Ta-ra-ra-ta-ra-ta! sounded musically in the corridors.
“Supper formation, by Jove!” gasped Dan.
Farley and Page fled without a word. Soon the “decks” of Bancroft Hall swarmed with young life. Then, outside, to seaward, the brigade fell in by companies.
Military commands rang out briskly, roll was called, reports made and the brigade marched in to supper.
What a joyous, noisy affair it was. Some license in the way of boisterousness was allowed this evening, and most of the young men took full advantage of the fact.
Swat! A slice of bread, soaked in a glass of water and kneaded into a soppy ball, struck Dalzell full in the back of the neck, plastering his collar and sending a sticky mess down his spine.
“I’ll fight the man who did that,” promised Midshipman Dan, wheeling around. Then added cautiously:
“If he’s a graduate.”
There being, naturally, no graduates present except the officer at the furthest corner of the mess hall, Dan’s challenge provoked laughter.
Many other pranks were played, but there is not room to record them here. The meal over and the brigade dismissed, some of the midshipmen—there were nearly eight hundred of them—went to their own quarters, or visited the rooms of cronies. Hundreds took the air in the grounds.
Almost the sole topic was football. Hepson speedily had most of the members of the big squad gathered about him. Others, who could not hope to “make” in football, gathered near-by, as though afraid of losing some of the talk.
“Remember, gentlemen, until the Army game is over, it’s to be nothing this year but work, work, work!” warned Midshipman Hepson, with intense earnestness.
With nothing but football in the air, Dan soon caught the infection even more deeply than his chum.
“Hang it, I’m a dub,” groaned Dan. “Lots of the fellows gave up their leave in order to be here and practise. Why in the mischief didn’t I?”
“For the same reason that perhaps I didn’t sacrifice leave,” replied Dave. “I wasn’t asked to. And you weren’t, either, were you?”
“No; but I wish I had flung myself at Hepson’s head, and made him take me, instead of going off to Gridley like a deserter! It’s October now, and what earthly chance, Dave, have you and I to get in shape?”
“We’ll do our best, Danny boy, or stay off the line. There’s nothing to be gained by losing our heads. Regrets will be equally worthless.”
“Hepson,” called one midshipman, “has anyone invented the Navy yells for this year?”
“Yells?” repeated the football captain scornfully. “It’s more to the purpose to fit ourselves to do something worth yelling about!”
“Has Hepson got the blues?” asked another midshipman.
“Or only the rattles?”
Football was still in the air, dominating the minds of the midshipmen when a turn of the master switch shut off the lights at taps.