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Title: A Sub. of the R.N.R. - A 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 SUB. OF THE R.N.R.



[Illustration: "Crash! went the anti-aircraft gun, and the
projectile, bursting almost in front of the bows, gave her a mortal
blow."]



A SUB. OF THE R.N.R.

_A STORY OF THE GREAT WAR_


BY
PERCY F. WESTERMAN
AUTHOR OF "THE RIVAL SUBMARINES," "THE DREADNOUGHT OF THE AIR"
ETC., ETC.



_ILLUSTRATED BY W. E. WIGFULL_



LONDON
S. W. PARTRIDGE & CO., LTD.
OLD BAILEY



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER
      I. FOUL PLAY IN THE ENGINE-ROOM
     II. ON THE SCENT
    III. THE DECLARATION OF WAR
     IV. A DOUBLE ARREST
      V. BOARDED
     VI. AN OCEAN DUEL
    VII. VON ECKENHARDT SCORES
   VIII. THE DUTCH TRAWLER
     IX. THE SECRET WIRELESS
      X. H.M.S. "STRONGBOW" SAILS
     XI. ALL IN A DAY'S WORK
    XII. MINED
   XIII. THE RAID ON SCARBOROUGH
    XIV. THE END OF THE "TERRIER"
     XV. VICE VERSÂ
    XVI. THE FLOORING OF MR. MCNAB
   XVII. THE END OF THE "BLUECHER"
  XVIII. DERELICTS
    XIX. THE SUBMARINE SCORES
     XX. A DUEL WITH A ZEPPELIN
    XXI. THE LAST OF THE "SYNTAX"
   XXII. THE TABLES TURNED
  XXIII. THE STRUGGLE IN THE CUTTING
   XXIV. THE "STRONGBOW'S" PRIZE
    XXV. THE WRECK
   XXVI. "THE PRICE OF ADMIRALTY"
  XXVII. "MEPHISTO" AND THE SUBMARINE
 XXVIII. THE FOILED AIR RAID
   XXIX. "LIEUTENANT AUBYN, R.N., D.S.O."



A SUB. OF THE R.N.R.



CHAPTER I.

FOUL PLAY IN THE ENGINE-ROOM.


"WELL, Mr. McBride?"

"It's verra far from weel, sir," replied Jock McBride, chief engineer
of the SS. "Saraband." Captain Ramshaw folded his arms and waited. He
knew that it was practically a matter of impossibility to urge the
rugged Scottish engineer beyond his usual gait. McBride could and did
work at high pressure, but when it came to making a report he was as
slow and stolid as the proverbial obstinate mule.

The SS. "Saraband," 5260 tons, intermediate boat of the Red Band
Line, had developed engine troubles shortly after leaving Cape Town.
In spite of the assiduous care and attention of the staff the fault
developed. Two hundred miles from Las Palmas the breakdown reached a
climax. Wallowing like a porpoise the steamer lay helpless in the
trough of the Atlantic rollers.

"Ye ken ye tauld me to do three things, sir," resumed McBride.
"Firstly, to discover the fault, secondly, to remedy it, an' lastly,
to prevent it from occurring again? We'll take case the furrst: here
'tis."

The chief engineer extended a black greasy hand. In the outstretched
palm was an oily mass of metal chippings.

"This is a sample from the high-pressure slide valves. They're badly
scored. It's nae fair play, for as sure as ma name's Jock McBride,
this muck has been put in the gear deliberately. I'll hae ye to ken
that both port and starboard engines are damaged."

"While we were in Table Bay?"

"Of course, sir, when we took down the high-pressure cylinders."

"The work was performed by our own staff?"

"Aye, wurrst luck, by one of our ain people."

McBride's lean, tanned face was purple with ill-suppressed anger.
"If I could discover the mon I'd not wait for the law to wurrk its
course; I'd lay him oot an' stand the consequences. The remedy, sir,
is simple, but 'tis the prevention that troubles me. If it is done
wance, 'twill most likely occur again--unless I lay my hand on the
mon."

"How many of the staff know of this?" asked Captain Ramshaw, pointing
to the steel filings.

"Only Meester Raeburn, sir, and he's as guid a lad as ever I hope to
have under me. It was he who removed the stuff an' showed it me."

"Then caution him to keep his mouth shut on the business, Mr.
McBride. When can you promise to have steam raised?"

"A matter of twa' hours after we've re-assembled the high-pressure
slide valves and the auxiliary starting valves, sir."

"Very good, Mr. McBride, that will do."

The chief engineer saluted and hurried off to the engine-room, while
Captain Ramshaw made his way to the bridge, which was in charge of
Chief Officer Lymore and the fourth officer, Terence Aubyn.

Mr. Lymore, a short, broad-shouldered, powerfully built man, looked
inquiringly at his superior officer as the skipper mounted the
bridge.

"McBride's found the cause of the mischief, Mr. Lymore," announced
Captain Ramshaw. "I do not want either you or Mr. Aubyn to mention
the matter to any of the passengers and crew, and Mr. McBride has
undertaken to conceal the knowledge from his staff with the exception
of Mr. Raeburn. I think the secret can be safely trusted with those
whose names I've mentioned."

"You can rely upon us, sir," said the chief officer, and Terence
Aubyn touched his cap in acquiescence.

"There's underhand work somewhere," continued the "old man." "McBride
informs me that metal scrap has been surreptitiously placed in the
high-pressure cylinders, and that it must have been done while the
engines were being overhauled at Cape Town. As we had no outside
help, the culprit or culprits must have been one of our own men."

"For what reason, do you suppose, sir?"

"That I cannot say. The engineers are, I think, absolutely
trustworthy. The firemen are apparently contented. They are paid at
rates considerably higher than those demanded by their Union. They
have no cause to be affected by labour troubles. And yet some one has
deliberately attempted to delay the ship by maliciously tampering
with the engines.

"Will it be a long job, sir?" asked Lymore.

"I think not. One blessing, the sea's fairly calm and the passengers
don't appear to be unduly anxious. There is now no necessity to send
a call for assistance. You might go to the wireless-room, Mr. Aubyn,
and tell the operator to inform our agents that the repairs are well
in hand, and that we hope to arrive at Las Palmas by daybreak
to-morrow."

Terence Aubyn saluted and hurried off. Keen on his work he realized
the desirability of executing all orders "at the double." Alacrity
afloat, he knew, is a sure password for success, and already he had
the reputation of being a smart young officer.

He was barely twenty-two years of age, tall, slimly built yet
well-proportioned. His complexion was normally fresh, but constant
exposure to a tropical sun and the stinging salt spray of the
Atlantic had tanned his skin to a rich deep red. His dark brown hair,
in spite of being closely cut, showed a decided tendency to wave. His
eyes were rather deep set and of a greyish hue, and were surrounded
by a pair of regularly curved eyebrows. The depth of his forehead
indicated a sound judgment, while his powerful square jaw betokened a
firmness almost bordering on obstinacy.

Terence Aubyn had from his earliest days a strong and passionate love
of the sea. He came of an old naval family. For generations back the
Aubyns had served their sovereign worthily as officers in the Royal
Navy, and Terence fondly hoped to tread the quarter deck of a British
battleship as a fully commissioned naval officer.

But hitherto the fates had not been kind to the lad.

While he was still a lieutenant Terence's father had to retire, owing
to ill-health. His disability pension was absolutely insufficient for
him to hope to send his son to Osborne. Two years later Mr. Aubyn
died, leaving Terence, then a promising youth of fourteen, to make
his own way in the world.

The lad had plenty of grit. He was determined to go to sea, although
the immediate prospect of service under the White Ensign seemed to be
very remote. There was a way--the hitherto somewhat despised "back
door" method via the Red and Blue ensigns; and although he could not
hope to be anything more than a Royal Naval Reserve officer, the
chance of serving as such in a British man-of-war slowly but surely
changed from a shadow to a substance.

So Terence offered himself at the "Red Band" Line offices as an
apprentice and was accepted. Perhaps it was a mistake. It might have
been better for him to have served part of his apprenticeship in a
sailing vessel. Be that as it may his application and activity gained
him the good opinion of the various masters under whom he served, and
with flying colours he obtained his Mate's and First Mate's
certificates.

Two years later, having secured his "Master's Ticket," he was
appointed to SS. "Saraband." The way was now clear for him to apply
for a sub-lieutenancy in the Royal Naval Reserve, for, although only
fourth officer, the ship exceeded 5000 tons; otherwise he would have
to wait until he was advanced another grade in mercantile rank. At
the end of the present voyage he hoped to put in his first
twenty-eight days training on board a battleship or cruiser.

The "Saraband," though by no means a crack liner, was a fairly swift
boat. Built before the days of turbine engines she could even now
develop nineteen knots. She was homeward bound, carrying thirty
first-class passengers, seventy second-class, and a hundred and
seventy "steerage." In addition to a heavy cargo, specie and bullion
to the value of a quarter of a million was locked up in her
strong-room.

Almost as soon as the "Saraband" cleared Table Bay trouble developed
in her engines. Unaccountably the bearings of the main shafting
became badly overheated, then a peculiar grinding noise, so foreign
to the smoothly purring engines that were the pride and delight of
Chief Engineer McBride, became apparent. Finally, to prevent a
complete breakdown, the "Saraband" was stopped in mid-ocean while
McBride and his staff ascertained and rectified the damage.

The old Scotsman was right. Some one had maliciously tampered with
the machinery--but for what purpose?

The fourth officer made his way to the wireless-room and knocked at
the door. He was answered by Wilcox, the second operator. A glimpse
into the room revealed Grant, the senior man, seated at a table with
the receivers clipped to his ears.

"Anything special?" asked Aubyn casually, after he had delivered the
"old man's" instructions.

"Slightly," drawled Wilcox. He invariably drawled, no matter the
importance of whatever he was about to convey. "Message just come
through. Germany has declared war on Russia and has invaded French
territory."

"By Jove! That sounds exciting," commented Aubyn.

"Perhaps," rejoined the wireless operator. "For one thing it will
give the ship's newspaper a friendly lead. There's been precious
little in it for the last three days. I'm just sending out the
notices," and he held up a sheaf of duplicated papers for
distribution in various parts of the ship. "Would you mind taking
them to the bridge."

In five minutes the news had spread all over the "Saraband." The
hitherto lethargic passengers developed intense excitement, and great
was the speculation as to when the trouble would end.

"A jolly good thing for us," observed one of the first-class
passengers, as Terence passed along the promenade deck. "It will
spoil Germany's trade for a while, and we can collar the lot while
her hands are full."

"Unless we are drawn in," remarked another.

"Rot!" ejaculated the first contemptuously. "The Government would
never allow it. Take my word for it: we'll adopt the same attitude as
we did in '70--strict neutrality and make as much as we can out of
all the belligerents. The idea of war between Great Britain and
Germany is preposterous."

The fourth officer passed on. Much as he would have liked to hear the
continuation of the argument he was unable to delay returning to his
post.

Shortly after Aubyn's arrival on the bridge, a large German liner,
the "Hertzolf," bore down upon the "Saraband." She had some time
previously picked up the British vessel's wireless reports of her
disabled condition, and in spite of Captain Ramshaw's refusal to
accept assistance, had steamed out of her course to investigate.

After receiving reiterated assurances that the work of repairing the
machinery was well in hand, the "Hertzolf" inquired how long the task
would take.

"Tell them we are almost ready to get up steam," ordered the "old
man," somewhat nettled. "Thank them for their inquiries, and say
that we will not detain them longer."

Five minutes later the "Hertzolfs" propellers began to churn the
water. Gathering way she dipped her red, white, and black ensign, a
compliment that the "Saraband" promptly returned. This done she
shaped a course to the sou'-west and was soon hull-down.

"Too jolly inquisitive for my liking," muttered Captain Ramshaw. "I
wish to goodness old McBride would get his job finished." He moved
towards the telephone communicating with the engine-room, then,
abruptly wheeling:--

"Mr. Aubyn," he exclaimed. "Present my compliments to the chief
engineer, and ask him if he can give me any definite information as
to when he will be able to raise steam."



CHAPTER II.

ON THE SCENT.


FOURTH Officer Aubyn knew that it was for no ordinary purpose that he
had been sent with a message to the chief engineer. It was most
unusual for a deck-officer to have to go to the engine-room on duty.
There was something beyond a normal anxiety to know when the ship
would be able to raise steam that caused Captain Ramshaw to make an
inquiry from the bridge without using the telephone.

It was a diplomatic stroke on the part of the "old man." He knew by
experience that McBride could be easily led, while on the other hand
the dour old Scotsman would not be driven. It was not a case of
preferential treatment in the case of the chief engineer. Captain
Ramshaw invariably treated all his subordinates alike, giving his
orders in a bland, courteous manner that rarely failed to produce an
instant response on the part of those with whom he had to come in
contact. Yet from the chief officer down to the pantry-boy no one on
board would dare to take undue advantage of the skipper's courtesy.
Woe betide the unlucky man to whom Captain Ramshaw had to give the
same order twice. There had been instances, but not on board the SS.
"Saraband." The good understanding between the captain, officers, and
crew made her the counterpart of a "happy ship" in the Royal Navy.

But now, for the first time on record during Captain Ramshaw's
command, a dirty piece of work had been done on board--seemingly
unaccountably. Some one in the engine-room had committed a dastardly
crime. Captain Ramshaw would not rest until the culprit had been
spotted; for with the safety of the ship, passengers, crew, and
cargo, and in the interests of the owners, it was absolutely
necessary to discover the identity of the offender.

Terence opened the door of the engine-room and paused. Between the
bars of the "fidley" wafts of hot air and steam, mingled with the
nauseating odours of burning oil, eddied upwards. At his feet gaped a
vague, ill-lighted cavern, the only approach to which was by means of
a series of short, shining steel ladders.

As his eyes grew accustomed to the semi-gloom the outlines of the
gleaming masses of intricate machinery became apparent; a bewildering
array of polished steel, copper, and brass. A subdued roar, mingled
with the clatter of drills and tapping of hammers and men's voices
shouting peremptory orders came from the metal cavern. The auxiliary
engines, for supplying power to the derricks and for lighting
purposes, were fortunately intact.

It was new ground to Terence Aubyn, and hardly a place where "white
ducks" could be considered _de rigeur_. Grasping the hand-rail he
descended cautiously till his feet came in contact with the slippery
iron gangway by the side of the now motionless piston-heads. At the
extremity of the platform, confronted by a number of indicators, the
senior engineers on duty were generally to be found; but McBride was
not there.

Another length of vertical ladder had to be negotiated, with
seemingly little space for the descending man between the rungs and a
complication of gleaming copper pipes that threatened to hit him in
the back. To add to Aubyn's discomfort, the motion of the vessel in
the trough of the sullen rollers was unpleasantly noticeable. On deck
he revelled in the undulating movement. In the stuffy engine-room it
was very different.

"A proper death-trap if anything goes wrong," thought he. "Thank
goodness I'm a deck-officer."

Terence had to descend three more lengths of ladder before he reached
the plates of the engine-bed. Here there were men in swarms, for the
most part greasers in dungaree suits. Amongst them Aubyn spotted
Kenneth Raeburn, looking very different from his spruce appearance in
the engineers' mess or when he went ashore.

Raeburn and Aubyn were good pals. Whenever, between the intervals of
stowing and unloading the cargo in the holds, Terence was able to get
ashore, they generally contrived to be in each other's company.

The third engineer was generally voted "a decent sort" by his
messmates. His case was very similar to that of Terence Aubyn; for he
had been intended for the Royal Navy until a drastic modification of
the regulations, whereby cadets had eventually to specialize in
marine engineering, had put him out of the running. He, too, held a
commission in the Royal Naval Reserve, and in the natural buoyancy of
his spirits, Kenneth Raeburn often hoped for the time when Great
Britain and Germany were to measure their strength for the supremacy
of the sea. Then, he realized, would be the chance for mercantile
officers in the R.N.R. to prove their worth as effective assistants
to their comrades of the Royal Navy.

"Looking for McBride?" repeated Raeburn. "He's down the tunnel. The
main-shaft bearings are seized up. Beastly job. You won't be able to
get to him, old chap."

"I must," said Terence firmly.

"At the expense of your uniform then. I'll find him. Follow me."

At the head of the next ladder Raeburn paused.

"I think I've spotted the rascal," he announced. "Keep behind me.
When I drop a spanner, have a look at the fellow we're passing. I'll
tell you more later on."

Along the electrically lighted platform the two young officers made
their way, frequently stepping over the prostrate bodies of greasers
who were tackling an intricate job under the supervision of the
second engineer.

With a clatter the spanner dropped on the metal floor within a few
inches of a tall, broad-shouldered, fair-haired man, dressed like his
companions in a very dirty boiler suit. The fellow was lying on his
side with his hands above his face as he secured an
intricately-placed hexagonal nut. Hearing the clatter he turned his
head, stifled an imprecation, and grasping the spanner, held it at
arm's length for Raeburn to take.

Aubyn glanced at the man's face. Although outwardly a casual look he
marked the fellow's features. He was convinced that he had not seen
him before, but that was not to be wondered at, as there is no
necessity for the deck-officers to know the greasers and firemen
individually as in the case of the deckhands. Nevertheless, he felt
certain that he would know the man again.

"Hang on a few moments," bawled Raeburn, for the noise in this
quarter was deafening. He vanished, leaving Terence in his
unaccustomed and distasteful surroundings while he went to find his
chief.

Presently McBride appeared, dirty, smothered in oil and perspiring
like the proverbial bull. The chief engineer was one of those
officers who was not content with mere supervision. When work of an
urgent nature, such as the present, was at hand, he tackled it
methodically and deliberately.

"Ma compliments to Captain Ramshaw," said McBride, when Terence had
delivered his message, "but I'll nae commit mesel'. The wurrk is
takin' longer than I anticipated, and we're doin' double shifts to
set things aright. Gie' him to onderstan' that directly we are able
to raise steam, steam will be raised, but not before."

"Haven't you any idea?" asked Aubyn.

"Nay, I'll nae commit mesel'," reiterated the chief engineer, and
without another word he hastened back to his cramped quarters in the
tunnel of the starboard main shafting.

Raeburn followed his chum to the engine-room door.

"Look me up at seven bells to-night," he said. "We'll do a little
amateur detective business. That greaser I pointed out is new to the
ship. Joined us at Southampton. There's nothing out of the ordinary
about that, but on one or two nights I've noticed him talking to a
second-class passenger. On the first occasion I stumbled upon them by
accident, and they shut up like oysters. Then when the trouble
developed, I remarked this somewhat unusual meeting and kept a watch.
At the same hour these two met, and the passenger handed our man a
small packet of something. It might have been tobacco, of course; but
curiously enough we've discovered the cause of the bearings of the
two main shafts seizing and getting almost red-hot. There were
phosphor-bronze filings in the drip lubricators. Now, it's a
remarkable thing that it was part of this greaser's duties--Stone is
his name, by the by--to attend to the lubrication of these bearings;
and I'll swear he couldn't get hold of phosphor-bronze filings from
the engineers' stores. So I want you to keep a lookout on the
passenger; I don't know his name, but if you see them you can easily
find that out."

"Why not inform McBride?" asked Terence.

"When I have proof," replied Raeburn. "So look out for me at seven
bells."

The fourth officer returned to the bridge and reported the result of
his brief interview.

"Very good, Mr. Aubyn," was Captain Ramshaw's only comment.

The "old man" was disappointed but not nettled by McBride's message.
H e had great faith in the old Scotsman, and only sheer anxiety had
prompted him to obtain a report of the progress of operations from
the chief engineer. There was nothing to do but to wait patiently.

The rest of the day passed almost without incident, except that
Grant, the wireless operator, reported a partial "jamming" of the
aerial waves. Messages were received in a very disjointed form, and
in spite of the fact that Grant requested the unknown disturber to
release the "jamb," owing to the receipt of unintelligible reports,
his efforts were in vain. Some vessels on shore-stations using a
differently "tuned" installation were literally holding the air. The
curious part of the business was that the "Saraband" received several
messages in which the words "neutrality of Belgium" figured largely,
but beyond that no enlightening context was obtainable.

During the afternoon Terence Aubyn had to exercise the gun-crews at
drill with one of the two 4.7's that had recently been fitted to the
ship. These weapons, mounted aft, one on each quarter, were for the
purpose of keeping up a running fight in the event of the outbreak of
war. They would enable the ship to beat off the possible attack of a
hostile commerce-destroyer, or at any rate prolong the action until
the arrival of a British cruiser.

Aubyn was very keen on this part of his duties. It was, until he had
undergone his training in the Royal Navy, a purely honorary task.
Later on he might hope to draw a modest ten pounds a year from the
National Exchequer for his ability to perform a combatant duty. From
a pecuniary point of view it did not seem very promising, but the
fourth officer was used to meagre pay for much work. He had to be
able to "read the heavens," to use at least a dozen highly
complicated nautical instruments, to undergo a strenuous scientific
training, and to take sole charge of a ship during his watch. Lives
and property of incalculable value were in his hands, yet his pay was
an amount at which many a sleek, discontented clerk would turn up his
nose in utter disgust.

For half an hour Terence kept his gun's crew hard at it, going
through imaginary loading exercises and training the docile weapon at
imaginary targets, to the great interest of most of the passengers
and to the ill-bred scorn of others who derided the whole business as
idiotic make-believe.

This done the fourth officer was at leisure for rest and sleep until
turned out at 4 a.m. to take his watch.

At the hour agreed upon Aubyn met Raeburn outside the engineers'
mess. It was now pitch dark, for in the Tropics there is little or no
twilight. The sky was overcast, although the glass was steady, and
not a star shed its light on the waste of waters. The "Saraband,"
brilliantly lighted, still floated idly, drifting at the rate of
fifteen miles a day under the influence of the weak Counter
Equatorial Current.

Selecting a hiding-place in a corner thrown into deep shadow by the
glare of a powerful lamp, the churns waited. Half an hour passed
without result. They began to feel stiff and cramped in their
confined quarters.

Presently Raeburn nudged the fourth officer.

Strolling along the alley-way was a short, sparely built man. He was
dressed in a white flannel suit with a dark red cummer-bund. He was
bareheaded, and as a ray of light fell upon his features Terence
could see that his were of a yellow cadaverous appearance. His hair
was black, thick, and closely cut. His moustache was heavy and
drooping. His eyes turned furtively from side to side as he advanced,
although he kept his head as rigid as if immovably fixed to his body.

He passed by their place of concealment. Aubyn could hear his soft
shoes pattering upon the deck. Presently he returned, promenading the
whole length of the alley-way. Thrice he did this, then, giving a
swift glance behind him, stepped into a store-room immediately
opposite the companion to the greasers' and firemen's quarters, the
after bulkhead of which formed with the side of the ship the recess
in which the two chums lay concealed.

The fellow was breathing heavily. Through the iron partition the two
watchers could hear his laboured gasps which were the result not of
unusual activity but of intense mental strain.

Again Raeburn touched his companion on the shoulder. Some one else
was approaching--not from the engine-room hands' quarters but along
the alley-way.

It was a woman, slight of build, and in spite of the heat, closely
veiled. Without hesitation she went straight to the place where the
suspected man was waiting.

For ten minutes the pair talked, rapidly and in low, excited tones;
then together they made their way aft.

"A rotten sell," remarked Aubyn, as soon as the coast was clear. "We
came to spot a pair of conspirators--not to witness a meeting between
a pair of lovers."

"Shouldn't think the woman was sweet on that chap, but there's no
accounting for taste," rejoined Raeburn. "That's the fellow right
enough. Did you hear what they were talking about?"

"Not I; it wasn't my business," replied Terence.

"It ought to. They were talking in German."

"Don't understand the lingo," declared the fourth officer. "Besides,
what if they did? There are seven German passengers on board; and
it's hard lines if they can't speak in their own tongue if they want
to, especially if they avoid lacerating the ears of their
fellow-passengers with the saw-edged language."

"There's more in it than you imagine, old man. That fellow is an
intermediary between the woman and Stone, the greaser. Apparently
Stone--referred to by the woman as Hans, although the name he gave is
Henry--is holding out for more money for doing something. The woman
maintains that he failed to do his allotted task satisfactorily--that
he bungled badly over it. She wanted to tackle Stone himself, and the
passenger fellow, whose name is Karl, objected. Possibly it was owing
to her presence that Stone failed to put in an appearance."

"By Jove, Raeburn, I believe you're on the right track after all!"

"I think I am," replied the third engineer quietly. "At all events
we'll keep this to ourselves for a little until we obtain further
evidence. If I don't see you before, we'll meet here to-morrow night
at seven bells, and trust that Stone will show his hand."



CHAPTER III.

THE DECLARATION OF WAR.


JUST before eight bells (4 a.m.) Terence Aubyn was called to prepare
for his spell of duty on the bridge. Hastily dressing and donning his
pilot-coat--for in spite of being within a few degrees of the line
the air was cold compared with the temperature during the day--the
fourth officer drank a cup of coffee and hurried on deck.

Exchanging a few words with the officer he was relieving Terence
began to pace the bridge. On this occasion there was little to do,
since the "Saraband" was not making way. Men were on the watch on the
fo'c'sle, and hands were stationed in the crow's-nest in order to
report the possible approach of other vessels. The apprentices on
duty--termed, by courtesy, midshipmen--made their stereotyped
reports, the quartermasters went the rounds and announced that all
was correct on and 'tween decks. Not being actually under way the
ship did not display her customary red and green navigation lamps.
The white light on the forestay was the only one visible. Even the
chart-room window had been screened, in order to avoid dazzling the
eyes of the officer of the watch.

Down below the passengers were sleeping more or less soundly in their
bunks. Most of the crew were also asleep in the forepeak. From the
depths of the engine-room came the muffled, barely audible sounds of
men still hard at work, under the tireless and energetic supervision
of Chief Engineer McBride.

Terence had barely been on duty for ten minutes when Wilcox, the
junior wireless operator, mounted the bridge ladder.

"Something rather important," he drawled. "Guess Captain Ramshaw
ought to be informed."

He handed Aubyn a slip of paper, and without waiting further backed
slowly down the ladder.

"Quartermaster!" exclaimed Terence.

"Sir?"

"Stand by, will you? I am going into the charthouse."

The man saluted. Aubyn entered the screened compartment and shut the
door. Here by the aid of the electric light he was able to read the
momentous message at which Wilcox had hinted.

"That fellow ought to have been an undertaker's mute!" he ejaculated
under his breath. "Fancy hardly turning a hair over a thing like
this."

For the wireless message was one that had stirred the British Empire,
nay, the whole of the civilized world:--

"Great Britain has declared war on Germany." Aubyn's heart gave a
bound. He realized that the chance of a lifetime was in front of him.
In the titanic struggle that seemed bound to take place on the High
Seas every officer and man of the Royal Naval Reserve would be called
upon to assist their comrades of the Royal Navy. The Reserve would be
put upon its mettle; it had a high duty to perform. It had to
vindicate its existence and prove to captious critics that it was a
fighting force that carried weight. It had to carry out its work as
one of the triple barbs of Britannia's trident.

The news was far too important to entrust to a messenger. Again
telling the quartermaster to stand by, and giving a comprehensive
glance over the expanse of sea to make sure that there were no
vessels' navigation lights visible, Aubyn hastened towards the
captain's cabin.

As he passed the wireless-room he pushed open the door. Both
operators were on duty. Wilcox was vainly endeavouring to "call up"
a station; Grant was "standing by."

"You haven't mentioned the news?" asked the fourth officer.

Grant shook his head.

"We're getting out the notices for distribution," he said.

"Better not," declared Aubyn authoritatively. "Keep the news dark
until Captain Ramshaw decides what is to be done."

At the door of the captain's cabin Terence paused, then knocked.
Under ordinary circumstances the panelled door was tapped discreetly,
but Aubyn gave a decisive double knock.

"Come in!" exclaimed a very tired voice.

Captain Ramshaw was in his bunk. At the first sound he had switched
on a light.

"Well, Mr. Aubyn?"

Terence did not say a word in reply. He handed his chief the paper
bearing the momentous news.

"I am not surprised," was Captain Ramshaw's comment. Already he was
out of his bunk and dressing with the swift, deft manner of men who
are apt to be roused from sleep to face danger at any moment of the
night. "You may return to the bridge."

Terence flushed slightly. He knew that he had committed a breach of
discipline in leaving his post during his watch.

"I would respectfully suggest, sir," he began, "that this news be
kept back from the passengers."

"For why, Mr. Aubyn?"

"There are Germans on board."

"Bless my soul, what if there are? Surely you don't expect me to put
non-combatants under arrest?"

"I have good reason to believe, sir, that some of them are
responsible for the breakdown of the engines.

"When did you first have suspicions?"

"Last night, sir."

"Then why was I not instantly informed?"

"That I can explain, sir."

"Carry on, Mr. Aubyn," rejoined Captain Ramshaw quietly.

As briefly as possible Terence related the circumstances under which
he and Raeburn waited for an expected secret interview between the
German passenger and Stone, the greaser; how, in the absence of
conclusive evidence, the two young officers had decided to keep the
result of their investigations to themselves until further
developments justified their suspicions.

"I suppose you two were out for kudos?" remarked Captain Ramshaw
grimly.

"Oh, no, sir," Aubyn hastened to explain. "We were hoping to witness
the meeting between Stone and the German passenger to-night. Then
there might be enough evidence to justify an accusation. But the
declaration of war has altered matters, sir."

"It has," agreed the "old man." "I have my orders in the event of
hostilities. I did not think they would ever be put into force. The
Admiralty instructions are that if homeward bound, or within
forty-eight hours' steaming of a British port, the ship must make for
home waters at full speed. And at present she's as helpless as a
log," he added mirthlessly.

Captain Ramshaw had now finished dressing. With his hands behind his
back he paced the cabin floor deep in thought.

"Very good, Mr. Aubyn," he continued, after a lengthy pause, "I'll
take steps to prevent the news getting amongst the passengers. You
and Mr. Raeburn can carry on with your investigations, but I would
advise you to have a couple of reliable hands within hail. You can
go."

Terence saluted and withdrew. Left to himself the skipper rapidly
formulated his plans. He was in an awkward position. The "Saraband"
was temporarily crippled, not by accident but by design. The time by
which she would be able to get under way was indefinite. There was a
frequent and apparently deliberate "jamming" of the wireless. He
knew that there was a German liner in the vicinity. He also knew
something that many Englishmen derided: that this liner, like scores
of others, was ready to be converted at a few hours' notice into a
commerce destroyer.

The wireless message had said that Great Britain had declared war.
His keen insight told him that the declaration had been forced upon
her. Germany had been preparing more or less secretly for years, and
unless he was greatly mistaken she had forestalled the momentous
time-limit.

Yes, Aubyn was right. It was not a private or personal reason that
was responsible for the outrage to the machinery. There were German
agents on board, who had already been given to understand that war
would be declared before the "Saraband" reached Southampton.
Crippled, she would be an easy and valuable prize to the first
hostile armed merchantman that she fell in with.

Presently he left his cabin and ascended the bridge. His first act
was to ring for Lymore, the first officer.

"What do you think of this, Lymore?" he asked.

The first officer took the paper and was about to make off to the
charthouse when Captain Ramshaw stopped him.

"It's war with Germany," he said.

Lymore set his jaw tightly. He was a middle-aged man, and realized
more forcibly than did Aubyn the possibilities of a conflict with the
second naval power of the world.

"If it's not over in a week, sir," he remarked, "it will be a long
drawn-out business. Either the Germans will attempt a surprise raid
on our fleet or else they'll sit tight and carry on a sniping warfare
with submarines and mines."

"Think so?" asked the "old man." "Mines aren't much use if you don't
hold command of the sea. They can only be used to defend their own
harbours."

"They'll be dumping them overboard in shoals, sir.

"What, adrift? Remember Germany is a highly civilized country, bound
by the laws of the Geneva Convention and the Hague Conference."

"Let's hope she will respect those laws, sir. Personally, I don't
think she will."

"Well, Mr. Lymore, it's no use talking. We must act. I propose to
keep the information from the passengers, but to take officers and
crew into my confidence. Will you pass the word to muster both
watches for'ard? Instruct the bos'un that the men make no unnecessary
noise. We don't want to alarm or excite the passengers."

Ten minutes later the officers, deckhands, and engine-room staff were
mustered abaft the foremast. Those who were keeping "watch below"
were not unreasonably curious to know why they were turned out early
in the morning, before it was yet light. Every available member of
the crew, including firemen and greasers who could be spared from the
boiler and engine-rooms, the large staff of stewards and cooks formed
up till the space between the fo'c'sle and the for'ard bulkhead of
the promenade and boat decks was a seething mass of humanity. The men
conversed in whispers, striving to solve the mystery of being
mustered at such an unearthly hour, but when Captain Ramshaw stepped
upon a hatch cover and held up his hand a hush fell upon the
representative throng of the British Mercantile Marine.

The sole means of illumination was a hurricane lamp held by one of
the messenger boys. The feeble rays fell upon the captain's face. It
was stern and resolute.

"My men!" he exclaimed, speaking slowly and deliberately. He did not
roar, after the manner of the old sea-dogs, but his voice carried
with perfect distinctness. "My men, I have great news. But first let
me impress upon you the extreme urgency for silence and secrecy. The
matter can be discussed amongst yourselves, but should the news
travel beyond you the safety of the old 'Saraband' is gravely
imperilled.

"War was declared between Great Britain and Germany at eleven o'clock
last night. That is all I know, being the news received by wireless.
My duty is to get the ship back to port as quickly as possible, and
hand her over to the Admiralty for whatever purpose they think fit.

"Meanwhile, an accident to the engine has left us helpless. It is
proposed to rectify the damage with the utmost dispatch. German
commerce destroyers are, in all probability, lying in wait on the
recognized trade routes. We can only hope that there are also British
cruisers to foil their little game.

"In spite of our adverse circumstances I know I can rely upon every
man jack of you to do his duty cheerfully and manfully, and to help
to keep the old flag flying. Now, dismiss."

Before daybreak the "Saraband" was ready as far as possible for
eventualities. Ammunition was served up for the two 4.7 in. guns. The
vital part of the bridge was protected by plates of boiler iron
backed with bags of flour. Hoses were coupled up, water poured over
boats hanging in the davits, in case of fire caused by the explosion
of a hostile shell.

Below, Chief Engineer McBride and his staff were still striving their
utmost to bring the engines up to their customary state of
efficiency.



CHAPTER IV.

A DOUBLE ARREST.


CAPTAIN RAMSHAW'S next step was to hold a consultation with some of
his officers as to the advisability of coping with the internal peril
that threatened the ship.

Accordingly Lymore and Aubyn, as representatives of the
deck-officers, and McBride and Raeburn for the engine-room staff,
were called to the captain's cabin. For once that cosily-furnished
apartment reeked of paraffin, for the chief engineer and his
assistant had come practically straight from their work, merely
stopping to remove from their faces and hands the greasy black oil
and had used paraffin for that purpose.

"Don't apologize, Mr. McBride," said the "old man" affably.
"Circumstances alter cases, and it is far preferable to have the reek
of honest oil than the fumes of a German shell. Now to get straight
to the point: have you a plan, Mr. McBride, whereby we can secure
this man of yours, Stone, without occasioning comment amongst his
comrades; and especially not to alarm the passenger who has taken
such a violent fancy to him?"

The chief engineer rubbed his chin and knitted his shaggy brows.

"I can arrange, sir, to have him sent on deck, the miserable worrm.
Beyond that, sir, I venture to suggest 'tis a matter for yoursel' to
keep the passenger in the dark."

"Now, Mr. Lymore, have you made inquiries about the passenger Mr.
Aubyn described?"

"I've interviewed the chief steward, sir. He says that this man
registered as Mr. Duncan McDonald, of Port Elizabeth."

"There's by far too many of these rascally Germans going about with
guid old Scots names," declared McBride vehemently.

"Quite so," agreed Captain Ramshaw, "but unfortunately we have no
evidence to prove that this fellow is a German, except that he spoke
the Teuton language. He might be a Britisher after all."

"He's nae Scot, then," said the chief engineer hotly.

"I think I can suggest a good plan, sir," said Raeburn.

"Carry on, then," remarked Captain Ramshaw encouragingly.

"One of the greasers in my watch--a rattling good fellow--he's made
five trips in the ship, sir--strongly resembles Stone in appearance.
If you could arrest Stone and clap him in irons, we could get
Tretheway, the man I refer to, to impersonate him and lure this
Duncan McDonald----"

"Steady, laddie; 'tes nae Duncan McDonald," remonstrated McBride.

"The passenger who goes by the name of McDonald," corrected Raeburn.
"He could be lured into putting in an appearance. Then we could nab
him, too."

"It's feasible, certainly," said Captain Ramshaw. "You think you can
arrange this?"

"Yes, sir," replied Raeburn.

"Very good; then perhaps Mr. Aubyn and you will be at the rendezvous
at seven bells. Mr. Aubyn will tell off a couple of hands in the
event of any display of resistance. The man may be armed."

"We'll take the risk, sir," said Terence.

"Then that's settled. If you'll send Stone on deck, Mr. McBride, the
sooner we have him under arrest the better."

"And the sooner I'm back in the engine-room the better, I'm thinking,
sir," asserted McBride. "Nae doubt the dirty rogue will be up to his
tricks again while I'm not there tae keep an eye on him."

A few minutes later Stone, sent under the pretence of fetching some
article from the bos'un's store, was promptly pounced upon by a
couple of quartermasters.

"What's the game, old sports?" he asked in a strong Cockney accent
and with well-feigned innocence.

His captors made no reply, but led their unresisting prisoner for'ard
and placed him in a compartment under lock and key.

As soon as the greaser's arrest was reported, Chief Officer Lymore
and Aubyn went to inform him of the charge.

"Attempting to cripple the engines, eh? Strikes me, sir, you're on
the wrong tack," muttered the man.

"Your fellow-conspirator does not seem to think so," remarked Lymore
at a venture.

The accused's features flushed, then turned deadly pale.

"You've got von Eckenhardt, then?" he asked, taken completely aback.

"Yes, the game's up," assented the chief officer, who, although
equally astonished, had the presence of mind to entirely conceal his
feelings.

"Then I may as well make the best of things. It won't be for long,"
declared the prisoner nonchalantly. "Our cruisers will soon make
short work of the 'Saraband,' and then the boot will be on the other
foot."

"Your cruisers?" exclaimed Lymore.

"Yes; I'm a German subject, Mr. Chief Officer, and don't you forget
it. I demand to receive proper treatment as a prisoner of war."

"You'd get it, my man, if I had my way," retorted Lymore grimly.

"Von Eckenhardt!" exclaimed Captain Ramshaw when his subordinate
reported the result of their interview. "Then that is the real name
of the so-called Duncan McDonald. It was a cute move of yours, Mr.
Lymore."

The chief officer flushed with pleasure.

"I presume, sir, we can now arrest him, without waiting till this
evening?"

"No, we'll stick to our original plan, Mr. Lymore. I have good
reasons."

During the day the passengers were restricted to a limited portion of
the decks allotted to the various classes. None were permitted to
approach the 4.7-in. guns. The sight of the ammunition and the gun's
crew standing by would occasion comment. A simple excuse was given
for this restriction, and the passengers accepted it without demur.

For several hours the wireless was still "jammed." Occasionally
messages were received, but none could be sent. Those that did get
through were of slight importance and had no reference to the war.

At noon McBride's strenuous efforts were crowned with success. The
engines were once more in working, order and speed was soon worked up
to sixteen knots. A course was immediately shaped for Las Palmas,
where the "Saraband" would have to coal before resuming her homeward
voyage.

Just after four bells (2 p.m.) the wireless resumed uninterrupted
activity. A message asking the name and position of the ship was
recorded and referred to the bridge. "Ask them what ship is calling,"
ordered Captain Ramshaw.

"H.M.S. 'Padstow,' lat. 5°0'30" N., long. 30°1'15" W. Shape a
course towards me. Enemy cruisers are about," was the reply.

Captain Ramshaw called for a Navy List. H.M.S. "Padstow" was found
to be a light cruiser of 4600 tons.

"Very good; I am acting according to your directions," was his answer
by wireless, but in reality it was very different. He ordered the
course to be altered until the "Saraband" would pass three hundred
miles to the eastward of the position given by the supposed British
cruiser. In addition he gave instructions that no wireless messages
were to be sent from the ship, in order that she might not betray her
presence, for he felt convinced that the call was a decoy sent by one
of the German commerce destroyers.

During the afternoon the chief steward reported the result of his
observations upon the pseudo Duncan McDonald. The man, he declared,
was a regular "hanger-on" to his fellow-passengers. He seemed to
have plenty of money and squandered it at card-playing. Yet he did
not associate with the German passengers, nor could the steward
discover who was the woman that had conferred with McDonald on the
night when Aubyn and Raeburn had him under observation.

Just before seven bells the arrangements were completed for von
Eckenhardt's arrest. Terence and the fourth engineer took up their
positions in the empty storeroom; two burly quartermasters were
hiding just inside the engine-room door, while Tretheway, in the
guise of the now detained Stone, was idling in the alley-way.

Presently von Eckenhardt appeared. Tretheway, keeping his face from
the light, turned his back upon the approaching German.

Twice the fellow walked softly past the supposed Stone, then tapping
him on the shoulder said something in German. What it was Tretheway
did not understand, but acting upon instructions he turned and
grasped the Teuton by the wrists. Aubyn and Raeburn dashed from their
place of concealment and the two quartermasters ran towards the spot.

Taken wholly at a disadvantage von Eckenhardt at first offered no
resistance. He sullenly regarded his captors, without uttering a
word. Then, with a sudden effort, he almost wrenched himself clear.

Raeburn, doubled up by a knee-punch in the wind, subsided heavily
against the metal wall of the alley-way. The two quartermasters
cannoned into each other in attempting to regain their grip upon the
captive. Tretheway, hit upon the point of the chin, tripped over the
coaming of the engine-room doorway; while Terence, in spite of a
vicious kick on the shin, managed to retain his hold upon von
Eckenhardt's collar.

To and fro they swayed, now locked in a deathly embrace. Before the
quartermasters could recover their wits, Aubyn and the German toppled
over the coaming, and on top of the body of the prostrate Tretheway.

Inside the door was a slippery steel platform, barely three feet in
width and protected by a light handrail. To the right and left iron
ladders led to the floor of the engine-room. Seven feet below the
edge of the platform was the piston-head of one of the cylinders--a
vision of gleaming metal partly veiled by wreathes of eddying steam.

In an instant Terence realized his adversary's plan. Rather than
submit to being made a prisoner von Eckenhardt was striving to throw
himself into the midst of the moving machinery. And not only that: he
meant to take one at least of his antagonists with him. He, Terence,
was the one singled out for this wholly unwelcome attention.

In vain Aubyn tried to get a foothold. The slippery iron plate
afforded no grip. His arms, locked about the body of the German, were
imprisoned by the fellow's powerful grasp, for although small in
stature and sparely built, frenzy had given the German the strength
of a Hercules. Suddenly von Eckenhardt planted his feet against the
inside sill of the door. With a terrific jerk he hurled himself under
the handrail. Aubyn had just time to bend his partially held wrist
and grasp the stanchion; then both men dropped over the edge
immediately above the ponderous machinery.

There they hung, swaying with the result of the sudden jerk. Aubyn's
hand retained his grasp upon the oiled metal stanchion in spite of
the fact that he was sustaining the weight of himself and another,
and that the edge of the platform was pressing cruelly against his
arm. All the while von Eckenhardt, clinging to his antagonist like a
monkey, was punching blindly with his disengaged left hand in the
hope of making the fourth officer relax his hold.

It was now that the quartermasters were able to come to the aid of
their young officer. During the struggle on the platform there was no
opportunity for them to intervene--no foothold on that slippery
surface. Raeburn, too, was temporarily "out of action," but by this
time was beginning to take a renewed interest in life.

One of the quartermasters grasped Aubyn by the collar of his white
drill uniform coat. Even in his dire peril Terence wondered whether
his tailor had put good stitches into his work. He fully expected to
find the collar being torn from the rest of the garment.

Then the second quartermaster helped. Lying at full length on the
metal platform he seized the still struggling Eckenhardt by the
waist. Then with a powerful blow with his disengaged fist the man
struck the Teuton full on the temple.


[Illustration: "Both men dropped over the edge immediately above the
ponderous machinery."]


Stunned by the force of the blow the German relaxed his hold. Were it
not for the quartermaster's iron grasp he would have fallen into the
maze of machinery.

"Now's your chance, Tom," exclaimed the man breathlessly. "I'll hold
this chap while you haul up Mr. Aubyn."

Assisted by Raeburn the first quartermaster succeeded in raising
Terence on the platform and thence into the alley-way. Well-nigh
exhausted Aubyn was glad to sit down while the others proceeded to
secure the senseless von Eckenhardt.



CHAPTER V.

BOARDED.


WHILE von Eckenhardt was recovering consciousness and the two young
officers were pulling themselves together after their trying ordeal,
Captain Ramshaw, who had been informed of the successful issue of the
affair, proceeded to the cabin taken by the German under the name of
Duncan McDonald.

It was a single berth cabin, furnished in the luxuriant style that
the Red Band Line provided for their first-class passengers.

The "old man" first directed his attention to an unlocked
portmanteau. It was filled with clothes. Methodically the chief
steward, under Captain Ramshaw's supervision, went through the
pockets. He found nothing incriminating. There was some
correspondence in English of a commonplace order, which gave no rise
to suspicion.

A second portmanteau was doubly locked. The steward cut the Gordian
knot by ripping the cowhide with his pocket-knife. Inside the case
were more clothes, but between the folds was a metal case half filled
with phosphor-bronze filings. There were also a revolver and two
hundred rounds of ammunition, the presence of which in a passenger's
possession was in itself a breach of the Company's regulations.

"Now, that cabin trunk, Saunders," exclaimed Captain Ramshaw,
pointing to a large, strongly made box. "You won't open that with
your penknife, my man."

"One minute, sir," said the steward.

He left the cabin, returning in a very short space of time with a
heavy hammer and a cold chisel.

He was about to attack the lock when the "old man" interposed.

"Avast there, Saunders!" he ejaculated. "We'll have the job tackled a
little more quietly. Go and ask the doctor for a small bottle of the
strongest acid he has."

"That's good, Saunders," he remarked when the man returned. "Now lay
on the acid all round the lock. Mind your eyes: it will splash a bit.
We'll ruin the carpet, I fancy; but there'll be more serious damage
done to the Company's property before long, unless I'm much
mistaken."

Rapidly the powerful acid ate its way into the metal. The cabin
reeked with the pungent fumes.

Captain Ramshaw waited until he considered that the corrosive fluid
had sufficiently weakened the metal, then he soused the side of the
trunk with water.

A gentle pressure of his boot brought the lock clean away. He raised
the lid. The portmanteau was apparently full of clothes. Von
Eckenhardt evidently had an extensive wardrobe.

"There's a double bottom, sir," announced the steward.

"I thought so," replied the captain quietly. "Be careful, Saunders.
You will find a secret spring. Don't use unnecessary force."

Wondering why the skipper harped upon the necessity for caution the
steward continued his investigations. At length he discovered an
invisible push, close to the bottom of the trunk. As he pressed it,
the false bottom opened upon a pair of hinges. The space contained
several sealed envelopes and a tin case measuring about ten inches by
six, and two inches in depth.

"You might hand over those papers," said the captain. "Now, open
that tin."

"It's full of gummy string, sir ."

"Powerful explosive, Saunders, enough to blow a big hole in the old
'Saraband.' There are fuses and detonators, too. I wonder the fool
hadn't more sense than to stow this stuff in a cabin trunk."

"What shall I do with it, sir?" asked the steward, eyeing the box of
latent death and destruction with undisguised apprehension.

"Overboard with it," decided the "old man" promptly.

Before Captain Ramshaw could proceed further with his investigations
a messenger brought the news that a strange vessel, apparently a
warship, was bearing down in the direction of the "Saraband."

The skipper broke all records in his dash for the bridge. Bringing
his binoculars to bear in the direction indicated by the chief
officer he saw that a large grey-painted cruiser was shaping a course
to cut him off.

"If she's a German we're nabbed, Lymore," said the captain. "She's
heavily armed, and we are within range of her guns. Unless I'm much
mistaken, she can give us points in speed."

"Will you alter our course and run for it, sir?" asked the chief
officer.

"Useless," decided Captain Ramshaw, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"If she were a hostile armed merchantman I'd engage her in a running
fight, but she'd blow us out of the water in two minutes. There are
the passengers to consider."

Rapidly the cruiser approached. She made no attempt to communicate
with wireless, but when within signalling distance she hoisted the
letters E.C. meaning, in the International Code, "What ship is
that?"

The "Saraband" immediately "made her number" and hoisted her ensign.
By this time the approach of the cruiser had been noticed by the
passengers, whose interest became intense, although they were still
in ignorance of the fact that a state of war existed between Great
Britain and Germany.

"Thank Heaven!" ejaculated Lymore fervently, as the White Ensign was
hoisted to the masthead of the cruiser, which was, it was remarked,
fully cleared for action.

"Don't be too cocksure," remonstrated the "old man."

"She's a British cruiser, sir," protested the chief officer. "One of
the 'Town' class, that I'll swear. There she goes: code flag over
'H,' sir."

The signal to stop was quickly complied with. Orders were telegraphed
to the engine-room for half-speed astern until the "Saraband" lost
way. The cruiser swung round in a semi-circle and likewise stopped
within two cables' length. A boat was lowered, manned, and rowed
towards the "Saraband."

"Clear the promenade deck, Mr. Lymore," ordered the captain.
"Request the passengers to go below. Don't give them any reason--let
them think what they jolly well like. Mr. Aubyn, see that the
accommodation ladder is shipped. You will receive the naval officer
and pay him the proper compliments."

The boarding officer proved to be a youthful lieutenant. Terence
escorted him to the bridge, where he immediately subjected Captain
Ramshaw to a close examination.

"Have you sighted any German armed merchantmen?" asked the officer,
whose ship, it transpired, was the light cruiser "Padstow."

"The 'Hertzolf:' that was before war was declared."

"Have you communicated by wireless with any craft?"

"Only your ship," replied Captain Ramshaw. "You may remember you
requested us to alter our course and fall in with you in a certain
latitude and longitude."

"Rather lucky for you that you didn't, then," rejoined the
lieutenant. "We sent out no wireless message. We had good reason to
keep the knowledge of our presence south of Las Palmas a secret. Do
you remember the position?"

Captain Ramshaw gave the desired information, Chief Officer Lymore
corroborating the statement by a reference to the log-book.

"It's a decoy message from the 'Hertzolf,'" announced the naval
officer, "she's been particularly active. Sunk the 'Walrus' and 'The
Star of Hope,' and captured two colliers. We're on her track now. If
I were you, Captain Ramshaw, I'd give Las Palmas a wide berth. Coal
at Gib., if you can fetch there with what coal you've on board."

"Very good, I will," answered the master of the "Saraband."

Courteously declining an offer of refreshments the lieutenant went
over the side and was rowed back to the "Padstow." Almost before the
boat was hoisted up the cruiser pelted off at twenty-five knots to
attempt to intercept the already too active "Hertzolf."

It was now no longer necessary in the interests of the ship to
withhold the momentous news of the outbreak of war from the
passengers. Notices were posted on the various saloons, their
appearance being hailed by rousing cheers. Instructions were also
given that in the event of the "Saraband" being chased, the
passengers were to assemble for'ard in such places as would be
pointed out, in order to be as safe as possible from shells from the
pursuing vessel.

At two bells in the second dog watch the ship's doctor reported to
the captain that von Eckenhardt was sufficiently recovered to be
interrogated. Accordingly Captain Ramshaw, Aubyn, Raeburn, and the
two quartermasters proceeded to the cabin in which the German had
been kept a prisoner.

"Now, von Eckenhardt, what have you to say in answer to the charge of
conspiring to cripple the vessel?" demanded Captain Ramshaw.

At the name von Eckenhardt the Teuton started wildly. He had, like
his companion in the outrageous attempt, been completely taken aback.

"So Slieber has given me away," he exclaimed passionately. "I am not
surprised. Slieber is not a true German. He worked for money. I did
what I could for the sake of the Fatherland. Remember I demand to be
treated as a prisoner of war."

