“I hear you’re turning martinet,” said Cartwright, with a disagreeable smile.
“Very likely,” smiled Holmes, “but what are the specifications?”
“I heard that you had a sergeant busted for having an opinion of his own.”
“That’s not so,” Greg declared promptly.
“Do you mean to tell me I’m a liar?” Cartwright asked flushing.
“Did I understand you to charge me with preferring unjustifiable charges against a sergeant in my company?”
“I said I heard you had busted a sergeant for doing his own thinking,” the other captain insisted.
“Cartwright, it’s difficult for me to guess at what you’re driving,” Holmes went on, patiently, “but I’ve already told you that I did nothing of the kind that you allege.”
“That’s calling me a liar again!” flamed Cartwright.
“I’m sorry if it is,” returned Greg coolly, and turned toward his door.
“You cannot call me a liar!” cried Captain Cartwright, taking a quick step forward, his fists clenched.
“Apparently I don’t have to,” scoffed Holmes. “You’re eager to claim the title for yourself.”
Up flew the other captain’s fist. But just then a door opened behind him, and Dick Prescott caught the uplifted fist in tight, vise-like hold.
“Don’t do that, Cartwright,” he advised.
“Let me alone,” insisted the other striving though failing to release his captured wrist.
“Don’t do anything rash, Cartwright. Listen to good sense; then I am going to let go of your wrist. If you were to strike Holmes he would be practically bound to thrash you, or else to prefer charges. In either case the matter would get before a court-martial. My testimony, from what I overheard, would have to sustain Holmes.”
“You two would swear for each other anywhere and at all times,” sneered Captain Cartwright.
This was hinting that Dick Prescott would be willing to perjure himself, and Dick flushed, though with difficulty he kept his patience.
“I’m going to let go of you now, Cartwright,” Prescott continued.
As Dick let go of the captured wrist Captain Cartwright wheeled and aimed a vicious blow at his brother officer’s face.
But Prescott’s arm thrust up his adversary’s.
“Stop it, Cartwright!”
Apparently the other could not control his anger. He aimed another savage blow. Dick parried with a thrust, but this time his other fist landed on Cartwright’s chest with force enough to send him staggering to a fall on the floor.
At this moment a step was heard on the stairway.
“Gentlemen! Stop this! What does it mean?”
The voice was full of authority and outraged dignity. Colonel Cleaves, his eyes flashing, stood before them.
“Get up, Captain Cartwright,” he commanded. “I must have an instant explanation of this scene. Officers and gentlemen cannot conduct themselves like rowdies.”