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The Boy Allies with the Victorious Fleets - The Fall of the German Navy
by Robert L. Drake
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Frank led his men forward promptly. Apparently the Germans had not realized the full strength of the British attack on the Mole, for no effort had been made to get reinforcements to the men there from shore. Consequently, Frank's work was not so hard as that set for Commander Hastings.

The few Germans who were guarding the landward side of the Mole fired one volley at Frank's party, then turned and took to their heels.

"By George! Pretty soft!" said Frank.

He led his men to the positions recently vacated by the enemy, and then sat down to await further instructions from Commander Adams.

Commander Hastings, on the other hand, had hard work in taking the fortified positions from the foe. Nevertheless he succeeded, due to the heroic efforts of his men. Commander Adams surveyed the field carefully.

"Well," he told himself, "I guess we've done the best we can. We'll stick here till we get the signal to withdraw."



CHAPTER X

THE RAID SUCCESSFUL

The platoon which was commanded by Commander Adams was officially designated as No. 1; that commanded by Frank as No. 2 and that commanded by Commander Hastings as No. 3.

Units were now landing rapidly and No. 7 platoon succeeded in placing heavy scaling ladders in positions, and then formed up to support Nos. 9 and 10 platoons. Numbers 11 and 12 platoons were dispatched along the parapet, and reached the lookout station, where they were checked. Commander Adams and his men, who had again united with the parties commanded by Frank and Commander Hastings, were some forty to fifty yards ahead of them, and both parties could make no headway along the exposed parapet. Meanwhile No. 5 platoon, which had been recalled from its advanced position, with Nos. 7 and 8 platoons were forming up on the Mole for an assault on the fortified zone and the 4.1-inch battery at the Mole head. This attack was launched, but before it could be developed the general recall was sounded.

There was a cheer from the men. They knew by the sounding of the recall at this moment meant that the expedition had been a success. Otherwise the fighting on the Mole would have continued.

The units fell back in good order, taking their wounded with them. The passing of the men from the Mole on to the parapet by means of the scaling ladders was rendered hazardous by the enemy opening fire at that portion of the Mole. Several ladders were destroyed.

The men were sent across in small batches from the comparative shelter afforded by long distance fire from the battleships. Such rushes were made as far as possible in the intervals between the bursts of German fire.

The landing parties re-embarked in the manner which they had left their ships—climbing to the deck of the Vindictive and then proceeding to their deck of the Vindictive and then proceeding to their various ships by small boats.

This undertaking was hazardous, too, for enemy shells were falling all about. Nevertheless, the most of the men reached their ship in safety, and from the flagship came the signal to retreat.

Upon returning to the Brigadier, Frank surveyed his own men. There had been few casualties among them. Less than a dozen men had been killed and left behind. Of wounded Frank counted fifteen. Immediately he ascended to the bridge to report to Jack.

Jack greeted his chum with a smile. Although the Brigadier had been in the midst of the battle, and many German shells had found their marks aboard her, Jack was as cool and unruffled as before the battle started.

"What luck, Frank?" he asked.

"Good," Frank replied. "We held the Mole until ordered back. And you?"

"The best of luck. I've stuck tight to the Vindictive through the heat of the battle, and I believe our guns have done some damage."

"And the block ships?" asked Frank.

"They have been sunk at the mouths of both harbors, I am informed. The raid has been a complete success."

At that moment came the recall signal from the flagship.

"See," said Jack, "there's proof of it. If we had not been successful, the recall would not have been sounded yet. There is still plenty of time if we needed it, and our damage has not been great enough to leave the job unfinished."

Jack was right. The harbors of Ostend and Zeebrugge had been effectually sealed. No longer would enemy U-Boats make nightly raids into the North Sea, only to scurry back to their bases when it grew light. As a submarine base, Zeebrugge was extinct. So, for that matter, was Ostend.

That the success of the British expedition had been a severe blow to the Germans goes without saying. No other single feat since the beginning of the war had done so much to dishearten them; and there is little doubt that the sealing of their submarine bases did much toward hastening the end of the war.

British losses in the raid had been severe. The Vindictive, which had led the attack, had literally been shot to pieces and it was a miracle how she remained afloat. The Brigadier, also, had suffered severely, but her condition was not so bad that a few months in drydock would not be sufficient to make her whole again.

A dozen or more of the little motorboats and coastal patrol vessels had been sunk, and the loss of life had been heavy. Several others of the destroyers had been badly damaged, but there was not one of the larger vessels sunk or crippled so badly that she could not return to her home port.

It still lacked an hour of daylight when the allied fleet drew off, its work accomplished; and behind in the ports now sealed, the anger of the Germans flared forth anew.

The damaged British ships were immediately put into drydock in British ports, and Jack and Frank at once returned to Dover to report to Lord Hastings. The latter greeted the lads with outstretched hands.

"It was a gallant exploit," he exclaimed, "and I am sure both you boys had important roles to play."

"I guess we did, sir," Frank admitted. "At the same time, I'm glad to be safely back here again."

"I suppose, sir," said Jack, "now that the enemy submarines caught outside are without bases, there is little fear of their attempting the trans-Atlantic trip?"

"On the contrary," said Lord Hastings, "they are more likely than ever to do so."

"But they must have a base, sir," protested Frank.

"Not necessarily," smiled Lord Hastings.

"Then how will they replenish their supplies of food and fuel?"

"Well," said Lord Hastings, "if they can snare a victim every three or four days it should be enough. From a merchant ship they can get all the food and fuel they need before sinking her."

"That's so, by George!" Frank exclaimed.

"It stands to reason," said Lord Hastings, "that those submarines which were not bottled up in the harbors have been warned not to return. Now, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if they headed directly for America."

Jack grew thoughtful.

"It's too bad," he said at last, "that the Brigadier was so crippled that we cannot resume our interrupted voyage."

Lord Hastings smiled.

"I understand she is in pretty bad shape," he said. "So you don't think you can go now, eh?"

"I'm afraid not, sir. A fellow can't cross the ocean except in a ship."

"True enough. But why are you in Dover now?"

"Why, sir?" Jack exclaimed. "Because we were instructed to report to you."

"Exactly," said Lord Hastings; "and in your pocket, I presume, you have the same packet of papers the admiralty wishes turned over to Secretary Daniels of the American navy department?"

Jack clapped a hand to his coat pocket.

"By George! I had forgotten all about them," he said.

"So I imagined. But it is my guess that the navy department still wishes those papers delivered."

"You're right, sir. Here, I'll turn them over to you, sir."

Lord Hastings waved the packet away.

"Keep them," he said quietly.

"But—" Jack began.

"Great Scott," Frank put in at this juncture, "you must be getting denser every day, Jack."

Jack wheeled on his chum.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Why, can't you see that you are still expected to deliver the papers?"

Jack sank suddenly into a chair.

"Now why didn't I think of that?" he muttered.

"And I suppose, sir," said Frank to Lord Hastings, "that another ship is to be put at Jack's disposal?"

Lord Hastings nodded.

"Exactly," he replied.

Jack was on his feet again immediately.

"What ship, sir?" he asked eagerly.

"The Essex, a sister ship of the Brigadier."

"By George! That's fine, isn't it?" exclaimed Jack.

"And do I go along, sir?" Frank wanted to know.

Again Lord Hastings nodded.

"You do," he replied, "together with the officers and crew of the Brigadier who survived the recent engagement. Your compliment will be filled from other vessels damaged in the raid."

"And where is the Essex now, sir?" asked Jack.

"Here," replied Lord Hastings, "in Dover. You are to go aboard this evening."

"I can't get there too quickly to suit me," declared Jack.

"Same here," Frank agreed.

"Now, remember," enjoined Lord Hastings, "that I still am desirous of your delivering to Secretary Daniels the document I gave you."

"Is the Admiralty still unconvinced of the likelihood of submarines reaching American waters, sir?" asked Frank.

"It is, but you know my opinion has not changed."

"I begin to agree with you, sir," said Jack. "At first I'll admit I was skeptical, but the way you explain the matter it sounds reasonable."

"Well," said Frank, "I hope we get there in time to spoil their plans."

"Amen to that, my boy," said Lord Hastings. "But, I'll detain you no longer. You both probably are anxious to get a look at your new vessel."

"But we have no sailing orders, sir," said Jack.

"You will have before morning," was Lord Hastings reply. "I don't like to hurry you off, but the truth is I'm busy and will have to get down to work."

"Sorry we have detained you so long," said Jack. "Goodbye, sir."

They shook hands all around, and the lads wended their way to the harbor, where they soon were put on board their new ship.

"And now," said Frank, "while we had a good time and all that, I hope this voyage won't be interrupted."

"My sentiments exactly," Jack agreed. "I want to have another look at America."



CHAPTER XI

THE WARNING GIVEN

"Land Ho!"

The cry came from the forward lookout, posted aloft.

Jack clapped his binoculars to his eyes and gazed earnestly ahead.

"Where do you make our position, sir?" asked Lieutenant Hetherton.

"Off the Virginia Capes," was Jack's reply. "We should pick up Fort Monroe before noon."

Jack was a good prophet. It still lacked half an hour of midday when the outlines of the historic fortress at Old Point became distinguishable in the distance.

The Essex slipped quietly through the smooth waters of Hampton Roads and dropped anchor some distance off shore. At Jack's command the launch was made ready, and leaving Lieutenant Hetherton in command, Jack motioned Frank to follow him into the launch.

A moment later they were gliding shoreward through the water.

"We'll have to pay our respects to the commandant," said Jack. "It would be a breach of etiquette if we didn't. Also, I want to ascertain the best place to anchor for the next week or so."

"Surely you're not figuring on staying here," protested Frank.

"Not at all, but you know these papers I have been entrusted with must be delivered, and I can't deliver them here. I'll have to go to Washington."

"Right," Frank agreed. "I had forgotten. And are you going to take me along?"

Jack smiled.

"Well, I might, if you are real good," he said.

"I'll be good," Frank promised.

"Hello," said Jack at this point, "if I'm not mistaken, here comes a guard of honor to escort us to the commandant."

Toward the point where the launch now moved, half a dozen American officers approached. They extended helping hands as Jack and Frank scrambled ashore. Jack addressed the senior officer, a major.

"I am Captain Templeton of H.M.S. Essex," he said. "Will you please escort me into the presence of the commandant?"

"With pleasure, sir," replied the major. "Come with me."

