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   Chapter 6 GREG PREPARES FOR FLIRTATION WALK

Dick Prescott's Second Year at West Point / Or, Finding the Glory of the Soldier's Life By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 16926

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"For what reason, sir?" demanded the K.C. sharply.

Prescott opened his mouth, closed it again, without speaking, then at last asked slowly:

"Sir, may I state my reasons in my own way?"

"Proceed, Mr. Prescott."

"My suspicion concerning a certain man, sir, does not cover a really direct suspicion that he had a hand in the affair. His remark led me only to infer that the man was present."

"That does not tell me, Mr. Prescott, why you have refused to answer the question that I put to you," insisted Colonel Strong.

"My reason, sir, for respectfully declining to answer is twofold: First, I do not know whether I am legally required to state a suspicion only. My second reason, sir, is that to state the name of the man I suspect would make me, in my own eyes, and in the eyes of my comrades, a tale-bearer."

Since the K.C. had started this line of questioning, Captain Bates remained silent. So, too, did the K.C. for some moments after Dick had finished.

It was the first problem that faced the tactical officers--much harder one than it would considered in civilian life.

In the first place, it is one of the highest West Point ideals never to treat a cadet with even a trace of injustice. The young man who is being trained to be an officer, and who will, in time, be placed over other men, above all must be just. In no other way can the cadet learn as much about justice as by being treated with it.

As is the case with an accused man in the civil courts, no cadet may be forced to testify in way that would incriminate himself. When it comes to testifying against another the question has two aspects.

The tale-bearer, the informer, is not appreciated in the military world. He is loathed there, as in civil life. Yet the refusal of one cadet to testify against another might be carried, insolently, to the point of insubordination. So, when a cadet, under questioning, refuses to give evidence incriminating another cadet, his reason may be accepted; or, if it appear best to the military authorities, he may be warned that his reason is not sufficient, and then, if he still refuses to answer, he may be proceeded against as for disobedience of orders.

It is a fine point. The K.C. found it so at this moment. Dick Prescott stood rigidly at attention, a fine, soldierly looking young fellow. His face, his eyes, had all the stamp of truth and manliness. Yet the suspicion had arisen with these two tacs. that Mr. Prescott was a young man who was extremely clever in giving truthful answers that shielded offending cadets.

"You have stated your position unreservedly and exactly, Mr.

Prescott?" inquired Colonel Strong at last.

"Yes, sir."

"You are certain that you have not more than the merest suspicion of the cadet off whom you have been speaking?

"I am absolutely certain, sir."

"How does it happen, Mr. Prescott, that you have this suspicion, and absolutely nothing more?"

A cadet is not permitted to hesitate. He must answer not only truthfully, but instantly. So Dick looked the K.C. full in the eyes as answered:

"A cadet, sir, started to say something, and I shut him up."

"Because you did not wish to know more?"

"Yes, sir," Prescott admitted honestly.

Captain Bates fidgeted almost imperceptibly; in other words, as much as a military man may. There were a few questions that he wanted to ask this cadet. But it was Bates's superior officer who was now doing the questioning.

The K.C. remained silent for perhaps half a minute. Then he said:

"That is all, at present, Mr. Prescott."

Saluting the K.C., Dick next made a slight turn which brought him facing Captain Bates, whom he also saluted. Both officers returned his salute. Dick wheeled and marched from the tent.

As he passed through the camp the cadet face had in it a soldierly inexpressiveness. Even Bert Dodge, who covertly scanned Prescott from a distance, could not guess the outcome of the "grilling."

"May I ask, Colonel, weather you agree with my opinion of Mr.

Prescott?" inquired Captain Bates.

"Your idea that he is an artful dodger?"

"Yes, sir."

"If he is," replied Lieutenant Colonel Strong, "then the young man is so very straightforwardly artful that he is likely to give us a mountain of mischief to handle before he is brought to book."

"If I can catch him at anything by fair means," ventured Captain

Bates, "then I am going to do it."

"You are suspicious of Mr. Prescott?"

"Why, I like the young man thoroughly, sir; but I believe that, if we do not find a means of curbing him, this summer's encampment will be a season of unusual mischief and sly insubordination."

Perhaps there was something of a twinkle in Colonel Strong's eye as he rose to leave the tent.

"If you do catch Mr. Prescott, Bates, I shall be interested in knowing the particulars promptly."

Dick returned to his tent to find his bunkies gone to drills. The summons before the O.C. had relieved Prescott from the first period of drill.

On Dick's wardrobe box lay two letters that the mail orderly had left for him.

Both bore the Gridley postmark. The home-hungry cadet pounced upon both of them, seating himself and examining the handwriting of the addresses.

One letter was from his mother. Cadet Prescott opened that first. It was a lengthy letter. The young man ran through the pages hurriedly, to make sure that all was well with his parents.

Now Dick held up the other letter. This also was addressed in a feminine hand--as most of a cadet's mail is. It was a small, square envelope, without crest or monogram, but the paper and cut were scrupulously good and fine. It was the kind of stationery that would be used by girl brought up in a home of refined surroundings.

