Dave, in the meantime, had saluted, then stood at attention until the Army officer had passed.
“There!” cried Belle triumphantly. “You have it from the other side, now—–from the enemy.”
“Hardly from the enemy,” replied Dave, laughing. “Between the United States Army and the United States Navy there can never be a matter of enmity. Annually, in football, the Army and Navy teams are opponents—–rivals, perhaps—–but never enemies.”
Mrs. Meade had strolled away for a few yards, the better to leave the young people by themselves.
“Dave,” announced Belle almost sternly, “you’ve simply got to say something savage about the action of the West Point men in sending Dick Prescott to Coventry.”
“The West Point men didn’t do it,” rejoined Dave. “It was all done by the members of the first class alone.”
“Well, then, you must say something very disagreeable about the first class at the Military Academy.”
“But why?” persisted Dave Darrin. He was disgusted enough over the action of the first class cadets, but, being in the service himself, he felt it indelicate in him to criticise the action of the cadets of the United States Military Academy.
“Why?” repeated Belle. “Why, simply because Laura Bentley will insist on asking me when I get home what you had to say about Dick’s case. If I can’t tell Laura that you said something pretty nearly awful, then Laura will be terribly hurt.”
“Shall I swear?” asked Dave innocently.
Belle opened her eyes wide in amazement.
“No, you won’t swear,” Belle retorted. “Profanity isn’t the accomplishment of a gentleman. But you must say something about Dick’s case which will show her that all of Dick’s friends are standing by the poor fellow.”
“But, Belle, you know it isn’t considered very manly for a fellow in one branch of the service to say anything against fellows in the other branch.”
“Not even—–for Laura’s sake?”
“Oh, well,” proposed Midshipman Darrin, squirming about between the horns of the dilemma, “you just think of whatever will please Laura most to hear from me.”
“Yes-----?” pressed Miss Meade.
“Then tell it to her and say that I said it.”
“But how can I say that you said it if you didn’t say it?” demanded Belle, pouting prettily.
“Easiest thing in the world, Belle. I authorize you, fully, to say whatever you like about Dick, as coming from me. If I authorize you to say it, then you won’t be fibbing, will you?”
Belle had to think that over. It was a bit of a puzzle, as must be admitted.
“Now, let’s talk about ourselves,” Darrin pressed her. “I see Danny boy coming, with that two-yard grin of his, and we won’t have much further chance to talk about ourselves.”
The two young people, therefore, busied themselves with personal talk. Dan drifted along, but merely raised his cap to Belle, then stationed himself by Mrs. Meade’s side.