“But surely you don’t expect to whip Treadwell in your present condition?”
“I very likely shall get a thorough trouncing,” smiled Darrin.
“It’s madness,” broke in Page worriedly.
“I told you it was a personal matter,” laughed Dave softly. “I shan’t mind getting whacked if it is done up in good shape. It’s only this near-whipping to which I object.”
“Well—great Scott!” gasped Page.
“Hush!” warned Farley. “Here comes Edgerton.”
Midshipman Edgerton, looking very much puzzled, stepped over to Dave Darrin’s corner.
“Darrin,” began the referee in a friendly tone, “Tread doesn’t like the idea of fighting you again to-night.”
“Didn’t he say he would?” demanded Darrin.
“Yes; but of course, but—”
“I hold him to his word, Mr. Edgerton.”
“But of all the crazy—”
“I have my own reasons, sir,” Darrin interposed quietly. “I think it very likely, too, that Mr. Treadwell will comprehend my reasons.”
“But he doesn’t like the idea of fighting an already half-whipped man.”
“Will it get on his nerves and unsteady him?” asked Dave ironically.
“Are you bound to fight to-night, Mr. Darrin?”
“I am, sir.”
“Then I suppose it goes—it has to,” assented Midshipman Edgerton moodily. “But of all the irrational—”
“Just what I said, sir,” nodded Page.
“I shall be ready, sir, when the fifteen minutes are up,” continued Dave. “But I am certain that I shall need all the time until then for getting myself into first-class condition.”
“Darry is a fool—and a wonder!” ejaculated Edgerton under his breath, as he walked away.
“I’m sorry, Darry,” murmured Farley mournfully, “but—well, beat your way to it!”
“I intend to,” retorted Dave doggedly.
Rubbed down by his seconds, Dave drew on his blouse, without a shirt.
Quitting the others, Dave walked briskly back and forth. At last he broke into a jog-trot.
At last he halted, inflating and emptying his lungs with vigorous breathing.
“I feel just about as good as ever,” he declared, nodding cheerily to his seconds.
“Get off that blouse, then,” ordered Midshipman Farley, after a glance at his watch. “We’ve two minutes left out of the fifteen.”
“I’ll go forward at the scratch, then,” nodded Dave.
Treadwell, in the meantime, had pulled on his outer clothing and had stood moodily by, watching Dave’s more workmanlike preparations with a disdainful smile.
“I’ll get the fellow going quickly this time,” Mr. Treadwell told Conners. “As soon as I get him going I’ll dive in with a punch that will wind up the matter in short order. I’ve planned to do considerable reviewing of navigation to-night.”
“I hope you have your wish,” murmured Conners.
“What do you mean?”