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and noticed that you were handling the second platoon in anything
but a soldierly manner. I was about to come out and speak to
you when I observed the captain call you to him. He corrected
your method of handling the platoon, didn't he?"

"He thought he did," Sergeant Mock responded, his lips quivering
"But the tone he took, or rather the words he said to me, aren't
the kind that make better soldiers of non-coms."

"So?" demanded Sergeant Lund, looking sharply into his subordinate's
eyes.

"No!" Mock snapped sullenly. "When an officer wants me to do
my best be's got to treat me like the gentleman that he's supposed
to be."

For twenty seconds Sergeant Lund continued his staring at Mock.
Then he rested a hand heavily on the other's shoulder as he said:

"Sergeant Mock, this is a man's army, training to do a nation's
share in the biggest war in history. None but a man can do a
man's work, and nothing but an army of real men can do the nation's
work. If you fit yourself into your place, work hard enough and
forget all about yourself except your oath to serve the Flag and
obey your officers, I believe that you can do a real man's work.
If you do anything different from that I'll knock your block off
without a second word on the subject."

A hotly angry reply leaped to Sergeant Mock's lips, but he was
wise enough to choke it back. For Sergeant Lund, a real man,
a real soldier and a loyal American, stood before him regarding
him with a look in which there was no faltering nor any doubt as
to his intentions.

"That's all, Sergeant Mock," said the top, an instant later.
"I'm going to keep an eye on you, and I want to be able to say
a word of praise to you this evening."

"Two of a kind - -the top and the company commander," Mock growled
under his breath as he went up the stairs to a squad room above.




CHAPTER II

GREG HAS TO BE STERN


A full minute before the bugler sounded the call Captain Dick
Prescott was on hand, standing in the shadow of the end of the
barracks of his company. Among other reasons he was there to
note the alacrity with which his men came out of the building.

Before the notes of the call had died away most of the men of
his company were on hand, his lieutenants among the first. Within
saving time all the rest had appeared, except those who had been
excused for one reason or another.

"A company fall in!" directed First Sergeant Kelly promptly.

As the men fell in in double rank there were a few cases of confusion,
for some of the men were rookies who had joined only recently.

"Sergeant Kelly, instruct the other sergeants to see to it that
each man knows his exact place in company formation," Dick ordered.

"Yes, sir," replied Kelly.

The corporals reported briskly the absentees, if any, in their
squads. The counting of fours sounded next after inspection of
arms.

"A little more snap in answering when fours are counted," Dick
called, loudly enough for all the company to hear. "Let every
man call his own number instantly and clearly. For instance,
when one man has called 'two' let the man at his left call 'three'
without a second's delay. In the way of good soldiering this
is more important than most of you new men realize. Lieutenant
Terry!"

"Sir," the first lieutenant responded, stepping forward, saluting.

"Take the company. Drill in dressings, facings, the manual of
arms, wheeling and marching by twos and fours."

Then, stepping to one side, Prescott let his gaze rove over the
company, from one file or rank to another. Everything that was
done badly he noted. Presently, when the men were standing at
ease he related his observations to Lieutenant Noll Terry, who
thereupon gave the company further instruction.

Finally, when the company started across the drill ground in column
of fours, Dick walked briskly into the barracks building, going
to the company office, whither Sergeant Kelly had preceded him.
Kelly, and a corporal and private who were there on clerical duty,
rose and stood at attention as the captain entered.

"Rest," Dick commanded briefly, whereupon the corporal and the
private returned to the desk at which they were working, while
Dick crossed to the sergeant's desk. Seating himself there he
gave close attention to the papers that Sergeant Kelly handed
him. Such as required signature Captain Prescott signed. Then,
for fifteen minutes, he busied himself with requisitions for clothing
and equipment. After that other papers required close attention.
Following that several matters of company administration had
to be taken up. Finally, Sergeant Kelly handed Dick a list on
which names had been written.

"These seven men have applied for pass from retreat this afternoon
until reveille tomorrow morning," reported Dick's top. "I have
approved them, subject to your action."

Reading quickly through the names, Prescott replied:

"Give six of them pass, but refuse it to Private Hartley. This
forenoon I observed that he saluted officers very indifferently
when passing them, and once Hartley had to be spoken to by an
officer whom he did not see in time to salute him. In whose squad
is Hartley?"

