Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis - Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen
by H. Irving Hancock
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Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen






























Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis



"So Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton have been here?" demanded Midshipman Dave Darrin.

That handsome young member of the brigade of midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis was now in mufti, or cits,—meaning, in other words, that he was out of his Naval uniform and attired in the conventional clothing of a young American when calling on his sweetheart.

It will make the situation even clearer to the reader to explain that Dave was back in the home town, on his September leave, after just having completed his second summer practice cruise with the three upper classes from Annapolis.

Dave was now a fine looking and "husky" second classman. He was just a shade more than half way through his course of instruction at Annapolis.

Being back in the home town, where would Midshipman Darrin be more naturally found than in the parlor at the home of his sweetheart, Miss Belle Meade?

The first greetings had been exchanged fifteen minutes before.

Since that time the young people, being sweethearts as they were, had naturally talked about themselves.

And Dave, who, in the Naval service, was fast learning to become a good listener, had been content to have Belle do most of the talking, while he sat back watching the motions of her pretty lips and catching glimpses of two rows of pearly teeth.

But now Belle had just mentioned two of Dave's former High School chums.

"So Tom and Harry were really here?" he repeated.

"Yes; they came up from Arizona on leave."

"I wonder why they couldn't have remained here longer?" mused Dave.

"They both told me that they were very young in their profession as civil engineers, and that they had to spend nearly all of their time 'on the job,' as Tom phrased it," replied Belle.

"How did they look?" asked Dave.

"A shade older, of course, than when they were in the High School."

"Are they much taller?" asked Darrin.

"Somewhat; but they have not shot up in height, the way you and Dan, and Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes have done," Belle continued.

"Brown as berries, I suppose, after working down in the alkali deserts?" asked Dave, who felt that he could not hear enough of those dear old chums.

"Meaning Tom and Harry?" smiled Belle. "Or Dick and Greg?"

"Tom and Harry, that time, of course," laughed Dave. "But I'm waiting to hear a whole lot about Dick and Greg as well."

"No; I wouldn't call Tom and Harry exactly as brown as berries," went on Belle, laughing, "for I am not acquainted with many kinds of brown berries."

"Coffee berries?" hinted Darrin.

"I would call Tom and Harry fully as bronzed as Indians," Belle ventured.

"Have you ever seen any Indians?" asked Midshipman Darrin, looking at his sweetheart rather quizzically.

"Oh, haven't I?" laughed Belle Meade, her eyes sparkling. "We had Indians here the early part of this summer. There was a medicine show here, with Indians and cowboys, and that sort of thing. One day the Indians and cowboys got intoxicated and they went through Main Street like a tornado. They were yelling and shooting, and had people all along the street running for cover. Even the chief of police, though he wasn't a coward, ran into safety.

"In the midst of it all Dick Prescott, Greg Holmes, Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton came out of an ice cream parlor. Tom and Harry got a glimpse of the very Wild West looking company of yellers and shooters. Tom and Harry have seen enough Indians and cowboys to know the real thing—and that these were only poor imitations. All of a sudden Tom and Harry and Dick and Greg charged into that howling, shooting crowd and knocked them right and left. Your four old-time chums simply disarmed the 'bad' ones and turned the weapons over to the chief of police."

Belle went on, describing the famous incident, while Dave leaned back, laughing heartily.

"How I wish I had been on hand! I'd like to have helped, too," he added.

"Those four youngsters didn't need any help," laughed Belle.

"Which was the most surprised crowd—the 'bad' Western outfit or the police department?" chuckled Dave.

Readers of our "WEST POINT SERIES" will find the "Wild West" scene fully narrated in "DICK PRESCOTT'S THIRD YEAR AT WEST POINT."

"Isn't it outrageous," demanded Dave, "that the West Point and the Annapolis leave of absence should be so arranged that midshipmen and cadets who are old, old friends never get a chance to meet each other on furlough!"

"I don't suppose," replied Belle, "that it often happens that one little city often has the honor of furnishing, at the same time, two midshipmen for Annapolis and two cadets for West Point."

"Very likely not," nodded Dave. "But it seems too bad, just the same. What wouldn't I give to see Tom or Harry? Or Greg or Dick? And now that I'm here Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes are but just barely gone."

"Yes; they have been but four days gone," assented Belle. "It does seem too bad that you and your West Point chums couldn't have been one day together."

"I haven't seen a blessed one of the good old four since I left for Annapolis, more than two years ago," muttered Dave complainingly. "What wouldn't I give—just to see what they look like in these days?"

"Well, what would you give?" demanded Belle, rising and hesitating.

"They've given you their photos, then!" asked Dave Darrin guessing. "Please be quick—let me see the photos."

Belle glided from the room, to return with a large card.

"They were taken altogether," she explained, handing the card over to Darrin. "There they are—all in one group."

Dave seized the card, studying eagerly the print mounted thereon.

"Whew! What a change two years make in a High School boy, doesn't it?" demanded Darrin.

"Of course," answered Belle Meade. "Do you imagine that you and Dan Dalzell haven't changed any, either?"

Readers of our "HIGH SCHOOL SERIES" will well remember Dick Prescott, Greg Holmes, Tom Reade, Harry Hazelton, Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell, a famous sextette of young High School athletes, who, in their High School days, were known as Dick & Co.

Readers of the four volumes of that series will recall that Dick Prescott received the congressman's nomination to West Point, and that Greg Holmes was appointed a cadet at the same big government Army school by one of the state's senators. Dave Darrin and Dan Dalzell, a little later, secured nominations to Annapolis from the same gentlemen; and Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, who had thrown their lot with civil engineering, had gone West to engage with an engineering firm of railroad builders.

From that passing of the old High School days the experiences and adventures of Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes are told in the volumes of "THE WEST POINT SERIES."

Those of Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton are set forth fully in "THE YOUNG ENGINEERS' SERIES."

As for Dave Darrin and Dan, their life, since leaving the High School, and casting their lot with the Navy, has been fully told in the two preceding volumes of the present series, "DAVE DARRIN'S FIRST YEAR AT AKNAPOLIS" and "DAVE DARRIN'S SECOND YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS."

"Well, I'll meet Dick and Greg this coming Thanksgiving, at any rate," predicted Midshipman Darrin. "You know what happens the Saturday after Thanksgiving on Franklin Field, don't you, Belle?"

"You young men of Annapolis and West Point play football, don't you!" asked Belle.

"Do we?" demanded Dave, his eyes aglow with enthusiasm. "Don't we, though. And, mark me, Belle, the Navy is going to carry away the Army's scalp this year."

"Are you going to join the team?" asked Belle.

"I can't say, until I get back. But I've been training. I hope to be called to the team. So does Dan."

"I hope you and Dan both make the eleven," cried Belle, "so that you can get away to see the game."

"Why, we can see the game better," retorted Dave, "if we don't make the team."

"Why, are midshipmen who don't belong to the eleven allowed to see the game?" asked Belle in some surprise.

"Are we?" demanded Dave. "Belle, don't you know what the Army-Navy game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day is like? The entire brigade of midshipmen and the whole corps of cadets travel over to Philadelphia. There, on Franklin Field, before an average of thirty thousand yelling spectators, the great annual game of the two great national academies is fought out."

"You haven't gone to see the annual game at Philadelphia before this, have you?" asked Miss Meade.


"Why not?"

"Because, Belle, both years, at Thanksgiving time, Danny boy and I have found ourselves so far behind in our studies that we just took the time to stay behind and bone, bone, bone over our books."

"And you think this year will be different?"

"Oh, yes; when a man is half way through Annapolis the studies become easier to him. You see, in two years of the awful grind a fellow, if he lasts that long, has learned how to study in the right way. I'm going to get two tickets, Belle, so that you and your mother can go to see the game. And of course good old Dick can do as much for Laura Bentley and her mother. You'll come, of course, to root your hardest for the Navy, just as Laura will go and root for the Army. By the way, have you heard whether Dick and Greg expect to play on the Army eleven?"

"When they were here this summer they said they hoped to play football with the Army. That's all I know, Dave, about the plans of Dick and Greg."

"I hope they do play," cried Midshipman Darrin cheerily. "Even with two such old gridiron war horses as Dick and Greg against us, I believe that the Navy team, this year, has some fellows who can take the Army scalp with neatness and despatch."

Dave rambled on, for some time now, with of the athletic doings at the Naval Academy. It was not that he was so much interested in the subject—at that particular moment—but it was certainly fine to have Belle Meade for an interested listener.

"Well, you're half way through your course," put in Belle at last. "You passed your last annual examinations in June."


"How did you stand in your exams?"

"I came through with honors," Dave declared unblushingly.

"Honors?" repeated Belle delightedly. "Oh, Dave, I didn't know you were one of the honor men of your class."

"Yes," laughed Midshipman Dave, though there was a decidedly serious look in his fine face. "Belle, I consider that any fellow who gets by the examiners has passed with honors. So we're all honor men that are now left in the class. Several of the poor fellows had to write home last June asking their parents for the price of a ticket homeward."

"But, now that you've got half way through, you're pretty sure to go the rest of the way safely," Belle insisted.

"That's almost too much of a brag to make, Belle. The truth is, no fellow is safe until he has been commissioned as an ensign, and that's at least two years after he has graduated from the Naval Academy. Why even after examination, you know, a fellow has to go to sea for two years, as a midshipman, and then take another and final examination at sea. A whole lot of fellows who managed to get through the Academy find themselves going to pieces on that examination at sea."

