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´╗┐Title: Uncle Sam's Boys in the Ranks - or, Two Recruits in the United States Army
Author: Hancock, H. Irving (Harrie Irving), 1868-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Uncle Sam's Boys in the Ranks - or, Two Recruits in the United States Army" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



UNCLE SAM'S BOYS IN THE RANKS

Or

Two Recruits in the United States Army

by

H. IRVING HANCOCK

Author of The Motor Boat Club Series, The High School Series, The West
Point Series, The Annapolis Series, The Young Engineers' Series, Etc.,
Etc.

Illustrated



[Illustration: "And These Are Your Applications?"

_Frontispiece._]



Philadelphia
Henry Altemus Company

Copyright, 1910, by Howard E. Altemus



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                               PAGE

      I. A LESSON IN RESPECT FOR THE UNIFORM          7

     II. AT THE RECRUITING OFFICE                    25

    III. THE ORDEAL OF EXAMINATION                   37

     IV. MRS. BRANDERS GETS A NEW VIEW               54

      V. IN THE AWKWARD SQUAD                        63

     VI. THE TROUBLE WITH CORPORAL SHRIMP            79

    VII. WHEN THE GUARD CAME                         93

   VIII. THE CALL TO COMPANY FORMATION              104

     IX. ORDERED TO THE THIRTY-FOURTH               112

      X. A SWIFT CALL TO DUTY                       123

     XI. GUARDING THE MAIL TRAIN                    129

    XII. THE ROOKIES REACH FORT CLOWDRY             139

   XIII. "TWO NEW GENERALS AMONG US"                149

    XIV. THE SQUAD ROOM HAZING                      158

     XV. PRIVATE BILL HOOPER LEARNS                 167

    XVI. THE MYSTERY OF POST THREE                  178

   XVII. HAL UNDER A FIRE OF QUESTIONS              190

  XVIII. THE ANONYMOUS LETTER                       198

    XIX. A SECRET COWARD                            206

     XX. THE LUCK OF THE YOUNG RECRUIT              212

    XXI. THE DUEL IN THE DARK                       221

   XXII. CAPTAIN CORTLAND HEADS THE PURSUIT         229

  XXIII. THE STIRRING GAME AT DAWN                  238

   XXIV. CONCLUSION                                 250



Uncle Sam's Boys in the Ranks



CHAPTER I

A LESSON IN RESPECT FOR THE UNIFORM


"AW, what's the difference between a soldier and a loafer?" demanded
"Bunny" Hepburn.

"A soldier ain't a loafer, and it takes nerve to be a soldier. It's a
job for the bravest kind of a man," retorted Jud Jeffers indignantly.

"Answer my c'nundrum," insisted Bunny.

"It ain't a decent conundrum," retorted Jud, with dignity, for his
father had served as a volunteer soldier in the war with Spain.

"Go on, Bunny," broke in another boy in the group, laughing. "I'll be
the goat. What is the difference between a soldier and a loafer?"

"A soldier gets paid and fed, and the other loafer doesn't," retorted
Bunny, with a broadening grin. A moment later, when he realized that his
"joke" had failed to raise a laugh, Bunny looked disappointed.

"Aw, go on," flared up Jud Jeffers. "You don't know anything about a
soldier."

"But my dad does," retorted Bunny positively. "Dad says soldiers don't
produce anything for a living; that they take their pay out of the
pockets of the public, and then laugh at the public for fools."

"And what does your father do for a living?" demanded Jud hotly.

"He's a man who knows a lot, and he lectures," declared Bunny, swelling
with importance. "When my dad talks a whole lot of men get excited and
cheer him."

"Yes, and they buy him beer, too," jeered Jud, hot with derision for the
fellow who was running down the soldiers of the United States. "Your
father does his lecturing in small, dirty halls, where there's always a
beer saloon underneath. You talk about men being producers--and your
father goes around making anarchistic speeches to a lot of workingmen
who are down on everything because they aren't clever enough to earn as
good wages as sober, industrious and capable workmen earn."

"Speech, Jud!" laughingly roared another boy in the crowd that now
numbered a score of youngsters.

"Don't you dare talk against my dad!" sputtered Bunny, doubling his
fists and trying to look fierce.

"Then don't say anything against soldiers," retorted Jud indignantly.
"My father was one. I tell you, soldiers are the salt of the earth."

"Say, but they're a fine and dandy-looking lot, anyway," spoke up Tom
Andrews, as he turned toward the post-office window in front of which
the principal actors in this scene were standing. The place was one of
the smaller cities in New Jersey.

In the post-office window hung a many-colored poster, headed "Recruits
Wanted for the United States Army." Soldiers of the various arms of the
service were shown, and in all the types of uniforms worn on the
different occasions.

"Oh, yes, they're a fine and dandy lot of loafers--them soldiers!"
declared Bunny Hepburn contemptuously.

This opinion might not have gotten him into trouble, but he emphasized
his opinion by spitting straight at the glass over the center of the
picture.

"You coward!" choked Jud.

Biff!

Jud Jeffer's fist shot out, with all the force there is in
fourteen-year-old muscle. The fist caught Bunny Hepburn on the side of
the face and sent him sprawling.

"Good for you, Jud!" roared several of the young boys together.

"Go for him, Jud! He's mad, and wants it," called Tom Andrews.

Bunny was mad, all the way through, even before he leaped to his feet.
Yet Bunny was not especially fond of fighting, and his anger was
tempered with caution.

"You dassent do that again," he taunted, dancing about before Jud.

"I will, if you give me the same cause," replied Jud.

Bunny deliberately repeated his offensive act. Then he dodged, but not
fast enough. Jud Jeffer's, his eyes ablaze with righteous indignation,
sent the troublesome one to earth again.

This time Bunny got up really full of fight.

From the opposite side of the street two fine-looking young men of about
eighteen had seen much of what had passed.

"Let's go over and separate them, Hal," proposed the quieter looking of
the pair.

"If you like, Noll, though that young Hepburn rascal deserves about all
that he seems likely to get."

"Jud Jeffers is too decent a young fellow to be allowed to soil his
hands on the Hepburn kid," objected Oliver Terry quietly.

So he and Hal Overton hastened across the street.

Bunny Hepburn was now showing a faint daub of crimson at the lower end
of his nose. Bunny was the larger boy, but Jud by far the braver.

"Here, better stop all of this," broke in Hal good-naturedly, reaching
out and grabbing angry Bunny by the coat collar.

Noll rested a rather friendly though detaining hand on Jud Jeffers's
shoulder.

"Lemme at him!" roared Bunny.

"Yes! Let 'em finish it!" urged three or four of the younger boys.

"What's it all about, anyway?" demanded Hal Overton.

"That fellow insulted his country's uniform. It's as bad as insulting
the Flag itself!" contended Jud hotly.

"That's right," nodded Hal Overton grimly. "I think I saw the whole
thing. You're right to be mad about it, Jud, but this young what-is-it
is too mean for you to soil your hands on him. Now, see here,
Hepburn--right about face for you!"

Hal's grip on the boy's coat collar tightened as he swung Bunny about
and headed him down the street.

"Forward, quick time, march! And don't stop, either, Hepburn, unless you
want to hear Jud pattering down the street after you."

Hal's first shove sent Bunny darting along for a few feet. Bunny
discreetly went down the street several yards before he halted and
lurched into a doorway, from which he peered out with a still hostile
look on his face.

"Your view of the uniform, and of the old Flag, is all right, Jud, and
I'm mighty glad to find that you have such views," Hal continued. "But
you mustn't be too severe on a fellow like Bunny Hepburn. He simply
can't rise above his surroundings, and you know what a miserable,
egotistical, lying, slanderous fellow his father is. Bunny's father
hates the country he lives in, and would set everybody to tearing down
the government. That's the kind of a brainless anarchist Hepburn is, and
you can't expect his dull-witted son to know any more than the father
does. But you keep on, Jud, always respecting the soldier and his
uniform, and the Flag that both stand behind."

"It gets on a good many of us," spoke up Tom Andrews, "to hear Bunny
always running down the soldiers. He believes all his father says, so he
keeps telling us that we're a nation of crooks and thieves, that the
government is the rottenest ever, and that our soldiers and sailors are
the biggest loafers of the whole American lot."

"It's enough to disgust anybody," spoke up Oliver Terry quietly. "But,
boys, people who talk the way the Hepburns do are never worth fighting
with. And, unless they're stung hard, they won't fight, anyway."

"Oh, won't they?" growled Bunny, who, listening to all this talk with a
flaming face, now retreated down the street. "Wait until I tell dad all
about this nonsense about the Flag and the uniform!"

Hal and Noll stood for some moments gazing at the attractive recruiting
poster in the post-office window. One by one the boys who had gathered
went off in search of other interest or sport, until only Jud and Tom
remained near the two older boys.

"I reckon you think I was foolish, don't you, Hal?" asked Jud, at last.

"No; not just that," replied Overton, turning, with a smile. "No
American can ever be foolish to insist on respect for the country's Flag
and uniform."

"I simply can't stand by and hear soldiers sneered at. My father was a
soldier, you know, even if he was only a war-time volunteer, and didn't
serve a whole year."

"When you get out of patience with fellows like Bunny Hepburn,"
suggested Noll Terry, "just you compare your father with a fellow like
Bunny's father. You know, well enough, that your father, as a useful and
valuable citizen, is worth more than a thousand Hepburns can ever be."

"That's right," nodded Hal, with vigor. "And there's another man in this
town that you can compare with Bunny's father. You know Mr. Wright?
Sergeant Wright is his proper title. He's an old, retired sergeant from
the Regular Army, who served his country fighting Indians and Spaniards,
and now he has settled down here--a fine, upright, honest American,
middle aged, and with retired pay and savings enough to support him as
long as he lives. I haven't met many men as fine as Sergeant Wright."

"I know," nodded Jud, his eyes shining. "Sergeant Wright is a fine man.
Sometimes he talks to Tom and me an hour at a time, telling us all about
the campaigns he has served in. Say, Hal, you and Noll ought to call on
him and ask him for some of his grand old Indian stories."

"We know some of them," laughed Hal. "Noll and I have been calling there
often."

"You have?" said Jud gleefully. "Say, ain't Sergeant Wright one of the
finest men ever? I'll bet he's been a regular up-and-down hero himself,
though he never tells us anything about his own big deeds."

"He wears the medal of Congress," replied Hal warmly. "A soldier who
wears that doesn't need to brag."

"Say," remarked Jud thoughtfully, "I guess you two fellows are about as
much struck with the soldiers as I am."

"I'll tell you and Tom something--if you can keep a secret," replied Hal
Overton, after a side glance at his chum.

"Oh, we can keep secrets all right!" protested Tom Andrews.

"Well, then, fellows, Noll and I are going to New York to-morrow, to try
to enlist in the Regular Army."

"You are?" gasped Jud, staring at Hal and Noll in round-eyed delight.
"Oh, say, but you two ought to make dandy soldiers!"

"If the recruiting officer accepts us we'll do the best that's in us,"
smiled Hal.

"You'll be regular heroes!" predicted Jud, gazing at these two fortunate
youngsters with eyes wide open with approval.

"Oh, no, we can't be heroes," grimaced Noll. "We're going to be
regulars, and it's only the volunteers who are allowed to be heroes, you
know," added Noll jocosely. "There's nothing heroic about a regular
fighting bravely. That's his trade and his training."

"Don't you youngsters tell anyone," Hal insisted. "Or we shall be sorry
that we told you."

"What do you take us for?" demanded Jud scornfully.

Hal and Noll had had it in mind to stroll off by themselves, for this
was likely to be their last day in the home town for many a day to come.
But Jud and Tom were full of hero worship of the two budding soldier
boys, and walked along with them.

"There's Tip Branders," muttered Tom suddenly.

"I don't care," retorted Jud. "He won't dare try anything on us; and, if
he does, we can take care of him."

"What has Tip against you?" asked Hal Overton.

"He tried to thrash me, yesterday."

"Why?"

"I guess it was because I told him what I thought of him," admitted Jud,
with a grin.

"How did that happen?"

"Well, Tom and I were down in City Hall Park, sitting on one of the
benches. Tip came along and ordered us off the bench; said he wanted to
sit there himself. I told him he was a loafer and told him we wouldn't
get off the bench for anybody like him."

"And then?" asked Hal.

"Why, Tip just made a dive for me, and there was trouble in his eyes; so
I reconsidered, and made a quick get-away. So did Tom. Tip chased us a
little way, but we went so fast that we made it too much work for him.
So he halted, but yelled after us that he'd tan us the next time he got
close enough."

Tip Branders surely deserved the epithet of "loafer." Though only
nineteen he had the look of being past twenty-one. He was a big,
powerful fellow. Though he had not been at school since he was fifteen,
Tip had not worked three months in the last four years. His mother, who
kept a large and prosperous boarding-house, regarded Tip as being one of
the manliest fellows in the world. She abetted his idleness by supplying
him with too much money. Tip dressed well, though a bit loudly, and
walked with a swagger. He was in a fair way to go through life without
becoming anything more than a bully.

Hal Overton, on the other hand, was a quiet though merry young man, just
above medium height, slim, though well built, brown-haired, blue-eyed,
and a capable, industrious young fellow. The elder Overton was a clerk
in a local store. Ill-health through many years had kept the father from
prospering, and Hal, after two years in High School, had gone to work in
the same store with his father at the age of sixteen.

Oliver Terry, too, had been at work since the age of sixteen. Noll's
father was engineer at one of the local machine shops, so Noll had gone
into one of the lathe rooms, and was already accounted a very fair young
mechanic.

Both were only sons; and, in the case of each, the fathers and mothers
had felt sorry, indeed, to see the young men go to work before they had
at least completed their High School courses.

By this time the fathers of both Hal and Noll had found themselves in
somewhat better circumstances. Hal and Noll, being ambitious, had both
felt dissatisfied, of late, with their surroundings and prospects, and
both had received parental permission to better themselves if they
could. So our two young friends, after many talks, and especially with
Sergeant Wright, had decided to serve at least three years in the
regular army by way of preliminary training.

Unfortunately, few American youths, comparatively speaking, are aware of
the splendid training that the United States Army offers to a young
American. The Army offers splendid grounding for the young man who
prefers to serve but a single enlistment and then return to civil life.
But it also offers a solidly good career to the young man who enlists
and remains with the colors until he is retired after thirty years of
continuous service.

Both Hal and Noll had looked thoroughly into the question, and each was
now convinced that the Army offered him the best place in life. Both
boys had very definite ideas of what they expected to accomplish by
entering the Army, as will appear presently.

Tip--even Tip Branders--had something of an ambition in life. So far as
he had done anything, Tip had "trained" with a gang of young hoodlums
who were "useful" to the political machine in one of the tough wards of
the little city. Tip's ultimate idea was to "get a city job," at good
pay, and do little or nothing for the pay.

But Tip dreaded a civil service examination--knew, in fact, that he
could not pass one. In most American cities, to-day, an honorably
discharged enlisted man from the Army or Navy is allowed to take an
appointment to a city position without civil service examination, or
else to do so on a lower marking than would be accepted from any other
candidate for a city job.

So, curiously enough, Tip had decided to serve in the United States
Army. One term would be enough to serve his purpose.

Tip, too, had kept his resolve a secret--even from his mother.

As Hal and Noll, Jud and Tom strolled along they came up with Tip
Branders.

"So this is you, you little freshy!" growled Tip, halting suddenly, and
close to Jud. "Now I'll give ye the thrashing I promised yesterday."

His big fist shot out, making a grab for young Jeffers.

But Hal Overton caught the wrist of that hand, and shoved it back.

"That doesn't look exactly manly in you, Branders," remarked Hal
quietly.

"Oh, it doesn't, hey?" roared Tip. "What have you got to say about it?"

"Nothing in particular," admitted Hal pleasantly. "Nothing, except that
I'd rather see you tackle some one nearer your own size."

"Would, hey?" roared Tip. "O. K!"

With that he swung suddenly, and so unexpectedly that the blow caught
Hal Overton unawares, sending him to the sidewalk.

"I believe I'll take a small hand in this," murmured Noll Terry,
starting to take off his coat.

But Hal was up in a twinkling.

"Leave this to me, please, Noll," he begged, and sailed in.

Tip Branders was waiting, with an ugly grin on his face. He was far
bigger than Hal, and stronger, too. Yet, for the first few moments, Tip
had all he could do to ward off Hal's swift, clever blows.

Then Tip swung around swiftly, taking the aggressive.

It seemed like a bad mistake, for now Hal suddenly drove in a blow that
landed on Brander's nose, drawing the blood.

"Now, I'll fix ye for that!" roared Tip, after backing off for an
instant.

Just as he was about to charge again the big bully felt a strong grip on
his collar, while a deep, firm voice warned him:

"Don't do anything of the sort, Branders, or I'll have to summon an
officer to take you in."

Tip wheeled, to find himself looking into the grizzled face of Chief of
Police Blake. Tip often bragged of his political "pull," but he knew he
had none with this chief.

"I got a right to smash this fellow," blustered Tip. "He hit me."

"I'll wager you hit him first, though, or else gave young Overton good
cause for hitting you," smiled the chief. "I know Overton, and he's the
kind of boy his neighbors can vouch for. I don't know as much good of
you. But I'll tell you, Tip, how you can best win my good opinion. Take
a walk--a good, brisk walk--straight down the street. And start now!"

Something in the police chief's voice told Tip that it would be well to
obey. He did so.

"Too many young fellows like him on the street," observed Chief Blake,
with a quiet smile. "Good morning, boys."

At the next corner Hal and Noll turned.

"Oh, you're going to see Sergeant Wright?" asked Jud.

"Yes," nodded Hal. "Our last visit to him."

"Then you won't want us along," said Jud sensibly. "But say, we wish you
barrels of luck--honest--in the new life you're going into."

"Thank you," laughed Hal good-humoredly, holding out his hand.

"Send me a brass button soon, one that you've worn on your uniform
blouse, will you?" begged Jud.

"Yes," agreed Hal, "if there's nothing in the regulations against it."

"And you, Noll? Will you do as much for me?" begged Tom.

"Surely, on the same conditions," promised Noll Terry.

"But we haven't succeeded in getting into the service yet, you must
remember," Hal warned them.

"Oh, shucks!" retorted Jud. "I wish I were as sure of anything that I
want. The recruiting officer'll be tickled to death when he sees you two
walking in on him."

"I hope you're a real, true prophet, Jud," replied Hal, with a wistful
smile.

Neither of these two younger boys had any idea how utterly Hal Overton
had set his heart on entering the service, nor why. The reader will
presently discover more about the surging "why."

On one of the side streets the boys paused before the door of a cozy,
little cottage in which lived Sergeant Wright and the wife who had been
with him nearly the whole of his time in the service.

Ere they could ring the bell the door opened, and Sergeant Wright, U. S.
Army, retired, stood before them, holding out his hand.

"Well, boys," was the kindly greeting of this fine-looking, middle-aged
man, "have you settled the whole matter at home?"

"Yes," nodded Hal happily. "We go to New York, to-morrow, to try our
luck with the recruiting officer."

"Come right in, boys, and we'll have our final talk about the good old
Army," cried the retired sergeant heartily.

It was that same afternoon that Tip Branders next espied Jud and Tom
coming down a street. Tip darted into a doorway, intent on lying in wait
for the pair.

As they neared his place of hiding, however, Tip heard Jud and Tom
talking of something that changed his plan.

"What's that?" echoed Tip to himself, straining his hearing.

"Say," breathed Tom Andrews fervently, "wouldn't it be fine if we could
go to New York to-morrow morning, too, and see Hal and Noll sworn into
the United States Army?"

Tip held his breath, listening for more. He heard enough to put him in
possession of practically all of the plans of Hal and Noll.

"Oho!" chuckled Tip, as he strode away from the place later. "So that
pair of boobs are going to try for the Army. Oh, I daresay they'll get
in. But so will I--and in the same company with them. I wouldn't have
missed this for anything. I'll be the thorn in Hal Overton's side the
little while that he'll be in the service! I've more than to-day's
business to settle with that stuck-up dude!"

All of which will soon appear and be made plain.



CHAPTER II

AT THE RECRUITING OFFICE


THE solemn time came the following morning.

Both Hal and Noll were "only children," or, at least, so thought their
mothers.

Messrs. Overton and Terry, the elders, gave their sons' hands a last
strong grip. No good advice was offered by either father at parting.
That had already been attended to.

Naturally the boys' mothers cried a good bit over them. Both mothers, in
fact, had wanted to go over to New York with their sons. But the fathers
had objected that this would only prolong the pain of parting, and that
soldiers in the bud should not be unfitted for their beginnings by
tears.

So Hal and Noll met at the station, to take an early morning train.
There were no relatives to see them off. Early as the hour was, though,
Jud Jeffers and Tom Andrews had made a point of being on hand.

"We wanted to see you start," explained Jud, his face beaming and eyes
wistful with longing. "We didn't know what train you'd take, so we've
been here since half-past six."

"We may be back by early afternoon," laughed Hal.

"Not you two!" declared Jud positively. "The recruiting officer will
jump right up, shake hands with you, and drag you over to where you sign
the Army rolls."

The train came along in time to put a stop to a long conversation.

As the two would-be soldiers stepped up to the train platform Jud and
Tom did their best to volley them with cheers.

Noll blushed, darting into a car as quickly as he could, and sitting on
the opposite side of the train from these noisy young admirers.

Hal, however, good-humoredly waved his hand from a window as the train
pulled out. Then, with a very solemn face, all of a sudden, young
Overton crossed and seated himself beside his chum.

Neither boy carried any baggage whatever. If they failed to get into the
Army they would soon be home again. If they succeeded in enlisting, then
the Army authorities would furnish all the baggage to be needed.

"Take your last look at the old town, Hal," Noll urged gravely, as the
train began to move faster. "It may be years before we see the good old
place again."

"Oh, keep a stiff upper lip, Noll," smiled Hal, though he, also, felt
rather blue for the moment. "Our folks will be down to the recruit
drilling place to see us, soon, if we succeed in getting enrolled."

It hurt both boys a bit, as long as any part of their home city remained
in sight. Each tried bravely, however, to look as though going away from
home had been a frequent occurrence in their lives.

By the time that they were ten miles on their way both youngsters had
recovered their spirits. Indeed, now they were looking forward with
almost feverish eagerness to their meeting the recruiting officer.

"I hope the Army surgeon doesn't find anything wrong with our physical
condition," said Hal, at last.

"Dr. Brooks didn't," replied Noll, as confidently as though that settled
it.

"But Dr. Brooks has never been an Army surgeon," returned Hal. "He may
not know all the fine points that Army surgeons know."

"Well we'll know before the day is over," replied Noll, with a catching
of his breath. "Then, of course, we don't know whether the Army is at
present taking boys under twenty-one."

"The law allows it," declared Hal stoutly.

"Yes; but you remember Sergeant Wright told us, fairly, that sometimes,
when the right sort of recruits are coming along fast, the recruiting
officers shut down on taking any minors."

"I imagine," predicted Hal, "that much more will depend upon how we
happen, individually, to impress the recruiting officer."

In this Hal Overton was very close to being right.

The ride of more than two hours ended at last, bringing the young
would-be soldiers to the ferry on the Jersey side. As they crossed the
North River both boys admitted to themselves that they were becoming a
good deal more nervous.

"We'll get a Broadway surface car, and that will take us right up to
Madison Square," proposed Noll.

"It would take us too long," negatived Hal. "We can save a lot of time
by taking the Sixth Avenue "L" uptown and walking across to Madison
Square."

"You're in a hurry to have it over with?" laughed Noll, but there was a
slight tremor in his voice.

"I'm in a hurry to know my fate," admitted Hal.

Oliver Terry had been in New York but once before. Hal, by virtue of his
superiority in having made four visits to New York, led the way
straight to the elevated railroad. They climbed the stairs, and were
just in time to board a train.

A few minutes later they got out at Twenty-third Street, crossed to
Fifth Avenue and Broadway, then made their way swiftly over to Madison
Square.

"There's the place, over there!" cried Noll, suddenly seizing Hal's arm
and dragging him along. "There's an officer and a man, and the soldier
is holding a banner. It has something on it that says something about
recruits for the Army."

"The man you call an officer is a non-commissioned officer--a sergeant,
in fact," Hal replied. "Don't you see the chevrons on his sleeve?"

"That's so," Noll admitted slowly. "Cavalry, at that. His chevrons and
facings are yellow. It was his fine uniform that made me take him for an
officer."

"We'll go up to the sergeant and ask him where the recruiting office
is," Hal continued.

Certainly the sergeant looked "fine" enough to be an officer. His
uniform was immaculate, rich-looking and faultless. Both sergeant and
private wore the olive khaki, with handsome visored caps of the same
material.

The early April forenoon was somewhat chilly, yet the benches in the
center of the square were more than half-filled by men plainly "down on
their luck." Some of these men, of course, were hopelessly besotted or
vicious, and Uncle Sam had no use for any of these in his Army uniform.
There were other men, however, on the seats, who looked like good and
useful men who had met with hard times. Most of these men on the benches
had not breakfasted, and had no assurance that they would lunch or dine
on that day.

It was to the better elements among these men that the sergeant and the
private soldier were intended to appeal. Yet the sergeant was not
seeking unwilling recruits; he addressed no man who did not first speak
to him.

In the tidy, striking uniforms, their well-built bodies, their well-fed
appearance and their whole air of well-being, these two enlisted men of
the regular army must have presented a powerful, if mute, appeal to the
hungry unfortunate ones on the benches.

"Good morning, Sergeant," spoke Hal, as soon as the two chums had
reached the Army pair.

"Good morning, sir," replied the sergeant.

"You're in the recruiting service?" Hal continued.

"Yes, sir."

Always the invariable "sir" with which the careful soldier answers
citizens. In the Army men are taught the use of that "sir," and to look
upon all citizens as their employers.

"Then no doubt you will direct us to the recruiting office in this
neighborhood?" Hal went on.

"Certainly, sir," answered the sergeant, and wheeling still further
around he pointed north across the square to where the office was
situated.

"You can hardly miss it, sir, with the orderly standing outside," said
the sergeant, smiling.

"No, indeed," Hal agreed. "Thank you very much, Sergeant."

"You're welcome, sir. May I inquire if you are considering enlisting?"

"Both of us are," Hal nodded.

"Glad to hear it, sir," the sergeant continued, looking both boys over
with evident approval. "You look like the clean, solid, sensible, right
sort that we're looking for in the Army. I wish you both the best of
good luck."

"Thank you," Hal acknowledged. "Good morning, Sergeant."

"Good morning, sir."

Still that "sir" to the citizen. The sergeant would drop it, as far as
these two boys were concerned, if they entered the service and became
his subordinates.

It seemed to Hal and Noll as if they could not get over the ground fast
enough until they reached that doorway where the orderly stood. The
orderly directed them how to reach the office upstairs, and both boys,
after thanking him, proceeded rapidly to higher regions.

They soon found themselves before the door. It stood ajar. Inside sat a
sergeant at a flat-top desk. He, too, was of the cavalry. There were
also two privates in the room.

Doffing their hats Hal and Noll entered the room. Overton led the way
straight to the sergeant's desk.

"Good morning, Sergeant. We have come to see whether we can enlist."

"How old were you on your last birthday?" inquired the sergeant, eyeing
Hal keenly.

"Eighteen, Sergeant."

"And you?" turning to Noll.

"Seventeen," Noll replied.

"You are too young, I'm sorry to say," replied the sergeant to Noll.

Then, turning to Hal, he added:

"You may be accepted."

"But I've got another birthday coming very soon," interjected Noll.

"How soon?"

"To-morrow."

"You'll be eighteen to-morrow?" questioned the sergeant.

"Yes, sir."

"That will be all right, then," nodded the sergeant. "You won't need to
be sworn in before to-morrow. You have both of you parents living?"

"Yes, sir," Hal answered, this time.

"It is not necessary, or usual, to say 'sir,' when answering a
non-commissioned officer," the sergeant informed them. "Say 'sir,'
always, when addressing a commissioned officer or a citizen."

"Thank you," Hal acknowledged.

"Now, you have the consent of your parents to enlist?"

"Yes, Sergeant."

"Both of you?"

"Yes."

"Aldridge!"

One of the pair of very spruce-looking privates in the room wheeled
about.

"Furnish these young men with application blanks, and take them over to
the high desk."

Having said this the sergeant turned back to some papers that he had
been examining.

"You will fill out these papers," Private Aldridge explained to the
boys, after he had led them to the high desk. "I think all the
questions are plain enough. If there are any you don't understand then
ask me."

It was a race between Hal and Noll to see which could get a pen in his
hand first. Then they began to write.

The first question, naturally, was as to the full name of the applicant;
then followed his present age and other questions of personal history.

For some time both pens flew over the paper or paused as a new question
was being considered.

When he came to the question as to which arm of the service was
preferred by the applicant Noll turned to Hal to whisper:

"Is it still the infantry?" young Terry asked.

"Still and always the infantry," Hal nodded.

