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

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"Besides, what would the admiral say?"

"Is he your father or your brother?" Dan inquired.

"My husband!"

Then it was that Midshipman Dalzell's face had gone so suddenly
gray. He fairly gasped and felt as though he were choking.

"Mr. Dalzell," spoke Mrs. Henshaw, earnestly, "let us both forget
that you ever spoke such unfortunate words. Let us forget it
all, and let it pass as though nothing had happened at all. I
will confess that, two or three times, I thought you addressed
me as 'miss.' I believed it to be only a slip of the tongue.
I didn't dream that you didn't know. Even if I were a single
woman I wouldn't think of encouraging you for a moment, for I
am much---much---too old for you. And now, let us immediately
forget it all, Mr. Dalzell. Shall we continue our stroll?"

Somehow the dazed midshipman managed to reply gracefully, and
to follow his fair companion from Wiegard's.

"Poor Dan!" sighed Dave. "I'll wager that's the worst crusher
that Dalzell ever had. But how do you read so much at a glance,
Belle?"

"By keeping my eyes moderately well opened," that young woman
answered simply.

"I wonder where poor Dan's adventures in search of a wife are
going to end up?" mused Darrin.

"He'd better accept the course that you outlined for him a little
while ago," half smiled Belle. "Dan's very best course will be
to devote his thoughts wholly to his profession for a few years,
and wait until the right woman comes along and chooses him for
herself. You may tell Dan, from me, some time, if it won't hurt
his feelings, that I think his only safe course is to shut his
eyes and let the woman do the choosing."

"I must be a most remarkably fine fellow myself," remarked Midshipman
Darrin modestly.

"Why do you think that?"

"Why, a girl with eyes as sharp as yours, Belle, would never have
accepted me if there had been a visible flaw on me anywhere."

"There are no very pronounced flaws except those that I can remedy
when I take charge of you, Dave," replied Belle with what might
have been disconcerting candor.

"Then I'm lucky in at least one thing," laughed Darrin good-humoredly.
"When my turn comes I shall be made over by a most capable young
woman. Then I shall be all but flawless."

"Or else I shall take a bride's privilege," smiled Belle demurely,
"and go back to mother."

"You'll have plenty of time for that," teased Dave. "A Naval
officer's time is spent largely at sea, and he can't take his
wife with him."

"Don't remind me of that too often," begged Belle, a plaintive
note in her voice. "Your being at sea so much is the only flaw
that I see in the future. And, as neither of us will be rich,
I can't follow you around the world much of the time."

When Midshipman Dave Darrin reentered his quarters late that afternoon
be found Dan Dalzell sitting back in a chair, his hands thrust
deep into his pockets. His whole attitude was one of most unmilitary
dejection.

"Dave, I've run the ship aground again," Dan confessed ruefully.

"I know you have, Danny," Darrin replied sympathetically.

Dan Dalzell bounded to his feet.

"What?" he gasped. "Is the story going the rounds?"

"It can't be."

"Then did you hear what we were saying this afternoon in Wiegard's?"

"No; we were too far away for that. But I judged that you had
succeeded in making Mrs. Henshaw feel very uncomfortable for a
few moments."

"Then you knew she was a married woman, Dave?"

"No; but Belle did."

"How, I---wonder?"

"She saw the wedding ring on Mrs. Henshaw's left hand."

Dan Dalzell looked the picture of amazement. Then he whistled
in consternation.

"By the great Dewey!" he groaned hoarsely. "I never thought of
that!"

"No; but you should have done so."

"Dave, I'm the biggest chump in the world. Will you do me a supreme
favor---kick me?"

"That would be too rough, Dan. But, if you can stand it, Belle
offered me some good advice for you in your affairs with women."

"Thank her for me, when you get a chance, but I don't need it,"
replied Dan bitterly. "I'm through with trying to find a sweetheart,
or any candidate to become Mrs. Dalzell."

"But you'd better listen to the advice," Dave insisted, and repeated
what Belle had said.

"By Jove, Dave, but you're lucky to be engaged to a sensible girl
like Belle! I wish there was another like her in the world."

"Why?"

"If there were another like Belle I'd be sorely tempted to try my \
luck for the fourth time."

"Dan Dalzell!" cried Dave sternly. "You're not safe without a
guardian! You'll do it again, between now and graduation."

"You can watch me, if you want, then; but I'll fool you," smiled
Dan. "But say, Dave!"

"Well?"

"You don't suppose Belle will say anything about this back in
Gridley, do you? By Jove, if she does I'd feel-----

"You'll feel something else," warned Dave snappily, "if you don't
at once assure me that you know Belle too well to think that she'd
make light of your misfortunes."

"But sometimes girls tell one another some things-----"

"Belle Meade doesn't," interrupted Dave so briskly that Dalzell,
after a glance, agreed:

"You're right there, David, little giant. I've known Belle ever
since we were kids at the Central Grammar School. If Belle ever
got into any trouble through too free use of her tongue, then I
never heard anything about it."

"Dan, do you want a fine suggestion about the employment of the
rest of your liberty time while we're at Annapolis?"

"Yes."

"You remember Barnes's General History, that we used to have in
Grammar school?"

