While Dave stood there, looking half-dizzily at his opponent, Referee Edgerton's voice broke in crisply:
"Mr. Darrin required more than the full count to come back. The fight is therefore awarded to Mr. Treadwell."
FIGHTING THE FAMOUS DOUBLE BATTLE
"It wasn't fair," hissed Midshipman Page hotly.
"It was by a mighty small margin, anyway," quivered Farley.
"I don't feel whipped yet," remarked Dave quietly.
"Oh, well, Darry," urged Farley, "don't feel humiliated over being thrashed by such a human mountain of a top classer."
Dave, whose chest had been heaving, and whose lungs had been taking in great gulps of air, suddenly pushed his second gently away.
"Mr. Treadwell, sir, will you come over here a moment?" he called. "And also the officials of the fight?"
Treadwell, with a self-satisfied leer on his face, stepped away from his seconds coming jauntily over.
Midshipman Edgerton and Wheeler followed in some wonder.
"Mr. Treadwell," began Dave, looking full into the eyes of his late antagonist, "I have no fault, sir, to find with your style of fighting. You behaved fairly at every point."
"Thank you, sir," interjected the big midshipman grimly.
"The verdict was also fair enough," Dave continued, "for I am aware that I took a hair's-breadth more than the count. Still, I do not feel, Mr. Treadwell, that the result was decisive. Therefore I have to ask of you the favor of another early meeting, for a more definite try-out."
Treadwell gasped. So did his recent seconds and the late officials of the fight. Even Farley's jaw dropped just a trifle, but Page's face flushed with new-found pleasure.
"Another fight, sir?" demanded Midshipman Treadwell.
"Yes, sir," replied Darrin quietly.
"Oh, very well," agreed Treadwell, nonchalantly. "At any time that you wish, Mr. Darrin—any time."
"How would fifteen minutes from now do?" demanded Dave, smiling coolly.
Treadwell fairly gasped, though only from sheer astonishment.
"Why, if your seconds and the officials think that fair to you, Mr. Darrin," replied Treadwell in another moment, "I am sure that I have no objection to remaining around here a little longer."
"Do you insist on calling for the second fight within fifteen minutes, Mr. Darrin?" asked Second Classman Edgerton.
"For my own part, I do," replied Dave quietly; "I leave the decision to Mr. Treadwell's courtesy."
"Well, of all the freaks!" muttered Mr. Wheeler, as the two fight officials walked aside to discuss the matter.
"Darry," demanded the agitated Farley, "are you plumb, clean crazy?"
"Do you know what we're fighting about, Farley, old man?" asked Dave very quietly.
"No; of course not."
"It's a personal matter."
"It's a matter in which I can't accept an imitation whipping."
"But surely you don't expect to whip Treadwell in your present condition?"
"I very likely shall get a thorough trouncing," smiled Darrin.
"It's madness," broke in Page worriedly.
"I told you it was a personal matter," laughed Dave softly. "I shan't mind getting whacked if it is done up in good shape. It's only this near-whipping to which I object."
"Well—great Scott!" gasped Page.
"Hush!" warned Farley. "Here comes Edgerton."
Midshipman Edgerton, looking very much puzzled, stepped over to Dave Darrin's corner.
"Darrin," began the referee in a friendly tone, "Tread doesn't like the idea of fighting you again to-night."
"Didn't he say he would?" demanded Darrin.
"Yes; but of course, but—"
"I hold him to his word, Mr. Edgerton."
"But of all the crazy—"
"I have my own reasons, sir," Darrin interposed quietly. "I think it very likely, too, that Mr. Treadwell will comprehend my reasons."
"But he doesn't like the idea of fighting an already half-whipped man."
"Will it get on his nerves and unsteady him?" asked Dave ironically.
"Are you bound to fight to-night, Mr. Darrin?"
"I am, sir."
"Then I suppose it goes—it has to," assented Midshipman Edgerton moodily. "But of all the irrational—"
"Just what I said, sir," nodded Page.
"I shall be ready, sir, when the fifteen minutes are up," continued Dave. "But I am certain that I shall need all the time until then for getting myself into first-class condition."
"Darry is a fool—and a wonder!" ejaculated Edgerton under his breath, as he walked away.
