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Title: Rounding up the Raider - A Naval Story of the Great War
Author: Westerman, Percy F. (Percy Francis), 1876-1959
Language: English
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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.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Frontispiece: DENBIGH AND HIS COMPANIONS ARE RESCUED BY A MONITOR
_Page_ 207.  _Frontispiece_]



ROUNDING UP

THE RAIDER


A Naval Story of the Great War



BY

PERCY F. WESTERMAN

Author of "The Fight for Constantinople"
  "Sea Scouts All"
      &c. &c.



_Illustrated by E. S. Hodgson_



BLACKIE & SON LIMITED

LONDON AND GLASGOW

1916



  By Percy F. Westerman

  Haunted Harbour.
  His Unfinished Voyage.
  Midshipman Webb's Treasure
  Winged Might.
  Captain Flick.
  Tireless Wings.
  His First Ship.
  The Red Pirate.
  The Call of the Sea.
  Standish of the Air Police.
  Sleuths of the Air.
  Andy-All-Alone.
  The Westow Talisman.
  The White Arab.
  The Buccaneers of Boya.
  Rounding up the Raider.
  Captain Fosdyke's Gold.
  In Defiance of the Ban.
  The Senior Cadet.
  The Amir's Ruby.
  The Secret of the Plateau.
  Leslie Dexter, Cadet.
  All Hands to the Boats.
  A Mystery of the Broads.
  Rivals of the Reef.
  Captain Starlight.
  On the Wings of the Wind.
  Captain Blundell's Treasure.
  The Third Officer.
  Unconquered Wings.
  Pat Stobart in the "Golden Dawn".
  Ringed by Fire.
  Midshipman Raxworthy.
  Chums of the "Golden Vanity".
  Clipped Wings.
  Rocks Ahead.
  King for a Month.
  The Disappearing Dhow.
  The Luck of the "Golden Dawn".
  The Salving of the "Fusi Yama".
  Winning his Wings.
  The Good Ship "Golden Effort".
  East in the "Golden Gain".
  The Quest of the "Golden Hope".
  The Wireless Officer.
  The Submarine Hunters.
  The Thick of the Fray at Zeebrugge.
  With Beatty off Jutland.
  The Dispatch Riders.
  A Cadet of the Mercantile Marine.
  With the Last of the Buccaneers.
  A Lively Bit of the Front.

  The Westerman Omnibus Book



_Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow_



Contents


CHAP.

     I.  THE CAPTURED LINER
    II.  THE LAST OF THE _NICHI MARU_
   III.  ON BOARD THE RAIDER
    IV.  THREATENED
     V.  THE PURSUIT OF THE _PELIKAN_
    VI.  THE DECOY
   VII.  FOILED BY A COLLIER
  VIII.  REINFORCEMENTS
    IX.  THE MIDNIGHT LANDING
     X.  THE LAGOON
    XI.  DENBIGH'S PLAN
   XII.  A PERILOUS JOURNEY
  XIII.  NOCTURNAL INVESTIGATIONS
   XIV.  A NEGLECTED WARNING
    XV.  ARMSTRONG'S PART
   XVI.  THE DISASTER TO THE _MYRA_
  XVII.  A BID FOR FREEDOM
 XVIII.  DISAPPOINTMENT
   XIX.  "OUR LUCK'S OUT"
    XX.  ADRIFT IN THE INDIAN OCEAN
   XXI.  VON ECKENSTEIN'S SURPRISE
  XXII.  THE MONITORS IN ACTION
 XXIII.  HOW THE _PELIKAN_ SURRENDERED
  XXIV.  THE LANDING PARTY
   XXV.  ACCOUNTED FOR



Illustrations


DENBIGH AND HIS COMPANIONS ARE PICKED UP BY A
  MONITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"BY JOVE!" EJACULATED O'HARA. "SHE MUST BE ONE OF OUR MONITORS"

THE 'LOG' WAS A HEALTHY SPECIMEN OF A CROCODILE

"UNLESS THE GERMAN ENSIGN is HAULED DOWN ON BOARD THE _PELIKAN_ WITHIN
AN HOUR, I OPEN FIRE"



ROUNDING UP THE RAIDER



CHAPTER I

The Captured Liner

"Fifteen days more and then Old England once again!" exclaimed Frank
Denbigh.

"And bonnie Scotland for me!" added Charlie Stirling.

"You'll not be forgettin' 'tis Ould Oireland I'm bound for,"
remonstrated Pat O'Hara, purposely dropping into the brogue.

The three chums had just been reading the "miles made good"
announcement that, printed in English and Japanese, was daily exhibited
in various parts of S.S. _Nichi Maru_.

"Hostile submarines permitting," remarked Denbigh with a laugh, after
he had taken good care that no lady passengers were within earshot.

"Rot!" ejaculated Stirling.  "We've cleared them out of the Channel
pretty well.  It's part of the work of the British Navy under----"

"Stop it!" interrupted O'Hara good-humouredly.  "I know what you were
going to say: that old tag from the Articles of War.  I propose that
every time the word submarine is mentioned by anyone of us while on
board this vessel the delinquent shall be suitably punished as soon as
the sun's over the fore-yard."

"Hear, hear!  I second that," agreed Stirling.  "No more 'shop'.  We'll
get plenty of that in a few weeks' time.  I fancy My Lords won't let us
kick our heels in idleness for long, and honestly, the sooner we settle
down to business the better."

The three chums were Sub-lieutenants, homeward bound from a portion of
a certain group of islands off the coast of New Guinea, having till
recently the high-sounding title of the Bismarck Archipelago.  The
youthful but none the less glorious Australian Navy had quickly changed
the colour of that portion of the map, but the climate was a more
formidable foe than the former German garrison.  Thus the three young
officers, who had been "lent" to the recently-formed navy, had the
misfortune to be stricken with fever.

After a long convalescence, which by a pure coincidence lasted almost
exactly the same time in each of the three cases, Denbigh, Stirling,
and O'Hara were ordered to return to England and to resume their duties
with the navy of the Motherland.

They had travelled by an intermediate boat to Singapore, whence, in
order to save delay, they had proceeded by a Japanese liner, the _Nichi
Maru_, bound from Nagasaki to London.  It was a case of misdirected
zeal, for, owing to the torpedoing of a large Japanese liner in the
Mediterranean, the _Nichi Maru_ had been ordered to take the longer
passage round the Cape instead of the usual route via the Suez Canal.

"Hulloa!  What's the excitement?" enquired Denbigh, pointing in the
direction of the bridge.  The chums had gained the promenade deck,
whence most of the navigating bridge of the liner could be seen.  There
was evidently something to warrant his exclamation, for the dapper
little Japanese officer of the watch was steadily keeping his
binoculars upon some distant object.

"There's a smudge of smoke away to the nor'east'ard," announced
Stirling.  "The mild excitement of sighting a vessel will help to push
the hands of the clock.  Now if someone will kindly suggest a
sweepstake on the nationality of yonder craft----"

The door of the wireless room opened.  The sharp peculiar cackle of the
instruments announced that an exchange of messages was in progress.  A
messenger made his way to the bridge.  Almost immediately after, the
captain hurried from his cabin.  Evidently "something was in the wind",
for the appearance of the imperturbable commander of the _Nichi Maru_
at this time of day was rather unusual.

"We're altering helm," declared O'Hara after a brief interval.  "Since
we can speak with that vessel without the necessity of having to close,
it points to something of the nature of a serious mishap."

The rest of the passengers were now making their way on deck.  By an
inexplicable intuition the presence of the still invisible vessel had
made itself felt.  None of the officers had communicated the news that
the _Nichi Maru_ was in touch with another craft, yet in five minutes
the decks were crowded with a medley of Europeans and Asiatics.

"Do you know what is wrong, sir?" asked Denbigh, addressing one of the
Japanese officers who happened to be making his way aft.

The Jap shook his head.  Like most of the _Nichi Maru's_ officers he
spoke English.  The question was plain to him, but with Oriental
reticence he politely evaded it.

"I'll get my glasses," announced O'Hara.

"And mine, while you are about it," said Denbigh.

"And mine, too," added the Scot.

O'Hara quickly returned with the desired articles.  Bringing their
binoculars to bear upon the smudge on the horizon the three Subs made
the discovery that there was a two-masted, three-funnelled vessel lying
apparently hove-to.  Smoke was issuing from her after-funnel in dense
clouds, that rose slowly in the still sultry air.

"She's flying an ensign," remarked the Irishman.

"Yes, straight up and down like a wet dishclout," added Stirling.  "For
all the good it's doing it needn't be there."

"Perhaps her propeller shaft is broken," suggested one of the
passengers, an English merchant who had given up a good position in
Tokio to return home in order to "do his bit".

"Hardly," replied Denbigh.  "She's bound to be a twin screw, and it
isn't likely that both engines would break down."

"I don't know so much about that," said O'Hara, pointing aft, where a
crowd of Japanese seamen were engaged in preparing a large flexible
steel hawser.  "It looks as if we were going to take her in tow.  And
it's a long, long way to Las Palmas, worse luck."

"She's a Dutchman," declared Stirling.  "I can make out the red, white,
and blue ensign.  I wouldn't mind betting she's one of the Rotterdam
and Batavia liners."

The three British officers relapsed into silence, devoting their whole
attention upon the disabled liner which was now momentarily looming
larger and larger as the _Nichi Maru_ hastened to her aid.

Presently the engine-room telegraph bell clanged and the Japanese
vessel's engines began to slow down.  Two of the boats were swung out
ready to be lowered, while the four ship's surgeons stood by, ready to
be taken to the helpless Dutchman.

"Bad boiler-room accident," exclaimed one of the European passengers,
who had learnt the news from a Japanese petty-officer.

"Boiler accident be hanged!" ejaculated Denbigh, excitedly.  "We're
done in, you fellows.  That vessel's no Dutchman."

As if in confirmation of the Sub's announcement the tricolour of
Holland was smartly lowered, its place being taken by that shame-faced
and palpable imitation of the good old British White Ensign--the Black
Cross of Germany.  Simultaneously portions of the vessel's plating
swung outboard, revealing a battery of six fifteen-centimetre Krupp
guns.

"_Nichi Maru_, ahoy!" shouted a guttural voice in English, for the two
vessels were now within megaphone-hailing distance.  "Surrender
instantly, or we send you to the bottom."

There was a pause, while the officer who had shouted the message was
being prompted.

"Make no attempt to use your wireless," he continued.  "That will not
save you.  It will make things very bad for you.  Stand by to receive a
prize crew."

Although completely surprised by the dramatic turn of events, both the
crew and passengers of the _Nichi Maru_ remained perfectly calm.  The
captain, a descendant of the knightly Samurai of Old Japan, was on the
point of ordering full speed ahead, with the object of ramming the
perfidious vessel and sending both ships to a common destruction; but
the knowledge that the safety of nearly a thousand non-combatants, many
of them women and children, would be in dire peril through such an act
compelled him to submit to the inevitable.

Humanity, not fear, had conquered the courteous and lion-hearted yellow
skipper.

Boats were lowered from the German auxiliary cruiser--for such she
undoubtedly was.  Into them clambered a number of motley-garbed men
armed with rifles and automatic pistols.  But for their modern weapons
the boat's crew might have come from the deck of an Eighteenth-Century
buccaneering craft.

"I say, you fellows," said O'Hara, "I'm off below."

"What for?" asked his companions in surprise.  Not for one moment did
they imagine that the Irishman was showing the white feather, but at
the same time they were mystified by his announcement.

"To get into uniform," he replied.  "Those skunks won't find me in
mufti."

"Right oh!" declared Denbigh.  "We'll slip into ours, too."

In a few minutes the chums had changed into their naval uniforms.  By
the time they regained the promenade deck the Germans were in
possession of the ship.

A fat ober-leutnant, backed up by half a dozen armed seamen, held the
bridge, the Japanese captain and deck officers being compelled to
retire to the chart-room.  A couple of arrogant unter-leutnants with
much sabre-rattling, were herding the European male passengers on the
port side of the promenade deck.  The Japanese passengers they drove
forward with every insulting expression they could make use of.  It was
the German officers' idea of revenge, for the fall of Kiau Chau, where
the boasted Teutonic fortress had succumbed to Oriental valour, rankled
in the breasts of the subjects of the All-Highest War Lord.

Two German officers, apparently of the Accountant branch, had possessed
themselves of the passenger list of the captured vessel, and were
proceeding to call the names it contained.  Each person on hearing his
name had to step forward.  "Denbigh, Frank," exclaimed one of the
officers.  Denbigh, standing erect, faced his captors.  "Ah!  Englander
officer, hein?" queried the Teuton insolently.  "Goot!  More to say
soon.  Step there over, quick."

The Sub obeyed.  He realized that at times even passive resistance was
indiscreet.

"Stirling, Charles," continued the German.  "Ach, yet anoder Englander.
Unter-leutnant?  Goot, a goot capture of Englanders we haf."

"I'm a Scot--not an Englishman," protested Stirling.

"No matter.  The one is as bad as odder, if nod worse.  Over dere," and
he pointed to the place where Denbigh was standing.

"We're marked down for something, old man," whispered Denbigh.

"Yes, but listen.  They're tackling O'Hara now."

Sub-lieutenant O'Hara faced his inquisitor with a broad smile on his
face.  The Germans could not understand why a man should look pleasant
in time of adversity.

"Irish?  Ach, goot!" declared the Teuton.  "Der Irish not like
Englischmans.  When we Germans take London, Ireland free country will
be."

"You haven't got to London yet," remarked O'Hara with the perplexing
smile still on his lips.

"Already our Zeppelins hab there been.  It is matter of time.  Ach?
Brussels, Warsaw, Bukharest, Cettigne--five capitals--all conquered."

"How about Paris?" enquired O'Hara.  "To say nothing of Calais.  And
who commands the sea?  You Germans haven't a vessel afloat outside your
own territorial waters."

"Vot is dis?" asked the Teuton, pointing to the armed liner.  His voice
rose to a crescendo of triumph.

O'Hara was temporarily non-plussed.  Evidently something was at fault
somewhere.  How could a large vessel like that evade the strong cordon
of British warships?

"You're at the end of your tether, old sport," he said after a brief
hesitation.  "That ship will be at the bottom before another
twenty-four hours."

"You tink so?" almost howled the exasperated German.  "You vill see.
If she sink, den you sink mit her.  Over dere."

O'Hara rejoined his chums.  A couple of armed seamen mounted guard over
them while the work of investigation and pillage continued.

"We're marked down as hostages," began the Irishman; but one of the
seamen, bringing the butt end of his rifle down on the deck within a
couple of inches of O'Hara's toes, rendered unnecessary the guttural
"Verboten" that accompanied the action.

In silence the three Subs watched the proceedings.  Under the orders of
their captors the Japanese seamen were compelled to transfer bullion
stores from the _Nichi Maru_ into the boats.  German seamen brought
charges of explosives and placed them below.  It was apparent that the
destruction of the captured vessel was already decided.

At length all preparations were completed.  One of the _Nichi Maru's_
officers, acting under the authority of the ober-leutnant gave the
order--first in Japanese and then in English--to abandon the ship.

"Fifteen minutes only are allowed.  Boats to be provisioned and manned.
No personal property is to be taken.  Women and children first."

The Japanese captain was expostulating, firmly and in a dignified
manner.  He pointed out the inhumanity of sending women and children
adrift in mid-Atlantic and under a tropical sun.  His protests were in
vain.

"We will send a small vessel to pick up the boats," retorted the German
lieutenant.  "We will not sink a small one purposely.  A little
discomfort will do these English good.  You yellow apes are used to it."

The Japanese accepted the direct insult without signs of emotion.  The
disguise of his feelings was a national trait, but it would have gone
hard with the arrogant Prussian had the captain of the _Nichi Maru_ not
been hampered with a crowd of non-combatants.

"Now, Englishmen," exclaimed the German.  "Into that boat.  Any trouble
make and you dead men.  Ach!  You smile now: your trouble it only has
just commenced."



CHAPTER II

The Last of the _Nichi Maru_

In silence the three Subs left the doomed _Nichi Maru_ and entered the
waiting boat.  At the word of command the men pushed off and rowed
towards the modern pirate.

The disguised vessel had now swung round and was lying motionless at a
distance of two cables' length from her prize.  The hull was painted a
light yellow, with a broad black band.  Her funnels were buff with
black tops.  On her stern were the words, _Zwaan_--Rotterdam.

"She's no more the _Zwaan_ of Rotterdam than I am," cogitated Denbigh.

He was right in his surmise.  The vessel was originally the
_Pelikan_--a supplementary Hamburg-Amerika Line boat.  On the outbreak
of the war she was homeward bound from South America, with, as was the
case with all liners flying the German flag, an armament of
quick-firers stowed away in her hold.

Unfortunately for Kaiser Wilhelm's plans the abrupt entry of Great
Britain into the arena of war had nipped in the bud the activities of
German commerce raiders.  A few ran amok until promptly rounded up and
settled by the ubiquitous British cruisers.  Others fled for neutral
ports.  Amongst them was the _Pelikan_, whose captain, with
considerable astuteness, contrived to make for a harbour belonging to
an obscure South American Republic.

Before doing so he had fallen in with the light cruiser _Karlsruhe_--a
craft doomed shortly afterwards to end her career at the hands of her
own crew rather than face an action that would end either in
destruction or ignominious capture--and from her received a number of
additional officers and men.

For a twelvemonth or more the _Pelikan_ lay hidden.  Lavish sums
expended in bribery sealed the mouths of the grasping officials of the
port, in addition to procuring coal and stores to enable the German
vessel to put to sea whenever an opportunity offered.

At length the chance came.  Acting under wireless orders from Berlin
the _Pelikan_ was to make a dash for the Atlantic, do as much damage as
she possibly could to shipping of the Allies, and finally attempt to
reach Dar es Salaam, the principal port of German East Africa.  Here,
should she succeed in evading the British patrols, she was to transfer
her crew, armament, and munitions to shore to assist the land forces of
the Colony against a threatened advance from Rhodesia.

Accordingly the _Pelikan_ became the _Zwaan_.  Disguised by a different
colour paint and supplied with forged ship's papers she easily evaded
the lax authority of the neutral port and made for the open sea.

A course was shaped to cut the Dutch East Indies liners' route in the
latitude of Cape Verde.  Then, following in a parallel direction, the
track usually taken by the vessels she was impersonating, the pseudo
_Zwaan_ headed due south.

Kapitan von Riesser, her commanding officer, was a resourceful and
crafty Hun.  He was steeped in the doctrine of "frightfulness", but in
the present instance there were limits.

Had he been the commander of a U boat he would not have hesitated to
send the _Nichi Maru_ to the bottom without warning, for a German
submarine could strike a fatal blow and not show herself during the
attack.  The _Pelikan_---to revert to her original name--was not
capable of emulating the methods of German unterseebooten without risk
of subsequent capture.  And as the possibility of being taken by a
British warship always loomed upon von Riesser's mental horizon, he was
determined to tread warily.

The fear of reprisals alone kept him within the bounds of discretion as
laid down by up-to-date rules of warfare.  He might sink any
merchant-vessel that fell into his clutches, provided he gave the
passengers and crew time to take to their boats.

Three days before sighting the _Nichi Maru_ the _Pelikan_ had been
stopped and examined by a British cruiser.  The boarding-officer knew
neither German nor Dutch, and conversation had to be conducted in
English.  The ship's papers were apparently in order.  The British
lieutenant failed to pay sufficient attention to the bulky deck-gear
that concealed the raider's quick-firers; nor did he discover that,
hidden between double bulkheads abaft the engine-room, two
torpedo-tubes, removed from the _Karlsruhe_, were ready for instant use
should occasion arise.

The cruiser had, indeed, a very narrow escape of sharing the fate of a
British battleship that was torpedoed in the Channel on a dark and
stormy night, the deadly missile being launched from a vessel sailing
under the Dutch flag.  Only Kapitan von Riesser's doubts as to the
immediate success of a torpedo attack prevented him putting his
treacherous design into effect.  A stricken cruiser, he knew, could use
her guns with tremendous results, and he had no wish to lay down his
life for the Fatherland while an easier course lay open to him.
Accordingly the boarding officer, with many apologies for having
detained a neutral vessel, returned to the cruiser, which immediately
steamed northwards, while the _Pelikan_ proceeded on her course.

Having assumed that the British cruiser was well out of her way, the
raider began to send out wireless calls, limiting the radius of action
to about fifty miles.  She did not call in vain, for the _Nichi Maru_,
picking up the appeal for aid, hastened to the _Pelikan's_ assistance
and, all unsuspecting, fell a victim to her captor.

During the "round-up" of the passengers, Kapitan von Riesser had been
informed by signal of the presence of three British naval officers on
board the _Nichi Maru_, and instructions were asked as to their
disposal.

The kapitan resolved the problem in his mind.  He could not murder the
prisoners without the news being conveyed by the rest of the passengers
of the Japanese liner.  If they were brought on board the _Pelikan_,
they would be a source of danger should the ship again be overhauled by
a patrolling cruiser, unless----

He consulted the ship's surgeon.  Apparently the latter's advice was
satisfactory.  In addition, should the _Pelikan_ arrive at Dar es
Salaam with three British naval officers on board as prisoners, well
and good.  If, on the other hand, the vessel were captured on the high
seas, the prisoners would no doubt be willing to testify to the fact
that Kapitan von Riesser had committed no unpardonable breach of the
usages of war.  From which it will be seen that von Riesser was always
considering how to save his own skin in the event of capture.

"Up--at once!" ordered the unter-leutnant as the boat containing
Denbigh and his companions ran alongside the lowered
accommodation-ladder of the _Pelikan_.  The German did not hesitate to
show his arrogance; but he was severely snubbed by his kapitan.

"I must apologize, gentlemen," began von Riesser in good English as the
British officers came over the side.  "My subordinate, Herr Klick, has
allowed his zeal to outrun his discretion.  It is necessary for me to
detain you.  I know you will bow to the inevitable and recognize that
it is the fortune of war.  I will speak to you again shortly!"

The kapitan hurried off, leaving Denbigh and his fellow-prisoners
standing close to the head of the accommodation-ladder.  Beyond the
fact that a sentry stood within ten feet of them, no attempt was made
to place them under restraint.  They were free to speak, and to watch
the scene that was being enacted a few hundred yards from the vessel to
which they had been removed.

The _Nichi Maru_ was lowering her boats rapidly yet with admirable
discipline.  Without accident the heavy lifeboats with their human
freights took the water.  As soon as the falls were cast off, the crews
rowed to a safe distance, where they lay on their oars and awaited the
end of the huge liner.

With some minutes to spare, the work of abandoning the vessel was
completed.  The captain was the last to leave, the imperturbable look
upon his olive features masking the rage and grief that gripped his
mind.

The two German boats still lay alongside.  Presently half a dozen
Teutons hurriedly scrambled into the waiting craft, which without delay
were rowed quickly toward the _Pelikan_.

Three muffled reports came almost simultaneously from the interior of
the doomed liner.  These were followed by two more at comparatively
long intervals.  The _Nichi Maru_ heeled slightly, and began to settle
slowly by the bows.

The ship took her time.  The wreaths of fleecy steam mingled with
denser columns of smoke that issued from 'tween decks.  Then, as the in
rushing water came in contact with the furnaces, the vessel was
enveloped in a cloud of eddying pungent fumes.

When the cloud dispersed, the _Nichi Maru's_ bows were level with the
water, while her stern was raised until the blades of her now
motionless propellers were clear of the agitated sea.

Lower and lower sank the doomed ship.  At frequent intervals, small
explosions of compressed air took place.  The sea was strewn with
fragments of floating wreckage.

"She's going!" whispered Stirling.

The liner recovered herself.  For a moment it seemed as if she were
floating on an even keel.  Then, with a convulsive effort, she flung
her stern high out of the water and slid rapidly to her ocean grave.
Almost the last to be seen of her was the mercantile flag of Japan,
still floating proudly from the ensign staff.

In the liner's crowded boats the Japanese officers were standing erect
and at the salute as the vessel disappeared from view.  They, too, were
of a breed that is not to be intimidated by Teutonic frightfulness.



CHAPTER III

On Board the Raider

"I wish to call attention to the fact, gentlemen, that we acted in
strict accordance with the rights of belligerents," remarked Kapitan
von Riesser.

The _Pelikan's_ captain was seated in his cabin.  On either side of him
stood von Langer, the ober-leutnant who had been in charge of the
boarding-party, and Unter-leutnant Kaspar Klick.  Facing him stood
Denbigh, Stirling, and O'Hara.

"I am afraid we cannot agree with you," replied Denbigh.

"Possibly not," retorted von Riesser, "but on what grounds?"

"It is hardly a humane act to turn those people adrift in open boats,"
continued the Sub.

"What else could I do?  Surely you would not expect us to receive a
thousand people on board this ship?  They will be picked up, without
doubt, within a few hours."

"Perhaps," declared Denbigh.  "But there is always a risk.  Your action
in sinking that ship is unjustifiable.  I am not here to argue the
point, but I will merely state a case in which one of your captains did
not think it advisable to go to the lengths you did.  When, in the
early part of the war, the _Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse_ compelled the
British liners _Galicia_ and _Arlanza_ to heave-to, these ships were
subsequently allowed to proceed----"

"Yes, but at that time you English were not attempting to starve us out
by a blockade," interrupted the kapitan excitedly, as men do when
cornered in argument.

Denbigh shrugged his shoulders.  He had made his protest and had scored
a point.

"We have done with the past," continued von Riesser.  "My object in
sending for you is to explain your position.  You are, of course,
prisoners of war.  It is my intention to accord you treatment as your
rank demands.  In ordinary circumstances you are at liberty to leave
your cabins and come on deck whenever you wish during hours of
daylight.  There may be times when it will be necessary for you to be
locked in--perhaps taken below.  But, understand: if you attempt to
jeopardize the safety of the ship, or to communicate with any passing
vessel, or, in short, to behave other than officers on parole----"

"But we are not on parole," interrupted O'Hara.

"It matters not," declared the kapitan.  "If I choose to consider that
you are equivalent to being on parole that is my affair.  If, then, you
break any of the conditions I have mentioned you will be tried by a
properly constituted court consisting of officers of the ship, and if
found guilty you will be shot.  Is that perfectly clear?"

The three prisoners signified their assent.  After all, the German's
stipulations were reasonable.

Von Riesser turned and conversed for a few minutes with his
ober-leutnant.  O'Hara, being ignorant of German, and Stirling having
but a slight knowledge of the language, were unable to understand the
drift of the conversation.  Denbigh, on the other hand, was a fluent
linguist, but he had already decided to keep that knowledge from his
captors.

Presently Kapitan von Riesser produced a British Navy List.  Somewhat
to the British officers' surprise they noticed that it was dated "April
1916", or more than a twelvemonth since the last list had been
obtainable by the public.

"You have qualified as an interpreter, I see," remarked von Riesser.
"For what languages?"

"Hindustani, Swahili, and Arabic," replied Denbigh promptly.  He did
not think it necessary to add that German was amongst his
qualifications, and he thanked his lucky stars that the recent Navy
Lists do not specify the language in which officer-interpreters are
expert.

"You are evidently considered a promising young officer," continued the
kapitan.  He could not refrain from adding, with a thinly-veiled sneer,
"I am afraid your services will be lost to the English Admiralty for
some time to come."

"Perhaps," drawled Denbigh, with such well-feigned indifference that
von Riesser glanced keenly at the young officer's clear-cut features.

Having subjected Stirling and O'Hara to an examination--in which the
Irishman scored more than once by his smart repartees--the prisoners
were dismissed.

The first meal on board the raider was served in the cabin allotted
them.  Judging by the nature of the repast provisions were neither
scarce nor unvaried.  Having finished, they went on deck.  No one
offered to interfere with them.  The seamen affected to ignore them.
Once Unter-leutnant Kaspar Klick passed, and gave them such a look that
O'Hara afterwards remarked he would like to have a quiet five minutes
with the German.

"I wonder they haven't searched us," said Stirling in a low voice.
"Now I wish I had put my small revolver into my coat pocket.  I thought
it would have been too risky."

"For the same reason I practically emptied my pockets before we left
the _Nichi Maru_," declared Denbigh.

"And so did I," added O'Hara, "but I took jolly good care to hide that
little automatic pistol--you know the one: I collared it from a German
officer in that little scrap at Herbertshöhe."

"For goodness sake be careful," protested the cautious and level-headed
Scot.

"I'll try to be," replied O'Hara non-committedly.

"Where is the pistol?" asked Denbigh.

"Inside the lining of my cap," replied the Irishman.  "Can you see any
sign of a bulge under the cap-cover?"

"Not a trace," declared Denbigh.  "Only, old man, remember you are
rather hot-headed.  Let's hope there won't be a premature explosion."

"There won't," said O'Hara emphatically.  "Because I've no cartridges."

"That's something to be thankful for," remarked Stirling.  "But what,
might I ask, is the use of an automatic pistol, if you haven't any
cartridges?"

"You never know your luck," replied O'Hara.  "I may manage to pick up
some on board.  Whist!"

Von Langer, the fat ober-leutnant who had been in charge of the
boarding-party, was approaching.

Possibly at a hint from his chief he had dropped his overbearing
manner, for he addressed the prisoners in a mild tone.

"It is nearly sunset," he remarked.  "You vos go below.  I am sorry to
tell you dis, but dese are orders.  Wir mussen vorsichtig zu Werke
gehen."

Denbigh gave no sign that he understood.  Von Langer had hoped to trip
the Englishman, but he had failed.

"What was that Johnny spouting about?" asked Stirling, when the three
chums had retired to the cabin.

"That they had to be very careful," replied Denbigh.  "That I don't
doubt.  I'll give them a week at the very outside.  If we are not free
men then, I reckon we're booked to Davy Jones his locker."

The cabin was plainly furnished.  An electric light was burning, but
the porthole had been previously closed and locked.  Overhead an
electric fan was buzzing, while fresh air was admitted by means of
ventilation pipes communicating with the open air.

"We might do worse," remarked O'Hara as he proceeded to undress.  "The
rotten part of it is, we can't see what's going on outside.  The
beggars have cooped us up pretty well."

"They are evidently busy," said Stirling, as the bustling of some
hundreds of men was plainly audible above the hum of the fan.  "Perhaps
they do the worst of their dirty work during the hours of darkness."

The three officers proceeded to make an examination of their quarters.
The walls were of pitch-pine, but upon O'Hara sacrificing one of his
razors, it was found that the woodwork merely formed a casing to a thin
steel bulkhead.  The ceiling, too, was of steel, coated with a patent
cement to preserve the metal and to prevent "sweating".  The door was
of steel, and was fitted with a "jalousie" or latticed shutter; but
their captors had taken the precaution of bolting a solid metal plate
over the opening.

"Not much chance for anyone who happens to be a somnambulist," said
Denbigh.  "Well, it's no use kicking against the pricks when you're
barefooted.  I'm going to turn in.  By Jove, I do feel horribly sleepy."

"And so do I," added Stirling, unable to stifle a terrific yawn.

"I believe I'm asleep already," muttered O'Hara drowsily.

A moment later the three chums were lost in oblivion.  An opiate
secretly administered by the doctor had been mixed with their food.  So
soundly did they sleep that they were unaware of a terrific crash that
took place during the middle watch--the explosion of a torpedo launched
from the supposed Dutch liner at a large French vessel.

Von Riesser had risked an example of frightfulness.  The huge,
heavily-charged missile--powerful enough to sink the largest battleship
afloat within a couple of hours from the moment of impact--had
literally torn to pieces the lightly-built hull of its victim.  Before
the luckless passengers and crew rushed for the boats--and these were
for the most part shattered--the French craft sunk like a stone.

It was not until the sun was almost overhead that Pat O'Hara awoke.
The deadlight of the porthole had been unshipped and the cabin was
flooded with dazzling sunlight.

He sat up in his bunk.  His head seemed to be splitting.  Everything in
view was slowly moving to and fro with a semicircular motion.

"What the deuce have I been up to?" he soliloquized.  "Where was I last
night?  By Jove, I must have had another touch of that rotten malaria."

Presently the erratic movements of his surroundings quieted down.  He
became aware that Denbigh and Stirling, lying in their bunks on the
other side of the cabin, were still sleeping and breathing stertorously.

"Now how in the name of goodness did those fellows get into my cabin?"
asked the puzzled Irishman, for he was under the impression that he was
on board the _Nichi Maru_.  "Has someone been having a rag?"

From the alley-way came the sound of voices.  He listened.  The
speakers were making use of a foreign language.  It was not the soft,
pleasing Japanese tongue--something harsh and guttural.

"German!" ejaculated O'Hara.  "By my blessed namesake I remember it all
now."

He leapt from his bunk and, crossing the cabin, shook Denbigh by the
shoulders.  The Sub's only reply was a grunt of semi-conscious
expostulation.  O'Hara turned his attentions to the Scot.

"Fore!" muttered Stirling, engrossed in the joys of a round of golf in
dreamland.

"More like twelve, be jabbers," retorted O'Hara.  "The sun's well over
the fore-yard.  Show a leg and shine, you lazy bounder."

The discipline imbued in the old Dartmouth College was too strong to
resist the nautical invitation to get up.  Stirling rolled from his
bunk--fortunately it was the underneath one--and subsided heavily upon
the floor.

"Pull yourself together, man," counselled O'Hara.  "Those rotten Huns
have been hocussing our grub."

"If they have, they have," muttered the imperturbable Stirling.
"That's no reason why you should bellow into my ear like a
ninety-thousand horse-power siren."

Leaving the Sub huddled upon the floor O'Hara proceeded to dress.

Suddenly he exclaimed:

"The dirty spalpeens!  They've been to my pockets while I was asleep."

This announcement literally electrified his companion, for Stirling
remembered that he had over twenty pounds in Australian sovereigns in
his purse.  Alas!  The gold had vanished.

"Your pistol?" asked Stirling.

The Irishman whipped his uniform cap from a hat-peg.

"It's there," he reported.  "And might you be wanting it to let
daylight into the fellow who collared your cash?"

"Not much use without cartridges," replied Stirling savagely.  "It
might have got us into hot water if they had found it.  Better pitch it
through the port-hole, old man, before it lands you in queer street."

"No fear," declared O'Hara.  "It may come in handy some day."

Some time elapsed before the two men were able to rouse Denbigh from
his stupor.  He, too, discovered that a small amount of gold that he
happened to have on him at the time of the capture of the _Nichi Maru_
had been taken from him.  Some silver and a few Japanese coins had been
left.

"We've been drugged right enough," said Denbigh.  "I wonder why?
There's some underhand game afoot during the hours of darkness.
To-night we'll do without wine at dinner, and see how that acts."

Having completed their toilet the three Subs left the cabin, for the
door was now unlocked and the metal covering to the jalousie removed.
Without stood a seaman on sentry duty.  He drew himself up stiffly as
the British officers passed, but made no salute, nor did he attempt to
bar their progress.

At the foot of the companion-ladder a petty-officer stopped them.

"Breakfast awaits you in this cabin," he said in German.  Neither
Stirling nor O'Hara understood, while Denbigh was sufficiently on his
guard to feign ignorance of the nature of the announcement.

"Der vos a meal for you in dere," announced von Langer, stepping from
behind the shaft of a ventilator.

"Thank you!" replied the three Subs in unison.

"But it's nearly lunch time, isn't it?" added O'Hara.

"Dey vos tell me der Englische are very fond of sleep," retorted von
Langer with a laugh.  "Himmel!  I tink dot is very true."

The meal over, the prisoners went on deck.  Out of curiosity Denbigh
walked to the rail and leant over the side.  He was not surprised at
what he saw.  The ship's sides had been painted during the night.  The
black band still remained, but the yellow paint had been replaced with
a coat of blue.  Already the tropical sun was blistering the still wet
paint, revealing patches of the original hue underneath.  The funnels,
too, had been redecorated.  They were now red with black tops.

Some minutes later Kapitan von Riesser descended from the bridge and
walked aft.  Seeing the British officer he crossed the deck.

"You like our new colour scheme?" he asked.

Denbigh did not reply to the question.  He asked another.

"Mr. Stirling and I both lost some gold during the night.  Our cabin
was entered while we were asleep and the money taken from our pockets.
Was the--er--theft committed at your instigation?"

For a moment von Riesser hesitated.

