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   Chapter 2 PLEBE BRIGGS LEARNS A FEW THINGS

Dick Prescott's Second Year at West Point / Or, Finding the Glory of the Soldier's Life By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10573

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Anstey!" called Prescott softly across the company street.

"Oh, was it you idiots?" demanded the Virginian, showing his wrathful looking face.

"No," replied Dick. "Come over as quickly as you can."

It took Anstey a few minutes to dry himself, and to rearray himself, for the Virginian's sense of dignity would not permit him to go visiting in the drenched garments in which he had awakened.

"Which one of you was it?" demanded Anstey, as he finally entered the tent of Furlong and his bunkies.

"No one here," Dick replied. "The other gentlemen don't even know what happened, for I haven't told them."

So Anstey withdrew his look of suspicion from the five cadets. No cadet may ever lie; not even to a comrade in the corps. Any cadet who utters a lie, and is detected in it, is ostracized as being unfit for the company of gentlemen. So, when Dick's prompt denial came, Anstey believed, as he was obliged to do.

"It was a plebe, Mace," continued Dick.

"I'll have all but his life, then!" cried the southerner fiercely.

"I wouldn't even think of it. The offender is only a cub," urged Dick. "If you accept my advice, Mace, you won't even call the poor blubber out. We'll just summon him here, and make the little imp so ashamed of himself that the lesson ought to last him through the rest of his plebedom. I'm cooler than you are at this moment, Mace, but none the less disgusted. Will you let me handle this affair?"

"Yes," agreed Anstey quickly.

As for Furlong, Griffin and Dobbs, it was "just nuts" for them to see their class president, lately so stately on the subject of hazing, now actually proposing to take a plebe sternly in hand. The three bunkies exchanged grins.

"Tell us, Mace," continued Dick, "have you had any occasion to take

Mr. Briggs in hand at any time?

"So it was Mr. Briggs?" demanded Anstey angrily, turning toward the door.

"Wait! Have you taken Mr. Briggs in hand at any time?"

"Yes," admitted Anstey. "When you and Holmesy were out, last evening, I had Mr. Briggs in our tent for grinning at me and failing to say 'sir' when he addressed me."

"You put him through some performances?"

"Nothing so very tiresome," replied Anstey. "I made him brace for five minutes, and then go through the silent manual of arms for five more."

"Humph! That wasn't much!" grunted Furlong.

"I guess that was why Mr. Briggs felt that he had to get square," mused Dick aloud. "But a plebe is not allowed to get square by doing anything b.j."

Again Anstey turned as if to go out, but Dick broke in:

"Don't do it, Mace. Try, for the next half hour, to keep as cool

as an iceberg. Trust the treatment of the impish plebe to us.

Greg, old fellow, will you be the one to go down and tell Mr.

Briggs that his presence in this tent is desired immediately?"

Plebe Briggs was alone in his tent, his bunkies being absent on a visit in another tent. Mr. Briggs was still grinning broadly as he remembered the roar with which Anstey had acknowledged the big splash.

But of a sudden Mr. Briggs's grin faded like the mist, for Greg was at the doorway.

"Mr. Briggs, your presence is desired at once at Mr. Furlong's tent."

"Yes, sir," replied the plebe meekly. He got up with an alacrity that he did not feel, but which was the result of the new soldierly habit. Mr. Briggs threw on his campaign hat and a raincoat, but, by the time he was outside of the tent, Holmes was just disappearing under canvas up the company street.

"I guess I'm in for it," muttered the plebe sheepishly, as he strode up the street. "Confound it, can a yearling see just as well when he's asleep as when he's awake?"

He halted before Furlong's tent, rapping on the pole.

"Mr. Briggs, sir."

"Come in, Mr. Briggs."

The plebe stepped into the tent, drawing himself up and standing at attention.

For some seconds none of the yearlings spoke. In fact, only Dick looked at the fourth classman.

"Mr. Briggs," demanded Prescott at last, "where is your bucket?"

"In my tent, sir."

"You will fill it, and report back here with it at once."

"Very good, sir."

"Now, what on earth is coming?" quaked the plebe, as he possessed himself of his bucket and started for the nearest tap.

In the shortest time possible the young man reported hack at the tent, his bucket as full of water as it would safely carry.

"Set the bucket down, Mr. Briggs, at the rear of the tent."

The plebe obeyed, then stood once more at attention.

"Mr. Briggs," continued the president of the yearling class, "it was you who threw water over Mr. Anstey?"

"I am not obliged to answer that, sir," replied the plebe.

"You're quite within your rights there, mister," Dick admitted.

"But I looked out of this tent just in time to see you do it.

Have you any wish to deny it now?"

"No, sir."

