Dick Prescotts's Fourth Year at West Point
H. Irving Hancock
Part 4 out of 4
A CLOUD ON DICK'S HORIZON
Final exams. were passed! Not a member of the first class had
"fessed" himself down and out, so all were to be graduated.
The Board of Visitors---a committee of United States Senators and
Representatives appointed by the President from among the members
of the National Congress, arrived.
A detachment of cavalry and another of field artillery, both from
the Regular Army, rode to the railway station to aid in the reception
of the Board.
Also the entire Corps of Cadets, two battalions of them, in spick
and span full-dress uniform, and with all metal accoutrements
glistening, in the sun, stood drawn up as the visitors were escorted
to their carriages by waiting Army officers.
Now, the imposing procession started up the steep slope, at a little
Just as the head of the line reached the flat plain above, most
of the members of the Board of Visitors felt tempted to clap their
hands to their ears. For a second detachment of artillery, waiting
on the plain, now thundered forth the official artillery salute to
One of these visitors, a member of the national House of
Representatives, who had served with distinction in the Civil War,
having then risen to the grade of major general of volunteers,
looked out over the plain, then at the stalwart cadets behind,
with moist eyes. He had been a cadet here in the late fifties.
He was now too old to fight, but all the ardor of the soldier
still burned in his veins!
Yet only a moment did the line of carriages pause at the plain.
Then the members of the Board were carried on to the West Point
Hotel, where the best quarters had been reserved for such as were
not to be personal guests of officers on the post.
During the brief wait at the station, Cadet Captain Prescott,
standing before the company that he had commanded during this
year, caught a brief glimpse of a familiar figure---his mother.
By chance Mrs. Prescott had journeyed to West Point on the same
Yet not a chance did Dick get for a word with his mother until
long after. He was almost frenzied with eagerness for word of
Laura, and this his mother would have, in some form, but he must
wait until all the duties of the day had been performed and leisure
had come to him.
Mrs. Prescott, on catching sight of her boy, felt a sudden, exultant
throb in her mother heart. Then she stepped quickly back, fearful
of attracting her lad's attention at a moment when he must give his
whole thought to his soldier duties.
"My noble, manly boy!" thought the mother, with moistening eyes.
"I wonder if I do wrong to think him the noblest of them all?"
Dick had caught that one swift glance, but did not again see his
mother, for his eyes were straight ahead.
When the time came for his particular company to wheel and swing
into the now moving line of gray, Mrs. Prescott heard his measured,
manly voice: "Fours left---march!"
When the last company of cadets had fallen into line, Mrs. Prescott
was one of the two dozen or so civilians who fell in at some distance
to the rear, climbing the slope behind the moving line of gray.
Wholly absorbed in the corps, Dick's mother had forgotten to
board the stage that would have carried her to the hotel.
After the visitors had been left at the hotel, the corps marched
away. Barely half an hour later, however, the two battalions
again marched on to the plain. Then the most fascinating, the
most inspiring of all military ceremonies was gone through with
by the best body of soldiery in the world. The cadets of the
United States Military Academy went through all the solemnity
of dress parade. It is a sight which, once seen at West Point,
can never be forgotten by a lover of his flag.
One bespectacled young spectator there was who found his breath
coming in quick, sharp gasps as he looked on at this magnificent
display. He was tall, yet with a slight stoop in his shoulders.
His face was covered with a bushy, sandy beard. He was neither
particularly well nor very badly dressed, and would have attracted
little attention in any crowd.
Yet this stranger was not looking on a new sight. For nearly four
years it had been as the breath of life to him.
Stoop-shouldered as a matter of disguise, and with beard and
spectacles adding to his security from recognition, this slouching
young man bent most of his gaze upon the stalwart, erect figure of
Cadet Captain Prescott.
"You drove me out of here! You cheated me of all the glory of
this career, Prescott! Have you been fool enough to think that
I'd forget---that I could forget? You are close to your diploma,
now---but before that moment arrives I shall find the way to spoil
your chances of a career in the Army. And I can get away again
without anyone recognizing in me the man who was once known as
Cadet Jordan, of the first class!"
