It was only a little more than ten miles from Boston to Woburn and the trip was made quickly. As they alighted from the train, Frank let his eyes rove over the familiar landmarks, which he had not seen for three years. There was little change to be noticed. Frank led the way toward his home.
He paused before an old-fashioned New England house and Jack, glancing up, saw this sign on the door:
"Dr. R. G. Chadwick."
Frank mounted the steps rapidly and rang the bell. An elderly woman came to the door. Frank had never seen her before.
"Is the doctor in?" he asked.
"Yes, but he is busy right now. Step in and have a seat."
Frank led the way into the doctor's waiting room, where he and Jack sat down.
Frank's mother was dead. She had passed away when the lad was not more than five years, and in the days that followed Dr. Chadwick had been father and mother both to him.
From the little room beyond Frank caught the sound of his father's voice. The lad could hardly, restrain his impatience.
A few moments later, however, a door slammed, signifying that the physician's patient had left by, another door. A moment more and the door into the waiting room was flung open and Dr. Chadwick stepped into the room.
He looked at the two figures who now rose to greet him, and then he jumped forward with a cry.
A moment and the lad was in his father's arms.
Dr. Chadwick held the lad off at arm's length and looked at him.
"You've grown," he said. "Sit down and tell me about yourself. I was afraid you had been killed. I haven't had a letter from you for almost a year."
"Before I recount my adventures, father," said Frank, "I want you to meet my chum, Jack Templeton, of whom I have written you."
Jack and Dr. Chadwick shook hands. Then Frank sat down and gave an account of his adventures in the three years since he had been separated from his father in Naples, Italy, soon after the great European war had broken out.
"And you say your commander, Lord Hastings, is in New York?" said his father.
"He's in Washington today, sir," said Jack, "but he probably will be back day after tomorrow, when we must return, sir."
"I shall do myself the honor of calling on him," declared Dr. Chadwick.
"He asked me particularly to bring you back with us, father," said Frank. "I'm glad you will go."
"Of course I'll go," said Dr. Chadwick. "Now, son, I have a patient to see, so if you and Jack care to you can go down the street. You may see some of your old friends."
Jack and Frank were the heroes of the town the two days they remained in Woburn. Frank saw many of his old friends, and there is many a lad in the American navy today who enlisted as a result of Frank's harrangue that he answer his country's call.
True to his word, Dr. Chadwick accompanied the lads back to New York. Lord Hastings had returned to the metropolis ahead of them, and was in their room when they arrived. The boys' commander and Frank's father shook hands warmly, and the lads withdrew to let them talk.
Over the dinner table that evening Lord Hastings recounted some of Frank's adventures which the lad had been too modest to tell. Dr. Chadwick listened eagerly.
"It is as I would have had him do," he exclaimed.
"When I lost him in Naples I was terribly worried and I had the police scour the city for him. At last I gave up hope that he was still alive and returned home. Then I received a letter from Frank telling me that he had joined the British navy.
"I am of old English descent and naturally enough my sympathies were always with the Allies. Therefore I sanctioned Frank's choice, but I have been fearful that I would never see him again."
"How long will you stay in New York, Lord Hastings?"
"It's too bad," said Lord Hastings, "but we shall leave here in the morning."
"Is that so, sir?" exclaimed Frank eagerly.
"Where to, sir?"
"We have been ordered to Halifax," was Lord Hastings' reply. "There I shall take command of the British cruiser Lawrence. We will be one of the convoy to protect the crossing of the first contingent of American troops."
"I am sorry it is so soon," said Dr. Chadwick. "However, what must be, must be."
In spite of the fact that Frank hated to leave his father so soon again, he nevertheless was glad that the time of inaction was comparatively short. Jack also showed his pleasure at Lord Hastings' announcement.
Dr. Chadwick remained i New York over night as the guest of Lord Hastings. The four had breakfast together and then all repaired to the North station, where Dr. Chadwick took a train for Woburn and Lord Hastings and his two officers boarded a through train for Canada.
"How does it happen," asked Frank, as they rode along that afternoon, "that American troops will go across by the way of Halifax?"
"Submarines," returned Lord Hastings. "The channel from Halifax is well guarded, and it is believed that there is less danger by traversing that route."
"Have you any idea how many men will form the first contingent?" asked Frank.
"No, I haven't," replied Lord Hastings. "That is something that is being well guarded by the United States war department. It is just as well, too. Nevertheless, I understand that there will be several large transports, at least."
The trio reached the Canadian city the following day, and Lord Hastings at once reported himself to the British commandant. Before evening Lord Hastings had taken command of the Lawrence. As of yore, Jack and Frank were his first and second officers.
"And when will we sail, sir?" asked Jack.
"Tomorrow at nightfall," was his commander's reply.
Jack and Frank turned in early. They were happy and eager for action.
ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
The first contingent of American troops to cross the Atlantic to take their places on the firing line sailed in three divisions. Approximately 225,000 troops comprised the contingent.
The transports, on their voyage, were convoyed by British and American torpedo boats destroyers, cruisers and other ships of war. These were in sufficient number, American and British naval authorities believed, to protect the transports should they be attacked by German submarines.
The transports themselves carried big guns fore and aft and were so equipped as to be able to give a good account of themselves should occasion arise; and as the voyage progressed a sharp lookout was kept aboard every vessel of' the flotilla, that a submarine might not come unheralded within striking distance of the transports or their convoy.
Much to the disappointment of Jack and Frank, they did not sail with the first section of the American troops; nor did they find themselves with the second. In fact, it seemed to both lads that they were to be denied the honor of the trip altogether. But in this belief they were wrong.
The British cruiser Lawrence, under command of Lord Hastings, with Jack as first officer and Frank the third in command, was ordered forth from a Canadian port as one of the convoy for the third section.
American troops were being transported to France by this northern route because naval authorities believed the route was less likely to be infested with German submarines. The channel was well defined and well protected. Thus, the American navy department had little fear that the troops would be landed safely.
It was a clear morning in May that the flotilla put to sea. The sailing was without ostentation, though the population of the port was aware that the start was being made. However, the sailing was kept secret from the rest of the world — even from the United States, except the naval authorities — for the navy department was doing everything possible to prevent word of the sailing from reaching the enemy.
But for this fact it is highly probable that the first contingent of American troops would not have reached France safely, or at least with more danger than attended their crossing, for the United States at that time was infested with German spies, who, through secret channels — via Argentina and Sweden, as it developed later — were able to flash their discoveries to the Imperial German government in Berlin.
There was no demonstration, then — such as had attended sailing of similar expeditions when Uncle Sam went to war — in the Canadian city the troops had just left. The city went about its business as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
The last of the troops had been ordered aboard the transports the night before and assigned to quarters. Therefore, some of the men were still asleep in their bunks when the flotilla lifted anchor and put to sea.
There were five transports filled with American soldiers. Three cruisers and a pair of torpedo boat destroyers showed the way. Strung out on either side of the transports, which proceeded singly one behind the other, were two cruisers and as many of the smaller craft. A pair of American cruisers brought up the rear. Altogether, it was a formidable armada that steamed swiftly across the Atlantic.
The Lawrence, aboard which Jack and Frank served as officers, had been assigned a post of honor in the first line. To port was the destroyer Halifax. To starboard was nothing but the expanse of the ocean. The Lawrence was on the end of the first line.
The first day passed quietly. The ships of war were all stripped for action and the men stood to their posts during the long day. There was little probability that a German submarine lurked so close to North American shores, but the American and British commanders were taking no chances.
Frank, appearing to relieve Jack on the bridge at eight bells that evening, smiled.
"Guess there will be no excitement on this voyage," he said to his friend.
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
"Hard to tell," he replied. "However, I don't anticipate any trouble until we are near the coast of Ireland."
He went below without further words and turned in.
The second day passed quietly, and the third. Noon of the fourth day out, however, saw the allied American and British convoy in action.
Jack held the bridge at the time. Frank and Lord Hastings were below in the latter's cabin. Jack was gazing straight ahead.
Suddenly there was a crash-crash of heavy, guns as the starboard turret forward aboard the Lawrence poured forth a salvo. Jack wheeled about suddenly. Across the sea he made out what he felt sure was a periscope of a German submarine.
At the same moment the forward starboard battery belched forth again. The gunners had not waited for the word to fire. Such had been their instructions when the voyage began, and they were still effective.
Jack took command now, pending the arrival of Lord Hastings from his cabin below. At the same moment a second and a third periscope, still some distance away, came into view.
"Aft, there!" cried Jack, and the batteries in the stern opened upon the submarines.
Jack signaled the engine room for full speed ahead and at a word to the helmsman the Lawrence swung sharply and headed for the nest of submarines.
Lord Hastings appeared on deck at this moment, closely followed by Frank. The commander of the Lawrence took in the situation at a glance.
"Wireless the two cruisers to keep position," he shouted to Frank. "Order the destroyers to follow us. There may be more of the enemy to port," he explained.
Frank passed the word and the fourth officer dashed for the wireless room.
A moment later the two cruisers to port, which had swerved with the apparent intention of following the Lawrence toward the foe, swung back into position, as did the vessels that guarded the transports on the port side. The two destroyers, however, veered sharply and dashed after the Lawrence.
