THE BOY VOLUNTEERS SERIES
By KENNETH WARD
12mo. Cloth. Fully Illustrated 50c per Volume
THE NEWEST BOYS' BOOKS ON THE EUROPEAN WAR, RELATING THE ADVENTURES OF TWO AMERICAN BOYS AND THEIR EXPERIENCES IN BATTLE AND ON AIR SCOUT DUTY. ALL PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED WITH AUTHENTIC DRAWINGS.
The Boy Volunteers on the Belgian Front
Describes the adventures of two American boys who were in Europe when the great war commenced. Their enlistment with Belgian troops and their remarkable experiences are based upon actual occurrences and the book is replete with line drawings of fighting machines, air planes and maps of places where the most important battles took place and of other matters of interest.
The Boy Volunteers with the French Airmen
This book relates the further adventures of the young Americans in France, where they viewed the fighting from above the firing lines. From this book the reader gains considerable knowledge of the different types of air planes and battle planes used by the warring nations, as all descriptions are illustrated with unusually clear line drawings.
The Boy Volunteers with the British Artillery
How many boys to-day know anything about the great guns now being used on so many European battle fronts? Our young friends had the rare opportunity of witnessing, at first hand, a number of these terrific duels, and the story which is most fascinatingly told is illustrated with numerous drawings of the British, French and German field pieces.
The Boy Volunteers with the Submarine Fleet
Our young heroes little expected to be favored with so rare an experience as a trip under the sea in one of the great submarines. In this book the author accurately describes the submarine in action, and the many interesting features of this remarkable fighting craft are made clear to the reader by a series of splendid line drawings.
THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
THE BOY VOLUNTEERS WITH THE SUBMARINE FLEET
BY KENNETH WARD
THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY NEW YORK
Copyright, 1917, by AMERICAN AUTHORS PUBLISHING CO.
I. THE OMINOUS WARNING ON SHIPBOARD 13
II. THE TORPEDOED SHIP 25
III. PRISONERS ON BOARD OF A SUBMARINE 37
IV. THE TERRORS IN THE DARK ROOM OF AN UNDERSEA BOAT 49
V. SOME OF THE MYSTERIES OF A SUBMARINE 58
VI. GROPING THROUGH THE ENGLISH CHANNEL 68
VII. CAUGHT IN THE DEEP SEA NETS 78
VIII. THE NIGHT'S STRUGGLE TO FREE THE VESSEL 89
IX. THE CAPTURE OF THE SUBMERGED VESSEL 99
X. THE SECRET KEY TO THE BOMB FUSE 110
XI. OPERATING THE SUBMARINE WITH A CAPTIVE CREW 120
XII. THE DEATH BLOW TO THE SUBMARINE 130
XIII. THE RESCUE IN THE CHANNEL 142
XIV. TEN HOURS IN THE DANGER ZONE 151
XV. A FRIGHTFUL MINE EXPLOSION 161
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
An Explosion Followed That Seemed to Tear Everything to Pieces Frontispiece
The Points of the Compass 27
The Submarine Decoy 30
Map Showing the Scene of the Wanderings of the Boys 43
The Steel Nets 73
The Entangled Submarine 95
The Periscope 137
The Conning Tower. All That Could Be Seen of the Submarine 148
A Contact Mine 156
THE BOY VOLUNTEERS WITH THE SUBMARINE FLEET
THE OMINOUS WARNING ON SHIPBOARD
"Submarine two points to starboard, sir!" shouted a voice.
Instantly there was confusion; the captain sprang from the end of the bridge to the board behind the quartermaster and pushed a lever to the right.
"Ralph, come out quickly; the second officer has just shouted to the captain that a submarine is in sight," said Alfred, as he rushed into the reading room where Ralph was deeply engrossed in a book.
Ralph needed no second warning. Together with a dozen or more, who were in the room, he sprang to the door, and followed Alfred, who was now nearing the bridge.
"Can you see it?" asked Ralph excitedly.
"No; but they are pointing to the right; it seems as though we are turning around," responded Alfred.
"So we are," said Ralph. "There! what is that?" shouted Ralph, as he followed the direction pointed out by the second officer.
The captain gave another wrench to the wheel, and the ship straightened out on its course. All eyes were now directed to a point to the right, and astern, for the boat had described a half circle.
"Wait till I get the glasses," said Alfred, as he dived for the main companionway, and slid down the railing.
He was back in record time, followed by his father and mother, accompanied by Ralph's mother. Needless to say all were agitated, for they had been told on the morning of sailing that the trip might be a dangerous one, and it was only urgent business necessity that compelled Mr. Elton to take the risk.
"I can see something away back there, just like a trail of foam. I wonder whether that's what they are so excited about on the bridge?" questioned Alfred, as he lowered the glasses, and glanced up at the officers who were vigorously discussing the situation.
"Let me look," said Ralph, reaching for the glasses. He was silent for a few moments, then, handing the glasses to Mr. Elton, he continued: "There is something coming; see if you can make it out."
Mr. Elton gazed intently, and turned to his wife, as he said: "I am afraid that is a torpedo on the way now."
Nevertheless, he made the remark quietly; those around heard the warning, and the boys glanced at the bridge. The captain again moved the wheel, and the ship swerved.
"It is a torpedo," shouted Ralph. Every one leaned over the ship's side and waited, some with terror on their faces, others pale but calm. Two or three rushed for the companionway, and several fainted.
"It's going to miss! It's going to miss!" shouted Alfred. He turned around and waved his cap to the officers on the bridge, but they were too intent watching the submarine to notice the salutation. It was evident, however, from their actions that they had no immediate fear.
It was with a thrill that the two hundred passengers, who were lined up on the port side of the steamship, saw a foamy trail, one hundred feet distant, pass alongside their vessel, and disappear in the distance, far ahead.
"There comes another one," said a voice.
It was easy to distinguish the second peril, and it seemed to come straight and true. The ship veered slightly from its course, and breathlessly the passengers watched the trail. On, on it came. The vessel again slightly changed its course, and this time the torpedo went wide of the mark.
"Now, for the next one," said Alfred.
"Ah! we are now too far ahead, and going too fast for them. Even if the submarine comes to the surface it cannot possibly catch us," said the navigating officer, who passed along and quieted the anxious ones.
Thus, for the time being, they escaped, but the vigilance was greater than ever. They would be in the danger zone for twelve hours more.
* * * * *
Two and a half years previous to this time, Mr. and Mrs. Elton, accompanied by their son Alfred, Mrs. Elton's sister, and her son Ralph, were traveling through Europe, and happened to be in Germany when war was declared. The boys, together with Mr. Elton's chauffeur, were on their way to Antwerp with their car, and were pursued by the Germans as they were entering Belgium territory.
Their car was requisitioned by the Belgium government, and as the German forces entered Belgium south of Liege, they were cut off from reaching Antwerp. In the effort to make their way across the country the two boys met the Belgian forces, and were in the first battle, which was fought between the Germans and Belgians. They took part in the defense of Belgian territory with the Belgian forces, from Liege, to Louvain, Aerschott, and Malines, until the city of Antwerp was besieged, and were among the last to leave when the Belgians evacuated that place.
They were fortunate enough, however, to reach French territory with the bulk of the Belgian army, and arrived at Dunkirk, on the Channel, during that period when the British were sending over the first forces to resist the invasion of France.
The second day they visited the hangars where the British were setting up their aircraft and training the recruits for the aviation service. While approaching the grounds they were the witnesses of an accident to one of the flyers, who made a disastrous landing near them, and they were prompt enough to lift the machine from one of the men, which saved his life.
This incident was the changing point in their career, for they then determined to enter the aviation corps, if possible. Despite their efforts, they were not able to succeed, at this time, and as the father of Alfred had sent word to them to meet him in Paris, they regretfully worked their way to that city, only to learn, on arriving, that Mr. Elton was not permitted to leave Germany.
By an accidental circumstance they went to Bar-le-Duc, in eastern France, and visited the aviation grounds there. Having made themselves useful, they were favored with the privilege of making ascensions, and were instructed in the handling of the trial machines on the grounds.
On one occasion they were aloft with Lieutenant Guyon, who, owing to heart troubles, fainted while at a high altitude, and the boys brought the machine down safely. Thereafter, the lieutenant was their constant friend, and when the corps moved to Verdun they were regularly enrolled as members, and subsequently became engaged in many exciting flights. While on a scouting operation with their friend, several German machines appeared and a battle followed in which the machine was injured, and during the descent both boys were wounded.
The lieutenant was caught in the wreckage, as the machine finally plunged to earth, and within a week died of his wounds. The boys were heart-broken at his death, and after a week at the base hospital were transferred to the American hospital in Paris. After recovery they were regularly discharged from the service, and started for home.
On their way to the Channel they became interested in the artillery branch and happened to take part in the first great French drive in the Somme region and later were with the British artillery when it began its great fight against the Germans in the region west of Bapaume.