Captain Ramshaw did not immediately reply. He, too, was taken by
surprise. Von Eckenhardt had blundered badly. He had revealed the
fact that the real name of the greaser who passed under the name of
Stone was Slieber. Also von Eckenhardt was fully aware that a state
of war existed between Great Britain and Germany. He claimed a
similar privilege to that demanded by Slieber, yet the passengers had
been kept in ignorance of the news until half an hour ago. In the
captain's mind there was no doubt that both Germans had received
information from official sources that a rupture was planned to occur
on or about the 4th day of August; and that, even had Great Britain
not delivered her ultimatum, the German Empire would have taken the
initiative almost at the same time as she threw down the gauntlet to
France and Russia.

"The pair of you have quaint notions concerning the rights of
prisoners of war," remarked Captain Ramshaw. "No doubt they are
perfectly in accord with the views of the German Government, but
unfortunately for you, you are not in uniform. In that case you are
liable to be placed upon your trial as a spy."

Von Eckenhardt shrugged his shoulders. Although at the moment of
detection he had attempted to put an end to his existence by throwing
himself into the engine-room, it was because he feared summary
vengeance on the part of the officers and men of the "Saraband." Now
that that immediate danger was over he took a calm view of the
situation. Previous experience told him that German spies brought to
trial in England were treated lightly as compared with the severe
punishment meted out in the Fatherland to Englishmen accused of
espionage.

"I am not a spy," he declared vehemently.

"That remains to be proved, Major von Eckenhardt," rejoined the "old
man," in his cool, deliberate manner. "At the same time I may as well
express my opinion that, with these documents in the hands of the
public prosecutor, you will have some difficulty to prove to the
contrary," and he held up the bundle of papers he had removed from
the German's cabin.

Von Eckenhardt's jaw dropped, but only for a moment. Then his teeth
closed together with a snap like those of a rat-trap. He seemed to be
on the point of hurling himself upon the skipper. Then, controlling
himself with an effort:--

"There is nothing more for me to say at present," he remarked with a
slight inclination of his head.

"Very well. You will be under close arrest till we arrive at
Southampton."

The German smiled sarcastically. Under his breath, just loud enough
for his captor to hear, he muttered "Perhaps."

Captain Ramshaw resisted the inclination to answer. Obviously the
taunt was meant as an insult. More, it suggested the possibility that
hostile commerce destroyers had marked the "Saraband" with her
precious cargo as a most desirable prey. Without another word he left
the cabin, signing to the quartermasters to double-lock the steel
door.

The captain was convinced that he had made an important capture. From
the documents found in von Eckenhardt's cabin it was clear that the
prisoner was a major in the Prussian Guards, and that he had been
detailed for secret service to report upon the military and political
situation in South Africa. Von Eckenhardt's instructions were written
in guarded language and signed by the initial X. Captain Ramshaw had
yet to learn who the mysterious X was, and the most important part he
played in the extensive and highly active espionage system fostered
by the Government of the German Empire.



CHAPTER VI.

AN OCEAN DUEL.


THE new course taken by the "Saraband" was in accordance with the
instructions given by the lieutenant of H.M.S. "Padstow." Avoiding
Las Palmas the vessel made for the African coast, making a landfall
in the neighbourhood of Cape Verd. Thence by a judicious use of his
coal, and by hugging the shore as close as possible without risk of
grounding on the outlying shoals, Captain Ramshaw hoped to bring his
command safely into Gibraltar.

At nights all lights were screened. Board of Trade regulations in the
matter of the use of navigation lamps were deliberately ignored. The
"Saraband," at a steady seventeen knots, forged blindly ahead through
the black waters.

During this anxious period Captain Ramshaw rarely quitted the bridge.
If he did so it was only for a few minutes. When compelled by the
demands of nature to rest, he slept on a deck-chair in the
chart-room, ready at an instant's notice to give orders for the
safety of the ship.

On the second night after the meeting of the "Padstow" the
quartermaster had just reported four bells--the actual ringing had
been dispensed with as a matter of precaution--when a wireless S.O.S.
call was received.

It was Terence Aubyn's watch. Promptly the young officer informed the
skipper of the call--a summons for aid that is never ignored by the
vessels that are within range of wireless.

"S.O.S. call, sir; H.Q.C.P. reports being in collision with a
derelict--lat. 22°5'10" N., long. 15°50'20" W."

The thought flashed through the "old man's" mind that the message
might be a decoy; yet the claims of humanity urged him to alter
course and steam at full speed to the rescue.

Meanwhile Aubyn had referred to the "British Code List," in which he
found that the signal letters H.Q.C.P. denoted the SS. "Corona," of
West Hartlepool, of 2576 registered tonnage and of 720 horse-power.
The "Corona," he knew, was a tramp engaged in running between the
Tyne Ports and the Gold Coast.

Captain Ramshaw gave no inkling of the doubt that existed in his
mind. He immediately ordered the "Saraband" to be steered towards the
position indicated, although he would not allow the wireless to be
made use of in order to acquaint the distressed vessel that help was
forthcoming. This was one of the steps he took to guard against the
base misuse of the hitherto inviolate S.O.S. call. In addition, as
previously, the guns' crews stood by their two powerful weapons.

Hour after hour passed as the "Saraband" sped on her errand of mercy.
Fitfully the S.O.S. was received as if the ill-fated crew of the
"Corona," despairing at not having news that their message had been
picked up, were still calling for aid from passing vessels.

Down below McBride's staff was working heroically. The firemen,
stripped to the waist, were shovelling coal with rapid yet dexterous
haste. Stoking is an art: it requires more than merely piling fuel
into the furnaces; but there was no lack of capability on the part of
the "Saraband's" stokehold staff. Quickly the old boat worked up to
her maximum speed.

"Light on the port bow, sir," sung out the mastheadman. "Red flame
throwing out red stars."

"That's the 'Corona' then," declared the "old man." "Starboard your
helm, quartermaster: keep her at that. Mr. Lymore, see that the
cutter is cleared away."

"Ay, ay, sir," replied the chief officer.

The signal of distress flare was calculated to be seen from twelve to
fourteen miles off In three-quarters of an hour the "Saraband" would
be on the spot, by which time daylight would have dawned.

As the distance decreased the frequent flares could be observed from
the bridge of the "Saraband." Anxiously the officers brought their
night-glasses to bear upon the scene, as the dull patch of ruddy
light rose higher and higher above the horizon.

"It's a four-masted vessel, sir!" exclaimed Terence. "The 'Corona'
has only two. She looks to be about six thousand tons displacement."

"By Jove, you're, right Mr. Aubyn!" said the "old man." "Hard a-port,
quartermaster. It's a ruse."

The steam steering-gear snorted as the helm flew hard over. Listing
heavily outwards as she swung round the "Saraband" sought to avoid
the danger. Alarmed by the sudden heel several of the passengers
rushed from below.

"Reassure these people and send them to their cabins," ordered
Captain Ramshaw, addressing his third officer. "Stand by----"

A vivid flash burst from the supposed disabled ship, and a shell,
hurtling a cable's length astern on the now fleeing "Saraband"
announced the stranger in her true colours. She was a German armed
liner. Her keen lookout had detected the phosphorescent swirl from
the bows of the British vessel as she swung to starboard.

The peremptory greeting was quickly followed by a wireless order:--

"Heave-to, or I'll sink you. Disconnect your wireless. Stand by to
receive a boat."

To this demand Captain Ramshaw paid no attention. His true British
blood was up. As long as he could run and fight he would keep the Old
Flag flying.

With the whole of her fabric trembling under the vibrations of her
powerful engines the "Saraband" began her bid for safety. The
passengers, according to previous instructions, were ordered forward,
while the stewards calmly went about distributing life-belts, at the
same time assuring the more timorous of their charges that the
procedure was merely a matter of precaution.

From her wireless-room messages were sent for aid from any British
cruisers likely to be in the vicinity, while at the same time
warnings were issued for all merchantmen to avoid the danger that now
threatened the hard-pressed "Saraband."

For hard-pressed she certainly was. When day broke the German liner,
identified as the 25-knot "Osnabruck," was now five miles astern. In
spite of her supposed superior speed she was not doing her best,
although her two huge funnels were belching out enormous clouds of
black smoke.

That she was prepared for the work of destruction there was no doubt.
Her black hull, white deck houses, and lofty yellow funnels had been
repainted a neutral grey. For'ard she mounted two guns, while the
muzzles of several others could be discovered trained abeam.

She was steadily gaining. Shells from her guns were ricochetting on
either side of the fleeing "Saraband," throwing up columns of spray
fifty feet into the air.

"You'll have to do better than that, my friend," said the "old man"
grimly. The spirit of fight--the old Bersark strain in his blood--was
strong within him. But for his passengers he would have risked an
engagement. As it was, he had to run for it, but he meant to show
that even a British merchantman could show her teeth.

Meanwhile, Terence Aubyn had made his way aft to take charge of the
starboard quarter 4.7-in. gun, the other one being under the orders
of the third officer, a hot-blooded Irishman, named O'Reilly, who
could hardly prevent himself from giving a premature order to open
fire.

"Let her have it: at six thousand yards," came the order from the
bridge.

Both guns spoke simultaneously. Almost before the powerful weapons
had recovered from the recoil, which was taken up by the hydraulic
mountings, the breech blocks were thrown open and another shell in a
gleaming brass cylinder was thrust into each gun.

"A hit, sir!" shouted one of the gun's crews, for even with the naked
eye a dense haze of yellow smoke was seen to be enveloping the fore
part of the "Osnabruck."

Whatever the damage it did not compel the German vessel to cease
pursuit. Soon her grey outlines were observed to be emerging from the
mist of smoke that partly hid her from view. Spurts of yellow flame,
stabbing the early morning air, showed that her bow guns were still
in action.

An appalling crash, outvoicing the simultaneous barks of the British
guns, denoted the disconcerting fact that one, at least, of the
hostile projectiles had "got home."

Pungent fumes drifted aft; splinters, hurled high in the air, began
to fall all around the gun's crews.

"Steady, men, steady!" shouted Aubyn encouragingly, for some of the
crew were attracted by the sound and were endeavouring to ascertain
the result of the havoc. "Never mind that. Keep at it."

Even as he spoke the "Saraband" swung round quite fifteen degrees to
port, thus exposing her length and lofty freeboard to the German
vessel. The gunners of the latter were not slow to take advantage.
One shell crashed through the side amidships, just above the
water-line, and completely wrecked the passengers' third-class
dining-room. Fortunately, owing to Captain Ramshaw's precautions,
this part of the ship was unoccupied.

A second shell, ricochetting a hundred yards off, leapt up and
wrecked the after-funnel, causing dense volumes of smoke to eddy
along the alleyways.

The first projectile that hit the "Saraband" was responsible for the
damage done by the other two. Bursting underneath the bridge it
demolished that structure, sending the breastwork of sacks of flour
far and wide like an avalanche.

Captain Ramshaw and Chief Officer Lymore were both flung from the
crumbling structure on to the cargo hatch abaft the foremost.
Fortunately beyond being considerably shaken, they were not seriously
hurt, but with the destruction of the bridge the steam steering-gear
was affected, and this caused the "Saraband" to begin to circle to
port.

Although partly dazed by the fall, the "old man," with a true
seaman's instinctive sense, knew that the ship was fairly off her
course. Staggering to his feet he made his way across the chaotic
pile of flour-sacks, many of which had been ripped open by fragments
of shell, and ordered the hand steering-gear to be manned. In five
minutes the "Saraband" was once more under control, although the
demolition of one of her funnels and the consequent reduction of
draft caused an appreciable diminution in speed.

While the ship was broadside on to the enemy the gun under Aubyn's
orders was temporarily out of action. It could not be trained upon
the "Osnabruck" without a serious risk of injury to the second gun's
crew by the blast from the weapon.

It was indeed fortunate that while in this position she was not sent
to the bottom. According to the rules of naval strategy and tactics
she ought to have been, were it not for the indifferent aim of the
German gun-layers.

On the other hand, the British 4.7-in. guns were getting in hit after
hit with admirable precision. Already the "Osnabruck's" upper works
appeared to be a mass of scrap iron. Fires had broken out in several
places, yet she held grimly in pursuit, under the erroneous
impression that the few shells she did get home would terrorise the
"Saraband" into surrendering.

Presently the fourth officer's gun made a splendid hit. Striking the
German vessel's bows almost on the water-line the shell made a clean
hole before exploding. When it did the damage in the confined space
was terrific. Her thin bow plates were burst outwards, while the
for'ard watertight bulkhead was strained till it admitted the sea
like a mill sluice.

A cheer broke from the parched lips of the "Saraband's" crew. Her
antagonist was settling down by the head. Her speed slackened
rapidly. Her engines were going half-speed astern in the hope of
checking the inrush of water.

"She's done for, sir!" exclaimed Terence excitedly, as Chief Officer
Lymore, his face and clothes mottled with flour and smoke, came aft.

"Ay, she's settled with," agreed Lymore grimly. "Cease firing. It's
no use wasting ammunition."

"If only we would slow down and pepper her till she surrenders,"
declared Terence, the lust of battle in his heart.

"She will, right enough," said the chief officer consolingly. "We've
our passengers to consider. The 'old man' is going to take the ship
out of range and wait. We'll have to pick up the survivors somehow,
but there isn't a boat that won't leak like a sieve."

Such, indeed, was the case. Those of the boats that were not
shattered by direct hits or holed by flying fragments of shell, were
so utterly strained by the concussion as to be unfit for use. Already
the carpenter's crew were setting to work, caulking the gaping seams
of the boats which seemed likely to be used for the forthcoming work
of rescue.

When well out of range, the "Saraband" swung round and stopped, her
bows pointing in the direction of the foundering "Osnabruck," that
appeared to be little more than a dot upon the horizon. By the aid of
glasses brought to bear upon the scene, the German vessel was
observed to be listing slightly to starboard and very much down by
the head. All her upper works were hidden by a thick cloud of smoke.

Meanwhile, Captain Ramshaw took up his position on the boat-deck,
owing to the demolition of the bridge. Here receiving reports from
various officers concerning the amount of damage done to the ship and
giving brief and concise orders as to what was to be done, he was as
busy as ever he had been in the whole course of his thirty-odd years
at sea.

Now that the danger was over the passengers were allowed to leave
their cramped quarters, and, subject to certain restrictions, allowed
to make use of most of the decks. One, a short, pompouslooking
individual, holding a camera, boldly approached the skipper.

"I say, Captain Ramshaw," he began in a high, affected voice, "don't
you think you could take us a little nearer, so as to get a view of
the object of our triumph? The sinking ship would be a unique object
to snapshot, don't you think?"

The "old man" showed not the slightest sign of annoyance or surprise
at the interruption.

"My dear sir," he replied affably, "would you put your fingers
within snapping range of a mad dog, even if the animal were chained
up and dying? I think not. Yonder vessel will bark as long as the
muzzles of her guns are above water. Remember, sir, that this is the
real thing, and that we are up against an enemy that we cannot afford
to underestimate. I am sorry that I cannot comply with your request."

The passenger went away. Captain Ramshaw and the chief officer
exchanged glances. The latter uttered a short laugh.

"I think if I'd been in your place, sir, I would have booted him out
of it," declared Lymore.

"So I should have done," rejoined the skipper, "if I had been in my
own place--but I'm not. I'm an employee of the Company, and have to
study their interests. By Jove, Lymore, we do look a pair of
ragamuffins! Talk about the dignity of the Company's uniform! But I
wouldn't have missed the fun for a thousand pounds."

Captain Ramshaw was as elated as a young subaltern who had donned
uniform for the first time. He had reason to be so. He had fought
against considerable odds, and had come out "top dog." It was but
one of many instances where the peaceful British mercantile marine
officer shows that the training he has had amid the perils of the sea
can be utilized as a powerful asset to the armed strength of the
Empire upon whose banner the sun never sets.



CHAPTER VII.

VON ECKENHARDT SCORES.


"SHE'S surrendered, sir; she's hoisted the white flag," shouted the
crow's-nest man.

Ordering full speed ahead, Captain Ramshaw directed a course to be
steered for the sinking "Osnabruck." While the carpenter and his men
were still working feverishly in the boats, others of the crew were
preparing lifelines and getting life-buoys ready to throw to the
luckless wretches who, up till half an hour ago, had done their
utmost to send the "Saraband" and her passengers and crew to "Davy
Jones' Locker."

Rapidly the foundering vessel came clearer and clearer into view.
Already her fo'c'sle was awash. Her crew had mustered aft, waiting
for the final plunge; there was not one of her boats that was not
rendered useless by the straight firing of the two 4.7-in. guns of
her antagonist.

"By Jove, those fellows are brave and disciplined!" remarked Lymore,
who was standing close to Terence. "Germany has a comparatively new
navy, without any of the glorious traditions that ours has; yet----"

"They copy us, as much as possible, in that respect," added Aubyn. "I
believe the Kaiser had the story of our 'Birkenhead' printed and
distributed amongst his fleet as an example of what they ought to do
in the face of death. Look, there she goes."

Quietly, without any suspicion of a swirl, the sea closed over the
ill-fated "Osnabruck." She did not turn turtle. In fact, she partly
righted herself as she disappeared, leaving a pall of smoke that
obscured the awful vision of two hundred human beings struggling for
life, to mark the spot where she took her last plunge.

Fortunately the sea was calm and the water warm. The cannonading had
frightened away the tigers of the deep, so that the terrible danger
of being seized by sharks was not added to the horrors of the scene.
All around the surface was dotted with the heads of men swimming for
dear life. Many of the German sailors were supporting their wounded
comrades. They swam in silence, neither indulging in careless jest
nor appealing for aid. They were too stolid to meet danger with the
light-hearted bravery of the British tars; they were too confident in
their belief that their enemies would do their utmost to save them to
waste their breath in shouting for help.

The three boats were lowered almost simultaneously, and urged by the
powerful strokes of the oarsmen as they bent to the ash blades, were
quickly upon the scene. Men were hauled into the boats with all
possible despatch, the officers in charge giving their crews special
orders to pick up those who were wounded and exhausted.

Other Germans were saved by lifelines, while in several instances
members of the "Saraband's" crew dived overboard from a height of
thirty feet to rescue hapless Teutons who were on the point of
sinking.

In all, eleven officers and one hundred and sixteen men, most of them
partly dazed by the ordeal through which they had passed, were saved.
F Provided with dry clothing by their captors, the officers were
marched aft and placed under lock and key in the second-class
passengers' smoking-room, while the men, save those whose state
required medical or surgical attention, were secured in the fore part
of the ship.

The German officers took their defeat badly. They had been informed
of the "Saraband's" approximate position by wireless from their
consort, the armed liner "Hertzolf," and had hoped to make an easy
capture. Nor could they credit that the casualties on the British
vessel numbered only eight men slightly wounded. They scoffed openly
at the statement, till Captain Ramshaw, indignant that his word
should be doubted, invited the German commander to witness a muster
of the crew and compare the numbers with those on the ship's papers.

Without further incident the "Saraband" arrived at the Rock. Here,
escorted by a naval vessel, since Gibraltar was under war conditions,
she went inside the Mole and coaled. Temporary repairs, beyond the
resources of the ship, were also carried out. The authorities,
however, declined to take off the German prisoners, nor would they
allow any of the passengers to land.

Four days later the "Saraband" brought up in Sandown Bay, off the
Isle of Wight--the recognized "Examination Ground" for all merchant
vessels making for either Portsmouth or Southampton. Here she was
boarded by a naval officer who was detailed to pilot her through the
intricate channel between the submarine defences of Spithead. In
war-time nothing was left to chance in the safeguarding of the
kingdom's greatest naval port. No vessels were permitted to enter by
the Needles Channel. All movements of craft other than naval were
forbidden to take place after dark, while at night the approaches to
the historic anchorage were swept by dozens of powerful searchlights.

Terence Aubyn was naturally curious to know in what capacity he was
to be employed by the Admiralty. He knew that with the calling up of
the naval reserve he would for the time being sever his connexion
with the Red Band Line. He hoped he would be appointed to a
battleship or cruiser.

He was not long left in suspense. As the ship rounded the Nab
Lightship her orders were received:--

"Make for Southampton and disembark passengers: then proceed to
Portsmouth. 'Saraband' is to be converted with all due haste into an
armed merchant cruiser."

No patriotic demonstrations, no outbursts of cheering greeted the
badly battered vessel as, under reduced speed, she glided up the
land-locked Southampton Water and made fast alongside the dock-wall.
Save for a gang of stevedores and the mooring-party the docks were
absolutely devoid of the civilian element. Khaki and naval uniforms
were strongly in evidence, for the great commercial port had been
given over entirely for warlike purposes, chiefly in connexion with
the secret departure of the British Expeditionary Force.

Almost five hundred years previously an English army had embarked at
that self-same town to wage a glorious campaign on French soil.
Fifteen hundred small vessels, bedecked with banners, their lofty
bulwarks lined with the shields of the flower of English chivalry,
carried the array commanded by Henry V in person. With shouts and
fanfares of trumpets and amid the acclamations of the worthy
townsfolk, the fleet dropped down Southampton Water, bearing the
knights, men-at-arms, and archers who were destined to win immortal
glory on the field of Agincourt.

And now history was repeating itself--but with a difference. The
forces of the Mighty Empire were once more leaving Southampton for
the land of France: not as enemies of that country but as sworn
allies against a common, powerful, and unscrupulous foe. These forces
were working silently. There were no boisterous farewells, no braying
of brass bands, no flamboyant speeches. The silent armies meant
business.

Berthed in a secluded portion of the docks the "Saraband" immediately
began to disembark her passengers. A train was waiting to take them
away from the scene of military activity, for the sooner they were
out of the way the quicker was the Embarkation Officer pleased. Then
came the turn of the survivors of the "Osnabruck."

At the dock-side a strong body of khaki troops with fixed bayonets
was drawn up, ready to form an escort to the prisoners. Two closed
cabs were waiting for Major Karl von Eckenhardt and his confederate,
Hans Slieber, who were to be indicted on several counts before a
civil court.

The German sailors, finding that they were well treated, gave no
trouble. In a quiet, orderly manner they trooped down the gangway and
formed up in fours. In spite of their nondescript garments they
presented a military bearing that characterizes the German seaman
whether he be a member of the Imperial Navy or of the Mercantile
Marine. One and all were permeated by the cast-iron discipline that
is one of the results of a rigid system of conscription.

Surrounded by their guards they were marched off to cool their heels
in a concentration camp.

"Now, Mr. Aubyn," said Captain Ramshaw, after the captive seamen had
departed, "take the quartermaster with you and accompany these
gentlemen."

He pointed to the four police officers who had been detailed to
conduct the German spies to prison.

"We'll soon relieve you of further responsibility, sir," remarked one
of the police. "According to information these gentlemen have caused
a lot of trouble: I reckon they won't do so again, once we've laid
hold of them."

"I won't be sorry to see the last of them," agreed Terence. "I only
hope I shan't be kept about in connexion with the trial. I want to be
afloat again."

The quartermaster unlocked the door of the cell in which Hans
Slieber, alias Stone, was confined. The man sullenly submitted to be
handcuffed; then, escorted by two of the police, was taken on deck.

"You didn't keep your two birds together, I see," commented one of
the remaining officers.

"Rather not," replied Aubyn. "The two of them might put their heads
together and do mischief. Alone, each can be kept in perfect safety.
Now, quartermaster."

The quartermaster unlocked the door of the cabin in which Major von
Eckenhardt had been placed. Then he gave a gasp of astonishment. The
room was empty.

Unable to disguise his chagrin Terence dashed into the cabin,
followed by the two police officers.

"It's as clear as daylight how he managed it," announced one of the
representatives of the law, pointing to a portion of the steel
bulkhead that lay on the floor. An oval section, wide enough for a
man to crawl through, had been filed out of the partition. The
aperture communicated with the second-class passengers' smoking-room
in which the surviving officers of the "Osnabruck" had been
quartered. Von Eckenhardt had been released from his place of
confinement by them. Once in their company he shaved off his
moustache and donned a naval uniform. Since some of the prisoners
wore civilian garb, it was a comparatively easy matter for the spy to
march out of the ship with the others.

"Anyway, we'll nab him at the concentration camp," declared one of
the policemen confidently. "I'm afraid, sir, you'll be one of those
who will have to identify him."

"If you can manage to stop the train you'll save me a lot of bother,"
declared Terence. "I must inform Captain Ramshaw at once."

Acting upon the fourth officer's suggestion the police succeeded in
intercepting the train before it got clear of the docks. The German
officers were closely inspected, but without result. By means of an
astounding sang-froid the redoubtable spy, von Eckenhardt, had
slipped past the guards while the prisoners were entraining, and was
no doubt well on his way to liberty, and, what was worse, to renew
his activities against the British Government.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE DUTCH TRAWLER.


FOR the next five weeks workmen were toiling day and night upon the
"Saraband," from the moment she arrived at Portsmouth Dockyard.

A clean sweep was made of her sumptuous cabin fittings. The white
enamelled woodwork of the promenade and boat-decks was ruthlessly
"scrapped." Over the engine and boiler-rooms a protective steel deck
was built, while light armour, sufficient to stop any hostile shell
from the light guns of the German commerce destroyers, was placed in
position round the water-line, and also in other important and
otherwise vulnerable parts of the ship.

In addition to the two 4.7-in. guns already carried four more of the
same calibre were provided, two on the fo'c'sle and two amidships,
while on the promenade-deck four twelve-pounders were mounted behind
armoured shields. Finally the ship from truck to water-line was
painted a neutral grey; her name was changed, and under the White
Ensign appeared in the Navy List as H.M. Armed Merchant Cruiser
"Strongbow."

During that six weeks Sub-Lieutenant Terence Aubyn, R.N.R., had been
far from idle. In company with the rest of the ship's deck officers
he had been sent to Whale Island, the Naval Gunnery School, to
undergo a rapid though none the less thorough preliminary course of
gunnery. Aubyn simply revelled in the work. Gunlaying, position
finding, gunnery control, both in theory and practice, kept him hard
at it, and when the examination took place he came off with flying
colours, somewhat to the astonishment and great satisfaction of the
authorities, who had hitherto regarded the R. N. R. officers in a
rather tolerant spirit.

Just before the date fixed for commissioning H.M.S. "Strongbow"
Terence was accorded weekend leave--from three o'clock on Friday to
nine a.m. on Monday. Needless to say he employed the time by paying a
visit to his home.

Mrs. Aubyn lived in a picturesque little house on the East Coast,
between Caistor and Yarmouth, standing within fifty yards of the low
cliffs. The house had been designed by Captain Aubyn, who did not
live long to enjoy his well-earned retirement. It was a low rambling
building. Over the two end rooms was a flat roof, accessible by means
of a "hatchway." This was the worthy captain's "quarter-deck," on
which was mounted on a tripod a powerful telescope. There was also a
flagstaff set at a rake from the centre of the side wall. From this
staff Captain Aubyn regularly hoisted the ensign at the regulation
hour, hauling it down at sunset. This he did regularly until a few
days before his death. In one of the rooms under the flat roof was a
semicircular projection, pierced with several small windows that
commanded an extensive marine view. This room the captain was wont to
dub the "casemate."

People in the neighbourhood were apt to regard the house as the
output of a somewhat eccentric mind; but it was rather the result of
a life-long career in various ships of the Royal Navy, and so strong
were the traits of the service that Captain Aubyn introduced them as
far as possible into his private life. Whenever his friends rallied
him up on the subject of "Aubyn's Battery" the captain smiled
complacently. The reference pleased him far more than his
acquaintances were aware.

Terence Aubyn's irregular and hasty visits were always a source of
deep pleasure to his mother. In his breezy way the lad would take his
parent by storm, converting her usually quiet existence into a brief
round of excitement.

It was after eleven o'clock at night when the sub. reached Yarmouth.
He had previously wired to the effect that he would be home, as
quickly as the unpunctual train service would permit.

Once clear of the town Terence set off at a steady swinging pace
along the Denes. Several times he was challenged by patrols,
incidents that served to remind him that war was close at home. He
vaguely wondered whether such precautions were necessary, with the
Grand Fleet holding the North Sea and keeping every German warship
skulking in harbour. It seemed so unreal, even with vast armies
fighting on the Continent, and the sound of their guns almost within
hearing distance of Dover, that the peaceful Norfolk coast should
have to be protected against possible raids.

At length Aubyn reached the commencement of the cliff path. It was a
starry night, sufficiently light to enable him to follow the
well-known track without risk of blundering over the edge of the
miniature precipice on to the sands twenty feet below.

After a mile or so the path skirted a slight indentation of the
cliff. As Terence passed this spot he saw a light flash at the bottom
of the hollow. Then the gleam vanished.

In the starlight Terence could discern the figure of a man. In spite
of the chilliness of the night air he wore no overcoat. He was
standing motionless, with his back towards the sub.

"The fellow's dropped something," soliloquised Aubyn. "I'll go and
bear a hand."

The sand muffled his footsteps till he was within ten yards of the
stranger. Hearing the sound the man faced about and flashed an
electric torch upon the ground.

"Lost something, sir?" asked Terence affably. "Can I help you?"

"My pipe," returned the other. "It must have fallen out of my
pocket."

The voice seemed strangely familiar, yet the sub. could not call the
owner to memory.

"You live about here, I presume?" asked Aubyn. "I think I recognize
your voice----"

The next moment he uttered an involuntary cry of pain and clasped his
hand to his eyes. The stranger had suddenly thrown a handful of some
burning substance straight into the young officer's face.

For some moments Terence stood still, with his hands up to his face.
The pain was excruciating. He could do nothing, but he could hear the
footsteps of the rascal as he ran from the scene of his dastardly
work.

"The brute has thrown quicklime in my eyes," thought the sub. "I'll
have to find my way to the sea and try to save my sight. Good
heavens!"

Like a flash he now recognized the voice. It was that of the spy,
Major Karl von Eckenhardt.

Gradually Aubyn made his way down the gently shelving sands, guided
by the murmurs of the waves breaking on shore. Before he had gone
many yards he gave vent to a prodigious sneeze, quickly followed by
another.

"That's luck indeed," muttered the young officer. "It isn't lime
after all; it's pepper."

Presently the involuntary flow of tears cleared the irritating grains
from his eyes, and though they still smarted terribly he was now able
to see. In addition a veil had been lifted from before his mental
vision: hitherto rather sceptical concerning the reports of German
spies on the East Coast he was no longer in doubt on that score.

There was also another aspect to the situation. Perhaps von
Eckenhardt had learnt the home address of the young officer who had
materially assisted in thwarting his designs upon the "Saraband."
Motives of revenge may have brought the German hither, possibly to
strike a blow at Aubyn through his parent. Terence tried to dismiss
the suggestion as absurd, but the presentiment grew upon him. He
resolved to get his mother to move into either Yarmouth or Norwich at
the first opportunity.

Thus reasoning Terence retraced his steps. He meant to inform the
nearest patrol of what had occurred, and if the telegraph and
telephone could be pressed into immediate service the spy ought to be
apprehended before morning.

"'Alt. Who goes there?"

"Friend!" replied Terence promptly.

"Rummy time of night to be taking a constitutional," commented the
sentry, stepping from the shelter afforded by a clump of furze; then
recognizing Aubyn's naval cap and great-coat--

"Beg pardon, sir," he said apologetically.

"Have you seen anyone else pass this way recently?" demanded Terence.

"No, sir; not during the last three-quarters of an hour. Is anything
wrong, sir?

"I stumbled across a fellow using a flash lamp."

"I wish I had, sir," declared the sentry, a smart young Territorial.
"Just my luck I didn't. If I had----" and he tapped the magazine of
his rifle significantly.

All thoughts of making his way home had vanished from Aubyn's mind.
The demands of duty completely eclipsed the call of home. He hastened
back to Yarmouth and reported the matter to the naval authorities.

Energetic steps were taken to capture the daring spy. Telegraph and
telephone were resorted to, verbal descriptions being transmitted to
all police stations in the vicinity, while orders were issued to the
Territorial troops guarding the railway stations to exercise
particular vigilance in this direction.

It was also equally desirable to ascertain the vessel or vessels to
whom von Eckenhardt was signalling, and a number of small craft was
despatched to search Yarmouth Roads and an area bounded by imaginary
lines drawn through the Would, Smith's Knoll, Cross Sands, and Corton
Lights.

By this time Aubyn had given up all idea of going home that night.
Rather than disturb his parent by knocking at the door at an
unearthly hour of the morning, he decided to crave the hospitality of
the naval officers attached to the Yarmouth base.

"Hello, Aubyn, old chap! what brings you in these parts?" asked a
tall, broad-shouldered man in the uniform of a sub-lieutenant of the
Motor Boat Reserve.

Terence looked keenly at his questioner. He was mystified, and the
officer keenly enjoyed his discomfiture.

"You have the advantage of me," said Aubyn.

"What. You don't remember Dick Waynsford? Come, come, that's base
ingratitude."

"Well, old chap, if you will shave off that inelegant moustache of
yours--congratulations, old man."

Dick Waynsford was a yachtsman who on the outbreak of the war had
applied for and had been given a commission in the newly formed Motor
Boat Reserve. His intimate knowledge of the intricate harbours and
creeks of the Suffolk and Essex coasts, combined with a strong liking
for the sea, made him fully qualified for the post.

In Yarmouth Harbour were a dozen or so weatherly motor-boats, whose
duty it was to act as tenders for the fleet in the Roads, and to
undertake patrolling work. At all hours and in almost every state of
the weather these staunch little craft could be seen as they sped
upon their various duties. Unthinking people regarded the Motor Boat
Reserve as a soft job--an opportunity to wear His Majesty's uniform
and at the same time to be out of any possibility of danger. They had
yet to learn that the war was to be brought actually to the shores of
Old England, which they had hitherto considered impregnable. Then the
slighted "harbour patrol" boats would have their chance.

"Have a run out with us, Aubyn?" suggested Waynsford. "We've just
had orders to look for a suspicious trawler--possibly the one to
which your friend the spy was signalling. Since you have partly
spoiled the game you may just as well see the end of it."

"Right-o," assented Terence. "Lead on."

Aubyn followed his friend to the quayside. Here, floating idly on the
dark waters of the tidal river, were four motor-boats, each painted a
dark grey and distinguished by a number on the bows, their outlines
feebly discernible by the feeble light of a partly shaded light on
the wharf.

"That's my packet--the 'Lonette,'" announced Waynsford, indicating
the outermost of the tier. "Mind that ladder: it's horribly
slippery."

"Fine little craft," declared Terence enthusiastically, as he stepped
into the diminutive cockpit of the motor-boat.

"Yes, I'm lucky to get her. One of the swiftest of the whole crowd,
and a ripping sea-boat. Cast off there!" he ordered, addressing the
two deckhands, who with the engineer constituted the crew of the
"Lonette."

Five minutes later the "Lonette" was gliding over the sullen
undulations of the North Sea, shaping a course towards the N.E.
Cockle buoy, marking the edge of a dangerous bank.

A cable's length astern followed the "Pixie," another armed
motor-boat detailed to act in consort with the craft under
Waynsford's command. Neither vessel showed navigation lights, their
position being determined by the phosphorescent swirl as they cut
through the water. Overhead the stars shone dully, for a slight haze
was beginning to gather.

Suddenly a dark shape loomed up in the darkness--an object that
resolved itself into a large unwieldy lighter attended by a small tug
which was lashed alongside.

"Shifting the buoys," explained Waynsford laconically.

"Shifting?" inquired Terence. "Surely you mean removing them
altogether."

"Not much," replied his companion. "We've had orders to shift the
whole lot two miles to the east'ard. Should any of these rotten
German cruisers dare to come out--I don't fancy they will, worse
luck--the altered position of these buoys will puzzle them a bit:
unless your friend Eckenhardt has already signalled the fact to an
enemy vessel."

Five minutes later the two patrol vessels ran across a number of
trawlers making their way to Yarmouth. These there was no need to
stop and examine. Their bona-fides were above suspicion, especially
as a long, lean destroyer was steaming slowly in their wake.

For the next two hours the "Lonette" and the "Pixie" cruised between
the Newarp and the Cross Sands without sighting a suspicious craft.
It was now nearly dawn.

"Sleepy?" inquired Waynsford, as Aubyn stifled a yawn. "Have a caulk
in the cabin: you'll find the cushions fairly comfortable, and they
were well aired this morning--yesterday morning, I mean."

"Thanks, I'll stick it," replied Terence. "It's been a fairly long
day, but one must get used to it."

"Trawler, or some such craft on the starboard bow, sir," announced
one of the "Lonette's" crew. "She's showing no lights."

Waynsford immediately altered helm; the skipper of the
"Pixie", quickly followed suit, and the two motor-boats slowed down,
one on each quarter of the trawler, whose nets were out.

"Trawler, ahoy. What ship is that?" shouted Waynsford.

"Dis de 'Vanhuit' of Scheveningen, Hollander trawler," replied a
voice in broken English. "We goot way outside dree mile limit,
mynheer."

"Stand by with a rope, then," rejoined the skipper of the "Lonette."
"We want to have a look at you."

Somewhat reluctantly the Dutchman threw a coil of rope, the end of
which the bowman of the "Lonette" deftly made fast to a bollard. The
"Pixie" remained a boat's length or so off.

"May as well come, Aubyn," suggested Waynsford. "A little exercise
won't do you any harm." The two subs, followed by one of the crew,
swarmed up the tarry side of the trawler and gained the deck.

The strange craft was of about forty tons displacement, with a
considerable amount of sheer and ample beam. Steam was escaping
gently through the steam-pipe, while a faint wreath of smoke drifted
from her squat funnel.

"Why no lights?" inquired Waynsford.

"Accident, mynheer ver' bad accident," replied the Dutchman
apologetically. "See you here."

He led the way for'ard. On the fo'c'sle were two burly fishermen
holding the remains of two lanterns.

"Forestay halliard him part," explained the master. "Lights, dey come
down wit a run an' broke to pieces.

"Then the sooner you send another pair of lamps aloft the better,"
remarked Waynsford. "Now let's have a look round below."

The Dutch skipper led the way. Aubyn lingered on the fo'c'sle. His
quick eye detected something that his comrade had overlooked. The
lanterns had obviously pitched on the deck, but there were no signs
of oil being spilled.

At the head of the little companion ladder Waynsford paused to see if
Aubyn were following. The Dutchman had already disappeared.

"Where's Mr. Aubyn?" asked the skipper of the "Lonette," addressing
his deck-hand.

"For'ard, sir," replied that worthy. "I can just make him out in the
dark."

"Coming below, Aubyn?" asked Waynsford, raising his voice.

"Hold hard, I want to get something out of 'Lonette's' cabin,"
replied Terence.

Curiosity prompted Waynsford to delay his visit below. Going for'ard
he met Aubyn, who was making his way aft.

"There's something queer about this craft," remarked Terence
hurriedly. "I'm going to smuggle myself on board, if you don't find
anything sufficiently suspicious to justify her detention. So if you
don't see me when you come on deck again, don't wait, but push off,
and come back for me in a couple of hours' time. If you can get in
touch with a destroyer, so much the better."

"Right-o," assented Waynsford. He was perfectly willing to allow
Terence to put his plan into execution, but at the same time, his
suspicions aroused, he meant to do his level best to find sufficient
evidence to place the Dutch trawler under arrest. Extreme caution was
necessary, since he had been specially warned not to commit anything
that could be construed by a neutral state into an unfriendly act.

Without another word Waynsford descended to the cabin. With rough
courtesy the Dutch skipper produced his papers, at the same time
offering the boarding-officer a glass of schnapps--an invitation that
was firmly yet kindly declined.

"Your papers are quite in order," announced the sub. "Perhaps you
have no objection to my looking round?"

"I no objec'," declared the Dutch skipper.

Although his suspicions were aroused Sub-Lieutenant Waynsford had no
fear of treachery. One of his men had accompanied him below, while in
the interval a deck-hand from the "Pixie" had scrambled up the side
and was pacing the "Vanhuit's" planks. The engine-room, fo'c'sle,
fish-holds, and storerooms were each in turn visited, but there was
apparently nothing to give rise to any question that the vessel was
anything but a harmless trawler.

At length Waynsford made his way on deck. The two fishermen on the
fo'c'sle were still devoting their attention to the damaged lamps.
Another was leaning over the low bulwark and engaging in conversation
in a queer sort of English with the crew of the "Pixie."

"Thanks, mynheer," said Waynsford. "I'll wish you good-night. Sorry
to have caused you any inconvenience.

"Der vas no drouble at all," rejoined the Dutchman. "Goot-night to
you."

The sub descended the side and gained the cockpit of the "Lonette."
The rope was cast off and the motor-boat slipped astern. Not one word
did Waynsford say until the little craft was out of hearing distance,
then--

"Where's Mr. Aubyn? he asked.

"Aboard yonder packet, sir," replied the member of the crew who had
been left in charge of the motorboat. "He asked me to drop a few
feet astern and then he slipped up over the Dutchman's quarter. Shall
I give a hail, sir?"

"No," replied Waynsford. "Easy ahead."



CHAPTER IX.

THE SECRET WIRELESS.


UPON regaining the "Lonette," Aubyn descended into the diminutive
cabin and made hasty preparations for his adventure. Unbuttoning his
great-coat he drew a small revolver from the inside breast pocket of
his monkey-jacket. Assuring himself that it was fully loaded, the
sub. thrust it into the right-hand pocket of his outer garment, then,
having readjusted his muffler, rebuttoned his coat, so that the
turned-up collar hid the white woollen comforter.

He felt justified in making the attempt. During his brief visit to
the trawler the lack of oil from the broken lamps had first aroused
his suspicions. Secondly, he had made the discovery that the
foremast, although painted to resemble pitch-pine, was made of metal,
and was consequently hollow. A steel mast for a vessel of that
tonnage was a decided rarity, especially when the vessel was supposed
to be a trawler. Consequently Aubyn had already made up his mind to
investigate.

It was impracticable to give Waynsford details of his plan. Without
demur the skipper of the "Lonette" had agreed to his chum's
proposition--for which Terence was truly grateful. Had Waynsford been
of a jealous or inquisitive disposition he might have wrecked his
friend's plans. Instead he had unquestionably complied with Aubyn's
wishes.

Presently Terence emerged from the cabin and peered cautiously at the
high sides of the trawler. Fortunately none of the crew was visible.
Six feet abaft the motor-boat's quarter the outlines of the trawler's
mizzen chain-plates were just discernible in the darkness.

Softly calling to the "Lonette's" bowman, Aubyn asked him to drop a
few feet astern. The man who in civil life had been a deck-hand on a
crack racing-yacht, immediately did so. His wonderment at the request
was overpowered by a sense of obedience acquired by years of training
that demanded instant response to the order of the sailing-master.

As soon as the chain-plates came within arm's length Terence grasped
the tarred lanyards and swung himself up till his head was on a level
with the bulwarks. He peered cautiously along the deck. Aft the
trawler was deserted. Forward the two hands were fumbling with the
lanterns and the ends of the severed forestay halliard. They
evidently were in no hurry to rectify the damage, Terence decided a
deft-handed man could have re-spliced the rope in a quarter of the
time.

Silently the sub. crawled over the bulwarks and made his way to the
lee side of the engine-room coamings. Here he paused to survey the
scene of action, at the same time devotedly hoping that his boots
would not creak and betray his presence. From below came the guttural
voice of the Dutch skipper punctuated by the clear decisive tones of
Dick Waynsford. Amidships, on the port side, one of the crew,
invisible from the place where Terence crouched, was still keeping up
a running fire of banter with the "Pixie's" crew.

He began to unlace his boots, regretting that he had not left them on
board the "Lonette." Then he remembered that if they were discovered
suspicions would be aroused. He could not drop them overboard without
making a splash--and the footgear had cost him a guinea a pair. Lying
about on a wet deck with stockinged feet, he reflected, was a cruel
job on a cold night, so he hurriedly re-tied the laces.

"It will be a ticklish job to give an account of myself if they find
me," he soliloquised, "that is, if the trawler's what she pretends
she is. Ten to one I'm on the right tack, though, so here goes."

On all fours he crossed the only uninterrupted part of deck space
between the companion and the side of the fish-hold coaming. Here he
was fairly safe from observation unless one of the for'ard hands
chanced to come aft.

The fish-hold hatches occupied the greater portion of the 'midships
part of the trawler. Two of the after-coverings had been removed. The
others were in place, a heavy tarpaulin being loosely thrown over
them, the canvas slack at the for'ard end.

Beneath this covering, and wedged in between the coaming and the
deck, Aubyn crawled. Here he was within ten feet of the foremast--the
object of his suspicions. Thanks to the tarpaulin he was able to keep
fairly warm in his cramped quarters, while by means of a fold in the
canvas he was able to command a wide view of the fore part of the
vessel.

Presently he heard Waynsford and the Dutch skipper, followed by the
"Lonette's" man, emerge from the cabin and make the round of the
deck. Once Waynsford's foot nearly trod upon him as he crouched under
the still tarpaulin. Then, after a seemingly endless delay, Terence
heard the farewell greetings and the gentle purring of the
"Lonette's" motors, as, followed by the "Pixie," she forged ahead,
circled and was lost to hearing in the darkness.

For the next ten minutes Terence heard nothing but the heavy measured
tread of the skipper of the trawler as he paced the deck. Then,
stopping at the forward end of his beat, he said something in a low
tone. The words were German, not Dutch--Aubyn was certain of that.
Bitterly he regretted his almost total ignorance of the language of
Britain's greatest foe.

Then came the clank of a steam winch. Apparently the men were hauling
in their nets.

"I hope the old hooker won't make off towards the Dutch coast without
the 'Lonette' spotting her," observed Aubyn. "If it come overmisty I
won't give much for my chance. By Jove! I am getting stiff."

Soon the winch was stopped, and men came for'ard. Two of them stopped
at the foot of the foremast and set to work silently and rapidly.
Slightly raising the fold of the tarpaulin the sub. could see that
they were removing a plate from the bulky steel mast. Others--for
more of the crew than had previously appeared came on the scene--rove
light steel wire rigging furnished with small circular objects that
the sub. recognised as insulators for wireless gear.

His suspicions were well-founded. Inside the steel mast was a
telescopic spar that could be hoisted thirty feet above the truck.
From the head of this staff a line of light rope running through a
block automatically uncoiled itself, the falls dropping on deck. To
one end of this line the aerial was bent and sent aloft.

Two men then came staggering forward with a huge cask. Upon knocking
off the upper and lower bands the barrel opened like an exaggerated
locket--the remaining bands being dummies--and disclosed a small but
powerful wireless apparatus.

Hardly pausing to weigh the consequences, the sub. threw aside the
folds of the tarpaulin and sprang to his feet. A howl of rage and
surprise greeted his appearance.

"Surrender!" exclaimed Aubyn sternly.

For some minutes there was a dead silence on the part of the
astonished Germans, broken only by the moaning of the wind through
the rigging and the lap of the water against the trawler's sides.
Then, giving a hasty glance round to assure himself that no vessel
was within hailing distance, and realising that the daring Englishman
was alone, the skipper gave a hurried order.

The next moment Terence was confronted by the muzzles of half a dozen
automatic pistols.

"Surrender yourself, Englishman," replied the skipper. "You mad; you
all alone. Hands up, or you dead man."

"Perhaps," remarked Terence, with outward calmness, although he
remembered with some misgivings that the hair trigger of an automatic
pistol is a delicate piece of mechanism for a horny-handed seaman to
play with. "If you shoot you'll make things a jolly sight worse for
you than they are already. You're properly cornered. The two
motor-boats are waiting a short distance off, and there's a destroyer
only too ready to bear a hand."

"Vot you going der do?" asked the German, in a chastened tone.

"To summon assistance and take possession of an enemy ship. The more
trouble you give, my friend, the worse it will be for you."


[Illustration: "Taking a quick yet steady aim, the Sub. pressed the
trigger."]


The skipper shrugged his shoulders, then hastily addressed his crew.
The latter put up their pistols, sullenly and almost mutinously. One
of the men hurried across the deck and drew a signal rocket from a
locker. This he affixed to the vessel's side and produced a match.

"Stop!" exclaimed Aubyn authoritatively.

"Dies still Zherman sheep," protested the skipper.

The match flared, shielded from the wind by the partly clasped hand
of the man who was holding it. In obedience to a further order he
began to apply the light to the rocket.

Terence whipped out his revolver. Hitherto, realising that a
premature display of the weapon might result in a volley from the
hostile pistols, he had kept the weapon out of sight. Now that the
crew were practically cowed that danger was over.

The seaman hesitated only for a brief instant, then ignoring the
levelled weapon, bent over his task. One of his comrades chuckled
derisively.

Taking a quick yet steady aim the sub. pressed the trigger. The heavy
ball went true to the mark, severing the rocket-stick and causing the
rocket to fall over the side. Luck more than good management had
enabled him to hit a target the thickness of a lead pencil on a dark
night, with only the flicker of a match to assist his aim.

"If any man attempt to go below I'll wing him--tell them that," said
Terence sternly, addressing the master. "Order them to fall in on
the starboard side."

All sign of resistance having disappeared the crew, ten in number,
formed up at the place indicated, while Aubyn drew his cigarette case
from his pocket and smoked.

It was not an act of bravado on his part. Now that the crisis was
over he had an uncontrollable craving for a cigarette. So he smoked
contentedly as he awaited the return of the "Lonette" and her
consort.

He had not long to wait. Already grey dawn was breaking. The wind had
dropped, and the short steep waves had subsided into a sullen roll.
Long before the two motor-boats came into view the purr of the
engines and the muffled roar of their exhausts could be distinctly
heard in the still morning air.

"I thought the fellows had potted you when I heard that shot,"
exclaimed Waynsford, as he clambered over the side. "Well done, old
man," he added cordially, as his glance fell upon the tell-tale
wireless gear.

"You might send 'Pixie' to bring up the destroyer," suggested Aubyn.
"It will save a lot of trouble if she tows this packet into port.
Tell her to give the destroyer the tip: there may be German
submarines about."

"What makes you think that?" asked Waynsford.

"The anxiety on the part of one of those fellows to let off a rocket.
I'm glad I was able to stop his little game."

"How?"

"Oh, a pot-shot at five yards--sent the rocket-stick flying out of
his hands. Wonder I didn't hit him."

"Serve him jolly well right if you had," added Waynsford. Already he
was fairly conversant with German methods of kultur in connexion with
nautical affairs, and to him every Teuton appeared in the light of a
skulking treacherous foe.

"'Pixie,' ahoy!" he shouted, addressing his consort, which had now
slowed down about half a cable's length away on the port quarter.
"Get into touch with that destroyer: she's heading our way. Inform
her commanding officer that we suspect hostile submarines in the
vicinity."



CHAPTER X.

H.M.S. "STRONGBOW" SAILS.


ALREADY the vessel indicated--H.M.T.B.D. "Lawley"--was within three
miles of the captured trawler, and at a good twenty-five knots was
momentarily decreasing the distance. Her lynx-eyed
lieutenant-commander had spotted the so-called "Vanhuit," and the
tell-tale wireless mast, and the presence of one of the patrolling
motor-boats alongside gave him a right impression that the trawler
had been engaged in illegal work.

The "Lawley" made a fine picture as she pelted through the
leaden-hued water on that grey autumnal morning. She was cleared for
action. Men were standing by the three 4-inch guns ready to let fly
at the first sign of a hostile periscope, for German submarines had
been reported in the vicinity of Yarmouth Roads, and each of her
mast-heads had the White Ensign floating proudly in the breeze
created by her speed. The bunting was the only dash of colour about
her; all the rest of the destroyer was a sombre hue, from the black
hull and funnels to the great-coated forms of the crew.

The skipper of the "Pixie," balancing himself on the cabin-top of his
lively craft, was semaphoring the warning. Almost as soon as his
message ended a triangular strip of bunting--the answering
pennant--was hoisted to the "Lawley's" signal yard-arm. Then, by
means of a megaphone, the lieutenant-commander shouted to the crew of
the "Pixie." The words were unintelligible to the watchers on the
captured trawler, but the skipper of the "Pixie" understood. With a
wave of his arm he descended from his precarious perch just in time
to prevent himself being capsized by the swell of the passing
destroyer, which, instead of making for the trawler, sharply ported
helm and made off in the opposite direction.

