The men hurried aft to obey, Frank and Jack in the meantime giving their attention to lowering the boats. This done, all leaped in and rowed in the general direction of the foe.
Upon Jack's suggestion, Frank and Edwards rowed some distance ahead before pointing the nose of their little craft toward where they believed the enemy to be, and then rowed a considerable distance.
"We should be beyond her now," declared Frank, after some further rowing. "We'll double back a bit."
They did so; and five minutes later a dark shape loomed up beside them, so close almost, that Frank could have thrown a rock aboard.
"Cease rowing!" Frank commanded, laying down his own oars.
Edwards did likewise.
"Get your rifle ready," Frank instructed.
"Now," said Frank, "the first man you see show himself aboard that craft, pick him off. I'll wait for the second one."
"Very well, sir," replied Edwards quietly.
He brought his rifle to bear upon the deck of the enemy and sat quietly, waiting, as the little boat bobbed gently up and down with the swell of the sea.
And he had not long to wait.
A dark shadow appeared aboard the enemy and Edwards and Frank caught the faint glow of a cigar or cigarette as the man puffed upon it. The light from this made his face plainly visible.
"A very indiscreet sort of a gentleman," remarked Edwards. "Here goes, sir."
He pressed the trigger.
A howl of pain rewarded this effort and Edwards smiled grimly to himself.
"Got him," he said cheerfully.
The sound of the rifle brought another figure to the deck. Now it was Frank's turn and he acted instantly. Again there was a faint report and the second man toppled over.
"Two," said Frank quietly.
"Right, sir!" replied Edwards. "All ready for another, sir."
"I guess the next will be along in a minute," said Frank dryly. "Besides, it's about time for Jack and Williams to take a hand in the game."
"Wouldn't want to leave them out all together, would we, sir," grinned Edwards.
"I should say not," replied Frank.
"No, sir; they wouldn't like that."
They waited patiently, but ten minutes passed and no other form appeared aboard the enemy.
"Guess Jack is playing a waiting game on the other side," muttered Frank. "Now, I wonder——"
There came an abrupt interruption to his thoughts.
"Throw up your hands!" came a sharp voice from behind, a trifle to the right. "Surrender or you are dead men!"
JACK TO THE RESCUE.
Frank and Edwards both whirled hurriedly; and not a fathom's length away rode a second small boat; and standing forward were two men, their revolvers levelled directly at the heads of our friends.
"Up they go, Edwards," said Frank quietly, dropping his rifle and suiting the action to the word. "It's no use; they've got the drop on us."
"They have, sir," agreed Edwards.
His rifle also fell to the bottom of the boat with a clatter and his hands went in the air.
"Good!" said one of the men in the other boat. "You will please keep your hands where they are." He turned to his companion. "Fritz, you row closer, while I keep them covered."
The latter obeyed and soon the two boats scraped.
"Now you will please come aboard my boat," ordered their captor, still keeping them covered. "One false move and you are dead men. Come quickly now."
Frank realized there was no hope for it, so he obeyed without a word. Edwards followed suit.
"Take your places forward there," commanded their captor.
The prisoners obeyed.
"Very good. Now, Fritz, row to the boat."
The latter dipped his oars in the water and the rowboat moved toward the motorboat, at which Frank and Edwards had so recently fired. There the first captor—the man who seemed to be in command—ordered Frank and Edwards over the side.
"Quick, now!" he commanded.
Frank climbed aboard first and as he rose to his feet there was the sound of a shot and the lad felt a bullet whistle past his ear. He dropped to the deck.
"Great Scott! I forgot about Jack being out there," he muttered. "He almost picked me off that time." He raised his voice in a shout. "Hey, Jack! quit that! It's me, Frank! We are prisoners!"
A moment later Edwards clambered over the side of the motorboat and this time there was no shot. Frank felt sure that Jack had heard him and understood the situation.
Now their two captors came quickly over the side and the first turned upon Frank.
"Who were you shouting to?" he demanded.
"Oh, just a friend of mine," replied Frank, with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "He's out there," and the lad waved an arm across the water.
"And what's he doing out there?"
"The same thing we were doing when you found us. Trying to get you fellows."
"Oh, I see," was the reply. "You had us between two fires, eh. It's lucky we put off before you got so close. We heard firing and came back to have a look around."
"Then that's the way you spotted us, eh?" said Frank. "I didn't think you could have got off without my seeing you."
The man made no reply to this, but turned quickly to the other.
"We'll have to get away from here at once, Fritz. Take the wheel."
The latter sprang aft with alacrity, while the first man leaned down and began to tinker with the engine. Frank took a quick step forward and seemed about to leap upon his captor, but the latter turned from the engine and a revolver was in his hand.
"I wouldn't if I were you," he said quietly.
Frank stepped back.
"Oh, all right," he said.
The little motorboat began to move.
The captor raised his voice.
"Hans! Franz!" he called.
There was no answer and after a moment he repeated his calls.
"If you were calling your men, I fear you are wasting time," said Frank quietly.
"What?" exclaimed his captor.
"Exactly," replied Frank. "It was necessary for us to shoot them before you were fortunate enough to find us."
"I see," replied the boy's captor slowly. "Well, I shall have more to say to you about that later."
He again began to tinker with the engine and the motorboat now increased its pace; and then, as the man raised his head to look at Frank, he perceived two dark figures suddenly clamber over the rail and dash toward him.
Frank saw them in the same instant.
"Jack!" he cried.
The German, for such Frank felt sure his captor was, rose quickly to his feet, revolver in hand. He raised it quickly, and pointing it at Jack, who was dashing forward closely followed by Williams, fired.
The distance was so close that a miss would have been impossible and Jack would probably have been killed had it not been for Frank.
The latter sprang quickly forward and seized the German's arm even as his finger pressed the trigger and the bullet went wild. With a muttered imprecation, the German whirled on Frank, reversed his revolver quickly and brought it down on the lad's head.
Frank fell to the deck without a groan and lay still.
At the same moment a shot from the helmsman struck Williams in the chest as he and Edwards dashed toward him and the man fell to the deck, mortally wounded.
Edwards, unarmed, dashed upon the other, but even as he would have grappled with the man, the latter dodged and Edwards went staggering by. Before he could recover himself, the German had clubbed him over the head with his revolver butt.
Thus were three of the friends put hors de combat almost quicker than it takes to tell it. There remained now only Jack, with two against him, both armed.
Jack raised his revolver at the moment Frank fell unconscious to the deck and the German whirled quickly to face him. Both fired at the same moment and both stepped aside as they did so. Jack felt a bullet graze his hand and his revolver fell clattering to the deck. The other, he saw, had not been touched.
Jack sprang forward and grappled with the German even as the helmsman, having disposed of Edwards, took a snap shot at him. The lad stepped forward just in time to escape the bullet.
Realizing now that he had a foe behind as well as in front, Jack seized the first German in a powerful embrace, the man's pistol hand going over his shoulder; and at that moment the German pressed the trigger.
A howl of pain came from the helmsman. The bullet had struck the latter's revolver on the barrel and the force of the shock had momentarily numbed the man's hand.
Jack seized the first German's arm and by a quick twist sent the revolver spinning across the deck, and it passed beneath the rail and into the water.
Now the lad brought rushing tactics into play and pushed the first German the length of the deck before the latter could brace himself. There Jack's eye caught the gleam of the helmsman's pistol and with a quick kick he sent it hurtling overboard also.
But Jack's antagonist was a strong man and the lad knew that he had a hard job on his hands to dispose of him alone, to say nothing of the second man, who, the lad knew, would be fit again in a moment.
But it was no time for indecision; and Jack sprang forward. His right fist shot out with stinging force—a blow that would have ended the battle right there had it landed, but the German ducked and clinched. At this kind of fighting, he was more Jack's match and he seized the lad in a tight embrace.
"Fritz!" called the German, as he and Jack struggled about the deck. "A hand, quick!"
Fritz was now on his feet and he came forward in response to this command. One huge fist he raised, and would have brought it down on Jack's head had not the lad seen him out the tail of his eye and moved his head swiftly to one side.
The blow missed.
Jack, with one hand free for a moment, dealt the helmsman a blow in the face as he swooped past; then again turned his attention to the first man.
The latter now also freed an arm and Jack staggered back from a heavy blow in the face. Blood streamed from a cut over his right eye, blinding him momentarily.
Jack shook the blood out of his eyes with a toss of his head and stepped forward angrily. He had no mind to let his adversary clinch again if he could help it.
As the German rushed Jack met him with a stiff left to the face and the man halted in his tracks with a cry of pain. Jack followed up this advantage with a right-handed blow to the abdomen, doubling the German up like a knife. Then the lad reached his opponent's jaw with a hard left.
The man staggered back and crumpled up in a heap.
"So much for you," muttered the lad, turning just in time to meet the rush of the helmsman, who had now recovered from the effects of Jack's blow and was coming angrily forward.
Now, this second man was even larger and more powerfully built than the first German, and one huge arm warded off Jack's first short jab for the face. Instead of attempting to return the blow, the helmsman grabbed Jack by the arm, and yanked him suddenly forward.
Jack, caught unprepared, went stumbling forward. The helmsman stepped aside and struck heavily at the lad as he reeled past.