It was there that Alfred's parents and Ralph's mother learned of their whereabouts, and, through the kindly offices of the American ambassador, were permitted to visit the battery where the boys were stationed, and where they finally prevailed upon them to accompany them home.
They sailed from Bordeaux early in the morning of the same day that the events took place which we have just related. On the day of sailing the thrilling news reached France that President Wilson had given the German minister his passports, and while such an act does not, ordinarily, mean war, the strained relations between the United States and Germany made it probable that war would follow.
As stated, Mr. Elton's business compelled him to sail, notwithstanding the danger, and they now found themselves within the danger zone prescribed by the German authorities, for, as they were sailing on a ship belonging to one of the belligerent nations, they knew that it was a prey for any submarine and subject to be sunk without warning.
Although instructions of a general nature had been issued by the captain after the vessel left port, he called the passengers together immediately after the excitement attending the appearance of the submarine had died away, and addressed them as follows:
"For the next twelve or fifteen hours we shall be in the danger zone, and it is imperative that each of you should at all times carry a life belt. I impress this on you not for the purpose of creating alarm, but because I know that people become careless. The officers will give full instructions to all of you as to the way the belts should be worn, so there will be no confusion at the last moment.
"And now, another thing, which you must remember. More lives are lost through undue excitement than from the real danger, in case of trouble. We are here for the purpose of giving due warning and assistance, and every man in the ship's crew will be faithful to his duty. Do not rush about and become excited, because that unduly alarms those about you, I will give you ample warning. Five short blasts on the ship's whistle will call you to the boats. When you hear that go to your cabins quickly, seize such clothing as you have prepared for such an event, and if you have not strapped on the life belt do so at once.
"It should be the first duty of the men to aid the women and children, see that the belts are properly put on, and assist them to the deck. Once there, go as quickly as possible to the davits and await orders, for the officers and men will be there to direct and take charge of the passengers. Should the boat be so badly hit that it is impossible for all the passengers to get into the boat before the vessel goes down, the men must see to it that every one goes overboard and clears the ship's side.
"Many women will, even in this extremity, refuse to jump overboard without their husbands, but in such cases there must be no hesitancy on the part of the men. Do not argue, but push them overboard, and the life belts will hold them in position in the water until the waiting boats can rescue them. There will be no danger of drowning under those conditions, but be sure to jump as far from the vessel as possible."
It was not such a speech as tended to relieve nervousness, but it certainly made every one within hearing very thoughtful. Women, and men, as well, turned white, and many of them timidly examined the tiny life belts which were handed out.
"It seems that we get into trouble wherever we go," said Alfred, not in a spirit of alarm, however, but more because he felt a deep concern for his father and mother.
"Oh, Ralph, isn't this terrible!" said his mother, as she came forward.
"It certainly is; but this is something like the experiences we have had for over two years, and it doesn't make it seem so bad;—do you think so?" he added, addressing Alfred.
"I wouldn't be at all worried, Auntie," responded Alfred. "Here comes mother; I hope she is not broken up or worried."
"No," replied Mrs. Elton. "It is dreadful, but it is no worse for us than for others. I am glad the captain spoke as plainly as he did. We must understand and do our duty."
"Now, Mother, you and Auntie go to the ladies' room and stay there. If anything happens we will know where to find you," said Ralph.
"But I want you to come and stay with us," replied Mrs. Elton.
"We cannot do that," replied Alfred. "We have fine glasses and every one should be on the watch. It takes a great many eyes to see in all directions."
"Alfred is right," said Mr. Elton. "I will remain with you; but do not be alarmed for the present."
"Wait until I get my binoculars," said Ralph, as he rushed down to the cabin.
He was up at once, and together they ran forward to the bridge, as the second officer descended.
"Can we be of service to you in any way?" said Alfred, pointing to their glasses.
"Indeed, you can," said the officer.
At that moment the captain, leaning over the rail of the bridge, shouted: "Come up, boys; those are the right kind of weapons. We ought to have dozens more of the same kind."
The boys fairly stumbled up the steep, narrow ladder that led to the bridge.
"At your service," said Ralph.
The captain smiled, as he said: "Take positions at the end of the bridge."
The boys walked across to the other side, and Ralph elevated his glasses.
A moment later the captain, in his walk to and fro, stopped before the boys. "You have evidently had occasion to use the binoculars before, but probably not while at sea," he observed.
"No," replied Ralph; "we used them in flying machines and while serving in the artillery, but this is really the first opportunity we have had to use them on shipboard."
"Then a little instruction will be of service to you and to all of us," said the captain. "I noticed that you were sweeping the sea to the rear. That is not necessary, for at our speed a torpedo boat would not be able to catch us. All your time should be devoted to scanning that quadrant from straight ahead to a point but a little astern of your left quarter, as it is from that section, and the corresponding section on the right side of the vessel that we expect the enemy; do you understand what I mean?"
"I think so," replied Ralph. "But suppose a submarine should be well ahead of us and submerge, and then wait until we have passed. In that case couldn't it again come up and send a torpedo into the stern of the ship?"
"That might be possible, but not probable. A submarine is absolutely in the dark when completely submerged," said the captain. "It must come to the surface sufficiently near to bring its periscope out of the water, and that would reveal its presence to us. It would be a pretty hard job for a navigator in a submarine to calculate when the boat had passed sufficiently near to know the opportune time to come to the surface and give us the shot."
"But couldn't they come near enough to take a chance? They might come up 500 feet away or 2,000. At either distance they could land a torpedo, couldn't they?" asked Alfred.
"Quite true; but the submarine might not know whether we were armed or not, and it would not take the risk of exposure in that reckless manner," replied the captain.
"But we are not armed, are we?" asked Ralph.
"No; our guns will be ready for us on the return trip," answered the captain. After a moment he continued: "Let me also give you a hint as to the particular manner of using the glasses to get a correct view. Do not attempt to take in the entire field at one sweep. Sight at a point near the ship, say at a distance of a quarter of a mile; then slowly raise the glasses so that your view grows more and more distant and finally the focal point reaches the horizon. Then turn a point to the right or to the left, and bring down the forward end of the glasses until the view is again concentrated on the point nearest the ship."
"That is something like making observations on a flying machine," replied Alfred, "only in that case the glass is held stationary, as the machine moves along, and in that way objects can be seen much better than by sweeping it around continuously. We learned that from Lieutenant Guyon."
"Quite true; I see you are well qualified to observe. But to continue: after you have thus made the first observation as I have explained, the glasses should be held horizontally to take in the view at the horizon, and then swept around at that angle to the right or to the left, depressing it at each swing. That is called sweeping the sea."
"I know two men who have glasses," said Ralph. "Shall I get them?"
"Yes, if you can; this is the kind of service which is appreciated," said the captain.
Ralph sprang down the ladder, and ran along the deck. He was absent for some time, but soon appeared with two men.
"Come on," said Ralph, as he ascended the ladder. The men hesitated for a moment, and followed, as an officer appeared and invited them to come up.
THE TORPEDOED SHIP
During the next hour or more every field glass on board ship was put into use, and many were the weary arms that used them until the luncheon hour arrived at one o'clock. The captain, knowing how trying the constant watching must be to civilians who are not used to this work, appointed two watches, so they might relieve each other every hour.
The boys went to the dining room, and as Mr. Elton and his family sat at the captain's table, the latter took occasion during the meal to refer to Ralph and Alfred's services on the bridge in commendatory terms, which was greatly appreciated by their parents.
"I am curious to know," said Ralph, "what the officer meant when he said 'two points to starboard.'"
"That is explained in this way," replied the captain. "The compass is divided into thirty-two points, or eight points in each quadrant."
"I remember you spoke about a quadrant when we were on the bridge. What is a quadrant?" asked Alfred.
"I should have said, in the beginning, that the compass is divided into four parts, one line running, we will say, east and west, and the other line north and south. In that way there are four cardinal points. You will understand, therefore, that from the north cardinal point to the east cardinal point, which represents one quadrant, are eight points, and so on, from the cardinal point east to south, are eight more points," responded the captain.
"Then when the officer said 'two points to starboard,' did he mean two points from one of the cardinal points?" asked Ralph.
"No, he had reference to two points from the line ahead, or for the time being, he took the line upon which we were traveling, as one of the cardinal lines, and when he said two points he described a line which was just one-fourth of the distance around the circle or quadrant to the east," answered the captain.
"Then we might say that the keel of the ship is one of the cardinal lines, and the bridge, which runs across the ship is the other line?" asked Alfred.
"That is a very homely and plain way of putting it," replied the captain.
An hour thereafter, while the boys were on the bridge, they noticed the first signs of excitement on the part of the officers. A message had been handed the captain a few moments before. Of course, all were curious to know the news it contained, but no one seemed to be bold enough to ask any questions.
As the second watch appeared at the bridge the boys descended and rejoined their parents. A voice was heard outside summoning the passengers on deck. They were ranged along the deck house, and the second officer appeared.
