The Boy Allies At Jutland
The Greatest Naval Battle of History
By Ensign ROBERT L. DRAKE
"The Boy Allies Under the Sea" "The Boy Allies In the Baltic" "The Boy Allies on the North Sea Patrol" "The Boy Allies Under Two Flags" "The Boy Allies with the Flying Squadron" "The Boy Allies with the Terror of the Seas"
H.M.S. "QUEEN MARY"
A great, long, gray shape moved swiftly through the waters of the Thames. Smoke, pouring from three different points in the middle of this great shape, ascended, straight in the air some distance, then, caught by the wind, drifted westward.
It was growing dark. Several hours before, this ocean greyhound—one of Great Britain's monster sea-fighters—had up-anchored and left her dock—where she had been undergoing slight repairs—heading eastward down the river.
Men lined the rails of the monster ship. These were her crew—or some of her crew, to be exact—for the others were engaged in duties that prevented them from waving to the crowds that thronged the shore—as did the men on deck.
Sharp orders carried across the water to the ears of those on shore. The officers were issuing commands. Men left the rail and disappeared from the view of the spectators as they hurried to perform their duties. Came several sharp blasts of the vessel's siren; a moment later her speed increased and as she slid easily through the waters of the river, a cheer went up from both shores.
The crowd strained its eyes. Far down the river now the giant battleship was disappearing from the sight of the men and women who lined the banks. In vain, a few moments later, did many eyes try to pierce the darkness. The battleship was lost to sight.
The vessel that had thus passed down the Thames was H. M. S. Queen Mary, one of the most formidable of England's sea fighters. It was with such ships as the Queen Mary, supported by smaller and less powerful craft, that Great Britain, for almost two years of the great war, had maintained her supremacy of the seas.
This great ship was new in service, having been completed only a few years before the outbreak of the war. She was constructed at a cost of $10,000,000. She was 720 feet long, of 27,000 tons burden and had a complement of almost 1,000 men. For fighting purposes she was equipped with all that was modern.
In her forward turret she carried a battery of six 16-inch guns. Aft, the turret was similarly equipped. Also the Queen Mary mounted other big guns and rapid firers. She was equipped with an even half-dozen 12-inch torpedo tubes. She was one of the biggest ships of war that roved the seas.
The Queen Mary was one of the fleet of battleships that had patrolled the North Sea since the outbreak of hostilities. Already she had seen her share of fighting, for she had led more than one attack upon the enemy when the Germans had mustered up courage enough to leave the safety of the great fortress of Heligoland, where the main German high sea fleet was quartered.
It had been in a skirmish with one of these venturesome enemy vessels that the Queen Mary had received injuries that necessitated her going into dry dock for a few days, while she was given an overhauling and her wounds healed. True enough, she had sent the foe to the bottom; but with a last dying shot, the Germans had put a shell aboard the Queen Mary.
Her damage repaired, the Queen Mary was now steaming to the open waters of the North Sea, where she would again take up patrol duty with the other vessels that comprised the British North Sea fleet, under command of Vice-Admiral Beatty, whose flagship, the Lion, had taken up the additional burden of patrolling the Queen Mary's territory while the latter was being overhauled.
Aboard the battleship, the British tars, who had become fretful at the delay, were happy at the thought of getting back into active service. While they had been given an opportunity to stretch their legs ashore, they, nevertheless, had been glad when the time to steam back into the open sea had come. Now, as the Queen Mary entered the mouth of the Thames and prepared' to leave the shores of Old England for the broad expanse of the North Sea, they sang, whistled and laughed gaily.
They were going back where they would get another chance at the enemy, should he again venture from his lair.
Forward, upon the upper deck, stood two young officers, who peered into the darkness ahead.
"To my mind," said one, "this beats a submarine. Just look about you. Consider the size of this battleship! Look at her armament! Think of the number of men aboard!"
"You may be right," returned the second officer, "but we have had some grand times beneath the sea. We have been to places and seen things that otherwise would have been impossible."
"True enough; but at the same time, when it came to a question of fight, we have had to slink about like a cat in the night, afraid to show ourselves to larger and heavier adversaries. Now, aboard the Queen Mary, that will be done away with. Now we are the cat rather than the mouse."
"It may be that I shall come to your way of thinking in time," said the second speaker, "but at this moment I would rather have the familiar feel of a submarine beneath my heel. I would feel more at home there. Besides, we have lost one thing by being assigned to the Queen Mary that hits me rather hard."
"I know what you mean," said the first speaker. "We indeed have lost the companionship of a gallant commander. Captain Raleigh undoubtedly is a first class officer—otherwise he would not be in command of the Queen Mary—but we are bound to miss Lord Hastings."
"Indeed we are. Yet, as he told us, things cannot always be as we would like to have them. He was called for other service, as you know, and he did his best for us. That is why we find ourselves here as minor officers."
"Yes; and it's a whole lot different than being the second and third in command."
At that moment another young officer hurried by.
"Coming, Templeton? Coming, Chadwick?" he asked as he passed.
"Where?" demanded the two friends.
"Didn't you hear the call for mess?"
"No; By Jove! and I'm hungry, too," said the young officer addressed as Templeton. "Come along, Frank. We have been so busy talking here that we had forgotten all about the demands of the inner man."
The two hurried after the officer who had accosted them; and while they are attending to the wants of the inner man, as Templeton termed their appetites, we will take the time to explain how these two lads came to be aboard the giant battleship, steaming into the North Sea in search of the enemies of Great Britain and her allies.
Frank Chadwick was an American youth of some eighteen years. Separated from his father in Naples at the outbreak of the great war, he had been shanghaied aboard a sailing vessel when he had gone to the aid of a man apparently in distress. There he was made a prisoner.
Some days later he had been rescued by Jack Templeton, a young Englishman, who had boarded the vessel off the coast of Africa, seeking payment for goods he had sold to the mutinous crew. The two lads had been instrumental in helping Lord Hastings, a British nobleman, put through a coup that kept Italy out of the war on the side of Germany and Austria. Lord Hastings had become greatly attached to the lads, and when he had been put in command of a vessel, he had both boys assigned to his ship.
Through gallant service Frank and Jack had won their lieutenancies. Later Lord Hastings had assumed command of a submarine and had made Jack his first officer and Frank his second officer.
Through many a tight place the lads had gone safely, though they had faced death more than once, and faced it calmly and bravely. Also, at this period of the war, they had seen service in many seas. They had been engaged in the first battle of the North Sea, when Great Britain had struck her first hard blow; they had participated in the sinking of the German Atlantic squadron near the Falkland islands, off the coast of Argentina, in South America; they had fought in Turkish waters and in the Indian Ocean, and also had been with the British land forces when the Japanese allies of the English had won the last of the German possessions in China.
In stature and disposition the boys were as different as could be. Frank, though large for his age, looked small when alongside of Jack. The latter, though no older than his friend, was a huge bulk of a boy, standing well over six feet. He was built proportionately. Strong as an ox, he was, and cool of head.
Here he differed from Frank, who had something of a temper and was likely to do something foolish on the spur of the moment if he became angry. Jack had served as a damper for his friend's anger and enthusiasm more than once.
That they could fight, both boys had shown more than once. Jack, because of his huge bulk and great strength, was, of course, harder to beat in a hand-to-hand struggle than was Frank; but what the latter lacked in this kind of fighting, he more than made up in the use of revolver, rifle or sword.
Frank was a crack shot with a revolver; and more than once this accomplishment had stood them both in good stead. Each was a good linguist and conversed in French and German as well as in English. This also had been of help to them in several ticklish situations.
On their last venture, at which time they had been under command of Lord Hastings, they had reached the distant shores of Russia, where they had been of some assistance to the Czar. In reaching Petrograd it had been necessary for them to pass through the Kiel canal, which they had done safely in their submarine in spite of the German warships and harbor defenses. Also they had managed to sink several enemy vessels there.
Returning, Frank and Jack had gone home with Lord Hastings, where Lady Hastings had insisted that they remain quiet for some time. This they had done and had been glad of the rest.
One day Lord Hastings had come home with the announcement that he had been called back into the diplomatic service. It was the aim of the British government to align Greece and Roumania on the side of the Allies. Realizing that they could not hope to accompany Lord Hastings, and not wishing to remain idle longer, Frank and Jack had requested Lord Hastings to have them assigned on active duty at once. Lord Hastings promised to do his best.
And this was the reason that Frank Chadwick and Jack Templeton found themselves aboard H.M.S. Queen Mary when she steamed out to the North Sea on an evening in the last week of May, 1916.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Up to this time the German Sea fleet, as a unit, had suffered comparatively little damage in the great war. Sheltered as it was behind the great fortress of Heligoland, the British sea forces had been unable to reach it; nor would the Germans venture forth to give battle to the English, in spite of the bait that more than once had been placed just outside the mine fields that guarded the approach to the great German fortress itself.
To have attacked this fortress would have been foolhardy and the British knew it. The British fleet, powerful though it was, would have been no match for the great guns of the German fortress, even had the battleships been able to force a passage of the mine fields; and this latter feat would have been a wonderful one in itself, could it be accomplished.
Upon several occasions German battleships, cruisers and submarines had ventured from behind the mine field and had delivered raids upon the British coast, almost 400 miles away. How they escaped the eyes of the waiting British was a riddle that so far had not been explained. But while they reached alien shores in safety, they had not returned with the same success. Twice the British had come into contact with these German raiders and in each case the enemy had come off second best. Several German cruisers had been sent to the bottom.
