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HOME > Classical Novels > Bill Bolton and the Flying Fish > Chapter X BILL STARTS IN
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 The launch, a highpowered craft, soon caught up with the submarine and its string of loaded lifeboats. Darkness had fallen before the little flotilla reached the mothership, but the plunder was quickly taken aboard, and the lifeboats were sunk. Within an hour of their arrival, the Amtonia with her submarine pilot-fish were heading into the northeast again.  
The two lads were given a large, comfortable cabin together, where they found the baggage from their amphibian had been stowed. They had just taken a shower in the luxuriously appointed bathroom off their cabin, when there came a knock at the door.
“The Captain’s compliments, sir,” said the steward when Bill opened to him, “and will you gentlemen dine with him and his officers at eight thirty in the Palm Garden? He asks me to inform you, sir, that you will find uniforms in your closet. He begs that you will not wear civilian clothes while aboard.”
“Thank Baron von Hiemskirk on behalf of Chief Osceola and myself. We shall be glad to join the officers’ mess at half past eight. We shall also put on the uniforms he has provided, although I must say that nothing looks worse than a uniform one hasn’t been fitted for!”
“Beg pardon, sir, but the tailor has already altered the uniforms. He took measurements from the suits in your bags. He and his men are working on more of them tonight. He tells me that they will all be finished soon.”
“Thank you,” said Bill. “That will be fine. By the way, where is the Palm Garden?”
“Off A deck, sir. Thank you, sir.” He was gone.
“Well,” grinned Bill, “some system they have aboard this packet!”
“You said it. Too much system to suit me, Bill. We’re likely to come a bad cropper when we buck it.”
“You know the adage about crossing bridges before you have to, Osceola. Let’s get into these uniforms. It’s nearly time for mess and I’m hungry enough to chew rubber.”
The uniforms proved to be made of white duck, and the lads found their names stitched inside the blouses. An officer’s cap and pair of white canvas shoes went with each suit. To their further surprise, they found that all these articles fitted them exactly.
“Gee!” exclaimed Bill, as he saw the two gold stripes on his black shoulder straps. “This is promotion with a vengeance! When I woke up this morning, I was only a midshipman. Tonight I’m a full lieutenant! What’s the Baron made you, big boy?”
“I’ve got a broad stripe like yours, Bill, and a narrow one. I suppose that rates me something—but what, I don’t know!”
“That’s the insignia of a lieutenant j.g.”
“And what’s the j.g. mean?”
“Junior grade. A j.g. ranks with a first lieutenant in the army.”
“And you, with your two broad stripes rank with an army captain, I suppose, and you’re my superior officer on board here, I take it?”
“Right. Only we say full stripes, not broad stripes. In Navy parlance, I’m a two-striper, and you are a one-and-a-half striper.”
“Sounds to me like a convict gang,” laughed the Seminole, as he buttoned up his blouse. “Well, if you’re ready, I am.”
“Don’t forget your cap,” Bill reminded him. “Strictly speaking, no naval officer is in uniform without it.”
“Pirate officer, you mean,” grunted Osceola as they entered the corridor. “Last time we were kidnapped and lacked all this luxury, but at least what clothes we wore were comfortable. I feel as if somebody had laced me into a tight corset.”
“You’ll feel better after dinner.”
“Maybe. If the buttons hold!”
Together they mounted the stairs to A deck. A few of the Amtonia’s passengers were lounging about on deck. They paid not the slightest attention to them, in fact, Bill noticed that their indifference was so marked that it could not be other than studied.
Then a voice spoke behind them. “Hello, men!” As they turned, Charlie joined them. “I wanted Father to meet you,” he said, rather breathlessly, “but he says you’ve joined the pirates, and— But you haven’t, have you?”
Osceola looked down at him quizzically. “Only pro tem!”
“Gee, what does that mean? I wish you’d talk American.”
“If I spoke my own language, which is real American, youngster, you wouldn’t understand me any better.”
Bill grinned. “Pro tem means for the time being,” he said. “But I’d better tell you, Charlie, that the Chief is feeling low tonight, so don’t get fresh. He’ll tomahawk you one of these days if you don’t look out!”
“Oh, yeah?” Charlie seemed unimpressed by this dire threat. Then his tone changed suddenly. “Please, Bill,” he whispered eagerly, “let me be a pirate, too. Gee, it would be such fun. Can’t I?”
Both Bill and Osceola burst into a shout of laughter. “But how about your Dad?” asked the Seminole.
“Well, what about him?”
Bill shook his head. “Talk like that to him, and he’ll be offering you the choice of back or bristles!”
“Aw, cut it out! I’m serious, Bill. Please let me be a pirate!”
“I’ll think about it, Charlie.” Bill took him by the arm and moved over to the rail. “But I do want you to do something for me,” he said in lowered tones. “You must keep it entirely to yourself, though. If you mention it to a single soul, you’ll get us all into a heap of trouble.”
“I won’t—honest, Bill. I’ll shut up like a clam! What is it?”
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