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Title: Dreadnoughts of the Dogger - A Story of the War on the North Sea
Author: Leighton, Robert
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dreadnoughts of the Dogger - A Story of the War on the North Sea" ***

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[Illustration: "The boy was brought alongside and lifted to the grating"
(Page 34)]



                             *DREADNOUGHTS
                             OF THE DOGGER*

                      _*A Story of the War on the
                              North Sea*_


                                   BY

                           *ROBERT LEIGHTON*

      _Author of "The Golden Galleon," "The Thirsty Sword," etc._



                       WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
                          LONDON AND MELBOURNE
                                  1916



                 _Made and printed in Great Britain by_
                   WARD, LOCK & Co., LIMITED, LONDON.



                              *CONTENTS.*

CHAPTER

I.—WHAT’S BRED IN THE BONE
II.—THE PERIL OF THE SILVER PIT
III.—WATCHERS OF THE SEA
IV.—THE MENACE OF THE MINES
V.—UNDER THE SYCAMORE
VI.—WHAT MARK FOUND IN THE PIGEON LOFT
VII.—UNDER THE WHITE ENSIGN
VIII.—HOW MARK MADE HIMSELF SMALL
IX.—AN EXPERT IN MINE-SWEEPING
X.—DARBY CATCHPOLE’S DISCOVERY
XI.—THE ESCAPE
XII.—A FLEET IN HIDING
XIII.—THE GERMAN ADMIRAL
XIV.—BRAVE AS A BRITON
XV.—TREASURE TROVE
XVI.—THE BOMB-PROOF SHELTER
XVII.—TOLD THROUGH THE TELEPHONE
XVIII.—A SHRIMPING ADVENTURE
XIX.—U50
XX.—PUT TO THE TEST
XXI.—THE RAIDERS
XXII.—CUT AND RUN
XXIII.—STRIKING THE BALANCE
XXIV.—THE MEETING ON THE CLIFF
XXV.—MAX HILLIGER’S SATISFACTION
XXVI.—THE GUIDING LIGHT
XXVII.—SURVIVORS
XXVIII.—THE WAY TO CALAIS
XXIX.—MAX MEETS THE ADMIRAL
XXX.—DREADNOUGHT AGAINST DREADNOUGHT
XXXI.—SUBMARINES AT WORK
XXXII.—U50’S WORST CRIME
XXXIII.—MAX RENOUNCES THE FATHERLAND
XXXIV.—THE SUPPLY SHIP
XXXV.—PRISONERS OF WAR



                            *DREADNOUGHTS OF
                              THE DOGGER.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                       *WHAT’S BRED IN THE BONE.*


The Scoutmaster paused in his work of opening a tin of condensed milk on
the top of a packing-case.  Glancing upwards to the shoulder of the
cliff, he caught sight of a figure partly concealed beyond a dark clump
of gorse and bramble.  He could see the shining brass tube of a
telescope beneath a naval cap.  The telescope was levelled at the
slate-grey shape of a light cruiser riding at anchor in Haddisport
Roads, abreast of the camp.

"Your brother’s out early, Redisham," said the Scoutmaster, turning
again to the milk tin.  "I hope he’ll come down to us.  I expect he can
tell us a lot about that cruiser out there.  He looks well in his
cadet’s uniform!"

Mark Redisham was bending over the fire, frying eggs and bacon.  Some of
his companions were in the tent, dressing after their morning swim,
while others of the patrol were variously occupied in preparing the camp
breakfast.

"Yes, sir," he answered.  "Lucky chap, isn’t he?  I envy him being in
the navy.  And he’s more than a cadet now, Mr. Bilverstone.  He’s a
full-fledged midshipman—or soon will be, when he steps aboard his ship."

One of the Sea Scouts near to him, a tall, loose-limbed youth with a
budding moustache, stood watching the lithe young fellow in naval
uniform, now approaching with his telescope under his arm.

"Lucky?" he repeated with a sneer.  "I don’t see where the luck comes
in.  I don’t envy him."

"Indeed!" said Mark.  "You don’t envy a chap who is going to be an
officer in the British Navy?  Why?  Oh, but I was forgetting——"

Most of the Sea Scouts in the Lion Patrol were in the habit of
overlooking the fact that Max Hilliger was not British.  He had been
amongst them so long, first as a playfellow, then as a Scout, that they
had almost come to think of him as a native of Haddisport.  In reality,
he was a German, his father, Heinrich Hilliger, being German Vice-Consul
in the port, as well as a wealthy fish merchant, doing a big business
with Germany.

"Why?" Max repeated, shrugging his shoulders. "It isn’t good enough.
You fellows are always boasting about your British Navy, as if it were
the only fleet on the seas.  You seem to forget that Germany has a navy
as good, if not better."  He laughed derisively.  "You’ll discover your
mistake if Germany and England come to grips.  Your boasted navy’ll be
licked into a cocked hat.  Half your cruisers are only fit to be
scrapped.  Those that are not obsolete couldn’t hold their own against
the Kaiser’s High Sea Fleet."

Here a diversion was caused by the arrival of Midshipman Rodney
Redisham, who shook hands with Mr. Bilverstone, and nodded recognition
to such of the patrol as he remembered.

"You’ve grown, Catchpole," he said to one, "and you, too, Quester.
Hullo, Max, you here? You’ve changed since we met last."

"Max has just been arguing that the Kaiser’s Fleet is better than ours,"
remarked the Scout master.

"Germany has some jolly good fighting ships," acknowledged the
midshipman; "but I believe our guns have a longer range, and, of course,
we’ve got more ships."

Max Hilliger seemed disposed to dispute the point, but at that moment
there came to the sharp ears of the Scouts a peculiar buzzing sound from
beyond the houses on the cliff.  All eyes were turned expectantly
skyward in the one direction.  Presently an aeroplane appeared above the
trees, and, sinking rapidly, skimmed the level ground of the denes, and
alighted like a great bird on a patch of grass within fifty yards of the
camp.

At a word from Mr. Bilverstone, two of the Scouts ran forward; but they
had hardly reached the machine before the pilot had leapt to his feet.

"Don’t handle anything, boys," he said, pushing his goggles up over his
forehead.  "She’s all right. But I see there’s a crowd of people on the
cliff. They’ll be coming down to nose around.  Keep guard here, while I
step along to your camp and get some warmth into me."

Rodney Redisham strode forward to meet him, and, seeing the two gold
stripes on his sleeve, greeted him with a very formal naval salute.

"Why, it’s Lieutenant Aldiss!" he cried. "Where have you come from,
sir?"

"Dover," returned the officer.  "And what are you doing here?  Why
aren’t you in your ship? Any news?"

"News?" Redisham repeated.  "Do you mean about the ultimatum to
Germany?"

"Yes, of course.  Is it to be war?"

"I don’t know.  It looks precious like it.  But we haven’t heard yet."

"It’s beastly cold up there this morning," said the lieutenant,
indicating the sky.  "Have these Scouts got any hot coffee?  Ah, I see
one of them is fetching some.  That’s nice."

"But won’t you come up to my home and have a proper breakfast, sir?"
Rodney invited.  "It’s that red house with the tower, on the cliff."

Lieutenant Aldiss shook his head.

"Thank you, but I’m due at Buremouth at eight o’clock," he explained,
and, taking the steaming cup which Max Hilliger had brought to him, he
added: "So you’re appointed to the _Atreus_, out there, are you?"

Rodney looked across at the grey-painted cruiser.

"Yes," he answered proudly, "I am to join to-day."

In the meantime a crowd was gathering around the aeroplane, eager to see
it start on its renewed flight.  A police-constable was approaching
hurriedly down the slope of the cliff, no doubt with the intention of
keeping off the curious crowd.  As he came near to the camp, Rodney
Redisham called out to him:

"Any news, Challis?"

"News, sir," responded Constable Challis, producing a journal from the
front of his tunic, "I should just think so.  Look here!"  He opened the
newspaper.  "England has declared war," he announced.

Lieutenant Aldiss gave a quick glance at the prominently printed lines,
handed his empty cup to Hilliger, and, swinging round, made a bee-line
for his aeroplane, accompanied by Rodney Redisham, who helped him to
start.

"Yes," continued Constable Challis, excitedly, "it’s war—war against
Germany—war to the knife. We’re going to be put to the test.  It’ll be
tough while it lasts.  But you can take it from me, we shall win.  We
shall sweep the Germans off the face of the seas, and make an end of
’em!"

"Not a bit of it!" cried Max Hilliger exultantly. "It will be the other
way about.  Ha, ha!  England’s done for now!  She’s doomed.  Every
cockboat in her rotten fleet will be sent to the bottom.  D’you hear?
She’s doomed!  She’ll be smashed—smashed like that!"

He dashed the empty cup in fury to the ground. There was a hearty burst
of laughter, for the cup fell upon the soft sand and was not even
cracked. Enraged at the failure of his illustration, and the laughter
which seemed to mock him, Max snatched his Sea Scout’s cap from his head
and deliberately flung it full into the face of Mark Redisham.

Mark caught it with a quickly uplifted hand, and politely offered it
back to him.

"Don’t make a silly ass of yourself," he smiled, "even if you have
become our enemy."

But instead of taking it, Hilliger turned away, strode sullenly to his
bicycle, mounted it, and rode off in the direction of the town and the
harbour.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                     *THE PERIL OF THE SILVER PIT.*


"Ah, this is just what I like!" declared Mark Redisham from his elevated
perch on the trawler’s windward bulwark.  "It’s heaps better than being
ashore in camp!"

Darby Catchpole, seated beside him, clapped his feet together in
delight.

"It’s lovely," he agreed; "I wouldn’t have missed it for anything."

They were far out on the blue waters of the North Sea, steaming towards
the fishing grounds of the Dogger Bank in the trawler _What’s Wanted_,
an entirely new craft, owned by Catchpole’s father and now making her
first working trip.

"It’s a pity none of the other chaps are with us," regretted Redisham.

"You needn’t be sorry Max Hilliger isn’t here," Darby responded.  "He
turned ridiculously crusty yesterday morning when the constable spoke
about our beating the Germans.  I suppose it was natural, since he’s a
German himself.  Of course, he couldn’t have stopped in the troop, even
if he’d wanted to, being one of the enemy.  But he might have had the
grace to pay his debts.  Mr. Bilverstone will never get the three
shillings he owed him."

"Why?  Max hasn’t left the town, has he?"

"Yes, he has.  He went off by the afternoon tide in that Dutch ketch
that has been lying in the Roads so long.  I suppose we’ve seen the last
of him."

Redisham glanced round the wide stretch of sea, as if in search of the
ketch, but there was no sign of her.

Darby jumped down from his perch, and Mark followed him aft, past the
wheel-house, to find the skipper giving instructions for the trawl to be
put out. They were now near the fishing grounds of the Silver Pit, a
favourite spot for longshore soles and turbot.

When the trawling gear was out, the skipper and his two guests went
below for breakfast in the tiny compartment which did service as a
cabin. In taking his seat at the narrow flap table, Mark Redisham had to
make room for himself by removing a gun.  He examined the weapon, and,
recognising it, looked across at Darby Catchpole.

"Why on earth have you brought your fowling-piece with you?" he asked in
surprise.  "Do you expect that you may need to defend yourself against
the enemy?"

Darby laughed.

"No," he explained.  "I told you once that I’m helping to complete the
collection of East Coast birds for the Haddisport Museum.  They don’t
possess a specimen of the common or North Sea tern.  I thought perhaps I
might get one."

He took his fowling-piece on deck with him. There were many sea
birds—gannets, mews, and fulmars—flying about, but the graceful sea
swallow was absent, and he transferred his interest to the work of
hauling in the trawl.

The first take was disappointing; the second more fortunate.  Time after
time the gear was brought in, and gradually a considerable number of
fish accumulated.

Redisham had brought with him a pair of marine glasses, of which he was
especially proud.  They were particularly powerful, and he was
constantly testing them by trying to read the names on distant ships.
At about nine o’clock he was idly searching the horizon, when his
attention was arrested by a strange sail to the far north-east.

"Darby!" he cried.  "There’s that Dutch ketch! Have a look at her."

Darby took up the skipper’s telescope from the top of the skylight and
adjusted the focus.

"Yes," he agreed, after a while.  "It’s the same, no doubt.  I know her
by her weatherboard. But what’s she up to?  She’s bang in the track of
the steamer bearing down on her!  Hullo! The steamer’s stopped!  Wait a
bit.  The Dutchman’s putting out a boat."

The two Scouts watched what was going on across the sea—the rowing boat
pulling alongside the steamship and returning to the ketch, having
apparently disposed of some of its passengers.

Why should this transfer of passengers be made in the open sea?  And had
Max Hilliger anything to do with it?

Mark made out the steamer to be a vessel of about 2,000 tons.  She had
two cream-coloured funnels, and was furnished with many lifeboats and
deckhouses, like a liner.  He tried to read her name, but it was hidden
by the anchor chain.  It satisfied him, however, that she was flying the
Red Ensign, and he took no further notice of her as she continued on her
course south by west.

Shortly afterwards he was startled by the report of Darby’s
fowling-piece.

"Got him!" cried Catchpole.  "It’s a tern."

Darby was a good shot, and he had brought down the bird, which had
fluttered into the sea hardly a score of yards from the trawler’s
starboard side.

The skipper made no demur when asked to reverse the engines.  The boat
was lowered, and Darby secured his prize.  But his disappointment was
great when he discovered that the bird was not a tern, or a web-footed
sea bird of any species, but an ordinary domestic pigeon.  He was on the
point of casting it back into the sea when Redisham checked him.

"Wait!" cried Mark.  "Which way was it flying?"

Darby looked at him in perplexity.

"What’s your idea?" he questioned.  "It was flying from north-east to
south-west."

"Just what I guessed," returned Mark, with a significant nod.  "It was
going towards Haddisport from the Dutch ketch.  It’s one of Max
Hilliger’s pigeons.  Let’s have a look at it."

They examined the dead bird, and sure enough they discovered a strip of
thin paper bandaged round one of the legs.  The writing upon it was in
minute shorthand.

"It’s German!" declared Mark.  "We must give it up to some naval officer
to translate.  I’ll keep it in my pocket-book, shall I—till we get
home?"

"Perhaps it came off the steamer, and not the ketch," suggested Darby.

They turned to look for the steamship, and saw her steaming southward,
across their own wake. Although she was many miles away, it was possible
now to distinguish her name, for the sunlight was upon her.  They
spelled out the words _Minna von Barnhelm_.

"Why, she’s a German!" cried Mark, "and now she’s flying the German
naval ensign!  Hullo! That’s queer!  There’s something gone wrong with
her.  She’s sprung a leak, surely!  She’s jettisoning her cargo.  Have a
squint at her!"

A large, dark object, like a cask or packing case, fell with a light
splash into the sea under the steamer’s counter.  It seemed to have
dropped from an inclined plank put out under her taffrail.  She was
going slowly while this was being done, but presently she put on steam
and moved off, gathering speed, and was soon a mere speck in the far
south.

The _What’s Wanted_ now altered her course to the westward, steered by
Mark Redisham, for the two Sea Scouts were allowed to take each a spell
at the wheel.

During every moment they were learning something new.  What Darby
enjoyed as much as anything was to work the winch which hauled in the
loaded trawl; but always when the gear was brought inboard there was the
excitement of emptying the pocket of the net and seeing what varieties
of fish and strange marine creatures had been dredged up.

Darby was at the winch one moment, while Mark was pricking off the
trawler’s course on the chart, when the mate at the stern shouted
excitedly:

"Belay there!  Stop the winch, sir!  Hold hard. We’ve fetched up a bit
of wreck!"

Mark Redisham ran aft and looked over the side. The trawl beam was
against the quarter bulwark, and a curious big, oval object, which at
first glance looked like the back of a huge fish, was jammed between the
beam and the vessel’s side.

Mark leant over, and looked at the thing more closely; then he leapt
back, trembling from head to foot.

"Steady all!" he cried hoarsely.  "Don’t move that winch, Darby!  For
the life of you, keep it still!  Leave it, and come here—quick!"

Darby, the skipper, the mate, the engineer, the whole crew went up to
him, staring at the thing which had so filled him with alarm.  He alone
seemed to know what it was.

"Stand back!" he cried.  "Don’t touch it! Don’t go near it!  It’s a
mine—a contact mine! If it’s moved only an inch there’ll be an
explosion. See those spikes on the top of it?  They’re the detonators.
One of them’s resting on the rail!  If it breaks—it’s glass—if it
breaks, we’re all done for!"

The skipper, pocketing his pipe, looked through screwed-up eyes into the
boy’s face.

"Any c’nection with this yer war, Mester Redisham?" he coolly inquired.

"It has every connection with it," Mark answered calmly.

He went cautiously nearer to examine the exact position of the mine.  It
was balanced on its own circumference, held against the side by the
trawl board; but every slightest movement of the ship threatened to
explode it.

"We can’t cut it away," he decided.  He turned to the mate.  "Dick," he
ordered, "launch the boat very carefully and let us all quit."

Fortunately the boat was at the farther end, hanging outward from the
davits.  Mark advised the skipper exactly what to do.  He pointed out
that by passing a warp round the trawl gear and hauling upon it from
seaward the mine might be released and slip back into the sea.  This was
the only chance, and in case it should fail, every one was to get into
the boat.

He was himself the last to leave the ship.  They took the longest rope,
and, rowing round, contrived at great risk to lash an end of it to the
lower extremity of the trawl beam.  Four men were at the oars. Paying
out the rope over the stern as they rowed away, they hauled upon it
until it became fairly taut.

"Steady!" commanded the skipper.  "Back ’er a bit—belay—row starboard!"

He manoeuvred the boat until the pull of the rope was at the proper
angle, then the tension was slowly tightened.  The trawl beam swayed
very slightly at first; but suddenly there was a heavy jerk, the mine
moved, but it was not dislodged. Mark Redisham saw one of the detonators
bending.

"Look out!" he shouted.

Instantly the air and sea together were torn by a terrific crash, which
must have been heard a score of miles away.  In that instant Mark saw
the whole fabric of the trawler burst open.  The boat heaved under him,
and he was flung forward, stunned and unconscious.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                         *WATCHERS OF THE SEA.*


The sound of that explosion carried its warning far over the fishing
grounds of the Silver Pit.  It reached tramps and colliers plying their
ceaseless traffic along the coast.  Nearer at hand it alarmed the crew
of the trawler _Mignonette_, who saw the column of smoke and wreckage
shot skyward as from the crater of a volcano, and who, regardless of
their own danger from floating mines, hastened to the spot to pick up
the dazed survivors huddled together in the open boat.  It reached the
officers and men on a patrol of destroyers speeding northward within
sight of the English shores.  On the cruiser _Atreus_ it was distinctly
heard, coming like a challenge across the waves.

"Oho!" exclaimed the astonished commander, arresting his pacing of the
quarter-deck.  "Gunfire, eh?  Hostilities are opening even earlier than
we expected!"

He stood by the binnacle, listening for a second "boom."

"Seemed to me almost more like the explosion of a contact mine than a
gun, sir," ventured the signal lieutenant, halting beside him.

"A mine?" protested the commander.  "No, no, impossible!  We have laid
no mines.  It is not in our programme to lay mines; and certainly not on
the high seas.  The enemy cannot have laid any, either—not over here;
not so promptly, hardly thirty hours after the declaration of war.  It
cannot have been a mine.  And yet there was only one detonation.  If it
had been a naval gun, it would have been answered.  However, we shall
soon know. We must go and see.  Send out the signal to change course
eight points to starboard."

It chanced that Rodney Redisham was midshipman of the watch, and that it
fell to him to help in transmitting this signal.

With the precision of a battalion of soldiers at drill, the flotilla of
destroyers and their guide ship wheeled first into line abreast
formation and then into line ahead.  The _Atreus_, which before had been
leading, now held the rear station, following in the wake of the
destroyers; and it was in this order that they appeared an hour later
when sighted by Mark Redisham and Darby Catchpole from the deck of the
_Mignonette_.

Mark was unhurt, excepting for a few bruises about the shins.  Darby had
a scar across his fore-head, and the skipper’s head was badly cut; the
mate’s right arm was fractured, and all others of the crew had tested
Mark’s skill in first-aid.  But they had escaped with their lives, even
though the _What’s Wanted_ had disappeared.

"The blamed Germans!" complained the skipper, nursing his bandaged head.
"And it was her maiden trip!  The mean cowards to come sneakin’ over
here a-sowin’ of their mines on the open sea for harmless fishin’ craft
to run foul of!  ’T’aren’t accordin’ to any fightin’ rules as ever I’ve
heard on. ’T’aren’t fightin’ at all, nor honest warfare, look at it how
you will!"

As the destroyers drew nearer, Mark Redisham grew more and more
apprehensive lest they should run into the unsuspected danger of the
mine-field, and he wanted to warn them of their peril.  He urged the
engineer to put on more steam and get close up, so that they might see
their signals.

Already he had hoisted a flag signifying "I want to speak to you," and
Darby was busy fashioning a pair of semaphore flags.

When the flotilla was near enough, Darby went to the steam whistle and
opened the valve, giving a long, shrill blast to attract attention;
following it with short and long blasts in the Morse code to form the
message:

"You are running into danger.  Steamer flying German ensign has been
laying mines.  Trawler sunk.  Survivors on board me."

At the same time, Mark, taking the two flags, climbed upon the
wheel-house, and, standing firmly, began to wave them, signalling very
rapidly.

For a long time there was no response; but unknown to him, the leading
destroyer had flashed its wireless message back to the cruiser.
Presently the whole line came to a stop, and Mark saw that the semaphore
on the _Atreus_ was at work, questioning him.  He answered, telling the
whole story of the German mine-layer, and the loss of the _What’s
Wanted_.

Even while he was speaking, the motor-pinnace of the cruiser was
launched, and the message came to him:

    "If you, the Sea Scout, who are signalling, are one of the
    survivors, come aboard us immediately.  Let your shipmates be
    taken into Haddisport."

Mark was not altogether surprised when he saw that the midshipman in
charge of the pinnace was his own brother Rodney.  They shook hands as
he stepped into the stern sheets, but preserved a discreet silence
before the men.

Saluting the quarter-deck as they boarded the _Atreus_, Mark found
himself face to face with a group of officers.  He advanced towards the
commander.

"If you will lend me a chart, sir," he began, "I will show you exactly
the way the mine-layer went. She has been sowing mines all along her
track."

A chart was at once opened on top of the skylight, and with a pencil
Mark traced as nearly as he could the _Minna von Barnhelm’s_ course,
from the time when he first saw her until she disappeared.

"It was just here where she began laying mines," he explained,
indicating the spot, "about three miles to the east of where we are now.
If you keep well to the westward, you will escape them, sir.  But I
can’t say which way she steered after we lost sight of her."

"Of course not," nodded the commander.  "You have done very well as it
is.  I’m tremendously obliged to you for the information."

He turned to his officers and gave orders for the squadron to proceed at
full speed in pursuit, handing the navigation officer the marked chart.

"There’s another thing," resumed Mark, fumbling in his pocket-book, and
producing the strip of paper taken from Darby Catchpole’s pigeon.  He
explained how he had come by it, adding: "It seems to be written in
German shorthand.  Perhaps you will take charge of it, sir."

"Excellent," smiled the commander.  "You have your wits about you, my
lad.  You have acted with commendable good sense and promptitude. This
matter of the mine-field is most important. What is your name?"

"Redisham, sir—Mark Redisham.  I am the brother of Midshipman Redisham."

"Indeed!  Oh, then, just see if you can find him, and tell him from me
to look after you until I want you again.  Tell him he may show you over
the ship!"

For a couple of hours or so Mark was in his glory going about the
cruiser, examining the engines, the guns, the torpedo-tubes, inquiring
into the mechanism of the water-tight doors, visiting the seamen’s
quarters, the conning-tower, and even watching the stokers at their grim
work.

As they returned to the deck, a petty officer touched Mark’s elbow.

"Captain Damant wishes you to go up to him on the bridge," he said.

Mark found his way, and climbed up to the commander’s side.

"Take my binoculars and have a look at the steamer yonder," the
commander told him, "and see if you identify her."

"I can identify her without the binoculars, sir," returned Mark.  "It’s
the _Minna von Barnhelm_."

"Good," nodded Captain Damant.  "I wanted to be sure.  You can go now.
Go and make yourself as small as you can in that corner of the
conning-tower, and watch our destroyers.  Don’t be alarmed at the
noise."

The destroyers were now stretched far in advance of the cruiser, bearing
down upon the German in line ahead.  Hardly had Mark settled himself in
his corner, when the foremost of them fired a shot across the bows of
the mine-layer.

The _Minna von Barnhelm_ at once answered from small guns mounted on her
upper deck, her shells falling short.  Each of the destroyers fired a
shot in turn, and every shot got home.

Within a few moments the mine-layer showed the terrible effects of the
British guns.  Her after-funnel fell over; one of her ventilators
followed; her bridge was torn to shreds, and her top works were wrecked.

For a while it seemed to Mark that she was going to be left with this
punishment, for the destroyers were continuing on their course, passing
her on their port-beam.  But presently he saw the immense four-inch guns
of the _Atreus_ herself being trained upon her from the forward
barbette.  Mark held his breath and waited, watching the long steel
tubes moving as easily as if they were mere muskets taking aim.

Suddenly from one of them there was a great gush of fire and smoke, a
staggering, deafening roar, which shook the whole ship, and a monster
lyddite shell struck the _Minna von Barnhelm_ on her quarter, exploding
there with terrific violence.

Mark saw the gaping hole which it tore in the steamer’s hull, and he
knew that no further shots would be needed.  She was sinking by the
stern, the men at the same time leaping into the sea.

The British ships, with one accord, converged towards her, and from each
of them boats were being launched to pick up the survivors.  The
_Atreus_ was the nearest, and just as her first boat pushed off the
_Minna von Barnhelm_ heeled over, shuddered, and sank in a riot of foam.

Mark and Rodney Redisham stood together at the gangway of the cruiser as
the first boatload of survivors were brought on board.

As the last of them came up the ladder, it was seen that he was hardly
more than a boy, wearing a fisherman’s guernsey and heavy sea boots.  He
held up his head unashamed, almost insolently.

"Why, it’s Max!" Rodney Redisham exclaimed.

Max Hilliger stared at the two brothers, a spasm of hatred on his face.
He clenched his fist to strike at one of them, when a couple of seamen,
with a loaded stretcher, marched in between.

The Germans were at once led below to have their wounds dressed, and to
be provided with dry clothing.

"You had better slip down to the petty officers’ mess now, Mark, and get
some grub," Rodney advised.  "I will see you later on.  We’re going into
Haddisport, I believe, so you’ll be put ashore.  The destroyers are to
be sent off on another job, up north."

It was two or three hours before they again met. Mark had had dinner,
and was sitting chatting with a company of petty officers, when Rodney
came to him.

"You’re wanted in the chart-room," he announced.  "Come along!"  And as
they were passing aft through one of the alley-ways, he added: "Captain
Damant has had that pigeon message translated, and it seems to be
important.  He’s going to ask you something about it."

Mark followed him up a flight of stairs to the deck.

At that moment there came a low, rumbling sound from under the bows of
the _Atreus_.  Then the frightful, ear-splitting crash of an exploding
mine. A sheet of flame instantly enveloped the bridge. The vessel’s back
seemed to be broken.  She listed over to the port side with such a jerk
that all who were on deck were flung off their feet.  Mark Redisham was
pitched bodily over a machine-gun and flung far out into the sea.

He sank down, down into the depths.  It seemed an age before he felt
himself rising.  At length, when he came to the surface, gasping, it was
to find the air filled with falling splinters and a dense yellow smoke
which almost choked him as he tried to breathe.  He saw the doomed
cruiser some distance away settling down by the bows.

He looked around him.  Most of the debris from the explosion had been of
metal and had sunk. But he caught sight of a floating spar.  He swam
towards it.  It was not large enough to support him, but it would help
to keep him afloat until the poisonous fumes should clear.

He reached it and stretched forth a hand to grasp it, when another
swimmer, coming behind him, shoved him violently aside and seized it.

Mark went under for a moment, rose again with his throat full of sea
water, and grabbed the nearer end of the spar.  As he did so he saw the
other’s face.  It was the face of Max Hilliger.

They stared at each other.  Both knew that one must yield.

"It’s my life or yours," said Mark.  "Which is it to be?"



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                       *THE MENACE OF THE MINES.*


Hardly had Mark Redisham spoken the challenging words, when he realised
that even if Max Hilliger should choose to yield to him the coveted
chance of safety, he could not accept it.  How could he afterwards
forgive himself if he saved his own life at the cost of another’s—even
though that other were an enemy of his country?

The instinct of self-preservation was strong within him.  He knew that
by a turn of the hand he could take possession of the spar which would
keep him afloat; he knew, too, that Hilliger was the better swimmer.
But he did not hesitate.

"Take it," he said, pushing the spar from him.

He waited to see Hilliger seize and rest his arms over the support.
Then he turned over on his side and struck out, swimming more easily
among the waves than he had expected to do in his clothes and heavy
boots.  He could breathe more freely now, for the stifling fumes from
the exploded mine no longer caught at his throat.

Uncertain of his best direction, striving only to keep his head above
water, he glanced from side to side.  In a ragged cloud of brown smoke
and escaping steam he could dimly see the stricken cruiser, now about
half a mile away.

She was perilously low in the bows, her afterpart tilted up, the blades
of her propellers showing. Yet she did not seem to be sinking deeper.
He supposed that her water-tight bulkheads had been promptly closed,
that she still might keep afloat for hours.

Turning to see if Max Hilliger were following him, he caught sight of
the destroyers rushing to the rescue, in spite of the danger from mines.
He had not known that they were so close in the wake of the _Atreus_.
Rodney had told him that they were going off on another job.  He
wondered if they would be able to save the ship by towing her into shoal
water.

The shrill blast of a bugle reached him from the cruiser.  As the smoke
lifted for a moment he saw a throng of men on her decks, throwing things
overboard—booms, hammocks, baulks of timber, crates, wooden
gratings—anything that might help in saving life.  Her boats appeared to
have been smashed by the explosion.  Everything beyond the bridge was
wrecked—a funnel had fallen, the fire-control platform was down.  He
could see a gap in the forward turret, from which the great guns had
been dislodged.

He thought of the stokers and engineers.  None of the crew who had been
in the forepart of the vessel when she struck the mine could have had
any chance of life.  Even as he swam, he passed many gruesome signs of
the terrible destruction. He turned abruptly at sight of an uplifted
hand and a young seaman’s blood-stained face, which appeared immediately
in front of him.  He stretched out and caught at the man’s wrist.

"Can I help you, mate?" he panted.

"No use, sonny," the seaman answered feebly. "Never you mind me.  I’ve
lost a leg, and I reckon my starboard side’s stove in."

Mark held on, trying to get his free arm round the man’s body.  But he
was drawn under, struggling, losing his grip.

When again he rose exhausted to the surface, and began once more to swim
for his life, he was himself seized by the shoulder and pushed from
behind.  He made a spurt to free himself, and his right hand came down
upon something solid, at which he grabbed with desperate fingers.  It
was one of the gratings that had been thrown overboard.

"Hold on to it!"

He heard the words confusedly through the buzzing of the sea water in
his ears.  He did not recognise the voice as that of his brother.
Before he could turn to speak, his rescuer was swimming off again to the
help of other possible survivors.

Mark reached over and managed to get a shin against the edge of the
grating, pulling himself up until he rested bodily across the support.
Thus raised above the surface, clinging with hands and knees, he could
look round in search of swimmers who might share his refuge.

A little distance away he saw, and now recognised, his brother Rodney,
swimming back to him with a hand under the chin of a wounded midshipman.
The boy was brought alongside and lifted to the grating; but Mark
Redisham saw that he was already beyond all need of human help.

Rodney clambered upon the raft, and saw what Mark had seen.

"He was one of my pals at Dartmouth," he said.  "Look around and see if
there are any others."

"Max Hilliger is somewhere about," Mark answered; "but I see no sign of
him."

"I expect he will be picked up," returned Rodney. "See!  There’s one of
the destroyers putting out her boats."

The leading destroyer had meanwhile come close up to the _Atreus_, and
was sending out a hawser, with the intention of getting her in tow by
the stern.  It was soon obvious, however, that this attempt to save the
vessel was useless.  She was settling down, the waves washing over her
bows, her stern tilted high.

It was clearly time to abandon the ship.  The order to do so was given;
the men were falling in on her steeply sloping quarter-deck.  Boats from
the destroyers were pulled alongside, and without hurry or confusion
men, officers, and captain left her to her fate.

A boat from the destroyer _Levity_ picked up Rodney and Mark Redisham.
Still in their wet clothes, they gave help in attending to the wounded.
All of the survivors who were not hurt had been in the afterpart of the
ship when she struck the mine. Those who had been below in the
stokeholds and seamen’s quarters were killed to the number of a hundred
and forty men, apart from some thirty of the German prisoners taken from
the _Minna von Barnhelm_.

Nor was this the end of the disaster.  The destroyer’s boats had barely
drawn off from the sinking cruiser when she struck a second mine.  It
exploded the fore magazine.  Two of the rescue boats were smashed;
wreckage, falling from a great height, struck others, and one of the
cruiser’s shells, bursting on the deck of the _Levity_, killed three
men.

When this happened, Mark was giving first-aid to a wounded signal-boy
who had been carried below into the temporary cockpit.  The shell
exploded with a deafening crash just above his head.  It seemed as if
the stout deck plates were burst asunder. He betrayed no alarm, but went
on with his work of attending to the signal-boy, until the surgeon came
with his instruments and bandages.

Mark returned on deck, wondering what had happened, and was in time to
watch the shattered _Atreus_ taking her final plunge—the third ship
which he had seen sent to the bottom of the North Sea on that memorable
day!

Captain Damant stood near him, also watching.

"I should not have regretted it so much if she had been sunk in fair
fight," the captain was saying to one of the officers.  "This wholesale
mine-laying, however, is something unexampled, and contrary to all
international law.  It is clear, too, that the enemy must have begun the
work days before the declaration of war."

Mark saluted him.

"You wished to see me, sir," he reminded him.

"Yes," the captain nodded; "I wanted to know if the _Minna von Barnhelm_
was the only suspicious-looking craft you saw this morning. But it is
now obvious that she was not alone.  I don’t suppose," he added, "that
you quite realise how important it was that you should give such prompt
information."

"We didn’t save the _Atreus_, sir," Mark regretted.

"That is true," acknowledged Captain Damant, "because, as a matter of
fact, we altered our course, and ran into another mine-field.  The
important thing is that our wireless message was picked up by a squadron
of our Dreadnoughts off the Dogger Bank.  They were steaming towards the
danger. What do you suppose would have been the result if they, as well
as we, had run foul of those German mines?  It is thanks to you that the
Navy has been saved an even greater disaster than the loss of the
_Atreus_.  You may be sure I will see that your good services are
recognised."



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                         *UNDER THE SYCAMORE.*


Long before the smoke of the destroyer flotilla blurred the clean line
of the horizon, it was known in Haddisport that H.M.S. _Atreus_ had been
sunk by a floating mine.  Among the first of the townspeople to hear the
news was Darby Catchpole.

Darby had come ashore from the _Mignonette_, and had hastened to the
naval signal station at the end of the pier to report what he personally
knew of the mine-layer.  His Sea Scout’s uniform gave him a passport,
and he entered the pavilion, undeterred by the armed bluejacket on guard
at the door.

He found himself in a large room, in which were several officers and
seamen.  The officers were discussing a wireless message received from
Captain Damant.  He heard one of them transmitting the message by
telephone.  Another was working at the telegraph instrument.  From an
inner room came the busy clicking of a typewriter.

An officer whom he knew by sight as Lieutenant Ingoldsby, commander of a
submarine, came up to him, and Darby told him of the loss of the _What’s
Wanted_, adding that another steam trawler, the _Pied Piper_, had met a
similar fate, with the loss of all hands.

"I suppose the fishing will be stopped, won’t it, sir?" Darby ventured
anxiously.  His father was an owner of several trawlers, and he foresaw
the possibility of ruin.

"Not necessarily," the officer assured him.  "We shall soon clear the
sea of mines.  If you are not otherwise on duty, you can be useful
here."

Darby’s eyes brightened.

"I’m ready now, sir, this minute, to do anything I can," he said.

"Good!"  Lieutenant Ingoldsby nodded approval of this prompt
willingness.  "Go into the farther room, there.  They’ll tell you what
to do."

Darby entered the tiny, sunlit room, from which he had heard the
clicking of the typewriter.  Two bluejackets stood between him and the
table.  One of them moved aside.

"A Sea Scout just come in, sir," he announced to the man at the
typewriter.

The operator wheeled round, and Darby was astonished to recognise his
own Scoutmaster, Mr. Arnold Bilverstone.  He was aware that Mr.
Bilverstone was in the Royal Naval Reserve.  What surprised him was that
Mr. Bilverstone had so quickly been installed in naval duties, and that
he should already be wearing the uniform of a petty officer.

Responding to Darby’s salute, Mr. Bilverstone questioned him concerning
himself and his adventure, and, gathering a sheaf of papers, said:

"Take these to the Harbour-master.  They are lists of selected steam
trawlers that are to be brought at once into the inner harbour to be
turned into mine-sweepers, flying the White Ensign."

Not Darby Catchpole alone, but several other Sea Scouts of the Lion
Patrol were occupied about the town and harbour that afternoon, helping
to convert a fleet of fishing boats into a fleet of naval auxiliaries.

Instead of trawling for fish, these stout little vessels were to engage
in the perilous pursuit of picking up explosive mines from the waters of
the North Sea. It only needed that their funnels and hulls should be
painted grey, and that some alterations should be made in their dredging
gear, and they were ready for their new and dangerous work, each with
her daring crew of naval reserve men.

In the late afternoon, Darby watched the first of them going out, under
the escort of a gunboat. It was astonishing how wicked looking a coat of
war paint had made them.

He lingered at the naval base until the survivors of the _Atreus_ were
landed in boats from the destroyers, and with other Sea Scouts he helped
in conveying the wounded to the hospital.  On his return he met Mark
Redisham, who told him of how Max Hilliger had been on board the German
mine-layer.

"I’ve been looking and asking for him," said Mark, as they walked
together across the swing-bridge.  "I supposed he’d been picked up by
one of the destroyers; but nobody seems to know anything about him.  I’m
afraid he is drowned.  We’d better call and tell his people."

Darby Catchpole shook his head.

"I’ve just heard that his people have left the neighbourhood," he
explained.  "Mr. Hilliger, being a German, couldn’t very well stay in
Haddisport. Of course, the consulate has ceased to exist. He has had to
shut up his office and apply for his passports.  I shouldn’t be at all
surprised if he, as well as Max, was aboard that Dutch ketch—the
_Thor_—that we spotted off the Silver Pit.  Perhaps he even went with
Max on board the mine-layer. Anyhow, he’s said to have sold his business
and gone off."

"It looks as if he’d known long beforehand that there was going to be
war," Mark observed.

"That is what the men in the trawl market are saying," resumed Darby.
"They are saying, too, that for years past he has been acting as an
agent of the German Navy against Great Britain, using his fishing boats
to fetch and carry information. What about that pigeon message?  Had it
anything to do with him?  Did you get at what was in it?"

"Yes."  Mark Redisham gave a cautious glance at his companion.  "But
I’ve got to keep it a secret."

"Right," nodded Darby.  "Then I won’t refer to it again.  Are you going
to call at Sunnydene? I don’t suppose you will find any one there,
except perhaps a caretaker.  The German servants were dismissed quite a
week ago."