"Yes."

"Devote your liberty time to reading the book through again."

CHAPTER XXI

IN THE THICK OF DISASTER

Examination week---torture of the "wooden" and seventh heaven of
the "savvy!"

For the wooden man, he who knows little, this week of final
examinations is a period of unalloyed torture. He must go before
an array of professors who are there to expose his ignorance.

No "wooden" man can expect to get by. The gates of hope are closed
before his face. He marches to the ordeal, full of a dull misery.
Whether he is fourth classman or first, he knows that hope has
fled; that he will go below the saving 2.5 mark and be dropped
from the rolls.

But your "savvy" midshipman---he who knows much, and who is sure
and confident with his knowledge, finds this week of final examinations
a period of bliss and pride. He is going to "pass"; he knows that,
and nothing else matters.

Eight o'clock every morning, during this week, finds the midshipman
in one recitation room or another, undergoing his final. As it
is not the purpose of the examiners to wear any man out, the afternoon
is given over to pleasures. There are no afternoon examinations,
and no work of any sort that can be avoided. Indeed, the "savvy"
man has a week of most delightful afternoons, with teas, lawn
parties, strolls both within and without the walls of the Academy
grounds, and many boating parties. It is in examination week
that the young ladies flock to Annapolis in greater numbers than
ever.

Sometimes the "wooden" midshipman, knowing there is no further hope
for him, rushes madly into the pleasures of this week, determined to
carry back into civil life with him the memories of as many
Annapolis pleasures as possible.

A strong smattering there is of midshipmen who, by no means "savvy,"
are yet not so "wooden" but that they hope, by hard study at the
last to pull through on a saving margin in marks.

These desperate ones do not take part in the afternoon pleasures,
for these midshipmen, with furrowed brows, straining eyes, feverish
skin and dogged determination, spend their afternoons and evenings
in one final assault on their text-books in the hope of pulling
through.

Dave Darrin was not one of the honor men of his class, but he
was "savvy" just the same. Dan Dalzell was a few notches lower
in the class standing, but Dan was as sure of graduation as was
his chum.

"One thing goes for me, this week," announced Dan, just before
the chums hustled out to dinner formation on Monday.

"What's that?" Dave wanted to know. "No girls; no tender promenades!"
grumbled Midshipman Dalzell.

"Poor old chap," muttered Dave sympathetically.

"Oh, that's all right for you," grunted Dan. "You have one of
the 'only' girls, and so you're safe."

"There are more 'only' girls than you've any idea of, Dan Dalzell,"
Dave retorted with spirit. "The average American girl is a mighty
fine, sweet, wholesome proposition."

"I'll grant that," nodded Dan, with a knowing air. "But I've
made an important discovery concerning the really fine girls."

"Produce the discovery," begged Darrin. "The really fine girl,"
announced Dan, in a hollow voice, "prefers some other fellow to me."

"Well, I guess that'll be a fine idea for you to nurse---until
after graduation," reflected Darrin aloud. "I'm not going to
seek to undeceive you, Danny boy."

So Dave went off to meet Belle and her mother, while Dan Dalzell
hunted up another first classman who also believed that the girls
didn't particularly esteem him. That other fellow was Midshipman
Jetson.

"Mrs. Davis is giving a lawn party this afternoon," announced
Dave, after he had lifted his cap in greeting of Mrs. Meade and
her daughter. "I have an invitation from Mrs. Davis to escort
you both over to her house. Of course, if you find the tea and
chatter a bit dull over there, we can go somewhere else presently."

"I never find anything dull that is a part of the life here,"
returned Belle, little enthusiast for the Navy. "It will suit
you, mother?"

"Anything at all will suit me," declared Mrs. Meade amiably.
"David, just find me some place where I can drop into an armchair
and have some other middle-aged woman like myself to talk with.
Then you young people need pay no further heed to me. Examination
week doesn't last forever."

"It doesn't," laughed Darrin, "and many of our fellows are very
thankful for that."

"How are you going to come through?" Belle asked, with a quick
little thrill of anxiety.

"Nothing to worry about on that score," Dave assured her. "I'm
sufficiently 'savvy' to pull sat. all right."

"Isn't that fine? And Dan?"

"Oh, he'll finish sat., too, if he doesn't sight another craft
flying pink hair ribbons."

"Any danger of that?" asked Belle anxiously, for Dan was a townsman
of hers.

"Not judging by the company that Dan is keeping to-day," smiled
Darrin.

"Who is his companion to-day, then?"

"Jetson, a woman hater."

"Really a woman hater?" asked Belle.

"Oh, no; Jet wouldn't poison all girls, or do anything like that.
He isn't violent against girls. In fact, he's merely shy when
they're around. But in the service any fellow who isn't always
dancing attendance on the fair is doomed to be dubbed a woman
hater. In other words, a woman hater is just a fellow who doesn't
pester girls all the time."

"Are you a woman hater?" Belle asked.

"Except when you are at Annapolis," was Dave's ready explanation.

That afternoon's lawn party proved a much more enjoyable affair
than the young people had expected. Belle met there, for the
first time, five or six girls with whom she was to be thrown often
later on.

