Scanned by Sean Pobuda.
THE BOY ALLIES WITH UNCLE SAMS CRUISERS
By Ensign Robert L. Drake
Frank Chadwick jumped from a chair in the front window and ran toward the door. A form had swung from the sidewalk along the drive that marked the entrance to Lord Hasting's London home and at sight of it Frank had uttered an exclamation. Now, as the figure climbed the steps, Frank flung open the door.
"Jack!" he exclaimed with outstretched hand. "I feared something had happened, you have been gone so long and we had heard nothing of you."
"I'm perfectly whole," laughed Jack, grasping his friend's hand. "Why, I've been gone less than two weeks."
"But you expected to be gone only a day or two."
"That's true, but a fellow can't tell what is going to happen, you know. I wasn't sure I should find you here when I returned, though."
"You probably wouldn't had you come a day later," returned Frank.
"We sail tomorrow night," said Frank.
"By George! Then I'm back just in time," declared Jack. "Where bound this time?"
"I don't know exactly, but personally I believe to America."
The United States, I understand, is about to declare war on Germany. I have heard it said that immediately thereafter American troops will be sent to Europe."
"What's that got to do with our voyage?"
"I'm coming to that. There will be need, of convoys for the American transports. I believe that is the work in which we will be engaged."
"That will be first rate, for a change," said Jack.
"But come," said Frank, leading the way into the house. "Where have you been? Tell me about yourself."
"Wait, until I get a breath," laughed Jack, making himself comfortable in a big armchair. "By the way, where is Lord Hastings?"
"He is in conference with the admiralty."
"And Lady Hastings?"
"Shopping, I believe. However, both will be back before long. Now let's have an account of your adventures."
"Well, they didn't amount to much," said Jack.
"Where've you been?"
"Pretty close to Heligoland."
"Exactly. You remember how Lord Hastings came to us one day and said that the admiralty had need of a single officer at that moment, and that we both volunteered?"
"I certainly do," declared Frank, "and we drew straws to see which of us should go. I lost."
"Exactly. Well, when I reached the admiralty I found there a certain Captain Ames. I made myself known and was straightway informed that I would do as well as another. Captain Ames was in command of the British destroyer Falcon. He was bound on active duty at once, and he took me along as second in command."
"Where was he bound?" demanded Frank. "And what was the nature of the work?"
"The nature of the work," said Jack, "was to search out German mines ahead of the battleships, who were to attempt a raid of Heligoland."
"Great Scott!" exclaimed Frank. "I hadn't heard anything about that. Was the raid a success?"
"It was not," replied Jack briefly.
"Explain," said Frank.
"I'm trying to," smiled Jack. "Give me a chance, will you?"
He became silent and mused for a few moments. Then he said meditatively:
"The destroyer service might well be called the cavalry of the sea. It calls for dashing initiative, aggressiveness and courage and daring to the point of rashness. Where an officer would be justified —even duty bound — by navy standards to run away with a bigger and more valuable vessel, the commander of a destroyer often must close in to almost certain annihilation."
"Hm-m-m," said Frank slyly. "You are not feeling a bit proud of yourself, are you?"
"Oh, I'm not talking about myself," said Jack quietly. "I was thinking of a man like Captain Ames — and other men of his caliber. However, I've been pretty close to death myself, and having come as close to a fellow as death did to me, I believe he'll become discouraged and quit. Yes, sir, I don't believe I shall ever die afloat."
"Don't be too cock-sure," said Frank dryly. "However, proceed."
"Well," Jack continued, "I followed Captain Ames aboard the Falcon and we put to sea immediately. It was the following night the, we found ourselves mixed up in the German mine fields and so close to the fortress itself that we were in range of the land batteries as well as the big guns of the German fleet. Our main fleet came far behind us, for the big ships, of course, would not venture in until we had made sure of the position of the mines."
"Right," said Frank. "I can see that -"
"Look here," said Jack, "who's telling this story?"
"You are," said Frank hastily. "Go ahead."
"All right, but don't interrupt me. As I said, we'd been searching mines for the battleships. Better to lose a dozen or two of us little fellows than one of the dreadnoughts, so we steamed ahead like a fan with nets spread and a sharp lookout. We lost a few craft by bumping mines, but we destroyed a lot of the deadly things by firing into the fields and detonating them.
"We could generally tell when we were getting close to a field, which at this point was protected by the land batteries, for the batteries would redouble their fire. Might better have saved their powder and let us run into the fields and be blown to bits, you will say. Not at all. They would consider that a waste of good mines. Nobody wants to waste a whole mine on a poor little torpedo boat destroyer — and twenty to forty men. There's no profit in that.
"We were sneaking along slowly, feeling our way and sitting on the slippery edge of eternity when the batteries opened up.
"'We're getting warmer,' said Ames.
"It was close range work and we were able to reply to the fire of the land batteries with our little 3-inch beauties, although I don't suppose we did much good. It makes a fellow feel better, however, as you know, if he's barking back. It's funny how most men have a dread of dying without letting the other fellow know why he's there. It doesn't seem so bad when you're hammering him.
"Anyway, it was part of our business.
"There was a bunch of red buoys anchored along one side where our chart showed the channel to be, and we supposed that they had been used by the German destroyers as channel buoys or to mark mine fields.
"It developed that the Germans had anchored those buoys and got the range of them so they could have their guns already set for anything that came near them. Some of our boats were hit by the first fire. It was a desperate spot.
"We were up near the lead and we had to run fairly well in advance of the main body. As you know, it often happens that when a vessel is steaming head-on very fast, it is difficult to hit her. It seems to rattle the gunners the same as charging infantry does the defenders.
"Shell after shell missed, but there were so many of them falling around us that we were almost smothered in the spray. We had all been under fire before, so it didn't have much effect on us, though.
"Then a shell hit us amidships and tore out one of our boilers. I was on the bridge with Captain Ames at the time.
"'Go below and report,' said Ames, just as calmly as though we were at maneuvers and one of our piston rods was pounding a little.
"I went down into a cloud of steam and found two men, pretty well scalded, dragging out the others who had been more badly hurt by the explosion. There wasn't enough of the water tight compartment left to shut it off from the rest of the vessel, but we still had one boiler intact.
"I directed the men to carry the wounded above and started back for the bridge. Just as my feet were on the bottom of the ladder there was another crash. The body of a man who had just reached the deck came toppling down in a shower of splinters and debris.
"Well, I got back on to my feet and made the deck. A shell had exploded right atop of us and nearly swept us clean. The bridge was almost carried away. Captain Ames lay under a light steel beam and I thought he was dead. I ran over to him. As I approached he shook off the beam and got up. One of his legs gave way and he had to hold on to a stanchion for support.
"'Cut off my trouser leg!' he shouted, very much excited.
"I ripped out my knife and did as he ordered. Then he twisted the cloth around his leg above an ugly gash and tied it.
"'What's gone below?' he demanded. 'One boiler,' I replied.
"'Might have been both,' grunted Ames, and added, 'Well, we're not out of this fight yet."'
Jack paused a moment.
"A brave man!" cried Frank. "Go ahead, Jack."
Jack cleared his throat and proceeded.
"Well," Jack continued, "Ames espied one of the destroyers that had been leading us floundering around helplessly, with the German destroyer, which had appeared from nowhere, trying to cut her off.
"'Templeton,' said Ames, 'take the hand steering gear and run in there and get that fellow out.'
"I ran over to the hand gear. A fellow couldn't be frightened with a man like Ames telling him what to do. Ames propped himself up against what was left of the bridge and directed the gunners while we made the best speed we could with our single boiler.
"They were still dousing us with water, but the shells were not falling on board now. The two German destroyers were sweeping down on the helpless boat ahead, the missiles from their light guns playing a regular tattoo on her. It was an even chance we wouldn't find a live man aboard her.
"Ames was having a glorious time where he had propped himself against the shattered bridge. He swore every time one of our shells missed and he laughed gleefully every time one went home.
"We were only about a thousand yards from the British destroyer now and it looked like there was a fair chance of getting her out of the mess. I was beginning to have hope when I heard the screaming of a heavy shell from one of the land forts. Exactly amidships of the destroyer it landed. It broke her back and all her ribs, so to speak. Steam and steel and water and men flew high in the air. Everything aboard her was blown to bits.
"There was no use trying to tow her out now. I searched the water with my glass for living men. I figured we might be able to save a few if any survived, although it was against admiralty orders to stop when in danger. I didn't believe in the admiralty's stand at that moment. But I couldn't make out a living soul.
"The Germans immediately turned their attention to us. Their marksmanship was getting better. There was a frightful jar and the steering gear was wrenched out of my hands and I was thrown to the deck. When I picked myself up there was nothing with which to steer. Our rudder and a part of our stern had been shot away —
"'Alternate the screws!' Ames yelled. 'I'm busy with these guns. We'll fight as long as she floats!'
