Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Navy Boys Behind the Big Guns - Sinking the German U-Boats
Author: Davidson, Halsey
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Navy Boys Behind the Big Guns - Sinking the German U-Boats" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



NAVY BOYS BEHIND THE BIG GUNS

Or

Sinking the German U-Boats

by

HALSEY DAVIDSON

Author of
"Navy Boys after the Submarines," "Navy Boys
Chasing a Sea Raider," Etc.

Illustrated



New York
George Sully & Company
Publishers



[Illustration: The gunners were literally "stripped for action," their
glistening supple bodies alert as panthers.]



       *       *       *       *       *



BOOKS FOR BOYS


NAVY BOYS SERIES

BY HALSEY DAVIDSON

12mo. Cloth. Illustrated

          NAVY BOYS AFTER THE SUBMARINES

          NAVY BOYS CHASING A SEA RAIDER

          NAVY BOYS BEHIND THE BIG GUNS

          NAVY BOYS TO THE RESCUE

          NAVY BOYS AT THE BIG SURRENDER

          THE NAVY BOYS ON SPECIAL SERVICE

          GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY
          PUBLISHERS NEW YORK


          COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY
          GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY


          _Navy Boys Chasing a Sea Raider_


          PRINTED IN U.S.A.



       *       *       *       *       *



NAVY BOYS BEHIND THE BIG GUNS


CONTENTS

CHAPTER                          PAGE

    I  A RUN TO ELMVALE             1

   II  THE STRANGER                11

  III  THE WATER WHEEL             19

   IV  S. P. 888                   27

    V  THE STREAK ON THE WATER     38

   VI  AN OLD FRIEND               44

  VII  FOG HAUNTED                 54

 VIII  PUZZLED                     64

   IX  JUST TOO LATE               74

    X  AHEAD OF THE FLOOD          81

   XI  UNEXPECTED PERIL            90

  XII  COURAGE                    100

 XIII  THE KENNEBUNK SAILS        106

  XIV  AN UNEXPECTED TARGET       115

   XV  THE BIG GUN SPEAKS         127

  XVI  AN ACCIDENT                135

 XVII  BLOWN UP                   144

XVIII  MORE TROUBLE               155

  XIX  COINCIDENCE                162

   XX  THE WITCH'S WARNING        173

  XXI  THE EXPLANATION            180

 XXII  THE RACE                   190

XXIII  UNDER SPECIAL ORDERS       196

 XXIV  TICK-TOCK! TICK-TOCK!      204

  XXV  IN THE THICK OF THE FIGHT  211



NAVY BOYS BEHIND THE
BIG GUNS



CHAPTER I

A RUN TO ELMVALE


When Philip Morgan announced his approach by an unusually cheerful
strain, Al Torrance was already behind the steering wheel of his
father's car, with the engine purring smoothly.

"'Lo, Whistler," Al said. "Thought you had forgotten where we planned to
go this morning. What made you so late?"

"'Lo, Torry. Never hit the hay till after one. Just talking. My jaws
ache," Morgan broke off his whistling long enough to say.

"Sure it isn't whistling that's made your jaws ache?" queried his chum
slyly. "Not having had much chance to pipe up while we were aboard ship,
I guess you are making up for lost time."

"Talking, I tell you," returned Morgan. "Thought the girls never would
let me stop. And father, too. Mother won't own up she's reconciled to my
being in the Navy," and Whistler grinned suddenly. "But she listened to
all I told them, too. She was just as eager to hear about it as Phoebe
and Alice."

"Guess you made yourself out to be some tough garby," chuckled Torrance,
using the term the seamen themselves employ to designate a sailor.

"Oh, I gave 'em an earful," Whistler agreed, and puckered his lips
again.

"Come on and get in," ordered Torry impatiently. "Pa's got to use the
car this afternoon. But he says we can have it to run over to Elmvale
in, if we want."

"Where are Frenchy and Ikey?" Whistler broke off in his tune again to
ask.

"Going to wait for us down on High Street--and Seven Knott, too."

"Did Hansie say he'd go?" cried the other sailor boy. "Bet he's sore as
he can be because he's not with the _Colodia_ and Lieutenant Lang."

"He'd never 've taken this furlough, he says, if his mother hadn't
begged so hard. Did you ever see a garby so stuck on a gold stripe as
Seven Knott is on Lieutenant Commander Lang?" said Torry, rather
scornfully.

"I don't know. Mr. Lang has been a good friend to Hans Hertig. This is
his second hitch under Mr. Lang," Whistler said.

"Wonder if we'll enlist a second time, too, Whistler."

"Bet you!" was the succinct reply.

The car started under Torry's careful guidance, and they quickly whisked
around the corner into the main street of Seacove, the small port in
which the chums had been born and had lived all their lives until they
had enlisted as seamen apprentices in the Navy not many months before.

They passed the little cottage in which Mrs. Hertig, Seven Knott's
mother, lived. Beyond that was the Donahue home, where Frenchy's widowed
mother lived with his younger brothers and sisters.

Then came the Rosenmeyer delicatessen shop, and there the car was pulled
down by Torry, for there was a little group outside the shop, the center
of which were three figures in blue.

"Look at those happy Jacks, will you?" ejaculated Torry in feigned
disgust. "Got an audience, haven't they? And even Seven Knott must be
talking some, too. What do you know about that?"

For the attitude of Seacove had changed mightily since these boys had
joined the Navy early in 1917. War had been declared between the United
States and Germany and her allies, the drafted men were being called to
the training camps, and some had already gone "over there" and were
fighting in the trenches of northern France.

Philip Morgan, Alfred Torrance, Michael Donahue, Ikey Rosenmeyer, and
their mates on the destroyer _Colodia_ had already aided in convoying a
large number of troop ships across the Atlantic, had chased submarines
and destroyed at least one of the enemy U-boats, and had hunted for and
captured the German raider, _Graf von Posen_, which had among the other
loot in her hold the treasure of the Borgias which had been purchased
from an Italian nobleman by the four Navy boys' very good friend, Mr.
Alonzo Minnette.

The four friends, Morgan, Torrance, Donahue, and Ikey Rosenmeyer, the
son of the proprietor of the village delicatessen store, had been given
a furlough since landing at Norfolk with the captured raider, of the
prize crew of which they had been members. Coming north to Seacove
by train, they had met their shipmate, Hans Hertig, known aboard the
_Colodia_ as Seven Knott, who had likewise been given a furlough after
leaving the naval hospital where he had been convalescing from a wound.

The _Colodia_ was still at sea--or across the Atlantic--or somewhere.
The young seamen who belonged to her crew did not know where. They
awaited her return to port in order to rejoin her.

They had another iron in the fire, too; but that they did not talk about
much, even among themselves. Mr. Minnette, who was their very good
friend, and who worked now in a War Department office at Washington in a
lay capacity, had told them he would try his best to get them aboard a
new superdreadnaught that was just out of the yard and was being fitted
for her maiden cruise.

A number of Naval Reserves would be put aboard this new huge ship; and
the Seacove boys, with their experience in the training school at
Saugarack and aboard the _Colodia_, surely would be of some use as
temporary members of the dreadnaught's crew.

The boys had written Mr. Minnette about Seven Knott, for he was eager to
get back into harness, too. And Seven Knott had held the rank of
boatswain's mate aboard the _Colodia_.

Naturally the friends were all eager to get behind the big guns. Almost
every boy who joins the Navy desires to become a gunner. Whistler and Al
Torrance were particularly striving for that position, and they studied
the text-books and took every opportunity offered them to gain knowledge
in that branch of the service.

"Hi, fellows!" called Torry, having stopped the car. "Going to stand
there gassing all day?"

The three figures in seaman's dress broke away from their admiring friends
and approached the automobile. Frenchy Donahue was a little fellow with
pink cheeks, bright eyes, and an Irish smile. Ikey Rosenmeyer was a shrewd
looking lad who always had a fund of natural fun on tap. The older man,
Hans Hertig, was round-faced and solemn looking, and seldom had much to
say. He had had an adventurous experience both as a fisherman and naval
seaman, and really attracted more attention in his home town than did the
four boy chums.

"Get in, fellows," urged Torry. "We want to be sure to catch those chaps
at Elmvale during the noon hour. They go home from the munition works
for dinner, and we must talk with them then."

Frenchy and Ikey and Seven Knott climbed into the tonneau and the car
whizzed away, leaving the crowd of boys and girls, and a few adults,
staring after them.

"By St. Patrick's piper that played the last snake out of Ireland!"
sighed Frenchy, ecstatically, "we never was of such importance since we
was christened--hey, fellows?"

"Oi, oi!" murmured Ikey, wagging his head, "my papa don't even suggest
I should take out the orders to the customers no more. He does it himself,
or he hires a feller to do it for him.

"Mind, now! Last night he closed the shop an hour early so's to sit down
with my mama and me and Aunt Eitel in the back room, after the kids was
all in bed, and made me tell about all we'd done and seen. I tell you
it's great!"

"And before we began our hitch," Al Torrance chuckled, as he expertly
rounded a corner, "we were scarcely worth speaking to in Seacove. Now
folks want to stop us on the street and tell us how much they think of
us."

"Gee!" exploded Frenchy, "I could eat candy and ice cream all day long
if I'd let the kids spend money on me."

"We're sure some pumpkins," drawled Whistler Morgan, dryly, sitting
around in the front seat so he could talk with those in the rear.
"I say, Hans!"

"Yep?" was Seven Knott's reply.

"Do you really think we can get some of those fellows at Elmvale to go
to the recruiting office and enlist?"

"Yep. You fellows can tell 'em. You can talk better'n I can."

Seven Knott knew his shipboard duties thoroughly, and never was
reprimanded for neglect of them. But since the four chums had known him
well, the petty officer had been no conversationalist, that was sure.

"If this war was going to be won by talk, like some fellows in Congress
seem to think," Al Torrance once said, "Seven Knott wouldn't have a
chance. But it is roughnecks just like him that man the boats and shoot
the guns that are going to show Kaiser Bill where he gets off--believe
me!"

Elmvale was a factory town not more than six miles above Seacove. It was
on the river, at the mouth of which was situated the little port in
which were the homes of Whistler Morgan and his friends.

The biggest dam in the State, the Elmvale Dam, held back the waters of
the river above the village; and below the dam were several big mills
and factories that got their power from the use of the water.

On both sides of the stream, and around the cotton mills, the thread
mills, and the munition factories, were built many little homes of the
factory and mill hands. It had been pointed out by the local papers that
these homes were in double peril at this time.

Guards were on watch night and day that ill-affected persons should not
come into the district and blow up the munition factories. But there was
a second and greater danger to the people of Elmvale.

If anything should happen to the dam, if it should burst, the enormous
quantity of water held in leash by the structure would pour over the
village and cover half the houses to their chimney tops.

Two bridges crossed the river at Elmvale; one at the village proper and
the other just below the dam itself and about half a mile from the first
mill, Barron & Brothers' Thread Factory.

"Let's take the upper road," proposed Frenchy, as the car came within
sight of the chimneys of the Elmvale mills. "We've plenty of time before
the noon whistle blows. I haven't been up by the dam since before we all
joined the Navy."

"Just as you fellows say," Al responded, and turned into a side road
that soon brought them above the mills on the ridge overlooking the
valley.

"I say, fellows," Whistler stopped whistling long enough to observe,
"there's a slue of water behind that dam. S'pose she should let go all
of a sudden?"

"I'd rather be up here than down there," Al said.

"Oi, oi!" croaked Ikey, "you said something."

"I wonder if they guard that dam as they say they do the munition
factories," Frenchy put in.

Al turned the machine into the road that descended into the valley by a
sharp incline. In sight of the bridge which crossed the river Whistler
suddenly put his hand upon his chum's arm.

"Hold on, Torry," he said earnestly. "I bet that's one of the guards
now. See that fellow in the bushes over there?"

"I see the man you mean!" Frenchy exclaimed, leaning over the back of
the front seat of the automobile. "But he isn't in khaki. And he hasn't
got a gun."

All the Navy boys in the automobile, even Seven Knott, saw the man to
whom Whistler Morgan had first drawn attention. The man had his back to
the road. He was standing upright with a pair of field glasses to his
eyes. His interest seemed fixed on a point along the face of the dam
just where a thin slice of water ran over the flashboard into the rocky
bed of the river.



CHAPTER II

THE STRANGER


For the life of him Phil Morgan could not have told why he was so keenly
interested in that stranger. He could not see the man's face; he did not
presume it was anybody he had ever seen before; nor had he any reason to
be suspicious of the man.

Nevertheless he felt a little thrill as he first caught sight of the
stranger, and this feeling spurred his exclamation to Torry, which lead
the others' attention to him.

After they had all seen the man, Phil added: "Pull her down. Let's see
what he is up to."

Torrance stopped the automobile. His chum was their acknowledged leader
in most things, and all the other Navy boys were used to obeying Phil
Morgan's mandates without much question. As told in the former books of
this series, Morgan was an observant and level-headed youth, and his
friends might have followed a much more dangerous leader in both work
and play.

The four boys, at that time all under eighteen years of age, had begun
their first enlistment in the Navy several months before the United
States got into the war. They spent some months in the training camp at
Saugarack, on the New England coast.

The Government commissioned new craft of all kinds as rapidly as they
could be obtained, and was obliged to man some of them partly with
youths who had not yet finished their preliminary training ashore.

Phil Morgan and his friends had made rapid progress in their studies and
the drills, and they were lucky enough to be assigned to the same ship.
This was the destroyer _Colodia_, one of the newest of her class, a fast
ship of a thousand tons' burden. She made two cruises, both crammed full
of excitement and adventure; and the story of these cruises is related
in the first volume of the series, entitled "Navy Boys After the
Submarines; Or, Protecting the Giant Convoy."

In this first narrative of their adventures in the United States Navy,
Phil had a very thrilling experience. He fell overboard from his ship
and was picked up by the German U-boat No. 812.

After the conclusion of the destroyer's second cruise the four chums
from Seacove were enabled to spend a week at home. Returning to the
port in which they had been instructed to join the _Colodia_ the
evening before she again was to sail, the four chums were held up by a
burning railroad bridge, which had been set on fire by German agents.

It looked as though they would be unable to reach the _Colodia_ on time.
This event would be a very serious matter, for the naval authorities
frown upon any tardiness of enlisted men in returning from shore leave.
Besides, the boys particularly desired to be aboard the _Colodia_ during
her coming cruise.

The second volume of the series opened with this situation. The boys
made the acquaintance of an influential man, Mr. Alonzo Minnette, who
was likewise a passenger on the stalled train. And he made it possible
for the four apprentice seamen to reach their ship in time.

In this second volume entitled: "Navy Boys Chasing a Sea Raider; Or,
Landing a Million Dollar Prize," the four young members of the
_Colodia's_ crew, whose adventures we are following, had many thrilling
experiences. In the end, the destroyer, by a ruse, captured the _Graf
von Posen_, a noted sea raider, and Whistler and his chums are allowed
to board her as part of the prize crew.

The boys were particularly interested in the cargo of the raider, for
Mr. Minnette had promised them a thousand dollars to divide among them
if they discovered aboard the raider the treasure of the Borgias, a
collection of precious stones, that the captain of the _Graf von Posen_
had taken from an Italian merchant ship which had been captured and sunk
by the Germans.

Naturally the Navy boys were interested in having others join the Navy;
and Hans Hertig, whom they found at home visiting his mother, was
particularly anxious to get some young men, who were working in Elmvale
and who came of German stock like himself, to enlist and show their
patriotism and love for the country of their birth.

"Say! what do you suppose is the matter with that chap?" Frenchy
demanded at last in his rather high, penetrating voice.

Instantly the man in the bushes turned and saw the automobile. Like a
flash he settled down in his tracks and disappeared. One moment he was a
plain figure standing out against the background of the dam; the next he
was not there at all!

"By St. Patrick's piper that played the last snake out of Ireland!"
gasped Frenchy, "he ain't there no more."

"You poor fish!" ejaculated Al in disgust, "you scared him off with your
squealing. Who do you suppose he was?"

"And what is he doing over there?" added Ikey Rosenmeyer.

"Funny thing," observed Whistler. "Must be something important up on
that dam he was looking at through his glasses."

"Might as well drive on," growled Al, punching the starter button again.
"This Frenchman from Cork would spoil anything."

"Aw--g'wan!" muttered the abashed Michael Donahue.

"Well, that chap was no guard, that is sure," Whistler said.

They drove slowly on across the bridge. All of them searched the base of
the dam--or as much of it as could be seen, for the fringe of trees and
shrubs that masked it--but not a moving figure did they see. The water
poured over the flashboard with a splashing murmur at that distance, and
ran down under the bridge in a rocky bed. It was clear and cool looking.
Below the factories the river water was of an entirely different color,
and people in Seacove had begun to object to the filth from the Elmvale
mills being dumped into the cove.

Al Torrance stopped the car at the side gate of the biggest munition
works just as the noon whistle blew. Seven Knott got out and began to
look about for his friends to whom he had tried to talk enlistment.

He soon spied two of them, and beckoned them near. Others followed.
Whistler and his chums were introduced by the boatswain's mate, who left
the talking to the youths after he had introduced his friends.

In five minutes there was a very earnest enlistment meeting going on at
the gate of the munition factory. Perhaps no harder place to gain
recruits could have been selected. In the first instance, all the boys
working here were earning big money. And there was, too, some excitement
in the work. As one of them said:

"You Jackies haven't anything on us. We don't know but any moment we may
be blown sky-high."

"True for you," put in Frenchy smartly. "But you don't get any fun out
of your danger. We do. And we get promotion and steadily increased pay
and a chance to get up in the world."

"Sure!" broke in Al. "Some day we're all going to win gold stripes;
aren't we, fellows?"

His chums declared he was right. But one listener said doubtfully:

"You won't ever win commissions if you get sunk or blown up, on one of
those blamed old iron pots."

"Say!" put in Ikey Rosenmeyer hotly, "you fellows won't get no advance
in rating at all, and you may get blown up any time. We've got
something to work for, we have!"

"We've got money to work for," declared one of the munition workers.

"Oi, oi!" sneered Ikey. "What's money yet?" A sneer which vastly amused
his chums, for Ikey's inborn love for the root of all evil was well
known.

As the group stood talking, along came a man, walking briskly from the
direction the Seacove boys had come in their automobile. Two or three of
the munition workers spoke to the man, who was broad-shouldered, walked
with a brisk military step, and was heavily bewhiskered.

Whistler stopped talking to a possible candidate for the blue uniform of
the Navy, and looked after this stranger.

"Who is he?" he asked.

"That's Blake. Works in our laboratory. Nice fellow," was the reply.

"Oh! I didn't know but he was one of the men guarding the dam," Whistler
murmured.

"Shucks! there aren't any guards up there. There are soldiers here at
the factories, though."

"Is that so?" questioned Whistler. "Where's he been, do you suppose?"

"Who? Blake?"

"That man," said young Morgan grimly.

"Oh, he's a bug on natural history, or the like. Always tapping rocks
with a hammer, or hunting specimens, or botanizing. Great chap. Hasn't
been here in Elmvale long. But everybody likes him."

Phil made no further comment aloud, but to himself he said:

"He wasn't botanizing through that field-glass; or knocking specimens
off of rocks. His interest was centered on the face of the dam. I wonder
why?"

For the military looking man, called Blake, was the individual he and
his friends had seen in the bushes as they drove along the Upper Road,
and who had seemed desirous of being unobserved by the passers-by.



CHAPTER III

THE WATER WHEEL


Phil Morgan was no more suspicious by nature than his chums. Merely a
thought had come into his mind that had not come into theirs; and he
disliked to be annoyed by anything in the nature of an unsolved problem.
He always wanted to know why.

In this particular case he wished to know why the man called Blake had
tried to hide himself in the clump of bushes beside the Upper Road when
the automobile load of boys had come along and caught him examining the
face of the Elmvale Dam through a field-glass.

It was through a break in the trees that partly masked the dam the man
had been looking, and Whistler knew that the spot in which he was
interested must be directly beside the overflow of the dam--where the
water splashed down into the rocky river bed.

Whistler did not lose interest in the attempt to inspire some of the
factory workers to enlist in the Navy, and he worked just as hard as his
mates all through the noon hour. But the puzzle connected with the man
named Blake continued to peck at his mind like an insistent chick trying
to get out of its shell.

Hans Hertig's desire to get some of his old friends to enlist bore some
fruit. Three men promised to go down to the enlistment bureau on
Saturday afternoon, when they had a half holiday.

The Seacove party then wanted to go to a dining-room for dinner; but
Whistler excused himself. He was hungry enough; but he "had other fish
to fry," he whispered to Torrance.

"Come around by the Upper Road--same way we got here," directed
Whistler. "I'll meet you at the bridge. Wait if I'm not there."

"What is the matter with you, Whistler?" demanded Al.

But although Morgan went away without making answer, he knew that his
chum would do as he was asked, and bluff off the others when they asked
questions, too.

Philip Morgan hurried past the factories and the few houses which lay in
this direction. The land near the dam which had been built across the
valley was so sterile that few people lived in this neighborhood.

Up on the ridges, on either side, were farms; but this was a wild piece
of scrub at the foot of the dam. One could jump a rabbit in it, or get
up a flock of quail at almost any time during the hunting season.

Like most boys of Seacove, as well as Elmvale, Whistler was familiar
with this stretch of untamed ground and plunged into it with full
knowledge of its tangled brier patches and rough quarries. He started
diagonally for the dam, and in a brief time came to the edge of the
shallow channel, which now carried the overflow of the huge reservoir
behind the dam down to the cove.

As he followed this stream, he could not help thinking of the
possibility of a break occurring in the high wall of masonry which
loomed ahead of him. If there should be any undiscovered weakness in the
wall! Or if an enemy should sink a charge of dynamite, or some other
high explosive, at the base of the dam and blow a hole through it!

He did not see any one moving about the dam either above or below. He
knew that on the ridge, level with the top of the barrier, lived a man
they called the dam superintendent. He sometimes walked across the
embankment, from end to end; a privilege forbidden to others.

But Whistler was quite sure that this dam superintendent seldom went to
the foot of the wall, or examined the face of it for any break in the
stonework. Of course, the dam had stood secure for so many years that
it seemed improbable that it would fail in any part now.

But Whistler Morgan was not considering any leakage of the water through
the masonry which might endanger the foundation of the dam. Such seepage
must have shown itself long ago if the barrier had not been properly
constructed.

It was of a sudden, unexpected, and treacherous blow-out that the young
sailor was thinking. That man in the bushes, who had seemed so desirous
of hiding from the passers-by and whose interest in the face of the dam
had been so marked, puzzled Phil and excited his suspicions.

Blake. And Blake was an English name! He looked about as much like an
Englishman as he, Whistler, looked like Dinkelspiel!

"I have seen plenty of Britishers," thought the young fellow, "and not
one of them ever looked like this chemist, or whatever he is. And he's a
stranger--worked here only a month.

"He was not tapping rocks or getting botanical specimens over here when
we fellows came along the Upper Road. His interest was in this dam--if
it was at long distance. I wonder if we ought to report him to the
marshal's office.

"And get him, if he's innocent of any wrongdoing, into hot water,"
Whistler added, wagging his head. "Say! that won't do. We fellows came
near getting poor Seven Knott into trouble, thinking him a German spy,"
he added, referring to an incident mentioned in "Navy Boys After the
Submarines."

Thus meditating he drew nearer to the place where the flashboard was
down and the water poured into the rocky river bed. There were stepping
stones here, so it was easy for an agile person to get across the
stream.

A blue haze of spray rose from the foaming water on the rocks, and there
sounded a pleasant murmur from the falling water. Birds darted in and
out of this spray, fluttering their pinions in the bath thus provided.

On this side of the waterfall Whistler could discover nothing on the
face of the dam nor along its foot that seemed in the least suspicious.
The masonry was perfect.

He crossed the river bed, leaping from stone to stone, and stepped up so
close to the falling water that the spray splashed him. It was somewhere
about here, he thought, that the man, Blake, had focused his field-glass
from the roadside.

There was absolutely nothing out of the way here that he could see. The
brush was kept cleared out at the foot of the dam for a dozen feet or
so; there seemed to be no cover here. Not a stone had been overturned
along this cleared path.

The water splashed and bubbled at the foot of the fall. Did it seem to
splash more vigorously just here at the edge of the pool, hidden by the
spray in part, and partly by the overhang of a great rock on which
Whistler stood?

The observant youth stooped, then knelt beside the stream. The rock was
wet and his garments were fast becoming saturated. But he paid no
attention to this.

There was something down there in the pool, at its edge, struggling
beneath the surface. Not a fish, of course!

Suddenly he thrust in his hand, wetting his sleeve to the elbow. Quickly
he made sure that his suspicion was correct. There was some kind of
water wheel whirling down there.

He moved a flat stone which seemed to have lain for ages in its present
position. Yet under that stone was the end of the wheel's axle with
cogwheels rigged to pass on the power engendered by the wheel to some
mechanical contrivance not yet placed.

Whistler returned the flat rock back to its former position, and moved
slowly back from the place on hands and knees. Then he stood up and
looked all around to see if he had been observed. Particularly did he
look through the break in the trees toward the spot where Blake, the
stranger, had stood when Whistler and his friends had first spied him.

There was nobody in sight as far as the young fellow could see. He moved
back into the shelter of a clump of brush. He heard an automobile
chugging up from the village and believed Al and the others were
approaching the bridge where he had asked his chum to wait for him.

But he lingered a bit. He was deeply moved by his discovery. This was no
boy's plaything. The mechanism was the effort of a mature mind, perhaps
the result of inventive genius of high quality.

Some inventor might be secretly experimenting with water power here; and
if Whistler told of his discovery he might be doing the unknown a grave
wrong.

Yet Blake's peculiar actions and the fact that the foot of the dam had
been chosen for the experiment troubled the young fellow vastly.

There was nothing along the wall, as far as he could see, or upon its
face, that excited Whistler's further suspicion. Just that little water
wheel under the rock whirling and splashing by the power of the falling
stream. It was perfectly innocent in itself; yet Philip Morgan had never
been more excited and troubled in his life.

He went slowly back to the road and found the car waiting on the bridge.
The other boys were loud in their demands as to what he had been doing,
and Frenchy and Ikey did their best to pump information out of him.

"What for did you go up there to the dam yet?" demanded Ikey.

"Cat's fur, to make kittens' breeches," declared Whistler. "Because
I couldn't get any dog fur. Now do you know?"

And this was all the satisfaction there was to be got out of their
leader at this particular time.



CHAPTER IV

S. P. 888


The result of the boys' campaign for recruits to the Navy was very
encouraging. They had been to places besides Elmvale; and several of
their old friends in Seacove were getting into one branch or another of
the service.

