Read CHAPTER XII - “GOOD HUNTING” of The Long Trick , free online book, by Lewis Anselm da Costa Ritchie, on

Oberleutnant Otto von Sperrgebiet, of the Imperial German Navy, sat on the edge of a Submarine’s conning-tower with a chart open on his knees, and smoked a cigarette. It was not a brand he cared about particularly, but it had been looted from the Captain’s cabin of a neutral cargo steamer on the previous afternoon. A man who relies upon such methods to replenish his cigarette case cannot, of course, expect everybody’s tastes to coincide with his own.

As he smoked, the German Lieutenant’s eyes strayed restlessly round the circle of the horizon. They were small eyes of a pale blue, rather close together and reddened round the rims, with light eyelashes.

The Submarine lay motionless on the surface with the waves breaking over the hog-backed hull. Every now and again a few drops of spray splashed over the surface of the chart, and the Naval man wiped them off with a scrap of lace and cambric that had once been a lady’s handkerchief. He had a way with women, that German Oberleutnant.

Nothing was in sight: not a tendril of smoke showed above the arc of tumbling waves that ringed the limit of his vision; the sun was warm and pleasant, and the figure on the conning-tower crossed his legs, encased in heavy thigh boots, and gave himself over to retrospective thought.

There had been a time when Oberleutnant von Sperrgebiet possessed the rudiments of a conscience. It could never have been described as acutely sensitive, and it never developed much beyond the rudimentary stage. Nevertheless, it had existed once: and in the early days of the war it was still sufficiently active to record certain protests and objections in his mind.

The mysterious forces that were at work in Germany, industriously remoulding, brutalising and distorting the mind of Oberleutnant von Sperrgebiet, together with millions of others, had not been blind to the prejudicial effects of conscience to an evil cause. Imperial rodomontade and the inflammatory German Admiralty War Orders had deliberately rejected, one by one, the deep-seated principles of humanity and chivalry in war. It had been done gradually and systematically scientifically, in fact, and in the majority of cases it succeeded in producing a state of atrophy of the moral sense that was altogether admirable from a German point of view.

In the case of Oberleutnant von Sperrgebiet, however, these early qualms had a trick of recurring. They pricked his consciousness at unexpected moments, like a grass-seed in a walker’s stocking.... And now, as he sat swinging his legs in the warm June sunlight, a whole procession of such reflections trooped through his mind.

For instance, there arose in his intelligence an obstinate doubt as to whether the torpedoing without warning of a liner carrying women and children at the commencement of the war had been quite within the pale of legitimate Naval warfare. He had met the man who boasted such an achievement, and for a long time he carried with him the recollection of that man’s eyes as they met his above a beer mug. They had drunk uproariously together, and von Sperrgebiet heard all about it first hand, and even fingered enviously the Iron Cross upon the breast of the teller of the tale. But somehow those eyes had told quite a different story: and it was that which von Sperrgebiet remembered long after the wearer of the Iron Cross had gone out into the North Sea mists and returned no more.

Then there had been the rather unpleasant business of the boat....

It was in mid-winter a long way North during one of the few calm days to be expected at that period of the year. The Submarine was running on the surface when the Second-in-Command (of whom more anon) reported a boat on the starboard bow. They altered course a little and, slowing down, passed within a few yards of it. It was a ship’s life-boat, half full of water; lying in the water, rolling slowly from side to side as the boat rocked in their wash, were five dead men. A sixth sat huddled at the tiller, staring over the quarter with unseeing eyes, frozen stiff....

Von Sperrgebiet caught a glimpse of the ship’s name on the bows of the boat: it happened to be that of a neutral ship he had torpedoed at the beginning of the previous week during a gale.

The German Admiralty Orders of that period contained a clause to the effect that ships were not to be torpedoed without ensuring the adequate safety of the crew. Which meant that those who had not been killed by the explosion of the torpedo could be allowed to launch a boat (weather permitting) and get into it if they had time before the ship sank....

Von Sperrgebiet had given orders for the boat to be sunk by gunfire, but somehow the memory of that stark figure at the helm persisted. Try as he would, he failed to banish from his mind the staring, sightless eyes and grey, famished face....

Altogether it was an unpleasant business. Other memories of this nature came and went with the smoke from his cigarette. For some reason or other he found himself wondering whether, after all, a Belgian Relief Steamer could have been considered fair game. But he did so hate the word “Belgium,” and there was always the theory of a mine to account for the incident.... He torpedoed her by moonlight: a very creditable shot, all things considered.

Another moonlight picture presented itself. A boat-load of terrorised Finns rising and falling on the swell alongside the Submarine, and, half a mile away, an abandoned sailing ship with every rope and spar standing out black against the moonlight. In the stern of the boat stood a mighty Norwegian with a red beard and a voice like a bull. One of his arms rested protectingly round a woman’s shoulders, and he shook a knotted fist in von Sperrgebiet’s face as his ship blew up and sank.

The woman seen thus in the pale moonlight was young and pretty, and the red-bearded man bellowed that she was his wife. The announcement was not an unfamiliar one to Oberleutnant von Sperrgebiet: they usually were young and pretty when he heard that hot rage in a man’s voice. Oberleutnant von Sperrgebiet made himself scarce forthwith, it might be almost said, from force of habit....

The glass was falling, and it was in mid-Atlantic that they left that boat. It blew a gale next day, and the Oberleutnant, who had an eye for a pretty woman, sometimes wondered if the boat was picked up.

His mind revolved for a moment round certain incidents in connection with that affair. A German sailor from the Submarine had been sent onboard to place the bombs; he returned with cigars, a ham, and a pretty silver clock. Also a box of sugar plums, half finished.

Von Sperrgebiet took the clock and the sugar plums. The cigars and the ham (the labourer being worthy of his hire) he allowed the sailor to keep.

But even Submarine warfare against unarmed shipping has its risks. There was the ever-memorable incident of the British tug, and even now von Sperrgebiet winced at the recollection. They had sighted a sailing ship in tow of a tug at the entrance to the Channel; von Sperrgebiet was proud of his mastery of the English tongue, and it was this small vanity that led him to adopt tactics which differed somewhat from his normal caution. He submerged until within a couple of hundred yards of the approaching tow and then rose to the surface, dripping, like some uncouth sea-monster. Armed with a revolver and a megaphone, and with pleasurable anticipation in his heart, the Oberleutnant emerged from the conning-tower with a view to a little preliminary banter with these detested and unarmed English before administering a coup de grace. He was just in time to see a stout, ungainly man tumbling aft along the deck from the wheel-house of the tug. Raising a booted leg with surprising agility, the stout man kicked off the shackle of the tow rope, and as he did so over went the helm; the blunt-nosed tug, released from her 3,000-ton burden, came straight for him like an angry buffalo.

They were not forty yards apart when the tug turned, and quick as the German coxswain was, the Submarine failed to avoid the stunning impact of the bows. A revolver bullet crashed through the glass window of the wheel-house; von Sperrgebiet had an instant’s vision of a round face, purple with rage, above the spokes of the wheel, and then the conning tower’s automatic hatchway closed. The Submarine was in diving trim, and she submerged in the shortest time on record. They remained on the bottom four hours while the sweating mechanics repaired the damaged hydroplane gear and effected some temporary caulking round certain plates that bulged ominously.

But von Sperrgebiet’s hatred of England was real enough before this incident. He had always hated the English, even in his youth when for a year he occupied an inconspicuous niche in one of the less fastidious Public Schools. He hated them for the qualities he despised and found so utterly inexplicable. He despised their lazy contempt for detail, their quixotic sense of fairness and justice in a losing game, their persistent refusal to be impressed by the seriousness of anything on earth. He despised their whole-hearted passion for sports at an age when he was beginning to be interested in less wholesome and far more complex absorptions.... He despised their straight, clean affections and quarrels and their tortuous sense of humour; the affectation that led them to take cold baths instead of hot ones: their shy, rather knightly mental attitude towards their sisters and one another’s sisters....

All these things von Sperrgebiet despised in the English. But he also hated them for something he had never even admitted to himself. Crudely put, it was because he knew that he could never beat an Englishman. There was nothing in his spirit that could outlast the terrible, emotionless determination in the English character to win.

Von Sperrgebiet’s reflections came to an end with his cigarette. He tossed the stump overboard, and raising a pair of glasses he focused them intently on the horizon to the eastward.