"I'm sorry, Darry," murmured Farley mournfully, "but—well, beat your way to it!"
"I intend to," retorted Dave doggedly.
Rubbed down by his seconds, Dave drew on his blouse, without a shirt.
Quitting the others, Dave walked briskly back and forth. At last he broke into a jog-trot.
At last he halted, inflating and emptying his lungs with vigorous breathing.
"I feel just about as good as ever," he declared, nodding cheerily to his seconds.
"Get off that blouse, then," ordered Midshipman Farley, after a glance at his watch. "We've two minutes left out of the fifteen."
"I'll go forward at the scratch, then," nodded Dave.
Treadwell, in the meantime, had pulled on his outer clothing and had stood moodily by, watching Dave's more workmanlike preparations with a disdainful smile.
"I'll get the fellow going quickly this time," Mr. Treadwell told Conners. "As soon as I get him going I'll dive in with a punch that will wind up the matter in short order. I've planned to do considerable reviewing of navigation to-night."
"I hope you have your wish," murmured Conners.
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I said."
"Do you think I'm going to have any trouble whatever about finishing up that touge youngster!" demanded Tread well sarcastically.
"No; I don't imagine you will. But at the same time, Tread, I tell you I don't care about having enemies among fellows who come back as swiftly, strongly and as much like a bulldog as Darry does."
Seeing Dave pull off his blouse, Treadwell slowly removed his own clothing above the waist.
"Rub me down along the arms a bit," said Midshipman Treadwell, after he had exercised his arms a moment.
"I reckon we'd better," nodded Conners. "You must have got stiff from standing still after the late mix-up."
"No kinks but what will iron out at once," chuckled Treadwell. "I'll show you as soon as I get in action."
His two seconds rubbed him down loyally.
"Are you ready, gentlemen?" called Midshipman Edgerton.
Both men stepped quickly forward, but all of the onlookers thought they saw rather more spring in Dave Darrin than in his more bulky opponent.
The preliminaries were announced in a few words.
Of course, there was no handshaking.
"Time!" sounded the call.
Dave Darrin quickly proved to be so full of vigor that Treadwell lay back on the defensive after the first two or three passes. Dave followed him right up with vim.
Yet, for the first forty seconds of the round no real damage was done on either side. Then:
That cry came simultaneously from Treadwell and from all the spectators.
Dave's right fist had landed crushingly on the top classman's left eye, almost instantly closing that organ.
Darrin leaped nimbly back, both from a chivalrous impulse to give Treadwell a chance to recover his steadiness and to save himself from any sudden rush and clinch by his big opponent.
But Treadwell, standing with his guard up, showed no inclination to follow the one who had just given him such punishment.
"Mix it up, gentlemen—mix it!" called Midshipman Edgerton impatiently.
At that command from the referee Dave Darrin sprang forward.
Treadwell seemed wholly on the defensive now, though he struck as heavily as ever. Toward the end of the round Treadwell, having gotten over the worst of the stinging from his eye, once more tried to rush matters.
Whenever the big fellow's undamaged eye caught sight of the cool, hostile smile on Darrin's face, Treadwell muttered savage words.
Some hard body blows were parried and others exchanged.
Both men were panting somewhat when the call of time closed the first round.
"Darry, you nervy little rascal, waltz in and put that other eye up in black clothes!" begged Page ecstatically, as he and Farley worked over their principal.
Dave was ready quite twenty seconds before the call of time for the second round.
Treadwell, however, took his full time in responding. At the last moment he took another dab with the wet sponge against his swollen left eye.
With a suppressed yell Treadwell rushed at his opponent. Dave had to sidestep to his own right, out of range of Treadwell, to save himself.
Then at it they went, all around the ring. Darrin had determined to keep himself out of the way of those sledge-hammer fists until he saw his own clear opening.
Four or five times Treadwell landed heavily on Darrin's ribs. The younger, smaller midshipman was getting seriously winded, but all the time he fought to save himself and to get that one opening.
Darrin's hard-clenched left fist dropped in on Treadwell's right eye.
This time there was no exclamation from the bruised one.
Alert Dave was careful to give him no chance. Within a second after that eye-closer landed Darrin struck with his right, landing on the jaw bone under Treadwell's ear.
Down in a heap sank the top classman. He was unconscious before his body struck the ground.
