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   Chapter 16 HOW DAN FACED THE BOARD

Dave Darrin's Second Year at Annapolis / Or, Two Midshipmen as Naval Academy Youngsters"" By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 7927

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"We trust, Mr. Dalzell, that you can make some statement or explanation that will show that we shall be justified in retaining you as a midshipman in the Naval Academy."

It was the superintendent of the United States Naval Academy who was speaking.

Dan's hour of great ordeal had come upon him. That young midshipman found himself in the Board Room, facing the entire Academic Board, trying to remember what Freeman had told him the night before.

The time was 10.30 a.m. on that fateful Monday.

Midshipman Dalzell appeared to be collected, but he was also very certainly white-faced.

Many a young man, doomed to be sent forth from a Naval career, back into the busy, unheeding world, had faced this Board in times past. So it was hardly to be expected that Dan would inspire any unusual interest in the members of the Board.

Dan swallowed at something hard in his throat, then opened his lips to speak.

"I am aware, sir, and gentlemen, that I am at present sufficiently deficient in my studies to warrant my being dropped," Dan began rather slowly. "Yet I would call attention to the fact that I was nearly as badly off, in the matter of markings, at this time last year. It is also a matter of record that I pulled myself together, later on, and contrived to get through the first year with a considerable margin of credits to spare. If I am permitted to finish the present term here I believe I can almost positively promise that I will round out this year with as good a showing as I did last year."

"You have thought the matter carefully out in making this statement, have you, Mr. Dalzell?" asked the superintendent.

"I have, sir."

"Have you any explanation to offer for falling below the standards so far this year, Mr. Dalzell?"

"I believe, sir, that I make a much slower start, with new studies, than most of my classmates," Dan continued, speaking more rapidly now, but in a most respectful manner. "Once I begin to catch the full drift of new studies I believe that I will overtake some of my classmates who showed a keener comprehension at the first. I think, sir, and gentlemen, that my record, as contrasted with the records of some of my classmates who achieved about the same standing I did for last year will bear my statement out."

[Illustration: "Have You Any Explanation to Offer, Mr. Dalzell?"]

The superintendent turned to a printed pamphlet in which were set forth the records of the midshipmen for the year before.

"Mr. Dalzell," asked another member of the Board, "do you feel that you are really suited for the life of the Navy? Is it your highest ambition to become an officer of the Navy?"

"It's my only ambition, sir, in the way of a career," Dan answered solemnly. "As to my being suited for the Navy, sir, I can't make a good answer to that. But I most earnestly hope that I shall have an opportunity, for the present, to try to keep myself in the service."

"And you feel convinced that you need only to be carried for the balance of the term to enable you to make good, and to justify any action that we may take looking to that end?" asked another member of the Board.

"That is my firm conviction, sir."

The superintendent, who had been silently examining and marking some statements in the pamphlet, now passed it to the nearest member of the Board, who, after a glance or two, passed the pamphlet on to another member.

Silence fell upon the room while Dan's printed record was being read.

"Have you anything else that you wish to say, Mr. Dalzell?" asked the superintendent at last.

"Only this, sir and gentlemen," replied Dan promptly. "If I am permitted to go on with the brigade, I promise, as far as any human being may promise, that I will not only be found to have passed at the end of this term, but that I will also have a higher marking after the annual examinations than after the semi-annuals."

These last few words Dan spoke with his whole soul thrown

into the words. How he longed to remain in the Navy, now that he stood at the threshold of the life, uncertain whether he was about to be kicked across it into the outer world!

After glancing around the table, the superintendent turned once more to the young man.

"That will be all, at present, Mr. Dalzell."

Saluting briskly, crisply, Dan wheeled about, marching from the room.

He was in time to make a section recitation before dinner.

"How did you come out, Danny boy?" anxiously inquired Dave Darrin as the two, in their room, hastily prepared to answer the coming call for dinner formation.

"I wish I knew," replied Dalzell wistfully. "I said all that I could say without being everlastingly fresh."

After the brigade had been formed for dinner, and the brigade adjutant had reported the fact, the command was given:

"Publish the orders!"

This the brigade adjutant did rapidly, and in perfunctory tones.

Dalzell jumped, however, when he heard his own name pronounced. He strained his ears as the brigade adjutant read:

"In the matter of Daniel Dalzell, summoned before the Academic Board to determine his fitness and aptitude for continuing in the brigade, the Board has granted Midshipman Dalzell's urgent request that he be continued as a midshipman for the present."

There was a great lump, instantly, in Dan's throat. It was a reprieve, a chance for official life-but that was all.

"I'll make good-I'll make good!" he told himself, with a violent gulp.

The orders were ringing out sharply now. The midshipmen were being marched in to dinner.

Hardly a word did Dalzell speak as he ate. As for Dave Darrin, he was too happy over his chum's respite to want to talk.

Yet, when they strolled together in the open air during the brief recreation period following the meal, Dalzell suddenly asked:

"Dave when do you fight with Treadwell?"

"To-night, I hope," replied Darrin.

"Oh, then I must get busy!"

"Why?"

"Why, I'm to represent you, Darry. Who are Treadwell's-"

"Danny boy, don't make a fuss about it," replied Dave quietly, "but just for this once you are not to be my second."

"Why-"

"Danny boy, you have just gotten by the Board by a hair's breadth. What kind of an act of gratitude would it be for you to make your first act a breach of discipline? For a fight, though often necessary here, is in defiance of the regulations."

"But Dave, I've never been out of your fights!"

"You will be this time, Danny. Don't worry about it, either. Farley and Page are going to stand by me. In fact, I think that even now they are talking with Treadwell's friends."

"You're wrong," murmured Dalzell, looking very solemn. "Here come Farley and Page right now."

In another moment the seconds had reached Darrin and his chum.

"To-night?" asked Dave quietly.

"Yes," nodded Page.

"Time?"

"Just after recall."

"Good," murmured Darrin. "You two come for me, and I'll be ready. And I thank both of you fellows for taking up the matter for me."

"We'll be mighty glad to be there, Darry," grinned Farley, "for we look to see you finish off that first classman."

"Maybe," smiled Dave quietly. "I'll do all I can, anyway."

"And to think," almost moaned Dan Dalzell, "that you're to be in a scrap, David, little giant, and I'm not to be there to see!"

"There'll be other fights, I'm afraid," sighed Darry. "I seem destined to displease quite a few of the fellows here at Annapolis."

Dan tried to study, that night, after Darrin had left the room in the company of his seconds. Certainly Dan, in the light of his promise made to the Board that morning, had need to study. Yet he found it woefully hard to settle his mind on mathematics while Dave was fighting the fight of his Naval Academy career.

"Oh, well," muttered Dan, picking up a pencil for the third time, "Dave and I each have our own styles of fights, just now. Here goes for a knockout blow at math!"

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