For the space of nearly a minute he sat thus staring. From the interior of the Submarine came the strains of a gramophone playing a German patriotic air, and with it the smell of coffee. The crew were at dinner, and a man’s deep laugh floated up the shaft of the conning-tower as if coming from the bowels of the sea.

The Oberleutnant lowered the glasses abruptly. Rolling up the chart he hoisted himself on to his feet and bent over the tiny binnacle to take the bearing of a faint smudge of smoke barely visible on the horizon. This obtained, he lowered himself through the narrow hatchway and climbed down the steel rungs into the interior of the compartment.

“Close down!” he said curtly. The gramophone stopped with a click, and instantly all was bustle and activity within the narrow confines of the steel shell.

The Second-in-Command, who was lying on his bunk reading a novel, sat up and lifted his legs over the edge. He was a spectacled youth with a cropped bullet-head and what had been in infancy a hare-lip. His beard of about ten days’ maturity grew in patches about his lips and cheeks.

“A ship, Herr Kapitan?” he asked in a thin, reedy voice, and reached for a pair of long-toed, elastic-sided boots that he had kicked off, and which lay at the foot of his bunk.

His superior officer nodded and snapped out a string of guttural orders. The sing-song voices of men at their stations amid the levers and dials repeated the words mechanically, like men talking in their sleep. With a whizzing, purring sound the motors started, and the ballast tanks filled with a succession of sucking gurgles.

Von Sperrgebiet glanced at the compass and moved to the eye-piece of the periscope. For a while there was silence, broken only by the hum of the motors.

The Second-in-Command hung about the elbow of the motionless figure at the periscope like a morbid-minded urchin on the outskirts of a crowd that gathers round a street accident, but can see nothing. His stolid face was working and moist with excitement.

“Is it an English ship, Herr Kapitan?”

The Oberleutnant made no answer, but reached out a hand to the wheel that adjusted the height of the periscope above the water and twisted it rapidly. For twenty minutes he remained thus, motionless save for the arm that controlled the periscope. Once or twice he gave a low-voiced direction to the helmsman, but his Second-in-Command he ignored completely.

That officer moved restlessly about the Submarine, glancing from dial to dial and from one gauge to another; for a few minutes he stopped to talk to the torpedo-man standing by the closed tube. Finally he returned to his Captain’s elbow, moistening his marred lip with the tip of his tongue; his face wore an unhealthy pallor and glistened in the glow of the electric lights.

“Is it an English ship, Herr Kapitan?” he asked again in his high, unnatural voice.

“Yes,” snapped von Sperrgebiet. “Why?”

“I have a request to make,” replied the Second-in-Command. “A favour, Herr Kapitan. It concerns a promise” he lowered his voice till it was barely audible above the noise of the machinery “to my betrothed.”

For the first time von Sperrgebiet turned his face from the rubber eye-piece and regarded the youth with a little mocking smile that showed only a sharp dog-tooth.

“Don’t say you promised to introduce her to me, Ludwig!” he sneered.

“No, no,” said the other hastily. “But she made me promise not to return to her unless I had sunk with my own hands a merchant ship flying the cursed English flag.”

“She is easily pleased, your betrothed,” retorted the Oberleutnant, and moved back from the periscope. “Your request is granted. But remember I shall demand an introduction when we return.... It is a long shot. Fire when the foremast comes on, and do not show the periscope more than a few seconds at a time. I will give the orders after you have fired.”

The Second-in-Command took up his position in the spot vacated by the Oberleutnant. His tongue worked ceaselessly about his lips and his hand trembled on the elevating wheel.

“There is smoke astern,” he said presently. And a moment later. “The approaching ship looks like a liner, Herr Kapitan!”

“What of that?” said von Sperrgebiet gruffly.

The Second-in-Command looked back over his shoulder at his Commanding Officer: his face was livid with excitement. “It means women, Herr Kapitan,” he said. “Children perhaps....”

Von Sperrgebiet shrugged his shoulders. “They are English,” he replied. “Swine, sow or sucking-pig what is the difference? They learn their lessons slowly, these English. We will drive yet another nail into their wooden heads.... You will drive it, Ludwig,” he added thoughtfully: and then, as an afterthought, “for the honour of the Fatherland.”

“Thank you, Herr Kapitan,” replied the youth, and turned again to the periscope mirror. Silence fell upon the waiting men: the minutes passed while the elevating wheel of the periscope revolved first in one direction and then in another. At last the form of the Second-in-Command stiffened.

