Some of these first classmen were twenty-four years of age, others from twenty to twenty-two. Hence, with many of them, there was some slight undercurrent of feeling over the necessity for taking instruction from such very youthful instructors as Jack Benson, Hal Hastings and Eph Somers.
Had any of this latter trio been inclined to put on airs there might have been some disagreeable feeling engendered in the breasts of some of the middies. But Jack and his associates were wholly modest, pleasant and helpful.
Beginning on the following day, it was announced, the “Dodger” would take a squad of six midshipmen down Chesapeake Bay for practical instruction in submarine work, both above and below the surface of the water. This instruction would continue daily, with squads of six midshipmen on board, until all members of the first class had received thorough drilling.
“That’s going to be a mighty pleasant change from the usual routine here,” whispered Farley in Dave’s ear.
“It surely will,” Darrin nodded. “It will be even better fun than football.”
“With no chance for the Army to beat us out on this game,” Farley replied slyly.
At last it came the turn of Dave, Dan, Farley, Page, Jetson and Wolgast to go aboard the “Dodger.”
“Gentlemen,” announced Lieutenant Jack Benson, “Ensign Somers will show you all that is possible about the deck handling and the steering below the surface, and then Ensign Hastings will explain the mechanical points of this craft. When both are through, if you have any questions. I will endeavor to answer them.”
In a few minutes the “showing” had been accomplished.
“Any questions, gentlemen?” inquired Lieutenant Benson.
Dave was ready with three; Farley had four and Jetson two. Lieutenant Benson looked particularly pleased as he answered. Then, at last, he inquired:
“What’s your name?”
“Darrin, sir,” Dave replied.
The other midshipmen present were asked their names, and gave them.
“Gentlemen,” continued youthful Lieutenant Benson, “this present squad impresses me as being more eager and interested in submarines than any of the squads that have come aboard.”
“Thank you, sir,” Dave replied for himself and the others.
“Are you really exceptionally interested?” inquired Benson.
“I think we are, sir,” Dave responded.
“On Saturday of each week, as long as the ‘Dodger’ is at Annapolis,” went on Benson, “we intend to take out one of the best squads. We shall drop down the Bay, not returning, probably before Sunday noon. Would you gentlemen like to be the first squad to go on the longer cruise—–next Saturday?”
The faces of all six midshipmen shone with delight for an instant, until Dave Darrin answered mournfully:
“It would give us great delight, sir, but for one thing. We play Creighton University next Saturday, and we are all members of the Navy team.”