“Why there isn’t a sign of a blister,” Captain Holmes declared. “Nor is there an abrasion of any kind, or any callous. There isn’t even a corn. That’s as healthy a doughboy foot as I’ve seen. Dress your foot again, and put on your legging—–pronto.”
A “doughboy” is an infantry soldier. “Pronto” is a word the Army has borrowed from the Spanish, and means, “Be quick about it.”
“I’m not fit to march, sir,” cried Sergeant Mock.
“Either you’ll be ready by the time B company is here, and you’ll march in, or I’ll detail a man to remain here with you, and send an ambulance for you. If I have to send an ambulance I’ll have you examined at the hospital, and if I find you’ve been faking foot trouble then you shall feel the full weight of military law. I’ll give you your own choice. Which do you want?”
Tugging his sock on, Mock merely mumbled.
“Answer me!” Greg insisted sharply.
“I—–I’ll do my best to march, sir.”
“Then be sure you’re ready by the time B company gets here, and be sure you march all the way in,” Greg ordered sternly. He hated a shamming imitation of a soldier.
Major Bell and his staff came by at the head of the line, followed by Prescott and A company.
“Don’t disappoint me, Sergeant,” Greg warned his man.
Though his brow was black with wrath Sergeant Mock stood up by the time that the head of B company arrived.
“Take your place, Sergeant,” Greg ordered, and waited to see his order obeyed, next running up to his own post.
Ten minutes later, as a group of carpenters from the rifle range paused at the roadside, Greg chanced to glance backward. He was just in time to see Sergeant Mock limping out of the line of file-closers to sit down at the roadside.
His jaws set, Greg Holmes darted back.
“That’s enough of this, Mock,” he called. “You can’t sham in B company. Your feet, I suppose?”
“Yes, sir,” groaned the sergeant.
“First two men of the rear four of B company fall out and come here,” Captain Holmes shouted.
Instantly the two men detached themselves from the company and came running back.
“Fix your bayonets,” Greg ordered. “Bring Sergeant Mock in at the rear of the battalion. If he shirks, prod him with the points of your bayonets. Don’t be brutal, but make the sergeant keep up at the rear of the battalion.”
“Sir-----” began Mock protestingly.
“Quite enough for you, Sergeant Mock,” Greg rapped out. “I’ll have your feet examined by a surgeon when you come in. Unless the surgeon tells me that I’m wrong you may look for something to happen!”
As Greg turned and started to run back to the head of his company he thought he heard a sound like a hiss. In his opinion it came from some one in the group of carpenters, but he did not halt to investigate.
Though Mock limped all the way in, he came in exactly at the tail of the battalion. As the last company halted on the drill ground Sergeant Lund came back for him, relieving the guards.