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Dave Darrin's Fourth Year at Annapolis by H. Irving Hancock

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"Brace up, Army!" was the word passed through West Point's eleven.

"Good old Darry!" chuckled Wolgast, and, though he did not like
to work Darrin too hard at the outset, yet it was also worth while
to shake the Army nerve as much as possible. So Wolgast signaled
quarterback to send the ball once more by Midshipman Dave.

Another seven yards was gained by Darrin. The West Point men
were gasping, more from chagrin than from actual physical strain.
Was it going to prove impossible to stop these mad Navy rushes?

Then Wolgast reluctantly as he saw Dave limp slightly, decided
upon working Page and Farley a little harder just at present.
So back the ball traveled to the right flank was making, however,
the Navy cheermaster started a triumphant yell going, in which
nearly eight hundred midshipmen joined with all their lung power.

Of course, the Army cheermaster came back with a stirring West
Point yell, but one spectator, behind the side lines, turned and
bawled at the Army cheermaster:

"That's right, young man! Anything on earth to keep up your crowd's
courage!"

In the laugh that followed many a gray-clad cadet joined simply
because he could not help himself.

"If we don't break at some point it's all ours to-day," Wolgast
was informing the players nearest him. "I've never seen Darry
so wildly capable as he is right now. The demon of victory seems
to have seized him."

Dave's limp had vanished. He was ready for work---aching for
it. Wolgast worked his left flank once more, and the Army was
sorely pressed.

"Brace up, Army!" was the word passing again among the West Point
men. Douglass, captain of the Army team, was scolding under his
breath.

But straight on Darrin and Dalzell worked the ball. It was when
Wolgast decided to rest his left that Farley and Page came in
for more work. These two midshipmen were excellent football men,
but the Army's left was well defended. The Navy lost the ball
on downs. But the Army boys were sweating, for the Navy was now
within nine yards of goal line.

The Army fought it back, gaining just half a yard too little in
three plays, so the ball came back to the blue and gold ranks of
the Navy.

"Brace, Army!" was the word that Cadet Douglass passed. "And
look out, on the right, for Darrin and Dalzell!"

There was a feint of sending the ball to Farley, but Darrin had
it instead. The entire Army line, however, was alert for this
very trick. Playing in sheer desperation, the cadets stopped
the midshipmen when but a yard and a half had been gained. With
the next play the gain was but half a yard. The third play was
blocked, and once more the cadets received the pigskin.

Both Army and Navy cheermasters now refrained from inviting din.
Those of the spectators who boosted for the Army were now silent,
straining their vision and holding their breath. It began to
look, this year, as though the Navy could do with the Army as
it pleased.

Wolgast lined his men up for a fierce onslaught Darrin and Dalzell,
panting, looked like a pair who would die in their tracks ere
allowing the ball to go by them.

In a moment more the Army signal was being called out crisply. The
whistle sounded, and both elevens were in instant action.

But the cadets failed to get through. The middies were driving
them back. In sheer desperation the cadet with the ball turned
and dropped behind the Army goal line---a safety.

CHAPTER XIV

THE NAVY GOAT GRINS

All at once the Navy band chopped out a few swift measures of
triumphant melody.

The entire Brigade of Midshipmen cheered under its cheermaster.
Thousands of blue and gold Navy banners fluttered through the
stands.

That safety had counted two on the score for the Navy.

Given breathing time, the Army now brought the ball out toward
midfield, and once more the savage work began. The Navy had gained
ten yards, when the time-keeper signaled the end of the first
period.

As the players trotted off the Navy was exultant, the Army depressed.
Captain Douglass was scowling.

"You fellows will have to brace!" he snapped. "Are you going
to let the little middies run over us?"

"I shall have no bad feeling, suh, if you think it well to put
a fresh man in my place, suh," replied Cadet Anstey.

"Hang it, I don't want a man in your place!" retorted Douglass
angrily. "I want you, and every other man, Anstey, to do each
better work than was done in that period. Hang it, fellows, the
middies are making sport of us."

Among the Navy players there was not so much talk. All were deeply
contented with events so far.

"I've no remarks to make, fellows," Captain Wolgast remarked.
"You are all playing real football."

"At any rate Darry and his grinning twin are," chuckled Jetson.
"My, but you can see the hair rise on the Army right flank when
Darry and Danny leap at them!"

In the second period, which started off amid wild yelling from
the onlookers, the Army fought hard and fiercely, holding back
the Navy somewhat. During the period two of the cadets were so
badly hurt that the surgeons ordered them from the field. Two
fresh subs. came into the eleven, and after that the Army seemed
endowed with a run of better luck. The second period closed with
no change in the score, though at the time of the timekeeper's
interference the Navy had the ball within eleven yards of the
Army goal line.

"We've got the Navy stopped, now, I think," murmured Douglass
to his West Point men. "All we've got to do now is to keep 'em
stopped."

"If they don't break our necks, or make us stop from heart failure,
suh," replied Cadet Anstey, with a grimace.

"We've got the Army tired enough. We must go after them in the
third period," announced Captain Wolgast.

But this did not happen until the third time that the Navy got
the pigskin. Then Darrin and Dalzell, warned, began to run the
ball down the field. Here a new feint was tried. When the Navy
started in motion every Army man was sure that Wolgast was going
to try to put through a center charge. It was but a ruse, however.
Darrin had the pigskin, and Dalzell was boosting him through.
The entire Navy line charged with the purpose of one man. There
came the impact, and then the Army line went down. Darrin was
charging, Dalzell and Jetson running over all who got in the way.
The halfback on that side of the field was dodged. Dalzell and
Jetson bore down on the victim at the same instant, and Dave,
running to the side like a flash, had the ball over the line.

Wolgast himself made the kick to follow, and the score was now
eight to nothing.

The applause that followed was enough to turn wiser heads. When
play was resumed the Army was fighting mad. It was now victory
or death for the soldier boys. The West Point men were guilty
of no fouls. They played squarely and like gentlemen, but they
cared nothing for snapping muscles and sinews. Before the mad
work the Navy was borne back. Just before the close of the third
period, the Navy was forced to make a safety on its own account.

"But Wolgast was satisfied, and the Navy coaches more than pleased.

"There's a fourth period coming," Wolgast told himself. "But
for Darry and his splendid interference the Army would get our
scalp yet. Darry looks to be all right, and I believe he is.
He'll hold out for the fourth."

Eight to two, and the game three quarters finished. The Army
cheermaster did his duty, but did it half dejectedly, the cadets
following with rolling volumes of noise intended to mask sinking
hearts. When it came the Navy's turn to yell, the midshipmen
risked the safety of their windpipes. The Naval Academy Band
was playing with unwonted joy.

"Fellows, nothing on earth will save us but a touchdown and a
kick," called Douglass desperately, when he got his West Point
men aside. "That will tie the score. It's our best chance to-day."

"Unless, suh," gravely observed Anstey, "We can follow that by
driving the midshipmen into a safety."

"And we could do even that, if we had Prescott and Holmesy here,"
thought Douglass, with sinking heart to himself. He was careful
not to repeat that sentiment audibly.

"Holmesy ought to be here to-day, and working," growled one of
the Army subs. "He's a sneak, just to desert on Mr. Prescott's
account."

"None of that!" called Doug sharply.

The Army head coach came along, talking quietly but forcefully
to the all but discouraged cadets. Then he addressed himself
to Douglass, explaining what he thought were next to the weakest
points in the Navy line.

"You ought to be able to save the score yet, Mr. Douglass," wound
up coach.

"I wish some one else had the job!" sighed Doug to himself.

"Fellows, the main game that is left," explained Wolgast to the
midshipmen, "is to keep West Point from scoring. As to our own
points, we have enough now---though more will be welcome."

Play began in the fourth period. At first it was nip and tuck,
neck and neck. But the Army braced and put the pigskin within
sixteen yards of the Navy's goal line. Then the men from Annapolis
seemed suddenly to wake up. Darrin, who had had little to do
in the last few plays, was now sent to the front again. Steadily,
even brilliantly, he, Dalzell and Jetson figured in the limelight
plays. Yard after yard was gained, while the Army eleven shivered.
At last it came to the inevitable. The Army was forced to use
another safety. Stinging under the sense of defeat, the cadet
players put that temporary chance to such good advantage that
they gradually got the pigskin over into Naval territory. But
there the midshipmen held it until the timekeeper interposed.

