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Title: A Sub and a Submarine - The Story of H.M. Submarine R19 in the Great War
Author: Westerman, Percy F. (Percy Francis)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Sub and a Submarine - The Story of H.M. Submarine R19 in the Great War" ***

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[Illustration: cover art]



A SUB AND A SUBMARINE



BY
PERCY F. WESTERMAN
LIEUT. R.A.F.


"No boy alive will be able to peruse Mr. Westerman's pages without a
quickening of his pulses."--Outlook.


Sea Scouts up-Channel; or, The Cruise of the _Spindrift_.

The Wireless Officer.

The Third Officer: A Present-day Pirate Story.

Sea Scouts Abroad: Further Adventures of the _Olivette_.

The Salving of the "Fusi Yama": A Post-War Story of the Sea.

Sea Scouts All: How the _Olivette_ was won.

Winning his Wings: A Story of the R.A.F.

The Thick of the Fray at Zeebrugge: April, 1918.

With Beatty off Jutland: A Romance of the Great Sea Fight.

The Submarine Hunters: A Story of Naval Patrol Work.

A Lively Bit of the Front: A Tale of the New Zealand Rifles on the
Western Front.

A Sub and a Submarine: The Story of H.M. Submarine R19 in the Great
War.

Under the White Ensign: A Naval Story of the Great War.

The Dispatch-Riders: The Adventures of Two British Motor-cyclists
with the Belgian Forces.

Rounding up the Raider: A Naval Story of the Great War.

The Fight for Constantinople: A Tale of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

A Lad of Grit: A Story of Restoration Times.


LONDON: BLACKIE & SON, LTD., 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.



[Illustration: ANOTHER AND ANOTHER SHELL SPED FROM THE SUBMARINE'S
GUNS]



A SUB
AND A SUBMARINE

The Story of H.M. Submarine R19
in the Great War


BY

PERCY F. WESTERMAN
Lieut. R.A.F.

Author of "A Lively Bit of the Front"
"Under the White Ensign"
"Rounding Up the Raider"
&c. &c.



_Illustrated by E. S. Hodgson_



BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY
_Printed in Great Britain_



    Contents

    CHAP.

       I. FLIRT'S INDISCRETION
      II. AN ULTIMATUM
     III. THE SUB'S STRATAGEM
      IV. BOUND FOR THE BALTIC
       V. THE STOWAWAY
      VI. THE ZEPPELIN HUNT
     VII. A DOUBLE BAG
    VIII. "ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN"
      IX. DRIFTING MINES
       X. THE "HAVORNEN'S" WARNING
      XI. CAUGHT IN THE NET
     XII. "AWAY DIVING-PARTY!"
    XIII. KAPITAN-LEUTNANT VON HOPPNER'S PROWESS
     XIV. THE WAY OUT
      XV. PICKING UP THE PILOT
     XVI. THE BATTLE OF MOON SOUND
    XVII. HIT
   XVIII. PINNED DOWN
     XIX. FORCED TO ASCEND
      XX. UNDER RUSSIAN ESCORT
     XXI. THE HOUSE IN BOBBINSKY PROSPEKT
    XXII. WHEN THE LIGHT FAILED
   XXIII. TRAPPED
    XXIV. FORDYCE'S TWO VISITORS
     XXV. "FLIRT, YOU'RE A BRICK!"
    XXVI. A FRIEND IN NEED
   XXVII. THE FATE OF KLOSTIVITCH
  XXVIII. RESCUED
    XXIX. THE CAPTURED CONVOY
     XXX. A DUEL TO THE DEATH
    XXXI. VON HOPPNER'S BOAST
   XXXII. "TAKEN DOWN A PEG"
  XXXIII. GOOD-BYE TO THE BALTIC
   XXXIV. HOME AGAIN



Illustrations


ANOTHER AND ANOTHER SHELL SPED FROM THE SUBMARINE'S GUNS
_Coloured frontispiece_

THE TOO FAITHFUL FLIRT

AHEAD, ASTERN, ABOVE, AND BELOW, THE SHELLS BURST

IT WAS MINDIGGLE

"PASS UNDER MY LEE!"



A SUB
AND A SUBMARINE



CHAPTER I

Flirt's Indiscretion


"Come here, Flirt! Heel at once!"

Noel Fordyce had good cause to be anxious concerning his pet. It was
the dog's first run with him for over five months, and, left during
that period to well-meaning yet lax guardians, the animal had been
reported out of hand; while, in her great joy and excitement, Flirt
had apparently forgotten the discipline imparted during puppyhood.

Noel Fordyce, Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., was spending a fortnight's
hard-earned leave at his parents' home on the outskirts of the naval
town of Otherport. For five months he had been on submarine patrol
work in the North Sea, including brief periods spent in a certain
East Coast port while R19 was replenishing stores and fuel.

The Sub was a tall, broad-shouldered youth barely out of his teens.
His complexion was dark; his eyes a deep grey that betokened
resolution and determination. His lips were full, and firmly set in
repose; but when he smiled he revealed an even set of white teeth
that glinted in contrast to the mahogany tan of his weather-beaten
face.

He was in mufti. For one thing, it was a change to slip out of
uniform; for another, his uniform badly needed renewal. A strenuous
period on board one of H.M. submarines is not conducive to longevity
on the part of gold lace and blue cloth.

Flirt was an Irish terrier, now in her second year. Fordyce was
deeply fond of the dog, and she was devotedly attached to him; but,
unfortunately, Flirt had already had her "first bite", and was
developing a tendency to fly at persons to whom she took a dislike.

Flirt obeyed the order to come to heel, but that merely aroused her
suspicions. Coming towards the Sub was a tall, loosely-built man,
whose chief peculiarities were his abnormally sloping shoulders and a
shuffling gait. Fordyce knew him by name, although he had never
spoken to him.

He was Councillor Mindiggle, a retired "something in the City", who
had taken a house at Otherport a few months before the outbreak of
war. Of a most plausible manner, and having strong Socialistic views,
he soon gained a seat on the Town Council as a representative for a
working-class district of Otherport. Always carelessly and almost
meanly dressed, he nevertheless seemed well-provided with this
world's goods, although he was reported to be a "near" man as far as
spending was concerned.

It was the sight of Councillor Mindiggle's shuffling feet that upset
Flirt. The dog never could tolerate a slovenly gait. Before Fordyce
could stop her, she had flown at the man's legs, and was tearing down
the street with a piece of cloth between her teeth.

"I'm awfully sorry," began the Sub. "I hope my dog hasn't bitten
you?"

"Being sorry won't mend my trousers, Mr. Fordyce," replied the
aggrieved man. "As for being bitten, I distinctly felt the brute's
teeth. And it's not the first time she has flown at me. What have you
to say to that?"

"Of course what is done cannot be undone in this case," continued
Fordyce, "but if I can make any reparation----"

"The only reparation you can make is to have that dog destroyed,"
interrupted Councillor Mindiggle. "What's more, I mean to take out a
summons against you for not keeping a dangerous dog under proper
control. Good morning!"

The irate Mindiggle shuffled away, while Fordyce turned and walked
back to his home, whither Flirt had preceded him and, with the trophy
still in her mouth, was awaiting her master.

"What, back already?" enquired Mr. Fordyce. "Anything wrong?"

"Yes, Pater," replied his son. "Flirt has flown at that Mindiggle
fellow. He must have hacked her some time ago or she wouldn't have
gone for him like that," he added in defence of his pet.

"That animal will get you into trouble," declared Mr. Fordyce; "or,
rather, I get the worry of her, since you are away most of the time.
It's a pity you can't take Flirt with you."

The Sub had not thought of that possibility. A dog would lead a dog's
life indeed on board a submarine. But a more urgent problem offered
itself.

"Mindiggle swears he's going to take out a summons, Dad," he
continued.

"Then it's your funeral--or Flirt's," added his parent grimly. "From
Mindiggle's point of view he's justified in taking steps, to remove a
public danger. I don't want our name to figure in the local
police-court report, and you don't want to lose Flirt. So the best
thing you can do is to allow Mindiggle to cool down a bit, and then
call and see him. He may relent."

Noel Fordyce took his father's advice. Already he had sufficient
experience of human nature to know that a man is in his best humour
after a good meal; so that evening he called at the councillor's
house, prepared to eat humble pie for the sake of his canine chum.

He was shown into the councillor's study, a large, well-furnished
room, the window curtains of which were closely drawn. Over the
roll-top desk was the only electric light that was switched on. The
glare shone directly upon a small packet, tied with cord, and sealed
with red wax. The Sub could not help noticing the address. The
writing was in Russian characters, and was as follows:--


RUSSIA, PETROGRAD, BOBBINSKY PROSPEKT, 19, M. VLADIMIR KLOSTIVITCH.


Noel Fordyce could both read and write the Russian language. In
pre-war days he was in the Royal Seal Line, the vessels of which
plied between Newcastle and St. Petersburg, and, since the study of
Russian was regarded as a valuable adjunct to promotion, the lad had
studiously applied himself to master the manifold intricacies of the
language.

After keeping his visitor waiting a considerable time--Mindiggle
rightly guessed that it was a supplicatory call--the victim of
Flirt's animosity entered.

"Quite enough mischief done," replied Mindiggle guardedly in answer
to Fordyce's enquiry. "But I may change my mind about that summons.
You mentioned the word 'reparation'. Well, you can do me a service;
sort of wheel within wheels, don't you know."

"In what way?" asked the Sub.

"You are leaving for the Baltic in submarine R19 in about fifteen
days' time," asserted Mindiggle bluntly.

For some seconds Fordyce was completely taken aback. Submarine R19
was certainly under orders for Cronstadt, but the secret was supposed
to be known only to the Admiralty and the officers immediately
concerned.

"What makes you say that?" he asked.

The man shrugged his shoulders and looked the Sub fixedly in the face.
There was something uncanny in the look. Fordyce felt as if those
steely eyes were focused on a point in the back of his brain.

"What I have said is so," replied Mindiggle. "Now, to continue.
Knowing you are bound for Russian waters, I want you to take this
small packet," he indicated the sealed parcel on the desk, "and hand
it personally to the addressee. To be open with you, I may mention
that the contents of the packet consist of small diamonds, not of
great intrinsic value in this country, but considerably so in Russia.
If you will agree to do this, I for my part promise to take no
further steps concerning your dog's unprovoked attack upon me this
morning."

"Why can't you send the diamonds in the ordinary way?" asked Noel.
"There would be less risk, and they could be fully insured. I presume
that you have no wish to evade the customs duties?"

"You are very fond of that dog, I take it?" asked Mindiggle, evading
the direct question.

"I am, tremendously so," admitted the Sub.

"Then this is my ultimatum. Either give me your word of honour to
execute my commission or your dog will be destroyed by order of the
court."

"You want me to transgress against the Defence of the Realm Act,"
rejoined Fordyce with rising temper. "I'll see you to blazes first.
More than that, it will be my duty to report this conversation to the
proper authorities."

"Do so, by all means," said Mindiggle suavely. "Do you think anyone
would take your word against mine--a prominent municipal officer of
this town? Remember, we have no witnesses. I would also point out
that you have shown grave indiscretion (an unpardonable fault in a
military or naval officer) by informing me of the date of departure
of Submarine R19 and also her destination."

"It's my belief that you are tin-hatted," exclaimed Fordyce. "You
mentioned those particulars: I did not."

"Until you told me, Mr. Fordyce, I was quite unaware of the number of
your submarine or of your date of departure," reiterated Mindiggle.
"I am afraid that in your agitation over the danger that threatens
your pet you have lost control of your tongue."

"I've a good mind to lose control of my fist and to decorate your
figurehead," thought Fordyce. "The fellow's tactics savour of
blackmail or something suspiciously like it; but if I lay him out
there'll be a most infernal row. Appearances will be against me."

"Don't be a fool," continued Mindiggle. "It's quite a simple matter.
No risk about it, and nothing to prejudice the safety of the realm
and all that sort of thing, don't you know. Now, then."

"I'll report the matter to the police," declared the Sub.

"Do so," was the calm reply. "Would the police believe such an
accusation against a prominent member of the Watch Committee?
Supposing--even supposing, mind--that they did take action and
search my house. What would they find--nothing. Can't you realize
that I hold the whip hand?"

"You can jolly well do what you like," answered the Sub.

"Very good. To-morrow I take out a summons. If between the present
time and the date of the hearing you decide to accept my terms I will
immediately withdraw the summons and your dog's life will be saved.
Good evening!"



CHAPTER II

An Ultimatum


Confronted with the mysterious problem Sub-Lieutenant Fordyce made
his way to a secluded part of the sea-front. With a true sailor's
instinct he paced up and down, debating with himself as to the course
of action he should pursue.

If only he had a witness to the conversation. He racked his brains to
formulate a scheme whereby he could discuss the matter again with
Councillor Mindiggle, this time with a third person unseen but within
earshot. Failing that there was little use in reporting the matter.
As the fellow said, it was one man's word against another's, and the
charge would appear so preposterous that it would stand no possible
chance of being substantiated.

For similar reasons he dismissed the idea that he should report the
case to his skipper, the Hon. Derek Stockdale, Lieutenant-Commander
of R19. Mindiggle's statement that the Sub had informed him of the
vessel's date of departure and destination would be an awkward factor
in the matter.

So, rightly or wrongly, Noel Fordyce resolved to keep secret the
interview with Councillor Mindiggle, at least for a time. Meanwhile
he would fight to the bitter end to save Flirt from the lethal
chamber.

Having shut the front door on his caller, Councillor Mindiggle
returned to his study. As far as the rest of his household was
concerned he was free from interruption. He had no wife; his
housekeeper was stone deaf; the servant who had shown Fordyce into
the room was going out for the evening.

It would have been a great surprise to Fordyce if he had known that
there had been a third person within earshot, but such was a fact.
Unlocking a door leading into an inner room Mindiggle released a man
who, although he looked an Englishman, spoke in Russian.

"Don't you think, comrade, that you were much too rash?" he asked
anxiously.

"Not at all, Boris Platoff," replied Mindiggle coolly. "On the
contrary, I have hopes that we shall be relieved of a considerable
amount of bother and danger. The diamonds will be in Petrograd before
the great day. That young man will consent to my terms. It's
wonderful what a hold one has over an Englishman who owns a favourite
dog. Inform the police--bah! He would not dare risk the ridicule his
action would bring upon him. Those diamonds will go in the submarine,
you mark my words."

"Let us hope so," rejoined Platoff. "Then, either they will reach
Comrade Klostivitch or else it will be an end to R19. It depends
largely on the temperature in the Baltic, eh?"

Both men laughed softly.

"Supposing," continued the Russian--"Supposing--and we must consider
possibilities--this English officer takes the diamonds and then hands
them over to the authorities?"

"I'll have to take the risk of being convicted as a smuggler,
comrade," replied Mindiggle.

"But if they are subjected to a test?"

"They will discover nothing. I defy the efforts of the world's
laboratories to analyse the stuff," declared Mindiggle. "Acid, heat
--nothing will avail."

"Except cold," added Boris Platoff.

"Then it will be what the ancient Egyptians call Nirvana," said the
other grimly.

Boris Platoff was a Leninist, a member of the ultra-extremist party
in Russia. Having, under German influence, taken a prominent part in
wrecking the Russian Empire as a fighting-machine, he was doing his
best to supplant the Kerensky regime by one of red-hot anarchy. While
on a mission to the Russian Anarchist colony in London he had been
given an introduction to a member of the World's Workers--a
revolutionary society the object of which was the social democracy of
every nation under the sun. This member's name was simply given as
Comrade Ivan, known outside the brotherhood as Mr. John Mindiggle.

While posing both as an Englishman and a Russian, John Mindiggle was
neither. He was a German--a Secret Service agent--whose work was
entirely for the futherance of Kaiserism. During twenty years of
practically continuous residence in Great Britain Ernst von
Verbrennungsraum had been working unostentatiously, yet deliberately,
for the Fatherland, for the day when Germany would become the
mistress of the World and when freedom would be denied to all other
nations large or small.

Von Verbrennungsraum's chance came when Russia took the suicidal step
of exchanging the yoke of Czardom for that of unbridled "liberty".
The first revolution that resulted in the abdication of the Czar
Nicholas was a step in the right direction so far as Germany was
concerned, but it was not far enough. The new republic still
maintained an army on its Austro-German frontier--an army in which
bravery and cowardice existed cheek by jowl. Utter internal chaos was
what was desired in order to remove a menace to Germany's eastern
frontier and thus enable her to throw thousands of troops into other
sectors of battle.

To compass the downfall of the Kerensky regime the anarchists were to
resort to a favourite device--explosives. In a secret laboratory was
manipulated a new and extremely powerful chemical, which, in its
final state, resembled, and could hardly be distinguished from, cut
diamonds. It was a sample of this diabolical stuff that Mindiggle was
in hopes of sending to Petrograd through the agency of Noel Fordyce.

Impossible to detonate by combustion, friction, or the application of
heat, the explosive was perfectly safe to handle until the
temperature fell below -5° C. The moment the mercury dropped to that
point the explosive would simultaneously and spontaneously act.

In his attempt to induce Fordyce to convey the "diamonds" to Russia
the German agent was employing a double-barrelled weapon. If the
stuff did get to Petrograd well and good. If, on the other hand, the
temperature on board the submarine should fall below -5° C. while
running awash towards the port of Cronstadt, it meant utter
annihilation to R19 and terrific damage to everything within a mile
of the source of the explosion.

And, confident in his ability to make use of Flirt as the deciding
factor, von Verbrennungsraum duly applied for and obtained a summons
against Noel Fordyce.



CHAPTER III

The Sub's Stratagem


Ernst von Verbrennungsraum had not taken into account one of Noel
Fordyce's characteristics--that of grim, almost obstinate
determination. Under the mistaken impression that, for the sake of
his pet, the Sub would agree to his terms, the Secret Service agent
applied for and obtained a summons.

"I'll fight him while I have a penny left to call my own," declared
Fordyce, and with this laudable intention he engaged the best
solicitor in Otherport.

The German could not now back out without loss of dignity as a
respected member of the Otherport Town Council. He had to proceed
with the case, unless Fordyce capitulated.

The morning of the day fixed for the hearing came round. Noel
Fordyce, in uniform, made his way towards the Town Hall. Flirt was
safely under lock and key. An hour would decide whether she was to
live or die.

The young officer had not reached the end of the road when an Irish
terrier bounded up to him. It was Nell, Colonel Richardson's animal
and Flirt's mother, a quiet, affectionate and absolutely inoffensive
little beast. Flirt did not inherit her one bad trait from her
mother.

"Go back, Nell," ordered Noel. "Home! I can't take you for a stroll
this morning."

The dog, for once in a way, took no notice of the command. After
several vain attempts to send her back, Fordyce gave it up as a bad
job, and with Nell close at his heels he entered the Town Hall.

The police on duty at the door of the court made no attempt to turn
the animal off. They naturally but erroneously thought that this was
the canine delinquent.

While Fordyce was chatting with his solicitor the dog began
exploring. Round the well of the court she trotted, wagging her
stumpy tail; then, receiving a friendly caress from the bewigged
clerk, she proceeded, with scant regard to judicial authority, to the
bench itself, where the Great Unpaid gave her a cordial welcome.

Just then Councillor Mindiggle appeared. Catching sight of the dog,
the spy let himself go with a display of excitability that almost
betrayed his Hunnish nationality.

"That's the dog!" he exclaimed. "The dangerous brute! Take care,
gentlemen; she's vicious!"

The magistrates evidently thought otherwise. A ripple of laughter ran
through the court.

"By Jove!" thought Fordyce, an inspiration flitting across his mind.
"I'll risk it for Flirt's sake. Mr. Clinton," he said in a low tone
to his solicitor. "We decided that I was not to be put into the
witness-box. I've changed my mind. Call me as the first witness for
the defence, if you please."

The solicitor shrugged his shoulders.

"I wouldn't if I were you," he remarked. "But as you like."

The court opened, Fordyce's case was the first to be called. The
clerk read the indictment, the defendant pleaded not guilty, and John
Mindiggle was asked to give evidence.

He did so, stating most emphatically on oath that the dog present in
court was the animal that had bitten him.

Sub-Lieutenant Noel Fordyce, called and sworn, was equally emphatic
in his statement that the dog was not with him on the day in
question, and consequently could not have bitten the complainant. If
he, Fordyce, had apologized, he had done so on behalf of another dog.

"And you can see for yourselves, gentlemen," he concluded, "that this
animal is quite a harmless, well-conducted dog. I can affirm that to
the best of my knowledge and belief she has never bitten or even
attempted to bite anyone."

The magistrates consulted, and soon gave a unanimous verdict for the
defendant.

"Costs, I presume, against the prosecution?" asked Fordyce's
solicitor.

"Certainly; the prosecution is to pay costs," was the mandate.

Calling to the dog, the Sub left the court. Not until he was several
streets away did he give vent to his pent-up feelings of delight.

"Well, old girl," he exclaimed, "you've saved my Flirt. By Jove, it
was a rotten trick, though! I wouldn't have done it if that skunk
hadn't tried to make me do an underhand job. He forced my hand. It
was for Flirt's sake."

Had Fordyce known the true facts his qualms of conscience would not
have troubled him in the least. As it was, the knowledge that he had
won by means of a piece of sharp practice was not in accord with his
instincts as an officer and a gentleman.

"Well?" enquired his father laconically.

"Verdict against Mindiggle, with costs," replied Noel.

"Dash it all!" exclaimed Mr. Fordyce when his son had told him of
what had occurred. "You young scoundrel, I've half a mind to write to
Mindiggle and explain. In any case, I'm not going to be saddled with
Flirt while you're away. You'll have to find another home for her."

"Very well, Dad," replied Noel quietly, knowing that in such matters
his parent's word was law.

It was Mr. Fordyce's decision that prevented Noel confiding in him
concerning the interview with Mindiggle. In spite of his sense of
independence the young officer was anxious to obtain advice on the
matter, but now another possible chance was denied him.

"Hang it all!" he soliloquized. "I suppose it will keep a bit longer.
The main point is that I didn't agree to the sweep's proposals, and
I've scored heavily off my own bat. I'll spin the yarn to the
Honourable Derek when we are making our passage to the Baltic. Let me
see; what is that address? I have it: 'Klostivitch, 19, Bobbinsky
Prospekt'. I'll jot it down in case I forget. It may come in handy.
And now there's Flirt to consider. It won't do to send her to a place
in Otherport; she'll be nipping somebody--Mindiggle again for a dead
cert--and I'll find that she's been poisoned when I return. I'll run
her over to Billy's show this afternoon. He'll look after her, I
know."

Billy was Noel's cousin, a captain of the Loamshire Light Infantry,
who, after being thrice wounded slightly, had been buried by a shell
at Messines. He was now given home service, and was unlikely to be
again sent abroad.

Billy Fordyce was stationed at Upper Todbury--a small village about
twenty miles from Otherport--around which a large training-camp had
sprung into existence. Since Flirt was very partial to khaki it was
reasonable to suppose that the animal would take kindly to her new
surroundings.

The Sub lost no time in putting his plan into execution. It was late
in the afternoon when he brought his cycle-car round. At eight the
following morning he had to report for duty.

"I believe Flirt knows there's something in the air, Pater," he
remarked, as the dog obeyed the order to jump in with marked
reluctance. Usually the prospect of a motor run made the terrier
frantic with delight.

Noel took a roundabout route. It was a beautiful afternoon, the roads
were in perfect order, and the car ran faultlessly. In just over the
hour the Sub arrived at his cousin's quarters.

"I'll take care of her with pleasure," replied Billy in answer to his
cousin's request. "But do you think she'll stop?"

"I think so," replied Noel. "If I tell her she'll obey. In any case
she'd make her way back to Otherport, so you needn't be anxious. I
pity the man who tries to steal her."

"To be on the safe side, I'll lock her up until to-morrow morning,"
said Billy. "That'll give you time to get clear. Sorry you can't stop
to dinner, old man."

Noel took an affectionate farewell of his pet. Flirt looked very
downhearted as, with her tail between her legs, she followed the
Captain to her new quarters, while the Sub, having bidden his cousin
_au revoir_, hurried back to Otherport.



CHAPTER IV

Bound for the Baltic


At seven the following morning a taxi-cab deposited Sub-Lieutenant
Fordyce and his scanty baggage on the jetty at Otherport Dockyard.
Here a steam pinnace was awaiting to convey him to H.M.S. _Barnacle_,
an obsolete cruiser employed as a parent ship to the submarine
flotilla of the Otherport Division.

Alongside the _Barnacle_ lay R19, one of the most recent type of
submarine craft. She was nearly three hundred feet in length, with a
maximum beam of twenty-five feet. Over her bulging hull was a steel
platform that afforded almost as much deck-space as that of a light
cruiser. Amidships was the conning-tower, oval-shaped, with truncated
walls. From the top of the conning-tower projected three tubes, each
of about six inches in diameter. Of these two were periscopes--one
for the use of the Lieutenant-Commander, the other to enable the
helmsman to steer the vessel whilst submerged. The third had a double
use. While running awash in a heavy sea it afforded means of
ventilation; while diving it acted as a sound-conductor whereby the
skipper of the submarine could tell with almost absolute certainty
whether there were other vessels in the vicinity and in which
direction they bore.

Surrounding the conning-tower, and extending twenty feet in its wake,
was a steel platform facing the "bridge" of the vessel. Here was a
binnacle containing a compass specially designed to withstand a
tremendous pressure of water. Close at hand was a telegraph indicator
communicating with the motor-room.

Around the deck were stanchion-rails, so arranged that they could be
automatically lowered to lie flush with the deck when the vessel was
trimmed for diving, thus offering no resistance to any obstacle that
might be met with.

Two open hatchways, one for'ard the other aft, completed the visible
fittings of the deck. The four 12-pounder guns, capable of being used
as anti-aircraft weapons, were "housed" below, water-tight steel
slabs fitting over the hermetically-sealed recesses in which the guns
lay until required for action. In the wake of the conning-tower, and
just clear of the raised platform, was another closed recess--longer
than those for the quick-firers. This was to accommodate a
"twenty-foot" whaler, which, with a couple of collapsible canvas
Berthons, formed the complement of boats belonging to R19.

Down below, the accommodation was vastly superior to the earlier
types of submarines at the outbreak of war. Transverse water-tight
bulkheads divided the hull into five separate compartments, any one
of which could be "holed" without completely destroying the buoyancy
of the vessel. The foremost compartment contained the twin bow
torpedo-tubes with their store of deadly 21-inch torpedoes. The
latter, propelled by super-heated compressed air, had an extreme
range of five miles, and could be relied upon to run with unerring
aim under the influence of gyroscopically-actuated vertical and
horizontal rudders. Beneath the torpedo-room was a roomy space for
stores as well as the "cable-manger".

The second compartment was given over almost entirely to crew-space,
providing sleeping and living accommodation for eighty men.

Next came the 'midship compartment, over which was the conning-tower.
Here the officers "messed", each officer having a small separate
cabin, while a large "ward-room" afforded comfortable quarters for
meals and recreation. Here, too, was the wireless-room.

A steel ladder communicated with the conning-tower, which, when
necessary, could be hermetically cut off from the rest of the
interior by means of sliding panels working in indiarubber-shod
grooves.

Underneath the officers' quarters was the 'midships torpedo-room.
This was an innovation in the "R" Class. It enabled a torpedo to be
discharged broadside, this obviating the necessity of keeping the
submarine "bows-on" to her prey. Fore and aft were two tubes--mounted
on "racers" or quadrants of a circle consisting of toothed gun-metal
rails. The combined length of this torpedo and its tube was too great
to allow the weapon to be "launched in" when the latter was trained
athwartships. Consequently the tubes were loaded in a fore-and-aft
position and swung round until the mouths engaged with a
corresponding pair of flanged, water-tight tubes through either side
of the hull. From the broadside tubes torpedoes could be trained
through an arc of 30 degrees.

Compartment 4 was devoted almost entirely to machinery--propelling,
pumping, and steering--while the aftermost subdivision contained the
oil-fuel tanks and electrical storage batteries.

In each compartment were water-ballast, trimming-tanks, and air-locks
for life-saving purposes in the event of the vessel being sunk in
comparatively shallow water.

R19 had refilled and replenished stores and provisions. She was ready
to "sail" at a moment's notice, directly the Lieutenant-Commander
received orders from the Commander-in-Chief's office and had obtained
the latest charts of the Baltic from the dockyard chart-room.

