English Literature

An Annapolis First Classman by Edward L. Beach

An Annapolis First Classman by Edward L. Beach.jpg



“Hello, Stone! Hello, Bob! By George, but I’m glad to see you!”

“Hello, Glass, you old sinner, I can just imagine you’ve led those dear old aunts of yours a lively life the last two weeks.”

“You’ll win, Stone, but you ought to get them to tell you about it; ha, ha, ha! the dear old ladies never dropped once.”

Explosively enthusiastic greetings were exchanged between three stalwart young men in the Union Station, Chicago, on the twentieth of September, of the year nineteen hundred and something. Passers-by noticed them and smiled, and in approving accents said, “College boys!” All three were tall, broad-shouldered, bronzed in face, and possessed a lithesomeness of movement that betokened health and strength.


Glassfell, Drake and Stonewell were midshipmen on leave from the United States Naval Academy. It was evident that they had met in the Union Station by appointment. Glassfell had just arrived from Wisconsin, and Drake and Stonewell were to leave in two hours for Annapolis.

“You two chaps are martyrs!” exclaimed Glassfell; “here you are giving up ten days of glorious leave just to go and train for the football team. Now here I am, cheer leader, head yeller, or whatever you call me, far more important than either of you, you’ll admit, and I’m not due at Annapolis until October first.”

“‘Daily News,’ last edition,” droned a newsboy near by.

“Don’t bother me, boy; Chicago news doesn’t interest me. Some new sandbagging on Wabash Avenue, I suppose, and nothing else. Get out.”

“A fine cruise, wasn’t it, Glass?” remarked Robert Drake. “By George! I’d had some troubles on my previous cruises, but this went like clockwork; not a single thing happened to worry me, and I certainly had troubles enough on my plebe and youngster cruises.”


“You did indeed, Bob,” remarked Stonewell, “but you’ll have to admit you were fortunate in the wind up. Now Glass, here——”

“‘Daily News,’ last edition,” was shouted close to their ears.

“Stuff that boy. Put a corn-cob down his throat,” said Glassfell with an amused glance at the persistent newsboy. “Say, fellows, wasn’t that a good one I worked on old ‘I mean to say’? Ha, ha, ha!”

“Which one, Glass?” asked Robert Drake.

“Oh, the best one, the time I hoisted up two red balls to the masthead when he was on watch in charge of the deck, during drill period. And didn’t the captain give him the mischief?”

An outburst of wild hilarious laughter greeted this reminiscence, as evidently a very humorous episode was recalled. In seagoing language two red balls means that the ship carrying them is not under control; and at the time referred to by Glassfell the red balls had no business to be hoisted, and their presence brought down upon Lieutenant-Commander Gettem, nicknamed “I mean to say” by the midshipmen, a wrathful reprimand from his captain.


“That was pretty good, Glass,” laughed Stonewell, “but you had to own up, and got sanded well for it.”

“‘Daily News,’ last edition!” screamed a voice interrupting the midshipmen.

“Look here, boy, how many papers have you to sell?” inquired Glassfell.

“Twenty-five, boss; here’s yours, and only one cent.”

“All right. I’ll buy your twenty-five papers and give you twenty-five cents besides if you’ll make a hundred yard dash for the outside. Give me your papers; here’s fifty cents.”

“I’m your man, boss,” cried the newsboy, handing over his papers, grabbing the fifty-cent piece and making a tremendous bolt toward the exit.

“He’s afraid of a recall,” laughed Robert. “Say, Glass, are you going to start a wholesale newspaper business?”

“Let’s see what the news of the day is,” replied Glassfell, unfolding one of the papers and laying the others down on a seat.

“Here’s an alderman up for graft; a bank cashier has gone wrong; hello! My heavens,[13] here’s a naval war-ship goes to the bottom with all on board.”

“What ship? what ship?” simultaneously cried out Stonewell and Robert, in affrighted tones.

“The submarine boat ‘Holland’! Ha, ha, ha, I got you both that time, didn’t I? You chaps will nab any bait that comes along.”

