“Should you deny the statements quoted above in favor of Midshipman Darrin, and should you further desire to have the matter brought to issue before a duly appointed court of inquiry, before which you would be required to appear as a material witness, this Department will be glad so to be advised. If you do not make formal application for the appointment of such court of inquiry within the next few days, no further action will be taken in the matter. Very respectfully,
“Your obedient servant,
“(Signed) LEOK B. Chambers,
“Secretary of the Navy.”
As he read, and realized how flat his charge had fallen, Ardmore’s face passed through several shades of red.
“Of all the government red tape!” he muttered wrathfully. “I didn’t think the fool Secretary would do anything like this. I thought he’d just call Darrin down hard and plenty, and perhaps bounce him out of the Naval Academy. Humph! I guess all these Navy folks stand together. There doesn’t seem to be much justice about it.”
Ardmore thereupon took another vacation away from Gridley. A few days after he went Midshipman Darrin received a brief communication from the Secretary of the Navy, stating that no further action had been taken by the accuser, and that the Department was satisfied that the midshipman’s conduct had been fully justified. Therefore the matter would not be called to the attention of the Naval Academy authorities for action.
“So you see,” smiled Dave, as he called at Belle’s home and handed her the letter, “there is never any need to be worried until trouble breaks in earnest.”
“Oh, I’m so glad!” cried Belle, her eyes shining with delight, “I hope you won’t meet that Ardmore fellow again while you’re home.”
“If I do,” promised Dave, “I shall merely look over his head when we meet, unless he repeats the offense that brought him that thrashing.”
Ardmore, however, did not appear in Gridley again during Dave’s leave of absence.
Dave and Dan tasted, to the full, the delights of life in the old home town until the day when it was necessary for them to take train and return to Annapolis.
“Mother, Laura and I will go down to Annapolis whenever we hear from you as to the best time for coming,” Miss Meade promised at the railway station.
Then she found chance to murmur, in a voice too low for any of the others present to hear:
“And I’ll try hard not to be such a goose as I was last winter!”
She referred to the trouble that had been made by another girl at Annapolis, the circumstances of which are wholly familiar to the readers of the earlier volumes of this series.
“I don’t blame you for the way you felt last winter,” Dave assured her heartily, “Next time, however, I hope you’ll come to me first for an explanation.”
“There isn’t going to be any next time, Dave.”
Three minutes later two midshipmen were being whirled through the city limits of Gridley.