This letter he showed Belle.
“It is the first step, on my side in the matter,” he explained with a smile.
“I should think the Secretary of the Navy ought to be satisfied with your answer and drop it at once,” replied Belle.
“But you think he won’t?”
“It is likely, Belle, that there will be a court of inquiry at least.”
“Oh, dear!” cried Belle, a few tears gleaming in her eyes now. “Why should so much fuss be made over the matter?”
“Because I am being trained to be an officer in the Navy. An officer must be a gentleman as well. Any charge affecting a Naval officer’s honor or courtesy must be investigated, in order that the government may know whether the accused is fit to hold an officer’s commission. The government wouldn’t be dealing justly with the people if such standards were not observed.”
“And I am the cause of all this trouble for you?” cried Belle.
“No, Belle, you are not. You have nothing to do with the matter, except indirectly. Ardmore is the one responsible for the trouble. If he had not insulted you he wouldn’t have gotten into any difficulty.”
“It seems too bad, just the same.”
“It’s annoying; that’s all,” Dave assured her. “If I had to do the same thing over again, for the same reason, I’d do it cheerfully.”
Mrs. Meade heard of it all, from her daughter. Without saying a word as to her intentions the mother herself wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy. Mrs. Meade set forth the persistent fashion in which Ardmore had sought to force his attentions upon Belle, to the latter’s great annoyance. Mrs. Meade’s letter declared that Darrin had taken the only possible means of saving Belle from future annoyance. The mother’s letter to the Secretary concluded by offering to procure statements from other people on the subject if the Secretary wished.
Mrs. Meade received a prompt reply from Washington. The Secretary thanked her for her statements and expressed entire belief in them.
By the same mail Caspar Ardmore, just returned to Gridley, received this letter:
“Referring to your letter and complaint bearing date of September 6, the Department has to advise you that other statements have also been received bearing upon your accusations of an assault alleged to have been committed upon your person by Midshipman David Darrin.
“It is claimed by the signers of other statements, including that of Midshipman Darrin, that you grossly insulted a young woman under his escort and completed the insult by accusing her of falsehood. If these statements be true, and there be no other important circumstances, except the assault, the Department begs to advise you that, had not Midshipman Darrin resented the gross insult tendered the woman under his protection, he would thereby, by such inaction, have rendered himself liable to dismissal from the Navy. It is always the first duty of a gentleman to afford ample protection to any woman under his escort and care.