A good deal of time, however, had been consumed. By the time that Midshipman Dave Darrin returned to the hop the orchestra was just breaking into the strains of “Home, Sweet Home.”
Dave’s quick glance roved the floor and the seats. He beheld Belle Meade, seated at the side, while Farley bent over her in an inviting attitude. Darrin quickly reached the scene. Belle saw him coming, just in time to refrain from taking Farley’s arm.
“You won’t mind this time, will you, Farl?” Dave asked, smiling.
“I had given you up,” said Belle, as they moved away together in the dance.
“Of course Dan told you what had delayed me.”
“He told me you would return as soon as you could,” replied Miss Meade, “but he was provokingly mysterious as to the cause of your absence.”
“There was a little trouble,” Dave whispered.
“Are you in trouble?” asked Belle quickly, her cheeks paling.
“No; I think not. By trouble I mean that I just took part in a fight.”
“So you took the time when I am here as the most suitable occasion for a fight?” asked Belle, her color coming back and heightening.
“It isn’t wise for me to explain it now, Belle,” Dave told her quickly. “You won’t blame me when you know. But I’d rather save it for telling when we are out of the Academy grounds.”
“Oh, just as you like. Dave, we mustn’t let anything spoil what’s left of this last short dance of the night.”
“Thank you, Belle. These dances together don’t happen any too frequently.”
It was when the young people were walking back to the Maryland Hotel, and Mrs. Meade had joined Dan and Laura, that Belle again asked the nature of the trouble that had deprived Darrin of three of his dances with her.
Dave told the story, briefly, adding:
“Under the midshipmen’s code, the blow had to be struck when the lie was passed.”
“I don’t blame you for knocking the fellow down,” Belle agreed indignantly. “What a worthless fellow that Mr. Jetson must be!”
“Do you know, Belle, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that he is worthless?”
“His conduct shows it,” argued the girl.
“At first thought it would appear so but Jetson, I believe, is only the victim of an unhappy temper that makes him suspicious and resentful. He’s brave enough, and he’s never been caught in a dishonorable trick.”
“Except the tricks he played on you at the football practice.”
“He passed his word that he intended no trick, and I have been wholly inclined to take his word in the matter.”
“Dave, you must look out for this man Jetson! He’s going to get you into some trouble before you’re through with him,” exclaimed Belle earnestly. All her instinct was aroused in the matter, for Dave Darrin’s success was dearer to Belle Meade than was anything else in the world.
“There are two things that I regret very much to-night,” Dave went on. “One was that Jetson should provoke such a senseless dispute, and the other that I should be obliged to miss so much of your company here at Annapolis.”