In the absence of the Hon. Derek Stockdale, the Sub reported himself
to Donald Macquare, the senior lieutenant, who specialized in
torpedo-gunnery, a tall, big-boned Scot whose abruptness of manner
was apt to form a temporary disguise to a large-hearted nature.
Macquare was still a young man--the submarine service had no need for
middle-aged officers--and, without professing any claim to being a
"Popularity Jack", was well liked by his brother officers and
fearlessly respected by the crew.

"Good time?" he asked laconically.

"Rather!" replied the Sub. "And now I'm ready for anything--even
another hand at bridge. I won the princely sum of one and eightpence
from you last time, do you remember?"

The Lieutenant smiled. He remembered the incident when R19, lying in
twenty-five fathoms on the bed of the North Sea, was being sought by
a dozen hostile destroyers with "distance charges". At any moment the
deadly explosive grapnels might have engaged and blown the
strongly-built hull to pieces, yet the while the officers played
cards, and the men listened to the muffled notes of a gramophone
placed in a glass case to obviate any possibility of the Huns
detecting the sounds of revelry.

"We're in for a busy time, laddie," remarked the Lieutenant. "This
German offensive against Riga looks a serious matter, and I hear the
Hun fleet is off to co-operate in the Gulf of Riga. For the life of
me I can't imagine what these Russians are doing. It's proper dry
rot. 'The glorious and bloodless revolution--the birth of a new
Russia', as some of our statesmen expressed themselves. I'm afraid
Russia's knocked out."

"Let's hope not," said Fordyce. "In any case, she did jolly well in
the beginning of the war."

"Admitted," rejoined Macquare. "Which proves that the old regime,
with its acknowledged defects, was infinitely preferable to the
equality-for-all policy of the present day. Freedom! They'll find
themselves in a pretty mess before they go very far with their
chimerical search, you mark my words. Hallo, here's the skipper
coming off."

The Hon. Derek came alongside in one of the steamboats belonging to
the parent ship. Smartly returning the salutes of his colleagues, he
stepped on board, followed by his coxswain, who bore under his arm a
bundle of charts and a large blue envelope bound with red tape.

Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale was in his early thirties, a
slimly-built man of medium height and of engaging manners. He had
gained his present rank through sheer merit and whole-hearted
devotion to the branch of the service in which he specialized. He had
unlimited influence behind him; he could easily have secured a "warm
billet" on one of the royal yachts, but he had steadfastly set his
face against favouritism. Notwithstanding his exalted birth, he was
in every sense of the word an officer and a gentleman. A firm
disciplinarian, he was ever ready to consider a grievance on the part
of his crew. Provided a man was keen and reliable, he could rely upon
the skipper's impartiality, but woe betide the luckless individual
who attempted to "get to windward" of the Hon. Derek.

It was noon before the signal was received for R19 to proceed.
Meanwhile a dozen odd jobs had kept Fordyce busily engaged, and
almost before he was aware of the fact the submarine, running awash
at ten knots, had passed the "gate" in the boom thrown across the
harbour's mouth. Then, increasing speed to eighteen, R19 shaped a
course N.N.E., across the mine-infested North Sea.

At eight bells (midnight) the Sub, relieved of duty, went below and
prepared to turn in. Switching on an electric light in his diminutive
cabin, he gave an exclamation of surprise, for, perched at the foot
of his bunk, with a wistful look in her brown eyes, was his Irish
terrier--the too faithful Flirt.



CHAPTER V

The Stowaway


Lieutenant-Commander the Hon. Derek Stockdale stooped and patted the
dog's head. Flirt, instinctively realizing that she was being
caressed by a friend, wagged a stumpy tail and licked the skipper's
tanned hand.

It was on the morning following R19's departure and Noel Fordyce's
discovery. The submarine was still running awash. North, south, east,
and west the horizon was unbroken. Sea and sky met in a sharp,
well-defined line. Save for R19, the broad expanse of the North Sea
appeared to be deserted, although none could tell what dangers lurked
beneath the surface of the dull-green water.

The skipper was taking a stroll on deck when Noel appeared with the
four-footed Stowaway. Lieutenant Macquare was on duty on the
navigating-platform. For'ard of the conning-tower half a dozen
bluejackets, clad in fearnought suits, evinced a lively interest in
the proceedings.


[Illustration: THE TOO-FAITHFUL FLIRT]


"So this is the animal that didn't bite Councillor What's-his-name?"
remarked the Lieutenant-Commander, for the report of the police-court
proceedings at the Otherport Town Hall was common knowledge.

"I'm afraid, sir," replied the Sub, "that Flirt was guilty of the
offence."

"Eh, what's that?" asked the Hon. Derek sharply.

Briefly Noel outlined what had occurred, for the present confining
himself to the case as decided by the magistrates. The story of the
previous interview with Councillor Mindiggle could be deferred to a
more convenient season.

"She doesn't look like a snappy cur," remarked the skipper.

"Nor is she, sir," Fordyce hastened to assert. "Something must have
irritated her."

"So you smuggled her abroad?"

The Sub denied the impeachment.

"For the life of me I cannot imagine how she came aboard, sir," he
declared. "It was a great surprise to me to find her below. I was
quite under the impression that she was twenty miles from Otherport."

"She is--and more," remarked Stockdale, with a laugh. "Very well,
Fordyce; such devotion ought to be appreciated. Look after her, and
keep her out of mischief: the mascot of submarine R19."

The interview ended, the Sub took his pet for'ard to be "adopted" by
the ship's company. Evidently safe in the knowledge that her master
could not now desert her, Flirt went willingly with half a dozen
bluejackets to be fed, groomed, and to make the acquaintance of her
new messmates.

"She seems to take to you, Cassidy," remarked the Sub, addressing a
bull-necked able-seaman.

"Yes, sir," replied the man, saluting. "We've met afore, ain't us,
doggie?"

"In what circumstances?" asked Fordyce.

"Well, sir," replied the man, "seein' an 'ow Cap'n Stockdale don't
object, I'll make a clean breast of it. It was yesterday mornin',
when we were drawin' stores in the dockyard, that I spots the dog
sniffin' round the steps. Comes up to me friendly-like, as if she
knowed I belonged to this 'ere craft. Then I looks at 'er collar and
sees your name. 'Bless me, Smiler,' I says to my raggie, 'if this
ain't Mr. Fordyce's dog, same as took a chunk outer that cove's leg
t'other day.' 'Mr. Fordyce, he's aboard,' said Smiler. ''Ow about it?
Let's give the dog a passage.' She nips into the boat and under the
stern-sheets in a brace o' shakes. When we got alongside, out she
'ops and goes straight below, while you an' Mr. Macquare was spinnin'
a yarn."

"Then why didn't you report to me?" asked Fordyce.

"Seein' as 'ow the dog didn't want to report 'erself, we thought as
'ow we'd let you have a little surprise, sir," explained Cassidy.
"You see, she might a' been sent ashore."

Steadily R19 forged ahead, her course regularly checked by frequent
observations on the sextant, and "picked out" on the chart. A
deviation of a few miles would bring the submarine into the British
mine-fields. Provided she kept to the trackless path, as announced by
the Admiralty, she had nothing to fear from these; it was the
sinister drifting mines sown by the Huns with a reckless disregard of
the rights of neutrals and the vaunted "Freedom of the Seas" wherein
lay the danger. In addition, it was always possible that a lurking
U-boat might be within striking distance, for the old theory that
"dog will not eat dog", i.e. one submarine is unable to attack
another, had long since exploded. Overhead, too, a hostile seaplane,
soaring at an immense height, might swoop down and attempt to destroy
the craft by means of powerful bombs; and the danger, although remote
in this part of the North Sea, could not be lost sight of.

Nevertheless R19 still ran awash. Until she was within easy distance
of hostile territorial waters it was policy to do so, since a British
seaplane would find it difficult to distinguish friend from foe
should she spot the ill-defined shape of a submerged craft creeping
blindly through the water at a depth of from fifty to a hundred feet.

"Submarine on the port bow, sir," reported the look-out.

The order for "General Quarters" rang out. Telescopes and binoculars
were brought to bear upon the triangular-shaped grey object, cleaving
the waves at a distance of nearly three miles, while the four
quick-firers were promptly raised from their places of concealment
and manned to open fire at the first word of command.

The old couplet:


  "Twice armed is he who has his quarrel just,
   Thrice armed is he who gets his blow home fust",


is essentially applicable in modern naval warfare when single-ship
actions take place at comparatively short range. The days of
courteous exchange of compliments between doughty antagonists before
opening fire are past. The first shot may decide, and frequently has
decided, the contest.

Therein, especially during night encounters between destroyers in the
Straits of Dover and off the Belgian coast, the Huns held an
important advantage. Every vessel afloat was to them an enemy craft,
while the British had to withhold their fire until they made certain
that they were not attacking a friendly or neutral ship.

"She's flying the White Ensign!" exclaimed Macquare. "By Jove, she's
been at it!"

The approaching submarine turned out to be one of the E Class
returning from observation patrol. She was showing a considerable
amount of freeboard. Most of her water-ballast had been started. Just
abaft her conning-tower, on the port side, a tarpaulin and a "thrum
mat" had been lashed over a rent extending from just above her
water-line to half-way across her curved deck. Pumps were steadily
ejecting water--a circumstance that told of strained plates and
shattered rivets. Of her twin periscopes, one had been shorn off
close to the top of the conning-tower; the other, bent at an acute
angle, trailed drunkenly over the side.

Dive she could not, unless once and for all time. Only by running on
the surface and keeping the leaks under control could she hope to
make port. With her ensign proudly displayed, and most of her
officers and crew drawn up on her narrow deck, she held on her
course, the passing submarines saluting each other according to the
honourable and long-standing custom of the seas.

The Hon. Derek Stockdale raised a megaphone to his lips.

"Been strafed?" he enquired laconically.

"Aye, aye," was the reply, shouted in clear, decisive tones.
"Scrapped with a Zepp., crocked her, and then took on a U-boat. She
won't trouble you, but keep your weather eye lifting for Zepps.
S'long and good luck!"

Ten minutes later the E Something was out of sight. Her cruise had
been honourably accomplished. She was bound for home and a
well-earned rest. R19's had just begun, and already the prospect of
imminent excitement was in store. Dark, rugged clouds, scudding
rapidly in the upper air, betokened a gale as surely as did the
steadily-falling mercury of the barometer. With luck R19 ought to
overhaul the crippled Zepp. as she strove to battle her way against
the rising storm.



CHAPTER VI

The Zeppelin Hunt


Before long the wind rose, blowing strongly from the nor'west. In
less than an hour it had increased to half a gale and had veered due
east. Vicious white-crested waves were slapping against R19's snub
bows and surging in green cascades as far as the base of the
conning-tower.

With the exception of the quick-firers everything on deck was
battened down. The for'ard gun's crew was ordered aft until their
services would be required; even then, duffel suits and oilskins
notwithstanding, they stood, hanging on to the stanchion rails,
shivering in the icy, salt-laden blast.

The sky, too, was now overcast, while the horizon was frequently
obscured by patches of mirk as the rain-clouds scudded rapidly with
the wind.

"There she is, sir," shouted one of the seamen.

Although his words were unintelligible in the roar of the elements,
his outstretched hand gave an indication that the quarry was in
sight. At an altitude of 3000 feet, and battling ineffectually with
the gale, was a large Zeppelin--one of the "L" type. She was
considerably down by the stern and manoeuvring badly. Two of her five
propellers were motionless, while the action of her twin vertical
rudders failed to keep her steady against the side-thrust of the
remaining propellers. Steadily and surely she was being blown farther
and farther away from her base.

Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale had already laid his plans. In calm
weather diving would be almost useless as a means of concealment; but
in the choppy seas now running the submarine could with advantage
submerge until the crucial moment.

No alteration of the vessel's course was necessary. The Zeppelin was
drifting almost straight towards her. Any slight deviation could be
easily corrected by means of observation through the periscopes, for
unless the air-ship turned and fled "down-wind"--an unlikely
contingency--she could not help passing within effective range of the
submarine's guns.

"Trim for diving."

The order was carried out with the utmost dispatch. With hardly a
tremor the four guns, with their bulky mountings, sank into their
"houses", the water-tight lids sliding automatically over the lowered
weapons. The stanchions and rails fell as flat as did the walls of
Jericho, but with far less noise and certainly no dust, although
there was plenty of spray to atone for the deficiency. Ankle-deep in
water, the men on deck waited until the submarine's platform was
clear of the swirling foam, then they too bolted below. Clang went
the water-tight hatches and R19 was little more than a
hermetically-sealed cylinder packed with machinery, eighty odd human
beings, and Flirt.

Alone in the conning-tower, the manhole of which, communicating with
the interior of the hull, was left open, the Hon. Derek stood, his
eyes fixed to the object-bowl of the periscope, on which the
surrounding surface of the water was reproduced with absolute
fidelity, marred only by a vertical and a horizontal line marked in
degrees. In the middle part of the image, corresponding with the
centre of the field of vision, a specially-constructed lens enlarged
the view, enabling the observer to gauge the distance and the
direction of the target with the greatest exactitude. Although there
were voice-tubes and indicators at hand, the Lieutenant-Commander's
attention was directed mainly upon the object-bowl. Consequently he
shouted his orders to a petty officer, whose head, as he stood on the
short steel ladder, was level with the floor of the conning-tower.

"Down to eighteen feet."

With an almost imperceptible movement, as the horizontal
diving-planes were actuated, R19 slid beneath the waves, the while
"pumping" or rising and falling vertically under the constant
alteration of the pressure of the water above her. Momentarily the
vision in the object-bowl dimmed and again recovered its normal
clearness, as clouds of spray enveloped the tips of the exposed
periscopes, almost immediately to vanish from the surface of the
anti-moisture-treated glass.

In the confined space the noise of the well-running electric motors
was deafening. The torpedo-men were in the present instance able to
"stand easy", but the engine-room artificers and stokers, their moist
faces glistening in the glare of the electric lights, were far from
idle. The gun-crews, clustered round the hatchway ladders, ready to
rush to their posts, were grimly silent, awaiting the order that
would give them the chance to "strafe" a Hun gas-bag. Opportunities
for "strafing" were few and far between in the British submarine
service, not from inclination but from the absence of a suitable
target; when a chance did occur the eager men were "all over it".

Standing immediately behind the petty officer stationed at the
sound-receiving apparatus in a glass-encased compartment
Sub-Lieutenant Fordyce noticed the man was listening intently, first
at the right-hand disk then at the left. Then, turning his head, he
regarded his officer with a puzzled air.

Opening the door, Fordyce entered the sound-proof cabinet.

"What's wrong now, Chalmers?" he asked.

"Something fishy, sir," replied the man, stepping aside. "Will you
stand here a minute, sir?"

The Sub took up a position between the two concave disks. He could
distinctly hear the bass hum of the Zeppelin's aerial propellers,
while faintly through the right-hand disk came the thud of a marine
"screw".

That meant that on the starboard hand, abeam if anything, a vessel
was under way.

"Very good; carry on, Chalmers," said the Sub as he relinquished the
apparatus to the man's charge. "I'll report to the Captain."

"What's that?" enquired the Hon. Derek, without turning his face from
the vision of his expected victim. "Vessel to starboard? Nothing in
sight up-topsides, by Jove. All right, carry on. We'll tackle our
Zeppelin friend first of all, and then see what it is that's worrying
you."

Fordyce could not but admire his skipper's coolness. Somewhere within
audible distance of R19 was another under-water craft, hostile, no
doubt, and intent upon the British submarine's destruction,
unless--jealous thought!--it were another of the E Class stalking
the crippled airship. Whichever it might be, the Hon. Derek was
resolved to leave her severely alone, risking a torpedo or being
rammed until he had had a smack at the huge gas-bag.

"Up with her!" ordered the Lieutenant-Commander.

There was no necessity to blow the ballast-tanks. R19 had been kept
to 19 feet solely by the action of the deflected horizontal diving
rudders. Like an ungainly porpoise the submarine "broke surface", and
the guns' crews raced up the ladders and through the now open
hatchways.

At an angle of 30 degrees from the perpendicular, and at a bare
2000-feet altitude, was the Zeppelin, presenting a splendid target.
Proceeding in the same direction as the submarine, she was evidently
unaware of the latter's presence, for not a shot came from the
quick-firers mounted in her nacelles, nor did an aerial torpedo
hurtle downwards towards the British craft.

No. 3 quick-firer--the one immediately in the wake of the
conning-tower--was the first to open fire. Ere the haze of the
burning cordite had drifted aft, the smoke from the bursting shell
mushroomed close to the huge envelope. It seemed impossible that the
fragile fabric could hope to escape the terrific impact. Another and
another shell sped from the submarine's guns. Still the Zeppelin held
on.

Then a cloud of black smoke hid the target from the gun-layers' eyes.
The men raised a rousing cheer.

"Got her, by the bosun's cat!" shouted a bluejacket, unmindful of
everything in his excitement and delirious joy.

But the cat of the afore-mentioned warrant officer must have been a
bad mouser, for when the smoke drifted away the Zeppelin was 12,000
or 14,000 feet in the air. Under cover of the camouflage--for it was
smoke purposely emitted in order to screen her movements--the
air-ship had thrown out a large quantity of ballast, and had shot
vertically upwards out of effective range.

Even as they watched, the bluejackets were aware that R19 was porting
helm. Circling eight points to starboard, she headed straight for a
pole-like object forging ahead through the crested waves--the
periscope of a U-boat that was either about to "break surface" or
else to let fly a torpedo at the British submarine.



CHAPTER VII

A Double Bag


A double, converging streak of foam marked the path of an approaching
torpedo. For a few seconds the men on deck watched and waited with
bated breath, knowing that 50 yards ahead of the tell-tale track was
a powerful weapon capable of shattering R19's massively-built hull
and sending her to the bottom like a stone.

It was the gun-layer of No. 2 quick-firer who saved the situation.
Thrusting a projectile into the breech of the weapon he slammed the
complicated breech-block, bent over the sights, and pulled the
trigger of the firing-pistol.

Heavily depressed, the gun barked, sending the shell obliquely
towards the surface of the water. Fifty feet in the air flew a column
of spray, while the torpedo, deflected by the impact of the missile,
tore harmlessly past R19's hull.

The U-boat, having shot her bolt, was preparing to dive once more,
although her conning-tower had not appeared above the surface.

With a dull crash and a scarcely-perceptible shudder R19's snub-nosed
stem grated against the rounded side of her foe. So great was her
momentum that her bows were lifted clear of the waves.

"Got her, by smoke!" ejaculated the Hon. Derek, who, having emerged
from the conning-tower, was standing by the side of Fordyce on the
navigation-platform.

Both officers turned and faced aft. They were just in time to see the
bows of the U-boat fling themselves clear of the agitated
waves--sufficiently to enable them to note the number, U129--then,
with a sobbing, gurgling sound, the doomed craft slithered beneath
the surface, to the accompaniment of a volume of iridescent oil and a
crowd of huge air-bubbles.

"Have a look down below, Mr. Fordyce," continued the
Lieutenant-Commander. "Let's hope we haven't started a plate or two.
It would be rough luck at this stage to have to put back for
repairs."

The Sub hastened to carry out his instructions. Eager faces mutely
questioned him as he entered the electrically-lighted compartment
where the "hands" not told off for duty on deck were still in
ignorance of what had occurred, although the unexpected shock had
been sufficient to capsize several of the crew.

"It's all right, men!" exclaimed the Sub cheerily. "We've strafed
another U-boat. The Zepp., I'm sorry to say, has sheered off."

In answer to his enquiries, Fordyce learnt that immediately after the
impact steps had been taken to ascertain if any damage had been done
to the hull. Not a leak was to be found. The for'ard diving-planes or
horizontal rudders were intact and in perfect working order; while,
on testing the twin bow torpedo-tubes, both were found to be
undamaged. Evidently R19 had not struck her opponent an end-on blow,
otherwise the covers of the tubes would have been buckled or burst
from their hinges. At the moment of impact U129 had submerged
sufficiently to allow her opponent to strike a glancing blow with her
forefoot--enough to crack the deck-plates of the ill-starred
unterseeboot.

Eager to convey this gratifying report to his skipper, Fordyce went
on deck. As he emerged through the circular man-hole a burst of
cheering greeted his ears. He was just in time to see a long trailing
cloud of fire-tipped smoke plunging towards the water at a distance
of less than a couple of miles to leeward.

It was the Zeppelin. Whether by the submarine's gun-fire or by an
accident it would never be known--but in any case the result was the
same--the air-ship had caught fire in mid-air. For some seconds she
blazed furiously--the whole of the after part of the envelope being
hidden in fire and smoke--without showing any appreciable signs of
falling. Then, with appalling suddenness, she buckled in two, and
commenced her headlong flight to destruction.

Too far off to hear the loud hiss of the burning fabric as it came in
contact with the water, R19 nevertheless turned and proceeded to the
spot where the wreckage had disappeared. It was a fruitless quest.
Beyond a few charred fragments of wood, there were no traces of what
was, a few minutes previously, one of the vaunted mammoths of the
Kaiser's air fleet.

Joyfully the Hon. Derek repaired to his cabin to draft his report for
dispatch by wireless. Brevity and modesty were some of his
characteristics. He was not one to take credit for the acts of
others:

"I have the honour to report that the hostile air-ship L67,
previously crippled by H.M. Submarine E Something, has been
destroyed. During the operations U129 was rammed by R19, and also
destroyed. Derek U. E. Stockdale, Lieutenant-Commander R19."


This dispatch sent off in code, the Hon. Derek "turned in", acting on
the principle that it is well to sleep when one can. The most
strenuous part of the outward voyage was yet to come, the passage
through the mine-infested Sound at the entrance to the Baltic.

From a strictly personal point of view, R19's mission was not an
enviable one. For two months--longer if the exigencies of the service
so required--she was to be tacitly lent to the Russian Government.
During that period the crew would be lucky if they had as much as one
mail-bag from home. Ravages by hostile underwater craft, operating
off the North Cape, and the uncertain state of internal communication
between Archangel and Petrograd, made it a difficult matter for
letters and parcels to be sent to the crews of British submarines
operating in Russian waters. They would soon be short of food, too;
when their own stores were exhausted they would have to rely upon
what provisions the Russian authorities could spare out of their
already depleted stocks. Both going and returning from her station,
R19 would have to thread the narrow, dangerous waters of the Sound,
and run the gauntlet of the numerous motor patrol boats which the
Huns maintained almost without let or hindrance in the landlocked
waters of the southern and western Baltic.

Yet with the same cheerfulness that the British bluejacket will
voluntarily choose a two years' exile in the desolate Arctic, or risk
the perils of the miasmic, mosquito-infested swamps of tropical
Africa, did R19's officers and men set forth on their hazardous
adventure. In the common cause of the Allies it mattered little
whither they went, so long as they could strike a blow for king and
country.



CHAPTER VIII

"Accidents will Happen"


Grey dawn was breaking when submarine R19 approached the waters of
the Skager-rack. Well on their port bow could be faintly discerned
the rugged cliffs of Norway, but it was yet too hazy to sight the
low-lying shores of Jutland. The strong wind had blown itself out,
and although the waves still ran high they had lost their angry look.
It was possible to stand on deck without having to hang on like grim
death, as the water surged waist-high over the comparatively
low-lying structure.

Scorning to take advantage of the doubtful security afforded by the
"three-mile limit", R19 kept a mid-channel course, prepared to dive
the instant a suspicious craft was sighted. She was to keep awash as
far as practicable, in order to economize her electrical propulsive
powers. As yet not a single craft had been sighted. The once-crowded
waterway, from whence vessels laden with timber and iron-ore for
Great Britain issued in the piping times of peace, was deserted. The
hardy mariners of Norway still kept the sea, their fearful losses in
shipping notwithstanding, but they took a different route; while the
mercantile flag of Sweden had practically disappeared from the North
Sea and its approaches.

Clad in oilskins, Donald Macquare and Noel Fordyce stood on the
navigation-platform. At the Sub's feet crouched Flirt. The dog,
having completely recovered her "sea-legs", was sniffing eagerly at
the offshore breeze, as if sighing for the land that was denied her.
From the electric stove in the galley wafted the appetizing odours of
frying bacon, to mingle with the salt-laden air.

"It looks like a dirty sky to windward," observed the Lieutenant, as
he lowered his binoculars and rubbed his eyes. It was nearing the end
of his "trick", and he was longing for his watch below. "It will be a
jolly good thing for us, if it doesn't get too thick. Bless my soul,
these neutrals may be quite all right as a whole, but goodness only
knows when there isn't a pro-Hun ashore armed with a powerful
telescope."

"In which case the news will be telegraphed to Kiel," added Fordyce.
"Hang it all, I never could understand how these fellows get the hang
of things!"

He was on the point of confiding to the Lieutenant the information of
R19's date of departure and destination, as told by Councillor
Mindiggle, when the look-out reported a sail dead ahead.

The craft was a tramp, deep in ballast. At a distance of four miles
she stood out distinctly against the approaching cloud of misty rain,
until the pall of vapour swept down and hid her from sight.

"It will be as thick as pea-soup directly," declared Macquare. "No
need to call the skipper. I'll alter helm and give yonder vessel a
chance to slip clear of us."

Accordingly R19's course was altered a few points to port, which,
allowing for the relative speed of the two vessels, ought to allow
ample margin for the submarine to pass at least two miles from the
tramp.

Presently Flirt began to bark violently at some invisible object on
the starboard hand. Macquare made a gesture of reproof, and the Sub,
placing his hand on the dog's muzzle, lifted him into the
conning-tower.

"It's that tramp's screw she heard," he remarked, as he rejoined the
Lieutenant. "Sounds quite close."

"By Jove, yes!" exclaimed Macquare. "We'd best get under."

Even as he spoke, a rift in the mist revealed the tramp at less than
a cable's length away. She had changed her course as a matter of
precaution, zigzagging in order to baffle any U-boats that might be
lurking in the vicinity. By so doing she was now passing through the
wake of R19.

"British, by Jove!" exclaimed Fordyce, catching sight of a dirty
smoke-begrimed red ensign floating proudly from the tramp's ensign
staff, while, as she slid past, he could read the words
_Talisman--Goole_ on her stumpy stern.

Even as he spoke, the mist was stabbed by a lurid flash, and a shell,
screeching through the air, passed so close to the Sub's head that he
distinctly felt the windage.

It was not a time to offer protests and explanations. Before the
tramp could let fly a second time, Fordyce had gained the
conning-tower. The water-tight lid was promptly shut and secured,
and, with more haste than grace, R19 dived for safety with the
muffled reverberations of a second report to cheer her on her way.

Through the trap-door in the floor of the conning-tower appeared the
Hon. Derek, just awakened out of sleep yet perfectly cool and
collected.

"A pretty kettle of fish, sir," reported Mr. Macquare in answer to his
superior officer's question. "A British tramp, the _Talisman_, did
her level best to blow us to blazes. Let rip at point-blank range."

"And missed," added the Lieutenant-Commander cheerfully. "Bless her
dear skipper's heart, although his gun-layer's a rotten bad shot he's
a tough old British heart of oak. Accidents will happen, Macquare, in
the best-regulated families."

"Rough luck if we'd been sent to Davy Jones by one of our own people,
sir," said the Lieutenant doggedly.

"A miss is as good as a mile," rejoined the Hon. Derek soothingly. "I
suppose the old man is dancing about on the bridge, wild with delight
at having sent a strafed U-boat to the bottom. When we return,
Macquare, we must look out for the name of the skipper of the
_Talisman_ on the Honours List of the Mercantile Marine, though not
for worlds would I disillusion the gallant old boy. By smoke! He's
pottering around to pick up the pieces."

The thud of the tramp's propeller clearly indicated that such was the
intention of the _Talisman's_ skipper. It was an audacious, almost
foolhardy piece of work. The tramp, unescorted and of comparatively
slow speed, had eased down and was circling over the spot where the
supposed U-boat was last seen.

"I'll humour the old chap," resumed the Lieutenant-Commander. "Mr.
Fordyce, pass the word for the oil in the sump to be pumped out.
That'll please him when he finds the oil floating on the surface--but
not a word, mind, to the men. It's our little joke."

It was not until the beating of the tramp's propellers had long faded
into inaudibility that R19 poked her periscope above the surface. The
fog had cleared considerably, although the air was still misty. As
far as the field of vision showed all was quiet. Up came the
submarine, the electric motors were switched off and the petrol
engines clutched into the propeller shafts. Hatches were opened and
steps taken to "con" the vessel from the navigation-platform.

A swirl in the water on the starboard hand attracted the Sub's notice
as he gained the open air. Something was converging upon the vessel's
side. Instinctively he glanced towards the bows. His supposition was
correct. In rising, the submarine had fouled the wire span connecting
a pair of drifting mines. On either hand a deadly metal cylinder was
being swung in towards the vessel's hull.