"All right," half sighed Noll. "I'm almost wishing for the cavalry,
though, so I could ride a horse."

"The infantry is best for our plans," Hal replied.

When they had finished making out their papers Hal and Noll went back to
the sergeant's desk.

"Do we hand these to you?" Hal asked.

"Yes," said the sergeant, taking both papers. He ran his eyes over them
hurriedly, then rose and passed into an inner office. When he came out
all he said was:

"Take seats over there until you're wanted."

Two or three minutes later a buzzer sounded over the sergeant's head.
Rising, he entered the inner room.

"Our time's come, now, I guess," whispered Noll.

"Or else something else is going to happen," replied Hal, smiling. "You
and I are not the only two problems with which the Army concerns
itself."

Noll's guess was right, however. The sergeant speedily returned to the
outer office and crossed over to the boys, who rose.

"Lieutenant Shackleton will see you," announced the sergeant. "Step
right into his office. Stand erect and facing him. Use the word, 'sir,'
when answering him, and be very respectful in all your replies. Let him
do all the talking."

"We understand, thank you," nodded Hal.

The sergeant, who had his cap in his hand, turned to leave the office
for a few moments on other business. As he was going out he nearly
bumped into a heavily-built young fellow who was entering.

Hal Overton had reached the door leading into the lieutenant's office
and pulled it open.

Just as he did so he heard a rather familiar voice behind him demand:

"Where's the officer in charge?"

"In that office," replied one of the soldiers, pointing.

The newcomer did not stop to thank the soldier, but sprang toward the
door that Hal had just opened.

"Here, you kids can stand aside until a man gets through with his
business in there," exclaimed Tip Branders, gripping Hal by the
shoulders and swinging him aside.



CHAPTER III

THE ORDEAL OF EXAMINATION


HAL OVERTON was so astonished that he offered no resistance to the bully
from home.

Instead, Hal and Noll paused by the door, while Tip, with a confident
leer on his face, strode into the inner office.

Lieutenant Shackleton, a man of twenty-eight, in blue fatigue uniform,
with the single bar of the first lieutenant on his shoulder-straps,
looked up quickly and in some amazement.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I've come to see you about enlisting in the Army," continued Tip, who,
with his hat still on, was marching up to the desk.

"Take off your hat."

"Eh? Huh?"

"Take off your hat!" came the repeated order, with a good deal more of
emphasis.

"Hey? Oh, cert. Anything to oblige," assented Tip, with a sheepish grin,
as he removed his hat.

"Is your name Overton?" asked the recruiting officer, glancing at the
papers before him.

"Naw, nothing like it," returned Tip easily.

"Or, Terry?"

"Them two boobs is outside," returned Tip, with evident scorn. "I told
'em to stand aside until I went in and had my rag-chew out with you."

Lieutenant Shackleton flashed an angry look at Branders, though a keen
reader of faces would have known that this experienced recruiting
officer was trying hard to conceal a smile. The lieutenant had dealt
with many of these "tough" applicants.

"Orderly!" rasped out the lieutenant.

Private Aldridge appeared in the doorway, standing at attention.

"Orderly, I understand that this man wishes to enlist----"

"That's dead right," nodded Tip encouragingly.

"But his application has not been received by me," continued the
lieutenant, ignoring the interruption. "Take him outside and let
Sergeant Wayburn look him over first. Also ask the sergeant to inform
this man as to the proper way to approach and address an officer."

"Very good, sir," replied Private Aldridge. He tried to catch Tip's eye,
but Branders was not looking at him, so the soldier crossed over to
Branders, resting a hand on his arm.

"Come with me," requested the soldier.

"Hey?" asked Tip.

"My man, go with that orderly," cried Lieutenant Shackleton, in an
annoyed tone.

"Me? Oh, all right," nodded Tip, and went out with the soldier.

"Overton! Terry!" called the recruiting officer.

"Here, sir," answered Hal, as both boys entered the room.

"One of you close the door then come here," directed Lieutenant
Shackleton.

Noll closed the door, after which both boys advanced to the roll-top
desk behind which the lieutenant sat.

"You are Henry Overton and Oliver Terry?" asked the officer.

"Yes, sir," Hal answered.

"And these are your applications?"

"Yes, sir."

"You have filled them out truthfully, in every detail?"

"Yes, sir."

"You, Overton, are already eighteen?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you, Terry, will be eighteen years old to-morrow?"

"Yes, sir----" from Noll.

The lieutenant looked them both over keenly, as if to make up his own
mind about their ages.

"May I speak, sir?" queried Hal.

"Yes."

"To satisfy any doubt about our ages, sir, we have brought with us
copies of our birth certificates, both certified to by the city clerk at
home."

"You're intelligent lads," exclaimed the officer, with a gratified
smile. "You go at things in the right way. Be good enough to turn over
the certificates to me."

Hal took some papers from his pocket, passing two of them over to the
recruiting officer, who examined the certificates swiftly.

"All regular," he declared. "Terry, of course, if he passes, cannot be
sworn in until to-morrow. You have other papers there?"

"Yes, sir," Hal admitted. "The consent for our joining, signed by both
our fathers and mothers, since we are under twenty-one."

"But I cannot know, until I have ascertained, that these are the genuine
signatures of your parents. That investigation will take a little time."

"Pardon me, sir," Hal answered, laying the two remaining papers before
the officer, "but you will find both papers witnessed under the seal of
a notary public, who states that our parents are personally known to
him."

"Well, well, you are bright lads--good enough to make soldiers of,"
laughed Lieutenant Shackleton almost gleefully, as he scanned the added
papers.

"May I speak, sir?"

"Yes."

"We can't claim credit for bringing these papers. We are well acquainted
with a retired sergeant of the Army, who suggested that these papers, in
their present form, would save us a lot of bother."

"Then you don't deserve any of the credit?"

"No, sir."

"You deserve a higher credit, then, for you are both honest lads."

Again the lieutenant turned to look them over keenly, sizing them up, as
it were. Both were plainly more than five-feet-four, and so would not be
rejected on account of height. They seemed like good, solid youngsters,
too.

"Smoke cigarettes?" suddenly shot out the lieutenant.

"No, sir!"

"Smoke anything else, or chew tobacco? Or drink alcoholic beverages?"

"We have never done any of these things, sir," Hal replied.

"I see that you express a preference for the infantry," continued the
recruiting officer.

"Yes, sir," Hal replied.

"I am almost sorry for that," continued the officer. "I would like to
see two lads of your evident caliber going into my own arm of the
service--the cavalry."

"We have chosen the infantry, sir," Hal explained, "because we will have
more leisure time there than in the cavalry or artillery."

"Looking for easy berths?" asked Lieutenant Shackleton, with a suddenly
suspicious ring to his voice.

"No, sir," Hal rejoined. "May I explain, sir?"

"Yes; go ahead."

"We both of us have hopes, sir, if we can get into the Army, that we may
be able to rise to be commissioned officers. We have learned that there
is less to do in the infantry, ordinarily, and that we would therefore
have more time in the infantry for study to fit ourselves to take
examinations for officer's commissions."

"Then, to save you from possible future disappointment, I had better be
very frank with you about the chances of winning commissions from the
ranks," said the lieutenant. "In the Army we have some excellent
officers who have risen from the ranks. Each year a few enlisted men are
promoted to be commissioned officers. The examination, however, is a
very stiff one. Out of the applicants each year more enlisted men are
rejected than are promoted. The difficulty of the examination causes
most enlisted men to fail."

"Thank you, sir. We have thought of all that, and have looked over the
nature of the examinations given enlisted men who seek to be officers,"
Hal replied. "We know the examinations are very hard, but we have twelve
years if need be in which to prepare ourselves for the examination.
Enlisted men, so I am told, may apply for commissions up to the age of
thirty."

"Yes; that is right," nodded the lieutenant. "But how much schooling
have you behind you?"

"We have each had two years in High School, sir."

"On that basis you will both have hard times to prepare yourselves for
officers' examinations. However, with great application, you may make
it--if you achieve also sufficiently good records as enlisted men."

This explanation being sufficient, Lieutenant Shackleton paused, then
went on:

"As you are unusually in earnest about enlisting I fancy that you want
to hear the surgeon's verdict as soon as possible."

"Yes, sir, if you please," replied Hal.

"Orderly!"

One of the two soldiers entered. Lieutenant Shackleton made some
entries on the application papers, then handed them to the soldier.

"Orderly, take these young men to the surgeon at once."

"Yes, sir. Come this way, please."

Hal and Noll were again conducted into the outer office. The sergeant
had returned by this time and was at his desk. Over at the high desk
stood Tip Branders, making out his application.

"Oh, we're it, aren't we?" demanded Tip, looking around with a scowl at
the chums. "You freshies!"

"Be silent," ordered the sergeant looking up briskly.

"Well, those two kids----" began Tip. But the sergeant, though a
middle-aged man, showed himself agile enough to reach Tip Branders' side
in three swift, long bounds.

"Young man, either conduct yourself properly, or get out of here,"
ordered the sergeant point-blank.

Muttering something under his breath, Tip turned back to his writing, at
which he was making poor headway, while the orderly led Hal and Noll
down the corridor, halting and knocking at another door.

"Come in!" called a voice.

"Lieutenant Shackleton's compliments, sir, and two applicants to be
examined, sir."

"Very good, Orderly," replied Captain Wayburn, assistant surgeon, Army
Medical Corps, as he received the papers from the orderly. The latter
then left the room, closing the door behind him.

"You are Overton and Terry?" questioned Captain Wayburn, eyeing the
papers, then turning to the chums, who answered in the affirmative.

Captain Wayburn, being a medical officer of the Army, wore shoulder
straps with a green ground. At the ends of each strap rested the two
bars that proclaimed his rank of captain. Being a staff officer, Captain
Wayburn wore black trousers, instead of blue, beneath his blue fatigue
blouse. Moreover, the black trousers of the staff carried no broad side
stripe along the leg. The side stripe is always in evidence along the
outer leg side of the blue trousers of the line officer, and the color
of the stripe denotes to which arm of the service the officer belongs--a
white stripe denotes the infantry officer, while a yellow stripe
distinguishes the cavalry and a red stripe the artillery officer.

Captain Wayburn now laid out two other sets of papers on his desk. These
were the blanks for the surgeon's report on an applicant for enlistment.

At first this examination didn't seem to amount to much. The surgeon
began by looking Hal Overton's scalp over, next examining his face, neck
and back of head. Then he took a look at Hal's teeth, which he found to
be perfect.

"Stand where you are. Read this line of letters to me," ordered the
surgeon, stepping across the room to a card on which were ranged several
rows of printed letters of different sizes.

Hal read the line off perfectly.

"Read the line above."

Hal did so. He read all of the lines, to the smallest, in fact, without
an error.

"There's nothing the matter with your vision," remarked Captain Wayburn,
in a pleased tone. "Now tell me--promptly--what color is this?"

The surgeon held up a skein of yarn.

"Red," announced Hal, without an instant's hesitation.

"This one?"

"Green."

"And this?"

"Blue."

And so on. Hal missed with none of the colors.

"Go to that chair in the corner, Overton, and strip yourself, piling
your clothing neatly on the chair. Terry, come here."

Noll went through similar tests with equal success. By the time he had
finished Hal was stripped. Now came the real examination. Hal's heart
and other organs were examined; his skin and body were searched for
blemishes. He was made to run and do various other exercises. After this
the surgeon again listened to his heart from various points of
examination. Finally Hal was told to lie down on a cot. Now, the
examination of the heart was made over again in this position. It was
mostly Greek to the boy. When the examination was nearly over Noll was
ordered to strip and take his turn.

When it was over Captain Wayburn turned to them to say:

"If I pronounced you young men absolutely flawless in a physical sense,
it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration. You are just barely over the one
hundred and twenty pound weight, but that is all that can be expected at
your age."

"You pass us, sir," asked Hal eagerly.

"Most decidedly. As soon as Terry is dressed I'll hand you each your
papers to take back to the recruiting officer."

Five minutes later Hal and Noll returned to the main waiting room.

"Pass?" inquired the sergeant, with friendly interest.

"Yes," nodded Hal.

Tip Branders was sitting in a chair, a dark scowl on his face.

"Orderly, take Branders to the surgeon, now," continued the sergeant,
and Tip disappeared. Then the sergeant knocked at the door of the
lieutenant's office and entered after receiving the officer's
permission. He came out in a moment, holding the door open.

"Overton and Terry, the lieutenant will see you now."

Hal and Noll entered, handing their papers back to Lieutenant
Shackleton, who glanced briefly at the surgeon's reports.

"I don't see much difficulty about your enlisting," smiled the officer.
"I congratulate you both."

"We're delighted, sir," said Noll simply.

"Now, Overton, I can let you sign, provisionally, to-day but I can't
accept your friend, Terry, until to-morrow, when he will have reached
the proper age for enlisting. This may seem like a trivial thing to you,
but Terry is just one day short of the age, and the regulations provide
that an officer who knowingly enlists a recruit below the proper age is
to be dismissed from the service. Now, if you prefer, Overton, you can
delay enlisting until to-morrow, so as to enter on the same date with
your friend."

"I'd prefer that, sir," admitted Hal.

"You are both in earnest about enlisting?"

"Indeed we are, sir," breathed Noll fervently.

"I believe you," nodded the officer. "Now, have you money enough for a
hotel bed and meals until to-morrow forenoon?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then be here at nine o'clock to-morrow morning, sharp, and I'll sign
you both on the rolls of the Army. Now, furnish me with home references,
and, especially, the name of your last employer. These will be
investigated by telegraph. Also, are you acquainted with the chief of
police in your home city?"

Hal and Noll answered these questions.

Then, having nothing pressing on his hands for the moment, Lieutenant
Shackleton offered the boys much sound and wholesome advice as to the
way to conduct themselves in the Army. He laid especial stress upon
truthfulness, which is the keystone of the service. He warned them
against bad habits of all kinds, and told them to pick their friends
with care, both in and out of the service.

"In particular," continued the lieutenant, "I want to warn you against
contracting the 'guard-house habit.' That is what we call it when a
soldier gets in the habit of committing petty breaches of discipline
such as will land him in the guard-house for a term of confinement for
twenty-four hours or more. The 'guard-house habit' has spoiled hundreds
of men, who, but for that first confinement, would have made admirable
soldiers. The enlisted man with the 'guard-house habit' is as useless
and hopeless as the tramp or the petty thief in civil life."

It was an excellent talk all the way through. Both boys listened
respectfully and appreciatively. It struck them that Lieutenant
Shackleton was giving them a large amount of his time. They learned,
later, that a competent officer is always willing and anxious to talk
with his men upon questions of discipline, duty and efficiency. It is
one of the things that the officer is expected and paid to do.

By the time they came out Tip was just returning from the surgeon's
examination.

"You freshies needn't think ye're the only ones that passed," growled
Tip in a low voice, as he passed.

Neither chum paid any heed to Branders. Somehow, as long as he kept his
hands at his sides, Branders didn't seem worth noticing.

"Make it?" asked the sergeant at the street door.

"Yes; we sign to-morrow, if our references are all right," Hal nodded
happily.

With a sudden recollection that soldiers must hold themselves erect,
Hal and Noll braced their shoulders until they thought they looked and
carried themselves very much as the sergeant did. They kept this pose
until they had turned the corner into Broadway.

"Whoop!" exploded the usually quiet Noll Terry unexpectedly.

"What's wrong, old fellow?" asked Hal quickly.

"Nothing! Everything's right, and we're soldiers at last!" cried Noll,
his eyes shining.

"At least, we shall be to-morrow, if all goes well," rejoined Hal.

"Oh, nonsense! Everything is going to go right, now. It can't go any
other way."

As he spoke, Noll turned to cross Broadway at the next corner.

Hal made a pounce forward, seizing his comrade by an arm. Then he backed
like a flash, dragging Noll back to the sidewalk with him. Even at that
a moving automobile brushed Noll's clothes, leaving a layer of dirt on
them.

"Things will go wrong, if you don't watch where you're going," cried Hal
rather excitedly. "Noll, Noll, don't try to walk on clouds, but remember
you're on Broadway."

"Let's get off of Broadway, then," begged young Terry. "I'm so tickled
that I want a chance to enjoy my thoughts."

"We'll cross and go down Broadway, then," Hal proposed. "I have the
address of a hotel with rates low enough to suit our treasury, and it's
some blocks below here."

"Say," muttered Noll, "of all the things I ever heard of! Think of Tip
Branders wanting to serve the Flag!"

The boys talked of this puzzle, mainly, until they reached their street
and crossed once more to go to the hotel. They registered, went to their
room, and here Noll put in the next twenty minutes in making his clothes
look presentable again.

"If you've got that done, let's go downstairs," proposed happy Hal. "I'm
hungry enough to scare the bill of fare clear off the table."

As they descended into the lobby Hal suddenly touched Noll's arm and
stood still.

"I guess Tip is going to stay right with us," whispered Overton in his
chum's ear. "That's Tip's mother over there in the chair. She and her
son must be stopping at this hotel."

"They surely are," nodded Noll, "for there's Tip himself just coming
in."

Neither mother nor son noted the presence of the chums near by.

Tip hurried up to his mother, a grin on his not very handsome face.

"Well, old lady," was that son's greeting, "I've gone and done it."

"You don't mean that you've gotten into any trouble, do you, Tip?" asked
his mother apprehensively.

"Trouble--nothing!" retorted Tip eloquently. "Naw! I've been around to
the rookie shed and got passed as a soldier in the Regular Army."

"What?" gasped his mother paling.

"Now, that ain't nothing so fierce," almost growled Tip. "But there is a
fool rule--me being under twenty-one--that you've got to go and give
your consent. So that's the cloth that's cut for you this afternoon, old
lady."

"Oh, oh, oh!" cried Mrs. Branders, sinking back in her chair and
covering her face with her hands. "What have I ever done that I should
be disgraced by having a son of mine going to--enlist in the Army!"



CHAPTER IV

MRS. BRANDERS GETS A NEW VIEW


THE chums waited to hear no more. It was none of their affair, so they
slipped into one of the adjacent dining rooms.

Hal's eyes were flashing with indignation over Mrs. Brander's remark.

Noll, on the other hand, was smiling quietly.

"That must be a severe blow to Mrs. Branders," murmured Noll aloud, as
the boys slipped into their chairs at table. "To think of gentle Tip
going off into anything as rough and brutal as the Army! And poor little
Tip raised so tenderly as a pet!"

As it afterwards turned out, however, Mrs. Branders, after offering her
son a present of a hundred dollars to stay out of the Army, had at last
tearfully given her consent to his becoming a soldier.

She even went to the recruiting office that afternoon with Tip, and gave
a reluctant consent to her son's enlistment.

"Be here at nine o'clock, sharp, to-morrow morning," directed Lieutenant
Shackleton.

It was doubtful if either youngster slept very well that night. Both
were too full of thoughts of the Army and of the service. When Hal did
dream it was of Indians and Filipinos.

Both were up early, and had breakfast out of the way in record time--and
then they hurried to Madison Square. They reached there ten minutes
ahead of time.

The sergeant, however, came along five minutes later, and admitted them
to the recruiting office.

Hardly had they stepped inside when Tip and his mother also appeared.
Then came the other enlisted men stationed at this office. Punctually at
the stroke of nine Lieutenant Shackleton entered, lifted his uniform cap
to Mrs. Branders and entered his own inner office.

"Now you kids will get orders to skin back home," jeered Tip, in a low
tone, as he glanced over at Hal and Noll.

"No pleasantries of that sort here," directed the sergeant, glancing up
from his desk.

The door of the inner office opened, and Lieutenant Shackleton stepped
out.

"Overton and Terry, your references prove to be absolutely good. I will
enlist you presently."

Then the officer moved over to where Tip Branders and his mother sat.
Tip rose awkwardly.

"Branders, I'm sorry to say we must decline your enlistment," announced
the recruiting officer, in a low tone.

"Wot's that?" demanded Tip unbelievingly.

"I find myself unable to accept you as a recruit in the Army," replied
the lieutenant.

"Why, wot's the matter?" demanded Tip, thunderstruck. "Didn't I get by
the sawbones all right?"

"If you mean the surgeon, yes," replied the recruiting officer. "But I
regret to say that we do not receive satisfactory accounts of you from
the home town."

"Wot's the matter? Somebody out home trying to give me the crisscross?"
demanded Tip indignantly.

"We do not receive a satisfactory account of your character, Branders,
and therefore you are not eligible for enlistment," went on Shackleton.
"Madam, I am extremely sorry, but the regulations allow me to pursue no
other course in the matter. I cannot enlist your son."

"See here, officer----" began Mrs. Branders hoarsely, as she got upon
her feet.

"When addressing Mr. Shackleton, call him 'lieutenant,' not 'officer,'"
murmured one of the orderlies in her ear.

"You mind your own business," flashed Mrs. Branders, turning her face
briefly to the orderly. Then she wheeled, giving her whole attention to
the lieutenant.

"See here, officer, do you mean to say that my boy ain't good enough to
get into the Army?"

"I am sorry, madam, but the report we receive of his character isn't
satisfactory," answered Shackleton quietly.

"What? My boy ain't good enough to go with the loafers and roughs in the
Army?" cried Mrs. Branders angrily. "He's too good for 'em--a heap sight
too good for any such low company! But s'posing Tip has been just a
little frisky sometimes, what has that got to do with his being a
soldier? I thought you wanted young fellows to fight--not pray!"

"The soldier who can do both makes the better soldier, madam," replied
the lieutenant, feeling sorry for the mother's humiliation. "And now I
will say good morning to you and your son, madam, for I am very busy
to-day. Overton and Terry, come into my office."

Before turning, Lieutenant Shackleton bowed to Mrs. Branders as
gracefully and courteously as he could have done to the President's
wife. Then he started for his office, leaving Mrs. Branders and Tip to
depart in bewilderment and anger.

Hal and Noll followed the lieutenant, trying not to let their faces
betray any feeling over Tip's troubles.

"You still wish to enlist?" asked Shackleton, turning to the waiting
lads, after he had seated himself.

"Yes, sir," answered both.

"Then you will sign the rolls," directed the recruiting officer, passing
papers forward, dipping a pen in ink and passing it to Hal.

Hal signed, slowly, with a solemn feeling. It was Noll's turn next.

"I will now administer the oath," continued Lieutenant Shackleton
gravely, as he rose at his desk. "Raise your right hand, Overton, and
repeat after me."

This was the oath of service that Hal repeated:

"'I Henry Overton, do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the United States of America; that I will serve them
honestly and faithfully against all their enemies whomsoever; and that I
will obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the
orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and
articles of war.'"

Then Noll took the same oath.

"You have already signed the same oath as a part of your enlistment
contract," continued Lieutenant Shackleton. "I have now to certify that
you have taken the oath and signed before me."

Seating himself once more the recruiting officer certified in the
following form on each set of papers:

          "Subscribed and duly sworn to before me this --
          day of ---- , A. D. ----

                       "THOMAS P. SHACKLETON,
                  "First Lieutenant, 17th Cavalry,
                                     "Recruiting Officer."

"That is all," finished the recruiting officer. "You are now recruits in
the United States Army. I wish you both all happiness and success. You
will take your further orders from my sergeant, or from the corporal to
whom he turns you over. You will probably find yourself at the recruit
rendezvous at Bedloe's Island in time for dinner to-day."

Touching a button on his desk the lieutenant waited until the sergeant
entered.

"Sergeant, turn these men over to Corporal Dodds. Come back in ten
minutes for the papers."

"Very good, sir."

The sergeant led them down the corridor, opening a door and leading the
way inside.

"Corporal Dodds, here are two recruits. Take care of them until I bring
the papers."

"Very good, Sergeant."

The door closed.

"Help yourselves to chairs, or stand and look out of the window, if
you'd rather," invited Corporal Dodds, who, himself, was seated at a
small desk.

Hal and Noll tried sitting down at first. This soon became so irksome
that they rose and went to one of the windows.

Corporal Dodds said nothing until the door opened once more, and the
sergeant entered with an envelope.

"Here are the papers for Privates Overton and Terry. You are directed to
see that the young men go with you on the eleven o'clock ferry to
Bedloe's Island. You will report with these recruits to the post
adjutant as usual."

"Very good, Sergeant," replied Corporal Dodds, and again the boys were
alone with their present guide.

To the raw young recruits it was a tremendously solemn day, but to the
corporal, it was simply a matter of dry routine.

"Ten-fifteen," yawned the corporal, at last. "Come along, rookies;
nothing like being on time--in the Army, especially."

"Rookie" is the term by which a new recruit is designated in Army slang.
It is a term of mild derision.

Corporal Dodds paused long enough at the recruiting office to turn over
his key to the sergeant; then he led the way to the street, across to
the Sixth Avenue Elevated road, and thence they embarked on a train
bound down town.

All the way to the Battery Corporal Dodds did not furnish his pair of
recruits with more than a dozen words by way of conversation.

But neither Hal nor Noll felt much like talking. Though either would
have died sooner than admit it, each was suffering, just then from acute
homesickness, and also from a secret dread that the Army might not turn
out to be as rosy as they had painted it in their imagination.

"This way to the Army ferry," directed Corporal Dodds, leading them
across the Battery.

Once aboard a small steamer that flew the flag of the Quartermaster's
Department, United States Army, Corporal Dodds watched his two young
rookies as though he suspected they would desert if they got a chance.

After the ferry had left the slip, however, Dodds paid no more heed to
them. He at least left them free to end it all by jumping over into the
bay, if they wished to do so.

Finding that he was under no restrictions, Private Hal Overton, United
States Army, sauntered forward to the bow. Private Noll Terry, feeling,
if anything a bit more forlorn, followed him.

Just as they were nearing the dock at Bedloe's Island, Noll ventured:

"I wonder how Tip Branders feels about now."

"I wonder," muttered Hal.



CHAPTER V

IN THE AWKWARD SQUAD


ONCE they were ashore our young rookies found Bedloe's Island a very
much larger bit of real estate than it appears to the passerby on a
steamboat.

It was, in fact, a long walk from the dock to the adjutant's office at
headquarters.

"Hit up the stride, rookies," ordered Corporal Dodds. "Double-time
march--hike. Don't keep the post adjutant from his luncheon."

Corporal Dodds' real reason for haste was that he had a crony in one of
the squad rooms at barracks whom he wanted to see as early as possible.

Shortly the rookies and their guide entered the adjutant's office. The
adjutant proved to be a captain of infantry with a corporal and two
privates on duty in his office as clerks.

"Sir, I report with two recruits," announced Corporal Dodds, coming to a
salute, which the adjutant returned.

"Their papers?" asked the adjutant.

"Here, sir."

"Very good, Corporal. You may go."

Turning to the chums Captain Anderson asked:

"You are Overton?"

"Yes, sir," Hal replied, doing his best to salute as neatly as Corporal
Dodds had. Again the adjutant returned the salute in kind. "Then you are
Terry?" he asked, turning.

"Yes, sir," Noll returned, not omitting to salute.

The adjutant called to his principal clerk.

"Corporal, make the proper entries for these men. Then take them over to
Sergeant Brimmer's squad room."

With that the adjutant picked up his uniform cap and left the office,
all the enlisted men present rising and standing at attention until he
had closed the door after him.

The corporal made the necessary entries, then rose and picked up his own
uniform cap.

"Come with me, rookies," he directed briefly.

So Hal and Noll followed, feeling within them another surge of that
curiously lonely and depressed feeling.

This corporal led them into the barracks building, and down a corridor
on the ground floor. He paused, at last, before a door that he flung
open. Striding into the room, the corporal looked about him.

"Where is Sergeant Brimmer?" he asked.

"Not here now," replied another corporal, coming forward.

"Two rookies. Hand 'em over to Brimmer when he comes in," replied the
conductor from the adjutant's office.

With that he strode out again, shutting the door after him.

The last corporal of all proved to be an older man than any of his
predecessors. He appeared to be about thirty-five years old; he was
tall, dark-featured and rather sullen-looking.

In this room there were twenty cot beds, arranged in two opposite rows,
with their heads to the walls. On each cot the bedding had been rolled
back in a peculiarly exact fashion.

At the further end of the squad room was a table and several chairs.

The occupants of the room, at this moment, were a dozen men, besides the
corporal. Three of the men, like our young rookies, were still wearing
the clothes in which they had enlisted. The others wore light blue
uniform trousers and fatigue blouses of dark blue. Some of these men in
uniform looked almost indescribably "slouchy." They were men who had
received their uniforms, but who had not yet had enough of the
setting-up drills to know how to wear their uniforms.

"What are you looking about you for?" demanded the corporal. "Wondering
why dinner ain't spread on that table yonder?"

"No," replied Hal quietly. "We're just waiting to be told what to do
with ourselves."

"What do I care what you do with yourselves?" demanded the corporal,
turning on his heel and walking away.

So Hal and Noll remained where they were, the feeling of loneliness
growing all the time.

"Don't mind Corporal Shrimp any more than you have to," advised one of
the uniformed rookies, coming over to them after a few moments. "Shrimp
is a terror and a grouch all the time. Sergeant Brimmer you'll find a
real old soldier, and a gentleman all the time."

