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Title: A Watch-dog of the North Sea - A Naval Story of the Great War
Author: Westerman, Percy F. (Percy Francis)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: cover art]



A WATCH-DOG OF THE
NORTH SEA



[Illustration: "SHE REELED HEAVILY WITH THE EFFECT OF A MORTAL BLOW"]



A WATCH-DOG OF
THE NORTH SEA


A NAVAL STORY OF
THE GREAT WAR



BY
PERCY F. WESTERMAN

AUTHOR OF "A SUB. OF THE R.N.R."
"THE DREADNOUGHT OF THE AIR"
ETC.



S.W. PARTRIDGE & CO.
4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.1



MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN
First published December 1916



           CONTENTS

   CHAPTER
        I. H.M.S. "POMPEY"
       II. THE RESULT OF THE LEADING STOKER'S CURIOSITY
      III. GREENWOOD SENIOR'S DISCOVERY
       IV. THE SECRET PETROL-DEPÔT
        V. EXPLANATIONS
       VI. AN EXCELLENT NIGHT'S WORK
      VII. THE DAY FOLLOWING
     VIII. SPY AND SUPER-SPY
       IX. AN ADVENTURE ON THE HILLS
        X. THE FOILED RAID
       XI. ONE ZEPPELIN THE LESS
      XII. AN OCEAN DUEL
     XIII. ADRIFT
      XIV. A BREACH OF NEUTRALITY
       XV. A PRISONER OF WAR
      XVI. THE FIRST DAY OF CAPTIVITY
     XVII. A DASH FOR LIBERTY
    XVIII. THE DERELICT OBSERVATION BALLOON
      XIX. THE DESERTED HOUSE
       XX. TRESSIDAR SOLVES A MYSTERY
      XXI. CHECKMATE
     XXII. THE SHELL-BATTERED HOSPITAL
    XXIII. AT AULDHAIG ONCE MORE
     XXIV. A FIGHT TO A FINISH
      XXV. IN THE MOMENT OF TRIUMPH
     XXVI. THE HOME-COMING OF THE S.S. "MEROPE"
    XXVII. A DAY ON DARTMOOR
   XXVIII. --AND A NIGHT
     XXIX. WHEN THE TRAWLERS SHOWED FIGHT
      XXX. A NOVEL DUCK HUNT
     XXXI. MONITORS IN ACTION
    XXXII. THE "ANZAC'S" DAY
   XXXIII. A SPLINTER OF SHELL
    XXXIV. EXIT OBERFURST
     XXXV. TRESSIDAR'S REWARD



  LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
       IN COLOUR


                                                      Frontispiece
  "SHE REELED HEAVILY WITH THE EFFECT OF A
    MORTAL BLOW"

  "A MAELSTROM OF FOAM HID THE SPOT WHERE THE
    PERISCOPE HAD BEEN VISIBLE".

  "THEY THREW UP THEIR ARMS AND YELLED FOR QUARTER"

  WITH THE QUICK-FIRERS TRAINED UPON THE
    BULKY TARGET, NO. 445 APPROACHED WITHIN
    HAILING DISTANCE

  AN OCEAN DUEL

  "'IN WITH YOU, OLD MAN!' HE EXCLAIMED"

  A BATTLE-CRUISER SQUADRON

  "ON THE DECK WAS A GERMAN UNTER-LEUTNANT,
    BOUND HAND AND FOOT"



A WATCH-DOG OF THE
NORTH SEA



CHAPTER I

H.M.S. "POMPEY"


A BUGLE-CALL rang out shrill and clear in the wintry air.

"Thank goodness--at last," murmured Eric Greenwood. "That's an end to
'Action Stations' for the time being. Let me see. Tomorrow coal ship,
next day make up the money. Payment on Friday, and ten to one
there'll be half a gale of wind--and paper money is a strafed
nuisance."

Thus musing, Assistant Paymaster Greenwood, R.N.R., completed his
preparations for vacating the fore-top of H.M.S. "Pompey," where he
had been acting as assistant to the lieutenant in charge of the
fire-control arrangements.

The fore-top, a caged-in structure measuring roughly eight feet by
eight, was situated ninety feet above the upper deck. In long-range
actions it took the place of the conning-tower as "the brains of the
ship," for in that limited aerial perch seven officers and men, all
working with a common set purpose, were able to direct salvoes of
death-dealing missiles with uncanny accuracy to a target invisible to
the guns' crews at their stations behind six inches of Krupp steel.

"Carry on, old man," said Vickers, the lieutenant, indicating a small
trap-hatch in the floor of the top. "Be careful; there's ice about."

Greenwood had already made up his mind to be careful. A man who, up
to within fifteen months ago, had led an eminently sedate existence
as a bank clerk does not take to work aloft with the same agility and
confidence inspired by years of training at Osborne and Dartmouth.

At the outbreak of war Eric Greenwood was a ledger clerk at a bank in
a quiet Devonshire country town. The notion of serving under the
White Ensign had never occurred to him, even in his wildest dreams,
until the Admiralty called for additional accountant officers for the
Royal Naval Reserve. Eric promptly sent in his application. It was
curtly acknowledged; and then followed weeks of tedious, sickening
suspense, until, when hope seemed dead, the bank clerk received an
envelope marked "O.H.M.S.," the contents of which transformed him
into an acting assistant paymaster, R.N.R.

After a short term at the Naval Barracks at Devonport, Greenwood was
sent to a small base on the east coast of Scotland. It seemed as if
he were fated to remain ashore until the termination of the war,
when, to his unbounded satisfaction, he was appointed to H.M.S.
"Pompey."

The "Pompey" was an armoured cruiser of 14,000 tons, armed with two
9.2-in. and fourteen 6-in. guns, in addition to several weapons of
lighter calibre. Although by no means a modern vessel, she was
generally considered to be a "tough nut" and able to give a good
account of herself on The Day--that long-expected and long-deferred
event--when the Germans finally made up their minds to decide by
ordeal of battle whether they could attempt to wrench the trident of
sea-power from Britannia's grasp.

Lieutenant Vickers's caution was necessary, for as the A.P. lowered
himself through the narrow opening, his feet came in contact with the
ratlines of the wire-shrouds. They were slippery with ice, for it had
been drizzling, as it almost always did in the North Sea when it was
not blowing a gale, and the moisture settling on the rigging had
frozen hard.

The ship was rolling considerably. At one moment the starboard
shrouds were almost perpendicular, at another they inclined at such
an angle that Greenwood was almost lying on his face at full length
upon a gigantic wire net. Clouds of eddying, pungent smoke enveloped
him, for the vessel had a following wind. The keen blast seemed to
cut him like a knife in spite of his bulky, additional clothing.

The young officer descended rapidly. He was anxious to gain the deck
for two reasons. He wanted to warm himself by the wardroom fire; he
was also aware that a destroyer had a few hours previously sent on
board a batch of mails--the first for nearly a fortnight. After
thirteen days of patrol work without being in touch with land, the
prospect of receiving letters from home was one that outweighed all
others, unless, perhaps--harrowing thought!--the mail-bag was a blank
so far as Eric was concerned.

"Hello, old bird! A trifle nippy up in your little perch!" exclaimed
a voice as Greenwood stepped over the threshold of the wardroom door.

The speaker was a tall, broad-shouldered sub-lieutenant, Ronald
Tressidar by name. Between these two there existed a friendship that
was almost of lifelong duration, for their respective homes were in
the same Devonshire town. Of recent years they had seen little of
each other. Their careers were set upon totally different lines till
by a pure coincidence they found themselves appointed to H.M.S.
"Pompey."

"Beastly cold," agreed Greenwood as he made his way to the
letter-rack. Thanks be! There was a goodly sheaf of envelopes bearing
his name. Eagerly the A.P. possessed himself of his correspondence
and sought a chair in the sadly depleted wardroom, for upon the
outbreak of hostilities the cosy atmosphere of the place had given
way to a state of almost Spartan simplicity.

Silence reigned. The rest of the officers off duty were literally
devouring their greetings from home or else were burying their heads
between the pages of newspapers that were at least three days old.

In the warm glow, with his mind fully occupied with thoughts of home
and distant friends, Greenwood forgot completely the rigorous period
of "Action Stations" in the fore-top. But all things come to an end.
Reluctantly the A.P. folded his letters and placed them in his
pocket. As he did so he caught Tressidar's eye.

"Anything startling?" asked the sub., taking a vacant place on the
lounge within a couple of feet of Greenwood's chair.

"Heaps," replied the A.P. "For one thing, an aeroplane came down on
the pater's greenhouse. No one hurt. I can imagine the governor
cutting up rough about it. He never could see the humorous side of
anything. The mater is still knitting for the troops. I pity the poor
fellows who get hold of any of the gear she turns out. Once upon a
time in the dire days of my youth she knitted me a pair of socks. I
didn't forget to chip her about them, too."

"She makes awfully decent cakes," remarked Tressidar reminiscently.

"She does," agreed the A.P. "And I remember the time when we brought
a hammer and a cold chisel to the tea-table and pretended to split
the almond paste asunder."

"Wasn't that the cake your sister Doris made?"

"Might have been, now you mention it," said Greenwood. "Talking of
Doris, she's now a probationer in the Reserve Nursing Service, and
she's appointed to Auldhaig."

"Is that so?" asked Tressidar with ill-feigned disinterestedness.
Nevertheless a deep flush overspread his tanned and weather-beaten
features. The sub. had always been extremely partial to the girl, but
Doris had been in the habit of keeping him severely in his place.
That was long before the war.

"Strange that she should be sent to our base," continued Eric. "We
may see something of her this Christmas, for I heard the fleet
paymaster say that we are likely to remain in harbour until early in
the New Year. He had the tip from the engineer-commander, who
submitted a list of defects as long as your arm."

As a matter of fact Ronald Tressidar knew more about Doris
Greenwood's plans than did her brother, for a letter from the girl
was reposing in his pocket. Generally outspoken and communicative in
most matters, Tressidar maintained a studious reticence in his chum's
presence whenever the subject of Greenwood's nineteen-year-old sister
was discussed.

"There's 'Action Stations' again!" exclaimed a lieutenant-commander
as a bugle blared on deck.

Instantly there was a rush on the part of the occupants of the
wardroom, to the accompaniment of the sharp cracks of the
quick-firers.

But before Tressidar gained the deck the danger--at least for the
time being--was over. The "Pompey" had ported helm, while at less
than twenty yards on the port beam the surface of the water was
marked by a pair of diverging lines that indicated the track of a
torpedo. By a smart display of helmsmanship the cruiser had escaped
destruction.

Already the skipper, who after an arduous night had turned in, was on
the bridge, with his feet in carpet slippers and the legs of his
pyjama suit showing below the bottom of his great-coat.

"See any signs of a periscope, Mr. Flanders?" he inquired of the
officer of the watch.

"No, sir," was the reply. "We opened fire at what turns out to be a
floating spar. The torpedo came from broad on our port beam before I
ordered the helm to be put hard over."

"Good!" exclaimed Captain Raxworthy. "We'll see if we can't nab her."

In ordinary circumstances a battleship or cruiser that has the good
luck to be missed by a hostile torpedo steams off at full speed from
the dangerous locality. Should destroyers or patrol boats be in the
vicinity, they are brought up at full speed to attempt to intercept
the submarine. But on this occasion the "Pompey" was alone in this
remote portion of the North Sea.

Contrary to precedent, Captain Raxworthy gave orders for the cruiser
to slow down and come to a standstill. At the same time volumes of
steam were allowed to hiss through the steam-pipes. All the six-inch
and light quick-firers were manned, ready at the first glimpse of the
hostile periscope to let fly such a weight of metal that the still
submerged hull of the submarine would stand no chance of resisting
the powerful shells.

The skipper of the "Pompey" was correct in his surmise. By slowing
down and letting off steam the cruiser behaved in much the same way
as if she had been actually torpedoed. The crew of the submarine
heard the sounds that apparently betokened the cruiser in her
death-agonies, and they could not resist the temptation to approach
the surface and survey their work through the periscope.

Four hundred yards away on the "Pompey's" starboard quarter a
pole-like object shot stealthily above the surface. It wanted the
trained eyes of a seaman to discern the ripple of foam that denoted
the position. Half a dozen or more of the "Pompey's" crew spotted the
expected target.


[Illustration: "A MAELSTROM OF FOAM HID THE SPOT WHERE THE PERISCOPE
HAD BEEN VISIBLE"]


The next instant twenty shells were shrieking through the air on
their way towards the doomed submarine. A perfect maelstrom of foam,
mingled with smoke and fragments of metal hid the spot where the
periscope had been visible.

The columns of foam subsided; the smoke drifted rapidly away in the
strong breeze; but ominous air-bubbles and an ever-increasing oily
patch that had the effect of quieting the crested waves denoted the
undisputed fact that yet another unterseeboot had shot her last
bolt. Eight hours later H.M.S. "Pompey" entered Auldhaig Firth.



CHAPTER II

THE RESULT OF THE LEADING STOKER'S CURIOSITY


"CLEAR lower deck. Hands fall in to coal ship."

The hoarse orders following the shrill trills of the bos'n's mates'
pipes rang from end to end of H.M.S. "Pompey". In the stokers' messes
men arrayed in motley garbs, for the most part consisting of old
canvas suits and coloured handkerchiefs tied tightly over their
foreheads, cleared out at the double to fall in on the quarter-deck.

Stoker James Jorkler, otherwise known as Rhino Jorkler, heard the
order not without emotion. He was a tall, sparely-built man of about
twenty-four years of age. At first sight he lacked physique, until
one noticed the ripple of supple muscles on his partly-bared arms.
His face was long and pointed, his eyes blue and deeply set
underneath a pair of thick and overhanging brows. His hair closely
cropped, tended to exaggerate the elongation of his head. His
features betrayed neither signs of good humour nor bad temper, but
rather an intelligence bordering upon cunning.

Three months previously the Royal Navy in a somewhat excusable haste
had accepted the services of James Jorkler. In war time, with a heavy
drain upon personnel the authorities had to be a trifle less
particular as to whom they enlisted for temporary service, and
amongst a batch of stoker recruits was Jorkler.

His answers upon enlistment evidently satisfied the petty officer
responsible for obtaining the necessary particulars. He was a
Canadian, he declared, born at Woodstock, New Brunswick. Former
occupation? Trimmer on board a White Star liner. His discharge papers
confirmed that statement. Next of kin? James Jorkler rubbed his chin
thoughtfully. He was on the point of replying that he did not possess
such a luxury, but upon consideration he gave the name of Jonas
Brocklebunk, his half-brother, of Leith.

Promptly the newly entered stoker was fired off to the R.N. Barracks
at Portsmouth. His cap-ribbon, like those of the rest of the men
borne on the books of that establishment, was embellished with the
words "H.M.S. Victory," although his acquaintance with the
time-honoured three-decker was limited to a distant glimpse of the
ship as she swung to her moorings in Portsmouth Harbour.

The rest of the stokers' mess could not come to a unanimous decision
concerning the tall recruit. His reserve puzzled them. Although he
made no attempt to "choke off" any questions, he kept much to
himself. He had no bosom pal. He showed no inclination to "split
brass rags" with any of his messmates, who, for some unexplained
reason, nicknamed him "Rhino."

When in due time he emerged from his course of preliminary training
and was drafted to H.M.S. "Pompey," the name stuck. He showed neither
appreciation nor resentment at it; it would have been useless to have
done either. So he accepted the sobriquet without any outward and
visible sign of interest in his messmates' solicitude for his need of
a nickname.

The mess-deck was all but cleared. Jorkler, usually amongst the first
to respond to orders, lingered until he was almost the last. Then,
kneeling over his ditty-box, he unlocked and threw back the lid,
delving amongst his belongings until he found what he required. "Wot
the 'Ades 'ave you got there, mate?" broke in a deep voice.

Jorkler turned with a start to find that a leading stoker was
standing behind him.

"Kind of souvenir," he replied weakly. "I guess is isn't of any interest
to you."

"Thought as it might be a plug o' 'bacca," continued the man. "Fact
is, I believes it is. 'Ow about it?"

"Reckon you're wrong," snapped Jorkler with returning confidence as
he slammed and locked the box.

"Too jolly fishy to my liking," rejoined the petty officer bluntly.
"You just wait till we've done coaling and I'll see for myself wot
your little game is. Strikes me it ain't all jonnick."

At this threat Jorkler started to his feet Fortunately for the
leading stoker there were others still in the mess, otherwise----

Jorkler set his jaw tightly and followed his inquisitor on deck. At
the first opportunity he would nip below and throw the object of
discussion overboard rather than let the leading stoker see it.

It was still night, with a cold, drizzling rain. Overhead arc-lamps
threw a pale gleam upon the serried lines of men--seamen, stokers,
and marines--on the quarter-deck. Everything liable to be affected by
coal-dust had been covered up. The huge 9.2-in. guns were swathed in
sacking; canvas covers encased the closed hatchways; whips for
hoisting inboard the sacks of coal, trollies for bearing them to the
nearest shoots, and a medley of other gear were in readiness, while
steam was already raised to operate the winches.

Skilfully a large "haulabout"--a hulk converted into a floating
coal-depôt--was manoeuvred alongside to starboard. To port a couple
of deeply laden lighters had already been made fast.

"Commence--carry on!" shouted the commander from the after-bridge.

Instantly it seemed as if pandemonium had broken loose. With a rush
the men set to work, for, if possible, H.M.S. "Pompey" was to break
her own record.

Winches clattered. Jets of steam drifted across the slippery deck.
Men shouted, knocked one another and each other, and worked till, in
spite of the chilliness of the morning, their faces, quickly blacked
with coal-dust, ran with perspiration.

Most of the junior officers joined in the actual labour. They found
that even handling sacks of coal was preferable to standing by and
shivering in the damp air. Clad in garments that outvied the bizarre
rig of the hands, sub-lieutenants and midshipmen were soon toiling
like Trojans.

With an almost reckless disregard for life and limb, sacks in batches
of half a dozen at the time were hoisted from the coaling craft and
dumped with a dull crash upon the cruiser's deck. Woe-betide the
luckless wight who failed to heed the warning cry of "Stand by,
there!" Like a pack of wolves the energetic men threw themselves upon
the bags and dragged them to the shoots, until the ship vibrated with
the clatter of coal descending to the bunkers.

At eight bells the word was passed to "Stand easy." A hasty
breakfast, consisting largely of coal-dust washed down with ship's
cocoa, was served out. The mess-decks were seething with human beings
resembling imps and satyrs in their grimy garbs and blackened faces.

Reluctantly Stoker Jorkler came to the conclusion that this was no
time to go to his ditty-box. Up to the present no opportunity had
occurred.

Again the ship's company resumed their labours. It was now daybreak.
The rain still fell, unheeded by the enthusiastic toilers. The only
people who minded the horrible climatic conditions were the band,
who, to keep up the spirits of the coaling party, were discussing
lively airs in which rag-time predominated.

Suddenly an engine-room artificer working the main derrick hoist gave
vent to an oath. "Here, one of you; bear a hand," he claimed. "I've
nipped my fingers."

Without a word Stoker Jorkler relieved the luckless man at the steam
winch. The E.R.A., with two fingers crushed to a pulp, hurried away
to the sick-bay; while Jorkler, whose knowledge of machinery and of
winches in particular was far from perfect, remained in control of
the hoisting gear. He, of the whole of the ship's company, didn't
exactly see why he should break his back over sacks of coal when he
could take on the comparatively light job of running the steam hoist.

"Avast heaving there on the main derrick!" shouted Sub-lieutenant
Tressidar, whose quick eye had noticed that something had gone wrong
aloft.

Jorkler obeyed promptly, shutting off steam and applying the
band-brake. A hundred pairs of eyes followed the direction of the
sub's outstretched hand. The wire hawser had "jumped" the sheave at
the end of the derrick that, projecting at an angle of forty-five
degrees, terminated fifty feet or more above the deck of the lighter.

"Up aloft, one of you," continued Tressidar, addressing the men whose
operations had perforce to be suspended.

But before the order could be carried out a man working in the
lighter gripped the wire rope, shouting for the winch to be put in
motion.

Dangling at the end of the rope as he rose swiftly into the air was a
burly figure rigged out in grimy canvas. With his teeth gleaming in
contrast to his black face and with a dash of colour imparted by the
scarlet handkerchief bound round his head, the volunteer for the
dangerous service cut a picturesque figure.

Stoker Jorkler gave an involuntary start. He recognised the man as
Leading Stoker Smith, the petty officer whose insistence had given
him such a bad turn. For a few seconds he thought--and thought hard.

The winch was still in motion. Higher and higher rose the petty
officer until his head was almost level with the huge metal block at
the end of the derrick.

Sub-lieutenant Tressidar raised his hand as a signal for the winch to
be stopped. Jorkler, his eyes fixed upon the man who had aroused his
enmity, made no effort to obey.

Leading Stoker Smith realised his peril. The wire rope which he was
grasping was being drawn completely through the sheave. He changed
his grip from the rope to the metal block, but the latter afforded no
adequate hold.

"Stop winding, you blithering idiot!" roared the commander, who from
the after-bridge was a witness of all that occurred.

Still Jorkler, ostentatiously fumbling with the mechanism, allowed
the winch to revolve. The end of the rope, including the eye-splice,
pulled through the sheave and fell with a thud upon the deck, the men
scattering right and left to avoid it in its descent.

In the midst of his peril Smith espied a short length of rope bent to
the end of the derrick. Again he shifted his hold, and, grasping the
rope's-end, strove to fling his legs athwart the steeply sloping
spar.

As he did so the rope parted like pack-thread. Groans escaped the
on-lookers as the doomed man, with arms and legs outstretched,
hurtled through the air. To the spectators he seemed to fall slowly,
but with a sickening crash his back came into contact with a beam in
the hold of the lighter.

A dozen of his shipmates rushed to his assistance, but the man was
beyond mortal aid.

"What the deuce have you been up to?" inquired the
engineer-lieutenant of the man at the winch.

"Sorry, sir," replied Jorkler with well-feigned grief. "The engine
got out of gear. Is he dead, sir?"

"As if he could be anything else!" retorted the irate officer. "Stand
aside, you blithering idiot! There'll be something for you to
answer." Five minutes later the interrupted work was resumed. The
lifeless victim had been removed; only sheer hard work could dispel
the gloom that had fallen on the ship's company.

Beneath the mask of regret Jorkler was smiling to himself; from which
it was evident that the mysterious "thing" that had excited his
victim's curiosity was something of great importance, since Jorkler
put its value above that of the life of a shipmate.

He was a firm believer in the adage, "Dead men tell no tales."

On the following day the county coroner and twelve good men and true
assembled, as the law directs, to inquire into the manner of Leading
Stoker Smith's death.

Although not knowing the difference between a derrick and a hand
spike, a whip or a tackle, they listened with an air of profound
wisdom to the engineer-lieutenant's technical explanations. They
heard Stoker Jorkler's account, although most of his sentences were
Dutch to the Highlanders who formed the jury. They accepted the
commander's statement that everything had been done to safeguard the
interests of the crew, and, satisfied, returned a verdict of
Accidental Death.

Leading Stoker Smith received the only salute to which a lower deck
man is entitled--three volleys over his grave; and the "thing" still
remained locked away in Rhino Jorkler's ditty-box.



CHAPTER III

GREENWOOD SENIOR'S DISCOVERY


EARLY on the following afternoon a train in connection with the night
express for King's Cross arrived at Auldhaig station from Edinburgh.

Amongst the passengers were Mr. Theodore Greenwood and his daughter
Doris. The former's object in making the long and tedious journey
from Devonshire to the bleak north-east coast of Scotland was
twofold. He wanted to hand his daughter over safely to the Naval
Hospital--and this in spite of the nineteen-year-old young lady's
assurances that she was quite capable of travelling alone. He also
thought that there might be a possibility of seeing Eric, since he
knew that the "Pompey's" base was at Auldhaig. Notwithstanding the
fact that the Assistant Paymaster R.N.R. had studiously adhered to
the regulations and had made no mention of where the ship was or what
she was doing, that information had been forthcoming.

Nor was Mr. Greenwood alone in the possession of the supposed secret,
for already several of the officers' wives and families had braved
the rigours of the wintry climate and had taken either furnished
houses or apartments in the town, which since the war had developed
out of all knowledge.

Having duly rid himself of his responsibility of handing Doris over
to the Head Nursing Sister, Mr. Greenwood set out on his quest for
H.M.S. "Pompey." Being naturally of a somewhat nervous disposition,
he hesitated to ask if the cruiser were in harbour, reflecting that
such a question might lead to his arrest as a spy. In his imagination
he fancied that everyone he met eyed him with suspicion.

At length he arrived at the shore of an arm of the intricate harbour.
Lying at moorings in the channel were half a dozen destroyers, but
there were no signs of any vessel approaching the armoured cruiser in
tonnage.

For some moments he stopped to read a notice-board on which was set
forth a list of things that the inhabitants of Auldhaig must or must
not do, the document being signed by the senior naval officer of the
port.

"There's nothing like taking every possible precaution," murmured Mr.
Greenwood approvingly. "One cannot be too particular in wartime."

Just then an old fisherman sauntered by. To him the stranger
addressed himself, inquiring if he knew whether the "Pompey" was in
harbour.

The old Scot shook his head.

"I dinna ken what you say, mon," he said.

Mr. Greenwood repeated his question.

"Oh--ay. Weel, tak yon path----"

He gave his questioner lengthy and bewildering directions which not
only left the Devon man completely tied up in knots, but with also a
reply to a misunderstood question, for the old man had come to the
conclusion that Mr. Greenwood was asking the way to Ponhaugh, a small
fishing-village about four miles from Auldhaig by the cliff-path.

Gaining the outskirts of the town, Mr. Greenwood commenced the long
climb to the edge of the rugged granite cliffs. From the moment he
struck the open country he did not see another person of whom he
might make further inquiries, but with complete reliance upon the old
fisherman's directions he walked briskly along the narrow, winding
path.

This he followed for nearly two miles without finding any signs of
his quest. Instead, he made the disconcerting discovery that the
track split into two parts, one branch trending inland, the other
descending steeply to the beach.

Mr. Greenwood took the latter route. Upon gaining the shore he found
that the track ended at the firm sands that fronted the base of the
rugged and indented line of cliffs.

Undaunted, he proceeded, expecting as he rounded each projection to
find the non-existent harbour in which he supposed H.M.S. "Pompey" to
be lying; but headland after headland was passed without any
satisfactory result.

Presently he arrived at a little bay. The distance between the two
enclosing promontories was less than a hundred yards apart. The shore
was of sand, but, unlike the rest of the beach, was interrupted by a
series of low ledges of rock. Between the water's edge and the base
of the cliffs the distance averaged twenty yards, although the waves
were almost washing the wall of granite at either end of the bay.

Suddenly Mr. Greenwood caught sight of a cylindrical object lying on
the shore. It was a little larger than a football and glistened in
the dull light. At every undulation it was flung upon the sand,
whence it receded in the undertow until thrown back by the succeeding
wave. Attached to it was a short length of frayed rope.

"That must be a mine," decided the alarmed man. "The authorities must
be informed."

Although half inclined to retrace his steps, he walked cautiously
past it, keeping as close to the cliffs as possible, until he gained
the furthermost headland. Here, to his dismay, he found the distant
aspect was a misleading one, for his progress was barred by a deep
gulley through which the tide was surging right up to the wall of
granite.

"I hope the tide is going down," thought Mr. Greenwood.

To satisfy his curiosity on that point he wasted ten precious
minutes, only to be ocularly assured that the tide was on the flood,
and that there was no possible chance of going further.

Again he passed the cylindrical object. By this time it was within a
few feet of one of the ledges of rock.

"When the waves throw it against those rocks it will explode,"
commented Mr. Greenwood. "How dangerous! Thank goodness I have yet
time to put a safe distance between me and that infernal machine."

Thirty seconds later he "brought up all standing." Where a short time
previously had been an expanse of hard sand, the waves were lapping
against the cliff. His retreat was cut off.

Even then, at the expense of wet feet, he might have negotiated the
passage, since the water was only about a foot or eighteen inches in
depth; but Mr. Greenwood hesitated and, figuratively, was lost.

Step by step he retreated before the rapidly rising tide, each step
taking him nearer again to the object of his apprehension. A belt of
seaweed rising six or seven feet from the sand marked the limit of
mean high tides on the face of the cliffs. It was evident that
nowhere within the arms of the bay was safety to be found except by
scaling the frowning precipice.

Discarding his umbrella--he wedged it tightly into a crevice in the
granite in the hope that he might be able to retrieve his trusty
friend--Mr. Greenwood sought for a suitable spot at which to commence
his hazardous feat. At the same time he kept an anxious watch upon
the derelict mine, which, having escaped being cast upon the ledge,
was now being carried close to the main wall of rock.

In his heated imagination he fancied himself fifty or a hundred feet
up the cliff with the powerful explosive going off and hurling him to
a terrible death upon the rocks beneath. He shouted, but only the
echoes of his own voice mocked his appeal for aid. In vain he looked
seaward, where the mists of evening were already creeping over the
wild North Sea. Not a sail was visible.

Mr. Greenwood was one of those men who, by disposition timid and
unassuming, possessed a great reserve of courage and determination
when called upon to extricate themselves from a tight corner. And,
having found himself in a tight corner, he acted accordingly.

After a brief search he discovered a rift in the cliff, which at this
point was not so sheer as it appeared at first sight. In any case the
footholds obtainable extended sufficiently high to enable him to
climb above high-water mark. Here he could wait until the tide fell
and take his chance with the mine.

The first six feet gave him great trouble, for the weed and kelp
afforded little foothold, but beyond this height he was able to
maintain a steady progress. Up and up he climbed, not daring to look
down, although the attraction of that deadly cylinder was almost
irresistible. He wanted to watch its progress towards the base of the
solid rock.

At length, fifty feet above the sea, he gained a fairly broad ledge,
the presence of which was invisible from the beach. Nor could it be
seen from the top of the cliffs, for higher up they projected well
beyond the ledge, the face being so smooth that further climbing was
a matter of sheer impossibility.

"At any rate, I am safe for the time being," soliloquised Mr.
Greenwood. "That is something to be thankful for, although I would
infinitely prefer the comfort of a bed to the prospect of spending a
winter's night less than halfway up a wall of rock. And even if that
mine explodes I think this ledge will provide sufficient protection
to minimise the force of the detonation."

Cautiously extending himself, he peered over the edge. In the
fast-gathering gloom he could just discern the mine as it rolled to
and fro on the shelving sand. The waves had almost borne it to the
base of the rocks.

A new danger now confronted the stranded man. Perilous as the climb
had been, the descent was doubly dangerous. When the time came, he
could no more essay the feat of regaining the beach than he could
hope to clamber up the remaining two hundred feet of beetling cliff.
Unless aid were forthcoming, he was in danger of perishing of cold
and hunger.

Mr. Greenwood's next step was to prepare for his approaching vigil
while there was yet light enough for him to see. The ledge was almost
twelve feet in length and five in its widest part, gradually
diminishing to nothing at either end. One portion was covered by a
withered bush, a circumstance that aroused the investigator's
curiosity, since it seemed remarkable that vegetation could grow on
the face of a granite cliff.

"Thank goodness I have pipe, matches, and tobacco," he thought
philosophically. Now that the immediate danger was past, he
determined to make the best of things.

He again directed his attention upon the bush. To use it as a seat
would be preferable to sitting on the hard, cold rock.

As he sat the bush gave way. In vain he clutched wildly for support.
Toppling backwards, he disappeared into what appeared to be the solid
rock.

For some moments he lay helpless, too dazed to realise what had
occurred. He was almost in darkness. A peculiar pungent smell
assailed his nostrils. Could it be possible that he owed his present
predicament to the explosion of the derelict mine?

After a while Mr. Greenwood raised himself. Grimly he reflected that
his visit to Auldhaig had not been uneventful. Adventures were
crowding upon each other's heels. His zest for excitement was
increasing.

The bush had broken his fall. He found himself on a flat floor of
what appeared to be a cavern. Where the foliage had been, appeared an
irregular opening through which the dim twilight filtered without
sufficient intensity to reveal his surroundings.

"One thing, I've a roof over my head," he soliloquised. "Now I am
getting on. But I really cannot understand this peculiar odour. It
reminds me very forcibly of a garage. Yes, petrol fumes. To be on the
safe side I don't think I'll smoke just at present. In fact, I think
it would be well to investigate."

Cautiously and on all-fours Mr. Greenwood commenced his tour of
discovery, crawling lest there should be a hole in the floor.

Soon his head came in contact with a metallic object. It was a filled
petrol tin, one of dozens, possibly hundreds, stacked in orderly
manner against one wall of the cave.

"Now, that's strange," murmured Mr. Greenwood "It is pretty certain
that that lot would not have been brought into this place from the
cliff, so there must be an outlet besides the hole through which I
tumbled. Why should a place like this be chosen to store petrol? And
why was the hole so carefully hidden with a dead bush? It looks jolly
fishy. Of course I've heard plenty of talk of German secret
petrol-bases in Great Britain, but I never believed the tales. By
smoke! I fancy I've stumbled upon one now. The first question is, how
am I to find a way out without being seen?"

Resuming his cautious crawl, Mr. Greenwood penetrated into the
recesses of the cave, keeping within touch of the rows of petrol-cans
on his right. Contrary to his expectations, the floor was smooth,
though tending to rise in the direction in which he was proceeding.

At about twenty yards from the hole through which he had tumbled, he
remembered that he had left his tracks uncovered. No need to creep on
all-fours now, for he had the irregular patch of light to guide him.
Grasping the displaced bush, he replaced it in the opening, and
chuckling to himself he again resumed his tour of exploration.

His spirits were rising rapidly. The love of adventure, that had lain
dormant for years, was reasserting itself. Also he began to realise
that he had now a chance of doing something definite for his
country--a chance that hitherto had been denied him on account of his
age.

He had quite forgotten the derelict mine. The fears that he had
entertained on that score had been completely dispelled by the
thought that he had lighted upon a discovery of real national
importance--the existence of a secret base for hostile submarines.

For quite a hundred yards he groped his way. The darkness was so
intense that it appeared to have weight--to press upon his eyes. The
tunnel, too, had contracted, for by extending both his arms he could
touch the enclosing walls. Once or twice he stood erect to relieve
the aching muscles of his back. He could then just touch the roof,
which, although of solid rock, was bone-dry.

Suddenly his forehead came in contact with a hard object. It was the
bottommost step of a stout ladder. The steps extended from side to
side, for the tunnel was still contracting. Further progress, except
by the ladder, was impossible, since the wall of rock terminated a
short distance beyond the base of the steps.

Mr. Greenwood examined his surroundings with great exactitude before
attempting the ascent. Everything had to be performed by the sense of
touch. The steps were of far greater thickness than the usual type of
ladder, and were more apart. Apparently they had been constructed to
bear very heavy weights, each one being strengthened by means of a
circular iron bar on the underside.

"I'm half inclined to use a match," thought Mr. Greenwood. "It's
risky, with all those petrol fumes about, but---- No, I won't; I'll
make the best of it."

Slowly he ascended. It reminded him of an infant attempting to climb
a staircase for the first time. The steps, in spite of their
solidity, creaked under his weight. The sounds, intensified by the
enclosed surroundings, added to the uncanniness of the mysterious
cave.

At the eighth step he found a trap-door above his head. It was what
he expected; but the question arose, what was on the other side? He
had no desire to blunder into the presence of half a dozen
desperadoes, who would doubtless have no scruples in knocking him
over the head and toppling his corpse down the cliff.

Even as he was considering the best thing to be done, he heard
footsteps overhead and a deep voice exclaiming, "Now, then, Max;
let's get on with the business. It's quite time we showed the signal.
Hand me yon crowbar and bear a hand to lift this trap. It's heavy."



CHAPTER IV

THE SECRET PETROL-DEPÔT


"NO, I don't want to meet Max & Co.--at least, not just yet,"
soliloquised Mr. Greenwood as he hurriedly and silently descended to
the floor of the tunnel. His first thought was to retrace his steps,
scramble through the opening and lie at full length upon the outside
ledge, until he realised that the mysterious frequenters of the cave
would still be between him and freedom.

Then he remembered that there was a space between the foot of the
ladder and the end of the tunnel. It was not at all likely that this
would be examined.

With an agility that he did not think himself capable of, Mr.
Greenwood crawled between two of the steps and crouched in his place
of concealment.

Barely had he done so when the trap-door was raised. A flood of light
streamed from above, although, fortunately, the flight of steps threw
a strong shadow upon the recumbent form of Mr. Greenwood.

"You vos leave open der door?" inquired a guttural voice.

"Yes, Max," was the reply. "It's main heavy, and there's no call to
exert ourselves to bustin'-point. No one'll come here after dark."

The speaker descended, holding an electric torch in his hand. He was
a short, thick-set fellow, dressed in soiled velveteens. He looked a
typical gamekeeper.

The person addressed as Max followed. He was a tall, fair-haired,
broad-shouldered man of about thirty years of age. He wore a long
overcoat and muffler, a hard felt hat, grey trousers and brown boots,
the latter being almost hidden under a thick deposit of mud.

"I've got a rope further along," continued the short man. "When they
answer our signals and send a boat, I'll lower you down. Only don't
forget it's cash on the nail."

"Vot vos dat?" asked Max.

"The fifty pounds agreed upon. We'll signal at intervals, but don't
be too jolly cocksure. They can't always be to time. If they show up
afore four in the mornin', count yourself lucky."

The men, still talking, moved down the tunnel, until a bend, that Mr.
Greenwood had passed without being aware of it, screened the light
from the place where he lay concealed.

"Now or never," he thought.

Extricating himself from his cramped position, he scaled the ladder.
Then, with his head almost level with the trap-door, he waited until
his eyes grew accustomed to the blaze of light.

The opening was placed in the floor of a room--the kitchen of a
small cottage, apparently. The two windows were heavily curtained.
The door was secured, in addition to the massive lock, by a stout
oaken beam resting in iron staples at either end. The furniture was
scanty, consisting of a deal table, on which lay the remains of a
meal and a large oil-lamp; three rush-bottomed chairs; a dresser, and
a well-worn horse-hair couch. On one of the beams overhead were slung
a couple of double-barrelled sporting guns. Opposite the door was
another opening to a second room.

Mr. Greenwood's first impulse upon emerging from the tunnel was to
slam the heavy trap-door and pile the furniture on top of it. But, he
reflected, the men had a means of escape by the rope of which the
short man had spoken. Moreover, they would raise the alarm and
prevent the approach of the expected boat, which, more than likely,
would put off from a German submarine.

No, he must make his escape without arousing suspicion. It would be
an easy matter to unbar the door, but since he could not replace the
cross-bar after he was outside, such a step would be unwise.

Throwing back the curtain he tried one of the windows. It was a
latticed casement. With a little agility he could squeeze through,
replace the curtain and trust to luck that the unsecured window might
escape detection.

Two minutes later he was breathing the open air--a free man.

He looked about him. The night air blew cold. He had no idea of the
direction of Auldhaig. For the time being his quest for the cruiser
was out of the question.

Far away and at a considerably lower level two rows of lamps
glimmered through the darkness. They were the anchor lights of the
decoy boats of the fleet lying in Auldhaig Harbour. The town and the
actual ships were shrouded in darkness, but every night numbers of
small boats, each showing a white light, were moored at some distance
from the fleet. At one time they might be placed half a dozen cables'
lengths to the north'ard of the anchorage, at another a similar
distance to the eastward, the idea being to mislead any Zeppelin that
might attempt to drop bombs upon the harbour and shipping.

Setting his face towards the friendly lights, Mr. Greenwood began the
descent of the rough hillside. Before he had gone a quarter of a mile
the irresistible yearning for a pipe assailed him. Turning his back
to the wind, he struck a match, and was soon puffing contentedly at
his gratifying briar.

Suddenly half a dozen dark forms pounced upon him. Before he could
utter a sound he was seized by a pair of muscular hands, and a hoarse
voice exclaimed:

"Now, then, wot's your little game? Flashing lights at this time o'
night, eh?"

Mr. Greenwood did not immediately reply. His dignity as a respectable
British citizen had been outraged. He drew himself up with as much
hauteur as the circumstances would permit.

"Allow me to inform you," he said stiffly, "that I will not be spoken
to in this dictatorial manner."

"All right, old sport, don't bust yourself," rejoined his questioner.
"Now, what are you doing here this time o' night? Wanderin' along
the cliffs at ten o'clock wants a little explanation."

"As a matter of fact I was looking for H.M.S. 'Pompey,'" began Mr.
Greenwood.

A roar of laughter greeted this announcement.

"D'ye expect to find her on top of a cliff?" asked the man when the
merriment had subsided. "Look here, this is a serious matter. We're
the Coast Patrol. We saw a light about a quarter of an hour ago and
another just now."

"When I lit my pipe," added Mr. Greenwood, who, still ruffled by his
reception, had decided not to impart the secret to the uncouth crowd
that had waylaid him; "and what I said about the 'Pompey' is
absolutely correct. I was directed along the cliffs, missed my way,
and got cut off by the tide. My object was to visit my son, who is an
officer on board the cruiser in question. If you have any reason to
doubt my statement, inquiries on board will remove all suspicion."

"You came up over the cliffs, sir?" asked the man respectfully, for
Mr. Greenwood's declaration that he was the father of a naval officer
could not lightly be ignored.

"I did," replied Mr. Greenwood with studied pride. He did not think
it necessary to explain how.

"Well, you're a game 'un, pardon my saying so. P'raps, sir, you won't
mind if we sees you back to the town. Dooty is dooty, an' we must
satisfy ourselves that you are what you says you are. Got any friends
at Auldhaig?"

Mr Greenwood was adverse to causing his daughter anxiety at that time
of night. At the hotel he was known only as a stranger putting up for
a few days.

"I'm afraid I haven't," he replied. "But, if it is not too late, I
suppose you could accompany me on board the cruiser?"

The men conferred amongst themselves; then the spokesman again
addressed the object of his suspicion.

"All right, sir; that'll be the best way, I'm thinking. Best foot
forward, sir. We may just catch the six-bell boat from the staith."

The speaker and another member of the patrol fell in on either side
of their suspect, while the rest of the party disappeared in the
opposite direction.

"We are members of the National Guard," explained the senior of the
two men. "'Tain't exactly a soft job, but it's something. Not often
do we come across strangers on the cliffs after dark. When we do, we
generally run 'em in. My word, I'd like to know how you got up here
from the beach, sir!"

Mr. Greenwood declined the bait. He was well satisfied with the way
events were shaping themselves. In spite of his misadventures and the
lateness of the hour, he stood a fair chance of seeing his son that
night.

Half an hour's steady tramp brought him and his escort to the staith
or quay. Answering the challenge of the armed seaman on sentry, the
patrol men ascertained that the "Pompey's" boat had not yet put off
to bring back a party of officers who had been ashore on leave.

Presently several great-coated forms appeared through the darkness.
Amongst them was the commander.

"Beg pardon, sir," said the sentry. "Three civilians require passage
to the 'Pompey.'"

"Eh, what?" queried the commander. "At this time of night? What for?
Who are they?"

Mr. Greenwood seized the opportunity by explaining to the naval
officer that he had urgent reasons for seeing his son--Assistant
Paymaster Eric Greenwood, R.N.R.

"Personal reasons?" asked the commander. "I am afraid you will have
to defer your visit till the morning. Sorry; but personal
considerations have to stand aside in wartime. And who might your
companions be?"

"My--er--my goalers, I suppose I must term them," explained Mr.
Greenwood. "I am, I believe, under arrest. In addition to personal
reasons I have a matter of national importance which I wish to bring
to the notice of the authorities. Since I know only two people
connected with the service, both of whom are officers on the
'Pompey,' I thought---- But I'd rather explain to you alone."

The commander hesitated. He was a genial man, ready to do anyone a
good turn. If, however, he took the responsibility of introducing a
civilian on board on the strength of what might prove to be a
cock-and-bull story, he might be rapped over the knuckles by the
Admiralty--and, he reflected, being rapped over the knuckles by My
Lords generally resulted in the sting remaining for many a long day.

"Why not make your report to the flag captain?" suggested the
commander suavely. "His shore office is open day and night, and that
would save you a tedious boat journey on a cold night like this."

Mr. Greenwood could be very obstinate when occasion arose. Having
gone thus far, he was determined to see the business through in the
manner he had intended.

"No, sir," he replied. "I do not want to run about after flag
captains at this hour of the night. If you cannot see your way clear
to accede to my request, the important matter of which I hinted must
wait. The responsibility which is no light one--will be transferred
to other shoulders."

It was the turn of the commander to be taken aback. He was not used
to be talked to like this by civilians. He tried to fix the
middle-aged gentleman with his best quarter-deck glare, but the
darkness foiled him. Had he been able to see the dishevelled
individual in the light he would doubtless have come to the
conclusion that he was being tackled by a person with an unhinged
mind.

"Very well--carry on," he exclaimed. "Here's the boat. Coxswain!
assist this gentleman into the stern-sheets."

"And us, sir?" began the National Guard, but the naval officer
"choked him off."

"No, no," he interrupted hurriedly. "I'll be responsible for
your--er--prisoner."

Guided by the coxswain, Mr. Greenwood stepped off the quay into the
stern-sheets of the picquet-boat. In fifteen seconds he found himself
sandwiched between two young officers, while another half a dozen
completely crowded out the strictly limited space.

The coxswain sounded a bell in the engine-room. The engines were
reversed and the long, lean boat backed from the quay. Then, at full
speed ahead, she glided rapidly, without lights, through the pitch
dark waters of Auldhaig Harbour.



CHAPTER V

EXPLANATIONS


"PASS the word for Mr. Greenwood," ordered the commander as
Greenwood, Senior, found himself on the quarter-deck.

The voyage, short as it had been, was a revelation to him. It showed
him how the navy men handle their boats on a winter's night, without
a light to guide them, and unable themselves to show the orthodox
red, white, and green steaming lights. He was in momentary dread of
finding himself in the water owing to the picquet-boat either
colliding with something or else being cut in twain by another marine
race-horse. He marvelled at the sangfroid of his uniformed
companions, who chatted and cut jokes with each other with the utmost
unconcern. The hoarse challenge "Boat Ahoy!" from the sentry on the
"Pompey's" fore-bridge and the seemingly inconsequent "Aye, aye" of
the picquet-boat's coxswain gave him an insight into the ceaseless
vigilance of Britain's first line of defence.

Almost in a whirl he found himself ascending the accommodation-ladder
and gaining the spacious quarter-deck.

"Eric, my boy!" exclaimed Mr. Greenwood delightedly, as his son,
arrayed in unfamiliar garb, ascended the companion.

"By Jove! pater, what on earth brings you here?" inquired the A.P.,
astonished at the identity of his visitor. Then he paused, having
become aware of the presence of the commander, who stood like a
guardian angel behind the benighted visitor.

"Your father has told me that he wishes to communicate a matter of
urgent importance, Mr. Greenwood," said the commander. "I think it
would be well if you saw him in your cabin. If, in your opinion, the
business is urgent, you will please report to me."

He moved away to consult with the officer of the watch before going
below. Father and son stood irresolute; Mr. Greenwood hardly knowing
how to begin, while Eric was beginning to wonder how and by what
possible means could his parent possess a certain knowledge that
would require to be reported to the commander.

Down the ladder and the half-deck Mr. Greenwood followed his son.
Here an alert sentry drew himself up as the young officer passed.
Then the stolidity of his face gave place to an amused expression as
he noticed the dishevelled appearance of the A.P.'s companion.

"This way," continued Eric. "My cabin's under repairs. Haven't got it
quite ship-shape after that little affair off the Belgian coast. I'll
take you into Tressidar's cabin. Of course you know he's shipmates
with me?"

He knocked at the metal door. Receiving an invitation to enter, he
opened the door and drew aside a curtain. The cabin was small and
brilliantly lighted. Over the closed scuttle a curtain had been drawn
to make doubly sure that no stray rays were visible from without.

Seated in an arm-chair drawn close to a very small and compact stove
was Sub-lieutenant Ronald Tressidar.

"I say, old man----" began Eric; then, noticing the look of
astonishment in the sub.'s eyes, he broke off and followed the
direction of Tressidar's gaze. For the first time he became aware of
his usually precise parent's appearance.

Mr. Greenwood wore his coat buttoned tightly round his throat. The
coat was literally caked with mud and dust and in addition was rent
across the right shoulder. His face was as dirty as the proverbial
tinker's; on his left cheek was a line of dried blood, the result of
an unheeded scratch received in his tumble in company with the dead
bush. His hair, generally sleek and well brushed, was tousled and
matted with wisps of grass.

"Pater!" exclaimed Eric in utter amazement.

"It's all right, my boy," declared Mr. Greenwood reassuringly. "I've
had the night of my life--absolutely. No, don't go, Tressidar. Listen
to what I've discovered."

"Have a stiff glass of grog, sir?" asked the sub., after Mr.
Greenwood had washed his face and hands and had smoothed his ruffled
hair.

"Thanks, I could do with one," replied Greenwood, Senior. "In fact, I
was on the point of asking for a whisky, only I thought from your
look of astonishment that you imagined I had already had one too
many. No, thank Heaven, I've got off lightly, but I've left my best
umbrella on the beach."

"Fire away, pater," said Eric. "We are all attention."

Mr. Greenwood "fired away." Uninterrupted he pursued his narrative
until he came to the discovery of the supposed derelict mine.

"It wasn't glass by any chance?" asked Tressidar.

"Glass?" repeated Mr. Greenwood. "Well, now I come to think of it,
perhaps it did resemble glass. But why do you ask?"

"Because, judging by your description of its size and buoyancy, I am
inclined to think that your mine was one of the glass buoys we use
for marking the position of our submarine obstructions. After
on-shore gales the coastguards find hundreds of them."

The narrator mopped his forehead. A wave of horrible uncertainty
swept over him. Perhaps, then, the second episode of his nocturnal.
adventures would have similar harmless interpretation?

"Carry on, pater," said Eric encouragingly.

"By Jove, sir!" exclaimed Tressidar, when Mr. Greenwood arrived at
his discovery of the petrol-depôt. "Cut it short, if you don't
mind. Let's have the salient facts. Every minute is of extreme
importance."

Five minutes later the sub. was reporting the matter to the
commander, who, in turn, communicated the discovery to the captain.