All three laughed heartily. “You’re an incorrigible wretch,” smiled Robert; “I shudder at the idea of spending another year with you at the Academy.” But the friendly hug that accompanied these words left no doubt of the affection Robert bore to the jovial Glassfell.

“By George, fellows, here is an interesting item, ‘New cadet officers at the Naval——'”

“You don’t sell me again to-day, Glass,” grinned Robert. “You’ll be giving yourself five stripes and Stone a second class buzzard.”

“Pick up a paper and read for yourself,” cried out Glassfell excitedly. “Farnum gets five stripes!” Glassfell read no further, but with an expression of intense disgust threw the paper down and stamped on it.

Stonewell and Robert were now eagerly[14] reading the paper. “Cadet Commander, commanding the Brigade of Midshipmen, Farnum,” read Robert. “Cadet Lieutenant-Commanders, commanding first and second battalions, respectively, Stonewell and Sewall; Cadet Lieutenant and Brigade Adjutant, Ryerson. Cadet Lieutenant, commanding first company, Blair——”

A look of blank astonishment mingled with disdain was to be seen on Robert’s face. “Well, Stone,” he said, “the officers have done it again, and I guess they can be relied upon to make chumps of themselves as regularly as they assign the brigade officers. You should be our cadet commander, Stone, our five striper; you know it, every midshipman in the brigade knows it, the officers ought to know it! You are number one man in the class, the leader in Academy athletics, head and shoulders above us all. And here they’ve picked out a regular ‘snide,’ a sneak, and have given him the place that belongs to you.” Robert spoke passionately; he was intensely disappointed.

“You are entirely wrong about Farnum, Bob,” remarked Stonewell quietly; “he’s a far[15] better man than you give him credit for. You don’t understand Farnum; he’ll do credit to his five stripes. I’m entirely satisfied with my four stripes; to be cadet lieutenant-commander is as much as I have any right to expect.”

“You know why you don’t get five stripes, don’t you?” asked Robert vehemently; “it’s because you took French leave a year ago, and reported yourself for it! And didn’t Farnum jump ship at the same time? Only he didn’t get spotted for it. You reported yourself for the purpose of explaining my deliberate neglect of duty last year. You were reduced to ranks as a result and Farnum was then given your position as acting senior cadet officer of the summer detail. If he’d had any sense of fitness he would have reported himself rather than have accepted it; that was only a temporary affair, however, and didn’t amount to much; but because of that same report it’s outrageous that you should be shoved out of the five stripes you’ve earned by a man who was equally guilty, but didn’t have the manhood to report himself when you did.”


“It’s rotten,” remarked Glassfell. “Well, Stone, old chap,” he continued, “I’m sorry; everybody will be; we all thought you had a cinch on five stripes. But I wouldn’t be in Farnum’s shoes; everybody will know he is a fake. But as long as they didn’t make Stonewell cadet commander I’m rather surprised they didn’t give the job to me.”

“Look here, Bob,” said Stonewell, “I have been hoping you would get three stripes—but I’m sorry not to see you down for anything.”

“That’s too bad; isn’t Bob down for anything?” inquired Glassfell.

“Not even for a second class buzzard, the lowest thing in cadet rank at the Naval Academy,” replied Stonewell.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” remarked Glassfell, much concerned. “Bob ought to have three stripes, anyway.”

“Don’t you worry, fellows,” said Robert, cheerily, “I haven’t expected a thing and am not a bit disappointed. A midshipman cannot live down a ‘deliberate neglect of duty’ report in one year.”

“Yes, Bob, I know, but I had hoped that[17] your conduct at the fire a year ago and that remarkable trip of yours last June would——”

“Now, Stone, please don’t; you know that is not to be talked about.”

“Of course, but at the same time in spite of that report you ought to get three stripes.”