Sunnydene was the name of the Hilligers’ luxurious mansion on the edge
of the cliff, to the north of the town.  It was a conspicuous,
stone-built house, with gables and turrets overgrown with creepers,
flanked by fir trees grotesquely bent by the harsh winds of winter.  In
the middle of the front lawn there was a tall flagstaff, rigged like a
schooner’s mast, from which, on occasion, the German ensign was
displayed.  The lower as well as the upper windows commanded a wide
expanse of the North Sea, and it was from one of them, opening upon the
terrace, that Herr Hilliger had watched the _Thor_ setting out, with his
son on board.

Time and again during this day he had stood looking out towards the far
horizon, as if he expected something to happen.  And now in the dusk of
the evening he was once more gazing outward, with an expression of grave
anxiety in his watery, blue eyes.

"The pigeon has not yet come home, Seligmann!" he said, turning sharply
and speaking in German to his secretary, who had just entered the room
carrying an overcoat and a yellow leather handbag.

"No, _mein herr_," the secretary answered, "I have again been into the
loft.  It has not returned. And already the car is at the door.  It is
time that we start."

"Strange!" ejaculated Heir Hilliger.  "I cannot understand it.  Max was
to set it free at ten o’clock this morning.  A bird that has so often
found its way across from Heligoland is not likely to have lost itself
on a shorter journey.  It cannot be that the _Minna von Barnhelm_ failed
to come out from Cuxhaven.  She was to have been at sea, equipped and
ready to begin her work at once when Max should signal to her that war
had been declared. Nothing can have gone wrong—nothing!"

He strode impatiently to and fro about the room.

"There is no help for it, Fritz," he resumed. "You must go without me.
You have your passport. You will go by motor-car to Harwich, catch the
night boat for the Hook of Holland, and join Max at Wilhelmshaven.  You
understand?"

"I understand, _mein herr_," returned Fritz Seligmann.  "I have
everything ready—the money, the secret code book, the plans, the letter
to Admiral von Hilliger.  But it is unfortunate that you come not also.
If already our brave battleships are coming over for the great invasion,
it will be better that you are in Germany rather than here in England."

"Very true," agreed Herr Hilliger.  "But before three days I shall no
longer be in England.  I shall be on board the Admiral’s flagship.  Why
should I remain in the enemy’s country when I can be over there in my
own, doing my duty for the Fatherland?"

An hour later, when the loaded car had gone off on its journey to
Harwich and the house was in darkness, he was out in the grounds,
prowling among the deep shadows of the trees.  He seemed to have no
object in his wanderings; but presently he entered the stables, empty
now of both horses and motor-cars.  He looked up into the blackness of
the rafters, where the open square of a trap-door showed dimly.  Then he
determined to climb up into the pigeon loft.  He clutched the sides of
the ladder, his foot was on the lowest rung, when the sound of a
footstep startled him.  A hand caught agitatedly at his elbow.  He
turned with a nervous gasp, and drew back in amazement, as if he had
seen a ghost.

"Max!" he cried.  "You!  Here?  How is this? What has happened?"

Max stood facing his father, disguised in the engineer’s cap and jumper
that he had borrowed in place of his own wet garments on the destroyer
which had brought him to land.  He was breathing heavily, as if he had
been running; as, indeed, he had, all the way from the harbour.

"I’m in time, then," he panted.  "In time to stop you.  But why are you
not gone, hours ago? You got the message?"

"The message," his father repeated, recovering his composure.  "It has
not come.  The bird is not yet home.  You failed me.  You did not set it
free!"

"But I did, father!" protested Max.  "It ought to have been here long
since.  I don’t understand."

"Nor I," returned his father.  "It was the best homing bird we ever had.
Some one—why, what is the matter?"

Max was standing rigid, staring dazedly in front of him.

"I was thinking," he said slowly, "wondering—wondering if Mark
Redisham——But no, it couldn’t be.  It’s not possible.  And yet there was
that shot that I heard—a rifle shot—from across the sea!  Are you sure
the pigeon is not in the loft, father?"

"Never mind the pigeon now."  Herr Hilliger drew him out into the stable
yard.  "Tell me what has happened.  What of the _Minna von Barnhelm_?
You signalled her?  You went aboard?  Why have you come ashore?"

"What?" cried Max in astonishment.  "You have not heard?  You have not
been told?  But she is sunk—sunk by the guns of a British cruiser—the
_Atreus_.  I was aboard of her—yes.  I was picked up.  And then the
cruiser herself was blown up, sky-high, by one of our floating mines."

"Ah!" exclaimed Herr Hilliger, with a new eagerness.  "Then the mines
were laid?"

"Hundreds of them!" Max declared.  "All along the coast."

"Good!" nodded his father, moving out from the yard into the drive.  "We
shall succeed."

He came to a halt under the shadow of a sycamore-tree.

"Listen, my son," he resumed, speaking very low. "This morning I have
had a secret dispatch from Berlin.  Everything goes well.  Our brave
soldiers are sweeping their way through Belgium.  In a week they will
march triumphantly into Paris.  We shall have taken possession of
Calais.  The way to England will then be easy.  Our battleships and
submarines will command the Channel, and all the seas; cutting off
supplies so effectually that Great Britain will be starved into
submission, even before our transports and Zeppelins land their invading
forces.  Your opportunities, my dear Max, are even brighter than I had
dared to dream."

He paused, drawing his son closer into the shielding shadows of the
tree.

"But this delay in our getting over to Wilhelmshaven is most
unfortunate," he continued.  "As it happens, you had better have gone
right across in the ketch, instead of changing into the _Minna_. As for
myself——"

"Why didn’t you go by the mail-boat from Harwich?" Max interrupted.

"My dear boy," exclaimed his father, "I waited for your message.  All
our plans—everything—depended upon my knowing the bearings of the
_Minna_ and my getting on board of her, as we planned."

"And now," pursued Max, "what do you propose to do?"

"Listen!" rejoined Herr Hilliger, still speaking in a cautiously low
voice.  "Everything that we now do must be in the service of the Emperor
and the Fatherland.  You and I are no longer concerned with England, in
any way whatever, excepting in hastening her complete downfall. Great
Britain must be beaten to the dust.  And I have come to the
determination that for the present we can best serve the Kaiser’s cause
by my going at once to Wilhelmshaven, leaving you here in England."

"Leaving me here?" cried Max in surprise.  "But why?  Why should I, a
German, remain here among our enemies?"

"To be of the greatest use to his Majesty the Kaiser," returned Herr
Hilliger.  "You have been associated with the English people.  You know
them; you speak like one of them; you can pass yourself off anywhere as
English.  You can look about you without being suspected, seeing things
which it is important that the Admiral and his captains should know."

"What?"  Max ground his heel into the gravel. "You want me to stop here
and find out the secrets of our enemies—to continue your underhand work
of sending private information to Germany about the British fleet?  You
want me to betray the people who have been my friends?  No, my father, I
cannot do that.  I am a German; I will fight for Germany. I will give up
my life for the Fatherland.  But I will not pretend to be what I am not.
I will not be a spy."

Herr Hilliger laughed, a low, contemptuous laugh.

"My dear Max," he said, "since when did you learn that to be a true
patriot it is necessary to consider the advantages of your country’s
enemies? It is nonsense.  Your highest duty, as my son and as a German,
is to do all you can against the arrogant English.  You shall obey me.
Do you understand? Tell me, once: how many people know that you are here
in Haddisport?  How many know that your life was saved when the British
cruiser was blown to pieces by our faithful explosive mine?"

"Nobody knows," Max answered sullenly.  "Nobody on board the destroyer
which picked me up knew me, even by sight.  I did not intend that any
one should guess I was a German.  Nobody who was on board the _Atreus_
knows that I was not blown to bits—except—yes, except Mark Redisham.  He
saw me swimming.  But he doesn’t know that I was saved."

"Ah!" nodded Herr Hilliger.  "And he need never know.  He must never
know—never.  It is better that he should believe that you were drowned."

Max clutched at his father’s arm, pressing him back upon the grass
behind the tree.

"Some one comes!" he whispered agitatedly.

They both saw the lithe figure of a youth approaching silently up the
drive.  He paused for a moment, looking at the front door of the dark,
deserted house, strode to the porchway, and quickly ran up the steps.
In the silence the two watchers heard the tinkling of an electric bell;
but neither moved. Strange that they should thus hide themselves in
their own garden!

They waited, knowing that the door would not be opened.  Herr Hilliger
ventured to lean out and look towards the porch.  As he did so, the
revolving beam of light from the lighthouse, half a mile away, illumined
the trees, travelled slowly over the towers and gables of the dwelling,
glinted for an instant on the upper windows, then spread its glow across
the sea.  Against this glow he saw the figure on the doorstep, clearly
defined.

"It is one of your Sea Scouts," he whispered.

The Sea Scout ran lightly down the steps, turned, and came quickly
nearer, walking so quietly on the gravel that Max could only believe
that he wore tennis shoes.  Then, as he came yet closer, to within a
couple of yards of the two Germans, again the beam from the lighthouse
swung round and shone in his face.

It was the face of Mark Redisham.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                 *WHAT MARK FOUND IN THE PIGEON-LOFT.*


The two watchers under the sycamore-tree held themselves so very still
and silent that even if he had been searching for them Mark Redisham
might have passed by without a suspicion that they were so near.  His
well-trained senses were alert, but he was not consciously listening for
any betraying sound or looking for any movement.

He went on along the gravel drive with confident stride until he reached
the stables.  Here he paused, glancing backward before entering the
gateway of the yard.  He had expected to find the gate shut and bolted,
and was surprised to see that the door of the motor-garage also was
open.

The place was in darkness, but he noticed that the motor-car was not
there.  This appeared to indicate that, although the family might have
gone home to Germany, yet they had not dismissed all their servants.
Mark reflected that probably the chauffeur, who acted also as gardener,
had been left in charge of the house and grounds until the property
should be sold or otherwise disposed of.

Mark had no intention of asking the caretaker’s sanction to do what he
had come to do.  Indeed, it gratified him that his precautionary ringing
of the hall hell had not been answered.  He went boldly into the
stables.

Knowing that he was about to use his electric torch, he closed the door
behind him, lest the light should be seen.  He knew the place well.
Even in this past summer the Lion Patrol had had a scout game at
Sunnydene.  Pickets had been stationed at various points, and it had
been his own part to steal into the grounds and make his way in the
darkness into the harness-room without being caught.

He was now engaged in no ordinary scouting game, but in a serious duty
imposed upon him by the officer in command at the naval base, and it was
even more important that he should not be detected.

Feeling along the whitewashed wall, he touched the ladder leading to the
loft.  Up this he climbed through the trap-door.

He stood for some moments looking about him in the darkness of the loft.
In the high door by which hay and straw were brought in there was a
small hole, on a level with his eyes.  Swallows used it as an entrance
to their nests in the rafters.  Going up to it and peering outward, he
could distinguish the dark level of the sea, and presently the ruby
gleam of the Alderwick lightship appeared, grew brighter, and faded
against the dim horizon.

Mark realised that, if from here he could see that ruby gleam, it was
certain that the crew of the lightship could equally well see the flash
of his electric torch.  Was it not possible that Heinrich Hilliger had
used this hole in the loft door through which to flash his signals?
Mark covered the hole by hanging his cap on a nail just above it.

Then he turned and closed the trap in the floor. It made more noise in
falling than he had intended. Whether it was the displacement of air or
his own fancy, there seemed to be a corresponding sound down below, as
if another door had been suddenly shut, and as if the key of that other
door had been turned in the lock.

"I suppose I’m a bit nervous," he said to himself. "It couldn’t have
been anything."  He drew out his torch, pressed the switch, and turned
the shaft of light upon the partition beyond which Hilliger’s pigeons
were kept.  The key was in the door. Feeling like a guilty burglar, he
turned it and entered, shielding the light from the open space in the
gable by which the pigeons flew in and out.

There were no pigeons here now.  The coops and perches were empty.  He
supposed that Herr Hilliger had taken the birds away with him, to use
them in carrying secret messages back to England; although, as yet,
there was no proof that Herr Hilliger had ever actually used any of his
pigeons for this purpose.

Mark made a rapid survey of the untidy loft, with its lumber of old
harness, rusty garden tools, bundles of sacking, broken fishing-rods,
and discarded cricket bats.  On a low shelf were some model yachts with
torn sails and tangled rigging.  He looked at the rough model of a steam
trawler.  The boat was curiously constructed with a boxed-in and
bottomless well.  Inside this well there was a crude model of a
submarine.  Some one—Max Hilliger, perhaps—had evidently attempted to
invent a device by which a real submarine might be hidden within the
casement of a larger vessel, thus enabling it to be brought close to an
enemy without being discovered.  The idea was ingenious, but obviously
not practical.

In a corner cupboard he discovered a box of electric light bulbs of
various colours.  The sight of these led him to search for electric
wires.  He saw none; but what he did find was a portable electric lamp
coiled round with a wire so exceedingly long that, as he estimated, the
switch might be worked here in the loft while the bulb could be
cunningly planted amongst the gorse bushes halfway down the cliff, there
to flash its signals of coloured light.

Mark wondered if he should take the lamp away with him, but decided to
leave it untouched.  If as he believed, Herr Hilliger was already on his
way back to Germany, and if Max were drowned, there could be no more
risk of their communicating with the enemy.

He turned his torch upon the long trestle table at the far end of the
loft.  It was littered with feathers and grain, and thick with dust.
But in the midst of the litter were several things which he considered
it his duty to examine.  The first article he touched was a match-box,
half full of very small elastic bands.  Beside it was a spool of thin,
narrow paper.

"Here’s proof enough!" he reflected with satisfaction. For he recognised
the paper and the elastic bands as being precisely similar to the
material found on the leg of the pigeon shot by Darby Catchpole from the
deck of the _What’s Wanted_.

For a little while longer he continued his search. From a pile of old
newspapers and tattered books, he idly drew forth a long, tin cylinder,
thinking at first it was a telescope case.  The lid had been jammed on
crookedly, and he had difficulty in pulling it off with the help of his
knife.  When he succeeded at last in opening the canister, he saw that
it contained several tightly-rolled sheets of paper.  He spread them out
on the table.  They were maps, plans, and charts, very carefully drawn.

The uppermost one was a general map of the coast, including Haddisport
and Buremouth, with the villages between and a wide strip of the sea,
divided into numbered sections.  The others—and there were some twenty
of them—were detailed enlargements of the same sections, upon which were
shown the principal buildings of the two towns, the particulars of the
harbours and railways, with every road and lane and bridge, every field
and coppice and house, distinctly indicated.

Mark Redisham had never seen such wonderful maps, or imagined that any
existed so complete and correct.  Nothing seemed to have been
overlooked.  On the margins of each sheet were notes, written in German,
with numbers referring to certain features in the plans.

Mark saw much that he did not then understand; but there was one sheet
in particular which was perfectly clear to him.  It was a large scale
chart of the section of the North Sea immediately facing Haddisport,
giving the exact soundings of the channels and shallows and showing an
outline of the coast, with every altitude measured.

The soundings of Alderwick Knoll were so precise and plentiful that it
was evident to him that some important purpose was connected with this
sand-bank.  He could hardly doubt, indeed, that the chart had been
prepared for the guidance of an enemy attempting an invasion!

So greatly was he impressed by this idea, that he became nervously
excited over his discovery.  What was he to do?  Should he carry these
charts and maps away with him, now—to-night?  He had not been instructed
to take anything away with him; but only to "have a look round" and
report upon any discovery he might happen to make.

Thinking over the situation for a few swift moments, he determined to
obey his orders to the letter.  Accordingly, he returned the sheets to
the map-case, put the case back where he had found it, and prepared to
leave the loft.

He left no trace of his secret visit.  Taking his cap and pocketing his
torch, he climbed down the ladder into the garage.  He pushed lightly at
the door; but it did not swing open.  He pushed it harder; still it
resisted.  Then he put his shoulder to it and gave it a shove.  It did
not move.  He grappled with it, trying with all his strength to force it
open and, realised, to his alarm, that it had been locked from the
outside!

He grew hot and cold by turns.  Had he been watched, stealing into these
stables where he had no business which he could truthfully explain?  If
so, who could it be that had watched and trapped him?  It could not be
Heinrich Hilliger himself, or Max.  Herr Hilliger had gone back to
Germany. Max was drowned.  The chauffeur had not returned with the car.
Once more he put his shoulder to the door.  No.  It was certainly
locked!  He was a prisoner!

But Mark Redisham was not a Sea Scout for nothing.  There were more ways
than one of getting out.  He tried the door of the harness-room.  That,
too, was locked.  Yet there was still another door, leading into the
stable.  It opened with a simple latch and he crossed to the door giving
on to the yard.  Again he was foiled.

He looked to the window.  It was heavily barred.

But not even now did he despair.  Beyond the vacant horse-boxes was a
small opening in the wall—a hatch through which the stable refuse was
forked out.  This hatch, he knew, was fastened only on the inside by a
hook and staple.  In a moment he had flung it open, to climb out without
further hindrances and make his way among the fruit trees and across the
tennis lawn to the back gate of the Sunnydene property, and into the
Alderwick road.

Five minutes after his escape, he was at home in his father’s library,
sending his report by telephone to the naval base.

His father, Major Redisham, had gone off to join his regiment, and the
family supper was in consequence a melancholy meal.  Mark said nothing
of his visit to Sunnydene; but he was at liberty to tell his mother and
sisters of the exciting events of the day—the loss of the _What’s
Wanted_, the sinking of the German mine-layer, and the terrible disaster
to the _Atreus_.

"So you see," he concluded, "Rod was present at the firing of the first
naval gun of the war!"

"Yes," said his mother; "but unfortunately Rodney’s ship cannot be
replaced, or the brave men who went down with her.  He may not get
another appointment for a long time.  Is he coming home to-night, Mark?"

Mark shook his head.

"No, mother," he answered.  "He was kept aboard the destroyer—the
_Levity_.  The whole flotilla went off to sea again as soon as the
wounded were put ashore for hospital."

"I suppose they’ve gone to join the main fleet," his sister Vera
conjectured.  "Of course, the German battleships are out, and there’ll
be a great battle."

"The destroyers went south, however," Mark explained, "and the enemy
fleet is much more likely to be hanging round off the Dogger Bank than
down there in the narrow seas.  It’s my idea that the destroyers have
gone into the Channel."

"Why?" questioned Vera.  "What’s the good of their going into the
Channel when the Germans are in the North Sea?  We want to fight them,
don’t we?"

"Well, you see," resumed Mark, "the British Army will be crossing to
France.  You don’t suppose that ever so many of our transports—big
liners crowded with troops—will be allowed to go over by themselves, at
the risk of being sunk by German submarines?  They’ve got to be
protected on both flanks.  I expect they’ll steam across through quite
an avenue of cruisers and destroyers."

Later, when Mark was saying good-night before going sleepily to bed,
there was a ring at the front-door bell.

"Master Mark is wanted," the parlourmaid announced agitatedly.  "There’s
a policeman and a lot of soldiers."

No longer sleepy, Mark hurried into the hall, where he found Constable
Challis, Mr. Bilverstone, and two men in khaki.

"What’s up?" he cried, seeing that the two soldiers were armed with
rifles and fixed bayonets. "Are the Germans coming?"

"We want you to go with us," Arnold Bilverstone explained.  "Get on your
overcoat, and bring your electric torch.  We’re going to make a raid on
Herr Hilliger’s pigeon-loft."

Mark was quickly ready to march off at the head of the company.  As they
filed into the Sunnydene ground they saw that the house was in total
darkness.

Leaving one of the sentries posted outside the stable yard, Mr.
Bilverstone led the way round to the rear of the outhouses, where he
posted the second sentry.  Mark crossed the tennis-court, dodged under
the fruit trees, and crawled through the hatch door which he had left
unfastened.  Mr. Bilverstone and Constable Challis followed him through
the stable and into the garage.  They mounted one by one into the loft.
Mark flashed his torchlight along the floor, up into the rafters, and
again along the floor.  Then he stooped and picked up the stub of a
cigarette, sniffed at it and shook his head.

"Somebody has been here!" he cried.  "The end of this cigarette’s still
wet."

He went beyond the partition and began to search. But his search was in
vain.  The maps, the electric signalling-lamp and coloured bulbs, the
model of the submarine, the spool of paper, the elastic bands—all had
been cleared away.  Nothing remained to show that the place was more
than an abandoned pigeon-loft.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                       *UNDER THE WHITE ENSIGN.*


Because he was a Sea Scout, clever at semaphore signalling, with a
knowledge of seamanship, resourceful, and generally handy, Mark Redisham
had no difficulty in entering the Royal Naval Reserve, the more
especially as he was strongly recommended by Captain Damant.  It
satisfied him greatly to be appointed at once as signal-boy and wireless
operator on board His Majesty’s steam trawler _Dainty_.

She was named the _Dainty_ when launched, and as the _Dainty_ she had
toiled and battled for three stormy winters on the wild North Sea.  But
now her impudent white and red funnel and her gaudy hull were painted a
sombre war grey, her trawling gear had been altered, her fish-well
turned into a cabin, and the name on her bows had given place to the
number 99.  She was no longer a mere fishing craft, but classed as one
of the great new fleet of naval mine-sweepers, flying the white ensign,
and manned by a crew of sturdy East Coast fishermen wearing the blue
jacket and loose trousers and flat-topped caps of the British Navy.

It was a proud moment for Mark when early on the morning following the
"raid" on the pigeon-loft he went on duty, and the _Dainty_ steamed out
of Haddisport harbour and bore northward abreast of the lighthouse and
past his home on the cliff.  She was one of a squadron of twelve, and
they went out in the company of the torpedo gunboat _Rapid_.

Word had come that the Germans had sown an extensive mine-field to the
west and south of the Dogger Bank, scattering their deadly explosives
over the seas, to the peril of peaceful trading vessels as well as of
any British battleships and cruisers that might enter the area of
danger.  Two Danish cargo steamers and half a dozen English fishing
boats had already been blown up, and our busy scavengers of the sea were
now to go out and rake up the carefully-sown seedlings of death.

The work was dangerous, for at any moment one of the stout little
vessels of the squadron might find a mine with her keel instead of with
her stretched wire hawser, which meant ten more good men sent to the
bottom.  And there was always the risk of a premature explosion if a
mine had to be handled in releasing it from its moorings.

Mines are not pleasant things to handle at any time—certainly not such
powerful ones as the Germans employ, with glass "beards," or projecting
spikes, the breaking of one of which results in an explosion great
enough to sink a Dreadnought! They are charged, not with gun-cotton, but
with the even stronger explosive known as T.N.T., which has the quality
that if the mine filled with it strikes a ship it blows in the side of
the vessel and then continues its destructive work in the interior.

The skipper of mine-sweeper 99 was Harry Snowling, R.N.R., an old salt
who had fished for thirty years on the North Sea, and knew its deeps and
shallows as well as he knew the lines on his own honest, weather-beaten
face.  But, of course, he had had no experience of mine-sweeping, and
had only vague ideas as to how the mines were to be located.

"What’s she doin’ of, bor?" he questioned, when they were far out in the
blue water, watching a seaplane sweeping overhead and flying to and fro
athwart the gunboat’s course.

"Well," said Mark Redisham, "I’m not certain; but I suppose she’s
looking for mines.  They’re not floating right on the surface, you know.
They’re held just about a foot below low water level, so that when a
vessel passes she’ll go bang on to them.  But the pilot up there can see
them, as a gannet sees a fish, and I expect he’ll drop a signal when he
spots one."

For something like an hour the seaplane searched, followed by the
gunboat, with the trawlers moving in pairs in her wake.

When at length a signal was sent down that mines had been sighted,
"dans," or small buoys with flags attached, were put out to mark the
spot from which operations were to begin.  Each couple of trawlers got
ready their dredge tackle, dropping over the stern a long wire rope,
heavily weighted.  The weight drawn by each boat was connected with that
of its partner by a yet longer wire hawser, weighted to keep it
submerged and stretched below the level of the floating mines.  The two
vessels, ranging themselves on either side of the mine-field, steamed
ahead on a parallel course, so that their submerged gear should catch
upon the mooring-lines and sweep up the mines floating between them.

This process was carried on simultaneously by the other trawlers,
clearing a wide lane through the mine-field, while the gunboat and the
seaplane continued their searching for new fields.

When the mines were thus caught and brought to the surface, they were
exploded from a safe distance by gunfire.  You may be sure there were
many narrow escapes from serious accident.

During the first afternoon, the _Dainty_ and her working partner, the
_Ripple_, brought up two mines together.  They came into violent contact
with each other, exploding so close astern of the _Ripple_ that she was
caught in the edge of the upheaval and badly damaged.  Her crew made for
the boat, thinking that all was over with them; but her skipper
controlled them, and himself crawled below into the narrow space near
the screw shaft, discovered the damage, and stopped the leak
sufficiently to enable the pumps to keep the water down and save the
ship.

Within a quarter of an hour of this accident, one of the other trawlers
struck a mine and was shattered to fragments.

At the end of two days, the field having been cleared, the gunboat
returned to port.  Shortly after she had gone, Mark Redisham and his
companions watched a squadron of British dreadnoughts and cruisers
steaming safely across the area from which the danger had been so
industriously removed.

Their trails of smoke had hardly faded from the horizon when Mark, still
looking in the direction in which they had disappeared, noticed a
curious disturbance in the calm water, about a couple of miles away.

At first he thought it was a school of gambolling porpoises showing
their fins, but presently the periscopes and conning-tower of a
submarine rose to the surface.  The conning-tower was marked "U15," and
he knew by this that she was German.

It seemed to him that she had probably been lurking in wait for the
battleships that had just passed.  If so, she had certainly missed her
chance of doing them any damage.  One of her officers climbed out to the
conning-tower platform, looked searchingly around the sea, but quickly
disappeared again, and the submarine dived, having paid no attention to
the trawlers.

Mark, taking counsel with the skipper, went into the wireless
operating-room and sent out a message, reporting what he had seen and
giving the position. He did not expect his message to be picked up; but
within an hour a British light cruiser came racing down from the north
at twenty-five knot speed.  The skipper and Mark watched her through
their binoculars as she drew nearer, and identified her as H.M.S.
_Carlisle_.  They saw her suddenly alter her course, as though to avoid
the mine-sweepers and possible floating mines.

"Her needn’t be afeared," said Snowling.  "Thar aren’t no mines here
now.  Suppose you signals her, bor, and tells her it’s all right!"

"Hold hard!" cried Mark.  "Look!  Look what she’s after!"

In direct advance of the cruiser, he distinguished for a moment the two
periscopes of the enemy submarine making a ripple as they moved through
the calm water.  In that same moment there was a gush of fire and smoke
from one of the warship’s 6-inch guns.  A fountain of spray rose high
into the sunlit air from where the shell had fallen.  One of the
periscopes seemed to have been struck.  The submarine, evidently
crippled, was emptying her ballast tanks to rise to the surface when a
second shell struck her half-submerged conning-tower, smashing it like
an egg.

"That’s what I calls good marksmanship," declared old Harry Snowling.
And going to the flag-halyard, he dipped his white ensign in salute.

The nearest of the trawlers hastened to the spot where the shattered
submarine had gone down, hoping to save some lives; but nothing was
found but a slimy patch of floating oil.

The _Carlisle_ came within speaking distance of the trawlers, standing
by for about an hour, and gave information of a new mine-field sown
between the Dogger Bank and the Bight of Heligoland.  Ten British
trawlers, it was stated, had been captured by a German cruiser—the
_Schwalbe_—which had taken them in to Emden.  Their crews had been kept
prisoners, and the boats had been fitted out as mine-layers to scatter
mines indiscriminately wherever ships could sail.

The mine-sweepers were supposed to work in stretches of ten days at sea
and six in port; but the _Dainty_ and her companions continued at their
task a longer time, for the danger was greater than ever the Royal Navy
had counted upon.

Many neutral ships and fishing craft had been blown up, a British
gunboat had been sunk, another badly damaged, and it was imperative that
the seas should be kept clear.  But at length a relief squadron from
Grimsby came out to take over the work, and the Haddisport boats were
dismissed for home.

Early on the next morning, Mark Redisham started up in his bunk, hearing
the engines coming to a dead stop.  He dressed himself in his oilskins
and went out upon the rain-splashed deck.  To his surprise he saw that a
submarine had come close alongside.  It was the H29, of which, as he
remembered, his friend, Lieutenant Ingoldsby, was the commanding
officer.  One of her crew had been taken ill, and Lieutenant Ingoldsby
wished the _Dainty_ to take the man on board and nurse him until he
could be put ashore in Haddisport.

The sick man had been carried over a gangway thrown across between the
two vessels when Mark, happening to glance over the _Dainty’s_ farther
bulwark, in search of the rest of the squadron which had gone on in
advance, saw instead the dim shape of a three-funnelled cruiser looming
ghostlike through the rain mist.  She was flying no ensign, but by the
look of her he was almost sure she was not British.

Not asking himself why he did so, he strode across the gangway to where
Lieutenant Ingoldsby knelt, doing something with a spanner, on the
narrow deck abaft the conning-tower.

"Good-morning, sir," he began.  "I think the cruiser over there is
signalling."

"Cruiser?" repeated Lieutenant Ingoldsby, springing to his feet.  He
climbed a few rungs up the ladder of the conning-tower, and looked out
over the wheel-house of the _Dainty_, behind which the submarine was
well hidden.

"Just slip below and ask Jardine for my glasses, Redisham," he ordered.
"I believe it’s the _Schwalbe_—the ship we’ve been stalking!  In fact,
I’m sure!"

Mark had never before been on board a submarine, and when he got to the
foot of the perpendicular ladder of the hatchway, he became confused by
the strange complexity of tanks and machinery.  An electric light shone
in the far end of a narrow passage. He was making his difficult way
towards it when the great boom of a naval gun startled him.  The
_Schwalbe_ was opening fire on the mine-sweepers.

He stood still.  The silence following the gun shot was broken by the
banging of an iron door above his head, and the sharply-spoken command
rang out in Lieutenant Ingoldsby’s voice:

"Prepare to dive!"



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                     *HOW MARK MADE HIMSELF SMALL.*


On hearing the gun shot, followed so quickly by the command, "Prepare to
dive!" Mark Redisham knew that the strange cruiser he had seen was
unquestionably an enemy, firing upon the mine-sweepers.

An electric bell buzzed insistently; some one sang out: "Diving
stations!" and there was a scurrying of bare feet along the narrow deck.
It was useless now for him to go in search of Lieutenant Ingoldsby’s
binoculars.  His impulse was to get off the submarine and aboard his own
ship as quickly as possible.  Yet for an instant he hesitated, lost in
the confusion of dark passages and intricate machinery.

A second shot sounded.  He turned and scrambled blindly back to the
companion-hatch.  But here he was stopped.  The steep iron ladder was
occupied by an officer who was even then screwing down the fastening of
the watertight hatch-cover above his head.

"Can’t I get off, sir?" Mark cried desperately. He had no fear, even
though already he heard the gurgling of the water in the ballast tanks
and knew that the submarine was on the point of being submerged.  He
clutched at the officer’s naked ankles and repeated his question:

"Can’t I get off, sir—on to my own ship—the _Dainty_?"

The officer, a sub-lieutenant in working kit, descended to the iron
grating at the foot of the ladder.

"Not now," he answered quietly, as he pressed an electric switch,
flooding the whole ship with light. "You must stop where you are.  Sit
down in that corner.  Make yourself small.  Don’t touch anything, or you
may get a nasty shock."

He bent down and disappeared through what looked like an oven door in
the bulkhead.  Mark could see the men hurrying to their posts.  Two went
forward to the torpedo-tubes, one to each main ballast-tank kingston,
one to the hydroplane wheel, another to the motor switches.  An engineer
took charge of the air-escape vents.

Each kingston being opened and the water rushing in, the boat began to
sink.  Mark felt an uncomfortable, heaving motion beneath him.  He heard
the hum of machinery—the whirr of well-oiled wheels, the chunking of
pistons and cranks.  The Diesel engine was working whilst the
conning-tower remained above the surface for the ship to get clear of
the trawler alongside.  Electric bells trilled their messages from the
commander to the men at their various stations.

"Close everything!" he called aloud.

The petrol engine stopped.  The ballast tanks were full, and the
electric motors now took up the work of sending her along.  To Mark
Redisham it seemed that she was going round and round in a dizzy circle,
already many fathoms deep under the sea.  The smell of hot oil and the
heaviness of the compressed air stifled him.  Yet in his eager interest
in all that was happening he would not have exchanged the discomfort for
ease, or the possible danger for assured safety.

Suddenly, in answer to a turn of the horizontal rudder, she began to
rise.  Mark saw the sub-lieutenant crawl swiftly past him to the forward
torpedo-chambers.  Bending over, and lying on his elbows, he managed to
get a sidelong glimpse into the conning-tower with its complicated
network of wires, its confusion of switches, handles, levers, and
brightly-polished instruments.  The commander was there, he knew,
although it was only now and again that Mark caught sight of the gold
braid on his sleeve as he stretched out his hand to touch some switch or
lever.

"Charge firing-tanks; flood torpedo-tubes; stand by to fire!" commanded
Lieutenant Ingoldsby.

The periscope was now above the surface and his eyes were upon the image
of his target reflected in the mirror.  He was taking aim, manoeuvring
the submarine into position as if she herself were a gun. For some tense
moments all was quiet but for the purr of the motor and the working of
the air-compressors for charging the torpedo-tubes.  Then there came a
thumping sound as of a heavy door being shut.  This was repeated.  Two
torpedoes with their mechanism adjusted had been thrust into the breach
of their tubes.  Mark would have given much to see how it was done.  But
he did not dare to move.  Obeying the recommendation to make himself
small, he waited breathlessly.

"Number one—fire!" came the sharp command.

There was a violent gush as a torpedo was discharged on its errand of
destruction.  The whole vessel shuddered and was alarmingly unsteady
until the compensating-tanks were filled and the true balance was
regained.  Then a second torpedo was fired.  Mark listened, wondering,
as the submarine dived with her nose down, if either of her weapons
would strike the target at which it had been aimed. They had been fired
at long range, but their rush through the water was quickly over.  A
low, rumbling explosion told that one of them had struck and burst
against the German cruiser’s bilge.

The H29 remained deeply submerged, her electric motor driving her
forward at ten knots speed for something like a quarter of an hour, when
once more the water was blown from the tanks and she rose to bring her
periscope above the surface.

The sub-lieutenant was now in the conning-tower with the commander.

"We got her under the forward magazine," Mark heard Lieutenant Ingoldsby
announce.  "She’s sinking by the bows.  The German collier that we saw
yesterday is standing by, picking up survivors. She’s fitted with
wireless, so we may as well keep out of sight.  Carry on just as we are
for another half-hour, Desmond, and shape a course for Haddisport
Roads."

"Yes, sir," returned Mr. Desmond.  "And what about our mine-sweepers?"

"Oh, they are all right!" the commander signified. "I’ve just counted
them.  I don’t believe any of them was hit.  Lucky for them that we
turned up. She’d have sunk the lot."

"We’ve got one of the crew of the _Dainty_ aboard of us, sir," the
sub-lieutenant told him.

"Yes, I know," nodded the commander; "it’s young Redisham.  I sent him
below for my binoculars. If you sight his ship, we’ll put him back."

Mark stood up and saluted him as he came out into the hatchway.

"I hope I’m not very much in your way, sir," he faltered.

"Not at all," smiled Mr. Ingoldsby; "although we haven’t much room to
spare on a ship like this, as you can see.  But don’t stay here in the
gangway. Come along with me.  Mind you don’t knock your head, and don’t
touch any of the switches."

He led the way through an intricate passage into the engine-room: an
open space that could hardly be called a cabin, where men were at work
with the electric motors.  Here he paused to glance at a gauge.

"You’ve done very well, shipmates," he said, nodding his approval.
"You’ve sent a German cruiser to the bottom—an old ship, it is true; but
she’ll do no more mine-laying mischief, and I’m just as pleased with you
all as if she had been a Dreadnought.  Jardine," he added, pushing open
the door that gave entrance to his cabin.  "Shaving water, and then
breakfast."



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                     *AN EXPERT IN MINE-SWEEPING.*


Mark took up his stand in the only corner he could see where there was
no machinery, and feasted his curious eyes on everything within their
range—the hammocks slung from the steel cross-beams, the safety-helmets
hanging near, the controls of a multitude of electrical devices, the
wheels governing the rudders, and the great array of enclosed cylinders
and accumulators.

At the far end was an electric cooking apparatus at which the cook had
already resumed his interrupted work of preparing the officers’
breakfast.  From a small boiler, Jardine filled a silver jug with hot
water, which he carried into the commander’s cabin.

On his return, Jardine went up to Mark and said: "The commander wants
you."

Mark was shown into the state-room and was surprised to find it so large
and comfortable. Lieutenant Ingoldsby stood before a tiny
dressing-table, lathering his face.

"Have you seen my aunt lately, Mark?" he questioned.  "Is she nervous,
living alone there on the cliff?"

"I saw her the night before we sailed," Mark answered.  "She came in to
bid good-bye to father. Yes, sir, I believe she is a bit nervous.  She
thinks there’s sure to be an invasion, and that a whole army of Germans
will come over in Zeppelins and flat-bottomed boats, guarded by
submarines and Dreadnoughts.  She said something about going inland to
Bath or Buxton."

"Not very complimentary to the British Navy, eh?" laughed Mr. Ingoldsby,
stropping his razor. "I hope Major Redisham reassured her.  Tell me
something about this mine-sweeping business, will you?  The Admiralty
don’t seem to be altogether satisfied with the process.  Too many
precious lives are being sacrificed."

Mark described his work and told of the difficulties and dangers of
dealing with contact-mines.

"The worst part of it is when we come bow-on to one of them," he said.
"I’ve been thinking a lot about it.  I don’t know if there’s anything in
my idea, but it seems to me that the sweepers ought to be fitted with
some sort of protective net in front, to ward off the mines, or even to
pick them up—something like the cow-catcher on an American locomotive,
you know."

Lieutenant Ingoldsby turned round sharply in the middle of shaving his
left cheek.

"Good!" he exclaimed.  "Very good.  You’ve certainly hit upon the right
notion, if you think it can be worked—and at once."

"It ought to be quite easy," Mark averred. "Just a steel-wire net in the
shape of a fan, hinged from the trawler’s cutwater and supported from
pulleys at the end of beams shoved out like catheads over the bows.  It
would be lowered in front of her, below her water-line, to scoop up the
mines, or drive them aside.  There’d be scores of lives saved, sir."

"So I should think," assented the commander, proceeding with his
shaving.  "You ought to make a working model of the contrivance and
submit it to the authorities.  They’re almost sure to adopt it,
recognising you as a kind of expert on mine-sweeping. And now, there’s
something else I want to ask you. What has become of Heinrich Hilliger
and his son, do you know?  I have heard of your raid on the pigeon-loft
at Sunnydene, and of the maps and charts that you found, and failed to
bring away with you.’

"Max was drowned when the _Atreus_ was mined," Mark explained.  "And his
father is believed to have gone back to Germany."

"Then whom do you suspect of having taken off the charts and things?"
pursued Lieutenant Ingoldsby.

Mark could not explain this mystery.  It had puzzled him ever since the
night of its occurrence.

"You will be doing a service to your country," said the officer, "if you
make a point of finding out exactly where those two are, and what they
are doing.  For my own part, I don’t believe for a moment that Max
Hilliger was drowned, or that his father has gone home to Germany.  They
are alien enemies, you know, and it is not to be wondered at if they are
still in England—still even in Haddisport—working their level best to
bring about the downfall of Great Britain."

