“You don’t bring your hand up smartly enough,” Barrow explained patiently. “Try it again. No; don’t bring it up with a jerk. Do it like this—–smartly, without jerk. No; that’s not right, either. Hold your hand horizontally when it touches your hat-brim. Hold it the way I am doing. Don’t be in a hurry to let hand fall, either. When saluting an officer, keep the hand at the hat-brim until he has returned the salute, or you’ve passed him. There, you have it right now, Rindle. Do it three times more, dropping your hand when I see you and return the salute. That’s it. Good work. Try it again, all together. Squad, salute!”
“Well done, Corporal,” chimed in the voice of Captain Prescott, who had come up behind the instructor, “Be sure that the squad has drill enough in the salute, for a man is never a really good soldier until he can render a salute smartly. Let the men break ranks, Corporal, and have each man pass me in turn, saluting the best he knows how.”
As Captain Dick stood there, receiving and returning the salute of each rookie as he passed, the young company commander noted each man’s performance with keen eyes.
“First rate for recruits, Corporal,” Prescott said, as he turned away. “Give them daily drill at it, however.”
Corporal Barrow gave his own most precise salute as he received his captain’s orders. Then he called:
“In double rank, fall in! Mark time, march! Step more smartly, Pelham. Hip, hip, hip! Squad halt! One, two!”
From the corner of the building Dick had paused an instant to glance back. Then he went into the company office.
“I’ve just been watching Corporal Barrow and his new recruit squad, Sergeant,” Dick announced. “The men are doing first-rate for new men. Corporal Barrow is a patient and competent drill-master.”
“Yes, sir,” Kelly replied, without trace of a smile.
“The patient instructor is the only one who can teach a recruit, Sergeant. If you ever see a non-com in this company losing his temper set him straight at the first chance.”
“But don’t make the correction in hearing of the squad unless the case is a flagrant one.”
“No, sir,” Sergeant Kelly promised, his eyes smileless.
“How near is the company to full strength this morning?”
“Only twelve men short, sir. A new draft, coining in on the 4.10 train this afternoon is expected to fill all companies to strength, sir.”
Dick Prescott felt a sudden thrill. Filling up the companies of the Ninety-ninth appeared to promise that the regiment would soon be on its way overseas!
“If we get our full strength this afternoon, Sergeant, be sure to have the clothing requisitions for them all in shape by this evening. Then we’ll try to draw to-morrow morning.”