Yes; it was Jordan, back at West Point, sure of escaping recognition,
and bent on a desperate errand of wrecking Dick Prescott's promising
But Dick performed all his duties through that dress parade conscious
only of the glory of the soldier's life. He thought he had caught
a fleeting glimpse of his mother once, in the crowd, as his company
executed a wheeling, and he was happy in what he knew her happiness
Then, when it was all over, and the corps again marched from the
field, Mrs. Prescott, who knew the ways of West Point, went and
stood at the edge of the grassy plain, nearly opposite the north
sally-port. Five minutes after the last of the corps had marched
in under the port, Dick, his dress uniform changed for the fatigue,
came out with bounding step and crossed the road.
Wholly unashamed, he passed his arms around his mother, gave her
a big hug, several kisses, and then, hat in hand, turned to stroll
with her under the trees.
"Dad couldn't come, I'm afraid?" Dick asked in disappointment.
"He had to stay and look after the store, you know, Dick, my boy.
But the store will be closed two days this week, for your father
is coming on here to see you graduate. Nothing could keep him
away from that."
"And how is everyone at home? How is Laura?" Dick asked eagerly.
"She will be here in time for the graduation hop," replied Mrs.
Prescott. "She told me she had seen you so far through your West
Point life, that she would feel uneasy over not being here to
see the last move of all. Dick, do you mind your mother asking
you a question? You used to care especially for Laura Bentley,
did you not?"
"Why, mother?" asked Prescott with a sudden sinking at heart.
Lounging against the other side of a tree that Prescott and his
mother were passing, the disguised Jordan was close enough to hear.
What he heard seemed to deepen the scowl of hatred on his face;
but mother and son were soon out of ear shot, and the miserable
Jordan slunk away.
CADET PRESCOTT COMMANDS AT SQUADRON DRILL
The Military Academy found itself in a whirling round of recitations
and drills, arranged for the delight of the Board of Visitors.
There were other hundreds of spectators at first, and thousands
later, to see all that was going on, for there are hosts of citizens
who know what inspiring sights are to be found at West Point in
"Mr. Prescott is directed to report at the office of the commandant
This order was borne by a soldier orderly immediately after breakfast
on the day before graduation.
"Mr. Prescott," said the commandant, when the tall, soldierly looking
cadet knocked, entered and saluted, "you will take command at the
cavalry squadron drill, which takes place at three this afternoon."
Dick's heart bounded with pleasure. It was an honor that could
come to but one man in the first class, and he was greatly delighted
that it should have fallen to him.
"Mr. Holmes will command the first troop, and Mr. Anstey the second,"
continued the commandant of cadets, who then rattled off the names
of the cadets who would act as subalterns in the squadron.
It was a splendid detail, that of commanding the squadron in the
cavalry drill---splendid because it is one of the most picturesque
events of the week, and also because it calls for judgment and high
ability to command.
"I must be sure to get word to mother; she mustn't miss a sight
that will delight her so greatly," murmured Dick, as he hastened
away to notify Greg and Anstey.
This done, he hastened off to other duties, though not without
yielding much thought to the belief that Laura Bentley would be
here this afternoon, since she was pledged to go with him to the
graduation ball in the evening.
"Mother can be sure to see Laura, and they can see the squadron
drill together," ran through Prescott's mind.
A splendid, swift bit of pontoon bridge building had been shown
the visitors on the day before; one battalion had given a lively
glimpse of tent pitching in perfect alignment as to company streets,
and in record time.
In the forenoon, there was to be a lively battery drill, to be
followed by a dizzying demonstration of the speed at which machine
guns may be moved, placed in position and fired so fast that there
is a hail of projectiles.
For this afternoon, the cavalry drill in squadron, and after that,
infantry drill that would include a picture of infantry on the
firing line. After that, the last dress parade in which the present
first classmen would ever take part as cadets.