In ordinary circumstances the captain of the cruiser ought to have
submitted a written report to the senior naval officer at Auldhaig,
but red tape had long since gone by the board so far as naval matters
were concerned. Other Government departments were still tied hand and
foot with fathoms of red tape. Well it was that at the Admiralty the
Gordian knot had been severed on that memorable 4th of August, 1914.

In a very short space of time the skipper's plans were formed. A
landing-party, under the orders of Sub-lieutenant Tressidar, was to
proceed at once to the solitary cottage. Since Mr. Greenwood was very
hazy as to its locality, the assistance of the National Guard forming
the coast-patrol was to be requisitioned.

Two pulling-boats, in charge of the first lieutenant, were to proceed
to the bay where the entrance to the cave was situated. Mr.
Greenwood's description of the spot was sufficiently accurate for the
place to be identified. Examination of the chart showed that for
miles northward from the entrance to Auldhaig Firth there was only
water deep enough for a submarine to approach within easy distance of
the shore at this particular indentation, which bore the name of
Sallach Dhu Bay.

Eric Greenwood asked and obtained permission to accompany the
landing-party. He felt that as his father had been the means of
locating the petrol-store, his son had a kind of interest in the
proceedings.

Mr. Greenwood, who was now feeling the reaction of his unwonted
exertions, asked to be put ashore. He was content to have a good
night's rest at the hotel and learn developments in the morning.

"Bless my soul, Eric!" he exclaimed as his son, with a conspicuous
revolver-holster strapped to his great-coat, appeared in the doorway
of his cabin. "What are you doing with that weapon? I thought
assistant paymasters were non-combatants?"

Eric grinned. He did not think fit to enlighten his parent on the
matter. Mentally he recalled a certain forenoon off Ostend. For three
hours he was on duty in the fore-top, with hostile shells flying
thick and fast. One, he vividly remembered, hurtled a few feet from
the mast, cutting away the shrouds on the starboard side, but
fortunately without exploding. He and his comrades in that lofty
perch had missed annihilation by almost a miracle.

"Get so much work in the ship's office that I'm glad of a breather,"
he remarked. "Oh, by the way, we're having a sort of informal
reception on board to-morrow afternoon. Several of the officers'
wives and families are turning up. You might bring Doris, and then
you can sample naval hospitality in wartime. The boat will be at the
staith at six bells--that's three o'clock."

"Come on, old man," called out Tressidar. "The boat's alongside. Are
you ready, Mr. Greenwood?"

The cutter, in which about twenty armed seamen were already seated,
had dropped back from the boom to the accommodation-ladder.
Tressidar, the A.P. and a midshipman were Mr. Greenwood's companions
in the stern-sheets.

At the landing-place Mr. Greenwood waited as the men silently "fell
in," while a seaman hurried off to enlist the services of the
National Guard to guide them to the scene of operations.

In a very short time the two coast-patrol men arrived. Briefly the
situation was explained to them. Tressidar gave the order, and the
landing-party moved forward and were soon lost in the darkness.

For some moments Mr. Greenwood stood still, hardly able to convince
himself that he was not dreaming. Then he broke into a run in the
direction of the armed men. Guided by the thud of their footfalls, he
overtook them before they were clear of the market-place.

"I say, Eric," he exclaimed breathlessly. "If you've a chance there's
my best umbrella on the beach. Don't forget it, if you can help it,
there's a good lad."

And having eased his mind on that point, he wended his way to the
Bantyre Hotel.



CHAPTER VI

AN EXCELLENT NIGHT'S WORK


"THERE'S the cottage, sir," whispered one of the guides, pointing to
a dark object silhouetted against the starlit sky.

The sub. halted his party and called them to attention. Six of them
with the A.P., were to accompany him to the house; the others, under
the command of the midshipman, were to form a cordon round the
building and also to establish communication with the boats when the
crucial time arrived.

Stealthily Tressidar approached the window through which Mr.
Greenwood had effected his escape. The casement was ajar. He opened
it and drew the curtain aside the fraction of an inch. The room,
still lighted, was deserted. Signing to his men to remain, he stole
quietly through the window and approached the trap-door leading to
the tunnel. He could detect the fumes of petrol. With the burning
lamp the cottage was in momentary peril of being blown up by the
ignition of the air and volatile spirit with which it was so highly
charged. Either the occupier was a madman or a fool, he argued.

Unbarring and unlocking the door, Tressidar brought his men into the
room. Extinguishing the lamp, he switched on his electric torch and
led the way down the ladder to the tunnel.

Contrary to his expectations, the descent was effected without any of
the seamen stumbling, dropping their rifles, or making a noise that
would betray their presence. In silence the men awaited their
officer's next order, which was given by signs.

Tressidar weighed the matter over in his mind. To act quickly it was
necessary to have light, since the darkness gave the miscreants an
undoubted advantage. To attempt to stalk them in the pitch-black
darkness would be running a risk of premature discovery. As far as he
knew, there was about eighty yards of tunnel, including a fairly
sharp bend between him and the seaward end of the cave.

Still keeping the torch switched on, Tressidar advanced swiftly and
silently down the tunnel. He found not one but two turns in the
passage. Upon rounding the second, the rays of his torch fell upon
the two men of whom he was in search.

They were both lying across the sill of the natural opening
communicating with the outside ledge. Both had night-glasses glued to
their eyes, and so intent were they in keeping the expanse of dark
water under observation that they failed to notice the illumination
that flooded the cave.

There was no peremptory order of "Hands up!" No dramatic covering with
revolvers. The British seamen simply grasped the recumbent men and
dragged them back to the floor of the cave almost before they had
time to utter a sound.

"Take that fellow back to the cottage," ordered the sub., indicating
the man who had been addressed as Max. "Search him, question him,
then report to me."

The German was hurried off. He offered no resistance.

Tressidar waited until unmistakable sounds told him that Max and his
captors were ascending the ladder, then he turned to the second
prisoner.

"You are expecting to communicate with a German submarine?" he began.

"No, sir, no," expostulated the man, his face contorted with fear.
"I'll explain everything. I'll make a clean breast of it. That
man"--and he pointed with his thumb along the tunnel--"is an escaped
prisoner. He is a German officer. Some of my pals put him on to me,
and, like a fool, I said I would hide him until a fishing-boat could
take him across to Holland."

"You're a British subject," declared the sub. contemptuously.

"I am, sir. Never got into trouble before this. I've been led into
it, sir, honest, I have."

"Honest you haven't," corrected Tressidar sternly. "Now, listen, you
know the penalty--death.

"What, for harbouring a German prisoner, sir?" asked the man.

"No--for supplying hostile vessels with petrol. You have hundreds of
gallons stored here, and I'll swear you cannot satisfactorily account
for that quantity. Moreover, you were heard to say that a submarine
was expected about three or four in the morning. Now, look here, what
are the prearranged signals?"

"Curse you!--find out," muttered the man surlily.

"I mean to," rejoined the sub. suavely. "Let me put the facts before
you. You're caught red-handed. There are no extenuating
circumstances. You are deliberately betraying your country for the
sake of a few hundred pounds, I suppose. If you give us all the
assistance that lies in your power, that fact will be taken into
consideration at your trial. I'll vouch for that. Now, I'll give you
five minutes to think things over."

Leaving the prisoner in charge of a couple of seamen, the sub.
approached the seaward entrance. Drawing his binoculars from their
case, he focussed them on the water of the bay. The tide was now on
the first of the ebb, with perhaps six feet of water close to the
base of the cliffs.

By the aid of the powerful night-glasses he could just discern the
grey forms of the "Pompey's" two boats. The first lieutenant had lost
no time in proceeding to the spot, for his preparations were already
complete, and the boats were even now withdrawing to a discreet
distance to await developments.

With a grunt of satisfaction Tressidar replaced his binoculars and
again confronted his prisoner.

"Time's up!" he exclaimed laconically.

"I'll tell you everything----" began the man.

"And mind you speak the truth," warned the sub. "Now, fire away."

"A submarine is expected," declared the prisoner. "At what hour I
cannot say--it might be any hour between now and daybreak. She won't
show any lights. She'll anchor in Half Way Deep and send a boat
ashore. The men will imitate the curlew call three times, and I was
to reply with a cry like the hoot of an owl. Then I had to lower
petrol-cans as fast as I could."

"And your companion?" inquired Tressidar. "Who is he?"

"As I said before, sir, a German officer who broke out of one of the
prison camps."

"His name?"

"I don't know, sir, except that it's Max."

The prisoner, who gave his name as Thomas Telder and was a gamekeeper
in the employ of a large landowner in the vicinity, was removed under
escort to the cottage, while the midshipman, having questioned the
German, appeared to report to his superior officer.

"The fellow's a pretty cool customer," declared the midshipman. "Now
that the game's up he doesn't appear to mind in the least. He says
his name's Max Falkenheim, and that he's an unter-leutnant of the
cruiser 'Mainz.' He was one of those fellows who were reported to
have escaped from Donington Hall by digging a tunnel."

"Jolly rummy that he should fetch up here," commented the sub. "He's
a long way out of his reckoning."

"Unless the east coast of England is too closely guarded," added the
midshipman. "However, the fact remains that he was within an ace of
getting clear. He swears he knows nothing about the unterseeboot, but
that he had agreed with that skunk to put him on board a lugger."

"H'm; well, that's good enough for us. See anything, Parsons?" added
Tressidar, addressing one of the seamen who had been told to keep a
sharp look-out.

"No, sir; fancied I did, but it was a wash-out."

"Any of you men know how to hoot like an owl?" asked the sub.

"Yes, sir; I do," replied a tall able seaman, who in his youth had
been a farm hand in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

"Very good; stand by, and when Parsons reports the submarine's
signal--three cries of the curlew--do you hoot: once only, remember.
The rest of you stand easy. I say, Greenwood, you might rummage up
aloft and see if there's anything of an incriminating nature in the
cottage. Make sure that all the blinds are drawn. I'll give you the
word as soon as the strafed U-boat is sighted, if you don't finish
before."

As a matter of fact the A.P. carried out his orders long before the
submarine revealed her presence. It was within an hour and twenty
minutes of sunrise--the tide being well on the flood--that the
long-expected cry was faintly borne to the alert ears of the
watchers.

Promptly the able seaman replied, and barely had the weird echoes
died away when the sub. heard the muffled sound of oars being boated
and the crunch of heavy boots on the dry kelp.

"Right you vos," exclaimed a guttural voice. "Lower der cans as fast
as you vos like."

In reply Sub-lieutenant Tressidar whipped out his revolver and fired
three shots in quick succession into the darkness. Then, with nerves
a-tingle, he waited.


It will now be necessary to follow the movements of the two
pulling-boats under the orders of the first lieutenant. On putting
off from the cruiser, the boats made for the harbour's mouth. Outside
the sea was fairly smooth, with a long, oily swell, for during the
night the wind had backed to north-west and blew diagonally off
shore.

Owing to the proximity of several dangerous ledges that extended
seven or eight cables' length seaward the boats had to make a long
detour before they arrived at Sallach Dhu Bay.

"We can't be so very far off now," remarked the first lieutenant to
the midshipman in his boat. "It's that confoundedly black that
goodness only knows where we are."

"Allowing for the tide, sir, I should think we're almost over Half
Way Deep. Shall I have the lead heaved, sir?"

A cast gave the depth at two fathoms--certainly not enough to float a
submarine, still less to enable her to submerge. The leadsman could
feel the sinker trailing over the rocky bottom, as the boat drifted
with the tidal current.

Again and again the lead-line gave approximately the same soundings.
The first lieutenant began to have doubts as to whether he had
already overshot the looked-for spot.

Suddenly the water increased in depth to fourteen and a half fathoms.
That, allowing for the state of the tide, was the depth shown in the
chart for Half Way Deep--a bottle-shaped depression extending well
into the otherwise shallow waters of Sallach Dhu Bay.

The kedge was let go and, riding head to tide, the boat brought up,
to enable the first lieutenant to confer with the officer in the
second boat.

Carefully screening the light with a piece of painted canvas, the
"No. 1" consulted the boat-compass.

"North one hundred and ten east, is your course," he announced to the
officer in charge of his consort. "That'll be taking into
consideration the cross set of the tide. I'll pay you out a hundred
and twenty fathoms of grass warp, then you'll steer due north. When
you've let go all the charge, make for the shore. We'll be on the
look-out for you. Suppose you've tested circuits?"

"You bet," replied the other with a grin. "Between us there won't be
a fish left alive in Half Way Deep, or a strafed U-boat either, I
hope."

The second boat pushed off, her coxswain steering by means of a
luminous compass. As soon as the strain of the connecting line grew
taut, her kedge was dropped. Then both boats, approximately two
hundred yards apart, allowing for the sag of the grass-rope under the
influence of the tide, rowed on parallel courses, paying out lengths
of sinister-looking objects that resembled strings of exaggerated
sausages. This they continued to do until Half Way Deep was mined by
a double chain of explosives.

The first lieutenant's boat was the first to reach the shore.
Cautiously the crew scrambled out and drew her clear of the water, a
petty officer handing the battery and firing-key ashore as carefully
as if it were made of priceless metal.

Five minutes later the second boat loomed through the darkness.

"All correct, sir," reported her officer. "Suppose this is the bay?
Wish to goodness I could smoke."

"And so do all of us, old boy," replied No. 1. "But curb your
desires: you'll see plenty of smoke presently."

Huddled together under the lee side of the boats the two crews spent
a tedious time, while their officers, treading softly, walked up and
down the sands.

At intervals they exchanged curt sentences in whispers; otherwise the
strictest silence was maintained. As the night wore on, the first
lieutenant consulted the luminous dial of his watch with increasing
frequency, until he began to wonder if the A.P.'s parent had been
dreaming or was the victim of hallucinations. But throughout his
monotonous patrol No. 1 took good care to keep within twenty yards of
the firing-battery.

Presently he stopped dead and listened intently. Yes, he could just
detect the faint sounds of muffled oars. The noise came from a spot
considerably nearer than he anticipated: much too close to the
drawn-up boats. What if the new-comers spotted the grey shapes as
they lay on the sand?

The seamen heard the sounds, too, for several of them knelt up and
peered over the gunwales. There was a concerted movement of the now
alert men. The tedious vigil in the bitterly cold night was
forgotten.

Then through the darkness came the curlew cry of the submarine's men,
followed by the distant hoot of the British seaman who had been
deputed to assume the rôle of an owl. What these meant the first
lieutenant knew not. His pre-arranged signal had not yet been
received. Bang! bang!! bang!!!

Fifty feet in the air the blackness was pierced by three vivid
flashes, to the accompaniment of the sharp cracks of cordite-charged
cartridges.

"Now!" shouted the first lieutenant.

The men in charge of the firing-batteries depressed the keys that
completed the circuit.

Instantly the waters of Half Way Deep were lashed into two parallel
columns of foam as a double chain of cascades leapt a hundred feet or
so in the air. Then a terrific crash, mingled with the roar of the
falling water and the thud of fragments of flying metal coming in
contact with the granite cliff.

In the village of Auldhaig the concussion was severely felt.
Window-panes were shivered; solidly built houses literally rocked.
People, aroused from sleep, dashed blindly for the streets or to
their cellars, fully convinced that the Zeppelins had arrived. Only
one individual slept through it all; Mr. Greenwood, dreaming of
petrol-cans, floating mines, and his lost umbrella, and buried under
the bed-clothes, knew nothing of the concussion until next morning,
Barely had the echoes died away ere the first lieutenant and his
party were doubling along the beach towards the place where the
unterseeboot's dinghy had landed.

The canvas boat, with a long rent in her bilge, had been carried far
up the shore by the rush of water following the tremendous upheaval.
Her crew, consisting of a petty officer and two men, were too dazed
to offer resistance, for upon the approach of the bluejackets they
threw up their arms and yelled dismally for quarter. Almost at their
feet was a large fragment of metal--one of the propeller blades of
the shattered submarine.

"Are you all O.K., Mr. Tressidar?" sang out the first lieutenant.

"All correct, sir," replied Ronald. "We've nabbed the pair of them."

"Very good," rejoined No. 1. "Leave four men to guard the cottage and
return to the ship. By the bye, have you a cigarette to spare? I left
my case on board."

It did not occur to the speaker how he was to receive a cigarette
from the sub., who was fifty feet above him, until he became aware of
a dark object descending the cliffs by means of a rope.

Eric Greenwood, with a double purpose, had ordered two of the men to
lower him to the beach.

"Here's my case, No. 1," he announced, as he fumbled under his pile
of clothing. "Matches? You have? Would you mind giving me a passage
back in the boat? I have a little commission to undertake."


[Illustration: "THEY THREW UP THEIR ARMS AND YELLED FOR QUARTER"]


Receiving permission, the A.P. made his way along the beach, the
first lieutenant watching him curiously, for dawn was now breaking.
Presently Eric returned with his parent's umbrella.

An hour later both boats ran alongside the "Pompey." Tressidar had
already returned and had lost no time in making his report and
retiring to his cabin to make up for arrears of sleep.

In spite of the early hour Captain Raxworthy was on desk, and as the
first lieutenant came over the side he was waiting to congratulate
him.

"An excellent night's work, Mr. Garboard!" he exclaimed
delightedly--"a most excellent night's work!"



CHAPTER VII

THE DAY FOLLOWING


"SAY, Snatcher, you're warned for D.B. party, ain't you?" inquired
Stoker Jorkler. "D'ye mind if we change about?"

Stoker Flanaghan, commonly known as Snatcher, paused in the act of
conveying a knifeblade well laden with peas to his capacious mouth.
Such a request--for a man to voluntarily offer to undertake the
disagreeable duty of cleaning and painting double
bottoms--figuratively "took the wind out of his sails."

"Wot for?" he asked guardedly. "Wot's the bloomin' move?"

"Only there's leave for the starboard watch, and I'm some keen to nip
ashore," replied Jorkler. "And you can have my tot of rum for a week
if you do."

"Wants considerin', Rhino, old man," declared Snatcher. "Wot price
the lootenant of the watch an' the jaunty?"

"They won't twig," said Jorkler. "I guess the bloke don't know the
names of half the men in his watch-bill, and the master-at-arms won't
care a brass farthing whether it's Snatcher Flanaghan or Rhino
Jorkler who goes out of the ship so long as he comes back without
being three sheets in the wind. And trust me for that, Snatcher.
You've never seen me fresh?"

"True, that I ain't," replied the man reflectively, "or you wouldn't
be so keen on chuckin' away your tot o' rum. Orl right, mate."

"Thanks," said Jorkler briefly, and without further delay he hurried
off to change into his canvas suit for double bottom work.

Before he left the mess he had transferred a certain object from his
ditty-box to his spacious jumper. Then, satisfying himself that there
was no suspicious bulge to excite the curiosity of the officer of
divisions, he fell in with the rest of the party.

Ten minutes later Stoker Jorkler, armed with a tin of red lead, a
brush, some cotton waste, and a lighted candle, was surveying the
oval-shaped aperture leading to a confined space between the outer
and inner plating of the ship's hull. With him were a dozen others,
similarly equipped, under the orders of a leading stoker.

It was not a pleasant occupation that Rhino had taken upon himself.
In each of the cellular subdivisions of the hull a man had to crawl
in as best he might, having first ascertained by means of the lighted
candle that the air was sufficiently pure. Unless the candle burnt
clearly, the place was dangerous to life. Stringent regulations were
laid down to prevent accidents, fresh air being pumped into the
double bottoms, while men were always on the watch to see that the
workers were unaffected by the poisonous gases from the red lead.

"Right as ninepence," declared the leading stoker, referring to the
light that gleamed in the space to which Jorkler had been detailed.
"In you get, mate, and look slippy."

Jorkler obeyed. By dint of much writhing he succeeded in squeezing
through the manhole. He found himself in a slightly curving space
measuring about fifteen feet in length and twenty to twenty-four
inches in height, and twenty feet or more below the level of the sea.

"Now, if the ship's torpedoed I'm a fair goner," thought Jorkler, but
he knew that that possibility was very remote. The steps taken to
guard Auldhaig Firth from submarine attack were so elaborate and
efficient that no hostile craft could hope to get in. Moreover, the
"Pompey" was well up the longest arm of the harbour. Between her and
the entrance were at least half a dozen cruisers and twenty
destroyers.

He worked with desperate energy, "scaling" off the rust, removing
the metal flakes, and smothering the plating with liberal doses of
red-lead. Then he paused and listened intently. He could hear the
noise of the men at work in the adjoining compartments. It was now
close on eight bells (noon). By that time the work would have to be
completed.

"Guess I'm in luck," he soliloquised. "Unless I am much mistaken this
part of the double bottom is right bang underneath the for'ard
magazine. Pity it wasn't under the after one, but that can't be
helped."

Turning on his side he extracted the "thing" from his jumper. It was
a high-explosive charge, to which was attached a small but powerful
battery. The charge he placed in the furthermost end of the
compartment behind a tee-shaped flange. Here, unless deliberately
sought for, it was safe from detection.

His next step was to produce his watch. To all outward appearances it
was an ordinary silver timekeeper, but minute examination would
reveal the presence of two small holes drilled through the back. Into
these holes he inserted metal plugs attached to two insulated wires
from the battery. One of the plugs projected beyond the face
sufficiently to impede the progress of the hour hand, while the
minute hand could clear it by a fraction of an inch. At four o'clock
the hour hand would come in contact with the terminal, the circuit
would be completed, and then----

"Nearly finished there?" inquired the leading stoker, shouting
through the oval aperture. "Just about done," replied Jorkler. "How
goes it?"

"Close on eight bells," was the reply. "Buck up and don't keep me
hanging about all the blessed day."

With the perspiration pouring off him and his clothes daubed with red
lead and iron rust, Jorkler emerged from the compartment to find that
the rest of the D.B. party had already completed their respective
tasks.

Lowering an electric inspection lamp into the compartment, the
leading stoker made a perfunctory examination of Jorkler's legitimate
handiwork.

"You ain't half slapped it about," he remarked casually. "Guess you
knew it was his Majesty's stores you were using and not your own
gear."

After inspection by the ship's surgeon, who superintended the issue
of a glass of lime-juice (in which sulphuric acid was a component
part) to each man to ward off the injurious effect of the red lead,
the men washed and changed. After dinner they were at liberty to do
practically what they liked, it being Thursday, or "Make and Mend
Day."

Just before five bells the liberty men fell in on the quarter-deck
for critical inspection before going ashore. As Jorkler had expected,
he had no difficulty in passing under the borrowed name of Flanaghan,
for the M.A.A. took it without question.

Packed like sardines, the boat pushed off. Halfway to the staith they
passed the "Pompey's" steam pinnace with a couple of officers and a
small party of ladies and children in the stern-sheets.

"What's the game?" inquired the pseudo-Flanaghan, indicating with a
jerk of his head the passing craft.

"Bloomin' at-'ome, I'll allow," replied one of the men. "They take
jolly good care not to let our pals on board."

Jorkler nodded sympathetic assent.

"They're looking for trouble," he muttered to himself. "How was I to
know? Anyway, that's their look-out, not mine."

On arriving at the quay the stoker slipped away from the rest of his
shipmates. Out of sight he stepped out briskly, making in the
direction of the hills at the back of the town.


"Where's Eric?" inquired Mr. Greenwood of Ronald Tressidar, as he
gained the quarterdeck. The sub., engaged in animated conversation
with Doris Greenwood, did not hear the question until it was
repeated.

"Eric? Oh, I really don't know. I'll inquire."

Doris Greenwood was a golden-haired, blue-eyed girl possessed of a
wealth of natural vivacity and an even-tempered disposition. Slightly
above middle height, with a graceful bearing, she looked particularly
attractive in her nurse's uniform.

Already she was the centre of attraction of a group of young
officers, who, while envying Tressidar for his good luck, were
inwardly reviling their comrade for his dog-in-the-manger policy.

"Seen Greenwood?" asked Ronald of an engineer sub-lieutenant.

"How about an intro?" inquired the officer addressed, ignoring the
question.

"Go slow, old bird," rejoined Tressidar, laughing. "I'll introduce
you all in good time. If you want to be in her good books, find young
Greenwood. She's his sister."

"Brothers are generally in the way," retorted the engineer
sub-lieutenant. "Greenwood isn't: he's gone ashore. The fleet pay
sent him to the cashier's office."

Meanwhile, Doris had been unostentatiously taking stock of her
brother's messmates. Life afloat, she reflected, does make a man. She
compared Tressidar most favourably in his neat and serviceable
uniform to the Ronald of her early days. Then, when he wasn't
bashful, he was rude; now he was the personification of
self-possession and mental and physical alertness.

As for Mr. Greenwood, he remained in wondrous meditation of the
vastness of his surroundings. Apart from his nocturnal visit to the
"Pompey," he had never before set foot on the deck of a British
man-of-war. The tompioned muzzle of the after 9.2-in. gun, the
towering superstructure with its array of quick-firers and
searchlights, the lofty masts and enormous funnels--all in turn
demanded his attention.

The vastness of his surroundings almost overpowered him. He had no
idea that an armoured cruiser was so immense.

That afternoon there were nearly twenty adult visitors, mostly of the
feminine sex, and a dozen or more children on board. It was not a
usual procedure in wartime, but, giving due consideration to
circumstances, the captain of the cruiser had good reasons to believe
that there was no danger to be anticipated. In any case, the visitors
would be clear of the ship before sunset.

The amusement of the children fell to the lot of the junior officers,
and soon the gunroom resounded to the unusual sound of juvenile
voices. Two little boys, rigged out in fencing helmets and padded
coats, were mounted on the backs of a couple of midshipmen and were
engaged in a realistic encounter with single-sticks--most realistic
in the opinion of the human steeds, who had to bear the brunt of the
warriors' energetic and ill-directed blows.

Another pair of youngsters were belabouring each other with
boxing-gloves, amidst the plaudits of the junior sub. and the
assistant clerk; while a tug-of-war, boys versus girls, afforded vast
amusement for the rest of the small guests and their hosts.

In order to make sure that the engineer sub-lieutenant was not
"pulling his leg," Tressidar went below to the ship's office. Here he
found that the information concerning Eric was correct. He had been
sent ashore with a party of marines to bring back sacks of coin for
the ship's safe.

Upon returning to the quarter-deck the sub. found Mr. Greenwood in
animated conversation with the commander on the subject of the raid
upon the petrol-depôt. Now was Ronald's opportunity.

"Would you care to look over the ship, Doris?" he said. "I can spare
half an hour."

"Only half an hour?" asked the girl. "We can't see very much in the
time, can we?"

"I suppose not," admitted Tressidar. "But let's make the best of our
time. I have to go away in the duty steamboat at a quarter to four.
We have to fetch a lighter alongside from Inchbrail--that's three
miles up the firth."

"I wish I could go with you," declared Doris. "I simply love little
steamboats. They are much more exciting than big cruisers lying at
anchor. Couldn't I?"

"Must see what the commander says," replied the sub. "Of course I'd
be delighted. Only I'm afraid you'll miss your tea. They're making a
scrumptious spread in the wardroom."

"I don't mind," said the girl recklessly. "I generally have tea at
least once every day, but not the chance of having a trip in a
steamboat."

Doris was certainly a hustler, for in less than the stipulated
half-hour they had climbed the lofty navigation-bridge, peeped
inside the conning-tower, soiled her gloves in the for'ard turret,
and had explored the now deserted mess-decks. It took all the
resource at Tressidar's command to persuade her to decline the
engineer sub-lieutenant's invitation to descend to the engine-room.
Only by hinting that if she did so she would be too late for the
proposed run in the duty steamboat did Ronald succeed in "choking
off" his super-attentive messmate.

"Miss Greenwood wishes to have a run in the D.S.B., sir," announced
the sub., saluting the commander, who was still engaged in
conversation with Greenwood, Senior.

"Very good," replied the commander. "Only be as sharp as you can. We
want the lighter secured well before dark."

"I suppose, Mr. Greenwood, you wouldn't like a trip, too," asked
Tressidar in duty bound, although inwardly hoping that this part of
his invitation would be declined.

"No, thanks," was the reply. "To tell the truth, I'm feeling
considerably stiff. Bad enough climbing to last me for at least a
month. By the bye, do you know if Eric found my umbrella?"

Tressidar delighted his questioner by replying that Eric had
recovered the lost property, but he hadn't the courage to continue
the story. The A.P. had brought the thing on board. Examination
showed that the handle had been "sprung," the silk ripped in three
places, the wires bent, and, generally, damaged by salt water. So
Eric had handed it over to the carpenter's crew for repairs and
renovation. The men did the job not neatly, but too well. The silk
they had patched with waxed seaming twine, re-waterproofing it by a
liberal application of soft soap and linseed oil This was the outcome
of a consultation of the naval recipe book; but since there was no
mention of how to waterproof silk, they had adopted the process laid
down for waterproofing canvas. The handle they repaired by
"parcelling and serving" the fracture and concealing the tarred
marline under a long gunmetal tube. The remaining visible portion of
the handle they scraped and varnished.

The A.P. could not quite make out whether the "repairs" had been
effected as a joke or in real earnest. At all events he quickly
settled the matter by dropping the "game" out of a scuttle,
intending to lead his parent to believe that the prized umbrella had
been lost on that momentous night. And now Tressidar had unwittingly
let the cat out of the bag.

The duty boat was fretting alongside the accommodation-ladder.
Punctual to a minute Sub-lieutenant Tressidar boarded her and
assisted Doris into the stern-sheets. From a manhole in the flat
metal engine-room casing a leading-stoker's grimy head and shoulders
appeared, his curiosity excited at the appearance of the sub.'s
companion. He winked knowingly at the bowman and disappeared to his
cramped quarters below.

"Mr. Tressidar!" sang out the commander, leaning over the guard-rails
of the quarter-deck.

"Sir?"

"Stand by a minute. I want you to take a packet of correspondence to
the 'Velocity.'"

Some minutes elapsed before the article in question was handed down
to the boat. Bending and peering into the little cabin, Tressidar
noticed that it was already twelve minutes to four.

He nodded to the coxswain. The latter, ordering "Easy ahead," put
the helm over and the duty steamboat glided smoothly away from her
parent ship.

"You'll be jolly cold," remarked the sub. to the girl. "It's awfully
nippy, in spite of the protection afforded by the cabin top. Let me
help you into this oil-skin."

Doris accepted the offer, Ronald taking rather an unnecessary time in
assisting her into the voluminous yellow coat.

"That's all serene," he explained enthusiastically. "By Jove, Doris,
it suits you splendidly."

"It's certainly more useful than ornamental," said the girl, as a
shower of spray dashed up from the bows and drifted aft with a
hissing sound. "There was once----"

Her words were suddenly interrupted by a dull crash. Instinctively
the sub. and his companion glanced astern. A cloud of smoke partly
obscured the fore-part of the cruiser, as she reeled heavily to port
with the effect of a mortal blow.



CHAPTER VIII

SPY AND SUPER-SPY


"SHE'S torpedoed, sir!" exclaimed the coxswain as the "Pompey," after
slowly recovering herself again, listed until her main for'ard-deck
scuttles were awash.

"Hard-a-starboard!" ordered Tressidar. Then under his breath he
added, "And those poor little kids on board."

Slowly the pall of smoke dispersed. Outwardly the cruiser showed no
signs of her injuries. Swarms of seamen were strenuously engaged in
lowering a collision-mat over the hole well beneath the water-line.
Others were swinging out the boats.

The "Pompey" was doomed: not by the result of a hostile torpedo, but
by an internal explosion. Stoker Jorkler's plot had succeeded,
although not to the full extent that he had expected. The detonator
had blown a large hole in the wing-plates, but fortunately the
explosion had not communicated itself to the forward magazine. Had it
done so, the end of the cruiser would have been sudden and complete:
not one soul on board would have escaped.

Aft, although the shock of the explosion was distinctly felt, the
effect was at first hardly noticeable. Amongst the visitors there was
not the slightest trace of panic; in fact, it was with great
difficulty that the gunroom officers' could prevail upon their
youthful guests to abandon their play and go on deck. Promptly orders
had been given to flood the magazines, thus preventing further danger
in that direction.

Skilfully the duty boat was brought alongside the stricken cruiser,
while almost at the same moment the pulling-boat containing Eric
Greenwood and the money-bags rounded the ship's stern.

Assisted by brawny arms, the ladies and children were taken down the
accommodation-ladder, the lower platform of which was now three feet
under water, and placed in the boats. With full complements the
steamboat and the one in which the A.P. was on duty pushed off,
slowing down when at a safe distance to await developments.

Other assistance was speedily at hand. Since the cruiser's heavy
boats could not be hoisted out in time and those in davits were
insufficient for the officers and crew, it was as well that the
"Pompey" was within easy reach of other vessels.

A dozen or more badly injured men were the next to be taken off;
then, with the utmost precision and discipline, the rest of the crew
gained the boats, but not before the collision-mat party for'ard were
up to their knees in water.

Clouds of steam issued from the boiler- and engine-rooms, while at
intervals muffled explosions of compressed air showed that the
water-tight doors, already strained by the explosion, were unable to
withstand the terrific pressure of the inflowing sea.

Captain Raxworthy, true to the time-honoured traditions of the
service, was the last to quit the doomed ship. Barely had the boat
into which he had jumped pushed off a dozen lengths when the huge
vessel, shivering like a living creature, turned completely on her
beam ends.

For some moments she remained thus, then, heeling still more until
her topmasts touched the bed of the harbour, she disappeared from
sight, with the exception of one end of her navigation-bridge that
still projected a couple of feet above the surface.

As soon as the men landed they were formed up and mustered by
divisions. The result of the roll-call showed that nineteen men were
missing, and in addition to the dozen seriously injured, thirty men
required surgical treatment. Amongst those missing was Stoker James
Jorkler.

And when the liberty men returned it was informed that one man had
"run." The absentee was reported under the name of Stoker Flanaghan.

In a clump of gaunt pine-trees, halfway up the summit of Ben
Craich--the loftiest of the hills in the vicinity of Auldhaig
Firth--stood the man hitherto known as Rhino Jorkler.

It is hardly necessary to remark that he was not a Canadian-born
British subject. He was a German-American, his real name being Otto
Oberfurst. By profession, previous to the outbreak of war, he was a
mining-engineer, since then he had been a Secret Service agent in the
employ of the German Government.

At first he was engaged in minor activities, under the direction of
the notorious Boy Ed, but his zeal so impressed his employer that
before long he was entrusted with a desperate mission in the Province
of Quebec. Succeeding, he was handsomely rewarded out of the huge
sums lavished by the German Government upon the questionable Secret
Service and given an opportunity of transferring his activities to
Great Britain.

Much as he preferred to work single-handed, he was ordered to report
himself to a certain von Schenck, a director of the Teutonic
espionage system that prevails in the United Kingdom.

Von Schenck had been, with the exception of periodical visits to
Germany, resident in Great Britain for nearly thirty years. At sixty
his powers of intellect were undimmed, and since success in espionage
depends more upon wits than upon bodily strength and activity, his
physical infirmities aided rather than embarrassed his sinister work.

He was of small stature, waxen-featured and grey-haired. He could
speak English with a fluency that was faultless enough to take him
anywhere without arousing suspicion. From other spies' experiences he
knew that a precise regard for the intricate rules of English grammar
was frequently a trap. Living unostentatiously in a small house on
the outskirts of Edinburgh, he posed as a retired merchant under the
assumed name of Andrew McJeames.

With few exceptions von Schenck knew none of his vast army of spies
by name, nor did they know of his identity. They were merely
numbers--pawns in the great game of espionage played according to the
rules and regulations of the degenerate Hun. In a few cases, however,
the master spy was personally acquainted with his immediate
subordinates, and amongst these was Otto Oberfurst.

It was at von Schenck's instigation that Oberfurst joined the British
Navy at Portsmouth. He reckoned on the enormous odds of the newly
enlisted stoker being promptly drafted to a vessel in the North Sea.
By joining at the Hampshire naval port, less suspicion would be
likely to be aroused than if he had entered the service at Rosyth or
Cromarty.

Von Schenck was a keen motorist. For miles around the Scottish
capital his powerful Mercédès car was known. His kindness in
placing himself and his motor at the disposal of a certain military
hospital was merely a cloak for a twofold purpose. It gave him an
excuse to use the car, in spite of the half-hearted requests from the
Government backed by a firm appeal from the Royal Automobile Club; it
also enabled him to pick up valuable information from the wounded
Tommies, whose pardonable desire to relate their adventures often led
them to overrun their discretion. He made a point of never asking a
question on service matters of his guests. He relied upon his skill
in leading up to any particular subject of which he required
information, and sooner or later his wishes were gratified. Within
forty-eight hours the information was in the hands of the German
Admiralty.

From his place of concealment Otto Oberfurst sat and waited while the
lengthening shadows betokened the approach of another night. At
frequent intervals he consulted his watch. It was almost identical
with the one he had left in the double bottom of the "Pompey."

Occasionally he directed his attention to the dark brown ribbon that
marked the position of the main road leading to Auldhaig, but his
gaze was chiefly concentrated upon the land-locked harbour. The
"Pompey," lying on the extreme west of the line of moorings, was
plainly visible. To all outward appearances she looked to be the
embodiment of armed security, protected as she was by triple lines of
anti-submarine devices that barred the entrance to the firth. In
addition to the numerous warships, ranging from large armoured
cruisers down to the swift, well-armed craft of the destroyer
flotilla, the harbour was protected by four distinct anti-aircraft
batteries armed with the very latest type of guns. The positions of
these concealed batteries the spy knew with startling accuracy. He
also knew that a short distance inland from Auldhaig, and situated in
a remote and naturally sheltered valley, was the important munition
factory of Sauchieblair. Three times had German aircraft sought to
discover the exact position of these immense works. On the last
occasion bombs had missed the main cordite factory by two hundred
yards; but that was more by good luck than good judgment, for never
in the course of their flight over the Scottish coast had they been
absolutely certain of their bearings.

Four o'clock. Otto Oberfurst, his hands shaking in spite of his
strong nerve, awaited the result of his treacherous handiwork.
Ten--twenty--thirty seconds passed, but still no terrific explosion
that would rend the cruiser from stem to stern. A wave of horrible
uncertainty swept over him. Perhaps suspicion had been aroused and
the double bottom had been searched; or a flaw in the intricate
mechanism of the timing-gear had prevented the deliberate
catastrophe. In either case the failure would be of grave
consequences to the German Secret Service plans. The actual proof
that an attempt had been made to destroy a warship by internal
explosion would make it advisable to discontinue activities in that
direction. So long as the British attributed similar disasters to
accident, well and good. They could set forth as many theories as
they liked, provided that the real reason was known only to von
Schenck and his associates.

Suddenly Oberfurst's cogitations were interrupted by the sight of a
cloud of smoke leaping skywards from the cruiser. Four seconds later
the muffled boom of the explosion was borne to his ears. He could see
the vessel listing, but to his intense disappointment she showed no
signs of being blown to pieces.

"Himmel!" he muttered. "It is not the magazine this time. I must have
miscalculated its position. No matter, another English ship is out of
action. Better luck next time!"

He waited until the "Pompey" had disappeared from view beneath the
waters of Auldhaig Harbour, then, walking rapidly, he followed a
mountain path leading away from the town.

Darkness had fallen when he arrived at a small stone cottage situated
in a remote glen. With the ease of a man who was familiar with his
surroundings, Oberfurst climbed the stile in the wall enclosing the
garden, threaded his way along the winding path, and, avoiding an
invisible obstruction in the form of an iron pig-trough, tapped
softly upon the window-pane.

"Who's there?" inquired a high-pitched voice.

"All right, mother," replied the spy reassuringly.

Without further delay the door was unbarred and Oberfurst entered the
cottage.

"I've run," he declared. "Couldn't stick it any longer."

"Eh?" The old woman eyed him sharply. "What's wrong now?"

"Mother" Taggach, the occupier of the cottage, was a shrivelled-up
woman of seventy. She was an illicit distiller of whisky and a
receiver of stolen property. The former occupation she plied in this
remote cottage; the latter was carried on in a small shop in the
outskirts of Edinburgh, where her son kept a marine store. Her minor
activities consisted in assisting naval and military deserters,
although since the war there was little call for her assistance in
that direction. The few "bad hats" of the fleet at Auldhaig soon
found out that at Mother Taggach's there were facilities for spending
leave with the possibilities of obtaining spirits which, owing to the
stringent regulations, were denied them in the town.

Stoker Jorkler was one of her patrons, but Mother Taggach, in spite
of her failings, was a strong anti-German. Not for one moment did she
suspect the true character of the spy.

"Yes," he continued in answer to her questions. "I've run--deserted.
Nerves all gone."

"A pretty sailor you make," remarked the old woman witheringly. "So
you want me to fix you up? It's very risky, you know."

"Very," agreed Oberfurst. "But if I'm nabbed I won't peach. Let's
have a suit of civilian togs and before morning I'll be miles away."

"Five pounds, then," demanded Mother Taggach.

The spy produced the money. The old woman carefully counted and
examined the notes, then from a wooden box she drew a bundle of
clothes.

"There you are," she said. "Get along upstairs. You'd best be clear
of my house in less than ten minutes."

Quickly Oberfurst effected the change. Beyond wearing civilian garb
he made no attempt to disguise himself.

"Here's my old gear," he said, handing the woman a bundle containing
his uniform.

"All right, I'll burn them," she remarked. "Though 'tis a waste of
good stuff. Where might you be making for, might I ask?"

"Wick," he replied. "I've got a pal there."

He went out into the night and walked quickly until he approached the
spot where the mountain path struck the highway running parallel with
the east coast. Here he sat down, and from his pocket produced a
razor and a piece of soap. In very short time he had shaved the top
of his head and his eyebrows, while in place of his smooth chin he
sported a greyish beard that would escape detection except under
critical inspection. Then, instead of turning northward--for he had
deliberately misinformed Mother Taggach--he set his face to the south
and tramped briskly in the direction of far-distant Edinburgh.



CHAPTER IX

AN ADVENTURE ON THE HILLS


"I WISH to goodness that sister of mine wouldn't do such erratic
things," remarked Eric Greenwood.

"Oh!" rejoined Tressidar, with a veiled attempt at inconsequence.
"What has she been up to now?"

The conversation occurred two days after the loss of H.M.S. "Pompey."
The officers and men of the destroyed cruiser were temporarily
berthed in a hulk that had been towed round from Chatham some months
previously for use as a depôt-ship.

Mr. Greenwood had returned to Devonshire, declaring that the east
coast of Scotland was a little too lively for a man of his mature
years and sedentary habits. Doris, of course, remained at the
Auldhaig sick-quarters.

"Going for lonely walks when she's off duty," explained the A.P. "Why
on earth she doesn't get one of the nursing sisters to go with her I
cannot imagine. When I proposed to accompany her, she promptly choked
me off. This afternoon, she tells me, she's taking the train as far
as Nedderburn, and is going to tramp back over the hills. From all
accounts it's a rotten, unfrequented road."

"It is," agreed the sub.

"Yes," added Eric. "And I would insist upon going with her, in spite
of her objections, only I am booked for the preliminary inquiry at
the Senior's Officer's quarters. That's the penalty for keeping one's
shorthand up."

Ronald Tressidar kept his plans to himself, but one of the first
things he did was to consult a railway time-table. In it he found
that the earliest train the girl could take was at 2.45 p.m. That
meant that she would probably set out on her return at a quarter past
three, since Nedderburn was only nine miles from Auldhaig and the
railway journey took twenty minutes.

His next step, immediately after lunch, was to go ashore and pay a
visit to the local garage.

"Sorry, sir," replied the proprietor in answer to the sub.'s request
for the hire of a two-seater car. "I've nae ain in the place; but I
hae a bonnie leetle motor-cycle and side-car."

"Suppose that will have to do," said Tressidar dubiously. "She'll
take the hills all right, I hope?"

Receiving an affirmative reply, the sub. concluded negotiations for
the hire of the unaccustomed mount, but before he was clear of the
town he found that he had something fairly powerful under his control
and also something that was not so very difficult to steer.

For the first two miles the road skirted the northern shore of the
firth, then ascending a steep hill by means of a series of
well-engineered zig-zags, it swept across a bleak upland. For the
most part the country on either side consisted of sheep-pasture,
rough stone walls taking the place of the hedges so common in the
south. Here and there were thick clusters of gorse, growing to a
height of nearly six feet. There were also clumps of gaunt pines that
swayed mournfully in the stiff breeze.

After a while the road began to descend with a long, easy gradient.
Away on his right he could just discern the galvanised iron roofs and
tall brick chimneys of the Sauchieblair Munition Works. It was only
from this part of the road that any distant view could be obtained of
the magazines without climbing any of the surrounding hills. Just
beyond this spot was a fairly extensive wood.

"I'll bring up here and have a pipe," thought the sub. "I am in
plenty of time, and it's only a few miles to Nedderburn."

Leaving the cycle and side-car, he paced up and down the road, for
the air was much too keen to stand still. Then, having assured
himself that there was plenty of petrol in the tank--experience had
taught him that there are such things as leaking carburetters and
petrol pipes--he restarted.

Less than a mile from the outskirts of the little village of
Nedderburn he espied a trim figure walking briskly in his direction.
It was Doris Greenwood.

Presently Tressidar's fears gripped him.

"Hang it!" he soliloquised. "What possible excuse can I have for
coming out here?"

With a motor-cycle travelling at twenty miles an hour there is little
time to decide upon any matter, but by the time the sub. slowed down
he had framed some sort of excuse which might or might not hold
water.

"Hulloa, Doris!" he exclaimed in well-simulated surprise. "Whatever
are you doing in this unfrequented road?"

"Merely walking for exercise," she replied.

"To Auldhaig? It's a long way. Can I give you a lift?"

"Why, you are going in exactly the opposite direction," declared the
girl laughingly. "And to find you riding with an empty side-car,
Ronald. Now, what does it mean?"

"I'll deal with your question," replied Tressidar, striving to gain
time to find a suitable explanation to meet her previous remark. "I
couldn't hire a car and I can't ride a motorbike solo, so I had to
hire the side-car to keep me balanced. It's quite true that I was
going in the wrong direction, but there's no reason why I shouldn't
turn the affair round."

"If you are riding with a set purpose," continued Doris
remorselessly, "I wouldn't think of detaining you. You evidently are
making for somewhere."

"Yes, I am," admitted Tressidar boldly. "I came along here to meet
you. It's no use mincing matters. Look here, what do you say to a run
out as far as Tuilaburn? It's only seven miles further, and the road
across the moors is simply top-hole. We'll be back at Auldhaig well
before lighting-up time."

Doris assented. She was not one of those irresponsible young ladies
who coyly pretend not to be able to make up their minds. She really
admired the tall, bronzed naval officer who had handled the duty
steamboat so magnificently in going to the aid of the doomed
"Pompey." It was not without ulterior motives, which were now being
realised, that she had "choked off" her rather too attentive brother.

Before the girl took her place in the car Ronald assisted her to don
his oilskin coat--the same that she had worn on that memorable trip
in Auldhaig Harbour. It formed an ideal protection from the biting
wind.

Almost before they were aware of it, they ran into Tuilaburn. Here
they had tea and talked--of many things. It was close upon
lighting-up time when the return journey began.

"By Jove! the little engine does pull well," remarked Tressidar as
the motor-cycle ascended the long gradual rise out of Nedderburn.
"We'll be in Auldhaig before it's time to light up, you see if we
won't."

The words were hardly out of his mouth when, with an ominous
succession of bumps, the back tyre punctured.

"The result of boasting," declared Doris cheerfully, as the sub.
dismounted and examined the outer cover.

"A nail," he announced. "That's good. It will save me from searching
for a small puncture. I'll mend the inner tube in less than ten
minutes."

Once again his optimism was at fault, for the cover was an obstinate
one to remove. The tube, a butted one, was then patched and replaced.
By the time they were ready to resume their journey it was
lighting-up time.

For nearly ten minutes Tressidar attempted to get the head-light to
burn. It stubbornly refused duty. Examination showed that the carbide
was already saturated and useless for illumination.

"We'll risk it," declared the sub. "It's a hundred to one chance that
we meet anyone on this unfrequented road, especially a policeman."

"I should not like to see our names figure in a police-court report,"
remarked Doris.

"No; but they might appear in a very different sort of document,"
added Tressidar boldly.

Doris made no reply. It was now too dark for her companion to notice
the expression on her face. Vaguely he wondered whether he had
bungled again.

"What's that glare over there?" asked the girl as they emerged from a
little wood on the crest of the hill.

"Only the munition works at Sauchieblair," replied Tressidar. "It's
rather strange that a Government factory should show such an amount
of light."

"It's out," exclaimed Doris ten seconds later. "What does that
mean--a Zepp. warning?"

"Shouldn't wonder," answered her companion. "It's just the sort of
night--dark and practically no wind.... Oh, bother!"

The back tyre was again bumping on the ground.

"I vote we abandon ship," suggested Tressidar. "We'll push the thing
just off the road and walk the rest of the way. I'll tell the man to
send for it in the morning, Hope you don't mind the tramp, Doris?"

They alighted. Tressidar was in the act of urging the heavy
motor-cycle upon the slight rise by the roadside when with a rush and
subdued roar a powerful motor-car with obscured lights flashed by.
Well it was that the cycle was clear, otherwise there was every
possibility of its being run down by the reckless road-hogs.

"Three red lights," exclaimed Doris, indicating the rear lights of the
disappearing motor. "That's rather unusual."

"There's no law against a fellow having as many red rear lights as he
wants so far as I know," said Tressidar. "It's certainly unusual. I
say, I believe the car's stopping. Let's get them to give us a lift
into Auldhaig."

The motor was now on a slight rise almost four hundred yards from the
spot where the motor-cycle had been abandoned. It displayed three red
lights vertically.

Before the sub. and his companion had walked more than twenty yards
the three lights were increased by three more, so that there was a
vertical string of six. At the same time the car was being backed
from the side of the road on to the sward.

"Doris," exclaimed Ronald hurriedly, "will you stay here a little
while?--do you mind? I'm going to see what those fellows are up to.
It looks jolly fishy. You're not nervous?"

"Not a little bit," declared the girl. "Only take care of yourself."

"I'll try," rejoined the sub. "Don't make a sound. If--that is,
supposing I don't come back, you had better make your way to
Nedderburn and telephone to the senior officer of Auldhaig; but I
fancy that there'll be no need for that."

Taking to the grass, Tressidar stole cautiously in the direction of
the stationary car. His footsteps made no sound upon the springy
turf. As he approached he bent low, taking advantage of the cover
afforded by the numerous gorse bushes.