"Then it's just our luck to find Sergeant Brimmer out," smiled Hal.

"Here he comes now," murmured the uniformed rookie, as the door of the
squad room opened.

At the first glimpse of the newcomer Hal made up his mind that he was
going to like Sergeant Brimmer. He was a man of about thirty, tall,
rather slender, erect, thoroughly well built, with light, almost golden
hair and mustache, and a keen but kindly blue eye.

"Recruits?" he asked, as he approached the boys.

Both answered in the affirmative.

"Corporal Shrimp," called Brimmer, "have you no report to make to me
about these new men?"

"Why, yes," answered Shrimp, coming from the further end of the room.
"These men have just been brought here from the adjutant. They're
assigned to your squad room."

"Very good, Corporal. Men, what are your names?"

Hal and Noll both answered.

"Friends?" asked Sergeant Brimmer.

"Chums," Hal stated.

"Then you'll be bunkies, too, of course. You want beds together, don't
you?"

"If we may have them," Noll answered.

"Follow me, then. Here you are. Eight and nine will be your beds until
further orders. Later, when you have your clothing issued, Corporal
Shrimp or I will show you how and where to take care of it. Now, men,
you'll likely find it a bit dull here for a day or two. Recruits
generally do. Then that will all wear off, and you'll be glad you're in
the Army. If there's anything you need to know, ask Corporal
Shrimp"--Hal winced inwardly--"or me. The mess call will soon go for
dinner. When it does, follow me outside, but take your places in the
rear of A Company, which is the recruit company that you now belong to.
I'll show you where to stand. New recruits don't march with the
battalion--not until they've been drilled enough to know how to march."

"Is there a battalion here, Sergeant?"

"Two recruit companies, at present. The non-commissioned officers, of
course, are trained soldiers. Then there are a few old-time privates in
each company--just enough to give the recruits some steadiness. The
trained privates also act as instructors sometimes."

With this remark Sergeant Brimmer moved away.

"He's all right," murmured Noll Terry. "If all were like Sergeant
Brimmer we wouldn't feel so lonely and blue."

Noll had let that last word escape him without thinking. But Hal, who
felt just as blue, pretended not to have heard.

"It'll all look different to us, just as soon as we get into uniform,
and get past the first breaking-in," predicted young Overton.

Ta-ra-ra-ra-ta! sounded a bugle, out in the corridor.

"That must be the call to dinner," muttered Hal.

But a uniformed recruit, passing them, stopped to say, pleasantly:

"No; that's first call to mess. Every call by the bugler has a 'first
call,' sounded just a little while before. That 'first call' is always
just the same strain. But the real call differs, according to what is
meant. The mess call itself, which is the one you'll hear next, sounds
like this."

The recruit hummed mess call for them.

"Thank you," acknowledged Hal gratefully.

"Feeling lonesome?" asked the uniformed rookie.

"J-j-just a bit," assented Hal.

"I'm getting almost over it," smiled the uniformed one, "The older men,
those who have seen service with a regiment, tell me that a man soon
gets to find delight in being in the Army. But that's after he has
gotten away from the recruit rendezvous."

"Oh, we'll get over it before then," promised Hal. "We'll be all over it
by to-morrow."

"Look out for that Shrimp," whispered the uniformed rookie.

"Does anyone ever need that warning, after seeing the corporal and
hearing him talk?" laughed Hal, in an undertone.

"Don't you rookies go to take this squad-room for a vawdy-vill show,"
growled Corporal Shrimp, from the near distance, as he heard the three
laughing. Sergeant Brimmer had just stepped outside.

Ta-ra-ta-ra-ta! sounded a bugle again in the corridor.

"A little time to ourselves now," whispered the uniformed recruit.
"That's mess call."

The men in the room were quickly filing out. Outside of barracks A
Company was falling in, with B Company to the left of it.

"You un-uniformed recruits take your position at the rear, without
forming," ordered Sergeant Brimmer coming up. "As your company starts
Corporal Shrimp will instruct you how to form at the rear of the
company."

What followed was little understood by the two recruits. But presently
the two first sergeants gave their commands, and marched their companies
into the mess hall.

"Fall in lively, there, by twos!" growled Shrimp roughly. "Hurry up!
Don't get in the way of the head of B Company!"

To give emphasis to his orders Shrimp seized Hal and Noll each by an arm
and swung them into place.

Both recruits went in with flushed faces. Shrimp's treatment had been
such as to make them feel uncomfortably "raw." But as the men marched to
their seats at the long tables in the mess hall this feeling of
humiliation left both boys.

Hal's new friend occupied a seat at their right.

"All the corporals ain't Shrimps," he whispered. "We've probably got
one of the meanest corporals in the Army."

"He knows how to make everyone else feel as mean as himself," Hal
whispered back.

Then all hands fell to at the meal, which tasted uncommonly good. It
consisted of a stew, with plenty of meat and potatoes, and other
vegetables in it. There was also bread and butter. Pie and coffee
followed. Then the recruit companies were marched out again and were
dismissed.

"We have twenty minutes for relaxation now," laughed Hal's new friend,
who had introduced himself as Private Stanley. "After that I suppose
Shrimp will get you for the setting-up drills. He always has the new men
in our squad room. He----"

At this moment Sergeant Brimmer stepped up to the trio as they stood in
the open air chatting.

"Overton and Terry, you'll be under Corporal Shrimp's orders after the
recreation period. He'll instruct you in some of the first work of the
recruit. Go with him when he orders you to turn out."

"Very good, Sergeant."

No sooner had a bugle sounded than Corporal Shrimp appeared, followed by
two other un-uniformed rookies walking behind him.

"You, Overton, and you, Terry, fall in by twos behind these two raw
rookies," ordered Shrimp. "Try to act a bit as though you were marching,
at that. Don't be too dumb! Forward!"

Conscious that they were not cutting much of a figure, Hal and Noll
followed the pair ahead of them.

Shrimp led them to a bit of green some distance away from any of the
larger drill grounds.

"Squad halt!" he rumbled. "Now, rookies, you'll fall in in single rank,
facing the front and about four inches apart. No, no, ye idiots!" as the
four rookies started confusedly to obey. "You'll wait until I give the
order 'fall in.' When I do, Overton, being the tallest, will take his
place at the right, Terry next him, then Strawbridge, and then Healy.
Now, rookies, d'ye think ye understand? And you'll take your places
about four inches apart--just enough distance to allow each man the free
use of his body. Fall in!"

So confused were the poor rookies under the scowling glances of Shrimp
that, in their haste to obey, they nearly upset each other.

"Ye're a bad lot," commented the corporal, eyeing them with extreme
disfavor. "You don't even know how to judge the interval between each
man. Now, let every man except the man at the left rest his left hand
on his hip, just below where his belt would be if he wore one. Let the
right arm hang flat at the side. Now, each man move up so that his right
arm just touches his neighbor's left elbow. Careful, there! Don't crowd.
Now, let your left arms fall flat. There, you ostriches, you have the
interval from man to man as well as rookies can get it inside of a week.
Now, each one of you note his interval from the man at his right. So.
Fall out!"

Without moving the rookies stood looking uncertainly at Corporal Shrimp.

"Fall out, I say!" roared the corporal.

"Do we go back to the squad room?" asked one of the rookies.

"Listen to the man, now!" growled Shrimp. "Do you go back to the squad
room! You'll be lucky if ye ever live to see the squad room again. Fall
out--fall out of ranks, ye idiots!"

"Oh," answered the same rookie. "Why didn't you say so?"

"Why didn't I say so?" roared Shrimp. "Why didn't I say so, indeed!
Ye'll take the order the way I give it--not the way ye want it. When I
tell ye to fall in, that means to get into line, with the proper
interval from man to man. When I say fall out, ye're to get out of ranks
again. Now, then--fall in!"

In a twinkling the recruits jumped to obey. Shrimp surveyed their
alignment with a scowl. Nothing that a recruit could do would satisfy
him.

"Left hand on the hips, again. Now, get the interval--get it!" roared
Shrimp. "Dress up there, ye rookie idiots!"

Shrimp would have made an excellent drillmaster had he possessed the
patience and the human decency of Sergeant Brimmer. But this corporal
made his work doubly hard, and hindered the rookies from learning, by
his persistent nagging and bad temper.

"Now, we'll see whether ye can do as well at learning the position of
the soldier," he snapped out nastily, after a while. "Whenever, in
barracks, or elsewhere, in ranks or out, if you hear the command,
'Attention,' ye'll come to the position of the soldier. Now, watch me,
ye thick-pated rookies, and, as I describe it, bit by bit, I'll come to
the position of the soldier."

After lounging for an instant Corporal Shrimp continued:

"Heels on the same line, and as near together as possible. Turn your
feet out equally so that they form an angle of sixty degrees."

Then, straightening up, this irate drillmaster went on:

"Hold your knees straight, but don't have 'em stiff. Keep your body
erect on the hips, but inclined ever so little forward; keep your
shoulders squared, and let 'em fall equally. Let your arms and hands
hang naturally, with the backs of the hands outward and the little
fingers almost touching the seams of your trousers legs. Keep your
elbows near the body. Head erect and square to the front. Draw yer chin
in slightly, but don't hold it as if it was glued there, and keep yer
eyes straight to the front."

Corporal Shrimp illustrated excellently in his own person. But then he
glared at the rookies and shouted, "Attention!"

Of course none of the rookies did it just right.

"Fall out! Overton, ye lobster, come on the carpet before me, and I'll
teach ye or make ye crazy!"

"The--the carpet?" asked Hal, staring dubiously. His head was tired from
the corporal's badgering, or he would have been brighter.

"On that spot!" glared Shrimp, pointing at the grass about six feet in
front of him, and adding an oath that made Hal's face flush. But young
Overton obeyed, nevertheless. Shrimp scolded and hounded, but Hal did
his best to keep his patience and really learn. Then it was Noll's turn.
Terry came in for a worse badgering than ever.

"Ye bandy-legged griddle-greaser!" snarled Shrimp, beside himself. "Is
that what ye call letting yer arms hang naturally. Where did ye get yer
ideas of nature, anyway, ye spindle-shanked carpenter's apprentice?"

Sergeant Brimmer had stepped within view, though behind the corporal's
back, and stood looking quietly on.

"Ye wart on an Army buzzard!" howled Shrimp. "Ye----"

"That will do, Corporal," broke in Sergeant Brimmer quietly. "You're
relieved, Corporal. I have time to take over the squad myself. You may
go to the squad room."

Shrimp turned with a glare, but with the snarl somehow dying on his
lips. He gasped with anger and humiliation, then turned about and
stalked away toward barracks.

During the next hour things went along very differently. Sergeant
Brimmer was an alert drillmaster, and he permitted no lagging or
indifference on the part of the recruits. Neither did he hesitate to
single out any rookie who did a thing improperly. But the sergeant's
method of drilling was wholly manly. He was patient, even if firm, and
he called no rookie uncomplimentary names.

"Fall out," ordered the sergeant presently. "Sit down if you want to,
men, or walk about. And I'll answer any questions that you may want to
ask me out of ranks."

"What a difference between non-coms," uttered Hal to Noll, as the two
chums stepped away a few yards. "Sergeant Brimmer is a man, first of
all. I'd cheerfully drill under him until I dropped."

"Non-com" is the abbreviation used in the Army for non-commissioned
officer--a corporal or sergeant.

"I hope we don't have to have much to do with Shrimp," muttered Noll
Terry. "And I hope we don't find many Shrimps in the Army."

"Fall in!" sounded Sergeant Brimmer's voice, at last. How the young
rookies sprang to obey, their eyes shining with interest!

Sergeant Brimmer now began to explain the "rests." Next he came to the
salute. For some minutes he drilled them in the first principles of
marching. But brief rests were frequent, and during these rests he
answered all questions put to him.

"Fall in!" he shouted once more. The rookies fell in as eagerly as
before. "Squad, attention!"

At that instant a far-off bugle sounded.

"That closes this period of instruction," announced the sergeant.
"Dismissed!"

As the four broke out of ranks Hal approached their instructor
respectfully.

"Sergeant, 'dismissed' means that we're through, doesn't it?"

"Yes, Overton. And this squad is dismissed until supper time. You can
return to squad room, or you may remain about out-doors, if you'd
rather. Don't go far away from barracks, though."

"Thank you," Hal replied, and turned away with Noll.



CHAPTER VI

THE TROUBLE WITH CORPORAL SHRIMP


"I DON'T want to say or think anything disloyal," laughed Noll, as the
two chums turned in at barracks, "but I wish Shrimp would desert."

"I wish we could have Sergeant Brimmer to teach us all the time,"
returned Hal. "I can't believe that Corporal Shrimp is any good to the
service."

"I wouldn't be any good if I had to stand around for a fellow like
Shrimp all the time," Noll answered. "How different it is when we are
under a real soldier like the sergeant."

Corporal Shrimp was alone in the squad room when the two chums entered.
The corporal was scowling sulkily until he caught sight of Hal and Noll.

"Come over to yer beds, ye two blamed rookies!" ordered Shrimp, jumping
up. "I'll be bound ye know nothing yet of how to fold yer bedding."

"No, we don't," replied Hal, with an outward respect that he was far
from feeling.

"Then watch me, bandy-legs, while I put yer bed down in regulation
style."

Shrimp quickly threw the bedding down on Hal's cot. With the deft hands
of the trained soldier Shrimp made the bed up with neatness and
dispatch.

"And in the morning, after first call to reveille," continued the
Corporal, "ye'll turn yer mattress up--so. And fold and lay the
bedding--so. Now, let's see ye shake down yer bed and make it."

This task Hal performed rather well for the first time trying. But
Shrimp found a lot of fault, volubly, then finally shoved Hal Overton
aside and finished the bed-making with a few deft touches.

"Now, turn up yer mattress, and fold yer bedding," ordered the corporal.

Hal started patiently to obey, but there was no pleasing Shrimp. He
vented a couple of oaths, evidently in order to make the matter clearer.

"Now, do it over again," ordered Shrimp roughly.

"This fellow is venting his spite on us because he's angry at the way
Sergeant Brimmer relieved him this afternoon," thought Hal hotly. Yet he
tried patiently to follow out his instructions.

In the meantime four or five other recruits had entered the squad room.

"Here ye gibbering monkey! Not that way!" snarled Shrimp. "Stand aside!"

Seizing Hal by the shoulders Shrimp deliberately hurled him out into the
middle of the squad room. Hal did not fall, but he wheeled about, his
eyes flashing.

Corporal Shrimp stood surveying him angrily.

"Making faces at me, are ye, ye Army-lawyer?" howled Shrimp, springing
toward Hal.

He launched a blow full at the young rookie. Private Overton, who had
some knowledge of boxing and of its companion foot-work, stepped aside.

But as Shrimp recovered and prepared to launch another blow, Hal Overton
threw his hands up at guard.

Then recollecting that he was a private soldier, under discipline, Hal
let his hands fall uselessly at his side, while a hot flush of shame
mounted to his brow.

"Going to hit me, were ye?" sneered Shrimp, in an ugly tone. "It's well
ye didn't! Now, stand where ye are till I take some of the conceit out
of ye!"

Shrimp raised his right fist deliberately.

"Corporal!"

There was no mistaking that crisp tone. It was one of sharp command.
Sergeant Brimmer, who had just opened the door and looked in, now came
striding down the squad room.

"Corporal, stand at attention!"

Shrimp wheeled about, coming to the position of the soldier as he faced
the sergeant. But the corporal's countenance was still as black as
thunder. Sergeant Brimmer, too, was thoroughly angry, though righteously
so.

"Corporal Shrimp, you're in arrest for striking at and humiliating a
private soldier. Come with me to the company commander."

"Now, see here, Sergeant," began Shrimp hoarsely, "you don't know what I
have to put up with with these rookies. I have to do something to keep
discipline among men who are new to barracks. I----"

"Hold your tongue and come with me," insisted Sergeant Brimmer crisply.

There was no disregarding that angry, authoritative tone. As the
sergeant wheeled Shrimp turned and went with him, as though stricken
suddenly dumb.

"Good enough!" rose a cry, as the door closed on the two non-coms.

"Got what he needs," muttered some one else.

"I hope he stays in arrest," added another rookie. "This squad room was
a good deal like a madhouse when the sergeant wasn't here."

Twenty minutes went by before the door opened to admit Sergeant Brimmer
on his return.

"Now, men, come close. I want to tell you a few things," began the
sergeant. "The first is this. No non-commissioned officer has any right
to swear at any of you. It is in violation of regulations. If any
non-commissioned officer calls you vile names, or swears at you, it is
your right, and your duty, too, to report it to the non-commissioned
officer in charge of the squad room. If he fails to take heed of your
complaint, then go to the first sergeant of the company. If he fails to
heed your complaint, then go to the company commander. Is that clear?"

The recruits nodded.

"Second," pursued Sergeant Brimmer, "no non-commissioned officer has any
right to strike you, unless it be strictly in self-defense, or in
defense of an officer who is threatened by you. You have the same remedy
of complaint, if any non-commissioned officer strikes you, or lays
violent hands on you, as in the case of vile or profane language. Is
that clear."

"Yes, Sergeant," came from all sides.

"Any questions?" asked Sergeant Brimmer, looking about him.

"Has any officer any right to direct bad language at an enlisted man, or
to strike him?" queried Noll.

"The officer has no more right than anyone else, except in an emergency
of danger to himself or others," replied Sergeant Brimmer. "But there's
this difference: I've been in the Army fourteen years, and I never knew
an officer to degrade himself in that fashion. But occasionally a
non-commissioned officer will so disgrace himself. Either the officer or
non-commissioned officer who swears at or strikes an enlisted man may be
court-martialed, and, if it is found that he is guilty, he is dismissed
from the service."

"We've had an awful lot to put up with from Corporal Shrimp, Sergeant,"
announced one of the uniformed recruits.

"I'm afraid you have, men. But I don't want you to carry tales to me.
Tale-bearing is never worth while, nor encouraged, in the Army. Corporal
Shrimp's case is now before the commanding officer. To-night or
to-morrow an officer will be here to take the complaints of any of you
men who have grievances. You will be expected to complain to the officer
only about wrongs that have been done you by Corporal Shrimp. The
officer will not permit any tale-bearing about anything that happened to
anyone else. Corporal Shrimp is now in another squad room, under arrest.
He will probably be court-martialed. In any case he won't return here
until his case has been thoroughly disposed of."

The door opened, and a corporal of twenty-five years, or under, entered,
striding straight up to Brimmer.

"Sergeant, I am directed by the company commander to report to you for
quarters and duty here," announced the newcomer.

"Very good, Corporal Davis. I will assign you to your cot at once."

The new corporal was speedily assigned, after which the sergeant left
the room on duty.

"Are there any new recruits here who do not fully understand the care of
their bedding?" inquired Corporal Davis pleasantly.

"I do not, Corporal," Hal answered.

"Nor do I," came from Noll.

"Which are your beds, then?" asked Davis promptly.

Within fifteen minutes both Hal and Noll knew how to make beds, and how
to fold them away for the day.

Davis proved to be a younger edition of the sergeant. He was not
familiar with the recruits, but taught what he was there to teach, and
did it with a mingling of firmness and patience.

"From policing of quarters in the morning until tattoo at night," went
on Corporal Davis, "you are not allowed to take down your bedding and
make up the bed, except under orders for purposes of instruction. At
tattoo you may make up your bed and turn in promptly, if you wish. At
taps you must have your bed made, and get into it at once. Any man up
after taps, except by permission, is subject to discipline."

Supper call came soon after. When the evening meal was finished our
young rookies found that they had the evening to themselves. They could
stay in squad room, or could go out into the open, if they preferred,
though, as rookies, they could not roam as they pleased over the whole
post.

Hal and Noll elected to take a stroll after supper.

"Hal," proposed Noll, "I want to ask you something."

"Permission granted," laughed Private Overton.

"Do you think you're going to like the Regular Army as much as you
expected!"

"Yes, siree," replied Hal promptly, and with enthusiasm. "Shrimp was
hard to swallow, and he would have made this place purgatory to us. But
he was caught, red-handed, and we've had a lesson, the first day in the
service, that real justice rules always in the Army. The breaking-in as
recruits, Noll, is going to be harder than I thought, even if we have
such fine men as Brimmer and Davis all the time. But, after we get
through that period, and at last know our duties and understand the
life, we're going to be mighty glad that we took the oath and enlisted
under the Flag."

"It's mighty good to hear you say that," replied Noll Terry almost
gratefully. "But I'm afraid we have a fearful lot ahead of us to learn.
It will take an awfully long time to learn all we have got to know, I
fear."

"A recruit generally stays about three months at the rendezvous," Hal
went on. "After that he's drafted to his regiment, sent away to join it,
and then he's a real soldier at last."

"With still a lot to learn, though," added Noll.

"Yes," Hal assented. "I imagine that the real soldier always learns as
long as he remains in the service."

After a long walk, doubling back and forth over some roads and paths
several times, our young rookies found themselves looking at the water
by the Jersey end of the island.

"I wonder if we'd be allowed to go over there by the water's edge!"
suggested Hal. "It would be fine to sit down there and hear the waves
lap up against the shore. I don't want to go in yet, Noll, but I am
tired enough to want to sit down."

"Here comes some one in uniform," murmured Noll.

It was a sergeant passing, though one the rookies had not seen before.

"Sergeant," called Hal, "may I ask you a question?"

"Of course," answered the sergeant, halting and regarding them.

"We're rookies; just joined to-day," continued Hal. "We were wondering
if it would be any breach of discipline for us to go over there by the
shore and sit down near the water for a while."

"There's no rule against it," replied the sergeant. "But I'd advise you
to be back before taps, for it generally takes a recruit some time to
get his bed made right."

"Thank you, Sergeant. We'll be sure to go back in time."

As the sergeant passed on Hal and Noll headed for the shore.

"Here's as good a place as any, Noll," said Hal, as they reached the
shore. He pointed to a little depression in the ground. There was a
little rise of ground before them as they threw themselves down flat,
though it did not wholly shut off their view of the water.

Little waves lapped up monotonously against the beach.

"My, but that's a sound to make one drowsy," laughed Noll contentedly.

"We mustn't let it have that effect on us," uttered Hal, half in alarm.
"I am tired, but it would never do to fall asleep here and be late at
tattoo. I don't know what kind of scrape that would get us into."

"Do you know," went on Noll, "this day's doings all seem like parts of a
dream to me. I can't realize, yet, that I'm a soldier. I suppose it's
because we haven't our uniforms yet."

"That has something to do with it, of course," nodded Hal. "I thought
this a pretty good suit of clothes when I left home, but now I feel
actually shabby and fearfully awkward when I look about me at older
recruits in their snappy uniform. It'll really seem like a big load off
my mind, Noll, when I find myself in the blue."

"The fellows tell me that a rookie generally has his first issue of
uniform in about three days," said Noll. "That won't be so very long to
wait."

"Won't it, though?" almost grumbled Hal. "Any time at all is too long to
wait, when we've been dreaming so long about wearing the uniform."

"Why, we'd be a discredit to the uniform at present," smiled Noll.
"Think how awkward we looked and felt, and were to-day. It seemed as
though it were going to be simply impossible to learn the first steps of
a soldier's business."

"We'll learn faster, now," suggested Hal; "now that Shrimp has gone out
of our lives."

"_Has_ he gone out of our lives, I wonder?" mused Noll.

"Say," hinted Hal, "I'd have given a lot to have seen Tip Branders
drilling under Shrimp."

"I don't suppose we'll be very likely to see Tip again, for some years,"
suggested Noll.

In this he was in error, as will presently appear.

"How's the time running along, I wonder?" was Noll's next thought.

Hal drew his watch from a pocket, laid it on the ground, and struck a
match, screening the blaze with his hands.

"We've nearly an hour yet," Overton answered.

"I don't know but we'd better go back before we have to," ventured Noll.
"Hullo, there's a boat out there, putting in this way."

Though neither of the boys knew it some of the glow of the burning match
had been visible in the darkness out on the water, and this boat was
coming in answer to a fancied signal.

"I'm going to watch that boat a bit," whispered Hal in his chum's ear.

"Why?"

"Well, I don't believe it has any right to land here at night. Any
boatman here on honest business ought to go around to the dock, I
think."

"Pooh!" breathed Noll.

"Don't make any noise, anyway."

It was very dark, but the rookies could see a small rowboat head into
the beach just a little way below them. There was one man in the boat,
and he promptly sounded a low, cautious whistle. It was answered from
behind the young recruits, somewhere. Then the sound of steps.

Some one was approaching, and the boatman, standing up in his craft,
listened, then called in a low voice:

"That you, Sim?"

"Yep."

"Good!" answered the boatman. "I got your word, 'phoned from New York.
I've got cit clothes for you in the boat, also a weight to sink your
uniform with, when you make the change."

Now the newcomer trod down straight past the place of concealment of the
boys. Something in his figure was wholly familiar.

"Why, that's Corporal Shrimp!" called Hal, springing up and running down
toward the shore. Noll followed his chum on the instant, both arriving
at once.

"Well, what do you rookies want here?" demanded Shrimp, turning upon
them with an oath.

"I guess we're here on duty," clicked Hal resolutely. "You're supposed
to be in arrest, Corporal, and here you are leaving the post on the
sly!"

"I'm out of arrest, and on duty. Stand aside!" snarled Shrimp, his look
becoming very ugly.

"Is it a kind of duty that calls for you to sneak away in this fashion,
put on citizen's clothes, and sink your uniform in the bay?" demanded
Private Overton mockingly. "If you tell me that, Corporal, I don't
believe you."

Corporal Shrimp uttered another ugly oath. Then, with a flashing
movement, he drew a service revolver from under his blouse and thrust
the muzzle almost in Private Overton's face.



CHAPTER VII

WHEN THE GUARD CAME


"LOOK out, Sim Shrimp!" called the boatman quickly, warningly.

For, while Hal had stood looking gamely at the revolver, Noll Terry had
side-stepped, and now leaped at the corporal.

Whack! Noll struck up the glinting barrel of the weapon.

Private Overton, seeming to move in the same instant, leaped forward in
front.

Bang! The revolver was discharged, but harmlessly into the air, as both
rookies tackled the corporal and bore him to the ground.

"Help, here, Bill!" cried Shrimp, as he found himself going over
backward.

The boatman leaned over to snatch up an oar. As he rose with it he saw
Private Hal Overton rise with the corporal's revolver in his hand.

"Stay where you are, Corporal, and don't make any fuss," advised Hal
grimly. "Your friend had better stay where he is if he doesn't want to
know what it feels like to have a bullet going through him."

"Drop that gun, and let me up! Get out of my way," ordered Shrimp.
"You're interfering with me in the discharge of my duty, and I'll put
you both in a lot of trouble."

"Don't you try to get up," ordered Noll, who had thrown himself across
the corporal and was holding him down.

"Sentry!" yelled Hal. "Sentry."

He should have called, "Corporal of the guard!" but he didn't know that.

Another shot at some distance was heard, followed by a lusty shout from
a sentry of:

"Corporal of the guard, post number seven!"

"Let me up out of this, and I'll let you both off," proposed Corporal
Simeon Shrimp.

"You'll stay just where you are," ordered Hal, "and I give you my word
that, if I see any signs of your trying to escape, I'll drill you
through with all the bullets this revolver carries."

Running feet were now coming rapidly their way.

"Lemme go--boys, do," pleaded the corporal brokenly, terror ringing in
his voice. "Boys, you don't know what fearful trouble you'll get me
into."

"That's a different song," retorted Private Hal Overton dryly. "But it
wouldn't do any good to let you go now. Your friend has shoved off, and
is rowing like mad."

The steps of running men now came nearer.

[Illustration: Both Rookies Tackled the Corporal.]

"This way, Corporal of the guard!" called Private Overton.

In another moment the corporal and two men of the guard raced to the
spot.

"This is Corporal Shrimp. He was under arrest, and trying to escape,"
announced Hal. "There was a friend of his here with a boat, and he's out
yonder now, Corporal, trying to get away."

"Load with ball cartridge, hail that boat, and fire if the man doesn't
come about promptly and row in," ordered the corporal, turning to one of
the members of the guard.

The soldier so directed loaded his rifle like lightning.

"Boat ahoy, turn about and come back!" shouted the soldier.

There was no answer from the water.

"Turn about and come back," repeated the soldier.

Still no answer. Then, after a third hail, the soldier raised his rifle
to his shoulder, sighting as best he could in the darkness.

Bang! The rifle spat forth a jet of fire and sent a bullet whistling
over the water.

"Send a couple of more shots after him," ordered the corporal.

Still no answer from out on the water. And, by this time, the boat was
so far away in the darkness that it was impossible to judge in which
direction to aim.

"Cease firing. The rascal has escaped," said the corporal of the guard.
"You are recruits, aren't you?" turning to Hal and Noll.

"Yes, Corporal."

