Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 18
A DISMAL CHRISTMAS
"You are reported as not having your room in order, Hamilton," began Major Rockford, as Dick entered.
"I don't see how that can be, sir," replied Dick, saluting. "When Paul Drew and I left it for breakfast it was in order."
"Drew's side is yet, but your bureau is stated by Captain Naylor to be in great disorder."
"I—I left it in order, sir."
"Very well, we will go and take a look at it."
Accompanied by the commandant, Dick went to his apartment. To his surprise his neat bureau was in great disorder, the objects on it being scattered all about.
"Well?" asked Major Rockford.
"Some one—some one must have been in here, sir," said Dick.
"Ha! Do you wish to accuse any one?"
Dick went closer to his bureau. Something on it caught his eye. It was a note written in pencil. It read:
"Dear Hamilton: I am awfully sick this morning. I lost that twenty-five you loaned me. Can you let me have some more? I called but you were out, so I wrote this note here. Please let me have the money.
- "Russell Glen."
Then Dick understood. Glen, suffering from the effects of his dissipation the night before, had called at the room after our hero and Paul had left to go to breakfast. In writing the note Glen had, probably unthinkingly, disarranged the things on Dick's bureau, where he wrote and left the missive. Then he had gone away, and, Captain Naylor, on police inspection, had seen the disorder, and reported Dick.
"Do you wish to accuse any one?" went on Major Rockford.
Dick thought rapidly. To tell the true circumstances, and show Glen's note, would mean that the facts of the spread would come out. Glen and his chums would be punished, and Dick might be censured. It would be better to accept the blame for having his room in disorder, rather than incur the displeasure of his comrades by being the means of informing on Glen.
So Dick answered:
"I—I guess I was mistaken, sir. I am sorry my room was out of order."
"So am I, Hamilton, for you have a good record. Still there have been several violations of late, among the cadets, and I must make an example. But, in view of your god conduct, and record I will not give you any demerits."
"Thank you, sir."
"Still, I must inflict some punishment. You will not be allowed to attend the football game this afternoon, but must remain in your room."
That was punishment indeed, for Dick felt that he would have a chance to play. Still, like a good soldier, he did not murmur. He concealed Glen's note in his hand, saluted the major and then, as chapel was over, he marched to his classroom, with a heavy heart.
"I wonder if that was part of a plot to get me into trouble," thought Dick, as he recalled what he had overheard Dutton say. "They're trying to force me to leave the academy. But I'll not go! I'll fight it out!"
He felt very lonesome as he had to retire to his room that afternoon, and heard the merry shouts of the football eleven, the substitutes, and the other cadets leaving for the final battle on the gridiron with Mooretown.
"How I wish I could go!" thought Dick. "I'm punished for something I didn't do. It isn't right. Still, perhaps Glen was so sick he didn't know what he was doing."
He had already sent Glen some more money, for he did not want to refuse one of the few favors that had been asked of him since coming to the academy.
As he was moping in his room, Toots came along, whistling "Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue," and giving a succession of bugle calls.
"What? Not at the game, Mister Hamilton?" asked the jolly janitor.
"No; I'm a prisoner."
"That's nothing. Many a time I got out of the guard house. There's no one around now, and I won't look, nor squeal. You can easily slip out, and go to the game."
"No," said Dick, though the temptation was strong. "By the way, Toots, did you ever call to mind about this picture?" and he showed him the one of missing Bill Handlee, which was still on the mantle.
"No," replied Toots, again striving hard to remember about it. "It's clean gone from me, Mr. Hamilton. But, are you sure you don't want to escape? I can find some work to do at the other side of the barracks, if you want to go."
"No. I'll stay."
And stay Dick did, all that long afternoon. It was dusk when the players and the other cadets came back, and there was an ominous silence about their return.
"It doesn't sound as if they'd won," thought Dick. "If they did they're celebrating very quietly."
Paul Drew came in a little later.
"How about the game?" asked Dick eagerly.
"We lost," said Paul. "We might have won, only Henderson, who had a chance to score a winning touchdown, couldn't run fast enough with the ball, and he was downed on the five-yard line, too late for another try to cross the Mooretown goal. I wish you had played. You'd have won the game for us."