When it was over, Dave, having town liberty as well, proudly escorted
his sweetheart and her mother back to the hotel.

There were more days like it. Dave, by Thursday, realizing that
he was coming through his morning trials with flying colors, had
arranged permission to take out a party in one of the steamers.

As the steamer could be used only for a party Darrin invited Farley
and Wolgast to bring their sweethearts along. Mrs. Meade at first
demurred about going.

"You and Belle have had very little time together," declared that
good lady, "and I'm not so old but that I remember my youth.
With so large a party there's no need of a chaperon."

"But we'd immensely like to have you come," urged Dave; "that
is, unless you'd be uncomfortable on the water."

"Oh, I'm never uncomfortable on the water," Belle's mother replied.

"Then you'll come, won't you?" pleaded Dave. Belle's mother made
one of the jolly party.

"You'd better come, too, Danny boy," urged Dave at the last moment.
"There'll be no unattached girl with the party, so you'll be
vastly safer with us than you would away from my watchful eye."

"Huh! A fine lot your watchful eye has been on me this week,"
retorted Midshipman Dalzell. "Jetson has been my grandmother
this week."

It was a jolly party that steamed down Chesapeake Bay in the launch
that afternoon. There was an enlisted man of the engineer department
at the engine, while a seaman acted as helmsman.

"Straight down the bay, helmsman," Dave directed, as the launch
headed out.

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the man, touching his cap.

After that the young people---Mrs. Meade was included under that
heading---gave themselves over to enjoyment. Belle, with a quiet
twinkle in her eyes that was born of the love of teasing, tried
very hard to draw Mr. Jetson out, thereby causing that young man
to flush many times.

Dan, from the outset, played devoted squire to Mrs. Meade. That
was safe ground for him.

"What's that party in the sailboat yonder?" inquired Mrs. Meade,
when the steamer had been nearly an hour out. "Are the young
men midshipman or officers?"

Dave raised to his eyes the glasses with which the steamer was
equipped.

"They're midshipmen," he announced. "Gray and Lambert, of our
class, and Haynes and Whipple of the second class."

"They've young ladies with them."

"Certainly."

"Isn't it rather risky for midshipmen to have control of the boat,
then, with no older man along?" asked Mrs. Meade.

"It ought not to be," Dave replied. "Midshipmen of the upper
classes are expected to be familiar with the handling of sailboats."

"Those fellows are getting careless, at any rate," muttered Dan
Dalzell. "Look at the way that sail is behaving. Those fellows
are paying too much attention to the girls and too little heed
to the handling of the craft!"

Even as Dalzell spoke the helm was jammed over and the boat started
to come about.

"Confound Lambert! He ought to ease off his sheet a good bit,"
snapped Midshipman Dalzell.

"Helmsman, point our boat so as to pass under the other craft's
stern," spoke Darrin so quietly that only Dan and Belle overheard
him.

"Aye, aye, sir," murmured the helmsman, in a very low voice.
Dave signaled the engineman silently to increase the speed.

"There the boat goes, the sail caught by a cross current of air!"
called Midshipman Dalzell almost furiously.

The girls aboard the sailboat now cried out in alarm as they felt
the extreme list of the boat under them. All too late Midshipman
Gray Sprang for the sheet to ease it off.

Too late! In another moment the sailboat had capsized, the mast
nearly snapping in the blow over.

"Make haste---do!" cried Mrs. Meade, rising in the steamer.

But the steamer was already under increased headway, and the helmsman
had to make but a slight turn to bear down directly to the scene
of the disaster.

Three midshipmen could be seen floundering in the water, each
steadily supporting the head of a girl. But the fourth, midshipman
was floundering about wildly. Then he disappeared beneath the
water.

"That young man has given up and gone down!" cried Mrs. Meade,
whom Dave had just persuaded to resume her seat.

"No," Dave assured her. "Gray isn't drowning. But his girl companion
is missing, and he has dived to find her."

"Then the girl is lost!" quivered Mrs. Meade.

"No; I think not. Gray is a fine swimmer, and will find Miss
Butler before she has been under too long a time."

Then Dave rose, for he was commander here. "Danny boy, throw
off your shoes and blouse and cap. The rest stand by the boat
to give such aid as you can. Ladies, you'll excuse us."

Thereupon Dave Darrin doffed his own cap, blouse and shoes. He
and Dalzell were the two best swimmers in the party, and it looked
as though there would be work ahead for them to do.

In another moment the steamer was on the scene, and speed was
shut off. Lambert, Haynes and Whipple, with their girl companions,
were speedily reached and hauled aboard.

Then Gray came up, but alone.

"Hasn't Pauline come up?" he gasped in terror.

"No," Darrin replied shortly, but in a voice laden with sympathy.

"Then I've got to down again," replied Gray despairingly. "I'd
better stay down, too."

He sank instantly, a row of bubbles coming up at the spot where
he had vanished.

"The poor, unfortunate fellow! He won't really attempt to drown
himself, will he, if he doesn't find his young woman friend?"
inquired Mrs. Meade.

"No," Dave answered without turning. "And we wouldn't allow him
to do so, either."

Dave waited but a brief interval, this time. Then, as Midshipman
Gray did not reappear, he called:

"Danby!"