After occasions like these, the Germans would lie long behind their snug walls before venturing forth into the open again. They held the British navy in too great awe to treat it lightly.
But the fact that the British were able to keep the German fleet bottled up was a victory in itself, though a bloodless one. Practically all commerce with Germany had been shut off. It settled down to a question of how long the German Empire could survive without the necessary food and other commodities reaching her shores. What little in the way of foodstuffs did reach Germany came by the way of the Scandinavian countries—Norway, Sweden and Denmark; also some grain was still being shipped in by the way of Roumania and was being transported up the Danube, which had been opened to traffic again after Serbia had been crushed.
But these supplies were not great enough to take care of the whole German population. In the conquest of Russian Poland, Germany had improved her lot somewhat, for the fertile fields had immediately been planted and a good crop had been reaped.
And the one thing that prevented Germany from importing the things that would in the end be necessary to her existence was the British supremacy of the sea, abetted now somewhat by the navies of France, Italy and Japan. German commerce had been cleared from the seven seas. What vessels of war had been scattered over the world at the outbreak of the war had either been sent to the bottom, captured or were interned in foreign ports. These latter were of no value to Germany.
It had been more than a year now since the last German commerce raider had been sunk. The German commercial flag was seen no more in the four corners of the globe. It appeared that Germany was nearing the end of her rope.
And yet, bottled up in Heligoland, remained the German high sea fleet practically intact. It was a formidable fleet and one, it seemed, that should not be afraid to venture from behind the protection of the fortress. And some day, the world knew, when all other ways had failed, this great fleet would steam forth to give battle to the British, in a last effort of the German Emperor to turn the tide in his favor; and while, in the allied nations at least, there was no doubt of the ultimate outcome of such a struggle, it was realized that the German fleet would give a good account of itself when it did venture forth.
Therefore, it was considered just as well that the British keep the German high sea fleet bottled up and give it no chance to reach the open, where, although the greater part might be sent to the bottom, some vessels might escape and embark upon a cruise of commerce warfare. This bloodless victory, it was pointed out, was of just as great value to Great Britain as if all the German ships of war had been at the bottom of the North Sea. Bottled up as they were, they were just as ineffective.
This was the situation, then, when the Queen Mary, with Jack and Frank aboard, steamed down the Thames and out into the North Sea to take up again her patrol of those waters; and there was nothing to warn those on board of the great battle that even now was impending and that was to result disastrously for Great Britain, even though the Germans were to suffer no less.
Mess over, Frank and Jack made their way to their own quarters amidships. Here they sat down and for some time talked over the events of the days gone by.
"I guess there will be nothing for us to do this night," said Frank at last. "We may as well turn in."
"I am afraid there will be nothing for us to do for some time to come," was Jack's reply. "I am afraid it will be rather monotonous sailing about the North Sea looking for German warships, when the latter are afraid to come out and fight."
"Well, you can't tell," said Frank. "However, that's one beauty of a submarine. You don't have to wait around for something to happen. You can go out and make it happen."
"That's so. But, by Jove! I wish these fellows would come out and fight! Maybe we could put an end to this war real quickly."
"Yes, but we might not," returned Frank.
"Why, don't you think we can thrash them?"
"I suppose we can; but at the same time they can do a lot of damage. Besides, some of them have come out. We've sunk some, of course, but the others have returned safely enough. I can't see any excuse for that."
"It does seem that they should have been caught," Jack agreed, "but I guess Admiral Jellicoe, Admiral Beatty and the admiralty know what is going on."
"Sometimes it doesn't look like it," declared Frank. "I suppose there are still some of these German submarines scooting about almost under our feet."
"I suppose so. However, ordinarily, as you know, they won't attack a battleship. It's too risky. If they miss with the first torpedo, the chances are they will be sunk."
"Well, we sunk a few," said Frank.
"I know we did; but we took long chances."
"The Germans take long chances, too."
"You must have a little German blood in you, Frank," said Jack, with a smile. "If I didn't know you better, I would think you were sticking up for them."
"No, I'm not sticking up for them; but they do things we seem to be afraid to do. To my way of thinking, we should have gone and cleaned up Heligoland a long time ago."
"By Jove! You want the enemy to win this war quickly, don't you?"
"Come, now. You know very well what would have happened if we had tried to take a fleet into Heligoland. They would have blown us out of the water."
"Well, such things have been done," grumbled Frank. "I can tell you a couple of cases. At Mobile Bay——"
"Oh, I've heard all that before. But conditions now are absolutely different. What was done fifty years ago can't be done today."
"They aren't being done, that much is sure," replied Frank. "But this argument is not doing us any good. Me for a little sleep."
"I'm with you," said Jack.
And half an hour later, as the Queen Mary still steamed due east, Frank and Jack slept.
Above, the third officer held the bridge. The great searchlight forward lighted the water for some distance ahead, and aft a second light cast its powerful rays first to port and then to starboard. There was not another vessel in sight.
Farther to the east, other British battleships patrolled the sea, their lights also flashing back and forth. It would be a bold enemy who would venture to run that blockade; and yet, in spite of this, the strictest watch was maintained. For the fact still remained fresh in the minds of the British that upon two occasions the Germans had run the British blockade; and both times the failure of the British to intercept them had resulted in heavy loss of life on the coast, where the German warships had shelled unfortified towns—against all rules of civilized warfare—killing thousands of helpless men, women and children.
It was against some such similar attack that the British warships were patrolling every mile of water. The British coast must be protected. No more German raiders must be allowed to slip through and bombard undefended coast towns.
Also, strict watch was kept aloft. For almost nightly now, huge German Zeppelins were sailing across the sea and dropping bombs upon the coast of Kent, upon Dover, and close even to London itself. It was feared that one of these monsters of the air might swoop down upon the battleships and, with a well directed bomb, send the vessel to the bottom of the sea.
All British war vessels were equipped with anti-aircraft guns and these were ever loaded and ready for action; for there was no telling what moment they might be called into use to repel a foe. Upon several occasions attacks of the Zeppelins had been beaten off with these guns, though, up to date, none had been brought down.
But now there had been perfected a new anti-aircraft gun. With this it was believed that the battleship stood a good chance of bringing down a Zeppelin should it venture near enough.
With such a gun the Queen Mary had been equipped as she was overhauled in dry dock. With this gun went four men. One to stand by the gun at night and keep watch of the sky and a second to do duty in the day time. The other two men stood relief watches and were of additional need should one of the first men be injured, taken sick or killed.
And so it was that, as the Queen Mary continued on her way, one of these men stood by his gun just aft of the bridge, watching the sky. Nor did he shirk his task.
Almost continuously his eye swept the dark heavens, following, as well as he could, in the path of one or the other of the searchlights. He used powerful night glasses for this purpose. Suddenly he gave a start. He looked closely again through his glasses. Then he uttered a cry of alarm.
The third officer, on the bridge, gave an exclamation.
"What do you see?" he demanded.
"Zeppelin," was the reply. "Douse the light aft. Have the man forward see if he can pick up the craft with his flash. About two points east by north."
There came sharp commands aboard the Queen Mary.
WARSHIP AND ZEPPELIN
A bell tinkled in the engine room of the Queen Mary. The ship slowed down. Captain Raleigh had been called by the third officer. He took the bridge and issued his orders sharply.
There was no telling whether the Zeppelin sighted by the man at the gun would attack the ship, but Captain Raleigh considered it best to be on the safe side. That was why he had left orders to be called immediately should an enemy appear.
Again a bell tinkled in the engine room, following an order from the commander of the Queen Mary.
The great engines stopped and became silent.
"Cut off all lights!" was the next command.
A moment later the great ship was in darkness.
Frank and Jack, in their quarters, were awakened by the sounds of confusion above. All hands had not been piped on deck, so most of the men still lay asleep, unconscious of what was going on above, but the two lads, dressing hurriedly, made their way on deck. They walked forward, toward the bridge.
All was dark and it was this that told Frank and Jack that something was going on.
"Wonder what's up?" said Frank.
"Airship, I guess," was the reply. "Can't see any other reason for extinguishing all lights."
Near the bridge the lads stopped and waited to see what would happen. All was quiet aboard. Not a sound came from the officers or the men on deck. Then Captain Raleigh commanded:
"Try the forward searchlight there. See if you can pick her up!"
The light flashed aloft; and there, so far above the Queen Mary as to be little more than a tiny speck, hovered a giant Zeppelin; and even as they looked, the airship came lower.
"She's sighted us," said Captain Raleigh to his first officer, who stood beside him. "Try a shot, Mr. Harrison."
The first officer passed the word and a second later there came the sound of the anti-aircraft gun. The gunner had taken his range at the moment the flashlight revealed the airship.
The shot brought no noticeable result.
"Fifteen knots ahead, Mr. Harrison!" ordered the captain.
He was afraid that the Zeppelin might drop a bomb on the ship; and from that moment until the end of the battle the Queen Mary did not pause. First she headed to port and then to starboard, manoeuvering rapidly that the German airmen might not be able to reach her with a bomb.
"Another shot!" commanded Captain Raleigh.
Still no result.
"Funny she doesn't rise and try and escape," said Frank.
