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   Chapter 17 AN AFFAIR OF SULKS

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 13575

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Having struck the blow, Midshipman Darrin stepped back, to give his opponent an unobstructed chance to rise to his feet.

"What's this all about?" demanded Midshipman Hepson wonderingly.

"It's gone too far for talk, now," replied Dan Dalzell. "Wait until Darry has put a new head on this idiot."

Jetson took his time about getting to his feet When he did rise he didn't assume his guard at once.

"Well," asked Darrin coolly, but mockingly, "have you had all you can stand, or are you going to back up your wild, crazy statements?"

Suddenly Jetson raised one of his feet quickly, as though to kick Dave in the belt line.

"Here, stop that!" cried Hepson and Joyce in the same breath, as they sprang forward. Darrin, seeing others interfere, didn't attempt to strike back, but merely stepped aside.

That was the chance for which Jetson had been watching. His kick didn't land; he hadn't intended that it should, but Dave's surprised recoil gave the other the chance that he really wanted. Both of Jetson's fists struck on Dave's nose, drawing a flood of the crimson.

"You coward! You cur!" gasped amazed Dalzell.

"Silence, all!" ordered Hepson, speaking by virtue of being a first classman. "Jet is crazy, but he can't be expected to take up more than one affair at a time. Darry, take your time to stop the flow of blood. Then you can demand an accounting of Jetson."

"I've nothing more to say," remarked Jetson. "I was struck and I've returned the blow with interest. That ends my concern in the affair. Good night, all."

"Hold on!" ordered Hepson, bounding forward and laying a strong, detaining hand on Jetson's shoulder. "You can't slip away like that. Matters have gone so far that they'll simply have to go further. You'd put yourself wholly in the wrong by withdrawing now-especially after the slimy trick that you've played a fair opponent."

"Slimy, eh?" cried Jetson angrily. "Mr. Hepson, you and I will have to have an accounting, too!"

"Oh, just as you like," responded the first classman, shrugging his shoulders. "You'll find it a better rule, however, to stick to one affair at a time. Darry, are you in shape, now, to attend to this matter from your point of view?"

"Quite," nodded Dave, who had about succeeded in stanching the flow of blood from his injured nose. "Does Mr. Jetson desire to take his coat off or not?"

"Yes!" cried Jetson tempestuously, unbuttoning his own overcoat and tossing it to the ground. "Now, take yours off, Mr. Darrin!"

"It's off," responded Dave, tossing the garment aside. "Now, look to yourself, sir!"

The two second classmen closed in furiously. It was give and take, for a few moments. In the clinches, however, Jetson succeeded in tearing Darrin's dress coat, and also in starting the blood again so that the crimson dripped down on Dave's white shirt front.

At the end of a full minute, however, Darrin had sent his enemy to the ground, stopped in a knock-out. Both of Jetson's eyes were also closed and badly swollen.

"Joyce," asked Hepson, "will you kindly remain with Jetson and see that he is assisted to the hospital, if he needs it? It won't do for too many of us, especially Darry, to be found here by any officer who may be passing."

"I'll attend to it," nodded Midshipman Joyce, "though I'd rather perform the service for any other fellow in the brigade."

Now that the affair was over, and Dave, after inspecting the damage to his dress coat, was pulling on his overcoat, he was suddenly recalled to other responsibilities.

"Danny boy," he said ruefully, as Hepson walked away with them, "I can't very well get back to the hop soon-perhaps not at all tonight. I can't go back in this torn coat, and I may not be able to borrow another that will fit me well. Will you be good enough to hurry back and explain to Belle why I am delayed-perhaps prevented from seeing her again tonight?"

"Certainly," nodded Dalzell, turning and hastening back.

"Now, what was it all about, Darry?" asked Hepson, as he walked along with Dave.

Midshipman Darrin explained the trouble as well as he could.

"So the idiot accused you of keeping him off the football eleven!" demanded Hepson in astonishment.

"Yes; and I offered to prove, by you, that I had nothing to do with his exclusion from the team."