Mark pondered over this recommendation while he was at breakfast in the
engine-room, and resolved to make some investigations during his time of
leave on shore.  He also gave some thought to his invention for picking
up explosive mines.

While he was drawing a plan of it, Lieutenant Ingoldsby, again at his
post in the conning-tower, called out the command:

"Diving stations!"

The H29 was once more submerged.  There was a cloud of smoke on the
horizon which might be from the funnels of an enemy cruiser.  Seen
afterwards in the periscope mirror, however, the stranger turned out to
be a British liner.  The ballast tanks were blown out, and the submarine
rose awash.  The electric motor had stopped and the petrol engine had
not yet been set in motion.  Instead of the telegraph signifying "go
ahead!" there came an ominous rasping sound from the neighbourhood of
the forward torpedo-chamber.  Something was wrong!

"Sounds as if we’d fouled some wreckage," conjectured the chief
engineer, standing by his cranks and levers with his eye on the dial.

Mark Redisham was astonished to hear his name called from the
conning-tower.  He followed three of the men who also had been summoned.
When he came out into the open air he discovered Mr. Ingoldsby and Mr.
Desmond standing together looking forward along the narrow strip of deck
to where a great round shape lay jammed between the hydroplane and its
guard.

"It’s a German mine!" cried Mark.  "Don’t let it be moved, sir.  Wait!
Keep the engines stopped! You’ve fouled its mooring; but it won’t go
off—it won’t explode—unless one of the horns gets broken or bent."

"That’s what I judged," nodded Lieutenant Ingoldsby, looking very grim.
"But how is the thing to be cleared away if we don’t move it?  You know
the tricks of these things.  What do you advise?"

"Wait a bit, sir," urged Mark.  He stooped and quickly took off his
boots and stockings.  "Let me go along and have a close look at it."

"No, I can’t let you," objected the commander. "It’s too dangerous."

"Then let one of the men come with me, sir," Mark suggested, not at all
alarmed.

Before he could be stopped, he had slipped past the men and was making
his way along the wet and slippery platform.  Mr. Desmond, also in bare
feet, went after him.  They reached the place where the mine was lodged.
The horns of the deadly machine were fortunately all pointed outward.
The mooring line of flexible wire rope had been caught as the submarine
rose to the surface and was securely fixed in the hydroplane bearings,
held by its own weight and the weight of the sinker.

Mark went down on his hands and knees and examined the thing most
carefully, seeing exactly how it was held, calculating how it would fall
when released, estimating how it would be kept in position while the
mooring-line was being severed.  All his scout-craft was exercised.  He
looked round at the sub-lieutenant.

"We shall manage all right, sir," he declared calmly.  "We want a couple
of hammocks to pack round the base of the mine for a fender, a strong
man with a crowbar to hold it from slipping, while another with a sharp
file and a pair of pliers cuts through the mooring warp.  When it’s cut,
you submerge the ship a couple of feet, let go, and the mine will float
off.  Then the gunner can fire at it and explode it. Do you understand,
sir?  Excuse my making these suggestions; but I’ve had a lot to do with
handling explosive contact-mines during the last week."

His directions were followed in every detail.  In half an hour the work
was done without mishap, and the submarine and her crew were saved.  The
mine, released from its sinker, floated with its rounded top and horns
above the surface.  The ship stood off, her fourteen-pounder
quick-firing gun was raised from its chamber, and the gunner’s skill
brought about the explosion.

Late in the afternoon of that same day the H29 appeared abreast of
Alderwick Knoll.  Darby Catchpole saw her from the cliff.  Watching her
through his telescope, he made out that the flag flying from her mast
bore the sign of the skull and crossbones, and by this he knew that she
had been in action and had come out victorious.



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                     *DARBY CATCHPOLE’S DISCOVERY.*


"I expect she has been putting a torpedo into some German mine-layer,"
said Darby, speaking to Constable Challis, who stood beside him.  "It’s
the H29."

"Ah!" nodded Constable Challis, "that’s the submarine that Lieutenant
Ingoldsby’s in command of, isn’t it?  I wish I’d known when I saw his
aunt, Mrs. Daplin-Gennery, along the parade just now."

Turning to see if that lady were still in sight, he saluted an elderly
gentleman who was hobbling past with the aid of two sticks and with a
folded newspaper under one arm.

"Good-evenin’, Mr. Croucher," he said.  "Any news in the evenin’
newspaper, sir?"

"Worse and worse," responded Mr. Croucher, coming to a stop.  "Liège has
fallen.  It will be Namur next, and then Paris.  France hasn’t a chance.
Neither has Russia."  He gazed searchingly across the sea.  "And then,
if the enemy’s ships slip out from the Kiel Canal, we’re doomed."

"You think so, sir?" questioned Challis, easing the collar of his tunic
as if it choked him.

"Think so?" cried Mr. Croucher almost resentfully. "I know!  There is
nothing more certain. Don’t you make any mistake, constable.  We’ve
lived long enough in a fool’s paradise.  I tell you, the Germans have
been preparing for this for years and years, only awaiting their chance.
And they’ve got it, now.  Nothing can stop them—nothing!  Look how
they’re sweeping through Belgium!  Those siege guns of theirs are simply
awful.  No fortress can resist them, and their naval guns are even
greater.  What our people have been thinking of over here I don’t know.
They don’t seem to realise our danger.  Why, we’ve no home army worth
speaking of, now that the only soldiers we had have gone over to France,
leaving us defenceless.  We’re at the enemy’s mercy, Challis."

Constable Challis glanced aside at Darby Catchpole, who was closing his
telescope, the submarine having passed beyond sight.

"And how could we hope to prevent their landing on an open coast like
this?" pursued Mr. Croucher, bending forward on the support of his two
sticks. "I tell you, if their ships break through the cordon of our
fleet, we’re doomed."

"Indeed, sir?" said Challis with composure.  "I wasn’t reckonin’ on the
Germans comin’ over here to Haddisport, sir.  How will they land their
cavalry and artillery through shoal water?  They can’t bring transport
liners across Alderwick Sands."

"Liners?" repeated Mr. Croucher.  "Who spoke of liners?  They’ve got
hundreds and thousands of flat-bottomed barges lying in the shallows
behind the Frisian Islands, ready to be filled with troops and towed
over here and beached.  They don’t need any liners."

Darby Catchpole here ventured to intervene.  "And are our Dreadnoughts
and cruisers going to hang back while the enemy troops are crossing,
sir?" he inquired.  "Won’t our submarines have a chance?"

"Strictly between ourselves," observed Constable Challis, "I don’t
believe that a single German soldier will ever set foot in England,
except as a prisoner of war."

"Nonsense, Challis, nonsense!" retorted Mr. Croucher.  "I’ve no patience
with such childish hopefulness.  We’re at war against the greatest army
the world has ever known, and we’re not prepared for it.  The Germans
will treat us just as they are now treating the Belgians.  We’ve got no
army capable of facing them.  Even our navy is weaker than it ought to
be.  The Germans have their Dreadnoughts as well as we, and quite as
powerful. They’ve got crowds of them, and——"

"Not like the _Iron Duke_," Challis interrupted. "Not like the _Queen
Elizabeth_ or the _Lion_.  What about our 13.5 and 15-inch guns, sir?"

"Our guns are not much good against explosive mines and submarines,"
rejoined Mr. Croucher. "Look what the enemy have done already with their
mines!  Catchpole, here, can tell you about the loss of the _Atreus_.
And now one of their submarines has sunk another cruiser—the
_Pathfinder_.  Didn’t you read about it in the paper?  They’ve got their
spies everywhere, too.  They know what we’re doing as well as we know it
ourselves!  Spies, Challis? Why——"  He lowered his voice as he glanced
along the cliff to the turrets and gables of Sunnydene.  "I’ve been
watching that house," he went on, mysteriously.  "It’s supposed to be
empty.  No postman goes there, no trade-carts stop at the gate, no
gardener looks after the grounds.  And yet, only yesterday there was
smoke from one of the chimneys—puffs of white smoke, long and short.
What was the meaning of it?  Signals, Challis, signals!"

"Was there any ship passing, to take up the message, sir?" questioned
Darby Catchpole.

Mr. Croucher looked at the boy severely.

"Do you think they’d make signals to seagulls?" he asked.  "Of course,
there were ships—plenty of them—tramps, coasting schooners, fishing
boats. Any one of them might take a message over to Heligoland, telling
secrets about the movements of our warships.  The house is a perfect
nest of spies, in the pay of the enemy.  It’s all very well for them to
pretend to have gone away to Germany.  But they haven’t.  Depend upon it
they’re living in some subterranean chamber, where they’ve stored arms
and munitions of war, lying low there to join the enemy troops when they
come over to murder us all. I tell you, we’re doomed, Challis—doomed!"

"Strictly between ourselves," said Constable Challis, when the old man
had gone beyond hearing, "I’m not so sure he isn’t right about
Sunnydene. Mrs. Daplin-Gennery declares she’s seen Herr Hilliger
prowlin’ around at night, likewise his son, Max, who’s supposed to be
drowned.  And young Mark Redisham, who’s a Sea Scout like yourself, has
found out a thing or two in the pigeon-loft. Strictly between ourselves,
I may tell you that we made a raid on the place a few nights ago.
Somebody had been there in front of us, however, and cleared everything
suspicious away.  You may take it from me, as that somebody was either
Herr Hilliger or his son."

Darby could have said something concerning his own suspicions of a
message sent by pigeon post; but he knew that Constable Challis was a
gossip, and he held his own counsel.  Nevertheless, he thought it in
some way his duty as a Sea Scout to keep an eye upon Sunnydene, and he
seldom passed the house without glancing up at the windows and the
chimneys to see if there were any sign of habitation.

He was beginning to be assured in his belief that there was no real
foundation for further suspicion, when, returning one moonlight night
along the cliff from the Alderwick Coastguard Station, he saw something
which renewed all his doubts.

During his absence, several tramps and coasters had anchored for the
night in the roads; for the coastwise navigation lights were not now
lighted to guide ships on their way, and general traffic on the sea
ceased after dusk.

Amongst other vessels lying in the fairway inside of Alderwick Knoll,
one in particular attracted his notice.  It was a foreign-looking ketch.
The moon was not high, and he could see the vessel plainly outlined
against the track of light across the waves.

At night time, one ketch-rigged boat is very much like another; but
there was something in the angle of her bowsprit, in the rake of her two
masts, as well as in the clumsy lines of her hull which made him almost
certain that she was the _Thor_—the same Dutchman in which Max Hilliger
had sailed for Germany hardly more than a fortnight ago. Furthermore,
she was anchored in precisely the same spot as on the earlier occasion,
directly opposite Sunnydene, and visible from any one of the many front
windows.  Her riding-light was hung low on her foremast, and there was a
second light abaft her mizzen.

Having no pressing need to get home to his supper, Darby lingered,
anxious to make certain of the identity of the ketch.  He could get into
the town as easily by walking along the beach as going by the cliff path
or the main road.

For some minutes he stood by the side of a tall gorse bush.  Nothing
happened.  But at length as he watched, the vessel’s stern light went
out, then reappeared and continued to go in and out with curious
regularity.

A person ignorant of the Morse code might have believed that a message
was being flashed; but Darby Catchpole knew that it was only that one of
the crew was pacing the deck and passing to and fro in front of the
lantern.

While he waited in the silence, however, he heard the unmistakable sound
of a boat’s keel crunching on the shingle.  He turned and glanced back
at Sunnydene.  Only the roof and towers could be seen over the edge of
the cliff; but from a small window in the east gable there came a quick
flash of light. Was it a signal?

Darby crept upwards a few feet and watched for a repetition of the
flash.  How long he waited he did not know; but when he stepped back
three or four paces he again saw the light and almost laughed aloud when
he discovered that it was no more than a reflection of the moon in the
glass.  Yet it had seemed to move.  He was not sure even now that it was
not a signal to the ketch.

Wondering if the casement were swinging loose on its hinges, he mounted
to the top of the cliff and crossed the road to get the window between
him and the light of the moon.  An owl flew silently over the tops of
the intervening fir trees.  The house seemed indeed to be deserted.  The
idea that there still were alien enemies living in it was, after all,
ridiculous, and it was only a waste of time to hang around the place any
longer.

Beyond the long front garden wall was a pathway leading amongst the
gorse and bracken to the main road.  Darby determined to take this way
back to the town.

He turned into the dark shadows of the path; but stopped abruptly,
hearing the click of a gate latch.  Some one was coming out by the side
gate of Sunnydene.  Quick footsteps were approaching, rustling in the
dry bracken.  He drew back and looked out from his ambush to see a
cloaked figure dart past him in the clear light of the moon.

"Max!"

Darby leapt forward, clutching at a wing of the cloak.  But it was
wrenched violently away, and the hand beneath it was flung out, striking
him a blow in the face that sent him reeling to the ground, while Max
Hilliger, with a tin case full of maps and charts under his arm, stole
downward to the beach.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                             *THE ESCAPE.*


Max Hilliger had not waited to ascertain who it was that had leapt out
upon him from the shadows.

Against the light of the moon he had caught a glimpse of a Sea Scout’s
flat-topped cap, and the young voice that had uttered his name was no
doubt the voice of one of his former companions of the Lion Patrol, who
had been lurking in ambush to detain him, and perhaps bring about his
arrest.

Max could only believe that his assailant was Mark Redisham, who lived
near, and who had already shown inconvenient vigilance against him.

Mark Redisham had by some means intercepted the pigeon with the message
which he, Max, had sent to his father from on board the _Minna von
Barnhelm_.  He had dared also to enter the pigeon-loft at Sunnydene, and
perhaps to examine these special maps and charts that were now going
over to Germany.

"Yes," Max ruminated as he made his way down the slopes of the cliff
towards the beach, "it could only have been Mark Redisham.  But whoever
it was, I have given him a stinging knockdown blow that he won’t forget
in a hurry!"

By paths well known to him, he reached the foot of the cliff, and
started off across the grassy denes, taking cover in the hollows and in
the shadows of the gorse bushes, tightly gripping the tin case of charts
under his arm and the small bag which he carried in his left hand.  His
right hand went to his belt, where there was a loaded revolver.

"If he’d shown fight," he reflected, fingering the weapon, "I might have
used this.  But it’s a good thing I didn’t.  The noise would have
alarmed the whole neighbourhood, and the Tommies on sentry-go along the
beach would have nabbed me."

He knew that there were armed sentries on the beach.  Since the
beginning of the war, the whole of the east coast of Great Britain had
been patrolled and watched at night by men in khaki with loaded rifles
and fixed bayonets.

He was running the risk even now of being seen and made to give an
account of himself.  It was for this reason that he was so careful to
take cover and to make no betraying sound as he went at Scouts’ pace
towards the sea.

For himself he had no fear, excepting that, if caught, he would be
compelled to explain the compromising contents of his bag and the tin
canister. It was the men in the waiting boat about whom he was anxious.
They were Germans, and although one of them, Hermann Körner, could speak
excellent English, yet the others might easily betray themselves as
foreigners and enemies.

When he reached the higher ridges of sand that intervened as a natural
barrier between the beach and the level grass land, he went down on his
elbows and knees and crept over the loose sand until he could look down
upon the foreshore.  He had come out, as he had intended to do, directly
opposite one of the groins of black timber that reared their protecting
walls across the beach.  The deep-driven piles at the near end were
covered with sand; at the far end they were washed by the tide.  Many a
time had Max dived into the deep water from the end of this same groin.
As he looked at it searchingly now, he distinguished the dark shape of
the boat against the blackness.  It was about fifty yards away from him,
with only an open slope of sea sand and shingle between.  In a few
moments he might be seated in the boat, when the rowers would push off.

But on that stretch of moonlit beach two figures had suddenly appeared.
They were striding quickly towards the boat.  He could see the moonshine
glinting on their bayonets, and hear their heavy tread on the sand.  One
of them lowered his rifle, with a hand on the lever, as he called out a
loud challenge to the boat:

"Who comes there?"

Max Hilliger’s plan was working just as he had hoped.  A tall man stood
up from the boat and strode towards the two sentries.

"Friends!" he answered.  And Max recognised the voice of Hermann Körner.
"It’s all right, boys."

The patrol saw only indistinctly that he wore the uniform of a naval
officer.  Never doubting that he was British, they drew to a halt in
front of him.

"We’ve got strict orders not to let anybody come ashore," one of them
said.

"Yes, well," was the ready response, "you do your duty.  But I have my
duty also.  I come ashore from ze revenue schooner out there.  I report
something.  Listen!"  He had seen their regimental badges in the
moonlight, and noticed that one wore a corporal’s stripe.  "You are not
local men," he went on; "you are probably strangers on the coast."  He
pointed to the cliff.  "What sort of peoples live in the third house?"
he questioned.  It was Major Redisham’s house which he indicated.  "You
don’t know?  Well, I recommend you keep a watch on it. Half an hour ago
there was signals flashed from one of ze upper windows.  It is well you
go up and make inquiry into the matter."

The two men in khaki were now standing with their backs to the groin,
beyond which Max Hilliger was crawling stealthily to the boat.

"Do you say they’re alien spies, signallin’ to some ship out at sea?"
the corporal asked.

The stranger shrugged his shoulders in a way which to any one suspicious
must at once have betrayed that he was a foreigner.

"Such is my impression, corporal," he answered, watching Max Hilliger
step into the boat.  "And knowing that there was a military patrol here,
naturally I come ashore to warn you.  Good night."

They waited until he had returned to his companions and pushed off.
Then they crossed the denes together, and climbed the cliff path to the
suspected house.

Pushing open the gate, they entered the drive, where they were
confronted by Mark Redisham and Darby Catchpole.  Mark’s greatcoat
covered his naval clothes.  Darby wore his Sea Scout’s uniform, and he
was dabbing his swollen nose with a blood-stained handkerchief.

"Signal lights have been seen flashing from the windows of this house,"
began the corporal.

"Who said so?" demanded Mark.  "I’m sure no light of any sort has been
seen.  All the windows are thickly curtained.  You’re making a mistake."

"Oh, no, we’re not!" insisted the corporal.  "A naval officer from the
revenue ship out there came ashore to tell us about it."  He indicated
the _Thor_.

"There’s no revenue boat out there," declared Darby Catchpole.  "That
ship’s not even British. You’ve been hoodwinked."  He turned to Mark.
"Do you see how the trick has been played?" he cried.  "It’s quite
plain.  While one of the boat’s crew, speaking English, came ashore and
kept the patrol off the scent, Max Hilliger slipped into the boat
unseen!  What’s to be done?"

"If Max has gone aboard the ketch, we can’t do much more than we’ve done
already," declared Mark.  "I’ve telephoned to the naval base, telling
them to send out and capture the ketch while she’s still at anchor.  But
are you certain sure that it was Max Hilliger you saw?"

Darby dabbed his handkerchief to his nose, which was still bleeding.

"What’s the good of asking such a question?" he objected warmly.  "I saw
him as clearly as I see you now.  He rounded on me when I called his
name, and then fetched me a blow in the face that sent me sprawling.  I
saw what he carried, too—a long sort of tin box under his left arm and a
bag in his left hand."

"The charts!" Mark Redisham ejaculated.  "The charts!"  Then to the
corporal he added: "It’s clear you’ve been had.  The men in that boat
were Germans, and a young German has escaped with them, taking a lot of
charts and maps that will be no end of help to the enemy if they should
attempt to land an invading army on this coast.  That chap who kidded
you about signal lights only wanted to draw your attention off the boat
for a minute.  You wouldn’t have committed a crime if you had put a
bullet into him.  Haven’t you been ordered not to let any boat come
ashore?"

"Yes, of course," admitted the corporal.  "But he was in uniform.  He
looked and talked like a British naval officer."

"Anyhow, you’ll have to report the matter to your colonel," rejoined
Mark.

The corporal seemed to have a sudden inspiration.

"How am I to know what you’re tellin’ me is true?" he demanded.  "Who
are you?  What are you doin’, spyin’ round out here at this time of
night?"

"I am the son of Major Redisham, who is now with his regiment in
France," Mark answered.  "I am, myself, in the Royal Naval Reserve,
serving the King.  My chum, here, is a Sea Scout.  If that isn’t enough,
you can go up to the house and see my mother."

"Listen!" cried Darby Catchpole excitedly. "The ketch is lifting her
anchor!  She’s making sail! Come along—quick!  Don’t stand jawing here."

The patrol shouldered their rifles and followed the two boys down to the
beach.  There came to them a curious, spluttering sound, like that of a
motor-car being started.  Mark Redisham stood still, listening and
watching.  The _Thor’s_ sails were up, but there was very little wind to
fill them.  Nevertheless, she was moving.  There was a commotion of
water under her stern.

"She’s got petrol engines!" Mark declared. "Look!  Look, she’s off!"

The corporal, realising the gravity of his former omission, now
attempted to repair it.  He threw himself forward on a knoll of sand,
and levelling his rifle, took aim and fired at the escaping ketch.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                          *A FLEET IN HIDING.*


Standing at the vessel’s stern beside the steersman, Max Hilliger saw
the flash and heard the sharp report.  He laughed.  There was a second
shot.  A bullet whistled over his head and tore through the canvas of
the mizzen sail.

"Hard a-starboard!" he ordered; and when she turned with her bow to the
north-east, he added: "Steady!"

He glanced astern, taking his bearings by the familiar landmarks.

"Be careful, my friend," said Lieutenant Körner, at his side.  "There is
the sandbank."

"That is why I am careful," returned Max. "We’re going to cross it.
It’s our only safe way. If you keep to the channel, you must either risk
a shot from the naval gun on Haddisport pier, or else run up against the
destroyer anchored off Buremouth. I’m going to take her across the
shoal, through a gap that’s used only by the lifeboatmen.  Leave it to
me, Hermann."

It was a feat in seamanship which no local fisherman, familiar with the
dangers of the Alderwick shoal, would have believed possible.  But Max
Hilliger knew every fathom over the sunken bank, and he brought the boat
through so skilfully that no one on board even guessed how narrow was
their escape from disaster.

When at length she was safe beyond the reef, her course was set and she
sped along, driven by her powerful motor.

The sea was clear of all traffic during the night, and there were no
ships in sight to notice her unusual speed or to question her business.
And if there were mine-fields to fear, those on the British side of the
North Sea were known to Max Hilliger, while Lieutenant Körner knew
equally well how to avoid those sown by the Germans in their own waters.
So they went on in safety.

On the following morning, when they were off the Dogger Bank, heavy rain
was falling.  A fleet of fishing craft at work loomed dimly through the
mist. As a precaution against suspicion, Körner stopped the petrol
engine, depending upon the sails.  The rain mist was still thick at
mid-day, when, as from behind a curtain, a squadron of British battle
cruisers and light cruisers appeared, accompanied by a patrol flotilla
of destroyers and submarines.  They passed within a mile of the _Thor_,
and challenged her by signal.  The Dutch colours were run up to her
masthead and she was allowed to go on unmolested.

During the short time the warships were in sight, Max Hilliger was busy
taking notes concerning them. With the help of an English book of
reference, he was able to identify each one of them and to discover all
particulars as to her speed, tonnage, and armament.  He noted with
particular interest that one of the destroyers was the _Lupin_, by which
he had himself been rescued when the _Atreus_ was mined, and that
another was the _Levity_, upon which, as he had lately learned, Rodney
Redisham was serving as a midshipman.

"Ah!" he regretted, gazing at the formidable bulk of the nearest
battleship, "if this tub were only your submarine, Hermann, how you
could distribute your torpedoes and send every one of them to the
bottom!  Look at their great guns—as great even as some of our own!  We
shall not easily beat them in a pitched battle.  And they outnumber our
High Sea Fleet.  It must be by our submarines that we conquer them.
Hermann, I want you to get me on board your submarine.  Then we can get
about the seas, sinking every English warship that we can find!"

"Very well, my friend," returned Lieutenant Körner.  "For you it will
not be difficult.  It needs only that you mention the ambition to your
uncle, Admiral von Hilliger, and the thing is settled.  Is it not so?"

It was to Admiral von Hilliger’s flagship, the armoured cruiser
_Schiller_, that Max was now bound. She was known to be lying behind the
island of Heligoland, protected by the fortress and by the mine-fields
of the Bight.

Lieutenant Körner made a course by secret passages through the mines and
under the lee of the Frisian Islands, and it was just before sunset that
the _Thor_ entered the estuary of the Elbe and came into the midst of
the Kaiser’s High Sea Fleet.

Max Hilliger had constantly heard and read of the huge navy, the
construction of which had played so prominent a part in Germany’s plan
of world-dominion; but his dreams had never presented anything to
compare with the vast number and might of the warships now arrayed
before his wondering eyes.

They stretched in an almost unbroken line across from Cuxhaven to
Brunsbuttel—battleships which appeared to him far more powerful than any
of the British Dreadnoughts that he had seen passing in the distance
from the cliffs of Haddisport; armoured cruisers that looked like
impregnable floating fortresses; light cruisers built for speed; and a
vast multitude of destroyers, submarines, mine-layers, troopships, and
armed liners.

His heart seemed to swell within him in patriotic pride.  This was the
fleet designed for the conquest of Britain, and he could not imagine how
its purpose could fail.

Believing that the sea power of Great Britain was doomed to be broken,
and that the future of the Fatherland was fated to be one of shining
glory and greatness, he was thankful that he was a German; thankful that
it was now to be his privilege to fight for her in the conquest of her
worst enemy.

Lieutenant Körner steered the ketch to her anchorage beside his
submarine at the rear of the main fleet; and, in the deepening dusk of a
rainy evening, Max was conveyed in a motor-launch to Admiral von
Hilliger’s flagship.

The admiral was at dinner and could not be interrupted even to receive
his nephew from England, but Max found friends amongst the junior
officers, and at length he was admitted.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                         *THE GERMAN ADMIRAL.*


In the admiral’s state-room, Max quickly won his uncle’s favour by
producing his collection of special maps and charts—the same collection
which Mark Redisham had discovered in the pigeon-loft at Sunnydene.

On the charts of the North Sea were clearly shown not only the depths in
fathoms and the positions of newly-placed buoys and lightships for the
guidance of pilots, but also the areas which the British Admiralty had
sown with defensive mines.

Admiral von Hilliger examined them with keen scrutiny, stroking his
long, fair beard with satisfaction as he observed particular features
which were new to him.

"_Ja_," he nodded, making a mark with his pencil. "We shall use this
channel when we go to bombard their fortified coast towns.  It is just
here that our invading troops can make a landing.  You have two and a
quarter fathoms of water close up to the beach at low tide—a lonely
piece of exposed coast, within easy reach of a railway junction, and
three cathedral cities.  There are no fortifications to oppose us; and
the little English Army is already in France! But first, my dear Max, we
shall annihilate their miserable North Sea Fleet.  Once we have got rid
of their boasted Dreadnoughts and secured command of the seas, the rest
will be as simple as eating your breakfast."

"If there is going to be a sea battle, uncle," Max ventured boldly, "I
should not like to miss seeing it, and perhaps taking a small part in
it."

The admiral shrugged his decorated shoulders and took up the chart of
Alderwick Knoll.

"As a holiday entertainment it would be interesting," he responded.
"And certainly there are ways in which your knowledge of the enemy may
be useful."

"Also my knowledge of submarines," Max added.

"So?" returned his uncle, studying the chart. "And you have the wish to
fight under the sea, eh?  Well, my dear child, that is perhaps possible!
We have many under-sea boats in commission, and many more building, for
which we shall require crews.  I will arrange it.  In the meantime, you
will be provided with a midshipman’s uniform and remain on board the
_Schiller_.  But what is this so carefully prepared chart?"

"It is a reef off the English coast, sir," Max explained, "a place
convenient for our submarines to lie safely hidden, to pounce out upon
enemy ships and sink them.  Also, there is a secret store of petrol
buried in the sand dunes quite near.  My father has not been idle."

"Good!" said the admiral.  "Yes, we shall sink their ships—merchant
ships as well as vessels of war.  We shall blockade their coasts, and
so, stopping their food supplies, starve the contemptible English.  But
that will be when we have destroyed their battle fleets, as we shall do
as soon as they choose to come out from their fortified harbours, where
at present they remain in close hiding."

Max Hilliger very well knew that Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet was not
in hiding; but he did not wish just now to contradict his uncle.  He
simply said:

"Some of their cruiser squadrons are nevertheless venturing nearer to
our mine-fields than is good for them, sir.  To-day, for example, we
passed a squadron hardly a score of miles from the south-west of
Heligoland."

"Ha!" cried the admiral, growing excited. "So near?  Why did you not
inform me at once, instead of wasting my time and our opportunity?
Already we might have sent out a flotilla of our faithful submarines to
torpedo them!  A squadron, you say?  Of what strength?"

Max produced the notes that he had taken.

"Thunder and lightning!" exclaimed his uncle, at sight of the precise
details.  And, gathering the charts and the notes, he got into his
oilskins and hurried out of the cabin to hold a council of war with
several of his fellow admirals and captains on board the cruiser
_Klopstock_.

Max saw no more of him that night; but by the bustle and excitement and
incessant noise that kept him from sleeping, he knew that the ship was
being prepared for action.

Early in the morning he was awakened by the chunking of the engines and
the noisy working of the ammunition hoists.  He got up and dressed in
his midshipman’s uniform and went out to the upper deck.  The rain had
ceased, but there was a thick mist over the sea, through which he could
only dimly make out the cliffs of Heligoland with their concrete
battlements and bristling guns.

As the cruiser drew nearer, he could see the forts more clearly, with
the naval harbour, from which a large flotilla of destroyers and
submarines had just come out.  Here the _Schiller_ came to a stop beside
other cruisers—the _Klopstock_ with her four tall funnels, the _Goethe_,
the _Ariadne_, the _Coblentz_, and the great _Derfflinger_, with her
five pairs of 12-inch guns—while twenty destroyers, accompanied by six
submarines, disappeared in the mist on their way out to sea.

On board the _Schiller_ all was cleared for action, everything
inflammable was left behind, and the decks were flooded in case of fire,
the guns were loaded and the men at their stations all ready for
fighting, waiting only for a wireless message to come back from the
advance scouts to say that the enemy had been found.

Instead of a Marconi message, there came the distant booming of British
4-inch guns, mingling with the sound of the drums as the bands on the
German cruisers played "Der Wacht am Rhein."

"Ha!" cried Admiral von Hilliger, rubbing his hands together as he paced
his quarter-deck. "Now we have them!"

A signal was sent out to two of the cruisers, the _Klopstock_ and the
_Coblentz_, which immediately steamed off, to be followed a little later
by the _Schiller_ herself and the _Ariadne_, which took a slightly
different direction, in order, as was intended, to take the enemy on the
opposite flank and so envelop them.

In the open sea, outside Heligoland, and beyond the area of the German
mines, British destroyers and submarines, supported by light cruisers
and battle cruisers had for a week past been busily reconnoitring,
showing themselves boldly, and inviting the Kaiser’s ships to come out.
But until this morning the invitation had been ignored.

Now, however, as the flotilla of German torpedo boats sallied forth to
give chase to what they supposed was a mere patrol of light craft which
they might easily deal with, a strong, picked force of our destroyers,
headed by the new light cruiser _Athene_, dashed out from the mist to
cut off the German boats from home and engage them at leisure in the
open sea.

The action was begun by the _Levity_ and the _Lupin_ in a running fight,
and so well were their 4-inch guns served that one of the enemy
destroyers was crippled in trying to escape, and shortly afterwards a
second was seen to sink.  The _Athene_ manoeuvred to get clear of
Hermann Körner’s submarine, which was within torpedo range.

Then the German destroyers scattered, drawing back to the mine-field,
and to the support of the _Klopstock_ and the _Coblentz_, which were now
coming out.

The _Athene_, leading the line of destroyers, met the heavy gunfire of
the _Klopstock_, and engaged her at a range of about three thousand
yards.

For half an hour the two cruisers fought, the _Athene_ holding her own
against a ship more than double her size.  She sustained some damage and
a few casualties, and the situation was becoming critical when a second
British light cruiser, the _Sarpedon_, steamed up to her support.  Three
destroyers joined in the attack with their torpedoes, whereupon the
German turned tail and disappeared in the mist.

The _Athene_ and the _Sarpedon_, followed by the destroyers _Levity_ and
_Lupin_, now gave chase to the German _Coblentz_, and drove her,
seriously injured, to the protection of the mine-field.  Ten minutes
later the armoured cruiser _Schiller_ came out, with Admiral von
Hilliger in command, and his nephew, Max, on board.

She at once opened her guns on the _Athene_ and the _Sarpedon_.  Salvo
after salvo was directed towards the two British cruisers, but every
shell fell short, while many of the _Athene’s_ 6-inch shells battered
her sides.  A division of our destroyers joined in the fray with their
deck-guns, and the _Levity_ in particular annoyed the Germans by the
accuracy of her aim.

Max Hilliger watched her through a pair of powerful binoculars, and
once, when the air was momentarily clear of smoke, he caught sight of
Rodney Redisham in a prominent position on her high bridge.

He went up to the admiral.

"Turn your guns on that destroyer, sir," he implored.  "Sink her!  Sink
her!"



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                          *BRAVE AS A BRITON.*


Whether it was that Admiral von Hilliger supposed that his nephew had
some vital reason for drawing his attention to the _Levity_, or that his
executive officers had resolved independently to punish this
particularly bold and annoying destroyer, it is certain that the
_Levity_ became for some minutes a special mark for the _Schiller’s_ big
guns.

Shells fell around the little vessel like a storm of hail, and many must
have hit her but that she remained end on, thus making herself a smaller
target.  At length one fell between her funnels, crashed through her
deck-plates, and exploded in her engine-room, leaving her helpless.

The _Athene_ and the _Sarpedon_ continued to send their 6-inch lyddite
shells into the German cruiser, their forward guns firing at the rate of
half a dozen rounds a minute.

These two British light cruisers were themselves receiving a large share
of the _Schiller’s_ fire at long range, and were being constantly aimed
at by torpedoes from the enemy submarines and destroyers, while there
was always the danger of their running foul of floating mines.  They
were being hard pressed.  Already the _Athene_ had sent out wireless
messages to the British battle cruiser squadron in the rear, reporting
that she was in need of help.

The German cruiser _Klopstock_ had by this time reappeared from the
mist, and was steaming down to join battle.  The situation was critical,
yet the British ships stood their ground, and a well-placed shell from
the _Sarpedon_ smashed the forward bridge of the _Schiller_ and injured
her foremost funnel, while another from the _Athene_ burst through her
port bulwarks amidships and so damaged her internally that her engines
stopped and she was seen to be on fire.

At this moment the four-funnelled _Stein_ loomed out of the fog.  The
_Athene_ signalled to her consort and the destroyers to withdraw and
accompany her to cut off this new enemy cruiser.

All followed her excepting the disabled _Levity_, which remained rolling
helplessly within point blank range of the _Schiller’s_ guns.  The
explosion of the shell in her engine-room had burst one of her main
steam-pipes, crippling her for the time.  Her own 4-inch guns were
served, but her shells fell short. Below decks the men kept grimly at
their work in their efforts to repair the damaged machinery, and all the
time shells fell fast and thick round the wounded vessel.

"It looks as if we were done for, this time," the commander admitted to
one of his lieutenants, as Rodney Redisham mounted to the bridge to give
a report from the chief engineer.  "We can’t live long through this."

"Unless one of the flotilla should return and take us in tow," suggested
the lieutenant.  "They don’t seem to realise that we are crippled, sir."

"I am not going to ask for help, however," the commander resolved.  "It
would be too risky for one of them to come back now."  He lighted a
cigarette.  "We will just hold on with our flag flying until we sink.
Anyhow, we have done our duty."

"The chief engineer says he can’t repair the steam-pipe without drawing
the fires, sir," Rodney reported.

"Thank you, Redisham," nodded the captain, "We will stick to the ship,
but see that every one wears a life collar."

He continued to pace the bridge.  The officers stood each at his post
waiting for the end.  No mercy could be expected from the Germans.  The
_Schiller_ had now only one small target within range, and although her
gunners were aiming badly, yet here and there a sailor dropped wounded
by flying shrapnel, and more than one shell burst inboard, wrecking
cabins and killing two men.

Ah!  Suddenly the _Lupin_, with magnificent British pluck, was seen
bearing down upon the _Levity_ at full speed, little heeding the fact
that she was charging into an inferno, and that at any moment a
well-placed shot might sink her.  She was coming to the help of her
sorely-tried consort.

With splendid seamanship she was brought round.  Not a shot touched her.
She came close alongside.  A rope was thrown to the _Levity_; a hawser
was quickly passed and secured.  In another minute both destroyers would
have been out of danger; but just as the _Levity_ was hauled round
broadside on to the German guns, the strained cable snapped.

All seemed over now.  There could be no escape for either the stricken
_Levity_ or her daring rescuer. The gunlayers on board the _Schiller_,
fearing that they were being baulked of their prey, redoubled their
efforts to sink her.

"Every man for himself!" shouted the British commander.

From the _Lupin_, now standing off, there came a tremendous cheer.

Rodney Redisham, coming up on deck through the splintered companion,
heard the cheer repeated, and saw his commander and fellow officers
gravely raising their hands aloft in a last farewell salute. He turned
and glanced round to the westward, and to his amazement there came
plunging out of the mist the giant shape of a British Dreadnought
cruiser, flying a vice-admiral’s pennant.

It was the _Saturn_, the first of the battle line.

The mighty 13-inch guns of the cruiser boomed out across the sea, and
with the first salvo the _Schiller_ was hit in a vital part.  The hail
of shells round the two destroyers suddenly ceased.  Another hawser was
shipped, and the _Levity_ was towed away.

With the battle cruiser squadron the light cruiser squadron also
appeared and joined in the confused fighting.  The _Saturn_ and her
immediate consorts gave chase to the _Stein_, very quickly sank her, and
set the _Klopstock_ on fire.  A second of the German destroyers was sent
to the bottom, whilst many others were badly damaged.

In the meantime, the _Athene_ and the _Sarpedon_ had driven one of the
enemy cruisers, the _Coblentz_, back towards the _Schiller_, where she
turned and engaged them hotly at long range.  Both of the British ships
received a good deal of injury themselves before they succeeded in
sinking her.

The crippled _Schiller_ was still above water, trying to escape with all
the speed which her damaged engines would allow.  The _Sarpedon_ gave
chase and opened fire upon her at a range of about ten thousand yards.

Admiral von Hilliger replied feebly with his after-turret guns and
attempted further to check his pursuer by dropping explosive mines in
his wake. But the British ship, with her greater speed, quickly
overhauled him and exchanged broadsides with him.

Flames and thick smoke were still rising from the _Schiller_, when a
shell, falling close beside her, sent up a great fountain of water which
deluged her decks and extinguished the fire.

Shortly afterwards, a beautifully-placed shot took away two of her
funnels, and again she was seen to be on fire.  All amidships became a
raging furnace; her mainmast fell by the board.  Then there was a sudden
silence on both sides.  It was now only a question of saving lives.

The _Sarpedon_ bore down upon her stricken enemy, going close up to her
on the windward side and launching two of her boats.

At close quarters the devastating effect of the British 6-inch lyddite
shells was plainly apparent. The German flagship’s thickly armoured hull
was like a sieve.  Her fore-bridge was a tangled mass of ironwork; the
wire stays of her foremast were swinging in the air.  Her guns were
smashed and bent, some looking round corners, some lying on their sides.
Her upper decks were in a state of chaos; her fallen funnels and
ventilators were red hot, and every boat was burnt.  She was sinking in
a cloud of smoke and flame and hissing steam.

Unnoticed by any one near, the periscope of a submarine was moving in
the midst of the drowning Germans who had jumped into the sea from the
doomed cruiser.  The submarine was the British H29.