The fourth period and the game were over. West Point had gone
down in a memorable, stinging defeat. The Navy had triumphed,
ten to two.

What a crash came from the Naval Academy Band! Yet the Military
Academy Band, catching the spirit and the tune, joined in, and
both bands blared forth, the musicians making themselves heard
faintly through all the tempest of huzzas.

Dave Darrin smiled faintly as he hurried away from the field.
All his personal interest in football had vanished. He had played
his last game of football and was glad that the Navy had won;
that was about all.

Yet he was not listless---far from it. On the contrary Dave fairly
ran to dressing quarters, hustled under a shower and then began
to towel and dress.

For out in the audience, well he knew, had sat Belle Meade and
her mother.

"Darry, you're a wonder!" cried Wolgast. "Every time to-day we
called upon you you were ready with the push."

But Dave, rushing through his dressing, barely heard this and
other praise that was showered on him.

"I'll get along before assembly time, Davy," whispered Dan Dalzell.

"Come along now," Dave called back.

"Oh, no! I know that you and Belle want some time to yourselves,"
murmured Dalzell wisely. "I'll get along at the proper time."

Dave didn't delay to argue. He stepped briskly outside, then
into the field, his eyes roving over the thousands of spectators
who still lingered. At last a waving little white morsel of a
handkerchief rewarded Darrin's search.

"Oh, you did just splendidly to-day," was Belle's enthusiastic
greeting, as Dave stepped up to the young lady and her mother.
"I've heard lots of men say that it was all Darrin's victory."

"Yes; you're the hero of Franklin Field, this year," smiled Mrs.
Meade.

"Laura Bentley and her mother didn't come over?" Dave inquired
presently.

"No; of course not----after the way that the cadets used Dick
Prescott," returned Belle. "Wasn't it shameful of the cadets
to treat a man like Dick in that fashion?"

"I have my opinion, of course," Dave replied moodily, "but it's
hardly for a midshipman to criticise the cadets for their own
administration of internal discipline in their own corps. The
absence of Prescott and Holmes probably cost the Army the game
to-day."

"Not a bit of it!" Belle disputed warmly. "Dave, don't belittle
your own superb work in that fashion! The Army would have lost
to-day if the West Point eleven had been made up exclusively of
Prescotts and Holmeses!"

As Belle spoke thus warmly her gaze wandered, resting, though
not by intent, on the face of a young Army officer passing at
that moment.

"If the remark was made to me, miss," smiled the Army officer,
"I wish to say that I wholly agree with you. The Navy's playing
was the most wonderful that I ever saw."

Dave, in the meantime, had saluted, then stood at attention until
the Army officer had passed.

"There!" cried Belle triumphantly. "You have it from the other
side, now---from the enemy."

"Hardly from the enemy," replied Dave, laughing. "Between the
United States Army and the United States Navy there can never
be a matter of enmity. Annually, in football, the Army and Navy
teams are opponents---rivals, perhaps---but never enemies."

Mrs. Meade had strolled away for a few yards, the better to leave
the young people by themselves.

"Dave," announced Belle almost sternly, "you've simply got to
say something savage about the action of the West Point men in
sending Dick Prescott to Coventry."

"The West Point men didn't do it," rejoined Dave. "It was all
done by the members of the first class alone."

"Well, then, you must say something very disagreeable about the
first class at the Military Academy."

"But why?" persisted Dave Darrin. He was disgusted enough over
the action of the first class cadets, but, being in the service
himself, he felt it indelicate in him to criticise the action
of the cadets of the United States Military Academy.

"Why?" repeated Belle. "Why, simply because Laura Bentley will
insist on asking me when I get home what you had to say about
Dick's case. If I can't tell Laura that you said something pretty
nearly awful, then Laura will be terribly hurt."

"Shall I swear?" asked Dave innocently.

Belle opened her eyes wide in amazement.

"No, you won't swear," Belle retorted. "Profanity isn't the
accomplishment of a gentleman. But you must say something about
Dick's case which will show her that all of Dick's friends are
standing by the poor fellow."

"But, Belle, you know it isn't considered very manly for a fellow
in one branch of the service to say anything against fellows in
the other branch."

"Not even---for Laura's sake?"

"Oh, well," proposed Midshipman Darrin, squirming about between
the horns of the dilemma, "you just think of whatever will please
Laura most to hear from me."

"Yes-----?" pressed Miss Meade.

"Then tell it to her and say that I said it."

"But how can I say that you said it if you didn't say it?" demanded
Belle, pouting prettily.

"Easiest thing in the world, Belle. I authorize you, fully, to
say whatever you like about Dick, as coming from me. If I authorize
you to say it, then you won't be fibbing, will you?"

Belle had to think that over. It was a bit of a puzzle, as must
be admitted.

"Now, let's talk about ourselves," Darrin pressed her. "I see
Danny boy coming, with that two-yard grin of his, and we won't
have much further chance to talk about ourselves."

The two young people, therefore, busied themselves with personal
talk. Dan drifted along, but merely raised his cap to Belle,
then stationed himself by Mrs. Meade's side.

It was not until Dave signaled quietly that Dalzell came over
to take Belle's proffered hand and chat for a moment.

The talk was all too short for all concerned. A call of the bugle
signaled the midshipmen to leave friends and hasten back for assembly.

It was not until the train had started away from Philadelphia
that Dave and Dan were all but mobbed by way of congratulation.
Wolgast, Jetson, Farley, Page and others also came in for their
share of good words.

"And to think, Darry, that you can never play on the Navy eleven
again!" groaned a second classman.

"You'll have some one else in my place," laughed Dave.

"The Navy never before had a football player like you, and we'll
never have one again," insisted the same man. "Dalzell's kind
come once in about every five years, but your kind, Darry, never
come back---in the Navy!"

CHAPTER XV

DAN FEELS AS "SOLD" AS HE LOOKS

It was the first hop after the New Year.

"Tell me one thing Dave," begged Belle Meade, who, with Laura
Bentley, and accompanied by Mrs. Meade, had come down to Annapolis
for this dance.

"I'll tell you two things, if I know how," Darrin responded promptly.

"Dan has danced a little with Laura, to be sure, but he introduced
Mr. Farley to her, and has written down Farley's name for a lot of
dances on Laura's card."

"Farley is a nice fellow," Dave replied. "But why didn't Dan
want more of the dances with Laura, instead of turning them over
to Mr. Farley?" followed up Belle. "And---there he goes now."

"Farley?"

"No, stupid! Dan."

"Well, why shouldn't he move about?" Midshipman Darrin inquired.

"But with---By the way, who is that girl, anyway?"

The girl was tall, rather stately and of a pronounced blonde type.
She was a girl who would have been called more than merely pretty
by any one who had seen her going by on Midshipman Dalzell's arm.

"I don't really know who she is," Dave admitted.

"Have you seen her here before?"

"Yes; I think I have seen the young lady half a dozen times before
to-night."

"Then it's odd that you don't know who she is," pursued Miss Meade.

"I've never been introduced to her, you see."

"Oh! I imagined that you midshipmen were always being presented
to girls."

"That's a fairy tale," said Dave promptly. "The average midshipman
has about all he can do to hold his place here, without losing
any time in running around making the acquaintances of young women
who probably don't care at all about knowing him."

"What I'm wondering about," Belle went on, "is whether the young
woman we have been discussing is any one in whom Dan Dalzell is
seriously interested."

"I'll ask Dan."

"Oh! And I suppose you'll tell him that it's I who really want
to know."

"I'll tell him that, too, if you wish it."

"Dave, you won't even mention my name to Dan in connection with
any topic so silly."

"All right, Belle. All I want is my sailing orders. I know how
to follow them."

"You're teasing me," Miss Meade went on, pouting. "I don't mean
to be curious, but I noticed that Dan appears to be quite attentive
to the young lady, and I was wondering whether Dan had met his
fate---that's all."

"I don't know," smiled Midshipman Darrin, "and I doubt if Dan
does, either. He's just the kind of fellow who might ignore girls
for three years, then be ardently attentive to one for three
days---and forget all about her in a week."

"Is Dan such a flirt as that?" Belle demanded, looking horrified.

