MoboReader > Literature > Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche


Uncle Sam's Boys with Pershing's Troops / Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with the Boche By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10992

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Ugh! That's a beastly trick. No white man would ever do a thing like that!"

The speaker was Private William Green, also known as "Long" Green, from his former habit of carrying large sums of ready cash about him.

Our readers will remember William. He was a good soldier, but above all he was a good Army business man, for he saved his money and added to it. To William Green the men of B Company always went when they were "short" and craved spending money. To any man in B Company "Long" Green would lend five dollars, but he always exacted six in return on pay day.

"What's wrong with your nerves, Green?" inquired Sergeant Hal, stepping out on to the porch of the barracks.

"Slosson has been telling me about kantab," replied Green, with a grimace and a shudder.

"Never heard of him," replied Hal.

"It isn't a 'him' at all, Sarge," rejoined Green. "Kantab is the name of a poison that the Moros extract from one of their plants up in the hills."

"Well, cheer up," urged Sergeant Overton, seating himself and opening a book. "There are no poisons issued in the rations."

"But Slosson was telling me about two soldiers who got kantab in their rations a few years ago," insisted Green.

"Was the quartermaster court-martialed?" asked Sergeant Overton. "Or was it the fault of the company cook?"

"Nothing like it," replied Green. "Two soldiers were on outpost one morning, and they had just prepared their breakfast. Just then they thought they heard a sound in the bushes, so they caught up their rifles and went out to investigate. They found nothing, so they came back to their breakfasts. They thought their coffee tasted rather bitter, but they drank it just the same. Ten minutes later both men were dying in agony. That noise had been a ruse to draw them off, while some native slipped in and put the kantab in their coffee. Ugh! That's a cowardly way to fight. If I find anything bitter about my food, even here in barracks, I'm going to toss the grub out. No kantab for mine," wound up "Long" Green earnestly.

"Did that really happen, Slosson?" asked Sergeant Hal, glancing up from his book.

"Sure," responded Private Slosson nonchalantly.

"I've heard about the stuff, too," nodded Private Kelly. "Only yesterday I heard one native talking about it to another."

"I'm going to watch my chow (food) after this," insisted Green.

For twenty minutes Hal read on, paying no attention to the chatter of soldiers about him. Then a bugle blew, and Hal closed his book with a snap.

"That's sick call, Kelly, and I believe you're on sick report," announced the boyish sergeant.

"I'm not going," returned Kelly. "What's the use. The hospital steward, I've been finding out, has no medicines whatever but salts and quinine. I can't stand the taste of either."

"But you're going to sick call, just the same," Hal retorted dryly. "Your name is on sick report, so to hospital you go. There's no way out of it."

Sick call is sounded morning and afternoon. It is the first sergeant's duty to enter on sick report the names of all enlisted men who report to him that they are not well, or think they are not well. Then, when sick call sounds, the first sergeant marches to hospital with the men whose names he has entered on sick report.

"Fall in, Kelly," ordered the young sergeant.

"I'll not take salts or quinine," insisted Kelly.

"You'll march to sick call, just the same. Fall in!"

So in step, and briskly, Hal and Private Kelly marched over to the little building which, at Fort Benjamin Franklin, was dignified with the name of hospital. The acting hospital steward was there waiting for them.

As this small command did not have a commissioned medical officer the steward attended to all cases of minor illness. When occasion warranted it the German physician was summoned from Bantoc to prescribe for the men.

"The sick list, steward," reported Hal, handing over the official paper on which Kelly's name alone appeared.

"What ails you, Kelly?" asked the steward.

"Nothing," Kelly answered defiantly.

"Then you'll have to discover an ailment soon," frowned the steward, "or I'll ask Sergeant Overton to report you for shamming sick report."

"Why, truth to tell, I didn't feel very well," asserted Kelly. "But that was two hours ago. I'm feeling fine now."

"Let me see your tongue," ordered the steward. He also "took" Kelly's pulse and noted his respirations, entering all this information on his record.

"Any pain anywhere, Kelly?"

"Sorra the bit," promptly rejoined the soldier.

"You're just a little off-key," went on the hospital steward, with a professional air. "Not much; still, you'd better have some medicine."

"I can't take salts," protested Kelly. "They make me sea-sick. Give me salts, and ye'll have to find a bed for me here, and take care of me for a few days."

"Quinine is about your size," replied the steward, reaching for a five-pound can of the stuff.

"That'll kill me, entirely!"

"Four ten-grain doses never killed any man," insisted the steward.

"I won't take it!"

"Oh, yes, you will, Kelly. This is the Army, and discipline is the rule. I'll make sure of the first dose by seeing you take it here."

The hospital steward's tone was firm, and under the regulations he was master of the situation.

"Then, for the love of Mike," gasped Kelly, "give me the bitter stuff in a capsule."

