Scanned by Sean Pobuda
#2 of a series.
THE BOY ALLIES UNDER TWO FLAGS
By Ensign Robert L. Drake
IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
Thus spoke the two forward guns on the little scout cruiser H.M.S. Sylph, Lord Hasting, commander.
"A hit!" cried Jack, who, from his position in the pilot house, had watched the progress of the missiles hurled at the foe.
"Good work!" shouted Frank, his excitement so great that he forgot the gunners were unable to hear him.
"Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!"
The Sylph had come about, and now poured a broadside into the enemy.
Then, from the distance, more than a mile across the water, came the sound of many guns. The German cruisers Breslau and Goeben were returning the fire.
Shells, dropping in. front, behind and on all sides of the Sylph threw up the water in mighty geysers, as if it were a typhoon that surrounded the little vessel. Shells screamed overhead, but none found its mark.
All this time the vessels were drawing closer and closer together. Now, as the little scout cruiser rose on a huge swell, a single shock shook the vessel and a British shell sped true.
A portion of the Breslau's superstructure toppled; a second later and the faint sound of a crash was carried over the water to the Sylph.
"A hit!" cried Jack again.
A loud British cheer rose above the sound of battle, and the gunners, well pleased with their marksmanship, turned again to their work with renewed vigor.
"Lieutenant Templeton on the bridge!" came the command, and Jack hastened to report to Lord Hastings.
"What do you make of that last shot, Mr. Templeton?" demanded the commander of the Sylph. "Is the enemy seriously crippled, would you say?"
"No sir," replied Jack. "I think not. You may see that the wreckage has already been cleared away, and the enemy is still plugging away at us."
"Mr. Hetherington!" called the commander. The first lieutenant of the little vessel saluted. "Yes, sir"
"I fear the enemy is too strong for us, sir. You will have to bring the Sylph about."
"Very well, sir."
A moment later the head of the little scout cruiser began to swing gradually to the left.
Jack returned to the wheelhouse.
"What on earth are we coming about for?" demanded Frank, as his friend entered.
"Lord Hastings believes the enemy is too strong for us," was the other's reply.
"But that's no reason to run, is it?"
"I don't think so, but it appears that Lord Hastings does. I guess he knows more about it than we do."
"I guess that's so; but I don't like the idea of running."
At this instant there was a. hail from the lookout:
"Steamer on the port bow, sir!"
"What's her nationality?" bellowed Lord Hastings.
"British, sir," was the reply.
"Can you make her out?"
The lookout was silent for a moment and then called back. "Yes, sir; Cruiser Gloucester, sir!"
"Good!" shouted Lord Hastings. "Lieutenant Hetherington! Bring her about again."
The Sylph came back to her course as if by magic, and once more rushed toward the enemy. Several miles to port, could now be seen the faint outline of the approaching British battle cruiser, sailing swiftly, under full steam, as though she were afraid she would not arrive in time to take part in the battle.
"Full speed ahead!" came the order from the Sylph's commander, and the little craft leaped forward in the very face of her two larger enemies.
A shell from the Goeben, which was nearer the Sylph than her sister ship, crashed into the very mouth of one of the Sylph's 8 inch guns, blowing it to pieces.
Men were hurled to the deck on all sides, maimed and bleeding. Others dropped over dead. An officer hurriedly reported the fact to Lord Hastings.
"We'll get even with her," said His Lordship grimly. "Give her a shot from the forward turret."
In spite of the tragedy enacted before his eyes only a moment before, the British gunner took deliberate aim.
There was silence, as all watched the effect of this one shot.
"Right below the water line," said Lord Hastings calmly. "A pretty shot, my man."
By this time the Gloucester had come within striking distance, and her heavy guns began to breathe defiance to the Germans. But the Breslau and the Goeben had no mind to engage this new enemy, and quickly turned tail and fled.
Lord Hastings immediately got into communication with the captain of the Gloucester by wireless.
"Pursue the enemy!" was the order that was flashed through the air.
The two British ships sped forward on the trail of the foe. But the latter made off at top speed, and in spite of the shells hurled at them by their pursuers, soon outdistanced the Gloucester. The Sylph, however, continued the chase and was gradually gaining, although, now that the battle was over for the time being, the strain on the little cruiser relaxed. Wounded men were hurriedly patched up by the ship's surgeon and his assistants, and the dead were prepared for burial.
Jack and Frank approached Lord Hastings on the bridge. The latter was talking to his first officer.
"They must be the Breslau and Goeben," he was saying, "though I am unable to account for the manner in which they escaped the blockade at Libau. They were supposed to be tightly bottled up there and I was informed that their escape was impossible."
"Something has evidently gone wrong," suggested Lieutenant Hetherington.
"They probably escaped by, a ruse of some kind," said Jack, joining in the conversation.
And the lad was right, although he did not know it then.
The two German ships, tightly bottled up, even as Lord Hastings had said, in Libau, had escaped the blockading British squadron by the simple maneuver of reversing their lights, putting their bow lights aft and vice versa, and passing through the blockading fleet in the night without so much as being challenged. This is history.
"Well," said Frank, "we succeeded in putting our mark on them, even if we didn't catch them."
"We did that," agreed Lieutenant Hetherington.
Darkness fell, and still the chase continued; but the Sylph was unable to come up with her quarry, and the two German cruisers succeeded in limping off in the night.
"We shall have to give it up," said Lord Hastings, when he at last realized that the Germans had escaped. "Mr. Hetherington, bring the ship back to its former course."
The lieutenant did as ordered.
"Now, boys," said Lord Hastings, "you might as well turn in for the night."
A few minutes later the lads were fast asleep in their own cabin, and while they gain a much needed rest and the Sylph continues to speed on her course, it will be a good time to introduce the two young lads to such readers as have not met them before.
Frank Chadwick was an American lad, some 15 years old. In Europe when the great European war broke out, he succeeded, with his father, in getting over the border into Italy, finally reaching Naples.
Here the lad lost his father, and while searching for him, had gone to the aid of a man apparently near death at the hands of a sailor. After thanking the lad for his timely aid, the man had immediately shanghaied the lad, who, when he recovered consciousness, found himself aboard a little schooner, sailing for he knew not where.
There was a mutiny on the ship and the captain was killed. The mutineers, putting in at a little African village for supplies, attempted to fleece Jack Templeton, an English youth out of his just dues. Jack, a strapping youngster, strong as an ox, though no older than Frank, succeeded in getting aboard the mutineers vessel, and by displaying wonderful strategy and fighting prowess, overcame the mutineers.
The boys became great friends.
After capturing the schooner from the mutineers, a prisoner was found on board, who proved to be a British secret service agent. The boys released him, and then, with Lord Hastings, who had come to Africa in his yacht, succeeded in striking such a blow at the Triple Alliance that Italy refused to throw her support to German arms in spite of the strongest pressure the Kaiser could bring to bear.
So valuable was the service the boys rendered in this matter, that when they expressed their intentions of joining the British navy, Lord Hastings, who had taken an immense liking to them, secured them commissions as midshipmen. Later they were assigned to duty on his yacht, the Sylph, which, in the meantime, had been converted into a scout cruiser.
The lads had already played an important part in the war. Through them, a plot to destroy the whole British fleet had been frustrated and the English had been enabled to deliver a smashing blow to the German fleet at Heligoland.
In Lord Hastings the boys had found an excellent friend. Although apparently but a commander of a small scout cruiser — unknown to but a very few — he was one of the most trusted of British secret agents. He was a distant relative of the English monarch and, as the boys had already learned, had more power in naval affairs than his officers and associates surmised. This fact had been proved more than once, when he had given commands to men apparently much higher in rank.
Following the brilliant victory of the British fleet off Heligoland, in which a number of the Kaiser's most powerful sea fighters had been, sent to the bottom, the Sylph had returned to London for repairs. Here Frank and Jack had been personally presented to King George, who had thanked them for their bravery and loyalty and raised them to the rank of Fourth Lieutenant.
Lord Hastings had been ill, but his illness had been of short duration; and so it was not long before the two lads once more found themselves pacing the deck of the Sylph, going they knew not where; nor did they care much, so long as it took them where there was fighting to be done.
It was on the very day that the Sylph lifted anchor for her second cruise, that London heard of the prowess of the German cruiser Emden, a swift raider which later caused so much damage to British shipping as to gain the name "Terror of the Sea." The news received on the day in question told of the sinking of an English liner by this powerful enemy.
When Frank and Jack sought to learn the destination of the Sylph from Lord Hastings, he had put them off with a laugh.
"You'll know soon enough," he said with a wave of his hand.
"Are we likely to see action soon?" asked Jack.
"If we are fortunate," was the reply.
"Well, that's all we wanted to know," said Frank. "Don't worry," replied His Lordship. "You will see all the action you want before this cruise is over, or I am very badly mistaken."
And with this the boys were forced to be content.
For two days they sailed about in the sunny Mediterranean, sighting neither friend nor foe, and then suddenly had encountered the two German cruisers, the Breslau and the Goeben, and the skirmish with these two ships, described at the opening of this story, ensued.