"There was no theft," he replied.  "The gold was taken from you
prisoners----"

"Contrary to----" began Stirling hotly.

"In accordance with my instructions," continued the Kapitan.  "Gold is
of no use to you.  Instead, you will be furnished with Notes to its
equivalent as soon as we arrive."

"You may as well get your purser to write out a receipt," said O'Hara.
"It will come in handy when the _Zwaan_--if that's her proper name--is
captured."

Von Riesser laughed boisterously.

"Captured?" he repeated.  "Ach!  I don't think there is much danger
now.  South of the Line there is not a solitary British cruiser that
can touch us in speed.  There are plenty of them, I admit, but that is
your English all over.  Three swift vessels would be worth all your
East India fleet put together, yet you pack highly-trained crews into
slow and out-of-date tubs."

"Possibly the captain of the _Emden_ thought the same as you do,"
remarked Stirling.

"Müller had difficulties that I have not," replied von Riesser.  "He
was known to be in the Indian Ocean and swift cruisers were dispatched
from England and Australia to hunt for him.  Our presence on the High
Seas will not be known to your Admiralty until it is too late.  So,
gentlemen, I must ask you to seriously consider the possibility of
finding yourselves prisoners of war in our well-defended Colony of
German East Africa."



CHAPTER IV

Threatened

That night, according to their pre-arranged plans, the captive
sub-lieutenants avoided taking any of the wines that were placed before
them.

They dined alone in a small cabin placed at least fifty feet from their
sleeping quarters.

As it was now after sunset the porthole was closed and locked.  The
door, too, was shut, but not secured.  Outside, a sentry paced to and
fro.

"Look here, you fellows!" exclaimed Denbigh after the man deputed to
attend to their needs had gone.  "It's all very well knocking off the
fizz, but they'll notice we haven't drunk any."

"Pour it into the grate," suggested Pat O'Hara recklessly.

Denbigh shook his head.

"Won't do," he objected, giving a glance in the direction of the small
"bogie" stove.  "I suppose there isn't any possibility of prizing open
the port-lid?"

"You'd be spotted even if you could.  There are plenty of men on deck,"
said O'Hara, glad of the opportunity of countering Denbigh's objection
with another.  "Come along, old bird; what do you suggest?"

Stirling, to whom the invitation was addressed, thrust his hand into
the breast pocket of his coat.

"What would you do if I weren't here to look after you?" he enquired,
at the same time producing three sponges.  "I took them from our cabin."

"For dessert?" queried O'Hara, lifting his eyebrows in surprise.

"Yes, if you are a goat," said Stirling with asperity.  "Goats are, I
believe, rather partial to this sort of tack."

Coolly the Scot poured out a wineglassful of sherry--it was from the
same decanter that they had taken some the previous evening--and slowly
spilt the liquid on the sponge.

"Fill your glass first," cautioned Stirling.  "Then they'll think we
have had some of the poisonous stuff.  Slip your sponge into your
pocket, Denbigh.  Don't squeeze it.  I am presuming you'll want it
again later.  Of course if Pat wishes, he can chew his."

Dinner over, the chums retired to their sleeping cabin.  In fact they
had no option, since they were forbidden to go on deck after sunset.
Here they talked and looked at the illustrations of some old Spanish
newspapers until lights out; then, turning in, they lay awake awaiting
possible developments.  Eight bells struck.  The _Pelikan_ was no
longer moving through the water.  Outside the cabin men were talking.
Springing from his bunk Denbigh approached the door, putting his ear to
the covered jalousie.

"I suppose those English swine are sound asleep," said a voice which
the sub recognized as that of Kapitan von Riesser.  "I cannot hear them
grunting--we did last night."

"Nor can I, sir," replied Unter-leutnant Klick, who as officer of the
watch was accompanying the captain on his rounds.  "But they must be.
They went for that doctored sherry like fishes."

"Himmel!  That is good news," exclaimed von Riesser.  "It will be quite
safe to settle that vessel.  When she first answered our call she was
only forty kilometres away.  In twenty minutes----"

The listener fancied he could hear the kapitan rubbing his hands with
glee.

"It is much the better way," continued von Riesser: "'Lost with all
hands' is quite a plausible theory.  I am almost sorry we didn't wait
until night when we tackled the Japanese ship.  We run a good risk of
being made a quarry for a dozen or more of those accursed cruisers.
Those English may even send some swift destroyers on our track.  You
are sure those fellows are quite insensible?"

"As quiet as the grave, sir," assured the unter-leutnant.  "They will
hear nothing.  Even that terrific explosion when our torpedo took the
Frenchman by surprise never disturbed them.  But, of course, sir, I'll
make doubly sure.  We'll squirt some chloroform into the cabin."

"Then be sharp about it," said von Riesser.  "There's no time to be
lost.  That English vessel ought to be in sight within the next quarter
of an hour."

The German officer moved away.  In a trice Denbigh communicated the
news to his companions.

"Oh for a respirator!" whispered O'Hara.

"Don't worry," said Stirling.  "The electric fan will carry off the
fumes as quickly as they pump them in."

Even as he spoke the fan ceased to revolve.  The current actuating the
ventilating gear had been switched off.  Already Unter-leutnant Klick
was putting his scheme into effect.

"Those voice tubes," hissed Denbigh.

"They lead nowhere," protested Stirling.  "They are blocked.  I tried
them some time ago."

The cabin had previously been used as the purser's office, and from it
voice-tubes had communicated with the captain's cabin, the head
steward's quarters, and the clerk's office.  The metal pipes had been
removed, but three lengths of flexible tubing had been left.

With a sharp tug Denbigh wrenched one of the tubes from the flange
securing it to the bulkhead.  The second gave more trouble.  As he was
straining at it a sharp rasping sound fell upon his ear.  In the
adjoining cabin someone was at work drilling a hole through the metal
partition.

Smearing the bell-shaped mouth-pieces of two of the detached pipes with
soap from the wash-basin, Denbigh clapped them together.

"Hold on here, Pat," he whispered.  "Press 'em tightly."

O'Hara obeyed unhesitatingly.  Instinctively he realized that this was
Denbigh's pigeon, and once Denbigh undertook a task he was pretty
certain of the result.

Stirling was then told to hold one end of the second and third
sections.  The united length of tubing was now nearly nine feet.  One
end Denbigh wedged into the opening in the ceiling for the electric
fan.  The other he held in his hand in readiness.

At length, after a tedious wait, Denbigh saw the tip of the drill
emerging from the bulkhead.  Marking the spot he instantly switched off
the light.  A dull thud announced that the boring tool had made a
complete perforation and that the handle had struck home against the
steelwork.

The drill was withdrawn.  In its place a small metal tube was inserted.
Deftly and noiselessly Denbigh slipped the lower end of the flexible
piping over the projecting nozzle.  Then he waited.  He could hear the
Irishman breathing heavily.  The portion of the tube that he was
holding quivered in his excitable grasp.  Stirling, cool and collected,
gave no sign of the potential alertness that possessed him.

A gentle hissing sound, repeated at short intervals, announced that the
Germans were injecting the stupefying fumes by means of a bellows.  A
faint, sickly odour assailed Denbigh's nostrils.  He had to fight hard
to refrain from gasping.  Grimly he stood by until the hissing noise
ceased.

His plan had been successful.  Save for a slight leakage the fumes had
travelled through the pipe and had been carried through the louvres of
the ventilator, while the hot air of the cabin was sufficient to create
an up-draught to disperse the noxious vapour.

Denbigh removed his end of the tube.  As he did so he heard a voice
exclaim:

"It is enough.  More will kill them.  You had better enter the cabin,
Herr Doktor, and see that they are still breathing."

The sub drew the piping from his companions' grasp.

"Turn in and pretend you're insensible," he whispered, fearful lest the
sound should be heard through the newly-made hole in the bulkhead.

It was less than five minutes later when the door was unlocked and a
dim figure cautiously entered.

"Not half so bad as I expected," said a guttural voice.  The smell of
the anæsthetic had almost dispersed.  "Where is the switch?"

"Here, Herr Doktor," replied a petty officer.

The next instant the cabin was bathed in brilliant light.  In spite of
their efforts to the contrary the three supposed sleepers twitched
their eyelids.

The ship's surgeon bent over O'Hara.  A short scrutiny confirmed his
suspicions.  He turned to the bunk on which Stirling was lying, and,
lifting the sub's eyelid, placed the tip of his forefinger upon the
eyeball.

"Ach, is it so?" ejaculated the German, for Stirling had been compelled
to contract his eyelids.

A similar test bore the same result in Denbigh's case; then, without
another word, the doctor hurried from the cabin.

"The old pillbox has tumbled to it," muttered Denbigh.  "Now what will
their little game be?"

The sub was not left long in doubt.  Ober-leutnant von Langer, who had
followed the doctor into the cabin, made his presence known by bawling
out an order to half a dozen of the crew who were waiting without:

"Come!  Out mit you!" he exclaimed, addressing the sham sleepers.  "It
is that I know your little pretend.  Ach! you tink you smart?"

Yet Denbigh and his companions kept still, half-hoping that the
doctor's test had not been successful and von Langer was trying his
hand.

The ober-leutnant gave another order.  Unceremoniously the three
British officers were hauled out of the bunks by the seamen, who seemed
to take a delight in roughly handling anyone of commissioned rank.
Perhaps, if von Langer did but know it, his men would have been only
too pleased to use him in the same way, for the ober-leutnant was a
Prussian and a Junker, while the crew were for the most part from
Schleswig-Holstein.

With as much dignity as their dishevelled appearance would permit,
Denbigh and his companions allowed themselves to be taken on deck,
where they had to cool their heels at the pleasure of their captors.
It was a bright moonlight night.  The air was decidedly chilly for the
Tropics.  A heavy dew was falling.  The lightly-clad men--for the
sub-lieutenants were in pyjamas--realized that there was a grave risk
of tropical fever.

The ship was once more under way.  With a true seaman's instinct
Denbigh glanced aloft.  By the relative position of the moon--since no
stars were visible--he was able to fix the approximate course of the
vessel.  She was steering roughly sou'-sou'-east.  Far away to the
nor'ard a masthead lamp was blinking--calling in Morse to know why they
had been summoned.

Denbigh gave a grunt of satisfaction.  For once von Riesser's plan had
gone awry.  He had feared to treacherously torpedo an unsuspecting
merchantman since there were hostile eye-witnesses on board the
_Pelikan_.

Presently the kapitan, clad in a greatcoat over his white uniform,
appeared at the head of the bridge-ladder.

"You there, von Langer?" he called.

"Yes, sir," replied the ober-leutnant.  "Shall I bring the prisoners to
you?"

"No, I'll see them in my cabin," replied von Riesser.  "Tell off a
couple of hands to guard the prisoners and another half-dozen to wait
outside in case there is any trouble.  I'll be there in a few minutes."

The kapitan's quarters were situated aft on the upper deck.  They
comprised a large cabin, used for meals and recreation, and a sleeping
cabin opening from it.  Denbigh and his companions were marched into
the outer cabin and told to take up a position facing von Riesser's
empty arm-chair and separated from it by a long mahogany table.

The cabin was plainly furnished.  In addition to the arm-chair and
table there were two sideboards, a large book-rack, and half a dozen
cane chairs.  On the table lay a pile of Dutch charts.  Books for
navigation and sailing directions in the same language occupied the
shelves in company with a few American novels.

Everything German, with one exception, had been studiously eliminated,
in order to baffle the curiosity of a British boarding-officer in the
event of the supposed _Zwaan_ being held up.  The exception was a large
oil painting of the Kaiser in the uniform of a German Admiral of the
Fleet.  The portrait was framed in a massive oak frame securely fixed
to the bulkhead between the two cabins.  The only other picture was a
sepia-toned photograph of the Queen of Holland, in a narrow, plain gilt
frame.  When it became necessary to hide the features of the All
Highest War Lord from the eyes of the strafed English, who had
practically contrived to drive the War Lord's battleships from the face
of the five oceans, von Riesser took the risk of committing lese
majesté by placing the portrait of Queen Wilhelmina over that of the
Emperor Wilhelm II.  Then, to all appearances, the captain's cabin of
the _Zwaan_ was loyally adorned by a photograph of the Queen of the
Netherlands in a deep oak frame with a thin gold slip.

In the circumstances, however, it was not considered necessary to
eclipse the All Highest War Lord, so the three British subs found
themselves confronted by the painted features of the modern Attila.

The door was thrown open.  Von Langer and the two seamen clicked their
heels and saluted as von Riesser entered with the dramatic effect of
which Prussians are so fond.  Gravely saluting the Emperor's portrait
and then returning his subordinates' mark of respect the kapitan took
his seat.

"You know why you are here?" asked von Riesser abruptly, lowering his
brows and looking sternly at the three British officers.

"We do not," replied Denbigh.  "In fact, it is rather unusual to turn a
fellow out of his bunk at one in the morning."

"Do not bandy words, Herr Denbigh," snapped the kapitan.  "You have
been causing trouble."

"Is it causing trouble to take steps to avoid being gassed or
chloroformed?" asked O'Hara.

"Yes," almost shouted the kapitan.  "If we think it desirable that our
prisoners should be put to sleep it is not for them to resist."

"In that case there's no more to be said," declared the Irishman.  "You
are top-dog----"

"You call me a dog, you English swine!" almost howled the now
infuriated Prussian.

O'Hara burst out into violent laughter.  Denbigh smiled broadly, while
around Stirling's firm lips hovered the suspicion of a grim smile.
Their utter indifference to the ravings of their captor took von
Riesser by surprise.

"I may as well tell you," began Denbigh, seizing his opportunity, "that
I can speak German perhaps as well as you can speak English.  I
overheard your conversation outside our cabin an hour or so ago, and we
know what you proposed to do to the ship which you were luring.  I
suppose you call those tactics frightfulness.  I call them low-down,
skulking treachery.  How a man who professes to be a sailor, who has
lived a free and healthy life upon the sea, could belittle himself to
act as you propose to do, and possibly have done, passes my
understanding.  I give you fair warning, Kapitan von Riesser, that,
should we be set free by an English cruiser, you will have a grave
indictment to answer."

Von Riesser did not reply for a few moments.  He was greatly agitated.
Once or twice he glanced anxiously at his ober-leutnant, as if curious
to know whether von Langer understood Denbigh's words.

Then he, too, laughed, but it was not a natural outburst of an
unburdened and evenly-balanced mind.

"You threaten?" he asked.  "Well, I can threaten also.  Suppose I
decide to put into operation the principle of your worthy Prime
Minister?  One of his maxims, oft quoted in the Press, is, I believe,
'Wait and see'?"

"It ought to be particularly applicable in your case," rejoined Denbigh
coolly.

"Ach!  And in yours.  What is to prevent me from ordering a weight to
be put about your neck and cast you into the sea?  Weight and sea.
Himmel, that is great!"

He roared at his own joke, while von Langer, although unable to
comprehend the significance, showed his servile approbation by laughing
in a minor key.

"I don't think that it would make very much difference if you did,"
replied Denbigh.  "You see, the _Nichi Maru's_ people know that you
carried us off.  Some day you will have to answer some rather searching
questions if you could not produce us."

Again von Riesser pondered.  He was beginning to feel horribly annoyed
with himself for having ever received the three British officers on
board the _Pelikan_.  He was plunging deeper and deeper into the mire.
He lacked the determination to cut the Gordian Knot.

By way of an excuse he scribbled a note and tossed it to von Langer.

"Take that to the officer of the watch," he said carelessly.

The ober-leutnant quitted the cabin.  The two impassive seamen
remained.  They, fortunately, knew no English, save a few catch phrases
picked up when lying in dock in that dim period before the War.

"Suppose we cry quits," resumed von Riesser.  "I am ready to apologize
for having exceeded my rights in dealing with you.  After all there's
no great harm done.  I'll admit I planned to trap yonder vessel.  You
must have misunderstood me when I said that I had intended to torpedo
her.  We use our torpedoes only in cases of extreme necessity.  Are you
willing to forget this night?"

"We would like to talk the matter over between ourselves," replied
Denbigh.  "If you have no objection, we will give our reply at noon
to-morrow."

"I agree," said von Riesser, with a meekness that quite surprised
Denbigh and his companions.  He gave an order to the two seamen.  They
turned and left the cabin.

Two minutes later the British officers were back in their own quarters.
Time had been called after the first round, and the Prussian had not
come out top-dog.



CHAPTER V

The Pursuit of the _Pelikan_

"One thing that puzzles me," remarked Stirling during the following
forenoon, "is why they didn't clap us below under hatches, instead of
trying to stupefy us.  It would have been far less trouble."

"I must say that I share your thoughts," said Denbigh.  "These Germans
are no fools.  They are pretty thorough in whatever they take up,
whether it's a diabolical scheme or otherwise.  It might be that
there's something below that they don't want us to see, and rather than
run a risk in that direction, they prefer to lock us up in the cabin."

"That's all very well," rejoined O'Hara.  "But it won't wash.  Old von
Langer let it out in the course of conversation that this ship has
already been examined by one of our cruisers."

"Then perhaps the boarding-officer wasn't cute enough.  It's a tribute
to our sagacity, old man," said Stirling.  "However, time and events
will prove.  By Jove, the fateful hour approaches!  What will von
Riesser say to our decision?"

At eight bells the three British officers were told to proceed to the
kapitan's cabin.  This time von Riesser was alone.  He looked flustered
and worried.

"Sit down, gentlemen," he began.  "You must look upon this as a private
and confidential chat.  Now, to go straight to the point: are you
prepared, in the event of your being given honourable treatment and
allowed the greatest liberty possible, to maintain silence upon last
night's affair?"

Denbigh, as spokesman, did not think it advisable to give a direct
reply.

"Do you, on your part, promise to refrain from treacherous attacks upon
Allied merchantmen?" he asked.

"I think I can give that guarantee," replied von Riesser.  "If I do so,
will you write a certificate to the effect that, to the best of your
belief, I, as commander of the ship, am acting in accordance with the
present accepted rules of naval warfare?  That, I think, will square
matters."

"We cannot do that," declared Denbigh.  "We are willing to give a
certificate to the effect that you acted with discretion."

The kapitan smiled grimly.

"There is a certain amount of latitude in that," he replied.  "I
suppose you will then say nothing of last night's business."

"Since we have no direct evidence of what you have done, we cannot very
well state a case," said Denbigh.  "The thing is this: are you going to
torpedo any merchantmen without warning?"

"No," replied von Riesser.

"Very well.  We have forgotten last night," declared Denbigh.  "Should
occasion arise we will give you the required certificate."

"And should occasion not arise," thought von Riesser, "I will make it
pretty hot for these young cubs.  Once safely in port in our African
colony, I will show them what it means to thwart a Prussian officer."

With these sentiments in his mind and a smile on his face the kapitan
dismissed his prisoners.

During the afternoon there was a thick haze.  It was impossible to
distinguish anything beyond a distance of about a mile from the ship.
Sea and sky were merged into an ill-defined blurr.  The glass, too, was
falling rapidly.  That and the presence of the mist betokened an
imminent change in the weather.

Suddenly there was a rift in the curtain of vapour.  At less than two
miles away on the _Pelikan's_ port bow were two vessels, one being in
tow of the other.

The subs were quick to recognize the leading craft.  She was a British
cruiser of the "Eclipse" class--a vessel of 5600 tons, and with a
nominal speed of 19 knots.  But the craft in tow was a puzzle to them.
She was low-lying, with a raised superstructure amidships, one funnel,
and a tall mast fitted with a fire-control platform.  From her for'ard
turret two huge guns, seemingly out of all proportion to the rest of
the ship, protruded.  The muzzles, instead of being inclined upwards,
were depressed.  Although Denbigh and his companions could not
distinguish details owing to the distance of the vessel, the German
officers, by means of their telescopes and binoculars, could see that
the muzzles of the guns were resting on large chocks bolted to the
deck, while the protruding part of the weapons were additionally
secured by stout hawsers.  The mysterious craft was apparently
deserted.  Everything was battened down, for the decks were swept by
the long Atlantic waves.

"By Jove!" ejaculated O'Hara.  "She must be one of our monitors.  Now,
where is she off to, I should like to know?  There's something in the
wind."

[Illustration: "BY JOVE!" EJACULATED O'HARA, "SHE MUST BE ONE OF OUR
MONITORS."]

Kapitan von Riesser could have answered the question.  He stood on the
bridge, glasses glued to his face and rage in his heart.  There could
be but one solution.  The monitor was bound for the Indian Ocean, to
take part in the forthcoming operations against the Germans in East
Africa.

"Donnerwetter!" muttered von Riesser.  "These accursed English.  They
may throw away their opportunities on land, but they know how to do
things at sea."

"Shall I carry on, sir?" asked the officer of the watch.

"No, port helm," ordered the kapitan.  Then realizing that the carrying
out of this command might arouse the suspicions of the British cruiser,
he had the _Pelikan_ steadied on her helm.  The course would bring her
within a mile of the cruiser and her tow.

"The cheek!" exclaimed Stirling.  "Old von Riesser's going to play a
game of bluff."

"I vote we semaphore," suggested O'Hara impulsively.  "We'd do the
trick before they could stop us."

The Irishman, however, had no opportunity of putting his plan into
effect, for at that moment a petty-officer informed the subs that it
was the kapitan's pleasure they should go below.

They found the port-hole closed and locked.  Von Riesser was not a man
to take needless risks.

A hoist of bunting fluttered from the cruiser's signal yard-arm.  It
was a message in the International Code: "E C--what ship is that?"

Promptly the Dutch ensign was hoisted, while simultaneously the
"number" of the real _Zwaan_ was made.

From the cruiser came another signal.  Von Riesser had no occasion to
consult the code-book.  It was "I D--Heave-to, or I fire."

"Hard a-port!" he shouted, and telegraphed for full speed ahead.

Round swung the _Pelikan_, listing until five feet of her underbody
showed clear.  Even as she did so a couple of 12-pounders spat
venomously, the shells passing perilously close to the towering hull.

Down fluttered the Dutch ensign.  The British cruiser ceased firing.
Ahead lay a bank of fog.

Von Riesser knew that he was in a tight corner, and it was in tight
corners that the better qualities of the man showed themselves.  For a
few moments he stood motionless.  Every second the _Pelikan_ was
slipping farther and farther away from the cruiser, which, hampered by
her tow, was unable to stand in pursuit.  Her skipper was somewhat
mystified.  According to the rules of the game the _Pelikan_ had
struck, yet he knew that of necessity the immense bulk must carry
considerable way.

The British cruiser had no doubts of the blue liner with the broad
black band, for the survivors of the _Nichi Maru_ had been picked up by
one of the patrolling vessels.  Once more that mixed blessing, wireless
telegraphy, had been brought into service, and a description of the
raider sent far and wide.  Already a number of light cruisers were on
their way from Simon's Bay to intercept the _Pelikan_, while the
blockading squadron off the east coast of Africa had been warned of the
likely attempt on the part of the fugitive to gain one of the
little-known and unfrequented rivers of the last of Germany's overseas
possessions.

Von Riesser alternately kept glancing ahead and astern.  The haze was
beginning to envelop the monitor and her escort.

He shouted an order to a petty officer.  The man doubled aft, bawling
as he ran.  Then from the ensign staff fluttered the Black Cross of the
Imperial German Navy.

The cruiser's reply was a salvo from her quick-firers.  Two shells
struck home, one bursting on the poop and blowing the emblem of Germany
to atoms, besides causing considerable damage to the deck.  A second
burst amidships, shattering a couple of ventilators, splintering one of
the boats, and destroying the greater portion of the bridge.  Fragments
of metal and splinters of wood flew in all directions.  Kapitan von
Riesser narrowly escaped being hit.  As it was, one of his officers and
two seamen were killed outright, five others being seriously wounded,
while the kapitan was thrown to the deck by the concussion.

For a few minutes the _Pelikan_ was enveloped in smoke and spray thrown
up by the shells that exploded on either side; but before the cruiser
could get in another effective shot the raider was lost in the mist.

Von Riesser guessed, and rightly, that the cat was out of the bag,
otherwise the cruiser would not have hoisted that peremptory demand to
heave-to.  He realized that his position was a hazardous one.
Thousands of miles from a friendly port, sought by perhaps a score of
British cruisers, and, moreover, running short of coal, the _Pelikan_
stood a very small chance of dropping anchor in East African waters,
except as a prize.

On the other hand, Fate, in the guise of the mist, had dealt kindly
with the _Pelikan_.  For the rest of the day she steamed westward.
Down below the firemen toiled like Trojans, shovelling coal into the
glowing furnaces.  On deck the crew worked hard, clearing away the
debris left by the British cruiser's shells.  The wireless staff were
busy "jamming" the numerous messages thrown out from various vessels,
that were converging on the monitor and her escort for the purpose of
cutting off the audacious _Pelikan_.

About an hour before sunset the mist cleared.  The sea was still calm,
although high overhead the ragged and greasy clouds betokened the
approach of a southerly gale.  The setting sun, a ball of bright
yellow, set in a pale greenish-yellow sky, threw its slanting rays
across the damaged bridge, almost blinding the look-out with its
brilliance.

"Sail on the starboard bow," reported one of the watchers.

Von Riesser, who had practically recovered from the shock of being
capsized by the explosion, had not left the bridge.  He immediately
gave orders to starboard the helm.  At the present juncture he would
not risk meeting even an unarmed tramp laden with military stores.

The stranger was the British light cruiser _Actæon_, of 3000 tons, and
with a speed of slightly over 20 knots.  Pelting towards the scene of
the encounter between the _Pelikan_ and her foiled antagonist, the
_Actæon_ was unwittingly approaching the fugitive.  She, having the
advantage of the light, recognized the German liner almost before the
latter had noticed her presence.

As the _Pelikan_ swung round, the _Actæon_ followed suit, both vessels
being now on slightly converging courses and about six miles apart.  It
was a question as to which of the two was the speediest ship--a
question, seemingly, that events only could prove.

The sun set.  The short period of tropical twilight gave place to
pitch-black night, for the moon, now two days after the full, had not
yet risen.

On board the _Pelikan_ all lights that might be visible from outside
were extinguished, save for one white light shown aft.  The pursuing
vessel displayed no lights, but her approximate position could be fixed
by means of the dull-red glow of the flames that issued from her three
funnels.

"Do you think she's gaining, von Langer?" asked the kapitan anxiously,
after an interval of almost unbroken silence as far as the officers on
the _Pelikan's_ bridge were concerned.

"I am not sure," replied the ober-leutnant.  "We do not appear to be
gaining on her.  It may be that we are just holding our own."

"Unless we can shake her off completely before sunrise we stand little
chance," said von Riesser moodily.  "We cannot stand up to her.  Those
guns would send us to the bottom in a quarter of an hour, long before
we came within torpedo range."

"If we had but a dozen mines, sir----" began Unter-leutnant Klick.

"It is no use wishing for what we haven't got," snapped the kapitan.
"And what is more, yon English ship is taking good care not to follow
directly in our wake in case we were dropping mines."

There was silence for some moments.  Von Riesser was deep in thought,
his eyes fixed the while upon the lurid red tint on the horizon.

"Ach!" he exclaimed.  "I think I have it.  Here, Herr Klick, see that
the motor launch is cleared ready for lowering."



CHAPTER VI

The Decoy

Wondering at the inexplicable nature of Kapitan von Riesser's order the
unter-leutnant hurried off.  In a few minutes the sea-boat's crew,
drilled for such emergencies, had provisioned and watered the
twenty-five-foot motor-launch that hung in davits abreast of the
after-funnel.

The securing chocks were removed, the falls manned, and the davits
swung outboard.

"Motor-launch ready, sir!" reported the unter-leutnant.  "Water and
provisions are on board, and a hundred litres of petrol."

"I gave no orders for the boat to be victualled," exclaimed the
kapitan.  "No matter: it will waste too much valuable time to remove
the stuff.  Now, listen, Herr Klick.  Everything depends upon the
strict carrying out of my instructions.  Place two men on board the
launch--one to tend each of the lower blocks of the falls.  Have ready
a white light.  See that the helm is lashed.  I will slow down the
ship, and turn her so that the launch will be slightly to leeward.  At
the word, see that the motor is started and the light exhibited.  Then
lower away smartly, and tell the men to hang on to the falls when they
are disengaged unless they want to be a target for the English cannon."

"I understand, sir.  You are using the boat as a decoy."

"Precisely, Herr Klick.  Now, be sharp.  With a vessel pursuing us at a
rate equal to our utmost speed we cannot afford to lose precious
moments in lying-to."

      *      *      *      *      *

"I say, you fellows, I think I'll go on deck and see what's doing,"
announced Sub-lieutenant Stirling.

His companions looked at him with feelings akin to amazement.

"What the deuce are you babbling about, old man?" asked O'Hara.  "You
know as well as we do that we are locked in."

None of the three prisoners had any thought of turning in.  They had
heard the crash of the British shells as the cruiser sought to wing the
German raider.  In spite of the danger of being hit, and what was
infinitely worse, being drowned like rats in a trap in a foundering
vessel--since it was more than possible that the crew of the _Pelikan_
would take no steps to liberate the captives--the subs were in high
spirits.  They took it for granted that their release would be a matter
of a few minutes only, since the lightly-built _Pelikan_ would stand no
earthly chance against the vastly-superior ordnance of the pursuing
vessel.  Then came a sudden cessation of the firing; yet the prisoners
knew by the thud of the engines that the German ship was still pelting
on her bid for safety.

Hours passed.  There was no doubt in the minds of the three men that
the _Pelikan_ was being hotly pursued.  The pulsations of the engines
under forced draught was conclusive evidence on that point.  The
captive officers sat and talked, drawing conclusions as to what was
taking place, until Stirling suddenly hurled a verbal bomb-shell by
announcing his intention of going on deck.

"Don't be so rash with your assertions, Pat," replied Stirling in mock
reproof.  "It is certainly true that we are locked in.  It is also a
fact that I possess a very efficient screw-driver.  I took the liberty
of annexing it, as one of the carpenter's crew has been guilty of
negligence.  On board a British ship that screw-driver would, in the
usual course of routine, find itself in the scran-bag; but since I'm
not at all certain that such a visible cure for forgetfulness exists in
the German navy, I have and hold the article in question."

"No need to brag about it, old man," said O'Hara.  "You are not the
only light-fingered gentleman of our little coterie.  As these Germans
had no compunction in entering the cabin and sneaking out hard-earned
cash, I repaid the compliment by entering one of the officer's cabins,
and this is what I annexed."

He held up a dark-green paper packet containing a dozen rounds of
ammunition that fitted the automatic pistol.

"Steady!" exclaimed Denbigh.  "You're looking for trouble with that
thing, Pat.  It's as dangerous as a shillelagh at Donnybrook Fair.  And
what's the object in breaking out?" he continued, addressing Stirling,
who was fondling the screw-driver in anticipation.  "If you're detected
there'll be a rumpus.  I don't suppose you'll do any good, and if you
possess your soul in patience a little longer you'll be let out."

"Hanged if I can," retorted Stirling.  "I must have a look round.  I
didn't ask you fellows to come.  In fact, there's less risk for one
than three."

"Have your own way, then," said Denbigh, who knew that when the Scot
once made up his mind there would be no turning aside.

The lock was secured to the inside of the door.  It was sufficient to
keep out intruders, but quite inadequate to resist the application of
the screwdriver.  Working swiftly yet silently, Stirling removed the
brass staple.  Only the pressure of his boot against the door kept it
shut.  Cautiously he drew the door ajar.  There was a light switched on
in the passage.  At the far end of the alley-way was the sentry on the
aft-deck.  The rest of the cabins were deserted, since the excitement
of the chase kept all officers on deck.  Having, then, no fear of
detection the sentry was sitting on the lid of a chest, his face buried
in a book.

"All clear," whispered Stirling.  "S'long, you fellows.  Expect me when
you see me."

He gave another glance in the direction of the sentry.  The man had not
stirred.  Softly Stirling crept out and tiptoed along the passage in
the direction of the ladder leading to the upper-deck.

The noise of the engines, audible throughout the length and breadth of
the ship, and the tramp of feet on deck, deadened the slight sound of
his movements.  At the end of the alley-way a curtain had been
stretched in order to screen the light from the companion-way.  Beyond,
although there were men standing about, the place was in darkness.

Stirling took the risk.  He knew that in the gloom there would be great
difficulty to distinguish the uniforms of the German officers from his
own.  Lifting aside the curtain, he stepped forward with the
self-confidence of a man accustomed to command.

The knot of seamen separated, the men clicking their heels and standing
rigidly at the salute.  In the darkness they recognized the officer but
not the individual.  Not for one moment did they suspect that he was
one of the strafed Englishmen, whom they had every reason to suppose to
be under lock and key.

Without interruption Stirling gained the deck.  The shattered woodwork,
just discernible in the darkness, showed him the result of the British
cruiser's shells.  He glanced aft.  Far astern, the red blur that had
so disturbed the equanimity of Kapitan von Riesser came as a solace to
his mind.  His surmises were correct.  The _Pelikan_--or, as he knew
her, the _Zwaan_--was being chased, but he could not quite understand
why the pursuing vessel should be so far astern, since a few hours ago
she was within range.  He, of course, knew nothing of the event that
led to the _Actæon_ taking up the chase.  Nor could he suggest any
reason why the German liner should show a white light astern.  It
seemed contrary to every precaution necessary to shake off pursuit.

"May as well get for'ard," soliloquized the sub.  "There seems a bit of
a hullabaloo.  I'll see what it is about.  I don't suppose I'll be
spotted if I keep clear of the crush.  Hulloa!  They're getting the
boats out.  Are they going to abandon ship, I wonder, or is it merely a
matter of discretion, should the old hooker get plugged?"

With little difficulty Stirling took up his position under the lee of a
ventilator.  As he waited he heard fragments of the conversation
between von Riesser and his subordinate.

Stirling was a poor German scholar; so much so that he was ashamed of
the little German he knew.  By sheer good luck, however, he recognized
several of the words--sufficient to enable him to guess shrewdly the
nature of the kapitan's order.

Stirling was very often lucky in that way.  Even while he was hiding
behind the ventilator he recalled a similar instance.  It was on the
occasion of his entry examination to Osborne, and Stirling was in those
days an atrocious speller even for a youth of thirteen and a half.  In
the dictation subject the lad found himself balked by the word
"adaptable".  He was on the point of writing "adaptible" when he caught
sight of some letters stamped upon the pen he was using: "The Adaptable
Pen".  When the result of the examination was announced Stirling found
that he had only just attained the minimum marks in English to qualify.
Afterwards he was apt to remark that he owed his commission to a
twopenny pen which might, for aught he knew, have been made in Germany.

"By Jove, they're going to use that boat as a decoy," soliloquized the
sub.  "I'll risk it.  Hang it all!  If I'm spotted there can only be a
shindy.  With our cruiser pelting up astern and Denbigh and O'Hara
below, they won't dare to try any of their kultur tricks."

The launch was now level with the rail.  The men told off to attend to
the disengaging gear were already on board, while down below an
artificer was trying to coax the motor.  Apparently he had trouble, for
he called out to one of his mates to pass something to him.  At that
moment Kapitan von Riesser gave an order, and the unter-leutnant and
his men faced for'ard.

In a trice Stirling slipped quietly over the rail at the heels of one
of the crew.  While the latter made his way for'ard to the motor-room
the sub entered the little cabin.  It was, as he expected, empty.  Not
knowing whether any of the launch's crew would remain, Stirling crept
under the seat and waited.

The _Pelikan_ was losing way.  Her engines had been reversed in order
to bring her almost to a standstill in the least possible time.

"Lower away!" shouted a voice in German which Stirling recognized as
that of Unter-leutnant Klick.

The racing of the motor, which the artificer had at length succeeded in
starting, drowned all other sounds.  The propeller, racing in the air,
was revolving at terrific speed.  Unless the launch were quickly put
into the water the motor would soon be overheated, since no cooling
device was possible until the pump sucked water into the jackets
surrounding the cylinders.

The artificer, his task accomplished, swung himself on to the
_Pelikan's_ deck, while directly the falls were cast off the two seamen
swarmed up the ropes.  Almost before Stirling was aware of it, the
launch was speeding forward.

"Time I made a move," muttered the sub.  With the utmost caution he
emerged from his hiding-place and made his way to the well.  The bright
rays of the lamp lashed to the ensign-staff enabled him to see
everything on deck.  One glance told him that he was the only member of
the crew.  Already the _Pelikan_ was lost to sight in the darkness.