He led the way, Frank and the other American officers following. Jack was received immediately by the commandant. Their conference was brief, and soon Jack returned to the place where he had left Frank.

"Well, what did he say?" demanded Frank, as they made their way back toward the launch.

"Said it would be well to continue to Newport News," said Jack. "Docking facilities are better there right now. We can tie up alongside one of the piers there, or anchor off shore, as we choose. Said he would send word of our coming."

"Good," said Frank. "Then I suppose we shall continue without delay?"

"Yes."

"But if memory serves," said Frank, "Newport News is on the James River, and not Hampton Roads."

"Correct," replied Jack.

"Well, I didn't know the river was navigable by a vessel of our draught."

"It is, nevertheless," replied Jack.

They stepped into the launch, and were soon back aboard the Essex. Jack immediately gave the necessary commands and the vessel moved forward.

Two hours later the Essex anchored in the James River half a mile off shore. Frank took in the scene about him, and expressed his wonder.

Shipping of all the allied and many of the neutral nations was to be seen on every hand. Almost over night, it seemed, Newport News had grown from a port of little importance to one of the greatest shipping centers in the United States. There, half a mile away, Frank saw one of the great German merchantmen, which had been interned soon after the outbreak of the war, but which was later to be converted into a United States auxiliary cruiser.

"Well," said Jack, "there is no use delaying here. The commandant at the fort informed me that about the quickest way to get to Washington now is to take a boat up the Potomac."

"And where do we get the boat?" asked Frank.

"Norfolk. But what's the matter with you, Frank? Where's your geography? Seems to me that if I were born and lived most of my life in the United States I would know something about it."

"I do know something about it," declared Frank; "but how do you expect me to know all these details? This is the first time I've ever been in Newport News, and I've never been to Norfolk. How do we get there from here?"

"Either in the Essex's launch, or by ferry."

"Which way do you choose?"

"Ferry, I guess. It will save trouble all around."

"Any way suits me," said Frank.

"You talk like you were dead certain of going along," remarked Jack with a grin.

"Of course I do. I know you could not be hard-hearted enough to leave me behind."

"Nevertheless," Jack declared, "I'm not sure I shouldn't leave you in command here."

"By George! That's no way to talk," declared Frank. "Hetherton can stick on the job here."

"Well, I guess it will be all right," said Jack. "We may as well pack what belongings we shall need. We shouldn't be gone more than a day or two."

"I hope so, and I feel sure we shall. There has been no sign yet of enemy activities in this water."

"And there won't be any sign in advance. When the Germans strike it will be suddenly."

The lads threw what belongings they believed they would need into their handbags and were rowed ashore. They proceeded at once to the pier of the Chesapeake and Ohio ferry and soon were moving along toward Norfolk.

It was a short ride to Norfolk. Arrived in the city an hour later, they inquired the way to the offices of the Washington and Norfolk Steamboat company, where they were fortunate enough to be able to secure a stateroom that night.

It was still early, so the lads spent the afternoon looking about the city, called by the natives the "New York of the South." They went aboard the steamer Northland at 5.30 o'clock, and at 6 the boat left its pier. Jack and Frank remained on deck until after the Northland had put in at Old Point and taken on additional passengers. Then they went below to dinner.

"You know this isn't a bad boat," Frank declared after a walk around, following their dinner.

"Indeed it isn't," Jack agreed. "It has all the comforts of home. It's rather small, but outside of that I can't see anything wrong with it."

"I guess it's big enough for us to-night," grinned Frank.

There were a score or more of American army and navy officers aboard and with some of these the lads struck up an acquaintance. In fact, so interested were some of the Americans in the lads' experiences that they sat up late regaling their newly found friends with accounts of warfare in European waters.

Nevertheless, Jack and Frank were up early the following morning and had a substantial breakfast before the boat docked at the foot of Seventh street in the nation's capital. There they took a taxi and were driven to the Raleigh hotel.

"Now," said Jack, "the first thing to do is to get in touch with the British ambassador and have him arrange an audience with the secretary of the navy at the earliest possible moment."

Jack got the embassy on the telephone, told who he was and announced that he would be on hand to see the ambassador within the hour. Then the lads were driven to the embassy. Here Jack presented his credentials and expressed his desire to see the secretary of the navy at once.

"You return to your hotel," said the ambassador. "I'll arrange the audience and call for you in my automobile."

The lads followed these instructions.

At 2 o'clock in the afternoon the ambassador called for them. They were driven at once to the War and Navy department building on Pennsylvania avenue and were ushered almost immediately to the offices of Secretary Daniels. After a wait of perhaps five minutes, Mr. Daniels' private secretary announced.

"Mr. Daniels will see you now."

The three passed into the secretary's private office, where the British ambassador introduced the lads. Secretary Daniels expressed his pleasure at the meeting, then said:

"And now what can I do for you, gentlemen?"

For answer Jack passed over the papers entrusted him by the Admiralty. Secretary Daniels scanned them briefly.

"These matters shall be attended to, gentlemen," he said. "Now, is there anything else?"

"There is, sir," said Jack, "and a matter probably of much greater importance."

He drew from his pocket the documents given him by Lord Hastings, and these he also passed to Secretary Daniels. The latter read them carefully, his face drawn into a scowl.

"Hm-m-m," he said at last. "Hm-m-m."

He grew silent, apparently lost in thought. At last he spoke.

"I have had some such fears myself," he said at last, "but it seems they are not shared by other officials of the department. I dislike to take matters altogether into my hands, and yet I suppose I can do it. First, however, I shall make an effort to convince my associates through these documents."

"I am instructed to say, sir," said Jack, "that it would be well if you gave the matter prompt attention."

"Oh," said Secretary Daniels, "I anticipate no immediate trouble; and still this is a matter that should not be overlooked. I thank you, gentlemen, for bringing the matter to my attention."

He rose from his chair, signifying that the interview was ended.

Jack and Frank left the Navy department, and the ambassador dropped them at their hotel.

"I don't know what to think of the Secretary of the Navy," said Jack when they were alone. "He didn't seem greatly interested."

"He is the man, you know," said Frank, "who wanted to change the technical terms of port and starboard to right and left."

"That's so," said Jack, "but I'll venture to say he can rise to an emergency."

"There is no doubt about that," Frank agreed, and added quietly: "Americans always have."



CHAPTER XII

THE U-BOATS APPEAR

Three weeks passed and Jack and Frank were still in Washington. Immediately after delivering his messages to Secretary Daniels, Jack got in touch with the British Admiralty wireless and asked for instructions. When the reply came it was signed Lord Hastings and said merely:

"Stay where you are pending further orders."

And after three weeks no word had come.

Several times during the three weeks Jack and Frank, or one of the lads at a time, had returned to Newport News to look to the needs of the Essex, which still lay quietly in the James river. Steam was kept up in the destroyer every moment of the day, and she was ready to put to sea on an instant's notice.

"Chances are when we need her it will be in a hurry," said Jack.

Therefore nothing was overlooked that would enable the destroyer to go into action on a moment's notice. Provisions were added to the stores from time to time, and the crew were put through their drills daily.

Meanwhile, from what Jack and Frank learned from the British ambassador, no steps had been taken to prepare for a possible German attack on shipping in American waters. True, the coast defenses had been strengthened, but that was merely a matter of routine for a country at war.

Off the coast, warships were on patrol. But there were comparatively few of these, for the bulk of the American fleet had been sent abroad to reinforce the British grand fleet patroling the North Sea.

Jack and Frank discussed these matters frequently.

"It would be a great time for the Germans to strike," said Jack one evening, as the lads sat in their rooms at the hotel. "The American people don't seem to realize the possibilities of the submarine."

"That's true," said Frank, "but at the same time such an attack might prove a boomerang to the Germans."

"What do you mean?"

"Why," said Frank, "you haven't forgotten, have you, that it took a number of air raids on England to fully arouse the British people to the fact that the Germans must be licked?"

"That's true enough," agreed Jack. "The Germans, of course, figured that they would frighten England and scare her out of the war."

"Exactly, and the result was altogether different from what they had anticipated. That's why I say submarine activities off the American coast will prove a boomerang to the foe."

"I see," commented Jack. "You mean it would arouse the American people to the necessity of prompt action."

"Exactly."

"Well," said Jack, "it begins to look as though Lord Hastings were wrong. We've been here three weeks now and nothing has transpired to indicate that the Germans are meditating a submarine raid in American waters."

"You don't expect them to tip the Washington government off in advance, do you?" asked Frank with a laugh.

"Hardly; but it would seem that if such a campaign had been planned it would have been started before this."

"It wouldn't surprise me," said Frank, "to get a flash any day that a ship had been submarined off the American coast."

Came a rap at the door.

"Come in," Frank called.

A bell boy entered. He held a tray in his hand and on the tray was a cablegram.

"From Lord Hastings, I suppose," said Frank, taking the message and passing it to Jack.

Jack broke the seal, spread out the paper. The message, in code, was this:

"Authentic information flotilla submarines headed for America. Warn Navy Department at once."

Jack sprang to the telephone and got the British embassy on the wire.

"The ambassador, quick!" he said to the voice that answered his call.

There was a short pause, and then Jack recognized the ambassador's voice.

"I've just had a wireless from Lord Hastings relative to the matter which we discussed with Secretary Daniels several weeks ago," he explained. "Can you arrange another interview immediately?"

"I'll see," said the ambassador and rang off.

The telephone in the lads' room jangled sharply ten minutes later. Jack sprang to the wire.

"Yes," he said in response to a query. "Ten o'clock? You'll call for us? Very well."

He replaced the receiver and turned to Frank.

"We will see Secretary Daniels in his office at ten," he said. He looked at his watch. "Hurry and dress. It's after nine now. The ambassador should be here in fifteen minutes."

The lads jumped into their clothes, then went downstairs, where they awaited the arrival of the ambassador. The latter arrived ten minutes before ten o'clock, and the three were driven to the War and Navy building. Secretary Daniels received them at once.

"I understand that you come on a very important matter," he said. "Pray, what is it, gentlemen?"

For answer Jack laid before the American naval secretary the decoded message from Lord Hastings. The secretary read it, then looked up.

"Well?" he asked.

"Why, sir," said Jack, "Lord Hastings simply wishes you to take all precautions to prevent sinking of vessels by submarines in American waters."

Secretary Daniels smiled.

"I don't know what we can do that has not already been done," he replied. "The off-coast waters are mined, and American warships are patroling the regular channels of navigation."

