basis for any action by the fourth class. That, if anything, would be wholly a personal matter. Then what am I accused of doing? It must be some fierce sort of lie when the fellows talk of taking it up as a class matter.”
For ten minutes more Dave puzzled and pondered over the problem. Then the door flew open and Dan bolted hastily in.
“You haven’t been hitting anyone have you? asked Dave, noticing the flushed, angry face of his chum.
“No! But one of us will have to do some hitting soon,” burst hotly from Dalzell.
“It’ll be my hit, then, I guess,” smiled Dave wearily. “Have you found out–“
“Dave it’s the most absurd sort of lie! You know that Farley and his little crowd got caught last night, when they returned from their Frenching party over the wall?”
“Frenching” is taking unauthorized leave from the academic limits by going over the wall, instead of through the gate.
“Yes; I know Farley and his friends got caught,” rejoined Darrin. “But what has that to do with me?
“Farley and his friends are sore–“
“They ought not to be,” said Darrin quietly. “They took the chance, and now they ought to be ready to pay up like good sportsmen.”
“Dave, _they say you informed on them, and got them caught!_”
“What?” shouted Darrin, leaping to his feet. His face was deathly white and the corners of his mouth twitched.
He took two bounding steps toward the door, but Dalzell threw himself in his chum’s way.
“Not just this minute, Dave!” ordered Dan firmly. “We don’t want any manslaughter here–not even of the ‘justifiable’ kind! Sit and wait until you’ve cooled off–some. When you go out I’m going with you–whether it’s out into the corridor, or out of the Naval Academy for good. Sit down, now! Try to talk it over coolly, and get yourself into a frame of mind where you can talk with others without prejudicing your case.”
“My case?” repeated Dave bitterly, as he allowed Dan to force him back into his chair. “I haven’t any case. I haven’t done anything.”
“I know that, but you’ve got to get cool, and stay so, if you want to make sure that others have a chance to know it,” warned Dan.
“Does Farley say that I sneaked in information against him?”
“Farley and the others are so sore over their demerits that they believe almost anything, now, and they say almost anything. Of course, Farley remembers the row he had with you last night. In a fool way he puts two and two together, an decides that you helped set the trap for them.”
“If I had done a dirty thing like that, then I’d deserve to be cut by the whole brigade,” retorted Dave, his face flushing.
“But I want to tell you, right now, Dave, that some of the fellows of our class know you too well to believe any such thing against you.”
“I’m properly grateful to the few, then,” retorted Darrin, his eyes softening a trifle. “But come along, Dan, if you will. I mean to start in at once to sift this thing down.”
“Let me look at you,” ordered Dalzell, grappling with his chum, and looking him over.
Then, a moment later, Dan added:
“Yes; you’re cool enough, I think. I’ll go with you. But remember that the easiest way to destroy yourself is to let your temper get on top. If anybody is to get mad before the crowd, let me do it. Then you can restrain me if I get too violent.”
Dave Darrin took his uniform cap down from the nail and put it on with great deliberation. Next, he picked up his whisk broom, flecking off two or three imaginary specks of dust.
“Now, I guess we can go along, Danny boy,” he remarked, in a tone of ominous quietness.
“Where are you headed?” murmured Dalzell, as they reached the room door.
“To Farley’s room,” answered Dave Darrin coolly. “Do you suppose he’s there?”
“He was, a few moments ago” Dan answered.
“Then let us hope he is now.”
Carrying himself with his most erect and military air, Darrin stepped down the corridor, Dalzell keeping exactly at his side.
The chums arrived before the door of the room in which Farley was lodged.
Dave raised his hand, sounding a light knock on the door, which he next pushed open.
Farley and a dozen other members of the fourth class were in the room. Moreover, it was evident instantly that some of those present were discussing the burning class issue.
“But are you sure he did it? Farley?” one midshipman inquired, as the chums entered.
“Sure?” repeated Farley. “Of course I am! Didn’t I tell you what a hot row we had. Darrin–“
“I’m here to speak for myself, Farley,” boomed in the quiet, steady voice of Dave Darrin. “But I’ll hear you first, if you wish.”
“Oh, you’re here, are you?” cried Farley hotly, wheeling about on the visitors.
Some of the other fourth class men present turned and glanced coldly at the two last-comers. Others looked on with eager curiosity.
“I’ve heard,” announced Darrin, “that you are saying some things about me that don’t sound well. So I’ve come to ask you what you are saying.”
“I won’t keep you waiting,” jeered Farley. “You know, from hearing morning orders, that six of us were given fifty demerits apiece.”
“For going over the wall to a late supper in town,” nodded Dave.
“You wouldn’t go with us,” continued Farley angrily, “and gave us a greaser’s talk-fest instead.”
“I didn’t advise you against going,” responded Dave, standing with his arms folded, utterly cool as he eyed his accuser.
“Then, after we went, some one went and wised the powers,” charged Farley. “Now, no one but a most abandoned greaser would do that.”
To “wise the powers” is to give information to the Naval officers.
“The fellow who would wilfully tell on you would be worse than what you term a greaser,” agreed Dave.
“Careful,” warned Farley ironically. “You know who told, or who caused the wise word to leak to the powers.”
“I don’t,” Dave denied bluntly.
“You’re the sneak, yourself!” cried Farley angrily.
“I am not,” spoke Dave, with clear denial.
“Do you mean to say I lie?” demanded Midshipman Farley threateningly, as he took a step forward.
“Do you deliberately state that I informed upon you, or caused you to be informed upon?” demanded Dave Darrin.
“Yes, I do!
“Then you lie!” returned Darrin promptly.
With a suppressed yell Farley sprang at Darrin, and the latter struck out quickly.
ON THE FIELD OF THE CODE
Midshipman Farley had the bad judgment to stop that blow with the side of his neck.
Across the room he spun, going down in a heap, his head under the study table.
Dave Darrin looked on with a cool smile, while Farley lay there for an instant, then scrambled out and up onto his feet.
But two or three other new midshipmen sprang in between Dave and his accuser.
“We can’t have a fight here, Farley,” urged two or three in the same breath.
“Let me at the sneak!” sputtered Farley who was boiling over with rage.
“Yes; let him at me,” voiced Dave coolly, “and I’ll send him into the middle of next term!”
But three of the midshipmen clung to Farley, who furiously strove to fling them off.
“Let me at him!” insisted the accuser. “He struck me.”
“You struck at him first, and didn’t land,” replied one of the peacemakers. “You go on with a fight here, and you’ll bring the officer in charge down on us all. Farley, if you feel you’ve a grievance you are privileged to take recourse to the regular code in such matters.”
“The fellow has lied about me, and I’m ready to settle it with him now, or outside by appointment,” broke in Dave, speaking as coolly as before.
“He calls me ‘fellow’ and ‘liar,'” panted Farley, turning white. “Do you think I can stand that?
“You don’t have to,” replied one of those who held Farley back. “Send Darrin a challenge, in the regular way.”
“I will!” panted Midshipman Farley. “And I’ll hammer him all over and out of the meeting-place!”
“Then it’s settled for a challenge,” interposed Dan Dalzell. “That will suit us all right. We’ll be ready whenever the challenge comes. And now, to prevent getting a lot of decent fellows into a needless scrape, Darrin and I will withdraw.”
Dan took Dave by the arm, and both turned to leave the room.
“You–” began Farley hoarsely, when another midshipman clapped a hand over his mouth.
“Shut up Farley! Save all of your undoubted grit for the field, when you two meet.”
The door closed softly behind Darrin and Dalzell.
“Why didn’t you let me at the sneak?” bellowed Farley, released, now, from interfering hands.
“See here, Farley,” advised one of his friends, “cool down and keep your face in a restful attitude. Darrin behaved twice as well as you did. If you don’t look out you’ll lose the sympathy of the class. Just keep cool, and restrain your tongue from wagging until you’ve met Darrin. Don’t try to start the row again, this side of the field where you meet. If you do, you’ll get many a cold shoulder.”
Other midshipmen present spoke in the same vein. Farley, who wanted to be popular at all times, presently allowed himself to be advised.