“Fire!” he cried: his uncertain voice cracked into a falsetto note.

The stern of the Submarine dipped and righted itself again: the Oberleutnant’s harsh voice rang out in a succession of orders. The Second-in-Command leaned against a stanchion and wiped his face with his handkerchief.

A minute passed, and a dull concussion shook the boat from stem to stern. Von Sperrgebiet showed his dog-tooth in that terrible mirthless smile of his. “A hit, my little Ludwig!” he said.

The Second-in-Command clicked his heels together. “For the honour of the Fatherland,” he said. “Gott strafe England!”

“Amen!” said Oberleutnant Otto von Sperrgebiet.

The boat had been travelling in a wide circle after the torpedo left the tube, and ten minutes later the Oberleutnant cautiously raised the periscope. The next moment he swung the wheel round again in the opposite direction.

“Another ship?” asked Ludwig.

“Yes,” replied von Sperrgebiet. “One of their cursed Armed Merchant Cruisers.” He bent over the chart table for a minute and gave an order to the helmsman.

“A fresh attack?” queried the Second-in-Command eagerly.

Von Sperrgebiet returned to the periscope. “When you have been at this work as long as I have,” he replied, “you will find it healthier not to meddle with Armed Merchant Cruisers. They are all eyes and they shoot straight. No, for the time being our glorious work is done, and we shall now depart from a locality that is quickly becoming unhealthy.” He glanced at the depth gauge and thence to the faces of the crew who stood waiting for orders.

“The gramophone,” he called out harshly. “Switch on the gramophone, you glum-faced swine.... Look sharp! Something lively...!”

At seven minutes past three in the afternoon, Cecily Thorogood, that very self-possessed and prettily-clad young woman, was seated in a deck-chair on the saloon-deck of a 6,000-ton liner; an American magazine was open in front of her, under cover of which she was exploring the contents of a box of chocolates with the practised eye of the expert, in quest of a particular species which contained crystallised ginger and found favour in her sight.

At nineteen minutes past three Cecily Thorogood, still self-possessed, but no longer very prettily clad, was submerged in the chilly Atlantic up to her shoulders and clinging to the life-line of an upturned jolly-boat. To the very young Fourth Officer who clung to the boat beside her with one arm and manoeuvred for a position from which he could encircle Cecily’s waist protectingly with the other, she announced as well as her chattering teeth would allow that she

(a) was in no immediate danger of drowning;

(b) was not in the least frightened;

(c) was perfectly capable of holding on without anybody’s support as long as was necessary.

The chain of occurrences that connected situation N with situation N was short enough in point of actual time, but so crowded with unexpected and momentous happenings that it had already assumed the proportions of a confused epoch in Cecily’s mind. There were gaps in the sequence of events that remained blanks in her memory. Faces, insignificant incidents, thumbnail sketches and broad, bustling panorama of activity alternated with the blank spaces. The heroic and the preposterous were indistinguishable....

At the first sound of the explosion of the torpedo Cecily jumped to her feet, scattering the chocolates broadcast over the deck. The ship seemed to lift bodily out of the water and then heeled over a little to port. There were very few people on the saloon deck and there was no excitement or rushing about. The shrill call of the boatswain’s mate’s pipe clove the silence that followed that stupendous upheaval of sound.

A clean-shaven, middle-aged American, wearing a collar reminiscent of the late Mr. Gladstone’s and a pair of pince-nez hanging from his neck on a broad black ribbon, had been walking up and down with his hands behind his back; he paused uncertainly for a moment and then began laboriously collecting the scattered chocolates. That was the only moment when hysteria brushed Cecily with its wings. She wanted to laugh or cry she wasn’t sure which.

“It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter!” she cried with a catch in her breath. “Don’t stop now we’ve been torpedoed!”

The American stared at the handful he had gathered.

“Folks’ll tread on ’em, I guess,” he replied, and suddenly raised his head with a whimsical smile. “A man likes to do something useful at times like this it’s just our instinct,” he added as if explaining something more for his own satisfaction than hers. “I’m not a seaman I’d only get in peoples’ way messing round the boats before they were ready so I reckoned I’d pick up your candies.”

