Toward morning, I must have dozed, though it seemed to me at the time that _ad lain awake for days, instead of hours. When I finally opened my eyes, i_as daylight, and the girl's hair was in my face, and she was breathin_ormally. I thanked God for that. She had turned her head during the night s_hat as I opened my eyes I saw her face not an inch from mine, my lips almos_ouching hers.
It was Nobs who finally awoke her. He got up, stretched, turned around a fe_imes and lay down again, and the girl opened her eyes and looked into mine.
Hers went very wide at first, and then slowly comprehension came to her, an_he smiled.
"You have been very good to me," she said, as I helped her to rise, though i_he truth were known I was more in need of assistance than she; th_irculation all along my left side seeming to be paralyzed entirely. "You hav_een very good to me." And that was the only mention she ever made of it; ye_ know that she was thankful and that only reserve prevented her fro_eferring to what, to say the least, was an embarrassing situation, howeve_navoidable.
Shortly after daylight we saw smoke apparently coming straight toward us, an_fter a time we made out the squat lines of a tug—one of those fearles_xponents of England's supremacy of the sea that tows sailing ships int_rench and English ports. I stood up on a thwart and waved my soggy coat abov_y head. Nobs stood upon another and barked. The girl sat at my feet strainin_er eyes toward the deck of the oncoming boat. "They see us," she said a_ast. "There is a man answering your signal." She was right. A lump came int_y throat—for her sake rather than for mine. She was saved, and none too soon.
She could not have lived through another night upon the Channel; she might no_ave lived through the coming day.
The tug came close beside us, and a man on deck threw us a rope. Willing hand_ragged us to the deck, Nobs scrambling nimbly aboard without assistance. Th_ough men were gentle as mothers with the girl. Plying us both with question_hey hustled her to the captain's cabin and me to the boiler-room. They tol_he girl to take off her wet clothes and throw them outside the door that the_ight be dried, and then to slip into the captain's bunk and get warm. The_idn't have to tell me to strip after I once got into the warmth of th_oiler-room. In a jiffy, my clothes hung about where they might dry mos_uickly, and I myself was absorbing, through every pore, the welcome heat o_he stifling compartment. They brought us hot soup and coffee, and then thos_ho were not on duty sat around and helped me damn the Kaiser and his brood.
As soon as our clothes were dry, they bade us don them, as the chances wer_lways more than fair in those waters that we should run into trouble with th_nemy, as I was only too well aware. What with the warmth and the feeling o_afety for the girl, and the knowledge that a little rest and food woul_uickly overcome the effects of her experiences of the past dismal hours, _as feeling more content than I had experienced since those three whistle- blasts had shattered the peace of my world the previous afternoon.
But peace upon the Channel has been but a transitory thing since August, 1914.
It proved itself such that morning, for I had scarce gotten into my dr_lothes and taken the girl's apparel to the captain's cabin when an order wa_houted down into the engine-room for full speed ahead, and an instant later _eard the dull boom of a gun. In a moment I was up on deck to see an enem_ubmarine about two hundred yards off our port bow. She had signaled us t_top, and our skipper had ignored the order; but now she had her gun traine_n us, and the second shot grazed the cabin, warning the belligerent tug- captain that it was time to obey. Once again an order went down to the engine- room, and the tug reduced speed. The U-boat ceased firing and ordered the tu_o come about and approach. Our momentum had carried us a little beyond th_nemy craft, but we were turning now on the arc of a circle that would brin_s alongside her. As I stood watching the maneuver and wondering what was t_ecome of us, I felt something touch my elbow and turned to see the gir_tanding at my side. She looked up into my face with a rueful expression.
"They seem bent on our destruction," she said, "and it looks like the sam_oat that sunk us yesterday."
"It is," I replied. "I know her well. I helped design her and took her out o_er first run."
The girl drew back from me with a little exclamation of surprise an_isappointment. "I thought you were an American," she said. "I had no idea yo_ere a—a—"
"Nor am I," I replied. "Americans have been building submarines for al_ations for many years. I wish, though, that we had gone bankrupt, my fathe_nd I, before ever we turned out that Frankenstein of a thing."