"No, it's not," returned Jack. "They don't know anything about this new anti-aircraft gun. They believe they are out of range."
"Well, they're likely to hit us with one of those bombs, and then where will we be?" said Frank.
"If they hit us you won't know anything about it," was Jack's response.
Again the Queen Mary tried a shot at the Zeppelin.
A cheer went up from the members of the crew who stood upon deck; for the Zeppelin was seen to wabble.
"Nicked her," shouted the first officer.
Jack, standing near the rail, heard something whiz by his head. Instinctively the lad ducked. He knew in a moment what had passed him; he heard something splash into the sea.
"Bomb just missed us, sir!" he cried, stepping forward.
"Where?" demanded Captain Raleigh.
"Right here, forward, sir," replied Jack.
Captain Raleigh gave a quick command to his first officer, who passed it to the man at the wheel.
"Hard a-port!" he cried.
The ship veered crazily; and at the some moment, Frank, who was standing where Jack had been a moment before, heard something swish past.
"Another bomb, sir!" he reported.
There was no reply from the bridge. Captain Raleigh felt that, by bringing the ship's head hard to port, he had spoiled the range of the enemy in the air.
For some time no more bombs dropped near.
Again the Queen Mary fired at the Zeppelin; and again and again.
The last shot was rewarded by another cheer from the crew. The giant Zeppelin was seen to drop suddenly.
The crew cheered loud and long for it appeared that the Zeppelin was about to drop into the sea. Down she came and still down; and then her descent suddenly halted.
To those aboard the Queen Mary this was unexplainable.
"Fire again, quickly!" shouted the captain.
The air gun boomed. At the same moment a man was seen to lean over the side of the Zeppelin. He dropped something.
Again Captain Raleigh acted promptly and brought the head of the Queen Mary around. The German bomb missed. Before another could be dropped, the man who manned the anti-aircraft gun fired again.
Another cheer from the crew.
The Zeppelin began to sink slowly.
"Full speed ahead!" cried Captain Raleigh. "They'll sink us!"
The Queen Mary leaped ahead just in time.
And then the Zeppelin dropped.
With a splash it hit the water perhaps a quarter of a mile from the British battleship. Came cries from the men, caught beneath the gas bag. At that moment Jack stood close to the bridge. Captain Raleigh saw him.
"Man a boat, Mr. Templeton," he called, "and rescue those fellows in the water."
Quickly Jack sprang to obey. Frank leaped after him. Hurriedly a small boat was gotten out and launched. A half dozen sailors sprang in and took up the oars. Frank and Jack leaped in after them.
The oars glistened in the glare of the searchlight as the men raised them and awaited the word.
"Give way," said Jack.
The boat sped over the smooth surface of the sea.
Close to the wreckage of the Zeppelin it approached; and cries told Jack that some of the Germans still lived.
"Hurry!" he cried, and the men increased their stroke.
Near the wreckage Jack gave the command to cease rowing. A German swam toward the boat. Hands helped him in and he lay in the bottom panting. Other forms swam toward them. These, too, were lifted in the boat. And at last Jack counted fifteen Germans who had been saved.
"Are you all here?" he asked of a German officer.
"All but Commander Butz, sir," was the man's reply.
Jack commanded his men to row closer to the wreckage.
"Ahoy there!" he shouted, when he had come close.
The lad thought he heard a muffled answer, but he could not make sure. He called again. This time the answer came plainer.
"Where are you?" asked Jack.
"Under the wreckage," was the reply.
Jack scrutinized the wreckage closely.
"Looks like it might sink any minute," he said "But we can't leave him there."
"What are you going to do?" asked Frank.
For answer Jack arose in the boat. Quickly he threw off his coat and kicked off his shoes. Then he poised himself on the edge of the boat.
"I'm going after him," he replied.
Before Frank could reply, he had dived head first into the sea.
With a cry of alarm, Frank also sprang to his feet and divested himself of his coat and shoes.
"Stay close, men!" he commanded. "I'll lend a hand if it's needed."
He, too, leaped into the water.
Rapidly, Jack swam close to the wreckage. He continued to call to the German, and while he received an answer each time, he could not locate the man. Twice he swam around all that remained of the huge Zeppelin. By this time Frank had come up with him.
"Can't you find him?" he asked.
"No," returned Jack, "and I am rather afraid to swim under there. The balloon may sink and carry me under. But if I were certain in exactly what spot the man is imprisoned, I'd have a try at it."
Frank listened attentively; and directly the German's voice came again. To Frank it seemed that the voice came from directly ahead of him.
"Lay hold of this end here," he said to Jack. "If you can lift it a bit I'll go under and have a look."
"Better let me do it, Frank," said Jack.
"No; you're stronger than I am. You can hold this up better."
Jack did as his chum requested and a moment later Frank disappeared under the wreckage, diving first to make sure that he got under.
Under the water the lad swam forward. His hand touched something that was threshing about.
He felt sure it was the German. He rose. His head came in contact with something, but the lad opened his eyes and saw that he was above the surface. The imprisoned German was close beside him.
"Dive!" said Frank. "You can come out all right."
"Can't," was the reply. "My arm is caught."
Frank made a quick examination.
"I can loosen it," he said at last, "but I'll probably break the arm."
"Loosen it," said the German, quietly.
Frank took a firm hold on the arm at the elbow and gave a quick wrench. He felt something give, and when he released his hold on the man's arm, the latter sank suddenly.
Frank dived after him quickly. It was even as the lad feared. The German had fainted from the pain of the arm, which Frank had broken cleanly as he released it.
Frank dived deep and his outstretched hand encountered the German. The lad grasped the man firmly by the collar and then struck upwards. A moment later he succeeded in making his way to where Jack still tugged at the balloon.
Jack lent a hand and they dragged the German from beneath the wreckage. Then they towed him to the boat and other hands lifted him in. Frank and Jack clambered aboard.
"Give way!" said Jack, sharply.
The boat moved toward the battleship; and even as it did so, the mass of wreckage suddenly disappeared from sight with a loud noise.
"Pretty close, Frank," he said quietly. "You can see what would have happened if you had still been under there."
"Can you fight?"
The speaker was a young British midshipman. Jack and Frank stood at the rail, gazing off toward the distant horizon, when the young man approached them. The lads turned quickly.
"Can you fight?" demanded the young man again. His eyes rested on Jack.
"Well," said the latter with a smile, "I can if I'm pushed to it. Who wants to lick me now?"
The young midshipman also smiled.
"It's not that kind of a fight I'm talking about," he said. "You're new aboard, so I'll explain."
"Do," said Jack.
"Well, there has been considerable rivalry between the men of our ship and the crew of the Indefatigable. We had an athletic contest last year and they beat us, carrying everything but the standing broad jump. This year we are better fortified and we hope to get even. Among other things there will be a boxing match. Jackson, that's the man we had entered in that event, is ill. I have been elected to find a substitute. I sized you up as being able to hold your own with most."
"Well, if that's the way of it, you can count me in, of course," said Jack. "When does this come off?"
"As soon as we come up with the Indefatigable. Probably tomorrow."
"What other events are there?" asked Frank.
"Plenty," was the reply. "Besides the boxing match and standing broad jump are the running broad jump; high jumping, a match with foils and a revolver contest."
"And are your lists filled?" asked Frank.
"I believe so. Why?"
"Well, I'd like to get in the revolver contest," replied the lad. "I'm pretty handy with a gun."
"I'll see what can be done," returned the midshipman. "By the way, my name is Lawrence."
They shook hands and walked off.
"Well, that's something to liven things up a bit," said Frank.
"Yes; but I didn't know they were doing such things in time of war."
"Neither did I; but it seems they are."
It was late that evening when Lawrence again approached the two lads.
"You're in luck," he said to Frank. "We are still one man shy on our revolver team. I have named you for the place."
"Thanks," said Frank. "I'll promise to do the best I can. By the way, where is this match to take place?"
"Right here. Last year it was pulled off on the Indefatigable."
It was drawing toward night when the Queen Mary, steaming swiftly, sighted smoke upon the horizon. Two hours later she slowed down a short distance from three other vessels, which proved to be the Indefatigable, the Invincible and the Lion, the latter the flagship of Vice-Admiral Beatty.
The commanders exchanged salutations; and among other things made arrangements for the athletic contest that was to take place aboard the Queen Mary the following day. This was explained to the men.
The day's events were to begin at nine o'clock. They were to come in this order: Standing broad jump, running broad jump, high jump, foil match, revolver contest and boxing match.
"You're last on the card, Jack," said Frank, with a laugh, when they were informed of the manner in which the events were to be pulled off.
"Hope I'm last on my feet, too," said Jack, with a laugh.
"Oh, I'm not worrying about you. You'll come through with flying colors. I hope I am not nervous, though."
"You won't be," said Jack, positively. "I know you and that revolver of yours too well."
"Guess we had better turn in early so as to be fit," said Frank.
And they did, retiring several hours after mess.
Every man aboard the Queen Mary was astir bright and early the following morning. Each man was filled with enthusiasm and each was ready to wager his next year's pay on the outcome of each event. But there was to be no gambling. Admiral Beatty had issued orders to that effect.
At eight o'clock the championship entrants from the Indefatigable came aboard, accompanied by many of their companions, who would be present to cheer them on. Officers as well as men were greatly interested in the day's sports. Admiral Beatty could not be present, but Captain Reynolds, of the Indefatigable, stood by Captain Raleigh, of the Queen Mary, as the first event was called.