"Certainly, if you like it that way, Kelly," assented the steward, pick

ing up a gelatine ten-grain capsule and packing it tight with the white, bitter powder.

"I don't like it any way," growled Kelly.

"Now, that's nonsense, man. Why, all the medical authorities are agreed that quinine is the greatest blessing to man ever discovered."

"Then why don't the doctors take more of it themselves?" scowled Private Kelly.

"Here you are," continued the steward, capping the capsule and passing it to the unwilling victim.

Kelly dropped the capsule into his mouth, resolving to hold it there until he could get outside.

"Here's a glass of water. Wash it down," ordered the hospital steward. "Then you can open your mouth and I'll make sure that you've swallowed the stuff."

"Can't ye be after taking a soldier's word?" demanded Kelly, with a burst of virtuous indignation.

"Not where quinine's the medicine," returned the steward, grinning. "Now, down with the water, and then open your mouth."

There was no chance for sleight of hand here. Kelly actually swallowed the hated stuff, then submitted the proof.

"Here are the other capsules," went on the steward, handing the victim a small pill box. "Take one of the capsules at bed time and the other two to-morrow morning and noon. Sergeant Overton, it will be as well for you to see that Kelly obeys the order."

"May I go now?" demanded Kelly.


So sergeant and private passed out together.

"No wonder men sometimes desert," grumbled Private Kelly.

"Nonsense," laughed Hal. "Kelly, you're too good a soldier to be afraid of just a bad taste in the mouth."

"I don't want a bitter taste in me mouth, unless an enemy is smart enough to give it to me," grumbled Kelly, then added, "but by the powers, that steward is an enemy of mine, and I'll have his scalp one of these nights when I catch him outside on pass."

When Hal returned to the porch he picked up his book and disappeared into the quieter squad room, for he had found it rather difficult to study while among the others.

"Long" Green was making considerable noise, lying on his back on the porch, rumbling snores issuing from his wide-open mouth.

"No man has a right to run a Gatling gun like that without a license," muttered Kelly, gazing thoughtfully down at the noisy sleeper. "Boys, whist!"

There was mischief in the Irishman's eyes. Sergeant Hal, from the shadow at the back of the squad room, heard and glanced out.

At a sign from Private Kelly, the other soldiers rose, fleeing softly inside of barracks.

With an air as grave as that of a college professor absorbed in a chemical experiment, Private Kelly drew the pill box from one of his pockets. He took out a capsule, uncapped it, and bent over the sleeper.

Into "Long" Green's open mouth Kelly carefully but swiftly emptied the contents of the capsule of quinine, then joined his comrades in the barracks, all but closing the door.

After a moment Private William Green, asleep though he was, became dimly conscious that something was wrong with his tongue.

Then he awoke. There was a hideously bitter taste in his mouth.

In another instant Private Green had turned ghastly pale, shaking like a leaf. It took him but a moment to realize that he was alone on the porch. Out on the road, some two hundred yards away, a solitary male native was passing. Private Green was a quick guesser.

"Kantab!" he gasped hoarsely.

Then "Long" Green's legs got into swift action. Vaulting the porch rail, and almost falling in his trembling weakness, William made a straight line for the hospital, vanishing inside.

Five minutes later Hospital Steward Hicks appeared on the scene. He was supporting "Long" by one arm, for the soldier was not yet over his fright.

"Kelly," said Steward Hicks, "I find that I made a mistake. The medical authorities do not prescribe the stuff I gave you in a case like yours. So I'll take the capsules back."

"You're welcome," grinned Kelly, passing over the pill box.

"Two capsules; there should be three," remarked the hospital man, after having raised the lid from the box. "Green, you idiot, the kantab you're howling about came from the missing capsule that Kelly can't return to me."

"Do you give kantab at the hospital, too?" gasped "Long," looking more scared than ever.

"We do," said the steward grimly. "But we medical men call it quinine."

First "Long" looked bewildered. Then as the grinning soldiers gave vent to howls of glee a great light began to dawn on the mind of Private Green.

"Kelly, you scoundrel!" he yelled, leaping\ forward. "I'll take it all back-out of you. On your feet, man!"

But Kelly, convulsed with laughter, sat back in his chair until the irate Green slapped his face. At that the Irishman's resentment leaped to the surface and Kelly followed his recent victim to the ground beyond the porch.

Kelly, however, was weak with inward laughter. Green, therefore, administered some rather severe punishment, and, in the end, sent Kelly to the ground. "Long" couldn't possibly have done this under any other circumstances.

Private Kelly sat there for two or three minutes. Then he got up slowly, his face grave as he stepped to "Long," holding out his hand.

"'Long,' I know now what ailed me," confessed Private Kelly. "'Twas me liver. Your tr-reatment has fixed it up fine. I'll call on ye for another treatment when me liver needs it. By me present feelings I'm thinking 'twill be about to-morrow morning, after guard-mount."

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