"And then—" went on Belle.

"Why, if a fellow can't pass his exams, he's dropped from the service."

"After he has already graduated from Academy? That isn't fair," cried Belle Meade.

"No, it isn't quite fair," assented Midshipman Dave, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Yet what is one going to do about it? It's all in the game—to take or leave."

"Who ever made the Naval Academy and the service so hard as that?" the girl wanted to know.

"Congress, I guess," laughed Dave, "but acting, very likely, on the advice of a lot of old admirals who are through themselves, and who expect the youngsters to know as much as the very admirals. Why, Belle, when I was a few years younger, and first began to dream about going to the Naval Academy I had a mental picture of a very jolly life, in which we sailed the seas and absorbed our knowledge. I had an idea that the midshipman's life was made up mainly of jolly larks ashore and afloat, with plenty of athletics to keep us from ever feeling dull. Of course, I knew we had to do some studying, but I didn't imagine the studies would be hard for a chap who had already gone through a good High School."

"Your High School studies did help, didn't they?" demanded Belle.

"They helped somewhat in the exams, to enter Annapolis, but they've never helped me with any of the studies that I've had to tackle as a midshipman."

"Oh, well, you'll get through," the girl predicted with cheery confidence.

"I shall, if it's really in me," Dave promised. "But I'm not going to do any bragging, Belle, until I'm safely through and have been out of the woods for a long time."

"And you won't do any bragging then, either. It isn't in your line. What's Dan Dalzell going to do while he's home on leave?"

"Sleep, he says."

"The lazy boy!"

"No, he's a tired boy, Belle. I think the past year has been even just a little harder on him than it has on me. However, of course Dan won't really sleep. He'll be out by this afternoon. Just now I imagine that he's talking like wildfire with his mother."

It was a wrong guess, however. Just then the telephone sounded in the next room, and Belle went to answer it.

"It's your shipmate, Dan," she called laughingly. "He wants to talk with you, Dave."

"I wonder how the fellow ever guessed that I was here," smiled Darrin, as he hastily joined Belle at the 'phone.

"Hello," hailed Dalzell at the other end of the wire. "Going to do anything in particular this afternoon, David, little giant?"

"Yes; I hope to make myself more or less agreeable to Miss Meade."

"A small crowd won't be any bar to that, eh?" Dan wanted to know.

"Not if the crowd and the occasion are agreeable to Miss Meade."

"Well, you know Foss and Canty?"

"Two of our old High School boys? Yes."

"Foss has a new gasoline launch; he says it's a beauty, and he wants us to invite Miss Meade and Miss Bentley, to join them and a couple of the former High School girls for a couple of hours' cruise on the river. What say you?"

"What does Belle say, you mean. Wait a moment, and I'll ask her."

Darrin explained the invitation.

"Why, if it will be pleasant for you, Dave, I shall be delighted to go," Belle answered.

"It's all right," Dave called back over the 'phone. "What's the hour for the start!"

"Two o'clock," Dan answered.

"All right, then; will you ask Laura Bentley, or shall we, from here?"

"I've already asked Laura," Dalzell replied. "She accepted on condition that Belie did. Now I'll ring up Laura and tell her that it's all arranged."

"It'll be a pleasant trip for you, won't it!" inquired Belle, half-anxiously. "Or do you get too much of boats in your working year?"

"I shall be glad to be anywhere that you are," Dave replied gallantly. "The form of entertainment doesn't matter to me as long as it appeals to you."

At two o'clock the young people met at the float of the Boat Club house on the river's bank.

On the way across town Dave had been noting the direction and force of the wind. He didn't altogether like it, but didn't say anything. At the float he found Tom Foss, Ab Canty, Ella Wright and Susie Danes awaiting the midshipmen and their fair companions.

"All ready and waiting for you amateur sailors," called Foss laughingly. "And here's the boat. Say, isn't she really a beauty?"

"Good lines," nodded Dave Darrin. "And she looks speedy. But you've changed your mind about going out this afternoon, haven't you, Foss?"

"Why?" demanded the young fellow, in very evident astonishment.

"Look at the water," responded Dave, pointing to the white-caps, which were running rather high for an inland stream.

"Pooh! You're not afraid of a little foam on top of the water, are you?" demanded Foss.

"The waves are running pretty high for the inches of freeboard that your boat has," remarked Darrin quietly. "And look at the sky to windward. There's a bit more blow coming out of those clouds yet."

"Say, what do they teach you at Annapolis?" grinned Foss. "To go sailing only in calm weather?"

"Since you ask," Dave replied as quietly as before, though a slight flush mounted to his face, "one of the things they teach us at the Naval Academy is consideration for women. Now, if just we four fellows were going out, I wouldn't say a word."

"Don't think we girls are afraid," broke in Belle with spirit.

"I'm well aware that you're not afraid," Darrin replied turning and looking at her. "But I'm afraid, Belle of what I might think of myself afterwards, if I were a party to taking you out in this boat when the river is running so much to whitecaps."

"Do you think the boat is one of the kind that will turn turtle and sink the crowd?" demanded Tom Foss, flushing in turn. "I tell you, Darrin, the craft is as tight and sound, and as manageable, as any boat of her length to be found anywhere on fresh water."

"She is a fine boat," Dave assented; "but I don't feel like being responsible for what may happen to the young lady who is more especially under my escort and care. There's too big a chance of danger this afternoon, Foss."

"Pooh, Mr. Sailor!" laughed Ella Wright. "I'll show you that some folks who don't know what Annapolis looks like are not frightened by toy waves."

Miss Ella thereupon stepped into the launch and seated herself. Miss Susie followed.

"Aren't you people going?" asked Ab Canty.

"I'm not going if Dave considers it so unwise that he'd be worried about our safety," Belle answered promptly.

"Going, Laura?" called Foss.

"No, though I thank you," Miss Bentley replied. "If Mr. Darrin objects on the score of safety I'm not going to torment him by disregarding his opinion."

"I'm of about the same opinion as Darrin, if anyone cares to know," broke in Dan Dalzell.

Tom Foss looked at the other half of his party quizzically, then called to Canty.

"Cast off, Ab. Ha, ha! I never thought to see United States sailors and embryo Naval officers so much afraid of a little tossing water."

Chug-chug! Ella and Susie were laughing a bit teasingly as the motor started and the little craft darted away from the float and took to the waves beyond.

Dave did not answer. Instead, he gripped Dan's nearer wrist, muttering:

"Don't you say it, Danny!"

"Say what?"

"Whatever hot words were coming to your lips. As long as we feel that we're right in not risking Belle and Laura, never mind what the others think and say."

"This breeze is so fine," suggested Laura, "what do you say if we seat ourselves here and watch the river for a while?"

Accordingly the four young people seated themselves. The launch was the only craft in sight that was away from her moorings. A sailboat and three canoes lay tied to the lee side of the float, that is the off-side from the weather. Even they rocked a good deal.

"What kind of weather is coming?" asked Belle.

"It's going to be pretty squally, in all probability," spoke up Midshipman Dan. "Do you see the big puffs of wind in the clouds yonder?"

"It must take a sailor to see that sort of thing," remarked Belle. "What I see in the cloud looks like big, fluffy masses of cotton, streaked with something darker."

"That's the wind," nodded Dave Darrin. "Now, girls, I don't want you to think me a muff. That wind may swerve, and not come this way, although in all probability the wind will get this way and the water will be rougher. If it does get rougher on the river, and if we had taken you two out, and the boat had capsized, then by some chance we might not have been able to get you to shore. What would your folks then say to us if we had had the miserable luck to survive you?"

"You did just right," Laura declared promptly. "To tell the truth, I didn't want to disappoint either of you boys this afternoon, but I didn't believe the wind was quiet enough for boating on the river. But mother reminded me that I was going with two young men who had been trained as sailors, and that I ought to be as safe as I would in the home parlor."

"Well, aren't you?" smiled Belle Meade.

"Did you really want to go out on the river, Belle?" Dave asked.

"Not when you don't believe it to be safe."

"I suppose Foss will be joking around town about our being afraid of the water," muttered; Dan.

"What do you care!" asked Dave quietly. "You're responsible to the United States Government—not to a few private citizens on the streets of Gridley."

"You'll take us out on the water before your leave is over, won't you?" urged Belle.

"A dozen of times, if you care to go," Dave; replied quickly.

"In a sailboat?" quizzed Belle. "It must; be great fun to sail, and I've never been in a sailboat."

"I'd rather take you out in a good, solid rowboat," Dave answered slowly.

"Why, haven't you had much sailboat practice at Annapolis yet?"

"We've had some," Darrin nodded. "But I'm afraid I don't believe much in small sailboats for girls' parties."

"Oh, very well."

"Now, Belle, you will begin to believe that I'm a muff at heart," Darrin remonstrated.

"I won't anyway, Dave," Laura broke in. "I can see that you're merely determined that we shall take no risks when we go out with you. I shall feel very safe in whatever you propose for water sports."

"It's a good deal better to be safe, than sorry, when you have girls under your care," Dan Dalzell added.

The motor boat, a fast though a low-hulled craft, had been long out of sight up the river. Presently there came a new turn to the wind. Dan wet a forefinger and held it up to the breeze.

"I hope Foss has sense enough to run in somewhere and tie up until the coming squall blows over," Dalzell remarked.

"Are we going to have a storm?" Belle asked quickly.