Below, at his post in the conning-tower, Lieutenant Ingoldsby watched
all that was going on about him. He had been prepared to send his last
remaining torpedo into the _Schiller_, but this was now unnecessary.  He
watched the _Sarpedon’s_ boats coming to the rescue of the struggling
Germans, whom he could not himself attempt to save.  He watched the
cruiser sinking.

There appeared to be only a very few living beings left on board of her.
A couple of officers stood under the wreckage of her fore-bridge.  There
was a lonely figure on her quarter-deck, dimly visible amid the smoke
and flames.  He, too, looked like an officer, though little could be
seen of his uniform, excepting a broad band of gold on his sleeve.  His
head was bare.  He held his hands pressed to his eyes, as if he were
blinded by the smoke, or as if he were unwilling to look upon what
little remained of the ship.

Suddenly, while Ingoldsby watched, he saw one of the officers under the
bridge climb up by a stanchion and leap over into the sea.  The other
ran aft into the smoke, disappeared for a moment, and then again was
seen staggering along the red hot deck with his cap held over his mouth,
dodging in and out amongst the wreckage.

For an instant he stood in hesitation, and Ingoldsby saw that he was
only a youth, a midshipman.  Then again he ran as with some madly
hopeless purpose aft towards the quarter-deck.  He was lost in the smoke
for a while, but once more he appeared, crawling perilously along the
narrow strip of coaming at the edge of the flame-swept deck.

Had the boy wanted to save his own life he might have done so many times
by leaping down into the sea.  But such most surely was not his design.
Lieutenant Ingoldsby understood his intention, and thrilled with
admiration as he saw it most bravely fulfilled.  Dashing through the
smoke, the lad at last reached the officer who had stood alone on the
quarter-deck; caught him by the arm, spoke to him imploringly, and then
led him gently to the vessel’s side.  They stood together, an admiral
and a midshipman.  Together they leapt into the waves.

"About the pluckiest act I’ve ever witnessed!" declared Lieutenant
Ingoldsby.  "Desmond, you ought to have seen it."

"Seen what, sir?" Lieutenant Desmond inquired.

"I’ll tell you about it afterwards," returned Ingoldsby, still gazing
intently into the periscope mirror.  "Hullo!  She’s gone down!"

Just at this juncture, as the _Schiller_ sank, a large German armoured
cruiser, coming out of the mist, opened fire upon the _Sarpedon_, whose
two boats were busy picking up survivors.  To save his ship, and in
obedience to orders he had received to retire, the British commanding
officer steamed off, abandoning his two boats with the officer in charge
of them, nine seamen, and the prisoners whom they had so far rescued.

Lieutenant Ingoldsby set his electric motor to work and started off to
attack the enemy cruiser, but the latter altered course to the northward
before the submarine could be brought within torpedo range.  Ingoldsby
thereupon returned to the boats, emptying his ballast tanks and rising
awash close beside them, greatly to the astonishment of their occupants.

He stepped out on the deck of the conning-tower, followed by his
sub-lieutenant and quarter-master.

"I’m sorry I haven’t got anything like room for the lot of you, sir," he
said to the officer in charge of the boats.  "What had we better do?"

"We have twenty-five survivors," the other answered, "most of them badly
wounded.  Three of them are officers.  One, indeed, is an admiral. You’d
better make sure of him, in any case."

"I think I shall be justified in making sure of my own countrymen
first," returned Ingoldsby. "Yourself and your men.  That’s ten all
told. Well, perhaps I can make room for the admiral and his two
officers; but no more.  You see, we may have to submerge.  We can let
the rest of them have the boats.  I can give them water, biscuits, and a
compass, and set them a course back to Heligoland.  They’re not all of
them wounded, are they?  Some of them look as if they could work the
oars.  Which is the admiral?"

He looked across at the farther boat and saw a red-bearded man at the
stern lying back with his head resting on the gunwale, while a youth in
midshipman’s uniform, kneeling at his side, was bathing his eyes with a
bit of rag dipped in sea water.  Like the rest of the rescued Germans,
they were woefully bedraggled and wet, their scorched clothes hanging in
tatters.

"Ah!" exclaimed Lieutenant Ingoldsby, recognising the man whom he had
seen on the quarterdeck. "It’s the same.  And that’s the boy who saved
him.  I’m glad you picked them up.  Draw the boat alongside and let us
get them aboard."

The midshipman turned a wan face towards him, gazed at him with red and
swollen eyes, and shrank back.

"Queer!" murmured Lieutenant Ingoldsby in perplexity.  "I’m almost
certain I’ve seen that boy before, somewhere!"

He went below to plan how the additions to his ship’s company could be
accommodated and to send up provisions for the boats.  The British
sailors were brought on board.

"The admiral will share my cabin," he said. "Bring him down, Desmond."

"He refuses to come, sir," declared Lieutenant Desmond, "or, rather, the
middy refuses for him. The middy speaks wonderfully good English."

Ingoldsby, still more puzzled, went back on deck. The admiral was now
sitting up in the stern sheets of the boat, blinking his inflamed eyes,
and looking exceedingly miserable.

"Won’t you come on board, sir?" Ingoldsby invited, speaking in the best
German he could muster.

It was the midshipman who answered.

"No," he said.  "We will not be indebted to our enemies.  It would be
better for us to die here and now."

Lieutenant Ingoldsby gave a curious start of recognition and stood
staring into the youth’s haggard face.

"Max Hilliger!" he cried.  "You—here!  Why, you were at home in
Haddisport only a couple of days ago!  How did you come to be aboard a
German cruiser—and dressed as an officer, too?  You used to be a
Scout—an English Sea Scout.  You haven’t the right to wear the uniform
of an officer, even an officer in the German navy."

"I have the right to fight for my own country," Max answered boldly.
"And if I wear an officer’s uniform, that is my affair and the affair of
my uncle, Admiral von Hilliger."

"Ah!" rejoined Ingoldsby.  "He is your uncle. is he?  That explains.  I
had forgotten you had an uncle in the Kaiser’s service.  But you did a
jolly plucky thing when you saved him just now, Max; as plucky a thing
as I’ve ever seen.  While I watched you doing it I was wishing that you
were British. You were really as brave as a Briton.  I hope you didn’t
get badly burnt."

Max glanced downward to his left leg.  The bare skin was scorched.  His
left arm, too, was blistered from elbow to wrist.

"You had better come aboard here and I will give you some dressing,"
Lieutenant Ingoldsby advised.  "Bring Admiral von Hilliger with you. We
haven’t much accommodation.  But we shall not be very long getting
across to England."

Max Hilliger frowned.

"I suppose you mean us to go aboard as your prisoners of war?" he said.
"Perhaps you could force us, since we are helpless.  But you cannot take
us all.  It would be better if you took some of our severely wounded.
My uncle and I very much prefer to stay where we are and to find our own
way back to Germany, or die on the way."

"Oh, I’m not going to force you!" returned Lieutenant Ingoldsby.  "A
submarine is not supposed to carry passengers or to take prisoners.
Remain in the boat if you wish.  But at least you will not object to our
attending to the wounded before we part."

So shockingly hurt were many of the Germans that it seemed almost a
hopeless task to give them even ordinary first-aid.  But for half an
hour or so the British officers and men were occupied in doing the best
they could.  They were short of bandages, but with true British sympathy
for their unfortunate enemies, they stripped themselves of everything
but their trousers, and tore up their clothes with which to bind the
wounds.

In the circumstances, Lieutenant Ingoldsby could not have been blamed
for giving Admiral von Hilliger and his nephew their liberty.  But had
he foreseen what their freedom was to cost in innocent lives it is
probable that he would have acted differently.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                           *TREASURE TROVE.*


"In the very probable event of an invasion," asserted Mr. Croucher,
addressing a group of four Sea Scouts who had gathered at the lookout
station on the sea-front, "in the very probable event of an invasion, we
are totally unprepared and defenceless.  As I was saying to Mrs.
Daplin-Gennery only the other day, we ought to have big guns stationed
at intervals all along the coast.  A few newly-enlisted Territorials are
billeted in the town; but what good will they be when the Germans come
over here in force?"

"They could give the alarm, sir," suggested Ned Quester, whose brother
was a Territorial.

"Give the alarm?" repeated Mr. Croucher with contempt.  "And what then?
No amount of alarm would repel an invading army.  We want guns—guns, and
men who can handle them.  Civilians are not allowed to take up arms.
Look at what has happened in Belgium!  We ought to have realised long
ago that the Germans intended to make war on us.  They’ve been planning
it for years.  My argument is that we ought to have batteries posted all
along the coast."

"Aren’t warships, that can move about, as good as fixed batteries, sir?"
questioned Darby Catchpole.

"Warships are no good against Zeppelins," declared Mr. Croucher.  "Take
my word for it, the enemy have got many more airships than we’ve any
idea of; and every one of them capable of carrying a company of soldiers
with heavy artillery. Then they have their flat-bottomed barges;
hundreds of them, which they will use as transports."

"But we have our battleships and submarines, sir," interposed Mark
Redisham, "and it isn’t at all likely that the enemy can get past them."

"Don’t be too sure, Redisham," urged Mr. Croucher. "Don’t be too sure.
They can slip past them in a sea mist and land troops here on Haddisport
beach. And when they do, we shall be annihilated.  It’s no good thinking
that our dwelling houses are any protection.  One shell from a German
cruiser, one explosive bomb from a Zeppelin, would smash any of the
houses along this esplanade.  I wonder people are so callous as to live
in houses that are little better than targets to be aimed at from both
sea and air!"

Darby Catchpole ran his eye along the exposed dwellings.

"Sunnydene is about the best target of the lot," he smiled.  "It would
be funny if the enemy were to bombard the property of the brother of one
of their own admirals!"

Mr. Croucher shook his head wisely.

"They won’t bombard Sunnydene," he affirmed. "Young Max Hilliger, who,
it seems, was rescued with his uncle from the _Schiller_, will see to it
that the house is not harmed."

"In that case, Sunnydene would be a safe refuge for us," Mark Redisham
declared.  "At the first alarm we ought to round up all the women and
children and corral them in the grounds."

"The chances are that the Germans would batter Sunnydene to bits in
aiming at your own house, Mark," laughed Darby.

"For my own part," resumed Mr. Croucher, "I am getting a man to dig a
refuge trench in my back garden.  He’d nearly finished it yesterday,
only unfortunately in the heavy rain last night the sides fell in for
want of supports.  The corporation ought to have proper trenches dug on
the denes where the inhabitants could fly in case of danger."

"And get killed while they’re flying," mischievously suggested Seth
Newruck.

"Mrs. Daplin-Gennery is going to have one dug in her kitchen-garden,"
observed Mark Redisham. "Her gardener has enlisted, however, so we
Scouts are going to do a good turn by digging it.  Indeed, we are now on
our way down to the beach to have a bit of practice and plan out the
thing."

"Ah!" said Mr. Croucher, "I expect you’ll do it so well that you’ll have
all the neighbourhood asking you to dig trenches in their gardens.
Well, it’s for the good of the community.  If the War Office and the
Admiralty together won’t look after us, we must look after ourselves."

Mark got three spades from his own tool shed and borrowed another from
Mrs. Daplin-Gennery’s chauffeur.  Armed with these implements, he and
his companions went down to the foot of the cliff.

It was useless to think of digging even an experimental trench in the
loose sand of the beach, so they selected a piece of more solid ground
between the foreshore and the grass land.  They chose the spot almost at
random.  Even Darby Catchpole did not realise at first how near they
were to the groin from which Max Hilliger had escaped into the boat with
his case of charts.

Mark Redisham staked out the ground and they began to dig, piling the
soil on the side nearest the sea. It was decided that when the trench
was deep enough, it should be roofed in with cross planks and brushwood,
upon which the soil should be heaped to resist the impact of bombs from
the air or shells from the sea; but at present the work was only
undertaken as practice in excavation.  The cross planks, the sap trench,
and the means of entrance and exit would be properly applied when the
dug-out came to be made in Mrs. Daplin-Gennery’s garden.

They had been digging for about half an hour, when Seth Newruck’s spade
chipped against something that was neither soil nor stone.  He looked
down at the thing in wonder, then grabbed at it.

"Darby!  Mark!" he cried.  "See what I’ve found!  A cigarette case!
It’s silver!"

His companions all crowded up to him to look at it over his shoulder.
Certainly it was a silver cigarette-case, and a very handsome one.
There was a monogram engraved in the centre of its chased surface.

"It isn’t even tarnished," declared Mark Redisham. in surprise.  "It’s
almost new.  It can’t have been buried very long.  How deep did you find
it?"

"Just here," Seth explained, pointing out the spot about two feet down.

"That’s queer!" resumed Mark.  "I can’t understand—unless some one has
been digging here before us, quite lately, and dropped it by accident.
Some of the Territorials, perhaps."

"Now that I come to think of it," said Darby Catchpole, "the ground did
look as if it had been disturbed.  There was no grass growing on top."

Mark Redisham had opened the case.  It contained three cigarettes, held
in place by a band of blue elastic.  He took one of them out and
examined it.

"I’ve seen a cigarette like this before," he averred. "They’re Egyptian,
see!  ’Vafiadi, Cairo.’  Who was it that I saw smoking one?  Not
Lieutenant Ingoldsby: not Captain Damant."  He looked again at the
monogram, and gave a long, low whistle of astonishment.  "Oh, I know, I
know now!  Keep on digging, you chaps," he ordered.  "Here you are,
Seth.  Findings are keepings."

He seized his spade and continued digging until his back ached and the
perspiration rolled down his sunburnt cheeks.  He moved from place to
place in the trench, keeping it at a uniform depth.  They had got below
the dark soil to the soft sea sand.

"You’re making it too wide, Mark," Darby objected.

Mark went down on his knees and began to sniff about.

"Don’t you smell something?" he questioned, scratching at the sand with
his hands.  Then he pulled and tugged at something heavy.  "Eureka!" he
shouted.  "Look here, Darby!  Petrol! a tin of petrol! two tins—a whole
lot of them!"

Darby leant over from the side of the trench and saw the exposed tops of
a number of square red canisters.

"Enough to keep a motor-car going for a year," he declared.

"Yes," added Mark, "or a German submarine for a month."

"Why German?" Darby asked.

Mark laughed.

"Because," he answered, "I don’t suppose Herr Hilliger would have been
so considerate as to keep a secret store of petrol for the accommodation
of his enemies.  Yes, you may stare.  But even if the letters ’H.H.’ on
that silver case didn’t stand for Heinrich Hilliger, I should still have
known that the cigarettes were of the same brand as the remains of one
that I found on the floor of his pigeon-loft."

He vaulted out of the trench.

"Newruck and Quester will keep watch here," he said to Darby.  "I want
you to come along with me to the naval base."



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                       *THE BOMB-PROOF SHELTER.*


Nothing was said in Haddisport concerning the discovery and removal of
the secret store of petrol buried in the sand on Alderwick Denes. The
reason for the silence was that no one unconnected with the naval base
knew anything about the matter.

Any day during the herring season carts may be seen on the denes
carrying to and fro the fleets of nets that are spread out to dry on the
grass; and if two heavily-laden carts in particular were noticed being
drawn along the lower road towards the town, no one was any the wiser as
to their contents, since the red-painted tins of petrol which they
carried were successfully hidden under cover of herring nets. Mark
Redisham and his fellow scouts knew too well the importance of their
discovery to say anything about it, even in their homes.

One thing which the members of the Lion Patrol had especially laid to
heart from the beginning of the war was the necessity of keeping silence
when in the performance of their duties they chanced to come into
possession of a naval or a military secret.

They had shown that they could be trusted with information which never
came to the knowledge of the ordinary reader of newspapers or of local
gossips such as Constable Challis and old Mr. Croucher. Amongst
themselves they might indeed talk and compare notes; but only within
limits.  Mark Redisham, for example, knew many things which he never
mentioned to Darby Catchpole, while Darby was similarly silent towards
Mark.

"Strictly between ourselves, sir," said Constable Challis, meeting Mr.
Croucher on the esplanade, "I believe young Mark Redisham knows exactly
where Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet is at this moment, and what our
submarines are doin’ across there under the very noses of the enemy’s
forts. He knows a lot, sir.  But you can take it from me, you might as
well try to get blood out of a stone as information out of him."

"It’s the same with young Catchpole," nodded Mr. Croucher significantly.
"Time after time I’ve asked that boy to tell me in confidence things
which I’m certain he knows—things about our ships and their mysterious
movements, things about our awful disasters at sea which are being
systematically hidden from us; but it’s useless, Challis—useless, and we
are kept in the dark; always kept in the dark."

"Talking about bein’ in the dark, sir," resumed the constable, "have you
seen the trench as the Scouts have been makin’ in Mrs. Daplin-Gennery’s
kitchen-garden?  You ought to.  It’s a room that you could live in, with
four feet of sand piled on the roof as a refuge from bombs and shells.
It’s so comfortable and safe, sir, that Mrs. Daplin-Gennery threatens to
invite her friends to take afternoon tea with her in it.  And there’s
what they calls a sap trench—a tunnel leadin’ from it right up to the
kitchen door, so that the household can escape into it on the first
alarm, and be as safe as a rabbit in its burrow."

"Indeed?" said Mr. Croucher.  "But mightn’t it fall in, as mine did?"

"Not a bit of it, sir," declared Chain’s.  "You could mount a 6-inch gun
on top of it.  Those Sea Scouts knew what they was doin’ when they
planned and built it.  It’s not an ordinary dug-out, sir, like yours and
the vicar’s.  First of all they quarried a deep pit and shifted the
bicycle shed into it. They packed the shed round with sandbags, roofed
it with cross planks, covered it with brushwood, and then piled a mound
of sea sand on top.  Even supposin’ a Zeppelin bomb was to drop on it,
there’d be no explosion.  If a shell from an enemy ship was to smash the
house, the people in the underground shed would be safe, bein’ too far
off for the chimneys and bricks and things to fall on them. Of course,
it can never be really needed.  The Germans’ll never come here."

"Don’t be too sure about that, Challis," Mr. Croucher retorted warmly.
"Mrs. Daplin-Gennery and her household may have to go into their refuge
any day, any night.  As I have argued all along, if the enemy’s
battleships break through, we are doomed. We can’t resist them, either
on sea or land, let alone the air.  We are in constant danger.  Look at
what they’re doing on the Continent!  They’ve already occupied Brussels,
you know.  Antwerp has fallen, too.  They will take the Channel ports
next—Ostend, Calais, and Boulogne—and then, Challis, it will be the
invasion of England, and they will serve us just as they have served the
poor Belgians—perhaps worse."

Constable Challis shook his head and smiled compassionately upon the
timid, old gentleman.

"You may take it from me, sir," he averred, "the Germans will never get
to Calais.  The Allies won’t let ’em.  And try how they will, they’ll
always be brought up against the British Navy. Not but what Mrs.
Daplin-Gennery is quite right to have that trench made.  It comforts her
and her servants to know that it’s there."

"They may have need for it much sooner than you think, Constable,"
declared Mr. Croucher, turning in at Mrs. Daplin-Gennery’s gateway.

In the garden he encountered Seth Newruck.

"Is Redisham in the trench?" he inquired. "I have come to have a look at
it."

"There is nobody there now, sir," Seth answered. "Mark Redisham is out
at sea with the mine-sweepers. I’ve just been making things a bit tidy.
I’m sorry I haven’t time to stay, sir; but I’ve got to go down to the
naval base to see our Scoutmaster. Mrs. Daplin-Gennery has gone into the
town in her motor-car; but I daresay if you ask the cook she will show
you into the trench, or," he reflected that Mr. Croucher was lame, "you
could get into it yourself easily enough if you’re careful about how you
go down the ladder."

Mr. Croucher looked somewhat disappointed. He had resolved to ask Mark
Redisham to dig a similar refuge in his garden at Rose Cottage.

"Gone out mine-sweeping, has he?" he ruminated. "When will he be back?"

"I don’t know, sir.  Perhaps in a week; perhaps in a day or two."

"That reminds me," pursued Mr. Croucher, detaining Seth with a grip on
the boy’s shoulder. "Is it true that Redisham has invented a new
contrivance for picking up German mines, and that the Admiralty have
adopted it?"

"They’re always making improvements of one sort or another," Seth
answered evasively.

"Yes, I suppose so.  But I understand that this invention of Redisham’s
is not only an improvement, but an entirely new idea, on the principle
of a torpedo net, and that it’s the means of saving dozens of valuable
lives.  I have noticed some of the mine-sweeping boats going out with
curious gear at their prows.  How is it worked?"

Seth Newruck was not quite sure whether or not he was expected to regard
the matter as a naval secret.

"How is it worked, eh?" repeated Mr. Croucher. "I am sure you know."

"I’m afraid it would take too long to explain, sir," Seth answered
guardedly.  "You should go down to the harbour and get one of the naval
officers to show you.  But there’s the cook at the kitchen door, sir.  I
must be off.  Good-morning, sir."

Mr. Croucher’s puffy eyes followed the boy as he ran off.

"Just the same as the rest of them," he complained. "There’s no worming
information out of any of them.  One would think that they were all
bound down by an oath of secrecy."

Seth Newruck had spoken quite truthfully when he said that he had no
time to spare.  He was glad to have such a valid excuse to escape from
the inquisitive questioning of the old gossip.  He was due to report
himself for duty at the naval base at eleven o’clock, when Mr.
Bilverstone would probably send him on some errand to the coastguards or
to the police-station, or give him some piece of clerical work to
perform.  It was already half-past ten, and he had a long walk through
the town.

As he went at scout’s pace along the esplanade, he glanced eastward
across the sea to a grey-painted gunboat which he quickly recognised as
H.M.S. _Rapid_. She was steaming northward, followed by a flotilla of
mine-sweepers.  He wished that he might be on board of her, little
dreaming that she was destined never again to return to her moorings in
Haddisport harbour.  He heard a whirring in the air and looked back for
a moment to watch a seaplane flying overhead.  Very soon the seaplane
passed above him, and by something in its colour and structure he knew
it to be the machine of which Lieutenant Aldiss was the pilot—Lieutenant
Aldiss who had lately done such wonderful, daring things in the aerial
raid over Düsseldorf.  The aeroplane presently circled round and seemed
to hover above some dark-sailed boats outside of Haddisport, as if the
pilot were inspecting them with suspicion.

Seth Newruck looked at the boats curiously as he ran, but they were soon
hidden from view beyond the trees of the park.  He walked through the
park and down the long High Street.  At the top of each of the narrow
scores leading downward to the beach, there was a group of people,
eagerly looking out to sea. Beyond the Town Hall, Seth paused and
mingled with a group at the top of Fisherman’s Score.

"What are they looking at?" he questioned of a man in khaki.  "Is it a
wreck?"

"Nobody seems to know," the soldier answered. "It’s something about
those boats out there."

The boats were certainly curious enough to excite interest.  Seth
Newruck had never seen any exactly like them before, although he prided
himself on his knowledge of sailing craft and the varieties of rig.  The
nearest resemblance to them that he knew were galliots in a Dutch
picture at home. They were clumsy, untidy-looking vessels, with bluff
bows and weather boards, tall masts, and patched, ill-fitting sails.  He
counted thirty at the least.

He thought for an instant of Mr. Croucher’s often-repeated statement
about the flat-bottomed boats in which the Germans were expected to
bring over their invading troops.  Could these be raiding Germans? he
wondered.  Then, as one of the sloops turned shoreward, he saw a flag at
the peak of her mast.  It was black, yellow, and red.

"They’re Belgian!" he cried, and ran off down the town.

While he ran he recollected something which he had read in the newspaper
that morning. Antwerp had fallen and was occupied by the Germans. The
Belgian Army and British troops had retired. The Belgian people, driven
from their homes, had fled to the coast, and now the enemy had reached
Ostend.

A glimmer of the truth was revealed to him. These boats which he had
seen making for Haddisport were surely Flemish fishing smacks bringing
the hard-pressed, homeless Belgians across to the friendly refuge of
England.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                     *TOLD THROUGH THE TELEPHONE.*


Seth Newruck’s belief was confirmed when he reached the harbour and met
his Scoutmaster and Darby Catchpole.

"Give whatever help you can, Newruck," said Mr. Bilverstone.  "These
boats coming in are from Ostend, with Belgian refugees, who will want
food. Many of them will be ill, some wounded.  The boats will be brought
up alongside the _Kingfisher_, first of all.  Then the people will be
taken to the public hall."

The jetties and quays were crowded with townsfolk, watching the trawlers
drift slowly in to the outer harbour.  As the first boat came alongside
the quay there was an audible gasp of pity for the forlorn victims of
war.  The little craft was thronged with women and children, looking
miserably ill and hungry, and still showing in their grim faces the
lingering horror of all they had gone through, mingled with doubt as to
the manner in which they would be received in a foreign land.

Then caps were raised in silent salute, handkerchiefs were waved in
welcome, and the townsfolk pressed forward eagerly to throw down tins of
biscuits, bags of buns, bananas, and chocolate, and to pass cans of hot
coffee and milk.

Among the most eager was Mrs. Daplin-Gennery, who had loaded her
motor-car with food from a neighbouring confectioner’s and got Darby
Catchpole to help her to distribute it as each boat was warped in.  All
the time, tears of sympathy and sorrow were running down her cheeks, and
she spoke to the Belgians in French, which some of them understood.
Once, when a particular boat was passing, crowded with women, all of
whom seemed to be ill, she took off her rich coat and threw it down to
one of them and then returned to her car to buy yet more food.

There were over fifty boats in all, bringing considerably more than a
thousand of the poorest refugees from all parts of Belgium, with such
little treasures as they had been able to snatch from their desolated
homes.  Many of them had brought their dogs, their cats, and their
canaries.  Many were wounded, and had to be taken to the hospitals. Some
were taken to houses in the town, but most of them were driven in cars
to the public hall, where they were well cared for.

Mr. Arnold Bilverstone, taking temporary leave from his duties at the
naval base, had mustered all the Scouts in the town to give help in
attending to the distressed refugees.  He was busy in the public hall,
making a list of the Belgians’ names, when Seth Newruck went hurriedly
up to him and plucked at his sleeve.

"Mr. Bilverstone, I’ve got something to tell you, sir," began Seth.

Mr. Bilverstone laid aside his fountain pen and prepared to listen.

"Yes," he smiled, "what is it?  Some more families got accidentally
mixed up?  Children separated from their mothers and sent to the wrong
billets?"

"No, sir, it’s not that," Seth went on haltingly, as if fearing that
after all his communication was of no importance.  "It’s something I’ve
seen.  I don’t know if you noticed one of the Belgian boats, a small,
yawl-rigged vessel, called _La Belle Pucelle_, of Blankenberghe?  She
was one of the last that came in, and about the most untidy of the lot.
She was like a floating rag-bag."

"I didn’t see her to my knowledge," returned Mr. Bilverstone, turning
back a page of his list, "but I wrote her name within the last
half-hour. Here it is, _La Belle Pucelle_, with the names of the
thirty-nine refugees who crossed in her—twenty-two women, five children,
four infants in arm’s, three men, apart from a crew of four men and a
boy, and two dogs of doubtful breed.  That’s the lot."

Seth Newruck was looking at the list over the Scoutmaster’s shoulder.

"That is eight men, including the boy," he said. "But as a matter of
fact, sir, there were nine, and you haven’t got the ninth man’s name,
because he didn’t get registered.  He didn’t come ashore in the same way
as the rest of them.  I watched him, sir. The reason why I took
particular notice of him was that he looked of a different class from
the others, and was about the only refugee of military age, apart from
the fishermen who did the seamen’s work."

"Well?" urged Mr. Bilverstone.

"He wore a very shabby overcoat," Seth continued, "but beneath it he had
a good tweed suit. Just as the boat came alongside the quay he slipped
behind the mainsail; and when he appeared again, he had taken off the
overcoat, changed his cloth cap for a bowler, and was carrying a brown
leather handbag.  While the other refugees were pressing forward to
receive the food that was handed down to them, he got round to the
stern, stepped on the quarter rail, and from that on to the quay, where
he quickly disappeared in the crowd."

"I expect he was an Englishman who had missed the passenger steamers and
come over by the only way possible," suggested Mr. Bilverstone.

"No, sir," insisted Newruck, "he wasn’t an Englishman, nor yet a
Belgian.  He wasn’t even a genuine refugee.  I’m rather good at
remembering faces, sir, and I knew I’d seen his face before, somewhere;
though it wasn’t until he’d gone that I realised who he was.  I’m
certain, now, however, I know that he was an alien enemy, a German, and
a spy.  I know that he was Fritz Seligmann—Herr Hilliger’s secretary."

Mr. Bilverstone looked up sharply.

"Indeed?" he cried.  "You are sure?"

"Certain."  Seth Newruck nodded emphatically. "I believe he has smuggled
himself over here to do some spying work."

The Scoutmaster was silent for some moments. He took up his pen, but did
not use it.

"Look here, Seth," he said presently.  "There may be more in this than
appears on the surface. That man has come over here for no good.  He
ought to be tracked.  Unfortunately, I can’t leave this work just now.
But you can be spared, I think. Suppose you go up to Sunnydene.  That’s
where he’ll make for.  Go up and have a look at the house.  If you see
anything to show that some one has entered—any smoke from the chimneys,
if the gate has been left open, if there are any new footprints on the
garden path—let me know at once.  Mrs. Daplin-Gennery will let you use
her telephone.  I expect I shall be at the naval base until about
midnight. If I don’t hear from you before then, I shall understand that
nothing has happened, or that you have made a mistake in supposing that
the man was Hilliger’s secretary."

Mrs. Daplin-Gennery had taken into her home a family of the Belgian
refugees.  They were people of good class, from Bruges; and after all
the misery they had endured in their flight to Ostend, and the hardships
of their crossing the North Sea in a crowded, open boat, she was
unwilling to allow them to undergo the further discomfort of being, as
she said, "herded" in the public hall.  So she had brought them, a
mother and two daughters, to Green Croft, providing them with new
clothes, giving up to them two of her best bedrooms, and entertaining
them with the most dainty dinner that her cook could serve.

During the meal they had told her so many thrilling and shocking stories
of the German invasion and occupation of Belgium that she was worked up
into a condition of extreme nervousness and began to dread more than
ever the possibility of the enemy extending their march of ruthless
conquest and destruction by coming over to England.

When her three guests had retired for the night, and she was left alone,
her nervousness increased; she started at every little sound that broke
the silence of the house, and when at length there came a violent ring
at an electric bell, she clutched the arms of her chair, trembling.

The ring was repeated.  Some one was at the front door.  She tried to
master her fears.  Rising unsteadily from her chair, she crept silently
out into the unlighted hall and stood listening.

Again came a ring.  She strode across to the hall table, opened its
drawer and took out the loaded revolver which she had kept there since
the beginning of the war in case of emergency.  Gripping the weapon
tightly, she approached the door and drew the bolt.

"Who’s there?" she demanded.  "What do you want at this time of night?"

"It’s Seth Newruck," came the answer.  "I want to know if you will allow
me to use your telephone, ma’am, to speak to the naval base?"

With all her courage coming back to her, Mrs. Daplin-Gennery flung open
the door.

"Goodness gracious, boy!" she cried, hardly able to see him in the pitch
darkness.  "Whatever are you doing out alone at such an hour?  Come
inside, quick!  Yes, of course you can use the telephone."

She led him into the morning-room, where she lighted a candle, bright
lights being prohibited.  There she left him with the telephone receiver
at his ear.

He was not long in getting into communication with Mr. Bilverstone.

"I’ve been watching Sunnydene since dusk, sir," he reported.  "One of
the window blinds had been moved.  I knew there was some one in the
house. But nothing happened for hours, until, at last, just as I was
thinking of going home to bed, I saw a man come out of the grounds by
the side gate with a spade over his shoulder.  He went down the cliff to
the denes.  I took cover and followed him.  He was making straight for
the place where we discovered the petrol, but stopped half way.  There
was a patrol of Territorials on the beach.  He’d seen or heard them, and
he had to turn back.  As he passed the bush where I was hiding, I saw
him more distinctly; but it’s fearfully dark, and I could only judge by
his figure and walk that he was Fritz Seligmann."

"That’s all right, so far," Mr. Bilverstone interposed across the
telephone.  "Did he go back to the house?"

"Well, sir," Seth continued, "he went by a round-about way, and I lost
sight of him for a long time and couldn’t move for fear he should see
me.  While I waited, a very queer thing happened, sir.  There were no
ships anchored in the Roads, and of course there were none under weigh;
and yet when I looked out to sea, I noticed a tiny, green light
somewhere about the middle of Alderwick shoal.  It disappeared as
suddenly as it came.  And then, sir, there was a curious grunting noise
from the same spot.  Are you listening, sir?"

"Yes.  What sort of a noise do you say it was?"

"I said grunting, sir; but if it had come from deeper water I should
have said that it was the sound made by a submarine emptying or filling
her ballast tanks.  Do you think it could have been?"

"Wait.  Let me consider."  There was a long pause.  "It’s just possible.
You’ve to remember that secret store of petrol.  There is no doubt that
Heinrich Hilliger intended it to be used by a German submarine.  In that
case it’s not wildly improbable that a German submarine is hanging round
with the intention of lifting it, not knowing that it has already been
removed.  But they can’t very well come ashore for it while the sentries
are patrolling the beach. Neither can Seligmann do any digging, unless
he’s desperate enough to shoot the sentries first, and so get them out
of the way.  Now, if it was indeed a submarine that you heard—a German
submarine—and if she is short of petrol, she will wait there, submerged.
In that case we may be able to drop on her.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," returned Seth.  "And I understand, or rather guess,
something else.  I guess that if she has come to fill her petrol tanks
from Alderwick beach, she must have been piloted there by some one who
knows every fathom of that shoal.  Don’t you think it’s likely that Max
Hilliger is aboard of her, sir?"

"Listen!" Mr. Bilverstone’s voice responded. "I will send a couple of
marines along to keep watch, while you cut home and dress yourself up as
a fisher boy and come down to me here at the naval base."

"A fisher boy, sir?" Seth inquired in wonder.

"Yes," came the answer.  "At the first gleam of daylight you are going
out with me in a shrimping boat, to fish for shrimps round about
Alderwick shoal.  You understand?  Right."



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                        *A SHRIMPING ADVENTURE.*


"Not such a bad take for the first, eh?" said Arnold Bilverstone,
emptying the pocket of the shrimping net into the basket between the
thwarts.  "If you’re fond of shrimps, Seth, you can have a good feed at
teatime."

Seth Newruck, astern at the tiller, bent forward to examine the catch of
the dim light of the early dawn.

"I should like them very much better if they weren’t so beastly
difficult to peel, sir," he answered. "I nearly always break them."

"That is probably because you don’t go the right way about it," rejoined
Mr. Bilverstone, glancing shoreward.  "You should press the head and
tail firmly towards each other, giving them a gentle half turn.  That
loosens the scales, and you can draw the shrimp free as easily as
drawing your finger out of a glove.  Luff!"

Seth luffed, and the lugger came up to the wind and bowled forward with
a musical gurgle of water along her strakes.

Mr. Bilverstone was in no hurry to add to the little pile of jumping,
wriggling crustaceans in the basket.  He was much less intent upon
catching shrimps than watching the growing light in the eastern sky and
calculating the boat’s distance from Alderwick Knoll.

"When we get abreast of the lighthouse," he said, "we’ll put out the
gear again and creep along the shore.  Don’t stare about too much.  We
must pretend to be tremendously interested in our work. But keep your
ears open.  When we’ve passed Sunnydene we shall tack out as if we were
making for the north end of the shoal.  If a periscope pops up, we’ll
just go ahead as if we hadn’t noticed it. A submarine couldn’t torpedo a
cockleshell like this, and unless she comes up awash we’re just as safe
from gunfire."

"What I don’t understand," said Seth, "is that, supposing a German
submarine to be lying submerged out there in the shoal water; supposing
she has come to refill her petrol tanks, how could she get the petrol on
board?  She couldn’t come alongside the beach; and submarines don’t
carry boats."

"The new German ones do," Mr. Bilverstone informed him.  "They keep a
collapsible boat stowed in a hatchway abaft the conning-tower.  But, of
course, it could only be launched when the submarine is awash.  As for
getting the petrol aboard, you may be sure they’d manage it somehow if
it were still where they think it is."

"They can’t find out that we’ve removed it, unless they come ashore to
look," Seth reflected.

Mr. Bilverstone paid out the lugsail sheet an inch or two and perched
himself on the windward gunwale.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "I believe they know already.  I didn’t
tell you; but an hour ago, while you were having a sleep under my
writing-table, we had a report from the two marines patrolling Alderwick
beach.  At about two o’clock they saw an electric light signal flashed
from the foreshore, near one of the groins.  There were no ships in
sight, and no answering signal was seen.  Still the light kept on
flashing.  The two marines crept up, one on either side of the groin.
They got so near that one of them called out a challenge.  As there was
no response he fired.  The light went out then.  There was no cry, no
sound, no movement.  Nobody was shot; yet nobody ran away.  The two
marines and two Territorial sentries searched, but found absolutely no
trace of the chap who had been signalling. He had vanished as completely
as if the tide had come up and swallowed him."

"That’s queer!" murmured Seth.  "Very queer. There must have been
somebody working the hand-lamp, sir."

"Not necessarily a hand-lamp," Mr. Bilverstone smiled.  "None of the
patrol thought of it, but it’s easy to imagine how a tricky German, such
as Fritz Seligmann, could plant an electric bulb in the sand or shingle,
or even among the timbers of the groin, and work the switch from the top
of the cliff by means of a long-distance connection.  A spy was caught
three nights ago signalling from the air. He flew a kite with an
electric current running through the string.  Spies wouldn’t be much
good if they weren’t tricky."

Slowly the dawning light in the eastern sky grew brighter, changing from
steel grey to gold, tinged with a rosy glow.  Again and again Mr.
Bilverstone put out the gear.  No one seeing the two occupants of the
little boat, with its brown lugsail, would have believed them to be
anything else than ordinary shrimpers.  They both wore tanned canvas
overalls and oilskin sou’-westers, and their manner of working
contributed to their disguise.

Twice they passed along the leeward fringe of the shoal.  Seth Newruck’s
eyes searched the ruffled water where the waves broke here and there
above the shallows; but he saw nothing unusual.

"I’m afraid we shall have only the shrimps for our trouble, sir," he
remarked with a shiver, for the morning was very cold.

"Don’t be impatient," nodded his companion, opening a Thermos flask.
"We haven’t finished our job yet.  Here, have a drink of warm tea; and
there are some biscuits in the locker behind you.  Come forward here,
and I will take the tiller for a spell."

He took the boat outward, as if he were making for the lightship,
leaving the shoal in his wake.

"Don’t look round, sir," Seth whispered agitatedly. "I can see two
periscopes, close together.  And there’s a sort of commotion in the
water round about them, as if the submarine were rising."

Mr. Bilverstone put over the tiller, so that the boat yawed and her sail
began to flutter.  He left the tiller and crept forward over the
thwarts, seized the halliard, and lowered the sail, then hauled it up
again, returned to the tiller and brought her up to the wind, going on
as before.

"What did you do that for, sir?" Seth inquired, amazed at what he took
to be an example of bad seamanship.  "She was going on all right."

Mr. Bilverstone took a drink of tea.

"It was a signal," he explained.  "All the time while we’ve been out
they’ve been watching us from the naval base.  The _Kingfisher_ has had
her steam up ready to come out as soon as we should give the sign.  We
have given it.  You will see her presently.  What about the periscopes?"

"They’re still there, sir," Seth answered.  "I can see the top of her
conning-tower above water. She’s moving.  I believe I can hear her
engines grunting.  So she’s got some petrol left.  Hullo! I can see a
man’s head and shoulders."