But now, as the enemy had succeeded in making off in the darkness, and as Lord Hastings had ordered that the original course of the Sylph be resumed, the little vessel was again — as Jack said when they had started on their journey — "sailing under sealed orders."
The two lads were about bright and early the morning following the encounter with the German cruisers; and as they stood looking out over the sea, Lord Hastings approached them.
"More news of the Emden," he said, as he came up.
"Another British merchant vessel sunk?" asked Jack.
"Worse," replied Lord Hastings. "A cruiser this time!"
"A cruiser!" exclaimed Jack in surprise. "I always thought that any cruiser of ours was more than a match for a German."
"Well, you are wrong," was Lord Hastings' reply. "From what I have heard by wireless, our vessel attacked, but was sent to the bottom by the Emden before she could do much damage to the German."
"What was the name of the British ship?" asked Frank.
"I haven't heard," replied Lord Hastings; "but the action was fought in the Indian Ocean."
"It seems to me," said Jack vehemently, "that it is about time this German terror of the sea was sent to the bottom."
"So it is," declared Lord Hastings; "and mark my words, she will be when one of our big ships comes up with her."
"May it be soon!" ejaculated Frank.
But it was not to be soon. For almost another month the German terror prowled about the seas, causing great havoc to British and French merchantmen.
For three days the Sylph continued on her way without interruption, and then turned about suddenly and headed for home. Under full speed she ran for days, until the boys knew they were once more in the North Sea, where they had so recently participated in their one great battle.
"Will you tell us why we have come back so suddenly, sir?" asked Frank of Lord Hastings.
"Why," said His Lordship, "the Germans seem to be growing extremely active in the North Sea. Only three days ago, a German submarine, after apparently running the blockade, sank the cruiser Hawke off the coast of Scotland.
"What?" cried both boys in one voice.
"Exactly," said Lord Hastings grimly, "and it is for the purpose of attempting to discover some of these under-the-sea fighters, or other German warships, that we have come back. The whole North Sea is being patrolled, and we are bound to come upon some of the Germans eventually."
"Well, I hope we don't have to wait long," said Frank.
"And so do I," agreed Jack. "I hope that every German ship afloat will be swept from the seas."
The Sylph did not go within sight of the English coast, but for two days cruised back and forth, east, west, north and south, without the sight of the enemy.
This inaction soon began to pall upon the two lads, to whom a fight was as the breath of life itself.
"I wish we had continued on our way, wherever we were going, and not have come back here," said Jack to Frank one afternoon.
"This is about the limit," agreed Frank. "I believe we would have done better to have joined the army. At least we would have seen some fighting."
But the boys desire for action was to be soon fulfilled. The very next day some smoke and dots appeared on the horizon. Quickly they grew until they could be identified as enemy ships. The captain of the Sylph set out a wireless message requesting help from any units in the area:
"Have sighted enemy; four vessels: approaching rapidly," and the exact position of the Sylph.
In a moment came the answer:
"Head north, slowly. We will intercept the enemy when actively engaged. Remember the Hawke!"
Lord Hastings sent another message:
"How many are you?"
"Five," came back the answer. "Undaunted accompanied by torpedo destroyers Lance, Lenox, Legion and Loyal, as convoys."
"Good!" muttered Lord Hastings; then turned to Lieutenant Hetherington:
"You may clear for action, sir!"
The gallant British sailors jumped quickly to their posts, the light of battle in their eager eyes. At Lord Hastings' command, the Sylph was brought about, and soon had her stern toward the enemy.
There came a wireless message from the German commander.
"Surrender!" it said.
"We will die first!" was the answer sent by Lord Hastings.
Steaming slowly, the Sylph apparently was trying to escape; at least so figured the German commander. To him it appeared that he could overtake the little vessel with ease, and his squadron steamed swiftly after it.
Gradually the Germans gained upon the little vessel, finally coming close enough to send a shot after it. They were not yet within range, however, and the shell fell short.
"We'll have to let him get a little closer," muttered Lord Hastings, "or he may draw off. We'll have to face the danger of a shell striking us."
A second shell from the Germans kicked up the water alongside the Sylph.
"He'll have the range in a minute, sir," said Lieutenant Hetherington.
"Bear off a little to the south," was the commander's reply.
For almost an hour the Sylph outmaneuvered the German flotilla, and avoided being struck. All this time Lord Hastings was in constant wireless communication with the Undaunted, which was even now coming to give battle to the Germans.
At last the lookout made them out.
"Battle fleet —" he began, but Lord Hastings keen eye had already perceived what the lookout would have told him.
Well to the rear, perhaps three mile's north, came the British cruiser Undaunted and her four convoys. They were steaming rapidly and in such a direction that they would intercept the Germans should the latter attempt to return in the direction from which they had come.
To escape, the Germans must come directly toward the Sylph. Those on board the Sylph noticed a sudden slackening in the speed of the German squadron.
"They have sighted our fleet, sir," said Jack, who had stood impatiently on the bridge while all this maneuvering was going on.
"So they have," said Lord Hastings, and then turned to Lieutenant Hetherington. "You may bring the Sylph about sir," he said quietly.
Swiftly the little scout cruiser turned her face directly toward the enemy, who even now had turned to escape toward the south, at the same time heading so they would pass the Sylph at the distance of perhaps a mile.
"Full speed ahead!" came the command on the Sylph.
The little vessel darted forward at an angle that would cut off the Germans in the flight. It was a desperate venture, and none, perhaps, realized it more than did Lord Hastings; but he was not the man to see the prey escape thus easily if he could help it.
Rapidly now the Sylph drew closer to the German torpedo destroyers. The gunners were at their posts, the range finder already had gauged the distance, medical supplies for the wounded were ready for instant use. In fact, the Sylph was ready to give battle, regardless of the number of her enemies.
There was a loud crash as the first salvo burst from the Germans, but the Sylph was untouched. Still the British ship drew nearer without firing. Then Lord Hastings gave the command: "Mr. Hetherington, you may fire at will!"
The Sylph seemed to leap into the air at the shock of the first fire. One shell crashed into the side of one of the German destroyers, and a cheer went up from the British. Then came several broadsides from the Germans, who had stopped now to dispose of this brave little vessel, before continuing their flight.
Suddenly the Sylph staggered, and her fire became less frequent. A German shell had struck her forward turret with terrible force, putting her biggest gun out of commission. But the Sylph recovered, and continued to fight on.
Jack and Frank darted hither and thither about the vessel, carrying orders from Lord Hastings and Lieutenant Hetherington, now and then taking a man's place at one of the guns as he toppled over until another relieved them.
Two distinct shocks told that the Sylph had been struck twice more. Then Lord Hastings gave the command for his vessel to withdraw.
In attacking the enemy as he had, in the face of terrible odds, he had accomplished his purpose. He had halted the Germans in their attempt to escape, and had given the Undaunted and the British torpedo boats time to come up.
Before the Germans could again get under full headway, there came the heavy boom of a great gun. The Undaunted was within range, and had opened fire.
Lord Hastings summoned Jack to him.
"What damage do you find to the Sylph?" he asked.
"Forward gun out of commission, sir," replied the lad. "Ten men killed, and many wounded."
Frank also had had news to report.
The British flotilla and the German squadron were now at it hammer and tongs. Seeing that all hope of escape had been cut off, the German commander turned to face his new foes, determined to give battle to the last.
Steadily the British fleet bore down on the enemy, the great guns of the Undaunted belching fire as they drew near.
Now Lord Hastings ordered the Sylph — still the closest of the British vessels to the Germans — again into the fray, and in spite of its crippled condition, the little cruiser once more bore down upon the Germans.
Suddenly the nearest German destroyer launched a torpedo at the Sylph. By a quick and skillful maneuver, Lord Hastings avoided this projectile, and a broadside was poured into the German.
Others of the German fleet were too closely pressed by the Undaunted and her convoys to aid the one engaged with the Sylph, and so the two were left to fight it out alone.
Closer and closer together the two vessels came, until they were perhaps only a hundred yards apart. It was evident to those on the Sylph that a shell must have badly crippled the German, for otherwise a torpedo would have put an end to the little British craft.
Unable to check the advance of the Sylph, the German destroyer turned suddenly and made off.
"After her!" shouted Lord Hastings, and the Sylph leaped ahead at the word of command.
SAVED FROM THE SEA
The three other German vessels now singled out the Undaunted and concentrated their fire upon her, thinking first to dispose of the more formidable vessel and then to turn their attention to the lighter craft.
A fierce duel ensued. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion. One of the German torpedo destroyers seemed to leap into the air, only to fall back a moment later and disappear beneath the sea with a loud hiss.
A heavy shell struck the Undaunted and carried away part of her superstructure. The two remaining torpedo boats of the enemy, except the one being pursued by the Sylph, suddenly turned and dashed directly at the Undaunted, evidently intending to ram her.
Captain Fox avoided a collision with promptness and skill, and the torpedo boats sped by without touching her. Now the Loyal launched a torpedo at the first German craft. It sped swift and true, and a moment later there was but one German left in condition to continue the fight. Thinking to avoid unnecessary loss of life, Captain Fox called upon the German to surrender. The kindly offer was rewarded with a defiant reply, and the German made another swift attack upon the Undaunted.