We were approaching the U-boat at half speed now, and I could almos_istinguish the features of the men upon her deck. A sailor stepped to my sid_nd slipped something hard and cold into my hand. I did not have to look at i_o know that it was a heavy pistol. "Tyke 'er an' use 'er," was all he said.
Our bow was pointed straight toward the U-boat now as I heard word passed t_he engine for full speed ahead. I instantly grasped the brazen effrontery o_he plucky English skipper—he was going to ram five hundreds tons of U-boat i_he face of her trained gun. I could scarce repress a cheer. At first th_oches didn't seem to grasp his intention. Evidently they thought they wer_itnessing an exhibition of poor seamanship, and they yelled their warnings t_he tug to reduce speed and throw the helm hard to port.
We were within fifty feet of them when they awakened to the intentional menac_f our maneuver. Their gun crew was off its guard; but they sprang to thei_iece now and sent a futile shell above our heads. Nobs leaped about an_arked furiously. "Let 'em have it!" commanded the tug-captain, and instantl_evolvers and rifles poured bullets upon the deck of the submersible. Two o_he gun-crew went down; the other trained their piece at the water-line of th_ncoming tug. The balance of those on deck replied to our small-arms fire, directing their efforts toward the man at our wheel.
I hastily pushed the girl down the companionway leading to the engine-room, and then I raised my pistol and fired my first shot at a boche. What happene_n the next few seconds happened so quickly that details are rather blurred i_y memory. I saw the helmsman lunge forward upon the wheel, pulling the hel_round so that the tug sheered off quickly from her course, and I recal_ealizing that all our efforts were to be in vain, because of all the me_board, Fate had decreed that this one should fall first to an enemy bullet. _aw the depleted gun-crew on the submarine fire their piece and I felt th_hock of impact and heard the loud explosion as the shell struck and explode_n our bows.
I saw and realized these things even as I was leaping into the pilot-house an_rasping the wheel, standing astride the dead body of the helmsman. With al_y strength I threw the helm to starboard; but it was too late to effect th_urpose of our skipper. The best I did was to scrape alongside the sub. _eard someone shriek an order into the engine-room; the boat shuddered an_rembled to the sudden reversing of the engines, and our speed quickl_essened. Then I saw what that madman of a skipper planned since his firs_cheme had gone wrong.
With a loud-yelled command, he leaped to the slippery deck of the submersible, and at his heels came his hardy crew. I sprang from the pilot-house an_ollowed, not to be left out in the cold when it came to strafing the boches.
From the engine room companionway came the engineer and stockers, and togethe_e leaped after the balance of the crew and into the hand-to-hand fight tha_as covering the wet deck with red blood. Beside me came Nobs, silent now, an_rim. Germans were emerging from the open hatch to take part in the battle o_eck. At first the pistols cracked amidst the cursing of the men and the lou_ommands of the commander and his junior; but presently we were to_ndiscriminately mixed to make it safe to use our firearms, and the battl_esolved itself into a hand-to-hand struggle for possession of the deck.
The sole aim of each of us was to hurl one of the opposing force into the sea.
I shall never forget the hideous expression upon the face of the grea_russian with whom chance confronted me. He lowered his head and rushed at me, bellowing like a bull. With a quick side-step and ducking low beneath hi_utstretched arms, I eluded him; and as he turned to come back at me, I lande_ blow upon his chin which sent him spinning toward the edge of the deck. _aw his wild endeavors to regain his equilibrium; I saw him reel drunkenly fo_n instant upon the brink of eternity and then, with a loud scream, slip int_he sea. At the same instant a pair of giant arms encircled me from behind an_ifted me entirely off my feet. Kick and squirm as I would, I could neithe_urn toward my antagonist nor free myself from his maniacal grasp.
Relentlessly he was rushing me toward the side of the vessel and death. Ther_as none to stay him, for each of my companions was more than occupied by fro_ne to three of the enemy. For an instant I was fearful for myself, and then _aw that which filled me with a far greater terror for another.
My boche was bearing me toward the side of the submarine against which the tu_as still pounding. That I should be ground to death between the two was los_pon me as I saw the girl standing alone upon the tug's deck, as I saw th_tern high in air and the bow rapidly settling for the final dive, as I sa_eath from which I could not save her clutching at the skirts of the woman _ow knew all too well that I loved.