Stirling's first act upon taking command was to cut the lashings of the
helm and to turn the launch in the same direction as the _Pelikan_ had
been travelling.  He then looked for the supposed position of the
pursuing cruiser.  On the horizon were two glints of red light at,
roughly, 15 degrees apart.

"Two of them," said the sub to himself.  "The more the merrier.
Another ten minutes and it will be seen whether I am smashed to
smithereens by a British 6-inch shell."

As a matter of precaution he cast off the lashings of the lamp, placing
it on a seat just inside the cabin.  There it was within arm's reach,
while the sub was not in danger of being temporarily blinded by the
glare.

"That's the rising moon," continued Stirling, referring to the light to
the east'ard.  "The other glare is from the cruiser's funnels.
Allowing her speed to be 20 knots, and this hooker's 12 or 15, she's
gaining on me at about eight miles an hour."

Presently the newly-risen moon appeared in a rift of clouds.  Its
slanting rays silhouetted the outlines of a large four-funnelled
cruiser, now less than a couple of miles astern.

"Time!" ejaculated Stirling laconically.  Leaving the helm he made for
the motor-room and switched off the ignition.  Then, returning to the
well, he raised and lowered the lamp several times in succession,
dipping it behind the coaming in order to signal the "General Call".

A light flashed from the cruiser.  Thank heavens it was not the spurt
of a quick-firer but a steady white flare, to signify that the ship was
in readiness to receive the message.  "_Zwaan_ has sent decoy adrift,"
signalled Stirling.  "Probably altered course to south'ard.  Please
return and pick me up after end of chase."

A searchlight was switched on from the cruiser's after-bridge.  For a
few moments it played upon the now motionless motor-launch.  Then,
somewhat to Stirling's surprise and to his not altogether complete
satisfaction, the cruiser began to slow down.

"It's all right for me," soliloquized the sub.  "But it's hard lines on
Denbigh and Pat.  I'm afraid von Riesser has given our fellows the
slip."



CHAPTER VII

Foiled by a Collier

For the rest of the night Denbigh and O'Hara awaited in vain for their
comrade's return.  They had no idea of the flight of time since, during
the chase, the ship's bell had not been struck.  In the screened cabin
they sat, with the electric light switched on, for after their
interview with Kapitan von Riesser on the subject of the attempted
chloroforming, the current was not cut off after ten o'clock as was
formerly the case.

"Faith!  I'll go and see what he's up to," exclaimed O'Hara, removing
the chair from the door.  It was the only way to keep the door closed,
since the replacing of the staple of the lock would have barred
Stirling's return.

"Better not," objected Denbigh.  "Either he's all right or he's all
wrong.  In the former case it wouldn't do to meddle with his business.
Two stand double the risk of detection that one fellow runs.  In the
latter case, our going to look for him won't help matters in the least,
because if they've collared him they will be on the look-out for us."

"S'pose you're right," grudgingly assented Pat.  "We must stick it."

The chums "stuck it" for another two hours, then the sound of six bells
(7 a.m.) announced the fact that it was daylight, and that precautions
in the matter of noise were no longer necessary.

"The flunky will be here presently to open the port-hole," remarked
Denbigh.  "I think we had better screw on that chunk of metal.
Stirling won't be coming now."

"Then what has happened to him?"

"Goodness only knows.  Look here; we won't open the ball.  Let's see if
they know anything about his disappearance."

"The man will notice that the moment he comes into the cabin," objected
O'Hara.

For answer, Denbigh crossed over to Stirling's cot, placed the bolster
longwise and covered it with the blankets.  Then, partly drawing the
curtains, he stood back and surveyed the result of his handiwork.

"Dash it all!" he exclaimed.  "It would take a lynx-eyed detective to
spot the game, especially when the port-hole is opened, because the
bunk is dead against the light.  Let's turn in.  Old Fritz will smell a
rat if he finds us up and dressed."

The two subs had barely settled themselves in their bunks and had
switched off the light, when a key clicked in the lock and the German
sailor deputed to attend to them stumbled in.

He was a taciturn fellow.  Perhaps it was because he understood no word
of English, and was unaware of the fact that Denbigh spoke German.  He
had, however, a habit of conversing with himself during the performance
of his duties, and more than once Denbigh picked up information from
the fellow's unguarded babbling.

This time Fritz was silent.  Setting down a jug of hot water, he
unlocked and opened the port-hole.

Having washed, shaved, and dressed, Denbigh and O'Hara made their way
to the cabin in which was served their meals.  Covers for three lay on
the table.  The steward was standing by in his customary manner.

Without a word the subs seated themselves.  Presently Fritz came in to
deliver a message from one of the ship's officers.

"Where's the third Englander?" asked the steward.

Apparently Fritz was fond of a joke at the messman's expense.  Without
a word he stooped and looked under the table; then drawing himself up,
he replied:

"I cannot see him."

"Fool!" ejaculated the steward.  "Don't try to be an idiot; you are one
already.  Where is the schwein-hund?"

"Too lazy to get up and have his breakfast, I suppose," replied Fritz
indifferently.  "He was fast asleep when I went in."

Having asked in broken English if the subs required anything further,
and receiving a negative reply, the steward went out.

"Deucedly strange," said Denbigh in a low voice.  "Those fellows know
nothing.  I wonder if von Riesser and his cheerful ober-leutnant have
been up to mischief."

It was not until one bell in the forenoon watch that Stirling's absence
was discovered.  Denbigh and O'Hara were immediately sent for and
closely questioned.

The interview was unsatisfactory, the British officers affecting
ignorance of the time of their comrade's disappearance; while von
Riesser, rightly guessing that Denbigh and O'Hara imagined he was
responsible and was trying to cloak suspicion, was so emphatic in his
assurances that he knew nothing of Stirling's whereabouts that his very
earnestness caused the subs to misjudge him.

A thorough search was instituted, but, naturally, without the hoped-for
result.  Reluctantly, Denbigh and O'Hara came to the conclusion that
their chum had either fallen in or had been thrown overboard.

Kapitan von Riesser was genuinely perturbed, not on account of the loss
of the British officer, but for the additional complication that might
ensue if the _Pelikan_ should be captured.  The idea of being taken
prisoner obsessed the German commander.  It loomed up in front of him
like a gaunt spectre day and night.  It spoke volumes for the fact that
Great Britain was Mistress of the Seas.

He showed little or no elation at having evaded the cruiser that had
doggedly held in pursuit until long after midnight.  His pessimism was
beginning to become infectious.  Officers and men were downcast.
Several times on the lower deck remarks were heard to the effect that
it was an unlucky day when the _Pelikan_ escaped from her nominal state
of internment.

For the next three days Denbigh and O'Hara were "off colour".  The
mystery of Stirling's disappearance affected them deeply; but on the
fourth day they cheered up considerably, for the _Pelikan_ had
intercepted a wireless message from a British cruiser.  The message was
in code, but one word occurred that shed a different light upon the
mystery.  The word was "Stirling".  Von Riesser lost no time in
informing the two British officers, and although the latter were unable
to decipher the message it was evident that Stirling had been picked up
by one of our patrols.

Shortly after daybreak on the fifth day of Stirling's absence, the
_Pelikan_ overhauled a large collier, outward bound from Penarth to
Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, with a valuable cargo of steam
coal.

It was evident that the skipper of the collier had received no warning
that a German raider was at large, for he allowed the _Pelikan_ to get
within three cables' length without exciting any suspicion.

When the latter peremptorily ordered the collier to heave-to and
surrender, however, the stalwart old merchant captain showed the stuff
he was made of, for without complying, he suddenly ported helm and bore
down upon the liner, which had now hoisted German colours.

It was a forlorn hope, for the _Pelikan_ could steam twice as fast as
the collier and was much quicker on her helm.

"By Jove! that fellow has some pluck," exclaimed O'Hara admiringly,
for, anticipating no resistance on the part of the would-be prize,
Kapitan von Riesser had not ordered the British officers below.  "But
he's asking for trouble."

"Yes, poor chap, he's put himself out of court," agreed Denbigh.

Manoeuvring so that the _Pelikan's_ guns could be brought to bear upon
the collier without danger of carrying away her masts, von Riesser gave
the order to fire.  Two shells did the mischief.  Both burst amidships,
sweeping away the bridge and chart-house, and with them the rash and
gallant skipper and three of the crew.

Further resistance being out of the question the collier struck her
flag.  Splendidly handled the _Pelikan_ ranged up alongside, and
without delay the work of transferring the cargo commenced.  Although
the sturdy Britons who formed the collier's crew refused to lift as
much as a little finger to help there were plenty of hands available
from the _Pelikan_.  The steam winches were manned, skips and whips
brought into play, and sacks and sacks of badly wanted fuel were
toppled down the liner's chutes.

"Stand by there, you men!" shouted Kapitan von Riesser, observing that
the crew of the collier were provisioning and swinging out their boats.
"I haven't said I was going to sink your ship.  Come and bear a hand
and we'll let you go."

Somewhere from the vicinity of the wrecked bridge came a hoarse voice:

"We want no favours from strafed Germans.  Get your coal yourself if
you want it.  You'll have to jolly well look sharp, for the hooker'll
be on her way to Davy Jones in half an hour."

"Himmel!" gasped the astonished kapitan, completely taken aback by the
bull-dog audacity of the collier's men.  "Quick, Herr Klick.  Sound the
well."

Accompanied by a couple of armed seamen the unter-leutnant hurried
below.  In a few minutes he reappeared.

"They've opened the valves, sir," he reported.  "The sea is rushing in
like a sluice.  It is already up to the floor of the engine-room."

Von Riesser leant over the bridge rail and surveyed the deck of the
collier forty feet below.

"Unless you close those valves I'll smash every boat you have!" he
shouted.

A chorus of gibes was the only reply.  The engine-room staff alone knew
the position of the valves.  It would take a stranger a couple of hours
to locate them, and the men knew it.

"Smash away," they replied derisively.  "Smashing private property is
the only thing you Germans can do properly."

For a full minute Kapitan von Riesser lost all control of himself.  He
stormed and raved, cursing both in German and English, until he
realized that during that minute the collier had sunk deeper in the
water.

There was a rush on the part of the _Pelikan's_ men who were loading
the sacks in the vessel's holds, so fierce was the influx of the sea.

Above their shouts of anger and surprise arose the ceaseless taunts of
the British crew.  Having fully made up their minds that no quarter
would be given the stalwart men decided to die game, and in their
opinion the spirit of independence was best shown in heaping sarcasm
upon the baffled Teutons.

Already the hawsers and springs holding the two vessels were straining
almost to breaking point.  Reluctantly von Riesser gave the order to
cast off, at the same time telegraphing to the engine-room for
half-speed ahead.

Somewhat to the surprise of the collier's crew no attempt was made by
the _Pelikan_ to interfere with them.  Taking to the boats they hoisted
sail and in twenty minutes the little flotilla was lost to sight.

It was a long time before von Riesser got over his fit of bad temper.
Precious time had been all but wasted, for the only result of the
enterprise was the addition of roughly seventy tons of coal to the
_Pelikan's_ sorely-depleted bunkers.

"By Jove! that was a nasty knock," remarked O'Hara to his chum.  "It's
a wonder old von Riesser hadn't ordered those boats to be stove-in.
The lip those fellows gave him was enough to make a British admiral
commit an act of frightfulness."

"The old chap's frightened about something," replied Denbigh.  "He's
literally on toast.  You see, what with Stirling's escape--for I feel
confident that code message referred to his rescue--he's got to mind
his p's and q's until he's through the cordon.  Then, if he does, I
guess he'll make it mighty hot for us."

Denbigh was right in his surmise, for as soon as Stirling had been
taken on board H.M.S. _Actæon_ and had made a report to the captain,
the cruiser communicated with each of her consorts, giving the position
of the _Pelikan_ when last seen and the probable course.

Following this message another was transmitted to the Admiralty
announcing the safety of Sub-lieutenant Charles Stirling, captured
while on a passage home in the Japanese liner _Nichi Maru_.
Instructions were asked as to the "disposal" of that officer.

Promptly came the reply temporarily appointing Stirling to H.M.S.
_Actæon_ as supernumerary, since it was recognized that his knowledge
of the elusive raider might be of great assistance to the pursuing ship.

Within two hours of the _Actæon's_ wireless message additional small
cruisers, armed auxiliaries, and destroyers left Table Bay, while
others were ordered from the Pacific Station to proceed to the vicinity
of Cape Horn and guard both the passage to the southward of that place
and also the intricate Straits of Magellan.

In the event of the _Pelikan_ eluding the cordon in the Atlantic, and
since it was known that her desired destination was German East Africa,
the squadron operating in conjunction with the British military
expedition was warned to exercise a particularly sharp look-out, both
in the Mozambique Channel and off the East African coast between 4° S.
and 11° S. lat.

Four swift destroyers of the Australian Navy were also given
instructions to proceed to Mauritius and await orders.  Thus the net
was being swiftly tightened around the fugitive liner that alone flew
the Black Cross ensign of Germany outside European waters.



CHAPTER VIII

Reinforcements

Under reduced speed, in order to economize her coal, the _Pelikan_ held
on her southerly course.  By dint of careful stoking, her funnels
emitted little or no smoke that might betray her position.  At night
every light was screened.

Fortune seemed to be favouring her, for without sighting a single
vessel she reached the fortieth parallel, or considerably farther to
the south'ard than she need do in ordinary circumstances in order to
round the Cape of Good Hope.

The air was rapidly becoming colder, and her crew, being unprovided
with warm garments, suffered acutely after coming straight from the
Tropics.

While the work of repairing the damage done by the British cruiser's
shells was progressing as well as the limited means at the disposal of
the ship would permit, one of the crew slipped, and striking his head
against the edge of an iron plate, was so severely injured that he died
within two hours of the accident.

It was then that Denbigh and O'Hara had yet another example of the
thoroughness of the German system.  The usual practice would have been
to sew the body up in a shotted hammock and throw it overboard, but
Kapitan von Riesser had another plan.

One of the boats, with the name "_Zwaan_--Rotterdam" painted on the
stern, was lowered.  In it the corpse was placed and the boat turned
adrift.

In due course, the kapitan hoped--and the crew, realizing that
necessity knows no law, agreed with him--that the boat would be sighted
by one of the British cruisers, and thus give the impression that the
raider had sunk.

About four on the following morning the two subs were roused by the
sudden increase of the revolutions of the propellers, and the frantic
tramp of feet on deck.

"Hulloa, what's wrong now?" asked O'Hara.  "They've got a move on for
something."

"One of our ships in chase, I think," replied Denbigh.  "As we are
locked in we may just as well go to sleep again.  I'd like to wake up
and find the hooker hove-to and a prize."

"Not bad advice," rejoined the Irishman, turning over and rolling
himself in his blankets.  "Thank goodness it's not our watch.  If these
fellows carry on much farther we'll find ourselves on the way to the
South Pole."

Sleep, however, was out of the question.  The two chums talked at
intervals until the appearance of Fritz warned them that it was time to
dress for breakfast.

After the meal the subs found, somewhat to their surprise, that they
were not prohibited from going on deck, as was generally the case when
another vessel was sighted.

It was piercingly cold.  A heavy dew had frozen as it fell, rendering
the decks very slippery.  Several of the crew were at work with hoses,
washing down the planks with salt water in order to clear away the thin
coating of ice.  So keen was the wind that Denbigh and his companion
were glad to take shelter under the lee of the deck-houses.

Astern, at a distance of about two miles, was a long, rakish-looking
craft, with two short masts and two funnels.  She was painted a dark
grey, almost appearing black.  She flew no flag, but a signal fluttered
from the foremast.  Owing to the direction of the wind it was
impossible, even with the aid of powerful glasses, to distinguish the
flags, since the vessel was steaming directly in the wake of the
runaway _Pelikan_.

Several of the latter's officers were aft keeping the mysterious craft
under observation, while on the after-bridge Kapitan von Riesser and
the officers of the watch were engaged upon a similar task.

Seeing the British officers appear the kapitan descended the bridge and
strolled aft.  Affecting surprise at finding Denbigh and the Irishman
on deck he asked:

"What do you make of that vessel, Herr Denbigh?  Is she one of yours?"

The sub shook his head.

"I really cannot say," he replied.  "You see we've added considerably
to our fleet since the outbreak of war, and I haven't been in Home
Waters since October, 1913.  She's coming up pretty fast, I should
imagine."

"She is," agreed Kapitan von Riesser dryly.  "But not so fast as you
would like, perhaps.  It is somewhat strange that she hasn't opened
fire before now.  Perhaps it is because your compatriots are afraid of
hitting you," he added with a slight sneer.

"And for similar humanitarian reasons you have refrained from using
your quick-firers, I presume?" retorted O'Hara.

"She's hoisting Argentine colours, sir," reported one of the
_Pelikan's_ officers.

He was right, for altering helm slightly the pursuing vessel enabled
the flag to blow athwartships.  At the same moment the signal that had
been kept flying at the masthead could be distinguished.  It read:
"What ship is that?"

"Those colours may be an English trick," said the kapitan.  "I'll carry
on."

"By Jove, old man!" he whispered to his chum.  "It looks as if we are
dished this time.  We were a little too premature in chipping the Old
Man."

In an hour the pursuing craft had closed to slightly less than a mile.
Still she made no attempt to open fire.  There were, in fact, no guns
visible.

"Hoist our proper colours," ordered Kapitan von Riesser at length.  "It
will be all the same in another twenty minutes' time whether we use our
own ensign or any other."

The Black Cross ensign was run up.  Its appearance was greeted by a
prolonged blast on the stranger's siren, then from the extremity of the
pursuing craft's bridge a man began semaphoring.

Although skilled in semaphore, neither Denbigh nor O'Hara could
understand the message.  The British system differs from the German,
which again varies with the French and Spanish.  Yet, peculiarly, the
officers and men of the _Pelikan_ could read the signal with ease.

Grave, anxious looks gave place to smiles, while one of the crew began
to cheer--a demonstration that the kapitan quickly suppressed.

Von Riesser had now ascended the bridge.  Still suspicious he ordered
the torpedo tubes to be charged and the engines to be reversed.

Directly the overtaking craft noticed the falling off of the liner's
speed her decks were black with humanity, and the air was rent with
cries of "Hoch!"  Then came the strains of "Deutschland uber alles", in
which the _Pelikan's_ crew joined lustily.

"Good heavens!" ejaculated Denbigh.  "What does it all mean?  There's a
small German colony afloat."

"'Fraid so," agreed O'Hara.

As there was hardly any sea running the two vessels ran alongside each
other.  The new-comer had the name _San Matias_ painted on her stern
and on her boats and life-buoys.  She carried no guns except a couple
of small brass signalling pieces.  Her officers and a few of her crew
were South Americans, beyond doubt, but the rest of the crowded
complement were of marked Teutonic origin.

The British subs stood at the rail watching the unwonted sight.  No one
offered to order them below.  It was part of the business to let them
see what was going on.

No time was lost.  While a party of officers from the _San Matias_ were
being entertained by von Riesser in his cabin the Germans from her
transferred themselves and their belongings to the _Pelikan_--nearly
three hundred men of military age and bearing.  Then came the work of
transhipping stores from the capacious holds of the South American
vessel.  Carcass after carcass of oxen and sheep were brought on deck.
From the oxen were produced long bundles wrapped in cloth.  Every
bundle contained four modern magazine rifles.  Enclosed with the frozen
mutton were small shells and rifle ammunition.  As fast as the
munitions were taken from their strange places of concealment most of
the carcasses were dumped overboard, a few hundred being retained for
food and stored in the _Pelikan's_ refrigerators.  Then came bundles of
hides, each containing parts of machine-guns, until it looked as if the
ship had enough material to equip an army corps.

Long before the _San Matias_ had disgorged her warlike stores Denbigh
had overheard enough conversation to enable him to solve the mystery.

The _San Matias_ had been chartered by a number of wealthy German
merchants in Buenos Ayres for the purpose of sending some hundreds of
reservists to German East Africa.  The presence of the _Pelikan_ in the
South Atlantic had been expected, and her progress, based upon reports
from British cruisers and duly transmitted by spies to Buenos Ayres,
reached the projectors of the scheme with remarkable promptitude.  The
arms and ammunition had been purchased sometime previously from a
pro-German firm in New York, and sent to the Argentine to fulfil a
fictitious contract for the Government of that republic.

The _San Matias_ was then chartered, her owner, captain, and crew being
heavily bribed to undertake the risk, comparative immunity being
afforded by means of forged ship's papers and certificates of
nationality of the "passengers".  At the same time the report was
spread in Buenos Ayres and Monte Video that the _Pelikan_ had been
sighted making for Bahia--a matter of two thousand miles N.N.E. of the
estuary of the La Plata.  British agents swallowed the bait and
telegraphed the news to London, whence, in turn, the false information
was transmitted to the patrol vessels specially detailed to search for
the daring raider.

This report had literally done the trick.  The northernmost group of
British cruisers instantly converged upon the Brazilian coast in the
neighbourhood of Bahia.  The southern patrol remained in the vicinity
of the Falklands.  Thus the _Pelikan_ had the chance of a free and
uninterrupted run eastwards until she approached the vicinity of the
Cape of Good Hope.  Although her adventures were by no means over, one
source of danger had been removed.

The German reservists were certainly optimists.  They firmly believed
that Egypt had been wrested from the British, and that their role was
to join the large army concentrating in German East Africa and march
victoriously down the valley of the Nile and crush the remnant of the
English in the vicinity of Khartoum.  According to their idea and
belief South Africa was in rebellion, and that German South-West Africa
was once more a Teutonic colony.  India, too, had revolted and joined
the Turks, who had occupied Persia and Beluchistan.  Mention was also
made of the impending advance of the Turco-Germanic armies through
Tibet and China to establish a vast empire from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, and to avenge upon Japan the loss of Kiau-Chau.  In short, the
German armies were everywhere triumphant, although they could hardly
understand why they should have to be smuggled out to sea when the
German High Seas Fleet roamed unchallenged and the British navy skulked
in harbours.

At length the last of the _San Mathias's_ cargo was transhipped.  The
two vessels parted company, the Argentine returning to Buenos Ayres
while the _Pelikan_ headed eastward on her perilous passage round the
Cape of Good Hope.



CHAPTER IX

The Midnight Landing

The sanguine spirits of the German reservists had the effect of
cheering up the crew of the _Pelikan_.  To confirm their assertions the
former produced copies of newspapers printed under Teutonic auspices
for the benefit of the South American republics.

Taking advantage of the information concerning the dispositions of the
British cruisers the kapitan of the _Pelikan_ stopped another collier
at a distance of four hundred miles east of Buenos Ayres.  For eighteen
hours the two vessels lay side by side while the coal was being
transhipped to the almost empty bunkers of the raider.

For certain reasons von Riesser did not sink the tramp after having
depleted her cargo.  Perhaps it was because the crew had offered no
resistance; but it was just possible that the kapitan of the _Pelikan_
had sufficient humanity to see that the turning adrift of a couple of
boat-loads in the desolate South Atlantic meant practically slow and
certain death.

From the time of the arrival of the German reservists von Riesser's
demeanour towards Denbigh and O'Hara underwent a marked change.  Rarely
did he enter into conversation with them.  He treated them with
aloofness.  This the subs minded but little; it was the restrictions
placed upon their movements that riled them.  They were now allowed
only two periods of exercise on deck during the day--from ten till noon
and from two till five--and kept within strict limits.  A sentry was
posted to see that they remained within boundaries specified, and
orders had been given for none of the reservists, many of whom spoke
English, to enter into conversation with them.

On the fifth day after falling in with the _San Matias_ the ship's
course was changed to S.S.E.  This she held until further progress was
barred by the presence of a large field of pack ice.  Von Riesser, in
order to avoid any possible chance of meeting any of the Cape Squadron,
had elected to go south into the vast and desolate Antarctic before
entering the Indian Ocean.

At length came the welcome order to steer north.  Gradually the
temperature rose as the _Pelikan_ left the frozen seas astern.

Maintaining a steady progress the ship reached the vicinity of
Mauritius, keeping well to the eastward of that island.

The _Pelikan_ now underwent another change.  From truck to water-line
she was repainted--black on the starboard side and a light-grey on the
port.  An additional funnel, a dummy one made out of canvas stretched
on a framework of hoop iron and wood, was set up.

"It looks as if this craft is going to get through after all," remarked
O'Hara, as the _Pelikan_ reached Equatorial waters without having so
much as sighted another vessel of any description.

"Yes, rotten luck," said Denbigh.  "I heard von Langer telling that fat
major that another twenty-four hours would bring us in sight of land.
I notice these fellows are preparing for their jaunt ashore."

The reservists were discarding their motley civilian attire and were
being provided with drill uniforms that had at one time been white but
were now dyed to a colour nearly approaching khaki.  Each man wore a
sun helmet, but instead of puttees, jack-boots of dark undressed
leather were served out.

In the midst of these preparations a sail was reported on the starboard
bow.  Hurriedly arms were served out to the troops, the quick-firers
were manned, and machine-guns placed out of sight but in a position
that would enable them to be used with deadly effect should occasion
arise.

"Down to your cabins, you Englishmen!" snarled the fat major, von
Eckenstein, who had previously been in conversation with the
ober-leutnant of the _Pelikan_.

"Are you in charge of this ship, Herr Major?" asked O'Hara.  "Hitherto
our orders have come from Kapitan von Riesser."

The major's only reply was to raise a cane that he held in his hand and
to strike the Irishman sharply across the cheek.

O'Hara's hot Hibernian blood surged at the insult.  Fortunately he
managed to keep himself under control, but for an instant Denbigh felt
certain that his comrade's hard fist would come violently in contact
with von Eckenstein's podgy nose.

"I'm afraid that bounder will have cause to be sorry for this,"
remarked O'Hara, when the chums had retired to their cabin.  He
critically examined in the glass the reflection of his face, on which a
weal was rapidly developing.  "By Jove, it was lucky for him that you
were there, otherwise I would have given him something by which to
remember me to the rest of his days."

"Perhaps it is as well," rejoined Denbigh.  "It hardly pays in the
circumstances to argue the point with a Prussian."

Of what occurred during the next two hours the subs had only a vague
idea.

Von Riesser realized that flight was out of the question.  To attempt
to do so would arouse suspicion, and since several swift cruisers were
known to be off the coast, a wireless message would bring half a dozen
speedy British warships upon the scene.  He therefore decided to carry
on, escape by a stratagem if possible, if not, fight in a final bid for
liberty.

Since the waters adjacent to German East Africa had been declared to be
in a state of blockade it was useless to hoist the mercantile flag of
any nation, so the Blue Ensign of the British Reserve was displayed.

In less than half an hour the strange craft was plainly visible.  She
was a small tramp, also displaying the Blue Ensign.

Von Riesser heaved a sigh of relief.  She was not an armed auxiliary,
otherwise the White Ensign would have been used.  More than likely she
was one of the fleet of subsidized merchantmen carrying stores and
munitions for the British Expeditionary Force operating against the
sole remaining German colony.

The stranger hoisted a signal.  It was in code and consequently
unintelligible to the _Pelikan_.  Von Riesser promptly replied by
another hoist, the flags meaning nothing, but simply to puzzle the
tramp.

The _Pelikan_ held on her course, which, in defiance of the Rule of the
Road at Sea, would bring across the bows of the other.  That in itself
was suspicious, but any alteration of helm would reveal the _Pelikan's_
piebald sides.

At a distance of less than a mile the German vessel gave three blasts
upon her siren, signifying that her engines were going astern.
Nevertheless she was steaming ahead as hard as she could until
deception was no longer possible.

An order from the bridge and the screens surrounding the guns were
lowered revealing her formidable quick-firers.

"Heave-to, or I'll sink you!" shouted the kapitan through a megaphone,
for the tramp was now less than two cables' lengths away and broad on
the starboard beam.

The tramp, which proved to be S.S. _Myra_ of South Shields, had no
option but to surrender.  She was unarmed and of slow speed.  Having
left Simon's Bay with a convoy under escort she had encountered the
tail of a cyclone.  Detained by temporary engine-room defects during
the storm she had fallen out of station, and was now a couple of
hundred miles astern of the rest of the convoy.

Slowly the Blue Ensign was lowered, and way taken off the ship.  Within
ten minutes a prize crew in charge of Unter-leutnant Klick was on
board.  The officers and crew were locked up below, and warned that any
attempt at resistance would result in the instant destruction of the
_Myra_ with all on board.

The boarding-officer's report was to the effect that the tramp was
heavily laden with warlike stores.  He asked instructions as to the
disposal of the prize.

Kapitan von Riesser's mind was very active now.  With a successful
issue in sight he was not inclined to send such a valuable prize to the
bottom.

"Can you get the _Myra's_ engine-room and stokehold staff to work, Herr
Klick?" asked the kapitan.

"I can, sir," replied the unter-leutnant grimly; and he did, for by
dint of threats he compelled the luckless men to undertake to carry on
under his orders.

"Very good," continued the kapitan of the _Pelikan_, receiving an
affirmative reply.  "Follow me at two cables' lengths astern.  I'll
slow down to enable you to keep station.  Be prepared to abandon ship
instantly should occasion arise."

Later in the afternoon the _Pelikan_ and her prize arrived off Latham
Island, under the lee of which von Riesser had decided to remain the
night, since it was too hazardous to enter the harbour he had selected
during the hours of darkness.

Denbigh, who had been allowed on deck, recognized the island.  He had
served a commission on the flagship of the East Indies India Station
when he was a midshipman, and was fairly well conversant with the
African coast in the vicinity of Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam.

Latham Island is a dangerous, low-lying patch of coral and sand, of
oval form, being barely 350 yards in length and 180 yards broad.  In no
place does it rise more than 10 feet above the sea.  Its surface is
quite flat, having been made so by the constant treading of myriads of
sea-fowl, that have consolidated the sand collected on the coral
substratum into a soft sandstone, which shines very white in the sun,
but is difficult to discern at night or in a bad light.

When visited and surveyed by H.M.S. _Shearwater_ in 1873, a stone
beacon was erected on the island, but owing to the absence of mortar
used in its construction, it was blown down by the wind.  Coco-nut
trees were planted at the same time, but the result was unsatisfactory,
as the birds destroyed them.

Owing to the dangerous vicinity of the islands it was unlikely that any
vessel would pass within several miles of it during the night, so the
_Pelikan_ stood a chance of remaining at the anchorage without fear of
detection.

"We are not far from the Rufigi River, are we?" asked O'Hara.  "Do you
think that the _Pelikan_ is going to run for there?"

"Hardly," replied Denbigh.  "With the _Königsberg_ as a warning I think
she'll give the Rufigi a wide berth.  It's my opinion that she'll have
a show at getting into the Mohoro River.  It's fairly close, and once
we can pass the bar there's deep water for nearly twenty miles.  I'm
curious to know what we are doing off Latham Island, however.  I think
I'll try the Stirling trick and have a prowl round on deck during the
night."

"Only don't leave me in the lurch, old man," protested the Irishman,
with an assumed look of consternation.

"I won't," replied Denbigh laughingly.  "So don't lock me out."

Just before midnight the sub set to work with the screw-driver and
succeeded in opening the door.  Fortunately there was no sentry on the
aft-deck on this occasion.  Overhead there was a considerable amount of
noise going on.  It conveyed the impression that there were scores of
men hard at work and trying to perform their various tasks with as
little noise as possible.

Unseen and unheard, Denbigh gained the deck and mingled with the
throng.  There were seamen and reservists all hard at it, buckling to
in the starlight.  Cautiously the sub looked about for a place of
concealment, where he could hear and see everything that was going on
in his vicinity without much risk of detection.

He glanced up.  Overhead were the boats swinging inboard on davits.
Side by side with them, and resting on the booms or transverse steel
girders, were some larger boats which could only be hoisted out by
means of derricks.  Between were several planks and spars lashed to the
girders.

Awaiting a favourable chance, Denbigh nimbly ascended the iron ladder
on the funnel casing that led to a platform just below the siren.
After climbing a few rungs, he was able to swing himself across to the
nearest boat, which was almost as large as a battleship's pinnace.  It
was roughly forty feet in length, and weighed nearly four tons.

"Look alive, men!" ordered Unter-leutnant Klick in his usual bullying
tone.  "The whole of the stuff must be sent ashore within an hour."

"Two boat-loads full, sir?" asked a petty officer.

"No; one.  Get steam on the main hoist and lift out the pinnace."

"Hulloa!" thought Denbigh.  "This looks like a proper jamboree.  I
stand a chance of getting nabbed.  I wonder what the idea is of landing
a quantity of gear on a sandbank like Latham Island?"

He heard several men ascending to make ready the slings for hoisting
out.  Promptly the sub retreated for'ard and crouched in the bows.
Here, unless any material was likely to be stowed in his place of
concealment, Denbigh had a fighting chance of escaping detection, for
above him was a large grating that fitted between the bows and the
for'ard thwart.

"Now, then, Herr Major!" exclaimed Kapitan von Riesser.  "Are your men
ready?  At least twenty with shovels will be necessary."

"I cannot see that it is necessary," objected Major von Eckenstein.
"It is a mere waste of time.  I protest against this useless labour,
when we ought to be making for the Mohoro River."  And the Prussian
officer clanked the tip of his scabbard loudly upon the deck, as if to
emphasize his protest.

Von Riesser, judging by the sound of his voice, lost his temper.

"Once you are ashore, Herr Major, you are in sole command of these
troops.  Here I am your superior.  If I choose to give orders to
facilitate our retreat, should it be necessary, it is for you to carry
them out.  If you refuse, I will place you under arrest and report the
matter to the military governor of the colony."

"If you would only explain what you propose to do, instead of giving
orders that have no apparent reason, I am willing to assist you," said
the major grumblingly.  "This business is evidently the result of a
sudden inspiration on your part, and I think it is only just that you
should take others into your confidence."

"You are setting a bad example for the discipline of the ship,"
declared the kapitan in a lower tone.  "It would be as well if we
adjourned to my cabin.  When you have heard what is proposed to be
done, I think you will agree with me that such a step is certainly
necessary."

"Carry on, Herr Klick," continued von Riesser as he moved away.  "See
that every article enumerated on the list is sent ashore.  I hold you
responsible."

A bare-footed seaman, leaping upon the bow grating, prevented Denbigh
hearing more of what was going on below.  The fellow bent and groped
for the hook of the chain sling.  As he did so, his hand was within a
couple of inches of the sub's face.  The man withdrew his hand so
suddenly, that for the moment Denbigh imagined that he had been
discovered.  Then came the metallic click of the hook engaging with the
wire hawser from the derrick.

To the accompaniment of the clank, clank, of the winch and the hiss of
escaping steam, the pinnace rose from its resting-place.  Swaying
gently, it swung outboard and was lowered rapidly into the water.

For the next quarter of an hour the crew were feverishly employed in
dumping stores and gear into the boat.  There were cans of petrol, that
gave Denbigh food for reflection, boxes of provisions, water-beakers,
arms and ammunition, sailcloth, and shipwright's tools.

Then came an avalanche of picks and shovels, followed by a crowd of men
who, perched in every available space, swarmed like ants over the
deeply-laden boat.

The pinnace was then cast off and taken in tow by a steam-boat.
Denbigh knew this by the thud of the engines, but he was unaware that
astern of the pinnace was a twenty-seven-foot whaler.

The pinnace grounded on the lee side of a sandbank, for there was
little swell, although on the outlying coral reefs the sea was breaking
heavily.  Her work for the present done, the steam-boat cast off and
returned to the _Pelikan_.

Without loss of time, the crew set to work to unload, and as the
pinnace rose higher out of the water during the course of operations,
she was hauled closer to the land.

"Everything out?" asked a voice.

"I'll see, sir," replied a petty officer, and kneeling on the bottom
boards, he peered under the row of thwarts.

Denbigh shut his eyes and trusted to luck.  He knew that once his gaze
met that of the searcher, the darkness would not screen him.  A
long-drawn minute passed, and then the man reported that the boat was
empty.

"Good; leave a couple of boat-keepers in charge and join the party with
the whaler," continued the officer.  "If you cannot manage her, ask for
additional hands, but I think you will be able to drag her up.  The
ground is hard and level."