Of course the news of the meeting, and of the more emphatic one to come spread fast through Bancroft Hall. There is an unknown wireless that carries all such news on wings through the brigade of midshipmen.
Within half an hour Henkel and Page brought the challenge to Dave Darrin. Dan, in the meantime, had been busy, and had induced Midshipman Rollins, of the fourth class, to act with him as second. Rollins, indeed, needed little urging. He was eager to see the fight.
Tyson, of the second class, was secured as referee, while Trotter, of the third class, gladly agreed to act as time-keeper.
The time was set for an hour before taps, as, on this evening, it would be easy for all the young men involved to slip away and be back in time for taps.
“I won’t let the thing run over two rounds,” promised Farley, who had an excellent idea of himself as a fighter.
That afternoon Dave and Farley were obliged to pass each other. Dave did not even seem to know that his enemy was around. Farley, on the other hand, glared ferociously at Darrin as he passed.
Midshipman Trotter certainly would have come around to offer Dave friendly counsel, had not his position as one of the officials of the fight restrained him.
Dave, by his prompt action, had veered many of his classmates around to his side. The bulk of opinion in the class, however, was that Farley would make good in his boasts of victory. He was a heavily-built yet very active young man, who had shown great promise in boxing bouts in the gymnasium.
At half-past eight that evening, while scores of cadets strolled through the grounds, thinking of the academic term to begin on the morrow, some little groups made their way more directly across the grounds. Many interested glances followed them.
Over in the direction of the Old Government Hospital stepped Dave, accompanied by Dan and Rollins.
They were the first to arrive, though a few minutes later Midshipmen Tyson and Trotter appeared.
“Farley doesn’t seem in as a big hurry as he was,” remarked Dan Dalzell laughingly.
It was not, in fact, until close to the time that Farley, Henkel and Page came on the scene.
“We want to put this mill through briskly, gentlemen,” announced Midshipman Tyson, in a low tone. “Both principals will be good enough to get ready as rapidly as possible.”
Dave Darrin had been only awaiting the order. Now he took off his cap and uniform blouse, handing them to Dan, who folded the coat and laid it on the ground, placing the cap on top of it.
By this time Darrin had pulled his shirt over his head. Dan took that also, while Rollins produced a belt which Dave strapped about his waist with care.
Then he stepped forward, like a young war horse, sniffing the battle.
Farley was more leisurely in his preparations, though he did not appear nervous. In fact, Farley wasn’t a bit nervous. But he meant “wind up” the fight in such short order that there would be an abundance of time to spare.
“There’s no use in giving you any advice, old fellow,” murmured Dan. “You’ve been in too many fights, back in the good old High School days of Dick & Co.”
“I can handle myself,” nodded Dave, “unless Farley proves to be a veritable wonder.”
“He certainly thinks he is,” warned Rollins. “And a good many of the fellows believe Farley to be the best man of the class in this line of work.”
“They won’t think so much longer,” returned Dan, as simply as though merely stating a proved fact. “You see, Rollins, you never had the great good luck to get your kid training with Dick & Co. Our old crowd always went in to win just because we were blind to the idea that there was any possible chance of losing.”
“Did you always make good?” asked Rollins curiously.
“Just about always, I reckon,” nodded Dan confidently.
“You must have been a wonder-bunch then,” smiled Rollins.
Farley was ready, now, and coming forward with a second on either side of him.
“Step in Dave old fellow.” directed Dan.
Dave came forward to where Midshipman Tyson awaited them.
“Gentlemen,” announced the referee, “this is to be a fight to the finish, bare hands. As time is short you are urged to mix it up briskly to a conclusion. The usual ring rules will guide the officials of this meeting. Hand-shaking will dispensed with. Are you ready?”
“Ready!” hissed Farley venomously.
“Ready,” nodded Dave coolly.
With a yell Farley leaped in. He didn’t want it to last more than one round, if it could be helped.
The fury of his assault drove the lighter Darrin back. Farley followed up with more sledge-hammers. He was certainly a dangerous man, with a hurricane style. He was fast and heavy, calculated to bear down a lighter opponent.
Before that assortment of blows Dave Darrin was forced to resort to footwork.
“Stand up and fight!” jeered Farley harshly as he wheeled and wheeled, still throwing out his hammer blows. “Don’t play sneak on the field!”
Dave didn’t even flush. Trained with Dick Prescott at Gridley High School, Darrin was too old a hand to be taunted into indiscretion.
In spite of his footwork, however, Farley succeeded in landing upon him twice, though neither blow did much damage.
Then a third blow landed, against the side of Darrin’s head, that jarred him. It was all he could do to stand off Farley until he recovered his wits enough to dodge once more.
Yet, all the while, Darrin was watching his chance.
THE MAN WHO WON
“This isn’t a sprint!” yelled Farley, in high disgust. “Come back here!” Dave did come back.
Wheeling suddenly, he struck his right arm up under Farley’s now loose guard.
In the same fraction of a second Dave let fly with his left.
It wasn’t such a very hard blow–but it landed on the tip of Farley’s nose.
With a yell of rage Farley made a dive at his lighter opponent.
In his rage Farley tried to strike after that call, but Dave bounded to one side.
Then, turning his back, Darrin walked away to where Dan and Midshipman Rollins awaited him.
“Be careful, Mister Farley,” warned Second Class Man Tyson, striding over to him. “You struck out after the call of time. Had the blow landed I would have been compelled under the rules to award Darrin the fight on a foul.”
“First blood for our side!” cheered Dan, as he sprang at Dave with a towel.
In a few moments the young man had been well rubbed down, and now Dan and Rollins, on opposite sides, were kneading his muscles.
From over in Farley’s corner came a growl:
“I came here to fight, not to go in for track work. That fellow can’t fight.”
“Queer!” remarked Dan cheerfully. “We hold all the honors so far.”
Quickly enough the call of time came.
Farley, the flow of blood from his nose stanched, came back as full of steam as before.
Dave’s footwork was as nimble as ever. Speed and skill in dodging were features of Darrin’s fighting style.
Yet Farley caught him, with a blow on the chest that sent him to his knees.
Like a flash, however, Darrin was upon his feet, and Farley lunged at him swiftly and heavily.
In the very act of reaching his feet, however, Dave Darrin leaped lightly to the left.
With an exclamation of disgust Farley turned and swung again.
But Dave dropped down, then shot up under his opponent’s guard once more.
This time an exclamation of real pain came from Farley, for the blow had landed solidly on his left eye, just about closing it.
A second time Darrin might have landed, but he was taking no chances under a steam-roller like Farley.
As Dave danced away, however, followed up by his opponent, bellowing from the sudden jolt his eye had received, he saw that Farley was fighting almost blindly.
Dan Dalzell now jumped in as close as he had any right to be. He wanted to see what would happen next.
Nor was he kept long guessing, for Dave had slipped around on the blind side of his opponent.
“Confound you! Can’t you stand up and fight square?” demanded Farley harshly.
Dave flushed, this time. Dodging two of Farley’s blows he next moved as though about to retreat.
Instead, however, Darrin leaped up and forward.
Pound! Dave’s hard left fist landed crushingly near the point of Farley’s jaw.
Down went the larger man, while his seconds rushed to him.
Midshipman Trotter, watch in hand, began calling off the seconds.
Steadily he counted them, until he came to “–eight, nine, _ten_!”
Still Farley lay on the ground, his good eye, as well as his damaged one, closed.
If he was breathing it was so slightly that his seconds, not permitted under the rules to go close, could not detect the movements of respiration.
“He loses the count,” announced Second Class Man Tyson, in businesslike tones. “I award the fight to Mister Darrin.”
Always the ceremonious “mister” with which upper class men refer to new fourth class men. It is not until the plebe becomes a “youngster” that the “mister” is dropped for the more friendly social address.
Farley’s seconds were kneeling at his side now.
“Can you bring him out easily?” asked Midshipman Tyson, going over to the defeated man’s seconds.
“He’s pretty soundly asleep, just now,” put in Midshipman Trotter. “My, but that was a fearful crack you gave your man, mister!”
“I’m sorry if I have had to hurt him much,” replied Dave coolly. “I am not keen for fighting.”
