“No; it’s the way away from it.”
“But you had permission to visit at the Prestons.”
“That isn’t any news to me,” grunted Dalzell.
“Then—–pardon me—–but why aren’t you there?”
“Are you the officer of the day?” demanded Dan moodily.
“No; merely your best friend.”
“I beg your pardon, Dave. I am a grouch tonight.”
“Wasn’t Miss Preston at home.”
“I—–I don’t know.”
“Don’t know? Haven’t you been there?”
“Yes; but I didn’t ask-----”
As Dan hesitated Dave rested both hands on his chum’s shoulders, looking sharply into that young man’s eyes.
“Danny, you act as though you were loco. (crazy). What on earth is up? You went to call on Miss Preston. You reached the house, and evidently you left there again. But you don’t know whether Miss Preston was in; you forgot to ask. Let me look in at the answer to the riddle.”
“Dave—–Miss Preston is going to be married!”
“Most girls are going to be,” Darrin replied quietly. “Do you mean that Miss Preston is going to marry some one else than yourself?”
Dave Darrin whistled.
“So this is the meaning of your desperation? Danny boy, if you’re stung, I’m sincerely sorry for you.”
“I don’t quite know whether I want any sympathy,” Dan replied, though he spoke rather gloomily. “Perhaps I’m to be congratulated.”
He laughed mirthlessly, then continued:
“When a girl will treat a fellow like that, isn’t it just as well to find out her disposition early?”
“Perhaps,” nodded Darrin. “But Danny, do you mean to say that you attempted to pay your call without an appointment?”
“What was the need of an appointment?” demanded Dan. “Miss Preston invited me to call at any time—–just drop in. Now, she must know that Saturday evening is a midshipman’s only chance at this time of the year.”
“Nevertheless, you were wrong at that point, in the game,” Dave went on gravely. “Unless you’re on the best of terms with a young lady, don’t attempt to call on her without having learned that your purpose will be agreeable to her. And so Miss Preston, while receiving your calls, has been engaged to some one else?”
Dan nodded, adding, “She might have given me some hint, I should think.”
“I don’t know about that,” Darrin answered thoughtfully. “Another good view of it would be that a young lady’s private affairs are her own property. Didn’t she ever mention the lucky fellow to you?”
“It seems that she did,” Dalzell assented. “But I thought, all the time, that she was talking about her brother.”
“Why should you especially think it was her brother whom she was mentioning?”
“Because she seemed so mighty fond of the fellow,” Dan grunted.