"You're right about Corporal Shrimp being in arrest. Corporal, you've
taken a long chance in breaking your arrest like this."

Shrimp said not a word. He was cunning enough to know that nothing he
could say now would help his case any.

Suddenly one of the two members of the guard stepped forward, bringing
his rifle to port.

"Halt!" he called. "Who goes there?"

"Sergeant of the guard," replied another voice out of the darkness.

"Advance, Sergeant of the guard, to be recognized."

Not only the sergeant came forward, but four other members of the guard
with him.

"Corporal Shrimp, breaking arrest and attempting to desert, Sergeant,"
reported the corporal of the guard.

"Shrimp, what a fool you've been to-day!" muttered Sergeant Collins.
"Let him up, men. Hold out your hands, Corporal Shrimp. I've got to do
it."

His face sallow with dread and humiliation, Shrimp held out his hands,
while the sergeant snapped a pair of handcuffs into place over his
wrists.

"March the prisoner to the guard-house, Corporal," directed the sergeant
of the guard. Then he turned to Private Hal, who still held the
revolver.

"You two are recruits?"

"Yes, Sergeant."

"You stopped the prisoner from escaping?"

"Yes, Sergeant."

"Where did you get that revolver?"

"It is the one that Corporal Shrimp drew on us when we attempted to
prevent him from escaping."

"You took it away from him in a scuffle?"

"Yes, Sergeant."

"Mighty fine work for a pair of young recruits," declared Sergeant
Collins promptly. "Your names?"

Hal and Noll informed the sergeant of the guard on this point as the
sergeant turned on his way back to the guard-house.

"You'll come with me, Overton and Terry. The officer of the day will
need to hear your statements."

"We'll not be censured, Sergeant, for being late at the squad room?"

"Hardly," came the dry retort. "You're now under orders from the guard.
Don't worry, men."

Shrimp's voice was audible once more. He was swearing volubly over the
trick that fate had played him.

"Stop that prisoner's swearing," ordered Sergeant Collins sharply.

In a short time the guard party reached the post guard-house.

Lieutenant Mayberry, officer of the day, stood just outside of the door.

"What have you there, Corporal?" asked Lieutenant Mayberry curiously.

"Corporal Shrimp, sir, for breaking arrest and attempting to desert,
sir," replied the corporal of the guard, bringing his hand to his piece
in a rifle salute, which the officer of the day acknowledge by bringing
his right hand up to the visor of his cap.

"Where did you catch him?"

"At the shore, sir, over there," replied the corporal of the guard,
pointing.

"There's no sentry post over there, Corporal."

"No, sir; the prisoner was caught by two rook--recruits, sir."

"Two recruits?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where are they?"

"Coming, sir, with the sergeant of the guard."

At this moment Sergeant Collins stepped forward into the light.

"These are the two recruits, sir, who caught the prisoner," announced
Sergeant Collins, making the rifle salute.

"Your names and company, men?" asked Lieutenant Mayberry.

"Private Overton, A Company, sir," replied Hal, saluting.

"Private Terry, A Company, sir," from Noll.

"How long have you men been on post?" asked the officer of the guard.

"Since about noon, to-day, sir." Hal was spokesman this time.

"And you've already started your Army career by catching a man in the
act of desertion?" cried the lieutenant. "Men, you're beginning well.
Corporal, lock the prisoner in a cell. Then report to me at my desk.
Sergeant, bring Privates Overton and Terry inside with you."

Hal and Noll, the sergeant and the corporal soon stood grouped before
the desk of the officer of the day. Sergeant Collins had turned over the
revolver that Private Hal had taken from Shrimp.

Lieutenant Mayberry listened with very evident interest as the story of
the capture was unfolded to him.

"Corporal, did you see the boat in question?" asked the officer of the
day, at last.

"Yes, sir, though very indistinctly, in the distance. It was out of
sight in the darkness, an instant after, sir."

"But there can be no doubt that the boat was there, Corporal?"

"I am absolutely certain of it, sir," replied the corporal.

"That is all, now," finished Lieutenant Mayberry. "Overton and Terry, I
am going to commend you, in an off-hand way, now, for your judgment and
intelligence to-night. You have made an excellent beginning. You may
very likely hear from the commanding officer later."

At that moment a bugle call was heard.

"That's taps, isn't it?" asked Hal, realizing for the first time how
time had passed at the guard-house.

"Yes," replied Sergeant Collins. "Tattoo went some time ago."

"You won't find yourselves in any trouble, men," broke in Lieutenant
Mayberry, with a slight smile. "Report to the non-commissioned officer
in charge of your squad room that you have been at the guard-house under
orders."

As soon as dismissed Hal and Noll made a swift spurt for barracks.

"Too bad, the first night, men," said Sergeant Brimmer quietly, meeting
them just inside the door of the squad room.

Hal promptly accounted for both himself and his chum.

"Whew!" whistled the startled sergeant softly. "You caught Corporal
Shrimp in the act of deserting? Men, your time to get square came around
soon, didn't it?"

"We didn't do it to get square, Sergeant," replied Hal. "We did it as a
matter of military duty."

"Well, go softly to your beds, men. I'll go with you, to see that you
make 'em up according to rule."

As Sergeant Brimmer went back to his own iron cot he muttered to
himself:

"Caught Shrimp, and turned him over to the guard! Those lads are going
to make good soldiers. And it won't pay any comrade to make enemies of
them needlessly."



CHAPTER VIII

THE CALL TO COMPANY FORMATION


UNIFORMED rookies at last!

How proud each of our young rookies felt when at last he had a chance to
survey himself in a glass.

Never, it seemed, had uniforms fitted quite as neatly before.

Never, at all events, had young recruits felt any keener delight than
did Hal and Noll when they found themselves in their first infantry
uniforms.

From that happy instant they were looked upon as the two brightest,
keenest recruits on post.

On the first day of their uniformed lives Sergeant Brimmer came to them.

"You are directed to fall in at parade, this afternoon, without arms. At
formation I will place you in the rear rank."

Though they had their uniforms, their rifles had not yet been issued.

"What does it all mean?" wondered Noll. "We're not promoted to the
company yet. We're not out of the squad work yet."

"We can wait to find out what it means," Hal answered. "It won't be
many hours till parade time, now."

Then, at the bugle call, these young soldiers hurried outside, where
Corporal Davis formed them and marched them away.

Having finished with the "school of the soldier" our two rookies were
now in the "school of the squad."

In a company of infantry the squad consists of seven privates and a
corporal. Marching in column of twos, or in column of fours, the
corporal's place is on the left of the front rank of the squad; he
himself makes the eighth man. But, for purposes of instructing recruits,
the squad consists of eight rookies and a corporal.

Davis now led them away to the field, where he halted them.

"We will first," he announced, "take up the six setting-up drills of the
manual, and go through with them three or four times. You men will do it
as snappily as possible to-day."

These exercises consist of various gymnastic movements with the arms, of
bending until the hands touch the ground, and of leg-raising work. The
setting-up drills are very similar to ordinary work without apparatus in
a gymnasium--but with this difference: the rookie is made to go through
with them more and more snappily each time that he is set to the work.
The result is that, within a few weeks, an awkward and perhaps
shuffling, shambling young man is trained and built into the erect,
alert, snappy and dignified soldier.

The setting-up work performed, Corporal Davis next drilled the rookies
in alignments, interval-taking, marchings, turnings and "about," which
corresponds to the old-time "about-face." It might be well to remark
that all military commands in these days, have been greatly simplified
as compared with the old style of doing things.

Davis was an alert and industrious instructor, yet he abused none of the
men, nor ever lost his patience. He was making rapid progress with this
squad.

"Fall out," he called, from time to time.

"To-morrow you will have your arms issued to you," he announced during
one of the rests. "Then you will learn the manual of arms, and also how
to march with arms. Your work will be harder, but you're being prepared
for harder work now."

By this time Hal and Noll had been in the Army nearly three weeks. Some
of the rookies in the same squad had been in the service considerably
longer. The length of time that he remains a recruit depends very much
upon the rookie himself.

"Our arms?" said Noll to his chum. "That's the last step toward being a
real soldier."

"No; the last step is when your company commander pronounces you a
qualified private soldier," rejoined Hal Overton. "And that's after
you've been drafted into a real regiment, at that."

The loneliness had all vanished now. Both Hal and Noll were now wholly
in love with the life, and anxious for the day when they should be sent
forth to their regiment. They had requested that they be sent to the
same regiment, and had little doubt but that their wish would be
granted.

No longer did the arduous work make them tired. Instead, the steady,
brisk and systematic exercise left them keen and very much alive when
the command "dismissed" came.

At last a bugle sounded the recall for the rookie squads. Corporal Davis
finished the instruction in which he was engaged, then called out:

"Halt! Dismissed."

In an instant the rookies left the ranks, glad of a bit of play-time
before supper.

But Davis called after two of them:

"Overton and Terry, don't forget that you're under orders to report at
company formation before parade this afternoon."

"We won't forget it, Corporal," Hal answered.

"Why are you ordered to company formation?" asked one of the men of the
squad curiously.

"We haven't the least idea," Hal answered frankly.

"Oh, well, I can be near enough to find out," rejoined the curious one.

"Say," suggested Noll almost excitedly, "it can't be that we're
considered far enough advanced to turn out with the company?"

"Hardly likely," murmured Hal, "when we don't know the manual of arms
yet."

"Then what----"

"Wait."

Yet Hal Overton was certainly decidedly curious, despite his coolness.
Both our young rookies hung about until they heard first call for
parade. Then they hurried toward the company parade ground.

Soon the fall-in order was given, and the older rookies fell in under
arms. Sergeant Brimmer, true to his word, stepped up and placed Hal and
Noll six paces to the rear of the second platoon.

"Obey all orders that do not call for the manual of arms," was his
parting instruction. Then Brimmer went to his own position.

The company was assembled, roll-call followed and there was a brief
inspection of arms. While this was going on the post adjutant appeared
and took up post.

"Publish the orders," commanded the captain, at last.

From the breast of his blouse the adjutant drew forth an official paper.
While the men in ranks stood at order arms, the adjutant read aloud:

"'For exceptional zeal, intelligence and loyalty in preventing the
escape and attempted desertion of a prisoner, Recruit Privates Overton
and Terry are hereby commended.'"

This was signed by the post commander.

Now Sergeant Brimmer stepped over to Hal and Noll with military stride,
saying briskly:

"Recruit Privates Overton and Terry dismissed."

That was all. Brimmer was already on his way back to his own post.

"Was that all we turned out for with the company?" asked Noll in a low
voice.

"Wasn't it enough?" retorted Hal in an equally low tone, as they watched
the manoeuvres of the company at a distance.

"There's one thing we didn't get commended for in that order," Noll went
on.

"What was that?"

"Well, we had to tackle an armed man when we went up against the
Shrimp. The order didn't say anything about courage."

"That's because only exceptional courage is ever mentioned in orders,"
Hal explained. "Any soldier is expected to have courage enough to face
firearms."

When Sergeant Brimmer returned to squad room after parade he came
straight over to Hal and Noll.

"That was a pretty good thing for you this afternoon, men," he commented
pleasantly. "It isn't often that a rookie gets commended in orders."

"Does it bring any more pay?" laughed Noll.

"No; but, my man, it goes on your record, and that's worth something.
The commendation that was read out in orders this afternoon goes forward
to your new colonel, when you're drafted to a line regiment, and that
commendation becomes a part of your permanent record in the Army. Isn't
that enough?"

"It's too much," Hal declared, "for such a little thing as we did."

"You men want promotion, don't you?" asked Sergeant Brimmer.

"Surely," nodded Noll.

"When you get to your regiment, and your company commander has occasion
to appoint a new corporal, he looks over the records of the men in his
company. Men, I guess you've each of you got your first grip on one of
the chevrons that Shrimp dropped."

For Shrimp had been tried by court-martial, three days before. The
findings, verdict and sentence had been sent on through the military
channels, and would not be published until approved by the department
commander. But no one at the island doubted that Shrimp would lose his
corporal's chevrons, would be dismissed the service and sentenced to
imprisonment in addition.

"I'd rather get chevrons, if they're coming my way, by some other means
than pulling them off another man's sleeves," thought Hal to himself.



CHAPTER IX

ORDERED TO THE THIRTY-FOURTH


TWELVE working days with arms, and Privates Overton and Terry were moved
on into A Company.

They were now deeper than ever in the work of learning the soldier's
trade.

A tremendous change had been worked in them. Though their faces were as
youthful as ever, the boys seemed to have grown into the dignity of
men--of trained men, at that.

They carried themselves like soldiers, thought of themselves as
soldiers, and were soldiers. For they loved their work better than ever.

"We need only to get to our regiment now, to be wholly happy," Noll
declared to his chum. "Oh, why can't more young fellows, droning their
lives out in offices, or tending senseless machines in shops, understand
the joy of this free, manly life?"

Of course, not all rookies at the post had conceived as large an idea of
Army life.

Two, who had joined at about the same time as Overton and Terry, had not
proved themselves wholly suited to a life of discipline. This pair had
committed several breaches of the rules, and had at last been haled
before courts-martial and dismissed the service.

Only the young man who has in him the makings of a man and a soldier
finds the life of the Army attractive. The incompetent, the shiftless
and the vicious are no better off in the Army than they would be
anywhere else. In fact they are out of their element.

Shrimp, the sullen, had gone, too, at last. The order had been published
that sent him to undergo a year's imprisonment for having attempted to
desert.

This corporal had had in him three quarters of the makings of a good
soldier. He had been promoted once, and fell short of being a soldier
only as he fell short of being a man.

Ahead of any that had joined at about the same time, Hal and Noll were
"warned" for guard-duty. Sergeant Brimmer gave them the order, and
seemed happy in doing it.

"You men are doing your work splendidly," he added briefly. "Read up the
manual of guard-duty for all you're worth before guard-mount to-morrow
morning."

"I think we know it by heart, already, Sergeant," Hal answered.

"I don't doubt that in the least. But it can't do you any harm to read
up some more."

"Thank you, Sergeant; we'll do it."

Guard-mounting is a ceremony of importance in the Army. It is done to
music, where music is available. Every man who turns out on the new
guard--which means that he is to be on duty for the next twenty-four
hours--is expected to present himself with his person, uniform and
equipments absolutely clean and tidy. The two men who thus make the most
soldierly appearance are detailed as orderlies at headquarters. These
orderlies do not have to walk post as sentries, and have in all ways a
much easier time than the other members of the guard. There is always
keen rivalry for the position of orderly.

On this morning, after the formation of the guard, and inspection, the
post adjutant stepped forward.

"Privates Denton and Burke will fall out and report as orderlies," he
commanded.

Denton and Burke obeyed, striving hard to suppress their exultation.

"Orderly detail would have fallen to Privates Overton and Terry, who
present the most soldierly appearance," continued the adjutant, in his
official tone. "But this is the first tour of guard duty for Privates
Overton and Terry, and it is considered essential that they first of all
learn to walk post and become familiar with the duties of sentries."

At that the glee in the faces of Privates Denton and Burke faded
somewhat. Hal and Noll tried to keep their own faces expressionless.

Hal Overton never forgot his feelings when he shouldered his rifle, with
bayonet fixed, and patrolled his first sentry post for two hours.

He felt even more the sense of responsibility when he came to his first
night tour of sentry duty.

In his way the sentry is a tremendously important personage. On his post
he represents the whole sovereignty of the United States of America. The
youngest sentry in the Army may halt and detain any officer, no matter
of how exalted rank, until he is certain that the man halted is an
officer entitled to pass. Of course, with a sentry of common sense the
mere appearance of the uniform is enough under ordinary circumstances.
But no personage in the United States may attempt to go by a sentry
without the sentry's permission.

"How'd you enjoy it, Overton?" asked Sergeant Brimmer, who was sergeant
of the guard, when Hal came in from his tour of night duty.

"I hope I didn't get myself into trouble," Hal answered.

"How so, lad?"

"I halted the commanding officer of the post."

"Was he in uniform?"

"No; in civilian dress. He had been to the city, I guess, and was coming
up from the shore. It was dark, and I saw only the civilian clothes. So
I challenged him."

"What did the K. O. say?"

"K. O." is the Army abbreviation for "commanding officer."

"He asked me what I was trying to do?" smiled Hal. "So I repeated my
question, 'who's there,' Then he answered, 'the commanding officer.' I
replied: 'Advance, commanding officer, to be recognized.' He seemed
uncertain about it, but I made him step right up to me. When I saw who
it was I told him to proceed."

"Did you hold your gun at port all the time?" inquired Sergeant Brimmer.

"Yes; until I recognized the commanding officer. Then I came to present
arms, and he returned my salute, then walked by."

"Your skirts are clear enough, then," nodded the sergeant of the guard.

"But why did he ask me, so crossly, what I was trying to do?" asked Hal.

"Why," mused the sergeant, "my own idea of it is that K. O. was trying
you out on purpose. And I'll wager the K. O. was glad to find a rook
sentry so thoroughly alive to his job. Though I doubt if you'll get
commended in orders for just being awake. But that reminds me of
something that happened to me, in the Philippines," laughed Brimmer. "I
was sergeant of the guard out there, and one night the colonel of
another regiment tried to go by our guard. At that time the law was that
no civilian could be on the streets after half-past eight. 'Twas called
the curfew law there.

"Well, Colonel Blank came up in a carriage at about ten in the evening.
He wasn't in uniform, mind you, lad. Well, the sentry on number one
post, who didn't know the colonel, stopped his carriage, of course.

"'I'm Colonel Blank,' says the man in the carriage. 'Corporal of the
guard,' calls the sentry. 'I'm Colonel Blank,' says the man in the
carriage to the corporal of the guard. Now, the corporal didn't know the
colonel either. So the corporal bawls, 'Sergeant of the guard.' That was
I, that night, and I didn't know the colonel, either. So I asked: 'Beg
your pardon, sir, but do you know any of the officers of this command?'

"'Name the officers,' says the man in the carriage. So I named them.

"'I don't know one of your officers,' says the man in the carriage.

"'Then I'm sorry, sir,' says I, 'but I'll have to ask you, sir, to step
into our guard-house until some officer of your regiment comes over in
uniform and identifies you.'

"At that the man in the carriage puts on an awful scowl, draws himself
up very stiff, and answers, 'I'll do nothing of the sort, Sergeant.'

"'I beg your pardon, sir,' says I, 'but if you are Colonel Blank, then
you know very well, sir, that you'll have to step inside the guard-house
and wait.'"

Sergeant Brimmer chuckled heartily over the recollection.

"And did Colonel Blank obey you, and go inside and wait?" asked Hal.

"Did he?" asked Brimmer, looking surprised. "Of course he did. What's a
guard for in the Army, if it can't enforce its orders? And it was past
midnight when we finally got an officer, by telephone, to come over and
go bail for his colonel's identity. Then, of course, we turned the
colonel loose."

"Did he complain against you?" queried Private Hal.

"Who? Colonel Blank? He's too good a soldier," laughed Sergeant Brimmer.
"And he's General Blank, now. Before he left, the colonel complimented
me on my fitness for guard duty."

"A sentry, or a corporal or sergeant of the guard is a pretty big
soldier, isn't he?" smiled Hal.

"In some ways," nodded the sergeant, "he's a bigger man than the
President. The President is only the head of the nation, while the
sentry on post is the whole nation itself!"

Noll had the last two hours before daylight on post that night, but
nothing happened to him except the arrival of the corporal with the
relief just as dawn was breaking.

The days and the weeks sped by rapidly now. There were always new duties
to be learned, but our young rookies had now picked up the habit of
learning so easily and quickly that everything seemed a matter of
course.

"How do you like Army life now, Noll?" Hal asked one day.

"I wouldn't swap this life for any other," exclaimed Private Noll Terry,
his eyes shining. "Hal, have you never suspected that they're making men
out of us here? We're learning to obey without asking why, and we're
being trained in a way that will fit us to lead other men one of these
days. And look how strong all the gymnastics with a rifle is making us.
We sleep as we never slept before, and it takes a heap to make us
tired."

"We're eating everything in sight, if that's a sign of good physical
condition," laughed Hal.

"But I wish I could hear the orders sending us to our regiment," sighed
Noll.

"Don't be downspirited," urged Hal, smiling cheerfully. "Our stay here
at the rendezvous can't last much longer, anyway."

"How long have we been here, anyway?" Noll wondered.

"Why, we came here early in April and it's now past the middle of June,"
Hal went on. "Let me think. Why, it's just ten weeks to a day since we
took the oath to serve the Flag."

"And a rook generally puts in three months here----" Noll began, when a
soldier, close to the door of the squad room, called out:

"Attention!"

Instantly every man in the room rose and wheeled about, standing at the
position of the soldier. An officer, followed by the first sergeant of A
Company, was entering the room.

As the officer came to a halt the first sergeant called:

"Overton and Terry, step forward."

Hal and Noll approached the officer and the sergeant, then again stood
at attention. The officer was the post adjutant, and now he spoke:

"Overton and Terry, your company commander is satisfied that you are now
sufficiently instructed to go to your regiment. We have a draft for two
men for the first battalion of the Thirty-fourth Infantry, stationed at
Fort Clowdry, in the Colorado mountains. If you have any objections to
that regiment, or station, I will listen to them."

"Colorado will very exactly suit me, sir, thank you," Hal replied, his
pleasure showing in his face.

"And me also, sir," added Noll.

"Very good, then. You will both report to Sergeant Brimmer, on his
return, that you are released from further duty here. You will report at
my office at half-past two this afternoon for your instructions. That is
all. Sergeant, follow me to the next squad room."

The instant that the door closed Hal and Noll began to execute a swift
little dance of joy, while the other rookies looked on in grinning
congratulation.

"What sort of regiment is the Thirty-fourth, Sergeant?" asked Hal, after
he and Noll had reported to Sergeant Brimmer.

"Just like any other infantry regiment," replied Sergeant Brimmer.
"They're all alike. The only difference is in the station, and the
station of each infantry command is usually changed every two or three
years. For that matter, though you join in the Rockies, your regiment,
two months later, may be ordered to the Philippines."

That afternoon Hal and Noll reported at the post adjutant's office. Here
they were provided with their railway tickets through to their new
station, and were handed each a sum of money in place of rations. In
addition they were granted four days' furlough before starting, this
furlough to be spent at their homes. Then, each carrying his canvas case
containing his surplus outfit, the young recruits started down to the
dock to take the three-thirty boat to New York City.

What a glorious furlough it was, while it lasted! All their old
schoolmates in the home town, and all the smaller youngsters, listened
to the tales Hal and Noll told of the Army. Two or three dozen
youngsters then and there formed their resolutions to enlist in the Army
as soon as they were old enough.

Tip Branders had left town. Where Tip had gone was not known--but Uncle
Sam's two young recruits were destined to find out later on.



CHAPTER X

A SWIFT CALL TO DUTY


"SEE that man in the black derby and the brown suit, coming this way,
Noll? The one with the iron-gray hair?"

"Of course," replied Noll.

"Salute him, if we get close enough."

"Why?"

"He's an officer."

"Maybe," half-assented Noll, eyeing the man with iron-gray hair.

"There isn't much doubt about it," retorted Hal. "He boarded the train
at Kansas City. It's summer, but he's going somewhere up in the hills,
for he had an overcoat over one arm when he boarded the train, and that
overcoat was an officer's coat. He's in the service, and he isn't any
junior officer, either, judging by the color of his hair."

"But----"

"Sh! Be ready with your salute."

The two young recruits, their uniforms looking spick and span, despite
their long journey by train, now brought their right hands smartly up to
their cap visors as the man with iron-gray hair stepped close.

He gave Hal and Noll a prompt, smart acknowledgment of their salute,
then suddenly paused, glanced at them, and asked:

"My men, how did you know me to be an officer?"

"I observed your overcoat, sir, when you boarded the train at Kansas
City," Hal answered.

"You judged rightly, men," replied the officer, with a smile. "I am
Major Davis, Seventeenth Cavalry. And you, as I see by your caps, belong
to the Thirty-fourth Infantry."

"Yes, sir," Hal answered. "We are joining the first battalion at Fort
Clowdry."

"Recruits?"

"Yes, sir."

"I wish you a pleasant life in the Army, men."

"Thank you, sir; we feel certain of finding it," Hal replied.

Both young soldiers saluted, again, as the major turned to resume his
walk.

The train had stopped at Pueblo, Colorado, in the middle of the
afternoon. It would be but half an hour's delay. Noll had been eager to
step out away from the railway station and see as much of Pueblo as was
possible. Hal had negatived this idea, through fear that they might be
left behind.

"And we've not an hour to spare, you know, Noll. This is the last train
for us to take if we're to report in season. So we'd better stay close
to the conductor."

During the forenoon the train had rolled across the mesa or tableland
below Pueblo. Hal and Noll, seated in one of the two day coaches of the
train, had studied the mesa with longing eyes. Here they caught
occasional glimpses of cowboys on ponies, for this mesa is still a
favorite cattle region.

At this height of some five thousand feet above sea level even the late
June day was not really hot. It was a glorious country on which the
young recruits feasted their eyes.

"Where do we eat next?" asked Noll, of a trainman standing by.

"Any time and place you like, if you've got the chow with you," replied
the trainman.

"What is the next eating station at which the train stops?" Noll
insisted.

"Salida. We ought to stop there about nine o'clock to-night."

"Good eating place?"

"Great."

"It's a long time to wait," complained Noll, whom the mountain air was
making furiously hungry. "Come along, Hal. We'll lay in a few sandwiches
as a safety-valve."

"I hope they're not as bad as some we've bought along the way," Hal
laughed, as they started toward the railroad restaurant. "Do you
remember the sandwich we bought at Chicago that had the stamp on the
under side, 'U. S. Army, 1863?'"

"No, and neither do you," grinned Noll.

"Fact," insisted Hal. "I found the stamp on the sandwich, and threw it
out of the car. I'm sorry, now; I wish I had saved that sandwich for a
curiosity. Father would have been proud of it."

Noll with a bag of sandwiches, Hal with a box of fruit, the two recruits
turned toward the train again.

They were soon under way. After leaving Pueblo they forgot all about
eating, for some time, for the train now bore them through some of the
most picturesque parts of the lower Rocky Mountains. Both rookies spent
their time on one of the car platforms, hanging far out at either side
to get better views, as well as glimpses down steep cliffs into gullies
below.

"Say, it's going to be dark, soon," remarked Noll, looking toward the
western sky. "Why on earth didn't we get a train that would do the whole
trip between Pueblo and Salida in daylight?"

"Because we didn't know the route well enough," sighed Hal. "However,
we may think we've had plenty of Rocky Mountains before our regiment's
station is changed."

Half an hour later both went back to their seat in the car. Black night
had come on and shut out all further possibility of viewing the
wonderful country through which the train was passing.

"We can eat, anyway," sighed Noll.

For the next fifteen minutes they regaled themselves, though they were
careful not to eat enough to spoil their appetite for a good hot supper
at Salida.

Then, as peering out of the window revealed nothing, Noll settled back
in the seat.

"If I go to sleep, be sure to wake me at Salida," he begged. "What time
is the train due at Fort Clowdry?"

"Two o'clock in the morning," Hal answered.

"That's a beastly time to have to be awake," growled Noll, and began to
slumber.

Not for long, however. On a steep up-grade the train was barely crawling
along.

Suddenly it stopped, and with a considerable jolt, too.

Bang, bang, bang! The whistle of bullets was heard alongside the train,
wherever windows were open.

"What's that?" demanded Noll, jumping up.

But Hal was in the aisle before him. Both hastened to the rear door.

"Here, laddy-bucks," called a brakeman grimly, "stay inside! It's
healthier!"

"What's up?" demanded Hal, without pausing.

"Judging by the sound, the train is held up, laddy-buck. It's a bad
business going outside if that's the case."

But at this instant the door was opened before Hal's face. Major Davis
bounded into the car.

"Come with me, men," he called sharply. "You're not armed, are you?"

"No, sir."

Even at that exciting moment Hal did not forget his salute.

"Then keep behind me," ordered the major, drawing his revolver. "This is
a mail train, and, as a United States officer, I can't allow an attempt
to rob it pass without an attempt at a protest."



CHAPTER XI

GUARDING THE MAIL TRAIN


MAJOR DAVIS backed quickly out of the car, holding his weapon behind his
back as he dropped to the ground beside the car.

He did not look to see whether the rookies were behind him, but they
were.

Ahead, and about them, all was black, save for the light that came
through the car windows.

In a twinkling, out of the fringe of darkness, almost beside the
recruits, stepped a masked man.

"Back, all three of you. Back into the car!" called the masked man
sharply.

Major Davis wheeled like a flash, bringing his revolver to bear. But he
could not use it. A sudden move of the recruits prevented.

"Noll!" called Hal sharply, and threw himself to the ground before the
masked ruffian.

Like a flash Hal wrapped his arms around the knees of the masked robber.
In almost the same instant Hal struggled to his feet, carrying the
unknown's legs up with him.

Of course the ruffian toppled over backward. But Noll, who had darted to
his chum's aid, hurled himself upon the fellow, striking him hard three
times between the eyes.