Had he taken his time and aimed carefully the battle would have ended right there; fortunately, however, his haste was too great and he only struck the lad a glancing blow.
In spite of this fact, however, the force of it was so great that it staggered the lad. Apparently believing that this one blow would end the fight, the German stepped back to watch the effect of it.
But Jack did not fall. Staggering forward, his hand caught the rail of the boat, where he stood a moment, recovering himself.
The German advanced with a smile on his face. Jack turned to meet him.
Slowly the German came on, his great arms raised awkwardly and then it dawned upon Jack that all that was necessary to dispose of this great brute was a little skill and caution. His head was clear now and he advanced confidently.
The German rushed forward. Jack side-stepped neatly and struck his opponent a heavy blow just above the right ear as he passed. The man turned quickly and just in time to catch a second powerful blow on the forehead. Another man would have gone down, but the German sprang forward ready for more.
And he got more. Jack stood off at arms' length and peppered him beautifully. In vain the German struck out and sought to clinch. Jack dodged his blows and evaded his clasp with ease. And then the lad saw the opportunity he had been awaiting.
In a desperate attempt to clinch, the German exposed his jaw. Jack's right flashed out quickly and then the lad stepped back. His fist had found its mark; and the German staggered back, reeled, swayed—fell to the deck unconscious.
Jack now surveyed the field of action with some satisfaction.
"Well, I managed to lay 'em all out at last," he told himself. "Now to see how Frank and the others are."
He hurried first to Frank's side. The latter was just returning to consciousness and raised himself on one elbow as Jack kneeled beside him.
"How do you feel, old man?" asked Jack gently.
"I don't feel so much," was Frank's reply. "Say, that fellow must have given me a pretty good crack."
"He did," said Jack dryly. "I can vouch for that. He landed on your head with that revolver like a ton of brick. Do you think you can stand?"
"I guess so. Lend a hand, will you?"
Jack helped his chum to his feet. Frank staggered a bit at first, but in a minute or two announced that he was fit for whatever might come. He followed Jack aft, where lay the bodies of Edwards and Williams.
Jack passed his hand over Edwards' face and the man stirred feebly.
"Water, Frank," said Jack.
Frank hurried forward again and returned in a moment with water. This Jack sprinkled over Edwards' face. Five minutes later Edwards sat up.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"I remember now, sir," said Edwards, trying to smile. "And did you lick 'em?"
"I did," said Jack.
"And Williams, sir? How is he? I saw him go down just before I went under."
"We'll see," replied Jack briefly.
He led the way to where Williams still lay prone, Frank and Edwards following.
Jack bent over the man, then placed a hand over his heart. Then he got slowly to his feet.
"Is he——," began Edwards.
"Dead," replied Jack quietly.
For a moment there was silence; then Edwards spoke brokenly.
"The best shipmate a man ever had, sir."
He knelt beside his dead companion and tears streamed down his face. Jack and Frank did not speak as he mourned silently for some minutes. At last Edwards got to his feet.
"War is war, sir," he said quietly.
He moved aft.
"Well," said Frank, "I guess we may as well be getting back to The Hawk. Lord Hastings will be worried."
"Right," said Jack. "You take the wheel. I'll try and coax the engine along."
They took their respective places.
"Which way, Jack?" called Frank.
"By Jove! You know as much about it as I do," was the reply. "I don't know where we are."
"Must be off to the left," declared Frank. "We'll steer that way, anyhow."
"All right," said Jack.
The engine began to sputter and directly the motorboat moved.
"We may as well go this way as another," Frank shouted to make himself heard. "It'll be daylight soon, anyhow, and we can probably pick up The Hawk."
"We'll go slowly, at all events," said Jack.
For half an hour the little craft forged slowly ahead, all three aboard keeping a sharp lookout for The Hawk.
Suddenly a breeze sprang up. It blew lightly at first and then with more and more violence.
"Looks like Lord Hastings' gale was about to materialize," shouted Jack.
"Guess this is it all right," replied Frank.
Edwards now came aft and took his stand by Frank.
"Want me to take the wheel, sir?" he asked.
"Guess I can handle it all right," replied Frank.
"Very well, sir, only I thought you would rather be forward with Mr. Templeton."
There was an odd note in his voice and Frank glanced at him inquiringly.
"What made you think that?" he asked sharply.
"Only," replied Edwards, "only because this is liable to settle things for all of us."
"You mean the storm?" asked Frank.
"You think it will be severe?"
"Very severe, sir. I have sailed the seas longer than you have, sir, and I recognize the signs."
"And you don't think this craft can weather the storm?"
"I am afraid not, sir. Of course there is always a possibility, and by running with the storm we have, of course, a fighting chance; but that's all we have, sir, a fighting chance."
"It is as much as we have had many times before," replied Frank.
"Very well, then," to Edwards, "you may take the wheel. Your advice is to run before it?"
"Yes, sir, at full speed."
"Your advice shall be taken. We'll keep the engine going and the steering is up to you."
"Very good, sir."
Edwards took the wheel and Frank made his way forward.
"Hello," said Jack. "Thought you were going to do the steering."
"I was," replied Frank, "but Edwards seemed to think he could do better and I guess he is right. He says we are in for a bad gale."
"He's right," replied Jack. "I've seen the signs before. You may remember I lived on the ocean. Yes, we're in for it, I'm afraid. All we can do is run."
"That's what Edwards said."
"It'll be daylight in less than half an hour," Jack continued. "That will help some. If it will hold off that long, I'll feel better."
And the gale did hold off.
A faint gray streaked the east, making more plain the seriousness of their situation. The clouds hung heavy and low and it took no mariner to tell that a storm was brewing.
Gradually the wind increased and the little motorboat tore along before it. Now the swell of the sea became heavier. Waves rolled higher and higher and the little craft first wallowed in the trough of the sea and then climbed the gigantic waves.
"No wonder people get seasick," Frank muttered to himself.
The wind increased in violence until it blew a hurricane, but still the little motorboat did not falter; it bore on as bravely as before, climbing wave after wave swiftly and unerringly. Edwards, at the wheel, was giving a splendid example of seamanship.
A mountainous wave, greater than the rest, descended upon the motorboat and broke over it, drenching all on board to the skin. The wind whistled overhead and the air grew icy cold. Frank shivered, as he held fast.
"Br-r-r," he said. "Right now it would feel awfully nice to be ashore. I wonder what of Lord Hastings and The Hawk?"
At the same moment, Lord Hastings was wondering what of them.
For hours and hours, it seemed to the two lads, the little craft battled the storm, at each moment seeming in imminent danger of capsizing; but always the master hand of Edwards at the wheel righted the little craft and it dashed away in the gale.
"Great Scott!" cried Frank, raising his voice to a shout to make himself heard above the terrible roaring of the wind, "we can't stand this much longer."
"You are right," declared Jack. "We are liable to be swamped at any moment."
As each wave descended upon them, breaking over the little boat, Frank was confident that the end had come. It did not seem possible that the craft could withstand another. But each time the little boat seemed to brace itself for the shock and a moment later would ride high to safety.
Edwards, at the wheel, had lashed himself fast, that he might not be swept overboard; and once, soon after the storm had descended, he was startled.
Something soft touched his feet; and taking his eyes from ahead long enough to look down, he saw that the object was the body of Williams, which the water had washed over the deck to him.
His hands fast, as they were, he could not stoop down to touch the body as he gazed at it mournfully; then another wave descended, and when it had gone, Williams' body was no longer in sight.
"Good-bye, old friend!" Edwards shouted after it. "Good-bye! I may be with you soon. If I could have reached down I would have shaken hands with you once more before you went away."
Another gigantic wave swooped down and he gave his attention to keeping the boat's head right.
At last, when it seemed that the storm would never end, it broke suddenly. As if by magic there was a calm, and bright sunlight streamed down from above. The gale was over. The motorboat and its crew of three were safe.
Frank and Jack clasped hands.
"Safe once more," said the latter quietly.
Suddenly the little craft pitched violently. Frank turned a quick gaze aft to the wheel where he made out the reason for this sudden lurch.
Completely exhausted by his recent experience, Edwards had lapsed into unconsciousness once the strain was over. No hand grasped the wheel and the motorboat pitched this way and that in the trough of the sea.
Frank made his way aft as rapidly as possible and took the wheel. Jack shut down the engine and followed him. He poured water over Edwards' face and directly the latter sat up.
"Funny I had to keel over like that," he said grinning feebly. "Don't know what's the matter with me. Must be getting old, I guess. Never happened before."
"Here," said Jack, "you come forward with me and rest awhile. You're about done up."
The sailor protested; but Jack had his way, and a few moments later, in the little cabin, Edwards was fast asleep. Jack returned aft to discuss the situation with Frank.
"Well, what now?" asked the latter. "Where are we going to find Lord Hastings?"
"I imagine the best thing for us," said Jack, "is to return to Bantry Bay. If The Hawk weathered the storm, Lord Hastings will put in sometime to-day."
"I suppose that is best," agreed Frank. "Let's be on the move."
The head of the motorboat was brought about, and gaining his bearings from a compass in the cabin, Jack shaped his course.
"A four or five hour run," he said to Frank, in giving him the proper directions.
He glanced at his watch. "Six o'clock. Well, we shall be there before noon, anyhow."
He returned to his place at the engine and the motorboat headed toward the British coast.
