From The Point To The Plains
From: Starlight Ranch
A CADET'S SISTER.
She was standing at the very end of the forward deck, and, with flushing
cheeks and sparkling eyes, gazing eagerly upon the scene before her.
Swiftly, smoothly rounding the rugged promontory on the right, the
steamer was just turning into the highland "reach" at Fort Montgomery
and heading straight away for the landings on the sunset shore. It was
only mid-May, but the winter had been mild, the spring early, and now
the heights on either side were clothed in raiment of the freshest,
coolest green; the vines were climbing in luxuriant leaf all over the
face of the rocky scarp that hemmed the swirling tide of the Hudson; the
radiance of the evening sunshine bathed all the eastern shores in mellow
light and left the dark slopes and deep gorges of the opposite range all
the deeper and darker by contrast. A lively breeze had driven most of
the passengers within doors as they sped through the broad waters of the
Tappan Zee, but, once within the sheltering traverses of Dunderberg and
the heights beyond, many of their number reappeared upon the promenade
deck, and first among them was the bonnie little maid now clinging to
the guard-rail at the very prow, and, heedless of fluttering skirt or
fly-away curl, watching with all her soul in her bright blue eyes for
the first glimpse of the haven where she would be. No eyes on earth look
so eagerly for the grim, gray facade of the riding-hall or the domes
and turrets of the library building as those of a girl who has spent the
previous summer at West Point.
Utterly absorbed in her watch, she gave no heed to other passengers who
presently took their station close at hand. One was a tall, dark-eyed,
dark-haired young lady in simple and substantial travelling-dress. With
her were two men in tweeds and Derby hats, and to these companions she
constantly turned with questions as to prominent objects in the rich and
varied landscape. It was evident that she was seeing for the first time
sights that had been described to her time and again, for she was
familiar with every name. One of the party was a man of over fifty
years,--bronzed of face and gray of hair, but with erect carriage and
piercing black eyes that spoke of vigor, energy, and probably of a life
in the open air. It needed not the tri-colored button of the Loyal
Legion in the lapel of his coat to tell that he was a soldier. Any one
who chose to look--and there were not a few--could speedily have seen,
too, that these were father and daughter.
The other man was still taller than the dark, wiry, slim-built soldier,
but in years he was not more than twenty-eight or nine. His eyes, brows,
hair, and the heavy moustache that drooped over his mouth were all of a
dark, soft brown. His complexion was clear and ruddy; his frame powerful
and athletic. Most of the time he stood a silent but attentive listener
to the eager talk between the young lady and her father, but his kindly
eyes rarely left her face; he was ready to respond when she turned to
question him, and when he spoke it was with the unmistakable intonation
of the South.
The deep, mellow tones of the bell were booming out their landing signal
as the steamer shot into the shadow of a high, rocky cliff. Far aloft on
the overhanging piazzas of a big hotel, fluttering handkerchiefs greeted
the passengers on the decks below. Many eyes were turned thither in
recognition of the salute, but not those of the young girl at the bow.
One might, indeed, have declared her resentful of this intermediate
stop. The instant the gray walls of the riding-school had come into view
she had signalled, eagerly, with a wave of her hand, to a gentleman and
lady seated in quiet conversation under the shelter of the deck.
Presently the former, a burly, broad-shouldered man of forty or
thereabouts, came sauntering forward and stood close behind her.
"Well, Nan! Most there, I see. Think you can hold on five minutes
longer, or shall I toss you over and let you swim for it?"
For answer Miss Nan clasps a wooden pillar in her gray-gloved hands, and
tilts excitedly on the toes of her tiny boots, never once relaxing her
gaze on the dock a mile or more away up-stream.
"Just think of being so near Willy--and all of them--and not seeing one
to speak to until after parade," she finally says.
"Simply inhuman!" answers her companion with commendable gravity, but
with humorous twinkle about his eyes. "Is it worth all the long
journey, and all the excitement in which your mother tells me you've
been plunged for the past month?"
"Worth it, Uncle Jack?" and the blue eyes flash upon him indignantly.
"Worth it? You wouldn't ask if you knew it all, as I do."
"Possibly not," says Uncle Jack, whimsically. "I haven't the advantage
of being a girl with a brother and a baker's dozen of beaux in bell
buttons and gray. I'm only an old fossil of a 'cit,' with a scamp of a
nephew and that limited conception of the delights of West Point which
one can derive from running up there every time that versatile youngster
gets into a new scrape. You'll admit my opportunities have been
"It isn't Willy's fault, and you know it, Uncle Jack, though we all know
how good you've been; but he's had more bad luck and--and--injustice
than any cadet in the corps. Lots of his classmates told me so."
"Yes," says Uncle Jack, musingly. "That is what your blessed mother,
yonder, wrote me when I went up last winter, the time Billy submitted
that explanation to the commandant with its pleasing reference to the
fox that had lost its tail--you doubtless recall the incident--and came
within an ace of dismissal in consequence."
"I don't care!" interrupts Miss Nan, with flashing eyes. "Will had
provocation enough to say much worse things; Jimmy Frazer wrote me so,
and said the whole class was sticking up for him."
"I do not remember having had the honor of meeting Jimmy Frazer,"
remarks Uncle Jack, with an aggravating drawl that is peculiar to him.
"Possibly he was one of the young gentlemen who didn't call, owing to
some temporary impediment in the way of light prison----"
"Yes; and all because he took Will's part, as I believe," is the
impetuous reply. "Oh! I'll be so thankful when they're out of it all."
"So will they, no doubt. 'Sticking up'--wasn't that Mr. Frazer's
expression?--for Bill seems to have been an expensive luxury all round.
Wonder if sticking up is something they continue when they get to their
regiments? Billy has two or three weeks yet in which to ruin his chances
of ever reaching one, and he has exhibited astonishing aptitude for
tripping himself up thus far."
"Uncle Jack! How can you speak so of Willy, when he is so devoted to
you? When he gets to his regiment there won't be any Lieutenant Lee to
nag and worry him night and day. He's the cause of all the trouble."
"That so?" drawls Uncle Jack. "I didn't happen to meet Mr. Lee,
either,--he was away on leave; but as Bill and your mother had some such
views, I looked into things a bit. It appears to be a matter of record
that my enterprising nephew had more demerit before the advent of Mr.
Lee than since. As for 'extras' and confinements, his stock was always
big enough to bear the market down to bottom prices."
The boat is once more under way, and a lull in the chat close at hand
induces Uncle Jack to look about him. The younger of the two men lately
standing with the dark-eyed girl has quietly withdrawn, and is now
shouldering his way to a point out of ear-shot. There he calmly turns
and waits; his glance again resting upon her whose side he has so
suddenly quitted. She has followed him with her eyes until he stops;
then with heightened color resumes a low-toned chat with her father.
Uncle Jack is a keen observer, and his next words are inaudible except
to his niece.
