A few more days were spent by our friends in and about Philadelphia, during which brief visits were paid to places interesting to them because the scenes of historical events of the Revolution—Whitemarsh, Germantown, Barren Hill, Valley Forge, beside those within the city itself.
But the summer heats were over and the hearts of one and all began to yearn for the sweets of home; all the more when word reached them through the mails that the members of their party left in the Newport cottages had already succumbed to the same sort of sickness, and were on their homeward way by land. A day or two later the Dolphin, with her full complement of passengers, was moving rapidly southward.
Max had a most pleasant surprise when the mail was distributed on that first morning after his arrival at the Naval Academy. Till his name was called, he had hardly hoped there would be anything for him, and then as a letter was handed him, and he recognized upon it his father’s well-known writing, his cheek flushed and his eyes shone.
A hasty glance at his mates showed him that each seemed intent upon his own affairs,—no one watching him,—so he broke the seal and read with swelling heart the few sentences of fatherly advice and affection the captain had found time to pen before the Dolphin weighed anchor the previous evening. He knew the homesickness that would assail his son on that first day of separation from himself and all composing the dear home circle, and was fain to relieve it so far as lay in his power.
Max read the letter twice, then, refolding, slipped it into his pocket to read again and ponder upon when he could find a moment of leisure and freedom from observation.
More firmly convinced than ever, if that were possible, was the lad that his was the best, kindest, and dearest of fathers.
“And if I don’t do him credit and make him happy and proud of his first-born, it shall not be for want of trying,” was his mental resolve.
It was fortunate for Max that his father had been seen and admired by the cadets, who one and all thought him a splendid specimen of naval officer, and were therefore well disposed toward his son.
Then Max himself had such a bright, intelligent face and genial manner, was so ready to assist or oblige a comrade in any right and honorable way that lay in his power, so very conscientious about obeying rules and doing his duty in everything, and brave in facing ridicule, insolence, and contempt, when the choice was between that and wrong-doing, that no one of them could help respecting him, whether willing to acknowledge it or not.
At first the “plebes,” or boys in the same class (the fourth), who had entered in June of the same year, showed a disposition to treat him, as well as the other “Seps,”—as the lads entering in September are styled,—with scorn, as knowing less than themselves; but that soon changed under the exhibition Max was able to make of all he had learned from his father during the weeks on board the Dolphin, showing himself perfectly at home in “rigging-loft work,” rowing, and swimming, and by no means slow in taking to great-gun exercise, infantry tactics, and field artillery.