The gloom that now hung over Dave Darrin was the thickest, the blackest that he had ever encountered in his short life.
He was fully convinced, of course, that his troubles were the work of some determined and unscrupulous enemy or enemies.
Yet he was equally convinced that he was not likely to catch the plotter against his happiness. He and Dan had already done all that seemed to be in their power.
On the Saturday afternoon following the tobacco incident the first ray came to light up the gloom—though it did not take away any of awesome demerits that had piled up against him.
Dave and Dan were standing chatting in a group of about a score of fourth class men when Farley and Page stepped briskly in their direction.
Dave glanced at the pair in some astonishment, for it was weeks since he had been on speaking terms with either of them, and now both looked as though about to address him.
“One moment gentlemen, all, if you please,” called out Midshipman Farley. “Let no one leave just now. I have something to say that I wish to make as public as possible.”
Then, turning toward the astonished Darrin, Mr. Farley continued:
“Darrin, I got into a bad scrape once, and I accused you of carrying the information that resulted in several others and myself being detected. I was positive in my charge. I now wish to make you the most public apology that is possible. I know now that you did not in any way betray myself and my companions.”
“I am glad you have come to this conclusion,” Dave Darrin replied.
“It is not exactly a conclusion,” replied Farley frankly. “It is a discovery.”
“How did you find it out, Farley?” asked Dan Dalzell, speaking to that midshipman for the first time in many weeks.
“I have the word of the watchman who caught us. That is old Grierson, and there isn’t a more honest old fellow in the yard.”
“Did you ask Grierson, Farley?” questioned another midshipman gravely.
“No; for that would be to pile on another offense,” replied Farley readily. “I am well enough aware that a midshipman has no right to go to a watchman about a matter in which the watchman has reported him. But a civilian is under no such restrictions. As some of you fellows know, my cousin, Sloan, was here at the Academy yesterday. Now, Ben Sloan is a newspaper man, and a fellow of an inquiring disposition. I told Ben something about the scrape I had been in, and Ben soon afterward hunted up Grierson. Grierson told Ben the whole truth about it. It seems that Grierson did not have any information from anyone. He saw our crowd go over the fence the night we Frenched it. But Grierson was too far away to catch any of us, or recognize us. So he made no alarm, but just waited and prowled until we came back. He heard the noise we made trying to get up over the wall from the outside, and ran down to that part of the wall. He didn’t make any noise, and stood in the shrubbery until we had all dropped over. Then he stepped out, looked us over quickly and demanded our names. He had us ragged cold, so there was nothing to do but give him our names. Now, there’s the whole story fellows, and I’m mighty glad I’ve got at the truth of it.”