In the shadow of this building, not far away, stood an officer whom neither of the enlisted men of the Navy saw; else they would have saluted him.
That officer, Lieutenant Willow, U.S. Navy, listened with a good deal of interest.
Mr. Willow was one of those officers who are known as duty-mad. He gathered that there had been a fight, so he deemed it his duty to report the fact at once to the discipline officer in charge over at Bancroft Hall.
Regretting the necessity, yet full of the idea of doing his duty, Lieutenant Willow wended his way promptly towards the office of the officer in charge.
THE OFFICER IN CHARGE IS SHOCKED
Through the main entrance of Bancroft Hall, into the stately corridor, Lieutenant Willow picked his way.
He looked solemn—unusually so, even for Lieutenant Willow, U.S.N. He had the air of a man who hates to do his duty, but who is convinced that the heavens would fall if he didn’t.
To his left he turned, acknowledging smartly the crisp salute given him by the midshipman assistant officer of the day.
Into the outer office of the officer in charge stepped Mr. Willow, and thence on into the smaller room where Lieutenant-Commander Stearns sat reading.
“Oh, good evening, Willow,” hailed Lieut. Stearns heartily.
“Good evening, Stearns,” was the almost moody reply.
“Sit down and let’s have a chat I’m glad to see you,” urged Lieutenant-Commander Stearns.
Mr. Stearns, he of the round, jovial face, gazed at his junior with twinkling eyes.
“Willow,” he muttered, “I’m half inclined to believe that you’ve come to me to make an official report.”
“I guess I have,” nodded Lieutenant Willow.
“And against some unfortunate midshipman, at that!”
“Against two, at least,” sighed Mr. Willow, “and there were others involved in the affair.”
“It must be something fearful,” said Mr. Stearns, who knew the junior officer’s inclination to be duty-mad. “But, see here, if you make an official report you’ll force me to take action, even though it’s something that I’d secretly slap a midshipman on the shoulder for doing. No—don’t begin to talk yet, Willow. Try a cigar and then tell me, personally, what’s worrying you. Then perhaps it won’t be altogether needful to make an official report.”
“I never was able to take you—er—somewhat jovial views of an officer’s duty, Stearns,” sighed Lieutenant Willow.
Nevertheless, he selected a cigar, bit off the end, lighted it and took a few whiffs, Lieutenant-Commander Stearns all the while regarding his comrade in arms with twinkling eyes.
“Now, fire ahead, Willow,” urged the officer in charge, “but please don’t make your communication an official one—not at first. Fire ahead, now, Willow.”