For a moment it seemed that a collision was unavoidable, but Captain Fox managed to get his ship out of the way just as the enemy plowed by. It was close work and required great coolness.
Meantime the Sylph was close on the heels of the other German vessel. Salvo after salvo the British poured into the apparently helpless German torpedo boat, which, however, continued its flight rather than surrender.
Frank and Jack, both happening to be on the bridge at the same moment, stood for a brief second to watch the effect of the Sylph's fire. The damage to the German had been terrific. The vessel listed badly, and seemed in imminent danger of sinking.
"By Jove!" ejaculated Jack, and would have said more but for a sudden interruption.
There was a terrific explosion on the German vessel, and as if by magic, it disappeared beneath the sea. The Sylph's battle was over.
"Get out the boats, men!" came Lord Hastings command. "It may be that we can save some of them."
Jack and Frank leaped quickly into the same boat, and a moment later were rushing to the spot where the German torpedo destroyer had disappeared. For perhaps five minutes they cruised about, unable to find a single survivor, and then both were startled by the sound of something whistling overhead.
Looking up they beheld the cause of this trouble. The last German destroyer had come almost upon them, and the British gunners, evidently not seeing the little boat, were continuing their fire at the enemy.
The lads were in imminent danger of being struck by a British shell. The German launched a torpedo, and it went skimming right by the little boat in which the boys sat.
"Quick!" cried Jack. "We must get out of here or one of those things will hit us."
The men bent to their oars; but they were not quick enough. Struck by some missile, the boat suddenly sank beneath them, and the boys found themselves in the water, swimming.
And still they were between the two fighting ships.
Looking over his shoulder, Jack could make out the Sylph, and calling to Frank to follow him, he struck out in that direction.
They swain rapidly, but seemed to make little progress. Lord Hastings, standing on the bridge of the Sylph, discovered the two forms in the water. A second boat was hastily launched, and put off toward them.
When it was within a few yards of them a fragment of a shell struck it and it also disappeared. It went to the bottom with all on board, nor did any of its ill-fated victims come to the surface again.
The two lads, now clinging to pieces of wreckage, continued at the mercy of the sea, and also in constant danger of being struck by an exploding shell, while they swam slowly toward the Sylph.
In one final despairing, attempt to sink the Undaunted, the last German destroyer launched another torpedo. By a wonderful maneuver the British cruiser again avoided the projectile, which sped on through the water.
Swimming, the boys could plainly follow its flight. As the Undaunted swung out of the way to avoid it they could see that the missile had a clear path to the Sylph.
With a gasp the boys saw the torpedo speed toward the little scout cruiser. Lord Hastings had not seen the projectile launched — because a view of the German ship had been obstructed until the Undaunted swung out of the way — and no effort was made to avoid it.
The torpedo crashed into the Sylph on the water line, and the explosion which followed must have torn through all the various compartments to the engine room, for there was a second loud explosion, steam leaped up on all sides of the Sylph, and when it had cleared away, there was no Sylph to be seen.
The little scout cruiser had disappeared; vanished, had been destroyed.
Of Lord Hastings and the other officers and men, the lads could see nothing.
For a moment the boys were unable to speak, so astounded were they at the suddenness of this terrible disaster.
"Great Scott!" gasped Frank at last. "Do you realize what has happened?"
Jack was more calm.
"Perfectly," he replied faintly, with a sob in his voice. "The Sylph has gone, and with her Lord Hastings and all on board — all our friends, the only ones we have in the world."
The two boys unconsciously swam closer together.
"The fortunes of war," said Jack, more quietly now. "It is a terrible thing."
Further conversation was interrupted by the sound of another terrific explosion. Startled, the boys turned in the water just in time to see the last German destroyer disappear beneath the sea.
"Good!" exclaimed Jack, in fierce joy. "I am glad of that."
Frank also gritted his teeth, and muttered fervent congratulations to the British gunners.
And now the British ships proceeded on their course. None had been seriously damaged. They turned their backs upon the scene of the engagement and made off in the direction from which they had come.
The boys shouted loud and long for assistance; but their cries were not heard aboard the British ships of war, which, gradually gathering more headway, steamed off to the south. Not until they were almost out of sight did the lads cease their shouting, and resign themselves to their fate.
In despair, they turned to each other for comfort. Jack was first to speak.
"Well, Frank," he said quietly. "We shall soon join Lord Hastings and our other good friends in a place where there is no war and no losing of friends."
"Isn't there something we can do?" asked Frank, trembling with cold.
"I am afraid not."
There was a sudden stirring of the water beneath them. Jack cried out suddenly:
Frank had regained his coolness now.
"Probably a shark come to finish us up quickly," he replied calmly.
Both lads, with a last effort, swam desperately from the place.
But suddenly the waters of the North Sea parted, and a long, cigar-shaped object came to the top and rested lightly on the water.
"What is it?" asked Jack again in no little alarm
Before Frank could reply, a man suddenly appeared on the top of the object, apparently from nowhere, and glanced about. He espied them, and as suddenly disappeared. He reappeared almost in an instant, however, followed by another.
And now both lads discovered what the object was, an object that had arrived just in time to save them from a watery grave. They could see that the two men wore the uniform of the German navy.
The long, cigar-shaped object was a German submarine.
ABOARD THE X-9
There was a hoarse command from aboard the submarine, and a moment later a small boat floated alongside the two German officers who clambered in. Frank and Jack swam toward them as rapidly as their exhausted condition would permit.
"What are you two lads doing here in the middle of the North Sea?" asked one of the officers in great surprise, after the boys had been pulled aboard the small boat.
"We're here because our ship was sunk by one of your blamed torpedo boats," replied Jack, with some heat.
"Only one sunk?" inquired the officer in excellent English.
"Just one; it seems to me that is enough."
"Well, I agree that it is better than none," said the German officer. "We'll sink them one at a time. How many of our ships engaged you?"
"Four," replied Jack briefly, now beginning to smile to himself, for he saw the German did not know what had happened.
"Which way did they go?" demanded the German.
"Straight to the bottom," replied Jack, with a note of thankfulness in his voice.
"What!" exclaimed the officer, starting to his feet.
"To the bottom," Jack repeated.
"Impossible!" cried the officer. "One British ship couldn't sink four German torpedo destroyers."
"I didn't say there was only one," said Jack. "We some assistance."
"You must have had," said the German officer heatedly. "How many? A dozen?"
"There were two or three," said Jack briefly,
He had no mind to tell the German officer the size of the British squadron.
The German officer was silent for several minutes and then he said: "Why didn't you tell me this in the first place?"
"You didn't ask me," replied Jack, with a tantalizing laugh.
The German brought his right fist into the palm of his left hand with a resounding smack.
"You English will pay dearly for every German ship stink," he exclaimed.
"Maybe so," replied Jack, dryly, "but it won't be a German fleet that makes us pay."
"Enough of this!" broke in the second German officer. "Lieutenant Stein, you forget yourself, sir. And as for you, sir," turning to Jack, "you show no better taste."
"I beg your Pardon," said Jack. "I wouldn't have said anything if he hadn't egged me on."
Lieutenant Stein was equally repentant.
"I apologize," he said quietly to Jack. "I should not have spoken as I did."
"Say no more about it," said Jack. "I was just as much to blame."
Frank now broke into the conversation.
"What vessel is this?" he asked, pointing to the low-lying bulk of the submarine, against which the small boat now scraped.
"German submarine X-9," replied Lieutenant Stein, "where, until we put into port again, you will be our prisoners."
The four now clambered to the top of the submarine. Lieutenant Stein led the way to the entrance through the combined bridge and conning tower, and all went below. At the foot of the short flight of steps stood a man in captain's uniform.
"The sole survivors of a British cruiser, sir," said Lieutenant Stein to the captain, indicating the two lads. "I have not learned their names nor rank."
The two lads hastened to introduce themselves.
"I am Captain von Cromp, commander of this vessel," said the captain gruffly. "You are my prisoners until I put into port and can turn you over to the proper authorities."
Jack and Frank bowed in recognition of their fate. The captain turned to Lieutenant Stein.
"You will see that the prisoners are well cared for," he said. "They are in your custody."
The lads glanced curiously about as they were led along toward the lieutenant's cabin. It was the first time either had been inside a submarine vessel, and both felt a trifle squeamish. The boat was upon the surface of the sea now, however, and a dim light penetrated below.
The lieutenant's cabin, well forward, was fitted up luxuriously. There were several bunks in the little room, and the lieutenant motioned to them.
"You will sleep there," he said quietly. "Make yourselves perfectly at home. I guess there is no danger of your attempting to escape. However, you must remain below and not ascend to the bridge under any circumstances."
He bowed, and left them.
"I don't know as I am particularly fond of this kind of travel," Frank confided to Jack. "It's all right as long as we remain on the surface, but I'll bet it would feel queer to be moving along under the water."
"Right you are," replied Jack. "However, we are here and we shall have to make the best of a bad situation. Then, too, perhaps we can learn something that may prove of use to us later on."
