“Then it is an official order, and can’t be dodged,” laughed the commandant pleasantly. “But, Mr. Darrin, you were crew captain this afternoon. Lieutenant Edgecombe wishes to secure your official report of the accident. He will reduce it to writing, read it over to you, a then you will sign it.”
“Very good, sir,” responded Dave briefly.
The Navy lieutenant’s questions drew out only the simplest account of the affair. Of all the heavy, swift work he had done for the safety of his crew after the foundering Dave gave only the barest sketch. Lieutenant Edgecombe then wrote down a brief, dry recital of fact, read it over, and Darrin signed it.
During this time the commandant of midshipmen had sat by, a quiet listener.
“Mr. Darrin,” said Commander Jephson, at last, “I am obliged to say that, in some respects, your report does not agree with that of members of your crew.”
“I have made a truthful statement, sir, just as I recall the incidents of the affair,” replied Dave, flushing to the temples.
“Don’t jump too speedily at false conclusions, Mr. Darrin,” cautioned the commandant. “My remark is founded on the statement, made by other midshipmen of your crew, that you displayed the utmost judgment and coolness, with great bravery added. That you clung to Mr. Page to the last, and even went below with him at the almost certain risk of being drowned yourself.”
“You didn’t expect me, sir, to include any praise of myself, in my official report?” questioned Darrin.
“You have me there, Mr. Darrin,” laughed the commandant, while the lieutenant turned to hide a smile. “I am quite satisfied with your official report, but I wish to ask you some questions, on my own account, about your own experience in rescuing Mr. Page.”
This it took some minutes to draw out. Darrin did not balk, nor try to conceal anything, but he had a natural aversion to singing his own praises, and answered questions only sparingly at first. Yet, at last, the commandant succeeded in drawing out a story, bit by bit, that made the old seadog’s eyes glisten with pride.
“Mr. Darrin,” announced the commandant, “from experience and observation, through a rather long life in the Navy, I am able to state that the kind of courage which enables a man go down in drowning with a comrade, sooner than leave the comrade to his fate, is the highest type of courage known among brave men!”
“You must have been aware, Mr. Darrin,” added Lieutenant Edgecombe, “that you were taking at least ninety-nine chances in a hundred of offering up your life.”
“Gentlemen,” replied Dave, rather restless under so much praise, “I have signed under the Flag, to give my life up for it at any time in the line of duty. Does it make very much difference in which year I turn that life over to the Flag?”
“Edgecombe,” said the commandant, rather huskily, as the two officers left the hospital, “I am glad—mighty glad—that we didn’t lose Darrin today. We are going to need him in the Navy of tomorrow!”