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   Chapter 2 PROVING THEIR TRAINING

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 17120

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


In the same instant, without a word to each other, Dave Darrin and Dalzell had done the same thing. That is, they started to run and at the same time doffed coats and vests, leaving these garments to flutter behind them.

As they reached the sailboat both midshipmen cast off their shoes. Dave leaped into the boat while Dalzell threw off the bowline, then boarded.

Like a flash both youngsters went at the lashings of the mainsail.

"There isn't a reef in," Dan discovered. "Going to take time for a close reef, Dave?"

"There isn't time," Darrin muttered, with drops of cold perspiration on his forehead as he toiled. "We'll have to go out under a full sail, Dan."

"Great Scott!" muttered Dalzell.

"We may be too late to save any one as it is. There! Jump to the halyard.

I've got the sheet."

Dan Dalzell began to hoist with a will. In an incredibly short time he had the sail hoisted all the way up, while Darrin, stern and whitefaced, crouched and braced himself by the tiller, gripping the sheet with his left hand.

In a twinkling Darrin had the wind in his canvas. They had nearly a fair wind as they bounded away from the float.

During these few instants of preparation neither Belle nor Laura had spoken. Both girls realized the gravity of the situation, and they knew that a word from them might distract the rescuers from the work in hand.

Knowing that he had the high, fast wind with him, Dave steered straight for the last spot where he had seen the motor launch. Though the boat was no longer visible, and the distance too great for seeing the heads of the swimmers, if there were any, Darrin had taken his bearings by trees on the further shore upstream.

At first, to keep the sailboat from capsizing, the young skipper at the helm let the sheet well out. Then, when Dan hurriedly rejoined him, Darrin passed the sheet over to his comrade as to one who would know exactly what to do with it. Dan perched himself on the weather gunwale, his weight there serving as ballast to keep the craft from capsizing. Yet, even so, everything had to be done with the utmost skill, for, with the mainsail up, the least fluke in handling the boat would send her over.

"We've got to go fast and take all the chances," muttered Dave.

"Sure," nodded Midshipman Dan understandingly. "It would be no great scare to us if we did heel over into the drink. It might mean a different story, though, for those who are already sopping up the wet."

"Aren't they splendid fellows?" cried Laura.

"Yes," answered Belle, her eyes snapping and her face glowing. "Though I won't claim that they're any finer than your own West Point boys."

That brought an added flush to the color in Laura Bentley's face, and her eyes sparkled her gratitude, for Dick Prescott, now at West Point with his chum, Greg Holmes, had been her High School sweetheart, and doubtless was to become her Army sweetheart after he had made sure of his career.

"Dave and Dan are experts," glowed Miss Bentley. "They'll know just what to do."

"They're better than mere experts," returned Belle Meade. "They're strong and manly to the core, and with them there's no such word as fear when there's a duty to be done."

Both Dave and Dan were peering fixedly ahead all the time that they drove the sailboat toward the scene of the late disaster.

"I think I see a head," cried Darrin.

"Boy or girl!" demanded Midshipman Dalzell.

"Can't tell at this distance. And now the next wave has blotted out what

I thought I saw."

"We've got to be patient," uttered Dan.

The position of the midshipmen was far from being free of danger. With all their coolness and their undoubted skill in boat handling, there was grave danger, with the mainsail set, that, at any instant, wind and wave would capsize the boat.

Indeed, Dave was running the lee gunwale under water half the time, trusting to the human ballast supplied by his comrade to keep them afloat.

"See anything now?" demanded Dave.

"No," uttered Dan, "though I'm working my eyes three shifts to try to make out something. I'll have to go to an oculist as soon as I get through with this. This eyestrain is awful."

Midshipman Dan Dalzell was really unconscious of the fact that he was joking. It was second nature with him; he would have jested-unconsciously-with death in its most awful form.

"There, I see a head-two of them!" cried Midshipman Dave suddenly, as he half rose and pointed.

"Hurrah!"-from Dan.

Dan let the boat's head fall off a point in order that he might see better around the mast on the weather side, just where he must head his craft in the last dash in.

"It's Foss and Ella Wright," called Dan, as the flying sailboat got in closer over the foam-crested waves. "No, it isn't; Foss has Susie."

"Can you make out Canty and Ella?" demanded Darrin hoarsely.

"Not a sign, Dave. Maybe he's gone under trying to save Ella."

"Canty was one of our Gridley High School boys, so I'd expect him to have both the nerve and the grace to go down with a girl, if he couldn't save her as well as himself," muttered Darrin.

"There's Canty, just come up!"

"Can you make out Ella's head?"

"No."

"Look hard."

"I don't see her, and-there!"

"What's up?"

"Nothing," returned Dalzell soberly. "Canty's down-just gone down again."

"I hope he's gone down trying to find and rescue Ella," murmured Dave.

They were now so close that the young midshipmen would have been able to hear the shouts of the imperiled ones had it not been that the wind blew the sounds of voices away from the would-be rescuers.

"Better ease off the sheet a bit, I guess, Davy," called Dan, as he suited the action to the word. "We don't went to run 'em down."

