Dave and Marian had paused directly in front of the lens of the camera. Maid Marian looked up and made a light, jesting remark, gazing straight into the midshipman’s eyes. Dave, smiling, bent forward to hear what she said.
Just then came the flash, and the photographer, his work finished for the time, gathered his paraphernalia together and left. The music recommenced and the dancing proceeded.
Three weeks later that photograph was reproduced as a double-page illustration in one of the prominent pictorial weeklies.
The day the magazine was on the newsstands Dan Dalzell bought a copy. Entering their quarters with it in his hand he opened it at the illustration and handed it to Dave.
“You and Miss Stevens show up better than any one else, Dave,” remarked Dan.
“The photograph is a good piece of work,” was Dave’s only comment. He did not wish to express the annoyance he felt when he noted the appearance of intimacy between him and Marian, whose beauty showed, even in this reproduction. “I’d a bit rather Belle shouldn’t see this paper,” he admitted to himself.
“David, old boy, this picture would make a good exhibit in a breach-of-promise suit.”
“That’s an unkind remark to make about a fine girl like Miss Stevens,” said Dave coldly.
Dan stared, then went off, pondering.
Belle Meade, in her Gridley home, received one day a large, square, thin package. She saw the mark of the Annapolis express office, and hastily snatched up scissors to cut the string. Out came a huge photograph.
“A picture of an Annapolis dance! How thoughtful of Dave to send it to me!” Then her eyes fell on two figures around which a ring had been drawn in ink. They were Dave Darrin and a pretty girl. On the margin of the card had been scrawled in bold letters:
“Your affair of the heart will bear close watching if you still cherish!”
This was signed, contemptibly and untruthfully, “A Friend.”
“Uh!” murmured Belle in hurt pride and loyalty. Then she said resolutely to herself: “I will pay no attention to this. An anonymous communication is always meant to hurt and to give a false impression.”
But there was the picture before her eyes of Dave and the pretty girl in seemingly great intimacy. So though she continued to write to the midshipman and tried hard to make her letters sound as usual, in spite of herself a coldness crept into them that Dave felt.
“She must have seen that pictorial weekly,” thought the boy miserably. But as Belle said nothing of this, he could not write of it.
The season was well along. Dave and Dan sent Belle Meade and Laura Bentley invitations to one of the later spring dances.
“I wonder if she’ll come or if she’s tiring of me,” thought Dave Darrin bitterly.
But Belle answered, accepting the invitation for Laura and herself.