"So that's your little game," he mused. There were two men with the
car. One, by the aid of the partly screened head-lamp, was consulting
what was evidently a prismatic compass. The other, acting according
to the movements of his companion's hand, was slowly shifting the car
in its own length.

The mystery of the six red lights was now no longer a mystery. To the
sub.'s keen intelligence the whole thing was as clear as daylight.
The lid of the tool-box at the rear of the car had been partly raised
until it formed an angle of 135 degrees with the back of the body.
The lid, being of burnished metal, served as a reflector, so that the
three red lights appeared to be six in a straight vertical line.

And that line pointed in the direction of the Sauchieblair Munition
Works.

"That will do," said a voice in German--a language of which Tressidar
had more than a general knowledge. "We're right on the exact bearing.
Call up Pfeiller and inform him that our position is fixed."

The fellow who had been engaged in manoeuvring the car stepped inside
the coupé. The faint cackle of a low-powered wireless apparatus was
faintly borne to the sub.'s ear.

"Pfeiller reports all right at his position," announced the man after
a brief interval.

"Let us hope he is sure on the point," remarked the German with the
compass.

"He is a careful man at that sort of work," said the other
reassuringly. "Now comes the worst part of the business--the waiting.
Himmel! I t is cold on these hills."

"If she picks up the coast lights without difficulty she ought to be
here by eight o'clock," said his companion. "These English have
already had warning. That is why they have turned out the lights. Can
you imagine them, friend Otto, cowering in darkness, waiting for one
of our incomparable Zeppelins to blow them to pieces? And there is
not even a puny, so-called anti-aircraft gun nearer than Auldhaig."

Ronald Tressidar had heard enough. His first impulse was to retrace
his steps quietly and make his way to Nedderburn to procure
assistance. But upon further consideration he came to the conclusion
that before the spies could be made prisoners the Zeppelin's work
might be accomplished. Prompt measures were necessary.

Creeping away to a safe distance, the sub. removed his heavy
great-coat. To have the unencumbered use of his limbs was essential
to the work he proposed attempting.

Again he stalked the two Germans. Unheard and unseen he gained the
remote side of the car, then working round the front he leapt upon
the nearmost of the spies.

Throwing his muscular arms round the fellow's head and applying his
knee to the small of his back, Tressidar hurled him heavily to the
ground. In falling, the fellow grabbed frantically at the sub.'s
ankles. The check was but momentary, but sufficient to put the second
Teuton on his guard.

Whipping out a pistol, he fired almost point-blank at the British
naval officer.

Whether he was hit or otherwise Tressidar did not pause to consider.
Bending low and hunching his shoulders, he charged the armed man, and
butting him in the chest sent him flying backwards a good five yards.
The pistol was jerked from his grip and fell in the centre of a
gorse-bush.

Carried onwards by the momentum of his furious charge, the sub.
tripped across the plunging limbs of his opponent and pitched
headlong on the ground.



CHAPTER X

THE FOILED RAID


BEFORE Tressidar could recover himself the second German gripped him
by the throat, at the same time shouting to his prostrate comrade to
bestir himself and find the pistol.

Although his opponent was a heavy, muscular man the British officer,
taken at a disadvantage, did not hesitate to attempt to equalise
matters. In spite of the pressure of the Hun's fingers on his
windpipe, he raised his knees and lashing out literally hurled the
German from him.

Agilely turning over, Tressidar sought to regain his feet, but as he
did so the fellow he had previously felled leapt upon his back,
striking him over and over again with his clenched fists; while the
other man, in spite of being temporarily winded, came again to the
attack.

In the midst of the desperate struggle Tressidar was most agreeably
surprised to hear a voice shouting, "Come on, men. Collar those
fellows."

The impending assistance caused the two Germans to take to their
heels. Without waiting to ascertain the numbers and strength of the
rescue party, they made off, leaving the car and various instruments
behind.

Tressidar regained his feet. He could discern the heavy tread of
approaching footsteps. He hastened to meet his rescuers, until sheer
astonishment brought him up "all standing." The rescue party
consisted of one person--Doris Greenwood.

"Are you hurt, Ronald?" she asked in an anxious whisper.

"No, I don't think so," replied Tressidar. "But why----? I thought I
told you to sheer off."

"It's not insubordination," said the girl. "You are not my superior
officer, you know. I heard the firing and the sound of men scuffling,
so I did my level best to imitate a man's voice, and at the same time
I stamped hard upon the ground. Have they gone?"

"Yes; but if they find out that you're only a girl--a jolly plucky
one, I must say--they may take it into their thick heads to renew the
attack. I'll find that pistol and be on the safe side."

While the sub. was searching for the lost weapon, Doris listened
intently.

"I cannot hear anything of them," she reported.

"That's rather a pity," said Tressidar, as he groped in the prickly
furze. "They may still be hanging round, waiting to stalk us.
Hurrah! I've found it."

His hand had come in contact with the barrel of the pistol. He
withdrew the firearm, to find that it was a powerful weapon of the
automatic type. Examination of the magazine revealed the fact that
there were seven unexpended cartridges.

"Where's your great-coat?" asked Doris.

"I left it down there," replied Tressidar, indicating the dim
outlines of the gorse-bushes on the other side of the road.

"You'll get a fearful cold without it. Go and get it," continued the
girl authoritatively. "We have no sympathy with patients at Auldhaig
Sick Quarters who get pneumonia through their own carelessness."

Tressidar laughed.

"I feel inclined to take the risk," he retorted. "But I suppose I'd
better obey your orders, even if you won't obey mine."

Holding the pistol in readiness for a surprise attack, the sub. stole
cautiously to the place where he had left his great-coat. Without
interruption he regained his property and rejoined his companion,
then he listened intently. Not a sound broke the stillness of the
night.

"Well, we've had to abandon a motor-cycle and side-car and we have a
gorgeous motor-car in exchange," said Tressidar. "I say, I hope you
are not in a great hurry?"

"Of course not," replied Doris with surprise at the question.
"Nursing sisters are not required to be back before nine."

"It may be long after nine," said the sub. seriously. "Stand by while
I shift this car. I'll tell you why presently."

The motor-car being on a slight gradient was fairly easy to move even
without starting the engine.

"Why, you haven't moved it half a yard," exclaimed Doris

"Precisely. That is all that is necessary just at present. Now let me
explain. These fellows were expecting a Zeppelin. It's on its way, I
believe, but there's little or no danger for us, I may say.
Somewhere--in what direction or how far away I don't know--is another
car, showing, I presume, a string of red lights like this beauty.
Viewed from an airship, there will be two lines of red lights
visible. These, if continued indefinitely, will intersect at a
certain spot. There the Zepp. is to drop her bombs; and the desired
place is Sauchieblair Munition Factory. Unfortunately I cannot alter
both bearings, but by clewing this car round a few feet the point of
intersection will be altered at least a couple of hundred yards. I
hope it will be four or five hundred, but it won't do to alter the
bearing too much in case it doesn't cross the other one."

"And then?"

"We must wait until the Zepp. has come and gone. If we abandon our
post our Germans may return and readjust the position of the car.
Hulloa! what's that? There's some one coming. Just get into the car,
Doris. It's a pretty substantial affair, unless I'm much mistaken."

Doris obeyed without demur. Tressidar, with his pistol ready for
instant action, crouched behind the body of the car.

Evidently some harmless individual was approaching. They could hear
footsteps crunching on the hard gravel road, but still, the sub.
could afford to take no risks of a treacherous onslaught.

"Halt!" shouted Tressidar as the man came within ten paces. "Who are
you? What are you doing here?"

The stranger, a big, hulking fellow, halted promptly enough, and in
broad Scotch declared that he was only a shepherd on his way home.

"And I'm a naval officer," announced the sub. "I call upon you in the
King's name to render assistance. Is your sight good? Can you hear
well?"

Receiving a disjointed affirmative reply from the almost dumfounded
shepherd, Tressidar continued:

"That's capital. Now, I want you to stand here and keep a bright
look-out. There are two suspicious characters knocking about. They
are not armed--at least, with firearms, for I've taken the only
pistol they possessed. Directly you spot them--that is, if they make
up their minds to come back--let me know as quietly as possible. Eh,
what's that? You hope they do? Good man! You are a tough customer to
tackle with that heavy stick of yours."

The Scotsman, a brawny specimen in spite of his years, for he was
nearly sixty, nodded his head with a confidence that assured the sub.
of a reliable and energetic ally. Leaving him at his post, Tressidar
returned to the car.

"I fancy I heard firing," he remarked.

"Yes," agreed Doris. "I saw flashes. See, there they are again."

She pointed away to the south-east. The crests of the distant hills
were silhouetted against a succession of pale flashes and the glare
of half a dozen searchlights, while the low rumble of a series of
explosions could just be distinguished.

Then the flashes ceased, although the giant beams still searched the
sky--and searched in vain. The huge target presented by the Zeppelin
had been lost to sight.

"There's something overhead," declared Tressidar. "It's an aerial
propeller, but for a Zepp. it's very subdued. You're not nervous,
Doris?"

The girl smiled.

"Being nervous wouldn't be of any use, so I must be brave," she
replied. "As a matter of fact I am rather enjoying the experience. Do
you think----"

A lurid flash and terrific crash, the sound appearing to emanate from
a spot within a hundred yards from where they waited, interrupted her
words. The flash was followed by two others in quick succession, and
then a perfect hail of high-explosive bombs. The Zepp. was hurling
down missiles as fast as she could from a height of less than two
thousand feet upon what her commander took to be the Sauchieblair
Munition Works. In point of actual fact the bombs were dropping,
thanks to Tressidar's resourcefulness in altering the position of the
leading lights, on the grassland full a mile from the Huns'
particular objective.

For nearly twenty minutes the futile operation of bomb-dropping
continued. Once or twice the sub. turned to look at the shepherd. The
man was gazing stolidly into the darkness with his back turned upon
the German firework display. He had been set a particular task and
whole-heartedly he was carrying it out.

At length, as if suspecting that they were being tricked, the crew of
the Zeppelin ceased hurling explosives. They switched on two powerful
searchlights, which, playing in an almost vertically downward
direction, swept the ground in order to discover the magazine
buildings. To do so the airship had dropped to less than a thousand
feet.

"They'll find the place, I'm afraid," thought Tressidar. "If only our
people had even a couple of anti-aircraft guns----"

The shepherd touched his arm and pointed down the road in the
direction of Auldhaig. Approaching at a furious rate, their presence
only apparent by the noise they made, were several motor-cars armed
with quick-firers on vertical mountings. Others, with travelling
searchlight projectors, accompanied them. The lights were temporarily
screened, since the position of the hostile airship could be fixed by
the fact that she was playing her searchlights upon the ground.

The mobile quick-firers made no attempt to get into action until the
cars were almost abreast of the spot where Tressidar and his
companions were. Had they done so, the chances were that the falling
shrapnel bullets would do considerable damage to the lightly built
roofs of the munition works.

Suddenly six anti-aircraft guns opened fire simultaneously. The air
was torn with the shriek of the high-velocity projectiles and the
sharp reports of the weapons. The explosion of the shells threw a
blaze of light upon the silvery envelope of the gigantic
night-raider. It seemed as if it would be impossible for her to
escape the wide effect of the bursting projectiles.

Doris clasped her hands and waited, fully expecting that the huge
floating fabric would either burst into flame or drop, a crumpled
mass of metal, upon the ground.

The Zeppelin lurched. Her bow part tilted sharply downwards. Her
searchlights were switched off. At the same time the British
searchlights threw their concentrated beams upon their quarry. Smoke
was pouring from the hard-pressed airship, until her outlines were
hidden by the pall of vapour.

Then, to an accompaniment of a perfect tornado of exploding bombs for
the airship had hurriedly thrown out her remaining supply of
missiles, the Zeppelin shot vertically upwards with almost incredible
velocity. Growing smaller and smaller to the sightseers, it gradually
grew more and more indistinct, until the searchlight men were unable
to locate its position. The last seen of her was that she was
travelling slowly in a south-easterly direction.

"Hulloa! What the deuce have we got here?" inquired a deep, hearty
voice. "Car with a blaze of red lights, by Jove!"

Towards the Mercédès car strode a burly, great-coated figure in the
uniform of a lieutenant in the R.N. Air Service. Following him were
seven or eight men from the crews of the motor batteries.

"You have here a car belonging to a couple of German spies," said
Tressidar, advancing to meet the lieutenant.

"Nothing like being candid about the business," rejoined the latter
drily. "And who might you be?"

The sub. announced his name and rank.

"You have a lot to explain," said the Air Service officer. "There
have been cases of Germans masquerading in British uniforms, you
know. You must consider yourself under arrest."

Tressidar raised no objection. It was useless to do so. He realised
that, in the circumstances, the lieutenant was perfectly justified in
what he did. He only wondered how Doris would take it.

Greatly to his surprise he heard the girl laugh merrily.

"Good evening, Mr. Waynsford," she exclaimed.

The young lieutenant, completely taken aback, did not immediately
reply. Striding to the door of the car, he merely returned the
compliment and waited for Doris to continue.

"I can answer for Mr. Tressidar's loyalty," she continued. "You see,
Mr. Waynsford, we are stranded on the hills. We had to abandon a
motor-cycle and we found a motor-car. In fact, Mr. Tressidar captured
it. Now I think I'll let you continue the narrative, Ronald."

"By Jove!" ejaculated the lieutenant. "That was quite a 'cute move on
the part of the spies, Tressidar, and most smart on your part. I
believe we've winged that Zepp. Hulloa!"

A petty officer came up at the double. He was one of the men attached
to the portable wireless telegraphy car.

"The Zepp.'s reported flying low over Saltkirk, sir," he announced.
"She dropped one bomb on a cottage. Woman and four children blown to
bits. The airship was last seen making slowly to the east'ard."

"Very good," commented Waynsford. "We can do no more. Can you pilot
the captured car into Auldhaig, Tressidar?"

"Don't think I'd better risk it," replied the sub. "I'm not used to a
Mercédès. A British-built car is more my mark."

He had other reasons for declining to be his own prize-master. It
would not be fair to Doris to let her risk her life in a strange car
and on a rough, hilly road. On the other hand, he did not like the
idea of letting Lieutenant Waynsford have the pleasure of the girl's
company. Already he was a little jealous of the fellow, he decided.
How did Doris get to make his acquaintance during her as yet brief
stay at Auldhaig?

"All right, then," rejoined Waynsford. "I'll give you a lift in my
car, and get a couple of hands to run the Mercédès to Auldhaig.
'Fraid you'll find rather cramped quarters," he added, as he held
open the metal door in the armoured sides. "The shoulder-piece of the
quick-firer is awfully in the way."

A moment later the cars were jolting and swaying at forty miles an
hour along the road, barely slowing down as they tore through the
crowded streets of Auldhaig, for the Zepp. had brought men, women,
and children from the houses, all eager to hear of the work done by
the anti-aircraft guns.

In this they were disappointed. The gunners, modest when it came to
relating their own deeds, were not inclined to give particulars,
especially as they were not definitely certain as to whether the
Zepp. was crippled.

Having escorted Doris to the gates of the hospital, Tressidar bade
her a hasty farewell and hurried towards the harbour. He had already
outstayed his leave, and although the extenuating circumstances
warranted the breach of discipline, he was anxious to know what was
being done afloat. It was now close upon ten o'clock. At ten-thirty
he was to go on duty in the guard-boat, which at Auldhaig was the
"harbour service" torpedo-boat No. 445, an antiquated craft but quite
good enough for the work allotted to her.

Auldhaig Harbour was now comparatively empty. The armoured cruisers
had left during the afternoon to rendezvous off the Isle of May; the
destroyers had gone to relieve the outer patrol in the Firth of
Forth, and the "opposite numbers" had not yet returned to the base.
The only vessels left were a couple of light cruisers undergoing
refit, four torpedo-boats, and a couple of large fleet auxiliaries.

By this time the steam pinnace had taken the sub. off to the hulk in
which the ship's company of the ill-fated "Pompey" were quartered.
Tressidar was only just able to snatch a hasty meal before the
torpedo-boat was ready to cast off.

Thanking his lucky stars that it was a fine night, although bitterly
cold, Tressidar gained the deck of the waiting craft. As he did so
the officer of the watch came to the side of the hulk and leant over.

"Message just come through, Mr. Tressidar," he exclaimed. "Zeppelin
reported down about fifteen miles south-east of Dunletter Head. All
available craft ordered to proceed and investigate. Good luck!"



CHAPTER XI

ONE ZEPPELIN THE LESS


TORPEDO-BOAT No. 445 easily led the procession of small fry. Her
speed, a bare twenty knots, was a good two miles an hour more than
the rest of the torpedo-boats, while she could give points to the
swiftest of the armed trawlers that lumbered in the wake of the rest
of the flotilla.

Tressidar stood on a little platform abaft the low conning-tower. He
had plenty to do, for the intricate directions as to the course could
be adhered to only by a series of careful cross-bearings and
observations. A line of hostile mines had been reported off the
coast, and already a passage had been cleared by the sweepers.
Therein lay a great risk, for although the channel had been reported
clear, there was always the possibility of a mine escaping the means
employed to rid the sea of these sinister objects, while cases have
arisen of a derelict mine being found in a spot that had been
reported free only an hour previously.

The officers and crew of No. 445 knew the danger and met it with
equanimity. The lightly-built, single-skinned hull of the
torpedo-boat would be literally pulverised should she bump against a
mine. The concussion would undoubtedly send the frail craft to the
bottom like a stone, and those of the crew who survived the explosion
would be unable to withstand the piercing coldness of the water. With
them, familiarity did not breed contempt; it was merely a matter of
indifference. With unseen perils surrounding them, the iron-nerved
men were as cool as if the little craft were on a trial run during
the piping times of peace.

Ahead the double flash of Dunletter Head lighthouse winked knowingly.
It was one of those beacons whose usefulness, nay indispensability,
to friendly crafts more than outweighed the service it might render
to hostile craft. The absence of those well-known flashes, even for a
couple of hours, might result in half a dozen wrecks upon the
dangerous Dunletter reefs that thrust their jagged and submerged
fangs nearly half a mile seaward from the frowning promontory.

"Starboard your helm," ordered the sub.

"Ay, ay, sir," replied the quartermaster.

Almost on her heel the torpedo-boat swung round. It had reached the
limit of a discovered mine-field, and was now free to stand seawards.
She, like her consorts, showed no lights. Only a ruddy glare from the
funnels of a badly stoked furnace betrayed the presence of one of the
flotilla, now a couple of miles on the port quarter. For two tedious
hours the boats searched the sea within ten miles of the position in
which the Zeppelin was reported. Although searchlights were brought
to bear upon the waves, nothing resulted. Apparently the airship had
foundered.

Suddenly an idea flashed across Tressidar's mind.

"I'll try it," he thought, and gave an order for the engines to be
stopped.

When No. 445 lost way he made tests to ascertain the true direction
of the wind. Although it was almost calm when he left Auldhaig, the
sub. made the discovery that there was a steady draught from the
south-west. He also knew that for the last four hours the tide had
been making northwards.

A water-borne Zeppelin, he argued, was to a greater extent under the
influence of the wind, and to a lesser extent of that of the tide,
although that depended largely upon the area of the submerged portion
of the huge fabric. Allowing the airship to have been drifting for
four hours, by this time she must be at least sixteen miles from the
spot where she dropped, unless in the meanwhile she had sunk.

Accordingly TB 445 made off in a north-easterly direction, the sub.
sweeping the sea with his night-glasses with the air of a man who
subconsciously feels convinced that his efforts will meet with
success.

Shortly after two in the morning a slight mist, accompanied by cold
rain and sleet, rendered the searchers' task a most difficult one.
Speed was reduced to fifteen knots, and the look-outs doubled, since
the little craft was now in the waters frequented by the north-east
of Scotland fishing-boats.

"Light on the port-bow, sir," reported one of the crew, as the feeble
glimmer of a masthead and port lights loomed through the mirk.

Tressidar telegraphed for "easy ahead," then "stop," at the same time
ordering the helm to be starboarded in order to approach the strange
craft.

"They're making a deuce of a noise," he soliloquised, as the murmur
of a babel of voices was wafted through the night.

Even as he looked the sub. discovered that the beams of the vessel's
masthead light were playing upon an immense indistinct mass lying
apparently a cable's length to windward. The mass was the envelope of
the Zeppelin.

Ordering both searchlights to be unscreened and played upon the
airship, Tressidar had the torpedo-boat manoeuvred so that the
trawler,--for such she proved to be--bore slightly on the starboard
quarter. At the same time the three 3-pounders were trained upon the
Zeppelin.

"I wonder if the Huns have collared that craft," thought Tressidar.
"It looks jolly fishy."

"Ahoy!" hailed one of the torpedo-boat's men. "What craft is that?"

"Drifter 'Laughing Lassie' of Peterhead," was the reply with an
unmistakable Scottish accent.

"Then what are you doing here?" shouted the sub.

"The Zepp.'s right across our nets," announced the master of the
drifter. "We aren't going to cut them adrift for a dozen strafed
Zepps. They want us to take them aboard, but we just won't."

The fishing-craft was steaming slowly ahead, just sufficient to keep
a slight strain upon her nets. The rear gondola of the Zeppelin,
dipping beneath the surface, had fouled them, and at the same time
the airship was prevented from drifting further to leeward.

Taking care to avoid the nets, for there was a danger of the
torpedo-boat's propeller becoming entangled in the meshes of tarred
line, Tressidar brought his command slightly to windward of the
crippled German airship.

With the exception of the after part she was floating buoyantly,
stern to wind. On the platform on the upper side of the envelope were
about a dozen of her officers and crew. Others were standing on the
light, railed-in gangway connecting the foremost cabin with the
midship gondola. Shown up by the glare of the searchlights were
several jagged holes in the envelope, caused by fragments of shells
from the guns of the anti-aircraft service cars.


[Illustration: "WITH THE QUICK-FIRERS TRAINED UPON THE BULKY TARGET,
NO. 445 APPROACHED WITHIN HAILING DISTANCE"]


"Think she'll fight, Bill?" the sub. heard a seaman enquire of his
chum.

"Wish to heaven she would," replied the man. "We'd make it hot for
them. But they won't, the brutes. They never do when they're
cornered."

The speaker was in ordinary circumstances a steady, well-conducted
seaman-gunner, who bore testimony to his humanity in the form of a
silver medal from the Royal Humane Society for saving life under most
hazardous conditions. Yet, without the slightest compunction, he
would have sent a shell crashing into the inflammable gases of the
Zepp.'s envelope. The mental vision of that ruined cottage with the
slaughtered woman and her children had hardened his heart.

It was with almost similar sentiments that Tressidar hoped the
Germans would put up a fight. With their superior armament they stood
a chance of sending the little torpedo-boat to the bottom, or at any
rate sweeping her decks with a murderous fire from her numerous
machine guns.

She did neither. Instead, a man exhibited a large white flag, while
the rest of the crew stood with folded arms, displaying a complete
confidence in the willingness of the British seamen to save them from
a lingering death in the wild North Sea.

With the quick-firers still trained upon the bulky target, No. 445
approached within hailing distance.

"Do you surrender?" shouted the sub. through a megaphone.

"Yes," was the reply, given by a tall, burly officer speaking good
English. "We are disabled. We give ourselves up as prisoners."

"Very good," rejoined Tressidar. "You're in no immediate danger.
Stand by to receive a hawser. We're going to tow you. But remember,
any attempt to destroy or cause further injury to the airship will
result in the death of every man jack of you. Do you quite
understand?"

The German officers conferred amongst themselves. Then one of them
gave an order to a member of the crew, who hurried to a hatchway
amidships and disappeared from view.

"He's either gone to blow up the gas-bag or else he's been told to
countermand a previous order to scuttle her," thought the sub. "Well,
the business rests entirely in their hands. They'll have to realise
that I won't be fooled with."

"We are ready to be taken in tow," shouted the German officer.

Ordering easy ahead, Tressidar brought his command almost alongside
the steam drifter.

"You'll have to cut your nets, skipper," he said, addressing a short,
thick-set man whose proportions were grotesquely exaggerated by a
stiff oilskin worn over a thick great-coat. "I want you to take that
Zepp. in tow and run her into Auldhaig. You will be compensated for
the loss of your nets and in addition receive a large sum for
salvage."

With the utmost alacrity the master of the drifter gave the necessary
orders. The half-mile of nets was cut adrift, and the powerful
engines manoeuvred until it was possible to heave a coil of rope into
the foremost gondola of the crippled airship.

Meanwhile Tressidar had sent out a flashing message--No. 445 not
being equipped with wireless--in the hope of the good news being
picked up by the rest of the flotilla. Although there was no
response, the sub. gave the signalmen instructions to flash code
messages at intervals, in order to impress upon the crew of the
Zeppelin that the torpedo-boat was not unsupported.

Slowly the trawler forged ahead, the partly water-logged airship
wallowing awkwardly in tow. To guard against treachery--which,
Tressidar knew, would be regarded as a smart action on the part of
the Huns--No. 445 kept on the starboard quarter of the Zeppelin,
ready at the first sign of a suspicious nature to place a shell into
the interior of the highly inflammable envelope.

Mile after mile the trawler towed her bulky charge, her course
through the mine-infested water being directed by signals from the
torpedo-boat, whose searchlights were continually playing upon the
prize.

Greatly to Tressidar's satisfaction, he observed that the airship
showed no signs of sinking still more. Apparently the air-tight
subdivisions enclosing the ballonets were sufficiently strong to
resist the pressure of water. The submerged portion, too, acting as a
drag in the sea, prevented the Zeppelin from yawing excessively,
especially as the wind was now broad on the port beam.

The chances were that at last a practically undamaged and repairable
Zeppelin would be brought into a British port.

A red hue in the eastern sky betokened the dawn of another day with
the promise of bad weather. Gradually the beams of the searchlights
began to pale before the increasing morning light.

Several miles to windward columns of smoke denoted the presence of
the rest of the patrolling craft, which, having abandoned their
midnight search, were returning to port.

It was now time for the trawler to alter her course eight points to
starboard. She had passed the dangerous area, and could now run
parallel with the coast until she reached the entrance to Auldhaig
Firth.

Of the Zeppelin's crew not a man was visible. Apparently accepting
the inevitable, they had taken shelter from the keen air and driving
rain until they were ordered ashore by their captors, there to enjoy
the comparatively luxurious life of prisoners of war.

Suddenly the whole fabric of the airship burst into sheets of lurid
flame. Shafts of dazzling light shot skywards, mingled with flying
debris. Almost immediately came the deafening crash of an explosion,
followed by a blast of hot air that swept the torpedo-boat like a
tornado.

For a few moments Tressidar was unable to grasp the situation. Where
the Zeppelin had been was a dense cloud of smoke, that, caught by the
wind, was drifted down upon the sub.'s command until the men were
literally gasping for breath. Then upon her decks fell fragments of
aluminium girders and wisps of burning fabric that, hurled upwards to
an immense height, was beginning to fall in all directions.

The trawler, released from her tow, was forging rapidly ahead, the
hawser trailing astern with a succession of jerks. Not until later
was it ascertained that several of her crew had been hurled to the
deck and seriously injured by the blast of the explosion, while the
others were so dazed by the concussion that it was some time before
the helm could be steadied and orders given to slow down.

"Rough luck!" muttered Tressidar. "Still, those fellows in that Zepp.
had some pluck to blow her up with all on board."

But the sub. was wrong in his surmise. Nemesis, in the shape of a
drifting German mine, had overtaken the air-raider of the night. In
turning, the trawler had fortunately missed the latent weapon by a
bare yard, while the airship, having to describe a wide circle, had
brought the submerged gondola in contact with the sensitive horns of
the mine with disastrous results.

"After all, there's some consolation," thought Tressidar as he went
below to write out his report. "There's one Zeppelin the less."



CHAPTER XII

AN OCEAN DUEL


MIDWAY between the coasts of Norway and Iceland and at less than
three degrees south of the Arctic Circle the British light cruiser
"Heracles" was on patrol duty. She was one of a chain of swift
vessels spread out betwixt Iceland and Cape Wrath in order to tighten
the net that was being cast about Germany's sea-borne trade.

Germany's mercantile fleet had long since been swept off the five
oceans, but her sea-borne trade still continued. Thanks to the
incapacity of a certain section of the British Government to grasp
the necessity for a stringent blockade, neutrals, bought by Teuton
gold, were actively engaged in importing enormous quantities of
goods, more than ten times the amount needed for their own
consumption, and were waxing rich by means of the inflated prices
that the Huns were forced to pay in order to obtain the necessaries
for carrying on the war.

But at last, owing to popular clamour rather than to the inclination
of the civil authorities, the British Government had been forced to
action. The great silent navy, that for months past had had to
overhaul ship after ship without being allowed to detain what were
obviously supplies intended for Germany, was now unfettered.

"Stop everything," was the order. The "rights" of petty neutral
States--parasites upon the belligerent nations--had to be waived if
the Great War was to be won by the Entente Powers.

The "Heracles" was a vessel of 4,300 tons, mounting two 6-in. guns
and eight 4.7's. Her speed was nineteen knots--sufficient to overhaul
any merchant craft likely to be met with in high latitudes. She was
manned by the officers and crew of the late cruiser "Pompey."

Six weeks had elapsed since Sub-lieutenant Tressidar was within an
ace of bringing a Zeppelin into Auldhaig Firth. It was now late in
February. A spell of comparatively fine weather had succeeded a month
of continual blizzards. The sea, encumbered by drift-ice, was
practically calm. The cold was intense. The vessel's masts and
funnels, and in fact every part not readily to be swept clear, were
outlined in dazzling white, the snow having frozen into a hard coat.
Morning after morning the hoses had to be connected up and hot water
played upon the muzzles of the guns in order to remove the ice from
the bore. Officers and men, clad in thick woollen and fur garments,
were faced with the problem of drawing the line between bodily warmth
and activity. If, on the one hand, they wore sufficient to withstand
the morning cold, the free use of their limbs was seriously impeded;
if, on the other hand, they had to shed their super-coats in order to
tackle a job that required agility, they were in danger of being
"nipped" by the icy blast.

Yet week after week the monotonous patrol work was maintained.
Frequently days passed without a strange sail being sighted, until
the monotony became almost appalling.

Nor did the long nights tend to improve matters. Daylight, frequently
little more than a pale twilight, lasted only four hours in the
twenty-four. The remaining twenty consisted of intense blackness,
without even the stars to cheer the men in the long night-watches.

"Sail on the starboard bow."

A wave of subdued interest swept over the ship's company. Anything in
the nature of a strange craft was sufficient to break the deadly
tediousness. Of course she would only be one of those Norwegian
traders outward bound. It was too much to hope otherwise.

The stranger came up rapidly. Upon sighting the "Heracles" she made
no attempt to alter her helm, but stood doggedly on her course. She
was a large vessel, bordering on 10,000 tons. On her sides were
painted the Norwegian colours, while the mercantile ensign of that
nation was displayed aft.

A shot fired across her bows had the desired effect. She backed her
engines and, gradually losing way, brought up within two cables'
lengths of the British cruiser.

"What ship is that?" was the peremptory signal from the "Heracles."

"The 'Frijick' of Bergen," was the reply. "Why are we detained? We
are neutrals."

"Must examine your papers," rejoined the British cruiser. "Stand by
to receive a boat."

"Away cutter."

The pipes of the bos'n's mates trilled in the keen air as the boat's
crew, armed in case of emergency, rushed to their duty. Quickly the
falls were manned and the boats swung outboard, Tressidar being in
charge.

With a loud splash the boat struck the water. Dexterously the falls
were disengaged, the lower blocks swinging with a sharp crack against
the cruiser's side.

"Give way, lads!"

As one the double line of blades dipped and the boat drew away from
her parent, for the "Heracles" had now circled slightly to starboard
and had almost bows on to the Norwegian.

At that moment half a dozen port-lids, cunningly concealed in the
stranger's side, were lowered, and a line of flashes leapt from the
quick-firers hitherto concealed. Simultaneously two torpedoes
shimmered in the dull light on their brief journey through the air
before they took to the water and headed at the rate of an express
train towards the British cruiser.

Taken completely by surprise, the sub. gave an order to "Back all."
The cutter was on the point of entering the direct line of fire. To
attempt to return to the "Heracles" was to court disaster, for
already shells were bursting against her unarmoured bows.

With the discharge of the torpedoes the disguised German cruiser, for
such she was, began to forge ahead. Under a false flag she had
attempted to deal a knock-out blow at her more heavily armed
antagonist, and she all but succeeded.

Well it was that the British cruiser was pretty well bows on to her
antagonist, for the first torpedo, passing almost underneath the
cutter's keel, missed the "Heracles'" port quarter by a few yards.
The other seemed as if it were making straight for the almost
motionless ship when, with a terrific report, a column of water was
thrown up a couple of hundred feet in the air at less than half a
cable's length from the boat under Tressidar's command.

By sheer good luck as far as the "Heracles" was concerned, the
powerful locomotive weapon had struck a huge block of almost
submerged drift-ice, sending fragments in all directions. Several of
the men in the cutter were slightly injured by pieces of falling ice,
while for six minutes the boat rocked violently in the confused water
churned up by the explosion.

Meanwhile both ships were rapidly drawing away from the cutter, and
were firing furiously. Already the superior gunnery of the "Heracles"
was beginning to tell, for several gaping holes were visible in the
German cruiser's sides, through which volumes of smoke were pouring.
The Hun, unable to score by a coward blow, was showing her heels, and
although it was impossible at the present juncture to ascertain which
craft had the advantage of speed, she had perceptibly increased her
distance before the British cruiser had got into her stride.

Nor had the "Heracles" come off lightly. The first hostile broadside
had played havoc with her upper deck. Huge rents appeared in her
funnels, thereby decreasing her forced draught, while--which was to
be particularly deplored--both her fore and after topmasts had been
shot away and with them the wireless aerials.

Keeping slightly out of the wake of the German cruiser lest she
should drop a chain of mines in the track of her pursuer, the
"Heracles" held grimly in chase, giving and receiving punishment as
she did so. Her antagonist's guns were not to be despised, although
not equal in calibre to those of the British cruiser; but since the
"Heracles" could only bring her bow 6-in. and the two foremost
broadside 4.7's to bear against the German's four 5-in. guns mounted
aft, the chances were, until the "Heracles" drew broad abaft her
foeman's beam, fairly even on both sides.


[Illustration: AN OCEAN DUEL]


It was modern warfare with the "Nelson touch." Theoretically the
naval battle of the present day is fought at long range, but here
were two well-armed vessels fighting each other at point-blank
distance.

In spite of their underhand tactics, the Germans fought gamely.
Undeterred by the accurately placed shells that rained upon her
quarter-deck, the Huns stuck to their guns.

Still exchanging shots, the two vessels were lost to sight in the
haze of the northern seas, and Tressidar and his eleven men found
themselves alone upon the deserted ocean.



CHAPTER XIII

ADRIFT


WITH the excitement of watching the ocean duel still fresh in their
minds, the cutter's crew did not readily realise their predicament.
They had sublime faith in the ability of the "Heracles" to give the
Huns "a proper hammering" and that in due course the British cruiser
would return and pick up her boat.

For some time the sounds of the violent cannonade were borne faintly
to their ears; then, save when a man's hearing played tricks upon
him, the noise of the firing died utterly away.

Hour after hour passed, but no sign of the returning cruiser. The
horrible thought that perhaps the "Heracles" had been sent to the
bottom took root and increased in Tressidar's mind. Yet no hint did
he give to his men. In order to occupy their minds and to keep their
blood circulating--for in the open boat the cold was intense--the
sub. ordered them to row, the oarsmen relieving each other every
half-hour. Round and round in a vast circle the cutter went.
Tressidar was too cautious to take the boat far from the spot where
she had parted company with her parent ship, otherwise, should the
"Heracles" return and find no sign of the cutter, she would most
likely conclude that the boat had either been swamped or blown to
atoms by a stray shell.

To add to the discomfort of the cutter's crew, it was now raining the
steady downpour accompanied by occasional sleet and drifts of fog.
Frequently the extent of vision was limited to less than half a mile.
In these circumstances the chances of being picked up by the
"Heracles" were greatly diminished.

Presently one of the men caught sight of a grey pointed object
forging through the detached pieces of drift ice. At first glance it
resembled a destroyer, save for the difference in colour. It was a
vessel of some sort, but different from any that the cutter's crew
had yet seen. It had a slightly raised fo'c'sle, large
superstructure, and two slender masts fitted with wireless gear.

"A German submarine!" exclaimed a seaman hoarsely. "My word, ain't
she a whopper!"

It was an unterseeboot of the newest type--resembling a small cruiser
rather than the accepted idea of a submarine. Trimmed for surface
running, she exposed a freeboard of nearly ten feet. For'ard were two
twelve-pounder guns in circular turrets, so arranged that they could
be lowered below the deck in a few seconds whenever it became
necessary to dive. In the elongated superstructure, which comprised
not only the conning-tower but several spacious compartments, were
gun-ports fitted with watertight lids. These were now triced up,
revealing the muzzles of four seven-pounder quick-firers. From the
after end of the superstructure floated the Black Cross of Germany,
while abaft were two more "disappearing" guns and the above-water
mine-dropping gear.

Already the two for'ard guns were trained upon the luckless cutter.
At any moment shells might be dealing death and destruction amongst
her crew.

"Stand by with your rifles, lads!" ordered Tressidar. "Keep them out
of sight until I give the word."

In silence the men awaited the submarine's approach, ignorant of what
was about to take place. The sub. had wisely refrained from making
any sign of resistance. He had decided not to give the Germans a
chance to justify their opening fire; but should they do so, the
cutter's crew would fight to the last.

After a while the submarine slowed down and stopped at a little less
than a cable's length to windward of the boat. A couple of heavily
clad officers standing on the platform formed by the roof of the
superstructure examined the cutter through their binoculars. Then one
made a remark to the other and both laughed uproariously.

Meanwhile the bow guns were still trained upon the cutter. Abreast of
the superstructure a seaman, acting upon orders from his officers,
held up a coil of rope to signify the willingness of the submarine's
crew to take the boat in tow.

Tressidar shook his head emphatically. It would be far preferable to
remain adrift in the open boat than to trust to the tender mercies of
the kultured Hun.

Slowly the submarine forged ahead and circling passed within twenty
yards of the cutter. For a few moments Tressidar was under the
impression that the U-boat was about to ram the little craft, but he
was mistaken.

"No take help from Zhermans?" shouted one of the German officers.
"Sorry we have no room for you on board, or we vos take your
prisoners to Zhermany."

Twenty or thirty men who formed the submarine's crew laughed
boisterously at the plight of the British seamen; but, somewhat to
Tressidar's surprise, no attempt was made to molest the cutter. With
her crew still jeering, the submarine increased her speed and was
soon out of sight.

The short day was drawing to a close. Benumbed by the cold, the men
huddled close together for mutual warmth. They were too exhausted to
indulge in conversation. Their frozen hands could not retain their
grasp upon the looms of the oars, yet uncomplainingly they sat with
compressed lips, looking in vain for the return of the "Heracles."

As night came on a lantern was lighted and exhibited from a boathook
set upright through one of the thwarts. The rain had now ceased. It
was snowing slightly, with the promise of a heavy blizzard before
many hours had passed. All around the drift ice floated in compact
masses, until there was danger of the boat being nipped between the
enormous floes as they ground in the long swell.

Just before midnight the thud of a ship's engines became audible.
Gradually the sound drew nearer and nearer. A large vessel, showing
no lights, was cautiously making her way through the drift ice.

The ship was not H.M.S. "Heracles." The cutter's crew knew that by
the noise of the engines, for it lacked the rhythm of the cruiser's
smoothly running machinery.

She was certainly coming in the direction of the boat, but the
question was, would she stop. Since she had gone a long way to the
northward of the usual trade routes, it was evident that the vessel
had good reasons for wishing to avoid examination by the British
patrol craft, and would not be likely to stop at the signal of
distress.

Accordingly the sub. determined to bluff her. By means of a Morse
flashing-lamp, with which the cutter was equipped, a peremptory order
to heave-to was sent. For a few moments the men waited in acute
suspense. Upon the success of the demand depended their lives, since
they had little chance of outliving the rigours of a long winter's
night in the ice-infested sea. A steady white light shone through the
darkness, followed by the signal "I am heaving-to."

"Give way, lads," exclaimed Tressidar encouragingly. "Another five
minutes will do the trick."

Gathering their remaining energies, for the men were almost done up,
the rowers urged the boat in the direction of the now motionless
steamer, and ranged alongside her towering hull, the rail of which
seemed lost in the darkness overhead.

A coil of rope, hurtling from the deck, dropped into the cutter. The
bowman, his fingers numbed with the cold, fumbled as he took a turn
round the for'ard thwart.

"Lower a ladder," shouted the sub.

"Aye, aye!" replied a voice with a pronounced foreign accent. There
was neither cordiality nor resentment in the words; merely an
acceptance with a good grace of a situation that could not be
avoided.

The cutter was grinding alongside the rust-streaked wall-sides of the
steamer. Her exhausted crew had not the strength to fend her off. It
was, indeed, doubtful whether some of the men would be able to gain
the vessel's deck without assistance.

A wire-rope ladder was lowered from the rail. Owing to the roll of
the ship the lowermost rungs were at one moment three feet from the
side. At another the ladder slapped vigorously against the iron
plating in a manner that promised broken knuckles to the men as they
climbed to safety.

Hardly able to move his limbs after his prolonged exposure in the
boat, Tressidar gamely ascended. His nerveless fingers could hardly
retain a grip upon the wet and slippery rungs. His boots slipped
dangerously from the smooth rounded surface of the swaying ladder.
Oppressed by the weight of his saturated clothing, he had more than
once on the hazardous ascent to pause and regain his breath before he
could summon his jaded energies to a renewed effort.

He fancied that the master of the vessel glanced curiously at him as
he almost staggered upon the deck. Then, without a word, he drew
himself up and waited until the last of his men had gained safety.
Then, and only then, did he drop his plan of bluff.

"We were adrift in an open boat belonging to a British cruiser," he
explained. "We should be glad of your hospitality until we fall in
with another of our warships. Might I ask what ship this is?"

"The 'Freya' of Hammerfest, bound from New York to Gothenborg,"
replied the master. "We are only too glad to give you assistance; for
a few hours, perhaps, since your ships swarm like ants. If you will
send your men for'ard they will be attended to. Meanwhile, sir, will
you favour me with your company in my cabin?"

"How about our rifles, sir?" asked one of the cutter's crew.

Tressidar hesitated. The men, being armed when they left the ship,
ought to be under arms until they returned; but, on the other hand,
it was hardly good taste to send them to the "Freya's" fo'c'sle with
rifles and ammunition as if they were a prize crew.

The Norwegian skipper noticed his dilemma.

"Perhaps you would like me to take charge of them," he remarked.
"Should we be stopped by a German submarine--one passed and was going
south-west less than five hours ago--it would go hard with us if they
found armed Englishmen on board. I will be responsible that the arms
will be returned to you intact when you are transferred to a British
ship."

The sub. saw no reason why he should not do as the master of the
"Freya" suggested. The chances were that the ship would be examined
by a patrol vessel before many hours were passed. There was one
problem, however, that he could not exactly solve, nor did he like to
ask his host any question on the matter. If the "Freya" were what she
was stated to be--a neutral trader from and for neutral ports--why
did she go so far out of her course?

The arms were given up and the jaded men sent forward, where they
were hospitably entertained by the Norwegian crew, who not only gave
them hot food and drink, but lent them clothing while their own was
being dried in front of the galley fire. Not until Tressidar was
assured that his men were made comfortable did he go aft to the
master's cabin.

"You are too tired to converse," remarked the skipper, as the sub.
attacked a plain but appetising meal.

"Not at all," replied Tressidar, his anxiety to hear more of his host
and the vessel under his command being uppermost in his mind.

The master, after the manner of his race, began by plying the sub.
with numerous questions concerning his adventures, to all of which
the sub. replied without any attempt at reticence. He knew that
mistrust begets mistrust, and that if he "hedged" his own chances of
obtaining information would be thrown away.

"So your ship was engaged with a German ship disguised as one of
ours," remarked the master of the "Freya." "I hope she sunk her.
These arrogant Germans have already torpedoed nearly twenty of our
peaceable merchantmen and our Government can but protest If only we
were a great nation how we would help to fight them! As it is, we
can only expostulate, knowing that expostulation is of no avail so
far as a German is concerned."

"Yet the submarine you fell in with this afternoon did not attempt to
torpedo you?"

"No; but I think I can explain that," replied the Norwegian skipper.
"She passed close under our stern and read our name. These fellows
seem to have information of every vessel leaving American ports, and
for which port they are bound. Those making for Scandinavia are
generally left alone; it is only neutral vessels bound for British
ports that are sunk."

"Perhaps that is why you took such a devious course," prompted
Tressidar.

"Yes," admitted his host frankly, "and also to lessen the risk of
hitting a German mine. Our troubles will commence when we enter the
Skager Rack, for the Germans, in defiance of all international law,
have mined that too. But before that, I trust, you will have no
further need for my hospitality."

The skipper spoke with evident sincerity. His sympathies were wholly
pro-British. He quite recognised the necessity for a stringent
blockade of Germany and for the restriction of imports into Norway,
Sweden, Denmark, and Holland.

"Of course it is a great temptation for our people to enrich
themselves," he said, "only it is short-sighted policy. I feel
convinced that should Germany win this war--and my opinion is that
she won't unless the Allies make a serious and irreparable
blunder--the liberty of the smaller States of Europe, even though
they have preserved a strict and punctilious neutrality, will be gone
for ever. But you have finished your meal: you would like to sleep?
There is a bunk at your disposal. Should the slightest occasion
arise, I will have you awakened at once."

Thankfully Tressidar accepted the offer. Half asleep, he threw off
his clothes and turned in. A minute later he was in a deep slumber.



CHAPTER XIV

A BREACH OF NEUTRALITY


TRESSIDAR awoke with a start to find himself in utter darkness.
Accustomed to be aroused at all times and without warning, he was
fully awake in an instant.

The "Freya" was rolling considerably. Against her sides the waves
slapped viciously. Above his head he could see the seas pouring on
deck with that almost indescribable sound that accompanies the rush
of green water over the low bulwarks.

The rain had been succeeded by a stiff blow and the tramp was
ploughing through a rough sea with the wind broad on her starboard
beam.

"Thank goodness no middle watch for me to-night," soliloquised the
sub. as he prepared to fall asleep again. "Wonder what the time is?
I'll just see to satisfy my curiosity."

He leapt from his bunk and searched for the switch, for the
after-cabin of the "Freya" was electrically lighted. Having switched
on the light, he consulted his watch. It was twenty minutes to ten.

"By Jove, I've almost slept the clock twice round!" exclaimed
Tressidar. "It was nearly two in the morning before I turned in.
Seventeen hours at ten knots, if not more. Why, the old tub must be
well across the North Sea by this time."

Wondering why the "Freya" had not fallen in with any patrol ships,
the sub. dressed and left the cabin. In the saloon he found the
Norwegian skipper, who was in the midst of a meal.

"You slept so soundly that we did not like to awaken you," he said as
he rose to greet his guest. "There has been nothing to report. We
have not sighted a single sail since yesterday. Please sit down and
have some food."

"And my men?" asked Tressidar.

"They are all practically recovered except two, who have to keep to
their bunks," replied the Norwegian. "They have all turned in again,
but if you wish to see them----"

"No, I won't disturb them," the sub. hastened to declare, lest his
desire to communicate with his men might give rise to unfounded
suspicion. "To-morrow, perhaps. Where are we now, do you think?"

"About eighty miles due west of Cape Stodt, which is, you may perhaps
remember, almost midway between Christiansund and Bergen," was the
reply. "In order to avoid meeting German submarines, I have to hug
the Norwegian coast. I am afraid we've evaded your cruisers, sir.
Believe me, it was not by design, but by accident. Of course there is
no reason why you should not return to England by steamer after we
land you at Gothenborg, provided you and your men wear civilian
clothes and discard your arms and ammunition."

"That is something to be thankful for," remarked Tressidar. "So long
as I am back in England and able to rejoin my ship, I am content.
Next to being a prisoner of war the lot of an interned man must be
fearfully irksome."

"Quite so," agreed the skipper. "Now tell me: when do you think that
the war will be over?"

"When we've properly whacked the Germans--not before," replied the
sub. firmly.

"Then the sooner the better," added his host. "At the present time it
is hardly safe for a neutral ship to be at sea. We neutrals are like
a man standing on two rickety stools. At any moment one might
collapse and let us down badly. Holland and Denmark are the worst
off, I should say. It will indeed be a marvel if they can contrive to
avoid being drawn in by the vortex, even as Belgium was."

"We came into the war to help Belgium," remarked Tressidar.
"Only----"

The Norwegian smiled blandly.

"My friend," he interrupted, "let me tell you something. The
onlookers see most of the game. The cry about violating the
neutrality of Belgium that your politicians are so fond of raising is
mere clap-trap. It served its purpose to unite the various political
factions in England, that was all. You English had a chance that
might, perhaps, never occur again. It was a favourable chance to
smash German militarism, and, luckily for you, you took it. Even if
Belgium had not been involved, Great Britain would have ranged
herself on the side of France and Russia. When big Empires wage war,
little States do not count."

Tressidar merely inclined his head in assent. He, too, knew that the
Norwegian spoke the truth. Long before the German troops set foot in
Belgium the British Fleet was "standing fast" in readiness to help
in the necessary task of freeing Europe, nay, the world, from the
menace of Prussianism as preached by the disciples of kultur.

At daybreak the "Freya" rounded the Naze, the southernmost point of
Norway. Ahead lay the broad waters of the Skager Rack. In normal
times, following the breaking up of the ice, the sound would be
dotted with vessels of all nationalities engaged in trade with the
Baltic ports. Now not a sail was visible. The heavily sparred German
timber ships, like the rest of the mercantile navy of Prussia, had
long since been swept off the seas.

The quaint Russian barques, too, that were familiar in almost every
British port of any size, were no longer to be seen. A few Swedish
merchantmen, timorously hugging the Norwegian coast, might have been
discerned had the weather been clear. Otherwise, save for the
spectacular "dashes" of a few German warships--short cruises to cheer
up the Huns in the belief that their navy did plough the
high-seas--the Skager Rack presented almost as desolate an aspect as
the Dead Sea.

