The slate-colored S. P. 888 looked to be no friend to a landsman, especially with the sea as it was just then. Beyond the craft the harbor was tossing in innumerable whitecaps, while through the breach between the capes the Atlantic itself could be seen to be in ugly mood.
They got aboard; and as soon as the moorings were cast off the newcomers were welcomed in friendly fashion, by the regular crew of the chaser, to most of whom Whistler Morgan and his three friends were already known.
“Hey, garby! where d’you sleep on this hooker?” demanded one of the strangers, hoarsely and behind the sharp of his hand, of a member of the chaser’s crew. “Or do you go ashore at nights?”
“If we can’t get ashore for the watch below,” was the perfectly serious reply, “every man gets a hook to hang on.”
“You mean to hang his hammock on?”
“No such luck! There isn’t room for hammocks on one of these chasers. Why, even the officer commanding has to sleep on a hammock slung out over the stern in pleasant weather.”
“Good-night!” gasped Al Torrance. “Where does he sleep when it isn’t pleasant?”
“He doesn’t sleep at all—or anybody else, as you’ll probably find out to-night, garby,” was the reply.
There was bound to be a deal of joking of this nature; but it was all good-natured. The crew of the chaser were of course just as proud of their craft as the crew of the battleship is of their sea-home. They ignored the inconveniences of the S. P. 888 and dilated upon her speed and what they hoped to do in her. She was even better than a destroyer for getting right on top of a submarine and sinking that rat of the sea with depth bombs.
The latter—metal cylinders weighing more than a hundred pounds each—were lashed in their stations at the bow and at the stern of the chaser. They were rigged to be dropped overboard a little differently from the method pursued upon the destroyers.
As the chaser shot across the harbor the strangers aboard remarked in wonder at the way in which she picked up speed. Within a couple of cable lengths from the shore she was going like a streak of light.
It was evident that the S. P. 888 was fully prepared for rough weather. Not only the depth bombs, but everything else on her decks were lashed. Passing between the capes, she plunged into a regular smother of rough water, and at once the decks were drenched from stem to stern.
“What do you know about this?” demanded Al Torrance of Morgan. “A fellow wants to hang on to a handline like grim death to be sure to keep inboard. Hope they won’t pipe us to quarters while this keeps up.”
There seemed to be, however, no prospect of the sea’s abating; and the commander of the chaser had a considerable distance to go before morning, so he urged the engineer to increase rather than diminish the speed.
With no regard to the comfort of her crew, the craft plowed along on her way to the port where the Kennebunk awaited them. Naval vessels cannot wait on weather signals. “Orders are orders.”