Away went the working-party, leaving the pinnace in charge of two
seamen, who, having taken the strain off the bow cables, for the tide
was rising, sat stolidly in the stern-sheets.

Above the distant roar of the surf, Denbigh could distinguish the thud
of the pickaxes and spades.  He would have given a lot to see what the
diggers were doing, but the presence of the boat-keepers compelled him
to crouch, cramped and cold in the bows.  Although the day had been
exceedingly hot, the night air was decidedly chilly, the sand radiating
the heat with great rapidity the moment the sun set.  Clad in light
garments, Denbigh shivered and wished that he could stretch his limbs.

The boat-keepers felt the cold, too, for after a little while they
began to swing their arms.  Finally they jumped ashore and began to
pace to and fro.  Having warmed themselves, the men sat upon the sand,
and produced pipes and tobacco.  The sub distinctly heard the rasping
of matches, and gradually the odour of South American tobacco assailed
his nostrils.  The men had begun to talk, desultory conversation soon
working up into an animated conversation.

Cautiously Denbigh stretched his limbs.  Then waiting until the
numbness had practically disappeared, he grasped the gunwale and slowly
raised himself until his head was level with one of the rowlocks, the
poppet of which had fortunately been removed.

His range of vision was limited.  In the bright starlight he could
discern the diggers.  Already the bulk of the stores were hidden, while
at a distance of twenty yards from the cache, other men were excavating
a long trench, by the side of which lay the whaler.  The depth of the
hole was now about five feet, and only the heads of the workers were
visible from the pinnace.

The sub waited and watched, keeping a sharp look-out lest the
boat-keepers should return.  Presently he became aware that his range
of vision was changing.  The rising tide was swinging the pinnace
diagonally with the shore.

Denbigh promptly returned to his lair.  He was not a minute too soon,
for just as he settled himself the boat-keepers returned and took up
the strain on the bow ropes.

"A good rise and fall for neap tides," remarked one of the men.  "If we
get as much as this tomorrow we ought to be able to cross the bar.  I
don't fancy having to remain at anchor in this lagoon until the new
moon with those English cruisers prowling around."

"Ach, we will take due precautions, Henrich," replied the other.  "Once
we get inside the reefs we are perfectly safe.  It is the run across to
the mainland that is the trouble.  Come on, let us go back to our snug
seat and have another smoke.  It is indeed good to be able to tread dry
land again, even if it is little better than a sandbank."

The men scrambled over the gunwale, and as soon as they were gone
Denbigh took up his former position by the rowlock.  He was just in
time to see the whaler, lifted by a dozen brawny seamen and soldiers,
topple bottom upwards into the trench.  Without loss of time the
Germans commenced to shovel back the soil.  Others joined them, for the
task of hiding the stores had been completed, and in a very short space
of time the boat was quite covered, great care being taken to smooth
the soft substratum until it showed no sign of having been disturbed.

The sub retreated to his hiding-place, for the men were beginning to
return, straggling up in groups of threes and fours.  The pinnace was
backed out about half her own length and the men waded until they were
able to climb on board.

They rowed back to the _Pelikan_.  Once on the return journey the
bowman, swinging his bare legs, caught Denbigh a blow on the forehead
with his heel.  Fortunately the fellow did not trouble to investigate,
but the sub realized that it was a narrow squeak.

Arriving alongside the pinnace was hoisted out and stowed in its former
place.  The workers were dismissed, the watch changed, and quietude
brooded over the ship.

"Now comes the rub," ejaculated the sub as he crept from his place of
concealment.  As agilely as a monkey he made his way along the steel
beam until he gained the funnel ladder.  Then he waited and listened.
All was silence, save for the rumble of the surf and the subdued hiss
of steam from the ship's boilers.

Unseen and unheard Denbigh gained the companion and descended the
aft-deck.  As he did so footsteps on deck told him he was barely in
time.  Cautiously he lifted the curtain that served to screen the light
from the hatchway.  The space beyond was deserted.

Swiftly he tiptoed to the door of the cabin.  He tried the handle.  The
door refused to move.  He knocked softly, thinking that O'Hara had
fallen asleep.  There was no response.  Perhaps the Irishman had gone
in search of him; but, if so, how could he have secured the door on the
inside?  Before Denbigh could knock again a steady tread resounded
along the alley-way.  The sentry on the aft-deck was coming towards him.



CHAPTER X

The Lagoon

Almost in an instant Denbigh decided how to act.  He could have crept
along the alley-way and surprised the sentry; but stunning the man
would be of little use.  Nor could he hope to bluff the fellow, since
there was too much light to attempt to pass himself off as one of the
_Pelikan's_ officers.  To retreat was impracticable, for someone, he
knew, was on deck in the immediate vicinity of the companion.

Without hesitation the sub opened the door of the cabin adjoining his
and entered quickly and silently.  The place was in darkness.  Whether
it was tenanted or not he was unable to ascertain.  Closing the door he
stood stock-still and listened.  He could hear no sound of a person
breathing.  For five minutes he waited, then began to grope until he
found the edge of one of the bunks.  The sleeping-place was empty.
There were not even blankets and bedding.  This looked promising.

He continued his exploration, testing the remaining bunks in turn,
until he was able to come to the happy decision that by sheer good luck
he had lighted upon an empty cabin.

The glass scuttle in the port-hole was closed, but there was no
dead-light in position over the opening.  In that case it would be too
risky to switch on the light, until he had taken due precautions.

The dead-light squeaked shrilly on its hinges as he drew it to.  He
wondered whether the watch on deck heard the sound.  He waited again.
There were many footsteps descending the companion.  He could detect
von Langer's guttural tones, discussing some matter with one of the
other officers.

"Dash it all!" ejaculated Denbigh, a cold perspiration standing out on
his forehead.  "What if I'm in that fellow's cabin?"

The men stopped outside the cabin.  They were evidently indulging in
horse-play, for once a heavy body struck the wall with a thud, followed
by a chorus of boisterous laughter.

Then, to Denbigh's intense relief, the officers went along the passage.
Once again he had been lucky.

Reassured he switched on the light.  The cabin was bare of furniture.
In one corner lay a pile of books and a couple of sea-stained
portmanteaux.  Hanging from a coat-hook was an officer's sword-belt.
It was mildewed; the stitching of the holster had burst, the buckle was
green with verdigris.  Attached to the belt was a small, circular
leather case secured by a strap.

Denbigh handled it gingerly.  There was something hard inside.
Curiosity prompted him to unbuckle the strap and open the case.  Within
was a pocket-compass.  What was more, it was a spirit one and seemingly
in good order.  Without compunction the sub abstracted the compass and
slipped it into his pocket.

As he did so he was startled to hear a deep groan.  It seemed to sound
close to his ear.  He wheeled abruptly and shot a glance in the
direction of one of the bunks, thinking that he had made a mistake in
deeming it untenanted.

There was no one there.  Again the groan was repeated.  This time the
sound seemed to come from the adjoining cabin--the one occupied by Pat
O'Hara.

A hole in the bulkhead attracted Denbigh's notice.  It was the aperture
drilled by the Germans when they made their ineffectual attempt to
chloroform the three British officers.

Through it Denbigh could see but a very small portion of the next
cabin, but sufficient to observe O'Hara lying on his back in his bunk.
He was writhing and groaning.  His eyes were wide open and rolling in a
horrifying manner.

Outside all was quiet once more.

"I say, old man," whispered Denbigh.  "What's wrong?"

At the sound of his voice O'Hara raised himself.  He tried to speak,
but could not.  With an effort he rolled out of his bunk and stood
clinging to the edge for support.

"Open the door," said Denbigh peremptorily.  "I cannot get in."

"If he's not able to it's the last straw," he soliloquized.  "I'll have
to give myself up and get assistance."

With a great effort the Irishman lurched across the floor and removed
the chair which had been wedged against the lock.  Then, unable to
regain his bunk, he pitched inertly upon his face.

Denbigh waited no longer.  He darted into the alley-way, not even
waiting to see if everything were clear.  The door opened easily.  He
entered, and lifting O'Hara as easily as a child placed him on his bunk.

"Felt jolly rotten almost as soon as you cleared out," muttered the
Irishman.  "Sorry, but I couldn't help it."

"I don't suppose you could," replied Denbigh, for O'Hara's regret was
genuine.  "I'll ring for assistance."

He touched the electric bell.  Then, and only then, he remembered that
he had to replace a portion of the lock.  Grasping the screw-driver he
set to work, and had just driven home the last screw when the locked
turned, and a petty officer entered.

The man hurried off for the ship's surgeon.  It was nearly a quarter of
an hour before the doctor arrived.  He came prepared to deal with a
trifling case, but when he saw the Irishman he looked grave.

Without expressing his opinion the surgeon went out.  Nor did he again
put in an appearance.  He sent, however, some quinine and written
directions as to treatment.

For the rest of the night Denbigh sat up with his comrade.  As day
broke O'Hara seemed easier.  The internal pains passed off.  His
temperature fell.  He was able to talk rationally.  By noon he was
practically well again.  The attack had been sharp and rapid, but once
over it seemed to leave no ill-effects.

Without being sighted by any of the British patrol vessels the
_Pelikan_ and her prize arrived off the entrance to the Mohoro River.
Here the two ships slowed down until there was sufficient water for
them to cross the outer bar.

During the interval Denbigh and O'Hara were peremptorily ordered to
leave the _Pelikan_ and take up their quarters on the _Myra_, the
reason being that von Riesser was terribly afraid of illness, and in
spite of the doctor's assurances he had a firm belief that O'Hara was
suffering from yellow fever, malaria, black-water fever, and every
tropical disease under the sun.

"Let him jolly well think so," said the Irishman joyfully.  "I feel as
fit as a fiddle now; and I'm not sorry for the change."

All the same O'Hara acted the invalid to perfection as he was rowed
from the raider to her prize.  Denbigh accompanied him, taking good
care to bring all their scanty personal property that they had been
permitted to save from the _Nichi Maru_, excepting the gold that von
Riesser had ordered to be confiscated.

The _Myra_ was in charge of Unter-leutnant Kaspar Klick and fifteen
men.  There were also the skipper, officers, and crew of the tramp,
numbering thirty-two persons.  The officers were given a fair amount of
liberty, but the men were kept under hatches, to their no small
discomfort in the tropical heat.

"Sorry I'm not able to make your acquaintance under more favourable
auspices," was the greeting of Captain Pennington, the master of the
captured _Myra_, when the two subs introduced themselves.  "But I hope
before many hours that we will be set at liberty."

"We've been hoping that for weeks," said Denbigh.  "The luck those
fellows get is astonishing."

"So I should imagine," agreed Captain Pennington.  "I learnt at Cape
Town that the _Pelikan_ was given up as lost, as some wreckage and one
of her boats were picked up in the South Atlantic.  That is why our
cruisers relaxed their patrol, and were ordered to rendezvous at
Zanzibar.  There'll be a dozen or more on their way up."

"And any monitors?" asked O'Hara.

"Four, as far as I know," replied the _Myra's_ skipper.  "One was
detained for repairs at Simon's Bay.  The others must be at Zanzibar by
this time.  They will be invaluable for work inside the coral reefs."

"And the _Pelikan_--or _Zwaan_, as we are accustomed to call her--hopes
to ascend the Mohoro River.  Her draught is about twenty-two feet, and
she may be able to lighten to eighteen."

"She won't do it," declared Pennington decisively.  "It will be as much
as she can manage to cross the outer bar.  She'll be nabbed before she
does that."

"When's high water?" enquired Denbigh.

"Let me see.  New moon's on Friday.  To-day's Saturday.  High water,
full and change, is at 4 p.m.  I take it that it's the top of the tide
to-day at eleven or thereabouts.  They'll have to be pretty sharp about
it to arrive off the entrance to the lagoon by that time."

As a matter of fact von Riesser signalled for the prize to steam full
speed ahead, the _Pelikan_ following at four cables' lengths astern.
By 8.30 the _Myra_ slowed down off the entrance to the Mohoro River.

There was a considerable amount of mist about, for the land breeze had
not commenced to make its influence felt.

All that could be seen was a long, irregular line of coral reefs
against which the ground-swell broke with a sullen roar into masses of
milk-white foam.  There were nearly a dozen visible gaps in the reef,
the largest, bearing directly ahead, being marked by a couple of
coco-nut palms.

At this point an island was in course of formation, there being a few
feet of soil accumulated upon the coral.  These trees marked the
entrance to the lagoon, into which the Mohoro River made its way by
means of three separate estuaries.

The Germans left nothing to chance.  Way was taken off both vessels.  A
boat was manned and lowered from the _Pelikan_ and rowed towards the
entrance, soundings being taken methodically and frequently.

Having found the deepest water the officers in the boat signalled to
the _Myra_, and at half speed the captured tramp crept towards the
narrow passage.

Between the foam-swept barriers she made her way, until she lay quietly
upon the peaceful waters of the lagoon.

The _Pelikan_ prepared to follow.

"Ten to one she'll bump," exclaimed Captain Pennington.  "There you
are!  I said so," he added, as the raider touched the bottom with a
dull grinding sound.  Still she carried way.  Scraping along for nearly
her own length she slid into deep water.

"Hope she's stove in her bottom," said O'Hara.  "See, they're using her
bilge pumps."

A signal was hoisted on the raider.  What it meant the British officers
were unable to say, but it was evident from the expression of the face
of Unter-leutnant Klick that the damage to the _Pelikan_ was but slight.

By this time the mist was rising.  The mainland could now be discerned,
low-lying ground densely covered with mangroves and backed by rugged
hills at a distance of about ten miles from the coast.

The lagoon was quite three miles in breadth and extended in a northerly
direction beyond the range of vision.  Southward it gradually converged
towards the coast, apparently joining it at a distance of five miles
from where the ships lay.

"An anchorage big enough to take the whole of the British Navy,"
declared Denbigh.  "It's the bar that spoils the place, apart from the
pestilential swamps.  Do you see that peculiar isolated tree?  It's a
casuarina.  It marks the principal entrance to the Mohoro--or did when
I was here last, but these African rivers have a peculiar knack of
altering their course entirely in a night."

"I suppose we are going straight up," remarked O'Hara.  "There's depth
enough for us."

"Goodness knows," replied his chum.  "At all events the _Pelikan_
can't."

Apparently the Germans had a good knowledge of the lagoon, for boldly
closing with the land, the _Pelikan_ dropped anchor within three
hundred yards of the highest part of the shore, where a cliff rose
abruptly to the height of thirty or forty feet.  On the summit the
ground shelved gently.  There were several native huts to be seen in
the clearing between the mangroves, while farther back was a
galvanized-iron shed with a whitewashed roof.

Acting under von Riesser's instructions the _Myra's_ anchor was let go,
the tramp bringing up at a cable's length from her captor, and so close
to the shore that when she swung her stern was within forty yards of
the cliff.  The water here was ten fathoms deep, the shore being
steep-to, but in spite of the depth the bottom could be clearly seen.

"Suppose you vant to go 'shore, hein?" asked Unter-leutnant Klick.  "No
tricks.  Plenty of shark about."

The German was right.  Already the surface of the lagoon in the
vicinity of the two ships was furrowed with diverging lines of ripples
as the black dorsal fins of numerous tigers of the deep cleft the water.

"No, I don't think I want to bathe, lieutenant," remarked Captain
Pennington.  "It hardly looks tempting."

Kaspar Klick laughed boisterously.

"You see even der shark is der ally of Zhermany," he said.

"The information does not astonish me one little bit," rejoined the
master of the _Myra_.

"Vot you mean?" demanded the under-leutnant, instinctively guessing
that he had made a verbal blunder.

At that moment, when the German was beginning to exhibit signs of
anger, another signal was made from the _Pelikan_, ordering the _Myra_
to ship as much additional cargo from her captor as she could carry.

Until sunset the work progressed.  Under threats from their captors the
British crew were turned up from below and compelled to assist in
handing and stowing the gear, for it was von Riesser's intention to
lighten his vessel as much as possible, so as to attempt the inner bar
at least a couple of days before the new moon.

Night put an end to the day's work, for not a light that could be
visible from seaward was shown.

The two subs slept badly.  Their cabin accommodation was indifferent
compared with that on board the _Pelikan_, for Unter-leutnant Klick had
appropriated the skipper's quarters, and Pennington and his chief
engineer were obliged to share the small space that had been the mate's
cabin, while that officer was told to occupy the same cabin in which
Denbigh and O'Hara were placed.

They lacked the ventilating fan and the liberal air space.  The cabin
was low and stuffy.  It had no direct communication with the outside
air, as it opened into the state-room, where in normal times the
_Myra's_ officers used to have their meals.  At present that limited
space was still further restricted by the huge cases of military stores
removed from the _Pelikan_.  These had been struck down the hatchway
and carried aft, where they remained under the charge of an armed
sentry.

"Those fellows think they've got us safely under lock and key," said
the mate, a burly North-countryman of the name of Armstrong.  "They
don't know that each officer of this hooker has a duplicate key to his
cabin.  I took jolly good care to keep mine, and I know where to put my
hand on the key to this one.  To-morrow, now I know how we're berthed,
I'll get that key."

At daybreak the work of transhipping the cargo was proceeded with
before the miasmic mists that hid the shore had dispersed.  Two boats
were dispatched from the _Pelikan_ to the shore and returned laden with
tops of coco-nut trees.  Before noon the foliage was stowed below out
of sight.

Just before high water the _Myra_, being loaded far below her Plimsoll
mark, prepared to weigh and ascend the river.  Even in her deeply laden
condition she drew a good nine feet less than the _Pelikan_, and could
negotiate the bar without much risk.

The cable was almost "up and down" and the anchor on the point of
"breaking-out" when a warning shout came from one of the look-out men
on the _Pelikan_.  A bugle call for "General Quarters" followed in
quick succession.

"Hulloa, that's great!" ejaculated Denbigh excitedly.  He pointed in
the direction of the passage through the reef.  Heading for it was a
small gunboat.  Although the distance was too great for the British
officers on the _Myra_ to distinguish her ensign they had no doubts as
to her nationality.

"She's one of our gunboats," announced O'Hara.

His assertion was confirmed by a flash, followed by a sharp bark as the
_Pelikan_, unmasking her guns, opened fire upon the approaching vessel.



CHAPTER XI

Denbigh's Plan

At the opening of the engagement the prize crew of the _Myra_ made a
simultaneous rush to the tramp's rigging, in order to witness the
destruction of the audacious but lightly-armed gunboat.  Unter-leutnant
Klick and another junior officer hurried to the bridge.  Denbigh,
O'Hara, and the officers of the _Myra_ found themselves in sole
occupation of the deck.

"Idiots!" exclaimed Denbigh.

"Who?" asked Captain Pennington.

"The _Pelikan's_ people.  If they had waited another five minutes, they
would have found the gunboat jammed up on the bar.  As it is she has
room to manoeuvre."

Even as he spoke, the gunboat let fly with her puny 4-inch bow gun--the
only one capable of being trained upon the powerfully-armed raider.
Immediately a dense cloud of black smoke burst from the little craft,
entirely hiding her from view.

"She's got it properly," exclaimed Pennington.

Slowly the smoke began to disperse.  Into the eddying vapour shell
after shell poured from the _Pelikan_.  All around the sea was
lacerated by the ricochetting projectiles, which threw columns of spray
high into the air, the pure whiteness of the artificial waterspouts
contrasting vividly with the dark background of smoke.

The Germans were shouting madly.  It was their way of cheering, but it
lacked the inspiring sound of a hearty British cheer.  Then, with
remarkable suddenness, the uproar of voices trailed away into a
silence, broken only by the desultory firing from the _Pelikan_.

Under cover of the cloud of smoke purposely emitted from the gunboat,
the British craft had swung round and was steaming away at her maximum
of 13 knots, apparently undamaged by the salvoes that had been directed
towards her.  The exultant shouts of the Germans were not renewed when
they saw the small vessel turn tail.  Too late they realized that they
had thrown away their advantages by being too premature.  The gunboat,
having sea-room in which to manoeuvre, was speeding away, not in
flight, but with the object of wirelessing the cruisers and destroyers.
By letting their insignificant antagonist escape the Germans were
bringing a hornet's nest about their ears.

Somewhat disconsolately, the _Myra's_ prize crew descended the rigging
and other coigns of vantage and regained the deck.  They, however, knew
that a loophole for escape remained.  They were under orders to cross
the inner bar and ascend the Mohoro River.  That course was denied the
_Pelikan_ for the next four or five days.  A high spring-tide was an
absolute necessity for her to cross the barrier, and long before that
time the British blockading squadron would be off the reefs, ready to
pulverize the raider into a mass of twisted scrap-iron.

The time of high water had gone, and the tide was beginning to fall,
when the _Myra_ essayed the task of crossing the inner bar.  There was
no surf breaking at the mouth of the river, since the coral reef
enclosing the lagoon effectually sheltered the shore.  Only a few
ripples marked the spot where the down-current met the submerged
barrier.  In a few minutes the great volume of water pouring down the
river, having time to overcome the up tidal stream, would be surging
furiously over the bar.

"I wish to goodness we could crock the steering-gear," said O'Hara in a
low voice.  "If the old hooker grounded on the bar she would prevent
the _Pelikan_ from entering."

"Not much use," objected Denbigh.  "In fact, it would be more of a help
to her than a hindrance."

"How's that?" asked the Irishman.

"Simply because the river would dig itself another channel across the
bar, and its width being restricted by the stranded vessel, its depth
would be even greater than the existing one.  No, I think we can do
nothing but sit tight and trust to luck, that the _Pelikan_ will be
sent to the bottom before Friday."

"And us?"

"You can bet your bottom dollar that a couple of armed cutters will be
sent after the _Myra_."

Without touching even once the tramp crossed the dangerous patch, and
was soon breasting the rapidly-increasing current.  The river at this
point was about 180 yards in width, and carried a depth of 30 to 40
feet for twelve miles from its mouth.  On either side the banks were
overhung with mangroves and coco-nut palms, from which myriads of
birds, aroused by the unfamiliar noise of the tramp, rose screeching in
the sultry air.  The surface of the river was dotted with black objects
resembling water-logged trunks of trees, but on the _Myra's_ approach
the seemingly inanimate objects were endowed with life and activity.
They were hippopotami, that literally swarmed in the turgid water.

Having, as he imagined, navigated the _Myra_ beyond reach of the
British cruisers, Unter-leutnant Klick ordered several of the crew of
the captured tramp on deck, and informed them that they were in future
to assist in working the ship.  Should any attempt to recover the
vessel be made, the offence would be punishable with death.  He also
pointed out the impracticability of escape, since the river was
infested with hippopotami, and the forests with fierce animals.

Just before sunset, the _Myra_ brought up at a distance of about seven
miles from the mouth of the river.  The flood-tide, accompanied by a
distinct bore, had now set in, and since the river was hardly wide
enough to allow the tramp to swing, an anchor was let go astern and
twice the amount of cable necessary paid out.  Then, directly the
vessel's way was stopped, the bower-anchor was let go from the bows.
The stern cable was then hove inboard until the ship lay evenly between
the two anchors.

The _Myra_ had no stockless anchors, but those of the old Admiralty
pattern.

"By Jove! how strong the current runs here!" remarked O'Hara, as the
two subs watched the yellow stream surge past the ship.  "If the ground
tackle carried away there would be a jamboree.  A new channel wouldn't
form in a couple of days here."

Denbigh did not reply.  He was mentally gauging the distance between
the ship's side and the nearmost bank.

"It's risky," he thought; "but there are no gains without pains.  I'll
have a shot at it to-night."

On being ordered to retire to their cabin the two officers found that
the mate was already there.  As Denbigh and his chum entered, he
hastily stowed something in his pocket, but finding that they were not
any of the German crew he withdrew the article.

It was a piece of soft wood about nine inches in length.

"What's the game, Armstrong?" asked Denbigh.

"I'm just knocking up a couple of dummy forelocks," explained the mate,
opening his jack-knife once more.  "I gave our fellows in the fo'c'sle
the tip, and they'll get them in position as soon as the anchors are
catted.  I'm going to give these a coat of galvanized paint and I'll
wager those German chumps won't notice the difference.  Next time they
drop the hook the pins will snap under the strain, the stocks will
slip, and the old hooker will drag at the rate of knots."

"That's a good wheeze, Armstrong," said Denbigh.  "But look here.  I
want you to do me a good turn.  Have you the duplicate key of this
cabin?"

"Sure I have," replied the mate.

"I'm going to have a shot at getting ashore," declared the sub.

"You'll be a fool if you try," said Armstrong bluntly and emphatically.
"With this current running and the hippos barging about you wouldn't
stand a dog's chance."

"I'll wait till slack water and take my chance with the hippos,"
rejoined Denbigh.  "If I succeed in getting ashore I'll make my way
along the bank until I reach the entrance.  I'm rather curious to see
what the _Pelikan_ is doing."

"I'm with you," volunteered O'Hara.

"You'll stop here, old man," said Denbigh firmly.

"If I stop you stop too," was the Irishman's equally determined
rejoinder.  "Look here, old bird; it's not like prowling around the
upper-deck.  Once ashore we'll be all right.  One may be jolly useful
in helping the other.  Besides, I've a loaded pistol."

"Might be handy," admitted Denbigh, secretly glad to have a companion
for his enterprise.  "But there's something you have which will be, I
fancy, a jolly sight more handy."

"What's that?" asked O'Hara.

"The quinine the _Pelikan's_ medico gave you.  Our chief danger is, I
fancy, the chance of getting miasmic fever, especially after landing in
saturated togs.  A few grains will stave off a fatal illness."

"All right," agreed O'Hara.  "Then it's settled I'm to go with you.
What's your plan?"

"Nothing more than I have outlined," replied Denbigh.  "We'll keep our
eyes and ears open and see what steps the _Pelikan_ is taking for
defence.  There'll be enough moonlight to see fairly clearly."

"Suppose you wouldn't like me to go with you?" enquired the mate.

Denbigh shook his head.

"No, thanks, Armstrong; you'll serve a far better purpose by remaining
on board and screening our movements.  Those fellows have set an anchor
watch, I suppose?"

"Only on the fo'c'sle," replied Armstrong.  "That is to say, they
hadn't put a man on watch over the stern cable when I left the deck.
But there's no knowing.  They imagine that they are safe from attack.
I suppose they are so long as the _Pelikan_ remains afloat, so it's
just likely that they'll be a bit lax.  How do you propose to take the
water?"

"By the stern cable," replied Denbigh.

"I know a better way," said the mate.  "There's a rope ladder coiled up
close to the engine-room fidley.  If you can lay hold of it without
being spotted you can make one end fast outside the rail and let the
rest go.  It won't be noticed before morning."

Methodically the two subs went about their preparations, for there was
as yet an hour and a half before slack water.  Denbigh knew that
between the two periods of high and low tide there was an interval of
six and a half hours, for the volume of fresh water descending the
river retarded the rising tide by at least thirty or forty minutes.
The chums had thus nearly seven hours at their disposal, of which there
was moonlight until four in the morning.

The cabin was not electrically lighted, illumination being provided by
means of a smoky oil lamp.  Stripping to the buff the two subs blacked
themselves all over by means of corks charred in the lamplight.  Their
clothes they lashed into a compact bundle, Denbigh stowing the
pocket-compass in his, while O'Hara placed his automatic pistol in the
middle of his clothing.  Two handkerchiefs were retained in readiness
to bind their bundles on the top of their heads.

"We may get ashore with dry gear," said Denbigh.  "It's just a chance.
We'll be lucky if we do.  Now, Armstrong, that key, if you please.
I'll borrow it and lock you in after we've left.  It will disarm
suspicion; and besides, we will be able to let ourselves in when we
roll home in the small hours of the morning.  Don't wait up, Mr.
Armstrong."

The men smiled grimly.  Even on the brink of peril they jested.  Cheek
by jowl with death they bantered each other.

The hour of slack water arrived.  No longer the current surged noisily
against the _Myra's_ wall-sides.  All was quiet save the occasional
rasp of a huge amphibian along the ship's plating and the faint roar of
a wild animal in the distant mangroves.

Cautiously Denbigh applied the well-oiled key to the lock.  Softly the
door was opened.  In the "state-room" an oil-lamp burned dimly and
smelt abominably.  Its feeble rays were almost unable to penetrate into
the recesses of the encumbered quarters.

Giving a final look round Denbigh fastened his bundle on his head and
slipped out, followed by O'Hara.  The door was closed and locked,
Denbigh thrusting the key under the lashings of his bundle.

The deck was wet with a heavy dew that struck cold to their bare feet.
Overhead the crescent moon shone a dull yellow through the haze.  The
shores were invisible.

Crouching close to the low bulwarks the two officers made their way
amidships.  Fore and aft awnings had been spread to protect the watch
on deck from the noxious dew, but there were no signs of the seamen on
duty.

In the chart-room a light, imperfectly screened, threw a narrow glare
into the mist.  The officer of the watch--one of the _Pelikan's_ petty
officers--was doubtless indulging in slumber, since it was quite
unlikely that Unter-leutnant Klick would have been out of his bunk to
satisfy himself that all was well unless an alarm was raised by those
on deck.

Cautiously the two blackened figures glided from the shelter of the
bulwarks to the raised coaming of the engine-room fidley.  Through the
iron bars they could see the gleaming mechanism, now at rest, although
steam was being kept at working pressure.

Groping, Denbigh felt his fingers come in contact with a cylindrical
bundle.  It was the rope-ladder enclosed in a canvas cover.

Returning to the side the sub lashed one end of the ladder to the
upright of one of the davits.  The other he allowed to drop.  It
touched the surface of the water with hardly a splash.  Being too long
for the purpose five or six feet of the ladder floated alongside.
There was not sufficient current to trail it out.

Swinging over the bulwark Denbigh felt with his foot for the rungs.
The rope creaked under his weight.  He descended until his feet came in
contact with the water, then he waited until he saw O'Hara's black form
silhouetted against the moon-lit mist.

Thank heaven there were no hippos to be seen, although a splashing
sound at some distance off told the sub that some sort of large
amphibians were sporting in the moonlight.

The Irishman's foot lightly touching Denbigh's upheld hand that grasped
one of the rungs aroused the sub to action.  Three steps down did he
take, then he released his hold and struck out into the unknown.



CHAPTER XII

A Perilous Journey

Twenty slow, deliberate, and powerful strokes did Denbigh take, then,
treading water, he turned his head to see how his companion was
progressing.

In that short distance the outlines of the _Myra_ looked vague and
distorted in the eddying vapour.  Already the swimmers were practically
safe from observation, since O'Hara, who was barely three yards away,
looked indistinct in his cork-blackened disguise.

A dozen strokes more and the two officers were in the midst of a
sluggish, turgid stream, their horizon bounded by banks of mist.  Were
it not for the moon, that shone dully through the haze, all sense of
direction would have been lost.  The water was warm and
sickly-smelling.  An odour like that of decaying flowers in an
ill-ventilated room assailed their nostrils.

Once O'Hara gave vent to a partly smothered yell as his naked foot came
in contact with a slimy water-logged tree.  It was easy to imagine
unpleasant things in that modern Styx.

At the sound Denbigh turned.

"What's wrong?" he asked in a whisper.

"Nothing," replied the Irishman.  "Carry on."

He was swimming rapidly.  His quick strokes betrayed his acute anxiety
to traverse the stretch of water in as short a time as possible.

"Steady; don't splash," cautioned Denbigh.

A reply to his admonition came from another quarter, for almost in
front of the swimmers rose a huge black object, quickly followed by
another.  In the semi-light the two men could see that these were
enormous hippopotami, distinguish even their thick lips and wire-like
bristles, and hear the business-like snap of their formidable teeth,
capable of biting the side of a boat and shaking the craft like a
terrier does a rat.

The two amphibians were gambolling.  So intent were they that the
swimmers were unnoticed, but for half a minute after the hippos had
passed Denbigh and O'Hara floated motionless, not trusting to swim
forward another foot.

At length, after a seemingly interminable space of time, the
mangrove-covered shore loomed up against the moonlit sky.  The banks,
thrown into deep shadow, were invisible, until O'Hara, who was now
leading, felt his foot touch the slimy ooze that fringed the shore.

With feelings of relief the Irishman waded to the bank and awaited
Denbigh's emergence from the river.

"Thank God," he muttered fervently as Denbigh joined him.  "Now, what's
the move?"

"Dress," replied his chum laconically.

The two men unfastened their bundles, and proceeded to sacrifice one of
their scanty stock of handkerchiefs as a towel.  To allow the foetid
fresh water to dry on them would be courting a speedy attack of
black-water fever.

"We can't see the _Myra_," whispered O'Hara.  "How shall we know where
to 'kick-off' when we return?"

"Bend that damp handkerchief on to one of the bushes," replied Denbigh.
"We'll have to take jolly good care to----"

His words ended abruptly, and he found himself sitting on the soft
ground.  In order to facilitate the dressing performance he had sat
down upon what he imagined to be a log.  The "log" promptly lurched
forward and overthrew him.  It was a healthy specimen of a crocodile.

[Illustration: THE "LOG" WAS A HEALTHY SPECIMEN OF A CROCODILE]

O'Hara gripped his chum's hand and literally lifted him to his feet.
Both men took to their heels, with the now aroused saurian in pursuit.
Luckily the animal was not quick at turning, and before it could do so
the two subs placed a safe distance between them and their pursuer.

"There may be others," gasped Denbigh, who half-dressed was clutching
the rest of his clothing.  "The river bank is too jolly risky.  I had
my doubts about it.  We'll cut inland and risk the forest.  It's high
ground, as far as I could judge when we came up stream.  Therefore it
ought not to be swampy.  What's more, we'll save half the distance."

"And, possibly, take double the time," added O'Hara, who, although
willing to risk the unknown perils of the mangrove forest to the
partly-known adversities of the river banks, was rather doubtful as to
his comrade's skill in navigation on dry land.

They halted in a little clearing to complete their interrupted task of
donning their clothes.  With their ears strained to catch the faintest
suspicious sound, they struggled into their light cotton garments, that
at the best of times were ill-adapted to the miasmic night-mists of the
East African coast.

"That's better," exclaimed Denbigh cheerfully.  "Feel a bit more
civilized.  We might pass muster as a pair of Christy minstrels.  Now,
then, a few grains of quinine, and we'll be on the move."

O'Hara's reply was to release the safety-pin of his automatic pistol.
Denbigh, who was studying the luminous face of the pocket-compass,
smiled grimly.

"Now I'll admit that little toy may come in handy, old man," he
remarked.  "Since I lead the way, pray be careful how you finger the
trigger.  Nor'east by east is the ticket."

Before the adventurers had proceeded fifty yards, a rustling sound
overhead brought them up all-standing.  Some heavy body was moving from
tree-top to tree-top with great rapidity.

"Doesn't sound very healthy," whispered Denbigh with a forced laugh.
"I think I'll arm myself with a club."

He wrenched at a stout sapling.  Instead of the stem coming out by the
roots as he expected, it snapped off short.  The fractured part tapered
to a chisel edge.  The wood was hard and close-grained.

"No, I'll use this as a spear," continued the sub.  "It makes a nasty
weapon to jab an animal with."

In silence the chums proceeded on their way.  It was fair going between
the trunks of the palms and mangroves, there being very little
undergrowth.

"'Ware mosquitoes," exclaimed O'Hara.  "There must be a swamp somewhere
about."

A swarm of these pestilential insects were buzzing around their heads,
but, possibly owing to the protection afforded by the burnt cork, the
mosquitoes did not press home the attack.  Fifty yards farther the two
men were stopped by a deep morass.

"Edge away to the left," suggested the Irishman.  "I think I can hear
running water.  By Jove!  Look at those fireflies.  They're simply
great."

Denbigh merely grunted.  He was in no mood to study the beauties of
nature.  The marsh meant loss of valuable time.

Half a dozen small deer, disturbed in the act of drinking, came
bounding towards them, until, finding themselves confronted by human
beings, they stopped abruptly, then tore madly from the newest danger.

"Be careful!" urged Denbigh.  "Those creatures have been driven towards
us by some animal.  Stand by."

Out of the deep shade ambled a huge unwieldy figure.  It looked like a
giant armed with a club.  It was too big for a native: it was an
enormous ape.

In a trice Denbigh and his companion dodged behind a tree; but quick
though they were, the movement had not escaped the notice of the
animal.  Uttering a shrill cry, the ape bounded towards their place of
concealment.

