As Dave, his face flushing more hotly than ever, read through these lines he was conscious of the jeering gaze of the upper class men. He was interrupted, at times, by cries of fervid but mock admiration.
“I feel,” announced Mr. Hurlburt, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief, “that I am indeed honored in being one of the humbler students at this great school on which our beloved comrade has shed the luster of his presence.”
“It seems almost profane to look at such a young man, except through smoked glasses,” protested Midshipman Heath.
“What’s your name, mister?” demanded Midshipman Brooks.
“Darrin, sir,” Dave answered, with the becoming meekness of a fourth class man.
“Any relative of the Darrin mentioned in the elegy you have just been reading?”
“I hope not, sir,” replied Dave, fighting to stifle a grin, though it was a sheepish one.
“Mister,” stormed Midshipman Denton, “you are attempting to deceive us!”
Dave gazed meekly but inquiringly at the last speaker.
“You are trying to evade the fact that you are the real Darrin, the identical hero whom the ‘Bazoo’ so lovingly, so reverently describes. Deceit fills your system, mister! You will stand on your head long enough to let it run out of you.”
Midshipman Paulson, though an inveterate “runner” of fourth class men, had some regard for the dangers of overstaying the visit, and kept his left eye on the time.
Darrin, standing on his head, became redder of face than ever, for all the blood in his body seemed to be running downward. At last he became so unsteady that twice his feet slipped along the wall, and he had to return to his attitude of standing on his head.
“Better let up on the beast, Paulson,” murmured Midshipman Brooks.
“Yes,” agreed Paulson. “The warning bell will go in a minute more. Mister, on your feet!”
Dave promptly returned to normal attitude, standing respectfully at attention.
“Mister,” continued Paulson, “you will be allowed to retain this marked copy of the ‘Bazoo.’ You are warned to keep it out of sight, ordinarily, that none of the discipline officers may find it. But you will continue to refer to it several times daily, until you are sure that you have committed all of the marked paragraphs to heart, so that you can reel them off in song or in declamation. And you will be prepared, at all times, to favor any of the upper class men with these selections, whenever called for. Good night, mister!
“Good night, sir.”
Dave returned the salutations of each of the departing visitors. Just as Brooks, the last of the lot, was passing through the doorway, the warning bell before taps sounded.
For a moment Dave Darrin, his face still red, stood behind the closed door, shaking his fist after the departing visitors.
“Why didn’t you shake your fist while they were in the room?” asked Dalzell bluntly.