"Dan---a flirt!" chuckled Dave. "I shall have to tell that to
some of the fellows; it will amuse them. No; I wouldn't call
Dan a flirt. He's anything but that. Dan will either remain
a bachelor until he's past forty, or else some day he'll marry
suddenly after having known the girl at least twenty-four hours.
Dan hasn't much judgment where girls are concerned."

"He appears to be able to tell a pretty girl when he sees one,"
argued Belle Meade, turning again to survey Dan's companion.

Belle, with the sharp eyes and keen intuition of her sex, was
quite justified in believing that Midshipman Dalzell realized
fully the charms of the girl with whom he was talking.

Miss Catharine Atterly was the only daughter of wealthy parents,
though her father had started life as a poor boy. Daniel Atterly,
however, had been shrewd enough to know the advantages of a better
education than he had been able to absorb in his boyhood. Miss
Catharine, therefore, had been trained in some of the most expensive,
if not the best, schools in the country. She was a buxom, healthy
girl, full of the joy of living, yet able to conceal her enthusiasm
under the polish that she had acquired in the schools she had
attended. Miss Atterly, on coming to Annapolis, had conceived
a considerable liking for the Naval uniform, and had attracted
Dan to her side within the last three days. And Dan had felt
his heart beating faster when nearing this pretty young creature.

Now, he was endeavoring to display himself to the best advantage
before her eyes.

"You midshipmen have a very graceful knack of being charmingly
attentive to the ladies," Miss Atterly suggested coyly.

"We receive a little bit of training in social performance, if
that is what you mean, Miss Atterly," Dan replied.

"And that enables you to be most delightfully attentive to every
girl that comes along?"

"I don't know," Midshipman Dalzell replied slowly. "I haven't
had much experience."

Miss Atterly laughed as though she felt certain that she knew
better.

"Do you say that to every girl?" she asked.

"I don't get many chances," Dan insisted. "Miss Atterly, all
the hops that I've attended could be counted on your fingers,
without using the thumbs?"

"Oh, really?"

"It is the truth, I assure you. Some of the midshipmen attend
many hops. Most of us are too busy over our studies as a rule."

"Then you prefer books to the society of girls?"

"It isn't that," replied Dan, growing somewhat red under Miss
Atterly's amused scrutiny. "The fact is that a fellow comes here
to the Naval Academy for the purpose of becoming an officer in
the Navy."

"To be sure."

"And, unless the average fellow hugs his books tightly he doesn't
have any show to get through and become an officer. There are
some fellows, of course, to whom the studies come easily. With
most of us it's a terrible grind. Even with the grind about forty
per cent. of the fellows who enter the Naval Academy are found
deficient and are dropped. If you are interested in knowing,
I had a fearful time in keeping up with the requirements."

"Oh, you poor boy!" cried Miss Atterly half tenderly.

"I never felt that I wanted any sympathy," Dan declared stoutly.
"If I couldn't keep up, then the only thing to do was to go back
to civil life and find my own level among my own kind."

"Now, that was truly brave in you!" declared Miss Atterly, admiration
shining in her eyes.

"There's the music starting," Dan hastily reminded her. "Our
dance."

"Would it seem disagreeable in me if I asked you to sit out this
number with me?" inquired the girl. "The truth is, I can dance
any evening, but you and your brave fight here, Mr. Dalzell, interest
me---oh, more than I can tell you!"

Under this line of conversation Midshipman Dalzell soon began
to feel highly uncomfortable. Miss Atterly, however, in getting
Dan to talk of the midshipman and the Naval life, soon had him
feeling at his ease. Nor could Dalzell escape noticing the fact
that Miss Atterly appeared to enjoy his company hugely.

Then Dan was led on into talking of the life of the Naval officer
at sea, and he spoke eloquently.

"A life of bravery and daring," commented Miss Atterly thoughtfully.
"Yet, after all, I would call it rather a lonely life."

"Perhaps it will prove so," Dalzell assented. "Yet it is all the
life that I look forward to. It's all the life that I care about."

"Despite the loneliness---or rather, because of it---it will seem
all the finer and more beautiful to come home to wife and children,"
said Miss Atterly after a pause. "Nearly all Naval officers marry,
don't they?"

"I---I believe they do," Dalzell stammered. "I---I never asked
any Naval officers for statistics."

"Now, you are becoming droll," cried Miss Atterly, her laughter
ringing out.

"I didn't mean to be," Dan protested. "I beg your pardon."

Whereat Miss Atterly laughed more than ever.

"I like you even better when you're droll," Miss Atterly informed
him.

Something in the way that she said it pleased Midshipman Dalzell
so immensely that he began to notice, more than before, what a
very fine girl Miss Atterly was. Then, to win her applause, Dan
made the mistake of trying to be funny, whereat the girl was extremely
kind.

"Dave," whispered Belle soon after the music had stopped, "I can't
get away from the belief that Dan's companion is leading him on.
See! Dan now looks at her almost adoringly."

Laura Bentley, too, had noticed Dan's preoccupation, but she merely
smiled within herself. She did not believe that Dan could really
be serious where girls were concerned. Now, as Laura's midshipman
partner led her to a seat, and soon left her, Dan, tearing himself
away from Miss Atterly, came to remind Laura that his name was
written on her card for the next dance.

"Very fine girl I've been talking with, Laura," Dan confided in
the straightforward way that he had always used with Miss Bentley,
who was such a very old school friend.

"She certainly is very pretty," Laura nodded.

"And---er---distinguished looking, don't you think?" Dan ventured.

"Yes, indeed."

"But I was speaking more of her character---at least, her disposition.
Miss Atterly is highly sympathetic. I wish you'd meet her, Laura."

"I shall be delighted to do so, Dan."

"After this dance, then? And I want Belle to meet her, too.
Miss Atterly has noticed you both, and was much interested when
she learned that you were old school-day friends of mine."

So, after the music had ceased, Dan escorted Laura over to where
Dave and Belle were chatting.

"Belle," asked Dan in his most direct way, "will you come and
be introduced to Miss Atterly?"

"The young lady you've been dancing with so much?" Miss Meade
inquired. "The tall, stately blonde?"

"Yes," Dan nodded.

"I shall be glad to meet Miss Atterly. But how about her? Do
you think she could stand the shock?"

"Miss Atterly is very anxious to meet you both," Dalzell assured
Belle.

"Take me over and shock her, then," laughed Belle.

Dan stood gazing about the scene. "I---I wonder where Miss Atterly
is?" Dan mused aloud.

"Oh, I can tell you," Belle answered. "A moment ago she went
through the entrance over yonder."

"Alone?"

"No; an older woman, probably Miss Atterly's mother, was with
her."

"Oh! Let's look them up, then, if you don't mind."

As Belle rose, taking Dave's arm, Dan and Laura took the lead.

Just beyond the entrance that Belle had indicated no one else
was in sight when the four young friends reached the spot. There
was a clump of potted tropical shrubbery at one side.

On the other side of this shrubbery sat Mrs. and Miss Atterly,
engaged in conversation.

"Why do you prefer to sit in this out-of-the-way place, Catharine?"
her mother inquired, just as the young people came up.

"I want to get away from two rather goodlooking but very ordinary
girls that Mr. Dalzell wants to present to me, mamma," she replied.

"If they are midshipmen's friends are they too ordinary to know?"
inquired Mrs. Atterly.

"Mamma, if I am going to interest Mr. Dalzell, I don't want other
girls stepping in at every other moment. I don't want to know
his girl friends."

"Are you attracted to Mr. Dalzell, Cathy?" asked her mother.

"Not especially, I assure you, mamma."

"Oh, then it is not a serious affair."

"It may be," laughed the girl lightly. "If I can learn to endure
Mr. Dalzell, then I may permit him to marry me when he is two
years older and has his commission."

"Even if you don't care much for him?" asked Mrs. Atterly, almost
shocked.

"If I marry," pouted Miss Atterly, "I don't want a husband that
leaves the house every morning, and returns every evening."

"Cathy!"

"Well, I don't! In some ways I suppose it's nice to be a married
woman. One has more freedom in going about alone. Now, a Naval
officer, mamma, would make the right sort of husband for me.
He'd be away, much of the time, on long cruises."

"But I understand, Cathy, that sometimes a Naval officer has a
year or two of shore duty."

"If that happened," laughed the girl, "I could take a trip to
Europe couldn't I? And the social position of a Naval officer
isn't a bad one. His wife enjoys the same social position, you
know, mamma."