"We're going to get even with you this time, Reynolds," said Captain Raleigh.
"Oh, no you won't. The score will be two in our favor after today."
They became silent as four men, two from each ship, made ready for the standing broad jump.
The jumping was superb. After eight attempts one man from each ship was eliminated; and at length the Indefatigable man won.
"Two points for us, Raleigh," said Captain Reynolds, jotting down something on the back of an envelope.
"Don't crow, we'll get you yet, Reynolds," was Captain Raleigh's reply.
The running broad jump was won by the Queen Mary's entrants. Then it was Captain Raleigh's time to smile.
"Told you so," he said to Captain Reynolds.
"Oh, you won one event last year," was the reply. "This high jump comes to us."
And it did. The score was now four to two in favor of the Indefatigable. Then came the match with foils and this also went to the Indefatigable, making the score nine to two, for this match carried five points for the winner. Also, the pistol contest and the boxing match carried five points each.
"We've got you now, Raleigh," laughed Captain Reynolds. "Nine to two. You've got to take both of the next two events to win. It can't be done."
"It has been done," was the reply.
"It won't be this time," was the reply. "I think we will win the revolver contest, for I have some pretty fair shots, but if we don't, we are sure to take the boxing match. We've a surprise for you there. Here they go."
The revolver match was on. There were three men on each team. The first mark was set, a target at twenty yards with a six-inch bull's eye. Frank fired first. He hit the bull's eye easily. So did the others, all except one of the Indefatigable crew, who was thus eliminated, much to his disgust, as the spectators jeered him.
The next shot at a smaller mark eliminated one of the Queen Mary's crew. An Indefatigable man and a Queen Mary man both missed the next mark and there remained but Frank for the Queen Mary and a man named Simpson for the Indefatigable.
The target had been removed to sixty yards and the bull's eye was but two inches. Frank fired and scored a hit. So did Simpson. Next both hit the mark ten yards farther back.
A one-inch bull's eye was substituted. Frank fired first. He scored a clean hit. Simpson also hit the eye, though not so squarely. Still it counted a hit.
Now the bull's eye was reduced to half an inch, and at seventy yards it seemed almost impossible to hit it. This time Simpson was to fire first. Carefully he took deliberate aim and fired.
A shout went up from the Queen Mary men who stood near.
"Missed it by a hair," said one. "Beat it, Chadwick! Beat it!"
"He can't beat it! Hooray! We've won!" This from the Indefatigable's crew.
"Good shooting, old man," said Frank, quietly, as he took his position.
Carefully he measured the distance with his eye.
Then he raised his revolver slowly, and seeming scarcely to take aim, fired.
And a yell went up from the Queen Mary's crew.
"Bull's eye! Bull's eye!" they cried, and danced and capered about the deck.
Frank had won. He had hit the bull's eye squarely.
The men rushed up and danced about him.
"Good work!" they cried. "Five points for us. Nine to seven now. We'll win this yet!"
Simpson approached Frank and extended a hand.
"Good shooting, son," he exclaimed.
Simpson was a man well along in years, and he put this touch of familiarity to his words to make Frank realize that they were sincere. "I used to be something of a shot myself," he said. "But I guess you are better than I ever was."
Frank took Simpson's hand.
"You would probably beat me next time," he said.
Simpson shook his head.
"Not in a thousand years," he said, and walked off.
Meantime, Captain Raleigh and Captain Reynolds were having it out.
"Told you so! Told you so!" exclaimed the former, as pleased as a boy. "We'll beat you yet, sure."
"No, you won't, Raleigh," said Reynolds, with a wink. "I'll tell you something. Ever hear of a man named Harris?"
"Yes; I know several men by that name."
"Ever hear of Tim Harris?"
"By George! You mean Tim Harris, of the Queen Elizabeth?"
"The champion of the British fleet, eh? You mean to tell me you have rung him in on us?"
"We didn't ring him in," was the reply. "He was transferred to the Indefatigable before the Queen Elizabeth went to the Dardanelles. We've been saving this up as a little surprise."
Captain Raleigh had lost his look of optimism.
"Then our man should be warned," he said. "He may wish to withdraw."
"It is only fair to tell him who his opponent is," agreed Captain Reynolds. "I guess we should have done it long ago."
"I'll tell him," said Captain Raleigh.
At this moment there was a loud cheer from the crew of the Queen Mary.
"Here he comes!" they shouted.
Jack, stripped to the waist and wearing a pair of trunks, had appeared on deck. Two men accompanied him. These, it seemed, were to be his seconds. Jack caught sight of Frank and smiled.
And again the crew of the Queen Mary went wild.
The champion of the Indefatigable had not yet appeared on deck; and the crew of the Queen Mary strained their necks hunting him out.
"Bring out your champion!" they called. "What's the matter with him? Is he afraid?"
The men of the Indefatigable returned these compliments with jeers of their own.
"Oh, just wait!" they howled.
Captain Raleigh, in the meantime, had approached Jack and his seconds.
"It is only fair to warn you," he said quietly, "that the man whom you are to oppose is Tim Harris, champion of the British fleet."
Jack was surprised.
"I didn't know that, sir. I thought he was with the Queen Elizabeth."
"Well, he's here; but I didn't know it until a moment ago. It will be no dishonor to you if you wish to withdraw. A man must be in perfect trim to stand before Harris."
"Why," said Jack, in surprise, "I can hardly do that now, sir. The men are depending on me."
Captain Raleigh smiled frankly.
"You are all right, boy," he said. "At your first words I thought you were afraid. But you cannot hope for victory."
"I always hope for victory, sir, and I shall do my best. I am no novice."
"Perhaps not; but Harris is almost a professional; in fact, I may say, a good deal better than many professionals. He is fast for a man of his size and has a terrible right-hand punch. I have seen him box often. If you are decided to go on with this, a word of warning. Watch that right hand of his like you would a hawk."
"I shall remember, sir," replied Jack. "Thank you."
"All right then," said Captain Raleigh. "I like your spunk. Good luck to you."
Captain Raleigh walked back to Captain Reynold's side.
"Will he withdraw?" asked the latter.
"He will not. He says the men are depending on him and he must go through with it."
"By Jove! a fine spirit!" exclaimed Captain Reynolds. "I hope he is not too easily disposed of."
"I don't think he will be," said Captain Raleigh, quietly. "Someway, I have a feeling that you haven't carried off the honors yet."
"But it's foolish to talk like that, Raleigh," said Captain Reynolds. "You know this man, Harris."
"I suppose it is foolish, but it's the way I feel just the same. Ah! There's Harris now."
Tim Harris had appeared on deck; and the crew of the Indefatigable went wild. Now for the first time the crew of the Queen Mary knew who Jack's opponent would be; and after a look at Harris, they became strangely silent. Then one voice called:
"Never mind who he is. Templeton can lick him, anyhow!"
The others took up the cry and Jack smiled.
Now the referee called the principals to him and gave them their instructions.
"No hitting in clinches, and clean breaks," he said.
Jack and Harris nodded that they understood. As the two stood there together, the crowd sized them up.
Jack, standing well above six feet, still was not as tall as his opponent, who topped him by a full inch. Their arms were about of a length, but Harris was big through the chest and his arms seemed more powerful than Jack's. A close observer, however, would have seen that while Jack was in perfect physical condition, Harris carried a trifle too much fat—not much, but still a trifle. With the battle anywhere near equal, this fat might prove to Jack's advantage.
Jack's arms showed strength, but the muscles were not knotted like those of Harris. Harris was perhaps twenty-eight years old, Jack almost ten years younger. Jack had the youth, but Harris had the experience of many hard encounters. It appeared that the odds were heavily against Jack.
Jack and Harris sized each other carefully. Jack smiled. So did Harris. As they touched gloves, Harris said:
"You're a nice boy. I don't want to hurt you too much, so I'll make this short"—the referee had announced that the match was to be for ten rounds.
"Don't worry about me," said Jack. "I can take care of myself. If the match is short you won't find me on the deck."
Harris would have replied, but at that moment the referee called:
Jack leaped lightly backward even as Harris aimed a vicious blow at his head, apparently trying to make good his word to end the battle at once. The blow missed Jack's face by the fraction of an inch. Harris followed up this blow with a right and left, which Jack blocked neatly, and then brought his right up, trying to upper cut.
Jack leaped backward and the blow grazed his chin. Before Harris could recover, Jack stepped quickly forward and planted a sharp right and a hard left to Harris' nose. Harris stepped back and wiped away a stream of red.
It was first blood for Jack and the crew of the Queen Mary sent up a wild cheer.
But Harris only smiled. He was not to be caught so easily again.
These two blows had given the Indefatigable champion some respect for Jack's ability. He advanced more carefully this time. He feinted rapidly and shot his left forward, quickly followed by his right. But Jack had not been deceived and caught both blows upon his forearms.
"You're all right, boy," said Harris, admiringly, "It's a pleasure to box with you."
"And I may say the same," said Jack.
They fell to it again.
As Harris stepped quickly forward his foot slipped and he fell to one knee.
"Hit him when he gets up!" came a cry from the crowd.
Instead, Jack lowered his guard and extended a hand. He helped his opponent to his feet. Then he stepped back and the battle continued.
