The largest steam launches from all three of the battleships were being swiftly lowered. Officers and men were lowered with the launches. As the launch shoved off from each battleship tremendous cheers followed them.
“Stop all unnecessary noise!” bellowed the watch officer from the bridge of the “Massachusetts.” “You may drown out calls for help with your racket.”
While the three battleships went back over their courses in more stately fashion, the launches darted here and there, until it seemed as though they must cover every foot within a square mile.
“I don’t see how they can help finding the three,” Farley declared hopefully.
“That is,” put in another third classman, “if any of the three are still afloat.”
“Stow all talk of that sort,” ordered Farley angrily.
Other midshipmen joined in with their protests. When a man is overboard in an angry sea all hands left behind try to be optimists.
When fifteen minutes had been spent in the search the onlooking but helpless middies began to look worried.
At the end of half an hour some of them looked haggard. Farley’s face was pitiable to see.
At the end of an hour of constant but fruitless searching hardly any one felt any hope of a rescue now.
All three midshipmen, the “man overboard” and his two willing, would-be rescuers, were silently conceded to be drowned.
Yet the hardest blow of all came when, at the end of an hour and a quarter, the flagship signaled the recall of the small boats.
Then, indeed, all hope was given up. In an utter human silence, save for the husky voicing of the necessary orders, the launches were hoisted on board. Then the flagship flew the signal for resuming the voyage.
There were few dry eyes among the third class midshipmen when the battleships fell in formation again and proceeded on their way.
As a result of more signals flown from the flagship, all unnecessary duties of midshipmen for the day were ordered suspended.
In the afternoon the chaplain on each battleship held funeral services over the three lost midshipmen. Officers, middies and crew attended on board each vessel.
THE DESPAIR OF THE “RECALL”
Dave Darrin stood within ten feet of Hallam when that latter midshipman had lost his balance and fallen into the boiling sea.
Dave’s spring to the stern rail was all but instantaneous. He was overboard, after his classmate, ere the marine had had time to leap to the life buoys.
Out of the corner of one eye Dan Dalzell saw the marine start on the jump, but Dan was overboard, also, too soon to see exactly what the marine sentry was doing.
Both daring midshipmen sank beneath the surface as they struck.
As Dan came up, however, his hand struck something solid and he clutched at it. It was one of the life buoys.