"The speaking tubes existed no longer. I stationed a man at the hatch — and another below and transmitted my orders to the engine room by them. First we drove ahead with one screw, then with the other, to get a zig-zag course; next we backed first with one propeller and then the other. Each time we backed farther than we went forward, for I wanted to get out of the mess if possible. The crazy course threw the enemy gunners off somewhat.
"Suddenly I heard a yell from Ames. We'd put one of the German destroyers out of business. The other one was steaming toward us, but she was a long ways off,
"The men were cheering. I looked at the second destroyer, thinking we must have finished her, too, but she was still firing. Then I glanced around to see what the men were yelling about.
"Right into that hail of fire steamed a little mine sweeper. She looked for all the world like a tugboat. She had a single gun mounted in her bow, and one or two amidships. She had no armor and a rifle bullet probably would have pierced her sides with ease, but she pounded straight toward us; the water around her was beaten to a foam.
"Far out on the prow stood a man with a coil of rope. Ames sent a man to our stern. The sweeper had come close. The man in the prow swung his rope and let the coil fly. It fell across our stern. There wasn't much left to make it fast to, but we did it somehow and the sweeper started to tow us out of that particular part of the water.
"Our guns continued to bark at the destroyer, which was gaining on us. Some of our shots went home. The little old tugboat was hit once, but her master stuck to his task; and he undoubtedly saved our lives.
"Gradually we were pulled back, till at length we were under the protection of the guns of our fleet. From the flagship, signals were being flashed for our benefit. Ames read the flags through his glasses."
"'Congratulating us?' I asked.
"'Blast him, no!' shouted Ames. 'He wants to know why in blazes we didn't come out when we had a chance. Well, he wouldn't have come out himself had he been here, and I've been on the flagship, so we needn't feel sensitive about it!'
"And that's about all," Jack continued, "except for the fact that the raid by the battle fleet was given up. We cruised about for several days, in spite of our crippled condition. The ship's carpenter put us in condition to stay afloat, but at last we returned. I came here the moment I had landed."
"Well, you had a pretty strenuous time, if you ask me," declared Frank. "Too bad, though, that the raid couldn't have been made. We might have captured Heligoland."
"The Germans might capture Gibraltar," said Jack, with a vein of sarcasm in his voice, "but I don't think they will — not right away."
"It can be done, though," declared Frank.
"What? The Germans capture Gibraltar?"
"No, I mean the British can take Heligoland. Wait until Uncle Sam gets in the war, he'll show you a few things."
"Maybe so," said Jack, "but what's all this talk I hear about the United States declaring war on Germany?"
"It's only talk, so far," said Frank, "but it seems certain to come. In fact, the war resolution already has passed the house and is being debated in the senate. It wouldn't surprise me if the senate passed it today. Then all that is needed is the signature of President Wilson."
"Well, let's hope there is no hitch," said Jack fervently.
"I don't think there will be. Come, let's go to our room and wait for Lord Hastings."
The two boys went upstairs, and while they are awaiting the arrival of Lord Hastings, a few words will be necessary to introduce them more fully.
Frank Chadwick was an American lad of possibly nineteen.
He had been in Italy when the great European war broke out, and through a misfortune had been shanghaied aboard a sailing vessel. After some adventures he fell in with Jack Templeton, a young Englishman, who had spent most of his life on the north coast of Africa. Together the lads had disposed of the crew of the vessel.
They became fast friends. Fortune threw them in the path of Lord Hastings, British nobleman and secret service agent, and they had gone through all kinds of troubles with him. Lord Hastings had commanded several vessels during the course of the war, and Jack and Frank upon these occasions had been his first officers.
Both lads spoke German and French fluently, and both had a smattering of several other tongues. Jack was huge in stature and of enormous strength for one of his age. Frank, on the other hand, was rather small, but what he lacked in physical strength he more than made up in courage.
Frank's greatest accomplishment, and one that had caused Jack much envy, was shooting. He could hit almost anything with a rifle, and revolvers in his hands were no less deadly.
Frank's chief trouble was his hot-headedness and more than once this had gotten him into such trouble that it took all Jack's resourcefulness to extricate him.
Both lads had seen service in many parts of the world since they had met Lord Hastings. Their commander recently had lost his vessel and the three had been on indefinite leave of absence.
The day before Jack's return Frank had been informed by Lord Hastings that they were about to put to sea again.
"Well," said Frank, when the two were in the room always reserved for their use when they were in London, "Lord Hastings will be glad to see you back again. He has been anxious, especially now that he has been ordered again on active service. He has been wondering where he would get a first officer."
"I guess you could, fill that place without any trouble," said Jack.
"I guess I could fill it all right, if I had to, but I would much rather have you along," declared Frank.
"Well, I'm glad to be back, old fellow," said Jack. "I'll admit that for a few minutes there the other night it looked as though I would never see London again, but everything is all right at last."
There were the sounds of footsteps below. These a few moments later ascended the stairs.
"Probably Lord Hastings," said Frank.
The lad was right and a moment later Lord Hastings stepped into the room. His eyes fell upon Jack and he advanced with outstretched hand.
"Jack!" he exclaimed. "I certainly am glad to see you again."
They shook hands heartily.
"Frank tells me," said Jack, at the dinner table that evening, "that we are about to sail again; about to go into active service."
Lord Hastings smiled.
"There has been a slight alteration in plans since I spoke to Frank last," he said.
"You mean that we are not to go, Sir?" asked Frank. His face showed his disappointment.
"Not exactly," said Lord Hastings.
"But," Jack interrupted, "Frank said that we would help convoy American troops to England and France."
"Frank lets his imagination run away with him sometimes," said Lord Hastings quietly. "America has not yet declared war on Germany."
"But she will, sir," said Frank positively.
"That is probably true," said Lord Hastings, "although the resolution is being fought in the senate, according to latest cable advices. However, as you say, America will undoubtedly declare war. But even should American troops be sent to Europe it will not be for several months after war is declared."
"I thought they would send the regulars right away, sir," said Frank.
"Hardly. However, it is possible that an American fleet will be dispatched to act in conjunction with the British grand fleet in the war zone."
"Then we must sit home, sir?" asked Frank.
"I didn't say that," said Lord Hastings, smiling.
"You are too quick to jump at conclusions, Frank."
Frank flushed a trifle. "I'm just disappointed, sir," he replied.
"You need not be," said Lord Hastings. "There is work ahead. In fact, I may say that you will leave England some time tomorrow."
"Is that so, sir?" exclaimed Frank, happy again instantly. "Where do we go, sir?"
"I am not going at all," said Lord Hastings; "at least, not for some time yet. You and Jack will make this trip alone."
"That's too bad," declared Jack quietly. "We always like to have you with us, sir."
"I know you do," laughed Lord Hastings, "However, I will turn up later, so don't worry."
"In that event, it's all right," grinned Jack.
Will you, tell us where we are going, sir, and what we are to do?" asked Frank.
"I will if you will restrain your impatience," said Lord Hastings.
Frank felt this rebuke and became silent. A moment later Lord Hastings continued:
"I suppose you have heard that there is another German raider operating in the Atlantic off the coast of South America?"
"No, sir," said Frank, "I had not heard of it."
"Nor I," said Jack.
"Nevertheless, it's true," said Lord Hastings. Where it came from no one seems to know, but many merchant ships have been sunk by this raider. It is understood that she has citizens of allied countries aboard to the number of several hundred."
"Must be a big ship, sir," said Frank.
"So it is. It is probably a converted liner."
"Well, why haven't some of our cruisers picked it up, sir?" Jack wanted to know.
"They've tried hard enough," said Lord Hastings. "Trouble is this raider seems to have the heels of all ships of war. She simply runs away from them. However, the activities of the raider have become so serious that the government has decided she must be captured at all hazards."
"Which is where we come in," guessed Frank.
Lord Hastings gazed at the lad sternly.
"Frank," he said, "it's a wonder to me that your tongue hasn't got you into trouble long ago. Now, if you'll listen, I'll proceed."
Frank sat back abashed.
"Excuse me, sir," he said. "It won't happen again."
"All right, then," said Lord Hastings. "As I say, it seems impossible to come up with this raider by speed, so she must be captured or sunk by strategy. Now, I'll explain the plans to you, that you may know what to do and what will be expected of you."
Lord Hastings talked slowly for several hours, and the lads listened with unflagging interest. When His Lordship had finished it was almost midnight.
"Now, are you sure you understand?" he asked, getting to his feet.
"Perfectly, sir," was the reply.
"Very well, then, you had better turn in. You will sail aboard the Algonquin at five tomorrow evening. I will see that your reservations are made and that you are supplied with sufficient funds."
The lads went to bed.
