H. Irving Hancock.

Dick Prescott's Third Year at West Point Standing Firm for Flag and Honor online

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Then, while the two West Pointers sat before him, their faces
impassive, Mr. Griffin continued.

"When I was retained on this case I was asked to put the whole
matter before the Grand Jury at its next sitting. It is so very
unusual, however, to have criminal cases against West Point men
that I insisted with my clients that I would not take a decisive
step, Mr. Prescott, until I had first seen you."

"Thank you, sir," nodded Cadet Prescott.

"In brief then," went on the lawyer, "Mr. Dodge and his son Bert
have placed a good deal of sworn evidence in my hands, and they
have instructed me, Prescott, to procure your indictment on a
charge of uttering criminally libelous statements against Bert
Dodge!"




CHAPTER VII

PRESCOTT LAYS A POWDER TRAIL


Greg Holmes turned very white for an instant.

Then a flush rose to his face. He leaped to his feet, his hands
clenched.

"This is an infamous, outrageous, lying - - -"

"Thank you, Greg," Prescott broke in coolly. "But will you let
me question Mr. Griffin?"

"Yes," subsided Greg, sinking back into his chair. "I don't know
that I could say any more. It would be merely a change in the words."

Cadet Prescott turned back to the lawyer.

"Mr. Griffin, will you tell me why you sent for me?"

"Because," replied the man of law, "I have some knowledge of the
average West Point material. Frankly, I couldn't wholly credit
this charge against you. I wanted to see you and have a talk
with you, and I so informed the elder Dodge. Unless you can satisfy
me that this is a ridiculous case, or a wholly malicious prosecution,
then I shall feel obliged, as a lawyer, to take up the charges
with the district attorney, after which we shall proceed in the
usual way. But, first of all, I want to have a talk with you."

"That is very fair, sir," replied Dick.

"And I want to be fair," replied the lawyer with emphasis. "I
want to make sure that I am not taking part in a case needlessly
malicious, and one which, pushed to a needless conclusion, might
rob the Army of a valuable future officer."

"I appreciate your courtesy and fairness, and I, thank you, sir,"
Dick acknowledged.

"Now, Mr. Prescott, do you mind telling me, in a general way,
at least, just what you have said to others about young Dodge
since you have been home on your furlough?"

"I would rather, sir, tell you something else instead," replied
Cadet Prescott, with the ghost of a smile. "You have some affidavits,
Mr. Griffin - -or, at least, you have some witnesses, and they
have very likely furnished you with affidavits. The names of
your witnesses, or of your most important witnesses, are Fessenden,
Bettrick and Deevers. Fessenden was a bank clerk, discharged
from the bank by the elder Dodge. Bettrick is a truck-driver,
and Deevers is - -well, I understand he has no more important
occupation than lounging about drinking places."

"I am sorry that you know the names of my witnesses," replied
Lawyer Griffin gravely. "I am beginning to be impressed with
the idea that you know their names so readily because you recall
having said something in their presence or hearing against young
Dodge."

"That is hardly likely," replied Dick, smiling coolly, "because
I do not believe that I know either of the three young men by
sight."

"Then why," demanded the attorney, eyeing the young West Pointer
keenly, "do you know so much about their occupations or lack of
occupation? And why do you know that they are all young men?"

"I will tell you," replied Dick. "In the first place, you know
Dr. Carter, do you not?"

"Yes."

"He is a reputable physician, isn't he?"

"I believe Dr. Carter to be a very honorable man."

"Do you know Dr. Davidson?"

"I understand that he is one of the new pastors in town," admitted
the lawyer.

"You imagine he would make a creditable witness, don't you?"

"Jurors generally accept the testimony of a clergyman at its face
value," replied Attorney Griffin.

"Down in one of the tenements of Gridley," pursued Prescott, rising
and leaning one elbow upon the corner of the top of the lawyer's
roll-top desk, "is a young man named Peters. He is a mill hand
who has been away from his work for weeks on account of illness.
Dr. Carter has been attending him, probably without charging
much if any fee. Last night Peters had a small boy rush out and
telephone in haste for Dr. Carter. As it happened, the physician
was at his office, and answered quickly. After Dr. Carter had
been in Peters's room, perhaps a minute, the physician hurried
out into the street, stopping the first man whom he met. That
man happened to be Dr. Davidson. The two men returned to Peters's
room. Now, all three of them listened."

Lawyer Griffin was eyeing Prescott curiously.

