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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The North Sea - Chapter XVI. A STRANGE DISCOVERY
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Boy Scouts In The North Sea - Chapter XVI. A STRANGE DISCOVERY Post by :bydnasdruim Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1932

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Boy Scouts In The North Sea - Chapter XVI. A STRANGE DISCOVERY


"Get down that hatchway!" ordered Ned, wiping the spray from his face. "Those fellows see the name 'U-13'!"

"Won't they observe the white flag if we put it up?" asked Jack.

"I don't believe they will!" Ned stated. "Better get below!"

As if to emphasize the boy's opinion another report echoed over the space of water separating the battleship from the new "U-13."

This time the shell had been aimed a trifle too high. It went directly over the lads on the diminutive deck. Instinctively they all ducked their heads as the missile screamed wickedly in its useless flight.

If anything was needed to decide the matter, this last offering seemed to serve the purpose. All three lads hastened down the ladder without further parley. Ned lingered a moment to close the hatch.

"Hang onto your hats!" cried Jimmie the next instant.

"Let's get down quick!" urged Jack. "Those fellows up there seem to mean business. My stars!" he added breathlessly, "that last one was certainly a beauty! They are getting the range, too!"

Already Harry had started the pumps, filling the ballast tanks with water to assist the "U-13" in the evolution of the dive. The rudders were deflected to their extreme range. With decks inclined to an alarming angle, the submarine fled toward the bottom like a hunted creature. Until the gauges showed a depth of twelve fathoms, Jimmie held the levers in position. Then he brought the craft to an even keel.

"It's plain to be seen that we'll not get much help from any ship on the North Sea!" declared Jack at length, as the ballast tanks were found to trim the vessel. "They're scared of us, I believe!"

"They haven't any reason to be scared of us!" stoutly protested Jimmie. "We have never done a thing to them. We're absolutely neutral!"

"It seems to be one thing to be neutral," laughed Ned, "and quite another thing to convince other folks of the fact!"

"They might at least have given us a chance to explain!" grumbled Jimmie. "We had a white flag flying for them to see!"

"Yes," argued Ned, "but did you stop to think that we were showing ourselves in a bad light? Remember the newspaper accounts of all the damage done by a submarine? I'm not surprised they ran away."

"And then we come along in a submarine! Of course, we couldn't expect them to wait for a German undersea craft to come popping out of the ocean and waltz up alongside so they could say: 'Good morning, Mr. Dutchman! Won't you please accept this fine ship?'" added Jack.

"Well, I'm it!" declared Jimmie, joining in the laugh that followed Jack's facetious remark. "The joke's on me, all right! If I hadn't painted that figure 'three' in the name, we would have been on our way to England by this time! Oh, well," the boy added, "we'll get to England before long, anyhow, so I should worry!"

"It all shows, boys," spoke up Ned, "that we've got to be mighty careful about our appearance and the company we keep. We have gotten into this scrape largely because we were found in possession of goods we had no business to have. This last incident came about because we pretended to be something we were not!"

"I think that ought to be a good lesson to us," stated Jimmie. "It will be for me, I know! I'm sure I'll take it to heart!"

"I'm mighty glad we're away from that inquisitive gunboat!" put in Frank. "Now, what's the next thing for us to do?"

"I move that we keep below the surface for a while. If we hold on a general southeasterly course, as has been suggested, we can't fail to bring up somewhere on the English coast."

"That sounds like the most reasonable plan," agreed Frank. "I propose that we put on speed and hurry along. Let's get somewhere!"

"Here we go!" cried Harry, increasing the speed with a touch on the levers. "Let's keep a sharp lookout, though!"

About half past three o'clock the boys decided to rise to the surface for the necessary airing of the vessel and storing of another supply of fresh air in the tanks provided for that purpose.

In furtherance of this plan, the rudders were shifted while Harry slowed the engines. Directly the craft ascended. The gauges indicated a depth of about eight fathoms when Jimmie, who was at the helm, requested that the rudders be again deflected.

"What's the matter?" questioned Ned, stepping forward.

"I can see the light reflected down through the water, and there's a big shadow up there!" declared Jimmie.

"What do you think it can be?" asked Ned wonderingly.

"Probably it's a big vessel of some sort. It may be a war ship, or it may be only a cargo carrier. In either event I don't want to get tangled up in the propellers. Let's sheer off a bit."

"All right," agreed Ned. "I'll go to the periscope. Maybe I can find out something as we rise slowly to the surface."

Cautiously creeping nearer the surface, the lads put the periscope into action. By its aid Ned made out that the craft was an armed vessel. The new "U-13" lay just submerged about a ship's length to starboard of the stranger. They maintained about the same speed.

Ned declared that he could make out the British flag at the stern of the other vessel. He stated that he could also notice a number of people aboard the steamer.

"Can you see what they look like?" asked Jimmie.

"They are regular sailors and marines," answered Ned. "Why," went on the lad excitedly, "that looks like Mackinder at the rail!"

Curiously the others crowded about the object glass of the periscope. Each declared in turn that they recognized Mackinder.

"Now, I wonder what he's doing aboard that vessel!" mused Jack.

"Quite likely this ship met the fishing boat and took him off so as to save the other the trouble of going clear back to England!"

