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10. Rebellion
When the cadets returned to school and routine life was resumed the young soldiers were loud in their praises of Don and Jim. They admired the fortitude with which Don had kept quiet and calm when he had learned of Jim’s plight, and they admired Jim’s plucky action. And most of them were surprised at the changed attitude of Cadet Vench.

Up to that time the little cadet had been intensely disliked and he had few friends. A few of the students who knew him better than the others called to pay their respects to the injured man and they returned to tell strange tales of a completely changed Vench. He had lost his air of superiority and his boastfulness and he led the way in praising his recent enemy. His injuries were not grave, but he had been badly shaken and at the advice of the doctor he remained in his room and did his studying there. The gash in his head healed rapidly.

He told his story several times and the cadets were much interested in it. He had just reached the top of the hill when the second round of artillery fire had started and he was scared and bewildered. He had started to run for the shelter of the trees, hoping that the fire would cease long enough to give him a chance to roll backward down the hill. But as he lay there a stone had hit him and that was the last he had known until he found himself in the field hospital.

The cadets discussed the carelessness of the major in low tones, and the general opinion was that he would say nothing concerning it all. But in this they were mistaken. On the evening following their return to Woodcrest a large group was standing on the campus in the light of Locke Hall when Second Lieutenant Stillman came out of the door and started toward Inslee Hall, where he roomed. Rhodes noted a look of dejection and anger on the face of the cadet officer and hailed him.

“Hi there, Stillman,” he said. “What’s the matter with your face?”

“You mean the expression of it?” asked Stillman ruefully.

“Why, yes,” laughed Rhodes. “Now that I take notice of it, the face itself is all right. But the look that is on it at present doesn’t draw any favorable comment.”

“I’ve had a mean time in there,” said Stillman, jerking his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the main hall. “Major Tireson called me down for that affair at the hill.”

“For sending Vench over?” asked Dallenger, a third class man.

“Yes,” nodded Stillman.

“But you didn’t take it, did you?” inquired Don.

“Why, yes, I suppose I did. I more or less had to.”

“You did not,” said Cadet Chipps. “The major asked you if you had received the orders and you said that you had received them two days previous. Instead of checking up on you to see if you had the correct ones he let you go on. It distinctly was not your fault.”

“Well, he said it was, and he talked pretty hotly, too, I assure you. Naturally, I couldn’t talk back to the major.”

“You certainly could have,” retorted Don. “You didn’t have to be snappy about it, but as long as you were in the right you should have stood firm.”

“Maybe,” shrugged Stillman, moving away. “But that’s easier said than done.”

Talk concerning the major became more pointed and it is probable that some of it reached his ears. At any rate, on that very night, as Don, Jim and Terry were studying in their room there came a knock on the door and Jim bade the knocker enter. The door opened to admit the major and all three boys rose quickly and saluted. The major returned the salute shortly and faced Jim.

“Mr. Mercer,” he said. “I want to take this opportunity to speak to you. Do you feel well enough to talk?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Jim wonderingly.

“I just want to tell you that I did not approve of your rash act at Hill 31,” said the major, excitement growing on him. “I understand that some of the cadets think you quite a hero and that in consequence you may become heir to a swelled head. I personally do not think that you did anything commendable, and you greatly endangered me by your foolishness. If anything had happened to you I would have been blamed. In the future you will be kind enough to mind your own business and stick to orders. You will perhaps recall that you had no orders to make any melodramatic dash up the hill in the face of the artillery fire. Do you understand?”

“I do,” said Jim, his eyes flashing. “But I do not need orders to make me try to help someone out of difficulty, sir!”

“That will do,” snapped the major. “You will find out that this is a military school and not a place where you can do as you like. I will place twenty-five demerits beside your name for what you did that day.”

“Very well, sir,” said Jim, calmly.

“Wait a minute, Major Tireson,” said Don, with equal quietness, but with a determined look in the set of his jaw. “You will do nothing of the kind!”

The major’s eyes bulged. “Silence, sir! How dare you speak to me when I am not even addressing you?”

“I repeat what I said,” returned Don, coolly. “You will place no demerit marks against Jim’s name. We both expect to graduate from here with clean records and we will permit no marks to be placed against us unless we knowingly break the rules. Jim didn’t do that and so you will not do what you said you will do!”

“Mercer,” snarled the major. “I will order you under arrest!”

“You may do what you like,” retorted Don. “But it will do you no good. Every cadet in this school knows that what happened is your fault, Major Tireson, and not anyone else’s. Every cadet is blaming Lieutenant Stillman for having taken demerit marks from you. You yourself know that you made no effort to check up and find out if the second lieutenant knew his orders, and under those circumstances Jim will not take any punishment from you or from anyone else!”

For one moment the temporary headmaster glared at him and then his tone became cold. “Report yourself under arrest, Mr. Mercer,” he commanded.

“Certainly, sir,” agreed Don with composure. “Until tomorrow evening, and if you have not released me by the............
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