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   Chapter 5 NAVY FOOTBALL IN THE AIR

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 11190

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Back on the old, familiar Academy grounds!

Both Dave and Dan underwent an unconscious brace as they passed the watchman at the main gate and stepped on, each with a suit case in hand, to the left, with Bancroft Hall in the distance.

Their first move was, as it must be, to report their return to the officer in charge. By that officer the two midshipmen were assigned to the rooms that they were to occupy during the coming academic year.

Once behind their doors, both young men hastened to get out of cit. clothes and back into their beloved uniforms.

"There are worse liveries to wear than Uncle Sam's," murmured Dan Dalzell when, having arrayed himself, he glanced down lovingly at the neat, dark blue.

"Much worse," replied Dave briefly, as, having dressed, he set to work to help make their quarters neat enough to please even the captious eye of the discipline officer. By the time that the two midshipmen finished policing their quarters no housekeeper in the land could have found the least sign of disorder.

Rap-tap! sounded briskly at the door.

"Come in," called Dave.

The door opened, revealing Midshipman Hepson, of the first class.

"Are you fellows to rights?" he called.

"Come in, Hepson," urged Dave. "Yes; we're to rights as far as quarters go."

Hepson came no more than inside the door before he halted, asking briskly:

"Have you anything on!"

"Nothing but our clothes," grinned Dan, "and some hair."

"You've no appointments or engagements, then?" persisted Hepson. "My being here won't interfere with anything that you want to do?"

"Not in the least," Dave replied.

"Oh, then, I'll invite myself to a chair," declared the first classman, suiting the action to the word. "Now, you fellows can guess why I'm here."

"You're captain of this year's football eleven," Dave replied. "Has that anything to do with your call?"

"Everything," admitted Hepson briskly. "Have you fellows any notion that we've a poor eleven, so far, this year?"

"Why I thought it pretty good, from the practice work that I saw done in

August," Darrin answered slowly.

"A pretty good eleven doesn't win games, sir," retorted Hepson. "Man, we've got to strengthen the team all along the line, or I'll go down in Naval Academy history as captain of the worst lot of dubs who ever chased a pigskin around the field!"

"Is it as bad as that?" demanded Dan, opening his eyes.

"Dalzell," said Hepson, "our eleven is rotten, sir-simply and fiercely useless!"

"If it's as bad as that," hinted Dan innocently, "wouldn't it be a prime good idea to draw our eleven from the field this year?"

"What? Strike the Navy's colors, and especially to the Army?" glared Mr.

Hepson. "What are you talking about?"

"Then I guess," nodded Dan, "that we'll have to stay in the ring, and let it go by apologizing to the Army for getting in their way on the field the Saturday after Thanksgiving."

"We won't do that, either, by Jingo!" retorted Midshipman Hepson. "But we've got to strengthen our team. We've got to practice every minute that the commandant will allow us for practice. We've got to make a front-rank team out of-nearly nothing!"

"Aren't there any good players who have been holding back?" asked

Dave Darrin.

"Two that I know of, Darrin," rejoined Hepson, fixing his eyes keenly on Dave.

"Who are they?"

"You and Dalzell."

"We haven't backed out, or refused duty," Darrin retorted quickly.

"No; but you haven't pushed yourselves forward any, either."

"Well, we're hardly team material," objected Dave modestly. "However, I'll promise for myself and Dalzell, too, that we'll turn out to all the practice we can, and work like blazes!"

"Will you?" cried Midshipman Hepson delightedly. He jumped up, grasping each midshipman by the hand in turn.

"But you don't want to bank on us too much," Darrin continued. "You know, we've never played on anything as big as the Navy team. We used to be good enough little players on a country school team. But it's different here."

"Let the coaches and the captain find that out, then," grunted Hepson. "But you'll work? You'll try to make good? You'll try to make the team and some history?"

"We'd lay down our lives for the Navy, at any point and in any sort of game," rejoined Dave Darrin simply.

"Good! Bully! That's the way I like to hear a fellow talk!" glowed Hepson, making toward the door. "You'll turn out for practice to-morrow afternoon?"

"Without fail, if we're physically able," promised Midshipman Darrin.

"Awfully obliged to you, fellows," cried Hepson, throwing the door open. "And now you won't mind if I cut my visit short? I've a lot of fellows to see, you know."

The door banged and Hepson was gone.

"Say, how's the Navy going to win under a chap as nervous as Hepson?" asked Dan.

"That isn't nervousness, Danny boy."

"If it isn't, what is it, then?"

"Electricity."

"Elec-Oh, say, now-"

"It's electricity," Dave insisted. "He's a live wire, that man Hepson.

He'll pull us through on the field this year, if any one can."

"There's nothing like looking on the bright side of things," murmured

Dalzell, drumming on his chair.

"I'd rather see Hepson under estimate the Navy team," went on Dave, "than feel too sure that it is invincible. Still, I believe that the Navy is going to put forward a mighty strong eleven this year. Though, of course, that is not saying that we can beat the Army."

"Why not?" demanded Dalzell almost fiercely.