There was no time for official decorum. With a bound Noel threw
himself upon the engine-room telegraph indicator and signalled full
speed astern.

Thank Heaven, the order was obeyed promptly, even at the risk of
snapping the blades, wrecking the stuffing-box, or smashing the
clutches. With the water hissing and foaming past her sides under the
reverse action of her powerful propeller, the submarine quickly lost
way and began to gather sternway.

"Stop! Easy astern!"

Both orders were as quickly carried out as before. By this time the
two mines were bearing on the bows at a distance of less than fifty
yards away, and were gradually being drawn towards each other. So
exactly midway had R19 struck the span that, unless steps were taken
to prevent them, the metal cylinders would collide with each other
and explode within a few seconds of the fragile horns being snapped
under the impact. And at fifty yards the detonation of that double
quantity of T.N.T. would be sufficient to severely damage, if not
destroy, the submarine.

Again Fordyce signalled "Stop", then called for volunteers to clear
the fouled wire. There was no need to ask twice. From below poured
hands armed with hack-saws, cold chisels, and axes.

The rope--a 2-inch flexible-steel-wire one--was badly rusted,
nevertheless it took the bluejackets the best part of five minutes to
sever it and disentangle the newly-cut ends.

"All clear, sir," sang out a petty officer.

With feelings of thankfulness Fordyce put the indicator to half speed
astern. Gathering way, R19 slowly backed from the floating cylinders
until she was safely out of that danger zone.

"Well done, Mr. Fordyce!"

The Sub turned, flushed with pleasure, and smartly saluted. It was
the Hon. Derek who had spoken. Throughout the hazardous operation he
had stood quietly behind his young subordinate, ready to take charge
if necessity should arise. But there had been no need, and Stockdale
was too shrewd a man to "barge in" and flabbergast his youthful Sub.

"Mine right astern, sir!" shouted a seaman.

"And to starboard, sir!" announced another.

R19, in backing from one danger, found herself beset by floating
perils on all sides.



CHAPTER IX

Drifting Mines


It was a situation in which skilful handling and consummate coolness
alone would extricate R19 from the perils that encircled her. To
attempt to back astern or forge ahead in the hope of escaping the
floating mines would be courting disaster. Fortunately there was
little to fear from partly-submerged anchored mines, for the depth of
the Skager-rack was here not far short of four hundred fathoms. On
the other hand, the drifting mines were either in pairs or in
multiples of two, connected by lengths of wire of sufficient length
to cause the explosive cylinders to hit amidships the hull of any
vessel unfortunate enough to pick up the middle part of the bight of
rope.

Promptly the whaler and one of the Berthons were brought on deck. The
former was launched over the side and a couple of coils of rope
tossed into her. The canvas boat was unfolded, the stretchers put in
position, and also put afloat.

The Berthon, in which were three bluejackets acted as scout, rowing
on ahead, while one of the hands kept a sharp look-out for any
obstructions. The whaler followed, towing a buoy to which was
attached a grapnel by means of a 30-foot length of rope.

Provided the grapnel fouled none of the spans connecting the mines it
was reasonable to conclude that the submarine could likewise follow
without risk, since the depth at which the grapnel was suspended was
greater than the draft of R19 when awash.

A cable's length astern of the whaler the submarine cautiously crept
through the water, ready at the first alarm to back from the danger.

"Heavens! What is that lubber doing?" exclaimed the Hon. Derek, as
the bowman of the Berthon laid aside his oar, seized a boat-hook, and
prepared to fend off a circular mine.

"Avast there!" roared the Lieutenant-Commander through his megaphone;
but he was too late. Already the foolhardy man was thrusting the
metal head of the boat-hook hard against the slippery surface of the
mine. Even in calm water the act would have been that of a madman. As
it was, the choppy waves rendered the result of the attempt a
foregone conclusion. Metal grated on metal, and the next instant one
of the fragile horns of the mine snapped off close to its base.

Through his binoculars Fordyce could see the horrified looks on the
faces of the men in the Berthon as they attempted to back from the
scene of the bowman's ill-judged activity. In four or five seconds
the chemical action of the salt water upon the contents of the
fractured tube would cause the charge to explode, with annihilating
results to the three bluejackets.

Four seconds passed in long-drawn suspense. Five, six, seven--but the
expected disaster did not take place.

Not until the Berthon was beyond the danger zone did the Hon. Derek
give vent to his feelings.

"Thank Heaven, it's a dud!" he exclaimed fervently.

Then, ordering the Berthon alongside, he addressed the bowman with a
few very forcible remarks upon his lubberly action, and, as a
precaution, made the men leave their boat-hooks on the submarine's
deck.

For nearly an hour the nerve-racking ordeal continued as R19 slowly
threaded her way through the mine-field. By a skilful use of the helm
the submarine, under the guidance of the whaler, contrived to avoid
most of the dangers. Those mines that lay athwart her course, and
could not be otherwise avoided, were tackled by the whaler, their
spans grappled for and secured, and thus towed out of the way.

"By Jove, if we had time I'd like to explode the whole crowd of
them!" remarked the Lieutenant-Commander, referring to the mines, now
happily astern. The whaler, now a mile ahead, was returning, after
having made sure, as far as human agency could provide, that the
limit of the field had been passed, and R19, having hoisted the
recall, was only waiting for the boats to be safely stowed before
proceeding.

"Destroyer on the starboard bow."

The disconcerting announcement could hardly have been made at a worse
time. The chances were that the approaching craft was a Hun, since
both Heligoland and Kiel were within easy steaming distance of the
Skaw, and German light cruisers and torpedo-boats could manoeuvre
with slight risk of being brought into action. If surprised by a
British flotilla, it was a simple matter to make for Danish
territorial waters. On the other hand, should no hostile craft put in
an appearance, the presence of Hun warships off the shores of Jutland
served to impress the Danes with the fact that Germany held supreme
command of the North Sea.

By the fact that the destroyer had altered helm and was bearing down
upon the submarine, it was certain that she had spotted the latter.
R19 was at a decided disadvantage. Without abandoning her boats she
could not dive and attack by means of torpedoes. If she remained
awash, her comparatively low speed and inferior gun-power would be no
match for the swift and well-armed destroyer.

The master-mind of the Lieutenant-Commander instantly gripped the
solution to the problem.

"Action stations! Prepare for diving!" he ordered. "I'll fight her,
and the victors can pick up the boats' crews."



CHAPTER X

The "Havornen's" Warning


Down to fifteen fathoms R19 plunged under the influence of her
diving-rudders and water-ballast admitted to her buoyancy-tanks.
Then, turning eight points to starboard, she shaped a course that
would bring her on a diverging track to that of the destroyer.

Already torpedoes had been "launched in" in both bow and broadside
tubes, ready for instant liberation the moment R19 picked up her
target. Overhead could be distinctly heard the thresh of the vessel's
propellers.

"The silly josser!" muttered the Hon. Derek. "She's slowing down. To
capture the boats most likely. Well, that's her funeral, so here
goes."

Having deemed that the submarine was within striking distance, her
Lieutenant-Commander brought her carefully towards the surface,
slowly, lest a perceptible disturbance of the water should betray her
presence.

Suddenly the object-bowl of the conning-tower periscope was flooded
with light. Right in the centre of the field of vision appeared the
destroyer at a distance of 800 yards. Without having to "con" the
submarine either to port or starboard, Stockdale was in a position to
let loose a couple of 21-inch torpedoes with almost certain chance of
success.

With their senses keenly on the alert, the L.T.O.'s awaited the order
that would send the deadly missiles on their way--but the order did
not come.

Close alongside the destroyer lay R19's whaler. A short distance from
the latter was the Berthon, making her way towards her. Both were in
the direct line of fire. It was one of those perplexing problems that
the naval officer has frequently to solve. Ought he, in the certain
chance of sending an important unit of the enemy's fleet to the
bottom, to sacrifice deliberately the lives of a dozen of his own
men? In an above-water engagement between two destroyers a skipper
would, perhaps, have to accept the risk of having half his ship's
company put out of action before he could claim the fruits of
victory. From a purely professional point of view it would be a
sacrifice well made, although deplorable; but in the present instance
it looked like a cold-blooded butchery of his compatriots.

Even as he looked, Stockdale noticed that the destroyer's
quick-firers, instead of being trained abeam, were fore and aft, and
not manned for action. Most of the crew were clustered along the side
watching the submarine's boats, but making no hostile demonstrations.
Just then a waft of air bore down. The stranger's ensign fluttered in
the faint breeze.

It was a white cross on a red, swallow-tailed field: the naval
ensign of Denmark.

Even then the Hon. Derek had his doubts. The new-comer might be a Hun
under false colours, and might open fire without troubling to
substitute the dishonoured Black Cross Ensign of Germany for the flag
she was displaying. The fact that the guns were not manned rather
knocked that theory on the head. Nevertheless R19, with the tips of
her periscopes showing, forged ahead until her Lieutenant-Commander
was able to read the name on the destroyer's stern--_Havornen_.

Giving the order to the torpedo-men to "stand fast", Stockdale
brought the submarine awash at a distance of 200 yards dead astern of
the _Havornen_. Then, emerging from the conning-tower, and followed
by Macquare and the Sub, he punctiliously exchanged salutes with the
officer commanding the destroyer.

None of the submarine's officers could speak Danish. Fordyce knew a
few words, picked up during his service with the Royal Seal Line, but
not sufficient to carry on a conversation. Still in a quandary, they
were agreeably surprised when the Danish officer addressed them in
English.

"I am glad to see you!" he exclaimed, when the two craft drew within
hailing distance. "I thought, until I spoke to your men in the boats,
that you were Germans."

By his tone the Dane clearly indicated that his pleasure would not
have been anything so cordial if the submarine flew the Black Cross
Ensign.

"Thanks!" replied the Hon. Derek; "and we reciprocate your
expressions of greeting." He did not think it advisable to
congratulate the Danes upon their narrow escape of being blown out of
the water. "Might I call your attention to the fact that you are
within a couple of miles of a German mine-field?"

"Is that so?" asked the Danish officer. "It must have been the work
of a submarine mine-layer--the one that is now hard and fast aground
off Laeso. We will proceed, and set to work to destroy the Germans'
vile handiwork. Thank you for the information. In return, let me warn
you: the Germans have recently laid a new mine-field at the south
entrance of the Sound; so if your Government has given you
instructions, the information will most likely be misleading. More
than that I dare not say, but you have our best wishes."

With another exchange of courtesies the British and Danish vessels
separated, the _Havornen_ making towards the region of the floating
mines, where, presently, musketry reports and, anon, the heavy roars
of a powerful explosive being liberated were evidences that the work
of clearing the deadly menace to neutral shipping was in active
process.

R19, having picked up her boats, gathered way and an hour later was
rounding the Skaw. Here a course S. 3/4 E. was set through the
Kattegat. Beyond lay the Sound, where one of the greatest ordeals in
modern naval warfare was awaiting the dauntless submarine--the
threading of the intricate, uncharted mine-field guarding the
principal entrance to the Baltic Sea.

"Jolly decent of that Dane," remarked Fordyce as he stood with
Lieutenant Macquare upon the navigation-platform. "There's not much
doubt as to which way his sympathies incline."

"It was," agreed Macquare. "I feel sorry for Denmark, one of the most
decent neutral countries, looking on at the great stunt. She'd come
in like a shot--she still remembers being robbed of
Schleswig-Holstein--but it would be the case of Roumania all over
again. With the German fleet having pretty nearly its own way in the
Baltic it would be suicidal policy for Denmark to chip in. Well, I
suppose another twenty-four hours will either see us in the Baltic or
else at the bottom of it."

"This new mine-field has upset our calculations," said the Sub. "Yet
I suppose we'll manage it somehow--we usually do," he added
optimistically.

In defiance of all international treaties the Huns had mined the
territorial waters of the Sound, a strait averaging five miles in
width between Sweden and the Danish island of Zeeland. The mines were
"contact" ones, anchored by means of sinkers and so arranged that the
cylinders containing the explosive charges were at varying depths. A
submarine stood an equally poor chance whether she kept just below
the surface or crept along the bottom of the channel. The original
"field" consisted of three parallel rows, the first 12 feet from the
surface, the second about the same distance from the bed of the sea,
the third midway betwixt the bottom and the surface. Through the
danger zone was a narrow channel, guarded by patrol boats and
destroyers. The British Admiralty had obtained information of this
opening and had used the knowledge to good advantage, when, early in
the war, British submarines had paralysed Germany's trade with Sweden
and the harbours of Stralsund, Danzig, and Memel were chock-a-block
with merchantmen afraid to venture across the comparatively narrow
stretch of water to obtain badly-wanted cargoes of Swedish iron-ore
and foodstuffs.

Now, more than likely, the mine-field was increased in width. There
were also reports that the Huns were employing steel nets as an
additional safeguard, and had augmented the number of patrol boats.
Zeppelins and sea-planes, too, had been constantly sighted south of
the Danish islands, so that R19 was "up against" a particularly tough
proposition.

"Yes; it's easier for a mosquito to find its way through the curtains
of an old West Coaster's bed than for a submarine to nose herself
into the Baltic," declared Macquare. "But we'll do it, laddie, you
mark my words."

Whenever the Lieutenant's grim determination showed itself he
involuntarily rolled his "R's". He did so on this occasion, and
Fordyce knew that Macquare was revelling in the prospect.

It was night. Although land was within ten miles on the port hand not
a light was visible. The island of Anholt had been left astern.
Another hour's run ought to bring the submarine within sight of
Elsinore at the starboard side of the Sound.

At the Lieutenant-Commander's request Flirt had been sent below, much
to her disgust, as she appreciated the night watches crouching on
deck at her master's feet. But now absolute silence was imperative.
By the sense of hearing as much as that of sight were the crew to
guard against the dangers of the unlighted channel.

Just before midnight two topsail schooners were observed, bearing
northwards. Without attempting to submerge, R19 held on, knowing that
her low-lying shape would be indistinguishable except from a distance
of a few yards. Then came a tug, displaying navigation lights and
three masthead lamps, showing that she was towing a vessel over six
hundred feet in length. These were indications that the submarine was
approaching Denmark's principal seaport, and, although the vessels
were neutrals, there was the possibility of their skippers reporting
the presence of a submarine if the latter were spotted. And, then,
where the information would eventually be sent was a matter of
speculation, with the odds that it would reach the ears of the German
patrol commanders.

Proceeding at a bare five knots, R19 was within a few miles of the
mine-field when dawn broke. It was a case of "hasten slowly". To
attempt the forcing of the blockade during the hours of daylight
would be courting failure and disaster, so she promptly "sounded",
resting on the bottom in twelve fathoms.

Never did a day pass more slowly. In spite of various attempts to
provide the men with amusement the enforced watch below for all hands
was a long-drawn period of suspense and irritation. The period of
inaction before undertaking a task of infinite danger is always such,
whether in the case of infantry waiting to "go over the top" or the
ship's company awaiting the order to "open fire". Once in the thick
of things danger is forgotten in the enthusiasm of the encounter, but
until then the minds of even the bravest are filled with morbid
forebodings.

It was not until an hour after sunset that the welcome order came to
blow auxiliary tanks. Without making use of her propelling machinery
the submarine rose steadily towards the surface. Everything seemed
quiet. The periscopes, useless except for the purpose of picking up a
solitary light, revealed nothing, for the night was already as black
as pitch.

With their night-glasses the officers swept the waste of waters.
Ahead a faint "loom" indicated the position of Copenhagen. On the
Swedish side a faint light flickered for a few seconds and then
disappeared.

A quarter of an hour passed, but Stockdale gave no orders to proceed.
Not that he hesitated to face the danger; he was merely waiting an
opportunity.

Suddenly the horizon away to the south'ard was swept by the rays of a
search-light. Another and yet another beam followed suit, until the
sky in that direction was a blaze of light. Then the rays vanished
and a mast-head signalling-lamp began its flickering tale.

"'QKG--TOXZ--PJ'--code, thought so," muttered the
Lieutenant-Commander, as he read the unintelligible message.

"Mast-head signal astern, sir," reported Fordyce.

The Hon. Derek swung round in an instant and levelled his binoculars
at a pin-prick of yellow light.

"Good!" he ejaculated. "That's what I was waiting for."



CHAPTER XI

Caught in the Net


Presently the powerful night-glasses revealed the misty outlines of a
large two-funnelled craft slowly making her way in a southerly
direction, the while signalling steadily, pausing only to receive an
answering message from one of the German patrols.

Then, with all lights screened, came a pair of lean destroyers,
zigzagging their way through the mine-field. After a while they
steadied on their respective helms. Unless they altered course, they
would pass at a distance not less than five cable-lengths from the
lurking submarine.

"One of their strafed raiders coming here to roost for a dead cert,"
quoth the Hon. Derek. "Hands to action-stations, Mr. Macquare. I mean
to let that chap pilot me through the mine-field, and, with luck,
I'll return evil for good by putting a torpedo into him."

The two destroyers passed without sighting the British submarine.
They were emitting dense columns of smoke that wafted over R19's deck
as they steamed by. Two deductions were to be drawn from that
circumstance. The boats were short of steam coal, which was a most
cheerful bit of information. Also, from the fact that they were
burning coal and not oil fuel, they were not by any means of the
latest type of German torpedo craft.

Presently the nearmost destroyer put her helm hard over and circled
away from the submarine. Not until she was pointing in exactly the
opposite direction to the one she had been following did she steady
and slow down. Her consort still carried on until she had passed the
approaching armed merchantman. Then she, too, flung about.

Preceded and followed by her escort, the returning raider (for
Stockdale's surmise was correct) steamed past at a rate of about five
knots. It would have been a spendid opportunity for R19 to get home
three torpedoes with mathematical precision, but reluctantly the
Lieutenant-Commander stayed his hand. It was tantalizing but the
greater issue was not to be lost sight of.

Under electrical motive power, for it was too risky to make use of
even the well-muffled internal-combustion engines, R19 fell in at the
tail of the procession, keeping at a distance of four cable-lengths
astern of the rearmost destroyer.

Luck was in her favour, for not only was the night very dark, but the
eddying clouds of smoke from the German vessels' funnels were
frequently sweeping over the submarine, thus making a most effectual
screen to her movements, while with her slow speed R19 did not show
the "bone in her mouth"--the phosphorescent bow wave that at any high
rate of speed would inevitably betray her position.

Both periscopes were "housed", and the boat prepared to dive at an
instant's notice.

For a full quarter of a mile the course was due south, until, at a
flashing-signal from the leading torpedo-boat, the big German
starboarded her helm, and steered almost at right angles to her
former direction. R19's officers noticed that the rearmost destroyer
made no attempt to alter helm until she gained the position where the
armed merchantman had turned. Evidently the "gateway" through the
mine-field was narrow, and permitted no liberties.

As the following destroyer turned she flashed out a signal, to which
a distant vessel replied. The next instant the concentrated rays of a
dozen search-lights swept the surface of the water.

Down dropped R19 to 20 feet. Her periscopes were raised until they
projected but 18 inches above the surface. Until the crucial moment,
Stockdale chose to keep the escort under observation.

Again the Hun vessels turned, this time to port, and were heading
straight for the centre of the far-flung line of patrol boats and
destroyers.

"We're through, I fancy!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek. Then: "Down to
forty feet."

At that depth the submarine was immune from the danger of being stove
in, even by the keel of the heaviest battleship afloat. For the rest
of the distance, until the last of the patrolling craft was left
astern, the submarine had to depend upon direction by listening to
the thresh of the Hun torpedo-boats' propellers.

The raider and her escorts were now increasing speed, another
indication that the danger of the mine-field was a thing of the past.
Before long R19, in her efforts to keep up with her hostile guides,
was pushing ahead at fourteen knots--a rate sufficient to raise an
ominous swirl upon the placid surface.

The while Macquare and the Sub were working out the course for future
reference, noting the varying compass bearings and the distance run
between alterations of helm. Knowing the exact spot where the second
channel began, it would be a relatively simple matter to "plot out"
the secret channel on the chart for use on the return run--if R19
were fortunate enough to leave the Baltic. In order to check each
other's calculations the Lieutenant made his readings on a magnetic
compass, while the Sub used the gyro-compass, which, unaffected by
deviation and variation, enabled the navigator to obtain his
knowledge of direction without having to take into consideration half
a dozen intricate but important influences to which the magnetic
instrument is subjected.

Presently, finding the pace too hot, the Hon. Derek gave orders for
speed to be reduced to five knots. The returning raider had played
her part as far as R19 was concerned, and, as a reward--although
Stockdale would have willed it otherwise--she was rapidly drawing out
of torpedo range. Even if the submarine dared to risk letting fly a
couple of torpedoes, the possibility of hitting a vessel stern-on was
rather remote, while the presence of a hostile craft inside their
mine-field would at once be revealed to the German patrol-boats.

A faint rasping metallic sound caused both officers to look up from
their respective tasks. It was the unmistakable noise of meshed wire
grating along the submarine's side. Then, with a decided jerk, the
vessel's way was checked. Under the impulse of her propellers she
tilted nose downwards, the while the disconcerting sound of the
flexible wire grinding against her was growing more and more in
volume.

The artificer in charge of the motors acted promptly on the order to
declutch and then reverse. Before her propellers had made a dozen
revolutions the port-hand one, entangled in a
remorselessly-tightening obstacle, slowed down, and then stopped
dead.

R19 was firmly held in the meshes of an anti-submarine net.



CHAPTER XII

"Away Diving-party!"


Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale descended the ladder from the
conning-tower and gained the 'midship compartment of the submarine.
Outwardly he appeared cool and collected. If the intense gravity of
the situation assailed him, he kept his emotions to himself.

"A nice old jamboree, Macquare!" he exclaimed. "It's the port
propeller getting fouled that's the trouble."

"It is, sir," agreed the Lieutenant.

"The consequences of halloing before we're out of the wood," added
Stockdale. "I'm going to blow the ballast-tanks. We must risk it,
although it's pretty well a dead cert that the Huns have
calcium-light alarms in connection with this infernal net. We'll be
in a fine old mess if we do break surface in the full glare of a
dozen search-lights and hampered with a ton of wire netting over
everything."

R19 had been too premature. When the raider and her attendants had
increased speed they were clear of the mine-field, but not of the
maze of steel netting, which, supported so that the upper edge was at
a sufficient depth below the surface to enable them to pass without
hindrance, was a dangerous trap to submarine craft.

"Why not fill all ballast-tanks, and see if we can sink clear?"
suggested Macquare.

The Lieutenant-Commander shook his head.

"We would only get in a worse mess," he objected, "and as likely as
not foul the starboard propeller into the bargain."

"It's not much use standing by and waiting for the Huns to strafe us
with distance charges," remarked Macquare doggedly. He was beginning
to roll his R's again. "If you have no objection, sir, I'll call for
volunteers, and see what it's like outside."

"That's my job, I think," said Fordyce quietly.

The Lieutenant demurred at the assertion, while the Sub was equally
emphatic.

"Don't argue about it!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek. "The best way you
can settle the matter is to toss for it."

A florin glittered as it spun in the rays of the electric light.

"Heads!" declared Macquare. "It's your go, laddie, and good luck!"

In common with other submarines of the "R" Class, Stockdale's command
was provided with a means of enabling divers to leave the interior of
the vessel while submerged. One of the sub-compartments was fitted
with two water-tight doors, one of which communicated with the
interior; the other, in the vessel's side, gave access to the
outside.

Without loss of time the Sub called for two volunteers. Of the
submarine's complement twelve men had "proficiency pay" as
seamen-divers, and every one of the twelve volunteered for the
hazardous task.

"I'll take Cassidy and Payne," decided Fordyce. "They are most
reliable men, and both unmarried. If we are not back in an hour, sir,
don't wait if you have a chance. We'll do our best."

"And good luck!" exclaimed the Lieutenant-Commander. It was the naval
way of bidding farewell to a comrade about to undertake a risky
enterprise--a pithy expression conveying a wealth of possibilities of
thought.

Assisted by willing helpers, the Sub and the two seamen donned their
diving-dresses. These were of the "self-contained" type, in which the
cumbersome life-line and air-tube are dispensed with. The dresses
were of "armoured" rubber and canvas, specially contrived to
withstand high pressures. The copper helmet was fitted with three
large scuttles, so that the wearer could see what was going on on
either side by merely turning his head, and thus doing away with the
necessity of having to keep the desired object in view directly in
front. At the back of the helmet was a flexible metal tube supplying
chemically-treated air from a reservoir to the wearer. The reservoir
was strapped to the small of the back, if such an expression can be
applied to an inflated diving-dress. Immediately above the
breathing-apparatus container was another contrivance of strong
elastic material, capable of being expanded to double the size of a
football. Normally it lay flat and compact against the diver's
shoulders. Strapped across the chest, immediately below the leaden
weight attached to the collar of the helmet, was a strong copper
receptacle connected with the deflated bag on the diver's back, and
fitted with a stopcock and a small but powerful suction-pump. This
contrivance took the place of the life-line in the older type of
dress; for, should a man wish to rise from the bottom of the sea, all
he had to do was to release the compressed air from the copper
container into the expanding bag, until the buoyancy of the latter
overcame the weight of the diver's equipment.

Each of the three men was equipped with a knife, hack-saw, crowbar, a
small slate and pencil for communication purposes, and an electric
lamp. Their bare hands were protected from the numbing cold by a
thick coating of tallow.

Their helmets having been placed over their heads, and secured by
"butterfly nuts" to their rubber-lined metal collars, Fordyce and his
assistants entered the diving-chamber, the inner door of which was
secured by clamp locks capable of being operated either from within
or without.

The Sub's next task, after securing the door, was to flood the
diving-chamber. This was done by means of a stopcock communicating
with the water outside, while the weight of the inrushing fluid was
compensated by expelling a similar quantity from one of the auxiliary
ballast-tanks, in order not to disturb the trim of the submarine.

The diving-compartment filled, Fordyce threw open the door in the
submarine's side; then, groping until he found the lowermost of a
series of rungs, he made his way to the deck, where he awaited his
companions.

Thence the three went towards the bows, flashing their lamps in order
to discover the nature of the entanglement. Although each light was
of 500 candle-power, the rays were effective only for a distance of
five or six yards, but they were sufficient to enable Fordyce to see
that a huge large-meshed steel net enclosed R19 on both sides, while
towards the bows it contracted, thus preventing further progress in
that direction.

Cautiously the Sub lowered himself upon the bow diving-rudder on the
starboard side. Examination showed that no part of the net was
holding it; but the one to port was stubbornly enmeshed.

By dint of careful tackling by means of crowbars, the three men
succeeded in freeing the projecting plate from the net. As far as
could be seen, there was now nothing for'ard to prevent the submarine
gathering sternway. Obviously the principal difficulty lay in the
fact that one of the propellers had fouled.

"By Jove, what's that?" mentally enquired the Sub, as the light of
his electric lamp fell upon a huge, ill-defined object less than six
feet from R19's bows. It was a part of the upper works of a large
tramp vessel, lying slightly on one bilge, and almost hidden by a
lavish growth of barnacles and seaweed.

It was the wreck of a tramp steamer, possibly a German one sent to
the bottom by a British submarine during the early stages of the war.
Providentially the steel net had done R19 a good turn, for, had it
not stopped her progress, the chances were that the submarine would
have collided with the wreck, with disastrous results to herself.

Clearly there was no escape for R19 in that direction. The only
possible way seemed to lie in the ability of the submarine to back
out of the toils, and until the propeller was cleared this could not
be attempted.

Signing to the two seamen, the Sub led the way aft. Here, by means of
a length of signal halyard, Fordyce lowered himself upon the exterior
shaft of the seized-up propeller. It was a risky job, for should he
relax his hold he would sink to the bottom of the sea, a distance of
90 or 100 feet; and, more than likely, if he made use of his
self-raising apparatus he would find his upward progress intercepted
by the intricate meshes of the net.

Examination showed that the blades of the propeller had cut through a
part of the flexible steel entanglement and the stranded ends of the
wire had wound themselves firmly round the boss. The only thing to be
done was to sever the wire still attached to the rest of the net and
unwind it.

Fordyce pointed to the work to be attacked. The two men instinctively
knew what was required and set to work with their hacksaws while the
Sub kept the light fixed upon the object of their labours.