"Nan, my child, I apprehend that remarks upon the characteristics of the
officers at the Point had best be confined to the bosom of the family.
We may be in their very midst."
She turns, flushing, and for the first time her blue eyes meet the dark
ones of the older girl. Her cheeks redden still more, and she whirls
"I can't help it, Uncle Jack," she murmurs. "I'd just like to tell them
all what I think of Will's troubles."
"Oh! Candor is to be admired of all things," says Uncle Jack, airily.
"Still it is just as well to observe the old adage, 'Be sure you're
right,' etc. Now I own to being rather fond of Bill, despite all the
worry he has given your mother, and all the bother he has been to
"All the worry that others have given him, you ought to say, Uncle
"W-e-ll, har-d-ly. It didn't seem to me that the corps, as a rule,
thought Billy the victim of persecution."
"They all tell me so, at least," is the indignant outburst.
"Do they, Nan? Well, of course, that settles it. Still, there were a few
who reluctantly admitted having other views when I pressed them
"Then they were no friends of Willy's, or mine either!"
"Now, do you know, I thought just the other way? I thought one of them,
especially, a very stanch friend of Billy's and yours, too, Nan, but
Billy seems to consider advisers in the light of adversaries."
A moment's pause. Then, with cheeks still red, and plucking at the rope
netting with nervous fingers, Miss Nan essays a tentative. Her eyes are
downcast as she asks,--
"I suppose you mean Mr. Stanley?"
"The very man, Nanette; very much of a man to my thinking."
The bronzed soldier standing near cannot but have heard the name and the
words. His face takes on a glow and the black eyes kindle.
"Mr. Stanley would not say to me that Willy is to blame," pouts the
maiden, and her little foot is beating impatiently tattoo on the deck.
"Neither would I--just now--if I were Mr. Stanley; but all the same, he
decidedly opposed the view that Mr. Lee was 'down on Billy,' as your
mother seems to think."
"That's because Mr. Lee is tactical officer commanding the company, and
Mr. Stanley is cadet captain. Oh! I will take him to task if he has
But she does not finish. She has turned quickly in speaking, her hand
clutching a little knot of bell buttons hanging by a chain at the front
of her dress. She has turned just in time to catch a warning glance in
Uncle Jack's twinkling eyes, and to see a grim smile lurking under the
gray moustache of the gentleman with the Loyal Legion button who is
leading away the tall young lady with the dark hair. In another moment
they have rejoined the third member of their party,--he who first
withdrew,--and it is evident that something has happened which gives
them all much amusement. They are chatting eagerly together, laughing
not a little, although the laughter, like their words, is entirely
inaudible to Miss Nan. But she feels a twinge of indignation when the
tall girl turns and looks directly at her. There is nothing unkindly in
the glance. There even is merriment in the dark, handsome eyes and
lurking among the dimples around that beautiful mouth. Why did those
eyes--so heavily fringed, so thickly shaded--seem to her familiar as old
friends? Nan could have vowed she had somewhere met that girl before,
and now that girl was laughing at her. Not rudely, not aggressively, to
be sure,--she had turned away again the instant she saw that the little
maiden's eyes were upon her,--but all the same, said Nan to herself, she
was laughing. They were all laughing, and it must have been because of
her outspoken defence of Brother Will and equally outspoken defiance of
his persecutors. What made it worse was that Uncle Jack was laughing
"Do you know who they are?" she demands, indignantly.
"Not I, Nan," responds Uncle Jack. "Never saw them before in my life,
but I warrant we see them again, and at the Point, too. Come, child.
There's our bell, and we must start for the gangway. Your mother is
hailing us now. Never mind this time, little woman," he continues,
kindly, as he notes the cloud on her brow. "I don't think any harm has
been done, but it is just as well not to be impetuous in public speech.
Ah! I thought so. They are to get off here with us."
Three minutes more and a little stream of passengers flows out upon the
broad government dock, and, as luck would have it, Uncle Jack and his
charges are just behind the trio in which, by this time, Miss Nan is
deeply, if not painfully, interested. A soldier in the undress uniform
of a corporal of artillery hastens forward and, saluting, stretches
forth his hand to take the satchel carried by the tall man with the
"The lieutenant's carriage is at the gate," he says, whereat Uncle Jack,
who is conducting her mother just in front, looks back over his shoulder
and nods compassionately at Nan.
"Has any despatch been sent down to meet Colonel Stanley?" she hears the
tall man inquire, and this time Uncle Jack's backward glance is a
combination of mischief and concern.
"Nothing, sir, and the adjutant's orderly is here now. This is all he
brought down," and the corporal hands to the inquirer a note, the
superscription of which the young officer quickly scans; then turns and,
while his soft brown eyes light with kindly interest and he bares his
shapely head, accosts the lady on Uncle Jack's arm,--
"Pardon me, madam. This note must be for you. Mrs. McKay, is it not?"
And as her mother smiles her thanks and the others turn away, Nan's
eager eyes catch sight of Will's well-known writing. Mrs. McKay rapidly
reads it as Uncle Jack is bestowing bags and bundles in the omnibus and
feeing the acceptive porter, who now rushes back to the boat in the nick
"Awful sorry I can't get up to the hotel to see you," says the
note, dolorously, but by no means unexpectedly. "I'm in confinement
and can't get a permit. Come to the officer-in-charge's office
right after supper, and he'll let me see you there awhile.
Stanley's officer of the day, and he'll be there to show the way.
"Now isn't that poor Willy's luck every time!" exclaims Miss Nan, her
blue eyes threatening to fill with tears. "I do think they might let
him off the day we get here."
"Unquestionably," answers Uncle Jack, with great gravity, as he assists
the ladies into the yellow omnibus. "You duly notified the
superintendent of your impending arrival, I suppose?"
Mrs. McKay smiles quietly. Hers is a sweet and gentle face, lined with
many a trace of care and anxiety. Her brother's whimsical ways are old
acquaintances, and she knows how to treat them; but Nan is young,
impulsive, and easily teased. She flares up instantly.
"Of course we didn't, Uncle Jack; how utterly absurd it would sound!
But Willy knew we were coming, and he must have told him when he asked
for his permit, and it does seem too hard that he was refused."
"Heartless in the last degree," says Uncle Jack, sympathetically, but
with the same suggestive drawl. "Yonder go the father and sister of the
young gentleman whom you announced your intention to castigate because
he didn't agree that Billy was being abused, Nan. You will have a chance
this very evening, won't you? He's officer of the day, according to
Billy's note, and can't escape. You'll have wound up the whole family by
tattoo. Quite a good day's work. Billy's opposers will do well to take
warning and keep out of the way hereafter," he continues, teasingly.
"Oh--ah--corporal!" he calls, "who was the young officer who just
drove off in the carriage with the lady and gentleman?"
"That was Lieutenant Lee, sir."