"Mister, you have given us the impression that you are altogether to b.j.-ish to amount to anything in the cadet corps. Your sense of humor is bubbling over, but your judgment is so small that it would roll around inside the eye of a needle. This is a serious condition, and we judge that your health will be sadly affected if the condition is not promptly cured. One the first symptoms to be subdued is that of a swollen h

ead. The head needs reducing in size. Take off your hat, and kneel in front of the bucket."

This Mr. Briggs did, meekly enough, now. There is never any sense in a mere plebe refusing to follow the commands of a yearling. "You will remain in that kneeling posture, mister, unless you are released from it. Now, thrust your head down into the water, as far as you can without interfering with your breathing. Remain in that position. Take your hands off the floor, sir, and do not rest them on the floor again. Continue with your head in soak until you are directed to do otherwise."

Even Anstey had to look grimly satisfied with this punishment. The unhappy plebe certainly did present a most laughable yet woeful appearance. It seemed impossible to keep this position, without occasional steadying by the hands, but it had to be done. If the reader does not consider it a hard feat to kneel thus, with one's head immersed in the water, the reader can easily satisfy his curiosity on the point.

Having thus put the plebe in soak, the yearlings all turned away from him, conversing among themselves on one subject and another.

Yet, had the plebe ventured to raise his head somewhat out of the water, or to seek support from his hands, he would quickly have discovered that he was being effectively if covertly watched.

Minute after minute the plebe remained "in soak." To him it seemed, of course, like hours.

At last, when human endurance of the Briggs brand could last no longer, the plebe gave an expected lurch sideways, falling flat, upsetting the bucket and causing much of the water flow along his own neck and beneath his underclothing.

"Mister, you are not on your knees, as directed," exclaimed Cadet

Prescott.

"I--I am sorry, sir, but I couldn't help falling over," replied crestfallen Mr. Briggs, standing at attention beside his overturned bucket.

He wriggled slightly, in a way eloquently suggestive of the water that was trickling over his skin under his clothing.

"Did you get wet, mister?" asked Dick.

"Yes, sir."

"Skin wet?"

"Yes, sir."

"Now, that is really too bad, mister," continued Prescott in a tone that hinted at a great deal of sympathy. "You mustn't be permitted to get chilled. Exercise is what you need."

Dick paused.

"Poor, young Mr. Briggs stood mute, blinking back.

"Milesy, may Mr. Briggs have the use of your piece for a few minutes?"

"Why, surely," declared Cadet Furlong in a tone of great cordiality.

"Mr. Briggs, take Mr. Furlong's piece, and go through the silent manual of arms," ordered the president of the yearling class.

Mr. Briggs picked up the rifle that Furlong pointed out to him. Then, trying to look very grave in order to hide the extreme sheepishness that he really felt, Mr. Briggs brought the rifle up to port arms.

"Proceed through the manual, mister," Dick counseled. "And keep going until we decide that you have done it long enough to put you past the danger of pneumonia."

Standing stiffly, the plebe started through the manual of arms. As soon as he had gone once through, with West Point precision in every movement, the plebe started in all over again.

"Now, do this to the stationary marching, mister," added Dick gravely, as though prescribing something for the very immediate benefit of the luckless fourth classman.

With that, Mr. Briggs began to "march," though not stirring from the spot on which he was stationed. Left, right! left, right! left, right! his feet moved, in the cadence of marching. At the same time the victim was obliged to raise his feet.

"Bring the feet up higher and more smartly, mister," directed

Dick.

Passing the rifle through every movement of the manual of arms, lifting his feet as high as he could, and yet obliged to bring them down noiselessly to the floor, Plebe Briggs quickly began to drip with perspiration.

Yet his inquisitors sat by with the judicial gravity of drill sergeants. For ten minutes Mr. Briggs continued this grotesque work. He knew better than to stop; it would not be wise, even, to send any appealing glances at his inquisitors.

"Halt!" called Prescott softly, at last.

Briggs stopped, holding himself at attention after he had allowed the butt of the rifle to touch the floor noiselessly.

"Mister, return Mr. Furlong's piece."

The plebe obeyed, wondering what next was in store for him. Prescott noted that Mr. Briggs's legs were trembling under him.

"That is all, for the present, mister," announced the class sergeant. "But you will hold yourself in readiness, in case we call you out for a soiree this evening."

"Yes, sir," assented the plebe.

"You may go."

Mr. Briggs judged that he had better salute the yearling class president very carefully as he passed out with his bucket. This he did, then hastened down the company street.

This time, when he had vanished behind his own tent flap, Mr. Briggs didn't indulge in any grimaces or chuckles. Instead, he made haste to get off his dripping garments and to get out others, after he had enjoyed a rub down.

"Serves me right!" muttered the plebe. "I had been getting along first rate, with nobody bothering me. Then I had to get that b.j. streak on this afternoon. Now, I suppose I'm a marked plebe!"

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