"All that may be true, sir," said Jack, "but these submarines are slippery customers, as I have reason to know. It would be well to take even further precautions."

"And what would you suggest?" asked Secretary Daniels.

"Why, sir," said Jack, "I'd suggest cancelling sailing orders of all transports temporarily, at least until such time as I felt sure they could go in safety. Then I'd flash a warning broadcast to all vessels within reach of the wireless to be on the lookout for enemy submarines. I'd rush every available submarine chaser in the Atlantic ports beyond the mine fields and I would order a destroyer as protection for every vessel known to be inward bound."

Secretary Daniels smiled.

"You wouldn't overlook anything, would you, Captain?"

"I certainly would not," said Jack firmly.

"Very well, then," said Secretary Daniels. "I'll set your mind at rest. Your suggestions shall be followed out. I'll give the necessary directions the first thing in the morning."

"In the morning, sir?" repeated Jack. "The morning may be too late."

"Oh, I guess not," Secretary Daniels smiled. "It has been three weeks or more since your first warning and nothing has happened. I guess we can safely depend upon being let alone a few hours after the second warning."

Jack was about to protest, thought better of it and said simply:

"Very well, sir."

A moment later the lads took their departure with the ambassador. In the seclusion of the latter's automobile, Jack said:

"I can't see how the secretary dares let time slip by like that."

"Never mind," said the ambassador, "you'll find in a day or two that Secretary Daniels knows what he's doing. Don't make any mistake about him. He's a capable man."

"I have no doubt of that, sir," replied Jack. "But if he had seen three years of war, as we have, he would never delay. Besides, he doesn't know these German submarines as well as I do. Neither do any of the Americans."

"Oh, yes they do," declared Frank.

"They do, eh?" exclaimed Jack. "Well, I'd like to know the name of one of them."

"His name," said Frank, "is Lieutenant Chadwick, and I think he knows just about as much about the U-Boats as you do; and he agrees with your ideas perfectly."

Jack smiled.

"That's right," he said. "I had forgotten you were a native of this land. Well, here's hoping nothing happens before Secretary Daniels takes all necessary precautions."

The British ambassador left the lads at their hotel, and they returned at once to their rooms, where for several hours they discussed the situation.

"There is no use talking about it," said Frank at last. "Let's go to bed."

They undressed.

Just before extinguishing the light, as was his custom, Frank raised the window. As he looked out he saw below a crowd of excited men and women moving about the street.

"Hey, Jack!" he called. "Come here."

Jack joined him at the window.

"Now what's up, do you suppose?" asked Frank.

"Too deep for me," declared Jack, "but something surely. Let's go down and find out."

Hurriedly they slipped back into their clothes, and went down stairs. They stepped out of the hotel and mingled with the people on the streets, quite a crowd for Washington at that hour of the night.

The stream of people led toward Eleventh and Pennsylvania avenue, where a larger crowd was gathered in front of a bulletin board in the window of a newspaper office.

"Big news of some kind," said Jack as they hurried along.

"And not good news, either," Frank declared. "There'd be some cheering if it were."

"You're right," said Jack.

By main force they wormed their way through the crowd, until they were close enough to read the bulletin board. Then Jack uttered an exclamation of alarm.

"I knew it!" he cried.

For what he read was this:

"Navy Department announces sinking of two freight vessels off New Jersey coast by German submarines."

"I knew it!" Jack said again.



CHAPTER XIII

THE SUBMARINES GROW BOLDER

The boys returned to their rooms.

"Now what?" asked Frank.

"I don't know," was Jack's reply. "I hate to sit here quietly when the whole American navy, or what part of it is still here, is in chase of the Germans, but what are we going to do about it?"

"Search me," replied Frank.

"Our instructions," Jack continued, "are to stay here pending further orders."

"Maybe we'll get them soon," said Frank.

"Yes; and maybe we won't."

"Then we'll just have to sit tight."

"That's what worries me."

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Frank called.

A bell boy entered with a second cablegram.

Jack tore it open hastily.

"Hurray!" he cried.

"What's up?" demanded Frank.

He arose and peered over his chum's shoulder. What he read was this:

"Offer your services and the services of the Essex to the U.S. Navy Department at once."

"Fine!" cried Frank. "Let's get busy."

It was the work of half an hour, however, to get Secretary Daniels on the telephone. He had been aroused at the first news of the sinkings off the coast and had been kept on the jump ever since. But he took time to talk to Jack.

"I am authorized by the British Admiralty, sir," said Jack over the 'phone, "to offer the services of my ship to the American government."

"Accepted with thanks," snapped Secretary Daniels. "You will proceed immediately to your vessel in Newport News, after which you will join the American vessels on patrol duty off the coast of Virginia. I shall inform Admiral Sellings that you will report to him for instructions."

Without awaiting a reply, Secretary Daniels hung up.

"By George!" said Jack. "He's a man of action when he gets to moving."

"What did he say?" demanded Frank.

"Hurry and pack your things," was Jack's reply. "I'll explain as we work."

It was the work of only a few minutes for the lads to gather their belongings and dump them in their handbags. Then they hurried downstairs, where they paid their bill and learned that they could catch a train to Richmond within the hour.

"Going after the submarines?" asked the night clerk.

"Yes," replied Jack shortly.

"Good! I hope you get 'em. Here's your taxi."

The lads jumped into the taxi and were driven to the station, where they caught their train with time to spare.

It lacked two hours of daylight when they arrived in Richmond. They took a taxi across town to the Chesapeake and Ohio station, where they caught a train for Newport News an hour later. At eight o'clock they were in Newport News, and fifteen minutes later stepped aboard the Essex.

"Glad to see you back, sir," said Lieutenant Hetherton, who held the deck. "I suppose you've heard——"

"Pipe all hands to quarters, Mr. Hetherton," Jack interrupted sharply, "and clear ship for action. We sail within the hour."

Lieutenant Hetherton hurried away.

"Frank," said Jack, "go below and have a look at the engine room. Then find the quartermaster and see about provisions and fuel."

Frank also hurried away.

Sailing preparations aboard the Essex were made hurriedly and within less than an hour all was ready for departure. Meanwhile, crowds had collected ashore, upon learning that the Essex was about to set out in pursuit of the German undersea raiders.

Loud cheers split the air. Men and women waved their handkerchiefs. From a group of soldiers on the shore came expressions of good luck. In response to Jack's request, a pilot had been hurried aboard and now took the wheel.

"Half speed ahead," Jack ordered.

The water churned up ahead of the Essex, and she moved majestically toward the center of the stream.

Gradually the cheering died away in the distance, and the city of Newport News was lost to sight. In Hampton Roads again, the pilot was dropped in a small boat and rowed shoreward.

Frank took his place behind the helmsman and Jack rang for full speed ahead. At last the Essex was off in pursuit of the German submarines.

Meanwhile, an account of the activity of the enemy off the coats is in order. Besides the sinking of the first two freight vessels, which had been reported to the Navy Department by survivors who had reached shore in small boats, other vessels had been sent to the bottom. Most of these were freighters or small trading ships, including two sailing vessels. Some had been sunk off the New Jersey coast, others off the coasts of Delaware and Virginia.

In some cases the vessels attacked had attempted to flee, but they were quickly overhauled by the submarines, which, besides firing torpedoes into their hulls, shelled them with rapid fire guns and later attacked the small boats in which the crews sought to make the shore.

Casualties had been heavy aboard the ships sunk by the raiders. One or two of the enemy submarines had been fired on by armed ships, but to no avail; and as a result of those efforts, the death lists aboard such vessels had been increased, for the Germans, angered, had swept the survivors in small boats with rapid fire guns.

How many submarines were operating in American waters, the Navy department did not know. From the fact that ships were attacked in at least three places, within a short space of time, however, it was believed that there were at least three or four of the raiders.

From all ports along the coast, destroyers, submarine chasers, motor boats armed with single guns, had put to sea in an effort to run down the raiders. But off the New Jersey coast, almost in the midst of these vessels, a sailing ship was sunk by a submarine. Before any of the patroling vessels could reach the scene, however, the U-Boat had submerged and fled.

Depth bombs were dropped by ships of war wherever it was thought a submarine might be lurking beneath the water. But these efforts met with no success. Reports of sinkings in other parts of the water reached the Navy department.

The first sinking was reported on May 10. In the week that followed, eighteen other vessels were sent to the bottom by German submarines off the American coast. At the end of that time, however, the waters were being so well patrolled that it would have been suicide for a submarine to have showed itself.

Reports of sinkings ceased. But, from time to time, word was received that submarines had been sighted farther south, first off the coast of the Carolinas and then off Florida. No attacks were made in these waters, however, and the next that was heard of the submarines they were off the coast of South America.

During the activities of the enemy raiders, one submarine was sunk, and one was captured, both through the efforts of Jack and the crew and officers of the Essex.

After leaving Hampton Roads, the Essex steamed out beyond the Virginia Capes. Immediately Jack sought to get into communication with Admiral Sellings by wireless. And at last he raised the admiral's flagship, the Dakota.

"What do you want?" came the query from the Dakota, after Jack's flash had been picked up.

"British destroyer Essex, Captain Templeton, reporting to Admiral Sellings for orders at the request of Secretary Daniels," was the message Jack sent back.

"One moment," was the reply.

Jack waited in the radio room aboard the Essex.

"Essex! Essex!" came the call five minutes later.

"Answer," Jack directed the operator.

"Essex replying," the operator flashed.

"Admiral Sellings orders Essex to proceed north and stand out to sea to protect inbound vessels. Understand one submarine sighted five miles out five hours ago. Repeat."

The operator repeated the message to show that he had caught in correctly.

Jack went on deck and gave instructions necessary to putting the Essex out at sea. Then, "Full speed ahead!" he signalled.

The British destroyer Essex stood out to sea magnificently. Aboard, her crew stood to their posts, ready for action. Jack, surrounded by his officers, held the bridge.

"We've got to keep a sharp eye out," said Jack.

"Right," Frank agreed. "We're likely to come upon one of the enemy any moment, and we can't afford to let him see us first."

"Very true, sir," Lieutenant Hetherton agreed. "Fortunately all our lookouts have sharp eyes. I'll venture to say a submarine won't come to the surface very close to us without being seen."

"That's the way to talk, Mr. Hetherton," said Jack. "It shows the proper spirit."

"And the men are imbued with the same spirit," declared Frank, "and yet see how cool they are."