Presently he listened intently. Above the faint hiss of the air
escaping through the release-valve of his helmet he could detect the
rapid threshing of a vessel's propellers. Louder and louder grew the
sound. Submarine undulations almost swept the three men from their
precarious perch as a swiftly-moving craft passed 60 feet overhead.
The suspended net swayed to and fro like a flimsy curtain in a strong
draught, while into and beyond the faint halo of light swept the
bight of a metallic rope.

The Sub's first inclination--that of self-preservation--was to
release his stock of compressed air and rise blindly to the surface.
It took all his presence of mind to subdue the temptation. He knew
the danger. At the end of that trailing cable was a powerful charge
of high-explosive. A hostile destroyer was doing her level best to
blow the trapped submarine to smithereens.



CHAPTER XIII

Kapitan-Leutnant von Hoppner's Prowess


"There are worse tasks than this," mentally observed Kapitan-Leutnant
Ludwig von Hoppner of H.I.M. torpedo-boat V201, as he went below to
his cabin. "Himmel! There is but little chance of destruction in
these waters, unless we have our orders to attack the Russians, but
it is infinitely to be preferred to service in our unterseebooten.
Thanks to our elaborate defences against those accursed Englanders
one can enjoy a good night's rest afloat. It was indeed thoughtful of
my friend, von Rutter, to get me transferred from the Cuxhaven
division to the Baltic."

Unfortunately for von Hoppner's good intentions his idea of having an
undisturbed slumber was rudely shattered by the appearance of a
messenger.

"What is it, numskull?" thundered the Kapitan-Leutnant.

"A signal from the flag ship, Herr Kapitan," replied the man. "The
armed liner _Komoran_ has arrived from the South Atlantic with
numerous prisoners. We are to pass her through without delay."

Grumblingly von Hoppner resumed his recently-discarded greatcoat and
muffler, thrust his cap over his eyes, and made his way on deck and
thence to the bridge.

"Well?" he enquired laconically, addressing a tall,
cadaverous-featured unter-leutnant.

"The _Komoran_ is sighted, sir," replied the junior officer. "S19 has
just signalled that she is escorting her direct to Stettin. This
time, I trust, there will be no mistake."

Unter-Leutnant Schwam was referring to the case of a German
commerce-destroyer that, having successfully evaded the British
patrols in the North Sea, was fired upon and sunk by Hun cruisers in
the Baltic under the misapprehension that she was an enemy vessel
attempting to run the gauntlet. Since then elaborate precautions had
been taken to prevent a similar occurrence, one of which was that
commanding officers of patrolling craft were to be on the bridge
whenever a German war vessel was passing through the cordon.

Having carried out his duties as far as the returning raider was
concerned, von Hoppner was about to seek his bunk once more when a
vivid light flared from the surface of the water at a distance of
less than two miles from the patrolling torpedo-boat.

"Donnerwetter!" ejaculated the now furious Kapitan-Leutnant. "Am I to
get no sleep to-night? How does that light bear, Herr Schwam?"

The Unter-Leutnant took a compass bearing and reported the result of
his investigations to his superior.

"Then that is at Position 24," declared von Hoppner. "Our section of
the defence, confound it!"

He rang for half speed ahead, giving instructions to the
Quarter-Master to steer towards the burning calcium light that
indicated a violent disturbance of the steel net 40 or 50 feet
beneath the waves.

The "tell-tale" was an ingenious device consisting of a calcium-light
buoy made of glass, so as to be practically invisible during
daylight. On the under side of the buoy was a "friction-tube" of
sufficient strength to resist the power of the winds and currents,
but at the impact of a submerged vessel with the net the buoy-rope
connecting the latter with the buoy would put a strain on the
friction-tube enough to ignite the dazzling light.

As V201 proceeded towards the object of her investigations the watch
on deck prepared the deadly "distance-charge" grapnel. Over the stern
was tossed a length of flexible wire rope, terminating in a cylinder
of high-explosive and a barbed contrivance to engage in the net
adhering to the trapped vessel. At first only 100 metres were paid
out; the rest of the circuit, roughly twice that length, was wound
round a drum.

"All ready aft?" shouted the Kapitan-Leutnant.

Receiving an affirmative reply, von Hoppner ordered speed to be
reduced to that corresponding to five knots, and, since the more
slowly the grapnel was moving through the water the deeper it sank,
the explosive charge was now in a position to engage the obstruction.

Suddenly there was a jerk on the wire rope. The petty officer
operating the hand-brake of the winding-drum allowed another hundred
metres to reel off before checking the revolving cylinder. Not until
the third hundred metres was on the point of being reached did he jam
the brake hard on.

"Now!" he exclaimed tersely.

At the word a seaman pressed the key of the firing-battery. With a
deafening roar a column of water leapt high in the air, accompanied
by a dense cloud of smoke. Then came the hiss of falling foam and the
heavy plash of solid objects striking the surface as they dropped
from great and varying heights. Then all was silent.

"Farewell, Englander!" exclaimed von Hoppner gleefully.

"Not much doubt about that, Herr Kapitan-Leutnant," added Schwam
obsequiously.

"Let us hope we did the trick properly," rejoined von Hoppner; then,
leaning over the guard-rail, he gave orders for the search-light to
be unscreened.

Although the calcium light had vanished in the terrific upheaval,
there was no mistaking the locality of the explosion. Already within
a radius of a hundred yards the surface of the water was covered with
oil that gave a weird kaleidoscopic effect under the slanting beams
of the search-lights.

"Himmel, she carried an enormous quantity of oil!" remarked
Unter-Leutnant Schwam, as V201 steamed slowly round the
steadily-increasing circle of iridescent liquid. "It will be
interesting, when we send down the divers, to find out what type of
craft she was."

Satisfied with the result of the preliminary investigations, V201
switched off her search-lights. Before returning to his cabin von
Hoppner drafted a dispatch for transmission by wireless to the
officer commanding the patrol flotilla. Then, his mind occupied with
contented visions of honours that were to be bestowed upon him for
his signal services, the Kapitan-Leutnant went below.

Soon after daybreak, lighters with diving-parties and spare nets
proceeded to the spot. The divers reported the wreckage of a large
vessel, evidently one of a new class of submersible cruisers of at
least 4000 tons displacement. Had the Hun authorities employed
experts for the examination, instead of taking the word of a
seaman-diver, they would have modified their extravagant claim. As it
was, Berlin claimed the destruction of an enormous British
submarine-cruiser, while von Hoppner had the Ordre pour le Mérite
bestowed upon him by his wildly delighted Emperor, who also liberally
showered Iron Crosses upon the torpedo-boat's crew.



CHAPTER XIV

The Way Out


Sub-Lieutenant Fordyce and his two companions clung desperately to
the motionless blades of the crippled propeller as they awaited what
they were firmly convinced was the end.

Although it seemed an interminable period before the expected
explosion took place, only a few seconds actually elapsed before the
detonation occurred.

Through the lens of his helmet the Sub saw nothing of the nature of a
flash. He heard the roar; it smote upon his temples like the blow of
a club, as a rush of violently agitated water all but swept him from
his precarious position. His head-dress came in contact with a hard
substance. It seemed as if the metal helmet was collapsing under the
shock.

Still he held on, wondering dully why he had not been pulverized by
the explosion, or at least his diving-dress torn asunder. Nothing of
this nature happening, he sought his companions. Cassidy was still
there, literally hugging the outboard part of the propeller shafting,
but of Payne there was no sign. All the tools had vanished, with the
exception of one hack-saw. The rest were lying on the bottom of the
sea, ninety feet or more below, doubtless with the unfortunate Payne.
The Sub still retained his electric lamp. Cassidy also had his, but
the light had failed.

The hull of the submarine was still oscillating gently under the
influence of the disturbed water. It was a good sign. Had the plating
been shattered by the explosion, the vessel would have sunk like a
stone. As it was, she still retained a reserve of buoyancy, but was
prevented from rising only by the retaining influence of portions of
the steel net. Subsequent events proved that this was a blessing in
disguise, for R19 would have risen to the surface in the full glare
of the German torpedo-boat's search-lights.

Signing to Cassidy, the Sub indicated that the task of freeing the
propeller should proceed. It was a slow job with only one hack-saw at
their disposal, but one by one the tough strands were severed.

Fordyce was on the point of giving his companion a spell, when a
scratching, rasping noise against his helmet rudely attracted his
attention. He was just in time to avoid a kick on the plate-glass
front of his head-dress from a leaden-soled boot, as Payne, making
his way down the tapering stern of the submarine, was gamely
returning to his interrupted task. The explosion, the effect of which
was greatly mitigated by the buffer of water, had wrenched him from
his perch, and had lifted him 20 or 30 feet vertically upwards,
depositing him upon the rounded afterpart of the submarine.

The churning sounds of the Hun torpedo-boat's propellers had now
ceased. It was indeed fortunate, Fordyce decided, that the vessel
made no further attempt to use explosive charges. The Sub had no idea
of what time had elapsed since he and his companions left the
submarine. It was certainly not far short of an hour. To let the rest
of the crew know that they were still alive and, what was almost as
important, active, they hammered upon the steel plating.

The task was nearing completion. With the blood running from a dozen
cuts in their benumbed hands, as the strands of the tough wire rasped
the flesh, they deftly unwound the severed layers from the boss of
the propeller, until the gun-metal, polished with the friction of the
wire, was revealed, free from anything that was likely to impede the
propulsive action of the blades.

Unexpectedly, R19 gave a jerk as the remaining strands of the
retaining net parted. Almost before they were aware of it, the Sub
and his companions found themselves a few feet beneath the surface,
still clinging to the propeller blades.

"If they start up the motors it's all U P with us," thought Fordyce,
until he remembered that close at hand there had been a trailing
length of signal halyard.

Thank Heaven, it was still there! Signing to the two men, the Sub
pointed to the rope. Up they swarmed--easily until their helmets
cleared the surface of the water. Beyond that they could not rise
another foot without assistance. Held down by their leaden weights,
the effect of which was almost negligible when submerged, they were
helpless to gain the submarine's deck.

A seaman can almost invariably be relied upon to extricate himself
from a tight corner. Drawing his sheath-knife, Cassidy quickly
severed the cords that attached the leaden weights to the Sub's
chest, and, with a reckless disregard of His Majesty's stores, cut
away his metal-shod boots.

Assisted by the petty officer, Fordyce hauled himself to the deck,
while Cassidy set about to perform a similar office for the A.B. But
help was forthcoming from another direction. Through the
conning-tower hatchway came Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale and a
dozen of the crew. The various members of the diving-party were
relieved of their head-gear and dresses with the utmost dispatch.

"Propeller cleared? Excellent!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek. "We thought
that you were all knocked out. I cannot account for the fact that the
old boat's hull withstood the explosion."

"There was a wreck lying almost athwart our bows, sir," replied
Fordyce. "The grapnel must have engaged in her topsides, and, when
the charge was detonated, the hull and the water between must have
borne the brunt."

"Fortunately for us," rejoined the Lieutenant-Commander. "We'll have
to be making a move before another Hun barges in to attempt to strafe
us. What's that, Wilkins?"

"We're still hung up, sir," reported the petty officer addressed. "A
few strands of wire across the deck just abaft No. 2 quick-firer.
I've told off some hands to hack it through."

"Very good; carry on," said the Hon. Derek. "Report when the job's
done. Pass that gear below, men."

The diving-dresses were returned to their proper place. The
Lieutenant-Commander made his way for'ard to superintend the last of
the task of freeing the submarine from the toils of the net, while
Fordyce and the two divers went below to change into dry clothing and
partake of food and hot drinks.

For the present all was quiet. The patrol vessels were out of sight
and hearing. Their search-lights had been switched off, and there
were no indications that signals were being exchanged. It was safe to
conclude that, under the impression that the intruding submarine had
been effectively accounted for, the Huns did not anticipate further
trouble in that direction.

At length the welcome order came for half-speed ahead. Rhythmically
both propellers began to churn the water. It spoke volumes for the
thoroughness of the shipwrights who had built the vessel that,
notwithstanding the severe strain when the propeller "seized up",
there were no defects from strained shafting, stripped gears, or
leaky stuffing-boxes.

"We've had enough of submarine nets for the present," remarked the
Lieutenant-Commander to Lieutenant Macquare. "I won't risk submerging
until we are well clear of this area, unless, of course, a Hun
destroyer butts in. By Jove! Young Fordyce is a brick! I didn't envy
him his job, but he carried it out splendidly."

"Now it's all over," confided Macquare. "I'm jolly glad I didn't have
to tackle the business. The thought of it gave me cold feet."

"Tut, tut, Macquare!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek. "You suggested and
volunteered for the task."

"Aye," agreed the Lieutenant. "And I would have done my best to see
it through; but all the same I didn't relish it, and it's no use
saying I did. Yes, Fordyce deserves special recommendation. Cassidy
and Payne too--splendid fellows both."

"And they'll get it," added the Hon. Derek. "That is if we are alive
to tell the tale."

Just before dawn R19 was fairly in the Baltic. The peril of the
mine-field was a thing of the past. Nevertheless, owing to the
possible presence of enemy air-craft and to the fact that several
vessels were sighted, Stockdale decided to submerge and lie on the
bed of the sea until dusk. While the submarine was in the western
Baltic it was a case of hasten slowly, hiding by day and travelling
awash during the hours of darkness.

As the Hon. Derek passed through the ward-room on his way to his
cabin he found Noel Fordyce sitting on a settee and fondling the
faithful Flirt. Chalmers had told the Sub how the dog knew that her
master was out of the vessel. Instinctively the animal had realized
that he was in danger, and her efforts to break loose to find the Sub
were only stopped when the petty officer, at the risk of forfeiting
all future affection from the submarine's mascot, locked Flirt in one
of the store compartments.

"Come and have a snack with me, Fordyce," said the
Lieutenant-Commander. "Bring Flirt too."

It was a pleasant meal. The Hon. Derek was a genial host. He
possessed a strong vein of humour and had the happy knack of putting
a guest entirely at his ease. Not once did he touch upon the subject
of the Sub's heroic act. He purposely avoided talking "shop", and
quite naturally kept the conversation confined to matters of general
interest.

Presently the subject of Flirt's indiscretion and Fordyce's
appearance at the Otherport Police Court came up, and the Hon. Derek,
hearing the story at full length--Noel had but briefly outlined the
account when Flirt smuggled herself on board--laughed heartily at
Nell's impersonation of her daughter.

"There is another yarn in connection with the affair," continued
Fordyce, encouraged by his superior officer's interest. "This
Mindiggle blighter is a queer fish. I went to see him before he took
out the summons and tried to put him off. He seemed to know all about
my being on R19, when she was leaving Otherport, and also her
destination. Then he tried to, well, not exactly blackmail me, but
something preciously close to the wind. The rotter offered to
overlook Flirt's lapse of manners if I consented to do a bit of
smuggling--to take a small parcel of diamonds to some pal of his in
Petrograd."

The Hon. Derek had listened in silence to the Sub's narrative. At
this point he sat bolt upright.

"Fordyce," he exclaimed, "why on earth didn't you spin this yarn to me
before? Diamonds to Petrograd! I suppose you didn't bring any of the
infernal stuff on board?"



CHAPTER XV

Picking up the Pilot


"Sorry, sir," said Fordyce. "I didn't attach any particular
importance to the fellow's request at the time. I boomed him off,
absolutely. Refused point-blank to touch his blessed diamonds."

"I am glad to hear that," said the Hon. Derek. "At the same time, it
is a regrettable matter that you did not report the affair to a
competent naval or military authority. I'll briefly outline the facts
concerning these so-called diamonds. The stuff is actually a
super-powerful explosive, a secret compound of which one ingredient
is known to be obtainable only in a few isolated districts in
Cornwall. Our Munitions Department has been attending to the matter
for months past. The analysts have discovered that the stuff--they
call it nitro-talcite--is capable of being detonated only at a
temperature below -5° C. And the strange part of it is that
nobody in the department has yet been able to compound the explosive.
All the data has been based upon the examination of a small quantity
that was seized on a vessel bound for Archangel--so Sir Josiah
Sticklewood, the Admiralty explosive expert, tells me. Who the makers
of the stuff are and how they get it out of the country has been a
mystery."

"It's fortunate that in England the temperature rarely falls to much
below freezing-point," remarked Fordyce.

"Yes, and that accounts principally for the fact that the explosive
has not been used against us at home," continued the
Lieutenant-Commander. "Russia, on the other hand, offers plenty of
opportunities in that direction. The disaster at Archangel and the
terrific explosion at Petrograd can be well attributed to the work of
Extremists or German Secret Service agents--practically the same
thing. What does surprise me is that Mindiggle went so far as to
attempt to coerce you; only, of course, he hadn't the faintest idea
that we know as much concerning nitro-talcite as we do."

"Is it too late to lay him by the heels?" asked the Sub.

"I am doubtful whether it would be advisable until we make sure of
our ground," replied the Hon. Derek. "Do you happen to remember the
address on the packet?"

"Rather!" said Fordyce emphatically. "And I jotted it down in my
pocket-book."

"Good man! Now this is what I propose doing: to make up a dummy
packet of broken glass--from all accounts broken glass is a common
object in Petrograd just at present--and deliver it at Vladimir
Klostivitch's house in the Bobbinsky Prospekt. We'll have to do the
business entirely off our own bat. It's not the faintest use taking
the Russian Government officials into our confidence at the present
juncture, for the simple reason that they don't know where they are
and we don't either. If Klostivitch is merely an agent, we don't get
much forrarder, unless he is injudiciously communicative. If he is a
principal, then we'll do our level best to lay him by the heels. It's
not the first time I've done police duty ashore."

And the Hon. Derek smiled reminiscently as he recalled a certain
incident in his naval career, when, with a mere handful of
bluejackets, he had nipped in the bud a revolution in an obscure
little republic.

Then he rose from his chair and patted the Sub on the back.

"Fordyce," he exclaimed, "I have it! You'll have to assume the
character of a red-hot revolutionist, and to introduce me to this
rascal Klostivitch as Comrade So-and-so, a sympathetic Englishman,
who, although unable to speak a word of Russian, has made his way to
Petrograd for the express purpose of congratulating Klostivitch and
his friends upon their arduous work in the interests of liberty and
equality."

"Isn't it a bit risky, sir?" asked Fordyce.

The Lieutenant-Commander raised his eyebrows in mild surprise.

"From a diplomatic point of view," continued the Sub.

"Not if we go to work in the right way," replied the Hon. Derek.
"After we've settled with Comrade Klostivitch, I'll report the
circumstances to the British Embassy--but not before. For the present
we'll let the matter drop. It is yet too early to go into details."

In due course R19 arrived off the Gulf of Riga. During the run across
the Baltic she had studiously avoided craft of every description,
although she had several chances of successfully attacking small
German vessels. Stockdale let them "carry on", not from choice but of
necessity. A tremendous lot depended upon the secret arrival of a
British submarine to help the Russian navy against that of the Huns.
He acted upon the principle that a hunter stalking a lion will not
waste a shot upon a jackal, and thus prematurely alarm the main
object of his efforts.

Just before midnight R19 rose to the surface and lay motionless upon
the tranquil water. She was now within sight and sound of the guns,
for the German land force had thrown the Russians out of the
important town of Riga, while their auxiliary vessels were busily
engaged in sweeping the mine-field across the mouth of the gulf, to
enable the High Seas Fleet to find a secure anchorage before
attempting to discover and overwhelm the New Republic's Baltic Fleet.

Away to the south-eastward, and faintly discernible against the
continuous flashes of the guns, could be seen the German
mine-sweepers and their covering vessels--light cruisers and
torpedo-boats. As yet the battleships and armoured cruisers had not
left Kiel.

For an hour R19 remained motionless; then the order was given to dive
and rest on the sea bed. The reason no one on board knew except the
Hon. Derek and Lieutenant Macquare. The men could not form any
satisfactory opinion of the submarine's apparent inactivity. They
could not understand why they did not go for everything afloat that
was German, instead of "sounding" time after time.

For three successive nights R19 popped up for the space of sixty
minutes. Each time the officers carefully fixed the submarine's
position by means of cross bearings and the use of position-finders.

At midnight on the fourth consecutive night of inaction Fordyce and
the Lieutenant-Commander were on deck when they heard the subdued hum
of an aerial propeller. It lacked the well-known sound of a British
machine, nor did it make a noise like a Gotha. The two men exchanged
glances.

"That's it!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek. "Pass the word for the Very's
light."

It seemed a risky thing to do--to send up a couple of rockets from a
British craft that was lying four or five miles only from the line of
German patrol-boats--but there was no option.

A red and a green rocket blazed overhead. From the hovering sea-plane
came an answering flash. Her motors were then switched off, and, with
a swift volplane, she alighted upon the surface at less than fifty
yards from the submarine.

Then "taxi-ing" cautiously, the sea-plane approached the lee'ard side
of R19, until one of the occupants dexterously caught a rope hurled
from the submarine's deck.

A greatcoated, muffled figure made its way along one of the
projecting floats of the sea-plane and clambered up the bulging side
of R19.

"Welcome, gentlemen!" he exclaimed in Russian.

The officer deputed by the Russian Government to pilot the British
submarine through the mine-fields guarding the approaches to
Cronstadt had arrived at a most opportune moment.



CHAPTER XVI

The Battle of Moon Sound


With the least possible delay the Hon. Derek escorted the Russian
below. As the sea-plane again rose in the air the submarine dived;
not a moment too soon, for already half a dozen German patrol-boats
were making towards the spot in an attempt to solve the mystery of
the nocturnal signals.

Deputing Lieutenant Macquare to con the submerged vessel, the
Lieutenant-Commander, accompanied by Fordyce, entertained the pilot
in the little ward-room. Although the Sub could speak Russian, the
conversation was maintained in French, since the Hon. Derek and the
pilot could exchange ideas without the somewhat cumbrous medium of an
interpreter.

The Russian was Naval Lieutenant Rodsky, a tall, full-faced man with
pronounced Tartar features. He was obviously ill at ease when
Stockdale asked him concerning affairs in the Russian navy. He was in
rather a difficult position, as were most of the officers who had
sworn allegiance to the Tsar of all the Russias. Under the new regime
of equality and ultra-democracy the Russian seamen were seething with
unrest. Discipline was lax; the men, partly held by the traditions of
the Imperial navy and partly dominated by the highly-unstable
Revolutionary Government, were literally "at sixes and sevens". Torn
by internal dissensions and threatened from the outside by an
onslaught of the German High Seas Fleet, the Russian navy was little
better than a collection of disorganized ships awaiting
destruction--unless the men responded to the trumpet-call of true
patriotism.

It was ill news that Lieutenant Rodsky brought. On land the Huns were
sweeping nearer towards Petrograd, meeting with little opposition
from the disorganized Russians. At sea the Russian fleet was in
danger of being cornered and annihilated in the intricate channel
known as Moon Sound.

Internally things were in a deplorable condition. The Revolutionists
were divided amongst themselves. There was street fighting and
rioting in Petrograd and other large cities and towns. Deserters from
the front were arriving in thousands to swell the ranks of the
Extremists; others, under the impression that there was to be a
general partitioning of land, were hurrying back to their villages to
share in the promised distribution. Munition factories were idle; the
stock of shells had fallen almost to nothing. Labour demanded and
obtained fabulous rates of payment that availed the men but little,
since there was little or no food to be bought.

"By Jove, I feel sorry for that fellow, sir!" remarked Fordyce, after
Rodsky had been shown to the cabin temporarily given up to him. "He's
like a toad under a harrow. You noticed how guarded he was in
everything he said; yet I believe he's simply longing to speak his
mind."

"And I feel sorry for Russia," replied the Hon. Derek. "There's not
the faintest possible shadow of doubt that she's out of it. She'll
have to stew in her own hash, and by the time the Huns have finished
with her she'll heartily wish for the old order of things. But the
fact remains that an additional burden is thrown upon our
shoulders--the Allies', I mean. There's one thing I hope for, and
that is, that we'll be able to get a smack at the Huns before we
clear out. Unless I'm much mistaken, we'll find ourselves in a pretty
kettle of fish if this threatened armistice does come off."

At eight bells (midday) Fordyce turned out to "take his trick".
Throughout the night R19 had been under way, running awash when she
had put a reasonable distance between herself and the Riga patrol
vessels.

Going on deck, the Sub found that there was a considerable
"chop"--short, steep-crested waves slapping the submarine's hull,
and occasionally breaking over the entire forepart of the vessel.
Overhead the sky was heavy with rain-clouds moving slowly, yet
betokening plenty of wind before many hours had passed.

"Can you hear gun-fire?" asked Macquare, after he had given his
relief the course.

Fordyce listened. Above the plash of the waves he could hear a faint,
continual rumble.

"Yes," he replied. "Too hot for ordinary practice."

"Rather!" agreed the Lieutenant. "We're in luck, Fordyce. The Huns
are hammering the Russians, and we've got their battleships between
us and our allies. Keep her as she is, and report to the skipper the
moment you see anything."

An hour later the main body of the hostile fleet was sighted away to
the nor'east. The battleships in two divisions were engaged in
long-range firing, although from the submarine's deck nothing could
be seen of the nature of their objective. On either flank of the
double line were light cruisers and torpedo-boats; overhead a couple
of Zeppelins and a swarm of sea-planes were engaged in scouting and
observation-work.

Just as Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale was about to give the order to
submerge, the enemy formation underwent a change. One division headed
towards the comparatively narrow entrance to Moon Sound, firing
heavily as it went; the other bore up in a north-westerly direction,
with the evident plan of steaming half-way round the islands of Ossel
and Dago, and taking the retreating Russians in the rear.

Stockdale acted with praiseworthy caution. The presence of a numerous
torpedo-boat flotilla in the rear of the battleship division, and the
scouting planes overheard, made it a matter of extreme risk for R19
to draw within effective torpedo range. In the comparatively shallow
and clear water her submerged hull would be clearly visible from a
height. Directly the long-drawn northern twilight set in, the
submarine's opportunity would arrive.

The Russian ships were resisting fiercely. Occasionally a German
battleship would fall out of line, more or less damaged. The
destroyers of the Republic, too, were far from inactive. On four
separate occasions groups of them made desperate "hussar strokes"
upon their powerful foes. In each case the plucky boats were sent to
the bottom under a heavy concentrated fire, but not before their
torpedoes had "got home" against the enormous hulls of their
opponents.

Suddenly a rain-squall swept the sea, blotting out the light-grey
hulls of the German ships. It was Stockdale's chance, and he took it.

"Action stations! Launch home all tubes!"

Under the hail-swept waves R19 plunged, submerged to 18 feet, and
headed straight for the centre of the enemy division.



CHAPTER XVII

Hit


With the tips of her periscopes just showing above the surface, R19
stealthily approached her prey. Every water-tight door was closed,
even the hatch between the conning-tower and the centre compartment.
Within the confined space of the conning-tower stood the Hon. Derek,
Fordyce, and Petty Officer Chalmers, whose duty it was to transmit
the Lieutenant-Commander's orders by means of voice-tubes, and
telegraph to the torpedo-hands, engine-room artificers, and men
stationed at the auxiliary ballast-tanks.

The hail and spray beating upon the glass lenses of the periscopes
blurred and distorted the images in the object-bowls. There was no
time for the globules of moisture to fall clear of the prepared glass
before others took their place. Fumes of so-called smokeless powder,
too, were drifting sluggishly to leeward, beaten down by the heavy
fall of rain. In the circumstances, it made the chances of the
slender periscopes being seen very remote, while, on the other hand,
although not to the same extent, the submarine's intended victims
were obscured by the misty conditions.

Twice R19 dived deeply as groups of torpedo-boats tore athwart her
track, ignorant of the presence of the formidable British submarine.

Then, cautiously and deliberately rising towards the surface, R19
again exposed her periscopes.

"Thanks be!" ejaculated the Hon. Derek, as, a couple of points on the
starboard bow, loomed up the towering outlines of one of Germany's
most recent battleships.

A slight touch of the helm and the submarine turned until her
bow-tubes pointed dead on the stem of her prey. At the rate the
battleship was moving she would be struck amidships by the time the
two torpedoes covered the intervening space.

"Fire!"

Down in the bow compartment the alert L.T.O.'s depressed the
firing-levers of the two 21-inch tubes. A faint hiss as the
compressed-air propulsive charges expelled the steel cylinders, and
the gurgling sound of inrushing water, to compensate the weight of
the missiles, alone announced to the cool and determined men that
their part of the immediate business was completed. Whether it was to
be "hit or miss" they were not to know at present. It depended upon
the skill of their daring skipper.

Stockdale took his chance with fate. The moment he made certain, by
the air-bubbles in the wake of the locomotive weapons, that the
torpedoes were speeding towards their mark he dived. So far so good;
but sheer curiosity prompted him to bring the submarine towards the
surface until her periscopes were exposed. True, he ran several
hundred yards under water before he did so.

