absent by permission of the head of the Department of Mathematics, “for purposes of study.” Unusual as this excuse was the instructor had accepted it without making any inquiry.
If Farley was in his room for purposes of study, then what kind of “study” could it be?
For at that precise moment, Midshipman Farley was standing close to a tiny crack between the edge of his room door and the jamb. He was “peeking” out attentively.
Curiously enough Midshipman Page, Farley’s roommate, had also been excused from attending section work. At this moment Mr. Page sat tilted back in his chair, with his feet resting across the corner of the study table.
A most unmilitary pose for Mr. Page, to be sure. Yet what need was there to fear report with roommate Farley thus industriously standing by the door?
So Mr. Page hummed softly to himself and stared out of the window.
Midshipman Farley remained by the door until he was becoming decidedly wearied of his occupation, and Page had several times shifted his feet.
Then, all of a sudden, Midshipman Farley turned with a low, sharp hiss.
“It?” whispered Midshipman Page, rising swiftly.
“Yes,” nodded Farley.
Midshipman Page walked swiftly out of the room, though his heels did not make as much noise as usual.
Just after Page had left the room Midshipman Farley stole along the corridor, halting before a door.
There he paused, as though on duty. It was not long before his erect attitude was accounted for, for Lieutenant Nettleson, the officer in charge, came down into the corridor, followed by the cadet officer of the day.
Just a little way behind them walked Midshipman Page.
Farley stood quickly at attention, saluting the officer in charge, who returned the salute.
THE TRAP IN MIDSHIPMEN’S QUARTERS
Tap-Tap! sounded Lieutenant Nettleson’s knuckles on the door.
Just a shade longer than usual the lieutenant waited ere he turned the door knob and entered the room.
Behind him, like a faithful orderly, stood Midshipman Hawkins, of the first class, cadet officer of the day.
A quick look about the room Lieutenant Nettleson took, then turned to the cadet officer of the day.
“Mr. Hawkins,” spoke the O.C., “Mr. Darrin seems to be growing worse in his breaches of duty.”
“So it seems, sir,” agreed the cadet officer the day.
“Mr. Darrin has left his bed turned down,” continued the lieutenant, inspecting that article of furniture. “And, judging by the looks of the sheets, he has been abed with his boots on.”
“You will put Mr. Darrin on the report for this latest offense, Mr. Hawkins.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Lieutenant Nettleson made a further inspection of the room.
“And Mr. Darrin has neglected to empty his washbowl. He has also thrown the towel on the floor. Put Mr. Darrin on the report for that as well.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“That is all here, Mr Hawkins.”
“Very good, sir.”
O.C. and cadet officer of the day turned to leave the room. As they were crossing the threshold Midshipman Farley, saluting, reported:
“I think, sir, if you search more closely, you will find some one in this room.”
“Very good,” replied the officer in charge, turning back.
In truth, Lieutenant Nettleson was already aware that there was a prowler in the room, for he had seen a pair of feet in a dark corner; but he had purposely awaited Midshipman Farley’s report.
Now, swift as a flash, Lieutenant Nettleson turned back, going straight so the cupboard in which Dave Darrin’s uniform equipment hung.
Pushing aside a dress uniform and a raincoat that hung like curtains, Lieutenant Nettleson gazed into the face of–Midshipman Henkel!
Henkel had been caught so suddenly, had realized it so tardily, that the grin of exultation had not quite faded from his face by the time that he stood exposed.
In another second, however, that midshipman’s face had turned as white as dirty chalk.
“Stand forth, sir!” ordered the O.C. sternly.
Henkel obeyed, his legs shaking under him.
“What is your name?”
“Mr. Henkel, what are you doing in the room of another midshipman, in the absence of both occupants?
“I–I–just dropped in, sir!” stammered affrighted midshipman.
“Mr. Henkel, sir,” continued Lieutenant Nettleson sternly, “it has long been a puzzle to the discipline officers why Mr. Darrin should so deliberately and senselessly invite demerits for lack of care of his equipment. You may now be certain that you will be accused of all breaches of good order and discipline that have been laid at Mr. Darrin’s door. Have you anything to say, sir.”
Midshipman Henkel, who had been doing some swift thinking, had had time enough to realize that no one had seen him doing any mischief in the room. The offense, merely, of visiting another midshipman’s room improperly would call but for ten demerits. Pooh! The scrape was such a simple one that he would lie valiantly out of the graver charge and escape with ten demerits.
“I admit being here, sir, without propriety. I am innocent of any further wrongdoing, sir,” lied the culprit.
Lieutenant Nettleson studied the young man’s face keenly.
“Mr. Henkel, was Mr. Darrin’s bed turned down and in its present disordered state when you entered the room?”
“You declare this on your honor as a midshipman and gentleman?”
“Yes, sir,” lied the unabashed Henkel.
“Was Mr. Darrin’s washbowl in its present untidy state?”
“I don’t know, sir. I didn’t notice that.”
“Very good, Mr. Henkel. Go to your room and remain there in close arrest. Do not leave your room, except by orders or proper permission, sir.”
“Very good, sir,” replied Henkel, saluting. Then, his face still a ghastly hue, he turned and marched from the room, not venturing, under the eyes of the O.C., to look at either Farley or Page.
When the sections came marching back from math. Lieutenant Nettleson stood outside the door of his office.
“Mr. Darrin!” called the O.C. And, a moment later, “Mr. Dalzell!”
Both wondering midshipmen approached the officer in charge for the day at Bancroft Hall, and saluted.
“Mr. Darrin,” stated Lieutenant Nettleson, “you and your roommate may go to your room to leave your books. In the room you will find some evidences of disorder. Do not attempt to set them straight. As soon as you have left your books return to me.”
“And I also, sir?” queried Dan, saluting.
“You, also, Mr. Dalzell,” replied the officer.
“Now, has this thing broken loose again?” groaned Dave Darrin, as the two chums hurried below.
“It seems as if it ought to stop some time,” gasped Dalzell.
“It will, and soon,” gritted Darrin. “In a very short time, now, I shall certainly have the full course of two hundred demerits. Great–Scott!”
For now the two chums were in their room, and saw the full extent of the mischief there. “I guess I may as well wire home to Gridley for the price of my return ticket,” hinted Dave bitterly.
“Don’t do anything of the sort,” urged Dan, though with but little hope in his voice. “You may still have a margin of ten or fifteen dems. left to hold you on.”
“We’re under orders, Danny boy, to report back to the O.C.”
“Come along, then.”
In the office of the officer in charge stood Midshipmen Farley and Page. Just after Dave and Dan entered Henkel came in, accompanied Midshipman Hawkins, the cadet officer of day.
It was an actually ferocious gaze that Henkel turned upon Darrin. In that same instant Dave believed that a great light had broken in upon his mind.
“Mr. Hawkins,” requested the O.C., “ascertain whether the commandant of midshipmen can see us now.”
Saluting, the cadet officer of the day passed out of the room, very prim and erect, his white gloves of duty a very conspicuous part of his uniform.
In a few moments, he returned, raising his right, white-gloved hand to the visor of his cap.
“The commandant of midshipmen is ready, sir.”
“Come with me, then,” directed Lieutenant Nettleson, who had already risen to receive the cadet officer’s report.
The O.C. led the way into the office of Commander Jephson, U.S. Navy, the commandant of midshipmen.
“This, Mr. Nettleson, I understand, relates to Mr. Darrin’s late apparent course in matters of discipline?” inquired Commander Jephson.
The commandant of midshipmen, who was middle-aged and slightly bald, removed his eye-glasses, holding them poised in his right hand while he gazed calmly at Mr. Nettleson.
“Yes, sir. This is the matter,” replied the O.C., saluting his superior.
Commander Jephson had, usually, a manner of slow and gentle speech. He impressed one, at first sight, as being a man lacking in “ginger,” which was a great mistake, as many a midshipman had found to his cost.
The commandant of cadets, however, did not believe in becoming excited or excitable until the occasion arose.
“Be good enough to make your statement, Mr. Nettleson,” requested Commander Jephson.
Consulting a slip of paper that he held in his left hand the younger Naval officer recounted the previous instances in which Midshipman Darrin, fourth class, U.S. Naval Academy, had been found delinquent in that he had slighted the care of his equipment or of his room.
