it, Mr. Holmes."

"May I speak, sir?" asked Greg when the cadet lieutenant ceased talking, but remained looking fixedly at the new plebe.

"Proceed," replied Mr. Edwards.

"May I have that letter, sir?"

The cadet lieutenant handed it back without a word.

"May I-may I-"

"Out with it, Mr. Holmes."

"May I handle this letter at once in the way that I now wish, sir?"

"You may."

Greg, his face again flushing painfully, tore the sheet into small bits, turning and tossing them into his waste basket. Then he again wheeled, standing at attention.

"Stand at ease, mister," ordered Mr. Edwards, dropping out of his official tone and manner. "Now, mister, will it do you any good if I explain a few little things about life here at West Point?"

"I shall be very glad, indeed, sir, if you will be good enough," replied Greg rather shamefacedly.

"In the first place, mister," went on the cadet lieutenant, sitting, now, with one leg thrown over the corner of Greg's desk, "the homesickness that has hit you touches every other man who comes here. It's a mighty hard-working life here, and I'll admit, mister, that it's very cheerless during the plebe year.

"You think you are looked down upon, and regarded as being beneath contempt, mister. That sort of treatment for a plebe is believed to be necessary here. Grant got it; so did Sherman; so did Sheridan. George Washington would have been treated in just the same manner had there been a West Point for him to go to.

"It isn't because of what we upper class men think of you. It's because of what we're waiting to find out. I don't know anything about your connections in your home town. You may have been a great fellow there. You may, for all I know, have had a home of wealth, luxury and refinement. Your father may be a man of great importance in the nation. I don't know anything about that, and I don't care about it, either, mister. From the moment you start in at West Point, you start your life all over again, and you stand on nothing but your own merits. We don't know how much merit you have, and we shan't know until you've gone through with your plebe year and have proved whether you're a man

or not. If we find, a year from this coming summer, that you're a man, we'll welcome you into the heartiest comradeship of all the corps. Mister, I've said a lot more to you than most upper class men would waste the time to say. Choose your own course, and prove where you stand."

Then Cadet Lieutenant Edwards turned around to Cadet Prescott with a look that made that Gridley boy feel rather uncomfortable.

"As for you, mister, never again, while you're a plebe, be so b.j. (fresh) as to try a joke with an upper class man. If there's one thing, mister, that gets a plebe into three times as much trouble as any other thing, then it's b.j.-ety!" (freshness).

Of a sudden the cadet lieutenant returned to his feet, resuming all the dignified demeanor of the cadet officer on duty.

Instantly Dick and Greg stood once more at "attention" until Mr.

Edwards had turned on his heel and left the room.

"Hm!" murmured Dick, as they heard the lieutenant's retreating footsteps. "We've both had a jolly good lesson."

"You didn't do much," muttered Greg shamefacedly. "I wouldn't feel so bad about a call down over a bit of ordinary b.j.-ety. I was scorched and withered for being a cold-foot and a quitter-and I deserve it all, and more!"

"I'm glad you see that, old Gridley!" murmured Cadet Dick heartily. "Now, Greg, you won't write another letter of resignation, will you?"

"Not if I die of homesickness and melancholy!" muttered Greg, clenching his hands.

"Now, after letting you in for an awful verbal flogging," smiled Dick curiously, "I'll let you into a secret. I wrote a letter of resignation, too."

"When?" gasped Cadet Holmes amazed.

"Two days ago," confessed Dick. "I read it through six times before sending it to the superintendent."

"You didn't-send it to the superintendent?" gasped Greg.

"No; because I also tore it to fine bits before sending it to headquarters-and so the letter never reached the one to whom it was addressed," laughed Cadet Prescott. "Now, look here, Greg. Admit that you were a prize simpleton, just as I was. Let's start anew-with a bang-up motto. This is it: 'A Gridley boy may die, but resign-never!'"

Dick struck such a dramatic attitude that both poor young plebes began to laugh heartily.

"Oh, and now for the news that brought me back here hotfoot," ran on Prescott glibly. "Greg, you never could guess who's here at West Point."

"The President, or the Chief of the General Staff?" asked Holmes slowly.

"Oh, pshaw, no! They don't either one amount to as much as the fellow I'm talking about thinks he amounts to."

"Whom did our Senators appoint to the Academy?" asked Prescott after a pause.

"Me," admitted Greg, again turning red.

"Well, whom did the other Senator appoint!"

"A fellow named Spooner, who came here and 'fessed out' cold (failed badly) on the academic exam," Greg responded.

"Who was Spooner's alternate!" persisted Dick.

"I don't believe I remember," Greg replied slowly.

"No; and that was because neither you nor I ever knew. Spooner's alternate was-Bert Dodge!"

"What? Bert Dodge, of Gridley?" demanded Cadet Holmes astonished.

"That very chap," Prescott admitted. "When Spooner went home, after 'fessing out' here, Bert Dodge, who hadn't appeared, was ordered by wire to report at once, or have his name stricken out. Bert's physician wired the War Department that the young fellow was ill, though the illness would not delay him more than a few days. So Bert was given a brief grace. Well, sir, I've just learned that Dodge reported at the adjutant's office this morning. He got by the surgeons bounding, and to-morrow he sits down at his 'writs.' (written examinations) in the Academic Building."

"I wonder if that fellow will pass," cried Greg wonderingly.

"Oh, I rather think he'll make it easily," replied Dick, seating himself at his own desk. "Bert wasn't a fool at his studies. He spent more than three years at Gridley High School, and since then has had a school year and a half at one of the finest prep. schools in the country. Oh, I guess he'll get through all right."

"So we've got to have him here for a comrade!" sighed Greg disgustedly, as he picked up his text-book on English.

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