Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 1





The command rang out sharply, and Hundreds of cadets came to a stop, standing as stiff as ramrods, with their eyes staring straight ahead at—absolutely nothing.

"Right dress!"

Captain Dick Hamilton stepped out the regulation number of paces in front of his company, wheeled on his heel, looked critically over his command, wheeled about again, and stood at attention. Then he awaited the approach of Colonel Masterly, superintendent of the Kentfield Military Academy.

"Say, fellows, I hope we're looking all right," whispered Jim Perkins, to his next in line, George Ball. "We want to take first prize, for Dick's sake, and——"

"Silence in the ranks!" exclaimed First Lieutenant Paul Drew. "Here come Colonel Masterly and Major Rockford."

Dick Hamilton never moved from his rigid position, but with a slight motion of his hand he cautioned his men to maintain order. For it was the final inspection, at the close of the academy for the term, and he wanted his command to have a perfect score.

Farther along the big parade ground were other companies of cadets, in their dress uniforms, and in front of them were other captains, as eager as was Dick to win the coveted medal, which was offered each year for the best appearing command.

"Here come the grand-high-muck-a-mucks!" whispered the irrepressible Perkins. "Stand up straighter, Ball. You're as crooked as a rail fence."

"Silence!" hissed Lieutenant Drew sharply. Dick was almost ready to squirm, in his eagerness to turn around and administer a rebuke, yet he was inwardly laughing at the remark of Perkins. Colonel Masterly, the head of the big school, and the commandant, Major Rockford, were now inspecting the company, which was standing stiffly at the right of Dick's command. The two officers, together with several visitors, and a colonel from the regular army, were critically examining the ranks of anxious cadets.

"I know I've got a speck of dust on my belt," whispered Perkins. Can't one of you fellows brush it off with your bayonet?" and he half turned his head to look at the lad behind him.

"Si——!" began Lieutenant Drew, but he did not finish, for at that moment the squad of officers approached, having finished with the other company.

Dick stiffened the least bit more in his tracks, if such a thing were possible, and raised his glittering sword in salute. The inspection was on. There was no further chance to improve the appearance of his cadets.

Slowly and carefully the officers looked over the lads, some of whom felt an uncontrollable desire to sneeze, or to scratch the middle of their backs. But they nobly resisted.

Colonel Masterly spoke a few words in a low tone to Major Webster, a retired army officer, who was the academy instructor in military tactics. In turn the latter spoke to Major Rockford, and then to Colonel Whitford, of the regular 'army. Dick wondered what they were saying, but as they were behind him now he could not hear.

The officers paused in front of the joking Perkins. They seemed to see something.

"Great Scott!" mused Captain Dick Hamilton. "Has Perk disgraced us by putting his belt on wrong side out?" Yet he dared not turn to see. A moment later the inspectors passed on, and Dick breathed easier. Then, as Colonel Masterly and the others passed behind the rear rank of Dick's cadets, finishing their examination, and moved on to the next company, our hero breathed a sigh of relief, and somewhat relaxed his stiff position.

"I feel as if I'd just been to the dentist's," whispered Perkins, though not so quietly but what it carried to every lad in the company.

"Silence, Perk!" commanded Paul Drew, but he shook with inward laughter.

There were two more companies to inspect, and until they had been passed on it would not be known which command had been awarded the prize.

But the delay was not for long, and presently the group of officers returned, and stood in front of Dick's company. Colonel Masterly then announced, in a few, well-chosen words, that the young millionaire's cadets had won the prize, though, he added, that it had been difficult to decide, where there was so much general excellence displayed.

"And so allow me, Captain Hamilton, on behalf of the faculty of the Kentfield Military Academy, to present you and your company this medal," went on Colonel Masterly, and stepping forward he handed Dick a small box, on the white satin lining of which glittered a shield of gold.

"Three cheers for Captain Hamilton and Company B!" called Captain Teddy Naylor, of Company E.

And, though it might have been against strict military rule and practice the applause was given with a will. Dick flushed with pleasure as he saluted, and soon ranks were broken, and the inspection was over.

"Has any one seen Grit?" asked the successful captain, as he and some chums were strolling over the parade ground, after they had left their rifles in the armory racks.

"Here he comes now," remarked Paul Drew. "They had to keep him double chained, I guess, or he'd have nipped the legs of the entire faculty in case the medal hadn't gone to Company B."

"Hi, Grit, old boy!" cried Dick, and a handsome bulldog—that is, handsome as bulldogs go—leaped upon the youth, and wagged his stump of a tail so violently that it was a wonder it was not dislocated, while, at every word from his master, the animal grew so demonstrative that finally, in the excess of joy, he finally rolled over and over on the grass, whoofing out the words he could not speak.

The throng of cadets separated, as the various members of the little party started for their rooms, to get off the tight dress uniforms, and don fatigue suits.

"I say, will you fellows come around to-night?" asked Dick.

"Sure! What for?" asked Paul.

"I'm going to have a little spread in honor of our fellows getting the medal."

"What a thing it is to be a millionaire!" exclaimed Perkins with a mock sigh.

"Oh, cut it out," advised Dick good-naturedly, for he disliked any reference to his wealth, which, at times, was a handicap rather than a help.

"Will Jimmie let you have the grub-fest?" asked Paul, using the cadets' private title for their superintendent.

"Sure. He can't refuse very wxll, after we won the prize. You fellows come around, and we'll have some fun," and, as there came a chorus of eager assents, Dick Hamilton hurried to his room.

There, even before he rid himself of his uncomfortable uniform, he drew from his pocket a letter which he began to read for perhaps the fifth time. As he perused it a puzzled look came over his face.

"I can't understand why dad is so anxious for me to come home and do some investigating for him," he mused. "I wonder what sort of investigating it can be? Maybe he wants me to turn detective. Perhaps some persons have been demanding money from him, and he wants to find out who they are. Yet it can hardly be that, either. Let's see what he says about it."

Then the young millionaire, who had been so taken up with trying for the annual prize offered for the best appearing company, that he had not had time to properly read a very important letter he had received from his father that day, set himself to the task of trying to fathom what his parent wanted him to do.

He had not read more than a dozen lines, when there sounded a knock on his door, and, opening it he saw one of the janitors, Corporal Bill Handlee, standing there.

"Well, what is it, Toots?" asked the lad, giving the old soldier the name bestowed on him from the fact that he was always whistling military airs.

"Colonel Masterly wishes to see you, Captain Hamilton."

"All right. Tell him I'll be with him at once."

Dick slipped the letter into his pocket, adjusted his uniform, and hastened out.

"I wonder if I'll ever get time to read my letter without being interrupted," he mused.