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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 10
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 10 Post by :sidneyo Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2510

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 10

Every opinion, official or popular, concerning what
it had done and what might be expected of it, was
promptly forwarded to the Syndicate by its agents, and
it was thus enabled to see very plainly indeed that the
effect it had desired to produce had not been produced.
Unless the enemy could be made to understand that any
fort or ships within ten miles of one of the
Syndicate's cannon could be instantaneously dissipated
in the shape of fine dust, this war could not be
carried on upon the principles adopted, and therefore
might as well pass out of the hands of the Syndicate.

Day by day and night by night the state of affairs
was anxiously considered at the office of the Syndicate
in New York. A new and important undertaking was
determined upon, and on the success of this the hopes
of the Syndicate now depended.

During the rapid and vigorous preparations which
the Syndicate were now making for their new venture,
several events of interest occurred.

Two of the largest Atlantic mail steamers, carrying
infantry and artillery troops, and conveyed by two
swift and powerful men-of-war, arrived off the coast of
Canada, considerably to the north of the blockaded
city. The departure and probable time of arrival of
these vessels had been telegraphed to the
Syndicate, through one of the continental cables, and a
repeller with two crabs had been for some days waiting
for them. The English vessels had taken a high
northern course, hoping they might enter the Gulf of
St. Lawrence without subjecting themselves to injury
from the enemy's crabs, it not being considered
probable that there were enough of these vessels to
patrol the entire coast. But although the crabs were
few in number, the Syndicate was able to place them
where they would be of most use; and when the English
vessels arrived off the northern entrance to the gulf,
they found their enemies there.

However strong might be the incredulity of the
enemy regarding the powers of a repeller to bombard a
city, the Syndicate felt sure there would be no present
invasion of the United States from Canada; but it
wished to convince the British Government that troops
and munitions of war could not be safely transported
across the Atlantic. On the other hand, the Syndicate
very much objected to undertaking the imprisonment and
sustenance of a large body of soldiers. Orders were
therefore given to the officer in charge of the
repeller not to molest the two transports, but to
remove the rudders and extract the screws of the two
war-vessels, leaving them to be towed into port by the
troop-ships.

This duty was performed by the crabs, while the
British vessels, both rams, were preparing to make a
united and vigorous onset on the repeller, and the two
men-of-war were left hopelessly tossing on the waves.
One of the transports, a very fast steamer, had already
entered the straits, and could not be signalled; but
the other one returned and took both the war-ships in
tow, proceeding very slowly until, after entering the
gulf, she was relieved by tugboats.

Another event of a somewhat different character was
the occasion of much excited feeling and comment,
particularly in the United States. The descent and
attack by British vessels on an Atlantic port was a
matter of popular expectation. The Syndicate had
repellers and crabs at the most important points; but,
in the minds of naval officers and a large portion of
the people, little dependence for defence was to be
placed upon these. As to the ability of the War
Syndicate to prevent invasion or attack by means of
its threats to bombard the blockaded Canadian port,
very few believed in it. Even if the Syndicate could
do any more damage in that quarter, which was
improbable, what was to prevent the British navy from
playing the same game, and entering an American
seaport, threaten to bombard the place if the Syndicate
did not immediately run all their queer vessels high
and dry on some convenient beach?

A feeling of indignation against the Syndicate had
existed in the navy from the time that the war contract
had been made, and this feeling increased daily. That
the officers and men of the United States navy should
be penned up in harbours, ports, and sounds, while
British ships and the hulking mine-springers and
rudder-pinchers of the Syndicate were allowed to roam
the ocean at will, was a very hard thing for brave
sailors to bear. Sometimes the resentment against this
state of affairs rose almost to revolt.

The great naval preparations of England were not
yet complete, but single British men-of-war were now
frequently seen off the Atlantic coast of the United
States. No American vessels had been captured by
these since the message of the Syndicate to the
Dominion of Canada and the British Government. But one
good reason for this was the fact that it was very
difficult now to find upon the Atlantic ocean a vessel
sailing under the American flag. As far as possible
these had taken refuge in their own ports or in those
of neutral countries.