"We're to take the prize into Yarmouth under our own steam,"
announced the sub. in charge of the "Pixie," as he came within
hailing distance.

"Right-o," assented Waynsford cheerfully. "Come aboard and we'll tow
both our boats. Now then, below there," he added, addressing the
German skipper and his crestfallen men.

Waynsford literally hustled them into the forepeak and shut the
hatch. The German engineer and the fireman required no compulsion to
remain at their posts. In one sense they were glad at being captured;
it meant the end of the nerve-racking ordeal within sight of the
English coast and miles of mine-strewn waters--the work of their
fellow-countrymen--between them and their Friesian home.

The crew of the motor-boats quickly buoyed and severed the nets that
the pseudo-trawler had out to cloak her true rôle, and having
drifted clear of these entanglements, the captured craft forged ahead
at a modest seven knots with the "Lonette" and "Pixie" towing
sedately astern.

Terence Aubyn, feeling somewhat heavy-eyed by reason of his voluntary
night's work, was pacing the deck, his gaze directed towards the town
of Yarmouth and the low-lying Norfolk coast, now momentarily becoming
clearer in the rays of the early morning sun.

Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a hurried shout from one of
the deck-hands, followed by a heavy list of the trawler as Waynsford
put the helm hard over.

Fifty yards on the starboard bow was a black object resembling a
short spar floating vertically, yet the object had movement, for a
streak of foam marked the resistance of the water to its progress.

It was Aubyn's first impression of the periscope of a submarine, and
a German one at that.

With admirable presence of mind Waynsford had decided to ram the
lurking peril. Evidently the commander of the submarine had realized
his danger, for the periscope was sinking.

Aubyn held his breath as the heavy hull of the trawler passed
immediately over the spot where the periscope had disappeared. He
waited for the dull grinding sound as the vessel's keel ripped
through the comparatively thin steel hull of the submerged
vessel--but he waited in vain. True, there was a slight
tremor--nothing more.

"I believe we hit her," exclaimed Waynsford. "Did your hear
anything?"

Aubyn was obliged to confess that he had not. The prize crew crowding
to the side looked for signs of a successful issue to their effort.

"Oil and bubbles," declared the sub. in charge of the "Pixie." "She's
done for."

Waynsford, far from being convinced, ordered one of his men to heave
a mark-buoy overboard and mark the spot where the periscope had been
last seen, at the same time a code signal was hoisted indicating the
fact that a hostile submarine had been rammed.

Quickly the destroyer arrived within hailing distance, and Aubyn was
able to see what steps the Navy took to combat the unseen foe. Slowly
the "Lawley" circled round the mark-buoy, paying out over her stern
what appeared to be an exaggerated string of sausages--in reality a
"necklace" of guncotton ready to be fired by means of electricity.

"Prize ahoy! you're much too close," sang out the bronzed
lieutenant-commander impatiently.

Before the trawler was a cable's length from the mark-buoy a series
of columns of water rose two hundred feet in the air, accompanied by
a muffled crash and a haze of smoke. When the water had subsided and
the vapour had drifted on the light breeze the mark-buoy was no
longer to be seen. All around were the bodies of fish killed by the
submarine explosion.

"That's settled her hash," declared Waynsford. "If she survived the
hit we gave her she didn't get over that little attention. See, the
'Lawley' is sending a diver down to report."

"More copy for the Press," remarked his chum, the sub. from the
"Pixie."

Waynsford shook his head.

"Not much," he replied. "It's part of the game to keep this sort of
thing quiet. We don't want to frighten our friends the German
submarines, we want to lure them out and make an end of 'em."

Terence made no remark. He was thinking, striving to picture the
shattered hull with its crew of corpses, lying fifteen fathoms below
on the sandy bed of the North Sea.

Half an hour later the prize was moored alongside one of the Yarmouth
quays, while the German crew were marched off under an armed guard.

Declining an invitation to breakfast with the naval officers of the
port, Aubyn hurried ashore. It was now six o'clock. Already a
wireless report had been received from the "Lawley" stating that her
divers had discovered the wreck of the hostile submarine, which was a
matter for congratulation. But there were no tidings of the spy von
Eckenhardt. In spite of a rigorous search he had contrived to get
clear away, and von Eckenhardt at liberty in in England was a more
serious menace than a dozen German submarines operating in British
waters.

"I say, mater," remarked Terence, while Mrs. Aubyn and her son were
at breakfast, "I think you ought to evacuate 'Aubyn's Battery '--at
least while the war lasts."

Mrs. Aubyn looked at her son in utter astonishment.

"What, leave my home? For why? Surely you don't mean to suggest that
German troops are likely to land in England?"

Terence shook his head. He scouted the idea of invasion, yet he knew
there was a possibility--that a raiding squadron might visit the
Norfolk coast.

"No, I was thinking of the winter coming on," he said equivocally.
"You see, it's rather bleak and lonely for you here. Why not shut the
house up for the next six months and go and live with Aunt Margaret?"

Mrs. Aubyn wavered. Her sister had a large house at Purbrook, a few
miles from Portsmouth. It certainly would be a pleasant change to
spend the winter in the south of England with her nearest relative
rather than exist in solitary state in her home on the bleak East
Coast.

"Besides," continued her son, taking advantage of his parent's
obvious wavering, "the 'Strongbow'--that's the new name for the old
'Saraband'--is fitting out of Portsmouth, and more than likely she'll
make that place here home port. In that case, whenever we put in for
supplies or refit, I ought to be able to see you pretty frequently."

The explanation was a lame one. Terence knew perfectly well that on
being commissioned the "Strongbow" would proceed to the North Sea for
patrol-work. Her connexion with Portsmouth would then be severed. But
to his satisfaction Mrs. Aubyn figuratively hauled down her colours.

A telegram was despatched to her sister, accepting a long-standing
invitation, and at the expiration of his week-end leave,
Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn was accompanied by his mother on his journey to
Portsmouth to rejoin his ship.

Three days later the "Strongbow," looking most business-like in her
garb of neutral grey, slipped unostentatiously between the old
fortifications at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, negotiated the
narrow gateway of the boom-defence, and in the pale dawn of a misty
October day shaped her course for the North Sea.

She was one of perhaps a hundred vessels of whose very existence not
decimal one per cent of the population of Great Britain is aware.
Unless a striking success or a lamentable disaster brings them into
the limelight the great British public never hear their names. Yet
every one of that vast fleet of armed merchantmen was doing its duty
as a unit of the greatest Navy the world has ever yet seen, nobly
performing a service whereby the United Kingdom is spared the horror
of the yoke-mate of war--the scourge of famine.

The "Strongbow" carried the same officers as in the days when she
sailed under the Red Ensign, while in command was a full-fledged
naval officer, Captain Hugh Ripponden.

Captain Ripponden was one of those men who welcomed the outbreak of
hostilities as a godsend. July found him in a hopeless position as
regards seniority on the list of commanders. The prospect of
compulsory retirement at the age of fifty stared him in the face. By
sheer merit and perseverance he had attained his present position,
but unfortunately he lacked the necessary influence "up topsides"
to gain an additional advance in rank.

The absorption into the Service of a fleet of armed merchantmen
proved to be his salvation from a distasteful retirement, and thus he
found himself in command of H.M.S. "Strongbow."

Like many another talented naval officer Captain Ripponden had not
the gift of eloquence. He was a man of few words. A speech was beyond
his powers.

While the crew of H.M.S. "Strongbow" first mustered for Divisions
after commissioning the captain's address was short and to the
point:--

"My lads, you look a smart crew. If you are as smart as you look,
I'll be quite satisfied. Now dismiss."

He was quite right in saying the ship's company were a smart body of
men. In spite of the fact that they were made up of Royal Naval
Reserve men, Royal Fleet Reservists, and a sprinkling of Royal Naval
Volunteers, they presented an appearance that would defy criticism
even from the oldest martinet in the days when a smart lower-yard man
was considered as a greater asset to a ship's company than a good
gun-layer.

The officers of the "Strongbow," from Captain Ramshaw (who now
assumed the rank of Commander, R.N.R.) downwards, quickly voted the
new skipper "a right good sort," while it did not take the crew long
to form the current opinion that "the owner" was a man who, not
shirking work himself, expected others to do their utmost. On board
H.M.S. "Strongbow" there was no room for shirkers or grousers.

Before the vessel passed the Nab Lightship practically the whole of
the Naval Volunteers--men of good position in civil life, whose
previous acquaintance with King Neptune's domains was a view from the
deck of the "President" lying off Temple Pier--were prostrate with
sea-sickness.

Captain Ripponden received the report that ten of his crew were
temporarily hors de combat with equanimity.

"Let the men lie in their hammocks," he replied considerately.
"They'll be all the better for it when they recover their sea-legs."

Therein he was right, and before the "Strongbow" arrived at her
cruising-station the Volunteers were as fit and as eager as the rest
of their comrades for the arduous work on hand.



CHAPTER XI.

ALL IN A DAY'S WORK.


"LIGHT on the port bow, sir," sung out a hoarse voice in the
darkness.

Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn rubbed his eyes with the back of his lamb-skin
glove. The action was necessary, for his face was encrusted with
frozen spray--icicles that, driven with terrific force by the howling
wind, cut so deeply into his weather-beaten skin as to draw blood.
Then, grasping his telescope with his benumbed fingers he steadied
the instrument on the edge of a "storm-dodger" and brought it to
bear upon the object indicated.

Two months of monotonous patrol-work had passed since the day on
which the "Strongbow" left Portsmouth Harbour. The rigours of a
winter in the North Atlantic had severely tried the physical and
mental capabilities of the officers and crew. As the days shortened
and the nights correspondingly increased, and the periods of weak
sunshine became more and more rare, the stress upon the ship's
company grew. Buffeted by wintry gales, swept by icy seas, the
"Strongbow" kept doggedly to her station. For a week at a time no
strange sail would be sighted. The armed liner seemed to be an atom
of isolation in the midst of a deserted foam-flecked ocean; yet hers
was a particular duty to be done for King and Country.

Coming from a regular route that for the most part lay in tropical
and sub-tropical seas the original officers of the ship felt the
climatic change acutely. Most of them, who hourly faced death in the
shape of unseen mines, quailed at the thought of having to use a
razor, and grew beards of wondrous trim.

Aubyn was one of the exceptions, yet his appearance was such that he
resembled, to use Raeburn's expression, "a cross between a teddy-bear
and a golliwog." In addition to double underclothing he sported three
thick sweaters, a heavy great-coat and an enormous woollen muffler.
Over this perambulating bundle of clothing he wore a large yellow
oilskin and sea-boots. His naval peaked cap had given place to a
woollen "helmet" surmounted by a "sou'-wester" kept in place, against
the frantic efforts of the wind to dislodge it, by a black and white
plaid "comforter" tied tightly under his chin. And in spite of this
load of garments the cold chilled him to the bone.

Terence's appearance in the matter of dress was in keeping with the
rest of the officers and crew. Gifts of woollen comforts from the
womenfolk of the Empire had been showered upon the Royal Navy, and in
spite of the apparent redundancy of garments every article was
utilized and appreciated. Commander Ramshaw had been heard to remark
that when the men were given an order they had to almost undress
before they could carry it out. He was not far out, for although the
amount of clothing worn was not superfluous it certainly hampered the
men's movements.

The "Strongbow's" task was an arduous, necessary, and momentous one.
Like scores of her consorts the joy of battle was denied her. The
possibility of any of her crew smelling powder was a very remote one.
She was never likely to join in the chase of a fleeing enemy warship.
Her men would never, according to present circumstances, witness the
last plunge of a hostile cruiser, sent to the bottom by the guns of a
man-of-war. Honour and glory were not to be hers when the story of
the Great War comes to be written in letters of gold upon the pages
of the world's history.

No, she was only a patrol-ship; doomed to cruise within certain
limits and examine all strange merchant-craft that passed within
sight of the alert lookout. Yet by so doing she was driving a nail
into the coffin of the vaunted German Empire. She was helping to
tighten the bands of economic pressure that were slowly but surely
crippling the resources of the Mailed Fist.

It was not until Aubyn had removed the thick deposit of frozen spray,
which, in spite of the protective shade had encrusted the object
glass of the telescope, that he was able to distinguish the outlines
of the strange vessel. She was a three-masted topsail schooner,
close-reefed and on the starboard tack, showing her port light, which
was burning brightly.

No vessel engaged in carrying contraband to Germany would be likely
to show navigation lamps while attempting to steal through the cordon
of British patrol-ships. The sub. knew that; yet it was his duty to
report the presence of the stranger in order that the "Strongbow"
could make a proper examination of her papers.

Upon receipt of the intelligence that the armed liner was heading for
an unknown vessel, Captain Ripponden, aroused before he had "turned
in" for less than an hour, hurried to the bridge. Orders were issued
for the cutter's crew to stand by, while the "Strongbow" was
manoeuvred to take up a position to windward of the schooner.

Promptly the stranger obeyed the order to heave-to. With her lean bow
plunging into the angry seas like a chopper she lost way two cables'
lengths from the British patrol-ship, a row of sou'-westered heads
lined the lee-rail, as her crew watched the approach of "Strongbow's"
boat.

Half an hour later the boarding officer returned.

"No luck, sir," he reported. "She's our old friend, the 'Sarmiento,'
of Boston, U.S.A., bound for Bergen."

He was justified in calling the schooner an old friend. Three days
previously the "Strongbow" had fallen in with and had boarded the
self-same vessel. For three days the "Sarmiento" had tacked and
tacked in the teeth of the strong nor'-easter, never gaining a mile,
while the patrol-ship in keeping her to appointed limits had again
fallen in with her.

"All in a night's work," remarked Captain Ripponden, as he prepared
to return to his cabin. "Better luck next time. Mr. Bury, you brought
the cutter alongside in excellent style."

The sub. who had gone to the schooner as boarding-officer saluted.
The praise from his captain had amply recompensed him for the dangers
he and his boat's crew had undergone in traversing the stretch of
angry sea between the two vessels, only to find that he had departed
upon a fruitless errand.

Philosophically he agreed with the skipper that it was all in a
night's work, and made a hurried bolt below to shed his saturated
garments, for in spite of oilskins and sea-boots he was drenched to
the skin.

At eight bells noon on the following day another sail was reported,
this time on the port quarter.

The "Strongbow's" helm was immediately put over and a course shaped
to intercept the stranger.

"German, by all the powers!" ejaculated Commander Ramshaw. "She's
got the confounded cheek to hoist her rascally colours."

The approaching vessel was a large steel barque. Her jibboomless
"stump" bowsprit and the absence of chain-plates betokened her to be
a modern craft and apparently a valuable prize.

The stranger made no attempt to alter course. A score or so of
stolid, fair-haired Teutons were gathered on her short fo'c'sle,
gazing with a faint degree of interest upon the grey-painted vessel
approaching them, till a shot fired across the barque's bows,
followed by a peremptory signal to heave-to roused them to unwonted
activity.

Away aloft swarmed the astonished German seamen. Sail was quickly
reduced, and curtseying to the short steep seas the barque was ready
to receive her prize-masters.

Terence was in charge of the boat detailed to take possession of the
barque. Armed with a revolver and accompanied by fifteen of the crew
with rifles and bayonets, he took his place in the stern sheets of
the boat. Deftly the patent disengaging gear of the falls was cast
off, the men bent to their stout ash oars with a will, and five
minutes later the boat was alongside the barque.

"Vot you vant?" demanded the skipper of the barque, which proved to
be the "Freya" of Bremen. "Your vessel is a prize of his Britannic
Majesty's Government," announced Terence.

"Prize?--I no onderstan'," expostulated the master vehemently. "Dis
Zherman sheep. Zhermany not at war."

"I'm afraid you are greatly mistaken," said Aubyn, as he swung
himself up the side by means of the rope ladder which the crew,
unsuspecting the nature of the visit, although mystified by the
display of arms, had meanwhile lowered. "Germany is at war with
Great Britain, France, Russia, Japan, and Servia."

At the mention of each of these countries the skipper's eyes opened
wider and wider.

"Mein Gott!" he exclaimed, and without another word turned on his
heel and made for his cabin, only to be brought back by a peremptory
order from the young sub.

From the ship's papers it was ascertained that the "Freya" had a most
valuable cargo of nitrates and copper ore--a cargo that would be of
immense service to the German army had the barque escaped the British
patrol. She was a hundred and forty-three days out of Valparaiso, and
during the whole of that time she had not spoken a single vessel;
consequently her crew were in total ignorance of the European War.
Gales and head winds had delayed her; water and provisions remained
sufficient only for three more days. She had been blown so far out of
her course that her master had decided to make a passage round Cape
Wrath rather than beat up the English Channel, and when almost in
sight of the North Sea she had been snapped by the "Strongbow."

Quickly the prize crew went about their work. The German seamen were
ordered below; guards were posted at the hatchways and outside the
officers' quarters. The red, white, and black ensign of the German
Mercantile Marine was lowered and rehoisted under the British flag;
canvas was stowed and preparations were made to take the "Freya" in
tow.

After a considerable amount of skilful and dangerous manoeuvring a
stout hempen hawser was passed from the prize to the "Strongbow," and
wallowing heavily in the latter's wake the "Freya" was towed into
Dingwall.

Almost the first thing that attracted Terence's attention on landing
at Dingwall was a poster on which appeared the words "German Fleet
attempts Bombardment of Yarmouth."

"Another rumour--I'm getting sick of them," ejaculated Aubyn;
nevertheless, he bought a copy of the paper. He was wrong in his
surmise. It was a fact, not a rumour. Several German heavy cruisers
had suddenly appeared off the port in the grey dawn, and had opened a
furious fire. Unaccountably, it seemed, all the projectiles fell
short of their mark. A few, indeed, ploughed up the sand on the
shore, but no damage was done. Everyone was asking, "Will the hostile
cruisers get away safely?"

That same afternoon the news was received that the raiders had
escaped. The chances were eagerly discussed on board the "Strongbow."
It seemed incredible that, in spite of the cordon of British light
cruisers and destroyers a dozen enemy ships should be able to retire
unharmed after their brazen attempt.

"You fellows must remember we haven't official details," remarked
Lieutenant Lymore. "Another thing: you know what the North Sea is
like this time of the year, with the range of vision limited to
perhaps a couple of miles."

"Think they'll try it on again?" asked Raeburn.

"No doubt. Encouraged by their being able to avoid getting into
contact with our fleet they'll have another shot at it, but let's
hope they'll burn their fingers."

Before the "Strongbow" left Dingwall, after coaling ship, a mail,
mostly of belated letters, arrived. Amongst them was one for Aubyn
from his chum Waynsford.

"I suppose you know all about our little excitement here at
Yarmouth," he wrote. "We were rudely disturbed from our bunks by
tremendous firing, and when we turned out we discovered shells
dropping within five hundred yards of the shore. With the naked eye
one could make out the enemy ships fairly distinctly, and with
glasses quite plainly. The shells could be seen falling all around
the little 'Halcyon,' and it was most marvellous how she escaped.
Altering the position of those buoys the night you were here
doubtless upset the German gunners' calculations.

"The Press report that none of the shells did damage is incorrect. Of
course it may be advisable not to give the public full details, but
in your case I think you ought to know."

"Almost the last shell fired struck your mater's house. Went right
through the dining-room without exploding and buried itself five feet
in the earth on the other side of the building. Lucky you made your
parent clear out, wasn't it?

"I'm under orders to leave Yarmouth and report myself at Scarbro'.
Goodness only knows what for, but 'orders is orders,' as
Coastguardsman Smith is so fond of quoting. If ever you are within
easy distance of Scarbro' and get short leave, look me up.

                                 "Yours most sincerely,
                                       "RICHARD WAYNSFORD."



CHAPTER XII.

MINED.


TWELVE hours later H.M.S. "Strongbow" was on her appointed station.
It was night. The wind had moderated considerably, yet there was
quite a heavy sea running. The young moon peeped between dark masses
of drifting scud, while to windward a bank of irregularly defined
clouds fringed with ragged tails betokened a repetition of the
unpleasant climatic conditions.

It was Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn's "watch below." Seated in the plainly
furnished gun-room, the scuttles of which were carefully screened,
were most of the junior officers who were off duty.

Some were playing cards, others were reading, in spite of the raucous
ragtime melodies ground out by a gramaphone that had already suffered
considerably from the effects of two months' buffeting. In the pauses
while the junior midshipman rewound the instrument of mental torture,
the slap of the waves against the vessel's side could be distinctly
heard.

"In for another dirty night," remarked Raeburn inconsequently.

The announcement was received in chilly silence. "Dirty nights" were
too frequent and too monotonous to form the subject of conversation.

The assistant engineer tried another tack.

"What do you make of the latest report from the Russian frontier?" he
asked.

"Oh, dry up, old man!" expostulated O'Reilly feebly. "What with your
cackle and young Jones grinding away at that blessed
gramaphone--Jones, if you put on another record I'll throw this book
at your head! There's no peace in the gun-room."

Aubyn smiled grimly. He realized that in the monotonous round of
routine his comrades were almost bored to death by their own company.
Even the versatile O'Reilly was becoming as surly as a bear with a
sore head.

"Keep your wool on, old man!" exclaimed Raeburn. "Strikes me, we all
want shaking up----"

Before he could complete the sentence the ship seemed to leap
vertically out of the water. A deafening crash followed. The gun-room
furniture was thrown in all directions, the occupants were either
hurled against the bulkhead or pitched violently on top of the
overturned gear, while the failure of the electric light left the
place in utter darkness.

Terence found himself lying across the remains of the gramaphone,
with someone's heel beating a tattoo on the small of his back.

For some seconds he remained where he was, his senses dulled by the
sudden shock. Then it occurred to him that the ship was not so lively
as usual. Her movements seemed decidedly sluggish. A confused roar,
the sound of many feet hurrying, mingled with the hiss of escaping
steam, recalled him to his senses. Either the "Strongbow" had struck
a mine or had been torpedoed. Above the tumult came the sound of the
bugle, the notes quavering to such an extent that the sub. hardly
recognized their significance.

"That's 'General Quarters'," he exclaimed, and freeing himself from
the persistent attentions of the unknown's heels, he sprang to his
feet and struck a match.

By its feeble glimmer he could form some idea of the chaotic aspect
of the gun-room. Many of his comrades had regained their feet, and in
their eagerness to obey the bugle-call were groping blindly for the
door. The concussion had jammed it badly. Two of the officers were
still prone amid the débris--stunned by the shock.

The match flickered and died out, but before Aubyn could strike
another, one of the midshipmen thrust a hastily rolled newspaper into
the remains of the fire on the stove and held it like a torch.

A combined effort on the part of O'Reilly and two of the midshipmen
burst the door from its hinges. Aubyn, assisted by Raeburn, lifted
one of the unconscious men and bore him on deck. Others performed a
like office for the second victim, while the rest filed up the
companion.

By this time the short burst of uproar had entirely ceased. Officers
and men were quietly falling in on the upper deck, awaiting the
captain's orders.

Silhouetted against the fitful moonlight could be discerned the cool
and resolute form of Captain Ripponden as he grasped the bridge-rails
and looked down upon the orderly mass of humanity. In that moment of
peril he was proud of his crew. They were worthy of upholding the
traditions of gallant British seamen. To what extent the "Strongbow"
was damaged he knew not. He was awaiting the carpenter's and the
boatswain's report.

As he waited, with a true seaman's instinct, he glanced to windward.
The approaching storm was not far off. Should it be necessary to take
to the boats the chances of being saved were very remote. Nor did
there seem any possibility of rescue from any other ship, for the
explosion had dislocated the wireless apparatus. The only chances in
that direction were that a passing vessel might detect the wail of
the syren--as it sent forth its call for assistance in the long and
short blasts that corresponded to the dot and dash of the Morse
Code--or might sight the coloured star rockets that were being fired
from the bridge.

Captain Ripponden deliberately delayed giving the order to take to
the boats. Although the "Strongbow" was sorely hit she showed no
immediate inclination to make her final plunge. The engine-room and
stokeholds were clear, and the engine-room staff still remained at
their posts below the water-line; nevertheless, the ship was making
water freely and was already considerably down by the head.

Suddenly a short thick-set figure ran aft between the double line of
seamen drawn up as calmly and as steadily as if mustered for
Divisions. Terence could hear the man's laboured breathing as he
hurried. It was the ship's carpenter, on the strength of whose report
Captain Ripponden's orders for immediate action would be delivered.

Up the bridge ladder the warrant officer made his way, then drawing
himself erect saluted his superior--a courtesy that the captain
punctiliously returned. Even in the presence of fearful and imminent
peril the regulation regarding the paying of proper compliments in
the matter of saluting were carried out to the letter.

The eyes of every man on deck were directed upon the silhouetted
figures of the captain and the carpenter on the bridge. Captain
Ripponden's head was observed to nod slightly several times as he
listened to his subordinate's report; then he stepped to the
after-bridge rails.

"My men," he shouted in stentorian tones that were clearly audible
amid the moaning of the wind and the hiss of escaping steam, "we'll
save the old ship yet. Twenty men to assist carpenter's crew. The
rest remain aft and stand easy."

Away doubled the working party, their task being to build a temporary
coffer-dam in the after side of the for'ard transverse bulkhead. The
"Strongbow" had bumped upon a drifting mine, the explosion of which,
occurring right under the bows and close to the water-line, had
flooded the bow compartments. The watertight bulkhead was dangerously
strained. Water was entering in small jets under the terrific
pressure in the flooded compartments; but although the pumps were
quite capable of keeping the leak under control, the bulkhead, unless
shored up, was in momentary danger of giving way.

Feverishly the carpenter and his men tackled the hazardous task.
Bolts of canvas, rolled hammocks and tarpaulins were piled against
the bulging steel bulkhead, and held in position by baulks of timber,
braced and chocked till the coffer-dam was as strong and firmly set
as human ingenuity could devise.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew were allowed to smoke--a concession
that was eagerly welcomed, and the quarter-deck glowered with the
dull glare of lighted cigarettes and pipes. Those men who had turned
up without adequate clothing were ordered to find additional garments
to protect them from the numbing cold, while the cooks were told off
to the galleys to make hot cocoa. Even in the midst of peril Captain
Ripponden's thoughts were for the comfort of his devoted men.

As soon as the carpenter reported that in his opinion the strained
bulkhead was properly shored up, orders were given to the engine-room
for half-speed astern and a course shaped for Aberdeen. To drive the
ship ahead with her bows seriously damaged would be placing a
tremendous strain upon the coffer-dam, while when making sternway the
pressure would be considerably reduced.

"Let's hope we don't hit another of those infernal mines," remarked
O'Reilly to Aubyn, as the two officers made their way below. "I
don't think we are in a regular minefield. The one we struck was
evidently a derelict."

"Evidently," agreed Terence. "Judging by the damage done it must
have deteriorated, otherwise it would have sent us to the bottom like
a stone. I suppose it will mean turning over to another ship?

"Six weeks, patching the old 'Saraband' up," declared O'Reilly, who
almost invariably referred to the ship by her former name. "I wish
to goodness they'd appoint us to a cruiser or a destroyer and give us
a chance of seeing some fun."

"We have had a fair share."

"Yes, of hard work--which I don't mind--and getting bashed about
without being able to strike a blow in self-defence. Of course, it's
the call of duty----"

A muffled thud, coming from almost immediately below their feet and
followed by the unmistakable sound of rushing water, interrupted the
young officer's conversation.

They looked at each other for one brief instant, hardly able to
comprehend the nature of the latest calamity.

"Bulkhead started," announced Aubyn laconically.

Snatching an oil lamp from its bracket Terence rushed below, followed
by O'Reilly. Guided by the feeble illumination, for the electric
lighting installation was hopelessly out of order, the two officers
made their way down several short ladders. On the orlop-deck they
almost collided with Raeburn.

"After magazine flooded," announced the assistant engineer
breathlessly. "Huge rush of water. I was just off to get extra
hands, but you'll do. Be quick, there's no time to lose. The water's
pouring in like a sluice."

Knee deep in water the three officers made their way aft till their
arrival at the door of the magazine. The sentry was fumbling with the
lock, while two artificers, one holding a lantern, were impatiently
urging him to make a job of it and open the door. The whole of the
magazine was full of water, while the pressure had forced a part of
the bulkhead containing the compartment.

When the "Strongbow" struck the mine the concussion had caused a
hitherto undiscovered leak aft, the flow being concealed by the
locked door of the magazine until the pressure had become sufficient
to burst the thin steel walls. Being specially constructed for
flooding in case of emergency, the floor of the magazine was some
feet below the level of the orlop-deck.

"We'll have to tackle the leak inside," announced Terence. "Here,
one of you," he added addressing the men waiting by the door. "Cut
up and inform the carpenter. Look alive."

At length the marine sentry succeeded in shooting back the strained
lock. The officers hurled themselves against the door. It opened
inwards, at the same time releasing an additional flood of water,
that surged violently along the orlop-deck.

At every heave of the ship frothing billows careered up and down the
length of the confined space, wellnigh sweeping the little group of
officers and men from their feet. Already, taking into account the
state of the flooded fore compartments, the volume of water admitted
into the ship was causing her to move sluggishly. The danger of
foundering was still imminent.

Holding his breath and setting his jaw tightly, Aubyn literally leapt
down to the floor of the magazine. The mean level of the water was up
to his neck. Momentarily it would subside, then rise till it floated
him off his feet, yet gamely he struggled onwards, partly swimming,
partly wading.

The "Strongbow" was built on the "single-skin" principle. Only a
thin steel shell, riveted to curved ribs of the same metal, formed
her hull. The after magazine was on the port side, at approximately
the spot where the "run aft" of her lines began. It was here, as
Terence suspected, that one of the seams had gaped open.

Filling his lungs to their utmost capacity with the none too
wholesome air, the sub. dived. His fingers, already numbed by the
icy-cold water, came in contact with a gap through which a steady
torrent was pressing. His surmise was correct: several of the rivets
had been fractured, and between the lap of two adjoining plates a
serious leak had developed.

Whipping off his scarf Aubyn attempted to thrust it into the gap. The
rush of water swept it away. Off came his pilot coat. Thrice he
essayed to hold it in position, but his body being practically
water-borne he could exert little or no force. He felt still more the
numbing effect of the sea. In the semi-darkness, for he had only the
reflected light from the lanterns, the horror of the position gripped
him.

"If she goes, I'm done for," he thought, for in his fevered
imagination he fancied that the ship was already on the point of
making a final plunge. He felt tempted to desist from his efforts and
make a rush for safety. Then, as quickly as it had come, the wave of
panic left him.

"Got a hand-spike there?" he asked.

"Ay, ay, sir," replied one of the carpenter's crew who had just
arrived on the scene. "And some stoppers as well."

Two of the men plunged into the flooded magazine. The hand-spike was
applied to the temporary plug until it was forced into the gap.

"That'll hold, sir," announced one of the men confidently.

"Let's hope so," replied the sub. Then to himself he muttered, "And
my very best pilot coat."

For another ten minutes Aubyn stood and shivered, till one of the men
felt the sub.'s numbed hand shaking as he assisted to hold the
hand-spike.

"Leak's well under control, sir, I think," continued the seaman, a
burly Devonshire man. "Might I make so bold, sir, as to suggest that
you stand easy? We'll see to this all right."

The man spoke truly. All the available pumps working continuously
were sufficient to keep the remaining inrush of water well under
control. Already the orlop-deck was practically cleared. In the
magazine the water was just above the sub.'s waist.

Aubyn did not reply. He was incapable of speech. In the semi-gloom
the Devonshire man saw that something was amiss.

"Do'ee take hold of this a minute, Joe," he said to his comrade, as
he relaxed his hold on the hand-spike. "Now, sir, out you do come."

With that he literally carried the numbed form of his superior
officer out of the partly flooded magazine, just as others of his
mates were preparing to complete the task which Aubyn had
successfully begun.

Of what happened during the next few hours Terence had but a hazy
idea. He was dimly conscious of being placed into a hot bath, wrapped
up in blankets, and being put into his bunk. There, as far as he
personally was concerned, scarce troubling whether the ship went down
or otherwise, he fell into the deep sleep of utter exhaustion till he
was aroused by the officers' call followed by the shrill notes of the
bo's'un's mates' whistles.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE RAID ON SCARBOROUGH.


"MY watch, by Jove!" ejaculated Aubyn. "What in the name of goodness
am I doing in my bunk at this time of the morning?"

He sprang out of bed with his customary alacrity, only to find his
knees give way under him. Then it gradually dawned upon him that his
last fully conscious moments were whilst he was in the flooded
magazine.

"Steady, old man!" he muttered reproachfully. "This won't do. Pull
yourself together."

He began to dress, rummaging for his clothes in one of the
characteristically awkwardly placed drawers under his bunk. The
garments he had worn the previous day had been taken away to be
dried. Then he remembered the fate of his great-coat and wondered
what he should do without it when on the bridge.

He glanced through the scuttle. The sea was still running high.
Flakes of snow, scudding before the wind, were falling rapidly. By
the motion of the water as it slipped past the ship's side he knew
that the "Strongbow" was still going sternforemost.

The door of his cabin opened noiselessly, and Raeburn entered.

"Here, this won't do, old fellow!" exclaimed the assistant engineer.
"You toddle off back to your bunk again. Pills will be on your
collar if you don't."

"What silly idiot made the doctor look me up?" asked Terence.

"Don't call yourself ugly names," protested Raeburn laughingly.
"Since you chose to have a cold bath and stay there till your nose
was as blue as a dungaree suit, and you looked liked a favourite for
the Triple Pneumonia Stakes, it isn't to be wondered at that Pills
had to have a chip in. But honestly, old man, you turn in, or it will
be a case for the sick bay. By Jove, you did a rattling plucky
thing!"

Terence abruptly silenced his chum.

"Rot!" he exclaimed. "I spoilt my only great-coat. If I'm to be
crocked every time I do a little job like that, the sooner I chuck
the Service the better. I'm off."

Ignoring Raeburn's threats to call the surgeon, Terence hurried from
his cabin, and having borrowed a pilot coat, donned his oilskins over
the borrowed garment and went on deck.

It was a weird sight which met his gaze.

The "Strongbow" was in the grip of a North Sea blizzard. Her tapering
masts, funnels, ventilators, even shrouds and ropes, were outlined in
glistening snow. Owing to the extreme danger of men being overthrown
by the slippery state of the frozen snow underfoot, men were busily
engaged in sweeping the decks--an apparently interminable task, as
the flakes fell quickly and heavily.

Unnoticed Aubyn gained the foot of the bridge-ladder. The ascent
caused him considerable effort. In spite of his natural activity the
prospect of a "trick" on the exposed bridge in that awful weather
damped his enthusiasm. Mr. Lymore was on duty. His back was turned
towards the sub. Before Terence could report himself the door of the
chart room was opened and Captain Ripponden appeared.

"Good morning, Mr. Aubyn," exclaimed the latter, returning the sub.'s
salute. "I am rather surprised to find you here."

"It's my watch, sir."

"It would have been," corrected the captain. "Dr. Terry reported you
unfit for duty, and I must abide by his decision. So you will report
yourself to him."

"Very good, sir," said Terence.

"And," continued Ripponden, "allow me to congratulate you on your
plucky action. I will take the first opportunity of transmitting an
account of it to My Lords for their information."

Aubyn grasped the captain's extended hand. Completely taken aback by
his superior's congratulations he could not frame a reply.

Again saluting, Terence turned to leave the bridge. As he did so a
roar of cheering burst from those on deck. Those of the crew who had
witnessed the meeting between Captain Ripponden and the plucky sub.
had rightly interpreted the "owner's" action. There are moments
when spontaneous enthusiasm ignores the dictates of discipline, and
this was one of them. The men of the "Strongbow" cheered their young
officer to the echo.

Terence Aubyn met with a boisterous reception in the gun-room. His
brother officers "chipped" him unmercifully on the subject of the
tribute of the crew. The sub. took it all in good part. He realized
that underneath the outward mask of levity was a substratum of
genuine admiration for his courage and judgment in tackling the leak.
Even the dangers through which they had so recently passed failed to
subdue the exuberant spirits of the denizens of the gun-room, and
entering into the fun, Terence soon felt so much better that Dr.
Terry was obliged to confess that his fears for the sub.'s health was
no longer justified.

Before dusk the same day two tugs put out from Aberdeen and took the
"Strongbow" in tow. Three hours later she was safely docked, and for
the first time for many a long day the "watch below" were able to
turn in without being confronted by the possibility of sudden death
in the mine-strewn waters of the North Sea.

Examination proved that the damage done to the ship was considerable.
Practically the whole of the bow portion would have to be re-built,
while in many places the hull-plating would have to be re-fastened
and re-caulked. Internal damage caused by the concussion was also
great. By dint of working day and night the shipbuilders might be
able to effect repairs in a month's time.

The next day leave was given to the starboard watch. Officers and men
were, by the special consent of the Admiralty, granted seven days'
leave. Meanwhile, arrangements were being made to turn over the
ship's company to another vessel until repairs to the "Strongbow"
were carried out.

The temporary substitute--the armed merchant-man "Vindex"--was lying
at Leith. Being of considerably lesser tonnage than the "Strongbow"
there was no necessity for the whole of the latter's crew to man her.
With mixed feelings Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn found that he was appointed
to H.M.S. "Terrier" as supernumerary.

He was sorry to part company with his old messmates, even for a
comparatively brief period. Having won praise from his captain,
possessed of the friendship and esteem of his brother-officers, and
well liked by the lower deck, he felt a mental wrench at having to
say good-bye even for a few weeks.

On the other hand, his appointment to the "Terrier" was after his own
heart, for the ship was a regular unit of the British Navy. She was,
it is true, an obsolete craft--a torpedo-gunboat of only 800 tons and
a speed of nineteen knots.

Built more than twenty years previously, the "Terrier's" original
rôle had long since been usurped by the "destroyer" class. In later
years she had been employed as a fishery-protection cruiser, until at
the outbreak of war she had been hastily re-fitted and commissioned
as a mine-sweeper patrol-boat.

The "Terrier," undergoing engine repairs, was still detained at
Newcastle, whither Terence proceeded to join her.

"I hear you've been done out of your leave," was the remark of the
"Terrier's" captain, a tall, slimly built man, who looked about
Terence's age, although he must have been some years his senior in
order to have attained the rank of lieutenant-commander. "We won't be
out of dockyard hands for another week, so if you like you can go
ashore and report yourself on Saturday."

"Can I be spared, sir?"

"A more favourable opportunity may not occur again for some time,"
replied Captain Holloway. "Lying alongside a dirty wharf with the
coal-dust flying into the officers' cabins all day doesn't make life
aboard very attractive. I'm in shore quarters myself until we're
ready to proceed to sea; so under the circumstances you will be wise
to take advantage of a few days' leave."

The sub. thanked his captain for his consideration, and having given
orders for his gear to be placed in his cabin, proceeded to pack a
small portmanteau with articles absolutely necessary for his
well-earned holiday. While he was so doing he rapidly debated with
himself as to where he intended to go. According to the King's
Regulations he was bound to leave his address in the event of being
telegraphed to rejoin his ship. The limited time at his disposal,
coupled with the idea of the expense of a first-class railway ticket
to the South of England, did not permit a visit to his mother. He had
no friends in Newcastle, and he was not at all desirous of putting up
at an hotel in that city.

Then he remembered Waynsford's invitation to look him up if he
happened to be within easy distance of Scarborough.

"Somewhat of the nature of a busman's holiday," he mused, as he wrote
his proposed address in the leave-book: "R.M.B.R. 'Lonette,'
Scarborough."

Dick Waynsford, apprised by telegraph, was on the station platform to
greet him.

"Glad you're come, old man," he exclaimed. "Anything to buck a fellow
up?"

"Why, what's wrong now?" asked Terence.

"Nothing in particular; only I'm getting thoroughly fed up in this
place. Nothing much to do but to run errands to the mine-sweepers
that occasionally put into the bay. A fisherman could do the job
equally as well as I can. You've been having an exciting time, I
hear?"

"Somewhat," replied Aubyn modestly. "Now, let's be making a move."

The two chums jumped into a waiting taxi, Waynsford giving the
chauffeur directions to drive as straight as he jolly well knew how
to Sandside, and not to take them half-way round the town to get
there.

"'Sandside'--that sounds all right," thought Terence, but his
expectations were unrealized as the taxi drew up in the rather dingy
quarter of Scarborough adjoining the harbour.

"There she is," announced Waynsford, pointing to the grey hull of the
"Lonette," which, barely water-borne, was reclining against the lofty
wall of the harbour. "One of the best runs I ever had in her was
when we brought her round from Yarmouth."

"Why, she's hard and fast aground."

"M'yes," agreed Waynsford unconcernedly. "She spends most of her time
like that, It's all right sleeping on board, unless she happens to
take a list the wrong way. Then you've got to sort yourselves out of
a horrible muddle on the cabin floor."

"What if you're wanted?" enquired Aubyn.

"We have to jolly well wait till she floats," answered his chum, with
a grin. "It's a quiet berth, and heaps better than rolling all night
in the open bay. We had one taste of it--nearly upset the whole crowd
of us. Mind that ladder: it's horribly slippery."

Waynsford indicated a perpendicular iron ladder, its lowermost end
hidden in black mud, over which the rising tide was slowly advancing.

Throwing his portmanteau to one of the crew, who, as the result of
long practice, deftly caught the heavy article, Terence descended the
fifteen feet of ladder and stepped across the intervening space
between the water and the motor-boat's quarter.

"Here's your bunk," announced Waynsford, pointing to a cot swung
against the side of the bin. "Nalder, my opposite number, sleeps on
the port bunk."

"How about you?" asked Terence.

"I'm going to turn in on the floor for the next few nights," replied
Waynsford. "I'm used to it. You see, we've another boat for actual
duty purposes in fine weather. She's smaller and handier. We use
'Lonette' mostly as a kind of parent ship. Now, I'll get the boy to
bring the grub in. Fire away and let's have all the news."

During the rest of the day while daylight lasted Waynsford piloted
his chum round the Queen of Watering Places, taking him up to the
ruined castle and introducing him to some officers of Kitchener's
Army whose acquaintance he had recently made.

"Jolly decent place in the summer, I should imagine," declared
Waynsford, as the chums wended their way back to the harbour. "But
deadly dull now. Not a light to be seen after dark. It makes one
almost wish that the Germans would pay the place a visit, if only to
make things a little more lively."

"Eh, what's that?" inquired Terence.

"Only wishing for the impossible, my dear fellow. Being an
unfortified town Scarborough will not be favoured with the attentions
of the Teutons. Apart from that they won't risk another raid. They're
too wary of our fleet."

It was quite late in the night before the officers of the "Lonette"
turned in. The crew detailed for the duty boat had departed, their
"trick" commencing at midnight. Quietude settled upon the almost
lifeless harbour. Most of the fishing fleet that still remained at
its usual work were out. Five or six of the boats, locked up for the
night, were moored in the inner harbour. Three more, preparing to
leave at high water, were tied up to buoys at the entrance to the
outer basin, their crews working silently as if infected by the
solitude that overspread the once busy port.

Suddenly Terence was awakened by finding himself slipping from his
bunk. In the darkness, for the moment, unable to recall his
surroundings, he imagined himself back in the old "Strongbow," and
that the vessel was rolling badly. But quickly he discovered that the
movement was different; there was no recovery. He felt his bunk list
more and more, until vainly endeavouring to hold himself in, he
subsided upon the still soundly sleeping Waynsford.

"Confound it!" exclaimed that worthy. "She's heeled outwards. I
thought we'd taken proper precautions. Sorry to disturb you, old
man."

"It's a case of my disturbing you, I fancy," replied Terence, after
he had extricated himself from the pile of blankets and cushions. "I
don't mind, if you don't. There goes the crockery," he added, as a
series of crashes came from the fo'c'sle.

Striking a match Waynsford lit the cabin lamp and glanced at the
bulkhead clock.

"Seven, by Jove!" he exclaimed. "It's close on low water. In another
two hours we'll be afloat again. No use attempting to turn in.
Nalder, you lazy bounder, get up and join in a hand of dummy whist."

Sub-Lieutenant Nalder, who being in the port cot had been wedged
between the bunk cushions and those on the side, was sleeping
unconcernedly throughout the racket, as if such happenings were quite
in the usual order of things. Aroused by Waynsford's voice and a
hearty slap on the back, he sat up.

"Right-o," he agreed. "Jones!"

"Sir!" replied a muffled voice from the fo'c'sle.

"Bring me my pack of cards, will you?"

Terence heard the unmistakable sounds of someone trying to open a
jammed door. Then, after a moment's delay the fo'c'sle sliding door
was thrust open and the seaman thrust his dishevelled head into the
cabin.

"Sorry, sir," he reported, "but the blessed condensed milk has gone
and upset itself all over the pack."

"That's kippered our game," remarked Waynsford. "Let's turn out and
see what it's like. A stretch before breakfast will do us good."

Donning their great-coats, the three officers contrived, without
mishap, to leap from the heeling side of the motor-boat to the rungs
of the ladder.

"Beastly foggy morning," declared Nalder.

"Just getting light enough to see," added Waynsford, as, in
contradiction to his statement, he stumbled and almost fell over a
mooring rope.

Gradually the gaunt outlines of the ruined castle that towered high
above the harbour began to grow distinct against the grey sky. The
fog began to disperse, although the cliffs to the southern end of the
town were still invisible.

"Let's stroll up to the castle," suggested Waynsford. "It will be
something to do."

Acting upon this proposal the two ascended the stony path. As they
approached the coastguard station they noticed that the signalman was
peering seawards through a telescope. The man was so intent upon some
objects out to sea that he paid no attention to the new-comers.

Presently the coastguardsman put down his telescope and seized the
mouthpiece of a telephone in the signal hut. Terence could hear him
speaking distinctly.

"Strange vessels approaching from the nor'ard, sir," he reported to
the officer at the Naval Wireless Station behind the town. "I've
signalled them, but they won't pay any attention."

The three subs. gazed seawards. Just visible through the haze were
four cruisers, moving sufficiently fast through the leaden-coloured
water to cause the foam to froth at their bows. Even as they looked
the young officers were mildly surprised to see a spurt of dull red
flame burst from the for'ard turret of the leading vessel.

Mild surprise gave place to complete astonishment as a heavy shell
hurtled overhead, carrying away several of the telegraph wires, and
plunged with a terrific detonation into the fortunately unoccupied
barracks on the Castle Hill.

Before the noise of the falling brickwork and masonry had subsided
the devoted coastguardsman could be heard shouting on the
telephone:--

"They're German cruisers: they're shelling us."

The man had done his duty. He could do no more good remaining where
he was. At a quick double he tore for safety, shouting to the young
officers to get under cover.

Aubyn, with his companions, quickly took this advice to heart. He had
in the action between the "Saraband" and the "Osnabruck" stood up to
the hostile fire, but then it was a fight on even terms. Now it was a
one-sided affair, and by the noise of the exploding shell Terence
knew that it was of much larger calibre than those that came from the
German armed liner.

Scarcely had the fugitives covered a hundred yards when another
appalling crash, followed by a distinct blast of acrid-smelling air,
caused Terence to look back. A shell, better aimed than the first,
had completely demolished the signal hut. This missile was followed
by salvo after salvo, some forty shells of various calibre raining on
the Castle Hill. Others, striking the sheer cliffs, brought tons of
rock clattering down upon the Marine Parade, while what was far
worse, many projectiles skimming the ruins of the castle, fell with
disastrous results upon the congested buildings of the town.

The three subs. were now under the lee of the frowning rock. Here
they were comparatively safe, except from stray fragments of
splintered shell and flying masonry. The coastguardsman had gone in a
different direction.

"The swine!" ejaculated Nalder. "They're shelling a defenceless
town. And the 'Lonette' is high and dry too."

In spite of the serious situation his comrades gave vent to a hearty
laugh. It seemed so incongruous that Nalder should have taken the
plight of the little motor-boat into consideration. Yet had Nalder
had his way it was quite possible that he would have blazed away with
a rifle at the huge steel monsters with as much result as a small boy
using a peashooter against an elephant.

"Not a bad idea getting down to the harbour," added Waynsford.
"We'll be fairly sheltered, and we can see what's going on."

Terence thought otherwise. Massive stone walls afford no protection
from monster guns. Nevertheless he raised no objection. For one
thing--and here the professional sailor scored heavily over the two
amateurs--it afforded a chance of making a note of the appearance of
the hostile vessels: information that might prove of immense service
to the Admiralty.

Shells were raining upon the undefended town as the three reached the
harbour pier. In several parts of Scarborough fires, caused by the
exploding projectiles, had broken out, and dense columns of smoke
rose from the demolished buildings. Having, as they thought,
completely demolished the supposed batteries on Castle Hill the
German gunners were out to do as much damage to private property as
they possibly could. It was but a phase in the terrorizing operations
that these modern barbarians delight in calling "kultur."

The attacking craft had now passed in front of the Castle Hill and
were clearly visible from the harbour, as they slowly steamed within
a quarter of a mile of the shore, vomiting death and destruction upon
the hapless town.

The leading craft Terence recognized as one of the Derfflinger
Class--an inferior imitation of our Dreadnought cruisers. Astern of
her came the "Bluecher," a vessel whose construction the German
people hailed with acclamation as the most powerful craft afloat and
one that would outclass anything that the British had or would be
likely to have. Yet, ere the "Bluecher" took the water, she was
hopelessly outmatched by the "Indomitable" class.

For once, however, these two ships were having things all their own
way. With the exception of the fiasco at Yarmouth, over a hundred
years had elapsed since the thunder of an enemy's guns had been heard
by the dwellers of our sea-girt island. British pride in the
impregnable position of our insular kingdom had received a nasty
shock, for without let or hindrance German guns were pounding her
shores in broad daylight.

Half a mile or so behind the battle cruisers were two light cruisers,
which apparently took little part in the one-sided engagement. They
were engaged in the pleasant occupation of mine-laying, in the hope
that one of the British squadrons, summoned by wireless, would
flounder blindly into the dangerous zone.

"Oh, for a couple of our submarines!" groaned Terence, as the hostile
craft moved slowly along the bay. "They'd bag the whole crowd of
them."

Twenty paces from the spot where the subs. stood was an old bronzed
and bearded fisherman--a typical Yorkshire salt. Heedless of the risk
he ran, he leapt upon the stone parapet, and shaking his fist at the
German ships rated them in the choicest language of the Shire of
Broad Acres. Nor would he descend when Aubyn pointed out the risk he
ran, and it was only when a shell tore a huge hole in the side of the
lighthouse that the old fellow would deign to move.

For a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes the two cruisers
maintained a hot fire with their starboard guns. Then came a pause in
the hitherto ceaseless roar of the ordnance, as the ships circled to
port. Retracing their course they reopened fire, till, gradually
increasing speed, they shaped a course nor'nor'east and disappeared
in the haze.

"Let's gie into town an see t' damage," suggested the old fisherman,
who, like the rest of the hardy East Coast men, had little respect
for rank and persons. "Sith'a, lads, there'll be work for us over
yonder," and he pointed to the maze of houses, many of which showed
signs of the effect of the high-explosive shells.

In the course of his sea-service Terence Aubyn had witnessed more
than one horrible sight; but in all his previous experience he had
never seen anything approaching the cold-blooded butchery of mere
civilians--men, women, and children--by the murderous German shells.

With the energy and coolness that is characteristic of the born
seaman he dashed into a practically gutted house, whence cries of
pain had attracted his attention.

The house was in one of the poorer districts, substantially built of
stone, as is frequently the case in the north of England. A
projectile had struck the building just above the ground-floor
window. The stonework had, for the most part, resisted the explosion,
the force of which had resulted in floors and roofs being either
demolished or reduced to a state of absolute insecurity. The ground
floors were piled high with débris, under which, though partly
visible, was the dead body of an old man.

The cries for aid, uttered in a childish voice, came from the upper
storey. Here a part of the bedroom floor had collapsed, exposing to
view a wooden bedstead, so insecurely perched that it threatened at
every moment to topple over into the chaotic mass thirty feet below.
The stairs had vanished, only the iron handrail and a few of its
supports remaining.