When Jack and Frank went aboard the Algonquin the following evening half an hour before the sailing hour, they were dressed as civilians. Each wore a heavy traveling suit and overcoat and a steamer cap. Lord Hastings accompanied them aboard and introduced them to the captain, Stoneman by name, with whom His Lordship was well acquainted. Then Lord Hastings went ashore.
The Algonquin was an American vessel and sailed under American registry.
"I don't believe any raider will bother us," said Jack.
"Never can tell," declared Frank. "What's our destination, anyhow? I forgot to ask."
"Buenos Ayres," replied Jack.
"Wonder if there are many passengers aboard?"
"Doesn't look like it. We'll have a look at the passenger list."
They did so and found that the only passengers on the trip were two women, registered as Mrs. Silas Wheaton and Miss Elizabeth Wheaton.
"Looks like we would be pretty much to our ourselves," grinned Jack.
"So much the better," said Frank.
The Algonquin was not, in the true sense of the word, a passenger steamer. She had accommodations for some, but she was primarily a freighter, detoured this trip to carry a cargo of oil to the Argentine capital.
The vessel lifted anchor and steamed down the Thames promptly at 5 o'clock. At 6 the lads found themselves at dinner at the captain's table. There, too, they found Mrs. Wheaton and her daughter, Elizabeth. Introductions followed.
"I do hope we do not meet a submarine on the way," declared Miss Wheaton, who could not have been more than eighteen.
"I guess we are safe enough on that score," smiled Jack.
"Then they tell me there is a German raider operating off the coast of South America," said the girl. "We may be captured."
"Pooh!" exclaimed her mother. "Didn't I see guns front and back on this ship as I came abroad?"
"You mean fore and aft, mother," said the girl, smiling. "Yes, I saw the guns, too, but I don't imagine they would be much protection against a German raider."
"Then what are they there for?" Mrs. Wheaton wanted to know.
Jack and Frank laughed, and Captain Stoneman allowed a smile to wrinkle the corners of his mouth.
"Well, they won't dare attack us," said Mrs. Wheaton. "If they do the United States will make Germany pay for it."
"I guess Germany is not worrying about the United States right now," said Jack quietly.
"We'll make her worry," declared the woman.
"We're going to declare war and then the Kaiser will wish he had let us alone. Besides, there are probably American ships of war off the coast of South America. They will not allow us to be molested by a German raider."
"But, perhaps they won't be able to help it," mother, said the girl.
"Of course they will be able to help it," said the mother. "Now don't talk about this foolishness to me any more."
She arose and left the table. Her daughter followed her a few moments later.
"If the Germans get her they'll find they have caught a tartar," declared Jack.
"So they will," declared Captain Stoneman.
"By the way, Captain," said Frank, "do you fear the raider will attack us?"
"She will if she knows we are around," declared the captain grimly.
"And we are not prepared to fight her, sir?" asked Frank.
"Hardly," said the captain quietly.
"What's your crew?" demanded Jack.
"First, second and third officers, chief engineer, assistant and forty men," was the reply.
"And nothing worth while to shoot with," grinned Frank.
The captain brought his hand down hard upon the table.
"No!" he bellowed. "And still with these pirates sailing the seas, the American government won't allow us to carry guns big enough to do any damage."
"Well, we'll hope for the best," said Frank, rising.
The lads made their way on deck.
Word of the United States' declaration of war upon Germany was flashed to the Algonquin on the fourth day out. It brought a thrill to Frank and to Captain Stoneman, an American himself.
Mrs. Wheaton, however, was the only person aboard who did any bragging as a result of it. She declared that now the United States had come to the rescue of the world, she had no fear of German raiders or Germans in any other shape or form.
The Algonquin was still two days out from Buenos Ayres. It was night. Came a hail from the lookout forward,
"Ship, sir!" he sang out.
"Where away?" demanded Captain Stoneman from the bridge.
"Dead ahead, sir!"
Half an hour later the light of an approaching vessel became visible to all on deck.
"The raider, do you suppose?" asked Frank, who stood near the captain.
"How do I know?" demanded the captain angrily. "It may be and it may not be."
A moment later the searchlight of the approaching vessel picked the Algonquin out of the darkness.
"Drat those searchlights!" shouted the angry captain. "If it wasn't for those things a man would have a chance."
The wireless operator hurried up.
"Message, sir," he exclaimed.
"Well, why don't you give it to me. What are you standing there for?"
"Vessel orders us to heave to or she'll put a shell into us, sir," said the operator, paying no attention to the captain's anger.
"She will, eh? What right has a bloodthirsty pirate like that to tell me what I can do? I won't do it."
Nevertheless Captain Stoneman gave the command to heave to.
"What's he sign himself ?" he demanded of the wireless operator.
"He doesn't sign himself at all," was the reply.
"Drat him!" exclaimed the captain again. "Oh, well, we'll see what happens."
Half an hour later a small boat from the vessel that had accosted them scraped alongside the Algonquin.
"Throw over a ladder," came a voice in English. "I'm coming aboard you."
The captain of the Algonquin growled again but he gave the necessary order.
A moment later three figures scrambled on deck. At sight of the first man, Captain Stoneman's frown changed to a smile and he stepped quickly forward.
"Dash me if it isn't Lansing!" he exclaimed. "When did you get into the service, old man?"
The man in the uniform of a naval officer looked at the captain closely a moment, then extended a hand.
"Well, well, well!" he exclaimed. "If it isn't Stoneman. Where you bound, Captain?"
"Buenos Ayres. What ship are you?"
"American cruiser Pioneer, Stoneman. I'm the first officer."
"Good for you, son," exclaimed the captain. "First I took you for that German raider they say is sailing about in these parts."
"That's what I took you to be," declared the lieutenant. "I know there is no need searching your ship, Captain. You're true blue, but I'll have to have a look at your papers."
"Perfectly proper," said Captain Stoneman. "Come below."
The two disappeared below, but returned on deck a few moments later.
"Who are your passengers, Captain?" asked the American officer.
Captain Stoneman explained.
"Guess I'd better have a look at them anyhow, if it's no trouble," said the lieutenant.
"No trouble at all . Bo's'n," he called, "summon all passengers on deck."
Frank and Jack were already there, and approached. The American officer asked them a few questions, and then waved them away.
"All right," he said.
Mrs. Wheaton and her daughter appeared a few moments later. The former was angry. She approached the lieutenant.
"What do you mean by holding us up in this high-handed fashion?" she demanded.
"Necessity of war, madam," said the lieutenant with a bow.
"Necessity fiddlesticks," was the reply. "Who are you, anyhow?"
"I'm Lieutenant Lansing, American cruiser Pioneer, madam," came the reply.
Mrs. Wheaton's manner underwent an immediate change. "You'll pardon me, Lieutenant," she exclaimed. "Of course, I know you must do your duty."
After a few words with Mrs. Wheaton and her daughter, Lieutenant Lansing turned again to Captain Stoneman.
"All right, Captain," he said, "you may proceed. If leave you now just a word, though. Look out for that raider. She's around here some place. If you sight her, fire your guns, and if I'm within hearing I'll come up. Work your wireless, too. I'm here to nail that fellow."
"Very good," said Captain Stoneman. "You can count on me, Lansing."
The two men shook hands and the American naval officer, followed by his men, disappeared over the side. Captain Stoneman gave a signal and the Algonquin moved on again.
"Didn't take the United States very long to get started, did it?" said Frank, as they descended below.
"I should say not," was Jack's reply. "Still, I am afraid American cruisers will have no more success in nabbing the raider than have British vessels."
"Don't forget we're on the job," said Frank, with a smile.
"I'm not forgetting it," said Jack. "The sooner we come up with that fellow the better it will please me."
"Well, guess we may as well turn in," said Jack.
"Probably will be nothing doing tonight."
Five minutes later the lads were asleep.
Morning dawned clear and bright and Captain Stoneman congratulated himself that he was fast nearing his destination.
"Tomorrow morning at this time and we will be safe," he said at the breakfast table.
"Pooh," said Mrs. Wheaton. "What is there to be afraid of? Don't you know that the American cruiser Pioneer is in these waters?"
"But she is not in sight, mother," said her daughter.
"I'd like to know what difference that makes. Lieutenant Lansing knows that there are Americans aboard the Algonquin. He will not desert us."
"I am afraid," said Frank, "that Lieutenant Lansing has more important duties just now than seeing that the Algonquin reaches port safely."
"And what can be more important, I'd like to know?" demanded Mrs. Wheaton.
"Well, there are a whole lot of things," said Frank, "one of which is to nab this German raider, and I'll venture to say that the Pioneer is paying more attention to the raider right now than it is to the Algonquin."
"Young man," said Mrs. Wheaton, "it is perfectly plain to me that you do not know what you are talking about."
Frank flushed, and was about to reply. But he caught the eye of Miss Wheaton and remained silent. A few moments later he excused himself and left the table.