Now Jack decided that he would feel the other out. He feinted rapidly, once, twice, and struck out with a right; and he staggered back suddenly, for something had suddenly come up under his chin with terrible force. In a moment Jack realized what it was. It was Harris' right, which Captain Raleigh had warned him against. Had the blow been timed perfectly, Jack realized, the fight would have been over then and there.
Guarding desperately, Jack managed to fall into a clinch, where he hung on until his head cleared. As he stepped back the referee called time. The first round was Harris' by the margin of that hard uppercut.
"I'll be a little more careful of that right," Jack confided to his seconds, as he again advanced into the ring.
Again the lad assumed the offensive, keeping careful eye on his opponent's right fist. Again Harris tried to reach Jack's chin, but this time Jack blocked the blow. He knew he would not be caught that way again. Jack feinted three times, twice with his left and once with his right, and then the right crashed against Harris' ear. The man staggered back and before he could recover Jack planted two hard blows —right and left—to his sore nose. Desperately, Harris rushed into a clinch.
Again the crew of the Queen Mary cheered.
"And what do you think of that, eh?" asked Captain Raleigh of Captain Reynolds.
"The boy is a fighter," was the latter's reply. "But wait; experience will tell."
Harris became more cautious. He circled around Jack, lightly, dancing about on his toes. The lad followed him quietly. Suddenly, Harris' left fist shot out. Jack blocked, but before he could recover, Harris launched himself like a catapult and a series of right and lefts descended on Jack's face, neck, ears and abdomen.
Jack staggered back and Harris followed him closely, giving him no rest Jack was still retreating at the bell.
Again in the third and in the fourth round Jack seemed to be getting the worst of it. In the fifth he braced and sent in as good as he received. In the sixth he almost floored Harris with a straight right to the side of the jaw; and in the seventh Harris was kept on the defensive.
But in the eighth Jack again encountered Harris' right and the force of the blow sent him reeling. All through the round Harris followed up this advantage, and at the bell, it seemed that Jack would be unable to continue the fight.
But his head cleared in the one minute rest period; and he fought through the ninth round carefully. The lad realized now that, so far, Harris had the better of the encounter and that, if he hoped to win, it must be by a knockout. So, while Harris was trying in vain to put in a finishing punch, Jack husbanded his strength, determined to make a strong effort in the final round.
The rest refreshed him still more; and as time was called for the tenth, Jack cast discretion to the winds and leaped forward.
In spite of this, he was cool, however, and kept his eye peeled for the movement that would tell him Harris was about to launch his right.
A right and left he landed to Harris' sore nose. Then Harris rushed. Jack was forced back around the ring by the force of this rush and backed against the ropes; but he bounded out with great force and landed a vicious left to the side of Harris' jaw. Then they clinched.
As the referee parted them, Jack saw the movement for which he had been watching. Harris again was about to launch that terrible right. The lad waited calmly.
It flashed forth faster than the eye could see. But it had not come too quick for Jack, who was expecting it.
The blow was aimed for the point of the chin and would have ended the fight right there. But, judging the distance exactly, Jack moved his head a trifle to one side; and Harris' fist flashed by his chin by the fraction of an inch.
With all his force behind the blow, Jack put a straight left to Harris' jaw. A terrible jolt to the abdomen followed; and, as Harris head came forward again, Jack pivoted on his heel and struck with his right.
He had judged the time and the distance perfectly. His right fist caught Harris squarely upon the point of the chin. There was a "smack" that could be heard even above the cheering of the Queen Mary's crew, followed by a crash as Harris fell to the deck. With half a minute of the last round to go, Jack had knocked the man out and won the day for the Queen Mary by a score of twelve to nine.
And the crew cheered again!
Harris remained prostrate on the deck.
Quickly, Jack pulled off his gloves and, leaning down, he picked up the unconscious man and carried him to his own cabin. There he bathed the man's face and brought him back to consciousness.
"How do you feel, old man?" he asked.
Harris looked at the lad queerly.
"So you beat me, eh?" he said. "Well, to tell you the truth, after the fifth round I expected it. I am no match for you and I know it. Do you realize that you are the champion of the British fleet now?"
"I hadn't thought of that," was Jack's reply.
"You have defeated the champion, so your title is undisputed," said Harris.
He rose from the bunk where Jack had placed him and felt tenderly of his chin.
"Quite a wallop," he said calmly. "Well, let me congratulate you. I am glad that, as long as I had to be defeated some day, it was you who turned the trick."
He extended a hand and Jack grasped it heartily.
"You would probably down me next time," he said.
"Not a chance," replied Harris. "I know when I have met my superior."
He moved toward the door. There he paused for a moment and said:
"Well, I must go and dress now. I hope that I may see you again before long."
"I am sure I hope so, too," returned Jack.
Hardly had Harris taken his departure when running feet approached Jack's cabin. A moment later a crowd of sailors burst into the room. Before Jack realized what was going on, they had seized him, hoisted him to their shoulders and rushed out on deck again. There, for perhaps half an hour, they paraded up and down, cheering wildly.
They lowered him to the deck, however, when Captain Raleigh and Captain Reynolds approached. The former spoke first.
"I must congratulate you upon your remarkable exhibition," he said. "You are a brave boy."
Jack flushed and hung his head.
"When I am mistaken I admit it," said Captain Reynolds. "You are more than a match for Harris at any time."
"I did the best I could," said Jack, sheepishly.
"Well, it was pretty good," said Captain Reynolds.
With Captain Raleigh he moved away.
Frank now approached and accompanied Jack back to their cabin, where Jack got info his uniform.
"Some scrapper, you are," said Frank. "I thought you were done for once or twice, though."
"I thought so myself," returned Jack, with a grin. "I was pretty lucky in that last round, if you ask me."
"Harris was pretty unlucky, I know that," said Frank, grimly. "Hurry up, it's time to eat."
Jack's fight was the talk of the day aboard the Queen Mary; and aboard the Indefatigable, too, for that matter. In fact, all the British fleet within wireless radius knew before night that there was a new champion of the British fleet; and they cheered him, though he could not hear.
It was upon the following morning, while the Queen Mary steamed about in the North Sea, that Jack and Frank embarked upon their first piece of work since they had been assigned to the giant battleship.
Both lads were in their cabin studying, when an orderly announced that Captain Raleigh desired their presence. They obeyed the summons at once.
"And how do you feel today?" asked Captain Raleigh, as he eyed Jack, quietly.
"First rate, sir."
"Feel like another fight?"
"No, sir. I don't make a practice of that sort of thing."
"I'm glad to hear that. How would you like to take a little trip?"
"First rate, sir. Where to, sir?"
"Well, that's rather a difficult question," returned Captain Raleigh. "Here, read this," and he passed the lad a slip of paper.
Jack did as commanded. This is what he read:
"Large number of enemy aircraft reported flying over North Sea, fifty miles south of you, every night. Investigate.
Jack passed the slip of paper back.
"Well?" exclaimed Captain Raleigh.
"Yes, sir," replied Jack. "You want me to find out what's going on, sir?"
"Exactly. Can you run a hydroplane?"
"No, sir; but Frank here can."
"Lieutenant Chadwick, sir."
"Oh," said the commander, "so he is Frank, eh? All right. Then here is what I want you two to do. Take the hydroplane aft and fly south. Take your time and see what you can find out. The matter may amount to nothing, and then again it may forebode something serious."
"Very well, sir," replied Frank. "When shall we start, sir?"
"You may as well start immediately. It is hardly possible, judging by the tone of that message, that you will find anything by daylight, but at least you can be on the ground by night."
"Very well, sir," said Jack, and waited to see if there were any further instructions.
Captain Raleigh dismissed the two lads with a wave of his hand.
"That is all," he said. "Report the moment you are able to do so."
The two lads saluted and returned to their own cabin.
"You see," said Frank, "we didn't have to wait very long to find something to do."
"I see we didn't," agreed Frank. "Now, the first thing to do is shed these uniforms."
"So that we shall not be taken for British should we fall among the enemy. We'll put on plain khaki suits."
"Well, whatever you say," said Frank.
This was the work of but a few moments; and half an hour later the two lads soared into the air in one of the Queen Mary's large hydroplanes.
"This is something like it, if you ask me," said Frank, as he bent over the wheel.
"Pretty fine," Jack agreed, raising his voice to make himself heard above the whir of the propellers and the noise of the engine. "I wouldn't mind flying all the time."
"Where do we want to come down, Jack?" asked Frank.
"Let's see. The message said the enemy was flying about fifty miles south. They probably won't be out before dark, so I should say it might be well to go a little beyond that point."
"All right. But we may miss them in the darkness tonight."
"By Jove! That's so! Funny I didn't think of that. Let me think a moment."
"No use of thinking," said Frank, "I have a scheme that will work all right."
"What is it?"
"Why, we'll stop right in the path taken by the enemy planes and then drop down upon the water."
"So the Germans can see us as they fly by, eh?"
"They won't see us in the dark," said Frank. "We'll be a pretty small spot down on the water. They will be looking for nothing so small."
"I guess you are right, after all," Jack agreed. "At least it's worth trying. We'll be sure to hear them flying above; and if we went beyond the lane of travel, or didn't go far enough, we might not even see them."
"Exactly," said Frank. "Well, there is no hurry, so I may as well slow down a bit."
He did so and they went along more leisurely.
"Can't see what the Germans would be flying about here for," said Jack, "and I have been trying to figure it out ever since I read that message."