Oh, it was a stirring picture, full of all the dash, the precision
and glamour of the soldier's life! The pity of it all was that
every red-blooded American boy could not be there to see it all.
Just before three o'clock every man of the first class turned out
through the north sallyport in the full equipment of a cavalryman.
Here they halted before barracks.
Dick caught sight of four figures standing hardly more than across
the road. A swift glance at the time, and Prescott stepped over
"Good afternoon, mother. Good afternoon, Mrs. Bentley. And Laura
and Belle---oh, how delighted I am to see you both here!"
Genuine joy shone in this manly cadet's eyes; none could mistake
"You did not know that Greg had invited me to the graduation ball,
did you?" asked Belle Meade.
"I did not," Dick answered truthfully. "Yet I guessed it as soon
as I saw you here. And you have been at the Annapolis graduation,
"Why, of course!" exclaimed Belle, almost in astonishment. "And
Laura went with me. That's something else you didn't know, Dick."
"I've been through the course at West Point," laughed the cadet,
"and by this time I am not astonished at the number of things that
I don't know."
"Dave and Dan said they had seen you only a few days ago, but
they sent their love again," rattled on Miss Meade. "But I'm
taking up all of the talk, and I know you're dying to talk to
Belle accompanied her words with a little gesture of one hand that
displayed the flash of a small solitaire diamond set in a band of
gold on the third finger of the left hand.
Dick did not need inquire. He knew that Dave Darrin had placed
that ring where it now flashed.
Just then Greg came through the sally-port. In an instant he
bounded across the road. He immediately took it upon himself
to talk with Belle, and Dick turned to Laura with flushed face
and wistful eyes.
In the first instant Miss Bentley flushed; then a sudden pallor
succeeded the flush. Dick, taking her dear face as his barometer,
felt a sudden indescribable sinking of his heart.
They exchanged a few words, then-----
It was the bugle calling the assembly.
Swiftly Greg sprang across the road to form his troop, while Anstey
formed the other.
Both acting troop leaders turned to report to Dick that their
respective troops were formed.
Then Prescott, for the last time as a cadet, marched the class
across the plain at swift, rhythmic tread, to where the veteran
cavalry horses stood saddled and tethered.
Reaching the cavalry instructor, Prescott halted, saluted, and
reported his command.
"Stand to horse!" ordered the instructor briskly. There was a
dash; in another instant each cadet stood by the head of his selected
"Prepare to mount!"
Each cadet seized mane and bridle, also thrusting his left foot
into stirrup box.
Like so many figures operated by machinery, the first classmen rose,
throwing right legs over saddles, then settling down in the seat.
Then, all in a twinkling, the ranks reformed.
"Mr. Prescott, take command of the squadron, sir!" rang the
Dick thrilled with pleasure as he received the command with a salute.
He had not looked, but he knew that those dearest to him were in
the crowd beyond, looking on.
"Draw sabre!" sounded Dick's not loud but clean-cut order.
Greg and Anstey repeated the order in turn. Instantly all down
the strong line naked steel leaped forth. The sabres sprang to
the "carry," and the superb picture breathed of military might.
Cadet Captain Dick Prescott, well in advance, sat facing his squadron;
he throbbed with a soldier's ardor at the beauty of the scene.
"Fours right!" he shouted.
"Fours right! Fours right!" sounded in the differing tones of
Greg and Anstey.
Into a long column of fours, to the tune of jingling accoutrements,
the squadron swung. Prescott wheeled about and rode forward at a
walk. In the same instant, the bugler, a musician belonging to the
Regular Army, trotted forward, then slowed down to a walk close to
the young squadron commander. From that time on, all the commands
were to be given by the bugle.
"Trot! March!" traveled on clear, musical notes, and the long
line of young horsemen moved forward at a faster gait. There
was none of the bumping up and down in saddle that disfigures
the riding taught in most riding schools. These gray-clad young
centaurs rode as though parts of their animals.
