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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 11
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 11 Post by :malistor Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :1865

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 11

When the two vessels were abreast of each other,
and at a safe hailing distance apart, another signal
went up from the repeller, and then both vessels almost
ceased to move through the water, although the engines
of the Lenox were working at high speed, with her
propeller-blades stirring up a whirlpool at her stern.

For a minute or two the officers of the Lenox
could not comprehend what had happened. It was first
supposed that by mistake the engines had been
slackened, but almost at the same moment that it was
found that this was not the case, the discovery was
made that the crab accompanying the repeller had laid
hold of the stern-post of the Lenox, and with all the
strength of her powerful engines was holding her back.

Now burst forth in the Lenox a storm of frenzied
rage, such as was never seen perhaps upon any vessel
since vessels were first built. From the commander to
the stokers every heart was filled with fury at the
insult which was put upon them. The commander roared
through his trumpet that if that infernal sea-beetle
were not immediately loosed from his ship he would
first sink her and then the repeller.

To these remarks the director of the Syndicate's
vessels paid no attention, but proceeded to state as
briefly and forcibly as possible that the Lenox had
been detained in order that he might have an
opportunity of speaking with her commander, and of
informing him that his action in coming out of the
harbour for the purpose of attacking a British
vessel was in direct violation of the contract between
the United States and the Syndicate having charge of
the war, and that such action could not be allowed.

The commander of the Lenox paid no more attention
to these words than the Syndicate's director had given
to those he had spoken, but immediately commenced a
violent attack upon the crab. It was impossible to
bring any of the large guns to bear upon her, for she
was almost under the stern of the Lenox; but every
means of offence which infuriated ingenuity could
suggest was used against it. Machine guns were trained
to fire almost perpendicularly, and shot after shot was
poured upon that portion of its glistening back which
appeared above the water.

But as these projectiles seemed to have no effect
upon the solid back of Crab H, two great anvils were
hoisted at the end of the spanker-boom, and dropped,
one after the other, upon it. The shocks were
tremendous, but the internal construction of the crabs
provided, by means of upright beams, against injury
from attacks of this kind, and the great masses of iron
slid off into the sea without doing any damage.

Finding it impossible to make any impression upon
the mailed monster at his stern, the commander of the
Lenox hailed the director of the repeller, and swore
to him through his trumpet that if he did not
immediately order the Lenox to be set free, her
heaviest guns should be brought to bear upon his
floating counting-house, and that it should be sunk, if
it took all day to do it.

It would have been a grim satisfaction to the
commander of the Lenox to sink Repeller No. 6, for he
knew the vessel when she had belonged to the United
States navy. Before she had been bought by the
Syndicate, and fitted out with spring armour, he had
made two long cruises in her, and he bitterly hated
her, from her keel up.

The director of the repeller agreed to release the
Lenox the instant her commander would consent to
return to port. No answer was made to this
proposition, but a dynamite gun on the Lenox was
brought to bear upon the Syndicate's vessel. Desiring
to avoid any complications which might ensue from
actions of this sort, the repeller steamed ahead, while
the director signalled Crab H to move the stern of
the Lenox to the windward, which, being quickly done,
the gun of the latter bore upon the distant coast.

It was now very plain to the Syndicate director
that his words could have no effect upon the commander
of the Lenox, and he therefore signalled Crab H to
tow the United States vessel into port. When the
commander of the Lenox saw that his vessel was
beginning to move backward, he gave instant orders to
put on all steam. But this was found to be useless,
for when the dynamite gun was about to be fired, the
engines had been ordered stopped, and the moment that
the propeller-blades ceased moving the nippers of the
crab had been released from their hold upon the stern-
post, and the propeller-blades of the Lenox were
gently but firmly seized in a grasp which included the
rudder. It was therefore impossible for the engines of
the vessel to revolve the propeller, and,
unresistingly, the Lenox was towed, stern foremost,
to the Breakwater.