Denbigh's first impulse was to fly, but calmer counsels prevailed.
Dropping on one knee, he held his improvised spear pointed towards the
enemy, the butt planted firmly into the ground.

As well might a dog try conclusions with a motor-car.  The ape's
muscular hand gripped the pole and wrenched it from the sub's grasp,
while Denbigh's endeavour to retain his hold resulted in his being
thrown prostrate at the creature's feet.

Before the luckless man could realize his position there was a vivid
flash and a sharp report, quickly followed by another and another.
O'Hara had fired point-blank at the animal's head.

The next instant Denbigh was pinned under the lifeless body of his
antagonist, for a chance-directed shot had struck the ape in the eye,
and had penetrated the brain.

"Hurt?" asked the Irishman anxiously, as he assisted Denbigh to regain
his feet.

"Am I?" asked the sub blankly.

"If you don't know I suppose no one else does," rejoined O'Hara.

"I thought the brute had me that time.  Hulloa! where's my compass?"

A prolonged search resulted in the recovery of the precious instrument.
Anxiously Denbigh revolved the case; to his intense satisfaction he saw
that the luminous card was still sensitive.

"My word!" thought Denbigh, as the two men resumed their way.
"Whatever possessed me to take this business on?  Idle curiosity and
the love of doing something to pass away the time, I suppose.  After
all, I can't see how we can help our squadron in the slightest.  And
here are we running the risk of being stranded in a beastly forest, and
perhaps being chawed up by some wild animal.  Well, we're half-way
there, so I suppose we may as well carry on.  I won't be the one to
suggest chucking up the sponge and making tracks for the _Myra_."

The Irishman's soliloquies were on almost the identical lines, but as
neither communicated his thought to the other, the consequence was that
they both persisted in their hazardous adventure.

It must have been about one in the morning, when, more by good luck
than by good management, the two British officers stumbled upon the
clearing on which stood the galvanized iron house that they had noticed
when the _Myra_ lay at anchor in the lagoon.

Although no light was visible, there were men within, for the subs
could hear the rasping of a file and the sharp whirr of a hack-saw.

"Steady!" whispered Denbigh.  "Bear away a little.  Remember we're
close to the native village.  Ten to one there'll be a crowd of dogs
about, and our clothes, in spite of ill-usage, are fairly conspicuous
against the dark background."

Twice they halted before they crossed a foot-track through the mangrove
forest.  At the second path, they had to wait until a party of German
bluejackets had passed.  The men were armed, and were accompanied by a
score of blacks, who had been impressed to drag a small field-gun up
the hill.

Unsuspecting the Germans went on their way, and the subs, after a safe
interval had elapsed, continued their way to the shore.

Suddenly O'Hara gripped his companion's arm and pointed.  Fifty feet
below them, and at a distance of two hundred yards, was the native
village.  The huts were wrapped in silence.  Only the women and
children remained, for the men had been compelled to throw up
earthworks to defend the lagoon from the anticipated attack.  Outside
the village stood two German soldiers armed with rifles and fixed
bayonets, their duty being to prevent any of the inhabitants from
leaving their huts during the night.

"It's not healthy that way," he whispered.  "More to the left, old man.
I can hear the surf."

Ten minutes more found them at the edge of the forest, and on the brink
of the two cliffs, immediately opposite which the _Pelikan_ had brought
up and had fought her brief and unsatisfactory action with the British
gunboat.

Bathed in the slanting rays of the moon, which was now on the wane,
were the placid waters of the lagoon.  Nothing could, it seemed, escape
being detected up on that illuminated patch of sea.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Denbigh excitedly.  "The _Pelikan's_ cleared out."



CHAPTER XIII

Nocturnal Investigations

"We might have guessed that," remarked O'Hara.

"Oh?"

"Yes; don't you see, she was spotted by our gunboat.  She couldn't get
away up the Mohoro River until Friday, and rather than run the risk of
being sunk at anchor she's landed her mob of reservists and has put to
sea again."

"To be promptly snapped up?  No; I don't care to admit your reasoning,
old man.  We haven't come all this way through that confounded forest
for nothing.  Listen!"

A faint, rapid throbbing was borne to their ears.  The sound came not
from the sea but along the shore to their left, where a projecting
tongue of land limited their range of vision.

"Motor," announced O'Hara laconically.

"And not a marine one," added Denbigh.  "Come on.  We'll follow this
path; it's a jolly sight safer than keeping to the shore."

Once again they plunged into the mangrove forest, following a beaten
track that, judging by its well-worn condition, had been in existence
long before the arrival of the _Pelikan_.

Suddenly Denbigh halted and held up his hand.  Footsteps were
approaching, not those of the naked feet of natives but the booted
tramp of white men.

The subs took cover and waited, fervently hoping that the oncomers had
not a dog with them.  The party advanced slowly and haltingly, so much
so that for the moment Denbigh imagined that their suspicions had been
aroused.

But without once glancing in the direction of the hidden officers the
men passed by.  One was a petty officer of the _Pelikan_.  Denbigh
recognized him by his bushy beard.  With him were four seamen, walking
two abreast.  The leading pair carried a roll of something wrapped in a
painted canvas cover; the others bore a large reel of wire, paying out
the thin cable as they went.

"H'm, telephone wire," muttered Denbigh.  "That doesn't look as if the
ship has cleared out.  More than likely they've landed some of the guns
to form a masked battery.  It strikes me pretty forcibly that we'll
have to investigate at both ends of the wire."

Not until the sound of the receding footsteps had died away--and it
took an exasperating time--did the subs emerge from their place of
concealment.  The air was now almost free from mist.  Occasionally
patches of vapour drifted across their path, but generally speaking the
miasmic belt ended at a distance of about half a mile from the sea.

O'Hara stooped and lifted up the wire.

"Let's cut the dashed line," he suggested.

"All in good time," replied Denbigh.  "If we do so now they'll be
buzzing around before we've made our investigations.  I think we're on
to a good thing."

Nearer and nearer grew the sound of the motor, until upon emerging from
the grove the subs found themselves within a hundred yards of a German
base.

At this point the ground sloped gently to the edge of the lagoon.
Without any apparent attempt at concealment two searchlights had been
set in position.  A dozen men in naval uniforms were standing around
the projectors.  The lights were "running" as was evident from the
crackle of the carbons, but the shutters were closed, cutting off the
rays.  The current was produced by a dynamo, the power being supplied
by means of the petrol motor, the pulsations of which had given the
subs a clue to its position.

"What's the idea?" whispered O'Hara, indicating the unconcealed
searchlight.

"A blind," replied his companion.  "I guessed it.  We'll carry on a
little farther before we retrace our steps."

Another _détour_ was necessary, but on plunging into the mangrove
forest on to the other side of the clearing the Irishman's foot tripped
in the telephone wire.

"Good!" he ejaculated.  "You're right, old man."

Five hundred yards farther on the explorers almost tumbled into a deep
pit, protected on the seaward side by sandbags, between which were
stuck shrubs and branches of trees to screen the artificial work from
seaward.

In the pit were two quick-firers, with basket cases of ammunition in
readiness.  Pacing up and down between the guns was a sentry, while
under a tarpaulin supported by short poles were about a dozen sleeping
men.  Farther on was another excavation, but what it contained the
British officers were unable to ascertain.  The battery, it was
evident, was manned by some of the reservists from the _San Matias_.

Denbigh, having taken a compass bearing of the entrance of the lagoon,
nudged his chum, and they began to retrace their steps.  Moving as
rapidly as their sense of caution would permit, they again skirted the
searchlight station and picked up the telephone wire trail in the woods
beyond.

"We must not forget the time," cautioned the Irishman.

"By Jove, no!" replied Denbigh.  As a matter of fact he had.  The
excitement of their discoveries had banished all thought of anything
else.  Even the perils of their return journey to the _Myra_ had been
lightly brushed aside.  "Hang it all, there's that confounded mist
again."

At a distance of a quarter of a mile from the searchlight position the
path bent obliquely towards the lagoon.  Here the trees grew right to
the water's edge, the cliff at this point being roughly twenty feet
above the sea.

"What's that?" whispered O'Hara.

A cable's length from shore, and just visible through the mist, was a
large indistinct shape.  At first sight it looked like a small island
thickly covered with coco-nut palms.

"The cunning blighters!" ejaculated Denbigh.  "That's the _Pelikan_."

It was the raider.  Her masts and funnels were decked with branches;
the whole tops of trees festooned her sides.  The outlines of her bow
and stern were concealed by trailing masses of vegetation.  Viewed from
seaward, against the tree-clad hillocks, the _Pelikan_ could not be
distinguished from her natural background.  A short distance along the
shore there was a gap in the line of cliffs.  Here a boat was lying,
with her crew standing about on shore.

"They're expecting someone," whispered Denbigh.  "Let's move."

Not until the subs were a safe distance from the shore did they
exchange opinions.

"The _Pelikan_ is expecting an attack," said O'Hara.  "So she is
disguised.  Some of her guns are taken ashore."

"Why not all?" asked Denbigh.

"I should not think so," was the reply.  "They would be almost certain
to keep those in position on the port side.  They haven't abandoned the
ship, otherwise the boat wouldn't be waiting to take somebody off to
her.  Hulloa, there they go!"

Two brilliant arcs of light swept across the lagoon.  The searchlights
had been unmasked and were directed towards the narrow gap in the coral
reef.

"They've spotted something," continued O'Hara.

"Not necessarily," replied Denbigh.  "Those lights are tantamount to a
challenge.  Our fellows will go for the searchlight, thinking that they
are being worked from the _Pelikan_.  Then the ship's guns and those of
the masked battery will be able to open a converging fire.  We'll have
to stop their little game, old man."

"Can't see how," said O'Hara.

"No more can I at present," added his companion.  "We've about three
hours to daylight.  We must allow an hour and a half at the very
outside to work our way back to the _Myra_."

"If our fellows put the hat on the _Pelikan_, we may as well hang on
and get them to pick us up.  You can bet your bottom dollar they'll
take good care to see that the _Pelikan_ is properly done in."

"My dear fellow," protested Denbigh, "are we fit to introduce ourselves
as British officers, even suppose the cruisers send a landing party
ashore?"

"Don't care whether I am or not," replied the Irishman recklessly.
"Whether I wear an evening dress of burnt cork plus a very disreputable
uniform of white ducks, or whether I am immaculately arrayed in No. 1
rig, makes little difference.  I am still Patrick O'Hara."

"S'sh!" whispered Denbigh, for O'Hara had unconsciously raised his
voice during the delivery of his protest.  "Let's have another look to
seaward, and then we'll cut the telephone wire and clap on all sail for
our involuntary home of rest.  By Jove, it's getting darker!  We'll be
barging into something if we aren't very careful."

Upon regaining the top of the cliffs the subs saw something that
indicated the impending attack.  Lights were in position at the
entrance to the lagoon.  The British vessels in the offing had sent
boats to sound and drop calcium-light buoys in the narrow channel,
preparatory to making a dash across the enclosed stretch of water.

Even as the subs watched a masthead light blinked rapidly.  Since the
vessels were equipped with wireless, light signals were unnecessary for
communication.  Denbigh could only conclude that one of the attacking
craft was ordering the boats to return.

"I say, old man," whispered O'Hara.  "It's not going to be long-range
gunnery.  I believe they're sending a couple of destroyers in.  If so,
they're going to try a torpedo on the _Pelikan_."

Before Denbigh could reply a faint gleam played upon the rock-strewn
beach.  Lying at full length in the coarse grass on the top of the
cliffs, which were here only about ten feet in height, the chums waited
and watched.

Coming towards them was a big-built man in the uniform of a German
officer.  At intervals he flashed a torch upon the ground to guide his
footsteps.  Behind him came a soldier with his rifle slung across his
back, and carrying a heavy valise.

"Von Eckenstein," whispered Denbigh, recognizing the bullying Prussian
by his voice.  "And with an electric torch, too.  We'll bag those
fellows, Pat.  No, not that pistol, you chump.  We'll jump on 'em."

Cautiously the two subs crouched ready to spring.  Denbigh, grasping a
stout stick that he had found in the place of the one broken by the
ape, signed to his companion to use his powerful fists and tackle the
major's servant.

Unsuspectingly von Eckenstein passed by.  Just as he flashed the torch
Denbigh leapt.  Before his feet touched the sand his stick descended
heavily upon the German's head.  His sun-helmet was insufficient to
save him.  Without a groan the major dropped.

O'Hara had been equally successful in his share of the attack.  Taking
Denbigh literally, he had alighted fairly on the German soldier's head.

"I've killed him!" exclaimed the Irishman.

"'Fraid so," agreed Denbigh.  "But it's war, you know.  Be sharp, drag
them into the bushes.  Our dear friend the major won't recover his
senses in a hurry."

Taking possession of the torch Denbigh scaled the cliff and made his
way through the mangroves until he was nearly twenty yards from the
edge of the wood.  From this point he could see the masthead light of
the destroyer--for destroyer he felt sure it must be.  He could now
flash the torch with little risk of the glare being spotted from either
the _Pelikan_ or the masked battery.

He "called up", at first without meeting with success, but at length a
steady white light gleamed from the offing.  It was not from the
destroyer that had been using her masthead light, but from one farther
out to sea.

Rapidly Denbigh flashed the warning message:--

"_Pelikan_ disguised, 400 yards to southward of searchlights.  Masked
battery 400 yards to northward of searchlights.  Useless to attempt
torpedo."

The white light vanished.  With his nerves tingling with anxiety the
sub waited.

Then through the darkness the destroyer's signalling lamp spelt out the
single word:

"R-A-T-S."



CHAPTER XIV

A Neglected Warning

"Idiot!" snapped Denbigh under his breath.  "Some irresponsible
signalman acting the goat."

"Perhaps they think that our signal is a faked message coming from the
enemy," suggested O'Hara.  "Try them again: add your name and rank."

Denbigh repeated the message, making the additions his companion had
proposed; but there was no reply--not even a facetious one.

The signalman of the destroyer was engaged in taking down another
message from the shore, for the Germans, seeing the word 'rats' flashed
from an enemy ship, came to the conclusion that it was a personal
affront to themselves.  Consequently the searchlights had been
temporarily shut off and a signalling lamp brought into play to frame a
fitting reply to the Englishmen's single-worded challenge.

"We must make a move," announced Denbigh, disappointed at his warning
being ignored.  "It will be daylight before we get back, if we don't
hurry.  I'd like to stop and watch the scrap, but we can't wait.  They
may not attack until close on dawn."

Already possessed of the German soldier's rifle, bayonet and
ammunition, Denbigh led the way from the shore.  As the subs crossed
the path along which the telegraph line had been laid, Denbigh severed
the copper wire in two places, making the cuts quite fifty feet from
each other.  The separated part he removed, rolling it into a small
coil.

"They'll have a bit of a bother to find that, I fancy," he remarked.
"Unless they bring a spare length with them that telephone will be
useless for the next couple of hours."

"They'll know it has been deliberately cut, though," added the
Irishman.  "If we had wrenched the wire apart they might have thought
that some animal had barged into it.  There'll be some strafing over
it."

As he spoke the air was rent by a terrific detonation, followed almost
immediately by the bark of numerous quick-firers.  The attack had
commenced.

Without a word both officers turned and raced recklessly towards the
shore.

As Denbigh had foreseen, two British destroyers took part in the
attempt to settle the _Pelikan_.  Deceived by the position of the
searchlight on shore both boats headed towards the glare like moths to
a lighted candle.

At a distance of five hundred yards from the edge of the lagoon the
leading boat ported helm and let fly a couple of torpedoes from her
midship deck-tubes.  Straight as arrows sped the two deadly missiles,
but instead of striking the hull of the _Pelikan_ they exploded
simultaneously against the rocks.

Instantly the guns on the raider and those in the masked battery on
shore opened a furious fire.  The leading destroyer, caught by the
tornado of shell, was hulled again and again.  With her funnels riddled
like sieves, her deck gear swept away, and in a sinking condition, she
turned for the open sea.  Failing in that object her
lieutenant-commander ran her aground on the outer reef just as she was
on the point of foundering.

The second destroyer, blinded by the glare of the searchlights, and
finding that she was the target for two distinct batteries, neither of
which was in the spot where the _Pelikan_ was supposed to be, turned
about, screening her movements with smoke from her funnels.

Slowing down outside the lagoon she picked up the survivors from her
consort and steamed out to sea.

From the Germans' point of view it was a victory: the British,
undaunted by the loss of one of their boats, preferred to call it a
"reconnaissance in force", with the object of compelling the enemy to
unmask his batteries.  The main attack would be made by long-range
gunnery, and to that end the three monitors, then lying in Zanzibar
Harbour, were ordered to make for the mouth of the Mohoro River.

Denbigh and O'Hara, having the mortification of seeing the destroyers
repulsed with loss--the action was over in five minutes--again set out
on their return journey.

In spite of the aid afforded by the compass the subs found, on emerging
from the forest, that they were a long way out of their reckoning.
They had hit the banks of the Mohoro River right enough, but either a
considerable distance above or below the spot where the _Myra_ lay
moored.

The mists had rolled away.  It was now very dark, yet had the tramp
been anywhere in the vicinity the subs would have been able to discern
her.  There were ominous sounds: those of huge creatures wading over
the mud-flats.  Hippopotami and crocodiles were emerging from the river.

"Up or down?" asked O'Hara.

"Neither, by this bank," replied Denbigh, gripping his rifle.  "It
doesn't sound healthy.  We'll cut inland a bit and try our luck
up-stream."

"Why up-stream?" asked the Irishman.

"Because I think I've tumbled to it," answered his chum.  "I've been
carrying this rifle on my left shoulder for the greater part of the
last hour.  I have also been holding the compass within a few inches of
the steel barrel.  It was a silly thing to do, I admit, but I didn't
think of it at the time.  Consequently the needle deviated and threw us
out of our course.  We've gone more to the left of our outward track,
and that brings us down stream."

"It's getting light, I believe," remarked O'Hara after a ten-minutes
detour.

"Yes," replied Denbigh.  "It's the false dawn.  It will get pitch-dark
for a little while before the real daybreak.  Push on.  This light will
serve us a good turn."

Once more the adventurous twain gained the river bank.  This time their
efforts met with success, for showing clearly in the half-light of the
false dawn was the _Myra_.

"Nearly slack water," announced Denbigh.  "We're in luck.  Keep under
cover in case the watch are feeling particularly energetic."

While awaiting the return of darkness, Denbigh retrieved the
handkerchief he had left as a mark, and wrapping it round the breech of
the captured rifle, buried the weapon in the soft earth.  It might, he
argued, come in handy within the next few days.  Beyond that time the
rifle would be rapidly attacked by rust, for on the East Coast of
Africa the action of corrosion is almost as quick as in the moist air
of the Gold Coast.

He was dubious concerning the bayonet.  It had a much larger blade than
the British article, and its back was furnished with a formidable
double row of teeth to within six inches of the point.  With it a man
might fell a fairly large-size tree in an hour.

"Pity to waste it," declared Denbigh.  "Only it's too long to hide
under my clothes without great risk of its being spotted.  On the other
hand, it may come in jolly useful."

"Break it in two," suggested his chum.  "Even four inches of the blade
might be handy."

Wrapping his coat round the end of the blade in order to protect his
hands, the sub brought the flat of the steel smartly against his knee.
To his disgust the bayonet did not snap, as he fully expected it to do.
It bent, and instead of flying back when the pressure was released it
remained bent.

"Good old Solingen steel!" exclaimed Denbigh disgustedly.  "Same rotten
stuff that our cutlass-bayonets were made of in the '85 Soudan
campaign."

All efforts to break the bayonet failed.  The metal was so non-elastic
that the sub gave up the attempt and hurled it into the mud.

"Time!" he exclaimed.  "It's getting dark again."

The men stripped, and made their clothes into bundles as before.  To
return to the _Myra_ with their garments shedding streams of turgid
water would never do, since they had no other clothes.

"Ugh!" ejaculated O'Hara as his feet touched the loathsome slime.  "I
can't say I'm hankering after a mud bath.  Can't say I like the rotten
turnip-smelling water any better."

"Dry up!" cautioned Denbigh under his breath.

"Wish I could," retorted the irrepressible Irishman.  "Sure I'm wet
altogether."

They swam side by side, making use of the "dog-stroke", as there was
less risk of attracting attention by an involuntary splashing.

It was a nerve-racking ordeal, for the darkness was now intense.
Hippopotami were noisy not so very far off; there was imminent danger
from crocodiles, that, floating like logs in the water, were
practically invisible until one was almost within arm's length of them.
But on top of these unpleasant possibilities, the haunting dread that
the rope ladder might have been removed was uppermost in Denbigh's mind.

As the swimmers approached mid-stream, they found there was still a
strong current.  It was indeed a hard struggle to make the ship.
Well-nigh exhausted, the two chums gained their goal.  Thank heaven the
end of the ladder was still trailing in the water.

For some minutes the subs contented themselves by hanging on to the
ropes and regaining their breath.  Then Denbigh, assuring himself that
the key to the cabin was still hanging from a cord round his neck,
began to ascend.  When his head was level with the bulwarks he peered
cautiously along the deck.  He could see or hear no one.  Had a sentry
been standing for'ard, it would have been possible to discern his
outlines against the gloom.  He would have much rather seen the fellow
and made arrangements accordingly, than to be in ignorance of where the
sentry was, since it was unlikely that all the watch on deck were
skulking.

Denbigh ascended another rung and waited again.  This time he heard
voices speaking in low guttural tones.  The watch were sheltering in
the fore-peak.

Reassured on this point, the sub leapt lightly over the rail.  As he
did so his bare feet came in contact with something soft.  He had
pitched fairly upon a fat German, who, heedless of the risk of sleeping
in the open air, had coiled himself up under the lee of the bulwarks.

The shock threw Denbigh to the deck.  Quickly regaining his feet, he
saw the astonished German struggling to rise.  Before he could do so
the sub dealt him a powerful left-hander.  Missing the point of the
Teuton's chin, Denbigh's clenched fist struck him heavily on the nose.

Thoroughly scared by the apparition of a stalwart black, the man took
to his heels.  Yelling with fear, his cries for assistance were
rendered indistinguishable owing to the fact that he held both hands
pressed tightly over his nose, which was leaving a purple trail on the
deck.

"Come on!" hissed Denbigh to his chum.

O'Hara needed no second bidding.  Clearing the bulwarks, he quickly cut
adrift the ladder and raced after Denbigh, who was making with all
possible dispatch for the companion.

For a brief instant Denbigh fumbled with the key; then inserting it in
the lock he threw open the door.

"Back again, Armstrong," he announced coolly, for now all immediate
danger was over.  "Have you any clean water handy?  We could both do
with a good wash."



CHAPTER XV

Armstrong's Part

Restraining his curiosity, the mate of the _Myra_ poured out some water
into a tin bowl, and handed Denbigh a small piece of yellow soap.

"There'll be just time to scrub your figureheads," he remarked.
"You'll have to turn in pretty sharp, or you'll be bowled out.  They're
getting a little bit excited on deck."

Realizing that it would be as well to act on Armstrong's advice, the
subs, by dint of hard scrubbing and plenty of soap, succeeded in
removing the burnt cork from their faces, necks, and hands.  This done
they donned their pyjamas and scrambled into their bunks, while the
mate obligingly unpacked their bundles and laid out the garments with
methodical precision.

Armstrong was not far wrong in his surmise.  The excitement on deck
bordered on a state of panic.  Every man of the prize crew turned out.
Unter-leutnant Klick, having heard a muddled version of what had taken
place, ordered the man who had been jumped upon to state what he knew.

The seaman, still shaken and frightened, could only affirm that he was
pacing the deck as conscientiously as a sentry should do, when the
black figure leapt upon him from behind and felled him.

"From behind, say you?" repeated Unter-leutnant Klick.  "How, then,
could you see that he was black?"

"I must have spun round, sir, as I fell," replied the fellow.  "I
distinctly remember seeing that he was black and without clothing.  He
may be a native."

"Where did he go after taking you unawares?" asked the prize-master of
the _Myra_.

"Over the side, sir, I think.  I believe I heard the splash."

Kaspar Klick, however, had his suspicions.  Not for one moment did he
imagine that anyone would be so utterly reckless as to attempt to swim
ashore and back again.  The river, teeming with hippopotami and
crocodiles, offered too formidable an obstacle.  On the other hand, the
mysterious assailant of the sentry might be one of several of the
English prisoners, intent upon recapturing the ship.  Had the faithful
sentry been felled without uttering a sound, the plot may have
succeeded; but when the seaman made enough bellowing to awaken the
Seven Sleepers, the daring Englishmen probably thought better of it,
and had retired speedily and discreetly.

Ordering half a dozen armed men to accompany him, Unter-leutnant Klick
went for'ard.  Over the hatchway leading to the forehold, where the
_Myra's_ deck hands were under lock and key, he found a sentry on duty.
The man was most emphatic that no one had attempted to come on deck.
The state of the padlock proved that.

Still dubious, the unter-leutnant descended the main hold.  Making his
way over a pack of miscellaneous cargo, he came to the for'ard
bulkhead.  A careful examination showed that no effort had been made to
cut through the partition separating the two holds.  He could,
therefore, feel reassured that the original crew of the _Myra_ had not
attempted to put into execution a plot to recover the ship.

"Perhaps it is those harebrained officers we took from the Japanese
liner," soliloquized Klick.  "I'll go the rounds now I am about it, and
see if those fellows have been up to any tricks."

Had the unter-leutnant gone aft as soon as he commenced his
investigations, he might have noticed the tell-tale prints of wet feet,
left by Denbigh and his chum as they scurried to the cabin.  By this
time the marks had almost vanished.  The slight traces of dampness that
remained were hardly noticeable in the gloom, for it was still dark,
and 'tween decks the lantern gave but a feeble glimmer.

Klick inserted his key into the lock and threw open the door.  The
cabin was in darkness, until one of his men flashed a lantern into it.
The unter-leutnant sniffed suspiciously.

"Anyone awake?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Armstrong.

"You haf been a lamp burning," said Kaspar Klick accusingly.  "It is
again der regulations."

Armstrong's reply told the listening subs that he was "up to snuff".
The prize-master had sniffed the odour of burnt cork; but since he had
suggested that it was the smell of an extinguished oil-lamp, the mate
did not contradict.

"Yes," he replied.  "Mr. O'Hara hasn't been very well.  I had to give
him some quinine, and a fellow must have a light to see that he is
giving the right dose."

"Ach!  Is dat so?" asked the unter-leutnant.  "Now, tell me dis.  Herr
O'Hara, did he go on deck since last hour ago?"

"No," replied Armstrong with perfect truthfulness.  "I am certain he
didn't.  I'm a very light sleeper, and if he had moved I should have
heard.  Besides, how could he get out without a key?" asked the mate
with well-feigned innocence.

"I tell you dis----" began Klick; but before he could carry out his
intention a loud shout of "Wer da?" came from the deck, followed by an
unintelligible hail, coming from some distance down the river.

Kaspar Klick waited no longer.  Hurriedly he left the cabin, slamming
and locking the door, and rushed on deck.  Aft, a sentry at the ready
was repeating his challenge.  The first blush of the short tropical
dawn revealed the presence of a four-oared galley speeding up with the
tide.

"We're from the _Pelikan_, sir," announced the petty officer in charge,
as the boat ran alongside.  Without attempting to board the man
delivered his message.

In spite of the closed dead-light Denbigh and his companions could hear
all the fellow was saying.

"Herr Kapitan von Riesser sends his compliments," continued the
coxswain.  "He is anxious to know whether any of the English prisoners
have escaped."

"No, certainly not," replied Kaspar Klick with righteous indignation in
his voice, "our precautions are too elaborate to give the dogs a chance
of that.  But why has Kapitan von Riesser sent you with that question?"

"We've been in action, sir," declared the man.

"We heard the firing," remarked Klick.  "And the result?"

"One English cruiser sunk, another driven on to the rocks," announced
the coxswain, allowing his imagination to kick over the traces.  "There
were others.  We would have captured or destroyed those, only----"

"Only what?" asked the unter-leutnant sharply.

"Someone cut our field telegraph.  'B' battery could not get in touch
with the observation officer and so the rest of the enemy escaped."

"How do you know that the wire has been cut?" asked the unter-leutnant.
"It might have carried away."

"A whole length of it has been removed, sir," reported the coxswain.

"Then it was the natives.  They'll steal anything in the metal line.
Kapitan von Riesser ought to have known that," replied Klick with
asperity.  "We look after our prisoners here.  None of them has the
faintest chance of getting out of the ship.  Anything more to report?"

"Only that Major von Eckenstein is missing.  He left the observation
station to go to the _Pelikan's_ landing stage and never arrived.
Search parties were out when I left."

Unter-leutnant Kaspar Klick made no audible comment.  Inwardly he
rejoiced, after the manner of mean-minded men when they hear of
misfortune overtaking those they dislike; for there was no love lost
between the two representatives of the Kaiser's forces.

"Very well; carry on back," he ordered.  "You can reassure Kapitan von
Riesser on the points he mentioned."

"There's something else, sir," reported the petty officer, producing a
linen envelope from under a cushion in the stern-sheets.  "I had to
deliver this to you personally."

The German officer took the envelope and went below to read its
contents.  It was to the effect that the _Pelikan_ had been lightened
still more and that at high water she would attempt the bar.  The
_Myra_ was to return down stream and stand by to render assistance if
necessary.

Returning on deck the prize-master gave back to the coxswain the order,
to which was added a notation that it would be complied with, and
dismissed the boat.  Then, grumbling at being turned out so early in
the morning, Kaspar Klick retired to his cabin.

"Is that right about the sinking of one of our cruisers?" asked
Armstrong, when Denbigh had translated the gist of the conversation,
for in spite of the port-hole being closed every word had been audible.

"Hardly," replied Denbigh.  "The Germans have a funny habit of
magnifying the size and class of any and every vessel they sink.
Unfortunately they sent one of our destroyers to the bottom.  By Jove!
doesn't this burnt cork take a lot of shifting?"

The two subs were busily engaged in scrubbing off their sooty coats, to
make the rest of their bodies harmonize with their faces.  Fresh water
being strictly limited and yellow soap microscopic in size their task
was not an easy one.

"Well, if they attempt to bring the _Pelikan_ up the river," commented
the mate of the _Myra_, "I hope they'll pile her up on the bar.  If
they succeed we'll have to try our hand.  Don't I wish they'd let me
have charge of the wheel for five minutes.  Now what do you think of
these?  I call them champion."

He held out the two dummy forelocks, which he had completed in the
absence of Denbigh and his chum.  They had been coated with aluminium
paint, while to give them a worn appearance he had rubbed charcoal over
the paint.  Only by actual handling, when the difference in weight
between the real and the spurious article could be detected, could the
deception be discovered.

"Capital!" exclaimed O'Hara, suppressing a yawn.  "Oh, dash it all!
This is the result of being out of bed when one ought to be enjoying
one's beauty sleep.  I'm turning in again."

"Also this child," added Denbigh; but before the chums could throw
themselves upon their bunks a bugle sounded.  It was the signal that
another working day had begun, and that the prisoners had to turn out
and assist their captors.

"Morning," was Captain Pennington's greeting as Denbigh and O'Hara came
on deck.  Then, making sure that no German was within earshot, he
asked, "And what little game were _you_ up to last night?"

"What do you mean?" asked Denbigh in surprise.

"Like you I have a liking for fresh air," replied the skipper of the
captured tramp.  "The Huns screwed down the dead-light to the
port-hole, but forgot to enquire if I had a spanner.  They saved
themselves an unnecessary question, by the by, for I would not have
owned up to being in possession of a very serviceable one.  So during
the night I opened the port-hole to get a breather.  I was rather
surprised to find a rope-ladder dropped over the side, and still more
so to see two disreputable niggers, whom I recognized as you two, swarm
down and take a cold bath.  Also I had the pleasure of seeing the same
dusky pair return, and had the intense satisfaction of hearing a German
bellow like a whipped child."

"Then we weren't so smart as we imagined," observed O'Hara.  "Fortunate
it was for us that you weren't a Hun."

Before the subs could enlighten Captain Pennington as to the nature of
the mystery the unter-leutnant came up.

"You vill haf to vork, kapitan," he said without further preliminaries.
"If you no keep your crew up to concert pitch trouble you vill haf.
You men vill vork vatch and vatch, see?"

Captain Pennington merely nodded in reply.  He realized that passivity
was desirable; on the other hand, having heard of Armstrong's little
plan, it would not do to show unwonted eagerness to assist in working
the ship.

"Turn up der men," ordered Klick.

"One minute," interposed Captain Pennington.  "We are not at sea now.
My men have insufficient head-gear.  It's risking sunstroke."

The unter-leutnant considered the affair for a few minutes.  Personally
he didn't care a rope's-end whether the strafed Englishmen had
sunstroke or not, until it occurred to him that a number of invalids
would hamper operations.  Finally he gave orders for a number of solar
topees or sun-helmets to be issued to the British crew.

It was eight o'clock in the morning when the _Myra_ weighed.  Already
the sun was unpleasantly hot.  There was no wind.  Under the shade of
the mangroves the mists still held, while the black mud left uncovered
by the falling tide gave out a most noxious vapour.

To Denbigh's satisfaction Armstrong had been sent for'ard to
superintend the weighing and catting on the anchor.  The stern anchor
had already been hove short.

Under the action of the steam winch the cable came home.  Manoeuvred by
means of the twin screws the _Myra_ swung round in mid-stream, and as
the "hook" broke out from the muddy bottom the tramp forged slowly
ahead.

Half a dozen British seamen were on the fo'c'sle together with three
Germans.  The latter took good care to leave most of the work to the
prisoners, so that Armstrong had a clear opportunity to withdraw the
real forelocks from the anchors and replace them with the wooden ones.

"That's all serene," he whispered to Denbigh as he came aft.  "Now
there'll be trouble for the Deutschers."



CHAPTER XVI

The Disaster to the _Myra_

Arriving at the entrance to the Mohoro River the _Myra_ made no attempt
to recross the inner bar.  Nor did she anchor, contenting herself with
merely steaming ahead against the flood-tide at a slow speed that kept
her stationary with the shore.

Just before high water the _Pelikan_ hove in sight from behind a
projecting tongue of land.  She still retained her garb of palm trees.
The subs noticed that she had a decided list to starboard.  This,
however, was not due to a leak but to the fact that her cargo had been
trimmed so as to throw her on her bilge and thus lighten her draught.

Slowly she approached the bar, and promptly took ground.  Gripped by
the strong tide the stern portion swung round, throwing her almost
broadside athwart the river.

Great was the confusion on board.  Half a dozen officers were shouting
simultaneously; men were rushing hither and thither, with no apparent
object, while with her engines reversed, her propellers were throwing
huge columns of mud and water.

Before the officers realized the danger the starboard propeller had
shed its blades owing to their coming into contact with the bottom,
while the port propeller was stopped after two blades had been badly
buckled.

Cautiously the lighter-draughted _Myra_ was backed astern until a
couple of stout hawsers were passed to her from the stranded vessel.

Three times the tramp endeavoured without success to tow off the
_Pelikan_, but on each occasion the hawsers snapped.  By this time it
was close on high water.

Meanwhile the raider's crew were working like men possessed, throwing
overboard heavy gear that Kapitan von Riesser would have given
thousands of marks to retain.  Military stores of the utmost importance
had to be ruthlessly sacrificed, unless the _Pelikan_ was to remain a
target for the guns of the British cruisers which were even now
supposed to be on their way from Zanzibar.

On the fourth occasion a hawser was sent off to the _Myra_, while in
addition the pinnace was towed into midstream with a large anchor slung
underneath her keel.

The anchor having been dropped, the cable was led to the _Pelikan's_
steam capstan.  Directly the chain took the strain the _Myra_ began to
tow, with the result that the luckless raider scraped heavily across
the bar into deep water.

Kapitan von Riesser was delighted, in spite of the loss of stores and
gear.  The damaged propellers mattered little, since the _Pelikan_
would never again attempt to put to sea.  The _Myra_ could tow her up
the Mohoro River until she was out of range of the British cruisers'
guns, and from that point the reinforcements for the German Field Force
could proceed to the Rhodesian border and attempt to check General
Smut's advance.