"What's the move?" demanded Waynsford, as Aubyn threw off his
great-coat and handed it to a boy who was watching the scene of
desolation with marked curiosity. "Don't be a fool, man! Wait till
they bring a ladder."

"It may be too late then," replied Terence; then turning to the old
fisherman he bade him bring a coil of rope.

"Thank goodness, there's one man who knows what he is about," thought
Aubyn, as the veteran salt hurried off. "No stopping to ask what
size or what length."

The next instant the sub. was well on his hazardous climb. Grasping
the handrail and making fairly certain that it would bear his weight,
Terence hauled himself up, using the holes in the stonework, left by
the dislodged stairs, as footholds. As sure-footed as a cat, as
active as a panther, he swung himself up, hardly pausing till he
gained the uppermost landing, where a few square inches of
floorboards remained. Between that and the bedstead was a gap nearly
ten feet in width. A professional long-jumper might have essayed the
task with success, but in his case Terence realized that a leap would
be out of the question.

Rapidly the sub. reviewed the situation. From where he stood he could
see the children distinctly. One was a girl of about nine years of
age, fair-haired and pale-faced. It was she who was screaming, more
with fright than pain, although there was a dark moist patch upon her
hair. Her companion was a child of about three, lying with his head
over the side of the bed to all appearances either dead or else
unconscious.

Already the joist nearest the gap in the shattered floor was bending
ominously. Terence felt certain that even if he could get across the
intervening space his weight would precipitate the bed and its
occupants on to the mound of rubble and broken woodwork below.

He looked above him. The laths and plaster of the ceiling had
vanished, the tiles had been blown into the street, leaving the gaunt
rafters practically intact. Raising his hand he found that he could
just grasp the sloping timber.

"If it carries away, I'm done," he thought. "But it's no use hanging
on here, so here goes."

With a resolute leap the sub. seized the two adjoining rafters. The
rough woodwork lacerated his hands, but he heeded it not. By sheer
muscular effort he raised himself sufficiently to pass his arms over
the timber, whence it was a comparatively simple matter to clamber on
top of the outside wall.

Well it was that Aubyn had a good head for heights. Looking down from
that precarious perch would make most landsmen giddy, but as coolly
as if he were walking along a street, the sub. made his way round to
the opposite side of the shattered house immediately over the still
holding floor of the bedroom.

The elder child, on seeing Terence approach, had ceased her cries and
was watching him with wide-open eyes. Then she raised herself, as if
to make a spring into his arms.

"Don't move just yet," exclaimed the sub. as calmly as he could.
"I'll help you both very soon."

He was desperately anxious lest the girl, by her action, would bring
about the calamity he was trying to prevent. At the same time he was
racking his brains to find out how he could get hold of the rope when
the fisherman returned with it.

"Eh, little lass," he exclaimed, imitating to the best of his ability
the East Riding dialect, "just you hand me up one of those sheets.
Don't hurry."

The girl obeyed, wonderingly but unhesitatingly. Terence began to
tear the cotton sheet into thin strips, binding them into one
continuous length, until he judged that he had sufficient to reach
the ground.


[Illustration: "'Don't move just yet,' said the Sub. 'I'll help you
both very soon.'"]


Hardly were his preparations completed when the fisherman returned,
puffing and blowing with his exertions.

"Eh, lad, a've got 'en," he announced. "An' a block as well. Th'
knows it might come in handy.

"Good man!" thought Terence. "He's solved an awkward problem." Then
addressing the old salt: "Stand by and bend the rope on to this," he
shouted, as he allowed one end of the cotton strip to flutter to the
ground.

Steadily the sub. began to haul in his flimsy line, while the
fisherman dexterously paid out the coil of rope, the end of which he
had made to Aubyn's means of communication. Then, as soon as he saw
that Terence had secured one end of the rope, the old man hitched on
the large pulley and continued to pay out more cordage until the
block was within the sub.'s grasp.

Whipping out his knife Terence cut off about six or seven feet of
rope, using the severed portion as a strop to make fast the block to
a pair of rafters. Then passing the rest of the rope through the
sheave his means of effecting the rescue of the children were ready
for service.

"Stand by to lower away," he shouted, as he made a loop known as a
"bowline on a bight."

"Ay, ay," replied the old salt, at the same time signing to Waynsford
and Nalder to bear a hand.

Giving a final tug at the strop to make sure as far as possible that
the rafter would hold, Terence slid into the loop and swung himself
clear of the wall.

"Belay there," he hailed after being lowered a sufficient distance to
bring himself level with the remains of the bedroom floor. "Now,
little lass, I'll hold you. Don't be afraid."

The next moment the injured girl was safe in his arms. Although the
bed shook as the rescued child moved, it still withstood the tendency
to slip into the abyss. Twenty seconds later Terence handed his
charge over to a doctor who formed one of the rapidly-gathering crowd
in the street.

"There's another child--a baby," announced Aubyn. "Badly hurt, I
fancy so haul me up smartly."

Spinning round and round like a joint on a meat-jack the sub. again
ascended, till the smaller child's body was within reach of his arms.
As he whipped off the covering he gave an ill-suppressed exclamation
of horror. The left foot of the little victim had been torn away at
the ankle.

"Good heavens, Waynsford!" exclaimed Terence, after the child-victims
had been removed, and the justly-exasperated crowd began to disperse.
"I'm not a vindictive fellow, but if I had that low-down German who
gave orders for this butchery, it would give me the greatest pleasure
in the world to punch his head."

"You may have the chance yet," replied Waynsford. He had been
thinking deeply for the last few moments. "I'm afraid I'm on the
wrong lay. Here I am, wearing His Majesty's uniform, fooling about in
a rotten little motor-boat, when I ought to be taking a man's part
out there," and he pointed towards the North Sea."

"You haven't done badly, when you come to think of it," remarked
Terence. "At Yarmouth, for instance."

"A beastly fluke. You, my dear fellow, had most of the game then."

"Buck up!" exclaimed Aubyn cheerily. "You may have a good sniff-in
yet. If you don't, remember there's some verse about people serving
who only sit and wait. I'm not fond of poetry myself, but perhaps you
may know the line I refer to. Let's make a move. There may be more
work for us amongst the ruins."

"May I coom along wi' tha', maaster?" asked the fisherman, who was
coiling away the rope that had been so instrumental. "Eh, lad,
thou'rt real champion."

"By all means," replied the sub. heartily. In spite of his years the
old fellow had his wits about him. If there should be any work of a
similar nature his assistance would be most valuable.

Before they had gone fifty yards the attention of Aubyn and his party
was attracted by the sudden appearance of an elderly corpulent man
whose garments consisted of a pyjama suit, over which he wore a
woman's jacket with the sleeves tied round his throat, an old pair of
carpet slippers and a felt hat. He had just emerged from a cellar,
into which he had bolted during the earlier stages of the
bombardment. Blinking like an owl he asked plaintively if the danger
was at an end.

"Eh, maaster," replied the fisherman. "They kind and humane Germans
sheered off half an hour agone."

"It's disgraceful!" exclaimed the dishevelled man vehemently. "Didn't
the First Lord of the Admiralty tell us plainly, only a few months
ago, that we could sleep quietly in our beds? Weren't those his exact
words?"

"Ay," replied the old salt, with a grim twinkle in his eye. "Ay, that
a' did. Th' knows the Huns gave us a look up at a time when most
folks ought to be up an' about. Naw, get you gone, friend Thomas;
thou'rt not fit to be seen in a respectable town like Scarbro'."

Terence looked inquiringly at his humble friend, as the pyjama-clad
man waddled away.

"He'll be one o' those fools as oratates on t' parade on Sundays
afternoons," explained the fisherman.

"I knows him well. Always was trying to make us believe that those
Huns were our best friends, and that there weren't no use for a
British Navy. Th' knows t' sort. For one reason, sith'a, I'm not
sorry that those Germans came to Scarbro'."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE END OF THE "TERRIER"


H.M. torpedo-gunboat "Terrier" lay at anchor just within the limits
of one of the numerous shallow estuaries of the Essex Coast. By the
aid of the lead-line and an Admiralty chart on too small a scale to
be of much assistance, Captain Holloway had taken his craft through
the intricate approach channel with often less than three feet of
water under her keel. Now she was lying head to wind, for it was high
water and no tide running, in six fathoms, and within two hundred and
eighty yards of the mud-fringed shore.

The "Terrier" had spent an uneventful week on her station, patrolling
her appointed limits in the North Sea without a single incident to
break the monotony. Swept fore and aft by huge seas that her high
fo'c'sle failed to ward off; plugging away in a zig-zag course day
after day, till her grey funnels were bleached white with salt spray;
with her guns' crews standing by their guns through watch and watch
day and night, she was "doing her little bit" as one small unit of
the vast, tireless navy.

A few hours previous to the torpedo gunboat's anchoring in the creek,
one of the crew had with great suddenness developed appendicitis.
Although the "Terrier" carried a surgeon, the case was one for a
shore hospital, and as one of the Admiralty "sick-quarters" was
situated in the village at the head of the creek, Captain Holloway
decided to land the patient with the utmost despatch.

It was blowing fairly fresh. Outside the bar the sea was
foam-flecked. Rollers came tumbling in, breaking heavily on shore or
else expending themselves harmlessly in the creek. At her anchorage
the torpedo-gunboat was pitching slightly to the heave of the open
sea.

"Do you see any sign of the boat, Mr. Aubyn?" asked Captain Holloway.
"Those fellows ought to be on their way back by this time."

Terence, who was officer of the watch, brought his glass to bear upon
the shore, where a cluster of red-tiled roofs, dominated by the grey
tower of a church, marked the position of the village--a distance of
about a mile and a half from where the "Terrier" lay.

"Boat's still at the hard, sir," he reported. "The boat-keeper is
sitting in the stern sheets."

Lieutenant-Commander Holloway gave vent to a gesture of impatience.
He knew from the fact that the seaman left in charge was taking it
easy that the rest of the party were not on their way back to the
hard.

On board the "Terrier" the crew were taking advantage of dry decks to
air their saturated clothing and bedding. The watches had just been
changed. Down on the ill-ventilated mess-deck grimy stokers, up from
the confined stokehold, were scrubbing themselves and changing into
clean rig. The fo'c'sle was packed with humanity. Amid the babel of
voices Terence could detect the burr of Glorious Devon, the broad
Scotch of the Highlands, the staccato voice of an excitable Welshman,
the rich brogue of Connemara, and the last but not least, the
unmistakable Cockney accent, but one and all stout-hearted British
seamen. The most frequent topic of conversation that drifted to the
sub.'s ears as he stood on the elevated bridge was football. Some of
the men were discussing home affairs in the blunt open fashion that
Jack Tar unconsciously adopts; others were debating the prospects of
Christmas leave. As for the war, the subject was almost entirely
ignored.

Once more the sub. brought his telescope to bear upon the shore.
There were signs of activity on the part of the boat-keeper, so
Terence came to the conclusion that the hospital party were on their
way back.

Then, with a true seaman's almost unconscious instinct he gave a
glance first to windward and then towards the open sea. As he did so
he made a sudden dash to the engine-room telegraph, signalling for
full speed astern with the starboard engine and full speed ahead with
the port, at the same time shouting in stentorian tones that
electrified the whole of the crew within hearing:--

"Submarine on the port beam!"

A bugle blared. Ere the short notes of alarm had died away Captain
Holloway was beside his subordinate on the bridge. The guns' crews of
the two 4.7's sprang to their weapons. Clang went the breach-blocks.

"Eight hundred yards!" announced the gunner calmly, as the copper
cylinders with their deadly steel heads were thrust home.

But a deadlier weapon was already on its way towards the doomed ship.
A torpedo, set at its minimum depth in order to make sure that it
would not pass under the keel of its intended prey, was tearing
towards the "Terrier" with the speed of an express train.

From his position on the bridge Terence watched its rapid progress.
He could do nothing beyond what he had already done. It was evident
that before the ship could swing on her cable, under the adverse
action of her twin propellers, until she was bows on to the deadly
missile, the torpedo would hit her.

At times the gleaming steel cylinder was clear of the water between
the crests of the waves, yet unswerving either to right or left, it
headed with disconcerting accuracy towards the ship.

The two 4.7's clashed almost simultaneously. The shell from her bow
gun, aimed at the now disappearing periscope of the hostile
submarine, missed it by a bare yard, and ricochetting, threw up five
distinct columns of spray ere it sunk for good and all.

The gun-layer at the after gun with admirable presence of mind
launched a projectile at the torpedo in the hope of diverting its
course. He made one mistake: he forgot to take into consideration the
refractive properties of water, and consequently the missile struck
the surface too far in the wake of the torpedo to affect its
direction.

"Stand clear there!" shouted the captain, seeing even in that tense
interval that several of the men were standing by the stanchions.

There was a general rush to the starboard side to avoid the direct
effect of the explosion of the "tin-fish," then a strange silence
fell upon the ship's company.

"Crash!"

A hundred feet or so in the air rose a column of spray, as the deadly
torpedo exploded on the port side nearly abreast of the fo'c'sle gun.
The ship literally jumped a yard or so out of the water, then with a
sickening thud, followed by the unmistakable sound of water pouring
into her hull, subsided heavily in the agitated foam.

With his senses practically numbed by the shock of the explosion,
Terence stood stockstill, grasping the bridge rail with both hands,
while unconscious of the fact he held his telescope under his arm. He
was dimly aware of the débris flying all around him, as the slender
pole-mast, ventilators, and other heavy objects went crashing over
the side. Then, as the cloud of spray and acrid smoke dispersed he
could discern the forms of the crew as with varying speeds the
majority regained their feet. A few, stunned by the concussion, were
lying inertly upon the deck.

For quite ninety seconds Aubyn remained in his dazed condition. Then
he realized that the ship was done for, and that he was still alive.
Further, as an officer it was his duty to exert himself for the sake
of the men. He remembered that the captain had been on the bridge,
and turning saw his superior officer standing at the head of the
ladder.

The captain was capless. There was blood upon his forehead. A
splinter had grazed his head, making a clean superficial wound. The
two men exchanged reassuring glances, then in clear, steady tones
Captain Holloway issued an order for all hands to fall in on the
quarter-deck.

The men made their way aft at the double. There was no undue
scrambling or frantic haste, although the "Terrier's" raised fo'c'sle
was now almost flush with the water, and her after part, where the
freeboard was nominally only five feet, was thrice that height in the
air.

Up through the small awkward engine-room stokehold hatchways came the
"black squad," not one man of whom had stirred from his post until
ordered to do so. Knowing full well that a catastrophe had befallen
the ship, but ignorant of the actual facts, or whether she was on the
point of making a sudden plunge to the bottom, these men had to
undergo the greatest ordeal of any of the ship's company. Yet, before
making his dash for safety, the artificer-engineer had taken care to
prevent an explosion of the boilers as the water poured into the
stokehold.

Of the boats on the davits only one was fit for service. The others
were badly strained by the explosion or damaged by the flying
débris. The serviceable one was quickly lowered, and, although
leaking freely, was manned and brought alongside.

"Pass all injured men over the side," ordered Captain Holloway. "The
rest of you can make the best of your way ashore--and good luck to
you."

The crew gave three rousing cheers and prepared for the coming
ordeal, for although the distance to the shore was an easy swim the
bitter coldness of the water had to be taken into consideration.

One by one the wounded were passed into the boat; after them as many
men as she could safely hold. The boat was ordered to lie off and
render assistance to any swimmers in difficulties.

"With your permission, sir," said Aubyn, "I'll have a look down on
the mess-deck. There may be some of the hands left below."

"Do so, by all means, Mr. Aubyn," replied his superior. "The old
boat shows no great hurry."

"I fancy she's aground for'ard, sir," said the sub. "I'll be as sharp
as I can."

Descending the now almost perpendicular ladder Terence gained the
shelving mess-deck. Already the water was surging over the forepart;
kit-bags, tables and stools were floating in a confused mass, while
those that were not yet reached by the rapidly rising flood had been
thrown about in all directions by the explosion.

It was some time before the sub. grew accustomed to the semi-gloom.
His senses were still affected by the concussion; he could see the
water pouring in, but the noise it made was barely audible. The
situation reminded him of a cinematograph show unaccompanied by a
band.

"All clear as far as I can see," he thought. "It's about time I
looked after number one. Heavens! What is that?"

Lying almost buried by a pile of gear in one corner of the stokers'
mess was the body of a man. He was insensible, and, in the hurried
rush, had been overlooked by his companions. Already the level of the
water was up to the man's chin as he lay with his head and shoulders
propped up against a broken ditty-box.

Knee-deep in water Terence hurried to the rescue. The man, a great
brawny specimen of humanity, was stripped to the waist. Surprised in
the act of washing, after coming off duty, he had been rendered
senseless by the explosion. His right leg was bent under him. The
limb, Terence knew at a glance, was broken. He was also bleeding
profusely from an ugly scalp wound in the back of his head.

In spite of the unconscious stoker's weight--he turned the scale at
sixteen stone--Aubyn dragged him along the deck to the foot of the
ladder. Here he was temporarily baffled, for the metal "treads" were
now sloping downwards at such an angle that it would be difficult for
him to get a foothold unimpeded, much more when attempting to lift a
heavy man.

It never occurred to the sub. to call upon Captain Holloway for
assistance. The captain, the only person now on deck, was
mechanically puffing at an unlighted cigarette, while his attention
was fixed upon the crowd of swimmers, good, bad, and indifferent, as
they struck out for the shore. Beyond removing his boots the captain
had made no preparations for safety, resolving to remain on his
quarter-deck until his ill-fated command disappeared beneath the
waves.

Unseen by his superior officer and equally unconscious of his
presence, Terence gained the upper deck, secured a rope, and again
descended to the aid of the luckless stoker. Bending the rope round
the man's chest and back the sub. clambered up the ladder and began
to heave away. Under ordinary circumstances Aubyn would never have
attempted such a feat, but sheer nerve gave him the strength of a
giant. Unaided he succeeded in raising the senseless man and toppling
him over the coaming on to the deck.

Just then Captain Holloway, having seen that the last of the swimmers
had reached the mud-fringed shore, remembered that the sub. had gone
below, and finding that he had not returned, hurried to the
companion.

To his surprise he found Aubyn bending over the body of a badly
wounded stoker.

"Found him below, sir," explained the sub. "Double fracture of the
leg and a nasty gash on his head."

With his captain's assistance Terence proceeded to apply rough
splints to the injured limb and to staunch the flow of blood from the
man's head.

"We'll soon have him out of it," remarked Captain Holloway. "The
gig's returning, and I see the whaler is coming up as hard as she
can."

He pointed to the boat which had taken the invalid to the
sick-quarters. Alarmed by the explosion and concluding that something
had befallen the ship, the ship's crew had bent to their oars with a
will, to find on drawing clear of the hard that the "Terrier" was on
the point of sinking.

The sub. felt himself shivering. The keen wind blowing against his
saturated nether garments reminded him that it was mid-winter. As he
stooped to wring the water out of the bottoms of his trousers he
realized that the unconscious stoker, who a few moments before had
been toiling in the hot stokehold, was now lying stripped to the
waist.

Removing his great-coat and muffler Terence slipped the garments over
the unfortunate man, just as the gig and the whaler came alongside.

This time there were plenty of helpers. Carefully the stoker was
lowered into the whaler and placed in the stern-sheets.

"Give way, my lads," ordered Captain Holloway. "Run this man up to
the sick-quarters as hard as you know how."

Then turning to Aubyn he added,

"The old ship seems to be hanging on. We may as well have a look
below and see if there's anything of value in our cabins."

Bidding the gig lie off at a boat's length from the ship, which was
now tilted at such an angle that her propellers were clear of the
water, Captain Holloway, followed by Terence, disappeared down the
little companion just abaft the after 4.7-in. gun.

Although Aubyn had been on board the torpedo-gunboat only a week he
was thoroughly familiar with the appearance of the little box-room
dubbed by courtesy a cabin. It would be difficult to describe its
shape, for being well aft she was cut into by the "run" of the
ship's side as it approached the stern-post. It was lighted by two
scuttles, or circular ports. Immediately beneath these lights was his
bunk, extending from bulkhead to bulkhead, yet barely long enough for
him to lie at full length.

Underneath the bunk were two mahogany drawers. In one of the two
corners of the cabin, which were rectangular, stood a wash-basin,
hidden from view by a green baize curtain. Against the opposite
bulkhead was a very small stove, its brasswork polished to a high
degree. Somewhere between the rest of the space was a chair which had
to be moved whenever the occupant of the cabin crossed from one side
of his personal and private domain to the other. Even the steel
ceiling, coated with cork cement, in a feeble attempt to prevent
"sweating" of the metal, was utilized for a secondary purpose; from
here hung the sub.'s enamelled iron bath.

Being well aft Aubyn's cabin had escaped much of the force of the
explosion, but most of the loose gear had been displaced and lodged
in the angle formed by the sloping floor and bulkhead. Two
photographs in silver frames, their glasses smashed to atoms, lay on
the carpet in company with the sub.'s silver cigarette-case, his
watch and chain and a toilet-case--the latter a present from his
headmaster upon leaving school. That little heap represented
practically the whole of his worldly belongings in the way of
luxuries: he could have stowed the lot inside his sweater.

Yet he did nothing of the sort. Like a man in a trance he stood in
the doorway. Unaccountably the dazed feeling that gripped him
immediately after the ship had received her death-blow took
possession of him again. There he remained, gazing at the scene of
disorder, without stirring a finger to save his treasures, until he
was aroused by Captain Holloway exclaiming:--

"Look alive, Mr. Aubyn. She's going."

Up the companion raced the two officers. The ship was trembling
violently. Air bubbles, escaping through the submerged scuttles,
agitated the water alongside. The whole of the fore-part of the
"Terrier," as far as the base of the after funnel, was under the
waves. It was even a difficult matter to cross the deck from the
companion to the side.

The gig backed. Captain Holloway signed to the sub. to leap; then
giving a last look round he followed Aubyn into the boat.

"Lay on your oars, man," he ordered, after the gig had gone a hundred
yards from the sinking ship.

Standing in the stern-sheets, Captain Holloway waited for the end. It
was not long in coming. With the White Ensign still fluttering
proudly in the breeze, the "Terrier" dipped more and more till ten
feet of the after-part of her keel was visible. For a brief instant
the towering mass seemed to hang irresolute, then with hardly a
splash the hull disappeared from sight, leaving only the after-mast
from the truck to the hounds above the surface.

Raising his hand to the peak of his cap the captain gave his former
command a last salute, then resuming his seat, bade the men "give
way."

All the inhabitants of the village were on the shore ready to offer
hospitality to the crew, many of whom had discarded most of their
clothing before jumping from the ship. One petty officer, three able
seamen, and a stoker were missing--doubtless killed outright by the
explosion. Four men were seriously injured, while a score more were
suffering from wounds and shock.

"Hanged if I can quite realize it," remarked Captain Holloway, as he
walked with Aubyn towards the village. "I remember going down to my
cabin and grabbing a spare cap. There were two drawers in my locker.
In one was fifty half-sovereigns, and in the other over three hundred
pounds in notes. The gold is in my trousers' pocket, but, although I
recollect seeing the notes, I've let the whole lot go to Davy Jones.
Strange, eh? Why, what's the matter with you, man?"

He turned and grasped Terence by the shoulders just in time to
prevent him from falling to the ground in a dead faint.



CHAPTER XV.

VICE VERSÂ.


"TELEGRAM for you, mum."

Mrs. Aubyn put down her newspaper and took the orange-coloured
envelope which her sister's maid had just brought in on a tray.
Telegrams were rather unusual at "Anchor Cottage," and the freckled,
red-haired girl, with eyes and mouth wide open, stood consumed with
ill-concealed curiosity.

But she was disappointed. Deftly Mrs. Aubyn tore the envelope and
scanned the contents.

"No answer, Jane," she announced, in a steady voice.

Not until the maid had closed the door did the old lady betray the
anguish that the telegram had caused.

"God grant that he is not blinded or crippled for life," she
exclaimed, in low, earnest tones; then she re-read the momentous
words of the telegram in the vain hope that she had not rightly
grasped its significance, and that on second reading the message
might not appear so terribly grim:--

"Regret to have to inform you that Sub-Lieutenant Terence Aubyn,
R.N.R., is lying here seriously wounded."

The telegram was dispatched from Shotley Naval Hospital and bore the
signature of one of the medical officers.

"Seriously wounded," she repeated. "An accident, perhaps. I must go
to my boy."

She had read all the important news in the morning paper. There had
been no mention of a naval engagement, so there could be no other
explanation of how Terence received his injuries. She was thankful
indeed that she had not gone to Portsmouth for the day with her
sister. Thankful, also, that the said relative was not in the house,
for in contrast to the presence of mind displayed by Mrs. Aubyn, Miss
Wilson possessed a highly-strung temperament that frequently
expressed itself in hysterical outbursts.

Mrs. Aubyn consulted a time-table and then rang the bell.

"Jane," said the old lady in even tones, "I want you to run across to
Smith's and order a taxi to take me to the station at once, to catch
the 9.15 train."

Quickly Terence's mother made her simple preparations. After dressing
for the journey she sat down and wrote a note to her sister,
explaining the reason for her hasty departure, and stating that she
would write the same evening and give full details. Upon second
thoughts she did not enclose the telegram, but placed it in her
handbag. Then, closing the envelope and sealing it with wax, she gave
it to the maid to hand to her mistress on her return.

It was close on four in the afternoon when the train steamed into
Harwich station. Making her way through crowds of bluejackets who
formed the bulk of the passengers, Mrs. Aubyn called a cab and bade
the man drive her to Shotley as quickly as possible.

The cabby looked curiously at her.

"Shotley?" he repeated. "'Tis a long way. It'll cost you a quid,
mum--a sovereign. Couldn't do it for less."

"A sovereign!" repeated Mrs. Aubyn aghast.

"Not a penny less, mum," declared the man, stolidly. The old lady's
hand tightened on her purse. Her means were strictly limited. A
sovereign was to her a large sum. Yet, for her boy's sake----

"Excuse me, madam," exclaimed a deep, pleasant voice.

Mrs. Aubyn turned. The cabby gave vent to an exclamation that,
although inaudible, clearly expressed his views upon "fussy toffs who
interfered with an honest chap's living."

"Do I understand that you want to go to Shotley?" continued the
stranger, a tall, bearded gentleman in the uniform of a naval
captain.

"Yes, to the hospital. My son, Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn, is lying there
seriously wounded."

She spoke bravely, laying emphasis upon her boy's rank. She felt
certain she could enlist the entire sympathy and aid of a
brother-officer, notwithstanding he was a post-captain.

"If you will allow me I will give you a passage in my gig," said the
naval officer. "It is only a short distance by water, but quite
twenty miles from here by land. I fancy that cabby knew you were a
stranger here. My name is O'Rourke--Captain O'Rourke."

Outside the station boys were selling the early evening papers.
Catching sight of the naval officer three or four of them made a rush
towards him.

"Evening paper, sir. H.M.S. 'Terrier' torpedoed and sunk."

He bought a copy, and without attempting to read it thrust it into
his coat pocket.

"When a ship is torpedoed, Captain O'Rourke, are the crew severely
injured?" inquired Mrs. Aubyn.

"A strange question to ask," thought the naval man. He glanced
swiftly at his companion, trying to read an unexpressed thought that
might have prompted her query. Her face betrayed no sign whatever.

"Well, it depends," he answered guardedly. "Unless there are men
below, close to the point of impact, there is generally very little
damage to personnel. The men would undoubtedly feel the effect of the
concussion. When the 'Hogue' and her consorts were torpedoed the loss
of life due to the actual explosion was absurdly small in comparison
to the number of men drowned. Of course, if the torpedo strikes the
magazine and caused an internal explosion, that is quite another
matter. But excuse me, what made you ask that question?"

"My son was on the 'Terrier,'" she replied simply.

"I hope----" he began; then he stopped and pulled out the newspaper.

"There are no details," he continued. "In fact, I know far more
about the disaster and how it occurred than is stated in the Press.
The number of casualties is given but no names."

Assisting Mrs. Aubyn into the waiting gig, Captain O'Rourke gave
orders to the coxswain to make for Shotley Pier. Then, having acted
the part of glorified ferryman, and handed the old lady into the
charge of a petty-officer with instructions to escort her to the
Sick-Quarters, Captain O'Rourke returned to his ship.

The short winter's afternoon had now given place to night. Well it
was that Terence's mother had a stalwart seaman to show her the way,
for, owing to possible air-raids, both sides of Harwich Harbour were
shrouded in darkness.

"Officers' wing, ma'am," announced the petty-officer. "If you'll
write particulars in the visitors' book you'll soon be attended to by
that chap--he's one of the assistant ward-masters."

After a few moments' delay Mrs. Aubyn was ushered into a fairly large
room in which were half a dozen occupied beds. Eagerly she scanned
the faces of the patients. None of the five who on hearing the
visitor turned in her direction bore the slightest resemblance to her
son. The sixth bed--ominous sign--had a screen drawn round it.

A nursing sister walked silently up to the assistant ward-master and
asked a question in an undertone, then turning to the visitor:--

"Mrs. Aubyn, I believe. You have come to see your son?"

"I have; is he dangerously hurt?" she asked.

The nurse inclined her head.

"I am afraid so," she replied gently. "The surgeons are holding
another consultation tomorrow. It may mean amputation of the right
leg, but I think he'll get over it."

"Amputation of the right leg ... he'll get over it."

Mrs. Aubyn mechanically repeated the words as she followed the
nursing sister towards the screened bed. After all, it might have
been worse. Throughout the tedious journey the idea that persistently
occupied her mind was that her only son had been deprived of his
sight. She felt almost inclined to weep with relief. Compared with a
life-long existence deprived of the light of day, the lot of a maimed
hero--whose sacrifice had been for King and Country--was light
indeed. And, besides, he would be invalided out of the Service. She,
his devoted mother, would spend no more sleepless nights endeavouring
to picture her son somewhere on the wild North Sea, beset by perils
that had never, before the present war, threatened the gallant men
who defended our shores.

She gave no sign of the emotions that surged within her. Outwardly
she was calm and self-possessed--a pattern of a modern Spartan
mother.

The nurse moved aside the screen.

On the bed, his forehead swathed in surgical bandages, and with a
rest over his injured limb, was an unconscious man. His face was
pallid, his closed eyes rimmed with red. His massive features, short
turned-up nose, long upper lip and square jaw unmistakably stamped
him as a son of the Emerald Isle.

"But this is not my son," said Mrs. Aubyn calmly.

"Not your son?" repeated the nurse. "Why, this is Sub-Lieutenant
Terence Aubyn."

"He is some other poor mother's son," declared Mrs. Aubyn; then, with
unwonted eagerness she asked, "Were any of the other officers
missing?"

"I think not," replied the nursing sister. "If you will take a chair
for a few minutes I will make inquiries. Perhaps you would like a cup
of tea in my room," she added, noticing the visitor's langour.

"Thank you," was the grateful reply. "I would."

While Mrs. Aubyn was drinking her tea the nurse held a hurried
consultation with the ward-master and one of the doctors.

"Now you mention it," remarked the latter, "I did notice that the
patient looked a bit tough for a commissioned officer. A sub., even
though he be a reserve man, does not as a rule decorate his chest
with fanciful tattoo designs. Have you any of the 'Terrier's' ship's
company who can identify the patient?"

The result of the consultation was that an able seaman, suffering
from slight shock, was brought into the officer's ward.

The man's weather-beaten face relaxed into a broad grin when he saw
the supposed sub-lieutenant.

"Strike me pink!" he ejaculated in undisguised astonishment, and
heedless of the fact that he was in the presence of a superior
officer. "Mike O'Milligan will have the time of his life when he
wakes up to find himself in with the officers."

"Mike O'Milligan?" repeated the surgeon.

"Ay; first-class stoker--that's what he is," declared the seaman,
with the air of a man who is instrumental in denouncing an impostor.
He seemed to imagine that it was a piece of audacity on the part of
the luckless O'Milligan, in spite of the fact that he was unconscious
when brought into the hospital.

"Did you see Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn after the explosion?" asked the
nurse.

"Ay, ma'am. He was all right. Saw him with my own eyes on the
quarter-deck when the hands mustered aft. Don't remember seeing him
after that, though."

"I think there has been a mistake, Mrs. Aubyn," said the nurse on
returning to her private sitting-room, where Terence's mother was
striving to forget doubts and fears in a cup of tea. "A stoker was
admitted to the ward under the inexplicable error that he was your
son. Dr. Hardiman is making inquiries, and we hope to clear the
matter up satisfactorily. You need not worry about finding a hotel;
we can put you up for the night."

The nurse remained in conversation with the old lady for some
minutes, then, excusing herself, returned to her duty.

Left to herself Mrs. Aubyn remembered that she promised to write to
her sister. The news she was able to give was far from satisfactory;
in fact, the position of affairs was very vague. Nevertheless, she
sat down to write an account of what had occurred up to the present
time, in the hope that before she had finished the letter Dr.
Hardiman's investigations might produce definite and satisfactory
results.

Suddenly the door opened. In the subdued gleam cast by the electric
table-lamp Mrs. Aubyn saw the figure of a man dressed in a long, pale
blue coat with broad red collar and cuffs. His face was darkened by
the shade of the lamp.

Thinking the intruder was one of the hospital orderlies, the old lady
turned to her work, only to feel a pair of hands grasping her
shoulders.

"Hullo, mother! What brings you here?" asked Terence.

It was all because of the fact that Terence gave his great-coat to
the unconscious man he had rescued from the mess-deck of the sinking
"Terrier" that the sub. and the stoker had changed places.

Upon Aubyn losing consciousness Captain Holloway feared that the sub.
had been wounded, and that he had kept the knowledge to himself. A
hasty examination by the naval surgeon resulted in the satisfactory
report that the young officer was not hurt beyond suffering from the
shock of the explosion.

Captain Holloway, of course, could not stay with his subordinate. He
had plenty of work to do, looking after the survivors of the ship's
company, sending telegraphic reports to the Admiralty, and tackling
fifty other problems to which the sudden catastrophe had contributed.

Owing to the limited room at the Sick-Quarters of the little village,
orders were received to send the wounded members of the crew to
Shotley. A fleet of motor-cars, lent by the well-to-do residents in
the district, was quickly organized and the work of transporting the
sufferers was put in hand.

A message had already been received at Shotley warning the medical
authorities to prepare for the reception of one officer and so many
lower-deck patients. The latter were to be distributed amongst the
various wards.

A small crowd of sick-berth attendants were in waiting when the
motor-cars arrived. The worst cases were taken into the building on
stretchers. Amongst these were Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn, clad in cloth
trousers and sweater, and Stoker O'Milligan decked in borrowed
plumage--to wit, a naval officer's great-coat. Both men were still
unconscious.

Consequently it was excusable that the sick-bay staff made a slight
mistake. O'Milligan, after his leg was properly set in splints, was
put to bed in the officer's ward, while Terence was dumped into the
only vacant cot in one of the men's wards.

He was a puzzle to the sick-berth attendants. They knew that the one
officer mentioned in the telegram had arrived. They could find no
mark of identification on the clothing of the supposed seaman. Being
particularly busy they let the matter of identification slide,
thinking that on the patient's return to consciousness he would be
able to give the necessary information as to his name and rating.

When the doctor went his rounds he gave directions for a sleeping
draught to be administered to the patient as soon as he regained his
senses.

Ten minutes after the medico's departure Terence opened his eyes.
Instantly the alert attendant pounced down, and, without giving the
patient a chance to speak, made him swallow the draught. Consequently
it was not until six o'clock in the evening that the sub. awoke,
feeling little the worse for his prolonged rest.

He sat up and looked round the room. His surroundings were strangely
unfamiliar. The very bareness of the place had a lower-deck
atmosphere.

He beckoned to the sick-bay attendant.

"What's up now, mate?" asked that worthy. "Feeling better?"

Somewhat taken aback by the familiarity of the man, Terence asked
where he was, and was informed that he was in "B" block of Shotley
Sick-Quarters.

"What's your name and rating, chum?" asked the man, producing a book
and fingering a stump of indelible pencil.

Like a flash the situation became apparent to the sub. He remembered
his great-coat--he seemed particularly unfortunate in the matter of
great-coats, he thought. He had lent it to the stoker, and as a
penalty he had been mistaken for the man he had rescued. The
ludicrous side of the affair tickled him.

"A sub-lootenant?" queried the man incredulously. "Seems likely, eh?
Either you're barmy, or else you're trying some little game on. Won't
work, chum. Who's your raggie?"

"Raggie," in lower-deck parlance, is a term used to denote a man's
particular pal. It was the sick-berth attendant's idea to get one of
the ship's company whom the patient named to identify the fellow who
was under the hallucination that he was one of the officers.

"Try Captain Holloway," suggested Terence. The man shook his head
more in sorrow than in anger.

"It would go hard with you, chum, if I did," he remarked. "Your
skipper wouldn't care to be bothered at this time o' night. 'Sides,
he isn't here."

The patient in the next cot--of the crew of a destroyer that had been
in some minor action--began to grow interested.

"Bill," he whispered in a stage aside, "'umour 'im. He's dotty. I
knowed a chap once who looked just like 'im. He was as mad as a
'atter. He would 'ave it he was the Right 'Onerable Somebody. Got
fair violent if you didn't believe 'im. So, 'umour 'im, says I."

Terence, overhearing these remarks, laughed.

"I don't claim to be anything so grand as a Right Honourable, my
man," he said.

"Maybe, then, you're not so bad as the chap wot I was talking to the
poultice-slapper about. 'E was sent to Yarmouth Loonatic Asylum, pore
chap; maybe you won't need to be if you pulls yourself together,"
retorted the seaman, with brutal candour.

"Look here, my man," said Terence authoritatively, addressing the
"poultice-slapper," otherwise the sick-berth attendant, "you'll
please fetch the surgeon on duty--and be quick about it."

There was something in Aubyn's tone that caused the man to wonder
whether, after all, there had been a mistake. He was one who was
disinclined to take any risks in the matter. He hurried off, striving
to recollect, as he went, what he had said to the unknown patient,
and whether he had used indiscreet language to one who might really
be a commissioned officer.

The doctor arrived, tardily. Although the circumstances had been
explained to him, he, too, had his doubts. Patients suffering from
shock were apt to be light-headed upon recovering consciousness.

He was a little, round-faced man, with a shiny pate surmounted by a
tonsure-like ring of jet black hair. War had dealt kindly with him.
Formerly a country medical practitioner in a poor district, having
great difficulty in making both ends meet, he had taken advantage of
the Admiralty regulations for the entry of Temporary Surgeons. With
free quarters, a home billet, and a comfortable rate of pay, he was
now "having the time of his life."

He lacked the general brusqueness of naval doctors when dealing with
men. He was eminently a doctor; as a naval officer he made an
indifferent show.

He was sympathetic as he questioned Aubyn, and although he observed
him narrowly he saw no sign that would be bound to betray to a
medical man any symptoms of lunacy.

"You are well enough to get up," he said at length. "Get your things
on."

Somewhat disdainfully Terence clothed himself in the garments
provided--rough underclothing and an ugly dressing-gown, arrangements
that My Lords think fit to provide for the lower-deck patients.

"Fit as a fiddle," remarked the doctor.

"Fit for a good dinner, anyhow," added Terence, who was feeling
desperately hungry--the craving for food accentuated by the fact that
one of the patients had just been given some roast chicken.

"Ordinary seamen don't talk about having dinner in the evening,"
thought the surgeon. "Perhaps there's some truth in his assertion
after all. I'll get him into the next ward; there are two of the
'Terrier' men there."

Nor was the doctor greatly astonished when, as the quaintly-garbed
patient followed him into the ward, the men recognized their officer,
stood up and smartly saluted.

"Well, Smith," said Terence, addressing a seaman-gunner by name, "how
goes it?"

"Can't complain, sir. Got a proper whack in the ribs. 'Tain't much to
grouse about. And how's yourself, sir, if I may make so bold as to
ask? I seed the cap'n catch you as you pitched to starboard."

In a few minutes Terence was taken to the officers' ward. Here he was
informed that his mother was waiting to see him. He wondered why. His
condition was hardly serious enough for the medical authorities to
send for her, so he settled the matter by going, just as he was, to
the room where Mrs. Aubyn was waiting.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE FLOORING OF MR. MCNAB.


PROMPTLY discharged from hospital, Terence was given six days'
leave--a period which he spent with his parent.

He thoroughly appreciated the brief spell of leisure. It was simply
great to be able to turn in at night and sleep soundly till seven
o'clock the next morning. There was no insistent voice of the
messenger: "Please, sir, it's ten minutes to four, and your cocoa's
ready;" no watch upon an exposed bridge in the cold dark hours of a
winter's morning; no monotonous round of ship routine with the
constant menace of being bumped upon a mine.

Yet, in a way, he was glad when his leave was up. The call of duty in
Britain's time of peril was too urgent. He felt he must be doing
something. Even his well-earned leave savoured of "slacking."

On the afternoon of the last day of his holiday Terence received his
order from the Admiralty to proceed to Whale Island for a second
gunnery course. Somewhat to his mother's and his aunt's consternation
he executed a war-dance round the drawing-room, to the imminent peril
of Miss Wilson's objects of art, with which the room was certainly
overcrowded. "A short gunnery course." He took it that that meant
another step to the height of his ambition. If he came through that
with flying colours he concluded that he would be sent to either a
battleship or a cruiser. There could be, he reasoned, no object in
putting a Reserve officer through the mysteries of _heavy_-gun drill
if he were to continue to serve in an armed merchantman, whose
heaviest ordnance consisted of the comparatively small 4.7-in. gun or
the 6-in. at the very outside.

On the other hand, in spite of his experience as officer of the watch
on the "Strongbow" and "Terrier" he would be of little use as
watch-keeping officer on a battleship or cruiser in company. He had
no training in the delicate art of station-keeping, whereby lines of
huge ships keep their respective distances with mathematical nicety,
which can only be acquired by years of experience.

Yet that troubled him but little. So long as he had a chance of
smelling powder under anything approaching equal conditions he would
be content. Rather selfishly he hoped that the German fleet would
skulk in Wilhelmshaven Harbour or in the Kiel Canal until the time
that he found himself on board one of the battleships or big cruisers
of the Grand Fleet.

So with a brand new kit--for he had lost practically all his gear
when the "Terrier" made her plunge--Terence reported himself at Whale
Island--the principal gunnery establishment of the British Empire,
nay, of the whole world--an artificial island, constructed by means
of earth excavated from the huge basin of Portsmouth Dockyard.

Officially Whale Island is a ship, appearing in all official naval
documents as H.M.S. "Excellent." It boasts of a "Quarter-Deck;" ship
routine is carried out almost as faithfully as if the several
thousand men were really afloat instead of being quartered in
barracks. There are spacious parade grounds, diving-tank for
instructing embryo seaman-divers, workshops, and, in the adjoining
Portsea Island, a rifle-range; but all these give precedence to the
gun-batteries.

Almost the whole of the western side of the island is occupied by a
long, low building designated the heavy-gun battery. Here types of
guns, from the monstrous 15-in. downwards, are mounted under similar
conditions to those on shipboard, and used solely for the instruction
of officers and men. Even the "heave" of a ship in a seaway is
allowed for, since some of the ordnance are mounted on "rolling
platforms" designed to make a seaman gunner in training accustomed to
the motion of a vessel under way.

Terence entered into his duties with the keenest zest. His ready mind
quickly grasped the points raised by the instructor. Difficulties
that proved well-nigh insurmountable to several of the class, he
overcame with an ease which astonished both his mentor and himself,
and at the end of the period of training he was the proud possessor
of a first-class certificate signed by the captain of the ship.

Thus it came as a slight disappointment when Terence received orders
to proceed to Rosyth to join H.M. torpedo-boat-destroyer,
"Livingstone." Still, it was a step in the right direction, the sub.
agreed, and that was something to be thankful for.

The "Livingstone" was a modern craft of 965 tons, carried three 4-in.
guns, and was propelled by turbine machinery, steam being raised
exclusively by oil fuel. It was one of the flotillas whose duty lay
in patrolling the easternmost limits of the North Sea, so as to be in
readiness to report the German High Sea Fleet should, in a rash
moment, the Kaiser or his minion Tirpitz give the order for it to
risk annihilation at the hands of Admiral Jellicoe's waiting seamen.

Every alternate fortnight the flotilla to which the "Livingstone"
belonged proceeded to take its spell of arduous duty. The intervening
period it spent in harbour, giving the crew a well-earned rest.

Terence joined his new ship on the second day of his return. The
officers, all young men full of spirits and on excellent terms with
each other, were busy planning how they were to spend the next few
days of comparative leisure. As usual the subject of the war was
hardly mentioned. After days of strenuous watching and waiting, with
the waves constantly sweeping the battened down decks, they were only
too glad to discuss matters other than "shop"--since the German fleet
showed no sign of leaving its lair.

"We're off to Tuilabrail to-morrow, Aubyn," announced the
engineer-lieutenant. "You'll come too, I hope. McNab has issued a
general invitation to the officers of the flotilla."

"Who's Mr. McNab?" asked Terence.

"Oh, don't you know? I've forgotten it's your first time at Rosyth.
McNab is the laird of Tuilabrail--quite a swagger place, not far from
St. Margeret's Hope. There's plenty of sport--shooting and fishing,
and all that, you know."

"'Fraid I'm not much of a hand with a sporting gun," remarked
Terence. "Last time I tried I made an awful ass of myself."

"Fire away and let's have the yarn, old fellow," said a sub., as
cordially as if he had known Aubyn all his life.

"There's not much to tell," replied Terence. "It was while I was
staying at a farm in Devonshire. The farmer asked me to go out
rabbit-shooting. It was tame work bolting the poor little beasts with
ferrets and bowling them over at twenty yards. Well, we were working
a hedge, set in a bank literally honeycombed with rabbit-holes. The
old farmer told me where to stand and cautioned me to let rip
directly I saw the rabbit, as there was plenty of cover about.

"I waited for perhaps five minutes. Then something dashed out of the
hedge like greased lightning. I pulled the trigger and----"

"Peppered the farmer?" hazarded the engineer-lieutenant.

"No, bowled over a fox. Shot the brute dead as a door-nail."

"You rotten sport!" exclaimed several of his listeners.

"Try your luck again," said the lieutenant. "Have you a gun? If not,
I'll lend you one--it's a good one, I can assure you."

So it was arranged that half a dozen officers, including Aubyn,
should go over to Tuilabrail on the following morning and have lunch
with the hospitable Mr. McNab.

"Who is this Mr. McNab?" asked Terence.

No one seemed to know exactly. He had only recently rented
Tuilabrail. Some one said that he had heard that McNab was a wealthy
manufacturer from the Lowlands, who had been obliged to retire early
on account of bad health, but amongst the officers there was a
general opinion that he was a real good old sport.

The sub.'s first night on board a destroyer soon enabled him to
realize that there is a great difference between cruising in an armed
merchantman and serving with a flotilla.

He was officer of the Middle Watch. The "Livingstone" and her
consorts, although supposed to be stationed at Rosyth during the
fortnight, were anchored far up the Firth of Forth, ready at a
moment's notice to steam out into the North Sea should there be a
"wireless" announcing that the German fleet was at last about to risk
The Day.

From where the "Livingstone" lay, save for the anchor lamps of the
flotilla, not a light was visible. Culross and Kincardine on the
north shore and Grangemouth and Boness on the south shore of the
Forth might have been non-existent as far as sound and visibility
were concerned.

It was a raw, misty night, with a keen easterly wind blowing in from
the North Sea. With the wind against the strong ebb tide the sea was
flecked with "white horses" that slapped viciously against the stern
of the destroyer. Overhead the insulated stays of the wireless aerial
moaned fitfully in the blast.

"Boat ahoy!" The hail came from a seaman stationed aft. He had been
indulging in a surreptitious "few puffs" under the lee of the after
4-in. gun, and in a fateful moment had been trying to light his
refractory pipe when a red, white, and green steaming light within
twenty yards of the destroyer aroused him into super-activity.

"Guard-boat!" shouted a gruff voice, intensified by means of a
megaphone.

"Guard-boat, sir!" repeated the lookout for the sub.'s information.

Accompanied by the quartermaster Terence hurried to the side, there
to find a dark grey launch, her outlines barely visible against the
leaden-coloured white-flecked sea.

From a diminutive cabin aft, the yellow flicker of a lantern feebly
illuminated the bronzed features of an officer muffled in oilskins
and sou'-wester.

"Night guard!" announced the officer, without any superfluity of
speech. "All correct?"

"All correct, sir," replied the quartermaster.

"P'raps," rejoined the officer of the night guard sourly. Making a
ten-mile round in a wet launch in the small hours of a winter's
morning tended to make him short-tempered. "Where's the officer of
the watch?"

"Here, sir," replied Terence.

"Very good. You might warn your lookout to lookout a little more
smartly, and not wait until we were alongside your quarter. Where the
dickens would you be now, do you suppose, if it had been a German
torpedo-boat? It's not unlikely, you know. Good-night."

"Good-night, sir," replied Aubyn.

The officer of the night guard closed the door of the cabin on the
unprotected light. In the engine-room a bell clanged, the artificer
started the engines to half-speed ahead and in ten seconds the launch
was lost in the darkness.

Aubyn remained peering out into the night. He could just distinguish
the hail of the destroyer next ahead, followed by the reassuring
"Guard-boat."

The luckless lookout man stood at attention awaiting the sub.'s
pleasure, and trying to forecast the punishment he would receive on
the following morning when his offence was entered in the captain's
defaulters' list. He uttered silent maledictions on the damp "navy
plug" that had distracted his attention for a few critical seconds.
In addition he was to go "on leaf" on the following day: his little
lapse would assuredly "knock the bottom out of that caboodle."

"Well, what have you to say?" asked the sub.

"Nothin', sir; I was properly caught napping," replied the seaman. He
was not going to attempt to bluff his officer by a feeble excuse. He
was too much of a man for that: he would "go through the mill" with a
good grace.

"You were smoking?"

"Yes, sir. I turned to loo'ard to light my pipe, an' that done it."

"Listen, my man," said Aubyn. "I'll not place you in the captain's
report this time. Let this be a warning to you--and be more careful
in the future."

The man saluted and returned to his duty. He was agreeably surprised.

"He's a real jonnick," he muttered. "Sort of chap as 'as got some
regard for a bloomin' matloe who gets a bit adrift. If ever I gets a
chance to repay him I jolly well will, or my name's not Jim Stairs."

After morning Divisions Terence went ashore in company with the other
officers who were to make up the party to visit McNab. Some were
armed with fishing-rods, others with guns, and some with both. All
were in excellent spirits, and evidently determined to "let
themselves go."

A picquet boat took them to Culross, where their host's palatial car
awaited them. After an all too short run Terence found himself at
Tuilabrail Hall.

The house, standing high and surrounded by spacious, well-kept
grounds, enjoyed an uninterrupted panoramic view of the Firth of
Forth. The Forth Bridge, the Grand Fleet lying off Rosyth, and
newly-constructed basins and workshops of the Scottish Portsmouth
were within easy range of vision, while, by the aid of a telescope
Grangemouth, Queensferry, Edinburgh, and Leith could be seen.

This much Terence noticed as he waited under the portico while the
various members of the party were handing their sporting gear over to
the charge of a grave and dignified manservant. Then, escorted by a
liveried footman, the guests were shown into the McNab's
morning-room.

"Our host has evidently overslept himself," remarked Gilroy, the
lieutenant who had offered to lend Terence a sporting-gun and had
faithfully kept his word. Gilroy was a young, pleasant-faced man of
twenty-eight, with three thousand a year, and capable of obtaining
any amount of influence. Yet, although he had more than once been
offered a job on one of the Royal Yachts, he had voluntarily
preferred to endure the obvious discomforts of a destroyer. "Look
here, you fellows, I'll introduce Aubyn when the laird puts in an
appearance. Don't be bashful, my boy; he's quite a free-and-easy
chap. No bally stand on ceremony, you know."

"He's a lucky man to have a swagger show like this," declared the
engineer-lieutenant, who, being without private means and newly
married, found it a hard task to make both ends meet on his Service
pay and allowances. "What a decent view. Look, there's a
battle-cruiser arriving."