Having made this preliminary statement, the officer in charge now came down to the doings of the present day.
Midshipman Henkel kept his gaze fixed on Lieutenant Nettleson’s face. Henkel’s bearing was almost arrogant. He had fully decided upon his course of lying himself out of his serious scrape.
AIR “THE ROGUE’S MARCH”
“It is already, sir,” spoke Lieutenant Nettleson, “a matter of knowledge with you that Mr. Darrin denied his responsibility in each case of disorder among his personal belongings. It is also a matter within your knowledge, sir, that Mr. Darrin, finally, in his desperation, informed you that he believed that some enemy in the brigade of midshipmen was responsible for all the bad appearances against him.
“The reply of this department, sir, to Mr. Darrin, was to the effect that, while there was a possibility of his claim being correct, yet it was nearly inconceivable. Mr. Darrin was given permission to bring forward any evidence he could secure in support of his view. As time passed, and he confessed himself unable to secure any such evidence, one set of demerits after another accumulated against Mr. Darrin.
“Yesterday, sir, so I am informed, Mr. Farley and Mr. Page approached you, stating that they believed they had good reason for suspecting a member of the brigade of seeking to injure Mr. Darrin. Midshipmen Farley and Page also stated to you that they believed the offender to be a member of the half of the fourth class which does not recite in mathematics the same time as does the half of the class to which Mr. Darrin and his roommate belong.
“As Midshipmen Farley and Page belong to the half of the class that recites during the same periods as do Mr. Darrin and Dalzell, Midshipmen Farley and Page requested permission to remain in their room during the time when they would otherwise be reciting in mathematics. They were thus to remain for two mornings, and other members of the fourth class were then willing to stay on watch for two mornings more, and so on, until the offender against Mr. Darrin, if there was one, could be caught in the act.”
What a baleful glare Midshipman Henkel shot at Farley and Page! Then Henkel saw the eye of the commandant of midshipmen fixed curiously on him, and glanced down at the floor.
“This very unusual permission, sir, you finally agreed to seek from the head of the Department of Mathematics. So, this morning, Mr. Farley and Mr. Page did not march off to recitation in mathematics, but remained in their room. Presently Mr. Page reported to me, in great haste, that a midshipman other than Mr. Darrin, or Mr. Dalzell had just entered their room. I thereupon went down to that room, knocked, waited a moment, and then entered, accompanied by the cadet officer of the day. The condition of things that I found in the room you already, sir, know from my written report. While in the room I detected a pair of feet showing under the bottom of Mr. Darrin’s uniform equipment hanging in his cupboard. I pretended, however not to see the feet, and turned to leave the room when Mr. Farley, as prearranged, stepped forward and informed me that he had seen some one enter the room a while before. I then turned and compelled the prowler to step forth. That prowler was Mr. Henkel.”
“You questioned Mr. Henkel as to his reason for being in the room?” asked Commander Jephson.
“I did, sir.”
“Did he deny guilty intention in being there?”
“He did, sir, other than admitting that he had broken the regulations by entering another midshipman’s room in that midshipman’s absence.”
Tapping his right temple with the eye-glasses that he held in his hand, the commandant of midshipmen turned to look more directly at the startled culprit.
“Mr. Henkel, did you arrange any or all of the disorder which Lieutenant Nettleson reported having found in Mr. Darrin’s room?”
“I did not, sir.”
Henkel’s voice was clear, firm–almost convincing.
“Have you, at any time, committed any offense in Mr. Darrin’s room, by tampering with his equipment or belongings, or with the furniture of the room?”
“Never, sir,” declared Midshipman Henkel positively.
“You are aware that Mr. Darrin has been punished by the imposition of a great many demerits for untidiness in the care of his equipment?”
“But you were not responsible for any of these seeming delinquencies on Mr. Darrin’s part?”
“You did not turn down, disarrange and soil his bed this forenoon, or create the appearance of untidiness in connection with Mr. Darrin washbowl?”
“You make these denials on your word of honor, as a midshipman and gentleman?” persisted Commander Jephson.
“I do, sir, and most earnestly and solemnly, sir,” replied Midshipman Henkel.
“One word, more, Mr. Henkel,” went on the commandant of midshipmen. “When you improperly entered Mr. Darrin’s room this morning, did you then observe the signs of disorder which Lieutenant Nettleson subsequently discovered and reported?”
“I did, sir, as to the bed. The washbowl I did not notice.”
“That will do, for the present, Mr. Henkel. Mr. Farley, will you now state just what you saw, while watching this forenoon?”
Midshipmen Farley told, simply, how he and Page had commenced their watch.
“In the first place, sir,” declared Farley, “as soon as Mr. Darrin and Mr. Dalzell had left their room, and the corridor was empty, Mr. Page and I, acting by permission and direction of this office, went at once to Mr. Darrin’s room. We made an inspection. At that time there were no such signs of disorder as those which Lieutenant Nettleson subsequently found. Then, sir, Mr. Page and I went back to our room. I held our door very slightly ajar, and stood in such a position that I could glance down the corridor and keep Mr. Darrin’s room door constantly within my range of vision.”
“As a matter of vital fact, Mr. Farley,” interrupted the commandant of midshipmen, “did you at any time relax such vigilance, even for a few seconds?”
“Not even for a few seconds, sir.”
“After the inspection that Mr. Page and yourself made, who was the first person that you saw enter Mr. Darrin’s room?”
“Was he Alone?”
“Did you then immediately send Mr Page to the officer in charge?”
“I did, sir.”
“Without allowing my glance to turn from Mr. Darrin’s door, sir, I stepped out into the corridor, walked close to Mr. Darrin’s room door, and then stood there until Lieutenant Nettleson and Mr. Hawkins arrived.”
“Then, Mr. Farley, you are certain that there was no disorder in Mr. Darrin’s room at the time when he and Mr. Dalzell left to recite in mathematics?
“I am absolutely positive, sir.”
“And you are also certain that none but Mr. Henkel entered that room up to the time when the disorder was discovered by Lieutenant Nettleson?”
“I am certain, sir.”
Midshipman Page was then questioned. He bore out the testimony just given by Farley in every particular.
The manner of the commandant of midshipmen was still gentle when he turned again to Henkel.
“Mr. Henkel, do you wish to modify your previous statements in any way?”
“No, sir,” replied Henkel. “In all my answers I have told the whole and exact truth, as I know it. I am eager, sir, to answer any further questions that you may wish to put to me on the subject.”
“Gentlemen, you may all withdraw, save Lieutenant Nettleson and Mr. Henkel,” announced the commandant, after a few moments of seemingly mild thought. “Mr. Hawkins, of course you understand that what you know of this matter you know officially, and that you are not to mention or discuss it until such time as official action shall have been taken. As for you other midshipmen, I see no harm, gentlemen, in your discussing it among yourselves, but you will see to it that information does not, for the present, spread through the brigade. You may go, gentlemen.”
Once outside Farley and Page walked so rapidly that Dave and Dan did not attempt to overtake them in the corridors. But they found Farley and Page waiting outside Dave’s room door.
“May we come in?” asked Farley.
“If anyone on earth may,” replied Dave heartily, throwing open the door, then stepping back to allow the others to enter.
“I’m afraid we’ve cooked a goose for some one,” cried Farley, with grim satisfaction.
“Great Scott, yes,” breathed Dan Dalzell, in devout thankfulness.
“Is it fair, Farley, for me to ask you whether you suspected Henkel before you caught him?” queried Dave Darrin.
“Yes; and the commandant knows that. Henkel came here one night, weeks ago, and mysteriously tried to interest us in putting up a job to get you dropped from the Navy rolls. When Page and I really tumbled that an enemy working against you, it didn’t take us two minutes to guess who that enemy was. Then we started on the warpath.”
“I wonder,” asked Dave Darrin huskily, “whether it is really necessary for me to assure you of the tremendous burden of obligation that you’ve put upon me?”
“It isn’t necessary, any way that you can look at the question,” retorted Farley promptly. “What we did for you, Darrin, is no more than we’d stand ready to do for any man in the brigade who was being ground down and out by a mean trickster.”