"I wish to make an announcement, and give further instructions. In order that there may be no confusion, in the event the enemy should attack us and compel the passengers to take to the boats, I am going to assign places to all of you, so that the moment you hear the five bells you will know where to go, ready to man the boats. Now, notice the numbers on the boats, which you see are swung out on the davits ready to be launched. Be particular to note where your boat is located, and its number. When you come up the companionway from your cabin, fix in your mind whether your own boat is on the right or on the left side; some are liable to become confused in coming up.
"Boat No. 1; Mr. Elton, how many are in your party?"
"Five," was the answer.
"Then three more will be assigned; Mr. Wardlaw, wife and daughter; that will complete the first boat. No. 2," continued the officer, as he made the assignments. This was continued until the entire list was completed.
Four seamen were then designated for each of the boats, and the steward was directed to prepare emergency food for the different boats, and by direct orders the food was actually placed in the boats.
It was really with a sigh of relief from the suspense that the boys awaited the signal for their term of duty on the bridge. They were in their places instantly, and seized the glasses. It was now four o'clock in the afternoon. They were moving toward the setting sun. The sky was free of clouds and the ocean fairly smooth. It was an ideal sea for observation. The boys were on the port or left side of the ship.
"Ralph," said Alfred under his breath, as he moved toward Ralph, and laid his hand on his arm, without lowering his glasses, "look over there! there!—two or three points,——"
"I see it,—yes,—Captain, what is that, a half-mile off to the left?" interrupted Ralph.
The captain shot a glance in the direction indicated. "Three points to port!" he said, as he sprang to the wheel and gave a signal to the engineer. As he came back to the point of observation, he said:
"Young eyes are very sharp. You have beaten the watch on the top mast."
The officer in charge of the telephone beckoned to the captain. The latter rushed over, and the boys saw him nod.
"How far are they from us?" asked Alfred.
"Two miles," was the answer.
"Two miles!" said Ralph in astonishment. "Why, I thought I was stretching it when I said a half mile."
"To be more exact, the range finder in the crow's nest makes the distance 10,980 feet," said the captain.
"Well, they can't hit us at that distance," said Ralph, "can they?"
"No; we can easily avoid that fellow, but he may have appeared as a ruse," said the captain, glancing to starboard, with an anxious air.
The first officer standing near, although intently watching the submarine in the distance, remarked: "It is now the custom for two or more of the undersea boats to operate in unison; the one we are now looking at may be a decoy."
"What do you mean by 'decoy'" asked Ralph, in astonishment. "Is it likely that they would expect us to steer right into them?"
"No; their idea is to have one of the submarines show up in front, knowing that the intercepted vessel will turn to avoid it. Then the other submarine, with nothing but its periscope above the water, and on the other side of the sailing course of the ship, will be in position, the moment the turn is made, to deliver the shot. That is why the captain has gone to the other side, as you will notice the vessel is now going to starboard," said the officer.
The ship had now turned so that it was broadside to the distant submarine. Not only its conning tower was now visible, but a long black object fore and aft could be plainly observed.
"Three points to port!" shouted the captain.
The quartermaster swung the wheel around, and the ship seemed to heel over, so suddenly did the rudder act.
"One point to starboard, and full speed ahead!" was the next order from the captain.
It seemed that the order had no more than been executed than he again sang out:
"Two points to port!"
"What is that for?" asked Alfred.
"He is zig-zagging the ship through the sea," replied the officer.
"What for?" inquired Ralph.
"There is another submarine three points to starboard astern."
"Then,—then the captain,——"
"Yes; the one behind us is near enough to reach us if we keep on a straight course, but the captain has manoeuvered so as to bring him directly in our wake, and continually changed the target so that the submarine cannot aim with accuracy," interrupted the officer.
The passengers on the decks below did not need to be told that something unusual was happening. The changing course of the ship, the unusual activity on the bridge, the leveling of the glasses to the port side and to the stern by the different groups, were sufficient warnings of the presence of the dread monsters.
The submarine on the port side was now coming forward with all the speed it possessed, and again the captain turned the ship another point to starboard. The funnels were belching smoke, and sparks flying from the top. The engineers were putting on forced draft and the ship seemed to be trembling as it shot through the smooth sea. It was an ideal condition for the launching of a torpedo.
"Torpedo coming on starboard side!" shouted a voice.
Every one now rushed to the right side of the bridge. There was a shriek below. From an unexpected quarter the third submarine's periscope was visible, and a foamy trail, straight as a mark, began to lengthen out toward their vessel.
"Reverse! Reverse engines!" shouted the captain. The order was executed, but too late. The trail came nearer and grew broader. Some of the passengers put their hands over their eyes, others stood like fixed statues. The captain placed his hand to his brow, but quickly turned.
"Order the men to the boat!" he said in a quiet voice, as he stepped forward and seized the handle of the boat's whistle.
No sooner had the order been given when a terrific crash followed. The bridge seemed to have been seized with a giant hand and it vibrated with an intense force. A hundred feet from the stern of the ship a great mass of water shot upward and fragments of the deck were hoisted up and scattered around.
The ship at first swayed to port and then quickly swung back to starboard, but did not again roll back to port. The captain shook his head. There was a perceptible list in the position of the ship.
"Take your position in the boats!" he shouted to the men on the bridge, and as he did so he quickly pulled the lever,—one, two, three, four, five.
By the time the last blast sounded the seamen were at the boats assigned to them. The engines had stopped. The passengers, all except those who had fainted, had left the deck. Ralph and Alfred made a dash for the waiting room. Their parents were not there. Down they went to the cabins, passing on the way the crowded hallways and the unutterable confusion which resulted from the order to hurriedly leave the ship.
They found their parents in the cabin, and, due to the forethought of Mr. Elton, the lifebuoys had been adjusted, and their valuables secured beforehand. Others, however, were not so fortunate. Across the way were several women and children.
"Let me help you," said Alfred, as he entered the first cabin. "I will take care of the baby," he remarked, as he picked it up, while the mother was almost frantic.
"I will take the other one," shouted Ralph.
"We can't stop here another minute," said Alfred. "Do you see how the ship is leaning over?"
"Come on, Mother," cried Ralph; "follow us or we may not be able to go up the stairs."
Alfred crowded close behind Ralph, and Mr. Elton assisted the two women along the passageway. All arrived on deck, the boys with the two children in their arms.
"Where is No. 8?" "I can't find No. 9," said another. "What has become of the girl?" shrieked one; "Are we going to turn over?" asked a trembling voice. The officers were going to and fro, mingling with the passengers.
"What is your boat number?" asks one officer. "This way; that is the place you are assigned to."
Mr. Elton and his party reached No. 1 without accident, and all but the boys were safely placed in the boat.
"Come on, boys," said Mr. Elton. "But where is the mother of the children?" he asked, as he saw the boys were unaccompanied.
"Take the baby," said Alfred, as he passed it to his mother.
Ralph handed the little girl to one of the seamen, and sprang after Alfred. There was now a dangerous list, and Mrs. Elton noticed it.
"Is there any danger if our boys go below to the stateroom?" she asked the petty officer, who was holding the rope connected with the tackle of their boat.
"She'll have to sway over a great deal further to go down," he remarked.
This comforted her for the moment. Passengers were still coming up from the companionways; some were being dragged along, and others acted like drunken men and women. It was a terribly trying sight.
An old man shambled forward as he emerged from the cabin door, glanced along at the filled boats held in the davit, tried to speak, and fell headlong on the deck. A surgeon near by rushed up, turned him over, felt of his heart and pulse, shook his head, and drew the body close up to the side of the cabin wall. Then the officer made a search to ascertain the name of the man, and extracted papers from his pockets.
Meanwhile, the boys had not returned, and the ship was turning over on its side more and more.
"Launch the boats!" ordered the captain.
"But our boys! our boys!" shrieked Ralph's mother, but as she arose she was forcibly restrained. The captain did not hear, and at the command the boats went down. Even then a half-dozen passengers emerged from the door too late, and one of them, notwithstanding the warning, was without a life belt.
The ship's deck was now at an angle of fully thirty degrees,—as steep as the ordinary roof. Those emerging from the cabin on the port side could not maintain a footing, but were compelled to slide down to the side railing. This was the situation when Ralph and Alfred reached the door which led to the deck from the companionway. They were carrying the woman whose children they had rescued, as she was in a frenzy, and struggled with the boys. The moment the inclined deck was reached Alfred said:
"See that she goes overboard, and I will go down for that little girl," and he crawled back into the ship.
Ralph finally succeeded in loosening the woman's hold, and together they slid down the deck. The woman was now uncontrollable. She threw her arms about wildly, and cried for her children. Ralph pointed to the boats below, but this did not quiet her. Taking advantage of the moment when both hands were free, Ralph, by a terrific effort, pushed her across the railing, and, with a loud shriek, she shot downward.
Ralph looked around, and caught a momentary sight of his parents in the boat below. Mrs. Elton was calling for Alfred. Ralph nodded his head and tried to crawl back up the inclined deck, but it was useless. An arm then appeared through the door opening, then a head, and he knew it must be Alfred.