Fifteen minutes later Elizabeth Wheaton approached him on deck.
"Don't mind mother," she said with a smile. "It is just her way. She means no harm."
"Probably not," agreed Frank with a smile, "but you will admit that it is rather annoying."
Before the girl could reply, there came a hail from the lookout forward.
"Where away?" called the first officer, who held the bridge.
"Dead ahead!" came the reply.
Indeed, a ship was plainly visible to all on deck at that moment.
It came to the first officer in a flash that this vessel bearing down on the Algonquin was in all probability the German raider.
He summoned the captain.
Captain Stoneman came jumping on deck.
He gave one look at the approaching vessel, and then cried angrily, forgetting his grammar absolutely as he did so. "That's her! That's her as sure as I'm a foot high."
ABOARD THE RAIDER
Captain Stoneman now became the man of action that Jack and Frank knew he could be.
"Mr. Bronson!" he summoned the first officer, who approached hastily. "Mr. Bronson," continued the captain, "you point that gun aft toward the heavens and you fire it until I tell you to stop. Mr. Taylor, you do the same with the gun forward."
The captain glanced around. His third officer was busy. He called to Jack.
"Mr. Templeton," he cried, "you go below and tell my wireless operator to pick up the cruiser Pioneer. You tell him I said not to stop trying, or I'll be down and attend to him myself."
Jack hurried away to obey the command.
Frank approached Captain Stoneman.
"Can I be of any assistance, sir?" he asked.
The captain glared at him angrily. "No," he shouted; then added: "Yes. You stand at the hatchway there and don't you let either of those women come on deck. If you do, I'll toss you overboard."
Frank went to his post.
So far there had been nothing to indicate that the approaching ship was other than a peaceful vessel. She had, so far as Captain Stoneman knew, made no effort to pick up the Algonquin with her wireless.
"I wonder," said Captain Stoneman to himself, "whether that pirate is going to blow me up without warning, or whether that wireless operator of mine has gone to bed? I'll go down and find out."
He ordered his first officer away from the gun aft to take the bridge and ran below to the wireless room.
"Any message from the ship ahead?" he demanded.
"No, sir," was the operator's reply.
"What's all that 'click-clicking' about?"
"I'm trying to pick up the Pioneer, sir."
"Humph! Can't you raise her?"
Captain Stoneman returned on deck without further words. He relieved the first officer and ordered him back to the gun aft. At almost the same moment, the forward gun, pointed high, spoke.
"That'll raise the Pioneer if she's around here," said Captain Stoneman aloud.
The aft gun also spoke now, and then both boomed again.
An instant later a cloud of smoke burst from the approaching vessel, followed by a heavy boom. A solid shot passed over the Algonquin and splashed in the water beyond.
"Humph!" said Captain Stoneman again. "Signal to heave to, eh? Well, I can't afford to disregard it."
He signaled the engine room and the Algonquin a few moments later came to a stop.
"Now, come on, you pirates," mumbled Captain Stoneman. "Come on aboard and tell me what you want."
A boat put off from the raider, for such the strange vessel proved to be. It came toward the Algonquin rapidly.
Captain Stoneman motioned to Frank.
"Better let the women come up now," he said quietly, "and Mr. Bronson, pipe all hands from below."
Before the small boat reached the Algonquin's side, all passengers and members of the crew were on deck. Frank pressed close to Jack.
"Got your gun?" he asked.
"In my boot," was the quiet reply; "and yours?"
"All right. How about your little decoration?"
Jack took a small object from his pocket and put it in the left-hand button hole of his coat. Frank followed his example.
"What is the meaning of this outrage?" demanded Mrs. Wheaton, as she watched the small boat approach.
"Meaning is that we are prisoners of the German raider," answered Captain Stoneman, who overheard the remark.
"And why?" demanded the woman. "I heard guns fired above here. Couldn't you hit anything?"
"We didn't try, madam," said the captain. "We fired those guns to notify the Pioneer we had encountered the raider."
"Well, why didn't you shoot at her?" demanded Mrs. Wheaton.
Captain Stoneman was about to make an angry retort, but restrained himself with a visible effort.
The raider's boat scraped alongside the Algonquin.
"Throw down a ladder here," said a voice in English, though with a heavy German accent.
Captain Stoneman growled ominously, but he ordered the command obeyed. A moment later a German naval officer appeared on deck. He was closely followed by half a dozen other figures. The officer approached Captain Stoneman.
"You are the commander of this vessel?" he asked.
"I am," was the reply. "What of it?"
"You'd best keep a civil tongue in your head," said the German. "What's your destination, and the nature of your cargo?"
"Buenos Ayres; oil," growled the captain, answering both questions briefly.
"Good!" said the German. "We are in need of oil." He turned to one of his men. "Below with you," he said. "Take three men and unloosen a hundred barrels of oil. I'll send a boat after them."
The man saluted and went below, followed by several of his companions. The German officer turned again to Captain Stoneman.
"You and your men, and these two ladies," he indicated Mrs. Wheaton and her daughter, "will be prisoners aboard the Vaterland. Captain Koenig will make you as comfortable as possible."
"Thanks," said Captain Stoneman briefly." I know enough about you Germans and what to expect."
"Silence!" thundered the German, "or I shall have you placed in irons."
Captain Stoneman shrugged his shoulders, but he held his tongue.
Now, for the first time, the German officer appeared to notice that Jack and Frank were not members of the Algonquin crew. He motioned them to approach.
"You are passengers?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said Jack.
The German took a quick step forward as he noticed the little emblem on Jack's coat. He glanced at Frank and saw one there, too. He tapped the one that Jack wore with his finger.
"Where did you get that?" he asked sharply.
"Where could I get it but in one place?" was Jack's reply.
"You are no German," said the officer.
"I was not born in Germany, it is true," said Jack, "but my ancestors were. I am what some people are pleased to call a German-American."
"Good!" exclaimed the German officer. "But what are you doing here?"
"That," said Jack, "is rather a long story and one that I am commanded to tell to Captain Koenig."
The German officer hesitated.
"You come together?" he asked at length, indicating Frank.
"Yes," said Jack.
"Well," said the German, "you will realize that I must be careful. I must see if you are armed."
He examined the lads' clothing carefully.
"You will follow me," he said a few moments later.
The crew of the Algonquin, meantime, was being transferred to the Vaterland. Jack and Frank found themselves in the last boatload to go.
Aboard the Vaterland, as the two lads followed their captor to the cabin of the German commander, Frank saw the disgust in the eyes of Elizabeth Wheaton as he passed her. It was plain that she, at least, took him for what he represented himself to be to the German officer.
"Oh, well," said the lad, as he walked along, "it cannot be helped."
Captain Koenig asked the lads several sharp questions which apparently satisfied him that they were what they claimed to be.
"But I cannot land you yet," he said.
"Any time within the month will do, Captain," said Jack. "We still have a little time. We do not need to reach New York until two days before the meeting. You can set us ashore some place in time enough for us to get there."
"I'll do better than that," said the captain. "I'll set you ashore on the coast of Florida three weeks from today."
"Good!" said Jack.
"Now," said the captain, "if you care to accompany me on deck, you shall see the last of the ship that carried you here."
The lads followed the captain on deck. The latter summoned his first officer.
"Fuses all set?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. The explosion should occur within one minute."
All turned their eyes to the abandoned Alqonquin.
Suddenly there was a terrible explosion. A sheet of flame sprang from the doomed vessel. She seemed to leap high in the sky, then settled down in two pieces. A moment later she disappeared from sight.
"You shall pay for that, Captain Koenig!" said Jack to himself, between clenched teeth.
Jack and Frank leaned against the lifelines, gazing over the stem of the Vaterland as the vessel's triple screws drove her ahead. Jack's eyes were fixed thoughtfully upon the strong if crudely constructed turret on the after deck, from which protruded the glistening nose of an 8-inch gun. His gaze wandered forward past the rakish stacks to the light bridge which spanned the Vaterland's beam. Mounted on the bridge, in addition to the two naval telescopes, were four rapid-fire guns, each capable of spitting bullets at the rate of five hundred a minute, though, sheltered as they were under the tarpaulins, they looked harmless enough.
Frank regarded Jack curiously.
"What's on your mind?" he asked.
"I was thinking," said Jack slowly, "that if I could get my hands on one of those machine guns on the bridge, these Germans would wish they were home in the Kiel Canal."
"You mean?" said Frank.
"I mean that if I had five minutes to man one of those rapid-firers up yonder I could rake this ship from stem to stern. There'd be a few less Germans in this world before they got me. Anyway, it's a point worth remembering."
Frank nodded his head.
"It certainly is," he replied.
Jack resumed his study of the big ship.