“Wouldn’t I like to take peep in on Henkel, now, while the commandant is grilling him in that gentle way the commandant has?” mocked Midshipman Page.
“David, little giant, the matter is cleared and as good as squared,” cried Dalzell. “And now I know this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever been really and unutterably happy!”
During the nest two days it was known through the brigade at large that Midshipman Henkel was in close arrest. The brigade did not at once learn the cause. Yet, in such appearances as Henkel was permitted to make, it was noted that he bore himself cheerfully and confidently.
Then, one day, just before the dinner formation, Darrin was ordered to report at the commandant’s office.
“Mr. Darrin,” announced Commander Jephson, when the midshipman had reported and saluted, “I am glad to be able to announce that we have been able to pile up so much evidence against Mr Henkel that young man finally confessed that it was he, and he alone, who created all the disorders with your equipment, and in your room for which so many demerits have been inflicted upon you. At the dinner formation. Therefore, when the orders of the day are published by the brigade adjutant, you will again hear that your demerits, given for the offenses unjustly charged against you, have been remitted by order of the superintendent. You will also learn that you have been restored to the first conduct grade, with all the privileges belonging to the midshipmen of that grade.”
It was with a light heart that Dave Darrin left the commandant’s office, though the young man had been expecting that very decision.
Yet, despite the fact that he knew it was coming, Dave’s heart thrilled with exultation and gratitude as he heard the order read out in the brigade adjutant’s quick, monotonous tones.
Then, immediately following, came another order.
Midshipman Henkel, for dishonorable conduct, was dropped from the rolls!
“Fours right, march!”
By companies the brigade wheeled and marched into the mess hall–the air resounding with the quick, martial tread of eight hundred or more of the pick of young American manhood!
As the command “march” was given one man fell out of the ranks. Henkel, from the moment of the publications of the order, was no longer a midshipman!
He had fallen deservedly, as one not fit to associate with gentlemen, or to figure among the future defenders of his country of honorable men.
As the brigade marched indifferently off, and left him there, Henkel gazed, for a few moments at the solid ranks of blue and gold, and a great sob welled up within him. In this supreme moment he realized all that he had lost–his place among honest men!
Then, crushing down any feeling of weakness, he turned on his heel, a sneer darkening his face.
Then, recalling himself, Henkel sprang up the steps and hastened to the room that had been partly his. Here he discarded his uniform substituting for it the citizen’s clothes which had been brought to him from the midshipmen’s store. His own few belongings that he cared about taking with him he packed hastily in a dress-suit case.
Yet the task required time. His roommate, Brimmer, was back before Henkel was ready to depart.
“You’d better wait, now, until the coast is clear,” whispered Brimmer. “Hosts of the fellows are hanging about outside.”
“They won’t see me,” jeered Henkel harshly. “I’ll wait until they’re off at afternoon duties. But see here, Brimmer, don’t you dare forget that I might have said much about you, and that I didn’t. Don’t dare forget that I leave to you the task of humbling that fellow, Darrin. If you fail me, Brimmer, it won’t be too late for me to do some talking.”
“Oh, I’ll get Darrin out of here,” grimaced Brimmer. “But I won’t try to do it the way you did. You went in for enmity. I’m going to undo Darrin by being his friend.”
“Well, I’m through and ready to leave,” muttered Henkel. “But I’m not going until the coast is clear.”
Seating himself by the window, he stared moodily out, thinking of the life which had strongly appealed to him, and from which he had exiled himself. While he was so occupied knock sounded at the door; then the cadet officer of the day stepped in:
“I see you are ready to go, Mr. Henkel,” announced the cadet officer. “The published order was to the effect that you leave the Naval Academy immediately. The officer in charge has sent me to see that you comply with the order at once.”
“Oh, well,” muttered Henkel bitterly. He turned, holding out his hand to his late roommate.
“Goodby, Brimmer; good luck!”
“The same to you,” replied Brimmer, as their hands met. That was all that was said with the cadet officer of the day looking on, but both of the late roommates understood the compact of dishonor that lay between them concerning Dave Darrin’s coming fate.
With his derby hat pulled low over his eyes and gripping his suit case, Henkel slunk through the corridors of Bancroft Hall. Now he faced the hardest ordeal of all in going out through the entrance of the great white building, beyond which stood many groups of midshipmen.
Now these young men of the Navy caught sight of Henkel. No goodbyes were called out to him. Instead, as his feet struck the flagging of the walk scores of lips were puckered. The midshipmen gave the departing one a whistled tune and furnished the drum part with their hands. That tune was–
“The Rogue’s March.”
BRIMMER MAKES A NEW FRIEND
“Darrin, I hope you don’t hold me in any way responsible for that fellow Henkel’s actions.
“Why should I?” asked Dave, turning and looking into the eyes of Midshipman Brimmer.
“I know that, for a while, there was hard feeling between us,” continued Brimmer seriously. “It took me a long time to get it out of my stubborn head that you were the one responsible for having our crowd ragged by the watchman the night of the spread in Annapolis. Even after Farley changed his mind it took me a long time to believe that he was right.”
“I forgot that whole matter long ago,” replied Darrin.
“Then will you accept my tardy apology, and let us be friends?” urged Brimmer, holding out his hand.
It was not Dave Darrin’s way to hold a grudge forever. He extended his own hand to take Brimmer’s.
“And I hope you’ll let me know you better,” continued Brimmer, turning to Dan Dalzell.
“Most people who know me at all think they know me too well,” laughed Dan, but he held out his hand.
Perhaps, in other walks of life, the chums might have been more wary about accepting Brimmer’s suddenly proffered friendship, as they stood in the open air just after dinner one November day. The weather was so fine and mild that it seemed a shame to be cooped up between walls. Back in the High School days, for instance, Dave and Dan would have been more cautious in accepting such an offer of friendship. But at the U.S. Naval Academy the atmosphere is wholly different. The midshipmen are ranked as gentlemen, and all are so taken on trust unless they betray themselves as dishonorable. Ninety-nine per cent of the young men are earnest, honest and wholly aboveboard.
After that, during the next two or three weeks, Brimmer cultivated the acquaintance of Darrin and Dalzell at every possible opportunity. Often, in the evening, he came hastening to their room for a short visit after the release bell had sounded at 9.30. When he called, Brimmer always remained until the warning call just before taps.
“It took you a long while to find out that Dave Darrin is white enough to shake hands with,” laughed Farley, one day.
“As I remember, it took you quite a little while, also, to find it out,” laughed Brimmer. “I admit that I am slow at forming my friendships. But there’s no mistake about Darrin, when you get to know him. He’s about the finest fellow in the class.”
“He certainly is,” nodded Farley heartily.
Being shorn of the long list of unjustly-given demerits that had stood against his name, Darrin was now in the first conduct grade. So was Dan. That gave to both considerable in the way of privileges. On Saturdays and Sundays, for instance, they were at liberty to accept invitations to call on or dine at the houses of officers and their families. This privilege, while pleasant to possess, amounted to little, for Dave and Dan had been too busy over their studies to have any opportunity to attract social notice.
As to dancing, fourth class men do not, by tradition, attend any of the midshipmen’s hops, which are reserved for upper class men.
Neither is a plebe midshipman expected to be seen escorting young ladies. In fact, the plebe has no social pleasures within the academy walls.
Outside, however, it is different. If the fourth class men are acquainted with young ladies in the town of Annapolis they may visit them on Saturday afternoons when so invited.
Here, again, Dave and Dan found no delight. For they became acquainted with none of the girls of Annapolis.
They could, however, on Saturday afternoon secure permission to go into the town. Any change outside of the Academy walls now became welcome, though our young midshipmen had no other form of pleasure than merely to stroll through the streets of the town and occasionally regale themselves with a dish of ice-cream or a glass of soda at Wiegard’s.
Brimmer, one Saturday afternoon, when strolling through the town, discovered a new little shop on Main Street.
This was a little store that had just been fitted up. Some fruit was displayed for sale, though the main business of the place appeared to be the dispensing of various temperance drinks.
On the sign over the door the proprietor’s first name was given as “Tony.” The second name was an unpronounceable Greek one.
Being thirsty Brimmer stepped inside.
“Are you Tony?” he asked of the swarthy young man behind the counter.