"Can't you help me up?" shouted Ralph.
Alfred disengaged himself and extended his body down along the deck. This enabled Ralph to seize hold of his legs and draw himself up into the doorway.
Once there he saw the trouble that Alfred had to contend with. Lying half-way up the stairs was a poor cripple, half dead with fright, and the little girl, not much better. Laboriously, he had assisted, first one and then the other, and was about exhausted when Ralph came to the rescue.
PRISONERS ON BOARD OF A SUBMARINE
The captain was still on deck, together with the first officer, both of them being at that time on the upper side of the vessel. They made the most careful examination of the staterooms and searched every corner to be sure that no one lingered behind. Coming forward they witnessed the struggles of the boys with the cripple and the girl, but the ship was now too far over on its side to permit them to render assistance.
The cripple was soon brought to the door, and, without ceremony, pushed down the incline. The little girl followed, but before the boys could reach the railing the poor cripple slipped over the railing and disappeared. The boys held the child aloft for a moment, and then dropped her into the waves.
"Jump as far as you can!" shouted the captain.
Ralph placed a foot on the railing, and, looking back at Alfred, said: "Here goes! Come on!"
Both boys landed at almost the same time. The little girl was aroused by the cold water, and was wildly floundering about, but the cripple lay upon the surface of the water, with face upturned, limp and still. They glanced about; where were the boats? They could not be far away.
"I am afraid he's done for," said Alfred, as he glanced toward the cripple.
"Well, we might as well stay near him; he might be all right," replied Ralph.
"Move away from the ship quickly," said a voice in the water, not far away.
It was the captain. He was the last one to dive, after he had seen every passenger safely off the ship.
"We have no time to lose; take care of yourselves; I will help the little girl," he continued, as he threw the child on his back, and began to strike out.
The sea had been calm up to this time, but no sooner had the captain ceased speaking than a tremendous wave almost engulfed them; they seemed to be carried up, and then were forced down by a giant swell. Another wave followed and then another, until, finally, the oscillations of the waves seemed to be growing less and less.
"Where is the ship?" cried Alfred.
"She's gone down; that's what made the waves," said the captain.
The cripple's hand was raised up, and his eyes began to roll.
"This fellow's all right, after all," said Ralph. "I'll help him. I wonder where the boats are?"
The sun, which was going down while all this had been taking place, had now disappeared, and there was that gray, lead-like appearance on the waves that comes just before twilight.
"Keep up your courage, boys; we shall soon have plenty of boats looking for us," said the captain.
Within less than a minute thereafter two boats could be seen bobbing up and down not far away, heading straight for those in the water. Ralph was the first one caught by the strong arm of a seaman, and then the little girl, now fully recovered from her fright, received the care of a woman in the boat.
Alfred assisted the cripple into the other boat, and the captain ordered all the passengers transferred to the boat which had just come up.
The boys then noticed that only three seamen remained, together with the captain and first officer.
"You may remain with us," said the captain, addressing Ralph and Alfred.
This was, indeed, a compliment to them, which was appreciated.
"I know father, mother and auntie are all right," said Alfred. "Do you think they saw us get off?" he added anxiously.
"They were standing by when you jumped, but when the ship made the last lurch, just before she went down the seamen knew that they must pull away to avoid being sucked under. It might have been too dark for them actually to have seen you get away, at the distance they were from the ship, but I don't think they will expect to see us before morning."
"Why, do you intend to stay here all night?" asked Ralph.
"No, but each boat crew has had instructions to make for the nearest port, as rapidly as possible," replied the captain.
"Where are we now?" asked Alfred.
"In the Bay of Biscay, about one hundred and fifty miles from the nearest land," answered the captain.
"How long will it take us to reach land?" asked Ralph.
"Possibly two days, or more; that depends on the weather and the conditions in the bay. This is the most turbulent body of water anywhere on the Atlantic coast line, but it has been remarkably smooth during the past twenty-four hours," answered the captain.
"What is the name of the place that we are heading for?" asked Ralph.
"St. Nazaire; a French town at the mouth of the river Loire," was the reply.
It was now quite dark, and a haze prevented the occupants of the boat from making any observation of the stars, hence the sailing, or rather, the rowing, had to be conducted by compass entirely, the order being given by the captain to steer east by north, a term which indicates that the course was exactly two points north of a line running due east and west.
Three miles an hour at the outside, would be considered good speed. Sails would have been useless without a wind, and there was not the slightest breeze, but about midnight there was an apparent rocking in the little boat that indicated a wind. Occasionally, there would be a jerk, as the boat would be thrown from one side to the other. The captain was awake and alert, but the boys were lying in the bottom of the vessel near the stern.
It was a trying, weary night, and when the sun arose the sea was one panorama of short, choppy waves. The seamen were tired with rowing, and it was evident that no great effort was being made to hurry the boat along.
"It does seem to me that the sun is coming up on the wrong side this morning," remarked Alfred, as they were partaking of the food prepared and stowed in the boat's lockers.
"I imagine you are turned around somewhat," replied the captain. "The wind is now coming from the east, and you see the sun almost ahead of us. We are being carried west faster than the rowers can take us eastward, hence we are practically standing still, or rather going back, and they are now merely holding the boat so as to give us steerage way and prevent us from going into the troughs between the waves."
"Have you sighted either of the other boats?" asked Alfred.
"No; but one of the men observed a light at two this morning, three points to starboard, which was, possibly, one of our companions, but since that time we have searched the seas fruitlessly," answered the captain.
"I don't know why it is that if all of the boats steer to the same point that they should be scattered in this way," said Alfred. "Can you explain it, Captain?"
"It would not be so if in the open sea, or in mid-ocean; there they would be likely to keep together, or not separated more than three or four miles; but it is quite another thing in this great bay," replied the captain.
"Why should it be different here?" asked Ralph.
"If you will take a map of the western part of Europe, you will notice three great projecting headlands, or points on the western shore of the continent of Europe, namely, Iceland, in the north, and the Spanish peninsula in the south. Midway between you will notice Ireland and the British Isles. The great Gulf stream comes down from the north, passes Iceland, that is one branch, hugs the coast of Ireland, and strikes the point of land which projects out northwesterly from the main Spanish land, so that a sort of maelstrom is set up in the bay."
"How far are we from that point of land?" asked Ralph.
"About two hundred miles northeast; and I may also say that we are just about in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, and at that point where the sea is always more quiet than at any other part," answered the captain.
"Ship to starboard, sir," sang out the forward watch.
The captain turned to the right and, after a brief glance, lowered his hand. The boys looked at him in wonder. Evidently the sight of the vessel did not give him pleasure. It was a low-lying craft, with two short masts.
"That looks like a submarine," shouted Ralph.
"You are right," replied the captain.
The submarine was coming forward rapidly, and within fifteen minutes it was within hailing distance. They now had an opportunity to examine the ugly thing with the long black back and the conning tower midway between the ends.
"Are those the periscopes?" asked Alfred. "I didn't know they carried two of them."
"That is the practice now," said one seamen.
The submarine came straight toward them, then sheered off and stopped alongside less than thirty feet from the boat. One of the seamen tossed a rope, which was grasped by a marine on the undersea boat, and in that manner they were drawn close up to the side of the submarine.
An officer now came forward, and in French invited the captain to step aboard. There was a broad smile on the officer's face, as he recognized the captain of the vessel which they had torpedoed the night before. With a respectful bow he requested the captain to turn over the ship's papers. The captain was, of course, powerless, but he refused to do so on the plea that he did not have them with him.
"Search the boat!" commanded the officer to several of his crew.
The captain was about to go back to his boat when the officer remarked:
"We prefer the pleasure of your company for the present, sir."
The captain folded his arms, and stood straight before the officer, as two marines jumped into the boat, and began the search. Eventually, a leather case was found, on which was inscribed the ship's name. It was tossed up to the officer, who, after receiving it, entered the conning tower, where he remained for some time.
When he reappeared he said: "I shall have to detain you," and, glancing down into the boat, continued: "The two young men in the stern will also come aboard."
The boys were astounded at this new turn of affairs. Slowly they arose, and stepped on the narrow platform which projected out from the side of the submarine.
"There may be some reason why you should wish to detain me, but there is no excuse for making these young men prisoners; they are Americans returning home, and cannot be considered as belligerents," said the captain.
The lieutenant looked at the captain and turned his gaze on the boys a few moments before replying: "In what business were they engaged while on the continent?"
The captain started slightly, while the officer toyed with his mustache, and peered at the boys.
"We haven't engaged in any particular business on the continent," said Ralph.
"No; flying isn't engaging in any business, is it?" inquired the officer.
"Well," said Alfred, "we took part in the Red Cross service, were with the infantry, served a time with the flying corps, then had a little experience with the transportation service, helped them out in the artillery, and did the best we could everywhere we went, if that's what you wish to know."
The officer gave the boys a cynical glance, and nodded to one of the marines. The latter stepped forward and began searching the boys, Ralph being the first to undergo the ordeal; several letters, a few trinkets, a knife and a purse, containing all the boy possessed, were removed. The coat when thrown back revealed a cross, suspended by a ribbon, the decoration which had been bestowed on the boys after their last flight at Verdun.
