Read CHAPTER VIII - DICK BONES TROUBLE of Dick Prescott First Year at West Point, free online book, by H. Irving Hancock, on ReadCentral.com.

As May drew on towards June there was, among the yearlings, a noticeable falling off of interest in hazing.  Every second-year man in the corps found himself much more interested in his standing in his studies than formerly.

Several of the yearlings had reason to feel acutely concerned over their standing in academic work.  That some of them would be “found” and dropped from the corps on account of their deficiencies was almost a foregone conclusion.

So the warm nights of May found anxious young men in all the classes boning up to within a few minutes of the sound of taps.

Least anxious of all the cadets were the scores of new plebes.  They had been required to report in March mainly that they might acquire the proper West Point habits of study and recitation before going into the summer encampment.  Hence these new plebes were not to be treated very searchingly in the academic work.

One afternoon Greg, who had felt half ailing for twenty-four hours, went on sick report and walked to the hospital to consult the medical officer in charge.

Captain Goodwin looked Greg over and ordered him to remain at hospital that night for observation and treatment, declaring that the young plebe would doubtless be all right by morning.

Cadet Prescott was alone in their room, boning hard, at about nine that evening, when a member of the cadet guard informed him that he was wanted by the O.C.  It was only to make an explanation of something trivial that had occurred that afternoon.

As Dick rose, placing his desk in order, he decided to turn off the gas during his absence.  This he did, then left the room.

Crossing the area he climbed the stairs to the office of the O.C.  Pausing at the threshold, he saluted, then was bidden to enter.

Dick’s report was quickly made.  He was then permitted to return to quarters.

As Cadet Prescott threw open his door the room was in darkness, hardly any light entering from the hallway.

As Dick stepped into the room he was startled to see a dimly defined figure bending over his cot.

In the poor light it seemed to Prescott that the intruder wore the attire of a “cit.”

Now, no civilian had any right in the room, nor in cadet barracks, for that matter.  Prescott’s first swift conclusion was that some scoundrel was there for wholly improper purposes.

“You rascal, I’ve got you!” exclaimed the plebe, crossing the room almost in a single bound.

Swift as a flash Dick laid hands on the intruder, dragged him back from the cot, wheeled him around and let drive a blow from the shoulder that caught the prowler on the nose and sent him to the floor.

“Let up, you b.j. plebe!” came a roar of smothered rage.

The body had fallen nearer the door, where the light from outside was stronger.

Dick noted, with a thrill of dismay, that the other was attired not in “cit.” dress, but in the cadet gray.

“Hold on a minute,” begged Prescott.

Striking a match he turned on the gas.  As the light flamed up Dick saw Cadet Corporal Spurlock standing before him, quivering with rage.

“You b.j. plebe!” snarled Mr. Spurlock.  “I’ll take this out of you!”

“Certainly,” replied Dick promptly.  “But, first of all, I want to assure you that I didn’t see the uniform.  I thought I had discovered a cit. in here, and I knew no cit. could be here on any honest business.”

“Bosh!” growled Spurlock, who was holding a handkerchief to a nose that was bleeding freely.

Cadet Prescott drew himself up, his eyes flashing.

“Pardon me, sir,” returned Dick.  “But you know, as well as I, sir, that a lie is impossible to a cadet.”

It was a hard report to get around that a cadet had told a lie.  At times cadets have been known to lie, but invariably, after detection, they have been “cut” and forced out of the corps.  So lying is a rare occurrence, indeed, among the cadets.

“I’ll make you settle for this, anyway,” sputtered Cadet Corporal Spurlock.

“Very good, sir,” Dick answered resolutely.

“You’ll settle at once, too, mister, or as soon as I’ve stopped this flow.”

“Very good, sir,” Dick answered again.  “But if I’m not too b.j., sir, in talking at all, I’ll call your attention to that clock.  There is just time for you to reach your quarters before taps sound.”

Spurlock glanced hastily at the clock.

“You’re right, mister,” he admitted.  “Then you may wait until you hear from me, mister.”

With that Spurlock walked quickly from the room.

Dick examined his cot and found that Spurlock had been engaged in the humorous trick of placing some two score exploded caps from target-rifle ammunition under his under sheet.

“He wanted me to jump into bed and go down plump on all those caps, and then squirm there until after taps inspection,” grinned Prescott as he swiftly removed the stuff.  “It would have been a tough one, too ­but now I guess I have a tougher proposition on my hands.”