Wheeler counted off the seconds.
Still Mr. Treadwell lay motionless.
"Do your best for him, gentlemen," begged Referee Edgerton, turning to the first classman's seconds. "Mr. Darrin wins the second fight."
Dave, a satisfied look on his face, stepped back to his seconds.
This time he did not require as much attention. Within five minutes he was dressed.
By this time Mr. Treadwell, under the ministrations of his seconds and of the late officials, was just coming back to consciousness.
"Something happened, eh?" asked the top classman drowsily.
"Rather!" murmured Mr. Edgerton dryly.
"Did I—did I—lose the fight?"
"You did," Edgerton assented. "But don't let that disturb you. You went down before the best man in the Naval Academy."
Treadwell sighed gloomily. It was a hard blow to his pride—much harder than any that Dave had landed on his head.
"Mr. Treadwell," inquired Dave, stepping over, "we are comrades, even if we had a slight disagreement. Do you care to shake hands?"
"Help me to my feet," urged the first classman, who was sitting up.
His seconds complied. Then Midshipman Treadwell held out his hand.
"Here's my hand," he said rather thickly. "And I apologize, too, Mr. Darrin."
"Then say no more about it, please," begged Dave, as their hands met in a strong clasp.
None of the others present had the least idea of the provocation of this strange, spirited double fight. All, however, were glad to see the difficulty mended.
Then Dave and his seconds, leaving the field first, made their way back to Bancroft Hall. Farley and Page went straight to their own room.
"How did it come out?" demanded Dan Dalzell eagerly, as soon as his chum entered their quarters.
Dropping into a chair, Dave told the story of the double fight briefly. He told it modestly, too, but Dan could imagine what his chum omitted.
"David, little giant," exclaimed Dalzell, leaping about him, "that fight will become historic here! Oh, how I regret having missed it. Don't you ever dare to leave me out again!"
"It wasn't such a much," smiled Dave rather wearily, as he went over to his study desk.
"Perhaps it's indiscreet, even of a chum," rambled on Dalzell, "but what—"
"What was the fight all about?" laughed Dave softly. "Yes; I suppose you have a right to know that, Danny boy. But you must never repeat it to any one. Treadwell wanted to dance with Belle at the hop, but she had already noticed him, and declared she didn't want to dance with him. Of course that settled it. But Treadwell accused me of not having asked Belle."
"The nerve !" ejaculated Dan in disgust.
"And then he accused me of lying when I declared I had done my best for him," continued Dave.
"I feel that I'd like to fight the fellow myself!" declared Dan Dalzell hotly.
"Oh, no, you don't; for Treadwell apologized to-night, and we have shaken hands. We're all comrades, you know, Danny boy."
* * * * *
Unknown to any of the parties to the fight, there had been spectators of the spirited double battle.
Two men, a sailor and a marine, noting groups of midshipmen going toward the historic battle ground of midshipmen, had hidden themselves near-by in order "to see the fun."
These two enlisted men of the Navy had been spectators and auditors of all that had taken place.
Not until the last midshipman had left the ground did the sailor and marine emerge from their hiding place.
"Well, of all the game fights!" muttered the marine.
"Me? I'm hoping that some day I fight under that gallant middy," cried the sailor.
"Who is this Mr. Darrin?" asked the marine, as the pair strolled away.
"He's a youngster—third classman. But he's one of the chaps who, on the cruise, last summer, went over into a gale after another middy—Darrin and his chum did it."
"There must be fine stuff in Mr. Darrin," murmured the marine.
"Couldn't you see that much just now?" demanded the sailor, who took the remark as almost a personal affront, "My hat's off to Mr. Darrin. He's one of our future admirals. If I round out my days in the service it will be the height of my ambition to have him for my admiral. And a mighty sea-going officer he'll be, at that!"
In their enthusiasm over the spectacle they had seen, the sailor and the marine talked rather too much.
They were still talking over the battle as they strolled slowly past one of the great, darkened buildings.
In the shadow of this building, not far away, stood an officer whom neither of the enlisted men of the Navy saw; else they would have saluted him.
That officer, Lieutenant Willow, U.S. Navy, listened with a good deal of interest.