"She’s bound to come up and work her petrol engines to generate
electricity," said Mr. Bilverstone, going on a fresh tack.  "Haul in the
net, quick! Those Germans will guess we had a hand in it when they see
the gunboat coming after them."

Seth got the gear inboard, and again his companion tacked.  The boat was
making for home, with both wind and tide in her favour.

Mr. Bilverstone could now watch the submarine. She was awash, and her
petrol engines, making a great clatter, were evidently working up to
full speed.  Two of her crew had come out on the platform of her
conning-tower.  One was in officer’s uniform.  The sun, piercing the
mist, shone upon his brass buttons and the gold badge on his cap. He
stood looking southward to where two plumes of smoke from a steamer’s
funnels rose into the morning air over the lighthouse point.  It could
be seen that he had his left arm in a sling.

"She’s coming after us, sir!" cried Seth.  "She’ll sink us!"

"She’s trying to escape from the gunboat," declared Mr. Bilverstone.
"You see, she can’t submerge until her electric batteries are charged,
and she can go quicker on the surface.  Look!  There comes the
_Kingfisher_!"

The officer disappeared for some moments, but returned with a pair of
binoculars, which he levelled upon the gunboat.  The submarine quickly
increased her speed, sending up a great fountain of foam as she cut
through the water.  She passed so close to the shrimp boat that it
rocked on the waves she left in her wake.  Seth Newruck saw the number
on her side—U50.  He also caught a glimpse of the face of the young
officer on the deck of her conning-tower.

"Look!" he cried excitedly.  "Look, sir!  It’s Max Hilliger himself!"

Hardly had he spoken when there was a spurt of fire and smoke from one
of the _Kingfisher’s_ 4.7 guns; a shell whistled through the air and
sent up a tall column of spray as it fell midway between the submarine
and the shrimping boat.  The submarine, now fully on the surface and
racing along at eighteen-knot speed, offered a good target; but she
manoeuvred, steering a zig-zag course, seldom exposing her broadside.  A
gun was raised from its concealed hatchway on her after platform, and
she replied to the _Kingfisher’s_ fire without visible effect.

Arnold Bilverstone, nervously gripping the boat’s gunwale, was leaning
forward, gazing fixedly northward along the coast.

"That’s good!" he exclaimed.  "There’s a couple of destroyers coming out
from Buremouth. They’ll head her off."

The chase continued.  Suddenly the submarine’s gun disappeared.  The two
men on her conning-tower went below.  She seemed to be slowing down. A
shell from one of the two destroyers fell perilously near her, deluging
her with spray.

"She’s hit!" cried Seth Newruck.  "See! she’s sinking!"

"Submerging," corrected Mr. Bilverstone, watching the conning-tower
slowly disappear.

The _Kingfisher_, going at her best speed of twenty knots, was soon
abreast of the shrimper, separated by hardly more than fifty yards.
Just in time her course was altered; she went abruptly to starboard, and
so luckily avoided the torpedo which was aimed at her from the submerged
enemy.  Seth saw the disturbance of the water as the deadly weapon sped
on its fruitless errand.

The gunboat gave up the dangerous chase and steamed a confusing,
irregular course until she rounded the southern extremity of Alderwick
Shoal, and thus got the protection of the sandbank between her and the
submarine.  But of the submarine herself and her periscopes no more was
seen.

Arnold Bilverstone steered alongside the gunboat. Both he and Seth
Newruck were taken on board, their boat being hoisted on deck with its
catch of shrimps, which were consigned to the seamen’s quarters.  Later
on that same day, on his way home up the High Street, Seth Newruck
encountered Constable Challis.

"I thought you’d be interested to knew," said the constable, "as that
dug-out at Green Croft came into use this mornin’, when them naval guns
were firin’.  Mrs. Daplin-Gennery made sure it was the Germans comin’ to
make an invasion.  She got all her household, includin’ three Belgian
refugees, into the shelter in double quick time; and there they remained
until long after the firin’ had ceased. Between ourselves, they might
have remained comfortable in their beds.  There was no cause for alarm.
It was only that the _Kingfisher_ discovered an enemy ship layin’
explosive mines off the coast and gave chase and sent her to the
bottom."

Seth smiled to himself.  Constable Challis was curiously astray in his
information.

"Did you see what took place, constable?" he inquired, assuming
ignorance.

Challis shook his head regretfully.

"I wasn’t on duty at the time," he answered. "Anyhow, Mrs.
Daplin-Gennery had a rare fright. I’m told, indeed, that she’s had a
disturbed night from beginnin’ to end.  No sooner had she got her
refugees to bed, when somebody or other had the impudence to knock her
up askin’ to use her telephone.  At two o’clock in the mornin’ she was
again alarmed by hearin’ a rifle shot on the denes.  Then there was the
naval guns.  What the rifle shot was about I don’t know.  Inspector
Jenner was up there on special duty shortly afterwards, but knew nothin’
about it."

"Oh!" nodded Seth, with new interest.  "And what was the special duty?"

Constable Challis bent nearer to the boy and lowered his voice.

"Strictly between ourselves," he said.  "There’s a rumour goin’ about
that one of the Germans has come back to Sunnydene—that secretary—and
that he’s been up to some spyin’ tricks.  Inspector Jenner, with
assistance, went to arrest him.  They broke into the house and made a
thorough search, but he wasn’t there.  There wasn’t a trace of him on
the premises."

"Still," said Seth, "I suppose the police will keep a watch?"

"You may take it from me," declared Challis, "if that there Seligmann is
anywhere about Haddisport, we shall nab him."



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                                 *U50.*


"_Dainty_, ahoy!  Show a light at your gangway while I come aboard of
you."

It was a dark, boisterous night, with fiercely driving rain.  Mark
Redisham in his dripping oilskins was pacing the wet deck of the
mine-sweeper, lying at anchor in a land-locked bay on the north-east
coast.

The _Dainty_ and her consorts had been at their perilous work dredging
for explosive mines off the north of Ireland and in the Pentland Firth,
battling day by day with stormy seas, incessant rains, and bitterly cold
winds.  It had been a most uncomfortable trip, and Mark and his
shipmates were rejoicing in the prospect of a few days’ rest at home.
Even the necessity of anchoring at night irritated them because of the
delay.

The trawlers were lying now in the midst of a large flotilla of
destroyers and light cruisers.  Mark had read a flashlight signal from
the bridge of one of the cruisers, inquiring which was the commodore of
the mine-sweepers, and he had answered it with his electric torch.  A
pinnace was approaching the _Dainty_, and it was an officer in the stern
sheets who had hailed him.

Mark held a lighted lamp in the open gangway, and the pinnace came
alongside.  The officer, a sub-lieutenant, climbed on board to speak
with the skipper in the shelter of the wheel-house, leaving a midshipman
in charge of the boat.  Mark was about to enter into conversation with
the bluejackets when the midshipman stood up.  The lamplight shone in
his face.

"Hullo, Rodney!" cried Mark in astonishment, recognising his brother.
"What an unexpected meeting!  How are you?  Have you come off the
_Levity_?"

They clasped hands.

"No," Rodney answered.  "No, the _Levity_ is in the repair yard.  She
got a bit knocked about in the scrap we had with the enemy off
Heligoland.  But in any case, I was only aboard her temporarily.
Destroyers don’t carry midshipmen as a rule, you know.  I’ve been
appointed to the _Dauntless_, the new light cruiser out there.  Captain
Damant is in command of her.  She’s heaps better than the _Atreus_; in
fact, she’s about the best light cruiser in the service.  I thought
you’d heard of my luck. I wrote to mother about it."

"But I haven’t seen mother for over a week." Mark explained.  "I expect
to see her to-morrow, though."

"I’m afraid you won’t," Rodney told him.  "I believe you’ve got to sweep
up a new mine-field that the Germans have laid south of the Dogger.
That’s where the _Rapid_ was sunk this morning."

"The _Rapid_!  Was she mined?"

"Yes, worse luck.  No lives were lost, though; and, of course, she was
obsolete, and no good for fighting, so it’s not very serious.  We’d
already paid the enemy in advance, seeing that Lieutenant Ingoldsby
torpedoed one of their newest destroyers yesterday afternoon.  I’m
awfully glad to have met you.  Give my love to mother and the girls when
you get home, and tell them I’m getting to know the North Sea as well as
I know our own garden.  Good night."

Mark drew back to make way for the lieutenant, who had been giving the
skipper instructions for the sweeping of the new mine-field.

At daylight the next morning, having taken in fresh stores, the _Dainty_
and her consorts steamed off.

On arriving at the scene of their duties they found another fleet of
trawlers already at work, helped by an aeroplane.  They combined in a
systematic sweep of the known area and exploded some scores of mines
without an accident.  The new picking-up net lately introduced was
doubtless the reason of this freedom from disaster.

Sweeping the seas for explosive mines indiscriminately laid by the enemy
for the destruction of any ship which might run up against them, was not
the only work in which the British steam trawlers and drifters were
engaged.  These stout little vessels, with their hardy crews of North
Sea fishermen, were also engaged to act as scouts and messengers
patrolling the coasts.  Many of them were fitted with wireless masts, by
means of which they sent out reports by code of anything suspicious
which might be observed.

Thus, while the _Dainty_ was still in the neighbourhood of the Dogger
Bank, threading her way through a fleet of English herring smacks, Mark
Redisham was able to send out a wireless message intimating that a
German submarine of the largest and newest type had been seen.  He gave
her number as U50, and added that she had been watched taking in a
supply of petrol and other stores from a captured English trawler manned
by Germans.

Less than an hour afterwards two British destroyers were seen racing at
top speed in the direction in which the enemy trawler had disappeared.
They went out of sight.  There came the sound of gun firing, and Mark
afterwards heard that the trawler had been sunk and her German crew
taken prisoners.

While the guns were firing and the _Dainty_ was yet within sight of the
drifters, Mark again saw the submarine, or, rather, he saw her
periscopes moving above the surface about a mile away. At the same time
the skipper was watching a confused cloud of black smoke through the
rain mist on the western horizon.

"Looks like a big liner," Snowling conjectured. "Give her a signal that
there’s an enemy submarine prowlin’ around."

Before going to his instrument room Mark looked searchingly at the
smoke.

"That’s not a liner," he decided.  "There’s too much smoke for a liner.
And there’s more than one. It looks like a patrol of cruisers."

He sent off his wireless message and got one back to say that it had
been received and understood. On returning to the deck he searched for
signs of the submarine, but found none.  The funnels of three British
cruisers were now visible above the line of the sea.  The _Dainty_ was
steered towards them.  When their turrets and hulls came into view, Mark
succeeded in identifying the ships as the armoured cruisers _Pomona_,
_Graemsay_, and _Ronaldsay_. They were followed by a light cruiser and a
division of destroyers.  He signalled to them:

"Keep to the eastward of the fishing fleet."

But his warning advice did not divert the warships from their course.
They approached at easy speed in line-ahead formation, the _Pomona_
leading.

"They’re all right, don’t you trouble," observed Skipper Snowling.  "I
expect that that submarine has made off to Heligoland.  They’re all of
’em afraid of the very sight of the White Ensign."

The great, three-funnelled cruisers were a noble sight as they steamed
along so steadily.  Mark Redisham watched them through his binoculars,
paying his attention to each one in turn and trying to discover in what
small details of structure they differed one from another; for they were
all three of the same class.  Each was of twelve thousand tons
displacement, each carried the same number of heavy guns, and each, as
he knew, had the same complement of seven hundred and fifty officers and
men.

As the _Pomona_ came nearer he looked at the officers on the bridge.
They wore their greatcoats, but he could still make out their respective
ranks by their stripes and badges.

Suddenly one of them at the starboard end of the bridge pointed
excitedly into the sea and shouted. Instantly there was a loud crash, an
explosion. The whole ship staggered.

"Glory be!" cried Skipper Snowling.  "That’s a torpedo!  It struck her
amidships!"

In the excitement of the next two hours Mark Redisham got a confused
impression of all that happened.  He saw the _Pomona_ listing over in a
cloud of smoke and escaping steam.  She was sinking.  The _Graemsay_ and
the _Ronaldsay_ were putting out their boats as they closed upon her.
Their engines were stopped as they took up positions about four hundred
yards apart from her to give assistance.

Hardly had they stopped when there was a second heavy explosion,
followed by a third.  The _Ronaldsay_ had been torpedoed under her
after-magazine.  The air was filled with flying wreckage, which fell
among her boats.

The _Dainty_ and her consorts, as well as the fishing smacks and steam
drifters, hastened to the rescue. Already the cruisers’ picket boats and
cutters had picked up many survivors from the _Pomona_.  Some were
returning to the _Graemsay_, when she, too, was hit by a fourth torpedo
from the hidden enemy.

Looking round in the direction from which, as it seemed to him, the
weapons had been fired, Mark Redisham saw the submarine’s two periscopes
moving along the surface some three hundred yards away.  Then the upper
part of her conning-tower rose. The gunners on the stricken _Graemsay_
immediately opened fire upon it, and their ship’s engines were put full
steam ahead with the intention of running her down.  But the cruiser was
badly holed below water; she heeled rapidly and finally turned keel up.

In the meantime, the light cruiser and her flotilla of destroyers were
coming down at racing speed, and the smacks and trawlers were drawing
nearer. There were boats in plenty to give help to those who could swim
or who had managed to seize upon floating wreckage; but, unfortunately,
many had been killed or hopelessly maimed by the explosions, whilst
others had not been able to escape from the stokeholds and lower decks,
the loss amounting to the terrible total of sixty officers and fourteen
hundred men.

"Seems to me," said Harry Snowling, helping Mark Redisham to lift a
wounded stoker from the dinghy to the _Dainty’s_ deck, "as there must
have been a whole crowd of submarines lyin’ in wait to do this.
’Taren’t proper warfare, like gunfire in an open action."

"I have seen only one," returned Mark, standing up and glancing over the
side.  "The same one that we saw taking in petrol from that stolen
trawler. She’s in sight even now, Harry.  I can see her plainly,
waiting, I suppose, to have a shot at the light cruiser—if she’s got any
more torpedoes left. I can make out her number.  It’s the U50.  There’s
a group of Germans on her conning-tower platform. I believe they’re
gloating over what they’ve done. One of them’s a middy, with his arm in
a sling. Ah!  They’re going below now!  They’re going to submerge."

He did not guess—he did not dream of the possibility—but had he taken
his binoculars, he might have distinguished the features of the "middy"
to whom he referred, and recognised them as the features of Max
Hilliger.



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                           *PUT TO THE TEST.*


"It’s astonishing how much more interesting the North Sea has become
since the beginning of the war," remarked Vera Redisham, standing at the
dining-room window, busily knitting a khaki muffler for some unknown
soldier at the Front.  "There’s a steamer passing now, a neutral, and
I’m simply dying to know where she comes from and where she’s going, and
if she has been in danger from German torpedoes."

Her brother Mark, home on shore leave, was seated at the fireside,
making up arrears in his reading of the newspapers.  He was dressed in
mufti, and looked very different from the rough-clothed signal boy who
for weeks past had been battling with autumn storms and the perils of
floating mines on the wave-swept decks of the _Dainty_.

"What flag’s she flying?" he questioned, turning in his comfortable
chair.

"I can’t make out," his sister answered.  "It’s blue, with a white
cross.  And the same colours are painted on her side.  And, oh, Mark,
isn’t it sweet of her?  She’s saluting the _Kingfisher_!"

"So she ought to," declared Mark, dropping his paper and rising to his
feet.  "All neutrals ought to salute the White Ensign, seeing what our
Navy is doing by keeping the seas clear of the enemy. A Danish ship
saluted our squad of mine-sweepers the other day.  Blue with a white
cross?  She must be Greek.  I expect she’s carrying a cargo of currants.
Isn’t her name painted on her side?"

He went to the window and looked out upon the sea.

"Yes, she’s Greek," he decided.  "She’s from Pireus.  That’s the harbour
outside Athens, isn’t it?  Who’s this coming in at the gate?  A
policeman delivering handbills!"

The parlourmaid presently brought in a sheet of typewritten paper,
saying that it had been left at the door by a police sergeant.  Mark
Redisham took it from her and glanced at it.  It was an order, issued by
the Chief Constable of the county, under the Defence of the Realm Act.

"This ought to keep silly people along the front from showing lights
from their windows," he announced.  "Listen!"

    "All lights visible from seaward shall be effectually obscured.
    No person shall show a light on the shore or on the land
    adjoining thereto, or visible from seaward.

    "The public are hereby warned that non-compliance with this
    regulation will render them liable to instant arrest, and that
    patrols have been instructed to fire at sight and without
    further warning on any person found signalling."

"That’s what should have been done weeks ago."

"Bright lights on motor-cars ought to be prohibited, too," pursued Vera.

"Yes," agreed Mark, "and all Germans ought to be shut up.  If innocent
Belgian refugees are not allowed to stay in Haddisport, why should we
let Germans live in houses overlooking the coast? They ought to be
cleared out instead of being given the chance of sending messages over
to Germany. It’s certain there are spies all along the East Coast.
Otherwise, how could the enemy know so well about the movements of our
warships?"

He picked up the ball of khaki wool which Vera had dropped.

"I believe they’re only waiting their chance to slip across and do a bit
of raiding," he went on. "The Admiralty seem to think it possible,
anyhow. That’s why they have altered the positions of the lightships and
buoys.  I expect they’ll continue to shift them about, so that the enemy
may be confused."

"Of course, motor-cars and bicycles, however brightly lighted, can’t
send messages across the North Sea," Vera reflected.

Mark shrugged his shoulders.

"What’s to hinder a motor-car being fitted with secret aerials?" he
asked.  "The Germans are not children.  They’re up to all sorts of
cunning tricks. Why, only last week one of our Haddisport drifters went
out to the herring fishing with a splash of red paint on her starboard
bow.  Nobody knew who put it there, the crew least of all; they didn’t
even see it.  But when the boats were drifting to their nets on the
fishing ground, a German submarine came nosing round, spotted the red
splash of paint, and then went off in a bee-line for Heligoland."

"Well?" questioned Vera, not understanding. "What did it mean?"

"Well?" repeated Mark.  "I don’t know what it meant.  But the men on the
submarine did.  It was a pre-arranged sign—a message.  It’s an old Scout
trick.  Darby Catchpole wanted to communicate with me once, by a way
we’d fixed upon.  I watched for the postman, and when he came past this
gate I saw some flour dust on his left arm.  That meant ’No.’  If the
flour dust had been on his right arm, it would have meant ’Yes.’  In the
same way a German spy could put a secret mark on a railway carriage or a
motor-car, going to a known destination, and give information to
hundreds of other spies along the route."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Vera.  "Perhaps it was a spy who tied the
mysterious piece of ribbon to the handle-bar of my bicycle yesterday!"

"Likely enough," surmised Mark.  "Perhaps the same one who daubed the
paint on that fishing-boat. There’s no doubt there are spies around
here. And there’s a green motor-car that goes dashing about between here
and Buremouth with lamps shining like searchlights.  The police and the
military patrols have had instructions to capture it. Constable Challis
has been put on night duty now. Challis is rather too fond of talking,
but he’s an uncommonly smart policeman."

Mark Redisham’s estimate of Constable Challis was justified sooner than
he expected.

On the very next night, indeed, Challis was on his beat patrolling the
rabbit warren and the dark lanes to the north of the town, when his
smartness was put to the test.

Formerly he would have been watching for tramps, suspicious loiterers,
and possible burglars; but, since the outbreak of war, crime had
diminished, even gipsies were fewer, and he could do nothing so useful
as to watch the road for unauthorised vehicles and for spies flashing
signals across the sea.

Before ten o’clock he had visited five different houses to alarm the
occupants by informing them that lights were visible from their windows.

In three cases it was discovered that the lights were to be seen through
the chinks of imperfectly drawn curtains or ill-fitting blinds; in one
case a nurse had left the gas burning by mistake, and in the other,
where the light came through an open stable door, a groom was attending
to a sick horse and had not known of the new regulations.  By midnight,
however, the whole neighbourhood was in darkness.

Yet, still there were belated cyclists carrying lighted lamps.  The
worst offenders were the motor-cyclists, and these were mostly military
men who, as Challis reflected, ought to have known better.  Once a large
motor-car dashed along the road at high speed with acetylene lamps which
shone for many yards in advance of the wheels, illuminating the trees
and hedges on either side of the road.

Much to Challis’s surprise, when he stood and held out a warning arm and
called to the driver to stop, he was obeyed.  Even more to his surprise,
he discovered the driver to be Mrs. Daplin-Gennery, and that her
companion was her nephew, Lieutenant Ingoldsby.

"Very sorry, ma’am," said Challis apologetically, "but I’ve got strict
orders to stop all cars with high lights.  I’m afraid I must ask you to
lower yours, or else screen them."

"Quite right, constable," laughed Lieutenant Ingoldsby, jumping out.
"I’m glad you stopped us without opening fire upon us."

Challis gathered that Lieutenant Ingoldsby was on the way to Buremouth
to visit a friend who had been sent home wounded.  When the car had gone
on, with greatly reduced lights, he returned towards Haddisport along
the edge of the cliff, then made inland to the Alderwick road.

As he approached the road through the intricate maze of bramble and
gorse, he became aware of the sound of an approaching car.  Could it
possibly be Mrs. Daplin-Gennery returning so soon?

Instead of going into the road, he concealed himself within the shadow
of a hawthorn-tree and watched.  The car was coming slowly—so slowly
that it made very little sound; and its lights were exceedingly dim.  He
waited, feeling instinctively that something was about to happen.  It
occurred to him that the dimness of the lights and the quiet slowness
with which the car was moving were due to the extreme caution on the
part of the driver, who evidently wished to escape observation.

In the darkness Challis could hardly see the vehicle itself, only the
two tiny lights which were like the glimmer of candles.  Suddenly, just
opposite to him, it stopped, then backed and curved towards the farther
side of the road.

Only at that moment did the watcher realise that just at that point was
a narrow lane leading to Alderwick Hall.  It was into this lane that the
car was backing, obviously for the purpose of concealment. When its
whole length was within the lane, hidden under the overhanging trees, it
stopped.

The driver got out, stood for some moments as if listening, then went
softly to the front of the car to extinguish the lamps.  As he bent down
to the first of them, the light shone in his face.

Challis hitched his cuffs back from his wrists. His eyesight was very
keen.  He had seen the man’s face and recognised it.  It was the face of
Fritz Seligmann, the German spy!

With the stealthy softness of a cat stalking its prey, the policeman
crept forward, and, just as Seligmann had raised his hand to turn out
the second light, leapt upon him, gripping him from behind by the two
arms.

There was a heavy gasp from the astonished German as he went down on his
knees, the policeman’s weight on top of him.  He writhed and struggled
to free himself, and succeeded in getting his right hand to his hip
pocket, from which, with an effort, he drew his loaded revolver.

Challis guessed rather than knew what was in the man’s hand.  In an
instant he had seized the German’s wrist, twisted the hand under it, and
secured the weapon from the helpless fingers.

"Now," he said, speaking for the first time, "I think I’ve got you.  If
you move I’m goin’ to use this here pistol.  You’re an enemy, and you
may take it from me I don’t care if I shoot you dead here and now no
more than if I killed you on the field of battle."

Seligmann was lying with his face to the grass, panting, writhing,
heaving under the weight of the constable’s knee planted in the small of
his back, while the cold ring of the revolver muzzle was pressed against
the bone behind his ear and the policeman’s forefinger was twitching at
the trigger.

Thus they remained for some minutes, the one utterly helpless, the other
resolute, alert, and astonishingly strong.

In those tense minutes Challis wondered what he was going to do.  He did
not want to use the revolver as anything else than a menace, and yet he
knew that if he should move there would be a struggle, during which, by
some trick or dexterity, his captive might escape.

In the back pocket of his overcoat was a pair of handcuffs.  But how
could he get hold of them without dropping the revolver?  How could he
hope to fix them on the German’s wrists?

But if he could not get at the handcuffs, at least he could summon help.
There were houses within call.  The nearest was Sunnydene, for which
Seligmann had no doubt been shaping; the next was Green Croft, then
Major Redisham’s.  He managed to draw out his whistle, while his captive
straggled more desperately than ever to get free.  Just as he raised the
whistle to his lips, he heard the quick patter of feet along the road.
He blew a long, shrill blast.

Seligmann heaved himself upward with a mighty effort; but the revolver
muzzle was pressed yet more forcefully against his skull, and the
constable’s knees were almost breaking his back.

The footsteps approached swiftly, and at length the flash of an electric
torch shed its slanting ray upon the desperately struggling pair.

"What’s up?  Hullo, Challis, I’ve been searching for you."

It was the voice of Mark Redisham.  He had received a telephone message
from the police-station, bidding him find Constable Challis and help him
to waylay this same suspected motor-car, coming from Buremouth.

"Quick!  Feel in my back pocket for the handcuffs," Challis ordered,
dropping the revolver and seizing his prisoner’s two wrists.  "Right.
Now hold his head while I put ’em on.  Then you can drive him and me to
the police-station."

There was a sharp clip as the steel rings were locked upon the German’s
wrists.  Mark went to the car, turned up the lights, and got ready.
They bundled the prisoner into the body of the car, where Challis sat
with him, covering him with the revolver. Mark drove off through the
town, and soon brought up at his destination.  In the car they
discovered a complete wireless outfit, a signalling lamp, and a handbag
containing certain compromising documents.

"Yes," said the Superintendent, when Seligmann was safely locked in a
cell.  "He has been busy with that wireless apparatus to-night.  Some of
his messages were jammed, but not all of them.  Not all."



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                             *THE RAIDERS.*


Whether Seligmann’s wireless messages had anything to do with the matter
or not can only be conjectured.  But it is true that at earliest dawn on
that same misty, November morning the fishermen of the Haddisport
herring fleet, at work with their drift nets south of the Dogger Bank,
were surprised by the sudden appearance in their midst of a squadron of
eight grey-hulled Dreadnoughts and cruisers, bearing due westward at
breakneck speed.

Looming out of the mist, they tore onward through the nets, regardless
of the damage they caused.  They showed no lights, even from their cabin
portholes; they flew no flags.

One of the skippers, watching them, was so sure that they were British
battleships that he waved his morning teapot at them in greeting; but
some of the Englishmen shook their heads in doubt.  There were
peculiarities in the structure of the ships which were not familiar.

They passed so close to the _Mignonette_ that Sam Quester, perched on
the roof of the cuddy scuttle, saw the faces of the officers on bridge
and quarterdeck, and was able afterwards to assert that he was almost
sure one of the officers on the leading Dreadnought was Max Hilliger’s
father.

By the time they had passed out of sight into the mist the fishermen had
come to the correct conclusion that the squadron was a part of the
German High Sea Fleet.  But what was their purpose?  Where were they
going at such a headlong rate?  And where in the meantime was the
British Fleet?

Twenty miles farther to the westward the Germans were again seen, flying
the White Ensign, this time by a patrol of English mine-sweepers, which
immediately sent out a wireless message of warning. The enemy flagship
tried to jam the message. Nevertheless it was picked up by His Majesty’s
torpedo gunboat _Kingfisher_, lying at anchor in Buremouth Roads.  The
_Kingfisher_ sent the warning onward, to be repeated and repeated north
and south about the sea.

How did it happen that the Germans knew so well that on this particular
morning they were in no danger of being intercepted by British cruisers?
Had this been the secret of Fritz Seligmann’s activity that night?

The wireless message from the _Kingfisher_ reached the naval bases of
Buremouth and Haddisport.  Off Buremouth two destroyers were at anchor.
They at once got up steam and pushed out in the wake of the gunboat.  At
Haddisport there was a submarine—the H29.  She was ordered to follow.
But where was her commander, Lieutenant Ingoldsby?

By the merest chance, Mark Redisham heard the question asked.  He had
come to the naval base to report the arrest of Fritz Seligmann, using
Seligmann’s car, which he had left at the pier-head. Constable Challis
had told him that Lieutenant Ingoldsby had gone with Mrs. Daplin-Gennery
to Floxley Hall, outside Buremouth.

Mark gave the information to Mr. Bilverstone, who telephoned to Green
Croft and got a prompt answer.  Mrs. Daplin-Gennery had just returned;
but had left her nephew at the bedside of his wounded friend.

"All right, sir," said Mark, "I’ll go and fetch him."

It was a journey of nineteen miles there and back, but Seligmann’s car
was a powerful one, well supplied with petrol, and Mark Redisham was an
expert and cautious driver.  He posted off to Floxley Hall at top speed.

Meanwhile, the enemy Dreadnoughts and cruisers were still being watched
from the decks of the patrolling trawlers.  They were racing towards the
English coast, their tall funnels belching black clouds of smoke, their
officers and men all at their fighting quarters, their heavy guns
loaded, their torpedo-tubes charged.

"They look as if they was skelterin’ away from an enemy," observed one
of the English skippers. "But hold hard!  They’ll go slap into our
mine-field, sure’s a gun, the course they’re makin’.  Taren’t possible
they can hit the open lane."

A field of defensive contact mines had been laid for the protection of
the coast, with secret gaps or passages which were supposed to be known
only to naval men and responsible pilots.  It was clear, however, that
the Germans were well aware, not only of the exact locality of the mined
area, but also of the open lanes through which they might pass in
safety, for without slackening speed the ships rushed through in an
unbroken procession, never swerving until they came within sight of the
Alderwick lightship.

Here they separated into two divisions, the one steering direct for
Buremouth, the other for Haddisport.

The _Kingfisher_, steaming out to inquire into the truth of the wireless
message she had received, made her presence known by flashing her
searchlight through the gloom of the early morning mist. The enemy
flagship, bearing west-by-south, instead of answering the signal, opened
fire upon the British gunboat, at the same time showing the German flag
in place of the White Ensign.

Confronted by so formidable an antagonist, the little _Kingfisher_, with
her smaller four-inch guns, could not attempt to engage.  She fired
seven shots, which all dropped short, while shells were falling all
round her.  One struck her foremast and smashed her aerials, another
exploded under her bridge, fatally injuring a seaman at her
steering-wheel and cutting the compass in half.

The two destroyers raced up to her help, making as much smoke as
possible to hide her.  All three, hopelessly outranged, could only steam
about in a zig-zag course at their fullest speed and at length take
refuge in the mist.

The battleships did not follow in pursuit.  It was not their intention
to enter into a sea fight, if one could be avoided.  Theirs was the
sinister purpose of bombarding defenceless towns and spreading
"frightfulness" amongst unoffending civilians.

While one division of the squadron branched off to pour their
devastating shells into the houses of Buremouth, the other steamed
abreast of Alderwick Shoal, and from the security of the deep water sent
salvo after salvo into the buildings of Haddisport.

From the bridge of the flagship Heinrich Hilliger bent his binoculars
upon his own house to seek for a signal which he failed to discover, or,
rather, which was never displayed, his faithful secretary being at the
time securely confined within the narrow walls of a prisoner’s cell in
Haddisport police-station.

Not finding the expected signal, Herr Hilliger transferred his attention
to the business in hand, indicating the particular houses and buildings
at which he desired the gunlayers to take especial aim: first, Green
Croft, associated in his mind with the mischievous submarine commander,
Lieutenant Ingoldsby, whose torpedoes had robbed the Kaiser’s High Sea
Fleet of at least two important ships; and then in turn the lighthouse,
the parish church, the town hall, the chief hotels, the harbour, and
finally the naval base, with its wireless station and battery of guns.

Mark Redisham and Lieutenant Ingoldsby, tearing in their motor-car along
the deserted highroad, had heard the booming of heavy guns out at sea.
The alarming sounds drew nearer and nearer, from two directions.

"They’re bombarding Buremouth as well as Haddisport, sir," Mark
declared, leaning forward to increase his speed.

"Faster! faster!" cried Ingoldsby.  "Give her all she can do.  Let her
rip.  But keep your head—keep cool—keep a sharp look-out!"

Mark had no need to be urged or cautioned.  He had perfect control of
the machine; he knew every turn and curve, every dip and rise of the
road.  The telegraph poles flashed by as if they had been park railings
set side by side, and there was no traffic to interfere with his onward,
headlong pace.

As they left Alderwick village behind, and dashed along the open highway
across the moorland, the first shell from the German battleships
shrieked over their heads; a second crashed into one of the houses on
the esplanade; another laid the lighthouse in ruins.

In the town shells were falling thick and fast, exploding with deafening
noise.  In the market-place a big hotel was on fire, and the car was
checked by a crowd of excited people; but Mark made his way through,
sounding his hooter, and arrived without hurt at the harbour, where the
submarine was waiting ready for her commander to jump aboard.

The bombardment lasted some thirty minutes. The ships, dimly visible
through the mist and smoke, steamed southward abreast of the town,
firing their eleven-inch shells from starboard.  Then they returned and
repeated the manoeuvre, firing from their port sides and ending where
they had begun. It was not safe for them to continue any longer, since
every moment added to the danger of their retreat being cut off by a
squadron of British Dreadnoughts racing towards them in response to
urgent wireless messages.

Favoured by the fog, they took to flight, the battleships leading in
order to give the smaller cruisers in the rear the opportunity of
dropping some hundreds of explosive mines in their wake.

Already submarine H29, with Lieutenant Ingoldsby at his post in the
conning-tower, had entered into pursuit, making for the gap in the
British mine-field through which alone the enemy ships could pass.  But
he had not counted on their hasty retreat or calculated the speed of
their flight.

As they crossed in advance of him, not seeing his periscope, he fired
his two bow torpedoes, and missed.  He got astern of them and fired two
more. But just as the missiles left their tubes there was an ominous
crash and a fierce explosion.

The submarine had run up against one of the Germans’ floating mines,
which broke her like an egg, and the H29 and all who were in her sank to
their last resting-place at the bottom of the North Sea.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                             *CUT AND RUN.*


Seth Newruck, who lived at the north end of the town, had been to
Alderwick Hall to take certain reports and accounts to the Scout
Commissioner, and was returning across the fields when he heard the
firing of naval guns from somewhere out at sea.

He had previously seen the gunboat leave her anchorage, and he believed
at first that her gunners were practising, or that perhaps some of the
patrolling trawlers were exploding floating mines.  He was not alarmed.

But very soon the loud, insistent booming convinced him that the guns
were heavier than those of the _Kingfisher_, and that some sort of naval
engagement was going on out there beyond the curtain of sea mist.

He began to run.  Coming out upon the highway, he crossed the warren to
the edge of the cliff and stood looking out to sea.  He could see the
flashes of the guns, flickering through the fog like summer lightning.

If ships were firing upon the _Kingfisher_, then assuredly they were
enemies—a squadron of the German Fleet!  Perhaps they were even engaged
with a division of our British Dreadnoughts! The thought thrilled him in
all his nerves.

After a while there was a lull.  Seth went on, beyond the ravine, beyond
Sunnydene.  When he got close to the front gate of Green Croft, and
again looked searchingly outward, he distinguished the shadowy forms of
three great battleships, led by two light cruisers.  They were steaming
southward, with their broadsides towards the land.

Suddenly, from the foremost battleship, there came a flash.  She was
hidden in a cloud of smoke.  He heard a shrill shriek, and saw a high
fountain of spray rise from the deep water inside Alderwick Shoal, where
a shot had fallen.  At the same moment there was a terrible,
ear-splitting, earth-shaking boom.

Seth trembled from head to foot; less with fear than with boyish
excitement.  Was it possible that he was, after all, going to witness at
first hand some actual incident of the great war?  His heart was beating
furiously against his ribs; he went hot and cold by turns.  He knew that
he stood in danger. The next shot might come farther than the sea!

"I wonder if I’m afraid?" he asked himself.

Then he thought of the people in the houses near him, and of his duty as
a Scout.  If the danger should come nearer, how could he give help?  He
remembered the refuge trench which he had helped to dig in Mrs.
Daplin-Gennery’s garden.  Now most surely was a time for it to be used!

He ran in at the gateway and up the gravelled drive.  The window blinds
were down, the front door was shut.  He went round to the back entrance
and was about to hammer at the kitchen door when it was flung open.

Mrs. Daplin-Gennery stood in the passage, wearing a blue dressing-gown.
Her long, black hair hung loose over her shoulders, making her face look
very white.  Her arms were bare, and he saw that she held a revolver in
her right hand.  Behind her were other women—her lady’s maid, the Irish
cook, the parlourmaid, and two others.

Seth Newruck raised his hand in the Scouts’ salute.

"You’d better all get into the trench, ma’am," he advised.  "There’s a
lot of German warships out there beyond the sandbank."

Even as he spoke there came the loud, whistling rush of a shell overhead
and a terrific explosion rent the air as the thing fell somewhere in the
fields beyond.  The servants screamed.  Mrs. Daplin-Gennery alone was
calm.

"Are there troopships and Zeppelins with them?" she questioned.  "Are
they going to land?  Is it an invasion?"

"No."  Seth shook his head.  "I don’t think so.  But, anyhow, you’d
better take shelter in the dug-out."

Mrs. Daplin-Gennery stood aside, thrusting the others in advance of her.
They had more than once rehearsed this scene.  One by one they
obediently and very quickly rushed forward and disappeared into the sap
trench.  Their mistress followed, but hesitated half-way down the sunken
ladder.

"You must come, too," she called to Seth. "There is plenty of room."

Seth drew back a step and turned as if to leave.

"As soon as you’re all safe in the dug-out," he responded quietly, "I’m
going to run home, to look after my mother and sisters.  Father’s out
with the Fleet."

There was another loud boom of a gun; but this time it came from the
direction of Buremouth.

"Quick!  Come into the trench!" urged Mrs. Daplin-Gennery, now at the
foot of the ladder and out of sight.  "You’ll get killed if you don’t.
And if they land troops—if it’s an invasion—you must stay and defend us
helpless women.  You’re the only male person here.  Besides, you’re a
Scout; you know what to do if any of us are wounded."

This argument presented a new aspect of the situation.  Seth descended
the ladder, and as he turned into the darkness of the sap trench the
pistol was thrust into his hand.

"If a German shows his face, shoot him!" he was ordered.

"They won’t land, ma’am," he declared with confidence, following along
the covered way to the refuge of the sunken bicycle shed under its
protecting mound of sandbags and earth.  "They couldn’t land through
shoal water."

His further assurances were cut short by a deafening explosion.  The
earth shook, there was a prolonged roar and clatter of tumbling masonry,
mingled with the splitting of timber and the crashing of glass.

"Wirra-wirra!" cried the Irish cook.  "It’s the house they’ve struck,
and we’ll all be kilt entirely!"

A shower of loose sand, dislodged by the concussion, fell through the
cracks in the roof of the shelter, the support timbers creaked
ominously.  Then suddenly all was silent except for the cries of the
frightened kitchenmaid.

Seth ran back along the covered way and found the entrance blocked by a
confusion of fallen bricks and garden soil.  But there was a second exit
which admitted light and air to the refuge, with a second ladder.  Up
this ladder he climbed and thrust out his head above ground to see what
damage had been done and discover if the house were on fire.

His nostrils were assailed by the pungent fumes from the exploded
eleven-inch shell.  Clouds of drifting smoke and dust obscured his view;
but as they cleared he saw that the gable end of the house had fallen,
carrying with it a chimney-stack and some of the wrecked furniture of an
upper room. The windows were all smashed.  The shell seemed to have
burst somewhere between the adjoining stables and the conservatory, both
of which were a mass of ruins.

"It’s a good thing nobody is hurt," he said, returning to report on what
he had seen.  "You’re quite safe now.  I don’t suppose a second shot
will be aimed at the same place."

There was another fierce explosion, very near. Again and again the guns
boomed out their thunder. The sounds of bursting shells came clear and
sharp, repeated again and again as the bombardment of the town was
continued.