ON THE HUNT.
"Isn't that The Hawk?"
It was Jack who spoke. He had left his engine and made his way aft, for he had caught sight of another craft in the distance.
Frank peered ahead.
"I should say it was built along the same lines as The Hawk," he replied, "but what's the matter with her?"
Something was wrong, as both boys could see. The craft ahead, whether The Hawk or not they could not yet distinguish, was plainly in distress. She wallowed in the sea, apparently without a hand to guide her.
"Something wrong aboard, sure," declared Frank. "Little more speed, Jack."
Jack sprang back to his engine and soon the motorboat was dashing through the water at full speed.
Jack left the engine to run itself and made his way forward as far as possible, where he stood gazing at the craft ahead. At last he was able to make out the name of the craft.
"The Hawk!" he cried.
It was The Hawk and she was plainly in distress. As the boys drew nearer, they were unable to make out a sign of life aboard.
"Maybe they have all been washed overboard," Frank called to Jack.
Jack made no reply. He had begun to fear so himself.
Suddenly he uttered a loud cry.
"I can see some one aboard," he cried. "He's stretched out on the deck. Looks like he might be dead."
"Who is it?" Frank shouted back.
"I can't make out yet."
He peered forward eagerly and anxiously; and five minutes later he cried out again:
Smith was another of the crew.
"Can you see Lord Hastings?" shouted Frank.
The two craft were less than a hundred yards apart now and still Jack could make out but a solitary figure aboard, that of Smith, stretched out at full length aft.
The boys closed up the remaining distance quickly and the two boats scraped alongside each other. Pausing only long enough to lash the two together, Frank and Jack sprang aboard The Hawk.
Quickly they glanced about. There was Smith and no one else in sight. Frank stooped over him.
"He's breathing," he said.
He hurried to the side of the boat, and leaning over, filled his cap with water. This he sprinkled in Smith's face and the man stirred.
Jack, in the meantime, had gone into the little cabin and a startled cry now came to Frank's ears.
He hurried to his friend; and there, in the cabin, the boy stood over the prostrate form of their commander. The latter lay still and white and Frank stared at him with a great fear in his heart.
"Is he dead?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.
"I don't know," said Jack slowly. "He doesn't seem to be breathing."
Frank knelt down and placed a hand over Lord Hastings' heart.
"Yes, he is," he cried excitedly. "His heart is beating. Water, quick!"
Jack dashed away in response to this command and was back in a moment with his cap filled with water.
This he poured over his commander, while Frank bathed his head; and soon these efforts were rewarded.
Lord Hastings stirred, breathed a long sigh and moaned. Five minutes later he opened his eyes and tried to sit up.
"Lie still, sir," commanded Frank.
Lord Hastings let his eyes rest on the lad's face, tried to say something, attempted to move, then fell back with a long sigh.
Again Frank was alarmed. He bent over his commander and placed a hand over his heart. Then he arose with an exclamation of satisfaction.
"He's sleeping," he said. "Let's get to shore as soon as possible."
Jack hurried away. First he returned to the other craft and assisted Edwards aboard The Hawk. Then he went to the engine, Frank took the wheel and they headed for Bantry Bay at full speed.
It was still before noon when they entered the bay and came to anchor in the midst of the motorboat fleet. The lads had Lord Hastings removed ashore immediately and listened to the diagnosis of the surgeon with bated breath.
"Nothing serious," said the surgeon, much to the lads' relief. "He's been knocked unconscious in some way. Something must have struck him a hard blow across the head. All he needs is perfect quiet for a week."
"He'll get it," declared Jack, "if I have to sit on him for that length of time."
"And if I have to help you hold him down," Frank agreed.
For the next week the boys gave their undivided attention to caring for their wounded commander. Each day, after the first, Lord Hastings grew stronger. On the third day he wanted to get up, but the surgeon would not hear of it.
"Seven days in bed," he declared. "Not a second less; and two more days before you can move about much."
"Yes, but look here, Doc," said Lord Hastings. "I've work to do. I've got to get back into harness."
"And two weeks exactly before you can get back in harness," declared the man of medicine.
From this ultimatum he would not swerve.
At the end of the first week Lord Hastings was for disregarding the surgeon's orders and getting back into harness anyhow; but Jack and Frank would not hear of it.
"Might just as well get well, first, sir," declared Jack.
Lord Hastings glared at him.
"How about you?" he demanded. "How would you like to stay around like this doing nothing? You couldn't sit here for five minutes. I know you."
"You may be right, sir," agreed Frank. "But you are older than I am, sir, and should have more patience and fortitude."
Lord Hastings was forced to smile at this rejoinder.
"You see, sir," said Frank, "I can remember some of the things you have said to me."
"I see," agreed Lord Hastings. "I guess, then, that I shall have to remain here, if for no other reason than to set a good example for you."
"That's right, sir," declared Jack. "If you didn't, there would be no living with Frank."
"Oh, I don't know," said the latter. "I can remember one time when you were in bad shape that I had to threaten to lick you to keep you in bed."
"Well, that's different," said Jack. "I——"
"Well, let's talk about something cheerful," said Lord Hastings. "Germans or anything like that."
And so the conversation was changed.
When the two weeks had come to an end Lord Hastings proceeded to get back in harness immediately.
"I've been here long enough," he told the boys. "Back to The Hawk again now."
And back to The Hawk they went that day.
Aboard The Hawk Lord Hastings made a careful inspection and then left the lads, while he held an interview with the British commanding officer in charge of the motorboat flotilla. When he returned he had a smile on his face.
"Good news," he said, as he came aboard.
"What, sir?" asked Frank.
"Action to-night, sir?" demanded Jack.
"Better than that—for you boys," replied Lord Hastings. "Action, and at once."
"Where?" asked Frank.
"Around the same neighborhood we were in before."
"Good," declared Jack.
"And more important prey, this time," continued Lord Hastings.
"Submarines?" asked Jack.
"Well, that's what we expect," replied Lord Hastings. "We hope to be fortunate enough to find one or two."
"When do we start, sir?" demanded Frank.
"As soon as the Glasgow comes along."
"The Glasgow, sir? You mean the steamship Glasgow?"
"Exactly. It appears that passengers have been warned not to take passage on the Glasgow. A warning has been circulated through the newspapers, the same as was done before the Lusitania sailed and was sunk. This naturally leads to the belief that the Germans are planning to torpedo the Glasgow. We are to be on hand to see that this does not happen."
"I see, sir," replied Frank. "Is it just The Hawk, sir?"
"Well, no," replied Lord Hastings. "The Hawk and nine other motorboats."
"A regular fleet," remarked Jack. "I suppose the idea is for us to trail in behind the Glasgow?"
"Exactly. You see the submarine, nine times out of ten, lying in wait for its victim, will come to the surface a short distance ahead of the steamer. Now, in view of the furore that the sinking of the Lusitania caused in neutral countries, it is hardly to be expected the Glasgow will be torpedoed without warning."
"But just how do we get at the enemy, sir?" demanded Frank.
"I'm coming to that. When the submarine comes to the surface and gives warning for passengers and crew to leave the ship, we shall sneak out from behind at full speed. Before the submarine can submerge, we shall be close enough to get her. That's why we carry such heavy guns. One of us is bound to get her."
"I see," said Frank. "Of course if the submarine could submerge in a moment, it wouldn't be possible."
"Exactly," agreed Lord Hastings.
He led the way to the rail.
"See," he said, waving a hand in the direction of the others of the motorboat fleet, "they are all getting ready for action."
It was true. There were signs of great activity aboard some of the other little vessels. "Just overhauling to see that everything is shipshape," said Lord Hastings. "We may as well do the same."
The next hour was spent in minute inspection of every part of the little craft and then Lord Hastings pronounced himself satisfied.
Hardly was the work completed, when Frank perceived a dark smudge upon the distant horizon.
"Vessel of some kind, sir," he reported to Lord Hastings.
Lord Hastings gazed long and earnestly; and directly the shape of a large ship loomed up.
"The Glasgow," he said quietly. "All ready, boys. Time to get busy."
THE FIRST VICTIM.
As the steamship Glasgow drew nearer, the signs of activity among the various units of the motorboat fleet became more acute. The little craft darted hither and thither, finally dividing into two sections, one section on each side of the channel through which the Glasgow steamed toward them. When the big steamship had steamed past, the ten little boats fell into line behind her, moving swiftly forward, two abreast.
Apparently the commander of the Glasgow, Captain Sawyer, had been informed that he was to be provided with an escort, for only the fluttering of a few signal flags from the Glasgow and from the motorboat Lion, which carried Lieutenant Commander Thompson, in charge of the mosquito fleet, betokened a greeting.
The Glasgow swept majestically past, not pausing in her stride. From the decks hands were waved and handkerchiefs fluttered toward the little vessels below, the passengers aboard leaning over the rails and speculating idly upon their presence.
The two foremost motorboats were The Hawk and the Lion, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thompson and Lord Hastings. The others followed close behind.
Jack and Frank had watched all this maneuvering with great interest; and now that the flotilla, in perfect formation, was proceeding straight ahead, Frank turned to his commander with a question:
"And about where do you expect to pick up the enemy, sir?" he asked.
"Hardly more than twenty miles out—certainly not more than two hours," was the reply.