“Yes, sare,” grinned Tony. “What you drink?”
Brimmer looked over the stock, selected a bottle of ginger ale and paid for it.
“Business good?” asked the midshipman.
“No, sare; ver’ bad,” replied Tony sadly.
“Oh, well, it will pick up by-and-by.”
“I hope so, sare. But when I come here I think maybe the midsheepmen come see me offen. You, sare, first midsheepman who came here.”
“You have a neat little place,” continued Brimmer. “And this ginger ale,” holding up his glass, “is good. You’ll have trade enough by-and-by.”
“You tell other midsheepmen they come here, sare?” asked Tony hopefully.
“Why, yes; I think perhaps I can send you a bit of trade,” replied Brimmer. The young man’s father was a politician, and a prosperous one. The son had learned the wisdom of making friends wherever he could, since there could be no telling when a friend anywhere might be useful.
“You come with me, sare,” urged Tony, taking a gentle hold on Brimmer’s arm, and leading him to the rear of the store.
Tony threw open a door, revealing a rear room in which were three tables.
“Maybe midsheepmen like play cards, sometimes,” suggested Tony, with a grin.
“Great!” cried Brimmer. “Yes; sometimes the fellows do like to know a quiet little place where they can have a good game without a discipline officer butting in. Good enough; I’ll tell some of the fellows about this place; but you must keep it quiet, and not let anyone else into that room.”
“For midsheepmen on’y,” promised Tony solemnly.
“Good enough, then,” smiled Mr. Brimmer. “I’ll bring you a party as soon as possible.”
“Then you make me your frien’, sare,” protested the Greek.
As Brimmer went strolling along the street, after that, a plan began rapidly to hatch in his mind. He thought he saw how Tony could made a most valuable ally.
As luck would have it, Brimmer was not long in meeting three midshipmen of rather wild tendencies. To them he proposed a quiet little game of cards. He led his classmates back to Tony’s. Here they regaled themselves with ginger ale, then passed on into the rear room. For more than two hours the midshipmen remained here. Occasionally they called for more of the temperance drinks. As they left Brimmer passed Tony a two-dollar bill, for this midshipman disregarded the regulations in that he frequently received money from home and was always well supplied.
“Thank you, sare,” cried Tony, bowing very low, indeed.
The following Saturday Brimmer returned to the little shop with a small party of friends.
Late that afternoon Tony was richer by a few dollars.
“You one ver’ good frien’, sare,” protested the delighted Tony. “Me? I your ver’ good frien’, too. I do anything for you, sare–try me!”
“I’m getting Tony about where I want him,” thought Mr. Brimmer. “Just a little more help to him, and then I’ll spring my idea on him.”
Thanksgiving had gone by, and now the Christmas Holidays were nearing. Brimmer was playing his game slowly, and without the slightest risk to himself. Tony must take all the risk. If the Greek got into any trouble Brimmer could deny all knowledge of the matter.
One Saturday afternoon, just before Christmas Midshipman Brimmer came down Main Street, looked in and found the Greek standing alone in his shop.
“Howdy, Tony,” was the midshipman’s greeting, as he sauntered into the store.
“Hullo, my good frien’, sare.”
“Wish you a Merry Christmas, Tony.”
“I don’ know, sare, I don’ know,” replied the Greek, shaking his head.
“Why, isn’t business good now, Tony?”
“You do ver’ much, my frien’, to help make it better,” replied Tony, shaking his head, “but still I not make much money.”
“Are you hard up at Christmas, Tony?” asked Brimmer, with pretended sympathy.
“Oh, yes, sare; all time hard up.”
At that moment Brimmer’s gleaming eyes saw Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell passing on the other side of the street.
“Quick, Tony! Get a look at my friends over there!” whispered Brimmer. “Take such a good look that you will know them again anywhere. Now, it’s the one on the inside, especially. Note him sharply, Tony.”
“I never mistake him again, sare, eff I see him,” replied the Greek gravely.
“Do you see many of these ten-dollar bills nowadays, Tony?” questioned Brimmer, carelessly displaying a banknote.
The Greek shook his head wistfully.
“This is yours now, Tony; and twice as much more afterwards, if you do what I want of you. It’s a good joke that I want to play on a midshipman down at the Academy.”
“A joke, eh?” repeated the Greek. “Then, sare, my frien’, it can’t be anything so ver’ bad, eef it only a joke.”
“Oh, it isn’t anything bad,” Brimmer lied cheerfully. “But that fellow played a warm one on me, and I want to pay him back.”
“I understand, sare, my ver’ good frien’.”
Inside of five minutes Tony understood very much better. Still, the Greek saw no real harm in what he now engaged himself to do.
That night Tony slept with Brimmer’s ten-dollar note under his pillow. Dave Darrin slept as soundly as ever, unconscious of harm hanging over his head.
Midshipman Brimmer did much gleeful chuckling after taps, as he lay on the bed in the room that Henkel had once shared with him.
“Now, let’s see anyone get a chance to bring this job back to me!” laughed Brimmer. “And goodby, Darrin! The Naval Academy won’t know you much longer!”
TONY BAITS THE HOOK
Up to this time Darrin had dropped in at Tony’s but once, and Dan not at all.
The Saturday after Christmas was an anxious one for nearly all of the midshipmen. Only a few availed themselves of any privilege of going into Annapolis this Saturday afternoon. Most of the young men remained in their rooms at Bancroft Hall, anxiously going over the work in which they were soon to take their semi-annual examinations.
Especially was this true of the fourth class men in the “wooden” or lowest sections. Most of these men knew that, if they succeeded in staying on at all, it would be by a very small margin indeed. Even the men in the “savvy sections,” with the highest marks of their class, were eager to come out as well as possible in the dreaded semi-ans.
Dave and Dan both had secured permission to go into Annapolis.
“We’ll want to clear out the cobwebs by a brisk walk, anyway,” declared Darrin.
They did not intend to go townward, however, until rather late in the afternoon.
Dan, when he could stand the grind no longer picked up his cap. Dave wanted to put in least fifteen minutes more over his book.
“I’ve got to get out in the air,” Dalzell muttered.
“Going to town?” Dave asked.
“Yes. Coming along?”
“I’ve got a little more in logarithms to clean up,” murmured Darrin, looking wistfully at two pages in one of his text-books on mathematics. “Will it do as well, Danny boy, if I follow in fifteen or twenty minutes?”
“Yes; you’ll probably find me on Main Street, though you can look in at Wiegard’s on the way.”
Wiegard’s is the famous confectionery shop where cadets go for candy, for ices or soda fountain drinks. If upper class men and young ladies are plentiful in Wiegard’s, however, prudent fourth class men keep right on without stopping.
Dan left Bancroft Hall quite certain that his chum would not be along for at least an hour.
At the gate Dan made his report of liberty, then kept on up Maryland Avenue.
As he turned into State Circle he slowed up a trifle, glancing in through the door at Wiegard’s.
“Too many upper class men in there for me,” decided Dan, so turning he made his was way through the State Capitol grounds, and on into Main Street.
Here he strolled more slowly, passing, here and there, a member of his class, though none with whom he was particularly intimate.
“I’m thirsty,” decided Dalzell. “I don’t believe I want any of the hot drinks. There’s Tony’s. I’ll drop in and get a bottle of soda lemonade.”
Tony saw the fourth classman coming, and a peculiar smile crossed his lips. On the occasion on which Brimmer had pointed out the chums to the Greek the latter had understood that it was Dan who was to be the principal victim.
“Good afternoon, Tony!” was Dan’s greeting, as he stepped into the shop. “Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you, sare, good frien’,” was Tony’s reply. Then the Greek turned briefly, to hide a grin.
“Crowd seems to have left you, Tony,” said Dan sympathetically.
“Save their money to buy present for girls,” guessed the Greek.
“Tony, have you a small bottle of lemon soda that’s good and cold?”
“Oh, yes, sare.”
“Then I want it.”
Tony fumbled among bottles clinking in ice under the counter. At last he found what he wanted and held the bottle up to the capping machine. Then the Greek did something unusual. Instead of emptying the bottle into a glass on the counter he performed that service underneath the counter. Next he held the glass up full of bright, cold liquid filled with bubble and sparkle.