Dan and Rollins offered their services in helping to bring Farley to, only to met by a curt refusal from Midshipman Henkel.
So Dave and his seconds stood mutely by, at a distance, while the two officials in the late fight added their efforts to those of the seconds of the knocked-out man.
At last they brought a sigh from Farley’s lips.
Soon after the defeated midshipman opened his eyes.
“Is–Darrin–dead?” he asked slowly, with a bewildered look.
Midshipman Trotter chuckled.
“Not so you could notice it, mister. But you surely had a close call. Do you want to try to sit up?”
This Farley soon concluded to do. Then his seconds dressed him.
“Now, see if you can stand on your feet,” urged Midshipman Tyson.
By this time Farley’s wits had returned sufficiently for him to have a very fair idea of what had passed.
Aided by Henkel and Page Midshipman Farley got to his feet. There he stood, dizzily, until his late seconds gave him stronger support. “You can’t go back to Bancroft while you are in this condition, mister,” hinted Tyson decidedly. “You’ll have to pass in review before one of our medical gentlemen, and do whatever he deems best.”
“Dan,” murmured Dave, “go over and ask Farley whether he cares to shake hands.”
Dan crossed in quest of the information.
“Never!” growled Farley, with a hissing intake of breath.
“It’s a shame to have bad blood after the fight is over,” muttered Tyson rebukingly.
“I don’t want anything to do with that fellow until we meet again,” growled Farley.
“Great Scott, mister! You don’t think of calling Mister Darrin out again, do you?” demanded Tyson, with a gasp.
“Yes; if he can be made to fight fair!” snarled Farley.
“He fought fairly this time, mister,” replied Second Class Man Tyson, almost with heat. “You’re a fast, heavy and hard scrapper for your age, mister, but the other man simply out-pointed you all through the game. If you call him out again, and he meets you, he can kill you if he sees fit.”
“Misters,” directed Midshipman Trotter, addressing Henkel and Page, “you’d better hurry to get your man over to a surgeon if you want to be in your rooms at lights-out time.”
As Page and Henkel started away with their unfortunate comrade, Dave approached Tyson.
“Sir, do you believe that I fought with entire fairness?” asked Darrin of the referee.
“Fair? Of course you did, mister,” replied Tyson. “Come along, Trotter.”
Dave, who had dressed some time before, now turned with Dan and Rollins and started back. They took pains not to be seen close to the upper class men.
“Who won?” demanded a fourth class man, curiously, as they neared Bancroft Hall.
“Farley will tell you tomorrow if he’s able,” grinned Dan.
When taps sounded on the bugle, that evening, all of the midshipmen, save Farley, were in their rooms.
Promptly as the last note of taps broke on the air the last of the midshipmen was in bed, and the electric light was turned off from a master switch. The inspection of rooms was on.
DAN JUST CAN’T HELP BEING “TOUGE”
Fourth Class Man Farley did not put in an appearance at breakfast formation in the morning.
As this was the opening day of the first term of the academic year it was a bad time to be “docked for repairs” at the hospital.
Merely reading over the list of the fourth class studies did not convey to the new men much idea of how hard they were to find their work.
In the department of Marine Engineering and Naval Construction there were lessons in mechanical drawing.
No excuse is made for a midshipman’s natural lack of ability in drawing. He must draw satisfactorily if he is to hope to pass.
In mathematics the new man had to recite in algebra, logarithms and geometry.
In addition to the foregoing, during the first term, the new midshipman had courses in English and in French.
As at West Point, the mathematics is the stumbling block of the new man at Annapolis.
In the first term algebra, logarithms and geometry had to be finished, for in the second term trigonometry was the subject in mathematics.
Shortly before eight in the morning the bugle call sounded for the first period of recitation.
The midshipmen fell in by classes in front of Bancroft Hall. After muster the classes marched away by sections.
Each section contained an average of ten men, under command of one of their number, who was known as the section leader.
It was the section leader’s duty to march his section to the proper recitation room in Academic Hall, to preserve discipline while marching, and to report his section to the instructor.
At the beginning of the academic year the fourth class men were divided into sections in alphabetical order. Afterwards the sections would be reorganized according to order of merit.
So, at the outset, Darrin and Dalzell were in the same section, and Dave, as it happened, had been appointed section leader.
When the command rang out Dave marched away with his section, feeling somewhat proud that he had attained even to so small a degree of command.
It was an interesting sight to see hundreds of midshipmen, split up into so many sections, marching across the grounds in so many different directions, for not all the sections were headed for Academic Hall.
Dave knew the number of the room to which his section was bound, and knew also the location of the room.
Sections march, in step, at a brisk gait, the clicking of so many heels against the pavements making a rhythmic, inspiring sound.
Some of the midshipmen in Dave’s section however, felt low-spirited that morning. They had been looking through their text-books, and felt a dread that they would not be able to keep up the stiff pace of learning long enough to get past the semi-annual examinations in the coming January.
Dave and Dan, however, both felt in good spirits. They had looked through the first lessons in algebra, and felt that they would not have much trouble at the outset, anyway. They believed that they had been well grounded back in their High School days.
On their way Darrin’s section was passed by three officers of the Navy. Midshipmen must always salute officers of the Navy. While marching in sections, however, the only midshipman who salutes is the section leader.
Three times Dave’s hand came smartly up to the visor of his cap in salute, while the other men in his section looked straight ahead.
Reaching Academic Hall Dave marched his section mates into the recitation room.
Lieutenant Bradshaw, the instructor, was already present, standing by his desk.
Darrin saluted the lieutenant as soon as he had halted the section.
“Sir, I report all members of the section present.”
Five of the midshipmen were directed by Lieutenant Bradshaw to go to their seats. The rest were ordered to blackboards, Dave and Dan among the latter number.
Those at the blackboards were each given a problem to lay out on the blackboard. Then the instructor turned to the fourth class men who remained in their seats.
These he questioned, in turn, on various aspects of the day’s lesson.
All the time the midshipmen at the blackboard worked busily away, each blocking out phase after phase of his problem.
Dave Darrin was first to finish. He turned his back to the board, taking the position of parade rest.
Dan was third to finish.
“Mr. Darrin, you may explain your work,” announced Lieutenant Bradshaw.
This Dave did, slowly, carefully, though without painful hesitation. When he had finished the instructor asked him several questions about the problem, and about some other phases of the day’s work. Darrin did not jump at any of his answers, but made them thoughtfully.
“Very good, indeed, Mr. Darrin,” commented the instructor. “But, when you are more accustomed to reciting here, I shall hope for a little more speed in answering.”
As Dave was returning to his seat Lieutenant Bradshaw marked him 3.8 per cent on the day’s work.
That was an excellent marking, 4 being the highest. The lowest average in a study which a midshipman may have, and hold his place in the Naval Academy, is 2.5. Anything below 2.5 is unsatisfactory, which, in midshipman parlance is “unsat.” Taking 4 to represent 100 per cent., 2.5 stands for 62.5 per cent. This would not be a high average to expect, as courses are laid down in the average High School of the land; but as most of our American High Schools go 2.5 at Annapolis is at least as good a marking as 90 per cent would be in a High School.
“Good old Dave leaks too slow at the spout, does he?” chuckled Dan to himself, as he waited at parade rest. “When it comes my turn, then, as I happen to know my problem as well as the fellow who wrote the book, I’ll rattle off my explanation at a gait that will force the lieutenant to stand on his feet to hear all I say.”
Dalzell was the fourth man called upon at the blackboard.
Taking a deep breath, and assuming a tremendously earnest look, Dan plunged into the demonstration of his problem as fast as he could fire the words out.
Lieutenant Bradshaw, however, listened through to the end.
“Your demonstration is correct, Mr Dalzell,” said the instructor quietly. “However while speed in recitation is of value, in the future try to speak just a little more slowly and much more distinctly. You are fitting yourself to become a Naval officer one of these days. On shipboard it is of the utmost importance that an officer’s voice be always distinct and clear, in order that every word he utters may be instantly understood. Try to keep this always in mind, Mr. Dalzell, and cultivate the habit of speaking distinctly.”
