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Title: Stand By! - Naval Sketches and Stories
Author: Dorling, H. Taprell (Henry Taprell), 1883-1968
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 "Stand By! - Naval Sketches and Stories" ***

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Transcriber's note:

   "Taffrail" is the pseudonym of Henry Taprell Dorling.

   The book from which this etext was prepared was missing the leaf
   containing pages 41 and 42.



STAND BY!

Naval Sketches and Stories

by

"TAFFRAIL"

Author of "Carry On!" "Pincher Martin O.D., Etc."



London
C. Arthur Pearson, Limited
Henrietta Street, W.C.
1916



  TO
  THE SHIP'S COMPANY
  WHO ARE SECOND
  TO NONE



PREFACE

It seems almost unnecessary to remark that the characters and ships
figuring in the sketches throughout this book are entirely fictitious.

"Bunting," "The Acting Sub," "Our Happy Home," "The Lost Sheep," "The
'Muckle Flugga' Hussars," and "The Mother Ship" appeared in the _Daily
Mail_, and "The 'Pirates'" in the _Weekly Despatch_.  They are here
reprinted, with minor alterations, by kind permission of the Editors.

TAFFRAIL.

1916.



CONTENTS


  THE "ACTING SUB"
  THE MOTHER SHIP
  OUT HAPPY HOME
  BLOODLESS SURGERY
  "BUNTING"
  THE LOST SHEEP
  A NAVAL MENAGERIE
  THE "MUCKLE FLUGGA" HUSSARS
  THE "PIRATES"
  A MINOR AFFAIR
  THE FOG
  THE TRADERS
  POTVIN OF THE "PUFFIN"



STAND BY!


THE "ACTING SUB"

He was a very junior young officer indeed when the powers that be first
gladdened his heart and ruined his clothes by sending him to a
destroyer.  A mere sub-lieutenant with "(acting)" after his name,
which, as any proper "sub" will tell you, is a sign of extreme
juniority.  Moreover, the single gold stripe on his monkey jacket was
still suspiciously new and terribly untarnished.

Not so very long before he had been a "snotty" (midshipman) in a
battleship, a mere "dog's body," who had to obey the orders of almost
every officer in the ship except those few who happened to be junior to
him.  It is true that he exercised his authority and a severe
discipline on those midshipmen who had the misfortune to be a year or
so younger than himself, and that he expressed a lordly contempt for
the assistant clerk.  But he lived in the gun-room, slept in a hammock,
kept all his worldly possessions in a sea-chest, and bathed and dressed
in the company of fifteen other boisterous young gentlemen.

Then he had his watches to keep at sea and his picket boat to run in
harbour, while his spare time was fully employed in mastering the
subtleties of gunnery, torpedo work, and electricity, and in rubbing up
his rapidly dwindling knowledge of engineering and _x_ and _y_.  It was
well that he did so, for at some distant period when the war ceased he
would have to pass certain stringent examinations before he could be
confirmed in the rank of lieutenant.

So on the whole he had been kept fairly busy, more particularly as
watch-keeping at the guns with the ship at sea in all weathers in war
time was not all jam.

But when he was sent to a destroyer he found the life was more
strenuous, for the little ship spent far more time at sea.  The weather
was sometimes very bad indeed, and at first he was sea-sick, but it was
always a consolation to have a cabin of his own, to live in the
wardroom, and to be treated as a responsible officer instead of a mere
"makee learn."

He had to work at least six times harder than he had in a battleship.
For one thing he had all the charts to correct and to keep up to date,
no small labour with pencil, dividers, parallel rulers, and much red
ink in these days of war, prolific minefields, dangerous areas,
extinguished lights, and removed buoys.  He also assisted with the
ship's gunnery, and at sea kept a regular three watches, eight hours
out of every twenty-four, with the first lieutenant and gunner.  But it
was the sense of responsibility and the feeling that he was doing
really useful work which gladdened his heart and kept him keen and
energetic.

"Have you ever been in a destroyer before?" his commanding officer had
asked him as soon as he joined.

"No, sir."

"Ever kept officer of the watch at sea?"

Again the answer was in the negative.

"Well, you'll have to do it here, my son.  If you want to know anything
come to me.  There's nothing much in it so long as you keep your eyes
skinned.  You'll soon learn."

      *      *      *      *      *

The skipper had said there was nothing in it, but the first night at
sea he found himself alone on the bridge in charge of the ship he
thought differently.

A light cruiser squadron and two flotillas of destroyers were steaming
at 20 knots in close formation without lights.  The night was as black
as the wolf's mouth, and the rapidly rising wind cut the tops off the
short seas and sent them flying over the bridge in constant showers of
spray.  Moreover, the perpetual pitching and rolling soon gave our
friend a squeamish and altogether nasty sensation in the region of his
waistcoat, and in ten minutes, by which time the water had found its
way through his oilskins and was trickling merrily down the back of his
neck, he felt miserable.

The ship was in the middle of a line of eight destroyers.  Two hundred
yards ahead of him he could just discern the dim black blur of the next
ahead and the occasional splutter of whity-grey foam in her wake as her
stern lifted to the seas.  At times, when a driving rain squall came
down from windward, he seemed to lose sight of her altogether, and,
through inexperience and in his anxiety to catch up, increased the
revolutions of the engines not wisely but rather too much.  The next
thing that happened was that the squall cleared, and he found himself
almost on top of her, and had to put the helm over and sheer out of
line to avoid a collision.  At the same time he reduced speed to drop
back into station.  Sometimes he reduced more than he should, with the
consequence that the next astern nearly bumped him, while the leader
shot ahead and vanished into the darkness like a ghost.

It was then that he had horrible thoughts of being scrubbed for the
deadly sin of losing touch with the flotilla and meandering about the
ocean like a lost sheep looking for his next ahead.  If he did not
succeed in finding her somebody's blood would be required.

It was rather trying for a novice, and many times he remembered the
commanding officer's standing orders.  "Do not hesitate to call me if
you are in doubt or difficulty," they said, with the "Do not"
underlined twice.  Should he rouse the skipper or should he not?  He
was asleep in his clothes on the cushioned settee in the charthouse
underneath the bridge and would be up in ten seconds if required.  But
the acting "sub" did hesitate to call him unnecessarily.  After all, it
was quite possible that the "C.O." might be rather peevish if he was
hauled out for no reason.  He was not really "in difficulty," he
persuaded himself, and he certainly did not wish to patent the fact
that he could not keep the ship in station, whatever the circumstances.

No; he would not call him.  He solved the problem by increasing the
speed of the engines ever so slightly above the normal, and five
minutes later heaved a sigh of profound relief as the black shape of
the next ahead hove up out of the darkness.

In an hour his helpless feeling had gone and he was jogging merrily
along without any difficulty.

      *      *      *      *      *

But the skipper, who was accustomed to the ways and tricks of
newly-joined officers generally, and sub-lieutenants in particular, had
been awake the whole time.  He always slept with one eye open at sea,
and as the charthouse was immediately beneath the bridge and the
shafting of the wheel and engine-room telegraphs passed within a few
feet of his head, he knew at once from their agitated movement when
anything really desperate was happening.  So when the helm went
overhand the revolution telegraph revolved frantically five or six
times in quick succession he yawned wearily, flung off his rug, and sat
up.

"I won't go up and interfere unless he sends for me," he thought to
himself.  "He must learn."  He had been a "sub" in a destroyer himself.
The summons never came.

At three o'clock, by which time the dawn was breaking, the "C.O." did
appear on the bridge.

"Well, Sub?" he asked.  "What d'you think of station keeping at night?"

"Quite easy, sir," said that young officer blandly, quite unaware of
the acoustic properties of the charthouse.  "As easy as falling off a
log."

"Did you have any difficulty in seeing the next ahead?"

"Not much, sir.  It was a bit dark at times, though."

The "C.O." smiled to himself.  He knew.

      *      *      *      *      *

The "sub," he has passed out of the "acting" stage, is now an expert at
the game, and, to use the phraseology of his latest confidential
report, is "energetic and trustworthy" and a "most promising and
capable officer."



THE MOTHER SHIP

Sixteen years ago, when the ships of the Royal Navy still disported
themselves in black hulls, with red water-lines, white upper works, and
yellow masts and funnels, she was a smart cruiser attached to one of
the large fleets.  She was as spick and span as elbow grease and
ingenuity could make her, and the show ship of her squadron and the
pampered darling of the admiral, went by the name of "the yacht."

She was easily one of the cleanest ships afloat.  Her blue-black side,
anointed daily with some mysterious compound rubbed on with serge, a
compound the exact ingredients of which were known only to her
commander and the painter who mixed it, was as smooth and as shiny as a
mahogany table.  Her decks were as clean as scrubbers, holystones,
sand, and perspiring blue-jackets could make them, and woe betide the
careless sailor who defiled their sacred whiteness with a spot of
paint, or the stoker who left the imprint of a large and greasy foot on
emerging into the fresh air from his labours in the engine-room or
stokehold.

Her guns, steel, and brass-work winked and shimmered in the sun.  Her
funnels were brushed over at frequent intervals with a wash the colour
and consistency of cream, and before she went to sea her yellow masts
and yards used to be swathed in canvas lest they should be defiled by
funnel smoke.  Her boats, with their white enamel inside and out, their
black gunwales with the narrow golden ribbon running round inside, the
well-scrubbed masts, oars, thwarts, bottom-boards, and gratings, the
brass lettered backboards, and cushioned sternsheets, were the pride of
her midshipmen and the envy of nearly all the other young gentlemen in
the squadron.

But then, of course, this all happened in the "good old days," the
palmy days when men-of-war spent no great portion of their time at sea
and when, in some ships, Messrs. Spit and Polish were still the
presiding deities.  No doubt, as we were sometimes asked to believe
before the war, the Service has gone to the dogs since 1900, for noisy
and blatant Mr. Gunnery has usurped the place of the above-mentioned
pair and life generally has become more strenuous.  The ability to hit
a hostile ship at a distance of twenty miles or so cannot be inculcated
in the fastnesses of a harbour.  The job simply must be taken seriously.

      *      *      *      *      *

If you turn up her name in the "Navy List" of to-day--wild horses will
not make me disclose it and the Censor would not pass it if I did--you
will see that she still figures as a cruiser, though the fact remains
that she never goes to sea for any war-like purpose.  They have even
added insult to injury by removing some of her guns.

This may be a matter for deep regret on the part of her officers and
men, who, since they belong to the Royal Navy or the Royal Naval
Reserve, naturally long to assist in an active manner at the
discomfiture of some floating Hun.  Their thoughts may not exactly be
pleasant when they read and hear of the warlike doings of their
seagoing sisters, but they may console themselves by recollecting that
the ship of 1916 is probably infinitely more valuable to the country
than that of 1900, and that at the present time the Navy could not do
without her.

She is still clean but is no longer a "yacht," for her purpose is
strictly utilitarian.  She performs the multifarious duties of a depôt
ship, and as such attends to the ailments, aches and pains of, caters
for the needs of, and generally acts as a well-conducted mother to a
large number of destroyers.  You have only to ask these latter what
they think of their parent, and there is not one of them who would not
tell you that they could not get on without her.  Of course they
cannot!  For destroyers, like delicate children prone to catch mumps,
whooping-cough, and measles, cannot thrive without careful nursing,
particularly in war time.

And so, if the depôt ship receives a plaintive wail by signal to say
that one of her children has been punctured through the bows by a
projectile from a belligerent Hun, or that another, in a slight
altercation at sea with one of her sisters, has developed a "slight
dent" in herself to the accompaniment of leaky rivets and seams, she
merely says, "Come alongside!"

The destroyer does so, and, lo! an army of workmen step on board with
their tools, and with much hammering and drilling, the outward
application of a steel plate, some oakum, and some white lead, her
hurts are plastered and she is rendered seaworthy once more.

Sometimes the defects may be even more serious, as, for instance, when
one of her charges, having been badly cut into in a thick fog or having
unwisely sat down upon a mine, limps back into harbour with several
compartments full of water and serious internal injuries as well.  But
the depôt ship is quite equal to the emergency.  She sends her
shipwrights, carpenters, and other experts on board the afflicted one
and, with a large wooden patch, more oakum, and buckets of red and
white lead, the destroyer is made sufficiently seaworthy to proceed to
the nearest dockyard.

Again, there may be engine-room defects, such  things  as  over-heated
thrust-blocks, stripped turbines, and leaky valves.  There are boiler
troubles and the periodical cleaning of the boiler tubes.  There can be
defects in the guns, torpedo-tubes, searchlights, or electrical
fittings; defects anywhere and everywhere, even in the galley-stove
funnel or the wardroom pantry.  Mother has a large family and their
ailments are very varied and diverse.  But she competes with them all
and, save in cases of very severe damage, rarely confesses the job to
be beyond her powers and has to send her troublesome child to a
dockyard.

      *      *      *      *      *

But this is not all she does.  If Spud Murphy, able seaman of a
destroyer, carves the top off his finger or complains of "'orrible
pains in th' stummick," he is sent to mother to be nursed back to
health by her doctors.  If Peter Jones imagines he has not received the
pay to which he is entitled, if he wishes to remit a monthly sum to his
wife, or if he desires to become the possessor of a pair of boots, a
tooth-brush, and a pair of new trousers, mother will oblige him.
Moreover, the fond parent distributes the mails and supplies the beef,
vegetables, bread, rum, haricot beans, tinned salmon, raisins, sugar,
tea, flour, coffee, and a hundred and one other comestibles necessary
for the nourishment of those on board her protégées.  She will also
supply many other unconsidered trifles in the way of ammunition,
torpedoes, rope, canvas, paint, emery paper, bath-brick, oil, bolts,
nuts, pens, red ink, black ink, hectograph ink, foolscap, pencils,
paper fasteners, postage stamps ... I will leave it at that.

Heaven alone knows what else she can disgorge.  She seems to resemble a
glorified Army and Navy Stores, with engineering, ship fitting, ship
chandlery, outfitting, haberdashery, carpentry, chemists, dry
provisions, butchers, bakers, stationery, postal, and fancy goods
departments.  We have forgotten the certificate office or research
department, where they will tell you the colour of the eyes of any man
in the flotilla, the number of moles on the back of his neck, and the
interesting fact that Stoker "Ginger" Smith has a gory heart transfixed
by an arrow, together with the words "True Love," indelibly tattooed on
his left forearm.

The Criminal Investigation Department, which seems to be aware of the
past history of everybody, will deal with offenders, while, to go to
the opposite extreme, the depôt ship's padre will be only too happy to
publish the banns of marriage for any member of his flock.

In addition to all this the officers of the flotilla are honorary
members of mother's wardroom, where, despite the fact that she
sometimes has great difficulty in collecting the sums due at the end of
the month, she allows them to obtain meals, drinks, and tobacco.
Lastly, she gets up periodical kinematograph or variety shows to which
all are invited, free, gratis, and for nothing....  What more could her
children want?  She is a very good mother to them.  Her greatness has
not departed.



OUR HAPPY HOME

Compared with that of a "27-knotter" of twenty years ago the wardroom
of a modern destroyer is a palatial apartment.

Imagine a room about 15 ft. long, 25 ft. wide--the whole beam of the
ship--with about 7 ft.  headroom.

It has white enamelled sides and ceiling.  A table, long enough to seat
ten people at a pinch, runs athwartships, and ranged round it are
various straight-backed chairs.

On the after bulkhead is a square mahogany cupboard with a railed top,
on which reposes a gramophone, while to the right, in the corner, is
another cupboard reaching to the deck above and divided into numerous
square lockers.  It is really intended for stationery, but provides an
equally useful receptacle for bottled beer and stout.

To right and left along the ship's side, with its row of small
scuttles, are cushioned settees, and on the foremost bulkhead, to the
left of the door, is a bookcase with cupboard underneath.  Except on
Sundays, when the latter is specially tidied up for the "rounds," it
will not bear close investigation.  It may be found to contain half a
Stilton cheese (rather fruity), pats of butter, two bottles of
Worcester sauce, fruit, one tin of Bluebell polish, and a large lump of
oily waste.  No wonder our butter sometimes tastes peculiar!

To the right of the door is a sideboard, a solid mahogany affair, with
racks for glasses and tumblers, and cupboards for wine.  In the centre
of it is a mirror which, on sliding down into a recess, reveals a small
square hatch communicating with the pantry outside.

Overhead, secured to the beams, are various pipes, electric light
fittings, brass curtain rods, and a couple of swinging oil lamps.
Several more oil lamps are in the bulkheads or walls.  They are used
when steam is down and the dynamo is not running.  The furniture and
fittings are completed by a comfortable-looking, well-padded armchair,
a couple of steam radiators of polished, perforated brass for warming
purposes when the ship is at sea, a red and blue carpet, curtains, a
letter rack and notice board, and the stove.

