Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 7

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CHAPTER VII


DICK THINKS HE HAS A CLUE


"What's it to be, Ray, the blanket, outside, or the ordeal of the pitcher?" asked one of the cadets holding Paul.

"The pitcher, I guess," answered Button. "The blanket's getting too tame, and we have so many to look after that we can't take 'em outside. Any water in the jug, Beeby?"

"Full," replied a fat lad, taking up one of the two pitchers in the room.

"Up with him!" commanded Button, and several cadets seized Paul in an instant. Before he knew what was happening they had stood him on his head, two of them holding each of his rather long legs upright.

"Hold open his trouser legs," said Dutton. "I'll do the pouring."

He had the pitcher full of water, and, as his fellow hazers made a sort of funnel of the two legs of the victim's trousers, Ray poured the contents of the water pitcher down them. The fluid spurted out at the unlucky new student's waist and collar, and ran in a little stream over the floor. Paul struggled but could not escape.

"Sop that up, fellows!" cried Dutton. "We don't want it to ruin the ceilings below. Use the bed clothes."

The other cadets, who were not holding Paul, grabbed the sheets and spreads from the neatly made beds, and piled them in the little pond of water on the floor.

"Hand me the other pitcher, Naylor," commanded the leader.

"Better save it for——" and Naylor glanced at Dick, who was standing quietly in a corner, under guard of several cadets, awaiting his turn.

"We'll not need it for him," replied Button. "Give it here."

Some one handed him the other pitcher full of water, and the fluid in that, a moment later, went gurgling down the inside of Paul's clothes, spurting out as had the other.

"You're initiated into the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Mystic Pig," announced Button, making a sign to his comrades to let Paul regain his feet. "Do you solemnly promise to be most respectful to your superiors, and not to partake of ham and eggs or any form of pork until after Christmas?"

"You'd better promise," said one of the cadets to Paul, who hesitated.

"Oh, I promise all right," he said, with a rueful smile as he looked down at his soaked garments, and surveyed the confusion in the room. There was not a dry article of bed clothing left.

"Now for the other one!" cried Beeby, making a grab for Dick.

The young millionaire was ready to submit to any form of hazing that might be inflicted, but, to his surprise Dutton said:

"Never mind him. We'll let him go."

"Why he's a freshman," objected several of the cadets, evidently thinking Dutton imagined Dick to be immune.

"I know it, but he's in a different class," went on the leader with a covert sneer. "He might buy up the police authorities and have us arrested for having a little fun. We'll let him alone. We're only after common mortals."

Dick flushed.

"You're mistaken," he said as calmly as he could. "If hazing is in order I'm ready to take my share. I assure you I won't squeal. I'm not that kind."

It hurt him, to think that he should be taken for a "squealer." He, Dick Hamilton, who had done his own share of hazing in the academy at home.

"No, thank you. It's too risky monkeying with millionaires," said Button. "Come on, fellows."

The band of hazing cadets filed out of Dick's room, bent on subjecting other students to their harmless pranks. As they left, Dick heard one of them say:

"Aw, Dutton, why didn't we try the rope and window game on him? It would have been sport. He looks like an all-right sort."

"He isn't in our class," replied the leader of the hazers. "He thinks his money can get him anything he wants, but he'll find out he's mistaken. It's a shame the faculty allowed him to come here, where only the best families are represented."

Dick heard it all plainly. He realized how he had been misjudged, but he resolved to live down the wrong opinion the other students seemed to have formed of him. Or perhaps they merely followed Dutton's leadership.

And so Dick was not hazed, though he was the only freshman in all the academy who escaped the ordeal, and, though many lads would gladly have dispensed with the ceremony, Dick Hamilton felt as if he would have parted with some of his fortune to have been included in the unfortunate class. For, had he been, it would have meant that he was considered as a future chum and comrade of the upperclassmen. But he had been left severely alone.

"Well, you got off lucky," commented Paul, as he began to remove his wet garments.

"Do you think so?" asked Dick, somewhat bitterly. "I rather wish they had given me what you got."

"Why?" asked his roommate.

Dick told his reasons.

"I don't see why they hold my money against me," he added.

"I heard some talk about it," admitted Paul. "Some of the older cadets have read the things printed in the papers about you; when you went out west to investigate that gold mine, and when you hired the circus to come to Hamilton Corners. They evidently think you depend on your money to win popularity, and I heard some of them say you were to be taught a lesson."

"They're beginning already," said Dick. "Perhaps you would rather not room with such an unpopular chap as I seem to be. I guess I could get an apartment alone, by paying double rates," he added, sarcastically.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Paul. "I'm not that sort, and I don't believe you'll find many cadets who are. I don't care for money, one way or the other. I wish my dad had a little more. Don't let Dutton and his cronies worry you. You'll have friends among the freshmen, anyway."

"Not if Dutton has his say."

"Well, perhaps he won't have it. He comes of a very old family, I'm told, who have not much money, but who are very proud. I don't care for him myself, but he's considered a leader here."

