Then twice in succession the champion of the third class was knocked down.
Neither, however, was a knockout blow.
Dave took plenty of time, within his rights, about leaping to his feet, and in each instance got away from Treadwell’s leaping assault.
Just after the second knock-down, time was called for the end of the round.
“You’ll get him yet, Darry,” was Page’s prediction, but he did not speak as hopefully as before.
Farley, too, was full of loyalty for his friend and fellow-classman, but he did not allow this to blind his judgment. Farley’s opinion was that Dave was done for, unless he could land some lucky fluke in a knockout blow.
“Go right in and land that youngster,” Treadwell’s own seconds were advising him. “Don’t let him have the satisfaction of standing up to you for three whole rounds or more.”
“Do you think that little teaser is as easy as he looks?” growled Treadwell.
“Oh, Darrin is all right at his own weight,” admitted Midshipman Conners. “But he has no business with you, Tread. You’re quick enough, too, when you exert yourself. So jump right in and finish it before this round is over.”
“I’ll try it, then,” nodded Treadwell.
Though he had not the slightest notion that he was to be defeated, this big top classman was learning a new respect for Darrin’s prowess. He could thrash Dave, of course, but Treadwell did not expect to do it easily.
For the first twenty seconds of the third round the two men sparred cautiously. Dave had no relish for standing the full force of those sledge-hammer blows, while Treadwell knew that he must look out for the unexpected from his still nimble opponent.
“Lie down when you’ve had enough,” jeered Treadwell, as he landed a jolt on one of the youngster’s shoulders and sent him reeling slightly.
Dave, however, used his feet well enough to get away from the follow-up.
“Are you getting tired?” Darrin shot back at his opponent.
“Silence, both of you,” commanded Referee Edgerton. “Do all your talking with your fists!”
Just then Treadwell saw an opening, and followed the referee’s advice by aiming a blow at Dave’s left jaw. It landed just back of the ear, instead, yet with such force that Dave sank dizzily to the ground, while Treadwell drew back from the intended follow-up.
Farley and Page looked on anxiously from their corner. Midshipman Wheeler, scanning his watch, was counting off the seconds.
“—five, six, seven, eight, nine—ten!”
At the sound of eight Dave Darrin had made a strenuous effort to rise.
Yet he had swayed, fallen back slightly, then forced himself with a rush to his feet.
But Midshipman Treadwell drew back, both fists hanging at his sides, for the “ten” had been spoken, and Dave Darrin had lost the count.
While Dave stood there, looking half-dizzily at his opponent, Referee Edgerton’s voice broke in crisply: