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   Chapter 3 GREG DEBATES BETWEEN GIRLS AND MISCHIEF

Dick Prescott's Second Year at West Point / Or, Finding the Glory of the Soldier's Life By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 13286

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Considering that you are the noble class president, who had just made us feel so ashamed over our thoughts of hazing," muttered Mr. Furlong, "I must say, Prescott, that I don't look upon you as any tyro at hazing."

"This case was very different," Dick answered quietly. "This plebe, Briggs, was caught in a very rank piece of b.j.-ety. We couldn't let his offence go by. We hazed him for a straight cause, not merely for being a plebe. What I object to is annoying plebes simply because they are green men."

"But what about that soiree you mentioned to the plebe?" demanded

Griffin eagerly.

"I told him only to be ready if called," Prescott made reply. "I had no intention of bringing him over for a soiree this evening, unless the plebe does something else raw in the meantime."

A "soiree" is an institution of the summer encampment. The plebe who is in for a soiree may be either a man who has committed some direct offence against the upper classmen, or a plebe who has been observed to be simply too b.j. in general. Mr. Plebe is directed to present himself at the tent of some upper classman. Several yearlings are here gathered to receive him. He is taken in hand in no gentle way. He is rebuked, scored "roasted." He is made to feel that he is a disgrace to the United States Military Academy, and that he never will be a particle of value in the Service. Mr. Plebe is hauled over the coals in a fashion that few civilians could invent or carry out. Very likely, on top of all the lecturing, the man will be severely hazed. He is also quite likely, especially if he show impatience, to be called out for a fight.

The b.j.-est plebe, after a soiree by capable yearlings, is always afterwards observed to be a very meek plebe.

The rain continued so long that not only were afternoon drills escaped, but dress parade as well. It was not, in fact, much before supper time that the rain stopped and the sun came out briefly. But the brief period of relaxation had been appreciated hugely throughout camp. Three quarters of the cadets under canvas had found time for at least a two hours' sleep.

When the battalion marched back from supper, and was dismissed, the young men turned to for their evening of leisure and pleasure.

Over at Cullum Hall there was to be a hop for the evening.

Not all cadets, however, attend hops at any time.

Not long after supper many of the cadets began to dress carefully.

"Going to the hop, old ramrod?" inquired Mr. Furlong, standing just outside his tent while he fitted a pair of white gloves over his hands.

"Not to-night," returned Dick indifferently.

"Why, do you know, you haven't shown your face at hop yet?" Furlong demanded. "Yet when we were under instruction in the plebe class, you turned out to be one of our best dancers."

"Oh, I'll be in at one of the hops, later on in the summer," responded

Prescott.

"One?" gasped Furlong. "Oh, you wild, giddy thing! You're going to do better, aren't you, Holmesy?" continued Furlong, as Dick's old chum came out, fitting on a pair of white gloves.

"I'm going over and put my head in danger of being punched, I suppose," grinned Greg. "I'm going to have the nerve to 'stag it' tonight."

The man who "stags it"--that is, does not escort any young woman friend to the hop, must needs dance, if at all, with the girl some other cadet has "dragged." This sometimes causes bad feeling.

"I'm going to drag a 'spoony femme' tonight," declared Furlong, contentedly. "She's no 'L.P.,' at that."

"Dragging a femme" is to escort a young woman to the hop. If she be "spoony," that means that she is pretty. But an "L.P." is a poor dancer.

"Hotel?" inquired Greg.

"Yes," nodded Mr. Furlong, turning to leave. "Miss Wilton. I don't believe you've met her. Unless she dislikes your looks I may present you to her."

"Do," begged Greg. "I'd enjoy going through a few dreamy numbers."

Mr. Furlong, having permission to go to the hotel for Miss Wilton, started off, moving at his best soldier's step. After registering at the hotel office, in the book kept for that purpose, as every cadet is required to do, Mr. Furlong hoped for several minutes of talk with his pretty partner, either in a corner of the parlor, or on the veranda. Only the parlor and the veranda are open to cadets having permission to call at the hotel.

Greg, having no companion to go after, brought out his stool and seated himself beside Dick in front of the tent.

"Why don't you go over to the hop tonight, Dick?" Greg asked.

"Mainly because I don't wish to," replied Prescott, with a smile.

"Granted. But I am rather wondering why you don't wish to."

"I think you can keep a secret, Greg," replied his old Gridley chum, looking quizzically at Holmes. "Greg, I'm too awfully lonesome to trust myself at the hop tonight.

"Eh? Why, old ramrod, the hop ought to be the very place to lose that lonesome feeling."

"Just what I'm afraid of," responded Prescott.

"You--eh--huh! You're talking riddles now.

"Greg, a cadet can't marry. Or, if he does, his marriage acts as an automatic resignation, and he's dropped from the cadet corps."

"I know all that," Holmes assented.

"Now, here at West Point, with this nearly male-convent life, a fellow often gets so blamed lonesome that almost any girl looks fine to him, Greg. First thing he knows, a cadet, being a natural gallant, anyway, goes so far in being spoons with some girl that he has to act like a gentleman, then, and declare intentions. A fellow can't show a nice girl a whole lot of spoony attentions, and then back off, letting the girl discover that he has been only fooling all summer. You've heard, Greg, of plenty of cadets who have engaged themselves while here at the Academy."

"Yes," nodded Greg. "There's no regulation against a cadet becoming engaged to a girl. The regulation only forbids him to marry while he's a cadet."

"Now, a fellow like one of us either goes so far, in his lonesomeness, that he's grateful to a bright girl for cheering him and imagines he's in love with her; or else he finds that the girl thought he was in love with her, and she expects him to propose. Greg, I don't want to make any mistakes that way. It's easy for a cadet to capture the average girl's heart; it's his uniform, I suppose, for women always have been weak when uniforms enveloped fellows who otherwise wouldn't attract their notice. Greg, I wonder how many cadets have been lonesome enough to propose to some girl, and afterwards find out it was all a mistake? And how many girls fall in love with the uniform, thinking all the while

that it's the fellow in the uniform? How many cadets and girls recover from the delusion only in after years when it's too late. I tell you, Greg, when a fellow gets into this cadet life, I think the practice of going too often to a hop may be dangerous for cadets and girls alike!

"I'll get cold feet if I listen to you long," laughed yearling Holmes grimly. "I wonder if I'd better pull these gloves off and stay where I am?"

"I didn't have any idea of seeking to persuade you," Dick replied. "If you feel proof against the danger, run right over to Cullum and enjoy yourself."

"I was just thinking," mused Greg, "of a promise you and Dave

Darrin made some girls back in Gridley."

"I remember that promise," nodded Dick.

"You and Darrin promised Laura Bentley and Belle Meade that you'd each invite them to hops, you to West Point and Dave to Annapolis, just as soon as either one of you had a right to attend hops."

"I know," nodded Prescott.

Greg was silent. After a few moments Dick ventured:

"Greg, I kept that promise the day we moved into encampment--the first day that I was a yearling."

"Oh! Are Laura and Belle coming on West Point soon?" Holmes asked eagerly.

"I don't know. I'll be mighty glad when I do know. But undoubtedly Darrin has invited them to Annapolis, too. Now, it may be that, even if the girls can get away to travel a bit, they can't go to West Point and to Annapolis in the same season. So the girls may be trying to make up their minds--which."

"I hope they come here," murmured Holmes fervently.

"So do I," Prescott replied promptly.

"Dick--do you--mind if I ask a question," demanded Greg slowly.

"No," smiled Dick, "for I think I know what it is."

"Are you--is Laura--I mean---"

"You wonder whether Laura and I had any understanding before I left Gridley? That's what you want to know?"

"That is what I was wondering."

"There is no understanding between us-not the least," Prescott replied. "I don't know whether Laura would consent to one, now or later. I don't know myself yet, either, Greg. I want to wait until I have grown some in mind. Laura Bentley is such a magnificent girl that it would be a crime to make any mistake either as to her feelings or mine."