In the midst of a terrific cannonade the roar of the double explosion
was indistinguishable to the crew of R19. All they could hear was a
constant rumble. They were attacking under novel conditions as far as
they were concerned. It was not a case of lying in wait for a passing
hostile craft. Shells were flying in all directions, torpedo-boats,
on the look-out for submarines, were in attendance upon the larger
vessels. Whether some of the shells were being fired with the
intention of "doing in" the daring British craft none of her crew
would know until the submarine received a hit.

As the light grew brighter on the object-bowl of the conning-tower
periscope, both officers gave vent to a satisfied grunt. Eight
hundred yards away the German battleship was settling by the stern
with a terrific list to starboard. Smoke and steam were pouring from
her three funnels, her decks were thick with humanity, while already
many of the crew were scrambling down the sloping sides of the
listing hull. Destroyers were making for the sinking ship to pick up
the survivors, while others were maintaining a hot fire upon a
totally imaginary periscope a full half mile from those of R19.

Realizing that it was decidedly "unhealthy" to prolong the
satisfactory observation, the Hon. Derek gave orders to dive to 90
feet. In the turmoil of agitated water the submarine would be safe
from the inquisitive attentions of Zeppelins and other German
air-craft.

Before the raised periscopes could dip beneath the waves a dull crash
sounded almost immediately above the head of the Lieutenant-Commander
and the Duty Sub in the conning-tower. Simultaneously the vision in
the object-bowl vanished and the electric lamps were shattered into
framents.

"They've bagged us this time," thought Fordyce, but, restraining an
inclination to shout a cry of alarm, he compressed his lips firmly
and awaited the end. In the pitch-dark blackness, momentarily
expecting to be overwhelmed by the inrush of water, he stood rigidly
prepared to face the Unknown like a true British seaman.

"Ask them how the manometer stands, Chalmers," ordered the Hon.
Derek. There was not the faintest tremor in his clear, modulated
words.

"Ninety feet and still descending, sir," reported the petty officer.

"Good enough; keep her at that, Mr. Fordyce, if you can."

It was easier said than done. To control the diving-planes solely by
the sense of touch was a difficult task to carry out in the Cimmerian
darkness of the conning-tower.

"The sooner we get a light on the scene the better," continued the
Lieutenant-Commander. "Get each compartment to report, Chalmers. Ask
if any damage has been sustained."

Again the reply was satisfactory. Beyond a slight leak in the
'midship compartment--it was right over Fordyce's bunk he afterwards
discovered--the hull of the submarine was as tight as the proverbial
bottle.

Stockdale hesitated no longer. The cover-plate in the floor of the
conning-tower was thrown open, and once more the confined space was
flooded with light as the upcast rays from the centre compartment
were thrown through the circular opening.

"Keep her as she is, Mr. Fordyce," he ordered. "We can carry on a bit
without barging into anything other than a foundering Hun. Wonder
where they strafed us?"

Quickly an electrician fitted new lamps to the holders in the
conning-tower. The leads were intact. It was merely the sudden
concussion that had shattered the glass bulbs. A steady trickle
through the glands of the revolving periscope-shaft at the spot where
it passes through the dome of the conning-tower gave definite
evidence that R19 was no longer capable of vision. The hostile shell
that had all but cracked the massive steel plating had knocked both
periscopes out of action.

For twenty minutes the submarine ran at an average depth of 90 feet,
until, for fear of getting into shoal water, her Lieutenant-Commander
allowed her to rest upon the bottom. Judging by the manner in which
she grounded, the submarine was resting on soft mud, and, since there
was a fairly strong current setting past, the sediment made an
efficient camouflage against the prying eyes of the Huns' aerial
scouts.

The water-tight doors were opened and the Hon. Derek made a tour of
his ship. Already the news of the destruction of one of the German
battleships had spread. Steel bulkheads were not proof against the
transmission of the glad tidings.

In the torpedo-room the men were singing. The Lieutenant-Commander
paused and listened to the refrain. A smile played over his face as
he caught the words, sung to an old music-hall favourite air:


  "I don't care what becomes of me,
   S' long as a Hun's at the bottom of the sea".


The interior of Fordyce's cabin presented a scene of desolation.
Overhead, the leak had been plugged by means of a steel disk faced
with india-rubber. Until it could be secured by means of bolts and
washers--a job only capable of being undertaken when the submarine
was running on the surface--the plug was shored up by a couple of
stout spars, held by an elaborate contraption of wedges and wire
"racking". While the submarine was deep down, and before the
temporary repairs had been effected, the water had gushed through
with considerable force notwithstanding the smallness of the jet. It
had made a clean sweep of the Sub's _lares_ and _penates_--those
little nicknacks and photographs with which his otherwise Spartan
cabin was adorned. Bedding, spare clothing, and nautical instruments
were lying in sodden confusion upon the floor; for, although the
water had been expelled by means of force-pumps, the damage had been
done before any steps could be taken to prevent it.

"Looks like Christmas Eve ashore, and the water-pipes burst, sir,"
remarked Fordyce, as his skipper offered his condolences. "It might
be worse, and I can sleep on the ward-room settee."

"And don't hesitate to use any of my gear," added the practically
sympathetic Lieutenant-Commander. "Hallo! What's the latest racket?"

He might well ask, for with a dull thud something landed heavily upon
the submarine's deck with a force sufficient to make the vessel roll
sluggishly in her muddy berth.



CHAPTER XVIII

Pinned Down


"Something heavy athwart us, sir," remarked Lieutenant Macquare,
stating what was an obvious fact to all on board. "But she's standing
it all right."

"I wonder what it can be?" asked the Lieutenant-Commander.

"Just as likely as not a sinking torpedo-boat has inconsiderately
dropped on top of us," surmised the Lieutenant. "If so, the question
is how are we to come to the surface? It will take a lot of our
reserve of buoyancy to overcome the suction of the mud, and with that
lump of metal pinning us down----! Must look facts fairly in the
face, sir."

The Lieutenant-Commander was on the horns of a dilemma. In order to
prevent R19 sinking deeper and deeper into the ooze under the
abnormal pressure of the unknown mass athwart her deck the submarine
ought to be either brought to the surface or, failing that, kept
"lively".

Any attempt in either direction would have the result of stirring up
the already muddy water, and to such an extent that the presence of
the lurking submarine would be made known to the hostile
patrol-boats.

"We'll stand fast for a few hours," decided the Hon. Derek. "If the
worst comes to the worst we'll have to shed our ballast keel,
although, goodness only knows, then we'll be properly in the soup."

Amongst other mechanical devices R19 was provided with a heavy metal
keel that in case of emergency could be released from within.
Deprived of this anti-buoyant contrivance she would rise rapidly to
the surface. It was a step to be taken only as a desperate resort,
for before the compensating water-ballast tanks could be filled
several precious minutes must necessarily elapse, during which time
the submarine would be a target for every quick-firer within range.

"Very good, sir," replied Macquare.

He was quite content to accept his chief's decision without question.
Not having been asked his opinion on the matter, he offered none. He
was one of those men who knew how to give orders and receive them.
Even if he were convinced in his own mind of an error of judgment on
the part of his skipper, his strict adherence to the principles of
discipline would have kept him silent.

For another six long-drawn hours the blinded submarine lay
motionless. Fortunately there were no signs of the hull plating
collapsing under the weight of the obstruction. Apart from the
slight, almost imperceptible, leak in the roof of Fordyce's cabin
--for the artificers had tackled the job promptly and
effectually--the hull of R19 was as tight as a bottle.

"We'll risk it now, I think," declared the Hon. Derek as he consulted
his wristlet watch. "Start the auxiliary ballast-tanks first and see
how she likes it."

The powerful, double-action pumps quickly ejected the water-ballast.
In ordinary circumstances the submarine should have risen to the
surface. She showed no tendency in that direction. Without any
exhibition of liveliness she lay obstinately on the bed of the sea.

"Nothin' doin'!" commented the Hon. Derek. "Give her half speed
ahead."

The dynamos purred. The hull trembled under the action of the twin
propellers. Whether the submarine was forging ahead was a matter for
speculation. Certain it was that she was failing to respond to the
deflection of the horizontal diving-rudders.

"Stop! Half speed astern."

Beyond an increased reverberation of the hull nothing resulted. Even
when the Lieutenant-Commander took the somewhat desperate step of
ordering full speed astern R19 failed to respond.

"Blow main ballast-tanks," was the next order.

The submarine now showed a certain liveliness, although in her
present trim she ought to be floating with nearly six feet of
freeboard.

"She's trying to lift herself aft, sir," reported Fordyce.

"Is she, by Jove!" exclaimed the Lieutenant-Commander. "Send all
available hands for'ard, and see if that makes any difference."

Quickly the men made their way to the first and second compartments,
and, taking their time from the Lieutenant, ran from side to side as
far as the congested state of the vessel permitted. At the same time
the motors were running full speed astern.

For full five minutes the manoeuvre was mantained without tangible
result; then, with dramatic suddenness, R19 shot obliquely towards
the open air.

The first intimation that the submarine had "broken surface" was the
terrific and disconcerting racing of the engines as the twin
propellers revolved at high speed in the air.

Promptly the artificers switched off the current, and R19, well down
by the bows, floated motionless.

Momentarily expecting a fusillade from one, if not more, German
destroyers, the Hon. Derek rushed up the ladder to the conning-tower
and strove to open the hatch. The locking-bolts refused to budge. The
blow that the submarine had received before her latest dive had
jammed the closely-fitting metal plate.

The after hatch gave better results. Followed by Fordyce, the Hon.
Derek gained the open air.

With feelings of relief, both officers realized that all immediate
danger was past. Not an enemy vessel was in sight. A couple of miles
to the south-east'ard lay the stranded and partly-submerged hull of a
large Russian battleship.

Her upper-works were rent and shattered by gun-fire. Military masts
and funnels had gone by the board. From the sole remaining turret a
pair of 12-inch guns projected at a grotesque angle to each other.
Dense clouds of smoke were pouring from the battery.

Fordyce glanced at the lowering bank of clouds overhead and listened
intently. He could faintly discern the bass hum of an aerial
propeller. Somewhere in that great vault of vapour a sea-plane was
cleaving the air, invisible from the submarine's deck, but liable at
any moment to swoop within view.

The risk of being bombed had to be taken. The first important task
was to discover what it was that was pinning down the submarine's
bows, and to take steps to rectify matters.

R19's stern was almost clear of the water. As she dipped to the long
sullen swell, the tips of her propellers just touched the waves.
Amidships, the base of the conning-tower was just awash, but the rise
of the navigation-platform prevented further investigation from the
spot where the Lieutenant-Commander and the Sub stood.

"Pass the word for all hands on deck," ordered Stockdale. "Fall in
aft."

Silently the men trooped from below. Their combined weight had the
effect of restoring the vessel to a slightly better trim, and it was
now possible for an investigation to be made of the for'ard part of
the deck.

Examination showed that a shell had exploded close to the
conning-tower, for the massive steel-work bore visible signs of the
impact of the flying slivers of metal. One of the principal tubes had
vanished, being shorn off close to the top of the conning-tower; the
other, buckled by a fragment of shell, trailed drunkenly over the
side, rasping and grinding with every roll of the vessel.

Springing upon the raised platform, Fordyce made his way for'ard and
past the rise of the conning-tower until further progress was stopped
by a huge cylindro-conical mass of metal lying athwart the deck. It
was an unexploded 15-inch shell, weighing more than a ton. Missing
its objective, the ponderous missile had sunk until it had alighted
fairly upon R19's deck.

Before the Sub could return and make his report, the roar of the
aerial motors grew deafening, and out of the clouds swept a large,
double-fuselaged biplane, bearing the distinctive Black Cross of
Germany.



CHAPTER XIX

Forced to Ascend


There were no signs of confusion on the deck of R19. Only the two
after quick-firers were available, and these were promptly manned.
Those of the crew who, in normal circumstances, were stationed below,
threw themselves flat on the deck.

The submarine could not dive without great risk of again courting the
peril from which she had so recently emerged. It was even a hazardous
business to keep under way, as the forward motion, combined by the
fact that she was down by the head, made it a difficult matter to
forge either ahead or astern. To all intents and purposes she was a
motionless target for the huge battle-seaplane that manoeuvred
overhead, seeking an opportunity to strafe her opponent by means of
her powerful bombs.

"Hoist the ensign! Let her have it, lads!"

Both quick-firers were speedily in action. So rapidly were they fired
that there was a constant clatter as the ejected metal cases were
thrown from the breech.

With his head thrown back, and a pair of binoculars to his eyes,
Fordyce watched the effect of the bursting shells. Viewed from below,
the sea-plane seemed in the very midst of a hollow globe of
mushroom-like clouds of smoke from bursting projectiles. Ahead,
astern, above and below, the shells burst. It seemed as if the
hostile air-craft could not escape the inferno of flying fragments;
yet, seemingly possessing a charmed existence, she swooped onwards to
take up a favourable position for releasing her bombs.

A heavy object, hurtling with ever-increasing velocity through the
air, struck the surface of the water at less than half a cable's
length on R19's port side. With a terrible din the bomb burst,
churning up cascades of spray and hurling minute particles of metal
in all directions. A second later another "egg" fell, fortunately
without exploding, although several of the submarine's crew were well
doused by the volume of foam that was flung all around.

Back swept the biplane, manoeuvring for the position she had lost by
her momentum.


[Illustration: AHEAD, ASTERN, ABOVE, AND BELOW, THE SHELLS BURST]


As she did so, she lurched violently and began a dizzy tail-dive.
Twisting and turning in erratic spirals she dropped seawards. Loud
cheers from R19's crew greeted her descent, but their jubilation was
premature.

The tail-spin was a "blind" to enable the Hun to avoid a particularly
unhealthy "air-patch". When within five hundred feet of the surface
of the sea, the air-craft described a semi-loop in a vertical plane,
and, flattening out, sped rapidly away until lost in the faint mist
that was banking from the nor'west.

"She's bitten off more than she can chew," declared Macquare. "Now,
lads, overboard with that lumber for'ard."

Half a dozen hands, led by the Lieutenant and Fordyce, plunged
knee-deep in the water that surged over the forepart of the
submarine. It was bitterly cold. Even at that time of the year the
temperature of the Baltic was far below the average.

With handspikes and crowbars the men strove to lever the huge
projectile over the side, "sword-mats" being placed in its path to
protect the exposed edge of the deck plating. All went well until the
shell was rolled to within a few inches of the edge. Then came a
check. Something, unnoticed owing to its being under water, prevented
further progress.

"Slue her round and let her roll for'ard a bit, sir," suggested a
petty officer. "Plenty of beef out to do the trick."

Lieutenant Macquare considered the suggestion. It was one thing for
an object weighing a ton to fall through several fathoms of water and
alight upon the submarine's deck without starting the steel plates,
another to roll the same object when its weight in air was enormously
greater than when immersed in water.

"Round with her, then!" he exclaimed.

"Destroyer broad on the starboard beam, sir," reported a signalman.

The Hon. Derek, standing on the platform in the wake of the
conning-tower, was quick to take in the situation. With a thirty-knot
destroyer bearing down at top speed delay would be fatal.

"Diving-stations!" he roared. "Look alive, men!"

Down the sole available hatchway the crew poured, the
Lieutenant-Commander, Macquare, Fordyce, and the Russian officer
standing by until the last of the "lower-deck ratings" had left the
deck. To dive was R19's only chance if she were to escape the
attentions of the destroyer. Badly trimmed, it was a difficult matter
to speculate as to how the submarine would behave--whether she would
dive too steeply and ram the mud or roll completely over.

The destroyer had evidently sighted the submarine, for she had
altered course and was bearing straight down towards her. As the Hon.
Derek leapt below and closed the water-tight lid of the hatchway the
approaching craft was less than two miles off.

With the water pouring into her ballast-tanks, and her motors running
full speed ahead, R19 plunged rather than glided beneath the waves.
Never before had the indicator pointed to such an excessive dip. The
lighting dynamo short-circuited, plunging the interior of the vessel
into profound darkness, while various articles of gear, breaking
loose, careered noisily across the confined space.

Clutching the hand-rail of one of the ladders, Fordyce felt his feet
slip from under him. There he hung, his weight supported solely by
his hands, awaiting what fate had in store for him.

He was surprised at his own calmness. He found himself reasoning
that, after all, one cannot expect to have things all one's own way.
Whatever happened, R19 had had more than an ordinary run of good
luck, and, should she be "knocked out", there was some satisfaction
in the knowledge that she had already acquitted herself in a manner
worthy of the traditions of the Royal Navy.

Above the turmoil of inanimate objects on board--for amongst the crew
strict silence and discipline were maintained--could be heard the
rapid threshing of the destroyer's propellers as the long, lean craft
passed almost directly above the diving submarine. Had the destroyer
made use of depth charges, nothing could have saved R19 from swift
destruction. Why she did not was a mystery to every man of the
submarine's complement.

Suddenly, to the accompaniment of a disconcerting, rasping clamour,
R19 jerked violently until she hung on an even keel. For some seconds
she remained thus; then, rolling excessively from side to side, she
bobbed up to the surface in spite of the weight of water in the
ballast-tanks and the action of the depressed diving-rudders.

Groping in the pitch darkness, the Lieutenant-Commander found the
lever actuating the hydroplanes. These he brought to a neutral
position, since they were useless for the purpose of submersion. R19,
unable to dive, was forging ahead blindly and erratically upon the
surface, an easy prey to the vigilant destroyer.

"Up, every mother's son of you!" roared the Hon. Derek. "We'll fight
her while there's a gun left fit for action or a man jack of us
remaining to face a Hun."

With a cheer the undaunted seamen followed their gallant captain,
ready to face death with the grim determination that is ever the
enviable possession of every true Briton when up against desperate
odds.



CHAPTER XX

Under Russian Escort


Hard on the heels of the Russian officer, Naval Lieutenant Rodsky,
the Sub made his way through the narrow hatchway. The sudden
transition from the darkness of the interior of the hull to the
brightness of the open air left him blinking in the watery sunlight.

Already the two after guns, which in the haste had been left
"unhoused", were being manned by the crews. Other guns' crews were
rushing for'ard to serve the bow quick-firers, for by this time R19
was floating on a perfectly even keel and showing an abnormal amount
of freeboard. The Hon. Derek and Lieutenant Macquare were standing by
the Quartermaster on the navigation-platform, since, owing to the
jamming of the conning-tower hatch, it was impossible to steer the
vessel except by means of the hand-wheel on the exposed raised
platform.

The destroyer was now less than a mile away. She had ported helm, and
was circling, with the evident intention of closing with the
submarine. Up to the present she made no attempt to use her guns. If
the destruction of R19 was her object, she apparently meant to use
her knife-like stem as the weapon of annihilation.

In strict silence the gun-layers trained the weapons, while the
captains of the guns awaited orders to open fire.

The stillness was broken by Lieutenant Rodsky suddenly leaping in the
air and waving his cap over his head, alighting heavily upon the toes
of the astonished Fordyce.

"Good!" shouted the Russian in his own language, forgetting to make
use of French in his excitement. "All is well. It is a Russian
destroyer, the _Zabiyaka_. I am certain on that point."

The Sub hastened to his commanding officer and translated the
Russian's words.

"Let's hope Ivan won't make a mistake then," remarked the Hon. Derek.
He glanced upwards at the White Ensign. In spite of the fact that it
was saturated with moisture, the bunting was streaming proudly on the
breeze.

Almost at the same time the destroyer's colours fluttered athwart her
course. There was no mistaking the blue St. Andrew's Cross on a white
field--the naval ensign of Russia. Notwithstanding changes ashore,
where a Republican flag had superseded that of the Emperor of all the
Russias, the fleet still retained the blue diagonal cross.

Even then the thought that the oncoming vessel might be displaying
false colours flashed through the Hon. Derek's mind. Russian-built
she might be, but there was no telling what changes had recently
taken place. She might have been captured by the Huns during the
operations in the Gulf of Riga or in the subsequent battle of Moon
Sound, and, as a prize, used against her former masters and their
allies. So the order was given for the guns' crews to stand fast and
await further orders.

Slowing down, the _Zabiyaka_ drew within hailing distance. She was
cleared for action, while a couple of jagged holes through her
foremost funnel and a dismounted quick-firer flung across her deck
were evidences that she had participated in a recent "scrap".

Her officers still wore the uniform of the Imperial Russian Navy; her
crew, alert, blonde-featured men, were quick to obey the orders given
by their superiors. It was pleasing to find that in this destroyer
the blighting canker of red revolution had not done its ruinous work.

A lively exchange of greetings passed between Rodsky and the
Captain-Lieutenant of the Russian vessel, from which the British
officers gathered that the destroyer had engaged and brought down the
Hun sea-plane that had vainly endeavoured to strafe the
partly-crippled R19. They also learnt that the Russian battleships
and cruisers had contrived to escape the trap in Moon Sound,
sustaining comparatively trivial losses; while the German High Seas
Fleet, shaken by submarine attack, had not ventured in pursuit, but
had drawn off, making, it was supposed, for Kiel.

The _Zabiyaka's_ commanding officer, hearing of the plight of the
British submarine, offered to escort her to within the limits of the
port of Cronstadt, where, it was to be hoped, sufficient repairs
could be effected to enable R19 to resume her aggressive rôle.

Examination showed that the submarine had sustained considerable
damage. In diving she had shaken off the enormous projectile that lay
across her deck, but as the missile rolled over the side it had bent
one of the diving-rudders hard over against the hull. At the same
time a considerable portion of the false keel had become detached,
although what caused the automatic fastenings to release themselves
remained a mystery. It was the sudden release of both the keel and
deadweight of the projectile that had caused R19 to shoot up to the
surface. Combined with the fact that both periscopes were out of
action, and that the submarine could only dive erratically under the
influence of the remaining hydroplane, it was plain to all on board
that the sooner she made Cronstadt the better.

During the following morning the Captain-Lieutenant of the _Zabiyaka_
paid a visit to the Lieutenant-Commander of R19, and in the course of
the conversation the British officers became better acquainted with
the chaotic state of affairs in and around Petrograd. A section of
the Russian fleet had mutinied, murdering several of their officers
and subjecting them to unnameable indignities. Rioting was taking
place in the capital, while the soaring increase in wages was met
with more than a corresponding rise in the prices of the necessaries
of life. Countless revolutionary and Extremist "committees" were
being formed, to increase still further the difficulties of the
unhappy country. Already the deluded peasantry found that there were
stupendous defects in the clap-trap theory of social democratic
equality. It was doubtless an easy matter to seize and distribute the
possessions of the rich landowners; but it was quite another matter
to manage with any degree of efficiency their newly-acquired land.
Reports, too, of increasing cases of fraternization between the
German and the Russian troops in the trenches showed that the wily
Hun, a typical wolf in sheep's clothing, was content to play a
waiting game so far as the Eastern Front was concerned, knowing that
the anarchy-torn country could be left to itself until the masses of
German troops, released for sterner work elsewhere, could return to
complete the destruction of the vast but already-tottering new
republic.

The Russian officer had barely taken his departure when R19's yeoman
of signals reported the receipt of a wireless message sent from the
British Embassy at Petrograd. It was in cipher, but when decoded its
meaning was bluntly emphatic:

"The state of affairs here renders it necessary for H.M. Submarine
R19 to return to her base. Co-operation on the part of the Russian
Government can no longer be guaranteed. Admiralty orders to this
effect have been communicated to all British forces engaged in
operations in the Baltic and on the Eastern Front."

The Hon. Derek read the decoded message and glanced enquiringly at
his brother officer.

"By Jove," he exclaimed, "we're in a pretty fix! Now what would you
suggest, Macquare?"

The Lieutenant solemnly closed one eye.

"Since you ask me, sir," he replied, "I'd carry on to execute
repairs. In our present condition we could no more get out of the
Baltic than fly. Refitted we could have a fair chance of having
another slap at the Huns."

"But in the face of these orders?" asked the Lieutenant-Commander.

"Take Nelson's example at Copenhagen as a precedent, sir," rejoined
the Lieutenant.



CHAPTER XXI

The House in Bobbinsky Prospekt


"I'll risk it, Macquare," decided the Hon. Derek. "The
responsibility's mine. If we are able to effect repairs and get away
before the Baltic is closed by the ice we'll be able to do a little
strafing on our own account. In that case I don't suppose I'll be
rapped over the knuckles if we get home. If we don't, well--we shan't
be alive, and official reprimand won't worry us then."

"I agree, sir," said the Lieutenant. "Obeying orders is all very well
in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. In the present instance the
Admiralty hasn't taken into consideration our defects. The
instructions were issued, I presume, on the assumption that we are in
working trim."

"Yes," concurred the Hon. Derek. "And, knocked about as we are, it
wouldn't be fair on the men to attempt to run the gauntlet of the
Sound. They'd go like a shot, I'm absolutely convinced, but I'm
hanged if I'll sacrifice them needlessly. So, all being well,
Cronstadt is our next port of call."

Dawn was breaking when R19, piloted by the Russian destroyer
_Zabiyaka_, came within sight of the supposedly-impregnable island
fortress. Everywhere the numerous fort-batteries were displaying the
flag of the Republic, while to show that watch and ward were still
being kept a couple of shots were fired wide of the destroyer.

Presently an armed launch put out and a brisk exchange of words took
place between the port officials and the Captain-Lieutenant of the
_Zabiyaka_, which ended in the latter rather reluctantly ordering the
Blue Cross Ensign to be struck and replaced by the emblem of Red
Republicanism.

This done, the destroyer was ordered to proceed to a certain
anchorage, while R19, under the charge of a Russian pilot, entered
the naval arsenal.

Here lay the bulk of the Russian Baltic Fleet, many of the ships
bearing evidences of German gun-fire. A large proportion of the crews
had gone to Petrograd to take part in a demonstration; others had
deserted in order to return to their homes and join in the general
policy of grab; while those who remained were promenading the streets
and quays, singing revolutionary songs and drinking deeply of vodka.

"See what liberty, equality, and fraternity do for a nation,
Fordyce," remarked the Hon. Derek, indicating a group of roysterers
gathered round a barrel on the quarter-deck of a large battleship.
Utterly indifferent to the presence of their officers, the seamen
were already in advanced stages of intoxication. Any attempt to
enforce discipline would doubtless result in ghastly butchery, for
already the crews of certain ships had risen and murdered their
officers.

"A good object-lesson for British pacifists, sir," rejoined Fordyce.
"And these fellows don't seem particularly favourably-disposed
towards us."

"No, indeed," said the Lieutenant-Commander. "However, we must find
out how the land lies. The main point is to get material; we can then
execute the work ourselves, for it is a moral cert. that there isn't
a Russian workman available."

The Hon. Derek's surmise proved to be correct, for when an appeal for
assistance was made to the newly-appointed commandant of the arsenal
the request was met with scant consideration. German gold and Hun
propaganda had done their work effectively, and already there was a
strong anti-British feeling amongst the soldiers, sailors, and
workmen.

Enquiries resulted in the information that already the other British
submarines had left, while the armoured-car detachments operating on
the Eastern Front were under orders for Archangel and home. Until
Russia found her feet and her reason the assistance of her allies
would be utterly wasted.

Undeterred, R19's crew set to work to make good defects. Since no dry
dock was available, the task of removing the bent hydroplane had to
be carried out by her own divers. Ashore, a small workshop had been
placed at their disposal, and a limited quantity of material was
forthcoming. Provided no hitch occurred, the Hon. Derek hoped to have
his command ready for sea within a fortnight.

"Look here, Fordyce," he remarked one morning, "I want you to take
this dispatch to the Embassy. There's no immediate hurry, so if you
care to spend a few days in Petrograd you may. If you do, keep your
eyes and ears open."

"Thank you, sir!" replied the Sub. "I may have the chance of calling
on Vladimir Klostivitch."

"By Jove, yes!" exclaimed the Lieutenant-Commander. "I'd forgotten
all about that consignment of 'diamonds'. It's a dangerous business,
I fancy. It was not at all unusual for a man to disappear in Russia
during the Imperial regime. Under the republic the opportunities for
removing a person would be far greater. What do you propose to do?"

"Carry out the original suggestion, sir," replied Fordyce. "Hand
Klostivitch a dummy packet, and then try to bluff him into giving
details of the Russian Anarchist Society in London. The chief thing
is, I take it, to find out where this nitro-talcite is secretly
manufactured. Obviously it is somewhere in England, or there wouldn't
be such a fuss made to smuggle the stuff into Russia."