The masked man's revolver was discharged as he toppled over backward,
but the bullet sped harmlessly off into the night.

In another second Hal had the fellow's revolver.

"Fix him, Noll!" called Private Overton, darting forward to the
officer's side.

"I have, already," muttered Noll. But he bent for an instant over the
unconscious ruffian's body, then darted forward.

"Here's his box of cartridges, Hal," panted Noll.

All this had seemed to occupy but a few seconds.

"Splendidly done!" glowed Major Davis. "Now come forward, and support
me."

At the moment of the discharge of the pistol the uncoupled engine
started forward, away from the train, with a hissing of steam. This
noise must have drowned out the noise of the single shot from the train
robbers up forward.

Suddenly Major Davis shot out his left arm, and Hal, bumping against it,
halted beside the officer.

"There are two of the men, standing by the mail car," whispered the
major. "Raise your revolver. Ready! Fire!"

[Illustration: "Back, All Three of You!"]

Both the major's revolver and Hal's spat out jets of flame. Both poured
their shots in rapidly at the two men whom they could just make out in
the darkness ahead.

Then Hal had a sudden, new sensation, not by any means agreeable.

The two men, neither hit so far, turned and raised their own weapons. It
seemed like two bright cascades of flame just ahead, as the ruffians
fired, kneeling.

Bullets whistled close to the major and the two recruits on either side.

Then, just as suddenly, one of the ruffians toppled over; it was
impossible to tell whether Major Davis or Hal Overton had scored the
hit.

Thereupon, the other man, lowering his weapon, leaped for the steps of
the mail car and vanished.

Major Davis ran forward, followed by both recruits. Noll was intent on
getting a revolver for himself.

But Davis, more accustomed to the ways of fighting men, suddenly
crouched low, peering under the body of the car just behind the mail
coach.

Almost immediately the major began to fire again, in answer to shots
that came from underneath the car.

But Noll waited for nothing. His sole thought was to possess a weapon.
He halted over the fallen one, snatched an empty revolver from his side,
then saw that the man was wounded in the right breast.

"You must have some cartridges," muttered Noll, rummaging in the
fellow's clothes.

He found the box just in time.

"Lie down, you two!" called Major Davis sharply to Hal and Noll. "You'll
be fired on from ahead."

Hal threw himself flat, and none too soon, for now a gust of bullets
swept down from the head of the train.

As coolly as he could Hal Overton reloaded. Noll, also lying flat on the
ground, was similarly engaged.

Hal was ready to fire first. There was need of it, too, for he could
dimly make out two men, near the extreme head of the train, who were
firing rapidly and firing their weapons in a fashion that drove up
spurts of dirt all about the recruits.

For a few seconds the fight seemed as serious to those engaged in it as
battle on a larger scale could have been.

Major Davis now made the first direct move. He crawled swiftly under the
car, putting himself on the same side with the man he was after.

There was more shooting on the other side of the train; then, suddenly
it stopped.

The two ahead, who were engaging Hal and Noll, dodged off to the side of
the track into the darkness. Now, all firing stopped, for all weapons
were empty.

"I hope that other scoundrel didn't get the major!" throbbed Hal
anxiously.

Yet he couldn't go to see. He had his own work on this side of the
train.

"Where are our pair?" whispered Noll, creeping closer.

"I don't know," Hal answered, also in a whisper. "But crawl off a little
way. Bunching together gives 'em a better mark to hit."

Lying flat on the ground, both recruits played the waiting game.

Had the pair ahead stolen off altogether in the darkness?

"I'll wait a few moments," Hal decided. "Then, if I don't hear from the
scoundrels, I'll cross over to see what has happened to Major Davis."

Crack! crack! crack! The vanished pair of train robbers were opening
fire again, from behind a boulder that sheltered them admirably. Hal and
Noll had no protection other than they could get from lying close to the
ground. But they answered the fire briskly.

Crack! crack! crack! As fast as revolvers were emptied the marksmen
reloaded and again began firing. In daylight the execution would have
been swifter, but all hits made in black darkness are made by the grace
of luck.

In the first place the only target anyone in the combat had was the
flash of an opponent's pistol.

The train robbers behind the ledge changed their positions after nearly
every shot. And Hal and Noll, after the warm, uncomfortable experience
of having bullets fan their faces persistently, found it advisable to
crouch low and dart here and there, firing from new positions.

All this time the scores of people on the train were sitting in
terrified silence. Passengers or train crews rarely interfere in a case
of this kind.

Not even the train's lights aided either side, for the two young
recruits had taken pains to close in on the ledge sufficiently to escape
illumination by the train's lights.

Crack! crack! crack! This was a new note, coming from past the forward
end of the ledge.

Almost in the same instant a howl sounded from behind the barrier of
rock.

Then another voice was heard, shouting.

"Hold on! We surrender! Stop the shooting!"

Instantly this hail was answered by another. It sounded good to the
young recruits as Major Davis roared from behind the forward end of the
ledge:

"Then throw up your hands, keep them up, and walk into the train light
where we can see you."

"You won't shoot?" demanded the voice of the surrendering one.

"Not unless you attempt tricks," replied the voice of Major Davis.

"All right. Here I come."

A lone figure rose over the edge of the ledge, and a tall, masked man,
holding his hands very high, strode toward the train, passing between
Hal and Noll, who instantly turned and covered him with their weapons.

"Where's the other man?" demanded Major Davis, still invisible in the
blackness beyond.

"You'll find him behind the ledge," returned the surrendered one. "He's
hurt too bad to move."

"Overton," called the major, "keep your weapon trained right on that
prisoner. Terry, join me behind the ledge."

"Yes, sir," answered both recruits.

Noll was quickly with the major on the further side of the ledge. Here
they speedily found a masked man, short and rather thick-set, who had
the appearance of being unconscious. He was breathing with great effort,
a deep crimson spot appearing on his right breast.

"May I ask, sir, about the man you went under the train to get?" queried
Noll.

"He's dead, my man," replied Major Davis very quietly.

"Shall I try to lift this man, sir?"

"No; take his revolver, and search him for other weapons, as far as you
can do so without disturbing the fellow and putting him in more pain.
We'll let that hiding train crew move the casualties to the baggage
car."

So Noll completed his search, while the conductor, baggage-master and
some of the brakemen, noting that the firing had stopped, ventured
forth.

"You trainmen take care of the dead and wounded," directed Major Davis
crisply. "Terry, rejoin your comrade. I shall have to trouble you two
men to stand guard over the prisoners in the baggage car until we reach
Salida."

Both recruits saluted. Noll returned to the track in time to find that
the first man whom he and Hal had bowled over was just coming back to
his senses.



CHAPTER XII

THE ROOKIES REACH FORT CLOWDRY


ONCE more the train was under way. The engineer had taken his uncoupled
engine some distance up the track, but had returned when sent for, and
now the train, twenty additional minutes late, was crawling up the steep
grade.

The wounded men lay on the floor of the car, receiving the attentions of
a physician who had been found among the passengers.

The unwounded ones stood in a corner at the forward end of the car,
Private Hal Overton, revolver in hand, watching the men closely.

Noll, a revolver in either hand, stood a little past the middle of the
car, looking wholly businesslike.

Major Davis, having gone back to make sure that his own belongings were
safe, now returned to the baggage car.

"Fellow," he asked of the tall prisoner, "what on earth made you stop
this train?"

"Hard up," replied the man sullenly. "And a friend told us that the last
time he held up a mail train, he and his pal found twelve thousand
dollars in the registered mail pouches."

"You'll find at least twelve years in the mail pouches this trip,"
retorted Major Davis grimly.

Half an hour later a stop was made at a little tank station, to enable
Major Davis to wire ahead to Salida for officers to be in readiness when
they arrived.

Then the train crawled on again through the inky darkness. Noll relieved
Hal, presently, though there seemed little need of alertness. The two
prisoners capable of fighting looked pretty well cowed. Down at the rear
end of the car, covered with a rubber blanket, lay the rigid remains of
the man killed by the major.

Something more than an hour late the train pulled in at Salida. There
was a crowd on hand, including four sheriff's officers. These latter
came to the baggage car just before the train stopped.

"Will you take full responsibility for the prisoners now?" asked Major
Davis of one officer who led the rest and who displayed his badge.

"Yes, sir," replied the deputy sheriff.

"Then I'll go and have something to eat," smiled the major dryly. "My
men, do you eat here, too?"

"Yes, sir," Hal answered, saluting.

It was not an invitation to join their officer. Both recruits fully
understood that. The gulf of discipline prevents officers and men
eating together.

On the platform before the station-building Major Davis halted long
enough to say:

"My men, I appreciate your help to-night. It would have been too much
for me alone. You men stood by me like soldiers. As a United States Army
officer I would have felt disgraced had I allowed a United States mail
car to be rifled without striking a blow to stop it."

"It was a daring thing to do, sir," Hal ventured, with another salute.

"It was my plainest sort of duty, as an officer," replied Major Davis,
returning the salute.

"May I ask, sir," ventured Hal, "whether it would have been our duty,
had we been armed, and you not on the train!"

"Not unless led by an officer," replied the major. "But where did you
young men learn to obey so promptly, and without questioning or
hesitation?"

"At the recruit rendezvous, sir."

"Which one?"

"At Bedloe's Island, sir."

"Who was your instructor?"

"One of them, sir, was a namesake of yours--Corporal Davis."

"He will be glad to hear of this," nodded the major, smiling. "Corporal
Davis is my son."

"Your son, sir--an enlisted man?" stammered Hal.

"Yes. My son enlisted in order to try to win a commission. Thank you,
men, and good-night. I will tell the sheriff's men that you will be
found at Fort Clowdry if you are wanted as witnesses."

Again acknowledging their salutes, Major Davis stepped inside.

Hal and Noll waited a moment before entering the station. When they did
so, and passed on to the lunch room, they saw Major Davis at a table in
one corner, so the rookies passed on to stools before the lunch counter.

"How long have we to eat!" asked Hal, of one of the trainmen.

"You've about twenty-two minutes left."

"I feel as if I could make excellent use of all the time," laughed Hal.

He and Noll plunged into hot chicken, potatoes and gravy, and plenty of
side dishes. The late excitement had not destroyed the appetite of
either recruit.

When they had finished Hal asked the waiter:

"How much do we owe you?"

"Nothing," replied the waiter. "I was told to say that the account is
settled, with Major Davis's compliments."

Both recruits turned, saluting in the major's direction, as token of
their thanks. He nodded, smiling.

Out on the platform, just before the train started, the recruits saw
Major Davis again. That officer was turned halfway from them, without
seeing them, so they passed along to the day coach in which they had
been riding.

Now a dozen men crowded about them, eager to talk with the young heroes
of the night.

"Pretty gritty work that you boys did," grinned one of the men. "Do you
often have things like that to do in the Army?"

"We never did, before to-night," Hal answered quietly.

"Must take a lot of nerve."

"We didn't think of it at the time," smiled Hal. "It seemed all in the
way of business."

"You ought to have seen the folks you left behind here," put in another
man.

"Oh, shut up," called others.

"No, I won't," retorted the last speaker. "What do you suppose we folks
that you left behind in this car were doing?"

"Nothing very noisy, was it?" queried Hal.

"Not particularly," admitted the man, with a laugh. "We were lying along
the aisle, or else we crawled under seats. At one time there were
altogether too many bullets hitting the side of the car, or coming
through the windows. None of us in here got hit, but that was because
of the good care we took of ourselves."

"Oh, we might have done something," protested another man, "only we
didn't have anything to shoot with."

"These two young soldiers didn't have anything to shoot with, either, at
the outset of the trouble. They hustled outside and got their guns from
the enemy."

"Got any of those guns now?" asked another passenger, crowding forward.
"Want to sell any of 'em?"

"We haven't even a cartridge," Hal replied.

"What did you do with them?"

"Turned them over to the sheriff's officers, of course."

It was nearly an hour before the curious passengers would consent to
leave the young soldiers to themselves. Noll finally managed to convey
an excellent hint by leaning back in his seat and closing his eyes as if
in sleep.

Hal dozed somewhat, but by one o'clock in the morning both recruits were
wide awake.

"What time are we due at Clowdry?" Hal asked the passing brakeman.

"More'n an hour late," answered the trainman.

"Whew! That means we won't get there until after three in the morning,"
muttered Hal.

"I wish we wouldn't get there until daylight," rejoined Noll. "Then I'd
feel like dropping back for another nap."

Nearly everyone else in the car was dozing, it being after midnight.

It was half-past three o'clock in the morning when the brakeman rested
his hand on Hal's shoulder.

"We ought to be at Clowdry in five minutes now," said the brakeman.

"Much obliged," Overton answered. "Thank goodness, Noll."

By the time that the train slowed up both recruits were out on the rear
platform of the car, each gripping his canvas case.

"Clowdry! Clowdry!" bawled the brakeman.

Hal and Noll dropped off into the black night. The only light was in the
station, past which the train slowly rolled.

There was no one in the station save the telegraph operator. On these
mountain divisions, where accidents may so easily happen, a night
operator is kept at every station.

Hal and Noll stood on the station platform until the train had pulled
out. Then, as their eyes became more accustomed to the darkness, they
made out what appeared to be a small hotel on the other side of the
track. There were two or three other buildings near by that looked like
dwellings.

"Clowdry is a pretty large city," observed Noll, with a grin.

The real town was nearly a mile away.

"I wonder where the fort is," returned Hal. "We'll ask the operator."

Apparently the operator was too well accustomed to seeing soldiers to
take any deep interest in this new pair. But he was obliging, at any
rate.

"Wait a minute," he called back, in answer to Private Overton's
question, "and I'll go and show you the road."

So the two soldiers stood by their canvas cases until the operator had
finished at his clicking instruments. Then the operator came out,
heading for the rear door of the station.

"I'll show you from here, Jack," called the operator. "You see that
road? Follow it about a half a mile; take the first turn to the left,
and then keep straight on until you come to the fort."

"How far is Fort Clowdry?" Hal wanted to know.

"About three miles from here."

"Good road?" questioned Noll.

"Tenderfeet, ain't you?" asked the operator, smiling.

"Yes," admitted Hal.

"Thought you must be," nodded the operator, "else you'd know that the
road between an Army post and the nearest freight station is always a
good one. Them Army wagon bosses would put up a fearful holler if they
had to drive the transport wagons over bad roads. Just joining?"

"Yes," assented Hal.

"Good luck to you! Well, follow the road and you can't have any
trouble."

"Thank you, and good-night," came from both recruits. Then, each taking
a new grip on his canvas case, which was fairly heavy, the recruits
started down the road.

They came, finally, to the turn to the left.

"These equipment cases don't grow any lighter with distance, do they?"
laughed Hal.

"Mine doesn't," grunted Noll.

When they had walked on a good deal farther Noll remarked:

"I wish we had that operator here!"

"What for?"

"He told us it was three miles. We could ask him what kind of miles."

"There's daylight coming," nodded Hal, pointing to the east. "That will
make the distance seem shorter."

The sun up, at last, gave the recruits their first glimpse of their
first station in the Army. Fort Clowdry lay before them. There were no
frowning parapets, no stone battlements, no cannon in sight. Fort
Clowdry, as seen at the distance, consisted of a great number of
buildings, of all sizes.

Boom! went a gun suddenly.

"Great!" cried Hal, his eyes shining. "That's the essence of the
soldier's life--the sunrise gun. The Flag has just been hauled up."

In the middle distance the recruits caught sight of a soldier pacing,
his gun, with bayonet fixed, at shoulder arms.

"That sentry will put us on the rest of our way," predicted Noll.

It being now broad daylight the sentry did not challenge the newcomers.



CHAPTER XIII

"TWO NEW GENERALS AMONG US"


"SENTRY, we're recruit privates, joining the regiment at this station,"
announced Hal. "Where do we report?"

Bringing his rifle to port arms the soldier replied: "This is post
number seven. You'll find post number one at that building under the
fir-tree. That's the guard-house. Report, first, to the corporal of the
guard."

"Thank you, Sentry."

"Welcome."

Bringing his piece to shoulder arms, the sentry resumed his pacing.

Hal and Noll now followed a well-kept road to the guard-house. Outside
stood the corporal of the guard for this relief. As he gazed at the
young soldiers, noting their canvas cases, he did not need to be told
that they were recruits. None but recruits have cases the pattern they
were carrying.

"Corporal," reported Hal, "we are Privates Overton and Terry, under
orders to join the Thirty-fourth."

"Take seats inside, then," said the corporal. "Go to sleep in your
chairs, if you want to."

Several other privates, belonging to the guard, were dozing in chairs.
But Hal and Noll felt now too wide awake to think of dozing. They longed
to step outside for a better look at this post, which was to be their
future home. Yet, having been directed to remain inside, they obeyed.

It was a long while afterward before a bugler blew the first call to
reveille, which is the "Army alarm clock," the signal to rise.

"Attention!" called the corporal, a few minutes afterward.

All the dozers sprang to their feet, standing at attention.

The officer of the day entered, looking over the men.

Then his glance fell upon the recruits.

"You are new men joining?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," Hal and Noll answered, presenting their orders.

"Corporal, when mess call sounds send a private of the guard with these
men to put them in D Company's mess for their first meal."

"Very good, sir."

"Overton and Terry, you will report at the adjutant's office promptly at
nine o'clock."

"Very good, sir."

The officer remained to glance over the guard report, then went away.

"When does that mess call sound, Corporal?" asked Hal.

"Five minutes more. Bates, you'll take the recruits to D Company's
mess."

Nor did either recruit feel sorry when he was ushered into the enlisted
men's mess, near barracks.

"Attention!" roared one waggish soldier.

As by instinct the men in the room stood at attention.

"Two new young generals are honoring us this morning," grinned the wag.

"Throw him out!" growled a sergeant. "It's bad enough to be a rookie
without having it rubbed in."

The first sergeant now gave the seating order, and the men fell in at
table. The wag sat at Noll's left.

"I find I'm mistaken," called the wag, down the table. "Our guests are
only colonels."

"You'll be a general, one of these days, if you don't look out, Fowler,"
warned another soldier near by.

"The gypsies always told my mother I'd be a general," replied Fowler
complacently.

"Yes, a general prisoner," continued the soldier who had just warned the
wag.

This raised a prompt laugh, for, in the Army, a "general prisoner" is
one who is serving a term of confinement after sentence by a general
court-martial.

"There are generals, and generals, of course," admitted Fowler.

"There'd be a general famine, Fowler, if you ever stopped talking at
mess long enough to do all the eating that your mouth calls for."

"How long have you young gentlemen been out of West Point?" asked
Fowler, turning to Noll.

Noll grinned, but did not make any answer to this question.

"I hope you are West Pointers," continued the company wag. "Nearly all
of the gentlemen present are West Pointers."

"Give the rooks time to eat their meal in comfort," ordered a sergeant
gruffly. "Have you forgotten the day, Fowler, when you were the greenest
rook that the Thirty-fourth ever had?"

"I never was a rook," retorted Fowler.

"You never got beyond being one," retorted a corporal. "Don't mind this
chin-bugler, lads. He doesn't know any better."

Hal was paying attention strictly to the meal before him. A good-sized
piece of steak and a dish of baked potatoes had come his way, and he
enjoyed them keenly. The men of this battalion had a first class
commissary officer and lived well.

"You've visiting cards with you, of course?" continued Fowler, after a
few moments.

"No," Noll admitted.

"Why, rook, you'll need cards. You've got to call on the K. O.
(commanding officer) after breakfast. But we'll fix you out. I'll lend
you my pack. The jack of clubs is the one you want to send in to the K.
O. Then he'll know 'tis a husky lad that has honored the Thirty-fourth
by joining."

"You'll live most of the time at the guard-house, if you take Fowler for
your authority on doughboy life," broke in a quiet soldier across the
table.

"More likely the happy house would be our address," laughed Hal.

"Doughboy" is the term applied to an infantry soldier. Hal and Noll,
being in an infantry regiment, had thereby become doughboys. The "happy
house" is the part of a military hospital where mild cases of insanity
are confined.

The meal was soon over, and the first sergeant took the trouble to go up
to the boys.

"When do you report at the adjutant's office?" he asked.

"At nine o'clock, Sergeant," Hal responded.

"Then, as long as you don't bother anyone else, you can just as well
stroll where you please around the post, until nine," continued the
sergeant. "Of course you know that nine o'clock means nine to the very
minute?"

"We were taught a lot about punctuality at the rendezvous station," Hal
answered.

"Punctuality is about the greatest virtue in Army life," nodded the
first sergeant of D Company, as he moved away.

In the interval of time at their disposal Hal and Noll were able to see
a good deal of Fort Clowdry.

The center of the life there was the great parade ground, a level,
grassy plain.

At the north end of this plain stood a row of pretty dwellings. The
largest was the residence of Colonel North, commanding officer of the
Thirty-fourth. Next to the colonel's residence was that of Major
Silsbee, the battalion commander. Past the major's residence was a row
of somewhat smaller cottages, each the home of a married officer. The
name and rank of each officer was on a doorplate. At the furthest end of
the row from Colonel North's dwelling was a building containing quarters
for bachelor officers.

On another side of the parade ground were various buildings devoted to
the life of the post. There was an Officers' Club, a library, a
gymnasium, and at one corner, the post hospital.

Further away from the parade ground were the quarters of enlisted
married men, and, beyond that, the barracks of the four companies of the
Thirty-fourth stationed at Fort Clowdry. Chapel also faced the parade
ground, and, near it, a Y. M. C. A. building.

Further away was the power house, for the buildings and roads on the
post were lighted by electricity.

"Have we time to go over to the power house?" asked Noll.

"We haven't," decided Hal, after consulting his watch. "In twelve
minutes we must be at the adjutant's office."

"Here comes an officer," whispered Noll.

Both young soldiers were alert as a first lieutenant came down the road
toward them. At the same instant Hal and Noll raised their right hands
smartly in salute, which was promptly returned by that officer.

They had already inquired where the adjutant's office was located.
Having passed the officer, our young recruits now hastened over to the
headquarters building.

"Adjutant's office?" inquired Hal of an orderly before a door.

"Right inside," nodded the orderly.

Noll fell in behind Hal as the latter stepped into the office. At a
flat-top desk sat a battalion sergeant-major, who is the
non-commissioned sergeant-major is the non-commissioned assistant of
the regimental adjutant.

At a roll-top desk in another corner of the office the adjutant himself,
a first lieutenant, was seated.

"We are recruits reporting, Sergeant," announced Hal, in a low tone.

"You have your orders with you?" asked the sergeant-major.

"Yes, Sergeant." Hal handed both sets of papers to his questioner.

At the same time each recruit was alert to salute the officer at the
roll-top desk, in case he should look up. But he didn't until the
battalion sergeant-major placed the papers on his desk.

"Come here, men," directed the officer.

Both rookies stepped over to his desk, halted and saluted.

"Recruit Privates Overton and Terry?" asked the adjutant, after a glance
at the papers.

"Yes, sir."

The adjutant turned to examine a list that lay on his desk.

"Private Overton to B Company. Private Terry to C Company."

From an inner room stepped out a gray-haired officer, wearing on his
shoulder-straps the silver eagles of a colonel. This must be Colonel
North, the Thirty-fourth's K. O. Both recruits immediately came to the
salute again.

"These are the young men I wanted to see, are they not, Wright?" asked
the colonel.

"They are, sir," replied the adjutant, rising.

"Major Silsbee!" called the colonel, looking over one shoulder.

That officer entered, also from the inner room, and again the recruits
saluted.

"Major," went on the colonel, "these are the young men I told you about,
who are joining your battalion."

Major Silsbee looked them over keenly, even if briefly.

"They look the part, Colonel," was the major's comment.



CHAPTER XIV

THE SQUAD ROOM HAZING


"MEN, we have had word of you in advance of your coming," continued the
colonel.

"Yes, sir," replied Hal.

"Very good word, indeed. It seems that you took stirring part in
assisting an Army officer last night."

"We obeyed Major Davis's orders, sir, if that is what you refer to," Hal
assented, once more saluting.

"And did it in a manner that distinguishes you as good soldiers, eh,
major?" went on the colonel, turning to Major Silsbee.

"Yes," replied Major Silsbee. "Major Davis's commendation is not earned
except by merit."

"You are surprised, I take it," resumed Colonel North, bending a shrewd
yet kindly glance on the recruits, "that we should already know of your
conduct last night. Major Davis wired me concerning it from Salida last
night. Men, this is a very good start, or, rather, a second one, for
your record, as forwarded me from the recruit rendezvous, mentions that
you have already been commended in orders for aiding in preventing the
escape of a prisoner. You start well, men, in the Thirty-fourth. Report
to your respective first sergeants that, with the approval of your
company commanders, you will not take up with duty until to-morrow. That
will give you time to look about the post. If you wish, you have also
permission to be off post this afternoon, for three hours beginning at
two o'clock. That is all."

"Thank you, sir," acknowledged each recruit, saluting. Then they stepped
forth.

"At the rate we're getting commended, we ought soon to be brigadier
generals," smiled Hal.

"A second lieutenancy, even after four years, will suit me well enough,"
retorted Noll. "But what shall we do now?"

"Plainly enough our first duty is to report to our first sergeants, as
ordered."

"Too bad we couldn't be bunkies, in the same company," murmured Noll.

"Yes; I would rather have had it that way. But I take it that one of the
first lessons a fellow has to learn in the Army is that he can't have
things his own way."

"At all events we can be together during a good deal of our leisure
time," declared Noll.

"Nothing--not even being half the world apart--could prevent our being
chums, old fellow."

Reaching barracks each recruit inquired where to find his own first
sergeant. Hal was soon facing Sergeant Gray, of B Company. The first
sergeant of a company is a highly important man. He is the ranking
non-commissioned officer of his company, and might aptly be termed the
"foreman" of the company. He lives right with his company all the time,
and knows each man thoroughly. The first sergeant is responsible to the
company commander for the discipline and order of the company.

"Is your name Overton?" asked Sergeant Gray, holding out his hand. "Glad
to have you with us, Overton. You'll bunk in Sergeant Hupner's squad
room. Remember that, when there's anything you really need to know, the
non-commissioned officers of the company are paid to instruct you. Don't
be afraid to ask necessary questions."

"I won't, thank you, Sergeant."

"And don't be sensitive or foolish, Overton, about any little pranks
some of the men are more or less bound to play upon you at first. The
easiest way to keep out of trouble is to be good-natured all the time.
But that doesn't mean that you have to submit to any abuse."

"Thank you, Sergeant."

"Now, I'll take you to Sergeant Hupner."

That was more easily said than done. Sergeant Gray took Hal to the squad
room in which he was to live thereafter, but Hupner was out at the time.

"Just stay here a little while, and report to Sergeant Hupner when he
comes in," directed the first sergeant. "He'll assign you to a bed and
make you feel at home."

Hardly had Sergeant Gray closed the door when Hal thought he had taken
the measure of the eight other privates present. They looked like a
clean, capable and genial lot of young fellows. He was speedily to find
that they were "genial" enough.

"So you want to be a regular, do you?" quizzed one of the soldiers,
halting before Hal, and looking him over.

"Why, I am one already, am I not?" asked Hal, smiling.

"No, sir, you're not," retorted the questioner. "How did you start in?
Made a grand stand play on the train last night, didn't you? Helped to
shoot up a lot of train robbers, didn't you?"

"That was under orders of an Army officer," Hal replied good-naturedly.
The other soldiers had crowded about the pair.

"You went and played the hero, didn't you?" persisted the questioner.
"Probably you didn't know that a regular is never allowed to be a hero.
Heroes serve only in the volunteers."

This is a well-known joke in the Army. In war time local pride in the
volunteer regiments is always strong. Local newspapers always devote
most of their war space to the "heroic" doings of the local volunteer
regiment. The regulars do the bulk of the fighting, and the most
dangerous, but their deeds of daring are rarely chronicled in the
newspapers. All the praise goes to the volunteer regiments. Hence, in
war time, a stock Army question is, "Are you a hero or a regular?"

"I guess you've made a mistake," remonstrated Hal, still good-naturedly.
"My friend and I didn't do anything in the heroic line. We simply fired
when told to, and stopped firing, when told to. We didn't make any
charges, capture any forts, or do anything in the least heroic. We
simply stood by and did what the major told us."

"Good," nodded one of the other men. "The kid is bound to be a regular,
all right. He doesn't brag, and I don't believe he's looking for any
write-up in the newspapers."

"How did you feel under fire last night?" continued the merciless
questioner. "Brave as a lion?"

"Don't you believe it," laughed Hal.

"Were you cool under fire?"

"Yes; I was!" Hal's answer leaped forth. "Cool? Why, man, I was so cold
that it took me an hour, afterwards, to get warm again."

"He's got you there, Hyman," laughed another soldier. "Oh, the kid's
going to be one of us, all right. He's no bouquet chaser."

"I don't know about that," replied Private Hyman gravely. "So many
heroes in disguise try to sneak in among the regulars that it pays us to
keep our eyes open. What sort of a medal are you going to order from
Congress, kid?"