"Yet why Mr. Dalzell, if you really don't care anything about
him?"

"Because he's so simple, mamma. He would be dreadfully easy to
manage!"

The four young people looking for the Atterlys had unavoidably
heard every word. They halted, Dan violently red in the face.
Then Laura, with quick tact, wheeled about and led the way back
to the ball room floor.

"Better luck next time, Dan," whispered Belle, gripping Dalzell's
arm.

"Don't you think twice is enough for a simpleton like me?" blurted
Midshipman Dan.

CHAPTER XVI

THE DAY OF MANY DOUBTS

Busy days followed, days which, for some of the first classmen,
were filled with a curious discontent.

Some, to be sure, among these midshipmen soon to graduate, took
each day as it came, with little or no emotion. To them the Naval
life ahead was coming only as a matter of course. There were
others, however---and Dave Darrin was among them---who looked
upon a commission as an officer of the Navy as a sacred trust
given them by the nation.

Dave Darrin was one of those who, while standing above the middle
of his class, yet felt that he had not made sufficiently good
use of his time. To his way of thinking there was an appalling
lot in the way of Naval duties that he did not understand.

"I may get through here, and out of here, and in another couple
of years be a line or engineer officer," Midshipman Darrin confided
to his chum and roommate one day. "But I shall be only a half-baked
sort of officer."

"Well, are cubs ever anything more?" demanded Dan.

"Yes; Wolgast, for instance, is going to be something more. So
will Fenton and Day, and several others whom I could name."

"And so is Darrin," confidently predicted Midshipman Dalzell.

But Dave shook his head.

"No, no, Danny boy. The time was when I might have believed extremely
well of myself, but that day has gone by. When I entered the
Naval Academy I probably thought pretty well of myself. I've tried
to keep up with the pace here-----"

"And you've done it, and are going to do it right along," interjected
Midshipman Dalzell.

"No; it almost scares me when I look over the subjects that I'm
not really fit in. It's spring, now, and I'm only a few weeks
away from graduation, only something like two years this side
of a commission as ensign, and---and---Dan, I wonder if I'm honestly
fit to command a rowboat."

"You've got a brief grouch against yourself, Davy," muttered Dan.

"No; but I think I know what a Naval officer should be, and I
also know how far short I fall of what I should be."

"If you get your diploma," argued Midshipman Dalzell, "the faculty
of the Naval Academy will testify on the face of it that you're
a competent midshipman and on your way to being fit to hold an
ensign's commission presently."

"But that's just the point, Danny. I shall know, myself, that
I'm only a poor, dub sort of Naval officer. I tell you, Danny,
I don't know enough to be a good Naval officer."

"Then that's a reflection on your senior officers who have had
your training on hand," grinned Dalzell. "If you talk in the
same vein after you've gotten your diploma, it will amount to
a criticism of the intelligence of your superior officers. And
that's something that's wisely forbidden by the regulations."

Dan picked up a text-book and opened it, as though he believed
that he had triumphantly closed the discussion. Midshipman Darrin,
however, was not to be so easily silenced.

"Then, if you're not fitted to be a Naval officer," blurted Dalzell,
"what on earth can be said of me?"

"You may not stand quite as high as I do, on mere markings," Dave
assented. "But there are a lot of things, Danny, that you know
much better than I do."

"Name one of them," challenged Dalzell.

"Well, steam engineering, for instance. Now, I'm marked higher
in that than you are, Danny. Yet, when the engine on one of the
steamers goes wrong you can hunt around until you get the engine
to running smoothly. You're twice as clever at that as I am."

"Not all Naval officers are intended to be engineer officers,"
grunted Midshipman Dalzell. "If you don't feel clever enough
in that line, just put in your application for watch officer's
work."

"Take navigation," Dave continued. "I stand just fairly well
in the theory of the thing. But I've no real knack with a sextant."

"Well, the sextant is only a hog-yoke," growled Dalzell.

"Yes; but I shiver every time I pick up the hog-yoke under the
watchful gaze of an instructor."

"Humph! Only yesterday I heard Lieutenant-Commander Richards
compliment you for your work in nav."

"Yes; but that was the mathematical end. I'm all right on the
paper end and the theoretical work, but it's the practical end
that I'm afraid of."

"You'll get plenty of the practical work as soon as you graduate
and get to sea," Dan urged.

"Yes; and very likely make a chump of myself, like Digby, of last
year's class. Did you hear what he did in nav.?"

"No," replied Dalzell, looking up with real interest this times
"If Digby made a fool of himself I'll be glad to hear about it,
for Dig was always just a little bit too chesty to suit me."

"Well, Dig wasn't a bit chesty the first day that he was ordered
to shoot the sun," Dave laughed. "Dig took the sextant, and made
a prize shot, or thought he did. After he had got the sun, plumb
at noon, he lowered the instrument and made his reading most carefully.
Then he went into the chart room, and got busy with his calculations.
The longer Dig worked the worse his head ached. He stared at
his figures, tore them up and tried again. Six or eight times
he worked the problem over, but always with the same result.
The navigating officer, who had worked the thing out in two minutes,
sat back in his chair and looked bored. You see, Dig's own eyes
had told him that the ship was working north, and about five miles
off the coast of New Jersey. But his figures told him that the
ship was anchored in the old fourth ward of the city of Newark.
Try as he would, Dig couldn't get the battleship away from that
ward."

Dan Dalzell leaned back, laughing uproariously at the mental picture
that this story of Midshipman Digby brought up in his mind.

"It sounds funny, when you hear it," Dave went on. "But I sometimes
shiver over the almost certainty that I'm going to do something
just as bad when I get to sea. If I get sent to the engine room
I'll be likely to fill the furnaces with water and the boilers
with coal."

"Rot!" objected Dan. "You're not crazy---not even weak-minded."

"Or else, if I'm put to navigating, I'm fairly likely to bring
the battleship into violent collision with the Chicago Limited,
over in Ohio."

"Come out of that funk, Davy!" ordered his chum.

"I'm trying to, Danny boy; but there's many an hour when I feel
that I haven't learned here all that I should have learned, and
that I'll be miles behind the newest ensigns and lieutenants."

"There's just about one thing for you to do, then," proposed Dan.

"Resign?" queried Darrin, looking quizzically at his chum.

"Not by a long sight. Just go in for a commission as second lieutenant
of marines. You can get that and hold it. A marine officer doesn't
have to know anything but the manual of arms and a few other little
simple things."

"But a marine officer isn't a real sailor, Danny. He lives and
works on a warship, to be sure, but he's more of a soldier. Now,
as it happens, my whole heart and soul are wrapped up in being
a Naval officer---a real Naval officer."

"With that longing, and an Annapolis diploma," teased Dalzell,
"there is just one thing to do."

"What?"

"Beat your way to the realization of your dream. You've got a
thundering good start."

Midshipman Dave Darrin was not the kind to communicate his occasional
doubts to anyone except his roommate. Had Darrin talked on the
subject with other members of his class he would have found that
many of his classmates were tortured by the same doubts that assailed
him. With midshipmen who were destined to get their diplomas
such doubts were to be charged only to modesty, and were therefore
to their credit. Yet, every spring dozens of Annapolis first
classmen are miserable, instead of feeling the joyous appeal of
the budding season. They are assailed by just such fears as had
reached Dave Darrin.

Dalzell, on the other hand, was tortured by no such dreads. He
went hammering away with marvelous industry, and felt sure, in
his own mind, that he would be retired, in his sixties, an honored
rear admiral.

Had there been only book studies some of the first classmen would
have broken down under the nervous strain. However, there was
much to be done in the shops---hard, physical labor, that had
to be performed in dungaree clothing; toil of the kind that plastered
the hard-worked midshipmen with grime and soot. There were drills,
parades, cross-country marches. The day's work at the Naval Academy,
at any season of the year, is arranged so that hard mental work
is always followed by lively physical exertion, much of it in
the open air.

Dalzell, returning one afternoon from the library encountered
Midshipman Farley, who was looking unaccountably gloomy.

"What's the trouble, Farl---dyspepsia?" grinned Dan, linking one
arm through his friend's. "Own up!"

"Danny, I'm in the dumps," confessed Farley. "I hate to acknowledge
it, but I've been fearfully tempted, for the last three days, to send
in my resignation."