The "Freya" hugged the shore closely, keeping well within the
three-mile limit. Even at that distance the land was frequently
obscured by patches of mist that drove slowly across the sea under
the mild southerly wind.

Presently the tramp ran into a thick bank of fog. With a dangerous
shore so close under her lee, it was imperative that every precaution
should be taken to prevent her being carried out of her course by the
strong indraught. Speed was reduced to a minimum necessary to carry
steerage way, while the syren was kept going to warn possible
approaching vessels of her presence.

Suddenly, like the passing of a compact cloud across the sun, the fog
lifted. The ship was still within the three-mile limit, but between
her and the Norwegian coast was a fleet of warships steaming rapidly
in the same direction and on a parallel course that, if maintained,
would bring them within a cable's length of the "Freya."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Tressidar. "They are German vessels."

He was right. There were three light cruisers steaming in line ahead.
On either hand were lines of torpedo-boats, while overhead at an
altitude of about one thousand feet flew two Zeppelins of the most
recent type. The Huns, fearing submarine attack, were taking no
unnecessary risks. They were cruising in neutral waters, but the
German populace was not to know that.

"Keep your men well out of sight," cautioned the skipper. "Even the
Norwegian flag flying in Norwegian waters would not be able to
protect you."

As he spoke the leading torpedo-boat of the starboard division
sounded her syren imperiously. By all the rules of the road at sea
the tramp, being the overtaken vessel, was entitled to hold on her
course; but it was evident that the German flotilla was attempting to
edge the "Freya" beyond territorial waters, although for what reason
none on board her could certainly conjecture.

Nearer and nearer drew the warships, without making the slightest
attempt to alter helm. Their syrens were braying frantically. It
reminded the sub. of a herd of cattle trying to shift a little dog
that impeded their way.

If the "Freya's" skipper held on, he realised that he would give the
imperious Huns cause for offence. Reluctantly he gave orders for the
helm to be ported in order to yield to the palpably illegal tactics
of the German ships.

As the tramp altered her course the starboard column of torpedo-boats
did likewise, until they were heading south-east or almost at right
angles to the coast-line. The "Freya" was being jockeyed beyond the
three-mile limit.

The sub. knew that he and his men were in a tight corner. Should the
tramp be compelled to hove-to there was no escape. They could not be
passed off as passengers, since their names did not figure on the
passenger list. Nor was the ship certified to carry any persons
besides her officers and crew.

Tressidar dismissed the proposal that he and his men should hide in
the hold. Searched the ship would certainly be, and he was not going
to be ignominiously hauled out of the hold by a mob of Germans.

At length, in fact directly the tramp had passed the limit of
territorial waters, the peremptory hail to stop instantly came from
the nearmost German torpedo-boat, which promptly swung out of station
and slowed down.

"I am sorry, but it is not my fault," exclaimed the Norwegian skipper
to Tressidar as he telegraphed to the engine-room for half-speed
astern.

"You did your best: you had no choice," replied the sub. "We must
make the best of the situation."

While the German torpedo-boat was manoeuvring to come alongside (it
saved the trouble of sending away a boarding-party), Tressidar sent a
couple of seamen to fetch the rifles and ammunition from the cabin.
These he dropped overboard. At least they would not be allowed to
fall into the hands of the enemy.

Barely had this task been completed when a tall, full-faced, blond
unter-leutnant appeared over the side, followed by half a dozen armed
men.

Directly he caught sight of Tressidar and the British seamen he half
hesitated, fearing a trap. Then, possibly realising that he had
thirty German warships to back him up, he waxed bold, and fiercely
twirling his fair moustache, haughtily demanded to know what these
English swine were doing on board a Norwegian ship?

The skipper of the "Freya," who spoke German as fluently as he did
English, explained briefly and to the point, saying that he had acted
merely in the dictates of humanity.

"Then so much the worse for you," retorted the German officer.

He walked to the side and reported his find to his superior, the
kapitan of the torpedo-boat. Great was the excitement on board, while
the news was quickly transmitted by semaphore to the flagship, which
happened to be one of the three light cruisers.

Tressidar and the cutter's crew were then ordered over the side and
sent on board the torpedo-boat. A thorough search was then made of
the "Freya" lest any more British officers and men might still be in
hiding, but without result.

"Your vessel is a prize to the German Government," declared the
unter-leutnant, addressing the Norwegian skipper.

"A prize?" repeated the master. "For why?"

"You are conveying contraband."

"We are not," protested the "Freya's" captain. "We have not touched
at a British port. Our papers prove that. And our cargo is not
contraband."

"I did not say contraband cargo," said the German with a leer. "Men
can be contraband as well as stores. You had English seamen on board,
therefore you are under arrest."

"We were in Norwegian waters when you overhauled us," declared the
skipper.

"No," replied the German. "Well beyond the limit. But what is the use
of your protesting You are under arrest and the vessel is a prize. If
you do not know how to make the best of the business, I will have to
show you."

So with a prize crew on board, the luckless "Freya," escorted by a
torpedo-boat, was taken into the Elbe, while Tressidar found himself
a prisoner of war in the hands of the Huns.



CHAPTER XV

A PRISONER OF WAR


AS soon as the Norwegian tramp and her escort were on the way to a
German port the torpedo-boat resumed her station at the head of the
starboard line.

The British seamen had been sent below as soon as they were
transhipped, but Tressidar was told to go aft and await examination.

"You say your ship engaged one of our cruisers?" asked the
lieutenant-commander of the torpedo-boat. "What was the result?"

"Your cruiser ran away," replied Tressidar pointedly.

"And then what happened?"

"The 'Heracles' stood in pursuit. An action was taking place. We
were left adrift in the cutter."

"And the end of the action?"

"I cannot tell. Both ships were lost in the mist."

"Was the English cruiser torpedoed?"

"That I cannot say," replied the sub.

"It was possible. Were there any signs of one of our incomparable
submarines about?"

"We saw one several hours later."

"Then it is certain that your 'Heracles' was sunk," declared the
German joyously. Already he had decided to report that a party of
English Seamen, the sole survivors of a torpedoed cruiser, had been
rescued by a division of the High Seas Fleet. He could imagine the
intense enthusiasm in Berlin at the news.

He plied Tressidar with questions to elicit the information as to the
exact position where the engagement started, but beyond the vague
statement that it was somewhere in the North Sea, the sub. refrained
from giving further details.

"The fellow is obstinate," remarked the unter-leutnant to his
superior. "Why not lock him up in the fo'c'sle with his men?"

"He is an officer, von Möber," said the lieutenant-commander. "He is
entitled to a certain amount of consideration."

"If I had my way I'd make it hot for this Pig of an Englishman,
officer or no officer," declared von Möber.

"You are over-zealous," said his superior. "These Englishmen treat
our men who fall into their hands in a proper manner."

"Because they fear reprisals," added the unter-leutnant. "Once they
began to ill-treat the crew of one of our lost submarines, but we
soon frightened them into better manners. That shows how the English
fear the German arms."

The young German firmly believed what he said. Like hundreds of his
fellow-countrymen, he regarded the considerate treatment of Huns held
as prisoners in England as a sign of weakness, while, on the other
hand, severity towards British captives was looked upon as a
testimony to the certainty of success to the German arms. Leniency to
prisoners and to interned Germans in England, instead of raising a
spark of gratitude in the minds of the kultured Huns, was accepted as
a token of moral weakness on the part of the strafed Englishmen.

German submarines could--and did--torpedo unarmed merchant ships
without warning; Zeppelins sailed by night over undefended British
towns and villages, raining death and destruction upon them. In both
cases these gallant exploits were hailed with wild enthusiasm by the
German nation. Yet the humane British, refraining from reprisals of a
similar nature, were looked upon by the Huns as a nation afraid to
retaliate, so that in the day of reckoning they would be able to make
better terms with the All-Highest War-Lord. And this theory, fostered
by "inspired" newspapers, was held practically by entire Germany.

The lieutenant-commander of the torpedo-boat was an exception.
Practically born and bred a sailor, his outlook was wider than that
of the majority of German naval officers, who are first and foremost
soldiers, and sailors by the will of their Emperor.

"While Herr Tressidar remains on board he will be treated with proper
respect, von Möber," he said firmly, then turning to his prisoner he
added, "I do not ask you for your parole, but let me warn you that a
sentry will be posted outside the door, and that any attempt on your
part to escape will certainly be discovered and with it your
privileges will be withdrawn."

"Thank you," replied Tressidar. "I understand."

He turned and followed a petty officer who had been told off to show
him to his place of detention. Just as he reached the small oval
hatchway leading below, two heavy explosions in quick succession
almost burst the drums of his ears.

So terrific were the detonations that the sub., was for the moment
unable to detect their source. It seemed as if the deafening noise
came from immediately overhead and from all sides of the torpedo-boat.
The frail craft shook like a terrified animal under the rending of
the air.

Then, to his unbounded delight, Tressidar saw the leading light
cruiser was heeling badly to starboard, her upper works hidden in
clouds of smoke mingled with spray.

Following the explosions came a dead silence of nearly a minute, then
the remaining ships of the German flotilla opened a rapid fire, the
shells hurtling towards a dozen different targets that existed solely
in the heated imaginations of the gun-layers. So erratic was the
firing that more than once the German ships were in danger of being
hit by the projectiles discharged from the guns of their consorts.
For full five minutes pandemonium reigned.

Meanwhile the stricken cruiser was still heeling. Already her upper
deck on the starboard side was flush with the water. Men were
clustering aft or else crowding into the boats that had survived the
explosion and were capable of being lowered.

It was a British submarine which had scored a couple of direct hits.
In spite of the presence of a double screen of torpedo-boats,
notwithstanding the prying eyes of the Zeppelins cruising over the
fleet, a plucky lieutenant-commander of one of the "E" class had been
able to obtain a periscopic sight of the German flagship. Here was a
chance too good to be missed. He immediately gave orders for two
torpedoes to be fired. Either was sufficient to strike a mortal blow,
for the first struck the target abreast of the foremost gun-turret;
the second found its mark fifteen feet for'ard of the stern-post.

Without waiting to observe the result of the explosion, the submarine
dived. To turn and speed away from her prey would be courting
destruction, for her movements would be distinctly visible to the
observers in the Zeppelins, and the torpedo-boats, directed by
wireless from the airships, would be rushing to and fro across the
submerged path of the British submarine and tear her to pieces with
explosive grapnels. So her lieutenant-commander steered her so that
she would pass underneath the German flotilla, and then, by compass
course, kept in the track that the hostile vessels had previously
held. Here the water, disturbed by the propellers of the flotilla,
was thick and muddy, and, forming an efficient screen for the
Zeppelins, enabled the British submarine to get clean away.

Long before the Teuton flagship had plunged to the bottom and the
furious cannonade had died away, the "E Something" was a dozen miles
from the scene of her exploit.

The disaster had temporarily unnerved the Germans. Once again, in
spite of their cautious cruise in neutral waters, one of the ships
had been sent to the bottom. And the irony of the situation lay in
the fact that had the ships not altered course to head off the
"Freya" beyond the three-mile limit, the opportunity for the British
submarine to "bag" a Hun might not have occurred.

Steering a zig-zag course and sheltering between the far-flung lines
of torpedo-boats, the remaining German cruisers ran frantically for
the Kattegat and thence to the security of Kiel Harbour, while the
torpedo-boat in which Tressidar and the luckless cutter's crew found
themselves prisoners parted company and steamed rapidly in the
direction of the island of Sylt.

It was not long before Sub-lieutenant Tressidar found that his ideas
of hospitality differed considerably from the German
lieutenant-commander's notions on the subject, for when the tumult on
board had begun to subside--and not before--was the young officer
sent below.

The "cabin" was little better than a metal compartment below the
waterline and immediately underneath the officers' cabins. Although
officially designated a torpedo-boat, the craft was almost equal in
size to the largest British destroyer, her draught being not less
than eleven feet. Built on the "cellular" principal, with double
bottoms and numerous transverse and lateral watertight bulk-heads,
this type of vessel was considered by the naval architects of the
Fatherland to be practically unsinkable, although already several of
this particular torpedo-boat's sister ships had failed to come up to
expectations when cruel fate brought them within range of British
quick-firers.

Save for a solitary electric lamp of low candle-power the sub.'s
place of confinement was unlighted. Ventilation, too, was of the most
meagre description, for the only air admitted was the already close
atmosphere of 'tween decks that filtered in though a small "louvre"
over the locked door. Without a sentry had been posted, but the key,
instead of being entrusted to him, was kept in the
lieutenant-commander's cabin. Thus, in the event of the vessel being
sunk, it was fairly reasonable to assume that all chances of the
prisoner being rescued depended upon the whim of the commanding
officer and the alacrity of the German sentry, even if time permitted
for him to risk his life for the sake of an "English swine."

Left to his own devices, Tressidar lost no time in taking minute
stock of his surroundings. With the exception of a low bench, the
place was devoid of furniture. The inner skin of the hull plating had
been newly coated with red lead, and smelt abominably. In addition,
some of the seams, working under the strain of the powerful engines,
were "weeping" copiously, until the floor was flooded to a depth of
two inches.

"Not a dog's chance of seeing what is going on," soliloquised the
sub., as he threw himself upon the bench and drew his feet clear of
the miniature lake. "I wonder what the game is? I hope, for my sake,
and the sake of my men, that this hooker won't be torpedoed or mined
while we are on board."

Tressidar was in a bad temper. The fact that he had been made a
prisoner through the indefensible and high-handed action of the Huns
riled him considerably. If he had had the ill-luck to be captured in
fair fight he would, doubtless, have accepted the situation without
demur, but to be literally kidnapped without the chance of a blow in
self-defence was galling in the extreme.

Several hours passed. Save for a visit from a particularly surly
seaman who brought the sub. a very sorry meal, Tressidar was left
severely alone, to ruminate over his bad luck.

At length the slowing down of the torpedo-boat's engines told him
that she was nearing port, for hitherto she had been racing at top
speed and steering a zig-zag course. After twenty minutes, during
which the engine-room telegraph bell clanged as many times, the
vessel came to a standstill.

Then followed another tedious wait. Apparently the Huns were in no
hurry to land their prisoner. But, since there is an end to all
things, Tressidar in due course found himself being escorted on deck,
preceded and followed by armed seamen.

It was still daylight. The torpedo-boat was berthed, in company with
more than twenty others, in a spacious basin. Surrounding the
enclosed water was a broad quay, flanked with two-storeyed buildings.
The entrance to the basin was, remarkably, on the eastern side or
remote from the open sea. Evidently the approach was by a tortuous,
intricate channel that skirted the southernmost extremity of the
island.

To the westward the outlook was bounded by a range of sand-dunes of
varying altitudes. In some places they were about 50 feet in height;
in others the grass-grown hummocks slightly exceeded double that
dimension. A short distance to the north-west was a lighthouse, a
round yellow tower perched upon a tall red cliff, that formed a
striking contrast to the white sand-dunes on either side.

In almost every depression between the chain of dunes were heavy gun
batteries, while on a broad level road running parallel to the sea
and about two hundred yards from the summits of the sand-hills were
numerous armoured motor-cars armed with quick-firers of widely
differing calibres.

"Ah, I know where I am now," thought Tressidar as he recognised the
lighthouse--not from actual acquaintanceship but from an intimate
knowledge of the British "North Sea Pilot." "That's Rothe Kliff
lighthouse, so they have landed me at Sylt. Next to Heligoland, they
couldn't have chosen a stronger place to hold me prisoner. I wonder
if they are going to keep me in some wretched prison camp in the
centre of the German Empire."

He looked in vain for the cutter's crew. The men had been landed and
marched off almost as the torpedo-boat was berthed, and were now on
their way to embark in a small steamer for Hamburg.

The exhibition of captured British seamen in that paralysed
commercial port was a stroke of diplomacy on the part of the German
authorities. It gave colour to the official lie that a portion of the
dauntless High Seas Fleet had boldly made a demonstration in force
off the Firth of Forth The English had plucked up sufficient courage
to leave their fortified harbours and give battle. It was a feeble
attempt, and the British fleet broke off the engagement before the
Germans could force a decisive action. As it was, a British
battleship had been sunk with all hands. A large armoured cruiser had
been sent to the bottom, a portion of the crew being rescued by the
humane Germans. While engaged in this work of mercy the German
cruiser had been torpedoed by a submarine. This was the fairy-tale
that was quickly spread--broadcast from Hamburg to Königsberg and
from the shores of the Baltic to the Swiss frontier.

Escorted by a file of marines, Tressidar was marched along the quay
through throngs of curious and ill-disposed sightseers, of whom nine
out of ten were in uniforms. At the end of the quay the escort turned
down a narrow lane and finally came to a halt outside a low stone
building, almost on the outskirts of the little town. The house stood
in its own grounds, which were enclosed by a tall iron fence topped
by a complex array of barbed wire. At the gate were two sentries. Two
more stood in the portico of the house, while others were much in
evidence as they marched to and fro on the raised platforms
commanding an uninterrupted view of the grounds.

Inside the fence and separated from it by a distance of twenty feet
was another barbed wire entanglement, while in the intervening space
were several large and ferocious-looking mastiffs.

This was Sub-lieutenant Tressidar's first introduction to the naval
prison of the fortress of Sylt.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FIRST DAY OF CAPTIVITY


HAVING handed over their prisoner to the charge of a corporal and a
couple of men, the marine guard marched off. The sub. was then curtly
ordered into a large, almost unfurnished room, the windows of which
were heavily barred.

Engaged in conversation at one end of the room were four officers.
One was the governor of the prison--a fat German of middle height,
whose most striking peculiarities were his bristling, upturned
moustache and a shiny, bald pate surrounded by a natural tonsure of
raven black hair--another a subaltern who, having been wounded and
rendered unfit for active service, was able to "get his own back" by
systematically jeering at the prisoners and making their hard lives
even yet more unbearable. The remaining officers were doctors.

"Take off all your clothes," ordered the lieutenant, with great
emphasis on the word "all."

Tressidar obeyed. As each garment was, discarded it was seized and
closely examined by the corporal, who seemed obsessed with the idea
that English officers invariably had confidential documents sewn into
their clothing. The sub.'s watch, purse, pocket-book, keys, and, in
fact, everything in his pockets were handed to the junior German
officer, who handled them as if they were contaminated articles,
although he took good care to pocket the timepiece and the purse.

Stripped to the buff, Tressidar was subjected to a prolonged and
searching verbal examination. Once when he demurred at answering a
certain question, the governor reminded him that unless he replied
truthfully and unhesitatingly he would have to remain without clothes
until he did. And since the temperature was only a few degrees above
freezing-point, the threat carried weight.

At the same time his replies were guarded and as inaccurate as they
could possibly be without running the risk of betraying the fact. To
make a statement that was absolutely inconsistent with details which
his inquisitors knew already would be asking for additional trouble.

The interview, having lasted for nearly forty minutes, was followed
by a medical examination of a perfunctory nature. So long as the
prisoners were not suffering from any disease that might be a source
of danger to the garrison, nothing else mattered from the
authorities' point of view. The captives might die of starvation
without raising a spark of compassion in the minds of the kultured
Huns.

"Now," thought the sub., who by this time was shivering with cold, "I
suppose they'll let me dress."

They did--but not in the manner he expected, for at an order from the
governor, one of the soldiers kicked Tressidar's uniform into a
corner of the room, while another emptied a small canvas sack full of
dirty and badly worn clothes on the floor at the prisoner's feet.

With feelings of repugnance Tressidar dressed. The trousers were
parti-coloured, a half being made from a French soldier's baggy red
pair, the other part being of pale blue and indescribably greasy. The
coat was a sort of civilian's lounge jacket, of dark grey, with a
diamond-shaped patch of scarlet let into the back. It was impossible
to cut the distinctive mark away without leaving a corresponding
opening in the coat. Wooden-soled shoes with canvas uppers and a
flat-topped cap completed his grotesque outfit.

Preceded and followed by his guards, Tressidar was led along a number
of stone corridors, separated by metal doors. The cryptic writings on
several massive doors opening out of the passages left little doubt
in the sub.'s mind as to the uses to which the building was devoted.
With typical Teutonic cunning the Germans were using the same roof to
shelter explosives and prisoners, regarding the presence of the
latter as a shield to guard their warlike stores from the unwelcome
attentions of British airmen.

Presently the sub. found himself confronted by a double-locked door
provided with a grille. Without stood an armed sentry,
while--sinister fact--a couple of machine guns were trained through
the lattice upon the occupants of the room. Ponderously the sentry
unlocked and threw open the door, and Tressidar found himself urged
forward by the effective expedient of having the butt of the rifle
jammed into the small of his back.

Then the door clanged-to between himself and his guards. He was in
the common room of the Sylt prison for captured British officers.

There were between twenty to thirty grotesquely attired men in the
room, all engaged in the difficult task of killing time. Some were
talking, others reading the carefully selected and approved
literature provided by their captors. Two were playing chess, with
knots of critical onlookers crowding round the little table.

At Tressidar's entrance the occupants came forward to greet their
latest comrade in misfortune. The reticence generally attributed to
Britons both at home and abroad seemed to have vanished.

"You'll have to introduce yourself, old man," exclaimed a
pleasant-faced fellow of about the same age as the sub. "How did they
bag you?"

In less than a minute conversation was in full swing. Everyone was
eager to know the actual facts concerning the war, since it was only
by the arrival of new members to the little party that the true state
of affairs could be known.

"How about the fleet?" asked one. "Has there been a general
engagement?"

"No, worse luck," replied Tressidar. "There has been a decided lack
of opportunity."

"And the strafed Huns swore that their High Canal Fleet was out and
off the east coast for over a fortnight," added another officer. "Of
course we didn't believe it. And is it true that half London is in
ashes?"

"Not by any means," said the sub. "Their Zepps. have come and gone.
We bagged one the other day. They've done damage in various parts of
the country, but not one-tenth of the amount they claim."

"And the Government?" asked an elderly fleet paymaster. "Are they
doing anything yet? They were still gassing when I was nabbed, about
three months ago."

Tressidar shook his head.

"Sorry I cannot report much progress in that direction," he said.
"Until they decide to intern every German in the country things won't
get much forrader at home, as far as the Government is concerned."

"The rotters!" exclaimed the fleet paymaster. "And they started with
every prospect of doing something great. All factions were united,
differences laid aside. The country was solidly behind them. And yet
they shilly-shally and mess everything up. If we had had technical
men to run the show--naval and military officers of
experience--instead of twenty-three (or is it thirty-three by this
time?) wobblers, the war would have been over by this time."

The accountant officer had voiced the sentiments of his
fellow-captives. Optimism, a sure faith that all's well with the
Navy, had evidently gripped their minds, but beyond that there was a
vague suspicion that a brake was being applied to the enormous
sea-power at the Empire's command.

Conversation proceeded briskly until the clanging of a bell announced
that tea--the last meal of the day--was to be served. Into a
dining-hall trooped the prisoners--to be counted en route for the
third time in sixteen hours.

"Tea" consisted of a nasty beverage made from acorn "coffee" and
chicory, with black bread and margarine. This was supplemented by
delicacies that had been sent from home, all supplies from that
source being placed into a common stock. The quantity received,
however, represented but a small proportion of that sent, for
although everything entrusted to American societies reached their
destination safely--a large camp not far from Berlin--pilfering by
the German authorities during the additional journey to Sylt was a
most frequent occurrence.

At sunset the prisoners were ordered to bed. No lights were allowed.
The dormitory was divided into cubicles, two officers being put in
each. Privacy there was none, as the doors were only four feet in
height and a couple of sentries continually paced up and down the
dividing corridor.

Ronald Tressidar's cubicle was shared with a young flight
sub-lieutenant R.N.R., John Fuller by name, who three months
previously had fallen into the hands of the enemy on the occasion of
a raid upon the fortifications of Borkum. At an altitude of less than
a thousand feet a piece of shrapnel had pierced the petrol tank of
Fuller's biplane, compelling the machine to alight in the sea within
a mile of the coast. With a steady off-shore wind there was a chance
of the seaplane drifting to within reach of the waiting destroyers,
but for the fact that one of the floats had been perforated on the
underside by a fragment of shell. In a waterlogged condition the
crippled aeroplane's plight was observed by a German patrol boat,
and, half dead with cold and exposure, Fuller was haled into
captivity.

Doubtless owing to the fact that the flight-sub. had succeeded in
dropping his bombs with disastrous results to the German works, his
captors had transferred him to Sylt, where he stood a good chance of
forming an integral part of a target for his brother-airmen in an
expected raid.

"You'll find it desperately slow work, Tressidar," remarked Fuller
"This is my eighty-second night in this hole, and it seems like a
dozen years."

"Suppose you haven't tried to get away?"

"There's not a dog's chance, believe me," replied the flight-sub.
"Apart from the risk of being plugged by a bullet from the sentry's
rifle, the almost certainty of getting brought up all standing on the
live wire----"

"The live wire?" repeated Tressidar.

"Rather. That barbed wire entanglement contains a highly charged
electric cable. The current is switched on every night and off again
in the morning. The Huns were particularly gleeful in informing us of
the cheerful fact. Then there are those mastiffs to take into
consideration, so you see there's little chance of success. On the
other hand, failure, even if one does escape the dangers I have
mentioned, means forty days' solitary confinement. Danvers, of the
submarine service, tried it, and he swears it's almost worse than
being buried alive. He was a physical and moral wreck when he turned
up amongst us again."

"So you think it's no go?"

"My dear fellow," said Fuller, "you have my best wishes, and I
believe those of the rest of us here. But that won't help you.
Nothing short of an earthquake or a few tins of explosives will clear
a way until the Allies beat the strafed Huns absolutely to their
knees. That's my opinion, but I may be wrong. In any case, if there's
the faintest possible chance, I'm on it."

"Then we'll call it a bargain?"

Without speaking a word Fuller extended his hand. The two men
exchanged grips that formed a mutual understanding.

Then Tressidar turned in. For a long time he tossed uneasily on his
hard straw mattress. Already captivity was weighing heavily on him,
and as yet he had been but a few hours in the hands of the Huns.



CHAPTER XVII

A DASH FOR LIBERTY


DAY after day, night after night passed with almost intolerable
tediousness. The meagre fare, uncomfortable quarters, their motley
clothing, the jeers and taunts of their goalers--all these
discomforts, unpleasant though they were, could be borne with
fortitude bordering on equanimity. It was the dearth of news and the
enforced inactivity that weighed so heavily upon the captive British
officers.

The Huns knew this and traded upon it. The prisoners would have
welcomed hard labour, provided that it was not of a nature that would
directly assist the enemy against their fellow-countrymen. Manual
labour they knew to be a tonic to mental inactivity--a means to keep
their bodies fit and their muscles in good form. Instead they were
permitted but two hours a day in the grounds, and even then football
or, in fact, any games were "verboten."

Although the prison buildings fronted on one of the village streets,
the rear of the premises overlooked the dunes. In westerly winds the
captives could hear the sea thundering upon the outlying sands--a
call of freedom to which they could not respond.

When at frequent intervals the dull booming of cannon was borne to
their ears, they would look at each other with unspoken words of
hope, until they realised that the guns were being fired as practice
and not directed upon the long-expected British assault by sea and
air.

Sometimes, too, they could see the giant Zeppelins being guided
cautiously from the huge collapsible sheds. This took place usually
in the late afternoon, at or about the time of the new moon. Away
would speed the craven night-raiders in a westerly direction, to
return with almost unfailing regularity just after dawn. Once,
however, a Zeppelin trailed homewards with its after-part sagging
ominously, and before it could be safely housed, it collapsed, a
crumpled heap of girders and torn fabric, upon the ground. At
another, three airships set out across the North Sea, and only one
returned.

Great was the joy of the prisoners on these occasions. Regardless of
the threats of their guards, they would give vent to the wildest
demonstrations of joy. But they had to pay for these outbursts. A
further restriction of their already meagre fare and a complete
deprivation of their tobacco and cigarettes was the unfailing
penalty. It was worth the punishment, to "let themselves go" over the
unquestionable loss of yet another of the Huns' vaunted gas-bags.
Amongst the highly organised methods adopted by the Germans for the
defence of Sylt was the practice of sending up a couple of
observation balloons by day whenever a Zeppelin was not cruising
overhead. These strangely shaped balloons were in the form of an egg,
with a curved cylinder attached to the end in order to prevent the
contrivance from rotating under the influence of air-currents. To the
observation car was attached a light but strong flexible wire cable,
which was paid out or taken up as required by means of a drum on the
ground. At night the balloons were hauled down and partly deflated,
but at sunrise they were sent up again with the special object of
keeping a look-out for British aeroplanes.

On one occasion a false alarm was given. Promptly the captive
balloons were hauled down. The Zeppelins emerged from their sheds and
flew--not westwards to meet the threatened attack, but in a
south-easterly direction. It was quite apparent that the Germans had
little faith in their unwieldy gas-bags as a means of combating the
daring British seaplanes in broad daylight; so they sent them inland
to a safe distance, rather than risk annihilation at the hands of the
intrepid Britishers.

In addition to the artillerymen stationed at Sylt there were several
regiments of infantry--men who were supposed to be resting after
months in the terrible district of Ypres. From the very first the
Huns had a strong suspicion that Great Britain would attempt a
landing upon the shores of Schleswig-Holstein, under cover of the
guns of the fleet. Consequently a complete army corps had continually
been pinned down to this part of the German Empire in order to be in
readiness to repel the threatened invasion.

Upon the occasion of the false alarm Tressidar noticed that the
infantrymen were promptly sent off to bomb-proof dug-outs, since they
could be of little use in defence against aircraft. The gunners,
however, stood to the quick-firers, the majority manning the
batteries on the dunes, while others were told off to the portable
anti-aircraft guns mounted on armoured motor-cars.

With the departure of the Zeppelins the sheds in which they were
housed were lowered by means of steel trellis derricks until they lay
flat upon the ground. The material of which the sheds were built was
light steel, the outside of which had been coated with varnish. While
the varnish was still in a viscous state, sand had been liberally
sprinkled upon it, with the result that the collapsed sections of the
Zeppelin sheds could hardly be distinguished from the surrounding
soil.

The false alarm was but one of many. The troops were continually
being called to arms, with the result that they were showing
unmistakable signs of weariness under the strain. On each occasion
the German officers attached to the prison staff took particular
pains to inform the British captives that a threatened air-raid had
been frustrated by the formidable appearance of the garrison
defences.

But one day--it was exactly a month from the time when Tressidar
first set foot in the fortress of Sylt--the long-expected attack took
place.

Through the brilliant sunlit air six British seaplanes, looking
little larger than may-flies, headed straight for the island. Well in
the offing lay a parent ship for seaplanes, four light cruisers, and
a swarm of destroyers; while still further to the westward the giant
battle-cruisers kept in touch with their smaller consorts, ready to
swoop down upon the German warships should the latter be tempted to
join issue with the audacious British.

Tressidar and Fuller were alone in the common room. Owing to a
trumped-up charge of a breach of discipline they had been prevented
from joining the rest of their comrades in misfortune for the daily
outdoor recreation.

A tremendous outburst of shell from the light quick-firers brought
the chums to the barred window. Although they had had plenty of
disappointment over the false alarms, they never neglected the
opportunity of making for a place of observation when the
anti-aircraft guns opened fire. For days they had waited for
"something to turn up," and now their optimistic patience was about
to be rewarded.

"Five of them, by Jove!" exclaimed Fuller. "No, six. They'll play the
deuce with the Huns."

"And possibly with us," thought the sub., but nevertheless his nerves
were a-tingle and his hopes centred upon the main idea that the raid
would be of brilliant military importance. Personal safety was a
negligible quantity.

All around the biplanes were white, mushroomed clouds of smoke from
the bursting shrapnel. It seemed as if nothing in the vicinity could
escape the concentrated fire from the German guns, yet serenely the
seaplanes held on their course, tilting slightly under the violent
disturbance of the air.

With their faces pressed against the iron bars of the window the two
young officers watched the progress of the aircraft until they were
so immediately overhead that the masonry impeded their outlook. The
last they saw of the daring raiders was that they were volplaning
rapidly.

"Now stand by!" whispered Fuller tersely. "In another few seconds
you'll hear the plums drop."

The anti-aircraft guns redoubled their furious fire. The whole
building trembled under the reverberation of the deafening reports.

Then, as Fuller had foretold, came the first of a succession of
terrific explosions, as a large bomb from the leading seaplane
crashed into a shell store.

Although the prisoners could not see the actual damage done to the
building, they knew that it no longer existed. A dense black cloud
thrown skywards by the detonation threw such a dark shadow that
sunlight gave place to a gloom resembling twilight. Thousands of
projectiles, hurled far and wide, burst with dire results. Scorched
and maimed bodies of victims were projected in unrecognisable masses
for nearly two hundred yards from the actual scene of the disaster.

For some moments bombs fell like rain. Several of the gun
emplacements in the dunes were utterly wrecked. In others the guns
were temporarily disabled by quantities of sand that, hurled right
and left by the bombs, choked the bore and clogged the delicate
mechanism of the sights and training gear.

The torpedo-boats in the basin also had a rough handling. Several, to
escape destruction, put out to sea, but in the confusion many
collided in the narrow, intricate channel. Others were sunk alongside
the quays. Of the forty naval vessels belonging to the port,
twenty-two only escaped.

Expecting every moment to find the building collapse over their
heads, Tressidar and his companion stuck to their posts at the
window, Presently they saw one of the huge armoured cars proceeding
at a furious pace down the military road behind the dunes. As it tore
along, its obliquely-pointed quick-firer spat venomously at the
British seaplanes until a bomb, falling quite a hundred feet from the
car, tore a deep hole in the roadway. At the same time a flying
fragment of metal found its way through the narrow slit in the steel
plating behind which sat the driver. The man was either killed or
seriously wounded, for the powerfully engined vehicle was no longer
under control. Gradually, at a speed of approximately forty miles an
hour, it described a curve in a right-handed direction, while the
gunners, their attention fixed upon the elusive targets a thousand
feet or more above their heads, were in ignorance of the danger that
threatened them.

"Dash it all!" exclaimed Tressidar excitedly. "That car will barge
into something in half a shake."

Already the vehicle had left the broad road and was ploughing with no
apparent effort through the sand. It was heading towards the prison
buildings.

Through the outer palisade it came, hurtling the steel rods right and
left. Then, without checking its headlong career, the car wrenched
its way through the double lines of barbed wire, carrying away yards
of fencing as it did so.

The anti-aircraft gun had now ceased firing. The gunners, aware of
the fact that the car was a derelict, but unable to gain the steering
compartment, were helpless.

"Stand by!" exclaimed Tressidar.

The warning was necessary. The motor-battering-ram was charging
straight for the window. Promptly the chums backed away from the
bars. Judging by the speed and momentum of the petrol-driven vehicle
there was great danger of the car charging completely through the
stone building.

The next instant there was a violent crash. Stone, mortar, iron bars,
woodwork flew in all directions accompanied by clouds of dust, while
rearing at an alarming angle upon the mound of debris was the car.

It was totally wrecked. The muzzle of the anti-aircraft gun, having
caught in the overhanging masonry, had been wrenched from its
mountings, tearing away the steel roof of the car and pinning the two
gunners under the heavy metal. The petrol from the burst tanks 'was
saturating everything within the limit of its flood, although,
fortunately for Tressidar and his companion, the highly volatile
spirit had not exploded. To add to the horrors of the scene bombs
from the British seaplanes were still falling.

"Come along!" shouted Tressidar, bawling to make himself heard above
the din.

"Right-oh," replied Fuller with alacrity.

The sub. had no definite plan. All he knew was that a path had been
cleared for them through the formidable barriers. There was a
chance--a very slight chance--of liberty, and they seized it.

Crawling over the pile of debris and edging between the upturned side
of the car and the jagged wall, they gained the open space between
the building and the military road behind the dunes.

Glancing cautiously right and left, the two chums made the discovery
that the coast was clear. The gunners of the stationary quick-firers,
ensconced in their armoured emplacements, were too busy with their
work to look elsewhere. A mile or so down the road and proceeding
away from the prison buildings were two armoured cars. Every soldier,
not actually engaged in firing at the seaplanes, had returned to the
shelter of the dug-outs and bomb-proof casemates. Three distinct and
fiercely burning fires showed unmistakable proof that the work of
destruction had succeeded.

Through the gap in the shattered fence Tressidar and Fuller made
their way. The severed electric wires were spluttering viciously,
emitting bright blue flashes as their ends writhed like snakes. The
mastiffs were no longer in evidence. Terrified by the crash of the
falling bombs, they had scurried for shelter. The sentinels, too,
their dread of official punishment outweighed by the fear of death or
maiming from the powerful bombs, had deserted their posts, but not
before a corporal and two privates had been literally wiped out of
existence.

Through drifts of acrid-smelling smoke the two fugitives hastened,
until they gained the slight shelter afforded by a dip in the
reed-grown dunes.

So far so good, but unfortunately the seaplanes, their mission
accomplished, were already on their return journey, their departure
greeted by a futile discharge of shrapnel. That meant that before
long the Germans would be emerging from their shelters to take stock
of the damage before the officials could draft a report to Berlin
announcing that yet another raid had been attended by no results of
military significance.

"Say, old man," exclaimed Fuller. "What's the next move? We can't
hang on here much longer."

"No," replied Tressidar slowly. He was thinking deeply, regretting
that he had not previously mapped out a plan should an opportunity
like that of the present arise.

Suddenly an idea flashed across his mind.

"By Jove!" he ejaculated, "what's to prevent our nabbing that captive
balloon?"

"A great wheeze," rejoined Fuller, kneeling up and peering cautiously
in the direction of the observation balloon.

Thank goodness it had contrived to escape attention from the
far-flung fragments of the bombs. Partly inflated, and pinned to the
earth by a number of cords attached to sandbags, it retained
sufficient lifting power to support a couple of men, even if it were
unable to rise to a very great altitude.

The balloon was deserted. Imagining that it would be a particular
target for the British airmen, and knowing the danger of an explosion
in the vicinity of hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of hydrogen,
the men in charge had bolted precipitately at the first appearance of
the seaplanes.

Unnoticed, the two grotesquely garbed fugitives gained the spot where
the giant gas-bag was tethered. Peering over the edge of the car,
Tressidar found what he had expected, a box of tools.

"In with you, old man!" he exclaimed.

The chums clambered over the edge of the basket. Each, grasping a
chisel, began to sever the cords holding the retaining weights. While
six yet remained to be cut the balloon rose slowly from the ground.
Its reserve of buoyancy then, in addition to the two passengers, was
equal to the weight of half a dozen sandbags.

As the last cord was severed the balloon leapt skywards, until with a
perceptible jerk its ascent was stopped. It was held by a flexible
steel wire, the bulk of which was wound round the drum of the
lowering gear.

"Pliers, quick!" exclaimed Tressidar, swinging himself up into the
netting in order to bring himself within arm's length of the span to
which the cable was spliced.

Fuller obeyed promptly. As he did so he became aware of something
that the sub. in his excitement had not noticed. From their places of
concealment numbers of German soldiers were emerging. By the shouts
it was apparent that they had discovered the attempt at escape on the
part of the two English prisoners.


[Illustration: "'IN WITH YOU, OLD MAN!' HE EXCLAIMED"]


The steel wire was tough and offered stubborn resistance to the
pliers. Every moment was precious. Tressidar, too, was now aware of
the latest danger that threatened them. In his desperate anxiety to
complete his work the pliers slipped from his hand and fell a
distance of thirty feet to the ground.

"See if there's anything else to cut this infernal wire," he
exclaimed breathlessly, holding out his disengaged hand.

Fuller searched in vain. Amongst the collection of tools there was
nothing capable of making a quick job of cutting the wire. The
nearest German was within a hundred yards, and, like most of his
companions, was armed with a rifle. There seemed every possibility of
the luckless fugitives being done in.

Disregarding Tressidar's excitable requests to "Look sharp," the
flight sub. snatched up a rifle that was lying in the car. Throwing
up the bolt, he discovered, as he expected, that the weapon was
already loaded. With a steady hand he held the muzzle within a couple
of inches of the wire and pressed the trigger.

The next instant the balloon, captive no longer, was soaring skywards
at a dizzy rate, the bullet having accomplished the task that the
wire cutters had failed to do.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE DERELICT OBSERVATION BALLOON


"WELL done, old man!" exclaimed Tressidar as he climbed back into the
basket car. "That was a brilliant idea of yours. Look here, you know
something of aeronautical work; I don't, so you had better pilot this
contraption."

Fuller shook his head.

"This isn't a clinking little biplane," he said, "It is completely at
the mercy of the wind. But we mustn't grumble; we're leaving Sylt a
long way beneath us."

Looking over the edge of the car, Tressidar could discern practically
the whole of the long, narrow island, which is twenty miles in length
and averaging two miles in breadth. Owing to the fact that it was
dead low water the island appeared to be a vast peninsula, joined to
the Schleswig shore by a broad belt of sand. North and south of the
island and running respectively south-east and north-east were two
extensive estuaries that almost met at the causeway connecting Sylt
with the mainland.

"Which way are we drifting?" asked Tressidar anxiously.

"Hanged if I can make out," replied Fuller. "We've apparently struck
a calm patch. The wind was certainly sou'sou'west when we kicked off.
See--the smoke from those buildings: it had a decided drift towards
the Danish frontier."

"A good easterly gale would be more my mark," said Tressidar. "We
would then stand a chance of getting picked up by our patrol craft."

"Unless they started to shell us with the most amiable intention of
sending a couple of supposed Huns to blazes," added the flight sub.
"So, in the circumstances, Denmark is good enough for me, even if we
are lucky enough to fetch it."

For some moments there was silence, broken only by the barking of a
dog some thousands of feet below Then Fuller, who had been leaning
over the side, shrugged his shoulders.

"We're dropping, I'm afraid," he announced. "It's close on sunset,
and with the fall of temperature the buoyancy of the gas-bag suffers.
See what you can chuck overboard."

The balloon, being hitherto used as a captive observation machine,
was unprovided with an aneroid, or indeed any instrument for
measuring the altitude. During the last ten minutes it had drifted
steadily in a north-easterly direction, so that, unless the wind
changed, the aeronauts were faced with the possibility of "landing"
somewhere in the North Sea instead of the shores of Jutland.

Overboard went the rifle, two hundred rounds of ammunition, the
telephone, and other miscellaneous articles, all of which stood a
good chance of doing a certain amount of damage to the German
torpedo-boats at the mouth of Lister Deep. A revolver and fifty small
cartridges Tressidar retained, arguing with himself that they might
be useful.

"There's a fog coming up," he said, after studying the panoramic view
through a pair of binoculars. "A night mist, I suppose. It will make
things jolly awkward when we do land."

"It will be a jolly good thing for us very soon," corrected Fuller.
"Look, what do you make of that?" And he pointed in the direction of
the now distant fortress of Sylt.

"Taubes," exclaimed Tressidar laconically.

"Or Fokkers," added the flight-sub. "Two of the brutes; they'll be
hard after us in a brace of shakes. In fact I think they are heading
in our direction already."

"Thank heaven it's getting dark," said the sub. fervently, for
already the land was shrouded in the gloom of twilight. "And it's
getting fairly thick up here. I can hardly discern the aeroplanes."

"They have a bigger object to look for than we have," said Fuller.
"We'll have to do one thing or the other--go up or down. Going down
means irreparable loss of hydrogen."

"There's nothing left in the way of ballast to sling overboard."

"Yes, in due course," remarked the flight sub. "I see a couple of
straps round the basket. We'll have to strap ourselves to the netting
and cut the car adrift. It's our only chance."

Tressidar realised the gravity of the situation. The balloon, by no
means fully inflated when they boarded her, was appreciably losing
lifting power both by the minute yet none the less certain porosity
of the envelope and by the fall of temperature. He shuddered,
strong-minded though he was, at the idea of having to literally hang
in the air with the prospect of a terrific drop to earth should the
thin cordage of the netting give way.

Presumably the German airmen were reluctant to plunge into the mist,
that was now spreading far and wide and increasing in height. They
were still climbing spirally, evidently with the idea of gaining an
immense altitude before swooping down upon the derelict balloon.

And every moment's delay meant that their chances decreased and that
the odds against the fugitives diminished.

The balloon, still falling, was now swallowed up in the fog. To
descend prematurely meant either falling upon the German island of
Rom, or else into the German territorial waters. In either case
recapture was a foregone conclusion.

The low drone of an air propeller announced the disconcerting fact
that one of the Fokkers was approaching. Quickly the noise increased,
but in which direction--whether above or below--neither of the
British officers could determine.

Then, with a rush of displaced air that caused the balloon to sway
violently, the aeroplane swept beneath it at the rate of an express
train. Too late had the Huns spotted their quarry. To attempt to rise
would result in collision with disastrous results to friend and foe.
All the Huns could do was to depress the horizontal steering-rudders
and dip sharply underneath the balloon before describing a curve and
approaching it at an altitude that would enable them to use their
weapons of offence. In this case the Germans hoped to recapture the
two officers alive, and with that object in view they were
endeavouring to perforate the envelope of the balloon sufficiently to
send it with comparative slowness to the ground.

"Now!" exclaimed Fuller.

Both men hacked desperately with their knives they had found in the
car. The basket dropped and was lost to sight in the darkness.
Tressidar and his companion, clinging to the network, were almost
unaware of any change of altitude, although there was a slight
downdraught of air, until the balloon emerged from the bank of mist
into the gathering darkness.

Tressidar gave a sigh of relief. There were no signs of the second
German aeroplane. Evidently it was engaged, as was its consort, in
hunting for the balloon in the fog, which was very much like looking
for the proverbial needle in a bottle of hay--with the grave risk of
an aerial collision thrown in.

By degrees the drone of the propellers died away and complete silence
reigned. It was becoming bitterly cold. The two men, ill-clad for a
night in the clouds, shivered violently. Their hands lost all sense
of touch. Had it not been for the leather straps that encircled their
bodies they would have been compelled to drop--to be dashed into
unrecognisability upon the ground six thousand feet below.

Half an hour passed. Overhead the stars were shining brightly.
Obliquely beneath them a dull blurr of light was visible. It was the
searchlights of Sylt. Further away, and in the opposite direction,
lights of varying intensity glimmered through the now dispersing fog.

"Hurrah!" exclaimed the flight sub. "The coastwise lights of Denmark.
They can't be German, for the bounders are as cautious about showing
as much as a candle-light as we are. That patch of luminosity must be
the town of Esbjerg."

"We're getting nearer," declared Tressidar after another interval,
during which the balloon had revolved half a dozen times on its own
axis, for in the absence of the cable connecting it with the earth
the supplementary gas-bag failed to serve its purpose of keeping the
balloon steady.

"And falling," added Fuller. "We'll have to stand by for a jolly good
old bump, I fancy."

They had now good reasons for supposing that they were over Danish
territory, for beneath them numerous lights were twinkling. It was as
yet only nine o'clock, and the villagers had not yet retired to rest.
To the southward--for the aeronauts were now able to determine the
cardinal points of the compass by means of the Pole Star--the lights
ended abruptly, indicating the frontier line between a nation at
peace and a nation at war.

"Rub your hands well," cautioned Fuller. "You'll have to be slippy
getting that buckle unfastened. Directly we touch we must cast off
simultaneously, or one of us will have another voyage through the
air. We are now less than a thousand feet up, I think."

The balloon was again falling, although its descent was by no means
rapid. The chums could now hear sounds coming from the country
beneath them; even a horse trotting and a man whistling. Yet, with
the exception of the lights, nothing was visible. Even the nature of
the country, whether flat or hilly, open or wooded, was veiled by the
darkness.

"What's that?" asked Tressidar, as a number of dark conical
projections seemed to flit past only a few feet beneath them.

"Tree tops," replied Fuller. "We've just missed being left on the top
branches of some pines. By Jove, there's quite a steady breeze. If we
crash into anything there'll be trouble."

Almost as he spoke Tressidar's feet came in contact with the ground.
Then like an indiarubber ball the balloon shot ten feet in the air
and again dropped, until the sub. found his boots trailing over a
field of grass.

"Stand by!" shouted Fuller warningly. "Mind you don't get entangled
in the netting."

Both men unbuckled their straps. They were now clinging with both
hands to the network. The bumps became more and more violent, as the
balloon lost buoyancy, but at the same time their rate of progress
over the ground was too quick to enable them to find a footing.

Suddenly their boots caught in the top rail of a fence.

"Let go!" shouted Fuller.

Tressidar obeyed promptly, to find himself sprawling head downwards
in a ditch. Regaining his feet, he found his chum kneeling a few feet
from him. There was no sign of the balloon. Relieved of the
twenty-four stone weight of the two passengers, it had soared upwards
once more and had vanished from their sight.



CHAPTER XIX

THE DESERTED HOUSE


FOR some moments Tressidar could do nothing but cling to the fence.
He was still under the influence of vertigo, caused by his flight
through space. Everything seemed to be revolving round and round. But
for the support he would have been unable to stand.

"I'm feeling beastly giddy," he gasped.

"Not unusual," replied Fuller briskly. "Sit down and clap your head
between your knees. You'll soon feel all right. You are not used to
this sort of work."

"And it strikes me I never will be," thought the sub. as he carried
out his companion's instructions.

"Better?" asked the flight sub. "Good! I knew you would be. Now,
what's the plan of action? I vote we go cautiously, to make sure that
we are in neutral territory. We'll have to get decent clothes before
daybreak. We're positively not respectable."

"Look here," said Tressidar. "What happens if we are on Danish soil?
Do you think we'll be interned if we are discovered? If so, I'm not
having any."

"Can't say," replied Fuller. "The Danes are jolly good fellows, but
they are sticklers for international propriety. You see, they are in
fear of the Huns. They haven't forgotten the loss of
Schleswig-Holstein. Is there a British vice-consul at Esbjerg, I
wonder?"

"I should imagine so," answered his chum. "But how on earth can we
get in touch with him while we are wearing these multicoloured
travesties of apparel? We would be run in on sight, and then there
would be the deuce of a bother. I don't like the idea of cooling our
heels in a Danish internment camp until the end of the war. No, the
only thing I can suggest is to turn burglars. In short, sneak some
clothes and food, and then make for Esbjerg. We're bound to find a
vessel bound for England. As for the stuff we sneak, we must make
reparation at the first convenient opportunity."

"I'm on," replied Fuller laconically.