"So have I," declared Frank, "If they were Zeppelins I could understand it; they would be going and returning from raids on the British coast; but surely they would not venture that distance with aeroplanes."
"I wouldn't think so. Still, you never can tell about those fellows. They do a lot of strange things."
"So they do. Say!" Frank was struck with a sudden thought. "You don't suppose the presence of many of those fellows heralds the advance of the German fleet, do you? They might be just reconnoitering, you know."
"No, I hardly think that could be it. The Germans are afraid to venture out. They know they'll get licked if they do."
"Well, those aeroplanes come out every night for some purpose, that's sure," said Frank. "It's a wonder to me the Germans haven't tried to sneak out in great force before now. They could come along here without any trouble, or they could make the effort farther north, say near Jutland."
"Well, I suppose they'll try it some day," said Jack, "but not right away. How much farther do we have to go?"
Frank glanced at his chart and then at his speedometer.
"About fifteen miles," was his reply; "and then we'll be there too soon."
The lad was right. It was not three o'clock when the hydroplane came to the spot the lads had selected to descend.
"Well, here we are," said Frank.
"Guess we may as well go down, then," said Jack. "Some of those fellows are likely to be prowling about and spot us."
"Just as you say," agreed Frank.
He set the planes and the machine glided to the water, where it came to rest lightly.
"Glad there is no sun," said Jack, "it would be awfully hot down here."
And there the lads spent the afternoon. Darkness came at last, and with its coming, the lads made ready for whatever might occur. Eight o'clock came and there had been no sounds of airships flying above. The lads strained their ears, listening for the slightest sound.
And, shortly after nine o'clock, their efforts were rewarded. Jack suddenly took Frank by the arm.
"Listen!" he exclaimed in a low voice.
AMONG THE ENEMY
To Frank's ears came a distant whirring. To ears less keen than the lad's the sound, which came from above, might have been some bird of the night flapping its wings as it soared overhead. But to Frank and Jack both it meant something entirely different. It was the sound for which they had been waiting. It was an airship.
Through his night glass Jack scanned the clouds and at last he picked up the object for which he sought. Almost directly overhead at that moment, but flying rapidly westward, was a single aeroplane. So high in the air was the machine that it looked a mere speck and Jack was unable to determine from that distance whether it was British or German.
"See it, Jack?" asked Frank in a low voice.
"Yes," was the reply. "A single craft, perhaps half a mile up."
"No more in sight, eh?"
"Not yet. This one is heading west."
"Guess we had better get up that way, then," said Frank.
A moment later the hydroplane was skimming swiftly over the water. For perhaps three hundred yards Frank kept the craft on the water; then sent it soaring into the air above.
There was not a word between the two boys until the hydroplane was a quarter of a mile in the air. Then Jack said:
"Make your elevation half a mile and then head west, slowly. The chances are there will be more of them. In the darkness we can let them overtake us and mingle with them in safety."
Frank gave his endorsement to this plan and the machine continued to rise. At the proper elevation, Frank turned the hydroplane's head westward and reduced the speed to less than thirty miles an hour. So slow was its gait, in fact, that it had the appearance of almost standing still.
Jack scanned the eastern horizon with his glass.
"See anything?" asked Frank.
"Thought I did," was the reply, "but whatever I saw has disappeared now. Guess I must have been mistaken."
But Jack had not been mistaken.
Far back, even now, a fleet of perhaps a dozen German air planes were speeding westward. For the most part they were small craft, having a capacity of not more than three men, with the single exception of one machine, which, larger than the rest, carried four men. The air planes were strung out for considerable distance, no two being closer than two hundred yards together.
And in this manner they overtook the hydroplane driven by Frank and Jack.
Jack, again surveying the horizon with his night glass, gave an exclamation.
"Here they come, Frank," he said. "Let her out a little more."
Frank obeyed without question and the speed of the hydroplane increased from something more than thirty miles an hour to almost sixty. And still the Germans gained.
"This will do," said Jack, leaning close to Frank. "They'll overtake us, but believing we are of their number, there is little likelihood that they will investigate us very closely. We can fall in line without trouble and accompany them wherever they go."
"Suits me," said Frank. "Just keep me posted on their proximity."
Gradually the Germans reduced the distance and at length the first plane was only a few yards behind the craft in which Frank and Jack were risking their lives. The German craft flashed by a moment later without paying any attention to the hydroplane.
"Little more speed, Frank," called Jack.
The hydroplane skimmed through the air faster than before and the next German craft did not overtake it so easily; but at length it passed, as did a third and a fourth.
"Here's a good place for us to fall in line," Jack instructed.
Again Frank increased the speed of the hydroplane and it moved swiftly in the wake of the fourth German craft. After that no enemy air plane passed them.
"Any idea where we are?" asked Frank of his chum.
"We're not far off the Belgian coast, but how far west I can't say," returned Jack. "Don't suppose it makes any particular difference, though."
"I guess not."
Frank became silent and gave his undivided attention to keeping the German plane ahead of him in sight.
And in this manner they proceeded for perhaps another half hour.
Then the machine ahead of Frank veered sharply to the south. Frank brought the head of his own craft in the same direction and the flight continued.
"Headed for the Belgian or French coast, apparently," said Jack to himself. "Wonder what the idea is?"
Now the craft ahead of that in which the two boys rode reduced its speed abruptly. Frank cut down the gait of his own craft and they continued on their way more slowly.
"Nearing our destination, wherever that is," muttered Jack.
The lad felt of his revolvers to make sure that they were ready in case of an emergency.
"Land ahead," said Frank, suddenly.
Jack gazed straight before him. There, what appeared to be many miles away, though in reality it was but a few, was a dark blur below. Occasionally what appeared to be little stars twinkled there. Jack knew they were the lights of some town.
"Guess that's where we are headed for, all right," he told himself.
Behind the British hydroplane the other German airships came rapidly, keeping some distance apart, however. Jack leaned close to Frank.
"Just do as the ones ahead of you do," he said quietly. "I don't know where we are nor what is likely to happen. Keep your nerve and we'll be all right."
"Don't worry about me," responded Frank. "I'm having the time of my life."
Jack smiled to himself, for he knew that Frank was telling the truth. There was nothing the lad liked better than to be engaged in a dangerous piece of work and more than once his fondness for excitement had almost ended disastrously.
"Frank's all right if he can just keep his head," muttered Jack. "I'm likely to have to hold him in check a bit, though."
They had approached the shore close enough now to perceive that the distant lights betokened a large town.
"Probably Ostend," Jack told himself, "though why they should come this way is too deep for me."
But Jack was wrong, as he learned a short time later.
The town that they now were approaching was the French port of Calais and it was still held by the French despite determined efforts of the Germans at one time or another to extend their lines that far. The capture of Calais by the Germans would have been a severe blow to England, for with the French seaport in their possession, the Germans, with their great guns, would have been able to command the English channel and a considerable portion of the North Sea coast.
When it appeared that the German aircraft would fly directly over the city, the leading machine suddenly swerved to the east. The others followed suit.
The night was very dark, and in spite of the occasional searchlight that was flashed into the air by the French in Calais, the Teuton machines so far had been undiscovered. Now, hanging low over the land, a sudden bombardment broke out from the German air planes.
It was not the sound of bombs that came to the lads' ears; rather the sharp "crack! crack!" of revolver firing. Jack and Frank gazed about them quickly, for they believed, for the moment, that the Germans had encountered a squadron of French airships.
But there was no other machine in sight save the German craft.
"What in the world is the meaning of this?" Frank asked of Jack.
"Don't know," returned the lad, "but I guess I'd better join in."
He drew his revolver and fired several shots in the air.
"Seems to be expected of us," he said. "We don't want to disappoint them."
The German aircraft now headed straight for the city of Calais. Frank sent his machine speeding in the same direction. Then, just as it appeared they would fly directly above the city, the first German craft began to descend. The others did likewise and a moment or so later they all came to earth in the center of what Frank and Jack could see was a small army camp; and as they alighted from their machines, the lads saw that it was an Allied camp and not a German.
"Must be Calais," said Frank to Jack in a whisper. "Have we been mistaken? Are these French and British machines?"
"Well, it looks like it," returned Jack. "We'll keep quiet and let the other fellows do the talking."
A French officer now approached the pilot of the first aircraft.
"We heard the firing aloft a moment ago," he said. "Did you encounter the enemy?"
"We were pursued all the way from the German lines," was the reply.
"I think not, though I believe we accounted for one or two of the enemy."
"Good. Will you fly again tonight?"
"Yes; but not before midnight."
The French officer withdrew.
At this one of the aviators raised a hand and the others gathered about him, Frank and Jack with them. All wore khaki clothing and their features were concealed by heavy goggles.
"Careful," whispered the aviator. "A false move and we are discovered. Spread out now and see what you can learn. Gather here at midnight."
He waved a hand and the Germans, for such Jack and Frank now knew them to be, separated. When the two lads were alone a moment later, Jack said:
"Well, this is what I call a piece of nervy business. What shall we do? Inform the French commander immediately?"
"No. I have a better plan that that. They can hardly work any mischief tonight. What information they learn will avail them naught for we can warn the French commander later. We must find out what they are up to. We'll stick close and follow them back to the German lines, if necessary."
"Good, then! Guess we had better do a little skirmishing about. It will keep suspicion from us should we be watched."
