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   Chapter 18 THE CLASS MEETING SITS AS JURY

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9251

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Three days later the class meeting was held.

Jetson was especially impressed with the notion that he must attend, since he must appear as the accused. With one of his disposition it was quite natural that the young man should go before the class in a highly resentful mood.

After a few introductory remarks, Jetson was summoned by the class president to rise.

"Mr. Jetson," asked the class president, "do you intend to deny having made the remark imputed to you-that you would not take the word of any midshipman in the brigade!"

"I made the remark, after a measure, sir," Jetson replied. "What I said was that in a certain matter I would not take the word of any midshipman in the brigade if it went counter to my fixed belief."

"Mr. Jetson, don't you consider that, under the circumstances, that amounted to a statement of your unwillingness to accept the word of members of the brigade?"

"I should be sorry to have that construction placed on my remark, Mr. President, for I know that nearly all the men of the brigade are men with a fine sense of honor."

"Then how do you reconcile this statement with your other one?"

"Mr. President, I meant, and I still mean, that I am so certain of the truth of the charge that I made to one Darrin, that, if members of the brigade spoke differently, I would then know that they were not telling the truth."

A storm of protests went up, while one hoarse voice bellowed:

"Throw him out!"

And another called:

"Coventry!"

"Order!" commanded the class president, rapping hard with his gavel. "Mr. Jetson, it is a most serious matter to impugn the good faith and honor of the brigade. It is hardly mitigated by the fact that the words were uttered in the heat of passion, especially when, in your cooler moment, you are not inclined to retract your statement or to render it harmless. I believe, therefore, that I am in accord with the sense of this meeting of the class when I ask you if you have any retraction or apology to offer."

"For the statement, in the form in which I offered it, Mr. President, I have no retraction or apology to offer, and only such explanation as I have lately given."

"Coventry! Coventry!" came the insistent call.

"Well, then, you can send me to Coventry, you friends of Darrin, if you feel yourselves justified in doing it!" quivered Midshipman Jetson, tossing his head and glaring defiantly around the room.

"Mr. President!"

"Mr. Wentworth."

"In view of the charge, and the subsequent statements of Mr. Jetson, I feel that we have an unpleasant duty to perform. The brigade is founded and based on honor. We, the members, cannot allow that honor to be impugned by one who would otherwise be fitted to be a member of the brigade. As Mr. Jetson refuses to retract his words, and as some one must take the initiative, it is my disagreeable duty to move you, sir, that the second class decide that Mr. Jetson is no longer worthy to be of our number, and that he accordingly be sent to Coventry."

"Mr. President!"

"Mr. Page."

"Mr. President, I desire to second the motion, and this I do as regretfully as it was moved."

"Oh, go ahead and send me to Coventry, then!" Jetson blazed forth angrily. "This class appears to have been hypnotized by Darrin. But, even if you do send me to Coventry, we shall see whether your action will be potent enough to drive me from the Naval Academy!"

Waving his arms wildly in the heat of his anger, Midshipman Jetson hurried from the room, midshipmen moving aside to favor his swift exit.

Hardly had the door banged when from all parts of the room the cry went up:

"Question! question! Put the motion."

"Mr. President!"

"Mr. Darrin."

"I arise, sir, to discuss the motion. I ask the gentlemen of the class to bear with me patiently while I set forth some of the aspects of this matter as I see them.

"At the very outset, sir, I wish to make it as plain as possible that I do not seek to stand here as the apologist for Mr. Jetson. I feel very certain that he would not authorize me to take that position. What I state I am stating on my own authority purely, and therein I am only exercising my right as a member of the second class.

"I would remind you, sir, that you all know, as well as I do, that Mr. Jetson has always borne an honorable reputation in this class and in the brigade. You all know his leading traits as well as I do. Mr. Jetson is a man of quick temper and rather lasting resentments. There is a good deal of sullenness in his nature-"

"And they're not the best qualities in a man who is being trained to command!"

broke in a midshipman at the rear of the room.