The lads dined that night at the officers' mess and became quite well acquainted with all of them. They found Captain von Cromp not half so gruff as he had been when they first came aboard. They were questioned about the service they had seen, and their story greatly surprised all the officers.
Upon Lieutenant Stein's request, the commander granted the lads permission to look over the vessel. The lieutenant showed them how the vessel was submerged, by allowing one of the tanks to fill with water; how it rose again by forcing the water from the compartment by means of compressed air; how the air was purified when a lengthy submersion was necessary, and how the vessel was handled in times of action.
He showed them the periscope, and allowed them to peer through, although there was no need to use this, as the vessel was above water.
"When the submarine is submerged," explained Lieutenant Stein, "the periscope is the eye of the vessel. Peering over the waves, it reflects what it sees into the watching human eye in the conning tower. Destroy it, and the submarine is a blind thing, plunging to destruction."
"Then the periscope is the one weak spot in a submarine?" asked Frank.
"Exactly," was the reply. "Of course, if it were destroyed, the vessel might rise immediately to the surface and so gain its bearings. But in the midst of battle it would probably mean certain destruction; for when it rose the submarine would naturally be so close to the enemy that a single big shell would put it out of business."
The boys looked long at this strange mechanical eye. Shaped like a small pipe, it ran up from the conning tower and protruded above the vessel. A large lens at the top turned off as does an elbow in a stove pipe. This portion, when necessary, moved in all directions. When raised to its maximum height everything within a radius of ten miles is reflected in it.
"The shaft can be lowered to within a few inches of the top of the water," the lieutenant explained, "thus guarding against the danger of being hit. The officer in the conning tower peers into the binoculars and sees just what the periscope sees."
"Will you explain just how it works?" asked Jack. I
"Certainly. The periscope consists, as you may see, of a slender tubular shaft extending up through the conning tower of the submarine. Each submarine is equipped with a pair — thus if one is shot away the other can be put in immediate use. At the upper end of the shaft is a mirror lens. Upon this mirror lens is reflected the surrounding surface of the ocean. The image reflected there is carried down the tube to other lenses and then conveyed to enlarging binoculars. Now do you understand?"
"Perfectly," replied Jack; "and now as to the manner in which a submarine fights. It is by torpedoes, as I understand it."
"Exactly," replied the lieutenant, "and the torpedo is the most deadly, effective and, it may be also said, intelligent of modern warfare. One torpedo, striking the right kind of a blow, can destroy a battleship. The submarine has no other effective, weapon than the torpedo, which is delivered from a small tube. There is this advantage in favor of the battleship, however: the submarine is a slow craft. It is slower than the slowest battleship when it proceeds under water. When it gets to the surface its speed is doubled, but then it is an easy target for the guns of the threatened battleship and also for the swift torpedo boats and torpedo destroyers which are always thrown out as escorts when a submarine attack is anticipated. Some submarines are equipped with light rapid-firing guns, but these are of no more use in attacking on-water boats than would be a popgun. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly," said Jack.
"It is indeed interesting," said Frank. "Can you tell us more?"
The lieutenant continued: "Beyond these factors — the superior speed, the protection of torpedo boats and the weakness of the periscope — there has been no protection yet devised against the attack of a submarine."
"But the torpedo nets —?" interrupted Frank.
"There is of course," the lieutenant went on, "a crudely defensive measure called the torpedo net. These are meshes of strong steel which are dropped down from the side of the warship and are supposed to catch the torpedo before it hits the side of the ship."
"Well, don't they?" asked Frank.
"In theory," said the lieutenant, "the torpedo explodes within the net and the force of its attack is more or less diminished. As a matter of fact, however, torpedo nets are not dependable. Why, most of our submarines are equipped with a formidable device for cutting these nets. This device, in one form, resembles an enormous pair of sheers which cut through the nets like paper. In another form they are equipped with powerful tearing arms which drag the net away and expose the sides of the battleship to the deadly messenger from the torpedo tube. Am I tiring you?"
"I should say not," replied both lads in one breath, and Frank added: "I don't just understand how a submarine sinks and rises."
"It's very simple," said the lieutenant, "and at the same time I'll tell you something else. The submarine is unaffected by tempests, and for this reason also is more deadly than a battleship. The submarine can dive down into the depths where there is no movement of the waves, and it can remain under water for fourteen hours continuously. This is accomplished by tanks which can be filled with water and, overcoming what is known as the 'margin of buoyancy,' submerge the vessel. The air is replenished by special purifying devices and by tanks of oxygen. When the vessel wants to rise, it simply pumps out the water from the tanks."
"It certainly is a wonderful invention," said Frank, when the lieutenant had concluded his explanation.
"Indeed it is," agreed Jack.
"You should be aboard when we are in action," smiled the lieutenant. "I am sure you would be greatly interested."
"I don't doubt it," said Jack, "although from what you have told us regarding the deadliness of submarines, I believe that I should rather witness action on a British submarine."
"Nevertheless," said the lieutenant, "you are likely to see action aboard the X-9, for I do not believe Captain Von Cromp will return to port until he has at least tried the effect of his torpedoes, on a ship or so of your countrymen."
"May he go to defeat if he tries it!" said Jack fervently.
"In which case," said the lieutenant with good natured tolerance, "you would undoubtedly go with us."
"Even so," replied Jack, "I still could not wish to see you get away."
The lieutenant glanced at him admiringly.
"I believe you mean it," he said. "You are a brave lad. But come, we had all better turn in now."
"I guess you are right," said Frank; "and thanks for the trouble you have taken to explain all this to us."
"It was a pleasure, I am sure," was the lieutenant's reply, and they all made their way to the officer's cabin, where they prepared to retire for the night.
UNDER THE SEA
But there was to be no sleep for any aboard the German submarine X-9 that night. As the boys were just about to tumble into their bunks, there was the sound of a sudden commotion on the vessel.
Lieutenant Stein sprang to his feet, hastily donned what few clothes he had removed, and dashed from the cabin. With all possible haste, the boys followed suit.
Men were rushing to and fro and no one heeded the boys' presence, although they were rudely thrust aside by hurrying members of the crew several times.
"Wonder what's up?" said Jack.
"Don't know," replied Frank, "unless they have sighted one of our ships."
"By Jove! Let us hope not," breathed Jack.
But this was indeed the cause of the excitement aboard the submarine. A British battleship had been sighted in the distance, and Captain Von Cromp was preparing to attack the unsuspecting vessel, which had failed to sight her enemy, although the latter was fully exposed to view.
Frank and Jack approached the foot of the periscope, where they stood awaiting developments.
Outside a sudden storm swept the water of the North Sea in angry waves. The water lifted up the little vessel with the regular motion of a high-running sea. All was pitch dark.
The fact that men were hurrying about on deck, was only shown by the somber figures who now and then passed in front of a single lantern. From out the engine room, already under water, arose the pound of heavy pounding and the weird crackling of the engines, as they were tried out.
Jack glanced at his watch. It was 10:30. Suddenly there came a shrill whistle from the little bridge of the submarine, standing high above the vessel, and covered with heavy canvass. The officer in command, Captain Von Cromp himself, dressed hi heavy oilskins, raised a hand, the signal to go ahead.
A short, sharp signal to the engine room, a loud whirr of the motor, and the X-9 was speeding ahead. On both sides of the ship long waves formed, shimmering with light foam in the blackness of the sea. The X-9 moved westerly — toward the still unsuspecting battleship.
The heavens were covered with clouds. Not a star was visible. It was impossible to see more than a few feet away from the strange craft. Captain Von Cromp, with his experienced eye, tried in vain to penetrate through this wall of solid blackness. The wind kicked up the sea and the bridge was entirely flooded with water. There was hot a sound to be heard, save the heavy droning of the motor and the swish of the water passing along the sides.
Suddenly, in the near distance, loomed up a great gray bulk, swinging high above the submarine upon the water. It was the British battleship.
And now submarine X-9 had been discovered. A heavy boom rang out, but the little craft was not damaged.
Another signal came to the ears of the two boys. Men rushed upon deck and soon the submarine was prepared for action. The flagpole was taken down. Part of the bridge was folded together and securely fastened. The periscope was fixed at its proper height. Then the entrance through the combined bridge and conning tower was hermetically sealed. A moment more and the tanks were opened, telling the lads that the submarine was about to submerge. The gasoline motors stopped their endless song. From now on electricity would drive the vessel forward.
Near Frank and Jack, at the periscope, stood Lieutenant Stein, looking at the British ship. The sailors took their stations near the torpedoes. The interior of the boat was now lighted with two small electric bulbs. They made the darkness visible, but gave no light outside. Everywhere was the stale smell of oil. The boys found it impossible to speak to each other because of the noise of the engine and the water. The heat was oppressive.
From time to time the officer in command of the three torpedoes looked at his watch or at the compass, both of which he carried around his wrist. Intently the men all watched the signboard on the wall in front of them. The storm without made itself felt even in the depth. Every motion of the water caused the submarine to rock up and down and up and down again.
Jack found himself thinking of the advantage of the man on board a warship. He, at least, could go down with a last look at the world about him. Below, nothing could be seen, nothing could be heard. If the submarine went down, all would suffocate in the darkness beneath the water.
