“Mock, until you’ve been examined,” said the top, “you’re not to go beyond battalion bounds.”
“Am I in arrest?” demanded Mock, his face set in ugly lines.
“You’re confined within battalion bounds. Remember that,” saying which First Sergeant Lund turned and strode away.
Nor was Mock a happy man. Holmes arranged that a regimental surgeon should come over to B company barracks later and make a careful examination of Sergeant Mock’s feet. For some reason the surgeon did not come promptly. The evening meal was eaten, and darkness settled down over Camp Berry. Mock, still limping and looking woeful, kept out in the open air.
“Psst!” came sharply from somewhere, and Mock, turning, saw a man in civilian garb standing in the shadow of a latrine shed.
“Come here,” called the stranger. Still surly, but urged by curiosity, Mock obeyed the summons.
“I don’t want to be seen talking with you,” murmured the stranger, in a low voice, “but I want to offer you my sympathy. Say, but a man gets treated roughly in the Army. That captain of yours—–”
As the stranger paused, looking keenly at Mock, the disgruntled sergeant finished vengefully:
“The captain? He’s a dog!”
“Dog is right,” agreed the stranger promptly. “Will he do anything more to you?”
“I expect he’ll bust me,” said Sergeant Mock.
To “bust” is the same as to “break.” It means to reduce a non-com to the ranks.
“Are you going to stand it?” demanded the stranger.
“Fat chance I’ll have to beat the captain’s game!” declared Mock angrily.
“But are you going to pay him back?”
“Listen. I was in the Army once, and I don’t like these officer boys. Maybe I’ve something against your captain, too. Anyway, keep mum and take good advice, and I’ll help you to make him wish he’d never been born.”
“Not a chance!” dissented Sergeant Mock promptly. “Captain Holmes isn’t afraid of anything, and besides he was born lucky. Besides that, do anything to hurt him, and you’ve got Captain Prescott against you, too, and ready to rip you up the back.”
“It’s as easy to put ’em both in bad as it is to do it to either,” promised the stranger. “Now, listen. You-----”
BAD BLOOD COMES TO THE SURFACE
Later in the evening the surgeon came around. After examining Sergeant Mock’s feet for twenty minutes, and testing the skin as well, he pronounced Mock a shammer.
Mock was sent to the guard-house for twenty-four hours. The next morning an order was published reducing the sergeant to the rank of private. Yet, on the whole, the ex-sergeant looked pleased in a sullen, disagreeable sort of way. He had listened to the stranger.
Greg, however, had other troubles on his hands. After the noon meal that day, as he was on his way to his quarters upstairs Captain Cartwright passed him in the corridor.