“I don’t want to beat about the bush, and, on the other hand, I don’t want to do you any injustice, Mr. Jetson, I thought perhaps you would be willing to help me out by proffering your midshipman’s word of honor—”
“And I,” rejoined Jetson in cold anger, “consider it insulting, sir, that I should be asked to pledge my word of honor.”
“That is an extreme position to take,” protested Dan. “No good man, when appearances are against him, should be afraid to offer his word of honor.”
“Suppose,” sneered Jetson, in suppressed fury, “I should go to the other extreme, and say that I did it on purpose?”
“Then I’d knock you down, like a dog,” Dan answered directly and simply, “and next call on the men here to drive you forth from the brigade.”
“If you think you could knock me down,” quivered Midshipman Jetson, “you’d better go ahead and find out whether your guess is correct. Dalzell, you’ve been highly insulting, and I don’t mind declaring that a fight with you would suit me, at present, better than anything that I can think of.”
“Then you have your recourse, in a challenge,” Dan hinted promptly.
“What’s the need of a challenge, seconds—or of anything but fists? I don’t need them.”
“The brigade claims some supervision over fights between the men here,” Dan replied. “I intend to demand that the class take up, as a class matter, the mishap to Darrin this afternoon.”
“You—you hound!” panted Jetson, in a sudden flare-up of anger.
“Careful!” warned Dalzell, clenching his fists and facing his man squarely.
With a snort of rage Jetson launched himself forward, aiming two blows at Dan.
Dan parried the blows coolly, but his eyes flashed.
He had not lost control of himself, but he was warming up to the instinct of fighting when no other course seemed open.
A narrow squeak with the O.C.
Jetson’s next blow grazed Midshipman Dalzell’s chin. The follow-up blow landed on Dan’s left ear.
Now Dalzell “sailed in” in earnest. He attacked forcefully and swiftly. Jetson was forced to give ground. Dan pursued him around the room. Being no coward, Jetson stood well up to the work, driving in for himself at least two out of every five blows that were landed.
Rap-tap-tap! sounded on the door, but neither combatant heard.
Smash! Dan’s forceful right landed on Jetson’s neck, sending that midshipman to the floor, whereupon Dalzell sprang back three paces.
“Take your time getting on to your feet,” called Dan in a low voice.
“I don’t want any time,” snapped Jetson, leaping to his feet.
The words of both speakers were heard at the door, and the visitor who had knocked now promptly entered.
Fortunate it was for the combatants facing each other that the intruder was not one of the discipline officers. Had it been, both midshipmen would have been reported at once under charges that would have borne serious results.