It was plain to Jack that Frank, as well as all the sailors and officers, was thinking along similar lines. The expressi6n on all faces was plain proof of it.
Suddenly the sailors sprang forward, forgetting in an instant heat, bad air and discomfort. Following the gaze of the sailors, the lads turned their eyes to the signboard. There, as if by magic, had sprung up the word:
The officer in command of the torpedoes had his hand on the lever which would release the first deadly projectile already in the tube. The sailors made ready to launch the second as soon as the first was gone.
Several seconds passed. Frank and Jack stood in deathlike stillness. Both realized the tragedy that was about to be enacted, and both were aware of their powerlessness to avert it.
Into the minds of both flashed a thought of springing upon their captors, but each, after a moment's reflection, realized the futility of such an action. It would merely delay the firing of the first torpedo.
And so they stood while the seconds passed, the heart of each in his throat. Suddenly the first sign on the board disappeared. A moment later and a second command appeared. Frank and Jack read it simultaneously, and both started forward with a cry.
The word that now stared them in the face, in red, glowing letters, was:
With a single jerk, the officer released the first torpedo, even as both lads, unable to endure the suspense and inaction any longer, leaped upon him. There was a short, metallic click, the noise of water rushing into the empty tube, and it was over. The first torpedo had sped on its errand of destruction and death.
The German officer turned just in time to grapple with Jack, who was now upon him.
"Seize them, men!" he cried, and struck out sharply at the lad. But Jack was too quick for him, and his right fist went crashing into the German's face. Frank was with him now, and the two turned to face the onrushing sailors.
Both struck out rapidly, but in spite of their resistance, they were soon overpowered by the numerical superiority of their foes, and thrown to the floor.
There, realizing the uselessness of further struggling, they gave up and lay still.
The German officer, having struggled to his feet in the meantime, now approached and stood over them. Perceiving they were no longer offering resistance, he motioned the sailors to let them up.
The lads arose and faced the officer.
"I realize your position better than you are probably aware," he said, speaking coldly, "and for that reason I shall overlook your attack upon me. I would have done as you did. I could not stand by and see a German ship sent to the bottom without raising a hand to prevent it. Go to your cabin, sirs." The boys bowed, and obeyed.
But while the boys were scuffling with the German officer and some of the sailors, others had pushed a second torpedo into the tube. And a sailor shouted, making himself heard by dint of a very powerful voice: "Did we hit her?"
Instinctively all kept count — one hundred meters, two hundred meters, three hundred, four hundred. Under the water no sound penetrated. Waiting was all that could be done. For a few moments nothing happened.
Then, suddenly, every man on the boat, Jack and Frank in the cabin, the captain, officers and all, were almost thrown from their feet by a terrific jerk of the submarine. Another jerk, and still another.
Then the submarine rolled as before - evenly. A moment and the regular purring of the engines was heard again. The submarine moved rapidly eastward.
She was on her way back home.
And an English battleship was at the bottom of the sea.
Frank picked himself up from the chair into which he had fallen because of the sudden lurching of the vessel.
"What was that?" he asked in alarm. "Have we been, hit?"
"I fear there is no such luck," replied Jack. "What, I am sure, is the answer to the German torpedo."
"What do you mean?"
"The lurching of this vessel was caused by the explosion of the torpedo when it struck the British battleship."
"But wouldn't we have heard the explosion?"
"No; there is no sound under water."
There were tears in Frank's eyes, and he was ashamed of them, as he said:
"Think of all the poor fellows aboard! Do you suppose any of them will be saved?"
"I am afraid not," replied Jack sadly. "And to think that we had to stand by unable even to warn them!"
"It is terrible!" said Frank, sinking into a chair.
For many minutes the lads were silent, each offering up a silent prayer for the brave men who had gone to death for their country.
The silence was at length broken by the entrance of Lieutenant Stein. He noticed the boys' sadness, and spoke softly to them.
"It is the fortune of war," he said quietly. "Remember, there probably will be many German lives snuffed out just as easily. Come, brace up!"
The lads brushed the tears from their eyes and rose to their feet.
"I shall speak of it no more," said Jack, huskily.
"Nor I," said Frank.
"Good!" said the lieutenant. "Now you had better turn in and get some sleep. You must be tired out."
"Sleep!" ejaculated Jack. "I couldn't sleep now."
"No, I suppose you couldn't," replied the lieutenant thoughtfully. He was silent for some moments. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he said finally, "we have come to the surface again I'll ask Captain Von Cromp to allow you to go upon the bridge, if you wish. He realizes your feelings as well as I do, in spite of his apparent gruffness. The cool air will do you good."
"If you will be so kind, I am sure we shall appreciate it," said Frank.
The lieutenant left the cabin. Frank, espying something at one end of the room, walked over to investigate. He came back to Jack, holding something gingerly in his hand.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed.
"What is it?" asked Jack.
Frank held the object up before his friend's eyes.
"Look at it!" he exclaimed. "Do you know what it is?"
Jack took a long look and then stepped suddenly back, exclaiming:
"Put it down, quick! Do you want to blow us all up?"
"What do you suppose it's doing here?" asked Frank, still holding the object out at arm's length.
"How should I know? But I suppose all submarines carry them. I have heard that many have been planted by submarines."
For the object that Frank held in his hand was a small melinite floating mine!
"I suppose this would blow any ship to kingdom come, wouldn't it?" asked the lad.
"I should say it would; so you had better put it down unless you want to send us all there."
Frank leaned close to his chum, and whispered rapidly:
"See if you can't find a gun around before the lieutenant comes back. Quick! A revolver, rifle, or anything!"
"What for?" demanded Jack, in surprise.
"Never mind what, for. Look quick, while I hide this thing under my coat."
Without knowing what Frank had on his mind, Jack did as requested. After rummaging through the lieutenant's desk, he at last straightened up with a heavy revolver in his hand.
"Will this do?" he asked.
"All right," replied Frank, "but a rifle would be safer."
"Safer? What do you mean?"
"Sh-h-h" whispered Frank.
Footsteps were heard on the outside. Jack hastily shoved the revolver into his pocket. Frank by this time had concealed his explosive under his coat. It bulged out a bit, but the lad folded his arms in front of him, and the bulge was not noticeable.
Lieutenant Stein entered the room.
"It's all right," he said. "Captain Von Cromp has given his consent. If you wish, I will conduct you up."
"Thanks," said Jack, and the two lads followed the officer. Captain Von Cromp was on the bridge when the two boys emerged from below, and he walked over to them.
"I regret," he said, "that you should have had to witness what you have; but it is the fortune of war, you know."
"I have heard that before," said Frank dryly.
"Tell me, would you have blamed us had we put up a more stubborn fight below a while ago?"'
"No," was the reply. "I could blame you for nothing you did to an enemy in time of war and especially under such a stress of excitement."
Lieutenant Stein bade the boys good-night and went below. After some further talk, Captain Von Cromp followed him, and the boys were left alone on the submarine, save for the single man on look out.
Frank walked up to the latter and engaged him lit conversation. A few moments later he turned Away, saying to the sailor that he and his friend "would take a turn or two about before going below."
Walking swiftly up to Jack, Frank said in a low voice:
"See if you can't find that small boat they used to pick us up."
"What —?" began Jack, but Frank interrupted him.
"Never mind the reason," he said. "Help me find it, that's all. We'll have to hurry. Where do you suppose they put it?"
A few moments later they came upon the little craft, now above water, placed where the sea could not reach it when the submarine was submerged. Luckily it was out of view of the German on the bridge, and the two lads succeeded in unloosening it and getting it overboard without being seen.
Then Frank walked quickly back to the spot where the periscope protruded from below. Opening his coat he took the explosive out and, drawing a handkerchief from his pocket, tied it to the diminutive mine and hung the latter on the tube.
"Now for this German," he said to himself. "It wouldn't do for him to see that before I am ready."
He approached the man once more and asked several questions.
"Well," he said finally, "I guess I shall have to say good-night."
The German's reply was choked in his throat. Frank sprang forward, flung one arm around the man's, neck, and with the other clutched him by the throat, to prevent an outcry.
Then he freed one arm and struck out heavily. The German fell without a murmur. Frank ran across the deck to where he had left Jack.
"Into the boat quick!" he exclaimed.
Jack needed no further urging. Frank dropped lightly in after him, and soon they were rowing rapidly away.
"Give me that gun," said Frank after they had pulled some distance from the submarine.
"What are you going to do with it?" asked Jack.
"I'll show you," replied Frank grimly. "Give me the gun!"
Without another word Jack passed the weapon to his friend.
"Now," said Frank, "lower yourself over the side of the boat and when I say dive, dive!"
"See here," said Jack, taking Frank by the arm. "Have you gone crazy? What do you think you are going to do?'
"I don't think anything about it," replied Frank, more quietly now. "I know what I am going to do."
"Well, what is it then? Out with it."
"Do you see that object hanging to the periscope tube on the submarine?" asked Frank.
"Yes, I see it. Why?"
"Don't you know what it is?"
"No; what is it?"
"Well, that's the little plaything I found in Lieutenant Stein's cabin. I'm going to bore a little hole through it with this gun you were kind enough to get for me."