"In Corporal Aspen's, sir."

"Then direct Corporal Aspen to take Hartley aside, at any time
suited to the corporal's convenience this evening. Have the corporal
drill Private Hartley at least twenty minutes in saluting, with,
of course, proper intervals for arm rest."

"Yes, sir. May I offer the captain a suggestion?"

"Yes."

"Aspen will be corporal in charge of quarters to-night. Hartley
is sometimes a very slovenly soldier," Kelly reported. "May I
direct Corporal Aspen to keep Hartley up and give the instruction
in saluting after midnight? Corporal Aspen could take the man
into the mess-room where none of the men would be disturbed."

"That sounds like a good idea," Dick nodded, smiling slightly.
"If he has to lose some of his sleep for instruction Hartley
may remember better. A soldier who offers his salutes in a slovenly
fashion is always a long way from being a really good soldier.
And, Sergeant, tell all the corporals that each will be held
responsible for drill and instruction of their squads in the art
of snappy saluting."

Glancing at his wrist watch Prescott now noted that it was within
five minutes of time for the battalion practice march. Accordingly
he stepped outside. His lieutenants being already on the drill
ground he gave them brief directions as to the instruction to
be imparted on the hike and the deficiencies in the men's work
that were to be watched for. While he was still speaking the
bugler sounded assembly.

Two or three minutes later the first battalion, under Major Wells,
marched off the drill ground in column of fours.

As A company moved off at the head of the battalion some of the
non-coms called quietly:

"Hip! hip! hip!"

At each "hip" the men stepped forward on the left foot. A few
of the recruits still found difficulty in keeping step.

"Let that third four close up!" ordered Lieutenant Terry briskly.
"Pay more heed to keeping the interval correctly."

When the third four closed up those behind closed in accordance,
sergeants and corporals giving this matter close attention.

As it was a practice march the men continued to move in step.
Company streets were left behind and the battalion moved on across
a field, where later a trench system was to be installed, out
past where the rifle ranges were already being constructed, and
then up the gradual ascent of a low hill from which a spread-out
view of the camp was to be had. On all the out-lying roads, at
this time, bodies of troops were to be seen marching in various
directions. At a distance these columns of men, clad in olive
drab, made one think of brown caterpillars moving slothfully along.
That was a distance effect, however, for the marching men did
not move slowly, but kept on at the regular cadence of a hundred
and twenty steps to the minute.

In less than ten minutes after the start, with the rays of the
sun pouring down mercilessly on them, the soldiers began to perspire
freely. Another five minutes and it was necessary to brush the
perspiration out of their eyes.

Assuredly the officers felt the heat as much. Yet from time to
time Captain Prescott fell out from his place at the head of the
company and allowed the line to march by, observing every good,
indifferent or bad feature of their marching, and correcting what
he could by low spoken commands. Whenever the last of the company
had passed Prescott ran along by the marching men until he had
gained the head. If the men suffered acute discomfort in marching
Prescott experienced more suffering in running under that hot
sun. But he was intent only on the idea of having the best company
in what he fondly hoped would turn out to be the best regiment
in the Army.

For some minutes Greg had been aware that Sergeant Mock, of his
company, was hobbling along. Now, as he turned to glance backward,
he saw Mock step out of the ranks, go to the side of the road
and sit down.

A glance at his wrist watch, and Greg saw that the first half-hour
was nearly up. In a minute or two more, he knew Major Bell would
give the order for a counter-march, and the first battalion would
swing and come back on its own trail. So Captain Holmes turned
and ran back to his non-commissioned officer.

"What's the matter, Sergeant?" the young captain inquired pleasantly.

Mock made as though trying to rise from the ground to stand at
attention, but his lips twisted as though he were in pain.

"Rest," ordered Greg, "and tell me what ails you."

"My feet are killing me, sir," groaned the sergeant.

"That's odd," Captain Holmes commented. "You were all right at
assembly - -lively enough then. Has half an hour of marching used
up a sound, healthy man?"

Instantly the sergeant's look became surly.

"All I know, sir, is that I could hardly stand on my feet. So
I had to drop out. If you'll permit it, sir, I shall have to
get back to camp the best way I can."

"If you're that badly off I'll have an ambulance sent for you,"
Greg went on. "But I don't understand your feet giving out so
suddenly. Take off one of your shoes and the sock."

