Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 20

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All the rest of that day cadets continued to arrive at Kentfield Academy, and there were lively scenes on the snow-covered campus, in the assembly auditoriums, students' rooms, and in the mess hall.

Several new cadets stood about, looking rather miserable, Dick thought, and he spoke to some of them, telling them where to report, and what to do, for he appreciated what it meant to be a stranger among a lot of lads who ignored newcomers, not because they were heartless so much as that they were thoughtless.

Dick rather hoped Dutton would not return, but that cadet was among the first he encountered as he strolled over the white campus.

Dutton nodded coolly, and Dick as coolly acknowledged the bow. Then Dutton saw a freshman standing near the saluting cannon. It was one of the unwritten rules of the school that none below the grade of sophomores might stand near the cannon.

"Here, fresh!" cried Dutton roughly, "stand away from that gun!"

The lad, a small chap, did not seem to comprehend.

Dick put in a word.

"You can't stand near there until you're a second year," he told the lad. "It's a school rule, that's all."

"I say, Hamilton, I guess I can manage my own affairs," said Dutton, angrily. "You mind your own business; will you?"

"I guess I've got as much right to speak as you have," said Dick hotly. "I was only telling him what to do."

The freshman looked from one to the other. Quite a group had gathered by this time, attracted by Dutton's loud voice. The new lad moved a short distance away from the gun.

"Don't you know enough to mind when you're spoken to?" demanded Dutton, advancing toward him. "I'll teach you manners, you young cub! Why don't you salute when an officer speaks to you? Now get back," and, with that he gave the lad such a shove that he went over backward into a snow bank, made by shoveling the white crystals away from the gun.

"That's not right, Dutton!" exclaimed Dick.

"You mind your own affairs, or I'll do the same to you, Hamilton," retorted the bully.

"You'd better try it," said Dick quietly. "If you want to fight with me, you know what to do. Just lay a finger on me."

He took a step toward his enemy, and stood waiting for him. But Dutton knew better than to attack Dick. He had felt the weight of his fists once, and he knew he had no chance in a fair fight.

So he strode away, muttering to the lad whom he had knocked down:

"You keep away from this gun, after this, fresh."

Dick did not think it wise to say anything further on the side of the mistreated one. Already he saw some unpleasant looks directed toward him by Dutton's friends, and he realized that by interfering in what was considered one of the rights of upper classmen, to assume a bullying attitude toward those in the lower grades, he was not adding to his popularity. I am glad to say that such characters as Dutton were in the small majority at Kentfield, and that though some of his cronies applauded his action in knocking the newcomer down, most of the lads were not in sympathy with the bully.

But there were so many things occurring, so many cadets arriving, some of whom wanted to change their apartments, to get new roommates, or be quartered in other sections of the barracks, that all was in seeming confusion.

Colonel Masterly and his aides, however, had matters well in hand, and by night, when the cadets lined up for the march to mess, affairs were in some sort of order.

"Do you want to make a shift, Paul?" asked Dick, as they went to their room early that evening.

"A shift? What do you mean?"

"Why some of your friends have changed over to the east barrack, I hear. I thought maybe you'd want to go too?"

"Do you want me to go?"

"Indeed I don't?" and Dick spoke very earnestly.

"All right. When I want to leave you I'll let you know," and Paul slapped Dick on the back in a fashion that told what his feelings were in the matter.

A little later mysterious steps in the corridor, and subdued knockings on nearby doors told Paul and Dick that something unusual was going on.

"Hazing," said Paul. "We're immune. Let's take it in."

"I don't like to haze fellows," said Dick. "It's all right when they're your size, but all the chaps who came in lately are smaller than I am."

"That won't make any difference to Dutton and his crowd. They'll haze 'em anyhow, and we might as well see the fun. A fellow who can't stand a little hazing is no good."

"That's so. Guess I'll go. I don't mind it if it isn't too rough. I wouldn't mind being hazed myself. It would give me a chance to make a rough house for Dutton and his cronies."

"Come on then. Let's go to the gym. I heard that they're going to haze a bunch of 'em there."

"What about Major Rockford?"

"Well, I guess he and the colonel know about it, but they won't interfere unless it gets too strenuous."

Dick and Paul found a large crowd of the older cadets already gathered in the gymnasium. In one corner was huddled a rather frightened group of freshmen, who were waiting their turn to be grilled. They had been rounded up from their rooms by a committee appointed for that purpose.

"Now, fellows," said Dutton, who, as usual, assumed the leadership, "we'll work 'em off in bunches. Put two or three of 'em in a blanket and toss 'em up for a starter."

"Some of 'em may get hurt," objected Stiver. "We'd better take 'em one at a time."

"Aw, you're afraid! Besides, we haven't time. Here, Beeby, grab a couple of 'em and pass 'em over."

Captain Beeby of Company B grasped a cadet in either hand, and shoved them toward Duton. The latter already had one, and the three lads were pushed down into a large blanket which had been spread for that purpose.

"Grab the corners and up with 'em!" called Dutton. "Toss 'em as high as you can."

"Suppose the fall out?" objected Lieutenant Jim Watkins.

"It won't matter. There's a gym. mat under 'em."

Up into the air went the unfortunate lads, clinging together in a sort of bunch, and struggling to see which one was to be underneath in the fall. Down they came into the blanket, but the impact was so heavy that it was torn from the grasp of the cadets holding it, and the freshmen landed on the mat with a thump and many squeals.

"That's the way!" cried Dutton with a laugh. "Now, once more."