Again, at Lord Hastings' command, the three cruisers protecting the transports to starboard also remained in line. This, Lord Hastings explained later, he had deemed advisable because a submarine might have pushed a torpedo through to a transport had they moved out of line.
One of the cruisers making up the rear guard, however, the American cruiser Huron, dashed toward the submarines.
And now it became apparent that there were not only three submarines to contend, with - there were at least five or six. The flotilla had run into a veritable nest of the undersea terrors.
The submarines now rose to the surface and launched torpedoes. The distance was still great, however, and none of them found its mark.
In the meantime the guns aboard the two cruisers rumbled as they bore down on the foe, and the destroyers, not far behind, added their voices to the conflict.
Lord Hastings, as he took command of the situation, realized that Jack had acted with promptness upon the discovery of the foe and he commended the lad with a nod of his head.
Suddenly there came a cry of triumph from the forward turret aboard the Lawrence. A British shell had struck squarely aboard the nearest submersible. The little vessel seemed to fly into a thousand pieces. A moment later it disappeared from sight.
A second mighty cheer rang out.
"It's not all over yet," said Jack grimly.
Frank, who overheard the words, nodded his assent.
At a quick command from Lord Hastings the Lawrence veered sharply to starboard — and a torpedo from the nearest submarine flashed by harmlessly.
"Pretty close, though," Frank muttered.
It had been close, and had it not been for the prompt action of Lord Hastings in maneuvering the vessel out of harm's way, the Lawrence would have received a death blow.
Before the submarine could launch a second torpedo, a shell from the Huron struck her squarely amidships. A moment later the second submarine disappeared beneath the water.
Again a combined British and American cheer rang out over the sea.
So far as those aboard the Lawrence could see now, there were still four of the submarines in action. This was a formidable number indeed, and Lord Hastings realized that it would take quick and decisive action if they were to be disposed of before severe injury could be inflicted upon the British and American ships.
He turned to Frank. "Order the Sandusky to our assistance!" he commanded.
Frank dashed to the wireless room. A few moments later the Sandusky, an American cruiser, which was one of the rear guard, left her place in the line and dashed forward.
"Now we'll get 'em!" cried Frank.
END OF THE SUBMARINE FLEET
There were now opposed to the four remaining submarines, two American and one British cruiser and two British torpedo destroyers. Two U-boats had been sunk by the allied fleet and so far the submarines had failed to deliver an effective blow.
Lord Hastings now commanded his ships to spread out a trifle more — this giving them more room to act while at the same time interposing an effective barrier against torpedoes before the transports.
Aboard these transports the men were straining their eyes to get a view of the battle and chafing at their inability to take a hand. And yet there was hardly a man aboard the transports who did not realize that in an encounter with a submarine, a troop ship nine times out of ten would come off second best.
Denied the privilege of taking a hand, therefore, they stood at the rails of the various ships and cheered on the fighting vessels.
There was an explosion as a torpedo found the hull of the destroyer Halifax. The ship wabbled crazily in her course, then dashed forward again. Apparently she was not badly hurt.
A shell from one of the guns mounted by the first submarine, a moment later, landed squarely aboard the same destroyer and carried away her superstructure. Men fell to the deck dead or badly wounded.
"First blood for the Germans," said Jack to himself.
Apparently angered at this German success, the second British destroyer, the Angelic, darted forward and attacked the submarine with such abandon and effectiveness that she was forced to give the destroyer its entire attention. Twice the Angelic maneuvered out of the path of a torpedo, and then, with a well directed shot, put the submarine out of the battle. This shell caught the U-boat along side the conning tower. Iron and steel flew high in the air, and, descending, scattered death among the crew. Thus crippled, a second shot from the Angelic disposed of her entirely and she sank beneath the waves.
There were now but three submarines left.
"Great Scott! It's a wonder they don't submerge," said Frank. "Wonder if they think they can lick us?"
The answer came from the enemy. All three simultaneously launched torpedoes at the Lawrence. It was absolutely impossible for Lord Hastings to maneuver the ship out of the way of all three missiles. He did the best he could, but one of the projectiles penetrated the side of the ship and pierce the engine room.
There was a loud explosion from below. Lord Hastings turned to Frank.
"Go below and report," he said quietly.
Frank hurried away. Meanwhile, unmindful that the Lawrence might have received a vital wound, Lord Hastings pressed even closer toward the enemy.
In the boiler room Frank found confusion. Three men had been killed by the explosion. Half a dozen others had been wounded by pieces of flying steel or splinters, while several had been badly scalded by escaping water and steam.
Frank approached McMullen, the chief engineer.
"What's your damage?" he asked.
"Just what you see," replied the engineer, with a wave of his band.
"We're still able to proceed?"
"Yes, sir; and we are proceeding."
Frank could see that this was right. He went on deck again.
"Three killed and a dozen wounded, sir," he reported to Lord Hastings. "No vital damage, sir."
"Very good!" returned Lord Hastings, and turned away with a command for Jack.
The British vessels were now pouring such a stream of shells upon the enemy that it seemed impossible the submarines could survive. But the little craft stuck doggedly to their work and launched torpedo after torpedo at the British and Americans.
"Looks like they had decided to lick us or to go down fighting," Frank said to Jack.
"If that's the case," was Jack's reply, "they'll go down fighting."
The German submarines made no offer to retreat. They stood their ground bravely enough.
Suddenly one of them blew up with a loud explosion. A shot from the cruiser Sandusky had found its mark.
"Only two now," said Frank. "Surely they, won't continue the fight."
But continue the fight the Germans did. Another torpedo struck the Lawrence forward and exploded with a loud detonation. The Lawrence staggered a trifle, but moved forward. Apparently the wound was not serious.
The British and Americans were right upon them now. Regardless of possible torpedoes, Lord Hastings pressed on. He knew that he now had the two remaining submarines in his grasp, and that while it was possible a torpedo would dispose of the Lawrence, other British and American ships would account for the enemy. Therefore, while not exposing himself needlessly, he advanced with more abandon than before.
One, two torpedoes exploded forward and each time the Lawrence staggered. Then the moment for which Lord Hastings had been waiting presented itself.
A brief command to the helmsman and the Lawrence again veered sharply. She headed straight for the nearest submarine, now only yards away. In vain the German commander attempted to get his boat out of harm's way. The sharp prow of the Lawrence found its mark and the German submarine was crushed like an egg shell.
So there was but one of the enemy left afloat.
"We'll lose him, sure," said Jack, alarmed that - one of the enemy might escape. "He'll submerge."
Indeed, it seemed that this would have been the wise thing to do. Instead, however, a white flag appeared from the periscope.
"Great Scott! Surrender!" cried Frank. "I wonder why? All he had to do was submerge."
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
"Too deep for me," he said. "However, I guess the German commander has had fighting a-plenty."
At the appearance of the white flag the British ships ceased their fire. A German appeared through the conning tower. He carried signal flags, which he waved. The signal officer aboard the Lawrence replied.
"Says he has surrendered and that he and his men will come aboard, sir," reported the signal officer.
"I read him," returned Lord Hastings, to whom signaling was no secret. "Tell him we'll send boats for him and his men and to be ready, for we shall sink his vessel as soon as all are safely aboard the Lawrence."
Again the flags flashed their message. Then the German disappeared. He came on deck again a moment later, however. Men followed him. Lord Hastings ordered several small boats launched, and these put off toward the submarine.
"You can't tell me," said Frank to Jack, "that everything is right. There is something funny about this."
"Well, what is it?" demanded Jack.
"I don't know what it is, but I've a feeling —"
Frank broke off suddenly and ran to Lord Hastings.
"Treachery!" he cried. "There is something wrong, sir."
Lord Hastings looked at the lad in amazement.
"What's that?" he demanded.
"There is something wrong, sir," said Frank quickly. "I have a feeling that the Germans are plotting treachery."
Lord Hastings smiled.
"I guess it's too late for that," he said grimly.
"However, I'm glad you warned me. I'll take the necessary precaution. Have one of the forward guns trained on the submarine, Mr. Chadwick."
Frank hurried away with a feeling of some relief, but he was not fully satisfied.
The gun trained on the submarine, he stood by quietly.
Apparently all the Germans were now on the deck of the little submarine. The British small boats had approached close — almost close enough to take off the German crew and the German commander.
Suddenly there was a hiss from the submarine. A torpedo flashed from the side of the little vessel. It whizzed past the Lawrence and sped straight toward the closest American transport.
Frank gave a cry of alarm and then commanded the man who stood by the gun already trained on the submarine: "Fire!"
"Boom!" the big gun spoke.
Then there came a terrific explosion. The German submarine, with its officers and crew upon its deck, was hurled high in the air as the Lawrence's shell burst squarely amidships. It came down in a million pieces.
Alongside, the British boats sent to take off the Germans rocked crazily for several moments on the angry waves. When these became still, there was no German nor submarine to be seen.
Thanks to the watchfulness of the commander of the transport, the ship had been able to escape the torpedo so treacherously launched by the Germans; so no harm had been done.
Lord Hastings approached Frank and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Quick work, Frank," he said. "I should have listened to you. However, nothing has come of the treachery. But I have learned that there is nothing sacred in the Hun mind. I shall never trust another German!"