It was perfectly true. There was no confusion aboard the Essex in spite of the fact that each member of the crew knew he was bent on a dangerous mission. One shot from the submarine, they knew, if truly aimed and Jack was unable to maneuver the vessel out of harm's way, would be the end. However, like all British tars, they had absolute confidence in their commander; for, according to their line of reasoning, if he were not a capable officer and to be depended upon he would not be in command of the ship.

Suddenly the radio operator appeared on deck and hurried toward the bridge. Jack stepped forward to meet him. The lad took the message the operator passed him and read:

"S.O.S. Pursued by submarine eighteen miles off Cape May light. Am running south by west, but foe is gaining. Capt. Griswold, Ventura."

"This," said Jack quietly, "means that there is still another U-Boat to be reckoned with, but I had no idea they were operating so far out. We'll have to get busy."

Jack looked at his officers with a slight smile on his face, then ordered: "Shape your course due east, Frank. Full speed ahead."



CHAPTER XIV

THE U-87

As the Essex sped forward the radio operator from time to time picked up other messages from the Ventura.

"She's headed directly toward us," Jack explained to Frank. "We should sight her within the hour."

The Ventura was sighted in less, but under peculiar conditions.

"Ship on the starboard bow, sir," sang the lookout forward.

A moment later the officers on the bridge sighted the vessel through their glasses.

"By George! She seems to be standing still," said Frank.

"So she does," Lieutenant Hetherton agreed, "Wonder what's the matter?"

"We'll find out fast enough," returned Jack quietly.

"Take the bridge, Mr. Chadwick," said Jack. "I'm going below to the radio room."

"See if you can raise the Ventura," he instructed the radio operator, a few moments later.

"Ventura! Ventura!" went the call through the air.

There was no response.

"Try it again," said Jack.

The operator obeyed. Still there was no reply from the Ventura.

"Something wrong," Jack muttered under his breath, "and still I saw no sign of a submarine. Try 'em again, Wilkins."

Again the radio operator sent the call flashing through the air:

"Ventura! Ventura! Ventura!"

The instrument at Wilkins' side began to click.

"Ventura replying, sir," Wilkins reported.

"I hear him," said Jack briefly. "Let me get at that key, Wilkins."

The operator sprang up and Jack took his place and strapped the receiver over his head.

"What's the trouble, Ventura?" he clicked.

"Held up by submarine," was the reply. "U-Boat due east of us. You can't see her. We sighted you just after we were boarded."

"Then how does it come you are at the key?" Jack clicked.

"Broke away from captors on deck. They are pounding at the door now."

"Have they sighted us?"

"They hadn't. There goes the door, Good-bye."

The flashes from the Ventura ceased. Jack sprang up and turned the receiver over to the operator.

"Keep calling," he said. "If you pick the Ventura up again, let me know. I'll send a man so you can report to me through him."

Jack hurried on deck.

In the distance the Ventura was plainly visible now. Jack changed the course of the ship slightly, and after the vessel had gone half a mile he made out the form of a submarine lying close astern of the Ventura.

"By George! They must see us," he muttered. "If the lookout on the U-Boat hasn't espied us, surely some of the Germans on the deck of the Ventura must have done so. Wonder why the submarine captain doesn't sink the steamer and submerge. Surely he is not going to risk an encounter with me."

Nevertheless, it seemed that such must be the submarine commander's intention, for the submarine showed no sign of submerging as the Essex bore down on her.

Through his binoculars Frank was now able to ascertain the fact that a struggle was in progress on the deck of the Ventura. A dozen or more figures, closely interlocked, were scuffling to and fro across the bridge. Frank gave an exclamation.

"I know what's wrong," he ejaculated.

"Well, what?" demanded Jack, turning to him.

"Why, the crew, or some of the crew, has jumped the commander of the submarine and his escort. That's why the officer left on the U-Boat doesn't dare sink the vessel. And the crew of the steamer is keeping the German and his friends so busy aboard that they haven't had a chance to jump overboard."

"By George! I guess you're right," declared Jack. "Now if they can hold them fifteen minutes longer we'll get in the game ourselves."

Again Jack altered the course of the Essex and approached the submarine at an angle from the Ventura.

"Forward turret guns there!" he roared.

It was the signal the men had been eagerly awaiting. Quickly the signal "ready" was flashed in the forward turret. The men were already at their posts.

"Range finders!" ordered Jack.

"Aye, aye, sir," came the reply of the officer in charge of this work, and he calculated the range swiftly and passed the word to the captain of the gun crew in the forward turret.

"Fire!"

A heavy shell flew screaming across the water.

But the range had not been correct and the shell flew past the submarine. Again the range was calculated, taking into consideration the first error. Again the command to fire was given.

This time the range had been gauged perfectly and the shell must have gone home had it not been for one thing.

A moment before the command to fire was given, a torpedo was launched by the submarine. Jack saw the torpedo come dashing through the water, and he was forced to order the helm over promptly to escape the deadly messenger. This maneuver was made at the precise moment that the Essex fired for the second time, and consequently the shell again went wide.

Almost at the same instant Frank, who had kept his eyes glued to the deck of the Ventura where the struggle on the bridge had continued fiercely, uttered an exclamation of alarm.

"They've broken away," he cried.

It was true, The submarine commander and his followers had succeeded in eluding the crew of the Ventura and dashed to the rail. There they poised themselves a brief moment, and then flung themselves headlong into the sea. Directly, dripping, they appeared on the deck of the submarine and dashed for the conning tower.

"Quick!" roared Jack. "Forward turret guns again there!"

Once more the range was calculated and an explosion shook the Essex. But as before the range had not been true. The shell barely skimmed the top of the U-Boat and went screaming half a mile past, where it struck the water with a hiss.

Slowly the submarine began to submerge.

"Again!" cried Jack.

But the next shot had no better success.

The submarine disappeared from sight.

Jack stamped his foot.

"What's the matter with those fellows forward?" he demanded. "Can't they shoot? Didn't they ever see a gun before?"

There was no reply from the other officers and gradually Jack cooled down.

"Pretty tough," said Frank then. "We should have had that fellow."

Jack nodded gloomily.

"So we should," he cried, "but we didn't get him. Well, better luck next time. All the same, I'm inclined to believe that Ensign Carruthers needs a talking to. He didn't take the time to calculate the range correctly."

"I'll speak to him," said Frank.

"Do," said Jack. "In the meantime we'll run close to the Ventura and I'll go aboard for a word with her captain."

The Ventura's wireless was working again now, and Jack himself took the key.

"Lay to," he ordered. "I'm coming aboard you."

"Very well," was the reply.

The two vessels drew close together. Jack had the destroyer's launch lowered, climbed in and crossed to the Ventura, where a ladder was lowered for him. On deck he was greeted by a grizzled old sailor, who introduced himself as Captain Griswold.

"Come to my cabin, sir," he said to Jack. "We can talk there without being interrupted."

Jack followed the captain of the Ventura below, and took a seat the latter motioned him to. The captain set out liquor and cigars, but Jack waved them away.

"I neither smoke nor drink, thanks," he said.

Captain Griswold shrugged his shoulders and put a match to a cigar.

"Well, what can I do for you, Captain?" he asked.

"First," said Jack, "did you get the number of the submarine?"

"I did. The U-87, Commander Frederich, the captain styled himself; and if there ever was a murderer unhung, he's the man."

"Why?" asked Jack curiously.

"Because he proposed setting my passengers and crew adrift in small boats, without water or provisions, before sinking my ship. And when I told him that I had him figured correctly—that he intended to shell the lifeboats—the cold-blooded scoundrel admitted it! That's why we had the nerve to jump him on deck. I figured we might as well die on the Ventura as in the lifeboats—and we had a chance of taking him to Davy Jones' locker along with us."

"I see," said Jack. "Not a bad idea."

"It was offered by the wireless operator," continued Captain Griswold, "although he offered it unconsciously."

"Explain," Jack requested.

"Well, Harrington thought he heard his instrument clicking. He figured it was you, whom we had just sighted. He broke through the Germans on deck and dashed below. He locked himself in his room and began talking to you. Three of the enemy went after him and broke in the door, but I guess he had told you enough by that time."

"I'd like a word with this Harrington," said Jack. "He is a brave man. Where is he?"

"Dead," said Captain Griswold quietly.

Jack jumped to his feet

"Dead?" he repeated.

"Yes. After the Germans broke in the door, they overpowered him, tied him and then brought back on deck. Said the German commander: 'I'll show you how we treat men who defy us.' He stepped back several paces, drew his revolver and fired. Then three of the enemy threw the body into the sea. That's when we jumped them, for it was more than we could stand."

"Then who answered the wireless when I called a moment ago?"

"I did."

"I guess that is enough, Captain," said Jack. He returned to the Essex.



CHAPTER XV

JACK GIVES CHASE

"Any sight of the submarine, Frank?" asked Jack, when he stepped on deck again.

"None," was the reply. "In accordance with instructions you gave before you went overside we dropped depth bombs in the spot where the U-Boat disappeared, but without result."

"I guess he's gone, then," said Jack. "But I'd like to get my hands on that fellow," and he related to Frank the manner in which the German commander had shot down the wireless operator aboard the Ventura.

"By Jove! What a murderous scoundrel!" muttered Frank.

Jack nodded.

"No worse than the rest of them, I'll wager," he said. "But, hello! The Ventura's moving again."

As soon as Jack had left the deck of the steamer, Captain Griswold had ordered the engines started and prepared for a quick dash to shore.

"There are likely to be more of those pesky submarines about here," he muttered, "and the sooner I reach port the better."

Accordingly he ordered full speed ahead.

"Do you know," said Frank, "I've a hunch that the U-87 is not through with the Ventura. You know how the German is. He doesn't like to admit he's been licked, so I figure the submarine commander is likely to have gone ahead and will be awaiting the approach of the Ventura."

"Now by George! I wouldn't be a bit surprised," Jack agreed. "Well, we'll be ready for him."

"What are you going to do, Jack?"

"I'll show you. Come."

Jack dashed to the radio room, Frank at his heels.

"Get the Ventura for me," Jack instructed the operator.

It was perhaps five minutes later that the Ventura answered the call. Jack took the key.

"Captain Griswold?" he asked.

"Yes. Who are you?"

"Captain Templeton, destroyer Essex."

"Well, what do you want this time?"

"Slow down. I'm coming aboard again."

"What for?"

"I'll explain when I get there."

"All right, but I'll tell you I don't like this business."

