Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 16

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CHAPTER XVI


FOR THE PRIZE TROOP


After a bath and rub down in the gymnasium Dick dressed for evening parade. When this was over he sought out Dutton, who was strolling off the campus with some chums.

"Captain Dutton, I wish to speak to you," said Dick, formally saluting.

"Well, I don't know that I wish to speak to you. What is it?" asked the young snob, barely acknowledging Dick's courtesy.

"Did you take my bulldog to town, and match him to fight another?"

Dutton started, then looked insolently at Dick.

"What of it?" he asked sneeringly.

"This much. That you haven't any right to do that, even if you are my superior officer. Grit is my personal property, and I won't have him fighting."

"Aw, what's the harm, Hamilton,. He put up a dandy fight and licked a bigger dog than he is," put in one of the cadets.

"I don't care, I don't want him to fight."

"Oh, you don't?" asked Button colly.

"No; and if you take him again——"

"Well, what will you do? Report me, I suppose?" said the captain.

"No, but I'll thrash you worse than I did the other time. Captain Dutton, that's what I'll do!" exclaimed Dick, hotly. "You leave Grit alone! If you take him again you know what to expect!"

Dutton turned pale. He strode toward Dick, but at that moment Captain Grantly, one of the instructors, strolled past. Dutton turned aside.

"You haven't heard the last of this—my fresh millionaire," he said in a whisper to Dick, as he and his cronies walked off. "You'll wish you hadn't insulted me."

Dick saluted, as the rules required, and marched back to quarters. He felt that he would have enjoyed a good stiff fight with his mean enemy.

"I don't suppose this will add to my popularity, among the sporting element," he said to himself. "But I don't care; they shan't fight Grit!"

Football practice went on every afternoon, and Dick and the other scrubs were faithful at it. The regular eleven was being whipped into shape, and the first game was close at hand. When it was played Dick found himself wishing he could have a chance, but no such thing happened. The opponents of Kentfield were light-weight players, and the cadets had no difficulty in piling up a big score.

"But it will be different next week," Captain Rutledge warned them. "We tackle Mooretown then, and you'll find your work cut out for you."

This game was indeed a stiff one, and several players were hurt. The cadets were slightly ahead in the second half, when the right half-back was knocked out, and, as there had been one substitute already put in at that position, there was a call for another one.

"Try Hamilton," suggested the coach, after a hurried consultation with the captain.

Dick's heart gave a wild throb, as he was called, and, stripping off his sweater, he bounded in from the side line. He was given the ball for a play around the left end, and, getting clear of the opposing players started down the field on a run. But, alas for his hopes of making a touch-down! The referee's whistle blew when he was on the thirty-five yard line, ending the game, in favor of Kentfield.

There was rejoicing among the cadets, for Mooretown was an ancient rival, and they played three games with the students of that non-military academy every year, for the local championship.

"You didn't get much of a show, Hamilton," said Coach Hale, as the team was in the dressing room. "But you started off well. I guess you'll get into a game yet."

Dick was grateful for this praise. He knew he could do good work if he had half a chance.

"This is Saturday," observed Paul Drew, as he crawled out of bed the next morning. "Not so many lessons to-day, and lots of fun for you, I suppose on the horses. It's rough-riding to-day."

"So it is," agreed Dick. "I like that best of all, except, maybe, hiking on a practice march, and firing from the trenches. I hope I get the horse I had last time."

"To-day's the last of the tests," went on Paul, as he slippen into his uniform.

"How do you mean?"

"I mean the officers are going to choose from those who ride to-day, the cadets who can take part in the tests for joining the prize troop."

"Right you are. Say, I'm going to make that troop or bust a leg."

"Well, I hope you don't break any bones. But I guess there's no danger. You seem right at home on a horse."

"I ought to. I've been riding ever since I was a kid. I'm going to do my best to-day."

As Paul had said, this was the final weeding out of candidates among the cadets, who had no chance in the tests that would be held later, to determine who should be members of the prize troop. This troop consisted of the best riders at the academy, and took part in several state evolutions and parades, having won a number of trophies.

Scores of cadets, in their service uniforms, reported on the cavalry plain for practice. They were required to vault into the saddle while their horse was standing still, and at varying speeds, up to a smart gallop. Many failed in this, but Dick did not.

Then came mounting and dismounting at hurdles, which was more difficult, and weeded out a number, and then, the last of the semi-finals, was the feat of standing astride on two horses, driving a steed on either side, and, while doing this, to take a difficult hurdle.

More than a score did not succeed at this, and Dick was not a little nervous when it came his turn, as, though he was an expert, he had not practiced this evolution much.

On his steeds thundered over the ground, one being a skittish horse, and hard to manage.

"If they don't jump together," thought Dick, "I'm done for. If one of them knocks down the hurdle bar it's all up with my chances."

He called encouragingly to the animals, and took a tighter hold on the reins, while he shifted his weight on the backs of the horses.

"Over you go now, boys!" he exclaimed at the take-off, and he fairly lifted the four animals as one, over the bar. clearing it cleanly.

"Good, Hamilton!" was the quiet praise of Major Webster, who acted as judge. "That was finely done."

So Dick qualified for the finals.

But there was more hard work ahead of him. Thus far not many of the freshmen had kept up to Dick, and there were envious eyes cast at him.
Dick Hamilton Cadet Days P147.jpg

He fairly lifted the four animals as one, over the bar.—Page 132.

Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days.

But those who envied him his good fortune realized that he had earned it.

"Now, gentlemen, ready for the finals," ordered Major Webster. "I want you all to be careful, and take no unnecessary risks, at the same time, don't be afraid, for no one ever became a good horseman who was afraid."

The final tests consisted in riding bareback, in different postures, such as might become necessary during a battle, in riding at different speeds, in removing the saddle from the horse while at full gallop, in leaping hurdles, and taking water jumps.

Other tests were in leaping hurdles four feet high, and as the cadets vaulted, taking a suspending ring on a lance, in leaping clean over a running horse and in forming pyramids, with ten cadets on four horses.

The last test was, perhaps, the most difficult of all. It consisted in one cadet lying on the ground, and another riding toward him at full speed. The one on the horse had to pick up his comrade from the earth, by leaning over and grasping his upstretched hand, and then assisting him up behind him on his horse, continuing to gallop away.

When it came Dick's turn he noticed, with some uneasiness, that the cadet he was to pick up, was one of the heaviest in the school, but he resolved to succeed, and he braced himself for the ordeal, as his horse galloped toward the prostrate youth.

As he neared the recumbent figure Dick leaned over, holding on as tightly as he could with his legs. His hand grasped the belt and part of the clothing of the cadet, and then Dick's arm felt as if it would be torn from the socket. He feared he would be dragged from his horse.

But, with a sudden pull, he lifted the lad from the ground and swung him upon his horse. There was some applause at Dick's feat, as his steed galloped on over the course.

"Guess I'm something of a load, old chap," said the cadet to Dick.

"You're no feather," was Dick's comment, as he halted his horse.