Uncle Jack turns and contemplates his niece with an expression of the
liveliest admiration. "'Pon my word, Miss Nan, you are a most
comprehensive young person. You've indeed let no guilty man escape."
A CADET SCAPEGRACE.
The evening that opened so clear and sunshiny has clouded rapidly over.
Even as the four gray companies come "trotting" in from parade, and,
with the ease of long habit, quickly forming line in the barrack area,
some heavy rain-drops begin to fall; the drum-major has hurried his band
away; the crowd of spectators, unusually large for so early in the
season, scatters for shelter; umbrellas pop up here and there under the
beautiful trees along the western roadway; the adjutant rushes through
"delinquency list" in a style distinguishable only to his stolid, silent
audience standing immovably before him,--a long perspective of gray
uniforms and glistening white belts. The fateful book is closed with a
snap, and the echoing walls ring to the quick commands of the first
sergeants, at which the bayonets are struck from the rifle-barrels, and
the long line bursts into a living torrent sweeping into the hall-ways
to escape the coming shower.
When the battalion reappears, a few moments later, every man is in his
overcoat, and here and there little knots of upper classmen gather, and
there is eager and excited talk.
A soldierly, dark-eyed young fellow, with the red sash of the officer of
the day over his shoulder, comes briskly out of the hall of the fourth
division. The chevrons of a cadet captain are glistening on his arm, and
he alone has not donned the gray overcoat, although he has discarded the
plumed shako in deference to the coming storm; yet he hardly seems to
notice the downpour of the rain; his face is grave and his lips set and
compressed as he rapidly makes his way through the groups awaiting the
signal to "fall in" for supper.
"Stanley! O Stanley!" is the hail from a knot of classmates, and he
halts and looks about as two or three of the party hasten after him.
"What does Billy say about it?" is the eager inquiry.
"Well, that report as good as finds him on demerit, doesn't it?"
"The next thing to it; though he has been as close to the brink before."
"But--great Scott! He has two weeks yet to run; and Billy McKay can no
more live two weeks without demerit than Patsy, here, without
Mr. Stanley's eyes look tired as he glances up from under the visor of
his forage cap. He is not as tall by half a head as the young soldiers
by whom he is surrounded.
"We were talking of his chances at dinner-time," he says, gravely.
"Billy never mentioned this break of his yesterday, and was surprised to
hear the report read out to-night. I believe he had forgotten the whole
"Who 'skinned' him?--Lee? He was there."
"I don't know; McKay says so, but there were several officers over there
at the time. It is a report he cannot get off, and it comes at a most
With this remark Mr. Stanley turns away and goes striding through the
crowded area towards the guard-house. Another moment and there is sudden
drum-beat; the gray overcoats leap into ranks; the subject of the recent
discussion--a jaunty young fellow with laughing blue eyes--comes tearing
out of the fourth division just in time to avoid a "late," and the
clamor of tenscore voices gives place to silence broken only by the
rapid calling of the rolls and the prompt "here"--"here," in response.
If ever there was a pet in the corps of cadets he lived in the person of
Billy McKay. Bright as one of his own buttons; jovial, generous,
impulsive; he had only one enemy in the battalion,--and that one, as he
had been frequently told, was himself. This, however, was a matter which
he could not at all be induced to believe. Of the Academic Board in
general, of his instructors in large measure, but of the four or five
ill-starred soldiers known as "tactical officers" in particular, Mr.
McKay entertained very decided and most unflattering opinions. He had
won his cadetship through rigid competitive examination against all
comers; he was a natural mathematician of whom a professor had said that
he "could stand in the fives and wouldn't stand in the forties;"
years of his boyhood spent in France had made him master of the
colloquial forms of the court language of Europe, yet a dozen classmates
who had never seen a French verb before their admission stood above him
at the end of the first term. He had gone to the first section like a
rocket and settled to the bottom of it like a stick. No subject in the
course was really hard to him, his natural aptitude enabling him to
triumph over the toughest problems. Yet he hated work, and would often
face about with an empty black-board and take a zero and a report for
neglect of studies that half an hour's application would have rendered
impossible. Classmates who saw impending danger would frequently make
stolen visits to his room towards the close of the term and profess to
be baffled by the lesson for the morrow, and Billy would promptly knock
the ashes out of the pipe he was smoking contrary to regulations and lay
aside the guitar on which he had been softly strumming--also contrary to
regulations; would pick up the neglected calculus or mechanics; get
interested in the work of explanation, and end by having learned the
lesson in spite of himself. This was too good a joke to be kept a
secret, and by the time the last year came Billy had found it all out
and refused to be longer hoodwinked.
There was never the faintest danger of his being found deficient in
studies, but there was ever the glaring prospect of his being discharged
"on demerit." Mr. McKay and the regulations of the United States
Military Academy had been at loggerheads from the start.
And yet, frank, jolly, and generous as he was in all intercourse with
his comrades, there was never a time when this young gentleman could be
brought to see that in such matters he was the arbiter of his own
destiny. Like the Irishman whose first announcement on setting foot on
American soil was that he was "agin the government," Billy McKay
believed that regulations were made only to oppress; that the men who
drafted such a code were idiots, and that those whose duty it became to
enforce it were simply spies and tyrants, resistance to whom was innate
virtue. He was forever ignoring or violating some written or unwritten
law of the Academy; was frequently being caught in the act, and was
invariably ready to attribute the resultant report to ill luck which
pursued no one else, or to a deliberate persecution which followed him
forever. Every six months he had been on the verge of dismissal, and
now, a fortnight from the final examination, with a margin of only six
demerit to run on, Mr. Billy McKay had just been read out in the daily
list of culprits or victims as "Shouting from window of barracks to
cadets in area during study hours,--three forty-five and four P.M."
There was absolutely no excuse for this performance. The regulations
enjoined silence and order in barracks during "call to quarters." It had
been raining a little, and he was in hopes there would be no battalion
drill, in which event he would venture on throwing off his uniform and
spreading himself out on his bed with a pipe and a novel,--two things he
dearly loved. Ten minutes would have decided the question legitimately
for him, but, being of impatient temperament, he could not wait, and,
catching sight of the adjutant and the senior captain coming from the
guard-house, Mr. McKay sung out in tones familiar to every man within
"Hi, Jim! Is it battalion drill?"
The adjutant glanced quickly up,--a warning glance as he could have
seen,--merely shook his head, and went rapidly on, while his comrade,
the cadet first captain, clinched his fist at the window and growled
between his set teeth, "Be quiet, you idiot!"
But poor Billy persisted. Louder yet he called,--
"Well--say--Jimmy! Come up here after four o'clock. I'll be in
confinement, and can't come out. Want to see you."
And the windows over at the office of the commandant being wide open,
and that official being seated there in consultation with three or four
of his assistants, and as Mr. McKay's voice was as well known to them as
to the corps, there was no alternative. The colonel himself "confounded"
the young scamp for his recklessness, and directed a report to be
entered against him.