At the mouth of Delaware Bay, behind the great
Breakwater, was now collected a number of coastwise
sailing-vessels and steamers of various classes and
sizes; and for the protection of these maritime
refugees, two vessels of the United States navy were
stationed at this point. These were the Lenox and
Stockbridge, two of the finest cruisers in the
service, and commanded by two of the most restless and
bravest officers of the American navy.

The appearance, early on a summer morning, of a
large British cruiser off the mouth of the harbour,
filled those two commanders with uncontrollable
belligerency. That in time of war a vessel of the
enemy should be allowed, undisturbed, to sail up and
down before an American harbour, while an American
vessel filled with brave American sailors lay inside
like a cowed dog, was a thought which goaded the
soul of each of these commanders. There was a certain
rivalry between the two ships; and, considering the
insult offered by the flaunting red cross in the
offing, and the humiliating restrictions imposed by the
Naval Department, each commander thought only of his
own ship, and not at all of the other.

It was almost at the same time that the commanders
of the two ships separately came to the conclusion that
the proper way to protect the fleet behind the
Breakwater was for his vessel to boldly steam out to
sea and attack the British cruiser. If this vessel
carried a long-range gun, what was to hinder her from
suddenly running in closer and sending a few shells
into the midst of the defenceless merchantmen? In
fact, to go out and fight her was the only way to
protect the lives and property in the harbour.

It was true that one of those beastly repellers was
sneaking about off the cape, accompanied, probably, by
an underwater tongs-boat. But as neither of these had
done anything, or seemed likely to do anything, the
British cruiser should be attacked without loss of
time.

When the commander of the Lenox came to this
decision, his ship was well abreast of Cape Henlopen,
and he therefore proceeded directly out to sea. There
was a little fear in his mind that the English cruiser,
which was now bearing to the south-east, might sail off
and get away from him. The Stockbridge was detained
by the arrival of a despatch boat from the shore with a
message from the Naval Department. But as this message
related only to the measurements of a certain deck gun,
her commander intended, as soon as an answer could be
sent off, to sail out and give battle to the British
vessel.

Every soul on board the Lenox was now filled with
fiery ardour. The ship was already in good fighting
trim, but every possible preparation was made for a
contest which should show their country and the world
what American sailors were made of.

The Lenox had not proceeded more than a mile out
to sea, when she perceived Repeller No. 6 coming toward
her from seaward, and in a direction which indicated
that it intended to run across her course. The
Lenox, however, went straight on, and in a short time
the two vessels were quite near each other. Upon
the deck of the repeller now appeared the director in
charge, who, with a speaking-trumpet, hailed the
Lenox and requested her to lay to, as he had
something to communicate. The commander of the
Lenox, through his trumpet, answered that he wanted
no communications, and advised the other vessel to keep
out of his way.

The Lenox now put on a greater head of steam, and
as she was in any case a much faster vessel than the
repeller, she rapidly increased the distance between
herself and the Syndicate's vessel, so that in a few
moments hailing was impossible. Quick signals now shot
up in jets of black smoke from the repeller, and in a
very short time afterward the speed of the Lenox
slackened so much that the repeller was able to come up
with her.
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When the two vessels were abreast of each other,and at a safe hailing distance apart, another signalwent up from the repeller, and then both vessels almostceased to move through the water, although the enginesof the Lenox were working at high speed, with herpropeller-blades stirring up a whirlpool at her stern. For a minute or two the officers of the Lenoxcould not comprehend what had happened. It was firstsupposed that by mistake the engines had beenslackened, but almost at the same moment that it wasfound that this was not the case, the discovery wasmade that the crab accompanying the
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When the officers of the garrison mounted the hillbefore them and surveyed the place where their fort hadbeen, there was not one of them who had sufficientcommand of himself to write a report of what hadhappened. They gazed at the bare, staring flatness ofthe shorn bluff, and they looked at each other. Thiswas not war. It was something supernatural, awful! They were not frightened; they were oppressed andappalled. But the military discipline of their mindssoon exerted its force, and a brief account of theterrific event was transmitted to the authorities, andSergeant Kilsey was sentenced to a month
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