Only eight months ago Ginger Hood and I had been midshipmen aboard the old Vengeance, and of course had spent most of our time, in her, trying to get to windward of her sub, pull his leg, and dodge any job of work which came along. Now the boot was on the other leg, for we were sub-lieutenants ourselves—he in the Hercules, I in theHector, with gun-rooms of our own to boss, and as we'd only been at the job for a month, you can guess that we hadn't quite settled down yet, and felt jolly much like fish out of water.
The Hector and Hercules were two big armoured cruisers, as like as two peas, and they had come straight out from England to Gibraltar to work up for their first gunnery practices. For the last ten days they had been lying inside the New Mole waiting for a strong south-easter to blow itself out, and we had taken the opportunity of trying to make our two gun-rooms friendly; for, as a matter of fact, they hated each other like poison, his mids. taking every opportunity of being rude to mine, and mine to his. These rows were always reported to us, and if we hadn't been such chums, I do believe that we, too, should have fallen out. If a Hercules mid. came aboard the Hector on duty, my chaps would let him wear his legs out on the quarterdeck for hours sooner than ask him down below, and you can guess that they were just as kind aboard the Hercules if any of my mids. had to go aboard her. I had sixteen of the beauties in my gun-room to look after, and Ginger had fifteen; if his were more bother to him than mine were to me, I don't wonder he thought that his hair was turning grey. Never did they meet ashore without a free fight or some trouble or another cropping up. The row had started on board the Cornwall, where they had all been together as cadets, over some wretched boat-race. The winning crew had used racing oars, which the second boat's crew either hadn't had the savvy to get, or didn't find out till too late that they might have used. However it was, there had been a glorious row at the time, and as some of my mids. had pulled in the losing boat and some of Ginger's in the winning one, both gun-rooms still kept the feud going.