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Chapter 12

LEARNING TO DRILL


While the Rover boys were talking matters over among themselves, Nappy Martell had returned to his room, which was connected by a door with that occupied by Slugger Brown.

"What in thunder made you run off in such a hurry, Nappy?" demanded the other cadet somewhat surlily. "You didn't answer that question I put to you at all."

"I had something else to think about," was the reply. "It looks to me as if I'm in hot water."

"How's that?"

"Do you remember I told you that I placed that Fred Rover's suitcase down under a stack in the cornfield?"

"Yes."

"Well, I heard Walt Baxter telling Ned Lowe that he had seen a tramp down in the cornfield running away from one of the stacks with a suitcase in his hand; so I went down to the cornfield to find out if the suitcase was still where I had hidden it. It was gone."

"Whew!" Slugger Brown gave a prolonged whistle. "That certainly does look bad. Did Baxter say where the tramp went?"

"He told Lowe that he had not come towards the Hall, but had gone off in the opposite direction."

"Then that looks as if the suitcase was gone for good."

"So it does. And I don't know what I'm going to do about it," answered Nappy Martell, gloomily. "Of course, I didn't think the suitcase would be stolen."

"And the worst part of it is, the Rovers suspect you of having taken it," was the comment of Slugger.

"Yes. But they can't prove it," cried Nappy, quickly. "That is, they won't be able to do it unless you or Codfish give me away."

"You know me well enough to know I won't say a word, Nappy. And as for Codfish, just give him to understand if he opens his trap you'll fix him for it."

A little while later Martell and Brown went below. In the lower hallway they met Fred and some of the others.

"Well, Martell, when are you going to return that suitcase?" demanded the youngest Rover.

"I told you I haven't got your suitcase and don't know anything about it," cried the loudly dressed youth. But at the same time his face grew flushed and he could not look Fred in the eyes.

"You took that suitcase, and if you don't return it pretty quick you'll see what will happen," warned Fred; and then he walked away with his cousins, leaving Nappy Martell gazing at Slugger Brown, questioningly. The pair conversed in a low tone, and passed on out of the hall on to the campus.

"Now's your time, Fred, if you're going to do as you said," whispered Randy.

"Right you are!" was the quick reply. "Come on;" and Fred led the way upstairs again, his cousins following.

When they reached Nappy Martell's room, they found the door locked. But the door to Slugger Brown's apartment was unfastened, and they quickly entered this and passed into the room beyond.

"Say, Jack, won't you stand on guard?" questioned Fred. "They might come back while we're at work."

"All right, boys. But be careful what you do. You don't want to spoil anything. A joke is a joke, but it loses its flavor if it is carried too far."

With Jack standing in the hallway on guard, Fred and the twins took possession of Nappy Martell's room. The boy who loved to dress so loudly was rather methodical in his habits, and had arranged all of his clothing and other articles with great nicety in his chiffonier and his closet.

"The bed first," whispered Fred; and in a trice the boys had taken off the bed clothing and turned up the mattress. On the springs they placed one of the bedsheets and on the top of this they distributed all of Nappy's choice neckties and also his fancy-colored socks. Then to this they added his cuffs, his fancy underwear, and all of his loose jewelry. The articles were spread over the bed with care, so that they rested as flat as possible.

"Now, we'll put the mattress back and then make up the bed as nicely as possible," said Randy, who, of course, in a joke of this sort directed operations.

"Gee! I don't believe he'll find those articles in a hurry," chuckled Fred.

"They'll never find them until they come to turn the mattress over," vouchsafed Andy. "Some joke, believe me!"

"I was thinking about that clothing in the closet. I wonder if we can't fix that up some way," mused Randy. Then he began to grin. "Just the thing!" he continued, and walked to the chiffonier, from a drawer in which he brought out a package of safety pins.

"What are you going to do with those?" questioned Fred.

"We'll pin up all the ends of the sleeves and the trouser legs, from the inside," was the quick reply. "Come, hurry up!" and then the three boys lost no time in doing as Randy had suggested. This done, they left the room, leaving it, so far as looks in general went, just as when they had entered it.

"There'll be some fun when Nappy wants one of those neckties or a pair of those fancy socks," laughed Andy. "I wish I could be on hand to see him."

"Don't you worry--we'll hear about it," returned Fred. "He'll suspect me on account of that suitcase affair."