"Then north-east is our course. We'll investigate at the first
cottage we come to that doesn't show a light. Suppose I'd better
stick to this?" And he held up the revolver in the starlight.

"Might be useful," agreed Fuller. "Especially in this 'dunno where 'e
are' district."

Keeping by the side of the fence, the two men stole cautiously along
for nearly two hundred yards, till they found their progress barred
by a wire railing supported by stout wooden uprights.

"'Ware barbed wire," whispered Fuller.

"It's not barbed," declared Tressidar, running his fingers along a
section of the wire. "That's another fairly sound proof that we are
somewhere in Denmark, as, I believe, the Danish Government forbids
the use of that beastly barbed stuff. I guess the fellow who invented
barbed wire has something on his conscience if he's still alive. It
must have cost thousands of lives in this war."

Several fields were traversed before the two officers came to an
abrupt halt. Not so very far away was a road. They could hear
footsteps and then the gradually increasing roar of a motor-cycle.

"A German by the beastly sound of the engine," declared Fuller. "It's
almost as guttural with its explosion as a Hun jabbering away in full
blast. Look here, this road won't do. Too many people about. Edge
away to the right and keep parallel to it."

Within the next hour the chums passed close to half a dozen houses.
Lights within showed that the occupants were still up. Caution urged
the fugitives to give these buildings a wide berth.

"I'm getting horribly peckish," announced Fuller. "I could swallow a
basin full of steerage cocoa without the faintest qualms, and I don't
think I would jib at a weevily biscuit. What's that over there?"

He pointed to the faint outlines of a house which, unlike the others
they had passed, was unlighted, and also not surrounded by
outbuildings. On the side facing them was a row of tall poplars that
sighed mournfully in the breeze.

"That's the ticket," agreed Fuller. "Only remember: if you're nabbed
I give myself up. We sink or swim together on this trip."

Fortunately the ground was fairly soft, and the sub's wooden-soled
foot-gear made no sound. The canvas uppers, too, had no tendency to
squeak, but how the soles would behave if they came in contact with a
tiled or cobbled pavement was another matter.

On approaching closer to the house, Tressidar made the discovery that
it was surrounded by a stone wall of about seven feet in height. This
he skirted until he found that the front of the building abutted on a
narrow lane that evidently joined the highway at no little distance.

At first the sub. thought that the house was empty, until he noticed
drawn curtains over the windows. Possibly there were lights within,
for the fabric was heavy and impervious to illumination. There were
shutters also, but these had not been drawn-to.

Having completed the circuit of the building, Tressidar paused to
consider his next step. One thing he felt fairly certain of there
were no dogs on the premises, otherwise even his light footfalls
would have aroused them. A strange quietude brooded over the place.
Although furnished, it was temporarily without its occupiers.

Thrice he essayed to scale the wall, but owing to his exertions and
lack of food the task was beyond him.

"Say, old man," he whispered as he rejoined his chum, "come and give
me a leg up. There's a tough bit of wall to tackle. After that it
looks simple enough. No need to stop here. Keep close to the wall. If
the place is empty, as I think it is, I'll open the door for you."

With Fuller's assistance the sub., having thrown off his boots, found
himself astride the wall. On the other side was a rough lean-to shed,
which extended to the wall of the house. The roof creaked but held as
Tressidar made his way with great care and deliberation over the
tarred boards. He was now able to reach a small window without undue
exertion.

"Wish to goodness I had a diamond," he soliloquised as he pressed
gently and firmly upon the resisting glass. "Hulloa. There's a
stack-pipe. I wonder if the guttering will hold?"

Steadying himself by the stack-pipe, Tressidar hauled himself up
until he stood upon the window-sill. He was now able to reach the
eave of the roof. Testing the spouting with his weight he came to the
conclusion that it was fairly sound.

"Now or never," he muttered, and with an agile spring he drew himself
up sufficiently to enable him to clamber on the tiled roof. As he
expected, there was a dormer-window less than ten feet to his left.

The tiles creaked as he trod. A stork, nesting between one of the
chimneys and the roof, flew noisily away, the sudden apparition of
the large bird nearly causing the sub. to slide over the edge of the
tiles. For some moments he listened intently. No sound from the
immediate vicinity reached his ears. Evidently it was safe to
proceed.

The dormer-window was diamond-paned. The leads offered little
resistance as he pressed against the glass. In a very short space of
time he had removed a piece of glass nearest to the fastening; then,
inserting his hand, he threw open the casement and drew aside the
heavy curtain.

With his head and shoulders thrust into the room the sub. listened
again. The noisy ticking of a clock was the only sound that caught
his ear.

"Jolly queer sort of house," thought he; "one might imagine it was in
good old England. It's the only one that shades the inside lights,
and they are mighty particular about doing it. Even this attic window
was bunged up."

The open casement was just large enough to allow him to squeeze
through. The floor-boards creaked alarmingly as they took his weight.
Again he listened. The sound was enough to awaken the soundest
sleeper, unless he or she were stone deaf.

"By Jove! A burglar must be a pretty plucky sort of individual,"
mused Tressidar as he groped his way to the low doorway and commenced
to descend the steep, rickety stairs. "Feeling one's way about in a
strange house and in total darkness requires some doing, especially
with the risk of being bowled over with a poker thrown in."

Systematically the sub. proceeded with his investigations, examining
every room as he came to it, until he found himself on the ground
floor. Luck was in their favour, for the house was temporarily
without its lawful occupants.

The front door was locked. The key had been removed, so the sub.
directed his attention to the back entrance.

The massive bolts grated loudly as Tressidar opened the door. There
was no necessity to call to Fuller. The flight sub. had heard the
unbolting process and was waiting close at hand.

"Stand by," whispered Tressidar. "I'll hand you over a stool."

By the aid of this useful article Fuller had no difficulty in scaling
the wall. Together the chums entered the house, and rebolted the
door.

"Now we can get a light if we can find matches," said Tressidar.
"Every window is curtained. I took the precaution of leaving ajar the
window that I tackled first. If we have to beat a retreat, that's our
way out."

"I wonder why you rebolted the door."

"Because if we did clear out by that way we would have to scale the
wall," replied the sub. "By the window we land at once on the roof of
a shed which is almost level with the wall. That's a jolly sight
easier. Good! Here are some matches."

His hand had come in contact with a box on the mantelshelf. Close by
was a candlestick with a candle in the holder and a short piece in
the bowl. Arguing that one of the first things the returning
occupiers would look for would be the candlestick, Tressidar took the
spare piece of candle and left the other undisturbed.

"Looks like a second-hand-clothes dealer's," remarked Fuller as the
two officers entered the back bedroom on the first floor.

The room was long and narrow, extending from front to back. The
ceiling was low and heavily beamed. At one end of the room, its
canopy screen effectually blocking the window, was an old four-poster
bed. On it was laid a suit of clothes. More masculine garments were
thrown negligently over chairs and sofa. A medley of coats and
trousers hung from pegs in an open wardrobe. A fur-lined great-coat
had been thrown upon the floor.

"Take your choice, old man," said Fuller with a grin. "We'll stuff
our discarded emblems of servitude up the chimney. It doesn't look as
if they had a fire here very often. Wonder who the old josser is?"

Five minutes later the chums were rigged out in worn but serviceable
garb. They would easily pass for well-to-do Danish artisans.

"Now for grub," decided Tressidar. "Let's forage in our unknown
host's larder."

"Evidently no shortage of food in this establishment," said Fuller,
as the two officers ate with a voracity that would have raised a
storm of protest in the ward-room of one of H.M. ships. "Dash it all!
I feel another man already. Now, what's the plan?"

"Esbjerg, as soon as possible. We'll either have to stow ourselves on
board a tramp bound for a British port, or else throw ourselves upon
the generosity of her skipper. These Danes are downright good
fellows.... It's very quiet down here. I'm curious to know more about
the owner of this remarkable place."

"I think your wish will be gratified," rejoined Tressidar grimly, as
a motor-car that had driven up at high speed stopped outside the
house. "Lights out! Up aloft as sharp as we can."

The two amateur cracksmen had barely gained the bedroom when they
heard the key grate in the lock. Then a voice exclaimed in German:

"That will do, Karl. Take this car as far as Rodgrund's farm and
await us there. It will not arouse suspicion. Now, Herr Oberfurst, at
your service."



CHAPTER XX

TRESSIDAR SOLVES A MYSTERY


TRESSIDAR nudged his companion. German! Their interest was aroused.
Although it was no doubt quite a common occurrence for the guttural
language of the Hun to be spoken on the Danish frontier, the warning
given to the chauffeur of the car to avoid suspicion was in itself a
mystery.

The sub. had yet to learn the identity of Herr Oberfurst.

"Yes, I have had a fairly quick journey," said the spy. "Fortunately
we did not fall in with any of our incomparable unterseebooten."

"Donnerwetter! I wish I could say the same," retorted the second
German crossly. "The frontier is a bore. Why on earth you couldn't
arrange to meet me in Hamburg is beyond me."

"A thousand pardons, Count," declared Oberfurst volubly. "Everything
depends upon secrecy. It is easy enough to cross the frontier, I
admit, but it is returning to Danish soil that is the difficulty.
Here am I, an accredited American Red Cross agent, furnished with
passports by the owl-eyed British Government. So long as I remain in
Denmark there is no cause for suspicion, but should I set foot in the
Fatherland, unseen difficulties beset me. My plan is, therefore, I
think, an admirable one. Karl Hoeffer is the soul of integrity so far
as Germany is concerned. This house of his is well suited for our
purpose. Is that not so?"

"I suppose you have good reasons, friend Otto," replied the Count.
"But time presses. The 'Nordby' leaves Esbjerg at tide-time tomorrow
morning--a matter of seven hours from now. Well, what have you to
report? Is the damage done in the latest raid as extensive as the
commander of LZ142 states?"

Otto Oberfurst made a noise that indicated a negative reply.

"Then what?" demanded the count eagerly.

"The airship never got within twenty miles of Manchester, Count; and
as for the damage stated to have been done at Newcastle, I have
personally visited the town and can find nothing of the kind. Twenty
bombs were dropped, all around a small station on a branch line.
Doubtless our airmen were deceived by the presence of a mountain
lake. It may have looked like an arm of the sea. And how peculiar the
English people are! So long as they are not injured or their property
destroyed they laugh at our Zeppelins."

"The fools!" ejaculated the count impatiently. Then--

"Now tell us about your work, Herr Oberfurst. Have you a copy of the
British Admiralty chart of the shoals of Straits of Dover minefield?"

"It is here," was the reply. "One of von Schenck's men obtained it
for me from a compatriot who is actually employed in the British
Hydrographic office. Can you imagine an Englishman working in the
German Admiralty? Ach! It is playing into our hands."

Tressidar could hear the crackle of the linen-backed paper as the
count unrolled and examined the highly important chart.

"Yes," he said slowly. "This is quite genuine. It tallies with
reports through other sources. You mentioned Herr von Schenck: how is
he?"

The spy hesitated before replying.

"He is well," he replied simply.

"You speak strangely," said the count sharply "What is amiss?"

"A slightly personal matter," explained von Oberfurst. "In short, a
pecuniary affair."

"Explain."

"It is following the 'Pompey' business."

Tressidar gave an involuntary start. His hand went to the butt of the
revolver in his pocket. He felt sorely tempted to descend and
confront the two spies with the muzzle of the weapon until he
realised that in a neutral country it is well to be discreet.

"He agreed to pay me twenty thousand dollars," continued von
Oberfurst. "I did my work. The cruiser, as you know, was sunk. But
von Schenck declared that the destruction was not complete. The ship
is capable of being raised and repaired. I doubt it. All the same, he
would not give me more than ten thousand dollars, and what is worse
he made the draft out in marks, and unfortunately a mark is no longer
what it was."

"You have my sympathy; nevertheless I must upbraid you on your lack
of duty towards the Fatherland," said the count. "The fall of the
mark is but temporary. After the war, when the German arms are
victorious---- But let that remain. I will guarantee the difference
between the amount von Schenck originally promised and what you
actually received. More, I will instruct your New York bank to place
to your credit another ten thousand dollars provided you perform
another service."

"And what is it?" asked the spy eagerly.

"This torpedoing of neutral vessels is a praiseworthy affair,"
explained the count. "It will give our mercantile fleet an undoubted
advantage after the war, but unfortunately at the present juncture it
cuts both ways. Neutrals don't like it, which is natural. Not that we
care a pfennig for their likes and dislikes. At the same time they
are showing signs of reluctance to supply us with necessary
commodities. They plead the rigours of the English blockade, but that
is a mere excuse. Now, the Imperial Chancellor has asked me to
engineer a scheme to enlist the sympathy of neutrals to a
corresponding resentment towards England. Then the desired goods will
roll in fast enough."

"I follow you so far," observed von Oberfurst.

"As a man of supreme intelligence you would," rejoined the German
flatteringly. "Now, to the point. You are returning in the 'Nordby'
to-morrow. A British submarine has been reported off the Vyl
Lightship. It is reasonable to conclude that the 'Nordby' will be
subject to a scrutiny if not to actual examination. Now, what I want
is that you fire a charge of explosive on board the steamer at the
psychological moment when the submarine appears."

"I hardly see how," objected von Oberfurst. "There will be no
opportunity for me to get below. And the risk to myself----"

"Ach! You do not think enough," said the count deprecatingly, and
contradicting the words he had used a few moments previously. "You
are berthed aft? There is no danger to you from an explosion in the
hold. You may be certain that in the excitement that follows the
appearance of the submarine the attention of all on board except
yourself will be directed towards it. It will be an easy matter to
slip below. The after-store hatchway will most certainly be
uncovered. You will drop the bomb, with a short-time fuse lighted,
into the hold, return on deck and await events. All the damage done
will be below the water-line, and there are boats. It will not be a
long row to the Vyl Lightship. And, just think, ten thousand dollars
for a comparatively simple piece of work compared with which the
sinking of the 'Pompey' was a colossal task."

"I would prefer to use the clockwork detonating gear. It is
infinitely safer," objected Oberfurst.

"Impracticable," decided his companion. "It is no use setting the
thing hours ahead. It is a question of minutes. Say three: that will
give you ample time to light the fuse and return on deck."

Apparently the spy made a gesture that denoted unwillingness--for the
count continued:

"The Americans, as you know well, have a saying 'Money talks.' Here
is a sum on account," and the two British officers could distinctly
hear the crinkling of crisp paper.

"No gold," said the spy firmly. "The Fatherland has plenty in reserve
for use in circumstances such as the present."

"Himmel! You cannot carry ten thousand marks in gold to England."

"I do not intend to do so, Count. I will see that it is placed in the
Esbjerg branch of the Danish State Bank."

"Ach! You are perverse," almost shouted the Kaiser's emissary. "Do
you think that the car is laden with gold?"

A rupture seemed imminent, until Otto Oberfurst, overcome by his
innate greed, exclaimed:

"Well, Count, under protest I will take the notes; but they must be
at the local rates of exchange."

"And how is von Arve?" inquired the count.

"Himmel! I have neither seen nor heard of him for weeks," declared
the spy. "He was to have gone to Rosyth. I fear the worst,
especially as these English have shot three unnamed German agents in
the Tower of London. This secrecy is, believe me, very trying to
one's nerves. Imagine a man working hard and risking everything for
the love of the Fatherland, as many of us are now doing. Then without
warning, without even a chance of his name being announced so that
all good Germans could honour his heroic sacrifice, he vanishes--and
an unnamed corpse occupies an unmarked grave in an English fortress."

"You are getting quite melodramatic, my friend," remarked the count
suavely. "A draught of honest Bavarian beer will set you up. I, too,
am hungry and thirsty. Within another half-hour we must part
company."

The two conspirators rose. Tressidar could hear the shuffling of
their feet and the movement of the chair-legs on the oaken floor.

"Come and bear a hand like an old campaigner," said the count, and
the twain made their way to the larder.

"We'll have to be moving," whispered Tressidar. "Wait until those
fellows make a noise with the plates and bottles, then get to the
window."

Creeping with the utmost caution lest the creaking of the floor would
betray their presence, the two chums gained the window. The sub.,
knowing the "lay of the land," went first, dropping noiselessly upon
the tarred roof of the outhouse. Then, guiding the flight-sub.'s
feet, he waited until Fuller stood beside him.

Having reached terra-firma, the chums retrieved their wooden-soled
foot-gear. These they carried with them until they could find a
suitable hiding-place.

"We'll make for the high road now," decided Tressidar, when they were
at a safe distance from the spies' meeting-place. "We'll pass muster
in these togs, and I don't suppose we'll be questioned."

"By Jove! I would like to scrag that fellow," exclaimed Fuller. "The
bounder who kippered the 'Pompey,' I mean."

"So would I," agreed Tressidar. "It's a mystery to me how he was able
to place the explosives on board. Never mind; we'll lay him by the
heels."

Briefly he explained his plan of action.

"Capital, if it works," decided the flight-sub.

Dawn was breaking as the two chums trudged wearily into the little
Jutland town of Esbjerg. Guided by a seaman's unerring instinct, they
made straight for the harbour.

It was now a little more than half flood. Lying alongside the western
pier, that with the mole encloses the outer tidal harbour, were
several small tramps with steam raised. They were still aground, and
would be for another hour. Amongst them was a wall-sided, grey-hulled
steamer, with the Danish colours painted conspicuously on both sides
as well as the name "Nordby" in letters six feet in height.

The work of loading was not yet complete, for gangs of stevedores
were carrying sacks of smoked bacon and kegs of butter from the quay
to the hold. A sleepy young officer was directing operations. He was
the only member of the ship's complement visible. The rest of the
officers and ship's crew were below.

"Any use trailing in with the crowd?" asked Fuller, indicating the
men engaged in loading the vessel.

"I think not," replied Tressidar. "We'll mark time until the skipper
puts in an appearance, only I hope he'll come on deck before our man
arrives."

Presently a short, rotund man skipped agilely up the gangway. The
sub. rightly concluded that he was the pilot, for as he gained the
deck the mate sung out an order and the crew emerged from the fore
peak. A little later the skipper came on deck and made his way to the
bridge, where he remained for some time in animated conversation with
the pilot.

Meanwhile the hatches were secured and the last of the stevedores
returned to the shore. Half a dozen passengers boarded the ship, but
whether the spy was amongst them Tressidar was unable to determine.
He wished he had taken the risk of having a look at the fellow while
he was conversing with the count.

As each passenger gained the head of the gangway he was addressed by
a steward and told which was his cabin, but as every man had to show
his ticket it was pretty evident that the two Englishmen could not
smuggle themselves on board without an almost certain risk of being
challenged.

"The crew look to be pretty hefty chuckers-out," remarked Fuller
ruefully, as he looked at the stalwart Danes. "Pity we hadn't knocked
up the British vice-consul. I suppose the only thing to be done is to
go straight on board and make a clean breast of it to the skipper.
These Danes are awfully decent fellows, and their sympathies are
almost always pro-British. The trouble is, that neither of us can
speak Danish, although perhaps the skipper knows English."

Just then a cab drew up close to the pier and a tall, upright man
with a trim torpedo beard alighted. A porter hastened to convey his
somewhat scanty belongings. As he did so, a portmanteau slipped from
his grasp and, rebounding on the planking of the pier, struck the
owner a smart blow on the shin.

"Confound you, you idiot!" he exclaimed.

At the words, uttered in an unmistakably west-country accent,
Tressidar walked straight up to the stranger.

"Excuse me," he said. "We're in a regular hole. We are British
officers and have escaped from Germany. Can you help us to obtain a
passage in the 'Nordby'?"

"You have not broken your parole, I trust?"

"We were never asked to give our parole," replied the sub. "We
managed to get away from Sylt."

"Then you must be pretty smart," replied the stranger. "From all
accounts it is a pretty tight place to be cooped up in. By the bye,
what are your names?"

Tressidar gave the name and rank of his companion and himself

"And mine is Holloway, late navigating lieutenant of the
'Sunderbund.' I'm interned, but the Danish Government have given me
ten days' leave on parole. Suppose it won't be infringing any of the
conditions if I do give you a hand. Here's some of the necessary. The
shipping agent's office is just round the corner. You'll have to look
sharp."

With hurried thanks the two chums hastened to purchase their tickets.
Directly the lieutenant had mentioned his name they had both recalled
the loss of the "Sunderbund," a destroyer that had run aground in
Danish waters, and, while helpless, was subjected to the fire of four
German light cruisers in defiance of all international regulations.
But for the prompt intervention of a Danish torpedo-boat that,
regardless of risk, had interposed between the stranded British craft
and her unscrupulous assailants, the crew of the "Sunderbund" would
have been massacred--there is no other word for it. As it was, the
survivors--the officer and twenty-seven men--were rescued and
interned.

Without a hitch Tressidar and Fuller found themselves safely on board
the "Nordby."

The steward, although guessing from the absence of luggage that the
two passengers were British prisoners of war or else men who had been
interned and had not been on parole, received them with imperturbable
gravity.

"I am anxious to know how you did the trick," said Lieutenant
Holloway, as the three Britons paced the deck.

"If you don't mind we'll cut the first part of the yarn," replied
Tressidar, making sure that no stranger was within earshot. "We had
particular reasons for choosing the 'Nordby.'"

Briefly yet comprehensively he related the incident of the previous
night, and that the spy was expected to sail on the "Nordby" with the
intention of blowing her up.

"By Jove!" said Lieutenant Holloway fiercely. "Wish to goodness I
wasn't bound by my parole. I'd like to have a hand in the business.
Unfortunately I cannot. You say the spy isn't on board yet?"

"So far as we can surmise," rejoined Fuller. "You see, we heard him
but didn't have a chance of examining the cut of his jib. Hulloa,
here's a late bird. Wonder if 'tis he?"

An overcoated man was hurrying to the gangway. Disregarding the
solicitations of the porters, he carried his own baggage, which
consisted of two large, brass-bound attaché cases.

Nodding familiarly to the steward, the man descended the companion.

"Well?" asked Fuller, turning to his chum, but to his surprise he saw
that Tressidar was in the act of straightening himself out, having
just completed the task of refastening his boot-lace. "I say, you're
a pretty sort of fellow. How on earth could you scrutinise a man if
your face is looking at your boots?"

"I saw quite enough of him to satisfy me," replied Tressidar. "What I
was afraid of was that he might recognise me."

"Recognise you?" echoed Fuller in amazement and incredulity.

"I said 'recognise me,'" repeated the sub. firmly. "Now I can
understand the 'Pompey' affair. That fellow--I knew him in a minute
in spite of his beard and moustache--was stoker on board the
cruiser."

"Then you must have a wonderful memory," remarked Holloway,
"especially as this fellow is one of the engine-room ratings and you
are an executive officer."

"I had to speak pretty sharply to him once," said the sub. "He
boggled over the steam winch--there was an accident in consequence
and a man was killed. Now I come to think of it I don't believe it
was altogether an accident, though. At any rate, he's our man. We'll
find out which cabin he occupies and how far it is from the
after-store-room hatchway. Then we'll have to wait."

"And see?" added Fuller.

"No--act," corrected Tressidar grimly.



CHAPTER XXI

CHECKMATE


THE "Nordby" was an hour after her scheduled time in casting off from
the quay. Slowly she threaded the tortuous channel until clear of the
dangerous sandbanks off the Danish coast. Here the pilot, with
ill-concealed relief, handed over the wheel, bade the skipper
farewell, and took to the boat that was being towed alongside.
Thanking his lucky stars that his duty did not require him to
navigate the vessel through the mine-strewn, submarine-infested North
Sea, he rowed back to Esbjerg, while the "Nordby," increasing speed,
shaped a south-westerly course.

Keeping Otto Oberfurst well under observation, although they took
care to render themselves as inconspicuous as possible, Tressidar and
Fuller remained on the qui vive.

Their compatriot, meanwhile, paced the deck betwixt the mainmast and
the taffrail, maintaining a well-assumed indifference to his
surroundings. He was aware that the spy had already made himself
acquainted with the fact that an interned British officer on parole
was amongst the passengers, and Oberfurst was likely to be keeping a
stealthy watch on him. So from the moment he had seen the spy board
the ship Holloway had kept aloof from Tressidar and his chum.

The "Nordby" was well beyond the three-mile limit when the look-out
reported a submarine on the starboard bow. Instantly there was a rush
on the part of the passengers and crew to see the strange under-water
craft. Speculation ran high as to her nationality and whether she
would attempt to destroy the neutral vessel with the ruthlessness
peculiar to the Huns.

"She's one of our 'S' class," declared Tressidar to his chum. "That's
all right. Now for friend Oberfurst."

The spy was no longer on deck. Down the companion ladder the two
British officers hastened and cautiously took up a position just
outside the German's cabin. They could hear him fumbling with the
locks of his portmanteau.

Then the door was opened, and Oberfurst appeared, with a small
leather wallet resembling a camera case slung from his shoulder with
a strap.

"Hands up!" ordered Tressidar sternly, the muzzle of his revolver,
held by a steady hand, within a foot of the spy's head.

"What for?" demanded the spy in English. "You're talking in your hat,
old sport. This is a neutral ship." Then, recognising his former
officer he asked, "So you think you've got me, eh? Guess desertion is
not an extradictable offence, so you're kippered, Mr. Tressidar."

"We'll see about that, Jorkler," rejoined the sub. "Collar him, old
man. We'll see what's in this case."

The spy, still grinning insolently, offered no resistance. Deftly
Fuller unbuckled the strap and opened the wallet. Within was a
folding camera--nothing more.

While Tressidar still kept his prisoner covered with the revolver,
Fuller quickly overhauled the contents of his cabin effects. The
search, as far as incriminating objects were concerned, was
fruitless. Oberfurst, although he had not previously recognised
Tressidar, had seen the two supposed Danish artisans in conversation
with Holloway when he had boarded the "Nordby." Quick to act upon the
faintest warning, he had thrown overboard the infernal machine,
relying upon his forged passports to clear himself from suspicion
when the "Nordby" arrived in a British port.

Tressidar and his companion exchanged glances. Both realised that
there had been an awkward hitch. Having gone thus far it was
impossible to cry halt; while, owing to the lack of direct evidence,
there was hardly likely to be sufficient reason for convincing the
"Nordby's" skipper of the spy's sinister intentions. Nor could the
sub. signal to the British submarine and get her commander forcibly
to remove the spy. That in itself would be a gross breach of
international neutrality, and as long as Oberfurst remained on board,
under the protection of the Danish flag, he was immune from arrest.
To do otherwise the British Government would be transgressing its own
principles which were stoutly maintained: the historic "Trent" case
during the American Civil War. Unless it could be proved up to the
hilt that Oberfurst had intended to place a charge of explosive in
the hold of the "Nordby," the chances were that the Danish skipper
would decline to place the passenger under arrest.

Suddenly a tremendous crash shook the ship from stem to stern. Almost
immediately she took a pronounced list to starboard. Tressidar,
losing his balance, brushed against his prisoner. Fortunately for the
latter, the sub.'s finger was not resting on the trigger of the
revolver, otherwise the British Government might have been saved a
mountain of trouble.

Taking advantage of the temporary confusion, Otto Oberfurst made a
rush for the companion and gained the deck.

Tressidar made no effort to detain him.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed; "that must be a strafed Hun submarine after
all. Here's a pretty kettle of fish. If they've had the tip that
we're on board it's a moral cert. that they are keen on recapturing
us."

"And if we stick here we'll be booked for Davy Jones' locker,"
declared Fuller. "Let's get on deck."

On gaining the poop they found that the "Nordby" was rapidly settling
by the head. She had recovered somewhat from her list to starboard,
and as the explosion had occurred for'ard, the boats were intact.
These were being lowered without undue haste or confusion. There was
no sign of the spy. Lieutenant Holloway, imperturbably smoking a
cigar, was standing under the bridge.

"Deuced rum business!" he remarked as Tressidar and Fuller rejoined
him. "Thought at first that the spy had succeeded in his attempt,
until I saw that the explosion was an external one and right
for'ard."

"But the submarine?" asked Fuller.

"Had nothing to do with it," declared Holloway with conviction.
"She's a British one. I was watching her up to the moment of the
explosion. There was no track of a torpedo."

The submarine, with her conning-tower just awash, was lying hove-to
at a couple of cable's length on the starboard quarter of the
foundering vessel. Two officers and three seamen were visible, the
former keeping the "Nordby" under observation with their binoculars.

"She'll give the boats a pluck to the lightship," declared Fuller.
"And we can get them to take us on board before we get there. How
about you, sir? You'll be rescued by a British craft and consequently
your internment----"

Lieutenant Holloway shook his head.

"I'll play the game," he declared. "Any hitch and the Danes won't be
so keen on letting our compatriots off for short periods on leave on
parole. Hulloa! What's the game now?"

As he spoke the officers and men on the superstructure of the
submarine disappeared below, the watertight hatches were closed and
secured, and the vessel slid with hardly a ripple beneath the
surface.

Shouts of execration arose from some of the passengers and crew of
the "Nordby" as they saw what they took to be the cause of the
disaster steal away, until the Danish skipper emphatically assured
them that the explosion had occurred by the ship coming in contact
with a derelict mine, which, in fact, was the case.

By this time only five or six persons remained on board, the skipper
being still on the bridge. Two boats had already pushed off. It was
merely a question of minutes before the "Nordby" made her final
plunge.

"What's that fellow up to, by Jove!" suddenly exclaimed Lieutenant
Holloway.

Otto Oberfurst had mounted the main-mast shrouds and was
gesticulating violently in the direction of an object broad on the
port-beam. The object was a German submarine of the most modern type,
running on the surface at a good eighteen or twenty knots.

The Danish skipper saw her too. Whatever his feelings were towards
submarines in general, his action showed that he had no love for
those sailing under the Black Cross Ensign--the modern counterpart of
the "Jolly Roger."

He shouted an order. Three seamen sprang into the rigging and with no
little force compelled the spy to descend. Not content with that,
they bundled him unceremoniously into the last boat that was rubbing
her gunwale against the "Nordby's" starboard side.

They were not feelings of humanity that prompted the German submarine
to speed to the vicinity of the sinking ship. Slowing down within
hailing distance, her officers and crew came on deck to gloat over
the sinking of a helpless neutral merchantman. More than likely they
were anxious to ascertain her name so that they could strengthen the
claim for the award of Iron Crosses--the highly prized reward for
"frightfulness" as practised by the degenerate descendants of Attila.

The Danish skipper enjoined strict silence. He had now jumped into
the boat--the last to leave the stricken ship. Otto Oberfurst, lying
at full length on the gratings, with two brawny seamen holding him
down, was helpless to give another warning. In breathless silence
they waited.

"Good!" ejaculated Tressidar as an ever-diverging feather of ripples
marked the track of a 24-in. torpedo. Passing within fifty yards of
the boat in which he sat, the deadly weapon sped unerringly towards
its quarry.

Amidst a tremendous upheaval of water, mingled with smoke and
fragments of metal, the unterseeboot vanished for ever; while like a
huge whale the British submarine that had dealt the fatal blow shook
herself clear of the water.

The appearance was little more than momentary, for without checking
her way the vessel dived again and was lost to sight.

"Wonder why?" remarked Fuller.

"I suppose she knows that the lightship isn't so very far off,"
replied Tressidar, concealing his disappointment at not being picked
up by a British craft. "The sea's calm, the boats are by no means
overcrowded, and----"

A warning shout from one of the Danes interrupted the sub.'s words.
Looking in the direction indicated by the man's outstretched fingers,
the British officers made out the form of a huge Zeppelin. Although
five miles away when first sighted by the "Nordby's" crew, it was
rapidly approaching. With the wind and driven by five propellers, it
was travelling at considerably more than a mile a minute.
Nevertheless the alert lieutenant-commander of the British submarine
had spotted the airship and had promptly dived.

Attention on the part of the passengers and crew of the "Nordby" was
divided between the ship, now on the point of foundering, and the
Zeppelin.

The former was now so deep down by the head that the hawse-pipes were
submerged, while correspondingly her twin propellers were clear of
the water. For a few moments she hung thus; irresolutely, as if loth
to make her final plunge. Then, amidst a smother of foam and the
gurgling sound of inrushing water, she slid completely from sight,
leaving a pall of steam and smoke to mark her ocean grave.

The Zeppelin, finding that the destroyer of the "U" boat had
submerged, descended with considerable rapidity until she was within
five hundred feet of the level of the sea. Thrice she circled over
the spot where the "Nordby" had disappeared, and then, having
apparently discovered some signs of the British submarine, she tore
away to the north-westward. For nearly an hour she remained in sight,
but since she dropped no bombs Tressidar came to the conclusion that
her quarry had eluded pursuit.

A little later the "Nordby's" boats parted company. Acting under
semaphored instructions from the skipper, two of them made for the
lightship, while the third, containing the Danish captain and the
German spy, rowed with long, steady strokes towards the Jutland
shore.

"The fellow's given us the slip," declared Fuller. "I wonder whether
the skipper of the 'Nordby' smells a rat and means to hand him over
to the authorities. Pity we didn't make a charge against him."

"What are you fellows going to do?" inquired Lieutenant Holloway. "If
I were you I'd lie low and say nothing while you are on Danish soil.
If you don't they'll want you to give evidence at a court of inquiry
and all that sort of fuss. That can keep till you arrive in England.
The sooner the better, as I'll warrant the Huns will make a fine song
out of the sinking of the 'Nordby.' That rogue Oberfurst will pitch
it in for all he's worth. Yes, I agree with Fuller, in fact, I go
farther: it's a pity you didn't settle his hash once and for all."

"Well, there's one thing," rejoined Tressidar. "He won't dare to set
foot in Great Britain again."

Wherein the sub. was grievously mistaken, for Otto Oberfurst's
activities as a spy within Britannia's gates were by no means at an
end.



CHAPTER XXII

THE SHELL-BATTERED HOSPITAL


ON returning to Esbjerg, Tressidar and Fuller bade Lieutenant
Holloway good-bye and hurried off to the British Consul's office.
Acting with the greatest dispatch, that official, having taken down
the officers' sworn statements, communicated by telegraph with the
British Ambassador at Copenhagen. He, in turn, acquainted the Danish
Government with the attempt to destroy the "Nordby" by internal
explosion and requested that Otto Oberfurst be arrested.

Already the Danes were too late. The spy, having landed with the
skipper of the mined ship, contrived to slip away, and for the
present all traces of him were lost.

That same evening Tressidar and his chum sailed for England in a
Danish mail-boat, arriving at Grimsby without incident.

Here they separated, Fuller proceeding to the Naval Air Station at
Great Yarmouth, while Tressidar made for York in order to catch the
Scottish express.

Rumours of naval activity in the North Sea urged him northwards with
the least possible delay, but it was not until eight on the following
morning that the slow "local" crawled into Auldhaig station.

"You've been remarkably quick, Mr. Tressidar," was the senior
officer's greeting, when the sub. reported himself for duty. "It was
only an hour ago that we received official news of your escape from
Sylt."

"That seems months ago, sir," said the sub.

"No doubt," agreed the rear-admiral. "There's nothing like activity
to make the time slip past. Unfortunately we have had little to do
here during the last month. By the bye, the 'Heracles' is cruising.
She'll be back, I hope, on Thursday."

"What happened when she chased the German cruiser, sir, might I ask?
The last we saw of her was when we were adrift in the cutter."

Tressidar had previously made guarded inquiries, but beyond the
knowledge of the fact that the British cruiser had come out "top
dog," he could gather nothing definite.

"Oh, the usual," replied the senior officer. "The Hun had the
advantage of speed. The 'Heracles' had to steer a zig-zag course in
order to avoid a submarine. One 'U' boat did, in fact, let loose a
couple of torpedoes, but they missed. The German looked like getting
clean away when one of our 'Comus' class came up. You know her speed
and you can guess the rest. Anyway, the third shot from the light
cruiser did the trick, and our two vessels between them managed to
rescue about forty of the Germans. The name of the sunken vessel was
the 'Dortmunde,' and she was bound for Ireland."

"For Ireland?" echoed the sub. in surprise.

"Yes," continued the rear-admiral. "Unfortunately there's trouble
amongst a small section of the extreme Nationalists. The majority of
the Irish are loyal to the core. I'm an Irishman myself, born and
bred in Leinster, so I can speak with authority. At any rate, the
'Heracles' nipped some awkward little plot in the bud. Once they've
tried, the Germans will have another shot at stirring up sedition.
These Huns are not deterred by failures, dash 'em! Although they funk
the main issue at sea, they still persist in their petty operations,
in spite of losses."

"By the bye, sir," said Tressidar, "there's something I wish to
report." And he revealed to the astonished rear-admiral the actual
cause of the blowing-up of the "Pompey."

"Bless my soul!" ejaculated the senior officer. "D'ye call that 'by
the bye'? You haven't said a word to anyone about the business?"

"No, sir, not even to the vice-consul at Esbjerg. Only Mr. Holloway
and Mr. Fuller know the secret, and they will take good care not to
divulge anything."

"And the spy? Does he know that you are aware of his crime?"

"I think not, sir. He recognised me as one of the 'Pompey's'
officers, but I said nothing to lead him to believe I had overheard
his conversation with the mysterious count. He admitted that he was a
deserter, and braved it out. Before we could get to business--the
discovery that he had chucked his bomb overboard rather took the wind
out of my sails--the 'Nordby' bumped into a mine."

"Very good. Now, Mr. Tressidar, will you kindly write out a detailed
report of what occurred between the count and the spy, and I'll see
that it is forwarded to the proper quarter. After that you can stand
easy until Thursday. You look as if a good square meal or two will do
you good."

The genial Irishman shook hands with his subordinate and did him the
honour of asking him to dinner that evening. The sub. could not
refuse, although he rather dreaded the ceremonious meal. Also he had
made other plans, but he realised that it does not do to refuse a
rear-admiral's invitation.

Arrayed in a borrowed mess uniform, since his gear was, as far as he
was aware, still on board the "Heracles," Tressidar arrived at the
admiral's official residence--a large, old-fashioned mansion standing
on the side of a hill overlooking the harbour.

The ponderous repast proceeded slowly and smoothly, course after
course was consumed, and by the time the wine was placed upon the
table conversation was flowing briskly.

The room was brilliantly lighted with hundreds of candles, imparting
an old-world aspect to the uniformed company. The windows, heavily
curtained, shut out the light mist that was creeping in from seaward.

"Gentlemen!" exclaimed the senior officer, rapping the table with his
mallet. "The King."

According to time-honoured custom, when the height of the deck-beams
on board a man-of-war prevented the loyal toasts to be drunk
standing, the guests, still sitting, raised their glasses.

Even as they did so a loud crash, quickly followed by another and
another, broke the silence.

"Bless my soul!" ejaculated the rear-admiral. "Those infernal Zepps.
No, don't draw the curtains, Garboard. If you want to see the fun, go
outside."

Then with a "Drake touch" he poised his glass.

"Gentlemen!" he exclaimed. "There is yet time to duly drink His
Majesty's health," and the toast was drunk with enthusiasm.

The officers hurriedly prepared to dash off to their various
stations, when the door was thrown open and a messenger
unceremoniously approached the senior officer.

"Signal just through, sir," he reported. "German cruisers off
Auldhaig."

Such indeed was the case. With a recklessness that outrivalled their
previous attempts upon the east coast of England, seven large
armoured cruisers, taking advantage of hazy weather conditions and
being efficiently guarded against surprise by half a dozen Zeppelins,
had ventured to the east coast of Scotland. Three small British
patrol boats had been sunk before they could give warning, while by
that element of luck that had been responsible for many almost
incredible happenings of the Great War, the raiders were able to get
within effective range of the naval base of Auldhaig without being
detected.

On the face of it the attack seemed nothing short of suicidal; yet
when the true facts became known it was evident that the Germans were
acting upon the principle in which a draught-player deliberately
sacrifices one of his pieces to gain two of his opponent's.

The Huns knew that Auldhaig was practically devoid of warships. The
nearest British base where any considerable section of the Grand
Fleet lay was at Rosyth, and naturally they expected that the giant
battle-cruisers under Jellicoe's orders would issue forth to cut off
the raiders' retreat.

In that case the German cruisers were to do as much damage as they
possibly could to the Scottish north-east coast and turn tail.
Although not of the most modern type, they were of a fair turn of
speed, and with luck might draw the pursuers within range of a number
of submarines, while at the same time Zeppelins would attempt to
distract the British by dropping heavy explosives upon the
battle-cruisers.

So much for that phase of the operations. The part played by the
German warships bombarding Auldhaig was quite subordinate to the main
strategy and tactics of the hostile fleet. While the British
battle-cruisers were in chase of the raiders, a far more modern and
powerful German squadron was to make a dash for the Humber and Tyne
ports.

From the terrace of the rear-admiral's house Tressidar watched the
flashes of the hostile guns. The Germans had it practically their own
way, for, however well protected Auldhaig Harbour was against aerial
attack, the place was not armed with heavy gun batteries at all
suitable for replying to the ten- and twelve-inch guns of the German
cruisers.

Relying implicitly upon her steel-clad battleships and cruisers,
Great Britain, neglecting the warning of Scarborough and Whitby, had
omitted to provide adequate land defences except at a few of the
principal naval ports.

And while enormous shells hurtled upon the town and harbour,
Zeppelins, fearing little from the anti-aircraft guns, hovered
overhead. Considering the fury of the almost unimpeded fire, the
damage done was inconsiderable until a shell burst--at least, so it
appeared to Tressidar--fairly on the buildings used as the naval
sick-quarters. Long tongues of flame leapt skywards, the glare
throwing the surrounding houses into strong relief as the fire
quickly gained a strong hold.

Without a moment's hesitation the sub. took to his heels and ran in
the direction of the burning building. Here, at least he could be of
service. As he ran he thanked Providence that Doris Greenwood was not
on duty; but there were other delicately nurtured women exposed to
the fury of the hostile shells, as well as perhaps fifty "cot cases,"
where patients unable to help themselves were in peril of being burnt
alive if they had survived the effect of the devastating shell.

Through the gate of the rear-admiral's grounds, where a great-coated
seaman sentry with his rifle at the slope paced imperturbably to and
fro, Tressidar ran. He could hear the thud of fragments of metal
falling from an immense height. The air reeked with the acrid fumes
of smokeless powder, mingled with the pungent smell of burning wood.

A shell, falling into soft ground less than thirty yards from the
road, burst with an ear-splitting crash. The blast of the explosion
hurled the sub. sideways, until he was brought up with his shoulder
coming into violent contact with a wooden fence. Fortunately the
principal direction of the detonation was directed skywards, and
although fragments of the projectile hurtled past him, Tressidar
escaped death or at least serious injury by a hairsbreadth.

The sick-quarters were situated on the outskirts of the town and
within a hundred yards of the water's edge, whence a pier two hundred
feet in length afforded landing facilities for the boats of the
fleet.

As Tressidar drew nearer he discovered, to his great relief, that he
had been mistaken as to the exact spot where the monster projectile
had fallen. Still, the damage done was bad enough, for the shell had
dropped in an outhouse close to the main block of buildings. The
detached portion had been completely pulverised, while a considerable
part of the roof of the hospital had been blown to fragments. Gaping
holes were also visible in the walls, while a fierce fire was raging
within the building.

It was evident that the ordinary staff was unable to cope with the
work of clearing the wards of the patients. Nurses and sick-baymen
were working heroically, their efforts assisted by members of the
National Guard and a few townsfolk whose dread of the German shells
was unable to overcome their energy in rescuing the patients from a
terrible death.

Forcing his way through the choking smoke, the sub. toiled like a
Trojan, lifting helpless men from beds that were already smouldering
and carrying them out into the open air. Six times he plunged into
the inferno. The floor-board creaked under his feet. Smoke eddied
through the gaping seams. Plaster was continually falling through
from the shattered and shaken ceilings, while above the roar of the
flames could be heard the crash of hostile projectiles that were
falling with terrible rapidity.

"All clear, sir," shouted a blackened and grimy sick-bay steward.
"That's the lot of 'em."

As he spoke, a portion of the floor collapsed. The man disappeared
from view into a gaping pit of smouldering debris, almost before he
had time to utter a cry.

Had Tressidar given a moment's thought he might have hesitated, but
in an instant he leapt after the luckless man.

He alighted feet foremost upon a heap of charred wood, from which the
smoke poured in thick, eddying clouds. Gasping and vainly
endeavouring to check himself from coughing, the sub. stooped and
groped. His hands came in contact with the unfortunate man, who in
falling must have struck his head against some solid object, for he
was unconscious and lying on his back upon the smouldering debris.

Raising the man and hoisting him upon his shoulders, Tressidar looked
round for a means of escape. Apparently there was none. Seven feet
above his head was an irregularly shaped hole, through which he could
discern the flame-tinged smoke. A crash announced that another
portion of the roof had collapsed, and with it a part of the outside
wall. Even had he been missed, the sub. realised that rescue in that
direction was out of the question.

His lack of knowledge of the plan of the buildings, too, was against
him. So far as he could make out, he had leapt into a cellar that had
been used as a store for hospital goods. Seen through the smoke, the
place appeared to have no exit, yet he argued--the thought flashing
across his mind--that there must be some means of communication apart
from the hole in the floor that had just been caused by the flames.

Choking and spluttering, his eyes streaming with water from the
effects of the driving particles of hot ashes, Tressidar plunged into
the darkness with his burden lying inertly across his back.

Stumbling between rows of packing-cases the sub: struggled on, until
further progress was barred by a solid stone wall. Retreat in that
direction was cut off. For a few seconds he stood, still half dazed
at the discovery, then, turning, he lurched heavily in the opposite
direction.

He was gasping deeply. The lack of pure air and the dead weight upon
his shoulders was telling upon his powerful frame. His lungs seemed
on the point of bursting. Yet he gamely struggled onwards.

Over the heap of smouldering rubbish on which he had alighted when he
had made his voluntary leap into the trap he scrambled, fell on his
knees, and with a strenuous effort recovered himself. Beyond was
another dark, smoke-enshrouded cavity. Was there an exit in that
direction, he wondered?

Again, almost before he became aware of the fact, his head came in
contact with a stone wall. Half turning, he propped his burden
against the barrier, and with his disengaged hand fumbled helplessly,
pawing the rough masonry like a trapped animal.

A comparatively cool current of air wafted in, temporarily dispersing
the noxious fumes. Eagerly he took in draughts of the life-giving
air. His benumbed brain was just able to realise that not so very far
distant was an opening communicating with the outside. But where, and
how large?

He edged away to the right. His hand no longer encountered solid
wall. There was a aperture torn by a shell. Beyond was comparatively
pure air.

Setting the unconscious man upon the ground, Tressidar crept through
the narrow opening. Then, gripping his charge by the ankles, he
hauled the man, feet foremost, into comparative safety. Utterly
exhausted, he dropped to the ground and waited, breathing
stertorously as his sorely taxed strength returned.

The bombardment had now ceased, but overhead the roar of the flames
and the continual crash of falling masonry and tiles proclaimed the
fact that the fire was still maintaining a fierce grip upon the
building. The trembling of the walls warned the sub. that his
temporary shelter was no longer safe.

Dragging the unconscious man--for he no longer had the strength to
lift him--Tressidar backed along a passage and up a short flight of
stone steps. Even as he did so, the roof of the cellar in which he
had been so nearly trapped collapsed under the weight of hundreds of
tons of rubble.

Just aware that people were hastening to his assistance as he emerged
into the open air, Tressidar relinquished his burden. But for the
support of two stalwart bluejackets the sub. would have fallen.

Then came the anti-climax. He burst into a roar of laughter as he
surveyed his borrowed mess uniform, now a collection of scorched rags
that would ill-become a scare-crow.

"Dash it all!" he ejaculated. "Poor old Jimmy's mess-kit."

"Never mind," said a low voice. "After what you've done, Ronald, I
don't suppose he will."

Tressidar looked up. Through the mist that swain before his
smoke-rimmed eyes he saw Doris Greenwood.



CHAPTER XXIII

AT AULDHAIG ONCE MORE


"BY Jove, Doris!" he exclaimed. "You here? I say, am I not in a
horrible mess?"

"It might have been worse," replied the girl admiringly. "I saw you
go, and--and--I thought--oh, I never expected to see you again."

"You never know your luck," said Tressidar. He could think of nothing
else to say. The girl's concern on his behalf was more than
sufficient compensation for the horrors of that five minutes facing
death.

Someone handed him a glass of water. He drank the liquid with avidity
and felt the better for it.

"I thought you were on leave, Doris," he remarked. "And you, too, are
in a pretty pickle. You weren't hurt?"

The girl's face was grimed with smoke, her uniform soiled with fire
and water. On the back of her left hand a rapidly rising white weal
was visible.

"No," she replied, "I was on duty. I'm glad I was, although I felt
horribly frightened when the shells began to drop. My hand? That is
nothing; only a little burn. But I must go. Over there, there are
others badly injured."

Left to himself, Tressidar began to realise that he had not come off
lightly. Numerous burns, of which in the struggle for existence he
had been ignorant, began to assert themselves in a very forcible
manner. He stood up and promptly sat down again. The movement racked
every limb. His muscles worked like badly oiled machinery. His head
was throbbing painfully.

An alert sick-bay man who had been discreetly keeping an eye upon the
young officer hurried up.

"Allow me, sir," he said. "I'll get you to bed. They're preparing
temporary quarters over yonder," and he pointed in the direction of
the rear-admiral's house.

Tressidar submitted without protest. He knew that for the time being
he was helpless. Unless he were to miss his ship on the following
Thursday, prompt treatment and absolute rest were essential.

Supported by the hospital man, the sub. walked slowly up the hill in
the wake of a long procession of cots and stretchers, each bearing a
scorched and badly injured patient.

His burns attended to, Tressidar was placed in a bed and given a
draught. After that he slept soundly until the following morning,
when he awoke to find himself in a temporary ward with four other
officers as fellow-patients.

"Thursday?" repeated the fleet surgeon in answer to Tressidar's
anxious question. "We'll see. Can't commit myself on that point, you
know. A lot depends upon yourself. No, nothing serious. Slight shock
to the system, you know. Rest and plenty of food essential."

The whole of that day the sub. saw nothing of Doris. At first he
feared that the girl's injuries were more serious than she believed,
until enquiries of one of the nurses elicited the information that
"Sister Greenwood" was well and was on day duty in another ward.