The motorboats followed closely in the wake of the big steamship. Although they were, of course, plainly visible from the steamer, and could possibly be seen from the sides, it was hoped that the enemies' submarine would take a position directly in front of the Glasgow when she accosted her. This would shield the motorboats from sight.
The Glasgow and its bodyguard were now out of sight of land. The sun shone brightly and the day was perfectly calm. There was scarcely a ripple upon the smooth surface of the sea.
Below, aboard the Glasgow, the passengers were at dinner. They were laughing and joking among themselves.
Aboard the motorboats all was peacefully quiet. The men not on duty were idling about and talking.
Suddenly Edwards, who stood forward on The Hawk, caught the peculiar fluttering of the signal flags aboard the Glasgow.
"Glasgow signalling, sir," he reported to Lord Hastings.
Lord Hastings quickly drew the attention of Commander Thompson to the Glasgow's signals, at the same time deciphering them for Frank and Jack.
The first signal read:
"Small vessel dead ahead."
Commander Thompson flashed back his response:
"Can't make out yet," was the answer.
There was some further wig-wagging; and then the need for this means of communication suddenly ceased.
There came a sharp blast from the Glasgow's horn and the big ship slowed down abruptly. Then came the sound of a shot from dead ahead and there was a splash between the Glasgow and The Hawk.
"The enemy!" exclaimed Lord Hastings.
Aboard each of the small motorboats every man sprang to his post. Soft commands carried back and forth across the water, while the signal flags of the Glasgow continued to flutter.
Then, even as Lord Hastings received from the Lion the command to advance, he read the last signal of the Glasgow.
"Submarine has halted us," it read. "Dead ahead."
The motorboat fleet came to life upon the instant. Again it divided into two parts, one passing on each side of the Glasgow, and darted forward toward the enemy.
Aboard each the forward guns were manned, the gunners ready to fire at the word.
On the Glasgow all was confusion. Passengers, attracted by the sound of the shot from the submarine, sprang from their tables and dashed on deck. There, as they made out the submarine, they turned pale. Only the reassuring voices of the officers averted a panic.
Then the passengers turned their attention to the fleet that was now passing around the big liner to the attack.
Rapidly the little craft sped forward and before the submarine commander had divined their presence, they were swooping down upon him, seemingly from all directions. Stunned at this unexpected arrival and before he could give a word of command, The Hawk unloosened her forward gun.
The shell went wide, but it brought immediate action from the submarine commander. Evidently he had no mind to try and torpedo the little craft, realizing, perhaps, that did he sink one the other would destroy him.
Motioning the other three men on deck before him, he sprang toward the little conning tower, bent on flight.
At this juncture the Lion came within range and her forward gun spoke loudly. The shell kicked up the water a few yards from the submarine.
"Hoorah!" came the British cry.
"A little soon to cheer," muttered Frank to himself, as he stepped forward to take his second shot at the submarine.
The gun spoke sharply.
Ahead there was a terrible crash. The German submarine seemed to soar in the air like a skyrocket, and came down in a thousand pieces.
Frank's one well-directed shot had ended the battle.
Then a mighty cheer went up from the men of the mosquito fleet, in which the passengers aboard the Glasgow joined with a will.
Jack sprang forward and gave his chum a resounding slap on the back.
"That's what I call shooting," he declared fervently.
"Good work, Frank," said Lord Hastings quietly, stepping forward. "An excellent shot."
Masses of wreckage floating upon the surface of the sea were all that was left of the German submarine, with here and there a few floating bodies. Soon these disappeared and there was nothing to indicate that an under-sea craft had so recently been near.
From aboard the Lion, Commander Thompson signalled his compliments to The Hawk.
"And now I suppose we will go back again," said Frank to Lord Hastings.
"Well, no," was the reply. "The Glasgow is not safe yet. There may be other submarines in these waters. I should say that we shall escort her all of a hundred miles."
"What I would like to know," said Frank, "is why her commander, instead of trying to escape at once, didn't launch a torpedo or two. He might have disposed of one of us."
"But the others would have surely done for him," said Lord Hastings. "He probably figured he could submerge before we could hit him."
"He guessed wrong that time," declared Frank.
"Rather," agreed Jack with a smile. "There is no use talking, Frank, you are some boy when it comes to shooting."
All that afternoon the motorboat flotilla trailed the Glasgow; but until nightfall no other German submarine had appeared. An hour after nightfall, Commander Thompson gave the command to put about and return.
Slowly the little craft came about and started back toward Bantry Bay. Behind them now, the Glasgow, safe at last, steamed rapidly away, bound for the distant port of New York, and "home," said Frank to Jack.
"Do you wish you were on her," asked his chum curiously.
"No," replied Frank, slowly, "unless I was sure I would find my father waiting for me when I reached there. However, I am having a pretty good time on this side and I know that I shall return safely some day."
The Hawk, last in line, made her way back slowly.
An hour after the lights of the Glasgow had faded from view, Frank, glancing forward, was unable to make out the distant light of a single of the other motorboats. He called Lord Hastings' attention to this fact.
"Is that so?" exclaimed his commander in some surprise. "I had no idea we had been going so slowly. We'll step out a bit."
He issued a command, and the speed of The Hawk increased. But still, after an hour, they had failed to come up with the others.
"Well, it's nothing to worry about I guess. We know the way back as well as the others; besides, there is no particular hurry."
Accordingly The Hawk continued at rather slow speed.
Half an hour later, Frank, forward, made out a dark hulk lying low in the water a short distance ahead. He immediately called Lord Hastings' attention to the object.
The latter acted quickly.
"Extinguish all lights quickly," he called sharply.
The order was obeyed, and at a second command, The Hawk was slowed down so that she was barely moving.
"What's the matter, sir?" exclaimed Jack, in great surprise.
"Matter is that there is a submarine dead ahead of us," was his commander's reply.
"You mean that dark object there?"
"And are we going to sink her, sir?" asked Jack.
"We'll have a try at it," was the reply. "In this darkness we can go very close without fear of being seen, The Hawk is so small."
Fifty yards from the submarine, which lay quietly in the water, The Hawk came to a stop and the forward gun was made ready for action.
"Funny there isn't some one on deck," muttered Frank.
"By Jove! So it is," declared Lord Hastings. "Must be something wrong. I wonder what?"
"I have it, sir," declared Frank. "It's one of the vessels that those other motorboats—the ones we sunk—were to have reported to."
"I believe Frank is right," agreed Jack. "It probably comes to the surface here every night, awaiting their return."
"In that event the chances are that most every one aboard is asleep," remarked Lord Hastings.
He gave the command for The Hawk to proceed.
"What are you going to do, sir?" asked Frank.
"See if we can't capture her," replied Lord Hastings quietly.
Frank gave a low whistle. It was a plan after his own heart, but he was keenly sensitive to the danger that it involved.
"Very well, sir," he said quietly.
"This," declared Jack, manifesting a show of enthusiasm, "is where we have a little fun."
A DESPERATE VENTURE.
There was not a sound aboard the submarine as The Hawk grated alongside. To climb aboard the silent vessel, which lay so low in the water, was a simple task. Lord Hastings went first and Frank and Jack followed in order. Behind the latter came Edwards and behind him three sailors, Allen, O'Brien and McDonald.
For a brief moment they stood silently upon the deck, each with a revolver in his hand. Then Lord Hastings led the way to the conning tower, which was open, and descended. The others were close behind him.
At the foot of the companionway Lord Hastings paused again, straining his ears for a sound. None came. He motioned the others to follow him and led the way aft.
At the extreme afterpart of the vessel he paused before a door on the port side. From within came the sound of voices.
Lord Hastings laid a hand on the knob and surveyed those behind him.
"All ready?" he asked.
"Ready, sir," replied Jack quietly.
With a sudden movement Lord Hastings jerked open the door and stepped quickly within.
"Hands up!" he called sharply.
Four men sat at a table in what appeared to be the commander's cabin. They looked up from their game at Lord Hastings' gruff command and seeing but a solitary figure, all dropped their hands to their side.
"Hands up!" commanded Lord Hastings again.
Instead of obeying this command, one man produced a revolver, shouting:
"There is only one! Shoot him!"
But Lord Hastings' revolver spoke first and the officer tumbled over. The other three had now drawn their weapons and one fired at Lord Hastings. The shot went wild and Lord Hastings dropped him with a second well-directed bullet.
At this moment Jack and Frank sprang into the room. They saw Lord Hastings confronted by two enemies and they acted instantly and before the Germans could do so.
The revolvers of both lads spoke simultaneously and both Germans dropped to the floor.
Jack sprang back to the door.
"Stand guard there, men!" he cried. "There may be more of them."
He jumped back to Frank's side again, fearing that one of the fallen men might arise and return to the fray. But these fears were groundless. All four were beyond human aid, as Lord Hastings found after gazing at each sharply.
"Poor fellows," he said sorrowfully, "but it was their lives or ours, and they wouldn't yield. Oh, well——" he broke off with a shrug of his shoulders and turned to the lads.
"Search the vessel," he commanded. "There are probably others aboard."
Jack and Frank hurried away in response to this command. They went through the submarine from stem to stern, but nowhere were they able to find another living soul.
"Looks like those were the only ones aboard," remarked Jack.