UNDER OLD GLORY
The third section of the first contingent of American troops sent to France reached the shores of England safely. After several days of parading and celebrating they were transported to France and soon they reached the field of battle, where, for the next few months, they would undergo the intensive training that would fit them to take up their share of the work along with their British and French allies.
When the transports docked safely in a British port the duties of Frank and Jack ceased so far as they had to do with the American troops. Lord Hastings turned the command of the Lawrence over to a brother officer and with Frank and Jack took train for London. The lads accompanied Lord Hastings; to his home, where they awaited further instructions.
These instructions came sooner than they had dared hope.
It was at dinner the second day after their return that a peculiar smile on Lord Hastings' face told Jack and Frank that there was something in the air.
Jack restrained his impatience; not so Frank.
"I have a hunch that something is going to happen," he said over the dessert.
"That so?" queried Lord Hastings. "Just what, for instance?"
"Well, I don't know exactly, sir," was the lad's reply, "but it wouldn't surprise me greatly if Jack and I were soon on active service."
"And what makes you think so?" asked Lord Hastings.
"You do, sir. I can tell from your expression that you have good news for us."
"Then I must learn to control my face better," said Lord Hastings. "However, Frank, seeing that you are so impatient, I may as well admit it right now."
"I knew it!" exclaimed Frank joyfully. "What is it, sir?"
"If you will just hold your horses a bit, I'll tell you," was his commander's reply. "It seems to me that you promised to restrain your impatience."
"So I did, sir," replied Frank, flushing a trifle. "I will try to remember that promise."
"Do," replied Lord Hastings, and continued:
"I don't know just how you'll like this piece I of work, but some one has to do it and I volunteered your services."
"We are always glad to help in any way possible, sir," said Jack quietly. Lord Hastings nodded.
"That's why I took the liberty of offering your services without first having consulted you," he made reply. "Well, then, tomorrow morning you will report to Captain Glenn aboard the Albatross."
"The American ship Albatross!" exclaimed Frank. "That's a merchant ship, sir."
"So it is," agreed his commander. "It is now an armed merchant ship, to be more precise, it plies between Liverpool and Halifax. Its main cargo from this time forth will be food and other supplies for the American expeditionary forces. You will report to Captain Glenn as his first and second officers. As a result of the United States' declaration of war on Germany there is a dearth of young officers. Most of them have joined the naval forces of the nation. In reality, Captain Glenn is an American naval officer, and now that the United States has declared war, the Albatross may be classed as an American naval vessel. It has been heavily armed that it may make the voyages without convoy. There will be considerable danger, of course, but I know you are not the lads to shirk that. Come, now, what do you say?"
"We accept, of course, sir," said Frank. "But are you not going with us?"
"No," said Lord Hastings, "I have other work to do here. But I hope to be able to make use of your services before many days."
"I am sorry you are not going, sir," said Jack, "but I guess that can't be helped. We shall report to Captain Glenn in the morning. I take that to mean that we must leave London tonight?"
"Exactly," was Lord Hastings' reply. "I believe Captain Glenn has arranged to sail by 8 o'clock."
"Then we may as well pack up, Frank," said Jack.
The two lads made their way to their rooms and got together what belongings they considered necessary. Lord Hastings accompanied them to the station, where they took train for Liverpool.
"You will find Captain Glenn a very agreeable commander, I am sure," said Lord Hastings. "Good-bye and good luck, boys."
The lads shook hands with Lord Hastings and he was gone.
Arriving in Liverpool late that evening they put up at a hotel for the night and early the following morning sought out the Albatross and went aboard.
At the rail a young man — he could not have been more than 30 — watched them calmly as they came over the side. He was attired in a pair of dark blue trousers and a blue coat. He wore no insignia of rank. There was no other person in sight. The two lads approached him.
"Can you tell us where we will find Captain Glenn?" asked Jack.
"I'm Captain' Glenn," was the other's response. Jack was a little surprised, for he had naturally surmised Captain Glenn would be an older man. The latter noticed Jack's confusion and smiled.
"You're Lieutenant Templeton, I suppose?" he questioned.
"Yes, sir," replied Jack.
"Good!" The captain extended a hand which Jack grasped. Captain Glenn turned to Frank.
"Lieutenant Chadwick?" he questioned.
"Yes, sir," returned Frank, and grasped the captain's hand.
"Very good," said Captain Glenn. "Mr. Templeton, you are the first officer of this ship and Mr. Chadwick, you are next in command. Come below to my cabin and I will give you our course and other details."
The lads followed him below. The captain explained things in a few words and after showing them to their quarters he added:
"We sail at 8 o'clock. It is now 7."
Jack and Frank ascended the bridge fifteen minutes later. Signs of life became apparent aboard the Albatross. Both lads assumed their duties at once and soon the Albatross was moving out to sea.
The Albatross, the lads learned, was one of the largest freighters afloat. It carried a crew of more than 200 men. It was loaded in ballast for the trip across, but, returning, it would carry a valuable cargo of food and supplies.
The third officer's name was Williams. He was a Welshman. Others of importance aboard were Carney, chief engineer; Tompkins, bo's'n; Washington, negro cook and Paul, wireless operator.
Jack was assigned to the first watch. Frank came next in line and then Williams. Captain Glenn announced that he himself would take the bridge whenever necessary.
Soon after the Albatross had sailed members of the crew were picked for the various watches, Captain Glenn retained the bridge until the ship was well out to sea.
Frank and Jack saw that the Albatross was heavily armed for a trade ship. Forward she was equipped with a battery of 6-inch guns, while a second battery had been constructed aft. She also carried two 6-inch torpedoes.
"We should be able to give a good account of ourselves," said Frank, after a survey of the vessel.
"Rather," said Jack dryly; "and remember, we are to have the guns ready for action every instant."
"I'm not likely to forget," said Frank; "and don't you forget that orders are to keep the searchlight playing at night."
"I won't be any more likely to forget than you are," said Jack, with a smile. "Remember, we're not out hunting for Germans now. We're trying to dodge them."
"I know it," said Frank. "That's the trouble with a merchant ship. We'll run while we can and then fight instead of fighting first and running if we have to."
"Can't be helped now," said Jack. "We're here and we shall have to make the best of it."
"Well, you can't tell," replied Frank. "Something is likely to turn up any time."
"Right; but we're here to see that it doesn't turn up if we can help it. Well, I'm going below. Call me if you want anything."
"Don't worry," said Frank with a smile. "I guess nothing is going to happen, but if it does you may make sure that you'll hear about it."
Jack went below and turned in for a good night's sleep. Frank held the bridge.
Nothing happened that night nor the following day or night, but when Captain Glenn came on deck the morning of the third day he cast an uneasy eye toward the northeast.
"Storm brewing," he said quietly to Frank, who stood near.
"Calm enough now, sir," returned Frank. "Sun shinning, too, sir. Doesn't look as though there would be much of a blow."
"What's the barometer say?" asked Captain Glenn.
Frank took a hasty look. "Falling, sir."
"As I thought. We're in for a spell of bad weather. Pipe all hands on deck, Mr. Chadwick."
Frank gave the necessary command. As the first man appeared from below, the sun went out as if a great cloud had blotted it from sight. Outside it became black as right.
Despite his lack of years, Captain Glenn was an able skipper; otherwise he would not have been in command of the Albatross. He acted promptly and with decision.
Men dashed forward and aft as Frank and Jack repeated the captain's commands. Everything was made secure before the storm broke and Captain Glenn ordered all men not needed on deck below. The helmsman had lashed himself to the wheel. Everything was as snug as it could be made aboard the Albatross.
Captain Glenn signaled the engine room for five knots.
"We'll have to slow down," he explained to Jack.
"No need of rushing blindly into the storm. It's coming from the northeast. We'll hold to our course as well as possible. The Albatross has weathered many a hard gale. Guess we will come through this all right."
The words had hardly left his mouth when the gale descended with the utmost fury. The Albatross keeled to port until her side almost touched the water. Jack, Frank and the captain saved themselves from being washed overboard by seizing the rail and clutching it with all their strength. As the ship righted itself, only to keel far to starboard the next minute, a deluge of water covered the deck.
Captain Glenn bellowed a hoarse command to Jack and Frank.
"Below and get into your oilskins!" he shouted.
The two lads struggled along the deck holding fast to whatever they could find. The ship rocked and dipped like a drunken man. Frank and Jack clambered into their oilskins with difficulty and then made their way back to the bridge, where Captain Glenn stood drenched to the skin.
The latter turned the bridge over to Jack while he went below for dry clothes and his own oilskins.
"Keep her on her course!" he shouted. "We're in no danger."
Jack obeyed. Captain Glenn returned a short time later and again assumed command.
All that day the gale raged and with the coming of night it showed no signs of abatement. So far the Albatross had plowed through the turbulent sea without injury, but it was plain to Jack and Frank that Captain Glenn was growing uneasy.
"This gale must stop soon or we'll have trouble," he shouted. "A ship can stand only so much pounding and you can hear the Albatross straining now."
It was true. Even above the roar of the gale the lads could hear the creaking of the timbers as the Albatross fought her way through the raging sea.
A man appeared from below.
"Sprung a leak forward, sir!" he shouted.
"Mr. Chadwick!" commanded Captain Glenn. "Get below and find out from the carpenter how bad the leak is."
Frank returned fifteen minutes later.
"Not bad, sir," he reported. "Carpenter says he can fix it in two hours. Could do it in half an hour if it weren't for the storm."
Captain Glenn nodded but made no audible reply.
At midnight the gale was still raging. Captain Glenn, tired out, announced that he was going below to get "forty winks." Jack took the bridge.
"Call me if anything happens," were the commander's last words as he went below.
Along toward four o'clock a man emerged from below and fought his way toward the bridge.
"Leak in the main compartment aft, sir," he reported to Jack.
Jack ordered Frank below to learn the extent of the damage.
"Pretty bad this time, Jack," said Frank, reporting a few minutes later. "We're shipping water by the gallon. Carpenter says he can't do a thing. However, one compartment more or less won't hurt. She'll still float."
"All right," Jack replied. "I won't awake Captain Glenn until I have to."
An hour later Captain Glenn, greatly refreshed, reappeared on deck. Jack reported the damage. Captain Glenn accepted the bad news with a nod, summoned Williams, the fourth officer, and ordered Jack and Frank below.
"Get some sleep," he shouted to make himself heard above the roaring of the wind. "I'll call you if you're needed."
The two lads descended to their quarters. It had been many hours since they had slept and in spite of the rolling and pitching of the ship they were asleep the moment they touched their bunks.
And as they slept the gale raged.
On the evening of the second night, with the gale still at its height, Captain Glenn said, "Six more hours of this and we are done for."
At that time the Albatross was leaking badly in a dozen places. The engineer was having trouble with his engines. The rolling and pitching of the ship made it almost impossible to stand.
Suddenly the ship gave a great lurch, keeled over, righted, and then wallowed in the trough of the sea.
"Great Scott!" ejaculated Frank. "Now what?"
"Rudder broken, sir," said the helmsman quietly.
Frank threw up his hands in a gesture of dismay. "That settles it," he declared.
"Out with the life boats!" cried Captain Glenn.
"All hands on deck."
The men needed no urging. The life boats were made ready, the men the while clinging to whatever support offered itself. Suddenly there was a shrill scream aft, followed by a cry: "Man overboard!"
Captain Glenn shrugged his shoulders.
"Can't be helped," he said. "He's just beating us a little; that's all."
The commander of the Albatross hesitated to give the command to lower the boats. He knew that the odds were a hundred to one that the boats would not live in such a sea. While the Albatross held together they were safer aboard the vessel.
Came a wave sweeping over the ship mightier than the rest. The Albatross dipped clear to the sea. For a moment it seemed that she must go under; but she righted herself with an effort.
"Thought we were gone for that time!" shouted Captain Glenn. "She won't survive another. Lower away the boats, men."
Half a dozen men had been washed overboard by the last mighty deluge; the others now sprang to the boats and lowered them. Several were swamped as they hit the water, and there were not more than half a dozen that put off from the ship.
In the last boat were Frank, Jack and Captain Glenn and the fourth officer, Williams.
The little boat hit the water with a splash and all but turned over.
"Shove away from the ship!" cried Captain Glenn to the two sailors who manned the boat — the others had been lost. The sailors, Timothy and Allen by names, obeyed and then all took to their oars.
The little boat, one moment riding the crest of the waves, the next wallowing in the trough of the sea, moved away bravely though every moment it seemed in imminent danger of capsizing. It took skillful handling by Captain Glenn — the only man not at the oars — to keep the craft right side up.
It was so dark there on the sea that it was impossible for the occupants of the boat to tell whether or not others had escaped the ship safely.
"This storm can't last much longer, sir!" shouted Jack.
"If it does, we are wasting energy rowing," said Frank quietly.
"We'll row along as long as we can," said Captain Glenn. "We've been blown so far off our course that there is no telling where we are. It wouldn't surprise me if we had been blown off the coast of South America."
"Impossible, sir," ejaculated Jack.
"Maybe so," replied Captain Glenn. "I'm just guessing. Still, it wouldn't surprise me a bit."
Suddenly the raging wind ceased. The waves still rose to mighty heights, but the wind was stilled almost to a zephyr and the little boat rode the swells gently.
"It's over, sir!" shouted Frank.
"So it is," said Captain Glenn, "but it is still dark. Strike a match someone and learn the hour."
Jack did so.
"Three thirty, sir," he said.
"Morning or afternoon?" demanded Frank, who seemed to have lost track of the time entirely.
"Morning, of course," said Jack.
"Can't see the reason for that 'of course,'" mumbled Frank.
"It should be light in half an hour," said Captain Glenn. "Then we may see whether any of the others are near."
They waited silently. The sea grew calmer and calmer; and at last the light came.
The occupants of the boat stood up and scanned the ocean. There was nothing that the eye could see save water. There was no sign of the Albatross nor other of the small boats.
"Poor fellows!" said Jack.
At that moment Frank, his eyes sharper than those of the others, gave an exclamation. "Land ahead!" he shouted.
It was still early morning when the little boat with the six castaways — Frank, Jack, Captain Glenn, Williams, fourth officer of the Albatross' and the two sailors, Timothy and Allen — rounded a projecting point of land and put into a small harbor.
Along the shore were signs of human hands. There was a recently constructed dock, well hidden under overhanging foliage. It was perfectly invisible from a distance, being revealed to view only when the small boat approached within a hundred yards. There was no vessel in sight.
"Somebody lives around these parts, that's sure," commented Captain Glenn. "Wonder where we are, anyhow?"
"Thought you said something about South America, Sir," said Frank.
"So I did," replied the erstwhile commander of the Albatross, "but that's no reason we are. I was just guessing at it, you know."
"Well," said Jack, "we're safe at any rate, and that's something."
"Right you are, Jack," said Frank. "I am sorry the same cannot be said for all who were with us aboard the Albatross."
For a time the occupants of the boat were silent as they drew closer to the shore. At last the nose of the little craft plowed into the sand. Frank leaped lightly ashore and the others followed.
"Drag the boat out of the water, Allen," Frank instructed, and added: "We don't want it to be carried away by the tide."
The sailor followed instructions and the little boat was soon high and dry.
"Now what?" asked Jack.
"Well," said Captain Glenn, "I don't know where we are exactly and the best thing is to find out. I still incline to the belief that we're on the coast of South America and the more I look around the more certain I feet about it. It has all the appearance of the tropics."
"We'll have a look, then, sir," said Frank briefly.
"Hold on," called Jack, as Frank moved away. "Don't forget we've rifles in the boat."
"Guess we won't need them," said Frank. "We're out of the war zone, at least."
"Don't be so sure, youngster," interposed Williams, himself a man well over forty. "This war has pretty well dragged every nation beneath the sun within its maw. You never can tell where you will encounter the hand of the German Kaiser; and, besides, we'll need something to eat."
"Right, Williams," said Captain Glenn, "and wherever you find the Kaiser's band there you also will find trouble. The German is no respecter of neutrality, or anything else, for that matter. We'll take our rifles and make sure that our revolvers and knives are in working order."
The six returned to the boat, from which Frank dragged a dozen rifles and a quantity of superfluous revolvers and sheath knives.
There's an abundance here," the lad said. "We can carry two revolvers apiece and a knife. Also we can lug a rifle, but I am opposed to carrying more than one."
"I'm with you there," said Captain Glenn. "For that reason I shall detail you, Chadwick, to guard the boat with Timothy and Allen, while Templeton, Williams and I do a little exploring."
Frank's face fell a trifle, for he was keen to have a hand in the work; but he was too well trained to protest. So all he said was: "Very well, sir."
"In the meantime," continued Captain Glenn, is you might drag out all the ammunition and provisions and make sure that they're dry. It will be well to provide against eventualities. Should we fail to return by 4 o'clock this afternoon, you will know that something has gone wrong and you will look to your own safety without thought of help from us."
"Very well, sir," said Frank again.
Captain Glenn now led the way inland, Jack and Williams striding along on either side of him. Each carried a rifle in addition to a pair of Colt automatics and a heavy sheath knife stuck in his belt. They felt perfectly able to cope with any danger that might present itself.
Behind, Frank and the two sailors fell to unloading the boat. It had been well stocked with provision, water and ammunition. Such a contingency as shipwreck had been provided for before the Albatross sailed. Therefore, when time came to desert the ship there had been nothing to do but lower the boats.
Prank gazed after his friends as they strode rapidly inland. As they disappeared beyond a distant clump of trees he shrugged.
"Well," he said to the sailors, "they've gone and we're here. I don't imagine any one will bother us, but we'll be on guard. Timothy, you keep your weather eye open for possible callers while Allen and I unload."
The two proceeded untiringly with the work while Timothy scanned the horizon.
Now, it so happened that the sailor paid no attention to the water front. After one brief glance, in which be made sure that there was nothing upon the surface of the water, he confined his attention inland. Therefore, it is only natural that Frank was taken off his feet by surprise when, chancing to look up, he beheld in the harbor a small vessel, to all appearances a submarine, and advancing toward him a dozen or more men, armed with rifles.
Frank staightened up with a cry. Timothy and Allen sprang to his side. Each seized a rifle and loosened the revolvers in their belts.
"Timothy," said Frank severely, "I thought I told you to keep your eyes open."
"I did, sir," replied the sailor, eyeing the approaching men in the utmost surprise. "I'll take my oath there was no submarine there five minutes ago."