And now, as Mr. Stanley is betaking himself to his post at the
guard-house, his heart is heavy within him because of this new load on
his comrade's shoulders.
"How on earth could you have been so careless, Billy?" he had asked him
as McKay, fuming and indignant, was throwing off his accoutrements in
his room on the second floor.
"How'd I know anybody was over there?" was the boyish reply. "It's just
a skin on suspicion anyhow. Lee couldn't have seen me, nor could anybody
else. I stood way back by the clothes-press."
"There's no suspicion about it, Billy. There isn't a man that walks the
area that doesn't know your voice as well as he does Jim Pennock's.
Confound it! You'll get over the limit yet, man, and break your--your
"Oh, come now, Stan! You've been nagging me ever since last camp. Why'n
thunder can't you see I'm doing my best? Other men don't row me as you
do, or stand up for the 'tacks.' I tell you that fellow Lee never loses
a chance of skinning me: he takes chances, by gad, and I'll make his
eyes pop out of his head when he reads what I've got to say about it."
"You're too hot for reason now, McKay," said Stanley, sadly. "Step out
or you'll get a late for supper. I'll see you after awhile. I gave that
note to the orderly, by the way, and he said he'd take it down to the
"Mother and Nan will probably come to the guard-house right after
supper. Look out for them for me, will you, Stan, until old Snipes gets
there and sends for me?"
And as Mr. Stanley shut the door instantly and went clattering down the
iron stairs, Mr. McKay caught no sign on his face of the sudden flutter
beneath that snugly-buttoned coat.
It was noticed by more than one of the little coterie at his own table
that the officer of the day hurried through his supper and left the
mess-hall long before the command for the first company to rise. It was
a matter well known to every member of the graduating class that, almost
from the day of her arrival during the encampment of the previous
summer, Phil Stanley had been a devoted admirer of Miss Nannie McKay. It
was not at all to be wondered at.
Without being what is called an ideal beauty, there was a fascination
about this winsome little maid which few could resist. She had all her
brother's impulsiveness, all his enthusiasm, and, it may be safely
asserted, all his abiding faith in the sacred and unimpeachable
character of cadet friendships. If she possessed a little streak of
romance that was not discernible in him, she managed to keep it well in
the background; and though she had her favorites in the corps, she was
so frank and cordial and joyous in her manner to all that it was
impossible to say which one, if any, she regarded in the light of a
lover. Whatever comfort her gentle mother may have derived from this
state of affairs, it was "hard lines on Stanley," as his classmates put
it, for there could be little doubt that the captain of the color
company was a sorely-smitten man.
He was not what is commonly called a "popular man" in the corps. The son
of a cavalry officer, reared on the wide frontier and educated only
imperfectly, he had not been able to enter the Academy until nearly
twenty years of age, and nothing but indomitable will and diligence had
carried him through the difficulties of the first half of the course. It
was not until the middle of the third year that the chevrons of a
sergeant were awarded him, and even then the battalion was taken by
surprise. There was no surprise a few months later, however, when he was
promoted over a score of classmates and made captain of his company. It
was an open secret that the commandant had said that if he had it all to
do over again, Mr. Stanley would be made "first captain,"--a rumor that
big John Burton, the actual incumbent of that office, did not at all
fancy. Stanley was "square" and impartial. His company was in admirable
discipline, though many of his classmates growled and wished he were not
"so confoundedly military." The second classmen, always the most
critical judges of the qualifications of their seniors, conceded that he
was more soldierly than any man of his year, but were unanimous in the
opinion that he should show more deference to men of their standing in
the corps. The "yearlings" swore by him in any discussion as to the
relative merits of the four captains; but with equal energy swore at him
when contemplating that fateful volume known as "the skin book." The
fourth classmen--the "plebes"--simply worshipped the ground he trod on,
and as between General Sherman and Philip Stanley, it is safe to say
these youngsters would have determined on the latter as the more
suitable candidate for the office of general-in-chief. Of course they
admired the adjutant,--the plebes always do that,--and not infrequently
to the exclusion of the other cadet officers; but there was something
grand, to them, about this dark-eyed, dark-faced, dignified captain who
never stooped to trifle with them; was always so precise and courteous,
and yet so immeasurably distant. They were ten times more afraid of him
than they had been of Lieutenant Rolfe, who was their "tack" during
camp, or of the great, handsome, kindly-voiced dragoon who succeeded
him, Lieutenant Lee, of the --th Cavalry. They approved of this latter
gentleman because he belonged to the regiment of which Mr. Stanley's
father was lieutenant-colonel, and to which it was understood Mr.
Stanley was to be assigned on his graduation. What they could not at all
understand was that, once graduated, Mr. Stanley could step down from
his high position in the battalion of cadets and become a mere
file-closer. Yes. Stanley was too strict and soldierly to command that
decidedly ephemeral tribute known as "popularity," but no man in the
corps of cadets was more thoroughly respected. If there were flaws in
the armor of his personal character they were not such as to be
vigorously prodded by his comrades. He had firm friends,--devoted
friends, who grew to honor and trust him more with every year; but,
strong though they knew him to be, he had found his conqueror. There was
a story in the first class that in Stanley's old leather writing-case
was a sort of secret compartment, and in this compartment was treasured
"a knot of ribbon blue" that had been worn last summer close under the
dimpled white chin of pretty Nannie McKay.
And now on this moist May evening as he hastens back to barracks, Mr.
Stanley spies a little group standing in front of the guard-house.
Lieutenant Lee is there,--in his uniform now,--and with him are the tall
girl in the simple travelling-dress, and the trim, wiry, gray-moustached
soldier whom we saw on the boat. The rain is falling steadily, which
accounts for and possibly excuses Mr. Lee's retention of the young
lady's arm in his as he holds the umbrella over both; but the colonel no
sooner catches sight of the officer of the day than his own umbrella is
cast aside, and with light, eager, buoyant steps, father and son hasten
to meet each other. In an instant their hands are clasped,--both
hands,--and through moistening eyes the veteran of years of service and
the boy in whom his hopes are centred gaze into each other's faces.
No other words. It is the first meeting in two long years. The area is
deserted save by the smiling pair watching from under the dripping
umbrella with eyes nearly as moist as the skies. There is no one to
comment or to scoff. In the father's heart, mingling with the deep joy
at this reunion with his son, there wells up sudden, irrepressible
sorrow. "Ah, God!" he thinks. "Could his mother but have lived to see
him now!" Perhaps Philip reads it all in the strong yet tremulous clasp
of those sinewy brown hands, but for the moment neither speaks again.
There are some joys so deep, some heart longings so overpowering, that
many a man is forced to silence, or to a levity of manner which is
utterly repugnant to him, in the effort to conceal from the world the
tumult of emotion that so nearly makes him weep. Who that has read that
inimitable page will ever forget the meeting of that genial sire and
gallant son in the grimy old railway car filled with the wounded from
Antietam, in Doctor Holmes's "My Search for the Captain?"