"It does," agreed Frank. "Maybe the men in the motorboats were part of their crews and they have been lying about here all these days waiting for them to return."
"Well, I can't guess the answer," said Jack. "But certainly there is no other German here."
They returned and reported to Lord Hastings.
"Very well," said their commander. "Then the best thing we can do is to try and work this submarine back to port. It is an important capture."
"If you please, sir," said Jack. "I believe I can suggest a better plan than that."
"And that is——" prompted Lord Hastings.
"To assume the identities of these German officers, sir. Or not necessarily to assume their identities, but just to take charge of the vessel as if we had been duly commissioned by the German government. Then we can seek out the enemy's naval base and perhaps gain information of importance."
Lord Hastings looked at the lad in amusement for some moments before he replied:
"By Jove! You and Frank here do turn up some of the most remarkable ideas I have ever heard!"
"Then you don't think much of the plan, sir?"
"I think so much of it," replied Lord Hastings, "that I shall act upon it at once."
Now it was Frank's turn to show his enthusiasm.
"Hoorah!" he cried.
"That is," Lord Hastings qualified his statement, "I shall act upon your plan if Mr. Chadwick here can restrain his enthusiasm. Otherwise, I would be afraid to undertake the venture."
"I'll restrain it, sir," declared Frank, subdued.
"Good! See that you do," returned Lord Hastings. "Some of these days that enthusiasm of yours will get us all into trouble."
"And what shall we do with these men, sir?" asked Jack, indicating the fallen Germans.
"Overboard with them, I suppose," returned Lord Hastings. "It's where I expect to go when my time comes. It's as good a grave as another."
"And shall we take their uniforms, sir?"
"Yes. It may spare some explaining."
And thus it was arranged.
Two hours later, following a thorough exploration of the submarine, Lord Hastings announced that he could navigate it without trouble.
"Fortunately," he said, "I find that it will be possible for two men to handle the engine room. We three and Edwards will take our turns at the wheel and doing whatever else is to be done, relieving in the engine room when it is necessary. Of course we are short-handed, but I believe we can pull through. Perhaps, if we are fortunate enough to fall in with one of the enemy, we can borrow a few men. We can concoct some story that will pass muster and thus account for the loss of the others of our crew."
"I guess it can be done, sir," he replied.
The dead Germans had been buried by this time and the three British officers had donned their uniforms, which, fortunately, were not bad fits.
"To tell the truth, I don't care much about these uniforms," declared Frank, "but if they are going to help out any I suppose I can stand mine for a while."
"You don't necessarily have to be in love with them," responded Jack.
"And now, sir," said Frank, "would it not be well to be moving? There may be some of these men prowling about the sea some place and they may return."
"Yes; there is no use lingering here," replied Lord Hastings. "Are the men at their posts?"
"Good! Then you may give the signal to submerge, Mr. Templeton."
"I can give it all right," grinned Jack. "But I don't see what good it will do unless I obey myself."
"True," laughed Lord Hastings. "I had forgotten about the tanks. We shall have to take turns looking after them also."
"I'll attend to them this time," said Jack, and took himself off.
Directly the submarine began to sink slowly and at a depth of ten fathoms Lord Hastings called a halt. Then he signalled the engine room for twelve knots.
"Just where are we bound, sir?" asked Frank.
"Well," said Lord Hastings, "the Germans are understood to have established a naval base at Ostend and I have shaped my course for that port."
"And what are we to do when we get there?"
"Events will have to shape themselves," declared Lord Hastings. "It is impossible to foretell anything."
Jack re-entered the room at this moment, and the three held a consultation, Edwards meantime steering the course that Lord Hastings had given him.
And so the submarine continued on its course beneath the sea for the rest of the night, running slowly.
At eight o'clock in the morning, Lord Hastings decided to go to the surface for a look around. He stopped for a moment, however, just below the surface, with the periscope protruding slightly above the water and took in his surroundings.
In the distance he made out a coast line, which, according to his calculations, should be the coast of Belgium.
"We should not be more than an hour's run from Ostend," he told the lads. "We'll continue on the surface."
The submarine was brought clear of the water and continued on her way.
But there was to be no need of the submarine putting into Ostend. Half an hour after the vessel had been brought to the surface, Frank, who was alone for the moment upon the bridge, made out a second submarine approaching. Quickly he summoned Lord Hastings and Jack.
"Well," said Lord Hastings, "here is where we have to do some tall talking, as the Americans would say. He's headed directly for us."
It was true. The submarines were approaching each other rapidly.
The enemy slowed down, and in response to Lord Hastings, the captured vessel did likewise. A voice from a figure on the bridge of the second vessel came across the water.
"Who are you?"
"U-16," answered Lord Hastings, who had gone through the former commander's papers carefully, "Bernstorff, commanding."
"Bernstorff," came the surprised response. "Where is Captain Tarlenhein?"
"If you will come aboard, I will explain," shouted Lord Hastings.
A few moments later a small boat left the side of the other vessel and came toward the U-16.
"Now, boys," said Lord Hastings quietly, "keep a tight rein on yourselves and leave the talking to me. Say nothing unless you are addressed. It would not do for us to be tripped up. We would all be put to death as spies."
The boys nodded their understanding of this order.
"We'll be as mum as a couple of oysters, sir," declared Frank.
"I wouldn't know what to say, anyhow," agreed Jack.
"Sh-h-h," whispered Lord Hastings. "Here he comes."
The small boat scraped the side of the U-16 at this juncture. A man in the full uniform of a German lieutenant commander stepped aboard. Lord Hastings advanced to meet him with extended hand.
Jack and Frank followed their commander closely.
WITH THE ENEMY.
"I am Captain Bernstorff," said Lord Hastings quietly, "and you?"
"Lieutenant Commander Von Rosten, sir," replied the other, who could not have been more than twenty-five years of age.
"Von Rosten, to be sure," replied Lord Hastings, affecting to recall the name. "Allow me to present my friends, who are at present acting as my officers."
He beckoned to Frank and Jack to approach.
"Lieutenant Papen," he said, introducing Jack; "and Lieutenant Bohring," indicating Frank.
The three acknowledged the introductions and then Lord Hastings continued:
"I suppose you are wondering how I come to be in command of the U-16?"
"I am, sir," was the reply.
"And also," continued Lord Hastings with a smile, "you are no doubt wondering just who I am anyway?"
"I must confess to that, too," answered the young German.
"Well, I can explain in a very few words," said Lord Hastings quietly. "In the first place, I carry a number—you know what I mean?"
The German nodded.
"The secret service," he said quietly.
Lord Hastings gave him a glance of approval and the young man flushed.
"Exactly," replied Lord Hastings. "My friends here also carry numbers. They are young, as you see, but they have proved themselves more than once in His Majesty's service."
The young German bowed again.
"Now," continued Lord Hastings, "I shall take up the little matter of how I happen to be in command of the U-16 and the unfortunate fate of Captain Tarlenhein."
"Fate!" exclaimed Von Rosten.
"It is only too true," muttered Lord Hastings sorrowfully. "But he died as a loyal servant of the Emperor. I shall explain."
"If you will," said the young German.
"Under command of Captain Tarlenhein," said Lord Hastings, "the U-16, as you may possibly know, has been in the Irish Sea, and, at one time or another, off the mouth of the Thames. Whether you knew it or not, Captain Tarlenhein also carried a number. There was work to be done in England.
"Of course, we already had our agents there—in fact, I was one of them, and my two friends here. We were instructed to report to Captain Tarlenhein aboard the U-16 at a certain time. We did so, the vessel at that time lying off the Thames. Captain Tarlenhein had other instructions for us. We went ashore again and there encountered trouble. We were captured.
"In London we were being taken to The Tower, when we all made a break for liberty right in the middle of the city. Captain Tarlenhein was shot down. The rest of us escaped. Through the instrumentality of my peculiar resemblance to a British naval officer, we overcame numerous difficulties, although my young friends here almost came to grief. It was here that my striking resemblance to this British officer of whom I speak enabled them to get away. We were, of course, dressed in British uniforms, but the haste of another agent of the Emperor almost caused our undoing."
The German officer had followed this account with interest. Apparently he was much wrapped up in the narrative. He clenched his hand as Lord Hastings paused.
"And who was this agent?" he demanded.
"An Englishman," replied Lord Hastings slowly. "An Englishman known as Davis. He almost spoiled it all. However, we at length managed to escape in spite of Davis—I don't know what has become of him—and made our way, after many perils, to where the U-16 still awaited the return of its commander.
"And what was our surprise, when we went aboard, to find it occupied by two British officers and several British sailors. Fortunately for us, these British officers—lazy dogs—were sleeping at their posts and we pounced upon them and tumbled them overboard, all but three; whom we kept as a crew, our own men having been taken prisoners by the enemy. That was only yesterday, and here we are."
Lord Hastings paused.
"You have indeed had a hard time," said the young German. "But I am glad to know you, all three of you. About this man Davis. I have a man aboard my ship who might possibly be the same. He says his name is Davis, and he is an Englishman; but I have placed no faith in his story. He is a shifty-eyed scoundrel. I picked him up off the British coast about two weeks ago."
"He is undoubtedly the same," said Lord Hastings. "Also his story probably is true. I can vouch for the fact that he carries a number, and that he was recently in England."
