But he found himself obliged to pause for a moment in order to steady his voice.
“Well?” asked Pennington with more insolence than ever.
“If you make such pretense in either case,” tittered Dave Darrin, “then you’re a liar!”
“Fellow!” sputtered Pennington, turning white with anger.
“I mean what I say, and I can back it up,” muttered Darrin.
“Then I’ll make you eat your words!” roared Pennington.
Clenching his fists and with the boxer’s attitude, Pen aimed two swift blows at Darrin.
Neither blow reached, however, for Dave dodged out of the way. Then Darrin struck back, a straight, true, forceful blow that landed on the other midshipman’s nose, knocking him down.
Pennington staggered somewhat when he rose, but he was quickly up, none the less, and ready for anything that might happen.
All of a sudden Dan Dalzell felt his own heart going down into his shoes. One of the ship’s officers had just entered the passageway, in time to see what was going on.
A LITTLE MEETING ASHORE
“Stop it, both of you,” whispered Dan.
“Stand at attention, ready to salute the officer.”
Pennington, with the blood flowing from his damaged nose, would have made a most ludicrous figure saluting!
The instant that he saw such evidence as Pen’s nose presented the officer would be bound to make inquiries.
Then, just as surely, his next step must be to Border the three before the commandant of midshipmen.
Fighting carries with it a severe penalty. Even Dan was certain to be reported, through the mere fact of his presence there, as aiding in a fight. And those who aid are punished as severely as the principals themselves.
It was a tense, fearsome instant, for midshipmen have been dismissed from the Naval Academy for this very offense.
The passage was not brilliantly lighted.
The on-coming officer, a lieutenant, junior grade, was looking at the floor as he came along.
Suddenly he paused, seemed lost in thought, then wheeled and walked back whence he had come.
Dan breathed more easily. Dave heaved a sigh of relief.
As for Pennington, that midshipman had wheeled and was stealing rapidly down the passageway, intent only on escape.
“That was the closest squeak we’ll ever have without being ragged cold,” murmured Dalzell tremulously.
“Where is Pennington?” demanded Dave, wheeling about after he had watched the Naval lieutenant out of sight.
“Ducked out of sight, like a submarine,” chuckled Dan.
At that moment the call for midshipmen’s dinner formation sounded. Dave and Dan were ready.
Pennington showed up just after the line had started to march into the midshipmen’s mess tables.