When Phil Stanley, still clinging to his father's hand, turns to greet
his sister and her handsome escort, he is suddenly aware of another
group that has entered the area. Two ladies, marshalled by his
classmate, Mr. Pennock, are almost at his side, and one of them is the
blue-eyed girl he loves.
Lovely as is West Point in May, it is hardly the best time for a visit
there if one's object be to see the cadets. From early morn until late
at night every hour is taken up with duties, academic or military.
Mothers, sisters, and sweethearts, whose eyes so eagerly follow the
evolutions of the gray ranks, can only hope for a few words between
drill and dress parade, or else in the shortest half-hour in all the
world,--that which intervenes 'twixt supper and evening "call to
quarters." That Miss Nannie McKay should make frequent and unfavorable
comment on this state of affairs goes without saying; yet, had she been
enabled to see her beloved brother but once a month and her cadet
friends at intervals almost as rare, that incomprehensible young damsel
would have preferred the Point to any other place in the world.
It was now ten days since her arrival, and she had had perhaps three
chats with Willy, who, luckily for him, though he could not realize it,
was spending most of his time "confined to quarters," and consequently
out of much of the temptation he would otherwise have been in. Mrs.
McKay had been able to see very little more of the young man, but she
had the prayerful consolation that if he could only be kept out of
mischief a few days longer he would then be through with it all, out of
danger of dismissal, actually graduated, and once more her own boy to
monopolize as she chose.
It takes most mothers a long, long time to become reconciled to the
complete usurpation of all their former rights by this new parent whom
their boys are bound to serve,--this anything but Alma Mater,--the war
school of the nation. As for Miss Nan, though she made it a point to
declaim vigorously at the fates that prevented her seeing more of her
brother, it was wonderful how well she looked and in what blithe spirits
she spent her days. Regularly as the sun came around, before guard-mount
in the morning and right after supper in the evening, she was sure to be
on the south piazza of the old hotel, and when presently the cadet
uniforms began to appear at the hedge, she, and others, would go
tripping lightly down the path to meet the wearers, and then would
follow the half-hour's walk and chat in which she found such infinite
delight. So, too, could Mr. Stanley, had he been able to appear as her
escort on all occasions; but despite his strong personal inclination and
effort, this was by no means the case. The little lady was singularly
impartial in the distribution of her time, and only by being first
applicant had he secured to himself the one long afternoon that had yet
been vouchsafed them,--the cadet half-holiday of Saturday.
But if Miss Nan found time hanging heavily on her hands at other hours
of the day, there was one young lady at the hotel who did not,--a young
lady whom, by this time, she regarded with constantly deepening
Other girls, younger girls, who had found their ideals in the cadet
gray, were compelled to spend hours of the twenty-four in waiting for
the too brief half-hour in which it was possible to meet them; but
Miss Stanley was very differently situated. It was her first visit to
the Point. She met, and was glad to meet, all Philip's friends and
comrades; but it was plainly to be seen, said all the girls at Craney's,
that between her and the tall cavalry officer whom they best knew
through cadet descriptions, there existed what they termed an
"understanding," if not an engagement. Every day, when not prevented by
duties, Mr. Lee would come stalking up from barracks, and presently away
they would stroll together,--a singularly handsome pair, as every one
admitted. One morning soon after the Stanleys' arrival he appeared in
saddle on his stylish bay, accompanied by an orderly leading another
horse, side-saddled; and then, as by common impulse, all the girls
promenading the piazzas, as was their wont, with arms entwining each
other's waists, came flocking about the south steps. When Miss Stanley
appeared in her riding-habit and was quickly swung up into saddle by her
cavalier, and then, with a bright nod and smile for the entire group,
she gathered the reins in her practised hand and rode briskly away, the
sentiments of the fair spectators were best expressed, perhaps, in the
remark of Miss McKay,--
"What a shame it is that the cadets can't ride! I mean can't
ride--that way," she explained, with suggestive nod of her curly head
towards the pair just trotting out upon the road around the Plain. "They
ride--lots of them--better than most of the officers."
"Mr. Stanley for instance," suggests a mischievous little minx with
hazel eyes and laughter-loving mouth.
"Yes, Mr. Stanley, or Mr. Pennock, or Mr. Burton, or a dozen others I
could name, not excepting my brother," answers Miss Nan, stoutly,
although those readily flushing cheeks of hers promptly throw out their
signals of perturbation. "Fancy Mr. Lee vaulting over his horse at the
gallop as they do."
"And yet Mr. Lee has taught them so much more than other instructors.
Several cadets have told me so. He always does, first, everything he
requires them to do; so he must be able to make that vault."
"Will doesn't say so by any means," retorts Nannie, with something very
like a pout; and as Will is a prime favorite with the entire party and
the centre of a wide circle of interest, sympathy, and anxiety in those
girlish hearts, their loyalty is proof against opinions that may not
coincide with his. "Miss Mischief" reads temporary defeat in the circle
of bright faces and is stung to new effort,--
"Well! there are cadets whose opinions you value quite as much as you do
your brother's, Nannie, and they have told me."
"Who?" challenges Miss Nan, yet with averted face. Thrice of late she
has disagreed with Mr. Stanley about Willy's troubles; has said things
to him which she wishes she had left unsaid; and for two days now he has
not sought her side as heretofore, though she knows he has been at the
hotel to see his sister, and a little bird has told her he had a long
talk with this same hazel-eyed girl. She wants to know more about
it,--yet does not want to ask.
"Phil Stanley, for one," is the not unexpected answer.
Somebody who appears to know all about it has written that when a girl
is beginning to feel deep interest in a man she will say things
decidedly detrimental to his character solely for the purpose of having
them denied and for the pleasure of hearing him defended. Is it this
that prompts Miss McKay to retort?--
"Mr. Stanley cares too little what his classmates think, and too much of
what Mr. Lee may say or do."
"Mr. Stanley isn't the only one who thinks a deal of Lieutenant Lee," is
the spirited answer. "Mr. Burton says he is the most popular tactical
officer here, and many a cadet--good friends of your brother's,
Nannie--has said the same thing. You don't like him because Will
"I wouldn't like or respect any officer who reports cadets on
suspicion," is the stout reply. "If he did that to any one else I would
despise it as much as I do because Willy is the victim."
The discussion is waxing hot. "Miss Mischief's" blood is up. She likes
Phil Stanley; she likes Mr. Lee; she has hosts of friends in the corps,
and she is just as loyal and quite as pronounced in her views as her
little adversary. They are fond of each other, too, and were great chums
all through the previous summer; but there is danger of a quarrel
"I don't think you are just in that matter at all, Nannie. I have heard
cadets say that if they had been in Mr. Lee's place or on
officer-of-the-day duty they would have had to give Will that report you
take so much to heart. Everybody knows his voice. Half the corps heard
him call out to Mr. Pennock."