"Yesterday afternoon," continued Dick, changing the subject with
seeming abruptness, "Fessenden, Bettrick and Deevers were all here,
and signed affidavits before a clerk of yours, who is a notary public."

"Proceed," requested Mr. Griffin, without either denying or admitting
the truth of Dick's statement.

"Since he lost his bank position," Dick went on, "Fessenden has
been compelled to live in a wretched room next to that occupied
by the sick man Peters. Two nights ago, as you will remember,
there was a heavy rain. Now, the roof leaked at that tenement
house, and the dripping water washed away some of the plaster
covering the none-too-thick partition between the room of Fessenden
and the room of Peters. So our sick man heard much of the conversation
between Fessenden and the fellow's confederates. Now Peters,
the physician and the clergyman are all willing to swear to the
statement that Bert Dodge hired Fessenden, Bettrick and Deevers
to testify against me. Young Dodge, according to the overheard
conversation, met and drilled all three in their parts. That
was before the three came here yesterday afternoon, with the Dodges,
and supplied you with the affidavits that you now hold. For this
service, Dodge is believed to have paid each young loafer the
sum of twenty dollars, with a promise of eighty more apiece after
they had told their tales in court. That, Mr. Griffin, is the
other side of the story. Bert Dodge has deliberately hired three
men to swear falsely against me."

As he finished Dick dropped carelessly back into the chair. He
appeared wholly cool. Not so Greg Holmes, whose face, during this
recital, had been a study. Now Greg was upon his feet in a flash.

"How long have you known this, old ramrod?" he demanded.

"Dr. Davidson told me this, in the back room at the store, just
before we came here," Prescott replied.

"And you never told me - -didn't even give me a hint?" cried Holmes
reproachfully.

"Why, I thought I'd tell Mr. Griffin first," answered Dick.

"I have seldom heard anything that interested me more," admitted
the lawyer. "Yet, why didn't you bring Dr. Davidson and Dr. Carter
here with you?"

"One good reason," replied Dick bluntly, "was that I didn't know
anything about you, Mr. Griffin. I am glad to say that I have
found you most fair minded. But, not knowing you, I wanted to
see you and judge for myself whether there was any chance that
you were in league with my enemies. Had I made up my mind that
you were anywhere nearly as bad as young Dodge, I would have let
this matter get as far as the courts, when I would have overwhelmed
you all with charges of perjury, and would have proved my charges
at least against Bert Dodge and his three tools."

"Mr. Prescott, of course I don't mean to throw any doubt over the
truth of what you have just told me. At the same time, as counsel
for the Dodges, I shall have to satisfy myself on these particulars.

"Do you know Dr. Carter's voice well?" asked Prescott.

"Very well."

"Then kindly allow me to use your telephone."

Pulling the desk instrument toward him, and hailing central, Dick
called for "33 Main."

"Hello, is Dr. Carter in," called Dick after a moment. "This
is Prescott. Do you recognize my voice? Very good, sir; will
you now talk with Lawyer Griffin, who is beside me, and tell him
what you heard last night in the room of one Peters? Here is
Dr. Cater waiting for you Mr. Griffin."

Lawyer and physician talked together for some minutes, the attorney's
excitement increasing. Greg, in the meantime, was executing a
silent jig over near the door of the room.

"Now, you can call up Dr. Davidson," suggested Cadet Prescott.

"I don't need to," replied the lawyer. "Dr. Carter has substantiated
all that you told me, and has informed me that Dr. Davidson is
ready to be called upon for the same information. Instead, I
shall call upon some one else."

An instant later the attorney called up another number.

"Hello," he said presently. "Connect me with Mr. Dodge. Hello,
is that you, Mr. Dodge? Can you reach your son readily? Oh,
he is there at the bank with you, is he? This is Mr. Griffin.
I shall expect you both at my office within five minutes. Yes;
about the Prescott matter. No; I can't tell you over the 'phone.
Both of you come here. Goodbye!"

As though to wind up the conversation abruptly, Lawyer Griffin
rang off and hung the receiver on its hook.

"Now, we'll wait and here the other side," remarked the lawyer
grimly.

"If the other side dares make its voice heard!" laughed Cadet
Dick Prescott.

There being now no need of silence, Greg Holmes relieved himself
of some noisy enthusiasm.




CHAPTER VIII

A FATHER'S JUST WRATH STRIKES


A very few minutes later a knock sounded at the door.

Then Bert Dodge entered very abruptly, his tongue starting with
the turning off the knob.