Straight past the canvas shelter that had been erected for the
superintendent, the Board of Visitors and their ladies, swung
the four platoons in magnificent order and rhythm.
Then, on the return, the young cavalrymen swept, at a gallop,
by platoons, in echelon and by column of squads. This done, the
cadets rode forward, baiting in line before the reviewers. Here
the senior cavalry instructor rode in front and gave the command:
The salute to the superintendent and his guests was given with
"Continue the drill, Mr. Prescott!" rang the senior instructor's
Once more the line of gray and steel swept over the plain. Now,
the evolutions were those of the field in war time. The charge
brought cheers from a thousand throats, and a great fluttering
Then, while three platoons halted, remaining motionless in saddle,
the fourth platoon, after starting at the gallop, sheathed sabres
and drew pistols.
Crack! crack! Crack! crack! It was merely mimic war, with
blank ammunition, but not an onlooker escaped the impression of
how much death and destruction such a line of charging, firing
men might carry before them.
Now the whole squadron was in motion once more. At the sharp,
clear order of the bugle the line halted. At the next peal one
man in every four stood at the heads of four horses, while the
other three of each four ran quickly forward, in fine though open
"Halt! Kneel! Ready! Aim! At will---_fire_!"
Here was battle, real enough in everything but the fatalities.
Each man on the firing line fired rapidly, several shots to the
minute, though real aim was taken every time the bolt was shot
forward and before the trigger was pulled. Tiny, almost invisible
puffs of smoke issued from the carbine muzzles. Next, an orderly
spirited, swift retreat in the face of an imaginary enemy, was
made to the horses, which were mounted like a flash, and spurred
away. Some horses carried double, for some of the cadets lay
limp and useless, impersonating men wounded by the pursuing enemy.
It was all so stirring, so grand, that the plain rang with cheers.
In an hour the drill was over, and the young cavalrymen stood
under the showers or disported in the pool. Only for a few minutes,
however. The infantry drill followed swiftly, after which these
same men must swiftly be immaculate in white ducks and the handsome
gray full-dress jackets.
Then followed dress parade, after which came supper, and the first
classmen at West Point were through with the last day of full duty
A WEST POINTER'S LOVE AFFAIR
With beating heart Dick Prescott presented himself at the hotel
that evening, and sent up his card to Mrs. Bentley and the girls.
Greg was with his chum, of course, but Greg was not in a flutter.
He was to escort Belle Meade---an arrangement of chumship, for
Belle wore the engagement ring of Dave Darrin, one of Greg's old
High School chums.
For Dick, this was the night to which he had looked forward during
four years. To-night he felt sure of his career; he was to be
graduated into the Army, with a position in life fine enough for
Laura to grace with him.
It was on this night, that he had determined to find out whether
her heart beat for him, or whether it had already been captured
by young Mr. Cameron back in the home town.
"And very likely she wouldn't think of having either of us," smiled
Dick to himself. "It's easy enough for a girl to be a fellow's
friend, but when it comes to selecting a husband she is quite
likely to be more particular."
It was just after dark as the two young couples sauntered away from
the hotel on their way to Cullum Hall.
"You young men are now sure of your Army careers," remarked Belle,
as the four strolled down the road.
"As absolutely sure as one can ever be of anything," Dick responded.
"Yes, I feel positive that I am now to be an officer in the Army."
"While poor Dave has just started on a two-year cruise, and must
then come back for another examination before he is sure of his
commission," sighed Belle.
"The middies don't get a square deal," said Dick regretfully.
"When Darrin and Dalzell were graduated, the other day, they
should have been commissioned as ensigns before they were ordered
to sea. Some day Congress and the people will see the injustice
of it all, and the unfairness will be remedied."
How could Prescott possibly know that his commission in the Army
was not yet sure?
That same sandy-bearded, bespectacled and stoop-shouldered ex-cadet
Jordan was even now eyeing Dick from a little distance.
