“Those are the facts, sir,” interposed Lieutenant Cantor. “Therefore, in the face of fighting against orders, and sustaining such losses to his own immediate command, I felt it my duty, sir, to prefer charges against Ensign Darrin.”
“This is a most unfortunate affair, sir,” commented Captain Gales.
Dave Darrin felt the hot blood mounting to his face. He tried to control his wrath, but could not refrain from asking a question. “Sir, do you wish me to hand my sword to you?” he said gravely, with a quick movement of his right hand toward his sword hilt.
“Not yet, at any rate,” answered Captain Gales, calmly. “I wish to hear your story.”
“Very good, sir,” Dave returned, then plunged at once into a narrative that was stripped to the bare facts. He told everything from the landing of his men to the final escape from the lagoon under Mexican fire.
“Of course, sir, Coxswain Riley and Corporal Ross will be able to bear me out as to the facts of which they have knowledge. And I would suggest, sir,” Darrin added, “that Mr. Carmody, who knows more of Cosetta than any of us, will be able to give you an excellent opinion of whether I was obliged to throw my command into the fight.”
“How much of your ammunition did you bring back?” asked Captain Gales, his face betraying nothing of his inward opinion.
“All the Colt ammunition was used, sir.”
“And the rifle ammunition?”
“I do not believe, sir, that any man brought back more than three or four of his cartridges. Some of the men, undoubtedly, have no ammunition left.”
“It is evident, sir,” hinted Lieutenant Cantor, “that Ensign Darrin did his best to bring on an engagement. And his thirty per cent casualty list-----”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” broke in Captain Gales. “The number of casualties, while unfortunate, is to be justified only by a decision as to whether it was expedient and right to engage the brigand, Cosetta.”
Lieutenant Cantor’s only comment was an eloquent shrug of his shoulders.
“Ensign Darrin,” continued Captain Gales, “if your story is true in every detail, then it would appear to me that your action, while I regret the necessity for it, could hardly be avoided. In that case, your conduct does not appear to render you liable to censure. Until further notice you will continue in your duties. Lieutenant Cantor will, as early as possible, turn in a written report of the work of the expedition, and you, Ensign Darrin, will make a written report on your own part in the affair. You will make your report through Lieutenant Cantor, who will hand it to me with his own report. Lieutenant Cantor, in his report, will make such comment on Ensign Darrin’s statements as he sees fit. You may go to your quarters, Darrin, and begin your report.”
“Very good, sir,” Darrin returned. Saluting, he left the office.
Out in the passage-way Dave encountered Dan, who had been waiting for him.