The instrument became silent.

"Now tell me what you're going to do, Jack," said Frank, as he followed his chum and commander on deck.

"It's very simple," said Jack. "As you have said, I believe that the submarine commander will intercept the Ventura again farther along toward the shore. Now, I'm going to turn the Essex over to you temporarily and go aboard the Ventura. You know the Germans as well as I do. This man will no more think of sinking the Ventura without doing a bit of bragging to the captain, who fooled him once, than he will of flying."

"That's true enough," Frank admitted.

"All right. Now I'll be aboard when he gets there. If he comes aboard, I'll grab him there. If he doesn't I'll jump to the deck of the submarine after him and tumble him overboard. I'll trust to you to keep the submarine occupied and to get a boat to me."

"It's a desperate venture, Jack," Frank protested.

"So it is," was Jack's reply, "but I've a longing to capture this fellow. If we just sink the submarine, I can't do it of course. Another thing, it may be that I am not doing just right in leaving my ship, but it will only be for a couple of hours and I know you can handle it as well as I can."

"Oh, I won't sink her," grinned Frank. "But why not let me be the one to go?"

"Because I'm not sure you can handle the German commander."

"But you're sure you can, eh?"

"He'll have to be something new in the line of a German if I can't."

"All right," said Frank. "Have it your own way. You're boss here, you know."

Meantime the Essex and the Ventura had been drawing closer together. Directly a boat put off from the destroyer and ran alongside of the steamer. Jack clambered over the side and the launch returned to the destroyer.

Captain Griswold was waiting for Jack.

"Now what's up?" he wanted to know.

"Come to your cabin and I'll explain," said Jack.

In the seclusion of the cabin he outlined the situation. When he had concluded a sketch of his plans, Captain Griswold demurred.

"But I don't like to risk my passengers," he said.

"You won't be risking them any more with me aboard than you will without me," Jack explained. "Besides, you will have the additional protection of the destroyer. In fact, it may be that the presence of the Essex will scare the submarine off, but I doubt it. The German commander, as all of his ilk, is angry at having been balked of his prey. He'll probably have one more try, destroyer or no destroyer."

"Well," said Captain Griswold, "you're a British naval officer and should know something, whether you do or not. But I'll tell you right now I hope the submarine doesn't show up again."

Nevertheless, Captain Griswold was doomed to disappointment, for the U-87 did reappear.

It was almost 6 o'clock in the evening when all on board were startled by a cry from the lookout.

"Submarine on the port bow, sir."

Instantly all became confusion on the big merchant ship. Passengers, of whom there were perhaps fifty, became greatly excited. Every man on board strapped on a life preserver, and waited for he knew not what.

The fact that, directly astern, the Essex, British destroyer, was in plain sight and trailing them, did not allay their fears. Came a shot from a gun mounted forward on the submarine, a signal to heave to.

"Obey it," said Jack, to Captain Griswold, on the bridge.

Captain Griswold ordered his engines stopped.

"I'll keep out of sight for a moment," said Jack. "The commander may come on board."

He stooped down in the shelter of the pilot house.

The submarine drew close to the Ventura, and a voice hailed Captain Griswold:

"Thought you'd get away did you, you Yankee pig."

It was the voice of the German commander.

"Oh, we may get away yet," said Captain Griswold.

"Don't depend on the destroyer this time," shouted the commander of the submarine. "I see her approaching, but she won't be soon enough. I'll sink you and submerge before she can fire a shot."

"Well, you big cut throat," shouted Captain Griswold, losing his temper, "why don't you do it?"

"You dare to talk to a German officer like that?" thundered the submarine commander. "You shall be sunk immediately. But first I wanted a word with you. I just wanted to tell you what fate I hold in store for you."

"It's my opinion," said Captain Griswold, "that you're a big bluff, like all the rest of your stripe."

Meantime, realizing that the German commander did not intend to board the Ventura a second time, Jack crept from the shelter of the pilot house unobserved and stole across the deck until he was beside the rail just above the U-Boat, whose sides almost scraped the Ventura, so close were the two vessels together.

Jack removed his coat and his cap, which he dropped on deck. Then he stood up in full view of the German submarine commander. The latter gazed at him carelessly, for without his cap and coat Jack showed no sign of being a British naval officer.

Jack took in the scene about him with a careful eye. The German commander stood close to the conning tower. There were perhaps half a dozen men beside him, presumably his officers. The commander was directly below the spot where Jack stood.

One of the Germans, Jack noticed, kept a close eye on the approaching Essex and from time to time spoke to the commander in a low tone.

"Oh, these English can't shoot," Jack heard the commander say at last. "However, I guess we have delayed long enough. Inside with you, gentlemen."

Two of the Germans descended through the conning tower. This left four on the deck of the submarine besides the commander. These, too, moved toward the conning tower.

"Guess it's time to get busy," Jack muttered.

With a single movement he leaped to the rail of the Ventura, and with a second hurled himself to the deck of the submarine, landing in the midst of the startled Germans.

At the same moment, Captain Griswold, on the Ventura, signalled his engine room for full speed ahead in accordance with Jack's instructions.

The reason for this was obvious. First, it would take the steamer out of the way of the torpedoes already trained on her, which would not be launched without a command from one of the enemy officers, and, second, it would draw the Ventura away so as to present the submarine as a clear target for the guns of the approaching Essex.

Jack, on the deck of the submarine, recovered himself before the German officers could get over their surprise. He sprang to his feet and waded into them, striking out right and left.

Two men went staggering across the narrow deck and toppled into the sea. The others reached for their revolvers. Before they could fire, however, Jack sprang forward quickly and floored one of the enemy with a smashing blow. This left the commander and one other officer on deck.

The commander fired at Jack, but in his haste the bullet went wild. Jack hurled himself forward, and the men gave ground. One, retreating, lost his balance and went staggering across the deck and fell overboard.

Only the commander of the submarine now faced Jack, and he covered the lad with a revolver.

"Hands up!" he said.

For answer Jack smiled slightly, and took a quick step forward.

"Crack!" the German's revolver spoke sharply, and Jack felt a hot pain in his left arm. But the German had no time to fire again, for Jack was upon him, pinning his revolver arm to his side.

"Now," said the lad, "I've got you!"

The two wrestled across the deck.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FIGHT ON THE U-87

In the meantime, members of the crew hearing the commotion on deck, rushed up to see what was going on. Seeing their commander struggling with an enemy, they hurried across the deck.

Jack saw them coming out of the tail of his eye. It was not time to hesitate and the lad knew it.

With his arms still wrapped about the German commander, Jack struggled to the rail and leaped into the sea. Down and down he went, never for a moment relaxing his hold on the German. Then they came to the surface.

With a sudden jerk the German freed himself and aimed a heavy blow at Jack. This Jack dodged and sought to regain his hold on his foe. But the German wriggled away and struck out for the submarine.

In the meantime, Captain Griswold of the Ventura had been watching the struggle as his vessel sped away from the scene. There was a strange light in his eyes and he muttered to himself. At last he muttered an imprecation.

"He's a brave boy," he said. "I can't run away and leave him like that."

He brought the head of the vessel around in spite of the protests of some of the passengers, and headed back for the submarine.

"Man the forward gun there!" he cried.

For the Ventura, like other allied ships plying in the seas in those days, carried small guns for defensive purposes. The gun crew sprang to obey this order and the gun was trained on the submarine.

"Fire!" shouted Captain Griswold.

"Crash!"

The gun spoke and a geyser of water was kicked up just beyond the submarine.

At this point the officer left in command of the submarine seemed to realize his own danger. He sprang to the conning tower, unmindful of the fact that his commander was struggling in the water.

"Down, men!" he cried.

But it appeared that the German sailors were made of sterner stuff than was the officer. They refused to go below until their commander had been brought safely aboard. In vain the officer pointed out their danger.

Jack struck out after the German commander as the latter swam for the submarine. The lad was a powerful swimmer and he felt confident he could overtake the man before help could reach him.

The destroyer Essex had now drawn close. Frank had been afraid to order a shot at the submarine for fear the shell might hit Jack in the water.

"Take the bridge, Mr. Hetherton!" he cried. "Lower a boat, men!"

The boat was lowered in a trice and Frank and a score of sailors sprang in. The launch darted toward Jack at full speed, Frank standing erect and with the quartermaster at the rudder.

They were close enough to see the struggle between Jack and the German commander in the water. Frank saw the man break loose from Jack and strike out for the submarine. He saw Jack make after him, and he saw something more.

Half a dozen German sailors leaped into the water and made for Jack, who apparently did not realize his own danger, so interested was he in the pursuit of the German commander.

"Faster!" cried Frank, and drew his revolver.

Now, for the first time, Jack realized his danger. But it was too late to draw back, and it is doubtful if he would have done so anyway.

"I'm going to get that fellow," he gritted between his teeth, referring to the German commander.

One of the German sailors struck at the lad with a knife. Jack caught the man's arm with his left hand and twisted sharply. There was a snap, and the knife dropped into the water. The sailor uttered a cry of pain and turning, struck out for the submarine with his good arm.

Two sailors now beset Jack on either side, and the German commander turned to renew the struggle.

"Kill him!" he cried angrily.

One of the sailors raised himself high in the water, and a knife flashed above him.

"Crack!"

A revolver spoke sharply and the knife dropped from limp fingers.

Frank, standing erect in the Essex's launch, had fired. Now, as has been said, Frank was a crack shot, and in spite of the pitching of the small boat, his aim had been true. The bullet had struck the German sailor's arm just below the elbow, shattering the nerve.

Perceiving the approach of reinforcements, at an order from their commander, the Germans turned and swam rapidly toward the submarine. The sailors reached the vessel and climbed aboard. Their commander did likewise.

Unmindful of the cries of his friends behind him, Jack also laid hold of the edge of the submarine and drew himself, dripping, aboard the vessel. A sailor near the conning tower raised his revolver in deliberate aim.

"Crack! Crack!"

Two revolvers spoke almost as one, the first Frank's, the second that of the sailor who aimed at Jack. But Frank's bullet went home, thus deflecting the aim of the man who covered Jack, and the German's bullet went wild.

The commander of the submarine, at this juncture, losing his temper at being pursued to the very door of safety, turned and sprang for Jack with a wild cry. He was a big and powerful man, and as he wrapped his arms about Jack, the lad staggered back.

But he recovered his balance in a moment and struck out with his right fist. Struck in the stomach, the German grunted and stepped back.