The officers crowded to the window. A long, three-funnelled
battle-cruiser, mounting eight large guns and apparently brand new,
for there were patches of red-lead showing on her lofty sides, had
just picked up a mooring-buoy.

"Must be the 'Tiger,'" suggested Gilroy. "I heard she was expected
round, but I didn't think she would put in an appearance so soon. By
Jove, if the Germans pluck up courage to attempt another Scarborough
business, they'll have something to reckon with."

"More than likely----" began another sub., but a hurried footstep in
the corridor warned the guests that their host was about to enter.

The McNab came into the room with an impetuous rush. Being a long and
somewhat narrow apartment, and the door being close to one angle, he
had some distance to traverse to where the officers stood with their
backs to the window. As he strode he seemed to be peering eagerly, as
if to discern the faces of the guests as they stood silhouetted
against the light.

"Good morning, gentlemen," he exclaimed in slow, measured tones that
contrasted with his hurried arrival. "I'm sorry to have kept you
waiting."

"Not at all," replied Gilroy easily. "Acting on your open invitation
we've brought a brother-officer along: Mr. Aubyn--the McNab."

Terence made a step forward. His jaw was tightly set, his face pale
in spite of his tanned complexion. He made no attempt to grasp the
outstretched hand of the tenant of Tuilabrail, but kept his arms
close to his side with his fists firmly clenched.

For a moment the McNab stood with a look of surprise upon his face.
Then his smile of welcome changed into a venomous look. His hand flew
to his pocket.

"_Crash!_"

With a swift and powerful left-hander Terence's fist shot forward,
caught the man full in the centre of the chest and sent him reeling.
The next instant Aubyn's brother-officers were astounded to see their
host prostrate on his back with his arms and legs beating a tattoo on
the carpet, while the sub. sat on his chest.

"Are you mad, man?" demanded Gilroy, laying his hand on the sub.'s
shoulder. The apparently meaningless attack by the officer to whom he
stood sponsor--an outrage upon a man in the sanctity of his
home--could only be the outcome of the frenzy of a disordered mind.

"Far from it," replied Terence. "You fellows might bear a hand and
secure Major von Eckenhardt."

"Von Eckenhardt!" echoed the engineer-commander. "Impossible."

For the name of von Eckenhardt, the master-spy, was only too well
known in naval circles. It was generally acknowledged that more than
one carefully-planned "scoop" had gone awry owing to warnings
received by the German Admiralty from the elusive secret agent.

"Are you Major Karl von Eckenhardt?" demanded Gilroy, after the
officers had set the man upon his feet again.

"Absolutely a mistake. I did not know until a few moments ago that I
had a double whose misdoings would be to my detriment," replied the
McNab, speaking with difficulty, for the effect of the blow he had
received had wellnigh deprived him of breath.

Gilroy and his companions looked enquiringly at Aubyn. Perhaps, after
all, the sub. had made a mistake?

"Under the circumstances, although Mr. Aubyn has shown mistaken zeal
for the Service," continued the McNab, "I am willing to forgive the
outrage, and no doubt Mr. Aubyn will tender an apology. There the
matter will end as far as I am concerned. If you'll excuse me,
gentlemen, I will go and remove the traces of your zealous friend's
super-abundant energy."

Alarmed by the crash upon the floor three menservants had hurried
into the room. There they stood like automatons, each man concealing
under a wooden-like expression a burning curiosity to know what had
happened to their master.

"Don't let him go: watch his hands!" exclaimed Terence. "I'll accept
all responsibility."

The McNab's plausibility vanished.

"Enough of this horse-play," he said vehemently. "James and you
two--throw this--er--gentleman out."

"Stand back--stand back, I say!" ordered Terence, as the three
flunkeys showed signs of obeying their master.

The men paused irresolutely. There were a few seconds of tense
silence. Then the servants revealed themselves in their true
colours--accomplices of the spy, von Eckenhardt.

Drawing automatic pistols from their pockets they levelled them at
the now more than astounded British officers, while von Eckenhardt,
of whose identity Terence had not the faintest doubt, wrestled
furiously with his captors.

It was not compulsion that kept the Germans from using their firearms
it was fear--a dread that their act would assuredly, in the event of
capture, make them indictable on a capital charge.

"Shoot!" shouted von Eckenhardt in German. "Shoot, for the sake of
the Fatherland."

It was Gilroy who saved the situation. Tall and powerfully built, and
a prominent member of the "United Services," he was far away superior
in physical strength to the denounced spy.

With lightning-like rapidity he flung his arms around the Teuton, and
using him as a human buckler and a battering-ram combined, charged
the still irresolute flunkeys.

Half a dozen pistol-shots rang out; not the result of a deliberate
act but of the nervous pressure on the delicate trigger of one of the
automatic weapons. The bullets, flying wide, chipped the oak
panelling, and--omen of ill-luck to the tenant of
Tuilabrail--shattered a mirror into fragments.

In ten seconds Gilroy with his living weapon had cleared the room of
the enemy. The engineer-lieutenant locked the door, while Terence and
the others quickly bound von Eckenhardt with their handkerchiefs.

"Stand clear of the door," cautioned Gilroy. "Now that those fellows
have started to let off fireworks they might take it into their heads
to put a few pieces of nickel through the woodwork. Nixon, cut off as
hard as you can and bring up a file of Marines: be careful going
through the grounds. The whole place is a nest of Germans--beastly
cheek sheltering under good old Scots' names."

Gilroy's words, similar to those expressed by Chief Engineer McBride,
showed how deeply he, a thorough Scot, resented the colossal
impudence of the super-spy in assuming a respectable Highland
cognomen.

It was, indeed, a daring piece of work on the part of Karl von
Eckenhardt.

After his encounter with Terence on the cliffs at Yarmouth he had
succeeded in eluding the patrols and had taken refuge in London. Here
he lay low as a Russian subject. A fortnight later, by means of a
forged passport, he embarked at Shields upon a Swedish vessel bound
for Gottenberg. Thence he returned to his native country, where
during a period of activity at the German Admiralty he grew a full
beard. He was far too wily to adopt false hair as a disguise,
although he did not hesitate to dye his beard a ruddy tint.

Without difficulty, this time making use of an American passport and
registering as a citizen of New York, he returned to England by a
different route. After a short stay in Liverpool he went on to
Glasgow, whence he transmitted valuable information to Berlin as a
result of a casual acquaintanceship with an overseer of one of the
Clyde shipyards.

Gaining increased confidence his next move was to install himself in
the neighbourhood of Rosyth, in order to keep a watchful eye upon the
movements of the Grand Fleet. Plentifully supplied with money, he
assumed the honoured name of McNab, and completely deceiving a firm
of house agents, succeeded in getting the tenancy of Tuilabrail.

Then, having engaged servants who with few exceptions were German
secret agents domiciled long enough in Great Britain to disarm any
suspicion of their nationality, he proceeded to get in touch with
certain of the junior officers of the Fleet and some of the civil
officials of the new and important dockyard of Rosyth.

Fortune seemed to smile on his efforts. Acting as a friend in need to
a naval officer whose car had met with a breakdown, he found the
beginning of a chain of acquaintances. His hospitality became a
by-word amongst certain parties of naval men. He never asked
questions upon Service matters. He relied upon his sharp ears and
those of his minions to pick up useful information from the casual
conversations of his guests. Young officers were at times, he
reasoned, apt to forget the necessity for "official reticence and
reserve."

One of his duties was to send a report to Berlin of all changes in
the personnel of officers of the Fleet. This was a comparatively easy
matter, since most appointments were published in the Press.

Another was to notify movements of individual ships, both naval and
mercantile. This he did by means of a simple re-arrangement of the
International Code, the news being sent by a comparatively
low-powered wireless apparatus to a disguised trawler that was
cruising regularly off the tail of the Dogger.

Unfortunately for him, Sub-Lieutenant Aubyn's appointment to the
"Livingstone" did not appear in the papers; had it done so he would
have been put upon his guard. Cool and calculating as he generally
was, the suddenness with which he found himself confronted by Terence
momentarily took him off his guard. In spite of his disguise the sub.
recognized von Eckenhardt immediately.

It was an hour or more before Lieutenant Nixon returned, accompanied
by a party of Marine Light Infantry and a number of Metropolitan
police, who, amongst other duties, are entrusted with the guarding of
his Majesty's Naval and Military establishments.

Seeing that the game was up, von Eckenhardt gave in with a good
grace, boasting, however, that having done a great deal of work for
the Fatherland he was ready to pay the price, although it was a
misfortune that he had not been able to do all that he had hoped to
accomplish.

His assistants had already fled--one, out of perhaps half a dozen,
was arrested twenty-four hours later in a sailor's home at Leith; the
others got clear away. So hurried had been their departure that the
house was left untouched. A systematic search revealed the presence
of a secret wireless apparatus cunningly concealed in a bricked-up
chimney corner; while, amid the mass of documents impounded by the
police, experts discovered the system whereby von Eckenhardt was able
to communicate with the utmost freedom with the German Admiralty.

"A smart move, that of yours, Aubyn," commented Gilroy, as the
officers made their way back to the flotilla. "I really thought you
had gone off your head."

"It wouldn't be the first time people thought that," rejoined
Terence. "But I don't think we've done anything to brag about."

"What? Not laying that dangerous spy by the heels?" asked the
engineer-lieutenant in surprise.

"Perhaps," replied Gilroy, with a grim smile. "But the point is,
we've all been taken in by the rotter. Suppose at the court-martial
they inquired the reason why we went to Tuilabrail? We'll have to
admit that we were very nicely taken in, in more senses than one.
Then they'll make us sit up."

The "sitting up" part of the business began immediately upon their
return to their respective destroyers, for a signal was made by the
admiral cancelling all shore leave.

At four that same afternoon--being Saturday 23 January, 1915--orders
were received for the flotillas to weigh and proceed to a rendezvous
off the Isle of May.

Speculation was rife amongst officers and crew as to the significance
of this move. No one guessed what was taking place at Tuilabrail
House: that the secret wireless was being made use of to send grossly
misleading information to Berlin; and that the authorities had great
hopes that the German swift armoured cruisers would be lured into
making another raid on the supposedly defenceless East Coast.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE END OF THE "BLUECHER."


THE "Livingstone," second destroyer in the port-column of the
flotilla, was speeding through the long undulations of the North Sea
at a modest twenty knots. It was barely a quarter past seven on
Sunday morning. Dawn had not begun to show in the eastern sky, and
although a dozen or so of the destroyers were in company, only the
partly-screened stern lights of the one ahead and the phosphorescent
swirl of the one next astern betrayed the presence of others of the
flotilla.

Something was in the air. Officers and crew knew that, but vaguely.
Orders, significant in their brevity, had been issued overnight for
the ship's company to bathe and change into clean clothes. That in
itself meant the possibility of an action, while the sudden call to
the flotilla to proceed to sea instead of completing the fortnight's
"stand-by" in the Forth indicated that no minor operations were
contemplated.

The "Livingstone" was cleared for action. Ammunition had been served
up, fire hoses rigged, deck fittings removed, and every other
possible precaution taken to safeguard the frail craft in the
impending action.

The crew were on the tip-toe of expectation: eager to get in touch
with the enemy and fearful lest they should find themselves out on a
wild-goose chase.

The action, should it materialize, would not be of a minor character,
for broad on the starboard beam of the flotilla, though invisible in
the darkness, were the giant battle-cruisers "Lion," "Tiger,"
"Princess Royal," "New Zealand," and "Indomitable."

Flung out, fanwise, were the handy and hard-hitting light-cruisers,
supported by other destroyer flotillas, and serving as a screen to
the battle-cruisers should any hostile torpedo-craft attempt their
vaunted "lancer-thrust" against them.

"Something doin' this time, Aubyn," remarked Gilroy, who was
responsible for keeping the "Livingstone" in station. "Wireless from
the 'Arethusa' just through, reporting strong enemy squadron.
There--look."

The sub. turned his head just in time to catch the flash of a distant
gun, quickly followed by another and another. Half a minute later
came the dull rumble of the first report. The light-cruisers were in
touch with the enemy away to sou'-sou'-east.

A signal lamp flickered from the flagship:--

"All destroyer flotillas proceed to support the light-cruisers.
Engage enemy destroyers."

Like hounds released from leash the long, lean, black-hulled craft
dashed forward. No need to give a compass course: the now
rapidly-recurring flashes told them where their work lay.

Under copious supplies of oil fuel, the "Livingstone's" engines
quickly developed more horse-power than they had ever done before.
Trailing lurid flames issued from her four squat funnels, and threw
their ruddy glare upon the determined faces of the guns'-crews.

Ahead, and on the starboard hand, and astern the position of the rest
of the flotilla was likewise indicated by the spurts of flames from
their furnaces. Noxious oil-fumed smoke belched in dense columns,
glowing like fanned charcoal as it eddied clear of the funnels. The
scene resembled a section of the Black Country transferred bodily to
the North Sea on a pitch-dark night.

"By Jove, we're in luck!" shouted Gilroy, in order to make himself
heard above the hiss of the wind as the destroyer tore at thirty-six
knots towards the scene of action. "We've just picked up a wireless
to the Flag. We're up against the 'Moltke,' 'Seydlitz,' and
'Derfflinger,' three of Germany's best battle-cruisers, with that old
crock the 'Bluecher' chucked in, to say nothing of a swarm of
light-cruisers and destroyers. Beatty's got his chance this time:
he'll bag the lot with the force he has at his disposal."

And the lieutenant pointed in the direction of the British
battle-cruisers, whose position could now be faintly distinguished,
well on the port beam, by the splash of flame from their funnels.

"We'll give them something in return for Scarborough, Whitby, and
Hartlepool," continued Gilroy. "Ten to one the beggars were off to
try the same game again. By Jove! I pity any German submarine that
gets foul of that crowd," and he indicated the far spread-out line of
destroyers speeding towards their foes.

Just then the lieutenant-commander of the "Livingstone" ascended the
bridge.

"Rotten luck, Gilroy," he announced. "The Germans are funking it.
They've turned tail."

"The battle-cruisers will head them off yet, sir," suggested Gilroy
confidently.

"I hope so--ha! what's this?"

A signalman had just hurried up.

"Destroyers to take up position on battle-cruiser's port quarter,"
said the skipper. "Confound it! That's put the pot on it, Gilroy."

"It's our smoke, sir, that's troubling the 'Lion,'" replied the
lieutenant.

Dawn had now broken sufficiently to discern the lofty hulls, triple
funnels, and masts of the five battle-cruisers, as they raced at
their maximum speed on a south-easterly course. The four guns of the
two foremost superimposed turrets of the "Lion" were already trained
to their greatest elevation, awaiting the report of the fire-control
platform that their quarry was within hitting distance.

Gilroy was right. The smoke from the destroyers was drifting across
the line of fire of the giant ships.

"It's a case of get out and get under--their lee," commented the
lieutenant-commander, as a signal was sent up from the parent ship of
the flotilla ordering the destroyers to fall back out of the way of
the hard-hitters of the fleet.

As the day dawned the thick haze of smoke that marked the position of
the runaway raiders could be seen, although from the bridge of the
destroyer the hostile ships were invisible. The cannonading away to
the sou'-east had now ceased; apparently the enemy torpedo-boats had
attained a temporary security under the wing of their larger craft.
Suddenly Terence remembered that he had not had his breakfast.
Although it was not his watch, excitement had kept him on deck, and
now in the lull the workings of the inner man demanded attention. It
was a quarter to nine when he entered the mess. Three minutes later,
before the steward had time to bring in the coffee, a terrific
detonation caused the "Livingstone" to shake like an aspen leaf.

Breakfast completely forgotten, the sub. dashed on deck. He knew what
had happened: the "Lion" had fired the opening shot of the engagement
with one of her monster 13.5-in. guns.

She was not yet within range. Terence realized that by the fact that
she did not follow the single shot by salvo after salvo, that the
projectile--weighing nearly a ton--had shrieked ineffectually towards
the rearmost of the German ships.

To the sub. it seemed as if the fifty odd feet of steel cylinder that
projected from the "Lion's" B turret was rising slowly on its
complicated mountings. Obedient to the master-hand in the
fire-control platform the giant weapon was being "laid" upon an
invisible target 20,000 yards away.

Then--_flash! crash!_

Flames of cordite enveloped the whole of the fore-part of the "Lion."
Above the bank of haze from the so-called smokeless powder, the
gunnery-lieutenant in the fire-control platform was coolly watching
the result of his second trial shot.

There was no doubt about it. The British battle-cruisers, pelting
along at 28 1/2 knots, were slowly but surely overtaking their prey.
Already the "Bluecher," credited with but a fraction over 25 knots,
was falling astern of her consorts. In their frantic dash for the
safety of their own mine-fields the three swifter vessels paid no
heed to the fact that one of their own ships was sooner or later to
bear the brunt of the Englishmen's guns.

Naval chivalry which caused the gallant "Monmouth" to share the fate
of the luckless "Good Hope" in the action off Coronel was found
wanting amongst the disciples of "kultur." Instead of attempting to
cover the "Bluecher's" retreat, the "Derfflinger" and her
fellow-raiders ran, abandoning her to her fate.

Terence glanced at his watch as the first salvo burst from the
avenging "Lion." It was nearly ten minutes past nine. Truly, he
thought, it was a magnificent sight to see Beatty's flagship wreaking
vengeance upon the cowardly bombarders of Scarborough; yet in the
light of a general action it seemed a one-sided affair, as shell
after shell sped on its way towards the still invisible German ships
and none came in reply.

Gilroy, perched upon the bridge weather-rail, was coolly taking
snapshots of the "Flag" with a pocket kodak. The men of the destroyer
were so impressed by the sight of the "Lion" in action that it was
with the greatest difficulty that they could be brought to realize
their position: to watch for any lurking submarine that might seize
an opportunity of loosing a torpedo against the swiftly-moving mass
of 26,000 tons displacement.

A column of spray flung high in the air at fifty feet from the
"Lion's" starboard beam announced the fact that the German
battle-cruisers had been overhauled sufficiently for them to get the
range of their pursuers. Then shell after shell began to fall around
the flagship. Occasionally a projectile would strike a glancing blow
against the armoured sides of the British vessel, but unswervingly
she held on, if anything increasing her rapidity of fire.

A hoist of flags fluttered up to the signal yard arm of the "Lion"
and stood out as stiff as if made of sheet iron in the strong breeze.

From the leader of the flotilla came the answering pendant, each of
the destroyers acknowledging the signal in turn. Enemy torpedo-boats
were threatening an attack, and the British destroyers were to beat
off the hornets that had the audacity to attempt to hurl themselves
within torpedo-range of the battle-cruisers.

"Now for it," thought Aubyn, as he left the bridge and took up his
station at the after 4-in. gun.

Swift as was the "Lion" the speed of the destroyers was greater.
Forging ahead they left the battle-cruisers well on the starboard
quarter. Heavy projectiles, passing handsomely over the short masts
of the "Livingstone" and her consorts "straddled" the "Lion," some
falling short, others ricochetting from the water two hundred yards
in her wake.

The contest between the rival destroyer flotillas was of short
duration. Apparently the German boats had no intention of joining
action. It was merely a manoeuvre on their part to screen their
already severely damaged battle-cruisers by means of dense columns of
smoke.

In a sense they were successful, for under cover of the pall of black
vapour the larger German ships altered course and steered in a
northerly direction, but as the torpedo-boats drew off Terence
discerned for the first time one of the enemy battle-cruisers.

She was listing heavily to port. Flames were bursting from her
amidships, her funnels had disappeared and two legs of her tripod
mast. Yet in spite of her damaged condition she was endeavouring to
crawl out of line, slowly shaping a course to the nor'-nor'-west.
Still firing as she wallowed in her death-agony, she was being marked
for special attention by the "Indomitable," which, under the
admiral's orders, had hauled to port to complete the work of
destruction.

"Hurrah! The 'Bluecher's' done for!" shouted the torpedo-gunner of
the "Livingstone."

Terence could hardly believe his eyes. Was that battered wreck the
same vessel that a few weeks before he had seen pouring death and
destruction into the peaceful town of Scarborough?

He brought his glasses to bear upon the ill-fated raider. In spite of
her enormously thick armour huge rents were plainly visible in her
sides. One of her heavy gun-turrets had been blown clean away. 'Tween
decks the greater part of her was a glowing furnace. It seemed a
marvel how the crew could maintain even the feeblest fire, yet, under
the influence of morphia supplied by their officers, half-dazed men
still worked the remaining effective guns with the ferocity of
madmen.

Then the "Tiger," showing scars of honourable wounds, but still
vitally intact, came up, hurling shell after shell into the doomed
vessel.

Cat-like in her death-agonies the "Bluecher" sought to deal her
antagonist a _coup de grâce_ by letting loose a torpedo.

Keenly alert to such a possibility, the cool and collected captain of
the British battle-cruiser detected the ripples that marked the
approach of the deadly "tin-fish." Ordering the "Tiger's" helm to be
put hard over, he had the satisfaction of seeing the torpedo miss its
mark by a bare twenty feet.

As the "Bluecher" showed no sign of surrendering it was necessary to
hasten her end. Looming up through the black and yellow smoke that
drifted in huge volumes to lee'ard came the saucy "Arethusa."
Fearless in the midst of a rain of light projectiles her torpedo-men
gathered round two of her above-water tubes. At any moment a fragment
of a shell might strike the warheads of the two missiles ere they
took the water, and send the light-cruiser to her doom.

Like a trick swimmer making a clean dive, the first of the gleaming
cylinders left the tube and disappeared amidst the feathery spray.
Five seconds later the second torpedo sped on its way to destruction.

The first alone would have been sufficient. Striking the "Bluecher"
fairly amidships the powerful weapon blew a gaping hole in the hull
of the already foundering vessel. More and more she heeled, till the
whole length of her bilge keel became visible.

With the characteristic consideration to a beaten foe the British
vessels ceased firing. Instinctively the German sailors knew that
they were free to leave the doubtful shelter of the armoured portions
of the ship and to save themselves, if possible.

Aft poured the scorched and dazed survivors of the ship's company,
forming up upon the steeply shelving deck. Some, with a devotion to
their Fatherland, broke into song with "The Watch on the Rhine,"
while the officers, linking arms, stood awaiting the final plunge--if
plunge it might be called.

"Jump, you silly blighters!" shouted an excitable bluejacket from the
"Arethusa," and the invitation was taken up by others, while the
crews of the light-cruisers and the nearmost destroyers hastened to
lower boats to assist in the errand of mercy.

"She's going!" ejaculated Gilroy, as the huge hull turned completely
over on its side, and with hardly any agitation of the sea slid
gently under the waves, throwing those of her crew who had not
already jumped into the water.

The "Livingstone" by this time had come to a standstill at about a
cable's length from the spot where the "Bluecher" had disappeared.
The only boat she had fit for service was lowered, and into it
clambered Terence and four seamen.

Before they had gone fifty yards Aubyn noticed that the boat was
leaking badly. Already the water was above the floor boards. One of
the men was obliged to use the baler vigorously, while the others
kept to their oars, the sub. holding the boat on her course by means
of considerable lee helm.

"Lay on your oars, men," exclaimed Terence, and leaning over the side
he was just in time to grasp the hair of a scorched and blackened
German bluejacket as he was sinking for the last time. Two more men
were rescued, one stark naked, save for an inflated swimming collar;
the other wounded in half a dozen places by pieces of flying metal.

So intent were the crews of the numerous boats upon their work of
saving life that they failed to notice a new peril. Only a warning
shout from the quarter-deck of the "Arethusa" recalled them to the
fact that they were not fighting civilized foes but enemies whose
methods of waging war were on a par with those of the old Red
Indians, the ferocious Boxers, or the fanatical tribes of Somaliland.

Overhead was a Zeppelin, accompanied by a couple of German
waterplanes. Although it must have been perfectly obvious to the
observers that the British tars were rescuing their beaten foes, the
aircraft began a rapid bombardment with bombs.

One missile, fortunately without exploding, dropped an oar's length
from the "Livingstone's" boat. Others, detonating with a sharp crack,
assisted in sending a score or so of the "Bluecher's" crew to their
death.

Filled with fury, that during the engagement had been foreign to
them, the British tars were compelled to relinquish their task of
saving life. Back to their respective ships they rowed, and a hail of
projectiles was launched against the treacherous Zeppelin and her
consorts.

This was more than the unwieldy gas-bag could stand. Circling and
ascending higher and higher she flew out of the danger zone and made
off back to Heligoland.

But the engagement was not yet over.

From the flagship of the admiral commanding the destroyer flotillas
came a signal:--

"Proceed to N.E. and engage enemy-destroyers and submarines."



CHAPTER XVIII.

DERELICTS.


THE reason for this order was obvious to the officers of the
"Livingstone." The "Lion" had been disabled: whether by torpedo (for
several of the enemy submarines had been sighted) or by shell-fire
they knew not. But she was sufficiently mauled for it to be necessary
for Admiral Beatty to shift his Flag, first to the
torpedo-boat-destroyer "Attack" and afterwards to the "Tiger" as she
was returning from the sinking of the "Bluecher."

With her engines out of order, and very much down by the head the
crippled "Lion" shaped a course to the north-west, making for the
Firth of Forth. Finding that the damage to the machinery grew worse,
the badly hit battle-cruiser had to appeal for assistance, and was
taken in tow by the "Indomitable." Speed was now out of the question,
while there was great risk of both battle-cruisers falling victims to
the lurking German submarines. Accordingly one flotilla of destroyers
was detailed to escort the "Indomitable" and her tow, another was
ordered to reconnoitre to the north-east and check any attempt on the
part of hostile light-cruisers and torpedo-boats from menacing the
crippled "Lion."

The "Livingstone" was one of the flotilla told off for the latter
service. Hers was a hazardous undertaking, for ahead lay the almost
impregnable island of Heligoland, on her starboard hand was the
German torpedo-boat station of Borkum, while it was known that an
ill-defined mine-field was somewhere in this part of the North Sea.
Presumably the "Derfflinger" and her consorts, when they made a
somewhat abrupt change of course while screened by the smoke of the
destroyers, had put the mine-field between them and the British. The
supposition was mainly responsible for the breaking off of the action
and for the escape of the German battle-cruisers.

In line abreast the various units of the British destroyer flotilla
pursued their course, an interval of nearly a mile separating each
boat. At two p.m. they were within sight of the rocky plateau of
Heligoland, yet no hostile craft hove in sight. The Zeppelin which
had frustrated the humane intentions of the British tars when the
"Bluecher" sank, was just visible as it made for its lair. Away to
the eastward, where a mist was lying over the Frisian Islands, the
thick clouds of smoke from the fugitive battle-cruisers was rapidly
merging into the bank of fog.

"May as well get something to eat, Aubyn," remarked Lieutenant
Gilroy. "Nothing like taking advantage of a lull in the performance."

Terence willingly acquiesced. Now that the excitement of the
engagement was past he was beginning to feel peckish so the two
officers went below.

"Not a bad day's work," remarked the sub., as he attacked a tin of
biscuits and a cup of chocolate.

"H'm, no," replied Gilroy. "We ought to have bagged the lot, and we
should had it not been for the 'Lion' being crocked."

"I expect the Press will make a song about our not having done so,"
remarked Aubyn. "It's easy for the arm-chair critics to expound
theories of what ought to be done."

"Let 'em," declared Gilroy grimly. "If I had my will I'd ship a few
of these professional advisers--people who are ever ready to tell
their mother's mother how to extract the contents of a bird in
embryo--and let them see what's going on. I'll bet they'd change
their tune and not ask what the Navy is doing. It's impossible to ram
into their thick heads that sometimes it pays to sacrifice a small
craft in order to enable a battle-cruiser to get a sniff in. That's
what we are doing now."

Aubyn looked at his companion in surprise.

"Fact," continued Gilroy. "We have information that a German flotilla
of light-cruisers and destroyers is out: independently of the crowd
we sent home as fast as their engines could take them. What we have
to do is to get in touch with them, lure them on, and let our
light-cruisers come up and bag the lot. If the German boats won't
come out--and they are vastly superior in number to our lot--there
are two conclusions. Either they fear a trap, or else they cannot
negotiate their own mine-field. If they do pluck up courage and come
for us, we've got to make a running fight for it, and at the same
time watch these fellows' course."

"So, apart from screening the 'Lion' we have to discover the passage
through the enemy's mine-field?"

"Exactly," answered Gilroy. "The information is most necessary,
although I cannot at present say to what use it will be put. Hullo!
there's the 'Action.'"

Both officers tore up the narrow companion to find that the periscope
of a submarine had been sighted on the port-bow. Evidently the
skipper of the "unterseeboot" had a great respect for the ramming
powers of British destroyers; for, without attempting to discharge a
torpedo, he promptly dived to such a depth that on the "Livingstone"
passing just ahead of the swirl that marked the submarine's
disappearance no tell-tale oil rose to the surface.

By this time the mist had increased; the nearmost British destroyer
was just visible. The rest were swallowed up in the bank of haze. The
flotilla had changed course and was now running S.S.W. or practically
parallel with the chain of islands extending from the mouth of the
Weser to the Dollart.

Suddenly out of the mist loomed the outlines of four grey
torpedo-boats: the forerunners of the Borkum flotilla. On they came
at a good twenty-six knots, the smoke pouring from their funnels and
obscuring any hostile craft that might be following in their wake.

Boat for boat the "Livingstone" and her consorts were vastly superior
to the German craft. An action would result in annihilation of the
enemy unless the element of luck favoured the weaker side. But it was
not a time for fight. The first mission of the British destroyers was
to lure their foes, especially the supporting light-cruisers, well
away from the sand-banks and shallow mined channels protected by the
heavy guns of Borkum.

Round swung the "Livingstone," heeling outwards till her rail was
almost awash: then steadying herself on her course, steamed due west.
Although the after 4-in. gun was trained on the leading German boat,
no order was given to fire. Shells began to hurtle past, as the
foremost enemy vessel attempted to wing her foe. It was tantalizing
for the "Livingstone" to be under fire with the knowledge that her
armament could dominate that of her enemy, but forbearance was
desirable: it was a part of the grim game.

Suddenly a terrific glare flashed before Terence's eyes, followed by
an ear-splitting report. He was dimly conscious of clapping his left
hand over his eyes and feeling blindly with his right for some
support that was not forthcoming. His feet gave way under him, and he
fell--not upon the slippery deck of the destroyer but into the sea.

It was in a sense fortunate that he fell in a huddled posture; had
his body been rigid the shock on striking the surface from a craft
travelling at close on thirty knots might have broken his back.
Winded by the blow and the sudden immersion he sank, swallowing
mouthfuls of salt water as he vainly gasped for breath.

After a seemingly interminable time he knew by the light filtering
through the water that he was rising to the surface. Up he came,
spluttering and gasping. His thick clothing still retained air and
afforded a certain amount of buoyancy, enough to counteract the
weight of his sea-boots.

He looked in the direction of the "Livingstone." She was by this time
several hundred yards off and still running at a high speed. Even had
his fall been noticed he knew that it would have been impossible for
the destroyer to stop and pick him up. It was one of the grim
realities of warfare. In the piping times of peace there would be a
cry of "Man overboard," a rapid working of the engine-room
telegraph, and a prompt backing and going easy astern of the engines,
while the boat was being hastily lowered to effect a rescue. But now,
although the loss of a man overboard was to be deplored it was the
fortune of war. Under the circumstances no captain would hazard his
ship in the presence of the enemy to save life.

Terence also knew that there was no chance of rescue by the German
boats. For one thing it was an established fact that the disciples of
"kultur" had never been credited since the declaration of
hostilities with having saved a single British sailor, be he officer
or man. Again, it was not to be expected that the German destroyers
would cease in their efforts to overhaul a supposedly fugitive craft
to pull one of the hated English out of the sea.

At a distance of about ten yards from the swimmer the leading German
torpedo-boat passed. The "wash" wellnigh overwhelmed him, for by
this time his clothes were becoming saturated and his limbs numbed by
the cold. He was seen by several of the crew, most of whom regarded
him with stolid indifference, while one or two openly jeered at him.

The desire for life was strong within the young sub. He realized that
his case was hazardous in the extreme. More than likely cramp--the
dreaded foe of the swimmer--would seize him; if not there would be a
struggle for life until, numbed by the cold, he would sink through
sheer inability to move his limbs. Yet he meant to fight strongly for
his life.

"I must first get rid of my boots," he thought, at the same time
ruefully reflecting that they were practically new, and had cost him
a couple of guineas only a few days ago.

Turning on his back Terence began to fumble with his footgear. His
fingers had little or no sense of feeling.

"All right, sir; hold up--I'm coming. You're saved," shouted a voice.

Swimming towards him and pushing a lifebuoy was Stairs, the
bluejacket whose gratitude he had gained by letting him off with a
caution instead of putting him in the captain's defaulter's book. The
devoted man, seeing Terence blown over the side by the explosion of a
hostile shell, had without hesitation seized a lifebuoy and had
plunged into the sea with the laudable intention of either saving his
officer or sharing his fate. Swift though he was in making up his
mind, the "Livingstone" had put a hundred yards or so between her and
Terence ere the man took the fateful leap.

Swimming strongly, and pushing the buoy before him he took nearly
five minutes in getting within easy hailing distance of his superior
officer. Even in that moment of peril, when he realized that the
chances of the pair of them were most remote, Stairs was governed by
the regulations.

"'... approach the drowning person, assure him with a loud and firm
voice that he is safe,'" he repeated to himself. "It's a blessed lie,
but regulations is regulations, so 'ere goes. All right, sir; I'm
coming. You're saved."

Had Stairs continued to act strictly in the spirit of the
before-mentioned regulations, he would have proceeded to "take fast
hold of the hair of his head, turn him, as quickly as possible on his
back, give him a sudden pull and this will cause him to float." But
fortunately the seaman, having committed one absurdity, wisely
refrained from doing another. Seeing that Terence was afloat, he
contented himself with pushing the lifebuoy into his grasp.

"What on earth possessed you to jump overboard?" asked Aubyn.

"Never you mind, sir, beggin' your pardon," replied Stairs. "Keep
your precious breath, sir you'll be wanting it afore long."

The advice was sound, for by this time two more destroyers had
passed, one on either side of the submerged men, and the turmoil of
the water as they tore past had the effect of stopping any attempt at
conversation. Well it was that Aubyn had hold of the lifebuoy,
otherwise the buffeting of the waves would have sent him
under--perhaps for the last time.

Just then a large object shot up from under the water about fifty
feet from the two men. It was part of a British whaler, possibly
abandoned previous to going into action, or it may have floated from
one of the torpedo-cruisers during the earlier stages of the war.

The third German destroyer had cut through and had passed completely
over it. The greater part of the stern sheets had been torn off, but
there was a considerable amount of buoyancy by reason of the copper
air-tanks, some of which were yet intact.

"Good business, sir!" exclaimed Stairs. "See yon wreckage? Strike
out, sir; I'll give you a hand. We'll fetch it yet."

Before Terence had covered half the distance "striking out" was
beyond him. All he could do was to support himself by allowing his
arms to hang inertly on the curve of the buoy. For propulsion he had
to rely upon the powerful and seemingly tireless efforts of his
brawny companion.

Awaiting his opportunity Stairs scrambled through the jagged gap in
the wrecked boat, then, bringing himself against the after thwart he
hauled Terence into a position of comparative safety.

Even with the weight of the two men the buoyancy of the airtight
tanks was sufficient to keep the gunwale a foot above water. Within
the wrecked boat the water was about up to the thwarts, while the sea
dashed continuously over the frail planking and surged violently up
and down the bottom boards.

Holding Terence by the arm, for the sub. was now incapable of
stirring a finger to save himself, Stairs cautiously raised himself
and looked around. The destroyers, both British and German, were now
lost in the mists. Everywhere was an unbroken stretch of water. The
waves, although not violent, were short and steep.

He realized that there were two great perils. The waterlogged craft
might be capsized in the trough of the waves, in which case the two
men would either be stunned by the heavy woodwork or else have to
choose between drowning or suffocation under the upturned boat. Nor
was the danger of perishing from cold and exposure to be lost sight
of. Drenched to the skin, without food and water, and drifting about
in a waterlogged craft on the North Sea in mid-winter, their
condition was an unenviable one.

"Sit up, sir, and swing your arms," said Stairs, with pardonable
sternness.

Terence tried to obey, but the nerveless condition of his arms,
additionally handicapped by his wet clothing, resulted in a feeble
effort; but that was by no means satisfactory to his devoted
companion.

Grasping the sub. by the elbows Stairs began to work his arms in an
energetic manner. Before long Aubyn began to feel the blood
circulating, while the exercise also served to warm the chilled body
of his rescuer.

"Avast there!" exclaimed the seaman, after five minutes' steady
performance. "I'll take a spell a bit and then carry on. It's our
one chance."

Terence agreed. He, too, realized that only by exercise could they
hope to retain warmth in their bodies. Dimly he found himself
wondering was it worth while to prolong their acute physical
distress, with no apparent chance of rescue.

For nearly an hour Stairs repeated his operations at frequent
intervals, but it was evident that, robust and strongly built as he
was, even his bodily strength could not hold out much longer.

Neither man spoke during that fearful hour. More than once Terence
wanted to ask the seaman why he had deliberately risked almost
certain death on his behalf. He was not conversant with the
circumstances under which Stairs had leapt from the "Livingstone's"
deck, but from the fact that he arrived on the scene with a lifebuoy,
the sub. concluded that it was not by accident but by design. Yet, in
spite of his desire to question the man and to thank him for his
gallantry and devotion, Terence was unable to frame a sentence, so
utterly acute was his distress.

From time to time Stairs would stand upright, at the imminent risk of
losing his balance and being thrown out of the water-logged boat, and
scan the horizon--or rather the ill-defined blending of sea and sky.
In the vain hope that the British destroyers had vanquished their
foes and would put back to look for the missing officer, the seaman
kept a sharp lookout at regular intervals, but nothing save an
unbroken waste of water met his gaze.

He knew also that in a water-logged craft and without means of
propulsion, the rate of drift would be extremely slight. Hours,
perhaps days, would elapse ere the wrecked boat grounded on the
sand-banks fringing the German and Dutch chain of islands on the east
coast of the North Sea.

So intent was Stairs in looking for a distant sail that he failed to
notice a pole-like object appearing above the surface at less than
eighty yards from the boat. Terence noticed it; more, he remarked a
slight "wash," showing that the object had a forward as well as a
vertical movement.

"A periscope! he exclaimed, finding his voice in the excitement of
the discovery.

"Where, sir?" asked Stairs, with incredulity in his tones, for he
imagined that the sub. had become lightheaded in his distress. Then
following the direction indicated by Aubyn's limp fingers, he added,
"You're right, sir; it's a blessed submarine. I'll bet my last tanner
the brutes will poke charley at us, and sheer off. If I'd my rifle,
by smoke! I'd pepper that blessed periscope."

In his indignation the seaman began to search the bottom of the boat
for a likely missile with which to vent his rage upon the modern
pirates; but finding none he folded his arms and awaited events.

Like the wary water-rat that cautiously reconnoitres before it leaves
its hole, the submarine surveyed the seascope. For a brief instant
the eyepiece of the periscope was turned in the direction of the
waterlogged boat, then, having slowly and deliberately swept it all
round the compass, it again scrutinized the two unfortunate men.


[Illustration: "'She's one of ours!' exclaimed Stairs. 'Hurrah! we're
saved.'"]


The submarine was in no great hurry to rise to the surface. Her
commander had heard of decoys being employed to lure an inquisitive
craft within range of a distant quick-firer, so he used discretion.
Finally, having come to the conclusion that it was safe to ascend,
the submarine resumed her diagonally upward motion, and with the
green water pouring from off the fore side of her conning-tower and
surging from her narrow deck she emerged to the light of day.

"She's one of ours!" exclaimed Stairs. "Hurrah! sir, We're saved."



CHAPTER XIX.

THE SUBMARINE SCORES.


THE seaman was right. It was a British submarine, one of the E class.
Terence could hardly believe his eyes to see the craft emerge from
beneath the waves almost within sight of the German coast and
certainly within the limits of the hostile mine-field. He had yet a
lot to learn concerning the bravery and resource of the commanders
and crews of these marvellous craft, operating, without support from
the destroyer flotillas, at the very gates of Germany's naval
strongholds.

The watertight hatch in the conning-tower opened and the head and
shoulders of a young officer appeared. He bent to give an order, then
leapt out and gained the navigating platform, where he was joined by
three of the crew, clad in "fearnought" suits and seaboots.

"Come alongside as sharp as you can!" he shouted.

"Can't sir," replied Stairs. "We've no oars, and we're pretty well
done up."

The officer gave the order for "easy astern"; then judging that there
was sufficient room for the intended manoeuvre he ordered "easy
ahead," at the same time steering the submarine to pass about ten
feet to windward of the remains of the boat.

Meanwhile, those of the crew on deck had detached two boathooks from
the handrail to which they had been secured by "beckets," and
standing by, awaited for their craft to pass within reach of the
object of their attentions.

Simultaneously the two boathooks engaged, and the boat was drawn
alongside. While thus firmly held, one of the crew leapt into her,
and raising Terence, passed him on to the willing arms of his
companions. Without loss of time Stairs was likewise rescued, and
both men, practically "done up," were taken below. Then, the officer
and his men having returned to the shelter of the hermetically-sealed
steel hull, the submarine prepared to dive.

While kindly helpers were assisting to strip the clothing from the
almost unconscious sub., massaging his body and limbs with more
energy than skill, and were pouring hot drinks down his throat,
Terence could hear as in a dream the order given by the captain of
the submarine.

"Diving stations. Flood main ballast.... Flood auxiliary ballast
tanks!"

Dimly Aubyn began to realize that he was actually in a steel prison,
several feet beneath the surface of a sea sown with deadly mines.

"Easy ahead. Elevate horizontal rudders!"

The submarine, now weighing nearly the same as the amount of water
she displaced, was ready for diving. That part of the operation was
performed by means of the horizontal planes or rudders, trimming them
to give the required angle of descent.

"Down to seventy feet, sir!" reported a voice, sounding hollow in the
ribbed, vaulted space.

"Stand by--let go!"

With a subdued rattle the anchor, hitherto bedded underneath the
fore-part of the hull, dropped to the bed of the North Sea,
additional water ballast being admitted into the tanks of the vessel
to compensate the loss of weight of the ground-tackle. Save for a
faint pendulum-like motion as the submarine swayed to the tension on
the bight of her cable, the craft lay calmly in twelve fathoms, for
the time being safe from the perils of naval warfare.

Warm both externally and internally, Terence dropped to sleep in a
comfortable bunk in the officers' part of the vessel. Three hours
later he awoke, feeling much his former self, for the beneficial
effects of the oxygen-charged atmosphere were as invigorating as the
air on the summit of a lofty mountain.

The instant he awoke the circumstances which led to his being on
board the submarine flashed across Aubyn's mind with vivid clearness.
He contrasted his experiences with his regaining consciousness in
Shotley Sick Quarters. There his brain worked slowly--it took
considerable time for him to recall the events subsequent to the
torpedoing of the ill-fated "Terrier." Here, owing possibly to the
chemically charged atmosphere, his mind was as fresh as if he had
awakened from a normal sleep.

The submarine was still at anchor. Beyond the purring of the dynamos
for supplying the electric light there was no noise of machinery. Men
were laughing and talking freely: he could hear Stairs' voice,
holding forth with a vivacity that betokened no ill-effects from his
voluntary immersion.

Terence sprang out of his bunk and began to dress. His own clothing,
dried in the motor-room, was ready for him to put on. Just as he had
completed his toilet a man of about thirty, dressed in the uniform of
a lieutenant-commander, entered and introduced himself as Paul
Maynebrace, captain of Submarine "E Something."

"Sorry we can't land you for a day or two," he remarked, after
inquiring after Aubyn's state of health. "We're on observation duty,
and are not due back at Harwich until noon on Thursday. However,
we'll do our level best to make you comfortable. Of course, I suppose
I am right in assuming that you haven't been on a submarine before?
It will be something of a novelty to you, but we are getting used to
it. Rather boring, in fact."

"Boring?" repeated Terence.

"Well, rather. We are stationed to observe the approach through the
mine-field to Wilhelmshaven. It means that every few hours we have to
pop to the surface and have a look round; and except for the
departure of some of the raiding German cruisers late on Saturday
night (which we duly reported to the Admiralty, by the by) it's
usually a case of a lot of work for nothing--for the beggars won't
come out."

"Supposing a German warship did make a dash while you are down
below?" asked Terence.

"We could tell by the noise of the propellors," replied the
lieutenant-commander. "She is bound to keep almost immediately above
us, owing to the narrowness of the passage through the mine-field."

"Then what would happen?" queried Aubyn, keenly interested in the
information.

"If she were unsupported we would try the effect of a torpedo,"
replied Maynebrace, with a smile. "Ten to one the disaster to one of
von Tirpitz's pets would be put down to the accidental displacement
of one of the mines. In the case of the 'Derfflinger' and her
consorts we let the whole crowd go. It would be impossible to torpedo
the lot, and even if we hit one the remainder might scoot back to
Wilhelmshaven. On the other hand, by not giving them a scare we help
to keep their spirits up, so to speak, and let our battle-cruisers do
the smashing-up part of the business. By the by, the seaman who was
with you on the derelict boat told us of the result of the dust-up:
how the 'Bluecher' went under."

"It was a pity we didn't get the rest," remarked Terence.

"Fortune of war," declared the lieutenant-commander. "And, as luck
would have it, the three German battle-cruisers did not return to
Wilhelmshaven by the same channel, otherwise I might have had a try
for one or two of them. No, they made for Heligoland, I fancy, and
thence either to Kiel or Wilhelmshaven by a passage inside the
mine-field. Well, I must leave you for a while. I'll send young
Warborough--he's my sub.--to have a yarn with you. And as soon as I
get the chance I'll get off a wireless announcing that you are safe
and sound on board."

It was not long before Sub-lieutenant Warborough arrived upon the
scene. He was a young, easy-going officer, wholeheartedly devoted to
his career; yet, when on leave he was a worry to the police in the
vicinity of each of the great naval ports. His brother-officers in
the submarine flotilla were apt to remark that Dick Warborough was a
"bit of a scorcher" in more ways than one. On one occasion a lively
scene in a Portsmouth theatre, in which Warborough played a leading
though unrehearsed part, almost ended in a police-court. Perhaps it
was lucky for the sub. that his father was a man of position and
influence. Warborough freely confessed to half a dozen endorsements
on his motor-driver's licence. The fines he had been ordered to pay
in his twelve-month amounted to almost as much as his pay and
allowance as a sub-lieutenant in the submarine service, so once again
he thanked his lucky stars that his parent was rich and, what was
more, generous. Yet, with all his foolish pranks ashore, he was keen
and a capable officer from the moment he passed through the dockyard
gates to return to duty till the time when he was again able to
proceed on leave.

"Skipper says I'm to hold a pow-wow with you, Aubyn," began
Warborough, not with any suspicion of condescension but in a frank,
easy-going manner. "Glad to have someone to spin a yarn with. Do you
motor?"

Terence had to confess that, except for trips in hired cars during
his brief visits to his home, his experiences in that direction were
few and far between; then, by way of altering the topic of
conversation, he asked what the young officer thought of the
submarine service.

"Top-hole--absolutely ripping!" declared Warborough. "This lying in
wait is apt to be a bit tedious, but there are moments when you feel
downright happy at being in the submarine service."

"Pretty dangerous?" hazarded Aubyn, who had not entirely got over the
feeling that he was imprisoned at the bottom, or nearly at the bottom
of the sea.

"That's what gives a spice to the business," said Warborough. "If we
do bump a mine there's precious little chance for us. The worst part
of the job is when we are getting fairly close to Harwich, and
running awash. The helmsman of one of your destroyers might get a
trifle jumpy, you know--mistakes have been made in that direction,
especially at night."

"That I can quite understand," rejoined Terence, recalling the many
anxious hours he had passed on the "Strongbow" as officer of the
watch, and straining his eyes in the darkness till he fancied he saw
the periscope and conning-tower of more than one submarine.

"And the rotten part of the business is, the man in the street
grumbles," continued Warborough. "It's all very fine saying that the
Silent Navy is above public opinion and all that--it isn't, and it's
a bit rough. Our men come back from leave with the yarn that they are
continually being asked, 'What is the Navy doing?' And if people find
out that they belong to the submarine service they ask still more
pointed questions. Civilians forget that the German ships rarely put
to sea, except when they think they can do a sneaking bit of damage.
And after this recent scrap they'll be still more chary about coming
out. Now, if there's nothing or hardly anything afloat for us to go
for, it's not much use running a great risk of being rammed by our
own destroyers. Submarines can't fight submarines, and the fact that
a few German 'unterseeboots' have started playing the fool with our
merchant craft complicates the situation. However, there are four of
our submarines keeping an eye on the approach to the German North Sea
ports, so perhaps, after the war is over and people are let into the
know, we may be vindicated in the minds of the Great British Public.
Why, man, what's wrong now? Your nose has started to bleed."

Terence brought out his handkerchief and applied it to his nasal
organ. It was a very rare thing for it to bleed, and he wondered
whether it was the result of the concussion when he was blown from
the deck of the "Livingstone."

"I don't fancy so," remarked Warborough. "It's the excess of oxygen.
We are frequently affected that way. Shove your head in that basin
and let me pour cold water on your neck: that will stop it pretty
quickly."

Aubyn's companion was quite right. In less than two minutes the flow
had entirely ceased.

"How about the water?" asked Terence. "I suppose this is the pump?"

"Yes. You'll have to exert a fair amount of strength to get rid of
the water, you know."

Aubyn seized the pump lever, but in spite of his efforts he could not
force the water out of the basin. "Back pressure too much," commented
Warborough. "We're more than fifty feet below the surface. We'll have
to get rid of this water pretty quickly, so I'll ask the skipper to
bring the boat twenty feet or so nearer the surface."

"Sorry to give you so much trouble," said Terence apologetically.

"Not at all, my dear fellow. It will give the men something to do to
relieve the monotony. Come with me, if you're fit to move, and you
can see the operation."

Terence followed the junior officer to the base of the conning-tower,
and upon Warborough explaining matters to the lieutenant-commander,
the latter concurred in the desirability of ascending.

"While we are about it we may as well go up and look round," he
added.

Word was then passed for the crew to stand at their stations. Inside
a water-filled compartment, separated from the rest of the vessel by
strong watertight bulkheads, the electrically-worked winch could be
dimly heard as it hauled in the cable, till the stockless anchor was
safely housed flush with the outer plating of the submarine.

The reserve tanks were "blown," the electric motors for propelling
purposes were set in motion, and the horizontal fins trimmed for the
ascent. Steadily the pointer of the depth indicator began to fall
till it registered ten feet. At that distance below the surface it is
quite possible to make use of the periscope.

The lieutenant-commander watched the seemingly monotonous changing
panorama depicted upon the bowl at the base of the periscope, as the
eyepiece swept the horizon.

Suddenly he checked the training handle. A small and rather
indistinct object had appeared in view.

"What do you make of that, Warborough?" asked the skipper calmly.

"Light-cruiser, sir!" replied that officer, after a brief glance at
the reflected picture. "And a German, by all the powers!"

"May as well have a look, Mr. Aubyn," said the lieutenant-commander
considerately. "She seems in no hurry, and unless she takes it into
her head to change her course, she'll pass within eight hundred yards
of us."

Terence inspected the periscope representation of the German vessel.
Although she flew no ensign, her characteristic masts, funnel, and
derricks, as well as her protruding bows--a combination of both
clipper and ram--proclaimed her as one of the "Freya" class cruisers,
averaging 5600 tons. Her guns were trained abeam, but from their
direction it was evident that the Germans had no idea of the peril
that menaced them.

The sub. felt his blood tingling. It was the "Terrier" incident over
again, only the boot was on the other foot this time.

"Down to thirty feet--charge firing-tank--flood both
torpedo-tubes--stand by!" ordered the lieutenant-commander.

He would not run the risk of allowing the tip of the periscope to
remain on the surface while the crew were thrusting the two steel
cylinders into their respective tubes.

