True to his promise Freeman dropped in every fourth or fifth evening, to see if he could be of any help to the four youngsters. Always he found that he could be.
Even when Thanksgiving came, Dave Darrin did not go to Philadelphia, but remained at the Academy, devoting his time to study.
Dan, in sheer desperation, took in the trip to Philadelphia. He hoped to meet Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes, but they did not come down from West Point.
On the first day of December, Dan Dalzell’s name was formally reported by the Academic Board in a report to the superintendent which recommended that Midshipman Dalzell be dropped from the rolls for “inaptitude in his studies.”
Poor Dan. It was a staggering blow. Yet it struck Dave Darrin just about as hard.
THE FIRST HOP WITH THE HOME GIRLS
That report was allowed to reach Dan’s ears on a Friday.
On the evening of the day following there was to be a midshipman hop on the floor of the great gym.
Moreover, it was the very hop that Belle Meade and Laura Bentley had finally selected to attend. Mrs. Meade was coming with the girls as chaperon.
“Oh, but I shall feel fine and light hearted for going to the dance!” muttered Dan miserably. “Facing the kick-off from the Academy, and doing the light hearted and the fantastic toe with the girls.”
“I shan’t feel a whole lot more merry myself,” sighed Dave, as he gazed affectionately, wistfully at his chum. “Danny, this has hit me about as hard as it has you. And it warns me, too, that my turn will probably come next. I don’t stand an awful lot higher in my markings than you do.”
“Doesn’t it feel fine to be a bilger?” gulped Dalzell, staring at the floor.
A “bilger,” as has been already explained, is a midshipman who has failed and has been dropped.
“Oh, but you’re not a bilger, yet!” cried Darrin, leaping up and resting both hands on his chum’s shoulder.
“What’s the odds?” demanded Dan grimly. “I shall be, after I’ve been before the Board next Monday forenoon at ten o’clock.”
“Nonsense! Not if you make a good fight!”
“Fight—nothing!” sighed Dan wearily. “In a fight there’s some one else that you can hit back at. But I won’t have a blessed soul to fight. I’m up against a gang who are all referees, and all down on me at the outset.”
“Nonsense,” combatted Dave. “You——”
“Oh, that’s all right, David, little giant,” returned Dalzell with an attempt at cheeriness. “You mean well, but a fellow isn’t reported deficient unless he’s so far behind that the Board has his case settled in advance. From all I can hear it isn’t once in a camel’s age that a fellow so reported, and ordered before the Board, gets off with anything less than a hard, wet bilge. What I’m thinking of now is, what am I going to pick up as a career when I go home from here as a failure.”