Alfred handed over the contents of his pockets. The German officer glanced at the medals, and made another motion. The seamen then pushed them into the conning tower and the boys saw a narrow flight of stairs to which they were directed, the captain following.
Down into the bowels of a submarine! A warm, peculiar, oily odor greeted them as they descended, but the air was not at all unpleasant and breathing was easy. Glancing about they saw confused masses of mechanism, tanks, pipes, valves, levers, wheels, clock-faced dial plates and other contrivances, all huddled together, with barely room to pass from one place to another. Electric bulbs were everywhere visible, lighting up the interior.
Suddenly there was a slight tremor in the vessel, indicating that some machinery was in motion. Once at the bottom they stood there until the seaman stepped forward and opened a small door through which there was barely room to pass, and he motioned them to enter. They did so, and found themselves in a compartment which did not seem to be more than five by six feet in size, and even in this small space mechanism was noticed. The moment the door closed they were in total darkness.
"This is a nice place to get into," said Ralph.
"I wonder if they are going to keep us cooped up like this without a light?" said Alfred.
After an interval of ten minutes a rumbling was heard, which continued, a rhythmic motion followed in unison with the sounds generated by the machinery.
"That is the propeller," said the captain.
Voices were heard occasionally, but words could not be distinguished. Confined as they were the air seemed to be pure and in abundance at all times, and while there was not the faintest signs of closeness, there was an eternal monotony,—an existence in which there was nothing to do but breathe and think.
How long they were thus confined, without a single thing to break the stillness, they could not conceive. It seemed that hours had gone by, during which time there was nothing to disturb them, except the one steady whirr, broken occasionally by some remark by one or the other.
Then came an unexpected hum of voices; the machinery seemed to stop for a moment, and when it was again continued it had a different melody. The wheels, if such they were, seemed to turn with smoothness, and they felt a sudden inclination in the seats on which they were sitting.
"What do you suppose has happened?" asked Ralph.
"The electric mechanism has been hitched to the propeller, and, if I am not mistaken, we are going down," said the captain.
"It did feel as though the forward end dipped down a moment ago," said Alfred.
Another wait for a half-hour, and then a most peculiar sound reached their ears. Simultaneously, the ship seemed to stop and go on. Again voices were heard, and the same reaction in the hull of the submarine was felt, accompanied by the dull noise, as before.
"They have just fired two torpedoes," said the captain.
THE TERRORS IN THE DARK ROOM OF AN UNDERSEA BOAT
Imagine yourself locked in a compartment, barely large enough to stretch yourself out straight, in a ship under the sea, in total darkness, knowing that should any one of the hundreds of things within that ship go wrong, it would mean a plunge to the bottom of the sea, beyond the help of all human aid.
The danger to them was just as great while on the surface of the water, for the guns mounted on most vessels at this time, would make the submarine a legitimate prey. One shot would be sufficient, for ingenuity has not yet found a way to quickly stop a leak in a submarine. Such a vessel, when once struck, dare not dive, for that would quickly fill the interior of the vessel with water.
It must, in that case, remain afloat, subject to the hail of shot which must follow, their only salvation in that event would be to hoist the white flag. Few, if any submarine commanders have done so, and even should that occur, it would not prevent the hull from being riddled before the fact could be made known. The three-inch guns mounted on most of the merchantmen, with an effective range of three miles, could tear the weak hull of a submarine to pieces at a single shot, and all would be sure to go down before help could arrive from the attacking steamer.
"The machinery seems to go very slow now," remarked Ralph.
"They may be cautiously coming to the top," replied the captain.
"Did you hear that peculiar noise?" said Alfred, as he laid his hand on the captain's arm.
"That was plainly a shot from a ship," said the captain.
"Do you think we could hear firing through all this metal?" asked Ralph.
"Much easier than if we were on deck," answered the captain.
"Why do you think so?" asked Alfred.
"Because water is a better conductor of sound than air," was the reply.
"Do you mean that we can hear it better than if the sound came through the air?" queried Alfred.
"The sound can be heard not only much plainer, but also much sooner than through the air," answered the captain.
"I think we are going down again," remarked Ralph.
"No doubt of it," answered the captain quietly.
"Do you think they have hit us?" eagerly inquired Ralph.
The captain did not reply. Alfred reached his hand forward and grasped the captain's hand. "You needn't fear to tell us if you think we are going down for the last time."
"You are a brave boy!" said the captain. "I do not know what to answer. I have never been on a submarine when it was struck by a bullet; but it seemed to me as though something struck our shell, and if it did there is no help for us, for the devils would gloat on our misery, and would not think of liberating us, to give us a chance for our lives."
Fifteen minutes elapsed before the captain continued: "This gives me some hope."
"What is it?" quickly inquired Ralph.
"We are still on an even keel," was the answer.
"Does that mean that we are safe?" asked Alfred.
"Yes, if the shell of the submarine had been pierced, and we were really going down it would not be long before the hull would lose its equipoise and turn around, or it might stand on end, due to the distribution of water throughout the interior," was the reply.
"I understand now," said Alfred. "You think we are still floating, but do you think we are on the surface?"
"We are, undoubtedly, submerged, for it is evident that the smooth motion of the propeller comes from the electric motors and not from the internal combustion engines, which are used solely while running on the surface," remarked the captain.
After hours more of interminable waiting, they heard a noise close at hand. With something like a snap the door opened and a flood of light streamed into their compartment from the electric bulbs without, and, looking up, they saw, at the ceiling of their room, a small electric bulb.
"Why is it we didn't hunt for that?" whispered Ralph, looking up.
"But I can't see any way to turn it on," said Alfred.
"That lights only from the outside," said the attendant. "Here is something to eat," he continued in English.
"What time is it?" asked the captain.
"Half past one o'clock," was the reply.
They had been in that cramped prison pen five hours.
"Did you torpedo another ship?" queried the captain.
"We tried to; but a torpedo boat destroyer came up too close," he answered.
"How many shots did it fire?" asked Ralph.
"Two," was the laconic reply.
"How long have we been submerged?"
"Two hours," answered the man. "As I came down the report from the periscope showed a clear sea, and we are now about to resume surface travel and repair one of the periscopes."
The boys glanced at each other and at the captain.
"Yes," remarked the captain, "that was a pretty close call."
The attendant left them without closing the door, and as the prisoners glanced about, nothing was to be seen of the stairway which led to the conning tower. Men were noticed at work, each being stationed at some particular machine or set of machinery. Then, with a bang, something like a trap door swung aside and the stairway was revealed, and a peculiar light streamed in through the hatch opening.
"It's the sun," said Ralph, in ecstacy.
"I never thought we'd see that again," said Alfred, almost overcome.
"May we walk around?" asked the captain, as he approached an under officer.
"There isn't much chance for exercising here," was the reply, "but I think you will be given top liberty after awhile," replied the man.
"Will they let us go?" asked Ralph eagerly.
"No; he didn't say that; he meant they would give us liberty to walk on the top deck for a short time," replied the captain.
Shortly thereafter the lieutenant in command of the submarine appeared at the foot of the hatchway and informed the captain that they were at liberty to ascend. Never did the sun appear to be more beautiful or inviting, although there was a perceptible chill in the atmosphere. The submarine was moving along at a speed of twelve knots an hour. Four men were engaged in taking down a bent and partially ruptured periscope tube.
The captain glanced at it and drew the attention of the boys to its structure. It was the tall periscope that received the shot, which struck it about four feet from the top.
"It must have been hit on the water line," said the captain, addressing the lieutenant.
The latter merely nodded, but made no remarks in response.
They were permitted to walk to and fro for an hour, when the order came to descend, and they again entered their prison. As before, they were subjected to total darkness, but there was no necessity for this deprivation, and it is not clear why an enemy should treat prisoners in this manner, for such actions necessarily leave only resentments and do no good whatever.
It was a long, long, dreary afternoon and night, which they tried to while away in sleeping, for conversation, under the circumstances, soon became irksome. When they awoke, or, rather, when all were again alert and felt as though the night must have passed, the captain was the first to break the silence, as he said:
"We have been resting quietly for more than an hour, I should say, probably lying in wait in one of the steamer lanes for new victims."
"Isn't it likely we are on the bottom of the ocean? Don't they go down sometimes and wait there?" asked Ralph.
"Yes; but not in deep water, such as is found in this bay. At no place is it less than 150 fathoms, and in the central portion, where our ship went down it is more than 2,000 fathoms."
"Why, that's two miles deep, or more," said Alfred.
"Yes, the Bay of Biscay is one of the deep holes in the Atlantic coast line of Europe. The average depth of the Irish Sea, St. George Channel, the English Channel and the North Sea is only about 250 feet, and there are thousands of places in the North Sea, particularly, like the Dogger Banks, where the water is not more than a hundred feet deep," remarked the captain.