Meanwhile, news was coming in fast of the progress of the German
naval movements. The cruiser that had bombarded Auldhaig, fortunately
without so very serious results, had been intercepted in its flight
towards the Norwegian coast by a strong squadron of British armoured
cruisers. In the burning fight which ensued, the "Heracles" with
two consorts had succeeded in heading off two German vessels, and for
the time being the two latter were fugitives in the North Atlantic.

For the present they had eluded pursuit but a cordon was being drawn
round the isolated hostile ships. On both sides of the Atlantic
British warships were lying in wait. Retreat both to Germany and to
neutral ports was cut off. Capture or destruction seemed inevitable.

Better still, the attempted raid upon the east coast of England ended
in a fiasco. Warned by wireless, the British battle-cruisers issued
forth from their bases--not in pursuit of the Auldhaig raiders, as
the Germans fondly hoped, but across the North Sea to meet the main
hostile warships.

Greatly to the disappointment and disgust of the British tars, the
Germans declined battle, and, turning, made off at full speed for the
shelter of the guns and minefields of Heligoland.

Early on the second morning of Tressidar's enforced detention in the
temporary sick-quarters the sub. was taken into the grounds for an
airing. Lying comfortably in a wheeled chair, he was deep in the
contents of a newspaper when a bandaged man in hospital clothes and
accompanied by a nursing sister and an orderly was wheeled in his
direction.

The sister was Doris Greenwood, but the sub. had not the faintest
idea of the identity of the patient.

"This man wishes to speak to you, Mr. Tressidar," said Doris
demurely.

"You don't remember me, sir?" began the invalid.

"No, I can't say that I do," replied the sub. To tell the truth, he
wished both the man and the orderly to Jericho, until he realised
that it was solely in an official capacity that Doris was present.

"You pulled me out of that hole the night before last, sir," said the
patient, indicating the ruins of the hospital buildings, of which the
crumpled masonry and fragments of shattered walls were visible from
the grounds. "I'm no hand at a speech, sir, but I want to thank you."

"That's nothing so far as I was concerned," replied Tressidar
modestly. He hated a fuss being made merely for doing a plucky
action. "You're getting along all right?"

"Middling, sir. By gum!" he exclaimed with intense fervour, "it was
touch and go with me."

After a few minutes' conversation Doris gave the word for the orderly
to remove the patient, and greatly to the sub.'s disappointment she
did not linger.

Doris, however, made amends during the afternoon by spending an hour
with him. They talked of many things. Amongst other questions,
Tressidar enquired after Mr. Greenwood.

"The pater's simply as skittish as a foal," replied the girl,
laughing. "Since his adventure in the cave he's as keen as anything
for duty. He's joined the National Guard, and is doing duty at a
large reservoir near Plymouth. I wish, for some reasons, I were in
Devonshire now," she added wistfully. "Just fancy, it's mid-April and
there are hardly any signs of spring in the north. I'm longing for
another sight of the red earth and bright green foliage of home
There's no place like Devonshire."

"Unless it's Cornwall," rejoined Tressidar, loyal to the county of
his birth.

"Practically the same," agreed Doris. "It's all the West Country.
Next month, I hope, I'll be able to have a few days there--unless
there's a big action out yonder--somewhere in the North Sea, you
know."

"I hope there will be," remarked the sub. "Of course it will be a
terribly costly affair when it does come off, for the Huns will fight
like wild cats rather than let their ships be scuttled in Kiel
Harbour. But it will be the climax--an end to months and months of
tedious waiting and watching."

He, too, wished for a sight of home--home in the strictest sense.
Away from Great Britain, the traveller broadly regards the whole of
the United Kingdom as "home"; within its limits he will speak of his
own county as "home;" narrowed down, "home" resolves itself, perhaps,
into a small house with or without a patch of ground attached.

And now, after nearly two years of war, Britons the wide world over
were beginning to realise that home in the broadest and the narrowest
sense was in danger. Until Prussian militarism was crushed once and
for all time, the freehold of the humblest cottage in Great Britain
would not be worth twelve months' purchase.

"You've heard the news of Falkenheim's escape?" asked the girl.

Tressidar had not. The latest he had heard of the German officer who
had got clear of the internment camp and had eventually been run to
earth in the petrol-depôt, was that he had been sentenced by a
General Court-martial to six months' imprisonment.

"He was serving his sentence in Saltport Gaol," explained Doris. "A
fortnight ago a portion of the outside wall of the prison was blown
in by a charge of gun-cotton. Falkenheim's friends evidently knew
exactly in which part of the building he was placed, for in the
confusion he was liberated from his cell. Since then all traces of
him have vanished. There was a bit of a stir in the papers, but it
has quieted down now. I heard Captain Garboard say that the German
was a particularly daring submarine officer, and that if he got back
to Germany there would be considerable trouble in store for us.
People seem to deprecate the spy business, but it shows how active
these German agents are."

"It does," agreed Tressidar wholeheartedly, but he was thinking of
one spy in particular--the author of the "Pompey" tragedy, Otto
Oberfurst.

As a side issue he was wondering whether, by a slice of luck, he
might manage to get a few days' leave at the same time as Doris went
south. Duty, naturally, came first, but when the West Country
beckons, its call cannot lightly be set aside.

Tressidar made rapid progress from his injuries. His indomitable
spirit, coupled with a clean, hard-living condition, worked wonders,
and by the Thursday morning the fleet surgeon declared him fit for
duty.

At noon the "Heracles" entered the harbour and moored in mid-stream.
Her smoke-blackened aftermast, blistered and salt-rimmed funnels bore
tokens of hard steaming, while several temporarily patched holes in
her lofty sides and superstructure showed that German gunnery had
taken a toll.

Her orders were brief and hinted at more serious work: she was to
land hospital cases, ship ammunition and victualling stores, fill
bunkers and replenish oil-fuel, and proceed to Rendezvous K-- with
the utmost dispatch.

Tressidar's reappearance on board was the subject of considerable
surprise, for his messmates were under the erroneous impression that
he was still a prisoner of war They had heard that the cutter had
been picked up, and that the sub. and the boat's crew had been
forcibly removed from the Norwegian tramp in the Kattegat and taken
to a German port. Beyond that they were totally unaware of what had
befallen the sub. until he turned up, like the proverbial bad
halfpenny, upon the quarter-deck of H.M.S. "Heracles."

Assistant Paymaster Greenwood, with his right hand swathed in
surgical bandages and his arm in a sling, was one of the first to
greet his friend warmly.

"Oh, I've had a great time," he replied in answer to the sub.'s
enquiry as to how he sustained his injuries. "In the fire-control
platform, you know. Tried to stop a bit of strafed shell. It was
luck. I'm off duty in the ship's office for a week at least, and this
won't prevent me going aloft when the next scrap takes place."

Eric Greenwood was too modest to relate full details. Tressidar
afterwards learnt that the assistant paymaster was assisting a
wounded seaman from the fire-control platform to the shrouds when a
flying fragment of metal inflicted a nasty gash on the index finger
and thumb of the right hand. In spite of the pain, he saw the man
safely on deck and returned to his lofty perch. It was not until he
was on the point of collapse through loss of blood that the
lieutenant noticed his plight and ordered him below.

Night and day the ship's company toiled in order to get the cruiser
ready for sea. Eagerly officers and crew awaited the wireless news,
hoping for their country's sake that the fugitive German vessels had
been captured or destroyed, and for their own that they were still
afloat, so that the "Heracles" might have a hand in settling up
business. In thirty-six hours the cruiser was ready to proceed, and
with the first blush of dawn she slipped quietly out of harbour bound
for Rendezvous K-- the exact position of which was a jealously
guarded secret, known only to the captain and senior navigating
officers.



CHAPTER XXIV

A FIGHT TO A FINISH


TWENTY-FOUR hours later the "Heracles" arrived at her appointed
station, where she relieved her sister-ship the "Proteacius," the
latter having to return to replenish her bunkers. Hull down to the
nor'ard, her position indicated by a thin haze of smoke upon the
skyline, was another British cruiser. Yet another was just visible to
the south'ard. These were but a few of the far-flung line that was
systematically closing upon the fugitive German ships.

It was realised that the chase might be a prolonged one. In spite of
elaborate precautions, it was quite possible for the hostile craft to
elude detection for a considerable period. That they were within
measurable distance was evident by the fact that the wireless
messages between the various British cruisers were continually being
"jammed" The Germans, by dint of throwing out wireless "waves," were
thus able to interrupt seriously long-distance communication between
their pursuers.

Just before midnight a destroyer came within flashlight-signalling
distance of the "Heracles." Her message, given in code, was as
follows: "'Heracles,' 'Castor,' and 'Pollux' to proceed. Investigate.
In event of falling in with enemy, engage until supported by
'Ponderous' and 'Thunderbolt.'"

Due west tore the "Heracles," under forced draught. Morning revealed
the presence of the "Castor," seven miles to her starboard beam. The
"Pollux" was approximately at the same distance from the "Heracles,"
but well on her port quarter.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun, rising in a grey sky behind a
bank of mist, threw its rays aslant the long rollers of the Atlantic.
Ahead the horizon was unbroken. Not a trace could be discerned of the
enemy.

At eight bells the wireless jamming suddenly ceased. Did it mean that
other units of the squadron were engaging the German cruisers? A
far-flung general call received the reply that as yet the enemy had
not been sighted.

Half an hour later the "Heracles" picked up a wireless message from
one of the fugitives to the other. Most remarkably it was not in
code, and was as follows:

"'Lemburg' to 'Stoshfeld': am making my way northward. Endeavouring
to fetch Reykiavik. Course presumably clear."

To which the "Stoshfeld" replied: "Concur: will attempt to rejoin you
at Reykiavik."


[Illustration: A BATTLE CRUISER SQUADRON]


The message was obviously a "blind," sent out in the vain hope that
the British ships would speed northward to prevent the fugitives
entering Danish waters and thus claiming internment in Iceland.
Accordingly the "Heracles" signalled to her consorts to shape a
course to the south-west and to refrain from using wireless until
further orders.

Tressidar had just relieved another sub. for duty in the fire-control
platform when a strange sail was sighted two points on the starboard
bow. Helm was accordingly altered to a course shaped to bring the
cruiser close to the recently sighted vessel.

It did not take the "Heracles" long to get within easy telescopic
distance. The craft was apparently a large tramp with two stumpy
masts and two funnels. She was steaming slowly in an easterly
direction, and was consequently almost bows-on to the British
cruiser.

She made no attempt to alter her course, and when the "Heracles"
hoisted a signal, "What ship is that?" she replied in the
International Code making her number, port of departure and
destination.

Reference to the code-book proclaimed the tramp to be the s.s.
"Scoopcash" of Liverpool, northward bound from Montreal. Almost
immediately another hoist of bunting fluttered from her foremast
head, quickly followed by others, until the complete signal read:

"Have been chased by large German cruiser. Lat. 45º 17' N., Long.
20º 5' W. Hostile vessels abandoned pursuit and made off to the nor
west."

Tressidar had his telescope levelled on the merchantman. The vessel
having slightly ported helm was approximately five thousand yards
distant.

"Jolly rummy!" he soliloquised. "Is it fancy, or did I see those
topsides bulge?" He lowered the glass, rubbed his eyes, then looked
again.

"I say, Picklecombe," he remarked, addressing a midshipman, "just
bring your telescope and bear upon that vessel's hull. See anything
out of the usual? I may be mistaken but----"

The midshipman, quick to act, had already levelled his telescope.

"By Jupiter!" he exclaimed. "If she hasn't dummy bulwarks I'm a
lubber."

The sub. promptly telephoned to the bridge, expressing his doubts as
to the bona-fides of the s.s. "Scoopcash," with the result that a shot
was fired within fifty yards of her bows and the peremptory signal to
heave-to for examination hoisted from the "Heracles'" signal yardarm.

With the discharge of the cruiser's gun a sudden change took place on
board the supposed tramp. For full a hundred feet aft from her bows a
canvas screen dropped, revealing a for'ard turret with two 9.4-in.
guns, and smaller turrets, each mounting a 5.9-in. quick-firer.

A succession of vivid flashes leapt from the disguised vessel's decks
and half a dozen heavy shells hurtled perilously close to the British
cruiser.

Her opponent was the "Stoshfeld." On finding their retreat cut off,
the German crew set to work to transform the outward appearance of
the ship. This was effected by raising canvas stretched on poles
around the fo'c'sle and poop, thus giving the look of a continuous
line of bulwarks level with the permanent superstructure amidships
The cruiser's sides were then given a coat of black paint. The next
step was to do away with the unmistakable military masts. The fore
and main topmast were accordingly struck, the lower masts being
demolished by the use of small charges of explosives. The topmasts
were then set up, thus giving the appearance of the "sticks" of a
merchantman. The centre one of the three funnels was also knocked
away, and those remaining were painted red with black tops.

This work having been accomplished, the "Stoshfeld" steamed
southward, with the intention of making a South American port. Here,
all being well, she could transfer her lighter armament to some of
the nominally interned German merchantmen, and the latter could then
slip out to sea as armed commerce destroyers.

Unfortunately for her, the "Stoshfeld" sighted a squadron of United
States cruisers, and mistaking them for British vessels, doubled back
this time on a south-westerly track until she blundered across the
"Heracles."

The secret was out. The German cruiser had to fight or surrender; and
she chose the former alternative.

For the time being the "Heracles," being unsupported by her consorts,
who were far on her quarter, had to engage single-handed her more
powerfully armed antagonist. It was an action in which gunnery was
the supreme factor. The two vessels were beyond effective torpedo
range, while neither had the assistance of bomb-dropping aircraft or
the deadly-sneaking submarine.

Almost the first shell from the hostile cruiser struck the "Heracles"
twenty feet for'ard of the fore-turret. Her protected belt saved her,
but practically the whole of the fo'c'sle was wrecked. Viewed from
the fore-top the scene following the tremendous upheaval resembled a
ship-breaker's works. The deck was ripped up like cardboard, and the
crews of the two 12-pounder quick-firers were literally blown to
pieces. Another shell, missing the foremast by a few feet, pulverised
the foremast funnel and wrought havoc on the spar deck.

The "Heracles'" reply was a stern one. With one terrific salvo her
guns simply swept the German cruiser's decks. Her top hamper
disappeared as if by magic. The two remaining funnels crashed over
the side, falling across the shields of a couple of 6-inch
quick-firers and putting the weapons out of action. The painted
canvas burst into flames, and, burning furiously, obscured the German
gun-layers' vision, while 'tween decks dense columns of smoke were
pouring through jagged holes torn by the British shells.

Evidently the same salvo had put the "Stoshfeld's" for'ard 9.4's out
of action, for they did not fire again. The German cruiser then
circled to starboard; slowly, for with the loss of her funnels her
speed had dropped to a bare seventeen knots. Yet by keeping her stern
on to her antagonist she was able to bring her as yet useless
after-guns to bear upon the "Heracles."

The latter, also subjected to loss of speed, made no attempt to
close. Porting helm, she was able to bring all her broadside guns as
well as the bow and stern turret-guns to bear upon the badly crippled
"Stoshfeld."

Suddenly shells began to fall with a high trajectory in front and
behind the British cruiser. She was, in naval parlance, "straddled"
by hostile projectiles fired at long range. The "Lemburg," steaming
to her consort's assistance--a deliberate act of self-sacrifice--had
commenced to fire salvoes at the "Heracles."

The "Castor" and the "Pollux" were still too far astern to take part
in the action. For five minutes the "Heracles" was subjected to
fierce fire from the two German cruisers. Shells ricochetted all
around her. Only the indifferent gunnery of the "Lemburg" saved her,
and since she was outranged by that vessel the British cruiser had
perforce to devote her attention to the "Stoshfeld" until the
undamaged cruisers could engage.

Quickly the "Castor" passed the "Heracles," steaming two miles to
windward, and presently her guns added to the din. Almost immediately
the galling fire of the "Lemburg" ceased to annoy the "Stoshfeld's"
antagonist, for the second German cruiser had now all her work cut
out to engage the other British cruisers.

Giving the "Stoshfeld" a couple of broadsides as she passed, the
"Pollux" followed in support of the "Castor," leaving the badly
mauled "Heracles" to continue her ocean duel with her seriously
damaged opponent.

Between the drifting clouds of vapour, for the cordite was far from
smokeless, Tressidar watched the effect of the "Heracles'"
projectiles upon the German cruisers, reporting to the conning-tower
the result of each direct hit.

Amidships the "Stoshfeld" was little better than a roaring volcano.
Her after-guns were still maintaining brisk fire and although she
flew no colours, she evidently had no intention of surrendering. In
fifteen minutes from the beginning of the action Tressidar was able
to report that the German cruiser was listing badly to port. Her
steering-gear, too, was much damaged, for she yawed considerably as
she vainly sought safety in flight.

Conversely, the "Heracles" was receiving less of a gruelling. The
German gunnery, at first most effective, had developed into erratic,
desultory firing. In her plight the hostile cruiser swung round and
made a determined attempt to ram, but the captain of the British
warship promptly countered by turning eight points to starboard and
increasing the distance between the two combatants.

"She's going!" almost shouted Tressidar into the telephone.

A bugle note rang out: the order to cease fire. Immediately the
British guns were silent, contemptuous of the erratic efforts of a
small quick-firer that alone was capable of hurling defiance from the
doomed ship.

From below hundreds of British seamen, clad only in trousers and
singlets, poured on deck to witness the end of their foe. Boxed in
behind armour, unable to see for themselves how events were shaping,
almost suffocated by the pungent fumes, they were now able to see the
result of their work.

There was no cheering. All signs of elation over the victory were
checked by the sight of the shell-torn cruiser about to make her last
plunge.

The "Heracles" made no attempt to close until it was evident that the
doomed ship was unable to deliver a last, desperate stroke in the
shape of a torpedo, then slowly the cruiser steamed towards her
opponent to rescue the survivors of her crew.

The British cruiser had only two boats capable of keeping afloat, and
these only by means of temporary expedient in the shape of copper
sheets and strips of painted canvas tacked over the jagged holes in
the planking. But Jack Tar was not to be baulked in his humane
efforts. Mess-tables and stools, empty petrol-cans, lifebuoys and
lifebelts were pressed into service and carried on deck ready to be
cast overboard to support the swimmers.

Suddenly two enormous waterspouts leapt high in the air, one on
either side and close to the British cruiser. An ear-splitting
detonation followed almost simultaneously, as the "Heracles,"
trembling violently under the shock, lurched heavily to port.

In the moment of victory she had been mined.



CHAPTER XXV

IN THE MOMENT OF TRIUMPH


ALMOST stunned by the terrific blast of air, Tressidar, who had been
looking down from the fire-control platform, was at first hardly able
to realise what had taken place. Not until he was aroused by
Midshipman Picklecombe's voice asking faintly for aid did the
seriousness of the situation dawn upon him.

The "Heracles" was foundering. The distinct, ever-increasing heel of
the platform on which he stood proved that. There was no recovery to
the cruiser's list to port.

The "Stoshfeld" during the course of the running fight had thrown
overboard a number of mines, each pair connected by a hundred feet
length of grass-rope. By sheer good luck her pursuer had missed the
lot until she began to steam slowly to the assistance of her foe.
Then, her stem engaged in the bight of the rope, two cylinders filled
with powerful explosive had been swung against either side, the mines
going off on contact with the cruiser's hull.

After the explosion the crew, at first thrown into confusion by the
terrific din and the havoc wrought 'tween decks, were hardly able to
grip the situation until a bugle sounded the "Still" and the men
mustered quietly on the quarter-deck. Orders had been sent to the
engine-room to shut off steam and open the safety-valves. The
"Heracles," her propellers now motionless--whereby a serious menace
to the crew of the foundering vessel was averted--quickly lost way,
and making a half-circle to starboard came to a standstill at a
distance roughly three thousand yards from her antagonist.

The "Stoshfeld" was now keel uppermost. A couple of hundred of her
men had clustered on her bilge-plates, viewing with consternation the
result of their own action; for with the mining of the British
cruiser all hopes of rescue vanished.

On hearing the midshipman call, Tressidar turned. The two officers
were alone, the gunnery lieutenant having left the fire-control
platform with some of the instruments that had suffered slight damage
from concussion during the bombardment, while the seamen told off to
attend to the telephones had followed the lieutenant.

Picklecombe was lying in a corner of the rectangular platform. Blood
was oozing from a gash in the midshipman's left shoulder. A sliver of
steel, hurled to an immense height, had in falling completely
penetrated the light metal canopy and had inflicted a severe wound on
the lad who was standing beneath.

The sub. acted promptly. He knew that delay would mean that the
helpless midshipman would be trapped within the metal cage and
carried down when the ship made her last plunge. The only way of
escape was through a small aperture on the floor leading to the
uppermost ratlines of the shrouds--and the opening was sufficient
only for one man at a time.

Unclasping his knife, Tressidar cut some of the canvas gear into a
long strip. The fabric was strong and tough. It formed an admirable
sling.

The next step was to lower Picklecombe through the trap-door.

"Can you hang on?" asked the sub

"I think so," replied the midshipman. "I'll try."

The pressure of the canvas slung round the lad's chest gave him great
pain, but setting his jaw tightly he allowed no sound to pass his
lips. Dexterously the sub. "paid out" until the wounded youngster's
feet touched the shrouds and his head and shoulders were below the
opening on the floor. Fortunately the list of the ship had brought
the shrouds on the starboard side very little short of a horizontal
position, and thus Picklecombe was supported almost by his own weight
against the wire stays. In a trice Tressidar nipped through and was
by the midshipman's side.

"I'm feeling awfully dizzy," exclaimed Picklecombe. "Everything seems
turning round."

The sub. gripped him as he spoke, for the lad was on the point of
dropping to the deck, a distance of between sixty and seventy feet
beneath his precarious perch. To make matters worse, clouds of smoke
and steam issuing through the funnels and steam-pipes drifted past
and hid the two young officers from the sight of those on deck.
Shouting for help was futile, since the hiss of steam deadened all
other sounds.

Hanging on tenaciously, Tressidar forced himself between the shrouds
and the now almost unconscious midshipman. With his disengaged hand
he held the lad tightly to his back.

"Let go!" ordered the sub. peremptorily.

The sense of discipline overcame the midshipman's almost automatic
inclination to grip whatever came nearest to hand. He relinquished
his hold and his arm fell listlessly over his rescuer's shoulder.

Step by step the sub. descended. The shrouds, stretched almost to
breaking-point by the strain of the heavy mast, were so springy under
the combined weight that at every moment Tressidar was nearly
capsized. The hot steam almost choked him. It also prevented him
seeing where he was or whether the ship was actually on the point of
foundering.

At length he gained a portion of the shrouds beneath the cloud of
vapour. The "Heracles'" fo'c'sle was now awash. Her poop on the
portside was dipping. The remaining serviceable boats, which had been
lowered and filled with wounded men, were lying-to at a safe distance
from the foundering vessel. Officers and men, for the most part
stripped, were leaping over the side in knots of half a dozen or so
at the time, as if reluctant to leave the good old ship.

The next instant the agitated water seemed to rise up to meet the
sub. and his companion. The "Heracles" was capsizing rapidly.

Relaxing his grip upon the shrouds, Tressidar allowed himself and his
burden to be floated away by the eddying sea, using his disengaged
arm to strike out and avoid as far as possible being entangled in the
raffle of gear.

All around him the turmoil of foaming water was emitting steam and
compressed air like miniature geysers, while a huge, grotesquely
distorted mass seemed to rise out of the sea almost within arm's
length. It was the hull of the doomed cruiser, as she turned slowly
over until her keel-plates floated bottom uppermost. Various buoyant
objects came bobbing to the surface with considerable velocity and
added to the danger. A fragment of a shell-shattered cutter missed
him by a bare yard. Had it struck, he would have been almost cut in
two by the sharp, jagged edges of the woodwork.

Whirled hither and thither by the swirl of the water, Tressidar
noticed that the upturned hull showed no signs of disappearing to the
bottom of the ocean. The jets of steam, too, had ceased, and the sea
in the vicinity of the wreck was becoming comparatively tranquil.

Some distance away the sole serviceable boats were lying off, crowded
with men and with scores of less fortunate seamen clinging to the
gunwales. A considerable number of the survivors were relying solely
upon their swimming-collars; others were clinging, more or less in
the water, to barrels, petrol-tins, oars, and mess-gear. In spite of
the danger, they were exchanging banter with the utmost zest. The
fact that they were a thousand miles from the nearest land never
seemed to worry them in the slightest degree.

Numbers of men, finding that the upturned hull still floated, began
to scramble up the sides, since the submergence of the two
bilge-keels to a depth of about a foot made this a comparatively easy
matter. Amongst them were several of the officers, including
Assistant Paymaster Greenwood.

Eric happened to see his chum's plight, for, try as he would, the
sub. had not strength to haul himself and the now unconscious
midshipman into temporary safety. Practically all the ship's company
had mustered aft when the "Heracles" turned turtle, and since
Tressidar had been thrown out of the foremast shrouds he and young
Picklecombe were apart from the rest of the survivors.

Sliding down to the bilge-keel, the A.P., heedless of his injured
arm, gripped Tressidar by the shoulders.

"One minute, old bird," gasped the sub. "Give me a hand with the
youngster. Be steady. He's been hit--shoulder, pretty badly."

Transferring his grasp to the canvas sling, Greenwood hauled the
midshipman into comparative safety, while Tressidar, relieved of the
lad's weight, quickly drew himself up the bilge-keel.

"Thanks, old man," he said simply.

"Let's hope we won't have to make another swim for it," remarked the
A.P. "We're expecting the destroyers, but they haven't shown up yet.
By Jove, the water is cold. Let's shift out of it. The P.M.O. is aft
somewhere, I think. I vote we get hold of him and see what's wrong
with young Picklecombe."

Carrying the midshipman, the two chums gained the main keel-plates.
From there Tressidar surveyed the expanse of sea. The "Stoshfeld" had
vanished. The distance was too great to see with the naked eye
whether any of her crew were still afloat. All around the horizon was
unbroken; sea and sky met in a clear, well-defined line. Of the
"Lemburg" and her pursuers nothing could be discerned, but the dull
rumble of a distant cannonade showed that the running fight was still
in progress.

Greenwood's surmise concerning the surgeon was at fault, the medical
staff being in the boats with the wounded and sick cases. Nor was it
safe to signal to one of the boats to approach and take the wounded
midshipman on board, in case the ship might make a sudden plunge and
take the boat-load of helpless men down with her.

Having applied first aid to the best of their ability, Tressidar and
Greenwood waited, with the rest of the crew, the arrival of the
expected destroyers.

Gradually the rest of the swimmers regained the upturned hull until
every surviving member of the ship's company was either in one of the
boats, on a raft, or on the capsized hull of the "Heracles."

To relieve the tedious wait the men sang the latest music-hall
ditties to the accompaniment of a wheezy concertina, which a stoker
had contrived to save during the few minutes that elapsed between the
mining and the capsizing of the cruiser. Several of the officers had
cigarettes in watertight cases; those of the men who were able to
keep their supply of "fags" dry in their caps shared them with their
less fortunate comrades.

"I don't fancy she's going just at present," remarked Captain
Raxworthy to the commander.

"No, sir," replied the officer addressed. "She seems as steady as a
rock."

The words were hardly out of his mouth when there was a loud
explosion. An under-water valve, under the pressure of air trapped
within the hull, had been blown out. An inrush of water followed.

At first the result was imperceptible, but by degrees the hull began
to settle by the bows. The stern rose until the tips of the twin
propellers showed above the surface.

"All hands aft," ordered Captain Raxworthy, in the hope that the
redistribution of weight would keep the hull in a horizontal
position.

The precaution was in vain. Shuddering, the huge mass dipped and,
gliding, disappeared beneath the surface, leaving four hundred men
struggling for dear life in the agitated water.

The end had come so suddenly that there had not been time for the men
to leap clear. Numbers of them were sucked down by the vortex caused
by the foundering vessel, only to reappear, thirty seconds later, a
struggling, wellnigh breathless mass of humanity.

As the "Heracles" made her final plunge, Tressidar and Greenwood
grasped the motionless form of Midshipman Picklecombe. They had
previously buckled a life-belt, willingly surrendered by a
powerfully-built stoker, round the lad; Greenwood had an inflated
swimming-collar, while Tressidar had to rely upon his own efforts to
keep afloat until he could find something capable of supporting him
in the water.

The three officers were in the midst of a crowd of swimmers, all more
or less boisterous in their determination to encourage each other.
Hard by were the boats, the oarsmen voluntarily taking turns at
leaping overboard and surrendering their place to their less hardy
comrades. The concertina-player still stuck gamely to his instrument,
and, supported by a couple of petrol-tins, was leading the singing of
"A Little Grey Home in the West."

Striking out towards one of the boats, Tressidar and Greenwood handed
their unconscious charge into the care of the fleet surgeon. Relieved
of this anxiety, they floated, exchanging desultory conversation and
keeping a longing watch for the expected aid that showed no signs of
forthcoming.

Half an hour passed. The singing had died away. Men were realising
that every ounce of strength must be jealously guarded. The
concertina-player had abandoned his efforts and had allowed the
instrument to slip from his benumbed fingers and drift slowly away.

With ever-increasing frequency men would relax their grasp and
disappear beneath the surface without a sound. In several instances
their comrades would dive and bring the senseless bodies to the
surface. Deeds of heroism, the facts of which would never be made
public, occurred time after time, but in spite of the efforts of the
hardier of the crew many a man "lost the number of his mess."

Overhead the sun shone resplendent in a cloudless sky, as if to mock
the feeble struggles of the men in the bitterly cold water. And still
no sign of the eagerly expected succour. Hoping against hope, the
survivors began to realise that unless almost a miracle took place
they would never again see their native shores.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE HOMECOMING OF THE S.S. "MEROPE"


"EVENIN' paper. British cruiser sunk."

The shrill cries of a very small youth blessed with a pair of
powerful lungs greeted Doris Greenwood as the train in which she was
travelling south from Scotland pulled up at Peterborough.

The majority of the passengers heard the announcement with hardly
more than passing interest. This was one of the results of the
greatest war the world has ever seen. In the early phases of the
struggle the loss of a British warship, in spite of the fact that the
Press took particular pains to explain that she was a semi-obsolete
craft of no great fighting value, was a subject of great concern. On
the principle that familiarity breeds contempt, the recurrence of for
the most part unavoidable naval disasters was borne by the public
with a fatalism bordering upon indifference, save by those whose kith
and kin were fighting "somewhere in the North Sea," or were upholding
the traditions of the Senior Service in the distant seas within the
war zone.

The loss of the "Titanic" in the piping times of peace afforded
columns of detailed copy in the Press. The torpedoing or mining of a
battleship in the Great War was curtly dismissed in half a dozen
lines.

Stepping into the corridor of the carriage, Doris called to the
newsboy and bought a paper. An inexplicable kind of presentiment
gripped the girl's mind as she unfolded the double sheet of paper,
still moist from the printing-press.

The double-leaded headlines gave no information on the particular
subject; nor did the rest of the ordinary headings. Sandwiched
between reports of local markets and racing was a blurred "Stop
Press" announcement:

"The Secretary of the Admiralty regrets to report that the light
cruiser 'Heracles' has been sunk. Feared loss of all hands."

How, when, or where was not stated, nor was any mention made of the
engagement with the two German cruisers. The uncertainty of the whole
business, save for the absolute statement that the "Heracles" was
lost, rendered the blow even more stunning. For the rest of the
journey to King's Cross Doris sat dry-eyed, hardly able to grasp the
dread significance of the terrible news.

The girl had been somewhat unexpectedly given fourteen days' leave.
She was on her way to her home in Devonshire, intent upon making the
best of every moment of her hard-earned holiday. And now she was
going to a house of gloom. Eric and Ronald--her brother and the young
officer who day by day seemed more and more to her--were missing and
presumably dead.

On arriving in London, Doris found people wildly excited over the
destruction of the "Stoshfeld" and "Lemburg." The news had just been
published, together with the additional information that the
"Heracles" had been engaged with the former hostile vessel, and that
after the "Castor" and "Pollux" had sunk the "Lemburg," they had gone
in search of their consort and found unmistakable signs that she had
been sunk. For the officers and crew of the lost cruiser no hope was
now entertained.

It was late in the evening when the girl alighted at the country
station of the little Devonshire town. News of the disaster had
preceded her. Mr. Greenwood was trying to persuade himself that it
was his privilege to be the father of one who had given his life for
King and Country, but somehow the attempt was a dismal failure. Mrs.
Greenwood was on the verge of collapse and required all the attention
that could be given. The horrible uncertainty--the lack of definite
evidence--was the hardest for her to bear.

Several days passed. Letters of condolence began to arrive, each
missive driving another nail into the coffin of a dead hope. The
official notification from the Admiralty of the presumed death of
Assistant Paymaster Eric Greenwood, R.N.R., gave the coup de grâce
to the long-drawn-out suspense.

On the seventh day after her return Doris felt that she must go for a
long ramble. The call of the cliffs was irresistible. Accompanied by
her dog, she set out in the direction of Prawle Point, a favourite
walk in those long-ago pre-war days.

It was misty when the girl gained the edge of the red cliffs. A
sea-fog had held for nearly forty-eight hours. The on-shore wind blew
cold and clammy, although spring was well advanced and the trees and
hedges were acquiring their new garb of verdure. Some distance away
the fog signals from Start Point gave out its mournful wail--one
blast of seven seconds every two minutes. It seemed in harmony with
the times--a dirge over the ocean grave of many a brave seaman, lost
in the service of his country. Doris wandered on till she came within
a short distance of the signal station. Here she sat, watching the
sullen rollers breaking into masses of foam against the jagged ledges
of rock that jut out from the wild Prawle Point.

Along the narrow cliff path a sailor was tramping. As he approached,
Doris recognised him as one of the coastguards from the neighbouring
station. Owing to the importance of the station, the men had not been
sent afloat on the outbreak of war, as was the case of hundreds of
the detachments scattered around the coast; they did their duty well
by remaining for signalling purposes, as several hostile submarines
found to their cost.

The man knew Doris. Saluting, he stopped and chatted. Aware of the
girl's loss, he tactfully made no reference to the sinking of the
"Heracles," but confined his remarks to events in the district.

Presently the sun burst through the bank of mist. As if by magic the
sea became visible for several miles. It was not deserted. A long way
from shore two large transports escorted by destroyers were
proceeding up-Channel. Considerably nearer was a small tramp,
steaming in the direction of Prawle Point.

The coastguard paused in the midst of a detailed description of his
garden and looked seaward.

"What is that vessel coming straight towards the shore for?" asked
Doris.

"Dunno, miss; that is, unless she's been bamboozled by the fog and is
coming in to make sure of her position. Maybe the coast appears a bit
hazy from where she is. There, I thought so; she's porting her helm.
She's off up-Channel."

As he spoke, the tramp hoisted her colours over a red and white
pennant--signifying that she wished to communicate with the signal
station. Slowing down, she exchanged signals for nearly a quarter of
an hour, then proceeded with increased speed in an easterly
direction.

"Quite a lot of signalling," remarked Doris.

"Yes, miss," agreed the man. "More'n usual. P'raps she's been chased
by a German submarine, though there don't look much wrong with her.
You'm curious, miss?"

"A little," admitted the girl. "At these times messages from passing
ships may mean a lot."

"True, miss, true," agreed the coastguard as he prepared to resume
his way. "I'll enquire, miss, an' if it ain't confidential, I'll nip
back and tell 'ee."

The girl sat down again, and, almost unconsciously patting the dog,
kept her eyes directed seawards. She had almost forgotten the
coastguard's promise when she became aware that he was returning
swiftly.

"Miss," he exclaimed excitedly, "'tes good news. Yon vessel is the
'Merope.' She's got on board a hundred an' eleven officers and men
from the 'Heracles.' She's landing 'em at Dartmouth."

"Any names?" asked the girl.

"No, miss."

"Thank you," she said quietly, then she set off homewards.

One hundred and eleven survivors. Roughly one in every five of the
"Heracles'" original complement. Was it too much to hope that the two
in whom she was most concerned were amongst those who had escaped?

Gradually she formed her plans. Until more news was obtainable, she
decided not to raise false hopes in her parents' minds. She would
keep the tidings to herself until----

The hoot of a motor-car interrupted her train of thought. Bowling
along the narrow, sunken lane was a six-seater owned by Dr. Cardyke,
a retired practitioner who had been "dug out" of his retreat to act
as surgeon to a military hospital.

Recognising the girl, the doctor slowed down.

"A lift, Miss Greenwood? I'm going close to your house?"

Doris accepted the invitation gratefully.

"I'm just off to Dartmouth and back," continued the doctor.
"Wonderful things these cars after one has been used to a horse. Get
there in no time, to use a common expression."

Dr. Cardyke spoke with all the enthusiasm of a keen motorist, in
spite of his sixty-odd years. Had he been any one else but a
well-known country practitioner, he might have been "run in" for
furious driving times without number, but luck and a "benevolent
neutrality" on the part of the police had hitherto steered him clear
of the police-courts.

"Dartmouth?" repeated Doris. "Would you mind, doctor, if you--I mean,
will you take me to Dartmouth with you?"

"Certainly, my dear young lady," replied the doctor gallantly. "But,
pardon my curiosity, for why? It's too late to do any shopping, you
know. Early closing day, you know."

"It's not that," said the girl, glad of the chance to confide her
secret and her hopes to someone. "There are more than a hundred
survivors of the 'Heracles' being landed at Dartmouth, and I----"

The sentence remained unfinished. Dr. Cardyke gave a grunt that
betokened sympathy and encouragement.

"'Pon my word!" he exclaimed as he touched the accelerator. "'Pon my
word! How very remarkable!"

The car simply bounded along. The straight level road by Slapton
Sands it covered at a good fifty miles an hour; with hardly a
perceptible effort, but with many a jolt, it breasted the steep
ascent at Stoke Fleming and was soon careering madly down the almost
precipitous slope to the valley of the Dart, never halting till it
pulled up on the quay of old-world Dartmouth.

"There she is, sir," said a fisherman in answer to the doctor's
enquiry. "Just a-comin' round Castle Ledge."

News of the impending arrival of the survivors of the "Heracles," had
preceded the "Merope." Already Lloyd's staff at Prawle Point had
telegraphed the glad tidings, and the report had been spread far and
wide. Hundreds of Dartmouth townsfolk were gathered on the quays and
on the high ground by the old castle. Half a dozen steamboats crammed
with wildly excited naval cadets had left the College quay and were
pelting down the harbour to greet the returning warriors. Dartmouth
had not seen such a day since the last pre-war regatta.

Slowly the "Merope" approached the anchorage on the Kingswear side of
the harbour. As she drew abreast of the quay Doris could see the
comparatively limited expanse of deck crowded with men. Few of them
wore naval uniforms. Here and there could be distinguished a seaman
wearing a service jumper or a naval cap, but for the most part they
were rigged out in canvas clothing. Some were actually wearing
garments fashioned out of blankets.

"Hulloa there, Bill," shouted a Dartmouth waterman recognising an old
friend on the tramp's deck. "You'm all right, us hopes?"

"Ay," was the reply, "but deuced hungry." The man voiced the
sentiments of his comrades. They were in high spirits in spite of
short rations.

An outward-bound Scandinavian steamer had effected the rescue of the
survivors of the "Heracles," and not being equipped with wireless she
was unable to send the reassuring news to any of the British cruisers
which were searching fruitlessly over the spot where their consort
had foundered five hours previously.

Twenty-four hours later the rescuing ship fell in with the "Merope,"
homeward bound, and in spite of limited accommodation and provisions
her skipper gladly offered to tranship the hundred-odd officers and
men of the "Heracles."

Strangely enough, the "Merope" gained the "Chops of the Channel"
without getting within signalling distance of any other craft. Then a
thick fog swept down, preventing her from communicating with either
the Scillies or with the Lizard Station. Food was now running out.
The tramp's exact position was unknown, until the sudden dispersal of
the fog revealed the fact that she was within signalling distance of
Prawle Point. Thus it was that her skipper judiciously decided to put
in to Dartmouth, land her supernumeraries and revictual before
resuming her voyage to London.

Amidst the scene of excitement Doris Greenwood remained perfectly
calm--at least outwardly. Several times Dr. Cardyke glanced furtively
at his companion's face.

"Plucky girl," he soliloquised. "Frightfully plucky. If her brother
isn't on board, by Jove----"

A burst of cheering, louder than ever, interrupted his thoughts. The
"Merope" had brought up. Her accommodation-ladder was already
lowered; a small fleet of boats rubbed alongside her iron-rusted
hull.

"They'm landing the whole of 'em at Kingswear side, I'll allow,"
declared an old salt. "Off to Plymouth 'tes for they--court-martial,
or summat o' that sort."

The girl could stand the suspense no longer. Descending from the car,
she called to an urchin who was about to put off in a flat-bottomed,
leaky punt. It was the only available craft, for almost everything
that would float was crowded with sightseers.

"Boy," she called, "will you take me off to that ship?"

The sight of a shilling decided the youngster to break faith with
half a dozen of his pals, who were waiting until he had baled out his
leaky argosy.

She was only just in time, for the old salt's surmise was correct.
Officers and men were to be sent to the Devonport Naval Barracks to
await a court of enquiry.

"Hulloa, Doris!"

It was Eric's voice. She hardly recognised in the speaker her
brother. A week's growth upon his chin, his alert figure grotesquely
hidden in a dungaree boiler-suit, a tarry canvas cap set jauntily on
his head, and his arm in a sling.

The A.P. leant over the coaming of the picquet-boat and grasped his
sister's outstretched hand.

"Bit of a surprise, eh?" he remarked. "How on earth did you get wind
of it? And so jolly near home, too. If ever I felt like breaking ship
it's now. Never mind, old girl! This will mean a week's leave very
soon."

"And Ronald?" she asked.

"They took him ashore not two minutes ago," replied the A.P. "Cot
case, you know----"

"Not seriously wounded?"

"No. Effects of exhaustion. We all had a pretty rough time, and old
Tressidar was a brick... we're off. Push off, boy!"

The picquet-boat began to back away from the ladder, two of her crew
using their boat-hooks to fend off the crowd of shore-craft.

"S'long, Doris," was her brother's farewell greeting. "No use coming
across. They won't let you into the station. I'll give Tressidar the
tip that I've seen you."

As the picquet-boat glided astern, Doris overheard a voice exclaim,
"Tressidar's a lucky dog, dash it all!"

It was the engineer-sub-lieutenant who had vainly begged Tressidar
for an introduction on the memorable day when the "Pompey" was sunk
in Auldhaig Firth.

"Well," was Dr. Cardyke's comment as the girl ran lightly back to the
car. "It's good news, I can see. No need to ask that. Now what's the
programme?"

"You have business in Dartmouth," she reminded him.

"Done," rejoined the doctor laconically. "Done, while you were
risking your life in that cockleshell. Suppose it's home to tell the
good news?"

"Yes, if you please," replied the girl, and to her companion's mild
astonishment he saw that she was crying. They were tears not of
sorrow, but of joy and thankfulness--of relief that the sea had
returned to her those she loved.



CHAPTER XXVII

A DAY ON DARTMOOR


"SAY, Greenwood, I feel an odd man out with this little crew. Nip in
and come along to keep me company. While these young people are
roaming over the moors, we'll try our luck with the trout."

The speaker was Dr. Cardyke. A week had elapsed since the "Merope"
had put in to Dartmouth. The court of enquiry was a thing of the
past, and the surviving officers and men of the "Heracles" had been
given leave.

Tressidar had gone home, having first given young Greenwood a ready
promise to put in a day or two at the Greenwoods' house, and now the
sub. was fulfilling his obligations.

On the morning following Tressidar's arrival the genial doctor had
given the Greenwoods and their guest an invitation for a "spin in
the car." Cardyke's "spin" meant a whole day on the breezy uplands of
Dartmoor. Mrs. Greenwood, still feeling the reaction of her prolonged
suspense, was unable to go. Her husband, having to report himself
that night for duty with the National Guards, also "cried off,"
though not without regret. Yet, he argued proudly, work in the
service of one's country that does not entail self-sacrifice isn't
worth being called patriotism.

Consequently the doctor's guests were Doris and her friend Norah
Ward, Eric and Ronald, and, in view of the possibility, nay
probability, that he would have to commune with nature while the
youthful picnickers roamed the moors, he again threw out an
invitation to his old crony with the alluring prospect of
trout-fishing thrown in.

"Duty, Cardyke, duty," protested Mr. Greenwood, although the doctor
saw that he was wavering. "Must report at Ferncoombe Reservoir at
eleven-thirty to-night."

"We'll be back long before then," said the doctor tentatively.

"I know what your motor spins are, my dear fellow," rejoined Mr.
Greenwood. "It's a good hour and a half's tramp from here to
Ferncoombe, remember."

"Look here, slip into your uniform. A trout won't fight shy of a fly
any more for that, you know. We'll have a topping time, and I'll drop
you at Ferncoombe on the return journey."

Greenwood senior figuratively hauled down his colours. With great
alacrity he donned his uniform of the National Guard, deposited his
rifle and fishing-tackle in the car, and took his seat alongside the
doctor. The rest of the party were already in occupation of the
remaining "crew-space," together with a well-filled hamper and
Doris's Irish terrier.

Over the hilly road the car sped, until it gained the outskirts of a
little village on the fringe of the wildly majestic Dartmoor.

"She's running badly," remarked the doctor to his companion.
"Deucedly strange. I never knew her to act like that before and on a
day like this."

He slowed down and pulled up. An examination revealed the fact that
the radiator tank was empty.

"Not a serious matter," declared Dr. Cardyke. "I'll ask for a can of
water at yonder cottage." A comely, sun-bonneted Devonshire
countrywoman willingly complied with his request. While engaged in
refilling the tank the doctor casually noticed that two men were
passing.

"Joy-riding in war-time," remarked one to his companion in a tone
that was obviously intended for the motorists' ears. "Pity those
young fellows haven't anything better to do."

Tressidar and the A.P. smiled. They regarded the remark as a joke.
Being in mufti, they had been taken for a pair of young slackers.

Not so Dr. Cardyke. Setting the can of water on the ground, he strode
resolutely up to the man who had uttered the uncalled-for remark.

"Allow me to inform you," he said cuttingly to the somewhat
astonished fellow, "that these gentlemen are naval officers. Both
have been in action, and on two occasions their ships have been mined
or torpedoed. The young lady [indicating Doris] is a nurse at a naval
hospital that has been under hostile fire. Her companion is a
voluntary Red Cross worker. My friend here, in spite of his years,
is, as you see, a member of the National Guard; while I, a medical
man, am engaged in purely voluntary work at three military hospitals
in the district. If we choose to take a well-earned holiday, is it
any concern of yours? Now, since you have interfered with our
business, perhaps you will not object if I meddle with yours. What
are you doing for your country?"

"I am engaged on the registration of women workers on the land,"
replied the man airily.

"Should have thought that the registration part was essentially a
woman's work," rejoined Dr. Cardyke drily. "But is that all? Surely
you have made an effort to serve in His Majesty's forces?"

"I'm over age," declared the man.

"Then that accounts for it," said the doctor triumphantly. "I noticed
that those who are so keen upon urging others to 'do their bit' have
good reason, or think they have good reason, for backing out
themselves. Yes, sir, I said backing out. Allow me to inform you that
no recruiting officer would question your statement if you said you
were under forty. Try the experiment or perhaps you haven't the
pluck."

The busybody slunk away, and the triumphant doctor returned to
complete his task.

The journey was resumed. Up and up climbed the car 'twixt frowning
tors and across stretches of wild moor clad in yellow gorse, through
which trickled numerous mountain torrents on their way to feed the
silvery Dart. Frequently a startled rabbit would rush across the road
and dive for safety into the brushwood. Wild birds, alarmed by the
purr of the motor, fled with strange cries to seek a more secluded
ground. Once a red fox, caught napping, bounded frantically across a
stream. These were the only signs of life visible from the car. Of
human habitation, not a vestige in the wild expanse.

At length the doctor drove the car very gently on to the side of the
road and stopped. This precaution was hardly necessary, since passing
vehicles were few and far between.

"Now, you young people," he exclaimed, "it's a couple of hours to
lunch time, unless you are ravenous already. Come along, Greenwood.
Where's your tackle? A cloudy morning like this ought to make the
trout rise. There's a capital stream less than a quarter of a mile
away."

By tacit consent the party separated, Tressidar and Doris making
their way in one direction, the A.P. and Norah in another. Whence
they went and the nature of the conversation was a matter that
concerned themselves. At any rate, it was safe to conjecture that
they were engrossed in each other's company, since the sub. and his
companion returned twenty minutes after the prearranged time and the
A.P. and Norah a quarter of an hour later to find that the doctor and
Greenwood senior were still lost to time and the call of hunger and
were lingering over their rods by the swiftly rushing
mountain-stream.

At length, in high spirits, the party assembled for lunch, the
fishermen displaying with pardonable pride the successful result of
their sport.

"Now, then, Tressidar," sang out the doctor as he prepared to cut a
veal and ham pie, "make yourself useful. You might uncork these
bottles."

"Shall I dissect the pie, sir?" asked the sub.

"The pie?" repeated Dr. Cardyke. "That's what I'm doing. Why do you
ask?"

"We'll have to hoist the S.O.S. signal if you carry on," said
Tressidar, laughing. "Already you've dropped a fish-hook into the
gravy, and it looks as if there are more to follow."

"A good excuse to remove my coat," rejoined the doctor
good-humouredly. "It certainly is hot for this time of year."

According to the custom adopted by freshwater fishermen, Dr. Cardyke
had stuck his spare hooks in the sleeve of his coat, and one of them,
being insufficiently held by the barb, had fallen into the pie-dish.

After lunch the young officers and their fair companions sauntered
off, while Greenwood senior and the doctor had "forty winks,"
followed by another bout of friendly rivalry by the trout stream.

"By Jove, Doris, isn't this simply great?" exclaimed Tressidar
enthusiastically, as the pair gained the top of a rugged tor. "Just
look at the expanse of country. Looks a bit misty down in the
valleys, though. I hope it won't get too thick. Say, do you mind if I
get a pipe under way?"

The rest of the afternoon passed only too quickly. The slanting rays
of the sun cast long shadows athwart the gorse as they made their way
back to the spot that the sub. had termed the rendezvous. By this
time the mist was rising from the low-lying ground and creeping
slowly up the hillsides, until the tors looked like islands in a sea
of slowly drifting fog.