"What's her name?" grinningly demanded Dalzell, who had bravely
recovered from his own two meetings with Venus.

"It isn't a girl---bosh!" jeered Farley. "There's only one girl
in the world I'm interested in---and she's my kid sister."

"Then why this talk of resigning."

"Danny, I'm simply afraid that I'm not made of the stuff to make
a competent Naval officer. My markings are all right, but I know
that I don't know enough to take a sailboat out and bring it back."

"Oh, is that all?" cried Dalzell laughingly. "Then I know just
what you want."

"What?"

"Drop into our room and have a talk with Darry. Dave knows just
how to comfort and cheer a fellow who has that glum bug in his
head of cabbage. Come right along!"

Dan almost forced Farley to the door of the room, opened it and
shoved the modest midshipman inside.

"Darry," Dan called joyously, "here's a case for your best talents.
Farley has a pet bee in his bonnet that he isn't fit to be a
Naval officer. He doesn't know enough. So he's going to resign.
I've told him you'll know just how to handle his case. Go after
him, now!"

Midshipman Dalzell pulled the door shut, chuckling softly to himself,
and marched back to the library. It was just before the call
for supper formation when Dan returned from "boning" in the library.

"Did you brace Farl up, Davy?" demanded Dan.

"You grinning idiot!" laughed Darrin. "What on earth made you bring
him to me?"

"Because I thought you needed each other."

"Well, perhaps we did," laughed Midshipman Darrin. "At any rate
I've been hammering at Farl all the time that he wasn't hammering
at me. I certainly feel better, and I hope that he does."

"You both needed the same thing," declared Dan, grinning even
more broadly as he picked up his hair brushes.

"What did we need?"

"You've both been studying so hard that your brain cells are clogged."

"But what did Farley and I both need?" insisted Midshipman Darrin.

"Mental exercise---brain-sparring," rejoined Dalzell. "You both
needed something that could take you out of the horrible daily
grooves that you've been sailing in lately. You both needed something
to stir you up---and I hope you gave each other all the excitement
you could."

In the way of a stirring-up something was about to happen that
was going to stir up the whole first class---if not the entire
brigade.

Nor was Dave Darrin to escape being one of the central figures
in the excitement.

Here is the way in which the whole big buzzing-match got its start
and went on to a lively finish.

CHAPTER XVII

MR. CLAIRY DEALS IN OUTRAGES

"Mr. Darrin!"

With that hail proceeded sharply from the lips of a first classman,
who on this evening happened to be the midshipman in charge of
the floor.

Clairy sat at his desk in the corridor, his eyes on a novel until
Dave happened along. As he gave the sharp hail Mr. Clairy thrust
his novel under a little pile of text-books.

"Well, sir?" inquired Dave, halting. "Mr. Darrin, what do you
mean by coming down the corridor with both shoes unlaced."

"They are not unlaced," retorted Dave, staring in amazement at
Midshipman Clairy.

"They are not now---true."

"And they haven't been unlaced, sir, since I first laced them
on rising this morning."

"Don't toy with the truth, Mr. Darrin!" rang Clairy's voice sternly.

"If my shoes had been unlaced, they would still be unlaced, wouldn't
they, sir?" demanded Dave.

"No; for you have laced them since I spoke to you about it!"

This was entirely too much for Darrin, who gulped, gasped, and
then stared again at the midshipman in charge of the floor.

Then, suddenly, a light dawned on Dave. He grinned almost as
broadly as Dan Dalzell could have done.

"Come, come, now, Clairy!" chided Dave. "What on earth is the
joke---and why?"

Midshipman Clairy straightened himself, his eyes flashing and
his whole appearance one of intense dignity.

"Mr. Darrin, there is no joke about it, as you are certainly aware,
sir. And I must call your attention to the fact that it is bad
taste to address a midshipman familiarly when he is on official
duty."

"Why, hang you---" Dave broke forth utterly aghast.

"Stop, sir!" commanded Mr. Clairy, rising. "Mr. Darrin, you will
place yourself on report for strolling along the corridor with
both shoes unlaced. You will also place yourself on report for
impertinence in answering the midshipman in charge of the floor."

"But-----"

"Go at once, sir, and place yourself on report"

Dave meditated, for two or three seconds, over the advisability
of knocking Mr. Clairy down. But familiarity with the military
discipline of the Naval Academy immediately showed Darrin that
his only present course was to obey.

"I wonder who's loony now?" hummed Dave to himself, as he marched
briskly along on his way to the office of the officer in charge.
There be picked up two of the report slips, dipping a pen in ink.

First, in writing, he reported himself on the charge of having
his shoes unlaced. In the space for remarks Darrin wrote tersely:

"Untrue."

Against the charge of unwarranted impertinence to the midshipman
in charge of the floor Dave wrote the words:

"Impertinence admitted, but in my opinion entirely warranted."

So utterly astounded was Darrin by this queer turn of affairs,
that he forgot the matter that had taken him from his room. On
his way back he met Midshipman Page. On the latter's face was
a look as black as a thundercloud.

"What on earth is wrong, Page?" Darrin asked.

"I've got the material for a first-class fight on my hands," Page
answered, his eyes flashing.

"What---"

"Clairy has ordered me to report myself."

"What does he say you were doing that you weren't doing?" inquired
Midshipman Darrin, a curious look in his eyes.

"Clairy has the nerve to state that I was coming along the corridor
with my blouse unbuttoned. He ordered me to button it up, which
I couldn't do since it was already buttoned. But he declared
that I buttoned it up while facing him, and so I'm on my way to
place myself on report for an offense that I didn't commit."

"Clairy just sent me to the O.C. to frap the pap for having my
shoes unlaced," remarked Dave, his face flushing darkly.

"What on earth is Clairy up to?" cried Page.

"I don't know. I can't see his game clearly. But he's certainly
hunting trouble."

"Then-----"

"See here, Page, we've no business holding indignation meetings
in study hours. But come to my room just as soon as release
sounds---will you?"

"You can wager that I will," shot back Midshipman Page as he started
along the corridor.

"Hello," hailed Midshipman Dalzell, looking up as his chum entered.
"Why, Darry, you're angry---really angry. Who has dared throw
spitballs at you?"

"Quit your joking, Dan!" returned Dave Darrin, his voice quivering.
"Clairy is hunting real trouble, I imagine, and I fancy he'll have
to be obliged."

Dave thereupon related swiftly what had happened, Dan staring
in sheer amazement. Then Dalzell jumped up.

"Where are you going?" Darrin answered.

"To interview Clairy."

"You'd better not, Dan. The trouble is thick enough already."

"I'm going to interview Clairy---perhaps," retorted Midshipman
Dalzell. "I've just thought of a perfectly good excuse for being
briefly out of quarters during study hours. I'll be back
soon---perhaps with some news."

Off Dan posted. In less than ten minutes he returned, looking
even more indignant than had his chum.

"Davy," broke forth Dalzell hotly, "that idiot is surely hunting
all the trouble there is in Annapolis."

"He went after you, then?"

"I was making believe to march straight by the fellow's desk,"
resumed Dan, "when Clairy brought me up sharply. Told me to frap
the pap for strolling with my hands in my pockets. I didn't do
anything like that."

In another hour indignation was running riot in that division.
Midshipman Clairy had ordered no less than eight first classmen
to put themselves on report for offenses that none of them would
admit having committed.

Oh, but there was wrath boiling in the quarters occupied by those
eight first classmen.

Immediately after release had sounded, Page and Farley made a
bee-line for Dave's room.

"Did Clairy wet you, Farley?" demanded Darrin.

"No; I haven't been out of my room until just now."

"Page," continued Darrin, "circulate rapidly in first class rooms
on this deck and find out whether Clairy improperly held up any
more of the fellows. Dan was a victim, too."

Page had five first classmen on the scene in a few minutes. The
meeting seemed doomed to resolve itself into a turmoil of angry
language.

"Clairy is a hound!"

"A liar in my case!"

"He's hunting a fight!"

"Coventry would do him more good."

"Yes; we'll have to call the class to deal with this."

"The scoundrel!"

"The pup!"

"He's trying to pile some of us up with so many demerits that we
won't be able to graduate."

"Oh, well," argued Page, "Fenwick has hit it. We can't fight
such a lying hound. All we can do is to get the class out and
send the fellow to Coventry."