"That may not show much, but I'm suffering just the same, sir,"
rejoined the non-com in a grumbling tone.

"Let me see," Greg insisted.

While the sergeant was busy removing a legging and unlacing a
shoe Captain Holmes glanced up the road to discover that the battalion
was counter-marching.

"Be quick about it, Sergeant," Greg urged.

Moving no faster than he had to, Mock took off his shoe, then slowly
turned the sock down, peeling it off.

"Is that the worst foot?" Greg demanded, in astonishment.

"I don't know, sir; they both hurt me."

"Do you want to show me the other foot, or do you wish to get
back among the file closers?"

"I - -I can't walk, sir."

Down on one knee went Greg, carefully inspecting the foot and
feeling it. The skin was clean, rosy, firm.

"Why there isn't a sign of a blister," Captain Holmes declared.
"Nor is there an abrasion of any kind, or any callous. There
isn't even a corn. That's as healthy a doughboy foot as I've
seen. Dress your foot again, and put on your legging - -_pronto_."

A "doughboy" is an infantry soldier. "Pronto" is a word the Army
has borrowed from the Spanish, and means, "Be quick about it."

"I'm not fit to march, sir," cried Sergeant Mock.

"Either you'll be ready by the time B company is here, and you'll
march in, or I'll detail a man to remain here with you, and send
an ambulance for you. If I have to send an ambulance I'll have
you examined at the hospital, and if I find you've been faking
foot trouble then you shall feel the full weight of military law.
I'll give you your own choice. Which do you want?"

Tugging his sock on, Mock merely mumbled.

"Answer me!" Greg insisted sharply.

"I - -I'll do my best to march, sir."

"Then be sure you're ready by the time B company gets here, and
be sure you march all the way in," Greg ordered sternly. He hated
a shamming imitation of a soldier.

Major Bell and his staff came by at the head of the line, followed
by Prescott and A company.

"Don't disappoint me, Sergeant," Greg warned his man.

Though his brow was black with wrath Sergeant Mock stood up by
the time that the head of B company arrived.

"Take your place, Sergeant," Greg ordered, and waited to see his
order obeyed, next running up to his own post.

Ten minutes later, as a group of carpenters from the rifle range
paused at the roadside, Greg chanced to glance backward. He was
just in time to see Sergeant Mock limping out of the line of
file-closers to sit down at the roadside.

His jaws set, Greg Holmes darted back.

"That's enough of this, Mock," he called. "You can't sham in B
company. Your feet, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir," groaned the sergeant.

"First two men of the rear four of B company fall out and come
here," Captain Holmes shouted.

Instantly the two men detached themselves from the company and
came running back.

"Fix your bayonets," Greg ordered. "Bring Sergeant Mock in at
the rear of the battalion. If he shirks, prod him with the points
of your bayonets. Don't be brutal, but make the sergeant keep
up at the rear of the battalion."

"Sir - - -" began Mock protestingly.

"Quite enough for you, Sergeant Mock," Greg rapped out. "I'll
have your feet examined by a surgeon when you come in. Unless
the surgeon tells me that I'm wrong you may look for something
to happen!"

As Greg turned and started to run back to the head of his company
he thought he heard a sound like a hiss. In his opinion it came
from some one in the group of carpenters, but he did not halt
to investigate.

Though Mock limped all the way in, he came in exactly at the tail
of the battalion. As the last company halted on the drill ground
Sergeant Lund came back for him, relieving the guards.

"Mock, until you've been examined," said the top, "you're not
to go beyond battalion bounds."

"Am I in arrest?" demanded Mock, his face set in ugly lines.

"You're confined within battalion bounds. Remember that," saying
which First Sergeant Lund turned and strode away.

Nor was Mock a happy man. Holmes arranged that a regimental surgeon
should come over to B company barracks later and make a careful
examination of Sergeant Mock's feet. For some reason the surgeon
did not come promptly. The evening meal was eaten, and darkness
settled down over Camp Berry. Mock, still limping and looking
woeful, kept out in the open air.

"Psst!" came sharply from somewhere, and Mock, turning, saw a
man in civilian garb standing in the shadow of a latrine shed.

"Come here," called the stranger. Still surly, but urged by curiosity,
Mock obeyed the summons.