The latter is fitted to burn anthracite.  It looks well, with its
highly polished brass casing and funnel reaching up through the deck
above, but it has a very decided will of its own.  Sometimes, in a fit
of contrariness, it persists in blazing like a blast furnace on muggy
days until its sides are nearly red-hot and the heat of the wardroom is
well-nigh intolerable.  But on chilly mornings it occasionally rings a
change by refusing to burn at all, and merely vomits forth clouds of
acrid, grey smoke.  This generally occurs during breakfast, when folk
are sometimes apt to be snappish and irritable.  We have never really
quite fathomed the idiosyncrasies of the stove.  Maybe it is sadly
misunderstood, but at any rate we can always empty the vials of our
wrath for its misdeeds upon the head of its unfortunate custodian, a
newly caught officer's steward of the second class, with long hair and
a mournful aspect.

We are at war, and there is little or no attempt at decoration in our
habitation.  The bright red and black tablecloth of the usual service
pattern gives the place a touch of colour, but beyond this and a couple
of vases of tightly packed flowers on the table, and on the ship's side
a print of the gallant old admiral after whom the ship is named,
everything serves a strictly utilitarian purpose.

But in spite of its bareness the wardroom is very snug and comfortable.
It is particularly inviting on returning from a spell at sea, when one
goes below from the wet and chilly upper deck, to find everybody
talking at the top of their voices, and pipes, cigarettes, and the
stove all going full blast together.  If it is after sunset and the
ship is "darkened" the scuttles will all have their deadlights down,
and the place will be very, what we may call "frowsty."  The
atmosphere, indeed, what with tobacco smoke and various unnameable but
pungent odours from the pantry outside, might well be cut with a knife;
but nobody seems to mind.  It is warm, at any rate, and is ten thousand
times better than the piercing wind and bitter cold on deck.

At sea it is not always pleasant.  In heavy weather the stern of the
ship has an unwholesome knack of jumping into the air and shaking
itself like the tail of a dog.  It is disconcerting, to say the least
of it, particularly when the water sweeps its way aft along the upper
deck in solid masses which no so-called watertight ventilator can keep
out.

When the helm goes over suddenly, too, and the ship slaps her stern
into the heart of an advancing wave, a miniature Niagara comes pouring
down the after-hatch, unless it happens to be shut.  It rarely is.  As
a consequence the mess is sometimes inches deep in water, while the
violent motion unships every moveable fitting in the place and flings
it to the deck.

At times the dog Cuthbert, in his basket, the gramophone, many broken
records, chairs, tumblers, apples and bananas, books, magazines,
papers, knives and forks, a tinned tongue, and the cheese play a
riotous game of leapfrog on the deck, with the dirty water sluicing
after them.

From outside in the pantry come the crashing sounds of our rapidly
disintegrating stock of crockery, and, if we dared to poke our noses
inside this chamber of horrors, we should see a pale-faced officer's
steward seated on a bench with his head held in his hands.  A joint of
cold beef, a loaf of bread, an empty pickle jar, and cups, saucers, and
plates are probably playing touch-last in the sink.  The floor is a
noisome kedgeree of broken china and glass, sea water, pickles,
chutney, condensed milk, and other articles of food.  But the steward,
poor wight, is past caring.  He does not mind whether it is Christmas
or Easter.

A good many of the others are sea-sick as well, for a destroyer in
really bad weather is worse than a nightmare, while it is practically
impossible to keep dry or to get proper food even if one wanted it.
But yet there is a rumour going round that, through reasons of economy,
we are shortly to be docked of our "hard-lying" money!  But a word as
to the inhabitants.

First comes the commander or lieutenant-commander in command.  His
cabin--which in heavy weather sometimes suffers the same fate as the
wardroom, except that the litter on the deck is limited to water,
clothes, books, and papers--is a good-sized apartment in the flat just
forward of the wardroom.  At sea he spends all his hours on the bridge
or in the charthouse, and is only seen below for odd ten minutes at a
time.  In harbour, however, he has his meals in the wardroom with the
other officers, but spends no small portion of his day at his
writing-table in his cabin answering official conundrums as to why, for
instance, two tablespoons and a napkin have been "lost overboard by
accident in heavy weather" in the middle of a notoriously fine summer.
He also grinds out official letters and reports by the sweat of his
brow, and is gradually becoming a pastmaster in the art of "having the
honour to be" somebody else's "obedient servant."

Living in the wardroom and knowing all the members of the ship's
company by name brings him into very intimate touch with the men and
their affairs.  He knows of everything that goes on on board, and as
most of the official correspondence of the ship is done by him he is a
very busy man even in harbour.  At one time he also had to write and
thank those good-hearted people who sent mufflers, mittens, cigarettes,
balaclava helmets, and peppermints to the "dear sailors."

Next comes the engineer-lieutenant-commander, or the "chief," as we
call him.  He, too, has his hands full, for besides being in charge of
the turbines, boilers, and all the machinery on board, he is also
responsible for practically all the stores except provisions.  They
range in variety from what his store books call prenolphthaline,
solution of; cans, iron, tinned, 4 galls.; bits, brace, carpenter's,
centre, 1 1/4 inches; to flags, hand, nainsook, white, with dark blue
stripe, 2 ft. by 2 ft.; watches, stop; bolts, steel, screwed, bright,
hexagonal-headed, 1 in. by 2 in.; sealing wax, foolscap, paper
fasteners, and pencils; and paint, green, Brunswick, middling, whatever
that may be.  This is just a small selection of the articles he keeps
and has to account for at stocktaking, and if you turned out his
various storerooms you would find he had sufficient articles to set up
a combined ironmongery, ship chandlery, and stationery emporium.

Occasionally he also is bothered with conundrums.  For instance, the
naval store officer at one of the dockyard ports has a cheerful habit
of forwarding a communication to the effect that "brushes, paint, three
in number, and broomsticks, bundle of, one, demanded" on such and such
a date "are in No. 8 store awaiting removal.  Kindly send for them as
soon as possible, or if ship has sailed kindly say where these articles
should be sent."  The ship always has sailed, and by the time the
letter is received is usually hundreds of miles away in Scotland,
Ireland, or Timbuctoo.  Moreover, as the censorship regulations
strictly forbid the ship's location to be mentioned, the chief curses.

His dilemma rather reminds us of the young and giddy naval officer who,
after a riotous night in London forgot whether he had been appointed to
H.M.S. Chatham at Dublin or H.M.S. Dublin at Chatham!

Then we have the first lieutenant, the executive officer of the ship
and the skipper's right-hand man.  He is the go-between betwixt
officers and men, is responsible for the ship's interior economy,
cleanliness, and organisation, and has to be pretty shrewd and
levelheaded.  Energetic as well, for though a destroyer is a small
vessel and carries under a hundred men all told, there is always
something going on.  In addition to his other duties, too, he takes
turns in keeping watch at sea with the sub-lieutenant and gunner.

Next the sub-lieutenant.  He is the veteran of our little party so far
as this war is concerned, for before he came to us he was in a
battleship in the Dardanelles.  He is now the custodian of the charts,
and has to keep them up to date, no easy matter in these strenuous
times of Hun minefields.  He also runs the ship's football team, which
goes ashore and disports itself in green jerseys whenever it gets the
opportunity.  This, in itself, entails some work and an infinite amount
of tact, particularly as fully half the ship's company wish to play.

Next the gunner (T), responsible for the torpedo armament, electrical
fittings, and the actual mechanism and mountings of the guns.  He is a
very busy man, for his torpedoes, like children, always seem to have
something the matter with their insides.

Then comes the surgeon probationer.  He is not a fully qualified
medical man, but a student from one of the large London hospitals
temporarily enrolled in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He gives
hygiene lectures to the ship's company, attends to their cuts,
contusions, and minor ailments, and packs them off to hospital or to
the mother ship if necessary.  After an action he would be more useful
still.

Lastly the "Snotty" of the Royal Naval Reserve, who does odd jobs of
all kinds and generally assists the first lieutenant and the sub.

"Cuthbert," our dog, is a Sealyham terrier.  He lives either in the
wardroom or the skipper's cabin.  He has bad dreams sometimes, and
makes strange noises in his sleep, but is the only member of our
community who is really cheerful in bad weather, and is always ready
for his food.

"Bo," or "Hobo," to give him his full name--somebody was reading Jack
London's "The Road" when he came aboard as a tiny kitten--is a
black-and-white tom-cat of plebeian origin.  He is an honorary member
of our mess and occasionally pays us visits at meal-times, and after
nourishment sometimes condescends to occupy the armchair in front of
the stove.  He is very friendly with Cuthbert.

The first steward we had was an ex-valet.  He suffered from a swollen
head and what he was pleased to call a "college education."  He may
have been an excellent valet, but was no earthly good as the steward of
a destroyer, and soon departed.  His sins would fill a book.  He used
our expensive damask table napkins as dish cloths, involving us in
endless complications with the Victualling Yard authorities, who
objected to their being used for such a purpose.  He produced cold ham,
biscuits, and pickles for breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner.  Excellent
in their way, no doubt, but rather monotonous in the depths of winter.
On one occasion he skinned a pheasant to save himself the trouble of
plucking it--we will draw a veil over what happened.

The next caterer we had was an able seaman who re-entered the Navy as a
volunteer for the war.  He, during his time out of the Service, had
been a sort of general factotum to some dark-skinned South American
potentate.  He is a real treasure--the A. B. I mean, not necessarily
the potentate.  He feeds us liberally and well, though it is true that
he speedily discovered the virtues of tinned salmon.  In fact we don't
know what he would do without it, and the ubiquitous pig.  Sometimes we
have tinned salmon fish cakes and bacon for breakfast, tinned salmon
kedgeree, cold ham, and pig brawn for lunch, and roast pork as a joint
for dinner.  By rights we should have grown cloven hooves and salmon
scales, but we always have a pleasant feeling of repletion after meals
and have no cause for real complaint.

Our amusements are simple.  We talk a great deal of "shop" and argue a
lot, read a great deal--some of us get through two "seven-pennies" a
day--listen to the gramophone, write letters, play with the doctor's
Meccano set, and try to persuade Cuthbert to strafe the cat.

Our arguments are of the usual naval variety.  Positive assertion,
followed by flat contradiction and personal abuse, terminating in a
babel in which everybody shouts and no one listens.

Sometimes, before breakfast, we have our early morning "hates," and are
fractious and peevish.  We long to strafe someone or something, and if,
like the soldiers in the trenches, we had the Huns always with us, we
might vent our spleen on them.  But we can't, worse luck!

But please do not imagine that we are unhappy, because we aren't.  Our
mouldiness in the mornings is merely temporary.  If we could but catch
a Hun before breakfast!



BLOODLESS SURGERY

The climb had been a stiff one.  The day was very hot, and, rather
purple about the face and breathing heavily, the sailor relapsed on the
springy, scented turf close to the cliff's edge and gazed pensively at
the vista of shimmering sea spread out before him.

He was a massive, rotund, bull-necked individual, with a face the
colour of a ripe tomato, and wore on the sleeves of his jumper two red
good conduct badges and the single gun and star of an able seaman,
seaman gunner, of His Majesty's Navy.  His name was Smith, I
discovered, and he was home on seven days' leave.  I had met him
halfway up the hill ten minutes before, toiling laboriously to the
summit like an asthmatic cart-horse, and with his crimson face shining
and beady with perspiration.  A mutual glance and a casual remark about
the excessive heat had led to conversation.

He now sat on the turf mopping his heated countenance with a mottled
blue and white handkerchief; but a few minutes later, having recovered
himself sufficiently to smoke, produced a pipe, tobacco box, and
matches from the interior of his cap.

"You 'aint got a fill o' 'bacca abart you, I suppose, sir?" he queried,
exploring the inner recesses of his brass tobacco box with a horny
forefinger.

"I'm afraid it's rather weaker stuff than you're used to," I remarked
deprecatingly, handing my pouch across.

"Yus," he agreed, examining its contents and proceeding to fill his
pipe.  "It do look a bit like 'ay, don't it?  'Owever, seein' as 'ow I
carn't git no more I'm werry much obliged, sir, I'm sure."

"It's expensive hay," I said weakly, as he handed my property back and
lit his pipe.  "It costs well over ten shillings a pound."

The ungrateful old sinner puffed out a cloud of smoke.  "'Arf a
Bradbury[1]!" he grunted unsympathetically.  "You're jokin', sir."

I shook my head.

"But we pays a bob a pound fur 'bacca on board o' the ship," he
expostulated.  "It's something like 'bacca; grips you by the neck,
like."

Evidently the delicate flavour of my best John Cotton did not
sufficiently tickle his brazen palate.

For a moment or two there was silence between us as we watched the
gulls screaming and wheeling over some object in the water far beneath
us.

"Well," I asked, merely to start a conversation, "how d'you like the
Navy?"

"Suits me all right, sir," he said, "seein' as 'ow I've bin in it a
matter o' fifteen year.  But between you an' me, sir," he hastened to
add, "it ain't like wot it wus when I fust jined.  It's full o'
noo-fangled notions an' sichlike."

"What d'you mean?" I asked in some amazement.

"Carn't say no more, sir.  Afore we wus sent on leaf we wus all
cautioned special not to git talkin' abart the Service wi' civvies."

I suppose I did look rather unlike a member of His Majesty's land
forces, for I was wearing plain clothes and had only come out of
hospital four days before, after being wounded for the second time on
the western front.  (I am speaking of the fighting line in France, not
anatomically.)  I hastened to explain who I was.

"Sorry I spoke, sir," he apologised.  "I thought you wus one o' these
'ere la-de-dah blokes out fur an arrin'.  Wot did you say your corpse
wus?"

"Corpse!  What corpse?"

"Corpse, sir.  Rig'mint."

"Oh, I see.  I'm only a doctor, a Lieutenant in the R.A.M.C.  I'm on
sick leave, and crawled up here to-day to get some fresh air and to ...
er, meet someone I know."  I looked at my wrist watch and glanced over
my shoulder.

"Young lady, sir?" he queried in a husky, confidential whisper.

I nodded.

"I'm on the same lay meself," he told me, with a throaty sigh and a
lovelorn look in his blue eyes.  "Expectin' 'er any minit now, seein'
as 'ow it's 'er arternoon art.  'Er name's Hamelia, an' I don't come up
'ere to look at the perishin' sea, not 'arf I don't.  I gits fair sick
o' lookin' at it on board o' the ship."

I was not in the mood for exchanging confidences as to my prospective
matrimonial affairs, and my silence must have said as much.

"Beggin' your pardon, sir; but seein' as 'ow you're a doctor, I wonder
if you 'appens to know our bloke in the _Jackass_?"

"Who, your doctor?"

"Yessir.  Tall orficer 'e is, close on six foot 'igh, wi' black 'air,
wot jined the Navy special fur the war.  Name o' Brown."

"I'm afraid I don't know him," I said, puzzling my brains to fit any
medical man of my acquaintance to his very loose description.

"'E's a fair corker, sir," my companion grinned.

"In what way?"

"The way 'e gits 'is leg pulled, sir."

I scented a story, and as there was still no flutter of a white skirt
down the slope to our right, I desired him to continue.

"Well, sir," he started, "it wus like this 'ere.  The _Jackass_ is one
o' these 'ere light cruisers, and one mornin' at 'arf parst nine, arter
the fust lootenant,--Number One, as we calls 'im,--arter 'e 'ad
finished tellin' off the 'ands for their work arter divisions, the
doctor 'appened to be standin' close alongside 'im, Number One beckons
to the chief buffer..."

"I beg your pardon," I put in, rather mystified.  "I'm afraid I don't
know very much about the Navy.  What's a chief buffer?"

"Chief Bos'un's Mate, wot looks arter the upper deck, sir.  Name o'
Scroggins.  Well, sir, Number One sez to 'im, 'Scroggins,' 'e sez.
'You knows them buoys we was usin' yesterday?'--'Yessir,' I 'ears the
chief buffer say.  'You means them wot we 'ad fur that there boat
racin' yesterday?'--'Yes,' sez Jimmy the One.[2]  'I wants 'em all bled
before seven bells this mornin'.'--'Aye, aye, sir,' sez Scroggins, and
goes off to see abart it."

"Bleed the boys!" I murmured in surprise.  "Do you mean to tell me they
still have these archaic methods in the Navy?"

"Course they does, sir," answered the A. B.  "They won't float else."

"What, in case the ship is torpedoed or sunk by a mine?" I asked
innocently, very perplexed.  "I'm a medical man myself; but I never
knew that bleeding people made them more buoyant!"

