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   Chapter 14 TWO SIDES OF A STORY

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 10081

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


One circumstance puzzled all of the midshipmen who first heard of the affair. The fourth, and unknown, midshipman, who had waited outside of the house and assaulted the first civilian, must have known the latter or it was not likely that he would have committed the assault. That being the case, it was just likely that the civilian knew and had recognized the unknown midshipman who had knocked him down. Such an attack must have followed some prior dispute.

Then, since the civilians had undoubtedly made complaint to the Naval Academy authorities, how had they been able to get out of supplying the name of the midshipman unknown to Dave and his friends?

Right after breakfast the next morning Dave Darrin and his friends of the evening before were summoned before the commandant of midshipmen. By that officer they were questioned very rigidly, but they had nothing to add to their statement of the night before. They were therefore ordered back to their quarters, with permission only to attend chapel that forenoon.

Just after chapel, however, the fourth midshipman discovered himself to the officer in charge. He was Midshipman Totten, of fourth class.

Totten admitted that it was he who had waited outside of the house in question, and who had knocked down the civilian. He further gave the name of that civilian, who was the son of one of the prominent officials of the state government.

"Why did you strike him, Mr. Totten?" demanded the officer in charge.

"Because, sir, the fellow had grossly insulted a young lady whom I felt bound to avenge."

"Who is the young lady?"

"Am I obliged, sir, to give her name in the matter?"

"It will be better, Mr. Totten. You may be sure that your statement will be treated with all the consideration and confidence possible."

Totten thereupon explained that the young woman in question was his cousin. Totten, who was an orphan, had been brought up by an aunt who had but one child of her own, the young woman in question. When Totten had won an appointment to the Naval Academy, the aunt and cousin had decided to move to Annapolis sooner than have their little family broken up.

"How did you come to be outside the Academy grounds last evening, Mr.

Totten? You were not on leave to go outside."

"I took the chances and Frenched it, sir," confessed Totten candidly. "I knew that I could not get leave, and so did not ask it. But I felt that the fellow had to be punished, no matter at what hazard to myself."

"Then you considered the avenging of the insult to your cousin as being a matter of greater importance than your future career in the Navy?"

Midshipman Totten paled, but he answered bravely:

"Yes, sir; and at the same time a Naval career means nearly everything in the world to me."

Lieutenant-Commander Morrill, the new officer in charge, felt that it was difficult to rebuke a future Naval officer for defending from insult a woman dear to him.

"I shall have to pass this matter on to the commandant of midshipmen," decided the O.C. "Mr. Totten, you will go to your quarters and remain there, until further orders, save only for meal formations."

"Very good, sir," replied the fourth classman saluting.

"That is all, Mr. Totten."

"Very good, sir."

Within half an hour, Dave, Dan and Joyce knew that the unknown midshipman had come forward and announced himself, but they did not hear the story of the reason back of Totten's attack. They heard, however, that Totten had not heard of their predicament until just after chapel call.

The commandant of midshipmen sent for Mr. Totten. That official, however, after hearing the story, felt that the matter was one for the superintendent. The superintendent did not send for Totten and question him, but sent, instead, for the civilians who had lodged the complaint the evening before. He sent also for young Crane the man Totten had named, and who had not been among the complainants of the evening before.

"Mr. Crane," announced the superintendent, "you know, of course, the name of the midshipman who assaulted and knocked you down before the other three midshipmen interfered in the matter?"

"Er-er-possibly I do," confessed Crane, reddening.

"Mr. Crane, if you wish us to deal frankly with you, you must accord the same treatment to the officials of the Naval Academy," replied the superintendent coldly.

"I-I-personally do not desire to press any complaint," continued young

Crane. "I am sorry that my friends took such a step."

"Then you consider, Mr. Crane," pressed the superintendent, "that the knock-down blow you received from a midshipman was in the nature of a merited punishment?"

"I-I won't say that," cried Crane quickly. "No, sir! I won't admit it!"

"Then, as we know that Midshipman Totten was your assailant," continued the superintendent, "we shall have to place that young man on trial. We shall be obliged to summon you as a witness at that trial, Mr. Crane."

"But I have no intention, sir, of appearing as a witness,"

blustered that young man.