Now the remainder of the German crew came pouring on deck. At the same time Frank's launch grated alongside and his men poured a volley of rifle bullets into the enemy. The latter turned and scampered for safety below decks.

Jack, still struggling with the German commander, paused and looked around long enough to cry:

"After them, Frank! Don't let them shut you out."

Frank understood and led his men toward the conning tower at a run. Most of the enemy were already inside and descending, but Frank arrived in time to prevent the closing of the conning tower, which would have permitted the submarine to submerge, leaving the struggling figures in the water. With the conning tower open, it was, of course, impossible for the U-Boat to submerge, for she would have been flooded immediately.

Frank's men made prisoners of the half a dozen Germans who had not time to get below, and then the lad ran over to help Jack.

"Keep away, Frank," said Jack. "I've got this fellow, and I hope he doesn't give up too easily. We've heavy accounts to settle with him."

The big German showed no symptoms of giving up. He lashed out with both arms and Jack was kept busy warding off the blows. But the German commander was a novice at this sort of fighting, while Jack, only a year or so before, had won the heavyweight boxing championship of the British navy. So there was no doubt in Frank's mind as to the outcome. He and his men formed a circle around the struggling figures, at the same time guarding the conning tower to prevent the enemy from closing it.

"Shoot the first head you see down there," Frank enjoined the men he left on guard, and he knew they would be only too glad to obey this order.

Jack, with a smile still on his face, permitted the German commander to waste his energy in ineffective blows. Then Jack stepped forward and delivered a heavy blow to the man's mouth. The German staggered back. Jack doubled him up with a left-handed punch to the pit of the stomach, then straightened him with a second hard right to the point of the chin.

The German commander reeled backward. Jack followed up his advantage, and for the space of a minute played a tattoo on the man's face with both fists. Then he stepped back, and as the German came toward him, the lad muttered:

"I guess this has gone far enough. Now for the finish."

He started a blow almost from the deck, and putting his full force behind it, struck.

"Crack!"

The blow could be heard even aboard the Ventura, which had approached close by this time.

The German commander seemed to stagger back all of ten paces, the British sailors scurrying back to keep out of his way. Then the man fell, his head striking the deck with a sickening thud.

"There," said Jack, "I guess that will settle you. Tie him up, men."

A wild cheer had burst from the sailors as Jack delivered the finishing touch. None of these men had ever seen Jack in action before, and it was only natural that they should be greatly impressed at this exhibition of their commander's prowess.

"By glory! What a blow!" one of them exclaimed. "Did you see it, Tom?"

"Did I?" exclaimed the man addressed as Tom; "did I? I'll say I did, and I thought I was pretty handy with my fists. But not against Captain Jack, not for me."

As bidden by Jack, the sailors rolled the German commander over and bound him. Then they carried him to the Essex's launch and threw him in, none too gently, either, for there was no man there who had not a disgust for Germans, German tactics and everything German.

"Now," said Frank to Jack, "I guess we may as well stand clear and let the Essex pour a few shells into the vessel, eh?"

Jack shook his head.

"No," he said, "we shall take possession of the vessel. Call down below and see if the Germans will surrender."

Frank approached the conning tower and called down.

"Hello!" he shouted.

There was no response.

"Hello below!" he shouted again in German.

"What do you want?" came a sullen voice from below.

"We're in possession of this vessel now," said Frank. "Come up here and surrender."

"We'll stay where we are," came the reply after a brief pause.

"But you can't man," exclaimed Frank. "Don't you know when you have been captured."

"We'll stay here awhile," said the spokesman of the sailors.

"But you can't stay there forever, and you can't submerge," said Frank. "Come up and surrender."

To this the lad received no response. Frank reported to Jack.

"So they won't surrender, eh?" said Jack. "Then we'll go down and get them."

"Rather risky, Jack," Frank warned.

"So it is," Jack agreed. "So's the whole war. But wait. We'll see."



CHAPTER XVII

CAPTURE OF THE SUBMARINE

Captain Griwsold aboard the Ventura had watched the struggle on the submarine with eager eyes. His fingers clenched and unclenched.

"I'd like to get into that," he muttered. "I guess I'm not too old."

Abruptly he turned to the first officer.

"Lower a boat," he said. "I'm going aboard the submarine."

The first officer protested.

"But the passengers—" he began.

"The passengers be hanged," said the captain of the Ventura. "Besides, we're safer here under the nose of this destroyer than we would be prowling off by ourselves."

The first officer protested no longer. A boat was lowered and Captain Griswold and half a dozen sailors climbed in and put off for the submarine, where they arrived just in time to overhear Jack say that if the Germans in the submarine didn't surrender they would go after them. Captain Griswold laid a hand on Jack's shoulder.

"You're some scrapper, youngster," he said.

Jack was thus made aware for the first time that the Ventura had not rushed for her home port.

"I thought you'd gone, Captain," he said.

"I was on my way," said the captain of the Ventura, "until I saw you fighting these murderers single-handed. I came back to see if I could help."

"Thanks," Jack laughed, "but I guess there are enough of us to attend to them without you, Captain."

"I'm not sure about that," declared Captain Griswold. "I just heard you say you were going below after those fellows?"

"Well?" questioned Jack.

"Pretty risky," responded Captain Griswold, shaking his head. "How do you figure to get 'em?"

"Rush 'em," said Jack briefly.

Again the captain of the Ventura shook his head doubtfully.

"Too risky altogether," he declared. "The first one of you that shows his head down there will be potted, sure as fate."

"But we've got to do it, Captain," said Jack. "How else is it to be done?"

"Well," said Captain Griswold, removing his cap and scratching his head, "I guess I can suggest a way."

"I'm open to conviction, Captain," said Jack.

"Aboard my ship," went on Captain Griswold, "I have a supply of a certain sort of gas which, if used properly, will do in minutes what it may take you hours to accomplish."

"By George!" said Frank. "Kill 'em all at once, eh?"

"Well, no, it won't do that," replied Captain Griswold, "but it'll put 'em to sleep long enough for you fellows to go down and tie 'em up."

"Bring on the gas, Captain," said Jack quietly.

Captain Griswold hustled back to his boat with the agility of a small school boy.

"Back to the ship," he roared to the sailors who rowed him.

He mounted the ladder swiftly and summoned his first officer.

"Helgoson," he said, "those Britishers have gone and almost captured that submarine. It's up to us to help 'em complete the job."

"How, sir?" asked the first officer.

"Do you know where that gas tank is below?"

"Yes, sir."

"Fetch it here. It's small enough so you can carry it. Also get the hose and the pump."

"Yes, sir."

The first officer hurried away. He was back in a few moments with the necessary articles, which Captain Griswold took charge of himself.

"Helgoson," said Captain Griswold, "if you were a younger man I would invite you to take a hand in this party yourself. As it is, you'll have to stick behind with the passengers."

"But I'm younger than you by almost twenty years, sir," protested the first officer.

"Oh, no you're not," laughed the commander of the Ventura, "you just think you are. I've grown twenty years younger this day."

He summoned a pair of sailors, whom he loaded down with the gas, hose and pump with instructions to place them carefully in the small boat.

"And now for the submarine," he confided to his first officer.

On deck, half a dozen passengers approached the captain with inquiries as to what was going on.

"Why," he said with a grin, "we're just going to capture a submarine, that's all. Stick close to the side of the ship and you'll see how it's done. A lesson like this may come in handy some day."

The passengers protested.

"But the danger—" one began.

"Danger be hanged," said the captain. "There is no danger. While there was danger we were scuttling for the safety of land and now we come back when it's all over. You should all be glad of this opportunity to render your country a service. What sort of citizens are you, anyhow?"

Without further words he climbed down to the launch and was hustled back to the submarine, where Jack and the others were awaiting him eagerly.

"Well," said Captain Griswold, motioning to the articles that the sailors laid on the deck, "here's the stuff. Get busy."

"How do you work it, Captain?" asked Jack.

"Don't you know?" demanded Captain Griswold. "Well, I'll tell you what. You just put me in command here for fifteen minutes and I'll do the job for you."

"All right, sir," said Jack. "Your commands shall be obeyed."

Captain Griswold turned to the nearest sailor.

"Take that hose and attach it to the nozzle on the tank," he directed. The sailor did so.

"Now the pump," said the captain, "you will find a place for it on the other side of the tank."

This was adjusted to the captain's satisfaction.

"Now," said the captain, "all you have to do is to stick this nozzle down the conning tower, turn it so as to give the gas full play and pump. Of course the gas would carry without the pump, but you save time this way."

"One moment, Captain," said Jack. "How about ourselves? Won't the gas affect us as well as the Germans?"

Captain Griswold clapped a hand to his side.

"Now what do you think of that?" he demanded. "I must be getting old before my time. Here, Lands," he called one of his own men, who approached. "Go and tell Helgoson I want two dozen of those gas masks in the store room; and hustle."

The sailor hurried away. He was back within fifteen minutes, and Captain Griswold distributed the gas masks. Then he took the nozzle of the hose, poked it down the conning tower and looked around.

"Everybody ready?" he asked.

Jack also glanced around. Every man on the deck of the submarine wore a gas mask.

"All right, sir," said Jack.

"Then you turn that screw there when I give the word. All right? Then shoot!"

There was a hissing sound as Jack turned on the gas.

For perhaps ten minutes Captain Griswold moved the hose to and fro. Then he pulled it forth and motioned Jack to turn the screw again. This the lad did. Captain Griswold then motioned the others to follow him, and led the way below.

At the foot of the conning tower they stumbled across several figures, overcome by the fumes. These were quickly bound and passed up on deck to the men who remained behind.

The search of the submarine took perhaps half an hour. Every nook and cranny was explored. The gas had done its work well. Apparently it had poured in so rapidly that the crew had had no time to open the portholes, for they were all closed. Captain Griswold opened them now.

Then he led the way on deck, and closing the conning tower, removed his gas mask. The others followed his example.

"Simple, wasn't it?" said the captain of the Ventura to Jack, grinning like a boy. "Lucky I happened to come back."

"It is indeed," said Jack. "But won't this gas affect us, Captain?"

"Not out here," was the reply. "It's not strong enough. You can barely smell it now. Now what are you going to do with the submarine?"

Jack considered a moment.

"I'll tell you Captain," he said, "it strikes me that this submarine is really the prize of the Ventura. At all events, I cannot be bothered with it, for there is still patrol work to do in these waters. Can't you tow her into port?"