"All correct, sir!" reported the leading torpedo-hand.

"To fifteen feet, then," was the order.

Once again daylight filtered through the periscope. On the bowl stood
the image of the doomed cruiser, now showing with remarkable
vividness. A slight touch on the steering gear and "E Something"
swung a point or so to starboard to enable her tubes to be trained a
few feet in advance of the cruiser's bows--a sufficient allowance for
the vessel to be fairly in the path of the deadly weapon by the time
the torpedo travelled the intervening distance.

A faint detonation, caused by the release of the propelling charge of
compressed air was followed by the rush of the water admitted into
the now empty tube to compensate the loss of weight of the torpedo.
The missile was on its way.

A few seconds of tense silence followed, then came the muffled sound
of a terrific detonation, as the warhead exploded fifteen feet below
the surface and fairly amidships of the doomed cruiser. No need to
let loose a second missile.

"Got her!" exclaimed the skipper laconically, as the submarine dived
to fifty feet to avoid detection and its natural sequence--a hail of
quick-firer projectiles from the already sinking vessel.

A quarter of an hour later the "E Something" again showed her
periscope. The lieutenant-commander's surmise was correct. The German
cruiser had plunged to the bottom, while half a dozen boats, crammed
to their utmost capacity, were laboriously rowing towards the
invisible island of Borkum.

"Thank you, Mr. Aubyn!" exclaimed the lieutenant-commander, extending
his hand towards the sub.

"What for, sir, might I ask?"

"For letting your nose bleed at a most opportune moment," was the
cool rejoinder.



CHAPTER XX.

A DUEL WITH A ZEPPELIN.


AN hour after sunset "E Something" rose to the surface. Her hatches
were opened and the crew allowed on deck, five men at a time, to
enjoy the cold, fresh air. Owing to the possibility of the sudden
approach of a swift hostile cruiser or destroyer it was not advisable
to let more men out at once, in order that there would be no delay in
battening down and diving.

It was a clear starlit night. Away to the east the sky was
illuminated by the steely rays of the searchlights on the German
batteries, where the garrisons, kept on thorns by the dread of a
visit from the British Fleet, maintained ceaseless watch.

"I shouldn't wonder if we weren't honoured by the attentions of a few
German torpedo-boats," remarked Warborough to Aubyn, as the two
officers, sheltering from the wind under the lee of the
conning-tower, were enjoying their cigarettes. "By this time the
boats of the torpedoed cruiser ought to have reached land, and the
report of the disaster--cooked by the authorities for serving up to
the gullible Teutonic public--will have been issued."

"It will probably be reported that she struck a drifting mine," said
Terence.

"More than likely," agreed Warborough. "Drifting mines are a godsend
to the harassed German press agencies. But, all the same, those
fellows on the cruiser must have seen the wake of our torpedo, and
that's what makes me think that they'll be sending some of their
small craft to give us a shaking up--if they can."

Meanwhile, the wireless mast, which during the period of submergence
had been housed on deck, had been set up, and a report of the
torpedoing of an unknown German cruiser of the "Freya" class had been
sent off to the Admiralty. A second message, reporting the rescue of
Sub-Lieutenant Terence Aubyn, R.N.R., and Seaman Stairs, was also
despatched.

Twenty minutes later came the reply:--

"Admiralty express great satisfaction at prowess of submarine 'E
Something,'" while the news concerning the rescued officer and man
was acknowledged in stereotyped form.

"Another 'buck-up' for the British Public," remarked Terence,
"although our little piece of work--excuse me saying 'our,' but it
sounds natural--will pale into comparative insignificance after the
'Bluecher' business."

"Perhaps My Lords will not make the news public--at least, not for a
long while," rejoined Warborough. "They'll keep it in reserve until
there is a lull in the papers. Of course not a quarter of the work,
that would gladden the nation like anything, gets into the Press. It
isn't well to let the enemy know too much of their losses. By the by,
did you hear anything about a hostile submarine attempting to slip
past the Needles and into the Solent?"

"No," replied Terence. "Is it a fact?"

"Can't say, old man. Accounts differ. All I know is, that I was
staying at a house close to Lymington just before Christmas. It was
the first leave I had had since the outbreak of the war. Anyway, the
gunners on the Isle of Wight forts spotted something suspicious, and
promptly let rip for about twenty minutes."

"Did they hit anything?"

"They did," answered Warborough, with a grin. "They nearly plugged me
with a ricochet. Several shells fell inland, one of them demolishing
the chimney of a country pub. Next day I heard on good authority----"

"Something moving up aloft, sir!" reported one of the submarine's
crew. "Listen, sir. There's a distinct purr."

"A Zeppelin, by Jove!" exclaimed Warborough. "Pass the word to the
captain."

The lieutenant-commander, termed by courtesy the captain, was resting
in his bunk. He was quickly on deck, for he had "turned in all
standing," with the exception of his boots.

He looked aloft. Like a lead-pencil the Zeppelin could now be
distinguished as she rapidly advanced at an altitude of about a
thousand feet. Judging by her position she would, unless she changed
her direction, pass half a mile to windward of the submarine.

"Mr. Warborough," exclaimed the lieutenant-commander, "I don't
propose to dive."

"Very good, sir," replied the sub. of "E Something," as coolly as if
the Zeppelin were anything but a war-machine.

With very little noise the guns'-crews mustered on deck. The two
anti-aerial guns were raised on their disappearing mountings,
ammunition was served out, and the submarine was prepared to risk an
encounter with the vaunted terror of the air.

Although the petrol engines, used for running on the surface, were in
motion, the clutches of both shafts were disconnected and the exhaust
completely muffled. Thus the submarine was ready to forge ahead at a
moment's notice; but, until she was discovered by the giant gas-bag,
her captain preferred to lie low until the Zeppelin somewhat
incautiously would descend to investigate the scene of the
catastrophe to the torpedoed cruiser.

At each of the 3-pounder quick-firers the gun-layers "stood easy." To
keep bending over the sights of the high angle firing-gun would be
putting an unnecessary strain upon the men. They waited alertly for
report of the range-finding officer and the order to open fire.

"The brute is in no hurry to descend," grumbled Warborough. "She's a
good two thousand feet up now, and a pretty bad target, especially at
night. One thing, she doesn't stand much chance of dropping a bomb
within a couple of hundred yards of us, unless it's by a pure fluke."

"She's descending," exclaimed Terence, as the long, aluminium
cylinder, under the influence of the compensating weights, began to
dip her nose.

As he spoke a searchlight flashed from the foremost nacelle. The
rays, almost perpendicular in direction to the surface of the water,
played upon the sea at some three hundred yards from the quiescent
submarine. The Zeppelin had its suspicions, but as yet had not
located its intended prey.

"Don't look up, men," cautioned the lieutenant-commander, knowing
that should the searchlight play upon the faces of the crew detection
would be certain. He, as well as Warborough, had taken the precaution
of wrapping a dark muffler over the lower part of his face, while his
forehead was shaded by his peaked cap.

It was a hard thing to obey the order, but the men, subduing their
natural desire to see what menaced them from above, kept their faces
averted.

"A thousand feet up," announced Warborough at length, speaking
softly, lest the sound, borne upwards with remarkable clearness,
should give the Zeppelin the alarm. "Actual distance, one thousand
five hundred yards."

As he spoke the deck of "E Something" was bathed in a flood of
brilliant light. A sweep of the searchlight had caused the beam to
"pick up" the submarine. So dazzling were the rays that it would have
been impossible to sight either of the guns in the direction of the
airship.

With admirable presence of mind the lieutenant-commander forbore to
open fire. Rigidly the men stood at attention, not one of them
risking the temporary blindness that would ensue if he raised his
eyes to the powerful glare.

"Thank heavens," ejaculated the captain fervently, as the sweeping
rays swung round, "they haven't spotted us!"

"Eight hundred feet--twelve hundred yards," reported Warborough.

The Zeppelin was still descending; more, she had slowed down
considerably, since during the last four minutes she had travelled
three hundred yards. Heading dead into the eye of the wind her rate
over the sea was now roughly two and a half miles an hour.

The Zeppelin now presented an easy target, as, moving slowly, she
stood out clearly against the starry sky.

The lieutenant-commander raised his hand, the gun-layer of the
for'ard weapon sprang to the night-sights; in another second the
missile would have been hurtling on its way towards the bulky target,
when round swept the blinding searchlight, full on the submarine.

This time there was no swaying round the rays were kept focussed on
the "E Something." The Zeppelin had spotted her foe.

"Confound that light!" muttered the skipper, as he telegraphed for
full speed ahead.

Quickly the vessel gained steerage way, the helmsman thrusting his
helm hard over, alternately to port and starboard at frequent
intervals in order to pursue a zig-zag course and thus baffle the aim
of the bomb-trainers.

The first bomb was not long in making its presence known. From the
invisible and now noisy airship, for her engines were making a
terrific din, a powerful missile dropped fifty yards abeam of the
submarine, and burst with a loud report.

Fragments of the shell flew in all directions, some glancing harmless
from the rounded side of the submarine, and others flying overhead.
Not a man was touched.

The second bomb fell much further off and dead ahead. The Zeppelin
had overrun her quarry.

With a sharp turn of the steering gear the helmsman brought "E
Something" smartly round in a semicircle till her bows pointed in
the opposite direction to which they had been heading a few seconds
before. So quickly was the manoeuvre executed that the submarine
swept out of the irritating rays of the searchlight.

Both quick-firers barked simultaneously. One shell burst well beyond
the frail gas-bag; the other appeared to explode almost under the
foremost suspended car. Whether by accident or design the searchlight
was immediately switched off, while the Zeppelin, elevating her
horizontal rudders and frantically throwing out ballast, began to
rise in order to be out of range of the British shells.

"Crash!" went the after anti-aircraft gun. This time the range was
obtained to a nicety, and the projectile, bursting almost in front of
the bows of the Zeppelin, gave her a mortal blow.

To the watchers on the submarine the whole fabric of the airship
appeared to jump, then, with the slightest perceptible interval
following the explosion of the missile, a second detonation occurred
in the fore-part of the Zeppelin. There was a blinding triple flash,
followed by a deafening report. The aluminium envelope seemed to
disperse amidst a cloud of fire-tinged smoke, while the heavier
portions of the airship fell with ever-increasing rapidity.

Amidst a series of heavy splashes, the wreckage plunged into the sea
at less than half a mile from the submarine. A quantity of heavy oil,
taking fire as it streamed downwards, remained burning upon the
surface of the water for quite a considerable time, then with a
number of spasmodic flashes the flames died out, leaving only a
slowly drifting cloud of smoke to mark the spot where the wreckage
fell.

During the final catastrophe the men of the British submarine
remained almost spellbound. They had gained the victory, but all
thoughts of elation were subdued by the awfulness of the fate of the
vaunted terror of the air.

The "E Something" was then run to the spot where the ill-starred
Zeppelin had disappeared, in the vain hope of rescuing any survivors.
For a radius of several hundred yards the sea was covered with oil
which had escaped combustion, but of actual relics of the airship
nothing was visible. Her twisted and bent aluminium framework lay a
hundred and twenty feet down at the bottom of the North Sea.

Just before dawn the submarine descended and lay hidden, save for a
brief interval of reconnaissance, during the whole of the day. At
night she came up in order to give the crew a "breather." Nothing of
incident occurred, neither on the two following days, so Terence had
a good idea of the monotony of life in a British submarine on
observation duty.

At daybreak on the following Thursday the "E Something" prepared for
her homeward run. She travelled awash, without sighting any enemy
cruiser or destroyer. At a rendezvous she fell in with her relief,
and having exchanged greetings the two submarines parted, one to
enjoy a welcome rest in Harwich harbour, the other to play her part
in sweeping the North Sea of the enemy's flag.

"We're giving that fellow a rare funk, Aubyn," remarked Warborough,
as the two officers were standing on the navigation platform.

"An example of the far-reaching effect of Teutonic kultur, I
suppose," replied Terence. "By Jove, I reckon her old man is shaking
a bit!"

The subject of their conversation was a Dutch tramp steamer of about
1500 tons. Anticipating the execution of von Tirpitz's cowardly
threat to sink British merchantmen, she had lost no time in stating
her nationality in an unmistakable manner. Her wall sides were
painted in horizontal bands in the national colours, in addition to
her name and country in letters a yard or more in length. From her
ensign staff she flew a Dutch ensign far out of proportion to those
usually sported by vessels of that size, while, to make additionally
certain that no mistake on the part of a German submarine was
possible, she flew another Dutch ensign at her main-masthead.

Directly they spotted the "E Something" running awash and with the
White Ensign prominently displayed, the tramp altered her course.
Dense columns of black smoke poured from her funnel; every available
man of her engine-room staff gave a hand in shovelling the "black
diamonds" into the furnaces.

At the very best she could make only eleven knots; had the "E
Something" been a German vessel the Dutchman would have stood no
chance of escape.

Even as the two officers were watching the panic-stricken tramp, a
column of spray shot up fifty feet in the air, about half a cable's
length astern of the submarine.

To the accompaniment of a peculiar screeching sound another and yet
another column of foam leapt skywards. Both men knew at once from
experience what was the meaning of those pillars of spray; they were
caused by the series of ricochets of a "common shell."

"Hard a-starboard!" ordered Warborough. The submarine awash presented
too big a target broadside on. End-on the area exposed to the distant
gun-layer was comparatively small.

"Diving quarters!" shouted the junior officer of the submarine.

In fifteen seconds the hatches were closed and the boat trimmed for
diving. At an unusually steep angle she disappeared beneath the
surface.

"Just our confounded luck," declared the lieutenant-commander. "One
of our own cruisers trying her level best to smash us. That tramp
altering her course gave her the tip. But the fellow who laid that
quick-firer ought to have his cross-guns taken away for a bad miss,"
he added grimly, referring to the "gun-layer's badge" worn on the
right arm.

A careful survey by means of the periscope revealed no sign of the
cruiser or destroyer that had been so inconsiderate as to fire upon
one of her submarines; but the modern "Flying Dutchman" was well
within view, and about a couple of miles on the submarine's port bow.

The lieutenant-commander knitted his brows in perplexity. His craft
was in an awkward predicament. She had been fired on at sight, owing
possibly to the tramp signalling to the British warship that she was
being chased by a German submarine. If "E Something" had remained
awash a second or third shot would in all probability have sent her
to the bottom for good and all, since it was impossible to convince
the cruiser or destroyer of her error in time to stop the
over-zealous guns'-crews.

By diving, the submarine was safe from the effect of gun-fire so long
as she kept submerged; but directly she reappeared she might be
instantly fired upon or else rammed by the now alert cruiser, which
would certainly follow the supposed course of the unseen craft.

Suddenly an idea flashed through the brain of the skipper of "E
Something." The Dutch tramp had been the cause of the somewhat
disconcerting incident: he would make her the means of getting out of
an awkward, not to say hazardous, position.

Terence held his breath when he heard the order to ascend to the
surface. The operation savoured of suicide, for it seemed evident to
him that the mere showing of the top of the conning-tower would
result in a salvo from the guns of the cruiser, which must by this
time have greatly decreased the distance between the position from
which she fired the first shot and the spot where the submarine had
vanished.

Up rose the "E Something," but no shell burst with devastating
effect within her vitals. Almost before she regained her normal
position the order was given to open hatches.

"Now, Aubyn, up with you!" exclaimed Warborough.

Terence needed no second invitation. Nimbly he ascended the iron
rings of the vertical ladder and gained the deck. To his surprise he
found that the submarine was close alongside the Dutchman's starboard
quarter and moving at practically the same speed and in the same
direction as she was.

The submarine's White Ensign, which, owing to the hasty descent had
not been lowered and untoggled from the halliards, was hanging limply
from the staff, resembling an umbrella. For the purposes of
recognition it was useless. Even had it been otherwise, the minds of
the crew of the tramp were so completely obsessed with the idea that
the craft was a German submarine that they would have regarded the
ensign as false colours.

Imagining that the game was up, the stolid Dutch skipper leant over
the bridge rail, while a dozen of the crew peered anxiously over the
side.

"This is a Dutch ship," announced the skipper vehemently in German.
"Why are you stopping me?"

"We are not stopping you, my friend," replied Warborough, in English.
"Can you understand?"

"Yes, ver' well," was the reply; then pointing to the distant British
cruiser, which was now recognisable as one of the "Astraea" class, he
continued: "If you English, why dat sheep fire?"

"Just what we don't want her to do," replied Warborough. "So we've
taken the liberty of ranging up alongside you. They can't very well
fire at us now, and they'll soon discover their mistake."

Meanwhile, the signalman had hoisted the submarine's code number, but
owing to the confusing background afforded by the tramp's tricoloured
sides, the hoist was not readily "picked up" by the cruiser, which
was now approaching to ascertain the mystery of a supposedly hostile
craft that had the audacity to hold up a merchantman under the very
guns of a British man-of-war.

"There's the answering pendant, sir--at the dip," announced the
signalman, pointing to a red and white strip of bunting hoisted
half-way up the cruiser's yard-arm. "Now it's hoisted close up,
sir!" he added after a brief pause.

The cruiser had seen and had read the submarine's signal. Closing,
she ramped up at a cable's length from the little craft that she had
done her level best to sink.

A facetious exchange of compliments by means of hand-flags was
indulged in, and with a mutual farewell the British vessels parted,
while the skipper of the Dutch tramp, devoutly grateful that things
were not so bad as he had imagined, resumed his course towards
Ymuiden.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE LAST OF THE "SYNTAX."

"YOU'RE a troublesome card, Mr. Aubyn; delaying the march of justice
by taking French leave."

This was the greeting of Lieutenant Gilroy, after Terence had
reported himself on board the "Livingstone."

The sub. looked inquiringly at the speaker.

"Fact," continued Gilroy. "You are under notice to appear as
principal witness at the trial of Major von Eckenhardt. The business
was to have come off to-day, but in consequence of your tumbling
overboard (we had the wireless report of your rescue) the trial is
postponed till to-morrow. Congrats, old man, on your escape.
Apparently you've had a lively time on board 'E Something'?"

"Fairly," admitted Aubyn, modestly. "But I wish to goodness I could
cut this trial business. Why couldn't they push on with the show
without me?"

"Ask me another," replied the lieutenant, shrugging his broad
shoulders. "So buck up and make the best of a bad job. You'll be in
good company, my lad, for I'm warned as a witness."

But the trial, which was to be held behind closed doors under the
summary authority of the Defence of the Realm Act, never came off.

Von Eckenhardt succeeded in escaping from Edinburgh Castle during a
dark, tempestuous night. Although searched when received into
custody, he had contrived to secrete a small bottle filled with
corrosive acid. This liquid applied to the bars of his cell made
short work of those barriers. His knowledge of his environments must
have been remarkably accurate, for after dropping a height of
twenty-five feet from the window to the floor of the dry moat without
sustaining any injury sufficient to impede his movements, he found
his way down the precipitous sides of the Castle rock and got clean
away.

The authorities left no stone unturned to attempt the recapture of
the dangerous and daring spy, but their efforts were in vain. The
disquieting thought remained that von Eckenhardt was still within the
limits of Great Britain. His activity, amounting almost to
recklessness, made it pretty certain that he would not return to the
Continent while there was scope for work amongst his enemies; and,
although it was unlikely that he would carry on his secret service
work either in the vicinity of Rosyth or Great Yarmouth, it was
surmisable that he would recommence operations in the neighbourhood
of another important naval or military centre.

Shortly after the escape of von Eckenhardt the various units of the
torpedo-boat-destroyer flotilla to which the "Livingstone" belonged
were sent out on detached service. Since the repetition of the
luckless German raid seemed unlikely, at least until the extensive
repairs to the "Derfflinger" and "Moltke" were carried out, the
necessity for keeping the full complement of flotillas ceased to
exist. Hence the "Livingstone" was ordered to proceed to a certain
rendezvous off the Lizard, in the vicinity of which one of von
Tirpitz's pirate submarines was making itself a considerable nuisance
to British merchantmen bound up and down Channel.

Twenty-four hours after leaving the Firth of Forth the destroyer
arrived at her appointed station, where she had the mortification of
hearing that a large tramp steamer, the "Quickstep," had been held up
and sunk only two hours previously.

All the destroyer could do was to tow the ship's boats with the
survivors within an easy distance of Falmouth; then back the
"Livingstone" doubled, her officers and crew filled with the utmost
keenness to meet and destroy the skulking terror of the deep.

About three bells in the First Dog Watch the lookout reported a sail
in sight, which quickly proved to be a large two-masted cargo vessel
bound down Channel.

As she came within signalling distance she made her number,
announcing that she was the SS. "Syntax" of London, and inquired if
the destroyer had seen any of the enemy's submarines.

"Tell them 'yes'," ordered Gilroy, who was the officer of the watch.
"And inform them that we will escort her as far as the Wolf Rock.
Beyond that she ought to be fairly safe."

"Tough old skipper of that packet," remarked Terence, pointing to the
"Syntax." "He doesn't deign to sail under false colours--there's the
good old 'red' flying as proudly as any merchant skipper could wish.
And I wouldn't mind betting that there isn't a firearm on board,
except the signal gun and perhaps the old man's revolver."

"We'll mother him all right," declared Gilroy optimistically. "It
would go hard with any German submarine that dared to show her
periscope now," and he indicated the man standing by the for'ard
4-in. gun, ready at the first alarm to shoot and shoot straight--for
the No. 1 was one of the best gunlayers of the flotilla.

With her speed reduced to a modest twelve knots, in order to keep
station with her convoy, the destroyer turned and followed the
"Syntax" at a distance of one seamile astern and slightly on her port
quarter.

Just as the sun was setting, the lofty needle-like pinnacle of the
Wolf Lighthouse was observed, rising above the horizon and backed by
the vivid crimson of the disappearing orb of day.

There was little or no wind. The surface of the sea was as placid as
a mill-pond, broken only by the bow-wave of the two vessels. So calm
was the air that the savoury smell from the galley of the merchant
vessel was wafted to the nostrils of the officers on the bridge of
the destroyer. On the lofty fore-deck a seaman was about to hoist the
steaming-lamp. His figure silhouetted against the ruddy light was,
when viewed from the destroyer, just clear of one end of the bridge.

For no apparent reason Terence kept his glasses focussed on the man,
who, awaiting the order to send the light aloft, was taking a
farewell view of the rapidly-receding coast-line of Old England, for
the Cornish hills were just visible abaft on the starboard quarter.

Suddenly the fellow put the lamp on deck and shouted. Although Aubyn
heard no sound, he could distinctly see the seaman's mouth working as
he pointed to something on the starboard hand. Then heeling heavily
to port the "Syntax" circled in the direction indicated.

"A submarine, by Jove!" ejaculated Terence. "On the tramp's starboard
bow--and the old man's trying to ram her."

Gilroy, too, levelled his glass, but owing to the glare on the water
he could pick up no sign of the submarine. But Terence was right in
his surmise. A periscope had emerged from beneath the surface at less
than a cable's length from the "Syntax." The courageous old skipper
had put his helm hard a-port, with the laudable intention of ramming
and sending the submarine to the bottom.

He missed; more, the hull of the cargo steamer screened the submarine
from the destroyer's bow-gun.

"That's done it!" ejaculated Gilroy, as a column of water tore
skywards on the far side of the luckless vessel. The merchantman
heeled violently, recovered herself with a corresponding roll, as her
main-mast buckled, burst its shrouds and toppled across the deck.

"Full speed ahead!"

The engine-room telegraph gong had scarce ceased vibrating ere the
"Livingstone" leapt ahead like a greyhound released from its leash.
With the oil-fired engines running at their utmost capacity the
destroyer quickly circled round the doomed vessel, but not a sign of
the modern pirate was to be seen. Having shot the cowardly bolt, the
submarine had quickly dived, and perhaps was lying _en perdu_ eighty
feet beneath the surface.

Even in the midst of peril the heart of the stout old merchant
skipper never failed him. Immediately his ship had been torpedoed, he
steered towards the distant shore, hoping against hope to beach his
vessel on the iron-bound Cornish coast.

In less than ten minutes it was obvious that the attempt was in vain.
The "Syntax" was settling rapidly by the bows. Already the stern was
so high out of the water that the boss of the swiftly-revolving
propeller was visible amidst the cascades of spray churned up by the
blades.

Presently the propeller ceased to revolve. Not until the water was
over the level of the engine-bed did the skipper give orders for the
engine-room staff to save themselves. Up on deck they poured,
hurriedly yet without undue confusion. The boats were already swung
out and made ready to lower.

So sluggish was the partly-flooded vessel that she lost way rapidly.
One by one the boats were lowered, and the disengaging gear of the
falls cast off without a hitch. The old skipper was the last to
leave. With the ship's papers thrust inside his buttoned,
weather-beaten coat, he waved a salute to the destroyer that had
attended the "Syntax" in vain, then slid down into one of the boats.

Before the boat had rowed a dozen lengths from the ship, the "Syntax"
all but disappeared from view, boisterously, amid a series of veiled
explosions as the compressed air burst from her seams. Amidst a
miniature maelstrom the stern hung irresolute for a brief instant,
with the red ensign still fluttering in the calm air. Then, with a
quick dive, the emblem of the Mercantile Marine vanished from view.

"Shall I take you in tow?" shouted the lieutenant-commander of the
"Livingstone."

"Better not, sir," replied the "old man." "That skulking submarine
may be showing her snout again. Another couple of yards and I would
have given her a bump. No, sir, we're all right. Sea's calm. All
being well we'll land at Sennen Cove before another couple of hours.

"There's pluck," commented Gilroy. "I always had a certain respect
for the Mercantile Marine, and after this, by Jove----"

Terence made no reply. He was thinking regretfully of that
magnificent specimen of British construction lying fathoms deep, a
victim to the brutal violation of all conventions and compacts of
modern civilization.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE TABLES TURNED.


"THE swine!" ejaculated Gilroy furiously. "They know we play the
game, but if I had my will, I really believe I'd ship a couple of
captured German officers on board every merchantman clearing our
ports."

"That wouldn't stop them, Gilroy," remarked the captain. "Not even if
you had old Tirpitz's son as a figure-head. Instead of which he's
living in luxury at our expense, while our officers and men are being
housed like cattle. No, we must do our work with clean hands."

"Not even employ a ruse, sir?" queried Gilroy.

"That doesn't enter into the question," replied his superior officer.
"As a matter of fact, I mean to have a little try on. It's hardly in
accordance with Admiralty procedure, but I'll explain, and if any of
you gentlemen have any objections, don't hesitate to say so."

"I am willing to take the risk, sir," declared Gilroy, after the
captain had outlined his plans. "And if we succeed I don't think My
Lords will give us a rap on the knuckles."

"And you, Mr. Aubyn?"

"I am of the same opinion as Mr. Gilroy, sir."

"Very good: we'll carry on," concluded the skipper of the
"Livingstone."

Accordingly the destroyer returned to the rendezvous off The Start.
From there she sent a wireless announcing certain engine-room
defects, that might well have stood over to a more convenient time,
and requested permission to put into Brixham, where the work could be
carried out.

Back came the reply: "Concur. Make good defects on relief by
'Radimus'."

At ten p.m. the destroyer "Radimus" came up, and exchanged signals
with the "Livingstone," which at once steamed for Brixham.

There was just enough water for the destroyer to enter the outer
harbour and tie up alongside the wall. An hour later she was aground;
a little later she was high and dry in the tidal harbour.

Both the captain of the "Livingstone" and Lieutenant Gilroy had ample
private means, and they did not hesitate to spend money for the good
of the country and the Navy in particular. So within forty minutes of
the destroyer entering Brixham Harbour, the two officers,
notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, had concluded a bargain
with a local owner for the hire of three of the weatherly trawlers
for which that Devonshire port is so greatly celebrated.

At two in the morning, when Brixham slept, the crew of the
"Livingstone" were hard at work, transporting stores and munitions to
the three hired trawlers. By dint of great exertion one four-inch gun
with its mountings was transferred to each of the trawlers and set in
position just abaft the mainmast.

Directly the tide rose sufficiently, the trawlers, each containing a
third of the "Livingstone's" crew, in addition to the regular hands,
warped out into the Roads, hoisted sail, and with a fresh easterly
breeze "reached off" towards The Start.

Thus Terence Aubyn found himself, for the first time in his career,
senior executive officer of an armed vessel--the ketch "Asphodel,"
with a sturdy Brixham fisherman as his sailing master, and twenty
bluejackets lying upon the deck.

The three trawlers maintained a "line ahead" formation, the captain
of the "Livingstone" leading in the "Myrtle," Lieutenant Gilroy
second in the "Cinema," and Terence as the rear-guard. To all outward
appearance the unofficial flotilla was off to the fishing-grounds.

Five miles S.S.E. of the Devon promontory known as The Start, the
destroyer "Radimus" crossed the bows of the trawlers, bound for
Portland Bill, the eastern limit of her patrolling ground.
Unsuspecting, her officer of the watch brought his glasses to bear
upon the three peaceful ketches, and proceeded on his way.

Half an hour later a large auxiliary barque came ploughing her way up
Channel. Although absolutely unarmed she showed no fear of the
threatened submarine blockade, her red ensign proudly and
unmistakably announcing the fact that she belonged to the greatest
mercantile navy the world has ever yet seen.

"That rascally submarine, sir!" announced the master of the
"Asphodel" to Terence, pointing to a peculiar swirl in the placid
water about a mile astern of the barque, followed by the
sinister-looking conning-tower and twin periscopes of the German
pirate.

Doffing his regulation cap, Aubyn raised his head just above the low
bulwarks and kept the submarine under observation with his telescope.
Owing to the "line-ahead" formation of the trawlers, the "Asphodel"
was nearest the enemy craft, which bore well on that trawler's port
quarter.

The barque was helpless. Being under a full press of canvas she could
not even attempt to ram her antagonist, while the wind being light,
and her auxiliary engines of comparatively low horse-power, flight
was out of the question.

The German submarine approached quickly and fearlessly. A survey of
the horizon revealed to her captain nothing formidable in sight, only
three harmless trawlers off to the fishing-ground. When he had
finished with the barque, he decided, he would send two of the
trawlers to the bottom, in order to let the English know that even
fish was to become a scarce article of food, and let the third craft
go with the crews of their sunken consorts.

It did not take the submarine long to range up on the starboard
quarter of the barque. A brief argument took place between the German
captain and the British merchant skipper, with the result that the
latter, finding resistance useless, had the vessel hove-to.

On the deck of the submarine, just in front of the after quick-firing
gun that had been raised from below and was trained on the barque,
stood a steel boat lashed down and secured in chocks. In the boat's
garboards were four large apertures, each capable of being closed
watertight by the manipulation of a single interrupted thread screw.
When open these holes allowed the boat to be emptied or flooded with
great rapidity as the submarine rose or dived.

Yet for some reason the pirates made no attempt to use their own
boat; they ordered the barque to lower two of hers, and with three
men in each to row alongside the submarine.

It was the intention of the Germans to rifle the prize before they
placed explosives on board. They were evidently short of provisions,
oil, and petrol, and these were to be found in abundance upon the
luckless barque. The ship's boats could be more conveniently employed
upon this business, as in the case of a surprise there would be delay
in hauling the steel tender on to the submarine's deck and securing
it, before she could dive.

Terence watched this part of the operation with extreme annoyance. If
the pirate meant to keep some of the British crew on the deck of the
submarine, her destruction could not be accomplished without great
risk and peril to the men of the mercantile marine. However, he
decided the capture or destruction of the unknown submarine--for she
had no number painted on her grey sides or conning-tower--was
imperative, and acting in accordance with a prearranged plan, he gave
the master of the "Asphodel" instructions to steer towards the now
motionless barque, approaching on the starboard hand, while the other
trawlers held steadily on their course.

It was sound strategy. The captain of the submarine evidently
imagined that the trawler was approaching out of sheer curiosity, or
that, seeing the barque hove-to, her master thought that the skipper
of the British craft wished to communicate with the shore. Lying
snugly under the port quarter of the barque, the submarine was now
invisible from the trawler's deck, while the crew of the captured
vessel were ordered not to give the alarm under penalty of death.

Meanwhile, the "Myrtle" and "Cinema," having crossed the barque's
track, were able from a convenient distance to see what was going on.

The pirates made their captives work with the utmost dispatch, and in
a very short time almost all of the barque's cargo and stores that
they were in need of was transported to the submarine and stowed
below.

This done, the captain was ordered to surrender his papers, but the
stubborn old salt declared that he had heaved them overboard before
capture. As a matter of fact they were slipped into the lining at the
back of his coat. This act of non-compliance aroused the German
captain's anger. Ordering the boats back to the barque, he told the
skipper and crew that they had five minutes to clear out. At the
expiration of that time limit, he would sink the vessel by gun-fire.

Directly the British officers on the "Myrtle" and "Cinema" saw that
there were no longer any of the crew of the barque on or alongside
the submarine a signal was sent to the "Asphodel." Instantly the
ketch luffed up, ran under the barque's stern and came in sight, and
within eighty or a hundred yards of the submarine, the crew of which
were standing by their quick-firers, ready to hull and sink the
prize.

"Heave-to, 'Asphodel'!" shouted the German captain in good English,
as he read the name of the apparently unsuspecting trawler that had
blundered right into his clutches. "Heave-to, or we'll sink you
without mercy."

"Let them have it!" shouted Terence. He had no scruples now. It was a
fair fight between a modern submarine, with her guns ready for
action, and a trawler manned by a trained Navy crew.

Like a sheet of tissue paper caught in a furious wind the tarpaulin
concealing the gun was whipped off; cool and collected the
highly-trained gun-layer lingered a fraction of a second over the
sights, then--_crash!_

Almost before the recoil of the weapon had been taken up by the
hydraulic mountings the breech-block flew open with a clang and a
fresh cartridge was inserted.

One round was enough.

The shell, fired at almost point-blank range, had penetrated the
conning-tower, killing the captain and ripping the steel plating like
cardboard. More, the fragments of the exploded missile had put out of
action all the crew of the fore quick-firer.

Terrified by the appalling concussion the engine-room ratings of the
submarine abandoned their posts at the motor and ran on deck, while
the after-gun's-crew, realizing that they were trapped, made no
attempt to use their piece, especially as they were covered by the
formidable 4-inch on the "Asphodel's" deck.

With their hands held high above their heads the pirates raised a
monotonous shout of "Mercy, Englishmen!"

The submarine was done for. With the conning-tower shattered she
could not dive; apart from the abandonment of the motors, she could
not seek safety in flight, for even if running on the surface she
would quickly be swamped by the seas pouring over her low freeboard.

"Mercy, Englishmen! Mercy!"

The cry was repeated over and over again. The recreant Teutons, taken
red-handed, were firmly convinced that their captors intended putting
them to death--the extreme penalty for their guilt.

Terence glanced in the direction of the two trawlers. They were
approaching slowly, for the wind was still light. Before the arrival
of his superior officer the sub. realized that the mischief he
anticipated might be consummated.

"Where is your captain?" he shouted.

The babel ceased. One German, a petty officer, knew how to speak
English after a fashion.

"He kapitan Schluk he dead," he replied.

"The senior officer, then?"

There was a movement on deck. Some of the men bawled down the
hatchway. After some delay a fat, fair-haired sub-lieutenant
appeared. Being unable to speak or understand English the new arrival
made use of the petty officer as an interpreter.

"Do I understand that you surrender?" demanded Terence.

"Yes; if our lives are spared," answered the German officer through
the medium of the interpreter.

"Very good; I accept your surrender on conditions," agreed Terence,
speaking deliberately, and with a stern, menacing tone in his voice.
"Your craft must be given up exactly in its present condition. If
any attempt be made to open the valves no quarter will be given."

It went against his sense of honour to speak in this strain. He knew
perfectly well that, happen what may, quarter would not be denied
these modern pirates. But experience taught him that on more than one
occasion a German submarine had surrendered to a British vessel, and
as soon as the crew was safe, the ballast tanks would be deliberately
flooded to let the boat sink for good and all, so that the secret of
their construction should not be revealed to the hated English.

Consequently he was not surprised when the German officer, on hearing
the conditions, made a gesture of defiance and disappeared below.
Before many seconds had passed the crippled submarine began to sink
deeper and deeper in the water. The survivors of her crew, now
animated by the example of their young officer, lined up,
bare-headed, and joining hands burst into the words of "Deutschland
uber alles." One brawny, yellow-haired man produced a German ensign
lashed to a boat-hook stave, and held it defiantly aloft. It was
perhaps fortunate that they did not attempt to use the still intact
quick-firer, otherwise Terence might have been compelled to put his
empty threat into execution.

The end was not long in coming. The slight reserve of buoyancy of the
submarine was quickly destroyed by the inrush of water, both through
the valves and through the huge rent in the base of the
conning-tower.

The water mounted to the knees of the double line of men. Still
singing they looked death in the face. Then with a sudden lurch that
threw the ranks into complete disorder, the submarine plunged.
"Deutschland uber alles" trailed away into a grim silence, broken by
the rush of water and the hiss of escaping air.

The next instant the submarine was lost to sight, taking with her the
resolute sub-lieutenant, whose devotion to the Kaiser had out-weighed
his conscience in the matter of the utter disregard of international
law.

There was still life to be saved. More than a score of the German
crew were swimming strongly.

"Out with the boats!" shouted the master of the "Asphodel."

A dozen willing hands helped to launch the hefty boat which was
stowed bottom upwards on the trawler's deck. With a loud splash she
was thrust overboard and volunteers hastily tumbled into her. Already
the boats of the barque were heading towards the spot marked by
bobbing heads of the swimmers. The seamen knew that, but for a
fortunate change of circumstances they might be swimming for dear
life and jeered at by the crew of the submarine into the bargain but
petty spite and recriminations are not to be found in the creed of
true British seamen.

Long before the "Myrtle" and "Cinema" came up, every one of the
swimmers had been rescued, and since the crew of the barque dumped
their living cargoes into the "Asphodel," the latter's decks were
packed with humanity. Round every half-drowned German a dozen British
tars, all more or less sympathetic, were gathered, doing their utmost
to assist their foes.

"Smart shot, Mr. Aubyn," sang out the captain of the "Livingstone,"
as his temporary command shot up into the wind within easy hailing
distance. "Your gun-layer took good care not to let us have a finger
in the pie."

"We acted under your orders, sir," replied Terence.

"You did," admitted the captain, with a hearty laugh. "You did, but
you might have given the others a chip in. They hardly--why, what's
that?"

He broke off suddenly at the sound of a terrific cheer. The barque
had now gathered way. Her sails had been sheeted home. The weather
shrouds were black with men who were cheering the three trawlers with
all the force of their lungs, while aft stood the old skipper, waving
his cap with the vivacity of a schoolboy.

Considering the unusual means whereby the German submarine had been
destroyed, the necessity of keeping the incident a secret, until the
Press Bureau thought fit to dole out another morsel of information,
was most desirable. There was also another reason. The enemy must not
know of the actual circumstances, otherwise the submarines still at
large would take steps to prevent a similar surprise.

So the crews, both temporary and permanent, of the three trawlers
were mustered and sworn to secrecy, their respective naval officers
impressing upon the Brixham men the fact that, being an Admiralty
chartered vessel (this was a piece of pure bluff) they were liable to
the pains and penalties of the Naval Discipline Act, the Official
Secrets Act, and a dozen other statutes passed for the safety,
honour, and welfare of the King's dominions.

The next question was how to dispose of the prisoners. Gilroy
proposed delaying the arrival of the trawlers till after dusk and
then setting the Germans ashore under an armed guard at a remote and
unfrequented cove in the vicinity of Dartmouth; but the captain
overruled.

While the council of war was in progress the destroyer "Radimus,"
returning on her patrol work, came in sight. In answer to a signal
hoisted on the "Myrtle" the destroyer altered helm and ran down to
investigate.

Her officers and crew were good sportsmen all. Although chagrined to
find that the German submarine had been sunk almost under their
noses, and by three sailing trawlers, a type that the Admiralty
persistently deprecated as being of no service in the war, they
tendered their congratulations, in the spontaneous British way, by
giving three rousing cheers.

To the "Radimus" the prisoners were transferred, while the captain of
the "Livingstone," having drafted a report, requested the officer
commanding the destroyer to forward it with all dispatch, and at the
same time to send a wireless to the Admiralty announcing the bald
fact that another modern pirate had been sent to its last account.

Gilroy and Terence then boarded the trawler under the command of the
"Livingstone's" skipper. The latter, in spite of the success of his
ruse, looked somewhat anxious. He was not quite certain what My Lords
would think of the unofficial commissioning of the trawlers, and he
expressed his fears to his subordinates.

"Never fear, sir," remarked the lieutenant. "We'll stand by you."

"That you will not," replied the captain. "It's my pigeon. I take
the responsibility; you are under my orders."

"I don't suppose there'll be any fuss up topsides, sir," reiterated
Gilroy.

"H'm! Don't know so much about that. We've attacked a hostile craft
without displaying our colours: that's against the King's
regulations----"

"But we've sent a far worse transgressor to the bottom, sir,"
interrupted Gilroy. "After all, that's the main thing."

"I suppose so," admitted his superior. "And we've done all we can to
impress upon the men the urgency of official reticence and reserve."

So it happened that just before four in the afternoon the three
trawlers entered Brixham Harbour, and, amidst the wild and erroneous
conjectures of the inhabitants of that little Devonshire town, the
naval men landed and went aboard the "Livingstone," whose engine-room
staff had kept steam raised during the absence of their comrades.

Half an hour later the destroyer put to sea to resume her interrupted
patrol duties.

But, somewhat unfortunately, the carefully laid plans of the skipper
of the "Livingstone" went awry. The third hand of the "Myrtle" had a
wife. The wife was an excellent cook and studied her man's weakness
for the fleshpots of Glorious Devon. Moreover, she had a small cask
of prime cider in her cottage, and Dick Ottery, the third hand, was
very partial to the juice of the apple. Mrs. Ottery had a knack of
extracting information from her spouse, and curiosity prompted her to
question him as he fed and drank. Before the delayed meal was over,
Mrs. Ottery knew as much as her husband.

At Brixham, like many other British towns, men had gone either to the
Front or else to adventure themselves on the High Seas; and a
committee of well-meaning ladies had volunteered to do this, that,
and the other for the wives of the absent warriors.

That same evening one of the committee paid a visit to Ottery's
cottage, where his sister-in-law lived since the day when her husband
shouldered his kit-bag and went to report himself at Devonport as a
Naval Reservist.

Mrs. Ottery, unable to keep the startling news of the sinking of the
German submarine, told full details and embellished them with highly
imaginative extras to the lady visitor. "Of course," she added, "it
be quite a secret, my man du say."

Half an hour later the committee heard the news, also in strict
confidence, with the result that when the "Livingstone" put into
Portland to replenish her stock of oil-fuel the news of the exploit
preceded her.

Magnified out of all proportion by the little additions it had gained
in being passed from mouth to mouth, the latest version was to the
effect that "the crew of H.M.T.B.D. 'Livingstone,' having been
compelled to take to their boats owing to their vessel being
torpedoed, were rescued by a Brixham trawler. They thereupon rammed
three German submarines, sinking them with all hands."

"Absolutely without foundation," was the Press Bureau's comment, but
people in the know winked solemnly. It was significant that the
captain of the "Livingstone" was appointed to the command of a
light-cruiser; that Lieutenant Gilroy was promoted to the rank of
lieutenant-commander, and that Sub-Lieutenant Terence Aubyn, N.R.,
blossomed out into a lieutenant.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE STRUGGLE IN THE CUTTING.


POSSIBLY no one was more astonished than Terence to find himself a
full-blown lieutenant. Yet it was a fact and a pleasant surprise,
especially when he had misgivings as to the unorthodox method of
destroying the hostile submarine.

Promotion, he knew, meant an appointment to another ship. That was
the fly in the ointment, for in spite of certain discomforts that
life on a destroyer brings in its train, he had become thoroughly
attached to the "Livingstone."

He had hopes that his old skipper, Captain Holloway, late of the
"Terrier," might use his influence in getting him appointed to the
"Bombard"--a modern light-cruiser which Captain Holloway had recently
commissioned, and which, according to well-founded rumours, was to
proceed to the Mediterranean to take part in the operations against
the Dardanelles.

It was therefore with mixed feelings that Terence found himself
appointed to his old ship, the armed merchantman "Strongbow," which,
having completed her extensive repairs and refit at Aberdeen, was to
be recommissioned, as far as practicable, with her former officers
and crew.

The newly-appointed lieutenant was sorry, since it meant being
relegated to the somewhat monotonous, although necessary task of
patrolling, instead of having a chance to smell powder on one of the
fighting ships. Unless an unforeseen incident occurred, the
possibilities of quitting the patrol service seemed very remote. The
number of hostile mines in the North Sea had been steadily reduced by
systematic sweeping while the German pirate submarines seemed to give
the northern area of the North Sea a wide berth--possibly owing to
the fact that there was more scope for the despicable energies in the
Channel and in the vicinity of the great mercantile ports. Thus the
element of risk that prevailed in the earlier stages of the war had
been considerably diminished; henceforth, according to Aubyn's
opinion, patrol work would be one long round of cruising, examining
neutral vessels, and, perhaps, making a few isolated captures of
ships carrying suspected contraband.

Yet it was his duty, and he accepted it in the spirit of a true
British seaman: he had to obey orders even if they entailed work of a
cheerless and uneventful character.

On the other hand, Terence was pleased at the thought of having to
meet his former comrades. Nor would the severe climatic conditions be
so intense. The days were longer and the nights correspondingly
shorter, and although the temperature was low and the Equinoctial
gales about due, the fact that spring was rapidly approaching was in
itself sufficient compensation for the passing rigours of patrol work
in the North Sea.

The lieutenant had two clear days before rejoining the "Strongbow,"
which had left Aberdeen and put into Leith to replenish magazines and
bunkers. Owing to the dislocation of the train service through the
moving of large numbers of troops from the North to Salisbury Plain,
Terence knew that it would be unwise to delay his journey. He
therefore decided to proceed straight to Edinburgh, put up for the
night, and go on to Leith on the following morning.

Arriving in London he seized the chance of visiting a theatre in
company with some friends, knowing that it might be months before a
similar opportunity occurred again; then, having had supper, he
caught the night mail train to the north.

There were comparatively few passengers. The lieutenant, finding that
he had a first-class carriage to himself, thought it best to spend
the tedious journey by snatching a few hours' sleep.

Accustomed to slumber under awkward conditions he was soon lost in
oblivion. How long he slept he had no idea. Suddenly he was awakened
by the hurried application of the brakes. The train slowed down so
quickly that the alteration of momentum wellnigh threw him off the
seat. He glanced at his watch. It was ten minutes past two. Under
ordinary circumstances the journey was a non-stop one, the mails
being dropped or taken up by means of nets while the train was in
motion.

Curiosity prompted Terence to open the window and look out. It was a
pitch dark night. Rain was falling in a steady drizzle. The lamps in
the carriages had been screened by drawing the blinds, as a
precaution against hostile air-raids, but in many cases the
passengers had rushed to the windows. Thus the glare of the lamps
showed the lieutenant that the train had come to a standstill in a
rocky cutting.

"Rotten night," commented Aubyn to himself.

He looked along the line. The signals were not set at danger, for a
hundred yards ahead of the engine a bright green light gleamed
through the mirk.

"What's up, guard?" asked Terence, as that official, followed by two
or three passengers, walked briskly along the permanent way. Already
he had gone to the front part of the train to confer with the driver,
and was now on his way back.

"Man killed or something," replied the guard vaguely. "A soldier
stopped the train--one of them chaps guarding the tunnel. You're not
a doctor, by any chance, sir? We had half a dozen ships' doctors in
the train last night."

"I am not," replied Terence. "But I'll go with you, in case I can be
of any use."

Buttoning his great-coat up to his chin and pulling the peak of his
cap well over his eyes, the lieutenant descended and joined the
little band of volunteer helpers.

The rear end of the train was only just clear of the tunnel, so
promptly had the driver brought the engine to a standstill. Lying by
the side of the rail was a motionless figure in khaki, while standing
by him and still grasping his rifle and bayonet was another soldier.

"No doctor, my man," declared the guard. "I've inquired of every
carriage. How did it happen? We didn't run over your mate, did we?"

"No," replied the Tommy, an elderly National Reservist. He was
shaking like a leaf. "No, it was that goods train. Cut his foot off
as clean as a bloomin' whistle. But that ain't the point. Poor old
Bill was put across the metals, only the bloke didn't do the job
properly."

"What?" exclaimed the guard incredulously.

"Truth--honest truth--an' my eyesight ain't at fault, even though
it's a beastly dark night. Bill was standin' easy over there. I was
about here. S'elp me, as true as I'm a-standin' here, I saw a bloke
spring upon my chum and push him across the line. Afore I could up
with my rifle the train comes tearing along. When it had gone it was
too late. The bloke had done a bunk. And," he added reminiscently,
"Bill was a right good sort. Never had a grudge against nobody, so it
licks me why the fellow wanted to out him."

Meanwhile, Terence had been paying attention to the unfortunate
sentry. The man was dead. His left foot had been severed at the
ankle. That in itself would hardly be sufficient to cause death.

"Turn your light this way, guard," said Aubyn, as he began to
unbuckle the man's ammunition pouches and to unbutton his coat. A
thin streak of blood upon the victim's shirt told its own tale. He
had been shot--evidently by a small yet powerful pistol at close
range, for the great-coat and buff straps were pitted with the grains
of powder.

"Did you hear a shot fired?" demanded Terence.

"No, sir," replied the Tommy. The suggestion of a shot being fired
aroused a new train of ideas in his mind. "No, sir; see, his rifle
hasn't been discharged."

"I mean, did you hear a shot being fired at him?"

The sentry shook his head.

"The man's been murdered by a pistol shot, right enough," declared
Terence. "Either the noise of the train deadened the report, or else
the murderer muffled the weapon in a cloth. The best thing you can
do, guard, is to take the poor fellow's body on to the next station."

"An my relief ain't due for another hour and a quarter!" gasped the
remaining sentry. He had been completely unnerved at the sight of his
chum being foully done to death.

"All right, my man," said Terence, "I'll stop with you. I suppose I
can get to Edinburgh by another train, guard?"

"Yes, sir," replied that official. "Next station's only a matter of
three or four miles. But you won't be lonely. There's half a dozen
troop trains on the up-line within the next three hours. I'll take
the corpse, sir, if these gents'll bear a hand. 'Tain't the first
poor chap that's been done in like this: not by a long way.
Good-night, sir, and good luck."

Presently the mail train resumed its journey. The sentry, nervously
fingering his rifle, seemed grateful to the young officer, but at the
same time he regarded him with a certain amount of suspicion. Perhaps
his naval uniform was a disguise. He might be an accomplice of the
man who had murdered his chum. Troop trains? That started a fresh
chain of surmises. This dastardly act might be that of a spy, intent
upon damaging the tunnel and wrecking the crowded trains.

"Look here, my man," said the lieutenant, "are you game to going and
standing where your chum was posted?"

"What for, sir?" asked the soldier, with obvious reluctance at the
suggestion.

"Oh, never mind. I'll go. You remain here. If you see or hear
anything suspicious, don't hesitate--shoot. You're a fairly good
shot, I hope?"

"Don't know about that, sir; I feel all of a tremble."

"Then fire anywhere, as long as you don't wing me. I want you to prop
yourself between these two rocks and keep as quiet as you possibly
can. Don't let yourself be seen. I'll take your chum's rifle. If you
hear me fire, hop across the line as sharp as you can, with your
bayonet at the charge. Buck up, man, and keep your nerves."

Having seen the sentry take up the position indicated--in a niche
formed by two large boulders in the side of the cutting--Terence
secured the rifle and bayonet of the dead man. The rifle was a
magazineless '303, with Martini action, similar to those issued to
troops engaged in home defence.

Donning the pouches of the unfortunate sentry, the lieutenant took
out a cartridge, inserted it into the breech and closed the
breech-block. Then, having ascertained by touch that the back-sight
was down, he crossed the line and commenced to walk the murdered
sentry's beat.