The rebuke was a very quiet one, and courteously given. But Dan, who knew that every other man in the section was grinning in secret over his discomfiture, was quickly losing his nerve.
Then, without favor, Lieutenant Bradshaw questioned Dan searchingly on other details of the day’s work. Dan stammered, and forgot much that he had thought he knew.
Lieutenant Bradshaw set down a mark of 2.9, whereas Dalzell, had he stuck sensibly to the business in hand, would have been marked as high as Dave had been.
As the section was marching back to Bancroft Dan whispered:
“Dave, did you hear the old owl go ‘too-whoo’ at me in the section room?”
“Stop talking in section!” ordered Dave crisply.
“Blazes! There isn’t a single spot at Annapolis where a fellow can take a chance on being funny!” muttered Dalzell under his breath.
“Dave, old chum,” cried Dan tossing his cap on the bed as they entered their room. “Are you going to turn greaser, and stay greaser?”
“What do you mean?” asked Darrin quietly.
“You told me to shut up in the ranks.”
“That was right, wasn’t it? I am under orders to see that there is no talking in the section when marching.”
“Not even a solitary, teeny little word, eh?”
“Not if I can stop it,” replied Dave.
“And what if you can’t stop it?”
“Then I am obliged to direct the offender to put himself on the report.”
“Great Scott! Would you tell your chum to frap the pap for a little thing like that, and take demerits unto himself?”
“If I had to,” nodded Dave. “You see, Dan, we’re here trying to learn to be Naval officers and to hold command. Now, it’s my belief that a man who can’t take orders, and stick to them, isn’t fit to give orders at any period in his life.”
“This sort of thing is getting on my nerves a bit,” grumbled Dan. “Just think of all the freedom we had in the good old days back at Gridley!”
“This is a new life, Dan–a different one and a better one.”
“Maybe,” half assented Dalzell, who was beginning to accumulate the elements of a “grouch.”
“Dan,” asked Darrin, as he seated himself at his desk and opened a book preparatory to a long bit of hard study, “don’t you know that your bed isn’t the regulation place to hang your cap?”
“Oh, hang the cap, and the regulations, too!” grumbled Dalzell. “I’m beginning to feel that I’ve got to break through at some point.”
“Pick up your cap, and put it on its hook–do,” begged Darrin coaxingly.
At the same time he looked us with a smile which showed that he thought his friend was acting in a very juvenile manner.
Something impelled Dan to comply with his chum’s request. Then, after hanging the cap, with great care, on its nail, the disgruntled one slipped to the study table and picked up a book.
Just as he did so there came a knock on the door.
Then Lieutenant Stapleton, in white gloves and wearing his sword, stepped into the room, followed by a midshipman, also white-gloved.
Lieutenant Stapleton was the officer in charge, the young man the midshipman in charge of the floor.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” said the Lieutenant pleasantly, as both midshipmen promptly rose to their feet and stood at attention. Dave and Dan remained standing at attention while the lieutenant stepped quickly about the room, taking in everything with a practiced glance.
“Everything in order,” commented the lieutenant, as he turned to the door. “Resume your work, gentlemen.”
“Maybe you’re glad you hung your cap up just in time,” grinned Dave.
“Oh, bother the whole scheme!” grunted Dan “The idea of a fellow having to be a jumping-jack all the time!”
“A midshipman has to be a jumping-jack, I reckon,” replied Dave, “until he learns to be a man and to live up to discipline as only a man can.”
“See here, do you mean to say–“
“Go on with your study of English, unless you’re sure you know all the fine points of the language,” interrupted Darrin. “I know I don’t and I want time to study.”
Dan gazed steadily at his chum, but Darrin seemed too deeply absorbed in his work to be conscious of the gaze.
On the whole studies and recitations passed off rather pleasantly for both chums that day, though both could see that there were breakers ahead.
After supper a few minutes were allowed for recreation, which consisted mostly of an opportunity for the midshipmen to chat with each other. Then came the call that sent them to their rooms to study for two solid hours.
“I wish the powers that be would let us sit up an hour later,” sighed Dave, looking up from his book in the middle of the study period.
“I’d rather they’d let us sleep an hour later in the morning,” grumbled Dan.
“But, really, it would be great to have chance to study an hour more each evening,” insisted Dave.
“Yes; I begin to feel that we’re going to need more study time than we get, if we’re ever to pass.”
At 9.30 the release bell rang. Dan closed his book with a joyful bang, Darrin closing his much more reluctantly.
“I’m going visiting,” declared Dalzell, starting toward the door.
Before he could reach the door, however, there sounded a slight knock and two midshipmen of the third class stepped in.
“Mister, what’s your name?” demanded one of the visitors.
“Dalzell, sir,” replied Dan, standing at attention.
“What’s yours, mister?
“Stand on your head, mister.”
Dave obeyed with good-natured speed.
“That will do, mister. Now, on your head, mister.”
Dan made a grimace, but obeyed.
Then the other visitor demanded:
“Do either of you fourth class men intend to try to be ratey?”
“No, sir,” replied Darrin promptly.
“Do you, mister?” turning to Dalzell.
“Are you both a bit touge?” asked the youngster questioner.
“I hope not, sir,” replied Dave.
“Do you feel that way, mister?”–looking at Dan.
“What way, sir?”
“Do you feel inclined to be touge, mister?”
“I’m willing to be anything that’s agreeable, and not too much work, sir,” replied Dan, grinning.
It is offensive for a fourth class man to grin in the presence of an upper class man.
Moreover, two other youngsters had just stepped into the room to watch proceedings.
“Mister,” commanded the youngster whom Dan had answered, “wipe that grin off your face.”
Dalzell drew out his handkerchief, making several elaborate passes across his countenance with it.
“Touge!” growled his inquisitor.
“Very touge, indeed,” assented the other three youngsters.
“Why did you bring out your handkerchief, mister?”
“Just obeying orders,” replied Dan, with another grin.
“Wipe that grin off your face, sir!–no, not with your handkerchief!”
So Dalzell thrust the handkerchief away and applied his blouse sleeve to his face.
“Stop that, mister!
“Yes, sir,” replied Dalzell meekly.
“Don’t you know how to wipe a grin off your face?”
“I’m not sure, sir,” Dan admitted.
“Mister, you are wholly touge! I’m not sure but that you’re a ratey plebe as well.”
Thereupon Youngster Quimby plunged into a scathing lecture on the subject of a plebe being either touge or ratey. At first Dan listened with a becoming air of respect. Before long, however, a huge grin began to illumine Dalzell’s face.
“Wipe that grin off, mister!” commanded Mr. Quimby sternly.
“I–I simply can’t!” gasped Dan, then began to roar with laughter.
“Why can’t you?” insisted Quimby. “What’s the matter?
“It’s–it’s your face!” choked Dan.
“My face?” repeated Quimby, reddening “What do you mean, sir?”
“I–I–it would be a shame to tell you!” sputtered Dalzell between spasms of laughter.
Truth to tell, Midshipman Quimby did look funny when he attempted to be over-stern. Quimby’s face was one of his sensitive points, anyway. Yet it was not, strictly speaking, the face, but the look of precocious authority on that face which had sent Dan, with his keen sense of humor, off into spasms of laughter. But the youngster didn’t propose to see the point.
“Mister,” spoke Midshipman Quimby, with an added sternness of look that sent Dan off into another guffaw, “you have been guilty of insulting an upper class man. Your offense has been so serious–so rank–that I won’t accept an apology. You shall fight, mister!”
“When? Whom?” asked Dan, the big grin still on his face.
“_Me_, mister–and as soon as the thing can be pulled off.”
“Oh, all right, sir,” nodded Dalzell. “Any time you like, then, sir. I’ve been accustomed, before coming here, to getting most of my exercise out of fighting. But–pardon me, if I meet, I shall have to hit–pardon me–that face.”
“Call this plebe out, Quimby, and trim him in good shape,” urged one of the other youngsters present. “He’s touge all the way through. He’ll need trimming.”
“And he’ll get it, too,” wrathfully promised Midshipman Quimby, who was rated high as a fighter at the Naval Academy.