Mr. Willow was one of those officers who are known as duty-mad. He gathered that there had been a fight, so he deemed it his duty to report the fact at once to the discipline officer in charge over at Bancroft Hall.
Regretting the necessity, yet full of the idea of doing his duty, Lieutenant Willow wended his way promptly towards the office of the officer in charge.
THE OFFICER IN CHARGE IS SHOCKED
Through the main entrance of Bancroft Hall, into the stately corridor, Lieutenant Willow picked his way.
He looked solemn—unusually so, even for Lieutenant Willow, U.S.N. He had the air of a man who hates to do his duty, but who is convinced that the heavens would fall if he didn't.
To his left he turned, acknowledging smartly the crisp salute given him by the midshipman assistant officer of the day.
Into the outer office of the officer in charge stepped Mr. Willow, and thence on into the smaller room where Lieutenant-Commander Stearns sat reading.
"Oh, good evening, Willow," hailed Lieut. Stearns heartily.
"Good evening, Stearns," was the almost moody reply.
"Sit down and let's have a chat I'm glad to see you," urged Lieutenant-Commander Stearns.
Mr. Stearns, he of the round, jovial face, gazed at his junior with twinkling eyes.
"Willow," he muttered, "I'm half inclined to believe that you've come to me to make an official report."
"I guess I have," nodded Lieutenant Willow.
"And against some unfortunate midshipman, at that!"
"Against two, at least," sighed Mr. Willow, "and there were others involved in the affair."
"It must be something fearful," said Mr. Stearns, who knew the junior officer's inclination to be duty-mad. "But, see here, if you make an official report you'll force me to take action, even though it's something that I'd secretly slap a midshipman on the shoulder for doing. No—don't begin to talk yet, Willow. Try a cigar and then tell me, personally, what's worrying you. Then perhaps it won't be altogether needful to make an official report."
"I never was able to take you—er—somewhat jovial views of an officer's duty, Stearns," sighed Lieutenant Willow.
Nevertheless, he selected a cigar, bit off the end, lighted it and took a few whiffs, Lieutenant-Commander Stearns all the while regarding his comrade in arms with twinkling eyes.
"Now, fire ahead, Willow," urged the officer in charge, "but please don't make your communication an official one—not at first. Fire ahead, now, Willow."
"Well—er—just between ourselves," continued Lieutenant Willow slowly, "there has been a fight to-night between two midshipmen."
Lieutenant-Commander Stearns struck his fist rather heavily against the desk.
"A fight—a real fight—with fists?" continued the officer in charge, in a tone of mock incredulity. "No, no, no, Willow, you don't mean it—you can't mean it!"
"Yes, I do," rejoined the junior officer rather stiffly.
"Oh, dear, what is the service coming to?" gasped Stearns ironically. "Why, Willow, we never heard of such things when we were midshipmen here. Now, did we?"
"I'm afraid we did—sometimes," admitted the junior officer. "But duty is duty, you know, my dear Stearns. And this was an unusual fight, too. The man who was whipped insisted on another fight right then and there, and—he won the second fight."
"Bully!" chuckled the officer in charge. "Whew, but I wish I had been there!"
"Stearns, you surely don't mean that?" gasped duty-mad Mr. Willow.
"You're quite right, Willow. No; I certainly don't want to be a spoilsport, and I'm glad I wasn't there—in my official capacity. But I'd like to have been divested of my rank for just an hour so that I could have taken in such a scene as that."
"I'm—I'm just a bit astonished at your saying it, Stearns," rejoined Lieutenant Willow. "But then, you're always joking."
"Perhaps I am joking," assented the officer in charge dryly, "but I never lose sight of the fact that our Navy has been built up, at huge expense, as a great fighting machine. Now, Willow, it takes fighting men to run a fighting machine. Of course, I'm terribly shocked to know that two midshipmen really had the grit to fight—but who were they! Mind you, I'm not asking you in an official way. This question is purely personal—just between ourselves. Who were the men? And, especially, who was the fellow who lost the decision, and then had the utter effrontery to demand a second chance at once, only to win the second fight?"
"Darrin was the man who lost the first fight and won the second," replied Lieutenant Willow.
"Mr. Darrin? One of our youngsters! Yes; I think I know him. And what man of his class did he whip, the second time he tried!"
