Again the deck heaved upon that side, and the cylinder roared across it. It missed the unconscious petty officer. At that instant Whistler Morgan made his leap.
He had taken time to study the angle at which the bomb was rolling; he fell upon and grappled it as though it were a football.
“Oh! Oh! Colodia!” yelled his three mates in wild excitement. “Hurray!”
“Well done, Colodia!” echoed a voice behind them, and Ensign MacMasters appeared from the after hatchway, with the commanding officer of the S. P. 888 in his wake.
Some of the chaser’s crew were now approaching the scene from forward. Ensign Filson leaped for the safety pin that had been jerked out of the depth bomb just as Phil Morgan, on his knees, set the bomb up on its flat end.
“Good boy, Whistler!” shrieked Torry.
Ensign Filson reached the spot and slipped the plug into place. Between them they held the bomb upright on its flat end until the seamen could pass a line around it.
The dangerous thing had yet to be held right there until Lieutenant Perkins ordered the submarine chaser headed up into the sea. Then the bomb could be removed to a place of safety.
The whole affair had occupied seconds, that is all. But all felt as though an hour had passed!
“Good boy, Morgan!” declared Ensign MacMasters, his face shining with approval. “Is the mate hurt badly?”
The petty officer was still unconscious. They picked him up to carry him below. Then the whole crowd began to cheer, and the officers did not forbid it. Even Lieutenant Perkins wrung Phil Morgan’s hand as he stood abashed in the center of the congratulatory group on the quarter deck.
“I’d be proud to have you as one of my own crew, Morgan,” said the commander of the submarine chaser. “Ensign MacMasters is to be congratulated that he takes aboard the Kennebunk such an altogether admirable young man. You will hear from this, Master Morgan. You deserve the Medal of Honor and whatever other honor and special emolument it is in the power of the Secretary of the Navy to award.”
He turned to MacMasters: “And your boatswain’s mate deserves mention, too. That he did not succeed in doing what this young man accomplished, was not for lack of courage to attempt it. They are both men that the Navy may be proud of. With a will, men!” and he led in another cheer.
“Oi, oi, Whistler!” whispered Ikey when the greatly abashed Morgan went forward, “you’ll be an admiral next. If you beat me to it, what will my papa and mama say?”
THE KENNEBUNK SAILS
Put back upon her course, the S. P. 888 was soon beating her way through the cross-seas—“bucking the briny” the boys called it—toward the port from which the Kennebunk was to sail in the morning.
It was a wild night. The peril through which the ship’s company had just passed, and from which Philip Morgan had been able to save them, made the threatening aspects of sea and air seem small indeed. Let the wind shriek through the wire stays and the waves roar and burst about and over the submarine chaser as they listed, none of these dangers equaled that of the depth charge which had run amuck.