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Jack "You'll blow tip the submarine with all on board!"
"My idea exactly," replied Frank carefully.
"But —" protested Jack.
"The fortune of war, you know," said Frank, with some sarcasm. "You heard Captain Von Cromp say he wouldn't blame us for anything we might do. Besides, they didn't give the poor fellows on that British battleship any warning, did they?"
"No," said Jack, "but —"
"Well, there are no buts here. You climb overboard and get ready to dive. When this bullet goes through that little plaything there will be an explosion that will kick up considerable excitement hereabouts. That's why I asked you if you couldn't get a rifle. We could have gone a little farther away then."
"Now see here," said Jack. "I guess those fellows have it coming to them. They don't deserve any better than they will get. As you say, 'the fortune of war.' I'm not kicking about that. What I want to know is if you can hit that thing."
"Hit it? Of course I can hit it. You dive when I say the word, and when you come up, if you do, come up, I'll guarantee you won't see any submarine."
"But how about you?" demanded Jack. "If I dive before you fire, how are you going to get away before the explosion?"
"I don't calculate I'll get away before it, but I'll be in the water the minute I fire. I won't wait to see whether I hit it or not. However, I'll drop the revolver in the boat, so in case I miss the first time, it will be dry enough to use again."
"But —" began Jack.
Frank stood up in the boat and pointed the revolver directly at the submarine.
"No more words," he said quietly. "Are you ready?"
Jack lowered himself over the edge of the boat, still holding to it with his hands.
"Yes, I'm ready," he said, "but —"
"Then dive!" cried Frank and pulled the trigger.
With a single movement he dropped the revolver into the bottom of the boat, and plunged deep into the sea himself.
OFF ON A LONG CRUISE
At the very instant the lad disappeared beneath the water there was a flash of fire above the submarine, followed by a violent explosion-fearful, terrific.
The upper work of X-9 was blown high into the air and came down in splinters, scattered to the four winds of heaven. The deck was rent and open up with a great, yawning scam, through which the ocean rushed, driving the craft below the waves as though it had been drawn down by some mighty whirlpool. A minute later, where had been one of Germany's most terrible fighters, there was only a seething flood of water covered with floating wreckage.
The force of the explosion sent the water spouting high in the air like giant gushers. The sea boiled and lashed out angrily at what was left of the German craft. Not a living figure was to be seen upon the wreckage.
The deadly melinite had done its work.
Beneath the waters of the North Sea, where Frank and Jack had sought what shelter they could, the water tossed them about at will, in spite of their frantic efforts to hold themselves steady and remain below the surface.
Frank, not having time to take such a long breath as Jack, because of the suddenness with which he had dived, was the first to come to the surface. He was tossed high on the still angry waves, but by a Herculean effort, the lad managed to keep his head above water.
His first thought was of the small boat he had so recently left. Glancing around, he saw it floating, bottom up, about a hundred yards away. He swam rapidly toward it; and as he hurried along, a head suddenly bobbed up directly in front of him.
It was Jack, struggling and gasping. Frank swam rapidly to him, and lent what assistance he could. Soon Jack was swimming easily with his friend toward the little upturned boat.
They laid hold of the little craft, and after a struggle, succeeded in righting it and clambering aboard, where they sat down, wet and weak, Then, for the first time, Jack turned his eyes toward the spot where so short a time ago had been the German submarine. He saw the mass of floating wreckage.
"Gone," he said simply, "and the poor fellows with it." He turned to Frank. "You certainly did a good job. I never knew that you were so handy with a gun."
"I am a pretty fair shot," Frank admitted modestly.
"But if you had missed the first time—?" began Jack.
"I couldn't miss," replied Frank quietly. "I knew that before I pulled the trigger. Some way, I felt certain the bullet would go true. Why, I hardly even aimed."
"Well," said Jack, "I'm sure I don't ever want you blazing away at me."
"I guess we might as well get away from this spot," said Frank. "I wonder where we are?"
Jack stood up in the boat and looked long across the sea. Dawn was just breaking, and in the faint morning light he could see a considerable distance.
"No land in sight," he said finally, and sat down again. "At a guess, though, I should say we must still be off the coast of Holland."
"Yes; but how are we going to tell which way the coast of Holland is?"
"I'm sure I don't know. We'll just have to take a chance at it till the sun comes up, and then we can get our bearings. We'll have to be very careful though, for there are likely to be mines floating about. If we had some oars we could row a bit it would warm us up."
But no oars were in sight, either near the boat or among the floating wreckage.
"They must be at the bottom of the sea," said Frank, in some despair. "I should have thought to have made them fast."
"Never mind that," said Jack. "The question now is, what are we going to do?"
"Well, you know as much about it as I do," replied Frank. "What are we going to do?"'
"It looks to me as though we should have to drift and take a chance of being, picked up," returned Jack.
"Or be blown up by a floating mine," said Frank.
"That's a chance we shall have to take," said Jack calmly. "You should have thought of that before you bored a hole through that mine on the submarine."
Frank did not reply. At length he rose to his feet and took off his coat. Then he turned to Jack.
"Give me yours," he said briefly.
Jack obeyed without question.
Tying the two coats securely together, Frank loosened one of the thwarts in the little boat. He pulled some strong string from his pocket and soon had improvised a little sail. Then tying one sleeve to a cleat on one side and another sleeve to a cleat on the other he soon had his sail bellying before the stiff breeze.
"It's pretty low," he said, leaning back and surveying his work, "but it may move us along a little."
"How do we know we are going in the right direction?" asked Jack.
"We don't; but we might as well be moving as to stay here. We'll let her have her head and keep her steady as she goes."
Slowly the little craft, before the freshening wind began to make headway.
"This does beat lying still," said Jack. "I don't believe I would have thought of rigging up such a sail as that."
"I guess you would if I hadn't," replied Frank. "Now you try and take a little snooze, while I keep a lookout for a vessel of some kind."
"All right; only, you wake me up in a couple of hours and I'll stand watch."
Frank agreed to this, and Jack rolled over in the bottom of the boat, where, in spite of his wet clothing and the chilling wind, he was soon fast asleep. He was completely exhausted, and any kind of a bed would have felt good to him right then.
Frank, holding the rudder of the boat, sat silent, with his eyes scanning the distant horizon for the sign of a ship. But his watch was vain. Not even the smoke of a patrolling vessel did he see in the distance. His two hours of watch up, he shook Jack vigorously.
The latter was up in an instant, and soon Frank was occupying his place in the bottom of the boat.
For an hour Jack scanned the horizon without making out a ship; then, directly ahead, he saw a cloud of smoke.
"Must be a ship!" he muttered to himself, and turned to arouse Frank. Then he drew back, muttering: "No, there is no need to wake him! He's tired out.
Besides, the ship may not sight us, in which case he would be bitterly disappointed."
Slowly the cloud of smoke grew larger, until at length Jack was certain that the vessel was bearing down on them. As it drew closer, he saw that the approaching ship was a cruiser; and as it drew still closer, that it was British.
Then he bent over and aroused Frank.
"Look!" he said, pointing across the water, "what do you think of that?"
Frank was wide awake in an instant
"A British cruiser," he ejaculated, "and coming right toward us. If she keeps on her course we are sure to be seen."
Frank sprang to the little sail and tore it down. Then each lad picked up a coat, and standing at his full height, waved the garment and yelled lustily.
For some moments this was unrewarded. Then the boys saw signs of excitement aboard the cruiser. and a big gun boomed —
"She's seen us!" cried Frank, and dropped into a seat, laughing happily.
Both lads watched silently the oncoming cruiser.
"Can you make her out?" asked Frank at length.
Jack rose and looked sharply across the water.
"Yes," he said finally. "She is the Cumberland."
A small boat was lowered from the cruiser and put off toward them. Soon it scraped alongside the boys' craft, and they were taken aboard where they were received with expressions of great surprise, both by the officer in command and by members of the boat's crew.
"How did you get away out here?" asked the surprised boatswain.
Briefly Jack explained.
"By Jove!" exclaimed the officer when the lad had concluded his story. "You certainly have seen excitement. And so you blew up the German submarine?"
"My friend here did," replied Jack, indicating Frank.
"Sure," said the boatswain, "Captain Marcus will be glad to hear the yarn. It's a good one you can spin."
The little boat now drew up against the cruise and quickly all clambered aboard.
As Jack came over the rail, a man of great height — fully six feet five inches — greeted him. He was smooth-faced and ruddy, and the fane-anchor on his collar proclaimed him captain.
"Captain Marcus?" queried Jack, as he leaped to the deck.
"At your service," came the reply in a hearty sailor-like voice.
"I am Lieutenant Jack Templeton, scout cruiser Sylph, sir," said Jack, "and this," turning to Frank, "is Lieutenant Frank Chadwick of the same vessel."
"What are you doing in a dingy in the middle of the North Sea?" demanded the captain.
Briefly once more Jack explained.
"The Sylph sunk!" exclaimed Captain Marcus. "And what of my old friend Lord Hastings?"
"Gone down with his ship, sir," replied Jack, Patiently.
"Hastings dead!" cried the commander of the Cumberland. "It is impossible!"
