Read CHAPTER XI - HOW CADET DODGE HELD POST NUMBER THREE of Dick Prescott First Year at West Point, free online book, by H. Irving Hancock, on ReadCentral.com.

In the early days of the month of June, came all the glories of Commencement.

The first class graduated, and went forth to receive their commissions in the Regular Army.

The second class became the new first class, and head and arbiters of all personal affairs in the battalion of cadets.

The yearlings now became second class men, and departed on their summer furlough, to last until the latter part of August.

The old plebes moved up a peg, also, and became the new yearlings, vested with all the power of hazing and otherwise oppressing and training the plebes.

But for the new plebes ­what?  They were plebes just as much as ever, and would be until the following June.

The day after the graduating class had departed, and the late yearlings had followed in their trail, as the furloughed new second class, what was left of the battalion marched forth out of barracks into camp.

Here under the khaki-colored tents what was left of the battalion settled down to the life of the soldier in the field.

An untrained eye might not have noticed much in the arrangement of the camp.  However, the tents of the main camp were arranged along six company streets.  There was also the larger tent of the tactical officer in charge, the guard-tent, and some other tents used in the administration of camp-life.

Now, every text-book was laid aside for the summer.  Instruction during camp period was to be in the practical duties that belong to the soldier’s life.

The new first class mourned the loss of a few members who had been “found” ­that is, who had failed in their studies just before Commencement.  More than a score had been dropped from the new yearling class.  Only two of the new plebes had been dropped, they having been found wholly and absolutely unfit to keep the brain-fagging pace of academic work at West Point.

“I never minded study back home,” muttered Greg, as he and Dick toiled setting their few belongings to rights under canvas.  “But, the way the study-gait is kept up here at West Point, I certainly say ‘hurrah’ with all my heart at the thought that books are closed for all summer.”

“We’ll be back at the grind in September again,” laughed Dick.  “And I’m assured that we haven’t struck the real study-gait yet; that these new three months from March on are only to break us in a bit, so that we won’t mind the real thing so much when we meet it in September.”

“Then you give me cause for gloomy thought,” shuddered Greg.

“Make way for a future general,” grinned Anstey, as, with both arms full of belongings he forced his way into the tent.  The cadets were housed three to a tent, and Anstey, to the great delight of Dick and Greg, had been assigned to bunk with them.  Anstey, too, was delighted, for the young Virginian was a gentleman of the actual type, who had been growing steadily more weary of the sham “gentleman” that Bert Dodge had so far illustrated.

“I’m tent orderly this week,” announced Dick, with a grin.  “I received that very important news five minutes ago.  I’m responsible for the order and condition of the tent for this week, so you fellows will have to step around to keep the tent in style to suit me.”

“Oh, if you’re tent orderly,” laughed Anstey, “then we don’t have to take the word from you.”

“You don’t?” demanded Prescott.

“No, indeed.  If you’re the orderly, then you’re merely a striker.”

A “striker,” in the Army, is an enlisted man who is paid by an officer for doing servant’s work in spare time.  Hence, a striker is, in general, anyone engaged in menial service.

“Come on, Holmesy,” urged Anstey, rising.  “We’ll go out for a stroll.  Striker, see to it that you have a flawless tent interior when we return.”

In his glee Anstey seized Greg by one arm and started to rush him out of the tent.

“Oh, all right; go along,” gibed Dick.  “See who’ll get the lash though, when I turn in my report.”

“Would you skin us?” demanded Anstey, halting in the doorway of the tent and gazing back with a look of mock horror.

To “skin” a brother cadet is to report him for some dereliction in duty, thereby bringing down discipline upon the offender.

“Skin you?” repeated Dick.  “Yes, sir!  If you leave me to bring order out of all this military chaos I’ll hand you in to the O.C. in a way that will take every square inch of cuticle from your body.”

“Traitor!” hissed Anstey tragically.

“Mister, it’s a whole year yet before plebes can sing, laugh, or be happy,” came the muttered warning, as one of the newly-made yearlings passed by the tent.

Anstey became silent at once.  He had been at West Point long enough to know his place as a plebe.

“Say,” whispered Anstey presently, his eyes brimming over with glee, “have you seen poor old Dodge to-day?”

“Not particularly,” responded Prescott.

“Well, he’s the maddest rookie (recruit) you ever saw!  Having been old Dodge’s roommate up to reveille this morning, I am in a position to state that he took advantage of the general laxity last night, and slipped out of barracks after taps last night.  He and some other embryo cadets got a rowboat, through connivance with a soldier in the engineer’s detachment.  They rowed across the river, to Garrison, and had some kind of high old racket.  It must have been high,” added Anstey pensively, “for I happened to turn over in bed this morning, and I saw old Dodge slipping back into the room about an hour before reveille.”

“Well, what’s he mad about, now?” demanded Dick.