In the darkness his naval cap and great-coat were not to be
distinguished from those of the man he was impersonating. He felt
certain that should the crime have been committed by a German agent,
the reason was the destruction of the tunnel. When the mail train
stopped, the miscreant would certainly betake himself to a safe
distance; but with his work uncompleted, he would almost certainly
return. He had marked the time when the two sentries were posted he
knew when their reliefs were expected. Before that time he must
render the second sentry incapable of raising an alarm and then
proceed with the blocking of the line.

In his operations the spy had made one serious blunder. He had shot
the sentry, as had been surmised, and had thrown his body on the line
in front of the goods train, so that it would be taken for granted
that the luckless man had been knocked down while incautiously
walking his beat. But instead of the train mangling the victim's body
and thus destroying all traces of the fatal shot, the wheels had only
severed one of the unfortunate man's feet.

For half an hour Terence maintained his sentry-go. The rain was now
falling heavily. His great-coat felt as weighty as lead. The moisture
dropped from the peak of his cap and filled the palm of his left hand
as he held the butt of his rifle.

The sub.'s nerves were in splendid condition. The hand that held the
rifle was as steady as a rock. With eyes and ears strained he paced
to and fro, prepared at the least sound to face about, bring his
rifle to the ready and fire.

From a strategic point of view his position was an unsound one. By
the remaining sentry's description the miscreant must have retired
from the scene of action not by running into the tunnel but by
scaling the fairly accessible wall of rock. Consequently the
anticipated attack would be from that direction, and Terence was
liable to be fired at from a height of from ten to fifty feet above
his head.

Presently a dull but increasing rumble greeted his ears. It was a
local down-train, which had just entered the far end of the tunnel.
Instead of grounding the butt of his rifle and facing the line, as he
had seen other sentries do, the lieutenant marched to the mouth of
the tunnel; then, leaning his shoulder hard against the massive stone
buttress, waited for the train to pass.

A vivid flame spurted from the opposite side of the cutting, followed
practically simultaneously by a sharp report that outvoiced the roar
of the train. The sentry, without waiting to challenge, had "let
rip."

Bringing his rifle to the ready, Terence waited. He had not long to
wait. Silhouetted against the gloomy rain-laden sky--for by this time
Terence's eyes were used to the darkness--appeared the head, arms and
shoulders of a man. In his right hand he held an automatic pistol,
and was now blazing away indiscriminately, judging by the splash of
flame that stabbed the night in varying directions. He seemed to be
leaning over a rock in the side of the cutting with the intention,
now that he had been fired upon, to get at close quarters with the
sentry.

Bringing his rifle to his shoulder Terence aimed low and pressed the
trigger. The fellow gave no convulsive spring; he merely toppled over
and fell on the permanent way just as the train emerged, with a rush
and a roar and a dense cloud of steam, from the tunnel.

Jerking the lever of his breech-block, the lieutenant inserted a
fresh cartridge. He still kept close to the buttress, even after the
train had passed. Experience had taught him the necessity for caution
in dealing with a wily foe. Not that he feared anything from the man
who had been shot. His headlong tumble down the almost precipitous
side of the cutting was too realistic for a person shamming death.

The soldier, emerging from his shelter, began to cross the line.
Before he was half-way across, another shot rang out from the top of
the cutting. The Tommy collapsed in a heap.

Terence let him lie. His whole attention was centred upon the spot
from whence the last bullet had sped. With his rifle ready to be
lifted to his shoulder, Aubyn waited like a hunter stalking his prey.

He knew that he would not have to wait long. A desperate attempt was
being made to destroy the tunnel--an attempt in which the lives of
two or more men mattered but little provided success attended the
miscreants' efforts. The firer of the last shot, he reasoned,
imagined that with the murder of the first sentry, he had only one
man to deal with, and now he was lying motionless on the ballast.
Thinking that "the coast was clear" the desperado would presently
show himself.

A hunched-up shape appeared at the top of the embankment. Some one
was descending with his face towards the rock. He was progressing
slowly and cautiously, making certain that he had obtained a firm
foothold before he groped for a lower one. Every now and then he
would turn his head and look towards the doubled-up body of the
sentry, till, satisfied that there was no danger in that direction,
he gave his whole attention to his descent.

Levelling his rifle, Terence took deliberate aim. He had no qualms in
so doing. The fellow was a murderer and train-wrecker, and
undoubtedly an agent of the German Government. The lieutenant was
alone and unsupported. If he should be "done in" there would be no
further obstacle between the miscreant and the success of his
diabolical scheme. Besides, there might be more than two men engaged
in the enterprise, which, if it matured, might mean the death of
perhaps hundreds of human beings.

Terence aimed fairly in the centre of the climber's back. It afforded
the best target in the darkness.

With no more compunction than if he were shooting a rat, the
lieutenant pressed the trigger.

The report of the rifle was outvoiced by a loud detonation,
accompanied by a vivid flash. For one moment Terence stood stock
still, his eyes temporarily blinded by the sudden glare. Then he
realized that his cap had gone. His face was wet, not with the chilly
rain but with a warm moisture. Something had struck him on the cheek,
inflicting a small cut from which the blood flowed freely.

"A pretty rumpus!" he soliloquized. "The rotter has plugged me--no,
it can't be that. It's only a slight gash. I wonder if he hurled a
bomb."

"Blowed to atoms, sir; that's what's happened to him--the blighter!"
exclaimed a voice that seemed to come from the ground.

"I thought you were a dead man, by Jove!" exclaimed Terence bluntly,
as he recognized the sentry by his voice.

"Not yet, sir," replied the man. "He put a bullet through my
leg--just above the knee. It don't hurt much, but it kippered me, so
I thought I'd lie low and see what happened. I'd a cartridge ready,
though, in case of an accident."

"We ought to stop the next train," said Terence, as he stooped to
recover his cap. "The rail might be damaged. I think that fellow had
a few detonators on him, and my shot did the trick. How did you stop
the train I was in?"

"Had a lantern, sir. It's somewhere along the line. But our chaps
must have heard the racket, an the sergeant'll be coming along in
half a tick."

"Wind the wrong way," declared Terence laconically. "I'll bandage
that leg of yours and then I'll get the lantern."

The miscreant's bullet--from a small calibre high velocity
pistol--had passed completely through the soldier's leg, fortunately
without severing any arteries. Having attended to the wound and
bidden the man sit down by the side of the bank, Aubyn set out on his
search.

It was a fruitless quest. Other means had to be found to bring the
troop train to a standstill.

"There's a signal a couple of hundred yards down the line, sir,"
announced the sentry. "It's worked from a box a long way off. Maybe,
sir, you can climb up and tie this red handkerchief of mine over the
green light."

Terence took the handkerchief. He knew that the plan was a useless
one, since the result would be a semi-opaque gleam, as the red would
neutralize the green. But the red cloth might come in handy. The
matter was urgent, for the train was about due.

As he passed along the up-line his progress was checked by an
enormous boulder that, dislodged by the explosion, had fallen on the
permanent way and across one of the metals. Its weight was far beyond
his strength to move.

Skirting the obstruction the lieutenant broke into a run, keeping up
a hot pace till he reached the foot of the signal post. Already the
red disc had changed to green, showing that, to the signalman's
belief, the line was clear.

Terence knew that if the operating rod could be severed the signal
arm would, by reason of a weighted lever, rise to the "stop"
position. He tugged savagely at it, but without success. A spanner
might have saved the situation, but he was without such an article.

Suddenly an idea flashed through his mind. Ascending the swaying
ladder, he gained the platform just below the arm. Here he could
reach the discs with comparative ease.

"Wind's right direction," he muttered. "Can't blow the light out
very well, so here goes."

Unlacing and pulling off his boot, Terence made a determined
onslaught upon the thick green glass. It stoutly resisted several
blows, cracking at the sixth and shivering out of its frame at the
two next. As the lieutenant had foreseen the now open space was away
from the wind, and beyond a slight unsteadiness the lamp burned well.

Knotting the red handkerchief across the open disc, Terence descended
to take a more remote view of his handiwork. The red light shone
sufficiently bright to be observed at a considerable distance, but as
a matter of precaution he held his rifle ready to fire into the air
to attract the attention of the driver of the on-coming troop train.

"Here she comes," exclaimed Terence, as a dull rumble could be heard
in the distance. Presently a cloud of flame-tinged smoke announced
that the engine had rounded the curve.

Terence raised his rifle, but there was no need to fire. With a loud
grinding of brakes, accompanied by showers of sparks, the train drew
up, the engine coming to a standstill within eighty yards of the
signal post.

"What's up now, mate?" demanded the engine-driver, as, leaning over
the side of the "cab" he saw what he imagined to be one of the
soldiers whom he knew to be stationed on either side of the tunnel.

"Line blocked," replied Terence. "And what's more, two men killed
and another injured."

Leaving the driver to act for himself, Terence passed along the row
of stationary carriages, filled with troops, who, for the most part,
were singing uproariously. A few were looking out of the windows, but
the pulling up of the train had aroused but little curiosity. They
were already too used to being held up on sidings, even in the course
of a comparatively short journey.

At the first first-class carriage he came to, Terence clambered on to
the foot-board and opened the door. Within were a couple of majors, a
captain and a lieutenant enjoying a hand of cards. Briefly Aubyn told
them of what had occurred, and suggested that an investigation should
be made of the victims while the line was being cleared.

"Good idea, by Jove!" exclaimed the senior field-officer.

Alighting, he blew a whistle. The uproar ceased as if by magic, and
the men began to descend from the train. For the most part they
imagined that a Zeppelin had been sighted. They treated the
possibility almost with indifference, but their interest was quickly
excited when they learned that an attempt had been made to derail or
blow up the train.

Accompanied by several of the officers, and escorted by the driver
and the guard of the train and a score of soldiers, Terence led the
way. The obstruction had, fortunately, not fractured either the rail
or the chairs. By the aid of plenty of willing helpers, the rock was
levered back into a shallow ditch at the foot of the cutting. Then
there was just room for the train to pass, for the stone was nearly
ten feet in circumference.

"Here's the sentry," announced Terence, indicating the wounded
soldier.

A number of men carried the luckless Tommy into one of the carriages,
where he was promptly attended to by a captain of the R.A.M.C., while
it was decided to detail two of the men from the troop train to mount
guard until the proper reliefs arrived. Meanwhile, the wounded man
could be taken to the nearest station, close to which was a hospital
where he could be well looked after.

By this time there was light in plenty. Terence had no idea that a
train carried so many lamps.

The next task was to look for the bodies of the two miscreants. That
of the first was discovered in a ditch. He had been shot through the
forehead and through the body, either wound being sufficient to cause
death.

The explanation was simple: one of the wounds had been caused by the
bullet from the sentry's rifle. The victim in his death agonies had
convulsively gripped the trigger of his automatic pistol, and thus
had caused the fusillade Terence had seen and heard. When he fired,
the lieutenant's bullet had also struck the fellow, but by that time
he was already a corpse.

A further search revealed a considerable cavity blown into the side
of the embankment. The rocks around were scorched by the heat of the
explosion, which had horribly mangled the corpse of the second
conspirator, although strangely enough his features were hardly
injured.

A light was flashed upon his face. Terence recognized it instantly.
It was that of Major von Eckenhardt, master-spy and desperate
plotter.

The rascal had met with his deserts. After his escape from Edinburgh
Castle he had, according to his usual practice, laid low for a time.
Then, owing to the adroit manner in which the authorities had made
use of his secret wireless installation, the German Admiralty found
itself landed into a very awkward situation on more than one
occasion. It was not until von Eckenhardt contrived to send a secret
message to his employers, explaining the reason for his failure, that
the German authorities realized that they had been tricked. In reply
came a message savouring of a reprimand. Von Eckenhardt ought, it
said, to have taken greater precautions to prevent such
eventualities. Finally the message hinted pretty broadly that an act
of signal service to the Fatherland would alone atone for the
blunders that the spy had made.

Von Eckenhardt was desperate. He knew that the German Secret Service
had no mercy for its servants who had failed. Indeed, he wondered why
he had been given another chance. By the implied tone of the
communication he realized that he had to undertake a "forlorn hope."
If successful, then, perhaps, he might be reinstated into favour;
otherwise it would be preferable to die rather than face the penalty
for failure.

Hitherto, he had been more or less a director of the spy system. With
the exception, perhaps, of the part he played in attempting to wreck
the "Saraband," he had kept aloof from the actual espionage work.
Now, he decided he must employ his energies in a direct attack upon
the resources of the British Empire.

The news of forthcoming movements on a large scale of troops from the
North of England and Salisbury Plain suggested the great possibility
of a striking example of German "frightfulness." He knew that the
bridges and tunnels would be slenderly guarded, for the precautions
adopted by the British Government at the commencement of hostilities
had slackened.

Accordingly, accompanied by an accomplice who had acted the part of
servant at Tuilabrail Hall, he motored to a town within a few miles
of the tunnel he had selected for his nefarious designs. It was a
simple matter to bluff the proprietor of their hotel, while to excuse
their late hours, von Eckenhardt resolved to send a wire from a place
twenty miles distant, announcing the breakdown of the car. Then,
returning to within half a mile of the tunnel, the two miscreants
left the car in a field and walked stealthily towards the scene of
their proposed operations.

"Time I was out of this," thought Terence. He had no desire to be
dragged into a long-winded coroner's inquest and the subsequent
official inquiries. His evidence would not alter matters in the
faintest degree. Von Eckenhardt would be identified without his help,
and publicity he shrank from.

No one attempted to question the lieutenant as to his name. In the
excitement such a procedure never entered the heads of the military
authorities. So, without attracting the least attention, Terence
walked quietly away, scaled the embankment, crossed a couple of
ploughed fields and struck a roadway.

It was growing light as he entered the town. At a drinking fountain
he washed the dried blood from his face, and having brushed the mud
from his uniform, made his way to the railway station.

Here, exciting little attention, he obtained a ticket to York; had
breakfast at the station, and boarded the next express to Edinburgh.
For the time being, at least, he had evaded the consequences of
having performed another duty for King and country.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE "STRONGBOW'S" PRIZE.


BEFORE eight on the following morning Terence rejoined the
"Strongbow." The heartiness of his welcome almost banished the sense
of disappointment he felt at having to serve on patrol duty instead
of in a sphere of belligerent activity.

Captain Ripponden honoured him by requesting his company at
breakfast; Commander Ramshaw was enthusiastic at seeing his former
fourth officer again; even the somewhat taciturn Lymore smiled grimly
as he shook Aubyn's hand; while Chief-Engineer McBride delivered such
a welcome in the broadest Scotch that he was seized with a fit of
violent coughing that did not subside till he rushed to his cabin and
drained a stiff glass of "Hie'land Dew."

Kenneth Raeburn, who happened to be on watch in the engine-room on
Terence's arrival, quickly sought out his chum as soon as he was off
duty.

"I hear you've been having a high old time," he exclaimed
boisterously. "You always were a lucky chap, old man. Let's hear all
about it."

"I'll begin stern-foremost," began Terence, and to Raeburn's
astonishment he related the circumstances that culminated in the
death of Karl von Eckenhardt.

"By Jove, old man, you'll be lionized over this business!--saving a
troop train and settling that bounder."

"I think not," rejoined Terence. "Fact is, I slipped away while they
were all busy with the investigations. Didn't want to be detained
over a rotten inquest. Don't believe in them myself."

"Neither do I," asserted Raeburn. "I had to attend one once, and the
whole thing struck me as an utter farce, beginning with the false
evidence of the village bobby and finishing up with the doctor's
report. I know for a fact that when he examined the body he was as
drunk as a fiddler. But is there anything in the papers?"

"Can't tell," replied Terence. "The bumboat hasn't come alongside
yet. Anyway, I don't want you to say a word to anybody about the
business; I want to be afloat. Any idea of the programme?"

"Same old game," said Kenneth, with a grin. "Between the south of
Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Hullo, here's the bumboat! Now for a
paper."

The "Strongbow" was lying about a mile from the West Pier of the port
of Leith in company with half a dozen Admiralty craft of various
sizes. Communication with the shore was maintained by means of
frequent picquet boats, while tradesmen were allowed to supply
luxuries to the ships by means of sailing craft known from time
immemorial as bumboats.

Terence showed no hurry in securing his copy of the paper, but his
interest was none the less acute. Having received one he retired to
the seclusion of the deserted smoking-room and opened the damp
sheets.

Quickly he scanned the news columns. Nothing escaped him, but there
was no mention of the attempted outrage on the troop train. For good
reasons, mainly to avoid creating any alarm on the part of the public
and partly to conceal the fact from the German authorities that their
master-spy had paid the penalty for his activities, the news had been
completely suppressed by the Censor, although already eight-hundred
soldiers were spreading the report amongst their comrades on
Salisbury Plain.

Terence gave vent to a chuckle of satisfaction. Nevertheless, he kept
an anxious eye on the boats putting off to the ship, in case one of
them contained a messenger bearing a demand for the lieutenant to
report himself to the civil authorities. Nor did his uneasiness
subside until the "Strongbow" weighed and proceeded towards her
station.

For weeks she cruised, save for the short visits she was compelled to
pay when requiring coal and provisions. Yet nothing occurred to mar
the uneventfulness of that lone patrol.

The principal topic on board was now the question of the Dardanelles
operations, of which reports were received by wireless.

Amongst the officers there were two distinct parties in the matter of
opinion. One, headed by Commander Ramshaw, expressed the belief in
the success of the attempt to force the supposedly impregnable
waterway. The other, though smaller, was represented by Lieutenant
Lymore, who pessimistically regarded the operations as hopeless.

"It's not the Turkish guns," he declared. "It's that rotten current
setting down from the Marmora. I've been there, and I know what it's
like. The Turks will be chucking cartloads of mines overboard, and
there'll be no end of a mess up."

The very next morning came the news of the totally unexpected
appearance of the Super-Dreadnought "Queen Elizabeth." Ramshaw was so
elated that he upset a cup of coffee over the ward-room tablecloth,
and cheerfully paid up the sixpence demanded by McQuid, the assistant
paymaster, who in his capacity of member of the Mess Committee was as
sharp as needles in mulcting a delinquent.

"That's the way," declared the commander. "Taking those forts in the
rear. They'll be through within a week."

A week passed, and still no news of the successful forcing of the
Dardanelles. Then came the disquieting tidings of the sinking of the
"Ocean," "Irresistible," and "Bouvet" and the disablement of the
"Gaulois."

"Just what I said!" declared Lymore. "It's those beastly mines. Now,
if I had a prominent voice----"

"You have, old man!" exclaimed the assistant paymaster.

Lymore glared at the interrupter.

"I'd chuck the idea of pushing up through the Narrows."

"A pretty figure you'd cut," remarked McBride. "There's nae true
Briton wha'd back down once he's taken on the wurrk."

"I didn't mean that, my dear sir," continued the lieutenant. "I'd
devote my energies in another direction. There's the Peninsula of
Saros, about five miles in width and about eighty feet in height."

"Well?" inquired the assistant paymaster.

"I'd land a strong force under cover of the warship guns, whip
together a regular army of navvies and all the steam navvies I could
lay my hands on. In six weeks, and at a cost of less than that of the
battleships we've already lost, there would be a canal twelve feet in
depth from the Gulf of Saros to the Sea of Marmora. And, remember,
both seas are practically tideless."

"Sounds feasible, laddie," remarked McBride.

"And then it would be a simple matter to send out the monitors. With
their draught of seven feet they could easily pass through, as well
as our earlier type of destroyers. Without paying the faintest
attention to the Dardanelles forts the monitors could strike hard at
Constantinople."

"Lymore, you ought to be on the Board of Admiralty," said Commander
Ramshaw gravely.

"Instead of which I'm only a Reserve officer on the armed merchantman
'Strongbow'," added Lymore, with a grim smile.

At that moment came a knock at the wardroom door, and a messenger
announced that an accident had occurred in the engine-room.

McBride was on his feet in an instant. The thought of anything
happening to his beloved engines acted like a red rag to a bull.

All the executive officers not actually on duty gathered round the
engine-room hatchway, from which clouds of steam were issuing. It was
as far as they dared go towards setting foot in McBride's domain.

After ten minutes' wait, two stokers were sent on deck, both
suffering from severe scalds. These were followed by Kenneth Raeburn,
whose right arm was swathed in cotton waste soaked with oil.

"Rotten luck, old man!" he exclaimed, with forced cheerfulness, as he
caught sight of his chum, Terence. "It's not much as far as I am
concerned; merely a slight burn."

Aubyn could see by the expression upon the assistant engineer's
features that he was suffering acutely. He did not know at the time
that in addition to being severely scalded by the bursting of a steam
pipe, Raeburn's wrist had been broken in a gallant attempt to rescue
the two stokers as they lay, overcome by the hot steam, upon the
floor of the stokehold.

Terence accompanied his chum to the sick-bay, where the surgeon
quickly made the discovery that the plucky officer had sustained
injuries that would probably necessitate his being invalided out of
the Service.

Kenneth read the doctor's fears as clearly as if he had been bluntly
told the truth.

"Hard lines," he exclaimed. "Looks as if I'm to be chucked out of
the old 'Strongbow'."

"Only for a time, I hope," rejoined the surgeon. "Now, keep as steady
as you can. I may hurt you a bit."

Aubyn watched his chum's face as he proceeded to dress the doubly
injured limb. Beads of perspiration stood out on the young assistant
engineer's face, but not a sound escaped from his lips, but before
the dressing was completed Kenneth fainted.

"He's real pluck," declared the surgeon. "I dare not give him an
anaesthetic, and the fracture of the wrist, complicated by the burns,
made it a fearfully painful business for him. It's as well he's
unconscious."

"Will he be invalided?" asked Aubyn.

"I'm afraid so," replied the medico. "The effect of the burn upon
the tendons will probably result in a permanent weakening of the
muscular action of the hand. I may be wrong--I hope so; but time
alone will tell."

For the next week Raeburn was confined to the sick-bay. At the end of
that time he was able to get on deck, with his bandaged arm in a
sling. The doctor suggested to Captain Ripponden the desirability of
landing the patient at the first opportunity, and the captain
concurred.

Two days later a sail was reported. Of late the "Strongbow" had not
fallen in with any craft, either British or neutral, and the news was
hailed with mild excitement. Anything to relieve the monotony of the
daily routine was welcome.

As soon as the stranger sighted the British merchant-cruiser he
turned tail and steamed as hard as he could. A thrill of expectancy
took possession of the "Strongbow's" crew. They were out to chase
something, and the mere fact that the unknown vessel had shown her
heels went to prove that she was a of suspicious character.

Calling every ounce of steam, Captain Ripponden stood in pursuit. It
was the first time in her existence as an armed merchant-cruiser that
the "Strongbow" was called upon to engage in a chase. Hitherto every
craft she had subjected to examination had submitted passively. Now
she was having a run for her money. Her hull quivered under the rapid
pulsations of her powerful engines. The grey paint on her funnel
casings blistered and peeled in large flakes, while for miles astern
the thick cloud of smoke gave some indication of the activities of
the "black squad" as they piled shovelful after shovelful of coal
into the furnaces.

Half an hour's chase showed that the "Strongbow" was overhauling her
quarry. Twenty minutes later the merchant-cruiser dropped a plugged
shell a hundred yards abeam of the fugitive. Even this was not
sufficient to impress upon the stranger that the game was up, and it
was not until the "Strongbow" planted another shot within fifty feet
of the unknown vessel that she slowed down and hoisted Norwegian
colours.

The craft proved to be the "Roldal," a passenger and cargo steamer,
of Bergen; but the fact that she had attempted to escape was in
itself significant.

"Boarding-party away."

Into the boat tumbled fifteen bluejackets. In command was Lieutenant
Terence Aubyn.

"I protest against the outrage," exclaimed the Norwegian captain in
good English, as the boat ran alongside the "Roldal," which was now
hove-to within two cables' lengths of her successful pursuer. "This
is a neutral ship."

"And carries twenty passengers--citizens of the Republic of the
United States of America, sonny," added a man standing by the
gangway, whose "twang" would in itself be a sufficient indication of
his nationality.

"Sorry, captain," replied Terence, "but my duty compels me to board
you."

"Then a curse upon your duty!" retorted the captain. "Your
Government will regret this outrage."

"If you will kindly allow me to come on board," remarked the
lieutenant courteously, according to his instructions, although he
felt he would have given a month's pay to have spoken his mind,
"I'll go through the formality of examining your papers, and if they
are in order you will not be detained more than a few minutes."

After intentional delay a tarry rope-ladder was lowered. Terence
could have insisted upon having the accommodation-ladder let down,
but instead he swarmed up the swaying perpendicular means of access,
and followed by six of his men gained the "Roldal's" deck.

Ignoring the studied rudeness of the passengers, one of whom loudly
protested against the "darned interference of cocksure Britishers!"
Terence requested the captain to produce the ship's papers.

Grudgingly these documents were handed over. The "Roldal" was a
Norwegian-owned vessel, bound from Boston, U.S.A., to Bergen. Her
passenger list showed that there were nineteen American subjects and
four Norwegian. Her cargo consisted of wheat and iron ware.

Glancing down the passenger list Terence saw the name "Octavius P.
Rand, of Norfolk, Virginia." Going to the door of the cabin he
requested the owner of the name to step forward.

There were looks of blank astonishment on the faces of eighteen of
the American citizens. The nineteenth, the fellow who had protested
so emphatically, began nudging a round-faced man in the group.

"You are Octavius P. Rand?" inquired the lieutenant, and receiving an
affirmative reply, conveyed by means of a decided inclination of the
head, he asked the man a few questions of various places in
Norfolk--a town with which Terence happened to be fairly well
acquainted. It was quickly apparent that the so-called Octavius had
never set foot in that part of Virginia. By his Teutonic accent he
was either a German or a German-American.

Of the others not one could speak English properly. They were
eighteen Germans, domiciled in the United States, but on the way to
the Fatherland to join the reserves. The nineteenth was a Yankee
agent for a munition business in Hamburg.

A peculiar buzzing from the wireless-room of the "Roldal" told
Terence that the operators were at work. Ordering two armed seamen to
follow him, the lieutenant peremptorily told the wireless men to
cease operations, and having placed sentries outside the door, he
returned to his work of examination.

The Bills of Lading, Manifest, and Charter Party were palpable
forgeries, while a survey of the hold showed that a quantity of the
"iron ware" was copper ingots.

"You must consider your ship under arrest," declared Terence to the
still aggressive skipper.

Without a word the captain flung himself into his cabin. He did not
mind the ship being taken as a prize. His liberty would not be
affected, since he was a Norwegian subject, while a substantial sum
of money had already been paid to him by his employers, and the money
had been sent by mailboat to his home. He had no interests at stake,
but he was determined not to render his captors the slightest
assistance in navigating the ship.

Leaving a strong armed party on board the prize, Terence returned to
the "Strongbow" and made his report. On the strength of this Captain
Ripponden had no hesitation in taking possession of the ship. A
wireless was sent to the Admiral of the Armed Merchant Fleet
announcing the capture, and proposing that the "Strongbow" should
escort the "Roldal" into Cromarty Firth.

Promptly came the reply: "'Strongbow' not to escort prize. Send
'Roldal' into Cromarty Firth with a prize crew."

"Very good," commented Captain Ripponden when the message was
delivered. "Mr. Aubyn, you will please take command of the prize,
and upon arrival at Dingwall hand her over to the authorities for
disposal. Then bring your men on to Leith. We will be putting in
there for coal on the 26th, and you can rejoin the ship on that
date."

The lieutenant saluted, and turned to go to his cabin and make brief
but urgent preparations for his independent command.

"One moment, Mr. Aubyn."

Terence saluted and awaited the captain's pleasure.

"You may as well take Mr. Raeburn with you," continued Captain
Ripponden. "Dr. Hardiman seems to think that the sooner he is ashore
and able to obtain hospital treatment the better. Now, carry on, and
good luck to you."

Ten minutes later Terence and Kenneth were ready to proceed to the
prize. The assistant engineer, in spite of the fact that his right
arm was still crippled and showed no immediate prospects of healing,
was in the best of spirits and, unassisted, gained the stern-sheets
of the boat amid a fire of farewell greetings from his
brother-officers.

"Give way!" ordered Terence.

The men bent to their supple ash oars with a will, while the
lieutenant steered towards the prize.

"What's up, old man?" he asked, suddenly noticing a perplexed look on
Raeburn's face.

"Left my best pipe behind," was the dejected reply. "No, don't put
back--'tis beastly unlucky."

He faced aft, then using his sound hand as a speaking trumpet he
shouted to another assistant engineer.

"I say, Smithers, I've left a presentation pipe in my cabin. You
might look to it, old man."

"Right-o!" was the reply. "I'll send it off as soon as we arrive at
Leith. You can rely upon getting it by Monday morning. So don't get
into a tear."

"If I don't, look out for squalls," retorted Kenneth.

Smithers shouted something in reply that was evidently intended to be
facetious, but by this time the distance between the "Strongbow" and
the receding boat was too great for the words to be understood.

"I'll never forgive old Hardiman for having me sent ashore," declared
Raeburn. "It isn't as if I were properly crocked. I could do a trick
in the engine-room even with a damaged hand. It's hard lines on
Smithers and the others: they'll have to put in extra time."

Terence did not reply. He knew that it would be a long time--perhaps
never--before Kenneth Raeburn would be on duty in the engine-room of
a British warship, or even on a merchantman.

By the time the boat came alongside the "Roldal" those of the
"Strongbow's" crew who had been left on board the prize had cleared
away and lowered the accommodation-ladder. The Norwegians had stood
sullenly aside, not a man stirring a finger to help. The skipper had
made up his mind to adopt an attitude of passive resistance, and his
crew took their cue from him.

As soon as the rest of the prize crew boarded the ship and their
scanty gear and provisions hoisted up, the boat returned to the
"Strongbow."

From the yard-arm of the latter a string of bunting fluttered in the
breeze. It was the signal to part company. Then gathering way the
armed merchantman circled to port, and steamed in a westerly
direction.

Left to himself Terence proceeded to take the necessary steps for the
safeguarding of his charge. The Norwegian crew were ordered to keep
for'ard; the officers were allowed the run of the deck aft, while the
passengers, with the exception of the American, were placed under
arrest as German subjects capable of bearing arms.

Since the ship's officers bluntly refused to take any part in
navigating the ship, Terence had a bed prepared in the chart-room. He
knew that it meant forty-eight hours' duty.

He was short-handed. With sentries posted at the wireless-room, the
fo'c'sle, and over the prisoners, the number of men at his disposal
was far too small. He could not compel the engine-room staff to work;
so some of his own men were sent to the stokehold and engine-room
under the charge of an experienced engine-room artificer. Yet in
spite of the willingness of the volunteer stokers, it was impossible
to keep a full head of steam. Eleven knots was the maximum speed that
could, under these circumstances, be screwed out of the captured
"Roldal."

Before night the wind freshened. By six bells in the middle watch it
was blowing a gale from the east'ard. The "Roldal" made bad weather
of it. Broadside on to the direction of the wind she rolled like a
barrel, shipping green seas amidships.

Clad in oilskins Terence remained on the bridge throughout the
terrible night. He mentally condemned the fate that put him in charge
of a cranky tramp-steamer, when he might be sleeping soundly on board
the weatherly "Strongbow." Hour after hour he stood gripping the rail
of the erratically swaying bridge and peering through the welter of
broken water and pitch-dark sky. For the first time in his nautical
existence he realized the responsibility of being in sole charge of a
ship and of the lives of men.

Before it was dawn a hideous clamour, distinctly audible above the
howling of the gale, came from somewhere for'ard. Terence strained
his ears to try to detect by the nature of the sound what had gone
adrift. It was the clanging of metal against metal.

Watching their opportunity during the slight interval when the broken
water receded from amidships, two of the prize crew dashed aft from
the fo'c'sle and sprang up the bridge-ladder.

"Starboard anchor broken adrift, sir," reported one. "It's hammering
against the bows for all it's worth."

Aubyn considered the problem for a few moments. To send some of the
scanty crew to work upon the exposed fo'c'sle to secure and re-cat
the recalcitrant anchor would be a difficult task even with
sufficient hands and in a moderate sea. Better by far unshackle the
cable and allow the anchor to go.

He gave the order. Between the pounding of the heavy mass of forged
steel, for the anchor weighed more than a ton, could be heard the
blows of the mauls as the two seamen knocked out the pin of the
shackle. Then, after the whirr of the chain through the hawse-pipe,
the noise ceased. Terence knew that the anchor had plunged to the
bottom of the Atlantic.

A babel of shouting came from the forepeak. The Norwegian seamen were
clambering to be let out. There was no need for Terence to ask why:
the damage was already done, for the "bills" of the anchor had
penetrated the hull below the water-line.

The sense of danger had overcome their resolution to remain passive.
They had attempted to plug the hole with hammocks, but the inrush of
water was too great. Already the forepeak was flooded to a depth of
three feet.

Shouting orders to the engine-room for the bilge and condenser pumps
to be brought into action, Terence bade the quartermaster turn the
ship head to wind. Even as the "Roldal" swung round, a terrific sea
slapped her quarter and wrenched away the rudder brackets. The strain
upon the insufficiently supported rudder resulted in the carrying
away of the sole means of steering, for being a single screw vessel
it was not possible to control her by means of the propeller.

Her only chance lay in forging ahead and trusting to luck that she
did not fall off and wallow in the trough of the mountainous seas.

Mechanically the quartermaster stood by the steam steering-gear.
Years of implicit trusting to a vessel to answer to her helm had left
such an impression upon the seaman that he could not realize that the
sole means of keeping the vessel on her course was denied him.

The "Roldal" was slowly turning to starboard. At one moment her stern
would be deep in the waves, at another it would be high in the air,
accompanied by a nerve-racking jar as the propeller, lifted from its
natural element, raced wildly. Then, _swish!_ A cascade of surging
green water would sweep across the deck and pour in a smother of
white foam to leeward.

Another appalling crash aft caused Terence to turn his head. To his
dismay he saw that one of the fore mainmast derricks, which had been
triced up and housed in a perpendicular position, had broken adrift.
Like a gigantic flail it swept from side to side, clearing rails and
deck-fittings as easily as if they were made of matchwood.

For a few seconds the heavy spars would bring up against the foremast
iron wire shrouds supporting the mainmast, then, with the roll of the
vessel, it would fly against the corresponding one on the other side,
making the stay sing like a gigantic harp-string. A few minutes of
that sort of game, Terence knew, would result in the carrying away of
the shrouds and the loss of the mainmast.

The lieutenant motioned to some of the men: his own crew and a few of
the Norwegians were sheltering under the lee of one of the intact
deck-houses. At all costs the erratic derrick must be secured.

The men obeyed the unspoken order, for it would be useless even to
shout in the midst of the tumult. Rigging a tackle they awaited an
opportunity to slip a stout strip over the end of the terrible flail.
Over came the spar, missing a man's head by a hair's-breadth. Two of
the Norwegians sought to secure the derrick during its temporary
inactivity, but an extra roll to leeward caused the spar to give an
irresistible lurch. The next instant the men were hurled into the
mountainous sea.

Nothing could be done to save them. To lower a boat would be a worse
than useless act. It would be simply throwing away human life in an
impossible attempt to save two already doomed men.

One of the unfortunate wretches was apparently stunned by the blow,
for he was never seen again; the other could be discerned for a brief
instant as he raised his arms in a mute despairing appeal for aid
that was not humanly possible; then he was lost to sight in the chaos
of the dark turmoil of broken water.

Dawn was just breaking as a sudden rush of steam through the
engine-room fidley, followed by the slowing down of the engines,
announced the disconcerting fact that the water had put out the
stokehold fires. Quickly losing way the "Roldal" rolled excessively,
helpless in the trough of the raging sea.

Hanging on to the rail like grim death the now thoroughly chastened
Norwegian skipper mounted the bridge. Terence offered no objection.
In the hour of danger little unpleasantnesses were lost sight of.
They were now human beings fighting against a common foe.

"Can you set canvas on her?" shouted Aubyn.

The Norwegian understood.

"Ay," he roared in reply. "I will see to that."

Calling half a dozen of the men the skipper, accompanied by the first
and second mates, made their way for'ard, not without imminent danger
of being washed overboard. From the partly flooded sail-locker a
storm staysail was produced. It had been rolled up for months,
perhaps for years. Its hanks were stiff with rust. It took ten
minutes' hard work to bend the canvas to the forestay; then slowly it
was sent up and sheeted home. Gradually the vessel's head began to
pay off. Under the pressure of the sail she would run before the
wind. It was her one chance. Scudding before the mountainous seas the
"Roldal" might keep afloat some hours longer, in which time she might
be sighted by another ship and her crew given a fighting chance of
being rescued.

Without warning came a sharp, whip-like crack. The clew cringle of
the sail had burst. With a series of terrific reports, like the bark
of a quick-firer, the rotten canvas flogged itself to ribbons. In two
minutes hardly a vestige of the staysail was to be seen.

Once again, helpless and in imminent danger of foundering, now that
the steam-pumps were useless, the ship rolled broadside on in the
trough of the waves. The motion was now decidedly sluggish, her
recovery slow. Another hour, or two at the very most, would see the
end unless something totally unforeseen occurred to baulk the sea of
its prey.

"Land ahead!"

Five miles to leeward appeared a chain of rugged cliffs, topped with
treeless ground that culminated in a gaunt peak. Here and there were
gaps of varying sizes, but whether these were inlets, or merely
patches of low-lying ground, invisible owing to the curvature of the
ocean, the lieutenant could not for the time being decide.

All this while, from the moment the Norwegian operator thought it
advisable to relinquish his attitude of passive resistance, the
wireless had been sending out calls for aid; but, although Terence
swept the horizon with his glasses, no smoke announced the approach
of a succouring steamer.

Presently a line of surf, as the tremendous seas hurled themselves
against the rock-bound coast, became visible. The "Roldal" was
evidently doomed either to founder or else be driven upon the bleak
and frowning cliffs.

Suddenly the quartermaster, forgetting disparity in rank in his
excitement, grasped Terence by the arm.

"Look, sir!" he exclaimed. "A submarine!"



CHAPTER XXV.

THE WRECK.


THE Norwegian skipper saw the twin periscopes almost at the same
time, as, owing to the "jump" of the submarine, they bobbed up and
down in the raging sea. At one moment they would be completely
submerged; at another the top of the conning-tower would appear above
the surface.

"German, eh?" asked the skipper, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Them everywhere; but I think they will not hurt us--we Norwegian
ship. They go to read name on our stern."

Terence did not reply. He gripped the rail and looked stedfastly in
the direction of the latest menace. It reminded him of that awful
period of suspense when the torpedo came speeding towards the
ill-fated "Terrier."

Perhaps, seeing the desperate plight of the "Roldal" the German
commander would not waste a precious torpedo. If he did, Terence
reasoned it would only hasten the seemingly inevitable end.

"By Jove, what a chance if we had a quick-firer!" exclaimed a voice
in his ear, and turning the lieutenant saw that Raeburn had emerged
from the chart-room, where he had been during all those hours of
danger.

"And if we had use of the helm we would settle her," added Aubyn.
"As it is----"

A glistening object cleaving through the waves caused him to break
off suddenly. The submarine, with a fiendish disregard of humanity's
laws, had let loose a torpedo.

It came straight towards the luckless "Roldal," at times jumping
clear of the terrific seas, at others cutting through the great waves
with a hiss of escaping air and a smother of foam from its double
propellers.

Fully expecting the missile to strike fairly amidships and
immediately under the bridge the three officers scurried to the
starboard side, Kenneth being assisted by his chum as he lurched
across the steeply shelving planks.

"Missed!" he shouted, as the wake of the receding torpedo caught his
eye. The weapon had, owing to an erratic roll of the ship, passed a
few inches beneath her keel and was now expending its store of
compressed air in a useless run.

"The lubbers! The lubbers!" exclaimed the Norwegian skipper, using a
term which he considered to be the last word of nautical malediction.
Whatever sympathies he had for the Teuton had now flown to the winds.
The torpedo from the recreant submarine had converted one more
biassed neutral into a staunch moral foe of kultur.

Chagrined by the failure, the German submarine did not discharge
another torpedo. Her periscopes disappeared, and although Aubyn kept
a vigilant lookout, he saw no more signs of her.

By this time the "Roldal" was badly down by the head. At intervals it
seemed as if she would not shake herself free of the tons of water
that poured over her decks. Her very sluggishness suggested to the
experienced seamen that there was very little life left in the
vessel.

"Release the prisoners, Saunders," ordered Terence, leaning over the
bridge rails and addressing a petty officer. "See that they are
served out with lifebelts."

"Ay, ay, sir," replied the man, as he hurried below, where eighteen
frenzied Germans were clamouring to be let out.

There was nothing more to be done to safeguard the lives of the crew.
The men, British and Norwegian, were steady and under perfect
control. All wore either life-belts or inflated swimming-collars,
although the possibility of gaining the shore seemed very remote in
view of the mountainous seas breaking against the sheer wall of
iron-bound cliff.

"Let me give you a hand, old man," said Terence, offering a life-belt
to Raeburn.

The assistant engineer shook his head.

"Thanks, I'm not having any," he replied. "I never was fond of icy
cold water, so the sooner it's over the better. Wonder what old
Smithers will do with my pipe? I wish I had it now."

"Try a cigarette," suggested Aubyn.

Kenneth took one from the proffered case, and, awaiting his
opportunity, made a dash for the lee side of the chart-house. In a
few seconds he was back again, with the cigarette between his teeth.
A shower of ice spray extinguished it, but seemingly unconscious of
the fact he puffed away at the unlighted cigarette.

One of the "Strongbow's" men ascended a few rungs of the ladder and
saluted. Terence beckoned him to come close.

"Beg pardon, sir," announced the seaman, "I know the coast. We're
drifting on to a bad part of the Shetlands. Yon island's Unst;
t'other is Fetlar, and beyond it, though it looks all one island, is
Yell. D'ye happen to know what time o' tide it is, sir?"

"High water at about seven o'clock at Lerwick," replied Terence.

"Then, sir, if we hit to the south'ard of Fetlar, God help us. It's
sure death; but if so be we get swept to the nor'ard of it, there's a
'swilkie'--that's what they call a race in these parts--that'll take
us into Dalsetter--unless we founder first," he added, as an
after-thought.

Anxiously Aubyn kept his telescope levelled on the north end of
Fetlar. By taking a bearing he was able to realize that the ship had
a perceptible northerly drift. If this movement were maintained it
might be possible to escape being cast upon the perpendicular cliffs,
otherwise all hopes of rescue must be abandoned.

In breathless suspense the crew watched their vessel bear down upon
the forbidding shore, till caught by the "swilkie" she was swept
clear of the dreaded cape. Yet so close had she shaved the land that
in fine weather it would have been possible to "toss a biscuit"
ashore.

Although the sea still ran high the force of the wind was lessened by
the slight shelter afforded by the island. Ahead lay the large island
of Yell, wherein could be distinguished the comparatively safe haven
that terminates at the village of Dalsetter.

"Look, sir," exclaimed the seaman, who at Terence's request had
remained on the bridge. "There are people ashore. They're signalling
to us to edge to starboard."

"Would if we could," muttered the lieutenant grimly. "By Jove,
they're sending out a couple of boats."

Such was the case. In spite of the mountainous seas, some of the
hardy Shetlanders had put off in two of the typically seaworthy craft
for which Lerwick and the fishing harbours of these islands are
justly celebrated.

Tack after tack they made. At times only the peaks of the closely
reefed dipping lugsails were visible. The rest of the boats were lost
to sight between the crests of the waves.

It was soon evident to the Shetland fishermen that they could do
nothing in the way of salvage, and having been able to ascertain that
the distressed vessel was not under control and incapable of
answering to her helm, they contented themselves by tacking to and
fro to wind'ard, waiting for the "Roldal" to make her final plunge.

Yet the Norwegian vessel showed no undue haste. She had reached a
certain stage when she retained just sufficient buoyancy to keep her
afloat. After all, it seemed as if she would ground rather than
founder.

"We can't fetch the creek, sir," declared the seaman. "We're setting
too much to the nor'ard. It's only a question of time, sir."

Almost as he spoke the "Roldal's" hull shuddered under a terrific
blow. Heeling to port, she swung almost broadside on to the waves;
with a crash her masts went by the board, the foremast buckling close
to the deck, and about ten feet of the main-mast remaining.

Two more heavy bumps she gave, then, settling on hard rock, merely
quivered as the seas broke over her.

"Hold on, men, for your lives!" shouted Terence. "The tide's ebbing.
We may be all right even yet."

The crew needed no caution in this respect. Hanging on desperately to
whatever came to hand they resisted the efforts of the breakers to
sweep them overboard and into the chaos of broken water between them
and the low cliffs.

The fishing-boats had gone. Brave as were their crews the hardy
Shetlanders knew that to venture anywhere in the vicinity of the
stranded vessel meant almost certain death without the slightest
chance to render any assistance.

Then, with surprising suddenness, the summit of the hitherto deserted
cliffs was teeming with people--men, women, and children. The
inhabitants of the little village had been waiting by the side of the
sheltered firth, fully expecting to see the disabled vessel crawl
into safety. But with the news that she had failed to weather the
headland they rushed to the cliffs, and, what was more, they brought
a rocket apparatus with them.

The first rocket, deflected by the wind, fell fifty feet from the
wreck. The second was fired immediately on the deck of the "Roldal."
Several of the seaman, at imminent risk of being swept overboard,
secured the light line and began to haul away.

In ten minutes a means of communication with the shore was
established. Beginning with the prisoners, the shipwrecked party were
hauled to land, one by one till only Raeburn and Terence were left,
for in spite of Aubyn's representations that the partly disabled
officer should be sent early in the course of the operations, Kenneth
stoutly refused to budge until all the passengers and crew were
saved.

"Now, then, old man," exclaimed Terence. Gently he assisted his chum
into the breeches-buoy, and, since the assistant engineer was
incapable of raising his right hand and arm, the lieutenant made him
additionally secure by lashing a rope round his shoulders and to the
slings of the buoy.

"'Fraid I'll get a ducking after all," remarked Kenneth, with mock
ruefulness. "Never mind, I'll get my pipe again."

Terence gave the signal. The strain on the hauling rope increased,
and Kenneth started on his semi-aerial, semi-submarine journey to the
cliffs of Yell.

Anxiously the lieutenant followed his chum's progress. He knew how
hard the tail of a wave can hit, and that Kenneth was in serious
danger of having his still unhealed arm broken again by even a fairly
light blow. White-crested waves were breaking right over the occupant
of the breeches-buoy, for he was now nearly half-way to the shore and
at the lowermost limit of the sagging rope. At times lifted by the
seas, he would be swung into an almost horizontal position. At others
he would be suspended in the air, with the water pouring from him
like a miniature cascade.

"He's making slow progress," thought Terence. Then he looked at the
endless travelling line. It was not running through the block.
Something had jammed and the men on the cliff were unable to haul the
breeches-buoy another foot.

Frantically Terence signalled for them to slack away. Putting every
ounce of strength into his effort he tugged at the line in the hope
of freeing it from the jammed block, but without avail.

"He'll be drowned, or he'll die of exposure," thought Terence, as he
desperately taxed his powers of resourcefulness to devise some means
of extricating his comrade from his dangerous position.

"There's only one thing to be done," he continued. "It's kill or
cure, so here goes."

Pulling out his pocket-knife, Terence made his way to the stump of
the mainmast, to which, ten feet above the deck, was bent the "tail
jigger," or rope through which the endless line was rove and the
stout hawser from which the breeches-buoy was suspended.

Securing a foothold on the spider-band Aubyn found that he could now
easily reach the object of his attack. The blade of his knife, though
small, was sharp. The strain on the hemp aided his efforts, and in a
very short time both means of communication with the shore were
severed.

His own retreat was cut off, but the helpers on the cliff were now
able to haul Kenneth through the breakers. They understood the act of
self-sacrifice of the solitary figure on the wreck and acted
promptly.


[Illustration: "The strain on the hemp aided his efforts."]


Anxiously he followed the progress of that small black object that
was being towed rapidly towards the base of the cliffs. He knew the
risk. Even in the case of a man in full possession of the use of his
limbs the danger of being hurled against that almost perpendicular
wall of rock was appalling.

He held his breath. Kenneth was clear of the waves--no, almost, for a
smother of white foam had hidden him temporarily from the
lieutenant's sight. The next moment the surf had subsided, revealing
the breeches-buoy and its occupant like a spider at the end of its
thread.

The rope was swinging violently, but owing to the fact that here the
cliffs overhung the sea Raeburn was not being continually bumped
against the rocks. Instead he seemed to be clear of that danger, and
the higher he was pulled up, the shorter became the swing of that
exaggerated pendulum.

Men were lying flat upon the brink, waiting to receive the rescued
officer. Others, still hauling, but with less speed, awaited the
order to belay. The last ten feet of the ascent were the most
difficult of all, for here Kenneth's body and maimed limb were in
actual contact with the rugged granite. Yet, from where he stood,
Terence could see no sign of life in the saturated burden of the
breeches-buoy.

Now the rescuers had the object of their attention within arms'
reach. Grasped by the muscular hands of the hardy Shetlanders,
Kenneth was lifted clear of the jagged edge of the cliff. Willing
helpers released him from the buoy, and still without showing signs
of movement Raeburn was carried out of his chum's sight.

Leaning against the lee side of the chart-house, for the bridge was
now at an alarming angle, Terence quietly reviewed the position. The
"Roldal" was breaking up fast. Already the bow portion had vanished,
and the 'midship portion seemed in a great hurry to disintegrate
itself under the sledge-hammer like blows of the waves.

His first idea was to throw himself into the sea and trust to fate.
He might perhaps escape being dashed against the cliff and contrive
to seize a bowline lowered from above; but the possibility of getting
safely through that turmoil seemed wellnigh hopeless.

The tide was still falling. Every few minutes meant the uncovering of
the reef on which the vessel struck, and a compensating diminution of
the force of the waves. On the other hand, delay resulted in the
increase of the numbness of his body and limbs, which were already
feeling the effects of the cold and wet.

Hundreds of eyes were fixed upon him. In addition to the inhabitants
of the village and the surrounding district, his own men and the
Norwegian crew were standing on the cliffs in apparent helplessness,
waiting for the final act of the tragedy.

Presently a hand-cart drawn by half a dozen fishermen appeared upon
the scene. It was another life-saving apparatus, for the first had
been rendered useless owing to the accident.

With a hiss the light-line fell handsomely across the wreck, the rope
almost falling into Terence's hand. To it was attached the hawser,
but the lieutenant knew that it was beyond his strength to attach the
stout rope to the stump of the mast. Since Raeburn had been hauled
through the breaking seas, he argued, why could he not follow his
example?

Securing the running rope round his waist, and making sure that no
part of the gear was likely to foul any part of the wreckage, Terence
made his way down the shelving bridge. The lee side was now only six
or seven feet above the water. The whole structure was quivering
violently. At the most it could not hold together for many minutes
longer.

Using his arms as a semaphore the lieutenant signalled to those on
shore that he was ready to be hauled through the surf. A reply to the
effect that he was understood came from the "Strongbow's" men. Then,
making a leap clear of the bridge, Terence plunged into the sea. Even
as he did so, the chart-house and the weather part of the bridge were
swept bodily away.

Upon rising to the surface Aubyn found himself being dragged through
the water at a rapid rate. Ten yards or so behind him was an enormous
mass of woodwork--a part of the bridge-planking--bearing down on the
crest of a billow. Swift as was his progress, the floating timber
threatened to overtake and overwhelm him.

The rescuers, too, saw the danger, and redoubled their efforts to
haul the lieutenant clear of the pursuing mass. Buffeted by the
waves, his limbs completely numbed by the action of the icy-cold
water, Terence was hardly conscious of what was happening, till he
found himself being lifted clear of the chaos of broken water.

Before he was out of danger an exceptionally heavy sea completely
buried him as he swung with irresistible force towards the base of
the cliff. The "backlash" of the foam alone saved him from being
dashed to death against the solid mass of granite. As it was he
received such a severe blow that he lost consciousness.



CHAPTER XXVI.

"THE PRICE OF ADMIRALTY."


WHEN Terence recovered his senses he was lying in a crofter's
cottage. A white-haired venerable dame was busying herself with a
large iron pot over a peat fire, while an old fisherman, her husband,
was spreading the lieutenant's clothes to dry. The reek of the peat
and the vapour of the steaming garments seemed to fill the confined
space.