"What do you imagine it all means, Darry?" questioned Fenwick.

Dave's wrath had had time to simmer down, and he was cooler now.

"I wish I knew what to think, fellows," Dave answered slowly.
"Clairy has never shown signs of doing such things before."

"He has always been a sulk, and never had a real friend in the
class," broke in Farley.

"He has always been quiet and reticent," Dave admitted. "But
we never before had any real grievance against Mr. Clairy."

"We have a grievance now, all right!" glowered Page. "Coventry,
swift and tight, is the only answer to the situation."

"Let's not be in too much haste, fellows," Darrin urged.

"You---you give such advice as that?" gasped Midshipman Dalzell.
"Why, Davy, the fellow went for you in fearful shape. He insulted
you outrageously."

"I know he did," Darrin responded. "That's why I believe in going
slowly in the matter."

"Now, why?" hissed Page. "Why on earth---why?"

"Clairy must have had some motive behind his attack," Dave urged.

"It couldn't have been a good motive, anyway," broke in another
midshipman hotly.

"Never mind that part of it, just now," Dave Darrin retorted.
"Fellows, I, for one, don't like to go after Mr. Clairy too hastily
while we're all in doubt about the cause of it."

"We don't need to know the cause," stormed indignant Farley.
"We know the results, and that's enough for us. I favor calling
a class meeting to-morrow night."

"We can do just as much, and act just as intelligently, if we
hold the class-meeting off for two or three nights," Midshipman
Darrin maintained.

"Now, why on earth should we bold off that long?" insisted Fenwick.
"We know, now, that Mr. Clairy has insulted eight members of
our class. We know that he has lied about them, and that the
case is so bad as to require instant attention. All I'm sorry
for is that it's too late to hold the class meeting within the
next five minutes."

Dave found even his own roommate opposed to delay in dealing with
the preposterous case of the outrageous Mr. Clairy.

Yet such was Darrin's ascendency over his classmates in matters
of ethics and policy, that he was able, before taps, to bring
the rest around to his wish for a waiting programme for two or
three days.

"There'll be some explanation of this," Dave urged, when he had
gotten his comrades into a somewhat more reasonable frame of mind.

"The explanation will have to be sought with fists," grumbled
Fenwick. "And there are eight of us, while Clairy has only two
eyes that can be blackened."

The news had spread, of course, and the first class was in a fury
of resentment against one of its own members.

Meanwhile Midshipman Clairy sat at his desk out in the corridor,
clearly calm and indifferent to all the turmoil that his acts
had stirred up in the brigade.

CHAPTER XVIII

THE WHOLE CLASS TAKES A HAND

"Then, Mr. Darrin, you admit the use of impertinent language to
Mr. Clairy, when the midshipman was in charge of the floor?"

This question was put to Dave, the following morning, by the commandant
of midshipmen.

"It would have been an impertinence, sir, under ordinary conditions,"
Darrin answered. "Under the circumstances I believed, sir, that I
had been provoked into righteous anger."

"You still assert that Mr. Clairy's charge that your shoes were
unlaced when you approached him was false?"

"Absolutely false, sir."

"Do you wish any time to reflect over that answer, Mr. Darrin?"

"No, sir."

"You are willing your answer should go on record, then?"

"My denial of the charge of having my shoes unlaced is the only
answer that I can possibly make, sir."

The commandant reflected. Then he directed that Midshipman Clairy
be ordered to report to him. Clairy came, almost immediately.
The commandant questioned him closely. Clairy still stuck resolutely
to his story that Dave Darrin had been passing through the corridor
with his shoes unlaced; and, furthermore, that Darrin, when rebuked
and ordered to place himself on report, had used impertinent language.

During this examination the midshipmen did not glance toward each
other. Both stood at attention, their glances on the commandant's
face.

"I do not know what to say," the officer admitted at last. "I
will take the matter under advisement. You may both go."

Outside, well away from the office, Dave Darrin halted, swinging
and confronting Clairy sternly.

"You lying scoundrel!" vibrated Darrin, his voice shaking with
anger.

"It constitutes another offense, Mr. Darrin, to use such language
for the purpose of intimidating a midshipman in the performance
of his duty," returned Midshipman Clairy, looking back steadily
into Dave's eyes.

"An offense? Fighting is another, under a strict interpretation
of the rules," Dave replied coldly.

"And I do not intend to fight you," replied Clairy, still speaking
smoothly.

"Perhaps I should know better than to challenge you," replied
Midshipman Darrin. "The spirit of the brigade prohibits my fighting
any one who is not a gentleman."

"If that is all you have to say, Mr. Darrin, I will leave you.
You cannot provoke me into any breach of the regulations."

Clairy walked away calmly, leaving Dave Darrin fuming with anger.

Page was sent for next, then Dalzell. Both denied utterly the
charges on which Clairy had ordered them to report themselves.
Again Mr. Clairy was sent for, and once more he asserted the
complete truthfulness of his charges.

It was so in the cases of the five remaining midshipmen under
charges, though still Mr. Clairy stuck to the correctness of the
report.

Action in all of the eight cases was suspended by the commandant,
who went post-haste to the superintendent. That latter official,
experienced as he was in the ways of midshipmen, could offer no
solution of the mystery.

"You see, my dear Graves," explained the superintendent, "it is
the rule of custom here, and a safe rule at that, to accept the
word of a midshipman as being his best recollection or knowledge
of the truth of any statement that he makes. In that case, we
would seem to be bound to accept the statements of Mr. Clairy."

On the other hand, we are faced with the fact that we must accept
the statements made by Mr. Darrin, Mr. Page, Mr. Dalzell, Mr.
Fenwick and others. We are on the horns of a dilemma, though
I doubt not that we shall find a way out of it."

"There appears, sir, to be only the statement of one midshipman
against the word of eight midshipmen," suggested the commandant.

"Not exactly that," replied the superintendent. "The fact is
that Mr. Clairy's charges do not concern the eight midshipmen
collectively, but individually. Had Mr. Clairy charged all eight
of the midshipmen of an offense committed at the same time and
together, and had the eight midshipmen all denied it, then we
should be reluctantly compelled to admit the probability that
Mr. Clairy had been lying. But his charges relate to eight different
delinquencies, and not one of the eight accused midshipmen is
in a position to act as witness for any of the other accused men."

"Then what are we going to do, sir?"

"I will admit that I do not yet know," replied the superintendent.
"Some method of getting at the truth in the matter is likely
to occur to us later on. In the meantime, Graves, you will not
publish any punishments for the reported delinquencies."

"Very good, sir," nodded the commandant.

"Keep your wits at work for a solution of the mystery, Graves."

"I will, sir."

"And I will give the matter all the attention that I can," was the
superintendent's last word.

If anger had been at the boiling point before, the situation was
even worse now.

Page and Fenwick openly challenged Clairy to fight. He replied,
in each case, with a cool, smiling refusal.

"We've got to hold that class meeting!" growled Farley.

"Why?" inquired Dave. "The class can't do anything more to Clairy
than has already been done. His refusals to fight will send him
to Coventry as securely as could action by all four of the classes.
No fellow here can refuse to fight, unless he couples with his
refusal an offer to submit the case to his own class for action.
No one, henceforth, will have a word to say to Clairy."

"Perhaps not; but I still insist that the class meeting ought
to be called."

This was the general sentiment among the first classmen. Darrin
was the only real dissenter to the plan.

"Oh, well, go ahead and call the class together, if you like,"
agreed Dave. "My main contention is that such a meeting will
be superfluous. The action of the class has really been taken
already."

"Will you come to the meeting, Darry?" asked Fenwick.

"Really, I don't know," Dave answered thoughtfully. "My presence
would do neither good nor harm. The action of the class has already
been decided. In fact, it has been put into effect."

"Then you won't be there?" spoke up Farley.

"I don't know. I'll come, however, if it will please any of you
especially."

"Oh, bother you, Darry! We're not going to beg your presence
as a favor."

At formation for dinner, when the brigade adjutant published the
orders, every midshipman in the long ranks of the twelve companies
waited eagerly to learn what had been done in the cases of the
eight midshipmen. They were doomed to disappointment, however.

At brigade formation for supper notice of a meeting of the first
class in Recreation Hall was duly published. There was rather
an unwonted hush over the tables that night.