"If you arsks me these 'ere questions, sir, I carn't spin no yarn," the
sailor interrupted with a twinkle in his eye.  "Well, sir, the fust
lootenant tells the chief buffer to 'ave the buoys bled, but it so
'appens that the doctor 'eard wot 'e said, so up 'e comes.--'Did I 'ear
you tellin' the Chief Bos'un's Mate to 'ave the boys bled?' he
arsks.--'You did indeed, Sawbones,' Number One tells 'im.--'But surely
that's my bizness?' sez the doctor.--'Your bizness!' sez Number One,
frownin' like.  ''Ow in 'ell d'you make that art?'--''Cos I'm the
medical orficer o' this 'ere ship.'--'Ah,' sez Number One, slow like
and grinnin' all over 'is face and tappin' 'is nose.  'You means, doc.,
that I've no right to order the boys to be bled, wot?'--'That's just
'xactly wot I does mean,' sez the doctor, gittin' a bit rattled like."

"I quite agree with him," I put in.  "The First Lieutenant had no
business at all to order the boys to be bled.  Besides, bleeding is
hopelessly..."

"Is it me wot's spinnin' this 'ere yarn or is it you, sir?" interrupted
the narrator.  "'Cos if it's me, I loses the thread o' wot I'm sayin'
if you gits arskin' questions."

"I'm sorry," I sighed.  "Please go on."

"Well, sir, Number One and the doctor 'as a reg'lar hargument and
bargin' match on the quarterdeck, though I see'd Number One wus larfin'
to 'isself the 'ole time.  The doctor sez to 'im as 'ow they'd best
refer the matter to the skipper; but the fust lootenant sez they carn't
do that 'cos the skipper's attendin' a court-martial and won't be back
till the arternoon.  Then the doc. wants to know if Number One'll give
'im an order in writin' to bleed the boys; but Number One larfs and sez
'e won't be such a fool, and sez that in 'is opinion the buoys should
be bled.  The doctor then sez the boys don't want bleedin', and arsks
Number One if 'e's prepared to haccept 'is advice as a medical orficer.
The fust lootenant sez of course 'e will, and sez as 'ow 'e'll arrange
to 'ave all the buoys mustered in the sick bay at six bells, and that
they needn't be bled if the doctor sez they don't want it."

"It wus all I could do to stop meself larfin', 'specially when Number
One sings art fur the chief buffer.  'Scroggins,' 'e sez, ''ave all o'
them there buoys wot I wus talkin' abart in the sick bay by eleven
o'clock punctual.'--Scroggins seems a bit startled.  'In the sick bay,
sir?' 'e arsks.--'Yus,' sez Number One, grinnin' to 'isself and winkin'
at the chief buffer.  'In the sick bay by six bells sharp.'--'Werry
good, sir,' sez Scroggins, tumblin' to wot wus up, 'cos 'e saw the
doctor standin' there.  I 'eard all o' wot 'appened, and I tells all my
pals.  The chief buffer does the same, and so does Number One, so at
six bells, when the sick bay stooard 'ad bin sent by Jimmy the One to
tell the doctor as 'ow the buoys wus ready for bleedin', almost all the
orficers and abart 'arf the ship's company 'ad mustered artside the
sick bay under the fo'c'sle to see wot 'appened.

"Presently the doctor comes along, sees the crowd, but goes inside
without sayin' nothin'.  But soon we 'ears 'im lettin' go at the sick
bay stooard inside.  'Wot the devil's the meanin' o' this?' 'e wants to
know.--'Fust lootenant's orders, sir,' sez the stooard.--'Fust
lootenant be damned,' the doctor sings art.  'I'll report 'im to the
captain.  S'welp me, I will!'--And wi' that 'e comes artside werry
rattled and walks aft without sayin' a word to no one.  I feels a bit
sorry for 'im, sir," the story teller went on, "'cos Number One 'ad bin
pullin' 'is leg agen."

"Pulling his leg?" I echoed.

"Yes, sir," said the seaman, bursting with merriment.  "'Cos the sick
bay, and it weren't none too large, was all but filled up wi' six 'efty
great casks, wi' flagstaffs and sinkers complete.  They wus the buoys
Number One 'ad bin talkin' abart all along."

I could not help laughing.

"I see," I said.  "The First Lieutenant meant BUOYS and the doctor the
ship's BOYS, what?"

He nodded.

"But tell me," I asked.  "What about the bleeding?"

"Bleedin', sir!  Why, d'you mean to tell me you don't know wot bleedin'
a buoy is?"

"I'm afraid my nautical knowledge is very limited," I apologised.

"It's surprisin' wot some shoregoin' blokes don't know abart th' Navy,
sir," said the burly one with some contempt, chuckling away to himself.
"But if you reely wants to know, bleedin' a buoy means borin' a small
'ole in 'im to let the water art, 'cos they all leaks a bit arter
they've bin in the sea.  But I must say good arternoon, sir," he added
hurriedly, glancing over his shoulder and rising to his feet.  "'Ere's
my gal comin', and there's another abart 'arf a cable astern of 'er wot
I expec's is yourn.  Good arternoon, sir, and don't git stoppin' no
more o' them there bullets."  He touched his forelock.

"But tell me?" I said.  "Did the first lieutenant and doctor make it up
all right?"

"Bet your life they did, sir," he said with a laugh, moving off.  "Them
haffairs wus almost o' daily hoccurrence."

"Good luck to you," I called out after him, "and thank you for a most
instructive twenty minutes!"

He looked back over his shoulder; his bright red face broadened into a
huge smile, and he deliberately winked twice.

I had to hurry away, for already the sailor nearly had his arm round
his housemaid's waist, while my Anne, at least half an hour late, was
panting wearily towards where I stood.

"Who is your sailor friend?" was her first question.

"Ananias the Second," I answered, for at the back of my mind I had a
vague suspicion that the first lieutenant of the _Jackass_ was not the
only member of her ship's company who delighted in pulling people's
legs.



[1] A "Bradbury" is one of the new £1 notes.  So called from the
signature at the bottom.

[2] "Jimmy the One," a lower-deck nickname for the First Lieutenant.



"BUNTING"

He was a short, thick-set, ruddy-faced, shrewd-eyed little person, who
wore on the left sleeve of his blue jumper two good-conduct badges and
the single anchor denoting his "Leading" rate, and on his right the
crossed flags denoting his calling, together with a star above and
below which signified that he was something of an expert at his job.
In short, he was a Leading Signalman of His Majesty's Navy.  His name I
need not mention.  To his friends he sometimes answered to "Nutty," but
more often to "Buntin'."

It was always a mystery to me why he had not come to wear the crossed
anchors and crown of a Yeoman of Signals, for his qualifications
certainly seemed to fit him for promotion to petty-officer's rank,
while his habits and character in the last ship in which I knew him
were all that could be desired.

It was on board a destroyer that I came to know him really well, and
here his work was onerous and responsible.  He had his mate, a callow
youth who was usually sea-sick in bad weather, and at sea they took 4
hours' turn and turn about on the bridge, each keeping 12 hours' watch
out of the twenty-four.  But the elder man always seemed to be within
sight and hearing, even in his watch below; and the moment anything
unusual happened, the moment flags started flapping in the breeze,
semaphores started to talk, the younger man became rattled and
helpless, and things generally started to go wrong, all at the same
moment, "Nutty" came clambering up the ladder to the assistance of his
bewildered colleague.

"Call yerself a signalman!" he would growl ferociously.  "Give us the
glass, an' look sharp an' 'oist the answerin' pendant.  You ain't fit
to be trusted up 'ere!"

It is to be feared that the youthful one sometimes found his life a
misery and a burden, for his mentor was a strict disciplinarian and did
not hesitate to bully and goad him into a state of proper activity.
But the youngster needed it badly.

"Nutty" seemed to be blessed with the eyes of a lynx, the dexterity of
a conjurer, and the tentacles of a decapod.  He invariably saw a
floating mine, a buoy, or a lightship long before the man whose proper
work it was to see it, and at sea, with a telescope to his eye, I often
saw him apparently taking in two signals from opposite points of the
compass at one and the same moment, with the ship rolling heavily and
sheets of spray flying over the bridge.

Somewhere at Portsmouth he had a wife and two children, whom he saw, if
he was lucky, for perhaps seven days every six months.  Of his domestic
affairs I knew little; but, judging from his letters, which were
frequent and voluminous and had to pass through the hands of the ship's
censor, he was devoted to his wife and family.  I hope they loved him.

Why he was not a Yeoman of Signals I never discovered.  Perhaps he had
a lurid past.  But conjecture is useless.  Promotion now would come too
late to be of any use to him.

      *      *      *      *      *

"Butter, Monkey, Nuts," he rattled off as a light cruiser two miles
away suddenly wreathed herself in flags.  "Zebra, Charlie,
Fanny--Ethel, Donkey, Tommy--Ginger, Percy, Lizzie----  Got that, Bill?"

An Able Seaman, busy with a pencil and a signal pad, signified that he
had.

"'Arf a mo', though," resumed the expert, re-levelling his telescope.
"I ain't quite certain about that first 'oist.  Why on earth they can't
'oist the things clear I dunno!" he grumbled bitterly, for some of the
distant flags, as is often the case when the wind is light and
uncertain, had coyly wrapped themselves round the halliards and refused
to be seen.

Someone on the bridge of the distant cruiser might almost have heard
his remark, for as he spoke the halliards began agitatedly to jerk up
and down to allow the bunting to flutter clear.

"Ah!" he murmured.  "Now we'll get 'em....  Lord!" in a piercing
undertone as some misguided humorist in the cruiser's stokehold
inconsiderately allowed a puff of black smoke to issue forth from the
foremost funnel, completely to obliterate the strings of flags.

The Leading Signalman, not being a thought reader as well as a
conjurer, put down his telescope with a grunt until the pall cleared
away.  "In the first 'oist," he said when the atmosphere had cleared,
"in the first 'oist, 'stead o' Fanny put 'Arry.'  'H' for 'Arry."

The A.B. sucked his pencil and acquiesced, while his friend, darting to
the after side of the small bridge, hoisted the white and red
"Answering Pendant" to show that the signal had been seen and read.  He
then handed the pad across, on which, in large sprawling capital
letters, he had laboriously traced "BMN--ZCF--EDT--GPL."

The "Butter, Monkey, Nuts" business, incomprehensible and startling as
it might have been to any outsider, merely emphasised the difference in
sound between various letters.  B, C, D, E, P, and T; J and K; M and N,
among others, are very much alike when pronounced by themselves; but
"butter" could not well be mistaken for "Charlie," neither could
"monkey" be confounded with "nuts."

The Leading Signalman looked out the meaning of the different groups of
letters in the book provided for the purpose and showed the result to
his commanding officer.  Its purport was comparatively unimportant,
something about oil-fuel on arrival in harbour.

      *      *      *      *      *

But finding out the meaning of those flag signals which he did not know
by heart--and he knew most of them--was only a tithe of his duty.  He
was equally expert at taking in a message spelt out by the whirling
arms of a semaphore, arms which waved so rapidly, and whose giddy
gyrations were so often well-nigh invisible against a bad background,
that his performance savoured of the miraculous.  At night, too, he was
just as good, for then the frenzied winking of a dim light would convey
its meaning just the same.  It was a point of honour with him always to
get a signal correctly the first time it was made.  I never saw him ask
for a repetition.

Only twice did I know him to laugh on the bridge, and the first time
that occurred was when, through a series of circumstances which need
not be entered into here, we nearly came into contact with the next
ahead.  Such things do happen.

Then it was that the next ahead--he was several years senior to us and
a humorist--turned in his wrath and quoted the Bible.  "Your
attention," his semaphore said, "is drawn to the Gospel according to
St. Matthew, chapter 16, verse 23."

We sent for the Bible, looked up the reference, and read: "But he
turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an
offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but
those that be of men."

The quotation was apt and the Leading Signalman's eyes twinkled.  Then
I noticed his mouth expanding into a grin, and presently he laughed, a
short, explosive sort of laugh rather like the bark of a dog.

But we had our revenge a week later, when our next ahead--he was our
friend as well as our senior--nearly collided with a buoy at the
entrance to a certain harbour.

"What about the Book of Proverbs?" our semaphore asked.  "Chapter 22,
verse 28."

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set," he must
have read.  I cannot remember the reply, but the Leading Signalman had
laughed once more.

      *      *      *      *      *

But "Bunting" will never smile again.  He went down with his ship on
May 31, 1916.  The North Sea is his grave and the curling whitecap his
tombstone.  His epitaph may be written across the sky in a trail of
smoke from some passing steamer.



THE LOST SHEEP

The glass had gone down with a thump during the afternoon, and all
through the night the destroyer had been steaming home against a
rapidly rising gale.

Of how she came to be alone and parted from her flotilla the less said
the better.  It was due to a variety of circumstances, among them being
a blinding rain squall after dark the evening before, in which the
officer of the watch was unable to see more than twenty yards, and some
temporary trouble with an air pump which necessitated stopping to put
it right.

The sea, as is usual with the wind from the south-west, had risen fast,
and by midnight it was heavy and steep, while the little ship, punching
against it, had pitched, rolled, thumped and thudded as only a
destroyer can.  The motion was dizzy and maddening--a combined pitch
and heavy roll which was the very acme of discomfort.  Sometimes the
bows fell into the heart of an advancing, white-topped hillock of grey
water with a sickening downward plunge, and the breaking sea came
surging and crashing over the forecastle to dash itself against the
chart-house and bridge with a shock which made the whole ship quiver
and tremble.  Then, with

[Transcriber's note: pages 41 and 42 missing from source book.]

edged volumes with unerring accuracy on to his long-suffering head.

The only person who really did not mind the motion at all was the
wireless operator in his little cubby-bole abaft the chart-house.  He,
with a pair of telephone receivers clipped on over his ears ready to
catch stray snatches of conversation from invisible ships and distant
shore stations, sat enthroned in a chair bolted to the deck.  His den
was hermetically sealed to keep out the water.  The smell and the heat
were indescribable; but he was reading a week-old periodical with every
symptom of enjoyment and calmly smoked a foul and very wheezy pipe
filled with the strongest and most evil-smelling ship's tobacco.  But
"Buzzer," as he was known to his friends, had the constitution of an ox
and an interior like the exterior of an armadillo.  He could stand
anything.

      *      *      *      *      *

An oil-skinned apparition, dripping with wet, appeared at the
chart-house door.  "The orficer of the watch says it's daylight, sir,"
it reported.  "There's nothin' in sight, but 'e thinks as 'ow the sea's
goin' down a bit."

The skipper, who had actually been asleep for forty consecutive
minutes, sat up with a grunt, rubbed his eyes, and yawned.  Then, in
the dull grey light of the dawn, he surveyed the unsavoury mixture on
the floor with his nose wrinkled and an expression of intense disgust
on his face.  But the sight of the broken cup reminded him of
something, and reaching his hand underneath the cushion he extracted a
vacuum flask, applied it to his lips, and swallowed what remained of
the cocoa inside it.  He was hungry, poor wight, for his dinner the
night before had consisted of two corned-beef sandwiches and a biscuit.
Next, with a little sigh of satisfaction, he produced a pipe, tobacco,
and matches from an inner pocket and lit up, examined the chart with
the ship's track marked upon it, and glanced at the aneroid on the
bulkhead and noticed it was rising slowly.

Two minutes later, with his pipe bowl carefully inverted, he clambered
up the iron ladder to the bridge.

"Hail, smiling morn!" he remarked sarcastically, ducking his head as a
sheet of spray came driving over the forecastle and across the bridge.
"Well, 'Sub,' how goes it?"

"Pretty rotten, sir," answered the sub-lieutenant, whose watch it was.
"The wind shows no signs of going down, but I think the sea's a little
less than it was.  We're not bumping quite so badly as we were."

      *      *      *      *      *

The motion certainly was less violent, and after looking for a moment
at the angry sea and the grey, cloud-wrapped sky streaked with its
wisps of flying white scud, the skipper nodded slowly.  "You're right,"
he said.  "It has gone down a bit.  We're beginning to feel the lee of
the land.  Work her up gradually to twelve knots and see how she takes
it."

The "Sub" did so, and though the increase in speed brought heavier
spray and more of it, the movement of the ship no longer synchronised
with the period of the waves, and she became steadier.

Before long the sea had gone down even more and the speed was increased
to twenty knots.  Then, on the grey horizon ahead, appeared the smoke
of many steamers, and a quarter of an hour later the destroyer was
threading her way through a sea-lane so densely populated with shipping
that it reminded one of dodging the traffic in Piccadilly.

The next thing which hove in sight was a red-painted lightship, and
half an hour later the destroyer, her funnels white with dried salt,
was steaming into the harbour where the remainder of the flotilla were
lying.  They, having escaped the really bad weather, had arrived the
evening before, and one of them made a facetious signal to this effect
as the destroyer secured to the tank steamer to replenish her supply of
oil-fuel.

