“Darrin, you have made the wrong start, and I see that you are bound to keep it up.”
“I am trying to do my duty, sir,” Darrin returned. “I could not consent to make a false official return.”
“Officers often have to do that for each other,” Cantor went on, in the same low tone, “and they do it willingly as between comrades.”
It was on the tip of Darrin tongue to retort that he didn’t believe any true officer, being a man of honor, could stoop to making a false official report. Yet he instantly thought better of it, and forced back the sarcastic retort that rose to his lips.
“You’re not going to succeed in the Navy, sir,” Cantor continued, then, seeing the young ensign’s face still impassive, he added, with a malicious leer:
“Since you are determined to make an enemy of me, Darrin, I shall do my best to see to it that you have short shrift in the service.”
“Of that I haven’t a doubt,” Dave returned, but he caught himself in time and said it under his breath.
Then came the changing of the watch. Trent and Dalzell appeared and went on duty.
Formally, Dave wished his division commander good night, Cantor answering only with a grunt.
Returning to his stateroom, Dave threw off belt and sword, hung up his cap, then sat down in his desk chair, leaning back and steadily regarding the breech of the great gun.
“I wonder if any other young officer in the service is at the mercy of such a brute,” Darrin asked himself, wretchedly. “I love good discipline, but there’s one thing wrong with the service, and that is, the ease with which a dishonorable officer can render the life of his subordinate miserable. It ought not to be possible, and yet I don’t see any way of preventing it. I wish I could talk with a gentleman like Lieutenant Trent, but he would only regard me as a tale-bearer, and after that he would have no use for me. One thing I can see clearly. Cantor is likely to have me broken and kicked out of the service if I am forced to remain in his division week after week.”
Then, realizing that his time was slipping away, Darrin hastily undressed and got into his berth. It was a long time, though, before sleep came to him.
In the morning Lieutenant Cantor was obliged to listen meekly to a long discourse by the executive officer on the virtue of punctuality in a naval officer. The offender told of a car block in New York that had made it impossible for him to return on time.
“Lieutenant Cantor,” returned the executive officer, dryly, “a careful officer will allow himself sufficient margin of time to make it morally certain that he can be back to his duty on time. Now, sir-----”
But at this moment an apprentice messenger, standing in the doorway, his right hand drawn up in salute, attracted the gaze of Commander Bainbridge:
“The captain” compliments, sir; will the executive officer report to him at once.”