MoboReader > Literature > Dave Darrin's Second Year at Annapolis / Or, Two Midshipmen as Naval Academy Youngsters""

   Chapter 6 IN TROUBLE ON FOREIGN SOIL

Dave Darrin's Second Year at Annapolis / Or, Two Midshipmen as Naval Academy Youngsters"" By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 11084

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


From Hampton Roads the Battleship Squadron, with the midshipmen on board, sailed directly for Plymouth, England.

During most of the voyage over slow cruising speed was used. By the time that England's coast was sighted the third-class middies found they knew much more about a battleship than they had believed to be possible at the start of the voyage.

They had served as firemen; they had mastered many of the electrical details of a battleship; they had received instruction and had "stood trick" by the engines; there had been some drill with the smaller, rapid-fire guns, and finally, they had learned at least the rudiments of "wig-wagging," as signaling by means of signal flags is termed.

It was just before the call to supper formation when England's coast loomed up. Most of the midshipmen stood at the rail, watching eagerly for a better glimpse at the coast.

Some of the midshipmen, especially those who came from wealthier families, had been in England before entering the Naval Academy. These fortunate ones were questioned eagerly by their comrades.

The battleships were well in sight of Eastern King Point when the midshipmen's call for supper formation sounded. Feeling that they would much have preferred to wait for their supper, the young men hastened below.

After the line was formed it seemed to the impatient young men as though it had never taken so long to read the orders.

Yet there came one welcome order, to the effect that, immediately after the morning meal, all midshipmen might go to the pay officer and draw ten dollars, to be charged against their pay accounts.

"That ten dollars apiece looms up large David, little giant," murmured Dan Dalzell, while the evening meal was in progress.

"We ought to have a lot of fun on it," replied Darrin, who was looking forward with greatest eagerness to his first visit to any foreign soil. "But how much shore leave are we to have?"

"Two days, the word is. We'll get it straight in the morning, at breakfast formation."

In defiance of regulations, Midshipman Pennington, whose father was wealthy, had several hundred dollars concealed in his baggage. He had already invited Hallam, Mossworth and Dickey to keep in his wake on shore, and these young men had gladly enough agreed.

"Say, but we're slackening speed!" quivered Dalzell, when the meal was nearly finished.

"Headway has stopped," declared Darrin a few moments later.

"Listen, everyone!" called Farley. "Don't you hear the rattle of the anchor chains?"

"Gentlemen, as we're forbidden to make too much racket," proposed irrepressible Dan, "let us give three silent cheers for Old England!"

Rising in his place, Dan raised his hand aloft, and brought it down, as his lips silently formed a "hurrah!"

Three times this was done, each time the lips of the midshipmen forming a silent cheer.

Then Dan, with a mighty swoop of his right arm, let his lips form the word that everyone knew to be "tiger!"

"Ugh-h-h!" groaned Midshipman Reilly.

"Throw that irresponsible Fenian out!" directed Dan, grinning.

Then the midshipmen turned their attention to the remnants of the meal.

Boom! sounded sharply overhead.

"There goes the twenty-one-gunner," announced Darrin.

When a foreign battleship enters a fortified port the visiting fleet, or rather, its flagship, fires a national salute of twenty-one guns. After a short interval following the discharge of the last gun, one of the forts on shore answers with twenty-one guns. This is one of the methods of observing the courtesies between nations by their respective fleets.

Ere all the guns had been fired from the flagship, the third classmen received the rising signal; the class marched out and was dismissed. Instantly a break was made for deck.

The midshipmen were in good time to see the smoke and hear the roar of guns from one of the forts on shore.

In the morning the commandant of cadets, as commanding officer of the squadron, would go ashore with his aide and pay a formal call to the senior military officer. Later in the day that English officer and one or two of his staff officers would return the call by coming out to the flagship. That accomplished, all the required courtesies would have been observed.

It was still broad daylight, for in summer the English twilight is a long one, and darkness does not settle down until late.

"Oh, if we were only going ashore to-night!" murmured Hallam. There were many others to echo the thought, but all knew that it could not be done.

"Couldn't we find a trick for slipping ashore after lights out?" eagerly queried Dickey, who was not noted as a "greaser."

"Could we?" quivered Hallam, who, with few demerits against him, felt inclined to take a chance.

But Pennington, to whom he appealed, shook his head.

"Too big a risk, Hally," replied Pen. "And trebly dangerous, with that greaser, Darrin, in the class."

"Oh, stow that," growled Hallam. "Darrin is no greaser. You've got him on your black books-that's all."

"He is a greaser, I tell you," cried Pennington fiercely.

There were a score of midshipmen in this group, and many of them nodded approvingly at Pennington's statement. Though still a class leader, Dave had lost some of his popularity since his report to the police of Annapolis.

So the middies turned in, that night, with unsatisfied dreams of shore life in England.

