As the music struck up, Farley and Page claimed consideration, Dave and Dan were left without partners.
“Nothing more doing for two dances, David, little giant,” murmured Midshipman Dalzell. “Suppose we slip into our overcoats and walk around outside.”
“I’d rather,” assented Darrin. “It’s dull in here when a fellow isn’t dancing.”
It was a night of unusually light attendance on the part of the fair sex, with a rather larger attendance than usual of midshipmen, for which reason Dave found many other midshipmen outside, strolling up and down.
“What we need, fellows,” called Joyce, coming up to the chums, “is a new regulation that no midshipman may attend a hop unless he drags a femme.”
“That would have shut you out of every hop so far this year,” laughed Dave.
“I know it,” Joyce admitted. “But I’m going to cut all hops after this, unless some real queen will favor me as her escort and agree to dance at least half the numbers with me. I’ve had only two dances this evening. It’s too tame. I’m going back to Bancroft Hall and stand ready to turn in at the first signal. What’s the use of hanging around at a hop when there’s only one girl to every five fellows?”
“You have suffered the just fate of the free lance,” remarked Dan Dalzell virtuously. “As for me, I never think of attending a hop unless I squire some femme thither.”
“There used to be girls enough last year,” complained Joyce. “Well, I’m off for home and bed.”
“We’ll stroll along up with you,” proposed Darrin.
“No girls for you, either?”
“Not for two numbers. Then we return to the young ladies that we escorted here.”
“Just to think,” grunted Joyce, sniffing in the salt air that reached them from the waterfront, “a good deal more than a year more here before we get regularly at sea.”
“It seems as though we’d been here a long time,” sighed Dave. “But I don’t suppose there was ever a midshipman yet who didn’t long to get away from Annapolis and into the real, permanent life on the wave. A West Point man must feel some of the same longing.”
“But he’s on the land at West Point,” objected Joyce, “and he’s still on land after he graduates and goes to some post. The Army cadet has no such glorious future to look forward to as has a midshipman.”
“Hello, here’s Jet,” called Dave as a midshipman enveloped in his overcoat approached them. “Going to the hop, Jet?”
“Will you do me a great favor?” asked Midshipman Jetson.
“Certainly, if possible,” agreed Dave cordially.
“Then mind your own business,” snapped the other midshipman.
Darrin, who had made it a point to forget the brief unpleasantness of the football season, received this rebuke with about the same feelings that a slap in the face would have given him.
The sulky midshipman had stepped past the trio, but Dave, after swallowing hard, wheeled about and hailed: