Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 12

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"Say, Dick," remarked Paul, the next morning, as they leaped out of bed at the sound of the bugle giving the first call, "that spread must have cost you a pretty penny."

"I don't mind that a bit," replied the young millionaire, as he struggled into his uniform. "I'd be willing to spend a lot more if only the fellows would have come. But there's no use crying over spilled milk, as my dad says. Hurry up, Paul. Get this room in shape, or we'll be in for some bad marks at inspection."

The cadets quickly had their apartment in good order, and then got ready for breakfast.

They were a fine lot of cadets who filed into the mess hall a little later, well set-up young fellows, each with his uniform spick and span, marching with regular step that nearly approached the perfection of the trained soldier. For, such was the discipline at Kentfield, that even green lads quickly fell into the routine, and by this time Dick and the other freshmen carried themselves almost as well as did the senior students.

"Ah, that'll be some fun," remarked Paul, as they were leaving the mess-hall after the meal.

"What?" asked Dick.

"Target practice. There's a notice on the bulletin board that we're to have it right after the first study period. Are you a good shot?"

"I used to be, but the guns here are heavier than I'm accustomed to. I don't believe I can do as well."

"Oh, I guess you can. I hear that some of the third year lads can't do very extra."

There were two target ranges at Kentfield, one for long distance shooting, in the open, and the other in a rifle pit, indoors. It was there that a number of the cadets and their officers assembled a little later. Toots, who was a sort of janitor about the pits, was on hand.

"Ah, Toots, going to show us how to shoot today?" asked a student.

"Sure," replied Sam. "I'll give you a few lessons. Lend me your gun."

"Here you go, Tootsy old chap," added another cadet, passing over his rifle.

As all the cadets had not yet arrived discipline was rather lax, and the officers made no objection.

"Here's where I crack the bulls-eye first shot!" exclaimed Toots. He handled the gun as though he had long been used to it, and took quick aim. A sharp report followed, but there was no corresponding "ping" of the target to indicate a shot.

"Ha! Ha! Toots, you missed it altogether," cried Russell Glen, a first-year and somewhat sporty student in Dick's class.

"No, I didn't neither!" objected Sam. 'It went clean through the target, that's why you didn't hear it. I'm a crack shot I am."

He really appeared to believe it, and was much disappointed when the marker called back that the bullet had gone about a foot over the target.

"Try again. Toots," said Glen.

"I will. This time I'll go right in the center."

Once more he fired, and the resulting laugh told that he had again missed.

"I guess this is your off day," observed Captain Dutton.

"Looks like it," remarked Toots ruefully, as he walked off, whistling "In a Prison Cell I Sit," and ending with the bugle call to charge.

The target practice soon began, and Dick, to his own surprise, made a good score, getting forty-nine out of a possible fifty.

"We have decided to have a practice march, around the lake, to-morrow," Major Webster announced to the cadets after target practice was over. "Fatigue uniforms of khaki be worn, and the affair will last all day. Lunch will be taken in the field. You know the regulations, Captain Dutton, so inform your command of them, and be ready after reveille to-morrow."

The major paused, Captain Dutton saluted, and his superior officer turned away, his sword clanking at his heels.

"A practice march!" exclaimed Paul to Dick. "That will be sport."

"It sure will," added Dick.

"Silence in the ranks;" cried Dutton, in a dictatorial manner. "Lieutenant Stiver, watch Hamilton, I think he talks altogether too much."

It was an unjust accusation, but Dick knew better than to answer back.

That afternoon further instructions were issued regarding the practice march. The cadets would take one ration with them, and a wagon containing utensils for making coffee, etc., would accompany the amateur soldiers. They would have their rifles with them, and, during the day would have practice in skirmish firing, in throwing up trenches, and advancing on an imaginary enemy.

They started off soon after breakfast, led by Colonel Masterly, Major Rockford and Major Webster, while the cadet officers were in charge of the four companies. A, B, C and D.