"Let's take some others," proposed Beeby.

"No, they haven't had enough."

So, in spite of their struggles and protests, the lads were tossed again. Then three more took their places. They, too, had a hard time, one falling over the edge of the blanket and partly off the mat. But he was game and never made a sound.

"Now for the slide of death!" cried Button.

"What's that?" asked several of his cronies.

"I'll show you," he said.

From the top of the gymnasium there hung a long rope, running over a pulley. Button made a loop in one end, and then took hold of the other.

"Tie a couple of 'em up in blankets," he ordered, and two of the struggling cadets were made up into a rough bundle. Dutton then passed several coils of the long rope about them.

"Pull 'em up!' he ordered next, and willing hands aided him in hoisting the lads toward the roof of the gymnasium.

"You are now about to take the slide of death!" called Button, when the freshmen were close against the pulley, and fully forty feet above the floor. "We're going to let you come down on the run——"

A scream from one of the lads in the blanket high up in the air interrupted him.

"You'll frighten him!" called Dick.

"What's that to you? Mind your own affairs, and we'll run this," said Dutton. "Or maybe you'll get your hazing, which we omitted last time."

"Go ahead," said Dick. "But that's too risky."

"Aw, cut it out, Hamilton," said Stiver. "We ain't going to hurt 'em."

But this assurance could not be heard by the lads in the blanket, who could not see.

"Let her slide!" cried Dutton, and he and his chums released their grasp on the rope, which was wound about a post.

Down, on the run, came the unfortunate cadets, and from the cries they uttered they must have imagined that they were about to be dashed to the floor. Then Dick saw that several mats were right under them, in case of accident.

But it was not the intention of Dutton to run any risks. At first the rope was paid out swiftly, and then it was gradually tightened against the post, until the speed of the falling cadets was slackened, and they came to a stop a few inches above the mats.

"The next batch won't get off so lucky!" announced Button, as he commanded that some more be wrapped up in the blanket. "We'll bump them."

This news was sufficient to cause a panic among the candidates still remaining, but their protests were of no avail, and they came down with considerable force on the mats, but no one was hurt.

Then the water cure was administered to a number, the streams being poured down their trouser legs, amid the laughter of the unfortunate ones who were exempt. As the gymnasium was kept quite warm this ordeal was not so bad as might be supposed. Still, it was not pleasant, but it was part of the game.

A particularly tall freshman was stretched out, or, rather suspended on the flying rings, until he looked like some soaring eagle. He struggled, but to no effect, and had to take his medicine. Others were blindfolded, and made to fight with blown-up bladders, some were tied in pairs on trapezes, and a number were made to do ridiculous stunts, to the more or less enjoyment of the older cadets.

"Well, I guess that's all," announced Dutton, a little before it was time for taps to sound. "Unless we take Hamilton."

"I'm willing," said Dick, with a grim smile.

"He's too willing. He'd knock a lot of us around," whispered Stiver to Dutton.

"We'll postpone your initiation," remarked the Captain of Company A. "Come on, fellows, there goes tattoo. Half an hour to lights out."

Matters more quickly adjusted themselves following the opening of the winter term, than they did at the beginning of the fall one, as there were fewer new cadets. Lessons were quickly under way, together with a few drills, out of doors when the weather permitted it, otherwise in the big hall.

The lake froze over, and Dick and the other lads had their fill of skating, races being held every afternoon. In a number of these, particularly the long distance ones, Dick came in a winner.

Then there were snowball fights between the different companies, both on foot and mounted on horses, with wooden shields. These were lively affairs, and were enjoyed by all.

Dick took his part in the winter sports, but, though he had increased his friends by the addition of several freshmen, particularly Payson Emery, the lad whose knocking down by Dutton he had resented, he made no progress toward getting intimate with the upperclassmen.

"But I've got half a term yet," thought Dick.

With the advent of winter, affairs in the town of Kentfield, which was about two miles from where the academy was located, became more lively. There were theatrical and other entertainments, and the cadets, when they could not get permission to attend these, used to run the guard.

Usually there was little risk in this, as the cadet officers would not report their friends, unless some member of the academy faculty happened to hear a late-staying party come sneaking in, and then the young officer on guard knew he had to make some sort of a report or be punished himself.

One night there was a large and rather fashionable dance given in town, by some friends of Dutton's family. He was invited, together with some of his cronies, but he was refused permission to go, as he had broken several rules of late.

"Well, I'm going anyhow," he announced to Stiver. "I guess I can run the guard all right, and get back. There are some girls I want to meet."

So Dutton and Stiver, and one or two others, went.

Dick was on guard, as it happened, at the barracks where Dutton and the others had their rooms. He was patrolling his post long after midnight, expecting soon to be relieved, when he saw some shadowy forms stealing along the hedge.

"Halt!" he cried, bringing his rifle up.

"Gee! It's Hamilton!" he heard some one say, and he recognized Stiver's voice.

"Then I guess it's all up with us," announced Dutton, straightening up, and, with his chums, approaching Dick.

The young millionaire said nothing.

"Are you going to let us in? We haven't the countersign," said Button, with an uneasy laugh.

"You can go in," replied Dick, producing the key to the front door.

"And I suppose you'll squeal in the morning," went on Dutton, as he and his cronies entered.

Dick didn't answer.

"You should have known better than to risk going, Dutton," said Stiver. "Of course he'll tell. He owes you too much not to."

But Dick didn't tell, and Dutton's breach of discipline was not discovered.