"No doubt that's it," agreed Jack. "But look!" he continued, "he's discovered us! See him pointing toward us!"

"Better get ready to dive, then," cautioned Harry. "If he's able, he'll get them to shoot at us. If they hit the 'U-13' it'll be a long way to Tipperary for us! We don't know how thick this armor is!"

"Down we go!" shouted Jimmie, seizing the wheel. "Lively, now!"

Even as the boy spoke, a muffled roar was distinctly heard by the lads in the submarine. A crash that reverberated through every portion of the vessel told that they had been hit by a projectile.

With a quick, startled glance at his companions, Ned hastened aft to examine the possible damage. He could discover no leak.

"I guess we're lucky, after all!" he stated presently. "We're not taking in water, so I'm sure they didn't do very much damage."

"It might have been more serious, though!" commented Jack.

"Maybe the shot just carried away some of the light work like railings and so on around the deck. I don't think the shot struck the hull, or we'd have heard more racket," went on Ned.

"Let's keep below the surface for a while. Maybe we can get away from those fellows far enough to be out of their sight while we change air. They're not the least bit sociable!"

"Full speed ahead, Harry!" cried Frank. "Let's hurry on!"

"Better take it easy," cautioned Jimmie. "We may not be out of the woods yet. Let's just go along slowly for a while."

"Aw, go on!" scorned Frank. "What's there out here to bother?"

"Sure!" chimed in Jack. "We're away out in the North Sea where we can find nothing but warships and sailing vessels and such!"

"Maybe we might run into the real 'U-13'," countered Jimmie. "Then, what would you do if you should meet that fellow?"

"Why, put on steam and run away from him, of course!"

"All right, go ahead if you want to," submitted Jimmie unwillingly, "but I don't think it wise. It's taking considerable risk!"

Since the majority seemed to be in favor of more speed, the engines were again urged to greater effort. Suddenly all were startled by a cry from Jimmie. The boat swerved sharply to starboard, rolling until the deck was at an acute angle. Harry reached for the levers, prepared to stand by the engines for orders from the pilot.

Directly Jimmie rang a stop bell. The vessel came again to an even keel. The boys were once more able to stand upright.

"What's the matter, Jimmie?" cried Ned, as he scrambled to his feet. "Is it a whale, or did you nearly have a collision?"

"Collision is exactly the word!" declared the other. "I saw the masts of a ship standing right in our path. I got this little craft turned just in time! That's what we get for blundering along so fast!"

"What kind of a ship is it?" asked Frank, peering from one porthole after another. "Are you sure it was the mast of a vessel?"

"Why, certainly, I am sure!" was Jimmie's decisive answer. "Don't I know a ship's masts? I surely do!" the lad answered his own question.

"Let's swing around and see what it was," proposed Frank.

"All right, turn the deflecting rudders and down we go!"

Swinging in a broad circle, the submarine was directed downward to a level equal with that of the hull of the ship, whose masts had so nearly proven disastrous to the boys. As the craft sank deeper the crew watched with a great deal of curiosity from the thick glasses over the portholes. Carefully they studied every detail of rig.

Although the sunshine penetrated to some distance below the surface, they found that at the depth where the hull lay a semi-twilight prevailed. The upper portions of the masts had been clearly visible, but the decks lay in a haze that prevented their seeing well.

"Looks like the ship is almost new!" stated Frank.

"Possibly it has been sunk only a short time," ventured Jack.

"Can you make out what ship it is?" asked Ned.

"Wait a minute until we pass the stern again," said Frank.

"I can see it!" declared Harry in a moment. "It's the Wanderer of Sydney! That will be an Australian vessel!"

"And that great gap in the port side indicates that the sinking was the work of our namesake!" stated Ned. "This is another victim of the German 'U-13'. Probably it is only one of many!"

"No wonder the other fellows don't seem inclined to be any too sociable!" said Jack. "They really cannot be blamed!"

"Right you are, Jack," responded Ned. "When anyone hits at the pocketbook we're apt to consider everybody under suspicion."

"Let's get closer and examine the damage done by the torpedo," suggested Frank. "I'd like to observe the effects of the attack."

Shortly the misnamed "U-13" was creeping alongside the hull of the sunken vessel. Jimmie handled the wheel dexterously, ever alert for possible danger. Harry stood by the engines, ready at a moment's notice to assist in executing any maneuver desired.

"Looks as if the whole side of the ship had been torn away," stated Ned, as the submarine crept slowly past the jagged wound.

"Those torpedoes surely are powerful," agreed Frank. "I hope everybody got away from the ship before the explosion took place."

"They probably gave the crew plenty of time to escape if this is the work of the 'U-13'," commented Ned. "You say they gave the crew on your vessel ample time to get safely away?"

"Yes, but the men let themselves become panic-stricken. They lost their heads and consumed a good deal of time. Besides that, they forgot they were civilized. One of them hit me an awful clip."

"And pretty nearly left you on board to be drowned!"

"These fellows did the same thing!" announced Jack, peering out.

"Did what?" queried Ned, wondering what the other meant.

"Left a man aboard when the ship sank," stated Jack, pointing through the little port hole. "There he is, walking about!"

Clearly the boys saw a figure apparently crossing the deck.

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