“Why, he has been drawn for the new guard!  He’s on guard for to-day and to-night!” chuckled Anstey gleefully.  “Already dead for sleep, his official duties will keep him without much more sleep for twenty-four hours, or until the new guard goes on to-morrow.  Even then he’ll have some other things to take up some of his time.”

By-and-by the tent was so much and well to rights that, when Cadet Corporal Brodie, of the new yearling class, looked in, he could find no fault with its appearance.

Dick sat down on his box.  Greg did the same.  Plebes are not allowed campstools in the summer encampment ­probably on the theory that so much luxury would be certain to demoralize them.

“I’m going out for a wee bit stroll,” drawled Anstey, after taking a look in the tiny soldier’s mirror to see that his appearance was in apple-pie order.

“Don’t make the mistake of forgetting, and calling on one of the new yearlings,” cautioned Dick dryly.

“There’s no trace of insanity in our family history,” responded Anstey gravely, as he stepped outside.

Dick and Greg found they had much to talk about in comparing notes of what each had learned about the nature of duties in the summer camp.  They were still thus engaged when Anstey bounded back into the tent.  The young Virginian looked as though he were having a tremendously hard time to keep himself from exploding.

“Oh, this is rich!” he chuckled.

“What is?” inquired Dick, looking up in some mystification.

“What do you suppose Dodge has gone and done, now?”

“Said a kind word about me?” smiled Prescott.

“I didn’t say anything about miracles,” drawled the Virginian.  “No; poor old Dodge has drawn number three post for guard duty on the late tour to-night!”

“Well, isn’t three a good enough number?” asked Greg innocently.

“A good post, you meandering old puddin’-head!” retorted Anstey.  “Good?  The post that goes by old Fort Clinton?”

“Well, it is a bit lonely, off there in the woods,” admitted Cadet Prescott.

“Lonely?” bubbled over Anstey.  “And you’ve seen the ditch that runs along by that post?”

“Naturally,” nodded Dick.  “You will probably remember that I got past the eye-sight tests of the rainmakers” (doctors).

“Now, I’ve just been talking with a young cit. fellow, who’s visiting one of the officers on post,” continued Anstey.  “He tells me that, every year, some of the yearlings slyly waylay a plebe whenever they can catch him pacing on number three post late at night.”

“What do they do to him?” questioned Prescott.

“Oh, they don’t do a thing to him, I reckon,” drawled the Virginian.  “At least, nothing that a jovial fellow can object to.  They may roll him down in the ditch, take his gun away from him, and hide it, or some little thing like that.”

“Then, see here,” proposed Dick solemnly, “Dodge may not be the most popular fellow in the corps, but he’s one of us, anyway.  He belongs to our class.  Anything that is done against him is, in a measure, done to the whole class.  Anstey, we ought to get Dodge aside and warn him.”

“Warn him?” repeated Anstey aghast.  “Warn him ­and spoil all the fun!”

“I know I’d want to be warned, if it were likely to happen to me to-night,” insisted Dick soberly.

“Oh ­well, I don’t know but that you’re right,” assented Anstey slowly.  “Yes; I’m certain you are.”

“Hullo, you raw-looking rookies,” hailed Dodge, halting and looking in through the doorway.

“Come in here a minute, Dodge,” urged Anstey.

For an instant Dodge looked suspicious.  Then he muttered: 

“As you’re not yearlings, I accept the invitation.”

Very spick and span Dodge looked as he entered the tent.  As a member of the guard he wore a pair of immaculate white duck trousers, which held the “spooniest” crease imaginable.  His gray coat and white gloves made him look more the dandy than usual.

“We’ve something to tell you, Dodge,” Anstey continued almost in a whisper, as the four plebes stood in a close bunch.  “At least, old ramrod says we ought to tell you.”

Then, lowering his voice still more, Anstey gave an outline of what the new yearlings were supposed to try to do to the lonely plebe on post number three at the hour when ghosts walk.

“Humph!” rejoined Dodge quickly.  “Let the yearlings try that sort of trick, if they dare.  Have those fellows no idea of the sacred position of trust held by a United States sentinel?  For I, on sentry duty, represent the sovereignty of the United States just as much as does any soldier patrolling a lonely post in the face of the enemy in war time!”

“All very well,” grinned Dick “But how are you going to prove it, if the yearlings catch you napping tonight?”

“They won’t,” retorted Dodge pompously.  “They shan’t.  And if any fellow, I don’t care who he is, tries to rush my post to-night he’ll feel the steel of one of Uncle Sam’s bayonets prodding him in the tenderest part of his worthless carcass!”

“Look out, Dodge!” cautioned Greg softly.  “Don’t let any of the yearlings hear you canning a brag like that, or they’ll get you if they have to turn out the whole class after taps to do the job.”

“Let ’em try it!” insisted Dodge.  “And you fellows are at liberty to tell anyone that I said it.”

With that the speaker turned and strolled out of the tent, looking rather miffed.

