“You may chaperon your party of young ladies in the steamer, Belle,” smiled Mrs. Meade from the deck of the destroyer. “I give you express authority over them.”
Farley’s and Wolgast’s sweethearts laughed merrily at this. All hands had again reached the point where laughter came again to their lips without strong effort. Pauline Butler was safe under the surgeon’s hands, if anywhere.
Then the destroyers pulled out again, hitting a fast clip for Annapolis.
“That’s the original express boat; this is only a cattle-carrier,” muttered Dave, gazing after the fast destroyer.
“Calling us cattle, are you?” demanded Belle. “As official chaperon I must protest on behalf of the young ladies aboard.”
“A cattle boat often carries human passengers,” Dave returned. “I call this a cattle boat only because of our speed.”
“We don’t need speed now,” Belle answered. “Those who do are on board the destroyer.”
By the time that the steamer reached her berth at the Academy wall, and the young people had hastened ashore, they learned that Pauline Butler had been removed to a hospital in Annapolis; that she was very much alive, though still weak, and that in a day or two she would again be all right.
With a boatswain’s mate in charge, another steamer was despatched down the bay to recover and tow home the capsized sailboat.
Examination week went through to its finish. By Saturday night the first classmen knew who had passed. But two of the members of the class had “bilged.” Dave, Dan and all their close friends in the class had passed and had no ordeal left at Annapolis save to go through the display work of Graduation Week.
“You still have your two years at sea, though, before you’re sure of your commission,” sighed Belle, as they rested between dances that Saturday night.
“Any fellow who can live through four years at Annapolis can get through the two years at sea and get his commission at last,” laughed Dave Darrin happily. “Have no fears, Belle, about my being an ensign, if I have the good fortune to live two years more.”
GRADUATION DAY—–AT LAST
Now came the time when the Naval Academy was given over to the annual display of what could be accomplished in the training of midshipmen.
There were drills and parades galore, with sham battles in which the sharp crack of rifle fire was punctured by the louder, steadier booms of field artillery. There were gun-pointing contests aboard the monitors and other practice craft.
There were exhibitions of expert boat-handling, and less picturesque performances at the machine shops and in the engine and dynamo rooms. There were other drills and exhibitions—–enough of them to weary the reader, as they doubtless did weary the venerable members of a Board of Visitors appointed by the President.