It is no life for the indolent young man. He is routed out early in the morning and put at hard work.
On a midshipman’s first summer cruise what he learns is largely the work that is done by the seamen, stokers, water tenders, electricians, the signal men and others.
Yet he must learn every phase of all this work thoroughly, for some day, before he becomes an officer, he must be examined as to his knowledge of all this great mass of detail.
It is only when in port that some relaxation comes into the midshipman’s life. He has shore leave, and a large measure of liberty. Yet he must, at all times, show all possible respect for the uniform that he wears and the great nation that he represents. If a midshipman permits himself to be led into scrapes that many college boys regard as merely “larks,” he is considered a disgrace to the Naval service.
Always, at home and abroad, the “middy” must maintain his own dignity and that of his country and service. Should he fail seriously, he is regarded by his superiors and by the Navy Department as being unfit to defend the honor of his flag.
The wildest group from the summer practice fleet was that made up of Pennington and his friends. Pen received more money in France from his fond but foolish father. Wherever Pennington’s group went, they cut a wide swath of “sport,” though they did nothing actually dishonorable. Yet they were guilty of many pranks which, had the midshipmen been caught, would have resulted in demerits.
Ports in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy were touched briefly. At some of these ports the midshipmen received much attention.
But at last the fleet turned back past Gibraltar, and stood on for the Azores, the last landing point before reaching home.
When two nights out from Gibraltar a sharp summer gale overtook the fleet. Even the huge battleships labored heavily in the seas, the “Massachusetts” bringing up the rear.
She was in the same position when the morning broke. The midshipmen, after breakfast, enjoyed a few minutes on the deck before going below for duty in the engine rooms, the dynamo room, the “stoke hole” and other stations.
Suddenly, from the stern rail, there went up the startled cry:
In an instant the marine sentry had tumbled two life-preservers over into the water.
With almost the swiftness of telegraphy the cry had reached the bridge. Without stopping to back the engine the big battleship’s helm was thrown hard over, and the great steel fighting craft endeavored to find her own wake in the angry waters with a view to going back over it.
Signal men broke out the news to the flagship. The other two great battleships turned and headed back in the interests of humanity.
It seemed almost as though the entire fleet had been swung out of its course by pressure on an electric button.