“Then undoubtedly you chanced to glance at an officer of the Navy,” Darrin replied, sarcastically soothing. “Brace up, Dan.”
“But he’s only a kid!” remonstrated Dan. “And he wear a lieutenant’s insignia!”
“Bosh! Some officers are quite boyish-looking,” remarked Farley. “Come on out, fellows; I haven’t forgotten how to salute an officer when I see one.”
The others, except Dan, started briskly for the entrance. As for Dalzell, he brought up the rear, grumbling:
“All right; you fellows go on out and see whether you see him. If you don’t, then I’m going to report myself at hospital without delay. Really, I can’t swear that I saw—–it.”
But at that moment the object of Dan’s alarm reached one of the doors of the entrance of Bancroft Hall and stepped briskly inside.
This new-comer’s glance fell upon the knot of midshipmen, and he glanced at them inquiringly, as though to see whether these young men intended to salute him.
Surely enough, the newcomer was decidedly boyish-looking, yet he wore the fatigue uniform and insignia of a lieutenant of the United States Navy. If he were masquerading, here was a dangerous place into which to carry his antics.
The five midshipmen brought their right hands hesitatingly to the visors of their uniform caps. The very youthful lieutenant smartly returned their salutes, half smiled, then turned, in search of the officer in charge.
“Scoot! Skip! Let’s escape!” whispered Dan hoarsely, and all five midshipmen were speedily out in the open.
“Now, did you fellows really see—–it—–or did I have a delusion that I saw you all salute when I did?”
“I saw it,” rejoined Farley, “and I claim it, if no one else wants it.”
“The service is going to the dogs,” growled Page, “when they give away a lieutenant’s uniform with a pound of tea!”
“What ails you fellows?” rebuked Dave Darrin. “The man who passed us was a sure-enough lieutenant in the Navy.”
“Him?” demanded Midshipman Dalzell, startled out of his grip on English grammar. “A lieutenant? That—–that—–kid?”
“He’s a lieutenant of the Navy, all right,” Dave insisted.
“You’re wrong,” challenged Page. “Don’t you know, Dave, that a man must be at least twenty-one years old in order to hold an officer’s commission in the Navy?”
“That man who received our salutes is a Naval, officer,” Dave retorted. “I don’t know anything about his age.”
“Why, that little boy can’t be a day over seventeen,” gasped Dan Dalzell. “Anyway, fellows, I’m overjoyed that you all saw him! That takes a load off my mind as to my mental condition.”
“Whoever he is, he’s a Navy officer, and he has trod the bridge in many a gale,” contended Dave. “Small and young as he looks, that man had otherwise every bit of the proper appearance of a Navy officer.”