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   Chapter 3 THE TROUBLE-MAKING FOP

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10387

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


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.

[Illustration: Darrin's Blow Felled the Fop to the Ground.]

"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."

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