"I can’t be of any more use here," said Seth, returning the revolver to
Mrs. Daplin-Gennery. "When the firing stops, you can get out all right.
I must go now.  I believe Major Redisham’s house has been struck.
They’re firing their broadsides right into the heart of the town now!
Listen!"

He was back at the ladder; but the lady’s maid held him.

"Don’t leave us!" she implored agitatedly. "It’s not all over yet.  Stay
where you are."

He yielded to her entreaties.  The enemy ships had gone about and were
returning abreast of the town, firing salvos as they passed, steaming
very quickly.  They must already have got some inkling or suspicion that
a squadron of British cruisers was coming down in hot haste from the
northward, for abruptly they ceased firing and turned outward,
disappearing into the mist.  They had run risks out of all proportion to
the gain of such a cowardly raid.

Straight across from Wilhelmshaven they had made their bold dash for the
English coast to bombard a couple of undefended towns which they might
attack without venturing too far south or too far north, or lingering
too long.  If they stayed no more than one brief hour in English waters
and then fled for very life, they had reason.  Quick of heel and heavy
of hand as they were, they owed their escape wholly to the fog which
shielded them.

Coming out from the trench, Seth Newruck ran through the front garden to
the edge of the cliff and saw the _Kingfisher_ returning to port with
her topmast broken and her bridge badly battered.

He turned in at Major Redisham’s gate, hoping to find Mark.  The house
had not been touched by the shell fire.  Mrs. Redisham and her two
daughters and servants had taken refuge in their dug-out.  They were
excited, but not frightened.  Their chief anxiety was about Mark, who
had gone out after supper on the previous night and not come back.

Seth offered to make inquiries concerning him, saying he was sure to be
all right somewhere, and ran off again.

At the top of the town he encountered Mark in a strange motor-car.  Mark
pulled up at sight of him.

"Do you know if my people are safe?" he asked.

"Yes.  I’ve just seen them," Seth answered. "They’re only worried a bit
to know where you’ve been all night.  Whose car have you got?"

"I’m not quite sure," Mark laughed.  "I suppose it may be considered a
prize of war.  We captured it last night, Challis and I, along with the
German spy who was using it.  Jump in!  There’s no real need for me to
go home, now that I know they’re safe.  I will telephone to them from
the post-office.  It’s pretty awful down there.  Ever so many people
have been killed and injured.  Mr. Bilverstone has got a whole troop of
nurses and stretcher-bearers at work.  Come along, we can help."

Seth jumped up beside him.  They drove past the lighthouse, where a
shell had struck and exploded, doing considerable damage, then turned
aside to ascertain that Seth’s mother and sisters were safe.

Some dwelling-houses near the Town Hall had been wrecked.  Windows were
smashed everywhere; an hotel in the market-place was in ruins.

Mark made room for two women and three children who were seriously
injured, and conveyed them to the hospital; then he went about the town,
using the car for ambulance work and giving first-aid where he could.

The hospital staff, the doctors, with the police, the local Scouts, and
many other willing helpers were kept busy.  Over thirty persons had been
killed, more than a hundred were severely injured. The damage to
property could not easily be measured, but the most serious destruction
was in the crowded quarters of the old town where the fishermen lived.
In the course of his work of taking the injured to the hospital, Mark
Redisham called at the police-station.  A side of the building had been
shattered by one of the German shells.  The wall and a part of the roof
had fallen in, burying a warder and two prisoners in the ruins.  Men
were engaged in clearing away the debris of bricks and tiles and heavy
wooden joists.  They had rescued the warder and one of the prisoners,
only slightly hurt.

Mark waited until the third victim should be found.  A heavy beam of
timber had to be lifted.  It was moved at last, and Mark saw what was
beneath it.

"It’s the German spy!" he cried.  "It’s Fritz Seligmann.  He’s
dead—quite dead!—killed by his own friends!"



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                        *STRIKING THE BALANCE.*


In their hurried flight from Haddisport and Buremouth, the raiding
Germans had made a novel and unexpected departure from the recognised
methods of warfare.  By dropping floating mines in their wake, they
showed that their battleships may be more dangerous in retreat than when
advancing.

Retreat is not an inspiring proceeding; it depresses the spirits of
officers and men, and this would be very evident in the case of the
German seamen who had so long boasted of the great things they would
accomplish when a naval war came.  But if when their ships were in
flight the crews knew that they were laying snares to trip up their
pursuers their retreat would be robbed of its depressing effects. Any
British vessels of war venturing to follow on their heels would
inevitably be destroyed.

They were not yet hidden in the fog when Lieutenant Ingoldsby’s
submarine, manoeuvring to torpedo them, ran up against one of their
mines and was instantly sunk, with the loss of her gallant commander and
every one of his crew.  Hardly had the H29 disappeared when two of the
patrolling trawlers, steaming up to her rescue, were also sent to the
bottom.

The German light cruisers must have been fitted for this purpose of mine
sowing.  When the battleships were advancing, these smaller, high-speed
scouts would act as a screen, and in retreat they would keep astern of
the big ships, dropping a trail of small mines overboard as they fled.

The sacrifice of the H29 and the two trawlers was a serious disaster;
but at the same time it taught our Navy a valuable lesson in tactics.
Never again would any British warship pursuing a German follow directly
in the wake, but always on a parallel course.

It was the wounded _Kingfisher_ which brought into Haddisport the news
that a new mine-field had been sown.  A fleet of mine-sweepers, led by
the gunboat _Stormcock_, was at once sent out.  It included the
_Dainty_, with Mark Redisham on board, and throughout the rest of that
exciting day the people on shore were startled by repeated loud
detonations as the floating mines were one after another exploded by
gunfire from the trawler’s decks.

The _Dainty_ and three of her consorts remained at sea for a week, doing
patrol duty—cruising between the English coasts and the Bight of
Heligoland in search of enemy ships or ships carrying contraband of war.
They were now armed with machine-guns and could defend themselves in
emergency.

At this time the chief interests of the war were centred upon the
commerce destroyers on the outer seas and the military operations in
France and Flanders.  The Germans were making their great effort to
force a way through to Calais.  Their navy was hemmed in by the watchful
British Fleet, and for a long time after the bombardment of Haddisport
the North Sea was clear of their ships.  There was no target for British
naval guns.

Some few of their destroyers and submarines, it is true, contrived to
steal out from the protection of their fortified harbours, and two
British cruisers—the _Hawke_ and the _Hermes_—were sunk by their
torpedoes.

Fearing to risk their battleships in an engagement on the open sea, the
enemy were using their small craft in the pirate work of sinking
innocent merchantmen and fishing boats.  They had seized the Belgian
port of Zeebrugge, and were making this a base for submarines.

It was surmised that they intended also to station a force of torpedo
boats at Antwerp, in spite of the breach of Dutch neutrality which the
use of the River Scheldt would imply.  But to enter either seaport they
had to run the gauntlet of our North Sea patrols, and on at least one
occasion they met with complete disaster.

A patrol of English trawlers was cruising off the Dutch coast, not far
from the mouth of the Scheldt. Mark Redisham, on board the _Dainty_, was
enduring as best he could the dull monotony of his confined life on a
small vessel pitching uncomfortably on a rough sea in a bitterly cold
wind.  He was walking the wet deck, his oilskins dripping with rain,
when he saw smoke on the dim horizon to the north.  It came from the
funnels of four torpedo-boat destroyers.

Mark watched them, and presently determined that they were Germans,
making for the Scheldt.

"You’d best rap out a wireless message," said Skipper Snowling.

"I don’t think there’s any need," returned Mark. "Look what’s coming
along behind them!"

He indicated a second cloud of smoke, much greater in volume than the
first, and blacker. The Germans also had evidently seen it, for they had
put on full steam, doing their best to escape. Whatever their pursuers
might be, they were quickly lessening the distance that divided them
from their prey.  Mark watched the chase excitedly.

The four enemy boats were small compared with British destroyers; but
they were going at quite twenty-six knots speed.  Each was armed with
three quick-firing guns and two machine-guns, and carried a crew of
sixty officers and men.  They flashed past, paying no attention to the
trawlers.

Through the black oil smoke in the distance could now be distinguished a
British light cruiser and four destroyers, rushing along like railway
trains, with their high prows smothered in white spray. They were
overhauling the Germans hand over hand.

"They can’t escape!  They can’t escape!" cried the skipper.

Apparently the fugitives realised this; for they turned abruptly to
starboard and at once opened fire on their pursuers.  The distance
between was about four miles, and it was at this range that the British
cruiser, and her consorts, extending themselves into line abreast
formation, began their cannonade.  The shells from the two opposing
sides crossed in front of the patrol of trawlers, which stood by,
witnessing the fierce combat.

It lasted hardly more than an hour, a running fight in which everything
depended upon marksmanship and in which the superiority of the British
gunnery was from the first apparent.

A few moments after the action began, the leading German boat was struck
in a vital part.  Clouds of wreckage and smoke filled the air about her
as the British lyddite shells hit her and exploded, smashing the thin
steel plating of her hull.  When the smoke cleared, there was nothing
left of her but a few survivors struggling in the waves.

The remaining three vessels, still going at full speed, tried to dodge
the shots, while their own guns were kept at work.  The British
destroyers had selected each her own target, and continued pounding away
at it from a distance.  Superior range and weight of guns soon proved
their advantage.  The second of the German boats was sunk, then the
third, and finally the fourth; the Kaiser’s Navy was poorer by the loss
of four useful units.

Promptly, when the first of them went down, the trawler patrol hastened
to the spot to pick up survivors.  From all four some few were rescued,
to be taken to England as prisoners.

Three officers and ten men had been saved by the _Dainty_ when the
cruiser steamed near, stopped, and dropped one of her boats.  As the
boat came alongside, Mark Redisham glanced instinctively at the men’s
caps and was surprised to read the name H.M.S. _Dauntless_.  He looked
at the midshipman in the stern sheets.  It was his brother Rodney.

"So that’s your new ship?" said Mark when they had greeted each other.
"She’s a smart one. I hope there are not many casualties."

"Hardly any to speak of," Rodney answered. "One officer and four men
slightly wounded, that’s all; and hardly a scratch on any one of the
ships. We’ve wiped off an old score, anyhow.  What we’ve just done will
balance the loss of the _Atreus_."

"Yes," interposed one of the German officers who had been listening very
attentively.  "But the balance is still considerably in favour of
Germany. You are forgetting what our _Emden_ has done; you are
forgetting how our Admiral von Spee annihilated a squadron of your
Dreadnoughts, how one of our tiny submarines recently sent three of your
best cruisers to the bottom.  Did we not sink two more of your cruisers
only last week?  Have we not successfully bombarded your fortified coast
towns——?"

What more he would have said was left unspoken, for at that moment one
of the bluejackets in the boat leapt from his seat and seized him by the
throat with one strong hand, while he lifted the other to strike him.

"Stop that!  Stop that!" cried Rodney Redisham in a voice of stern
command.

The seaman instantly let go his hold and stood back abashed.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said humbly, touching his cap; "but my brother Tom
went down with the _Atreus_; my mother and sister were killed by a
German shell in Haddisport, and I didn’t reckon I was doin’ no harm in
goin’ for the first German as have come within reach of my fist."

"It is not English to strike a prisoner, however," the midshipman
reminded him.

For some reason which Mark Redisham did not understand, none of the
prisoners were left on board the _Dainty_.  They were distributed among
her three consorts, which followed the flotilla towards Harwich, leaving
the commodore to return alone to Haddisport.

Skipper Snowling took her northward along the Dutch coast before making
a slant across the Silver Pit.  He had not gone many miles when a German
destroyer came in sight, bearing down towards him.

"Looks as if she was a straggler from that other lot," Snowling
continued, and he altered his course to get nearer to a Norwegian
steamer to the west of him.

To his surprise and annoyance, the destroyer also altered course and
gave chase.  Snowling put on more steam, and, as a precaution, got his
machine gun ready for action, with Mark Redisham at the breech.  In
their weeks of mine-sweeping work Mark had proved himself an excellent
shot.  He had seldom failed to explode a mine when firing at it.

The German signalled to the _Dainty_ to stop and haul down her flag, but
the White Ensign remained proudly at the trawler’s masthead and her
engines never went so well.

The destroyer opened fire and there was an immediate reply from the gun
on the trawler’s deck.  Mark aimed with cool precision and made many
direct hits in vital parts, while shots from the German fell thick
around him.

The two vessels blazed away at each other as hard as they could for
about a quarter of an hour, no great damage being done on either side.
But the destroyer, with her greater speed, was quickly overhauling the
mine-sweeper, and at last the two came broadside to broadside.

"Look out, chaps!" cried Mark.  "She’s going to torpedo us!"

All the hands wore their safety collars and lifebelts, and the boat was
swung out ready over the quarter rail.  The skipper was at the steering
wheel.

"Keep cool all," commanded Snowling.  "Let ’em know as we’re Britons.
Give her another peppering, Mark!"

Mark and his assistants had already shown that they were better
gun-layers than their enemies, and their next cannonade sent splinters
flying from the destroyer’s decks.  Her wireless machinery and aerial
was already wrecked.  Her guns were silent for a while as she manoeuvred
to discharge a torpedo.

Suddenly Harry Snowling put his helm hard over, the _Dainty_ swung round
bow on, and she raced forward like a mad animal direct for the destroyer
and crashed into her amidships, her powerful prow smashing like a
battering-ram into the steel plates.

The destroyer’s bridge fell over, and the five officers and men who had
stood upon it were flung headlong into the sea.

The trawler’s engines were reversed.  She backed out of the gaping hole
she had made and then stood still as if to take breath after her
exertion.  The German boat, badly damaged, but not injured below water,
just turned round, and, without waiting to pick up any of her men in the
sea, made off as fast as her condition would allow her in the direction
in which she was originally going.

"And now," said Harry Snowling, when the survivors had been picked up
and stowed safely below, "I reckon we may as well steer straight for
home and get a coat of paint over them scratches on our bows."



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                      *THE MEETING ON THE CLIFF.*


"Beautiful view from here," remarked the stranger, dropping the stub of
his cigarette on the pavement of the esplanade.  "I should say it must
be sharming in der spring, ven der gorse vos all in bloom.  It minds me
of Scotland."

He spoke very softly, with a slightly Scotch accent—or was it merely
broken English? Mr. Croucher took it to be Scotch; but he was not very
quick at recognising accent, and perhaps it was the reference to
Scotland which gave him the idea.

"Yes," he agreed, "nice, pure air, too.  It’s what I call clean air."

"But in ze vinter," the stranger resumed, "it is probable ze beople in
dese houses get much more air than zey vant."

Mr. Croucher turned with his back to the sea and contemplated the houses
referred to.  They had a new interest for him this morning.  It was the
first time he had seen them since the visit of the German raiders.  The
house directly opposite him was as seriously damaged as if an earthquake
had shaken its foundations.  The windows were smashed and boarded up, a
large part of the roof had fallen in; the gable end was in ruin, and
some of the bulging walls were shored up with beams of wood.

The stranger also had turned and was regarding the wrecked dwelling
curiously, with his watery, blue eyes blinking through gold-rimmed
spectacles.

"You have had a fire here, it seems," he casually observed, standing
slightly back so that Mr. Croucher should not look into his face and
penetrate its disguise.

It was a flabby, clean-shaven face, with a double chin which was partly
hidden by the wide, turned-up collar of his heavy overcoat.  He was a
tall, robust man.  At first sight of him Mr. Croucher had supposed him
to be a naval officer in mufti.

"No," explained Mr. Croucher, "it wasn’t a fire. All that devastation is
the result of the bombardment the other morning.  It was awful while it
lasted. They started firing just opposite here," he pursued; glad to
have a listener, and proceeded to give an ample account of the
bombardment and its results, concluding with a reference to the sinking
of submarine H29.  "Her commander, Lieutenant Ingoldsby, lived in the
very house we’re now looking at," he added.

From Green Croft the stranger transferred his attention to Sunnydene, a
little farther towards the end of the cliff.

"That house wasn’t touched," Mr. Croucher informed him.  "They didn’t
aim at it.  You see, it belongs to a German, the brother of one of the
Kaiser’s admirals, and of course they had instructions to do it no harm.
I don’t know what amount of truth there may be in it, but it’s whispered
in the town that German spies were busy along here on the night before
the raid."

"Indeed?"  The stranger had taken out his cigarette-case and opened it.
He took one for himself and politely held the case in invitation towards
Mr. Croucher.

"Thank you, but I don’t smoke," said Mr. Croucher, watching the other
strike a light.

Just for an instant, as the man turned to shield the flaming match from
the wind, it occurred to Mr. Croucher that there was something not
altogether unfamiliar in his face and figure.  And surely it was not the
first time that he had seen that same fat hand with its diamond ring,
holding a flaming match and lighting a cigarette in that same way!  But
he dismissed the idea as impossible.  No, this was a perfect stranger.

"Spies?  But you amaze me!" the other exclaimed, dropping the dead
match.  "Have not all alien enemies been interned—as certainly they
should be?  Or are some of our own beople vorking for Germany?"

This expression of concern for the Empire’s safety gave Mr. Croucher
confidence.

"No," he declared warmly.  "They have not by any means all been
interned.  That very house along there—Sunnydene—has been a nest of
plotting spies all along.  Hilliger and that secretary of his—a fellow
named Seligmann—had caused no end of mischief before Seligmann was
arrested."

A look of eager interest leapt into the stranger’s face, which, however,
he contrived to conceal from Mr. Croucher.

"So?" he said, controlling his excitement. "They arrested him, did they?
Ven vos dat?"

"Two or three nights ago," Mr. Croucher innocently answered.  "The night
before the bombardment, it was.  In the ordinary course of things, I
suppose he would have been tried and hanged as a spy.  He was imprisoned
in Haddisport gaol; but the next morning, when the German battleships
were bombarding the town, one of their shells struck the police-station,
burying him in the ruins, and he was taken out dead."

"Dear me!" exclaimed the stranger; and with surprising abruptness he
saluted and went off, walking very quickly towards the end of the cliff,
where he turned inland and disappeared among the bushes beyond
Sunnydene.

He had been gone only a few moments when Mark Redisham and Seth Newruck
came along, with telescopes under their arms.  They were on
coast-watching duty.

"I wish you two Scouts had been here five minutes ago," said Mr.
Croucher, as they drew near him.  "There was a stranger in conversation
with me very much interested in the bombardment. You might have been
able to tell him more about it than I could—especially about the arrest
of Seligmann."

"I don’t see what a stranger could want to know about Seligmann," said
Mark.  "What was he like?  Was he English?"

"English?  I suppose so; either English or Scotch.  He spoke with a sort
of accent.  He was tall, fair, rather stout, and wore spectacles."

"Are you sure he wasn’t German?" questioned Seth.  "Perhaps he was a
spy—a friend of Seligmann’s wanting to know what had become of him."

"Nonsense," objected Mr. Croucher.

"He lighted a cigarette, didn’t he?" said Mark, observing a dead match
on the pavement.

"How do you know it wasn’t a pipe or a cigar?" asked Mr. Croucher
sharply.  He was always being tripped up by these Sea Scouts, who seemed
to know things by an extraordinary instinct.

"Because there’s the fag end of a cigarette lying at your feet, with
some ash beside it that the wind hasn’t yet blown away," Mark Redisham
quietly answered.

He had the curiosity to pick up and examine the fragment before handing
it to his companion.

"What do you make of it, Seth?" he inquired meaningly.

"Crumbs!" cried Seth.  "Why, it’s the same brand as those we found in
the silver cigarette-case—marked ’Vafiadi, Cairo’!  I wonder if the
stranger was Herr Hilliger?"

"That’s just what I was wondering, too," nodded Mark.  "It’s possible."

Mr. Croucher stared at the two Scouts indignantly.

"Do you suppose I shouldn’t have known him?" he demanded.  "Herr
Hilliger wears a beard and has long hair.  This man was clean-shaven,
and his hair was quite short.  Besides——"

"It wouldn’t be impossible to shave off a beard and get a short crop,"
declared Mark.  "Which way did he go?"

Mr. Croucher indicated the direction.  The two Scouts went off
hurriedly.  Mark led the way across the warren to the Alderwick road and
the little cross lane.

"It was just here that we captured Seligmann," he explained.

They searched the ground and discovered in the soft mud the newly
impressed marks of the tyres of a motor-car and of a man’s boots.

It was useless, of course, for them to attempt to track the car.  Had
they been able to do so, the trail would have led them many miles away,
through village after village and town after town, northward along the
coast.  They might have run the car to earth at last on a desolate
stretch of moorland where it had halted.  Thence they might have
followed Heinrich Hilliger’s tracks to a pile of ruins—the ruins of an
old-world castle—on the edge of a steep precipice overlooking the sea.

At the foot of the precipice was a tiny bay of deep, clear water,
fringed with rocks.  Between two of the rocks a small boat was drawn up
on the shingle—a curious, collapsible boat made of water-tight canvas
stretched on a steel frame.  A pair of sculls lay across the thwarts.
Nobody was in charge of it.

Heinrich Hilliger looked down into the depths and saw the boat as he
passed along the edge of the cliff and made his way through the heather
to the ruin.  He gave a long, low whistle and a whistle came back to him
in response.

"You have managed it, then!" cried a young voice; and from beyond a
corner of the grey stone wall his son Max ran out, dressed in the
uniform of a German naval officer.

The father and son embraced.  Then Max laughed, looking at his father in
amusement.

"It’s as well you gave me the signal," he said, speaking in German.  "I
should hardly have known you without your beard.  Well, you have been to
Haddisport?  What news of Fritz?"

"The worst news," answered Herr Hilliger. "He was caught.  He was taken
to prison.  More than that, when we bombarded the town, one of our
shells struck the prison-house and poor Fritz was killed!  It seems like
fate."

"Killed!  By our own guns!  Father, are you sure?"

"Absolutely.  It is in the newspapers, and I have had confirmation of it
from Old Croucher, whom I met outside Sunnydene.  He did not recognise
me; but he saved me the risk of showing myself in the town."

Max clenched and unclenched his hands.

"This is what comes of the silly, useless notion of bombarding open
towns!" he declared.  "What good has it done, to knock a few shops and
hotels to pieces, to smash the windows of a few seaside villas, and to
take the lives of a lot of innocent women and children?  There was no
military advantage in it! You have not even frightened the English
people. They are only laughing at us for using our battleships to fire
their shells into unfortified places instead of going out boldly to face
the enemy in a fair and open fight!"

"You forget, my son," returned Herr Hilliger, "we sank a British
submarine; we sowed many hundreds of explosive mines.  There was some
good in that, eh?"

"Not that I see," retorted Max.  "The commander of that submarine was
once my friend.  He has dined at your own table.  And from what I
understand, the English mine-sweepers exploded all the mines before the
day was out.  I don’t agree with sowing explosive mines on the high
seas.  It’s not playing the game."

"Bah!  Don’t talk to me about playing the game, my dear Max.  It is not
a game; it is war.  If we mean to beat the English we must not be
hampered by any childish ideas of fair play.  As for the killing of
Fritz, it is of course unfortunate; but it could not have been foreseen.
We must get some one to take his place, yourself, perhaps."

"No."  Max shook his head resolutely.  "I am not a spy.  I shall do
nothing underhand.  Let us fight fairly and openly, not hit below the
belt.  I have my duties on the submarine, and I don’t want to set foot
in England until the war is over.  I should not be here now, but that I
have come to take you away—to give you a passage back to Wilhelmshaven.
Are you ready?  The submarine is lying submerged in the next bay,
waiting for my signal."

"My dear Max," returned Hilliger, "I cannot go back with you.  My place
is here, in England, where I have been stationed.  Since Fritz is dead,
it is all the more important that I remain on this side.  Our Zeppelins
are preparing to come over, only waiting until I shall send a message to
say that the wind and weather are suitable.  When the time is favourable
I must be on the spot with a car to guide them by its light to the
places where they shall drop their bombs."

Max curled his lip contemptuously.

"And you call that war, I suppose," he sneered—"dropping fire-bombs on
farmhouses and in kitchen-gardens! I could see some sense in it if we
aimed at their aeroplane sheds, their dockyards, or their ammunition
factories, or if we sank some of their Dreadnoughts and troopships.
Why, if every house and inhabitant of Haddisport were destroyed, it
wouldn’t make a pin’s difference in the progress of the war."

Herr Hilliger shrugged his shoulders and turned the subject by saying:

"I see, my dear Max, that you are wearing the Iron Cross.  I
congratulate you.  I am proud.  No doubt it is a reward for sinking
those three British cruisers?"

Max nodded.  "We shall sink others, too," he averred.  "I shall not be
satisfied until we have put a torpedo into one of their great
battleships—one of their boasted Dreadnoughts."

He strode to the edge of the cliff and looked down into the water.  The
submarine was emptying her ballast tanks and was already in the awash
condition. He moved his arms, signalling by semaphore to Lieutenant
Körner standing on the conning-tower platform.  Then, again embracing
his father, he climbed down the difficult slope of the cliff to the
collapsible boat, stepped into it, and pulled out to the submarine.



                             *CHAPTER XXV.*

                     *MAX HILLIGER’S SATISFACTION.*


Max Hilliger’s declaration that he would not be satisfied until
Lieutenant Hermann Körner and he had put a torpedo into a British
battleship was not long in being fulfilled.

How they discovered that such a ship was to be found in a particular
position on the North Sea at a particular time is a matter which cannot
be explained.  It is certain that the Germans succeeded in discovering
many of the movements and intended movements of the British Fleet which
were believed to be secret, and of which even many highly-placed British
naval officers were profoundly ignorant. Doubtless their spy system and
their methods of communication were perfectly well organised and
established long before the outbreak of war.

By whatsoever means he received his information, Lieutenant Körner
expected the squadron to pass southward, and he prepared to carry out
his instructions by bringing his submarine within striking distance at
the anticipated moment.

It was a wild, dark winter’s night, bitterly cold, with a fierce wind
blowing from the north-east. Submarines are not commonly supposed to be
of great use in the darkness; their periscopes are then blind.  But
Körner boldly kept the U50 on the surface, trusting to the high waves to
hide her betraying conning-tower from watchful eyes and from the beams
of searchlights.

But as an additional measure of protection and deception he had hoisted
a pair of brown lugsails on her two temporary masts, so that from a
distance she might have the appearance of an innocent fishing boat.
This ruse was a development and improvement of Max Hilliger’s idea of
concealing a submarine within the body of a larger boat.

Hour after weary hour went by; but no light, no steamer’s smoke; could
be seen through the inky darkness.  Still he waited, while the submarine
rocked and tossed and rolled on the giant waves, and the wind shrieked
angrily.

Towards midnight a tiny masthead light blinked fitfully through the
curtain of driving sleet.

"They come!" said Körner from his post in the conning-tower.  He had
seen a green starboard light gleam wanly against an approaching vessel’s
black hull.

"It is only a fishing trawler making for home," Max Hilliger declared
with a shiver.  "Let us submerge and get out of the cold and wet."

"Not yet, not yet," returned Körner.  "They will surely come.  We are in
their track.  They cannot have turned back.  Our own battleships could
weather a worse storm than this, and so could they.  Whatever else the
cowardly English are afraid of, they are not afraid of the sea.  I
believe the blood in their veins is made of salt water.  If you are
cold, my friend, go below and warm yourself.  Already it is a long time
since you had supper."

Max crept below like a dog into its kennel and took some food and a
drink of hot coffee in the warmth of the engine-room.  The warmth made
him sleepy, and he did not return to the conning-tower until he was
called.

Körner and the quarter-master were at their posts. From their point of
observation they had seen the black shapes of an advancing squadron of
battleships, light cruisers, and torpedo-boat destroyers. They could be
British only, since no German warship larger than a destroyer was
permitted to put to sea.  No lights were displayed, but a reflected glow
from the furnaces mingled with the smoke rising from the blackness of
the funnels, and the wash of spray as the vessels cut through the water
showed whiter than the whiteness of the breaking waves.

The German seamen were at their quarters, the officers at the control
stations, the engineers at work with the petrol motors, the gunners at
the air-compressors for charging the torpedo tubes.  All was quiet but
for the ceaseless rattle of cranks and pistons and the whining of
well-oiled wheels.  The submarine was manoeuvred round as if to cross
the bows of the British ships.

A couple of the destroyers went past, then a light cruiser.  Next came
the towering bulk of a Dreadnought, looming out of the darkness.  Sparks
of fire floated amid the thick volume of coal smoke from her foremost
funnel; a shaft of light came through an open doorway on her high
bridge.

"I believe it’s the _Triumphant_!" said Max Hilliger, at the
lieutenant’s elbow.

It was at a point forward of the bridge, on the starboard side, that the
torpedo was aimed.  There was no possibility of its missing so huge a
target. But to make certain of hitting a vital part well below the
armoured belt a second torpedo was to be fired, and then the submarine
would submerge and make good her escape.

On board the _Triumphant_ the larger number of her officers and crew of
nearly eight hundred men were below asleep when the fearful crash came.
Hammocks and bunks were jerked up by the shock. The torpedo had missed
the magazine by a few feet, but it burst through the stout plates,
entering the dynamo-room, and all electricity, both for lighting and for
wireless instruments, was shut off.  The great ship at once listed over,
and the order was given: "All hands on the upper deck."

Two minutes after the first alarm, word was sent up from the engine-room
to the captain on the bridge that flooding had begun in the boiler-room,
and that no more steam could be got up.  There could be no hope of
running her towards land and beaching her.  It was seen from the first
that she could not be saved.

The engines were stopped and the engineers and stokers were ordered up
on deck.  They were scrambling up the ladders when the second torpedo
struck her.  Distress signals were fired, but her consorts were advised
to stand off at a safe distance in case of a further attack.

For want of steam to work the hoists the boats had to be got clear by
reeving a big rope round the deck and hauling upon it.  With perfect
discipline the men performed this difficult operation in total darkness
while the sinking ship was being washed by mountainous waves.

All woodwork that could be seized upon and everything that would float
was brought on deck for the men to cling to.  They waited, hoping that
the watertight compartments would keep her afloat until daylight; but at
length the captain sang out:

"Into the water with you; she’s going!"

Then it was a matter of every man for himself. Some reached the boats
before the ship went down, some were drawn under by the suction; many
were picked up by one of the cruisers; but of all the ship’s company not
more than two hundred came to land in safety, and even these, scantily
clothed, had suffered terribly from exposure in the open boats.



                            *CHAPTER XXVI.*

                          *THE GUIDING LIGHT.*


The municipal authorities in Haddisport had for a long time past
displayed great vigilance in keeping the town dark at night.  The street
lamps were not lighted; shopkeepers incurred penalties if they failed to
keep their premises so dimly lighted that you could not distinguish the
difference between butter and cheese; the tramway cars were muffled in
thick curtains; on the sea-front you were liable to reprimand if you
struck a match to light your pipe.

Most of the houses were lighted by electricity, and it was recognised
that in the event of an imminent raid upon the town by German airships
the electricity should be turned off at the power-house, where a
screeching hooter would be sounded to warn the inhabitants to take cover
in their basements or their garden trenches.

Many of the occupants of houses facing the sea abandoned their front
rooms after sunset.  Even the thickest of curtains and blinds and the
most cunning lamp-shades were not always proof against some chink or
slit revealing the light within, and then there was sure to be an
alarming visit from the sentries patrolling the beach or the policeman
on his beat, or Sea Scouts on watch duty.

"I should say the Germans had something else to do than cross the North
Sea in their Zeppelins to drop bombs on a harmless town like
Haddisport," remarked Vera Redisham, one night at supper.

"They might do it for the sake of spreading panic," observed her mother.

"Or by way of preliminary experiment before making an air raid in force
upon London," added Mark.  "That’s what they’re planning, of course.
They’d consider it as good as a naval victory if they could set London
on fire.  Hullo! what’s wrong with the electric light?  I put new bulbs
on only yesterday!"

The light flickered for a moment or two and then went out, plunging the
room in darkness.

"The hooter’s sounding!" cried Vera.  "Listen!"

"We’d better all get down into the basement," recommended Mrs. Redisham.
"You mustn’t go outside, Mark."

She had hardly spoken when the whole house shook, the windows rattled,
and the air was split by a resounding explosion.

"Ah!" shouted Mark.  "Zeppelins!  Zeppelins!"

Mrs. Redisham made her way down the stairs to the basement to get the
servants into a place of safety.

A second bomb sounded, and then there came the firing of an
anti-aircraft gun.

Mark ran up the staircase to the half landing where there was a window
above the hall door, from which he could look out in the direction of
the town. His sister Vera followed him.

"We’re as safe here as anywhere else," she said in excuse for her
presence.  "Can you see anything?"

"I saw a flash just now," Mark answered.  "I believe it was the
Zeppelin’s searchlight.  Oo! did you hear that!  It must have struck
some building. What’s that glow of light over there?  They’ve set some
place on fire!"

He afterwards learnt that an incendiary bomb, aimed at the naval signal
station, had fallen in a timber yard and set the stacks of wood in
flames.

Vera counted ten explosions in all.  Then the bomb-dropping ceased.

"They haven’t stopped long," she sighed in relief. "I do hope nobody has
been hurt.  What are you looking at?  Can you see the airship?"

"Yes.  It’s like a big sausage high up in the air, just over St.
Nicholas’ Church.  Have a look!"

Mark moved aside to make room for Vera.

"I see it!  I see it!" she cried.  "And, oh, Mark, it’s chasing a
motor-car!"

Mark peered out into the darkness and saw the brilliantly-lighted lamp
of a motor flashing along the Buremouth road.  The beam of the light was
shed upward.  The car was travelling at a tremendous pace.

"Chasing it?" said Mark.  "I don’t think it’s a chase.  That car is
acting as a pilot—showing the airship which way to go, and where to drop
its bombs!  I shouldn’t wonder in the least if the man driving it were
Heinrich Hilliger!"



                            *CHAPTER XXVII.*

                              *SURVIVORS.*


As the motor-car, with its flaring headlight, went out of sight beyond
the projection of the window from which they had watched it, Mark and
Vera Redisham ran farther up the staircase and along the passage to
Rodney’s room, on the north side of the house.

Mark crossed to the large door-window and flung it open.  It led out to
a roofed balcony overlooking the garden.  Rodney had used this balcony
as a study, from which he could watch the ships, pretending that it was
an admiral’s gallery at the stern of a line-of-battle ship.  On summer
nights he had had a hammock slung across from side to side and had slept
in the open air.

Mark caught at the balcony rail now, and bent forward, looking up into
the night sky, searching for the Zeppelin by the purring of its
machinery.

"There it is!  There it is!" he cried.  And taking hold of Vera’s arm he
drew her to him and pointed.

Even though it was very high, the airship looked large.  It was not
travelling quickly; it seemed for a time to be hovering like a hawk.
Against the blue darkness of the sky the two cars could be distinguished
beneath the cigar-shaped structure. The rattling noise of the engines
and the hum of the propellers could be clearly heard.

"It’s queer to think that there are Germans in it," said Vera, "and that
they’re there with the intention of killing people!  I suppose they’re
going to Buremouth now, after dropping their horrid fire-bombs on
Haddisport."

"Look!" exclaimed Mark.  "There’s that motor-car again!  I’m almost
certain it’s acting as a pilot.  See how the headlight is turned upward
into the sky, so that the airmen can see it!  I ought to go downstairs
and telephone to the Buremouth police.  Hullo!"

He had seen and heard a second motor-car, dashing along the nearer
Alderwick road, followed by a couple of motor-bicycles.  Presently there
was an upward spurt of fire from the car and the crackle of a
machine-gun.

"They’re firing up at the Zeppelin!" cried Vera. "Oh, I hope they’ll hit
it!"

A thin streak of brilliant light flashed downward from the airship.
Something seemed to fall with a thud, a dull explosion, and immediately
there was a blaze of fire in the midst of the withered gorse and
brambles about a mile in front of the armoured motor-car.

"They’ve dropped an incendiary bomb," Mark explained, "but nowhere near
the road.  The car can get past."

The firing from the anti-aircraft gun continued; but soon the Zeppelin
steered round and went westward over the land, and the armoured car
dropped out of range.  More bombs were launched; but they fell
harmlessly in ploughed fields where there were no houses.  The pilot car
by this time had disappeared.

The military car was returning, led by the motor cyclists.  Just as the
latter emerged from the woodland on the near side of Alderwick village,
the Zeppelin again turned towards the sea and sailed outward immediately
above the machine-gun, which again opened fire with a prolonged stream
of bullets.

"I believe our men have hit it!" Mark declared. "Look at that long jet
of smoke!  And the whole thing is wobbling like a winged pheasant."

Whether the airship was struck or not, neither Mark nor the men in the
armoured car could tell with certainty.  They watched the ponderous
vessel flying out to sea until it faded from sight, mingling with the
blackness of a heavy cloud in the far east. Going downstairs again, Mark
telephoned to the naval base and got into communication with Mr.
Bilverstone, from whom he learnt that the worst material damage done by
the bombs was at a timberyard near the harbour.  Some big stacks of
timber had been set on fire, and a company of Territorials were helping
the seamen of H.M.S. _Kingfisher_ in the work of subduing the flames.

So far as Mr. Bilverstone had yet heard, no one had been seriously
injured.  Two horses had been killed at the railway goods station, and a
great many window-panes had been smashed.

News had been received, however, that there had been a second Zeppelin.
The pair of them had come across the North Sea in company until land had
been sighted, when they had separated, one coming to Haddisport, the
other making a much wider circuit, dropping both explosive and
incendiary bombs on three coast towns in succession.

Late on the following afternoon, Mark Redisham and Darby Catchpole were
at the naval base, waiting for instructions, when a flotilla of
mine-sweepers came into the harbour.  One of them was the _Mignonette_.
As she came alongside the quay, Mark and Darby saw two very bedraggled
young men in shabby naval uniform standing with the skipper abaft the
wheel-house.

"They look like German prisoners," Mark said below his breath.

"They’ve been in the water," added Darby, "picked up from a sinking
submarine, I dare say. There’s Ned Quester.  Let’s ask him about them."

Ned was climbing along the port bulwark, dragging the end of a heavy
mooring-rope.  Having secured it round a bollard, he turned and saw the
two Sea Scouts.

"See those two chaps down there?" he began. "They’re Deutschers.  They
look rather sad, don’t they?  We rescued them early this morning, this
side of the Dogger.  Just before dawn, we saw two rockets go up—a red
and a blue.  We made for the place, thinking it was a vessel in
distress.  So it was, but not the sort of vessel we expected.  It looked
like an immense dead whale, seen in the dim light.  When we got nearer
we were still puzzled by the shape of it, and could only guess that it
was a wrecked airship."

"What?" cried Mark Redisham, "a Zeppelin?—the Zeppelin that was over
Haddisport last night, dropping bombs?  Then the anti-aircraft gun must
have hit it, after all!"

"That’s right," nodded Ned.  "Major Proudfynski—that’s the older of the
two, who speaks English, of a sort—told us that they had done heaps of
damage, and killed he didn’t know how many people, and that a whole
battery of artillery had fired up at them.  Of course, we knew he was
exaggerating. However, when we got out the boat and pulled alongside the
thing, we knew it could only be a Zep that had come to grief.  One of
the propellers was above water.  We could see some of the bent and
tangled framework, supported by a section of the still inflated gas-bag.
Afterwards we fired a shot into it, letting the gas escape, and then the
wreckage went down.  But before that, we’d seen these two chaps clinging
to the framework, and we got them off and took them aboard the
_Mignonette_. They were so exhausted by the exposure that they couldn’t
speak, and the younger one had to be worked at for a long time before he
came to his senses."