"I don't believe a single cadet who's a friend of Will's would say such
a thing," bursts in Miss Nan, her eyes blazing.
"He is a friend, and a warm friend, too."
"You said there were several, Kitty, and I don't believe it possible."
"Well. There were two or three. If you don't believe it, you can ask Mr.
Stanley. He said it, and the others agreed."
Fancy the mood in which she meets him this particular evening, when his
card was brought to her door. Twice has "Miss Mischief" essayed to enter
the room and "make up." Conscience has been telling her savagely that in
the impulse and sting of the moment she has given an unfair coloring to
the whole matter. Mr. Stanley had volunteered no such remark as that she
so vehemently quoted. Asked point blank whether he considered as given
"on suspicion" the report which Mrs. McKay and Nannie so resented, he
replied that he did not; and, when further pressed, he said that Will
alone was blamable in the matter: Mr. Lee had no alternative, if it was
Mr. Lee who gave the report, and any other officer would have been
compelled to do the same. All this "Miss Mischief" would gladly have
explained to Nannie could she have gained admission, but the latter "had
a splitting headache," and begged to be excused.
It has been such a lovely afternoon. The halls were filled with cadets
"on permit," when she came out from the dining-room, but nothing but
ill-luck seemed to attend her. The young gentleman who had invited her
to walk to Fort Putnam, most provokingly twisted an ankle at cavalry
drill that very morning, and was sent to hospital. Now, if Mr. Stanley
were all devotion, he would promptly tender his services as substitute.
Then she could take him to task and punish him for his disloyalty to
Will. But Mr. Stanley was not to be seen: "Gone off with another girl,"
was the announcement made to her by Mr. Werrick, a youth who dearly
loved a joke, and who saw no need of explaining that the other girl was
his own sister. Sorely disappointed, yet hardly knowing why, she
accepted her mother's invitation to go with her to the barracks where
Will was promenading the area on what Mr. Werrick called "one of his
perennial punishment tours." She went, of course; but the distant sight
of poor Will, duly equipped as a sentry, dismally tramping up and down
the asphalt, added fuel to the inward fire that consumed her. The
mother's heart, too, yearned over her boy,--a victim to cruel
regulations and crueler task-masters. "What was the use of the
government's enticing young men away from their comfortable homes," Mrs.
McKay had once indignantly written, "unless it could make them happy?"
It was a question the "tactical department" could not answer, but it
But now evening had come, and with it Mr. Stanley's card. Nan's heart
gave a bound, but she went down-stairs with due deliberation. She had
his card in her hand as she reached the hall, and was twisting it in her
fingers. Yes. There he stood on the north piazza, Pennock with him, and
one or two others of the graduating class. They were chatting laughingly
with Miss Stanley, "Miss Mischief," a bevy of girls, and a matron or
two, but she knew well his eyes would be on watch for her. They were. He
saw her instantly; bowed, smiled, but, to her surprise, continued his
conversation with a lady seated near the door. What could it mean?
Irresolute she stood there a moment, waiting for him to come forward;
but though she saw that twice his eyes sought hers, he was still bending
courteously and listening to the voluble words of the somewhat elderly
dame who claimed his attention. Nan began to rebel against that woman
from the bottom of her heart. What was she to do? Here was his card. In
response she had come down to receive him. She meant to be very cool
from the first moment; to provoke him to inquiry as to the cause of such
unusual conduct, and then to upbraid him for his disloyalty to her
brother. She certainly meant that he should feel the weight of her
displeasure; but then--then--after he had been made to suffer, if he was
properly contrite, and said so, and looked it, and begged to be
forgiven, why then, perhaps she might be brought to condone it in a
measure and be good friends again. It was clearly his duty, however, to
come and greet her, not hers to go to the laughing group. The old lady
was the only one among them whom she did not know,--a new arrival. Just
then Miss Stanley looked round, saw her, and signalled smilingly to her
to come and join them. Slowly she walked towards the little party, still
twirling the card in her taper fingers.
"Looking for anybody, Nan?" blithely hails "Miss Mischief." "Who is it?
I see you have his card."
For once Nannie's voice fails her, and she knows not what to say. Before
she can frame an answer there is a rustle of skirts and a light
foot-fall behind her, and she hears the voice of a girl whom she never
has liked one bit.
"Oh! You're here, are you, Mr. Stanley! Why, I've been waiting at least
a quarter of an hour. Did you send up your card?"
"I did; full ten minutes ago. Was it not brought to your room?"
"No, indeed! I've been sitting there writing, and only came down because
I had promised Mr. Fearn that he should have ten minutes, and it is
nearly his time now. Where do you suppose they could have sent it?"
Poor little Nan! It has been a hard day for her, but this is just too
much. She turns quickly, and, hardly knowing whither she goes, dodges
past the party of cadets and girls now blocking the stairway and
preventing flight to her room, hurries out the south door and around to
the west piazza, and there, leaning against a pillar, is striving to
hide her blazing cheeks,--all in less than a minute.
Stanley sees through the entire situation with the quick intuition of a
lover. She has not treated him kindly of late. She has been capricious
and unjust on several occasions, but there is no time to think of that
now. She is in distress, and that is more than enough for him.
"Here comes Mr. Fearn himself to claim his walk, so I will go and find
out about the card," he says, and blesses that little rat of a bell-boy
as he hastens away.
Out on the piazza he finds her alone, yet with half a dozen people
hovering nigh. The hush of twilight is over the beautiful old Point. The
moist breath of the coming night, cool and sweet, floats down upon them
from the deep gorges on the rugged flank of Cro' Nest, and rises from
the thickly lacing branches of the cedars on the river-bank below. A
flawless mirror in its grand and reflected framework of cliff and crag
and beetling precipice, the Hudson stretches away northward unruffled by
the faintest cat's-paw of a breeze. Far beyond the huge black
battlements of Storm King and the purpled scaur of Breakneck the night
lights of the distant city are twinkling through the gathering darkness,
and tiny dots of silvery flame down in the cool depths beneath them
reflect the faint glimmer from the cloudless heaven where--
"The sentinel stars set their watch in the sky."
The hush of the sacred hour has fallen on every lip save those of the
merry party in the hall, where laugh and chatter and flaring gas-light
bid defiance to influences such as hold their sway over souls brought
face to face with Nature in this, her loveliest haunt on earth.
Phil Stanley's heart is throbbing as he steps quickly to her side. Well,
indeed, she knows his foot-fall; knows he is coming; almost knows why
he comes. She is burning with a sense of humiliation, wounded pride,
maidenly wrath, and displeasure. All day long everything has gone agley.
Could she but flee to her room and hide her flaming cheeks and cry her
heart out, it would be relief inexpressible, but her retreat is cut off.
