BILTMORE OSWALD The Diary of A Hapless Recruit
Feb. 23d. "And what," asked the enlisting officer, regarding me as if I had insulted him, his family and his live stock, "leads you to believe that you are remotely qualified to join the Navy?"
At this I almost dropped my cane, which in the stress of my patriotic preoccupation I had forgotten to leave home.
"Nothing," I replied, making a hasty calculation of my numerous useless accomplishments, "nothing at all, sir, that is, nothing to speak of. Of course I've passed a couple of seasons at Bar Harbor—perhaps that—"
"Bar Harbor!" exploded the officer. "Bar! bah! bah—dammit," he broke off, "I'm bleating."
"Yes, sir," said I with becoming humility. His hostility increased.
"Do you enlist for foreign service?" he snapped.
"Sure," I replied. "It will all be foreign to me."
The long line of expectant recruits began to close in upon us until a thirsty, ingratiating semi-circle was formed around the officer's desk. Upon the multitude he glared bitterly.
"Orderly! why can't you keep this line in some sort of shape?"
"Yes, give the old tosh some air," breathed a worthy in my ear as he retreated to his proper place.
"What did you do at Bar Harbor?" asked the officer, fixing me with his gaze.
"Oh," I replied easily, "I occasionally yachted."
"On what kind of a boat?" he urged.
"Now for the life of me, sir, I can't quite recall," I replied. "It was a splendid boat though, a perfect beauty, handsomely fitted up and all—I think they called her the 'Black Wing.'"
These few little remarks seemed to leave the officer flat. He regarded me with a pitiful expression. There was pain in his eyes.
"You mean to say," he whispered, "that you don't know what kind of a boat it was?"
"Unfortunately no, sir," I replied, feeling really sorry for the wounded man.
"Do you recall what was the nature of your activities aboard this mysterious craft?" he continued.
"Oh, indeed I do, sir," I replied. "I tended the jib-sheet."
"Ah," said he thoughtfully, "sort of specialized on the jib-sheet?"
"That's it, sir," said I, feeling things taking a turn for the better. "I specialized on the jib-sheet."
"What did you do to this jib-sheet?" he continued.
"I clewed it," said I promptly, dimly recalling the impassioned instructions an enthusiastic friend of mine had shunted at me throughout the course of one long, hot, horrible, confused afternoon of the past summer—my first, and, as I had hoped at the time, final sailing experience.
The officer seemed to be lost in reflection. He was probably weighing my last answer. Then with a heavy sigh he took my paper and wrote something mysterious upon it.
"I'm going to make an experiment of you," he said, holding the paper to me. "You are going to be a sort of a test case. You're the worst applicant I have ever had. If the Navy can make a sailor out of you it can make a sailor out of anybody"; he paused for a moment, then added emphatically, "without exception."
"Thank you, sir," I replied humbly.
"Report here Monday for physical examination," he continued, waving my thanks aside....