"Quite right," agreed the Hon. Derek. "For my part I wouldn't trouble
if they blew themselves to bits. It would be one solution of the
difficulty. Of far more importance is the discovery of the place of
manufacture, since the explosive would be of considerable use against
friend Fritz. But, look here, I don't like the idea of your tackling
the business single-handed. If I weren't compelled to remain here, as
skipper of this craft, I'd go with you like a shot. How about
Macquare?"

"He'd jump at it, sir; only a similar objection holds. As an
executive officer he cannot well be spared. Might I take Chalmers?"

"By all means, providing he is willing," agreed the
Lieutenant-Commander. "You'd have to introduce him, I take it, as a
British sympathizer and delegate. All right; speak to him, and make
your own arrangements."

The petty officer accepted the invitation with alacrity, even before
Fordyce explained what was required of him.

"It's quite all jonnick, sir," he declared when the Sub outlined his
plan. "If needs be I'd trot along rigged up as a chimpanzee or a
Hottentot. And if there's a chance of a scrap, I'm on it."

"I don't think there will be, Chalmers," replied the Sub. "Tact and
discretion are what is required."

So it was arranged that Fordyce should go as the mouthpiece of the
supposed delegate. On the supposition that Klostivitch knew nothing
of the English language, there would then be very little chance of
the redoubtable petty officer "giving himself away".

The two adventurers journeyed to Petrograd in a Russian steamer that
ran regularly between Cronstadt and the capital. With them went
Naval-Lieutenant Rodsky, who, his present task completed, was on his
way to report at the Flying School.

The Russian was openly despondent at the state of affairs in his
country. Like thousands, perhaps millions, of his countrymen, he
deeply regretted the revolution, and longed for the return of the
Little Father from his exile in far-off Tobolsk. While admitting that
there were grave defects in the administration of his country under
the rule of the Tsar, he realized that then Russia was a nation. Now
it was but a heterogeneous collection of undeveloped races, loosely
held by a corrupt, quarrelsome, and incapable body of
self-constituted rulers, and fast slipping into the gulf of utter
ruin.

Having delivered his dispatch, Fordyce was able to obtain quarters
for himself and Chalmers at the home of a British resident. In a
sense it was fortunate that the hitherto elaborate police system of
espionage had been swept away, and consequently the two men had no
difficulty in obtaining civilian clothes. Fordyce would have liked to
have brought his faithful dog, but in this matter he had been
overruled by his sense of caution. A visitor from England would not
go to the trouble and expense of bringing a dog with him. So Flirt
was left on board under the care of the ship's company in general,
and Able Seaman Cassidy in particular.

No. 19 Bobbinsky Prospekt was a three-storied stone house in the
Vassili Ostroff quarter of the capital. Adjoining it on the left was
a slightly lower building. On the right a frozen stream separated it
from a shop, the shuttered windows of which were riddled with
bullet-holes. Electric trams were running along the Prospekt, each
car carrying a machine-gun and a crew of Red Republican guards. At
either end of the roadway were evidences of recent street fighting,
for the hastily-constructed barricades were still partly in
existence.

"Now for it, Chalmers!" exclaimed Fordyce, as he knocked boldly with
the rusty iron knocker.



CHAPTER XXII

When the Light Failed


After considerable delay the door was opened ajar by a diminutive,
white-haired old man, who demanded in a quavering voice the names and
business of the callers.

"We wish to see M. Vladimir Klostivitch on private affairs," replied
the Sub. "It is useless to give one's names, for we are unknown to
your master. You can inform him that we are comrades from England."

"I am Vladimir Klostivitch," announced the old man. "Be pleased to
enter."

"I am sorry to have made a mistake," said Fordyce apologetically.

"It is nothing," rejoined Klostivitch. "Can I offer you tea? Excuse
the fact that I am alone in the house. Please be seated."

The room into which Fordyce and his companion were shown was a large
low-ceilinged place, devoid of a fire-place. It was well heated,
warmth being obtained by means of a large closed-in stove in the
centre of the room, over which was a bed-box, similar to those
extensively used by the muzhiks in the smaller towns and villages of
central Russia. The furniture consisted of a massive table, two
arm-chairs and a few smaller ones, a plain sideboard, and a tall
press. The floor was composed of stone flags on which rushes were
strewn.

"By Jove," cogitated Fordyce, while his host set about to prepare tea
in the Russian style--strongly-brewed beverage with lemon juice
instead of milk, "I didn't picture Klostivitch to be such a shrimp of
a fellow! If his cunning only equals his bodily size, then we ought
to have an easy job. Hanged if I can imagine a white-haired,
soft-spoken fellow like that as a dangerous Anarchist or Extremist.
After all, there's little to choose between the two names."

Presently the tea was handed round to the accompaniment of an
exchange of small talk. Apparently the Russian was seeking to "draw"
his visitors, while Fordyce, in the joint role of interpreter and
delegate, carefully sounded his ground.

"I understand that you are interested in the cigarette industry,"
remarked Klostivitch. "Do you bear letters of introduction from the
head of our London house?"

"Cigarette industry?" repeated the Sub. "I never said so. We called
at the request of a Mr. Mindiggle, of the town of Otherport."

The Russian shook his head.

"I know nothing of a person of that name," he remarked bluntly.
"Perhaps you can give further particulars?"

He fixed his visitor with a piercing glance from his deep-set eyes
and awaited his reply.

Fordyce made no attempt to answer until he had thought out a new plan
of action, occasioned by Klostivitch's disclaimer.

"If you do not know Mr. Mindiggle there is nothing further to be
said," he remarked. "We must have made a mistake."

"Quite possibly," rejoined the other dryly.

"However, I might add," continued Fordyce, rising and holding up a
small leather bag, "that the gentleman whose identity you disclaim
entrusted me with a small parcel--of diamonds, I understand--to be
given to you personally."

Without allowing the dummy packet out of his hands, the Sub allowed
Klostivitch to read the address.

"Certainly it is for me," admitted the Russian. "But surely,
Monsieur, you have handled this precious parcel very carelessly? Are
you not aware that diamonds greatly deteriorate if exposed to low
temperatures?"

"Hanged if I am," declared Fordyce. "I was certainly not warned to
that effect. But, look here----"

Klostivitch held up a warning finger.

"No harm has apparently been done," he remarked. "In any case, a
brief examination of the diamonds will confirm my belief. If you will
come with me to my testing laboratory we will make a joint
investigation."

Again Fordyce hesitated. He was doubtful whether to tackle the man
straight away or to wait until the Russian himself made the discovery
that the packet contained nothing but broken glass. The mere fact
that the Extremist had finally accepted the statement that the
"diamonds" were for him was sufficient proof that he was in league
with a dangerous secret society in Great Britain. Cornered and
threatened, he would be pretty certain to give the names of his
accomplices and the formula of the ingredients from which the deadly
nitro-talcite was compounded.

The fellow might raise a terrific commotion afterwards, Fordyce
reflected, but the Sub was prepared to risk that. Once he and the
petty officer were clear they would discard their disguise and appear
in their true characters as members of Submarine R19's complement. In
any case, they could take efficient steps to prevent Vladimir
Klostivitch raising an alarm until several hours had elapsed.

"All right; lead the way, monsieur," he exclaimed.

The old man opened the door of the stove and thrust a strip of wood
into the glowing furnace. With this he lighted a cast-iron oil lamp.

"My laboratory is below the ground," he explained, "and owing to the
scarcity of candles, and the failure of the authorities to maintain
the supply of electric light, I am compelled to fall back upon this
lamp. It will be quite enough for the brief examination I propose to
make. Follow me, if you please."

Crossing the stone floor, Klostivitch threw back a thick, faded
curtain that hitherto concealed a doorway under the broad staircase.
A rush of warm air swept from the gloomy opening. In spite of the
otherwise cheerless conditions, the house in Bobbinsky Prospekt was
well heated, even the cellars.

"Be careful," cautioned the guide as he preceded his guests and held
the lamp low in order that its feeble rays might illuminate the worn
stone steps. "It is not often that visitors honour my laboratory with
their presence, otherwise I might have devoted a more accessible
place to my researches."

"It is quite all right," rejoined Fordyce. "At any rate," he
soliloquized, "you are in front of me, so it will go hard with you if
you try any low-down tricks."

Full fifteen steps were descended before the three men gained a level
passage. Placing his hand on one of the walls the Sub made the
discovery that the stonework was warm. On the other side of the wall
was, apparently, the large stove used for heating the whole house.

Suddenly the lamp went out.

"A thousand apologies!" exclaimed Klostivitch. "It was the draught.
Have you a box of matches by any chance?"

"Yes, I have," replied the Sub, secretly rejoicing that the
extinguishing of the lamp was by accident, not design, and that the
Russian seemed as anxious as the others to rectify matters.

He unbuttoned his heavy greatcoat, and, removing his gloves, fumbled
for his silver match-box.

"Here it is, monsieur," he exclaimed, extending his hand.

He waited a few seconds, under the impression that the Russian was
groping for the proffered article. Then he repeated the announcement,
adding, in a tone of involuntary impatience: "Where are you?"

"Here," replied a mocking voice above his head, "blundering
busybodies that you are! You are securely trapped this time, and you
will have good cause to repent of your unwarrantable and interfering
curiosity."

Then came the dull thud of a heavy stone slab falling into position,
and Fordyce and the petty officer found themselves prisoners in the
cellar of the mysterious house.



CHAPTER XXIII

Trapped


"'Tain't quite all ship-shape, is it, sir?" enquired Petty Officer
Chalmers, who, ignorant of the Russian language, could only base his
surmise upon the fact that Klostivitch had suspiciously made himself
scarce.

"I'm afraid not, Chalmers," replied Fordyce. "We took too much for
granted, and pal Vladimir has sold us a dog. Don't move till I strike
a match; there may be boobytraps about."

The glimmer of the lighted match revealed the lamp. Either by
accident or design Klostivitch had left it on the floor.

"Proper Tower o' London sort of show," commented Chalmers, examining
his surroundings by the feeble glare. "Look, sir, that's where the
old rascal shinned up."

He indicated a number of iron rungs clamped into the wall, while
immediately above was a square opening in the stone ceiling, over
which had been lowered a huge block of granite.

"Come along, sir," continued the petty officer. "Let's get back to
the steps. Maybe the slippery reptile hasn't had time to shut the
door."

Quickly the two men ascended the flight of steps, only to find their
exit barred by a securely bolted door. Vainly the burly petty officer
thrust with his shoulder against the firmly-held barrier.

"Hist!" exclaimed Fordyce.

From the other side of the door came the Russian's mirthless laugh.
Then, finding that his captives had at least temporarily desisted
from their efforts he shouted:

"Don't forget to keep the stove burning, you English imbeciles--that
is, _if the diamonds are what you think they are._"

Fordyce did not deign to reply, but, followed by his companion,
descended the steps and gained the level passage. There was little
here that called for examination beyond the iron clamps set in the
wall; but at the farthermost end was a low, metal-bound door. It was
ajar. There were bolts on both sides, but these had apparently not
been used for a considerable time, since they were thickly encrusted
with rust.

Entering the cellar, the Sub found that it was a spacious place,
measuring, roughly, 50 feet by 20, the vaulted roof being supported
by a row of four stone columns. In one corner was a large stove, the
one to which Klostovitch had recently referred. A large portion of
the floor was occupied by bundles of faggots and logs hewn into short
lengths, so that there was no lack of fuel.

Seven feet from the ground was a heavily-barred window through which
a cold current of air was pouring. Obviously communicating with the
open air, the aperture itself admitted no light.

"Let me give you a leg-up, sir," suggested Chalmers. "There doesn't
seem much chance of being able to shin through that window, but
there's no harm done in finding out what's outside."

Agilely Fordyce scrambled upon the broad back of the resourceful
petty officer, steadying himself by grasping the iron bars, and
allowed the lamplight to shine upon the scene without.

The opening communicated with an arched tunnel through which flowed a
small stream but at present the water was frozen hard. If it were
possible to remove the retaining bars and crawl through the aperture,
the ice would form a safe way of escape, since the stream was bound
to emerge into the open air in one or both directions.

"Well, sir, what's to be done now?" enquired Chalmers, when the Sub
had made his report on his investigations. "It's no use sitting here
and doing a blessed stoker's job with that there fire. We can't
expect our chums to help us, or else old Klosytally, or whatever he
calls hisself, would bring up a crowd of his revolutionary pals."

"The Captain might appeal to the British Embassy," suggested Fordyce.

"I don't think that would be much good, sir," replied Chalmers. "From
what I've seen of this blessed country, British interest don't seem
to count for much. No, sir; it's no use trusting to others; we'll
have to work for ourselves."

"Quite so, Chalmers," agreed the Sub; "but I'm sorry I got you into
this mess."

"Don't you worry about me, sir," protested the imperturbable sailor.
"I'm quite content to follow my senior officer's movements without
asking questions. I'll just try my knife on that window."

"One moment," interposed Fordyce. "This lamp won't burn so very much
longer. Keep the door of the stove open, and throw on some more wood;
we'll have to work by fire-light."

This done, and the lamp blown out, Chalmers set to work to loosen the
mortar in which were set the iron bars of the window.

For nearly an hour he toiled diligently, until the sweat poured down
his face in spite of the cold blast of air through the opening. But
the effort was in vain. It was the blade of his knife that was
diminishing, not the cement, which was as hard as cast iron.

"I'll knock off, sir," he said, scratching his head in his
disappointment. "Might go on for a whole month of Sundays, and yet
get no forrader."

"We'll try to get those bars red-hot," declared Fordyce. "We've
plenty of wood. Once we get the iron soft we can knock them out by
using a log as a maul."

"Might be done, sir," admitted Chalmers. "No harm in trying; it'll
keep us out of mischief, in a manner of speaking."

Acting upon the Sub's suggestion, a quantity of wood was stacked
between the bars and set on fire. Fanned by the strong air-current,
the combustibles burned fiercely, but the result was far from
satisfactory. In less than five minutes the cellar was filled with
choking fumes, and had not the experimenters torn away the burning
wood they would have been suffocated.


[Illustration: IT WAS MINDIGGLE]


The hours passed slowly. Hunger and want of sleep were beginning to
assail the prisoners. For their personal comfort they kept the big
heating-stove well supplied, as they had not the slightest fear that
a fall in temperature would affect the contents of the dummy packet
which Fordyce still retained.

The two men were almost on the point of falling into a fitful slumber
when Klostivitch's voice hailed them. Lighting the lamp, Fordyce made
his way to the passage. A sense of dignity forbade him to hurry, but
curiosity prompted him to ascertain the cause of the interruption.

The place was deserted. The Russian had removed the stone covering to
the trap, for on the floor was a basket containing food and a jar of
water.

"He evidently doesn't mean to starve us," commented the Sub as he
carried the basket to the cellar. "I wonder if the stuff's drugged."

"I'll risk it, anyway," declared Chalmers. "I'm fair famished, sir.
How goes the enemy, sir?"

Fordyce consulted his watch.

"A quarter-past nine," he replied. "You turn in, Chalmers. I'll take
first trick."

The petty officer, having eaten his share of the scanty repast, was
soon sound asleep. Fordyce, having made up the fire, prepared to keep
watch, not knowing what move his captor might make.

It was close on midnight when he heard his name called. Hardly able
to credit his senses, the Sub started to his feet. The voice seemed
familiar, yet he could not fix the speaker's identity.

Relighting the lamp, and without disturbing his sleeping companion,
the Sub hastened along the passage. Suddenly he halted. The trap-door
above his head was opened, and through the aperture could be seen the
head and shoulders of a man. His features were muffled in a turned-up
fur collar, while an astrakhan cap was drawn well down over his
forehead; but, in spite of this, Fordyce was now able to recognize
the man.

It was Mindiggle.



CHAPTER XXIV

Fordyce's Two Visitors


A seemingly very slight incident will freqently alter the course of a
man's career, and throw his time-table completely out of gear.

It was thus in the case of Ernz von Verbrennungsraum, otherwise the
trusted and respected Town Councillor Mindiggle of Otherport.

When he vainly attempted to trade upon Noel Fordyce's affection for
his dog, Mindiggle had no intention of proceeding to Russia. It was
only after his conversation with his fellow-conspirator, Boris
Platoff, that he decided to go to Petrograd and hand over in person a
small but immensely-powerful stock of nitro-talcite to the Extremist
leader, Vladimir Klostivitch.

The haunting fear that perhaps he had made a grievous error in his
dealings with Sub-lieutenant Fordyce, whose resolution and
intelligence he had completely underrated, prompted him to make the
journey without undue delay.

It was in his case an easy matter to leave the country. Through
influence he was made a member of the Red Cross organization for the
relief of wounded Russians, and, armed with credentials, he departed
via the North Sea and Scandinavian railways to the Finnish town of
Tornea, whence, by devious and uncertain travelling, he had made his
way to Petrograd, arriving just twelve hours before Fordyce made his
audacious yet ill-advised call at the house in the Bobbinsky
Prospekt.

Mindiggle's suspicions were well founded, and, before the Sub had
paid his visit, Vladimir Klostivitch had been warned of the
possibility of being questioned by British naval officers.

Klostivitch immediately began to make enquiries. He soon learned that
two Englishmen from a submarine lying at Cronstadt had recently
landed from a Government steamer; that they had proceeded to the
British Embassy, and thence to a house in which lived a compatriot.

The German agent wanted to be present at the anticipated interview,
but this Klostivitch would not permit, avowing that he was quite
capable of trapping the interfering Englishmen without assistance,
and when this was done Mindiggle would be at liberty to converse with
the captives.

"Hallo, Fordyce!" exclaimed the Hun from his place of safety. "I
suppose you did not expect to find me here? How's that ferocious dog
of yours? 'Costs against the plaintiff,' eh? Well, it will be a jolly
dear bite for you before I've done with you."

"You think so?" enquired Fordyce coolly.

"I don't think--I know it!" replied Mindiggle. "Might I enquire why
you've come here and tried to foist a spurious packet of diamonds
upon my friend Klostivitch?"

"For motives best known to myself--and others," said the Sub stiffly.

"What motives?" enquired the spy, unable to restrain his curiosity.

"I decline to tell you; nor do I wish to hold further conversation
with you," said Fordyce with asperity.

Mindiggle laughed loudly.

"You'll change your tune, my boy," he exclaimed. "Long before I'm
done with you you'll be ready to answer my questions. You are a
prisoner--a state prisoner--on a charge of conspiracy against the
Russian Government. There is no prospect of rescue. With other
pressure heavy upon them the Russian officials dare not listen to the
protests of the British Embassy, even if it were known to your
friends that you are here. Let me tell you that German rule will be
all-powerful here. The followers of Kerensky, of Lenin, of Trotsky,
of Korniloff--all will be completely subordinated to their rightful
masters--the military force of the German Empire. Already
negotiations are in progress for peace between Germany and Russia
--and the terms will be those of a victorious Germany, let me tell
you. What do you think of that?"

Fordyce made no reply. He knew that his tormentor told hard facts,
but he saw no reason why he should agree with him. He was on the
point of returning to the cellar when Mindiggle continued.

"You may just as well know what is in store for you," resumed the
spy. "You and your companion will be kept here until such time as is
convenient for you to be taken into German territory. Really, I don't
know why I shouldn't give orders for you to be executed, unless I
consider that alive you will be more useful to the German Government.
You will be fed during your imprisonment here, so you need have no
fears of death by starvation; but, remember, any attempt at escape on
your part will be visited by the severest punishment."

Unostentatiously the Sub measured the distance between the floor of
the passage and the opening through which the spy was speaking. There
were six iron rungs, by which Klostivitch had climbed when he tricked
the two men into their prison--and Mindiggle's leering face was
tantalizingly close.

With a sudden bound Fordyce scrambled agilely and rapidly up the
rough-and-ready ladder. So astonished was the spy at the sudden
onslaught, and taken at a disadvantage by the fact that he was lying
at full length on the floor, that the Sub's attempt was within an ace
of success.

But the ironwork that had supported Klostivitch's spare frame was
unequal to the task of bearing Fordyce's weight. One of the bars was
wrenched bodily from its setting, throwing the Sub to the ground, at
the same time capsizing the lamp.

When he recovered his feet the young officer found that Mindiggle had
gone and that the stone slab had been replaced over the aperture.

Fordyce returned to the cellar to resume his interrupted watch and to
ponder over the recent conversation. It was beginning to dawn upon
him that he was "up against a big thing". The affair was not merely
an internal plot on the part of one of the many sections of Russian
revolutionists, but an international intrigue that, if successful,
might seriously jeopardize the Allies' triumph.

Presently Chalmers stirred in his sleep, pulling an imaginary blanket
over his head after the manner of seamen accustomed to sleeping in
hammocks on a draughty main-deck. Then he sat up and gazed at the
ruddy glow of the burning wood.

"It's my trick, sir, isn't it?" he asked.

Fordyce glanced at his watch.

"Yes," he replied, not deeming it necessary to inform the petty
officer that twenty minutes had elapsed beyond the specified time.
"I've had a most interesting conversation, Chalmers."

"It strikes me, sir," remarked the petty officer, when Fordyce had
related the details of his talk with Mindiggle, "that we are properly
in the soup. Talking of soup, sir, I could just do with a plateful of
'bubbly'. Wonder if they'll grub us on rat soup, sir? I think I hear
rats about, and they say food's scarce in these parts."

A distinct, rasping sound came through the barred window. Both men
listened intently. The noise could be likened to that of a rodent's
teeth tackling a hard substance. Then came the pitter-patter of claws
upon the smooth surface of the ice.

"A whacking great rat," remarked Fordyce incredulously, as he threw
fresh fuel upon the fire and stirred the embers into a blaze. Then he
turned towards the window.

An animate object was frantically pawing the iron bars, and a
succession of short, shrill yaps of delight pierced the air.

With a bound Fordyce gained the window.

"Good old Flirt!" he exclaimed. "How on earth did you find us out?"

The faithful terrier was almost mad with delight as she licked the
Sub's hands and strove to force her way through the bars. Evidently
she had been having a scrap with one of the canine residents of
Petrograd, for there was a raw wound on one of her haunches.

For full five minutes Fordyce fondled the still-excited terrier.
Although overjoyed at seeing his pet, and at the sagacity of the
animal, he was ill at ease. Flirt could not get into the cellar, and
it was quite certain that if Mindiggle found that she was outside he
would not allow her to rejoin her master except upon utterly
unacceptable terms. He might, most likely, order the dog to be
destroyed.

"She must have smuggled herself upon the steamboat, same as 'ow she
did when she first came off, sir," suggested Chalmers.

"Yes, and now's the trouble to send her back," said the Sub. "I can't
keep her here, and, goodness only knows, I wouldn't like to know that
she was adrift in Petrograd."

"Think she'll find her way back, sir?" asked the petty officer
eagerly.

"There's a chance," replied Fordyce dubiously. "The first boat leaves
for Cronstadt at eight in the morning."

"Then, sir," exclaimed Chalmers, excitedly, "that's the bloomin'
ticket! Lash a note to her collar and let the skipper know where we
are."



CHAPTER XXV

"Flirt, you're a Brick!"


"What do you make of it, Mr. Macquare?" enquired the Hon. Derek. "It
looks as if winter has stolen a march on us."

"It has, sir," agreed the Lieutenant, as he rubbed his hands to
restore the circulation. Even in the electric radiator-heated cabin
the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing-point.

Mr. Macquare had just returned from a "spell ashore". It was close on
sunset, by which time the British officers and crew had to be on
board. During the hours of daylight they were allowed to wander
freely over a considerable part of the great Russian arsenal,
provided they conformed to the regulations laid down by the very
democratic commandant.

The work of repairing R19 was proceeding apace. Already the
diving-rudder had been straightened, and would be replaced the
following day unless unforeseen circumstances arose to delay the
operation. New tubes for the periscopes had been obtained, and only
the fitting of the lenses and minor adjustments had to be made before
the submarine was again ready for sea.

"The ice is forming rapidly on the Neva," continued the Lieutenant.
"It's thick enough to bear a man's weight almost everywhere, except
in the Morskoi Canal. They've got the ice-breakers hard at work
already."

The Morskoi Canal is an artificial channel cut in the comparatively
shallow Gulf of Finland, and affords deep-water communication below
Cronstadt and the capital.

"Let's hope that the Baltic won't be completely frozen over during
the next few days," remarked the Lieutenant-Commander. "We're running
things pretty fine, but I see no alternative."

"Any news of Fordyce, sir?" asked the Lieutenant.

"Not yet," was the reply. "In fact I hardly expect to hear until he
puts in an appearance. The youngster's not a sort of hare-brained
fellow who would look for trouble. Just before he left----"

A discreet tap upon the cabin door interrupted the Hon. Derek's
remarks.

"Come in!" he called out.

The door was opened, and the heavy curtain pushed aside, revealing
the anxious features of Able-Seaman Cassidy.

"Well, Cassidy?" asked the skipper encouragingly.

"It's about that dawg, sir," began the sailor. "Mr. Fordyce's dawg."

"Has she bitten anyone?"

"Sure, no, sir; leastwise not as I knows of. But she's absent without
leave, sir."

"For how long?"

"Can't say, sir. Cook's mate says as 'ow Flirt was in the galley just
afore dinner. Me and my mates have looked everywhere."

"Have you tried Mr. Fordyce's cabin?"

"Sure that Oi have, sir."

"Well, she's not here, Cassidy," said the Hon. Derek, giving a
perfunctory glance under the settee. "Have another hunt round and
then report to me. The dog may have taken it into her head to go
ashore for a prowl round."

Cassidy saluted and backed out of the cabin to confer with his
equally anxious mates on the next course to adopt. The men were
grievously concerned about Flirt's disappearance. Never before had
the mascot been "absent without leave ".

Some of the crew went on deck and began a pantomime conversation with
a Russian seaman on sentry duty on the quay side. By dint of signs
and the promise of a "plug o' ship's 'bacca", the Muscovite was made
to understand that R19's mascot was missing, and that her recovery
would result in a substantial reward.

All that evening there was a constant stream of Russian bluejackets
and marines, bringing with them curs of all sizes and descriptions,
until the harassed officer of the watch was reduced to the borders of
unparliamentary language, while the crew were partly solaced by the
sight of the impromptu dog show.

Morning came, but with it no signs of Flirt. A sympathetic Russian
petty officer, who could speak English, volunteered to make enquiries
at all the landing-places, although he expressed his opinion that the
dog must be roaming about somewhere on the island.

With the resumption of work Flirt's disappearance was temporarily
forgotten. The Hon. Derek and Mr. Macquare were anxiously dividing
their attention between the progress of the repairs and the steady
formation of the ice. Already the water alongside was covered with
two inches of clear ice, while, in order to enable the divers to
labour at their task of refixing the hydroplane, men had to be told
off to keep the floes away from the submarine's bows.

Suddenly Cassidy, who was engaged in red-leading the newly-fixed
periscopes, gave a shout of surprise.

"Sw'elp me!" he exclaimed, pointing at a small brown object showing
clearly on the glistening field of ice. "There's Mr. Fordyce's dawg."

The animal had made her way across the expanse of frozen water until
she gained the edge of the still-open channel, on which slabs of ice
of varying sizes and thickness were drifting.

Informed of Flirt's return by the A.B.'s shout, the
Lieutenant-Commander whipped out his binoculars.

"By Jove," he exclaimed, "the little beast's about to swim for it!
She'll be done in, Macquare."

Even if the dog managed to withstand the low temperature of the
water, she would be in considerable danger from the drifting floes.
Quickly the Hon. Derek rose to the occasion and ordered the Berthon
to be launched.

The collapsible boat was unfolded in record time and dropped over the
side on the ice. Three men, one of whom was Cassidy, followed, and,
grasping the gunwale, urged the Berthon forward like a sleigh across
the 300 yards of frozen water that separated the submarine from the
canal.

"Avast there, Flirt!" shouted Cassidy when the boat drew within
hailing distance, for the terrier was dipping one paw into the water
as a preliminary to jumping in.

At the sound of the A.B.'s voice Flirt cocked one ear, gave a yelp of
welcome, and leapt from the fixed ice to a detached piece that had
drifted within reach.

"Silly little josser!" exclaimed another of the Berthon's crew as the
floe tilted under the dog's weight. It looked as if the animal would
slide backwards in spite of her frantic efforts to find a firm
foothold. Not until her body was half immersed did the sheet of ice
recover itself, only to tilt in the opposite direction and
precipitate Flirt into the bitterly cold water.

Slipping and floundering, the three men pushed the boat to the edge
of the canal, then, heedless of the danger of the sharp edge ripping
the canvas hull, they launched her and leapt in.