The lost sheep had returned to its fold.



A NAVAL MENAGERIE

Denis was a pig, a very special sort of pig, a pig of German origin,
and perhaps the only animal of his species in whose favour a special
dispensation was made by the Board of Agriculture.  He originally
belonged to the German light cruiser _Dresden_, and, after the
destruction of that vessel at Juan Fernandez by the _Kent_, _Glasgow_,
and _Orama_, was seen swimming about in the water close to the
_Glasgow_.  A blue-jacket promptly jumped overboard and rescued him
from a watery grave, and Denis, instead of being converted into pork or
sausages, became a prisoner of war and a pet.  He did not seem the
least dismayed by his change of nationality, and, being an adaptable
creature of robust constitution, throve on a miscellaneous and
indiscriminate diet of ships' provisions, eked out by tobacco,
cigarette ends, and coal.  Moreover, within a month, so history
relates, he was quite accustomed to sleeping in a hammock, where he
snored exactly like a human being.

But the regulations as to the importation of animals into Great Britain
are necessarily stringent, and on the _Glasgow's_ arrival in home
waters there were complications as to the disposal of Denis.  He could
not be landed in the ordinary way, but eventually, after some
correspondence, the Board of Agriculture solved the momentous question
by giving special permission for him to be put ashore at Whale Island,
the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth harbour.  There, so far as I
know, he still remains as a naturalised Briton.

But a pig is by no means the strangest animal which has made its home
on board a man-of-war.  In a small gunboat in China some years ago the
ship's company acquired a so-called tame alligator.  Algernon, as they
christened him, came on board as a youngster a few weeks old and about
four feet long, and soon developed a habit of appearing when the decks
were being scrubbed in the mornings, when he revelled in having the
hose played upon him and in having his scaly back well scrubbed with a
hard broom.  He devoured a tame rabbit and two cats, but the crux came
when he taught himself a trick of waiting until some unsuspecting
person had his back turned, of making a sudden rush at his victim and
capsizing him with a well-placed whisk of his horny tail, and then
running in with a good-humoured smile and a ferocious snapping and
gnashing of his yellow teeth.  It was all very funny, but so many
innocent persons were wrought almost to the verge of nervous
prostration by Algernon's ideas of sport, that at last the fiat went
forth that he must die.  He was shot at dawn, and, less lucky than
Denis, reached England in a stuffed and rather moth-eaten condition.

Goats are comparatively common as pets in the Navy, but the goat of all
the goats was a white creature rejoicing in the unromantic name of
William who lived on board a cruiser.  His staple articles of food
seemed to consist of tobacco, cigarettes, stray rope-yarns, bristles of
brooms, and odds and ends of old canvas, while he was not averse to
licking the galvanised compound off the newly painted quarter-deck
stanchions whenever an opportunity of doing so presented itself.  He
was a healthy goat of voracious appetite.  His gastric juices would
have dissolved a marline-spike, and he even made short work of the
greater portion of a pair of ammunition boots belonging to the
Sergeant-Major of Royal Marines, and devoured with every symptom of
relish a sheaf of official and highly important documents lying on the
writing-table in the navigator's cabin.

William, in spite of his varied diet, always looked well-nourished and
in the rudest of health, and on Sundays was wont to appear at divisions
with his hair and beard parted in the middle, wearing an elaborate
brass collar, and with gilded horns and hooves.  He had charming
manners, and even condescended to drink an occasional glass of sherry
in the wardroom on guest nights.  Of his ultimate fate I have no
knowledge, but, with the very miscellaneous contents of his interior,
he would have provided a most interesting subject for a _post-mortem_
examination.

Several ships have had bears as pets, but one in particular, which was
the mascot of a cruiser on the Mediterranean station, was a bear with a
pronounced sense of humour.  On one occasion it so happened that the
vessel to which he belonged was lying alongside the mole at Gibraltar,
while another cruiser, fresh from England, was made fast just astern of
her.  It was Sunday afternoon, and all hands and the cook, except those
on duty, followed the usual custom of the Service by selecting sunny
spots on deck and then composing themselves to peaceful slumber.  At
about 2.30 p.m. Master Bruin, freeing himself from his chain, landed,
ambled along the jetty, and approached the newly arrived vessel on a
tour of investigation.  The sentry, not liking the look of the animal,
found something important to do at the other end of his beat, while the
bear proceeding on board unmolested, frightened nearly out of his wits
a burly petty officer doing duty as quartermaster, and then followed up
his moral victory by chasing him round and round the upper deck.  The
petty officer, a well covered man, nearly dropped from heat and
exhaustion, but just managed to barricade himself in the galley before
being overtaken and fondly hugged.  The sleepers, meanwhile, hearing
unusual sounds of revelry, woke up to see a wild-looking animal seeking
another victim, and thinking that Bostock's menagerie had broken loose,
rose from their couches and stampeded for the mess-deck.

The bear then waddled aft in search of further recreation, and seeing
the curtained doorway of one of the upper deck cabins, promptly elbowed
his way in.  Inside was an officer fast asleep on the bunk, who,
hearing the sound of heavy breathing, opened his eyes to see the shaggy
bulk of his huge visitor interposed between him and the doorway.  For a
moment he was non-plussed, and, keeping quite still, endeavoured to
mesmerise the animal by looking him full in the eyes.  But the
ferocious look on the bear's face, a pair of fierce twinkling eyes, an
open mouth with its rows of sharp teeth, and a long red tongue dripping
with saliva, warned him that mere mesmerism would be useless if he were
to avoid a tussle.  There was only one other exit besides the door, so
without further ado he sprang for ... the open scuttle.  He wormed his
way successfully through the small orifice with some loss of dignity
and greatly to the detriment of his Sunday trousers, flopped gracefully
into the water with a splash, and, swimming to the gangway, clambered
back on board again.  Then, rushing to his cabin, he slammed the door
and imprisoned his unwelcome visitor inside.

Next, seeking out the sentry, he desired him to eject the intruder.
But the marine, a wise man, firmly but politely intimated that he had
joined his corps to fight the King's enemies, not bears of unknown
origin and ferocious aspect, and added that the only conditions on
which he would undertake the job was with the assistance of his rifle,
a fixed bayonet, and some ball ammunition.  The bear, meanwhile, locked
in the cabin, was thoroughly enjoying himself in clawing and tearing to
ribbons everything within reach, and by the time his breathless keeper
from the other ship arrived upon the scene to conduct his charge home
in disgrace, the cabin was in a state of utter desolation.  A bull in a
china shop is nothing to an unwieldy brute of a bear in a small
apartment measuring ten feet by eight.  All's well that ends well, but
the officer's best trousers were completely ruined, and he himself
never heard the end of his Sabbath afternoon adventure.  The bear
received six strokes with a cane for his share in the proceedings.

The last escapade of his that I heard of was when he hugged and removed
most of the clothes from a low class Spanish workman from the dockyard
at Gibraltar.  The man had baited him, eventually releasing the
terrified, half-naked wretch, and chasing him at full speed for nearly
half a mile.  A crowd of excited, laughing blue-jackets went in pursuit
of the bear, but the faster they ran, the faster went the animal and
his quarry.  Bruin enjoyed it hugely.  Not so the Spanish workman.

Dogs and cats are as common in the Navy as they are elsewhere, and it
is surprising how soon they become accustomed to naval routine.  The
cats never go ashore unless their ship happens to be lying alongside a
dockyard wall, when they usually desert _en bloc_ and attach themselves
to some other ship, a fresh detachment coming on board in their stead.
The dogs are more faithful, and their wisdom becomes positively
uncanny, for always at the routine times for boats going ashore they
will be found waiting ready at the top of the gangway.

"Ginger" was an Irish terrier of plebeian origin belonging to a
battleship.  He invariably landed in the postman's boat at 6.45 a.m.,
and once ashore went off on his own business.  Nobody ever took the
trouble to discover what he did, but punctually at eight o'clock he
used to reappear at the landing place and return to the ship in the
boat which took off the married officers.  On one occasion, however, he
was badly sold, for though the postman landed at the usual time, the
ship sailed at 7.30 to carry out target practice.  Half an hour later,
therefore, there was no boat for Ginger, and his ship was a mere speck
on the horizon; but nothing daunted, the wise hound proceeded to the
Sailors' Home and spent the day there.  He was discovered the same
afternoon when the ship returned into harbour, and his admirers always
averred that his temporary absence was the result of a carefully
thought out plan to avoid the sounds of gunfire, which he detested.

There must be many officers and men in the Navy who remember "North
Corner Bob," another red-haired Irish terrier, who used to frequent the
landing place at North Corner in Portsmouth dockyard.  He was not a
large dog, as terriers go, but was a ferocious creature of wild and
bedraggled appearance, who seemed to regard North Corner as his own
especial domain.  He fought every other animal who dared to venture
near the place, and many a naval dog bore the marks of Bob's teeth to
his dying day.

He even boarded strange ships lying alongside and carried on his
campaign of frightfulness there.  In fact he terrorised all the dogs in
Portsmouth dockyard, including two spaniels belonging to the Admiral
Superintendent.  But an officer in a certain ship whose wire-haired
terrier Cuthbert had been badly beaten by Bob some days before,
conceived a brilliant idea for having his revenge.  Early one morning,
at Bob's usual time for passing by the ship on his way to North Corner,
Cuthbert, wearing a brand new muzzle, was taking his morning
constitutional on deck.  Bob, punctual to the minute, came trotting by
in his usual don't-care-a-damn-for-anyone manner, but the sight of
Cuthbert putting on an equal amount of side on board his own ship was
too much for him, and rushing up the brow connecting the ship with the
shore he came on board licking his lips in joyful anticipation and the
lust of battle shining in his eye.

Cuthbert, a naturally good-natured dog, hurried forward to meet him,
but Bob, spurning his friendly advances, circled round on tip-toe, with
his teeth bared and hair bristling.  Cuthbert, seeing that a fight was
inevitable, adopted similar tactics, and for some moments the two
animals padded softly round and round nosing each other and preparing
to spring in to the attack.  Then, quite suddenly and for no apparent
reason, there came a shrill yelp of pain from Bob, and before anyone
realised what had happened his tail went down, he rushed madly over the
gangway, and shot along the jetty like a flash of greased lightning.

"What the devil's the matter with him?" queried the officer of the
watch, staring in amazement after the rapidly disappearing figure of
the well-known fighter.

"Matter!"  spluttered  Cuthbert's  owner, weak with laughter.  "Lord!
I've never seen anything like it!  Did you see the way he skipped?"

"Did I not!" answered the O.O.W., laughing himself.  "But what on earth
made him streak off like that?"

"Come here, Cuthbert," said his master.

The dog came forward, wagging his tail, and had his muzzle removed.

"D'you see that?" asked his owner, pointing to the end of it.  'That'
was a long and very sharp-pointed pin firmly soldered to the business
end of Cuthbert's headgear.

North Corner Bob never visited that particular ship again.



THE "MUCKLE FLUGGA" HUSSARS

She was a member of that gallant and distinguished corps after which
this article is named.  You will not find her regiment mentioned in any
British Army List, nor, so far as I am aware, and for all the foreign
sound of it, in the Army List of His Imperial Majesty the Czar of All
the Russias.  The name does not appear in any Army List at all, for the
Hussars to which she belonged are a sea regiment, pure and simple.

Her uniform of dull grey, with no facings or trimmings of any sort or
description, was strictly in keeping with her surroundings, for her
favourite habitat was anywhere in the wild waste of waters lying
between Greenland, the North Cape, the Naze, and the Orkneys.

Some people with a libellous sense of humour referred to her as a
member of "Harry Tate's Own," while others, most unkindly, said she
belonged to the "Ragtime Navy."  But she did not seem to mind.  She
knew in her heart of hearts that her work was of paramount importance,
and, complacent in the knowledge, smiled sweetly as a well-conducted
lady should when jibes and insults are hurled at her long-suffering
head.

She had a great deal to put up with in one way and another.  Thanks to
her enormous fuel capacity she spent a long time at sea and had very
brief spells in harbour.  Her work, though important, was always dull
and monotonous, while in bad weather it was even worse.  She had no
prospect of sharing in the excitement of a big sea battle like her more
warlike sisters, though, with them, she ran the chance of encountering
hostile submarines and of having an altercation with an armed raider.
But, taking it all round, she had comparatively little to hope for in
the way of honour and glory; she merely had to be at sea for many weeks
at a time to prevent money-grabbing neutrals from reaping a rich
harvest by supplying munitions of war and articles of contraband to an
impoverished Hun who could not be trusted to put those commodities to
any gentlemanly purpose.

Muckle Flugga, I believe, is a remote headland in the Shetlands, and
she, a member of the corps called after it, flew the White Ensign of
the British Navy and was an armed merchant cruiser.

      *      *      *      *      *

Before the war she was a crack passenger liner.  On her upper deck, and
expressly designed for the use of potentates and plutocrats, she had
regular suites of apartments.  Gorgeous suites they were, furnished
like the rooms in a mansion ashore.  The sleeping cabins had white
enamelled panels and comfortable brass bedsteads.  The day cabins or
sitting-rooms, panelled in bird's-eye maple, oak, walnut, or mahogany,
had large square windows, regular fireplaces, and were fresh with
flowered chintzes, while the tiled bathrooms were fitted with all the
different appliances for hot baths, tepid baths, cold baths, needle
baths, shower baths, and douches.  One simply turned a handle and the
water came.  A telephone in each sitting-room communicated with a
central exchange somewhere deep down in the bowels of the ship, and one
could summon a barber to trim one's hair, a manicure expert to attend
to one's hands, a tobacconist with samples of cigars, cigarettes, and
tobacco, or the presiding genius of a haberdashery establishment with
quite the latest things in shirts, collars, socks, and neckties.  In
fact, living in one of the expensive suites was exactly like being in a
large and luxurious hotel, except that it was vastly more comfortable.

Lower down in the ship were the single, double, and treble-berthed
cabins for the first and second-class passengers.  They, though small,
were very comfortable, and were fitted with telephones through which
one could summon a stewardess with a basin or a steward with a whisky
and soda.  Down below, too, were the saloons, huge apartments with
carved panels, ornamental pillars, glass-pictured domes, coloured
frescoes, and dozens of small tables.  There was also the Louis XIV.
restaurant, if one preferred a simple beefsteak to the more formal
dinner, and smoking-rooms, reading-rooms, libraries, drawing-rooms,
writing-rooms, not to mention the swimming bath and the children's
nursery.

We can imagine the great liner, spick and span in her spotless paint
and gleaming brasswork, steaming through a placid summer sea.  Her long
promenade decks would be plastered with deck-chairs filled with
recumbent passengers, some dozing, others smoking and talking.  Some
energetic enthusiast would be passing from group to group to collect
sufficient people to play deck cricket, quoits, or bull-board, while
yet another, armed with a notebook and a pencil, would be endeavouring
to inveigle recalcitrant ladies with strict notions as to the sins of
gambling into taking tickets for a sweepstake on the next day's mileage.

One would hear the laughter of children as they chased each other round
the decks, and the sotto-voce remarks of some old gentleman roused from
his afternoon nap by the sudden impact of a podgy infant of four
tripping heavily over his outstretched feet.

After dark in some secluded corner one might happen upon a man and a
girl.  They would be sitting very close together, and behaving... well,
as men and maidens sometimes do, to beguile the tedium of voyages at
sea.

Everything would be calm and peaceful.  Everybody would be happy, even
the young gentleman with no prospects travelling second class, who
having won the sweepstake on the day's run and suddenly finding himself
£20 the richer, celebrated his luck with his friends in the
smoking-room.

      *      *      *      *      *

But then the war came and changed everything.

The Admiralty requisitioned the ship and armed her with guns.  They
painted her a dull grey all over, and tore down all her polished
woodwork to lessen the chances of fire in action, leaving nothing but
the bare steel walls.  Most of the cabins were stripped of their
furniture and fittings, only enough being left intact to provide
accommodation for the officers.

The carved woodwork and most of the tables and chairs in the saloons
were taken away, and though the painted frescoes and glass domes still
remained, they were dusty and neglected.

In one corner of the first-class saloon was the wardroom, a space
partitioned off by painted canvas screens to provide messing
accommodation for the more senior officers.  Opposite to it was the
gunroom, a similar enclosure for the juniors.

They manned her with a crew of between three and four hundred Royal
Navy Reserve men, with a leavening of Royal Navy ratings and a few
Marines.  They appointed a Captain R.N. in command and two or three
other naval officers, but by far the greater proportion of officers and
crew belonged to the Reserve, and excellent fellows they were.