Many of the young men in the neighborhood, of course, were of draft age;
but, being longshore bred, they naturally preferred salt water service.
So they enlisted before the time came for them to answer the call of
their several draft boards.

The interest of our four friends, and of Seven Knott even, was not
entirely centered in this patriotic duty of urging others into the
service. Their release from duty might end any day. Under ordinary
circumstances the chum would have been assigned before this to some
patrol vessel, or the like, until their own ship, the _Colodia_, made
port.

Mr. Minnette, however, was trying to place them on the _Kennebunk_, the
new superdreadnaught, for a short cruise. If he succeeded the friends
might be obliged to pack their kits and leave home again at almost any
hour. The _Kennebunk_ was fitting out in a port not fifty miles from
Seacove.

Meanwhile the chums were "having the time of their young sweet lives,"
Al Torrance observed more than once. The home folks had never before
considered these rather harum-scarum boys of so much importance as now
that they were in the Navy and becoming real "Old Salts." From Doctor
Morgan down to Ikey's youngest brother the relatives and friends of the
quartette treated them with much consideration.

To tell the truth it had not been patriotism that had carried Ikey
Rosenmeyer and his friends into the Navy. At that time the United States
was not in the war, and the four friends had thought little of the pros
and cons of the world struggle.

They thought they had had enough school, and there was no steady and
congenial work for them about Seacove. Entering the Navy had been a lark
in the offing.

As soon as they had joined, they found that they had entered another
school, and one much more severe and thorough than the Seacove High
School. They were learning something pretty nearly all the time, both in
the training school and aboard the _Colodia_. And there was much to
learn.

However, Whistler and Al took the work more seriously than their
younger mates. They were studying gunnery, and hoped to get into the gun
crew of the _Kennebunk_ for practice if they were fortunate enough to
cruise on that ship. Just at present Frenchy and Ikey Rosenmeyer were
more engaged in getting all the fun possible out of existence.

The thing that delighted the latter most was the way in which his father
treated him. Mr. Rosenmeyer had been a stern parent, and had opposed
Ikey's desire to enlist in the Navy. He always declared he needed the
boy to help in the store and to take out orders. Ikey had got so that he
fairly hated the store and its stock in trade. Pigs feet and sauerkraut
and dill pickles were the bane of his life.

Now that he was at home on leave, Mr. Rosenmeyer would not let Ikey help
at all in the store. If a customer came in, the fat little storekeeper
heaved himself up from his armchair and bade Ikey sit still.

"Nein! It iss not for you, Ikey. Don't bodder 'bout the store yet. We
haf changed de stock around, anyvay, undt you could not find it,
p'r'aps, vot de lady vants. Tell us again, Ikey, apout shootin' de
camouflage off de German raider-poat, de _Graf von Posen_. Mebby-so de
lady ain't heardt apout it yet. I didn't see it in de paper
meinselluf."

So Ikey, thus urged, spun the most wonderful yarns regarding his
adventures; and he was not obliged to "draw the long bow"; for the
experiences of him and his three friends had been exciting indeed.

Mr. Rosenmeyer had become as thoroughly patriotic as he once had been
pro-German. It was a great cross to him now that he could not learn to
speak English properly. But German names he abhorred and German signs he
would no longer allow in the store. He even put a newly-printed sign
over the sauerkraut barrel which read: "Liberty Cabbage."

Into the store on a misty morning rolled Frenchy Donahue in his most
pronounced Old Salt fashion. Frenchy had acquired such a sailorish roll
to his walk, that Al Torrance hinted more than once that the Irish lad
could not get to sleep at night now that he was ashore until his mother
went out and threw several buckets of water against his bedroom window.

"Hey, Ikey! what you think?" called Frenchy. "Channel bass are running.
Whistler and Torry are going out in the _Sue Bridger_. What d'you know
about that? Bridger's let 'em have his cat for the day. Never was known
to do such a thing before," and Frenchy chuckled. "Oh, boy! aren't we
having things soft just now? Want to go fishing, Ikey?" Ikey favored his
friend with a sly wink, but only said crisply:

"I don't know about it. I was going to wash the store windows. Where are
Whistler and Torry going?"

"As far as Blue Reef. They say the bass are schoolin' out there."

"They'd better be on the lookout for subs, as far out as the Reef," Ikey
said solemnly. "I don't believe they've got this coast half patrolled.
We don't often see one of those chasers in the cove here."

"Mebbe we'll catch a submarine instead of bass," remarked Frenchy.

"You petter go along mit your friends in dot catboat, Ikey," said Mr.
Rosenmeyer, who was listening with both ears and his eyes wide open. "If
there iss one of them German submarines in dese waters idt shouldt be
known yet. Ain't that right?"

"Yes. We'd have to report it, Papa, to the naval authorities," admitted
Ikey seriously.

"Vell, you go right along den," urged his father. "Nefer mindt yet de
winders. I can get a winder washer easy."

"Well, if you don't mind, Papa," said Ikey, with commendable hesitancy.

"Come along, Ikey," urged Frenchy under his breath. "And be sure you
bring along your submarine tackle--I mean your bass rod," and he rolled
out of the store, chuckling to himself.

"Undt take a lunch, Ikey!" cried Mr. Rosenmeyer after his son. "Ham,
undt bologna, undt cheese, undt there's some fine dill pickles----"

"Oh, my!" groaned his son. "No dill pickles."

He joined Frenchy in a few minutes with a basket crammed with things to
eat, as well as his fishing tackle. It was not far to Bridger's float,
off which the twenty-four-foot catboat, _Sue Bridger_, was moored.

Ikey remarked: "Sometimes I almost faint when I see the change in papa.
He never wanted me to have a bit of fun before. He didn't have no fun
when he was a boy. He always worked. That is the German way, he says.

"But he don't have any use for _any_thing German now--not even the way
they bring up children."

"Ain't it a fact?" chuckled Frenchy. "Me mother makes the kids git up
and give me the best chair when I come into the sitting room.

          'Git up out o' that,
          Ye impident brat!
              An' let Mr. M'Ginnis sit down.'

That's the way she treats me. Me head's gettin' that swelled I couldn't
draw a watch cap down over me ears."

The exhaust of the auxiliary engine of the catboat was spitting when
Frenchy hailed their mates. Whistler was loosening the points of the big
sail while Torry worked at the engine.

"How'll we get over there?" demanded Ikey. "There's no boat here."

Whistler Morgan, barefooted and with his sleeves rolled up, came aft and
tossed Ikey the end of a coil of line.

"Draw her in to the float. I'll pay out the mooring cable. What have you
in that basket?"

"A litter of pups a neighbor wants him to drown," answered Frenchy
solemnly. "You fellows brought lunch enough for all, didn't you?"

"Couldn't get any at my house," Al confessed. "The girl's on a strike."

There was no mother at the Torrance house, and sometimes the
housekeeping there was "at sixes and sevens."

"I was going to get some crackers and sardines," confessed Whistler.
"I had no idea we could get this boat when I left the house. But I can
run up and get Alice to put us up a snack."

Frenchy was carrying Ikey's basket very carefully--indeed, lovingly. He
allowed his mate to catch the line and draw the _Sue Bridger_ in to the
float alone.

They stepped aboard, and Al made a grab for the basket handle with his
greasy hands. "Let's see the pups," he demanded suspiciously.

"Have a care! Have a care!" cried Whistler as the two struggled for
possession of the basket. "What is in it, Ikey?"

"Oi, oi! Oi, oi!" moaned Ikey. "They will the basket haf overboard yet!
Stop it! Stop it!"

It was Whistler who rescued the lunch basket with a firm hand. In the
struggle Frenchy came near going overboard, but he fell into the bilge
in the bottom of the boat instead.

"Wow!" he yelled. "Me clean pants! This old tub is leaking like a sieve,
Whistler!"

Whistler and Al were peeping into the basket. Their delight was
acclaimed at once.

"Good boy, Ikey!" declared Torry, smacking his lips. "You must have
robbed the whole delicatessen shop."

"You don't know my papa," declared Ikey with pride. "He would like to
feed the whole American Navy--that's the way he feels about it."

"He's all right," agreed Torry. "Come on, now, fellows, let's stir
around. The best of the day will be gone soon. Don't worry about your
wet pants, Frenchy. Get up and pump out the bilge. She hasn't been used
for a fortnight, and of course some moisture has gathered."

"'Moisture?' Good-night!" growled the Irish lad, setting to work as he
was told with the tin pump. "I bet I have to sit and do this all day
while you fellows fish."

The engine was only for an emergency. Captain Bridger had told them
that. Gasoline was expensive. So Whistler and Ikey got up the sail, it
filled, and they cast off the moorings. The catboat began to edge her
way out into the cove. There was no rain falling; but fog wreaths rolled
in from the sea.

"Get your scare!" shouted Whistler as he ran back to take the tiller.
"Toot away once in a while. We don't want to stub our toe against some
other craft, and that before we get out of the cove."

"A submarine, for instance?" chuckled Frenchy, soon becoming pacified.
"Ikey's father thinks maybe he might bag one while we're out here."

"I'd like to get a close-up view of one of those submarine chasers,"
remarked Torry, finding the horn in the forward locker. He tooted it
raucously, and then continued: "They say some of 'em can go like the
wind."

"Go right through a tub like this, if once we got in the way," commented
Whistler. "Mind you! faster than the _Colodia_--and that's some speed."

"Wow!" cried Frenchy. "Don't believe anything on water ever does go
faster than a torpedo boat destroyer."

"Oh, yes, there are faster boats. How about a hydro?" Phil said, when
Ikey broke in with an inquiry:

"Say! lemme ask you: Why do they call the _Colodia_ and her sister ships
'torpedo boat destroyers'? We don't see many torpedo boats anyway. They
are all old stuff."

"That's right," Torry said. "What is the why-for? All naval craft are
supposed to be destroyers anyway--I mean service craft."

Morgan was the oracle on this occasion.

"Ikey is right. I've read that torpedo boats antedate the Spanish War.
Their exclusive business was to run up close to an enemy battleship and
deliver against it an automobile torpedo. These boats were great stuff
in the beginning.

"Then they invented a craft as an antidote for the torpedo boat--the
torpedo boat destroyer. Our Admiral Sims called this new vessel 'a tin
box built around a mighty big engine.'"

"Wow! And he is right," cried Frenchy Donahue. "That's just what our
_Colodia_ is."

"And these subchasers are still faster," Torry observed. "They tell me
they can make thirty-five, and better, an hour."

"Oi, oi!" cried Ikey Rosenmeyer at this juncture. "Speak of the Old
Harry and hear his wings, yet! What's that off yonder?"

The _Sue Bridger_ was now skimming out of the cove, and the fog was
lifting. They got a sight of a patch of open sea across which a low,
gray vessel was shooting like a shark after its prey.

"What a beaut!" shouted Torry.

"That's one of the new chasers all right," Whistler agreed. "Their base
is at New London where the submarine base is."

At that moment the sun broke through the murk overhead. Its rays shone
brilliantly upon the patch of blue sea on which the submarine patrol
boat steamed at such a rapid pace.

The sunbeams pricked out the letters and figures painted so big upon the
side of the craft and the Navy boys repeated in chorus:

"S. P., Eighty-eighty-eight."



CHAPTER V

THE STREAK ON THE WATER


The Navy boys arrived at the patch of shallow water over the Blue Reef
at about noon. By that time the fog was pretty well dissipated, and they
had a clear view of miles and miles of sea as well as of the coastline
behind them and the narrow entrance to the cove.

The submarine chaser was out of sight. No other craft appeared upon the
open sea beyond the _Sue Bridger's_ present anchorage. The boys threw
out a little chum, and then dropped their hooks.

"First nibble!" whispered Torry. "Now watch me play him."

But the first few "nibbles" proved to be merely "hook-cleaners." The
fish got the bait, and the boys had the exercise of swishing their lines
in and out of the water.

Channel bass run to large sizes. Torry told about seeing one hung up on
the dock at Seacove weighing sixty-four and a quarter pounds.

"That's all right," grumbled Frenchy, who had just lost a nibbler, "but
a two-pound one will satisfy me. What would we do with a
sixty-four-pound bass?"

"Keep it alive and teach it to draw a little red wagon," chuckled Ikey.
"Oi, oi! That would be fine!"

"It would be as big as Dugan's goat. Don't know why it shouldn't be
tackled up and made use of," Whistler agreed, dryly.

"Only they lack feet--Gee-whillikins! what's this?" burst forth Torry.

He certainly had a bite at last. His reel hummed and the fish started
for the coast of Spain; or, at least, in that general direction.

He had to play the fish well to save his line, for the latter was
neither a very heavy one, nor new. The bass ran stubbornly out to sea.

"That's a whale, Torry," Whistler declared, breaking off in a military
tune to make the observation. "You should have harpooned it."

"I'm going to get him aboard here if I swamp the boat!" declared Torry
with vigor.

The boys were so interested in his playing the fish for the next ten
minutes that they did not cast a glance shoreward. Finally the bass was
tired out, and Torry drew him in close to the boat. Whistler leaned over
the side and, with a maul, tapped the bass on the head.

But when he got his hand in the gills of the fish they clamped down upon
his fingers, and, in the struggle, he was almost hauled out of the
boat.

"Hey! Help!" he bawled. "What are you fellows? Just passengers?"

Frenchy gave him a hand on one side and Ikey on the other; between them
the trio hauled a ten-pound bass over the gunwale. Torry was dancing
around in glee and shouting at the top of his voice.

"Hush!" commanded Whistler. "You'll scare even the sharks and dogfish
away."

"Or you'll dance through the rotten old bottom boards of the boat and
we'll have to walk ashore," added Frenchy.

But it was a great catch, and the others could feel nothing but envy of
Torry's success. He had set a pace that none of them could equal; for
after that there did not seem to be another bass of even two pounds'
weight in the whole ocean.

"Hey, fellows!" ejaculated Ikey suddenly. "Who's this coming?"

"Somebody walking on the water, is it?" chuckled Frenchy.

"Aw, you needn't be correcting my English," responded Ikey. "There are
no medals on you for being a purist."

"Wow, wow!" yelled Torry. "Listen to him sling language."

"Hold on, fellows," Whistler said, diving for the glass he never went
to sea without. "That's no smack."

They all had turned to look at the approaching craft which Ikey had
first sighted. It was a power boat and was running parallel with the
coast in a southeasterly direction and inshore of the anchorage of the
_Sue Bridger_.

She was about forty feet long and was showing some speed; but her hull
looked battered, and there was nothing natty or yacht-like about her.

"No pleasure craft, that," ventured Torry, as Phil trained his glasses
on her. "She's too slouchy."

"She's got speed, just the same," observed Frenchy. "What's her name,
Phil?"

"Can't make it out," returned Morgan. Then immediately he uttered a
surprised ejaculation.

"What's up?" Torry asked him.

Whistler said nothing but he drew his chum up beside him and thrust the
glass into his hand. "Look at that fellow," he commanded.

"Which fellow?" asked Torry trying to focus the glass on the strange
craft.

"The man forward. He's looking this way. See! The man with the
whiskers," whispered Morgan.

"I see him," returned Torry.

The other boys were giving more attention to their fishing again.
Whistler was very much in earnest, and he spoke softly in his chum's
ear:

"You've seen him before. It's the man we saw in the bushes up there by
the Elmvale Dam the other day. Remember, Al?"

"Gee! Yes!" breathed Torry.

"They told me his name was Blake. He doesn't look it," said Whistler
earnestly. "He looks more like a German than Hansie Hertig--and that's
enough!"

"Aw----"

"Of course, he can't help that," agreed Whistler before Torrance could
voice objection. "But he is a stranger in Elmvale. He works at the
munition factory. You'd think of course they'd be careful who they
employ. But he wouldn't be the first alien that has been employed in
such a factory."

"What are you driving at, Phil?" demanded his chum, much puzzled now.

"I found something up there near the dam that I didn't tell you fellows
about. And it is something that I think that man's interested in. Now,
what's he out here for?"

"For a sail."

"In that old tub that is full of oil casks and the like?"

"Whistler Morgan!" breathed Torry in amazement, "how do you know at this
distance what kind of cargo that boat has?"

"Why, she fairly reeks of oil!" said Whistler confidently. "See that
streak along the water in her wake--that purplish, reddish streak?"

"I see it!" admitted Torry in a moment.

"Nothing but oil would do that. She's got leaky casks aboard. And where
would an oil lighter be going out this way? Where is she coming from and
where is she going? And what is that bewhiskered Blake doing aboard her?
Tell me that, will you?"

But the wondering and excited Torrance could not answer these
questions.



CHAPTER VI

AN OLD FRIEND


Fishing rather palled upon both Whistler and Torry after sighting the
other boat. The younger boys had not paid much attention to the passing
of the craft which Whistler was confident was an oil lighter of some
kind.

"You're so plaguy suspicious, Whistler," muttered Al Torrance, as they
heaved up the anchor and the younger boys hoisted the big sail.

"For all you know, that Blake may be as harmless as a baby."

"Sure," agreed Morgan. "But what's he doing out in that boat, and what
is the boat itself doing out here? She's headed off shore--and you saw
she was loaded. The water almost lapped over her rail."

"Well?"

"She surely isn't headed for the other side of the Atlantic," Whistler
declared. "Yet she's aiming straight out to sea right now. She isn't
following the coast any longer."

It was a fact. Although the strange power launch was now at a great
distance, it was plain she was leaving the land behind her. There was
no land in that direction save the European coast.

"You believe she's a supply ship for German subs?" asked Torry.

"Or taking out gasoline or oil to put aboard some Swedish or Norwegian
ship that expects to give the cargo to the Germans at some rendezvous in
the North Sea. That isn't impossible, Torry."

"Just the same I fancy you are hunting a mare's nest," his chum
declared.

Torry--nor the other Navy boys--was not apt to call in question
Whistler's judgment. But on this occasion it seemed to him as though
Morgan was shooting wild.

Frenchy Donahue and Ikey Rosenmeyer had caught several fish and were
satisfied; but soon they began to notice that their companions had
something on their minds besides the catch of channel bass.

"What's bitin' you fellows?" demanded Frenchy. "Had a spat?"

"I bet they've had a lover's quarrel," grinned Ikey. "Ain't you going to
speak to us, ever again, Torry?"

"Oh, my eye!" growled Torry.

But he and Whistler really had very little to say while the boat was
running back into the cove. The wind was not so favorable, so it took a
much longer time for the trip than it had to come out to the fishing
grounds.

"But if we use a drop of his gas, old Cap Bridger will know it,"
grumbled Frenchy. "Maybe we'll have to row her in."

A little flicker of breeze helped after a while, however; but it was
just then, too, and after they had rounded one of the crab-claw capes
that defended the cove from the ocean, that Ikey sang out:

"What's this coming? Oi, oi! D'you see it, Whistler? It's a streak of
light!"

The other boys turned to look seaward. Rushing in from that watery world
was a gray shape--narrow, low-decked, with slight upperworks and a
single stack.

"A chaser!" cried Torry, finding his voice and growing excited.

"She's aiming right this way," added Frenchy excitedly.

Phil Morgan had his glass out again, and his lips unpuckered and the
tune he had been monotoning died.

"What do you make of her, Phil?" whispered Al Torrance.

"It is a sub patrol boat all right," agreed their leader.

Ikey, who had the tiller at this juncture, got so excited watching the
swiftly approaching craft that he pretty nearly swung the _Sue Bridger_
in a circle.

"Look out, you chump!" yelled Torry. "Want to yank the stick out of her?
If you haven't a care Captain Bridger will get the price of a new
catboat out of us."

Whistler gave Torrance the glass and went aft himself to relieve Ikey at
the helm.

"You're a fine garby," called Donahue to Rosenmeyer. "Lose your head
mighty easy. That chaser isn't chasing us."

"How do you know she isn't?" returned Ikey.

"She certainly is following us," Whistler said. "But until she bespeaks
our attention with her forward gun I guess we need not worry," and he
smiled grimly.

The boys watched the swiftly approaching boat. It came in through the
narrows at top speed, circled around toward the docks, and passed the
catboat at a distance.

"'S. P. 888'!" yelled Torry. "Look there!"

"I thought it was that same chaser we saw before," Frenchy said.

"Wonder what she wants in here at Seacove?" Ikey asked.

Whistler had changed their course to bring the catboat nearer to the
naval boat, which was slowing down. Torry leaped upon the low-decked
cabin and began signaling by the semaphore code. In his blue uniform
his body stood out clearly against the catboat's sail, and he was at
once observed by the crew of the S. P. 888.

"Whew! Look at that!" gasped Frenchy. "They are answering."

Then he and Ikey began to spell out the word that the seaman on the deck
of the chaser was signaling in the same code Torrance had used.

"M-O-R-G-A-N!"

"Oi, oi!" yelled Ikey. "They're after you, Whistler!"

"What's the next?" gasped Frenchy.

Another name was not long in coming.

"T-O-R-R-A-N-C-E!"

"They want you, too."

"Look, they are calling somebody else."

Quickly the Navy Boys spelt out the next name.

"D-O-N-A-H-U-E!"

"That's me," came in a groan from Frenchy.

"Maybe they don't want me," murmured Ikey.

"Don't you fool yourself," returned Whistler promptly. "We couldn't do
without you."

"But they ain't wigwaging no more, Whistler."

"Maybe the sailor doin' it got tired," offered Torry.

"R-O-S-E-N-M-E-Y-E-R!" came the signal presently.

"See them coming, boys!"

"Some speed there!"

"He's after us," said Torry. "Whip up this old tub, Whistler. Let's start
the engine."

"Hold your horses," advised Morgan. "He knows we are aboard. We'll get
there all right, give us time."

The chaser was circling around, and finally headed toward them. The
excited boys in the catboat saw Mr. MacMasters examining them through a
glass. The S. P. 888 came to a stop near the usual mooring of the _Sue
Bridger_. Captain Bridger put off in a dory from the float and began to
scull out toward the Government boat.

"We're going aboard!" cried Torry. "Say, Whistler! do you suppose he's
been sent for us? Shall we join up with the crew of that shark?"

"Oi, oi!" groaned Ikey. "No dreadnaught for us, then? What will my papa
and mama say? I've been tellin' 'em maybe I get to command a battleship
this next cruise."

"I had no idea Ensign MacMasters was in service again," Whistler said.
"But I am glad he is on this particular boat."

"Why?" asked Torry, to whom he spoke in a low tone.

"I want to tell him about that oil boat," returned Morgan, nodding his
head.

In a few moments they dropped the sail and fended off from the chaser's
side, just as Captain Bridger reached the spot too.

"You want these four boys, Skipper?" demanded the old fisherman.

"That's what I do," said Ensign MacMasters. Then to the chums: "Come
aboard, boys; I've news for you."

"They been using my catboat," said Captain Bridger. "All right, Phil
Morgan. You can go aboard. I'll take charge of the _Sue_. Got some
right nice lookin' bass, ain't you?"

"But you won't take charge of them!" Torry exclaimed. "I caught that
big fellow, and I donate it to the officer's mess of the S. P.
Eight-eighty-eight, right now!"

The fisherman looked somewhat disappointed, for he was eager to make a
penny. Whistler, however, gave him some of the smaller fish. The
remainder were tossed to a grinning sailor upon the deck of the chaser.

"Come right aboard, boys," Ensign MacMasters repeated. "I am glad to see
you looking so chipper."

He shook hands with them, in rotation, as they came over the side. But
the chums did not forget to salute the officer. They lined up before him
in a respectful attitude as Captain Bridger got aboard the catboat and
shoved her away from the chaser's side.

"I am only acting commander of this little knifeblade," said Ensign
MacMasters. "Junior Lieutenant Perkins has time off to attend to some
private business, and I have been stuck aboard here for a few days.
We're patrolling this stretch of coast, and I ran in to see if I could
pick up you boys. Do you know what is going to happen?"

"We're going to lick the Germans!" exclaimed Frenchy.

The ensign laughed. "Smart boy," he said. "You will go to the head of
the class for that. But my information is new stuff. I am assigned to
the _Kennebunk_ and you four boys are to go with me."

"Hurray!" shouted Torry, unable to suppress his delight.

"That will sure please my papa," declared Ikey, with a broad smile and
twinkling eyes. "It sure will."

"But how about the _Colodia_, sir?" asked Whistler anxiously.

"That's right! Be faithful to your first love, Morgan," laughed Ensign
MacMasters. "I imagine they intend to send us all back to her in time.
But--whisper!--the _Colodia_ is across the pond. So I am told. There is
something doing over there."

"Crickey!" gasped Torry. "And we not in it!"

"It may not come off before we get across in this new battleship----"

"Whew!" shrilled Frenchy, forgetting himself. "Will the _Kennebunk_ go
across, too?"

"That's telling," said Ensign MacMasters. "You will have several days
yet to get ready for the cruise, no matter how long it may be. Yes,
Morgan? What do you want to say?" for he observed that Whistler was
restless and wished to speak.

"I've something to report, sir," Whistler declared.

"Yes?"

"We made an observation just now. Well, perhaps an hour and a half ago,
sir."

"What was it?" queried the ensign, with interest.

"A power boat passed us. She was not as long as this chaser and not very
swift. She was steering into the sou'east, and she left a streak of oil
in her wake. She was laden to the guards with oil casks, I believe."

Ensign MacMasters made no comment for a moment; then he got the full
significance of Whistler's meaning and he briskly demanded:

"Sure her casks were filled, Morgan, and not empty?"

"She had a full cargo of something, sir," said Whistler, nodding.

"And headed southeast?"

"Yes, sir."

Mr. MacMasters wheeled to speak to his navigating officer. In thirty
seconds the swift craft started.

"Hold on, Mr. MacMasters!" cried Torry. "We've got to get ashore somehow
for supper, you know."

The ensign smiled at him. "I am afraid you will have to remain aboard
and help eat some of your own fish for supper. No time just now to put
you boys on land."



CHAPTER VII

FOG HAUNTED


The S. P. 888 was shaking throughout her structure before she came
square with the exit of the cove. If a destroyer is "a tin box built
around a mighty big engine," the term even more nearly fits one of these
chasers.

The four Navy boys from Seacove were amazed by the quickness with which
she got under way and the brief time it took to tune her up to top-notch
speed.

"She's a hundred and ten feet long," said Mr. MacMasters, "about as wide
as a happy thought, and can make her thirty-five knots an hour without
any particular effort."

"No effort?" muttered Torry. "And it feels as though she was shaking
herself to pieces!"

"She's faster than the _Colodia_," observed Whistler, somewhat as though
he felt pained by that fact. That any other craft should be a sweeter
sailer than his beloved destroyer seemed to him almost a crime.