Prescott sighed a trifle as he hastily undressed, placing his clothing according to the regulations on the subject.

Just as he had finished taps sounded on the drum outside.  Dick turned off his gas, bounded into bed and lay there as the door opened and the bull’s-eye lantern of the subdivision inspector flashed into the room.

“All right here, sir, or accounted for,” Dick remarked to the inspector, who hastily closed the door and hurried along on his rounds.

True to the medical officer’s promise Greg was discharged from hospital the following morning, and permitted to report back to full duty.

“What’s this I hear, Dick, old ramrod?” Greg demanded as soon as the chums were back in quarters from breakfast.  “The news is flying around fast that Mr. Spurlock is going to call you out.”

“I expect that he is,” Dick admitted ruefully, and then told his chum all the details of the occurrence of the night before.

“Why, that doesn’t strike me as fair excuse for a fight,” Greg muttered.  “You explained and apologized.”

“Mr. Spurlock wouldn’t accept any apology.”

“Just the same,” argued Greg, “I don’t believe you have to fight, in this case.  You can refuse, anyway, until the matter has been examined into by the scrap committee of the yearling class.  Now, in view of the fact that you offered explanation and apology, I don’t believe that the yearling scrap committee can hold you to any meeting with Mr. Spurlock this time.  Let me handle this affair for you, old ramrod.”

“Greg,” rejoined Dick, laying an affectionate hand on his roommate’s shoulder, “as long as I’m a new plebe I don’t intend to try to dig out of any fight that an upper class man demands from me.  Perhaps I could get the scrap committee to turn down Mr. Spurlock’s desire ­but I don’t mean to do anything of the sort.  I did all that I felt I could do consistently to stop the fight.  Now it has got to come off, or else it will be because Mr. Spurlock has become more reasonable.”

“He’ll eat you up, that big fellow,” mused Greg bitterly.  “Mr. Spurlock is at least fifteen pounds heavier than you.  He has had a year more of West Point gym work than you’ve had and he has the reputation of being pretty nearly the yearling champion in the ring.”

“Of course I shall be thrashed,” admitted Dick doggedly.  “However, that probably won’t do me any permanent harm.  Besides, Greg, it’s certain that I’ll have to fight some yearling sooner or later, so I may as well take the dose now.  Every plebe, I reckon, has to have one fight, anyway, with a yearling.  It’s a part of the system here, from all I can hear.”

Rap-tap sounded at the door.

“Come in,” called Dick, but the door opened just as he was calling.  Mr. Kramer, of the yearling class, stepped inside.

“Mr. Spurlock requests me to inform Mr. Prescott that he demands a fight, at as early a moment as possible.”

“My compliments to Mr. Spurlock, and I will meet him ­here in barracks, to-night, I hope.  Mr. Holmes has consented to act as one of my seconds.”

“Very good, sir,” nodded Yearling Kramer stiffly.  “Mr. Holmes, will you step out and discuss the matter with me now?”

“Yes, sir,” responded Greg.  He was gone ten minutes.  When he returned Greg announced: 

“There’s an extra room on the top floor of the next subdivision.  The fight will take place there at nine to-night.  Mr. Anstey has agreed to help look after your interests.”

“All right, and thank you, old fellow,” nodded Dick, as he turned to pick up a book.

Greg gulped and quivered behind his chum’s back.

“He doesn’t seem excited, but I know that I am,” muttered Cadet Holmes.  “The dear old fellow won’t lose anything through nervousness, anyway.”

Dick went through his studies and recitations as usual that day.  If the stiff ordeal of the coming night carried any twinges for him, it wasn’t noticeable in his demeanor.  Yet Dick knew that the news had gotten thoroughly about among the cadets.  He saw many of the new plebes gazing at him wonderingly.

When they returned from supper that night and reached their room, Greg was manifestly nervous ­nervous enough for the pair of them, in fact.

“Dick, do you ­do you expect to win?” asked Greg at last.

“Against a man like Mr. Spurlock?” smiled Cadet Prescott, and turned back to his study.

At a little after half past eight Mr. Anstey knocked on the door and came in.

“How’s your form, Prescott, old ramrod?” the Virginian demanded.

“Fine, I hope,” replied Dick laconically.

Greg heaved an inward sigh.

“Poor old Dick,” he told himself.  “I hate to see him hammered black and blue in a bare-knuckles fight like this one!”