Half way up each mast he saw the round-covered dots which denoted the powerful searchlights, and from the tops of the thin masts sagged the wireless aerials. Immediately under the bridge and sheltered somewhat by it was the wireless room. The entire ship, even to the rifle barrels, was painted the dead, neutral gray which is known as "war color."
Frank followed the direction of Jack's gaze.
"They are well prepared, aren't they?" he said.
"They certainly are," declared Jack.
"Well," said Frank, "we must remember that we are to do nothing yet. The time will come, though, and it is as well to know beforehand what we will have to contend with."
"Exactly," said Jack. "That's why I am trying to impress all these things on my memory."
"Come," said Frank, "we'll interview the captain."
Jack followed his friend to the captain's cabin. The captain expressed much pleasure at seeing them.
"How goes everything this morning, Captain?" asked Frank.
"Good!" was the response. "What can I do for you?"
"We've just been looking about the Vaterland," said Jack in German. "It must have required remarkable ingenuity to have converted this ship into the formidable vessel it is now."
"You think so?" said the captain. "I am glad. I did it under my own plans."
"And you have had the most remarkable success," said Frank. "The Emperor will have much to thank you for when the war is over."
"Ja!" exclaimed Captain Koenig. "I shall have the Iron Cross."
"Undoubtedly, Captain," declared Jack. "By the way, how large a crew do you carry?"
"Almost two hundred officers and men," was the reply.
"But your prisoners," exclaimed Frank. "Surely you have many of them?"
"We have now more than 300 prisoners aboard this ship," declared Captain Koenig; "mostly men. Besides the women who came aboard with you, there are only five."
"That's a pretty big load, Captain?"
"The Vaterland," said Captain Koenig proudly, "has accommodations for more than a thousand souls."
"I knew it was a big ship," said Frank, "but I had no idea it carried so many. By the way, where do you keep your prisoners?"
"Forward, beneath the main deck," replied the Captain.
"They are well guarded, of course?"
"Well guarded, indeed," was the captain's reply.
"They are of course, unarmed and the door to their prison is locked. Besides, there are armed men on guard without every instant."
"I see you, have spared no pains to keep everything safe," said Frank.
"You are right, sir. The Vaterland is in my hands, and it shall stay in my hands. No ship of war can catch me. I am well prepared on all sides."
"Your foresight is to be commended, Captain," declared Jack. "The Kaiser has reason to be proud of you."
"You think so?" exclaimed Captain Koenig. "I am pleased."
The lads went on deck again after some further conversation.
"He's a pretty conceited old pirate, if you ask me," declared Jack.
"So he is," Frank agreed; "yet when you stop to think of it he has some reason to be. He's doing a pretty good job for the Kaiser."
"A pretty bad job for the Allies," said Jack.
"Which is the reason we are here," declared Frank. "Hello, here comes Miss Wheaton; I'll have a word with her."
He lifted his cap as he spoke. Miss Wheaton bowed and would have passed on had not Frank intercepted her.
"Won't you stop a moment, Miss Wheaton?" the lad asked.
"I wish to have nothing to do with German spies," returned the girl coldly.
"I beg your pardon," said Frank, and stepped back.
The girl passed on. Five paces beyond, however, she stopped, turned and retraced her steps.
"I had taken you for Americans, aboard the Algonquin," she declared. "Surely you are not German?"
"No," said Frank, "I am an American."
"And are helping the enemies of your country," declared the girl.
"Just a moment, Miss Wheaton," said Frank quietly. He looked around hurriedly. There was not a soul near, save Jack. "Do not believe all you see," the lad whispered.
"You mean?" exclaimed the girl.
Frank shrugged his shoulders. "Appearances are often deceitful," he said quietly.
Miss Wheaton looked at the lad in some amazement. Then she said: "I hope I do not misunderstand you."
"I am sure you don't," said Frank with a smile. "The Vaterland has been engaged in her nefarious trade altogether too long. It is time somebody put a stop to it. Well, the time will come."
Miss Wheaton extended a hand, which the lad grasped.
"I am sorry I doubted you," she said.
"Why, that's all right," said Frank.
The girl inclined her head and passed on. Framl turned to Jack.
"A very nice girl," he said, indicating Miss Wheaton.
"Most likely," Jack agreed. "However, you always were rather strong for the girls. I hope you didn't tell her our business."
"Why — why, no," said Frank, flushing." I simply told her she must not believe all she sees."
"Which was simply another way of telling her we are not what we represented ourselves to Captain Koenig," said Jack. "Now she'll probably go straight to the captain and tell him what she has learned."
"No, she won't," said Frank. "She wouldn't do that."
"How do you know she won't?"
"Well, I don't know it, but I don't think she will."
"What you think and what she may do are likely to be altogether different," declared Jack. "You are too quick with your tongue sometimes, Frank."
"But," Frank protested, "she thought we were Germans and ignored us."
"What do we care what she thinks? If she ignores us so much the better to my way of thinking."
"But -" Frank began.
"But, nothing," interrupted Jack. "We are here for a single purpose, and it makes no difference what any one thinks of us."
"You are probably right, Jack," Frank agreed. "I'll have to keep a tight rein on my tongue. However, I am sure Miss Wheaton will not betray us."
"Humph!" said Jack, and the conversation ended.
It was late that afternoon when the lookout forward gave the news that there was a ship in the offing. Immediately the Vaterland altered her course slightly and headed for the newcomer, which it developed was a merchant ship.
"Here comes another victim," said Frank.
"You don't suppose —" began Jack.
"Too soon, I'm afraid," said Frank, with a shake of his head. "I wish it were, but I am afraid it is too soon."
Within range, the Vaterland put a shot across the bow of the stranger. The newcomer obeyed this command instantly.
She hove to.
ABOARD THE STRANGER
It was the steamer Gloucester that the Vaterland had sighted and which had heaved to in response to the Vaterland's shot across her bow. The Gloucester was a small steamer, more on the order of a pleasure yacht than a freight vessel.
In one of the cabins, as the vessel came to, sat a man in an invalid chair. Beside him stood a huge negro.
"See what the trouble is, Tom," ordered the invalid as the ship's engines stopped.
The negro hurried on deck, but was back in a few minutes, breathing excitedly.
"It's the raider, suh," he said. "The Vaterland."
"Good!" said the man in the invalid's chair. "Wheel me on deck, Tom."
The negro did as ordered. There the invalid passed the word for the captain, who came toward him.
"Yes, sir," said Captain Tucker, saluting.
"The vessel ahead, I understand," said the invalid, "is the Vaterland?"
"It is, Mr. Hamilton."
"Very good. Call the first, second and third officers."
The captain obeyed and a few moments later the three officers stood before Hamilton.
"You must not forget, gentlemen," said 'Hamilton, "that we are bound simply on a pleasure cruise. I was not willing that a German raider should interfere with the prescription of an ocean voyage ordered by, my physician. You understand?"
The officers nodded.
The men were: First officer, Mr. Sanborn; second officer, Mr. Partridge, and third officer, Mr. Richardson.
"Very well, then," said Mr. Hamilton. "That is all."
He turned again to the negro. "Tom," he said, "bring my bags and stow them in the cutter yonder. We will be taken prisoners aboard the raider."
The negro did as commanded and again took his stand by Hamilton. "Mind, Tom," said Mr. Hamilton, "no weapons."
"None, suh?" questioned the negro.
"Not a single one."
"Well, suh," said the negro, "dis ain't no weapon I got here. I just carry it for luck, Mistah Hamilton."
He displayed a pair of brass knuckles.
"Very well," said Mr. Hamilton, "but be sure you put them where they will not be found."
"Dey won't find 'em," chuckled the negro.
He rolled up the leg of one trouser and stowed the brass knuckles carefully in the top of his sock.
As the Vaterland's small boat approached the Gloucester, Captain Tucker ordered a gangway rigged. Mr. Hamilton's chair was wheeled to this gangway, and those aboard waited the arrival of the German officer in the small boat.
Lieutenant Blum, the Vaterland's officer, leaped nimbly over the rail.
"The captain?" he demanded.
Captain Tucker stepped forward. "I'm Captain Tucker," he said. "This," he indicated Mr. Hamilton, "is the owner, Mr. Hamilton, who is on a voyage for his health."
"I'm sorry his health cannot be given more consideration," said Lieutenant Blum, "but I am under necessity of sinking your ship. Mr. Hamilton may continue his voyage aboard the Vaterland."
The prisoners were safely transferred to the Vaterland and a short time later a rumbling explosion marked the end of the steamer Gloucester.
Mr. Hamilton, through the courtesy of Captain Koenig, was assigned one of the larger cabins, near the captain's own. Hamilton spoke to Captain Koenig in fluent German. The German captain seemed to take considerable interest in the invalid.
As the chair of the invalid was wheeled along the deck, the invalid glanced sharply at Jack and Frank. Neither lad manifested the slightest surprise and Mr. Hamilton was soon out of sight.
