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   Chapter 4 IN THE VIEW OF THE NAVY DEPARTMENT

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 6729

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


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.

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