"Well, have you seen the mucker Prescott?" called Bert airily.
"Was he scared to - - -"

Here Bert caught sight of the two West Pointers and stopped short,
while his father entered behind him.

"No," broke in Holmes, dryly, "Prescott wasn't even scared silly."

"Oh, you shut up, you two!" growled Bert. "Mr. Griffin, what
are these pieces of airy nothing doing here?"

"That advice about preserving silence will very well apply to
you, also, Mr. Bert Dodge," rejoined the lawyer. "Take a seat
in the background, please. I want to talk with your father."

"What's the matters" demanded Bert, not taking a seat, but advancing
and leaning against the top of the lawyer's desk. "Has this fellow
won you over with a lot of his smooth talk?"

"Mr. Griffin I warned you that Prescott is a most accomplished liar."

Instead of flaring up at this insult, Dick merely turned to exchange
amused smiles with Holmes.

At this moment the attorney was paying no heed to Bert, but was
placing a chair courteously for the elder Dodge.

"Now, Mr. Dodge," began the lawyer, speaking rapidly and paying
heed only to the father, "I am very glad that I insisted on seeing
Mr. Prescott before going further in the case that you placed
with me. I expected only a denial. I have, instead, been astounded.
Now, listen, sir, while I tell you the all but incredible story."

Thereupon Lawyer Griffin launched into a swift narration of the
story told by Dick Prescott and Dr. Carter.

As soon as Bert Dodge began to get wind of what it was all about,
his face became ghastly.

"Stop right here, Griffin!" commanded Bert. "This is all a tissue
of lies that have been sprung upon you."

"Silence, young man!" commanded the lawyer sternly. "This talk
is between your father and myself. As for you, young man, remember
to what you have sworn, and bear in mind that the upshot of it
all for you may yet be a term of years in the penitentiary."

As the lawyer went on talking there could not be a moment's suspicion
that the elder Dodge had been concerned in the plot of perjury.
Mr. Dodge had been guilty only of believing his son and of sharing
the latter's feigned indignation.

"Now, Dr. Carter has confirmed all of this over the 'phone, and
he assured me that Dr. Davidson stood ready to add his testimony,"
wound up Lawyer Griffin. "Mr. Dodge, what is to be done?"

"Why," stammered Bert's father, "we - -we shall have to drop the
whole case."

"What?" raged Bert, his face going purple with anger. "Drop the
case on any such stacked-up mess of lies? Father, are you losing
all the nerve you ever had?"

"Young man," broke in Lawyer Griffin severely, "you do not appear
to have the slightest idea of values. I do not for a moment imagine
that your father will go any further in this matter. If he does,
it will be necessary for him to get another attorney."

"Why!" challenged Bert, glaring at the lawyer.

"Because the outcome of this case, if it reached court, would
be your indictment for conspiracy and the subornation of perjury.
The latter is one of the most heinous crimes known to the law."

"But I tell you this is all a tissue of lies trumped up against
me!" stormed young Dodge.

While this conversation was going on Dick and Greg remained silent
in their seats. They had no need to talk. They were enjoying it
all too much just as it was going.

"Do you expect, Dodge, that a court and a jury would take your
unsupported word against the testimony of two such men as Dr.
Carter and the Rev. Mr. Davidson? Do you imagine, for a moment,
that Fessenden and your other tools wouldn't become utterly frightened
and confess to everything against you? Do you imagine that anything
you could do or say would save you, Dodge, from going to the
penitentiary for ten or fifteen years?"

The attorney's cool, incisive manner brought Bert Dodge to his
senses.

A deathly fear assailed him. His knees began to shake.

"The case is too well fixed against me," he replied hoarsely.
"Ye - -es, I guess you had better drop it all."

The elder Dodge now sprang to his feet.

"Drop it, you young scoundrel?" he yelled at his son. "Why did
you ever drag me into any such infamous piece of business? I went
into this believing that you told me the truth."

"I - -I did, sir," stammered Bert.

"Bah, you are a perjurer, you young villain!" raged his father.
"Griffin, this matter cannot go a step further. You will destroy
those miserable affidavits before my eyes!"

"I am sorry, Mr. Dodge," replied the lawyer, "but I am not at
liberty to do that."

"You can't destroy the affidavits?" howled Bert, his voice breaking.
"Why not! Aren't you our lawyer?"

"I am even more an officer of the court than I am anyone's attorney,"
replied Mr. Griffin gravely. "A lawyer has no right to conceal
a crime when he knows one has been committed not even to save his
own clients."

