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3 At Rustling Ridge
The clear, thrilling strains of the bugle made scores of cadets cordially hate Bugler Howes on the following morning. Many a young soldier considered defying orders and sleeping on in peace and comfort, but wisdom prevailed in the long run. With a snap and many groans the camp came to life.

“Oh, boy!” sighed Terry, casting his blankets to one side. “I never felt less like getting up in all my life!”

“I don’t see why you or Jim should kick,” Don said, as he pulled on his clothes. “You two rode out here but I had to march all the way!”

“I’m tired just the same,” said Terry.

Once awake the cadets came alive to the glories of camp life. A rush was made to the near-by brook where they washed, and then dressing was speedily finished. Before long they had fallen in for inspection, the reading of orders and the march to breakfast.

A long tent had been erected for meals in bad weather, but during the clear and warm weather they were permitted to eat outside around the kitchen tent.

Before long they were all hard at work. On a flat plain at the bottom of the hill they were all required to drill and take routine exercises during the morning. This took up their time until noon. Then, in the afternoon, the units took up the tactics of their own particular division. The infantry was busy that day with setting up range targets for practice in the near future. After that was over they worked steadily fixing the camp. Tents were made more inviting by the addition of wooden floors, pegs were put in with a view toward real strength and service, and trenches were dug to carry off the rain water when it fell from the sloping canvas. A permanent kitchen was constructed and the long tables for the mess tent were built and put in place. Benches then were hammered into place along the tables, the wagons set in proper formation and the camp looked vastly improved.

The cavalry escaped this task but was busy with tactics of its own. Under Jim, who was its chief, it was required to drill and go for a canter across the country. That used up most of the afternoon and the sun was beginning to sink when they returned. At school, during the term, the cavalrymen got quite a bit of practice, but it was the plan of the colonel to teach his boys to ride every day during the encampment, so that they might become used to having horses under them a good many hours at a stretch. Many a young man found himself stiff and sore before the end of the week.

The artillery was busy with what they called “silent drill.” Artillery practice was always pretty expensive and only during the fall and the last few weeks of summer encampment did the colonel allow any firing of the fieldpieces. During the summer the artillerymen were instructed in the art of finding the range, wheeling the guns into position, effectively concealing them from an enemy, especially an enemy in the air, and tearing down and rebuilding the guns.

With all of these activities the first day in camp sped by with astonishing rapidity. This first day was different from the ones that followed, for once the camp was settled the work decreased materially. So busy had the boys been that there was no time for a swim or any fun on that initial day of camp life. A few hardy souls managed to stay awake and talk and sing songs around the campfires, but most of the young men stumbled to bed at the first possible moment.

The three friends had not had much of a chance to see each other that day, and at night they were too tired to do much in the way of talking. In common with many others they sought their beds before taps.

“If I’m going to be as tired as this every night I’ll never enjoy this camping trip,” Jim grumbled as he undressed.

“You won’t be,” Don observed. “This was an unusual day for all of us, but we’ll get used to it. With all our outdoor life, this systematic drill, exercise, and work makes us feel the grind.”

“I don’t see why we have to take regular exercises.” Terry yawned and stretched out on his cot. “Seems to me that we get enough to keep us physically fit as it is.”

“Yes, but the kind of routine exercises that we get help to keep us limbered up,” Don returned. “Otherwise, we’d get a whole lot of one kind of training and not much of another. You and I get plenty of leg and arm exercise but Jim would be riding all day if he stuck to his particular branch of the corps.”

“That’s true,” agreed Terry. “Well, I suppose the colonel and the officers know what we need most of. If anybody asked me right now, though, I’d say it was sleep.”

On the second day things came more easily to the active young soldiers. At first, stiff and sore muscles cried out in protest and glum faces characterized the corps. But as the day went on their hearts cheered and slowly the joy of camping evidenced itself.

That afternoon they finished drill and maneuvers at three o’clock and from then on the time was their own. A dozen games of baseball were quickly organized but most of the boys preferred to make a rush for the big swimming hole. Before many minutes a score of the boys splashed in.

One cadet had dropped in first to test the depth of the stream, and finding that it was up to the average boy’s shoulder at the bank and about ten feet deep in the center, a number of boys had dived joyfully in. Don and Terry were among the first, with Jim following a little later.

“This is a dandy pool,” gasped Jim, shaking the water from his eyes and floating close beside Don. “I like snappy fresh water even better than I do the salt water.”

“I don’t,” returned his brother. “I like the rush and the sting of the green sea water. But this woodland water makes you work to keep afloat.”

There was no springboard and the cadets were diving from the bank. In time this proved disappointing. As they clambered up the sides, the water running in streams from their dripping bathing trunks made the bank muddy and then dangerously slippery. More than one sloppy fall plastered a swimmer with mud and caused gleeful laughter, until a few cadets ran into camp, brought out some long boards and some thick supports, and in a very short time a fairly good diving board had been placed on the bank.