"No, sir," said Frank. "It is true."
For a moment the commander bowed his head in reverence. Then he raised his eyes and looked at the boys.
"He was my very good friend," he said simply, and motioned the boys to follow him below.
Inside the cabin of the commander of the Cumberland, the captain motioned the lads to seats.
"Now we shall see what is to be done with you," he said. "At present, because of the loss of the Sylph, you are, of course, unattached. How would you like to go with me?"
"Where to, sir?" asked Jack.
"I'll explain," replied the captain. "Until yesterday the Cumberland was one of the blockading fleet off Heligoland. You can understand, therefore, that I have already heard of you lads. I have been ordered to patrol the west coast of Africa, and, if I mistake not, there will be fighting. I have recently lost two of my midshipmen through illness. You may have their places. What do you say?"
Both lads had taken a great liking to Captain Marcus at first sight, but it was Jack who made answer for both:
"Thank you, sir. We shall be glad to go with you."
PATROLLING THE SOUTH SEA
The boys learned from Captain Marcus that they had reckoned rightly and that at the moment they were off the port of Amsterdam, Holland.
"Our course," the captain explained, "will take us through the English channel into the Atlantic, thence south to the African coast. How far south we shall go, I cannot say at present."
He called a midshipman to show the boys to the cabin which was to be their quarters while on the Cumberland. It was very comfortable, but not much like the one they had aboard the Sylph. "However," said Jack, "it's plenty good enough for anyone."
For several days the boys were not assigned to duty, Captain Marcus declaring that they needed, a chance to rest up after their strenuous experience with the submarine. He introduced them to all the officers, with whom they speedily became favorites. It was very evident to both the boys that their relationship to Lord Hastings was well known to Captain Marcus and they felt that the many little favors shown them was because of this. They frequently talked of their former commander and friend and their hearts were sad at his untimely end.
In spite of their new surroundings, the days that they sailed southward were somewhat monotonous, and the boys were more than pleased when the Cumberland put into Lisbon, Portugal, for coal. Here they were given a day ashore and bought a number of things that they greatly needed as all their effects had gone down with the Sylph.
Continuing her journey, the Cumberland sailed south through and past the Tropic of Cancer, almost to the equator, without a sign of an enemy. It was in fact just a day's sail from the equator before the Cumberland sighted another ship.
Quickly the wireless was put to working and it was found that the approaching vessel was the small British cruiser Dwarf. The cruisers came to anchor a short distance apart and the commanders of the two ships exchanged visits.
Upon Captain Marcus' return aboard the Cumberland, both ships immediately got under way, the Dwarf taking the lead.
"Something up!" said Jack to Frank, as they stood leaning over the rail.
"You are right," replied Frank, "and I'll bet you a little red apple I can tell you what it is."
"You can?" exclaimed Jack in surprise. "Let's have it then."
"In my spare moments," explained Frank, "I have been making a study of the maps and charts. We are now almost in the Gulf of Guinea. A small but nevertheless very deep, river called the Cameroon, empties into the gulf. Do you follow me?"
"Yes, but I don't see what you are driving at."
"Well, the Cameroon region is a German possession. Its largest town, several miles up this navigable river, is Duala, strongly fortified. This, if I am not badly mistaken, is our objective point."
"Perhaps you are right," said Jack somewhat dubiously, "but won't the forts be too strong for the cruisers?"
"Not these, I am sure."
"Well," said Jack, "I hope we see some action soon, whether it is at Duala, as you call it, or some other place. This is growing monotonous."
Frank's prophecy proved correct. Even now the Cumberland and the Dwarf were well into the Gulf of Guinea and making all headway toward the mouth of the river Cameroon, which point the vessels reached early the following morning, intending to anchor in the mouth of the stream.
At the approach of the cruisers, however, a fort guarding the harbor broke into action.
A few well-directed shots from the big guns of the Cumberland, and the fort was silenced. Then, instead of coming to anchor, the cruisers steamed slowly up the river.
Rounding a bend in the stream, Duala could be seen in the distance; likewise the forts guarding the town, and a bombardment of the fortifications was at once begun.
The shore batteries promptly returned the fire, but it soon became apparent that the guns on the ships outranged them.
For several hours the bombardment continued, and then two merchant steamers were seen making their way from the shelter of the port directly toward the British ships.
"Wonder what's up now?" said Frank, who at that moment, having been relieved from duty, stood beside Jack at the rail.
"Don't know," was the latter's brief reply. Nor did anyone else, so those on board the cruisers watched the movements of the oncoming steamers with much curiosity.
When the approaching vessels were little more than a mile up the river they came to a stop. Small boats were lowered over the sides and put off hurriedly in the direction from which they had come. Shortly after, a blinding glare rose to the sky, there was the sound of two terrific reports, one immediately following the other, and the two steamers slowly settled into the water.
Captain Marcus, on the bridge of the Cumberland, cried out:
"They have blockaded the river!"
It was true. The ruse was plainly apparent now that it was too late to prevent it. The two sunken vessels made further progress up the river by the British ships impossible.
"Wonder what we shall do now?" asked Frank.
"Haven't any idea," said Jack briefly.
Night drew on and still the British guns continued to hurl their shells upon the German town.
With the fall of darkness there came an answer to Frank's question.
Captain Marcus summoned Frank and Jack.
"The Germans have effectually blocked the river," he told them. "Therefore we cannot capture the town that way. Because of your experience, I have called you two lads to undertake a most dan- gerous mission.
"You," pointing to Jack, "will lead 4oo sailors around through the woods and attack the enemy from the flank. You, Mr. Chadwick," turning to Frank, "I shall put in command of a fleet of four small boats, armed with rapid-firers, and it will be your duty to try and crawl up the river without attracting the attention of the forts. Attacking from, two sides, simultaneously, we should take the town. "In the meantime we shall continue to shell the town, stopping our bombardment at such a time as I believe you will be prepared for a sudden attack. Therefore, when you reach your positions, you will not attack until the bombardment ceases. That shall be your signal. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly," both lads agreed.
"Good, then. Everything shall be in readiness for you in an hour."
The lads saluted and left the commander's cabin.
Two hours later found Jack, with 4oo British sailors at his command, already disembarked from small boats and stealing into the woods. Frank, with his little fleet, was picking his way carefully up the river.
The lad easily found a channel between the two sunken merchantmen, and the little boats pushed on.
"Careful of mines!" had been Captain Marcus' parting injunction and the lad peered keenly ahead constantly.
He made out several small objects floating upon the water, and these were carefully avoided.
By dint of careful rowing the boats finally drew up safely, not more than a quarter of a mile from the German forts, where the little party awaited the signal agreed upon.
Jack, in the meantime, had led his men through the dense woods, and by making a wide detour, had penetrated almost to the rear of the enemy's fortress, which, he figured, would be the most likely to be improperly guarded.
Here he and his men lay down, awaiting the signal to attack. But still the British bombardment continued, and shells rained upon the little African town.
Suddenly the sound of screeching shells ceased. Jack sprang to his feet and listened intently for a moment. But the big guns on the warships were now silent. It was time to act.
"Attention!" called Jack, and his men stood ready about him.
Silently they crept forward to the very edge of the little town. Here, moving figures in the glare of many fires gave evidence that the German troops and their native allies were on the alert. But as Jack had surmised, they were not expecting an attack from this direction.
Approaching closer and closer, Jack finally gave the command:
The crack of 4oo rifles followed this command, and under the withering fire of the British, the Germans were mowed down on all sides.
At the same instant, from the river, the rapid firers in Frank's command shattered the stillness of the night with their noise of death. Thus attacked on two sides, the Germans for a moment stood as if paralyzed, men dropping on all sides.
But for a moment only. Then they leaped forward ready to encounter the unseen foe. Under the command of their officers they formed coolly enough, and volley after volley was fired into the woods.
But Jack and his 400 British sailors were not to be stayed. Right in among the Germans they plunged, shooting, cutting and slashing. The Germans at this end of the town were gradually being forced back — back upon their comrades who already were retreating before the rapid-firers of Frank's command at the other end of the town.
Caught between two fires, they nevertheless fought bravely, pouring in volley for volley. Suddenly the British under Jack ceased firing altogether and rushed upon the foe with cutlasses and clubbed rifles.
The shock of this attack was too much for the Germans, and with the fierce hail of bullets from Frank's end of the field, there was but one thing for them to do.
The officer in command raised a handkerchief on the point of his sword. Jack could barely make it out in the half-light. At the same moment the officer commanding the Germans opposing Frank's small force cried out:
Instantly the sound of firing ceased, and the German officer walked up to Frank and delivered his sword. At precisely the same moment, the other German officer, who it turned out was in command of the town, presented his sword to Jack.
Jack gallantly passed the weapon back to him, saying:
"Keep it, sir. I could not deprive so brave a man of his sword. However, I must ask you to accompany me back to my ship."
The German signified his assent, and Jack called out to Frank whom he could now see approaching with his prisoner:
"Are you hurt, Frank?"
"No," came the reply, "are you?"
Jack made haste to reply in the negative.
