As he grasped it, and drew his head up a trifle, Dan saw another floating within thirty feet of him. Swimming hard, and pushing, Dan succeeded in reaching the other buoy. He now rested, holding on to both buoys.
“Now, where’s David, that little giant?” muttered Dalzell, striving hard to see through the seething waters and over the tops of foam-crested waves.
After a few minutes Dan began to feel decidedly nervous.
“Yet Dave can’t have gone down, for he’s a better swimmer than I am,” was Dan’s consoling thought.
At last Dalzell caught sight of another head. He could have cheered, but he expended his breath on something more sensible.
“Dave!” he shouted. “Old Darry! This way! I have the life buoys.”
At the same time, holding to both of them, but kicking frantically with his feet, Dalzell managed slowly to push the buoys toward Dave.
Soon after he had started, Dan did utter a cheer, even though it was checked by an inrush of salt water that nearly strangled him.
He saw two heads. Dave Darrin was coming toward him, helping Hallam.
The wind carried the cheer faintly to Dave. He raised his head a little in the water, and caught sight of Dan and the buoys.
Some three minutes it took the two chums to meet. Dave Darrin was all but exhausted, for Hallam was now unconscious.
As Darrin clutched at the buoy he tried to shout, though the voice came weakly:
“Catch hold of Hallam. I’m down and——”
But Dan understood, even before he heard. While Dave clutched at one of the life buoys Dalzell shot out an arm, dragging Hallam in to safety.
Now, it was Darrin who, with both arms, contrived to link the buoys together.
At last the youngsters had a chance to observe the fact that the battleships had put about and were coming back.
“We’ll soon be all right,” sighed Dave contentedly, as soon as he could speak. “There are thirty-five hundred officers, middies and sailors of the American Navy to look after our safety.”
From where they lay as they hung to the buoys the chums could even see the launches lowered.
Dan, with some of the emergency lashing about the buoy, succeeded, after a good deal of effort, and with some aid from Dave, in passing a cord about Hallam and under the latter’s armpits that secured that midshipman to one of the buoys. The next move of the chums was to lash the buoys together.
“Now,” declared Dave, “we can’t lose. We can hang on and be safe here for hours, if need be.”
“But what a thundering long time it takes them to bring the battleships around to get to us!” murmured Midshipman Dalzell in wonder.
“Be sure not an unnecessary second has been lost,” rejoined Dave. “We’re learning something practical now about the handling of big craft.”
“I wonder if Hally’s a goner?” murmured Dan in an awe-struck voice.