“Let’s see if we can raise it to our shoulders,” proposed Dave Darrin radiantly. “Then well find out!”
“Hurrah!” quivered Dan Dalzell, bending over the spar at the middle.
“Up with it!” commanded Darrin, placing himself at the head of the spar. Farley took hold at the further end.
“Up with it!” heaved Midshipman Darrin.
Right up the spar went. It would have been a heavy job for three young men of their size in civil life, but midshipmen are constantly undergoing the best sort of physical training.
“Now, then—a fast run and a hard bump!” called Darrin.
At the door they rushed, bearing the spar as a battering ram.
Bump! The door shook and shivered.
“Once more may do it!” cheered Darrin. “Back.”
Again they dashed the head of their battering ram against the door. It gave way, and, climbing through, they raced back to the pier.
But Dan, who had secured the lead, stopped with a groan, pointing out over the water.
“Not a bit of good, fellows! There go the launches, and we’re the only fellows left! It’s all up with our summer’s fun!”
“Is it, though?” shouted Dave, spurting ahead. “Come on and find out!”
As they reached the front of the piers, down at the edge of a landing stage they espied a little steam tender.
“That boat has to take us out to the ’Massachusetts’!” cried Darrin desperately, as he plunged down the steps to the landing stage, followed by his two chums.
[Illustration: The Three Midshipmen Raced Toward the Pier.]
“Who’s the captain here?” called Dave, racing across the landing stage to the tender’s gangplank.
“I am, sir,” replied a portly, red-faced Englishman, leaning out of the wheel-house window.
“What’ll you charge to land us in haste aboard the American battleship ’Massachusetts’?” asked Darrin eagerly.
“Half a sov. will be about right, sir,” replied the tender’s skipper, touching his cap at sight of the American Naval uniform.
“Good enough,” glowed Dave, leaping aboard. “Cast off as quickly as you can, captain, or we’ll be in a heap of trouble with our discipline officers.”
The English skipper was quick to act. He routed out two deckhands, who quickly cast off. Almost while the deckhands were doing this the skipper rang the engineer’s bell.
“Come into the wheel-’ouse with me,” invited the skipper pleasantly, which invitation the three middies accepted. “Now, then, young gentlemen, ’ow did it ’appen that you missed your own launches.”
“It was a mean trick—a scoundrelly one!” cried Darrin resentfully. Then he described just what had happened.
The skipper’s own bronzed cheeks burned to a deeper color.
“I can ’ardly believe that an Englishman would play such a trick on young h’officers of a friendly power,” he declared. “But I told you, sir, the fare out to your ship would be half a sov. I lied. If a nasty little cockney played such a trick on you, it’s my place, as a decent Englishman, to take you out for nothing—and that’s the fare.”