"She most certainly is," agreed Ensign MacMasters. "She is some speed
boat!"

"Why!" Frenchy cried, "she must be faster than the admiral's hydroboat
we saw at Newport."

"No, no!" said the ensign. "Those hydroboats have got every other craft
in the Navy beaten to a standstill. And about all they use 'em for is
pleasure boats."

"They'll be dispatch carriers maybe?" suggested Whistler.

"What do they want of dispatch carriers in a day of wireless?" returned
the ensign, and went about his duty of conning the S. P. 888 as she shot
through the breach between the claw-like capes that defended the cove,
and so straight out to sea in a southeasterly direction.

The "bone in her teeth," as sailors call the white water under the
ship's bows, became a windrow of sea, foamed-streaked and agitated,
parted by the knife-sharp bows, and rolling away on either hand. The
S. P.  888 traveled so swiftly that at a distance "shark" really was
the name for her.

She was not camouflaged, as were the hull and upperworks of many Navy
vessels with which the four friends were familiar; but her dull coloring
made her well nigh unobservable at a few miles' distance when she lay at
rest. When she was in action no amount of deceiving paint would hide
her, because of the water she disturbed.

The motor boat Phil had suspected had more than an hour and half's
start. If she had kept straight ahead on the course she was going when
last observed by the boys, she must now be twenty miles or more off
shore.

The chaser, propelled by her powerful engines, could traverse that
distance, and the oil boat's additional miles, in less than two hours.
If the pursued vessel did not change her course she could be easily
overtaken before twilight.

Ensign MacMasters was too busy to talk further with the four chums;
indeed it would not be conducive to discipline for the commissioned
officer to give the apprentice seamen too much of his attention.

But Mr. MacMasters and the four Seacove boys had been through some warm
incidents together; and there is always a particular bond between those
who have been shoulder to shoulder in a good fight.

"Remember the rumpus we had, Mr. MacMasters and us fellows, when those
Germans tried to recapture the _Graf von Posen_?" Ikey asked his mates.

"Are we likely to forget it?" retorted Al.

"What about it, Ikey?" asked Michael Donahue, complacently. "It was a
lovely fight!"

"Do you s'pose the fellows on this oil tender we are chasin' will
fight?" asked Ikey.

"Not a chance. Here's fifty men on this chaser. The Germans--if they are
Germans--wouldn't stand any show. There are only a few of them," said
Torry.

"Including the black-whiskered chap Whistler tells about," Frenchy said.
"Hey, Whistler!"

"What is it?" asked the older lad seriously.

"D'you really think that power boat we saw is going out to meet a
submarine?"

"Ask me an easier one," said Morgan. "I can't guess. But she might. We
know very well that German submarines and German raiders, and even
Germany itself, pass news back and forth by wireless. We can't control
the vibrations of the air--worse luck!"

"Now you've said something, boy!" agreed Torry.

"They read all the news that passes between our ships, too, unless it is
in a secret code. And they pick everything they need to know about our
ship movements out of the air."

"Too bad wireless was ever invented, then," grumbled Torry.

"Six of one and half a dozen of the other," grinned Frenchy. "You bet
our operators steal German messages."

"It's likely. You know that chap on the _Colodia_ whom we all liked so
well, the chief wireless operator, got lots of information that was
supposed only to be picked up by German submarines.

"In this case," added Whistler Morgan, "the sub may have wirelessed word
for supplies. We don't know how many alien enemies may be running
wireless stations in the United States. The Secret Service men are
unearthing them all the time."

"Well," sighed Ikey, "I only hope we'll catch up with this oil tub we're
hunting just as she is unloading her cargo onto a sub. Then! Blooey!
We'll drop a depth bomb or two, and settle Mr. Submarine."

"Just like _that_!" drawled Whistler. "It sounds easy. How many times
did the _Colodia_ chase a U-boat and lose it?"

"Crickey!" breathed Torry, "even the _Colodia_ couldn't travel like this
shark."

"Oh! you admit it, do you?" grinned Frenchy. "Well, we are going some!"

But there was an element working against the S. P. 888--an element which
could not be controlled. No matter how speedy the oil boat might have
been, the chaser could have overtaken her had she kept a straight
course. That was understood.

But the farther they went the more certain it was that this new element
was going to balk them. It was fog. The horizon was masked by it, and
soon the damp feel of it was upon them.

Mr. MacMasters paced the deck anxiously. Not a smudge of smoke did he or
the lookouts raise. But the growing fog cloud would soon have hidden
anything of the kind, even if the oil boat had been near at hand.

"Fog-haunted, Morgan," he said to Whistler, with disappointment. "We'll
run on for a while; but it is hopeless, I guess. You say you know one of
the men aboard that power boat?"

Morgan told him what he knew of the bewhiskered man called Blake; and
also of the little water wheel that was whirling under the waterfall at
the Elmvale Dam, although really, it did not seem to him as though that
little invention could have a serious connection with any alien-enemy
activities.

"I will report the whole thing," Mr. MacMasters said. "But, of course,
the Department receives similar and even less assured testimony every
day, of suspiciously acting persons. The information furnished the
Department has all to be sifted. There may be nothing wrong with this
man Blake."

"If he is working at the munition factory, how comes it that he is out
here on an oil-laden boat?" demanded Whistler, with what he thought was
shrewdness.

"Quite so. You boys are naval apprentices, but you were out fishing
to-day," returned Mr. MacMasters, grimly. "There is an explanation for
everything, my boy."

They ran on for another hour, but more slowly. They did not raise a
craft of any kind, and Mr. MacMasters lost hope.

"I will put you boys ashore at Rivermouth," he said. "You can go home by
rail. I shall not be able to put in at Seacove again to-night. And
Rivermouth is off yonder--within a few miles."

Even in the fog the navigator found the harbor in question without
difficulty. Just as they would have apprehended the presence of a
submarine had one been near. There are very delicate and wonderful
instruments aboard American naval vessels--instruments that may not be
described at present--that enable the officers to apprehend the near
approach of other vessels and their own nearness to the shore as well.

The S. P. 888 made her landfall correctly and slipped into Rivermouth
Harbor like a ghost in the fog. There was a quantity of small shipping
in the place, and Ensign MacMasters did not want to take any chances of
collision. So he hailed a fishing smack and put the four friends from
Seacove aboard of her.

"Good-bye, boys!" he said, as they went over the side into the smack.
"We shall meet in a few days. You will get your notice by telegraph when
to join the _Kennebunk_, and where. I shall be relieved from the
command of this shark, and we'll have a big cruise on the
superdreadnaught, I have no doubt."

He spoke prophetically, as it was proved later. But at this time neither
Ensign MacMasters nor any of the four apprentice seamen imagined just
how wonderful a cruise it would be.

As the fishing smack chugged away with her auxiliary engine toward the
docks of the town, the S. P. 888 swung in a narrow circle and put out to
sea so swiftly that in five minutes she was completely out of sight in
the fog and almost out of sound as well.

The fishermen were curious about the boys and the business of the chaser
in this locality; but the Navy boys had long since learned to say
nothing that would circulate information of any moment. "Keep your mouth
closed" is an inflexible rule of the Navy; the yarns Ikey told his
"papa" and his "mama" notwithstanding!

As they drifted in toward shore slowly, weaving their way among the
moored craft, Whistler suddenly began to sniff the air and show
excitement.

"What's the matter?" demanded Torry, his closest chum. "You act like a
hound dog on a hot scent."

"Or a colored gem'man smelling po'k chops on the frypan," suggested
Frenchy, chuckling.

"Say, Mister," asked Whistler, turning to the skipper of the smack, "is
there a tank ship in here?"

"An oil tanker? No! Nothing like it."

"I smell it, too!" exclaimed Ikey suddenly.

"What you boys smell is the _Sarah Coville_ that came in just ahead of
us. She's anchored here somewhere," said the fisherman.

"What sort is she?" Whistler demanded. Then he described swiftly the oil
tender he had marked that afternoon passing the Blue Reef fishing
grounds.

"That's her," said the man. "She often slips in here. Don't know who
owns her now. Used to belong to the Texarcana Oil Company before the
war. She's only a lighter."

"Is she laden?" asked Whistler.

"Didn't look so to me," was the reply.

Whistler Morgan said no more, and he warned his friends to have no
further talk upon the matter. After they got ashore, however, all four
were much excited by the incident.

"She was loaded to the Plimsoll mark when she passed us," Torry said.
"What could she have done with her cargo in so short a time?"

"I'd like to know," agreed Whistler thoughtfully.

"We ought to tell somebody," declared Frenchy.

"Let's be sure we tell the right person," Whistler advised. "Come on now
and get some supper. We've an hour to wait for a train to Seacove."

They marched up the main street of the port. The fog was not so thick
inshore here. Just before they reached the restaurant they usually
patronized when they were in the town, Whistler uttered an exclamation
and held his friends back.

"See those two men going into Yancey's Restaurant?" he queried.

"What about 'em?" Frenchy asked.

"The fellow ahead," said Whistler Morgan deeply in earnest, "is that man
Blake. The other I bet is the captain of the _Sarah Coville_."

"Well," asked Torry, after a moment, "what are you waiting for? Their
eating at Yancey's won't stop us from going there too, will it?"



CHAPTER VIII

PUZZLED


Whistler Morgan's three chums had by this time become somewhat
interested in the bearded man, who called himself Blake and who worked
in the laboratory of the Elmvale munition factory.

They were not at all as sure as Whistler seemed to be that the man was
an alien enemy, and dangerous; for one reason they did not know all that
Whistler had discovered up by the dam. It was only to Ensign MacMasters
that their leader had told of the water wheel under the rock.

Frenchy began to grin when he saw how Whistler hesitated about entering
the restaurant in Rivermouth.

"What's the matter? You so mad with that fellow that you won't eat at
Yancey's because he does?" he asked.

"I'd like to get in there," said Whistler, "without attracting his
attention and that of the man with him. I know he's the skipper of that
oil boat."

"How are you going to do that?" demanded Torry. "They'll spot our
blouses and caps in a minute."

"That's just it. Wish we didn't have 'em on," grumbled his friend.

"Good-_night_! We'd make a nice fumble, wouldn't we, if we didn't wear
the uniform? What would it be--a month in the brig on hard tack and
water?"

"Say!" murmured the eager Ikey Rosenmeyer, "there's a side door. I'll
call Abe, the waiter, out there and tell him. If those fellows have gone
into one of the booths----"

"Bully!" cried Torry. "Maybe he can sneak us into one next to 'em. How
about it, Whistler?"

"Just the thing," agreed Morgan, nodding his head emphatically.

Ikey ran down the alley beside the restaurant while his mates waited at
the corner. The side door was not used save by the restaurant help; but
Ikey insinuated himself in by that entrance and in half a minute poked
his head out of the door again and beckoned furiously to the other boys.

"Oi, oi!" he chuckled in high feather, when they joined him. "We are in
luck all right. Those fellows got a booth, and Abe is layin' the table
in the one next to it, this side, for us. Come on! They won't see us."

"If they take a look out of the curtains they will," declared Torry.

"Have a care, now, about talking," Whistler advised earnestly. "Say
nothing about boats or the sea. No whispering, remember! Talk right out
when you talk at all."

"All right, me lud," said Frenchy. "Anything else?"

"Yes," said Whistler grimly. "This is a Dutch treat. Every fellow pays
for his own eats. Last time we were in a restaurant you all wished the
check on to me."

At that his mates chuckled much. Each had excused himself and gone out
"just for a minute," and Whistler found himself, after waiting half an
hour, expected by the waiter to pay the whole score.

The four got into the booth the waiter had prepared for them, and
Whistler sat with his back against the partition dividing it from that
in which Blake and his companion sat. Between the clatter of dishes, the
waiter's calls to the order man, and the talking of his own friends,
Whistler could not hear much at first. But he knew the two men whom he
suspected were talking in English.

Of course they would not be unwise enough to speak in German. By this
time the German language when spoken in public places was beginning to
cause remark. Wise Germans, whether friendly or enemy aliens, were not
using it.

One of the voices Whistler heard in the other booth, however, was
distinctly German in its accent. This he was quite sure was the skipper
of the oil tender. The other man used perfect English.

"They would not be likely to select a man too obviously German for a big
part in any plot," thought Whistler. "And that Blake looks like a suave,
well educated fellow."

The latter man spoke low, too. The other had a bluff and coarse voice.
He was a typical old sea-dog in his way. Only, a German sea-dog!

"Are you going back there yet?" Whistler heard him ask.

"For just one thing. You know what that is, Braun."

"_Ach!_ Yes."

"My work is done there," said the man, Blake, with pride in his voice.
"Oh, it will be taken note of, don't fear."

"I bet you!" growled the other, in evident admiration. "Undt so she goes
oop, yes? Boom!"

"Sh!" warned the other. "Never mind any talk about it."

But the other was inclined to be voluble. Whistler thought the skipper
of the oil tender, Braun, had been drinking. "And when alcohol is in
the brain wit is very likely to move out," he muttered.

"Grand work!" he ejaculated. "_Ach_, yes! Undt there will be more grand
work when two-fifty is joined by the others."

"Sh!" warned Blake again. "You talk too much, Braun. The wise man keeps
a still tongue."

Ordinarily Whistler Morgan would have found nothing in this overheard
conversation to fan suspicion into a blaze. He quite realized this fact.
But what he had seen at Elmvale, and the presence of Blake on the oil
tender, led in his mind to but one conclusion.

Blake and his companion referred to the former's work in Elmvale. And
what was that work? Not merely the peaceful occupation of chemist in the
laboratory of the munition factory. He was convinced that Blake referred
to something entirely different when he said: "My work is done there."

Nor was Blake merely an inventor, hiding away the actual working model
of an invention until he could secure its patent, for instance. No,
indeed!

Yet Morgan could not imagine what that water wheel was for. To what end
could it have been placed under the rock on the edge of the
overflow-stream from the Elmvale Dam?

Whistler had little to say himself during that meal at Yancey's. He
heard nothing more from the next booth, for Blake seemed to manage the
half drunken skipper of the _Sarah Coville_ with better judgment. By and
by the two men left the restaurant.

"Say! are we going to follow them?" asked the excited Frenchy.

"Aw, you poor fish!" scoffed Torry. "Where'd we follow them to? Back to
that stinking oiler? And how would we follow them to sea? We haven't a
boat."

"That's so," Frenchy admitted, crestfallen.

"No good to try to keep tabs on them," admitted Phil. "I hope Ensign
MacMasters will pick up news of that boat again. Just think of his
chaser coming right in here and not seeing the oiler in the fog. Tough
luck!"

"Say!" queried Ikey, "what did you hear, Whistler?"

"Just about what you did," returned the older lad. "Nothing much."

"What are we going to do?" demanded Torry.

"Pay our bills and go to the train. It is almost time," said Whistler
rather grumpily.

And this they did. The train for Seacove came along in a few minutes.
The boys got aboard. Ikey ran ahead down the aisle of the car and got
into a seat by an open window. The first thing he did was to thrust his
head out of the window and look back along the platform as the train
started.

"Oi, oi!" he cried, under his breath. "Here he comes!"

"Here who comes?" demanded Al Torrance.

"The German spy," declared Ikey.

"Hush up!" commanded Frenchy. "Want everybody to hear you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Whistler.

"That man," said Ikey. "He got aboard. He went into the last car."

"You don't mean Blake?"

"That's who I mean," declared Ikey with conviction.

"Aw, he's crazy," scoffed Frenchy.

But Torry went back through the train after it was well under way and
the conductor had taken their tickets. He peered through the glass in
the door of the rear car.

He came back shaking his head and looking puzzled.

"He's there all right," he said to Whistler. "Bet he's going to Elmvale
instead of to sea again. What do you make of it?"

"Not a thing," grumbled Whistler. "I wish I knew what to do."

"Let's have him pinched," suggested the eager Frenchy.

"Not a chance! On what charge?" asked Torry. "Accuse him of being in
disguise because he wears that beard?" and he chuckled.

But to Whistler Morgan's mind it was no laughing matter. He was silent
all the way to Seacove. Torry suggested that they stay on the train to
Elmvale and see if Blake got off at that station.

"No," his friend said decidedly, "we can't do that. Our folks will be
worried about us if we don't report soon. Cap Bridger may have told
around town that we went off on the submarine chaser, and perhaps our
folks will think we've gone for good."

So they alighted at their station and left the mysterious Blake aboard
the train. Whistler hurried home to consult with his father. There was
nobody else in whom he had so much confidence; at least, nobody within
reach.

In this case, however, his father was not within reach. Dr. Morgan had
been called away to see a patient in the country. It was a call that
might keep him away from home all night. Whistler was greatly
disappointed.

He went down town again and hunted up Torry. He found his friend getting
into his father's car in front of the garage.

"I was just coming over to get you," Torry said. "D'you know, Whistler,
I feel just as nervous as a cat?"

"I guess that's what is the matter with me," Morgan confessed. "I'm
bothering my head about that fellow Blake."

"Me, too. Say! let's run over there."

"To Elmvale?"

"Yep. Pa's gone away----"

"So has my father," admitted Whistler.

"Well, neither of them can advise us, then," said Torry, practically.
"How about talking with somebody in Elmvale? The manager of the munition
works, for instance?"

"That's so! Mr. Santley. Say! let's 'phone him and see if he is at
home."

"But you can't say anything over the telephone about Blake, or about us
fellows thinking he is up to something wrong."

"We'll make an appointment with the manager," said Whistler, running
into the Torrance house.

He knew where the telephone was, the girl at central quickly gave him
the connection. A man answered the call.

"Is this Mr. Santley?" Whistler asked.

"It is. Who are you?"

Morgan told him who he was and asked if he could see the manager if he
drove right over to Elmvale in his friend's car.

"What for?"

"It has something to do with a man named Blake in the employ of the
factory," said Whistler plainly. "But I can say nothing more about it
over the 'phone."

"'Blake'?" repeated the voice at the other end, and Whistler thought
there was a startled note in it. "What about him?"

"I can only tell you when I see you."

"Come on, then!" exclaimed the man. "I shall wait here for you at my
office."

Whistler ran out of the house. Al was already at the steering wheel of
the car.

"What did he say?" he shouted.

"For us to come over," Whistler replied. "And somehow, Torry, I feel we
ought to hurry."

"You said it!" agreed the other and turned on the power.



CHAPTER IX

JUST TOO LATE


"Shall we stop and pick up the other fellows?" demanded Al as the heavy
car shot up the road toward High Street. They had to cross the railroad
tracks to get into the Elmvale road.

"Stop for nothing!" exclaimed Phil Morgan. "I feel that we can't delay a
minute."

But as it chanced Michael Donahue was standing at the open door of the
Rosenmeyer delicatessen shop as the Torrance car wheeled around the
corner into Seacove's main street. Dusky as it now was, the Irish lad
recognized the car and the two boys on the front seat.

"Hi, Ikey!" he yelled to his chum, back in the store. "See who's
joy-riding! And they never said a word about it."

Ikey ran out in a hurry.

"Stingy! Stingy!" he cried, almost getting into the path of the
automobile.

Torry had been obliged to slow down to turn the corner; so it was easy
for the reckless Frenchy and Ikey to jump upon the running board of the
car.

"Tumble in, kids!" exclaimed Torry, out of the corner of his mouth, for
he had to keep his eyes ahead for traffic. "We're in a hurry."

"I--should--think--you--were!" gasped out Frenchy, as the car jounced
over the railroad tracks by the station. "I almost swallowed my gum."

"Who's sick?" demanded Ikey.

"Nobody. Sit down," adjured Whistler. "We're going to Elmvale."

"Wow, wow!" yelled Frenchy. "What for?"

"We don't know till we get there," declared Torry suddenly grinning.

Torry increased the speed the very next moment. There were not many
constables around Seacove, and the first five miles of the road to
Elmvale was perfectly straight. The amber lamps of the car gave a good
light ahead, and Torry was really a safe driver.

But he seemed reckless on this evening. Inspired by the same feeling
that impressed Whistler Morgan, he felt that they could not get to
Elmvale too quickly.

During the journey the older boys vouchsafed no explanation to the
younger pair save that they had made an engagement with Mr. Santley at
the munition factory over the telephone. In fact, they had no idea what
they would do, or what they would say to Mr. Santley.

The car roared on, the dogs barked behind them, and finally they came to
the slope leading down into Elmvale. Lights were already twinkling in
the valley. But the mills were closed, and even the munition factory
seemed deserted.

This time they did not take the Upper Road, but drove through the center
of the little hamlet. The stores were open and there were lights in most
of the cottages of the workmen. There were lively parties in all the
long, barrack-like boarding houses. The town was wide awake.

Torry brought the car to an abrupt stop before the brick office building
of the munition works. The place had been a mill before the war. The
long, many-windowed buildings behind the offices covered a good deal of
ground. There was a high stockade fence about the whole plant. An armed
guard stood at the main door when Whistler ran up the steps. The other
boys chose to wait in the car for him.

"I want to see Mr. Santley," Whistler said to the guard in khaki.

"The manager? I don't know whether he is here at this hour or not."

"I see lights in the offices yonder. And I have made an appointment with
him."

At that moment the bolts of the big door were shoved back and a man
looked out. Whistler Morgan did not know the manager of the munition
works by sight; but the guard at once said:

"Here's a boy to see you, Mr. Santley."

"What is your name, young man?" asked the manager, eying the boy with
interest.

Whistler told him.

"Dr. Morgan's son, from Seacove? Come in," and Whistler was ushered
inside and the heavy door was again barricaded.

"We have to keep locked up here like a fortress at night," said Mr.
Santley. "Come in and let me hear what you have to say, young man. What
do you know about Mr. Blake?"

"Did you know he had been out at sea on an oil tender to-day?" blurted
out Whistler. "She was chased by a submarine chaser, but the tender
escaped in the fog. Afterward she came into Rivermouth Harbor without
her cargo."

"What's this? What's this?" demanded Mr. Santley. "Why, that has nothing
to do with the factory."

They were in his private office. He stood with his hand upon Whistler's
shoulder and asked the boy sternly:

"What have you to tell me about Mr. Blake, anyway? I don't want to hear
a lot of inconsequential gossip. I am worried about the man."

"Yes, sir. So am I," declared Whistler very earnestly. "I've been
worried about him ever since the other day when we fellows were over
here trying to get some of the boys to enlist in the Navy."

"Ah, were you one of that crowd?" asked Mr. Santley.

"Yes, sir; and coming over here we saw that man Blake----"

He went on to tell the manager of the munition factory about how his
suspicions were aroused and about the water wheel he had found at the
foot of the dam, ending with a detailed account of the affair of the oil
tender.

Mr. Santley's face expressed nothing but lively curiosity.

"And to-day you saw him on a boat that you think is a feeder for German
submarines?" muttered the manager. "It is whispered that they are off
this coast."

"We overheard this Blake and a man who I'm sure is captain of that oil
boat talking in a restaurant to-night. They mentioned two-fifty which
I believe is the number of the submarine off this coast. They spoke as
though more were expected. The Germans are going to make a big drive on
our shipping over here."

"You may be right, boy," agreed Mr. Santley. "That man Blake--well, he
doesn't seem to be in Elmvale now."

"He came back on this evening's train," declared Whistler.

"Are you sure? I have been waiting for him to show up here," cried Mr.
Santley. "To tell the truth, young man, I have discovered some things
here that I want him to explain. For one thing, I have picked up a
letter in his locker which is addressed to him, it is evident, but not
by the name of Blake. It is written in German and I want it explained."

"Oh, Mr. Santley!" cried Whistler, "I believe there is something wrong.
He told that Captain Braun, of the _Sarah Coville_, that his work was
finished here. He was only returning for a particular thing to Elmvale."

"But he hasn't come here!" exclaimed Mr. Santley. "And he has some
private property in the office."

"Maybe he isn't coming here," breathed the boy. "Maybe he is only going
up to the dam!"

"To the dam?"

"That water-wheel business! It perplexes me," explained Whistler Morgan.

"We'll go up there and take a look!" exclaimed Mr. Santley, grabbing his
hat and banging down the roll top of his desk and locking it. "You've
got me all stirred up now, boy."

They hurried out of the office. Mr. Santley spoke in a low voice to the
armed guard on the front steps.

"If Blake comes here, hold him till I return," he said. "Do you
understand? _Hold him_--even if you have to knock him down and sit on
him."

"All right, sir," said the man, nodding grimly.

Mr. Santley started down the steps after the excited Whistler, who was
already getting into the automobile, the engine of which was still
running. At that instant the night was as peaceful as could be. The
valley below the high dam lay quietly under the light of the stars, and
a pale moon was just rising above the treetops.

Then, with a shock which electrified the atmosphere and seemed to make
heaven and earth tremble, a burst of flame rose at the foot of the dam,
not more than half a mile away!

The glare of it blinded them; the reverberating explosion that followed
almost immediately well nigh stunned them. It was Ikey, standing in the
tonneau of the car, and pointing a trembling arm toward the dimly
distinguished wall of masonry, whose voice was first heard:

"Look! Look! The dam's broke!"

A balloon-shaped cloud of smoke had risen above the wall of masonry.
Beneath it the dam crumbled, dissolved, and poured away into the bed of
the river like the changing picture in a kaleidoscope.



CHAPTER X

AHEAD OF THE FLOOD


Each one in the little group at the main entrance to the munition
factory had cried out--no doubt of that! Indeed, Torry said afterward
that he forgot to shut his mouth until his jaws were positively stiff.

Their fright did not deprive them of action, however; everybody
immediately did something.

Inside the door, in the hall, hung the bell rope. The bell swung in the
cupola on the roof of the office building. The guard dropped his rifle
and sprang to seize this rope. He slipped his foot in the loop and began
to toll the bell as hard as he could.

"I'll get Central and tell them what's up!" gasped Mr. Santley, and
turned to run back into his office to spread the news of the catastrophe
by telephone.

Whistler plunged into the car, yelling to Torry:

"Turn around! Turn around! Down the valley road to warn 'em! Get a move
on, boy!"

His chum was already starting the car. It wheeled perilously in a sharp
curve, and with honking horn hurtled down the road which followed the
course of the river.

Without doubt the wall of the dam had been burst through by the
explosion. The immense mass of waiter held in leash would immediately
pour through the opening. The valley would be flooded!

As the car plunged across the main street of Elmvale people were running
out of their houses and out of the stores, shrieking that the dam had
burst. They began to stream away toward the higher ground, stopping for
none of their possessions. If they saved their lives they would be
fortunate.

Torry speeded up the car until she vibrated like a motor boat--like the
submarine chaser, No. 888! They whirled along the half-lit road, the
horn sounding its raucous warning, and the boys shrieking themselves
hoarse.