"Humph! Prescott feels mighty big at this moment!" growled the
young scoundrel. "I wonder how he'll be feeling at midnight,
down in cadet hospital, when the surgeons tell him he has no chance
of ever being a sound man again? Confound him! I could almost
find it in my heart to kill the fellow, instead of merely maiming
him. But maiming will be the keener revenge. All his life hereafter
Prescott will be thinking what might have been if he hadn't met
me this night! Shall I leap on him when he's coming back from
the hotel, after the graduation ball? No; for he'd have Holmes
with him then. I'll send in word and call him out from the ball,
with a message that an old schoolmate wants to see him on something
most urgent. I'll have Prescott to myself, and all I need is
a few seconds. I'm half as powerful again as Prescott is!"
Jordan was not at all lacking in a certain type of ferocious brute
courage. As he had just boasted to himself, he was powerful enough
to be able to overpower Dick in a hand-to-hand conflict, yet the
scoundrel meant to attack Prescott unawares, without giving the
latter a chance to defend himself.
Then, too, the sight of Laura, looking sweeter and more beautiful
than she had ever appeared in her life, goaded Jordan on to greater
"That is the very girl I had planned to cut Prescott out with,
after he had been kicked from the service, and I was still in
the uniform. But it fell out the other way about," gritted Jordan.
"Prescott wears the uniform, and I've been dishonorably dropped
from the rolls! Prescott, I've a double score to settle with you
But of all this, of course, Prescott was wholly unaware.
"How much time have we to spare?" queried Dick, then glancing
at his watch. "Ten minutes. Laura, will you stroll around the
Hall with me and look down over the cliff at the noble old Hudson!
This will be one of my last glimpses as a cadet."
Laura assented. Greg was about to follow, when Belle Meade drew
"Take me inside," she urged. "I am eager to see the decorations."
"But Dick and Laura?" queried Greg.
"They're of age and can take care of themselves," smiled Miss
Dick Prescott's heart was beating, now, like a trip-hammer. Even
the next day's graduation, and the entrance into the Army looked
insignificant to him compared with the question of his fate that
was now seething in his brain and which he must now have settled.
Two or three times he opened his lips to speak, then closed them,
as the two young people stood glancing down at the river through
"Aren't you unusually silent, Dick?" asked Laura.
"Perhaps so," he assented in a low voice. "I'm scared."
"Yes; scared cold. I never knew such a fright in my life before."
"Laura, I reckon the brief, direct way of the soldier will be best.
Laura, ever since we were in High School together I have loved you.
Through all the years that have followed, that love has never
slumbered for an instant. It has grown stronger with every passing \
With a little cry Laura Bentley drew back.
"I'm going right through to the end," cried Dick desperately. "Then
you can throw cold water over me---if you must. Laura, I love you,
and that love is nearly all of my life! I ask you to become a
"And---and---is that what has scared you?" asked Laura in a very
"What a pitiful coward you are, then, to be a candidate for a
commission in the Army," laughed Laura Bentley softly.
"But you---you haven't answered me."
"Why, Dick, I've never had another thought, in six years, than that
I loved you!"
"Laura! You love me?"
"Why, of course, Dick. What has ailed your eyes and your reasoning
With a glad cry, Prescott gathered his betrothed in his arms,
claiming a lover's privilege.
Then out of an inner pocket he drew a little box, drew out a circlet
of gold in which a solitaire glistened, and slipped the ring over
the finger set apart for the purpose of wearing such pledges.
"And how soon, Laura---sweetheart?" he demanded eagerly.
"Now, as to that, you must act like a creature of reason," Laura
laughingly insisted. "You are not yet in the Army. At first,
after you do receive your commission, you must be saving and careful.
It needs furniture and all those things, you see, Dick, dearest,
to form the background of a home. We must wait a little while---but
what sweet waiting it will be!"