"I don't want to be seen talking with you," murmured the stranger,
in a low voice, "but I want to offer you my sympathy. Say, but
a man gets treated roughly in the Army. That captain of yours - -"

As the stranger paused, looking keenly at Mock, the disgruntled
sergeant finished vengefully:

"The captain? He's a dog!"

"Dog is right," agreed the stranger promptly. "Will he do anything
more to you?"

"I expect he'll bust me," said Sergeant Mock.

To "bust" is the same as to "break." It means to reduce a non-com
to the ranks.

"Are you going to stand it?" demanded the stranger.

"Fat chance I'll have to beat the captain's game!" declared Mock
angrily.

"But are you going to pay him back?"

"How?"

"Listen. I was in the Army once, and I don't like these officer
boys. Maybe I've something against your captain, too. Anyway,
keep mum and take good advice, and I'll help you to make him wish
he'd never been born."

"Not a chance!" dissented Sergeant Mock promptly. "Captain Holmes
isn't afraid of anything, and besides he was born lucky. Besides
that, do anything to hurt him, and you've got Captain Prescott
against you, too, and ready to rip you up the back."

"It's as easy to put 'em both in bad as it is to do it to either,"
promised the stranger. "Now, listen. You - - -"




CHAPTER III

BAD BLOOD COMES TO THE SURFACE


Later in the evening the surgeon came around. After examining
Sergeant Mock's feet for twenty minutes, and testing the skin as
well, he pronounced Mock a shammer.

Mock was sent to the guard-house for twenty-four hours. The next
morning an order was published reducing the sergeant to the rank
of private. Yet, on the whole, the ex-sergeant looked pleased in
a sullen, disagreeable sort of way. He had listened to the stranger.

Greg, however, had other troubles on his hands. After the noon
meal that day, as he was on his way to his quarters upstairs Captain
Cartwright passed him in the corridor.

"I hear you're turning martinet," said Cartwright, with a disagreeable
smile.

"Very likely," smiled Holmes, "but what are the specifications?"

"I heard that you had a sergeant busted for having an opinion of
his own."

"That's not so," Greg declared promptly.

"Do you mean to tell me I'm a liar?" Cartwright asked flushing.

"Did I understand you to charge me with preferring unjustifiable
charges against a sergeant in my company?"

"I said I heard you had busted a sergeant for doing his own thinking,"
the other captain insisted.

"Cartwright, it's difficult for me to guess at what you're driving,"
Holmes went on, patiently, "but I've already told you that I did
nothing of the kind that you allege."

"That's calling me a liar again!" flamed Cartwright.

"I'm sorry if it is," returned Greg coolly, and turned toward
his door.

"You cannot call me a liar!" cried Captain Cartwright, taking
a quick step forward, his fists clenched.

"Apparently I don't have to," scoffed Holmes. "You're eager to
claim the title for yourself."

Up flew the other captain's fist. But just then a door opened
behind him, and Dick Prescott caught the uplifted fist in tight,
vise-like hold.

"Don't do that, Cartwright," he advised.

"Let me alone," insisted the other striving though failing to
release his captured wrist.

"Don't do anything rash, Cartwright. Listen to good sense; then
I am going to let go of your wrist. If you were to strike Holmes
he would be practically bound to thrash you, or else to prefer
charges. In either case the matter would get before a court-martial.
My testimony, from what I overheard, would have to sustain Holmes."

"You two would swear for each other anywhere and at all times,"
sneered Captain Cartwright.

This was hinting that Dick Prescott would be willing to perjure
himself, and Dick flushed, though with difficulty he kept his
patience.

"I'm going to let go of you now, Cartwright," Prescott continued.

As Dick let go of the captured wrist Captain Cartwright wheeled
and aimed a vicious blow at his brother officer's face.

But Prescott's arm thrust up his adversary's.

"Stop it, Cartwright!"

Apparently the other could not control his anger. He aimed another
savage blow. Dick parried with a thrust, but this time his other
fist landed on Cartwright's chest with force enough to send him
staggering to a fall on the floor.

At this moment a step was heard on the stairway.

"Gentlemen! Stop this! What does it mean?"

The voice was full of authority and outraged dignity. Colonel
Cleaves, his eyes flashing, stood before them.

"Get up, Captain Cartwright," he commanded. "I must have an instant
explanation of this scene. Officers and gentlemen cannot conduct
themselves like rowdies."

