“Mr. Dalzell,” spoke Mrs. Henshaw, earnestly, “let us both forget that you ever spoke such unfortunate words. Let us forget it all, and let it pass as though nothing had happened at all. I will confess that, two or three times, I thought you addressed me as ‘miss.’ I believed it to be only a slip of the tongue. I didn’t dream that you didn’t know. Even if I were a single woman I wouldn’t think of encouraging you for a moment, for I am much—–much—–too old for you. And now, let us immediately forget it all, Mr. Dalzell. Shall we continue our stroll?”
Somehow the dazed midshipman managed to reply gracefully, and to follow his fair companion from Wiegard’s.
“Poor Dan!” sighed Dave. “I’ll wager that’s the worst crusher that Dalzell ever had. But how do you read so much at a glance, Belle?”
“By keeping my eyes moderately well opened,” that young woman answered simply.
“I wonder where poor Dan’s adventures in search of a wife are going to end up?” mused Darrin.
“He’d better accept the course that you outlined for him a little while ago,” half smiled Belle. “Dan’s very best course will be to devote his thoughts wholly to his profession for a few years, and wait until the right woman comes along and chooses him for herself. You may tell Dan, from me, some time, if it won’t hurt his feelings, that I think his only safe course is to shut his eyes and let the woman do the choosing.”
“I must be a most remarkably fine fellow myself,” remarked Midshipman Darrin modestly.
“Why do you think that?”
“Why, a girl with eyes as sharp as yours, Belle, would never have accepted me if there had been a visible flaw on me anywhere.”
“There are no very pronounced flaws except those that I can remedy when I take charge of you, Dave,” replied Belle with what might have been disconcerting candor.
“Then I’m lucky in at least one thing,” laughed Darrin good-humoredly. “When my turn comes I shall be made over by a most capable young woman. Then I shall be all but flawless.”
“Or else I shall take a bride’s privilege,” smiled Belle demurely, “and go back to mother.”
“You’ll have plenty of time for that,” teased Dave. “A Naval officer’s time is spent largely at sea, and he can’t take his wife with him.”
“Don’t remind me of that too often,” begged Belle, a plaintive note in her voice. “Your being at sea so much is the only flaw that I see in the future. And, as neither of us will be rich, I can’t follow you around the world much of the time.”
When Midshipman Dave Darrin reentered his quarters late that afternoon be found Dan Dalzell sitting back in a chair, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. His whole attitude was one of most unmilitary dejection.
“Dave, I’ve run the ship aground again,” Dan confessed ruefully.
“I know you have, Danny,” Darrin replied sympathetically.