"Not rain, if that's what you mean," Darrin replied. "But I believe the river is going to be pretty rough before long."

Ere two minutes more had passed Dave suddenly rose and straightened himself.

"Look downstream, girls," he cried. "Do you see the big rollers coming?"

In truth the surface of the river was now beginning to behave in an unusual way. Where, heretofore, the water had been choppy and whitecapped, the water now broke in longer, foam-crested waves. Owing to the course of the wind the waves were rolling upstream. Within five minutes from the time when Dave first called attention to the rougher water the waves had considerably increased in size.

"Oh, I'm glad I'm not out on the water," shivered Laura.

"So am I," Belle admitted candidly.

"Do you believe Tom Foss can bring his boat down against such waves!" Laura inquired.

"Oh, no doubt, he has had sense enough to run in somewhere and tie up," predicted Midshipman Dan charitably.

"I hope so," murmured Belle. "But Tom is an awfully stubborn fellow."

Toot! too-oo-oot! sounded a whistle up the river.

"By ginger, there comes Foss's boat now!" muttered Dan, standing up and staring. "Why doesn't the idiot make land?"

"He's got his craft away on the other side of the river, looking for quieter water," muttered Dave uneasily.

"Well, isn't that right?" asked Belle.

"Right, yes, unless he makes the mistake of trying to cross the stream," nodded Darrin. "Then he'll run his craft into the trough of the sea, and—"

"Well, what?" demanded Belle as Dave paused.

"Then, when he's in the trough, a big wave may roll his small boat over," Dan finished for his comrade.

"Do you really think there's danger of that?" demanded Laura, looking anxious.

"I don't know," murmured Dave. "But I wish I had some way of signaling Foss, some way so that he could understand the signals."

"What good would it do?" demanded Midshipman Dalzell, grimly. "Tom would only laugh and say it was more old maidishness on the part of Navy men."

"There—confound the idiot!" suddenly blazed Dave Darrin. "He is crossing. Look at that boat wallow in the trough. Jupiter! There she goes over—nearly!"

All four young people on the float held their breath for an instant. The motor launch, after almost having turned turtle, righted itself.

"I wish I were at the wheel of the boat for about three minutes," muttered Darrin hoarsely.

At that moment Laura and Belle both screamed, while Dan Dalzell shouted:

"There she goes—for sure, this time!"

A bigger wave than usual had half filled the launch and caused it to careen. Before the little craft could right itself a second and a third wave, rolling along, had completed the work. The launch had sunk!



In the same instant, without a word to each other, Dave Darrin and Dalzell had done the same thing. That is, they started to run and at the same time doffed coats and vests, leaving these garments to flutter behind them.

As they reached the sailboat both midshipmen cast off their shoes. Dave leaped into the boat while Dalzell threw off the bowline, then boarded.

Like a flash both youngsters went at the lashings of the mainsail.

"There isn't a reef in," Dan discovered. "Going to take time for a close reef, Dave?"

"There isn't time," Darrin muttered, with drops of cold perspiration on his forehead as he toiled. "We'll have to go out under a full sail, Dan."

"Great Scott!" muttered Dalzell.

"We may be too late to save any one as it is. There! Jump to the halyard. I've got the sheet."

Dan Dalzell began to hoist with a will. In an incredibly short time he had the sail hoisted all the way up, while Darrin, stern and whitefaced, crouched and braced himself by the tiller, gripping the sheet with his left hand.

In a twinkling Darrin had the wind in his canvas. They had nearly a fair wind as they bounded away from the float.

During these few instants of preparation neither Belle nor Laura had spoken. Both girls realized the gravity of the situation, and they knew that a word from them might distract the rescuers from the work in hand.

Knowing that he had the high, fast wind with him, Dave steered straight for the last spot where he had seen the motor launch. Though the boat was no longer visible, and the distance too great for seeing the heads of the swimmers, if there were any, Darrin had taken his bearings by trees on the further shore upstream.

At first, to keep the sailboat from capsizing, the young skipper at the helm let the sheet well out. Then, when Dan hurriedly rejoined him, Darrin passed the sheet over to his comrade as to one who would know exactly what to do with it. Dan perched himself on the weather gunwale, his weight there serving as ballast to keep the craft from capsizing. Yet, even so, everything had to be done with the utmost skill, for, with the mainsail up, the least fluke in handling the boat would send her over.

"We've got to go fast and take all the chances," muttered Dave.

"Sure," nodded Midshipman Dan understandingly. "It would be no great scare to us if we did heel over into the drink. It might mean a different story, though, for those who are already sopping up the wet."

"Aren't they splendid fellows?" cried Laura.

"Yes," answered Belle, her eyes snapping and her face glowing. "Though I won't claim that they're any finer than your own West Point boys."

That brought an added flush to the color in Laura Bentley's face, and her eyes sparkled her gratitude, for Dick Prescott, now at West Point with his chum, Greg Holmes, had been her High School sweetheart, and doubtless was to become her Army sweetheart after he had made sure of his career.

"Dave and Dan are experts," glowed Miss Bentley. "They'll know just what to do."

"They're better than mere experts," returned Belle Meade. "They're strong and manly to the core, and with them there's no such word as fear when there's a duty to be done."

Both Dave and Dan were peering fixedly ahead all the time that they drove the sailboat toward the scene of the late disaster.

"I think I see a head," cried Darrin.

"Boy or girl!" demanded Midshipman Dalzell.

"Can't tell at this distance. And now the next wave has blotted out what I thought I saw."

"We've got to be patient," uttered Dan.

The position of the midshipmen was far from being free of danger. With all their coolness and their undoubted skill in boat handling, there was grave danger, with the mainsail set, that, at any instant, wind and wave would capsize the boat.

Indeed, Dave was running the lee gunwale under water half the time, trusting to the human ballast supplied by his comrade to keep them afloat.

"See anything now?" demanded Dave.

"No," uttered Dan, "though I'm working my eyes three shifts to try to make out something. I'll have to go to an oculist as soon as I get through with this. This eyestrain is awful."

Midshipman Dan Dalzell was really unconscious of the fact that he was joking. It was second nature with him; he would have jested—unconsciously—with death in its most awful form.

"There, I see a head—two of them!" cried Midshipman Dave suddenly, as he half rose and pointed.

"Hurrah!"—from Dan.

Dan let the boat's head fall off a point in order that he might see better around the mast on the weather side, just where he must head his craft in the last dash in.

"It's Foss and Ella Wright," called Dan, as the flying sailboat got in closer over the foam-crested waves. "No, it isn't; Foss has Susie."

"Can you make out Canty and Ella?" demanded Darrin hoarsely.

"Not a sign, Dave. Maybe he's gone under trying to save Ella."

"Canty was one of our Gridley High School boys, so I'd expect him to have both the nerve and the grace to go down with a girl, if he couldn't save her as well as himself," muttered Darrin.

"There's Canty, just come up!"

"Can you make out Ella's head?"


"Look hard."

"I don't see her, and—there!"

"What's up?"

"Nothing," returned Dalzell soberly. "Canty's down—just gone down again."

"I hope he's gone down trying to find and rescue Ella," murmured Dave.

They were now so close that the young midshipmen would have been able to hear the shouts of the imperiled ones had it not been that the wind blew the sounds of voices away from the would-be rescuers.

"Better ease off the sheet a bit, I guess, Davy," called Dan, as he suited the action to the word. "We don't went to run 'em down."


As he spoke, Dave Darrin brought the boat slightly around. They were now close enough to see that Tom Foss was supporting dead weight in the person of Susie, who was unconscious.

"Waiting the word from you on the sheet, Davy," nodded Dan, as the boat drew close to the only pair of survivors now visible.

"Let go the sheet!" called Dave an instant later, and Dan let it run off clear, handing the end of the rope to Darrin.

"Can you head Susie this way, Foss?" Dalzell called.

"I'd rather have help," came the faint answer. Tom Foss was evidently well spent by his exertions in keeping up the girl so long.

Splash! Dan Dalzell was in the water, without waiting to hear more. The athletic young midshipman swam with a steadiness and speed that was glorious to see. Many an excellent swimmer, in smooth water, would dread buffeting with such waves as were now rolling.

Dave Darrin, meanwhile, held on to the tiller and the paid-out sheet, ready to manoeuvre the now pitching, rolling boat at an instant's notice. It took all his seamanship to keep the craft afloat, though the sailboat was far better modeled for such water than the motor launch had been.

"Give her over to me, and save yourself," commanded Dalzell cheerily, as he reached Tom Foss. "Think you can make it, old fellow?"

"If I can't, I ought to drown," retorted Tom Foss, as he struck out, none too strongly. "This is all my fault. You fellows gave me better advice than I had sense to follow."

Dan, with a skill that he had acquired directly from the excellent instruction given him by the swimming master at the Naval Academy, was now piloting the unconscious form of Susie Danes toward the sailboat.

Even encumbered as he was, Dan made the boat before Tom Foss could accomplish that feat alone. Truth to tell, Foss was very nearly "all in." Had rescue been delayed a few moments longer, Foss and his fair companion must have sunk.

"Get hold of her, Davy," called Dan, as he ranged up on the weather side of the tossing boat.

Darrin promptly leaned over and lifted the unconscious girl into the boat. By the time he had done that Tom Foss reached up both hands, seizing the boat's stern.

"Going to help me in?" he called.

"I don't know," Dave answered dubiously.

