The forward deck was comparatively dry; but the after part of the vessel was in a continual smother of spume and broken water. Now and then a wave would charge and break over her, drowning everything and everybody aft of the engines.
These waves seemed racing to overtake and smother the chaser. The tons of water discharged upon her decks would have sunk a less buoyant craft. All she did was to squatter under the weight of the water like a duck, her propellers never missing a stroke!
Whistler Morgan and his chums did not remain below through this run. No, indeed! The hardiest stomach would feel squeamish at such times in quarters like those of the crew of the S. P. 888.
At least the Navy boys got fresh air on deck if they were battered around a bit. They were supplied with slickers, and they had been wet many a time before.
Frenchy Donahue raised his shrill voice in the old dirge: “Aren’t you glad you’re a Navy man? Oh, mother!” and had not intoned the first lachrymose verse through to the end before Ikey Rosenmeyer interrupted with a shout:
“Look there! She’s broke loose! Hey, fellers! don’t you see it?”
They were hanging to a lubber line near the quarterdeck, which on the chaser was a part of the after deck having imaginary boundaries only, established by order of the chaser’s commander.
The depth bomb lashed there was the object to which Ikey called his mates’ attention. A line had snapped, and the heavy cylinder rolled slowly across the deck.
Suddenly the vessel heaved to starboard, and with a quick snap the bomb rolled in the other direction, crashing against the port rail in a way which made Whistler Morgan cry out in warning:
“Have a care, fellows! If the safety pin isn’t firmly inserted in that bomb, and drops out, she may blow off.”
“Great glory!” muttered Torry, “where will we be then?”
“It’s pretty sure if she explodes we’ll never join the Kennebunk’s crew,” was his chum’s grim answer.
The four friends from Seacove were not the only members of the ship’s company that saw the depth bomb break loose from its fastenings. The second in command of the submarine chaser, Ensign Filson, and two seamen on lookout were on duty aft.
“Stop that thing!” shouted the ensign.
He was young and inexperienced, and he did not start for the rolling cylinder himself. Had it been Ensign MacMasters, Phil Morgan and his friends knew that he would have jumped for the bomb as he shouted the order.
The two lookouts were not supposed to leave their positions at such a call; but it was a direct command. They turned from their posts at the rail where they were scanning the sea on either hand just as the depth bomb made its second plunge across the deck.
It crashed into the port rail and then, as the chaser jerked her tail in the heavy cross seas like a saucy catbird, the dangerous cylinder dashed to starboard again.