"Will you and your men come aboard my vessel?" invited the young German. "I should be pleased to have you look at this man Davis. I have him in irons."
"We shall be pleased," Lord Hastings accepted. "But first we must go below and tie up these English sailors. We don't want them to get away."
The young German bowed, and Lord Hastings, Frank, and Jack went below.
Here Lord Hastings called the men to him and in a few words explained the situation. The men consented to be bound and the three tied them up, for, as Lord Hastings said, it was just as well to keep up appearances.
Before returning on deck Lord Hastings also issued a few sharp commands to Jack and Frank.
"Just keep your nerve and everything will turn out all right," he said.
"But Davis," exclaimed Frank. "He is likely to betray us."
"Don't you believe it," said Lord Hastings. "Von Rosten doesn't trust him very much and Davis will be sharp enough to know it. That's why I want to appear to be doing him a good turn. Besides, it will throw both of them off the track."
"I see," replied Frank. "I wouldn't have thought of that, sir."
Lord Hastings again led the way on deck and informed the young German commander that they were ready to accompany him aboard his vessel. The latter motioned them into the small boat ahead of him.
Ten minutes later they were all seated in Captain Von Rosten's own cabin. The German summoned his first officer.
"Have the prisoner brought here," he commanded.
A few moments later, Davis, still in irons, stood before them. He gave an exclamation of surprise when he glanced at the three Englishmen, and all knew that he recognized them. Lord Hastings thought it would be well to get in the first word.
"I see you recognize us," he said sharply.
"Well, I guess I do," returned Davis. "You are——"
"Never mind who we are," interrupted Lord Hastings. "Enough for you to know that you almost spoiled everything."
"What's that?" demanded Davis. "I almost spoiled everything? Me?"
"Yes, you," returned Lord Hastings quietly. "You and the Baron Blosberg, with your impatience. I don't suppose you know that we carry numbers, eh?"
"I didn't know you did," replied Davis. "These other two here," indicating Jack and Frank, "I surmised did, or else I was fooled. But the last time I saw you you wore a British uniform and seemed to be perfectly at home."
"Fortunately for the rest of you," commented Lord Hastings dryly. "Otherwise none of you would be here now."
Davis was apparently convinced.
"And did you have success?" he asked. "Have you solved the mystery of the——"
"Vanishing submarines?" interrupted Lord Hastings. "Yes. We have solved it."
Von Rosten sprang to his feet.
"Is it true?" he exclaimed eagerly. "The mystery has been solved?"
"It has," replied Lord Hastings quietly.
"And you can suggest means for overcoming it?"
"I can," replied Lord Hastings, and added: "At the proper time and place."
Von Rosten sat down and indicated Davis.
"Then you can vouch for this man?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Lord Hastings. "And I should be glad if you would release him. He is a traitor to his country and something of a bungler, but I can make use of him."
"Very well, sir," returned Von Rosten. "Then I shall turn him over to you."
"If you would be so kind," said Lord Hastings.
The German again summoned his first officer.
"Take the irons off this man," he commanded.
The first officer motioned for Davis to follow him.
"Return when you have been released," ordered Lord Hastings.
"Very well," said Davis.
He left the cabin.
"Now," said Lord Hastings to Von Rosten, "I would be glad if you could do a further favor for me?"
"Consider it granted if it is within my power," said the young German.
"Thanks," said Lord Hastings. "I should like to borrow half a dozen of your crew. As you know, I am short handed, and I have work to do."
The German hesitated, but only for a moment.
"Very well, sir," he returned. "I shall be glad to let you have them. Would you also wish me to take care of your British prisoners?"
"Oh, no," replied Lord Hastings with a gesture. "They are hard workers, with a little urging," and he smiled. "They may come in very handily."
"As you please," replied the German.
A third time he summoned his first officer.
"Pick twelve men of the crew and have them ready to go aboard the U-16 with Captain Bernstorff here," he commanded.
The officer saluted and withdrew.
"Now, is there anything further I can do for you?" asked Von Rosten.
"Nothing, thank you," replied Lord Hastings, "and, with your permission, as soon as Davis is freed of his shackles and the men are ready, I shall return to my own vessel. I have work to do."
The young German bowed.
Half an hour later Lord Hastings, Jack and Frank again trod the deck of the U-16. Davis and a crew of twelve German sailors also were aboard.
"And now," said Lord Hastings, "having dispensed with the formalities, it is time to get busy."
"Now," said Lord Hastings, "as soon as we have lost sight of our new friend, Von Rosten, we shall take a little trip to Ostend anyhow."
"What for, sir?" asked Frank.
"Oh, just to look about a little," was the reply. "We may be able to pick up a little useful information."
"And why didn't you tell Von Rosten you were bound there, sir?" Jack wanted to know.
"Well, for one reason, because I wanted to borrow a part of his crew," said Lord Hastings. "Had he known we were headed for Ostend he would have thought it strange that we didn't wait until we got there to get more men. Besides, I wouldn't want to try and get men there. It might prove embarrassing."
"Well, sir," remarked Frank, "that was quite a little story you concocted for his benefit."
"I flatter myself it wasn't so awfully bad," smiled Lord Hastings. "Of course, I might have done better if I had been given more time."
"It was pretty good for a quick one," Jack admitted. "But, what are we going to do with Davis, sir?"
"Turn him over to the British authorities at the first opportunity. He is deserving of whatever punishment he shall receive. But in the meantime we must not let him suspect our true identity for he may be of use to us."
The lads nodded.
"Now," said Lord Hastings, "we may as well put about and run for Ostend."
Frank gave the command to Edwards, at the wheel, and the U-16 came about and headed east. Frank and Jack went below to their quarters, leaving Lord Hastings alone on the bridge.
"There is no use talking," said the latter. "It seems rather peculiar to be sailing under the German flag."
"And that's no joke," Jack agreed. "I hope we will not have to do it long."
It was late in the evening when the submarine approached Ostend, where it was known that the Germans had established a submarine base. The U-16 went along slowly, for Lord Hastings was not certain of his bearings.
Suddenly there came a hail across the water and a light flashed upon the U-16. In response to a command Lord Hastings brought the vessel to a halt.
"Who are you?" came the challenge in the darkness.
"U-16, Captain Tarlenhein," Lord Hastings shouted back.
"Good," was the reply. "We wondered what had happened to you. Everything all right?"
"Ready to join us in another desperate mission?"
"Yes. Ready any time."
"Good. Remain where you are. We start within the hour. Your instructions will be sent to you."
Lord Hastings signified that he understood and the light on the other vessel was flashed off, leaving the U-16 in darkness again.
"Now what do you suppose is up, sir?" asked Frank eagerly.
"You have just as much idea as I have," declared Lord Hastings. "However, we shall probably know in good time."
And he was right.
Half an hour later a small boat approached the side of the U-16. In response to a signal from Lord Hastings, who had perceived his approach, a subordinate officer clambered aboard.
"Captain Tarlenhein?" he inquired.
Lord Hastings kept his face half turned in the darkness.
"Yes," he replied in a husky voice.
The officer drew a paper from his pocket and passed it to Lord Hastings.
"From Admiral Seibert, sir."
He brought his heels together, gave a quick salute, turned on his heel, and went back over the side.
Lord Hastings immediately hastened to his cabin and as hastily summoned Jack and Frank.
"Well," he said quietly, "here are our orders," and he laid the paper on the table. "Sit down."
The lads did so, and Lord Hastings, seating himself, picked up the document, broke the seal, and read aloud:
"Commanding H.I.S. U-16:
"Proceed immediately, under command of Admiral Schuler, to Dover Bay, joining submarine flotilla there, to proceed to the Thames for attack British fleet. Flotilla to gather mile off Dover, midnight, Thursday.
"I should say that is plain enough," said Lord Hastings, looking up.
"Rather, sir," agreed Frank. "All we have to do is to be at a certain spot at a certain time."
"That's it. And the beauty of it is we do not go with any other vessel. I suppose Admiral Seibert deems it advisable for each vessel to make her way there separately, coming to the surface at the appointed time."
"And shall we be there, sir?" asked Frank.
"Rather," replied Lord Hastings dryly. "First, however, we shall have to find time to run even closer to Dover, take a trip ashore, and notify the Admiralty. Then perhaps we can arrange a little surprise for our friends the enemy."
"That's the way, sir," said Frank enthusiastically. "And I would suggest that the sooner we get under way the better. It may not be so easy to get ashore without being sent to the bottom by one of our own ships or forts."
"Very well," replied Lord Hastings. "You may give the word to proceed at eighteen knots, Mr. Templeton."
Jack gave the order, and the U-16 moved off in the night.
Having obtained Lord Hastings' permission, Frank and Jack decided to turn in. They made their way to the quarters they had chosen, and what was their surprise to find that Davis had appropriated it for his own convenience.
"I say," said Jack to Davis, who was sitting there in a comfortable chair, "you'll have to come out of here, you know."
"Will I?" said Davis. "What for?"
"Chiefly because we say so," replied Frank angrily. "This is our cabin."
"Yours?" repeated Davis, a rising inflection in his voice. "And who gave it to you, if you please?"
"We selected it," replied Frank, growing angrier at Davis' words.
"Well, I can't see that that makes it yours," returned Davis. "However, we won't argue about that. I'll just stay here and you go some place else."