Soon after breakfast the next morning, however, every midshipman had drawn his ten dollars, even to Pennington, who

had no use for such a trifling amount.

As fast as possible the launches ranged alongside at the side gangway, taking off groups of midshipmen, everyone of whom had been cautioned to be at dock in time to board a launch in season for supper formation.

Pennington and his party were among the first to land. They hurried away.

It was on the second trip of one of the launches that Dave, Dan and Farley made their get away. These three chums had agreed to stick together during the day. They landed at the Great Western Docks, to find themselves surrounded by eager British cabbies.

"Are we going to take a cab and get more quickly and intelligently to the best part of the town to see?" asked Farley.

"I don't vote for it," replied Darrin. "We have only five dollars apiece for each of the two days we're to be ashore. I move that we put in the forenoon, anyway, in prowling about the town for ourselves. We'll learn more than we would by riding."

"Come on, then," approved Dan.

Plymouth is an old-fashioned English seaport that has been rather famous ever since the thirteenth century. Many parts of the town, including whole streets, look as though the houses had been built since that time. This is especially true of many of the streets near the water front.

For two hours the three middies roamed through the streets, often meeting fellow classmen. Wherever the young midshipmen went many of the English workmen and shopkeepers raised their hats in friendly salute of the American uniform.

"We don't seem to run across Pen's gang anywhere," remarked Farley at last.

"Oh, no," smiled Dave. "That's a capitalistic crowd. They'll hit only the high spots."

Nevertheless, these three poor-in-purse midshipmen enjoyed themselves hugely in seeing the quaint old town. At noon they found a real old English chop house, where they enjoyed a famous meal.

"I wish we could slip some of these little mutton pies back with us!" sighed Dan wistfully.

In the afternoon the three chums saw the newer market place, where all three bought small souvenirs for their mothers at home. Darrin also secured a little remembrance present for his sweetheart, Belle Meade.

The guild hall and some of the other famous buildings were visited.

Later in the afternoon Dave began to inspect his watch every two or three minutes.

"No need for us to worry, with Dave's eye glued to his watch," laughed Dan.

"Come on, fellows," summoned Darrin finally. "We haven't more than time now to make the dock and get back to supper formation."

"Take a cab?" asked Farley. "You know, we've found that they're vastly cheaper than American cabs."

"No-o-o, not for me," decided Dave. "We'll need the rest of our shore money to-morrow, and our legs are good and sturdy."

Yet even careful Dave, as it turned out, had allowed no more than time. The chums reached the dock in time to see the launches half way between the fleet and shore. Some forty other midshipmen stood waiting on the dock.

Among these were Pennington and his party, all looking highly satisfied with their day's sport, as indeed they were.

Pennington's eyes gleamed when he caught sight of Darrin, Dalzell and Farley-for Pen had a scheme of his own in mind.

Not far from Pennington stood a little Englishman with keen eyes and a jovial face. Pen stepped over to him.

"There are the three midshipmen I was telling you about," whispered Pennington, slipping a half sovereign into the Englishman's hand. "You thoroughly understand your part in the joke, don't you?"

"Don't h'I, though-just, sir!" laughed the undersized Englishman, and strolled away.

Darrin and his friends were soon informed by classmates that the launches now making shore-ward were coming in on their last trip for midshipmen.

"Well, we're here in plenty of time," sighed Dave contentedly.

"Oh, I knew we'd be, with you holding the watch," laughed Dan in his satisfied way.

As the three stood apart they were joined by the undersized Englishman, who touched his hat to them with a show of great respect.

"Young gentlemen," he inquired, "h'I suppose, h'of course, you've 'ad a look h'at the anchor h'of Sir Francis Drake's flagship, the time 'e went h'out h'and sank the great Spanish h'Armada?"

"Why, no, my friend," replied Dave, looking at the man with interest. "Is that here at Plymouth?"

"H'assuredly, sir. H'and h'only a minute's walk h'over to that shed yonder, sir. H'if you'll come with me, young gentlemen, h'I'll show h'it to you. H'it's one of h'our biggest sights, h'and it's in me own custody, at present. Come this way, young gentlemen."

"That sounds like something worth seeing," declared Dave to his comrades. "Come along. It'll take the launches at least six minutes to get in, and then they'll stay tied up here for another five minutes."

With only a single backward glance at the young midshipmen, the undersized Englishman was already leading the way.

At quickened pace the young midshipmen reached the shed that had been indicated. Their guide had already drawn a key from a pocket, and had unsnapped the heavy padlock.

"Step right in, young gentlemen, h'and h'I'll follow h'and show h'it to you."

Unsuspecting, the three middies stepped inside the darkened shed. Suddenly the door banged, and a padlock clicked outside.

"Here, stop that, you rascally joker!" roared Dalzell, wheeling about. "What does this mean?"

"Big trouble!" spoke Dave Darrin seriously and with a face from which the color was fast receding.

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