"Why the sole and whole reason why Jetson wasn't called to the Navy team," declared Hepson, "was because he was believed to be too awkward and too dangerous to other players. Whew, but I'm certainly sorry this thing has happened!"

"So am I," Dave confessed candidly.

"And Jet made the further fool mistake of declaring that he wouldn't accept the word of any midshipman in the brigade."

"Something of the sort."

"Why, that's a wholesale, blanket insult to the whole brigade. Darry, your class will have to take action over such a remark as that."

"Oh, Jetson uttered the remark in the heat of an exceptional temper."

"That won't save him," predicted Hepson sagely. "The insult is there and it will stick. Your class, Darry, would lose caste with the fellows here if it allowed such an insult to go."

"Well, if it gets around, I suppose some sort of action will have to be taken."

"The second class, under the circumstances, can't do much less than send

Jetson to Coventry."

"Oh, that would be too much!" Dave protested generously. "Jetson has always been an honorable, square fellow in the past."

"He has always been infernally sulky and high-handed," growled

Midshipman Hepson.

"A bad temper is not such an uncommon failing," smiled Dave.

"No; but there are limits to the amount of temper that a gentleman may display and still be worthy to associate with gentlemen," contended Hepson stubbornly. "It's the insult to the whole brigade that I'm thinking of. Darry, I'll wager that your class won't and can't do less than give Jetson a trip to Coventry."

[Illustration: "Take Off Your Overcoat, Mr. Darrin."]

"Oh, that would be too much-unjust!" protested Dave.

"The class will do it just the same."

"If the class mixes up in my affair, and carries it so far as to send

Jetson to Coventry, I'll be hanged if I don't go there with him!" cried

Darrin impulsively.

The words were out. A man of Darrin's honest nature would feel bound to stand by even that heated utterance.

"Oh, come, now, Darry, don't be so foolish over a fellow who has treated you in such fashion."

"I've said it, haven't I?" asked Dave grimly. "It would be an utter injustice, and I'm not going to see something that is my own affair distorted into an injustice that would be altogether out of proportion to Jetson's offense."

By this time the strolling pair of midshipmen had reached the entrance to

Bancroft Hall.

"What

are you going to try to do about your dress coat, Darry?" asked

Hepson in an undertone. "Borrow one?"

"If I can find one that fits."

"Take my advice, then. Don't just borrow, and thereby run a chance of getting both yourself and the lender in trouble. For of course you know that one can never tell when an inspection may be made, and the man whose dress coat was gone would have to account for it. So go to the O. C., state that your coat was accidentally torn, and ask permission to borrow one in order that you may return and escort your ladies back to the hotel. Your O. C. won't raise any objection to that."

"But he might want to see the coat that I have on," grimaced Dave. "Then the O. C. would be sure to see the blood-drips on my shirt front, or the collar, at least. Then talk of a mere accident might lead to questions as to the nature of the accident."

"True," nodded Hepson. "Then get back to your room. Get out clean linen and get into it. While you're doing that I'll negotiate the loan of a dress coat that will fit. Then you can go to the O. C., after you've changed the telltale linen."

This course, accordingly, was followed. Dave changed his linen as quickly as he could, while Hepson appeared with three borrowed dress coats for a try-on. One was found to fill the bill. Resting it over a chair, Darrin slipped on his service blouse and reported to the O.C. Permission was granted to borrow a dress coat. If the officer in charge felt any suspicion or curiosity as to the nature of the accident he cleverly concealed the fact.

A good deal of time, however, had been consumed. By the time that Midshipman Dave Darrin returned to the hop the orchestra was just breaking into the strains of "Home, Sweet Home."

Dave's quick glance roved the floor and the seats. He beheld Belle Meade, seated at the side, while Farley bent over her in an inviting attitude. Darrin quickly reached the scene. Belle saw him coming, just in time to refrain from taking Farley's arm.

"You won't mind this time, will you, Farl?" Dave asked, smiling.

