Darrin and Henley were dressing like lightning, and the others would not flee until the principals were ready to take part in the flight.
“Henley,” broke in Midshipman Bailey decisively, “you can’t risk your graduation again by resuming this fight at some other time. As far as the mill had gone Mr. Darrin had the best of it. I award the fight to him.”
“I’m glad you do, Bailey,” replied Henley heartily. “And, as soon as I’m dressed, and my cap is set on square, I’m going to apologize and ask Mr. Darrin to shake hands with me.”
“Will you do me a favor, sir?” inquired Dave.
“A dozen,” agreed Henley instantly.
“Then, sir, cut the apology and confine it to the hand-shake.”
In another moment they were ready for hasty departure. But Dave had to wait for a quick, hearty handclasp from each of the upper class men. Then all divided into three groups, by classes, and thirty seconds later found these midshipmen too far from the scene to be identified with any fight party.
“It was a remarkably good and cheeky piece of work, sir,” Lieutenant Hall reported, twenty minutes later, to Commander Jephson, commandant of midshipmen. “I had a fight party right under my hands when that call of fire sounded. It was so natural that I bolted away and lost my party before I discovered that it was a hoax.”
“Did you recognize any of the fight party, Mr. Hall?
“No, sir; I was not close enough, and the night is dark.”
“Did you recognize the voice of the man who gave the fire-call?”
“No, sir; at any rate, I believe that the voice was disguised.”
“The young men have discovered a new one, and have tried it on you, Mr. Hall.”
“I realize that, sir,” replied the lieutenant, in a voice of chagrin.
It was now the time of annual examinations, of daily dress parade and the incoming of the first of the hosts of visitors who would be on hand during graduation week.
Of the annual examinations the poor fourth class men thought they had more than their share. Of the dress parades they had their full share. In the graduating exercises they took no part; they were not even present.
“What does a mere fourth class man know about the Navy, anyway?” was the way Midshipman Trotter asked the question.
Twenty-two of the fourth class men stumbled in their annual examinations. These went home promptly. They would not return again, unless their Congressmen reappointed them for another try. In case that happened to any of the young men they would return to take up life with the new fourth class, and would henceforth be known as “bilgers.”
A man who has been dropped is a “bilger,” whether he comes back or not. A “bilger” is further described as “one who used to be in the game, and is now only on the outside looking in.”
Dave Darrin’s standing for the year was two-eighty-seven. Dan’s was two-eighty-two. Farley and Page came close to that figure.