"But it must have been in sight," said Frank. "It didn't materialize out of thin air, you know."
"I can't help that," declared Timothy. "It wasn't there, I tell you."
"What's the use of talking like that, man," exclaimed Frank, exasperated. "I tell you it must have been in sight."
Timothy mumbled something to himself, but made no coherent reply.
"Wonder who they are, sir?" said Allen.
"It's too deep for me," said Frank with a shrug. "However, we'll know soon enough. Now, you men keep quiet and let me do the talking. We don't want to have any trouble if we can help it. Chances are they will prove friendly enough. That vessel in the harbor is probably a submarine of some South American government. These men approaching are the officers and crew. We are not at war with any South American country, so there is no reason why we should anticipate trouble."
The newcomers had now approached within hailing distance. At a command from the man who appeared to be the leader they halted. Frank saw that they were all heavily armed. A man stepped forward and shouted:
"Who are you and what do you want here?"
"Castaways!" Frank shouted back. "We're the sole survivors of an American merchant ship."
This reply seemed to lend courage to the others, who, at a command from the leader, advanced boldly.
"Throw down your rifles men," said Frank in a low voice, "but keep your hands on your revolvers. These fellows seem all right, but there is no need taking unnecessary chances."
They stood quietly as the men approached. As they drew nearer, Frank made out that they were indeed a motley crew. Spanish faces — or South American, to be more exact — predominated, but there were a few who seemed to be English or Americans. Also, there were two plainly of African descent and three who seemed to be Chinese or Japanese.
Frank whistled softly to himself.
"If I didn't know the days of pirates are over..." he said, and then shrugged again.
The leader of the party — a young man, he could not have been more than twenty-four, although he was exceedingly large and powerful looking — spoke in English. Frank was not wrong when he placed him as an American, though of German descent.
"What's your name?" he demanded of Frank.
"Chadwick," replied Frank quietly. "Frank Chadwick."
"And you say you are castaways?" said the man. "What was your position aboard the ship?"
"Second officer," said Frank
"A merchant ship, you say?"
Frank did not deem it necessary to tell the other that he held a lieutenancy in the British royal navy.
"And you are the sole survivors?" demanded the man.
"So far as I know, yes."
"Good," said the leader of the party. "Then you shall come with us. It may be that you will have brains, in which event your fortune is assured. If no, well, it won't be hard to get rid of you. You'll come with me. Tell your men to follow."
Frank thought quickly. It was plain that he was in danger of some kind though as yet he was unable to tell just what.
"One minute," he said. The others paused.
"Who are you?" the lad demanded.
The other smiled.
"Why, I'm Captain Jack," he said quietly.
"I see," said Frank. "And your ship - a submarine, I note — a war vessel, it can be plainly seen. What flag does she fly?"
"The black flag," was the smiling reply; "the jolly Roger."
"As I thought," said Frank. "A pirate!"
His hands dropped to his guns.
"We are, in South America, all right."
Thus spoke Captain Glenn as he, Jack and Williams proceeded inland after leaving Frank and the two sailors near the shore.
"What makes you think so, Captain?" asked Jack.
"Look at the trees. You find trees like these in no other place besides the tropics. And feel the heat."
"It gets hot other places, sir."
"Not like it does in the tropics. Once you have felt the tropical heat you can't mistake it."
The land in which they now found themselves was thickly covered with big trees. Their foliage was so dense that progress was difficult.
"Good place for snakes, sir," said Williams.
"Fine," agreed Captain Glenn.
"Don't talk about snakes," said Jack with a shudder. "If there is one thing from which I will run a mile it's a snake."
"You won't run a mile from any snake you find around here," said Williams.
"Don't you believe it," declared Jack. "I don't care how small the snake may be, nor how harmless."
"Snakes hereabouts," said Williams, "are neither small nor harmless. That's why I say you won't run a mile from them."
"Surely they won't attack a man," said Jack.
"Ordinarily, no. But when you come upon one unexpectedly he naturally thinks you mean him harm and he acts promptly."
"If a snake ever bit me, that would settle me forever," said Jack.
"Most of these," said Williams, "don't bite. They wrap around a man and crush him to death."
"Look here," said Jack, "are you trying to scare me or what? I don't even like to talk about snakes. Let's drop the subject."
"All right," said Williams, with a smile. "I'm just warning you, that's all."
"Thanks," said Jack dryly.
At this moment there came a sudden exclamation from Captain Glenn, who was slightly ahead. He had just disappeared beyond a clump of trees larger than the rest. Jack stopped stock still. Visions of a snake of monstrous size rose before his eyes.
"Come on," said Williams.
Jack forced himself to follow the other. They darted along the path taken by Captain Glenn and there they came upon the cause of his exclamation. Directly ahead of them lay a broad expanse of water.
"The ocean again," said Captain Glenn. "I should say that we are on an island."
"By Jove!" said Jack, for the moment forgetting all about snakes, "I believe you are right. That means that we are marooned, sir."
"Not necessarily," said Captain Glenn. "We'll head north. We may strike a settlement there."
Accordingly they turned their steps in that direction.
For perhaps two hours they walked without finding signs of human habitation.
"Guess we've gone the wrong way," said Captain Glenn. "We should have turned south. "He glanced at his watch. "We'd better be getting back to the others," he said, "or they will think something has happened to us."
They turned and retraced their steps. For perhaps an hour they walked along and then Jack, who was slightly in advance, stopped suddenly and held up his hand in a warning gesture.
"Someone coming," he whispered.
"Maybe it's a snake," said Williams.
Again Jack shuddered a trifle, but he held his ground. His hands rested on his revolvers.
The sound of creaking twigs reached the ears of the three who stood silently there in the forest. At a sign from Jack, each man got behind a tree and each drew his revolvers. Hardly had they thus screened themselves when half a dozen men burst into view, walking along slowly and laughing.
The men, although they carried rifles, appeared peaceable enough, so Captain Glenn, thinking to bring their long search to an end, stepped forward after they had passed and raised his voice in hello.
Instantly the strangers wheeled about. The man nearest Captain Glenn raised his rifle to his shoulder and his hand pressed the trigger. At that distance a miss would have been impossible. Captain Glenn brought up his own gun, but before he could fire Jack's gun spoke. The man who had covered Captain Glenn dropped to the ground with a wild cry.
Jack's promptness undoubtedly had saved his commander's life.
Saved thus from almost certain death, Captain Glenn quickly sprang behind a tree. Jack and Williams were also sheltered and now held the strangers at a disadvantage. Apparently believing, however, that the hidden men would shoot them down where they stood, one who appeared to be in command of the others raised his voice in a shout. He spoke in English.
"To shelter, men!" he cried.
At the word each man sprang for the nearest tree. Neither Jack, Williams nor Captain Glenn felt impelled to shoot them down in cold blood so all reached shelter safely enough. Jack peered from behind his tree a moment later. As he did so a bullet whizzed by his ear.
"It's a fight," the lad called to Captain Glenn.
"Apparently they don't want us to explain."
Jack sank to the ground and again peered forth. Some distance away he saw a shoulder protruding from behind a tree, Jack raised his rifle and fired.
The man pitched forward into the open with a cry. His cry was echoed by the others, and Jack felt a second bullet whiz overhead.
"Pretty close," the lad muttered, "but it's only four to three now."
For a time all was silent in the forest. Then one of the enemy, more venturesome than the others, darted across the open in an effort to get closer to Jack and his friends.
This time it was the revolver of Williams that spoke and the man dropped in his tracks.
For some time now the enemy showed no disposition to expose himself to the fire of Jack and the others. The forest was as still as death. Jack began to fidget.
"By Jove! This is getting tiresome," he said.
"Must be some way of getting rid of those fellows." He raised his voice and called Captain Glenn. "Cover me," he said. "I'm going to shift my position."
He did not wait for an answer. There were two sharp crashes as he dashed from behind the tree. Jack felt a sting in his left arm and knew that he was not badly hurt. As he jumped behind another tree, he heard Captain Glenn's voice:
"I got him!"
Jack was now so close to the tree behind which Captain Glenn stood that he found he was able to converse with his commander without raising his voice.
"This thing is getting monotonous," he said.
"Exactly," agreed Captain Glenn; "besides which, it is altogether foolish. We haven't anything against these fellows and they surely can't have anything against us."
"You are forgetting the men we have shot, sir," said Jack.
"No, I'm not. That was their own fault. I vote we hold a parley with the remaining two."
"Whatever you say, sir," said Jack.
Captain Glenn raised his voice. "Hello, there!" he cried. "We want to talk to you."
"Talk ahead," said a voice so close that Captain Glenn started.
Apparently one of the enemy had shifted his position. He now was concealed behind the tree next to the captain. Apparently he had been biding his time until the latter should show himself. However, Captain Glenn showed no alarm.
"Then listen," he said. "We have nothing against you fellows. You don't even know us. Therefore why should we fight?"
"Well," said the man behind the next tree, "that's good enough reasoning. I'm willing to call it off any time you say."
"Very good. Drop your gun and step out in the open."'
"And let you shoot me down? I guess not."
"Come, man, don't be a fool," said Captain Glenn. "We mean you no harm."
"Then you fellows drop your guns and step into the open," was the reply.
"Not much," said Captain Glenn.
