Dave, Dan and Trent seated themselves at the mess table. Time dragged by. At last the searching committee, looking grave indeed, returned.
“Is this the envelope, sir?” asked Commander Bainbridge, holding it out.
“It is,” replied Captain Gales, scanning it. “But the envelope has now no contents.”
“We found only the envelope, sir,” replied Commander Bainbridge, while his four helpers looked uncomfortable. “We found the envelope tucked in a berth, under the mattress, in the quarters of an officer of this ship.”
“And who was the officer in whose quarters you found it?” demanded Captain Gales.
“Ensign Darrin, sir!” replied the executive officer.
READY FOR VERA CRUZ
“Ensign Darrin”—–and the Old Man’s voice was more impressive than any officer present remembered ever to have heard it before—–“what do you know of this matter?”
Though the shock had struck him like an actual blow, Dave Darrin steadied both himself and his voice as he replied:
“I know nothing whatever about it, sir, that is not common knowledge to everyone in this room.”
“Then you did not take this envelope from my room?” demanded Captain Gales.
“I did not, sir.”
“And you did not receive it from any one else?”
“I did not, sir.”
“You have no knowledge of how this envelope came to be in your quarters?”
“I have not the least knowledge in the world, sir.”
Captain Gales debated the matter in his own distressed mind. Dave Darrin stood there, white faced and dignified, his bearing perfect.
He looked, every inch a true-hearted young American naval officer. Yet he was resting under a terrible suspicion.
“You may go, gentlemen,” announced the captain. “I ask you to see to it that no word of this matter leaks out among the men forward. Ensign Darrin, you will report to me at my office just as soon as you think I have had time to reach there before you.”
Several of the officers walked hastily away. Others hung aloof, shaking their heads. Lieutenant Trent led about a dozen men who pressed around Dave Darrin, offering him their hands.
“It would take the strongest kind of proof to make me believe anything wrong in you, Darrin,” declared Trent.
Others in the little group offered similar words of faith and cheer. But Dave broke away from them after expressing his gratitude. His head very erect and his shoulders squared, the young ensign walked to the captain’s office.
“Darrin,” began the Old Man, “if you are as innocent as I want to believe you to be in this matter, then do all in your power to help me clear your name.”
“Very good, sir,” Dave responded. “In the first place, sir, the important letter was in its envelope when I turned over to you the package entrusted to me by the consul.”