"If we can find Ella Wright there may not be room. With such a sea running, this boat won't hold many."

"No matter about me, then," muttered Tom. "If Ella isn't found right away I don't believe I care about going back to Gridley."

Dave's response was swiftly to knot a noose and let it down over Tom's shoulders. The other end of the line he made fast astern. Dalzell, in the meantime, had swum back again. Susie Danes lay as still as death in the bottom of the boat.

As Dalzell got back where he had first reached Foss and Susie, he espied the head of Ab Canty some distance away.

"Ab!" called Dan.


"What has become of Ella?"

"Oh, I wish I knew!"

"Was she afloat at all!" demanded Dan, swimming nearer.

"Yes; I kept her up for a couple of minutes, maybe. Then she got more scared, wound her arms tight around me, and we both sank. We had a struggle under water. I freed myself, but when I came to the top I found that my hand was clutching nothing but her empty jersey. There it is now," chattered Ab, his teeth, knocking against each other, as he pointed to the garment in question on the top of a distant wave. Then Ab sank.

For just an instant Dalzell thought Canty had gone below on purpose. Dan swam closer, to be of assistance. Then he saw the bubbles of air coming up rapidly.

"Cantys given out—he's going to drown!" gasped Midshipman Dan, with horror.

Like a flash Dan dived below, found and clutched at Canty. The young man returned the grip with interest, but Midshipman Dalzell struggled to the surface with him. Ab Canty was exhausted, out of his head and altogether past reasoning. Dan hated to do it, but he had to strike the young man in the forehead. Canty gave a gasp and ceased to resist.

Dave Darrin, watching, had run the boat up close alongside as soon as the struggling pair appeared above the waves.

"You'll have to take him in, Davy," announced Midshipman Dalzell. "Canty isn't strong enough to tow behind. And I'm coming aboard for a fresh look before I dive for Miss Wright."

"You're going to stay aboard and manage the boat," retorted Darrin quietly. "I'm going in next."

"Oh, all right, if you want to," half grumbled Dan. "But I'm just beginning to get used to it and to like it."

Dan, however, followed orders and took his seat by tiller and sheet as soon as they had towed Canty safely in the boat. Tom Foss, lied and holding on at the stern, was beginning to chatter hard, but said he was all right.

A brief instant of consultation the two midshipmen held. Then Dave Darrin, holding his hands before him, dived hard and deep into the water.

After nearly a minute he came up again, but only to take an observation. Then he sank, to explore more of the space under water.

For five minutes Darrin continued this, making four dives in all, and sinking twice without diving.

"I can't give this up, and abandon a girl," he muttered. "Dan, I've got to take more account of the current, and work gradually downstream."

A little later Dave rose with a whoop the instant that his head showed above the water.

"I've got her," Dave announced, though his voice was hoarse and panting.

"Hurrah!" came from Dan, as he saw the girl's head show above the surface. Dalzell, hauling on the sheet, ran the boat in close. Dave grasped at the rail on the weather quarter, while Dan bent over him, hauling hard. And so Ella Wright was dragged unconscious into the boat.

"I'd stay here in the water with you, Tom," explained Dave, "but I've got to be in the boat to do my share of handling her."

"Th-th-that's all r-r-r-r-right," chattered poor Foss, "I'm d-d-d-doing f-f-f-fine here—c-c-c-couldn't h-help in the b-b-b-boat"

While lying to, it had taken some fine management on the part of the midshipmen to keep the sailboat from capsizing. And now, on this rough, wave-strewn river, they had to tack back against a nearly head wind.

"Look at the crowd on the clubhouse float," gasped Dan as soon as the Naval chums had gotten their craft under way.

"Good thing," muttered Darrin. "We'll need plenty of help."

"I wonder how the crowd got wind of the thing in such short time?"

"You forget," nudged Darrin, "that there's a telephone in the clubhouse. Laura and Belle are not given to losing their heads. Undoubtedly they've been 'phoning to Gridley."

"Then they can't have overlooked the need of physicians," ventured Dan, "especially as Laura is the daughter of one."

As the boat drew nearer to the float the noise of cheers was borne to the ears of the midshipmen.

"More of the hero racket," uttered Dan disgustedly.

"I hope this won't get into the newspapers," grunted Darrin in a tone of something like real alarm. "Say, the fellows of the brigade wouldn't do a thing but make us mount chairs and read all the fulsome gush about this rescue."

"And then, after we'd finished a straight reading," groaned Dan, "we'd have to sing it next, to the tune of 'Columbia, the Pride of the Ocean.'"

"'Gem of the Ocean,' Dan," Darrin corrected.

Though in the middle of the river the sailboat had many a close shave from capsizing in the strong puffs of wind, especially with the load that the little craft carried, yet Dan Dalzell, at the tiller, brought the boat at last in under the lee side of the float, and there a score of pairs of willing hands reached out with offers of help.

Dr. Bentley was in the crowd, as were two other Gridley physicians. There were also two trained nurses, and one of the druggists had brought along a big emergency box of drugs and supplies. Between them the telephone and the automobile can accomplish a lot in these modern times.

Laura and Belle, though they had summoned the aid, now kept tactfully in the background.

The two apparently drowned girls were lifted from the boat in haste and borne to a room that had been made ready on the second floor of the clubhouse. Ab Canty was carried to another room, and Tom Foss, who nearly shook to pieces when lifted from the water, was helped after his friend.

"You two young midshipmen will have to come inside and get some of our attention," called Dr. Bentley in an authoritative voice.

"I think not, thank you, doctor," replied Dave Darrin. "The most that we want is some place where we can strip and rub down, while waiting for dry clothing."

"I know just the room, and I'll take you there," urged Len Spencer, reporter for the "Morning Blade." Len was an old friend of Dick Prescott, who, in his High School days before going to West Point, had worked as an amateur space reporter for the "Blade."

Len led the way gladly. While Dan and Dave stripped and rubbed down, Len got out of them the whole account of what they had been through. Reporter Spencer had already talked with Belle and Laura. A man in an auto had already started for the homes of the two midshipmen, to obtain changes of clothing for them.

"Now, Len," begged Dave, "don't spread on a lot of taffy. Don't smother us under the hero racket."

"But it was an heroic thing," Len argued. "And, besides, it was done with great skill, of the kind that you've gained at the Naval Academy. It makes a corking, elegant story about two of our brightest Gridley lads."

"But, Len, do you realize that the fellows at the Naval Academy will make us read aloud to them this yarn you're proposing to write about us—that is, if they happen to hear about it?"

"And then, after we've read the yarn straight, they'll make us sing it all to some blamed old tune or another," groaned Dalzell.

"Well, I can't help it," sighed good-natured Len. "It's a story we've got to have to-morrow morning. I'd lose my position if I didn't write a good story about this afternoon's work. And, now that I've got a wife and baby to feed, I can't afford to waste any good time in job-hunting."

"Then I hope none of the other fellows at the Naval Academy hear about the 'Blade's' story," gulped Dan, as he wrapped himself in a blanket while waiting for his dry clothes.

"Hear about it?" retorted Len. "They'll hear about it, all right. The Associated Press man at Gridley will be sure to send something about it to the papers all over the country."

"I guess we've got to take our medicine, Danny," hinted Midshipman Dave Darrin.

In the meantime Tom Foss was soon comfortable, wrapped up in blankets and with plenty of coffee inside him. Nor did it take long to bring Ab Canty around. In three quarters of an hour Susie Danes opened her eyes.

As for Ella Wright, the physicians and nurses worked over her long and earnestly, and were on the point of giving her up when at last a flutter of her eyelids was seen.

By night time all of the young people were quite out of danger, but the parents of the Wright and Danes families were highly indignant over the recklessness of Tom Foss in taking the girls out on the river in such a heavy wind.

Three days later even the launch was saved; that is, it was raised and was towed to a boat-builder for overhauling and repairs.



The story that Len Spencer wrote for the "Blade" was "worse" than the midshipmen had expected. That is, the newspaper made them out to be heroes of some rare, solid-gold type. To add to the trouble, the story, in a condensed form, was printed broadcast by the dailies all over the country.

"We can't hope to keep it quiet, Danny boy," groaned Dave when the two chums met the next morning.

"No," sighed Dan. "The most we can hope for is to be allowed to live it down."

"And I'm much afraid that we've got to stand for a lot more of gush this afternoon," continued Darrin.

"At the reception? Oh, yes! I wish we could desert the town and get away somewhere to hide."

The affair for the afternoon was a reception for which Laura Bentley had sent out hurried invitations to a lot of the former High School boys and girls of Gridley. Though Laura was more especially interested in the U. S. Military Academy at West Point—because Dick Prescott was there—yet she did not show undue partiality to the Army.

"I'm sorry Laura didn't wait a fortnight," Dan continued.

"Oh, well, she doesn't understand," Dave urged.

"You're going, of course?"

"I surely am. I wouldn't slight that splendid girl. She's a whole lot to me, Danny boy, both for her own sake and Dick Prescott's."

Even the short stroll, however, between Belle Meade's home and Laura's, was bound to bring Dave Darrin again into the unwished-for limelight.

He and Belle had turned into Main Street together, and were walking along, chatting, when Belle's eyes flashed suddenly.

"There's that horrid wretch Ardmore," she murmured in an undertone.

"Don't believe I know him," Darrin returned.