Members of the crew of the Gloucester, all except the negro Torn, who was to be allowed to tend Mr. Hamilton personally, were soon locked safely between decks and the Vaterland proceeded on her way.
Several hours later, Captain Koenig, in paying a visit to the cabin found the latter studying over a chess board.
"Ha!" exclaimed Captain Koenig. "So you play chess, eh?"
"A little," said Mr. Hamilton.
"That is fortunate," declared the captain. "I too love the game. I shall be pleased to have you play with me at some future time."
"I shall be glad, Captain," said Mr. Hamilton quietly.
The German commander soon took his leave. Hamilton turned to the negro, who, upon the captain's departure, had taken the brass knuckles from his sock and was examining them carefully.
"Tom," said he, "if you don't keep those knuckles out of sight I shall heave them overboard."
"Yussuh," exclaimed Tom, and hid the knuckles hastily.
"Listen to me, Tom," said Hamilton. "Whenever I am in here I want you to station yourself outside the door. And I want you to tell me before you let any one in, understand?"
"And mind you keep those knuckles out of sight. There'll be no use for them until I give the word. Remember that."
There came a knock on the door and Hamilton fell back on his cushions as he ordered Tom to open the door. A moment later girl introduced herself and then said:
"I've come to see you because we are fellow prisoners, Mr. Hamilton, and to see if there is anything I can do for you. I know you cannot help yourself, being an invalid."
Mr. Hamilton smiled.
"Don't you worry about me, young woman," he said. "I'm not half so helpless as you think. See?"
Mr. Hamilton stood up, dropped the robe from his lap and skipped nimbly across the cabin.
Elizabeth Wheaton stepped back in surprise.
"But I thought -" she began.
"So does Captain Koenig," said Hamilton with a smile. "By the way, Miss Wheaton, are you armed?"
Hamilton explored the seat of his chair. He produced a box, which he opened. There lay at least a dozen shining automatics. Hamilton gave one to the girl.
"Take this," he said simply. "You may have need of it, although if nothing goes wrong with my plans, all will be well."
The girl took the weapon and hid it in the folds of her dress. At that moment Tom poked his head in the door indicating that some one was approaching. Miss Wheaton left the cabin without another word.
A moment later Jack and Frank entered the cabin. Mr. Hamilton, who was again in his invalid chair covered with a robe, leaped to his feet and extended a hand to each lad.
"By Jove! We are glad to see you, sir," said Frank, "although we did not expect you so soon."
"I started sooner than I had expected," laughed Lord Hastings, for such Mr. Hamilton proved to be. "Have you found out the lay of the land?"
"Yes, sir," replied Jack, and explained briefly. He produced a long sheet of paper, which he passed to Lord Hastings.
"What's this?" demanded the latter.
"Deck plan, sir," said Jack quietly. "I obtained it from Captain Koenig, sir, though he doesn't know it."
"Very good," said Lord Hastings, and examined it carefully.
Jack put a finger to the paper.
"There," he pointed out, "is the second deck. In here are the prisoners of the Algonquin and the Gloucester. In the compartment below are perhaps two hundred other prisoners. Abaft this compartment is the strong room in which are the small arms and ammunition. Lieutenant Blum carries the keys. In there, too, are hundreds of rifles."
"Very well," said Lord Hastings, and briefly sketched a plan of action. Then he added:
"This work must be done promptly and there must be no slip. A slip means failure. Now follow the instructions I give you."
He spoke softly for perhaps fifteen minutes, and when Frank and Jack took their leave at the expiration of that period, the faces of both were flushed.
"At 11 o'clock tomorrow morning," Jack whispered.
"Be a sailor," Frank instructed. "You mean six bells."
"All right," laughed Jack. "Have it your own way. Six bells or 11 o'clock. We'll be ready."
It was at 10 o'clock the following morning that Lord Hastings received a call from Captain Koenig.
"Ah!" exclaimed the German commander. "I find that I have time on my hands. Would it be too much to ask you to have a game of chess with me now?"
"Indeed, no," was Lord Hastings' reply. "I shall be pleased. I shall have my man roll me to your quarters within fifteen minutes."
"Very good!" said Captain Koenig. He bowed and departed.
Lord Hastings quickly ordered the negro to find Frank and Jack and order them to his cabin. A few moments more and they stood before him.
"Frank," said Lord Hastings, "you approach the bridge and stand there. When the men come from below, it may be that we will need a man near the bridge to pick off the gunner should he train one of the rapid-firers on us. Do not move, however, unless it is necessary. If we can reach the bridge without attracting attention by firing a shot it will be infinitely better. Jack, you come with me. I shall now engage the captain in a game of chess."
Frank stooped and from his boots brought out two automatics. Jack did likewise. These they put in their pockets. Then Frank left his commander's cabin.
Above he encountered Miss Wheaton, who approached him.
"I have learned what is about to happen," said the girl, "and I want to know if I can be of some assistance."
"You can help most," said Frank, "by going to your cabin and staying there. Make sure that none of the women come on deck."
"But," said the girl, "I had hoped to be of more value than that."
"Believe me," said Frank, "if you can make sure that the women remain in their cabins you will have done much."
Elizabeth Wheaton nodded her head. "None shall come out," she said quietly. She turned on her heel and made her way to her own cabin. Then she summoned the other women prisoners and when they were inside she locked the door, taking care, however, that none saw her turn the key, for she did not wish to answer unnecessary questions.
Frank took a position where he could cover the bridge. There were only two men there — the officer of the deck and the quartermaster at the wheel.
Below, Lord Hastings motioned to the giant negro to wheel him to Captain Koenig's cabin.
"I'm depending on you, Tom," he said quietly. "When I give the word —"
"Yussuh!" said Tom, grinning. "I'll be watching you, suh."
He wheeled Lord Hastings to Captain Koenig's cabin. Jack followed.
The German commander expressed his pleasure at the opportunity of matching his wits against his prisoner across the chess board. He espied Jack and eyed him askance.
"I'm somewhat of a chess player myself," Jack explained. "I thought I would enjoy the battle. Mr. Hamilton, here, has no objections to my presence."
"Nor have I, in that event," said Captain Koenig.
The chess board stood upon a small table. The pieces were in place. Johnson wheeled Lord Hastings into position and fell into position behind him. Captain Koenig drew up a chair. Jack remained standing.
The ad was perfectly calm in spite of the excitement that raged in his breast. Lord Hastings played silently and without anxiety, as though nothing were about to transpire. Even the negro, Tom, showed nothing of the excitement that he felt. Now and then, though, his hand touched the pair of brass knuckles which he had transferred from his sock to his right-hand pocket.
As the game progressed Captain Koenig became manifestly pleased, for he felt that he was winning. Lord Hastings glanced at the clock. It lacked five minutes to 11. He looked at Tom significantly, and the negro shifted his position closer to Captain Koenig.
Suddenly six bells struck.
As the last stroke sounded, Lord Hastings, apparently accidentally, brushed one of the chessmen from the board.
"Your pardon," he said to Captain Koenig.
He bent over, apparently to pick up the chessman. Instead, his hand sought the box in his chair and when he sat straight again, his revolver covered Captain Koenig.
The commander of the Vaterland started up with an inarticulate cry. At the same moment Tom sprang forward, and his two hands grasped the German commander's throat.
Captain Koenig was fat and he was conceited and he had been foolishly lax. But he was a competent commander in the German navy, which means that he was a brave and resourceful man. He allowed his body to relax in the negro's clutch. His foot sought for and found a tiny button below the chess table. He pressed it.
A buzzer sounded in another cabin.
The men in the cabin worked with swift and silent precision.
In answer to the pressing of the button there came a knock at the door. A moment later Lieutenant Blum entered. He took in the situation at a glance. Tom released his hold upon Captain Koenig and jumped for the lieutenant. As the negro's arms went round the man, Jack dipped quickly into the lieutenant's pocket and produced the keys to the quarters occupied by the prisoners, and to the store room.
The lieutenant writhed in the negro's grasp and with a kick caught Tom on the right shin. Immediately Tom released his bold and sought his brass knuckles. Before he could strike, however, Lieutenant Blum had disappeared through the door.
Jack whipped out his revolver and fired, but the German did not stop. The lad muttered an imprecation.
"Quick, now!" ordered Lord Hastings.
He was calm, cool and collected. Revolvers in the box were disposed of between the three, and then all dashed below to where the prisoners were locked.
Two men guarded the deck at this point. Seeing their enemies bearing down on them, both opened fire. The revolvers of Lord Hastings flashed simultaneously and the two Germans dropped.
Quickly Jack fitted one of the keys to the door, and the crews of the Algonquin and the Gloucester streamed forth. The first man out was Captain Stoneman. Jack gave him a pair of revolvers. The other weapons were divided up as far as they would go.