"It wasn't a man of his own class. It was Mr. Treadwell, of the first class," rejoined Lieutenant Willow.
"What?" almost exploded the officer in charge. "Did you say that Mr. Darrin fought with Mr. Treadwell, that husky top classman, and, losing the decision on the count, insisted on fighting again the same evening? Oh, say, what a fellow misses by being cooped up in an office like this!"
"But—but the breach of regulations!" stammered the duty-mad lieutenant.
"My dear fellow, neither you nor I know anything about this fight—officially. The Navy, after all, is a fighting machine. Do you feel that the Navy can afford to lose a fighting man like that youngster?"
So Lieutenant Willow left Lieutenant-Commander Stearns' presence, not quite convinced he was performing his whole duty, but glad to bow to the decision of a ranking officer.
Two days later Dave and Dan were surprised at being halted by Lieutenant-Commander Stearns.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Darrin," came the pleasant greeting. "Good afternoon, Mr. Dalzell. Mrs. Stearns and I would be greatly pleased if you could take dinner with us. Couldn't you come next Sunday?"
The two midshipmen were astonished and delighted at this invitation. While it was not uncommon for officers to invite midshipmen to their homes, where there were so many midshipmen, it was as a rule only the young men who made themselves prominent socially who captured these coveted invitations. Darrin and Dalzell concealed their surprise, but expressed their pleasure in accepting the gracious invitation.
On entering Mrs. Stearns' drawing room the next Sunday Mr. Darrin and Mr. Dalzell were introduced to two pretty girls. Miss Flora Gentle was a cousin of their hostess. She had visited Annapolis before, and, being pretty and vivacious, at the same time kind and considerate, she had many friends among the midshipmen. Marian Stevens, who had accompanied her on this visit, was a direct contrast. Flora was blonde. Marian was the dark, flashing type. She was spoiled and imperious, yet she had a dashing, open way about her that made her a favorite among young people.
The two girls had heard of the double fight. Marian, therefore, was pleased when she found that Dave was to be her dinner partner.
"He's handsome," thought the girl, "and he's brave and dashing. He'll make his mark in the Navy. He doesn't know it yet, but he'll become mine, and mine alone."
Miss Stevens was a calculating young person, and had already decided that Navy life was the life for her and that she would marry into it. At seventeen, she looked upon the officers as old men, even the youngest of them, so was giving her time and her smiles to the midshipmen. That the Navy pay is small did not trouble Maid Marian, as she liked to be called, as on her twenty-first birthday she would come into a considerable fortune of her own.
She exerted herself all through the Stearns' dinner to captivate Dave Darrin. He, without diminution of love and loyalty to Belle Mead, was glad to be on friendly terms with this dashing and sprightly girl.
Coffee was served in the drawing room. Several officers dropped in. Marian, who wished no one to come between her and Dave for a while, turned to her host.
"Mr. Stearns, do the regulations make it improper for Flora and me to ask Mr. Darrin and Mr. Dalzell to take us for a stroll about the yard?" she asked with a pretty air of deference. The "yard" includes all the grounds belonging to the Naval Academy.
"They do not, Miss Marian," was the smiling response.
"With our hostess's approval we shall be charmed to grant any request the young ladies make," ventured Dave, as Marian smiled into his eyes.
But Marian, the wily and experienced, found herself baffled during this walk. Using all her cajoleries, she could bring him to a certain point beyond which he would not go. As a matter of fact, Dave Darrin, secure in his loyalty to Belle, did not perceive what Maid Marian was striving to lead up to, but saw in her only a lively and interesting girl.
"I'll get you yet, Midshipman Darrin," she vowed to herself after they had parted.
The gossip of a sweetheart in his home town which in time reached her ears only made the girl more determined to get her way. Looking in the mirror with satisfaction, she murmured:
"There'll be the added zest of making Midshipman Darrin forget the distant face of that home girl."
Not on that visit did Maid Marian succeed in leading Dave beyond the point of simple but sincere friendship. However, Miss Stevens could be charming to whomsoever she wished, and before she left Annapolis she had secured invitations to visit the wife of more than one of the officers.
Christmas came and went, and soon after this the semi-annual examinations were on in earnest. Some of the midshipmen failed and sadly turned their faces homeward to make a place for themselves in some other lane of life. Dan Dalzell, however, made good his promise, and by a better margin than he had dared hope. Dave came through the examination somewhat better than his chum. Both felt assured now that they would round out the year with fair credit to themselves.