She cannot escape. She cannot face those keen-eyed watchers in the
hall-ways. Oh! it is almost maddening that she should have been so--so
fooled! Every one must know she came down to meet Phil Stanley when his
card was meant for another girl,--that girl of all others! All aflame
with indignation as she is, she yet means to freeze him if she can only
"Miss Nannie," he murmurs, quick and low, "I see that a blunder has been
made, but I don't believe the others saw it. Give me just a few minutes.
Come down the walk with me. I cannot talk with you here--now, and there
is so much I want to say." He bends over her pleadingly, but her eyes
are fixed far away up the dark wooded valley beyond the white shafts of
the cemetery, gleaming in the first beams of the rising moon. She makes
no reply for a moment. She does not withdraw them when finally she
"Thank you, Mr. Stanley, but I must be excused from interfering with
"There is no engagement now," he promptly replies; "and I greatly want
to speak with you. Have you been quite kind to me of late? Have I not a
right to know what has brought about the change?"
"You do not seem to have sought opportunity to inquire,"--very cool and
"Pardon me. Three times this week I have asked for a walk, and you have
had previous engagements."
She has torn to bits and thrown away the card that was in her hand. Now
she is tugging at the bunch of bell buttons, each graven with the
monogram of some cadet friend, that hangs as usual by its tiny golden
chain. She wants to say that he has found speedy consolation in the
society of "that other girl" of whom Mr. Werrick spoke, but not for the
world would she seem jealous.
"You could have seen me this afternoon, had there been any matters you
wished explained," she says. "I presume you were more agreeably
"I find no delight in formal visits," he answers, quietly; "but my
sister wished to return calls and asked me to show her about the post."
Then it was his sister. Not "that other girl!" Still she must not let
him see it makes her glad. She needs a pretext for her wrath. She must
make him feel it in some way. This is not at all in accordance with the
mental private rehearsals she has been having. There is still that
direful matter of Will's report for "shouting from window of barracks,"
and "Miss Mischief's" equally direful report of Mr. Stanley's remarks
"I thought you were a loyal friend of Willy's," she says, turning
suddenly upon him.
"I was--and am," he answers simply.
"And yet I'm told you said it was all his own fault, and that you
yourself would have given him the report that so nearly 'found him on
demerit.' A report on suspicion, too," she adds, with scorn in her tone.
Mr. Stanley is silent a moment.
"You have heard a very unfair account of my words," he says at last. "I
have volunteered no opinions on the subject. In answer to direct
question I have said that it was not justifiable to call that a report
"But you said you would have given it yourself."
"I said that, as officer of the day, I would have been compelled to do
so. I could not have signed my certificate otherwise."
She turns away in speechless indignation. What makes it all well-nigh
intolerable is that he is by no means on the defensive. He is patient,
gentle, but decidedly superior. Not at all what she wanted. Not at all
eager to explain, argue, or implore. Not at all the tearful penitent she
has pictured in her plans. She must bring him to a realizing sense of
the enormity of his conduct. Disloyalty to Will is treason to her.
"And yet--you say you have kept, and that you value, that knot of blue
ribbon that I gave you--or that you took--last summer. I did not suppose
that you would so soon prove to be--no friend to Willy, or----"
"Or what, Miss Nannie?" he asks. His face is growing white, but he
controls the tremor in his voice. She does not see. Her eyes are
downcast and her face averted now, but she goes on desperately.
"Well, never mind that now; but it seems to me that such friendship
She has taken the plunge and said her say, but the last words are spoken
with sinking inflection, followed instantly by a sinking heart. He makes
no answer whatever. She dares not look up into his face to see the
effect of her stab. He stands there silent only an instant; then raises
his cap, turns, and leaves her.
Sunday comes and goes without a sight of him except in the line of
officers at parade. That night she goes early to her room, and on the
bureau finds a little box securely tied, sealed, and addressed to her in
his well-known hand. It contains a note and some soft object carefully
wrapped in tissue-paper. The note is brief enough:
"It is not easy to part with this, for it is all I have that was yours
to give, but even this must be returned to you after what you said last
"Miss Nannie, you may some time think more highly of my friendship for
your brother than you do now, and then, perhaps, will realize that you
were very unjust. Should that time come I shall be glad to have this
It was hardly necessary to open the little packet as she did. She knew
well enough it could contain only that
"Knot of ribbon blue."
"THE WOMAN TEMPTED ME."
June is here. The examinations are in full blast. The Point is thronged
with visitors and every hostelrie in the neighborhood has opened wide
its doors to accommodate the swarms of people interested in the
graduating exercises and eager for the graduating ball. Pretty girls
there are in force, and at Craney's they are living three and four in a
room; the joy of being really there on the Point, near the cadets,
aroused by the morning gun and shrill piping of the reveille, saluted
hourly by the notes of the bugle, enabled to see the gray uniforms half
a dozen times a day and to actually speak or walk with the wearers half
an hour out of twenty-four whole ones, being apparent compensation for
any crowding or discomfort. Indeed, crowded as they are, the girls at
Craney's are objects of boundless envy to those whom the Fates have
consigned to the resorts down around the picturesque but distant
"Falls." There is a little coterie at "Hawkshurst" that is fiercely
jealous of the sisterhood in the favored nook at the north edge of the
Plain, and one of their number, who is believed to have completely
subjugated that universal favorite, Cadet McKay, has been heard to say
that she thought it an outrage that they had to come home so early in
the evening and mope away the time without a single cadet, when up there
at Craney's the halls and piazzas were full of gray-coats and bell
buttons every night until tattoo.
A very brilliant and pretty girl she is, too, and neither Mrs. McKay nor
Nannie can wonder at it that Will's few leisure moments are monopolized.
"You are going to have me all to yourself next week, little mother," he
laughingly explains; "and goodness knows when I'm going to see Miss
Waring again." And though neither mother nor sister is at all satisfied
with the state of affairs, both are too unselfish to interpose. How many
an hour have mothers and, sometimes, sisters waited in loneliness at the
old hotel for boys whom some other fellow's sister was holding in silken
fetters somewhere down in shady "Flirtation!"
It was with relief inexpressible that Mrs. McKay and Uncle Jack had
hailed the coming of the 1st of June. With a margin of only two demerits
Will had safely weathered the reefs and was practically safe,--safe at
last. He had passed brilliantly in engineering; had been saved by his
prompt and ready answers the consequences of a "fess" with clean
black-board in ordnance and gunnery; had won a ringing, though
involuntary, round of applause from the crowded galleries of the
riding-hall by daring horsemanship, and he was now within seven days of
the prized diploma and his commission. "For heaven's sake, Billy,"
pleaded big Burton, the first captain, "don't do any thing to ruin your
chances now! I've just been talking with your mother and Miss Nannie,
and I declare I never saw that little sister of yours looking so white
McKay laughs, yet his laugh is not light-hearted. He wonders if Burton
has the faintest intuition that at this moment he is planning an
escapade that means nothing short of dismissal if detected. Down in the
bottom of his soul he knows he is a fool to have made the rash and
boastful pledge to which he now stands committed. Yet he has never
"backed out" before, and now--he would dare a dozen dismissals rather
than that she should have a chance to say, "I knew you would not come."
