One craft they did not see. The oil tender, Sarah Coville, was not here, and, on making some inquiries of the dock loungers, the boys learned that she had not been seen at Rivermouth since the night they had come in off the submarine chaser in the fog.
Rivermouth was fast becoming a base for patrol boats and submarines, it seemed, although New London and Groton, across the harbor from New London, were really the headquarters for all such craft along the North Atlantic seaboard.
“Maybe we can spy the Three Eights,” Torry said, referring to the submarine chaser in which they had pursued the Sarah Coville a few days before. “Mr. MacMasters must have been relieved of the command of her before this, don’t you think?”
“Don’t know,” Whistler rejoined, breaking off in his whistling briefly.
“But where is he?” queried the anxious Frenchy.
“Don’t worry,” Whistler said. “He’ll be here.”
“Oi, oi! If he don’t come,” said Ikey, “we’re marooned, eh?”
“That’ll be fierce!” growled Frenchy Donahue. “I’ve got just fifty-five cents left, and one of the nickels is punched. I can see my finish if he doesn’t show up to-day.”
The chums soon discovered that they were not the only boys from the Navy in town. By ones and twos other bluejackets made their appearance on the water-front. But there was not even a petty officer assigned to the port to meet them.
The four friends from Seacove learned that every enlisted man and apprentice they talked with was assigned to the Kennebunk, and immediately all fraternized.
At noon time the bluejackets marched up town in a body to Yancey’s and flocked into that eating place like a swarm of hungry locusts. Abe, the waiter, was just about swamped, and Ikey and Frenchy volunteered to help him serve the vociferous crew. Yancey’s other customers were very much out of it for the time being.
They were a noisy crowd, but perfectly good-natured; and with the freehandedness characteristic of the sailor ashore, bought the best Yancey could provide. The restaurant proprietor had no complaint to make.
In the midst of the jollification a hush began to spread over the room. It began at the tables near the main entrance of the restaurant; then the men began to get briskly to their feet. With automatic precision they came to attention, saluting the officer who had entered with that jerky little downward gesture of the forearm typical of the bluejacket.
Ikey, starting from the order window with a tray load of food, nearly dropped the whole thing on the floor in trying to salute.
“Ensign MacMasters!” hissed Torry for the benefit of the boys near, who did not know the officer.
And over Ensign MacMasters’ shoulder glowed the moon-like face of Seven Knott.
“Keep your seats, men,” said the ensign quietly, returning the salute in general. “You have half an hour to finish before we march to the dock. I take it you are all assigned to my present command?”