"Not much you don't," declared Frank. "Either you'll skip out of here right now, or I shall have to throw you out."
"I don't believe you will do a whole lot of throwing," smiled Davis. "Anyhow, I'll take a chance by staying."
He settled himself more comfortably in his chair and picked up a book.
Frank's eyes flashed angrily, but Jack laid a soothing hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Let him alone," he commanded.
"What for?" demanded Frank. "Think I am going to let a man like him run me out of my own quarters? Not much."
"But we can seek other quarters," said Jack, who was always peaceable until aroused. "What's the use of getting in trouble?"
"It won't be much trouble," said Frank. "I'll just throw him out."
"He might fool you," he said quietly. "To me, he looks as though he would be hard for you to handle."
"I suppose you think you could do it all right?" said Frank.
"Well, I suppose I could if I started out to," declared Jack. "But I don't intend to make a fool of myself."
This answer only served to enrage Frank the more and he advanced upon Davis threateningly.
"Are you going to get out of here?" he demanded angrily.
Davis looked at him lazily.
"Well, no," he said at last; "I'm not."
Frank sprang upon him without another word and, seizing him by both shoulders, bore him over to the floor, falling on top of him. Then the lad quickly raised himself to his feet, and when Davis got up a moment later Frank grabbed him by the back of the neck with his right hand and the trousers with his left and hustled him to the door.
In vain did Davis seek to free himself from this hold. Although he was undoubtedly stronger and more than a match for Frank, the lad had him at a disadvantage; and he could do nothing to help himself as the boy hustled him through the door of the cabin.
There Frank gave Davis a last vigorous shove and he went spinning down the little hallway.
"There," said Frank, "perhaps that will teach you to stay where you belong."
He stepped back in the cabin, closed and locked the door. Then he turned to Jack.
"He's gone," he said quietly.
"I see he has," replied Jack, smiling. "Now, let's get to bed."
But Davis, routed though he had been, still had a few remarks to make. He tried the knob of the door, and, finding it locked, raised his voice.
"Hey! Let me in there," he demanded.
"You're out; stay out!" said Frank.
"You come out here and I'll punch your face," said Davis.
"Oh, I guess not," replied Frank, feeling quite well pleased with himself.
"You little Dutchman!" exclaimed Davis.
"Go hunt a hole and go to bed," said Frank.
There was no danger of his getting angry, for he was too amused. "If you don't," he continued, "I'll come out there and chuck you overboard."
"Oh, you will, will you? Well, come out here and I'll show you."
"Some other time," said Frank cheerfully.
"Right now I am going to turn in. Pleasant dreams to you, Mr. Davis."
Davis was very angry now. Outside the door he stamped his feet one after the other and rattled the knob vigorously.
"Let me in there, or I'll break this door down," he said fiercely.
During all this conversation Jack had shed his shoes and outer garments and was about ready for bed. He now decided that the affair had gone far enough and stepping forward called through the closed door:
"That's enough, Davis. Keep quiet, or I'll take a hand in this myself. If I do, you'll be sorry. Get away from that door!"
And Davis subsided.
AN ENEMY SUNK.
"Steamship off the port bow, sir!"
Frank gave the hail from the bridge. A moment later Lord Hastings emerged from the little conning tower. For several moments he gazed searchingly across the water through his glass.
"Britisher," he said finally. "Guess we had better submerge."
"Why, sir?" demanded Frank. "Surely we have nothing to fear from one of our own vessels."
"You seem to forget about this German flag we carry," said Lord Hastings; "also, that, so far as we know, there are no British submarines in these waters."
"That's so, sir. I had forgotten just who we are supposed to be."
"We'll go below," said Lord Hastings.
He moved toward the conning tower, but even as he would have descended below, Frank gave a sudden cry.
"Submarine approaching the steamer, sir."
Lord Hastings immediately turned his gaze toward the vessel again. Frank had spoken truly. Halfway between the steamship and the U-16 a second submarine had suddenly appeared. Even from where he stood, Lord Hastings could see that the steamer had been ordered to halt.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "They're going to sink her!"
Jack came on deck just in time to hear his commander's last words, and he took in the situation at a glance.
"And we can't remain here idly and let a thing like that happen," he declared. "Come, sir, we'll go below and we'll have a shot at our German friend there."
"You forget," said Lord Hastings dryly, "that for the moment we are one of our friend, the enemy."
"But we can't let them sink the liner, sir!" exclaimed Frank in dismay. "We can creep up on them and launch a torpedo, sir."
"And be discovered ourselves?" remarked Lord Hastings. "Remember, we are playing for bigger game than a single German submarine."
"But no one will know the difference, sir. See, there are no other submarines near. If we sink this fellow, who is to know how it was done?"
"Your reasoning is all right," replied his commander, "but another submarine is likely to appear at just the wrong moment, and then what?"
"But surely, sir, you do not intend to remain here and let all the people aboard the liner drown?"
"The chances are that they won't drown," returned Lord Hastings. "Even now you can see that the vessel has halted. The German will give passengers and crew time to take to the boats."
"But they may not, sir."
"Well, we'll get as close as possible," said Lord Hastings, "and if the German threatens to sink the vessel before all are safely off, I'll give my permission to sink her. But I do not wish to risk discovery unless it is absolutely necessary."
With this the lads were forced to be satisfied.
The U-16 had now come within perhaps a hundred and fifty yards of the other submarine, which in turn was possibly another hundred yards from the big liner. The voice of the commander of the German under-water craft carried plainly to the U-16.
"Five minutes more," he called to the commander of the liner. "I can wait no longer. If all have not left the ship by that time, I shall sink you anyhow."
Instantly all became confusion aboard the steamship. Men, women and children ran shrieking up and down the deck; seeking a place of safety.
A boat was lowered over the side loaded with passengers. Hardly had it struck the water when perhaps a dozen men and women flung themselves over the side of the vessel into the boat. The little craft, already overloaded, could stand no more. It tilted gradually to one side and then suddenly turned over.
The occupants were thrown into the water and disappeared beneath it. Soon heads bobbed up here and there and pitiful cries were borne across the water to the U-16.
A second small boat, launched in haste, met the same fate, as did a third.
The panic aboard the liner became more acute. Hoarse commands of men and shrill cries of women and children rang out over the sea, while at the same moment the commander of the German submarine called out:
"Hurry now! Five minutes more!"
Lord Hastings took his decision instantly.
"Below," he said quietly as he led the way. Frank and Jack followed.
"Submerge, Mr. Templeton," came Lord Hastings' sharp command.
Jack gave the order. The conning tower was hermetically closed instantly and Lord Hastings took his place at the periscope. When the U-16 had submerged until the periscope barely protruded above the water's edge, Lord Hastings ordered:
"Hold her there!"
Orders came thick and fast now. Gradually the U-16 swerved a bit, to better bring her torpedo tubes to bear. Lord Hastings gave a hurried order to Jack, who stood at his elbow.
"Let no one come near me here," he said. "It would not do to have Davis or one of the crew see what we are about to do."
"No one shall pass me, sir," was Jack's quiet response.
"Good. Signal No. 2 torpedo."
Immediately upon going below Frank had ordered the men to their posts, where they now stood, eagerly expectant—the German members of the crew because they believed a British ship was to be torpedoed, and the Englishmen because they knew a German craft of some kind had been encountered.
The electric signal board aboard the submarine now flashed red:
"No. 2 torpedo!"
The man on duty there, who chanced to be a German, stood tense and expectant.
"How does she go above, sir?" asked Jack.
"Still a panic on the liner," returned Lord Hastings. "Several boats have been lowered safely, however, and are picking up those in the water. If the German will withhold his fire for ten minutes, all will be saved."
"Does he seem to be ready to fire, sir?"
"He seems to be holding off and I hope he does. However, I'm ready, and we'll beat him to it."
"I——" began Jack, and whirled about suddenly. He had caught the sound of footsteps behind him.
The lad looked into the face of Davis.
"Stand back there!" he commanded sharply.
"Why? What's the matter? What's going on?" demanded the latter.
"None of your business," replied Jack. "Back now, quick!"
"Look here——" began Davis.
"You heard me," said Jack slowly and very quietly. "Now obey and be quick about it."
"By whose command?" inquired Davis with a leer.
"By mine," returned Jack, restraining his temper with difficulty.
"I don't recognize your authority," declared Davis, and took another step forward.
Lord Hastings had been peering intently into the periscope and had paid no attention to what was going on behind him. He had given Jack his orders and he knew they would be carried out. However, now turning from the periscope to speak a word to the lad, he saw what was going on and he caught Jack's last words and Davis' reply.
"Then perhaps you will recognize mine," he said. "Stand back, sir!"
Without awaiting a reply he again turned to the periscope. For a moment Davis hesitated and seemed about to protest, but Jack gave him time for no further words.
The lad stretched out a long arm quietly, seized Davis by the elbow, drew him toward him a pace, and then hurled him violently backward. Davis went tumbling head over heels. Jack wasted no further thought on him, and turned to Lord Hastings.
Davis, very angry, pulled himself slowly to his feet and glared at Jack evilly. Suddenly he put his hand to his belt, whipped out his revolver, and levelled it straight at Jack.