It was a fine day in October, just right for a march, and the cadets presented a neat appearance, as, headed by the superior officers on horseback, they marched along the shores of the lake, off towards a wooded plain. The boys were attired in blue flannel shirts, khaki trousers and leggings.

"I hope they have more of these hikes before winter," remarked Paul to Dick.

"'Hike?' is that what you call 'em?"

"That's what the regulars do. It's a good name, I think."

"It sure is. Say, you get a fine view of the lake here."

The boys talked on, for there were no rules against it, and the experience of the march was a new one for many of them, including Dick.

They reached some suitable ground about ten o'clock and on orders from Major Webster the companies were formed into one command, under his direction. Then, an imaginary enemy having been located in a clump of woodland, the cadets were sent forward on the run, in skirmish parties, firing at will, and in volleys.

"Advance, and form trenches!" suddenly ordered the major.

The lads, using their bayonets as spades, and scooping the dirt up with their hands, soon formed shallow ditches, with an embankment of earth in front, and, lying prone behind this, ruthlessly mowed down the ranks of the enemy who still refused to show himself.

The rattle and bang of the rifles, the clouds of smoke, the flashes of fire, mingled with the hoarse commands of the major who was a war veteran; the rushing forward of the cadets, and their activity in digging trenches, made the scene one of excitement. It was glorious sport, Dick thought.

Tired, dusty and warm, though willing to keep at this war game indefinitely, the young soldiers finally reached the edge of the woods, where, having disloged the enemy, they were conceded to have won a victory, and the march was again taken up.

A halt for dinner was made beside a little brook. Toots, who had charge of the provision wagon brought it up, and proceeded to build fires to make coffee.

"Toots, you old scoundrel," affectionately exclaimed a senior cadet, "did you bring the cream for my coffee?"

"Yes, Mr. Morton. I brought a jug full," replied Toots, who entered into the spirit of the fun.

"And I want a white table cloth," stipulated another.

"I've got one up my sleeve," answered Toots, busying himself about the wagon.

Campfires were soon ablaze, and the appetizing smell of coffee and steaks filled the air. The cadets opened their haversacks, and were preparing to eat, having formed into little informal groups, each company by itself.

"Say, Stiver," remarked Dutton, to his lieutenant, looking at a field of late sweet corn, which was near where they were camped, "I'd like a few of those ears to roast. How about you?"

"Sure's you're a foot high; but you know the orders. Mustn't do any foraging."

"Ah, what's the rule between friends? Besides, Colonel Masterly and Major Webster are away over on the other side of the woods. Send some of the freshmen after some corn."

"I'm not going to. You can if you want to."

"I will. Here, Boardman, you and Booker and Hamilton go and get some of that green corn."

"I'll not," replied Dick promptly, who knew that this refusal to obey his superior officer would be upheld, if, indeed, Dutton would dare prefer a charge against him.

"Afraid, eh?" sneered the young captain. "Very well, then, You take Hamilton's place, Butler."

The three lads designated, either being afraid to incur Button's displeasure, or because they wanted some of the corn, quietly sneaked into the field, and quickly returned with big armsful, which were soon put to roast, the husks being concealed under the leaves in the woods.

"Maybe, you'll have some?" asked Dutton, in sneering tones, of Dick, as the captain and his cronies began eating the roast corn.

"No thank you. Not that I don't like it, but I prefer to get it another way."

Dick felt that he was putting himself further than ever beyond the pale of his comrades' liking by his conduct, but he could not help it.

The lunch was almost over, and most of the corn had disappeared, when an elderly man, evidently a farmer, crawled through the fence near where Dick's company was. There was an angry look on his face.

"Which of you lads stole my corn?" he demanded. "And besides that you trampled down a lot. Who done it? That's what I want to know."

There was no need to answer. The evidences of the stolen corn were all about.

"I'm going to report this to Colonel Masterly," said the farmer, striding off toward where the superintendent was talking to the two majors.