"Then you haven't been deprived of much," replied Belle, in a tone that was very nearly bitter. "I've been meaning to tell you about him, Dave, but other matters have been cropping up and it has escaped me until now."

"What's wrong with Ardmore?" asked Dave.

"He's posing as an admirer of mine."

"I can't quarrel with his taste," smiled Darrin.

"But he annoys me."

"Has he dared to do that?" demanded Dave, a quick flash in his eyes.

"Not in any way that it would be easy to resent," Belle assured him.

"Who is this fellow Ardmore?"

"He appears to be a gentleman—at least in his ordinary conduct," Belle Meade answered. "He moved here last spring with his parents. The father is a retired lawyer, and wealthy. The Ardmores move in a rather good set in town. About a month ago Caspar Ardmore, the young man, met me at a church affair. Ever since then he has all but waylaid me. Several times he has tried to walk with me when we met, and has often tried to see me home from church or elsewhere. I've been almost downright rude to him, and have shown him in every way I can that I don't wish to continue acquaintance. But he's hard to discourage."

"He hasn't insulted you?" asked Dave quietly.

"Oh, dear, no! If he had, I think I might have been able to startle him somewhat," laughed Belle, who had a "temper" when it was necessary to have one. As she spoke she raised her eyes, glancing ahead.

"There, he has stopped, and looks almost as though he were waiting for us," she added.

"There's an ugly scowl on his face, too."

Dave Darrin looked ahead at the foppish, rather good-looking, tall and slender young man of some twenty-six years.

"I hope he isn't going to be troublesome," murmured Dave. "I don't want to have to fight with him—at least, not when you're along with me."

As they neared Ardmore, Dave continued to look at the young man quietly, steadily, frankly. Ardmore seemed trying to ignore the gaze, and looked, instead, at Belle.

Just as the young couple reached him, Ardmore raised his hat, at the same time stepping forward so that he blocked Belle's progress.

"Good afternoon, Miss Meade," was Ardmore's greeting. "I was on my way to your house when I saw you. Mother has some tickets for a concert at the Sorosis rooms, and is unable to use them this afternoon. So I have come to ask you if you will not honor me with your company at the concert?"

"Thank you, no," Belle answered coldly. "And I would also like to make it plain, Mr. Ardmore, since you make it necessary, that I do not wish your company at any time or place. I am sorry to have to speak so plainly."

A deep flush dyed the cheeks of the fop. But he was not so easily discouraged.

"I had intended to call this evening, Miss Meade. I am to have a box at the theatre."

"You may call anywhere you wish," Belle retorted, her eyes flashing, "provided it is not at my home."

"Oh, I am very much afraid that you are annoyed with me," cried Ardmore.

"I am," Belle admitted. "Mr. Ardmore, will you do me the very great favor of ceasing your attempts at acquaintance?"

"Acquaintance? Why, we're already very well acquainted, Miss Meade; in fact, I had hoped that we were, by this time, the most excellent friends. If this gentleman," with a sidelong look at Dave, "will excuse us, Miss Meade, will you stroll along with me and tell me in what way I may have offended you without intending anything of the sort?"

Dave, who had remained quiet, now felt called upon to interpose.

"Sir," he demanded, "will you observe Miss Meade's request and take yourself away?"

"And what have you to say about this?" demanded Ardmore sneeringly.

"The young lady is under my protection."

"I have offered her mine."

"And Miss Meade has just told you that you will please her most by keeping away from her at all times," replied Darrin quietly but firmly.

"What? After all the good times she and I have enjoyed together?" demanded Ardmore, as though astounded beyond measure.

"I? Good times with you?" cried Belle, her cheeks flaming. "I've never even spoken to you when I could avoid it."

"That's false!" cried young Ardmore hotly.

"Stop, right there!" warned Dave Darrin in a quieter voice than ever, though his face paled swiftly. "Did I understand you to remark that Miss Meade had made a false statement?"

"You did!"

Whack! Darrin's clenched right fist caught the fop on the temple, felling him to the ground.

"Go right on to Laura's, Belle," begged Dave quickly. "I'll be along soon."

Miss Meade walked rapidly ahead.

Ardmore was on his feet in an instant. Not wanting in a certain amount of animal courage, he rushed at Dave, only to be met with a blow in the mouth that floored him again. The fop's lip was cut and bleeding when he rose.

"You cur!" bellowed the fellow.

"The opinion of a person like you can't matter very much," Dave retorted coolly.

A little crowd was beginning to gather. Dave's pallor increased, for his very soul writhed at the thought of having Belle's name involved in a brawl in this fashion.

"You're a—" began Ardmore, but Dave Darrin moved quickly up to him.

"Do you retract the statement you made?" demanded the midshipman in a low voice.

"I retract nothing," quivered Ardmore. "I repeat, and repeat—"

Dave closed in like lightning, Ardmore attempted to guard himself, but he was all but helpless before such a fast, trained hitter as Dave. The fop went down under two well-aimed blows delivered almost together.

Once more Ardmore leaped to his feet, while Darrin disdainfully awaited him.

But two or three men in the crowd leaped between the enemies, forcing the fop back.

"Don't be a fool, Ardmore!" urged one of the men, speaking in the fellow's ear. "That's Midshipman Dave Darrin, and he's one of the quickest, hardest hitters in Gridley."

"Oh, that's the midshipman, is it?" demanded Ardmore in a sneering voice. "Oh, well, then, I won't hit him again. I know another way of making his skin smart."

Dave tarried only long enough to make sure that the fop did not care to carry the encounter further. Then, turning on his heel, he walked rapidly in the direction Belle had taken. He overtook that young lady before she reached the Bentley home.

"If the fellow intends to trouble you again, I hope he'll do it before my leave is finished," spoke Dave quietly. "I think I've given him a little lesson, Belle, though there's no telling how long it will last with inferior animals of Ardmore's type."

"He's a spiteful fellow, Dave. You must be on your guard against him," Belle urged.

"I guess Ardmore is wishing his own guard had been more effective," smiled the midshipman.

Caspar Ardmore was "busy" within an hour after Dave's summary handling of him. Ardmore had never been considered a truly bad fellow, though he was foppish, conceited and wholly unable to understand why anything that he wanted should be denied him. Belle was now two years beyond her High School days, and had developed into a most attractive young woman. Ardmore had fallen victim to her charms and had decided that he would make a better husband for her than any Naval officer could. Hence the young dandy had pursued Miss Meade with his attentions; upon finding her with Dave, he had hoped, in his foolish way, to put an end to Darrin's pretensions.

Ardmore, therefore, having met only disaster, was now engaged in drawing up a complaint to be sent to the Secretary of the Navy, complaining that he had been set upon and treated with severe physical violence by Midshipman Darrin.

Nor was there great difficulty in finding three men, out of the small crowd that had witnessed the assault, to swear to affidavits that they had seen Darrin knock Caspar Ardmore down repeatedly.

All this "evidence" Ardmore got together with great relish, and mailed the mass of stuff, that same night, to the Secretary of the Navy at Washington.

Then Ardmore went out of town for three days. Behind him he left an active toady who promised to keep watch of matters and to advise him.

It was through this toady that Dave received an intimation that his case would be attended to at Washington. Belle, also, received a hint, and with it she went to Darrin.

"Can the fellow really make any trouble for you, Dave?" she asked anxiously.

"Why, yes," admitted Dave. "Anyone can make trouble for a midshipman, to the extent that the charge must be investigated by the Navy Department. If the Secretary were satisfied that I am a reckless sort of bully, he would decide that I am unfit to be an officer of the Navy."



Dave Darrin did not let the news of the charges disturb his outward serenity, though he was inwardly aware that perjured evidence might work great harm to his future career.

Until he was advised by the Navy Department that charges had been made against him, he really could do nothing in the matter.

But that letter from the Secretary was not long in coming. The letter informed Midshipman Darrin that he has been accused of severely assaulting a citizen without just provocation, and contained, also, some of the circumstances alleged by Caspar Ardmore. Dave was commanded to forward his defense promptly.

This Darrin did, in a courteous answer, as briefly as he could properly make it. He admitted knocking Ardmore down, but stated that he did it in resenting an insult offered by Ardmore to a young lady under his (Darrin's) escort at the time.

This letter he showed Belle.

"It is the first step, on my side in the matter," he explained with a smile.

"I should think the Secretary of the Navy ought to be satisfied with your answer and drop it at once," replied Belle.

"He may."

"But you think he won't?"

"It is likely, Belle, that there will be a court of inquiry at least."

"Oh, dear!" cried Belle, a few tears gleaming in her eyes now. "Why should so much fuss be made over the matter?"

"Because I am being trained to be an officer in the Navy. An officer must be a gentleman as well. Any charge affecting a Naval officer's honor or courtesy must be investigated, in order that the government may know whether the accused is fit to hold an officer's commission. The government wouldn't be dealing justly with the people if such standards were not observed."

"And I am the cause of all this trouble for you?" cried Belle.

"No, Belle, you are not. You have nothing to do with the matter, except indirectly. Ardmore is the one responsible for the trouble. If he had not insulted you he wouldn't have gotten into any difficulty."

"It seems too bad, just the same."

"It's annoying; that's all," Dave assured her. "If I had to do the same thing over again, for the same reason, I'd do it cheerfully."