"It will be pretty thick lower down," declared Eric during the course
of tea. "Driving through the mist is jolly tricky."

"Pooh!" exclaimed Dr. Cardyke. "Not with reasonable care. We'll shake
it off before we get to Bovey Tracey."

It was not long before the doctor found that very considerable
caution was necessary, for the fog was so dense that it was hardly
possible to distinguish the narrow road from the rest of the moor.

"Can you see where we're going, Greenwood?" he asked. "Frankly, I
can't. It's the worst fog I've ever struck."

"I haven't been able to see anything of the road for the last twenty
minutes," confessed Greenwood senior. "I think I'll change places
with young Tressidar. He's used to peering through mist, I should
imagine."

The car stopped and the change was effected, but Ronald found that he
had hopelessly lost his bearings. Everything visible was grotesquely
distorted by the fog, and magnified out of all proportion.

"Hold hard!" he exclaimed after another mile or so had been covered
at almost crawling pace. "There's something right ahead."

The "something" proved to be a sign-post at the fork of two roads.
None of the party had noticed it on the outward journey. Slowly the
car was brought alongside. It was the only way to read the
directions, if such existed. Unfortunately they didn't. The
finger-post, neglected and weather-beaten, was devoid of wording.

"There's a map in that case," observed the doctor. "Would you mind
getting it out? We'll soon see where we are."

The map was worse than useless. It was a delusion and a snare, for
nowhere within ten miles of where the car was supposed to be was a
fork road shown.

"What's wrong?" enquired the A.P. from the rear of the car.

"Out of our bearings. Suppose you don't happen to have brought a
compass?" said the sub. "Unless we are going in exactly the opposite
direction to the right one, there's not a fork road anywhere about,
according to this map."

"Don't forget I'm due at Ferncoombe tonight," sung out Mr. Greenwood
jocularly. "Now, Cardyke, get a move on."

Thus rallied, the doctor took the plunge. He restarted the car and
followed the right-hand road, arguing with himself that it must lead
somewhere, and that the fog wouldn't be so thick when clear of the
moors.

An hour passed. The car had covered certainly not more than four
miles. The doctor was showing signs of the severe strain it imposed
upon his vision and mental powers, but tactfully refusing Tressidar's
offer to drive, he stuck gamely to the steering-wheel.

It was now getting dark--and the doctor never drove at night unless
it could not be avoided, and then only on roads with which he was
well acquainted. With the decline of day the fog lifted slightly, and
showed promise of dispersing.

Having stopped to light the lamps--merely a matter of complying with
the law, since the obscured glasses gave hardly any illumination,
certainly not enough to enable the occupants of the car to avoid an
obstruction in time--the tedious journey was resumed, but at a
slightly increased speed.

"Now I think I know where we are," declared the doctor; but the next
moment he found out his mistake, for the car was on the point of
charging a flock of sheep.

A turn of the steering-wheel did the trick. Missing the foremost
sheep by inches, the car mounted a slight bank by the roadside and
commenced to slide down the steeply shelving slope of a deep valley.

The doctor shoved on the brakes. Although the wheels were locked and
the momentum retarded, the car continued its involuntary glide. Then
Tressidar had a vague impression that he was flying through the air,
and the next thing he knew was that he was sitting in a most
aggressive gorse-bush.



CHAPTER XXVIII

--AND A NIGHT


TRESSIDAR extricated himself from his uncomfortable position.
Although considerably shaken, he was practically unhurt. His first
thoughts upon realising that there had been a smash was for the other
former occupants of the car. Some distance from and well above him
the dimmed light of one of the lamps still flickered. The other had
been extinguished, either by the sudden jolt or owing to the glass
being fractured. He could distinguish the voices of Doris and Norah
and the mild expostulation of Mr. Greenwood to the accompaniment of
the bark of the Irish terrier.

He started to ascend the incline. It was so steep that he wondered
why the car had not crashed to the bottom of the valley instead of
lodging a mere thirty or forty feet below the road.

Before he had taken half a dozen steps his foot came in contact with
a human body. It was Dr. Cardyke, still gripping the steering-wheel.
The impact had snapped the steering-column like a carrot, and the
doctor, describing a parabola over the shattered screen, had carried
the wheel with him.

"Hurt?" enquired the sub. anxiously.

"No, only meditating," replied the imperturbable doctor. "I'll be all
right in a few minutes. See to the others, please."

The two girls and the A.P. had already alighted, more or less
gracefully, while Greenwood senior was wedged in between the seat and
the sadly depleted hamper. All had come off lightly, but not so the
car.

Its downward career had been stopped by a large boulder. The force of
the impact had telescoped the fore part. The front wheels were
shattered, the chassis splintered. As a car its days were ended.

"Where's Cardyke?" enquired Mr. Greenwood as he was being extricated
from the wreckage.

"Nursing the steering-wheel," replied Tressidar. "He says he isn't
hurt."

"Neither am I," added the doctor, who, having regained his feet, was
toiling up the slope. "Sorry I landed you all in this pickle.
Greenwood, I'm afraid your Ferncoombe Reservoir business is off."

"Not if I know it," resolutely replied the member of the National
Guard. "I'll get there, even if I have to tramp it."

"What's the programme, sir?" enquired Tressidar, who, after having
found a derelict cushion for the girls, was surveying the wreckage in
the dim glimmer of the expiring lamp.

"We'll try to reach the nearest village and find a conveyance,"
replied the doctor. "It can't be very far. We must be almost on the
edge of the moors, although I find I was mistaken just now. I
certainly don't remember this place."

"May as well leave everything ship-shape as far as possible,"
suggested Eric. "My word, what an escape we've had!"

All hands set to work to retrieve the scattered articles. Cushions,
portions of the mechanism, fishing-rods, Mr. Greenwood's rifle, the
clock and speedometer and a number of other articles were picked up
at varying distances from the wrecked car, some having rolled far
down the valley. These were placed for safety in the car.

"By Jove, sir!" exclaimed Tressidar. "How many clocks do you carry?
I've already found three."

"Three?" echoed the doctor. "Never."

"I'll prove it," continued the sub., leaning over the side door and
groping for the floor of the car. This he failed to find, for the
simple reason that it no longer existed. Instead was a gaping cavity
through which the retrieved articles rolled out as fast as they were
stowed away.

Just then the terrier gave a bark.

"Quiet!" ordered Doris. "Quiet, Mike!"

"There's someone coming," declared Eric. "Sounds like a horse and
cart."

"Then, thank goodness, we'll be able to find out where we are," added
Mr. Greenwood, as the whole party scaled the bank and waited in the
road for the approaching vehicle.

It proved to be a pony-trap driven by a very stout farmer. The
latter, recovering from his astonishment at being hailed in this
out-of-the-way place, informed the doctor that they were four miles
from the nearest house, five from the nearest village, and twelve
from a railway-station.

"Any motor-cars to be had in the village?" asked Dr. Cardyke. "We've
had a bad smash."

"Yes, there be a car o' sorts, zurr," replied the man, laying stress
upon the "o' sorts." "Maybe you'll be wantin' oi' tu ax the moty tu
fetch you?"

"If you would," said the doctor, "we'll be most obliged. I suppose we
can rely upon it being sent?"

"You can rely on oi, zurr, tu giv' the message," was the countryman's
non-committal reply, and, overcoming his curiosity to alight and
examine the wrecked car, he touched the pony with his whip and drove
off.

"Five miles," commented the doctor. "It will take at least an hour
before the car arrives. Let's make ourselves as comfortable as
possible in the circumstances. Has anyone a match?"

After another twenty minutes the conversation flagged. Everyone was
more or less tired, after the day spent in the bracing air.

Presently Mike began to show signs of uneasiness, straining at his
collar, through which his mistress had slipped her fingers.

"He smells a rabbit, I think," suggested Tressidar.

"Yes, and if I let him go he may not return for hours. I know him
when rabbits are about," replied Doris. "Hold him, Ronald; he's
tugging awfully hard."

The sub. did so, at the same time encircling the terrier's muzzle
with his left hand. For the time being Mike was silent.

Stealthy footsteps could be heard on the stony road. These were the
sounds that had aroused the dog, who had detected them long before
the rest of the party.

With a sudden, furious twist Mike broke away from Tressidar's grasp
and darted off through the darkness, in spite of insistent calls for
him to come to heel.

"Dash it all, Doris!" exclaimed her father. "The brute will frighten
the man into fits. If I have to pay for any damage, I'll have the
animal dest----"

His threat regarding Mike's future was interrupted by a yell,
followed by an oath--and the oath was uttered in unmistakable
German.

"That's good enough for us, old man!" exclaimed Tressidar to the A.P.
"Come along. Let's see who the Hun is."

The two officers gained the road and made their way swiftly in the
direction of the indiscreet stranger, who was now having a battle
royal with the terrier. On hearing footsteps approaching, he bawled,

"Call off your dog, will you? If you don't I'll----"

The words trailed off into another yell, as Mike nipped a piece out
of the fellow's trousers, together with a square inch of adipose
tissue.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Tressidar. "It's Jorkler."

The A.P. knew the name perfectly well. He remembered that a Jorkler
was reported killed on the occasion of the loss of the "Pompey"; but
he was unaware that his real name was Oberfurst and that he was a
spy. Tressidar had kept his promise to the rear-admiral in that
respect, but now arose the necessity for explanation.

"He's a spy," he said hurriedly. "Take care, he may be armed."

"Not likely," replied the A.P. "If he were, he would have potted the
tyke by this time."

Almost before he was aware of it, Tressidar was upon the man.
Oberfurst, having ascended a slight bank on the opposite side of the
road, was kicking at the terrier, who with canine insistence was
striving to get an opening and remove another patch of the German's
clothes.

"We've got you, Oberfurst," exclaimed Tressidar. "There are four of
us."

The spy recognised the sub.'s voice. Sheer astonishment on being
confronted in that remote part of Dartmoor by a man whom he imagined
was still interned in Denmark "took the wind out of his sails." Mike,
seeing the advantage, leapt forward, only to be hurled backward by a
powerful kick of the German's boot.

Simultaneously Tressidar and the A.P. threw themselves upon the spy,
but they had not taken into account the slippery state of the ground
owing to the heavy mist. Eric, his feet sliding from under him, fell
on his face across the body of the still yelping Mike. The sub.,
adopting Rugby tactics, tackled his man low, but was unable to secure
a hold.

In a trice the spy broke away and ran swiftly along the stony road in
the direction of the doctor and the rest of the party.

Too late did Oberfurst make the discovery that there were more than
two adversaries, for Dr. Cardyke and Greenwood senior gamely sought
to bar the German's way.

At the first alarm Mr. Greenwood had seized his rifle. True, he had
no cartridges; perhaps for his son's and Tressidar's safety it was as
well that he had not.

The doctor, being slightly in advance of his friend, received the
brunt of the second phase of the night operations, for the spy, using
his feet in the approved Continental style, kicked Cardyke on his
left knee, at the same time gripping the doctor's arm.

Then it was that Oberfurst met his Waterloo, for his palm came in
contact with the formidable array of fish-hooks that the doctor still
kept in his coat-sleeve. Uttering a yell as the barbs lacerated his
flesh, the spy again attempted to break away. As he did so, Greenwood
senior prodded him in the ribs with the butt-end of his rifle and
stretched him out breathless on the road, just as Tressidar and the
A.P. again appeared upon the scene.

Otto Oberfurst had been far from inactive since the "Nordby"
incident. Having given the Danish skipper the slip, the spy made his
way to Aarhuus, whence, having obtained false papers, he posed as a
British mercantile seaman whose vessel had been mined in the North
Sea.

It was his intention to return to Great Britain with the least
possible delay and resume his nefarious operations. For two reasons:
firstly, that he thought it unlikely that the British authorities
would suspect his presence after what had occurred. The very audacity
of his plan would tend to put them off the scent. Secondly, he knew
full well that the Head of the German Secret Service would not
overlook his blunder unless he promptly outweighed his error by a
brilliant coup.

Accordingly he landed at Hull, and before twenty-four hours had
elapsed was within an ace of destroying a munitions factory. Foiled,
he went south, and, by blowing up two unguarded railway tunnels,
delayed important movement of troops on the way to Flanders. Here,
again, it was only by a sheer fluke that the troop train was not
derailed.

In due course accounts of the demolished tunnels appeared in the
Press, with the suggestion that the disasters had been caused by
subsidences after the heavy rains, and thus public apprehension was
allayed.

Having reported himself to his chief, von Schenck ordered him to the
West of England to assist in the escape of three German officers from
the detention camp, and to help them to cross to Ireland in readiness
for a revolt of the Sinn Feiners. Already the German authorities were
in full possession of the knowledge that an armed rising was imminent
in Ireland, and in addition to arms being conveyed thither in Hun
ships disguised as neutral merchantmen, arrangements had been made
for several German officers at present prisoners of war to join the
insurgents.

In this West Country detention camp it was a matter of consummate
ease to communicate with the imprisoned German officers. Many of the
latter were on parole (although it is generally recognised that a Hun
regards the breaking of his plighted word as a smart piece of work),
and were permitted to go freely into the neighbouring town on two
days a week. They were also allowed to purchase English daily papers
without the latter being examined when brought into the camp, and
thus many a ciphered communication passed between the prisoners and
their compatriots without.

Otto Oberfurst's method of getting into touch with the three Huns was
simplicity itself. He would buy a daily paper and make a pinprick
through those letters required to make up a word or sentence. Only by
holding the paper up to the light could the minute holes be detected.
Nor was it a difficult matter for the prisoners to obtain maps,
pocket compasses, and small but powerful wire-cutters.

The next business was to arrange for the German officers to be taken
across to Ireland. In view of the strict regulations governing the
departure of British subjects from British ports, it was obviously a
matter of almost impossibility to smuggle three young Teutons on
board a ship lying in port. Oberfurst had thought of stealing a yacht
from some unfrequented harbour, until he realised the risk of being
caught by the vigilant patrols in the Bristol Channel and especially
in the Irish Sea.

Eventually through an intermediary--he was too wily to negotiate
direct--he arranged with the hyphenated American skipper of a Yankee
tramp, that was shortly to leave Bristol for New York, to close with
the North Devon coast in the vicinity of the unfrequented Hartland
Point. The skipper was to heave-to and send a boat ashore at 3 a.m.,
and pick up the three fugitives.

Oberfurst left little to chance. A powerful motor-car took him from
Exeter to a point four miles from the camp. He intended to proceed on
foot to a prearranged rendezvous, await the German officers and walk
with them for another four miles across the moors, and to pick up
another car which was to convey the fugitives to within a short
distance of the coast.

Unfortunately for him, on leaving the first car he had followed the
road by which Tressidar and his companions were keeping their weary
vigil, and now he was a prisoner.

In the event of his plans going awry, he had firmly decided not to be
taken alive. At the same time he would make a desperate bid for
freedom before proceeding to the last extremity. In this resolve he
was thwarted. The intense pain of the laceration of his hand by the
fish-hooks, quickly followed by Mr. Greenwood's drastic and effectual
action, had completed his discomfiture before he realised that the
game was up.

"Now, my fine bird," thought Tressidar as he surveyed his captive,
"I'll take good care you don't slip through our fingers this time."

The spy made no movement, nor did he speak a word. Lying on the
ground with his legs and arms tied and Mr. Greenwood proudly mounting
guard over him, he looked helpless enough; but the sub. knew his man
and took no risks. He stood by, ready at the first suspicious
movement to act promptly and effectually.

At length the expected motor-car arrived. At the very most it could
accommodate five, not including the chauffeur. Here, indeed, was a
puzzle. Someone had to be left behind. Mr. Greenwood was on his
honour to turn up at the reservoir for guard duties. Tressidar and
the A.P. were necessary, being the only active male members of the
party, to guard the spy, who could not very well be placed in the
seat alongside the chauffeur. Doris and Norah could not be left
behind, nor was it desirable for them to be in close proximity to the
Hun. Dr. Cardyke was beginning to feel the effects of his tumble,
and, taking in consideration his age, it was unwise to leave him
exposed to the cold night air longer than could be avoided.

"Then Eric and I will remain with our old pal Oberfurst," said
Tressidar. "The rest of you carry on. Don't wait if you find a train
at the station. The car can come back for us. How about the wreckage,
doctor?"

"Can stop," decided Dr. Cardyke firmly. "I've done with the thing.
I'll send a cart in the morning to collect the luggage and things
that are of value. Well, good-bye, Tressidar, Wish you luck with your
capture."

The car, a wheezy, American-built one, started and was soon lost to
sight and hearing in the darkness, while the two naval officers were
left with their prisoner.

In an hour and a half the motor returned. Oberfurst, offering no
resistance, was placed therein, Tressidar and the A.P. sitting on the
seat facing him and keeping a watch on every movement.

Without incident the spy and his escort arrived at the little
village. Here Oberfurst was handed over to the care of the local
constabulary, the police-sergeant having been cautioned concerning
the desperate character of the prisoner. The last train having gone,
Tressidar and Eric were obliged to engage the chauffeur to drive
home. After a tedious journey they reached the Greenwoods' house to
find that the girls had not arrived, and that Mrs Greenwood was in a
state of great nervous anxiety.

To make matters worse, two telegrams were awaiting the sub. and the
A.P. The former's had been forwarded from his home in Cornwall. Both
were of the same nature:

"Report for instant duty at Naval Barracks, Devonport--urgent."



CHAPTER XXIX

WHEN THE TRAWLERS SHOWED FIGHT


"MUST be on the move at once," declared the A.P. "Ten precious hours
wasted."

"Hardly," corrected the sub. "We've bagged an important prize. But,
dash it all! Here I am in mufti, and my kit is at home. Telegraph
office is closed for to-night, and there's no train beyond Plymouth
even if there were time to make a dash for home."

"And that ramshackle motor has departed," added Eric. "In the words
of the great tragedian What's-his-name, 'Alas! sirs, I am undone.'
Now, the question is, how are two dog-tired fellows to get to
Devonport? It's a serious matter, old man. Who knows? Perhaps the
Admiralty have news that 'They' have come out at last. The papers
reported signs of German naval activity in the North Sea, you know."

"And therefore I am inclined to doubt whether the Huns have
ventured," said Tressidar. "You can bet your bottom dollar when they
do come out they won't give the papers time to advertise the fact.
But I quite agree with you, old man, this is a serious business. Have
you a time-table?"

"Here we are," exclaimed the A.P. triumphantly. "If we pad the hoof
to Totnes, we'll just catch the night mail. That will land us in
Plymouth at 1 a.m."

He was busy packing his portmanteau, desisting only to hunt up the
train. With the sub.'s assistance he contrived to close the bulky
leather case.

"Well, good-bye, mother," he exclaimed. "Sorry the governor and Doris
aren't here to say good-bye Suppose I can't grouse at having my leave
cut down.... May be home again in a few months. So buck up, mother;
it's no use being down in the dumps, is it?"

Tressidar had deliberately gone out of the house. The A.P. rejoined
him in a few minutes.

"Can't understand why the mater gets in such a stew," he remarked.
"She ought to be used to saying good-bye by this time. I do my level
best to tell her that there's little danger, certainly less than in
the trenches in France, but she won't see it. Now, then; it's six
good miles of hilly road. Wonder how old Overfirst, or whatever his
tally is, likes being in the cells?"

It was three in the morning when the two chums arrived at the Naval
Barracks. Here they received the information that they were both
appointed to the brand-new monitor "Anzac," in lieu of two officers
who had been sent to hospital. The "Anzac" was leaving the Hamoaze
for Portsmouth at 9 a.m.

"Kitted out" by an obliging brother-officer, who also undertook to
forward Tressidar's gear as soon as possible, the sub., accompanied
by Eric, hurried on board.

Viewed in the waning starlight, for day was on the point of breaking,
the "Anzac" appeared to be a vessel of about two hundred feet in
length, with a tripod mast surmounted by a large fire-control
platform. She had but one funnel, well abaft the mast. For'ard of the
conning-tower was a turret mounting a pair of fourteen-inch guns;
four six-inch quick-firers thrust their muzzles through casemates in
the superstructure; while four twelve-pounder anti-aircraft guns and
a pair of searchlight projectors were placed upon the bridge and a
raised platform at the after-end of the superstructure.

At first sight the monitor gave the impression that she was
top-heavy, until her enormous beam and length beyond each end of the
superstructure belied the suggestion. The hull proper was little less
than four hundred feet in length, with a maximum beam of one hundred
and twenty. Her draught was but five feet six inches, the freeboard
being but two feet for'ard and eighteen inches aft. Her maximum speed
was a bare seven and a half knots.

The "Anzac" was still in the throes that invariably attend the first
commissioning of a new vessel, for she had left the Clyde only three
days previously, and had put in to Devonport to ship her
fourteen-inch guns. On the run round to Portsmouth she was to undergo
gunnery trials, and if no serious defects were revealed, she was to
proceed to the North Sea to take part in impending operations.

Dog-tired, Tressidar turned in as soon as the chums had reported
themselves to the officer of the watch. It seemed less than five
minutes, although it was four bells (6 a.m.), when the sub. was
roused and informed that the captain wished to see him.

"A wigging for being late, I suppose," he soliloquised. "A jolly bad
beginning."

But he was mistaken. An armed trawler was to be navigated to
Portsmouth, and the "Anzac" had to provide an officer and crew for
the job. Tressidar, being the most recently joined, was selected by
his skipper for this service.

"The 'Gannet' is lying off Wilcove," continued the skipper of the
"Anzac." "She's ready for sea with the exception of victualling
stores. You will have to demand these from Royal William Yard. She'll
do twenty knots easily, without having to drive her, and even if we
have a good start you ought to overhaul us before Portland Bill is
abeam."

Already the crew told off for the service had fallen in for
inspection. They numbered ten hands, including a chief petty officer.
The "Gannet's" engine-room staff were already on board, having been
shipped when the vessel left Belfast, where she had been re-engined.

The "trawler" was in fact a trawler no longer. A comparatively new
boat, with lines that promised a fair turn of speed, she had been
taken over by the Admiralty for use as a patrol vessel. Her machinery
was removed and turbine engines substituted, giving her a maximum
speed of twenty-eight knots. Her armament consisted of two
twelve-pounder quick-firers, so woe betide the luckless German
submarine that might mistake the "Gannet" for a slow and helpless
fishing-craft.

Disquieting reports of the presence of a hostile submarine off St.
Catherine's Point, a craft that had hitherto successfully evaded all
attempts at capture or destruction, had necessitated the presence of
the "Gannet" off the Isle of Wight, and arrangements had been made to
"turn over" the R.N.R. crew of another armed trawler directly
Tressidar brought his command into Spithead.

By dint of strenuous exertion the "Gannet" was able to leave Plymouth
Sound at noon--the "Anzac" having had three hours start--and once
outside the Breakwater, the sub. ordered fifteen knots, which were
increased to twenty as soon as Bigbury Head was broad on the port
beam.

"It would be a rare slice of luck," thought the sub., "if we could
bag the strafed 'U' boat in the run up Channel, but that is asking
for too much, I'm afraid."

The sea was smooth, with a long, oily roll. The sky was inclined to
be misty, although it was possible to discern The Start, now less
than ten miles off on the port bow. There were no signs of the
"Anzac." The sea appeared to be deserted, except for two large
Brixham trawlers, that, with all sail set, were floundering in almost
a dead calm at a distance of about three miles on the starboard bow.

"Those luggers seem pretty close together, sir," remarked the
helmsman of the "Gannet."

The sub. brought his glasses to bear upon the trawlers. Even allowing
for the lack of ability to judge distance when seen through a pair of
binoculars, Tressidar was bound to confess that there was something
strange about the position of the two vessels. They appeared to be
almost side by side. The wind, such as it was, was dead astern. One
of the trawlers had her mainsail right out on the port tack, the
other on the starboard, so that the outer cloths of each sail were
rubbing against each other as the boats rolled sluggishly in the long
swell.

"They are showing no signals of distress," said Tressidar. "At least,
none are visible. I fancy there's smoke arising from one of them.
Deucedly fishy, by Jove! I've a mind to see what the game is. Port
your helm, quartermaster. Keep her at that."

With his glasses still bearing upon the Brixham boats, Tressidar
puzzled over the situation until the "Gannet" was within a mile of
the trawlers.

Suddenly he replaced his binoculars, grasped the handle of the
telegraph indicator and called for full speed ahead, at the same time
ordering all hands to action stations, for lying between the two
fishing luggers was a German submarine.

Almost before the guns' crews could stand to their quick-firers the
"Gannet" was within hailing distance. To Tressidar's surprise, he
discovered that the unterseeboot was lashed to the fishing-vessels
and that four of her crew were standing with their hands held above
their heads, while the skipper and deck hands of each trawler were
calmly surveying the Germans from the decks of their respective
craft.

"You'm too late, maaster," sung out one of the Devon skippers. "Us'n
done the trick proper-like. Still, if you'm a mind tu finish the
business 'twill save we a mort o' trouble."

"I thought that the Germans were sinking you," replied Tressidar.
"Stand by with a line. We are running alongside."

The "Gannet," losing way, made fast to one of the trawlers, and
Tressidar, accompanied by half a dozen armed men, gained the
fishing-lugger's deck.

The sub. was greeted by a tall, broad-shouldered Devonshire man of
about fifty years of age. His heavily bearded face was almost hidden
under a sou'wester, in spite of the fact that the sun was shining
brightly. On the deck just abaft the windlass was a young German
unter-leutnant, bound hand and foot and obviously half dazed with the
result of a blow on the left temple. Two German seamen, their clothes
saturated with water, were lashed to the mizzen mast.


[Illustration: "ON THE DECK WAS A GERMAN UNTER-LEUTNANT, BOUND HAND
AND FOOT"]


The trawler had sustained damage. Her bitts had been carried away,
with the result that her bowsprit had run in, and a raffle of head
sails and gear littered the fo'c'sle. The other trawler appeared to
be undamaged, with the exception of a large rent in her mainsail. The
submarine, or as much as was visible above water, looked a wreck. The
cover of her conning-tower hatchway was buckled, her twin periscopes
had been snapped off close to the deck. Her ensign staff, with the
Black Cross flying, was trailing over the side, and one of her
disappearing guns had been dismounted.

"She tried her tricks on we, an' we wouldn't have any," declared the
skipper proudly. "Them didn't reckon wi' Devon lads, did 'em, Bill?"

His mate, thus appealed to, merely grinned and scratched his head.
Nor was the master of the second lugger more communicative.

"Us seed Charlie a-doin' the job properlike, so we gi' a hand. Not as
though Charlie wasn't good enough for the job," he explained, "but us
thought 'twas a good chance to get our own back, so we chipped in."

Early that morning the luggers "Crown and Sceptre" and "Unity" had
left Brixham in company. The weather then was considerably more hazy
that it was later in the day. Having made good hauls, the trawlers
were beating up towards The Start when a German submarine suddenly
poked its ugly snout above water. Making certain that the two craft
were really fishing-boats and not armed trawlers, the Hun commander
decided to replenish his grub-locker with fish from the English craft
and then send the Brixham trawlers to the bottom.

The "Crown and Sceptre," being nearest to the "U" boat, was hailed
and ordered to heave-to. Cap'n Charles Hunnable quickly hauled his
headsails to windward and took way off the trawler. The "Unity"
meanwhile held on, trusting for a breeze to enable her to escape.

"Shall us put up a fight, boys?" asked the Devon skipper. "If us
does, there must be no half measures, mark you."

Her crew, consisting of two men and a boy, agreed. The fighting
spirit of the shire that boasts of such gallant seamen as Drake and
Raleigh still lives, and the Brixham men are worthy upholders of the
traditions of the Devon forbears.

"'Tes good," continued Skipper Hunnable. "Long Jarge, do 'ee stand by
t' hellum. Jim, you keep along o' me. Peter, slip for'ard an' when I
give the word do'ee let jib and fores'l draw."

The submarine had now slowed down and was lying less than twenty
yards on the trawler's starboard quarter. It was originally the
intention of the German commander to order the Englishmen to launch
their boat and bring the fish to their captors, but realising that
the boat was a heavy one and that it would take some time to be
hoisted out, he ordered the submarine's collapsible boat to be
manned.

Into the frail craft stepped an unter-leutnant and three seamen.

"You vos throw us a rope," shouted the young Hun as the boat came
alongside. "Your hatches you uncover must and fish ve vos take. Den
ve vos you sink in five minutes."

A rope was thrown, the canvas boat was made fast alongside, and the
unter-leutnant scrambled up and over the bulwarks, which were about
three feet above the deck and seven feet from the waterline.

Directly his legs were astride the rail, Skipper Hunnable's powerful
fist shot out like a sledge-hammer.

"You'd take my fish, would you!" he roared. "Take that, you young
sausage."

The German officer, stunned by the blow, was grasped by the skipper
before he fell overboard. Simultaneously Peter drove a triple-barbed
eel spear through the canvas boat and cut the rope that held her.

"Up helm!" ordered the skipper. "Boy, trim your heads'l sheets."

"'Tes no half measures, say I," he continued, and he lifted the
unconscious German officer and bore him aft. "Ef 'em shoots, then
the'll shoot this gold-braid pup too."

Quick on her helm the "Crown and Sceptre" gathered way and showed her
stern to the astonished submarine. The German commander was in a
quandary. He dare not shell the trawler for fear of hitting his
subordinate, until he drew ahead sufficiently to enable her
quick-firer to plank a shell for'ard and between wind and water. He
was convinced that the "Crown and Sceptre" was attempting to seek
safety in flight, but he was grievously mistaken. Skipper Hunnable's
blood was up.

Gybing "all standing," since there was little risk of loss of
top-hamper as the wind was light, the Brixham trawler turned and tore
straight for her antagonist. Before the submarine could manoeuvre to
avoid the blow, the lugger's massive bowsprit struck her on the
conning-tower. The hefty spar stood the strain, but not so the bitts.
With a rending crash the bowsprit was forced inboard, but the
mischief to the "U" boat was already done. The metal hatch was partly
torn from its hinges, while in falling off the bowsprit made a clean
sweep of the periscopes, wrecked the for'ard gun, and hurled the
gun's crew into the sea.

A four-pound hammer hurled by the brawny skipper of the "Crown and
Sceptre" hurtled through the air. With unerring aim it struck the Hun
commander on the side of the head, killing him instantly.

Held by the raffle of cordage for'ard the lugger swung round
broadside on to the submarine.

"Come on, lads!" roared Skipper Hunnable. "The old boat won't hurt
where she be."

Seizing axes and crowbars, the crew followed the daring skipper to
the deck of the submarine. "Long Jarge," brandishing a formidable
hatchet, took his stand by the conning-tower hatchway, ready to deal
a smashing blow to the first man that appeared, while the skipper and
the rest of his little crew chased the two German seamen who were on
deck and drew the watertight slide of the after-hatchway.

The Devon men now had things all their own way. The "U" boat could
not dive with her conning-tower hatchway in a damaged condition, or
she would fill and sink like a stone. Nor could the trapped Huns use
their rifles and revolvers. One foolhardy man attempted to take a
chance shot through the after-hatchway, but directly his hand
appeared above the coaming, Peter smashed it to a pulp.

The state of affairs now developed into a deadlock. The submarine
could not escape, nor could the British fishermen regain their craft
without risk of losing the advantage they at present held.

At this juncture the crew of the "Unity," perceiving that Skipper
Hunnable was putting up a fight, but ignorant of how matters stood,
determined to go to their comrades' aid, and sink or swim in the
attempt.

Luffing smartly under the submarine's submerged stern, Skipper
Biddlecombe brought the "Unity" up on the "U" boat's starboard side
and made fast.

"What be you a-shovin' your five eggs in for, I'd be likin' tu know?"
was Skipper Hunnable's greeting to the newcomers.

"No offence, Charlie," replied the fellow-skipper. "Us don't get the
chance tu fight the Huns every day."

"True, true," rejoined the master of the "Crown and Sceptre." "You'm
handy just now. Bid young Jack bring a shovelful o' coals and a bit
o' junk. We'll have to be smokin' them chaps out, I'm thinkin'."

Ignorant of the risk they ran, the fishermen were about to throw
smouldering tow down the hatchways into the petrol-laden atmosphere
of the interior of the submarine when the Germans, realising the fate
that threatened them, began to raise shouts of "kamarade."

"Thought better of it, eh?" said Skipper Hunnable. "Douse them coals,
Jack. Now, you rascals, up you come. Four o' you. Drat you! I said
four o' you. One, two, dree, four--not a round dozen. That's better.
Now, hands up, an' keep 'em up. Rest o' you chaps below there are you
a-listenin'?"

"Ja, ja!" was the reply.

"Don't you yah me, you lubbers," shouted the skipper. "Just you stand
by, and don't get up to any tricks. If you du, down the lot o' you
goes to Davy in double-quick time."

Having secured uninterrupted possession of the prize, the two
skippers returned to their respective boats. Then it was that the
crew of the collapsible boat that had been stove in, finding that the
fishermen did not kill the prisoners in cold blood, swam to the
"Crown and Sceptre" and were taken on board and secured.

"Charlie!" bawled the skipper of the "Unity," "wind's fair for home.
Shall us try and take this craft in?"

"No need," replied his friend. "Look astern--there's a Government
vessel a-comin' up at the rate o' knots."



CHAPTER XXX

A NOVEL DUCK HUNT


HAVING secured the surviving Germans from the submarine, and made
certain that the Huns had not taken steps to destroy their craft on
surrendering, Tressidar "wirelessed" the commander-in-chief at
Devonport, reporting the capture and requesting that assistance would
be sent to tow the prize into port.

The crews of the two Brixham boats cast off and resumed their
interrupted run home, as unconcernedly as if bagging "U" boats was an
everyday task. At the same time they took good care formally to make
a claim for services rendered to the State, and this Tressidar
countersigned according to their request.

It was nearly six in the evening before two destroyers arrived from
Devonport. One of them took the captured submarine in tow, the other
"stood by" in case another "U" boat might be lurking in the track of
the prize.

Cracking on full speed to make up for the delay, the "Gannet" came
within sight of St. Catherine's light by midnight, and having
exchanged secret signals with the patrols in the Outer Examination
Ground, she rounded the Nab Lightship and dropped anchor off St.
Helen's.

The "Anzac" had already arrived and had gone into Portsmouth Harbour
to ship additional ammunition. Barely had the "Gannet" brought up
when a Government tug came alongside with her new crew, and took off
Tressidar and the men lent from the monitor.

Hardly had the tug backed clear of the trawler when the latter began
to heave up anchor. Five minutes later she was under way, bound for
the North Sea.

"Something brewing, sir," remarked the master of the tug to the sub.
"A whole crowd of them left Poole for the east'ard this afternoon,
and seven from Portsmouth. There'll be a hot time out yonder, I'm
thinking, before many more days are passed."

The "Anzac" was lying at No. 5 buoy. Her gunnery trials had been
postponed by wireless on the run from Plymouth, and orders had been
given for her to proceed alongside the Dockyard jetty to allow
workmen to make important alterations to the mountings of the 14-in.
guns.

Working day and night, the task would be completed in about
forty-eight hours, in spite of the fact that the armoured roof of the
turret had to be unriveted and removed before the work could be
tackled.

"Rotten news, old man," was Eric Greenwood's greeting when the chums
met on the following morning. "Seen to-day's paper? No? It concerns
that slippery spy, Oberfurst."

"Not escaped?" asked Tressidar eagerly.

"Yes," replied the A.P. "And for once at least the authorities have
acted promptly and have enlisted the aid of the Press. Here you
are--a quarter of a column, with a detailed description of the wanted
man."

The news was unfortunately only too true. The spy had been lodged in
a cell in the county police-station, pending a decision as to whether
he should be handed over to the civil, naval, or military authorities
for trial.

A dull-witted policeman, whose activities hitherto had been
restricted to "running in" tramps and vagrants and stopping motorists
for exceeding a speed-limit that existed only in his imagination, had
been detailed to keep watch on the prisoner. At four in the morning
Oberfurst was apparently asleep. At half-past the constable, on
looking through the observation hole in the door, saw the spy lying
at full length on the floor with a gaping wound in his throat.

Instead of calling for assistance, the overzealous policeman unlocked
the door with a view to rendering first aid, instead of which he
received a blow over the head with the prisoner's supper-bowl that
stretched him senseless across the threshold.

Not until six did the sergeant discover the still unconscious
constable, and by that time Oberfurst had received a good hour and a
half's start.

A piece of torn red silk handkerchief left in the vacant cell
revealed the nature of the spy's ruse. He had tied the crimson fabric
round his throat, and in the artificial light the deception was
sufficiently realistic to delude the gaoler completely.

The papers, however, were convinced that recapture was the matter of
a few hours only, as the district was being thoroughly searched by a
strong force of police assisted by the military.

Eric Greenwood, well conversant with the rugged nature of Dartmoor,
was of a different opinion, and Tressidar, who had occasion to
remember the spy's cunning and daring, was obliged to admit his
chum's arguments.

It was recognised, however, that the spy would have great difficulty
in getting out of the country, should he wish to do so. Tressidar had
previously reported that Oberfurst was in the habit of crossing to
the Continent in the rôle of an American Red Cross emissary, and at
all the seaports particular watch was kept upon every traveller.
Ignorant of the fact that the deception had been discovered--unless
the secret leaked out and came to the ears of the numerous German
agents still active in Great Britain--Oberfurst might be tempted to
risk another trip to Denmark or Holland.

This the authorities hoped he would do, for his capture would then be
almost a certainty, while so long as he remained in the country he
was a source of danger and anxiety to the realm.

The alterations to the "Anzac's" armament having been completed, the
monitor proceeded to the back of the Wight to "calibrate." The gun
trials being successful, she proceeded in company with two other
monitors up Channel.

It was blowing fairly hard from the south-east'ard, and directly the
three ungainly vessels cleared Spithead, they promptly showed what
"wet" craft they were. The "Anzac's" low freeboard offered no
protection from the "combers" that swept fore and aft, drenching the
lofty bridge with blinding showers of spray.

When abreast of the "Royal Sovereign" lightship the wind veered a
point or two until it was fairly abeam. The monitor now commenced to
roll horribly, at one moment thrusting her bulging sides deeply into
the sea, at another rearing until she showed her weather bilge-keel.

Had there been occasion to use her two 14-in. guns, it would have
been impossible to train them with any degree of accuracy. Suitable
for fair weather and in sheltered waters, the "Anzac," like the rest
of her class, proved herself a mean substitute for the
super-Dreadnoughts, whose bulk and draught rendered them admirably
steady gun-platforms.

"Give me something with plenty of draught," thought Tressidar, as the
"Anzac" gave an extra heavy roll. "A craft that will grip the water.
If it gets much worse, she'll either have to cut and run for it, or
else stand a good chance of going to Davy Jones."

"She'll take it quietly under the lee of the Belgian coast," remarked
the navigating lieutenant, who had read his comrade's thoughts.
"Especially if the wind veers a few points more."

Early next morning the "Anzac" dropped anchor within the Admiralty
breakwater at Dover. Here a flotilla was assembling for the impending
operations off the Flanders coast. One of the periodical visits to
the German works at Zeebrugge was to be made on an imposing scale.

With the enormous sea-power at their disposal the British Admiralty
could with little exertion drive the Huns away from the Belgian
coast; but this for strategic reasons was undesirable. The Allied
left wing rested on the sea. From the sea it could be fed and
supplied with ammunition, and there was no danger of the flank being
turned. On the other hand the Germans, not having command of the sea,
were under obvious disadvantages. They were constantly open to the
fire of British monitors. Thousands of troops had to hold their right
flank without being able to fire a shot at the Belgian and British
trenches, which terminated thirty or forty miles short of the Dutch
frontier. Fears of an invasion under the guns of the British fleet
compelled the Huns to hold the useless coast. Zeebrugge, on which
they fixed their hopes as a base for their submarines, was no longer
tenable. Its mole had been destroyed, its docks and canal basins
rendered useless by the British guns. Without attempting to board a
single soldier, the British kept a couple of German Army Corps
literally on thorns.

At daybreak the monitors, accompanied by a number of destroyers and
patrol craft, were within seven miles of the Belgian coast. The
British tars made their preparations with grim earnestness and
without undue haste.

Amongst the many services to be performed before the huge guns began
to hurl their enormous projectiles at the foe, the buoyage of the
adjacent neutral waters of Holland had to be made.

For this task a number of picquet-boats were detailed, each under the
charge of a sub-lieutenant, who in turn were under the orders of a
senior lieutenant. Skill in taking bearings was essential, since
there was no desire to err even a cable's length on the neutral side.

Amongst the subs. detailed was Ronald Tressidar, who had to proceed
to a point exactly on the three-mile limit, the position being
"checked" by independent observations.

Lashed across the bows of the picquet-boat was a nun-buoy roughly
three feet in diameter and four betwixt apex and apex. To the
lowermost ring of the buoy, which was painted in red, white, and blue
horizontal bands, was shackled fifty fathoms of light chain. At the
other end of the chain was a "span" of heavier cable, each arm
terminating in a fifty-six pound mushroom anchor.

A quarter of a mile to the nor'east'ard a Dutch cruiser was forging
slowly through the water, her officers critically interested in the
work of the British picquet-boats. The German batteries had refrained
from opening fire, possibly on account of the proximity of the
neutral cruiser, although it afterwards transpired that there was
quite another reason for their passivity.

Keeping his picquet-boat running dead slow, bows on to the tide, so
that the little craft was practically stationary over the ground,
Tressidar determined his position.

"That's about it, sir, I think," he called out, addressing the senior
officer, who was in another steamboat a short distance away.

"Near enough," replied the lieutenant. "At all events, I don't
suppose the Dutchmen will quibble over it."

"Stand by to let go!" ordered the sub., speaking to the seamen
for'ard. "Lower away roundly."

Mushroom anchor No. 1 disappeared with a splash, and having made sure
that it was holding, Tressidar ordered easy ahead so as to drop the
second anchor well clear of the former.

"Let go!"

The second anchor clattered overboard, taking with it the length of
chain and the nun-buoy. Then, to the sub.'s surprise, the buoy,
instead of floating sedately upon the surface, began to move rapidly
through the water, impelled by some unseen force. So great was the
rate of progress that the buoy frequently dragged beneath the
surface, leaving a tell-tale swirl in its wake. Its direction was
roughly south-west, which meant that it was being dragged away from
neutral waters.

In a trice Tressidar grasped the situation.

"Full speed ahead, both engines!" he shouted, at the same time
bidding the coxswain put the helm hard over and keep the picquet-boat
dead on the buoy.

The lieutenant in the other steam-boat, having seen the nun-buoy
dropped, was proceeding to another position when he, too, noticed
that something was amiss, and promptly turned his craft and followed.

"Submarine foul of the bridle, sir, I think," shouted Tressidar
through a megaphone.

The lieutenant had no doubt on that score, for being well astern, his
steamboat was in the "wash" of the submerged craft, while the sub.,
being almost immediately above the submarine, was well in front of
the disturbed water.

"Collar that buoy," sung out the sub., addressing the two bowmen. The
latter, armed with long boathooks, poised themselves on the lurching
fore-deck, like harpooners waiting for a whale to appear.

"Got her, sir," shouted one of the seamen, as he deftly engaged the
head of the boathook in the metal rung of the nun-buoy. "She's
carrying too much way; I can't get her aboard."

"Hold her, both of you!" exclaimed Tressidar, fearful lest the ring
would carry away and the chain disappear from sight.

The picquet-boat was certainly gaining upon the submerged craft, for
in a little while the seamen reported that the strain on the cable
was diminishing. At length, by dint of the united efforts of the two
men, the nun-buoy and about two fathoms of chain were lifted on the
deck of the boat, and a couple of turns taken round the pedestal of
the for'ard gun.

"Got her, by Jove!" exclaimed the sub. triumphantly as he ordered the
engines to be stopped and allowed the picquet-boat to be towed by the
submerged craft.

The trapped submarine had attempted to steal towards the British
monitors, and having taken her bearing through her periscope, had
submerged in Dutch waters. This was obvious, since the buoy, actually
on the line of demarkation, had been swept away from the neutral
zone.

At first her commander had been ignorant of the unpleasant fact that
he was towing a British picquet-boat in addition to dragging two
mushroom anchors over the sandy bottom; but when he made the
disconcerting discovery he altered his course and attempted to make
for Zeebrugge. This he did blindly, since he dare not rise to show
her periscope above the surface. By dint of careful helmsmanship the
picquet-boat also turned and kept dead in the wake of her invisible
tug. By this time a dozen steamboats belonging to the flotilla
arrived upon the scene.

Presently the drag of the anchor made itself felt, for the bottom of
the sea had changed from sand to stiff mud. Still ignorant of the
nature of the obstruction, the German lieutenant-commander was under
the erroneous impression that he had fouled the moorings of a mine.
He therefore reversed engines and attempted to back clear of the
entanglement.

The easing-off of the strain on the chain gave Tressidar warning.
Promptly he ordered "easy astern," at the same time megaphoning his
suspicions to the nearest steamboats.

Unprovided with explosive grapnels, the boats were unable to make an
end of the submarine by detonating a charge of gun-cotton against her
hull. The coup de grâce would have to be administered by a
destroyer, and up to the present no attempt had been made by the
boats to summon one to their assistance. Officers and men were
thoroughly enjoying their novel duck hunt, and were in no hurry to
finish the sport.

But when the submarine commenced to back astern the possibility of
her disengaging herself from the toils became apparent. Quickly two
picquet-boats dashed in opposite directions across her supposed
track, each craft towing a stout grass-line astern, to which were
attached lumps of metal in order to sink the otherwise buoyant fibre.

The operation was successful, for the rope, caught by the revolving
propellers, wound round the shafting like coils of steel, until the
electric motors were brought to a dead stop.

"That's done the trick," exclaimed the lieutenant gleefully. "We've
collared the tin of sardines and now we'll have to wait for the
tin-opener. What water have we?"

A cast of the lead gave eleven and a half fathoms with a bottom of
mud mingled with shells and coarse sand. The submarine, finding
herself disabled, had "sounded" and was resting on the bed of the
sea.

"Suppose we couldn't hike her clear and tow her alongside the
'Anzac?'" hazarded Stephens, one of the subs. "A strain of the old
ship's steam capstan would heave her to the surface in a brace of
shakes. Pity to rip up the strafed hooker when we have a chance of
collaring her intact, isn't it?"

"May as well try," replied the lieutenant, who was loth to destroy
the craft that had given him a "run for his money." "Tide's rising.
We'll lower a couple of bights of chain and see if we can shift her.
I don't suppose she has a deadweight of more than a couple of
tons--if that. Hulloa! The ball's opening."

The German batteries had hitherto deferred opening fire for fear of
damaging the submarine, which had left Zeebrugge and had made a
circuitous course through Dutch waters. Having allowed her ample time
to get clear of the danger zone, the Huns had begun to fire.

"Hang it all!" ejaculated Tressidar. "We'll have to send for the
destroyers after all to finish the job."

But there was yet a respite, for the "Anzac" and two of her consorts
were standing in and interposing themselves between the shore and the
boats. In a few minutes the action became general, the 14-in. guns
hurling their shells with terrific precision upon the hostile
batteries.

Slowly the tide rose, and with it the strain of the hawsers began to
take up. Deeper sunk the hulls of the steamboats, but the submarine
showed no signs of leaving her muddy bed.

Unconcernedly the boats' crews "stood by," though not without risk,
for, although the monitors successfully drew the enemy's fire,
ricochets from the German guns came perilously close.

Suddenly bubbles appeared on the surface alongside the "Anzac's"
picquet-boat's quarter, and with them a metal cylinder shot up from
beneath the water. To it was attached a light line and a canvas tally
on which was roughly scrawled the word "Communication."

"Steady, there," cautioned Tressidar, as one of the seamen prepared
to fish up the object with his boat-hook. "Pass the bight of the line
under it."

Ordering easy ahead, the sub. allowed the picquet-boat to travel as
far as the scope of chain permitted, at the same time taking a steady
strain with the bight of the rope until the cylinder broke away from
the line that led to the submarine. Nothing happened so far as an
explosion was concerned, for the sub. had his suspicions that there
might have been a ruse on the part of the trapped Huns.

The cylinder was roughly twelve inches in diameter and two feet in
height. It was one of a regular pattern supplied to German submarines
for sending communications to the surface in the event of the vessel
meeting with an accident that prevented her from rising. The
diameter, being exactly the same as that of the torpedo-tubes,
enabled the canisters to be discharged through them by means of
compressed air.

"What sort of a haul have you got there, Mr. Tressidar?" enquired the
lieutenant. "H'm, communication, eh? Suppose it's all right. There's
no detonating mechanism inside, I hope?"

"I'll see sir," replied the sub., and ordering his men to the other
end of the boat, so as to be out of harm's way in the event of an
explosion, he unscrewed a disc in one of the ends of the cylinder.
Within was a sheet of paper on which was written, "We surrender.
Spare our lives. We will ascend in ten minutes from now--6.15 a.m.,
mid-continental time. Max Falkenheim, Kapitan-leutnant."

"By Jove, sir, we've made a capture!" announced Tressidar, handing
the document to his superior officer. "It's signed by that fellow
Falkenheim, the man who tried to escape from Auldhaig."

"And was afterwards rescued by some of his precious compatriots when
they blew in the wall of his prison. I remember," added the
lieutenant grimly. "One of the foxiest rascals that ever sailed under
the Black Cross ensign. Yes, by smoke, dulce et decorum est to lay
that chap by the heels. Pity you cut that rope, though."

"Why, sir?" asked the sub.

"Because we cannot now reply to the strafed Huns. See, there's a
telephonic receiver inside the cylinder, and the wires are led inside
the rope. Writing that note was to make sure that we should know of
their willingness to surrender in case we didn't notice the
telephone. Confound that brute! That was a near one."

The lieutenant's remark was addressed to a huge shell that, having
already ricochetted once, struck the water within twenty yards of the
nearest steamboat, and rebounding again, finally disappeared in a
column of spray a mile away. The displacement of water caused by the
impinging of the projectile made the little flotilla rock violently,
while officers and men were drenched by the deluge of foam.

"Hurry up! Hurry up!" muttered the lieutenant impatiently, by way of
invoking the submerged "U" boat. "You've had a good ten minutes and
we want to make your acquaintance."

A reply came in the form of a slight disturbance of the water. The
submarine was "blowing" her water-ballast tanks.

Then slowly--so gradually that the picquet-boats had ample time to
back clear--the surrendered craft rose to the surface, as if dubious
of the fate that awaited her.