"Won't it, though!" demanded Dick with fervor. "Laura, it seems
to me that I must be dreaming. I can scarcely realize my great
"Nor can I," replied Laura softly. "You have always been my boy
As they stepped inside and approached their nearest friends, Belle
murmured in Greg's ear:
"Look at the electric glow that comes from the third finger of
Laura's left hand. Now, do you comprehend, booby, what a fatal
mistake you would have made, had I allowed you to tag them around
to the cliff?"
"Well, I'm jiggered!" gasped Cadet Holmes. "Which means that
I'm petrified with delight."
"Get practical, then," chided Belle. "Take me forward to them,
and we'll have the happiness of being the first to congratulate
the newest arrivals in paradise!"
Two minutes later, the leader of the orchestra swung his baton.
As the music pealed forth, Dick Prescott knew, for the first
time in his life, the full meaning of the dance in Cullum Hall.
There were many other newly betrothed couples on the floor that
happy night of the graduation ball. The air was fragrant with
flowers, but there was more---the atmosphere of new-found happiness
on all sides.
Outside, in the shadow of the moonless night, a stoop-shouldered
figure prowled in the near vicinity of Cullum Hall. This was
Jordan, intent on guessing when would be the most favorable moment
for sending in the message that should call Prescott out to his
One of the watchmen, a soldier, in the quartermaster's department,
belted, and with a revolver hanging therefrom in its holster,
passed by and noted Jordan.
"Are you waiting for anyone, sir?" asked the watchman, halting
a moment, though only in mild curiosity.
"I'm going to send a message in, after the music stops, for my
cousin," replied Jordan, who knew that he must give some account
"Your cousin? A cadet?" asked the watchman.
"Oh, yes. Mr. Atterbury, of the first class," responded Jordan,
giving the name of his former roommate at a venture.
"Very good, sir," replied the watchman, and passed on.
Mr. Atterbury, however, at that very moment, chanced to be standing
on the further side of a tree not far distant, and with him were
two other first classmen.
"Who is that fellow?" queried Atterbury in a low whisper. "I've
seen him around here before this, and his voice sounds mighty
The passing watchman heard the question, so he answered: "He says
he is your cousin, sir!"
"He is not my cousin," replied Atterbury with strange sternness.
"And, since the fellow is here in disguise, it ought to be our
business to ask him some questions. Come on, fellows!"
Atterbury strode out of the shadow, followed just a second later
by "Durry" and "Doug."
The prowler's first instinct was to run, but he dare not; that
would proclaim guilt.
"See here, sir," demanded Atterbury, striding straight up to the
stoop-shouldered, bewhiskered one, "your name is Jordan, isn't it?"
"No!" lied the wretch, in a voice that he strove to disguise.
"Yes, it is," insisted Atterbury. "Rooming with you nearly four
years, I can't be fooled with any suddenly pickled voice. Jordan,
what are you doing here in disguise?"
"I don't know that my presence here is any of your business,"
growled the ex-cadet.
"Yes; it is," insisted Atterbury. "And you'll give us an account,
too, or we'll lay hold of you and turn you over to some one official."
At that threat Jordan turned to bolt. As he did so, three cadets
sprang after him. At the third or fourth bound they had hold of
him and bore him, fighting, to the earth.
Even now Jordan used his splendid physique and strength in a
determined, bitter struggle.
But "Durry" helped turn the fellow over, face down, and then all
three sat on their catch.
"Doug," however, felt something hard. Leaping up, he made a quick
search, then drew from Jordan's hip pocket a length of lead pipe
wrapped in red flannel.
"Ye gods of war," gasped Douglass, "what sort of weapon is this
for a former gentleman to carry?"
"Let me up," pleaded Jordan, "and I'll make a quick hike!"
"Don't you let him up, fellows," warned Douglass. "Now, whom
did Jordan seek with an implement like this? There could be but
one of our men---Prescott."
"Have you anything to say, Jordan?" demanded Atterbury.
"Not a blessed word," growled Jordan, no longer attempting to
disguise his voice.
