Seaman Mallock soon returned, saluting.
“Ensign Somers’ compliments sir, and the ensign replies that Mr. Farley is in command of the deck.”
“Very good, then,” nodded Midshipman Farley, and set the indicator at the twenty mark.
Ten minutes later Lieutenant Benson reappeared on deck. First of all he noted the “Dodger’s” position. Then, as Ensign Eph and Mallock appeared, Benson announced:
“Gentlemen, you will come down to Supper now. Mr. Somers, you will take command of the deck.”
“Very good, sir,” Eph responded. “Mallock, take the wheel.”
Lieutenant Benson seated himself at the head of the table, with Ensign Hastings on his right. The midshipmen filled the remaining seats.
“We’re necessarily a little crowded on a craft of this size,” explained Benson. “Also the service is not what it would be on a battleship. We can carry but few men, so the cook must also act as waiter.”
At once a very good meal was set on the table, and all hands were busily eating when Eph Somers came down the stairs, saluted and reported:
“Sir, we are on the bottom of Chesapeake Bay, with our nose in the mud!”
THE TREACHERY OF MORTON
To the midshipmen that was rather startling news to receive while in the act of enjoying a very excellent meal.
Lieutenant Jack Benson, however, appeared to take the news very coolly.
“May I ask,” he inquired, “whether any of you young gentlemen noticed anything unusual in our motion during the last two or three minutes?”
All six of the midshipmen glanced at him quickly, then at Darrin the other five looked, as though appointing him their spokesman.
“No, sir; we didn’t note anything,” replied Dave. “We were too busy with our food and with listening to the talk.”
“But now you notice something?”
“That the boat appears motionless, as though speed had been stopped.”
“And that is the case,” smiled Benson. “Mr. Somers, soon after the soup was placed on the table, came in from the deck with the one man of his watch, closed the tower and signaled for changing to the electric motors. Then he filled the forward tanks and those amidships, at last filling the tanks astern. We came below so gently that you very intent young men never noticed the change. We are now on the bottom—–in about how many feet of water, Mr. Somers?”
“About forty, sir,” replied Eph.
The six midshipmen stared at one another, then felt a somewhat uncomfortable feeling creeping over them.
“Had it been daylight,” smiled Benson, “you would have been warned by the disappearance of natural light and the increased brilliancy of the electric light here below. However, your experience serves to show you how easily up-to-date submarines may be handled.”