People came to their doors and windows The flying Navy boys pointed
behind them, repeating:

"The flood! The flood!"

The roar of the bursting dam was now in the ears of all the awakened
people of the valley. In three great explosions the weakened wall burst,
and the water roared through.

Spouting through the wrecked masonry, the boys could see it spread below
the barrier, half as high as the dam itself. It would sweep the narrow
valley clean of every small structure and of every living thing that
could not get out of its path.

Half a mile was small leeway; the flood would pour down upon the village
and the mills in two or three minutes. But the Navy boys in the big car
were flying over the road at a forty-mile-an-hour pace.

They could have easily escaped to the high ground on one side or the
other of the valley. There were many small farms down this river road,
however, and although the valley widened a good deal before the
outskirts of Seacove were reached, the flood might do a deal of damage
in the lower town unless the people there were warned.

At least, the automobile and its occupants made noise enough as they
flew along to arouse most people along the way to the menacing peril.
The explosion followed by the bursting of the dam had, in any case,
shaken the valley to the very sea itself.

They saw men, women and children run screaming from their houses and
mount through the fields toward the hilltops. Behind, the roar of the
waters was like a high wind. In a moment all the lights in Elmvale went
out.

"The powerhouse has gone!" shrieked Frenchy, when he saw this.

"And everything else, I guess!" quavered Ikey, clinging to the back of
the automobile seat and hoarse from shouting.

Dim as the light from the stars and the moon was, they could see the
front of the wave of released water. When it struck the big mill
buildings at Elmvale the foamy water sprang up in geysers.

Several of the big buildings went down under the impact of the flood.
The smaller hovels were swept off their foundations. Those people who
had not escaped from the middle of the village must be overcome by the
sweep of the flood.

Below the Main Street bridge in Elmvale, the channel of the river was
much wider than above the bridge. It was navigable for small vessels,
too, from Seacove to that point.

Schooners and barges moored to the docks below the bridge were cast up
on the crest of the flood, their hawsers snapped like packthread, and
they were whirled away, some to be cast later far back from the
established bank of the stream.

It was tidewater below the bridge, and fortunately it was low tide. The
channel of the river, therefore, could take the greater bulk of the
flood, and the valley widening so quickly, the depth of the outflow of
the dam was much decreased directly below the wrecked hamlet.

The rushing automobile was two-thirds of the way to Seacove in five
minutes. Then the advance wave of the flood caught them.

They saw the saplings along the bank of the stream bend and snap under
the force of the water. Some were uprooted. Chicken houses and other
small structures were snatched from their places and flung wildly along
with the charging water.

With a roar and a cloud of spray the water surged around the automobile
on the road. Running, as the car was, at top speed, the flood picked it
up and drove it forward even more swiftly for several rods.

"Shut her off! Shut her off!" yelled Frenchy excitedly.

But Torry was wiser than that. The water flattened out, and the whirling
wheels bit into the road again. They did not skid, and the car remained
upright. For the next half mile they ran through more than a foot of
water; but it was plain the danger was over.

Near the river bank the water flooded the first floors of the houses in
the suburbs of Seacove; but there was little other damage done at this
distance from the dam.

As the water subsided from about them, however, Torry turned the
machine around and headed up the road again.

"Yes, we'll go back," Whistler agreed. "Drive slowly, Torry. Maybe we
can help somebody. I'm afraid there were some people who did not get
away in time."

They found enough to do, it was true, all that night. After getting back
to the outskirts of Elmvale they could not drive the machine over the
slime and mud in the roadway. There were deep washouts, too; and in some
places the wreck of light buildings barred the way.

The Navy boys had done good service in warning the endangered people
along one side of the river. Mr. Santley had done much more in sending
the news of the broken dam broadcast by telephone. The girl at Central
had stuck to her post while the water rose to the second floor of the
telephone building, where the switchboard was situated.

Whistler and his three chums were carrying children to the high ground
where it was dry, and packing bedding and blankets up to the
"shipwrecked mess-mates," as Frenchy called them, until dawn.

When the sun crept up and showed the wreckage in the valley, and
particularly about Elmvale, it was enough to make one heartsick. The
lower floors of all mills, and of the munition factory, were wrecked.
Some of the buildings had fallen down.

Much machinery was destroyed. It would take months to repair the damage
done to property by the flood. And there was a death list of twelve.
That was the hardest to bear and the saddest result of the catastrophe.

Until the ruins around Elmvale were searched and the last body brought
to light, little was said about the cause of the disaster. But the
following evening Whistler and his chums were called to the office of
the sheriff of the county to tell what they knew about the stranger,
Blake, who had disappeared just before the dam burst.

He had been seen getting off the train at Elmvale that evening. But he
had disappeared immediately after. He had not returned to the munition
factory, where the manager, Mr. Santley, was waiting for him; nor had he
been observed at all after leaving the railroad station.

Later it was proved that he had obtained his position at the factory by
the aid of forged credentials. It was believed that he was rather a
famous German inventor who had been living in the United States for some
years. He had an almost uncanny knowledge of mechanics, as well as of
chemistry.

The ingenious little water wheel Whistler had seen at the foot of the
dam had probably furnished power for some machine that had been fixed
on the face of the dam with a charge of dynamite. This invention had
been rigged to explode the dynamite after a certain length of time--time
enough, without doubt, to enable the inventor to get well away from the
vicinity of the dam.

"If Linder is his name," Whistler said, when the boys were afterward
talking it over among themselves, "I hope I'll see him again some time.
He was never blown up with the dam, that is sure."

"You don't think he was 'hoist with his own petard, then?" suggested
Torry.

"Hear the high-brow!" sniffed Frenchy.

"Oi, oi!" cried Ikey. "He means was he blown up, too? I bet not!"

"I ought to have told somebody about him before," sighed Whistler.
"I had a feeling he wasn't using his real name."

"Say! why should you worry? That Mr. Santley didn't think anything wrong
of him until he found the letter in German in Blake's locker. And we did
set Mr. MacMasters and the S. P. Eight-eighty-eight after him and the
oil boat, didn't we?"

"By the way," Whistler suddenly observed, drawing an official looking
letter from his pocket. "Did I tell you I got this?"

"No," said Torry. "What is it?"

"Hurray!" yelled Frenchy, the quick-witted. "It's our assignment to the
_Kennebunk_, I bet you!"

"Is that right, Whistler?" asked Torry.

"That's what it is," admitted Morgan. "We're to report, however, to Mr.
MacMasters at Rivermouth day after to-morrow. But our ultimate
destination is the _Kennebunk_, superdreadnaught, just built and fitted
out for her first cruise. You know, she was only christened a month
ago."

Even the Elmvale disaster and the mystery regarding the German spy,
Franz Linder, were at once ousted from the minds of the Navy boys. Their
first cruise in a superdreadnaught was of much greater importance.



CHAPTER XI

UNEXPECTED PERIL


The four apprentice seamen went down to Rivermouth in great spirits. The
home folks were not actually glad to see them go, but they were a little
relieved; for the chums had managed to keep things very lively about
Seacove during their shore leave.

The terrible disaster at Elmvale, however, had sobered the four friends
a good bit at the last. Seven Knott had gone away before it happened, so
he had had no part in their later adventures. They were not even sure
that he had gone to join the crew of the _Kennebunk_, the new
superdreadnaught to which they were assigned for a brief cruise.

They had heard nothing from Ensign MacMasters, so the Navy boys did not
know when or how they were to meet him; but they went to Rivermouth on
the early train and had plenty of time to look about the port and see
all of the shipping in the harbor.

One craft they did not see. The oil tender, _Sarah Coville_, was not
here, and, on making some inquiries of the dock loungers, the boys
learned that she had not been seen at Rivermouth since the night they
had come in off the submarine chaser in the fog.

Rivermouth was fast becoming a base for patrol boats and submarines, it
seemed, although New London and Groton, across the harbor from New
London, were really the headquarters for all such craft along the North
Atlantic seaboard.

"Maybe we can spy the Three Eights," Torry said, referring to the
submarine chaser in which they had pursued the _Sarah Coville_ a few
days before. "Mr. MacMasters must have been relieved of the command of
her before this, don't you think?"

"Don't know," Whistler rejoined, breaking off in his whistling briefly.

"But where is he?" queried the anxious Frenchy.

"Don't worry," Whistler said. "He'll be here."

"Oi, oi! If he don't come," said Ikey, "we're marooned, eh?"

"That'll be fierce!" growled Frenchy Donahue. "I've got just fifty-five
cents left, and one of the nickels is punched. I can see my finish if he
doesn't show up to-day."

The chums soon discovered that they were not the only boys from the Navy
in town. By ones and twos other bluejackets made their appearance on
the water-front. But there was not even a petty officer assigned to the
port to meet them.

The four friends from Seacove learned that every enlisted man and
apprentice they talked with was assigned to the _Kennebunk_, and
immediately all fraternized.

At noon time the bluejackets marched up town in a body to Yancey's and
flocked into that eating place like a swarm of hungry locusts. Abe, the
waiter, was just about swamped, and Ikey and Frenchy volunteered to help
him serve the vociferous crew. Yancey's other customers were very much
out of it for the time being.

They were a noisy crowd, but perfectly good-natured; and with the
freehandedness characteristic of the sailor ashore, bought the best
Yancey could provide. The restaurant proprietor had no complaint to
make.

In the midst of the jollification a hush began to spread over the room.
It began at the tables near the main entrance of the restaurant; then
the men began to get briskly to their feet. With automatic precision
they came to attention, saluting the officer who had entered with that
jerky little downward gesture of the forearm typical of the bluejacket.

Ikey, starting from the order window with a tray load of food, nearly
dropped the whole thing on the floor in trying to salute.

"Ensign MacMasters!" hissed Torry for the benefit of the boys near, who
did not know the officer.

And over Ensign MacMasters' shoulder glowed the moon-like face of Seven
Knott.

"Keep your seats, men," said the ensign quietly, returning the salute in
general. "You have half an hour to finish before we march to the dock.
I take it you are all assigned to my present command?"

He nodded to Seven Knott. Then he took a chair at an empty table and
ordered coffee, while the boatswain's mate went around among the other
tables making a list of the men's names and their former billets.

Under the eyes of a commissioned officer the boys behaved with much more
decorum; but it was still a jolly party that finally lined up on the
sidewalk outside Yancey's, prepared to march to the dock.

Ensign MacMasters sought out Whistler Morgan to speak to personally:

"I shall expect you to keep the younger boys straight, Morgan. We're
going to be in crowded quarters aboard the patrol boat. Mr. Junior
Lieutenant Perkins has come back to his command and we are only guests
aboard," and Ensign MacMasters laughed.

"We are about to have a taste of rough weather outside, too, I fancy.
But our instructions are to make the port where the _Kennebunk_ lies
before the morning tide."

"Has the submarine patrol boat, Eight-hundred-eighty-eight, come into
the harbor, sir?"

"I have just been relieved of her command. I am assigned to take you
chaps on her to the battleship. I understand that we shall have a three
months' cruise in the _Kennebunk_ before we are returned to the
_Colodia_," said the ensign.

Whistler's eyes sparkled. "Then some of us will have a chance of
handling the big guns, sir?"

"That is the object, I believe. That, and the fact that the full
complement of the battleship's crew cannot be at once made up. There
will be changes made in the crew of the _Colodia_ when she returns from
her European cruise. If you youngsters do well on the _Kennebunk_ some
of you may soon be gunners' mates. The present cruise of the _Kennebunk_
is mainly for practice work."

"Oh, sir! won't we see any active service in her?" cried Whistler.

Mr. MacMasters looked very mysterious. "You must not ask too many
questions. I am telling you, Morgan, what is generally known about the
orders under which the superdreadnaught sails. But we may see plenty of
real work At least, we need not suppose that the _Kennebunk_ will run
away from any enemy submarine that may appear along this coast."

"Do you believe there are German subs over here again, sir?"

"It is my private opinion that at least one is here and more are
coming," declared Ensign MacMasters. "And there is a supply boat for
them lying somewhere off our coast, too. We ran down that _Sarah
Coville_ yesterday, by the way, with another cargo of oil aboard. Her
captain and crew will surely be interned."

Mr. MacMasters had no more time to talk with Phil Morgan then. The men
being ready, the march to the dock was made, Seven Knott bringing up the
rear to see that there were no loiterers.

"See that narrow streak!" ejaculated one fellow, when they came to the
dock where the chaser was moored. "Oh, boy! got your sea legs with you?"

The slate-colored S. P. 888 looked to be no friend to a landsman,
especially with the sea as it was just then. Beyond the craft the harbor
was tossing in innumerable whitecaps, while through the breach between
the capes the Atlantic itself could be seen to be in ugly mood.

They got aboard; and as soon as the moorings were cast off the
newcomers were welcomed in friendly fashion, by the regular crew of the
chaser, to most of whom Whistler Morgan and his three friends were
already known.

"Hey, garby! where d'you sleep on this hooker?" demanded one of the
strangers, hoarsely and behind the sharp of his hand, of a member of the
chaser's crew. "Or do you go ashore at nights?"

"If we can't get ashore for the watch below," was the perfectly serious
reply, "every man gets a hook to hang on."

"You mean to hang his hammock on?"

"No such luck! There isn't room for hammocks on one of these chasers.
Why, even the officer commanding has to sleep on a hammock slung out
over the stern in pleasant weather."

"Good-night!" gasped Al Torrance. "Where does he sleep when it isn't
pleasant?"

"He doesn't sleep at all--or anybody else, as you'll probably find out
to-night, garby," was the reply.

There was bound to be a deal of joking of this nature; but it was all
good-natured. The crew of the chaser were of course just as proud of
their craft as the crew of the battleship is of their sea-home. They
ignored the inconveniences of the S. P. 888 and dilated upon her speed
and what they hoped to do in her. She was even better than a destroyer
for getting right on top of a submarine and sinking that rat of the sea
with depth bombs.

The latter--metal cylinders weighing more than a hundred pounds
each--were lashed in their stations at the bow and at the stern of the
chaser. They were rigged to be dropped overboard a little differently
from the method pursued upon the destroyers.

As the chaser shot across the harbor the strangers aboard remarked in
wonder at the way in which she picked up speed. Within a couple of cable
lengths from the shore she was going like a streak of light.

It was evident that the S. P. 888 was fully prepared for rough weather.
Not only the depth bombs, but everything else on her decks were lashed.
Passing between the capes, she plunged into a regular smother of rough
water, and at once the decks were drenched from stem to stern.

"What do you know about this?" demanded Al Torrance of Morgan. "A
fellow wants to hang on to a handline like grim death to be sure to keep
inboard. Hope they won't pipe us to quarters while this keeps up."

There seemed to be, however, no prospect of the sea's abating; and the
commander of the chaser had a considerable distance to go before
morning, so he urged the engineer to increase rather than diminish the
speed.

With no regard to the comfort of her crew, the craft plowed along on her
way to the port where the _Kennebunk_ awaited them. Naval vessels cannot
wait on weather signals. "Orders are orders."

The forward deck was comparatively dry; but the after part of the vessel
was in a continual smother of spume and broken water. Now and then a
wave would charge and break over her, drowning everything and everybody
aft of the engines.

These waves seemed racing to overtake and smother the chaser. The tons
of water discharged upon her decks would have sunk a less buoyant craft.
All she did was to squatter under the weight of the water like a duck,
her propellers never missing a stroke!

Whistler Morgan and his chums did not remain below through this run. No,
indeed! The hardiest stomach would feel squeamish at such times in
quarters like those of the crew of the S. P. 888.

At least the Navy boys got fresh air on deck if they were battered
around a bit. They were supplied with slickers, and they had been wet
many a time before.

Frenchy Donahue raised his shrill voice in the old dirge: "Aren't you
glad you're a Navy man? Oh, mother!" and had not intoned the first
lachrymose verse through to the end before Ikey Rosenmeyer interrupted
with a shout:

"Look there! She's broke loose! Hey, fellers! don't you see it?"

They were hanging to a lubber line near the quarterdeck, which on the
chaser was a part of the after deck having imaginary boundaries only,
established by order of the chaser's commander.

The depth bomb lashed there was the object to which Ikey called his
mates' attention. A line had snapped, and the heavy cylinder rolled
slowly across the deck.

Suddenly the vessel heaved to starboard, and with a quick snap the bomb
rolled in the other direction, crashing against the port rail in a way
which made Whistler Morgan cry out in warning:

"Have a care, fellows! If the safety pin isn't firmly inserted in that
bomb, and drops out, she may blow off."

"Great glory!" muttered Torry, "where will we be then?"

"It's pretty sure if she explodes we'll never join the _Kennebunk's_
crew," was his chum's grim answer.



CHAPTER XII

COURAGE


The four friends from Seacove were not the only members of the ship's
company that saw the depth bomb break loose from its fastenings. The
second in command of the submarine chaser, Ensign Filson, and two seamen
on lookout were on duty aft.

"Stop that thing!" shouted the ensign.

He was young and inexperienced, and he did not start for the rolling
cylinder himself. Had it been Ensign MacMasters, Phil Morgan and his
friends knew that he would have jumped for the bomb as he shouted the
order.

The two lookouts were not supposed to leave their positions at such a
call; but it was a direct command. They turned from their posts at the
rail where they were scanning the sea on either hand just as the depth
bomb made its second plunge across the deck.

It crashed into the port rail and then, as the chaser jerked her tail in
the heavy cross seas like a saucy catbird, the dangerous cylinder dashed
to starboard again.

"Stop it!" cried Mr. Filson for the second time; and just then _the
safety pin dropped out_!

The first lookout had almost clutched the plunging cylinder as it passed
him on its backward roll.

"Ware the bomb!" shouted his mate, and both of them leaped away from the
vicinity of the peril.

Nor were they to be blamed. With the pin out it was to be expected that
the big bomb would immediately explode. It banged against the rail, then
charged across the deck again. Every time it collided with an obstacle
the spectators expected it to blow up and burst the after part of the
ship asunder.

To the credit of Ensign Filson be it said that he did not fall back from
his post on the quarter. Nor did he directly order, now that he thought
of it, any particular man to try to hold the plunging bomb. It was work
for a volunteer--a man who was willing to take his life in his hands.

There is a quality of courage that is higher than that which takes men
into battle along with their fellows. The companionship of others in the
charge breeds courage in many weak souls.

But to start alone on a dangerous mission, the lone man in an almost
hopeless cause, calls for a steadiness of courage that few can rise to.

The four young fellows clinging together behind Mr. Filson were shot
with fear, as they might very well be. At any second the bomb was likely
to explode, and they were so near that they could not possibly escape
the full force of the blast.

Even if the chaser herself escaped complete destruction, they could not
dodge the effect of the explosion; but like the ensign they would not
retreat.

These bombs are timed to explode at about an eighty-foot depth. A very
few seconds would bring about the catastrophe. Every man on the deck of
the S. P. 888 felt that.

Suddenly, along the deck charged a sturdy figure--a human battering ram.
The other men were knocked aside. One of the lookouts was toppled over
by the newcomer, falling flat upon his back and was shot by the next
plunge of the craft into the scuppers amidships.

"Hi! Hi! Seven Knott!" yelled Al Torrance.

"Good old _Colodia_! Go to it!" joined in the excited Frenchy.

Philip Morgan was already crouching for a leap. Seven Knott passed him
and threw himself upon the unleashed peril that rolled about the deck.

He grasped the cylinder as he fell, but it was snatched out of his arms
by the next plunge of the vessel. Seven Knott got to his knees and
sought to seize the bomb again when it charged back across the deck.

The thing seemed actually to evade him; and swinging at an unexpected
angle as Seven Knott threw himself desperately forward, the heavy
cylinder banged the boatswain's mate on the head.

The man was knocked down by the blow. He suddenly straightened out and
then relaxed, at full length, upon the sliding deck. Like an inanimate
lump his body followed the runaway bomb, but more slowly, to the lower
rail.

Again the deck heaved upon that side, and the cylinder roared across it.
It missed the unconscious petty officer. At that instant Whistler Morgan
made his leap.

He had taken time to study the angle at which the bomb was rolling; he
fell upon and grappled it as though it were a football.

"Oh! Oh! _Colodia!_" yelled his three mates in wild excitement.
"Hurray!"

"Well done, _Colodia_!" echoed a voice behind them, and Ensign
MacMasters appeared from the after hatchway, with the commanding officer
of the S. P. 888 in his wake.

Some of the chaser's crew were now approaching the scene from forward.
Ensign Filson leaped for the safety pin that had been jerked out of the
depth bomb just as Phil Morgan, on his knees, set the bomb up on its
flat end.

"Good boy, Whistler!" shrieked Torry.

Ensign Filson reached the spot and slipped the plug into place. Between
them they held the bomb upright on its flat end until the seamen could
pass a line around it.

The dangerous thing had yet to be held right there until Lieutenant
Perkins ordered the submarine chaser headed up into the sea. Then the
bomb could be removed to a place of safety.

The whole affair had occupied seconds, that is all. But all felt as
though an hour had passed!

"Good boy, Morgan!" declared Ensign MacMasters, his face shining with
approval. "Is the mate hurt badly?"

The petty officer was still unconscious. They picked him up to carry him
below. Then the whole crowd began to cheer, and the officers did not
forbid it. Even Lieutenant Perkins wrung Phil Morgan's hand as he stood
abashed in the center of the congratulatory group on the quarter deck.

"I'd be proud to have you as one of my own crew, Morgan," said the
commander of the submarine chaser. "Ensign MacMasters is to be
congratulated that he takes aboard the _Kennebunk_ such an altogether
admirable young man. You will hear from this, Master Morgan. You
deserve the Medal of Honor and whatever other honor and special
emolument it is in the power of the Secretary of the Navy to award."

He turned to MacMasters: "And your boatswain's mate deserves mention,
too. That he did not succeed in doing what this young man accomplished,
was not for lack of courage to attempt it. They are both men that the
Navy may be proud of. With a will, men!" and he led in another cheer.

"Oi, oi, Whistler!" whispered Ikey when the greatly abashed Morgan went
forward, "you'll be an admiral next. If you beat me to it, what will my
papa and mama say?"



CHAPTER XIII

THE KENNEBUNK SAILS


Put back upon her course, the S. P. 888 was soon beating her way through
the cross-seas--"bucking the briny" the boys called it--toward the port
from which the _Kennebunk_ was to sail in the morning.

It was a wild night. The peril through which the ship's company had just
passed, and from which Philip Morgan had been able to save them, made
the threatening aspects of sea and air seem small indeed. Let the wind
shriek through the wire stays and the waves roar and burst about and
over the submarine chaser as they listed, none of these dangers equaled
that of the depth charge which had run amuck.

Seven Knott was brought to his senses in a short time, and, after
staring about a bit, murmured:

"Well, I didn't get it, did I?"

"Not your fault, my man," declared Ensign MacMasters cheerfully. "Wait
till Lieutenant Commander Lang, of the _Colodia_, hears about it. You
have done well, Hertig. He will be proud of you."

At that the petty officer smiled, for he was inordinately fond of the
commander of the destroyer.

Mr. MacMasters made it plain to the boatswain's mate that apprentice
seaman Morgan had saved him, as well as the rest of the ship's company,
from disaster, and Hansie Hertig grinned broadly.

"That Whistler--he can do something besides make tunes with his mouth,
eh?" he observed.

Most of the crew of the submarine chaser, as well as the members of the
squad going aboard the _Kennebunk_, personally congratulated Whistler on
his courage and quick action.

"This is an awfully small boat, Torry," he complained to his chum.
"There isn't any place for a fellow to get away by himself. There are
too many folks here."

He did not take kindly to so much approbation. He felt that Lieutenant
Perkins had already said enough.

Although Whistler and his mates had no duties to perform on the S. P.
888, they did not turn in that night at all. To tell the truth the
chaser was making an awfully rough passage of it, and although they were
inured to the discomforts of their beloved _Colodia_ in stormy weather,
this was even worse.

They kept out of the way of the watch on duty, but remained for the
most part on deck, as they were free to do. The watchlights on the
shore, those in the lighthouses and the lamps in certain seaside
hamlets, gave them their position from time to time. They were aware
long before daylight that they were drawing near to the harbor mouth of
the port where the superdreadnaught lay.

It was blowing a whole gale (in nautical language, sixty-five miles or
more an hour) and as the submarine chaser was meeting the seas on a
slant, it might almost as well have been a hurricane. As Frenchy said:

"The smaller the boat, the bigger the wind seems. And a 'happy thought'
like this chaser will kick up like a frisky colt in a dead calm, I do
believe. By St. Patrick's piper that played the last snake out of
Ireland! I'll be a week gittin' over this pitchin'. What d'you say,
Mister Torrance, acushla?"

"Don't blather me!" growled Torry.

"Hast thou a feeling that all is not well in the daypartment av the
intayrior?" teased the Irish lad, who would joke at all times and upon
the most serious subjects.

"Torry does look a bit green about the gills," put in Whistler.

"Serves him right for eatin' crab-meat salad there at Yancey's,"
declared Ikey Rosenmeyer. "That's nice chow to go to sea on, yet."

"I don't have to ask you what to eat," said Torry gruffly.

"Oi, oi! That's right," agreed Ikey. "Just the same I could tell you
lots better than that."

The boys had sampled the cook's coffee, but not much else, since
embarking on the S. P. 888. It was true that the pitching of the chaser
was not conducive to a ravenous appetite.

"If Uncle kept all his bluejackets on these submarine chasers," said
Whistler, "he'd save money on grub. I wonder these fellows," referring
to the crew of the S. P. 888, "manage to keep up with their rations."

The little craft swerved at last and took the waves directly astern as
she ran shoreward. The mouth of the harbor opened up to her, and in the
gray light, as the chaser shot in between the headlands, almost
smothered in foam, the men and boys on her deck sighted through the haze
the towering hull of the great battleship.

"There she is!" gasped Frenchy. "My! isn't she a monster?"

"She's a regular leviathan," agreed Whistler.

Even Torry forgot his discomfort and showed enthusiasm. "She's the
biggest thing I ever saw afloat," he said. "Listen, fellows!"

Two strokes of a silvery bell rang out from some ship asleep in the
morning mist. It was five o'clock. From the decks of the battleship
sounded the bugles of the boatswain's mates, piping reveille and "all
hands."

"Gee!" groaned Frenchy, "reg'lar duty again, fellows."

"Don't croak," advised Whistler. "It's what we signed on for, isn't it?"

The chaser, now riding an even keel in the more quiet waters of the
harbor, swept at slower speed to the side of the towering hull of the
_Kennebunk_. A sentinel at the starboard ladder, which was lowered,
hailed sharply. A moment later a deck officer came to the side.

"S. P. Eight Hundred and Eighty-eight, ahoy!" he said.