"Mr. Crane, you can have no choice in the matter. If we summon you, you can be brought here from any part of the United States."

"I-I-can't the matter be dropped, sir?" urged the young man anxiously.

"Not unless you confess yourself in the wrong, and exonerate Mr. Totten. In any other event the case will have to come to trial before a court-martial, and you, Mr. Crane, since we are certain that you possess material evidence, will be forced to appear as a witness."

Mr. Crane looked almost as uncomfortable as he felt.

"Mr. Totten," continued the superintendent, "states that you grossly insulted his cousin, a young woman, and that he met you on purpose to avenge that insult."

"There-there-was some trouble about a young woman," admitted Crane.

"But I am a gentleman, sir."

"I am not expected to decide the last question that you have raised," replied the superintendent dryly. "All that concerns me in the matter is whether you exonerate Mr. Totten, or whether you do not. If you do not, the midshipman must state his case fully before a court-martial, at which you will be one of the important witnesses."

"I exonerate Mr. Totten," replied Crane in a very low tone.

"Do you exonerate him completely?" "Ye-es, sir."

"Then Mr. Totten's offense will be reduced to one or two-simple breaches of discipline," went on the superintendent.

"But see here, sir," interposed one of the other young men, "are your midshipmen to be allowed to go about pounding whom they like? Are they to be swashbucklers and bullies?"

"Very decidedly not, sir," replied the superintendent in a voice almost thunderous. "The midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy must conduct themselves as gentlemen at all times."

"Did they do that," urged the last speaker, "when they sailed into us as they did?"

"Why did your friends go to the assistance of Mr. Crane?" asked the superintendent.

"Be-because," stammered the spokesman, "your midshipman had knocked

Crane down and was misusing him."

"Did you, the friends of Mr. Crane, consider it the act of gentlemen for several to rush in and attack one man?"

That left the callers rather breathless.

"Now, as to our other three midshipmen," pursued the superintendent, "at most they only rushed in to see fair play. They did not make a hostile move until they saw a whole crowd of you attacking one midshipman. Gentlemen, I am quite ready to leave it to a jury of any intelligent citizens as to whether the offending midshipmen or yourselves displayed the more gallantry and honor. For you have all admitted doing something that is not consistent with the highest standards of a gentleman, while our accused midshipmen have no such reproach against them."

"Then your midshipmen are to get off, and to be encouraged to repeat such conduct?" demanded the spokesman of the Crane party.

"No. On the contrary, they will be punished for whatever breaches of Naval discipline they have committed. Considering what you gentlemen have admitted, however, I do not believe you would have any standing as witnesses before a court-martial. I therefore advise you all to drop your complaint. Yet if you insist on a complaint, then I will see to it that Midshipman Totten is brought to trial."

Crane and his associates felt, very quickly and keenly, that they would cut but sorry figures in such a trial. They therefore begged to withdraw their former complaint. When they had departed the superintendent smiled at his reflection in the glass opposite.

Before supper all of the midshipmen involved knew their fate. They were restored to full liberty. Darrin, Dalzell and Joyce were again rebuked for having taken such elaborate pains to escape recognizing Totten at the time of the encounter. Beyond the lecture by the commandant of midshipmen, each of the trio was further punished by the imposition of ten demerits.

In Frenching and in taking justice into his own hands Midshipman Totten was held to have erred. However, the nature of his grievance and the fact that he was only a new fourth classman were taken into consideration. For Frenching he was punished with twenty-five demerits; for the assault on a civilian, considering all the circumstances, he was let off with ten additional demerits.

Yet, somehow, all of the midshipmen involved felt their punishment very lightly. They could not escape the conviction that the Naval Academy authorities did not regard them as especially guilty offenders.

"We've got you back on the gridiron, at any rate," exclaimed Hepson exultantly. "We of the football squad wish that we might be permitted to divide your demerits up among ourselves."

"You might suggest that little point to the commandant of midshipmen," grinned Dan.

"And get jolly well trounced for our impudence," grimaced Midshipman Hepson. "No, thank you; though you criminals have our utmost sympathy, we will let matters rest where they are at present. Only a fool tries to change well enough into worse."

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