Si saluted and took his position, facing the line, with a look of calm impartiality upon his face. Shorty turned around and backed up to him so that the calves of their legs touched, and began intently studying his gunlock.
Capt. McGillicuddy stepped over to the right of the line stopped in front of Harry Joslyn and Gid Mackall. Shorty full-cocked his gun with two sharp clicks.
"You two step forward one pace," said Capt. McGillicuddy to the two radiant boys, who obeyed with a jump. The Captain walked on down the line, carefully scrutinizing each one, but did not stop until Shorty's gun clicked twice, when he was in front of Alf Russell and Monty Scruggs.
"Step forward one pace," he commanded.
He proceeded on down the line until he came in front of Jim Humphreys and Sandy Baker, when Shorty's gun clicked again.
"You two step forward one pace," he commanded. "Gentleman, I've got my six. The rest are yours."
"But you hain't got me. You've lost me," screamed Pete Skidmore, dismayed at being separated from Sandy Baker. Shorty's gun clicked again.
"I believe that there is a fraction of a half a man to be distributed around," the Captain said, turning to the other officers. "We agreed to draw cuts for that choice. But as that's the smallest boy in the lot I'll take him for my fraction. I think that's fair. Step forward, there, you boy on the left."
"All right Captain," laughed Capt. Scripps. "You've got the pick of the men, and I'm glad of it.
"I know you have, for I've been watching that Corporal of yours. I know him of old. I've played cards too often with Shorty not to keep my eye on him whenever he is around. I saw through that gun-lock trick."
"The trouble with you fellows," responded Capt. McGillicuddy, "is that you are constantly hunting around for some reason rather than the real one for Co. Q being always ahead of you. It isn't my fault that Co. Q is the best company in the regiment. It simply comes natural to the men that make up the company. You gentlemen divide up the rest among you, and then come down to the sutler's and we'll talk the matter over.
Serg't Klegg, take these men down to the company and have the Orderly provide for them."
"Hello, awful glad to see you back--and you, too, Shorty," said the busy Orderly-Sergeant, speaking in his usual short, snappy sentences, without using any more words than absolutely necessary. "We need you. Short of non-commish. Two Sergeants off on detached duty and two Corporals in hospital. Being worked for all we're worth. Both of you look fine. Had a nice, long rest. In great shape for work. Pitch in, now, and help me.
First, let's get the names of these kids on the roll. Humphreys--we've got two other Humphreys, so you'll answer to Humphreys, 3d.
"But I don't want to be with the Humphreys, sir," broke in Jim. "Me and Monty Scruggs--"
"Hold your tongue," said the Orderly sharply. "Don't interrupt me. If you speak when you're spoken to you'll do all the talking expected of you.
"Joslyn, you're after Jones, 3d. M--M--Mackall, you come after Lawrence."
"But you've put me after Joslyn," protested Gid. "He's never ahead of me."
"Shut up," answered the Orderly. "I do the talking for this company.
Russell, Scruggs, Skidmore; there, I've got 'em all down. Si, go down toward Co. A and find Bill Stiles and walk him up to the guard-tent and leave him there to cool off. He's got his hide full of coffin varnish somewhere, and of course wants to settle an old score with that Co. A man, who'll likely knock his head off if he catches him. Shorty, go back there to the cook tent and shake up those cooks. Give it to them, for they're getting lazier every day. I want supper ready as soon's we come off dress parade. Here, you boys, trot along after me to the Quartermaster's tent, and draw your blankets, tents, haversacks and canteens. Shorty, as soon's you're through with the cooks, go to the left of the company and start to fixing up a place for these boys'
tents. Si, get back as soon's you can, for I want you to take the squad down after rations. Then you'll have to relieve Jake Warder as Sergeant of the Guard, for Jake's hardly able to be around."
The Orderly strode off toward the Quartermaster's tent at such a pace that it gave the boys all they could do to keep up with him. Arriving there he called out sharply to the Quartermaster-Sergeant:
"Wes, give me seven blankets."
That official responded by tossing the required number, one after another, counting them as he did so. As the Orderly caught them he tossed them to the boys, calling their names. Gid Mackall happened to be looking at a battery of artillery when his name was called, and received the blanket on the back of his neck, knocking him over.
"'Tend to your business, there; don't be gawking around," said the Orderly sternly. "Now, Wes, seven halves of pup-tents."
These were tossed and counted the same way. Then followed canteens, haversacks and tin plates and cups.
"Now, boys, there's your kits. Give you your guns tomorrow. Hurry back to the company street and set up those tents on railroad time, for it's going to rain. Jump, now."