"Lieutenant Perkins in command," said that officer, standing in his
storm coat and boots on the wet deck. "With squad of seamen under Ensign
MacMasters for the _Kennebunk_."

"Send them aboard, Lieutenant, if you please. We trip anchors in half an
hour. The tide is just at the turn."

Mr. MacMasters was already lining up his men, and Seven Knott, with a
bandage on his head, was looking for stragglers. Some of the chaser's
crew shook hands with the boys assigned to the superdreadnaught before
they went up her side.

"Good luck! If you get a chance, smash a Fritzie battleship for me!"
were some of the wishes that followed Whistler Morgan and his companions
aboard the superdreadnaught.

The boys from Seacove and their companions reported to the chief
master-at-arms, while Mr. MacMasters made his report to the executive
officer.

At first glance it was plainly to be seen by the newcomers that the
superdreadnaught had a full crew. Their squad made complete her
complement of men. She was ready to put to sea.

Hammocks were already piped up and the smoking lamp was lit. The cooks
of the watch were serving coffee, and the newly arrived party had their
share, and grateful they were. Their experience aboard the submarine
patrol boat had been most chilling and uncomfortable.

Immediately, the call for hauling over hammock cloths and stopping them
down was sounded. "Pipe sweepers" was the next command, and the decks
were thoroughly swept while the deck washers removed their shoes and
socks.

"Wet down decks!" and the washers sprang for the coils of hose attached
to the fire hydrants. Every part of the decks was flushed with clean sea
water and swabs, or deck-mops, were used where necessary.

All this was a familiar routine to Whistler Morgan and his mates. Later
they would be assigned to their places in the watches and to their posts
at all deck drills.

At the execution of morning orders at three bells, or half-past five,
the decks were cleared of all loiterers and the order passed to break
away the anchors. The steam gear was already in action. The derrick had
hoisted aboard the running steamer before the chaser had arrived with
the boys from Seacove and their companions, and it was now stowed in her
proper berth amidships. There was no other craft outboard, even the
captain's gig having been stowed preparatory to going to sea.

Feathery smoke was rising from the funnels of the ship when Whistler and
his chums had come aboard. Now great gray masses of oily smoke ballooned
upward, drifting away to leeward before the gale. As soon as the anchors
were tripped the bows of the great ship swung seaward. She began to
forge ahead.

The _Kennebunk_ was a huge craft, indeed, being of thirty-two thousand
tons' displacement. She carried twelve 12 and 14-inch guns in her
turrets on the center line, while her torpedo battery of 5 and 6-inch
guns numbered twenty. The "all-big-gun" feature of our big battleships
began with the construction of the dreadnaught _Delaware_, in 1906.

The _Kennebunk_ was heavily armored on the waterline and barbettes. She
likewise had 5 to 8-inch armor along in wake of the berth-deck and
armored broadside gun positions.

She had two steel cage masts and cofferdams along the unarmored portion
of her waterline to protect the ship from being flooded if pierced by a
shell between wind and water.

All machinery necessary to the superdreadnaught while in action was
installed below the armored deck and behind the thick belt of armor at
the waterline. Her system of water-tight compartments was perfect, and
she had a complete double bottom.

In addition to her offensive machinery, she had several underwater
torpedo tubes. Although she was supposed to be too heavy for great
speed, her coal carrying capacity was enormous, and she could travel on
the power of her oil engines alone in a pinch. Altogether, the
_Kennebunk_ was the very latest result of battleship construction, and
was preëminently a "first line ship."

But she had yet to prove herself.

Her brief trial cruise had shown her to be safe and that she could be
handled by the minimum of men allowed on such a ship. Now with a full
crew and direct orders for a month or more ahead, she was going to sea
to make her initial record as a sea-fighter for Uncle Sam.

Her commander's report would be made daily by wireless to Washington,
and the working out of the new superdreadnaught would be watched by
experts with the keenest anxiety.

There were several points regarding the _Kennebunk's_ construction
different from any craft that had ever been built for similar work
before; and if these matters did not prove satisfactory there would be
bitter criticism of the board in charge. This was no time, Congress
would say, for the trial of "new frills." The country was at war, and it
was believed that all our first line ships would soon be called into
action. Germany was believed to be in such desperate straits that it was
thought she would venture to send her fleet to sea after three and a
half years of hiding in the Kiel Canal.

High hopes and some doubt went with the _Kennebunk_ as she steamed out
of the harbor and into the storm. Not alone were her officers and crew
anxious to find out what she could do. The rulers of the United States
Navy were deeply concerned as well.



CHAPTER XIV

AN UNEXPECTED TARGET


At quarters for muster and inspection that day the four Navy boys from
Seacove were given their numbers and drill placements. These were, of
course, not permanent assignments. Changes would quickly be made after
the capabilities of the boys were established. Especially would this be
so in assignments of duty relating to the ship when in action.

The four friends had Mr. MacMasters to say a good word for them. Their
record, too, aboard the _Colodia_ and with the prize crew on the
captured German raider would be taken into consideration when permanent
appointments were made upon the _Kennebunk_.

Hans Hertig immediately took his rightful position as boatswain's mate.
His rating was assured. But, after all, the apprentice seamen must prove
themselves before the officers of the superdreadnaught were likely to
give them much consideration.

The act of particular courage that had brought Whistler Morgan into
prominence on the submarine chaser the night before would scarcely be
taken public notice of by Captain Trevor of the _Kennebunk_ until it was
mentioned in orders from Washington. Ensign MacMasters, however, liked
the boy too well not to take the first opportunity offered him to relate
the happening on the S. P. 888 at officers' mess. After this it of
course quickly reached the captain's ears.

Whistler and Torry immediately put in their claim for gunnery work. They
had studied faithfully and had had considerable training with the
secondary battery of the _Colodia_.

"Of course, these huge guns of the _Kennebunk_ mean something else
again," declared Ikey. "You fellers have been playin' with popguns yet.
If you get in a turret gun crew you've got to show 'em."

"We'll do just that little thing," answered Torry rather boastfully.

There was not likely to be practice with the big guns until the weather
changed. The _Kennebunk_ roared on through the storm for all of that
day; but her hull was so huge that she scarcely rolled while she
remained under steam.

Most target shooting is arranged for ordinarily fair weather. Not often
have battles at sea been fought in a storm. Besides, the _Kennebunk_
must run off the coast, beyond the approved steamship lines, to a point
where she could be joined by a naval vessel dragging the target.

There were lectures on gunnery that day to the gun captains, and the
boys off duty who were interested in the subject might listen to this
instruction. Phil Morgan and Torrance availed themselves of the
privilege.

The two younger chums, Michael Donahue and Ikey Rosenmeyer, were not, it
must be confessed, so well employed. During this first day aboard the
_Kennebunk_ there was bred between these youths a scheme which certainly
would not have met with the approval of the executive officer.

In their quarters aboard the destroyer _Colodia_ they would not have
been able to stow the junk they now secured away from the watchful eyes
of the master-at-arms. In the destroyer their ditty boxes had to hide
any private property the boys wanted to stow away.

But a man could lose himself in the various decks of the
superdreadnaught. Even the officers' quarters were forward with the
crew's, the ship was so huge. There were unused rooms and compartments
for which Ikey and Frenchy did not know the names, or their uses.

In one of these unoccupied compartments the two found a lot of lumber
and rubbish amid which were some joints of two-inch galvanized pipe the
plumbers and pipe fitters had left when the ship was being furnished.

"Gee, Ikey!" murmured the agile-minded Irish lad, "I've got an idea."

"I bet you," returned Ikey. "You always have ideas. But is this one
worth anything?"

"Listen here!" and Frenchy, with dancing eyes, whispered into his
friend's ear the details of the new-born scheme.

"Oi, oi!" cried Ikey. "It is an idea, sure enough. But it is trouble you
are looking for."

"Not a bit of it. We needn't tell anybody--not even Whistler or Al. Gee!
it will be great."

"Mebbe the old man won't say so." He was referring to Captain Trevor,
but in no disrespectful way. "Old Man" is rather a term of admiration
and affection applied to the commander of a ship.

"Lots he'll be botherin' about what we do," sniffed Frenchy.

Ikey was already enamored of his friend's plan. His objections were very
weak.

"Ah, g'wan!" reiterated Frenchy. "You won't get into the brig for it,
that's sure. I'll do it alone. Only see that you keep your mouth shut
about it, if you won't help."

But Ikey had no intention of seeing his friend have all the fun of the
thing. He stopped objecting, and thereafter gave his hearty assistance
in the plot.

At odd times during that day and the next the two rigged a weighted
platform into which could be fixed upright lengths of the two-inch pipe
they had found.

Rigged to suit them at last, the two boys took their appliance to pieces
again and hid the parts away until a to-be-determined time. They were
planning to have a joke upon the whole ship's company; but they were
forced to wait for the appropriate moment in which to spring the
surprise.

The third morning out revealed a clearing sky and subsiding waves; and
the regular ship's routine at sea was taken up.

"Officers' call" was sounded five minutes before the "assembly" bugle
call at 9:15. At the later call men of the various divisions fall in
smartly at double time for muster in the respective parts of the ship.
The men are inspected at this time regarding the condition of their
clothing, length of hair, personal cleanliness, and whether or not they
are carefully shaved.

This last requirement troubled the four friends from Seacove but little,
save that Whistler and Torry occasionally wore a little fuzz on their
cheeks, which Frenchy declared they lathered surreptitiously with
cream, then let the ship's cat lick it off.

"If they had a real ship's cat on this iron pot," retorted Torry,
"I know who would most frequently have the attention of that. You
need the cat-o'-nine-tails right now, Frenchy."

"Gee! ain't he bloodthirsty and savage?" whispered Michael, who dearly
loved to tease.

The petty officers who personally inspected the men at this morning
review reported to the division officer, who in turn reported to the
executive officer of the ship, who is always the navigating officer.

After the reports the physical drill, or setting-up exercises, is the
order. These calisthenics are similar to that drill in the army.

It was on this third day that the boys were assigned to the watches and
to their divisions for the cruise. The ship's company is divided into
port and starboard watches, each watch being organized into divisions.
Each turret is manned by a division, numbered in rotation, beginning
with Number One from forward aft. To the delight of Philip Morgan and Al
Torrance they were both assigned to Number Two division, and would be
members of the crew of a big gun in the second turret.

The broadside batteries were partly manned by marines, of whom there
were a large number aboard the _Kennebunk_. These "soldiers of the sea"
had always interested Whistler and his friends.

For convenience in making out station bills and the like, each man of a
division has a number assigned him by which he is known. Whistler and
Torry were given respectively Numbers 2111 and 2112. These numbers
showed that they were Numbers 11 and 12 of the first section of the
second division--the first figure for division, the second for section,
and the remainder the personal number of the man in his section.

The watches, meaning the length of time into which the twenty-four hours
aboard ship is divided, are arranged on a naval vessel as in all
maritime affairs.

The first watch is from 8:00 P. M. till midnight. The mid-watch, or
"graveyard watch," is from midnight till 4:00 A. M.; the morning watch
from 4:00 till 8:00 A. M.; the forenoon watch from 8:00 A. M. till
mid-day; the afternoon watch from noon till 4:00 P. M.; and the
dog-watches, each of which is but two hours long, are from 4:00 till
6:00 P. M. and from 6:00 till 8 P. M.

The Seacove boys were already well trained in the general duties that
fell to their share, even though they had never cruised upon a
superdreadnaught. Now they had the special duties of looking after the
guns in the turret to which they were attached. Gun drill would
hereafter occupy a part of their time each forenoon.

As the weather cleared the lookouts all over the ship kept sharper watch
than they had before for any moving object on the sea. They had seen the
smoke of steamships and the sails of other vessels during the storm, but
had not spoken a single craft since leaving port.

The _Kennebunk_ frequently received and sent wireless messages; but the
messages were evidently unimportant for they caused no flurry of
excitement. The Seacove boys were expecting some news of submarines, or
the capture of the "mother ship," which they believed was cruising off
the coast to supply German U-boats with fuel. But no news of this kind
came to their ears.

The big battleship was now nearing the point where they could expect to
meet the auxiliary naval vessel towing the target.

"Pretty soft! Pretty soft!" said one chap in Whistler's gun crew
disgustedly. "Pretty soft for us! We fellows going out to target
practice, while those battleships already on the other side of this
periscope pond may be fighting the Fritzies off Heligoland."

"We'll get a chance at a sub maybe," said another more hopefully.

"No such luck," growled the first speaker. "We'll just about get shot at
with a torpedo from one of those pirates. We'd never have the good luck
to plant a shell in a U-boat where it would do the most good. No, sir!"

There was so much that was new for the four boys from Seacove to learn
aboard the superdreadnaught that they did not worry much about getting
into immediate action. Target practice with the big guns would spell
excitement enough for the time being, they thought.

Meanwhile Michael Donahue and Ikey Rosenmeyer were having a secret all
to themselves that kept them breaking out in "the giggles" at
unseasonable times, so that the master-at-arms gave them two reprimands
within the twenty-four hours. Another would be likely to put their names
on the report--an incident that was always to be regretted.

The battleship was steaming through a flattening sea at half speed. Word
had been passed from one of the masthead lookouts that smoke was
sighted. The executive officer said it was probably the auxiliary ship
with the target in tow. The report brought almost everybody who was free
to the open decks.

But Frenchy and Ikey showed an unexplained lack of interest in this
incident. They remained below and, seizing their chance unobserved,
slipped into the spare compartment on the lower deck in which the
lumber was stowed.

Just abaft this compartment was an ash-chute. As the sea was now calm,
the ash-hoist had been at work that morning and the trap-door of the
chute had not been relocked. This door kicked open outboard, giving vent
upon the sea, the opening being about ten feet above the waterline of
the _Kennebunk_.

The two chums were deeply engaged in the compartment for some time while
the crew and officers on deck watched the approach of the target boat.
The course of that and the battleship would bring the two within
speaking distance in an hour or less.

Suddenly Ikey croaked a warning: "Hist! What's that, Frenchy?"

"What's what?" puffed his friend, just then very much engaged in
fastening together two joints of pipe. "Don't try to scare a fellow.
Nobody's coming."

"Listen!" commanded Ikey.

Michael sat back on his heels, cocking his head to listen. It was no
footstep outside the compartment slide. It was not that kind of sound at
all. And it was faint--so faint indeed that perhaps the noises of the
storm since they had left port had quite smothered the queer sound.

"A clock?" Frenchy suggested.

"Funny sounding clock," whispered Ikey Rosenmeyer. "And where can it
be?"

"Tick-_tock_! Tick-_tock_! Tick-_tock_!" The emphasis upon the second
division of the sound was unmistakable. It did not seem like any clock
the boys had ever heard.

"That's never a ship's chronometer, you know, that," declared Frenchy.

"What is it, then?" was his chum's worried demand.

"Oh, bother! Don't care what it is," returned Frenchy. "Give us a hand
here, Ike. Want me to do all the work alone, do you?"

Frenchy was really getting cross. There are plenty of noises of one kind
or another about a ship. One more noise he did not think mattered.

But Ikey continued to raise his head now and then to listen to the
"tick-tock" sound. It puzzled him, and he determined to tell Whistler
about it.

Their work was completed at length, and Frenchy crept out into the
passage to look about. There was nobody in this part of the ship save
themselves.

The two mischievous youths tugged the result of their labor out to the
ash-chute. The time was propitious. The battleship and the auxiliary
were approaching each other and signals were being exchanged. Captain
Trevor was on the quarterdeck and word was passed that target practice
would immediately begin. In a moment Frenchy and Ikey darted out on deck
and joined their mates without being observed by the master-at-arms.
Whistler and Al Torrance were already hovering about their stations. If
the guns of Number Two turret got a chance, they hoped to have a hand in
the manipulation of them.

Suddenly there came a hail from the masthead:

"Q'deck-ahoy-sir!"

The boy up there ran his cry altogether in his excitement. The
navigating officer replied.

"Submarine astern, sir! Can see the periscope bobbing, sir!" was the
statement that changed the entire atmosphere of the battleship from that
of mere curiosity and interest to the wildest excitement.



CHAPTER XV

THE BIG GUN SPEAKS


The thing the lookout had spied bobbing in the sea was not exactly in
the wake of the battleship, for those who rushed to the port rail could
see it quite well. It wabbled about in a most eccentric way, as though
the submarine attached to it had risen just as the _Kennebunk_ passed
and had received the full force of her swell.

"Jingo! that's a funny lookin' periscope," drawled one second-class
seaman, a new recruit, craning his long neck to see over the heads of
the group which Frenchy and Ikey had joined.

"What did you think they'd look like?" demanded another.

"Something like a smokestack with a curlycue on the end of it," was the
reply.

Frenchy and Ikey were giggling immeasurably. The former said: "Isa Bopp
couldn't beat that, could he?"

"Oi, oi!" sighed Ikey ecstatically. "A periscope like a smokestack!"

But more than this new recruit aboard the _Kennebunk_ began to doubt
the validity of the bobbing thing in the water astern. The big
battleship was being swerved to bring the port broadside to bear upon
the now distant object. The bugle rang for stations. The sudden activity
of the whole ship's company was inspiring.

Of a sudden there came a hail from the other masthead where two lookouts
stood in the cage with glasses.

"On deck, sir! Submarine just awash on the starboard quarter, sir!"

The cry was in truth a startling one. Whistler and Torry, who had sprung
with their mates to the guns of the second turret, were on the starboard
side. A second submarine? Why, it seemed the ship was being surrounded
by these wasps of the sea.

A sharp whistle sounded in the turret. The officer in charge sprang to
the tube.

"Ready for deflection and range? Stand by!" was the order.

"Aye, aye, sir!" responded the turret captain.

Ammunition boxes appeared as though by magic and were broken open. Plugs
were swung back and the gun bores were examined. The starboard gun was
quickly charged. Whistler and Torry both worked on her. They stood back,
the gunner standing with his finger on the button of the trigger.

"That submarine's going down!" gasped one watcher. "We'll lose her."

The next moment the executive officer's report for deflection and range
came through the tube. Then: "Are you on?"

"On, sir!"

"Fire!"

It seemed that almost instantaneously with the roar and recoil of the
huge gun the shell burst beside the sinking submarine. The explosion was
terrific; the whole hull of the undersea boat heaved up, exposing its
length for a few seconds. Then the sea-shark sank, going down like a
shot.

"A hit! A hit!" yelled the men in turret two.

A cheer burst from the throats of the whole ship's company. Those who
had not seen it, realized that the first gun fired in earnest by the
_Kennebunk_ had reached its target.

"The old ship's bound to have good luck!" shouted a boatswain. "This is
only the beginning! We'll sweep the seas of every Hun!"

The officers did not try to quell the cheering. The satisfaction and
pride of all was something too fine to be quenched.

The battleship swerved again and ran across the track of the sunken
U-boat. Bubbling up from the depths were blobs of black oil which lazily
spread and broke upon the sea's surface.

The German submarine was done for. Her crew were buried with her at the
bottom of the sea. The cheering ceased when this fact was realized.

"The poor square-heads!" muttered one fellow near Frenchy and Ikey
Rosenmeyer. "They couldn't help it, I s'pose. They say they are driven
into the subs. Aren't no volunteers called for."

"Where's that other sub?" demanded another. "Has she sunk, too?"

Frenchy and Ikey began to grin again. One of the boatswains said: "I bet
that warn't no submarine ship at all. She's a joke. There! We're going
to circle around and hunt her up."

"Do you think the Fritzies set something afloat to fool us?" demanded
another man in surprise. "They're cute rascals, aren't they?"

"Not very cute just now," returned somebody, dryly. "They're food for
the fishes."

"Just the same, if we'd got our attention completely fixed upon this
here floating joker, the real sub might have sneaked up within range and
sent us a lover's note in the shape of a torpedo."

Frenchy and Ikey began to look at each other with some worriment of
countenance. Later it was reported that the first "periscope" could not
be found. The two mischief-makers were greatly relieved.

"Say! that wasn't any joke," Ikey whispered to the Irish lad. "Oi, oi!
S'pose they had grappled for it and brought it aboard and found
"_Kennebunk_" stamped on those iron belayin' pins we used for weights?"

"Don't say a word!" urged Frenchy.

"You bet I won't!" agreed Ikey. "Not even to Whistler and Al. We come
pretty near putting our foot in it that time, Frenchy."

The Irish lad agreed warmly: "By St. Patrick's piper that played the
last snake out of Ireland!" he reiterated, "no more practical jokes,
Ikey. This is a lesson. And say!"

"What is it?"

"I left my knife down there in that room. I've got to go down after it
before it's found and the master-at-arms asks questions."

"All right. I'll go down and watch out for you," declared the loyal
Ikey.

The target ship was being signaled again and she was coming back. At the
first alarm of a submarine in the vicinity she had started coastward.

The wireless was snapping. Messages were being sent out announcing the
sinking of the U-boat and warning other craft, especially merchant
vessels, of the possibility of other undersea boats being in the
vicinity.

It was proved, at least, that the Germans had sent more submarines to
this side of the ocean. The visit of the _Deutschland_ and of U-53 to
America before the United States got into the war, had been in the
nature of a warning as to what the Hun could really do. Now perhaps a
squadron of U-boats was to be sent across to prey upon American shipping
or to shell helpless seaboard towns.

The two younger Seacove boys, who had come so near committing a huge
piece of folly by their small practical joke, slipped down to the lower
deck again to recover Frenchy's knife. If it should be found by the
master-at-arms, or was handed to him, it would go into the lucky bag;
and then Frenchy would have to explain how he lost it in that unused
compartment of the ship if he wished to get back the knife again.

Just as they got to the passage abaft the compartment in question, Ikey
uttered a warning "hist!" and drew Frenchy back. Somebody was coming out
of the room in which they built the dummy that had so fooled the ship's
company.

"Who is it?" gasped Michael.

"Oi, oi!" murmured Ikey, peering again, "It's Seven Knott."

"Shucks! I'm not afraid of him," said Frenchy stepping forth into the
passage. The next moment he cried out: "What's the matter, Hansie?"

The petty officer was plainly frightened. He turned with rolling eyes
and a pasty countenance to the two boys.

"What you seen?" demanded Ikey, likewise disturbed by the petty
officer's appearance.

"No--nothin'," murmured the frightened Seven Knott. "But--but it's a
ghost."

"What's a ghost?" demanded the boys together, and although they did not
believe in ghosts, they could not help being shaken a bit by Seven
Knott's earnestness.

"It's what I heard," whispered the older man, still trembling.

"Oi, oi!" exclaimed Ikey Rosenmeyer suddenly. "Was it a clock ticking?"

"That's it! That's what it sounded like. But there's no clock there,"
the boatswain's mate said. "I couldn't find anything. It's all about
you--in the air! I tell you it's a ghost, a ghost-clock. 'The death
watch.' They say you hear it on board a ship when she's doomed to sink.
Something bad is going to happen to the _Kennebunk_," finished Seven
Knott earnestly.

"Crickey!" cried Frenchy under his breath. "Something bad just happened
to that German U-boat. Maybe this death watch you talk about was
counting out the submarine, not the battleship."

But Hertig was not to be easily pacified. He was superstitious anyway.
He believed that he could not be drowned himself, for instance, because
he had been born with a caul over his face.

Frenchy went into the room, presumably to listen for the "tick-tock"
sound; but actually to find his knife. He came out with the latter in
his pocket; but he also showed a rather pale face and he had not much to
say until Seven Knott went away.

The latter crept away, plainly in great trouble of spirit. Ikey asked
his chum:

"Did you hear it again?"

"Ye-es," admitted Frenchy. "It does sound queer. What do you suppose it
can be?"

"Don't know. Let's tell Whistler," said Ikey, who had a deal of
confidence in Morgan.

"That's all right. But don't tell him anything about our being in that
room before. Remember, Ikey, we don't know a livin' thing about that
first periscope the lookouts spied."

"Sure I won't tell," agreed the other. "It wasn't such a good joke after
all, was it, Frenchy?"

And Frenchy agreed with a solemn nod of his head.



CHAPTER XVI

AN ACCIDENT


The _Kennebunk_ shook throughout her structure at that moment and Ikey
darted for the between-decks ladder.

"Another submarine!" he shouted. "Oi, oi!"

"Hold on!" drawled Frenchy. "Nothing like it. There goes another. They
are at practice. The target's in range."

The four Seacove boys had seen something of gun practice on the
destroyer _Colodia_; but the secondary batteries of the smaller vessel
made no such racket as did the big guns of the _Kennebunk_.

The discharge of a turret gun aboard the superdreadnaught was an
important matter, and a costly one as well. The gun crews practiced all
the movements save the actual discharge of the guns every day. To burn
up several hundred pounds of powder and fire away the expensive
projectiles in rehearsal was a serious matter.

The gun crew that had made a clean hit on the submarine with its first
shell, had already shown what value practice shooting was. The high
standard of the gunnery in our Navy pays for all it costs.

These gunners had practiced at the schools and on other vessels before
being assigned to the superdreadnaught. No matter how much good powder
and shot had already been flung away in training that particular crew of
Turret Number Two, the sinking of the German submarine had paid for it
all.

Whistler and Torry did not, of course, actually fire the gun. The gun
captain did that. But the exact team work of the crew had much to do
with the score of the gun in target practice; and the two friends did
their work commendably.

There was a sharp lookout kept during target practice for other
submarines. The disappearance of the first periscope which had been
hailed from the masthead was the cause of much discussion. It was
generally believed that this first submarine had wisely made off when
its sister ship was so promptly sunk by the battleship.

Frenchy and Ikey almost burst from their desire to tell what they knew
about the mystery. But they did not dare.

It had been a lesson which the two mischief-loving boys would not easily
forget. While the whole ship's company was watching the imitation
periscope Frenchy and Ikey had slipped overboard through the ash-chute,
the real submarine might have torpedoed the _Kennebunk_.

The score of each gun crew was transmitted to Washington by favor of
the auxiliary steamer which towed the target, and she disappeared
coastward just at sunset. The superdreadnaught was under orders to
proceed on a southerly course, and parallel with the coast, for some
considerable distance. She was doing outside patrol duty on this, her
first real cruise.

Men and officers were first of all expected to get used to each other
and to the ship. This familiarity could only come about through drills
and practice work in every branch. The men must have confidence in their
officers, and the officers know their men thoroughly before the
commander could feel that he had a smoothly working ship's company.

The excitement caused by the first blow struck at the enemy and the
successful target practice that followed would not soon wear off. And
both incidents helped the morale of the crew.

Almost every enlisted man showed delight in his face. Only Hans Hertig
displayed a woful countenance. The solemnity of the boatswain's mate
attracted even Ensign MacMasters' attention.

"What's the matter with you, Hans?" he demanded of the petty officer.