“JUST FOR EXERCISE”
“Now, then, mister, keep your eyes on my humorous face!”
It was the next evening, over behind the old government hospital.
Midshipman Quimby had just stepped forward, from the hands of his seconds, two men of the third class.
“I can’t keep my eyes away from that face, and my hands are aching to follow the same route, sir,” grimaced Dalzell.
He, too, had just stepped forward from the preliminary care of Dave and of Rollins, for that latter fourth class man was as anxious to see this fight as he had been the other one.
“Stop your talk, mister,” commanded Midshipman Ferris, of the second class, who was present to officiate as referee. “On the field you talk with your hands. Don’t be touge all the time, or you’ll soon have a long fight calendar.”
“Very good, sir,” nodded Dan, his manner suddenly most respectful–as far as appearance went.
Dave Darrin did not by any means approve his chum’s conduct of the night before, but Dave was on hand as second, just the same, and earnestly hoping that Dan might get at least his share of the honors in the event that was now to be “pulled off.”
“Gentlemen,” began Mr. Ferris, in the monotonous way of referees, “this fight is to be to a finish, without gloves. Hand-shaking will be dispensed with. Are you ready?”
“Ready!” assented both.
Both men advanced warily.
Quimby knew well enough that he could whip the plebe, but he didn’t intend to let Dalzell get in any blows that could be guarded against.
Both men danced about until Mr. Ferris broke in, rather impatiently:
“Stop eating chocolates and mix it up!”
“Like this, sir?” questioned Dan. Darting in, on a feint, he followed Quimby’s block with a blow that jolted the youngster’s chin.
Then Dan slipped away again, grinning gleefully, well aware that nothing would anger Quimby more easily than would that same grin. “I’ll wipe that disgrace off your face myself,” growled Quimby, closing in briskly.
“Come over here and get it,” taunted Dan, showing some of his neatest footwork.
Quimby sent in three blows fast; two of them Dalzell blocked, but one hit him on the chest, staggering him slightly. Midshipman Quimby started to follow up his advantage. In another moment, however, he was backing away with a cut lip.
“There’s something to wipe off your own face,” suggested Dan, grinning harder than ever.
Stung, Mr. Quimby made strenuous efforts to pay back with worse coin. He was still trying when the call of time sounded.
“You didn’t half go in after him, Dan,” murmured Dave, as the latter and Rollins quickly toweled their man in the corner.
“If I had, I might have gotten more of him than I wanted,” muttered Dalzell.
“Why don’t you mix it up faster?” queried Rollins.
“Because,” proclaimed Midshipman Dan, “I don’t want to fight or get hurt. I’m doing this sort of thing just for exercise, you understand.”
Then they were called into the second round. Quimby, in the meantime, had been counseled to crowd the plebe hard, and to hammer him when he got close.
So, now, Quimby started in to do broadside work. At last he scored fairly, hitting Dalzell on the nose and starting the flow.
But, within ten seconds, Dalzell had return the blow with interest. After that things went slowly for a few more seconds, when time was again called.
“That plebe isn’t exactly easy,” Quimby confided to his seconds. “I’ve got to watch him, and be cautious. I haven’t seen a plebe as cool and ready in many a day.”
In the third round Quimby was perhaps too cautious. He did not rush enough. Dan, on the other hand, bore down a bit. Just before the call of time he closed Quimby’s right eye.
Both Quimby and his seconds were now dubious, though the youngster’s fighting pluck and determination ran as high as ever.
“I’ve got to wipe him off the field in this fourth round, or go to the grass myself,” murmured Quimby, while his seconds did the best they could with him.
“I’m warming up finely,” confided Dan to Dave and Rollins.
“You’re coming through all right,” nodded Dave confidently. “At present you have twice as much vision as the other fellow, and only a fraction as much of soreness. But keep on the watch to the end.”
For the first twenty seconds of the new round it was Quimby who was on the defensive. Dan followed him up just warmly enough to be annoying.
At last, however, Dan straightened, stiffened, and there was a quick flash in his eyes.
He saw his chance, and now he jumped in at it. His feint reached for Quimby’s solar plexus, but the real blow, from Dalzell’s right hand, hammered in, all but closing Quimby’s other eye.
Smack! Right on top of that staggerer came a hook that landed on the youngster’s forehead with such force that Quimby fell over backward. He tried to catch himself, but failed, and lurched to the ground.
“–six, seven, eight–” counted the timekeeper.
Quimby staggered bravely to his feet, but stood there, his knees wobbling, his arms all but hanging at his side.
Dan did not try to hit. He backed off slightly keeping only at half-guard and watching his opponent.
“What’s the matter, Quimby” called Mr. Ferris. “Can’t you go on?”
“Yes; I’m going on, to the knock-out!” replied the youngster doggedly.
He tried to close in, but was none too steady on his feet. Dan, watching him, readily footed it, merely watching for the youngster to lead out.
Quimby’s two seconds rushed to his side. Midshipman Ferris and the time-keeper also gathered around.
“Quimby,” spoke the referee, “you’re in no shape to go on.”
“I can stand up and be hit,” muttered the youngster gamely.
“Mr. Dalzell, do you care to go further?” asked Mr. Ferris.
“I shan’t attempt to hit Mr. Quimby, sir, unless he develops a good deal more steam.”
Ferris looked at Quimby’s seconds. They shook their head.
“I award the fight to Mister Dalzell,” declared Midshipman Ferris.
“Oh, give it to Mr. Quimby, if you don’t mind, sir,” begged Dan. “He got the game, and might as well have the name along with it.”
“Mister, don’t be touge all the time,” cried Mr. Ferris sharply.
“I don’t mean to be, sir,” replied Dan quite meekly. “What I meant to convey, sir, is that I don’t care anything about winning fights. The decision, sir, is of very little importance to me. I don’t fight because I like it, but merely because I need the exercise. A fight about once a week will be very much to my liking, sir.”
“You’ll get it, undoubtedly,” replied Midshipman Ferris dryly.
“Whee, won’t it be great!” chuckled Dan, in an undertone, as he stepped over to his seconds. “Give me that towel, Dave. I can rub myself off.”
While Dan was dressing, and Quimby was doing the same, one of the seconds of the youngster class came over, accompanied by the timekeeper.
“Mister, you really do fight as though you enjoyed it,” remarked the latter.
“But I don’t,” denied Dan. “I’m willing to do it, though, to keep myself in condition. Say once a week, except in really hot weather. A little game like this tones up the liver so that I can almost feel it dancing inside of me.”
As he spoke, Dalzell clapped both hands to his lower left side and jumped up and down.
“You heathen, your liver isn’t there,” laughed the time-keeper.
“Isn’t it?” demanded Dan. “Now, I’m ready to maintain, at all times, that I know more about my liver and its hanging-out place than anyone else possibly can.”
There was a note of half challenge in this, but the time-keeper merely laughed and turned away. Members of the second class usually feel too grave and dignified to “take it out of” plebes. That work is left to the “youngsters” of the third class.
A little later Mr. Quimby presented himself for medical attendance. His face certainly showed signs of the need of tender ministration. “Dan, why in the world are you so fresh?” remonstrated Dave, when the two chums were back in their room. “You talk as though you wanted to fight every man in the upper classes. You’ll get your wish, if you don’t look out.”
“Old fellow,” replied Dalzell quizzically, “I expect to get into two or three more fights. I don’t mean to be touge, but I do intend to let it be seen that I look upon it as a lark to be called out. Then, if I win the next two or three fights also, I won’t be bothered any after that. This is my own scheme for joining the peace society before long.”
Nor is it wholly doubtful that Dan’s was the best plan, in the long run, for a peaceful life among a lot of spirited young men.
MIDSHIPMAN HENKEL DOES SOME THINKING
“Busy” asked Midshipman Henkel, of the fourth class, stepping into the room which Farley and Page shared.
The release bell had just sounded, giving all of the young men a brief interval of freedom before taps.
“Not especially,” laughed Farley, as he finished stacking his books and papers neatly.
It was about a week after the night of Dan’s fight with Midshipman Quimby.
“Let me get a good look at your face, Farley, under the light,” continued Henkel. “Why, it looks almost natural again. My, but it was a rough pounding that fellow, Darrin, gave it!”
