“What do you think of the way the trick was done?” asked Hal Hastings, looking up with a quiet smile.
“It was marvelous,” replied Midshipman Farley promptly.
“I would like to ask a question, sir, if I may,” put in Midshipman Jetson.
“Go ahead, sir.”
“Were submarines ever handled anywhere near as neatly before you three gentlemen began your work with the Pollard Company?”
“We didn’t handle them as easily, at all events,” replied Jack with a smile. “It has required a lot of work and practice, night and day. Steward, a plate for Mr. Somers.”
“This is the way we generally manage at meal times,” smiled Ensign Eph, as he took his place at table. “There’s no use in keeping an officer and a man on deck, or a tender at the engines, unless we’re going somewhere, in a hurry. So, in a case like this, where the deck officer wants his meal, we just sink into the mud and rest easy until the meal is over.”
“Are you giving instruction, or merely seeking to amuse your guests, Mr. Somers?” Lieutenant Jack Benson asked quietly.
“Oh, I forgot,” explained Eph, with another smile; “these young gentlemen are not yet acquainted with me. When they are they’ll know that no one ever takes me too seriously.”
“A bad habit for a superior officer, isn’t it?” inquired Benson, looking around at his student guests. “But Mr. Somers may be taken very seriously indeed—–when he’s on duty. He is unreliable at table only.”
“Unreliable at table?” echoed Eph, helping himself to a slice of roast meat. “Why, it seems to me that this is the one place where I can be depended upon to do all that is expected of me.”
The others now sat back, out of courtesy, looking on and chatting while Ensign Eph Somers ate his meal. “There may be a few questions—–or many—–that you would like to ask,” suggested Lieutenant Jack Benson. “If so, gentlemen, go ahead with your questions. For that matter, during your stay aboard, ask all the questions you can think of.”
“Thank you, sir,” replied Midshipman Dave Darrin, with a slight bow. “I have been thinking of one point on which I would be glad of information.”
“And that is-----”
“The full complement of this craft appears to consist of three officers and four enlisted men—–that is, of course, outside of your combined cook and steward.”
“Yes,” nodded Benson.
“One of the officers is commanding officer; another is deck officer and the third engineer officer.”
“Then, on a cruise,” pursued Dave, “how can you divide watches and thus keep going night and day?”
“Why, originally,” Jack replied, “we put on long cruises with only three aboard—–the three who are at present officers. With a boat like the ‘Dodger,’ which carries so few men, the commanding officer cannot stand on his dignity and refuse to stand watch. I frequently take my trick at the wheel. That gives Mr. Somers his chance to go below and sleep.”