That very afternoon, just after the ride in the hall before the Board of
Visitors, Miss Waring had been pathetically lamenting that with another
week they were to part, and that she had seen next to nothing of him
since her arrival.
"If you only could get down to Hawkshurst!" she cried. "I'm sure when
my cousin Frank was in the corps he used to 'run it' down to Cozzens's
to see Cousin Kate,--and that was what made her Cousin Kate to me," she
adds, with sudden dropping of the eyelids that is wondrously effective.
"Easily done!" recklessly answers McKay, whose boyish heart is set to
hammer-like beating by the closing sentence. "I didn't know you sat up
so late there, or I would have come before. Of course I have to be
here at 'taps.' No one can escape that."
"Oh,--but really, Mr. McKay, I did not mean it! I would not have you run
such a risk for worlds! I meant--some other way." And so she protests,
although her eyes dance with excitement and delight. What a feather this
in her cap of coquetry! What a triumph over the other girls,--especially
that hateful set at Craney's! What a delicious confidence to impart to
all the little coterie at Hawkshurst! How they must envy her the
romance, the danger, the daring, the devotion of such an adventure--for
her sake! Of late years such tales had been rare. Girls worth the
winning simply would not permit so rash a project, and their example
carried weight. But here at "Hawkshurst" was a lively young brood,
chaperoned by a matron as wild as her charges and but little older, and
eager one and all for any glory or distinction that could pique the
pride or stir the envy of "that Craney set." It was too much for a girl
of Sallie Waring's type. Her eyes have a dangerous gleam, her cheeks a
witching glow; she clings tighter to his arm as she looks up in his
"And yet--wouldn't it be lovely?--To think of seeing you there!--are you
sure there'd be no danger?"
"Be on the north piazza about quarter of eleven," is the prompt reply.
"I'll wear a dark suit, eye-glass, brown moustache, etc. Call me Mr.
Freeman while strangers are around. There goes the parade drum. Au
revoir!" and he darts away. Cadet Captain Stanley, inspecting his
company a few moments later, stops in front and gravely rebukes him,--
"You are not properly shaved, McKay."
"I shaved this morning," is the somewhat sullen reply, while an angry
flush shoots up towards the blue eyes.
"No razor has touched your upper lip, however, and I expect the class to
observe regulations in this company, demerit or no demerit," is the
firm, quiet answer, and the young captain passes on to the next man.
McKay grits his teeth.
"Only a week more of it, thank God!" he mutters, when sure that Stanley
is beyond ear-shot.
Three hours more and "taps" is sounded. All along the brilliant facade
of barracks there is sudden and simultaneous "dousing of the glim" and a
rush of the cadets to their narrow nests. There is a minute of banging
doors and hurrying footsteps, and gruff queries of "All in?" as the
cadet officers flit from room to room in each division to see that
lights are out and every man in bed. Then forth they come from every
hall-way; tripping lightly down the stone steps and converging on the
guard-house, where stand at the door-way the dark forms of the officer
in charge and the cadet officer of the day. Each in turn halts, salutes,
and makes his precise report; and when the last subdivision is reported,
the executive officer is assured that the battalion of cadets is present
in barracks, and at the moment of inspection at least, in bed.
Presumably, they remain so.
Two minutes after inspection, however, Mr. McKay is out of bed again and
fumbling about in his alcove. His room-mate sleepily inquires from
beyond the partition what he wants in the dark, but is too long
accustomed to his vagaries to expect definite information. When Mr.
McKay slips softly out into the hall, after careful reconnaissance of
the guard-house windows, his chum is soundly asleep and dreaming of no
worse freak on Billy's part than a raid around barracks.
It is so near graduation that the rules are relaxed, and in every first
classman's room the tailor's handiwork is hanging among the gray
uniforms. It is a dark suit of this civilian dress that Billy dons as
he emerges from the blankets. A natty Derby is perched upon his curly
pate, and a monocle hangs by its string. But he cannot light his gas
and arrange the soft brown moustache with which he proposes to decorate
his upper lip. He must run into Stanley's,--the "tower" room, at the
north end of his hall.
Phil looks up from the copy of "Military Law" which he is diligently
studying. As "inspector of subdivision," his light is burned until
"You do make an uncommonly swell young cit, Billy," he says,
pleasantly. "Doesn't he, Mack?" he continues, appealing to his
room-mate, who, lying flat on his back with his head towards the light
and a pair of muscular legs in white trousers displayed on top of a pile
of blankets, is striving to make out the vacancies in a recent Army
Register. "Mack" rolls over and lazily expresses his approval.
"I'd do pretty well if I had my moustache out; I meant to get the start
of you fellows, but you're so meanly jealous, you blocked the game,
All the rancor is gone now. He well knows that Stanley was right.
"Sorry to have had to 'row' you about that, Billy," says the captain,
gently. "You know I can't let one man go and not a dozen others."
"Oh, hang it all! What's the difference when time's so nearly up?"
responds McKay, as he goes over to the little wood-framed mirror that
stands on the iron mantel. "Here's a substitute, though! How's this for
a moustache?" he asks, as he turns and faces them. Then he starts for
the door. Almost in an instant Stanley is up and after him. Just at the
head of the iron stairs he hails and halts him.
"Billy! You are not going out of barracks?"
Unwillingly McKay yields to the pressure of the firm hand laid on his
shoulder, and turns.
"Suppose I were, Stanley. What danger is there? Lee inspected last
night, and even he wouldn't make such a plan to trip me. Who ever heard
of a 'tack's' inspecting after taps two successive nights?"
"There's no reason why it should not be done, and several reasons why it
should," is the uncompromising reply. "Don't risk your commission now,
Billy, in any mad scheme. Come back and take those things off. Come!"
"Blatherskite! Don't hang on to me like a pick-pocket, Stan. Let me go,"
says McKay, half vexed, half laughing. "I've got to go, man," he says,
more seriously. "I've promised."
A sudden light seems to come to Stanley. Even in the feeble gleam from
the gas-jet in the lower hall McKay can see the look of consternation
that shoots across his face.
"You don't mean--you're not going down to Hawkshurst, Billy?"
"Why not to Hawkshurst, if anywhere at all?" is the sullen reply.
"Why? Because you are risking your whole future,--your profession, your
good name, McKay. You're risking your mother's heart for the sport of a
girl who is simply toying with you----"
"Take care, Stanley. Say what you like to me about myself, but not a
word about her."
"This is no time for sentiment, McKay. I have known Miss Waring three
years; you, perhaps three weeks. I tell you solemnly that if she ha
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