But before his finger could press the trigger his wrist was seized in a strong grasp from behind and the weapon was twisted from his hand. Whirling angrily Davis looked into the face of Frank, who was smiling quietly.
"What's the meaning of this?" demanded the latter.
Davis face turned dark with rage.
"I'll show you," he cried, and struck a vicious blow at the lad.
But Frank had been prepared for some such move and stepped back quickly.
Frank realized that this was neither time nor place to settle his grievance with Davis, so he took the simplest way out. His hand flashed to his belt and his revolver came to a level.
"That's enough," he said sharply. "One step forward and I'll shoot, so surely as my name is Frank Chadwick."
There was no mistaking the menace in the lad's tones, and growling to himself, Davis dropped his hands. Then, still muttering and keeping at some distance, he slunk away, hurling over his shoulder:
"I'll get you for this yet. Remember that."
Frank did not take the trouble to reply, but instead approached Jack and Lord Hastings.
"How are things, sir?" he asked.
"At a standstill," replied Lord Hastings. "The German is withholding his fire, but there are still people on the liner. If he will restrain his impatience for a few minutes everything will be all right."
"Perhaps he will, sir," said Jack hopefully.
"I trust so. It will be better for all concerned. Everything ready, Frank?"
"All ready, sir. You're sure No. 2 torpedo has the range?"
"Perfectly. It will reach the enemy's bridge at its present angle."
"Could I have a look, sir?" asked Frank.
For a brief moment Lord Hastings hesitated, then stepped aside and motioned Frank to his place at the periscope.
"Give the command to fire if anything happens," instructed Lord Hastings.
Frank nodded, and placed his hand on the signal button, at the same time peering into the periscope.
Above everything was perfectly plain. The lad could see that the captain of the liner and some passengers still remained aboard; and, a short distance away, he saw the German submarine, with her commander standing upon the bridge, watch in hand.
Suddenly the German's watch closed with a snap. Frank drew a sharp breath, for he realized what was coming. Slowly the German officer's hand moved upward. Frank divined that he was about to give the signal to fire a torpedo at the defenseless vessel.
Frank's heart leaped into his mouth; and he pressed the little button beneath his finger. And once again the signal board on the U-16 glowed red:
AN ARGUMENT SETTLED—TEMPORARILY.
There came a sharp, metallic click; and after it the silence of death aboard the U-16 for a brief second while Lord Hastings took Frank's place.
Then the German sailor who had launched the torpedo cried out:
"Did we hit her, sir?"
Lord Hastings took his eye from the periscope long enough to answer: "Squarely on the bridge, my man."
The sailor gave a guttural exclamation of joy, in which his countrymen joined. The three Englishmen had the presence of mind to say nothing. Then one of the Germans turned to Edwards, who stood by him at that moment.
"There goes one of your vessels," he said happily.
"Where many of yours will go before long," returned Edwards, turning away to hide a grin.
"Then we hit her, sir?" questioned Frank eagerly.
"We did," returned Lord Hastings.
"Shall we go to the surface again?" Jack asked.
"Hardly," returned Lord Hastings dryly. "The men naturally would want to go on deck to have a look at their work, and when they saw a British steamship floating safely they would probably do some thinking. No; we'll submerge still deeper and get away from here."
"And the people aboard the liner, sir?" asked Frank.
"Will have to shift for themselves," was the reply. "However, they are in no danger now."
"Very well, sir."
"You may submerge to ten fathoms, Mr. Templeton," said Lord Hastings.
Jack gave the order, and a moment later the tanks of the U-16 began to take in more water. When at the proper depth, Lord Hastings ordered full speed ahead.
"Where now, sir?" asked Jack.
"To where we can do the most good," was his commander's reply. "To Dover, where I shall make an attempt to acquaint the British authorities with what we have learned."
"And where we'll set a neat little trap for the enemy, sir," said Frank eagerly.
"We'll try," returned Lord Hastings grimly.
One of the Germans was now called to take the wheel, and, leaving Lord Hastings in the latter's cabin, Jack and Frank made their way aft. Here, as they passed the compartment in which the crew bunked, they heard a commotion.
The two lads entered quickly. There, in the middle of the floor, surrounded by half a dozen of the German sailors, stood Davis, and confronting him was the British sailor, O'Brien. The latter was speaking.
"Yes, I called you a contemptible traitor," he said, thrusting his face forward and speaking in German. "What are you going to do about it?"
"I'll show you," replied Davis.
He raised an arm suddenly, and, taking O'Brien off his guard, sent him to the floor with a blow to the point of the chin. The man lay still.
Frank's blood boiled.
"Guess I'll take a hand in this myself," he said through his teeth. "I've been wanting to get at him for some time now."
In vain Jack sought to stay his chum. The latter shook off the detaining hand and sprang forward. Before Davis noticed his presence the lad was upon him.
There was a resounding smack as Frank struck Davis lightly across the face with his open palm.
"You big coward," he said, "to taunt a prisoner. I'll teach you a little lesson. Take off your coat."
For a moment Davis shrank back before the boy; but seeing the eager faces about him and realizing that the others expected something from him he jerked off his coat and faced the lad.
"You'll wish you had kept out of my path," he sneered.
It was plain to be seen that sentiment was about evenly divided among the German crew. The men knew neither of the combatants were German, and while they knew that Davis was a traitor to his country, they had a pretty good idea that Jack and Frank were too. For some reason, however, none had the slightest doubt that Lord Hastings was a German.
Now Jack stepped forward, and, speaking in German, said:
"Men, as long as these fellows have got to fight, it may as well be done right, eh?"
There was a general murmur of approval from the crew.
"All right," said Jack. "Now, we won't have any rules, except that this is to be a straight fight. No kicking, biting nor gouging. Nothing but fists go." He looked Davis squarely in the eye. "Do I make myself clear?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Davis sullenly.
"Good. Then when I say 'go' you can tackle each other until I cry stop, which shall be at the end of fifteen minutes, if you are both on your feet. And then you'll stop if I have to take you both in hand. Stand back, men."
The Germans crowded back to the edge of the little room to give the combatants free play. To most of them this was something new.
Most had seen many fights and duels, but it is doubtful if any had ever witnessed a stand-up fight with bare fists. They leaned forward expectantly.
Frank and Davis had both rolled up their sleeves and now awaited the word, Davis sullen and glowering, and Frank cool and collected, apparently, though to Jack's keen eye the lad was plainly very angry. Jack was not without some misgivings as to the outcome of the encounter, for Davis was much the larger of the two.
Also he was apparently much stronger than his adversary, and from his position Jack knew that he must know something of the pugilistic art. To Jack, an exceptionally skillful boxer himself, it looked as though Frank had tackled more than he could finish.
"If Davis were only a German now," he muttered to himself. "But he's English, and, although he's a traitor, he'll probably give Frank a trimming."
"All ready," said Jack, watch in hand. "G——"
At this moment there was an interruption from the doorway.
"What's the meaning of this?" demanded a stern voice.
All turned quickly. Lord Hastings stood in the doorway.
"I say, what's the meaning of this?" he demanded.
"Just a little personal affair, sir," replied Frank, stepping forward. "Davis here and I are going to settle a difference."
"Hm-m-m," muttered Lord Hastings, sizing the two up critically. "And you think you can thrash him, eh?"
"I think so, sir."
"Well, I don't," was the reply. "I have a notion to forbid it."
"Don't, sir," pleaded Frank. "It will have to come some time, and the sooner the better."
Lord Hastings was plainly undecided. But at last he threw open his arms in a gesture of permission.
"Go ahead, then," he said. "I'll stay and see fair play."
Watch in hand, Jack raised an arm. He was silent a moment. Then,
"Go!" he said, "and remember, fight fair!"
The two combatants had sprung forward before the words were out of Jack's mouth, and the latter was obliged to skip nimbly aside to get out of their way.
Davis rushed forward to meet Frank, who advanced more slowly, though with confidence written large on his features. Jack, perceiving this, shook his head sadly.
Frank evaded Davis' first terrific blow, that must have laid him flat had it landed. Side-stepping neatly, he struck Davis a light and glancing blow over the right ear. There was little force behind it and Davis did not even wince. He whirled and rushed again.
Again Frank side-stepped and planted a light blow to Davis' head, following it up quickly with a heavier blow to the forehead. Davis shook his head, and, raising his guard, stood still. Evidently he had decided to try no more rushing tactics.
Frank, nothing loath to take the offensive, advanced confidently. He feinted with his left and drove hard with his right. He knew that he gauged the distance carefully and he was unable to account for the fact that the blow failed to land. A moment later he staggered back a trifle from a blow upon the side of the cheek. Davis had outgeneraled him there.
There was not much force to the blow and Frank smiled. Now Davis advanced, and, feinting rapidly with both hands, placed his right against Frank's mouth. But the lad had perceived the blow coming and stepped quickly backward, breaking the force of it, and was not hurt. Before Davis could cover, the lad placed a hard right and left to Davis' nose, bringing blood. Davis gave ground.
Frank followed up this advantage quickly and followed his man around the room, striking out whenever opportunity offered. Plainly Davis was becoming rattled. He continued to retreat. Now Frank backed him into a corner and drove a hard uppercut to the chin. Davis' head jerked backward and struck the hard wood of the wall. Frank stepped back and allowed Davis to come out of the corner.