Mrs. Meade heard of it all, from her daughter. Without saying a word as to her intentions the mother herself wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy. Mrs. Meade set forth the persistent fashion in which Ardmore had sought to force his attentions upon Belle, to the latter's great annoyance. Mrs. Meade's letter declared that Darrin had taken the only possible means of saving Belle from future annoyance. The mother's letter to the Secretary concluded by offering to procure statements from other people on the subject if the Secretary wished.

Mrs. Meade received a prompt reply from Washington. The Secretary thanked her for her statements and expressed entire belief in them.

By the same mail Caspar Ardmore, just returned to Gridley, received this letter:

"Referring to your letter and complaint bearing date of September 6, the Department has to advise you that other statements have also been received bearing upon your accusations of an assault alleged to have been committed upon your person by Midshipman David Darrin.

"It is claimed by the signers of other statements, including that of Midshipman Darrin, that you grossly insulted a young woman under his escort and completed the insult by accusing her of falsehood. If these statements be true, and there be no other important circumstances, except the assault, the Department begs to advise you that, had not Midshipman Darrin resented the gross insult tendered the woman under his protection, he would thereby, by such inaction, have rendered himself liable to dismissal from the Navy. It is always the first duty of a gentleman to afford ample protection to any woman under his escort and care.

"Should you deny the statements quoted above in favor of Midshipman Darrin, and should you further desire to have the matter brought to issue before a duly appointed court of inquiry, before which you would be required to appear as a material witness, this Department will be glad so to be advised. If you do not make formal application for the appointment of such court of inquiry within the next few days, no further action will be taken in the matter. Very respectfully,

"Your obedient servant, "(Signed) LEOK B. CHAMBERS, "Secretary of the Navy."

As he read, and realized how flat his charge had fallen, Ardmore's face passed through several shades of red.

"Of all the government red tape!" he muttered wrathfully. "I didn't think the fool Secretary would do anything like this. I thought he'd just call Darrin down hard and plenty, and perhaps bounce him out of the Naval Academy. Humph! I guess all these Navy folks stand together. There doesn't seem to be much justice about it."

Ardmore thereupon took another vacation away from Gridley. A few days after he went Midshipman Darrin received a brief communication from the Secretary of the Navy, stating that no further action had been taken by the accuser, and that the Department was satisfied that the midshipman's conduct had been fully justified. Therefore the matter would not be called to the attention of the Naval Academy authorities for action.

"So you see," smiled Dave, as he called at Belle's home and handed her the letter, "there is never any need to be worried until trouble breaks in earnest."

"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried Belle, her eyes shining with delight, "I hope you won't meet that Ardmore fellow again while you're home."

"If I do," promised Dave, "I shall merely look over his head when we meet, unless he repeats the offense that brought him that thrashing."

Ardmore, however, did not appear in Gridley again during Dave's leave of absence.

Dave and Dan tasted, to the full, the delights of life in the old home town until the day when it was necessary for them to take train and return to Annapolis.

"Mother, Laura and I will go down to Annapolis whenever we hear from you as to the best time for coming," Miss Meade promised at the railway station.

Then she found chance to murmur, in a voice too low for any of the others present to hear:

"And I'll try hard not to be such a goose as I was last winter!"

She referred to the trouble that had been made by another girl at Annapolis, the circumstances of which are wholly familiar to the readers of the earlier volumes of this series.

"I don't blame you for the way you felt last winter," Dave assured her heartily, "Next time, however, I hope you'll come to me first for an explanation."

"There isn't going to be any next time, Dave."

Three minutes later two midshipmen were being whirled through the city limits of Gridley.



Back on the old, familiar Academy grounds!

Both Dave and Dan underwent an unconscious brace as they passed the watchman at the main gate and stepped on, each with a suit case in hand, to the left, with Bancroft Hall in the distance.

Their first move was, as it must be, to report their return to the officer in charge. By that officer the two midshipmen were assigned to the rooms that they were to occupy during the coming academic year.

Once behind their doors, both young men hastened to get out of cit. clothes and back into their beloved uniforms.

"There are worse liveries to wear than Uncle Sam's," murmured Dan Dalzell when, having arrayed himself, he glanced down lovingly at the neat, dark blue.

"Much worse," replied Dave briefly, as, having dressed, he set to work to help make their quarters neat enough to please even the captious eye of the discipline officer. By the time that the two midshipmen finished policing their quarters no housekeeper in the land could have found the least sign of disorder.

Rap-tap! sounded briskly at the door.

"Come in," called Dave.

The door opened, revealing Midshipman Hepson, of the first class.

"Are you fellows to rights?" he called.

"Come in, Hepson," urged Dave. "Yes; we're to rights as far as quarters go."

Hepson came no more than inside the door before he halted, asking briskly:

"Have you anything on!"

"Nothing but our clothes," grinned Dan, "and some hair."

"You've no appointments or engagements, then?" persisted Hepson. "My being here won't interfere with anything that you want to do?"

"Not in the least," Dave replied.

"Oh, then, I'll invite myself to a chair," declared the first classman, suiting the action to the word. "Now, you fellows can guess why I'm here."

"You're captain of this year's football eleven," Dave replied. "Has that anything to do with your call?"

"Everything," admitted Hepson briskly. "Have you fellows any notion that we've a poor eleven, so far, this year?"

"Why I thought it pretty good, from the practice work that I saw done in August," Darrin answered slowly.

"A pretty good eleven doesn't win games, sir," retorted Hepson. "Man, we've got to strengthen the team all along the line, or I'll go down in Naval Academy history as captain of the worst lot of dubs who ever chased a pigskin around the field!"

"Is it as bad as that?" demanded Dan, opening his eyes.

"Dalzell," said Hepson, "our eleven is rotten, sir—simply and fiercely useless!"

"If it's as bad as that," hinted Dan innocently, "wouldn't it be a prime good idea to draw our eleven from the field this year?"

"What? Strike the Navy's colors, and especially to the Army?" glared Mr. Hepson. "What are you talking about?"

"Then I guess," nodded Dan, "that we'll have to stay in the ring, and let it go by apologizing to the Army for getting in their way on the field the Saturday after Thanksgiving."

"We won't do that, either, by Jingo!" retorted Midshipman Hepson. "But we've got to strengthen our team. We've got to practice every minute that the commandant will allow us for practice. We've got to make a front-rank team out of—nearly nothing!"

"Aren't there any good players who have been holding back?" asked Dave Darrin.

"Two that I know of, Darrin," rejoined Hepson, fixing his eyes keenly on Dave.

"Who are they?"

"You and Dalzell."

"We haven't backed out, or refused duty," Darrin retorted quickly.

"No; but you haven't pushed yourselves forward any, either."

"Well, we're hardly team material," objected Dave modestly. "However, I'll promise for myself and Dalzell, too, that we'll turn out to all the practice we can, and work like blazes!"

"Will you?" cried Midshipman Hepson delightedly. He jumped up, grasping each midshipman by the hand in turn.

"But you don't want to bank on us too much," Darrin continued. "You know, we've never played on anything as big as the Navy team. We used to be good enough little players on a country school team. But it's different here."

"Let the coaches and the captain find that out, then," grunted Hepson. "But you'll work? You'll try to make good? You'll try to make the team and some history?"

"We'd lay down our lives for the Navy, at any point and in any sort of game," rejoined Dave Darrin simply.

"Good! Bully! That's the way I like to hear a fellow talk!" glowed Hepson, making toward the door. "You'll turn out for practice to-morrow afternoon?"

"Without fail, if we're physically able," promised Midshipman Darrin.

"Awfully obliged to you, fellows," cried Hepson, throwing the door open. "And now you won't mind if I cut my visit short? I've a lot of fellows to see, you know."

The door banged and Hepson was gone.

"Say, how's the Navy going to win under a chap as nervous as Hepson?" asked Dan.

"That isn't nervousness, Danny boy."

"If it isn't, what is it, then?"


"Elec—Oh, say, now—"

"It's electricity," Dave insisted. "He's a live wire, that man Hepson. He'll pull us through on the field this year, if any one can."

"There's nothing like looking on the bright side of things," murmured Dalzell, drumming on his chair.

"I'd rather see Hepson under estimate the Navy team," went on Dave, "than feel too sure that it is invincible. Still, I believe that the Navy is going to put forward a mighty strong eleven this year. Though, of course, that is not saying that we can beat the Army."

"Why not?" demanded Dalzell almost fiercely.

"Because, no matter how good a line we put forward, the Army may put forward a better."

"Now, don't go tooting the Army's bugle!"

"I am just considering the average of chances," Darrin returned. "Danny boy, sometimes the Navy wins, but most of the games of past years have gone to the Army. So the chances are that we'll be beaten this year."

"Not if I have to die on the line to stop it!" glowed Dalzell at red heat.

"Maybe you won't even get on the Navy line; perhaps I won't, either, Danny boy. But you know we saw by the "Army and Navy Journal" that Prescott and Holmes are playing on the West Point eleven this year."

"Holmes isn't necessarily such a much, is he?" flared Dan.

"Greg Holmes is a pretty handy man on the football field," retorted Darrin warmly. "None ought to know that better than we, after we've seen Holmes pull out so many victories for the old High School team. Of course, Prescott is the better player, but Holmes can back him up to amazing advantage."

"Didn't we play about as good a game as that pair?" Dalzell demanded.

"I don't know," Dave answered thoughtfully. "Perhaps not quite as good a game. You see, in the old High School days, Dick Prescott used to lead and I often backed up his plays. So one could hardly compare us."