There were very few women onboard, and Cecily found herself the only woman allotted to the jolly-boat. She climbed in with the assistance of the very young and distressingly susceptible Fourth Officer. For a moment she found herself reflecting that his life must be one long martyrdom of unrequited affections. The stout American followed her with a number of other passengers. The Fourth Officer gave an order and the boat began to descend towards the waves in a succession of uneven jolts. The crew were getting their oars ready, and one was hammering the plug of the boat home with the butt of an enormous jack-knife. The stout American surveyed the tumbling sea beneath them distastefully.

“When I get to Washington,” he said, “I guess I’ll fly round that li’ll old town till some of our precious ‘too-proud-to-fight’ party just gnash their teeth and shriek aloud ‘How can we bear it?’”

He suddenly remembered that his pneumatic life-saving waistcoat was not inflated. Seizing the piece of rubber tubing that projected from his pocket he thrust it into his mouth and proceeded to blow with distended cheeks and his serious brown eyes fixed solemnly on Cecily’s face.

He was still blowing when they capsized. How the accident happened Cecily never knew: principally because she was concentrating her mind on the bottom of the boat and wondering how soon the pangs of mal-de-mer might be expected to encompass her. But the fact remains that one moment the boat was rising and falling dizzily on the waves and the next, with a confused shouting of orders and a crash, they were all struggling in the water.

Cecily’s life-saving jacket brought her to the surface like a cork, and a couple of strokes took her to the side of the capsized boat and situation N already described. Here she was presently joined by the American, puffing and blowing like a grampus, who was placed in possession of statement (c) referred to above. He appeared either not to hear, however, or to incline to the view that it was a mere theory based upon a fallacy....

The remaining late occupants of the boat attached themselves along the sides and awaited succour with what patience they could. Then a muffled sound like an internal explosion came from within the stricken hull as a bulkhead went. The great ship lurched sickeningly above them as a wall totters to its fall. Cecily looked up and saw for a moment the figure of the Captain standing on the end of the bridge; true to his grand traditions he was staying by his ship to the last. She listed over further and began to settle rapidly. Then, and only then, the Captain climbed slowly over the rail and dived.

The stern of the ship rose slowly into the air, then swiftly slid forward with a sound like a great sob and vanished beneath the surface. One of the life-boats approached the capsized jolly-boat, and the figures that clung to her were hauled, dripping, one by one into the stern.

Then they picked up the Captain, clinging to a grating, an angry man. He scowled round at the long green slopes of the sea and shook his fist.

“The curs!” he said. “The dirty scum.... Women on board.... No warning....” Anger and salt water choked him.

“They wouldn’t even give me a gun because I was a passenger ship. Unarmed, carrying women, torpedoed without warning.... I’ll spit in the face of every German I meet from here to Kingdom Come!”

A little elderly lady with a bonnet perched awry on her thin grey hair suddenly began a hymn in a high quavering soprano.

“That’s right, ma’am,” said the Captain approvingly, as he wrung the water out of his clothes. “There’s nothing like singing to cure sea-sickness. And we shan’t be here very long.” He pointed to the high bows of a rapidly approaching ship. “One of our Armed Merchant Cruisers, I fancy.” He waved to the other boats to close nearer.

He was no mere optimist; before a quarter of an hour had elapsed the boats were strung out in a line towing from a rope that led from the bows of the Cruiser. A hastily improvised boatswain’s stool was lowered from a davit, and one by one the passengers, then the crew, and finally the officers of the torpedoed liner were swung into the air and hoisted inboard while the Armed Merchant Cruiser continued her course.

The sea-sick Cecily, swaying dizzily for the second time that day between sky and water, looked down at the tumbling boats beneath her and for a moment had a glimpse of the stout American and the Fourth Officer. They were both standing gazing up after her as she was whisked skyward. Their mouths were open, and the expression on their faces gave Cecily a feeling of being wafted out of a world she was altogether too good for.

The sensation was a momentary one, however. The davit swung inboard as she arrived at the level of the rail and deposited her, a limp bundle of damp rags in fact what Mr. Mantalini would have described as “a demmed moist unpleasant body” on the upper deck of the Armed Merchant Cruiser. With the assistance of two attentive sailors Cecily rose giddily to her feet; most of her hair-pins had come out, and her hair streamed in wet ringlets over her shoulders. She raised her eyes to take in her new surroundings, and there, standing before her with his eyes and mouth three round O’s, was Armitage.