“It makes me thirstier to look at this,” muttered Dan, picking up the glass. “I’ll get it down as soon as I can.”
He sipped the last out of the glass, put do a coin to pay for it, and stood, for a moment, chatting with Tony.
“Excuse me, sare,” broke in the Greek, suddenly. “I hear ma wife call me.”
Opening a door behind him Tony stepped into a hallway.
The short December afternoon was drawing to a close. Standing in the shop Dan saw that the light in the street was growing less.
“I’ll walk a little further down the street,” thought Dan. “Then I’ll turn back, and keep on toward State Circle, and look for Dave.”
As he took the first step away from the store Dalzell noticed a slight feeling of dizziness.
After a moment this passed off, but soon it came on again, heavier than before.
“What ails me?” wondered the astonished midshipman. “It can’t be that I’m turning sick, for I’ve been feeling fine all along.”
He tried the effect of will power, holding himself as erect as he could and trying to walk slowly in a straight line.
Then, though he did not realize it, three or four passers-by turned to look at the unsteady young man in a midshipman’s uniform.
Two men passing in an auto runabout glanced quickly at Dan.
“Look at that fool midshipman, throwing away a great future for a few glasses of strong drink,” he remarked to his companion. Then the auto sped on.
As for Dan Dalzell, he no longer understood clearly what was happening.
At this lower end of Main Street, on which he was now moving, there were not many people astir. One there was behind him, however–Tony, the Greek, following stealthily on his trail.
At last, as Dalzell reached the head of a short, narrow alleyway Tony caught up with him in the darkness that had now fallen.
A quick shove Tony gave the midshipman, and Dan, helpless, staggered into the alleyway, tripped and fell.
Tony passed on as though he had merely accidentally jostled another.
Then, in an instant he wheeled, went back the head of the alley and glanced in.
Dan Dalzell was lying still, in a complete stupor.
With a chuckle the Greek drew a small bottle from one of his pockets, taking out the stopper and throwing it away. Then he began sprinkling the contents on Dan’s uniform coat with energy.
At that instant there was a quick step outside. Then Dave Darrin, tall, handsome, and even distinguished-looking in the uniform that he wore so well, bounded in, gripping the Greek’s right arm in a tight grasp.
“You rascal!” vibrated Dave’s angry voice. “What are you doing here?”
It being darker in the alleyway than it was outside, Tony did not recognize his captor. Dave towered so in his wrath that the Greek took him to be an officer of the Navy.
“Speak up, before I shake the truth out of you!” warned Darrin. “Do you understand that this is a crime, you knave, and that I can place you under arrest and have you sent to the penitentiary for years?”
Tony was now sure that he was in the clutch of a Naval officer. Moreover, Darrin’s grip was one that spoke of more muscular strength held in reserve.
“Let me go, sare!” begged the Greek, squirming. “This ees all one joke. I do ze man no harm.”
For answer, Dave used his left hand to snatch away the bottle that Tony still held.
“Alcohol!” detected Dave, and hurled the bottle to the other end of the alleyway. “And you have been sprinkling it on this midshipman’s uniform? You are the fellow who runs the temperance drinks place? A nice business for you to be in–drugging midshipmen and trying to ruin them! To prison you go, unless you limber up your tongue. Who put you up to this miserable business? Talk quickly–or off to a cell you go!”
This was pure bluff, as Dave, being under twenty-one, had no right to make an arrest, even as a citizen. But he saw that he had the Greek scared, and he resolved to push his advantage to the limit.
“Talk this instant, or to the police station you go!” warned Dave. “Then it will be years before you are a free man again.”
“Mercy, Captain!” howled the frightened Greek.
“Then out with the whole truth like lightning!” ordered Dave Darrin.
He accompanied his order with a shaking that made the Greek’s teeth rattle.
“Stop, sare, stop! I tell you!” whined Tony.
“Go ahead, then, you brute.”
“You know Midsheepman Brimmer?”
“I know him,” repeated Dave.
“He tell me, sare, about one joke. He geev me bottle of stuff, and he tell me when this midsheepman, or his friend, come in my place I am to put half of stuff in the bottle in one glass of what the midsheepman order. Then I am to follow the midsheepman out, and watch him until he fall. I am also to have bottle of alcohol with me and sprinkle some on the midsheepman when he fall and lie still. Then I am to go away and let the midsheepman be found. It is to be one grand joke on the midsheepman.”
“Give me what is left of the bottle of stuff that Midshipman Brimmer gave you to put in the drink,” commanded Dave sternly.
Tony’s first impulse was to deny that he had the vial with him. But Darrin’s grip on the fellow’s arm tightened so alarmingly that the Greek thrust his left hand down into a trousers pocket, then produced the vial, which Darrin pocketed.
“So this is Brimmer’s work–and Brimmer was at one time Henkel’s roommate and crony!” flashed swiftly through Darrin’s mind. “Oh, the scoundrel!”
“Some one ees coming, sare,” warned Tony. “Let me go, sare.”
“Stay where you are, and don’t dare make a move to get away,” warned Darrin. “It would do you no good, anyway. I know where to find you.”
Then Darrin peeped cautiously out at the head of the alley. Some one was coming, and that some one wore the Naval uniform. Dave’s heart began to beat faster. Then the wearer the uniform passed the light from a store window, and his face was briefly revealed. Darrin’s heart, for a few seconds, seemed almost to stop beating. For it was Brimmer himself!
Further up in the town that midshipman had heard a fleeting word, uttered by some one, about a staggering midshipman having been seen going down Main Street.
“A dollar to a doughnut it’s Darrin himself! flashed exultantly through Brimmer’s mind. He hurried on, though careful to avoid the appearance of haste.
“I wish Henkel were here at this moment!” thought Brimmer. “Oh, it will be great to see that sneak, Darrin–“
Just at that moment Brimmer stopped short, with something like a gasp.
For he did see Darrin, standing before him, towering in his wrath.
IN THE DAYS OF “OLD TWO-FIVE”
Before Brimmer could utter a word Darrin pounced upon him, seizing him by the collar and fairly dragging him into the alleyway.
Then, still gripping his astounded, dismayed foe, Darrin demanded:
“Tony, is this the fellow who paid you to drug my friend?
“The treacherous Greek has betrayed me!” was the thought that flashed instantly through Brimmer’s startled mind.
“Let go of my collar, Darrin!” he commanded loudly. “If this lying Greek has dared to say that I–“
“Shut up!” ordered Dave tersely.
Ever since coming to Annapolis he had tried to keep his temper in the background. But now, quivering in his righteous wrath, Darrin was once more the hot-headed, impulsive, generous Dave of old–a doer of deeds, and a thrasher of scoundrels.
“No, no, no!” protested Tony, shrilly and cunningly. “Mr. Brimmer, he no tell me–he no hire me–“
“Be silent, fellow!” commanded Dave Darrin hotly. “You’ve told the truth once. Don’t spoil it with a dozen lies! Brimmer, you dastard, you disgrace to the noble old uniform–“
By a quick, forceful twist Brimmer had freed himself from Dave’s frantic clutch.
It availed the plotter but little, however.
Quick as a flash Dave let drive with his right fist, landing a blow on the chest that sent Mr. Brimmer flat to the pavement of the alley.
“You coward! You–” screamed Brimmer, as he rose.
But no sooner was he on his feet than Dave planted a terrific blow over his left eye.
Down went Brimmer again, his eyes closed “until further notice.”
“Don’t try to get up!” warned Darrin, crouching over his enemy. “If you make a move upward, until I’m through talking, I’ll kick you clean over the town of Annapolis and far out into Chesapeake Bay. Brimmer, if you send me a challenge when we get back to Bancroft Hall, I won’t pay any attention to it until after the class has passed on the merits of the case. If you want to fight here and now I’ll let you up and we’ll settle it right off. But no formal fight, under decent auspices. You hear me? You understand?”
Brimmer made no reply.
“All right, then,” nodded Dave. “I understand that you don’t want to fight here. Don’t try to provoke me into a formal fight, at the Naval Academy, unless you are prepared to defend your side before a class committee. Now get up and take yourself away–you infamous hound!”
Tony, in the meantime, had swiftly vanished. The Greek’s change of front, in denying his charge against Brimmer, had been prompted by craft.