Certain of the men had served on beard in peace-time, and had elected
to remain on, but the majority came to her for the first time when she
commissioned as a man-of-war.  Some were Scots fishermen, men from
trawlers and drifters, excellent, hardy creatures used to small craft,
bad weather, and boat work.  Others, having served their time in the
Navy, had taken to some shore employment, and in August 1914 had been
recalled to their old Service.

Nearly every imaginable trade was represented.  In one of the
first-class cabins was the barber's shop, presided over by a man who in
pre-war days had worked in a hair-cutting establishment not far from
Victoria Station.  Next door lived another man who had been a
bootmaker, and he, bringing all the appurtenances of his trade to sea
with him, carried on a roaring business as a "snob."  There was also a
haberdashery emporium kept by a seaman who had been employed in some
linen-draper's shop in his native town, while a professional tailor in
blue-jacket's uniform spent all his spare time in making and repairing
the garments of his shipmates.  Even the ship's electric laundry was
manned by folk who were well acquainted with starching and ironing.

Most of the cooks and stewards had left, but sufficient remained to
provide for the needs of the officers and men.  The catering was still
run by the company to which the vessel belonged, and, as she had roomy
kitchens and all manner of labour-saving devices in the way of electric
dish-washers and potato-peelers, the messing was even better than that
on board a battleship.

Gone were the troops of laughing children and the passengers.  A pile
of wicked-looking shell and boxes of cartridges for the guns lay ready
to hand in the nursery, while the promenade decks resounded to the
tramp of men being initiated into the mysteries of the squad and rifle
drill and the work at their guns.

      *      *      *      *      *

They have been at it for two years; two years of strenuous naval
routine and discipline which have transformed the passenger liner into
no mean man-of-war.



THE "PIRATES"

"It is not possible to prevent the occasional appearance of enemy
submarines within the range of our shores, but I can give an assurance
that the measures which have been and will be taken are such as to
render proceedings of this sort increasingly dangerous to the
submarines."--DR. MACNAMARA, _Financial Secretary to the Admiralty_.


They looked an orderly little squadron of six as they steamed jauntily
out towards the open sea in single line ahead through the grey-green,
tide-ripped waters of the most thickly populated river estuary in the
world.

They were prosaic, snub-nosed-looking little craft, short and squat,
with high, upstanding bows, prominent wheelhouses, and stumpy
mizzen-masts abaft all.  They hailed from many ports and still bore the
letters and numbers of their peace-time vocation: F.D. for Fleetwood,
G.Y. for Grimsby, B.F. for Banff, and P.D. for Peterhead.  They were
steam herring drifters in the ordinary, common, or garden, piping times
of peace; little vessels which went to sea for days on end to pitch,
wallow, and roll at the end of a mile or a mile and a half of buoyed
drift-net, in the meshes of which unwary herring, in endeavouring to
force a way through, presently found themselves caught by the gills.

But now, each one of them flew the tattered, smoke-stained apology for
a once White Ensign, and they were men-of-war, very much men-of-war.
They had been at the game for nearly twenty-four months, and, through
long practice, they elbowed their way in and out of the traffic with
all the fussy, devil-may-care assertiveness of His Majesty's destroyers.

Their admiral, a Royal Naval Reserve lieutenant, who, in peaceful 1914,
was still the immaculate third officer of a crack Western Ocean
passenger liner, looked out of his wheelhouse windows and surveyed the
potbellied, lumbering cargo carriers steaming by with all the kindly
tolerance of the regular man-of-war's man.  He, though he did not look
it, for they had been coaling an hour before and he was still grimy
about the face, was the only commissioned officer in the squadron,
fleet, flotilla, or whatever you like to call it.  All the other craft
were commanded by skippers, ex-peacetime-captains of the fishing craft,
who were used to the sea and its vicissitudes, and knew the ins and
cuts of their vessels far better than they could tell you.  The men,
for the greater part, were also fishermen enrolled in the Reserve, with
here and there an ex-naval rating in the shape of a seaman gunner or
signalman.

They may have lacked polish.  They knew little about springing smartly
to attention and nothing whatsoever about the interior economy of a
6-inch gun.  Their attire was sketchy, to say the least of it.  Even
the admiral wore grey flannel trousers, a once white sweater, and
coloured muffler, and it is to be feared that an officer from a
battleship might have referred to them collectively as a "something lot
of pirates."  Pirates they may have been, but at the best of times a
strict adherence to the uniform regulations is not a fetish of those
serving on board the vessels of the Auxiliary Patrol.  They are, it is
perfectly true, granted a sum of money by a paternal Government
wherewith to purchase their kit, but brass buttons and best serge suits
do not blend with life on board a herring drifter at sea in all
weathers.  Sea-boots, oilskins, jerseys, and any old thing in the way
of trousers and headgear are far more fashionable.  Indeed, one may
occasionally happen upon a skipper wearing an ancient bowler hat when
well out in the North Sea and away from the haunts of senior officers
who might possibly take exception to his battered tile.

But they all took their job seriously, though, like most sailor folk,
light-heartedly.  They were inured to the sea and its hardships; many
of them were part owners of their own craft, even the man in the red
Salvation Army jersey tittivating the six-pounder gun in the last
little ship of the line.

Exactly how they "strafed" the immoral and ubiquitous Hun submarine it
is inexpedient to say.  They had their little guns, of course, but were
full of other 'gilguys' evolved for the same laudable purpose during a
period of nearly two years of war.  Moreover, the men were experts in
their use, and that their 'gadgets' often worked to the detriment of
Fritz may be deduced from that gentleman's extreme unwillingness to be
seen in their vicinity, and a casual inspection of the records of the
Auxiliary Patrol probably locked up somewhere in Whitehall.  Some day
these records may be made public, and then we shall read of happenings
which will cause us to hold our breath, and our hair to bristle like a
nail-brush.  Who has not heard the story of the unarmed fishing boat
which attacked a hostile periscope with nothing more formidable than a
coal hammer, or the ex-fisherman who attempted to cloud Fritz's vision
with a tar brush?

Striving to encompass the destruction of the wily submarine is by no
means a one-sided game.  Our small craft generally manage to have a
credit balance on their side, but Fritz is no fool, and is not the sort
of person to go nosing round an obvious trap, or to walk blindfold into
a snare.  Sometimes he mounts larger and heavier guns than his
antagonists, and may come to the surface out of range of their weapons
and bombard them at his leisure.  In such cases the hunters may become
the hunted, and may perchance be 'strafed' themselves.  Then there are
always mines, contact with one of which may pulverise an ordinary
wooden drifter into mere matchwood.

The work is fraught with risk.  It is every bit as dangerous as that of
the mine-sweepers, and casualties, both in men and in ships, are simply
bound to occur.  But little is made of them.  A few more names will
appear in the Roll of Honour, and in some obscure newspaper paragraph
we may read that "on Thursday last the armed patrol vessel ------ was
blown up by a mine" or was "sunk by gunfire from a hostile submarine,"
and that "-- members of her crew escaped in their small boat and landed
at ------."  That is all; no details whatsoever, nothing but the bare
statement.

But the game still goes on.

The men who cheerfully undergo these risks in their anxiety to serve
their country, were not professional fighters before the war: they are
now; but in the palmy days of peace they were fishermen, seamen through
and through, who, year in and year out, fair weather or foul, were at
sea in their little craft, reaping the ocean's harvest.  Their life was
ever a hard and a dangerous one, and the hazards and chances of war
have made it doubly so.

They have none of the excitement of a fight in the open.  Much of their
work in protecting the coastwise traffic is deadly in its monotony,
and, as we have become used to it, has come to be looked upon as a
matter of course.

Their gallant deeds are rarely the subjects of laudatory paragraphs in
the newspapers, and the great majority go unrewarded.  Even if we do
happen to meet a man wearing a little strip of blue and white ribbon on
his coat or jumper and ask him why he was decorated, he merely laughs,
wags his head, and says ---- nothing.

It is very unsatisfactory of him.



A MINOR AFFAIR

  H.M.S. --------
    c/o G.P.O., LONDON.
      June 30th, 1916.

MY DEAR DANIEL,

You ask me for a more elaborate account of a certain little affair
which took place some time ago.  It was merely an episode of a few
light cruisers, anything up to a score of destroyers, and some
seaplanes; quite a minor and a comparatively unimportant little
business which elicited a brief announcement from the Secretary of the
Admiralty, and must have proved rather a Godsend to those newspapers
whose readers were anxious for naval news in any shape or form.

They made a certain amount of fuss about it, and the naval
correspondents were soon hard at work elaborating the simple statement
according to their usual habit.  Indeed, the nautical expert of _Earth
and Sea_, with the very best intentions in the world, even went so far
as to devote the greater part of a column to the business.  It is to be
hoped that his readers were duly edified; but we, who had taken part in
the affair, were merely rather amused.

And so, for perhaps a week, and before being banished to the limbo of
forgotten and unconsidered trifles, the business was a subject for
intermittent conversation and a certain amount of conjecture.  Then it
was forgotten, and it is doubtful if it will ever be resurrected in any
naval history of the war.

We had quite a good passage across the North Sea, and at dawn on the
day of the operation we arrived in the vicinity of the Danish coast not
far from the German frontier.  The weather was good for the time of
year.  Bitterly cold, of course, besides which there were frequent
low-lying snow flurries which came sweeping down across the sea and
made it barely possible to see more than a quarter of a mile; while our
decks, except where the heat of the engine and boiler rooms melted the
snow as it fell, were soon covered.  But in between the squalls the sky
was blue, the sea was flat calm, and there was hardly any wind.
Moreover, there was not a sign or a vestige of a Hun anywhere, not even
a Zeppelin; nothing in sight except a few Danish fishing craft.

The seaplanes were soon hoisted out and started off on their job.  They
all seemed to get away without the slightest hitch, and it was a fine
sight watching them taxi-ing along the calm water to get up speed, and
then rising in the air one by one to disappear in the faint haze
towards the horizon.  What they were to do, exactly, I cannot say, but
within ten minutes they had all disappeared and the squadron steamed to
and fro waiting for their return.  They were expected back in about an
hour.

The full hour passed, and nothing happened.  Another quarter of an
hour; but still no signs of the 'planes.  On board the ships people
began to get rather anxious, thinking that they had been brought down
by the Huns, and everybody with glasses was looking to the
south-eastward for signs of them.  But at last, when they had almost
been given up, the first one suddenly reappeared in the midst of a snow
squall.  He was hoisted in, and within the next ten minutes the whole
covey, except two, had returned.

How their business had gone off was never divulged.  A story did get
about afterwards,--I saw it mentioned in some of the newspapers,--to
the effect that one of them had arrived within two hundred feet
immediately over the object he wanted to drop his bombs on, and then
found he could not let them go because the releasing gear was clogged
up with frozen snow.  Whether or not the yarn is true it is impossible
to say, but imagine the fellow's feelings when, after planing down to
two hundred feet with all the anti-aircraft guns in the place going
full blast, he found he could not drop a single egg!  Poor devil!

The seaplanes that did return were soon hoisted in, but in the
meanwhile eight destroyers and a couple of other craft had been sent on
to steam down the coast in line abreast to see if by any chance the two
missing ones had come down on the water.  We were with this lot, and
after an hour's steaming at 20 knots, by which time the island of Sylt
was plainly visible about nine or ten miles dead ahead and no trace of
the lost sheep had been seen, the search had to be abandoned.

It was then that the three destroyers to seaward sighted two steam
trawlers some way off to the south-westward.  They were flying no
colours so far as we could see, but seemed to be in single line ahead,
and as they were going straight for Sylt it was pretty obvious that
they were mine-sweepers or patrol boats, and not mere fishermen.

The three outer destroyers,--we happened to be one of them,--promptly
altered course to cut them off from the coast, and before very long we
were buzzing along at something like 30 knots with an enormous mountain
of water piled up in our wake, the water being rather shallow.

The trawlers, poor chaps, hadn't a dog's chance of getting away or of
doing anything; but I must say we all admired them for their pluck.
They had got into line abreast, and soon, when we were within about
5,000 yards, our leading craft hoisted some signal.  We had no time to
look it up in the book, but took it to be a signal asking if they would
surrender.  But not a bit of it.  They were patrol boats, and each of
them had a small gun, and presently there came a flash and a little
cloud of brown smoke from the nearer one of the two.  The shell fell
some distance short.

We had all held our fire up till then, for it was mere baby killing and
we did not want to do the dirty on them if it could be avoided, but as
they started the game of firing on us, we had no alternative but to
reply.  The sea round about the nearer craft was soon spouting with
shell splashes, and between the fountains of spray and clouds of dense
smoke in which she tried to hide herself, we could see the red flashes
of some of our shell as they hit and burst, and the spurt of flame from
her own little gun as she fired at us.  Only three or four of her
projectiles came anywhere near, while the havoc on board her must have
been indescribable.  It was a hateful business to have to fire at her
at all, but what else could we do as she would not surrender?

It was all over very soon.  The nearer trawler was almost hidden in
smoke, and presently, when we got ahead of her and to windward at a
range of about 1,500 yards, we noticed a white thing fluttering in her
mizzen rigging.  It was a shirt, as we discovered afterwards, and a
signal of surrender, so we ceased firing at once and ran down to her to
pick up the survivors.

The further trawler, meanwhile, had been sunk by the destroyer ahead of
us, the crew having abandoned her beforehand in two boats.

We steamed fairly close to our fellow and lowered a boat, for we could
see all the survivors standing up with their hands above their heads.
The ship herself was in a deplorable state.  Shell seemed to have burst
everywhere, and one of the first which struck her had cut a steam pipe
in the engine-room and had stopped the engines.  Clouds of steam were
coming from aft, her upper deck was a shambles, and she was badly holed
and on fire.  She was still afloat, though sinking fast.

Our boat went across and brought back those that remained of her crew.
There were thirteen of them all told, including the skipper, and of the
men one was badly, and four more slightly, wounded.  Nine had been
killed outright.

Then occurred rather a pleasing incident.  Our men, a long time before,
were going to do all sorts of desperate things to any Germans they got
hold of.  They were full of the Lusitania business, bomb dropping from
Zeppelins, and the treatment of our prisoners.  But when the time came
there was a complete revulsion of feeling.  They were kindness itself,
and when the prisoners came on board the seamen met the seamen and
escorted them forward like honoured guests, while our stokers did the
same for their opposite numbers.

We took all necessary precautions, of course, but the Germans were very
well behaved and gave us no trouble at all.  They were a particularly
fine and intelligent-looking lot of men, and presently, when the
wounded had been attended to, our fellows were filling them up with
food and cocoa on the mess-deck.  They seemed very pleased to get it,
and judging from what one heard afterwards, they had evidently expected
to be manacled, leg-ironed, and fed on biscuit and water.  But our men
did the best they could for them; gave them food, clothes, and
cigarettes.  The Germans were profoundly grateful, but couldn't quite
understand it.

Their skipper, a reserve officer who spoke English like a native, had
served as an officer in British ships, and seemed a good fellow.  He
was pleased to be congratulated on his plucky fight; but it was rather
pathetic all the same, for he had been cut off practically at his own
front door.

"You came upon us so suddenly and so near home," he said, looking at
Sylt which was only six or seven miles away.  "We had not a chance to
do anything."

He told us that he had been in the wheelhouse of his trawler when the
show started.  One of our first shell passed through the glass windows
within a foot of his head without bursting, and the very next did the
damage in the engine-room.  He ran down there to see what could be
done, and this must have saved his life, for while he was away another
shell burst in the wheelhouse and put about twenty holes in his
greatcoat which was lying on the settee.  I saw the coat and the holes
when he came on board, and noticed it had the ribbon of the Iron Cross
and that of some other decoration in the button-hole.  He showed me his
Iron Cross and was very proud of it, but what he got it for I did not
gather.  He seemed rather secretive about it.  The other decoration,
with a red-and-white ribbon, was the "Hamburg Cross," which is given to
all officers and men belonging to the town who get the Iron Cross.  I
believe the other Hansa towns follow the same custom with their braves.

One thing about the skipper which struck me favourably was that he
seemed very keen on the welfare of his men.  The poor fellow who was
badly wounded had been hit in the back, and three or four pieces of
shell were still inside him.  He must have been in terrible agony, but
was very brave and did not utter a sound.  An operation was quite out
of the question, and as the poor chap was obviously in great pain our
Surgeon-Probationer put him in a hammock on the mess-deck and gave him
morphia.  Soon afterwards the skipper asked to be allowed to visit him,
and when the Doc. next went forward he found him swabbing the patient's
brow with icy cold water to bring him to!  The Doc. was rather peevish
about it.