"Wh - -what do you propose to do, Griffins?" demanded the elder
Dodge, shaking.

"Why, I hope to save your worthless son from prosecution, Mr.
Dodge," returned the lawyer. "But a crime has been committed,
in that your son procured others to swear to false affidavits
True, the affidavits have not yet been presented in court, and
on that I base my hope that the matter will not have to go further.
But I feel in honor bound to submit the facts to the district
attorney, and to be governed by his instructions."

"You are going to try to send me to jail?" gasped Dodge, clutching
at the ledge of a bookcase to save himself from falling.

"I am going to try to persuade the district attorney to let the
matter drop," replied Griffin. "It will be the district attorney's
decision that will govern the matter."

"Then what are you doing fooling around here, governor?" screamed
Bert hoarsely. "Don't you see that it's your job to hurry to the
district attorney as fast as you can go? Use your money, your
political influence - -"

In his extreme terror young Dodge seemed to forget that he was
providing amusement for his enemies.

But Mr. Dodge cut in quickly. Advancing a step or two, he brought
his uplifted stick down sharply, once, across his son's shoulders.

With a snarl Bert wheeled, crouching as though to spring upon
his father.

Prescott and Holmes jumped up, prepared to step in. But the banker
was not cowed by the evil look in his son's face.

"Begone, you young villain!" quivered the old man. "Get out of
my sight. Never let me see you again. Don't dare to go to what
was once your home, or I'll have you thrown out. I disown you!
You are no blood of mine!"

"I guess you forget," sneered Bert cunningly that you are responsible
for me, and that you will have to pay my bills."

"Not a penny of them," retorted the banker sternly. "It is you
who forget that you reached the age of twenty-one just three days
ago. You are your own master, sir - -and your own provider! Now,
go - -and never again let any of your family hear from the scoundrel
who has disgraced us all."

Vainly Bert opened his mouth, trying to speak. The words would
not come. His father again advancing threateningly, Bert edged
towards the door.

"This looks like your fun, as it is your work, Dick Prescott!"
snarled the wretch. "Wait! If it takes me ten years I'll make
you suffer for this!"

Crash! Mr. Dodge had again raised his cane to strike the young
man. But Bert had pulled open the door, closing it after him
as he fled, and only the plate-glass panel stopped the fall of
the cane.

"I'll pay for the damage done to your door Griffin," promised
the banker.

"Don't worry about that, sir," nodded the attorney.

"I feel that we've been here long enough, gentlemen," broke in
Cadet Prescott, as he and Greg rose. "Mr. Dodge, I can't begin
to tell you how sorry I am that this scene was necessary."

"I feel sure of your sympathy. Prescott, and of yours, too, Holmes.
Thank you both," replied the banker. "You are both fine, manly
young fellows. I wish I had been favored with a son like either
of you. Now, I have no son!"

Dick and Greg got away as unobtrusively as they could.

Bert Dodge did try to go home to see his Mother, but, by his father's
orders, he was put out of the house by two men servants.

Immediately after that Bert vanished from Gridley. At first he
tried the effect of writing whining, penitent, begging letters home.
Receiving no replies, Bert finally drifted off into the space of
the wide world.

Later on in the course of these chronicles he may reappear.

Lawyer Griffin consulted with the district attorney, and it was
decided not to make perjury cases out of the affair. Fessenden,
Bettrick and Deevers, however, were all three warned and the district
attorney filed away the lying affidavits, in case a use for them
should ever come up.

By degrees the story of Bert Dodge's latest infamy leaked out.
The news, however, did not come through any word spread by either
of our young West Pointers.




CHAPTER IX

BACK TO THE GOOD, GRAY LIFE


A Glorious summer it was for the two second classman on furlough!

Yet, like all other things, good and otherwise, it had to come
to an end.

One morning near the end of August, Dick and Greg, attended by
a numerous concourse of friends, went to the railway station.

The proud parents were there, of course, and so were the parents
of Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell, the latter happy in the knowledge
that their boys would soon be home for the brief September leave
from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

"Why, you haven't seen Dave since you youngsters all left home,
have you, Dick?" asked Mr. Darrin.

"No, sir. Greg and I hoped to, this last summer, when the Army
baseball nine went down to Annapolis and defeated the Navy nine,"
Dick replied. "But both Greg and I found ourselves so hard pressed
in our academic work that we didn't dare go, but remained behind
and boned hard at our studies."

"You don't forget the fact that the Army nine did defeat the Navy
nine, do you?" laughed Dan's father.