The conference was at a deadlock.
"Look here," said Jack, taking a hand in the conversation. "I have a plan that will possibly meet your favor."
"Let's hear it," was the rejoinder.
"We'll throw our rifles into the open and toss out our revolvers. Then you do the same. We'll all step out then."
"Very good," said the hidden man. "Throw yours out first."
Jack hurled his rifle from him and tossed one revolver into the open. Captain Glenn tossed away his revolvers and rifle, and Williams, acquainted with the plan by a shout, followed suit. The unseen men did likewise. Captain Glenn and Williams stepped out. Their adversaries also left their hiding places. Then Jack saw that one of them covered Captain Glenn and Williams with a revolver. Jack smiled, and taking deliberate aim fired. The man's weapon dropped from his hand.
When "Captain Jack" admitted to Frank that he was a full-fledged pirate, the lad's first thought was to draw his revolvers and open fire. That was why he dropped his hands to his guns following his exclamation of "Pirates."
Timothy and Allen, the two sailors, taking their cue from Frank, also reached for their weapons. Captain Jack, though realizing on the instant what these movements signified, simply smiled.
"I wouldn't, if I were you," he said quietly.
Frank thought better of his plan to fight and dropped his hands to his side again. He, too, smiled.
"Guess you're right," he said quietly.
"Wouldn't do much good, would it?"
"Hardly, with all my men about you. You might get me, and you might not, but they would get you sure."
"I guess I could get you all right," said Frank.
"Maybe so, though I'm pretty handy with a gun. Suppose I can draw quicker and shoot straighter than you or anyone you have seen."
"There is room for argument on that point," said Frank dryly.
"An argument would soon convince you that I am right," was the reply. "However, we will not argue the point now. Nor need we ever argue it if you are reasonable."
"What do you mean by reasonable?" Frank wanted to know.
"Well," said Captain Jack, "truth is I am somewhat short-handed. I lost my first officer in my last battle. Lost half a dozen men along with him. Now you're an officer, though not a military officer. Therefore I can make use of you, if you're open to a proposition."
"Thanks," said Frank quietly, "but I'm not open to a proposition to become a murderer."
"Careful," said Captain Jack, taking a quick step forward. "That kind of talk won't go with me."
"Well, I don't know whether you're one now or not," said Frank, "but you stand in a fair way of becoming one. I have no hankering for piracy."
Captain Jack looked at the lad long and earnestly. Then he said: "Guess I'll make a pirate out of you anyhow. Grab him, men."
Two men leaped upon the lad. Frank's two revolvers flashed out like a streak of lightning and there were two sharp reports. Not for nothing had Jack once declared that Frank was the quickest and best shot he ever hoped to see.
The men who had sprung upon the lad tumbled over. Frank turned to confront the others. As he did so there were two more sharp reports and the lad's two revolvers clattered to the ground. Sharp pains shot through both his wrists and his hands seemed to have been numbed.
The lad turned to where Captain Jack, with two smoking revolvers in his hands, was smiling quietly.
"You reckoned without Captain Jack, you see," said the pirate chief. "Don't worry. You're not hurt. I just felt called upon to shoot away your guns before you annihilated my men here. Now, if you have no objections, I'll have you and your men tied tip and taken aboard the Roger, where you shall be kept until you are wiling to listen to reason."
Timothy and Allen had been deprived of their weapons and at command from Captain Jack, the three prisoners were securely bound.
"Take them aboard the Roger," instructed the pirate chief with a wave of his hand.
The three captives were led away.
The submarine now had come against the half concealed dock that had caused the castaways such wonderment when they approached the shore. At command of their captors, they leaped to the deck of the submarine and then passed through the conning tower and descended below.
At sight of the interior Frank could not suppress an exclamation of astonishment. The vessel was fitted with the handsomest of appointments. The little cabin into which the three prisoners were led even showed signs of an artistic taste, undoubtedly that of Captain Jack, Frank thought.
"This young pirate certainly has an eye for the beautiful," Frank told himself.
The prisoners once inside the cabin, the captors withdrew and locked the door behind them.
"Well," said Frank, "here we are, men. What are we going to do about it?"
"Nothing we can do, sir," said Allen. "He will probably offer us a chance to join his crew and if we refuse he'll heave us all overboard."
"I'm a f raid he'll have to heave away then," said, Frank, "for I don't think I would make a very good pirate."
"I'd make a better pirate than I would a corpse, sir," declared Timothy, "and this fellow must have made quite a success. Here he is the undisputed owner of a submarine fitted out like a palace; he's his own boss and his prizes he probably distributes among members of the crew. Why, sir, a year of this life and a man would be rich."
"Look here, Timothy," said Frank, "I don't like that kind of talk. Why, man, you talk like you would like to be a pirate."
"Maybe I would, sir. I've thought about it for years. Look at the excitement a man could have."
"Timothy's right, sir," declared Allen. "I'm not hankering for the life of a pirate, but I'm not hankering for a watery grave, either. I don't, know but what I would join if given the chance."
"Look here, men," said Frank, "I'm free to confess that the life of a pirate seems to have its sunny side. I've read a lot of pirate tales and I can remember when I thought I would like to be one. But I know myself and I know you better than you think. When it came to a showdown, you'd balk."
"Well, I'm not sure about that, sir," said Allen..
"I am," declared Frank decisively. "You mark my words, you'll refuse when the time comes."
"Then we'll walk the plank," said Timothy.
"Better to walk the plank with clean hands than to be hanged with the death of innocent persons on your conscience," said Frank.
"We'll see when the times comes," said Allen.
The three were talking of Jack, Captain Glenn and Williams some time later when a hand fumbled with the key in the door. They whirled about quickly, forgetful for the moment that they were helpless in their bonds. A moment later the door swung open and Captain Jack entered, smiling.
"Well, well," he said. "So we're all here, eh? Guess I'll unloosen your hands. I feel that I can handle the whole bunch of you if it's necessary."
He cut the cords that bound them and the three stretched their cramped muscles.
"Now we'll have a little talk," said Captain Jack.
He motioned the three to seats and took a stool himself, near the door, to guard the exit. For the first time Frank took a good look at him.
The pirate chief was perhaps half an inch shorter than Jack Templeton. He was more fully developed, though, as became his years, and had the appearance of being of enormous strength. Frank decided that he was a trifle, though not much, stronger than his chum. He had a pleasant face and smiled continually. There was nothing about him that would label him "pirate."
Captain Jack addressed Frank.
"I've come to ask you to be my first lieutenant," he said.
Frank jumped to his feet.
"I'll see you hanged first," he cried.
Captain Jack smiled calmly.
"No, I don't think you will," he said pleasantly. "I've the whip hand now, you know. If you decline, I shall feel called upon to take stern measures."
"Take them, then," said Frank briefly.
Captain Jack hesitated.
"It seems a pity, too," he said. "You're rather handy with a gun. You could be of great use to me. Now, for example, I have word — picked up by my wireless station inland — that a certain ship is about to pass through these waters. It will be loaded with riches. I intend to capture it. I would like to have you lend a hand."
"You've a lot of nerve," said Frank. "You talk about capturing an American ship — or even a British or French, or of a country allied with the United States — as though it were nothing."
"Who said it was an American ship or a vessel of an allied nation?" demanded Captain Jack.
"What else could it be?" demanded Frank.
"In this case, it chances to be a German ship," said Captain Jack.
Frank looked incredulous.
"What? Didn't you know the Germans had established a naval base far to the north of this island?" asked Captain Jack. "It's there their raiders put in supplies. There are also a dozen submarines. As a matter of fact though, the Kaiser is a submarine shy. That's the one I 'cut out' about five months ago."
Frank listened to this tale with wide-open eyes.
"If you're fighting the Germans, I'm with you," he said.
Captain Jack shook his head.
"Just when necessary," he said quietly. "This time it chances to be a German I shall attack. I wouldn't hesitate if it were American or British. I am fighting for my own ends only. I am a pirate."
Frank gazed in unconcealed wonder at this young man who thus openly set at naught the laws of nations and of civilization; but he was not greatly surprised at the pirate's announcement that there was a German submarine base in the Atlantic. This had long been suspected in Washington and allied countries, but fast cruisers sent to scour the waters had been unable to find the hiding place.
Captain Jack continued:
"You see, I'm not asking you to join me under false pretenses. I could tell you I am fighting Germany, attack a German ship and you would believe me; but that is not the truth. In fact, I hesitate even to attack this German ship. Should my hiding place be discovered, the Germans would make short work of me."
"So would American or British warships," said Frank.
"I'm not so sure. If pursued by them I would appeal to the Germans for aid. They would welcome me as a kindred spirit — they are no better than pirates, you know."
"Oh, I know it, all right," Frank agreed. "In fact, I have found that they are not as good as most pirates, though, I am not what you would call well acquainted with the pirate family. By the way, where are we?"
Captain Jack considered.
"I guess there is no need for me to remain silent on that point," he said at last. "There is little likelihood that you will be able to reveal my hiding place. This island, to give it the name of the Germans who hold forth here, is Kaiserland. It is out of the regular channel of navigation from South America and is uncharted. I stumbled upon it by accident.