"But there must have been a whole crowd of others," said Mark.  "Those
Zeps have a crew of thirty or forty at least."

"Yes, I know," returned Ned.  "The rest were all drowned under the
wreckage.  These two had the sense to jump out when she was falling and
get clear of the stays.  They could swim.  What puzzled our skipper was
how they managed to send up the two rockets.  But it seems the airship
fell by the bow with her stern sticking up above water for a time, and
the major got into one of the gondolas, where there was a box of rockets
and things—matches, as well, I suppose."

Officers from the naval station had come to the edge of the wharf.  One
of them spoke to the Germans, asking them to come ashore.

"What are you going to do with us?" questioned the elder of the two.

"Oh, you’ll be all right!" he was told.  "You are prisoners; but that
doesn’t mean that you will be ill-treated."

"Prisoners?"

"Yes.  You don’t imagine that we are going to let you go back to
Germany, do you?  Not after what you did last night.  You came across to
England to pay us a visit; why should you hurry away?  We’ll show you
what it’s like to live in a civilised country."

An escort of armed bluejackets had been drawn up on the quay.  The two
prisoners were conducted to the base, where they were questioned briefly
before being given the honours of war and taken to the hotel.  After
they had had a good dinner they were sent, still under escort, by a
special train, to a destination far removed from the unfriendly sea.



                           *CHAPTER XXVIII.*

                          *THE WAY TO CALAIS.*


Darby Catchpole was with Mark Redisham now for a particular reason.  He
had lately joined the Royal Naval Reserve, and had been appointed a
signal-boy for duty on one of the mine-sweepers.  In order that he might
gain some experience of the work, however, he was to go for a
preliminary trip with Commodore Snowling on the _Dainty_, which was to
steam out to sea at sundown.

"I only hope we shall be going somewhere in sight of our Dreadnoughts,"
he said to Mark, while they waited on the wharf for the skipper.  "I
should love to see a naval action."

"Not much chance of that," Mark told him. "We shall not see an enemy
ship of any sort—except possibly a submarine.  I dare say we shall only
be on ordinary patrol duty, steaming to and fro along the coasts like
soldiers on sentry-go.  It isn’t always exciting.  We don’t have an
adventure every trip, unless you call it an adventure to have a green
sea come over you, or to have your clothes frozen like iron plates on
your back.  Sometimes it’s exceedingly uncomfortable and monotonous.  I
hope you’ve brought some books to read.  Your kit bag looks pretty
full."

"It’s full of eatables, mostly," Darby answered. "Mother has the idea
that mine-sweepers go out with no provisions aboard."

"Here comes our old man," Mark intimated, seeing Harry Snowling
approaching from the direction of the naval base, where he had been to
receive his sailing orders.

"He’s got some new charts under his arm; so I suppose we’re bound to
some place where we’ve never been before.  I hope it’s not up north to
the Orkneys or Shetlands.  We had our share of storms and snow when we
went through the Pentland Firth."

The two Sea Scouts saluted their skipper as he came swinging along with
an empty pipe in his mouth.

"Right you are, bors," he said cheerily.  "Lay aboard and cast off."

When they had cleared the harbour and were out in the blue water, Mark
took his trick at the steering-wheel.  The course given him was E.S.E.,
but after a while it was changed to south-east, the change being
indicated to the three trawlers that were following by signals from the
syren.

"Dessay you’re a-wonderin’ where we’re goin’, bor?" said the skipper,
glancing into Mark’s face, which was lighted by the dim glow from the
binnacle. "And so am I.  But we’re a-sailin’ under sealed orders this
trip, and shan’t know till the stroke of midnight."

At midnight Mark and Darby were both in their bunks, and they saw the
skipper come below, seat himself under the hanging lamp, break open a
sealed envelope, and take out a slip of typewritten paper.

"Um!" murmured the skipper, "dunno as how they need have kep’ it a
secret.  Seems to me they keeps things secret just for the fun of it,
sometimes—same as our Sally.  You c’n goo to sleep, bors," he added,
glancing towards the bunks.

He stood up, and, quitting the cabin, went on deck, leaving the slip of
paper on the flap-table, knowing that neither of the boys would look at
it. He had implicit trust in them.

From the engine-room came the tinkle of the telegraph, the syren was
blown, the engines stopped, and then there came the grunting of the
winch and the noisy rattle of the anchor chain through the hawse hole.

"We’re anchored for the night," said Mark, turning over on his pillow.

The _Dainty_ was still at anchor in the early morning when the two
Scouts jumped out of their bunks and climbed up on deck in their
pyjamas, with towels round their necks.  They opened the side gangway
and put out the ladder, then stripped and dived off into the cold, clear
waves, Darby leading.  They swam round the nearest of the three other
trawlers, shouted a "good-morning" to the watch, and had a race back,
Mark being left far behind; for Darby Catchpole was by far the better
swimmer.

While they were drying themselves, they looked round about them.

There were several vessels lying at anchor within sight.  About a mile
away was a magnificent American clipper, with four tall masts and an
amazing webwork of standing and running rigging, and with the stars and
stripes painted on her beautiful hull. A tug lay near her, getting up
steam to tow her farther on her voyage to some North Sea port with her
cargo of American timber.  Farther away there were two British
destroyers and a light cruiser.

Mark got into his pyjamas and went aft to get a pair of binoculars from
the wheel-house; but found the skipper using them.

"Look slippy and get your warm clothes on, bor," said Snowling.  "I
expect I shall want you, soon as it’s light enough, to do a bit of
signallin’."

Mark and Darby were both quickly dressed.  They returned on deck
munching some of Mrs. Catchpole’s home-made currant cake.  All four of
the mine-sweepers were by this time getting up steam.

"Keep your eye on the light cruiser yonder," ordered the skipper, "and
be ready to take down her semaphore message when she starts signallin’."

The two boys waited very patiently for about half an hour, when at
length the semaphore on the cruiser’s bridge began to move.

"What’s he a-sayin’?" Harry Snowling asked.

"He says: ’How old are you?’" Mark answered. "Tell him ninety-nine," the
skipper gravely pursued, giving his ship’s number.

Mark spelt out the reply with his flags, knowing that the inquiry and
the expected response were merely preliminary.  There was a pause; then
again the semaphore was worked, and Darby read the message:

    You will proceed at once to the position marked Z on your chart,
    and begin operations, working in parallels from N.E. to S.W.
    Please repeat.

Mark repeated the message, doing it much quicker then the semaphore had
done.  The skipper then signalled to his consorts to lift their anchors,
and in a very little time the flotilla of mine-sweepers was steaming
away between the Forelands and the Goodwins and across the Straits.

The position marked on the chart was to the southward of the British
mine-field and off the Belgian coast.

Other trawlers joined in the work of sweeping for explosive mines which
were believed to have been laid by the enemy from boats sent out
secretly from Zeebrugge and Ostend.  For a long time none were found,
but as the searchers drew nearer to the Belgian coast one after another
was brought up and exploded.  On the second day three were exploded by
the _Dainty_ and her sweeping partner, the _Veronica_, and Darby
Catchpole realised by experience that mine-sweeping was in actuality a
sternly-strenuous, arduous, and exceedingly hazardous calling.

As they worked nearer and nearer to the Belgian coast, ominous sounds
came to them across the intervening sea; sounds that told them of the
ceaseless warfare on the land.  The air was filled with the
deep-throated booming of heavy guns, the bursting of high-explosive
shells and of shrapnel.

With an almost superhuman effort, the Germans were attempting to make
themselves masters of the coast and seaports of Northern France.  They
had concentrated enormous forces of men and heavy artillery, and were
making a tremendous forward movement with the intention of getting round
the Allies’ left flank and cutting off their communications with England
and the Channel.

If, by taking Dunkirk, Calais, and Boulogne, they could command the
Straits of Dover, an invasion of Great Britain would, they believed, be
simple. They might lay a double field of mines across from shore to
shore with a clear way between, through which their crowded transport
barges could pass under cover of their batteries of enormous guns.

It was the narrowest part of the straits, between Calais and Dover,
which they most earnestly coveted. Calais was their great objective, and
they had begun to boast of the victory which they felt certain they must
soon achieve.  They were already in possession of the Belgian coast.
Their trenches were dug close to the sea, supported by their big guns
concealed among the sand dunes.  From the sea itself there could be no
danger, since the water was too shallow to admit of British battleships
coming within range, and, besides, the sea was thickly sown with German
explosive mines.

It was in counting upon the shallowness of the water off the coast that
they made their great mistake.  No Dreadnought could come within range,
it is true; but there are other vessels than Dreadnoughts capable of
carrying heavy guns, though perhaps the Germans had not thought to find
them off Nieuport.

The crew of the mine-sweeper _Dainty_ had had their curiosity aroused by
the sight of three peculiar-looking steamers flying the White Ensign,
which came to anchor near them one Saturday evening.

Darby Catchpole was particularly interested in them.  They were small
vessels, of hardly more than a thousand tons.  Their low hulls and their
upper works, including the funnel and ventilators, were oddly painted in
grey and white to confuse the eye and add to their invisibility.

"They look like river craft," said Darby.  "I shouldn’t wonder if they
drew no more than four feet of water, even with the weight of their
guns."

He was right about their being river craft.  They had been built for the
Brazilian Government for use in shoal water.  Their sides were heavily
armoured. Each mounted an armament of two 6-inch guns, two howitzers,
four 3-pounders, and six quick-firing guns, and she could discharge a
ton and a half of metal every minute.

These were the ships—monitors they were called—with which the British
Navy was prepared to prove that the waters off the Flemish coast were
not too shallow to admit of heavy guns coming within range of the German
trenches.  With their shallow draught they could defy the enemy’s
submarines, whose torpedoes were set to run about twelve feet below the
surface, and they could move to and fro, confusing the aim of the
Germans’ heavy artillery.

The monitors were supported by several old cruisers, gunboats, and
destroyers, French as well as British, and, much to the surprise of
Harry Snowling and his crew, the trawlers also were ordered to take
their part in the operations.  They formed the advance guard to search
for hostile submarines or possible mines, and to spy out the positions
of the German batteries by drawing their fire, while the Allies’
aeroplanes made observations from the air.

Suddenly the three monitors, coming within range, opened fire with their
6-inch guns and howitzers, and it was then that the Germans had the
surprise of their lives.

Steaming backward and forward parallel with the coast, the ships kept up
a constant cannonade, dropping their lyddite shells with precision into
the enemy’s trenches, smashing their batteries and spreading havoc and
destruction.

The Germans brought down their heaviest guns to the shore and returned
the fire in an attempt to drive off the ships.  But all their efforts
against moving targets were in vain.

They sent out submarines from their hiding places in the Belgian canals;
but these, too, were of no avail.  The crushing cannonade from the
British ships could not be silenced, and there was no alternative but
for the Germans to abandon their positions and evacuate a large extent
of the country, after suffering terrible losses in material and men.

In the course of this bombardment of the enemy’s right flank, the
British trawlers were active in sweeping for mines sown by the German
submarines.  This was perilous work, as it brought the little vessels
into the zone of fire.  Only one of them, however, was hit, and this
happened to be the _Dainty_.

An enemy aeroplane had been flying over the ships, trying to drop bombs
on them.  Mark Redisham and Darby Catchpole were watching when they saw
a French monoplane rise from the Allies’ lines beyond a point of the
land and give chase to the German Taube.

The two machines circled about like a pair of swallows, mounting and
descending, swooping this way and that.  The pursuit lasted fully half
an hour when at length the Taube made a determined dash at the monoplane
as if to ram it.

Very dexterously the French pilot swerved and ranged his machine up
beside his adversary, the expanded wings almost touching.  Four spurts
of fire were seen.  Then the monoplane ascended in a spiral, while the
Taube began to drop, quivering like a wounded bird.

Plunging sideways, it turned over and fell down, down with a splash into
the sea, midway between the _Dainty_ and the land.

Skipper Snowling put on full steam and steered towards it, to rescue the
pilot if he should still be alive.

Immediately one of the German heavy guns on the shore opened fire upon
the trawler.  Snowling altered his course and bore outward.  This saved
his boat from the first shell, which fell astern; but a second, from a
smaller gun, crashed into her frail hull, and that was the end of her.

In a cloud of smoke and escaping steam Darby and Mark found themselves
struggling to swim clear of the wreckage.  Neither of them was hurt.
They both wore their safety collars and life-belts, and both were good
swimmers.  But what of their shipmates?

One of the deck hands came to the surface and Darby grabbed at his arm.

"All right, bor," the man cried, shaking the water from his hair.  "Look
arter yourself.  Make for the monitor that’s bearin’ down on us."

Mark and Darby swam about for a while and soon discovered the skipper
trying to raise the cook’s head above water.

"He’s done for," said Snowling.  "We can only leave him, poor fellow.
But Tom Beckett’s behind you, see if you can help him and keep him
afloat."

The monitor was close at hand now, firing her howitzers landward as she
approached.  She dropped a boat, and five of the _Dainty’s_ crew were
picked up. Eight were either drowned or killed.  The survivors were
transferred to the _Veronica_ and taken home to Haddisport, while the
ships continued their bombardment of the enemy’s batteries, although
already there was reason to believe that the German plan of seizing
Dunkirk and Calais had been successfully frustrated.

The Royal Navy had proved once again the truth of the old saying that it
can go anywhere and do anything.  But it was soon to prove in a yet more
signal manner that Britain’s sovereignty of the seas was no mere idle
boast, but a glorious reality.



                            *CHAPTER XXIX.*

                        *MAX MEETS THE ADMIRAL.*


"_Ach_, my dear Max, how it rejoices me once again to see you!"

Ever since the perilous moment on board the doomed German battleship in
the Bight of Heligoland, when Max Hilliger had saved his uncle’s life,
Admiral von Hilliger had shown a peculiarly affectionate regard for his
nephew.  In his estimation Max was not only a relative to be proud of,
but a hero worthy of high favour, an officer whose knowledge of
seamanship, whose patriotism and resourcefulness made him of inestimable
value in the Kaiser’s naval service.

Had Max happened to be a few years older, he might have counted upon
rapid promotion; he might even, in spite of his inexperience and lack of
technical training, have been given the full command of a submarine, or
been appointed as a Zeppelin officer, charged with the duty of voyaging
in an airship across to England to drop incendiary bombs upon enemy
towns.

But owing to his extreme youth he could not at present hold a higher
rank than that of midshipman, even though his actual duties were those
of a sub-lieutenant.

Still, as Max himself realised, it was better to be serving as a junior
officer in a submarine and doing important work for the Fatherland than
to be tramping the quarter-deck of an idle battleship with no immediate
chance of fighting.

They had met now, quite unexpectedly, on the quay at Brunsbuttel, at the
western outlet of the Kiel Canal.  Max had just come ashore from the
U50, which had entered from the sea and been moored alongside of other
submarines within the massive lock gates.  He had been marching along
the stone parapet, feeling very important in his naval uniform, with its
gold lace and brass buttons, and proudly conscious of the Iron Cross
which dangled conspicuously from his expanded chest.

Seamen and marines saluted him ceremoniously as he strode proudly past
them; he, himself, saluted all officers of higher rank than his own.  As
he turned sharply round the corner of the custom-house, he came almost
full tilt against Admiral von Hilliger, resplendent in gold lace,
medals, epaulettes, and cocked hat, and escorted by two flag officers.

Max clipped his heels together and saluted.  The admiral flung out his
arms.

"_Ach_, my dear Max," he cried, embracing the embarrassed midshipman,
"how it rejoices me once again to see you!  It is good we have met.  In
one hour I should have been gone across to Wilhelmshaven, and you would
have missed me.  Come! You will take midday eating with me.  There is
much that we have to say to each other."

Max followed him and the two officers through intricate passages between
huge stacks of ammunition boxes and naval stores, and across an open
pavement to the front of an hotel.  Here the two officers stood aside,
and Max went past them with his uncle up the steps and into a little
room whose windows looked out upon the grey estuary of the Elbe and the
distant fleet.

Admiral von Hilliger turned the key of the door, glanced behind a
curtain, and even into a cupboard, to assure himself that he was alone
with his nephew; then took his stand in front of the stove and lighted a
very long cigar.

"During the seven minutes before lunch," he began, "we will talk
business.  What have you been doing in the past two weeks?  How many
more of the mischievous enemy’s ships have you sunk with your brave
submarine?"

Max did not answer immediately.

"Lieutenant Körner has prepared his report," he said presently.  "I am
his subordinate.  It is not for me to account for what he has done.  We
have not been idle."

"But Lieutenant Körner is not here," pursued the admiral, "and I wish to
know what ships have been sunk.  How many of their dreadnoughts have you
sent to the bottom of the German Ocean since last we met?"

"None, sir," Max answered.  "Those which we have seen have been too well
guarded for us to approach them within striking distance.  We sank a
Swedish steamer carrying timber to the Thames, a British collier coming
out of the Tyne.  We lay in wait three days to torpedo a Harwich
passenger boat, which slipped past us, after all.  Many steamers have
escaped us by their higher speed and their manoeuvring.  Even the
English patrol-trawlers now carry guns; but we have accounted for four
of them."

"Good," nodded the admiral.  "I would have every one of their wretched
fishing boats swept off the seas.  They are our worst enemies.  Do not
be deceived by their seeming innocence, my dear Max. While they are
fishing, they are also watching and carrying information.  Sink
them—sink them without warning, without mercy.  Naturally you have not
allowed any of their crews to escape?"

Max glanced into the admiral’s red-bearded face.

"But yes," he admitted.  "In each case we have given them time to take
to their boats."

"Thunder and lightning!" exclaimed his uncle, stamping a heavy foot.
"This will not do.  You must not permit your ridiculous scruples of
humanity to interfere with your duty—the duty of sinking every vessel
you can find, with every one in her.  Let none escape.  Remember that
every ship now sailing the seas is either an enemy or a friend of the
enemy, whose purpose it is to help the hateful English and to do harm to
our beloved Fatherland!"

He puffed desperately at his cigar as if with the intention of finishing
it as speedily as possible.

"Listen, my dear Max," he went on.  "In future you shall put aside all
scruple.  Give no warning of your intentions, give no time for escape;
but with gun or torpedo, sink, sink, sink without a moment’s mercy!"

Max had fixed his gaze into the glowing coals of the open stove.
Suddenly he looked up once again into his uncle’s face.

"But, suppose, sir, that there are women and children in the ship; are
they, too, to be sacrificed?" he quietly asked.

Admiral von Hilliger gasped in astonishment at the suggestion.

"Women?" he cried.  "Will you never understand that women can be as
mischievous as men? Do you not realise that our enemies’ children will
grow up to be enemy men and women?  Bah! Do not make such a mistake.  We
are engaged in war, and war has its necessities.  The British people
know their own danger.  If they go upon the seas, it is at their own
risks.  We cannot discriminate between the innocent and the guilty.
All, indeed, are guilty if they so much as set foot upon a British
ship."

He strode to and fro restlessly in front of the stove.

"And now," he pursued, after a pause, "what else have you done?  What
have you learnt of the enemy’s navy?  You have been along their coasts;
you have entered their rivers and peeped into their harbours.  Where are
their battleships?"

"It would be easier to tell you where they are not," returned Max.
"They are not assembled in the Straits of Dover, or off the Dogger Bank,
or off Haddisport.  We have not been able to find them. And yet, _mein
Herr_, I will undertake to say that if our own Great High Sea Fleet were
to sally out beyond the protection of our mine-fields it would not go
far before a squadron of British Dreadnoughts flashed out to give
battle."

Admiral von Hilliger laughed awkwardly.

"My dear Max," he said with forced lightness, "I perceive that you are
still tainted with your false ideas of Britain’s strength upon the seas.
You must remember that our German fleet is as yet practically intact.
We are as strong as we were at the beginning of the war, and as ready to
meet the British whenever they choose to come out of their
hiding-places.  What you tell me is satisfactory, however.  You assure
me once again that the enemy are in close hiding and that they are
afraid to come out and meet us in a pitched battle.  Your remark that
they will pounce upon us, once we leave the protection of our
mine-fields, is very funny.  Already they have proved many times that
they prefer the security of their own harbours rather than the risk of
facing our guns.  We have given them chances; we will give them chances
again.  But not in the way they would wish.  Listen, my dear Max, I will
tell you something."

Max went nearer to him.  The admiral cautiously lowered his voice.

"Our agents have been doing good work," he said.  "Helped by your
all-knowing father, they have given away information upon which the
British Admiralty will act.  The information, I need hardly tell you, is
false and misleading.  But what would you?  War is war, and to deceive
and mislead your enemy is one of the essentials of successful strategy.
Is it not true?  Well, then, we have to-day issued a secret report that
a squadron of our battleships has crept out, and is now cruising off the
coast of Norway.  The Norwegian people have helped us by declaring that
already they have heard the thunder of our naval guns at sea.  An hour
ago, we received word that the British Fleet has gone off in force
towards Norway."

"Yes," Max nodded.  "It has gone out on what we call a wild-goose chase,
you mean?  But in what way shall we benefit?"

Admiral von Hilliger puffed more vigorously than ever at his cigar.

"Is it not obvious to you, my dear?" he questioned.  "By alluring them
out of their harbours, we make our path clear.  We take our great ships
across to England and do our worst.  It is all arranged.  We start
to-day—this evening. To-morrow morning, while their gunboats are vainly
searching for a phantom fleet in Norwegian waters, our invincible
battleships will be engaged in firing their shells into the fortified
seaports of Newcastle and Hull."

Max Hilliger allowed himself to smile.

"It is a mere detail that neither Hull nor Newcastle happens to be a
fortified town," he ventured. "But there will be no military advantage
in such a bombardment.  The sinking of one battle cruiser would be to us
worth the destruction of half a dozen towns.  What good did we do by
smashing a few windows in Haddisport?  We gained nothing to balance the
waste of ammunition and the loss of one of our own ships that ran up
against one of our own floating mines!  Believe me, my uncle, the
English people are not easily frightened.  It will take more than an
hour’s bombardment of their seaside villas to put them in a state of
panic."

"In that case," returned the admiral, "we shall take yet stronger
measures to convince them of our frightfulness.  This time, we shall
take with us our most powerful battleships.  We shall show them that it
is we and not they who hold command of the seas."

He flung his unfinished cigar into the stove and drew his nephew to the
window.

"Look once out there," he said, pointing across the sea to where the
Kaiser’s fleet could be dimly seen on the far horizon.  "If the
contemptible English could but open their eyes upon those ships, do you
suppose that they would any longer dare to boast of their own paltry
navy?  _Ach_, my dear Max, wait!  To-morrow you shall see!"



                             *CHAPTER XXX.*

                   *DREADNOUGHT AGAINST DREADNOUGHT.*


In the afternoon of that same bleak January day the U50 was warped out
of the Kiel Canal. Her petrol tanks had been filled, she had taken in
fresh water and stores, and now she was bound for Heligoland, there to
receive a new supply of torpedoes and explosive bombs before resuming
her work of preying upon merchant shipping in the British Seas.

From the cliffs of the fortified island, Max Hilliger watched the
squadron of German battleships going out.  There were four great
Dreadnought cruisers—_Brandenburg_, _Lessing_, _Mozart_, and
_Goethe_—with six light cruisers of the _Kotzbue_ class, and a flotilla
of torpedo-boat destroyers.  As they threaded their way through the
secret lanes of the mine-field, he could hear their bands playing
patriotic German music.  He watched them until they disappeared into the
night darkness.

They were timed so that by steaming across the North Sea at twenty-five
knot speed they would be within gun-range of the English coast at
earliest dawn.

Until shortly after midnight, when, with all lights out, they were
crossing the Dogger Bank, the German commanders had no suspicion that
their movements had been observed.  Even with the most careful watch
they failed to detect the low black shapes of a patrol of British
destroyers rushing westward in advance of them.

At half-past seven on that wintry Sunday morning, the destroyers were
already in communication with a great squadron of British Dreadnoughts
and cruisers assembled, with steam up, hardly a score of miles ahead of
them to the north-west.  Signals were flashed back to the flotilla to
give chase to the enemy, and, while keeping him in sight, report his
movements.

Rodney Redisham was in his bunk in the light cruiser _Dauntless_ when
the bugle sounded "General Quarters."  He dressed quickly in his warmest
winter clothing and went up on deck.  There was a film of mist across
the sea.  The air was very cold, and a powder of rime frost lay white
upon the rails, the gun covers, and all upper works.

"The enemy is out!" one of his fellow midshipmen gleefully told him.  "I
believe we have nabbed him, this time."

Every man of the ship’s company was alert and inwardly excited at the
prospect of an engagement. The decks were cleared for action, guns were
loaded; everything was got ready.  Rodney climbed up to the forward
fire-control platform.

From this position he could see the whole of the British battle squadron
as the ships took their places in the line of pursuit, led by the
vice-admiral’s big flagship, the _Saturn_.  She was closely followed by
the _Avenger_, the _Patroclus_, the _Tremendous_, and the
_Auckland_—five formidable floating fortresses, each carrying eight
13.5-inch guns.  Supporting these Dreadnoughts were the _Sarpedon_, the
_Athene_, the _Rutland_, and other light cruisers, escorted by
destroyers.  They were steering to the south-east, working up their
speed to a uniform twenty-five knots.

Word soon came back from the advance scouts that the enemy had turned
tail.  The Germans had rightly judged that a small flotilla of
destroyers would not alone and unsupported give chase to a squadron of
great battleships, but that they were the screen of a larger force.

Admiral von Hilliger had boasted that he was thirsty to come to grips
with the British fleet, but he was less eager now that his valour was
put to the test.  He could bring out a squadron to bombard undefended
towns, but, menaced by an enemy who could hit back, he realised that his
game was up. And so, turning tail, he ran off on a bee line for the
shelter of Heligoland and its protecting mine-fields.

The black smoke from his squadron’s funnels was seen blurring the clean
line of the horizon.  There were about a hundred and twenty miles of
open sea between him and safety, and behind him, like a pack of vengeful
wolves at his heels, rushed an enemy squadron swifter and more
formidable than his own.

And now the British ships, forming into line abreast and avoiding the
immediate wake of the Germans, piled up yet more steam, tearing through
the water with their bows smothered in white spray as their whirling
turbines worked up their speed to the twenty-eight knot gait of which
the slowest vessel was capable.

Long before they came within sight of their quarry, every man was at his
battle station.  All were behind armour: the fire-control parties at
their instruments, the gun-layers with their guns ready to train upon
the first visible target, the hydraulic engines in the turrets pumping
and grunting.

The chase across the Dogger Bank was a long one; but the greater speed
of the British ships steadily lessened the dividing distance, the
confused cloud of smoke gradually separated into distinct plumes, masts
and funnels took shape, and at length the enemy’s hulls loomed into view
and the guns began to speak.

The ranges were sent down from the fire-control platforms, the dials
indicated what projectiles were to be used.  It was each ship to its
kind, Dreadnought against Dreadnought, cruiser against cruiser,
destroyer against destroyer.

The _Saturn_, leading the British line, opened fire upon the _Goethe_,
the slowest and rearmost, as well as the biggest of the German
battleships.  With a crimson flash and a dense burst of smoke from their
muzzles, the two great guns in the flagship’s forward turret thundered
forth, and two monster lyddite shells seemed to tear the very air into
ribbons as they went screeching through the mist with their message of
challenge.

Following the flagship came the mighty _Avenger_, with the _Patroclus_
close on her heels, the _Tremendous_ next, and then the _Auckland_.

Very soon the _Saturn_ overhauled the slow _Goethe_, and in passing gave
her a broadside, which carried away her bridge and caused frightful
damage on board.  But the _Saturn’s_ chosen quarry was far ahead, and
she sped on with ever-increasing speed with the object of bringing to
action the fastest ships of the fugitive enemy.

Already it was obvious that the _Goethe_ was doomed. Each of the British
battleships as she passed gave her a broadside, leaving her to be
finally dealt with by the light cruisers.

The chase had continued for over two hours.  Far in advance, the British
Dreadnoughts were engaged in a fierce running fight with the German
battleships, pounding them incessantly.

The fire of the _Brandenburg_ and the _Lessing_ grew weaker and weaker.
Masses of flames were sweeping their decks, their upper works were a
confusion of wreckage.  All that their commanders could hope for now was
to reach the sanctuary of the German mine-field before their relentless
foes should overtake and totally destroy them.

The third vessel in the German line, the _Mozart_, suffered even more
severely.  She had come under the long-range fire of each of the British
battleships in turn.  One after another her guns had been smashed out of
action until she was silenced and could do no more than steam
desperately for shelter, with the whole of her after-deck ablaze.  Boats
were launched, and many of her people jumped overboard to escape the
awful inferno.

In the meantime, the British flagship was running perilously near to the
German mine-field.  At any moment there might be a terrific explosion
under her keel.  Yet still she went on.  So thick was the air around her
with black oil-smoke and the dense fumes from her guns that she sent out
her signals by flashlight.

One of the _Mozart’s_ crowded lifeboats fell into her track.  Her course
was promptly altered, and there was the curious spectacle of a great
battleship, while firing death and destruction into an enemy, steering
aside to avoid running down one of that enemy’s boats.

To the risk of hitting an explosive mine was added the danger from
several submarines which had come out from Heligoland to cover the
retreat of the battleships.  The U50 was amongst them, and Max Hilliger,
helping Lieutenant Körner, very nearly succeeded in planting a torpedo
in the _Saturn’s_ hull.

The pursuit could not be continued with safety, and accordingly the
three damaged Dreadnoughts were allowed to escape beyond range, while
the _Saturn_ turned her attention to the enemy cruisers in their wake,
working round to head them off and drive them down upon the English
light cruisers hotly pursuing them.

It was while the British flagship was thus engaged that a shell from the
_Wurzburg_ struck her below the water-line, so damaging one of her feed
tanks that her speed was reduced and she was obliged to call for
assistance.  The _Patroclus_ at once took her in tow, and her withdrawal
from the battle enabled the German light cruisers to escape.

There was no ship in the whole of the British squadron which was not at
some time engaged with an opponent; but not one German vessel gave as
much as she received.  Most of them were seriously crippled, and many of
them had the greatest difficulty in limping home.

The fate of the _Goethe_ was sealed from the first. Although she was the
biggest of the German ships, she was at the same time the slowest, and
she had been left behind to bear her own burden unhelped.

The guns of ship after ship had been turned upon her with terrible
effect.  Shells had been poured upon her from all quarters, spreading
devastation on board and death amongst her crew.  It was only the great
strength of her armoured belt which enabled her for so long to withstand
the battering she received from the British heavy guns, and still to
keep afloat.

Her upper works were smashed out of all semblance to the fittings of a
ship.  Amidships, she was a raging furnace; yet she still floated on an
even keel, sinking very slowly, while from her bent and shattered mast
her flag bravely fluttered.

The _Dauntless_ approached her, circling round. From his post in the
fire-control, Rodney Redisham could see the men crowded on the doomed
battleship’s after-decks.  They were waiting for the expected end, all
wearing lifebelts.  Then, as the _Dauntless_ came abreast of her, a
torpedo was fired. It crashed through the thick plates amidships.

The _Goethe_ shuddered, and heeled over until her decks were almost
awash.  There was a sudden roar as she turned on her side.  Then with a
plunge she went to the bottom.

This was the end of the great battle, and the British light cruisers and
destroyers devoted themselves to the work of picking up survivors.

They were thus occupied when a huge airship and a number of aeroplanes
came out from Heligoland. Avoiding the battleships and cruisers, which
might have turned their guns upon them, the aircraft made for the
destroyers and attacked them by dropping bombs into their midst.  The
work of rescue could not be continued under such an attack, and the
destroyers scattered, each with its party of rescued Germans.

None of the British ships had been damaged beyond repair, and the number
of casualties was very small. An officer and fourteen men had been
killed, and three officers and about thirty men were wounded. Greater
speed, greater weight and range of guns, and better marksmanship had
told in favour of the British.

The Germans, indeed, had received a very sound and thorough whipping in
punishment for their attempt to rush over to England and bombard
undefended towns.  But more than all they received a proof of Great
Britain’s invincible power upon the seas.

It was not until many days afterwards that Max Hilliger again met his
uncle in one of the corridors of the German naval headquarters in
Wilhelmshaven.

"Well, my dear Max," began the admiral, "and what is now your opinion of
your friends the English?  We gave them a pretty run for their money,
eh?"

Max nodded, not being quite sure of his uncle’s humour.

"And they appear to have caught you, _mein Herr_," he responded.  "Our
ships have not such speed as theirs.  That is a grave disadvantage."

Admiral von Hilliger shrugged his shoulders.

"In future we shall use oil fuel," he said.  "The necessary alteration
in our machinery will be quite easy."

"Then there is their superiority in guns, sir," ventured Max.  "Their
guns not only throw a heavier shell than ours, but they are also of much
longer range.  I am told that the _Goethe_ was smashed almost to pieces
before she could so much as touch one of the British Dreadnoughts."

"That fault can be remedied," declared the admiral.  "Already we are
having larger guns made. And, remember, we are having many new ships
built. They will have guns such as the English have never dreamt of."

"And in the meantime," said Max, "I suppose our great fleet will lie
idle in the Kiel Canal?"

"In the meantime," rejoined the admiral, "we have our Zeppelins and our
submarines.  Make no mistake, my dear Max, Great Britain’s attempt to
blockade our ports will not affect us in the least. We, on the contrary,
can starve Great Britain.  We shall throw a ring of submarines all round
their wretched islands, so that no single ship can enter or leave their
seaports."

Max smiled.

"They will be equal with us, even then," he boldly declared.  "With
submarines you cannot hope to hold command of the seas.  Besides, to
prey upon merchant shipping—neutral ships as well as British—is not war,
it is rank piracy."

Admiral von Hilliger laughed.

"Piracy?" he repeated.  "In that case, you shall yourself be one of our
pirate chiefs.  You shall fly the Jolly Roger.  But I do not care what
you call yourself so long as you make yourself a terror of the seas.  It
is what His Majesty the Kaiser wishes you to be.  He wishes you to sink
their hateful Dreadnoughts, their troopships, their fishing boats, their
cargo steamers, and even their passenger liners, wherever they can be
found."

Max looked up into his uncle’s puffy blue eyes.

"Their passenger liners?" he repeated in amazement.  "Do you say that
such is the Kaiser’s wish?  But that would be murder!"

"Hush! my dear Max," cried the admiral.  "We must not call it by so
unpleasant a name as that. The whole thing is very different if we call
it simply submarine warfare."

"And suppose I refuse?" demanded Max.

Again Admiral von Hilliger shrugged his shoulders.

"Then you will be arrested for mutiny," he declared coldly.  "And the
penalty for mutiny is death.  Do you understand?  The penalty is an
ignominious death."

Max was silent for some moments.  At last he said:

"I prefer to suffer the penalty."

But already the admiral had turned away, not hearing the words.



                            *CHAPTER XXXI.*

                         *SUBMARINES AT WORK.*


"Glad to see as you’re able to get about again, sir."

Constable Challis, patrolling the esplanade, had come to a halt beside
an invalid’s bath-chair in which old Mr. Croucher sat, gripping an
unopened newspaper in his thin, white fingers.  The bath-chair had been
drawn up against the rail so that the invalid might have an
uninterrupted view of the sea. Not far from it a boy in Sea Scout’s
uniform stood watching a company of Territorials busily digging trenches
on the lower level of the denes.

"It must be quite a couple of months since you was out here last,"
continued the policeman.

"It is just two months and three days," returned Mr. Croucher, leaning
back with a weary sigh.  "It was on the morning after the first Zeppelin
raid, you remember.  Yes, I am much better; but this last attack has
been quite the worst I have known—rheumatism, Challis, rheumatism.  I
should hardly have come out even on a fine morning like this, only that
Seth Newruck, here, kindly offered to wheel my bath-chair, my man having
enlisted."

He paused as if exhausted by so long a speech.

"I see changes, Challis," he resumed.  "Many changes.  Most of the
villas are tenantless.  People are at last realising the danger of an
invasion. Even Mrs. Daplin-Gennery has taken flight.  Where has she
gone, Challis?"

"Buxton, sir," the constable answered.

"Ah, well inland!  The enemy will not reach so far as that until England
is conquered."

"Which isn’t at all likely," added Challis.

"I don’t feel so sure about that," retorted Mr. Croucher.  "Everything
seems to point to the probability that the Germans will land sooner or
later. Look at what the War Office are doing here!  Look at that long
line of trenches and the breastworks. Look at all these soldiers!"

"Yes, sir," nodded the constable, "we’re beginnin’ to look quite
military, aren’t we?"

"Military?  I call it desperately warlike," declared the invalid.
"Those trenches are not being so carefully dug merely to give training
to the Territorials. They are being made for military use.  Such
elaborate defences would be a waste of time and material if there were
not grave danger.  It is clear that the authorities expect them to land
just here."

Constable Challis leant his folded arms on the rail.

"You may take it from me, sir," he said, reassuringly, "that it’s only a
reasonable precaution. The same sort of defence work is going on at
other places—at Buremouth and Eastwold."

But Mr. Croucher shook his head obstinately.

"Not to the same extent, Challis," he insisted. "I am told that there
are twenty thousand soldiers assembled within easy reach of Haddisport.
That is not simple precaution.  It is preparation—preparation for an
armed resistance.  And look at these stockades and redoubts, or whatever
they call them—battlements—fortifications!  Look at the loopholes for
heavy guns, and the sandbags!  I suppose the guns themselves are lying
ready somewhere close at hand, with the shells to fire them with."

"Yes, sir," Challis nodded.  "They are all handy in the grounds of
Sunnydene.  Tons of ’em."

"Dear me, dear me!" said Mr. Croucher in consternation.

Seth Newruck had turned the bath-chair so that its occupant could have a
fuller view of the embrasures and their connecting palisades of
corrugated iron. "It isn’t so very long ago, sir," Seth reminded him
mischievously, "since you argued that there ought to be heavy guns
stationed all along the East Coast.  And now that they are putting up a
few fortifications, you take alarm."

"Alarm?" repeated Mr. Croucher.  "But isn’t it enough to cause alarm?
Why, it’s just as good as an advertisement of the fact that the enemy’s
transports and cruisers may be expected any day, any hour!"

"What amuses me," added Constable Challis, "is that all those packin’
cases which they have filled with sea sand, makin’ them like blocks of
granite, are really fish boxes belongin’ to the Germans themselves.
Before the war they were the property of a firm of German fish curers.
You can read the name of ’Hilliger and Co.’ on every one of ’em!"

"Hilliger?  Ah!" cried Mr. Croucher, "That man Hilliger, I am convinced,
has been working towards this war for years past.  He ought never to
have been allowed to carry on his business in Haddisport.  It was only a
blind—a blind to cover his underhand work of spying and intrigue.  Where
is he now, Challis—do you know?"

"Over in his own country, I suppose," answered the constable.  "But
here’s young Mark Redisham comin’ along.  He knows a lot more about
these things than I do."

Mark Redisham had paused to look out upon the sea at a patrol trawler in
which he appeared to be greatly interested.  When he came nearer and saw
Seth Newruck and the two men he saluted and again paused.

"The enemy seem to have been pretty close," he observed, speaking
especially to his fellow scout.

"Yes," returned Seth.  "It looks as if there were a submarine somewhere
near."

"And it has been doing some damage," rejoined Mark.

"Eh?  What’s that?" interrogated Mr. Croucher. "A German submarine?
Where?  How do you know?"

Mark explained, indicating the trawler.

"Well, sir," he said.  "She’s flying the signal to say so.  That red
flag with the ball beneath it means that there’s a submarine in the
neighbourhood. But as well as that, she has more men in her than her own
crew.  I expect she has rescued them from some ship that the submarine
has torpedoed."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mr. Croucher.  "We shall have no ships left soon if
this sort of thing goes on much longer!  Can’t the navy put a stop to
it?  Even the enemy’s battleships are doing less harm than their
submarines.  It’s simply terrible!"