“The pompous old idiot!” muttered Anstey, in a tone of pained disgust.  “Oh, why did ever fond parents let a mentally irresponsible chap like that come to a place like West Point for anyway?”

“Our skirts are clear, anyway,” remarked Dick Prescott consolingly.  “We told him all we knew.  If he doesn’t act upon it, it’s his rifle, not ours, that gets fouled.”

Dodge not only believed the hoax to be impossible, with him on number three, but he was incautious enough to talk about it freely among the plebes during the day.

As was almost certain to happen, one of the yearlings heard Dodge sounding his trumpet of brag.  That yearling, on the other side of a tent wall, grinned, and presently took counsel with other yearlings.

It was almost at the stroke of taps that night when Bert Dodge marched from guard tent with the relief under Cadet Corporal Hasbrouck.

As the other sentry on number three fell in, and Dodge stepped out to take up his vigil, Corporal Hasbrouck gave added instructions to the new and untried sentry.

“Sometimes, Mr. Dodge, this post has been known to be about as dangerous as one in war time.”

“Yes, sir, answered Dodge respectfully, as he was bound to.  Then as the cadet corporal marched on with the relief, Dodge glanced after the vanishing squad to mutter to himself: 

“What a lot of nonsense.  I’d like to see anyone rush me!”

“I wonder what Dodge will do on number three to-night,” yawned Anstey, just before the three tentmates fell asleep.

“Oh, I wonder what it will be,” grinned Greg.

Then the three went sound asleep.

Dick turned later and awoke just in time to hear the voice of a sentry calling: 

“Half past eleven!  Post number one, and all’s we-ell!”

Then, a little further away, another voice took up the refrain: 

Post num-ber two, and all’s we-ell!”

“Jupiter!” gasped sleepy Prescott, becoming instantly wide awake. 
“Post number three doesn’t answer.  They’ve gone and got old
Dodge.”

There was a rapid sound of feet in the company street as Corporal Hasbrouck and the guard rushed along at double quick.

“Hey, you ­wake up!” commanded Dick, vigorously prodding the plebe sleepers on either side of him.

“All present, sir!” sleepily mumbled Anstey.

“What’s up?” demanded Greg, sitting up.

“The very deuce!” retorted Dick.  “There!  Listen to that!”

“Bang!” sounded a rifle report.  Then Corporal Hasbrouck’s bellowing voice could be heard: 

“Officer of the day, post number three!” Some one could be heard running down the street.  A few moments passed, during which Dick, Greg and Anstey sat up on their mattresses listening eagerly.

Then came the officer of the day running back.

There was another brief pause, or just long enough for the officer of the day to make a report to the O.C. and to receive orders.

Tr-r-rat-tat-tat-tat!  The drummers at guard tent were running out the crisp summons of assembly.

“Get up!  Tumble out lively for general roll call!” muttered Dick, springing to his feet.

“What in the mischief can they have done to old Dodge?” wondered Greg as he hurriedly pulled on his shoes.

“You men will turn out instantly,” ordered a cadet corporal, thrusting his head in at the tent doorway.  “Elaborate dressing isn’t necessary.”

Dick bolted out, followed by Anstey, Greg bringing up the rear.

Cadets by scores and hundreds were falling in by companies, while the company commanders stood by watchful and alert.

Only the members of the guard were excused from this assembly.

Almost instantly orders rang out crisply, and the ranks closed.  Then the cadet adjutant, the roll in his hands, began to call the names by companies, holding a pencil in readiness to check down any cadet found absent.

Back of the adjutant stood the cadet officer of the day and Captain Vesey, of the Army, who was the tac. doing duty as O.C.

The calling of the roll, while the cadets stood in ranks, wondering, brought a surprise to Captain Vesey.  Every cadet supposed to be in camp was present or satisfactorily accounted for.

“When dismissed,” rang the cadet adjutant’s voice, “men not on duty will return to their tents and finish the night’s rest.  Dismiss by companies.”

As the drowsy cadets turned back to their company streets there was a buzz of eager, under-toned conversation.  Some of the men of the guard threw in enough information so that the main part of the story became known and flew like fire through the camp.

When post number three failed to answer at half past eleven Corporal Hasbrouck and a squad of the guard went to that post in double-quick time.

Dodge was found to be absent from his post, but his rifle, with bayonet fixed, was securely tied to a near-by bush in the position of “port arms.”

Dodge simply was not to be found.  At one point signs of a scuffle had been found, but the trail, after starting down the slope, soon disappeared.

Cadet Dodge could not be found.  No one, unless some unidentified hazers, knew where that young sentry was.

Assembly had been sounded and all cadets called out for roll call in order that it might be learned what cadets, if any, were absent from camp without authority.  But roll each had failed to show any absentees.

Captain Vesey was furious.  So was Lieutenant-Colonel Strong, the commandant of cadets, who had just been summoned, and who was now at the tac. tent questioning Hasbrouck and others.

Through the night no trace was found of Mr. Dodge.