Dick broke the seal with a consciousness of a little thrill that he had not felt in opening his mother's letter. Dick did not have to look for the signature; he knew the penmanship.

"My Dear Mr. Prescott," began the letter. ("Hm!" muttered the reader. "It used to be 'Dick'")

"Your note came as a delightfully pleasant surprise," Dick read on ("Now, I wonder why it should have been a surprise? Great Scott! Now, I come to think of it, I hadn't written her before since last February!")

"Of course we are going to drop all other plans for a flying visit to West Point," the letter ran on. "Belle is simply delighted with the idea. She has heard from Mr. Darrin, but he suggests September as the best time for us to visit Annapolis. So mother will bring Belle and myself to West Point. We can spend two or three days there. We shall arrive late on the afternoon on---"

As Dick read the date, he gave a start.

"Why, they'll be here tomorrow afternoon," throbbed Prescott.

Then and there Prescott stood up in the low-ceilinged tent and tossed his campaign hat up to the ridgepole. That piece of headgear didn't have far to travel, but Dick accompanied it with an "hurrah!" uttered almost under his breath.

"Won't Greg be the tickled boy!" murmured Prescott; joyously.

"Some one from home--and folks that we both like!"

Presently some of the drill squads returned to camp. Greg and

Anstey came in, warm and curious.

"Did you get into any trouble with the O.C., old ramrod?" questioned

Anstey in his soft voice.

"I don't believe I did," Dick answered.

Anstey nodded his congratulations.

"Greg, old fellow, guess what's going to happen soon?" demanded

Prescott.

"I'd rather you'd tell me."

"Folks from home! Mrs. Bentley, Laura and Belle Meade will be here late tomorrow afternoon!

"Great!" admitted Cadet Holmes, but to Dick's ear his chum's enthusiasm seemed perfunctory.

"We'll drag femmes to the hop tomorrow night, eh, Greg?"

"Anything on earth that you say, old ramrod," agreed Holmes placidly, then stepped out of his tent to visit across the way.

"Spoony femmes?" inquired Anstey.

"Spooniest ever!" Dick declared.

"L.P.?"

"Not on your coming shoulder-straps!" retorted Prescott, an eager look in his eyes. "And say, Anstey, you're going to the hop tomorrow night, aren't you?

"Hadn't thought so," replied the other quietly.

"Anything else on?"

"Nothing particular."

"Then be at the hop, Anstey, old bunkie-do! I want you to meet both the young ladies, and dance at least a couple of numbers with each."

"I reckon I'd go through fire or water for you, or Holmesy," murmured the Virginian quietly.

"Oh

, it isn't going to be anything like such an ordeal as that," laughed Dick happily. "Just wait until you've seen the young ladies. That's all!"

"As they---" Anstey paused. Then he went on, after considering: "As they come from home, old ramrod, I should think you and Holmesy would want them all to yourselves."

"But don't you understand, you uncivilized being," demanded Dick, chuckling, "that we can't dance all the numbers with the girls? It would be a slight on the girls if only two men wanted to dance with them. Besides, we want to show them all that's best about West Point. We want them to meet as many as possible the very best fellows that are here."

"My deepest thanks, suh, for the compliment," replied Anstey, with a deep bow.

"Well, that describes you, doesn't it?" demanded Dick. "We want these girls to carry away with them the finest impression possible of good old West Point!"

When evening came, and Prescott and Holmes strolled through camp, listening to the band concert, Dick wanted to talk all the time about the coming visit of the girls. Greg answered, though it struck his chum that Holmes was merely politely enthusiastic.

"Say, Dick," whispered Greg presently, with far greater enthusiasm than he had been displaying, "look at that black-eyed, perfectly tinted little doll that is walking with Griffin!

"Stroll around and meet them face to face presently, then," grinned

Dick. "Griff won't mind."

"The deuce he won't" growled Greg. "I'd have a scrap on my hands, besides being voted a butter-in."

"Try it," advised Prescott, giving his chum a little shove. "I tell you, Griff won't mind. Her name is Griffin, too. She's his sister."

A moment later Prescott turned and tried to gulp down a great chuckle. For Greg, without another word, had left him, and now was strolling along with an air of slight absorption, yet his course was so managed as to bring Mr. Holmes face to face with Griffin. At least a dozen other gray and white-clad young men were also to be observed manoeuvring so as to meet Griffin casually. Thus it happened that Greg was but one of a group. Observing this, Holmes increased his stride.

"Hullo, Holmesy!" cried Griffin, with great cordiality. "Glad to encounter you. I've just been telling my sister about some of the best fellows. Della, I present Mr. Holmes. Mr. Holmes, my sister!"

Greg lifted his cap in the most polished manner that he had been able to acquire at West Point, while a dozen other men scowled at Griffin, who appeared not to see them.

Miss Adele Griffin was presently chatting most animatedly about her new impressions of West Point and the United States Military Academy.

"Holmesy, you know so much more about things than I do," pleaded

Griffin sweetly, "just be good to Dell for an hour, won't you?

You're one of the best-informed men here. Now, mind you, Dell!

No fun at Mr. Holmes's expense. Look out for her, Holmesy!"