"Yes, sir," replied the enlisted man by the engine.

"Hustle forward and rig a rope loop to the anchor cable. How
long is the anchor?"

"About three feet, sir."

"Then rig the loop two feet above the mudhook."

"Yes, sir."

"Hustle!"

"Yes, sir."

"Is Gray trying to stay under? Trying to drown himself as a sign
of his repentance?" whispered Wolgast in Dave's ear. But Darrin
shook his head. An instant later Gray shot up to the surface---alone!

"Come aboard," ordered Dave Darrin, but he did not rely entirely
on coaxing. Snatching up a boat-hook he fastened it in Gray's
collar and drew that midshipman alongside, where many ready hands
stretched out and hauled him aboard.

Two of the rescued young women were now sobbing almost hysterically.

"If you won't let me stay in the water, won't some of the rest of
you do something?" demanded Midshipman Gray hoarsely.

"We're going to," nodded Dave. "Danby!"

"Yes, sir."

"Let go the anchor."

"Very good, sir."

"Follow me, Dan," directed Dave. The anchor went overboard while
the two midshipmen were hustling forward.

"I'm going down first, Danny," explained Dave. "Follow whenever
you may think you need to, but don't be in too big a hurry. Use
good judgment."

"Trust me," nodded Dan hoarsely.

With that Dave seized the visible part of the anchor cable and
went down, forcing himself toward the bottom by holding to the
cable. It was a difficult undertaking, as, after he had gone
part of the way, the buoyancy of the water fought against his
efforts to go lower. But Midshipman Darrin still gripped hard
at the cable, fighting foot by foot. His eyes open, at last he
sighted the loop near the anchor. With a powerful effort he reached
that loop, thrusting his left arm through it. The strain almost
threatened to break that arm, but Dave held grimly, desperately on.

Now he looked about him. Fortunately there was no growth of seaweed
at this point, and he could see clearly for a distance of quite
a few yards around him.

"Queer what can have become of the body!" thought Darrin. "But
then, the boat has drifted along slightly, and Miss Butler may
have sunk straight down. She may be lying or floating here just
out of my range of vision. I wish I could let go and strike out,
but I'd only shoot up to the surface after a little."

Many a shadow in the deep water caused Darrin to start and peer
the harder, only to find that he had been deceived.

At that depth the weight of the water pressed dangerously upon
his head and in his ears. Dave felt his senses leaving him.

"I'd sooner die than give up easily!" groaned the young midshipman,
and he seemed about to have his wish.

CHAPTER XXII

THE SEARCH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAY

By the strongest effort of the will that he could make, Darrin
steadied himself and forced his eyes once more open.

Drifting toward him, two feet above his head, was what looked like
another shadow. It came closer.

At the first thought Darrin was inclined not to believe his senses.

"I'll have to go up, after all, and let Dan have his chance. I'm
seeing things," Dave decided.

For, though the object floating toward him had some of the semblance
of a skirt-clad figure, yet it looked all out of proportion---perhaps
twice the size of Pauline Butler.

That was a trick of the scanty light coming through the water
at an angle---this coupled with Darrin's own fatigue of the eyes.

Closer it came, and looked a bit smaller.

"It is a girl---a woman---some human being!" throbbed Dave internally.

Now, though his head seeming bursting, Dave hung on more tightly
than ever. The drift of the water was bringing the body slowly
nearer to him. He must hold on until he could let himself strike
upward, seizing that body in his progress.

At last the moment arrived. Dave felt a hard tug at the cable,
but he did not at that instant realize that Dan Dalzell had just
started down from the steamer.

Dave judged that the right instant had come. He let go of the
loop, and was shot upward. But, as he moved, his spread arms
caught hold of the floating figure.

Up to within a few feet of the surface Darrin and his burden moved
easily. Then he found it necessary to kick out hard with his
feet. Thus he carried the burden clear, to the open air above,
though at a distance of some forty feet from the steamer.

"There they are!" Farley's voice was heard calling, and there
was a splash.

"Bully for you, old fellow! Hold her up, and I'm with you!" hailed
Midshipman Farley.

In another moment Dave Darrin had been eased of his human burden,
and Farley was swimming to the steamer with the senseless form
of Pauline Butler.

Darrin tried to swim, and was astounded at finding himself so
weak in the water. He floated, propelling himself feebly with
his hands, completely exhausted.

Just at that moment nearly every eye was fixed on Farley and his
motionless burden, and many pairs of hands stretched out to receive
them.

Yet the gaze of one alert pair of eyes was fixed on Darrin, out
there beyond.

"Now, you'd better look after Dave," broke in the quiet, clear
voice of Belle Meade. "I think he needs help."

Wolgast went over the side in an instant, grappling with Midshipman
Darrin and towing him to the side of the boat.

"All in!" cried Midshipman Gray jubilantly.

"Except Dan. Where's he?" muttered Dave weakly, as he sat on
one of the side seats.

"I'll signal him," muttered Wolgast, and hastened forward to the
anchor cable. This he seized and shook clumsily several times.
The vibrated motion must have been imparted downward, for soon
Dan Dalzell's head came above water.