But to get on with the story of what happened.  The trawler was
sinking, but not quite fast enough, so we finished her off with a
couple of lyddite shell on the waterline.  In the meanwhile, as you
probably know, for it was officially announced at the time, two
destroyers had been in collision.  The rammer crumpled her bows up a
bit, but could still steam, but the ship rammed was rather badly
damaged, and had to be taken in tow.  It was in the middle of this
operation that many hostile seaplanes, stirred up like a wasps' nest by
our 'planes earlier in the morning, came out and started dropping
bombs.  None of them came very close to us,--the bombs, I mean,--but we
saw a string of five fall and explode practically alongside one
destroyer, and heard afterwards that there had been a free fight on her
upper deck to secure as trophies the splinters which dropped on board.
We were all using our A.-A. guns, and though we did not actually hit
any of them so far as we could see, we made them keep up to a height
from which accurate bomb-dropping was an impossibility, so nobody was
hit.  But nevertheless it was unpleasant, for no sooner had they let go
one consignment than they went home again, filled up afresh, and came
back for another go.  They were bombing us off and on for four or five
hours, so far as I can remember, and we counted seven or eight of the
blighters in sight at once, so it was "embarras de richesse" so far as
targets went.

We weren't going very fast, for the damaged destroyer could not be
towed at a respectable speed on account of her injuries, and at about
five o'clock in the afternoon the glass had gone down a lot, and the
wind and sea started to get up from the westward.  The prospect was not
altogether joyful.  We had heard the two trawlers shouting for help by
wireless before we sank them, and knew that the German seaplanes had
probably seen and reported an injured ship being taken in tow.  (This
afterwards turned out to be the case, though, according to their
communiqué, the seaplanes claimed to have bagged her with a bomb, which
was not so.)  Moreover, Heligoland was a bare sixty miles away under
our lee, so the chances were £100 to 1/2d. that the Huns would come out
during the night and try to scupper the lot of us.  It was with some
joy, then, that we found there was a pretty strong supporting force
within easy distance.  In fact, we actually sighted them at about 6 p.m.

The weather grew steadily worse, and by sunset there was a pretty big
sea and a fresh breeze, both of which were increasing every minute.
The poor old ship in tow was making very heavy weather of it, while
even we were pretty lively.  But things got worse, for by ten o'clock,
and a pitch dark night it was, it was blowing nearly a full gale.  The
sea, too, had got up to such an extent that there was nothing for it
but to abandon the damaged destroyer.  It was easier said than done,
for the sea was too big for lowering boats, and the only other
alternative was for some other craft to go alongside her and to take
the men on.  I did not see the business myself, but believe another
destroyer put her stem up against the side of the one sinking and kept
it there by going slow ahead, while the men hopped out one by one over
the bows.

It was a most excellent bit of work on the part of the salvor, for with
the two ships rolling, pitching, and grinding in the sea, and in utter
darkness, it required a very good head and cool judgment to know how
much speed was necessary to keep the bows just touching, and no more.
If they had come into violent contact the rescuing ship might have been
very badly damaged.  I believe they had to have several shots at it,
before they got every man away, but though two fell overboard in
jumping across, they pulled it off all right without losing a single
life.  The only damage to the rescuing ship was a little bit of a bulge
on the stem just below the forecastle, but this did not make a leak or
impair her efficiency in any way, and she went about for months
afterwards without having it straightened.  They had every right to be
proud of their honourable scar!

The poor old ship which had to be abandoned was then left to her fate,
and nobody saw the end of her.

It must have been at about this time, though we did not see it, that
some hostile destroyers came upon our light cruisers, or rather, our
cruisers happened upon them.  What took place I don't quite know, but
the Huns were apparently sighted quite close, and our leading ship,
jamming her helm over and increasing speed, rammed one full in the
middle and cut her in halves.  It must have been an awful moment for
the poor wretches, for the stern portion of the destroyer sank one
side, and the bow part went rushing on into the darkness at about
thirty knots.  The men on board her could be heard yelling, but it was
quite impossible to do anything to save them as other enemy destroyers
were in the neighbourhood and the sea was far too bad for lowering
boats.

Nothing else of interest took place during the night, except that the
weather got worse and worse.  The next morning, when we were steaming
against it, we were having a terrible doing, and it lasted for about
twenty-four hours, until we got under the lee of the coast.  The sea
was one of the worst we had ever experienced, short and very steep, and
we couldn't steam more than about eight knots against it.  The motion
was very bad, the ship crashing and bumping about in a most unholy
manner, and we were all wet through and rather miserable.  No hot food,
either, for the galley fire had been put out.

The prisoner who had been badly wounded died early next morning.  The
Doctor said he might have lived if the weather had been good, but the
motion finished him, poor fellow.  He was buried at sea, the German
officer reading the burial service.

We eventually got back into harbour and disembarked the prisoners, and
never was I more pleased to get a decent meal and a little sleep.  Aunt
Maria, having so many nephews, has just sent me another fountain pen,
the third since the war started.  Also a pair of crimson socks knitted
by her cook.  The pen will be useful.

Do you want any more cigarettes?  You never acknowledged the last lot I
sent, you ungrateful blighter, and at any rate I think it's high time
you wrote me a letter.  Your last one was a postcard.

Forgive this letter of mine if it is a bit disconnected, but it's the
best I can do at present.

Well, the best of luck and may you not stop a Hun bullet or a bit of
shrapnel.

Yours always,
  T.



THE FOG

The _Rapier_ was an old destroyer, one of the 370-ton "thirty-knotters"
completed in about 1901.  She burnt coal and was driven by
reciprocating engines, instead of using oil fuel and being propelled by
new-fangled turbines, while 23 to 24 knots were all she could be relied
upon to travel in the best of weather.  She had a low, sharp bow and
the old-fashioned turtle-back forward instead of the high, weatherly
forecastle of the later destroyers, and in anything more than a
moderate breeze or a little popple of a sea she was like a half-tide
rock in a gale o' wind.  In fact, except in the very calmest weather,
she was a regular hog, for she rolled, pitched, and wallowed to her
heart's content, varying the monotony at odd moments by burying herself
in green seas or deluging herself in masses of spray.

Her small bridge, with its 12-pounder gun, steering wheel, compass, and
engine-room telegraphs, was placed on the top of the turtle-back and
about 25 feet from the bows.  It acted as a most excellent breakwater
and took the brunt of the heavier seas, and how often the _Rapier_ came
back into harbour with her bridge rails flattened down and her deck
fittings washed overboard, I really do not know.  It was a fairly
frequent occurrence, for war is war, and they kept the little ship out
at sea in practically all weathers.

Even in harbour, when her officers and men were endeavouring to obtain
a little well-earned sleep, she sometimes had an exasperating habit of
rolling her rails under and slopping the water over her deck, and then
it was that Langdon, her lieutenant in command, wedged in the bunk in
his little cabin in the stern, and driven nearly frantic by the
irregular thump, thump, crash of the loosely hung rudder swinging from
side to side as the ship rolled, rose in his wrath and cursed the day
he was born.

But whatever he thought in his heart of hearts, he would not hear a bad
word against his old _Rapier_ in public.  She might be ancient; but
then she had done "a jolly sight more steaming" than any other craft of
her age and class.  She might burn coal in her furnaces instead of
oil-fuel, and every ounce of coal had to be shovelled on board from a
collier by manual labour, whereas, in an oil-driven destroyer, one
simply went alongside a jetty or an "oiler," connected up a hose, and
went to bed while a pump did all the work.  But Langdon never could
endure "the ghastly stink" of crude petroleum, while coal, though
dirty, was clean dirt.  The _Rapier_ might have old-fashioned engines,
but with them one ran no chance of developing that affliction of
turbine craft: water in the casing, the consequent stripping of blades
off the turbine rotors, and a month or so in a dockyard as a natural
concomitant.  Moreover, everybody knew that destroyers with
reciprocating engines were far and away the easiest to handle.

So, from what Langdon said, though it is true that he may have been
rather prejudiced by the fact that she was his first independent
command, the fifteen-year-old _Rapier_ was a jewel of fair price.  The
powers that be perhaps did not regard her with such rose-tinted
optimism, but for all that, were evidently of the opinion that she was
still capable of useful work, and kept her constantly at sea
accordingly.

Exactly what her function was I had better not say, but she always
seemed to be on the spot when things happened, and had assisted at the
"strafing" of Hun submarines, and had been under fire a great many more
times than some of her younger sisters, many of whom were craft at
least three times her size, eight knots more speed, and infinitely
better armed and more seaworthy.

So it was not to be imagined that the _Rapier_, ancient though she was,
suffered from senile decay.

      *      *      *      *      *

"Curse this weather," the Lieutenant muttered, wrinkling his eyes in a
vain endeavour to see through the murk.  "We've been forty-eight hours
on patrol, and now we're due to go into harbour this beastly fog comes
down and delays us.  It IS the limit!"

Pettigrew, the Sub-Lieutenant, agreed.  "We shall have to coal when we
arrive," he observed mournfully.  "That'll take us two hours, and by
the time we've finished, made fast to the buoy, had our baths, and made
ourselves fairly presentable, it'll be two o'clock.  I take it we go to
sea at the usual time this evening, sir?"

Langdon nodded.  "Bet your life!" he said with a sigh.  "We shall be
off again at eight p.m.  I was looking forward to having a decent lunch
ashore for once," he added regretfully, "but now this beastly fog's
gone and put the hat on it.  Lord!  I'm fed up to the neck with the
grub on board!"

"Tinned salmon fish-cakes for breakfast," murmured the Sub.  "Curried
salmon for lunch, and tinned rabbit pie for dinner.  My sainted aunt!
The Ritz and Carlton aren't in it!"

The skipper laughed.

The fog had come down at dawn, and now, halfway through the forenoon,
the weather was still as thick as ever; so thick, indeed, that it was
barely possible to see more than a hundred yards through the white,
cotton-wool-like pall.  It was one of those breathless, steamy days in
mid-July.  The sea was glassily calm, while the sun, a mere molten blot
in the haze overhead, whose heat was unmitigated by the least suspicion
of a breeze, was still sufficiently powerful to make it most
uncomfortably warm.  Altogether the torrid clamminess of the
atmosphere, and its distinct earthy flavour, reminded one irresistibly
of the interior of a greenhouse.

It was the sun who had been guilty of causing the fog at all.  His rays
had saturated the earth with warmth the day before, heat which had been
given off during the cooler hours of darkness in a mass of invisible
vapour.  Impelled slowly seaward during the night, the heat wave, if
one can so call it, had eventually come into contact with the colder
atmosphere over the water, where, following the invariable law of
nature, it had condensed into an infinite number of tiny particles of
moisture.  These, mingling and coalescing, had formed the dense masses
of vapour which hung so impalpably over the dangerous, thickly
populated sea-areas in the closer vicinity of the coast.  Further
afield, seven or eight miles away from the shore, there was nothing but
a haze.  More distant still the sun shone undimmed, and there were no
signs of fog at all.

      *      *      *      *      *

Thick weather at sea is always exasperating, and to avoid the chance of
colliding with something they could not possibly avoid at any greater
speed, Langdon had been forced to ease to the leisurely speed of eight
knots, and eight knots to a T.B.D., even a relic of the _Rapier's_ age,
is just about as irritating as being wedged in a narrow lane in a
40-horse power Daimler behind a horse pantechnicon.

They had a man on the forecastle keeping a lookout.  The automatic
sounding machine was being used at regular intervals to give them some
sort of an idea as to their position by a comparison of the depths
obtained with those shown on the chart, but even then the eccentricity
of the tidal currents and, let it be said, the erratic and most
unladylike behaviour of the _Rapier's_ standard compass, made
navigation a matter of some conjecture and a good deal of guesswork.

Somewhere ahead, veiled in its pall of fog, lay the coast.  Ahead, and
to the right, was a large area of shoal water, portions of which
uncovered at low tide.  It had already proved the graveyard of many
fine ships whose bones still showed when the water fell, and Langdon
had no wish to leave his ship there as an everlasting monument to his
memory, while he, probably court-martialled, and at any rate having
"incurred their Lordships' severe displeasure," left the destroyer
service under a cloud which would never disperse.

Added to which there was always the chance of a collision, for the sea
seemed full of ships.  Time and tide wait for no man, and, Hun
submarines or not, mines or no mines, fog or no fog, merchant vessels
must run.  To-day they seemed to be running in battalions and brigades,
judging from the howling, yelping, and snorting of their steam whistles
here, there, and everywhere.

But the _Rapier_ managed to avoid them somehow, and, shortly before
noon, having heard the explosive fog signal on the end of the
breakwater, she slid slowly past the lighthouse at the entrance and
groped her way into the harbour.  It was still as thick as it possibly
could be, but she found the collier, and, after completing with coal,
secured to her buoy.

Ten minutes later Langdon and the Sub were talking together in the
little wardroom when there came a knock at the door.

"Signal just come through, sir," the signalman announced with a smile
on his face.  "_Rapier_ will proceed to Portsmouth at daylight
to-morrow to refit.  She will not be required for patrol to-night."

The ship was long overdue for the dockyard, but the skipper and
Pettigrew looked at each other, hardly able to believe their ears.

"Lord!" muttered the former.  "That means a week's leave, Sub.  D'you
realise that?"

"Do I not, sir!" answered the Sub-Lieutenant, as the signalman retired
with a grin.



THE TRADERS

We were steaming to the westward, towards the spot where the sun,
glowing like a disc of molten copper, was slowly nearing the horizon.
It had been one of those hot, breathless sort of days with no breeze;
and now, near sunset, nothing but an occasional cat's-paw stole gently
across the sea to ruffle its glassy surface in irregular-shaped
patches.  Elsewhere, the water, shining like a mirror, reflected the
blazing glory of the sky.

Some distance off lay the coast, its familiar outline dim, purple, and
mysterious in the evening mist.  But it was neither the sunset,
glorious as it was, nor the scenery which held our imagination.  It was
the shipping.

All manner of craft there were.  First came the _Spurt_, of Tromsö, a
Norwegian tramp of dissolute and chastened appearance, whose
deliberate, plodding gait and general air of senility belied her name,
or at any rate the English meaning of it.  Her rusty black hull was
decorated with three large squares painted in her national colours,
red, with a vertical white-edged stripe of blue in the centre.  Next a
bulbous, prosperous-looking Dutchman, who seemed to waddle in her, or
his, stride.  She was slightly faster than the ancient _Spurt_, but was
no flyer, and boasted a canary-yellow hull bearing her name in
fifteen-foot letters, and enormous painted tricolours striped
horizontally in red, white, and blue.

Then two Swedes with unpronounceable names who, by their
embellishments, informed the world that they hailed respectively from
Göteborg and Helsingborg.  They also sported large rectangles, painted
in vertical stripes of yellow and blue, while close behind them, a
Dane, with an absurdly attenuated funnel and long ventilators sticking
at all angles out of her hull like pins from a pincushion, ambled
stolidly along like a weary cart-horse.  She, scorning other
decoration, merely showed the scarlet white-crossed emblem of her
country.  Some of the neutrals carried signs bearing their names which
could be illuminated at night, and all seemed equally determined not to
afford any prowling Hun submarine a legitimate excuse for torpedoing
them on sight.

      *      *      *      *      *

But the craft which outnumbered the others by more than four to one
were the British.  They bore no distinctive marks or colouring on their
sides, and their travel-stained and weather-beaten appearance, their
rusty hulls, discoloured funnels, and the generally dingy and
unpretentious look about them showed that they were kept far too busy
to trouble about external appearances.  The only token of their
nationality was the wisp of tattered red bunting fluttering at the
stern of each; the gallant old Red Ensign which, war or no war, still
dances triumphantly on practically every sea, except the Baltic.

Many of the passing vessels looked out of date and old-fashioned.  Some
veterans of the 'eighties or 'nineties, fit only to sail under a
foreign flag according to pre-war standards, may have been dug out of
their obscurity to play their part in the war.  And a very important
part it is.  Ships must run, and, at a time when the Admiralty have
levied a heavy toll for war purposes upon all classes of ships
belonging to the Mercantile Marine, every vessel which will float and
can steam can be utilised many times over for the equally important
work of carrying cargo.  It is not peaceful work, either, in these days
of promiscuous mine-laying and enemy submarines armed with guns and
torpedoes ready to sink without warning.