“That’s right,” commented Glassfell. “The officers only see one side of a midshipman’s character; here I am, another martyr to their ignorance; I’m one of the best men in the class, the band master thinks so, and he’s the grandest thing I’ve ever seen at Annapolis; and I’m a private in ranks for another year. But perhaps this report isn’t authentic; let’s see, the paper says that it is likely that these recommendations will be made to the superintendent by the commandant; the former is away, will not arrive at Annapolis for two days yet—hurrah, I may still get five stripes.”

“Stone, I still hope you may command the brigade of midshipmen our last year,” said Robert thoughtfully. “This newspaper account does not pretend to be official; it says ‘it has leaked out’ that the commandant of midshipmen’s recommendation of the assignment of cadet officers of the brigade will be so[18] and so. Now the superintendent evidently has not seen these recommendations, so they are not as yet finally decided upon. Probably this newspaper list is correct in the main, but it is not final; the superintendent is away on leave and has not yet acted; he has not even seen the commandant’s recommendations. If either the superintendent or the commandant were to know that Farnum had been guilty of the same offense which is now to deprive you of the five stripes you otherwise, by every count, had earned, you would never be set aside in favor of a man equally guilty but not so square. It’s shameful, that’s what it is.”

Robert boiled over with angry thoughts. Strong feelings dominated his expressive features, and it was with difficulty that he controlled himself. His classmate Stonewell was at once his joy and pride, and he loved him with brotherly affection. Stonewell in his studies towered above all of his classmates; he was the leader in athletics, captain of the football team, and captain of the Academy crew. He was class president and his own class and all midshipmen confidently[19]expected he would be cadet commander in his last year at the Naval Academy.

But Robert Drake more than wished for it. Until this moment he had not realized how he longed for it. In the preceding three years at Annapolis Robert had had perhaps more than his own share of troubles, and in them all Stonewell had been to him a mountain of strength and a deep well of affectionate wisdom.

“Farnum for our five striper! Faugh! The thought of it makes me sick! I’ll not stand for it,” cried Robert.

“How can you help it, Bob?” queried Glassfell, himself much disappointed, though not nearly so vehement as Robert.

“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do,” almost shouted the latter; “Stone and I will be in Annapolis the day after to-morrow, and I’m going straight to the commandant and convince him that he’s made a big bust. That’s what I’m going to do!”

“No, you’re not, Bob,” said Stonewell, quietly, yet determinedly; “you’ll do nothing of the kind. The commandant isn’t going to give me five stripes just because you[20] want me to have them. You’ve had some troubles at the Academy, partly due perhaps to a sort of unrestrained impetuosity. Sometimes you are apt to mix up in matters that other people don’t admit concern you. You’ll do me more harm than good if you’re not careful; and as a friend of mine I demand you do nothing whatever about this matter.”

Robert knew that Stonewell meant exactly what he said, yet he could not give in at once. “Look here, Stone,” he doggedly maintained, “some one ought to do this, and I’m the man. Why don’t you wish me to?”

“I’ve given you one good reason, Bob, and I’ll give you another. It wouldn’t be fair to Farnum.”

“It wouldn’t be fair to Farnum!” ejaculated Robert. “It wouldn’t be fair to Farnum,” he again repeated, in astonished accents. “Will you please tell me why it would be unfair to that sneak? How could it be unfair to him for me to make a plain statement of facts to the commandant, a statement that would prevent Farnum from being put into a high position which is utterly undeserved?”

“I’ll tell you, Bob; to begin with you’ve[21] made a mistake about Farnum; he’s not at all the poor character, the sneak, you think him to be. You don’t know him. You’ve good reason to know how unfair it is to be misunderstood. Your action would be particularly unfair to Farnum because the first thing he will do when he gets to Annapolis will be to go to the commandant and tell him just what you have said you intended doing.”

“You’ve a better opinion of Farnum than I have, Stone,” rejoined Robert, shortly. “If he does that I’ll apologize to him. But if he doesn’t—well, he’ll have a mighty uncomfortable year, in spite of his five stripes, that’s all I’ve got to say.”


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