Through the diamond panes of the small window Aubyn could see the
heads and shoulders of several of his men. The devoted tars, having
been provided with dry clothes of weird fit by their poor but
hospitable hosts, were mounting an impromptu guard outside the
cottage in order to hear the news of their popular young officer's
return to consciousness.

Terence sat up. As he did so he became aware of a throbbing pain in
his left hip and leg, while he noticed that his left arm was roughly
bandaged. Fearful lest his leg should be broken, he raised his knee.
Although it caused him agony he realized to his intense satisfaction
that he was capable of moving it.

Hearing him move the old fisherman spoke to him, and although Terence
could not understand one word of the broad Shetland dialect the
lieutenant guessed rightly that the man wanted to know whether the
patient would like to see those of his crew who were disconsolately
lingering outside in spite of the howling wind.

In trooped the seamen; seven burly and extremely diffident specimens
of the Royal Naval Reserve, who, slow of speech except when amongst
themselves, could hardly find means to express their thoughts. They
did not know whether to congratulate their temporary skipper on his
escape or to commiserate with him on his injuries.

"How is Mr. Raeburn, Griffiths?" asked Terence.

The Welsh petty-officer fidgeted with his hands, attempted to reply,
but at last turned with mild entreaty to his comrades.

"Fairish, sir, only fairish," vaguely declared another. "But how's
yourself, sir, if we may make so bold as to ask?"

"Stiff, bruised, but otherwise all right, I think," replied Terence.
"And awfully peckish. Have you men been fed?"

"Yes, sir, we were victualled down at the village," announced the
man. "They did us right well. They say as how we'll have to hang
about on this island till the gale moderates; but they've
communicated with the authorities at Lerwick, sir, and the senior
officer is going to send a vessel to pick us up."

Dismissing his men Terence contrived to borrow some clothes from his
humble yet kindly hosts, and making his way with considerable
difficulty to an upstairs room, proceeded to dress.

Considering the terrific buffeting he had received Aubyn had come off
pretty lightly. He was black and blue from his shoulders to his
knees, his forehead was grazed through coming in contact with the
rock, and there was a clean cut across his cheek. Rigged out in rough
ill-fitting Shetland tweeds, his chin and cheeks black with a stubble
of forty-eight hours' growth, he looked anything but a spruce officer
of his Majesty's Service.

His efforts to borrow a razor were fruitless. His host had never
shaved in the whole course of his existence, and he was now over
eighty years of age. Nor did he know of any of his neighbours who
would be in a position to oblige his guest.

Having found out where Kenneth had been taken, Terence went to see
him. He had to traverse nearly half a mile of bleak moorland, over
which the wind blew with great force. Shelter there was not, except a
few stunted thorns and patches of gorse.

Looking seawards the vista was a turmoil of broken water, divided by
the Island of Fetlar. Close under its lee the sea was comparatively
calm, but owing to the tidal race, the "Sound" or intervening
channel seemed too violent for any craft to navigate in safety.

Cautiously the lieutenant approached the brink of the cliff and
looked down to the cauldron of foam beneath. The tide had ebbed
considerably. Fang-like rocks showed their jagged heads above the
breakers for nearly a quarter of a mile off shore. It seemed
marvellous how the almost waterlogged "Roldal" had contrived to be
swept over those dangerous rocks. In vain he looked for traces of his
first independent command: the ship had literally gone to pieces.

After considerable difficulty Terence succeeded in finding the little
cottage to which his chum had been taken. A big-boned, gaunt-featured
man answered his knock, and without betraying the faintest surprise
at his visitor's garb, invited him into the room. The Shetlander
asked no questions; he seemed to know Aubyn's business. Like the rest
of the islanders, most of whom had played a prominent part in the
rescue of the survivors of the "Roldal," he already know the officers
and most of the men by sight.

Impressed by the gravity of the man's manner, Terence fully expected
to find his chum in a desperate plight, but to his surprise he was
greeted by an outburst of laughter.

"Excuse me, old man," exclaimed Kenneth, "but you do look a sketch!
Who's your tailor? And are you about to cultivate a torpedo beard?"

"How's that arm of yours?" asked Aubyn.

"Feels a bit rotten," admitted Kenneth, "or rather, I can't feel it
at all. It seems a bit numb. But it will be all right in a day or so,
I guess. It was a real plucky thing of yours, old man. Looked like a
case of attempted suicide, when you cut that rope.

"I should have felt like your murderer if I hadn't," retorted Aubyn.
"But it's over and done with. We're lucky to get ashore. By the by,
I suppose you know that they're sending a steamer from Lerwick as
soon as the weather moderates?"

Terence could not talk rationally. He touched upon half a dozen
subjects in as many minutes. His mind was full of sorrow for his
chum's misfortune. He knew what Raeburn was yet to learn: that the
lack of sensitiveness in Kenneth's arm meant that never again would
his chum be able to use the limb.

Raeburn's sanguineness was most pathetic. He had fully made up his
mind to get to Leith and await the "Strongbow's" return. He rehearsed
the little scene he would have when Smithers restored to him his
cherished pipe.

Two days later the sea moderated sufficiently for the shipwrecked men
to be taken to Lerwick. Here they were split up. The German
reservists were sent into detention quarters to await the decision of
the War Office as to their disposal; the Norwegians, whose
indignation towards the apostles of kultur showed no signs of
abatement, were forwarded to Aberdeen, whence they were permitted to
return to their native land, while the detachment of the 'Strongbow'
were given a passage as far as Dingwall, whence they were told to
proceed by train to Leith.

Kenneth Raeburn did not go with them. Upon arrival at Lerwick he was
promptly taken to hospital. A preliminary examination resulted in the
doctors' seriously considering the advisability of amputating his
wounded arm, but upon a further consultation it was found that there
was a possibility of saving the limb, although it would be
practically useless for the rest of his life.

Raeburn was not told of this. In spite of his disappointment at not
being allowed to go with the rest of the prize crew his optimism was
remarkable.

"Can't understand why those doctors insist upon keeping me here, old
man," he remarked to Terence, when the lieutenant came to bid him
good-bye. "I feel as fit as a fiddle, except for the long-winded
business over my arm, you know. And it's rotten not being able to see
the 'Strongbow' come into port. You'll take good care to remind
Smithers to send along that pipe of mine, won't you?"

"I won't forget," asserted Terence.

"And another thing," continued Kenneth. "If you get a chance to go
to Edinburgh you might look up my tailor--you know, the fellow in the
Hogmarket--and get him to knock me up another No. 5 rig. I can't
possibly present myself in this shabby uniform when I have to report
myself for duty. Explain to him that my arm is crocked and I can't
write at the present moment."

The lieutenant could not commit himself to reply. Gripping Raeburn's
left hand he bade him "buck up," and made an undignified retreat from
the man who was never again to wear the uniform of the R.N.R.

Throughout the tedious journey to Leith, Aubyn was on tenterhooks,
for he was a day and a half overdue. During that time the "Strongbow"
might have arrived, coaled, and put to sea again, without waiting for
the men who had formed the prize crew of the "Roldal."

As the train swept across the Forth Bridge, Terence anxiously scanned
the shipping below, on the off-chance of "spotting" his ship should
she by any possibility leave the open roadstead and ascend the Firth.

At Leith he ordered his men to fall in and marched them down to the
harbour. Inquiries of various naval officers elicited no information
of the "Strongbow's" presence. Almost all of the people he questioned
were convinced that the armed merchant-cruiser had not put in an
appearance.

Allowing the men to "stand easy," Terence made his way to the office
of the admiral commanding the Forth division of the auxiliary
cruisers. On sending in his card he was received by the admiral in
person.

"We've had no news of the 'Strongbow' for the last three days," said
the admiral. "She is now forty-eight hours' overdue."

"Has anything happened to her, sir?" asked Terence.

"There is no saying. On Tuesday we received a wireless from her,
reporting all well and giving her position. From that hour till now
there has been a complete blank. Of course, she may have had to stand
by a prize, and if her wireless has broken down her silence is
explicable. However, I wish you to say nothing about the matter. Send
your men to the 'Sailors' Home' and report yourself here at noon.
Remember to leave your telephone number at the office as soon as you
have completed your hotel arrangements, so that, if necessary, we can
send for you."

Terence carried out these instructions and resigned himself for a
disquieting wait. Something serious, he argued, must have befallen
the armed merchant-man. He was somewhat reassured when, on giving his
men orders to proceed to temporary shore quarters, the prize crew
expressed astonishment neither by word nor gesture. His peace of mind
would have been greatly disturbed, however, could he but have heard
the men discussing the "Strongbow's" non-appearance amongst
themselves.

Upon making his third call at the office Terence was again received
by the admiral. The sturdy old officer's face was grave.

"I'm afraid it's a case, Mr. Aubyn," he said. "The 'Strongbow's'
hopelessly overdue. I have just reported her to the Admiralty as
regarded as lost. You had better proceed on leave, and I will notify
Whitehall accordingly."

Terence almost reeled out into the street. The blow had temporarily
unnerved him. Not one thought did he give at the time to the fact
that Raeburn and he had been almost miraculously preserved from
sharing the fate of their gallant comrades: his whole mind was
centred on the appalling disaster.

He mentally pictured the old ship ploughing along in that terrific
gale. A staunch vessel such as she was would have made light of the
climatic conditions. It was fairly safe to conclude that she had been
sunk either by a mine or a torpedo--and sunk so suddenly that there
had been no time to send out a wireless call for aid. The state of
the sea, he knew, would render it impossible to lower the boats even
had there been time. Out in the wild North Sea, miles from land, and
with no means of recording her end in the course of duty, the
"Strongbow" had vanished utterly.

He thought of his comrades. The cool and collected Captain Ripponden;
Commander Ramshaw, one of the very best; Lymore, taciturn, yet a man
who set duty on a high pedestal; slow and deliberate McBride, and
more than a dozen others. All of them, tried comrades in stress and
storm, had given up their lives for their country. Only Raeburn and
he were left--and Raeburn incapacitated for further service afloat.

Verily, the "price of Admiralty" is a huge one, but men will ever be
found ready to comply with its demands.



CHAPTER XXVII.

"MEPHISTO" AND THE SUBMARINE.


"GOOD business! Now there's a chance of seeing life!" exclaimed
Lieutenant Aubyn.

"I should have thought you have been seeing plenty of life already,
Terence," remarked his mother, with a faint tinge of reproachfulness,
"and death also," she added.

"Ay, and death," agreed Terence. "Unfortunately, yes; but it's part
of the work. It was the future to which I was referring. Fancy,
mother, a real cruiser at last--not an armed merchantman, nor a
destroyer, although I'll admit I had a real good time in the
'Terrier'--but a modern cruiser."

Terence's appointment had arrived in the form of an Admiralty
telegram, ordering him to join H.M.S. "Sunderland" as soon as
possible.

H.M.S. "Sunderland" was a light cruiser of the "Town" Class, a vessel
of a little over 5000 tons displacement, and armed with eight 6-in.
guns, four 3-pounders, and two submerged 21-in. torpedo tubes. Her
speed was nominally 25 knots, but this rate had been considerably
exceeded when conditions called for her to do her level best.

Accordingly, within four hours of receiving his appointment, Terence
bade his parent farewell and proceeded by rail to Devonport, where
the "Sunderland" was lying. It was nearly dark when he alighted at
Millbay station. Here he called a taxi and was whirled off to the
Dockyard, whence a picquet boat conveyed him to the cruiser, which
was lying at a buoy in the Hamoaze.

"We're off under sealed orders at six o'clock tomorrow morning,"
announced one of his new shipmates, a junior lieutenant, Teddy
Barracombe by name. "Of course, we are quite in the dark, but there's
a strong idea floating around that the ship's off to the Near East.
Just my mark! According to all accounts we'll be pretty busy in the
Dardanelles."

"That's all very fine for you," commented Oswestry, the torpedo
lieutenant, "but where do I come in? We can't use torpedoes against
fortifications, you know, and there's precious little floating about
for us to go for."

"Don't take on, Torps," said Barracombe cheerfully. "You never know
your luck. Wait and see."

"I'd rather t'were the other way about," corrected Torps. "Seeing
your torpedo leave the tube and waiting for the enemy ship to be
blown up. No Dardanelles for me. So I hope to goodness it's the North
Sea. By Jove, I do!"

As soon as the "Sunderland" was clear of the breakwater the momentous
orders were opened. It was not to the Near East; the cruiser had to
proceed to Dover and await further instructions.

All the way up Channel a rigorous watch was maintained, for hostile
submarines had made their presence unpleasantly felt off Prawle
Point, the Bill of Portland, and south of the Royal Sovereign
Lightship. The cruiser pelted under forced draught, steering a
zig-zag course in order to baffle the carefully-planned calculations
of the lurking tigers of the deep, while the guns were manned and
trained abeam ready to be laid upon the first suspicious object
resembling a periscope.

Being the first day of the month the ship's company was to be paid,
and soon after six bells final preparations for the solemn rite were
in progress.

At a quarter to one two "G's"--the officers' call--sounded, and the
first hundred men, mustering by open list, assembled in the Port
Battery. On the quarter-deck tables were placed in position, on each
of which were teak trays divided into small compartments by brass
strips. In each of these divisions a man's monthly pay and allowance
money had already been placed and checked by the paymaster and his
staff.

Owing to the conditions of war-time the captain was not present, his
duty of superintending the payment being taken by the commander. At
the tables stood the staff-paymaster, the R.N.R. assistant-paymaster,
and the chief writer.

The staff-paymaster glanced at the commander, indicating that all was
in readiness. The commander gave the word to carry on, and the
disbursing of coin began.

The assistant-paymaster called the men's names from a book. Each
seaman stepped briskly forward to the chalk line, removed his cap,
and, according to instructions, looked the accountant officer
squarely in the face and gave his name and rating. Then, receiving
his money in the crown of his cap, the recipient saluted and moved
away to make room for the next man.

All was proceeding smoothly and with the regularity of clockwork when
suddenly a diversion occurred.

The ship's company had a mascot in the shape of a young African
monkey, that had been presented to the "Sunderland" by a French
cruiser during a visit to an Algerian port. Although usually
good-tempered "Mephisto" could and did exhibit fits of sulkiness and
outbursts of insubordination that would have earned a lower deck man
ninety days' "confined to detention quarters." But the monkey being a
sort of chartered libertine, was idolized by the ship's company and
mildly tolerated by the officers.

Mephisto was lazily sunning himself under the lee of the quarter-deck
6-in gun shield when his eye caught sight of the chief writer's
silver watch, which that petty officer had occasion to consult.

Probably the monkey imagined that it was one of the tins of condensed
milk for which he had great partiality.

Getting on his four feet Mephisto ambled across the quarter-deck,
past the line of men drawn up at attention. Before he could cross the
chalk line, a symbol for which he had no respect, the chief writer
had replaced his timepiece.

Foiled in that direction the monkey made a grab at a pile of brand
new copper coins, and before any of the officers and men could
prevent, had made a rush for the weather-shrouds.

"Stop him!" yelled the commander.

A dozen men hastened to comply, jolting against each other in their
alacrity to pursue the animal, which with marvellous agility had
gained the extremity of the signal yard-arm.

Here he perched, hanging on with his hind paws while he tasted each
coin with his teeth--at first with an expression of hopefulness upon
his features that rapidly changed into one of profound disgust.

Holding the rest of the coins against his chest Mephisto hurled one
on to the sacred precincts of the quarter-deck. It landed in one of
the compartments of the pay-table, displacing a sovereign, that
rolled between the staff-paymaster and the assistant-paymaster.

Both officers simultaneously stooped to recover the errant piece of
gold. The result was that their heads met with a thud in spite of the
protection afforded by their peaked caps.

Several of the men could not conceal a grin. One broke into a laugh,
and meeting the stern glance of the commander tried to side-track
into a painful cough.

Fortunately for the culprit the commander was inwardly affected by a
similar complaint, for he, too, saw the humour of the business.

"Confound you!" shouted the staff-paymaster, removing his cap and
rubbing his bald head. "Confound you, you brute! Throwing away the
money from the public chest!"

The only reply from Mephisto was another penny that, thrown with
splendid aim, rebounded from the staff-paymaster's shiny pate.

"The ship's company will have to make up the loss," he muttered.
"They're responsible for their confounded pet."

"But you're responsible for the money, Staggles," remarked the
commander drily. "At any rate, Mephisto is paying you back by
instalments."

It wanted all the self-control at their command to keep the lookout
men's attention from the comic scene to a duty of a serious nature,
while the gun's crews temporarily forgot their duties to watch the
encounter between the mascot and the staff-paymaster.

"Catch it--oh, you rotten butterfingers!" groaned the accountant
officer to the assistant-paymaster, who, missing a coin thrown by the
animal, allowed the sum of one penny to be committed to the deep.
"Here, ship's steward, nip below and open a tin of condensed. That
may tempt the brute below."

"You're condoning an offence, Staggles," said the commander in an
undertone, with a humorous gleam in his eye.

Another coin tinkled on the deck. The commander promptly placed his
foot on it to check its career towards the side.

"Where did that go?" asked the staff-paymaster, who, curiously
enough, had a miserly regard for any money except his own, which he
spent liberally.

The commander shifted his foot and pointed to the retrieved coin; as
he did so, another penny, hurtling through the air, hit him smartly
on his bent neck and promptly slithered inside his collar and down
his back.

Unfortunately the commander was a man of a most ticklish temperament.
The contact of the metal disc with his back caused him to writhe like
a lost soul in torment. He had recently unflinchingly faced death in
a hotly-contested engagement in the North Sea, but this rear attack
completely unnerved him. His grotesque efforts to capture the elusive
coin was too much for the rest of the officers and men. They were
unable to conceal their amusement. Finally the commander dived down
below and divested himself of his uniform.

Just then the ship's steward appeared with the tin of condensed milk,
and handed the unopened can to a seaman. Away aloft the man made his
way till he gained the cross-trees. Owing to the "Sunderland"
altering her course she was swinging considerably to starboard, and
the motion made the man advance cautiously, his feet sliding along
the foot-ropes while he held on grimly with his free hand to the
spar.

Mephisto eyed the approaching delicacy with marked approval. Letting
the remaining coins drop, some of which tinkled on deck although most
of them fell overboard, he whisked along the yard-arm, and before the
seaman realized the brute's intention, snatched the can from his
grasp.

A snarl warned the bluejacket that if he advanced it would be at his
peril, and unwilling to risk an encounter with an agile monkey on the
swaying yard, he followed the precept of discretion being the better
part of valour, and regained the deck, leaving the spoils in the
hands of the elated ape.

Presently the monkey had another disappointment. The intact tin
baffled him. He tried his teeth upon it--but unavailingly, so he
began to batter it upon the metal eye of a band encircling the spar.

"There'll be an unholy mess, by Jove!" ejaculated the commander, who
had now reappeared upon the scene, for the tin showed signs of
capitulating to the strenuous frontal attacks on the part of
Mephisto.

"Bring up another tin--and take care to open it this time," ordered
the staff-paymaster recklessly, who had now taken the precaution of
covering the pay-tables with a green baize cloth.

"Bang, bang, bang!" went the tin under the muscular efforts of
Mephisto. Already large drops of the viscous fluid were descending
upon the hallowed quarter-deck, bespattering officers and men
indiscriminately, for owing to the ship's speed a strong current of
air was drifting aft and spraying the stuff far and wide.

"Clear the quarter-deck," ordered the commander. "Up aloft a couple
of hands and collar the brute. By Jove! if it gives much more
trouble, I'll have it shot."

Suddenly, above the scuffling of feet as the men doubled for'ard,
came the shout: "Submarine on the port quarter."

Sharply the bugle sounded "Action," and as the "Sunderland" began to
circle to starboard in answer to a quick movement of her helm, the
quick-firers began to bark at a pole-like object four hundred yards
off.

The unexpected detonation, as a gun was discharged fifty feet under
his nose, completed Mephisto's brief spell of unalloyed liberty.
Temporarily stunned by the terrific concussion the monkey relaxed his
grip and fell.

Just at that moment the staff-paymaster, who was scurrying below with
one of the pay-trays, happened to be passing in the direct line of
Mephisto's descent. The next instant the portly officer was rolling
on the deck in a puddle of condensed milk with the monkey's paws
clutching at his scanty crop of hair, while to complete the
staff-paymaster's discomfiture most of the money he was carrying
rolled overboard.

Regaining his feet Staff-paymaster Staggles contrived to reach the
companion, and with Mephisto still firmly attached to him,
disappeared below.

But the men's attention was now directed towards more serious
matters. An ever-diverging line that rippled the placid water denoted
the approach of a deadly torpedo. Now it was heading as if about to
hit the bows of the "Sunderland," a second later and the arrow-like
ripples seemed to be approaching directly abeam; then, as the cruiser
swung almost on her heel the wake of the formidable missile was
merged into the churning froth astern. It had missed by a bare yard.

From the fire-control platform telephone bells were clanging and men
shouting through the voice-tubes. From their elevated position the
watchers could discern a long, dark shadow that marked the position
of the submarine.

Completely circling the "Sunderland" was steadied on her helm and
steered straight for the spot. In vain the submerged craft attempted
to dive to a depth greater than that of her enemy's draught.

Terence, who was stationed on the after-bridge, felt a faint shock as
the five thousand tons vessel literally cut the luckless submarine in
twain. For a brief instant the lieutenant caught sight of the
after-portion of the "U" boat, as, rendered buoyant by the trapped
air, it drifted past. Then amidst a smother of foam and oil the
wreckage vanished.

"The eleventh to my certain knowledge," remarked the commander, as
coolly as if he were reckoning up the score at an athletic meeting.

"Any damage for'ard, Mr. Black?"

"No, sir; all as tight as a bottle as far as I can see," replied the
carpenter, who immediately after the impact had hurried below to see
if any plates had been "started."

A little later in the afternoon several of the ward-room officers
were enjoying their cups of tea and biscuits, when the
staff-paymaster entered.

"Well, Staggles, what's the shortage?" asked the commander
facetiously.

The accountant officer eyed his tormentor reproachfully, as if that
officer were responsible for his former discomfiture.

"One pound three shillings and threepence--and two tins of condensed
milk," he announced stiffly. "According to paragraph 445 of the
Admiralty Instructions there will have to be two separate reports on
the shortage."

The staff-paymaster spoke seriously. The man was heart and soul in
his work, and his mental horizon was bounded by official forms and
other red-tapeism connected with the accountant branch of H.M.
Service.

"By the by," interposed Oswestry, "Staggles ought to be recommended
for the V.C."

"What's that, Torps?" asked Barracombe. "Our staff-paymaster the
V.C.?"

"What for?" inquired the staff-paymaster innocently.

The commander entrenched himself behind a double number of an
illustrated periodical.

"For bringing Mephisto in out of action," he replied with a chuckle.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE FOILED AIR RAID.


LATE that evening the "Sunderland" brought up in the Admiralty
Harbour at Dover, in company with three other light cruisers, two
monitors, and a flotilla of destroyers. All night long the men slept
at their guns, while the cruiser's searchlights aided those of the
forts both ashore and on the breakwater in sweeping the approach to
the sheltered harbour.

"Nothing to report," announced Barracombe, as Aubyn relieved him as
officer of the watch. "A jolly fine night. I shouldn't wonder if we
were favoured by a visit from a Zeppelin or two."

"A pretty jamb in the harbour," said Terence, giving a quick glance
at the maze of vessels. "Fortunately, I hear, we've several seaplanes
at our disposal."

Barracombe wished his relief good-night and descended the ladder to
retire to the seclusion of his cabin and sleep the sleep of
exhaustion, for he had had a strenuous time before the cruiser left
Devonport.

During the first hour nothing unusual occurred. The midshipman of the
watch reported "Rounds all correct, sir," to which Aubyn replied with
the stereotyped "Very good." Across the harbour came the faint hail
of the Night Guard as the picquet boat studiously visited every
vessel within the limits of the breakwater.

The masthead light of the flagship began to blink. A signalman on the
"Sunderland's" bridge snatched up a slate.

"General call, sir," he announced.

Deftly the man took down the message, then hurried to the chart-room
to decipher the code.

"Submarine E27 reports three hostile aeroplanes passing S.W. by W.
Position eleven miles N.N.E. of North Goodwin."

The warning was a brief one, for hardly had the ship's company been
called to their action stations when a faint buzzing, immediately
becoming louder and louder, announced that the raiders were
approaching the town and harbour of Dover.

Searchlights flashed skywards, while from beneath the old castle on
the lofty chalk cliffs half a dozen intrepid British airmen ascended
to meet the foe. Already the anti-aerial guns were stabbing the
darkness with lurid spurts of flame, while their shells, bursting
perilously close to the hostile aeroplanes, caused the calculating
Teutons to think better of the attempt.

It was an easy matter to steal over an unfortified town or village
and drop explosives; but for once the Germans were to learn the
wisdom of discrimination. Higher and higher they banked, until
catching a glimpse of the British seaplanes as they passed through
the path of one of the searchlights they precipitately turned tail.

"'Sunderland' and destroyer flotilla to proceed in support of
seaplanes," came the signal.

Hastily the pins of the mooring shackle were knocked out. Steam was
already raised, and in a very few minutes the light cruiser and her
attendant destroyers were slipping between the heads of the detached
breakwater and the Admiralty Pier.

But swift as were the light cruisers the seaplanes were quicker.
Already they were five or six miles out to sea, their position being
revealed by the flashes of the light guns as they exchanged shots
with the fugitive Taubes.

Suddenly with a dazzling flash a bomb exploded hardly twenty feet
from the "Sunderland's" starboard quarter. Five seconds later another
struck the water almost under the cruiser's bows, and a waft of
evil-smelling gas drifted across the navigation bridge, causing
officers and men to cough and gasp for breath.

The captain tried to give an order, but was unable to utter a sound.
Mutely he signed for the helm to be put hard over.

Terence understood. Literally groping his way through the thick
vapour, that even in the darkness showed an unmistakable greenish
hue, he found the quartermaster, who was clutching his throat and
struggling for breath.

Pushing the man aside Aubyn rapidly revolved the steam steering-gear.
Obediently the cruiser swung round, narrowly escaping a high
explosive missile that, had she maintained her course, would have
played havoc with her fo'c'sle.

All around the "Sunderland" the destroyers were dodging hither and
thither in order to attempt to avoid the hail of bombs that rained
from the sky. It was little short of a miracle that collisions did
not take place, for owing to the darkness, the suffocating fumes from
the missiles, and to the fact that most of the helmsmen were
temporarily blinded and choked, all attempt at formation was out of
the question.

From the after-bridge of the cruiser a searchlight flashed skywards.
For a few seconds even its powerful rays failed to penetrate the pall
of smoke, till an eddying gust freed the "Sunderland" from the
noxious fumes.

Then the source of the mysterious missiles was revealed. At a height
of over two thousand feet were a couple of Zeppelins. Taking
advantage of the fact that the attention of the British seaplanes and
destroyers was centred on the fugitive Taubes, these giant airships,
by reason of their altitude, were able to manoeuvre immediately above
the flotilla.

It was an opportunity too good to be missed, for although the
objective of the Zeppelins was a raid on London--they having decided
upon a circuitous course over Kent and Sussex borders in order to
avoid the air-stations at the Isle of Grain--the chance of raining a
shower of bombs upon the British cruiser and her attendant destroyers
was too tempting.

For once, at least, the German Admiralty had not been kept well
posted as to the details of armament of the cruisers of the "Town
Class," for the "Sunderland" and her consorts had recently been
equipped with a couple of 12-pounder anti-aircraft guns. These
weapons fired a shell of unique character. Somewhat resembling a
shrapnel, the missile was packed with short lengths of chain and
charged with a high explosive.

Almost as soon as the Zeppelins were discovered both guns barked
venomously. From the point of view of the observers on the
"Sunderland's" bridge the shells appeared to burst close to the frail
targets. Both airships were observed to pitch violently, while one,
with her nose tilted downwards, began to descend.

"She's done for!" exclaimed Terence.

A round of cheering burst from the throats of the crew. It seemed as
if nothing could arrest the seaward plunge of one of the Kaiser's
gas-bags. Not only had her bow compartments been holed but the
nacelle containing the propelling machinery was completely wrecked.

Both Zeppelins began to throw out ballast with frantic haste. They
also released the whole of their remaining supply of bombs, which
fell with a rapid series of deafening detonations more than half a
mile from the nearest destroyer.

With the release of the ballast the undamaged Zeppelin shot skywards
until her altitude was not less than ten thousand feet. Comparatively
safe for the time being from the effect of the anti-aircraft shells,
she floated, a mere speck in the concentrated yet diminished glare of
a dozen searchlights, and awaited events.

Meanwhile, the damaged Zeppelin had checked her plunge, and, in spite
of a hot fire, was slowly rising. By dint of strenuous efforts her
crew succeeded in shifting aft the travelling weight that served to
trim the unwieldy craft. Even then her longitudinal axis was sharply
inclined to the horizontal.

Everything that could be jettisoned was thrown overboard. Guns,
ammunition, stores, and the metal framework of the wrecked car were
sacrificed, till without being hit by the British guns, she rose to a
terrific height.

"We've lost her!" exclaimed Oswestry savagely.

"One thing, she won't trouble us again," added the commander. "And
I'm not so certain that she will get clear. We've wirelessed the
seaplanes, and they'll have a chip in. Hullo! What's the game now?"

A searchlight flashed from the undamaged Zeppelin and played in
ever-widening circles until it picked up her damaged consort. The
latter was consequently more plainly discernible to the crew of the
"Sunderland" than it had hitherto been, since the distance between
the two airships was less than a thousand yards and was visibly
decreasing.

"They're going to take her in tow, by Jove!" ejaculated Aubyn, who
had brought his binoculars to play upon the scene.

Oswestry gave a snort that implied disbelief in his brother-officer's
assertion, but presently he exclaimed:--

"Well, blest if you aren't right, old man. And a deuced smart move,"
he added, with a true sailor's admiration for a smart manoeuvre,
whether executed by friend or foe.

"What a chance for our seaplanes!" said the torpedo lieutenant.
"They ought to have been on the spot before this."

"They're on the way all right, Torps," declared the commander. "I
wouldn't mind betting a month's pay that they've spotted their
quarry. By Jove, they've established communication!"

The undamaged Zeppelin had circled round her consort and was now
forging gently ahead. An upward jerk of the other's bows announced
that the strain on the towing hawser was beginning to be felt.
Gradually the hitherto uncontrollable airship began to gather way,
both vessels rolling sluggishly in the light air-currents.

The aerial searchlight had now been switched off, but by means of the
rays directed from the British ships the progress of the two
Zeppelins could be followed as their huge shapes, showing ghost-like
in the silvery light, moved slowly in a north-easterly direction.

Having resumed their respective stations the cruiser and the
destroyer flotilla followed. Owing to the greatly reduced speed of
the hostile aircraft it was an easy matter to maintain a fixed
relative distance between them and the British vessels, whose
attention was divided between the prospect of an aerial meeting with
seaplanes and the risk of being intercepted by the torpedo of a
German submarine, to say nothing of floating mines.

"She's cast off!" shouted a dozen voices.

Such was the case. The two Zeppelins had parted company, one flying
off at a terrific speed, rising rapidly as she did so, while the
other, being without means of propulsion, drifted at the mercy of the
winds.

It was now dawn. The grey light of morning was already overcoming the
strength of the searchlights and it was already possible to discern
the outlines of the abandoned Zeppelin by the natural light of day.

Pelting up from the eastward came the air squadron of seaplanes. Half
a dozen circled and started off in pursuit of the fugitive airship,
which, travelling at high speed, was now but a faint speck against
the ruddy sky.

The rest advanced boldly upon the disabled Zeppelin, although
ignorant of the fact that she had jettisoned her guns, and, save for
a few rifles, was without means of defence.

The seaplanes' automatic guns spat viciously, and as the range
decreased almost every shot began to tell. The huge fabric once more
began to drop, as the small projectile ripped through the flimsy
aluminium envelope.

Presently the seaplanes ceased firing and circled triumphantly over
their vanquished foe. They knew that the Zeppelin was doomed, and
instincts of humanity forbade them to take undue advantage of the
plight of her crew.

"Away, boats!" ordered the "Sunderland's" captain.

Instantly there was a rush to man the boats and to stand by the
falls. With an alacrity that was part of his nature, Jack Tar
prepared to rescue his enemy, in spite of the fact that that enemy
had sallied forth with the deliberate intention of hurling bombs with
the utmost indiscrimination upon combatants and non-combatants alike,
not excepting helpless women and children.

Before the boats could be lowered a lurid blaze of light rolled out,
rivalling the rays of the rising sun. Where the Zeppelin had been
only a cloud of flame-tinged smoke remained, while from the
mushroomed pall of vapour that marked a funereal pyre of yet another
unit of the Kaiser's air-fleet, scorched and twisted girders and
other débris streamed seawards.

Whether by accident or design the only remaining petrol tank had
exploded, and the flames instantly igniting the huge volume of
hydrogen had in the twinkling of an eye completed the work of
destruction.

For ten minutes the destroyers cruised over the spot where the
débris had disappeared, but there were no signs of survivors, not
even of wreckage. The remains of the Zeppelin had been swallowed up
by the insatiable sea, and no visible trophy remained in the hands of
the men who had baulked an attempted raid on the largest city of the
world.

Before the flotilla regained Dover Harbour the remaining seaplanes
came in sight. Unfortunately their efforts at pursuit were futile.
The Zeppelin developing a turn of speed far in excess of which she
had been credited by her detractors, had shaken off the British
aircraft, and when last seen she was high over the Belgian coast.

Nevertheless, her wings had been clipped, although she survived to
tell the tale that the hated English were still able vigorously and
successfully to dispute the mastery of the air.



CHAPTER XXIX.

"LIEUTENANT AUBYN, R.N., D.S.O."


ON the evening following the return of the "Sunderland" to Dover,
Terence obtained leave to go ashore in order to visit a
brother-officer who, owing to his ship being under repairs, was
temporarily installed in the Lord Warden Hotel.

Aubyn was proceeding along the Admiralty Pier when his progress was
barred by a tall, bronzed young fellow in the uniform of a
flight-lieutenant of the Naval Air Service.

"Hullo, Aubyn, old man!" exclaimed the latter cordially, as he
extended his hand. "Forgotten me already?"

"Waynsford, by Jove!" ejaculated Terence. "Bless you, Dick, I never
expected to see you here and in this rig. What has happened?"

"Oh, I chucked the Motor Boat Reserve," declared Waynsford. "It was a
bit too dull. They sent me to Southampton, and that was the limit. A
superannuated postman could have done my job, which was delivering
letters to transports. So I applied for the Naval Air Service. It's
more in my line."

"Been across yet?" asked Terence, indicating the twenty odd mile
strip of water that separated Great Britain from the scene of land
hostilities.

"Dunkirk twice," replied Waynsford. "Was there when the Germans
started shelling the place. But we're off again early to-morrow
morning."

"Yes, I heard," said Aubyn. "Big operations. We are to engage the
Zeebrugge and Ostend batteries while the Allied airmen play with the
German lines of communication. So I may see something of you."

"I hope so--after the fun is over," replied the young airman. "Well,
I must be moving. Early hours and a good night's rest are essential
to this sort of work."

The two friends parted, Terence making for the hotel, while Waynsford
walked off in the direction of the castle, in which the airmen
detailed for the great raid were temporarily quartered.

Precisely at one hour before sunrise the first British waterplane
rose from the surface of Dover Harbour. Almost simultaneously an Army
aeroplane "kicked off" from the sloping ground beyond the chalk
cliffs. Each was followed at regular intervals, until a double row of
swift air-craft flying with methodical precision headed towards the
Flanders shore.

Already the "Sunderland" and three other light cruisers, accompanied
by a torpedo-boat destroyer flotilla, were shaping a course for the
Belgian coast.

Off the East Goodwins they were joined by two monitors and three
pre-Dreadnought battleships, and the battle line was formed. Away
steamed the destroyers to act as screens to the heavier vessels, and
to guard them from submarine attack. The monitors led the main
division, the cruisers acting as links between them and the
battleships, which, owing to their greater draught, could not
approach the coast nearer than a distance of from four to seven
miles.

From Aubyn's point of view the forthcoming operations were entirely
new. For the first time in his experience he was to take part in an
action between ships and shore batteries, the latter being both fixed
and mobile. It was a comparatively easy matter to plant shells into
forts the position of which were known, but the Germans had brought
up heavy guns mounted on travelling platforms, which could be moved
with considerable celerity behind the long, low-lying sand dunes
between Nieuport and Zeebrugge.

It was partly to locate the latter that the airmen had preceded the
bombarding ships, and also to harass the enemy's lines of
communication. Moreover, hostile submarines were reported to have
been brought in sections to Zeebrugge, where they were being bolted
together ready to take the offensive against the British vessels
operating off the Belgian coast.

The "Sunderland," like her consorts, was already cleared for action.
All the crew were behind the protected portions of the ship, but the
captain and seven of the officers elected to fight the ship not from
the armoured conning-tower but from the fore-bridge.

"By Jove! They're at it already," exclaimed Oswestry, as a series of
rapid detonations came from across the dunes.

By the aid of their glasses the officers could discern the fleecy
mushrooms of smoke caused by the bursting of the anti-aerial guns
directed against the British airmen. Viewed from a distance it seemed
impossible that a frail aeroplane could exist amid that tornado of
shell.

"Wireless reports mobile battery three hundred yards sou'-sou'-east
of Clemskercke church, sir," reported a signalman.

Promptly the news was transmitted to the fire-control platform. In
his lofty perch a gunnery-lieutenant was busy with a complication of
instruments, assisted by a midshipman and three seamen.

"Fire-control to for'ard 6-inch gun: stand by!" came the telephonic
order. "Fire-control to port battery stand by."

Round swung the guns, "laid" by the master hand of the
gunnery-lieutenant on the fire-control platform. Docilely obedient to
the delicate mechanism they reared their muzzles high in the air.

Then, with a crash that shook the ship, five of the 6-inch guns spoke
simultaneously. To the accompaniment of a long-drawn shriek the
100-pound missiles hurtled through space.

"Eighty yards short," came the wireless report of the observing
seaplane that, hovering a bare five hundred feet above the German
mobile battery, had marked the point of impact of the shells.

Again a salvo was let loose. This time came the encouraging statement
that the hostile guns were knocked clean out of action, and that
swarms of artillerymen and infantry were scurrying across the dunes.

The next discharge practically annihilated the fugitives. In one
minute and twenty-five seconds the "Sunderland's" particular task was
accomplished. It was but the beginning, for acting upon orders from
the flagship she was ordered to engage a battery at close range.

Meanwhile, the rest of the battleships and cruisers had not been
idle. A perfect tornado of shell was being directed upon the Belgian
shore.

"Hard aport!" shouted the captain of the "Sunderland."

Round swung the cruiser, only just avoiding the tell-tale line of
bubbles that marked the track of a torpedo. With consummate daring a
German submarine had dived under a part of the torpedo-boat destroyer
flotilla, and had discharged a weapon at the British cruiser. The
torpedo, having missed the "Sunderland," was tearing straight for one
of the monitors, which, having to go full speed astern to avoid a
collision with a couple of damaged destroyers, was now practically
stationary.

Owing to the light draught the weapon passed six feet beneath her
keel, and finishing its run rose to the surface three hundred yards
beyond; for, instead of the torpedo sinking at the end of its course,
the Germans, in direct contravention of the laws of naval warfare,
had closed the sinking valve so that the torpedo virtually became a
floating mine.

In this instance the trick did not avail, for a well-directed shot
from one of the monitor's quick-firers exploded the war-head and sent
the missile into a thousand fragments.

"A feeble reply," observed Oswestry to Terence. "These fellows seem
afraid to stand to their guns."

Even as he spoke the air was torn by a terrific salvo of shells from
powerful batteries hitherto well concealed in the dunes. The
"Sunderland," being fairly close, seemed the special mark, for in six
seconds she received as many direct hits. One of her funnels showed a
jagged gash ten feet in length and was only prevented from toppling
overboard by the steel-wire guys. A three-pounder gun, that
fortunately was not manned, was blown completely from its mountings,
while the rest of the shells passed clean through the unprotected
parts of the ship, totally wrecking the ward-room and the stokers'
mess-deck.

Terence felt a strong desire to make a hasty rush for the shelter of
the conning-tower, for splinters were flying and wafts of pungent
smoke from the hostile shells were drifting over the bridge, but the
sight of his captain standing cool and collected and without a
vestige of protection tended to restore his confidence.

With unabated fury her guns replied to the German fire. The
"Sunderland" proved that she could receive as well as give hard
knocks.

It was time to give the almost overheated starboard guns a chance to
cool, so orders were given for the helm to be starboarded. Seeing the
cruiser in the act of turning, a destroyer tore across her bows,
purposely throwing out huge volumes of black smoke from her four
funnels in order to mask the "Sunderland" as she circled.

Terence recognized the destroyer as his old ship the "Livingstone,"
as she darted swiftly round the turning cruiser, then, leaving a
thick pall of smoke in her wake, hastened off to assist another
destroyer that was evidently in difficulties.

The "Livingstone's" manoeuvre undoubtedly saved the "Sunderland" from
destruction, for a fifty-two centimetre shell, aimed to hit the exact
position where the cruiser would have been had she not altered
course, struck the water with a tremendous splash not fifty yards on
her beam.

Before the "Sunderland" had drawn clear of the friendly cloud of
smoke she had increased her distance from shore by nearly five
cables' lengths; while, until the German gunners had found the range
anew, she was able to enjoy a brief respite.

"Seaplanes returning," announced the gunnery-lieutenant on the
fire-control platform, who from his elevated post could command a
wide and almost uninterrupted view.

Their task done, the seaplanes, which had been engaged in dropping
bombs on the railway stations in the rear of the German batteries,
were on their homeward way. Anxiously Terence counted them. Thank
heaven! Not one was missing.

Apparently the last but one of the aerial procession was in
difficulties, for the seaplane was rocking violently, and in spite of
a dangerous tilt of the elevating planes was appreciably descending.

Suddenly the frail craft plunged, literally on end, towards the sea,
the force of gravity, acting with the pull of the propeller, greatly
increasing its velocity.

When within two hundred feet of the surface the seaplane made a
complete loop, then after climbing a hundred feet or so, began to
side-slip.

"By Jove! He'll be drowned for a dead cert," exclaimed Terence, for
he knew for a fact that the aviator had not been thrown from the
chassis when the seaplane "looped the loop," and in consequence must
be strapped to his seat.

"Away sea-boat," ordered the captain, at the same time giving
directions for both engines to be reversed.

The "Sunderland" was considerably the nearest warship to the
descending airman. Already the "Livingstone" and her two sister-ship
destroyers were a mile or so away, and wearing at full speed to
investigate a suspicious swirl in the water.

Shells were again dropping unpleasantly near to the cruiser as Aubyn
hurried towards the boat which was, owing to being cleared for
action, secured inboard, abreast the after funnel.

Before he reached this spot the seaplane had struck the surface of
the water. Falling obliquely and at a sharp angle, the impact had
shattered one of the floats. When the cascade of spray had subsided
the wrecked craft could be seen still afloat but listing acutely. The
aviator had survived the shock and was hurriedly unbuckling the strap
that held him to his seat.

"Boat's done for, sir," announced one of the would-be crew. Such was
the case. The explosion of a shell had wrenched her keel and
garboards out of her.

"Then overboard with that!" ordered Terence, indicating a Carley
life-buoy, which, though scorched by the blast of the shells, was
still practically intact.

The Carley life-buoy is a "new departure" in life-saving appliances
on board ships of the Royal Navy. It is a glorified edition of an
ordinary buoy, but elongated in shape and provided with gratings, and
capable of being propelled by oars.

Half a dozen bluejackets seized the huge buoy and slung it overboard.
Held by means of a line it floated alongside the cruiser until
Terence and three men clambered into it.

Although the rate of propulsion was not by any means so rapid as that
of a boat the progress of the rescuers was far from slow. More than
once they were splashed by the spray thrown up by a ricochetting
projectile, as the German gunlayers were gradually correcting their
aim, yet unscathed the rescue party came alongside the gradually
sinking seaplane.

"Hullo, Aubyn!" shouted a well-known voice.

The airman was Waynsford. In his pneumatic helmet and huge goggles he
was unrecognizable, but his voice proclaimed his identity.

"Hurt, old man?" asked Terence.

"Not a bit," replied Waynsford coolly. "They clipped a couple of
stays just as I was getting out of range. But we did the trick, by
Jove! Blew the railway station to Jericho."

"Hurry up," interposed Terence. "She's going."

The young airman methodically gathered together several important
instruments, and giving a final look round at the aircraft that had
served him so faithfully, stepped into the waiting "Carley."

Before the men had pulled five yards the wrecked machine gave a lurch
and capsized completely. Supported by trapped air in the partially
intact float the seaplane sank slowly, and with hardly a ripple
disappeared from view.

With the least possible delay rescuers and rescued were taken on
board the cruiser. Gathering way the "Sunderland" steamed in a
westerly direction in order to baffle the range of the shore
batteries, using her after guns with terrific speed.

Somewhat unceremoniously leaving his friend Terence hastened towards
the bridge. Just as he was abreast of the wreckage of the shattered
funnel a deafening detonation, that completely surpassed the roar of
the cruiser's guns, seemed to burst over his head. Staggering under
the blast of the explosion and temporarily blinded by the pungent
smoke, the lieutenant groped his way until his progress was checked
by a jagged mass of plating rendered almost red-hot by the impact of
a huge shell.

Recoiling, he stood stock still for quite thirty seconds, his senses
numbed by the nerve-racking concussion. Then, as the smoke drifted
away, he could discern the débris of the bridge. Charthouse,
stanchions, semaphore, signal-lockers--all had vanished, and with
them the captain and those of the officers and men who had dared fate
by rejecting the shelter afforded by the conning-tower, which,
stripped of its surroundings, stood out a gaunt, fire-pitted steel
box.

The shell, a 42-centimetre, had literally cleared the forepart of the
ship, from the for'ard 6-inch gun to the second funnel. Everything in
its path had been literally pulverized, with the exception of the
conning-tower. Had the projectile burst on or below the main deck the
fate of the "Sunderland" would have been sealed; as it was, she was
still intact under the waterline.

Instinctively Aubyn realized that the ship was not under control.
Steaming rapidly she was heading towards the "Bradford"--her sister
ship--which was steering in a north-easterly direction at about five
cables' distance on her port bow.

With a tremendous effort of will-power Terence cleared at a bound the
formidable glowing plate of metal that obstructed his path. Making
his way across the scorched and splintered planks, some of which gave
under his weight, he reached the entrance to the conning-tower.

The steel citadel was full of acrid-smelling smoke that eddied in the
air-currents which drifted in through the observation slits.

Bending, and holding his left hand over his mouth and nostrils,
Terence entered. As he did so he stumbled over the body of the
quartermaster.

Propped against the circular walls were the first lieutenant and two
seamen. All the occupants of the conning-tower had been overcome by
the noxious fumes from the highly-charged projectile.

Gasping for fresh air Terence flung himself upon the steam-steering
gear and put the helm hard over. A glimpse through one of the slits
revealed the fact that the cruiser was answering to her helm. Yet so
narrowly had a collision been averted that the "Sunderland's"
starboard side was within twenty feet of the "Bradford's" port
quarter as the two vessels swung apart.

The guns were now silent, for with the destruction of the foremast
the fire-control platform and its occupants had been swept out of
existence. The cruiser was temporarily out of action.

Terence was beginning to feel dizzy and faint. Why, he knew not.
Perhaps it was the pungent fumes. Leaning over the mouthpiece of the
speaking tube he ordered a couple of quartermasters to be sent to the
conning-tower. He could hardly recognize the sound of his own voice.
It seemed miles away.

Again he looked ahead. The cruiser was still drawing further and
further out of range. Having satisfied himself on that score and that
there was no fresh danger of colliding with any of the rest of the
fleet, he staggered into the open air and leaned heavily against the
outer wall of the conning-tower, He was barely conscious that the
metal was still hot.

Up came the quartermasters. At their heels was a sub-lieutenant, his
face grimed with smoke and his uniform torn.

"Take over, Garboard," ordered the lieutenant brokenly. "Report to
the flagship and ask instructions. I'm feeling deucedly queer."

"Why, you're wounded!" exclaimed the sub-lieutenant, noticing a dark
and increasing patch upon Aubyn's coat.

"Am I?" asked Terence incredulously.

Turning his head to ascertain the nature of his injury, of which
hitherto he was unconscious, his shoulder slipped along the curved
steel wall. Garboard was only just in time to save him from
collapsing inertly upon the deck of the ship he had brought safely
out of action.



"Congratulations, old man. You'll have to get your tailor to make
some alteration in your uniform."

"What do you mean?" asked Terence.

Two months had elapsed since the day on which Lieutenant Aubyn had
received a dangerous wound in his right side in the fight off Ostend.

He was sitting in the grounds of the Royal Naval Hospital at Chatham,
having made a fairly rapid recovery.

The officer who offered his congratulations was Oswestry, the
torpedo-lieutenant of the "Sunderland," who was also a convalescent,
having managed to intercept a flying fragment of metal during the
momentous engagement.

"Torps" flourished a newspaper with his left hand, for his right arm
was in a sling.

"Stop press--Latest news and appointments," he read. "The Admiralty
has approved of the following transfer. From R.N.R. to R.N.:
Lieutenant Terence Aubyn, to date 3rd of June, 1915."

For a moment Terence looked incredulously at the torpedo-lieutenant.
"Torps," he knew, was fond of a practical joke, but if he were
playing a prank it was carrying the game a little too far.

"Here you are," continued Oswestry, noting the expression on
Terence's face. "Read it for yourself."

"It's worth getting this," said Aubyn, indicating the position of his
wound. "All I want now is to be afloat again."

"Young fire-eater!" exclaimed "Torps" facetiously. "Don't you
worry--you'll have a look-in before The Day comes. By Jove, Aubyn,
you'll have to ask the surgeon if he'll allow you to hold a
fête----"

The crunching of boots upon the gravel path caused both officers to
turn. Standing at attention was a Marine orderly; behind him a
telegraph boy.

"Congratulations pouring in already," remarked "Torps."

Terence took the buff envelope and opened it.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed brokenly, and without another word he
handed the telegram to his companion.

"It never rains but it pours," quoted "Torps." "You'll attain
Flag-rank in another fifteen years, mark my words. Lieutenant Aubyn,
D.S.O."

The "wire" was a private tip from a personal friend at the Admiralty,
informing Terence that His Majesty had been graciously pleased to
bestow upon him the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry in
bringing H.M.S. "Sunderland" out of action during operations off the
Belgian coast.

"Torps" was not far short of the mark, for a D.S.O. almost invariably
means a rapid promotion to the fortunate and heroic recipient.

"Flag-rank," echoed Terence. "There's plenty of time for that.
Meanwhile, that's where duty calls," and with a wave of his hand he
indicated the distant North Sea, on which the supreme contest for the
supremacy of the waves will prove that the heritage of Nelson is
still worthily upheld by Britannia's sons.



ABERDEEN: THE UNIVERSITY PRESS



  [Transcriber's Notes:

    This book contains a number of misprints.
    The following misprints have been corrected:

    [the prisoner nonchalently.] -> [the prisoner nonchalantly.]
    [to commuicate with wireless] -> [to communicate with wireless]
    [was calculated to be from] -> [was calculated to be seen from]
    [of what had occured,] -> [of what had occurred,]
    [hostilites as a godsend] -> [hostilities as a godsend]
    [a courtesey that the captain] -> [a courtesy that the captain]
    [its horribly slippery] -> [it's horribly slippery]
    [the concusion had caused] -> [the concussion had caused]
    [with the laudible intention] -> [with the laudable intention]
    [he crosssd the line] -> [he crossed the line]
    [a stragetic point of view] -> [a strategic point of view]
    [the faintest attenion to] -> [the faintest attention to]

    A few cases of punctuation errors were corrected, but are not
    mentioned here.

    A list of illustrations has been added.
  ]





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