Immediately afterwards groups of midshipmen were seen strolling
through the broad foyer of Bancroft Hall, and up the low steps
into Recreation Hall. Yet it was some ten minutes before there
was anything like a full gathering of the first class.

"Order!" rapped the class president Then, after glancing around:

"Is Mr. Clairy present?"

He was not.

"Where's Darry?" buzzed several voices.

But Dave Darrin was not present either.

"Where is he?" several demanded of Dan.

"Blessed if I know," Dan answered. "I wish I did, fellows."

"Isn't Darry going to attend?"

"I don't know that, either."

Midshipman Gosman now claimed the floor. He spoke a good deal
as though he had been retained as advocate for the eight accused
midshipmen. In a fiery speech Mr. Gosman recited that eight different
members of the class had been falsely accused by Mr. Clairy.

"There are not eight liars in our class," declared Midshipman
Gosman, with very telling effect.

Then, after more fiery words aimed at Clairy, Mr. Gosman demanded:

"Why is not Mr. Clairy here to speak for himself? Let him who
can answer this! Further, Mr. Clairy has been challenged to fight
by some of those whom be accused. Now, sir and classmates, a
midshipman may refuse to fight, but if he does he must submit
his case to his class, and then be guided by the class decision
as to whether he must fight or not. Mr. Clairy has not done this."

"He's a cur!" shouted a voice.

"I accept the remark," bowed Mr. Gosman, "if I am permitted to
express the class's apology to all dogs for the comparison."

"Good!" yelled several.

"Mr. President and classmates," continued the angry orator, "I
believe we are all of one mind, and I believe that I can express
the unanimous sentiment of the first class."

"You can!"

"You bet you can!"

"Go ahead!"

"Mr. President, I take it upon myself to move that the first class
should, and hereby does, send Mr. Clairy to Coventry for all time
to come!"

"Second the motion!" cried several voices.

Then a diversion was created.

One of the big doors opened and a midshipman stepped into the
room, closing the door.

That midshipman was Dave Darrin. Every first classman in the
room felt certain that Darrin had entered for the express purpose
of saying something of consequence.

CHAPTER XIX

MIDSHIPMAN DARRIN HAS THE FLOOR

But Dave did not speak at first. Advancing only a short distance
into the hall he stood with arms folded, his face well-nigh
expressionless.

For a moment the class president glanced at Darrin, then at the
assemblage.

"Gentlemen," announced the class president, "you have heard the
motion, that Mr. Clairy be sent to Coventry for all time to come.
The motion has been duly seconded. Remarks are in order."

"Mr. President!"

It was Dave who had spoken. All eyes were turned in his direction
at once.

"Mr. Darrin," announced the chair. "Mr. President, and classmates,
I, for one, shall vote against the motion."

An angry clamor rose, followed by calls of, "Question! Put the
motion!"

"Do any of you know," Darrin continued, "why Mr. Clairy is not
here this evening?"

"He's afraid to come!"

"Did any of you note that Mr. Clairy was not at supper?"

"The hound hadn't any appetite," jeered Fenwick angrily.

"You have observed, of course, that Mr. Clairy was not here at
the meeting?"

"He didn't dare come!" cried several voices.

"If you have any explanation to make, Mr. Darrin, let us have
it," urged the chair.

"Mr. President and classmates," Midshipman Darrin continued, "all
along I have felt that there must be some explanation to match
Mr. Clairy's most extraordinary conduct. I now offer you the
explanation. The officer in charge sent for me, to impart some
information that I am requested to repeat before this meeting."

"Go on!" cried several curious voices when Dave paused for a moment.

"Fellows, I hate to tell you the news, and you will all be extremely
sorry to hear it. You will be glad, however, that you did not
pass the motion now before the class. Mr. President, I have to
report, at the request of the officer in charge, the facts in
Mr. Clairy's case.

"From the peculiar nature of the case both the superintendent and
the commandant of midshipmen were convinced that there was
something radically wrong with Mr. Clairy."

"Humph! I should say so!" uttered Penwick, with emphasis.

"Mr. Clairy was not at our mess at supper," resumed Dave Darrin,
"for the very simple reason that he had been taken to hospital.
There he was examined by three surgeons, assisted by an outside
specialist. Mr. President and classmates, I know you will all
feel heartily sorry for Clairy when I inform you that he has been
pronounced insane."

Dave ceased speaking, and an awed silence prevailed. It was the
chair who first recovered his poise.

"Clairy insane!" cried the class president. "Gentlemen, now we
comprehend what, before, it was impossible to understand."

In the face of this sudden blow to a classmate all the midshipmen
sat for a few minutes more as if stunned. Then they began to
glance about at each other.

"I think this event must convince us, sir," Darrin's voice broke
in, "that we young men don't know everything, and that we should
learn to wait for facts before we judge swiftly."

"Mr. President!"

It was Gosman, on his feet. In a husky voice that midshipman
begged the consent of his seconders for his withdrawing the motion
he had offered sending Midshipman Clairy to Coventry. In a twinkling
that motion had been withdrawn.

"Will Mr. Darrin, state, if able, how serious Clairy's insanity
is believed to be?" inquired the chair.

"It is serious enough to ruin all his chances in the Navy," Dave
answered, "though the surgeons believe that, after Clairy has
been taken by his friends to some asylum, his cure can eventually
be brought about."

The feeling in the room was too heavy for more discussion. A
motion to adjourn was offered and carried, after which the first
classmen hurried from the room.

Of course no demerits were imposed as a result of the crazy reports
ordered by Midshipman Clairy on that memorable night. Three days
later the unfortunate young man's father arrived and had his son
conveyed from Annapolis. It may interest the reader to know that,
two years later, the ex-midshipman fully recovered his reason, and
is now successfully engaged in business.

Spring now rapidly turned into early summer. The baseball squad
had been at work for some time. Both Darrin and Dalzell had been
urged to join.

"Let's go into the nine, if we can make it---and we ought to,"
urged Dan.

"You go ahead, Danny boy, if you're so inclined," replied Dave.

"Aren't you going in?"

"I have decided not to."

"You're a great patriot for the Naval Academy, Davy."

"I'm looking out for myself, I'll admit. I want to graduate as
high in my class as I can, Danny. Yet I'd sacrifice my own desires
if the Naval Academy needed me on the nine. However, I'm not
needed. There are several men on the nine who play ball better
than I but don't let me keep you off the nine, Dan."

"If you stay off I guess I will," replied Dalzell. "If the nine
doesn't need you then it doesn't need me."

"But I thought you wanted to play."

"Not unless you and I could be the battery, David, little giant.
I'd like to catch your pitching, but I don't want to stop any
other fellow's pitching."

So far the nine had gone on without them. Realizing how much
Dan wanted to play with the Navy team in this, their last year,
Dave changed his mind, and both joined. A very creditable showing
was made after their entrance into the nine. That year the Navy
captured more than half the games played, though the Navy was
fated to lose to the Army by a score of four to three. This game
is described in detail in "_Dick Prescott's Fourth Year At West
Point_."

With the approach of graduation time Dave's heart was gladdened
by the arrival in Annapolis of Belle Meade and her mother, who
stopped at the Maryland House. Dave saw them on the only days
when it was possible---that is to say, on Saturdays and Sundays.
He had many glimpses of his sweetheart, however, at other times,
for Belle, filled with the fascination of Naval life, came often
with her mother to watch the outdoor drills.

When Dave saw her at such times, however, he was obliged to act as
though he did not. Not by look or sign could he convey any
intimation that he was doing anything but pay the strictest heed
to duty.

Then came the Saturday before examination. Dave Darrin, released
after dinner, would gladly have hurried away from the Academy
grounds to visit his sweetheart in town, but Belle willed it otherwise.

"These are your last days here, Dave," whispered Belle, as she
and her handsome midshipman strolled about. "If I'm to share
your life with you, I may as well begin by sharing the Naval Academy
with you to-day."

"Shall we go over to the field and watch the ball game when it
starts?" Darrin asked.

"Not unless you very especially wish to," Miss Meade replied.
"I'd rather have you to myself than to share your attention with
a ball game."

So, though Midshipman Dave was interested in the outcome of the
game, he decided to wait for the score when it had been made.

"Where's Dan to-day?" Belle inquired.

"Over at the ball game."

"Alone?"

"No; the brigade is with him, or he's with the brigade," laughed
Darrin.