"Everyone all right?" called Dan, as soon as he had gulped in
a mouthful of air.

"O.K." nodded Wolgast. "Come alongside and let me haul you in."

"You let me alone," muttered Dalzell, coming alongside and grasping
the rail. "Do you think a short cold bath makes me too weak to
attend to myself?"

With that Dan drew himself aboard. Back in the cockpit Mrs. Meade
and some of the girls were in frenzied way doing their best to
revive Pauline Butler, who, at the present moment, showed no signs
of life.

"Let me take charge of this reviving job. I've taken several
tin medals in first aid to the injured," proclaimed Farley modestly.

In truth the midshipman had a decided knack for this sort of work.
He assailed it with vigor, making a heap of life preservers,
and over these placing Miss Butler, head downward. Then Farley
took vigorous charge of the work of "rolling" out the water that
Miss Butler must have taken into her system.

"Get anchor up and start the steamer back to Annapolis at the
best speed possible," ordered Dave, long before he could talk
in a natural voice.

Wolgast and Dan aided Danny in hoisting the anchor. Steam was
crowded on and the little craft cut a swift, straight path for
Annapolis.

"Pauline is opening her eyes!" cried Farley, after twenty minutes
more of vigorous work in trying to restore the girl.

The girl's eyes merely fluttered, though, as a slight sigh escaped
her. The eyelids fell again, and there was but a trace of motion
at the pulse.

"We mustn't lose the poor child, now that we've succeeded in proving
a little life there," cried Mrs. Meade anxiously.

"Now, that's what I call a reflection on the skill of Dr. Farley,"
protested that midshipman in mock indignation. It was necessary,
at any amount of trouble, to keep these women folks on fair spirits
until Annapolis was reached. Then, perhaps, many of them would
faint.

All of the dry jackets of midshipmen aboard had been thrown
protectingly around the girls who had been in the water.

"Torpedo boat ahead, sir," reported the helmsman.

"Give her the distress signal to lie to," directed Dave.

The engine's whistle sent out the shrieking appeal over the waters.
The destroyer was seen to heave about and come slowly to meet
the steamer.

Long before the two craft had come together Dave Darrin was standing,
holding to one of the awning stanchions, for he was not yet any too
strong.

"Destroyer, ahoy!" he shouted as loudly as he could between his
hands. "Have you a surgeon aboard?"

"Yes," came back the answer.

"Let us board you, sir!"

"What's-----"

But Dave had turned to the helmsman with:

"Steam up alongside. Lose no time."

In a very short space of time the destroyer was reached and the
steamer ran alongside. The unconscious form of Miss Butler was
passed up over the side, followed by the other members of the
sailboat party. Mrs. Meade followed, in case she could be of
any assistance.

"You may chaperon your party of young ladies in the steamer, Belle,"
smiled Mrs. Meade from the deck of the destroyer. "I give you
express authority over them."

Farley's and Wolgast's sweethearts laughed merrily at this. All
hands had again reached the point where laughter came again to
their lips without strong effort. Pauline Butler was safe under
the surgeon's hands, if anywhere.

Then the destroyers pulled out again, hitting a fast clip for
Annapolis.

"That's the original express boat; this is only a cattle-carrier,"
muttered Dave, gazing after the fast destroyer.

"Calling us cattle, are you?" demanded Belle. "As official chaperon
I must protest on behalf of the young ladies aboard."

"A cattle boat often carries human passengers," Dave returned.
"I call this a cattle boat only because of our speed."

"We don't need speed now," Belle answered. "Those who do are
on board the destroyer."

By the time that the steamer reached her berth at the Academy
wall, and the young people had hastened ashore, they learned that
Pauline Butler had been removed to a hospital in Annapolis; that
she was very much alive, though still weak, and that in a day
or two she would again be all right.

With a boatswain's mate in charge, another steamer was despatched
down the bay to recover and tow home the capsized sailboat.

Examination week went through to its finish. By Saturday night
the first classmen knew who had passed. But two of the members
of the class had "bilged." Dave, Dan and all their close friends
in the class had passed and had no ordeal left at Annapolis save
to go through the display work of Graduation Week.

"You still have your two years at sea, though, before you're sure
of your commission," sighed Belle, as they rested between dances
that Saturday night.

"Any fellow who can live through four years at Annapolis can get
through the two years at sea and get his commission at last,"
laughed Dave Darrin happily. "Have no fears, Belle, about my
being an ensign, if I have the good fortune to live two years
more."

CHAPTER XXIII

GRADUATION DAY---AT LAST

Graduation Week!

Now came the time when the Naval Academy was given over to the
annual display of what could be accomplished in the training of
midshipmen.

There were drills and parades galore, with sham battles in which
the sharp crack of rifle fire was punctured by the louder, steadier
booms of field artillery. There were gun-pointing contests aboard
the monitors and other practice craft.

There were exhibitions of expert boat-handling, and less picturesque
performances at the machine shops and in the engine and dynamo
rooms. There were other drills and exhibitions---enough of them
to weary the reader, as they doubtless did weary the venerable
members of a Board of Visitors appointed by the President.

On Wednesday night came the class german. Now our young first
classmen were in for another thrill---the pleasure of wearing
officers' uniforms for the first time.