"Oh, I guess not."
"Yes. you would. Captain Rutledge admitted as much."
"Well, maybe I'll get a chance next time."
"There won't be any next time this year. The game is over for the season, and Mooretown did us two contests out of three. It's too bad. The fellows are all cut up over it. Say. have you any idea who mussed up your bureau? Was it Dutton?"
"No, it wasn't Dutton," said Dick quietly, and that was all he could be induced to say about it.
Discipline, which had been somewhat relaxed during the football season, was now in force again, and the cadets found they were kept very busy with their studies and drills. Dick was standing well in his classes, but he made no more progress in gaining the friendship of the students, other than a few freshmen.
Even Glen showed no disposition to make much of Dick. He did not repay the money borrowed, on the plea that he was in debt quite heavily, and had lost much on the football game. Still he had the cheek to ask Dick for more, and when the young millionaire properly refused Glen called him a "tight-wad." and sneered at him, making no pretense of retaining his friendship.
One night, following several spreads, to none of which was Dick invited. he wrote a rather discouraged letter to his gather, hinting that he wished he could attend some other school.
In due time there came an answer, part of which was as follows:
"You know the terms were that you were to remain at least a full term. Still, if you do not wish to, you have the choice of going to your Uncle Ezra. He will send you to a boarding school of his own selection. Let me know what you will do. I will not be able to get home by Christmas, as I expected, and you had better remain at the academy over the holidays. I know it will be lonesome for you, but it can't be helped."
"Go to a boarding school selected by Uncle Ezra," murmured Dick. "Never! I'll stay here a full term, even if no one but the teachers speak to me. I never could stand Uncle Ezra and Dankville. This is bad enough, but there are some bright spots in it. The sun never shines where Uncle Ezra is."
Yet the time was coming when Uncle Ezra was to do Dick a great favor, though he himself was not aware of it.
So Dick sent word to his father that he would remain at Kentfield. Fall merged into winter, and overcoats were the order of the day at all out-door exercises. Much of the drilling and parading was omitted, and more study and recitation was indulged in. What maneuvers on horseback and afoot were held, took place mainly in the big riding hall or drill room, and they were not as as when held out of doors.
"Well, are you going home for Christmas?" asked Paul, about a week before the holiday vacation.
"Guess not," replied Dick, somewhat gloomily. "Our house is shut up, and I don't care about spending Christmas at a hotel in Hamilton Corners."
"Come home with me."
"No, thank you. I was thinking of visiting some of my chums at home. I believe I'll do that. I'll be glad to see them again."
Dick knew he would be welcomed at the homes of any of his friends, and he planned to go to Hamilton Corners and surprise them.
But alas for his hopes! When the last day of school came, and the other cadets made hurried preparations to leave for home, poor Dick was taken with a heavy cold. The surgeon forbade him leaving his room, as the weather was cold and stormy, and our hero was forced to remain at Kentfield, in charge of the housekeeper and the doctor, while the other cadets joyfully departed to happy firesides.
"Sorry to leave you, old chap," said Paul, sympathetically, "but my folks wouldn't know what to do if I didn't come home over the holidays."
"That's all right," said Dick, hoarsely, but as cheerfully as he could. "I'll see you after New Year's. Have a good time."
"I will. Hope you get better."
It was a gloomy Christmas for the young millionaire, and, as a fever set in with his cold, he couldn't even enjoy the good thinks which the kind housekeeper, under orders from Colonel Masterly, provided for the patient.
The academy was a very lonely place indeed, Christmas day, for all the officers and cadets had gone, leaving only the housekeeper, and some of the janitors, including Toots, in charge.
Dick received some tokens from abroad, sent by his father, and a cheery letter, which he answered in the same strain.
"But it isn't much like Christmas," thought Dick, as he sat up in bed. Then a bright thought came to him.
"Can't Toots have dinner up here with me?" he asked Mrs. Fitzpatrick.
"Of course he can," she said. "Maybe it will cheer you up," and she sent for the jolly janitor.