“Then I’ll be captain—if I’m asked,” promised Dan, with the grin that always lurked close to the surface of his face. While hundreds of midshipmen felt desperately blue on the homeward journey, Dalzell had already nearly forgotten his disappointment.
“You’ll never be asked,” predicted Hepson good-humoredly. “Danny boy, the trouble with you would be that the fellows would never know when you were in earnest. As captain of the eleven, you might start to give an order, and then nothing but a pun would come forth. You’re too full of mischief to win victories.”
“I hope that won’t be true if I ever have the luck to command a battleship in war time,” sighed Dalzell, becoming serious for four or five seconds. Then he bent forward and dropped a cold nickel inside of Joyce’s collar. The cold coin coursed down Joyce’s spine? causing that tired and discouraged midshipman to jump up with a yell.
“Why does the com. ever allow that five-year-old imp to travel with men?” grunted Joyce disgustedly, as he sat down again and now realized that the nickel was under him next to the skin.
“Danny boy,” groaned Dave, “will you ever grow up? Why do you go on making a pest of yourself?”
“Why, the fellows need some cheering up, don’t they?” Dan inquired.
“If you don’t look out, Danny boy, you’ll rouse them to such a pitch of cheerfulness that they’ll raise one of the car windows and drop you outside for sheer joy.”
The joy that had been manifest in Annapolis that morning was utterly stilled when the brigade reached the home town once more. True, the band played as a matter of duty, but as the midshipmen marched down Maryland Avenue in brigade formation they passed many a heap of faggots and many a tar-barrel that had been placed there by the boys of the town to kindle into bonfires with which to welcome the returning victors. But to-night the faggot-piles and the tar-barrels lay unlighted. In the dark this material for bonfires that never were lighted looked like so many spectral reminders of their recent defeat.
It hurt! It always hurts—either the cadets or the midshipmen—to lose the Army-Navy game.
Once back at quarters in Bancroft Hall, it seemed to many of the midshipmen as though it would have been a relief to have to go to study tables to work. Yet, since no work was actually required on this night, none was done.
Midshipmen wandered about in their own rooms and visited. The more they realized the defeat, the bluer they became. From some rooms came sounds of laughter, but it was hollow.
Farley got out a banjo, breaking into a lively darky reel. Yet, somehow, the sound was mournful.
“Please stop that dirge and play something cheerful!” begged the voice of a passing midshipman.
“Put the lyre away, Farl,” advised Page. “Nothing sounds happy to-night.”
“We love to sing and dance. We’re happy all the day—ha, ha!” wailed Dan Dalzell. He wasn’t so very blue himself, but he was trying to keep in sympathy with the general tone of feeling.