“This is some improvement,” smiled Harry Douglas, as he tried the board out.

The diving then became general and was enjoyed. One of the best divers was Dick Rowen. His summers had been spent largely in summer resorts where swimming was the principal attraction and he had become quite expert at it. Knowing that the eyes of many of his comrades were upon him Rowen performed a good many fancy dives, all of which were very well done. Some of the cadets, with quiet generosity, complimented him upon his prowess.

“Oh, diving comes easily to me,” answered Rowen, poising for another, in answer to a word of praise from a cadet. “This is one of my best.”

He jumped to the springboard, attempted to turn around and over, but his twist did not work and his feet slipped. Truth to tell, the cadets were growing tired of his posing and a delighted shout went up as he slapped the water with a sound that echoed over the camp.

Thoroughly angry, Rowen bobbed up out of the water and scrambled ashore, turning a resentful ear to the good-natured teasing of his mates. Jim was the next one to follow Rowen out on the board, and he prepared for his dive.

“Going to give us an exhibition of your best dive, Jim?” Cadet Vench called out, laughing.

Jim grinned. “Yes, this is my best,” he answered, and sprang away. But his foot slipped and he hit the water in the same way that Rowen had. Instantly a roar of laughter went up and Rowen’s face flushed a dull red.

Jim made his way out of the water. “That wasn’t so good at that,” he remarked, as he gained the bank. Then he came face to face with Rowen.

“Think you’re pretty smart, don’t you, Mercer?” hissed the cadet.

Jim looked surprised. “Why, no, not especially. Not after that dive, anyway. What do you mean, Dick?”

“Don’t call me Dick!” snapped Rowen. “I’m only Dick to my friends, and that doesn’t include you. I said you think you’re funny because you ridiculed me in that dive!”

“Oh, don’t be silly!” retorted Jim. “I had no intention of imitating you, Rowen. My foot honestly slipped, that’s all.”

“I don’t believe you, Mercer,” said Rowen, at a white heat.

There was a moment’s pause and the gathered cadets looked on with interest. Jim’s jaw had set and he thought a moment before replying.

“Listen, Rowen,” he said, when he had gained sufficient control of himself. “I want you to understand one thing. I only joke with a man who is enough of a man to take a joke. If I were picking out anyone to have some fun with I wouldn’t pick a sorehead like you. As for my not being a friend of yours, Rowen, that is your own fault.”

“Fault!” shrilled Rowen, trembling. “Jeepers! Do you think I care that you aren’t my friend?”

“Whatever you like,” nodded Jim, and turned away. Unheeding the statement that “some fellows made him sick” Jim went back into the water, to enjoy himself and forget Rowen.

That evening the cadets remained up until taps, which came at nine-thirty. A number of fires formed convenient places for them to gather and chat. Just before taps the three friends went to their tents.

“I didn’t notice Rowen around tonight,” remarked Don, as they began to prepare for bed.

“Might have been sulking in his tent,” grinned Terry. “Now, the only thing that remains is for him to pick a fight with you, Don!”

“I don’t know if I could be as patient as you two have been,” mused Don. “I think I should be tempted to punch his nose for him!”

“Don’t worry,” smiled Jim, “we were tempted, all right!”

“Who took my bayonet?” questioned Terry, suddenly.

All of the cadets, including the artillerymen and cavalrymen, were required to have guns and bayonets, and Terry had looked aimlessly at his equipment, to note that the bayonet was gone. In a moment Don reported the loss of his.

“Mine’s gone, too,” announced Jim. “This looks funny to me.”

Terry threw the blankets off his bed. “Not under the covers,” he murmured. “Now, where—hey!”

He dropped to his knees and looked under the cot. Then he reached under and brought out his weapon.

“Look under your cots,” he directed. Don and Jim did so and uttered a sharp cry.

“Sticking upright, so that when we lay down on the bed the point would prod us,” Don growled.

“And that explains where Rowen was this evening,” guessed Terry.

“Say, this is going a little too far!” cried Jim. “That’s a dangerous trick.”

“Well, not especially dangerous,” said Don slowly. “The point wasn’t in such a position that it would have actually run into us. But he figured that we’d come in just at taps and jump into bed, landing on the points with enough force to make us squirm. The worst part of it all is that we can’t prove who did it.”

“From now on,” said Terry, his eyes narrowing, “we have got to keep a wary eye on that guy.”

“Yes,” nodded Don. “I guess he placed all three bayonets so that one of the disliked boys would be sure to get it. It would be funny if it had been me, who so far has done nothing to antagonize him.”

“If I catch him in any funny business I’ll sail right into him,” promised Jim, as they replaced the bayonets in the scabbards.

Taps rang out and the camp quieted down. In a moment the three boys drifted off to sleep.


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