"Then the submarines could easily rest on the bottom if the depth is not more than one hundred feet?" asked Alfred.
"Submarines have, in several cases, gone down as far as 200 feet below the surface, but it is at a great risk," said the captain.
"You mean risk from the pressure of the water?" said Ralph.
"Yes," was the reply.
"What would be the pressure of the water on a submarine at that depth?" asked Alfred.
"Pressure is calculated on the square inch of surface; for every twenty-eight inches the pressure is equal to one pound. If, therefore, 200 is multiplied by 12 and then divided by 28, the quotient will represent the number of pounds on each square inch," answered the captain.
"Why multiply 200 by twelve?" asked Ralph.
"Because there are twelve inches in a foot," said the captain.
"Oh, yes; I didn't happen to think of it; well, 200 by 12,—that's 2,400, and divided by 28, is——"
"Eighty-five," interrupted Alfred. "Well, that's not very much."
"Quite true," rejoined the captain; "but how many square inches are there in a square foot?"
"One hundred and forty-four," replied Alfred.
"Then, eighty-five times one hundred and forty-four makes quite a sum," continued the captain.
"Whew,——" said Ralph with a half whistle in his tone, "why, if I have made it out right, it's over 12,000 pounds. No wonder it isn't safe to stay down very long, if at all, at that depth."
"I have often wondered how it is that the submarine could rest on the bottom or come up at will," said Alfred.
"All submarines are lighter than the water in which they float," answered the captain. "They are provided with tanks holding compressed air. Now, in order to submerge, the only thing necessary is to permit enough water to flow into special tanks within the submarine, until the combined weight of the water, hull and mechanism, is the same as the amount of water that the ship displaces. If an added quantity of water is now added, it will go down, and remain under water until the air in the compressed tanks is used to force out a quantity of water from the special tanks."
"But is that the only way they can go down?" asked Ralph.
"Oh, no; a submarine can submerge without doing that, but in such a case power must be used," answered the captain.
"What! push it down by power?" asked Alfred.
"Exactly; these vessels have fins, the same as fish, so arranged that if they are properly turned and the ship moves forward, it will dive, and continue to go down at an angle as long as the fins are properly set. If the vessel should stop moving the submarine would come to the top, because it is lighter than the water," responded the captain.
SOME OF THE MYSTERIES OF A SUBMARINE
With a click the door of their prison cabin opened and a seaman informed them that their breakfast was ready. They passed through the narrow door, and edged their way along a tortuous path that led to the rear, where they entered what might be called a miniature galley, on one side of which was a narrow shelf containing food of various descriptions.
There was room only for the attendant to pass while they were seated. An abundance of the best food was served, cereals, and even fruit, forming part of the menu. Each of these vessels carry from twenty-two to thirty men, but there were in sight in the dining room only ten, besides the cook and waiter.
After the meal, the captain inquired of the officer at the main hatch whether they would be permitted to go on deck.
"I have no orders," he replied.
Meanwhile, the boys had an opportunity to investigate the mysteries of the interior, for it was well lighted.
"What are those long drums ahead there?" asked Alfred.
"I think they are the casings which carry the torpedoes," replied the captain. "If you look beyond you will see the rear ends of the tubes which receive the torpedoes. The cylinders in sight hold the torpedoes until they are ready to be placed in the tubes and shot out of them."
"You have orders to go on deck," the under officer at the bottom of the hatch now informed them.
This was an invitation to which they quickly responded. They ascended, and found the sun hidden, and the sea about them calm. Glancing across the broad expanse of water, not a sail was in sight. It was a cold, gray morning, ordinarily uninviting weather, but after the house of confinement it was enjoyed to the fullest extent.
"Down below!" shouted a voice.
The boys looked around in surprise, for they had been on deck less than ten minutes.
"Clear the deck!" shouted the same voice. The boys, with the captain, were hustled forward into the conning tower, and the iron door closed with a bang. The boys were permitted to stop only long enough to see two men turn eight swinging bolts, which hung about the margins of the doors, and quickly screw them up against the jamb.
The lieutenant was leaning over a narrow table on which was a chart, and gazing through a crystal-covered port in the front of the conning tower. A bell tinkled, machinery began to turn and impart its vibration to the ship, and it was again a living thing. It glided forward with the same rhythmic noises for a half-hour, and then two bells were heard.
The character of the sounds from the machinery changed; they seemed to move forward with less effort, and as they felt the same inclination in the motion of the ship, all were now satisfied that she was again submerging. Fortunately, they were not confined to their room, and, although no verbal orders had been given for the various operations required to handle the vessel, the prisoners had an opportunity to judge of what was going on.
Thus, when the signal was given to change the motive power from the internal combustion engines to electricity, they could see the engine stop, and an attendant shift the clutch which engaged the electric motors. A dial swinging over a card alongside a pair of levers indicated the direction of movement, while another gave not only the inclination of the ship, but its speed as well.
These things were very fascinating to the boys, but their attention was now attracted to a still more interesting scene. A bell forward gave two short, quick snaps. Four men sprang forward and stood at attention, two on each side of the tube at the right of the hold.
"The indicator shows that the submarine is turning," said the captain. The boys watched the indicator; it had swung around almost half-way.
"There,—look at the inclinometer," said Ralph. "It is moving upward——"
"Ting! ting!" Two more sharp bells forward. The cylinder was off the torpedo, and it lay before them exposed.
Three bells more; and now there was feverish haste. An oval door in the wall ahead was swung open, revealing a round, black hole.
"That is the torpedo tube," said the captain quietly.
The torpedo was moved back three feet, and then again carried forward on its truck so that the end of the torpedo entered the tube.
One bell more. The torpedo moved into the tube, the breech block, which in this case was the oval door, closed, and the crew stood at attention. While thus waiting the boys glanced at the inclinometer and at the direction indicator.
"See it swing back and forth," said Alfred. "It seems to act queerly."
"Not at all," replied the captain. "Evidently we are chasing a ship which is zig-zagging, as we did, for the direction dial is constantly moving."
While thus conversing they were startled by the signal of four bells. One of the men, reaching forward, touched a button, and the signal could be heard in the conning tower. That was, evidently, to inform the commander there that all was in readiness. Everything was expectancy now. The ship still manoeuvered.
Then, without a warning of any kind, there was a singular dull sound, which seemed to shake the submarine from stem to stern.
"They have fired it," said Alfred.
"And they are putting in another one."
"If I am not mistaken it is the last one they have," suggested the captain.
"Why do you think so?" asked Alfred.
"I notice that all the cylinders with the open ends are without torpedoes, and you will notice that the one they are now putting in is the last one with the closed end," responded the captain.
"I am glad they haven't any more of them," said Ralph.
Three bells again sounded; the officer at the gun responded, and during the next two minutes of suspense, the boys were quiet, waiting for the next shot. It soon came; the ship shook as before, the breach block opened, the shell behind the torpedo was extracted, the door closed and the men stood at attention.
When the officer, who had handled the torpedoes, walked down the steps from the conning tower, the boys noticed him shake his head sadly.
"Did you notice that?" asked the captain.
"Do you mean the way he shook his head?" said Alfred.
"Yes; I am curious to get your views about that action of the officer," remarked the captain.
"That is, why he shook his head?" interjected Ralph.
"Yes," answered the captain. "Do you think he looked discouraged because the shot failed in its mission, or because it went home successfully? That is the problem."
The boys were quiet for a few moments. Ralph was the first to speak: "Well, I'll bet the torpedo didn't hit the ship, and he feels cut up over it, as it was the last one they had."
"I don't agree with you," rejoined Alfred. "It struck the ship and sunk it, and the fellow feels so badly about it that he shook his head the way he did when he thought of the suffering it caused. Don't you agree with me?" said Alfred, addressing the captain.
The captain could not repress a slight laugh as: he answered: "I must confess you advance good arguments in both directions; but really, I am of the opinion that either torpedo didn't get in its work."
"Why do you think the first one failed?"
"If the first one had succeeded, they would not have shot the second, would they?" replied the captain.
"No; I don't think they would, seeing they had only one more left," remarked Ralph. "But why do you think the last one was no more successful?"
"I infer it from the following circumstances: It takes, on an average, a minute for a torpedo to reach its mark, after it leaves the torpedo tube. The officer in the tower is in a position where he can see the effect of the shot. If the torpedo struck, however favorable the blow, it would take at least fifteen or twenty minutes for the ship to go down. Sometimes the bulkheads will keep the ship afloat an hour or more. In fact, there are records of ships which have been torpedoed, that were actually towed into harbors and saved," answered the captain.
"But I do not see how that is any sign that the torpedo missed," replied Alfred inquiringly.
"Probably you did not notice the period that elapsed after the last shot, and the time the officer came down the tower hatch?" remarked the captain.
"No, I did not observe," replied Alfred.
"You remember, do you not, that as soon as the last torpedo was launched, the officer went up into the conning tower, and that within a minute, or not exceeding two minutes, he again came down the stairway, and shook his head in such a disconsolate manner?" continued the captain.