I had perhaps the fraction of a second longer to live when I heard an angr_rowl behind us mingle with a cry of pain and rage from the giant who carrie_e. Instantly he went backward to the deck, and as he did so he threw his arm_utwards to save himself, freeing me. I fell heavily upon him, but was upon m_eet in the instant. As I arose, I cast a single glance at my opponent. Neve_gain would he menace me or another, for Nob's great jaws had closed upon hi_hroat. Then I sprang toward the edge of the deck closest to the girl upon th_inking tug.
"Jump!" I cried. "Jump!" And I held out my arms to her. Instantly as thoug_ith implicit confidence in my ability to save her, she leaped over the sid_f the tug onto the sloping, slippery side of the U-boat. I reached far ove_o seize her hand. At the same instant the tug pointed its stern straigh_oward the sky and plunged out of sight. My hand missed the girl's by _raction of an inch, and I saw her slip into the sea; but scarce had sh_ouched the water when I was in after her.
The sinking tug drew us far below the surface; but I had seized her the momen_ struck the water, and so we went down together, and together we came up—_ew yards from the U-boat. The first thing I heard was Nobs barking furiously; evidently he had missed me and was searching. A single glance at the vessel'_eck assured me that the battle was over and that we had been victorious, fo_ saw our survivors holding a handful of the enemy at pistol points while on_y one the rest of the crew was coming out of the craft's interior and linin_p on deck with the other prisoners.
As I swam toward the submarine with the girl, Nobs' persistent barkin_ttracted the attention of some of the tug's crew, so that as soon as w_eached the side there were hands to help us aboard. I asked the girl if sh_as hurt, but she assured me that she was none the worse for this secon_etting; nor did she seem to suffer any from shock. I was to learn for mysel_hat this slender and seemingly delicate creature possessed the heart an_ourage of a warrior.
As we joined our own party, I found the tug's mate checking up our survivors.
There were ten of us left, not including the girl. Our brave skipper wa_issing, as were eight others. There had been nineteen of us in the attackin_arty and we had accounted in one way and another during the battle fo_ixteen Germans and had taken nine prisoners, including the commander. Hi_ieutenant had been killed.
"Not a bad day's work," said Bradley, the mate, when he had completed hi_oll. "Only losing the skipper," he added, "was the worst. He was a fine man, a fine man."
Olson—who in spite of his name was Irish, and in spite of his not being Scotc_ad been the tug's engineer—was standing with Bradley and me. "Yis," h_greed, "it's a day's wor-rk we're after doin', but what are we goin' to b_oin' wid it now we got it?"
"We'll run her into the nearest English port," said Bradley, "and then we'l_ll go ashore and get our V. C.'s," he concluded, laughing.
"How you goin' to run her?" queried Olson. "You can't trust these Dutchmen."
Bradley scratched his head. "I guess you're right," he admitted. "And I don'_now the first thing about a sub."
"I do," I assured him. "I know more about this particular sub than the office_ho commanded her."
Both men looked at me in astonishment, and then I had to explain all ove_gain as I had explained to the girl. Bradley and Olson were delighted.
Immediately I was put in command, and the first thing I did was to go belo_ith Olson and inspect the craft thoroughly for hidden boches and damage_achinery. There were no Germans below, and everything was intact and in ship- shape working order. I then ordered all hands below except one man who was t_ct as lookout. Questioning the Germans, I found that all except the commande_ere willing to resume their posts and aid in bringing the vessel into a_nglish port. I believe that they were relieved at the prospect of bein_etained at a comfortable English prison-camp for the duration of the wa_fter the perils and privations through which they had passed. The officer, however, assured me that he would never be a party to the capture of hi_essel.
There was, therefore, nothing to do but put the man in irons. As we wer_reparing to put this decision into force, the girl descended from the deck.
It was the first time that she or the German officer had seen each other'_aces since we had boarded the U-boat. I was assisting the girl down th_adder and still retained a hold upon her arm—possibly after such support wa_o longer necessary—when she turned and looked squarely into the face of th_erman. Each voiced a sudden exclamation of surprise and dismay.
"Lys!" he cried, and took a step toward her.
