On the other side of this shrubbery sat Mrs. and Miss Atterly, engaged in conversation.
“Why do you prefer to sit in this out-of-the-way place, Catharine?” her mother inquired, just as the young people came up.
“I want to get away from two rather goodlooking but very ordinary girls that Mr. Dalzell wants to present to me, mamma,” she replied.
“If they are midshipmen’s friends are they too ordinary to know?” inquired Mrs. Atterly.
“Mamma, if I am going to interest Mr. Dalzell, I don’t want other girls stepping in at every other moment. I don’t want to know his girl friends.”
“Are you attracted to Mr. Dalzell, Cathy?” asked her mother.
“Not especially, I assure you, mamma.”
“Oh, then it is not a serious affair.”
“It may be,” laughed the girl lightly. “If I can learn to endure Mr. Dalzell, then I may permit him to marry me when he is two years older and has his commission.”
“Even if you don’t care much for him?” asked Mrs. Atterly, almost shocked.
“If I marry,” pouted Miss Atterly, “I don’t want a husband that leaves the house every morning, and returns every evening.”
“Well, I don’t! In some ways I suppose it’s nice to be a married woman. One has more freedom in going about alone. Now, a Naval officer, mamma, would make the right sort of husband for me. He’d be away, much of the time, on long cruises.”
“But I understand, Cathy, that sometimes a Naval officer has a year or two of shore duty.”
“If that happened,” laughed the girl, “I could take a trip to Europe couldn’t I? And the social position of a Naval officer isn’t a bad one. His wife enjoys the same social position, you know, mamma.”
“Yet why Mr. Dalzell, if you really don’t care anything about him?”
“Because he’s so simple, mamma. He would be dreadfully easy to manage!”
The four young people looking for the Atterlys had unavoidably heard every word. They halted, Dan violently red in the face. Then Laura, with quick tact, wheeled about and led the way back to the ball room floor.
“Better luck next time, Dan,” whispered Belle, gripping Dalzell’s arm.
“Don’t you think twice is enough for a simpleton like me?” blurted Midshipman Dan.
THE DAY OF MANY DOUBTS
Busy days followed, days which, for some of the first classmen, were filled with a curious discontent.
Some, to be sure, among these midshipmen soon to graduate, took each day as it came, with little or no emotion. To them the Naval life ahead was coming only as a matter of course. There were others, however—–and Dave Darrin was among them—–who looked upon a commission as an officer of the Navy as a sacred trust given them by the nation.
Dave Darrin was one of those who, while standing above the middle of his class, yet felt that he had not made sufficiently good use of his time. To his way of thinking there was an appalling lot in the way of Naval duties that he did not understand.