"Then we have," returned "Doug."
"But you two fellows hold him until I come back."
Douglass ran over to the cliff, then, with a mighty throw, hurled
the bar of lead out into the Hudson, far below. Then he darted
"Now, fellows," muttered Douglass in a low voice, "I'd like mighty
well to turn this scoundrel over. But we don't want to put such
a foul besmirchment on the class name, if we can avoid it, the
night before graduation. Jordan, if we let you go, will you hike,
and never stop hiking until you're miles and miles away from West
"Yes; on my honor," protested the other eagerly.
"On your---bosh!" retorted "Doug" impatiently. "Don't spring such
strange oaths on us, fellow. Let him."
"Now, Jordan, start moving, and keep it up!" Then the trio, after
watching the rascal out of sight, went inside, and Douglass, at
the first opportunity, warned Dick of what had happened outside in
the summer darkness.
The graduating exercises at West Point had finished. The Secretary
of War, in the presence of the superintendent, the commandant
and the members of the faculty of the United States Military Academy,
flanked by the Board of Visitors, had handed his diploma to the
last man, the cadet at the foot of the graduating class, Mr. Atterbury.
Dick had graduated as number thirty-four; Greg as thirty-seven.
Either might have chosen the cavalry, or possibly the artillery
arm of the service, but both had already expressed a preference
for the infantry arm.
"The 'doughboys' (infantry) are always the fellows who see the
hardest of the fighting in war time," was the way Dick put it.
Now the superintendent made a few closing remarks. These finished,
the band blared out with a triumphal march, to the first notes
of which the first class rose and marched out, amid cheers and
hand-clapping, to be followed by the other classes.
Five minutes later the young graduates were laying aside the gray
uniform for good and all. Cit. clothes now went on, and each
grad. surveyed himself with some wonder in attire which was so
Out in the quadrangle, for the last time, the grads. met. There,
too, were the members of the classes remaining, but these latter
were still in the cadet gray, and would be until the close of their
own grad. days.
Hurried good-byes were said. Warm handclasps sounded on all sides.
Few words were said, but there were many wet eyes.
Then some of the grads. raced for the station to board the next
Greg remained behind with Dick. After quitting the quadrangle,
they bent swift steps toward the hotel, where awaited Mrs. Prescott,
Mrs. Bentley, Laura and Belle.
Something else waited, too---a carriage, or rather, a small bus, for
Dick and Greg were no longer cadets and might ride over the post
in a carriage if they chose.
"It was beautifully impressive, dear," whispered Laura, referring
to the graduating exercises.
"But, thank goodness, it's over, and I have my diploma in this
suit case," murmured Dick grimly. "No more fearful grind, such
as we've been going through for more than four years. No more
tortured doubts as to whether we'll ever grad. and get our commissions
in the Army. That is settled, now. And think, Laura, if I hear
a bugle in the city to-morrow morning, I can simply turn over
and take another nap."
"You lazy boy!" laughed Laura half chidingly.
"You spend four years and three months here, and see if you don't
feel the same way about it," smiled Dick. "But I love every gray
stone in these grand old buildings, just the same. West Point
shall be ever dear in my memory!"
Greg's mother now came out and joined the ladies on the porch.
A moment or two later Mr. Prescott and Mr. Holmes stepped out
and grasped their sons' hands.
"We haven't a heap of time left if we want to catch the down-river
steamboat," suggested Dick, with a glance at his watch.
So this happy little home party entered the bus, and the drive
to the dock began.
They passed scores of cadets, who carefully saluted these grads.
Everyone in the party knew of the betrothal of Dick and Laura.
Greg had had to stand a good deal of good-natured chaffing from
his parents because he had not fared as well.
"The next girl I get engaged to," sighed Greg, "I'm going to insist
on marrying instantly. Then there'll be no danger of losing her."