Now Cecily had gone through a good deal since seven minutes past three that afternoon. But to be confronted, as she swayed, with her wet clothes clinging to her body like a sculptor’s model, deathly sea-sick, red-nosed for aught she knew or cared, with the man who but for her firmness and mental agility would have kept on proposing to her at intervals during the past eighteen months, was a climax that overwhelmed even Cecily’s self-possession.

She chose the only course left open to her, and fainted promptly. Armitage caught her in his arms, and as he did so was probably the first and last Englishman who has ever blessed a German Submarine.

She recovered consciousness in Armitage’s cabin, with the elderly lady who had sung hymns in the boat in attendance; she lay wrapped in blankets in the bunk, with hot-water bottles in great profusion all round her, and felt deliciously drowsy and comfortable. But with returning consciousness some corner of discomfort obtruded itself into her mind. It grew more definite and uncomfortable. With her eyes still closed Cecily wriggled faintly and plucked at an unfamiliar garment.

Then, slowly, she opened her eyes very wide. “What have I got on?” she asked in severe tones.

“My dear,” said the elderly lady, “pyjamas! There was nothing else. They belong to the officer who owns this cabin. I think the name was Armitage. And the doctor said ”

Cecily groaned. A knock sounded, and the ship’s doctor entered carrying something in a medicine glass.

“Well,” he asked brusquely, “how are we?”

“Better, thanks,” said Cecily faintly.

“That’s right. Drink this and close your eyes again.”

Cecily drank obediently and fell asleep. Twenty-four hours later the Cruiser was moving slowly up a river to her berth alongside a wharf. Cecily, clothed and in her right mind, stood aft in a deserted spot by the ensign-staff and stared at the dingy warehouses and quaysides ashore as they slid past.

Armitage came across the deck towards her; Cecily saw him coming and took a long breath. Then, woman-like, she spoke first:

“I haven’t had an opportunity to thank you yet,” she said prettily, “for giving up your cabin to me and and all your kindness.”

Armitage stood squarely in front of her, a big, kindly man who was going to be badly hurt and more than half expected it.

“There is a curious fatality about all this,” he said. “It was no kindness of either yours or mine.” He glanced over her head at the rapidly approaching wharf ahead and then at her face.

“For eighteen months,” he said, speaking rather quickly, “I’ve been like the prophet Jonah looking for a sign. I looked to you for it, Miss Cecily,” he said, “and I can’t truthfully say it showed itself in a single word or look or gesture.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not going to let you tell me I’m labouring under any misapprehensions. But this” he made a little comprehensive gesture “this is too much like the hand of Fate to disregard. Miss Cecily,” he said, “little Miss Cecily, you’ve just twisted your fingers round my heart and I can’t loose them.”

“Please,” said Cecily, “ah, no, please don’t....” Some irresponsible imp in her intelligence made her want to tell him that it wasn’t Jonah who looked for a sign.

“Listen,” said Armitage. He was literally holding her before him by the sheer strength of his kindly, compelling personality. “When this racket started this war I told them at the Admiralty my age was forty-five. It was a lie I am fifty-two. I’ve knocked about the world; I know men and cities and the places where there are neither. But I’ve lived clean all my life and I was never gladder of it than I am at this moment....”

Cecily had a conviction that unless she could stop him she would have to start crying very soon. But there were no words somehow that seemed adequate to the situation.

“I know, dear,” he went on in his grave quiet voice, “that at your age money, and all the things it buys, seem just empty folly. But, believe me, there comes a time when being rich counts a lot towards happiness. I’m not trying to dazzle you, but you know all mine is yours you shall live in Park Lane if you care to or I’ll turn all wide Scotland into a deer forest for you to play in....”

He paused. “But there is one thing, of course, that might make all this sound vulgar and sordid.” He considered her with his clear blue eyes. “Are you in love with anyone else?” he asked.

Cecily clutched recklessly at the alternative to absurd tears.

“Yes,” she said.

Armitage stood quite still for a moment. His calm, direct gaze never left her face, and after a moment he squared his big shoulders with an abrupt, characteristic movement.

“Then he is the luckiest man,” he said quietly, “that ever won God’s most perfect gift.”

He gave her a funny stiff little inclination of the head and walked away.

