“You didn’t talk that way in the High School,” argued Dan.
“No; there the athletics were more necessary, if we were to keep in condition. Here athletics may be regarded as the luxury, which we are not yet entitled. Here, with the gym work, the fencing, the drills under arms and the boat drills, we’re kept in the pink of physical condition without need for special training.”
“Next year, when we feel absolutely solid in our marks, we can go in for athletics, if we wish, Dan.”
So Dalzell gave in. He was beginning to realize that his chum had a “long” head and that his advice was always good.
With the coming of spring the boat drills were resumed in earnest.
Dave, standing well in “grease,” now, became captain of one of the boat crews, for he had developed unusual skill in boat handling.
One bright afternoon in the latter part of April, while half of the brigade marched off to instruction on shore, the other half marched down to the docks beyond the seamanship building.
Here the members of the third class embarked in the steam launches each craft representing a war vessel—for fleet drill.
The fourth class men embarked, by crews, in the sailboats.
As each captain gave the order to shove clear of the dock the mainsail was hoisted. Then each crew captain kept one eye on the watch for the signals of the instructor, who was aboard a boat designated as the flagship.
The sail was downstream. Beyond Annapolis some pretty manoeuvering work was done. While this drill was proceeding, however, the wind died out considerably. Then, light as the breeze was, the youthful crew captains were forced to beat back against almost a head wind.
There being no signs of squalls or puffs, the crew captains did not seem to need to exercise much caution. The members of the crews stood indolently at their stations.
Yet Dave was as alert as ever. He stood close to the midshipman tillerman, looking constantly for signals from the flagship, and at the same time watchful for any wind signs.
An hour or more they had proceeded thus. Some of Dave’s boat crew, who had been making a lark of their nearly becalmed condition now began to demur over the prospect of getting back late for supper.
“The steam-launch fleet might show up and give us a tow,” grumbled Farley.
Dave smiled and said nothing. He was as eager as any midshipman in the boat to have his supper on time, but he felt that the crew captain must appear above any sign of complaint untoward fate.
For a moment or so Darrin turned to look aft at the weather.
“Motor boat ‘John Duncan’ on the port bow, two points off and bearing this way, sir,” reported the bow watch.
Darrin turned quickly, bending to glance under the boom, for the mainsail was in his way.
What he saw made him dart quickly forward, to take up his stand by the mast.