With that Griffin "slid away" as gracefully and neatly as though he hadn't been planning to do it all along.

"Your brother has always been mighty pleasant to me, but he never was as downright good before," murmured Greg, looking down into the big black eyes that glanced laughingly up into is face.

"Oh, if you are ordinarily observant," laughed Miss Griffin, "just keep your eyes on a level, and you'll be able, in five minutes, to understand why he is so good to you in the present instance."

Nevertheless, it was fully ten minutes before they met Griff again. That young man was talking, with all animation, to a tall, rather stately blonde young lady.

"My brother," remarked Miss Griffin, "is good boy, but he is calculating, even in his goodness.

"I don't like to hear a word said against Griff," protested Greg, "for I feel that I'm under the greatest obligation of my life to him."

Miss Griffin laughed easily, but she glanced up challengingly into the eyes of her tall escort. Miss Griffin had heard of the gallantries of West Point's men, and didn't propose to be caught.

"You must find the cadets a good deal below your expectations?" remarked Mr. Holmes inquiringly.

"No; they're a wholly charming lot," replied the girl. "Oh, that word 'lot' simply escaped me. Yet it does seem rather apt. Don't you think, Mr. Holmes, that the wearing of identical uniforms gives the young men rather the look of a 'lot'?"

Greg felt just a bit crestfallen, but he wasn't going to show it.

"Why, I don't know," he replied slowly. "Some of the young ladies who come here seem able to distinguish units in the lot."

"Differences in height, and variations in the color of hair and eyes? Is that it?" asked Miss Griffin, with an air of mild curiosity.

"Why, perhaps we're like Chinamen?" laughed Greg good-naturedly. "Pig-tailed and blue-bloused Chinese all look alike at first glance. Gradually, however, one is able to note individual peculiarities of appearance."

"Yes, I guess that's it, Mr. Holmes," replied the girl musingly.

"Now, I won't ask you to tax yourself unpleasantly in distinguishing one cadet from another," Greg went on bravely. "But I am hoping, with all my heart, that you'll know me the next time you meet me."

"I can tell you how to make certain," responded Miss Griffin demurely.

"Then I shall be your debtor for life!"

"Wear a red carnation in your blouse, and carry a white handkerchief in your left hand."

"You're cruel," sighed Greg.

"Why?" demanded Miss Griffin.

"Both tests that you suggest are against cadet regulations. Let me suggest a better test?"

"If you can?" challenged Miss Griffin.

The band, at this moment, was playing a Strauss waltz. The young people had strolled just a bit beyond the encampment, and now Greg compelled a halt under the added shadow of a big tree.

"The test I long to suggest," replied Greg, "is so exacting that

I hesitate to ask it."

"My curiosity is aroused," complained Miss Griffin.

"I had it in mind to ask you to look up into my face until you are certain that you will recognize it again."

"Mercy!" gasped the black-eyed beauty.

"I knew I was presumptuous and inconsiderate," admitted Greg meekly.

None the less, Miss Griffin laughed and stood looking coyly up into Mr. Holmes's face. But at last, feeling absurd, Miss Griffin shifted her glance.

"I knew I was asking too much," remarked Greg in a tone of resignation.

"You couldn't stand it, could you?"

Laughing merrily, Miss Griffin turned her look upward again, meeting

Greg Holmes's gray eyes.

Then, after a few moments, she remarked thoughtfully:

"My brother was over-solicitous in fearing that I would embarrass you in the least."

"Are you going to be at the hop tomorrow night?" Greg asked.

"I--would like to."

"Can it be possible," queried Mr. Holmes, "that I am so fortunate as to be discreet in asking whether I may escort you there?"

"If you care to be so charitable, Mr. Holmes."

Greg had a moment's uneasy impulse to seize her hand by way of answer. Fortunately, he restrained himself.

"If I call for you at the hotel tomorrow evening, Miss Griffin, may I hope that you will recognize me?" he challenged.

"I will take another look and make sure," she laughed softly, glancing up archly into Greg's face.

As the concert drew to a close Greg had to make a decent show of trying to find Griffin, and he succeeded. Griffin was still with the tall blonde. Griffin had permission to go to the hotel, and Greg didn't. So Greg strolled with Miss Griffin until near the hotel grounds. Then he bade her a cordial good night, and Griff escorted both "femmes" to the hotel.

"What do you think of Holmesy?" asked Griffin of his sister.

"He's quite agreeable," replied Adele Griffin. "Very soldierly, if I am any judge. I wonder how he will look in a second lieutenant's uniform?"

As our three bunkies prepared for bed that night Prescott remarked:

"Tomorrow, Greg, we'll see the folks from home! I hope you'll do nothing, though, to make Dave Darrin dislike you."

"I won't," promised Greg solemnly. Then: "Oh, great--Jove!

I've---"

"Well?" demanded Dick. "What have you done?

"I've asked another femme to accept my drag to-morrow night!

"Miss Griffin?"

"Yes!"

"Anstey," continued Dick, turning quickly to hide a frown, "I shall have to draft you!"

"I was bo'n and reared a gentleman, suh!" replied the Virginian, with cordial gravity.

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