The girl's eyes went wide, and slowly filled with a great horror, as sh_hrank back. Then her slender figure stiffened to the erectness of a soldier, and with chin in air and without a word she turned her back upon the officer.
"Take him away," I directed the two men who guarded him, "and put him i_rons."
When he had gone, the girl raised her eyes to mine. "He is the German of who_ spoke," she said. "He is Baron von Schoenvorts."
I merely inclined my head. She had loved him! I wondered if in her heart o_earts she did not love him yet. Immediately I became insanely jealous. _ated Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts with such utter intensity that th_motion thrilled me with a species of exaltation.
But I didn't have much chance to enjoy my hatred then, for almost immediatel_he lookout poked his face over the hatchway and bawled down that there wa_moke on the horizon, dead ahead. Immediately I went on deck to investigate, and Bradley came with me.
"If she's friendly," he said, "we'll speak her. If she's not, we'll sin_er—eh, captain?"
"Yes, lieutenant," I replied, and it was his turn to smile.
We hoisted the Union Jack and remained on deck, asking Bradley to go below an_ssign to each member of the crew his duty, placing one Englishman with _istol beside each German.
"Half speed ahead," I commanded.
More rapidly now we closed the distance between ourselves and the stranger, until I could plainly see the red ensign of the British merchant marine. M_eart swelled with pride at the thought that presently admiring British tar_ould be congratulating us upon our notable capture; and just about then th_erchant steamer must have sighted us, for she veered suddenly toward th_orth, and a moment later dense volumes of smoke issued from her funnels.
Then, steering a zigzag course, she fled from us as though we had been th_ubonic plague. I altered the course of the submarine and set off in chase; but the steamer was faster than we, and soon left us hopelessly astern.
With a rueful smile, I directed that our original course be resumed, and onc_gain we set off toward merry England. That was three months ago, and w_aven't arrived yet; nor is there any likelihood that we ever shall. Th_teamer we had just sighted must have wirelessed a warning, for it wasn't hal_n hour before we saw more smoke on the horizon, and this time the vessel fle_he white ensign of the Royal Navy and carried guns. She didn't veer to th_orth or anywhere else, but bore down on us rapidly. I was just preparing t_ignal her, when a flame flashed from her bows, and an instant later the wate_n front of us was thrown high by the explosion of a shell.
Bradley had come on deck and was standing beside me. "About one more of those, and she'll have our range," he said. "She doesn't seem to take much stock i_ur Union Jack."
A second shell passed over us, and then I gave the command to change ou_irection, at the same time directing Bradley to go below and give the orde_o submerge. I passed Nobs down to him, and following, saw to the closing an_astening of the hatch.
It seemed to me that the diving-tanks never had filled so slowly. We heard _oud explosion apparently directly above us; the craft trembled to the shoc_hich threw us all to the deck. I expected momentarily to feel the deluge o_nrushing water, but none came. Instead we continued to submerge until th_anometer registered forty feet and then I knew that we were safe. Safe! _lmost smiled. I had relieved Olson, who had remained in the tower at m_irection, having been a member of one of the early British submarine crews, and therefore having some knowledge of the business. Bradley was at my side.
He looked at me quizzically.
"What the devil are we to do?" he asked. "The merchantman will flee us; th_ar-vessel will destroy us; neither will believe our colors or give us _hance to explain. We will meet even a worse reception if we go nosing aroun_ British port—mines, nets and all of it. We can't do it."
"Let's try it again when this fellow has lost the scent," I urged. "There mus_ome a ship that will believe us."
And try it again we did, only to be almost rammed by a huge freighter. Late_e were fired upon by a destroyer, and two merchantmen turned and fled at ou_pproach. For two days we cruised up and down the Channel trying to tell som_ne, who would listen, that we were friends; but no one would listen. Afte_ur encounter with the first warship I had given instructions that a wireles_essage be sent out explaining our predicament; but to my chagrin I discovere_hat both sending and receiving instruments had disappeared.
"There is only one place you can go," von Schoenvorts sent word to me, "an_hat is Kiel. You can't land anywhere else in these waters. If you wish, _ill take you there, and I can promise that you will be treated well."
"There is another place we can go," I sent back my reply, "and we will befor_e'll go to Germany. That place is hell."