On graduation the midshipman is an officer of the Navy, though
a very humble one. The graduated midshipman's uniform is a more
imposing affair than the uniform of a midshipman who is still
merely a member of the brigade at the Naval Academy.

On this Wednesday evening the new uniforms were of white, the
summer and tropical uniform of the Navy. These were donned by
first classmen only in honor of the class german, which the members
of the three lower classes do not attend.

All the young Women attending were also attired wholly in white,
save for simple jewelry or coquettish ribbons.

Dave Darrin, of course, escorted Belle Meade with all the pride
in the world. Most of the other midshipmen "dragged" young women
on this great evening.

Dan Dalzell did not. He attended merely for the purpose of looking
on, save when he danced with Belle Meade.

On the following evening, after another tiresome day spent in
boring the Board of Visitors, came the evening promenade, a solemnly
joyous and very dressy affair.

Then came that memorable graduation morning, when so many dozens
of young midshipmen, since famous in the Navy, received their
diplomas.

Early the young men turned out.

"It seems queer to be turning out without arms, doesn't it?" grumbled
Dan Dalzell.

But it is the rule for the graduating class to turn out without
arms on this one very grand morning. The band formed on the right
of line. Next to them marched to place the graduating class,
minus arms. Then the balance of the brigade under arms.

When the word was given a drum or two sounded the step, and off
the brigade marched, slowly and solemnly. A cornet signal, followed
by a drum roll, and then the Naval Academy Band crashed into the
joyous march, consecrated to this occasion, "Ain't I glad I'm
out of the wilderness!"

"Amen! Indeed I'm glad," Dave Darrin murmured devoutly under
his breath. "There has been many a time in the last four years
when I didn't expect to graduate. But now it's over. Nothing
can stop Dan or myself!"

Crowds surrounded the entrance to the handsome, classic chapel,
though the more favored crowds had already passed inside and filled
the seats that are set apart for spectators.

Inside filed the midshipmen, going to their seats in front. The
chaplain, in the hush that followed the seating, rose, came forward
and in a voice husky with emotion urged:

"Friends, let us pray for the honor, success, glory and steadfast
manhood through life of the young men who are about to go forth
with their diplomas."

Every head was bowed while the chaplain's petition ascended.

When the prayer was over the superintendent, in full dress uniform,
stepped to the front of the rostrum and made a brief address.
Sailors are seldom long-winded talkers. The superintendent's
address, on this very formal occasion, lasted barely four minutes.
But what he said was full of earnest manhood and honest patriotism.

Then the superintendent dropped to his chair. There were not
so very many dry eyes when the choir beautifully intoned:

"God be with you till we meet again!"

But now another figure appeared on the rostrum. Though few of
the young men had ever seen this new-comer, they knew him by instinct.
At a signal from an officer standing at the side of the chapel,
the members of the brigade broke forth into thunderous hurrahs.
For this man, now about to address them, was their direct chief.

"Gentlemen and friends," announced the superintendent, "I take
the greatest pleasure that may come to any of us in introducing
our chief---the Secretary of the Navy."

And now other officers appeared on the rostrum, bearing diplomas
and arranging them in order.

The name of the man to graduate first in his class was called.
He went forward and received his diploma from the Secretary,
who said:

"Mr. Ennerly, it is, indeed, a high honor to take first place
in such a class as yours!"

Ennerly, flushed and proud, returned to his seat amid applause
from his comrades.

And so there was a pleasant word for each midshipman as he went
forward.

When the Secretary picked up the seventeenth diploma he called:

"David Darrin!"

Who was the most popular man in the brigade of midshipmen? The
midshipmen themselves now endeavored to answer the question by
the tremendous explosions of applause with which they embarrassed
Dave as he went forward.

"Mr. Darrin," smiled the Secretary, "there are no words of mine
that can surpass the testimonial which you have just received
from your comrades. But I will add that we expect tremendous
things from you, sir, within the next few years. You have many
fine deeds and achievements to your credit here, sir. Within
the week you led in a truly gallant rescue human life down the
bay. Mr. Darrin, in handing you your well-earned diploma, I take
upon myself the liberty of congratulating your parents on their
son!"

As Dave returned to his seat with his precious sheepskin the elder
Darrin, who was in the audience, took advantage of the renewed
noises of applause to clear his throat huskily several times.
Dave's mother honestly used her handkerchief to dry the tears of
pride that were in her eyes.

Another especial burst of applause started when Daniel Dalzell,
twenty-first in his class, was called upon to go forward.

"I didn't believe Danny Grin would ever get through," one first
classman confided behind his hand to another. "I expected that
the upper classmen would kill Danny Grin before he ever got over
being a fourth classman."

But here was Dan coming back amid more applause, his graduation
number high enough to make it practically certain that he would
be a rear admiral one of these days when he had passed the middle
stage of life in the service.

One by one the other diplomas were given out, each accompanied
by some kindly message from the Secretary of the Navy, which,
if remembered and observed, would be of great value to the graduate
at some time in the future.

The graduating exercises did not last long. To devote too much
time to them would be to increase the tension.

