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very fine girl Miss Atterly was. Then, to win her applause, Dan
made the mistake of trying to be funny, whereat the girl was extremely
kind.

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

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

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

"She certainly is very pretty," Laura nodded.

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

"Yes, indeed."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes," Dan nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

"Alone?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not especially, I assure you, mamma."

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

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

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

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

"Cathy!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER XVI

THE DAY OF MANY DOUBTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Dave shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Name one of them," challenged Dalzell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Then why this talk of resigning."

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

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

"What?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Because I thought you needed each other."

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

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

"What did we need?"

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

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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER XVII

MR. CLAIRY DEALS IN OUTRAGES


"Mr. Darrin!"

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

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

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

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

"They are not now - -true."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But - - -"

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

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

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

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

"Untrue."

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

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

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

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

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

"What - -"

"Clairy has ordered me to report myself."

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

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

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

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

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

"Then - - -"

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

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

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

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

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

"Where are you going?" Darrin answered.

"To interview Clairy."

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

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

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

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

"He went after you, then?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Clairy is a hound!"

"A liar in my case!"

"He's hunting a fight!"

"Coventry would do him more good."

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

"The scoundrel!"

"The pup!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Now, why on earth should we bold off that long?" insisted Fenwick.
"We know, now, that Mr. Clairy has insulted eight members of
our class. We know that he has lied about them, and that the


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