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   Chapter 16 THE MAN WITH A SCOWL ON TAP

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 11071

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"I wish we lived in Annapolis, that we might be here at every hop!" sighed Belle Meade, as the waltz finished and she and Dave, flushed and happy, sought seats at the side of the ballroom.

They had hardly seated themselves when they were joined by Dan and

Laura Bentley.

"I was just saying, Laura," Belle went on, "that it would be splendid if we lived here all through the winter. Then we'd have a chance to come to every hop."

"Wouldn't we want to put in a part of the winter near West Point?" asked

Miss Bentley, smiling, though with a wistful look in her eyes.

"Perhaps that would be fairer, to you," Belle agreed.

"You'd soon get tired of the hops," ventured Dave.

"Can one ever weary of dancing?" Belle demanded. "Well, perhaps one might, though never on the small amount that has come to me so far in life. And this Navy orchestra plays so divinely!"

"Our number's next, I believe, ladies," called Midshipman Farley, as he and Page came up, eager for their chances with these two very charming belles of the hop.

"Hang you, Farl!" muttered Dave.

"That's just like Darrin, Miss Meade," laughed Farley. "He's always a monopolist at heart. Though in this instance I am far from wondering at his desire to be."

It was the first hop after the semi-annual exams. A host of fourth classmen and some from the upper classes had been dropped immediately after the examinations, but Dave and Dan and all their more intimate friends in the brigade had pulled through. Darrin and Dalzell had come out of the ordeal with the highest markings they had yet achieved at the Naval Academy.

Mrs. Meade had come down to Annapolis to chaperon Belle and Laura, but this evening Mrs. Meade was chatting with a middle-aged Naval officer and so did not see much of the young people.

As the music struck up, Farley and Page claimed consideration, Dave and

Dan were left without partners.

"Nothing more doing for two dances, David, little giant," murmured Midshipman Dalzell. "Suppose we slip into our overcoats and walk around outside."

"I'd rather," assented Darrin. "It's dull in here when a fellow isn't dancing."

It was a night of unusually light attendance on the part of the fair sex, with a rather larger attendance than usual of midshipmen, for which reason Dave found many other midshipmen outside, strolling up and down.

"What we need, fellows," called Joyce, coming up to the chums, "is a new regulation that no midshipman may attend a hop unless he drags a femme."

"That would have shut you out of every hop so far this year," laughed Dave.

"I know it," Joyce admitted. "But I'm going to cut all hops after this, unless some real queen will favor me as her escort and agree to dance at least half the numbers with me. I've had only two dances this evening. It's too tame. I'm going back to Bancroft Hall and stand ready to turn in at the first signal. What's the use of hanging around at a hop when there's only one girl to every five fellows?"

"You have suffered the just fate of the free lance," remarked Dan Dalzell virtuously. "As for me, I never think of attending a hop unless I squire some femme thither."

"There used to be girls enough last year," complained Joyce. "Well, I'm off for home and bed."

"We'll stroll along up with you," proposed Darrin.

"No girls for you, either?"

"Not for two numbers. Then we return to the young ladies that we escorted here."

"Just to think," grunted Joyce, sniffing in the salt air that reached them from the waterfront, "a good deal more than a year more here before we get regularly at sea."

"It seems as though we'd been here a long time," sighed Dave. "But I don't suppose there was ever a midshipman yet who didn't long to get away from Annapolis and into the real, permanent life on the wave. A West Point man must feel some of the same longing."

"But he's on the land at West Point," objected Joyce, "and he's still on land after he graduates and goes to some post. The Army cadet has no such glorious future to look forward to as has a midshipman."

"Hello, here's Jet," called Dave as a midshipman enveloped in his overcoat approached them. "Going to the hop, Jet?"

"Will you do me a great favor?" asked Midshipman Jetson.

"Certainly, if possible," agreed Dave cordially.

"Then mind your own business," snapped the other midshipman.

Darrin, who had made it a point to forget the brief unpleasantness of the football season, received this rebuke with about the same feelings that a slap in the face would have given him.

The sulky midshipman had stepped past the trio, but Dave, after swallowing hard, wheeled about and hailed:

"Hold on, there, Mr. Jetson!"

"Well?" demanded Jetson, halting and looking back.

"I don't like your tone, sir."

"And I don't like your face, sir," retorted Jetson. "Nor your cheek, either, for that matter."

"I tried to treat you pleasantly," Dave went on, hurt and offended.

"Oh! It required an effort, did it?" sneered Jetson.

"Something may have happened that I don't know anything about," Darrin continued. "It may be that you have some real reason for treating me as you have just done. If you have any good reason I wish you'd tell me, for in that case I must have done something that put me in wrong. If that's the case, I want to make amends."

"Oh-bosh!" grumbled the other midshipman.

"Come on, now!" urged Dave. "Be a man!"

"Then you imply that I am not?" demanded Jetson aggressively.

"Not necessarily," Dave contende

d. "I just want to make sure, in my own mind, and I should think you'd be similarly interested."

"If you want to insult me, Mr. Darrin," flared back Jetson, "I'll remain here long enough to hear you and to arrange for resenting the insult. Otherwise-"

"Well?" insisted Dave quietly, though his anger was rising. "Otherwise?"

"Otherwise," retorted Midshipman Jetson, "I'll pursue my way and seek company that pleases me better."

"Look out, Jet, old hot-plate!" laughed Joyce. "You'll soon be insulting all three of us."

"I don't intend to," Jetson rejoined quickly. "My quarrel concerns only

Mr. Darrin."

"Oho!" murmured Dave. "There is a quarrel, then?"

"If you choose to pick one."

"But I don't, Mr. Jetson. Quarreling is out of my line. If I've done you any harm or any injustice I'm ready to make good by apologies and otherwise. And, if I haven't wronged you in any way, you should be equally manly and apologize for your treatment of me just now."

"Oh, bosh!" snapped Mr. Jetson once more.

"This is none of my quarrel," interposed Midshipman Joyce, "and I'm not intentionally a promoter of hard feeling. But it seems to me, Jet, that Darry has spoken as fairly as any fellow could. Now, it seems to me that it's up to you to be equally manly."

"So you, too, are asserting that I'm not manly," bristled Mr. Jetson haughtily. "You all seem bound to force trouble on me to-night."

"Not I, then," retorted Joyce, his spirit rising. "I'm finding myself forced to the belief that you're hardly worth having trouble with."

Jetson clenched his fists, taking a step forward, his dark eyes flashing. Then he halted, as though implying that he was not thus easily to be driven into forgetting himself.

"Come along, fellows," urged Dan Dalzell in a low voice. "Mr. Jetson seems to have no intention either of explaining or of affording other satisfaction."

"Hold on, Mr. Jetson, you needn't answer him," interposed Darrin quickly, as Jetson opened his mouth. "First of all this affair seems to concern me. You've intimated that I'm no friend of yours and not worthy to be ranked as such. Now, I ask you, fairly and flatly, what has brought your mind to this pitch? What have I done, or what haven't I done?"

"Search your conscience," jeered Jetson.

"I've been doing so ever since this foolish conversation started, and I haven't found the answer yet. All I recall, Jetson, is that, at the outset of my football practice, there was some little unpleasantness between us. You injured me, twice, in practice play, and I admit that I was somewhat angry about it at the time. But you gave your word that you hadn't intended any tricks against me. I believed you to be a man of honor, and I accepted your word that you were innocent of evil intention against me. Having accepted your word, I held no further grudge in the matter, and I have as nearly forgotten the whole business as a man with a memory can."

"Then tell me why I didn't play on the football eleven?" flamed up

Midshipman Jetson.

"Principally, I imagine, because Captain Hepson, after consultation with the coaches, didn't call you to the Navy eleven."

"And why didn't Hepson call me?" followed up Jetson, all his pent-up sulkiness boiling over now.

"I don't know, particularly. Probably, I imagine, for the same reason that he didn't call a lot of other men to the eleven-because he believed he could make a better choice."

"Darrin, you know well enough that you so influenced Hepson to keep me off the team!"

"Jetson, are you mad?"

"No; but I'm naturally angry."

"I give you my word that I didn't do anything to prevent your making the team."

"And you expect me, Mr. Darrin, to believe that?"

"If you decline to do so, it amounts to passing the lie. But I'll overlook that for a moment. Joyce, I think Hepson is not dancing at present. Will you return to the hop, and, if he is not dancing, will you bring him out here?"

"I don't want to see Hepson," cried Midshipman Jetson. "You're the only one I'm interested in in this matter, Mr. Darrin."

"You've virtually refused to accept my word."

"I do so refuse."

"Then you call me-"

"A liar, if you like!" snapped back Midshipman Jetson.

"Sir, do you realize-"

"I realize that you're still talking!" sneered Jetson.

"Then I won't talk any longer," replied Dave Darrin in a quiet but dangerous voice. "Since you refuse to listen even to Hepson-"

"Who's taking my name in vain?" demanded a laughing voice as a burly figure moved in between Dave and his enemy.

The new comer was Hepson, who had come upon the group unnoticed.

"Perhaps you're just in time, Hep," murmured Dave, fighting to cool down his temper. "I wanted you to prove-"

"Stop!" ejaculated Jetson angrily. In his extreme passion he threw all restraint and courtesy to the winds. "I wouldn't take the word of Hepson, or of any man in the entire brigade in this matter. Darrin has lied, and-"

"Step aside, Hep, please," urged Dave, giving the late football captain a gentle shove. "This matter can't go any further in words. Mr. Jetson, you have insulted me, and grossly. Are you capable of cooling down? Do you wish to retract?-to apologize?"

"Apologize to you-you-"

Whatever the word was, it didn't get out, for in the same instant Darrin cried warningly:

"Guard yourself!"

Midshipman Jetson threw up his hands, but Darrin's right fist landed across his offending mouth with such force as to fell the sulky midshipman flat to the earth.

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