Later in the day the graduated midshipmen again appeared. They
were wearing their new coats now, several inches longer in the
tail, and denoting them as real officers in the Navy. A non-graduate
midshipman must salute one of these graduates whenever they meet.

In their room, to be occupied but one night more, Dave and Dan
finished dressing in their new uniforms at the same moment.

"Shake, Danny boy!" cried Dave Darrin, holding out his hand.
"How does it seem, at last, to know that you're really an officer
in the Navy?"

"Great!" gulped Dalzell. "And I don't mind admitting that, during
the last four years, I've had my doubts many a time that this great
day would ever come for we. But get your cap's and let's hustle
outside."

"Why this unseemly rush, Danny?"

"I want to round up a lot of under classmen and make them tire
their arms out saluting me."

"Your own arm will ache, too, then, Danny. You are obliged, as
of course you know, to return every salute."

"Hang it, yes! There's a pebble in every pickle dish, isn't there?"

"You're going to the graduation ball tonight, of course?"

"Oh, surely," nodded Dalzell. "After working as I've worked for
four years for the privilege, I'd be a fool to miss it. But I'll
sneak away early, after I've done a friend's duty by you and Belle.
No girls for me until I'm a captain in the Navy!"

The ball room was a scene of glory that night. Bright eyes shone
unwontedly, and many a heart fluttered. For Belle Meade was not
the only girl there who was betrothed to a midshipman. Any graduate
who chose might marry as soon as he pleased, but nearly all the
men of the class preferred to wait until they had put in their
two years at sea and had won their commissions as ensigns.

"This must be a night of unalloyed pleasure to you," murmured
Belle, as she and her young officer sweetheart sat out one dance.
"You can look back over a grand four years of life here."

"I don't know that I'd have the nerve to go through it all again,"
Darrin answered her honestly.

"You don't have to," Belle laughed happily. "You put in your
later boyhood here, and now your whole life of manhood is open
before you."

"I'll make the best use of that manhood that is possible for me,"
Dave replied solemnly.

"You must have formed some wonderful friendships here."

"I have."

"And, I suppose," hesitated Belle, "a few unavoidable enmities."

"I don't know about that," Dave replied promptly and with energy.
"I can't think of a fellow here that I wouldn't be ready and
glad to shake hands with. I hope---I trust---that all of the
fellows in the brigade feel the same way about me."

CHAPTER XXIV

CONCLUSION

There was one more formation yet---one more meal to be eaten under
good old Bancroft Hall.

But right after breakfast the graduates, each one now in brand-new
cit. attire, began to depart in droves.

Some went to the earliest train; others stopped at the hotels
and boarding houses in town to pick up relatives and friends with
whom the gladsome home journey was to be made.

"I don't like you as well in cits.," declared Belle, surveying
Dave critically in the hotel parlor.

"In the years to come," smiled Dave, "you'll see quite enough
of me in uniform."

"I don't know about that," Belle declared, her honest soul shining
in her eyes. "Do you feel that you'll ever see enough of me?"

"I know that I won't," Dave rejoined. "You have one great relief
in prospect," smiled Belle. "Whenever you do grow tired of me
you can seek orders to some ship on the other side of the world."

"The fact that I can't be at home regularly," answered Midshipman
Darrin, "is going to be the one cloud on our happiness. Never
fear my seeking orders that take me from home---unless in war
time. Then, of course, every Naval officer must burn the wires
with messages begging for a fighting appointment."

"I'm not afraid of your fighting record, if the need ever comes,"
replied Belle proudly. "And, Dave, though my heart breaks, I'll
never show you a tear in my eyes if you're starting on a fighting
cruise."

Mrs. Meade and Dave's parents now entered the room, and soon after
Danny Grin, who had gone in search of his own father and mother,
returned with them.

"What are we going to do now?" asked Mr. Darrin. "I understand
that we have hours to wait for the next train."

"We can't do much, sir," replied Dave. "Within another hour this
will be the deadest town in the United States."

"I should think you young men would want to spend most of the
intervening time down at the Naval Academy, looking over the familiar
spots once more," suggested Mrs. Dalzell.

"Then I'm afraid, mother, that you don't realize much of the way
that a midshipman feels. The Naval Academy is our alma mater,
and a beloved spot. Yet, after what I've been through there during
the last few years I don't want to see the Naval Academy again.
At least, not until I've won a solid step or two in the way of
promotion."

"That's the feeling of all the graduates, I reckon," nodded Dave
Darrin. "For one, I know I don't want to go back there to-day."

"Some day you will go back there, though," observed Danny Grin.

"Why are you so sure?" Dave asked.

"Well, you were always such a stickler for observing the rules
that the Navy Department will have to send you there for some
post or other. Probably you'll go back as a discipline officer."

"I would have one advantage over you, then, wouldn't I?" laughed
Darrin. "If I had to rebuke a midshipman I could do it with a
more serious face than you could."

"I can't help my face," sighed Danny Grin.

"You see, Dave," Mr. Dalzell observed, with a smile, "Dan inherited
his face."

"From his father's side of the family," promptly interposed Mrs.
Dalzell.

Here Mr. Farley, also in cits., entered the parlor in his dignified
fashion.

