Another group of restless middies had sauntered up. Pennington, after a swift look at the pacing officer in charge here, and discovering that the officer’s back was turned, executed a series of swift cartwheels.
“Look out, Pen!” called Midshipman Dwight, in a low, though sharp voice.
Just too late the warning came.
As Pen leaped to his feet after the last turn, one
of his hands struck
Dave swayed, tried to clutch at something, then—
“O-o-o-oh!” rang the first startled chorus.
Then, instantly, on top of it, came the rousing hail:
Farley and Hallam were the first to reach the rail. But Lieutenant Burton was there almost as quickly.
“Haul back!” commanded the lieutenant sternly. “No one go overboard!”
That held the middies in check, for in no place, more than in the Navy, are orders orders.
Clack! was the sound that followed the first cry. Like a flash the marine sentry had thrown his rifle to the deck. A single bound carried him to one of the night life buoys. This he released, and hurled far astern.
As the night buoy struck the water a long-burning red light was fused by contact. The glow shone out over the waters.
In the meantime, the “Massachusetts’s” speed was being slowed rapidly, and a boat’s crew stood at quarters.
The boat put off quickly, guided by the glow of the red signal light on the buoy. Ere the boat reached the buoy the coxswain made out the head and shoulders of a young man above the rim of the floating buoy.
Soon after the boat lay alongside. Dave, with the coxswain’s aid, pulled himself into the small craft.
Recovering the buoy, the coxswain flashed the red light three times. From the deck of the battleship came a cheering yell sent up from hundreds of throats.
In the meantime, however, while the boat was on its way to the buoy, a pulsing scene had been enacted on board.
Farley went straight up to Midshipman Pennington.
“Sir,” demanded Farley hotly, “why did you push Mr. Darrin over the rail.”
Pennington looked at his questioner as one stunned.
“I—I did push Darrin over,” admitted Pennington, “but it was an accident.”
“An easily contrived one, wasn’t it?” demanded Midshipman Farley, rather cynically.
“It was pure accident,” contended Pennington, paling. “Until it happened I hadn’t the least idea in the world that I was going to send Mr. Darrin or anyone else overboard.”
“Huh!” returned Farley dubiously.
“Huh!” quoth Hallam.
Dan Dalzell uttered not a word, but the gaze of his eyes was fixed angrily on Pennington.
That latter midshipman turned as white as a sheet. His hands worked as though he were attempting to clutch at something to hold himself up.