It was difficult to get any explanation out of Seven Knott; but finally
the tale of the ghostly "clock" on the lower deck was blurted out by
the superstitious petty officer.

"What do you mean, a ghost?" growled the ensign. "Don't let me hear of
your repeating such nonsense, Hertig. Let me tell you it will interfere
with your advance in rating if you do circulate the story. I'll take the
matter up with Captain Trevor if I hear anything more about it."

But it was impossible to stop the circulation of such a story on
shipboard. Rumor flies from deck to deck on wings. A hint of the strange
noise below decks made others besides Seven Knott investigate. Many
declared they heard the "tick-tock" sound.

There never was a crew at sea yet in which some of its members were not
superstitious. Seven Knott was not the only one troubled by the ghostly
clock. Stories of haunted ships became common among certain groups of
seamen and marines during the hours off duty.

To most of the boys and enlisted men it was all a huge joke;
nevertheless there were enough of the crew really superstitious for the
tale of the clock-ticking sound to interfere with the general morale of
the ship's company.

The chief master-at-arms finally made what he deemed a thorough
investigation of the report. But it was evident that he had made up his
mind to counteract the influence of the strange sound upon the men by
denying its existence.

This, of course, did no good at all. The men, or, at least, some of
them, could hear the "tick-_tock_! tick-_tock_! tick-_tock_!" for
themselves. Those who wandered into the room where the lumber was stowed
were strongly impressed by the unexplained sounds. By and by the men as
a rule fought shy of entering that part of the ship.

When Whistler was told by Frenchy and Ikey that they had first heard the
"ghost-clock" after the subsiding of the storm, he declared it to be
nonsense, pure and simple.

"Don't you fellows forget the scare we all got aboard the _Graf von
Posen_ over that old lead coffin in her hold? I should think you would
know better than to circulate such yarns about the ship," he declared in
some heat.

"We didn't say a word about it," Frenchy denied. "Only to you and Torry.
Seven Knott started the row, not us."

"And he ought to be keelhauled for it," growled Torry.

Nothing would satisfy Frenchy and Ikey, however, until Phil and Al went
down with them to listen to the strange sound themselves. It was there,
all right. When their ears became used to the steady thumping of the
engines, they were able to distinguish the clock-like noise.

"It's some trick," declared Torrance, with conviction. "Sure you chaps
haven't started a joke on us?"

"No joke!" denied Ikey.

"We've sworn off practical jokes," joined in Frenchy earnestly.

"Huh! what's the matter with you?" sniffed Torry suspiciously. "Why this
eleventh-hour conversion?"

But the two smaller fellows refused to be "drawn." They merely
reiterated that they knew nothing about the cause of the ghostly sound.
The four overhauled all the stowed tackle and lumber in the compartment,
but found nothing but a locked carpenter's chest that was too heavy to
move. And the noise did not seem to come from that.

"It's in the air--it's all about us," declared Whistler seriously.
"I doubt if the source of the noise is in this room at all; it is
somewhere near and by some freak of acoustics the sound is heard more
plainly in this place."

"You can try to explain it as you will," returned Torry. "It's mighty
mysterious."

"'Mysterious' is no name for it," said Frenchy. "It'll be more than that
before all's said and done. By St. Patrick's piper that played the last
snake out of Ireland! some of these garbies are getting blue around the
gills already."

"Laugh at them," commanded Whistler. "We're Americans. We ought not to
have a superstitious bone in our bodies."

"Arrah!" grunted Frenchy. "I don't know rightly that it's me bones that
are superstitious. But that 'tick-tock' gives me the creeps, just the
same."

In a week the bulk of the _Kennebunk's_ crew were keeping strictly away
from the compartment on the lower deck from which came the strange
sound. In addition, a run of small accidents broke out which seemed to
the minds of many of the crew to assure that the ship was doomed to bad
luck.

"The ship is haunted," continued to be whispered from division to
division. The sternness of the petty officers could not halt the
spreading feeling.

"How about our very first gun sinking a submarine?" demanded Philip
Morgan of one group.

"Oh, that was just a chance," was the reply.

"Hump!" said Whistler with disgust. "I have an idea the old _Kennebunk_
is going to be blessed with similar chances."

There followed, however, a really serious accident. A pipe in the boiler
room burst, and several men were scalded, one so badly that the ship's
surgeons declared he must be transported to a shore hospital as soon as
possible.

The operation of skin grafting could not be performed successfully on
shipboard, and nothing else would save the unfortunate victim of the
accident from having a terribly disfigured face.

Many of the man's shipmates would gladly have aided by giving patches of
healthy skin for the benefit of the patient; but the operation was too
delicate to be undertaken on the battleship, and the healing of the
unfortunate man would be too tedious.

After communicating with the Navy Department by wireless, Captain Trevor
decided to send the steam runner into Hampton Roads with the injured
man, while the battleship continued her southerly course in compliance
with her orders.

The steam-screw tender of the _Kennebunk_ was a good sized craft and
perfectly seaworthy. They were too far from shore to trust a motor boat;
and to use one of the big whaleboats under sail would take too long.

The derrick swung the big boat overside, and she was lowered into the
sea as lightly as though she were a featherweight. Meanwhile Ensign
MacMasters was assigned to her command and he had the privilege of
picking his crew to suit himself.

The steamer mounted a gun forward and one aft. To the delight of Phil
and Al, the ensign chose them as members of the gun crews.

Immediately Frenchy and Ikey clamored to be taken, too. Ensign
MacMasters without doubt displayed favoritism at this time. He
acquiesced in the desires of the two younger boys from Seacove.

"I suppose you would pine away and refuse your chow if you were
separated from Morgan and Torrance," the ensign said laughingly. "Get
your hammock-rolls and go aboard. I'll fix it with the executive
officer."

So, when the steamer started from the towering side of the battleship,
the four Navy boys were members of her crew, and likely to experience a
variety of adventures.



CHAPTER XVII

BLOWN UP


The change from the huge _Kennebunk_ to the comparatively tiny steamer
was great indeed; and for the first few hours of the run shoreward the
boys were afraid they would be ill. There was a heavy swell on, and the
tender rode up the hill of each roller, and slid down the other side,
dizzily.

They were two hundred miles off shore and three hundred from Hampton
Roads. The time occupied in the journey could not be much less than
three days and two nights. She was much slower than the motor boats; but
she sailed much more safely, and the injured man could be made more
comfortable on deck under the awning.

The poor fellow complained a good deal about having had his voyage cut
short.

"No chance for me to get a crack at the Huns," he repeated again and
again.

The boys from Seacove tried to comfort him. Ensign MacMasters told him
that he had done his share, even if his fate was not so brilliant as
that of men shot down in battle.

"I wouldn't mind being shot for my country," said the poor fellow. "But
I hate like a dog to be boiled for it! There ain't nothing heroic in
this, Ensign."

The cruise of the steamer was not unattended with peril. They were
confident that German U-boats were beginning to infest the sea bordering
on the Atlantic coast of the United States. One might pop up at any time
and take a shot at the tender.

A sharp lookout was kept, and the gun crews scarcely slept. Every sail
or streamer of smoke created excitement on board.

But the first night passed in safety and the day broke charmingly. The
steamer was kept at top speed. Everything was going smoothly when, about
midforenoon, they sighted a strange vessel hull down and somewhat to the
northeast of their course.

It was rather hazy, and the strange craft was at some distance. Her
course was not one to bring her very near that of the battleship's
steamer.

She did not appear to be more than two hundred feet long, and the
concurrence of opinion was that she was some small tramp freight boat
and was laden heavily. She had a high bow, rail all around, and, as far
as could be seen, she flew no flag at all.

"Some old tub taking a chance with a rich cargo," suggested the warrant
officer, as Ensign MacMasters' second in command. "Why, at the present
time, freight rates are so high and wages so much advanced, that
shipowners can find skippers and crews willing to take regular sieves to
sea!"

"She looks peculiar," Mr. MacMasters said. "If it wasn't for Grant,
here, being in such pain, poor fellow, I'd throw a shell at her and hold
her up. But we've got our orders to hasten to the Roads and return again
to the _Kennebunk_ as soon as possible."

Therefore the strange craft was allowed to pass unchallenged. Later they
had reason to believe that they had made a small mistake regarding the
unknown vessel, yet they had made no mistake in allowing her to go
unmolested.

In time they raised the Capes of Virginia, and a few hours later steamed
into the dock at Fortress Monroe. Grant, the injured fireman from the
_Kennebunk_, was taken ashore and sent to the marine hospital.

Ensign MacMasters had his full orders from the commander of the
battleship; but he had a wireless message relayed to the _Kennebunk_
stating his arrival. The wireless instrument aboard the steamer was of
too narrow a radius to reach the superdreadnaught in her present
position.

Orders were soon repeated for the auxiliary craft to make for the
battleship again, and laying the course for Ensign MacMasters to follow.
There were storm signals flying; but the steamer was to keep near the
shore until she got around Hatteras. It was presumed that she would find
the _Kennebunk_ within a week at the most, and the tender was well
provisioned and took on extra fuel at the dock.

She went to sea without the boys having had an hour of shore leave; but
they did not mind that. The fun of running on the steamer was all right;
but they were getting eager now to return to the superdreadnaught.

They ran out between the Capes into what the warrant officer called "a
Liverpool particular," meaning a fog almost thick enough to cut with a
cheese-knife.

Every once in a while the nose of a steel-gray ship, small or large,
poked through the mist, and her growling siren warned the smaller craft
to get out of the way.

These patrol boats were very plentiful off the Virginia Capes at that
time. A mine-laying enemy submarine would have small chance getting into
Hampton Roads.

But that such a craft was in the vicinity the crew of the _Kennebunk's_
tender learned was the fact within a few hours. Their course was
southerly, and almost in sight of the coast in clear weather. But they
broke out of the fog bank the next morning to see dead ahead two boats,
each pulled by four pair of oars, wearily approaching the course of the
coastwise steamships.

"I smell a U-boat about!" declared Ensign MacMasters, when he had
directed the steamer's course to be changed to run down to the
row-boats.

He was right. The boats contained the crew of the schooner _Hattie May_,
out of Baltimore, which had been shelled and sunk twenty-four hours
before by a German undersea craft.

And the report of the wearied crew included a description of the
submarine. She was camouflaged by a high bow and a rail all around, as
well as by a canvas smokestack to make her look like a tramp freighter.

"The craft we raised going into the Roads!" ejaculated the warrant
officer. "It's her, for a penny!"

"No argument," growled Ensign MacMasters. "We fell down that time.
Although we might have had our hands full if we had tackled her with our
two small guns."

It seemed that the disguised undersea boat mounted four guns on her
deck, but she was a slow sailer. She had moved up close to the schooner
before showing her teeth.

Then she dropped two shells near the _Hattie May_ to show the skipper
that she had the range of his schooner. He had to surrender, and the
U-boat moved up and gave him and his crew ten minutes to get into the
boats. Then they sank the _Hattie May_ by hanging bombs over her sides
and exploding them simultaneously by an electric arrangement.

The skipper of the schooner was taken aboard the U-boat and said he was
shown all over the ship. The German captain seemed to be inordinately
proud of his craft and what she could do.

"She's got torpedoes, but she don't use 'em because they are expensive,"
said the skipper. "They are saved for a last resort. But she is a mine
layer, for I saw two wells and saw the mines, too. She has been out five
weeks and is numbered U-Two Hundred Fifty."

"Two hundred fifty!" gasped Whistler to his chums, who were hanging over
the rail to listen to this report. "What do you know about that?"

"That's the very number that man Blake used in the restaurant, talking
with the skipper of the oil tender, wasn't it?" asked Frenchy of the
quick memory.

"You mean Franz Linder, the German spy!" ejaculated Torry, with
emphasis. "He spoke of this very sub."

"You bet!" agreed Ikey.

The steamer's wireless operator was sending out an S O S call and a
destroyer quickly answered. The steamer remained by the two boats from
the sunken schooner until the fast-flying naval vessel appeared in the
west.

After that the boys on the steamer kept their eyes open for sight of the
camouflaged U-boat. As the boat picked up speed again and kept to her
course. Whistler Morgan and his mates discussed the matter with much
excitement.

"Do you s'pose Mr. MacMasters will let us shell the Hun?" demanded
Frenchy eagerly.

"She'll more likely shell us," declared Torry, inclined to be
pessimistic.

"I bet we can run away from her," cried Ikey Rosenmeyer.

"Say! this tender is no sub chaser. In a race with the S. P. 888, for
instance, she wouldn't have a chance."

"Aw, well," Frenchy broke in, "that U-boat will not have a speed of over
fourteen knots on the surface. We can do better than that."

"But if she sneaks up on us as that other one did on the _Kennebunk_,"
Whistler observed, "we might easily be potted."

"Right-o!" declared Torry. "Whichever way you put it, I don't want to
see that U-boat till we're aboard the _Kennebunk_ again--if ever."

After leaving the crew of the _Hattie May_ to be picked up by the
destroyer, the tender continued to run parallel with the coast. Land was
seldom wholly out of sight, for Mr. MacMasters had orders as to his
course, expecting to meet the superdreadnaught on that vessel's return
from the south.

The fog in which they had run out from the Capes was the forerunner of a
storm which increased as the day advanced. The gale was behind them,
however, so there was no fear of the tender being cast ashore.

The sea around Cape Hatteras is notoriously rough in a gale, and the
outlook was not promising when they sighted Hatteras Light that evening.
Seaworthy as the steamer was, she pitched terrifically in the seas that
threatened now to overwhelm her.

There was a pale and watery moon that evening, with wind-driven clouds
scurrying across its face and quenching its light every few minutes. The
steamer pitched so that her propeller was frequently entirely out of the
sea.

Phil Morgan, in his watch on deck, thought the situation was as nasty as
any he had experienced since joining the Navy. With every hatch and door
battened to keep the seas from flooding her, they ran on, making
scarcely five knots an hour. Now and then they were completely
overwhelmed with the seas; and always the craft plunged and kicked as
though she actually had to fight for supremacy with each wave.

As the bitter night crept on they wore around the Cape, and then, when
it seemed safe to do so, Ensign MacMasters ordered the helm shifted and
they edged farther in toward the land.

In time the out-thrust of the coast partly sheltered them and the
steamer ran into more quiet waters. But the gale still held, and from
the same quarter.

They sighted only smacks and other small fry, including some few
coastwise steamers whose routes hugged the land. Surely they might
expect safety from submarines so far inshore, for this coast is
treacherous.

Another day and night passed. The wireless operator had thus far failed
to raise the _Kennebunk_, although he called every hour.

Mr. MacMasters and the warrant officer studied the chart anxiously.
There were shallow waters hereabout, and although the steamer demanded
little depth, there were bights between the reefs that were dangerous.

At daybreak of the fourth day out they were in the track of Charleston
craft and quite near to a string of islands. There was plenty of water
between the two outer islands. The passage was, indeed, a popular
channel for both steam and sailing vessels.

The _Kennebunk's_ tender was half way through this gut when suddenly,
and without warning, it seemed as though the bow of the craft hit
squarely upon a rock.

She stopped with an awful shock, seemed to rebound, and then the forward
part rose on a wave that shot it into the air. The explosion that
followed was muffled; but the sea about the doomed craft fairly boiled.

"We're sinking! All hands on deck!" shouted the warrant officer.

The boatswain's mate piped his shrillest. Those below swarmed upon the
already settling deck. It was plain at once that the steamer had but a
few moments to live.

"A mine!" declared Ensign MacMasters. "That is what did it! That Hun
mine-sower has been this way!"

The men and boys went to quarters coolly. They had been drilling every
day on the steamer just as though they were aboard the _Kennebunk_.

There was both a liferaft and a tight yawl aboard. These were got over
into the comparatively quiet sea, water and an emergency ration-cask put
aboard each, and Mr. MacMasters brought his instruments and papers,
taking his place in the stern of the boat. The latter had a small
engine, and there was a hawser with which she might tow the raft.

Meanwhile the wireless operator had been calling for help. He got a
reply from a land station, but none from any sister naval ship. However,
they were so near land that it did not seem that this mattered.

"Let her go, boy!" shouted the ensign to the operator. "Come on! She's
going down."

They pulled away just in time, and got the little engine to kicking as
the wrecked auxiliary craft of the _Kennebunk_ sank stern foremost under
the sea. As she went down her bows rose out of the water and the
castaways saw the great wound torn in two of her water-tight
compartments by the mine.



CHAPTER XVIII

MORE TROUBLE


Philip Morgan and Al Torrance both were in the yawl, and were assigned
to pull oars if the engine went dead from any cause. The two younger
Seacove boys were taken by the warrant officer, Mr. Mudge, aboard the
buoyant raft.

"Well, old man," muttered Torry in his mate's ear, "this is a new
experience. We've never been shipwrecked before."

Ikey on the raft was bewailing the loss of some of his duffle. "Oi, oi!
And a nice new black silk neckerchief, too! Oi, oi! All for the fishes
yet."

Mr. MacMasters laughed, and did not order the boys to cease talking as a
sterner officer might have done.

"We may as well take it cheerfully," he said. "I'm thankful there's
nobody lost. And there can be no blame attached to any of us because of
the loss of the boat."

"Ah, that's all right," grumbled the warrant officer on the raft. "But
think of those miserable Huns, sneaking away in here and dropping a
mine in a channel where nothing but small craft dare sail."

"Excursion steamers from Charleston use this channel," Mr. MacMasters
said. "I know it to be a fact."

"Ah! That's the Hun of it," repeated the second. "To sink a craft having
aboard a lot of innocent and helpless folk out on a pleasure excursion
would be just his delight."

First of all the two officers had looked over their charts and decided
on the course to pursue. Charleston was not the nearest port.

The barometer was falling again and there was every promise of more bad
weather. It was decided to make for a small town behind the islands, and
instead of continuing through the channel where the _Kennebunk's_
auxiliary steamer had been mined, it seemed better to take advantage of
the tide and run back to the open sea.

There they proposed to skirt along the outer beaches of the islands
until they reached another passage marked on the charts as being the
entrance to the sheltered harbor of the port in question. The distance
was about ten miles.

There was no danger from reefs in this direction, and if they had to
beach the boat and the raft the shores of the islands would seem to
offer safe landings. They were yet to learn different.

Yet the decision was wise as far as the two officers could be expected
to know without a special knowledge of the conditions. What mainly they
failed to apprehend was the swiftness with which the new storm was
approaching.

The little yawl chugged away cheerfully and drew the life raft out of
the channel. No other craft had been in sight when the _Kennebunk's_
auxiliary steamer was blown up, and therefore none had come to their
assistance.

The local fishermen and navigators of small craft appreciated the coming
of this second storm on the heels of the first. It would probably pounce
upon the coast with suddenness, so the fishing boats had already run for
cover.

The yawl and raft got out into the open sea safely, and Mr. MacMasters
steered for the harbor in which they expected to take refuge.

The first island was long and narrow--a mere windrow of rock and sand
breaking the force of the sea. The huge combers coursing up its strand
broke twenty feet high and offered nothing but utter destruction to any
small craft that attempted a landing.

"That is no welcome coast," Mr. MacMasters said. "I wonder if we
shouldn't have gone behind the islands after all, in spite of the
reefs."

But it was too late to change their plans now. The first strait that
opened between the islands was a mass of white water.

The raft was clumsy, and the yawl could make but slow headway. Suddenly
the wind fell; but with its falling the sea began to rise.

"What does it look like to you, Mr. Mudge?" Ensign MacMasters asked the
officer on the raft.

"More trouble. The wind's going to spring on us from a new quarter,"
was the reply. "See yonder!"

Away to the northwest a cloud seemed rolling upon the very surface of
the sea it was so low. At its foot, at least, the sea sprang up in a
foamy line to meet the pallid cloud. There was a moaning in the air, but
distant.

"That's going to hit us hard!" cried Mr. MacMasters. "It's more than an
ordinary gale."

"That's what it is, sir," admitted Mudge.

"Wish we were ashore!" shouted the ensign.

"Any chance, that you see?"

They were off the coast of the second island now. That was heavily
wooded and the shore was more broken. But it seemed as inhospitable as
that of the one of wider beach.

The newly risen gale was yet a long way from them, the low moaning of
the tempest seemed distant.

The swell beneath the yawl's keel suddenly heaved into a gigantic wave
upon the summit of which the boat was lifted like a chip in a
mill-stream.

Some of the crew shouted aloud, in both amazement and fear. The
propeller raced madly; then the engine stopped--dead.

"Out oars! Look alive, men!" was the ensign's command.

The clumsy raft tugged at the end of her hawse. The yawl went over the
top of the wave and began to coast dizzily down the descent.

The rope which held it to its tow cut through the swell. It tautened--it
snapped!

The loose end whipped the length of the yawl viciously and threw two of
the crew flat into the boat's bottom.

The oars were out. Ensign MacMasters yelled an order to pull. Philip
Morgan and Al Torrance found themselves throwing their entire strength
against the oars.

The raft rose staggeringly upon the huge wave behind the boat. Mr. Mudge
had a steering oar out; but the raft wabbled on the summit of the swell
as though drunken. They saw the castaways upon the raft cowering
helplessly.

Then like a shot the white wave rode down upon them with the pallid
storm-cloud overhead. The yawl was headed into the gale and the oarsmen
pulled like mad.

Mr. MacMasters yelled at them. They did their very best. The sleet
whipped their shoulders like a thousand-lashed knout. The darkness of
the tempest shut down upon them and the raft was instantly lost to
sight.

"Frenchy! Ikey!" Whistler Morgan gasped, and Torry heard him.

But they could do nothing to aid their chums. Duty in any case held them
to their work. They pulled with the very last ounce of strength they
possessed.

The yawl's head was kept to the wind and sea; but it was doubtful if she
made any progress.

"Pull, men! Pull!" shouted the ensign again and again.

He inspired them, and perhaps their straining at the oars did keep the
yawl from overturning at that time. Yet such ultimate fate for it seemed
unavoidable. The wind and sea lashed it so furiously that Whistler told
himself he would not have been surprised if the boat and crew were
driven completely under the surface.

He had seen a good bit of bad weather before this; but nothing like what
they suffered at this time. The warring elements fairly bruised their
bodies. Sometimes the boys felt themselves pounded so viciously between
the shoulders that they could scarcely draw their breaths.

Now and then, above the tumult of the tempest, the ensign's voice
encouraged them. Whistler, sitting three yards away, could not see the
officer at all.

Then, with the unexpectedness that is the greatest danger of these
off-shore gales, the wind changed once more. It snapped around in a
moment to due west. The cross seas lashed the yawl impetuously.

Whistler heard an oar snap. The man behind him fell upon his back in the
bottom of the yawl. His broken oar entangled with Whistler's, and the
latter lost stroke.

There was a yell from the ensign. Whistler heard Al Torrance shriek. The
next moment the yawl rolled completely over, and he was struggling in
the sea and in the pitchy darkness underneath the overturned boat!



CHAPTER XIX

COINCIDENCE


Whistler kept cool in his mind. As far as his body went, that was icy.

He knew that, after all, he was personally in less danger than those who
had been thrown far from the boat. He could hear nothing of what went on
outside; the rolling and plunging of the overturned yawl continued.

Where had Torry gone? And the ensign, and the other members of the
yawl's crew? Once Whistler had spent a long time in the sea, drifting
about on a hatchcover; having been saved from that perilous adventure,
he was not likely easily to give up hope now.

There was air enough under the overturned yawl, and he knew her
water-tight compartments would keep her afloat indefinitely. But there
might be work for him to do outside.

He might help the other members of the shipwrecked crew. Therefore he
filled his lungs with air and dived under the side of the yawl.

Just as he came out into the open sea he collided with another person
coming down. They seized each others' hands and rose to the surface.

It was Torry! When they popped up and expelled the air from their lungs
and blinked the water from their eyes, each boy instantly recognized the
other.

"Crickey!" coughed Torrance. "I thought we'd lost you."

"Are you all right?" demanded Morgan.

"Just as all right as a fellow can be when he--he can't walk ashore,"
chattered Torry.

"Here's the yawl!" cried Whistler. "Where's Mr. MacMasters? And Rosy and
Slim? And the others?"

But when his eyes were well cleared of the water he beheld the entire
crew of the yawl, including Ensign MacMasters, perched along the yawl's
keel like a string of very much bedrabbled crows on a rail fence.

Strangely enough the gale seemed to have lulled for the time. Having
done its worst to them, it gave the unfortunate castaways a breathing
spell.

With the aid of their mates, Whistler Morgan and Torry were able to
reach the keel of the overturned boat. There they perched, too, and,
chattering in the cold wind, tried to look about them.

Where was the raft? This question, first and foremost in Whistler's
mind, troubled him intensely. It was impossible to see far across the
tossing sea; but he was sure that the life raft was nowhere within the
range of their vision.

"Poor Frenchy and Ikey!" groaned Whistler.

"That raft can't sink," urged Torry in his ear.

"But they could easily be torn off it by the waves."

"Don't look at it in that way. They may be better off than we are,"
returned his chum.

"What's that yonder?" shouted Slim suddenly.

"Land!" Mr. MacMasters cried.

"And a lot of good that'll do us," growled Slim. "We'll be dumped
ashore, maybe, like a ton of trap-rock."

The sodden boat was drifting steadily toward the island. The surf
thundered against its ramparts most threateningly. But the outlook did
not seem so serious as that upon the other island they had passed.

Ensign MacMasters, after some fishing, secured the loose end of the
broken hawser. With the help of those nearest to him he hauled this out
of the water. Then, by his advice, they all lashed themselves to the
long rope with their belts or neckerchiefs.

"No matter what happens, we want to hang together," he declared. "No one
man can fight this sea alone."

His cheerfulness and optimism raised their spirits. At least they hung
on to their insecure refuge with much ardor, and not uncheerfully waited
to be cast upon the strand.

A great swell suddenly caught the yawl and drove it shoreward. Mr.
MacMasters uttered a warning shout and waved his hand in a gesture of
command. They all cast loose from the keel, and the boat was carried
high upon the breast of the breaker.

Still fastened together by the rope, the castaways were tumbled over and
over in the surf. The yawl was east upon the strand with dreadful force
and if they had continued to cling to it their chances of being
seriously injured would have been great indeed.

Lightly the men and boys lashed to the rope were tossed by the
surf--rolling over and over, but still clinging to each other and to the
hawser. Mr. MacMasters at one end and Whistler Morgan at the other
managed to obtain a footing on the sand despite the undertow.

They threw themselves upon the beach and clung "tooth and toenail" when
the breaker receded. Slim was completely exhausted; but before another
comber rolled in those who were strong managed to drag the weaker ones
out of the reach of the undertow.