"Shipwrecked, as were you, with fifty men from a South American freight ship, we dragged ourselves ashore here. We discovered the German base while hunting signs of human habitation. It was then I conceived the idea of seizing one of the German vessels. My men were with me — it was a rough lot we carried on that freight ship. I seemed to have more brains — or you can call it imagination — than the rest, so I became the leader as a natural result.
"I won't burden you with the details of how we captured the submarine. The best proof that we succeeded, however, is that you are board it right now. I had all kinds of men among my followers, even the wireless operator. He rigged up a wireless station farther inland. There, I picked up many messages the world would be glad to hear."
"Did you ever stop to think," said Frank," of what benefit you could be to the United States and her allies?"
"I have," returned Captain Jack, "but I have concluded that I can be of more use to myself. So far I have sunk but three vessels and in each case I have set passengers and crew safely adrift in the regular channel, where they were sure to be picked up. There will be some great tales when they reach home. They probably will blame their misfortune on the Germans.
"But there is nothing I could do for the United States now without inviting my own destruction. I have gone beyond the pale, and the punishment for piracy, you know, is death. But come, I am wasting time. Again I ask will you be my first lieutenant and join me in my dash after this German raider."
Frank considered deeply for long minutes. At last he said: "I cannot accept your offer to become a pirate, but I will do this: I will take part in your attack on the German, for I consider any German engaged in this war beyond the pale of civilization. If it is necessary to become a pirate to help win this war, then I will become a pirate, always remembering myself that I shall break none of the laws of nations and that I shall take every effort to succor the unfortunate."
"Good!" exclaimed Captain Jack. "Well spoken!"
"But," continued Frank, "I want you to understand that I wish no part of the prize and that my association with you ends when the German raider has been disposed of."
"Very good!" declared Captain Jack. "So be it. And your men here, I take it, are of the same mind?"
"We are, sir," said Timothy and Allen in a single voice.
They seemed to have lost all desire to become pirates in reality.
"You may consider yourselves at liberty, then," said Captain Jack, with a wave of his hand. "By the way," this to Frank, "do you know anything of the mechanism of a submarine?"
"A trifle," said Frank quietly. "I neglected to tell you that I hold a lieutenant's commission in the British navy."
"What!" cried Captain Jack, who could scarcely believe his ears.
"Exactly," said Frank, "and as such I have seen considerable active service beneath the sea as well as upon its surface."
"So much the better," declared Captain Jack. "You will be all the more valuable. I need not fear to trust my ship in your hands."
At this moment there came sounds of confusion from above.
"Something wrong," said Captain Jack, and dashed away.
Frank and the two sailors followed more slowly. Captain Jack met them at the foot of the ladder that led on deck. He was laughing.
"Nothing serious," he said. "Half a dozen of my men encountered three strangers back on the island and there was a fight. Seems the strangers had the better of the encounter, killing two of my, men and wounding two more. Through some sort of a truce the strangers agreed to accompany my men here, although they seem to have had the advantage."
Captain Jack made as if to mount the ladder. Frank stayed him.
"One minute," he said. "Chances are your captives are friends of mine, my commander, and the fourth officer of the Albatross. Don't worry," as Captain Jack laid a hand to his revolver, "they are with me in anything I do. But I thought we could have a little fun with them. Take charge of them like the pirate chief you are and tell them you are leaving their fate in the hands of your first officer."
"By Jove! Good!" cried Captain Jack, and he climbed on deck.
Frank led the way into what he made out was the pirate chief's cabin and unceremoniously took possession.
A few moments later several figures descended the ladder and approached the cabin. Frank caught Jack's voice.
"I was a fool to let these fellows get the upper hand," he said. "We had the advantage back there in the forest and threw it away. No telling what they will do with us. Make us walk the plank, maybe."
Frank got to his feet as Jack, Williams and Captain Glenn, closely followed by Captain Jack, entered the little cabin. Jack espied him on the instant.
"Hello, Frank," he said, with a rueful smile.
"So they got you, too, eh?"
"No, they didn't get me," replied Frank, "but it seems we have got you, all right."
"What's that?" demanded Jack, believing he had not heard aright.
"I say," declared Frank, "that we've got you. I'm second in command of this pirate crew and I don't want you to forget it. You will address me with civility."
"What's the joke?" asked Jack.
"No joke," returned Frank. "I'm the first officer of this submarine, and Captain Jack — that's your captor — has left it to me to pronounce sentence on the men who have killed two of our good pirates and wounded two others."
"So you've joined the pirates?" said Jack, with a smile. "All right, we await the sentence. What is it? Walk the plank?"
"No," said Frank, "the sentence is that you become members of our pirate crew."
"What," said Jack in mock seriousness, and supposing of course that Frank was joking, "me a pirate? I guess not."
"Either that," said Frank, "or you shall be bound and securely guarded until we have returned from an imminent cruise."
"Look here, Chadwick," interposed Captain Glenn at this point, "all this probably is very funny and all that; but tell us the joke so we can laugh too."
"I'm telling you that it's no joke," replied Frank. "I am asking you whether, for the moment, you will all become pirates and fare forth with Captain Jack and myself in search of adventure, riches and Germans."
"Germans?" said Jack, pricking up his ears.
"Sure, we'll fare forth with almost any one in search of Germans. Explain, Frank."
"First," said Frank, "I want you to meet Captain Jack, a true pirate. Captain Jack, my friend and chum, Jack Templeton."
"Seems we've both got a regular name, anyhow, doesn't it," said Jack Templeton, as he shook hands with Captain Jack.
"It does," returned the latter with a grin.
The two took stock of each other, each realizing in the moment their hands met that before him stood an antagonist worthy of his steel.
Frank introduced the others. Then he explained the situation.
"Now do you think I have done right to join the expedition?" he asked.
"You have done right, yes," said Jack slowly, weighing each word, "if you are sure you can trust our Captain Jack, here."
Captain Jack was on his feet with an angry gleam in his eyes, but Jack did not quail. Before the look in the young Englishman's eye, the pirate chief stepped back. Then he looked the lad squarely in the face and extended his hand.
"You've my word that I will play square," he said quietly, and added half ruefully, "The word of a pirate!"
"I accept it!" said Jack, and grasped the hand.
Jack now explained to the others how he and his two companions had encountered the pirate forces in the forest.
"So after I fired at the treacherous pirate," he concluded, "we framed up an agreement to come along with those able to walk. It's true we held the upper hand at that moment, but we were strangers in a strange land, so to speak, and we needed help. Besides, the man didn't explain that they were pirates."
The attack upon the German raider was set for the next night when a messenger from the wireless station in the woods apprised Captain Jack of the approximate hour at which the German ship would pass a certain point.
That night the friends spent aboard the submarine at the bottom of the harbor. The fact that the vessel submerged with the coming of darkness accounted for its sudden appearance from nowhere the morning the castaways landed.
The following day was spent quietly ashore. Jack and Frank talked over the decision they had reached to join the pirate forces against the Germans and each felt certain that they were acting wisely and well.
"And what will Captain Jack do with us when we return?" asked Frank.
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
"It's hard to say," he replied. "However, there is no use worrying. Let tomorrow take care of itself."
"Well," said Frank, "I'm going to secrete a couple of revolvers. I'm not going to be shot down after this piece of work is done."
"Right," Jack agreed. "I'll do the same if I can and I'll pass the word to Williams, Captain Glenn and the sailors."
Thus it was arranged.
It was two hours before dark the following day when, with Captain Jack at the wheel and the Roger running submerged, the start was made to intercept the German raider.
"There is probably no one near now," said Captain Jack, "but I am running submerged because I think it is foolish to take chances."
"Will you have to submerge to launch your torpedoes?" asked Frank.
"I will in this case. Here's my plan: I want to hit the German in a vulnerable and not a vital spot. I don't want her to sink, but I do want to damage her so badly that the crew will abandon her. Then I can go aboard and get whatever I want."
"I don't think so much of the second part of the program," said Jack. "It would be all right, of course, if whatever is found was to be used by nations at war with Germany, but by a —"
"Pirate," interposed Captain Jack, with a slight smile. "Why don't you say it? You don't need to spare my feelings. I'm perfectly hardened, I assure you."
"Well, I don't like the word," said Jack. "It has an ugly sound."
Captain Jack's face flushed and his hands clenched, but lie said nothing.
With the coming of nightfall, Captain Jack ordered the automatic pumps to work, and as the water was forced from the tanks the submarine came to the surface. Captain Jack motioned Jack and Frank to follow him on deck.
The night was still. There was hardly a ripple on the sea.
"How much farther do we go?" asked Frank.
Captain Jack glanced at his pocket compass and then at his wrist watch. "If I've calculated correctly," he replied, "we shall reach our station within two hours. The German should be along within the next sixty minutes. You fellows wait here a minute. I'm going below."
He left the two lads alone on deck, which was only a few feet above the level of the ocean. The conning tower closed behind him. The same thought flashed through the minds of both lads, but Frank gave it expression.
"Wonder if he's going to submerge and let us be washed away?" he asked.
Jack shrugged his shoulders again — a habit he had.
"We should have thought of that sooner," he said. "It's too late now. We'll have to wait and see."
But the vessel remained on an even keel and directly the conning tower opened and Captain Jack emerged.
"Think I was going to run from under you?" he asked, with a smile.
"Such a thought had struck us, to tell the truth about it," said Jack.