"All right," said Frank. "Come on."
A STARTLING DISCOVERY
With the coming of midnight Frank and Jack returned to the spot where the aeroplanes had been parked. Several of the German aviators already had returned. The man who appeared to be the leader announced that they would await the arrival of the others before taking to the air.
The others arrived one at a time until all were present but two. The machines were in readiness to ascend the moment the missing men arrived. The aviators were at their posts.
Suddenly there came a shout. A moment later the two German aviators who were delaying the departure burst into sight at a dead run.
"Quick!" called one. "We are discovered!"
Immediately the others—Frank and Jack among them—leaped into their machines and soared into the air. The last comers also leaped for their craft and succeeded in getting above ground just as rifles began to crack in the French camp.
Came a sudden cry from the machine nearest that of Frank and Jack. The lads saw a man rise to his feet, throw up his arms and pitch, head foremost, toward the ground. The aircraft, freed of a guiding hand, rocked a moment crazily and then turned over, hurling its other occupant into space.
There was a cry of anger from aboard some of the other German craft, but no man raised a hand to stay the flight of his car. It would have been suicide and the Germans realized it. They sped away into the darkness whence they had come. Frank and Jack, in their British hydroplane, went with them.
For an hour or two the aeroplanes sped through the darkness at undiminished speed; then the foremost craft slowed down. The others did likewise.
"Surely we haven't reached the German lines already?" said Jack. Frank shrugged his shoulders.
"You know about as much of what is going on as I do," he returned. "Evidently we are going down, however."
The lad was right.
The leading German plane swooped toward the earth and the others followed its example. A few minutes later all had reached the ground safely and their occupants had alighted.
The two lads glanced around. It was very dark. A short distance to the north they could see the broad expanse of the North Sea, stretching away in the night. The dark waves lapped the shore gently with a faint thrashing sound. The water was very calm.
Except for the figures that had alighted upon the shore in the darkness there was not a human being in sight. To the south, to the east and west stretched miles and miles of sand dunes. Just these sand dunes and the waters of the North Sea—there was nothing else in sight.
At a signal the men gathered around the man who appeared to be the leader. Frank and Jack thanked their lucky stars that the night was very dark, for otherwise they would have been in imminent danger of being discovered; and each lad realized that it would go hard with them should their true identities be penetrated.
The darkness served them like a shield. Nevertheless, both lads kept their hands on their revolvers. Each had determined that if discovered, he would make an effort to escape in the nearest of the aircraft. Each knew that there was little hope of such an escape, but, realizing what was in store for them should they be discovered and captured, they had decided it would be better to die fighting than to be stood up against a wall and shot, or, possibly, hanged.
The group of men on the bench became silent as the leader addressed them.
"Men," he said, "it is to be regretted that we have discovered so soon. There was still work to be done before the hour for our great effort to crush the British fleet. However, to a certain extent we have been successful. We have managed to sow the seed of suspicion in the minds of our enemies. Prisoners, whom we have allowed to be taken, have let slip words that will lead the British to think our fleet will slip from its base and approach England from the south. We know better than that. We know that on the night of May 31—which is tomorrow—our fleet will strike the British off Jutland."
There was a subdued cheer from the assembled Germans. The speaker continued:
"Through our efforts the British fleet has been scattered. The main portion of the fleet lies to the south and will be unable to reach Jutland in time to save the portion of the British fleet there from destruction. Of course, should wind of the move reach the British there would still be time for the fleet to gather. But no such word will reach the enemy. After sinking the first section of the British fleet, our vessels will steam south and meet the main British fleet. The numbers will be nearer equal then. We shall be victorious."
Again there was a subdued cheer, in which Frank and Jack joined for the sake of appearances. Again the speaker continued:
"I shall now explain the reason we have landed here. Our part in the work has been done. Here we shall remain until nightfall tomorrow. We shall then sail north and take part in the battle. In my pocket here," he tapped the breast of his coat, "are instructions I shall read to you before we leave. Until that time we shall rest here, for we have done work enough for the present. We shall be safe here. Our position now is directly between two French lines and for that reason we shall not be disturbed. Of course, if it becomes necessary, we can take to our machines and get out of harm's way. We have provisions and water enough to last us; and while the weather is warm, it is still cool enough. At any rate, we shall have to make the best of it."
The man ceased speaking and beckoned the others to follow him. He walked a hundred yards to the east. There he made a mark in the sand with his foot.
"Until the time for us to move has come," he said, "let no man set foot beyond that line. I make this rule for safety's sake."
He walked two hundred yards from the sea itself and repeated the operation and instructions; and then to the west.
"Within these bounds," he said, "we will spend tonight and tomorrow. The man who disobeys these instructions shall be shot. Do I make myself plain?"
There was a murmur of assent.
"Very well," said the leader. "Now you are all left to your own devices. First, however, I shall pick the watches for the night."
Frank and Jack, at this, slunk well back into the crowd, for they did not wish to be scrutinized closely. But they need have had no fear. The leader of the Germans laid a hand on the shoulders of the two men nearest him.
"You two," he said, "shall stand guard the remainder of the night, one to the southeast and one to the southwest. But do not venture beyond the boundaries I have laid down."
The Germans saluted and moved away.
The leader moved toward the sea and none of the others followed him. Instead, some walked a short distance to the east, others to the south and still others to the west. They threw themselves down in the sand. A few remained near the airships.
Frank and Jack walked a short distance toward the sea, but kept some distance behind the German leader, who stood looking off across the water, apparently deep in thought. The lads sat down upon the ground.
"Well," said Frank, "what are we going to do about it?"
"Do!" echoed Jack. "Why, there is only one thing we can do—one thing we must do! We must get away from here and warn the fleet!"
"All right," said Frank, "it sounds easy; but how?"
"Well, that doesn't make any difference. We've got to do it."
"And the moment we have gone our absence will be discovered, the Germans will know the fleet has been warned and the attack will be given up," said Frank. "And we don't want anything like that to happen. It will be the first time the Germans have mustered up courage enough to come out and give battle. We don't want to frighten them off."
"We don't want to let them sneak up on a part of our fleet unguarded, either," declared Jack.
"Of course not. You say we must give the warning. We'll try, of course. But first, why not let's put all the aeroplanes except the one we want out of commission?"
"By Jove! a good plan! We'll do it."
"Exactly," said Frank. "Then there is still another thing."
"What is that?"
"Why, we want the instructions that fellow carries," and Frank waved a hand in the direction of the German leader. "He was kind enough to let us know he has them. We'll have to take them away from him."
"Say!" exclaimed Jack, "you've laid out quite a job for us, haven't you?"
"It's got to be done," declared Frank.
"Well, all right, but we shall have to be careful."
"Right you are," Frank agreed, "one little slip and the whole thing will be spoiled."
"Then there must be no slip," said Jack, quietly
"I agree with you there. Now the question arise? as how the thing may best be done."
"We'll have to wait until they're all asleep," said Jack.
"You forget the sentinels won't sleep," said Frank.
"No, I don't; and they will be the first disposed of. They are not looking for enemies from within, you know. You walk up to one and I'll walk up to the other. We'll be challenged when we get close, of course. Then it will be up to us to silence those fellows before they can make an outcry."
"We'll try it. Then what?"
"Then we'll come back and put the airships out of commission as carefully as possible."
"That's easy enough. All we have to do is to let out the 'gas.'"
"Next we'll have to go through the commander's pockets without arousing him."
"That's more difficult, but I suppose it can be done."
"Next we'll have to get our hydroplane to the water. Fortunately, we came down closer to the sea than the others. We should be able to do that without awakening the sleepers."
"Then," said Frank, "we climb in and say goodbye, eh?"
"All right. We'll work it that way then. It's as good as any other. Now we'll keep quiet until we are sure everyone is asleep."
Their plans thus arranged, the lads became quiet. They said not a word as they waited for sleep to overcome the Germans, but gazed out quietly over the dark sea.
THE PLAN WORKS—ALMOST
"Time to get busy."
It was Frank who spoke. All was quiet among the sand dunes. The commander of the Germans had laid down upon the ground, some distance from the others, half an hour before. Snores from various points announced that most of the men were sleeping soundly.
Jack and Frank got to their feet
"Careful," said Jack as they separated. "Remember, don't give your man a chance to let out a cry."
Frank nodded in the darkness and walked slowly toward the sentinel he had selected to silence. Jack moved in the other direction.
As Jack came within a few yards of his prey, the man raised his rifle and commanded:
"It's all right," said Jack. "I couldn't sleep and it was lonesome back there. I want company."
The German lowered his rifle.
"It's lonesome here, too," he said. "Wish you had been selected for my job."
"I wouldn't have minded it tonight," said Jack, approaching closer.
The German reached in his pocket and produced a pack of cigarettes. He extended the pack to Jack.
"Have one?" he invited.
Jack accepted a cigarette.
The German produced a match. He laid his rifle upon the ground as he struck the match upon the leg of his trousers.
It was the moment for which Jack had been waiting.
Quickly his revolver leaped out. In almost the same instant he reversed it and before the German realized what was about to happen he brought the butt down on the man's head with great force.
The man fell to the ground without a sound.
Frank, advancing upon the other German, also was challenged when he drew close, but he, too, engaged his prey in conversation. As the man turned his head for a moment to gaze across the dark sand, the lad struck him violently over the head with his revolver butt. The German dropped like a log.