There was only a fitful light on sea and shore. The castaways lay in a
panting group, looking at each other dripping with brine, and very
miserable.

"Begorra!" exclaimed Irish Jemmy at last, "I broke me poipe. Lend me a
cigareet, will you, Rosy?"

Rosy gravely reached into his blouse and brought forth a little package
filled with tobacco pulp.

"You're welcome, Jemmy," he said gravely. "Help yourself."

"Begorra!" growled the Irishman, "ye might have kept thim dry."

"That's a good word!" exclaimed Mr. MacMasters, briskly, struggling to
rise. "We all need to get dry. I have matches in a bottle in my pocket,
and the bottle didn't get broken. Come on and find some dry wood. We'll
have a fire. We may have to camp out here till morning."

"Oh, Mr. MacMasters!" urged Whistler, who was loosening himself likewise
from the rope. "Let us look for the fellows who were on the raft first."

"Shout for them," advised the ensign. "But don't worry if they do not
answer at once. This is a big piece of land, this island."

Whistler and Torry shouted loudly; but after fifteen minutes they were
hoarse, and the wind seemed to blow their voices back into their teeth.

"Save your breath to cool your porridge," advised Jemmy. "You're wastin'
it. If ye shout from now till doomsday ye won't bring them back if
they're drowned. And if they are all right we'll find them safe and
sound."

That was sensible; but it did not make Phil and Al any the less anxious
regarding Frenchy and Ikey. The younger lads had always been in their
care, and the situation looked serious.

Whistler and Torry knew they were expected to help gather wood, and so
they gave up shouting and followed Rosy and the others toward the
forest. The whole island, as far as they had seen, was forest-covered.

There had been a heavy fall of rain that day, and to find dry fuel was
not an easy task. While they were thus engaged the two boys came upon an
opening in the trees. In the dusk it seemed that the opening was the
beginning of a well-tramped path, leading inland.

Whistler called to Mr. MacMasters to show him this sign of human
occupancy of their refuge. Before the ensign arrived at the spot Torry
made a second discovery.

"Look who's here!" called the boy in a low voice. "Here's a Man Friday,
sure enough!"

There was a light approaching through the forest path. It was a torch,
and before long the wavering brand revealed a strange figure--no Man
Friday but, as Whistler whispered, a Woman Friday!

She was a peculiar looking being, indeed, dressed in a single loose
flowing garment, which covered her from neck to ankles. She was
barefooted and bareheaded, her iron-gray hair tossed about her
weather-beaten face in wild elflocks.

Her eyes were as brilliant as coals. Either she was not right in her
mind or she assumed that manner. At first she merely glowered at the two
boys and the Navy officer, and said nothing in reply to the latter's
queries.

Her hands and fingers were gnarled from hard work. She looked as tough
as bale wire, to quote Torry.

When she finally spoke her voice was as deep and coarse as a man's. She
said:

"You-uns was blowed up in yon channel. And you lost your boat, ain't
you?"

"Crickey!" gasped Torry to Whistler. "She's a German--a German with a
southern accent! What do you know about that?"

Meanwhile Mr. MacMasters was interrogating her to some purpose.

"Have you seen others of our party?" he asked. "There were fourteen men
and boys on a raft."

"Ain't seen no stranger befo' to-day, but you-uns," she declared. Her
eyes seemed as lidless as a snake's. They did not blink at all.

"Then how did you know that our steamer was blown up?" the ensign
queried.

"Old Mag knows a heap other folks don't know," croaked the woman.

The rest of the party came up and heard this statement. Jemmy gave her
one look and crossed his fingers.

"She's a witch, and the banshees do her bidding," he whispered hoarsely.

"Well," said Mr. MacMasters, much puzzled, "is there any place where we
can get dry--and get some food?"

"I'll take you all to my cabin," she said. "That's what I come for."

She turned around abruptly and strode back along the path. There seemed
nothing for the castaways to do but to follow her. But they certainly
did discuss the queer woman in whispers while they kept on her trail.

"She's a witch sure enough," repeated Jemmy. "Sure you kin see that easy
from the cut of her jib. The ensign had better have no doin's with her.
Maybe she'll charm the whole of us with her evil eye."

The island was half a mile or more across. It was almost dark by the
time the party of castaways with their strange leader came out upon the
other shore.

Here the sound between the islands and the mainland was
mist-enshrouded, and it was evident that a nasty night had shut down.
Whistler and Torry were terribly anxious about their friends who had
been on the life raft.

However, they could not start off alone to hunt for Michael Donahue and
Ikey Rosenmeyer. They were just as much under Mr. MacMasters' orders
ashore as they were at sea.

They had confidence in the ensign's judgment, too. They believed he
would make a search for the rest of their party just as soon as it was
practicable.

The cabin to which the woman led them was a large log hut of only one
room, but with a number of bunks, built in two tiers, along the walls.
At one end was an open hearth and chimney and arrangements for cooking.
A long table and some rough-hewn benches were in the middle of the open
space.

It was more like a barracks than a home; and from the ancient and fishy
smell about the place, the party from the battleship was sure that it
had not long since housed fishermen and their nets.

Mr. MacMasters and most of the others turned in at once for a nap; but
Whistler Morgan was much too anxious to sleep. The old woman who called
herself "Mag" went to work at once to prepare a meal, and the boy
offered to help her.

He peeled the vegetables and cut corn from the cob for a sort of
Brunswick stew which she prepared. Mag put into it a rabbit, a pair of
squirrels and a guinea fowl, the neck of which she wrung and then
skinned and cleaned in a most skilful manner.

While she was thus engaged she talked to Whistler. The boy noted, as his
chum had, that she arranged her spoken sentences much as Germans do who
are not well drilled in English. Yet she had the southern drawl and
accent.

"I know whar yo' boys come from," she advanced almost at once. "Yo' are
from the _Kennebunk_ battleship--and she's a fur ways from here."

"You have seen the rest of our crowd, then!" cried Whistler earnestly,
"haven't you, Missus?"

"No, no!" the old hag said, wagging her head. "Old Mag sees strange
sights and knows more'n most folks. Oh, yes! Your little steamboat was
blowed up by a big bomb in yon channel."

"It was blown up by a Hun mine," declared Whistler bitterly.

The old woman's eyes flashed at him threateningly. "What yo' mean by
'Hun'? Them that put that bomb there is just as good as yo' folks.
I ain't got no use fo' Yankees yet."

"You don't call yourself a Southerner, do you?" asked the boy curiously.

"What am I then?"

"You're German. At least, your folks were," Whistler declared with
conviction.

The woman scowled at him and said nothing more. When Whistler had
finished helping her he moved his chair back from the fireplace, for the
heat from the live coals was intense. He saw a scrap of torn paper upon
the earth floor, near his foot.

His suspicions had been aroused now and he covered the paper with his
foot until he could get a chance to pick it up without the old woman
observing him. Having secured it he moved still farther back to the
table. There was a smoky hanging-lamp over the board which gave him
light enough to see by. Secretly he examined the torn paper.

It seemed to be part of a letter, and was closely written on both sides
of the scrap. On one side was the beginning of the missive, and after a
minute Whistler realized that it was written in German script.

At the head of the letter was a line that not alone amazed, but startled
the boy. Coincidence often has a long arm, and in this case the adage
proved true. The letter was addressed to

"_Herr Franz Linder._"



CHAPTER XX

THE WITCH'S WARNING


Whistler had been assured when he attended the session in the sheriff's
office at home, before joining the crew of the _Kennebunk_, that the
enemy alien named Franz Linder, who was supposed to have blown up the
Elmvale dam, was an influential member of that band of spies that were
doing so much harm in the United States.

It was surprising to find this scrap of a letter addressed to the spy in
this island cabin off the coast of North Carolina. Yet it smacked of no
improbability.

Whistler had heard the spy tell the skipper of the oil carrier, the
_Sarah Coville_, that his work was done in that vicinity. Linder, or
Blake as he was known at Elmvale, had naturally got well away from the
neighborhood of the dam after it was blown up.

That he was on this island at the present time was not so likely; but
that he had been here, and in this cabin, was very possible. Perhaps had
the castaways from the wrecked yawl arrived a few hours before at the
cabin of Mag they might have seen the German spy.

The old woman who tried to make Whistler believe she possessed second
sight, or some gift quite as uncanny, was in league with or had some
knowledge of Franz Linder. The boy was confident on this point.

She was of German descent at least, and she showed bitterness toward
"the Yankees." However, she proved herself to be a hospitable hostess.
It was her southern, not her Teutonic, training probably that led to
this.

Whistler could not read German, and he did not know that any member of
his party could do so. Nevertheless, he crumpled the bit of paper in his
hand and thrust it into his pocket, biding his time until he could show
it to Mr. MacMasters.

It was ten o'clock before the stew was ready to be dished up. The aroma
of it awakened the hungry men.

"This must be heaven, for it smells like mother's cooking!" declared
Slim. "Oh, yum, yum! Oh, boy!"

"The old lady ain't no angel," put in Jemmy; "but she sure can cook."

"And angels can't, I guess," added Torrance, grinning.

"Say, boy!" grinned Rosy, "didn't you ever eat angel cake?"

Whistler found his chance to speak to Mr. MacMasters when the others
crowded around the table. Mag put the steaming kettle of stew in the
middle of the bare board and ladled it out into brown earthen bowls.

"See what I found on the floor here, Mr. MacMasters," Whistler said
quietly, and thrusting the paper into the ensign's hand. "Don't let the
old woman see it, sir."

Mr. MacMasters was cautious. He held the paper under the edge of the
table and saw almost instantly what the communication was and to whom it
was addressed.

"That's the name of that spy you boys say blew up the Elmvale dam, and
was out on that oil tender we chased in the submarine patrol boat, isn't
it?" whispered the ensign. "I declare! Did you find it here?"

"Yes, sir. You see, the edge of the paper is browned. The whole letter
was probably thrown into the fire on the hearth and this piece failed to
be destroyed."

"You've hit it right, I fancy," agreed the officer. "Something queer
about this old woman and about this place."

"She knows we are from the _Kennebunk_, too. How should she know so much
if she wasn't in with the spies?"

"And she knew too much about the steamer being mined in the channel
over there," muttered Mr. MacMasters.

"It looks as if we were watched by the spies and that she is in cahoots
with them," Whistler suggested.

"Humph! Maybe. You can't read this letter, I suppose, Morgan?"

"No, sir. None of us boys read German. Not even Ikey, although he
understands the language quick enough when it is spoken. And poor Ikey
isn't here!"

"Don't worry about that," advised Mr. MacMasters. Then: "I do not think
any of the men can translate German. Of course there is probably nothing
on this paper of present moment to us.

"What we should do first is to find the rest of our crowd and get off
this island. The _Kennebunk_ will be coming back up the coast and we'll
miss her altogether."

"I hope the other boys are safe," sighed Whistler anxiously.

"I hope they have as good a refuge and are treated as kindly as we are.
But we can't make a search of the island in the dark. Besides, they may
not have landed on this island at all. There are other beaches quite as
hospitable as this one proved, I have no doubt."

Whistler and Torry helped the old woman clear up and wash the bowls and
spoons after supper. She sat in the chimney corner and puffed away
slowly at a short-stemmed and very black pipe.

The seamen were rather afraid of Mag, Jemmy especially. He carefully
crossed his fingers whenever she chanced to glance in his direction.

Mr. MacMasters went outside to assure himself that nothing could be done
toward searching for the rest of the crew of the auxiliary steamer
before daybreak. It was as dark as Erebus without, and the gale still
blew strongly off shore.

The ensign politely asked the strange old woman what arrangements they
should make for the night.

"We don't wish to turn you out of your bed, you know, Ma'am," he said.

She waved him away, the pipe in her hand. "Tumble into yo' bunks," she
ordered. "Old Mag doesn't sleep--hasn't slept for more years than
you-uns are bo'n already. That is why she knows more than others--yes!
The spirits of the night come and whisper to her while she stays awake."

"Arrah! D'ye hear that now?" whispered Irish Jemmy hoarsely. "'Tis as
much as our lives are worth to stay here."

Superstitious as he was, Jemmy was afraid to leave the cabin alone.
Most of the castaways were glad to retire to the berths again and,
blessed with full stomachs, it was not a great while before they fell
asleep.

The two Seacove boys finished helping the old woman.

"You are a pair of good boys," she said after looking at them for some
time and muttering to herself the while. "Why don't you run away? I'll
get you off the island yet, befo' that officer man wakes up."

"Why, Mother! we don't want to run away," Torry told her, laughing. "We
belong to one of the Navy's crack superdreadnaughts."

"Aye, I know. The _Kennebunk_," said Mag, nodding gloomily.

"Sure," Torry rejoined. "We want to see some fighting."

"'Tis not fighting you-uns'll see," croaked the woman. "Old Mag tells
you, and she knows. Yo' fine, big ship will go down in the midst of the
seas and her crew with her. Better yo' luck if it happens befo' yo' git
back to her already."

"You don't mean that?" Whistler cried.

"I'm a-tellin' yo' so," said the queer old woman. "Old Mag knows mo'
than other folks. Oh, yes! She'll sink. Better yo' boys stay ashore."

"What do you know about 'the witch's warning'?" whispered Torry to
Whistler. "She thinks she's got second sight. Knows more than anybody
else. She's like one of the Seven Sutherland Sisters--she prophesies."

"Shucks!" chuckled Whistler in the same cautious tone, "they weren't
prophetesses; they sold hair restorer."

But to himself Whistler muttered:

"Maybe she does know more than we do. But how does she know it? There's
something awfully queer about this whole business."



CHAPTER XXI

THE EXPLANATION


Although Whistler was quite sure "Old Mag," as she called herself,
possessed no powers of divination, he knew she did have certain
knowledge that he considered she had no moral right to have.

Here she was, an ignorant old creature living on a well nigh uninhabited
island off an isolated coast, with some mysterious means of information
upon subjects that she should know nothing about.

She claimed not to have seen the other party of castaways; yet she knew
at once that Mr. MacMasters and his companions were from a craft that
had been blown up miles away from her cabin, and completely out of sight
and hearing of this island.

Whistler did not believe any fishing boat, or other craft, had brought
this information to Mag. There had been no vessel in sight when the
_Kennebunk's_ tender was blown up by the floating mine.

The scrap of a letter addressed to "Herr Franz Linder" he had found in
the cabin connected the old crone, in Whistler's mind, with the German
spy system. She was of Teutonic extraction herself.

Clearly the old woman was trying to befool her visitors. She probably
possessed some local celebrity as a witch or wise woman.

Whistler, however, was not ready to believe her any wiser than her
neighbors.

He thought out the matter back to the time the auxiliary steamer was
blown up in the channel between the islands. The wireless operator sent
out S O S messages till the very last. Small as the radius of the
instrument was, a station along the adjacent coast would surely pick up
the cry for help.

It was an important thought, but he had no time that evening to mention
it to Mr. MacMasters. He and Torry shared one of the wide and fishy
smelling bunks together, and they did not wake up until it was broad
daylight.

There was a heavy smell of rank, boiling coffee in the air. Bacon was
sizzling over the fire and a huge corn pone was baking on a plank before
the coals. Mag did not propose to starve her guests, that was sure.

The sun had burst through the clouds and the gale had ceased. The surf
still thundered upon the outer shores of the island; but the sound, upon
which the cabin fronted, was smooth and sparkling. It was a pretty view
from the cabin door.

And almost at once, when Whistler and his chum ran out of the cabin to
look about, they saw a number of familiar figures approaching along the
rock-strewn shore. These newcomers were as shabby and bedraggled as
themselves, and it was easy to identify them.

"Here they come!" yelled Torry, and rushed toward the approaching party.

Whistler was not behind him; but when they reached the refugees they
discovered that Mr. MacMasters was already with them. The ensign had
been up since before dawn and had searched out Mr. Mudge and his
companions at the other end of the island.

"Oi, oi!" wailed Ikey Rosenmeyer, meeting the older boys. "Such a time!
I swallowed enough salt water to make me a pickled herring yet!" Ikey
could not get away from memories of the delicatessen shop.

"By St. Patrick's piper that played the last snake out of Ireland!" was
Frenchy Donahue's complaint, "it was holdin' a wake over you two
fellers, we was, all the night long."

"Where did you put in the night, anyway?" asked Whistler.

"Say! we didn't have no more home than a rabbit," cried Ikey.

"After we got ashore," began Frenchy, when Torry interrupted to ask:

"How did you do that? Give us the particulars."

"Why, when you fellers went off and left us without sayin' 'by your
leave,' even----"

"What's that?" growled Whistler. "You know that hawser snapped."

"Just the same you parted company from us mighty brusk," grinned
Frenchy. "We drifted in with the tide. Mr. Mudge took a line ashore--Oh,
boy! he's some swimmer. So we followed him along the line, hand over
hand----"

"And head under water," grunted Ikey. "Oi, oi!"

"Aw, Ike would kick if you was hangin' him," scoffed Frenchy, "unless
you tied his feet. We all got out of the water safe, and that's enough.
The wind and the rain beat us so that we went up into the woods for
shelter. And then we found a clearing and in it a cabin."

"Ah-ha!" ejaculated Whistler. "Another cabin like this one?"

"Not on your life!" said Frenchy.

"No," added Ikey. "Nothing like it."

"It was a little cabin without any windows, and the door was padlocked.
We couldn't get into it; but we camped there in the clearing all night.
I'm as soggy right now as a sponge."

"There was a flagstaff sticking out of the roof of the cabin," Ikey
observed. "And somebody must have thought a deal of whatever's in the
shack, by the size of the padlock on the door."

There was a call to breakfast from the cabin just then. Whistler slipped
aside and caught Mr. MacMasters' attention.

"Something mysterious, Morgan?" asked the ensign, observing Whistler's
expression of countenance.

The young fellow briefly related what the old woman had said to him and
Torry the night before, and then told the officer of the suspicions that
her words had aroused in his mind.

In addition, he told Mr. MacMasters what Frenchy and Ikey had said about
the locked cabin in the woods. Whistler put great stress upon this
matter.

"Why, I did not see the cabin myself, although Mudge mentioned it," said
the ensign. "I met them marching out of the woods up along the shore
yonder."

"Can't we find that cabin and have a look at it?" urged Whistler
earnestly.

"But we can't get into it."

"No, sir. But we can see it. I have an idea."

"I presume you have, Morgan," returned the ensign, smiling grimly. "And
I have a glimmer of an idea myself."

When the men trooped in to breakfast the officer and Whistler Morgan
stole away. The old woman was too busy just then to notice their
absence.

In half an hour they found the place where the warrant officer and his
companions had broken through the jungle. They retraced their course and
soon came to the clearing in the wood.

It was a secret place, indeed. The cabin was ten feet square, built of
heavy logs, and as Whistler had been told, had no window openings. The
door of heavy planks was fastened by a huge hasp held in place by the
padlock mentioned so particularly by Ikey Rosenmeyer.

"I guess we can't get into it without tools," said the ensign.

"I don't suppose so, sir. But see that pole on top of the cabin? That
had the upperworks of a wireless attached to it, I'm sure. The bolts are
still up there. It is no flagpole."

"Right again, Morgan," agreed Mr. MacMasters.

"And that piece of a letter to Linder," the boy eagerly reminded him.
"Don't you think with me, sir, that the old woman is linked up with the
German spy system?"

"It seems reasonable. At least, I shall make a report as soon as we get
away from the island. And the old woman should be watched, too."

"Indeed she should!" cried Whistler. "What do you suppose she meant, Mr.
MacMasters, about our _Kennebunk_ being sunk?"

"The speech was fathered by the wish, perhaps."

"But she seemed so certain--so assured," murmured Whistler.

He was not satisfied by this explanation of Mr. MacMasters, and was
silent all the way back to Mag's cabin. They came in sight of the place
just as the men poured out of the cabin in great excitement.

"What do you suppose is the matter with them now?" demanded the ensign.

But he spied the cause of the excitement as soon as Whistler did.
Crossing the sound was a swift revenue cutter, and one of the seamen,
under direction from Mr. Mudge, leaped upon a bowlder and began to
signal, semaphore fashion.

The signals were returned and the cutter swung in shoreward and soon
dropped a boat for the castaways. The shipwrecked seamen from the
_Kennebunk_ swarmed down to the strand.

Mr. MacMasters whispered to Whistler that they would have their
breakfast aboard the Coast Guard boat. Then he went to the scowling old
woman who, after all, had been a most hospitable hostess. Some of the
sailors had given her money in small sums; but the ensign forced her to
accept an amount that he thought generous payment for what she had done
for them, and Mag seemed to agree.

"Yo' Yankees air free-handed already," she drawled. "But that won't save
you, Mr. Officer, from the trouble that's heaped up for you-uns."

"What is the nature of this trouble?" asked the ensign curiously.

"Death an' destruction," said the old woman. "Death and destruction. Yo'
fine big ship, the _Kennebunk_ ship, will be blowed sky-high. It's a
comin'! Mark Old Mag's prophecy, Mr. Officer."

"We shall all have to go on and do our duty just the same, Mag," said
Mr. MacMasters, seriously. "And if a sailor does his duty, he's done his
all. The rest is in God's hands."

"Don't blaspheme, Mr. Yankee!" warned the old woman. "The Lawd ain't
studyin' 'bout he'pin' you-uns none. He's on the other side already."

The boat from the cutter had to return a second time before all the
castaways were transferred to the revenue vessel. Whistler went in the
last boat with Ensign MacMasters.

When they were on the cutter's deck the young fellow heard Mr.
MacMasters ask at once about the character of the old woman, and of any
other people who might belong on the island.

"They're under suspicion," the commander of the cutter said briefly.
"The Department has its eye on them. On that old woman, too."

Mr. MacMasters asked if anything was known about the small cabin back in
the forest. The revenue officer listened eagerly.

"Ah-ha! That is something of moment, Ensign. I shall surely be glad to
hear all about that. But we must be brisk. Do you know that your Captain
Trevor is combing the sea and the coast with wireless messages for you?"

"He must have heard that we lost our steamer."

"That was relayed last night to the _Kennebunk_, I believe. The Huns are
sowing many mines in these waters. There is a flock of U-boat chasers
and destroyers out after the German submarines.

"But there is something else of moment in the wind," added the revenue
officer. "The _Kennebunk_," he added, mysteriously, "will not be long in
these waters."

"No?"

"It is expected that there will be a great naval movement on the other
side. The report of the _Kennebunk's_ manoeuvres, and her gun record, is
said to be so good that she may be sent across."

Whistler, standing by, could scarcely suppress a cry of delight.

"What do you think of that, Morgan?" the ensign cried. Then to the
revenue officer: "After this cruise, I suppose you mean, sir?"

"She may be sent on the jump--and within a few hours. I have orders to
take you to sea at once and find the _Kennebunk_. Our operator is
sending out feeler messages for the battleship right now."

"Then you will do nothing toward looking into this nest of
trouble-makers on the island--if there is such--immediately?"

"Not until we return."

"And then," said Mr. MacMasters seriously, "if you do stir up these
snakes, look for a fellow named Franz Linder. He is wanted in Elmvale,
up there in New England, for blowing up a dam, destroying munition
factories and drowning twelve innocent people. We'll be glad, Morgan
here, and I, to hear about the capture of that scoundrel."



CHAPTER XXII

THE RACE


The revenue cutter was a speedy craft, and by midforenoon she was far
outside the string of islands near which the crew of the _Kennebunk's_
steamer under Ensign MacMasters had experienced so many adventures.

The wireless operator picked up the superdreadnaught at last. She was
two hundred miles away, and when she gave her course to the cutter the
boys noticed that it occasioned a deal of excitement upon the
quarterdeck.

Unless the message is spread on the notice-board by the door of the
wireless room, the members of the crew of any vessel are not likely to
know what is going on in the air. The operator, like the usual telegraph
operator, is bound to secrecy.

"There's something up besides the blue peter, just as sure as you're a
foot high, Whistler," Al Torrance declared eagerly. "I'd give a punched
nickel to know just what it is."

Having nothing to occupy their time on the cutter, the four Navy boys
naturally gave their attention to rumor and gossip. They believed the
_Kennebunk_ was no longer headed up the coast; but where she was going
was a question.

"Crickey!" groaned Al, "if she gets into any muss without our being
aboard, I'll be a sore one."

"They wouldn't be so mean," wailed Ikey, "as to have a fight without us
being in it. Oi, oi! Oi, oi!"

"Nothing but subs to fight over here, kid, if any," the older boy said.
"Stop your keening."

"Say, how do we know where the big fight will be pulled off?" demanded
Frenchy excitedly.

"What big fight?" queried Whistler, unpuckering his lips.

"The one they've been talking about for months. You know, everybody's
said the Huns would come out some time. They're bound to give us a
chance at their Navy."

"Aw, they won't! Will they, Whistler?" asked Ikey.

"I don't really believe so myself," Torry said, shaking his head. "No
such luck."

"I believe the _Kennebunk_ has got new orders," Whistler rejoined
thoughtfully. "Whether or not they are for her to sail for the other
side, I don't know. I heard a hint about it when we came aboard the
cutter."

"Crickey! Let 'em hit it up, then," urged Torry. "If this little old
tub doesn't go fast enough I'll jump overboard and swim!"

"Oi, oi! Not me!" objected Ikey Rosenmeyer. "I've soaked in enough salt
water. I don't feel as though I should really need a bath again before
I get to be twenty-one yet."

"Tough on your messmates, Ikey," observed Whistler. "Do think better of
such a rash decision."

The four boys from Seacove were not alone in being anxious regarding the
_Kennebunk_ and their chance of overtaking her. Every man of the crew of
the wrecked auxiliary steamer desired to get aboard the superdreadnaught
if there was to be any fresh excitement.

Whistler's chums urged him to waylay Ensign MacMasters for information.

"G'wan, Whistler!" begged Frenchy. "You and him's just like brothers.
Ask him if the old _Kennebunk_ is running away from us, or if it's all
bunk?" and he grinned at his pun.

"Of course she's not running away," Whistler returned.

"Just the same this cutter is sprinting like all get out," put in Torry.
"Be a good fellow, Whistler. Ask Mr. MacMasters what it means."

His chum did not feel that he could do this. There is, after all, a gulf
between the quarterdeck and the forecastle. But Whistler put himself in
the ensign's way and, saluting smartly, asked a question:

"Beg pardon, sir! Did you find anybody aboard who could translate that
torn letter I picked up in the old witch's cabin?"

"That letter addressed to Franz Linder? No, Morgan; there is nobody
aboard the cutter who is familiar with German. But the moment we reach
the _Kennebunk_ I will put it into Captain Trevor's hands--never fear."

"Shall we really catch the battleship, sir?" asked Whistler eagerly.