When they reached Shorty he hustled them around to pitch their tents, but he was not fast enough to please the Orderly, who presently appeared, with the remark:
"Cesar's ghost. Shorty, how slow you are. Are you going to be all night getting up two or three tents? Get a move on you, now, for there's a rain coming up, and besides I want you for something else as soon's you're through with this?"
"Who is that man, Corpril?" asked Monty Scruggs, as the Orderly left.
"That's the Orderly-Sergeant of Co. Q."
"Orderly-Sergeant?" repeated Monty dubiously. "Who's he? I've heard of Captains, Majors, Colonels and Generals, but never of Orderly-Sergeants, and yit he seems to be bigger'n all of 'em. He has more to say, and does more orderin' around than all of 'em put together. He even orders you and Sarjint Klegg. Is he the biggest man in the army?"
"Well, SO far's you're concerned and to all general purposes he is. You needn't pay no partickler attention as a rule to nobody else, but when the Orderly speaks, you jump, and the quicker you jump the better it'll be for you. He don't draw as much salary, nor put on as many frills as the bigger fellers, but you hain't nothin' to do with that. You kin find fault with the Captain, criticize the Kurnel, and lampoon the General, but you don't want to give the Orderly no slack. He's not to be fooled with. Russell, run up there and snatch that spade to dig ditches around these tents."
"When I enlisted," Monty confided to Alf Russell, "I thought I'd do my best to become a Captain or a General. Now, I'm dead anxious to be an Orderly-Sarjint."
CHAPTER V. THE YOUNG RECRUITS
ARE GIVEN AN INITIATION INTO ARMY LIFE.
BY the time Shorty had gotten the boys fairly tented, he was ordered to take a squad and guard some stores at the Division Quartermaster's. Si, instead of going on camp-guard, had to go out to the grand guard. When he came back the next morning the Orderly-Sergeant said to him:
"See here, Si, you've got to take that squad of kids you brung into your particular charge, and lick 'em into shape. They need an awful sight of it, and I hain't got any time to give 'em. I've something else to do besides teaching an infant class. I never was good at bringing children up by hand, anyway. I ain't built that way. I want you to go for them young roosters at once, and get 'em into shape in short meter. Marching orders may come any day, and then we want everybody up and dressed.
There'll be no time for foolishness. Those dratted little rats were all over camp last night, and into more kinds of devilment than so many pet crows. I've been hearing about nothing else this morning."
"Why," said Si, "I supposed that they was too tired to do anything but lay down and go to sleep. What'd they do?"
"Better ask what they didn't do," replied the Orderly. "They done everything that a passel o' impish school boys could think of, and what they couldn't think of them smart Alecks down in the company put 'em up to. I'm going to put some o' them smarties through a course o' sprouts.
I like to see boys in good spirits, and I can enjoy a joke with the next man, but there's such a thing as being too funny. I think a few hours o'
extry fatigue duty will reduce their fever for fun."
"Why, what'd they do?" repeated Si.
"Well, in the first place, they got that Joslyn and Mackall to mark a big number 79 on their tents, and then put the same, with their names, on a sheet of paper, and take it up to the Captain's tent.
"The Captain was having a life-and-death rassle with Cap Summerville over their eternal chess, when he's crosser'n two sticks, and liable to snap your head off if you interrupt him. 'Hello, what do you want?
What's this?' says he, taking the paper."
[Illustration: Them's our names and addresses 59]
"'Them's our names and addresses,' says the brats, cool as cucumbers.
Thought we ought to give 'em to you, so's you'd know where to find us, in case you wanted us in a hurry, say, at night.'
"The blazes it is,' says Cap, and Cap Summerville roared. 'You get back to your quarters quick as you can run. Don't worry about my not finding you when I want you. It's my business to find you, and I've got men to help me do it. I'll find you sometime in a way that'll make your hair stand up. Get out, now, and never come around my tent with any such blamed nonsense as that.'
"And Cap Somerville took advantage of the break to snap up Cap's queen, which made him hotter'n ever.
"When the boys got back they found them smart Alecks, Bob Walsh and Andy Sweeney, waiting for 'em, and they consoled 'em, saying, That's just the way with that old bull-head. Never'll take no good advice from nobody about running' the company. Thinks he knows it all. You see how he runs the company. He haint got the addresses o' half his men this minnit, and don't know where they are. That's the reason so many o' our letters from home, and the good things they send us, never reach us. He ought to keep a regler directory, same as in the other companies.'"