"A leather one," smiled Hal, "though I'd really prefer a tin medal."

Good-natured laughter greeted this answer.

But Private Hyman persisted:

"In war time you'd chuck us, just to get a commission in the volunteers,
wouldn't you?"

"Not even for a general's commission in the volunteers," retorted Hal.

"Are you good at athletics?"

"No."

"Know anything about gymnastics?"

"Only one or two things."

"Come down to the end of the room with me," ordered Private Hyman.

Hal good-naturedly followed. So did the others.

"Now, let's see if you can do this," Hyman proposed. "Take a good start
and jump over the first cot, then over the second, and right on down the
line, as far as you can do."

That didn't look difficult. Hal leaped over the first cot, then, with
hardly a pause, jumped over the second. So on he went, down over the
line of ten cots.

"Now, go back again, over the cots on the other side," ordered Private
Hyman.

Hal did so without difficulty, though he was flushed and panting by the
time that he finished this brisk exercise.

"Kid, you're no good," grunted Hyman.

"I didn't try to make you believe I was any good," Hal retorted calmly.

"No, sir! Any man who jumps as easily and naturally as you do would jump
the regulars any time, and go with the high-toned volunteer crowd."

"Humph! A fellow who can jump like that would jump right out of the
service at the first breath of trouble," broke in another soldier.

"He'd desert," agreed a third.

"Walk on your hands?" queried Hyman.

Hal proved that he could do so by throwing his heels up into the air and
taking a dozen steps on his hands before he again came to an erect
attitude.

"Brains are all in your heels," remarked Private Hyman thoughtfully.
"Can you pick that man up and carry him around on your back?"

The soldier indicated weighed at least a hundred and sixty pounds.

"I'll try," nodded Hal. Backing up to the soldier, he locked elbows,
back to back, lifted the heavy one to his back and carried him twenty
feet down the squad room.

"Any fellow with all that strength in his back would get his back up at
trouble, and back out of any fight that came his way," declared Private
Hyman. "But see here, can you place your head on one chair and your feet
on another, stiffen your body and lie there without touching the floor
in any way."

"Let's see," proposed Hal. Two chairs were quickly swung forward. Hal,
who had good muscular control, took the attitude named, stiffened his
body, and lay between the chairs for some moments.

"He lies well and easily," observed one of the onlookers.

"Yes," agreed Private Hyman. "He's easily the champion liar of the
company."

At that Hal sprang to his feet again.

As he did so he accidentally pushed one of the chairs over backward. It
was close to the door, which, at that instant, opened. The flying chair
struck the incomer across his shins, bringing an angry exclamation from
the man.

"Don't you know anything, rook?" demanded the man, Private Bill Hooper.
Hooper stood five feet ten in his socks. He was just under thirty, a man
who was not popular in the company because of his unruly temper.

"I'm sorry," apologized Hal. "I didn't know you were there."

"You'll be sorrier, now," cried Hooper fiercely. Striding up to young
Overton, Hooper landed a sound box on one of the boy's ears.

Hal flushed crimson in an instant.



CHAPTER XV

PRIVATE BILL HOOPER LEARNS


"HOLD on, Hooper!"

"Don't act like a dog!"

"He's only a kid--can't you see?"

Then something happened like lightning.

Private Hal Overton had meant to take all his hazing good-humoredly. But
a blow struck in anger, and without just cause, was more than he was
prepared to brook.

"Sergeant Gray told me I was not expected to stand abuse," flashed
through his mind.

So, instead of cringing away from a repetition of the blow, Hal took a
sudden bound forward.

Whack!

"I have no use for a box on the ear," smiled Hal grimly. "So you can
have it back!"

Private Bill Hooper let out a roar, then sprang for the boy, intending
to pulverize the young rookie with his fists. But five or six of the men
sprang between them, forming an effective human wall.

"Shame on you, Hooper!"

"That's no way for a man to act."

"Get off your blouse, kid," blustered Private Hooper, as he unfastened
his own blouse and tossed it over the end of a cot. "You need a
trimming, and you're going to get it right now!"

"Here, kid, button your blouse up again," ordered Private Hyman. "You
ain't called upon to fight that bully. Hooper, if you're spoiling for
fight I'll do my best to be kind to you."

But Hal, the flush dying from his cheeks, coolly continued unbuttoning
his blouse. Then he pulled it off, handing it to a soldier near by.

"Dress yourself, kid. You don't have to fight a man twice your size."

"Let some one else have the job, kid. There's some of us here will take
it."

"The kid will stand up and take his own trimming," announced Hooper,
with ugly emphasis.

"No, no, no!"

"Beat it, Hooper!"

"Mates," went on Hal, as soon as he could make himself heard, "I'm
willing to stand for anything that's coming to a rook. But this is a
case that calls for something different. I've got to satisfy this man
that I can stand up before a pair of fists, or he'll never respect me
enough to let me alone."

"Why, kid, a man of Hooper's size will reduce you to powder," objected
Hyman seriously. "It's all right to have sand, and I guess you've got
it, but you've no call to be slaughtered."

"He'll thrash me," agreed Hal coolly, "but I'll get in enough on him to
make him want to let me alone after this. I'm ready for the fellow."

Realizing that the rookie was in earnest the soldiers stepped away from
between the pair.

"But you play fair, Hooper, or we'll kick you all over the squad room,"
warned another soldier.

Private Hooper clenched his fists, and stood flexing his arms, which,
through his shirt-sleeves, appeared to be decidedly powerful.

"Step up, kid, and get your trimming," he invited, with a ferocious
smile.

"I don't know much about fighting," admitted Hal, smiling pleasantly.
"All I know my dancing teacher taught me."

That raised a laugh and angered Hooper. This was just what the rookie
wanted to do, for he judged that Hooper could be prodded into a blind
rage.

Hooper now jumped forward, aiming an ugly swing for Hal's head. But the
rookie side-stepped swiftly out of the way. As he did so, one foot
dragged in front of the advancing bully. Hooper tripped over that foot,
and the force of his swing carried him forward so that he fell flat on
his face.

"Too bad! I hope you didn't hurt yourself," teased Hal sweetly, whirling
about like a flash.

Hooper was up with an oath, wind-milling his big arms.

"Take that!" he roared, aiming a heavy blow straight at Hal's chest.

"Against the rules of my dancing master!" mimicked Hal, bounding to the
left. As he did so he let his right fist drop on the point of Hooper's
chin.

"Ugh!" grunted the bully.

"Spit it out, if it got in your mouth," advised Hal unconcernedly, as he
again faced his antagonist.

From the way he dodged the next six or eight assaults it did look as
though Hal had spoken the truth when he stated that he had learned his
style of fighting from a dancing master. For the nimble rookie never did
seem to be just where Bill Hooper looked for him when landing blows.

"Take your partners!" mocked Hal Overton, as he darted past again. This
time, however, he landed a very hot and powerful blow right against
Hooper's right eye.

Now cautious cries of approval went up from the other men crowding
about. All of the men were careful not to make much noise, through fear
of bringing interference.

A minute later Hooper received such a stinging blow on the nose that it
brought a little trickle of red.

"Woof!" panted Hal, in going by again.

"Woof!" echoed Hooper. "Wow--ow--ugh!"

Then he doubled up, winded, for Hal, after feinting for the big fellow's
face had calmly but forcefully struck him just above the beltline.
Hooper was out of it for the present, and he knew it.

"Now sail in and finish him, rook!" called four or five men at once.

"Not this time," replied Hal, going over to the soldier who held his
blouse, taking the garment and putting it on. "I'll save the rest for
the next dance whenever Hooper feels festive."

Grateful that he didn't have to stand and take punishment in his present
condition, Hooper groped to a chair and sat down.

"Now, then, mates," announced Hal modestly, "when we were interrupted I
was trying to show you that I don't ache to be a hero. Being a regular
is good enough for me. I am ready to answer any further questions."

But just at that moment a bugle sounded the call to drill.

"You've answered enough questions for the present, rook," replied
Private Hyman, patting Overton on the shoulder as he went by. Hooper
struggled into his blouse, then went over to a sink and washed the red
from his nose before hurrying out with the others. The big private
didn't even look at Hal Overton as he went by.

Being excused from duty for the day, Hal went in search of Noll Terry.
He found him waiting outside of barracks.

"Whew, but I've been through a mill," sighed Noll.

"I've been ground just a bit myself," laughed Hal.

"Did the fellows twit you about last night's work?" asked Noll
curiously.

"Well, some," admitted Hal.

"If there's anything left that the fellows in the squad room can think
of to do to me, I'm wondering what it is," grunted Private Terry.

"Oh, they'll think up enough things," Hal declared. "We needn't imagine
that our mates will exhaust themselves in twenty minutes of fun. You
didn't lose your temper, did you, Noll?"

"No; and I don't want to. But there's one fellow in our room that I am
certain I'll have to fight before I get through."

"There's a fellow in our room that I don't believe I will have to
fight," chuckled Private Overton.

"Have you been in a fight already?" asked Noll, flashing a swift look at
his chum.

"Oh, no," Hal answered. "A dancing lesson was as far as I got this
morning. But come along, Noll. I want to get where we can get a look at
the great mountains yonder. My, how they seem to tower above the fort
and wall us in!"

Fort Clowdry was some fifty-two hundred feet above sea level. From
there, however, high mountains were visible that extended some thousands
of feet higher in the air. All about was a great view of rugged mountain
scenery.

Over past the buildings at the west end of the post the two rookies
wandered. Now they had a noble view of the mountains.

"Are you going off post this afternoon, as the colonel said we could?"
asked Noll, by and by.

"Not unless you very much want to, Noll. Can't we put in the time better
learning our way around the post?"

"Perhaps we can," assented Noll.

A soldier came along, driving a pair of mules to which a quarter
master's wagon was hitched. As he drew near, with a heavy load aboard,
he halted to rest the mules.

"Rooks, ain't ye?" questioned the soldier.

"Yes," admitted Hal.

"Taking a survey of the post?"

"Rather. We don't have to report for duty until to-morrow."

After a few moments the soldier climbed down from the seat of the wagon.
He was wholly willing to tell the boys whatever they wanted to know
about Fort Clowdry and to point out the features of interest in the
surrounding lines of mountains.

"Ever go hunting?" asked the soldier, at last.

"Yes; after squirrels and partridges," laughed Hal.

"No real hunting, though?"

"None."

"Then, if you can keep out of discipline troubles, ye'll have some fun
around here by and by."

"Soldiers don't have much time for hunting, do they?" Hal asked.

"Those that know how to hunt do," replied the older soldier. "That's
part of the life here. Didn't ye ever hear about soldier hunting
parties?"

"I certainly haven't," Hal admitted.

"Why, men of good conduct are often allowed to go off on hunting parties
when the game's running right. Generally there's six or eight men to a
party, and all have to be fair shots, for the K. O. doesn't aim to have
too much ammunition wasted," explained the old soldier. "One of the
party is a non-com and he has charge of the party."

"What do the hunters get?" queried Hal.

"Well, for bigger game, bear and mountain antelope mostly. Then some
parties go after birds; there's plenty of them, too, in the mountains,
at the right seasons."

"Say!" exploded Noll, his eyes shining.

"Think ye'd like to go on a hunting party, do ye?" asked the soldier.
"Get up yer record for marksmanship, then."

"What's done with the game?" asked Noll innocently.

"What----" the soldier started to repeat. Then he added, dryly:

"Oh, we send the game to the hospitals in Denver and Pueblo, of course!"

"Don't we get any of it to eat?" asked Noll, looking up.

"Say, don't ever go off with a party that doesn't bring back a big haul
of game," advised the older soldier. "If ye do, the company cooks will
lynch ye. Why, that's what we go hunting for--to vary the bill of fare
here at the post. Sometimes, when we're all just aching for bear steaks,
an officer and twenty or thirty men all hike off at once into the
mountain trails. There are plenty of game dinners at Clowdry, at
different times in the year."

Then the soldier climbed leisurely to the seat of his wagon and started
on again.

"I wonder if he was fooling us about hunting parties," mused Hal.

Later on, however, the rookies discovered that the soldier had told them
the truth. On some of the Western posts, hunting forms one of the
diversions of the men.

Presently they met another soldier, this time afoot.

"How far can we go without getting off the reservation?" Hal inquired.

"The way you're headed now you can go another mile without getting off
limits," the soldier replied.

"Reservation" is a term applied to the limits of an Army post. Wherever
an Army post exists it includes land reserved by the United States from
the jurisdiction of the individual state. Hence the name of reservation.

It was wilder country out here, away from the well-kept roads.

"Come on," urged Hal. "I'm going to take a good walk yet."

They had gone along, briskly, for at least another half mile when some
flying missile went by Hal's head. Noll, who was just behind him, saw
the missile, and watched it land on the ground beyond.

"Whoever is throwing rocks of that size--quit!" shouted Noll, wheeling
to his left and glaring at an irregularly-shaped ledge some sixty yards
away.

"Let's see who it is, anyway," cried Hal, darting toward the ledge.

By the time they reached the ledge they heard some lively scrambling
among the rocks beyond, but neither rookie could see anyone. All was
quiet for a few moments. Then a foot slipped on a stone, at a little
distance. Hal raced straight in the direction of the sound. He was in
time to see a crouching, running figure darting in and out among the
rocks.

"Come on, Noll! We've got him!" yelled Hal.

In another minute they had overtaken the fugitive, who now stood panting
at bay.

"Well, you're a nice one!" ejaculated Private Hal Overton.

"Tip Branders--out here in Colorado!" ejaculated Noll Terry.

"No; my name ain't Branders. Ye've got me mixed up with somebody else!"
glowered the young man at bay.



CHAPTER XVI

THE MYSTERY OF POST THREE


"OH, no, your name isn't Tip Branders!" mocked Hal Overton.

"That's what I said," retorted the young man at bay.

"Then how do you know who we are?"

"I don't know who ye are, and what's more, I don't care," retorted the
other.

"Tip, I guess you've forgotten to write home lately," broke in Noll.
"What would you say if you should hear that your uncle in Australia had
died and left your mother more than two million dollars?"

The young man's eyes opened very wide indeed. He gasped, and then his
eyes flashed eagerly.

"Has the old lady all that money?" he demanded. "Noll Terry, what else
do you know about it?"

The young man came briskly forward now, all trembling with eagerness.

"I don't know anything at all about it," retorted Noll coolly, "and I
don't believe it either."

"But you said----"

"Oh, Tip, what an idiot you are to think you can deny your identity to
us," jeered Noll, while Hal laughed merrily.

"Say, if you're trying to have sport with me," snarled Tip, "I'll----"

"Is it your idea of sport to shy rocks at us?" demanded Private Hal.

"I didn't shy anything at you," asserted Tip sullenly.

"Why, for that matter," Hal went on jeeringly, "I don't suppose you'll
even admit that you're here, at all?"

"Don't get too festive, just because you've got the government's blue
clothes on," Tip retorted sullenly. "A plain, ordinary soldier ain't
such a much."

"Opinions may differ about that, of course," Hal admitted. "But being a
soldier was too much of a job for you to get a chance at, wasn't it,
Tip?"

"I'm just as well suited as it is," rejoined Tip, flushing a bit, none
the less.

"You haven't told us what you're doing out in this country," Noll
suggested.

"And I don't know that it's any of your business, either," Branders went
on. "Ain't nothing to be ashamed of, though. You know I used to travel a
bit with the political crowd at home."

"With the heelers of the city," Noll amended.

Tip scowled, but continued:

"Well, I got into a bit of a row, that's all. So I lit out until things
could blow over a bit."

"And took some of your mother's cash before you left, I heard," nodded
Private Noll Terry.

"She gave it to me," cried Tip fiercely. "Now, see here, don't you
fellows say nothing about seeing me out in this part of the country. I'm
out here trying to run down a good, new start in life. You just keep
your tongues behind your teeth as far as my affairs are concerned."

"What kind of a new start can you make out in these hills?" queried Hal.

"That's what I'm here to find out. My cash has about run out, so I'm
walking. I'm bound for a ranch about forty miles west of here, where I
expect to land a job. So don't you go to talking too much about me, and
trying to spoil me."

"Why did you try to knock me over with a small-sized boulder?" Hal
insisted.

"Because I wanted to play a joke on you," retorted Tip, with a grin.

"That's a lie, but let it go at that," rejoined Hal Overton. "It would
be too much, anyway, wouldn't it, Tip, to expect the truth from you?"

"You always were down on me," replied Branders half coaxingly. "If you'd
only taken more trouble to understand me you'd have understood that I'm
not a half bad fellow."

"No; only about nine-tenths bad," grimaced Noll derisively.

"Well, there's no use in my staying here to talk with you fellows,"
muttered Tip angrily. "You never were friends of mine. So I'll be on my
way."

"Tramping it for forty miles, are you?" called Noll, as Tip turned away.

"'Bout that," Branders called back over his shoulder.

"Then, man alive, why don't you keep to the road, instead of scrambling
over these rough boulders?"

Tip's only answer was a snort.

"Come back to the road," proposed Hal to his chum. So the two rookies
clambered back over the ledge and down onto the excellent military road.
But they caught no further glimpse of Tip Branders; plainly he preferred
different paths.

"What do you make out of Tip?" asked Noll, a minute later.

"Nothing," Hal answered, "except that he was lying, as usual, of course.
Tip never tells the truth; there's no sport in it."

"I'd like to know what he is doing out in this country."

"Oh, I reckon," suggested Hal, "that, as he couldn't be a soldier, he
thought he'd take up cowboy life as the next best thing."

"He won't last long as a cowboy," laughed Noll. "Tip hates work, and the
cowboy is about the hardest worked man in America."

"Well, we don't have to worry about Tip," muttered Hal. "We don't even
have to talk about him. Noll, look at those noble old mountains!"

"Some day, when we have enough time off, we must walk to the mountains,"
urged Noll. "I wonder how many miles away they are--five, or six?"

"Hm!" laughed Hal. "I asked Sergeant Gray, and he said that range over
there is about forty miles away."

"Forty!" Noll looked plainly unbelieving.

"You'll find out, Noll Terry, that the air in these glorious old Rocky
Mountains is so mighty clear that you can't judge distances the way you
did back East. I'd rather have Sergeant Gray's word than any evidence
that my own eyes can supply me with."

"We won't get to that mountain range, then, until we have a week off,"
sighed Noll.

After wandering about for some time more the young rookies strolled
back to barracks. Hal had yet to find Sergeant Hupner and get assigned
to a bed and a locker.

Hupner proved to be a rather short, but keen and very pleasant fellow.
He was of German origin, but had no accent in his speech, having been
educated in this country.

"You'll like the regiment, the battalion and B Company, Overton, when
you get used to us," Sergeant Hupner informed the young rookie.

"I'm sure of it, Sergeant," Hal replied. "But it'll be far more to the
point, won't it, if I make my comrades like me?"

"Oh, you'll get along all right," replied Hupner, who had had a report
on the quiet of Hal's performance with big Bill Hooper that morning.
"The main thing for a recruit, Overton, is not to act as if he knew it
all until he really does. And no old soldier does claim to know too
much. You'll have to fall in for dinner in about ten minutes. When the
company assembles report to Sergeant Gray, who'll give you your place in
the ranks."

When the two recruits marched into company mess, that noon, both Hal and
Noll felt odd. The chums had not been used to being separated.

After dinner the two were together again, however. Guided by Hyman they
went to the recreation hall, on the second floor of barracks building.
This hall was fitted up for games and sports, and at one end was a stage
with scenery.

"Who gives the shows?" asked Hal.

"Once in a great while the men chip in from company funds to hire a real
company, or troupe," replied Private Hyman. "The officers always add
something, then. But, more often, the men supply their own talent. We've
got a lot of show talent of all sorts among nearly four hundred men."

Hyman was soon called away to a drill, though not before he had pointed
out other places of interest. Hal and Noll went over to the library, the
gym. and the Y. M. C. A. building. They wound up their afternoon of
leisure by attending parade just before retreat. Retreat is always
followed, immediately, by the firing of the sunset gun and the hauling
down of the post Flag for the night.

When tattoo was sounded by the bugler that night both chums were glad
enough to turn down their beds and get into them. Neither Hal nor Noll
remained awake more than two minutes.

The windows were open, and a cool, delicious breeze, circulated through
the squad room. Hal slept the sleep of the truly tired, hearing nothing
of the martial snores of some of the men on adjoining cots. It was late
in the night when Private Overton was awakened by the sound of a rifle
shot.

"I must have been dreaming through the scenes of last night again," Hal
muttered drowsily.

None of the other men in the room appeared to have heard the sound at
all.

But now it came again. A shot was followed by a second, then by a third.

"Corporal of the guard--post number three!" yelled a lusty voice, though
the distance was such that Hal Overton heard the sound only faintly.

Crack--crack!

Then a bugle pealed on the air, though still Hal's comrades in the squad
room slumbered on.

Too curious to turn over and go to sleep again, Hal stole softly from
his cot and reached an open window on the side that looked out over the
parade.

There was no moon, but in the light of the stars Hal could see several
uniformed men running swiftly across the parade ground to officers' row.

"It's no dream," muttered Overton, intensely interested, "for there goes
the corporal with the guard. What on earth can it mean?"

There was something up--and something exciting, at that, for experienced
sentries never fire except in case of need. Moreover, several
sentries--no fewer than four--had just fired almost simultaneously.

Nor did the corporal and his squad return within the next few minutes.

Whatever it was that had resulted in turning out the guard, the need for
the guard plainly still continued.

"There's no more shooting, anyway," Hal reflected. "I may as well go
back to bed."

It was some minutes ere he could sleep. When he did fall off it seemed
as though only a minute or two had passed when the bugle again pealed.

Hal was on his feet in a second. So were most of the other soldiers in
the squad room this time.

"Why, it's daylight now," uttered Hal, looking astounded.

"Of course it is, rook," laughed the soldier whose bed was next to
Hal's. "That bugler sounded first call to reveille. Don't you know what
that is yet?"

In other words the soldier's alarm clock had "gone off." Though all of
these men had slept through the call for the corporal of the guard,
simply because it did not concern them, every man had turned out at the
first or second note of "first call to reveille."

Every man dressed swiftly. As soon as he got his clothing on each
soldier turned up his bedding according to the regulations.

There was some "policing" of the room done. That is, everything was made
shipshape and tidy. Last of all, and within a very few minutes from the
start, the men made their way briskly to the sinks, where soap and
water, comb and brush, put on the finishing touches. A sergeant, two
corporals and nearly a score of men were now as neat and clean as
soldiers must ever be.

"What was that row in the night, Corporal? Do you know?" Hal asked.

"What row in the night?" asked Corporal Cotter.

"Why, there was a lot of shooting, and a call for the corporal of the
guard to post number six."

"First I've heard of it," replied Corporal Cotter. "But we'll know
before long. Now, step lively, rook, for you're on duty with the rest
to-day."

By the time that Sergeant Gray's squad room emptied at the call of the
bugle it was instantly plain outside that something unusual was going
on.

A and D Companies, as they fell in, proved each to be twenty men short.

"There are extra guards out, and a picket down the road to town,"
muttered Private Hyman, who stood next to Hal in the ranks.

"What does it mean?" asked Hal Overton, but instantly his thoughts went
back to the shots and the excitement of the night.

"Silence in the ranks," growled Corporal Cotter.

But at breakfast tongues were unloosed. Hal quickly told what little he
had seen and heard in the night. Others passed the gossip that twenty
men had been silently summoned from a squad room in A Company, and
twenty more from a squad room in D Company.

"There's some mischief floating in the air--that's certain," muttered
Private Hyman.

"How did you happen to be up to see and hear it all, Overton?" demanded
Sergeant Gray.

Hal explained, frankly and briefly, but the sergeant's eyes were keenly
questioning.

Before the meal was over the company commander, Captain Cortland,
entered the room.

"Keep your seats, men. Go on with your breakfast. Sergeant Gray, I will
speak with you for a moment."

The first sergeant hastily rose, going over to his captain and saluting.
After the company commander had gone, at the end of a brief, almost
whispered conversation, Gray came back to his seat, looking wholly
mysterious.

"B Company, rise," ordered the first sergeant, at the end of the meal.
"Attention! The men of this company will have ten minutes for
recreation, then be prepared to fall in at an extra inspection on the
parade ground. After filing out of here no man will go indoors again
before inspection."

"Is it to be inspection without arms, Sergeant Gray?" called Sergeant
Hupner.

"Inspection just as you stand," replied Sergeant Gray, then gave the
marching order.

"What on earth is up, Hal?" demanded Noll, when the two young rookies
met outside of mess a few minutes later.

"I wish I knew," was Hal's puzzled reply.



CHAPTER XVII

HAL UNDER A FIRE OF QUESTIONS


IMMEDIATELY after the bugle call for assembly the four companies of the
first battalion of the Thirty-fourth fell in by companies on the parade
ground.

After roll-call had been read each company commander stepped before his
own command.

"Was any man of B Company absent from his squad room at any time around
two o'clock this morning?" called Captain Cortland, looking keenly over
his command. Other company commanders were asking the same question. "If
so, that man will fall out."

Not a man fell out of any of the four companies.

"Was any man in B Company up and moving about the squad room at or about
two o'clock this morning?" was Captain Cortland's next question. "If so,
fall out."

Private Hal Overton quickly left his place in the ranks.

"Advance, Private Overton," ordered Captain Cortland.

Hal stepped forward, halting six paces from his company commander and
saluting.

"You were up and about in the squad room at that time, Private Overton?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you leave the squad room?"

"No, sir."

"You are positive of that?"

"Positive, sir."

"You did not leave the squad room, even for a moment?"

"No, sir."

"What brought you out of your bed?"

"I heard shots, sir, and calls for the guard."

"What else did you see or hear, Private Overton?"

"I went to the window, and saw that there was some excitement up by the
officers' quarters, sir."

"Then what did you do?"

"After listening and looking for some time, sir, I returned to my bed,
wondering what it was all about."

Hal was the only soldier in the battalion who had fallen out of ranks.

"Follow me," ordered Captain Cortland. He led the young soldier back to
where Adjutant Wright and the sergeant-major were standing by Major
Silsbee.

"Lieutenant Wright," reported Captain Cortland, "Private Overton admits
being up in the squad room at the time when the shots were fired in the
dark hours this morning. He claims that he did not leave the squad room,
and that it was the noise that woke him and made him curious."

"Go to my office, Private Overton, with Sergeant-major Beall," directed
the adjutant briefly.

Hal and the sergeant-major saluted, then stepped away.

"Is it allowable, Sergeant, for a rookie to ask what this is all about?"
asked Hal respectfully, as the two neared the adjutant's office at
headquarters.

"You'd better not ask. I'm not going to tell you anything," replied
Beall.

So Hal was silent, though he could hardly escape the feeling that he was
being treated a good deal like a suspected criminal. Though he knew that
he was innocent of any wrong-doing in connection with the excitement of
the night before he could not help feeling undefined dread.

Lieutenant Wright speedily returned to his office, taking his seat at
his desk. Hal was summoned and made to stand at attention before the
adjutant.

"Now, Private Overton," began the adjutant, fixing a frigid gaze on the
rookie, "you may as well tell me all you know about last night's
business."

Hal quickly told the little that he knew.

"Come, come, my man," retorted Lieutenant Wright, "that much won't do.
Out with the rest of it."

"There isn't any 'rest of it' that I know of, sir," Private Hal answered
respectfully.

"Now, my man----"

With that preliminary Lieutenant Wright proceeded to put the young
recruit through a severe, grilling cross-examination. But Hal kept his
head through it all, insisting that he had told all he knew.

"Overton," rapped in the adjutant, at last, "you are very new to the
Army, and you don't appear to realize all the facilities we have for
compelling men to speak. If you remain obtuse any longer, it may be
necessary for me to order you to the guard-house under confinement."

"I am very sorry, Lieutenant," Hal replied, flushing, "that you will not
believe me. On my word of honor as a soldier I have told you all that I
know of the matter."

The adjutant bent forward, looking keenly into the rookie's eyes. Hal
did not flinch, returning the gaze steadily, respectfully.

Then, in a somewhat less gruff tone, Lieutenant Wright continued:

"That is all for the present, Private Overton. Report to your company
commander, at once."

The adjutant and sergeant-major left headquarters a moment later, going
by a different path. As Hal glanced down the parade ground he saw the
men out of ranks, though every man was still close to his place.

"Major," reported the adjutant, after the exchange of salutes between
the officers, "Private Overton denies having left the squad room in the
early hours this morning. For that matter, sir, if he had not been
honest, he need not have reported that he was out of his bed, or that he
heard the sentries' shots."

"It was well he did admit that much," replied the major, "for he let it
out at company mess this morning."

"I went at the young recruit, sir, so severely that I was almost ashamed
of myself," continued the adjutant. "I am under the impression, sir,
that Private Overton told me the truth."