At the dock, Anstey, Durville, Douglass and other grads. waited,
though the majority of the members of the late first class were
already speeding to New York on a train that had started a few
"I couldn't bear to go down by train, suh," explained Anstey
in a very low voice. "I want to stand at the stern of the steamer,
and see West Point's landmarks fade and vanish one by one. And
I don't reckon, suh, that I shall want anyone to talk to me while
I'm looking back from the stern of the boat."
"Same here," observed Greg, with what was, for him, a considerable
display of feeling.
Then the boat swept in, and the West Point party went silently
aboard. All made their way to the stern on the saloon deck.
That evening the class was to meet, for the last time as a whole,
at one of the theaters in New York. And the late cadets would
sit together, solidly, as a class.
Friends of graduates who wished would attend the theater, though
in seats away from the class.
Dick and Greg's relatives and friends were all to attend. More,
they were to stop at the same hotel. The next forenoon the ladies
would attend to some shopping. Then the reunited party would
journey back to Gridley.
A dozen or so West Point graduates stood at the stern of the swift
river steamer. The captain of the craft, a veteran in the river
service, knew something of how these young men just out of the
gray felt. For the first five miles down the river the swift
craft went at half speed. Then, suddenly, full speed ahead was
rung on the engine-room bell, and the craft went on under greatly
"Well, gentlemen," murmured Anstey, moving around and walking
slowly forward, "the United States Military Academy is the grandest
alma mater that a fellow could possibly have. I'm glad to be
through, glad to be away from West Point, but I shall journey
reverently back there any time when I have any leisure in this
bright part of the good old world."
How sweet the joys of the great metropolis! Yet these joys would
have palled had our travelers remained there too long. The following
afternoon they were again journeying toward what is, after all,
the one real spot on earth---home!
Gridley well-nigh went wild over its returning West Pointers---though
now West Pointers no longer.
One of Dick Prescott's first tasks was to go proudly to Dr. Bentley,
to state that he had had the wonderful good fortune to win Laura's
heart, and to ask whether her father had any objection.
"Objection, Dick?" beamed the good old physician. "Why, lad, for
years I've been hoping---yes, praying that you and Laura would
have this good fortune. Wherever you may be stationed in the world,
you'll let our daughter come back to us once in a while, I hope."
Dick solemnly promised, whereat Dr. Bentley smiled.
"That's all nonsense, Dick," laughed Laura's father. "I know,
in my own heart, that you're going to be as good a son to mother
and me as you have been to your own parents. God bless you both!"
A new lot of High School boys Dick and Greg found in Gridley,
but the new crop seemed to be fully as promising as any that Dick
and Greg could remember in their own old High School days when
Dick & Co. had flourished.
A fortnight, altogether, Dick and Greg enjoyed in the good old home
town, hallowed to them by so many memories.
Then one morning each received a bulky official envelope bearing
the imprint of the War Department at Washington.
How their eyes glistened, then moistened, as each young West Point
grad. drew out of the envelope the parchment on which was written
his commission as a second lieutenant of United States infantry.
More, their request had been granted. They had been assigned
to the same regiment---the forty-fourth.
Their instructions called for them to start within forty-eight
hours, and to wire acknowledgment of orders to Washington.
The Forty-fourth United States Infantry was at that time in the far
West, in a country that at times teemed with adventure for Uncle
Here we must take leave of Lieutenant Dick Prescott and of Lieutenant
Greg Holmes, United States Army, for their cadet days are over
Readers, however, who wish to meet these sterling young Americans
again, and who would also like to renew acquaintance with two
former members of Dick & Co., Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, will
be able to do so in Volume Number Five of the _Young Engineers'
Series_, entitled: "_The Young Engineers On The Gulf_."
In this very interesting volume the young engineers and the young
Army officers will be found to have some very startling adventures
Readers will also be able to learn more of the careers of Dick
Prescott and Greg Holmes, as Army officers, in the "_Boys Of The
Army Series_." Some of their campaigns will be described very
fully, for these splendid young officers served as officers and
instructors of the "_Boys of the Army_."
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