"Because, no matter how good a line we put forward, the Army ma

y put forward a better."

"Now, don't go tooting the Army's bugle!"

"I am just considering the average of chances," Darrin returned. "Danny boy, sometimes the Navy wins, but most of the games of past years have gone to the Army. So the chances are that we'll be beaten this year."

"Not if I have to die on the line to stop it!" glowed Dalzell at red heat.

"Maybe you won't even get on the Navy line; perhaps I won't, either,

Danny boy. But you know we saw by the "Army and Navy Journal" that

Prescott and Holmes are playing on the West Point eleven this year."

"Holmes isn't necessarily such a much, is he?" flared Dan.

"Greg Holmes is a pretty handy man on the football field," retorted Darrin warmly. "None ought to know that better than we, after we've seen Holmes pull out so many victories for the old High School team. Of course, Prescott is the better player, but Holmes can back him up to amazing advantage."

"Didn't we play about as good a game as that pair?" Dalzell demanded.

"I don't know," Dave answered thoughtfully. "Perhaps not quite as good a game. You see, in the old High School days, Dick Prescott used to lead and I often backed up his plays. So one could hardly compare us."

"If you're in such a blue funk over the Navy's chances, you'd better keep off the line-up," muttered Midshipman Dalzell.

"Oh, I'm in no funk," returned Darrin, smiling. "However, I'm not going to be betrayed into any bragging until we've wiped the field up with the Army-if we can."

Rap-tap! came on the door.

"I'll wager that's Farley," whispered Darrin.

"Or Page"-from Dan.

"Come in," called Dave.

The door opened, to let in Farley, with Page crowding on his heels.

Dave and Dan both hastened forward to clasp hands with these tried chums of other days.

"Seen Hepson?" asked Dan.

"Yes," nodded Farley. "He told us he had gobbled you. Hepson just left us."

"You're going to be on the eleven!" pressed Dan.

"If we can make it," nodded Farley slowly. "I'd like to play, too, but

I'm hoping that the Navy can hit on some one better than myself."

"Cold feet!" grinned Dan.

"Not exactly," Farley answered, with a slight flush. "But it's a big thing to play on the Navy's fighting eleven. It seems almost too big a responsibility for any but a demi-god."

"Demi-gods don't play football," jeered Dan. "They're nothing but idols, anyway, and they're two thousand years out of date. What we want on the Navy line is real human flesh and blood."

"There'll be blood on the doorstep of the moon if the Army carries things away from us this year," predicted Page mournfully.

"Well, all we can do is our best," declared Dave. "We'll do that, too, and do it mightily. Wow! What's that?"

Ta-ra-ra-ta-ra-ta! sounded musically in the corridors.

"Supper formation, by Jove!" gasped Dan.

Farley and Page fled without a word. Soon the "decks" of Bancroft Hall swarmed with young life. Then, outside, to seaward, the brigade fell in by companies.

Military commands rang out briskly, roll was called, reports made and the brigade marched in to supper.

What a joyous, noisy affair it was. Some license in the way of boisterousness was allowed this evening, and most of the young men took full advantage of the fact.

Swat! A slice of bread, soaked in a glass of water and kneaded into a soppy ball, struck Dalzell full in the back of the neck, plastering his collar and sending a sticky mess down his spine.

"I'll fight the man who did that," promised Midshipman Dan, wheeling around. Then added cautiously:

"If he's a graduate."

There being, naturally, no graduates present except the officer at the furthest corner of the mess hall, Dan's challenge provoked laughter.

Many other pranks were played, but there is not room to record them here. The meal over and the brigade dismissed, some of the midshipmen-there were nearly eight hundred of them-went to their own quarters, or visited the rooms of cronies. Hundreds took the air in the grounds.

Almost the sole topic was football. Hepson speedily had most of the members of the big squad gathered about him. Others, who could not hope to "make" in football, gathered near-by, as though afraid of losing some of the talk.

"Remember, gentlemen, until the Army game is over, it's to be nothing this year but work, work, work!" warned Midshipman Hepson, with intense earnestness.

With nothing but football in the air, Dan soon caught the infection even more deeply than his chum.

"Hang it, I'm a dub," groaned Dan. "Lots of the fellows gave up their leave in order to be here and practise. Why in the mischief didn't I?"

"For the same reason that perhaps I didn't sacrifice leave," replied

Dave. "I wasn't asked to. And you weren't, either, were you?"

"No; but I wish I had flung myself at Hepson's head, and made him take me, instead of going off to Gridley like a deserter! It's October now, and what earthly chance, Dave, have you and I to get in shape?"

"We'll do our best, Danny boy, or stay off the line. There's nothing to be gained by losing our heads. Regrets will be equally worthless."

"Hepson," called one midshipman, "has anyone invented the Navy yells for this year?"

"Yells?" repeated the football captain scornfully. "It's more to the purpose to fit ourselves to do something worth yelling about!"

"Has Hepson got the blues?" asked another midshipman.

"Or only the rattles?"

Football was still in the air, dominating the minds of the midshipmen when a turn of the master switch shut off the lights at taps.

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