"As to whether Mr. Jetson will be, by graduation time, well fitted to command men," Dave answered, "is not a question that this class is called upon to pass on. That question rests with the faculty of the Naval Academy. I am trying to get you to look at this matter only from the personal and the class point of view. Doubtless you all feel that Mr. Jetson is the victim of an unhappy temper. You would punish this frame of mind. Yet I ask you, bluntly, who among you have ever tried to aid Mr. Jetson in overcoming his own peculiar style of temper? If there is one among you who has made such attempt at aid, I ask that gentleman to stand until he can be recognized."

Dave made a pause, glancing around him, but no midshipman rose.

"Now, sir," continued Dave Darrin, "if we, as a class, take hasty and unwise action, it is quite possible that we may be depriving the United States Navy of a future officer who would be most valuable to his country in time of need. Have we the right to punish when we are forced to admit that none of us has ever attempted to help Mr. Jetson to escape from the fruits of his temperament? Mr. President, how would you attempt to extinguish a fire? By fanning it? Yet, when a member of this class is smouldering in his own wrath, it is proposed to meet his sullenness by casting him out of our friendship. Do we not owe some duty to our country in this matter? Mr. Jetson is one of our capable students in this brigade, and if he be given a fair chance to graduate, he is likely to become a Naval officer of merit. Do we desire to take upon ourselves the probable smothering of such a Naval career? Mr. President, and you, gentlemen of the second class, I trust sincerely that the motion of Coventry in this case will not prevail. I feel, as I believe many of you now present feel, that we should be taking too much upon ourselves, and that we should be making a grave mistake. If the motion now before the class should be defeated, I shall then be delighted to second any other motion that has for its object the finding of some way to make Mr. Jetson feel more fully that he is one of us, that he has our full sympathy, and that we hope to see him mould his character into a form that will enable him to become a credit to the United States Navy."

As Darrin sat down there was a ripple of applause. There were many present, however, who took a sterner view of the affair. These wanted to see Jetson, and all others who might similarly offend the brigade, forced to quit the Naval service.

"Question! question!" called a score of voices at once.

"Any further remarks?" inquired the class president, glancing about.

"Mr. President!"

"Mr. Jerould."

"Mr. President," said Midshipman Jerould, "I am certain that we all appreciate the remarks of Mr. Darrin. The remarks were prompted by a generous heart, and we respect Mr. Darrin and his motives alike. But I am certain, sir, that the majority of us feel that this is an ugly business and that only stern treatment can meet the situation. I therefore trust that the motion will be at once put and passed." (Loud cries of "hear! hear!")

"Any further-"

"Mr. President!"

"Mr. Darrin."

"Mr. President, I wish I could throw my whole being and soul into this problem, in order to make it clearer, as I see it. I would even appeal, as a favor, to the class to quash this Coventry resolution, and perhaps I might be considered to have some right to ask the favor, since the whole trouble grew out of an affair between Mr. Jetson and myself. I beg of you all, classmates, to quash the motion now before the class."

"No, no, no!" came the hearty response.

"Then, Mr. President and gentlemen," went on Dave Darrin in a voice slow and grave, "speaking for myself, as an individual member, I beg to state that I cannot respect a Coventry ordered under such circumstances. In this matter I would find myself unable to respect the mandates of the class. Therefore. I beg you to send me to Coventry with Mr. Jetson!"

Blank astonishment fell over the second class. Utter indignation seized some of the midshipmen. In another moment the feeling boiled up so that a few hisses rose.

Dave Darrin was pallid, but he had no desire to recede. He had acted according to the dictates of his conscience and he had kept his word.

In that pained instant Midshipman Farley sought to save the situation. He leaped to his feet, shouting:

"Mr. President, I move that this meeting adjourn!"

"Second the motion," called Page promptly, and now there was uproar on all sides.

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