"Between ourselves," remarked Constable Challis, "it’s nothing but silly
spite and disappointment that makes them sink our ships.  They can’t
touch our cruisers now, so they sneak about sendin’ our merchant vessels
to the bottom.  Yesterday I came upon some boys tryin’ to get at a
bird’s nest.  When they saw they couldn’t manage it, they began to throw
stones at it.  That’s the way the Germans do. Silly spite; that’s all."

Mark Redisham went down the town, keeping step with a battalion of
Territorials marching behind their band.  When he arrived at the harbour
the trawler which he had watched from the cliff was coming in.  She had
picked up sixteen men drifting in open boats.  Their ship, the
_Priscilla_, a cargo steamer bound for one of the northern ports, had
been sunk by an enemy submarine.

Early in the morning the _Priscilla_ had been going under easy steam
when a submarine had come to the surface a little distance away on the
starboard side, hoisting the German flag and signalling to the steamer
to stop.

Instead of obeying, the English captain put on full speed and steered a
zig-zag course with such skill that the submarine soon dropped astern,
unable to keep pace with him or to aim at him with her torpedoes or even
her deck guns.

The captain was congratulating himself and his engineer on their lucky
escape when suddenly a second submarine popped up right in front of his
vessel’s bows.  This time he was obliged to stop his engines, for he saw
a gun rise from its chamber on the submarine’s deck.  Two officers stood
on the platform of the conning-tower.

One of them called out in perfect English, asking where the steamer was
bound for, what was her cargo, and where was the British fleet?

"I’m sorry to cause inconvenience," the German added, "but you must
remember this is war.  I shall have to sink you.  I will give you ten
minutes to get clear of the steamer.  Get as many of your belongings
together as you can and take to your boats."

While the crew were hastily putting their clothing and personal
possessions into their kit bags, and launching the two boats, the
captain was ordered to produce his ship’s papers.  He observed as the
submarine drew alongside that both officers wore the Iron Cross, and
that one of them was hardly more than a boy.

"You can take some food and water with you," said the younger, "and if
you steer north-west you will probably come upon some fishing boats that
may help you."

The crew had rowed a short distance away from their steamer when they
saw a couple of German sailors go on board of her with what looked like
explosive bombs.  A few minutes afterwards they returned empty-handed,
the submarine backed away. There was a loud explosion on board the
_Priscilla_ and she rapidly sank.

The submarine then went off at high speed, and as she did so a couple of
dummy funnels were raised on her deck, false bulwarks at bow and stern
were rigged up, and with a pair of masts and with smoke curling from the
funnels she had all the appearance of a heavily laden steamer.

"You didn’t happen to notice her number, did you, captain?" Arnold
Bilverstone inquired, when the master of the _Priscilla_ was narrating
his experience to the officers in the naval base at Haddisport.

"Well, it was painted over," the captain explained, "and an eye was
painted in its stead.  But under the paint I could make out the raised
figures U50."

"Then the younger of those two officers was Max Hilliger," decided Mark
Redisham; and Mr. Bilverstone agreed.

Later on that same day, or rather in the evening, Mark Redisham was
again at the naval base.  Just at about dusk a wireless message was
received, intimating that two enemy submarines were in the
neighbourhood.

The air was calm and clear and the sea smooth. Half a dozen of the most
powerful telescopes and marine glasses were engaged by as many expert
watchers in sweeping the sea, while at the end of the pier a naval gun
was charged and a crew of experienced marksmen were at the breech ready
to train it on the instant if the Germans’ periscopes should be sighted.

Mark Redisham was the first to discover a ripple on the water some three
miles away, but it was one of the officers who determined that the
ripple was caused by the movement of a half-submerged submarine.  It was
apparently making towards Alderwick Roads, where half a dozen patrol
trawlers lay at anchor.

The light was gradually fading, but the moving target was still visible.
The gun was laid.  For months back, at intervals, it had been brought
into practice upon a mark less easily seen than the one upon which it
was pointed at this moment, and the gunner who now controlled its aim
had never been known to fail.

The lever was pressed.  The shell shrieked forth. Then there was a
terrific explosion which shook the windows of the town as the submarine
was struck and sent to its doom.

An electric launch was sent out to pick up possible survivors, but all
that could be seen was a slimy film of oil on the water’s surface.

From the pier as the boat went out, the periscopes of the second
submarine were sighted, but before the gun could be trained it had
disappeared.



                            *CHAPTER XXXII.*

                          *U50’S WORST CRIME.*


"This second submarine was the U50.

"It’s that naval gun on Haddisport pier that I warned you of," said Max
Hilliger, as the vessel submerged and her electric motors were turned
on.  "We ought not to have come in so close. I believe those
mine-sweepers in the Roads must have discovered us.  Most of them are
fitted with wireless masts.  No, it’s no use trying to rescue our
friends. They couldn’t have escaped after an explosion like that.  We
had better remain submerged and get away from the coast as quickly as we
can."

Lieutenant Körner was inconsolable over the loss of the other submarine.
They had been working in partnership for several days past, sinking
fishing boats more especially and using explosive bombs rather than
wasting expensive torpedoes.

This use of bombs had necessitated the stopping of their intended
victims.  Having stopped and boarded them, there had always come the
difficulty of dealing with their crews.

If you send a torpedo into an enemy ship from a discreet distance there
is no question of sparing life. A submarine could not in any case
encumber herself with prisoners.  But when you have to speak to the
vessel’s skipper and have been polite to him, the matter is different.
Even a German commander can hardly refuse to give him and his ship’s
company a chance of saving their lives.

Max Hilliger was greatly in favour of using bombs. He did not advance
any serious scruples against the destruction of property; but he had
been educated in England, he still retained a sense of honour and
fairness, and he drew the line at taking the lives of innocent and
unoffending seamen.

This was the rock upon which he and Lieutenant Hermann Körner split.
Körner was not burdened with any of his subordinate’s English ideas of
humanity.  He hated the English, and everything British.  Like most
Germans, he had persuaded himself that the war had been begun entirely
by Great Britain; that Germany had never wanted to go to war.  He
resolutely closed his mind to the fact that his country had for many
years been preparing for war, and seeking for a cause to pick a quarrel
with Great Britain so that, being fully prepared, she might fall upon
her and smash her.

Above all, he hated Great Britain because of her supremacy upon the
seas.  She had put a stop to German commerce and held Germany’s great
navy in a firm grip; therefore he considered that it was his highest
patriotic duty to go about stealthily in his submarine destroying
British shipping regardless of whether the ships he sank were armed for
defence or were peaceful, unoffending fishing smacks.

He would have preferred it if all the vessels which came within reach of
his torpedoes were ships of war; so that by sinking them he might lessen
the overpowering strength of the British Navy.

But he had discovered long ago that the British naval officers and
seamen were even more clever in protecting themselves from sudden attack
than the Germans were in taking them by surprise.

Many times the U50 had been taken with other German submarines and
torpedo boats to lie concealed in the narrow seas in the hope of being
able to sink some of our transports carrying troops and munitions across
to France; but they had always been frustrated or outwitted.

Lieutenant Körner found that it was much more easy to lurk submerged in
the tideways of commerce and to attack undefended merchant ships or
fishing boats.  Had not Max Hilliger sometimes opposed him, he would
never have allowed a crew to escape. Max, however, held to one unvarying
argument.

"What we are ordered to do," he declared, "is to help to overcome the
enemy by starvation—preventing their ships from carrying food and other
merchandise into their seaports.  And if we sink the ships and their
cargoes there is no further advantage to be gained by taking also the
lives of their crews.  Give their men at least a chance to escape in
their boats."

Sometimes when the vessel attacked was of little importance, and
especially if she happened to be a neutral, Körner yielded and gave the
crew time to abandon their doomed ship.  But if the vessel were fitted
with wireless masts, if she appeared to be armed, or if she offered any
resistance, he showed no mercy, but came within gun range and opened
fire upon her.  It was only the very large ships against which he fired
a torpedo.  It is of one such exploit that I am now going to tell you.

Leaving the neighbourhood of Haddisport, the U50 crossed the North Sea
and made her secret way down the Dutch coast to Flanders.  Avoiding the
British mine-field and keeping carefully out of the way of the British
naval patrols, she was taken into the German submarine harbour at
Zeebrugge, where she remained for some days, having her instruments
cleaned and tested, her torpedo chambers replenished, and taking in
stores for a long voyage.

Lieutenant Körner behaved rather mysteriously towards Max Hilliger
during this time.  He had many consultations with staff officers and
with the commanders of other submarines, and refused to inform Max what
was in the wind.  All that he would admit was the fact that they were
going out under sealed orders, which were not to be opened until they
should reach a point somewhere to the westward of Land’s End.

The point indicated on their chart was in the midst of the Scilly
Islands.  Here, on a certain very dark night, the U50 lay motionless in
a calm channel, with only the upper part of her conning-tower above the
surface, hardly distinguishable from the surrounding rocks.  Hermann
Körner was on watch with a pair of powerful binoculars.

"You appear to be expecting something," remarked Max Hilliger from
below.  "There can be no enemy ships in a dangerous corner like this."

"It is for that reason that I am watching," returned Körner.  "Since
there can be no enemy near, it is safe for us to enter into
communication with our friends."

"Spies, I suppose," conjectured Max, peering upward through the
darkness.

"Ah!" exclaimed Körner.  "At last; I was searching in the wrong
direction."

He drew an electric torch from his pocket and began to flash it.  It was
a wan, green light, which could not have been seen from a great
distance. Körner returned the torch to his pocket, closed the trap door
of the conning-tower, and descended into the cabin, humming the air of a
German folk-song.

"Well?" said Max.

"It is all right," nodded Körner.  "You can enjoy a good sleep, my
friend.  You will need it; because for some days and nights to come it
is probable we shall both require to have very good eyesight."

Max turned into his bunk, but did not at once fall asleep.  The intense
silence and darkness kept him wakeful.  He would much rather have been
listening to the busy humming of the electric engines. At about midnight
he turned on his pillow and spoke.

"Hermann!" he called.

There was no answer.  He lay listening, and from one of the distant
compartments there came to him the faint tap-tapping sound of the
wireless instrument.  It was too faint for him to hear distinctly enough
to follow the message; and just as he was beginning to catch a word here
and there, it stopped, and there was a long interval of silence, during
which he fell asleep, not to be awakened again until late on the
following morning.  The petrol engines were at work, a dim gleam of
daylight came in through the thick glass of an uncovered skylight. A
servant was busy laying breakfast on the little table in the middle of
the cabin.

"We are under weigh, then?" cried Max, speaking to the man in German.

"_Ja, mein Herr_.  Since eight o’clock."

Max glanced up at the tell-tale compass above the table, and saw that
the course was due west.

"It is the direction of America, _mein Herr_," said the servant,
following his glance.

Max dressed and went out on deck.  The dummy funnels and the false
bulwarks were raised.  There was a ragged red ensign flying from the
mast.  No land was in sight, and the sea was clear of shipping; but in
the wake he presently discovered the swiftly moving periscopes of two
other submarines. Lieutenant Körner was on deck, but there were seamen
about, and Max suppressed his desire to go up to him and question him.

When they were alone together at breakfast, however, he leant across the
table and said:

"Is there any particular reason why I should not know something of our
destination, Herr Körner? I see that there are two others of our
undersea boats in our company.  Our purpose, whatever it is, must
therefore be of importance."

"If it succeeds," returned Körner, breaking the top of an egg, "it will
be the biggest, most important thing we have ever done, or are ever
likely to do. It will send a thrill of astonishment over the whole
world.  It will prove that the Kaiser’s brave submarines are more
powerful weapons than any dreadnought that ever was built."

"You amaze me," said Max.  "I do not understand. I cannot guess.  We are
making a course westward, leaving England behind.  We appear to be going
out into the Atlantic Ocean.  It is not there that we shall find any
British battleships."

Lieutenant Körner laughed.

"Let us hope not," he rejoined.  "No, my dear friend.  Believe me, it is
not battleships that we seek."

"What then?" cried Max, nervously clutching at the edge of the table.
"You do not mean—you cannot mean—that it is your intention to try to
sink an Atlantic liner!"

"Well guessed!" laughed Körner.  "We shall torpedo her—a great liner—the
greatest liner—the _Ruritania_."

Max Hilliger leapt from his chair.

"What?" he cried.  "Impossible!  You cannot be serious."

"I was never more serious in my life," Körner assured him.  "I tell you
we are going to lie in her track—we and our two companion submarines. We
shall station ourselves at three different points, one of which she must
surely pass.  And then, when she comes in sight, we shall creep nearer,
unseen, unsuspected, and wait until she draws within range, when we
shall take careful aim, making no mistake; and send our torpedoes into
her.  You see, it is war, my dear child; it is war."

Max Hilliger had turned suddenly pale; his eyes were staring wildly, his
hands trembled.

"War?" he repeated.  "Do you call it an act of war to sink a great
steamship like that—a ship carrying no protective armour, no defensive
guns, a ship crowded with innocent passengers, not all English, many of
them Americans no doubt, probably scores of women and children.  War?
War? That is not war, Hermann Körner.  It would have no excuse, no
justification.  It would be crime, I tell you—a horrible, fiendish
crime.  It would be murder."

Lieutenant Körner looked up at him with his egg-spoon poised.

"Calm yourself, my friend," he urged.  "Call it what you will, that has
nothing to do with you or with me.  It is our part to do our duty by
obeying our orders.  And we have orders to sink this _Ruritania_.  We
shall obey."

Max shrugged his shoulders and sat down again, but not to eat.

"Oh, well!" he said presently.  "After all, I need not distress myself
perhaps.  Her owners, her captain, her passengers have been warned.  We
shall not even see her.  She will steam by another way, and even then be
escorted by British cruisers. Otherwise—if I thought there was the
merest chance of your doing this horrible thing—I should ask you to put
me ashore on the nearest land, or I should pray that we ourselves should
be sent to the bottom of the sea."

All the rest of that day and through the next night, while the U50 went
on her way to take up her appointed position on the steamship route, Max
Hilliger thought and brooded, wondering by what possible means he could
avert the contemplated crime, even by the sacrifice of his own life.

He wondered if he could open some valve so that the submarine should
never again rise to the surface; if he could secretly smash or disable
some important piece of mechanism, or jam the torpedo tubes. But all the
time he knew that if he should attempt such a thing there still remained
the other two submarines, either of which might succeed where Hermann
Körner had failed.

At length the appointed position was reached. The commander occupied
himself in making calculations of time and distance.  Again and again he
examined his instruments and controls, again and again he went through a
rehearsal of every act and movement which would be put into practice
when, if at all, the fatal moment arrived.  Had Max Hilliger tried to
disable any of the mechanism he could not have succeeded, so carefully
was everything watched, so constantly was he himself kept under
observation.

He contrived as often as he could to be in the conning-tower; but Körner
and the quarter-master were usually at the periscopes, and Max could
only watch the two men, hoping, always hoping, that they would discover
no sign of the expected liner.  By their hardly suppressed excitement he
knew that should she be keeping to her usual course and time, she was
already due.

Suddenly Lieutenant Körner ordered "diving stations."  The tanks were
filled—the vessel was submerged, and she sped through the dark depths at
the fullest speed of her electric motors for about a quarter of an hour,
when she again rose.  Telegraph signals were rung.  The torpedo tubes
were charged.

"Is it the _Ruritania_?" Max panted.  He saw that the moment had come.

"Yes.  Quick!  Get down into the torpedo chamber."

Instead of obeying the command, Max Hilliger snatched his loaded
automatic pistol from his belt and leapt like a maddened animal at the
commander.

"Stop!" he shouted.  "Stop!  Touch that lever and I will shoot you!"  He
flung himself forward, but a blow from the quarter-master’s fist struck
him in the face and he wheeled round, lost his balance, and fell.  The
pistol dropped from his grasp.  His brain reeled, yet half consciously
he heard the command given: "Fire!"  He felt the vessel give a jump as
the torpedo left its tube.  From somewhere far away he heard a deep,
dull explosion.  Then, as a second torpedo was discharged, he came to
his fuller senses.

"It is done!" cried Lieutenant Körner with an exultant laugh as he drew
back from his periscope.

Max Hilliger had risen to his knees.  He had seized his fallen pistol
and now he levelled the weapon at the commander.

"God forgive me," he murmured.  "But it is less than you deserve."

And with that he pressed the trigger, firing point blank at a spot
beside the Iron Cross on his companion’s breast.

Hermann Körner flung up his arms, tumbled backward, and lay upon the
grating very still.

Dropping his weapon, Max stepped over him and made his way to the
periscope.  Trembling from head to foot, he yet controlled himself
sufficiently to bend over the instrument to adjust its disturbed focus.
Reflected in the mirror he saw the image of an immense Atlantic liner
with four red funnels, and many decks crowded with people.  Her whole
vast fabric was heeling over.  She seemed to have been struck by the
torpedo somewhere amidships.

"How awful!" he exclaimed.

He turned to look once again at the commander lying dead at his feet.

"God forgive me," he repeated.  "But it is less than you deserve."



                           *CHAPTER XXXIII.*

                    *MAX RENOUNCES THE FATHERLAND.*


Max Hilliger was now alone in the submarine’s conning-tower and in
charge of its controls.  He was shaking violently as he began to realise
the horror of what he had done.

He had deliberately fired a bullet into the heart of his superior
officer, who had also been his companion and his friend.  It was a
terrible thing to have done; yet he believed that the act was justified.
He only regretted that he had not committed it sooner, before Hermann
Körner had had time to give the fatal command for the discharging of the
torpedo.

Had he done so, had he fired his shot at the right instant, how many
hundreds of precious lives he might have saved!  He would have had no
haunting regrets in taking one man’s life, if by taking it he had been
able to prevent a far greater crime.

What he had seen in the mirror of the periscope was far more awful than
the sight of Hermann Körner’s dead body.  That the great liner was
doomed he could have no possible doubt.  He had heard the explosion as
the torpedo struck its intended mark.  He had seen the immense vessel
heeling over, the passengers thronging her decks and scrambling for the
boats.

There were no other ships in sight to rush to the rescue.  He, Max
Hilliger, himself, could do nothing to help.  Even if the U50 had been
capable of picking up survivors, he was well aware that, in spite of
their peril, there was not a soul in that sinking leviathan who would
accept help from a German submarine.

Steadying himself, he took Lieutenant Körner’s place and gave the
command for the U50 to dive. Below in the engine-room they seemed not to
have heard the sharp report of his automatic pistol, or, if they had
heard it, they probably attributed the sound to some ordinary and
innocent cause.  But at length the quarter-master, who had been occupied
in the torpedo chamber, climbed up the communication hatch to inquire
into the result of the attempt upon the great liner.

"What luck, Herr Körner?" he cried excitedly. "We have struck her—yes?"
He crawled into the conning-tower and at the top of the ladder stumbled
over the body of the dead commander.  "_Ach!_" he ejaculated in
consternation.  "What is this? What is this?"

The submarine was going down at a sharp angle, propelled by her electric
motors.  Max Hilliger remained at his post to give the signal when she
should be deep enough, and to control the steering gear.

By the light from an electric bulb the quartermaster saw the commander’s
body lying grimly motionless at his feet.  At first he believed it was
Max Hilliger, but he was quickly undeceived. Hilliger was still at work
among the instruments and switches where a few minutes earlier Hermann
Körner had been.  And now Hermann Körner lay dead!

"There has been an accident?" the quartermaster questioned in agitation.
"How did it happen, Herr Hilliger?"

Max Hilliger rang the telegraph indicator to the engine-room, he
adjusted the rudders, and turned round to answer nervously and in a
trembling voice:

"No.  It was not an accident.  I have killed him. I need not tell you
why.  You know.  You heard me warn him that if he touched that lever I
would shoot him.  You had better send up one of the other officers to
take command and make me your prisoner. I will suffer the punishment for
what I have done."

The quarter-master glanced swiftly at the dead officer and then back
again at Hilliger.  "You killed him!" he cried in amazement.  "You!"

He was staring at the Iron Cross on the midshipman’s breast.  Max was
conscious of the fixed gaze, and his hand went up to the decoration.  He
gripped it in his fingers, and tearing it off, threw the medal
contemptuously from him.

"But he was your friend," continued the quartermaster. "He was your
superior officer.  He was doing his duty to the Fatherland.  He was
obeying his orders!"

"He was not bound to obey an order to take the lives of hundreds of
innocent people—peaceful, unarmed travellers," Max objected warmly.

"But you did not prevent him," rejoined the quarter-master.  "The
torpedo was discharged.  I, myself, discharged it."

"Yes, unfortunately it was discharged."  Max nodded gravely.  "It was
discharged, and it struck the target at which it was aimed.  Even at
this moment that great ship is sinking and her passengers and crew are
struggling to save themselves."

"That is good," said the quarter-master with a chuckle of satisfaction.
"It is a blow from which our English enemies will not soon recover.  The
whole world will now know that our enterprising submarines are more
powerful than all Great Britain’s boasted battleships."  He returned to
the engine-room and told his expectant companions that the mighty
Atlantic liner had been sent to the bottom.  They cheered noisily and
started singing, and their singing and cheering only ceased when they
learned that their commander was dead.

Many of them deserted their stations to make a rush at Max Hilliger.
They called him an assassin, a traitor.  They declared that he was at
heart a contemptible Englishman, and that he ought never to have been
allowed to enter the Kaiser’s navy.

But while they clamoured for his life they realised that in their
present situation they could not well do without him.  There was only
one other of their officers capable of assuming the command and
navigating them home—a sub-lieutenant named Adolf von Wiebe.  It was
necessary, therefore, that Max Hilliger should continue to act as an
officer, taking watch and watch about with Lieutenant von Wiebe, until
they should join the main fleet beyond Heligoland, and hand him over for
punishment.

"In the meantime," said Lieutenant von Wiebe, "you will consider
yourself under arrest."

"Naturally," returned Max.  "And you need not suppose that I wish to
escape the penalty for what I have done.  I told Hermann Körner that if
he fired that torpedo I would shoot him.  Instead of warning him I ought
to have shot him as soon as I knew that the liner had come in sight.  It
was he who was the murderer, not I."

"He did his duty," argued Wiebe.  "He obeyed his instructions.  It was
to sink that liner that we came out here into the open sea.  The whole
thing was planned and arranged weeks ago.  The owners of the ship were
warned.  The passengers were told before they left America that they
would sail in that steamer at their own risk.  The captain could have
escaped us if he had taken a different course. Why did not the British
Navy protect her by sending a cruiser convoy with her?"

"Because," Max reported, "the British Navy trusted that Germany had
still a little honour and humanity left, and that no German submarine
commander would be so brutal and cowardly as to fire a torpedo into an
unarmed passenger steamer, carrying neutral Americans and women and
little children.  But that is where Great Britain and all other
civilised nations have made the mistake.  They have given Germany more
credit than she deserved. She has no honour and no humanity, but only
deceit and falsehood and cruelty."

"Be careful what you are saying," cautioned Lieutenant von Wiebe.
"Remember that we are at war, and that our whole existence as a nation
depends upon our conquest of Great Britain."

"War?" rejoined Max.  "But war has its laws as well as peace.  We
Germans have broken those laws.  Our enemies—Russia, France, and Great
Britain—are playing the game fairly and honestly; but we are not.  You
know this as well as I do, only you shut your eyes to it all.  From the
very start, when we invaded Belgium, we’ve been worse than savages,
robbing and murdering peaceful citizens, destroying their beautiful
cathedrals, wrecking their homes.  We’ve gone out of our way to bombard
unfortified towns; we’ve hit below the belt. When we couldn’t break
through our enemies’ lines, we have forced them back by using poison
gas; when we’ve been too cowardly to engage their battleships in open
fight we have sunk their merchant vessels and helpless fishing boats.
And now there is this greatest crime of all—the sinking of the
_Ruritania_.  I tell you, Adolf, I am sick of it all, and I hope, as I
firmly believe, that Germany will be beaten."

Adolf von Wiebe forced himself to laugh.

"You are hoping for the impossible," he said. "Germany can never be
beaten.  Do you think that we have been preparing for this war all these
years only to be defeated in the end?  Why, this very sinking of the
liner—one of the biggest ships that ever sailed the seas—is a proof of
our power.  As for Great Britain—she is not worth talking about. You,
who have lived in England, should know better than to imagine that she
could have a ghost of a chance against so mighty an empire as ours!
Sooner than you suppose, Great Britain will have ceased to exist."

"It is because I have lived in England that I am so sure that she will
be victorious," persisted Max. "And if I could escape——"

"Escape?  Escape from a submarine?  Oh, no, I shall see to it that you
don’t escape, my fine fellow!  You are as safe here as if you were
imprisoned in a fortress.  And since you cannot escape, there is no need
to put you in irons.  I will allow you to continue with your duties,
and, notwithstanding your silly prejudices and scruples, I shall trust
you not to put any obstacles in our way when it is a question of sinking
a few more ships.  We still have some torpedoes left, and I intend to
use them."

"We shall need more petrol," Max told him sullenly.

"That will be forthcoming," returned Lieutenant von Wiebe.  "A supply
ship will meet us."

"Where?" Max asked.

"Never mind where.  It is perhaps as well that you should be kept in
ignorance of the situation."

Max could only very vaguely guess at the course which the U50 was now
taking.  He was not allowed to handle the charts or to know more than
the general direction as indicated by the compass, which usually pointed
northward.

As previously arranged, the submarine’s two consorts separated from her
when the _Ruritania_ had been dealt with.  Their instructions were that
they were to proceed across the Bay of Biscay and through the Straits of
Gibraltar into the Mediterranean to attack British and French warships
operating in the Dardanelles; but the U50 had not been fitted for so
long a voyage.

As much as possible she was kept submerged, or with only her periscopes
above the surface.  No ships were chased or attacked.  It seemed to Max
that it was the purpose of Lieutenant von Wiebe to get as far away as
possible from the scene of the foundering of the _Ruritania_, and to
avoid all accidents which might bring him under suspicion of having been
concerned in that disaster.

Once, when the submarine was passing abreast of a wild, rocky coast, Max
was at the periscope. In the mirror he saw reflected the grey shape of a
small British cruiser lying at anchor within easy torpedo range.

In ordinary circumstances he would have rejoiced at the opportunity of
doing damage to an enemy ship; he would instantly have commanded the
crew to their firing stations and manoeuvred to take aim.

But now he told himself that, as he was practically a condemned
prisoner, a mutineer who had disavowed his loyalty to Germany, it was no
longer a part of his duty even to report the fact that the cruiser was
within striking distance.  So he kept silent, and the U50 proceeded on
her secret way, and Max Hilliger was never suspected of his duplicity.

On the following morning he heard the chief engineer announcing to the
commander that they were becoming perilously short of petrol.
Lieutenant von Wiebe showed no concern.

"Within two hours," he said, "we shall be in touch with the supply ship.
We will creep into one of these bays and get into communication with our
wireless."

And in the stated time the Marconi aerials were at work.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV.*

                           *THE SUPPLY SHIP.*


The British cruiser which Max Hilliger had seen through the periscope of
the U50 was H.M.S. _Dauntless_.  She had been on coast patrol duty for
some days in northern waters, watching for neutral ships and boarding
them to examine their papers and inquire into the nature of their
cargoes.

Most of them had given a satisfactory account of themselves, and had
been allowed to pass on to their intended destinations.  But one of
them, an old green-painted barque flying the Swedish flag, had at once
aroused suspicion by the fact that she was fitted with wireless aerials.

A shot was fired across her bow, and she shortened sail.  Captain Damant
sent a boat aboard of her in charge of a second lieutenant, who was
accompanied by Midshipman Rodney Redisham.

Rodney Redisham read the name _Olaf Triggvason_ on the vessel’s side,
but he did not take any great interest in her while he waited for the
lieutenant’s return into the boat.  The examination seemed to take an
unusually long time, and he wondered if anything contraband had been
discovered.

Presently the lieutenant appeared in the open gangway, and began to
signal back by semaphore to the _Dauntless_.  Rodney understood the
message that was sent.  It was that a quantity of naphtha and benzine
had been discovered in the barque’s cargo; that the captain was a
German, and that his secret purpose was to supply a German submarine,
which he confessed that he expected.

An answer came back from the cruiser:

"Stay where you are, and we will come alongside."

The _Dauntless_ steamed slowly up, and the German captain was taken on
board of her as a prisoner, to be interrogated by Captain Damant.
Shortly afterwards the whole of the crew were taken off and sent below
into the seamen’s quarters.

The proceedings were quite unusual, and Rodney Redisham did not
understand them.  Enlightenment came to him, however, when, instead of
the barque’s own crew, the same number of British seamen dressed up in
the foreigners’ clothes were put on board the _Olaf_.  He himself was
ordered to exchange his midshipman’s uniform for canvas breeches and an
engineer’s jumper.  Two lieutenants were similarly disguised, and put in
command of the barque.

Rodney began to experience the excitement of a prospective adventure.
The excitement was increased when three machine guns were transferred
from the _Dauntless_ to the decks of the _Olaf Triggvason_.

When all was ready the cruiser steamed away and the barque’s sails were
braced.  Her German captain, under pressure, had given the bearings of
the spot near which he had been instructed to lie in wait for the
submarine, and for this spot the course was set.

It was in a secluded bay between two barren headlands, far away from any
habitation.  Outside this bay the vessel tacked to and fro and back and
forth; but there was no sign of any submarine.

At the end of the first day the senior lieutenant shook his head and
declared his belief that the German captain had deceived them.  He
anchored, knowing that no submarine would expect to find the ship in
darkness.  But at dawn he again set sail, and cruised within a radius of
about a dozen miles. Returning towards the headlands at noon he was
about to tack out again when his Marconi operator called him below.
Some ship was trying to open communications.

The lieutenant went to the instrument-room, and a message came to him in
international code asking the name of his ship.  He purposely delayed
his answer until the question had been repeated several times, then,
giving the name of the ship, he added a guarded question in German.

There was no response for a long time; but he waited patiently, and at
length a series of searching questions came to him as though they were
from a British warship, demanding to know his exact position and
destination and the nature of his cargo.

He knew perfectly well that there was no British warship, excepting the
_Dauntless_, within twenty miles of him, but he answered with all the
cunning which would enable his questioner to understand that the way was
clear.  Already he was convinced that he was speaking with the commander
of a German submarine, and at length came the message:

"All right.  I am the U50.  I am short of oil. Stay where you are, and I
will come alongside you within an hour."

That hour gave the lieutenant ample time in which to prepare a surprise
for his expected visitor, to keep his men out of sight beside their
concealed guns, and to place the ship in such a position that the guns
would cover the submarine when it should rise to the surface and come
alongside.  He kept the Swedish flag flying, but had a British ensign
ready to take its place at the appropriate moment.

Rodney Redisham, leaning lazily over the rail at the break of the poop,
was the first to discover the movement of the submarine’s periscope
along the sea’s ruffled surface.  It was approaching on the starboard
side.  He reported to the lieutenant, and the helm was put over, so that
the barque fell off the wind and lay with her sails swaying empty.  The
side gangway was opened.  Then the submarine, drawing nearer, rose to
the surface until her whole length was visible from stem to stern.

Lieutenant von Wiebe and the quarter-master stepped out on the
conning-tower platform, and a gang of seamen emerged from the forward
hatchway to be ready to take in the new supply of oil.

As they drew closer, steering to come alongside, Wiebe shouted a
greeting to the _Olaf Triggvason_, and a couple of English sailors,
looking very like Germans, climbing up the main shrouds, waved their
arms and cried aloud:

"Hoch!  Hoch!"

Slowing down, the submarine drifted nearer, until only a few yards of
clear, green water separated her from the barque.  More of her crew
clambered out upon her long, narrow deck, with Max Hilliger in their
midst.

Max had discarded his naval uniform.  He was barefooted and bareheaded,
and wore only a pair of greasy serge trousers and a grey flannel shirt.

Suddenly the Swedish flag was hauled down from the barque’s mizzen, and
the British ensign was run up in its place.  From the opening of the
gangway the shining barrel of a machine-gun was thrust out, two
machine-guns appeared between gaps in the poop rail, and along the
starboard bulwarks half a dozen British bluejackets levelled their
rifles at the German commander and his men.  The senior lieutenant, no
longer disguised, but in the honourable uniform of a British officer,
stood forward at the gangway.

"You will surrender, or I shall sink you," he commanded calmly, as if he
were merely giving instructions as to how the submarine should come
closer alongside.

Adolf von Wiebe shrank back like an animal at bay, and glanced
agitatedly from side to side for a means of escape.  But there was none.
He could not submerge; he could not take flight.  It was useless to
think of fighting, and the three quick-firing guns, as well as half a
dozen rifles, were levelled menacingly at his ship and his men and
himself.  It is clear that he had no alternative but to yield.

He shrugged his shoulders in abject despair.

"_Ja wohl_," he responded, with a forced laugh. "You ’ave shove me in
ver’ difficult corner, _mein Herr_.  It is no good.  Ze game is hup.  I
surrender. I mek ze salute."

Drawing his bare feet together and standing very upright, he raised his
hand to his cap in formal German fashion, and his crew, one and all,
followed his example.

"And now, vot next, if you please?" he asked.

"You will bring your crew on board here," he was told.  "Within an hour
a British cruiser will be with us to take possession of your submarine."

Ropes were thrown across, and when a gang plank was in place the thirty
German prisoners marched disconsolately on board the barque.

The last in the file was Max Hilliger.  As he passed by Rodney Redisham
he gave a start of recognition.

"Hullo!" he cried, lifting his hand to his forehead.  "I’m glad to see
an English face again—one that I know.  You have outwitted us this time
very cleverly, but quite honestly.  The English are always honest.  They
always play the game."  And, lowering his voice, he added, "I wish I
could say the same of the Germans."

"But you oughtn’t to be disloyal to your own people," said Redisham.

"I can’t help it," returned Max, standing in front of the midshipman.
"I’ve been mistaken in them all along, and I’ve had enough of them.  You
see, I went to school in England, and that has made a heap of
difference."

"Yes, and you became a Sea Scout," nodded Redisham, slowly putting out
his hand.

Max Hilliger looked down at it, and shook his head.

"That’s just like you," he said, "offering to shake hands with a beaten
enemy.  You’re very good, but I can’t do it.  I am not worthy to take
the hand of an English gentleman.  My own isn’t clean enough."

He was remembering what had happened in the conning-tower of the
submarine.  He was remembering how he had taken part in many an act of
piracy against British ships, and his heart was heavy with remorse.  He
turned away, and walked aft.  Rodney Redisham watched him, and wondered
if his apparent humility were genuine.

Max Hilliger made his way to the poop, climbed the companion ladder, and
continued his way to the taffrail.  For a moment it seemed to Redisham
that he was about to fling himself overboard, and so escape the payment
as a prisoner of war.

Max turned and strode back to the binnacle, stood beside it, and then
lifted his eyes to the ensign fluttering proudly in the breeze.  He
glanced round to assure himself that he was not being watched, and then,
alone and, as he believed, unseen, he raised his hand to the salute.



                            *CHAPTER XXXV.*

                          *PRISONERS OF WAR.*


"Hurry up, Newruck, or we shall not get out of harbour until this ship
comes in.  Bring along that hamper."

Scoutmaster Arnold Bilverstone was taking the Lion Patrol out for a two
days’ cruise in their cutter. They had intended to be away for a week,
but Mark Redisham and Darby Catchpole could not spare so much time.
They had both been appointed to a new trawler to go on active service.
They were not supposed to talk about it, but the whole patrol knew that
the destination of their two lucky companions was the Dardanelles, where
they were to engage in the work of sweeping for German and Turkish
mines.

Naturally they were very much envied.  They would cross the Bay of
Biscay, and see the Rock of Gibraltar.  They would steam the whole
length of the Mediterranean, and perhaps even go as far as
Constantinople.  There were glorious possibilities in the adventure, but
more than all was the chance they would have of really helping in the
war and watching the _Queen Elizabeth_ firing her great fifteen-inch
guns into the Turkish forts.

Compared with such prospects, a trip in the _Be Prepared_ was a very
small affair indeed.

"I’m afraid we are too late already, sir," said Darby Catchpole, looking
out through the harbour mouth to where a panting tug boat was bringing
in a strange-looking, green-painted barque.

Mark Redisham followed his glance.

"She’s a foreigner," he decided, "and yet she’s flying the British flag!
How’s that?  Hullo! look, Mr. Bilverstone!  There’s a naval officer on
her poop deck, and there are some of our bluejackets among her crew."

Mr. Bilverstone was so much interested in the vessel that he stepped out
on to the quay and strode along towards the end of the pier.  Presently
he signalled to the Scouts to join him.

"I expect she’s been captured," he said, as the barque came nearer.
"Perhaps she has been caught carrying contraband of war."

The tug glided in between the piers, and as the barque followed at the
end of the towing warp Mark read the name _Olaf Triggvason_ on her
green-painted side.  Looking down on her main deck he saw a crowd of
foreign sailors lying or seated on the hatch cover, guarded by armed
bluejackets.  Some of them looked like officers; others were dressed as
naval seamen.

"Prisoners of war," said Mr. Bilverstone.

Then he leant forward more eagerly.  One of the prisoners, the youngest
and most ragged of the lot, had stood up on the hatch cover.  He looked
across at the group on the quay, and smiled wanly as he raised his hand
to the Scout’s salute.

"Why, it’s Max Hilliger!" cried Darby Catchpole. "And the others must be
his shipmates off the submarine!  Let us wait and see them brought
ashore."

The _Olaf Triggvason_ was warped alongside the pier before being taken
through the bridge into the inner harbour.  Officers from the naval base
went aboard.  As soon as it became known in the port that a captive ship
had been brought in many of the townspeople thronged to the pier, but
Police-constable Challis drove them back, and a barrier was drawn
across.

In the meantime, Midshipman Rodney Redisham had stepped ashore from the
barque to greet his brother Mark.

"So you’ve sunk a submarine?" said Mark.

"We may have captured one," returned Rodney.

"It was the U50 of course," pursued Mark. "You’ve got Max Hilliger a
prisoner.  It’s a good thing to have put an end to the U50.  She’s done
a lot of damage one way and another."

"Most of the German submarine commanders have tried to do that," said
Rodney.  "I suppose it was their duty.  You can’t blame the officers.
They’ve got to obey their sailing orders."

"What, even when they’re told to sink such a ship as the _Ruritania_?"
questioned Darby Catchpole.

"Oh, but Max Hilliger was never concerned with a crime like that!"
declared Mark Redisham.

"I should hope not," added his brother.  "From what I know of him I
believe he’d sooner go on strike than have a hand in sinking any but
enemy ships of war.  But, of course, we’ve never asked them any
questions."

He paused for a moment, and then added:

"I’ve had several talks with Max Hilliger, and he isn’t a bad sort of
chap at heart.  He’s a German, but I believe he’d much rather fight for
our King than for the Kaiser."

"Strictly between ourselves," interposed Constable Challis, "I don’t
think he’ll have a chance of fightin’ for either."

"Ah, they’re being brought ashore now!" said Mr. Bilverstone.  "I expect
they’re going off by the 3-20 train to one of the concentration camps.
Attention, Scouts!"

The troop stood in line, and as the prisoners marched by, Max Hilliger
walked with his head bowed and his hand raised to his cap.  Suddenly he
stopped and looked round at his former companions.

"It’s jolly good of you chaps not to mock and jeer at me," he said
bravely; "but I may tell you that I am glad to be here—back again in
England. And—and," he stammered, "God save the King."





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