Marian Stevens came to Annapolis several times during the latter half of the year, and as it is expected that the future officer shall have social as well as Naval training, Dave Darrin met her often.
Exasperation that she could draw the young midshipman on only so far soon changed in Miss Stevens to anger and chagrin. Still Dave, giving prolonged thought to no girl except Belle Meade, saw in her only a lively companion. Sometimes he was her dinner partner. Always at a dance he danced with her more than once.
It was at one such dance that she looked up as they circled the room to say:
"I wonder if you know, Mr. Darrin, how much I enjoy dancing with you."
"Not as much as I enjoy dancing with you," he replied smilingly. Just then the music stopped suddenly and an officer called in a voice that carried over the great floor of the gymnasium and over all the chatter:
"Ladies and gentlemen, one moment's attention, please!"
In an instant all was still.
"Ladies and gentlemen," continued the officer, "official permission has been granted for taking a flashlight photograph of the scene to-night. Will everybody please remain where he is until after the exposure has been made?"
Dave and Marian had paused directly in front of the lens of the camera. Maid Marian looked up and made a light, jesting remark, gazing straight into the midshipman's eyes. Dave, smiling, bent forward to hear what she said.
Just then came the flash, and the photographer, his work finished for the time, gathered his paraphernalia together and left. The music recommenced and the dancing proceeded.
Three weeks later that photograph was reproduced as a double-page illustration in one of the prominent pictorial weeklies.
The day the magazine was on the newsstands Dan Dalzell bought a copy. Entering their quarters with it in his hand he opened it at the illustration and handed it to Dave.
"You and Miss Stevens show up better than any one else, Dave," remarked Dan.
"The photograph is a good piece of work," was Dave's only comment. He did not wish to express the annoyance he felt when he noted the appearance of intimacy between him and Marian, whose beauty showed, even in this reproduction. "I'd a bit rather Belle shouldn't see this paper," he admitted to himself.
"David, old boy, this picture would make a good exhibit in a breach-of-promise suit."
"That's an unkind remark to make about a fine girl like Miss Stevens," said Dave coldly.
Dan stared, then went off, pondering.
Belle Meade, in her Gridley home, received one day a large, square, thin package. She saw the mark of the Annapolis express office, and hastily snatched up scissors to cut the string. Out came a huge photograph.
"A picture of an Annapolis dance! How thoughtful of Dave to send it to me!" Then her eyes fell on two figures around which a ring had been drawn in ink. They were Dave Darrin and a pretty girl. On the margin of the card had been scrawled in bold letters:
"Your affair of the heart will bear close watching if you still cherish!"
This was signed, contemptibly and untruthfully, "A Friend."
"Uh!" murmured Belle in hurt pride and loyalty. Then she said resolutely to herself: "I will pay no attention to this. An anonymous communication is always meant to hurt and to give a false impression."
But there was the picture before her eyes of Dave and the pretty girl in seemingly great intimacy. So though she continued to write to the midshipman and tried hard to make her letters sound as usual, in spite of herself a coldness crept into them that Dave felt.
"She must have seen that pictorial weekly," thought the boy miserably. But as Belle said nothing of this, he could not write of it.
The season was well along. Dave and Dan sent Belle Meade and Laura Bentley invitations to one of the later spring dances.
"I wonder if she'll come or if she's tiring of me," thought Dave Darrin bitterly.
But Belle answered, accepting the invitation for Laura and herself.
When Saturday afternoon came both midshipmen hurried to the hotel in the town and sent up their cards. Mrs. Meade soon appeared, saying the girls would be down shortly.
"Are they both well?" asked Dave. His tone was as one giving a meaningless greeting, but in his heart he waited anxiously to hear what her mother should say of Belle.
"Well, yes. But Belle has been moping around the house a great deal, Dave, rather unlike her usual self," replied Mrs. Meade slowly.
If Mrs. Meade deplored this, Dave Darrin did not. It showed him at least that the girl's apparent coldness was not caused by her interest in some other young man.
But when the girls came in and Belle greeted him cordially, to be sure, but with something of restraint, his heart sank again.