The news of this incident created the wildest
indignation in the United States navy, and throughout
the country the condemnation of what was considered the
insulting action of the Syndicate was general. In
foreign countries the affair was the subject of a good
deal of comment, but it was also the occasion of much
serious consideration, for it proved that one of the
Syndicate's submerged vessels could, without firing a
gun, and without fear of injury to itself, capture a
man-of-war and tow it whither it pleased.

The authorities at Washington took instant action
on the affair, and as it was quite evident that the
contract between the United States and the Syndicate
had been violated by the Lenox, the commander of that
vessel was reprimanded by the Secretary of the Navy,
and enjoined that there should be no repetitions of his
offence. But as the commander of the Lenox knew that
the Secretary of the Navy was as angry as he was at
what had happened, he did not feel his reprimand to be
in any way a disgrace.

It may be stated that the Stockbridge, which had
steamed for the open sea as soon as the business which
had detained her was completed, did not go outside the
Cape. When her officers perceived with their glasses
that the Lenox was returning to port stern foremost,
they opined what had happened, and desiring that
their ship should do all her sailing in the natural
way, the Stockbridge was put about and steamed, bow
foremost, to her anchorage behind the Breakwater, the
commander thanking his stars that for once the Lenox
had got ahead of him.

The members of the Syndicate were very anxious to
remove the unfavorable impression regarding what was
called in many quarters their attack upon a United
States vessel, and a circular to the public was issued,
in which they expressed their deep regret at being
obliged to interfere with so many brave officers and
men in a moment of patriotic enthusiasm, and explaining
how absolutely necessary it was that the Lenox should
be removed from a position where a conflict with
English line-of-battle ships would be probable. There
were many thinking persons who saw the weight of the
Syndicate's statements, but the effect of the circular
upon the popular mind was not great.

The Syndicate was now hard at work making
preparations for the grand stroke which had been
determined upon. In the whole country there was
scarcely a man whose ability could be made available in
their work, who was not engaged in their service;
and everywhere, in foundries, workshops, and ship-
yards, the construction of their engines of war was
being carried on by day and by night. No contracts
were made for the delivery of work at certain times;
everything was done under the direct supervision of the
Syndicate and its subordinates, and the work went on
with a definiteness and rapidity hitherto unknown in
naval construction.

In the midst of the Syndicate's labours there
arrived off the coast of Canada the first result of
Great Britain's preparations for her war with the
American Syndicate, in the shape of the Adamant, the
largest and finest ironclad which had ever crossed the
Atlantic, and which had been sent to raise the blockade
of the Canadian port by the Syndicate's vessels.

This great ship had been especially fitted out to
engage in combat with repellers and crabs. As far as
was possible the peculiar construction of the
Syndicate's vessels had been carefully studied, and
English specialists in the line of naval construction
and ordnance had given most earnest consideration to
methods of attack and defence most likely to succeed
with these novel ships of war. The Adamant was
the only vessel which it had been possible to send out
in so short a time, and her cruise was somewhat of an
experiment. If she should be successful in raising the
blockade of the Canadian port, the British Admiralty
would have but little difficulty in dealing with the
American Syndicate.
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The most important object was to provide a defenceagainst the screw-extracting and rudder-breaking crabs;and to this end the Adamant had been fitted with whatwas termed a "stern-jacket." This was a great cage ofheavy steel bars, which was attached to the stern ofthe vessel in such a way that it could be raised highabove the water, so as to offer no impediment whileunder way, and which, in time of action, could be letdown so as to surround and protect the rudder andscrew-propellers, of which the Adamant had two. This was considered an adequate defence against thenippers of a Syndicate
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Every opinion, official or popular, concerning whatit had done and what might be expected of it, waspromptly forwarded to the Syndicate by its agents, andit was thus enabled to see very plainly indeed that theeffect it had desired to produce had not been produced. Unless the enemy could be made to understand that anyfort or ships within ten miles of one of theSyndicate's cannon could be instantaneously dissipatedin the shape of fine dust, this war could not becarried on upon the principles adopted, and thereforemight as well pass out of the hands of the Syndicate. Day by day and
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