"To the bridge with you, Stoneman!" cried Lord Hastings. "You'll find Chadwick there. Take the bridge and hold those machine guns until we get there. Much depends on your getting there before the enemy can recover from their surprise." Stoneman dashed away. Lord Hastings designated that the others who were armed should follow. These hurried after Stoneman.
"Now for the rifles!" cried Lord Hastings.
Jack led the way and Lord Hastings and members of the Algonquin and Gloucester crews followed.
At the same moment a bugle blared above and there came the hoarse sounds of commands.
"We've been discovered!" shouted Jack.
"There is no time to lose, sir."
He fitted a key to the door of the compartment where the rifles, ammunition and small arms were stored. The men, perhaps sixty all told, rushed forward and grabbed weapons and ammunition.
"I'll lead these men, Jack," said Lord Hastings.
"One of those keys fits the other prisoners' compartment. Go below and release them. Arm them and then come on deck. You go with him, Tom. If any of the prisoners hang back, lock them up or shoot them. This is no time for fooling. You other men, follow me."
Lord Hastings dashed on deck, closely followed by his men.
Jack wasted no time. Quickly he descended to the deck below where the other prisoners were held. These, too, were under guard from the outside. Sounds of confusion from within told the lads that the prisoners had heard the sounds of firing above. Men kicked upon the barred door. They were eager to get out and join in the fray, the nature of which they could not tell.
The two Germans on guard there were plainly uneasy. No orders had reached them, and they appeared afraid that the door would give beneath kicks and blows rained upon it from within; and they knew that there would be no stopping the prisoners should they break through.
Consequently they were watching the door when lack and the negro appeared in sight and the attackers had the advantage. One swerved suddenly, however, and raised his weapon. Jack fired and the man dropped.
Tom accounted for the second. Then Jack opened the door. He held up a hand as the men streamed forth.
"Follow me and get guns!" he shouted to make himself heard above the babel of voices.
The others understood the import of the words. There was a wild cheer as they dashed after Jack and the negro Tom.
Frank, on deck, was doing his work. At the first stroke of six bells, the lad had dropped his hand to his pocket. A moment later there came a sharp report from below.
"Things have started moving," said Frank quietly.
The officer on the bridge had also caught the sound of the revolver shot. He looked up sharply. A moment later Lieutenant Blum dashed forward and jumped to the bridge. He spoke hurriedly to the officer of the deck, and both made a leap for the machine guns.
Frank smiled quietly to himself. Here was fighting in which he knew his true value.
The lad's revolver flashed. The man nearest to the first machine gun dropped in his track. The second man, Lieutenant Blum, touched the nearest machine gun. Frank's revolver spoke again. The German lieutenant pitched forward on his face.
"So much for you!" cried Frank. He leaped to the bridge and covered the man at the wheel.
"A false move and you are a dead man," he said. "Hold her steady."
A glance told the helmsman that the lad meant what he said. The German kept his hand on the wheel.
Came the cries of men as those released below poured on deck in the wake of Lord Hastings. Frank gazed in that direction. As he did so, the man at the wheel rose suddenly, snatched the revolver from the lad's hand and before Frank could turn, brought it down heavily on his head.
Frank dropped limply to the deck.
The helmsman himself sprang toward the machine gun, while the big vessel, with no hand to guide her wallowed in the trough of the sea.
There came a hoarse command from Lord Hastings, who had seen Frank fall.
Several men fired at the helmsman and he went down. The bridge was unmanned now but its capture was to be no sinecure. The opposition from forward had developed considerable force and the Germans there realized that possession of the bridge by the Americans and Englishmen meant disaster. The third officer, in command, roared out his orders and a score of heavily armed Germans from the forecastle gathered about him.
At Lord Hastings' command, his forces scattered — it would be every man for himself.
The Germans under the third officer held the forecastle and between them and the opposition amidships was the bridge. Now more men swarmed from aft. The British and Americans were between two fires.
A volley belched from the third officer's men. Two Americans went down. From their scattered positions about the deck, the allies returned the fire, and with effect, as Lord Hastings could see, for several men dropped.
"Good work, men!" shouted Lord Hastings.
The British commander knew that Jack, Tom and the other prisoners would be on deck in a few moments, and that if he could hold the deck until that time, the bridge might be captured by a massed attack.
But now, with the Germans guarding the bridge from the forecastle, it was well nigh impossible, for the allied sailors would be mowed down. For the same reason, the Germens in the forecastle were unable to advance upon the bridge.
Meantime the Vaterland staggered helplessly.
Suddenly there was a wild cry from forward. On deck dashed Jack and the negro, Tom, followed by the released prisoners. The Germans in the forecastle were panic stricken at sight of these unexpected re-enforcements for the opposition. They poured in a withering fire, but it was returned with such deadly effect that the Germans scattered.
But the Germans aft pressed into the heat of the conflict, disregarding shots rained upon them by the allies. Lord Hastings called his men to make a massed stand. They gathered about him and dashed headlong at the Germans.
Revolvers replaced rifles now, for the fighting was at too close quarters for the use of the latter. Men emptied their revolvers in the very faces of their enemies, then clubbed their weapons and continued the struggle.
As the allies turned to meet this attack, the Germans in the forecastle rallied and dashed for the bridge. From behind them, the force led by Jack with Tom flung themselves forward.
At almost the same time consciousness returned to Frank on the bridge. Slowly he raised his head, saw the men approaching him, picked up the revolver that lay near his hand and emptied it into the face of the foe. His second automatic leaped from his pocket and also flashed fire.
Taken by surprise, the Germans hesitated. At the same moment Frank staggered toward the machine guns. He gripped one, whirled it so that it covered the deck.
But he could not fire. Lord Hastings' force was in the line of fire and to have opened up with the rapid-firer would have annihilated the allies as well as the Germans.
A bullet whistled past the lad's head and he ducked instinctively. He emptied the second revolver into the mass of his foes and hurled the now useless weapon in their faces.
Then the Germans were upon him.
But Jack, who realized what would follow should the Germans gain control of the bridge, had urged his men to greater efforts, and these now fell upon the Germans from behind.
With absolute disregard for their own safety, and fighting side by side, Jack and the giant negro forced their way through the struggling mass. The negro wreaked terrible havoc with his deadly pair of brass knuckles, but Jack was giving an equally good account of himself with his two clubbed revolvers.
Two men sprang to the bridge. Frank met the first with a blow of his right fist and the man dropped back. The second made the bridge and Frank grappled with him. The two went down in a heap.
"To the bridge, Tom!" called Jack.
With a desperate effort the two broke through the mass of the enemy and leaped safely to the bridge. Four Germans piled forward with them.
Meantime Lord Hastings' force was so hardly pressed that be for the moment lost sight of the bridge. Under the volleys of the Germans who still stuck to the forecastle, the Americans and English threw themselves to the deck for what little shelter they could find. There they sniped off what numbers of the enemy they could.
Then the Germans who held the forecastle charged.
There was nothing for Lord Hasings to do now but order his men to their feet to meet this situation. At command, they leaped up quickly and presented a solid front to the foe.
In the foremost of the fighting was Captain Stoneman, erstwhile commander of the Algonquin. He had long since discarded his empty automatics to favor of bare fists, and now he flung himself into the midst of the battle. Others sprang forward with him, those who were still armed firing point blank into the mass of the foe.
The Germans gave ground.
The men who had been released last by Jack and the big negro now dashed forward with wild cries of joy and fell upon the enemy from the rear.
On the bridge, Jack, Frank and the negro Tom now were battling with fully a dozen men. No shots were fired. All on the bridge had exhausted their ammunition, and now fell to with butts of revolvers and their naked fists.
"Charge 'em!" shouted Jack suddenly, who realized that the enemy was working back so that they could get their hands on the machine guns.
Frank and the negro asked no questions. Jack dashed forward; they followed him.
"I'm coming, suh!" shouted the negro.
His long arms flew about like flails, and wherever those brass knuckles struck a man went down. Jack felled two men with as many blows. The negro accounted for two more. Frank dropped one to the deck.
There were still seven against three, and the Germans pressed forward with wild cries.
Again the brass knuckles found their mark and a German toppled to the deck. Glancing around, the huge negro saw Frank locked in a close embrace with a powerful German.
The negro stepped back and struck out viciously. The grip on Frank relaxed.
There were but five men to deal with now.
One of these Jack disposed of with a blow to the point of the chin. Frank brought his revolver crashing down on the head of another. Tom's knuckles went home again.
There were only two Germans on the bridge now. These turned to run. Tom stepped forward with quick strides and grasped one by the arm, twisted sharply and sent him hurling into the sea. Then, with the rage of battle still in his heart and before Frank or Jack could stop him, he struck the remaining German a powerful blow in the face. The man crumpled tip and lay still.
The three now were the undisputed masters of the bridge. But along the deck the battle still raged.