"No."

As he spoke, Dave Darrin brought the boat slightly around. They were now close enough to see that Tom Foss was supporting dead weight in the person of Susie, who was unconscious.

"Waiting the word from you on the sheet, Davy," nodded Dan, as the boat drew close to the only pair of survivors now visible.

"Let go the sheet!" called Dave an instant later, and Dan let it run off clear, handing the end of the rope to Darrin.

"Can you head Susie this way, Foss?" Dalzell called.

"I'd rather have help," came the faint answer. Tom Foss was evidently well spent by his exertions in keeping up the girl so long.

Splash! Dan Dalzell was in the water, without waiting to hear more. The athletic young midshipman swam with a steadiness and speed that was glorious to see. Many an excellent swimmer, in smooth water, would dread buffeting with such waves as were now rolling.

Dave Darrin, meanwhile, held on to the tiller and the paid-out sheet, ready to manoeuvre the now pitching, rolling boat at an instant's notice. It took all his seamanship to keep the craft afloat, though the sailboat was far better modeled for such water than the motor launch had been.

"Give her over to me, and save yourself," commanded Dalzell cheerily, as he reached Tom Foss. "Think you can make it, old fellow?"

"If I can't, I ought to drown," retorted Tom Foss, as he struck out, none too strongly. "This is all my fault. You fellows gave me better advice than I had sense to follow."

Dan, with a skill that he had acquired directly from the excellent instruction given him by the swimming master at the Naval Academy, was now piloting the unconscious form of Susie Danes toward the sailboat.

Even encumbered as he was, Dan made the boat before Tom Foss could accomplish that feat alone. Truth to tell, Foss was very nearly "all in." Had rescue been delayed a few moments longer, Foss and his fair companion must have sunk.

"Get hold of her, Davy," called Dan, as he ranged up on the weather side of the tossing boat.

Darrin promptly leaned over and lifted the unconscious girl into the boat. By the time he had done that Tom Foss reached up both hands, seizing the boat's stern.

"Going to help me in?" he called.

"I don't know," Dave answered dubiously.

"If we can find Ella Wright there may not be room. With such a sea running, this boat won't hold many."

"No matter about me, then," muttered Tom. "If Ella isn't found right away

I don't believe I care about going back to Gridley."

Dave's response was swiftly to knot a noose and let it down over Tom's shoulders. The other end of the line he made fast astern. Dalzell, in the meantime, had swum back again. Susie Danes lay as still as death in the bottom of the boat.

As Dalzell got back where he had

first reached Foss and Susie, he espied the head of Ab Canty some distance away.

"Ab!" called Dan.

"Here!"

"What has become of Ella?"

"Oh, I wish I knew!"

"Was she afloat at all!" demanded Dan, swimming nearer.

"Yes; I kept her up for a couple of minutes, maybe. Then she got more scared, wound her arms tight around me, and we both sank. We had a struggle under water. I freed myself, but when I came to the top I found that my hand was clutching nothing but her empty jersey. There it is now," chattered Ab, his teeth, knocking against each other, as he pointed to the garment in question on the top of a distant wave. Then Ab sank.

For just an instant Dalzell thought Canty had gone below on purpose. Dan swam closer, to be of assistance. Then he saw the bubbles of air coming up rapidly.

"Cantys given out-he's going to drown!" gasped Midshipman Dan, with horror.

Like a flash Dan dived below, found and clutched at Canty. The young man returned the grip with interest, but Midshipman Dalzell struggled to the surface with him. Ab Canty was exhausted, out of his head and altogether past reasoning. Dan hated to do it, but he had to strike the young man in the forehead. Canty gave a gasp and ceased to resist.

Dave Darrin, watching, had run the boat up close alongside as soon as the struggling pair appeared above the waves.

"You'll have to take him in, Davy," announced Midshipman Dalzell. "Canty isn't strong enough to tow behind. And I'm coming aboard for a fresh look before I dive for Miss Wright."

"You're going to stay aboard and manage the boat," retorted Darrin quietly. "I'm going in next."

"Oh, all right, if you want to," half grumbled Dan. "But I'm just beginning to get used to it and to like it."

Dan, however, followed orders and took his seat by tiller and sheet as soon as they had towed Canty safely in the boat. Tom Foss, lied and holding on at the stern, was beginning to chatter hard, but said he was all right.

A brief instant of consultation the two midshipmen held. Then Dave

Darrin, holding his hands before him, dived hard and deep into the water.

After nearly a minute he came up again, but only to take an observation.

Then he sank, to explore more of the space under water.

For five minutes Darrin continued this, making four dives in all, and sinking twice without diving.

"I can't give this up, and abandon a girl," he muttered. "Dan, I've got to take more account of the current, and work gradually downstream."

A little later Dave rose with a whoop the instant that his head showed above the water.

"I've got her," Dave announced, though his voice was hoarse and panting.