"So am I," admitted Major Silsbee thoughtfully. "His record, so far, is
against the idea of his being mixed up in rascally business. I think it
likely that Private Overton's extreme fault, if he is guilty of any, is
that he is possibly shielding some other soldiers whom he saw sneak
back into barracks after the excitement was over. Probably he isn't even
guilty of that much."

"Are you going to search the squad rooms, sir?" inquired the adjutant.

"Yes, Wright, though it makes me feel almost sick to put such an affront
upon hundreds of innocent and decent men."

"The decent ones, sir, will welcome the search."

"That is what Colonel North told me. Summon the company commanders, and
direct them to go into each squad room of their companies with the
sergeant in charge of the squad room."

Hal, in the meantime, had returned to B Company. He found many of his
comrades regarding him suspiciously, and flushed in consequence. But
Corporal Cotter, Private Hyman and others stepped over to him.

"What's it all about, rookie? Do you know?" asked the corporal.

"Not a blessed thing, Corporal," replied the young recruit.

"Look! Here come the company commanders back," called another soldier,
in a low tone.

"Sergeant Gray and the other sergeants of B Company will follow me to
barracks," called Captain Cortland.

Now the curious soldiers saw each company commander, followed by his
sergeants, step back to barracks.

For an hour the puzzled men of the battalion waited on the parade
ground.

Then, in some mysterious manner, the news of what had really happened
began to spread.

In the night unknown men had broken into Major Silsbee's house. This had
not been a difficult thing to do as, on a military post, doors are
rarely locked. Not one of the three entrances to Major Silsbee's
quarters had been locked at the time.

Downstairs the thieves had gathered a few articles together, but had not
taken them, as they had found better plunder upstairs. From a
dressing-room adjoining Mrs. Silsbee's sleeping apartment the prowlers
had taken a jewel case containing jewels worth some three thousand
dollars. There had also been about two hundred dollars in money in the
case.

As the thieves were leaving the house they were seen by a sentry some
sixty yards away. The sentry had challenged, then fired. The thieves had
fled, swiftly, running directly away from all light. But another sentry
had also seen them, and had fired. Both sentries had agreed that there
were four men, and that they wore the uniforms of soldiers.

The thieves made good their escape. Soon after the alarm was given
forty men from A and D companies had been silently turned out to aid in
establishing a stronger guard, and the barracks building had been
watched through the rest of the night.

Yet no soldier had been caught trying to get back into barracks, nor had
any man been missing at roll-call unless well accounted for.

"Somewhere in this battalion, then," murmured Noll to a man in C
Company, "there are four soldiers who are thieves."

"Yes," replied the soldier bluntly, "and it looks as though your bunkie
at the recruit rendezvous might know something about it."

"Hal Overton doesn't know," flared Noll promptly, "or he'd have told!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE ANONYMOUS LETTER


IT was a four days' wonder, and then it dropped.

The search at barracks had revealed nothing. There was not a soldier on
the post against whom any tangible suspicion pointed.

"There's just one way that a clue might be found," muttered Private Bill
Hooper, one morning in Sergeant Hupner's squad room. "In time it may
turn out that a sweetheart of some soldier gets some pretty jewelry
trinkets given to her."

He glared covertly, though meaningly, at Hal Overton.

But Hal was far enough away neither to see nor to hear Hooper's fling.

"You'll never get caught on that trick, Bill," jeered Private Hyman. "No
girl would look at you, even if you displayed the whole of the missing
jewelry."

"I've had my share of sweethearts in my day," growled big Private
Hooper.

"That was before your face changed for worse," grinned Hyman.

"Don't get gay with me," warned Hooper sulkily, "or your face may
suffer some changes!"

"Go over and thump the kid," proposed Hyman.

It was Hal who was meant by the term "kid."

"I don't like that youngster," muttered Hooper. "And I don't trust him,
either."

"That'll never worry Hal Overton," smiled Hyman. "Hooper, you look so
untidy that it's a wonder Sergeant Hupner doesn't 'call' you oftener for
it. And you clean up your rifle about once a fortnight. Look at Overton
over there."

Hal was at work with his kit of cleaning tools, going over his rifle as
methodically and industriously as though it were a piece of rare silver
plate.

"He'll rub and polish that old piece of his until he wears it out,"
mumbled Hooper.

"One of the surest signs of the good soldier is when you see him putting
in a lot of his spare time caring for his uniforms and equipments,"
broke in Sergeant Hupner, behind them. "Hooper, go and brush your
uniform, and clean your boots and polish 'em. I'll report you, if I see
you so slouchy in the future."

Bill Hooper moved away, scowling.

Sergeant Gray strode in at that moment.

"Do you want leave to go to town to-day, reporting back at tattoo,
Hyman?" inquired the first sergeant.

"Thank you, yes, Sergeant."

"All right; I'll turn you in on the list to Captain Cortland. I'll
notify you of leave within half an hour."

Then he stepped over to Hal.

"Overton, you haven't had any leave to visit town since you joined.
Would you like to take leave to-day?"

"No, Sergeant, thank you."

Sergeant Gray looked his surprise.

"Why not?" he demanded.

"I have too much to learn right here, Sergeant. I'm going to stick, and
work, until I'm out of the recruit class."

"Good boy!" murmured Gray, in an undertone, and passed on. But Gray
stopped when he came up with Hupner.

"Hupner, you've got a valuable man in Overton."

"I know it, Sergeant."

"Give him all the little points you can that will take him out of the
recruit class promptly."

"Why, Sergeant," smiled Hupner, "Overton can go out of the recruit class
at about any time now. Report him for the guard detail any time that you
want. He'll make good. He's keen on every bit of his work. He can go
through his manual of arms like a juggler. He has studied his infantry
drill regulations until he's about worn the book out; he knows his
manual of guard duty by heart, and it would be mighty hard to trip him
anywhere in his small arms firing manual. Have you noticed his facings
and his marching at drill?"

"Yes," nodded Sergeant Gray thoughtfully. "The boy's a good one, all
right."

"Take it from me, Sergeant--you needn't hesitate to detail the kid for
guard or any other duty. He'll suit Captain Cortland."

"I'll detail him for guard, then, as soon as I can," returned Sergeant
Gray. "That gives a young soldier confidence as soon as anything else
ever does."

As often as is practicable enlisted men are given a day's leave, with
permission to go off post and visit the nearest town. This leave is
given to men known to be of good conduct. A "bad" soldier, when one is
found, gets little in the way of leave.

Whenever a soldier or an ex-soldier is found slandering the Army service
it is invariably safe to set him down as a man who, through very poor
soldierly qualities, or actual viciousness, got "in the bad books" of
his officers. There is every desire on the part of regimental and
company officers to make it pleasant for a truly good soldier, and to
keep him in the service until he has reached retiring age.

The man who gets into bad company when away on leave is the soldier who
has the most difficulty in getting leave another time.

On the other hand, the soldier of good conduct can have much leave
during the month. It is a practice at many posts, when a man has a
trade, and can get small jobs to do near the post, to allow him as many
half days for that work as may be granted him without injury to the
service. In this way handy men or mechanics among the soldiers often add
many dollars to their pocket money.

As Private Bill Hooper went away to clean up his uniform and shoes, Hal
blithely kept at work putting his rifle in A 1 order.

Both were interrupted, half an hour later, by the bugle call for
separate company drill.

Private Overton was among the first on the drill ground. His clothing
looked as though it had just come from the tailor's; his rifle had the
appearance of being fresh from the arsenal.

"There's a man for you, Hyman," spoke Sergeant Hupner, in an undertone.
"If the kid keeps on as he has started he'll be a winner."

"I've had my eye on him," nodded Private Hyman. "He seems to be good all
the way through."

"Is he ever a little bit fresh in the squad room?" continued Sergeant
Hupner.

"If the kid is," replied Hyman, "I've never happened to be around at
that time. But he stands up for himself when he has to. I suppose you've
heard, Sergeant, how he trimmed Bill Hooper off?"

"Yes," nodded Hupner; "that sort of thing won't hurt Hooper at all,
either."

"Hooper may lay for a chance to accuse Overton of something in the squad
room that the kid didn't do."

"I'll have my eyes open for Hooper," replied Hupner dryly. "I haven't
anything against any of the other sergeants in this battalion, but I
really wish some other sergeant had Hooper in his squad room."

"B Company fall in," sounded the voice of Captain Cortland.

First Lieutenant Hampton and the sergeants hastened to their posts,
while the corporals and privates went to their places in the ranks.

The command for open order was given, after which Captain Cortland
commanded:

"Inspect the second platoon, Lieutenant Hampton."

With that the company commander himself passed behind the backs of the
men of the first platoon, looking each man over keenly.

"Private Hooper, fall out!" ordered Captain Cortland sharply.

When the captain had finished his own work, and Lieutenant Hampton had
reported all men in the second platoon to be soldierly in appearance,
Captain Cortland turned to Bill Hooper with a look of disapproval.

"Private Hooper, this is the third time within a month that you've
failed to report in neat and soldierly appearance. Who is in charge of
your squad room?"

"Sergeant Hupner, sir."

"Sergeant Hupner," resumed the captain, "what have you to say to this
man's appearance?"

"I ordered him, at least a half an hour ago, sir, to clean himself up."

"Keep right after Private Hooper, Sergeant. If he fails again to keep
himself as a soldier should, report him to the first sergeant."

Hooper's face burned darkly. Even honest Sergeant Hupner flushed. A
shiftless soldier is a sore trial to the sergeant responsible for him.

Now, at the brisk command, B Company moved off in column of fours. A
long practice march followed. While out, the company was halted and
drilled searchingly. It was a hard morning's work, B Company returning
just in time for dinner. In the afternoon there was another drill.
Parade wound up the day.

On his return from parade Lieutenant Wright, the adjutant, found in his
office mail a letter that caused him a good deal of astonishment.

          "Watch Private Overton, B. Company, if you want to
          find a man who knows a lot about the robbery the
          other night. He has been acting suspiciously, and
          I have it from a man in his squad room that
          Overton sometimes talks in his sleep in a way to
          show that either he was one of the robbers, or
          else that he knows who they are.

                                                 "A FRIEND."



CHAPTER XIX

A SECRET COWARD


IF any official notice was taken of that lying anonymous note the
rascally writer thereof did not have the satisfaction of discovering it
for some time to come.

Duties in the battalion went on, as usual, at Fort Clowdry, the next
day.

Late in the afternoon, however, came a brief battalion drill, followed
by the glorious spectacle of dress parade.

After the regimental band had played the colors down the line, and the
other ceremonies had been observed, Adjutant Wright took his post to
publish the orders.

These were few, and the reading did not occupy long. As the officer
returned the papers to the breast of his coat the men expected to see
him step back. Instead, however, the adjutant sharply called:

"Battalion, attention! I am directed by the battalion commander to make
an inquiry. Each man will pay close heed, and answer if he is able. Has
any non-commissioned officer or private in this battalion heard, at any
time lately, any man in the same squad room with him talk in his sleep
in such a way as to indicate that the man talking in his sleep had any
knowledge concerning the men who recently broke into and robbed the
battalion commander's quarters? Any man having such knowledge will fall
out."

There was a tense silence, but the ranks of the first battalion remained
intact.

"If there is any non-commissioned officer or private who did not fully
understand my question, he will fall out," continued the adjutant.

Still no man fell out.

"If the man who addressed the anonymous letter to the battalion adjutant
is present he will step out," continued Lieutenant Wright.

Still the ranks remained unbroken.

Being at "attention," each man in the four companies was looking fixedly
ahead. But curiosity was running wild under all those blue fatigue
blouses!

"An anonymous letter has been received at battalion headquarters,"
continued the adjutant sternly. "This letter accuses a soldier, who is
named, of having guilty knowledge concerning the perpetrators of the
robbery of the other night. The writer of this letter asserts that other
men in the squad room have heard the anonymously accused soldier talking
in his sleep in such a manner as to implicate the accused in the
robbery.

"No man present has acknowledged having heard such talk. Either some
soldiers now in ranks have lied in denying having heard such talk, or
else the writer of the anonymous letter is a liar. I am directed by the
battalion commander to state his belief that the writer of the anonymous
letter is the liar.

"The writer of the letter has been ordered to fall out and reveal
himself. If that writer is present, then he knows in his own mind, and
one of these days his comrades will know, that he is too much of a
coward to face responsibility for his sneaking action.

"The man who writes an anonymous letter is always a coward, a sneak, and
usually a liar, too. I am directed by the battalion commander to state
that, if the writer of this anonymous letter can be found, he will be
placed on trial for his act, which is one unworthy of a soldier.

"I am further directed by the battalion commander to state that no
letter anonymously accusing an enlisted man will react in any way
against the accused. The battalion commander feels that he cannot state,
too strongly, his intense contempt for any coward who will resort to
slandering a comrade in an anonymous letter.

"The battalion commander will be glad, at any time, to receive from any
man in his command any information or report that may be made honestly
and for the good of the service. But the man making such report will go
to headquarters and make it in person, or else will put his information
in writing and sign it fully and manfully."

After an impressive pause Adjutant Wright stepped back, saluted his
commanding officer, then stepped to his proper position.

At a signal from the adjutant the buglers now sounded retreat. As the
last notes died out the sunset gun was fired. Rifles flew to "present
arms," swords flashed to salute and male civilian onlookers uncovered
their heads while the band crashed out with "The Star Spangled Banner."

As the band played, the Flag fluttered down from the peak of the post
flag staff and descended into the hands of its defenders. One man stood
in the ranks at that moment who was unfit to touch even the border of
that national emblem.

"Order arms!" rang out, as the last note died out. "Right shoulder
arms!"

Then by column of fours the battalion marched briskly off the field, to
be halted and dismissed near barracks.

No sooner were the men in their quarters than the same angry inquiry
rose in each squad room:

"Who has been writing lying letters about a comrade?"

No one admitted being the dastard, of course, yet over at headquarters
Major Silsbee, at that very moment, was asking:

"What makes you so very sure, Wright, that some man in this command
wrote the anonymous letter?"

"It is all very simple, sir," replied the adjutant. "Look at the note
again, sir, and you'll see that it is typewritten----"

"Of course, Wright; I've known that from the first."

"But, sir, it's written in the style of type that is used on the Everite
typewriter. This post is equipped with Everite typewriters; we have them
here at headquarters, and every first sergeant has one, too, for his
clerk."

"And there may be a dozen more Everite typewriters over in Clowdry,"
suggested Major Silsbee dubiously.

"No, Major; I've made an investigation. I have a list of every firm or
person in Clowdry who owns a machine--only about a dozen in all, and not
one of them is an Everite. Major, the letter was written on this post,
and with an Everite machine."

"Then, by the great guns, sir, I hope you go further and catch the
culprit," exploded Major Silsbee, bringing his fist down on the desk.

"Ah," sighed Lieutenant Wright. "That's just where the trouble is. It
will be a hard task, sir."



CHAPTER XX

THE LUCK OF THE YOUNG RECRUIT


ON top of all this came the news that Colonel North's quarters had been
entered the night following.

Worse, the scoundrels had used chloroform this time. Colonel North awoke
at about three in the morning, his head feeling heavy and dull. He noted
at once the strange odor in the room. Then he roused his family. Traces
of thieves were found; within ten seconds after that Colonel North had
summoned the guard.

Yet the two sentries on duty in officers' row both declared that they
had seen no prowlers.

Almost every article of value had been found and taken. A pair of costly
revolvers belonging to the regimental commander had gone with the loot.
Some money, too, had been found and taken. Colonel North and his family
placed their loss at nearly four thousand dollars.

"Lieutenant Ray," said Colonel North, to the officer of the day, who had
followed the guard, "I think you had better summon Major Silsbee at
once."

The major was there, inside of five minutes.

"So the scoundrels have blistered you, too, sir?" demanded the
white-faced battalion commander wrathfully.

"They have taken almost everything in the way of valuable property that
Mrs. North and I own, Major."

"We've got to put a stop to this, sir. And we've got to find and bring
the rascals to boot."

"Pardon me, Colonel; shall I pass the order for a prompt search of
barracks?" queried the officer of the day.

"No, Mr. Ray," replied Colonel North promptly. "Until I have real proof
I'm not going to put the slight upon our enlisted men. I believe they're
all fine men. If I had taken more time to think I never would have
sanctioned the last search of barracks. It shan't happen again."

Captain Ruggles of A Company, having heard some excitement along the
row, now came in.

"What we might, and perhaps ought to do, Major," continued the Colonel,
"is to advise the married officers whose homes have not yet been robbed
that they will do well to send their valuables into town for
safe-keeping at the bank for the present."

"We might, sir," assented Silsbee dryly. "The bank in Clowdry is under
the protection of a police force of less than a dozen men. Shall we
admit, Colonel, that a dozen policemen are safer guardians of property
than our four hundred men of the Regular Army?"

Colonel North looked troubled at that way of putting the matter.

"I believe Mrs. Ruggles and I have some things worth stealing," broke in
Captain Ruggles quietly. "But I feel certain that neither of us would
like to throw any slight over the ability of this battalion to protect
its own property."

"My head isn't very clear yet," admitted Colonel North. "I realize that
I have made a poor suggestion. I don't imagine, Major, that you'd be
much better pleased if I directed you to double the guard."

"I shall obey, of course, Colonel, any orders on that subject that you
may give me," replied Major Silsbee.

"These robberies are likely to continue, at intervals, until the
quarters of all married officers have been entered and despoiled, sir,"
suggested Captain Ruggles, "so it seems to me, sir, that it would be
wise to put each guard on its mettle."

"I am thinking only of protecting you gentlemen who have not yet
sustained losses," continued Colonel North.

"And we appreciate your solicitude greatly, sir," resumed Major
Silsbee.

"I leave it to you, Major."

"Then I shall make it my business, sir, to see to it that the men are
instructed to be more alert than ever in guard duty," replied Silsbee.

The next morning the news, of course, traveled swiftly all through the
garrison.

Hal and Noll had a chance to chat together for a few minutes before the
sounding of the first assembly after breakfast.

"The thieves are around again," mused Noll aloud.

"Yes," nodded Private Hal thoughtfully.

"I wish we might catch the rascals at it."

"You've got time enough to think out your plan, then," laughed Hal, in
mild derision at this suggestion.

"How so?"

"Well, the thieves are not due for a few days yet on their next raid. It
seems to be their plan to leave intervals between their raids."

"If the burglars are scheming further attempts they may vary their plans
by coming again to-night," hinted Noll.

"I hardly believe they will," replied Hal, shaking his head.

That day at noon Sergeant Gray warned Hal for guard the following day.
Just after dinner Hal found that his chum Noll had also been warned.

"If the thieves are coming again I hope it will be to-morrow night,"
suggested Hal.

"No good," retorted Noll cynically.

"Why not?"

"We're only rooks."

"Well?"

"There isn't a ghost of a chance that we'd be put on post up in
officers' row. The oldest and keenest soldiers will be put on that duty
every night."

"Oh, I suppose so," sighed Hal. "Of course rookies are just rooks. We'll
get the post down by the commissary stores, where a wagon train would be
needed for stealing anything really worth money."

At guard mount the next morning both recruits turned out spick and span.
Knowing that they could not expect to get any important posts for night
tours both boys hoped to be selected by the officer of the day for
orderly duty. But two older soldiers were chosen for that. When guard
mount was over Sergeant Hupner, as commander of the guard, marched the
new guard over to the guard-house, where the old guard was relieved.

This was the first time that the rookies had been detailed to guard duty
since joining their regiment. No matter to what inconsequential posts
they might be assigned both were full of determination to show
themselves model sentries.

During the day Hal and Noll, who were assigned to the same relief, had
two tours. The first was in officers' row; the second, which ended just
before dark, was down at the main entrance of the post.

Then followed some hours for leisure and sleep.

"You men will go on post again at two in the morning," announced
Corporal Sanders, who was in command of the relief to which the rookies
belonged.

Punctually that relief was turned out, aligned, inspected and
instructed.

"Post number three, Private Overton. Post number four, Private Terry,"
ran the corporal's orders. "Post number five----"

And so on.

Hal's heart was already beating high with hope. He had the post along
officers' row, Noll the one just beyond.

"All sentries will exercise unusual vigilance," announced Sergeant
Hupner, as commander of the guard. "This applies especially to the
sentries on posts number three and four. But let no sentry, anywhere,
allow his whole attention to wander from his duties for an instant.
Corporal, march the relief."

"Attention," called Corporal Sanders on receiving this order. "Right
shoulder arms! By twos, left march!"

Three minutes later the man on post three had been relieved, Hal having
been dropped into his place.

It was just after two o'clock in the morning when Private Hal Overton
began to pace his post, watching the relief vanish in the darkness in
the direction of post number four.

Then he heard a sentry's hail:

"Halt! Who goes there?"

"The relief."

"Advance, relief."

After that, the steps of the marching party died off in the distance.

In the darkest part of the moonless night Hal walked up and down before
the officers' quarters.

But he did more than walk. Making his own steps as noiseless as possible
Hal felt that he was truly "all ears and eyes."

Thus some twenty minutes went by.

Then, suddenly, just as Hal had passed the north side of Captain
Ruggles' quarters the young sentry halted like a flash.

Under the dim starlight he saw two shadowy forms leave by the captain's
back door.

Each carried a bundle, though Hal could not make out the size or shape
of either very distinctly.

"The burglars--at their tricks!" flashed Hal exultantly.

But he wasted no time thinking. In a twinkling he slipped a cartridge
into his rifle, bringing the piece to his shoulder.

"Halt!" he challenged. "Who's there?"

The two figures, crouching low, made a bolt for the tall corn in a
vegetable garden at the rear of the grounds.

"As fast as he could shout the words Private Hal Overton shouted:

"Halt! Who's there? Halt! Who's there?"

Having obeyed a sentry's instructions to challenge three times, and
receiving no answer, Hal pressed the trigger.

A flash of flame lit the darkness around the rifle. It leaped straight
from the muzzle.

Bang! The bullet sped in among the corn stalks.

Over it all sounded Hal's voice:

"Corporal of the guard, post number three!"

Hal shot back the bolt of his rifle, dropping in a cartridge with
fingers as steady as at drill.

"Corporal of the guard, post number three!"

The gate was too far away. Hal took the fence at a bound, carrying his
cocked piece with him.

Straight to the growing corn the young private took his speedy way.

"Come out and show yourselves, or I fire at once," Private Overton
shouted.

Crack! crack! Two pistol shots rang out from the corn patch.



CHAPTER XXI

THE DUEL IN THE DARK


ALL this had occupied but a few seconds.

Private Hal Overton was on duty, and bent on business.

"I'll get one, or both of the rascals--dead or alive!" flashed through
his mind.

Not even those two pistol shots brought him to a halt.

Yet one of the bullets struck the ground beside him as he raced, the
other fanning his left cheek with a little breeze.

"Get back there, boy!" growled a gruff voice. "You don't want to be
killed, do you?"

For answer Hal sighted swiftly and fired.

Then, for an instant, he dropped to one knee.

From out of the corn patch a curse reached his ears.

"If you'd rather be a dead soldier, all right," came the ugly response.
"Give it to him good and hot!"

Hal had already slipped back the bolt of his piece. Now, as fast as he
could handle the material, and while still down on one knee, he slipped
five cartridges into his magazine, and a sixth he drove home in the
chamber.

Bright flashes, swift reports greeted him from two points in the corn
patch. These points were about twenty feet apart.

The young soldier simply couldn't cover both points of attack.

From the way the bullets whistled past his face and body the recruit
knew that both his enemies were firing in deadly earnest.

And now, from a third point, another assailant joined in the firing, and
Hal marveled, with each second, that he still remained alive. He felt as
though he were the center of a leaden storm.

Yet, as coolly as he could, Soldier Hal chose the man at the left and
drove two shots straight in the direction of the flashes.

"He's got me," yelled a cursing voice.

"I'll get you all, if you don't stop shooting and come out," warned
Overton coolly.

He could hear the wounded man moving rather swiftly through the corn.

"He ought to leave a trail of blood," thought Hal, swiftly, and turned
his attention to the next enemy.

But that man had stopped his firing.

Then Hal turned his rifle in the direction of the flashes from the
pistol farthest away.

Bang! He sent one shot there, and the shooting of the unknown stopped.

[Illustration: Hal Dropped to One Knee.]

Private Overton, however, could not know whether he had hit the fellow.

"That fellow in the middle may be left yet," breathed Hal Overton, "I'll
find out."

He had three shots yet left in his magazine, and his piece was at cock.

Rising, he made swiftly for the corn, and dived in.

"Back for your life!" sounded a voice straight ahead.

Crack! crack!

Two pistols shots fanned his face.

But Hal took another running bound forward, preferring to reserve his
fire until he could catch a good glimpse of the fellow's body.

"Back, you fool!" hissed the voice, followed by two more shots.

"Come out with your hands up, or I'll get you!" Hal retorted.

Instead, the unknown and unseen turned and ran some fifty feet.

Hal pursued, without shooting.

Crack! crack!

For an instant Hal felt almost dizzy with sudden dread, for those
flashes seemed almost to smite him in the face.

Yes, he was afraid, for a brief space. The coward is not the man who is
afraid, but the man who allows his fear to overmaster him.

"Fire again," yelled Hal, "and I'll know just where to send a bullet."

As he rushed onward he came out of the corn patch.

Fifty feet further on he saw the fugitive, just dropping to the ground
at the roots of a tree.

Crack! crack! crack!

Lying on the ground, his head hardly showing beyond the roots, the
fugitive was now in excellent position to stop the young sentry's rush.

Whizz--zz! whizz--zz! Click!

Two of the speeding bullets flew past Hal's head. The third struck and
glanced off the rifle butt just as Hal, dropping to one knee, was
raising the piece to his shoulder to sight.

Bang! That was Hal's rifle, again in action. He had aimed swiftly, but
deliberately, for the base of the tree.

Against the military rifle of to-day an ordinary tree offers no
protection. The American Army rifle, at short range, will send a bullet
through three feet of green oak.

"Wow!" yelled the other. Though Hal did not then know it, the bullet had
driven a handful of dirt into the fellow's mouth.

Hal could hear the rascal spitting, so he called:

"Come on out and surrender, and I won't fire again."

"You go to blazes!" yelled an angry voice.

Muffled as the voice was, it had a strangely familiar sound to the young
soldier.

Hal seized the chance to fill his magazine as he shot the bolt back. He
slipped another cartridge into the chamber.

From the sounds beyond he knew that his enemy was also reloading.

"Any time you want me to stop shooting," Hal coolly announced, "just
call out that you surrender."

Then he brought his piece to his shoulder.

Bang!

He could hear the bullet strike with a thud.

Had there been light Hal could have scored a hit, but all shooting in
the dark is mainly guesswork.

Crack! crack! The fugitive's pistol was also in action.

One of the bullets carried the young soldier's sombrero from his head,
but he was barely aware of the fact. Yet, had that bullet been aimed two
inches lower, it would have found a resting place in his brain.

Bang!

Hal fired his second shot with deliberation.

"Stop that!" wailed the other, with a new note of fear in his voice.

"Surrender!"

Crack! crack!

Two pistol shots made up the reply.

"I'm afraid I've got to kill him, if he doesn't get me first."

Bang!

"Ow--ow--ow--ow!" That yell was genuine enough to show that the young
sentry's bullet had struck flesh.

"Do you surrender?"

"Not to you!"

Hal fired again. Then he crouched low, slipping two more cartridges into
his rifle.

Crack! crack!

"I'll get you yet," called a furious voice.

Hal started as though he had been shot, though he was not aware of a
hit.

"Tip Branders!" he called, in astonishment, and fired again.

"Yes, it's me," came the admission. "Hal Overton, are you going to kill
an old friend?"



CHAPTER XXII

CAPTAIN CORTLAND HEADS THE PURSUIT


AWAY over by post number four Hal heard three rifle shots ring out. But
he paid no heed. Instead he answered the now terrorized wretch in front
of him:

"I'll have to kill you, unless you surrender!"

"Then I'll get you first," came the defiant answer.

From the flashes, it could now be seen that Tip Branders was firing with
a revolver in each hand.

The bullets came in so swift and close that Private Hal Overton
expected, every instant, to be bowled over.

But still he fired deliberately, though he now strove to make each shot
effective.

In a few moments he fired next to the last cartridge in his magazine,
just as the furious revolver fusillade came to an end.

"O-o-oh!"

Then the young sentry felt, rather than saw, something topple over at
the base of the tree.

Hal leaped up, at the same instant hearing some one run up behind him.

That brought the young sentry about like a flash.

"I'm Captain Ruggles, Sentry!" came the prompt hail, and Private Overton
recognized the voice.

Then Hal wheeled the other way, rushing toward the tree, calling back as
he ran:

"I think I got the scoundrel, sir."

In another moment Hal was beside the tree, holding his rifle clubbed and
ready, in case Tip Branders was playing 'possum.

But the fellow lay on the ground, curiously huddled up, not moving a
hand.

"I got him with that last shot, sir," announced Private Overton, turning
and carefully saluting his officer.

"You've had a brisk and brave fight, Sentry," cried Captain Ruggles
warmly. "I heard your first shot, and rushed here as fast as I could
come."

