“Surely, you fellows don’t believe, do you—” he stammered weakly, then paused.
“One thing we did notice, the other day,” continued Farley briskly, “was that, when Darrin was rescued from the sea and returned to us, you were about the only member of the class who didn’t go up to him and congratulate him on his marvelous escape.”
“Mr. Pennington, I haven’t the patience to talk with you now,” rejoined Farley, turning on his heel.
At that moment the yell started among the midshipmen nearer the rail. Farley, Dan, Hallam and others joined in the yell and rushed to better points of vantage.
Pennington tried to join in the cheer, but his tongue seemed fixed to the roof of his mouth. He stood clenching and unclenching his hands, his face an ashen gray in his deep humiliation.
“I don’t care what one or two fellows may say,” groaned Pennington. “But I don’t want the class to think such things of me.”
He was the most miserable man on board as the small boat came alongside. The boat, occupants and all, was hoisted up to the davits and swung in-board. To the officer of the deck, who stood near-by, Dave turned, with a brisk salute.
“I beg to report that I’ve come aboard, sir,” Darrin uttered.
“And very glad we are of it, Mr. Darrin,” replied the officer. “You will go to your locker, change your clothing and then report to the captain, sir.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
With another salute, Dave hastened below, followed by Dan Dalzell, who was intent on attending him.
Ten minutes later Dave appeared at the door of the captain’s cabin. Just a few minutes after that he came out on deck.
A crowd gathered about him, expressing their congratulations.
“Thank you all,” laughed Dave, “but don’t make so much over a middy getting a bath outside of the schedule.”
To the rear hung Pennington, waiting his chance. At last, as the crowd thinned, Pennington made his way up to Dave.
“Mr. Darrin, I have to apologize for my nonsense, which was the means of pushing you overboard. It was purely accidental, on my honor. I did not even know it was you at the stern, nor did I realize that my antics would result in pushing any one overboard. I trust you will do me the honor of believing my statement.”
“Of course I believe it, Mr. Pennington,” answered Darrin, opening his eyes.
“There are some,” continued Pennington, “who have intimated to me their belief that I did it on purpose. There may be others who half believe or suspect that I might, or would, do such a thing.”
“Nonsense!” retorted Dave promptly. “There may be differences, sometimes, between classmates, but there isn’t a midshipman in the Navy who would deliberately try to drown a comrade. It’s a preposterous insult against midshipman honor. If I hear any one make a charge like that, I’ll call him out promptly.”