"Hurrah!" came from Dan, as he saw the girl's head show above the surface. Dalzell, hauling on the sheet, ran the boat in close. Dave grasped at the rail on the weather quarter, while Dan bent over him, hauling hard. And so Ella Wright was dragged unconscious into the boat.

"I'd stay here in the water with you, Tom," explained Dave, "but I've got to be in the boat to do my share of handling her."

"Th-th-that's all r-r-r-r-right," chattered poor Foss, "I'm d-d-d-doing f-f-f-fine here-c-c-c-couldn't h-help in the b-b-b-boat"

While lying to, it had taken some fine management on the part of the midshipmen to keep the sailboat from capsizing. And now, on this rough, wave-strewn river, they had to tack back against a nearly head wind.

"Look at the crowd on the clubhouse float," gasped Dan as soon as the

Naval chums had gotten their craft under way.

"Good thing," muttered Darrin. "We'll need plenty of help."

"I wonder how the crowd got wind of the thing in such short time?"

"You forget," nudged Darrin, "that there's a telephone in the clubhouse. Laura and Belle are not given to losing their heads. Undoubtedly they've been 'phoning to Gridley."

"Then they can't have overlooked the need of physicians," ventured Dan, "especially as Laura is the daughter of one."

As the boat drew nearer to the float the noise of cheers was borne to the ears of the midshipmen.

"More of the hero racket," uttered Dan disgustedly.

"I hope this won't get into the newspapers," grunted Darrin in a tone of something like real alarm. "Say, the fellows of the brigade wouldn't do a thing but make us mount chairs and read all the fulsome gush about this rescue."

"And then, after we'd finished a straight reading," groaned Dan, "we'd have to sing it next, to the tune of 'Columbia, the Pride of the Ocean.'"

"'Gem of the Ocean,' Dan," Darrin corrected.

Though in the middle of the river the sailboat had many a close shave from capsizing in the strong puffs of wind, especially with the load that the little craft carried, yet Dan Dalzell, at the tiller, brought the boat at last in under the lee side of the float, and there a score of pairs of willing hands reached out with offers of help.

Dr. Bentley was in the crowd, as were two other Gridley physicians. There were also two trained nurses, and one of the druggists had brought along a big emergency box of drugs and supplies. Between them the telephone and the automobile can accomplish a lot in these modern times.

Laura and Belle, though they had summoned the aid, now kept tactfully in the background.

The two apparently drowned girls were lifted from the boat in haste and borne to a room that had been made ready on the second floor of the clubhouse. Ab Canty was carried to another room, and Tom Foss, who nearly shook to pieces when lifted from the water, was helped after his friend.

"You two young midshipmen will have to come inside and get some of our attention," called Dr. Bentley in an authoritative voice.

"I think not, thank you, doctor," replied Dave Darrin. "The most that we want is some place where we can strip and rub down, while waiting for dry clothing."

"I know just the room, and I'll take you there," urged Len Spencer, reporter for the "Morning Blade." Len was an old friend of Dick Prescott, who, in his High School days before going to West Point, had worked as an amateur space reporter for the "Blade."

Len led the way gladly. While Dan and Dave stripped and rubbed down, Len got out of them the whole account of what they had been through. Reporter Spencer had already talked with Belle and Laura. A man in an auto had already started for the homes of the two midshipmen, to obtain changes of clothing for them.

"Now, Len," begged Dave, "don't spread on a lot of taffy. Don't smother us under the hero racket."

"But it was an heroic thing," Len argued. "And, besides, it was done with great skill, of the kind that you've gained at the Naval Academy. It makes a corking, elegant story about two of our brightest Gridley lads."

"But, Len, do you realize that the fellows at the Naval Academy will make us read aloud to them this yarn you're proposing to write about us-that is, if they happen to hear about it?"

"And then, after we've read the yarn straight, they'll make us sing it all to some blamed old tune or another," groaned Dalzell.

"Well, I can't help it," sighed good-natured Len. "It's a story we've got to have to-morrow morning. I'd lose my position if I didn't write a good story about this afternoon's work. And, now that I've got a wife and baby to feed, I can't afford to waste any good time in job-hunting."

"Then I hope none of the other fellows at the Naval Academy hear about the 'Blade's' story," gulped Dan, as he wrapped himself in a blanket while waiting for his dry clothes.

"Hear about it?" retorted Len. "They'll hear about it, all right. The Associated Press man at Gridley will be sure to send something about it to the papers all over the country."

"I guess we've got to take our medicine, Danny," hinted Midshipman

Dave Darrin.

In the meantime Tom Foss was soon comfortable, wrapped up in blankets and with plenty of coffee inside him. Nor did it take long to bring Ab Canty around. In three quarters of an hour Susie Danes opened her eyes.

As for Ella Wright, the physicians and nurses worked over her long and earnestly, and were on the point of giving her up when at last a flutter of her eyelids was seen.

By night time all of the young people were quite out of danger, but the parents of the Wright and Danes families were highly indignant over the recklessness of Tom Foss in taking the girls out on the river in such a heavy wind.

Three days later even the launch was saved; that is, it was raised and was towed to a boat-builder for overhauling and repairs.

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