Captain Cartwright forced himself to smile as he saluted; he even
tried to look forgiving.

"A little frolic, sir," he made haste to say, "that developed
into bad blood for the moment." I do not wish to prefer any charges."

"Do you, Captain Prescott?" demanded the colonel.

"No, sir."

"You, Captain Holmes?"

"No, sir."

If any of the trio had hoped this much explanation would prove
satisfactory to the E.O. of the Ninety-ninth, that one had reckoned
without his host.

"A misunderstanding that develops to the point of a knock-down
blow is never a trifling matter," declared Colonel Cleaves. "If
you gentlemen had assured me that it was all frolic then I would
have thought no more of it. But I have been assured that there
was a misunderstand - -a quarrel that proceeded to blows. And
I myself saw one man down and signs of very evident anger on all
your faces. Gentlemen, do you wish to offer me any further explanation
at this moment?"

"I have said all that I really can say, sir," protested Cartwright,
"except that I do not harbor any unkind feelings for what has
taken place."

Steps were heard on the stairs, and other officers of the Ninety-ninth
came upon the scene.

"As no charges have been preferred," said Colonel Cleaves, "I
will not order any of you relieved from duty. I will notify all
three of you, however, at a later hour, and will then hear you
all in my office. I trust a most satisfactory explanation all
around will be forthcoming."

Colonel Cleaves then turned to the group of officers that had
just arrived, saying:

"Lieutenant Terry, you were kind enough to offer to loan me a
book on rifle range construction. I am aware that you have not
yet had a chance to send it over to me, but as I was passing,
I decided to drop in and ask it from you."

"In an instant, sir," replied Noll Terry. Saluting, he darted
down the corridor, opened his door and came back with the volume.

"I am indebted to you, Mr. Terry," said Colonel Cleaves, returning
the first lieutenant's second salute and turning to go.

Until they had heard the colonel go out upon the steps below the
entire group of younger officers stood as though spell-bound.
But at last one of them broke out with:

"I hope nothing really nasty is afoot. Three of you look as though
the moon were clouded with mischief for some one."

"You'll pardon us, won't you?" smiled Dick pleasantly, as he turned
to go back into his quarters. "You will realize, as we do, that
the first discussion of the matter should take place before the
commanding officer."

Greg followed his chum in.

"Oh it's nothing," they heard Captain Cartwright assure the others.
"It ought to blow over, and I hope it will. A certain officer
took what I thought too much liberty with me, and when I resented
it his friend took a hand in the matter. I hope we can set it
all straight before Colonel Cleaves."

Behind the closed door, hearing what was said, Prescott turned
on his friend with eyebrows significantly raised. Greg nodded.
No word was spoken.

Apparently Captain Cartwright also went to his quarters, for the
steps of many sounded outside, and then all was still.

Prescott had picked up a book and was reading. Greg walked over
to the window and stood looking out into the sun-baked company
street.

"I must go over to company office for an hour or so," announced
Captain Dick, glancing at his wrist watch and laying down his
book at last. "After that I'll go out and see how the platoon
commanders are getting along with their new work. I hear that
we're to have some drafts of new men to-morrow."

"Yes," Greg nodded. "Recruits from Chicago, and also from Boston.
Some day we may hope to have our companies filled up to full
strength."

"Small chance to get over to France until our companies are filled,"
Prescott smiled, as he stood up, looked himself over and started
for the door.

Captain Greg Holmes followed at his heels. No word was spoken
of the recent trouble with Cartwright, not even when they crossed
the road below and started for their respective company offices.

Paper work engrossed Prescott's attention for an hour or so.
During this time he occasionally glanced up to note what was taking
place beyond the window in front of his desk. His four second
lieutenants were in command of the platoons to-day, instead of
sergeants. The young officers were instructing their men in the
first essentials of bayonet combat.

The last piece of paper disposed of, Prescott at last arose, stretched
slightly, then strode out of the office to the drill ground.

He was just in time to hear one of his lieutenants explaining to
a line of men:

"When pursuing a retreating enemy one of the most effective thrusts
with the bayonet can be delivered right here. Learn to mark the
spot well."

Half-turning, the lieutenant pointed to the spot in the small
of his own back, before he went on, impressively:

"A bayonet thrust there will drive the blade through a kidney.


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