“Yes,” nodded Farley, flushing.
“Let me see; isn’t it about time that you squared matters up with Darrin?” went on Midshipman Henkel.
“How? What do you mean?” demanded Farley, while Page, too, looked on with interest.
“Well, first of all, Darrin gets the whole bunch of us ragged by the watchman. The when you object, he pounds your face at his own sweet will.”
“What are you trying to do?” laughed Farley. “Are you trying to fan up the embers of my wrath against Darrin?”
“Such embers shouldn’t need much fanning,” retorted Mr. Henkel coolly. “Surely, you are not going to let the dead dog lie?”
“Darrin and I fought the matter out, and he had the good fortune to win the appeal to force,” replied Plebe Farley stiffly. “I don’t associate with him now, and don’t expect to, later on, if we both graduate into the Navy.”
“That satisfies your notions of honor, does it, with regard to a man who not only injured you, but pounded your face to a fearful pulp?”
Henkel’s tone as he put the question, was one of bitter irony.
“Do you know,” demanded Farley, rising, his face now flushing painfully, “I don’t wholly like your tone.”
“Forget it, then,” begged Henkel. “I don’t mean to be offensive to you, Farley. I haven’t the least thought in the world like that. But I take this whole Darrin business so bitterly to heart that I suppose I am unable to comprehend how you can be so meek about it.”
“Meek?” cried Farley. “What do you mean by that word?”
“Well, see here,” went on Henkel coaxingly, “are we men of spirit, or are we not? We fellows devise a little outing in the town of Annapolis. It’s harmless enough, though it happens to be against the rules in the little blue book. We are indiscreet enough to let Darrin in on the trick, and he pipes the whole lay off to some one. Result–we are ‘ragged’ and fifty ‘dems.’ apiece. When you accuse Darrin of his mean work he gives you the lie. True, you show spirit enough to fight him for it, but the fight turns out to be simply more amusement for him. Now, I’ve been thinking over this thing and I can’t rest until the mean work is squared. But I find you, who suffered further indignities under Darrin’s fists, quite content to let the matter rest. That’s why I am astonished, and why I say so frankly.”
Having delivered this harangue with an air of patient justice, Henkel seated himself with one leg thrown over the edge of the study table, waiting to hear what Farley could say in reply. “Well, what do you plan to do further in the matter?” insisted Midshipman Farley.
“To get square with Darrin!”
“Well, now see here, Farley, and you, too, Page, what has happened? At first we had the class pretty sore against Darrin for getting our crowd ragged. Since the fight, however, in which you were pummeled like–“
“Never mind my fate in the fight,” interposed Farley. “It was a fair fight.”
“Well, ever since the fight,” resumed Henkel, “Darrin has been climbing up again in class favor. Most of the boobies in the fourth class seem to feel that, just because Darrin hammered you so, the beating you received proves Darrin’s innocence of a mean act.”
“I can’t help what the class concludes,” retorted Farley stiffly.
“Page, you have more spirit than that, haven’t you?” demanded Henkel, wheeling upon Midshipman Farley’s roommate.
“I hope I have spirit enough,” replied Page, bridling slightly, “but I am aware of one big lack.”
“What is that?”
“I seem to lack the keen intelligence needed to understand what you are driving at, Henkel.”
“That’s the point, Henkel,” broke in Midshipman Farley, walking the floor in short turns. “Just what are you driving at? Why are you trying to make me mad by such frequent references to the fact that Darrin won his fight with me?”
“I’m sounding you fellows,” admitted Henkel.
“That’s just what it rings like,” affirmed Midshipman Page, nodding his head. “Well, out with it! What’s your real proposition?”
“Are you with me?” asked Midshipman Henkel warily.
“How can we tell,” demanded Farley impatiently, “until you come down out of the thunder clouds, and tell us just what you mean?”
“Pshaw, fellows,” remarked Mr. Henkel, in exasperation, “I hate to think it, but I am beginning to wonder if you two have the amount of spirit with which I had always credited you.”
“Cut out the part about the doubts,” urged Farley, “and tell us, in plain English, just what you are driving at.”
“Fellows, I believe, then,” explained Midshipman Henkel, “that we owe it to ourselves, to the Naval Academy and to the Navy, to work Dave Darrin out of here as soon as we can.”
“How?” challenged Farley flatly.
“Why, can’t we put up some scheme that will pile up the ‘dems.’ against that industrious greaser? Can’t we spring a game that will wipe all his grease-marks off the efficiency slate?” asked Midshipman Henkel mysteriously.
“Do you mean by putting up a job on Darrin?” inquired Page.
“That’s just it!” nodded Henkel, with emphasis.
“Putting up a job on a man usually calls for trickery, doesn’t it?” questioned Farley.
“Why, yes–that is–er–ingenuity,” admitted Henkel.
“Trickery isn’t the practice of a gentleman, is it?” insisted Farley.
“It has to be, sometimes, when we are fighting a rascal,” retorted Midshipman Henkel.
“I’m afraid I don’t see that,” rejoined Page, shaking his head. “Dirty work is never excusable. I’d sooner let a fellow seem to win over me, for the time being, than to resort to trickery or anything like underhanded methods for getting even with him.”
“Good for you, Page!” nodded Farley “That’s the whole game for a gentleman–and that’s what either a midshipman or a Naval officer is required to be. Henkel, old fellow, you are a little too hot under your blouse collar tonight. Wait until you’ve cooled off, and you’ll sign in with us on our position.”
“Then you fellows are going to play the meek waiting game with Darrin, are you?” sneered Henkel.
“We’re going to play the only kind of game that a gentleman may play,” put in Page incisively, “and we are not going to dally with any game about which a gentleman need feel the least doubt.”
“You’ve spoken for me, Page, old chap,” added Farley.
Midshipman Henkel took his leg off the desk, stood there for a moment, eyeing his two comrades half sneeringly, then turned on his heel and left the room. Just before he closed the door after him Henkel called back:
“Good night, fellows.”
“Well, what do you think of that?” demanded Farley, a moment later.
“I think,” replied Midshipman Page, “just as you do, that Darrin, in his desire to bone grease somewhere, played a dirty trick on us. I consider Darrin to be no better than a dog, and I apologize to the dog. But we’re not going to make dogs of ourselves in order to even up matters.”
“We’re certainly not,” replied Farley, with a nod. “Oh, well, Henkel is a mighty good fellow, at heart. He’ll cool down and come around all right.”
At that instant, however, Midshipman Henkel, with a deep scowl on his face, was whispering mysteriously with his roommate Brimmer.
A CHRONIC PAP FRAPPER
Another week had passed.
By this time all of the new midshipmen had had a very strong taste of what the “grind” is like at the U.S. Naval Academy.
If the lessons had seemed hard at the outset, the young men now regarded the tax demanded on their brains as little short of inhuman.
The lessons were long and hard. No excuse of “unprepared” or otherwise was ever accepted in a section room.
The midshipman who had to admit himself “unprepared” immediately struck “zip,” or absolute zero as a marking for the day. Many such marks would swiftly result in dragging even a bright man’s average down to a point where he would fall below two-five and be “unsat.”
“I thought we plugged along pretty steadily when we were in the High School,” sighed Dave Darrin, looking up from a book. “Danny boy, a day’s work here is fully three times as hard as the severest day back at the High School.
“David, little giant,” retorted Dalzell, “your weak spot is arithmetic. It’s just seven times as hard here as the worst deal that we ever got in the High School.”
“Oh, well,” retorted Darrin doggedly, “other men have stood this racket before us, and have graduated into the Navy. If they did it, we can do it, too. Mr. Trotter was telling me, yesterday, that the plebe year is the hardest year of all here.”
“Mr. Trotter is a highly intelligent individual, then,” murmured Dan Dalzell.
“He explained that the first year is the hardest just because the new man has never before learned how to study. After our first year here, he says, we’ll have the gait so that we can go easily at the work given us.”
“If we ever live through the first year,” murmured Dan disconsolately. “As for me, I’m hovering at the ‘unsat.’ line all the time, and constantly fearing that I’m going to be unseated. If I could see myself actually getting through the first year here, with just enough of an average to save me, I’d be just as happy as ever a fourth class man can hope to be here.”