"Can't I?" shouted Captain Griswold. "You bet I can. You give the word and I'll tie her on behind right now."

"All right, Captain," said Jack. "She's yours."

Captain Griswold almost danced a jig there on the deck of the German submarine.

"Won't New York sit up and take notice when old Captain Griswold comes into port towing a submarine?" he chortled. "Well, I guess. Here, Lands, go back to the ship and throw me a line. Then come back and help make it fast."

This was accomplished with astonishing rapidity and amid the cheering of the crew and passengers of the Ventura and the wild hurrahs of the British tars of the Essex.

"Well, she's all fixed," said Captain Griswold, "and to tell you the truth I'm rather sorry. Of course I'm old and all that, but just the same I'd like to go with you fellows."

"You're doing your share, Captain," said Jack seriously. "All of us can't do the fighting, you know. But there's work just as important, and you are doing your part. But we must be moving now. We've wasted time enough."

"So we have," declared Captain Griswold. "Shall you leave us here, sir?"

"No," said Jack, "we'll follow and see you safely in harbor."

"Very well. Then I shall return to the Ventura."

"And I to the Essex, Captain. Good-bye and good luck to you."

Captain Griswold shook hands heartily with Jack, and then insisted on shaking hands as well with Frank, and every officer and member of the British crew aboard the submarine. Then he put off for his ship.

Jack and the others returned to the Essex. When the lad reached the bridge, the Ventura was already moving, the submarine trailing behind.

"A fine man, Captain Griswold," said Frank.

"Right," Jack agreed. "And the U-87 is his so far as I'm concerned. He might hang it on his parlor wall for a souvenir."

"Or wear it as a watch charm," added Frank with a grin.



CHAPTER XVIII

ASHORE

For two days the Essex had been cruising up and down the coast on patrol duty, looking for submarines. Several times the destroyer had been ordered farther out to sea to form an escort for an incoming steamer, but after her encounter with the U-87 she had sighted no more of the enemy.

Following the report of two vessels sunk off the coast on May 10, the day on which the presence of German raiders off the coast was first reported, the number of sinkings increased the following day, and the next. After that they fell off, however, and upon the fifth day only one ship—a small schooner—was sent to the bottom off the coast of Delaware.

The prisoners taken from the U-87 were stowed safely away below-decks on the Essex, after which Jack got in touch with Admiral Sellings, on the Dakota, by wireless. He reported the capture of the submarine and the fact that it was being towed into port by the Ventura. Admiral Sellings ordered Jack to continue his patrol of the coast until further notice.

Nevertheless, the Essex escorted the Ventura almost to port, before putting about and resuming her patrol duty.

All the remainder of that day and the two days that followed Jack kept his ship moving up and down the coast, but he caught no sight of an enemy vessel, nor were any of the sinkings reported in that time close enough to be considered within his territory.

On the fourth day came a message from Admiral Sellings.

"German submarine reported twenty miles north of Cape Charles," read the message. "Investigate."

Jack acknowledged receipt of the order and addressed Frank, who stood beside him on the bridge.

"Something definite to act on at last," he said, and read the admiral's message aloud, adding: "Shape your course accordingly, Mr. Chadwick."

Frank gave the necessary directions. The big ship came about and headed south again.

It was well along in the afternoon when the Essex reached the approximate point designated by Admiral Sellings. Jack ran the destroyer as close in-shore as he dared, and for several hours cruised about in the neighborhood. But he saw nothing to indicate the presence of a submarine.

"If there's a U-Boat here, it's keeping pretty well under cover," said Frank.

"So it is," replied Jack. "I don't know where the admiral got his information, but I've got my doubts of its authenticity."

Frank's eyes were caught at that moment by the sight of a small row boat putting off from the shore. He watched it idly for a moment, and then noted that it was headed directly for the Essex.

"Hello," he said, "here comes some one to visit us."

Directly the little boat scraped alongside the now stationary destroyer and the figure in the boat indicated that he wanted to come aboard.

"Don't know what he wants," muttered Jack, "but it'll be just as well to have him up and find out."

A few moments later the occupant stood before Jack and his officers on the bridge.

"My name," he said, "is Charles Cutlip, and I live back there." He waved a hand shoreward. "I suppose you are hunting for submarines, Captain?"

Jack nodded.

"That's what we're here for," he affirmed.

"I thought so," said young Cutlip—he was a little more than a boy. "Well, Captain, maybe I can help you."

Jack gave an exclamation of astonishment.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I don't know exactly," replied the boy. "Yesterday afternoon, while I was in the house alone, three strange men appeared at the door. They wore the costume of an ordinary seafaring man, but when they asked me for food they had a strange manner of speech. They weren't Americans, I'm sure of that."

"And you think they were from a submarine, eh?" asked Jack.

"I'm sure of it, Captain. There were no other ships near, and they could not have come overland, for it is a long ways to the nearest village and they had neither horses nor automobile."

"And what did you say to them?" asked Frank.

"I gave them what food there was in the house, but they said it wasn't enough. About this time my father came in unexpectedly. The strangers drew revolvers and covered him. They told him they would be back to-night and that they required him to have a certain amount of food on hand. They threatened to kill him if he gave the alarm—and they threatened to kill me too."

"By George!" exclaimed Frank. "It looks as though we had come to the right spot, Jack."

"It certainly does," agreed Jack. "Now tell us the rest of your tale, son."

"That's about all," said the boy. "They devoured what food I gave them and then disappeared."

"And your father sent you for help, I suppose," added Frank.

"No," said the boy. "I came of my own accord. My father is badly frightened. He has gone to find the food for the strangers. I slipped away and ran toward the sea. Then I saw your ship, sir, and I hurried to tell you."

"You have done well," said Jack, laying a hand on the lad's shoulder. "And now you will be willing to help us further, will you not?"

"Of course I shall, sir."

"Very good. Now you look around the ship to your heart's content, while I hold a conference with my officers."

"Very well, sir."

The boy walked away. Jack held a consultation with his officers on the bridge.

"If the boy is telling the truth," he said, "and I have no doubt of it, we are in luck. It may be that we can capture this German crew ashore and then take possession of the submarine."

"But, sir," protested Lieutenant Hetherton, "if the submarine were to come to the surface now and catch sight of the Essex it would never come back again."

"I had thought of that," replied Jack, "and I have a plan that will offset it. You see that projecting reef there?" and Jack pointed to the north. The others signified that they did. "Well," Jack continued, "back of that is as cosy a little harbor as you would care to see. I noticed it as we came by. We'll take the Essex there, and she will be hidden well enough."

"Unless the submarine should chance to come to the surface there," was Frank's objection.

"We'll have to leave something to chance," declared Jack.

"In which event your plan is as good as any I can conceive," said Frank. "But after we get the Essex there, then what?"

"Why," said Jack, "I'll take a party of half a hundred men or so and surround the house of this Cutlip boy. When the Germans arrive we'll nab 'em. After that we can find the submarine."

"Hasn't it struck you, sir," Frank asked of Jack, "that maybe the men who accosted this boy and his father were merely bluffing? That they may not return to-night?"

"It has," Jack replied, "but at the same time there is a chance that they will. Therefore, in lieu of any other clue as to the whereabouts of the submarine, I deem it well to act on what information, we have."

"It won't hurt anything, that's sure, sir," was Lieutenant Hetherton's comment.

In this the other officers agreed.

"Very well then," said Jack. "It shall be as I suggested. Mr. Chadwick, will you shape your course for the point I have mentioned."

"But the boy, sir?" said Frank. "Shall we not put him over the side first?"

"No; we'll take him with us," Jack decided.

As the destroyer began to forge ahead, the Cutlip boy grew alarmed and hurried to Jack's side.

"You are not taking me away, are you, sir?" he asked fearfully.

"No," replied Jack, and outlined the situation as fully as he deemed wise.

Young Cutlip was plainly eager to help in the capture of the German submarine crew.

"And you feel sure they will come back to-night?" Jack questioned.

"Yes, sir. They must be very hungry. If you could have seen those three men devour what little food I gave them! They seemed to be half starved."

"Strange, too," Jack muttered, "considering the number of ships they have sunk in these waters recently. They should have replenished their stores."

"It may be that this was one of the less fortunate submarines," said Frank. "The sinkings may have been done by other U-Boats."

"That's true, too," said Jack. "I hadn't thought of that. I guess that must be the answer."

Less than an hour later, the Essex passed behind the shelter of the reef Jack had mentioned. There Jack ordered her stopped, and anchor dropped.

"We should be out of sight here," he said, "unless, as you suggested, Frank, the enemy should come to the surface at this point. And we'll have to trust to luck that they don't."

"And now what, sir?" asked Frank.

"I'll let you select a hundred men of the crew for shore duty," said Jack.

This task did not take long, and Frank had picked and armed his men within half an hour.

"Now," said Jack, "I'm going to put you in command of the party, Frank. Lieutenant Hetherton shall go along as your immediate subordinate. Two officers are enough. The rest of us will wait here. But if you have not returned soon after daylight, we'll start a search for you."

"I can see no reason why we should be longer," said Frank. "We'll do the best we can."

"Then I would suggest that you go ashore at once," said Jack. "You must reach the Cutlip home while it is yet daylight in order to lay your plans."

"Right, sir," said Frank, saluting. "We shall go ashore at once."

They put off over the side in small boats and rowed toward the shore, where they landed less than an hour after the Essex dropped anchor. Jack waved a hand to his chum from the bridge.

"Good luck!" he called.

Frank waved back at him, then addressed his men.

"By fours! Forward march!" he commanded.

The party, with young Cutlip in their midst, moved inland.



CHAPTER XIX

IN THE NIGHT

It was not a long march to the Cutlip home, and the Essex party reached there some time before nightfall. Young Cutlip now whispered a word of caution to Frank.

"My father will not like this," he said. "He is naturally a cautious man. If he thinks I have given the alarm—am responsible for your being here—it will go hard with me."

"Then he must not know it," said Frank decidedly. "Do you think he will be home now?"

"Yes, sir; most likely."

Frank considered.

"Then I'll call a halt here," he said. "You can return home and we will come later. In that way he will not know that you gave the alarm. But by the way, when he sees us is he not likely to try and warn the enemy?"

"He might, sir. He is terribly afraid of submarines and men who control them. He appears to think they are something supernatural. He believes the crews of the submarines can whip anyone, sir. That is why he is likely to tarry and give an alarm."