"If you're in such a blue funk over the Navy's chances, you'd better keep off the line-up," muttered Midshipman Dalzell.

"Oh, I'm in no funk," returned Darrin, smiling. "However, I'm not going to be betrayed into any bragging until we've wiped the field up with the Army—if we can."

Rap-tap! came on the door.

"I'll wager that's Farley," whispered Darrin.

"Or Page"—from Dan.

"Come in," called Dave.

The door opened, to let in Farley, with Page crowding on his heels.

Dave and Dan both hastened forward to clasp hands with these tried chums of other days.

"Seen Hepson?" asked Dan.

"Yes," nodded Farley. "He told us he had gobbled you. Hepson just left us."

"You're going to be on the eleven!" pressed Dan.

"If we can make it," nodded Farley slowly. "I'd like to play, too, but I'm hoping that the Navy can hit on some one better than myself."

"Cold feet!" grinned Dan.

"Not exactly," Farley answered, with a slight flush. "But it's a big thing to play on the Navy's fighting eleven. It seems almost too big a responsibility for any but a demi-god."

"Demi-gods don't play football," jeered Dan. "They're nothing but idols, anyway, and they're two thousand years out of date. What we want on the Navy line is real human flesh and blood."

"There'll be blood on the doorstep of the moon if the Army carries things away from us this year," predicted Page mournfully.

"Well, all we can do is our best," declared Dave. "We'll do that, too, and do it mightily. Wow! What's that?"

Ta-ra-ra-ta-ra-ta! sounded musically in the corridors.

"Supper formation, by Jove!" gasped Dan.

Farley and Page fled without a word. Soon the "decks" of Bancroft Hall swarmed with young life. Then, outside, to seaward, the brigade fell in by companies.

Military commands rang out briskly, roll was called, reports made and the brigade marched in to supper.

What a joyous, noisy affair it was. Some license in the way of boisterousness was allowed this evening, and most of the young men took full advantage of the fact.

Swat! A slice of bread, soaked in a glass of water and kneaded into a soppy ball, struck Dalzell full in the back of the neck, plastering his collar and sending a sticky mess down his spine.

"I'll fight the man who did that," promised Midshipman Dan, wheeling around. Then added cautiously:

"If he's a graduate."

There being, naturally, no graduates present except the officer at the furthest corner of the mess hall, Dan's challenge provoked laughter.

Many other pranks were played, but there is not room to record them here. The meal over and the brigade dismissed, some of the midshipmen—there were nearly eight hundred of them—went to their own quarters, or visited the rooms of cronies. Hundreds took the air in the grounds.

Almost the sole topic was football. Hepson speedily had most of the members of the big squad gathered about him. Others, who could not hope to "make" in football, gathered near-by, as though afraid of losing some of the talk.

"Remember, gentlemen, until the Army game is over, it's to be nothing this year but work, work, work!" warned Midshipman Hepson, with intense earnestness.

With nothing but football in the air, Dan soon caught the infection even more deeply than his chum.

"Hang it, I'm a dub," groaned Dan. "Lots of the fellows gave up their leave in order to be here and practise. Why in the mischief didn't I?"

"For the same reason that perhaps I didn't sacrifice leave," replied Dave. "I wasn't asked to. And you weren't, either, were you?"

"No; but I wish I had flung myself at Hepson's head, and made him take me, instead of going off to Gridley like a deserter! It's October now, and what earthly chance, Dave, have you and I to get in shape?"

"We'll do our best, Danny boy, or stay off the line. There's nothing to be gained by losing our heads. Regrets will be equally worthless."

"Hepson," called one midshipman, "has anyone invented the Navy yells for this year?"

"Yells?" repeated the football captain scornfully. "It's more to the purpose to fit ourselves to do something worth yelling about!"

"Has Hepson got the blues?" asked another midshipman.

"Or only the rattles?"

Football was still in the air, dominating the minds of the midshipmen when a turn of the master switch shut off the lights at taps.



The day following was one of intense, almost complicated routine.

There were books and supplies to be drawn for the new academic year. There were uniforms and other articles of apparel to be drawn. The sections were detailed and section marchers to be appointed. There were details of military organization to be announced. Some of the young men had to go up for physical examination, even if only of the eyes.

At the afternoon recreation hour Hepson led the big football squad out to the field. Hundreds of midshsipmen went there to see how the Navy would show up in the vitally important tests. At the outset Hepson was everywhere, like a buzzing, excitable wasp. Nor did he prove to be minus a sting at times.

"I think, sir," suggested Hepson, going over to Lieutenant-Commander Havens, the head coach, "that it would be well for us to know something about the running speed of every candidate."

"Very good, Mr. Hepson; try out any man that you're curious about," replied the officer.

"Darrin, Dalzell, Page, Farley, White, Bryant," called the captain of the Navy team. "Each of you pick up a ball. Line up at this goal-line, Joyce, will you take a stop-watch and go over to the other goal-line? Adams, go along and assist Joyce. I want a record of the time it takes each man to cover the distance, running as fast as he can with the ball."

The men designated took their places.

"I'll run you first, Darrin," announced the captain. "Go like a streak, if you can. If you fall down it counts zero. Start when I say 'go.' Are you ready?"

"Quite ready."


At the word Dave sped away like a shot, Hepson giving a hand signal as he uttered the starting word, that the time-keeper at the other end might know when to release the watch. Dave's time was noted. Then Dan took a try, covering the distance in only two fifths of a second more time than Darrin had required. Farley was a second and three fifths behind Darrin's time; Page, a full two seconds behind. White and Bryant then ran, but only succeeded in about tying Page's work.

Then six more men were called to the line and tried out. After that a third squad. By this time Midshipman Hepson had his mind about made up as to the relative speeds of some of the most likely men for the final Navy team.

"Get out for some kicks, now!" called Hepson.

"When are you going to play football?" growled one man.

Midshipman Hepson turned on him like a flash.

"Jetson, there's a substitute captain in the squad, but you're not the man. Neither are you one of the coaches."

"Oh, you make me—" began Jetson, but Midshipman Hepson cut him short with:

"If you can't keep silence when you've nothing to say, your absence from the field will be considered a favor to the whole squad."

Jetson scowled, but said nothing more. Neither did he offer to retire from the field.

"Jetson has always been a kicker and a trouble mosquito," whispered Dan Dalzell to his chum.

"Oh, in a lot of ways Jetson is a nice fellow," Darrin replied quietly. "The greatest trouble that ails him is that he has just a trifle too large opinion of the importance of his own opinions. There are a lot of us troubled in that way."

The kicking practice was put through with dash and vim. Then Midshipman Hepson, after a brief conference with the head coach, called off the line-up for the provisional Navy team, following this with a roster of the second team, or "Rustlers," so called because they force the men of the Navy team to rustle to keep their places.

Dave Darrin was called off for left tackle, Dan for left end. Farley and Page held the corresponding positions on the right end of the line-up.

"Begin the game, the Rustlers to have the ball," called Lieutenant-Commander Havens.

"And mix it up lively, Navy," called Hepson, who, both on account of his size and other qualifications, played center.

At the whistle-blast the Rustlers kicked it off—a beautiful, long, arching curve. The ball came to quarter-back, who passed it to Dave Darrin.

Then the fun began.

The Navy line hit the Rustlers hard and tried to bump through. Dan Dalzell devoted every ounce of his strength and every turn of his energy to boosting Darrin through—and Dave himself was not idle. There was an instant of sullen, hard resistance. Then, somehow, Dave was shot through the opposing line. Like a deer he sped, Dan hanging to his flanks. It was up to the Rustlers' halfback now, and that bulky young midshipman leaped to the fray, cleverly barring the way.

At least, the Rustlers' halfback thought he had Darrin blocked. It is never wise to take too much for granted.

As the halfback planted himself for the grapple, Dave suddenly dropped through that opponent's grip and went to the ground.

As though he had been shot through, Dave Darrin went under and past, on one side, between the halfback's legs. He was up again, with Dan at his back. Fullback came at them, but Dan bumped that player aside. Dave dashed on across the line, scoring a touchdown.

Never had the gridiron been the scene of greater excitement than in that rousing moment.

"Darrin! Darrin! Darrin!" came hoarsely; from hundreds of throats.

"Dalzell! Dalzell!" came the next gusty roar.

Hepson wiped a moist brow with one hand.

"There are two real players, if they can keep that up," muttered the captain of the eleven.

Jetson had been the tackle opposed to Dave. Just now Jetson was nursing a bump to his vanity.

"How on earth did I ever happen to let Darrin through?" Jetson demanded of himself. "I won't do it again, anyway. If I can only make Darrin look small, I may get his place on the Navy eleven. Darrin is a good fellow, but I've got to make the team, confound him!"

The kick for goal failed. Then the Navy took the ball and promptly enough the Rustlers came back with it, Jetson carrying.

Dave and Dan met the ball-carrier. The Rustlers' support failed, and Jetson went down with the ball. Nor could the second team advance the ball, so it presently came to the Navy men again.

"I want you to put it through again like a cannon-ball, Darrin," Midshipman Hepson whispered as they passed.

So the quarter-backs called for a repetition of the play, giving different signals.

Dave received the ball with a rush of his old-time fervor and confidence. Dan started behind him as full of fire as ever.

In a fraction of a second the impact of the two opposing lines came. Jetson went down, one of his legs flying between Darrin's in such a way as to constitute a foul.

Dave Darrin went down on top of the ball. Half a dozen players sprawled over him. The referee's whistle blew.