"Do you think good old Dave and Belle Meade had any understanding before Dave left Gridley?"

"Dave went away after we did," Prescott answered. "So I can't be sure. But I don't believe Dave and Belle are pledged in any way."

"Funny game, the whole thing!" sighed Greg, rising. He had drawn off one of his white lisle-thread gloves, but now he was engaged in putting it on again.

"Confidence deserves to be paid in the same coin, Greg," warned his chum. "Did you leave any girl--back in Gridley--or elsewhere."

"Dick, old ramrod," replied Cadet Holmes, frankly, as he finished drawing on his glove, "I'm unpledged, and, to the best of my belief, I'm wholly heart free."

"Look out that you keep so for two or three years more, then," laughed Dick, and Holmes, nodding lightly, strode away.

Despite the hop, there were some visitors in camp that evening. Dick was presently invited over to join a group that was entertaining three college boys who had dropped off at West Point for two or three days.

Greg spent an hour or so at the hop. He was introduced to Miss Wilton, a pretty, black-eyed little girl, and danced one number with her. He presently secured another partner. But too many of the cadets were "stagging it" that night. There were not feminine partners enough to go around.

"My cue is to cut out, I guess," mused Greg, finding himself near the entrance to the ballroom.

Once outside, Greg drew off his gloves, thrusting them in under the breast of his gray uniform coat. He wasn't quite decided whether to go back to Cullum later. But at present he wanted to stroll in the dark and to think.

"I reckon I'll take Dick's line of philosophy, and cut girls a good deal," decided Greg. "Yet, at West Point in the summer, it's either girls or mischief. Mischief, if carried too far, gets a fellow bounced out of the Academy, while girls--I wonder which is safer?"

Still guessing, Cadet Holmes wandered a good way from Cullum Hall, and was not again seen that night on the polished dancing floor.

* * * * * * * *

Anstey had gone visiting some other yearlings. Dick, after leaving the college boys and their hosts, felt that a slow stroll outside of camp would be one of the pleasantest ways of passing the time until taps at 10.30. Even after the rain, the night was close and sultry.

"Don't you sing, Prescott?" called a first classman as Dick passed near the head of the color line. "Some of our glee-club fellows are getting together to try some old home songs."

But Dick shook his head. Though he possessed a fair voice, the singing of sentimental or mournful ditties was not in his line that night. He heard the strumming of guitars and mandolins as he left camp behind.

Dick did not hurry, even to get away from the music. He kept on up the road, and by the hotel, but was careful not to enter the grounds, though three or four yearlings called gayly to him from the hotel veranda. He had no permission for tonight to visit the hotel.

"I'm not going to get into a row with the K.C. for a stupid little violation like that," he muttered.

Presently Dick's stroll took him over in the neighborhood of "Execution Hollow," the depression in the ground below where the reveille gun is stationed.

Suddenly Dick halted, an amused look creeping into his face.

"Now, who'd suspect good old Greg of getting into sheer mischief, all by himself?" the class president asked himself.

For Holmes was bending a bit low, a hundred yards or so away, and stealing toward the fieldpiece that does duty as reveille gun.

"It would be a shame to bet on what Greg's up to--it would be too easy!" muttered Prescott, standing behind a flowering bush at the road's edge. "Greg is going to load the reveille gun, attach a long line to the firing cord, and rig it across the path here, so that some 'dragger,' coming back from seeing his 'femme' home, will trip over the cord and fire the gun. The dragger can't be blamed for what he didn't do on purpose, and cute little Greg will be safe in his tent. But if Greg should happen to be caught it might mean the bounce from the Academy! And, oh, wow!"

Cadet Prescott's heart seemed to stop beating. Glancing down the road he saw a man standing, there, in the olive drab uniform of the Army officer. Captain Bates, of the tactical department, was quietly watching unsuspecting Cadet Holmes.

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