"Darry, and you, too, Danny Grin, some of the fellows are waiting
outside to see you. Will you step out a moment?"

"Where are the fellows?" asked Dave unsuspectingly.

"You'll find them on the steps outside the entrance."

Dave started for the door.

"You're wanted, too, Danny Grin, as I told you," Farley reminded
him.

"I'll be the Navy goat, then. What's the answer?" inquired Midshipman
Dalzell.

"Run along, like a good little boy, and your curiosity will soon
be gratified."

Danny Grin looked as though he expected some joke, but he went
none the less.

Dave, first to reach the entrance, stepped through into the open.
As he did so he saw at least seventy-five of his recent classmates
grouped outside.

The instant they perceived their popular comrade the crowd of
graduates bellowed forth:

"N N N N,
A A A A,
V V V V,
Y Y Y Y,
NAVY!
Darrin!
Darrin!
Darrin!"

In another moment Danny Grin showed himself. Back in his face
was hurled the volley:

"N N N N,
A A A A,
V V V V,
Y Y Y Y,
NAVY!
Grin!
Grin!
Grin!"

"Eh?" muttered Danny, when the last line reached him. They were
unexpected. Then, as be faced the laughing eyes down in the street,
Dalzell justified his nickname by one of those broad smiles that
had made him famous at the Naval Academy.

Dave Darrin waved his hand in thanks for the "Four-N" yell, the
surest sign of popularity, and vanished inside. When he returned
to the parlor be found that Farley had conducted his parents and
friends to one of the parlor windows, from which, behind drawn
blinds, they had watched the scene and heard the uproar without
making themselves visible.

At noon the hotel dining room was overrun with midshipmen and
their friends, all awaiting the afternoon train.

But at last the time came to leave Annapolis behind in earnest.
Extra cars had been put on to handle the throng, for the "train,"
for the first few miles of the way, usually consists of but one
combination trolley car.

"You're leaving the good old place behind," murmured Belle, as
the car started.

"Never a graduate yet but was glad to leave Annapolis behind,"
replied Dave.

"It seems to me that you ought not to speak of the Naval Academy
in that tone."

"You'd understand, Belle, if you had been through every bit of
the four-year grind, always with the uncertainty ahead of you
of being able to get through and grad."

"Perhaps the strict discipline irked you, too," Miss Meade hinted.

"The strict discipline will be part of the whole professional
life ahead of me," Darrin responded. "As to discipline, it's
even harder on some ships, where the old man is a stickler for
having things done just so."

"The old man?" questioned Belle.

"The 'old man' is the captain of a warship."

"It doesn't sound respectful."

"Yet it has always been the name given to the ship's captain,
and I don't suppose it will be changed in another hundred years.
How does it feel, Danny boy, going away for good?"

"Am I really going away for good?" grinned Dalzell. "I thought
it was only a dream."

"Well, here's Odenton. You'll be in Baltimore after another little
while, and then it will all seem more real."

"Nothing but Gridley will look real to me on this trip," muttered
Dan. "Really, I'm growing sick for a good look at the old home
town."

"I wish you could put in the whole summer at home, Dan," sighed
his mother. "But, of course, I know that you can't."

"No, mother; I'll have time to walk up and down the home streets
two or three times, and then orders will come from the Navy Department
to report aboard the ship to which I'm to be assigned. Mother,
if you want to keep a boy at home you shouldn't allow him to go
to a place where he's taught that nothing on earth matters but
the Navy!"

Later in the afternoon the train pulled in at Baltimore. It was
nearing dusk when the train pulled out of Philadelphia on its
way further north.

Yet the passage of time and the speeding of country past the ear
windows was barely noticed by the Gridley delegation. There was
too much to talk about---too many plans to form for the next two
or three weeks of blissful leave before duty must commence again.

Here we will take leave of our young midshipmen for the present,
though we shall encounter them again as they toil on upward through
their careers.

We have watched Dave and Dan from their early teens. We met them
first in the pages of the _"Grammar School Boys' Series."_ We know
what we know of them back in the days when they attended the Central
Grammar School and studied under that veteran of teachers, "Old
Dut," as he was affectionately known.

We saw them with the same chums, of Dick & Co., when that famous
sextette of schoolboys entered High School. We are wholly familiar
with their spirited course in the High School. We know how all
six of the youngsters of Dick & Co. made the name of Gridley famous
for clean and manly sports in general.

Our readers will yet hear from Dave and Dan occasionally. They
appear in the pages of the _"Young Engineers' Series,"_ and also
in the volumes of the _"Boys of the Army Series."_

In this latter series our young friends will learn just how the
romance of Dave Darrin and Belle Meade developed; and they will
also come across the similar affair of Dick Prescott and Laura
Bentley.

Dave and Dan had, as they had expected, but a brief stay in the
home town.

Bright and early one morning a postman handed to each a long,
official envelope from the Navy Department. In each instance
the envelope contained their orders to report aboard one of the
Navy's biggest battleships.

Our two midshipmen were fortunate in one respect. Both were ordered
to the same craft, their to finish their early Naval educations
in two years of practical work as officers at sea ere they could
reach the grade of ensign and step into the ward-room.

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