“Meester Brimmer, he pay me, now, not twenty dollars, but all the money he have, and all he can get,” chuckled the rascally Greek. “Otherwise, he be afraid I tell too much, and he get the double-queeck out of the Naval Acadeemy!”
Brimmer, boiling with helpless rage, got up and made off as quickly as he could. He would have fought, on the spot, but knew that with one eye closed, and giving him great pain, he would be but a football for the strenuous Darrin.
And now Dave bent over his chum, who, still unconscious, was breathing heavily.
“He’s in no immediate danger,” breathed Darrin, in great relief. Then, hearing wheels, he stepped to the end of the alleyway. As if in answer to his prayer the vehicle turned ont to be a cab, and without a fare.
“Driver, I need you here!” called Dave, and the cab rolled in at the curb.
“Follow me,” directed Darrin, leading the way up the alley
Catching sight of the prostrate midshipman the driver grinned.
“No, he’s not intoxicated!” flashed out Darrin half angrily. “This is all a trick. Help me lift him into your cab. Then drive us to the best physician in the town.”
Dan was propped in place on the back seat, Darrin beside him.
“Give me the card of your stable, driver,” Dave requested. “I haven’t money enough to pay you, but I’ll write and have my father send you the amount of your bill.”
“That’ll be all right, sir,” nodded the driver who knew the ways of midshipmen, and who also knew that such a “risk” was a safe one.
A few minutes later the cab stopped before the residence of Dr. Stewart.
“See if the doctor is in,” directed Darrin.
The physician was at home, and not engaged. So Dave and the driver carried Dan into the medical man’s office.
“Too bad!” murmured the physician. “Intoxicated, eh?
“No, sir,” responded Dave quietly, “and that’s one of the things I wish you to note positively, so that you can be prepared to certify if necessary. This is the stuff, I believe, with which my friend was drugged.”
Dave passed over the vial Tony had handed him. Dr. Stewart smelled the contents, then touched the bottle lightly to his tongue. Next he stepped over to a cabinet, poured a small quantity of the liquid into a test tube and did some hurried experimenting.
“The regulation knockout drops,” he smiled grimly. “Now, help me to take off your friend’s overcoat. Whew! There is the smell of alcohol here!
“Only on the overcoat, I guess, doctor,” suggested Dave. “You don’t notice any on my friend’s breath, do you?
“No,” replied the doctor.
“There has been a plot on foot to make it appear that my friend had been indulging in liquor. Doctor, I hope you can prove positively that such was not the case.”
“I shall have to pump the young man’s stomach out. That is the first step in getting him back to consciousness. That will also show convincingly whether he has been using alcoholic drinks.”
Within three minutes Dr. Stewart was positive that Dan had not been using strong drink.
Soon after Dan regained consciousness. Dr. Stewart quickly gave him something to restore his faculties.
Catching sight of the office clock Dave broke in:
“Doctor, if it is barely possible, we must be back for supper formation. Can you fix it?”
“I think so,” nodded the physician. “You can help. Turn on that electric fan and place your friend’s uniform overcoat where the fan will play upon it. That will drive away most of the smell of alcohol.”
“Alcohol?” mumbled Dan wonderingly.
“Don’t try to think, now, Mr. Dalzell,” ordered the physician. “Mr. Darrin will explain to you later.”
Dan lay on the lounge, the physician keeping a finger on his pulse. Presently the man of medicine gave Dan another drink of restorative. “Now, get up and walk to the back of the room with me,” commanded the physician. “Here, I’ll throw this window up. Now, take in as deep breaths as you can.”
Dave, in the meantime, was standing near fan attending to driving the fumes from his friend’s coat.
A few minutes later Dr. Stewart gave Dalzell a third draught. Dan was now recovering steadily from his mental numbness.
“You can take your friend away safely, now,” declared Dr. Stewart, at last. “He can thank a strong constitution for recovering so quickly under treatment.”
“Shall I take him near the gate in a cab, or walk him there?” asked Darrin.
“It will bring about his recovery more completely if he walks.”
“Pardon me for a moment, then, and I’ll go outside and release the driver.”
Then, returning, Darrin added:
“Doctor, if you’ll hand me your bill, Mr. Dalzell will see that his father remits to you.”
Dr. Stewart nodded, wrote the bill, and passed it over. It was not by any means the first time that the physician had done business on that basis.
“A fairly brisk walk, gentlemen, will be best,” said the doctor, at the street door. “Good evening–and good luck.”
“Another Naval mystery, I suppose,” smiled the physician, as he turned back to his office. “But I shall never hear from it again, except when the remittance arrives from the young man’s father.”
Arriving at the Maryland Avenue gate of the Academy grounds Dave turned in report for both of them. Then the chums continued across to Bancroft Hall.
Midshipman Brimmer was reported absent, but accounted for, at that supper formation. At that moment Brimmer was undergoing a Naval surgeon’s treatment for his eye. Brimmer’s brief explanation to the surgeon was that he had run his face against something hard in a dark alleyway while in town. The surgeon noted down the explanation, smiling grimly.
That being Saturday evening, with release from studies, Dave slipped down to the door of Farley and Page, and invited them to his quarters. There sat Dan.
Both Farley and Page listened almost in stupefaction. They had always rather liked Brimmer. Yet they were convinced that Darrin spoke the truth.
“Now, help me with your advice,” begged Dave. “Should I make an official report of this whole matter?
“Not until you have stronger evidence against Brimmer,” suggested Farley.
“Would it do any good to ask for a class committee, and to bring Brimmer before it?”
“Not until you have a better case to offer,” replied Page.
“Then what should I do?”
“Cut Brimmer, of course,” said Farley thoughtfully. “And don’t let him guess that you’re going to let up at any point of the investigation into the matter.”
“We won’t let up, either,” blazed Dave, “if we can think of any way to probe the facts.
“I don’t believe it will do much good to fool with Tony, the Greek,” suggested Midshipman Page. “Brimmer has more money than any of us, and he’ll pay blackmail to keep Tony’s tongue quiet.”
It was Tuesday when Midshipman Brimmer returned to formations. Immediately after breakfast Dave Darrin went up to him.
“Mr. Brimmer, I want a word with you.”
“I don’t want any words with you, at any time, Mr. Darrin,” Brimmer retorted bitterly.
“You won’t have any that are not necessary,” retorted Dave. “Yet I think it will be to your advantage to step aside and hear what I have to say now.”
“Make it very short, then.”
“Mr. Brimmer,” continued Darrin, when they were by themselves, “all I have to say is to confirm the language that I used to you the other evening. Further, I will say that you are quite at liberty to report me for having assaulted you. Or, you may ask for a class committee to investigate this affair between us. The last that I have to say is that I have the vial of knockout stuff that you gave Tony to serve to Dalzell and myself, and I have also expert testimony as to the nature of the stuff. Nor do I mind admitting to you that Dalzell and I are going to go as far as we can in getting the evidence that; will warrant our making an official report your scoundrelly conduct. If possible we shall bring about your dismissal from the Naval Academy.”
Brimmer’s eyes flashed. Yet in the next minute the yellow streak in him showed. His lip quivered, and he begged, brokenly:
“Darrin, show a little mercy. Would you care to be kicked out of the Academy?”
“Not any more than Dalzell would have liked it,” replied Dave dryly.
“Then you must realize that it would spoil my life, too.”
“Mr. Brimmer,” retorted Darrin sternly, “it is no longer a question of what your feelings in the matter may be. The plain fact is that you are not a gentlemen–not honorable. You are not fit to be the comrade of gentlemen. You are a profanation of the uniform of the United States. It is for the good of the service, far more than for any personal enmity, that several of us have resolved to keep on the hunt for evidence until we get a complete enough lot to drive you away from Annapolis.”
Finding that coaxing was of no avail Brimmer became surly.
At the first opportunity for liberty to go into town Dave, Dan and Farley went abruptly to Tony, the Greek, questioning him insistently. Tony, however, would not say a word beyond stolidly denying that he had had any part in the plot, and that he had ever said so.
Tony had abundant reasons for his silence. He had promptly demanded two hundred dollars from Brimmer, and the latter had sent post haste to his father for the money, explaining only that he needed it to “buy his way out of a scrape.”
