Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 8
DICK GETS A FALL
At the chapel service, which the cadets were required to attend, Dick saw, for the first time, all his fellow students gathered together under one roof. They were a fine body of young men, and he felt proud that he was one of them. Every one was in full dress uniform, and a spick and span appearance the lads made, as they marched to and from chapel, to the music of the cadet band.
Sunday seemed quite long to Dick, but he managed to spend some pleasant hours, strolling about with Paul Drew, and some other new cadets. He was glad, however, when Monday came, bringing with it many duties.
For the next two weeks Dick was kept so busy, being initiated into the mysteries of the drill, guard mounting, parade, marching in different formations, learning the meaning of the military commands, his studies and preparing for inspection, that he had little time to think of other matters.
He found opportunity to ask Major Webster concerning missing Bill Handlee, and the tactical officer made some inquiries of the war office, but all to no effect. All trace of the veteran's son seemed to have vanished.
"But what do you suppose made Toots—I mean Sam Sander—think he recognized the photo?" asked Dick.
"Well, you know poor Sam isn't quite right in his head," replied the major kindly. "He received an injury some years ago, I understand. You can see the scar on his forehead now. That made him rather simple minded, though he is a good worker, and very useful."
"Then I'm afraid I can't send Captain Handlee any good news."
"I'm afraid not, Hamilton."
Dick had to write the sorrowful tidings to the old soldier, much to his regret. The young millionaire also sent a missive to his father, telling something of the life at the academy, but saying nothing of the manner in which he had been treated. Dick bravely resolved to fight his own battles.
He found the studies anything but easy, but as he applied himself to his books, he stood well in his class.
In the meantime matters were beginning to move with military regularity, and the cadets in their natty uniforms, presented at drill, or inspection, inspiring pictures.
At first Dick, and all the new cadets, were rather awkward at drill, but this was to be expected, and little was thought of it. On several occasions though, Captain Dutton, who was in command over Dick, made sneering remarks evidently intended for our hero, who, however, did not reply.
With the exception of Sunday and Monday, the same general routine was followed. Reveille was sounded at six o'clock, with a second call ten minutes later. Then came "police" inspection, and woe betide the youth who was not spick and span. Sick call followed, but usually it was a mere form, for the cadets were as healthy as Spartans.
On Monday there was always general inspection, when it behooved Dick and his fellows to have their quarters in good order. Plenty of time was allowed for study and recitation, and there was much attention given to military life. There were lectures on tactics, and they were followed by practical illustrations.
"I wish they'd let us have a chance at the horses," remarked Dick, to Paul, when they were studying in their room one evening. "The older cadets have plenty of cavalry drill, but we have to march around, carrying heavy guns, and doing all sorts of stunts like that."
"I understand we're to have our innings next week."
"Is that so? Good!"
Dick, and many other of the new cadets who loved horses were pleased to see a notice posted, a few days after this, stating that instructions in riding, and cavalry exercises, were to be given in the big shed and would begin the following Monday
"Now we'll have some fun," said Dick. "Aren't you glad, Paul?"
"Well, I don't care much about horses. I feel safer on my feet."
"Oh, you'll get used to a horse soon enough, and then you'll never want to walk."
There were good horses in the academy stables, and, to his delight, a fine mount was assigned to Dick. He made friends with the animal at once, and when the "awkward squad" was put through their paces, Dick earned commendation from the drill master for the excellent seat he maintained.
For a week or more Dick and his fellow freshmen practiced every day in the riding hall. The cadets who at first sat insecurely in the saddle were beginning to learn how to maintain themselves, and one afternoon the drill master announced that the next day they would be allowed to go out on the cavalry plain.
"That's the stuff!" cried Dick. "I've been wanting a good gallop for a long time."
"Guess we won't have much chance to gallop," replied Paul, who had been transfered to Dick's company. "Dutton's so mean he'll probably keep us at an easy walk. He thinks no one knows how to ride but him."
"I'll show him, if I get a chance," murmured Dick.
The cadets were formed into four companies the next day, and sent out on the cavalry plain for practice.
"Now I don't want any exhibitions of fancy riding," announced Ray Dutton, as he led the cadets over whom he had charge out from the drill hall. "You've got to creep before you walk, you know. Just take it easy, and we'll make a few circuits of the grounds."
"Pity he wouldn't let us gallop," said Dick, in a low voice to Paul, beside whom he was riding.
"Silence in the ranks!" exclaimed the cadet captain sharply. "Hamilton, if you speak again I'll report you."
Dick felt the hot blood mount to his face, but he kept his temper.
They went around at a slow pace, many of the lads chaffing under the restraint. Then Dutton gave the command to trot, and they let their horses out a trifle.
Whether something frightened Dick's horse, or whether the animal wanted to take a good run and show the others what he could do, it was impossible to say. At any rate our hero's steed gave a sudden spring, and, rushing through the opened ranks of the cadet horsemen ahead of him, sailed past Captain Dutton at a fast gait.
"Halt!" cried the leading cadet. "Where are you going, Hamilton? Come back here at once! I'll report you! Come back!"
Dick tried to rein his horse in, but the animal had the bit in his teeth, and it was useless to pull on the leather. Still the young millionaire was not frightened. He knew he could manage the animal.
But Dutton, with a muttered exclamation, spurred after Dick.
"Halt!" he cried again. "Halt, or I'll place you under arrest for disobeying orders!"
"I can't stop him!" Dick flung back, over his shoulder.
Dutton's horse was a fast one, and he soon caught up to the young cadet. He crossed in front of him, wheeled about and, a moment later the two horses collided violently. Dick was flung up in the air, and, the next instant, came heavily to the ground, where he lay quiet, while his horse bolted.
Dutton, who had retained his seat, looked down on the prostrate figure.
"Come. Get up," he said. "No shamming."
Dick did not move.
"Here, Drew, Butler, Graham!" called Captain Dutton. "Here's a chance to practice first aid to the injured. See what's the matter with him."
The three cadets he had named galloped forward, while the remainder of the company came to a halt.