A few moments later Frank and Jack met again near the first aeroplane.
"It'll have to be quick work here," Jack warned "We haven't a whole lot of time, you know."
Frank nodded that he understood. Rapidly they passed from one plane to another letting out the gasoline. Five minutes later, with the exception of their hydroplane, which rested some distance away, every craft upon the beach was dry. They were absolutely useless—or so the lads thought.
"Now for the papers," said Jack, as he straightened up after tinkering with the last machine.
Cautiously the two lads advanced upon the sleeping German. Frank raised his revolver and would have brought it down on the man's head had not Jack stayed him with a gesture.
"No need of that," he said. "I don't like to hurt a man except when it is absolutely necessary."
Frank put the revolver back in his pocket.
Gently, Jack thrust his hand into the German's pocket. He fumbled about a moment and then drew forth a paper. Turning his head aside he struck a match and glanced at the paper. Then he nodded his satisfaction.
"This is it," he said.
Frank, at that moment, had risen to his feet. Believing the work was accomplished, he was moving off toward the hydroplane. As Jack now made to get to his feet, he chanced to glance at the German he had just relieved of the papers.
The lad uttered an exclamation of surprise, and no wonder. The man's eyes were open and gazed straight at Jack. In his hand he held a revolver and it was levelled at Jack's head.
"Hands up!" said the German, quietly.
There was nothing for Jack to do but obey or be shot. His hands went high in the air, but he still retained the valuable papers.
"Drop those papers," was the next command.
Jack obeyed and the papers fluttered to his feet. The German reached out and picked them up with his left hand while with his right he still covered the lad with his revolver.
"So you're a spy, eh?" said the German.
Jack made no reply, but a gleam of hope lighted up his eye; for, Frank, chancing to turn for some unexplainable reason, had taken in the situation and was now advancing on tiptoe to his friend's aid.
"How did you get here?" demanded the German, making ready to rise.
Again Jack made no reply; but none was necessary, for at that moment Frank had come within striking distance. His arm rose and fell, and as his revolver butt descended upon the German's head, the latter toppled over in a heap.
Quickly, Jack stooped and again recovered the papers he had taken so much pains to get.
"Come on!" cried Frank. "We haven't time to fool around here. The rest of this crowd is likely to wake up in a minute or two."
Jack followed his friend across the sand. They laid hold of the hydroplane and rolled it toward the water. In it went with a splash and Frank cried:
"Climb aboard quickly!"
Jack needed no urging and a moment later the two boys were ready for flight. And then, suddenly, there was the crack of a revolver behind them and a bullet flew close to Jack's ear.
The German leader had recovered consciousness, and springing to his feet, dashed to the water's edge and fired point blank at the machine. Fortunately, in his excitement his aim was poor and he missed. Before he could fire again, Frank wheeled about and his revolver spoke sharply.
The German threw up his arms, and with a gasp, pitched headlong into the sea.
But the sounds of the two shots had aroused the sleeping camp. Wild cries came from the shore, followed by heavy footfalls as the Germans rushed toward the water.
"Hurry, Frank!" cried Jack.
As lightly as a fairy the hydroplane skimmed over the water; then went soaring in the air. Frank gave a loud cheer.
"Safe!" he exclaimed.
But the lad was wrong.
From on shore came a chorus of angry cries and imprecations. Hastily the Germans made a rush for their aeroplanes to give chase. None would move. Followed more cries and angry shouts.
"Wait," said one German. "I've some gasoline."
Rapidly he opened up a big can, which he took from the bottom of his machine. Quickly the tank was filled and the man climbed into the pilot's seat. Another jumped in with him.
"Give us some of that gasoline!" cried another.
The German shook his head.
"Not enough," he replied. "We'll overtake those fellows and then come back for the rest of you."
The aeroplane leaped skyward and started in pursuit of Frank and Jack.
The two boys, believing that they were safe, were going along only at a fair rate of speed when Jack's keen ears caught the sound of the pursuing machine.
"They're after us, Frank!" he called.
"Impossible!" replied Frank. "How can they fly without gas?"
"Well, they're coming, all the same," declared Jack.
He produced his two revolvers and examined them carefully.
"You run this thing and I'll do what fighting is necessary," he said. "Wish I could shoot like you can; but I can't; and I can't run this machine either."
The German aeroplane was gaining steadily.
"He can outrun us," said Frank, quietly. "There is only one, thank goodness. You'll have to bring him down, Jack."
"I'll try," was Jack's reply. "If I had a rifle I might be able to pick him off now."
"Well, he won't hardly have any the best of it," said Frank. "The chances are he has no rifle either."
Frank was correct in this surmise.
Rapidly the German aircraft gained.
"Crack!" the German had fired the first shot.
It went wild. Jack fired, but with no better result.
"Hit anything?" asked Frank, without turning his head.
"No," said Jack, "but neither did the other fellow."
"Try it again," said Frank.
Jack did so; but again the bullet went wild. All this time the two craft were flying straight out to sea.
Once more the German fired and Jack felt something whizz overhead.
"This is getting too close," the lad muttered to himself. Then he called to Frank.
"Slow down, quick!"
Frank had no means of telling what plan Jack had in mind, but he did not hesitate. The hydroplane slowed down with a jerk.
The pilot of the German craft was caught off his guard. He dashed upon the hydroplane. But as he neared it he swerved to the left to avoid a collision. It was what Jack had expected. Standing up in his precarious position, Jack took a snap shot at the pilot as the German craft swept by.
At that close distance, in spite of the rate of speed at which the enemy was travelling, a miss was practically impossible.
The German machine swayed crazily from one side to the other; then dived.
"I got him, Frank!" shouted Jack.
Both lads gazed over the side at the falling enemy.
Suddenly the machine righted and descended more slowly.
"By Jove! a cool customer," said Frank. "He's regained control of the plane. He'll be up again in a moment."
Again they watched the foe carefully.
"No, he won't," said Jack, "he's still going down."
"Then we may as well be moving," said Frank.
"Hold on!" shouted Jack. "We can't leave those fellows there. They may get to shore or be picked up. Then they would give the warning and all our efforts would be for naught."
"Right," said Frank. "We'll go down after them."
The hydroplane descended slowly.
THE FIGHT ON THE WATER
Below, the fallen aeroplane rested upon the surface of the sea. In the darkness, it was hard for the lads to tell just how badly the craft was damaged and whether it would float; but Jack's idea was to be on the safe side.
While still some distance from the water, there was a shot from below.
"Hello!" said Jack. "They're alive and kicking, all right. Wonder if we can't go down and get them from the water."
"It's a better plan, I guess," said Frank. "We'll have an even break then. This way they have all the advantage."
He opened up the engine and the hydroplane ran some distance from the position of the men below. Then he shut off the motor and allowed the plane to glide down to the sea.
With the craft riding the swell of the waves, Jack picked up the enemy with his night glass. The disabled craft also was riding the waves gently perhaps five hundred yards away.
Jack gave the position to Frank, and the hydroplane approached the foe slowly. Within a range that would make accurate revolver shooting possible, the hydroplane came to a halt. As it did so there was the sound of a revolver shot from across the water and something whizzed overhead.
"Must have some pretty fair shooters over there," said Frank, quietly. "However, they can't see us any better than we can see them. Of course, they can see our craft all right, the same as we can see theirs, but they can't spot us."
"No; nor we can't spot them, which makes it worse," said Jack.
"We'll try a couple of shots for luck," said Frank.
He raised his revolver and fired quickly twice. His efforts were rewarded by a scream, apparently of pain.
"Must have hit one of them," he said grimly.
Again a revolver across the water flashed and the two lads heard a bullet whistle by.
Jack fired but without result and then Frank fired again.
There was another scream.
"Either got the other one, or the same one again," said Frank.
They waited some moments in silence, but no further shots came from the foe.
"By Jove!" said Jack, "you must have got them both. Let's go and have a look."
Slowly, Frank started the hydroplane and they bore down on the enemy. Now they were two hundred, then one hundred yards away.
"Must have got them, all right," said Frank. "I——"
The flash of a revolver from the disabled craft interrupted him. It was closely followed by another and then two more.
With a sudden move, Frank changed the course of the hydroplane. He felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder.
"Got me," he called to Jack.
The latter was alarmed.
"Where?" he demanded.
"Left shoulder," said Frank, quietly. "Nothing serious, though."
Jack levelled his revolver and fired rapidly at the enemy. His pains were rewarded by howls of derision.
"They tricked us, all right," said Jack, as he reloaded.
"That's what they did. I should have known better, too. They almost settled us."
"We've got to get them, some way," declared Jack.
"Show me how, and I'll go along with you," declared Frank.
"Well, I've got a scheme, but I don't know whether it will work or not."
"Let's hear it."
"All right. But first, can you manage this plane all right with that bad shoulder?"
"Sure; it's not very bad."
"All right then. Well, you keep under cover about here, moving about just enough to spoil the aim of the foe. I'll drop over the side and swim to the enemy. I can get there unobserved, all right, because they won't be expecting me. I'll pull one of them over and settle with him first. Then I'll get the other."
"I don't know," Frank considered the plan. "I suppose it might work, but there is nothing sure about it."
"There's nothing sure about anything," declared Jack. "But it's better than staying here all the rest of the night. Besides, we must hurry, you know."