The money now rested in Tony’s pocket.
Dave, Dan, Farley and Page tried hard, however, in other directions, to secure the need evidence. There was no druggists’ label on the vial, so these four midshipmen visited all the druggists in Annapolis, seeking light on the matter. The druggists, however, denied any knowledge of the vial or of its contents.
Now, the friends appeared to be up against a dead wall of difficulty. They did not cease their efforts, however, and held many conferences behind closed doors.
Brimmer kept track of their activities as best he could. He became moody, and slackened in his studies.
After that the semi-annual examinations came on. Dave passed better than he had hoped, making two-nine as his standing.
Dalzell was forced to be content with two-seven, but as two-five was a high enough mark for passing Dan was delighted. Farley and Page got through safely, and that was all.
Fifty-nine of the men of the fourth class were dropped for failing to keep up to the two-five standard.
And one of these was Midshipman Brimmer. He and the other unlucky ones left for their homes as soon as the results had been announced.
Brimmer would have passed, in all probability, had he not been unstrung by the knowledge that four of his comrades were working to secure the evidence which should warrant his expulsion from the Naval Academy. Oppressed by dread, this young scoundrel was not capable of doing his best work at the semi-annuals.
So Brimmer left as Henkel had done. The only difference was that Brimmer did not have to slink away to the tune of “The Rogue’s March.”
“You’re past the worst of it, now, mister,” murmured Youngster Trotter, in passing Dave. “You’ll win through hereafter.”
But Dave Darrin could hardly help feeling that his greatest thankfulness was over the fact that the poisonous pair, Henkel and Brimmer, were both out of the Navy for good and all.
The Collision on the Chesapeake
The weeks slipped by quickly now.
Athletics cannot occupy as prominent a place at Annapolis as at the universities and colleges, for the midshipmen must, above all, be sure that they stand high enough in their academic work. Dave and Dan were both invited out for baseball try-out, but both asked to be excused.
Dan, by himself, would have gone in for the Navy nine, and doubtless would have made it.
It was Darrin, the cautious, who dissuaded Dalzell.
“Better shy away from athletics, Danny boy, until you’ve made your academic footing secure,” was Dave’s advice.
“You didn’t talk that way in the High School,” argued Dan.
“No; there the athletics were more necessary, if we were to keep in condition. Here athletics may be regarded as the luxury, which we are not yet entitled. Here, with the gym work, the fencing, the drills under arms and the boat drills, we’re kept in the pink of physical condition without need for special training.”
“Next year, when we feel absolutely solid in our marks, we can go in for athletics, if we wish, Dan.”
So Dalzell gave in. He was beginning to realize that his chum had a “long” head and that his advice was always good.
With the coming of spring the boat drills were resumed in earnest.
Dave, standing well in “grease,” now, became captain of one of the boat crews, for he had developed unusual skill in boat handling.
One bright afternoon in the latter part of April, while half of the brigade marched off to instruction on shore, the other half marched down to the docks beyond the seamanship building.
Here the members of the third class embarked in the steam launches each craft representing a war vessel–for fleet drill.
The fourth class men embarked, by crews, in the sailboats.
As each captain gave the order to shove clear of the dock the mainsail was hoisted. Then each crew captain kept one eye on the watch for the signals of the instructor, who was aboard a boat designated as the flagship.
The sail was downstream. Beyond Annapolis some pretty manoeuvering work was done. While this drill was proceeding, however, the wind died out considerably. Then, light as the breeze was, the youthful crew captains were forced to beat back against almost a head wind.
There being no signs of squalls or puffs, the crew captains did not seem to need to exercise much caution. The members of the crews stood indolently at their stations.
Yet Dave was as alert as ever. He stood close to the midshipman tillerman, looking constantly for signals from the flagship, and at the same time watchful for any wind signs.
An hour or more they had proceeded thus. Some of Dave’s boat crew, who had been making a lark of their nearly becalmed condition now began to demur over the prospect of getting back late for supper.
“The steam-launch fleet might show up and give us a tow,” grumbled Farley.
Dave smiled and said nothing. He was as eager as any midshipman in the boat to have his supper on time, but he felt that the crew captain must appear above any sign of complaint untoward fate.
For a moment or so Darrin turned to look aft at the weather.
“Motor boat ‘John Duncan’ on the port bow, two points off and bearing this way, sir,” reported the bow watch.
Darrin turned quickly, bending to glance under the boom, for the mainsail was in his way.
What he saw made him dart quickly forward, to take up his stand by the mast.
“Pass me the megaphone, Mr. Dalzell,” he requested.
With this mouth-piece in hand, Dave watched the nearing craft.
The “Duncan” was a semi-speed boat, some forty-five feet over all, without cabin, and carrying only a sprayhood forward to protect its engine.
Two men appeared in the boat–Mr Salisbury, the owner, and his engineer. The latter was steering at this time.
Chug-chug-chug! came the fast craft.
Dave waited, well knowing that his hail could not carry to either engineer or owner over the noise that the “Duncan’s” engine was making.
Farley stood close to Dave watching. The tillerman also had his eye on the approaching craft. The other midshipmen, telling stories or staring out over the water, paid little heed. There could be no danger from the motor boat. Both the owner and engineer were well known, in these waters, as capable boat handlers and as men of judgment.
Darrin, himself, did not believe that there was any danger.
“Throw her head a point and a half off to the starboard,” called Dave Darrin evenly.
“Aye, aye, sir,” responded the midshipman tillerman, and the sailboat responded slowly under the slight headway.
“Great Scott, don’t those fellows know that a sailboat has the right of way over a power craft?” demanded Darrin suddenly.
“Perhaps they’re going to see how close they can come to us without hitting us,” remarked Farley.
Dave raised the megaphone to his lips, waiting until he judged that there was a chance of his hail being heard.
“Duncan, ‘ahoy!” bellowed Darrin. “Go to port of us!”
Still the motor boat came onward, at a speed something better than fourteen miles.
“Hard-a-starboard!” Darrin roared back to his own tillerman.
Then he repeated his hail. He was almost frenzied now; for the motor boat had not yet changed its course.
Suddenly, when the two craft were almost together, the engineer, after throwing over his wheel, held up one hand.
Before Dave could guess what the gesture meant, the “Duncan” loomed up on the sail-boat’s port bow, coming on at unabated speed.
There was an instant scampering of midshipmen for safety. Then bump! the motor boat’s bow crashed into the sailboat, cutting a great gap in her.
The force of the shock threw most of the midshipmen into the water. The rest jumped.
Now, the “Duncan” responded to her engine by backing off. But the motor boat, too, had received her deathblow. Ere she had backed off a hundred and fifty feet she began to fill rapidly. Owner and engineer had only time to adjust life-preservers and leap overboard. Then the “Duncan” went down.
At the moment of collision there was a crash of spars and a snapping of cordage. The sailing craft’s mast had gone by the board, though not much before the sailboat itself had filled.
Dave himself was pitched headlong. He sank below the water, but had no fear for himself, for he was wholly at home in the water.
Yet, as he found the water closing over him, Dave Darrin felt a great thrill of terror for others run through him.
“My boat crew is the poorest in the class in swimming!” he gasped, with a throb of agony. “Not more than half of them know how to take care of themselves! And I, as captain, am responsible for their safety!”
IN THE LINE OF DUTY
As his head shot above the water a Dave barely paused to expel the water from his mouth.
“Boat’s crew close together, to stand by the poor swimmers!” he yelled hoarsely.
The water being barely ruffled, Darrin was able to count eight heads besides his own.
That meant that five men had still failed to come up.
Midshipman Driscoll, an instant later, shot up beside Dave.
“Help!” sputtered Driscoll.
“Float on my arm, sir,” ordered Dave, swimming with lusty strokes until he had thrust his left arm under Driscoll’s chest.
Then the young crew captain shouted:
“Who can get here first to support Mr. Driscoll.”
“Here!” called another midshipman, overtaking the pair with lusty strokes.
“Keep Mr. Driscoll up,” called Dave, as he swam away. “I’ve got to count heads fast.”
Another midshipman came above water, and Dan Dalzell was at him, like a flash, supporting the new arrival, who was one of the poor swimmers.
That left three men to be accounted for.