In reality, long as the time had seemed, hardly more than a full minute
had passed. Captain Ruggles, with a pair of white-striped trousers drawn
on over his pajamas, and slippers on his feet, presented a picture of
speed.

Hal bent beside his old enemy of the home town to see where Tip had been
hit.

Captain Ruggles, changing his revolver to his left hand, drew a match
and struck it.

Tip's first apparent wound was a graze at the top of his right shoulder.
A dark, red stain appeared there. Another bullet had grazed his right
wrist.

The third wound apparent was at the right side of the chest.

"It'll need a rain-maker (Army surgeon) to tell whether that bullet
touched the scoundrel's right lung," declared Captain Ruggles.

At that instant a woman's voice sounded from one of the windows of the
house behind them:

"Corporal of the guard, you'll find Captain Ruggles and the sentry
somewhere back of the garden."

Then came the sounds of running feet. Corporal Sanders was coming with
the guard.

That incident showed the young soldier, more clearly than anything else
could have done, how brief the duel between Tip and himself had been.

For Hal knew that, when the alarm is sounded, accompanied by the sound
of a shot, the corporal and the guard come on the dead run.

"Right here, Corporal of the guard!" shouted Captain Ruggles, standing
up. "Send one man back immediately for hospital men and a stretcher."

"Hospital men and a stretcher, Davidson," called the corporal, and one
soldier detached himself from the running squad, wheeling and racing
back.

Then the corporal of the guard dashed up at the head of his men, giving
Captain Ruggles the rifle salute by bringing his left hand smartly
against the barrel of his piece.

Barely behind the guard came Lieutenant Hayes, of A Company, who was
officer of the day.

"The sentry has caught one of the burglars, Hayes," called Captain
Ruggles, as the lieutenant came up on the run.

"Glad of it, sir. It's about time."

Then, turning to Hal, Lieutenant Hayes continued:

"You're sentry on number three, Private Overton?"

"Yes, sir."

"Make your report in as few words as you can."

This Hal did, telling about the two men whom he saw sneaking away with
bundles, and also about the third man who had joined in firing at him.

"Which way did the other two retreat, Private Overton?"

"I couldn't see, sir," the young soldier answered. "I was in the corn at
that moment."

The corporal of the guard, in the meantime, had sent another man to
relieve Noll Terry on post number four, directing Terry to report to the
officer of the day.

Still another member of the guard had been placed on post number three.

All the other commissioned officers on post, including Colonel North,
now appeared, and the investigating party was adjourned to the roadway.

Noll reported that he had seen two fugitives at a distance, and had
fired three times.

Under military discipline matters move rapidly. Soldiers with lanterns
were now searching for the trail of those who had escaped. Keen eyes
were also seeking either bundle of loot from Captain Ruggles's quarters.
It was thought that the thieves, in their haste to get away, might have
dropped their plunder.

Tip Branders, still unconscious, and badly hurt, according to the
surgeon, was taken to the post hospital, and the civil authorities in
Clowdry were notified.

"That fellow you shot called you by name, didn't he, Overton?" inquired
Captain Ruggles.

"Yes, sir," Hal admitted.

"Ah, you knew the fellow, then?" inquired Colonel North. He spoke
blandly, but he had an instant recollection of the anonymous note that
had been received at battalion headquarters.

"Yes, sir," Hal spoke promptly. "The fellow is Tip Branders. He comes
from the same home town that I do. He tried to enlist in the Army, but
was rejected because he could not supply good enough references. Then he
ran away from home, taking with him some money he stole from his mother,
according to local accounts."

"Did you know the fellow Branders was in this part of the world?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then why, Private Overton, did you not report your information promptly
to your officers?"

"Why, I did not have the least idea, sir, that Branders was still in
this neighborhood, and I did not, at any time, connect him in my mind
with the robberies."

"How often, and where, have you seen Branders in this part of the
country?" demanded Colonel North, impressively, while the other officers
looked on with keen interest.

Hal flushed, for he felt that now he was under some suspicion himself.

"I have seen Branders just once, sir," the recruit replied. "Private
Terry was with me at the time."

"This man here?" inquired Colonel North, turning to glance at Noll, who
stood by.

"Yes, sir."

"When did you both see Branders, then?"

"Our first day here, sir. You may recall, Colonel, that you told Terry
and me that we need not go on duty that first day, but that we might
have the day to ourselves, as a reward for having helped Major Davis in
that mail-train affair the night before our arrival at this post."

"I remember," nodded Colonel North. "But you have not yet told me the
circumstances of your meeting with Branders."

Hal hurriedly recounted the details of that meeting, among the rocks
past the ledge, out on the road leading westward from the post.

"At that time, Colonel," Private Hal Overton continued, "Branders told
us he was headed for a ranch to the westward, where he expected to get a
job. We had no reason for disbelieving him, at the time, and so it never
even occurred to us, until to-night, that he might be one of the
burglars who have been looting this post. Besides, sir, though Tip had
always been known as a rather worthless fellow, we had never heard of
his being the associate of downright criminals."

Now the searchers came in to report that they could find neither a
trail nor any sight of dropped bundles of loot.

"At daylight, Major," suggested Colonel North to Major Silsbee, "you may
be able to send out scouts who, with a better light, may succeed in
finding a trail."

Hal turned to Lieutenant Hayes, saluting.

"I wonder, sir, if it won't be best for me to offer a suggestion to
Colonel North?"

The regimental commander turned at once.

"You may speak, Private Overton."

"I was about to inquire, sir," replied Hal, saluting, "if it isn't
likely that there may be a good hiding place for thieves among the rocks
back of the ledge of which I spoke some time ago."

"What makes you think the thieves may be there, Overton?"

"The thought has just struck me, sir, that Branders was probably lurking
about in the vicinity of a cave or other place of concealment, on the
day that he threw the stone at us. It struck me, sir, that a squad of
men might search that locality with the chance of finding the rest of
Branders's associates and also of recovering much of the stuff that has
been stolen from quarters on this post."

"That's a bright suggestion, worth working upon. Cortland, will you take
a detachment of men and hasten out to that locality? Post men all
around while it is still dark, and then, with a few men, plunge right
through that neighborhood. Overton and Terry will go with you as guides,
so that you may strike the exact spot without loss of time."

Captain Cortland dispatched a soldier to go at once to Sergeant Hupner's
squad room, with orders to turn out the men in that room at once and
under arms, with fifty rounds of ammunition per man.

This done, Captain Cortland hastened to his own quarters, soon returning
with his sword hanging at his belt and his revolver in its holster.

"While you are gone, Cortland," said Colonel North, "Silsbee and I will
make whatever other investigations we can think of."

In an almost incredibly short space of time Sergeant Hupner's squad was
ready, and turned into officers' row.

"Overton and Terry, you will walk ahead of the detachment, and I will go
with you," Captain Cortland announced. "Sergeant Hupner, march your
detachment in column of twos, twenty paces to the rear of the guides.
Forward!"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE STIRRING GAME AT DAWN


"THERE is the ledge, sir, right in yonder," announced Hal, peering
through the darkness. A wind was coming up and the stars had faded. It
was in the darkest hour before dawn.

Captain Cortland stepped back, holding out one hand as a signal.

Sergeant Hupner saw, and halted his detachment, marching almost without
a sound.

"Remain here, guides, with the detachment," directed the company
commander, in a whisper. "Sergeant Hupner, you and I will go forward and
reconnoitre."

As soon as the officer and the non-commissioned officer had departed
Private Bill Hooper growled out:

"What kind of a fool chase is this you've got us into, Overton?"

"Silence in the ranks," hissed Corporal Cotter sharply. "Not a word!"

Fifteen minutes later Captain Cortland and the sergeant returned.

"Take twelve of the men, now, Sergeant. You know where to post them,"
directed Captain Cortland briskly. "As soon as you have done so return
to me."

Hupner marched off in the darkness with his dozen men. In a few minutes
he was back.

"We'll want until daylight now for the rest of our work," announced the
company commander.

Slowly enough the time passed. No word was spoken. All was as still
around the little military force as though they had been isolated in the
center of a vast desert.

Then the first faint signs of dawn came. Some of the soldiers were
seated on the ground, gaping and with difficulty refraining from going
to sleep, for these men of Uncle Sam's Army had been routed from their
beds in the middle of the night.

The morning light increased, though it was still dim, and the first
vague shapes near the ledge began to take more definite shape.

"We won't need to wait more than five minutes more, Sergeant Hupner,"
declared the captain.

Cortland stood holding his watch close to his face. As soon as he could
read the time he turned to whisper:

"Now, Overton, lead us up to the exact spot from which you had your
interview with the fellow Branders."

"Shall the men load, sir?" whispered Sergeant Hupner.

"Yes; full magazines."

As silently as possible the men of the little searching party slipped
back the bolts of their pieces and loaded.

"Go ahead, Overton," whispered Captain Cortland.

Just behind Soldier Hal stepped the company commander himself, watching
every footstep in order not to step on any loose stone that might sound
a premature alarm.

Yet one man among them slipped and made a noise. It was trifling, but
almost instantly a whistle sounded ahead.

Without even thinking to wait for orders Hal returned the whistle.

"That you, Tip?" called the voice of an invisible man. "Good for you,
lad. We thought you was a goner."

Hal did not answer further, for Captain Cortland broke in:

"Rush 'em, men! We've got 'em."

"Ho! The blazes you have!" sounded a rough voice ahead. "Come on,
boys--it's the sojers! Give it to 'em!"

Almost in an instant the crevices between the rocks ahead were full of
red flashes.

Bullets sped, struck rocks with spiteful thuds and flattened out before
bounding into the air again.

"Lie down, men!" shouted Captain Cortland. "Give it to the rascals as
long as they shoot at us."

All in a moment this rock-strewn spot had become a bedlam of discharging
firearms.

Two regulars were hit before they could find cover from which to fire.
These men, however, made no outcry, but, finding themselves unable to
handle their rifles, lay quietly where they had fallen until the time
came for them to have attention.

Though he had sharply ordered his men to lie down, Captain Cortland did
nothing of the sort himself. Instead, with his revolver drawn, he stood
up, peering ahead and trying to get sight of the scoundrels beyond.

Bullets flew all about the captain, many of them passing his head. But
he stood there calmly until he caught just the opportunity for which he
had waited.

Then his pistol spoke, and a groan beyond showed that he had been a
successful marksman.

"Squad, rise!" shot out the commander's order. "Charge!"

Crouching low, the soldiers sprang suddenly forward.

"Halt! Lie down," continued Cortland. He had gained sixty feet by his
rush without loss of a man. "Fire only when you see something to shoot
at. Commence firing at will."

Now the firing slackened, though it was not less deadly. Even the
scoundrels ahead slowed down their fire, as though they found their
weapons becoming hot.

Captain Cortland was in no hurry. He meant to have the scoundrels, dead
or alive, but he did not intend to risk his own men needlessly. The army
officer knew it was now only a question of time. Nor did he fear running
out of ammunition, for the greater part of his small command was not yet
in action, but posted beyond.

The daylight grew stronger; then the upper rim of the sun peeped over
the horizon, sending its rays into the sky.

"Cease firing," commanded Cortland at last. Then he called over the
rocks.

"Are you fellows ready to surrender to United States forces?"

"Not until we're all dead," came the taunting reply.

"Then we'll try to accommodate you by killing you with as little delay
as possible," called back the captain. Then, to his own little force he
added:

"Men, advance as you see opportunity. Fire whenever you see anything to
aim at."

Steadily the regulars crawled forward, a foot or a yard at a time.

As they moved they tried, Indian fashion, to find new cover behind rocks
over which they could aim and fire.

Hal and Noll, not ten feet apart, occasionally glanced at each other
after firing.

Both young rookies were thoroughly enjoying this actual taste of
fighting life.

It was not many minutes before the advancing handful of soldiers were
within seventy or eighty feet of the rocks that sheltered the rascals.

Then suddenly they saw three crouching figures begin to retreat among
the rocks.

With a cheer the attacking force went forward, crouching.

But just then three rifles from out beyond spoke, and bullets whistled
past the scoundrels from a new quarter.

"Great smoke, boys!" bellowed one of the fugitives hoarsely. "The sojers
have us hemmed in on all sides."

"Yes, we have," shouted Captain Cortland. "Do you want to surrender?"

"Make your men stop shooting or moving, and give us two minutes to
think."

"We'll keep on advancing and firing until we have your surrender,"
retorted Captain Cortland grimly. "Whenever you want to surrender tell
me so and raise your hands high in the air."

"Wait a min----"

"Keep on firing, men," called Captain Cortland.

"Hold on! We give in, Cap."

"Cease firing, men," called the commander of B Company. "Now you fellows
jump up and show yourselves with your hands reaching for the sky."

Three rough-looking figures clambered up on rocks, holding their empty
hands as high as they could get them. One of them had his neck bound,
and there was blood on his clothing. This was the first man whom Hal had
wounded back of Captain Ruggles's quarters at the beginning of the fray.

"Stand just that way until we reach you," ordered the army officer.
"Close in on them, men, and fire if you see one of them reach for a
weapon."

But the trio plainly had no further intentions in the way of fighting.
They waited, sullen-faced and silent, until the soldiers had reached
them and had taken away their weapons.

"You have handcuffs, Sergeant?" inquired the captain.

Hupner and Corporal Cotter both produced the steel bracelets. The three
rogues were swiftly handcuffed.

"You'll find our boss over yonder," nodded one of the men. "He's bad
hit, too."

They found the fellow, nearly unconscious, but groaning, his right
shoulder badly shattered by the bullet from Captain Cortland's revolver.

"Sergeant," directed B Company's commander, "send a messenger back to
the post for hospital men and an ambulance. You can report that two of
our own men have been hit."

The leader of the scoundrels was lifted and carried back where the two
men of B Company lay. Captain Cortland directed such aid as could be
given on the spot to all of the wounded men.

"Shall I call in the men I posted, sir?" inquired Hupner.

"Not yet, Sergeant. There may be others of this gang hidden somewhere
among the rocks. But you may take three men and search for others."

Within ten minutes the search had been made thoroughly. No more of the
evil band had been found.

"We'll go back just as soon as the ambulance arrives and the wounded
have been taken care of," announced Captain Cortland.

Hal, at that moment, had his eye on one of the prisoners. He saw a gleam
of satisfaction show in the fellow's eyes.

"May I speak, sir?" asked Private Overton, saluting Captain Cortland.

"Yes," nodded the officer.

"May some of us remain behind them, sir, to search all this ground
over?"

"For what, Overton?"

"It doesn't seem likely, sir, that these scoundrels have been living in
the open air. And they must have some place for concealing their booty."

"Quite right, Overton. Corporal Cotter, take Overton, Terry and two
other men and make a thorough search of the rocks and ground
hereabouts."

Hal turned swiftly to the man in whose eyes he had seen that gleam of
satisfaction the moment before. Now the fellow was scowling.

"That was a hit," Hal murmured to himself. "The rascals have some hiding
place around here."

"Now we'll divide the ground up in small squares," announced Corporal
Cotter as he led his picked men away. "We'll search each square
minutely, so that no little patch may be overlooked."

"Won't it be best, Corporal," hinted Hal, "to start where the thieves
were when the fighting began?"

"Just the ticket, Overton," nodded the corporal.

So the search began at that point. Nor did it last long, for Hal,
thrusting with the butt of his rifle, poked a large bush partly aside
exclaiming:

"I guess you'd better come here, Corporal," the recruit called.

As Cotter came running to the spot Private Overton displayed a hole
rising some three feet above the grounds. It had been covered by the
foliage of the bush.

"Looks like the mouth of a cave, doesn't it?" Hal asked, with gleaming
eyes.

"A whole lot," agreed Corporal Cotter, producing a pocket electric
flashlight. "You can follow me in, Overton, if you like."

Corporal and private crawled into the hole. They did not have to go more
than six feet before they stood in a stone-walled chamber of
considerable size. Roughly, it appeared to be an apartment of about
twenty by thirty-five feet.

"Beds, tables, chairs, lamps, grub," enumerated Corporal Cotter,
looking about him gleefully. "Take the lamp, Overton. I'm going back to
call the captain."

Less than two minutes later Captain Cortland stood in the rockbound
chamber.

"Well, this is a place!" whistled the officer in surprise.

"This chest is locked, sir," reported Hal, who had been improving his
time by looking about. "Do you think it may contain loot. Captain?"

"There's an ax," nodded Cortland, glancing around him. "Corporal, just
try the ax on the chest--carefully."

With a few blows Cotter had the chest open. Captain Cortland knelt by
the wooden chest to inspect.

"This is clothing on top," he announced. "But--ah, what does this look
like?"

In the middle of the chest's contents he had come upon carefully wrapped
packages of jewelry, watches and the like.

"We won't go any further just now," declared the captain. "But we'll
take back this chest with us."

On the return to Fort Clowdry the prisoners, though captured on the
military reservation, were turned over to the civil officers. Even Tip
Branders and the wounded chief of the band were taken to Clowdry for
care by the town authorities.

The chest was found to have contained all the stolen jewelry. The money
that had been taken on the same raids, however, was not found. Plainly
the thieves had used the money for the needs of the moment.

Hal and Noll, on their return, reported promptly to the commander of the
guard, for they still belonged to the guard detail.

"Queer, ain't it?" asked Private Bill Hooper that morning in Hupner's
squad room as the men were washing up before morning mess call.

"What is?" demanded Private Hyman.

"Why, that kid, Overton, knew one of the gang--one, at least--all the
time. Yet Overton shot his old-time friend. And Overton knew all along
where the bunch was hiding. And did you hear how neatly he led Corporal
Cotter right to the cave of the gang? Now if that don't prove----"

Hyman promptly knocked Hooper down.

"It proves, Bill," growled Hyman, "that you're so fond of lying that you
don't know the truth when you hear it."



CHAPTER XXIV

CONCLUSION


TIP BRANDERS recovered.

So did the leader of the gang with which Tip had foolishly cast his evil
lot down in Pueblo, when he had first come west after robbing his
mother. The man wounded in the neck had been at no time in a dangerous
condition.

Not much sympathy need be wasted on Tip. He had chosen his own place in
life, and had filled it.

Before Tip was out of the local hospital, and in his cell in jail, his
mother, who had read of his fate in a newspaper in her home town, joined
her son in the town of Clowdry.

She stood by her son to the last, until the testimony of officers and
soldiers from Fort Clowdry had sent him away to prison for ten years.

At first, on his recovery, Tip Branders had been inclined to be
boastful. He had shown his boldness by his thieving exploits and by
daring to face the steady rifle fire of Private Hal Overton, United
States Army. But when the sentence of the court came upon him Tip broke
down. He wept and could hardly stand. He implored the judge to lessen
his sentence. All the braggadocio in him ran out as rapidly as the
sawdust from a punctured doll.

The other members of the band received equally severe sentences, for all
had been engaged in battle with troops who represent law and order.

From that trial Hal and Noll journeyed to Denver. Major Davis, of the
Seventeenth Cavalry, also traveled from his post, for the trial of the
baffled men who had attempted to rob the United States mail was on in
the United States District Court. These men, too, were sent away to the
penitentiary for long terms.

The writer of the anonymous note against Hal had so far escaped
detection.

"We've been getting a lot of travel lately," smiled Hal as the two chums
trudged down the road from the railway station to Fort Clowdry on their
return from Denver.

"All we're going to have for a while, I hope," returned Noll Terry
quietly. "I'd sooner put in my time learning soldiering."

"Not tired of the army yet, Noll?"

"I never shall be, nor you either, Hal, as long as we're young enough to
serve."

"What I dread," mused Hal, "is the time when if we live to that age, we
shall be too old for the Army, and will have to go away and settle down
in some town as retired men of the Army."

"That will be time to die, won't it?" asked Noll, so solemnly that
Private Overton laughed merrily.

"That time is a long way off, Noll Terry. Let's see; we're eighteen now,
and a fellow doesn't have to be retired, for age, until he's sixty-two."

"Forty-four years," figured Noll. "Oh, well, a fellow ought to be able
to have a deal of fun in that number of years."

Both recruits were in merry mood as they turned in past the sentry at
the main entrance to the post grounds.

They kept on, full of life and spirits until they reached the edge of
the parade ground.

"Attention!" murmured Hal quietly.

Unostentatiously but with a world of reverence in their act both young
soldiers lifted their uniform caps close to the shadow of the grand old
Flag.

Without halting they passed on, returning their caps to their heads.
Both young men of the service walked a trifle more erectly, if that were
possible.

Nor had they gone much further when they espied a man coming toward
them. The broad white stripes down the seam of his trousers, and the
double-barred shoulder straps proclaimed the infantry officer. It was
Captain Cortland, commanding officer of B Company.

Both young soldiers raised their right hands smartly in salute as they
passed the officer, who returned their salute in kind. Then Cortland
halted.

"Glad to see you back, Overton."

"Thank you, sir."

"And you, too, Terry."

"Thank you, sir."

"And, by the way, Terry, I have remembered your request that you be
transferred to B Company, and to Sergeant Hupner's squad room. Captain
Freeman said he was sorry to lose you, Terry; but since you wanted to be
with your friend, he has consented to your transfer to B Company. The
matter has been arranged through the adjutant, and my first sergeant
will notify you of your transfer when you return to your former squad
room. I'm very glad, Terry, to have so good a soldier as yourself in B
Company, even if I do have to rob Captain Freeman."

"Thank you, sir," replied Noll, with another salute.

Then the two young soldiers resumed their walk. Just as soon as they
were out of earshot of Captain Cortland, Noll broke forth jubilantly:

"In the same company at last, Hal, old fellow. Oh, won't it be great,
now that we're truly bunkies at last!"

Great indeed--greater than either Hal Overton or Noll Terry guessed.
They stood at the beginning, though neither suspected it, of some
exciting and never-to-be-forgotten incidents and phases of the soldier's
life.

What followed, however, will have to be reserved for the next volume in
this series, which will be published under the title: "UNCLE SAM'S BOYS
ON FIELD DUTY; Or, Winning Corporal's Chevrons." In this volume the two
young soldiers will be found to be no longer recruits, but trained
soldiers of the Regular Army, and in the midst of a series of rousing
adventures incidental to the military life.


THE END.


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all the traditions of Dick & Co.

          1 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN COLORADO; Or, At Railroad
          Building in Earnest.

          2 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN ARIZONA; Or, Laying
          Tracks on the "Man-Killer" Quicksand.

          3 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN NEVADA; Or, Seeking
          Fortune on the Turn of a Pick.

          4 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN MEXICO; Or, Fighting the
          Mine Swindlers.

          Cloth, Illustrated      Price, per Volume, 50c.



Boys of the Army Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

These books breathe the life and spirit of the United States Army of
to-day, and the life, just as it is, is described by a master pen.

         1 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS IN THE RANKS; Or, Two Recruits
         in the United States Army.

         2 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS ON FIELD DUTY; Or, Winning
         Corporal's Chevrons.

         3 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS AS SERGEANTS; Or, Handling Their
         First Real Commands.

         4 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS IN THE PHILIPPINES; Or,
         Following the Flag Against the Moros.

         6 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS AS LIEUTENANTS; Or, Serving Old
         Glory as Line Officers.

         7 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS WITH PERSHING; Or, Dick Prescott
         at Grips with the Boche.

         8 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS IN THE GREAT MARNE DRIVE; Or,
         Putting Old Glory in the Forefront in France.



Dave Darrin Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

         1 DAVE DARRIN AT VERA CRUZ; Or, Fighting With the
         U. S. Navy in Mexico.

         2 DAVE DARRIN ON MEDITERRANEAN SERVICE.

         3 DAVE DARRIN'S SOUTH AMERICAN CRUISE.

         4 DAVE DARRIN ON THE ASIATIC STATION.

         5 DAVE DARRIN AND THE GERMAN SUBMARINES.

         6 DAVE DARRIN AFTER THE MINE LAYERS; Or, Hitting
         the Enemy a Hard Naval Blow.



The Meadow-Brook Girls Series

By JANET ALDRIDGE

          1 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS UNDER CANVAS.

          2 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ACROSS COUNTRY.

          3 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS AFLOAT.

          4 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS IN THE HILLS.

          5 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS BY THE SEA.

          6 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ON THE TENNIS COURTS.


All these books are bound in Cloth and will be sent postpaid on receipt
of only 50 cents each.



High School Boys Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

In this series of bright, crisp books a new note has been struck. Boys
of every age under sixty will be interested in these fascinating
volumes.

          1 THE HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMEN; Or, Dick & Co.'s First
          Year Pranks and Sports.

          2 THE HIGH SCHOOL PITCHER; Or, Dick & Co. on the
          Gridley Diamond.

          3 THE HIGH SCHOOL LEFT END; Or, Dick & Co.
          Grilling on the Football Gridiron.

          4 THE HIGH SCHOOL CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM; Or, Dick &
          Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard.

          Cloth, Illustrated      Price, per Volume, 50c.



Grammar School Boys Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

This series of stories, based on the actual doings of grammar school
boys, comes near to the heart of the average American boy.

          1 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS OF GRIDLEY; Or, Dick &
          Co. Start Things Moving.

          2 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS SNOWBOUND; Or, Dick &
          Co. at Winter Sports.

          3 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS IN THE WOODS; Or, Dick &
          Co. Trail Fun and Knowledge.

          4 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS IN SUMMER ATHLETICS; Or,
          Dick & Co. Make Their Fame Secure.

          Cloth, Illustrated       Price, per Volume, 50c.



High School Boys' Vacation Series

By H. IRVING HANCOCK

"Give us more Dick Prescott books!"

This has been the burden of the cry from young readers of the country
over. Almost numberless letters have been received by the publishers,
making this eager demand; for Dick Prescott, Dave Darrin, Tom Reade, and
the other members of Dick & Co. are the most popular high school boys in
the land. Boys will alternately thrill and chuckle when reading these
splendid narratives.

          1 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' CANOE CLUB; Or, Dick &
          Co.'s Rivals on Lake Pleasant.

          2 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS IN SUMMER CAMP; Or, The
          Dick Prescott Six Training for the Gridley Eleven.

          3 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' FISHING TRIP; Or, Dick &
          Co. in the Wilderness.

          4 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' TRAINING HIKE; Or, Dick &
          Co. Making Themselves "Hard as Nails."

          Cloth, Illustrated      Price, per Volume, 50c.



The Circus Boys Series

By EDGAR B. P. DARLINGTON

Mr. Darlington's books breathe forth every phase of an intensely
interesting and exciting life.

          1 THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE FLYING RINGS; Or, Making
          the Start in the Sawdust Life.

          2 THE CIRCUS BOYS ACROSS THE CONTINENT; Or,
          Winning New Laurels on the Tanbark.

          3 THE CIRCUS BOYS IN DIXIE LAND; Or, Winning the
          Plaudits of the Sunny South.

          4 THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE MISSISSIPPI; Or, Afloat
          with the Big Show on the Big River.

          Cloth, Illustrated      Price, per Volume, 50c.



The High School Girls Series

By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A. M.

These breezy stories of the American High School Girl take the reader
fairly by storm.

          1 GRACE HARLOWE'S PLEBE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or,
          The Merry Doings of the Oakdale Freshman Girls.

          2 GRACE HARLOWE'S SOPHOMORE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL;
          Or, The Record of the Girl Chums in Work and
          Athletics.

          3 GRACE HARLOWE'S JUNIOR YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or,
          Fast Friends in the Sororities.

          4 GRACE HARLOWE'S SENIOR YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or,
          The Parting of the Ways.

          Cloth, Illustrated      Price, per Volume, 50c.



The Automobile Girls Series

By LAURA DENT CRANE

No girl's library--no family book-case can be considered at all complete
unless it contains these sparkling twentieth-century books.

          1 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT NEWPORT; Or, Watching
          the Summer Parade.--2 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS IN THE
          BERKSHIRES; Or, The Ghost of Lost Man's Trail.--3
          THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS ALONG THE HUDSON; Or,
          Fighting Fire in Sleepy Hollow.--4 THE AUTOMOBILE
          GIRLS AT CHICAGO; Or, Winning Out Against Heavy
          Odds.--5 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT PALM BEACH; Or,
          Proving Their Mettle Under Southern Skies.--6 THE
          AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT WASHINGTON; Or, Checkmating
          the Plots of Foreign Spies.

          Cloth, Illustrated      Price, per Volume, 50c.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors corrected.

Page 37, "glacing" changed to "glancing" (glancing at the papers)

Page 39, "you" changed to "your" (these are your applications)

Page 74, "degress" changed to "degrees" (angle of sixty degrees)

Page 84, "ex-expected" changed to "expected" (You will be expected)

Page 127, "and" changed to "an" (Half an hour later)

Page 145, paragraph break inserted at: "I wish we wouldn't get.

Page 192, word "the" inserted into text (the squad room at the)

Page 195, "roms" changed to "rooms" (search the squad rooms)

Page 221, "bo" changed to "boy" (Get back there, boy!)

Page 226, "and" changed to "on" (Come on out)





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