Which statement was wholly truthful.
“Up at West Point,” Laura continued, “Dick told us that the first two years were the hardest for a man to keep his place. I fancy it’s just about the same here, isn’t it?”
“Just about,” Dave nodded. “The first two years are hardest because it takes all that time for a fellow to get himself keyed up to the gait of study that is required in the government academies. But won’t you let us talk about something that’s really pleasant, girls?” Dave asked, with his charming smile. “Suppose we talk about yourselves. My, but you girls are good to look at!”
After that, the conversation was shifted to lighter subjects.
Even Dan, in the joy of meeting two girl friends from home, began to be less conscious of his load of misery.
Presently Mrs. Meade came down. She chatted with the two fine-looking young midshipmen for a few moments. Then Dave proposed:
“Wouldn’t you like us to escort you through the Academy grounds, so that you can get a good idea of the place in daylight?”
“We’ve been waiting only for you to invite us,” rejoined Belle.
For the next two hours the time was passed pleasantly.
But Belle, behind all her light chatter, was unusually keen and observing.
“Is anything wrong with either of you?” she asked Dave suddenly, when this pair were out of easy hearing of the others.
“Why do you ask that?” inquired Dave, looking at her in his direct fashion.
“Why, I may be unnecessarily sensitive, but I can’t help feeling that some sort of disaster is hanging over either you or Dan.”
“I hope not,” replied Darrin evasively.
“Dave, that isn’t a direct answer,” warned Belle, raising her eyebrows. “Do you consider me entitled to one?”
“Yes. What’s the question?”
“Are you in any trouble here?”
“No, I’m thankful to say.”
“Then is Dan!”
“Belle, I’d rather not answer that.”
“Well, because, if he is, I’d rather not discuss it.”
“Has Dan been caught in any scrape?”
“No. His conduct record is fine.”
“Then it must be failure in his studies.”
Dave did not answer.
“Why don’t you tell me?” insisted Belle.
“If anything were in the wind, Belle, we’d rather not tell you and spoil your visit. And don’t ask Dan anything about it.”
“I think I know enough,” went on Belle thoughtfully and sympathetically. “Poor Dan! He’s one of the finest of fellows.”
“There are no better made,” retorted Dave promptly.
“If anything happens to Dan here, dear, I know you will feel just as unhappy about it as if it happened to yourself.”
“Mighty close to it,” nodded Darrin. “But it would be a double heartbreak for me, if I had to leave.”
“On account of the future I’ve planned for you, Belle.”