"Give way for all you're worth!" shouted Cassidy, who, in the absence
of a rudder, gave the rowers directions by pointing with his hand.

Already Flirt was showing signs of exhaustion. Her fore-paws were
threshing the water, instead of moving strongly and noiselessly
beneath the surface. Her hind-quarters were sinking lower, while her
head was thrown well back--sure signs that the task she had
undertaken was beyond her power.

"Way 'nough!" ordered Cassidy. "Grab her, Bill!"

The seaman addressed boated his oar and leant over the gunwale, but,
caught by the stiff breeze, the lightly-built craft drifted to
leeward, just beyond arm's length of the now-benumbed animal. Before
the man could grasp his oar, Flirt disappeared beneath the surface.

Without hesitation Cassidy took a header over the pointed stern of
the Berthon, to reappear ten seconds later with Flirt firmly held by
the scruff of her neck. Willing hands relieved the brave sailor of
his burden and helped him into the boat.

"Crikey! Ain't it 'orribly parky!" he exclaimed. "'Ere, Bill, give me
an oar before I'm frozen stiff."

"'Ow about it?" enquired Bill, who, having taken Cassidy's place in
the stern-sheets, was devoting his attention to the now torpid dog.
"Do the 'Instructions for the Treatment of the Apparently Drowned'
hold good for a bloomin' animile? Lumme, what's she got lashed round
'er neck--'er kit in a brown-paper parcel, I believe."

"Don't heave it overboard," protested Cassidy, as Bill cut the
lashings. "Strike me pink! There's writing on it--'Prisoners in a
cellar in this house.--Fordyce'. Hallo! This is news for our skipper.
Flirt, old girl, you're a brick!"

Flirt, beginning to take a renewed interest in life, feebly wagged
her stumpy tail. Perhaps she was rather glad she wasn't one in the
literal sense of the word, as a brick would have made a poor show in
the waters of the Neva.



CHAPTER XXVI

A Friend in Need


"Well done, Cassidy!" exclaimed Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale when
the A.B., with his clothes already stiff with ice, came on board. "Go
below--don't waste time--and shift into a dry kit; and tell Jones to
serve out a stiff tot to you three men."

"Beg pardon, sir," said Cassidy, "but we found this gadget lashed
round Flirt's neck--something written on it by Mr. Fordyce."

The Hon. Derek took the paper parcel. He recognized it as the dummy
package that he had assisted to make up in order to tackle Vladimir
Klostivitch.

"All right, carry on," he replied, dismissing the now shivering A.B.

"Mr. Macquare," he continued, turning to the Lieutenant, "come below
with me if you please."

The two officers repaired to the Hon. Derek's cabin.

"Young Fordyce has got into hot water, judging by this messsage,"
remarked the Lieutenant-Commander, holding up the sodden parcel for
his subordinate's inspection. "It's lucky the address is given, for I
believe I forgot it. Now what's to be done?"

"Call for volunteers for a rescue-party, sir," suggested Mr. Macquare
promptly.

The Hon. Derek shook his head.

"Won't do, Mr. Macquare. We aren't lying on an uncivilized coast,
where we can act off our own bat. We've got to tread warily. All the
same, there's no time to be lost. If we work through diplomatic
channels there'll be weeks, perhaps months, of exasperating delay. We
must be under way within the next twenty-four hours unless we are to
be frozen in here for the winter. And I don't want to leave my Sub
behind. Hallo, what is it? I'm busy."

The entry of a bluejacket holding a piece of pasteboard in his hand
interrupted the discussion.

The card was that of Naval-Lieutenant Rodsky.

"Show him down below," ordered the Hon. Derek. "Dash it all,
Macquare, Rodsky's a sound fellow; he might help us."

The Russian officer had recently returned to Cronstadt and had taken
an early opportunity of paying a formal call upon the Hon. Derek.
When informed of what had befallen Sub-Lieutenant Fordyce he became
genuinely sympathetic.

"I quite see your point," he remarked, speaking in French, since, in
the absence of the Sub, Stockdale was without the services of an
interpreter. "I would suggest that you consult my friend,
Captain-Lieutenant Orloff, of the destroyer _Zabiyaka_. She is lying
in No. 3 Basin."

Acting upon this advice the three officers went on board the
destroyer, and Rodsky briefly outlined the case to his confrère.

"Vladimir Klostivitch--do I know anything of him?" exclaimed Captain
Orloff. "One of the most dangerous men in Russia at the present time.
M. Kerensky would have had him arrested, but there,"--the Captain
shrugged his shoulders expressively--"Trotsky is more powerful than
M. Kerensky, and Klostivitch is in Trotsky's pay."

"And Germany's too, I fancy," added Stockdale.

"I can suggest a plan," continued Orloff. "One that will remove all
responsibility from your shoulders, Monsieur le Capitan. In the
interests of my country I will arrest this villain, Klostivitch.
Fortunately my crew are loyal to me and anti-German to a man. Now
leave everything to me, and if your officer is not liberated within
twelve hours my name is not Boris Orloff."

"You will not expose yourself to the risk of the Extremists' fury?"
asked the Hon. Derek, loath to accept any favour that might be
detrimental to the generous Russian's interests.

"My friend," replied Orloff, "what has England done for us? We
Russians are extremely indebted to her. Strange, then, if I should
hesitate to run a slight risk in return for far greater sacrifice
that your navy has made for ours. There is one other point. I
understand that you are leaving as soon as possible?"

"Directly repairs are effected," replied the Lieutenant-Commander of
R19.

"Have any difficulties been placed in your way by the present naval
authorities of Cronstadt?" asked Orloff pointedly.

"None whatever," declared Stockdale emphatically. "In fact an
ice-breaker has been told off to keep a channel open for us."

"I am glad to hear it," remarked the Russian. "Later on it may be
different, especially as I hear that the Huns, in their infamous
peace proposals, demand the surrender of all Russian and Allied
warships in the Baltic. For my part I would sooner blow up the
_Zabiyaka_, and there are, I am proud to say, many other commanding
officers equally determined on that point. When will you be ready to
proceed to sea, do you think?"

"By daybreak on Thursday," replied the Hon. Derek. "Stores and
provisions are already on board."

"It is possible that the _Zabiyaka_ will escort you through the
mine-field in the Gulf of Finland," remarked Captain Orloff. "If so,
be prepared to receive a present from me," he added grimly.
"Something, perhaps, that you may not appreciate, but we Russians
will be only too pleased to get rid of. Au revoir, Monsieur le
Capitan."

"What is he hinting at, sir?" enquired Mr. Macquare as the two
British officers made their way back to the submarine.

"Goodness knows!" replied the Hon. Derek. "We can but wait and see."



CHAPTER XXVII

The Fate of Klostivitch


Red dawn was breaking when a Russian naval pulling-cutter ran
alongside the Probenjsky Quay. Already the ice, that a few hours
previously had been broken by gangs of men impressed under the
Revolutionary Government's decree for that task, was again forming,
rendering it a matter of difficulty for the boat to force her way
through the last twenty yards of water.

The quay was deserted. Heavy showers of sleet had dispersed the
crowds of demonstrators who had "run wild" the previous evening. In
that respect nature had found a far more efficacious method of
dealing with the disorderly mob than had the Red Guards and their
ever-ready machine-guns. Many broken windows and walls splayed with
bullet-marks were the remaining evidences of the orgy that had ended
in bloodshed and rain, and now a fall of snow was obliterating
sinister patches on the roadway and pavements in a mantle of dazzling
whiteness.

At the head of the flight of stone steps stood a sentry-box, the
diagonal stripes of the Imperial regime still discernible under a
hastily-applied coat of yellow paint. Within, and reclining against
the woodwork, was a sleeping sentry.

Upon the approach of half a dozen or more bluejackets he bestirred
himself sufficiently to push aside an empty vodka glass and grasp his
rifle.

"It is all right, comrade!" exclaimed the foremost of the party
reassuringly. "We've just had private information as to where we can
obtain some sides of beef. We haven't tasted fresh beef for nearly a
month. We belong to the _Kuptchino_, and have just come in from
Helsingfors."

"Have you your permit, comrade?" enquired the sentry.

The bluejacket solemnly closed one eye and slipped a sheaf of rouble
notes into the man's hand.

"'Ts--sh!" he whispered. "These are better than permits, Comrade
Ivan. We will not be long, and when we return there will be a bottle
of vodka for you."

"So long as you do not get me into trouble I am content," remarked
the befuddled soldier. "A whole bottle, mind, and none of the stuff
from the Winter Palace."

He laughed at his own jest, and his listeners laughed too, for the
story of the pillaged wine-cellars of the Imperial Palace was now
common property--how the Red Guards had looted thousands of bottles,
drunk their contents, and refilled them with coloured water. The
inhabitants of Petrograd, eager to purchase wine from the ex-Tsar's
stock, bought the proffered bottles with avidity, only to find that
they had been "sold". There was no redress, for the deluded purchaser
realized that arguing with an inebriated Red Guard was likely to end
in a bayonet-thrust.

Having paved the way for their retreat, the landing-party--Captain
Orloff and seven of his men, all in bluejackets' uniform--hastened
along the deserted street until they arrived at the Bobbinsky
Prospekt.

Here Orloff halted his men under an archway, and, taking one of the
party, stole softly down the passage until he came to a gap between
the two houses--a space fenced off by a tall iron railing.

In a very short space of time Orloff's companions filed through two
of the bars, and, by means of a powerful tug, wrenched them
sufficiently apart to admit a man's body. It was then a simple matter
for the two Russians to lower themselves upon the slippery ice on the
surface of the stream.

Flashing an electric torch, the captain of the _Zabiyaka_ plunged
into the arched passage, through which the now frozen water usually
flowed. For nearly a hundred yards he went, until he stopped at a
small barred grating barely a foot above the ice.

"Are you there, Monsieur Fordyce?" he whispered in his own language,
knowing that the captive Sub-Lieutenant spoke Russian fluently.

"I am. Who is it?" asked Fordyce.

"A friend," replied Orloff. "Take courage again," Fordyce, by the by,
had never lost it; "help is at hand. I am Boris Orloff,
Captain-Lieutenant of the _Zabiyaka_, the destroyer that piloted your
craft into Cronstadt."

"I am pleased to meet you, sir," said the Sub.

"And still more so under better auspices," rejoined Orloff. "Now
listen: Here are a brace of revolvers. We are going to tackle Comrade
Klostivitch. If he beats a retreat to this cellar, corner him. He is
a desperate man, and doubtless armed. Cornered, he will not hesitate
to shoot, unless you act promptly."

"He has someone with him," announced Fordyce. "A fellow from England.
Whether he is an Englishman or a German I hardly know, although his
sympathies are certainly Teutonic."

"We'll collar him too!" exclaimed the skipper of the _Zabiyaka_.
"Now, make ready. In five minutes we'll be with you."

"One question, sir!" exclaimed the Sub. "Might I ask how you knew we
were here? Did a dog----?"

"Yes," replied Orloff, "it was a dog that brought the news."

"Then Flirt--my dog--is safe?"

"I have every reason to believe so."

"That's good!" ejaculated the overjoyed Fordyce. A great weight had
been lifted off his mind. The harassing thought that harm had
befallen his devoted pet had troubled him more than his own difficult
position. And now, thanks to Flirt, deliverance was at hand.

Retracing his steps, the Russian rejoined his companion, and, having
bent the railings to their original position, the pair hurried back
to the rest of the party.

"No unnecessary noise, my children," continued Orloff, speaking in
the pre-Revolutionary manner with which an officer addressed his men.
"Two of you will remain here; two more at the other side of the
street; the rest will come with me."

The dwellers in the Bobbinsky Prospekt were still deep in slumber.
Undisturbed, the Russian bluejackets effected a forcible entry into
No. 19 by the drastic expedient of cutting away the door-post into
which the bolts securing the door were fitted.

Entering the room--there was no lobby--the intruders reclosed the
door and proceeded in their search for Vladimir Klostivitch. The
first room they entered was that in which Fordyce had interviewed the
Extremist official. They found someone asleep on the bed over the
stove.

"Seize him, men!" ordered Orloff.

Strong hands dragged the sleeper from his bed. It was Mindiggle, or,
to give him his true name, von Verbrennungsraum.

Before he could be effectually silenced the German gave a yell of
terror.

"Gag him!" ordered the captain of the _Zabiyaka_.

It was too late. A shuffling sound announced that another inmate of
the mysterious house was awake.

Revolver in hand, Orloff dashed up the creaking stairs, just in time
to catch sight of a grotesquely-garbed figure disappearing up the
next flight.

"Surrender!" shouted the naval officer, loath to fire lest the report
should arouse the neighbourhood.

In spite of his years, Klostivitch possessed plenty of activity.
Rushing into an attic, he slammed and bolted the door, piling
articles of furniture against it as an additional safeguard.

Throwing caution to the winds, Orloff placed the muzzle of his
revolver to the lock and pressed the trigger. Then, with a tremendous
heave, he burst the door open.

The room was empty. An open dormer window showed the track of the
fugitive. His pursuer, leaping upon a box, thrust his head through
the opening.

Brave as he was, Orloff hesitated to follow his quarry. Klostivitch
had gained the parapet and was contemplating a leap to the roof of
the adjoining house.

Before the naval officer could thrust his hand through the narrow
opening of the window, and level his pistol, the rascal, desperate in
his courage, leapt from his precarious foothold.

It was not a great distance for a man to jump--six or seven feet at
the outside; but the fugitive had not taken into consideration the
ice-rimmed stonework.

Even as he leapt, Klostivitch's feet slipped from under him. With a
shriek of horror he grasped vainly at the thin air, then, turning a
complete somersault, crashed upon the paving-stones sixty feet below.



CHAPTER XXVIII

Rescued


"There's someone coming, sir!" whispered Chalmers, raising his
revolver. "Stand by, sir!"

Both men waited in eager silence as the sound of bolts being
withdrawn was borne to their ears.

A voice hailed in Russian. Fordyce lowered his pistol.

"It's all right, Chalmers," he said quietly, as Captain-Lieutenant
Orloff entered the cellar.

"We have made a clean sweep of this little nest, Monsieur Fordyce!"
declared the Russian. "Klostivitch will not trouble you or anyone
else in the future, as far as this world is concerned. The other man
you mentioned is a prisoner. We also found a third--Platoff by name.
Do you know anything of him?"

No, Fordyce did not. He would have been considerably surprised if he
had known that Platoff was in Mindiggle's house at Otherport on that
momentous day when the Sub strove to placate the irate victim of
Flirt's attack.

"It does not matter overmuch," continued Orloff. "The fellow asked
for trouble--and received it. He had to be knocked over the head,
otherwise he would have strangled one of my men. Sovensky struck a
little too hard, and----"

The big Russian shrugged his shoulders. Fordyce understood.

"You are hungry?" asked Orloff. "Fortunately Comrade Klostivitch was
well provided against possible famine. One of my men will get you
both a meal, for it is a long, cold journey to Cronstadt. Meanwhile,
if you will excuse me, I will make a search for incriminating
documents."

Fordyce and the petty officer made their way to the room in which
Mindiggle had been arrested. The spy was no longer there, having been
removed to another part of the house for safe custody. The Sub was
glad of that. Much as he had cause to detest the villain, he was not
at all anxious to crow over his discomfiture.

Presently Orloff hurried into the room with a bundle of papers in his
hands.

"Will you kindly read these, Monsieur Fordyce?" he asked. "They are
in English, and, as you know, I am ignorant of the language of our
brave allies. Glance through them hurriedly, please, for time is a
consideration."

The Sub took the documents. The first was seemingly of no importance,
but the second gave a formula for the manufacture of nitro-talcite, a
recipe for which the leading scientists of Great Britain had sought
in vain.

Other papers gave details of the extremist movement in London and
elsewhere, including the names of several Russian residents within
the limits of the British Isles.

"Take charge of these documents," continued Orloff. "They will be
safer on a British submarine than in my possession, or even if they
were left at your embassy. Now, are you ready, Monsieur? It is time
to evacuate our position."

Through the still-silent streets the rescuing-party made their way,
two of the seamen labouring under the weight of what appeared to be a
well-filled sack carried between two poles. At the quay the tolerant
sentry was rewarded according to previous agreement, and, shouting a
tipsy farewell, he permitted his "comrades of the navy" to embark
with their burden of "fresh beef".

It was now beginning to snow heavily. The bizarre towers of the Kazan
Cathedral and the battlements of the fortress of Peter and Paul were
invisible in the drifting flakes. Even the opposite bank of the Neva
was fast being blotted into a state of unrecognizability.

"Do you think that we can manage it, my children?" asked Orloof, as
the men took to their oars.

"Certainly, Excellency," was the chorused reply that evidenced no
doubt as to the ability of the hardy Russian seamen to find their way
across the bleak expanse of water.

Steering the boat on a compass course, Orloff devoted his whole
attention to his task. The men relapsed into silence, pulling with
steady strokes. Fordyce, glad of the comfort of a boat-cloak, was too
elated at his release and the prospect of finding himself once more
on board R19 to feel the biting cold. Occasionally the sack-enclosed
bundle lying in the stern-sheet grating writhed and kicked, but
little attention was paid to the unhappy captive.

Suddenly the falling snow was tinted a vivid orange hue, while the
sky in the direction of the city was rent with lurid light. Then came
an ear-splitting roar, while the ice-encumbered waters rose and fell
under the influence of a powerful displacement of air. Green seas
poured over both gunwales of the boat, and only the resourcefulness
of the helmsman kept the frail craft from foundering.

"We are indeed fortunate," exclaimed Orloff, when the angry tumult of
water had subsided and the men set to work to bale out the cutter.
"All is not well with Petrograd, I fear."

The seamen hazarded various opinions as to the locality of the
explosion, but it was not until the following day that they heard the
facts of the case.

When Orloff pursued the luckless Klostivitch it must be remembered
that he left the attic window open. In the room was stored a small
quantity of the powerful nitro-talcite, the temperature of the house
being kept up by means of the central heating-stove. Upon the house
being abandoned the neglected fires soon dwindled, while the
temperature of the attic fell so steadily that within half an hour of
the time of leaving the house the nitro-talcite automatically
exploded. Most of the buildings in the Bobbinsky Prospekt were blown
to atoms and considerable damage done to the adjoining property; but,
as "it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good", the Extremist
leaders came to the conclusion that their energetic assistant,
Vladimir Klostivitch, had perished by means of the explosive he had
meant to employ against others.

For two more hours the cutter's crew pulled steadily. At intervals
the braying of fog-horns and the shrill blast of sirens told them
that other water-borne traffic was under way; yet, without sighting
any other craft, they held steadily on, following the edge of the ice
in the still-free Morskoi Canal.

Presently Captain-Lieutenant Orloff jerked the port-hand yoke-line.
His keen eyes had discerned the outlines of the lighthouse on the
eastern extremity of the island fortress.

It was now an easy matter for the cutter to pick her way past the
line of anchored destroyers. Hailed she was repeatedly; but there was
no cause for alarm, since boats of the flotilla were constantly
passing.

Almost before Fordyce was aware of the fact the cutter was rubbing
sides with R19, while leaning over the guard-rail of the submarine
were the Hon. Derek and Mr. Macquare.

"No, I will not stay, Monsieur le Capitan," replied Orloff in reply
to Stockdale's invitation. "Later on, perhaps--who knows? Meanwhile,
pray accept this gift. It is not the same as I intended to hand you,
nevertheless it may be acceptable."

And he indicated the enshrouded figure of the spy, Mindiggle.

"Come aboard, sir," reported Fordyce as he made his way up the side.

"Quite about time, Mr. Fordyce," replied the Hon. Derek, grasping his
subordinate's hand. "Another hour and we should have left you behind.
Confound it, what's that?"

"That" was Flirt. The delighted animal, hearing her master's voice,
had escaped from below, and, nearly capsizing the astonished
Lieutenant-Commander, had literally bounded into the Sub's arms.



CHAPTER XXIX

The Captured Convoy


"What do you propose to do with this, sir?" enquired Mr. Macquare,
indicating the sack-enclosed form of the spy.

"Goodness knows!" replied the Hon. Derek. "What is it?"

"Only Mindiggle, sir," announced the Sub.

"Explain yourself, Mr. Fordyce," ordered the Lieutenant-Commander.

"I can explain but very little, sir," said Fordyce. "It was an
absolute surprise to find him at the house in Bobbinsky Prospekt. I
hadn't the faintest idea he was in Russia. Klostivitch is dead, and
another of the gang. I have a number of documents for your perusal,
sir. Captain Orloff handed them to me. I think you will find them
interesting."

"His Majesty's submarines were never intended as receptacles for
spies," grumbled Stockdale. "Pass the fellow below. Hallo! the
weather's clearing. That's good. Directly the _Zabiyaka_ signals us
inform me, Mr. Macquare."

Already the ice-breakers had cleared a path through the frozen water.
In the outer road-stead the _Zabiyaka_ was lying at moorings with
steam raised ready to slip and proceed. Apparently she was awaiting
the return of the cutter with her disguised skipper.

Soon after Captain-Lieutenant Orloff boarded his vessel he reappeared
on deck rigged out in correct uniform. A hoist of bunting fluttered
from the destroyer's signal yard-arm. It was an intimation, in
International Code, that R19's escort was ready to proceed.

Amidst the cheers of a crowd of Russian bluejackets and marines the
British submarine cast off. Under the action of her petrol-driven
engines she slipped away from the quay-side and felt her way
cautiously down the narrow waterway. Then, taking station a
cable-length astern of the now-moving destroyer, R19 began her long
and hazardous voyage to Old England's shores.

Once clear of the Gulf of Finland mine-fields the _Zabiyaka_ flung
about and bade the submarine _bon voyage_. From that moment
Stockdale's command was alone in an inland sea where German warships
held almost undisputed sway and German mines closed every exit. More
than likely the departure of R19 had been communicated to Berlin, and
the Huns would be keeping special watch for the returning British
craft.


[Illustration: "PASS UNDER MY LEE!"]


Yet, with one exception, not a man on board was the least dismayed.
Confident in the skill and daring of their gallant skipper, and with
the knowledge that every revolution of the propellers was taking the
submarine nearer home, the men were in high spirits. The exception
was the spy Mindiggle. Not only was he viewing with the deepest
apprehension the prospect of being handed over to justice, but the
dread of being imprisoned in the hull of a submarine, in the midst of
countless dangers, reduced him almost to the verge of panic.

At the first possible opportunity the Hon. Derek ordered the crew to
diving stations. With the exception of the lost portion of false
keel, R19 was restored to her normal state, but it was highly
desirable that the vessel's capabilities after refit should be
severely tested. In order to compensate for the loss of several tons
of outside dead weight a corresponding amount of pig-iron ballast had
been taken on board and securely wedged to prevent shifting under
diving conditions.

The test gave admirable results. The intricate mechanism worked
without a hitch, the submarine descending without difficulty to a
depth of 20 fathoms. The only disconcerting part of the evolution was
the behaviour of the prisoner. The moment the vessel slid beneath the
waves he began shouting and screaming hysterically, keeping up the
performance during the whole period of submergence.

Almost without incident R19 came within sight of the Swedish coast.
It was the Hon. Derek's intention to make a landfall in the vicinity
of Braviken Bay, and thence, keeping just within Swedish territorial
water, skirt the long chain of small islands as far as Oland.

Just before sunset on the second day after leaving Cronstadt, R19
sighted seven small merchantmen steering due south at a distance of
about eleven miles from the coast. They were German vessels laden
with iron-ore. Deeming the Baltic to be now free from the attentions
of Russian destroyers, the hitherto idle shipping of Memel and
Dantzic had put to sea. They were without escort, and steaming in
single line at varying intervals behind one another.

"We'll have that lot, Mr. Macquare," decided the
Lieutenant-Commander. "Fortunately the moon is almost full. We'll
show Fritz our version of _spurlos versenkt_."

Altering helm, R19 steered athwart the course of the oncoming
merchantmen. With her guns manned and trained, and the White Ensign
floating proudly in the rays of the setting sun, she made no secret
of her intentions.

Stockdale had them entirely at his mercy. Between the merchantmen and
the shore he could have easily headed them off and destroyed them by
gun-fire or torpedo. Had he been a German, and these vessels unarmed
British ships, the latter would have been sent to the bottom, and
their crews fired upon with machine-guns; but as the Hon. Derek was a
member of a time-honoured and unsullied profession, and not a pirate,
he acted otherwise.

At the peremptory signal: "Heave-to or I will fire into you!" the
leading German ship reversed engines. Others followed her example,
until the seven were bunched together within a radius of two
cables'-lengths.

"They are taking matters for granted," observed Mr. Macquare as the
crews began to lower away the boats. So anxious were they to leave
that in their haste two of the boats capsized before the falls could
be disengaged.

"I'll give you fifteen minutes!" shouted the Hon. Derek through his
megaphone in German. "Pass under my lee. Each master will hand over
his papers, and you can then make for the shore."

These orders were promptly executed, and, having seen the flotilla of
boats well on its way, R19's crew set to work to destroy the prizes.

The whaler, under the charge of Sub-Lieutenant Fordyce, went from
vessel to vessel, the work of destruction being silently and
expeditiously performed by opening the sea-cocks.

Just as the Sub boarded the seventh ship the first flung her stern
high in the air and disappeared from view. Others were on the point
of making their last plunge. It was not a pleasant sight nor a
congenial duty, but stern necessity demanded the sacrifice of those
seven ships to the exigencies of war; and Fordyce, remembering the
fate of many a helpless British merchantman, torpedoed without mercy
in the midst of an angry sea and far from land, steeled his heart.

Suddenly the coxswain of the whaler gave a warning shout and pointed
in the direction of a trail of flame-tinged smoke showing faintly
against the warm afterglow.

There could be very little doubt concerning the approaching vessel. A
German destroyer, too late to save the convoy, was doing her best to
avenge its loss.



CHAPTER XXX

A Duel to the Death


Rushing upon the bridge of the foundering vessel, Fordyce looked
around for signs of R19. The submarine, giving the sinking craft a
wide berth, was slowly forging ahead to stand by to pick up her boat.
At the present moment the intercepting hull of the largest tramp hid
her from view.

"Ahoy!" shouted the Sub the moment R19's bows drew clear. "Enemy
destroyer bearing east by south, distance two miles."

"Aye, aye," roared Mr. Macquare in reply. "Stand by; we'll pick you
up later."

Keenly Fordyce watched the visible evolutions of the submarine as,
cleared away for diving, she sped through the waves without
attempting to submerge. To do otherwise would be running the risk of
fouling some of the wreckage from the sunken merchantmen. Stockdale
was making sure of his "ground" before seeking cover.

Up pelted the German torpedo-craft, the spray flying from her bows
and sizzling in clouds of steam against her red-hot funnels. Sighting
the submarine just as the latter was gliding beneath the waves, the
hostile vessel altered helm and bore down upon the spot where R19 had
disappeared, firing ineffectually with every gun that could be
brought to bear ahead.

To Fordyce it seemed as if the destroyer shuddered under a terrific
impact. He was more than half afraid that her sharp stem had sent R19
to her doom. Then came the splash of the mark-buoy being hurled
overboard to indicate the supposed position of the submarine,
followed by the detonation of a "depth-charge".

"Best hook it, sir," suggested Chalmers. "This old tub won't keep
afloat much longer."

So engrossed was the Sub in the spectacle of the German destroyer
searching for her prey that he had entirely overlooked his own peril.
Already the tramp's taffrail was level with the water, while her deck
betwixt the poop and the rise amidships was flooded.

Alongside the entry-port the whaler's crew were "fending off" to
prevent the boat being pinned against the side by the inrush of water.

"Give way, lads!" ordered Fordyce as he sprang into the waiting
boat.

Before the whaler had been rowed a distance of fifty yards a portion
of the tramp's deck blew up under the irresistible pressure of
compressed air. A rush of steam and smoke followed, and the doomed
vessel, her last reserve of buoyancy gone, sank like a stone.

It was now moonlight. A mile or so to the east'ard could be discerned
the misty shape of the grey-painted destroyer. She was turning to
starboard, with the intention of retracing her course in order to
observe traces of her presumably shattered foe.

"Keep down, all hands," cautioned Fordyce.

The men, boating their oars, crouched on the bottom boards. There was
just a chance that the Huns would overlook an apparently empty boat
adrift in the midst of a medley of flotsam, for the sea all around
was covered with woodwork of various shapes and sizes.

A minute passed in long-drawn suspense. There were audible
indications that the German destroyer was bearing down. Then the
tension was broken by a terrific roar, the rush of water being hurled
violently into the air and falling again.