Amongst the troops was Major von Eckenstein, who had been discovered
lying unconscious at the foot of the cliffs.  He was badly battered
about the face, and severely hurt internally.  When he came to he was
quite unable to account for his injuries.  It was quite evident that
from a combatant point of view the arrogant major was out of the
running.

As soon as the _Pelikan_ was in comparative safety the German troops
were re-embarked.  The quick-firers which had been landed, and which
had served so good a purpose in repelling the British destroyers, were
brought round by steamboats and again hoisted on board the _Pelikan_.

This done the _Myra_ took her big consort in tow, and against the now
strong ebb-tide slowly crawled up the turgid river.

Before the tidal stream had turned the two vessels had passed the spot
where the tramp had anchored on the previous night.  Without stopping
they proceeded up-stream, the _Pelikan_ keeping well under control by
means of her rudder and a supplementary steering device consisting of a
long spar towed astern to prevent the ship from yawing.

"By Jove! there's trouble ahead," observed Denbigh, pointing to a sharp
bend in the river about a mile ahead.  Here the tidal portion of the
stream extended nearly 500 yards from bank to bank, while the actual
channel was a bare fifth of that distance.  On the starboard hand ran a
long tongue of mud, round which the stream swept with great violence.

By this time a strong breeze had sprung up, blowing athwart the
channel.  The absence of trees close to the bank increased the
difficulty, for there was no protection from the wind as it swept
against the lofty side of the slowly-moving _Pelikan_.

Already the raider's semaphore was signalling to the _Myra_ to cast off
and anchor until the tide slackened.

With a grim smile on his face Armstrong winked solemnly at the subs.
He said not a word, for several of the German seamen were standing by.

"Let go!" ordered Unter-leutnant Klick, directly he saw that the
_Pelikan_ had dropped her anchor.

Promptly the British seaman stationed at the compressor obeyed.  The
bower anchor fell with a sullen splash.  Fathom after fathom of chain
roared through the hawse-pipe.

Klick raised his hand as a signal for the cable to be checked.  The
_Myra_ was still making sternway and showed no decided tendency to
bring up.  Another fifty fathoms of chain were paid out.  Still the
tramp dropped astern.  She was now within half a cable's length of the
_Pelikan_, which to prevent herself being in collision was obliged to
veer out her cable.

"The anchor's not holding, sir!" shouted the German petty officer in
charge of the fo'c'sle party.

"Then let go a second anchor," yelled Klick excitedly.  "Make them look
sharp, or we'll be foul of the _Pelikan_."

The unter-leutnant had no cause to complain of the lack of energy on
the part of the prisoners.  With the utmost dispatch the second anchor
was let go.  Before twenty fathoms, which alone ought to be sufficient
to bring the _Myra_ to a standstill, were paid out the whole of the
cable of the first anchor had been made use of.

Suddenly a sullen roar was heard coming from down-stream.  The Mohoro
River at certain intervals, especially at extraordinary spring-tides,
is subject to a bore.  The bore is very erratic.  Sometimes it is very
much in evidence, at other times it is hardly perceptible; but there
was no doubt that now it was of unusual magnitude.

Nearer and nearer came the wall of solid water, maintaining an unbroken
wave towards the centre of the river.  Close to the banks it broke
heavily.

"Go full speed ahead or we'll be into you!" shouted Kapitan von Riesser
frantically.

The _Myra's_ engine-room telegraph clanged.  Either by accident or
design the British engineers were slow in replying.  The tramp was only
just forging ahead when the bore swept under the _Pelikan's_ counter.

Round swept the raider, her stern just missing the _Myra's_ taffrail.
Fortunately her cables held, but not so the tramp.

With her engines going ahead and held tightly by the scope of her
anchor-chain--for the anchors themselves, thanks to their dummy
forelocks, were useless--the tramp headed uncontrollably towards the
port-hand bank.  In the midst of the tumult of water as the bore broke
over her she struck and struck heavily.

In an instant the doomed vessel fell over on her beam-ends.  With an
appalling crash her funnels and masts went by the board.  So sudden was
the catastrophe that a dozen German seamen were trapped down below.
Only by the narrowest margin did the British engine-room staff make
their escape.

Of what occurred during the next few moments neither Denbigh nor O'Hara
had any clear recollection.  They found themselves standing on the side
of the vessel.  Captain Pennington, Armstrong, and Unter-leutnant Klick
were there, too.  Up for'ard the British seamen and half a dozen of the
German prize crew were scrambling along the upturned sides, which were
by this time barely three feet above the surface of the raging stream.

It was evident that the survivors had found only a very temporary place
of refuge.  The force of the current sweeping past the ship was wearing
out a deep hole in the bed of the river, into which the _Myra_ was
slowly subsiding.  To attempt to escape by swimming was almost an
impossibility, as the water surged and eddied past, forming a dangerous
whirlpool close to the stern of the vessel.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Armstrong.  "This is a proper wash-out.  We've
done the trick properly this time."

"Yes, it's more than we bargained for," added the Irishman.  "I would
never have believed that a craft of this size would be swallowed up so
quickly."

Meanwhile Denbigh could not help noticing the marked difference in the
demeanour of the British and German seamen, who by this time were up to
their knees in water, and were soon, unless help were forthcoming, to
be swept off their feet by the rush of the flood-tide.

The Huns were shouting dolorously for aid; the _Myra's_ men were either
stoically silent or else inclined to indulge in grim jests at the
expense of the bellowing Teutons.

Denbigh looked in the direction of the _Pelikan_.  The crew were
engaged in lowering boats, and taking an extraordinarily long time
about it, owing to the pronounced list of the raider and also to the
fact that her decks were encumbered with her disguise of vegetation.

Unter-leutnant Klick was trembling violently.  He, of all the officers
taking refuge on the side of the tramp, had managed to procure a
life-belt.  Even the contemptuous glances of the _Myra's_ skipper
failed to shame him.

Presently the first of the _Pelikan's_ boats came tearing up-stream.
It required all the strength of the oarsmen to check her way.  An
ironical cheer from the British seamen greeted her arrival.

"Women and children first!" they yelled derisively as the
unter-leutnant and the surviving German seamen made a frantic rush for
the boat.

Two of the Huns jumped short.  Although good swimmers they were swirled
away like pieces of straw, until, drawn into the vortex of the
whirlpool, they disappeared.

The second boat, backing towards the deadly whirlpool, awaited the
men's reappearance, but in vain.  Then, attempting to run alongside the
wreck, the frail craft bumped heavily upon a submerged part of the
vessel and stove in a couple of planks.  While two of the crew began to
bale, the boat was swept several hundred yards up the river, for the
remaining rowers were helpless against the flood.

Meanwhile the first boat, having rescued the unter-leutnant and the
surviving German seamen, began to approach the wreck again; until
Klick, in an agony of terror lest she, too, would meet with disaster,
ordered the men to push off.

A third boat--a whaler--came upon the scene.  Acting with great caution
her coxswain brought her alongside and motioned to Denbigh and his
companions to leap.

"Those men first," cried Captain Pennington, pointing to those of his
crew who were still maintaining a precarious hold.

The coxswain understood and allowed his boat to drift down upon the
handful of seamen.  Coolly the British crew scrambled into safety, and
the whaler, urged under the powerful strokes of the oarsmen, began to
make her way aft.

Suddenly the almost submerged part on which Denbigh and his companions
were standing gave a sickening shudder and disappeared beneath the
surface.  A swirl of water, surging with irresistible force, swept the
four officers off their feet.

The next instant Denbigh found himself struggling for dear life in the
foaming yellow water of Mohoro River.  In spite of his peril, he could
not help contrasting his involuntary bath with that of the previous
night.  Then the water was warm, tranquil, and evil-smelling.  Unseen
dangers assailed him on every hand.  Now the same river was nothing
less than a broiling cauldron.

With almost superhuman strength Denbigh struck out.  Already he was
within the influence of the deadly whirlpool.  Spinning round and round
he kept his face from the vortex, striving, but in vain, to overcome
the suction of the gigantic eddy.

He could see no signs of his companions.  Either they had already
disappeared, or else they had been thrown beyond the range of the
inverted cone that marked the position of the whirlpool.

Even in danger of imminent death, the sub recalled an incident in the
Clarence Victualling Yard, several years ago.  He had been taken by his
father to see the process of manufacturing ships' biscuits.  In one
building he saw flour sliding down an inclined plane into a mixing
machine.  Mingled with the flour were several large maggots, that gave
the name to the creek that forms the approach by water to the
Victualling Yard.  Finding themselves disturbed, the insects tried to
wriggle back, but in vain.  Down they slid till caught in the mixer,
finally to form part of the ingredients of ship's biscuits.

"And I'm almost in the same boat as those weevils," thought Denbigh
grimly, as he completed a circle for the twentieth time.

He was nearing the vortex.  The spiral motion became quicker.  An
irresistible force was dragging him down.

Suddenly Denbigh threw up his arms.  He was physically played out.
Like an arrow he shot into the pit in the centre of that mass of
whirling water.  The blaze of the African sun gave place to intense
darkness.  He held his breath, until his lungs seemed to be on the
point of bursting.

As rapidly as he had gone down the sub was shot to the surface.  Again
he was within the range of the whirlpool, for its centre, instead of
being stationary, was moving in an ellipse.

Unable even to struggle, Denbigh was again sucked down.  This time,
incapable of holding his breath, he swallowed a quantity of water.  The
pressure on his chest was excruciating.  Then torture gave place to a
strange calmness.  On an instant, recollections of practically the
whole of his past life flashed across his mind.  The mental pictures
faded away and all became blank.



CHAPTER XVII

A Bid for Freedom

When Denbigh opened his eyes he found himself in the now familiar cabin
on board the _Pelikan_.  There were several people in the limited
space.  He did not feel any interest in them.  They irritated him.  He
wanted to sleep.

Gradually it dawned upon him that he had a narrow escape.  Then he
remembered that O'Hara was with him when he was swept off the side of
the _Myra_.

"You there, Pat?" he asked, half afraid to put the question in case his
chum was gone.

"Sure," replied a deep voice from the opposite bunk.

Denbigh attempted to sit up.  He felt horribly sick.  His head was
whirling.  It reminded him very forcibly and unpleasantly of his spiral
flight around the vortex of the whirlpool.

"Lie still, Mr. Denbigh," said Captain Pennington.  "You'll be fit all
in good time."

"All right," agreed the sub.  He was not in a fit state to do
otherwise.  "Where is the _Pelikan_ now?"

The skipper of the _Myra_ lowered his voice.

"Properly trapped.  She cannot go another fifty yards up the river.
We've spoilt her little game."

"Good business," murmured Denbigh, and turning on his side he fell
asleep.

His escape was little short of miraculous.  It was owing to the fact
that he wore his solar topee fastened by a strong "chin-stay".  The
air-space between the double thickness of the sun-helmet possessed
sufficient buoyancy to bring him to the surface, after being twice
taken down by the whirlpool.

A few minutes previous to the disaster, the bore had exhausted itself
at a point ten miles up the river, and the "rebound" had made itself
felt just at the time when Denbigh made his second involuntary dive.
The sudden slackening of the full force of the flood-tide had caused
the whirlpool to cease, with the result that the sub floated
unconscious on the surface of the river, when he was picked up by the
_Pelikan's_ whaler.  O'Hara, Captain Pennington, and Armstrong had been
more fortunate, for they had been swept clear of the influence of the
eddy.

The result of Armstrong's plot had rather exceeded his expectations.
The _Myra_ lay athwart the channel, with less than twelve feet of water
over her at high tide.  Until the Mohoro River cut itself a new bed
round the submerged wreck--which might take twenty-four hours or as
many days--the _Pelikan_ would be unable to proceed.  Even if the
obstruction did not exist, the raider was unable to proceed owing to
the loss of her propeller blades.

The whole of the stores removed from the _Pelikan_ to the _Myra_, as
well as those originally in the tramp's holds, were hopelessly lost,
including the bulk of the ammunition and arms intended for the German
colonial troops.  There were several hundred reservists still on board,
with no facilities for their transfer up-country.  Even had there been
boats available for them all, the voyage up the Mohoro was fraught with
danger.

On the other hand, to remain in the _Pelikan_ was to court disease and
famine, even should the raider escape detection by the British cruisers.

Kapitan von Riesser's position was far from enviable.  He soundly rated
Unter-leutnant Klick, who in turn tried to shift the blame upon the
British sailors for their dilatoriness in letting go the anchors.  Von
Riesser had seen with his own eyes that the anchors had been let go
promptly.  He could not, therefore, accuse the _Myra's_ original crew
of conspiracy, since he had no evidence.  The prospect of capture, too,
made him treat the prisoners with far more consideration than he would
have done had his position been a secure one.

The kapitan of the _Pelikan_ was not, however, going to "knuckle under"
without another effort.  For the next three days all hands were kept
hard at work, in spite of the blazing sunshine by day and the miasmic
mists by night.

The guns previously landed on the shores of the lagoon and afterwards
taken on board again were once more sent ashore, and placed in position
so as to command a wide stretch of river.  The _Pelikan_, being now
moored fore and aft, had the remaining quick-firers mounted at the
stern, so as to cooperate with the shore batteries in sweeping the
approach by water.

Two miles down-stream a steel-studded cable was thrown across from bank
to bank, and supported by barrels lashed in pairs at frequent
intervals.  The obstruction ought to prevent the dash by armed
steamboats, even if unable to withstand the headlong charge of a
destroyer.

The most formidable objects of defence were the two torpedo-tubes,
which were removed from the ship and placed in position on shore four
hundred yards below the chain boom.  To enable the torpedoes to be
fired, light piers were thrown out from the banks into twelve feet of
water, the structure being hidden by boughs of trees and clumps of
reeds.  On the high ground at the back of the torpedo station
searchlights were mounted.  These were not to be used as a
precautionary measure, but only to be switched on when an attack was
visibly imminent.  Von Riesser's principal aim was to remain hidden.
If his retreat were discovered then he would put up a fight, and
failing to win would surrender with a good conscience.

Long before the three days had elapsed Denbigh had quite recovered from
the effects of his prolonged immersion.  He had, with the rest of the
captured British officers, little opportunity of finding out the actual
steps that were being taken for defence.  They knew that work was in
progress, but during the removal of the torpedo-tubes and guns they had
been sent below.

One discovery Denbigh made, and that was through overhearing a chance
conversation between two German petty officers.  It also accounted for
the seemingly purposeless reluctance to confine the prisoners in the
hold instead of attempting to chloroform them in their cabin.

The _Pelikan_ was double-skinned, but the space between the double
bottoms was far greater than is usual in marine construction.  It had
practically two hulls, one within the other, and in the intervening
space were stowed quantities of warlike stores.

When the _Pelikan_ had been boarded by a British patrol officer the
deception escaped detection.  Apparently the _Zwaan_ was a harmless
Dutch liner.  The sub-lieutenant who acted as boarding-officer was not
sufficiently versed in the ways of the wily Teuton.  An examination of
the hold revealed nothing suspicious, and the vessel was accordingly
released.

Unfortunately for the Germans their plans had gone awry, for on
grounding on the outer bar the ship had strained several of her plates,
with the result that the space between the inner and the outer skin was
flooded.  Not only were the stores spoilt, but, in order to lighten her
draught in addition to compensating for lost buoyancy, cargo more than
equivalent to that flooded had to be jettisoned.

Having landed the quick-firers and torpedo-tubes, the crew of the
_Pelikan_ proceeded to increase the disguise of the ship.  She was now
a regular floating palm forest.  So thick was the foliage brought on
board and secured to the masts and upper works that sun-awnings were
unnecessary.  Even an observer in a seaplane, unless he were prepared
for such a disguise, would fail to distinguish the raider in her garb
of verdure.

"How do you feel for another jaunt ashore?" asked Denbigh.

"I can't say I am particularly keen on another swim," replied O'Hara.
"Otherwise I've no objection to studying the fauna and flora of this
delectable land.  But what's the object?"

"It's about time we bade farewell to the _Pelikan_" replied Denbigh.
"It's four days since that little affair with the destroyers, and our
cruisers have apparently made no attempt to get even with von Riesser
and his motley crowd.  I'm rather curious to know what's doing?"

"I can't see how going ashore will help," objected the Irishman.

"It will if we get to the mouth of the river.  If the cruisers are in
the lagoon, well and good."

"And if not?"

"Then we'll have to exist as best we can till they do arrive."

"H'm," muttered O'Hara.  "And the other fellows--Pennington and
Armstrong?"

"We'll ask them to join our merry throng," answered Denbigh.  "The more
the better, once we get clear of the ship."

That same afternoon the subs broached the matter to the master and mate
of the lost _Myra_.

"I must cry off, thanks all the same," was Captain Pennington's reply.
"Happen what may my place is with my men.  I have no objection to
Armstrong going with you, but I hope you have carefully weighed the
matter.  If you miss being picked up by the boats of the squadron your
plight will be an unenviable one.  The climate, the wild nature of the
coast, and the natives, who are certainly under German influence, are
all against you.  Personally I think you stand a better chance by
remaining here and letting events take their course.  The _Pelikan_ is
trapped.  Capture or destruction is but a matter of time."

"True," admitted Denbigh.  "But these fellows evidently mean to put up
a stiff fight.  They've been doing something down the river--probably
throwing up masked batteries.  If we could manage to find out what they
are up to and can communicate the intelligence to our ships it would
help matters."

"That's another consideration," said Captain Pennington.  "In fact,
your duty lies that way."

"Are you trying your luck with us, Armstrong?" asked O'Hara.

"I'd be only too pleased to have a cut at it," replied the mate.
"Especially as Captain Pennington has no objections.  How do you
propose to get clear of the ship?  You can't swim ashore, because
there's nothing but slimy mud on the bank for some distance."

"There's a punt made fast alongside the port quarter," said Denbigh.
"They don't hoist it on board at night, because it's there when we turn
in and in the same place when we come on deck in the morning.  They
only use it during the day."

"And there's a sentry right aft," objected Armstrong.  "He'd spot us as
sure as daylight."

"Look here," declared the sub.  "If I succeed in getting her alongside
amidships will you be ready to swarm down and into her?"

Armstrong nodded in assent.  O'Hara also expressed his willingness to
attempt the enterprise.

The Irishman still had his pistol.  He had taken an early opportunity
of cleaning it after his immersion.  The screw-driver had been lost in
the _Myra_, but by this time the lock furniture was easy to remove, a
coin doing duty for the hitherto indispensable tool.  The three men
also contrived to reserve a small quantity of food and a glass bottle
filled with soda-water.

Captain Pennington and Armstrong had been berthed in the same cabin as
the two subs.  That facilitated matters, since the master of the _Myra_
could cover his companions' tracks.

"They'll make it pretty hot for me when they find you've cleared out,"
he remarked.  "I can stick that.  I don't think they'll go to extreme
measures with me.  If they do they'll be sorry for it later on."

At the usual hour the officer-prisoners were ordered below.  By ten
o'clock all was still.  The crew of the raider were no longer working
by night.  The bulk of the preparations completed they were given ample
opportunities for rest, since it was necessary to conserve their
energies for defence against the impending attack.

On deck a strict watch was maintained, but the attention of the
sentries was mainly directed downstream, whence the sudden switching on
of the searchlights was to be the signal of the approach of the British
flotillas.

It was not until two bells (1 a.m.) that the three officers stole from
their cabin.  On deck all was in darkness.  There was no moon.  Every
light was extinguished.  A mist obscured the glimmer of the stars.  It
was one of those nights when it was really impossible to see one's hand
in front of one's face.

Without interruption the three officers gained the shelter of one of
the boats slung inboard with davits.  Here, eight feet above the deck,
they were in comparative safety.  Groping in the stern-sheets Denbigh
found what he expected--a hand lead-line.

Keeping the weighted end in the boat he dropped the coils overboard.
Caught by the swirling current the line trailed out astern.  His next
task was to lower the boat's painter, which was to form a means of
getting down into the punt.

Stealthily the sub lowered himself hand over hand until his feet
touched the water.

"Good heavens, what a current!" he thought.  "Well, if the lead-line
parts it will be an end to this little business.  Here goes!"

He slipped softly into the river, striking out against the current, and
at the same time allowing the rush of water to sweep him down across
the bows of the punt, which was about a hundred feet from the place
where he had descended.

Suddenly something flicked across his head.  It was the trailing
lead-line.  Grasping it he allowed himself to be carried past the side
of the ship until he came within reach of the punt, which was made fast
to the lizard of one of the swinging booms.

Still retaining the line Denbigh clambered over the stern.  The punt
was yawing in the tideway.  He could see that it would be impossible to
haul it against the stream unless he kept well off.

He groped for'ard.  In the bluff stem he found a metal ring-bolt.
Through this he passed the lead-line, making fast to another ring-bolt
in the transom.

So far so good.  His next step was to cut adrift the unwieldy little
craft.  Released from the hold of the two ropes the punt swung away
from the ship's side, but showed little tendency to yaw.

Slowly Denbigh began to haul in the lead-line.  Foot by foot the punt
crept up-stream.  Trimmed well by the stern she towed lightly, but the
securing line was none too strong.  His journey to the place where he
had entered the water seemed interminable, but at length Denbigh felt
the trailing painter of the boat in the davits.

He made fast.  As he did so the punt swung in towards the ship's side,
her gunwale making a resounding sound as it came in contact with the
steel plating.

He could hear men's footsteps approaching.  Through the darkness he
heard a German sailor enquiring of his companion what the noise was.
The fellow expressed his opinion that it was merely a hippopotamus, and
the explanation being evidently satisfactory the men went aft once more.

Grasping the painter Denbigh jerked it three times.  It was the
prearranged signal for his comrades to rejoin him.  Silently Armstrong
slid down the rope, followed by O'Hara.

By this time they were growing accustomed to the darkness.  Denbigh
could see the white uniforms of his companions.  He wondered whether
they would be spotted once the punt drifted away from the ship's side.

Just above his head was a cluster of palm branches, suspended in a line
from the rail.

"I'll take the liberty of removing some of their floral decorations,"
mused Denbigh.  Then signing to his companions to lie down he covered
them with the broad leaves, cut the log-line, and allowed the punt to
drift at the mercy of the strong ebb-tide.



CHAPTER XVIII

Disappointment

"Any oars on board?" asked O'Hara, after the frail craft had drifted a
few hundred yards down the river.

"Not a suspicion of one," replied Armstrong.  "And the bore will be due
in about an hour."

"Hands, lads!" exclaimed Denbigh cheerily.  "Let us imagine we're
taking part in a Fleet regatta."

Leaning over the sides the men paddled with their hands, steering a
course obliquely with the left bank of the river.

Once the punt tilted alarmingly as a dark heavy body rasped underneath.
The denizens of the river were in evidence.  The officers prudently
suspended operations until the unwelcome intruder had disappeared.

"Hulloa, what's that?" whispered the Irishman.  "Hippos right across
the river."

The punt was bearing down upon a line of dark objects that were
apparently forging ahead against the swift current.

"Back starboard!" ordered Denbigh promptly.

The punt, checked by the resistance of O'Hara's palms in the water,
swung sideways.  As it did so Denbigh gathered up the slack of the
severed lead-line that still remained on board.

Retaining the ends he threw the bight across one of the black objects,
at the same time lying at full length on the bottom of the boat.  With
a jerk that wellnigh capsized the crank craft the punt's way was
checked.

"Your hippos are barrels, old man!" he exclaimed.

"Mines, perhaps," suggested Armstrong.  "Be careful, for goodness sake."

"Not mines," declared Denbigh.  "They wouldn't be floating on the
surface.  But it's some infernal contrivance.  Haul closer and we'll
investigate."

Warding off the gunwale from the plunging barrel Denbigh dipped his arm
into the water.  His hand came in contact with a heavy chain eighteen
inches beneath the surface.

"A boom!" he announced.  "By Jove!  If we had a slab of gun-cotton
handy."

"Hist!" exclaimed O'Hara warningly.  "I can hear voices."

"It's time for us to go," whispered Armstrong.

Denbigh cast off.  The barrel appeared to leap away from them, as the
punt was swept down-stream.

"Not much use attempting to land at this point," said Armstrong.

"I don't know so much about that," rejoined Denbigh.  "Personally I'm
rather anxious to see what these fellows are doing ashore.  Keep her
going, Pat.  We'll strike the bank in less than half a mile."

Paddling in silence the men pursued their tedious course athwart the
current until a dull roar was borne to their ears.

"The bore!" exclaimed Armstrong.

"It will be quite ten minutes before it reaches us," replied Denbigh.
"Stick to it, lads!"

The amphibians, with the keen instinct that nature bestowed upon them,
also were aware of the approach of the foaming mass of water, for the
centre of the river was literally alive with hippopotami and saurians
that had not gone ashore for a nocturnal ramble.  The crocodiles on the
mud-flats were either making for deep water or else crawling higher up
the banks out of the rush of the irresistible bore.

"Aground!" exclaimed Denbigh as the punt's bows touched the mud.
"Check her from swinging round."

Armstrong promptly jumped overboard, to sink above his knees in the
soft mud.  Only by holding on to the gunwale was he able to keep
himself from sinking still deeper.

"We can't land here," he announced.  "We'll be in up to our necks."

"Must," declared Denbigh laconically, raising his voice to enable it to
be heard above the now loud roar of the approaching bore.

Seizing the lead-line and bending one end round his waist Denbigh leapt
overboard, threw himself at full length upon the mud, and working with
his hands drew himself laboriously over the slimy surface.  It was
horribly exhausting work, but to his intense satisfaction he found
himself making visible progress without sinking beyond a few inches in
the ooze.

Ahead he could discern the dark outlines of the mangrove forest.  It
seemed an interminable distance away.

Presently his hand came in contact with the trunk of a tree, that had
fallen and had been partly embedded in the mud.  It afforded a
precarious foothold, but proceeding carefully, Denbigh found that the
farther end rested in comparatively firm soil.

Planting his feet against the trunk, the sub hauled at the lead-line
with all his might.  The flat-bottomed punt glided easily over the
slime until its bows were within a yard of the fallen tree.  Then,
unexpectedly, the rope that had rendered such good service parted like
pack-thread.

Denbigh, losing his balance, fell prostrate on the ground, which was
here soft enough to break his fall but sufficiently stiff to prevent
him from being swallowed up in the mud.

Quickly O'Hara and Armstrong jumped, and grasping their fallen comrade
hauled him to his feet.  They had barely time to gain the firm bank
when the bore thundered past, sweeping the punt away like a straw.
They had a momentary glimpse of its bows rearing high in the air on the
crest of the foaming, breaking wall of water, then it vanished out of
sight.

"Phew!" exclaimed Armstrong.  "That was a narrow squeak."

"I'm in a horrible mess," announced Denbigh.  "The mud of Portsmouth
Harbour is eau de Cologne compared with this filthy slime."

"Good heavens, man! you're shivering," declared O'Hara.  "That won't
do.  Here, take my coat.  I don't want it.  I insist."

Waving aside Denbigh's objections the Irishman made him take off his
saturated garments, while the rest of the deficiency of the sub's
wardrobe was temporarily made good by making use of Armstrong's silk
scarf as a loin-cloth.  The men realized that in the deadly African
climate dry clothing was of utmost importance.  The sub's saturated and
mud-encaked garments were made up into a bundle to be washed and dried
at the first opportunity.

"Now," said Denbigh, "I feel like a giant refreshed.  We've plenty of
time, for it's no use getting to the coast before sunrise.  If you
fellows like to wait here I'll go up along the banks and see what is at
the shore end of that chain."

"It isn't going to be a one-man show," objected O'Hara.  "We'll all
have a chip in.  You lead, if you will, old man.  I'll follow just far
enough behind to keep you in view.  Armstrong, will you bring up the
rear?"

In single file and extended order the three officers made their way
towards their objective.  Keeping just below high-water mark they found
the ground easy to walk upon, and, with one exception, free from the
presence of crocodiles.

One huge brute barred their path, but on Denbigh hurling a heavy stick
in its direction, the saurian turned and waddled towards the water.

Noiselessly, for the soft ground effectually deadened the sound of
their footsteps, the daring explorers advanced.

Suddenly a hoarse voice broke the silence with a guttural "Wer da?"

Without a moment's hesitation Denbigh dropped gently to the ground.
His companions followed his example, holding their breath in momentary
expectation of hearing a bullet whizzing over their heads.

"It's all right, Schlutze," replied a voice.  "The leutnant sent me to
bring some more hands down.  There's a boat broken adrift.  She's
grinding against the end of the torpedo-station pier."

"What boat?" asked the sentry, recovering his rifle.

"I do not know.  It's empty."

"Not an English boat?" asked the man anxiously.

"When the English do venture they will attempt the attack with
something bigger, my friend.  The bigger the better, for they will
never be able to pass here, with our excellent torpedo-tubes trained
across the river.  But I must be moving.  Herr leutnant is in a great
hurry.  He does not want his piers damaged."

Denbigh remained lying on the ground.  He waited until half a dozen
Germans passed within twenty yards of him.  He could hear their heavy
boots clattering on the planks of the foliage-screened pier, although
the structure was invisible from where he lay.

Finding that it would be too risky a business to attempt to pass the
sentry, Denbigh crawled back to O'Hara, and by signs indicated that he
was going into the forest.  The three comrades, keeping close together,
turned their backs upon the river and were soon swallowed up in the
dense foliage.

Maintaining his direction by means of his spirit-compass, Denbigh held
on until he came upon a clearing.  Here the ground was furrowed with
deep ruts.  They had evidently been caused by the recent passage of
heavy objects drawn upon rough sleighs.  The dew-steeped ground bore
the impress of many booted feet as well as, to a lesser extent, those
of natives.

"They've been lugging up the quick-firers," mentally commented Denbigh.
"I wonder where they've hidden them?  Wish to goodness they hadn't
employed niggers.  I don't mind getting on the track of a Hun, but the
blacks have an awkward trick of turning the tables upon a fellow when
it comes to following a spoor."

He waited, revolving in his mind the problem that confronted him.  His
companions stood motionless and silent.  They, too, realized that
danger lurked in the dense bush.

Again Denbigh consulted his compass.  The track on his left hand lay in
a north-westerly direction.  Assuming that it ran fairly straight, it
would open out at the river banks in the vicinity of the temporary
piers.  In the other direction it showed a tendency to curve to the
north-east.

"I'll try the right-hand track," decided the sub.  "I suppose it will
be out of the question to get those two obstinate fellows to remain
here."

He put the proposal in dumb show, but both O'Hara and Armstrong
vigorously protested against being left behind.

The three officers again took shelter in the bush, keeping close and
parallel to the beaten track.  Twenty minutes' steady progress brought
them to the edge of a large clearing.  By the compass their direction
was now due west, showing that they had described a large semicircle.
They were now not far from the river.  They could hear the swirl of the
flood-tide.  Towards the centre of the clearing were several indistinct
objects that looked like gun-emplacements.  Through the darkness came
the sound of men's voices.  A dog yelped, and was instantly told to be
silent.

"This is no place for us," thought Denbigh.  "Much as I should like to
see what is over there, I think we'll shift.  I'll try and see how this
clearing bears for the river."

Fifty yards farther on progress was barred by a line of young trees.
Groping, the sub attempted to find a gap, but to his surprise the stem
he grasped gave way.  It was merely the top of a palm tree lopped off
and forced into the ground.  The whole row was merely a screen to mask
the guns from the river.

As the sub scrambled through the gap his foot tripped against a
concealed wire, and a spurt of red flame stabbed the darkness
accompanied by the sharp crack of a rifle.

Resisting the impulse to take to their heels the three officers backed
cautiously into the forest.  Already numbers of men were hurrying to
the spot.  Lights flashed upon the scene, revealing the presence of two
searchlight projectors set up on platforms almost above the heads of
the British fugitives.

In the confusion, for the German officers and men were shouting and
aimlessly running hither and thither, Denbigh and his companions
withdrew, until they found themselves at the place where a couple of
hours previously they had landed from the punt.

"Full speed ahead!" exclaimed Denbigh.  "It will be dawn by the time we
reach the shore of the lagoon.  I think we've seen enough to enable us
to locate the enemy's shore defences."

"Through the forest, or by the river?" asked O'Hara.

"Both," replied his chum.  "Two miles farther down-stream is the spot
where we landed from the _Myra_.  I can recognize it.  You remember
what we buried there?"

"Rather," replied the Irishman.  "The rifle and the ammunition we took
from von Eckenstein's man."

"It will come in jolly handy if we fall foul of more wild animals,"
continued Denbigh.  "When we've recovered the rifle we'll follow the
same track as we did previously.  Let's hope we'll be in time to warn
our cruisers, for from all appearances von Riesser hasn't played
himself out just yet."

"You're taking into consideration the possibility that the Germans have
left an observation post at the entrance to the river?" asked Armstrong.

"Rather," replied Denbigh.  "Even if they hadn't posted a guard they'll
have made arrangements with the natives to give them the tip.  Best leg
forward, lads.  If we fail to see the White Ensign before another six
hours have passed I shall be horribly disappointed."

In spite of Denbigh's assurances the men had great difficulty in
locating the spot where the rifle and ammunition had been hidden.  The
lack of moonlight altered the appearance of the river completely.
Landmarks and bearings were useless in the darkness; but at length the
weapon was recovered little the worse for its experience.  Having
cleaned the dirt from the muzzle, the breech-mechanism having been
protected when it was buried, O'Hara took possession of the rifle and
the journey was resumed.

The short African dawn was breaking as the three officers reached the
low cliffs overlooking the lagoon.

A grunt of disappointment burst from Denbigh's lips.  The morning mists
had dispersed.  The whole of the reef was plainly visible.  The horizon
was unbroken by any object that could be recognized as a British
warship.

Unaccountably the blockading squadron had disappeared.



CHAPTER XIX

"Our Luck's Out"

"That's done it!" ejaculated O'Hara.

"Perhaps," admitted Denbigh.  "We'll have some grub and discuss the
situation.  It's good to sniff the open sea, after being cooped up in
that pestilential river.  That's one consolation."

The three chums ate sparingly, supplementing the provisions with the
milk of a coco-nut.  The soda-water was by common consent kept intact.

As soon as the sun's rays acquired strength Denbigh washed his
mud-encrusted clothes in the sea and spread them out to dry.

"What's the programme?" asked Armstrong.  "If we hang about here we
stand a chance of getting nabbed.  Our flight will have been discovered
by this time, and they'll naturally conclude that we've made off
towards the mouth of the river."

"Unless they conclude, from finding the punt jammed alongside the pier,
that we've been slung out and drowned," rejoined Denbigh.  "But we'll
take no needless chances.  We'll go north.  Once we pass the clearing
where the native village stands the coast ought to be fairly clear, and
we can still command a view of the entrance to the lagoon."

Without incident the three officers made their way for nearly three
miles along the coast.  By this time the intense heat was making itself
felt, and at O'Hara's suggestion they retreated to the cool of the
forest, taking turns at keeping watch.

During the afternoon a native canoe appeared round a projecting bluff.
The men had been fishing, for they brought a goodly haul on shore.
Dragging the frail craft above high-water mark the blacks vanished in
the direction of the village.

O'Hara, who was keeping watch, astonished his companions by giving them
each a violent shake.

"What's wrong?" asked Denbigh, awake and alert in an instant.

"Nothing," replied the imperturbable Irishman.

"Then why this thusness?"

"Are you keen on a sea voyage?"

"A sea voyage?" repeated Denbigh.

"To Latham Island."

"Do you propose swimming there?" asked Armstrong with considerable
asperity, for he had been disturbed in the midst of a much-needed sleep.

"There's a canoe awaiting us," reported O'Hara.  "The sea's calm.
To-night's the night.  You told me that the _Pelikan's_ people left a
whaler and plenty of provisions and stores hidden on the island.  With
luck we ought to be able to fetch there, resurrect the boat, and make a
dash for Zanzibar.  We'd have the S.W. monsoon with us all the way, and
if we fell in with one of our ships so much the better."

"Where's your precious discovery?" asked Denbigh.

Accompanying his chum to the edge of the cliff O'Hara pointed out the
canoe.

"H'm, not much of a craft to make a voyage to a sandbank twenty-three
miles from land," remarked Denbigh.

"We can work inside the lagoon for several miles and then keep close
inshore until we reach Ras What's-its-name," continued O'Hara
optimistically.  "I've seen these native canoes miles out to sea before
to-day.  They seem pretty seaworthy."