"In that case," said Frank, "we'll have to tie him up until the game is over."

"He's my father, sir, and I don't want you to hurt him," said young Cutlip, "but that would be the best way, sir."

"Very well," said Frank. "You run ahead, now; we'll wait here for an hour."

He called a halt. Young Cutlip ran on ahead. Frank explained the reason for the halt to Lieutenant Hetherton, who agreed that the lad had acted wisely.

"No use getting the boy in trouble if we can help, it, sir," he said.

An hour later Frank ordered the march resumed. Young Cutlip had given necessary directions and the party from the Essex reached the Cutlip home without trouble. As they drew near, a man came to the door of the little cabin that nestled in among a group of trees. Beside him, Frank made out the figure of the boy who had given notice of the visit of some of the submarine crew.

Frank motioned his men to halt some distance away, called Lieutenant Hetherton to follow him, and approached the cabin.

"How do you do, sir?" he asked civilly of the big man in the doorway.

"What do you want here?" was the growling response.

"We're from a British destroyer out there," said Frank, waving a hand in the general direction of the Atlantic, "and we are hunting for submarines that have sunk a dozen or more ships off the coast."

"You don't expect to find them here on land, do you?" demanded Cutlip.

"Not exactly," said Frank. "But I have reason to believe that the crew of one of the vessels has come ashore. Have you seen anything of them, sir?"

"I have not," replied Cutlip firmly.

"No one resembling a German, even?" persisted Frank.

"No."

"You are quite sure?"

"Quite sure."

"Think again, my man," said Frank.

"Look here," said Cutlip, "do you mean to insinuate that I'm lying?"

"I don't insinuate anything. I know you are lying. Hold up there!"

For Cutlip had taken a threatening step forward.

"A party of three German sailors from a submarine nearby were seen to come this way," Frank went on. "You must have seen them. Now, if you are not trying to shield them, tell me where they are."

"I don't know. I haven't seen them."

"Call a couple of men, Lieutenant," said Frank to Hetherton.

Hetherton raised a hand, and two sailors came forward.

"Once more," said Frank to Cutlip, "will you tell me what you know of those men?"

"I tell you I don't know anything," answered Cutlip doggedly.

"Tie him up, men," said Frank briefly.

The sailors sprang forward and laid rough hands on Cutlip. The latter protested vigorously with his mouth, but he offered only feeble resistance.

"Now," said Frank to Hetherton, "we can't leave him around here for if the Germans saw him they might take alarm. We'll have to have him sent back to the ship. I guess those two men are big enough to get him there."

"Plenty big enough, sir," said one of them with a grin.

"Good. Take him back, then, and come back when you have turned him over to Captain Templeton. Tell the captain to hold him until we return."

The man touched his cap.

"Aye, aye, sir," he said. Then to Cutlip in a rough voice: "March, now."

The three disappeared, Cutlip grumbling to himself and the sailors grinning.

Frank turned to young Cutlip, who had watched these proceedings with some disfavor.

"Now, my boy," he said, "we can get ready for business."

"They won't hurt him, will they?" asked the boy, pointing after his father.

"They will not," said Frank. "Only keep him safe until the trouble is over."

"All right. Then, I'll help you the best I can, sir."

"That's the way to talk, my boy. Now let me look around a bit."

Lieutenant Hetherton and young Cutlip accompanied Frank on his tour of inspection. The lad found that the cabin was cuddled securely in a miniature forest, or rather at one end of it. On both sides and in the rear were a profusion of dense trees. Only the approach from the front was in the clear.

"It's all right," Frank said. I'll throw my men around the house from three sides, and when the Germans have gone in we can surround it completely. If they come after dark, there is little doubt they will approach from the front."

"And what shall I do, sir?" asked young Cutlip.

Frank turned the matter over in his mind.

"I am afraid I shall have to ask you to play rather a dangerous part," he said at last. "You must be inside to receive them. If there were no one there they might take alarm and run. Now, we'll go inside and see if your father has complied with the enemy's demand."

The three entered the cabin. Inside, Frank made out several big sacks scattered about the floor. "Potatoes," he said, and looked further. There he also found an extraordinary amount of salt meats and a bountiful supply of vegetables.

"Looks like your good father had been very busy," he said to young Cutlip with a smile. "That's what the Germans will have the whole world doing for them if we don't lick 'em."

"You're right there, sir," agreed Lieutenant Hetherton.

"Well," said Frank, "we'll leave these things as they are. It will help divert suspicion from young Cutlip here when the Germans find his father is not on hand. But I guess there is nothing more we can do now. Come, we'll go outside."

Frank now saw to the disposition of his men. These, as he had decided, he stationed on three sides of the cabin. He himself took command of the men on the left, Lieutenant Hetherton commanding the right wing and a sailor named Hennessy the left. A short time later the sailors who had conducted Cutlip the elder to the Essex returned and took their places.

"Did he go along peaceably?" asked Frank of one of the newcomers.

"Well, he kicked once or twice," replied the man, "but he went along all the same, sir."

Frank grinned.

"Just so long as you got him there," he said.

"Oh, he's there, all right," grinned the sailor, "but when I left he was threatening to have the whole American navy down on us and hoping that these German submarines shoot us to little pieces."

"I think we'll do most of the shooting, if there is any to be done," said Frank dryly.

There was silence in the ranks after this, for it was now growing dark and it was possible that the Germans might appear at any moment. Every man strained his eyes as he peered through the trees.

Inside the cabin a faint light glowed. Young Cutlip was in there, playing a braver part than could his father, doing his best for his country as enemies threatened her existence. Frank smiled to himself.

"A nervy kid," he muttered; "yet, I wish I didn't have to use him. I shall take especial care that no harm comes to him."

He grew silent.

In the distance came the sound of tramping feet—many of them. Gradually they drew nearer and directly Frank could hear voices. Heavy, guttural voices they were and the tongue they spoke was German.

Up to that moment Frank had not been at all sure in his own mind that the Germans would return to the cabin, as they had told the Cutlips. Nevertheless, here they were, and the lad's heart leaped high.

"They must be pretty close to starvation to take such chances," the lad muttered to himself. "Wonder why they don't try a raid on one of the nearby towns? Guess they don't want to stir up any more trouble than possible, though. Well, we'll get 'em."

Frank peered from his hiding place. The Germans were in sight now, and approaching the house four abreast.

"Four, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty-four," Frank counted.

"That's not so many. We can grab them easy enough."

But a moment later additional footsteps were heard. Again Frank counted moving figures to himself.

"Twenty more," he muttered. "Where on earth did they all come from? By George! They certainly are taking a long chance marching around like this. Well, the more we can get the better."

At the door of the cabin the Germans halted. Three of their number stepped forward and went inside. This was not at all in line with Frank's plans, and he realized now that the situation of young Cutlip, inside, was dangerous in the extreme. Something must be done to protect him.

As the Germans went inside the house, the others, meanwhile, standing guard, Frank gave the signal agreed upon, a soft whistle, like the call of a bird of the night. The British began to move from their hiding places and to draw closer to the Germans, standing there in the open.

"Well," Frank muttered to himself at last, "I guess the sooner we get busy the better."

He sprang to his feet and leaped forward.



CHAPTER XX

THE BATTLE

Meanwhile, inside the cabin young Cutlip was facing the Germans cooly enough. He rose to his feet as the door opened and the first German stuck his head inside. The latter surveyed the interior rapidly, and seeing a single figure there, advanced quickly, gun in hand.

"Oho! It's the boy," he said in clumsy English. "And where is your father?"

"I don't know," answered the boy. "He went away."

"But did he get the food?"

Cutlip motioned to the sacks of provisions on the floor.

"Good!" said the German, rubbing his hands.

He returned his revolver to his belt and motioned his two companions to enter. They closed the door behind them.

"You have told no one of our presence here?" asked the first German, as he stooped over to examine the sacks.

"No."

"How about your father?"

"He has told no one, either."

"It is well. For if you had, we would kill you now."

Young Cutlip said nothing, but he knew by the hard look in the man's eyes that he told the truth. In spite of the fact that the boy knew he was in grave peril, he was perfectly cool.

He sat down again as the Germans passed from sack to sack, examining the contents. At last the first man stood up and faced the boy.

"Your father, by chance, didn't say anything about pay for this food, did he?" he asked.

"No," returned Cutlip.

The German grinned.

"Guess he knew it wouldn't do much good," he said. "Well, men, let's roll this stuff outside."

Again the men bent over the sacks.

At that moment there came a shot from without, followed by a volley. On the instant young Cutlip leaped to his feet, rushed to the door, threw it open and dashed outside.

There he was right in the midst of the Germans. But the latter were too busy and too surprised to pay any attention to him at that moment. They had wheeled at the first volley from the woods, and had turned their own weapons against the trees on three sides of the cabin.

Two or three of their number had gone down at the first fire, and they were almost demoralized, so sudden and unexpected was the attack. Consequently, young Cutlip had time almost to get clear of the enemy. In fact, by quick dodging, he did get beyond them.

Out the door now rushed the three Germans in the cabin, apparently in command of the men without. One issued harsh orders, and the Germans dropped to the ground, thus making much smaller targets.

Frank, as he sprang forward from among the trees, saw young Cutlip throw open the door and dash out. Frank ran toward him despite the fact that he was charging the enemy almost single-handed. But he knew that the boy was in danger through no fault of the lad's own, and that he must be protected.

"Here, Cutlip!" he called.

The boy ran toward him.

Frank, a revolver in each hand, stopped and awaited the lad's approach.

Two Germans raised their rifles to shoot Cutlip down. Frank's eye caught the glint of the steel in the darkness. His revolvers spoke sharply twice, and Cutlip came on unharmed.

A bullet sang past Frank's right ear, another grazed his left. More bullets began to sing by him. Cutlip stumbled forward, and sheathing one revolver, Frank caught him by the hand.

"Run!" he cried.

Cutlip needed no further urging. Together he and Frank sped for the shelter of the woods, which they reached safely and threw themselves on the ground as a rain of bullets passed overhead.

"Close shave, son," said Frank.

Young Cutlip was trembling, but he was not afraid.

"Give me a gun," he cried. "I can pick off a few of 'em."

But Frank shook his head.

"You've done your part," he said. "Now you get away from here until we clean these fellows up."

Frank circled among the trees until he came into the midst of his own men again. These were still peppering away at the enemy from among the trees and the Germans, lying on the ground, were returning the fire.

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