The important work of the yachts, pleasure steamers, trawlers, and
drifters used for mine-sweeping, patrol work, and other naval purposes
need not be entered into here; but the Mercantile Marine proper, what,
for want of a better term, we may call "the deep sea service," has
supplied the Royal Navy with many thousands of splendid officers and
men who are now serving their country in fighting ships as members of
the Royal Naval Reserve.  Moreover, numbers of its ships of all classes
are employed for war purposes as armed merchant cruisers, transports,
oil fuel vessels, colliers, ammunition ships, storeships, and the like.
But the function of those ships which are left for their legitimate
purpose of cargo carrying is of equal importance to the country, of
inestimable value, in fact, since we could not exist without them.
Their duty is fraught with constant peril.  Submarines may be lurking
and mines may have been laid upon the routes they have to traverse, but
never have there been the least signs of unreadiness or unwillingness
to proceed to sea when ordered to do so.

Most of the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine are not trained
to war like their comrades of the Royal Navy.  They are not paid, and
their ships are not built, to fight; but yet, time and time again,
their natural pluck and intrepidity has shown itself in the face of an
entirely new danger.

      *      *      *      *      *

Instances are so numerous that it is impossible to mention them all.
Remember the gallant fight of the Clan MacTavish, with her single gun,
against the heavily-armed German raider Moewe.  Take the case of the
"Blue Funneller" _Laertes_, Captain Probert, which was ordered to stop
by an enemy submarine, but, disregarding the summons, proceeded at full
speed, steering a zigzag course, and so escaped, Remember the little
_Thordis_, Captain Bell, which, after having a torpedo fired at her,
actually rammed and sank the submarine which fired it.

Again, there was the transport _Mercian_, Captain Walker, which was
attacked by gunfire from a hostile submarine in the Mediterranean.
Some of the troops on board were killed, others were wounded, and
nobody could have blamed the captain if he had surrendered.  But what
did he do?  He endured a bombardment lasting for an hour and a half,
and, thanks to the bravery and skill of all on board, the ship escaped.

There was also Captain Palmer, of the _Blue Jacket_, who, though his
ship had actually been torpedoed, stood by her in his boats, reboarded
her, and, in spite of her damage, steamed her to a place of safety.
Recollect Captain Clopert, whose vessel, the _Southport_, was captured
by a German man-of-war, was taken to the island of Kusaie, and was
there disabled by the removal of certain important parts of her
machinery.  She was evidently to be utilised as a collier, but no
sooner had the enemy left than the master, officers, and men set to
work to effect repairs.  How they did it with the meagre appliances at
their disposal only they themselves can say, but the fact remains that
the ship escaped.

These cases are only typical.  Whole volumes might be written round the
warlike deeds of our "peaceful" merchantmen, and from the many
instances of gallantry we read of and the still greater number which do
not achieve publicity it is evident that on every occasion of
encountering the enemy the master of the ship, backed up most nobly by
his officers and crew, has not only done everything possible to save
his ship from capture in the first instance, but has never hesitated to
defend his vessel in accordance with the generally accepted tenets of
International Law, which state that a merchant ship can defend herself
when attacked.

Courage in the face of the enemy when one can return shot for shot is
one thing, but heroism of the same kind in an unarmed ship is on rather
a different plane.

The work of the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine is largely
interdependent.  The two great sea services of the country must ever
work hand in hand and side by side, and let us never forget what we owe
to the latter.



POTVIN OF THE _PUFFIN_

"Well, I'm damned!" ejaculated the first lieutenant, looking up from
his breakfast as a barefooted signalman held a slate under his nose.
"Just as I'm in the middle of painting ship!"

The navigator, doctor, and assistant paymaster looked up from their
plates.  "What's up, Number One?" queried the former.

"Only that the new skipper's arrived in the English mail," said the
first lieutenant glumly.

"He's coming on board at nine o'clock in the _Spartan's_ steamboat!"

"Good Lord!" protested Cutting, the doctor.  "So soon?  It was only a
week ago we saw his appointment!"

"Can't help that," No. One growled.  "He's arrived, and he'll be on
board in exactly three quarters of an hour's time.  Lord help us!
You'd better put on a clean tunic and your best society manners, Doc.
You'll want 'em both."

"Why the deuce can't he leave us in peace a bit longer?" complained
Falland, the lieutenant (N).

"And why the devil does he want to come just at the end of the quarter
when I'm busy with my accounts?" grumbled Augustus Shilling, the
assistant paymaster, blinking behind his spectacles.  "I know jolly
well what it'll be.  For the next week I shan't be able to call my soul
my own, and he'll be sending for me morning, noon, and night to explain
things.  The writer's gone sick, too.  Oh, it IS the limit!"

"It is, indeed," echoed the doctor despondently.  "Farewell to a quiet
life.  By George!  I haven't written up the wine books for the last
fortnight.  Have I got time to do 'em before he comes?"

The first lieutenant shrugged his shoulders.  "You'd better make an
effort, old man," he said.  "He's a rabid teetotaler, and he's sure to
ask to see 'em first thing."

"Heaven help us!" cried the medical officer, rising hastily from his
chair and disappearing into his cabin.

"What sort of a chap did you say he was, Number One?" Falland queried,
with traces of anxiety in his voice.

"I only know him by reputation," the first lieutenant answered
lugubriously.  "But he's got the name of being rather ... er, peculiar.
At any rate, he hates navigators, so you'd better mind your P's and
Q's, my giddy young friend."

"And I haven't corrected my charts for three weeks or written up the
compass journal for a month!" Falland wailed.  "Oh, Lor!"

From all of which it will be understood that the wardroom officers of
H.M. Gunboat _Puffin_ were not overjoyed at the advent of their new
Captain.[1]

The date was some time during the last five years of the reign of Queen
Victoria; the month, September, and though at this season of the year
the climate of Hong-Kong is far too moist and too steamy to be
pleasant, the _Puffin's_ officers, adapting themselves to
circumstances, had had plenty of shore leave and had managed to enjoy
themselves.  So had the men.

Their ship, an ancient, barque-rigged vessel of 1,000 odd tons;
auxiliary engines capable of pushing her along at 9.35 knots with the
safety valves lifting; and armed with I forget how many bottle-nosed,
5-inch, B.-L. guns and a Nordenfeldt or two, was swinging peacefully
round her buoy in the harbour.  She had swung there for precisely two
months without raising steam, ever since her late commander had been
promoted and had gone home to England, leaving the ship in temporary
charge of Pardoe, the first lieutenant.

Captain Prato had been an easy-going man of serene disposition who
allowed little or nothing to worry him, not even the Commander-in-Chief
himself.  As a consequence the wardroom officers swore by him, and so
did Mr. Tompion, the gunner, and Mr. Slice, the artificer engineer.
The ship's company were of the same opinion, so the little _Puffin_ was
what is generally known as a "happy ship."

But Commander Peter Potvin, R.N., Captain Prato's successor, was the
direct antithesis of the former commanding officer, for he had the
reputation in the Service of being a veritable little firebrand, and an
eccentric little firebrand at that.  He was small and thin, and
possessed a pair of fierce blue eyes and a short, aggressive red beard,
and was even reputed to insist on naval discipline being carried on in
his own house ashore.  At any rate, it is quite certain that his wife
frequently appeared at church with red eyes after her lord and master
had held his usual Sunday forenoon inspection of the house, and had
discovered a cockroach in the kitchen or a dish-clout in the scullery,
while it was true that he permitted his three children to wear good
conduct badges, each carrying with them the sum of 1d. per week, after
three months' exemplary behaviour.  But only one of them, Tony, aged 18
months, had ever worn a badge for more than a fortnight.

It was also said, with what truth I do not know, that his servants
frequently had their leave stopped for not being "dressed in the rig of
the day," and for omitting to wear hideous caps and aprons of an
uniform pattern designed by Commander Potvin himself without the
assistance of his wife.  It was bruited about that the cook, housemaid,
and parlourmaid,--the nurse alone being excused,--were turned out of
their beds at the unearthly hour of 5.30 a.m. and that, as a punishment
for "being found asleep in their hammocks after the hands had been
called," they were rousted out at 4 a.m. to chop firewood.

The Potvin ménage was not a happy one, and as a consequence his
retainers usually gave notice en masse directly they heard the gallant
commander was about to come home on leave.  Even the gardener and boot
boy followed the general example, so it was lucky for Mrs. Potvin that
she had an uncle at the Admiralty who generally managed to send, "dear
Peter" to a foreign station.  He was rarely at home, or his wife would
have been wrought to the verge of lunacy.

No wonder the _Puffin's_ were not pleased at their future prospects,
for the milk of human kindness evidently did not enter into the
composition of their new commanding officer.

For twenty-four hours after his arrival on board Commander Potvin was
too busy paying official calls and unpacking his belongings to make his
presence really felt.  The fun began the next morning, when, after
divisions, he sent for Pardoe to come and see him in his cabin.

"You may have heard, First Lieutenant," he began, very pompously, "that
I am a very observant man, and that I notice everything that goes on
board my ship?"

"Indeed, sir," said Pardoe politely, wondering what on earth was coming
next.

"Yes," said the commander.  "I am unnaturally observant, and though
some people may think I am a faddist, there is very little that escapes
my notice.  To start with, I always insist that my officers shall wear
strict uniform, and at the present moment I am grieved to see that you
are wearing white socks."

"I'm sorry, sir.  I didn't know you would mind.  The officers in the
flagship wear them with white clothing."

"I was not aware that I had asked you a question, Lieutenant Pardoe,"
interrupted the skipper, his beard bristling.  "Moreover, what they do
or do not do in the flagship is no affair of mine.  The uniform
regulations lay down that socks are to be black or dark blue, and I
expect my officers to wear them.  I also observed just now that the
Surgeon was wearing a watch strap across the front of his tunic, which
is in strict defiance of the regulation which says that watch chains
and trinkets are not to be worn outside the coat.  I do not wish to
have to take steps in the matter, but kindly bear it in mind yourself,
and inform your messmates, that I insist on strict uniform."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"There are several more matters I wish to discuss," the captain
resumed, twiddling his moustaches.  "You will doubtless have heard that
I like to keep my ship's companies happy and contented, eh?"  He looked
up enquiringly.

"Er--yes, sir.  Of course, sir," said the first lieutenant lamely,
having heard precisely the opposite.

"Very good.  To keep the men happy and contented one has to keep them
employed, so in future there will be no leave to either officers or men
until four o'clock in the afternoon.  We shall doubtless be able to
find plenty for them to do on board."

Number One opened his mouth to expostulate, but thought better of it.
"I like the men to feel that their ship is their home," continued the
skipper, "and to encourage them to stay on board in the afternoons and
evenings instead of spending their money and their substance in these
terrible grog shops ashore, these low and vicious haunts of iniquity,"
he rolled his tongue round the words, "I propose that the officers
shall prepare and deliver a series of lectures on interesting topics.
I have," he added, "brought a magic lantern and a good stock of slides
out from England, and some evening next week I propose to deliver the
first lecture myself.  The subject is a most instructive one, 'The
effects of alcohol on the human body and mind,' and to illustrate it I
have prepared a number of most excellent charts showing the increase in
the consumption of spirits and malt liquor between 1873 and the present
time.  The charts, compiled from the most reliable data, are drawn up
for most of the best known professions, sailors, soldiers, labourers,
policemen, clergymen, and so on, and I can safely promise you a most
interesting evening."

Pardoe, quite convinced that he had to deal with a lunatic, gasped and
began to wonder how on earth he could leave the ship unostentatiously
without damaging his subsequent career.  "I'm afraid I'm not much of a
hand at lecturing, sir," he said with a forced smile.  "In fact there's
hardly a subject I know enough about to----."

"Pooh, pooh," laughed the commander.  "With due diligence in your spare
time you will be able to learn up quite a lot of subjects, and as for
the actual lecturing," he shrugged his shoulders, "practice makes
perfect, and I have no doubt that before very long we shall find you
quite an orator."  He smiled benignly.

"We will have the lectures once a week, at 8 p.m., say on Thursdays,"
he went on, "and on Sundays I will conduct an evening service at 6.0.,
at which, of course, all officers will attend.  You will read the
lessons and collect the offertory, Mr. Pardoe.  That will leave us five
clear evenings a week for other harmless occupations, and I propose
that on one of them we have readings for the men from the works of
well-known authors.  Something light and amusing from Dickens or Dumas
to start with, and then, as we get on, we might try the more learned
writers like Darwin, or--er--Confucius."

The wretched first lieutenant grew red about the face and started to
breathe heavily.

"Then on another evening we might encourage the men to play progressive
games like draughts, halma, picture lotto, spillikins, ping-pong, and
beggar-my-neighbour.  My sole object in doing all this, you will
understand, is to keep the men amused and instructed, to divert their
minds and, therefore, to keep them happy and contented.  After a few
weeks or so they will all be so anxious to come to our entertainments,
that they will have lost all desire to go ashore at all.  It is a good
idea, is it not?"

The first lieutenant nodded grimly.  The idea may have been excellent,
but he could hardly imagine Petty Officer Timothy Carey, the horny
captain of the forecastle, listening to Confucius; nor Baxter, the
Sergeant of Marines, sitting down to a quiet game of spillikins with
Scully, the cook's mate.  In fact, he foresaw that when he informed the
men of the arrangements about to be made for their welfare, he would
have all his work cut out to repress the inevitable rebellion.  Darwin,
Confucius, picture lotto, and beggar-my-neighbour for the hardened
ship's company of the _Puffin_!  The _Police Gazette_, _Reynolds'
Weekly_, pots of beer, and the games known as "Shove ha'penny" and
"Crown and Anchor" were far more to their liking.

"Well," said Commander Potvin, "that is all I have to say at present;
but I am gratified, very gratified indeed, that you agree with my
ideas.  I will draw up and issue detailed rules for our evening
entertainments, but, meanwhile, I should be obliged if you would cause
these to be distributed amongst the men.  They will pave the way," he
added, smiling as pleasantly as he was able, and handing Pardoe a neat
brown paper parcel.  "They will pave the way with good intentions, and
I have no doubt that within a few weeks we shall have the happiest
ship's company in the whole of the British Navy."

The first lieutenant, too astonished to reply, clutched the parcel and
retired to the wardroom, where, flinging his cap on to the settee, he
relapsed into the one armchair.  "Lord!" he muttered, holding his head,
"I believe the man's as mad as a hatter!"

He opened the package to find therein a quantity of bound sheets.  He
selected one of the pamphlets at random and examined it with a sigh.
"Drink and Depravity," he read.  "Pots of beer cost many a tear.  Be
warned in time or you'll repine."

"Great Caesar's ghost!" he ejaculated.  "The man IS mad!  To think that
it should come to this.  Poor, poor old _Puffin_!"

A few minutes later Falland, on his way aft to visit the captain,
glanced into the wardroom.  Pardoe still sat in the armchair muttering
softly to himself with his head bowed down between his hands.  The
floor, the table, and the chair were littered with tracts of all the
colours of the rainbow.  "Saints preserve us!" the navigator murmured.
The next really interesting incidents occurred on Sunday morning, when
the commanding officer made his usual rounds of the ship and inspected
the men.  So far nothing had officially been said about the new
_régime_; but, in some mysterious way, the ship's company had an
inkling of the happy days in store for them, while, through a lavish
distribution of tracts, literature which, I am sorry to relate, they
solemnly burnt in the galley fire, they were fully aware of their new
captain's notions on the engrossing subject of drink.  Accordingly, to
please him, and to show that they were not the hardened sinners,
seasoned reprobates, and generally idle and dissolute characters he
perhaps might take them for, they fell in at divisions on that Sabbath
morn wearing their most cherubic and innocent expressions, and their
newest and most immaculate raiment.

The _Puffin_ had always been a clean ship, but on this particular
occasion she surpassed herself, for all hands and the cook had done
their very utmost to uphold her reputation.  Her burnished guns and
freshly scoured brass-work shone dazzingly in the sun; her topmasts and
blocks had been newly scraped and varnished, while the running rigging,
boat's falls, and other ropes about the deck were neatly coiled down
and flemished.  The decks themselves were as white as holystones, sand,
and much elbow grease could make them, and, with her white hull with
its encircling green riband and cherry-red waterline, her yellow lower
masts and funnel, and a brand-new pendant flying from the main-truck
and large White Ensign flapping lazily from its staff on the poop, the
_Puffin_ looked more like a yacht than a man-o'-war.  But Commander
Potvin also had a reputation to keep up, and he would not be Commander
Potvin if he could not find fault somewhere.

"Seaman's division--'shun!" shouted Falland, the officer in charge, as
the commander and first lieutenant made their appearance from under the
poop.  "Off--caps!"

The men clicked their heels punctiliously and removed their headgear,
and the captain, passing down the front rank with his sword trailing on
the deck behind him, began his inspection.

"What is your name, my man?" he inquired condescendingly, halting
opposite to a burly bearded able seaman.

"Joseph Smith, sir."

"I seem to remember your face," said the commander.

"Yes, sir.  I served along 'o you in th' _Bulldorg_ five year ago."

