“Wasn’t that a midshipman?” gasped Dan, in a whisper.
“That gentleman is a lieutenant in the Navy,” replied the clerk, with a slight smile.
Crestfallen Dan hurried back to Darrin, brushing off his sleeves with his hands as he walked.
“Served you right; you must get over being fresh,” Dave Darrin rebuked his chum. “But what is the matter with your sleeves?”
“I’m brushing the frost off of them,” murmured Dan dejectedly. “Did you notice the ice-bath that fellow threw over me?”
“Come out for a walk,” urged Dave. “But be careful where you step and what you say to others.”
The two young men strolled down the street.
“Well,” smiled Darrin, “I must say, Dan, that you appear to be getting all over your nervousness.”
“No; I’m still nervous,” protested Dan. “Before, I was afraid I wouldn’t get into the Naval Academy. Now, I’m only afraid that I shall.”
“What nonsense are you talking now?” demanded Darrin, giving his chum a sharp look.
“Why, if they’re all going to be as chesty as that near-officer I spoke to in the hotel,” blinked Dan, “I’m not so sure that I want to go in with the bunch.”
“That officer wasn’t either chesty or snobbish,” rejoined Darrin.
“Then you will kindly explain what he tried to do to me?”
“That’s easy enough. That Naval officer recognized in you a rather common type—the too-chummy and rather fresh American boy. Down here in the service, where different grades in rank exist, it is necessary to keep the fresh greenhorn in his place.”
“Oh!” muttered Dan, blinking hard.
“As to your not wanting to go into the service,” Dave continued, “if you should fail, tomorrow, in your physical examination, you would be as blue as indigo, and have the blue-light signal up all the way back home.”
“I don’t know but that is so. Yes; I guess it is,” Dalzell assented.
“Now, there are at least ninety-nine chances in a hundred that you’re going to pass the Navy doctors all right, Dan,” his chum went on. “If you do, you’ll be sworn into the Naval service as a midshipman. Then you’ll have to keep in mind that you’re not an admiral, but only a midshipman—on probation, at that, as our instructions from the Navy Department inform us. Now, as a new midshipman, you’re only the smallest, greenest little boy in the whole service. Just remember that, and drop all your jolly, all your freshness and all your patronizing ways. Just listen and learn, Dan, and study, all the time, how to avoid being fresh. If you don’t do this, I’m mighty confident that you’re up against a hard and tough time, and that you’ll have most of the other midshipmen down on you from the start.”
“Any more ‘roast’ for me?” asked Dalzell plaintively.
“No; for, if you need any more, you’ll get it from other midshipmen, who don’t know you as well as I do, and who won’t make any allowances for your greenness and freshness.”