Further down the stream still another head appeared. Only for a moment or two, this midshipman succeeded in keeping his head above water.
“I’ll get that man,” cried Farley, as he and another midshipman started with powerful strokes after the man who was going down for the second time.
“There’s a seat floating!” shouted Dalzell.
Darrin plunged forward for it, until he saw one of his crew nearing it ahead of him.
“Hold that as a life-buoy!” called Dave.
Hardly had he given this order when another midshipman made himself heard, as he trod water.
The board was pushed toward him, while Dave made a rapid count.
“All up but Mr. Page;” muttered Dave, but even that thought made him sick at heart.
Only a few moments had passed, but that was time enough for any man to come to the surface if his buoyancy remained.
Darrin had paid no heed to Mr. Salisbury or the latter’s engineer, for he had seen them jumping for their life-preservers.
In the meantime the other boats of the sailing fleet were making for the scene of the disaster. Yet, with the light breeze, that was no easy thing to do. It would take some time yet to bring the nearest of the sailing fleet to the scene.
Signals had been sprung to the steam-launch fleet, but the launches were far down the bay, and many minutes must pass before relief could be looked for from that quarter. Two or three of the sailboats would, in fact, be at hand first.
Though there were some excellent swimmer among the wrecked midshipmen, the best of these were already standing by midshipmen who did not swim well. Dave Darrin was the only one free to go to Page’s assistance should he show up.
“Every man keep his eyes peeled for Mr. Page!” shouted Dave. “We simply can’t stand the loss of any member of the crew!”
“There’s a hat!” cried Dan, a few moments later. “Can you make it out, sir.”
Dalzell was pointing further down the bay.
“A cap, yes,” called Dave, striking out lustily for the spot. “But I don’t see any head there. Watch, all of you, and give me a hail if you see Mr. Page’s head show up anywhere.”
Midshipman Farley was in agony over the thought of the loss of his roommate. Yet Farley was at this time engaged in standing by a less-skilled swimmer.
“That looks like a face, fifteen yards west from the cap!” shouted one of the crew.
Dave Darrin made the greatest spring, he could up out of the water. It gave him a chance for a better view.
“I see the face!” he roared back. “Look after yourselves. I’ll get in close to Mr. Page.”
Dave swam as he had never done before, taking swift yet long, powerful strokes. He reached the spot, only to see what he had taken for a face sink slowly below the surface.
“That must be the second time going down!” throbbed Darrin, with a feeling of horror.
More powerfully than ever he surged forward. He was too late to catch another glimpse of the white face. But he had noted the point at which it had sunk.
Taking a breath, Darrin took a dive downward, duck fashion. Holding his breath, he went below, his eyes wide open, seeking as best he could.
Down where the light of day reached him poorly Darrin caught sight of something floating slowly past. It might have been a fish, for all the sense of shape that reached Dave.
With an inward prayer the young crew captain surged downward and forward. He grappled with–something–then fought his way the surface, holding that something tightly.
As they shot above the water Darrin’s blood danced for joy.
It was Page–“good old Page!”–whom he had brought to the top.
“Got him safe?” bellowed Farley, over the water.
Dave was too winded to answer. He thrust one hand above his head, waving it joyfully. Then he let the hand fall that he might better attend to his work.
For a few moments they floated there. The nearest of the sailing cutters was now nearing the victims of the wreck.
The boat, however, would reach Darrin last of all.
While Darrin watched Farley and three others clambering aboard the rescuing boat, the young crew captain trod water, supporting Page at the same time.
Then Page opened his eyes, as though returning from a faint, rather than reviving from a partial drowning.
“Hold me tight!” gasped Page, almost in a whisper. “I’m a fearfully poor swimmer.”
“I know,” nodded Dave, “but I’ve got you, and I never let go of a good thing.”
Darrin’s heart throbbed gratefully. All of the boat crew were accounted for; not a man of his command lost.
Further off he could see Mr. Salisbury and the engineer of the foundered power boat, each held up by a life-preserve.
But, though all of the wrecked middies were afloat, they were as yet by no means safe. Some were so helpless that every man who could keep himself afloat and help another was thus engaged.
Dave, after his strong exertions, found himself rapidly “playing out.” If help did not soon reach him he felt that he would be exhausted.
“Can’t you help yourself a little more, Mr. Page?” he asked.
Unnoticed by Darrin, Midshipman Page had been slowly relapsing into unconsciousness. In the collision Page had been hit glancingly on the head by the gaff of the falling mainsail.
Page heard Dave’s query with a muddled mind. All he grasped was that Darrin was doubtful of his ability to keep them both up.
In an agony of unreasoning, stupefied dread, Midshipman Page swiftly wound both arms around Dave Darrin.
“Here!” commanded the young captain the crew. “Don’t do that!”
But Page either did not hear or did not heed. His arms clung more desperately around Dave, binding one of the latter’s arms to his body.
“He’ll drown both of us!” was the thought that flashed instantly through Midshipman Darrin’s mind.
There was no time to think of more. Before he realized that the thing was happening Darrin felt the waters close over his head.
Both midshipmen were going down. While Darrin’s mind was fully alive to the situation Page, a gallant fellow at heart, and thoroughly brave, was now unwittingly carrying his comrade down with him to death.
Nor, in the first moments, did any of the other midshipmen note the tragic happening.
It was not long, however, before Dan Dalzell’s agonized query shot over the waters:
“Where’s grand old Darrin?”
Dan groaned with his helplessness. For Dan was, at that instant, holding up one of the poor swimmers, to leave whom would be to abandon him to death.
OFFICIAL AND OTHER REPORT
When under the water, and in imminent danger of drowning, seconds count as hours.
If they perished, now, Page would be spared the deep horror of it all, for his mind was already clouded again through his recent injuries.
He retained only consciousness enough to fight like a dying wild beast.
With one of Darrin’s arms pinioned Page seemed fighting to get the other in an equal state of helplessness.
Dave fought to free himself. Yet he did not struggle too hard.
“If I free myself abruptly, I may lose Page!” was the thought that rushed through his brain.
To free himself of his comrade in order to get to the surface alone and safe was furthest from the young midshipman’s mind.
“It’s a tough fix, but I’m going to get Page to the surface, or stay down here with him!” throbbed Dave.
They were near enough to the surface to enable Darrin to see his comrade, though not with much clearness.
Down under the water all forms looked indistinct.
While Darrin struggled cautiously his mind worked fast.
It would have been easy enough to choke Page into insensibility, but that would cause the unreasoning midshipman to open his mouth, insuring his drowning.
Suddenly Dave saw his chance! He made up his mind at once.
Swiftly moving his free hand back, he struck Page on the forehead with his clenched fist.
At that moment, Page began to fight harder to keep them both down. But Darrin struck him again on the head with his fist.
The injured midshipman now collapsed, senseless.
Cautiously though swiftly Dave freed himself, got a left hand grip on the collar of Page’s blouse, and with his right hand struck out for the surface.
His feet aided. With joy Dave saw the water overhead growing lighter and lighter. Then his face shot up into the life-giving air.
Darrin took in a great gulp of it, then turned to make sure that the unconscious Page’s mouth was above water.
Close at hand one of the sailboats of the fleet was bearing down upon them.
“There are Mr. Darrin and Mr. Page!” shouted a voice.
Splash! splash! Two classmates were over in the water, swimming superbly toward the exhausted Dave.
“Keep up a moment or two longer, Mr. Darrin!” hailed the voice of Midshipman Hallam encouragingly.
All these young midshipmen were on duty. Therefore, throughout the mishap and its attendant circumstances the ceremonious use of “Mr.” had been followed.
“Won’t I keep up, though!” thrilled Dave, as he heard the cheering hail.
All but forgetting himself, Dave turned to make sure that Page’s mouth was kept above water.
“Let me have Mr. Page!” called out Midshipman Botkin, ranging up alongside and taking charge of Darrin’s burden.
“How are you, Mr. Darrin? Enjoy a little help?” queried Midshipman Hallam, throwing out a supporting arm to his classmate.
“I’m nearly all in,” confessed Dave, with a ghastly smile.
“But not all in? Good enough! Get hold of my arm, and don’t try to do much more than float. They’re gathering the men in