"Indeed.  That is most interesting.  Well, Smith," eyeing him up and
down, "I am always most pleased to see my old shipmates again."

"Yes, sir," answered the burly one, trying hard to look pleased
himself, and turning rather red in the effort.  As a matter of fact he
was wondering if his commanding officer was blessed, or cursed, with a
good memory, and if, by any chance, he remembered the occasion when
he--Joseph Smith--had last stood before him on the quarterdeck of
H.M.S. _Bulldog_.  He had stood there as a defaulter, to be punished
with ten days' cells and the loss of a hardly-earned good conduct
badge, for returning from leave in a state of partial insobriety, and
for having indulged in a heated and more than acrimonious discussion
with the local constabulary.  It had happened several years before, and
since then he had turned over a new leaf, but he grew quite nervous at
the recollection.

But the skipper, apparently, had quite forgotten it, for he went on
speaking.  "I am sorry to see, Smith, that, although you have served
with me before, you have forgotten what I must have taken the greatest
pains to teach you.  Your hair is too long, and your beard is not
trimmed in the proper service manner.  Your trousers are at least two
inches too tight round the knee, and six inches too slack round the
ankle, while the rows of tape on your collar are too close together.
It will not do," he added, glaring unpleasantly.  "The uniform
regulations are made to be strictly adhered to.  Mr. Falland!"

"Sir."

"Have this man's bag inspected in the dinner hour every day for a
fortnight.  See that his hair is properly cut by next Sunday, and see
that he either shaves himself clean, or that he does not use a razor at
all, according to the regulations.  I am surprised that you should have
allowed him to come to divisions in this condition."

"Very good, sir."

The Commander passed on, leaving the delinquent with his mouth wide
open in astonishment and righteous indignation.  Smith was firmly of
the opinion that his beard was everything that a beard should be,
while, quite rightly, he had always prided himself on being one of the
best dressed men in the ship.  Any little irregularities in his attire,
irregularities not countenanced by the regulations, were merely
introduced for the purpose of making himself smarter than ever.  It was
a sad blow to his pride.

But many others suffered in the same way, for hardly a man in the
division was dressed according to the strict letter of the law.  Some
had the tapes on their jumpers too high or too low; others had the
V-shaped openings in front a trifle too deep; many, in their endeavours
to make their loose trousers still more rakish, wore them in too
flowing a manner over their feet, and still more, in their anxiety not
to spoil the set of their jumpers, carried no 'pusser's daggers,' or
knives, attached to their lanyards.  Altogether the first Sunday was a
regular débâcle for the _Puffin's_ but an undoubted triumph for
Commander Potvin.

"Mr. Falland," he said, having walked round the ranks.  "I am sorry to
find all this laxity in the important matter of dress, and I rely upon
you to take immediate steps to have it rectified."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"And," the skipper continued, "I notice that you fall your men in
according to size.  I know that some commanding officers like to
inspect the men in this way, but personally I prefer to have them
grouped according to appearance.  For instance, tall men together,
short men together, and the same thing with the fat and the thin, the
bearded and the clean-shaven."

"Very good, sir.  But--" the navigator hesitated.

"But what, Mr. Falland?"

"Suppose a man is tall, thin, and bearded, sir?" asked Falland, in
utter perplexity.

"Seize upon his predominant feature, Mr. Falland, and use your own
discretion in the matter," said the Captain, half suspecting that his
subordinate was trying to make fun of him, but knowing full well that,
whatever the navigator did, he could always find fault with it.

He marched forward to continue his rounds, leaving the astonished
divisional officer wondering if he was also to form special detachments
of red-faced sailors, white-faced sailors, snub-nosed sailors, and
bandy-legged sailors.

The inspection of the upper-deck and mess-deck passed without much
comment, the Captain even saying that he was glad to see that the ship
was 'quite clean,' a term which made the zealous Pardoe writhe with
annoyance; but the next thing which caught his attention was a small
hencoop containing eight or nine miserable, bedraggled-looking fowls.

"Bless my soul, First Lieutenant!" said he.  "Look at these fowls!"
They were sorry looking birds, it is true, but Chinese chickens are not
renowned for their beauty and sprightliness of appearance at the best
of times.

"They seem quite healthy, sir," the First Lieutenant answered, putting
his head on one side in a most judicial manner.

"Yes, yes," murmured the Commander.  "But they are all the colours of
the rainbow.  White, yellow, brown, grey, and black."

"So they are, sir," said Pardoe, as if he had observed the astounding
fact for the first time.

"Who do they belong to?"

"They're yours, sir.  Your steward looks after them."

"Does he, indeed?" said the skipper, rather nonplussed.  "Well, send
for my steward."

The portly and dignified Ah Fong presently appeared.

"Is it not possible for you to buy fowls of all the same colour?" the
"Owner" wanted to know.

Ah Fong stared in hopeless bewilderment, trying to grasp his master's
meaning.  "My no savvy, sah," he said, shaking his head.

"Can you not buy your chickens, or my chickens, rather, all one colour?
White, for preference, as the weather is hot."

"I savvy, sah," exclaimed the Chinaman, with a beatific smile slowly
spreading over his countenance.  "You no likee black piecee hen, sah?"

"No, no, that's not what I mean at all," said Potvin, going off into a
long explanation.

At last Ah Fong began to understand what was wanted.  "No can do, sah!"
he expostulated.  "S'pose I go 'shore catch piecee hen.  I say to one
man, I wanchee plentee fat piecee hen, no wanchee olo piecee, wanchee
young plenty big piecee hen for capten...."

"I really cannot waste my time listening to this senseless
conversation!" interrupted the Captain, with some petulance.  "Mr.
Pardoe, you will kindly explain to him that in future all the fowls on
board are to be white in the summer, and blue... 'er, I mean black, in
the winter.  I will have them in the proper dress of the day like the
ship's company, do you understand?"

"I do, sir," said the wretched Pardoe with an inaudible sigh, as the
little procession moved on.

He did explain to the steward what was required, and Ah Fong was
confronted with a dilemma.  However, he had his wits about him, and the
next Sunday morning, to Number One's intense astonishment, every
wretched fowl in the coop, black, grey, or brown, had been freshly
whitewashed.  Their feathers were all plastered together, and they
looked supremely unhappy and more bedraggled than ever, but the
captain's aesthetic eye was apparently satisfied, for he passed them by
with a glance and made no adverse remarks.

After the ordeal of divisions the mess-stools, chairs for the officers,
and reading desk were brought up and placed on desk under the awnings,
and at 10.30, when church had been "rigged," the tolling of the bell
summoned the officers and ship's company to divine service.  Pardoe,
after satisfying himself that everything was ready, went aft to report
to the Captain, and, somewhat to the surprise of everyone, Commander
Potvin presently appeared without his tunic, advanced to the reading
desk, and started the service.

At first people thought that he had discarded his jacket merely for the
sake of coolness, and, as the day was unusually hot, some of the other
officers were half inclined to follow his sensible example.  But when
at last church was over and Pardoe had occasion to see the Captain
again, he discovered the real reason for the "Owner's" removal of his
outer garment.

"You may have noticed, Lieutenant Pardoe, that I took the precaution to
remove my tunic before reading the Church service," said the skipper.

"I did, sir," answered the First Lieutenant.  "In fact, it was so hot,
that I nearly followed your example."

Potvin glared.  "I hardly understand what you mean, Mr. Pardoe?" he
said with asperity.  "The fact of its being hot or cold does not effect
my religious ideas."

"I beg your pardon, sir.  I thought that..."

"Kindly do not impute these motives to me," the Commander went on to
say.  "I consider that we should all attend divine service in a state
of the utmost humility, and I removed my tunic so that I should appear
before the Almighty in the same simple garb as the men, not as their
commanding officer!"  He puffed out his chest with importance.

Pardoe merely gasped, for the idea that the Almighty might be unduly
influenced by the sight of the three gold stripes and curl on his
captain's shoulder-straps was quite beyond his comprehension.
Nevertheless, Commander Potvin was quite serious, and on leaving his
presence Pardoe repaired to his cabin, and wrote a fervent appeal to a
former captain of his, asking that officer to use his influence to have
him removed from his present appointment.  He loved his little
_Puffin_, it is true.  He would be very sorry to leave her; but
anything was better than serving in a ship commanded by a lunatic.

For a week the gunboat's officers and men endured the new routine with
what fortitude they could muster.  On Monday they had their progressive
games, when the watch on board,--the watch whose turn it was to go on
leave had gone ashore to a man,--were compelled, much to their disgust,
to squat round on the upper deck with draughts, halma, and
picture-lotto boards spread out before them.  The proceedings were not
exactly jovial, for the men looked, and were, frankly bored, while a
party of four able seamen, finding the innocent attractions of Happy
Families hardly exciting enough, were subsequently brought up before
the First Lieutenant on a charge of gambling.

Half an hour after the games started, moreover, two other men, one a
marine and the other the ship's steward's assistant, fell in to see him.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Well, sir," the marine explained.  "It's like this 'ere.  I was told
off to play draughts along o' this man, an' all goes well until I makes
two o' my men kings an' starts takin' all 'is.  Then 'e says as 'ow
I've been cheatin', so I says to 'im, polite like, as 'ow I 'adn't done
no such thing, an' wi' that 'e ups an' 'its me in the eye, sir, which
isn't fair."

"He hit you in the eye?" asked Number One.

"Yes, sir," said the sea-soldier, exhibiting a rapidly swelling cheek.

"What have you to say?" the First Lieutenant asked the alleged
assailant.

"What he says isn't true, sir.  I did say he had been cheatin', becos
he had, becos he was movin' all his other pieces over the board how he
liked.  I says he mustn't do that, becos it isn't the game, but he says
that as he's been told off to play, he'll play how he bloomin' well
likes.  I says it's cheatin', and he hits me on the nose, so I hits him
back, and we has a bit of a dust up."  He exhibited a gory handkerchief
as proof of his injuries.

"Do either of you men bear any grudge against the other?" asked Pardoe,
knowing that they had often been ashore together.

"No, sir," came the immediate reply.

"Well, go away, and don't make such fools of yourselves again.  We
can't have all this bickering and fighting over a simple game of
draughts."

The two combatants retired grinning, and Pardoe, sighing deeply, walked
up and down the deck wrapped in thought.  One fact was quite patent,
and that was that if the innocent amusements for the ship's company
were suffered to continue, he would require the wisdom and patience of
a Solomon to arbitrate between the disputants.

On Tuesday they had a reading from Shakespeare, conducted by the
Captain, and, to judge from the _sotto-voce_ remarks of the audience,
they were neither amused nor instructed.

"'E must be wet if 'e thinks we liken listenin' to this 'ere stuff!"
muttered Able Seaman McSweeny dismally.  "'E talks abart 'is ruddy
merchant o' Venice, but I doesn't want to 'ear nothin' abart a....
Eyetalian shopkeeper.  I expec's 'e was one o' these 'ere blokes wot
wheeled an ice-cream barrer.  S'welp me I do!"

A loud titter greeted his utterance, and Commander Potvin stopped
reading for a moment, and glanced round with a fierce expression,
without being able to see whence the sounds of merriment emanated.

No, judging from the trite remarks from the men, the reading from the
works of England's most famous poet and playwright was not an
unqualified success.

On Thursday came the Captain's lecture on the effects of alcohol, at
which, to Pardoe's great astonishment, there was an unusually full
attendance.  Even men belonging to the watch ashore were present, some
of them bringing friends from other ships with them.

The audience, suspicious at first, eventually became strangely
enthusiastic, loud cheering, much stamping on the deck, and even
shrieks and cat-calls completely drowning the lecturer's voice for
moments at a time.  The applause became more vociferous still when the
man attending the magic lantern inadvertently placed his hand on its
almost red-hot top, and interrupted the proceedings with a loud and
very startled: "Ow!  The bloomin' thing's burnt me!"

Anyone but the Commander might have detected something sarcastic and
ironical in the excessive applause, but he, the possessor of a skin
like unto that of an armadillo, was very pleased with the reception of
his discourse.

"I told you I had an interesting subject," he said afterwards to the
First Lieutenant.  "The hearty applause was very gratifying, and it is
wonderful how a little straight talk goes down with the men."

"I only hope my lecture will be an equal success, sir," answered
Pardoe, rather at a loss what to say.

His subject was "Cities of Ancient Greece."

But at last came the time when the _Puffin_ was ordered to sea, and at
8.30 on that fateful morning the gunboat, with her gallant commander
standing on the poop in the attitude of Sir Francis Drake starting on
his circumnavigation of the world, paddled gently down the crowded
harbour and out through the Lye-mun pass.  It was in this narrow
passage that they had their altercation with a lumbering Chinese junk
tacking slowly to and fro against the tide.

"Hard a-port!" ordered Falland, who was conning the ship.

"Hard a-starboard!" contradicted the Commander excitedly.  "What are
you thinking about, Mr. Falland?"

The Navigator's order would have taken the ship well clear, but the
helmsman, perplexed by having two diametrically opposite commands
hurled at his head simultaneously, and not knowing which to obey, did
nothing.

There came a howl from the gunboat's forecastle and a frantic,
blasphemous yelling from a party of Chinamen clustered on the junk's
high poop.

"Full speed astern!" roared Potvin.

But it was too late, for a moment afterwards the _Puffin's_ flying
jib-boom slid neatly through the very centre of the matting sail on the
junk's mizzen mast.  More shrill cursing and strident execration from
the junk, followed by a series of bumps and crashes as the two vessels
collided, bow to stern.  A large pig, suspended, according to the
pleasant habit of the Chinese, in a wicker-work basket over the junk's
quarter, also two similar baskets filled with fowls, became detached
from their moorings and fell overboard.  Then the junk's mizzen-mast
began to bend ominously, and before long, amidst more shrieks and
yells, it snapped off short and collapsed on the poop, knocking one
elderly Chinaman and two children into the water as it fell.  It was
followed almost immediately afterwards by the _Puffin's_ flying
jib-boom.

The gunboat's engines were stopped and the two vessels drifted together
side by side, while a party with axes set to work to clear away the
wreckage.

"Why on earth don't you look where you're going?" the Commander bawled
at the junkmaster.

"Yah me ping wi taow!" howled the Chinaman, which, being interpreted,
means, "You tailless son of a devil," the greatest possible insult.

It was followed by more mutual abuse and recrimination, but the
gentleman in the junk, since Commander Potvin could not understand a
word he said, was popularly supposed to have got the best of the wordy
encounter.

But the skipper was quite determined to have somebody's blood, and
seeing he could make no impression on the junk, vented his spleen on
the Navigator.

"Mr. Falland!" he exclaimed, his eyes flashing and his heart full of
rage.  "The collision was entirely your fault.  I shall report the
matter to the Admiral, and meanwhile you will remain in your cabin
under arrest!"

"But, sir.  I really----"

"I require no explanations, sir.  You are guilty of gross neglect and
carelessness!"

Falland left the poop.

The damage was not sufficiently serious to delay the ship, and, having
chopped herself free, she proceeded on her journey, her Commander
taking upon himself the duties of the deposed Navigator.

It was unfortunate that, in calculating the course to be steered, he
applied 3° deviation the wrong way.  It was equally unfortunate that he
miscalculated the set of the current, since it was these two things
which, at 11.53 a.m. precisely, caused the gunboat to come into violent
contact with a ledge of rocks with barely six feet of water over them
at high water.

"Good heavens!  What's that?" shouted the skipper, as there came a
series of muffled, grinding crashes under water and the ship stopped
dead.

"We've hit something, sir," said Pardoe, who was on the poop.  They
had, and for some hours remained stuck fast.  In fact, the _Puffin's_
bones would have been there to this day if she had not been steaming at
her leisurely, economical speed of 7 1/2 knots, and it was only by
sheer good luck, and with the assistance of salvage tugs and appliances
from Hong-Kong, that she was ever got off at all.  As it was she was
merely badly damaged, and came back into harbour in tow of one tug,
while a couple of others, with their pumps working at full speed and
gushing forth streams of water, were lashed alongside her.

Falland was not court-martialled, but a week later Commander Potvin,
after an interview with the Admiral and certain medical officers, found
that the climate of Hong-Kong was too rigorous for his constitution,
and embarked on board a P. and O. steamer for passage home to England
_en route_ for Yarmouth.

The gunboat's officers watched her until she was out of sight, and then
repaired to the wardroom and indulged in cocktails.

"I'm sorry for him," said No. One, lifting his glass with a grin.

"Here's luck to him, and to us."

"Salve," nodded the doctor, swallowing his potion at a gulp.

The Royal Naval Hospital for mental cases is situated at Yarmouth.



[1] The commanding officer of a man-of-war, whatever his rank, is
always "the captain."  More familiarly he may be referred to "the
owner," "skipper," or "old man."





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