“Then there’s no help for it,” answered Dan, choking slightly. “I wonder if we could do anything for Hallam?”
“We won’t do anything to bring him to, anyway,” muttered Darrin. “Under these circumstances I wouldn’t do anything as mean as that to a dog!”
“Maybe he’s dead already, anyway,” proposed Dan, now hopefully.
“I hope so,” came from Darrin.
Now they saw the not very distant battleships alter their courses and steam slowly away.
All was now desolation over the angry sea, as the battleships gradually vanished. The two conscious midshipmen were now resolved to face the end bravely. That was all they could do for themselves and their flag.
THE GRIM WATCH FROM THE WAVES
By the time that little more than the mastheads of the departing battleships were visible, Hallam opened his eyes.
It would have seemed a vastly kinder fate had he been allowed to remain unconscious to the last.
Hallam had not been strangled by the inrush of water. In going overboard, this midshipman had struck the water with the back of his head and had been stunned. In the absence of attention he had remained a long time unconscious.
Even now the hapless midshipman whose frollicking had been the cause of the disaster, did not immediately regain his full senses.
“Why, we’re all in the water,” he remarked after a while.
“Yes,” assented Darrin, trying to speak cheerfully.
Midshipman Hallam remained silent for some moments before he next asked:
“How did it happen?”
“Fell overboard,” replied Dan laconically, failing to mention who it was who had fallen over the stern.
Again a rather long silence on Hallam’s part. Then, at last, he observed:
“Funny how we all fell over at the same time.”
To this neither of his classmates made any rejoinder.
“See here,” shouted Hallam, after a considerable period of silent wondering, “I remember it all now. I was fooling at the stern rail and I toppled overboard.”
Dan nodded without words.
“And you fellows jumped in after me,” roared Hallam, both his mental and bodily powers now beginning to return. “Didn’t you?”
“Of course,” assented Darrin rather reluctantly.
“And what became of the fleet!”
Dave and Dan looked at each other before the former replied:
“Oh, well, Hally, brace up! The ships searched for us a long time, and some launches were put out after us. But they couldn’t see our little heads above the big waves, and so——”
“They’ve gone away and left us?” queried Hallam, guessing at once. “Now, fellows, I don’t mind so much for myself, but it’s fearful to think that I’ve dragged you into the same fate. It’s awful! Why couldn’t you have left me to my fate?”