“Well, how do you feel, Darry?” Farley invited.
“I’m blessed if I really know. Probably in an instant when I fail briefly to realize all that this means my feeling is that I wouldn’t have missed such an experience for anything.”
“You could have all my share of it, if I could make an effective transfer,” laughed Wolgast.
“If we ever do get out of this alive,” mused Page aloud, “I don’t doubt we’ll look back to this hour with a great throb of interest and feel glad that we’ve had one throb that most men don’t get in a lifetime.”
“But we won’t get out,” advanced Jetson. “We’re up hard against it. It’s all over but the slow strangling to death as the air becomes more rare.”
“I wonder if it will be a strangling and choking,” spoke Darrin again in a strange voice; “or whether it will be more like an asphyxiation? In the latter case we may drop over, one at a time, without pain, and all of us be finished within two or three minutes from the time the first one starts.”
“Pleasant!” uttered Wolgast grimly. “Let’s start something—–a jolly song, for instance.”
“Want to die more quickly?” asked Dalzell. “Singing eats up the air faster.”
Lieutenant Jack Benson came out of the engine room for a moment. He took down the wrench and went back to the engine room. But first he paused, for a brief instant, shooting at the midshipmen a look that was full of pity for them. For himself, Jack Benson appeared to have no especial feeling. Then the young commanding officer went back into the engine room, closing the door after him.
“What did he shut the door for?” asked Jetson.
“Probably they’re going to do something, in there, that will call for a good deal of physical exertion.”
“Well, what of that?” demanded Jetson, not seeing the point.
“Why,” Dave explained, “a man at laborious physical work uses up more air than a man who is keeping quiet. If the three officers are going to work hard in there then they’ve closed the door in order not to deprive us of air.”
“We called them kids, at first,” spoke Dan
Dalzell ruefully, “but they’re a mighty fine lot of real men, those three acting Naval officers.”
Dave Darrin rose and walked over to the engine room, opening the door and looking in. Hal and Eph were hard at work over the motor, while Lieutenant Jack Benson, with his hand in his pockets, stood watching their efforts.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Darrin, saluting, “but did you close this door in order to leave more air to us?”
“Yes,” answered Jack Benson. “Go back and sit down.”
“I hope you won’t think us mutinous, sir,” Darrin returned steadily, “but we don’t want any more than our share of whatever air is left on board this craft. We belong to the Navy, too.”
From the after end of the cabin came an approving grunt. It was here that the cook and the four seamen had gathered.