While it was true that the regular school term had not yet opened, the new arrivals had been informed that they must be on hand to be measured for their uniforms and also to be instructed by some of the seniors who were present in drilling. The measurements of the boys were taken down in the gymnasium under the directions of Mr. Silas Crews, who was the gymnasium instructor and also the husband of Mrs. Crews, the matron for the younger cadets.

"I hope they've got a suit on hand that fits me," was Jack's comment, as he and his cousins walked to the gymnasium. "I'd like to see how it feels to be in a uniform."

His wish was gratified, for a little later he was given an entire outfit, which consisted of both a fulldress uniform and a fatigue suit, as well as belt, shoulder straps, cap, and hat, and several other things. Uniforms were also found for the others, and the entire crowd lost no time in hurrying back to their rooms to dress up. In this they were aided by Spouter, who had donned his uniform immediately upon his arrival.

"Some brass buttons, believe me!" was Andy's comment, as he strode around the rooms.

"Say! you put me in mind of a peacock," said the twin. "My, just see how he swells up!" and Randy himself raised his chest as high as possible.

"What are you going to be, Jack--fifth corporal or first admiral of the rear guard?" questioned Fred.

"I'm going to be head soup-carrier for the bayonet squad," returned his cousin gaily.

As soon as they had donned their uniforms, the boys returned to the gymnasium, where they were placed in what was called an awkward squad, and which was under the direction of Dan Soppinger. Here they quickly learned how to stand erect with their toes on a chalk mark, and how to hold their hands properly. Then they were given directions how to cast their eyes "To the right," "To the left," and "Front." Then they learned the meaning of "Right face," "Left face," and "About face."

"All of you are doing pretty well," remarked Dan Soppinger to the squad of eight under him. "Now then, we'll see what you can do when it comes to marching. When I give the order 'Forward,' you balance on your right foot, and when the word comes 'March!' you step out with your left foot. And when you step out, do it like this," and he gave an illustration by marching up and down in front of the squad.

To the Rover boys all this was very interesting, and they learned with comparative ease. Only one of the awkward squad seemed to have difficulty in marching just right, a lad named White.

"Don't lag behind, White!" cried Dan Soppinger, sharply. "Step right out as if you meant it;" and after that White did a little better.

While the drilling was in progress, Colonel Colby came down to the gymnasium to look on. He was pleased with the general results.

"I think you are doing very well, boys," he said. "Of course, you can't learn to become first-class soldiers in a day. It takes hard practising to do anything just right."

"When do we get guns?" questioned Andy, after the drilling had come to an end.

"You won't get guns until you have learned how to march and how to turn properly," answered Dan. "Then, when you do get guns, you'll have to go in for the manual of arms."

"And how about learning how to shoot?" questioned Jack.

"That will come still later--after you have had experience in marching and in handling your guns."

"Whoop! Me for a real soldier boy!" cried Andy, his eyes sparkling, and then he began to hum a bit of doggerel he had made up on the spur of the moment.

"Johnny, get your musket-- You must get your musket. Johnny, get your musket-- You must get it now!"

"Wow! that's some song," was Fred's comment. "Better have it copyrighted, Andy."

"Oh, I've already got a double-barreled patent on it," was the light answer. "Anybody who steals it will get ten years in a bathing suit at the north pole;" and at this there was a general laugh.

The boys were awaiting the arrival of Gif Garrison, who came in about noon of that day. Gif was a big boy, and, as mentioned before, was at the head of a great many of the athletic doings of the school.

"Glad to see you fellows here," said Gif, as he shook hands all around. "My! but we're going to have some good times now, aren't we?"

"If we don't, it won't be our fault," responded Jack.

"We've just been learning how to become soldiers," explained Randy. "My head is full of 'Eyes right,' 'Left face,' 'Forward march,' and all that sort of thing."

"Oh, you'll get used to that, Randy, before you've been here very long," returned Gif.

"Did you have a nice time getting here?" questioned Fred.

"I might have had a nice time if it hadn't been for one thing," was the answer. "I came in on the same train with a professor that none of us like."

"Oh! Do you mean Asa Lemm?" questioned Andy, quickly.

"That's it! What do you know of him?"

"We know quite a little," answered Jack, and related some of the particulars of what had happened on the train.

"Oh, I can see your finish," said Gif with a serious look on his face. "Old Lemon will never forget that happening. He'll be down on you for it all the term."


Edward Stratemeyer