“You have thought the matter carefully out in making this statement, have you, Mr. Dalzell?” asked the superintendent.
“I have, sir.”
“Have you any explanation to offer for falling below the standards so far this year, Mr. Dalzell?”
“I believe, sir, that I make a much slower start, with new studies, than most of my classmates,” Dan continued, speaking more rapidly now, but in a most respectful manner. “Once I begin to catch the full drift of new studies I believe that I will overtake some of my classmates who showed a keener comprehension at the first. I think, sir, and gentlemen, that my record, as contrasted with the records of some of my classmates who achieved about the same standing I did for last year will bear my statement out.”
[Illustration: “Have You Any Explanation to Offer, Mr. Dalzell?”]
The superintendent turned to a printed pamphlet in which were set forth the records of the midshipmen for the year before.
“Mr. Dalzell,” asked another member of the Board, “do you feel that you are really suited for the life of the Navy? Is it your highest ambition to become an officer of the Navy?”
“It’s my only ambition, sir, in the way of a career,” Dan answered solemnly. “As to my being suited for the Navy, sir, I can’t make a good answer to that. But I most earnestly hope that I shall have an opportunity, for the present, to try to keep myself in the service.”
“And you feel convinced that you need only to be carried for the balance of the term to enable you to make good, and to justify any action that we may take looking to that end?” asked another member of the Board.
“That is my firm conviction, sir.”
The superintendent, who had been silently examining and marking some statements in the pamphlet, now passed it to the nearest member of the Board, who, after a glance or two, passed the pamphlet on to another member.
Silence fell upon the room while Dan’s printed record was being read.
“Have you anything else that you wish to say, Mr. Dalzell?” asked the superintendent at last.
“Only this, sir and gentlemen,” replied Dan promptly. “If I am permitted to go on with the brigade, I promise, as far as any human being may promise, that I will not only be found to have passed at the end of this term, but that I will also have a higher marking after the annual examinations than after the semi-annuals.”
These last few words Dan spoke with his whole soul thrown into the words. How he longed to remain in the Navy, now that he stood at the threshold of the life, uncertain whether he was about to be kicked across it into the outer world!
After glancing around the table, the superintendent turned once more to the young man.
“That will be all, at present, Mr. Dalzell.”
Saluting briskly, crisply, Dan wheeled about, marching from the room.
He was in time to make a section recitation before dinner.