"What's the matter, Belle? Has something gone wrong?" asked Dave when Dan was engaging the attention of Mrs. Meade and Laura.
"Nothing. Is all right with you?"
"Dave, when we're alone I have something to show you. I fear you have an enemy here."
"An enemy! Oh, no. But I shall be glad to see what you have to show me."
It was not long before, at a word from Dave, Dan took Mrs. Meade and Laura out for a walk. It was then that Belle got the large photograph with the two figures ringed in ink and showed it to Dave.
"Why, what does this mean? Some one must have taken a good deal of trouble to secure this photograph. The picture was taken for a pictorial weekly. One can get a photograph from which the cut is made, but it is troublesome and possibly expensive!"
"You have an enemy, then; some one bent on hurting you?"
"I don't know who it could be. My, how angry Miss Stevens would be if she knew of this!"
"Miss Stevens? Is that the girl?"
"Yes. She's visited here often this year. She knows a number of the officers' wives. She's vivacious and always has a good time, but she's nothing to me, Belle. You know that, don't you?"
"I have never doubted you, Dave. Let us tear this up. I thought at first I'd not show it to you; then decided it was best not to begin concealing things from you. But let us not think of the thing again."
"Belle, you're a thoroughbred!" and here the matter dropped as far as it was between Dave Darrin and Belle Meade.
Miss Stevens was at the dance that evening. Though she tried hard to make that impossible, Dave did not dance with her, nor did he introduce her to Belle, though there again Marian tried to force this.
It would have been well for Marian if Dan Dalzell had been equally circumspect.
This time it was Belle who contrived and got the introduction to the other girl, but Marian was by no means reluctant, so it was that they managed to get a few moments alone together when they had sent their dance partners to get something for them.
"You are a friend of Dave's, aren't you?" asked Marian.
"Of Mr. Darrin's? Oh, yes, we've always known each other."
"Then you've been here to many of these dances?"
"Too bad you could not have been here oftener. This has been an unusually brilliant season. Really, many of the young people have lost their heads—or their hearts. I often wonder if these midshipmen have sweethearts at home." This daring—and impertinent—remark was made musingly but smilingly.
"These Annapolis affairs are never very serious, I imagine," Belle observed calmly.
"On the contrary, most of the Navy marriages date back to an Annapolis first meeting."
"Then you think it well to come often?"
"Unless one has other ways of keeping in touch," was the brazen reply.
"I have," said Belle sweetly. "I receive a good many souvenirs in the course of a year. One last winter was a photograph." With the words Belle gazed intently into Miss Stevens' eyes. Then she went on: "There was an anonymous message written on it. It was a lying message, of course, as anonymous messages always are, written in a coarse hand. Did you ever study handwriting, Miss Stevens?"
Marian gasped, realizing she was out-maneuvered.
"This writing had all the characteristics of a woman whose instincts are coarse, that of a treacherous though not dangerous person—"
"Here's Mr. Sanderson back. Will you excuse me, Miss Meade?" and Marian fairly fled.
Belle told Dave she had found out who had sent the photograph, but added:
"I wish you wouldn't ask me who it was, Dave. I can assure you that the person who did it will never trouble us again," and as Dave did not like to think evil of any one, he consented, and continued to think of Marian Stevens, when he thought of her at all, as a jolly girl.
The annual examinations were approaching. Dan Dalzell was buried deep in gloom. Dave Darrin kept cheerful outwardly, but doubts crept into his heart.
The examinations over, Dave felt reasonably safe. But Dan's gloom deepened, for he was sure he had failed in "skinny," as the boys termed chemistry and physics. So it was that when the grades were posted Dave scanned the D's in the list of third classmen who had passed. Dan, on the other hand, turned instantly to what he termed the "bust list."
"Why, why, I'm not there!" he muttered.
"Look at the passing list, Danny," laughed Dave.
Unbelieving, Dan turned his eyes on the list and to his utter astonishment found his name posted. True, in "skinny" he had a bare passing mark. But in other subjects he was somewhat above the minimum.
"So you see, old man, we'll both be here next year as second classmen," said Dave jubilantly.
This was as Dave Darrin said, and what happened during this time may be learned in a volume entitled, "DAVE DARRIN'S THIRD YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen."