“What a joke it will be on you,” grinned Page, “when you find the watchman dragging the little fellow away to turn over to the doctors from the asylum!”
The midshipmen were on their way to report for afternoon football work. As they had started a few minutes early, and had time to spare, they had now halted on the way, and were standing on the sidewalk in front of the big and handsome barracks building.
“Can you fellows still use your eyes?” Dave wanted to know. “If you can, look toward the steps of Bancroft.”
The officer in charge was coming out. At his side was the very youthful looking one in the lieutenant’s uniform.
“The O.C. is decoying the stranger away to turn him over to the watchmen without violence,” guessed Midshipman Farley.
Three officers were approaching. These the five midshipmen turned and saluted. In another moment all of the five save Dave Darrin received a sharp jolt. For the O.C. had halted and was introducing the three Navy officers to the youthful one.
“This is Lieutenant Benson, the submarine expert of whom you have heard so much,” said the O.C., loudly enough for the amazed middies to hear.
“Sub—–sub——say, did you fellows hear that?” begged Dan hoarsely.
“Yes,” assented Dave calmly. “And say, you fellows are a fine lot to be serving here. You all remember Mr. Benson. He was here last year—–he and his two submarine friends. We didn’t see them, because our class didn’t go out on the Pollard submarine boat that was here last year. But you remember them, just the same. You remember, too, that Mr. Benson and his friends were hazed by some of the men in last year’s youngster class. You heard about that? A lot of the fellows came near getting ragged, but Benson didn’t take offense, and his quick wit pulled that lot of last year’s youngsters out of a bad fix.”
“Then Benson and his mates are real people?” demanded Dan, still doubtful, if his voice were an indication.
“Yes; and Benson is a real submarine expert, too, even if he is a boy,” Dave went on.
“Then he is only a boy?”
“He’s seventeen or eighteen.”
“Then how can he be a lieutenant?” demanded Dalzell, looking more bewildered.
“He isn’t,” Dave answered simply.
“But the O.C. introduced him that way.”
“And quite properly,” answered Darrin, whereat his companions stared at him harder than ever.
“Let’s walk along,” proposed Dave, “and I’ll tell you the little that I know, or think I know, about the matter. Of course, you fellows all know about the Pollard submarine boats? The government owns a few of them now, and is going to buy a lot more of the Pollard craft.”
“But that kid officer?” insisted Dan.
“If you’ll wait I’ll come to that. Benson, his name is; Jack Benson he’s commonly called. He and two boy friends got in on the ground floor at the Farnum shipyard. They were boys of considerable mechanical skill, and they found their forte in the handling of submarine boats. They’ve done some clever, really wonderful feats with submarines. Farnum, the owner of the yard, trusted these boys, after a while, to show off the fine points of the craft to our Navy officers and others.”