"Well, yes; you may be right in that," responded Alfred.
"Then, I inferred this," said the captain, "that the lieutenant had had ample opportunity to observe whether or not the shot went home, and, as it had not landed, he reported to the officer the failure. If the shot had struck he would have known it before the officer left the conning tower to come down. Do you get my idea?" asked the captain.
"That seems to answer the question, to my mind, that it wasn't a hit," said Ralph.
"Well, it doesn't quite satisfy me," replied Alfred. "The lieutenant might have told him that the shot hit the ship, and that it was going down, and that's what made him feel so badly about it."
The captain could not help feeling amused at Alfred's argument, as he replied: "I must admit that your view is logical, and I am also willing to assent that the question is one, which, in the absence of actual knowledge, could be settled in one way only."
"How is that?" asked Ralph.
"By knowing the mental condition and attitude of the officer who came down the hatchway. If he happened to be a humane person he would regret the loss of life, and show it, probably, by his actions. On the other hand, if he should be devoid of the finer feelings, and be a mere slave to duty, it is more than likely that he would shake his head discouragingly, to learn that the torpedo failed in its mission," was the captain's final word on the subject.
"Now that they are out of torpedoes, what do you suppose they will do?" asked Ralph.
"Go home; I suppose," replied Alfred.
"Unless they have a base somewhere on the coast," replied the captain.
"Where is the most likely place for such a base?" asked Ralph.
"That is the enigma, of course. It has been believed that the Germans have a base somewhere along the northern coast of Spain," said the captain.
"What are the reasons for thinking so?" asked Alfred.
"One of them is that some of the Spaniards are said to be more or less friendly to the Germans, and, furthermore, there are few ports or harbors on the north coast, hence the shipping to Spain in the southern waters of the Bay of Biscay is very small, a condition which would help to keep a base along the coast line at one or more points."
"But we ought to know in the next day or two whether they have such a base," said Ralph.
"Yes; it will be the opportunity now for us to make some observation which will tell us whether we are going to Germany, or not," said the captain with a grin.
Situated, as they were, below decks, with no instruments but the direction indicator, and the inclinometer in sight, it was impossible to judge of the direction they were going, for it was evident that the submarine was now moving ahead at full speed.
"It will be, probably, twenty-four hours before we are able to get any information as to our destination," said the captain.
"Do you intend to ask some of the men?" inquired Alfred.
"No; that would be fruitless. It is not at all likely they will venture any information upon a subject of that character," replied the captain.
"Then how would it be possible to learn anything about where we are going?" asked Ralph.
"We are now somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, and I infer that we must be about a hundred and fifty miles from the Spanish coast. To reach that at the rate we are going, would take at least ten hours, for I assume that the vessel is capable of at least ten miles an hour. Then, we must take into consideration the possible meeting with vessels, in which case we must submerge, and thus go much slower," said the captain.
"Then, if they have a base anywhere along the coast we ought to be there before tomorrow at this time?" ventured Alfred.
"That is exactly what I mean," answered the captain.
GROPING THROUGH THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
There was a steady pulsation of the engines during the entire afternoon without cessation until five o'clock, when the submarine submerged and continued under water for an hour. The three captives had now learned a great many of the manoeuvers incident to the diving operations, the signals accompanying each action, and studied with the greatest diligence and care the direction indicator and inclinometer.
"I have been noticing the indicator for the last hour," said Ralph, "and it didn't change once. Are we going due north?"
"The indicator that you see is not for the purpose of showing the points of the compass, but to tell whether or not there is a turning movement in the ship. If, for instance, the rudder should be turned to starboard or to port, the dial would swing in such a position as to show how much of a turn has been made, and no more," responded the captain.
"Suppose then, that after making a quarter turn, the ship should again go ahead on a straight line, what would happen to the dial?" asked Alfred.
"In that case the dial would again indicate that by coming back to its original position,—or, in other words, the dial would show that the ship had then assumed a new direction of sailing, and if it again changed to the right or to the left the indicator would reveal this to the observer," remarked the captain.
"I wish we had a compass," said Ralph.
"Unfortunately, they have taken our watches and pocket compasses," said the captain. "We may contrive, later on, to get a glimpse of the steering compass."
"Do you know where it is?" eagerly inquired Alfred.
"The navigating officer's instrument is in the conning tower, but it is usual, too, to have a similar instrument below, and I am sure it is located to the left of the cook's galley. It would not be safe, however, for either of us to be spying around in that quarter," responded the captain.
That night they were again locked in their narrow apartment. As they had been provided with a good meal it was not such an unpleasant experience, and they were also comforted by the feeling that the submarine was now engaged in a no more perilous duty than trying to reach some port.
That night was followed by a trying day of waiting. Singularly, they had not been permitted to ascend the hatchway stairs since the first day of their capture.
"A glance at the sun would be enough to tell us the direction," remarked the captain after they left the table at the lunch hour.
"I suppose they are keeping us down here for that purpose," suggested Alfred.
"I have thought," replied the captain, "that the very fact of keeping us in ignorance of the direction they are going is the best indication that we are making for a concealed base."
When they retired the second night the captain remarked: "It is now plain to my mind that we are on the way to Germany, or, possibly, to a base somewhere at a greater distance than Spain."
"How long would it take to make the trip to Germany?" asked Alfred.
"If we circled the British Isles and came in by way of Norway, it would mean a run of 1,400 miles. To go by way of the Channel would be about 800 miles. It would make but little difference in point of time," answered the captain.
"Why wouldn't it take longer to travel 1,400 miles?" asked Ralph.
"Because on the long route we would be able to travel four-fifths of the way on the surface, and would not have to avoid mines and nets. The Channel route is a dangerous one, requiring the utmost caution," said the captain.
The second morning Alfred was outside, as usual, consulting the instruments, when a voice remarked in response to an inquiry: "48, 10." He paid no attention to it at the time, but later on, in a conversation, remarked to the captain:
"Some one in the conning tower, this morning, said '48, 10.' What do you suppose he meant by that?"
"Glad you remembered that. Are you sure the figures you give are correct?" asked the captain eagerly.
"Sure of it," was Alfred's reply.
"Then we are near the English Channel. Good; I am glad to know that. Did you hear them refer to any other figures?" asked the captain.
"What would the other figures be?" asked Ralph.
"Of course, I can only guess. The figures you have given me unquestionably represent forty-eight degrees and ten minutes north latitude. What interests me most is to get our position east and west," said the captain.
"About what longitude are we in?" asked Ralph.
"If we are less than five degrees west we must be in the English Channel, and it would appear that they are taking the shortest route. If we should be seven or eight degrees west I should regard it as a pretty sure symptom that we are going to encircle the British Isles," remarked the captain.
Late that afternoon Ralph rushed into their little cabin and said:
"I have an idea that I can tell you the direction we are going."
"Have you heard anything?" asked the captain.
"Not a word," answered Ralph. "I have just made an observation," he continued, laughing.
"That's good," responded the captain. "I think we are sailing north by west."
"You are wrong," replied Ralph; "we are going due east."
"Are you sure?" asked the captain, exhibiting unusual interest in the news. "How did you find it out?"
"I saw the sun," said Ralph with a chuckle.
"How and where did you see it?" asked Alfred, incredulously.
"Well, I didn't exactly see the sun, but I saw a streak that came from the sun," was the reply.
"That's just as good," responded the captain. "Where did you see it?"
"I was at the indicator when an officer went up and the hatch was raised. As he didn't push it all the way down I had an idea he might soon return, so I moved up and stood between the twin tanks to the right of the steps. When the officer raised the hatch a streak of sunlight went right across the under side at the corner of the door, and I knew it couldn't come in at the front port hole," said Ralph, with a glow of pleasure in the discovery.
The captain shook his head slowly, as he said: "I am afraid this will mean an additional source of worry to all of us; it is bad enough to be locked up and subjected to the guns of vessels and warships, but it will be doubly hazardous to pass through the mine fields, and avoid the nets."
"Do you know anything about them, and how and where they are located?" asked Alfred.
"Yes, I have a pretty good knowledge of their location, and how to avoid them, although they constantly change the nets, or provide new safety outlets," said the captain.
"What do you mean by safety outlets?" asked Alfred.
"Immense steel nets are stretched across the straits from Calais to Dover, two lines, in fact, between which the vessels plying between England and France go to and fro in safety. Furthermore, war vessels guard these nets on both sides, so that it would be a difficult matter to get near the nets," said the captain.
"But submarines do seem to get through somewhere; do they not?" asked Ralph.
"Yes; owing to their ability to make the trip under water, and taking advantage of the darkness, it is sometimes the case that they get through without being entangled in the nets," he replied.
"But how do the ships that sail along the Channel get through?" asked Alfred.
"That is just what I was referring to when I spoke of safety outlets. At a certain point there is an opening through the nets at one side, through which vessels can pass into the line between the two wire cordons. The opening in the other line of nets is not directly opposite, but a mile or so off to one side, so that in order to get to the opening in the other nets, it is necessary for the ship to sail along in the safety zone between the two nets, and make a turn at right angles to get out through the second opening. That method has been found to be most effective, and is called the safety lane," responded the captain.