"Then he's not there with a girl?"

"Oh, no; I think Danny's second experience has made him a bit
skeptical about girls."

"And how are you, on that point, Mr. Darrin?" teased Belle, gazing
up at him mirthfully.

"You know my sentiments, as to myself, Belle. As for Dan---well,
I think it beyond doubt that he will do well to wait for several
years before he allows himself to be interested in any girls."

"Why?"

"Well, because Danny's judgment is bad in that direction. And
he's pretty sure to be beaten out by any determined rival. You
see, when Danny gets interested in a girl, he doesn't really know
whether he wants her. From a girl's point of view what do you
think of that failing, Belle?"

"I am afraid the girl is not likely to feel complimented."

"So," pursued Dave, "while Danny is really interested in a girl,
but is uneasily unable to make up his mind, the girl is pretty
sure to grow tired of him and take up with the more positive rival."

"Poor Dan is not likely to have a bride early in life," sighed
Belle.

"Oh, yes; one very excellent bride for a Naval officer to have."

"What is that?"

"His commission. Dan, if he keeps away from too interesting girls,
will have some years in which to fit himself splendidly in his
profession. By that time he'll be all the better equipped for
taking care of a wife."

"I wonder," pondered Belle, "what kind of wife Dan will finally
choose."

"He won't have anything to do with the choosing," laughed Darrin.
"One of these days some woman will choose him, and then Dan will
be anchored for life. It is even very likely that he'll imagine
that he selected his wife from among womankind, but he won't have
much to say about it."

"You seem to think Dan is only half witted," Belle remarked.

"Only where women are concerned, Belle. In everything else he's
a most capable young American. He's going to be a fine Naval
officer."

In another hour Belle had changed her mind. She had seen all
of the Academy grounds that she cared about for a while, and now
proposed that they slip out through the Maryland Avenue gate for
a walk through the shaded, sweet scented streets of Annapolis.
As Darrin had town liberty the plan pleased him.

Strolling slowly the young people at last neared State Circle.

"I thought midshipmen didn't tell fibs," suddenly remarked Belle.

"They're not supposed to," Dave replied.

"But you said Dan was at the ball game."

"Isn't he?"

"Look there!" Belle exclaimed dramatically.

CHAPTER XX

DAN STEERS ON THE ROCKS AGAIN

Just entering Wiegard's were Midshipman Dalzell and a very pretty
young woman.

Dan had not caught sight of his approaching friends.

"Why, that fellow told me he was going to see if he couldn't be
the mascot for a winning score to-day," Dave exclaimed.

"But he didn't say that the score was to be won in a ball game,
did he?" Belle queried demurely.

"Now I think of it, he didn't mention ball," Darrin admitted.
"But I thought it was the game down on the Academy athletic field."

"No; it was very different kind of game," Belle smiled. "Dave,
you'll find that Dan is incurable. He's going to keep on trying
with women until-----"

"Until he lands one?" questioned Dave.

"No; until one lands him. Dave, I wonder if it would be too terribly
prying if we were to turn into Wiegard's too?"

"I don't see any reason why it should be," Darrin answered. "Mr.
Wiegard conducts a public confectioner's place. It's the approved
place for any midshipman to take a young lady for ice cream.
Do you feel that you'd like some ice cream?"

"No," Belle replied honestly. "But I'd like to get a closer look
at Dan's latest."

So Dave led his sweetheart into Wiegard's. In order to get a
seat at a table it was necessary to pass the table at which Dan
and his handsome friend were seated. As Dalzell's back was toward
the door he did not espy his friends until they were about to pass.

"Why, hello, Darry!" cried Dan, rising eagerly, though his cheeks
flushed a bit. "How do you do, Miss Meade? Miss Henshaw, may
I present my friends? Miss Meade and Mr. Darrin."

The introduction was pleasantly acknowledged all around. Miss
Henshaw proved wholly well-bred and at ease.

"Won't you join us here?" asked Dalzell, trying hard to conceal
the fact that he didn't want any third and fourth parties.

"I know you'll excuse us," answered Dave, bowing, "and I feel
certain that I am running counter to Miss Meade's wishes. But
I have so little opportunity to talk to her that I'm going to
beg you to excuse us. I'm going to be selfish and entice Miss
Meade away to the furthest corner."

That other table was so far away that Dave and Belle could converse
in low tones without the least danger of being overheard. There
were, at that time, no other patrons in the place.

"Well, Belle, what do you think of the lady, now that you've seen
her?"

"You've named her," replied Belle quietly. "Dan's new friend
is beyond any doubt a lady."

"Then Dan is safe, at last."

"I'm not so sure of that," Belle answered.

"But, if she's really a lady, she must be safe company for Dan."

Belle smiled queerly before she responded:

"I'm afraid Dan is in for a tremendous disappointment."

"In the lady's character?" pressed Darrin.

"Oh, indeed, no."

"Wait and see."

"But I'd rather know now."

"I'll tell you what I mean before you say good-bye this afternoon,"
Belle promised.

"By Jove, but I am afraid that is going to be too late," murmured
Midshipman Darrin. "Unless I'm greatly misled as to the meaning
of the light that has suddenly come into Danny's eyes, he's proposing
to her now!"

"Oh!" gasped Belle, and the small spoonful of cream that was passing
down her throat threatened to strangle her.

"Dave, how old do you think Miss Henshaw is?" asked Miss Meade,
as soon as she could trust herself to speak.

"Twenty, I suppose."

"You don't know much about women's ages, then, do you?" smiled
Belle.

"I don't suppose I've any business to know."

"Miss Henshaw is a good many years older than Dan."

"She doesn't look it," urged Dave.

"But she is. Trust another woman to know!"

"There, by Jove!" whispered Dave. "It has started. Danny is
running under the wire! I can tell by his face that he has just
started to propose."

"Poor boy! He'll have an awful fall!" muttered Belle.

"Why do you say that? But, say! You're right, Belle. Dan's
face has turned positively ghastly. He looks worse than he could
if he'd just failed to graduate."

"Naturally," murmured Belle. "Poor boy, I'm sorry for him."

"But what's the matter?"

"Did you notice Miss Henshaw's jewelry?"

"Not particularly. I can see, from here, that she's wearing a
small diamond in each ear."

"Dave, didn't you see the flat gold band that she wears on the
third finger of her left hand?" Belle demanded in a whisper.

"No," confessed Midshipman Darrin innocently. "But what has that
to do with---"

"Her wedding ring," Belle broke in. "Dan has gotten her title
twisted. She's Mrs. Henshaw."

"Whew! But what, in that case, is she doing strolling around
with a midshipman? That's no proper business for a married woman,"
protested Dave Darrin.

"Haven't you called on or escorted any married women since you've
been at Annapolis?" demanded Belle bluntly.

"Yes; certainly," nodded Dave. "But, in every instance they were
wives of Naval officers, and such women looked upon midshipmen
as mere little boys."

"Isn't there an Admiral Henshaw in the Navy?" inquired Belle.

"Certainly."

"That's Mrs. Henshaw," Belle continued.

"How do you know?"

"I don't, but I'm certain, just the same. Now, Dan has met Mrs.
Henshaw somewhere down at the Naval Academy. He heard her name
and got it twisted into Miss Henshaw. It's his own blundering
fault, no doubt. But Admiral Henshaw's young and pretty wife
is not to be blamed for allowing a boyish midshipman to stroll
with her as her escort."

"Whew!" whistled Dave Darrin under his breath. "So Dan has been
running it blind again? Oh, Belle, it's a shame! I'm heartily
sorry that we've been here to witness the poor old chap's Waterloo."

"So am I," admitted Belle. "But the harm that has been done is
due to Dan's own blindness. He should learn to read ordinary
signs as he runs."

No wonder Dan Dalzell's face had gone gray and ashy. For the
time being he was feeling keenly. He had been so sure of "Miss"
Henshaw's being a splendid woman---as, indeed, she was---that
he decided on this, their third meeting, to try his luck with
a sailor's impetuous wooing. In other words, he had plumply asked
the admiral's wife to marry him;

"Why, you silly boy!" remonstrated Mrs. Henshaw, glancing up at
him with a dismayed look. "I don't know your exact age, Mr. Dalzell,
but I think it probable that I am at least ten years older than---"

"I don't care," Dan maintained bravely.

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