The boys decided that Frank should stay with the sailors left to guard the town, and that Jack should escort the German commander to the Cumberland. Accordingly the two took their seats in one of the little boats, and were rowed back down the stream.
Frank, after giving the necessary orders to guard the town and fort, established himself in the commander's quarters, where he awaited some word from Captain Marcus.
THE BOYS MAKE AN ENEMY
Jack with his prisoner returned aboard the Cumberland, where the lad turned the German commander over to Captain Marcus.
"Shall I go back to the town, sir?" he asked, as the commander signified that he might leave the cabin.
"If you like," was the reply.
"Have you any commands regarding the prisoners, sir? Or as to the manner of guarding the place against attack?"
"Yes; you may present my respects to Mr. Chadwick, and tell him that you two are in joint authority until morning, when I shall do myself the pleasure of paying you a visit. You will take whatever precautions necessary to guard against an attack from any of the enemy who may move against you from Boak."
"Very well, sir," replied Jack, saluting.
"Boak, as you probably are aware," continued the commander, "is another small German fortress further up the river. I do not anticipate an attack, but it is best to be prepared. You may also say to Mr. Chadwick that I am well pleased with his work, and with yours."
"Thank you, sir," returned the lad, and saluting again, he turned and left the cabin.
He was over the side of the Cumberland in a few moments, and was soon being rowed swiftly back toward Duala.
Several hundred yards from the little landing, his cars caught the sound of a great hubbub. There were cries and shouts and general confusion.
Rapidly the lad covered the intervening distance, leaped to the ground and sprinted in the direction in which he could see a knot of wildly gesticulating figures.
"Sounds to me like Frank was in trouble of some kind," he panted to himself as he ran along, for at that moment he had detected the sound of his friend's voice raised in anger.
Jack dashed up to the knot of men, all of whom lie now perceived were British sailors, and as he saw his friend standing calmly in the center of them unhurt, he paused on the edge of the crowd to watch developments.
With a flush on his face, plainly evident in the red glow of a camp fire, Frank stood facing a man. The latter, in height, topped the lad by a good three inches, and even from where he stood Jack could see that the man's fingers twitched nervously at his side.
"I am in command here until further notice," Frank was saying, "and while I am, our captives will receive such treatment as is due prisoners of war. Do you understand that, Mr. Stanley?"
"Bah!" cried the other, whom Jack now recognized as an officer aboard the Cumberland; "by seniority I am your superior officer. I am not answerable to you for my actions."
"Aren't you?" exclaimed Frank, taking a threatening step forward, a peculiar glint in his eyes. "We'll see about that later. In the meantime understand that I am in command here and that what I say goes. Molest another of the prisoners and you shall answer to me."
"Is that so?" sneered Stanley. "And what do you think you'll do about it?"
"Try and see," said Frank grimly.
"Do you think I'm afraid of you?" cried Stanley. "I'll show you!"
With these words, he took a sudden step backward, and Jack was able to see the cause of all the trouble. Crouching between two sailors was an old native, black of color and grizzled of hair. Stanley doubled his fist, and before a hand could be raised to stop him, drove it between the old native's eyes.
Jack sprang forward with a cry, but Frank forestalled him. He leaped upon the perpetrator of this inhuman act, and with a quick blow knocked him to the ground.
Stanley rose with blood on his lips and evil in his eye. Quickly he stepped back a pace, and a revolver glinted in his hand.
"You — you —" he stuttered.
At that moment the revolver was twisted violently from his grasp, and, turning, Stanley looked into Jack's angry countenance.
"What's the meaning of this?" Jack demanded. "Would you become a murderer?"
"He struck me," shouted Stanley angrily, "and he shall give me satisfaction, and so shall you, you meddling upstart."
"So?" said Jack quietly. "What kind of satisfaction do you want? I'm perfectly ready to accommodate you."
Stanley took one look at Jack's stalwart figure, fully his own height and equally as broad. Evidently he decided he cared nothing for a tussle with this opponent.
"I have nothing to say to you," he said. "But this fellow," pointing to Frank, "struck me and I demand satisfaction."
"Well," said Frank, interrupting. "You shall have it. Pull off your coat."
"I'm not a common bruiser," sneered Stanley. "I will fight you with revolvers at twenty paces."
"Enough of this," broke in Jack. "I will permit no duel."
"I do not want to kill you," said Frank.
"So!" exclaimed the enraged officer, "a coward, eh?"
Frank stepped quickly forward, an angry gleam in his eye.
"Enough," he said. "I'll fight you."
Again Jack started to protest, but Frank waved him aside and turned to the men gathered about.
"Can I depend upon you men not to let this go any further?" he asked.
"You can, sir," they answered in chorus.
"All right, then," said Frank. "Get ready, sir."
One sailor volunteered to act as second for Stanley and Jack stepped to Frank's side. Then the two seconds met and decided the details of the duel. The principals were to be allowed one shot each. This was to be all, whether either man was hit or not.
Before accepting the revolver from the hand of his second, Stanley quickly drew his own revolver, and taking aim at a little knob on a tree some fifty feet distant, fired quickly. The bullet splintered the bark on the tree and the pieces flew high in the air.
"Half an inch away!" called a sailor who stood near the tree.
Stanley turned to Frank with a sneering smile on his face.
"Say your prayers," he taunted. "They will be your last."
Frank smiled grimly.
"I heard a story once," he replied quietly, "about a man who could hit a dime every shot at a hundred yards. But when he fired with a loaded pistol pointed at him he didn't come off with such a good record."
The principals now stood back to back. Each was to take twenty paces forward — Jack had refused to make the distance any closer — turn and lire when ready.
"Ready, go!" came Jack's voice, and slowly the two started away from each other.
"Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen —" counted Frank, and at that instant there was a sound of a shot and a bullet whistled over his head, grazing the scalp.
Stanley, nervous because of the lad's coolness, had fired at the count of nineteen.
"Twenty!" said Frank without a sign of nervousness in his voice. He turned slowly, and aimed his revolver at the ground in front of him.
Very slowly he raised the barrel of his weapon until it pointed at the knees of his now shaking antagonist, then to his belt, to his chest, and finally to his head.
Beads of perspiration stood out on Stanley's forehead. Then, with a quick movement, Frank raised the muzzle of his weapon still higher, and fired over Stanley's head.
Then he calmly replaced the weapon in his pocket and walked back to where Jack was standing.
Having thus escaped what appeared almost certain death, Stanley became bold again. Evidently he had not realized that Frank had missed purposely.
"I demand another shot," he cried angrily.
"There will be no more duel so far as I am concerned," said Frank quietly.
Jack walked angrily up to Stanley.
"He spared your life," he said heatedly.
"Bah!" replied Stanley. "He missed cleanly, and he's afraid to try again."
Frank walked quickly over to his late opponent.
"You fool!" he said quietly. "Look here!"
Quickly he whipped his revolver out, and without taking aim, fired twice in rapid succession.
Although three times as far away as Stanley had been when he gave his exhibition of skill, the little knot on the tree leaped into the air, and as it fell, the second bullet caught it in midair and splintered it into little pieces.
Midshipman Stanley staggered back aghast.
"I could have killed you with ease," said Frank calmly, and walking away, he picked up his coat and put it on.
"I — I didn't know he could shoot like that!" sputtered Stanley to Jack.
"That's not so very good — for him," said Jack.
"Why, once —"
"Never mind," interrupted Midshipman Stanley, backing hurriedly away, "I'll take your word for it. But, remember, I am not through with either of you yet. My time will come, and when it does —"
He broke off abruptly, an evil sneer in his voice, and walked quickly away.
Now the sailors surrounded Frank and gave him three rousing British cheers.
"You're all right, Frank!" they called, some of them slapping him familiarly on the back.
Frank waved them laughingly aside, and turned to Jack.
"Any orders from Captain Marcus?" he asked, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
"Lead the way to your excellency's quarters, and I'll tell you," replied Jack with a smile.
Frank led the way.
Briefly Jack repeated Captain Marcus' orders to Frank.
"I took the liberty of making those preparations without awaiting such a command," said Frank. "I have thrown out outposts, and there is no danger of a surprise tonight."
"You mean this morning," disagreed Jack, after a look at his watch. "It's after four o'clock now."
"Then it will soon be daylight," said Frank. "You had better turn in and get a little sleep. I'll stand watch."
Jack well knew the futility of an argument over this matter, so he turned in without further words by the simple process of throwing himself on a pallet on the floor of the tent. Frank took his seat in the doorway, where he remained looking out into the distance.
The sun was high in the heavens when Jack awoke. He jumped up with a start. Frank was not there. Jack made a hasty toilet and set out to find his friend. He came upon him at the river land- ing, and, as the lad cast his eyes down the stream he made out the launch of Captain Marcus coming, swiftly toward the camp.
He tapped Frank lightly on the shoulder.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" he demanded.
"Well, you were sleeping so comfortably I hated to disturb you," replied Frank.
"And I suppose you would have let Captain Marcus find me asleep?"
"I don't believe he would have minded. He knows we all sleep some time."
"I'll get even with you one of these days," said Jack laughing, and both lads stepped to the very edge of the landing to give Captain Marcus a hand as he clambered from the boat.