It is offensive for a fourth class man to grin in the presence of an upper class man.
Moreover, two other youngsters had just stepped into the room to watch proceedings.
“Mister,” commanded the youngster whom Dan had answered, “wipe that grin off your face.”
Dalzell drew out his handkerchief, making several elaborate passes across his countenance with it.
“Touge!” growled his inquisitor.
“Very touge, indeed,” assented the other three youngsters.
“Why did you bring out your handkerchief, mister?”
“Just obeying orders,” replied Dan, with another grin.
“Wipe that grin off your face, sir!—no, not with your handkerchief!”
So Dalzell thrust the handkerchief away and applied his blouse sleeve to his face.
“Stop that, mister!
“Yes, sir,” replied Dalzell meekly.
“Don’t you know how to wipe a grin off your face?”
“I’m not sure, sir,” Dan admitted.
“Mister, you are wholly touge! I’m not sure but that you’re a ratey plebe as well.”
Thereupon Youngster Quimby plunged into a scathing lecture on the subject of a plebe being either touge or ratey. At first Dan listened with a becoming air of respect. Before long, however, a huge grin began to illumine Dalzell’s face.
“Wipe that grin off, mister!” commanded Mr. Quimby sternly.
“I—I simply can’t!” gasped Dan, then began to roar with laughter.
“Why can’t you?” insisted Quimby. “What’s the matter?
“It’s—it’s your face!” choked Dan.
“My face?” repeated Quimby, reddening “What do you mean, sir?”
“I—I—it would be a shame to tell you!” sputtered Dalzell between spasms of laughter.
Truth to tell, Midshipman Quimby did look funny when he attempted to be over-stern. Quimby’s face was one of his sensitive points, anyway. Yet it was not, strictly speaking, the face, but the look of precocious authority on that face which had sent Dan, with his keen sense of humor, off into spasms of laughter. But the youngster didn’t propose to see the point.
“Mister,” spoke Midshipman Quimby, with an added sternness of look that sent Dan off into another guffaw, “you have been guilty of insulting an upper class man. Your offense has been so serious—so rank—that I won’t accept an apology. You shall fight, mister!”
“When? Whom?” asked Dan, the big grin still on his face.
“Me, mister—and as soon as the thing can be pulled off.”
“Oh, all right, sir,” nodded Dalzell. “Any time you like, then, sir. I’ve been accustomed, before coming here, to getting most of my exercise out of fighting. But—pardon me, if I meet, I shall have to hit—pardon me—that face.”
“Call this plebe out, Quimby, and trim him in good shape,” urged one of the other youngsters present. “He’s touge all the way through. He’ll need trimming.”