"I had given you up," said Belle, as they moved away together in the dance.

"Of course Dan told you what had delayed me."

"He told me you would return as soon as you could," replied Miss Meade, "but he was provokingly mysterious as to the cause of your absence."

"There was a little trouble," Dave whispered.

"Are you in trouble?" asked Belle quickly, her cheeks paling.

"No; I think not. By trouble I mean that I just took part in a fight."

"So you took the time when I am here as the most suitable occasion for a fight?" asked Belle, her color coming back and heightening.

"It isn't wise for me to explain it now, Belle," Dave told her quickly. "You won't blame me when you know. But I'd rather save it for telling when we are out of the Academy grounds."

"Oh, just as you like. Dave, we mustn't let anything spoil what's left of this last short dance of the night."

"Thank you, Belle. These dances together don't happen any too frequently."

It was when the young people were walking back to the Maryland Hotel, and Mrs. Meade had joined Dan and Laura, that Belle again asked the nature of the trouble that had deprived Darrin of three of his dances with her.

Dave told the story, briefly, adding:

"Under the midshipmen's code, the blow had to be struck when the lie was passed."

"I don't blame you for knocking the fellow down," Belle agreed indignantly. "What a worthless fellow that Mr. Jetson must be!"

"Do you know, Belle, I can't quite bring myself to believe that he is worthless?"

"His conduct shows it," argued the girl.

"At first thought it would appear so but Jetson, I believe, is only the victim of an unhappy temper that makes him suspicious and resentful. He's brave enough, and he's never been caught in a dishonorable trick."

"Except the tricks he played on you at the football practice."

"He passed his word that he intended no trick, and I have been wholly inclined to take his word in the matter."

"Dave, you must look out for this man Jetson! He's going to get you into some trouble before you're through with him," exclaimed Belle earnestly. All her instinct was aroused in the matter, for Dave Darrin's success was dearer to Belle Meade than was anything else in the world.

"There are two things that I regret very much to-night," Dave went on.

"One was that Jetson should provoke such a senseless dispute, and the

other that I should be obliged to miss so much of your company here at

Annapolis."

"I wouldn't mind anything," Belle answered, "if I could feel sure that no more trouble would come out of this affair with Jetson."

"I don't believe there will be any disturbing outcome," Dave assured her; "unless, possibly, another fight."

"A fight is nothing," declared Belle with spirit. "You're in training to become a fighting man, and a bout or two at fistcuffs is nothing more or less than so much valuable experience. Dave, promise me something?"

"Of course, if it's anything promisable."

"You'll write me-"

"Can you doubt that, Belle?"

"And let me know exactly and truthfully if anything further comes of this," she finished.

"I'll write and tell you anything that a midshipman is at liberty to make known concerning the conduct of the brigade."

"Just what does that cover?" asked Belle.

"I can't easily answer until the something or other happens to turn up."

"At any rate, Dave, if I get a suspicion that you're withholding from me anything that I ought to know, I shall be dreadfully worried. You can't have any idea how worried I have been about you sometimes in the past."

Not much time was there for the two midshipmen to remain at the foot of the steps of the hotel Then, after hearty good nights, Dave and Dan left the ladies, whom they would not see again until the next visit.

"From one or two things that I couldn't help overhearing, I judge that Belle is greatly worried over the possibility of trouble arising from the Jetson affair," remarked Dan on the way back to the Naval Academy and quarters.

"Yes," Dave admitted.

"Pooh! How can any trouble come to you out of the matter? With Jetson it's different He declared that he wouldn't take the word of any midshipman in the brigade."

"That was spoken in the heat of temper. Jetson didn't mean it."

"Just the same, some of the fellows have heard of it already, and I shan't be surprised if our class holds a meeting and sends Jetson to Coventry-where the fellow belongs."

"If they send Jetson to Coventry," spoke Dave quietly though bluntly, "I shall go along to Coventry with him."

Dalzell halted, staring at his chum in open-mouthed wonder.

"You idiot!" blazed Dan in wrathful disgust.

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