To the inquiry of the officer in charge, Pen lamely explained that he had bumped his nose into something hard in a poorly lighted passageway.
Though the officer accepted the excuse, he smiled within himself.
“It wasn’t iron or steel that bumped that young man’s nose,” thought the officer.
“Oh, the middies haven’t changed a lot since I boned at Annapolis!”
Pennington’s nose was no very lovely member of his face at that moment. It had been struck hard, mashed rather flat, and now looked like a red bulb.
“Meet with an accident, Pen?” asked Hallam curiously at table.
“Quit your kidding, please,” requested Pennington sulkily.
That directed the curious glances of other middies at Pennington’s new bulbous nose.
The young man was so brusque about it, however, that other table mates ceased quizzing him.
Yet, as soon as the meal was over, many a youngster asked others of his class for news regarding Pen. But none possessed it.
During the brief rest that followed the meal, however, Midshipman Pennington made it his business to try to meet Dave Darrin alone. He succeeded, finding Dave staring off across the water at the port rail.
“Of course, Mr. Darrin,” began the other midshipman, in a voice suggestive of ice, “you are aware that the incident of an hour ago cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed.”
“I don’t believe there’s any danger of that,” retorted Darrin, with an ironical glance at Pennington’s damaged-looking nose.
“Confound you, sir,” hissed the other midshipman, “don’t you dare to be insolent with me.”
“Why, I had thought,” observed Dave, “that, of your own choice, the period of courtesies between us had passed.”
“I shall call you out, Mr. Darrin!”
“You’ll find my hearing excellent,” smiled Dave. “I shall make but one stipulation.”
“I’ll do you the favor of asking what that stipulation is,” sneered Pennington.
“Why, after the narrow escape we had from being caught and reported, an hour or so ago, I shall ask that the fight be held where we are not so likely to be caught at it. I don’t care about being dropped from the Naval Academy, nor do I believe you do.”
“It would be a good thing for the service, if one of us were to be dropped,” sneered Pennington.
“Yes! Oh, well, you can easily procure writing materials from the captain’s clerk,” volunteered Dave generously. “On a cruise, I believe, a resignation is sent direct to the commandant of midshipmen.”
This ridicule served only to fan the flame of Pennington’s wrath.
“Darrin,” he hissed, “the Academy isn’t big enough to hold us both!”
“But I’ve already told you how to get out,” protested Dave coolly.
“I don’t intend to get out!”
“No more do I,” rejoined Dave. “I won’t even toss pennies with you to find out who quits the service.”