"We've got to, Morgan;" declared Mr. MacMasters. "As you boys say,
'there is something doing' and we must be in it."

"But the battleship has changed her course, has she not, sir?"

"She has received new orders; but we will meet her on this course,
I have no doubt. Cheer up, my boy," and the ensign laughed. "You may
yet help work the big guns in a real battle."

So it was actually a race. The cutter must reach a certain point in the
open ocean to meet the superdreadnaught; if they missed her, in all
probability the party from the _Kennebunk_ would have to be returned to
port and be assigned to some other duty for the time being.

"Oi, oi!" groaned Ikey when he heard Whistler's report. "I never did
have any luck. If they had delicatessen shops on board ships, I'd be
made to police the pickle barrels yet."

The day did not pass without some additional excitement. The cutter
passed and signaled several Government vessels; but toward evening the
lookout picked up the smoke of a small destroyer ahead which, within the
next half hour, acted very strangely, indeed.

She seemed to be steaming in circles, and as the cutter raced nearer
those circles narrowed. Then her guns began to pop.

The cutter's crew and their guests became much excited. Surely the gun
crews of the destroyer were not at target practice. Yet they seemed to
have found a target in the middle of that circle the destroyer was
furrowing through the sea.

At last they saw an answering shot fired from the midst of the circle.
The destroyer was traveling at top speed and her own guns continued to
keep up a wicked cannonading of the central object.

"A Hun submarine!" shouted somebody. "They're circling it, and they are
going to get it, too!"

"If it is a submarine why doesn't she sink?" demanded Torry the
sceptical.

"I see why," Whistler said. "If the U-boat goes down the destroyer will
dart in and drag depth bombs. Then--good-_night_!"

"Wow, wow!" cried Frenchy. "She's so fast she can cut circles around the
U-boat, eh?"

"Sure as you live!" said Torry. "My! that's a pretty fight. If that
destroyer was the old _Colodia_, and we were only aboard of her! What
fun!"

The destroyer was narrowing her circles; the U-boat was in a pocket, and
unless the Hun put a lucky shell into the destroyer's engines, she
seemed doomed to capture or destruction.

The cutter raced nearer. Her course would take her directly into the
circle of battle unless her helm was changed.



CHAPTER XXIII

UNDER SPECIAL ORDERS


It was like bombarding a whale with bomb lances. One after another the
shells from the destroyer's guns shrieked over the sea to fall around
the more sluggishly manoeuvring U-boat.

The captain of the submarine handled his craft with skill; but his
gunners were poor marksmen. They kept both the U-boat's deckguns
smoking; but the shots went wild.

Torpedoes could not be used against the destroyer, for the latter was
steaming too swiftly. Around and around she went, and each time she
finished a lap the circle had narrowed.

The spectators on the revenue cutter were highly interested. They
climbed upon the upperworks and cheered and yelled in their excitement.
At last a shell from the destroyer dropped fairly upon the deck of the
U-boat, just abaft the conning tower.

The submarine rocked, dipped, and seemed about to sink. The helm of the
destroyer was changed instantly and she shot straight for her quarry.

"She'll sink her! She's going down!" yelled Al Torrance, clinging to a
stay beside Whistler, as the cutter bobbed through the rather choppy
seas.

But the Germans had no desire for a glorious death. Up went the white
flag, and the men on her deck put up their hands, signifying that they
had surrendered. Probably they were already crying "_Kamerad!_"

The destroyer did not even drop a boat to send aboard a crew. She
steamed right up beside the submarine, put out a ladder for her captain,
and then sent a hawser aboard for the German crew to fasten. She would
tow her prize to port without risking any of her own crew aboard the
wabbly undersea boat.

When the cutter drew near, her ship's company cheered and jeered the
bluejackets on the destroyer with good-natured enthusiasm. The destroyer
was then steaming away with the U-boat in tow.

"Something's fouled your patent log!" yelled one seaman aboard the
cutter.

"Hey, there, garby!" shouted another. "What's that the cat brought in?"

The crew of the destroyer, evidently mightily swelled with pride,
refused to reply to these scoffing remarks.

As long as the twilight held the cutter steamed into the east and
south. By dark the destroyer and her tow were out of sight. The cutter
began to burn occasional lights. Then the wireless chattered again.

"Hurrah, boys!" whispered Whistler to his three mates. "I believe the
_Kennebunk_ is near."

Nor was he mistaken in this supposition. The night was dark, the stars
were overcast, merely a fitful light played upon the surface of the sea.

The horizon ahead was quite indistinguishable from the water itself. But
at last a faint glowing point appeared upon it. Ensign MacMasters and
the commander of the cutter showed excitement as they watched this spot
through their night glasses.

"Is it a star?" asked Frenchy.

"A star your grandmother!" snorted Torry. "That's a ship."

"A big steamship under forced draft," added Whistler. "And I believe it
is the _Kennebunk_."

It was the glow above her smokestacks that they saw. Within half an hour
the fact that a huge steam craft was storming across the cutter's course
could not be doubted.

Mr. MacMasters gave some sharp orders to his men. The latter had nothing
with them but the water-shrunk garments they stood in; so it took but a
moment for Mr. Mudge to line them up properly along the rail.

The great battleship began to slow down when the cutter was at least
three miles from her. Otherwise she would have passed, and the revenue
craft would have been a long time catching up.

The cutter was run in to the side of the towering hull of the
superdreadnaught. The port ladder was down. A number of the watch on
deck were strung along the rail, and the officers did not forbid their
cheering the members of the wrecked tender's crew.

"Welcome home again, Mr. MacMasters!" was the greeting of the officer of
the watch as the ensign led his party up the ladder.

"And mighty glad we are to get here," declared Ensign MacMasters.

The boys and men scrambled aboard and bade good-bye cheerfully though
gratefully to the cutter's crew. The latter craft turned on her heel and
shot away toward the distant coast.

Already the huge battleship was under way again. She was running with
few lights. And where she was running was a question that even the
members of the crew the boys put the question to could not answer.

It was generally known that Captain Trevor had received orders by
wireless that had changed the plan of the cruise entirely. Instead of
running back up the Atlantic coast, they had put to sea.

It was the next day before the _Kennebunk's_ company in general knew
that she was bound first for the Azores. That meant a European cruise,
without a doubt. All the "old timers" were agreed upon that.

It was finally rumored about the ship that the report of the
_Kennebunk's_ cruise to the southward, and the score of her gun crews at
target practice, together with her good luck in sinking a German
submarine with the first shot ever fired from her guns, had so impressed
the Department that she was to join the European squadron under Admiral
Sims at once.

"There's a chance for you boys to see some real action," declared one of
the masters-at-arms. "If the Hun comes out of Kiel, we'll be there to
say 'How-do!' to him."

The boys who had been absent from the battleship for so long found,
however, that the spiritual atmosphere of the crew was not much changed.
There were still a lot of "croakers" as Torry called them.

"They are ghost-ridden, as sure as you're born, Whistler," Torry
declared. "Somebody has heard that clock ticking again. It doesn't seem
to be at work all the time. Just now and then. 'The death watch' they
call it."

"Stop it!" ordered Whistler. "The less said the soonest mended about
such things aboard ship. We boys don't believe such foolishness, do we?"

"How about the old witch's prophecy?" asked Torry wickedly. "Suppose we
should tell these garbies about them?"

"Don't you dare!" cried Whistler.

That very morning, after sick call, he was ordered to appear before
Captain Trevor in the commander's office, and there found assembled
Ensign MacMasters and several of the other officers of the ship with the
commander.

"Morgan," said Captain Trevor, "let me hear about your finding of this
paper Mr. MacMasters has brought to our attention. There seems to be
something of moment in it in reference to the _Kennebunk_."

Ensign MacMasters put a translation of the torn letter into the young
fellow's hand. The letter had been so mutilated that it was impossible;
to make any exact translation of it. But here were extracts that stood
out plainly:

          "_. . . success of your water-wheel bomb.
          Congratulations._

          "_. . . from Headquarters an order to_ . . .

          "_. . . If it equals your former . . ._

          "_. . . clockwork arrangement that may raise your
          name as an inventor to the nth power. The Ken----
          . . ._

          "_. . . shall hear of her destruction at the time
          appointed._

          "_. . . for the German Fatherland._"

"I am told that you, Morgan, have some knowledge of the dastardly work
of this spy, Franz Linder. Is it so?" asked Captain Trevor suggestively.

"Oh, sir!" cried the young fellow, in excitement, "I believe I know what
is referred to here by Linder's correspondent, as 'the water-wheel
bomb.' That is what he blew up the Elmvale dam with!"

"Do you think, from what the woman on the island said, that there is
some plot afoot against the _Kennebunk_?" went on the commander.

"It's referred to right here!" declared the excited Whistler. "This
'clockwork' thing. Oh, Mr. MacMasters!" he added, turning abruptly to
the ensign. "You know some of the crew, before we left to carry poor
Grant to the hospital, were bothering about a sound they had heard on
the lower deck? Remember Seven Knott's ghost?"

"Right!" declared the ensign. "I had forgotten it, Captain Trevor," he
added. "Something about a clock ticking."

"I have heard it myself," Whistler said eagerly. "And the boys say they
have been hearing it, off and on, while we were gone."

"Do you two mean to intimate that there is a time bomb, or some such
infernal machine, aboard this ship?" demanded Captain Trevor, in
contemptuous amazement.

"Look at this, sir," urged Whistler so earnestly that he forgot his
station. "'_. . . clockwork arrangement that may raise your name as an
inventor to the nth power._' That certainly means something. And that
noise below does sound something like a clock."

"It seems ridiculous," stated the commander of the _Kennebunk_. "And yet
we must not refuse to believe that the secret agents of Germany are at
work in the most impossible places. If they could sink this great, new
vessel in mid-ocean! Mr. Smith," to his first lieutenant, "have that
part of the ship searched. Find out what causes the sound which has been
heard before you make your report. We'll investigate this matter to the
very bottom."



CHAPTER XXIV

TICK-TOCK! TICK-TOCK!


The superdreadnaught was so huge a ship, and the divisions of the crew
were so busily engaged in drills and other work, that few, indeed, knew
that the "ghost of the _Kennebunk_" was being investigated by the
officers.

The ship was storming along her course through the sea at a pace which
fairly made her structure shake. Had one been able to be out upon the
sea on another ship and watch her pass, her speed would have been
impressive, indeed.

Routine work went on, and the bulk of the ship's company knew nothing
about that little party of searchers at work deep down in the ship.
Whistler was one of those assigned to find the cause of the "tick-tock"
noise, and it was he who finally suggested the spot where the mechanism
which caused the sound might be found.

The party had searched the lumber room and the compartments on both
sides, that above, and the one directly beneath the room in question.
Nothing was discovered save that the sound seemed clearer in the lumber
room than elsewhere.

Overhauling the stuff stowed there did no good. They seemed no nearer to
the sound. And as the latter was not continuous it was the more
puzzling.

"Don't you think we ought to open that chest, sir?" asked Whistler of
the warrant officer who had immediate charge of the work.

"It doesn't seem to come from that box," objected the man.

"It doesn't seem to come from anywhere exactly," Whistler said. "It is
sort of ventriloquial. One time it seems to be from one direction, then
from another. But that chest hasn't been open----"

"Whose is it?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Who does know?" the warrant officer asked.

But nobody seemed able to answer that query. The searchers gathered
about the chest that had been pulled out of the heap of rubbish. It was
ironbound and made of heavy planking.

"It gets me!" murmured the officer.

Just then the sound started again: "Tick-_tock_! Tick-_tock_!
Tick-_tock_!"

"It don't come from that box!" declared one man.

Whistler stooped and put his hand on the cover. "Wait!" he said
suddenly. "Just feel this, sir."

"What do you feel?"

"There is vibration here. And it isn't the vibration of the ship's
engines, either."

The warrant officer rested his hand upon the chest. He looked more
puzzled than ever.

"Get something and break the lock!" he commanded.

"Wait a minute, sir!" cried Whistler. "If there should be some infernal
machine in that box we must take care in opening it. Maybe the carpenter
can pick the lock."

"Good idea," agreed the officer.

The carpenter's mate was sent for. He came with a bunch of spare keys
and a pick-lock. The latter had to be used skilfully before the lock of
the chest was sprung.

Then the warrant officer suddenly experienced an accession of caution.
He refused to have the cover of the chest lifted until the chest itself
was carried carefully out upon the open deck.

No sound came from the chest now, if that had been the locality of the
tick-tock noise. The vibration could be felt just the same.

The men were ordered to stand back and the warrant officer courageously
lifted the lid of the chest. Nothing happened.

There was an empty tray in the top of the odd chest. That, too, was
cautiously lifted out.

There came suddenly a faint buzzing from the interior that startled
everybody near. Then followed the ticking sound, which lasted at least a
full minute.

The warrant officer jerked away a layer of pasteboard that hid what was
under the tray. Several grim cylinders lay side by side in the chest's
bottom. They were connected by wires with a mechanism that hummed like
the purring of a well-piled motor.

"Clockwork!" exclaimed the carpenter's mate, bending over the chest.
"That's what she is. Ah! It reverses itself. See that spring--winding
tighter and tighter? Why, it's almost perpetual motion! Some inventor
that fellow!"

"What fellow?" growled the warrant officer.

"Whoever built this."

"Can you stop it without exploding those cylinders?"

"Great Scott! Do you s'pose that's dynamite under there?"

"Or T N T."

The petty officer thrust an iron bar suddenly into the heart of the
complicated machine. Something snapped. The mechanism stopped.

"Great heavens, man!" gasped the warrant officer, "suppose you had set
it off?"

"No. Couldn't be done till the spring here was wound up to the
top-notch. This machine was arranged to run for weeks. Some ingenious
arrangement, take it from me!"

The discovery and destruction of the infernal machine, and a big one at
that, relieved the tension of feeling aboard the warship. As Frenchy
Donahue remarked:

"It's bad enough to have a banshee _tick-tocking_ around the place; but
that tidy little bunch of cylinders would have made a lot more noise if
they had been exploded."

But the matter was serious. The captain took the opportunity to lecture
the entire ship's company regarding foolish rumors and gossip.

"If there is anything strange comes under your notice, report it
properly," he said. "Don't camouflage it with a lot of superstitious
nonsense so that the officer you report to must disbelieve the yarn.
There never was a strange occurrence yet that could not be explained."

"How does he explain Jonah being swallowed by the whale?" whispered
Frenchy.

"He doesn't have to explain it," retorted Torry. "If you don't believe a
whale can swallow a man, jump down the throat of the next one you see."

As a whole, the crew of the _Kennebunk_ were not inclined to consider
the incident of the infernal machine carelessly. A serious impression
was made upon them all.

But the mysterious prospect of what was ahead of them shortly smothered
the matter of the peril escaped. There might be greater perils ahead.

The superdreadnaught halted but for an hour at a port of the Azores.
This was to send mail ashore. Then she picked up speed again and
traveled north.

She passed convoys of merchant vessels guarded by French, British and
American destroyers. The _Kennebunk_ exchanged signals with several
cruisers of the United States Navy as well.

Drill at the guns went on daily. Once they spied and shelled a German
submarine, but she escaped. This incident greatly enraged the crew of
the gun that missed her. It was not the gun to the crew of which
Whistler and Torry belonged.

"Can't expect to get the Hun every time," was the soothing remark of one
of the division captains.

"Why not?" asked somebody else. "That's what we are here for, isn't it?
I don't believe Uncle Sam wants excuses."

The standard the men set themselves in our Navy is higher than their
officers require.

The boys from Seacove, as well as Hans Hertig and Mr. MacMasters, kept
a sharp lookout for their beloved _Colodia_. But they were fated not to
meet the destroyer until the great event which had brought the
superdreadnaught into European waters.

The _Kennebunk_ steamed into a certain roadstead one evening where lay
more huge battleships, cruisers and smaller armored vessels than
Whistler and his mates had ever seen before. They flew the flags of
three nations, and they were prepared to move _en masse_ upon the enemy
at the briefest notice.



CHAPTER XXV

IN THE THICK OF THE FIGHT


The methods of strategy by which the German Navy, or a large part of it,
was tolled out of its impregnable hiding place the Navy boys did not
learn till long afterwards. But Phil, at least, half realized that the
German High Command believed that the way to shelling the British coast
by her great naval guns was at last opened.

The Allied fleet moved on a certain day and at a certain hour, and with
the open sea as its destination. It was a calm and utterly peaceful sea
through which the _Kennebunk_ sailed with her sister ships.

The high bow of the superdreadnaught crashed through the seething
waters. Her lookouts traced the course of each tiny blot upon the
distant sea-line.

Suddenly, out of the north, appeared a scout cruiser, her funnels
vomiting volumes of dense smoke that flattened down oilily upon the sea
in her wake. Her stern guns spat viciously at some craft of low
visibility which followed her.

Immediately everybody aboard the _Kennebunk_ forgot the other ships of
the squadron. The enemy was in sight, and the work would be cut out for
every man aboard the superdreadnaught.

The cruiser came leaping toward the fleet, her signal flags fluttering
messages. A gun boomed on the flagship. Bugles shrilled from every deck
of the _Kennebunk_.

Messages were wigwagged from ship to ship. But aboard the _Kennebunk_
there was just one order that interested every one.

"Clear decks for action!"

The divisions responded to the notes of the bugle with a snappiness that
delighted the officers on the bridge. As they had gone through the
manoeuvres a thousand times in practice, so now they faced the enemy
with the same precision.

Ventilators, life-lines, parts of the superstructure and deck woodwork
came down and were stowed in their proper place. Boats dropped from
their davits, were hurriedly lashed together, their plugs pulled, and
left to sink, riding attached to sea anchors formed of their own spars
and oars. "Cleared for action!" when reported to the commander meant
exactly that! Not a superfluous object in the way of the activities of a
fighting crew.

"Battle stations!"

The four friends from Seacove knew exactly where they were to be all
through the battle--if they lived. Whistler knew that he was to stand in
the corridor of the handling-room for Turret Number Two, until he was
called to relieve some wounded or exhausted member of his gun crew. His
immediate order was to "stand by."

Every other individual aboard the _Kennebunk_ had his station, from the
firemen shoveling tons of coal into the fiery maws of the furnaces to
keep the indicator needles of the steam-gages at a certain figure, to
the range-finders high up in the fighting-tops, bending over their
apparatus.

In the turrets the officers fitted telephone receivers to their heads.
The gunners, literally "stripped for action" to their waists, their
glistening, supple bodies as alert as panthers, crouched over the
enormous guns.

Up from the sea appeared the great fighting machines of the enemy. They
could not run away this time. Inveigled into range of the Allied ships,
the Hun must fight at last!

A word spoken into a telephone from the conning tower to one of the
fighting tops! Then, an instant later, to Turret Number One! A roar that
shook the ship and seemed to shake the very heavens, while the flash of
the fourteen-inch rifle blinded for a second the spectators!

A cheer rose from all parts of the ship, even before the tops signaled
a hit. After that the men fought the ship in silence.

Alone in the corridor, Whistler Morgan felt that it would be easier to
be on active duty in this time of stress. Yet he had been taught that
his station was quite as important as that of any other man or boy
aboard.

Through the half open door of the handling room he heard other men
loading powder bags and shells upon the electric ammunition hoist that
led to the turret above.

Suddenly the whole ship staggered. A deafening explosion, different from
that of the guns, shocked him. An enemy shell had burst aboard the
_Kennebunk_!

"Relief!"

Whistler sprang through the corridor and up to the gun deck. Was the
call for him?

He stopped to look at a perspiring gun crew. They worked the gun with
the precision of automatons. Wherever the shell had burst it had not
interfered with the firing of the huge guns of Number Two Turret.

Another enemy shell burst inboard of the _Kennebunk_. There was a hail
of bits of steel and flying wreckage. Whistler stood squarely on his
feet and began to breathe again.

If he was afraid he did not know it!

One of his mates fell back from position. It was not Torry, as Whistler
immediately saw. The man's shoulder dripped blood from a raking wound.
Had it been Torry, Phil knew he would still have stepped forward, just
as he was doing, and have calmly taken the place of the wounded man.

"Keep it up, boys!" grinned the wounded one. "I'll be back soon's the
doc gives this the once over."

The work went on. Shell, powder, breech! Ready all! A moment while the
captain's finger trembled on the trigger button. Then the hiss of air as
the breech swung open, yawning for another charge.

The thousand-pound shell, hurtling through the smoke-filled air, found
the vitals of the _Kennebunk's_ immediate enemy. It scarcely shocked
Whistler when he peered out to see that vast mountain of steel burst
open amidships. She sank in seconds, and the _Kennebunk_ steamed on to
attack a second monster of the deep.

The battle continued. Moments seemed longer than minutes; minutes
dragged by like hours. The wonder of it all was that so much damage
could be done in so short a time.

Ships that had cost months of labor to build settled and disappeared
beneath the surface in a few minutes. And their crews? Best not talk
about them.

History will relate in detail and with exactness, the story of this
fight. The superdreadnaught, so shortly off the ways, endured her
baptism of fire, coming through the battle scarred but victorious. Alone
she sank two of the enemy.

Her own casualty list was small. But it was some hours after the battle
before Philip Morgan made sure that his three friends were safe. Repairs
and other necessary work took up the attention of the crew until long
past nightfall, although the battle itself had lasted just under two
hours.

Then Phil found Al first, for they had fought in the same turret. They
went to look for the younger boys, and came across an agile little chap
with his head done up in bandages, working with a deck-washing crew aft
of Turret Number Three, which had been wrecked by a Hun shell.

"It's Ikey!" shouted Torry. "What's the matter with your head, Ikey?"

"Don't say a word," said Ikey, shaking his bandaged head. "The doc used
all the gauze he had left aboard after binding those up that was really
hurt."

"But you've got some kind of a wound, haven't you?" demanded Whistler.

"Oi, oi! I ought to have, eh? But it's only that boil I had coming on
the back of my neck. You remember? Somehow the head got knocked off of
it and it was bleeding. So the doc grabbed me and bandaged me like
this," he added in a much disgusted tone.

It was Michael Donahue who proudly showed himself later with his arm in
a sling. He had actually got a piece of shell through the flesh below
his elbow. The others were inclined to scorn his wound as they did
Ikey's boil.

"That'll do for you fellers," said Frenchy proudly. "By St. Patrick's
piper that played the last snake out of Ireland! I've shed me blood for
Uncle Sam! That is something you garbies haven't done. And, oh,
goodness! Ain't I hungry--just!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Because of the repairs necessary to the _Kennebunk_ she was ordered
home; but to the delight of the four Navy boys they, with Hertig and Mr.
MacMasters, were not to go with her.

The _Colodia_ was now one of the destroyer fleet chasing German
submarines in the Bay of Biscay. They were ordered to meet the destroyer
at a certain English port and would rejoin their old comrades and
continue their training under Lieutenant Commander Lang.

Much as they disliked leaving their comrades on the superdreadnaught,
active service, and of a new kind, was ahead of them, as will be related
in the next volume of this "Navy Boys Series."

"We can't kick," declared Torry. "We got into the Navy to work, not to
loaf. We've seen a good deal of service, and of several different kinds.
But there is always something new to learn."

"Sure!" agreed Ikey. "I've wrote my papa and mama that although I ain't
an admiral yet, I'll be something or other before I get home."

"True for you!" exclaimed Frenchy. "But just what you'll be is hard
telling, Ikey. Even that old witch of the island couldn't foretell your
finish, I bet."

"That reminds me," said Whistler. "Mr. MacMasters told me he read in
an American paper that he just got hold of that they have arrested Franz
Linder, the spy. He will be tried for blowing up the Elmvale dam. And
I guess we had something to do to getting evidence that will convict
him. The ensign says we will have to give our testimony about the
infernal machine before Captain Trevor before the superdreadnaught
leaves this port for home."

"Say!" said Torry with energy, "hasn't this been a great old cruise?"

And his three mates emphatically agreed.


THE END



The Young Reporter
Series

By HOWARD R. GARIS

12mo. cloth, illustrated and with full colored jacket

Fascinating stories of great mysteries and extreme perils--the life of a
daring young reporter for a metropolitan daily, written by one who was
himself a reporter for sixteen years.

          THE YOUNG REPORTER AT THE BIG FLOOD
          Or the Perils of News Gathering

          THE YOUNG REPORTER AND THE LAND SWINDLERS
          Or The Queer Adventures in a Great City

          THE YOUNG REPORTER AND THE MISSING MILLIONAIRE
          Or A Strange Disappearance

          THE YOUNG REPORTER AND THE BANK MYSTERY
          Or Stirring Doings in Wall Street

          THE YOUNG REPORTER AND THE STOLEN BOY
          Or A Chase on the Great Lakes

          THE YOUNG REPORTER AT THE BATTLE FRONT
          Or a War Correspondent's Double Mission


          GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY
          Publishers New York



Joe Strong Series

12mo. cloth, colored jacket and illustrated

Vance Barnum is a real treasure when it comes to telling about how
magicians do their weird tricks, how the circus acrobats pull off their
various stunts, how the "fishman" remains under water so long, how the
mid-air performers loop the loop and how the slackwire fellow keeps from
tumbling. He has been through it all and he writes freely for the boys
from his vast experience. They are real stories bound to hold their
audiences breathlessly.

          JOE STRONG, THE BOY WIZARD
          Or Mysteries of Magic Exposed

          JOE STRONG ON THE TRAPEZE
          Or The Daring Feats of a Young Circus Performer

          JOE STRONG, THE BOY FISH
          Or Marvellous Doings in a Big Tank

          JOE STRONG ON THE HIGH WIRE
          Or A Motorcycle of the Air

          JOE STRONG AND HIS WINGS OF STEEL
          Or A Young Acrobat in the Clouds

          JOE STRONG AND HIS BOX OF MYSTERY
          Or The Ten Thousand Dollar Prize Trick

          JOE STRONG, THE BOY FIRE-EATER
          Or The Most Dangerous Performance on Record


          GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY
          Publishers New York



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes:

   Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

   Page 47, "swifty" changed to "swiftly" (the swiftly approaching)

   Page 62, "swifty" changed to "swiftly" (he described swiftly)

   Page 93, "saluate" changed to "salute" (trying to salute)

   Page 131, "U-Boat" changed to "U-boat" to conform to rest of text

   Page 144, "agan" changed to "again" (again and again)

   Page 151, "overwhelmn" changed to "overwhelm" (threatened to
             overwhelm)

   Page 156, "sharts" changed to "charts" (marked on the charts)

   Page 157, "finshing" changed to "fishing" (so the fishing boats)

   Page 191, "Frency" changed to "Frenchy" (demanded Frenchy excitedly)





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Navy Boys Behind the Big Guns - Sinking the German U-Boats" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home