The messenger halted before a curtained doorway, rapping.
“Who’s there?” called a voice inside.
“Messenger, sir, showing Ensign Darrin to Lieutenant Cantor, sir.”
“Then you may go, messenger. Darrin, wait just an instant won’t you, until I finish my toilet.”
“Very good, sir.”
A moment later the hail came from within.
“Right inside, Darrin!”
Dave entered, to find a somewhat older officer standing with extended hand. But Ensign Darrin could not believe his eyes when he found himself faced by the man who had annoyed the young woman on the night before—–and that annoyer standing there erect and handsome in the uniform of a Navy lieutenant!
AT THE MERCY OF A BULLY
Their hands met, but in light clasp, without pretense of warmth.
Then Darrin fell back, bringing his right hand mechanically to a salute as he mumbled:
“I am Ensign Darrin, sir, and have been ordered, by the executive officer, to report to you for duty in your division.”
“Very good, Mr. Darrin,” rejoined the lieutenant. “My division goes on watch at eight bells noon. You will report to me on the quarter deck at that time.”
“Very good, sir.”
With a quick step Lieutenant Cantor reached the curtain, holding it slightly aside and peering out into the passage-way. His face was red, but there was one portion that was redder still.
“I see,” Dave reflected, “that Cantor still wears the welt that I printed on his cheek last night. But it staggers me,” he thought, gravely, “to find such a fellow holding an officer’s commission in the Navy.”
Satisfied that there were no eavesdroppers near, Lieutenant Cantor stepped back, facing the young ensign, whom he looked over with an expression of mingled hate and distress.
“I believe we have met before,” said Cantor, with a quick, hissing indrawing of his breath.
“To my very great regret, we have, sir,” Darrin answered, coldly.
“And you behaved abominably, Darrin!”
“You interfered,” Lieutenant Cantor continued, “with one of the most important affairs of my life.”
“Yes, sir? With one of the most shameful, I should imagine, sir.”
Ensign Darrin’s tone was officially respectful, but his glance cold. He felt no respect for Cantor, and could see no reason why he should pretend respect.
“I had a strong belief that I should see you again,” Cantor continued, his gleaming eyes turned on the new ensign.
“You knew me to be of the Navy, sir?”
“I did not, Darrin, nor did you know me to be of the Navy. Otherwise, it is not likely that you would have behaved as you did.”
“If I had known you to be the fleet admiral, Mr. Cantor, my conduct could not have been different, under the circumstances.”