Otto von Sperrgebiet did not raise the periscope above the surface again for some hours. The Submarine, entirely submerged, drove through the water until night. After nightfall they travelled on the surface until the first pale bars of dawn appeared in the eastern sky. Von Sperrgebiet was on the conning-tower as soon as it was light, searching the horizon with his glasses.

“It is strange,” he said to his Second-in-Command. “We ought to have sighted that light vessel before now.” At his bidding a sailor fetched the lead line and took a sounding. Together they examined the tallow at the bottom of the lead, and von Sperrgebiet made a prolonged scrutiny of the chart. “H’m’m!” he said. “I don’t understand.” Submerging again, they progressed at slow speed for some hours and he took another sounding. The sky was overcast and no sights could be taken.

This time von Sperrgebiet returned from comparing the sounding with the chart, wearing a distinctly worried expression.

The hawk-eyed seaman beside him on the bridge gave an ejaculation and pointed ahead.

“Land, Herr Kapitan!” he said.

“Fool!” replied his Captain. “Idiot! How can there be land there unless” he glanced inside the binnacle half contemptuously “unless the compasses are mad or I am.”

He raised his glasses to stare at the horizon. “You are right,” he said. “You are right.... It is land.” He gnawed his thumbnail as was his habit when in perplexity.

The next moment the seaman pointed again. “The Hunters,” he said.

Von Sperrgebiet gave one glance ahead and kicked the man down through the open hatchway of the conning-tower. He himself followed, and the hatch closed. The helmsman was standing, staring at the compass like a man in a trance.

“Herr Kapitan,” he said, as von Sperrgebiet approached, “it is bewitched.” Indeed, he had grounds for consternation. The compass card was spinning round like a kitten chasing its tail, first in one direction, then in another.

“Damn the compass!” said von Sperrgebiet. “Flood ballast tanks depth thirty metres full speed ahead!”

He thrust the helmsman aside and took the useless wheel himself.

“Ludwig,” he said, “to the periscope with you and tell me what you see.”

The Second-in-Command waited for no second bidding; he pressed his face against the eye-pieces. “There are small vessels approaching very swiftly from all sides,” he said. And a moment later, “They are firing at the periscope...”

“Down with it,” said von Sperrgebiet. “We must go blind if we are to get through.” His face was white and his lip curled back in a perpetual snarl like a wolf at bay. As he spoke there was a splutter and the lights went out.

The voice of the Engineer sounded through the low doorway from the engine-room. “There is something fouling our propeller, Herr Kapitan,” he shouted. “The engines are labouring at full speed, but we are scarcely making any headway. The cut-outs have fused.”

Von Sperrgebiet cursed under his breath. “Stop the engines,” he said. “If we can’t swim we must sink.” He gave the necessary orders and the boat dropped gradually through the water till she rested on the bottom.

“Now,” said von Sperrgebiet. “Turn on the gramophone, one of you, if you can find it.”

There was a pause while someone fumbled in the darkness, and a click. Then a metallic tune blared forth bravely from the unseen instrument.

“That’s right,” said von Sperrgebiet in a low voice, speaking for the last time. “‘Deutschland unter Alles!’” His laugh was like the bark of a sick dog.

Twenty fathoms over their heads, under the grey sky, and blown upon by the strong salt wind, a large man in the uniform of a Lieutenant of the Naval Reserve was standing in the bows of an Armed Trawler; his gaze was fixed on something floating upon the surface of the water ahead; but presently he raised his eyes to the circle of Armed Trawlers around him riding lazily on the swell. In the rear of the gun in the bows of each craft stood a little group of men all staring intently at the floating object. The Lieutenant waved an arm to the nearest consort.

“They reckon they’ll take it lying down,” he said grimly. “Well, I don’t blame ’em!” He nodded at the figure in the wheel-house.

“Full speed, skipper!” The telegraph clinked, and they moved ahead, slowly gathering way. Then the Reserve-man turned, facing aft.

“Let her go, George,” he said, raising his voice. The trawler fussed ahead like a self-important hen that has laid an egg. There was a violent upheaval in the water astern, and a column of foam and wreckage leaped into the air with a deafening roar.

The Reserve Lieutenant pulled a knife out of his pocket, and, bending down, thoughtfully added another nick to a long row of notches in the wooden beam of the trawler’s fore hatch.