“Remember the old Gridley spirit, Danny boy,” coaxed Dave. “We can’t be licked–just because we don’t know how to take a licking. We’re going to get through here, Danny, and we’re going to become officers in the Navy. It’s tough on the way–that’s all.”
“And we green young idiots,” sighed Dalzell, “thought the life here was just a life of parading, with yachting thrown in on the side. We were going to feel swell in our gold lace, and puff out our chests under the approving smiles of the girls. We were going to lead the german–and, say, Dave, what were some of the other fool things we expected to find happiness in doing at Annapolis?
“It served us right,” grunted Darrin, “if we imagined that we were going to get through without real work. Danny boy, I don’t believe there’s a single thing in life–worth having–a fellow can get without working hard for it!”
“There goes the call for mathematics, Dave. We’ll tumble out and see whether we can get a two-six today.
“Or a two-seven,” suggested Darrin hopefully. “My, but how far away a full four seems!
“Did anyone ever get a full four?” asked Dan, opening his eyes very wide.
As each, with his uniform cap set squarely on, and his book and papers carried in left hand, turned out, he found the corridor to be swarming with midshipmen fully as anxious as were this pair.
A minute later hundreds of midshipmen were forming by classes. Then the classes parted into sections and the little groups marched away in many directions, all going at brisk military gait. Dave got through better, that forenoon, than usual. He made a three-one, while Dalzell scored a two-eight.
Then this section, one of many, marched back.
As Dave and Dan swung down the corridor, and into their own room, they halted, just inside the door, and came quickly to attention. Lieutenant Hall, the officer in charge for the day, stood there, and with him the midshipman who served as assistant cadet officer of the day.
“Mr. Darrin,” spoke Lieutenant Hall severely, “here is your dress jacket on the floor, and with dust ground into it.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Dave, saluting. “But I left it on its proper hook–I am sure of that.”
Up came Dan’s hand in quick salute.
“May I speak, sir?”
“Yes, Mr. Dalzell,” replied the officer in charge.
“I remember seeing Mr. Darrin’s coat hanging properly on its hook, sir, just before we marched off to math. recitation.”
“Did you leave the room, Mr. Dalzell, after Mr. Darrin, or even with him?” questioned Lieutenant Hall.
“No-o, sir. I stepped out just ahead of Mr. Darrin.”
“That is all, then, Mr. Dalzell. Mr. Darrin, there is a pair of your shoes. They are in place, but one of them is muddy.”
Dave glanced at the shoes uneasily, a flush coming to his face.
“I am certain, sir, that both shoes were in proper condition when I left to go to the last recitation.”
“Then how do you account for the dust-marked dress jacket on the floor, and the muddy shoe, Mr. Darrin?”
“I can think of no explanation to offer, sir.”
“Nor can I imagine any excuse,” replied Lieutenant Hall courteously, yet skeptically.
Lieutenant Hall made a further inspection of the room, then turned to Dave.
“Mr. Darrin, you will put yourself on the report for these two examples of carelessness of your uniform equipment.”
“Very good, sir.”
Saluting, Dave crossed to the study table, laying his book and papers there. Then, once more saluting, he passed Lieutenant Hall and made his way to the office of the officer in charge.
Taking one of the blanks, and a pen, Dave Darrin filled out the complaint against himself, and turned it over.
“Dave, you didn’t leave your things in any such shape as that?” burst from Dan as soon as Dave had returned to his room.
“I didn’t do it–of course I didn’t,” came impatiently from Darrin.
“Then who did?”
“Some fellow may have done it for a prank.”
Dan shook his head, replying, stubbornly:
“I don’t believe that any fellow in the Naval Academy has a sense of humor that would lead him to do a thing like that, just as a piece of what he would consider good-natured mischief. Dave, this sort of report against you on pap means demerits.”
“Fortunately,” smiled Darrin, “the pap sheet is so clear of my name that I can stand a few demerits without much inconvenience.”
But at breakfast formation, the next morning, Dave’s name was read off with twenty demerits.
“That’s a huge shame,” blazed forth Dan, as soon as the chums were back in their room, preparing to march to their first recitation.
“Oh, well, it can’t be helped–can it?” grimaced Dave.
Within the next fortnight, however, Darrin’s equipment and belongings were found to be in bad shape no less than five other times. With a few demerits which he had received in the summer term Dave now stood up under one hundred and twenty demerits.
“I’m allowed only three hundred demerits for the year, and two hundred by January will drop me,” muttered Dave, now becoming thoroughly uneasy.
For, by this time, he was certain that some unknown enemy had it “in for him.” Darrin felt almost morally certain that some one–and it must be a midshipman–was at the bottom these troubles. Yet, though he and Dan had done all they could think of to catch the enemy, neither had had the least success in this line.
“Eighty demerits more to go,” muttered Dave, “and the superintendent will recommend to the Secretary of the Navy that I be dropped for general inaptitude. It seems a bit tough, doesn’t it, Danny boy?”
“It’s infamous!” blazed Dalzell. “Oh, if I could only catch the slick rascal who is at the bottom of all this!”
“But both of us together don’t seem to be able to catch him,” replied Darrin dejectedly. “Oh, well, perhaps there won’t be any more of it. Of course, I am already deprived of all privileges. But then, I never care to go into Annapolis, and I am never invited to officers’ quarters, anyway, so the loss of privileges doesn’t mean so very much. It’s the big danger of losing my chance to remain here at the Naval Academy that is worrying me.”
Yet outwardly, to others, Dave Darrin was patient. His surplus irritation he vented in extraordinary effort in the gymnasium, where he was making a remarkable record for himself.
But of course his worries were reflected in his studies and recitations. Dave was dropping steadily. He seemed soon destined to reach the “wooden section” in math. This “wooden section” is the section composed of the young men who stand lowest of all in a given study. The men of the “wooden section” are looked upon as being certain of dismissal when the semiannual examinations come along.
Now, for five days, things went along more in a better groove. Nothing happened to Darrin, and he was beginning to hope that his very sly persecutor had ceased to annoy him for good.
On the sixth day, however, the chums returned from recitation in English.
“Nothing seems to be wrong here,” remarked Dave, with a sigh of satisfaction.
“Umf–umf!” sniffed Dan, standing still in the middle of the room. “Doesn’t it smell a little as though some one had been smoking in here?”
“Don’t even suggest the thing!” begged Dave turning white at the thought.
Tap-tap! sounded at the door. In walked the white-gloved cadet assistant officer of the day.
“Mr. Darrin, you will report immediately to the officer in charge.”
“Very good, sir,” Dave answered.
This was again Lieutenant Hall’s day to be in charge. Dave walked into that gentleman’s office, saluted, reported his presence under orders and then stood at attention.
“Mr. Darrin,” began Lieutenant Hall, “I had occasion to inspect your room. The air was quite thick with tobacco smoke. I felt it necessary to make a very thorough search. In the pocket of your rain-coat I found”–Lieutenant Hall produced from his desk a pouch of tobacco and a well-seasoned pipe–“these.”
The officer in charge looked keenly at Darrin, who had turned almost deathly white. Certainly Dave had the appearance of one wholly guilty.
“Have you anything to say, Mr. Darrin?” continued the officer in charge.
“I have never, in my life, sir, smoked or used tobacco in any form,” Darrin truthfully answered.
“Then how did these articles come to be in your possession?”
“They were _not in my possession_, sir, were they?” Darrin asked, with the utmost respect.
Lieutenant Hall frowned perceptibly.
“Mr. Darrin, do not attempt any quibble. The circumstances under which these articles were found place them sufficiently in your possession. What have you to say that will clear you?”
“I can offer, sir, the testimony of my roommate, Mr. Dalzell, who will declare most positively that he has never known me to use tobacco.”
“Did Mr. Dalzell leave your room with you when you went to your last recitation?”
“No, sir; he left fifteen minutes before, by permission, to go to his locker in the gymnasium to look over certain articles there.”
“Then you are unable to call your roommate to support your assertion that you did not smoke before going with your section to recitation in English?”