They were now in or near the most widely traveled part of the ocean on the western front of the continent. Thousands of ships pass and repass that zone which reaches from the southern part of Ireland to the western coast of France, and it was remarkable that the submarine was able to move along up to this time on the surface without being detected.
Before the sun had gone down that night, however, they were compelled to submerge twice, and then the mantle of night shrouded the vessel and it moved along with more boldness. On this the fourth night of captivity, they were not locked in their prison.
"I cannot account for it," said the captain. "Possibly the commander has some little human sympathy left, and does not want to drown us like rats in a cage."
Neither the captain nor the boys slept much that night. They were too much occupied with constantly watching the manoeuvers necessary on the part of the commander and his crew to prevent detection as they passed up the Channel.
"I have spent years on the Channel as a navigating officer and in charge of various types of ships in the merchant service, as well as on our own naval vessels, and I know, probably, better than the lieutenant in charge of the submarine, what the dangers are. It is my belief that the lieutenant has come over this course before, and probably knows a safe, or measurably safe route, and has taken the chances of returning, but no one, however skilful a navigator he may be, can be sure of making exactly the same course twice. The tides may be against him; he may be out of his reckonings hundreds of feet, and that is too big a margin, where a hundred feet in width is the limit through which his vessel may pass in safety."
The captain thus, in general terms, set forth the perils of the route that the commander of the submarine had taken, and stated also, very plainly, that they must now be prepared to meet the greatest of all dangers. Sleep, therefore, could not be considered.
The long and weary night at last came to an end, and the appetizing odors of the morning meal were wafted to them. Their toilets were exceedingly simple affairs, a small cake of soap, warm water, and a long towel serving for the three. They had no trouble in dressing, for their clothing had not been removed. They were obliged to dispense with the bath, for, although all these boats are provided with comforts of that kind, none of them was available to the captain and the boys, and they did not ask that any privileges be extended to them.
No sooner had breakfast been served than the machinery began to slow down until finally it ceased. Not a perceptible motion was now observed. A pulsator or two were at work, and a slight rumble due to the action of the dynamo came to their ears.
"I suppose we are now on the bottom," suggested Ralph.
"Yes; during the daytime it will be necessary to keep quiet. Even the periscope may reveal our presence," remarked the captain.
A little information as to the activities of the crew during these periods of rest may be interesting. Idleness breeds discontent and mischief. It is upon the principle that constant work encourages contentment and makes for efficiency, that the Germans require the continued activity which was shown by the occupants of the submarine.
The vessel was manned by twenty-seven officers and men. The personnel being as follows: A lieutenant, a sub-lieutenant, two under or petty officers, a physician, a cook and two oilers, two first-class machinists, and seventeen helpers, or seamen, although it was evident, as the captain expressed it, that few of the helpers had seen much sea duty.
While it is customary to divide the duties on shipboard into three watches, during the period of twenty-four hours, so as to give each squad a period of service every day at a different period, it would be difficult to carry out the same regulations on board a ship of this character.
The captain said: "I notice that they have practically two watches, one taking up the duty from midday until twelve at night, and the other from midnight to noon. Yesterday, I noticed the same shift that was on duty in the morning continued at work all the afternoon, so it is possible that every three or four days shift No. 1, which works from noon to midnight, will be changed so that for the next four days the time for their services will be from midnight to noon."
Attention is called to this method of doing duty so that the reader may understand certain events which will be referred to later.
The personnel of the shifts was also changed at intervals so that while the lieutenant during one shift would have at work a certain machinist and petty officer, during the next or second shift thereafter another machinist or petty officer would be on duty. In this manner all became efficient, for they had the opportunity afforded of being drilled and handled by different combinations of men and assistants.
CAUGHT IN THE DEEP SEA NETS
The starting of the heavy machinery was sufficient indication that night had come. They were now going up and at an angle which was very perceptible. The boys had become quite expert in detecting certain activities, as they tried in every way to understand the use of the signals. One thing was certain; two sets of bells were brought into play as the signal for changing the motive power. The first signal, three bells followed by two more, was invariably the necessary preparation for this event.
A highly pitched bell next gave the signal to stop the gasoline engines and a deep-toned bell indicated the coupling of the electric motor. Occasionally a new set of signals would resound, which they tried to figure out. During the night Alfred thought he had found the key.
"Did you notice the big hand wheel on the side of the upright tank, which we pass as we go into the dining room?" he remarked.
"That is connected with a large valve," said the captain. "What did you observe?"
"Well, did you ever notice that before they rang the shrill bell four times we always have heard a whistle?" asked Alfred.
"Why, I have heard the bell ring four times on several occasions without the whistle," contended Ralph.
"So you have, but it was always after the four rings that followed the whistle. A little while ago I was near the tank, and I heard the whistle. The attendant sprang to the wheel, and when the four rings came he turned the wheel around twice. When the four next rings came (without the whistle, of course), he quickly turned it back again," said Alfred.
"That is the submerging tank," said the captain. "I see you are rapidly learning how to handle a submarine," and he laughed at the eagerness of the boys trying to conquer the details of signaling.
During that night there was hardly a half-hour but some movement or other was indicated by the bells. They submerged, halted, rose to the surface, steamed at full speed, and in one or two instances it was evident from the sudden stopping that the submarine had to reverse.
This constantly kept them alert, and while engaged in conversation late in the morning, they were thrown forward on their seats with a motion that indicated a collision with something which was not very rigid, for there was no concussion such as usually accompanies the contact of the hull of a vessel with a hard object.
The boys looked at the captain in astonishment. They could now feel the propeller pulling in the opposite direction, only to be brought back again with the same springy collision, as when it had gone forward and first struck the strange obstacle.
The captain's face paled, and the boys plied him with questions as they saw his perturbed countenance.
"What do you think it is?" asked Ralph, as he saw the anxious seamen, and the second officer rushing about shouting orders, while one of them seized the main valve wheel and turned it.
"We are caught in one of the steel nets," said the captain quietly.
The boys' faces grew deadly pale. They knew what such a calamity meant. Few, if any of the submarines caught in the nets, ever escaped. The boys, while they did not know this, were, in a measure, aware of the great danger to submarines from this source. They were alarmed particularly on account of the serious manner in which the captain acted the moment the first impact took place.
The captain now arose, followed by the boys, and marched through the narrow passageway toward the lieutenant who was leaning over one of the air compressors.
"Is there anything we can do to help you?" asked the captain.
The lieutenant looked up and replied: "We can do nothing but change the trim of the ship. Everything portable in the stern must be moved forward. Your assistance will be appreciated," was the reply, an answer that was in marked contrast with his former demeanor.
The lieutenant then quickly detailed four men, who, together with the captain and the two boys, were directed what articles to carry forward. In this exercise they found many unexpected nooks and turns. The articles removed were mostly ship's supplies, stores, boxes of canned goods, drugs in cases, and a lot of tubing. Some of the boxes must have contained machinery, or mechanical parts, for they were very heavy.
They were engaged at this work for fully an hour, and the task proved a difficult one, for the passageways were narrow and tortuous, and sometimes it was necessary to move through narrow alleys which ran almost directly across the ship. Every available bit of space is utilized in these vessels for the operating machinery.
The entire length of the submarine was 126 feet, and the material had to be carried a distance of about eighty feet. The lieutenant was in the stern portion, pointing out the articles which should be taken, while the sub-lieutenant directed the placing of them in the bow.
The captain and Ralph were just depositing a load in the hold near the bow, when a peculiar noise was heard, resembling a scraping, rasping sound. Before they had time to turn around, or move from their positions, the rear end of the submarine seemed to swing upward, bringing down and scattering among the machinery a choice lot of boxes and parcels.
A groan followed. Something peculiar had happened,—a thing unique in the annals of submarining. The vessel, after the peculiar motion, was quiet, but it was lying at an angle of forty-five degrees. The seamen and the captain hurriedly tried to move back in order to discover what had happened and from whom the groans proceeded.
It was hard work, and dangerous, too. Alfred was found pinned between the tanks, and temporarily held by several cases, but, fortunately, he was not hurt in the least.
Directly forward of the conning tower stairway the captain now noticed an object, and upon examination it was found to be the lieutenant, who had been thrown a distance of more than thirty feet through the tangled machinery. He was unconscious.
The physician was soon by his side, and a frightful gash was observed on the right side of the officer's face. Two men nearby were groaning. One had a broken leg, and the other several contusions about the head, and, owing to their crippled condition, it was just as much of a task to lower the bodies down into the inclined hold as to walk upward.
This was finally accomplished, and the lieutenant, with the two injured men, were landed in the long compartment, which served as the dining room.
The sub-lieutenant was found pinned by some boxes between two stanchions, which had not been distributed and placed within the compartments. The seaman soon released him; he was not injured in any way, and now that the lieutenant was in a serious condition, the command devolved on him.