Jack sprang to the nearest machine gun. Frank and Tom each manned another.
"Never mind that gun, Frank!" shouted Jack. "Take the wheel!"
Frank obeyed without hesitation. He knew that one machine there would be as good as a dozen, and he realized that to keep the big ship on an even keel would be of great assistance.
Again Jack raised his voice. "Lord Hastings!"
His hard pressed commander caught the sound of the lad's voice. He glanced about.
"To the bridge!" cried Jack. "Get out of the line of fire, sir."
Lord Hastings gave a sharp order to his men. Immediately they jumped back, and at a second command, dashed toward the bridge, fully two hundred of them. The others lay about the deck in scattered heaps.
Realizing the import of this ruse, the Germans ran swiftly after them that they too might be out of the line of fire from the machine guns on the bridge.
But the men under Lord Hastings had acted too promptly for the Germans. With the British and Americans out of harm's way, Jack turned the machine gun loose on the deck.
Shrieks and cries arose. Jack stopped his fire.
That single machine gun had done more execution in one single instant than the attacking party had done in the rest of the battle.
"Throw down your arms!" Jack commanded.
The Germans obeyed.
"Jack," said Lord Hastings, "take twenty men and search the ship below. Shoot any man who offers resistance. Tom, take the wheel. Frank, take twenty men and go to the engine room and make prisoners of the stokers."
The two lads hurried away on their several errands.
Frank found the men in the engine room working as though nothing had happened. In some unaccountable manner they had not heard of the fighting above. Frank's men covered them. There was no resistance.
Jack, descending the hatch with his men, encountered opposition in the captain's cabin. Half a dozen men had taken refuge there and refused to emerge.
"Come out or we shall fire through the door!" Jack shouted.
Revolvers spoke from the inside and bullets crashed through the door. This was the German reply.
"Break down the door, men," said Jack quietly.
This was the work of an instant, although one man dropped while it was being done. The door flew inward.
A single volley greeted Jack and his men as they appeared in the doorway but the men had stooped low and none was hit.
Before the Germans could fire again, Jack and his men dashed forward. The Germans were soon overpowered. Jack marched them back on deck.
There Lord Hastings had just accepted the surrender of the vessel from a young ordnance officer, the sole German officer left alive with the exception of Captain Koenig, who was still unconscious in his cabin.
"Jack!" instructed Lord Hastings, "take fifty men and march the prisoners below and lock them up."
Jack touched his cap. "Very good, sir."
He selected his men, surrounded the prisoners and marched them below.
Fank appeared a few moments later with the crew of the engine room. hese, too, were locked up, Lord Hastings detailed some of the victorious seamen for engine room duty, ordered the decks cleared of the dead and injured, and motioned Frank to follow him.
"Mr. Chadwick," he said, "you are my second officer. You will hold the bridge until Mr. Templeton, the first officer, relieves you."
Frank touched his cap and Lord Hastings descended below.
Half an hour later the captured raider got under way. Jack and Lord Hastings were also on the bridge now.
"Shape your course north, sir," said Lord Hastings to Jack.
"North she is, sir," said Jack, passing the word along.
"I suppose you will be interested to know where we are bound?" asked Lord Hastings a few moments later.
"Yes, sir," said Frank and Jack in a single voice.
"New York," said Lord Hastings.
"New York!" echoed Jack. "I supposed of course we were bound for Liverpool or Glasgow."
Lord Hastings smiled.
"No," he said. "I had offered, if successful in this venture, to turn the Vaterland over to the American government. It will be used to transport troops to Europe."
"I see, sir," said Frank. "And when shall we return to England, sir?"
"Not immediately, I believe. We shall probably remain in New York until the first United States expeditionary force sets forth. We shall probably go aboard one of the convoys."
"That suits me, sir," said Jack. "Does it you, Frank?"
"Down to the ground," was Frank's reply.
"Very well," said Lord Hastings. "Mr. Templeton, you will take the bridge. I'll announce the watches later. In the meantime I'll go down and have a talk with my friend, Captain Koenig. Come along, Frank."
Under administering hands Captain Koenig had returned to consciousness. He was in no amiable mood.
"How are you, Captain?" said Lord Hastings cheerfully, as he entered the cabin.
Captain Koenig looked at him with a savage scowl.
"I trust you are feeling better, sir," said Lord Hastings.
"No, I'm not, you blasted Britisher!" said Captain Koenig in very good English.
"I'm sorry, Captain. Is there anything I can do for you until I turn you over to the United States military authorities as a prisoner of war?"
"Not a thing," declared Captain Koenig.
"Too bad," commented Lord Hastings. "What do you say to concluding that game of chess?"
Captain Koenig's reply was a fierce German imprecation.
"Come, Captain," said Lord Hastings, "don't let your temper run away with you. It is very foolish. Why, do you not remember how calmly I took my captivity?"
"You had something up your sleeve," growled Captain Koenig.
"Well, that's true," returned Lord Hastings, "and I'm glad that you haven't. Until we reach New York, Captain, you shall be kept under close guard here. If there is anything you want, please let me know."
Lord Hastings bowed and left the German commander to his own reflections.
Half an hour later, on deck, Frank again encountered Elizabeth Wheaton.
"It was splendid!" exclaimed the girl. "I am so sorry I doubted you in the first place."
"I guess it was only natural," said Frank, with a smile. "I guess I would have done as you did under the circumstances. How is your mother?"
"She is as happy as she can be. She says that she knew the American navy would look out for us."
"You might tell her," said Frank, with a smile, "that it was the British navy that pulled off this job, although I am an American. Lord Hastings and Mr. Templeton are British."
"I guess I won't tell her," laughed the girl. "It would spoil it for her. She thinks there is nothing like the American navy. But what are your duties now?"
"Well," said Frank, "I am the second officer of this ship, rank of lieutenant. Mr. Templeton is the first officer."
"Is that so?" asked the girl in some surprise. "You are so young for such an important position."
Frank turned red.
"I — I — I'm not so awfully young," he stammered.
"May be not," admitted Miss Wheaton, with a smile, "but I'll wager you are not over twenty."
"I'm nineteen," said Frank.
"Just a year older than I am," mused the girl, "and still, think of what a lot of excitement you have been through."
"Were you frightened during the fight?" asked Frank, changing the subject.
"Not a bit. I knew you would capture the ship. Mother wasn't frightened either, but some of the others were. It must have been terrible."
"It was," said Frank simply.
Frank took the bridge at 6 o'clock and Jack turned in. And, as the big ship sailed smoothly along during the long hours of the night, Frank gazed out over the deep with a strange sensation in his breast.
He was going back to his own country for the first time in more than three years. He had at this moment one thought in his mind.
"Maybe," he told himself over and over through the night, "maybe I shall have time to go home and see father!"
News of the capture of the German raider Vaterland had preceded the vessel into New York, having been flashed by wireless while the ship was still several days out. Therefore there was a large crowd on hand to see the Vaterland anchor in the North River. Lord Hastings surrendered the vessel to American naval authorities and then the officers, crew, erstwhile prisoners and German captives all went ashore.
Captain Koenig and his crew were taken in charge by the authorities and a few days later were sent to one of the big American internment camps in the south, where they would remain until the end of the war.
There was considerable cheering as Lord Hastings and his officers stepped ashore. The British commander dodged as much of this as possible and with Jack and Frank jumped into a taxicab and were driven to the Biltmore, where they registered and were assigned to a suite of rooms. There, Lord Hastings decided, they would remain pending instructions.
The successful capture of the Vaterland was flashed across the Atlantic to the British admiralty and a cable message of congratulations was received a short time later, together with orders for Lord Hastings to remain in New York until other orders reached him.
It was at the dinner table that evening that Frank asked Lord Hastings' permission to run home for a day or two. Lord Hastings assented readily, for he knew that Frank naturally was anxious to see his father.
"Why don't you take Jack with you?" he asked.
"I shall be glad to," replied Frank. "Do you want to go, Jack?"
"Sure," said the young Englishman. "I shall be glad."
"How about you, Lord Hastings?" questioned Frank. "I should like to have you go also."
"I appreciate your invitation," said Lord Hastings, with a smile, "but I thought I would run over to Washington and see the British ambassador. But you see if you can't bring your father back to New York with you, Frank. I should be more than pleased to see him."
"I'll see what I can do, sir," replied the lad.
Thus it was arranged. Jack and Frank took a train for Boston early the following morning and Lord Hastings caught a train for Washington.
"You should have sent your father a telegram, Frank," said Jack, as they left the train in Boston.
"I want to take him by surprise."
"Maybe he won't be home."
"By George! I hadn't thought of that. I guess he will be, though. He's usually home in the afternoon."
The boys took the elevated from the South station to the North station, where they found they could catch a train to Woburn, the town where Frank's father lived, in ten minutes.