While daylight lasted the three chums rested, after taking the
precaution of gathering a supply of coco-nuts and roots.  The subs eyed
the latter with misgivings, in spite of Armstrong's assurances that
they were both edible and nourishing.

As soon as the sun had set behind the boundless mangrove forests the
daring trio made their way to the spot where the canoe was lying.  The
craft was about twenty-four feet in length, but only four in beam.
With her half-dozen short paddles, a mast and sail, suitable only for
running before the wind, and a stone jar half-full of water.  Owing to
the porosity of the earthenware the liquid was remarkably cool.  A few
lengths of net completed the equipment, but these were considerately
left behind, since there was no need for unnecessary spoliation of the
natives, even though they were, perhaps unwillingly, subjects of Kaiser
Wilhelm II.

The canoe was light enough to enable the three men to carry her down to
the water's edge.  Without delay they pushed off and headed for the
reef.

Here, on the lee side of the extensive coral ledge, they were in
comparative safety.  The long line of foaming breakers thundering up
the reef afforded a guide to the position of the ledges; it deadened
all other sounds, and since no native boats would be likely to indulge
in night fishing, there was little risk of detection.

"We have company, you see," remarked Armstrong, pointing to a
phosphorescent swirl less than twenty yards astern.  The disturbance of
the placid water was caused by the dorsal fin of a huge shark, that,
scenting a possible prey, was zigzagging in the wake of the frail canoe.

"'We do so want to lose you; and we think you ought to go'," misquoted
O'Hara, laying down his paddle and grasping his rifle.

"Hold on!" cautioned the mate.  "You'll not only bring up every shark
in the lagoon to make a meal of this beauty, but you'll arouse every
native within hearing distance.  Don't fire unless the brute gets too
attentive; then use your pistol.  It makes much less of a flash and
report."

Hour after hour passed.  The men took turns at paddling, since there
was not a breath of wind.  The shark still kept doggedly in company.
As the canoe drew farther and farther away from the entrance to the
Mohoro River the miasmic mists gradually dispersed, until the three
officers found themselves under a bright starlit sky, and on the placid
surface of the lagoon there seemed one blaze of reflected brilliance.

"It looks as if we are nearing the northern limit of the lagoon,"
remarked Denbigh.  "We'd better keep a sharp look-out for a passage
through the reef."

"What if we don't find one?" asked Armstrong.  "The last gap of any
size we passed quite three miles astern."

"There's an opening of sorts," announced O'Hara, pointing to a dark
patch in the otherwise unbroken line of surf.  "My word!  I believe
there's a spanking breeze outside."

"Steady there!" cautioned Denbigh, as the frail craft approached the
opening, through which long undulations sullenly rolled in from the
vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.  "If we get capsized heaven help us.
Our old friend has brought up a few more of his pals."

The sub was justified in advising caution.  Half a dozen sharks were
close to the canoe.  Emboldened by numbers, they swam around in
ever-decreasing circles, until one monster, braver than the rest,
rasped his skin along the side of the canoe.

As the craft tilted O'Hara aimed a blow at the brute with his paddle.
With a swift movement of its powerful tail the shark disappeared, only
to rise again and resume its embarrassing attentions.

"If those brutes' instinct isn't at fault there'll be a pretty
mess-up," thought Denbigh.  "They evidently have seen native canoes
upset in the channel through the reef before to-day."

"Think it's worth while risking it?" asked O'Hara.

"No, I don't," replied his chum bluntly.

"We must hang on till daybreak, then," said Armstrong.  "At dead-low
water there may be a trifle less swell."

"Yes," assented Denbigh.  "We'll land on the lee side of the reef.
Gently with her; we don't want to be stove in against a sharp branch of
coral."

Without accident the landing was accomplished.  The adventurers found
themselves on a broad part of the reef that was barely three feet above
the surface.  Seaweed and driftwood had already accumulated, showing
that the coral was now only occasionally invaded by the sea.  Fifty
yards away the surf broke heavily, but fortunately they were out of
range of the falling spray.

Almost in silence the three chums sat until the sun rose in a grey sky
above the horizon.  Overhead a few large birds flew seaward--both
circumstances presaging a fine day.

The tide had now fallen, and, although there were several feet of water
in the channel, a detached reef about a hundred yards from the main
coral ledge, which had uncovered as the tide fell, completely broke the
breakers for some distance on either side of its seaward end.

"All aboard!" ordered Denbigh.  "With luck we'll fetch Latham Island
well before sunset."

Broad on the port bow rose Ras Kimbiji, which Denbigh recognized by a
peculiarly-rounded and isolated hill rising two miles beyond the point.

From this cape, he knew, Latham Island bore 23 miles due east.

"Step the mast, Pat!" he exclaimed.  "The breeze is well in our favour.
One thing, we are not over-canvassed."

Therein he was mistaken, for the small spread of sail was more than
sufficient to endanger the stability of the canoe.  Since there were no
reef points recourse had to be made to a "Spanish reef", which consists
in gathering in a generous amount of one corner of the canvas and tying
it into a knot.  Even then the little craft literally bounded over the
water.  Before the S.W. monsoon Denbigh calculated her speed at seven
or eight knots.

At the end of three hours the breeze increased, and the sail had to be
still further reduced.  Not daring to stand upright, the sub's range of
vision was considerably limited.  He was beginning to think that a
slight error in the compass course had taken them past the low-lying
and almost invisible sandbank for which they were steering.

"Breakers ahead!" shouted Armstrong.

For nearly five minutes the gaze of all three men was directed upon a
patch of white foam in the midst of the dark-blue waters.

Then Denbigh broke the silence.

"We can finish off that soda-water now," he said.  "That's Latham
Island."

They drained the bottle.  There was now no need to husband their scanty
resources.  Ahead lay the sandbank on which were hidden provisions in
plenty.

"Down rag and out paddles!" ordered Denbigh.

The sail was quickly stowed and the mast unshipped.  Under paddles the
canoe was urged towards the lee side of the island, where a landing was
easily effected.

Dragging the canoe above high-water mark the three chums, wellnigh
"baked" by the heat, sat down upon the hard ground.  Shelter there was
none.  The whole of the white surface simmered in the rays, both direct
and reflected, of the tropical sun.

"Honestly I don't feel like work," remarked O'Hara.  "It's too beastly
hot.  Besides, we've anticipated our time-table considerably.  The
sun's not crossed the meridian yet."

"It's a toss-up whether we set to at once or wait.  In any case we
stew," said Armstrong.  "I vote we dig for an hour and knock off for
the early afternoon."

"Yes," assented Denbigh.  "That will, I think, be the better way.  So
bestir yourself, Pat."

"Where's the spot?" asked the mate.

"Almost at the other end of the island," replied Denbigh.  "I can
recognize it from the position of that jagged reef.  Bring the paddles,
they'll make excellent sand scoops."

Across the glistening sand they made their way until the three men came
simultaneously to a dead stop.

Other diggers had preceded them, for where the whaler and the stores
had been hidden was a large, partly-silted-up cavity.

The versatile Irishman was the first to break the silence.

Throwing his paddle to the ground he ejaculated:

"Dash it all!  Our luck's out this time."



CHAPTER XX

Adrift in the Indian Ocean

"Wish to goodness we hadn't been so prodigal with our provisions," said
Denbigh as the three chums ruefully surveyed the excavation.  "It will
be short commons, unless----"

"Unless what?" asked Armstrong.

"Unless the fellows who have forestalled us have omitted to remove all
the stuff."

"It looks as if they've made a clean sweep of most of the gear and
burnt what they couldn't move.  They've evidently poured petrol over
the place and set fire to it.  Now, what was the object?"

"Perhaps a landing-party from one of our ships destroyed the cache,"
suggested O'Hara.

"Possibly," replied his chum.  "But, on the other hand, unlikely.  It's
my opinion that some of the Germans, finding that the _Pelikan_ was
held up, have made a dash for the island.  In that case it is
reasonable to suppose that they have fitted out the whaler, and are
either making tracks for some navigable river lower down the coast or
else they will attempt to capture the first tramp they fall in with."

"Not much chance of escaping capture themselves," said Armstrong.

"I don't know.  Remember the case of the _Ayesha_ with the _Emden's_
landing-party.  They managed to fetch home all the way from the Cocos
Keeling Islands.  These fellows, with luck, might reach Batavia and be
interned by the Dutch Colonial Government."

"And here are we stranded on a desolate sandbank, with precious little
grub in the locker," remarked Armstrong.  "There's one consolation.  We
have a boat."

"Of sorts," rejoined the Irishman.  "Since she brought us here she
ought to take us back to the mainland, although it will be dead to
windward."

"What's wrong with Zanzibar?" asked the mate.  "It's only about fifty
miles to the nor'-west.  We've a breeze slightly abaft the beam.
She'll do it all right, especially if we take some sand aboard as
ballast."

"Right," assented O'Hara.  "Let's make a start.  It's a howling pity to
lose the breeze, and it's a jolly sight cooler on the water than on
this sun-baked sandbank."

Quickly the new plan was put into operation.  The canoe was launched,
and about three hundred-weights of sand thrown into her.  On
re-embarking the crew found that their frail craft was considerably
"stiffer", and showed no great tendency to capsize when one of their
number stood upright.  In her ballasted state more sail could be
carried, and, what was more, she could be steered a point closer to the
wind.

All went well until about three in the afternoon, when, with
disconcerting suddenness, the wind died utterly away.  The crisp,
crested waves subsided into a long, sullen, oily swell.  The canoe,
without steerage way, floated idly upon the water.

"Out paddles!" ordered Denbigh.  "You and I, Pat, will take the first
trick.  At every thousand strokes one man will be relieved.  Ready?"

Counting, the sub knew, was the only means at their disposal for
arriving at an equal division of labour.  It also gave them a rough
indication of the progress made, since each stroke represented a
distance of two yards through the water.

"See anything?" asked Denbigh at length.

O'Hara, who was by this time at the steering paddle, stood up, and
shading his eyes looked ahead in the hope of seeing the friendly rising
ground of Zanzibar Island peeping above the horizon.

"Nothing," was the reply, "except that there's a breeze coming."

As the freshening wind swept down the men thankfully laid aside their
paddles and set up the mast and sail.  For a few minutes the breeze
held true, then swiftly veering it blew dead ahead.

Once more the sail was lowered and the paddles resumed.  With the wind
dead in their teeth the work was trebly increased.

Within half an hour it blew with considerable violence.

"Force six, at least," declared Denbigh, referring to the Beaufort
Notation method of indicating the wind-pressure.  "We're in for a
dusting."

It was as much as they could do to keep the lightly made craft head to
wind.  Armstrong was busily engaged in throwing overboard the sand
ballast.  Drifting before the wind the canoe was in danger either of
being swamped or else carried out into the broad Indian Ocean.

The men were already exhausted.  The canoe was drifting rapidly in
spite of their strenuous efforts.  Yet she climbed the crest wave with
an ease that gave them confidence.  The loss of "ground", made good
only by hours of sheer hard work, was the circumstance that troubled
them most.

"We'll rig a sea-anchor," said the mate.  "Unfortunately we haven't any
weights to keep the sail up and down, but that can't be helped."

Quickly the foot of the sail was bent to the mast, the sheets were bent
to the extremities of the spar by a span, and the halyard led from the
centre of the span to the bows of the canoe.

Watching their opportunity the men heaved their clumsy sea-anchor
overboard and anxiously waited the result.

To their intense satisfaction they found that directly the rope took
the strain the canoe floated head to wind without any assistance on the
part of the paddles.  The crew were, therefore, able to rest, but with
the disquieting knowledge that every moment they were drifting farther
and farther away from their desired haven.

The three officers were in good spirits notwithstanding the privations
they had undergone and were still experiencing.  They realized that
this was part of the game.  They had taken chances, and fate, in the
shape of a strong head wind, had been unkind to them.  The idea of
mutual recriminations never occurred to them.  Their adventure was of
the nature of a joint-stock concern.  They had done their best, and
were ready to stand by each other till the end in whatever form it came.

For some hours O'Hara and Armstrong dozed fitfully on the bottom of the
canoe, regardless of the spray that dashed over their recumbent forms.
Denbigh, crouched aft, kept an occasional look-out, while at intervals
he baled with half a coco-nut shell.

The sea showed no signs of moderating.  The prospect of spending a
night afloat in a mere cockle-shell became imminent.

Just then the sub heard a faint cry.  He looked in the direction from
whence the shout came, but could see nothing.  He was about to put it
down to a freak of his imagination when the cry was repeated.

Fifty yards or more to leeward was a man hanging on to an upturned boat.

"Wake up, you fellows!" exclaimed Denbigh.  "There's someone overboard."

Seizing the paddles O'Hara and the mate checked the drift of the canoe
until its course would bring it close to the upturned craft.

"Steady!" cautioned Denbigh.  "As close as you can to her bows."

His ready mind grasped the situation.  Could he but effect a
communication with the waterlogged craft a double purpose might be
served.

Down swept the canoe.  As her quarter slipped past the boat Denbigh
leant over the side.  With one hand he staved off the sharp stem, the
metal-bound edge of which would have crushed the side of the canoe like
an egg-shell.  With the other he grasped the painter, which was
trailing from the bow ring-bolt.

"Stand by and take a turn!" he shouted to the mate, throwing him the
slack of the rope.

Promptly Armstrong, who was up for'ard, made the running part of the
painter fast to the rope of the sea-anchor.  With a jerk the canoe
brought up fifty feet to leeward of the waterlogged boat.

Here, sheltered by the latter, and with her drift apparently reduced,
the canoe was in relatively smooth water.  The unfortunate seaman,
rallying his remaining energies, struck out.  Almost exhausted, he was
on the point of sinking when Denbigh seized him by the hair.

It was a difficult matter to get the man into the canoe.  He was a
great hulking fellow.  The safety of the three officers was gravely
endangered, but proceeding with the utmost caution they hoisted him
over the side.

"Do you recognize him?" asked Denbigh.

"Eh?" exclaimed his chum.  "No; do you?"

"Rather," replied the sub.  "He's one of the _Pelikan's_ mob, and
yonder craft is the whaler I saw buried on Latham Island.  I'm afraid
they haven't had much of a run for their money.  But what's one man's
meat is another man's poison.  The whaler may prove a godsend."

"She will," rejoined Armstrong.  "See, she acts as a perfect
breakwater.  We must be almost stationary, owing to her drag in the
water."

"Even more than that," added Denbigh.  "I propose when the weather
moderates to have a shot at righting her.  Since they provisioned her
we are bound to find some tinned food in her after locker, for I don't
suppose the whole lot of her gear was slung out when she capsized."

The sole survivor of the whaler's party was not long in recovering
consciousness.  His surprise at finding that his rescuers were the
British officers whom he had last seen as prisoners on board the
_Pelikan_ was almost ludicrous.  Soon he became communicative, and
confirmed the sub's surmise that the whaler was bent on a minor raiding
expedition.

The long night passed slowly.  The last of the food supply had been
exhausted.  A few coco-nuts, which being freshly gathered contained
liquid only, formed the sole sustenance of the four men.

With the dawn the wind fell but the sea still ran high.  Eagerly the
horizon was scanned, but nothing save a waste of tossing water met the
eye.

"In another hour or so we'll be able to have a shot at righting the
whaler," said Denbigh.  "By that time the sea will have subsided.  If
you don't mind, you fellows, I'll have a caulk.  I have more arrears to
make up than you have."

Quite worn out Denbigh stretched himself on the bottom of the canoe and
dropped off into a sound sleep.  It seemed to him that he had not
closed his eyes more than half a minute when the mate roused him.

"What are those beacons on our starboard bow, do you think?" he asked.

Denbigh was awake in an instant.  Looking in the direction indicated he
saw three triangular objects at a distance of nearly three miles away.

One glance was enough.

"Pat, you chump!" he exclaimed.  "Do you mean to tell me you don't know
what they are?  And you must needs make Armstrong wake me out of my
beauty sleep."

"Hanged if I can see hardly anything," announced the Irishman.  "The
salt's bunged my eyes up completely.  What about it, then?"

"Those beacons, as you call them, Armstrong," replied Denbigh joyously,
"are the tripod masts of three of our monitors."

"They are heading our way, then?" asked the mate.

"Either that or they're stern on to us.  The former most likely.  Stand
by with the rifle.  We must not let them miss us."

In about half an hour the three warships had approached sufficiently
for their outlines to be discerned.  They were moving at a slow
pace--barely five knots.  All that was visible of each of the monitors
consisted of a low-lying hull of great beam, on which was placed a
turret mounting two gigantic guns.  Abaft the turret was a small
superstructure, culminating in a bridge and chart-house.  Immediately
behind the bridge rose a lofty tripod mast, its height being seemingly
out of all proportion to those conforming to the recognized
measurements of naval architecture.  Perched above the junction of the
tripods was a large square structure whence the fire-control
arrangements were conducted, while a stumpy topmast completed the
incongruity.  Abaft the mast was a single funnel.  Two of the monitors
were evidently sister-ships.  The third was of a much smaller tonnage,
although her armament was identical with that of her consorts.

"They're passing to windward of us," declared Denbigh.  "Give them a
couple of rounds."

Armstrong raised the rifle and fired.  Almost immediately following the
second shot a signal was run up from the leading monitor.  Up fluttered
the answering pendant to the mast of the smaller vessel, which
immediately altered helm and bore down upon the canoe.

Slowly the rescuing craft approached.  Her superstructure was crowded
with interested spectators, while several of the crew, wading
knee-deep, made their way to the submerged side of the monitor and
stood by to pick up the derelicts.

The operation required great care for the unwieldy craft was yawing
horribly.  Being almost as broad in the beam as she was long, and
snub-nosed in addition, she steered badly.  By good seamanship on the
part of her captain the monitor lost way at a distance of half a cable
from the canoe.

"Cast off and out paddles!" ordered Denbigh.

Five minutes later willing hands assisted the three British officers
and the German sailor to the ladder leading to the superstructure.

With feelings of thankfulness Denbigh, mustering his remaining
energies, saluted the diminutive quarter-deck.  It seemed almost
heavenly to be once more under the shadow of the White Ensign.  As he
raised his hand to the brim of his weather-worn helmet a well-known
voice exclaimed:

"Cheer oh! old man."



CHAPTER XXI

Von Eckenstein's Surprise

The speaker was Charles Stirling, now lieutenant and Acting-commander
of H.M.S. _Crustacean_.

Stirling had literally fallen on his feet after he had been rescued by
H.M.S. _Actæon_.  Owing to his intimate knowledge of the East Coast of
Africa and the Mozambique Channel, and having more than a nodding
acquaintance with the troublesome raider now known to be in hiding in
the Mohoro River, he had been given temporary command of the smallest
of the three monitors sent from England to assist in the operations
against German East Africa.

Notwithstanding his natural anxiety to learn how his former shipmates
came to be adrift in a canoe in the Indian Ocean, Stirling insisted on
Denbigh, O'Hara, and Armstrong being put into the sick-bay.  All three
men were almost exhausted.  Even Denbigh's indomitable spirit had
outworn his physical strength, while the Irishman was found to be
affected with partial indistinctness of vision owing to prolonged
exposure to the glare of the sun.

"You take it easy," was Stirling's parting injunction.  "I promise I'll
turn you out directly we sight the Mohoro Lagoon."

Reassured, Denbigh and his comrades in peril capitulated.  Eighteen
hours' solid sleep worked wonders, and although the Irishman was still
suffering from painful inflammation of the optic nerve, the three
officers had bathed, shaved, and changed into borrowed plumage before
breakfast-time on the following morning.

After scraps of mutual experiences had been exchanged Stirling invited
his chums to the bridge.

"The rummiest packet I ever set foot on," he admitted, "but she's a
clinker.  We've as fine a pair of 14-inch guns as a fellow could wish
for.  British made, too; they were manufactured in Canada.  The old
_Crustacean_ does not belie her name.  She has a decided tendency to
crawl crabwise, and she's as unhandy as a balsa-raft in a gale of wind."

"Not very good points," remarked O'Hara.

"But she has her qualifications, Pat.  She's said to be
torpedo-proof----"

"Do you want a practical test, old man?" asked Denbigh.

"Um--no; that is, not particularly if it can be avoided.  Why?"

"Because there are a pair of 60-centimetre tubes waiting to have a slap
at you when you ascend the Mohoro River."

"Steady, old man," protested Stirling with a hearty laugh.  "The
river's not broad enough for the _Pelikan_ to be lying athwart the
stream.  She must be quite twenty miles up the river."

"Say ten and you'll be nearer the mark," declared Denbigh.  "She's
trapped, and we have to thank Mr. Armstrong for doing the trick."

"Good man!" exclaimed the young skipper of the _Crustacean_, bringing
his hand down upon the shoulder of the bashful mate of the _Myra_,
after Denbigh had related the circumstances in which the _Pelikan_ was
prevented from ascending farther up the river.  "I'll have to inform
Holloway, our senior officer.  He's under the same impression that I
was.  But what did you say about those torpedo-tubes?"

Concisely Denbigh explained the position and nature of the German shore
defences.

"It strikes me pretty forcibly that you'll come in most handy," said
Stirling.  "It's not the _Pelikan_ that is now our principal objective.
She, apparently, is done for, unless the river forms a fresh bed round
the hull of the sunken tramp.  The batteries are our pigeon."

"You were saying that the _Crustacean_ is practically torpedo-proof,"
Denbigh reminded him.  "In what way?"

"She's of very shallow draught.  Unless a torpedo were set to travel
only a few feet beneath the surface--in which case much of the bursting
power of the war-head would be wasted--the 'tin-fish' would pass
harmlessly under her bottom.  If, however, a torpedo did explode,
there's a cellular space of more than twenty feet between the outer and
inner hulls.  These compartments are stuffed with something.  I can't
tell you because I don't know myself what the stuff is.  All I know is
that it's fireproof and its specific gravity is approximately the same
as sea-water.  Hence, in the event of a hole being blown in the shell
of the outer hull our stability will hardly be affected."

At that moment a signalman approached and saluted.

"Senior officer reports approach of sea-plane parent ship _Simplicita_,
sir."

"Very good," replied Stirling, then addressing his companions he added,
"That's excellent.  We are having a couple of sea-planes to spot for
us.  The _Simplicita_, an old light cruiser, has been fitted out as a
floating base for aerial work.  With luck they've managed to stow a
couple of 'planes on her."

Before the _Simplicita_ joined the flotilla the senior ship hoisted
another signal.  It ran:

"Boat under sail four miles S.S.W.  _Crustacean_ to proceed and
investigate."

At her utmost speed, a bare six knots, the little monitor altered helm
and stood off in the indicated direction.  The sea was now calm, and
there was hardly a breath of wind.

At Stirling's suggestion Denbigh, O'Hara, and Armstrong ascended to the
fire-control platform.  From this lofty perch a considerable expanse of
sea could be swept by the aid of powerful glasses.

Away on the starboard hand could be discerned the faint outlines of the
African coast, almost hidden in a pale-blue haze.  Astern, but on a
diverging course, were the monitors _Paradox_ and _Eureka_, the former
flying the broad pendant of the senior officer, Captain Holloway.
Ahead, a small patch of greyish-white canvas marked the position of the
boat to which the _Crustacean_ was proceeding.

"That's not a Service rig," declared Denbigh, proffering his binoculars
to O'Hara.

The Irishman waved them aside.

"No, thanks, old man," said he.  "I'll wait.  I don't want to crock my
eyes any more than they are at present.  I'll take your word for it
that she's not one of our boats."

"She's a merchantman's cutter," asserted Armstrong.  "I wouldn't mind
laying odds that she's one of the _Pelikan's_ boats making for Latham
Island."

The mate was right, for on discovering the approach of the monitor the
cutter altered her course, lowering her canvas and resorting to her
oars in the vain hope that she had been unnoticed.

Twenty minutes later, the difference in speed of the monitor and her
quarry being very small, Stirling ordered one of the four quick-firers
to be discharged.  The projectile, falling within fifty yards of the
boat, had the desired result, for the men boated their oars and hoisted
a square of white cloth as a signal of surrender.

"We seem fated to fall in with our friends the Huns," remarked Denbigh.
"Armstrong has scored a palpable hit; they are some of the _Pelikan's_
crowd.  I recognize that fellow with a bandaged head as Major von
Eckenstein."

Most docilely the boat's crew came over the side.  There were, in
addition to the major, a junior lieutenant of the _Pelikan_ and seven
seamen; the rest, to the number of about a dozen, were reservists
transhipped from the _San Matias_.  The military section had discarded
their uniform and wore a motley collection of civilian garb.  They were
unarmed, having thrown overboard their rifles and ammunition upon the
shot being fired to compel them to abandon flight.

The unter-leutnant had previously rehearsed a most plausible story with
which to gull the Englishmen, but a look of comical dismay overspread
his features when he recognized the officers who a short while ago had
been prisoners on board the raider.

At last he mustered up sufficient courage to demand, somewhat
haughtily, that he and his men should be accorded honourable treatment
as prisoners of war.

"Certainly," replied Stirling blandly.  "I am sorry that you should
imagine otherwise.  But, of course, the fact that Major von Eckenstein
and his men have adopted civilian attire tends to put them on a
different footing."

Von Eckenstein's face, or as much of it as was visible between the
swathed bandages, grew pale.  He remembered the incident when he
slashed O'Hara across the face.  Visions of reprisals rendered him
terror-stricken.

"Forgive me, Herr O'Hara!" he almost shouted.

The Irishman smiled affably.

"Forgive?" he echoed.  "There is nothing to forgive.  You gave O'Hara a
cut across the face.  It raised quite a small weal.  Judging by the
state of your figurehead, I'm afraid my treatment of you on the shore
of the lagoon rather disturbed the balance of exchange."

"You did this?" asked the major, dumbfounded at the information.
"Donnerwetter!  I thought----"

Sheer astonishment rendered him incapable of completing the sentence.
He could not understand why the British officer received him with
unperturbed courtesy.  Evidently here was something adrift with the
Teutonic gospel of hate.

"So you were making for Latham Island to resurrect the hidden stores?"
asked Denbigh, addressing the unter-leutnant.

The young German officer was also completely taken aback.

"Yes," he admitted.  "But how came you to know that we had stores
buried there?"

"That's a secret," replied the sub.  "But I'll tell you this.  You
would have found yourselves forestalled.  Some of the _Pelikan's_ men
made a dash for the island, fitted out the whaler, and left the place
as bare as an empty house.  They did not get far.  The boat was
capsized and all on board perished, except one man, who is now a
prisoner on board this vessel."

"Now, gentlemen," broke in Stirling briskly, addressing the major and
the unter-leutnant, "I must ask you to go below, but before doing so I
will take the liberty of examining the contents of Major von
Eckenstein's pockets."

"Himmel!" gasped the major.  "For why?  According to the rights of
belligerents my personal property is not liable to be confiscated."

"Your personal property--yes," replied Stirling.  "Come, sir, no fuss,
if you please."

Sullenly the German permitted a petty officer to remove the contents of
his pockets.  There was an order-book, containing a few pencilled
memoranda; a pocket-book in which were papers seemingly of purely
personal interest; some notes on a South American bank.

"Kindly remove your waistcoat," continued the inexorable Stirling.

Von Eckenstein shrugged his shoulders.  If black looks could kill,
Stirling was as good as booked to Davy Jones.

"This is a needless indignity," almost howled the Hun.

"On the contrary, a necessary precaution on our part," corrected the
skipper of the _Crustacean_.

Sullenly von Eckenstein removed his waistcoat and threw it on the deck.
Deliberately opening a penknife Stirling ripped open the back and
removed an envelope of oiled silk.

"Thank you," he said gravely.  "That is all we require for the present,
Herr Major."

Gathering up the rest of his possessions, the major followed his
companions in misfortune and disappeared below.

"Confidential orders from Potsdam to the German Governor of the East
African Colony," announced Stirling.  "Here, Denbigh, have a squint at
it and see if I'm not right."

"How ever did you discover this?" asked O'Hara.

"Intuition, my dear old sport," replied Stirling with a laugh.  "You
told me about the cache on Latham Island.  Also, you may remember
relating a conversation between this von Eckenstein and Kapitan von
Riesser, just before the stores were landed.  Von Eckenstein
objected--why?  Because he thought the hiding-place ought to be on the
mainland.  He had a rooted objection to making a voyage in a smallboat.
Hence it was reasonable to suppose that the Latham Island depot was for
the major's particular benefit.  The fact that he was forestalled has
nothing to do with the main case.  The _Pelikan_ is in difficulties.
Direct communication with the rest of the German land forces is out of
the question.  So the major is sent off to Latham Island with the
Imperial dispatches in his possession.  Then the unter-leutnant's
instructions are to revictual and replenish stores, and take the major
to the mainland, most likely to the Rufigi River.  There there is, I
believe, fairly easy communication with Tabora, the head-quarters of
the German Colonial forces.  Seeing us approach, von Eckenstein ought
to have destroyed his paper, but he didn't--he trusted to his belief in
our natural stupidity.  I wouldn't mind betting that now he's bemoaning
his fate and admitting that Englishmen are not the fools he supposed
them to be."

Which was exactly what the battered and dejected von Eckenstein _was_
doing.



CHAPTER XXII

The Monitors in Action

All that night the monitors lay, with lights out, off the outer bar of
the Mohoro Lagoon.  A council of war had been held on board the
_Paradox_, when a fresh plan of action was drawn up.  This was in
consequence of the information Denbigh, O'Hara, and Armstrong had
brought concerning the enemy's defences.

"This chart is radically wrong," declared Denbigh, when a chart of that
part of the coast was shown to him.  "The bend in which the _Pelikan_
is lying is not shown.  Apparently the topography is from an old
survey."

"It is from the latest available information," remarked Captain
Holloway, loath to deprecate the work of the Hydrographic Department of
the Admiralty.

"Available as far as the Germans would permit," corrected the sub
deferentially.  "They've had full control here for years.  I'm not
referring to the lagoon, but to the river.  The depths, too, are
inaccurate."

"I suppose you wouldn't object to a job to-morrow?" asked the senior
officer, after he had listened intently to Denbigh's explanations and
descriptions of the details of the Mohoro River.

"Not in the least, sir," replied the sub promptly.

"In a sea-plane?"

"Just my mark, sir; but I've had no flying experience."

"We would want you for registering duties," continued Captain Holloway.
"You will have a flight sub-lieutenant as pilot.  With your knowledge
of the shore batteries and torpedo stations you will be able to render
further important service.  Very good; I'll arrange for the sea-plane
to pick you up at dawn; that is, if it is not too misty.  These
tropical mists play the deuce with aerial observations."

It was arranged that the attack should open at seven on the following
morning.  The _Crustacean_ was to lead the way over the inner bar, and
devote her attention to the torpedo station.  The _Paradox_ was to
shell the batteries concealed in the mangrove forest, while the
_Eureka_ was to patrol the lagoon and to cut off any attempt at flight
on the part of the German troops, whose line of retreat would be pretty
certain to be along the coast, since the thick forests and marshes to
the westward made retirement to the hinterland almost a matter of
impossibility.

Two hours before sunrise the crews of the monitors were called to
"action" stations.  They had previously bathed and changed into clean
clothes, and had been given ample time to enjoy their breakfast.
Clearing ship for action took but little preparation, since the
monitors carried only what was necessary as floating batteries.

At the hour specified a sea-plane taxied gracefully to within fifty
feet of the _Crustacean_.  A boat was lowered from the monitor, and
into this Denbigh stepped, to the accompaniment of the somewhat
irrelevant remarks of his brother officers.

"Fine mornin'," was the flight-sub's greeting, as nonchalantly as if he
were passing the time of day with a casual acquaintance.  "Hop in.
You'll find a belt fixed to the back of your seat.  There's the
wireless gear.  See that lever on your left?  That releases the
paying-out gear of the aerial.  Don't pay out too smartly.  Ready?"

The blades glittered in the morning light as the propeller revolved and
rapidly increased the number of revolutions.  Slowly at first, then
with accelerated movement, the sea-plane skimmed the placid surface of
the lagoon.  Then, almost before Denbigh was aware of it, the machine
leaped upwards.  The slight tilt of the seat was the only intimation
that the sea-plane had parted company with the water, until the sub
noticed the surface of the lagoon apparently receding with great
rapidity.

Round and round spiralled the frail contrivance, tilting with an easy
swinging movement as it climbed.  Already the monitors looked no larger
than toy boats upon an ornamental pond.  The irregular ground on either
side of the river was merged into an expanse that betrayed no
indication of height.  Far beneath him Denbigh could discern a
ribbon-like strip of silvery-grey.  It was the Mohoro River.

"Distance lends enchantment to the eye," thought the sub.  "And it is
such a dirty river."

He mused feelingly.  In his imagination he sniffed the foetid odours
from the torrential yellow stream.  He had a mental vision of a swim in
the dark, with hippos and crocodiles for company.  The reeking
mud-flats, too, lay beneath him, their dismal and monotonous aspect
obliterated by the charm of altitude.

Above the land the rapidly increasing strength of the morning sun was
causing great irregularities in the density of the air.  The sea-plane
rolled violently.  Twice she dropped through a sheer distance of a
couple of hundred feet, owing to "air pockets", but the pilot, with the
utmost unconcern, held her on her course.

Presently he turned and bawled something.  The rush of the wind made
his words unintelligible, but he pointed to the aerial release.
Denbigh understood, and depressing the lever allowed a hundred and
fifty feet of wire to be run off the reel.

Leaning over the side of the fuselage the sub brought his glasses to
bear upon the waterway almost beneath him.  He could distinguish the
fatal bend in the Mohoro River where the _Myra_ had turned turtle and
had been swallowed up in the shifting sand.  He could even discern her
outlines as she lay on her side with ten feet of water swirling
overhead.

Farther down-stream was something that looked exactly like an island
covered with luxurious vegetation.  It was the _Pelikan_.  The disguise
was really admirable.  Had Denbigh not known of the means her crew had
taken to hide her he would never have detected her presence.

But the _Pelikan's_ hour had not yet come.  Until the shore batteries
and fortifications had been shelled out of existence she was to be left
severely alone.  With the _Myra's_ crew confined on board the raider,
the British monitors dare not open fire upon her.

Round circled the sea-plane, gliding down to within five hundred feet
of the summit of the mangroves.  Everything seemed quiet beneath.  The
whir of the propeller and the rush of air deadened all other sounds.
Here and there were clearings, like to one another as peas in a pod.
For the first time in his life Denbigh felt uncertain.

Again he swept the river with his binoculars.  Across the mud-flats,
for the tide was now almost on the last of the ebb, he spotted two
slender dark lines stretching towards the navigable channel.  A little
way down was a series of small dark objects thrown athwart the stream.
They were the torpedo-piers and the barrels supporting the chain boom.
Almost abreast of them was the screened battery.

At a sign from Denbigh the flight-sub trimmed the elevating planes.  Up
climbed the machine till at an altitude of six thousand feet she was
visible from the distant monitors.  Then she commenced to cut figures
of eight, while Denbigh began to call up the _Paradox_ by wireless.

Having made certain that the monitor had gauged the required distance
the sea-plane volplaned to within a thousand feet of the ground.

The receiving telephones fixed to Denbigh's ears began to emit faint
sounds that in Morse spelt out the words, "Stand by to register".

Twenty seconds later a lurid flash, followed by a terrific cloud of
yellow and black smoke, leapt skywards from a spot in the mangroves.
In spite of her altitude the sea-plane rocked violently in the torn
air.  For a moment Denbigh thought that the machine was plunging
helplessly to earth.

The gentle tapping of the wireless receiver recalled him to a sense of
duty.

"How's that?" spelt the dot-and-dash message.

Where the shell had burst a dozen or more trees had been literally
pulverized.  Others, their trunks lacerated by the explosion, had
toppled at various angles against those that had withstood the shock.
The "hit" was roughly two hundred yards beyond the screened battery.

From beneath the foliage covering the emplacements men peeped
timorously.  A dull-grey figure, bent almost double, was running for
shelter.  It was one of the German sentries.

"Right direction; two hundred yards over," wirelessed Denbigh.

Another heavy projectile screamed on its way, passing some hundreds of
feet beneath the seaplane.  It burst; but the sound like that of its
predecessor was inaudible to the pilot and observer.  The action of the
detonating shells reminded Denbigh of an animated photograph, so
effectually and silently did the work of destruction appear.

"A hundred yards short," registered the sub.

"Then how's this?" was the rejoinder.