"Jetson, that was a mean, deliberate trip," remarked Darrin, as he sprang to his feet. He spoke coolly, with a warning flash in his eyes.

"Not on my part," retorted Jetson.

"You thrust your leg between mine as you went down."

Coach signed to referee not to renew the game for the moment. Then Lieutenant-Commander Havens and the two team captains crowded close.

"I didn't do it deliberately, as you charged," retorted Jetson, hot with anger.

"You deny it?" insisted Dave.

"I do."

"On your word as a gentleman you did not intend, a foul trip?" demanded Midshipman Darrin.

"I have already answered you."

"Answer me on your word as a gentleman."

"I don't have to."

"Very good, then," retorted Dave, turning away with a meaning smile.

"Hold on. I pledge you my word as a gentleman that I did not intend to make a foul trip," said Jetson, swiftly realizing the error of his refusal.

In the meantime Lieutenant-Commander Havens had turned to Motley, of the first class, who was serving as referee.

"Mr. Motley," demanded coach, "did you see just what happened?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you call it a foul trip?"

"I do, sir. If I were referee in a regular game, I would penalize the team and order the player from the field."

"Mr. Jetson—" began the coach, but, swift as a flash Dave Darrin interposed, though respectfully, saluting at the same time.

"Will you pardon me, sir. Mr. Jetson has given me his word that he did not intend a foul trip. I accept his word without reservation."

"Very good, then," nodded coach. "But Mr. Jetson, you will do well to be careful in the future, and avoid even the appearance of evil."

"Yes, sir; very good, sir," answered Jetson, looking decidedly sheepish.

In giving his word Jetson had told the truth, or had intended to. The exact truth was that he really did not realize what he had done until it was too late to avoid the foul. He had meant to stop Darrin, somehow.

"Pull that scrimmage off again," directed Coach Havens dryly.

The ball was placed, the whistle sounded, and again Dave received the ball and tried to break through. With the Rustlers prepared for the move, it was blocked and the ball was "down."

Jetson felt his face burning. He knew, well enough, that many of the players regarded him with suspicion.

"I suppose that suspicion will stick, and my chances of making the Navy eleven are now scantier than ever," muttered the unfortunate midshipman to himself.

The whistle blew before any further advantage had been gained. Coach and Midshipman Hepson had gained considerable insight into the work of the team.

"Mr. Hepson," said coach aside, in the interval that followed, "you have done well, I think, to place two such men as Darrin and Dalzell on the provisional team."

"I am glad you think so, sir," replied the Navy football captain, "for that is the way it strikes me."

"If you keep them at the left flank you'll have something like dynamite there," smiled coach. "Mr. Darrin goes through like a cannon-ball, and Dalzell is always just where Darrin needs him."

"These men have played together before, and they're used to team work, sir," said Midshipman Hepson.

"So? Where did they play before coming to Annapolis?"

"On what was, in their day, one of the best High School eleven's going, sir."

"Oho! Do you know, Mr. Hepson, they play more like college men than anything else. It must have been a bully High School team that graduated them."

"From the little that I've heard, sir, that High School team was a great one."

Coach and captain walked back to the scene.

"You will now play another ten-minute period," directed Mr. Havens. "Jetson will withdraw from the second eleven during the next period and Doyle will take his place."

"So that's what coach and team captain were hatching up?" thought Midshipman Jetson. "That gives me a black eye, and my chances of making the Navy eleven are now worse than ever. Probably I won't even make sub."

As Navy and Rustlers again collided in the fray, Jetson watched Dave's work narrowly, furiously.

"Darrin always was a smooth one," Jetson declared angrily to himself. "And now, just because he raised a 'holler', my football prospects are set back for this year. Probably I can't make the eleven next year, either. And it's all Darrin's fault!"

In forming the second half the coach called:

"Mr. Jetson will resume his place as right tackle on the second eleven."

"Jetson's not here, sir," called a midshipman.

"Where is he?" asked Coach Havens.

"I think he went off the field, sir, to un-tog."

"He should not have left the field without permission," remarked the coach coldly.

Jetson heard of the remark that evening, and his anger against Dave Darrin increased.



No sooner had release from studies sounded through big and handsome Bancroft Hall, than there came a tap at Dave Darrin's door.

"Come in," called Dave.

Hepson came in first, followed by a score of other midshipmen.

"Say, I didn't hear assembly blow lately," remarked Dan Dalzell, closing a new text-book and looking up with a smile of welcome.

"Are we intruding—so many of us," inquired Hepson, halting.

"Not on me, anyway," answered Dave pleasantly. "As for Danny boy, don't mind the little chap. He really believes that study release sounds before supper-call. Come right in, all of you fellows. Dan barks, but won't bite."

"And take seats, all of you, do," urged Dan, with unnecessary hospitality. "After the table and the chairs are used up, we'll provide tacks for the rest."

"Does this little boy ever have a serious streak?" asked one of the callers, regarding Dan with feigned interest.

"Yes; whenever he finds himself marked down to 2.1 in more than three studies," laughed Dave.

"Oh, that's no laughing matter," grimaced another of the visiting midshipmen.

"I don't suppose you can guess what we came to talk about?" went on Midshipman Hepson.

"At a wild guess it might be football," hazarded Darrin.

"Wonderful! Marvelous!" gasped another visitor.

"Darry, we've come in to tell you that we believe that you and your erratic roommate are going to save a desperate situation for us," resumed the captain of the Navy team. "Not that we were destitute of good players before. But we lacked enough of different kinds to make a strong, all-around eleven. Now we've a team that we're not afraid, after more work, to put up against anything that the Army can show us."

"Now, I wouldn't be too sure," urged Dave. "Confidence is all right, but don't let it rob us of a jot of practice and work."

"Are you afraid of the Army, Darry?" demanded Hepson.

"I'm not going to be too cock-sure, if the story is true that Prescott and Holmes are out with the Army team this year."

"Are they such great players!" demanded Hepson.

"They are," Dave responded solemnly, "or were. I know something about that pair, since I've played on the same eleven with Prescott and Holmes."

"Are they better than you two, Darry?" Hepson demanded.

"Yes," answered Dave unhesitatingly.

"Is that honesty or extreme modesty?"

"Extreme mod—" broke in Dan Dalzell, but he closed his mouth with a snap and ducked as he saw three of the visitors making for him.

"It's hard to believe," muttered Hepson, though he spoke uneasily. "Why do you rank Prescott and Holmes so high, Darry?"

"Well, for one reason, Dick Prescott taught Dalzell and myself the game. Anything that we know about the game we learned in the team that Prescott captained."

"Still, it's hard to believe," spoke up Midshipman Joyce. "Darrin, we look upon you as the best thing that ever happened to the Navy end of the gridiron."

"I don't know that I care about being 'kidded,'" responded Dave seriously.

"But we honestly do," contended the same speaker, "and we don't like to have you tell us that Prescott is a better man."

"But I believe he is."

"Are you afraid of him?"

"I'm not afraid of any one on the gridiron," Darrin retorted bluntly. "I'll work hard to beat any man that I have to go up against, and if work, this season, will do it, I'll beat Dick Prescott out!"

"Good! That's the way we like to hear you talk," glowed Hepson.

"And I'll bottle up Holmes and put the stopper in," promised Dan with solemn modesty.

Again two of the men made a rush for him to quiet him.

"It may be only a rumor that Prescott and Holmes are on the Army eleven," spoke up another midshipman.

"No," objected still another, "I had a letter, this afternoon, from a cousin who has been up to West Point and has seen the Army crowd at work. The Army is rejoicing over Prescott and Holmes as a pair of precious finds, and they're both nailed to the colors for this season."

"Then we're going to have a tough time in our game with the Army," Darrin declared thoughtfully. "And the Army will beat more college teams this year than usual."

"We won't die until the Army shoots, anyway," promised Hepson. "And now, Darry, there's another question we want to put to you, and we want an out-and-out answer. Do you believe that Jetson really meant to trip you this afternoon?"

"You heard his denial," Dave rejoined.


"Well, Jetson is a midshipman and a gentleman. There has never been any question here about his honor," Darrin replied. "I accepted his denial of intention at the time, and I still accept it."

"It's queer, then, how Jetson came to give you such a nasty trip," observed another caller.

"I'll tell you what I think really must have happened," Dave continued frankly. "I think Jet was crazy to stop me. It was on his mind, and he was determined to do it. He tripped me, of course, but I think he really acted on an unconscious impulse and without intention. So, at that rate, the trip was not really intended, since he had not deliberately planned it."

"Would you be willing to play on the same team with him, Darry?" pursued Midshipman Hepson.

"Yes, or with any other man in the brigade. I don't suspect any man here at the Naval Academy of anything intentionally and deliberately dishonorable."

"Good, Darry!" cried several midshipmen.

For a few minutes the talk grew fast and furious. Then some one looked at his watch and there was a prompt flight of visitors. Ten minutes later taps sounded and a master switch turned off the lights in midshipmen's quarters, with nearly eight hundred young men in their beds and already dropping asleep.

At eight the next morning the many sections marched off to recitations and for hours the grind of the day was on. At the Naval Academy, as at West Point, not even football is allowed to interfere in the least with studies or recitations. No football player is permitted to go into section room, after extra practice in the field, and announce himself unprepared to recite. Only midshipmen of a good grade of scholarship are permitted to join or remain in the football squad.

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