The conning-tower hatch was thrown open, and Kapitan Falkenheim
appeared, followed by his unter-leutnant. Still in doubt as to their
reception, they saluted their conquerors, who punctiliously returned
the compliment. At the same time the crew issued from the after-hatch
and formed up, holding their hands above their heads.

"Ve vos surrender--so," shouted Falkenheim.

"All right," replied the British lieutenant. "We accept your
surrender, provided you do no damage to your craft."

"Dot is so," agreed the kapitan. "Nodings done is to der
unterseeboot."

Skilfully two of the picquet-boats were manoeuvred and brought
alongside the prize and the German officers and crew were taken off.
The bridle of the moorings that had been the cause of the submarine's
misfortune was cast off--it had simply caught to the for'ard
horizontal rudders--and the vessel taken in tow.

A signal was made for a destroyer to take charge of the prize, since
the steamboats were too small for the task. Their share of the
business was over. The kudos was theirs; they were content to shift
the burden upon their comrades of the destroyer-flotilla.

Suddenly a bomb hurtled through the smoke-laden air and exploded with
a terrific detonation close to the leading picquet-boat. The frail
craft literally crumpled up and disappeared in a cloud of smoke,
leaving a sub-lieutenant and two badly wounded seamen struggling for
dear life.

Overhead was a German double-fuselaged biplane, intent upon the
destruction of the captured submarine so that she might not fall into
the hands of the British.

Another bomb dropped, without effect beyond sending a fragment of
metal through the funnel of the "Anzac's" steamboat. Regardless of
the danger, other picquet-boats dashed up to rescue the survivors of
the sunken craft, while from the approaching destroyer a steady
stream of shells was directed upon the hostile battleplane.

Unconcernedly the German aviators hovered overhead, circling and
dropping their lethal missiles with a set purpose, until a bomb
alighted fairly upon the fore-part of the submarine.

When the cloud of smoke had drifted away, the chagrined British
sailors saw their prize had been snatched from their grasp. She was
sinking.

Slowly her bows dipped. Her stern rose until the tips of her twin
propellers were visible, then with the violent inrush of water she
disappeared from sight and narrowly missed taking with her the
"Anzac's" picquet-boat that was engaged in towing her.

But retribution was at hand. Heading swiftly towards the German
aircraft was a British seaplane. So intent were the Hun airmen upon
their task of scattering the little flotilla that they failed to
notice the danger until the seaplane opened fire with her automatic
gun.

Vainly the German aviators attempted to circle and bring their fixed
gun to bear upon their attackers. The British seaplane had the
equivalent to the weather-gauge of the old days of sailing--the
advantage of superior altitude.

Struck in a vital part, the enemy battleplane appeared to crumple up
in mid-air. Falling like a stone, the machine struck the water a
tangled mass of struts and canvas. Quickly a picquet-boat hurried to
the aid of the foe, but she was too late.

The wreckage, upside-down, was kept from sinking by the only
undamaged float. Strapped to their seats, the Hun pilot and observer,
even if they had escaped the hail of bullets, were drowned like rats
in a trap.

"It's not been so dusty," commented the lieutenant in charge of the
steamboat flotilla as he gave the signal for the various boats to
return to their respective ships. "Sorry we didn't get that 'U' boat
into port. Still, there's one the less."



CHAPTER XXXI

MONITORS IN ACTION


UNDER a screen of smoke from a far-flung line of destroyers the
"Anzac" picked up her steamboat's crew. Being under fire, she could
not hoist in the picquet-boat. Wind and tide being favourable, the
boat was cut adrift. Unless sunk by a chance shot, she could be
recovered when the monitors withdrew at the conclusion of the
bombardment.

"Fire-control platform, Mr. Tressidar," ordered the captain when the
sub. reported himself in the conning-tower. "Mr. McTulloch has just
been sent down--badly wounded. Look alive--we want the range of
Battery 45 pretty quickly."

The monitor had ceased firing, owing to the smoke from the
intervening destroyers. It also gave the guns a chance to cool, for
they had been firing continuously for the last two hours.

Through the acrid-smelling smoke that wafted from below the sub. made
his way to one of the oblique legs of the tripod mast. One glance
showed that it was no longer possible to gain the lofty platform by
that means, for the metal tube was torn half-way through by a shell,
a dozen or more of the metal rungs of the ladder had been shorn away,
and the steel was still unbearable to the hand owing to the heat
generated by the terrible impact.

Fifteen feet above the sub.'s head dangled the frayed end of the rope
by which the officer he was about to relieve was lowered from the
fire-control platform. McTulloch, seriously wounded by a fragment of
shell, had hardly gained the deck ere another sliver of steel had cut
away his means of descent.

Crossing to the second inclined leg of the tripod mast, Tressidar
found that the steel ladder was comparatively intact. The metal
tubing of the mast had been dented in several places and perforated
more than once. The metal, too, was hot, but not to the same extent
as was the damaged leg.

Up through the drifting smoke the sub. made his way, the whole fabric
of the mast trembling under the continuous discharge of the heavy
ordnance.

When half-way up he felt a terrific jar, accompanied by a roar that
outvoiced the noise of the guns. The smoke was torn by lurid flashes;
fragments of metal hurtled past him or struck the mast with a sound
like that of a heavy hammer clanging on an anvil.

Temporarily blinded by the glare and partly stunned by the
concussion, Tressidar hung on like grim death. It was the triumph of
muscles over mind, for the action was purely automatic. Out swung the
tripod mast till the leg by which he was ascending was perpendicular,
although normally inclined thirty degrees to the vertical line. From
beneath him dense clouds of black and yellow smoke vomited from the
superstructure, to the accompaniment of the crackling of flames and
the groans of the wounded.

A hostile shell had scored a direct hit, partially wrecking the
after-end of the superstructure, making a clean sweep of the gear,
including the two anti-aircraft guns.

Tressidar was yet to know this. He was merely aware that the Huns had
"got one home." He wondered whether he was still alive, until the
mist cleared before his eyes and he found himself still clinging to
the slippery rungs.

At last he reached the small platform at the head of the two sloping
legs where they joined the higher and vertical "stick" of the tripod.
Ten feet above him was the oval aperture leading to the fire-control
platform. Hitherto the metal tube had formed a defence between him
and the direct line of fire--a moral protection rather than a real
one, since the metal was not proof against heavy shell-fire. But now,
owing to the vertical rungs being on the fore-side of the mast, he
was directly exposed to the fire of the shore batteries, and the Hun
had a nasty habit of using shrapnel in conjunction with the
high-explosive shells.

Another crash this time high above his head. For the moment he
thought that the fire-control platform had been swept out of
existence, for a raffle of spars, wire-rigging, and splinters of
metal tumbled past him, some of the debris so close that he felt the
"windage" on his cheeks.

Instinctively he ducked. When he raised his head again, he saw, to
his relief, that his appointed post still remained--at least the
"deck" of the fire-control platform was intact. The shell had struck
the topmast, cutting it in twain and bringing the wireless aerials
with the severed portions as it fell to augment the debris already
lumbering the deck.

The destroyers had now forged ahead. Their smoke no longer screened
the "Anzac" from the enemy. The monitor's guns, elevated to an angle
of thirty degrees, were pointed shoreways, but neither sent forth its
fifteen hundred pounds of death-dealing shell.

"Good heavens!" ejaculated Tressidar. "They're waiting for someone to
register."

Spurred by the thought, he redoubled his energies, swarmed up the
remaining rungs of the ladder, and squeezed through the narrow
aperture on the deck of the fire-control station.

The sight which met his gaze was a terrible one. The metal roof had
been ripped through as easily as if it had been made of cardboard; a
dozen jagged holes were visible in the sides. The delicate
instruments were shattered almost out of recognition.

Huddled in one corner was the gunnery lieutenant. At his feet lay a
seaman; another was lying inertly across the body of the first.
Seated on the floor was Eric Greenwood with his head resting on his
drawn-up knees. The A.P. had been struck by a fragment of shell that
had inflicted a nasty scalp-wound. Partly stunned by the concussion
and blinded by the blood that streamed from the wound, he was just
able to recognise his chum.

"A clean wipe out," he muttered weakly. "Everything blown to blazes.
No use hanging on here, old man."

It was not a time for Tressidar to attend to his chum. Seizing the
voice-tube communicating with the conning-tower, he reported the
destruction of the registering gear. There was no response. He was
talking to empty air, for both voice-tubes and telephone-wires had
been severed; and since the target was invisible, the "Anzac's" huge
guns were practically useless without the directing force in the
fire-control station.

Risking death, Tressidar looked out over the side of his precarious
perch. The monitor was circling slowly to port. The fire that had
broken out in the superstructure was practically under control,
thanks to the copious stream of water played upon it by the "Downton"
pumps; but the deck looked a veritable shambles. Owing to her low,
armoured freeboard the "Anzac" had escaped injury 'twixt wind and
water, but almost everything on deck that was not protected had
disappeared in a veritable holocaust. The single funnel, partly shot
through, had buckled about fifteen feet close to the deck, the bent
portion resting against the after-leg of the tripod mast and swaying
dangerously with each roll of the ship.

The turret, scarred by several glancing hits, was still intact,
although hardly a vestige of grey paint remained; while the two guns
had shed their coats through the tremendous heat generated by the
sustained firing. The bridge had been swept clean away; only a few
bent and twisted stanchions remained. With its disappearance the top
of the conning-tower was revealed, the massive steel plating showing
signs of a complete fracture that extended from the edge about to the
centre of the elongated, domed roof.

The sight was not an encouraging one. It was evident that the "Anzac"
had received a terrible hammering and was no longer able to keep her
station.

Tressidar next devoted his attention to the rest of the flotilla. The
remaining monitors had fared considerably better. One, however, had
lost her tripod mast, while damage to topmasts and wireless masts
seemed pretty general. They had succeeded in breaking down most of
the resistance on the part of the enemy, for with few exceptions the
shore batteries were silent. Aided by wireless from the seaplanes
that serenely hovered over the German defence, the monitors' guns had
wrought terrific destruction upon the fixed positions amongst the
sand-dunes. Most of the hostile shells came from mobile batteries,
which were more difficult to locate; but as their guns were limited
in weight and calibre, these were puny when compared with the monster
weapons that the monitors had succeeded in silencing.

All this Tressidar took in almost at a glance. He had two tasks to
perform: to rescue the A.P. from his perilous position and to inform
the conning-tower of the state of the registering apparatus.

Mentally he compared the present situation with that on board the
"Heracles," when he had to take Midshipman Picklecombe down from the
fore-top. Eric Greenwood was a hefty man, whereas the midshipman was
a mere slip of a youth. The "Anzac" was still under fire--a desultory
one, but none the less nerveracking--while the "Heracles" was not
subjected to the attentions of hostile shells when she was on the
point of turning turtle. Again, there was a vast difference between
the ratlines of the cruiser and the slippery steel rungs of the
monitor's tripod mast.

"It's more than a one-man job," decided Tressidar reluctantly. "There
isn't enough rope to lower him down. I'll nip below and get
assistance."

The A.P. was now unconscious. He had fallen sideways, his head
resting on his arm Even as Tressidar bent over him he became aware
that the whole fabric of the fire-control platform was collapsing.
The tripods, already damaged, had given way under the strain and were
toppling overboard.

Throwing his left arm round Greenwood's inert body and hanging on
like grim death to a steel handrail, Tressidar braced himself to meet
his impending fate. The platform was inclining slowly but surely.
Already his feet were wedged against the now almost horizontal side.
Through the shattered roof he could see the water.

"There'll be a deuce of a smash," he thought. "Wonder if I can jump
clear before we're trapped?"

The triple mast had buckled, but its fall was retarded by the strain
upon the metal tubing. Instead of snapping off like a carrot, it was
as though the tripod was held by a stiff and rusty hinge.

For perhaps five seconds the fall was retarded, then with a quick
movement the bulky top-hamper lurched with a sickening movement until
it brought up across the broad deck, with the metal box in which the
sub. and his chum were penned hanging seven or eight feet over the
side.

Bruised and shaken, Tressidar retained his alertness of mind and
body. Without relaxing his grip upon his chum he scrambled through
the partly demolished roof. It was the only way, since the aperture
in the floor was too small for a hurried exit, especially when
burdened with a helpless comrade.

Not knowing how he did it, the sub. found himself perched on the mast
with the A.P. clasped tightly to his back. Now it was that his
gymnastic training proved of service, for, in spite of his burden, he
walked the outboard part of the now almost horizontal mast and
dropped lightly to the "Anzac's" deck--the only unwounded executive
officer of the crippled monitor.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE "ANZAC'S" DAY


ON deck a few smoke-begrimed seamen were engaged in directing hoses
upon the still smouldering wreckage of the superstructure; others
were unbattening the armoured hatches and clearing away some of the
debris.

Handing Greenwood to the care of two of the men, Tressidar made his
way to the conning-tower, with the intention of reporting himself to
the captain.

The entrance, protected by a section of armoured plate set
vertically, was blocked with wreckage. The sub. put out his hand to
steady himself as he surmounted the obstruction. To his surprise the
metal wall was hot, almost unbearably so. The impact of the shell
that had cracked the dome of the conning-tower had generated intense
heat to the rest of the structure.

Within lay the bodies of the captain, first lieutenant, and three
seamen. One of the latter had been struck on the temple with a sliver
of steel that had entered the narrow slit in the armoured walls. The
rest of the occupants were stunned, as effectually as if each had
been hit on the head with a club, for blood was trickling from their
mouths and nostrils.

It was no time to render assistance. A glance ahead showed that the
"Anzac" was still describing a vast curve. Already she had turned
more than nine points and was again drawing within range of the
invisible shore-batteries.

Grasping the wheel of the steam steering-gear, the sub. attempted to
steady the vessel on her helm. There was no response. The mechanism
was no longer in order.

The voice-tube communicating with the engine-room was fortunately
intact, although the telegraph-indicator had been shattered by the
tremendous concussion. On enquiry, Tressidar learnt that the main
steam-pipe of the port engine had been fractured by a shell that had
entered the engine-room, although the main force of the explosion had
been directed against the coal in the wing bunkers. Down below, the
artificer engineers and engine-room ratings were toiling desperately,
placing copper sheathing on the fractured pipe and making it secure
by means of "lagging" and rope.

Only the starboard engine was running, with the result that, in the
absence of control of the helm, the monitor was circling aimlessly.

The sub. tried another voice-tube. To his satisfaction he was
answered by the chief quartermaster.

"Hand wheel party present?" enquired Tressidar.

"All present, sir," was the reply.

"Then connect up and stand by."

Quickly the change was made, and once more the battered monitor was
under control.

By this time Tressidar had discovered that he was actually in
command. Reports from the carpenter's crew revealed the satisfactory
news that the "Anzac" was still sound below the water-line, while the
engine-room staff expressed their belief that the defects in their
department could be temporarily made good within half an hour.

Men were busily engaged in ridding the deck of the wreckage of the
tripod mast, which they did by the simple yet drastic expedient of
completely severing the legs by means of gun-cotton charges.

Although the training-gear of the turret was undamaged, a glancing
shell had snapped six feet off the chase of one of the 14-inch guns,
rendering it useless for further service. The other gun was intact,
but so furious had been the firing that only three rounds remained.

With the destruction of the aerials and the dislocation of the
delicate apparatus, communication by wireless was no longer possible;
nor was there any spar from which a signal might be flown. Sound
signals, too, were useless, since the deafening cannonade between the
other monitors and the shore outvoiced all other noises.

A patrol-boat presently dashed up and drew close alongside the
damaged monitor, and asked if any assistance were required.

"You might take our wounded," replied Tressidar. "We've a number of
casualties And we should like instructions from the flagship. No; we
are still under control and capable of making five knots. There is no
necessity for a ship to be detached to tow us."

As quickly as possible the wounded officers and men were transhipped,
the patrol-vessel meanwhile wirelessing the senior officer and
requesting instructions for the "Anzac," stating that she was no
longer able to resume her station in action.

The reply was: "Proceed to Harwich under own steam." There was no
mention of a destroyer being sent as escort.

When, at length, the engine-room repairs were effected, the sorely
battered monitor, looking little better than a mass of scrap-iron
above the low deck, forged slowly ahead on her homeward voyage. The
survivors, having washed and changed, were piped to dinner, the
principal item of the menu being "Zeppelins in the clouds," namely,
sausages served with gravy.

"Rather ominous," thought Tressidar amusedly, as he overheard the men
discussing the food "Ominous for the Huns, though."

Two hours later the rest of the flotilla was out of sight, although
the dull rumble of gunfire proclaimed that the bombardment was still
maintained. At four in the afternoon the North Hinder Lightship was
sighted. From that point westwards there were no sea-marks, the
Galloper and other light vessels off the Suffolk coast having been
withdrawn.

Slowly the "Anzac" steamed, her rate being considerably less than
Tressidar had anticipated. With the loss of the major portion of the
funnel and the weak spot in her main steam-pipe her horse-power had
fallen appreciably.

Night came on and with it a mist. Stellar observations were no longer
possible. Navigation depended solely upon dead reckoning on a compass
course and the constant use of the lead.

At midnight Tressidar, having previously instructed the quartermaster
of the watch to awaken him should anything occur, lay down on the
deck in the wake of the conning-tower. In less than a minute he was
sleeping fitfully, the drums of his ears throbbing with the reaction
after the deafening cannonade.

It seemed to him that he had been asleep but a few seconds when he
was awakened by a dull, grinding noise and the quartermaster shouting
to the engine-room for "hard astern."

The "Anzac" was aground.

"The men in the chains reported fourteen fathoms not a minute ago,
sir," said the quartermaster. "The water must have shoaled like the
roof of a house."

The hull was throbbing under the pulsations of the engines as the
twin screws lashed cascades of phosphorescent water past the
monitor's bulging sides. The ship showed no tendency to slide off.
She had struck hard.

The sub. ordered the engines to stop. He knew that it wanted two
hours to low water. Further attempts to get the monitor off must be
deferred until after quarter flood, which would be at four forty-five
in the morning.

Fortunately the sea was calm. There was little wind. At some distance
away the sullen rollers were breaking heavily on the shoal. Since the
monitor was not making water and lay on the lee side of the submerged
bank, there was little danger. Provided the wind did not spring up,
she would float without damage with the rising tide.

But the unpleasant fact was apparent that Tressidar had run his ship
ashore--a far more serious case in the eyes of My Lords than if the
monitor had been lost in action.

With dawn the mist dispersed. By observations the sub. discovered
that the "Anzac" had bumped on the Galloper Shoal. He had not made
sufficient allowance for the cross set of the tide, and instead of
passing between the Outer Gabbard and the Galloper, the monitor had
"smelt out" the latter, with ignominious if not serious results.

No other vessel was in sight. With her boats destroyed, the "Anzac"
had no means of laying out an anchor astern. Even if she had, the
steam capstans were useless, having suffered with the rest of the
deck gear during the bombardment. The monitor would have to get off
under her own steam.

Tressidar was still searching the horizon with his telescope when one
of the seamen raised a warning shout:

"Zepp. dead ahead, sir."

There was no mistaking the form of the immense rigid airship. Flying
at a height of two thousand feet, she was heading in a direction that
would bring her almost immediately above the stranded monitor. The
belated night-raider, returning from a visit to the Midlands, had
allowed dawn to overtake her before she was more than a few miles
from the Suffolk coast.

There was little time to be lost, for the hostile airship was moving
through the air at a rate of nearly fifty miles an hour. Without
doubt she would do her best to destroy by means of bombs or aerial
torpedoes the stranded British monitor.

At the word of command the gun's crew manned the sole workable
weapon--the 14-inch turret-gun. Up from the magazine by means of the
hydraulic loading-tray a huge shell was hoisted. It was one of the
remaining three--a new type of gigantic shrapnel, similar to those
fired with disastrous results on the Turks by the super-Dreadnought
"Queen Elizabeth." For once, at least, a 14-inch gun was to be used
as an anti-aircraft weapon.

Under the sighting hood the captain of the turret directed the
training of the huge but docile piece of ordnance. The target was an
easy one as regards bulk, for the gun-layer could plank shell after
shell with unerring accuracy into an invisible target fifteen miles
away; but, on the other hand, there was the speed and great elevation
of the Zeppelin to be taken into consideration.

Anxiously Tressidar watched the chase of the sixty odd tons of metal,
as the muzzle of the weapon, moving as smoothly as a billiard cue,
reared itself into the air. For an instant it seemed to hesitate,
then with a flash and a deafening roar the gun spoke. A mushroom of
black smoke, 'twixt which the course of the projectile could be
followed, leapt from the recoiling weapon.

"Too high," muttered the sub. disappointedly, as the trail of smoke
from the tracer of the shell mounted higher and higher, until it
looked to be far above the flimsy target.

The next instant he felt like cheering madly and doing an impromptu
hornpipe, for the shell had exploded above and within a very short
distance of the doomed Zeppelin. Had it done so at ten times the
distance the result would have been much the same.

Literally riddled with fragments of metal and smitten with the full
force of the blast from the explosion, the airship began to drop with
fearful rapidity, her ends curling upwards like a writhing worm.
Then, like a flash of lightning, the whole of the buckled fabric
burst into flames, the disintegrated fragments falling with a series
of splashes into the sea.

For quite a minute after the collapse of the air-raider there was
silence on board the monitor. The dramatic suddenness of the whole
affair could at first hardly be realised. Then a rousing cheer burst
from the throats of the depleted ship's company. The "Anzac" had
created a war-record--bringing down a Zeppelin with a 14-inch gun.



CHAPTER XXXIII

A SPLINTER OF SHELL


ALMOST before the cheering died away an alert seaman raised the
warning cry of "Submarine on the starboard quarter."

He had just caught a glimpse of the pole-like periscopes of a
submarine ere they vanished beneath the surface of the placid sea.

Of her nationality there could be no doubt. A British one would have
had no occasion to submerge, since the stranded monitor flew the
White Ensign from a spar temporarily set on end and lashed to a
stanchion in lieu of her demolished ensign-staff.

The "U" boat was evidently standing by to cover the flight of the
Zeppelin should any cruiser stand in pursuit, for the airship was
flying comparatively low, instead of the usual altitude of ten
thousand feet, when annihilated by the "Anzac's" fire. Having
witnessed the destruction of the Zepp., the "U" boat had approached
the monitor with the intention of avenging the loss of the
air-raider. She had no idea that the "Anzac" was aground, for by this
time she was almost waterborne and lay on practically an even keel;
while, since the whole of the sandbank was submerged, there was no
indication of shallow water.

Nevertheless it seemed as if the monitor would fall an easy prey to
the German torpedo, for there was not a single gun that could be
brought to bear in the direction of the submarine.

Tressidar was not kept long in suspense. The feather-like wake of the
approaching weapon was clearly visible as the torpedo made unerringly
towards the immovable target.

"Stand clear there, aft!" shouted the sub.

Those of the crew who had been watching the approach of the submerged
weapon promptly scurried across the deck so as to be as far from the
point of impact as possible. Of serious damage to the monitor there
was little fear, owing to the complex nature of her bulging sides.
The loss of twenty feet of side plating would matter but little,
since the buoyancy of the monitor would not be appreciably altered.

But the expected explosion did not occur. Set to run at a depth of
twelve feet, the torpedo struck the sandy bottom at a distance of
between eighty and a hundred yards short of the target.

For another twenty yards it ploughed through the sand, until its
delicate rudders were damaged by tearing through the comparatively
hard substance. Then with an erraticity that torpedoes have been
known to display, the weapon made a sharp curve, and rising to the
surface continued its undecided way like a hydroplane, its course
being marked by a line of spray in its wake.

Again the monitor's crew cheered--this time ironically. The shoal
that had proved a stumbling-block was now guarding the stranded craft
in no uncertain manner.

After a lapse of a quarter of an hour the submarine cautiously poked
her periscopes above the surface, although quite half a mile from the
spot where she had previously dived. Once more she fired a torpedo,
with almost the same result, for instead of turning on impact with
the shoal, the weapon struck nose first into the sand and remained
there.

The commander of the "U" boat was evidently puzzled. He could not
understand why the two torpedoes should have missed the mark; he was
also at a loss to account for the fact that the British vessel had
not attempted to open fire.

Nevertheless he was wary. With the idea of drawing the monitor's
fire, he released one of the communication buoys, towing it a hundred
yards astern of the submerged craft. The resistance of the buoy
caused a decided feather of foam that could not escape the eyes of
the crew of the monitor. At the end of five minutes the buoy was
drawn under the surface and taken on board the "U" boat again, by
means of an automatic winding machine and a system of "air lock"
doors. Examination showed that the relatively easy target was
untouched.

Hence the commander of the German submarine came to the correct
conclusion that the monitor was not capable of defence. Again the
periscopes appeared above the surface and a prolonged examination of
the British vessel was made. The German officers soon came to the
decision that it was safe to rise and attack the monitor by shell
fire, provided the "U" boat kept on the starboard quarter of her
enemy.

"There she is, sir!" reported a petty officer to Tressidar, as the
"U" boat rose to the surface at a distance of nearly two miles off.

Glasses were brought to bear upon the submarine, and it was then seen
that the Germans were preparing to use their two "disappearing" guns.
To reply was impracticable, for the submarine was well beyond
effective rifle-range, and the sole serviceable turret gun could not
be trained sufficiently abaft the beam to bear upon the enemy.

"Action stations!" was the order. Since the crew were without present
means of offence or defence, all they could do was to take cover
behind the armoured parts of the ship and "take their gruelling ";
but every moment the tide was rising, and before long it would be
possible to back off the shoal, turn and bring the gun to bear upon
the Hun.

With little delay the "U" boat opened fire. The first half-dozen
shells flew either above or wide of the monitor, but presently the
small but relatively powerful missiles began to find a mark.

From his post in the conning-tower, which, in spite of the fractured
dome, was proof against the small-calibre shells, Tressidar watched
his opportunity. He made no effort to get the "Anzac" off the shoal
until he felt certain that she would glide off without difficulty.
Then, he hoped, there would be time to train the 14-inch gun on the
submarine before she had a chance to trim for diving--and only two
rounds for that particular weapon remained.

The gun, already loaded, was trained as far aft as possible, so that
the moment the monitor swung round it could be brought to bear.

A leadsman, risking the flying fragments of shell, ran forward and,
throwing himself at full length upon the low fo'c'sle, took
soundings.

"By the mark two less a quarter," he announced.

"Good," muttered the sub. "That's what we want."

An order to the engine-room and the twin propeller began to churn up
water and sand. With hardly a jar the monitor glided astern--and
struck again, this time by the heel.

"Full speed ahead port engine; starboard, easy astern," shouted the
sub. through the voice-tube; then, in his eagerness to see whether
the vessel would answer to her helm, he left the shelter of the
conning-tower.

The next instant he felt as if he had hit his head violently against
a door-post. Thousands of lights danced before his eyes. Vainly he
clutched for support. His fingers closed upon empty air. He was dimly
conscious of falling on the deck and of someone throwing his arms
around his waist, and then everything became a blank.

* * * * *

When Tressidar recovered consciousness he found himself lying on a
cot that had been brought upon deck and lashed down on the aft-side
of the shell-torn superstructure.

Standing by were two sick-bay stewards, who, in the absence of a
doctor, had been attending to their youthful "skipper."

Almost the first thing of which the sub. became aware was the fact
that the monitor was again under way. The steady roll combined with
the subdued thud of the engines proclaimed the pleasing news. Also
the firing had ceased, which tended to prove that the "U" boat had
either been sunk or had taken herself off.

"Have we settled her?" were Tressidar's first words.

"She's done for, sir," replied the second quartermaster. "Only----"

"Only what?" asked the sub. anxiously, for the face of his informant
had disappointment written on every feature.

"We were just out of it, sir. Turret gun was about to bear when the
'U' boat went bang. One of our seaplanes did the trick, sir; only we
were within a brace of shakes of plugging her with a 14-inch shell at
the same time. Didn't spot her at that distance until she planked a
bomb fairly on the strafed Hun's conning-tower--and she was only
about a hundred and fifty feet up when she let rip. That's the worst
of those seaplanes, sir; always nosing in where they ain't wanted, if
you don't mind my saying so," he added apologetically and at the same
time with a tinge of professional jealousy.

Tressidar smiled. By so doing he became aware of a pain shooting
through his head.

"Well, what have I got?" he asked, addressing one of the sick-bay
staff.

"Steel splinter embedded in right femur----"

"Right what?" repeated the sub. anxiously. "That's the right thigh, I
believe? But my head?"

"All right, sir, as far as we know," reported the man. "No doubt it
is the sudden shock to the system, sir; I've known it like that
before to-day. We've had to leave the splinter in the wound, sir, but
we'll soon have a surgeon on board. We're just approaching Harwich.
We've exchanged signals and asked for medical assistance."

"There's a steamboat making for us now, sir, added the quartermaster.

"Any casualties?" enquired Tressidar.

"Five men down, sir. The last half a dozen shells from that submarine
tickled us up a lot."

"Very good; see that the doctor attends to them first," said the sub.
"Don't say a word about me until they have been dealt with."

"But we have already reported that you've been hit, sir."

"Then annul that part of the signal," ordered Tressidar firmly. "I'm
quite comfortable. Now, remember, the men are to be seen first."

By the time the busy fleet-surgeon was free to attend to the sub.'s
injuries, Tressidar was far from comfortable. Hot, throbbing pains
shot through the wounded thigh. From the waist upwards he felt cold
and shivery. More than once he felt as if he were on the point of
losing consciousness again.

"It's no use disguising the fact, Mr. Tressidar," said the doctor in
answer to the sub.'s point-blank question. "You have had a narrow
escape. But for the prompt attention of these men in checking the
flow of blood from the femoral artery you would have bled to death."

"Shall I lose my leg?" asked Tressidar, his mind filled with
apprehension at the possibility--not so much of being a cripple, as
of having to sever his connection with the Service.

"I think not.... No, no operation until we get him ashore.... Yes, up
to our eyes in work... quite a big action... we had them this time...
Our casualties heavy.... Shotley full up... had to send for
additional staff."

These disjointed sentences were what Tressidar overheard in a
conversation between the fleet-surgeon and his assistants. "Quite a
big action." Not, of course, The Day, but a fairly decent scrap
somewhere in the North Sea.

"Hurrah!" exclaimed the sub.

"Here, this won't do," remonstrated the doctor. But the reproof fell
upon deaf ears. The sub. had relapsed into unconsciousness.



CHAPTER XXXIV

EXIT OBERFURST


VON OBERFURST awaited the dawn of day with considerable trepidation.
For the present he was a free man, but his position was far from
enviable. He was hunted, that he knew. Already a hue-and-cry had been
raised and the desolate moors were being searched with the utmost
diligence and precision.

Having broken out of the prison cell, he had gained the outskirts of
the little village and had made his way in a north-easterly direction
with the intention of falling-in with the escaped German officers.
Soon he was lost in the mist that still hung heavily around the tors.
He had neither map nor compass. Both had been taken from him when
taken into custody. Without them he was like a ship without a rudder,
and having implicitly relied upon them in his previous adventures, he
realised his helplessness.

He was hungry and thirsty. The meagre fare provided at the
police-station overnight was already forgotten. Food was not to be
had, but for drink there were the many moorland rivulets that
trickled down to join the waters of the silvery Dart and other rivers
that drain the heights of Dartmoor.

At length he was forced to come to the conclusion that he must hide
until nightfall--sixteen hours of mental and physical strain. To
attempt to proceed in daylight was to court disaster.

Looking around, the spy discovered a number of irregularly shaped
rocks partly hidden by bracken. Towards this spot he made, treading
warily on stony ground so that his footsteps might not leave traces
on the dew-sodden grass. Then carefully, without breaking so much as
a solitary stem of bracken, he crept into his place of concealment.

He found himself in a narrow space enclosed by four masses of rock,
and sheltered from the sun by the tall bracken. There were hundreds,
thousands even, of similar clusters of rocks scattered about this
part of the country, where a man provided with food and water could
hide for days with little fear of discovery. From his place of
concealment he could command an extensive stretch of moorland without
showing his head above the skyline. So far as he could see--for the
mists were now dispersing--there were no signs of human habitation.

He still retained his automatic pistol. Taken from him at the same
time as were his other belongings, it had been carelessly left on the
kitchen table in the constable's cottage, and Oberfurst had taken
particular pains to repossess himself of the weapon ere he shook the
dust of his cell from off his feet.

Having taken stock of his surroundings, the spy stretched himself on
the ground, lying on his right side with his face pillowed on his
arm. His ear almost touching the ground enabled him to detect sounds
quicker than he might otherwise have done. He was badly in need of a
rest and sleep, especially as he was contemplating another all-night
tramp; but he knew that he was a noisy sleeper, and on that account
he feared to run the risk.

Presently a dog barked. The sound came from a long distance. It was a
long-drawn, deep bark, that boded no good to the fugitive.

"Those English have brought bloodhounds to track me," he muttered.
"Well, I can hold out until I have only one cartridge left. They will
never again take me alive."

At almost the next moment he felt himself seized by an almost
uncontrollable panic. He started to crawl from his lair and run
blunderingly and aimlessly across the open moors, if only to put a
greater distance between him and the deep-baying hounds.

On second thoughts he decided to remain and hold his own. Nearer and
nearer came the unpleasant sounds, until the spy was able to see the
animals.

There were two enormous bloodhounds, unmuzzled, but held in leashes
by two powerfully built men, whose heated faces and laboured
breathing bore testimony to the strength and speed of the powerful
brutes. Behind them rode a sub-inspector and three policemen, neither
of whom was armed so far as the spy could see.

Unerringly the bloodhounds followed the invisible track taken by the
fugitive until they reached a spot at less than eighty yards from his
place of concealment. Here the animals began circling, sniffing the
while and almost dragging the arms of their custodians from their
sockets.

Breathlessly Oberfurst kept watch. He remembered that he had crossed
a small stream close to the place where the hounds were held up. By
so doing he had unwittingly destroyed the scent.

"The first stream we've had to cross, worse luck," said the
inspector. "I had my doubts concerning the brutes, and now we're
baulked."

"They'll pick up the scent on the other side, sir, never fear,"
rejoined one of the keepers confidently. "It will be a hundred pounds
easily earned."

"The fellow's no fool," declared the inspector. "He struck this
stream on purpose. I'll warrant he's waded a hundred yards or more up
the brook on purpose to do us."

"I wish I had," thought the spy, regarding the dogs with returning
apprehension, for he could distinctly see the bloodshot eyes, their
heaving, overhung, foam-flecked jaws, and the ivory whiteness of
their massive teeth.

"Down stream I should think, sir," said another policeman. "He'll be
making for the coast. Ten to one that's the reason why a German
submarine was seen hanging about off Bolt Tail."

"Perhaps," admitted the inspector. "In any case it's no use wasting
time. Lift one of the brutes over, Tomlins; don't let his feet touch
the water. Keep the other this side and see if either picks up the
scent afresh."

In his excitement Oberfurst fingered the sensitive trigger of his
automatic pistol, remembering only just in time that even the
slightest touch was sufficient to fire the weapon. Then, placing the
pistol on the ground within easy reach, he waited.

At first the hound that had been taken across the stream showed signs
of retrieving the scent. Down went his head, up went his tail he
tugged furiously at the leash.

"Good old boy!" exclaimed the inspector encouragingly; but he was
doomed to disappointment, for the animal, after making two or three
circles, came to a standstill with his nose in the air.

"Thought so," continued the inspector. "The fellow's waded along the
stream. Hard lines!--we stood a good chance before the military step
in. I hear that nearly five hundred men are being sent from
Okehampton and a whole mob of Boy Scouts."

The police, accompanied by the hounds, moved away, disappearing from
sight in a southerly direction. Oberfurst had obtained yet another
respite.

During the heat of the day he lay close, at times dosing fitfully.
Tormented by the extreme warmth of the atmosphere, for there was not
a breath of wind and the sun beat pitilessly down upon the rock,
famished and parched, he endured and waited for dusk.

During the afternoon numbers of soldiers in extended order passed by.
Two of them came within ten paces of the spy's lair, keeping their
eyes fixed, not upon their immediate surroundings, but on the distant
expanse, as if they expected to get a glimpse of the fugitive as he
ran across the gorse-covered moor.

Towards seven o'clock the air echoed and re-echoed with the shrill
blast of whistles. The troops, or at any rate the bulk of them, were
being recalled. To his intense satisfaction, Oberfurst saw hundreds
of rabbits emerging from their burrows and frisking in the slanting
rays of the sun. That was almost an infallible sign that they had
little to fear from human beings.

Cautiously the fugitive emerged from his place of concealment. His
limbs were stiff with remaining for hours in a confined space. Deftly
he massaged the muscles of his arms and legs, until he felt their
suppleness returning; then, crouching on all-fours, he stole towards
the brook that had already done him good service.

Soon he was lapping the clear, running water, taking in copious
draughts that cooled his parched throat and gave renewed vitality to
his exhausted frame.

"Hands up!"

The words, rapped out peremptorily and unexpectedly, took Oberfurst
by surprise. Starting to his feet, he obeyed the order, fully
expecting to find himself surrounded by a cordon of khaki-clad men.

Instead, he was confronted by a solitary figure clad in the uniform
of a scoutmaster. His challenger was a man of more than middle age,
bordering, perhaps, on his sixtieth year. He was tall, sparely built,
but well knit and erect. His tanned features formed a striking
contrast to his light grey hair.

"You are, I presume, the wanted spy, Otto Oberfurst," continued his
captor. "You are, indeed, wise not to attempt to give trouble, for
there is plenty of assistance at hand."

As he spoke the scoutmaster produced a whistle. Before he could place
it to his lips the spy's arm dropped. Like a flash he had his captor
covered with his pistol.

"It is now your turn to 'hands up,'" sneered the German. "Obey
instantly, or you are a dead man."

"Perhaps," rejoined the other coolly. "Meanwhile I will do my utmost
to raise an alarm. If I fail, your pistol-shot will complete the
work."

Looking the spy straight in the face the scoutmaster again raised his
whistle. In a flash Oberfurst realised the truth of his opponent's
remarks. After all, he was not "out" with the intention of committing
unnecessary murder. His sole anxiety was to break through the cordon
and put a safe distance between him and the bleak heights of
Dartmoor.

Throwing away the pistol, Oberfurst folded his arms.

"You have won," he remarked simply.

"To avoid further trouble, I will take possession of this little
toy," said the scoutmaster.

He stepped forward a couple of paces and bent to pick up the weapon.
As he did so, the spy suddenly lashed out with his left foot. Skilled
in the Continental style of boxing, he knew exactly how to gauge his
distance and kick with the greatest effect.

Taken completely by surprise, the luckless Englishman, who in all
good faith had accepted the spy's surrender, dropped like a log,
before he had time to utter a sound.

Coolly Oberfurst regained possession of his pistol, fully expecting
to find himself assailed on all sides. Agreeably disappointed, he
proceeded to strip his unconscious victim of his coat, gaiters, and
hat. This done, he dragged the scoutmaster to the spot where the spy
had lain in concealment.

"He will not recover consciousness for several hours--if he does at
all," soliloquised the spy, with a shrug of his shoulders. "That is
his affair, not mine. Now I must assume the character of officer of
Boy Scouts. I wish I were more certain of my new duties."

For a couple of hundred yards Oberfurst proceeded cautiously, then,
drawing himself erect, he set off at a swinging pace across the
moors. Bluff, not concealment, was to be his watchword.

It was now dusk fast emerging into night. Once more the evening mists
were rising from the swamps in the valleys. Overhead the stars were
beginning to show against the declining after-glow in the
north-western sky.

For nearly a couple of miles Oberfurst proceeded without
interruption. Everything seemed absolutely still, save for the swish
of his boots and gaiters through the bracken. It was as if his
pursuers had finally abandoned their quest in the belief that the
fugitive had contrived to get clear of the district.

Suddenly a whistle resembling the call of the peewit sounded from a
spot almost in front, and out of the gorse rose half a dozen youthful
forms clad in the well-known Boy Scout "war-paint."

The spy's first inclination was to take to his heels, but,
remembering his resolve and noting the diminutive size of the lads,
he stopped.

"What troop do you belong to?" he asked.

"The Endscoombe First, sir," replied the patrol leader. "We're the
Peewits."

"Thank goodness I've fallen in with some scouts," rejoined the spy.
"I have lost touch with my troop--the Third Oakendene. I suppose you
have seen nothing of them?"

The patrol-leader, a sharp-witted Devon lad of about fifteen, "smelt
a rat." For one thing, he had never heard of the Oakendene Troop; for
another, he was fairly conversant with the disposition of all the
scout troops engaged in assisting the military and police to scour
the moors.

"I think we can help you, sir," he replied, almost without
hesitation. "At any rate, we'll put you on the right path. Will you
take charge of the patrol?"

The question was a "feeler." It had the desired effect, for in giving
words of command the spy gave himself away. His knowledge of British
army drill was comprehensive, but of scouting he knew practically
nothing.

The rest of the boys "tumbled" to their patrol-leader's ruse. Without
showing suspicion at the unusual orders, they set off in Indian file.

"It's a strange thing that we should lose our scoutmaster and find
another who has lost his troop," remarked the patrol-leader. "Of
course we may find him a little further on. We're nearly at the Three
Bridges road now."

"So I believe," rejoined Oberfurst, whose keen ear had detected the
steady tramp of armed men. "In that case you've taken me out of my
way. No, I don't blame you, but I'll say 'Good night.'"

He stopped abruptly, determined to give his attentive companions the
slip--in a seemingly casual manner if possible, failing that to make
a dash for safety.

The patrol-leader waited no longer. A warning succession of blasts
upon his whistle rent the night air. Oberfurst found himself
confronted by a ring of staves.

His hand flew to his pocket. The patrol-leader caught the dull glint
of metal. Like a flash his staff descended upon the spy's wrist. The
pistol fell to the ground, while like a pack of hounds the boys threw
themselves upon the German.

Of what happened during the next few seconds none of the scouts had a
decided opinion. All they knew was that while they were attempting to
secure the man as he lay kicking and struggling on the ground there
was a muffled report. One of the lads, uttering an involuntary cry of
pain, clapped his left hand to his right arm. The spy, after writhing
convulsively for a brief instant, ceased to struggle.

Alarmed by the whistle and the pistol-shot, a number of soldiers and
police hurried up to find their "man" lying insensible on the
ground and the scouts rendering first aid to their wounded comrade.

"Here's the spy, sir," declared the patrol-leader, addressing an army
officer. "He shot one of us, so we had to stun him."

The lieutenant bent over the prostrate Hun and flashed a torch-light
in his face.

"You're right, sonny," he said. "It means a hundred pounds to you
scouts. Hulloa, though! You need not have troubled to belabour him
with your poles. He's as dead as a doornail."

Otto Oberfurst had kept his vow not to be taken alive. In the mêlée
he had regained possession of his pistol and had sent a shot clean
through his brain. The bullet in passing out had lodged in the arm of
one of the scouts.

A police inspector joined in the examination.

"Yes," he agreed; "he's saved a file of soldiers a job."

"And has done a pack of lawyers out of a fat sum," added the
lieutenant grimly.



CHAPTER XXXV

TRESSIDAR'S REWARD


IN the well-kept grounds of a naval hospital, far removed from the
danger-zone, where Zepp. alarms were unknown and the angry buzz of
raiding Taubes did not disturb the peaceful atmosphere, two bronzed
but obviously "crocked" officers were sunning themselves in
comfortable camp-chairs.

Ronald Tressidar had only just been able to dispense with the aid of
crutches, and with the assistance of a stout stick and the shoulder
of a fellow-patient he could get about the grounds without much
difficulty.

Eric Greenwood, although outwardly the "fitter" of the twain, was
still suffering from the effect of the injuries sustained in the
monitor's fire-control platform. His fate was literally in the
balance, for he was about to undergo another "medical board," upon
the finding of which his retention in His Majesty's Navy depended.

Tressidar, too, was chafing under the enforced delay. Complete rest
after strenuous activity afloat is all very well, but in time it
palls horribly. The call of the sea, strong even in the far-remote
times of peace, was now irresistible. Rumours of activity on the part
of the German fleet had grown persistent until the sub. realised the
possibility of The Day being pulled off while he was still cooling
his heels in the grounds of the naval hospital.

"Yes," declared the A.P., throwing the morning paper on the grass
beside his chair, "I'm bored stiff. We want something to cheer us up.
Solid good news, and no more silly tosh in the shape of purely
hypothetical statements of what may happen if something else
doesn't."

"What's upset your apple-cart now, old man?"

"Look at the news. Another hostile cruiser raid, followed,
presumably, by a letter from an amateur Lord of the Admiralty
expressing regret for the damage done to the bombarded town and a
promise that if the enemy try it again they'll feel sorry for
themselves. Ten days ago, too, the Press was deriding an official
Turkish communiqué. Now, as in previous cases, the report proves to
be absolutely correct. It makes a fellow feel particularly savage,
doesn't it?"

Tressidar shrugged his shoulders.

"Because we are out of it," he replied. "Out there, when we are doing
our individual bit, we had the satisfaction of knowing that whenever
a chance occurred we were too many for the Huns. We don't advertise;
we are not allowed to let others advertise for us, still the work
goes on. Out of touch with events afloat, we are apt to be influenced
by the opinion of the great and uninformed British Public. Still, I
admit, a little good news would be welcome. Here's Fuller to cheer
you up," he continued, as the flight-sub. came limping up over the
grass. "Well, my festive bird, how goes it?"

The flight-sub. had not been long in following his former companion
in captivity. It was he who had bombed the submarine just as the
refloated monitor was about to bring her remaining 14-inch gun to
bear upon the "U" boat. Having accomplished this feat, Fuller flew
back to Harwich to summon assistance to the badly damaged "Anzac,"
and, by the irony of fate, had slipped from the second rung of a
ladder on board the parent ship and had fractured his ankle.

"What's that?" demanded the newcomer as he tendered his
cigarette-case. Our A.P. requires cheering up?"

"Yes; he's developed a bad grousing attack," replied Tressidar. "Got
it badly, don't you know."

"Fact," agreed Greenwood. "I never was like it on board, was I,
Tress.? It must be this rotten inaction."

"No, you haven't time to have the blues out there," agreed the sub.
"Afloat we're fed on actions; but here we eke out a miserable
existence on words. Yes, Fuller, I think we want cheering up."

"Let me begin," said the flight-sub. "Now, this is official. Message
just come through. Listen: Yesterday morning in thick weather one of
our destroyer flotillas came in touch with some hostile cruisers. The
latter broke off action, but not before H.M.T.B.D. 'Ypres,'
Lieutenant-commander Terence Aubyn, D.S.O., succeeded in torpedoing a
large cruiser supposed to be the 'Opelm.'"

"Lucky blighter, Aubyn!" remarked Tressidar enviously. "I've met him
once or twice. Wish to goodness I had been shipmates with him in that
scrap."

"And now for a personal matter," continued Fuller. "For the simple
reason that I merely did what I am paid to do, they've slung a little
decoration at me. I've been given the Distinguished Service Cross for
busting up a 'U' boat that was trying to strafe you, but couldn't."

In the midst of the blunt and hearty congratulations of his chums,
Fuller suddenly noticed a nursing sister approaching.

"I'm off," he exclaimed hurriedly. "There'll be a deuce of a breeze
if she finds that I'm out here without that fakealorum caboodle of a
wheeled chair. Come along, Greenwood; bear a hand. S'long, Tress.;
don't give the show away."

The A.P. obligingly did as the flight-sub. had requested and
Tressidar was left alone.

A light footfall caused him to look up. Standing a few feet away was
Doris Greenwood, who, of course by a pure coincidence, had been
transferred from Auldhaig to the south-west coast hospital a few
weeks previously.

"Have you seen Eric?" asked the girl, who was holding three or four
envelopes in her hand. At the risk of losing his balance, Tressidar
leant sideways and peeped under his camp chair.

"I cannot see him anywhere here, Sister," he replied, loyalty to the
retreating Fuller compelling him to avoid a direct reply. "At all
events, I was left here in solitude to meditate upon the fraility of
human friendship, when like a guiding star----"

"Please don't be idiotic," said Doris with mock severity. "Here is a
telegram for you."

"Thank you," said the sub. promptly. "Now, won't you accept this
vacant chair (believe me, it's very comfortable) and open the
wretched thing for me? You know telegrams always give me a bad time.
For instance, this flimsy, orange-coloured envelope might contain the
information that my great-great-aunt has died and left a cool million
to be divided equally between her one and only great-great-nephew and
the Home for Lost and Anaemic Cats. So please open the fateful
missive and read me the momentous news."

"You want a lot of humouring, Ronald," said the girl as she seated
herself and began to rip open the envelope. "If all the other
patients were like you----"

"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated Tressidar piously.

The wire was a "private tip" sent by a friend "up-topsides" at the
Admiralty.

"Your promotion dated from the twenty-ninth," read Doris.

"Hurrah!" exclaimed Tressidar joyously, sub. no longer but a
full-fledged lieutenant. "This must be my birthday."

"Also awarded D.S.O. for 'Anzac' affair," continued the girl.
"Ronald, you are a lucky fellow. I congratulate you heartily. You
seem to get everything you want."

Like a flash came the sailor's instinct to act promptly. Tressidar's
powerful, bronzed hand closed over the girl's firm wrist.

"Ay," he rejoined. "And, best of all, you, Doris."



THE END



MADE AND PRINTED BY PURNELL AND SONS
PAULTON (SOMERSET) AND LONDON



  Transcriber's Notes:

  This book contains a number of misprints.
  The following misprints have been corrected:

    [And even if that mine explode] -->
        [And even if that mine explodes]
    [sinister-loking objects] -->
        [sinister-looking objects]
    [gone to blow up the bas-bag] -->
        [gone to blow up the gas-bag]
    [was quickly spread broadcast from] -->
        [was quickly spread--broadcast from]
    [Sorched and maimed bodies] -->
        [Scorched and maimed bodies]
    [psycological moment] -->
        [psychological moment]
    [would bewray their presence] -->
        [would betray their presence]
    [were more serious that she believed,] -->
        [were more serious than she believed,]
    [uppermost ratlins] -->
        [uppermost ratlines]
    [a horizonal position] -->
        [a horizontal position]
    [Relying implicity upon] -->
        [Relying implicitly upon]

  A few cases of punctuation errors were corrected, but are
  not mentioned here.





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