"No, sir; of course not," smiled Dick. "The Army and Navy teams
exist mainly for the purpose of beating each other. I am glad
to say that the Army manages to win more than its share of games."

"That's because the West Point boys average a little older than
the Annapolis boys," broke in Mrs. Dalzell pleasantly, though
warmly. Even she, as the mother of a midshipman, felt her share
in the rivalry between the nation's two great service schools.

"You will bring Laura and Belle up to some of the hops this winter,
I hope, Mrs. Bentley," Dick begged.

"Oh, she's pledged to take us to West Point, and to Annapolis,"
broke in Belle Meade, smiling. "You don't think we are going
to lose the hops at either Academy while we have friends there,
do you?"

"I should hope not," Dick replied earnestly. Five minutes before
train time Leonard Cameron appeared. He greeted the two cadets
with great cordiality.

"I couldn't help coming to see you off, Prescott," Cameron found
chance to say in an undertone. "Laura is so deeply interested
in your success that I, too, am longing to hear every possible
good word as to your future career. Laura couldn't be more interested
in you if she were truly your sister."

That was the sting that made Dick's going away bitter. Cameron's
manner was so easy and assured that Dick saw the crumbling of one
of his more than half built castles in Spain.

The train carried the two cadets away. The parents of both young
men had seen to it that the cadets went away in a parlor car.
Dick and Greg, after leaving Gridley behind, swung their chairs
around so that, while they looked out of the window, their heads
were close together.

"Cameron had a nerve to show up, didn't hey" demanded Greg indignantly.

"I don't know," Dick replied very quietly. "He tried to be very
kind and cordial."

"Shucks!" uttered Greg, disgustedly. "Doesn't he know that Laura
Bentley is your girl, and that he's only a b.j. hanger-on there?"

"I'm afraid Laura herself doesn't know that she's my girl," sighed
Dick.

Cadet Holmes swung about so that he could gaze straight into his
comrade's face.

"Dick, didn't you tell her?" demanded Greg aghast.

"You have to do something more than tell a girl," smiled Prescott
patiently, though wearily. "You have to ask her."

"Well, thunder and bomb-shells, didn't you?"

"I didn't, Greg."

"Oh, pardon me, old ramrod. I don't mean to pry into your affairs - - -"

"I know you don't."

" - - -but I thought you were deeply interested in Laura Bentley."

"I think I am, Greg. In fact, I'm sure I am."

"Then why - - -"

"Greg, I'm not yet sure of my place in life. I'm not going to ask
any girl to tie her future up in my plans until I feel that I have
a fair start in life."

"Army officer's pay is enough for any sensible girl."

"I'm not an Army officer yet."

"Oh, rot! You're going to be! You're half way through West Point
now. You're past the harder half, and you stand well enough in
your class. You're sure to graduate and get into the Army."

"Greg, within ten days of getting back to West Point I may be
injured in some cavalry, or other drill, and become useless for
life. A cadet hurt even in the line of duty gets no pension,
no retired pay. If he is a wreck, he is merely shipped home for
his folks to take care of him. When I graduate, and get my commission
in the Army, it will be different. Then I'll have a salary
guaranteed me for life; if I am injured, and become useless in
the Army, I still have retired pay enough to take care of a family.
If I am killed my wife could draw nearly pension enough to support
her. All these things belong to the Army officer and his wife.
But the cadet has nothing coming to him if he fails, for any reason,
to get through."

"Well, cadets don't marry," observed Greg. "They're forbidden
to. But a cadet can have things understood with his girl. Then,
if he fails to make the Army, or to get something else suitable
in life, he can release the girl if she wants to be released."

"But if a girl considers herself as good as engaged to a cadet
she lets other good chances go by, and the cadet may never be
able to make good," objected Dick.

"It's good of you to be so thoughtful for that fellow Cameron,"
jibed Greg.

"I'm not thoughtful for him, but for Laura," retorted Prescott
staunchly.

"Confound it," growled Greg to himself, "Dick is such a stickler
for the girl's rights that he is likely to break her heart. Hanged
if I don't try to set Laura straight myself, when I see her!
No; I won't either, though. Dick would never forgive me if I
butted into his own dearest affairs."

"I know, Greg," Prescott pursued presently, "that some of the
fellows do become engaged to, girls while still at the Military
Academy. But becoming engaged to marry a girl is a mighty serious
thing."

"Then I'm in for it," muttered Holmes soberly. "I'm engaged to


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