Raising his head above the gunwale, Fordyce gave vent to a shout of
surprised gratification. A slowly-dispersing cloud of smoke marked
the spot where the enemy craft had been. Broken asunder by the
explosion of a torpedo, she was now lying on the bed of the Baltic.

"One more feather in the Old Man's cap," exclaimed a bluejacket, his
enthusiasm outweighing his sense of respect in thus referring to his
skipper.

"Give way!" ordered the Sub, as he grasped the yoke-lines. "There's
someone in the ditch."

The men bent to their oars with a will. At the prospect of saving
life their resentment for the Hun and all his works vanished.

They had not far to row before they entered the zone of acrid fumes,
for at the moment of the torpedo's impact the destroyer had lessened
the distance to about a quarter of a mile of the then motionless
whaler.

The moonbeams, penetrating the thinning veil of vapour, were
scintillating upon the still-agitated waves, while silhouetted
against the pale-yellow light were the outlines of the head and
shoulders of a swimmer.

"In bow!"

The bowman boated his oar, and, grasping the gunwale, leant overboard
with his right hand outstretched.

With the assistance of a comrade the bowman hiked the rescued German
into the boat. He was capless, his face was black with burnt powder.
He seemed dazed and incapable of speech.

"There's another 'Un!" shouted the bowman. "On your port bow, sir;
a-hangin' on to that bit o' wreckage."

The second swimmer was in a desperate state. He was almost destitute
of clothing, while his flesh was badly charred by the blast of the
explosion. As he was being lifted into the boat it was noticed that
his left leg was hanging limply, being all but severed above the knee
by a sliver of metal.

Skilfully the British tars proceeded to place a rough-and-ready
tourniquet round the injured limb, while, fortunately for himself,
the wounded man lost consciousness directly he was hauled into the
boat.

"There she is, sir," announced Chalmers, as the twin periscopes of
R19, throwing up feathers of spray, emerged from beneath the surface.
Followed the conning-tower, the bow portion of the deck, and then,
like a huge porpoise, the rest of the hull until the submarine was
awash.

"Look alive, Mr. Fordyce!" shouted the Lieutenant-Commander, as he
emerged through the conning-tower hatchway. "There may be some other
Hun craft knocking around. What's that--survivors?"

"Two, sir; one badly wounded."

The rescued men were lifted on board and passed below. Then, after
cruising round and making sure that there were no more of the
destroyer's men alive, the humane Stockdale gave orders for the
submarine to submerge once more.

"You bagged her all right, sir," remarked the Sub.

"Yes, the silly ass played into our hands, absolutely," replied the
Hon. Derek. "It was the result of taking too much for granted, I
suppose. Have you found out the number of the boat?"

"No, sir; but I will ascertain."

Fordyce made his way to the place where the survivors were being
tended by their late antagonists. The German with the broken limb
looked on the point of death, while the other, who had lost
consciousness upon being carried below, was found to be suffering
from several contusions to the back and ribs.

"'E's an officer, sir," reported one of the men, pointing to the
discarded uniform of the Imperial German Navy.

Fordyce examined the sleeve of the coat. By the distinctive rings he
knew that the prisoner was the skipper of the torpedoed destroyer--a
kapitan-leutnant, whose rank corresponded with that of
lieutenant-commander of the British navy.

"Wonder what he's done to get this?" mused the Sub, holding up the
decoration known as the "Ordre pour le Mérite". "Rum-looking josser,
too," he continued, studying the coarse features of the man; "brutal
even while unconscious. Hallo! Now what's wrong?"

From for'ard came a succession of violent crashes, mingled with
blood-curdling shrieks and unmistakably strong British epithets.
Quick to act, Fordyce rushed from the compartment and hurried towards
the scene of disorder.



CHAPTER XXXI

Von Hoppner's Boast


"It's that spy bloke, sir," reported one of the petty officers.
"Cassidy and Jones are tackling him all right."

By the time Fordyce arrived upon the scene the worst of the tumult
had passed. Mindiggle, foaming at the mouth, was lying on his back,
with Cassidy planted firmly on his chest, and the other A.B. pinning
his arms to the floor. Other would-be quellers of the disturbance
were awaiting an opportunity to secure the spy's legs. He was kicking
right and left, almost capsizing the bulky form of his captor, the
while yelling and shouting in a blood-curdling manner.

At length Mindiggle was handcuffed and gagged, and the Sub was then
told of what had occurred. It appeared that one of the seamen, going
into the spy's temporary cell, had been suddenly and violently
attacked by the demented man. There could be no doubt about it;
Mindiggle's brain had turned under the mental strain. He was nothing
less than a homicidal maniac.

About five minutes later Fordyce was called to the cabin occupied by
the two survivors of the torpedoed German destroyer. The
Lieutenant-Commander had recovered consciousness, and almost his
first act was to demand the reason why he, an officer of the Imperial
German Navy, should be sharing the same cabin with a common sailor?

"I will convey your request to my commanding officer," replied the
Sub, although he was inwardly raging at the attitude taken up by the
arrogant Hun, who, but for Fordyce's promptitude, might have been
lying fathoms deep in the Baltic. "Not knowing your name (the Sub was
too truthful to deny all knowledge of the prisoner's rank) we were
naturally at a loss."

"My name, Herr Unter-leutnant, is Ludwig von Hoppner," replied the
Hun pompously. "My rank, Kapitan-Leutnant of H.I.M. torpedo-boat
V201, as you English have already learnt to your cost."

"Indeed!" remarked Fordyce. "Then apparently we are quits, since V201
has been destroyed. Might I enquire particulars of the circumstances
to which you refer? Surely this Ordre pour le Mérite must have had
something to do with it?"

The Sub hardly expected that von Hoppner would give the information,
but the Hun, unable to refrain from boasting, swallowed the bait.

"It has," replied von Hoppner. "If you wish to know, Englishman, it
was for destroying one of your submarine-cruisers at the southern
entrance to the Sound."

"Then, I suppose," resumed Fordyce, "that the incident occurred about
two years ago, when one of our submarines went aground in neutral
waters, and your destroyers shelled the stranded vessel until a
Danish cruiser intervened. To the best of my recollection, the
officer directing the German operations received the Iron Cross only,
and not l'Ordre pour le Mérite."

"You are mistaken," said von Hoppner petulantly. "It was not that
occasion to which I refer. It was on the 9th of ---- of the present
year."

"Thank you!" replied the Sub quietly. "That is all I wish to know for
the present. I will convey your request to Lieutenant-Commander the
Hon. Derek Stockdale."

Chuckling to himself, Fordyce returned to the skipper's cabin to make
the report. He found the Hon. Derek conferring with Mr. Macquare as
to what was to be done with the lunatic, for Mindiggle's case was
hopeless.

"He's cheated a firing-party, Macquare," remarked the
Lieutenant-Commander. "The sooner we get him off this craft the
better. And the wounded German bluejacket too. At daybreak I'll speak
the first merchantman or fishing-boat we sight and put them both on
board. Well, Mr. Fordyce? You look mighty pleased with yourself."

"I have found out the name and rank of the prisoner, sir. He is
Kapitan-Leutnant Ludwig von Hoppner, late of V201, and the possessor
of l'Ordre pour le Mérite, bestowed, I have good reason to believe,
for assisting us in our passage through the German mine-field at the
southern entrance to the Sound."

"Eh, what's that?" enquired the Hon. Derek. "Explain yourself,
please."

"Might I have the log-book, sir?" asked Fordyce.

Receiving the manuscript volume, the Sub turned over the pages until
he came to the entry under the date given by the German officer.

"There you are, sir!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "That was the night
when we were held up by the nets, and a Hun torpedo-craft opened a
way for us by destroying that sunken merchantman by means of depth
charges."

"By Jove, yes!" ejaculated the Lieutenant-Commander. "Carry on, Mr.
Fordyce."

"So there's hardly a doubt that this von Hoppner was the officer
commanding the torpedo-boat. When he blew up the submerged vessel he
was under the impression that he had strafed us, and so his Emperor
gave him that potty decoration."

"What sort of fellow is he?" asked the Hon. Derek.

"A regular cad, sir, I should imagine," replied Fordyce. "His first
words to me were of the nature of a complaint that we had shoved him
into the same cabin as the bluejacket with the broken leg."

"Oh, is he?" rejoined the Lieutenant-Commander grimly. "In that case
I won't spare his feelings over his tin-pot decoration. Had he been a
decent sort of man I would have left him in blissful ignorance on
that point. Well, I think it is about time we got a move on, Mr.
Macquare."

R19, after a fairly long interval of submergence, was cautiously
brought to the surface. An examination of the moon-lit sea gave no
signs of the presence of hostile or other craft. Overhead nothing in
the nature of an air-craft could be discerned.

Running awash, yet ready to dive at a few seconds' notice, the
submarine held on her way, reeling off mile after mile, until the
first blush of dawn revealed the presence of a Zeppelin bearing down
wind at a great speed.

The Lieutenant-Commander promptly gave orders to dive, and once again
R19 sank and rested upon the sea bed. Whether the German air-ship had
"spotted" her was a matter for speculation. The crew would have
preferred to take their chances in an encounter with the giant
gas-bag, but their skipper thought otherwise. Until the Baltic was
left astern, cautious tactics were to be the order of the day.
Sounding meant long and tedious delays, but, as the Hon. Derek
remarked, "None but a fool would cut capers in the open jaw of a
man-trap."

It was approaching midday when R19 left her enforced resting-place.
The Zeppelin had vanished from sight, having failed in her quest to
locate the task she had been called upon to perform; but less than a
mile away on the port bow was a fishing-boat of about forty tons,
moving slowly through the water with fathoms of nets towing astern.

"That's what we've been wanting to fall in with," observed the Hon.
Derek. "Starboard a little, Quartermaster. Lay me alongside that
vessel."



CHAPTER XXXII

"Taken down a Peg"


The fishing-boat, according to the name painted on her stern, was the
_Stor Afan_, of Carlscrona. The only member of her crew visible was a
fair-haired youth of about fourteen, who was listlessly standing by
the wheel. She was making a bare two knots under scandalized mainsail
and jib. The rest of her canvas was stowed.

The youthful helmsman, happening to glance astern, caught sight of
the approaching submarine. His lethargy vanished, and at his shout of
alarm the rest of the crew came hurriedly on deck--a weather-beaten
old man and a tall stripling of about twenty years of age.

With her pair of for'ard guns manned and trained, for even the most
harmless-looking smack might prove to be a potential enemy, R19,
taking care to avoid the line of nets, ran within hailing distance of
the Swede.

"_Stor Afan_ ahoy! I want you to take two men aboard you," hailed the
Hon. Derek in German.

The skipper of the boat shouted something unintelligible in reply,
and shook his head in a way that suggested helpless ignorance.

Stockdale repeated his request with a like result. The second hand,
however, held up a basket of fish.

"Evidently a bribe," remarked Mr. Macquare. "They don't understand
Hun lingo, sir."

"So much the better for us, then," rejoined the Hon. Derek. "It's a
good thing we are not displaying our ensign; they'll take us for a
strafed U-boat, and when they make harbour they'll report to that
effect. It will help to throw the Huns off the scent."

Greatly to the consternation of the Swedes, R19 was adroitly
manoeuvred alongside the _Stor Afan_, the crew of the latter making
fast the ropes thrown them with the utmost alacrity. It was not until
they saw the still-unconscious form of the German bluejacket being
hoisted through the torpedo hatchway that anxiety gave place to
sympathetic attention.

As carefully as possible the Hun was transhipped to the deck of the
fishing-boat and taken thence to the little cabin. The spy,
Mindiggle, was next handed over. His appearance was greeted with
renewed apprehension on the part of the Swedes, which was not to be
wondered at, for he presented a gruesome spectacle, notwithstanding
the Hon. Derek's precaution of keeping him under the influence of
morphia.

Gibbering and foaming at the mouth, Mindiggle was led to the
forepeak, and, with the battening down of the hatchway, the spy
passed from Fordyce's view for the last time.

"I don't know whether we are acting up to the principles of the
kultured Hun," remarked the Hon. Derek as he gave the old skipper a
handful of silver roubles.

The Swede took them with obvious hesitation, and pointed towards the
invisible German shore.

"No, no!" exclaimed the Lieutenant-Commander, shaking his head. "Not
Deutschland--Sverige. That's one result of being a philatelist,
Macquare," he added parenthetically.

"The old boy evidently understands you, sir," remarked the
Lieutenant. "He didn't seem at all chirpy at the prospect of being
ordered to Germany."

Casting off, the submarine passed across the bows of the _Stor Afan_,
and, steadying on her helm, resumed her former course, while the
fishing-boat, when last seen, was observed to be hauling in her nets
and standing towards the Swedish shore.

Lieutenant-Commander Stockdale had barely finished his belated lunch
when it was reported to him that Kapitan-Leutnant von Hoppner
urgently desired an interview.

"Does he, by Jove!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek. "'Urgently desires'--I
like that. I'll send for him when I'm ready."

It was the Sub's trick with Mr. Macquare, but the
Lieutenant-Commander sent a message requesting Fordyce to come to his
cabin. Then, having set the log-book within hand's reach, and slipped
a marker between the pages relating to R19's passage through the
Sound, the Hon. Derek signified that he was agreeable to receive
Kapitan-Leutnant von Hoppner in his cabin.

The prisoner appeared under the charge of two petty officers. He was
in uniform, his saturated clothes having been dried; he had carefully
upturned the ends of his bristling moustache and brushed back his
yellow hair from his beetling forehead.

The Hon. Derek rose to meet his involuntary guest, taking no notice
of the fact that von Hoppner bore himself more like victor than
vanquished.

"Well, Kapitan-Leutnant, for what do you wish to see me?" asked
Stockdale, courteously offering the Hun the best chair in the
sparely-furnished cabin.

"I wish to know," replied von Hoppner, "what you have done with the
man who was brought on board this vessel with me?"

"Quite a thoughtful request," commented the Hon. Derek. "Naturally
any officer worthy of the name would be anxious concerning the
welfare of his subordinates. (And you kicked up a shindy because the
poor blighter was told off in your precious company," mentally added
Stockdale.)

The German inclined his head. He was too thick-skinned and puffed up
with arrogance to detect the faint tinge of caustic wit in the
British officer's words.

"As a matter of fact," continued the Lieutenant-Commander, "the man
was seriously wounded, as you are doubtless aware. Without proper
medical attention his life would be threatened by remaining in the
closed compartment of a submarine, so I took what I consider to be
the most humane course possible and set him on board a Swedish
craft."

"You set him on board a Swedish craft!" repeated von Hoppner. "I do
not understand."

"I made a plain statement," said the Hon. Derek. "If I can elucidate
matters----"

"I thought you were bound either for Stockholm or Carlscrona,"
interrupted the German.

It was the Hon. Derek's turn to express astonishment.

"What made you think so?" he asked.

"Because," replied von Hoppner insolently, "you have shot your bolt,
Englishman. You are trapped. All the entrances to the Baltic are
closely guarded. Escape that way is impossible. Nor can you hope to
find shelter in Russian ports, for Russia is now under the heel of
Germany. Therefore, no other course remains for you but to be
interned in a Swedish port until Germany wins the war and decides
what is to be done with you."

"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed the Hon. Derek, his brows clouding ominously.
Fordyce had seen his superior officer look like that once before. Von
Hoppner, too, noticed the change. He felt sorry he had spoken. "Oh,
indeed; _you_ are mistaken, Herr Kapitan-Leutnant. This vessel came
through your mine-fields and she'll make her way out--or bust. Do you
understand that?"

"Then I demand to be set on shore on parole in a neutral country,"
protested the Hun vehemently.

"You may demand," retorted Stockdale composedly. "That is as far as
it gets. What will happen is that you will be taken through your
precious mine-field--recollect, Germany mined Danish territorial
waters in flagrant defiance of international law--in His Majesty's
Submarine R19. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"

Von Hoppner's arrogance dropped from him like a cloak. He implored,
raved, whined, and attempted to browbeat his captor, finally cowering
with his face hidden in his hands. Fordyce felt almost certain that
the fellow was sobbing in an agony of terror.

"This display of feelings will not help matters," continued the Hon.
Derek sternly. "I can admire a brave man even if he be an enemy. Your
anxiety on the part of your wounded seaman is, I know, merely a
subterfuge, else for what reason did you object to his presence? One
other point, Herr von Hoppner. I see that you are the possessor of
l'Ordre pour le Mérite. Was that for services rendered whilst you
were acting commandant of the prison-camp at Neu Strelitz?"

"What do you know of Neu Strelitz?" enquired the Hun falteringly.

"Enough," replied the Hon. Derek briefly. "Under your orders British
bluejackets, prisoners of war, were vilely treated. However, you have
not answered my question concerning your decoration. You refuse to
answer? Perhaps, as you have already told my Sub-Lieutenant here, you
object to tedious repetition. Let me inform you, sir, that you took
too much for granted when you claimed the destruction of a British
submersible cruiser on the night of the 9th of ----. Be pleased to
listen while I read you an extract from the log. I will afterwards
let you inspect the writing in case you have any suspicion that the
log has been 'cooked'. That's not done in the British navy, you
know."

Slowly and distinctly Stockdale translated the passages relating to
R19's escape from the toil of nets. The Hun's face grew grey from
horrified amazement. The thought of the ridicule that the revelation
would produce should the true facts become known in Germany appalled
him.

"You will not destroy my reputation, Herr Kapitan Stockdale?" he
asked brokenly.

The Hon. Derek shut his log-book with a snap. "The British navy is
based upon long and honourable traditions. One of them, by no means
the least, is that its officers are _both_ officers _and_ gentlemen!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

Good-bye to the Baltic!


Four days later R19 drew within sight of the heavily-mined Sound.
Judging by the demeanour of the ship's company, the possibility of
facing immediate danger left them remarkably apathetic.

"Reminds me of a pack of youngsters robbing an orchard, knowing that
the farmer and his bull-dog are somewhere on the look-out," observed
Mr. Macquare. "They've had a rousing time while it lasted, and now
they've made up their minds to take what comes, only they'd rather
not meet the farmer if it could be avoided."

"How's von Hoppner taking it?" enquired the Hon. Derek.

"Badly," replied the Lieutenant. "If ever a man had the 'jumps' 'tis
he. Should we make a home port, sir, we'll have a lunatic with us,
despite your efforts to get rid of one. He even offered to impart
information concerning the mine-field."

"And what did you say to that?" asked the Lieutenant-Commander.

"I couldn't choke him off on my own responsibility," answered Mr.
Macquare.

The Hon. Derek pondered for a few moments. In the interests of all on
board the recreant's information might be of enormous value. Then he
shook his head.

"I'll turn it down, Macquare. If we are to win through it will be off
our own bat. Unless the steamer track has been altered recently we
stand a fighting chance. Tonight's the night, Mr. Macquare."

Taking elaborate cross-bearings while daylight lasted, R19 sounded,
remaining at the bottom until midnight. On reappearing on the surface
the submarine, ready for diving at ten seconds' notice, forged softly
ahead, conned by the Lieutenant-Commander and Fordyce from the
platform without the conning-tower.

It was hardly an ideal night for the undertaking. A thick haze
enveloped everything beyond a radius of fifty yards. Even the bows of
the vessel were indistinguishable from the mingling blur of the sea
and fog. A slightly longer range of visibility would have been
better, as the submarine would have been able to spot and avoid the
more conspicuous outlines of a patrol-boat or destroyer before the
latter could sight the low-lying hull of her foe.

It was an intricate piece of navigation by dead reckoning and of the
"hit or miss" order. From the after-end of the navigation platform
trailed a log-line, the movements of the luminous hand on the dial
being carefully watched by Petty Officer Chalmers. As an additional
precaution, the striking-gong of the recording mechanism had been
silenced.

The log gave the "distance run", the reading being checked by
independent calculations based upon the revolutions of the
propellers. For directing, R19 had to depend solely upon a compass
course, since the mist made it impossible to pick up shore bearings,
even if these were visible at night.

After an hour of high-tensioned suspense the Sub made his way aft to
the Petty Officer at the log indicator.

"How goes it?" he whispered.

"Close on, sir," was the equally cautious reply.

"I thought so," agreed Fordyce. "Good enough."

"We're over Position A, sir," he reported.

"Or thereabouts," added the Hon. Derek under his breath. "Starboard
eight, Quartermaster."

Round swung the deeply-submersed hull of the submarine to settle on
her new course--the awkward turn in the channel through the
mine-field. Already the netted area that had all but finished R19's
career on her outward voyage was left astern.

After a comparatively short run the order was given to port helm. R19
had negotiated the awkward bend in the cleared channel, and a
straight run northwards would see her beyond the limits of the
mine-field.

Suddenly, at a distance of about forty fathoms astern, and slightly
on the starboard quarter, a column of water leapt two hundred feet or
more into the misty air, accompanied by a roar like the concentrated
peals of a dozen thunderclaps. The next instant Fordyce, almost
capsized by the rush of displaced air, was knee-deep in water.

Rolling sluggishly, R19 shook herself clear of the turbulent swirl
while the Quartermaster promptly steadied her on her helm.

The Lieutenant-Commander glanced at his subordinate officer.

"Narrow squeak that, Fordyce," he remarked. "What's Chalmers doing?
By Jove, we cut that corner pretty closely!"

The Sub made his way to the after-end of the raised platform, where
the petty officer was standing as rigidly as a statue.

"All right there, Chalmers?"

"All right, sir," replied the imperturbable petty officer. "Only that
blessed log's gone to blazes."

He held up a coiled length of log-line as a visible corroboration to
his statement. The cause of the explosion was now revealed. In
turning, R19 had passed perilously close to an anchored mine, while
the log, towing astern, described a wider arc than that of the
submarine, and also caused a reduction of speed of the revolving
metal cylinder. The depth to which the log sinks varies inversely
with the speed of the towing vessel. So in "cutting the corner" the
trailing log descended sufficiently to come in contact with one of
the horns of the submerged mine.

It was a blessing in disguise, for the explosion gave the Hon. Derek
a clue as to his position, and a slight alteration of helm was
sufficient to bring R19 approximately in the centre of the channel.
Owing to the fog, none of the hostile patrol-boats risked making a
dash between the mines, although away to the south'ard there were
audible evidences of activity.

Another hour passed; then, with a partial lifting of the fog, the
loom of the land could be discerned on either hand.

"White and red group flashes on the starboard beam, sir," reported
the look-out, then: "Red and green occulting flashes on port bow,
sir."

Raising his night-glasses, the Hon. Derek focused them first to
starboard and then to port. Then he turned to the Sub.

"We're through, Mr. Fordyce," he remarked. "Those are the Malmo
lights to starboard. Telegraph for full speed ahead, if you please.
Good-bye to the Baltic!"



CHAPTER XXXIV

Home Again


It was fifteen miles to the nor'ard of the Skaw in broad daylight.
R19 was running awash in a perfectly calm sea. Sub-Lieutenant
Fordyce, keeping a tramp under observation, turned to the
Quartermaster.

"Starboard a couple of points, Quartermaster," he ordered. "I want to
have a closer look at that ship. Dash it all," he soliloquized, "the
old tub seems strangely familiar!"

Evidently the vessel in question did not evince any desire to accept
the submarine's advances, for she, too, altered helm.

"What is it?" enquired the Lieutenant-Commander, who at that moment
emerged from the conning-tower.

"A tramp under Swedish colours, sir," reported the Sub. "Strange
thing, she has a gun mounted for'ard. Unless I'm much mistaken we've
met her before to-day."

An order from the Lieutenant-Commander brought the guns' crews on
deck. The for'ard quick-firers were raised from their "houses" and
manned, while, increasing speed, R19 was soon within hailing
distance.

"What ship is that?" enquired the Hon. Derek in English.

"_Ryan-Berg_, of Malmo," was the reply. "You our colour painted on
side see."

"I'm not blind--only sceptical," retorted the Lieutenant-Commander.
"Heave-to; I'll send a boat."

While the tramp was losing way the submarine flung about, taking up a
position on the vessel's starboard quarter, and on a parallel course.

On the bluff counter of the tramp appeared the words:
"_Ryan-Berg_--Malmo", but at a short distance it was quite evident
that the name was painted on a strip of canvas.

"That's good enough, Mr. Fordyce," remarked the Hon. Derek grimly.

"And what's more, sir," added the Sub, "she's an old friend, the
_Talisman_, of Goole. She missed us at point-blank range on one
occasion."

"I recollect," agreed the Lieutenant-Commander, "and we pumped out a
gallon of lubricating-oil just to encourage her misguided but
praiseworthy skipper. Carry on, Mr. Fordyce."

Quickly the boarding-party tumbled into the boat and rowed off to the
tramp. Revolver in hand, Fordyce gained her deck, to be greeted by
half a dozen Teutons in very motley garb.

"The game's up," exclaimed Fordyce. "We are not bluffed by fresh
paint and a canvas name-board."

The prize crew were ordered below, while the former master and a
dozen hands were released from captivity.

"You never know your luck," exclaimed the rightful skipper of the
_Talisman_, a bluff, grey-haired salt of the burly, breezy type. "I
expected to find myself in a German prison-camp within the next
thirty-six hours. A light cruiser nabbed us four miles outside
Christiansand harbour. They clapped us under hatches and put a prize
crew on board, and a rascally set they are."

"They treated you decently?"

"Not so bad," replied the "old man", "until they found I had an
Admiralty certificate for sinking a U-boat. Blew her to bits at fifty
yards. Not a doubt about it; there was oil enough to spread over a
couple of hundred yards."

"And when did that occur?" asked Fordyce.

The master of the _Talisman_ gave the date.

"The swine tore up my certificate," he added bitterly. "I suppose the
Admiralty will give me a duplicate?"

"I should imagine so," replied Fordyce. "Excuse me, but time is
precious. I must ask instructions from my commanding officer."

The Hon. Derek, upon being informed of the state of affairs, ordered
Fordyce and four seaman to remain on board the prize.

"We'll stand by you," he added. "I suppose there's enough coal left
in her bunkers to carry her home?"

"I'll enquire, sir. By the by, her master has or had a certificate
presented him by the Admiralty for having fired at us. Luckily he
missed."

"You didn't enlighten him, I hope?" asked the Hon. Derek anxiously.

"Oh no, sir!"

"That's good. Carry on--yes, certainly, take Flirt with you. And good
luck!"

* * * * *

"So that dog's turned up again," observed Mr. Fordyce, senior, when a
taxi deposited Noel, Flirt, and a portmanteau outside the Sub's
paternal home, and informal but warm greetings had been exchanged. "I
thought she was lost."

"I took her for a cruise for the benefit of her health, Pater," said
his irrepressible offspring.

"Benefit of her health indeed," re-echoed Mr. Fordyce. "And, pray, is
she better for the change? I was under the impression that she was
far too high spirited before. I hope to goodness, Noel, that there
will be no repetition of the Councillor Mindiggle business."

"I'll answer for that, Pater," replied the Sub. "She won't nip him
again."

"You seem jolly sure of it," rejoined Mr. Fordyce. "If she does
she'll have to be des----"

A dinner gong sounded, and Noel linked arms with his somewhat biased
parent and led him into the dining-room.

"I'm awfully peckish, Pater," he remarked.

"Then set to," suggested Mr. Fordyce. "Well, what have you been doing
with yourself?"

When at length Noel finished his yarn--on this occasion he was more
communicative as to his adventures than on former occasions--Mr.
Fordyce called to Flirt, who was contentedly coiled up on the
hearth-rug.

"Come here, little girl!" he exclaimed. "By Jove, you're a brick!
I'll take back all I said of you. Dash it all, I'd give you a biscuit
but for my Lord Rhondda!"



PRINTED AND BOUND IN GREAT BRITAIN
_By Blackie & Son, Limited, Glasgow_



  [Transcriber's Notes:

    This book contains a number of misprints.
    A few cases of punctuation have been corrected, but not mentioned
    here. The other misprints are reproduced as in the original.
    Possible misprints are:

    [It would have been a spendid] -> [It would have been a splendid]
    [it's all U P with us] this might be a (strange) misprint for
       [it's all up with us]
    [Orloof] -> everywhere else it's: [Orloff]
    [futherance] -> [furtherance]
    [framents] -> [fragments]
    [was mantained] -> [was maintained]
    [Klostovitch] -> everywhere else it's: [Klostivitch]
    [freqently] -> [frequently]
    [messsage] -> [message]
    [Quarter-Master] -> everywhere else it's [quartermaster]
    [THE TOO FAITHFUL FLIRT] -> in the list of illustrations there's
       no dash, but there is one beneath the actual image.

  ]





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