“I have only my unsupported word, sir, as a midshipman and a gentleman, to offer.”
“Under almost all circumstances, Mr. Darrin, a midshipman’s word of honor should be sufficient. But you have been reported several times of late, and with apparent justice. You will make in writing, Mr. Darrin, at once, such report as you wish to hand in on this incident, and the report against you will be considered in the usual way.”
Dave returned to his room. Though he was discouraged his face looked grim, and his air was resolute.
Taking pen and paper he began to prepare his report on this latest charge.
Having finished and signed, Dave next picked up a bit of exercise paper and began to figure.
“What are you doing, old chap?” asked Dan sympathetically.
“My head is in too much of a whirl for me to trust myself to any mental arithmetic,” Darrin answered. “I have been figuring how much further I have to go. First offense of having tobacco in possession calls for twenty-five demerits. That brings the total up to one hundred and forty-five. Dave, I have a lease of life here amounting to fifty-four more demerits in this term. The fifty-fifth signs my ticket home!
“The next trick of this kind attempted,” cried Dalzell, his face glowing with anger, “must sign, instead, the home ticket of the rascal who is at the bottom of all this!”
“But how?” demanded Dave blankly. “He has been entirely too slick to allow himself to be caught.”
MIDSHIPMAN FARLEY’S ABOUT-FACE
The gloom that now hung over Dave Darrin was the thickest, the blackest that he had ever encountered in his short life.
He was fully convinced, of course, that his troubles were the work of some determined and unscrupulous enemy or enemies.
Yet he was equally convinced that he was not likely to catch the plotter against his happiness. He and Dan had already done all that seemed to be in their power.
On the Saturday afternoon following the tobacco incident the first ray came to light up the gloom–though it did not take away any of awesome demerits that had piled up against him.
Dave and Dan were standing chatting in a group of about a score of fourth class men when Farley and Page stepped briskly in their direction.
Dave glanced at the pair in some astonishment, for it was weeks since he had been on speaking terms with either of them, and now both looked as though about to address him.
“One moment gentlemen, all, if you please,” called out Midshipman Farley. “Let no one leave just now. I have something to say that I wish to make as public as possible.”
Then, turning toward the astonished Darrin, Mr. Farley continued:
“Darrin, I got into a bad scrape once, and I accused you of carrying the information that resulted in several others and myself being detected. I was positive in my charge. I now wish to make you the most public apology that is possible. I know now that you did not in any way betray myself and my companions.”
“I am glad you have come to this conclusion,” Dave Darrin replied.
“It is not exactly a conclusion,” replied Farley frankly. “It is a discovery.”
“How did you find it out, Farley?” asked Dan Dalzell, speaking to that midshipman for the first time in many weeks.
“I have the word of the watchman who caught us. That is old Grierson, and there isn’t a more honest old fellow in the yard.”
“Did you ask Grierson, Farley?” questioned another midshipman gravely.
“No; for that would be to pile on another offense,” replied Farley readily. “I am well enough aware that a midshipman has no right to go to a watchman about a matter in which the watchman has reported him. But a civilian is under no such restrictions. As some of you fellows know, my cousin, Sloan, was here at the Academy yesterday. Now, Ben Sloan is a newspaper man, and a fellow of an inquiring disposition. I told Ben something about the scrape I had been in, and Ben soon afterward hunted up Grierson. Grierson told Ben the whole truth about it. It seems that Grierson did not have any information from anyone. He saw our crowd go over the fence the night we Frenched it. But Grierson was too far away to catch any of us, or recognize us. So he made no alarm, but just waited and prowled until we came back. He heard the noise we made trying to get up over the wall from the outside, and ran down to that part of the wall. He didn’t make any noise, and stood in the shrubbery until we had all dropped over. Then he stepped out, looked us over quickly and demanded our names. He had us ragged cold, so there was nothing to do but give him our names. Now, there’s the whole story fellows, and I’m mighty glad I’ve got at the truth of it.”
“So am I,” muttered Dan dryly.
“Darrin, you haven’t said whether you accept my apology,” Farley continued insistently. “I’m mighty sorry for the whole thing, and I’m glad you thrashed me as you did when we met. I richly deserved that for my hot-headedness.”
For just a moment Dave Darrin couldn’t speak, but he held out his hand.
“Thank you, old fellow,” cried Farley, grasping it. “From now on I hope we shall trust each other and be friends always.”
Farley had been a good deal spoiled at home, and had a hasty, impetuous temper. His career at Annapolis, however, was doing much to make a man of him in short time.
Several of the other midshipmen spoke, expressing their pleasure that the whole thing was cleared up, and that Dave had proved to be above suspicion.
“And now I’m off to find the other fellows who were with me that night,” continued Farley. “I’ve told Page, already, but I’ve got to find Scully and Oates, Henkel and Brimmer and put them straight also.”
Five minutes later Farley was explaining to Midshipman Henkel.
“Well, you are the softy!” said Henkel, in a sneering tone.
“Why?” demanded Farley stiffly.
“To fall for a frame-up like that.”
“Do you mean that my cousin lied to me?”
“No; but Grierson certainly did.”
“Old man Grierson is no liar,” retorted Farley. “He is one of most trusted employes in the yard. He has caught many a midshipman, but Grierson is such a square old brick that the midshipmen of two generations love him.”
“You’re too easy for this rough world,” jeered Midshipman Henkel.
“Perhaps I am,” retorted Farley. “But I’m going through it decently, anyway.”
“So you went and rubbed down Darrin’s ruffled fur as gently as you could,” continued Henkel.
“I went to him and apologized–the only thing a man could do under the circumstances.”
“And now I suppose some of the fellows are trying to build up an altar to Darrin as the class idol?”
“I don’t know. I hope so, for I’m convinced that Dave Darrin is as decent a fellow as ever signed papers at Annapolis.”
“Go on out and buy some incense to burn before Darrin,” laughed Henkel harshly.
Perhaps Mr. Henkel might not have been as flippant had he known that, all the time, Farley was studying him intently.
“So, in spite of all explanations, you still have no use for Darrin?” asked Midshipman Farley.
“I have just as much use for him as I have for any other big sneak,” retorted Mr. Henkel. “He betrayed us to the watchman, and I don’t care what explanations are offered to show that he didn’t.”
“And you won’t be friendly with Darrin?” insisted Farley.
“I?” asked Henkel scornfully. “Not for an instant!
“Well, I hardly believe that Darrin will care much,” replied Mr. Farley, turning on his heel and walking out of the room.
“It’s a mighty good thing that Darrin is going to be dropped out of Annapolis,” growled Henkel to himself. “He’s altogether too slick in playing a dirty trick on people and then swinging them around so that they’ll fawn upon him. When Farley first came here he was a fellow of spirit. But he’s been going bad for some time, and now he’s come out straight and clean for grease-mark!”
Saturday afternoon proved a dull time for Dave Darrin. The heavy pile of demerits opposite his name prevented his getting leave even to stroll out into the town of Annapolis. Dan could have gone, but would not leave his chum.
Sunday morning there was chapel, but Dave, usually attentive, heard hardly a word of the discourse. Sunday afternoon he turned doggedly to his books. Dan, who was getting along better, and who just now, stood three sections higher than Dave in math., went visiting among the members of his class.
Sunday evening all the cadets were again busy at their studies until 9.30. As early as the regulations allowed Dave turned down his bed, undressed and got into it, feeling utterly “blue.”
“It’s no use,” he told himself, as he lay awake, thinking, thinking, thinking. “Some one has it in for me, of course. But Dan and I together can’t find out who the rascal is. He may try nothing against me again, for weeks, but sooner or later he’ll turn another demerit trick against me. Before January I shall be home again, looking for some sort of job.”
Before eight o’clock the following morning the class, after muster, broke into sections which marched away to recitation in math.
Dan Dalzell was now section leader of one group. Dave marched in the ranks of a much lower section.
This morning the section with which Dave marched was one man short. Not until the members had taken their seats, or places at the blackboards, did Darrin give heed enough to note that it was Farley who was absent.
The section leader, however, had reported that Mr. Farley was