"Don't worry," said Captain Jack, and added grimly, "at least not until this night's work is over."
Neither Jack nor Frank felt called upon to reply to this remark. For some moments the three stood in silence scanning the black expanse of water as the submarine nosed gently along. Then Captain Jack broke the silence.
"Let's go below," he said.
Two hours later Captain Jack again went on deck. He motioned to Frank to follow him. In spite of the fact that Captain Glenn, a man of proven experience, was aboard and that Jack had ranked above Frank on the Albatross, the pirate chief still held to Frank for his first officer.
"Chadwick," he said, "I shall leave the handling of the craft to you when we go into action. I shall be busy with the torpedoes. Your friend Templeton I will post at the periscope to get the range."
"Very good, sir," said Frank, saluting as though he were aboard a ship of war and serving under a military officer.
Captain Jack poked his head down the hatchway and called to Jack, who was stationed there:
"Stop the engines, Mr. Templeton."
"Very good, sir," was Jack's reply.
The submarine's progress was stopped. She rode gently on the waves now, moving only with the tide. Captain Jack and Frank scanned the distant and dark horizon for some sight of the raider.
"She'll come dark," said Captain Jack. "She won't dare show a light for fear of being picked up; and I don't dare use my searchlight for the same reason. She should be here now."
"Plans may have been changed," said Frank briefly.
"That's so, and still I hardly believe that is it. They were flashed, you know, to a point on the South American coast, from which they are relayed to Berlin. The German government, in spite of the efforts of the Allies to prevent it, is still informed of every move this fleet in far-off waters makes."
"It seems incredible," declared Frank.
"Nevertheless it's true. Is it any wonder a fellow who is playing as safe as he can would lean toward Germany rather than the Allies. Also, to my mind, it seems to be a case of Germany being the under dog and my sympathies are naturally with that animal."
"It isn't that," said Frank. "The Allies, the United States included, are not in this war to thrash any one. They're in this war to make the world safe to live in. So long as Prussian militarism exists, there will be no peace and no safety for any man, woman, or child in any country."
"You may be right," said Captain Jack, "and you may not be. Fact is, I haven't bothered to give the matter much thought. My business has to do with making money, and more particularly, at this moment, of catching sight of the German at the earliest possible moment. She will come close in this darkness before we are able to see her, and fast work will be necessary then. We can't make much time in this submarine, you know, and if we are not careful she'll run away from us."
"Trouble is," said Frank, "that she may be some distance away when she passes this point. You can't tell exactly where she'll pass."
"That's it," said Captain Jack. "That's what I am worrying about."
"Well," said Frank, "she — what's that?"
He broke off suddenly. A large shape loomed up in the darkness, some distance away.
"The raider!" cried Captain Jack. "Quick! Below!"
He sprang for the hatchway and dashed to the torpedo tubes. Frank scrambled madly after him and took the wheel from the helmsman with such promptness as to send the man sprawling.
"Get the range, Jack!" he cried.
Jack, with his eye to the periscope, called out sharply:
"Number three, torpedo."
Captain Jack himself sprang to the tube.
"Hold her as she is!" cried Jack. "Fire!"
Captain Jack, instead of touching off the torpedo, suddenly stepped back.
"I'm liable to sink her, and I don't want to do that," he said.
"Shoot, man!" cried Jack. "Shoot or she'll get away."
"Well, there is no use angering the Germans for nothing," said Captain Jack. "They'll start a search for me. If I can't get the rich booty aboard there is no reason for me to fire. No, I'll wait until some other night, when I can be sure the shot will go where I intend it and merely cripple her."
With a sudden angry cry, Jack hurled himself forward. Captain Jack had stepped back some distance from the tube. He leaped, forward as he realized the lad's intention. But he was too late.
There was a slight metallic click; that was all.
The torpedo sped on its errand of destruction. Jack whirled about in time to meet the attack of the pirate chief. They grappled and went to the deck with a crash.
JACK VS. JACK
Diabolical anger showed upon the face of Captain Jack as he grappled with the young Englishman. The pirate chief held the advantage when the two came together, for he had the impetus of his advance behind him, while Jack was off his balance when they grappled. Therefore Captain Jack was uppermost when they struck the deck.
Three members of the pirate crew — all that were near at that moment — sprang forward to lend a hand to their leader. Then Frank took charge of the situation. He produced two revolvers with a single movement. Williams did likewise. Captain Glenn, always a sailor, sprang to the wheel and put the submarine back on an even keel — she had been staggering when Frank released his hold. The sailors Timothy and Allen were in another part of the vessel at the moment.
"Stand back!" cried Frank, and the pirates halted in their tracks.
Frank covered them with his two revolvers.
"Get their guns," the lad instructed Williams.
The latter obeyed and soon the three pirates were helpless.
In the meantime, Jack and Captain Jack, closely locked, were struggling for mastery. Williams advanced to lend Jack a hand, but Frank motioned him back. He had no fear of the outcome despite the fact that Captain Jack seemed to have all the advantage.
"Let 'em alone, Williams!" the lad cried. "A thrashing will do the pirate good; and he's about to get it."
Williams stood back, but he and Frank both held their automatics ready for instant use, for they were determined to see fair play.
Jack was still underneath, but be had thrown both powerful arms around the neck of the pirate captain and the latter, who had now got to his knees, was struggling to break this hold. Jack held on grimly.
Suddenly Jack braced his feet against one side of the narrow corridor, and still lying on his back, heaved mightily. The pirate chief, powerful man though he was, went sailing in the air and his head struck the opposite wall with a resounding crack.
Jack released his hold and sprang to his feet
The shock had momentarily stunned Captain Jack and Jack stood back, waiting for the pirate to regain his senses. The man staggered to his feet, brushed his hand across his face and then glared at Jack.
"A very pretty trick," he exclaimed, "but you won't catch me napping again."
He sprang toward Jack and aimed a vicious blow at the lad's face with his right fist. Jack stepped nimbly aside and the blow went wide. Before the pirate could recover his balance, Jack struck him a heavy blow under the right ear. A less powerful man would have gone down under the force of it, but Captain Jack simply shook his head angrily and turned sharply to renew the attack. Nevertheless, this time he advanced with greater caution.
For several moments the two stood at arm's length and sparred. In this style of fighting, however, the young Englishman had all the better of it and after he had landed several blows upon the pirate's face and body, the latter rushed into a clinch.
Captain Jack had lost his first pangs of anger and was fighting more coolly and carefully now. He realized after a few minutes that he had met his match, and, he wasn't sure as yet, but, perhaps, his superior.
As the two struggled in each other's embrace, each seeking an advantage without presenting an opening, Jack Templeton smiled and spoke.
"I've got you, Captain Jack," he said, "but I am ready to cry quits any time you give the word."
Captain Jack made no reply, but only tried the harder to encircle Jack's neck with his right arm.
Suddenly Jack freed his right arm, which had been pressed close to his body by the pirate's left, and brought his fist up under Captain Jack's chin. It was a powerful short-arm blow and the pirate chief staggered back. Jack gave him no time to li ft his guard, but bored in.
Right and left, with all Jack's strength behind them, struck the pirate, the first between the eyes and the second on the chin. Captain Jack floundered back across the corridor.
Jack stopped in his tracks; then, pivoting on his heel, he shot out his right with all his power. Captain Jack, struck again squarely upon the point of the chin, crumpled tip without a word and lay still.
Jack stepped back and surveyed his fallen foe.
"Easier than I thought it would be," he said quietly. "Had he known anything of boxing there might have been a different story to tell."
Frank stepped forward and took his friend's hand.
"You're some scrapper, all right," he said, "but what are we going to do now?"
"Well," said Jack, "we seem to be in command of this submarine. I vote that we appropriate it for the British navy."
"Or the American navy," added Frank.
"Whichever you say," said Jack.
"In the meantime," said Williams dryly, "it might be well to tie up our pirate commander."
"Right you are," said Jack. "Frank, you see to that, will you? I want to go on deck and see whether my torpedo struck home."
Without waiting for a reply he mounted the ladder.
Frank turned to look about for strong cord with which to bind the pirate captain. As he did so he was startled by a cry from Captain Glenn at the wheel. He had replaced his revolvers, but now his hands dropped to them. Before he could draw, however, strong hands drew him back. Williams also was suddenly attacked from behind.
Captain Glenn released the wheel, but before he could produce a weapon, he found himself looking down the barrel of a shining automatic held by a member of the pirate crew.
What had happened was this: While Jack had struggled with the pirate chief, several members of the crew had watched the struggle from the safety of the darkened corridor. They had made no effort to interfere while Frank and Williams stood guard with their revolvers, but when Jack went on deck and Frank and Williams put away their weapons they crept close and sprang when the moment was propitious.
Frank struggled desperately, but hands held him tight. So with Williams. A moment later both were securely bound, and the pirates then gave their attention to Captain Glenn, who also was safely tied up.
While these proceedings were going on Captain Jack opened his eyes. He took in the situation clearly and got to his feet. He approached Frank.
"It seems," he said quietly, "that we have resumed our former status. Once more I am the captor and you are my prisoners. Where's Templeton?"
"On deck, Captain," said one of the pirates.
"Good!" said Captain Jack. "Four of you station yourselves at the ladder there and grab him when he comes down."