Fairly in the centre of an emplacement fell the twelve-hundred-pound
shell.  High above the mushroom cloud of smoke flew fragments of wood
and metal.  When the dense vapour had drifted away in the sultry air it
was seen that the work of that gigantic missile was accomplished.

A gaping hole fifty feet in diameter marked the place where the
carefully-screened quick-firers had been.

Round the edge of the crater were smouldering sand-bags hurled in all
directions like small pebbles.  The two guns, dismounted, were sticking
up at acute angles in the debris, their mountings shattered into
fragments of scrap-iron metal.

There was no sign of life in the crater, nor in the partly uncovered
dug-outs in its vicinity, but from a neighbouring position poured
swarms of Germans, half-dazed and terrified by the explosion that had
shaken their subterranean retreat like a severe earthquake shock.

The _Paradox_ had completed her particular job.

Meanwhile a second sea-plane was registering for the _Crustacean_, her
guns being directed upon the piers on which the _Pelikan's_
torpedo-tubes had been placed.

Without once coming within sight of her objective the little monitor
effected her mission with two shots, blowing both torpedo-stations to
smithereens.

Nor was the _Eureka_ less successful.  A shell fired in front of the
crowd of demoralized Germans as they fled through the mangroves
literally roped them in.  Panic-stricken they doubled back and
disappeared in the dug-outs close to the wrecked emplacements, and the
_Eureka_, having been accordingly informed, ceased firing.

"Now for the _Pelikan_!" exclaimed Stirling, as the sea-plane, having
returned, put Denbigh on board the _Crustacean_.

"It will be an affair of boats, I suppose," suggested O'Hara.  "With
the flood-tide and on a dark night she ought to be captured with little
loss to the boarding-party."

Two of the monitors were lying at anchor in the river.  The _Eureka_,
having to watch the coast, steamed slowly up and down the lagoon, her
progress watched by hundreds of awe-stricken natives.

The question of how to deal with the _Pelikan_ was under discussion,
for Captain Holloway had convened another council of war at eight bells
in the afternoon.

The boats carried by the monitors were not fit for cutting-out work,
and although a certain means of destruction was at the command of the
senior officer, he was reluctant to put his terrible resources into
force on account of the presence of the _Myra's_ crew on board the
raider.

While the discussion was in progress, the majority of officers
favouring a suggestion that the light cruisers should be brought up by
wireless, a steam launch was reported to be coming down the river.

The launch bore a large white flag flying from a staff in the bows.  In
her stern-sheets was Ober-leutnant von Langer.

Received with naval honours, a guard being mounted on the quarter-deck
of the senior monitor, von Langer came over the side, and announced
himself as the representative of Kapitan von Riesser, of H.I.M. ship
_Pelikan_.

"Well, sir?" asked Captain Holloway briefly.

"I am here to discuss terms," said the ober-leutnant.

"Which must be unconditional surrender of men and material," added the
skipper of the _Paradox_.

"Excuse me," said von Langer.  "But we are not yet beaten."

"You are precious near it," said Captain Holloway.  "Unless the German
Ensign is hauled down on board the _Pelikan_ within an hour I will open
fire."

[Illustration: "UNLESS THE GERMAN ENSIGN IS HAULED DOWN ON BOARD THE
_PELIKAN_ WITHIN AN HOUR, I OPEN FIRE."]

"If you do you must remember that there are many English prisoners on
board," declared the ober-leutnant with the air of a man who has thrown
down his trump card.

"Within one hour, unless the _Pelikan_ is surrendered in her present
state, without further damage to her stores, equipment, and hull, we
open fire," was the British officer's mandate.  "Return to your ship at
once, Herr Leutnant, and inform Kapitan von Riesser that he must take
immediate steps to safeguard his British prisoners, either by sending
them down the river or else by placing them in a secure shelter on
shore.  I shall hold your kapitan and officers morally responsible for
any of the _Myra's_ crew who may be killed or injured in the
forthcoming operations."

"You have yet to find the _Pelikan_," spluttered the German officer.

"Excuse me, sir, she is found," said Captain Holloway.  "To show that I
am not in the habit of speaking at random I will produce proofs."

He gave an order to a seaman, who doubled off to the quarter-deck
companion-ladder.  Presently Denbigh, O'Hara, and Armstrong, who during
the interview had discreetly gone below, appeared on deck.

The ober-leutnant's jaw dropped.  His podgy cheeks quivered with
intense surprise.

"Donnerwetter!" he exclaimed.  "This is a colossal shock."

With an effort he pulled himself together, clicked his heels and
saluted the British senior officer.  Then fumbling in his breast pocket
he produced a document and handed it to the captain.

It was a formal surrender.

In it Kapitan von Riesser agreed to hand over the _Pelikan_ at the hour
of nine on the following morning.

"Very good," said Captain Holloway.  "We are willing to give you a few
hours' respite, but you are to clearly understand that nothing must be
done in that interval that will affect the _Pelikan_ from a military
point of view.  You must also send the _Myra's_ men down by boat before
sunset."

"To that I agree," replied von Langer, and stiffly refusing the
invitation to have a glass of wine the German officer went over the
side.

Von Langer's steam cutter was barely out of sight when a couple of
German officers belonging to the land forces appeared on the bank,
bearing a white flag.

Their business was quickly transacted.  They desired to surrender
forthwith and unconditionally the remaining troops under their command.
Within an hour eighty-five men, many of them badly wounded, were
shipped on board the sea-plane parent ship _Simplicita_.  Out of the
three hundred reservists who had transhipped from the _San Matias_ to
the _Pelikan_ but thirty-three were untouched by the British fire.

Well before sunset the first of the conditions of the _Pelikan's_
surrender was carried out.  The steam cutter returned towing a whaler
in which were the crew of the _Myra_.  British reticence went by the
board when they hove in sight.  They cheered frantically like delighted
children.  Having been under the talons of the German Eagle, they
realized more than ever before the world-wide power of Britain's
sea-power.

Amongst them was Captain Pennington, who was warmly greeted by the
officers of the _Crustacean_.

He reported that the _Pelikan_ was being prepared for surrender; that
her garb of palms was being removed, but as far as he knew no attempt
had been made to throw overboard the remaining guns, or to destroy the
stores and munitions.

"And to-morrow," remarked Stirling to his chum--"to-morrow we will
redeem these."

And he held out Kapitan von Riesser's receipt for the gold that he had
taken from the three subs when they were captured on the _Nichi Maru_.



CHAPTER XXIII

How the _Pelikan_ Surrendered

As soon as darkness set in the monitors switched on their searchlights,
the _Crustacean_, which was farthest up-stream, training her projectors
on the channel in the direction of the distant _Pelikan_, while the
_Paradox_ swept both banks with her powerful beams.  In the lagoon the
_Eureka_ and the _Simplicita_ directed their searchlights upon the
shore.

About one bell in the middle watch the look-out on the _Crustacean_
noticed two dark objects drifting down-stream.  At first he thought
them to be a pair of hippopotami, but as their relative distance seemed
constant and there was no sign of propulsion, he reported the matter to
the officer of the watch.

"It's only a part of the boom, smashed by our shell fire," he remarked
casually.  "We'll get a lot of wreckage down with the ebb-tide."

Nevertheless he gave orders for the helm to be starboarded.  The
monitor, sheering to port under the force of the current until her
cable was hard athwart her stem, missed the barrels, for such they
were, by a good twenty yards.  Steadily they drifted by, eventually
stranding in the mud at a distance of two hundred yards from the
_Paradox_.  In half an hour they were high and dry, lying directly in
the rays of the larger monitor's searchlight.

Twenty minutes later another pair of barrels came drifting down.  The
officer of the watch of the _Crustacean_ executed a similar manoeuvre,
but before the monitor sheered out of the track of the derelicts, the
barrels were hung up one on either side of the bows.

"I can hear something ticking, sir," reported a seaman leaning over the
low freeboard.

The officer hastened for'ard and listened.

"Nonsense!" he declared.  "It's the bull-frogs on shore that you can
hear, or else the lap of the water.  They're only waterlogged
barricoes.  Push them clear with a boat-hook."

Three or four seamen tried to free the bows from the obstruction but
without success.  The barrels afforded little or no grip, and pinned
down by the rush of tide refused to be thrown clear.

"Away sea-boat!" ordered the officer of the watch.

Quickly the boat was manned, and rowing well ahead of the _Crustacean_,
was allowed to drop stern foremost until the coxswain was able to bend
a rope to one of the barrels.

"Can you hear anything, Sanders?" asked the officer of the watch.

"No, sir," replied the petty officer.

As a matter of fact he was suffering from gun deafness, but from
praiseworthy yet indiscreet motives he had kept the knowledge of his
temporary physical defect to himself.

Ordering the men to give way, the coxswain jerked the obstruction clear
of the _Crustacean's_ hawse.

"Shall I make this fast alongside, sir?" he asked.  "Perhaps you'd be
likely to examine it in the morning."

"No," was the reply, "Tow it clear of the _Paradox's_ hawse and cast it
adrift."

The boat pushed off.  The officer of the watch, returning to the
bridge, watched the progress of the two barrels as they wobbled in her
wake.

Suddenly his attention was aroused in another direction by a loud shout
of; "Vessel dead ahead, sir!"

Sweeping round a bend in the river into the glare of the searchlights
was the _Pelikan_.  She was drifting broadside on, her length appearing
to occupy the whole breadth of the deep channel.

"Action stations, there!" roared the officer of the watch.

A bugle blared.  Up from below tumbled swarms of men dressed in motley
array of a meagre description.  The officers, berthed in the after part
of the superstructure, rushed out.  In thirty seconds the turret, with
its pair of monster 14-inch guns, was surging round as a preliminary
test of the turning mechanism.

At a glance Stirling took in the situation.  The _Pelikan_, being not
under control, had been turned adrift with the object of fouling and
seriously damaging the British vessels lying in the strong tideway.

He telegraphed for half-speed ahead.  The engine-room bell had not
clanged a minute when the propellers began to churn.  Hurriedly the
cable was slipped, and the anchor with eighty fathoms of studded steel
chain was lost for ever in the muddy bed of the Mohoro.

The youthful lieutenant-commander's first duty was to avoid the danger
of being fouled.  He could not go astern until the _Paradox_ was safely
under way.  Regarding the _Pelikan_ he was as yet uncertain whether to
order the sea-boats to board her and drop anchor, if by chance her
ground tackle were ready for instant use, or whether to sink the raider
without further ado.

His deliberations were cut short by a tremendous explosion on the bank
of the river on the starboard quarter of the _Crustacean_.  Where the
stranded barrels had been was a huge cavity in the mud, into which the
water was pouring rapidly.

A few seconds later another explosion occurred well astern of the
_Paradox_.  The barrels were nothing more or less than deadly infernal
machines.  Had they exploded close to the side of either of the
monitors it would be doubtful whether, even with their elaborate
protection against torpedoes, they would have kept afloat after the
terrific concussion.

Almost simultaneously the searchlights on the _Paradox_ went out.
Fragments from the explosion had put the two projectors out of action.

The echoes of the explosion had scarce died away when a shout was
raised that the drifting _Pelikan_ was on fire.

With startling suddenness lurid flames were belching from her decks.
Spurts of red-tinged smoke eddied from her open scuttles.  In a few
seconds she was a mass of fire from bow to stern.

Slowly she drifted down-stream.  At intervals her stern hung up in the
mud, till, caught by the current, she would swing round and slide away
from the bank.  The flames reached well above her mastheads, yet there
was comparatively little smoke.  The roar of the devouring elements
out-voiced every other sound, even the terrified noises of the denizens
of the mangrove forests as they fled from the glare that rivalled that
of the sun.

From the conning-tower Stirling ordered a shot to be fired from one of
the huge turret-guns, but before the muzzle could be depressed a
stupendous explosion shook sky, land, and water.

Denbigh, gripping the bridge rail, felt himself borne backwards by the
furious rush of air.  Temporarily blinded by the vividness of the
flash, he was dimly aware of a series of crashes above and below him.
The stanchion rails snapped off short.  In vain the sub strove to
regain his balance; he subsided heavily against the side of the
chart-room, stunned by the terrific thunder-clap that followed the
explosion.

Intense darkness succeeded the vivid brightness of the prolonged flash.
The searchlights of the _Crustacean_ had failed.

Slowly Denbigh sat up.  He became aware that debris was littering the
partly wrecked bridge.  In vain he tried to pierce the darkness and
discern the whereabouts of his companions.  A hot, pungent smoke
drifted past, causing him to splutter almost to suffocation.

Someone tripped across his legs.  It was Stirling emerging from the
conning-tower.  He recognized the sub's very forcible language.

"Hold on," cautioned Denbigh, "or you'll be overboard.  The bridge has
gone to blazes."

As he spoke the _Crustacean_ shuddered.  Her bows rose slightly.  With
her hull still quivering under the pulsations of her engines she had
run aground on a mud-bank on the port-hand side of the river.

Treading warily Stirling groped till he found the engine-room
telegraph.  Guessing the position of the lever he ordered "Stop".  In
the pitch-dark engine-room, for every electric lamp in the ship had
been shattered, the artificers, facing death amidst the whirring
machinery, succeeded in carrying out his orders.

Through the darkness came muttered exclamations and partly stifled
groans.  Down-stream the _Paradox's_ siren, for want of better means of
communication, was wailing in long and short blasts.

"I have brought up to starboard," was the message.  "You may feel your
way past me."

"There's no may about it," thought Stirling grimly; then, leaning on
the twisted bridge rails, he shouted in stentorian tones: "The hands
will fall in on the port side of superstructure facing outboard.
Bugler!"

"Sir!" replied a boyish voice through the impenetrable gloom--a voice
without a tremor save of excitement.

"Sound the 'Still'."

A silence brooded over the stricken monitor.  Even the wounded forbore
to groan.  Then someone appeared from the superstructure bearing a
couple of "battle lanterns".  Lights, too, began to glimmer through the
hatchways, while with admirable promptness the electrical staff set to
work to renew the carbons of the searchlights and to test the circuits
of the internal lighting system.

Already the wounded were being carried below by their messmates.  Four
scorched and maimed forms lay motionless on the low fo'c'sle.  There
was no need to bestow medical attention upon them.

By this time Denbigh was aware that besides Stirling and himself only
three persons remained on the bridge.  Neither of them was O'Hara.  Nor
could he find the mate of the _Myra_, who on the first alarm had
hurried with the others to the bridge.

The sub made his way to the ladder.  Two steps did he descend, then his
foot encountered nothingness.  The rest of the ladder had been swept
out of existence.

Grasping the still intact handrail Denbigh lowered himself to the
superstructure.  Almost the first man he met was Armstrong, who was
mopping his cheek with a blood-stained handkerchief.

"It's nothing," replied the mate in answer to Denbigh's enquiry.
"Didn't discover until I went below."

"Seen anything of O'Hara?" asked the sub anxiously.

"Yes, I've just carried him below, and I was on my way back to look for
you."

"Thanks," said Denbigh briefly.  "And what's happened to O'Hara?"

"Only shaken, I believe.  He was blown off the bridge with the signal
locker for company.  They both fetched up against a splinter screen.
O'Hara swears it isn't much, but I have my doubts."

The two officers made their way across heaps of debris to the
diminutive ward-room.  Here lying on a cushion on the floor was O'Hara.

He turned to smile as Denbigh entered but the attempt was a dismal
failure.  His face was drawn and grey in spite of his tanned complexion.

"My leg feels a bit queer," he said in answer to his chum's enquiry.
"No, don't bother about the doctor.  He's got quite enough to do.  I
say, old man, von Riesser's giving us a run for our money, isn't he?"

O'Hara's sentiments were almost identical with those of the rest of the
ship's company.  Not a word was said concerning the treachery of the
kapitan of the _Pelikan_, whose method of handing over his ship was far
from being in accordance with the terms of the capitulation.  The fact
that von Riesser had outwitted them certainly gave them food for
reflection, but the unanimous conclusion was that the fun was by no
means over.

The falling tide left the _Crustacean_ hard and fast aground on the
slimy mud.  With daylight the actual state of affairs could be
discerned.

A quarter of a mile up-stream lay the remains of the much-sought-for
raider.  Only a few bent and buckled ribs and plates showing just above
the water's edge marked the spot whence the devastating explosion had
emanated.  One of her funnels, looking like a distended concertina, had
been hurled ashore and had lodged against a clump of palm trees.  The
mud-flats and the adjoining banks were littered with fragments of metal
twisted into weird and fantastic shapes.

Down-stream lay the _Paradox_, now swinging to the young flood.  The
bore was not now in evidence, since it was the period of neap-tides,
and the alteration in the direction of the tidal stream was scarcely
perceptible.

The _Paradox_ had come off comparatively lightly.  To all outward
appearances she was intact, with the exception of her wireless gear,
the wreckage of which was already being cleared away.  Beyond a certain
amount of breakage of glass and half a dozen of her crew sustaining
slight wounds, the damage done was not in proportion to the danger to
which she had been exposed.

The _Crustacean_ had suffered severely.  Her fire-control platform and
wireless gear had been swept out of existence.  There were four deep
gashes in her funnel, which was only kept in position by the chain
guys.  One half of the bridge had vanished; the remaining portion
resembled a scrap-iron heap.

Her boats had been badly shattered save one, and that exception was the
sea-boat, which was on her way back to the monitor when the explosion
took place and escaped injury.  Every bit of steel work exposed to the
destroyed ship was pitted and blistered, while a heavy mass of plating
from the _Pelikan_ had embedded itself in the monitor's quarterdeck.

Below the water-line she was undamaged.  On taking soundings in her
well no abnormal quantity of water was found.  With the assistance of
the _Paradox_ it would be a comparatively easy matter to release her
from her mud berth at high water.

But other work was imminent.  Every minute Kapitan von Riesser and the
remainder of the _Pelikan's_ crew were increasing the distance between
them and their foes.  Without delay steps had to be taken to bring the
treacherous Germans to bay.



CHAPTER XXIV

The Landing-Party

No one could accuse Captain Holloway of tardiness.  He had the
reputation of being an alert and promising officer, and on this
occasion he excelled himself.  Within an hour after sunrise the
landing-party from the flotilla was on its way to tackle the remnants
of the _Pelikan's_ crew; for almost as soon as the raider had been
swept out of existence the British senior officer was drawing up his
orders that the unexpected turn of events had necessitated.

Towed by the two steamboats of the _Simplicita_, four cutters from the
_Paradox_, _Eureka_, and the seaplane parent ship set off up the river.
Into the boats were packed one hundred and twenty officers and men
drawn from each vessel of the little squadron.  Each boat carried a
quick-firer in the bows and a Maxim, in addition to stores sufficient
to last a week or ten days.

The expedition was under the orders of Lieutenant-commander Bourne,
while amongst the officers was Sub-lieutenant Frank Denbigh, with
Armstrong in charge of stores.  Much to his disgust Pat O'Hara found
himself "turned down" by the Principal Medical Officer; the former's
assurances that his ankle would improve with a little exercise being
brushed aside by the latter, who knew perfectly well that days would
elapse before the Irishman could set foot upon the _Crustacean's_ deck,
let alone the crowded stern-sheets of an armed cutter.

Before the boats were out of sight of the still stranded _Crustacean_
two sea-planes ascended and flew swiftly inland.  Without their aid the
landing-party would be literally groping for their foes, since it was
not known whether von Riesser and his men had taken to their boats or
had set out through the mangroves towards the grass-grown hinterland.

Denbigh having more knowledge of the Mohoro River than any of the other
officers--and his knowledge was limited to a stretch of less than ten
miles--was navigating officer in charge of the leading steamboat.

While the other officers were sweeping the mudflat fringed banks with
their glasses Denbigh directed his attention towards the turgid channel.

Presently a line of bobbing objects caught his vision.  Ordering the
leading stoker to ease down the engines he signalled by means of
hand-flags to the steamboat astern to likewise reduce speed.

The objects that had attracted his attention were the barrels forming
the boom across the river almost abreast of the wrecked
torpedo-station.  The _Pelikan_, he knew, had been moored above the
obstruction.  She had drifted down past them before she took fire and
blew up.  Unless the boom had been temporarily removed and afterwards
replaced he could not understand how the raider could have descended
with the ebb-tide without sweeping the line of barrels away.

"What's wrong?" enquired Bourne.

Briefly Denbigh explained.

"It would be as well if we sent a shell into one of those barrels," he
added.

"Waste of good ammunition," objected the lieutenant-commander.  "The
steamboat can take it bows on at full speed ahead.  She'll do it
easily."

"That I do not doubt," replied the sub.  "But I have an idea that those
barricoes are filled with explosives, although we bumped into one of
them when we were in a light punt."

Just then the P.O. telegraphist for wireless duties, who was ensconced
in a small insulated cage on the rearmost cutter, received a message
from one of the sea-planes to the effect that the Germans had been
located.  They had landed from the boats at a spot twenty miles above
the former anchorage of the _Pelikan_ and were making their way towards
the hills.

"They're funking it," declared Bourne.  "Everything points to a hurried
flight.  They may have swung the boom back in position, but I doubt the
accuracy of your mine theory."

"Very good, sir," replied Denbigh.  "Then you wish the steamboat to
charge the obstruction?"

"Yes, carry on," said Bourne.

Denbigh was too accustomed to discipline to demur in the face of
definite orders.  He prepared to cast off the tow, for the steamboat
was to essay the feat alone.  The two cutters were to anchor until a
passage had been cleared through the obstruction.

"Well, I hope I'm wrong," thought the sub as he ordered the leading
stoker to "let her rip for all she's worth."

But before the boat could gather way there was a commotion in the water
ahead.  A large hippo, frightened by the unusual noises that had
disturbed the usually peaceful river, made off up-stream.

Swerving neither to the right hand nor the left the huge animal bore
down upon the line of floating barrels.  It passed between a pair of
them.  For a moment it seemed that he had surmounted the massive chain,
until the sudden displacement of the barrels showed that its body had
fouled the hidden barrier.

The hippo reared in fury and terror, bringing its whole weight down
upon the chain.  Instantly a line of waterspouts shot high in the air
accompanied by a simultaneous discharge of half a dozen mines.  The
sudden strain had ignited tubes of fulminate of mercury, which in turn
had exploded heavy charges of gun-cotton.  Had the boat been a hundred
yards nearer not one of her crew would have escaped.

In silence Denbigh brought the steamboat abreast of the first cutter
and re-established communication.

The lieutenant-commander stood up, and in a steady, clear voice
exclaimed:

"Well done, Mr. Denbigh!  My judgment was hopelessly at fault."

"That's all right, sir," replied the sub.  He knew the effort that
Bourne had had to make to tender his apologies.  Having given his order
in the hearing of the men it was the only course open to him.  And
Bourne was an officer who, although somewhat impetuous, was never
afraid to acknowledge an error.

With the flood-tide the flotilla made good progress.  Rounding the
sharp bend where the _Myra_ had disappeared, the boats entered a gently
curving reach that apparently made a long horseshoe sweep.  At this
point the mangroves ceased.  The ground became higher, the banks being
precipitous in places, and covered with long rank grass.

"There are the _Pelikan's_ boats," reported Denbigh, pointing to two
large pinnaces lying against the banks to which they had been carried
by the tide.

In answer to an enquiry the scouting sea-plane reported that further
progress a mile round the next bend was barred by a series of rapids,
and that the Germans had established a gain of nearly ten miles, and
were approaching the bottle-neck formed by the extreme sinuosities of
the river.

"Can you check them?" asked Bourne anxiously.  He was not at all keen
on a ten- or twenty-mile march through the rough grass.  If the
sea-planes could command the narrow stretch of ground between the
horseshoe bend von Riesser's men might be headed off.

"We'll try," was the wirelessed reply.

Meanwhile the steamboat had cast off the tow, and the cutters still
carrying way were steered towards the bank.  Here, owing to the rush of
the tide, there was fairly deep water close to the land, and
fortunately an absence of mud.

Grounding twenty feet apart the boats disgorged their loads, the seamen
leaping ashore in spite of the weight of arms and accoutrements.  The
Maxims, too, were landed and mounted upon light travelling carriages.
The portable wireless apparatus was to accompany the landing-party,
while the officers and men left behind were to land the quick-firers,
since they could not command the ground from the boats owing to the
height of the banks.

Bourne realized that such things as reverses do happen, so he took
precautions accordingly.  The men advanced in open order, with flankers
thrown far and wide.

From the top of a small hillock Denbigh watched the straw hats of the
men out of sight as they marched through the long grass; then, knowing
that some time must necessarily elapse before the landing-party came in
touch with the enemy, he busied himself in preparing for the
re-embarkation, should the operations prove to be shorter than Captain
Holloway had anticipated.

With the turn of the tide the boats were taken out into mid-stream and
anchored.  Tripping lines were bent to the crowns of the anchors, the
other end of each line being made fast to a watch-buoy, so that the
operation of weighing would not be delayed by the fouling of the flukes
in possible snags on the bed of the river.  Gang planks were prepared
in order that no hitch might occur should the men return at or near
dead-low water, when a stretch of ooze separated the dry ground from
the river.

For two hours Denbigh directed operations under the blazing sun.  His
men worked like niggers, knowing that they, too, were doing their bit
although not in the actual firing-line.

At intervals came the faint detonations of a series of heavy
explosions.  The sea-planes were at work, attempting by means of bombs
to arrest the flight of von Riesser's men across the narrow neck of
land.

Late in the forenoon one of the sea-planes flew overhead.  Without
essaying to make a landing on the river, it flew down-stream,
presumably to take in a fresh supply of petrol and bombs.  In an hour's
time it returned, and presently its opposite number flew overhead in
the direction of its parent ship.

Slowly the day wore on.  At frequent intervals Denbigh climbed the
hillock and brought his glasses to bear upon the distant high ground.

Once or twice he fancied he heard the sounds of musketry and Maxim
firing in the sultry air.  Armstrong and several of the men were of the
same opinion, agreeing that the firing was desultory and not constantly
maintained.

At length darkness fell.  No one had seen the sea-planes returning
before sunset, and in addition to the great risk of making a night
landing these craft are of little practical use except in daylight.

With the approach of night Denbigh ordered double sentries to be
posted, and cautioned the boat-keepers to be alert and watchful for
signals.  Those of the men left behind slept or rested beside the
quick-firers, protected from the heavy dew by boat awnings stretched on
oars and boat-hooks.

For Denbigh sleep was out of the question.  Muffled in a boat-cloak,
for the off-shore wind blew chilly, he paced up and down with the mate
of the _Myra_.

"What's that over yonder?" asked Armstrong.

"Flashes--musketry," replied Denbigh.  "It's strange that we cannot
hear the reports, for the wind is in our favour."

"Too steady for rifle-firing," suggested the mate.  "Looks to me like a
bush fire."

"By Jove, I hope not," said the sub earnestly.  "The grass will catch
like tinder."

A minute or so passed, then Denbigh lowered his binoculars.

"You're right, Armstrong," he said.  "It is a fire.  Those brutes have
set the grass ablaze to cover their retreat."

"Hark!" exclaimed the mate.

Overhead came the unmistakable buzzing of an aerial propeller.  One of
the sea-planes, if not both, was returning.

Seizing a flashing-lamp Denbigh directed it skywards.  It was the only
means at his disposal for communication.

"All right?" he asked.

A light blinked through the darkness.

"_Dash, dot_.  Pause.  _Dash, dash, dash_" it flashed; then it ceased
abruptly.  Nevertheless the answer was to the point.  It was NO.



CHAPTER XXV

Accounted For

Before another quarter of an hour passed the long line of flames was
visible to the naked eye.  Fanned by the strong breeze the fire spread
rapidly.  It seemed as if its activity was by no means confined to the
horseshoe loop formed by the river.  It appeared to have obtained a
grip upon the grass on the opposite bank.  Once the flames attacked the
mangroves there was no saying where the mischief might end.

Denbigh could do little to aid his absent comrades, who, for aught he
knew, might even now be overwhelmed by the swift advance of the
devouring elements.  Turning out the men who remained he had the
quick-firer ammunition removed to the boats.  Then setting fire to the
grass around the bivouac he cleared a broad belt nearly a hundred yards
in diameter.  At all events the main fire would be checked before the
flotilla was seriously imperilled.

By the time that this work was completed the flames were within three
miles of the camp.  For a breadth of more than twice that distance the
grass was blazing furiously.  Lurid red tongues of flame licked the
dark cloud of smoke that overhung the devouring elements.  Already the
air was reeking with pungent fumes.  Grey ashes, caught by the strong
wind, whirled past the anxious watchers or dashed lightly into their
faces.  Dark shapes, silhouetted against the red glare, tore madly from
the advancing fire.  They were the denizens of the grass lands flying
for their lives.  Undeterred by the water the panic-stricken animals
plunged into the river, some of them in their terror frantically pawing
the sides of the anchored boats.

"Dash it all!" muttered Denbigh.  "Wish to goodness I'd cleared another
hundred yards of the scrub.  We'll be shrivelled up with the heat.
There's still time."

Calling to his handful of men the sub ran into the open.  This time,
since the inner circle offered no grip to the flames, they could work
without fear of the fire getting the upper hand.

In the midst of their preparations Denbigh heard a hoarse shout.

Stumbling towards him, half-enveloped in the haze that was the
forerunner of the roaring furnace, were two men.  One fell, picked
himself up, and staggered after his companion.

Outlined as they were against the ruddy glare it was impossible to
distinguish them, but as the British seamen ran forward to bear them
into safety the men raised their arms appealingly.

"Help, kamarade, help!" they cried.

"Germans!" ejaculated Armstrong.  "Where are our fellows?"

Denbigh could not give an answer.  A glance in the direction of the
wall of fire, now less than a quarter of a mile distant, told him that
life was impossible in front of that barrier unless the fugitives were
already in sight.  But they were not The sub set his jaw tightly.

"Where are the others--and the British seamen?" he asked in German of
one of the men.  The other was beyond speech.

"All gone!  All gone!" replied the German.

"There's another, sir!" exclaimed a petty officer.

"Come on, stick it!" shouted half a dozen lusty voices in encouragement.

The third man was evidently in the last stages of exhaustion.  He was
gasping for breath as he ran, but the hot acrid air was fast choking
him.  He flung his arms above his head and pitched upon his face, with
the burning embers dropping all around him.

A cloud of eddying smoke enveloped him.  Then a gust of wind cleared
the pall of vapour.  The wretch was writhing.  His clothes were
smouldering as he lay helpless in the withering grass.

With a bound Denbigh cleared the shallow trench, and bending low rushed
through the smoke.  Burning ashes stung his face.  What air he took in
through his nose felt pungent and suffocating.  The heat seemed to gnaw
into his eyes.

How he covered that two hundred yards he never could explain, but at
length, with a feeling of relief, he turned his broad back to the
advancing flames and raised the now unconscious man from the ground.
With almost superhuman strength he lifted the listless body upon his
shoulder and began his bid for safety.

Almost blindly he ran till his gait slowed down almost to a halting
walk.  Dimly he realized that he was not alone.  Some of the devoted
seamen had followed him into the edge of the inferno.

Someone tried to shift the burden from his shoulders.  He resisted.
Why he knew not.  Already his senses were forsaking him.

With a crash he fell upon his knees.  He was up and staggering again,
until, unable to withstand the strain, he rolled inertly upon the
ground with his fingers gripping his throat.  Then all became a blank.

He recovered consciousness to find himself lying on a pile of canvas in
the stern-sheets of one of the boats.  It was broad daylight.  Overhead
an awning had been spread to ward off the rays of the morning sun.

Almost in an instant he recalled the incident of the night of horror.
The air still smelt vilely of smouldering vegetable matter.  Wisps of
smoke eddied betwixt the sun and the awning, throwing fantastic shadows
upon the bellying canvas.  The fire, then, had practically burnt itself
out.

"Any signs of the others?" he asked.

Armstrong shook his head.

"The whole place is a mass of glowing cinders," he replied.  "It is
impossible to see more than a quarter of a mile in that direction.  I'm
afraid----"

"Any more survivors?" asked Denbigh.  The mere movement of his facial
muscles caused him exquisite pain, for his face was scorched and
blistered.  His hair and eyebrows had been badly singed.  Altogether he
looked a pitiable scarecrow.  It is only on the stage and on the
cinematograph screen that heroes preserve an unruffled appearance.

"No," replied the mate.  "Not one, after the fellow you brought in.
Did you know who it was?"

The sub shook his head, then winced, for the action sent a thrill of
anguish through his body.

"Unter-leutnant Klick," continued Armstrong in answer to his own
question.  "He's still unconscious.  We dare not move him to the boats.
His skin is literally peeling off all over his body.  Shall I have you
sent down the river, old man?  The chief petty officer is now in
charge.  Is he to withdraw the rest of the boats?"

"No," replied Denbigh with sudden firmness.  "No; by no means.  We'll
wait until we can send volunteers to find traces of our fellows.  Have
the sea-planes passed over yet?"

Armstrong replied in the negative.

"How are the other Germans?"

"One is practically fit.  The other is suffering from shock."

"Then send the fit fellow to me, please."

The man was brought to the boat.  He was one of the _Pelikan's_
firemen.  Questioned in German he replied without hesitation.  The fire
had been started, he declared, not by the raider's crew, but by bombs
dropped by British sea-planes.  There was an action, but he and half a
dozen more worked round by the two banks until they were almost cut off
by the flames.  He had reason to suppose that both the British and the
German forces had been overwhelmed by the onrushing flames.

Throughout the afternoon Denbigh lay in torment in spite of the
first-aid remedies applied by the only sick-berth attendant left with
the base party.  Hardly ever before had he felt the sweltering heat so
acutely.  The air under the awning was close and oppressive.  It reeked
both of the odour of the river and of the fumes of the smouldering
grass.  There was one compensation.  The fire had effectually driven
off the swarms of mosquitoes that otherwise would have increased his
torments.  He would have given almost anything to be back on board
ship, with the sea breezes flung in through the open scuttle and the
electric fans cooling the air.  But stop he must until he had obtained
definite information as to the fate of the landing-party.

"I doubt after all if there's much to grumble at," he soliloquized.  "I
might have been born to become a Tommy, and I might be stuck up to my
thighs in mud and water in a trench somewhere in France.  It's all part
of one big business, and we're keeping our end up all right."

Then his thoughts took a turn in another direction.  He was no longer a
prisoner of war.  In another few months he hoped to be back in England.
What plans he would make to spin out that long-deferred leave!  For the
time being he was no longer in a vile African river, but in a pretty
old-world garden in the homeland.

Suddenly his train of thought was rudely interrupted by a hoarse,
almost frenzied burst of cheering.  The boat-keeper, thrusting his head
below the curtains to ascertain whether the sub was awake or otherwise,
answered Denbigh's mute appeal.

"It's orl right, sir," he announced.  "They've romped home; the whole
bloomin' crush."

Following the downward course of the river was the landing-party,
bringing with them forty-three German prisoners, including Kapitan von
Riesser.  Their own losses had been insignificant, for during the
long-drawn-out action that was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the
fire, one British officer and seven seamen had been slightly wounded.
These were brought in by the stretcher-bearers.

The escape of the little expedition was due to their resourcefulness in
fighting fire by fire.  Finding that their retreat was not speedy
enough to outpace the flames, Lieutenant-commander Bourne had given
orders to set alight the long grass to leeward.

By this means, though suffering agonies from thirst and heat, the
British and their prisoners escaped.

The career of the raider and her crew had been brought to a close, and
before nightfall the boats of the flotilla had regained their
respective ships.

      *      *      *      *      *

Frank Denbigh is sub-lieutenant no longer, but a full-fledged
lieutenant with the letters D.S.O. tacked on to his name.  He has just
received his appointment to a brand-new battle-cruiser, and is about to
serve with the Grand Fleet.

Pat O'Hara is still limping about on one foot somewhere in the Emerald
Isle.  He, too, has gained a step in rank, but rather envies his chum's
good luck.  Still, there is time for the light-headed Irishman to get
fit again and be in at the death, when, it is to be hoped, the visions
of the trident in the German fist will be shattered for good and aye.

And Stirling?  In recognition of his services he is confirmed as
lieutenant-commander of the monitor _Crustacean_.  He is still looking
forward to his leave in the Highlands, but meanwhile he is doing good
work in a remote portion of the globe in upholding the glorious
tradition of the real Mistress of the Seas.





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