"My, you certainly got a soaking," commented Dick, as Paul stripped. He was glad to change the unpleasant subject.

"I sure did," admitted the other "and what's more we've got to sleep in a damp bed, unless we ask the housekeeper for other covers."

"No, don't do that. I would give the hazing away, and I might become more unpopular than I am," and Dick laughed a little uneasily.

"I don't fancy sleeping between damp sheets, though."

"I've got an extra suit of pajamas in my case," said Dick. "You can put them on, and we'll stretch out on the beds without covers.

"It's not cold. We'll take our medicine. Or, rather, I'll share part of yours."

They passed a rather uncomfortable night, but did not think of complaining. In the morning they compared notes with the other freshmen, many of whom had had the same experience.

That day was spent in forming the new cadets into companies, and, to Dick's disgust he found that he was in the company of which Ray Dutton was the cadet captain, and John Stiver, a crony of the captain, was lieutenant. Paul Drew was in Company B, Dick's being designated as Company A. But our hero took some consolation from the fact that his odd friend William the Silent was a sergeant in his company.

The new cadets were given their rifles, made to don uniforms, put through a preliminary drill that afternoon, and told something of the routine that would be in order when matters had settled down into their usual grooves. Dick picked out his line of studies, received his text books and took them to his room, where he found Paul.

The next day being Saturday the cadets had the afternoon free and they strolled about the grounds, went off on horseback or rowing, as they desired. Somewhat to his regret Dick noticed that a rule was posted forbidding freshmen to go out rowing or riding alone after Saturday. They must be accompanied by a teacher or cadet officer.

"They must think we're babies," he murmured.

"Well, when we get to know the ropes a little better," said Paul, "we'll go out together."

That evening, when the mail was distributed, Dick received a letter from his father, posted just as the ship was sailing. There were also several missives from his chums at home, and quite a bulky letter, which when the young millionaire opened it, he saw was from aged Captain Handlee, and contained a photograph.

With many words, and a somewhat lengthy explanation, the old soldier stated that he had had copies made of the photograph of his son, and was sending one to Dick, to aid him in tracing the missing man.

"There, I nearly forgot about my promise." said Dick, recalling it as he saw the picture. "I must make some inquiries of Major Webster as soon as possible."

He took the photograph to his room, and placed it on a shelf, where he would be sure to see it, to remind him of his quest, though he had little hopes that it would amount to anything.

It was Sunday morning when Dick, who had awakened rather early, heard steps coming along the corridor, and then came the whistled strains of "Just Before the Battle, Mother," followed by the reveille, cheerily warbled.

"That's Toots," said Dick to Paul, who awakened just then.

Toots stopped outside Dick's door and knocked.

"Come," cried the young millionaire, and Toots, the odd character, entered, carrying a pail of hot water.

"One of the janitors is sick," he explained, "and I'm helping out. You can use this for shaving or drink it. just as you like," he added with a smile.

He filled the boys' hot water pitchers, and was about to leave the room, when he caught sight of the photograph of Corporal Bill Handlee on the shelf.

"Where—where did you get that?" he asked, turning quickly to the two lads.

"Why?" asked Dick, much impressed by the manner of Toots.

"Because I—I think I know him—or did once," and the man set down his pail of water, and drew his hand across his forehead, as if trying to brush away some cobwebs. Dick noticed that there was a scar on the man's brow.

"Where did you see him? When was it? Where was it?" asked Dick rapidly, thinking he had stumbled on a clue.

"I don't know—I can't recollect, but the face—that face seems familiar," and Toots, taking up the photo, gazed earnestly at it.

"That is the picture of the missing son of an old soldier who lives in Hamilton Corners," said Dick. "Captain Handlee asked me to make some inquiries about him. It's queer you should think you recognized it, Toots. Were you ever in the army?"

The man shook his head slowly.

"I don't know," he said. I'm a fine shot though. I ought to be in the army."

Dick felt a new hope. The missing man said he was an expert marksman. But then Dick recalled what he had heard about Toots; that the man had a delusion that he was a sharpshooter, but that he could scarcely hit the outer edge of a big target.

"Can't you recall where you have seen this man? asked Dick earnestly.

Toots slowly shook his head.

"What was his name?" he asked.

"Corporal Bill Handlee."

"No, that name doesn't sound familiar. But I'm sure I've seen him somewhere. I can't think—something seems to stop me here," and the man again passed his hand across his forehead.

"Try," urged Dick.

Toots made a strong effort to recall the past, but it was of no avail.

He shook his head once more, picked up his pail, and started out.

"I guess I'm mistaken," he said. "But some day you boys must come and see me shoot. I'm a dandy at it."

Then he went down the corridor whistling "The Star Spangled Banner," and ending up with a spirited rendition of the bugle call to charge.

"That's queer," murmured Dick. "I thought I was going to get some news for Captain Handlee. Well, I must inquire of Major Webster."

"Hark," exclaimed Paul, as a bugle sounded clear and crisp on the morning air.

"Reveille—first call! Ten minutes to dress and turn out," said Dick, who had been studying the rules, and he began to get into his uniform.