“Well—er—just between ourselves,” continued Lieutenant Willow slowly, “there has been a fight to-night between two midshipmen.”
Lieutenant-Commander Stearns struck his fist rather heavily against the desk.
“A fight—a real fight—with fists?” continued the officer in charge, in a tone of mock incredulity. “No, no, no, Willow, you don’t mean it—you can’t mean it!”
“Yes, I do,” rejoined the junior officer rather stiffly.
“Oh, dear, what is the service coming to?” gasped Stearns ironically. “Why, Willow, we never heard of such things when we were midshipmen here. Now, did we?”
“I’m afraid we did—sometimes,” admitted the junior officer. “But duty is duty, you know, my dear Stearns. And this was an unusual fight, too. The man who was whipped insisted on another fight right then and there, and—he won the second fight.”
“Bully!” chuckled the officer in charge. “Whew, but I wish I had been there!”
“Stearns, you surely don’t mean that?” gasped duty-mad Mr. Willow.
“You’re quite right, Willow. No; I certainly don’t want to be a spoilsport, and I’m glad I wasn’t there—in my official capacity. But I’d like to have been divested of my rank for just an hour so that I could have taken in such a scene as that.”
“I’m—I’m just a bit astonished at your saying it, Stearns,” rejoined Lieutenant Willow. “But then, you’re always joking.”
“Perhaps I am joking,” assented the officer in charge dryly, “but I never lose sight of the fact that our Navy has been built up, at huge expense, as a great fighting machine. Now, Willow, it takes fighting men to run a fighting machine. Of course, I’m terribly shocked to know that two midshipmen really had the grit to fight—but who were they! Mind you, I’m not asking you in an official way. This question is purely personal—just between ourselves. Who were the men? And, especially, who was the fellow who lost the decision, and then had the utter effrontery to demand a second chance at once, only to win the second fight?”
“Darrin was the man who lost the first fight and won the second,” replied Lieutenant Willow.
“Mr. Darrin? One of our youngsters! Yes; I think I know him. And what man of his class did he whip, the second time he tried!”
“It wasn’t a man of his own class. It was Mr. Treadwell, of the first class,” rejoined Lieutenant Willow.
“What?” almost exploded the officer in charge. “Did you say that Mr. Darrin fought with Mr. Treadwell, that husky top classman, and, losing the decision on the count, insisted on fighting again the same evening? Oh, say, what a fellow misses by being cooped up in an office like this!”
“But—but the breach of regulations!” stammered the duty-mad lieutenant.
“My dear fellow, neither you nor I know anything about this fight—officially. The Navy, after all, is a fighting machine. Do you feel that the Navy can afford to lose a fighting man like that youngster?”