Read CHAPTER III of The Boy Allies at Jutland, free online book, by Robert L. Drake, on ReadCentral.com.

WARSHIP AND ZEPPELIN

A bell tinkled in the engine room of the Queen Mary. The ship slowed down. Captain Raleigh had been called by the third officer. He took the bridge and issued his orders sharply.

There was no telling whether the Zeppelin sighted by the man at the gun would attack the ship, but Captain Raleigh considered it best to be on the safe side. That was why he had left orders to be called immediately should an enemy appear.

Again a bell tinkled in the engine room, following an order from the commander of the Queen Mary.

The great engines stopped and became silent.

“Cut off all lights!” was the next command.

A moment later the great ship was in darkness.

Frank and Jack, in their quarters, were awakened by the sounds of confusion above. All hands had not been piped on deck, so most of the men still lay asleep, unconscious of what was going on above, but the two lads, dressing hurriedly, made their way on deck. They walked forward, toward the bridge.

All was dark and it was this that told Frank and Jack that something was going on.

“Wonder what’s up?” said Frank.

“Airship, I guess,” was the reply. “Can’t see any other reason for extinguishing all lights.”

Near the bridge the lads stopped and waited to see what would happen. All was quiet aboard. Not a sound came from the officers or the men on deck. Then Captain Raleigh commanded:

“Try the forward searchlight there. See if you can pick her up!”

The light flashed aloft; and there, so far above the Queen Mary as to be little more than a tiny speck, hovered a giant Zeppelin; and even as they looked, the airship came lower.

“She’s sighted us,” said Captain Raleigh to his first officer, who stood beside him. “Try a shot, Mr. Harrison.”

The first officer passed the word and a second later there came the sound of the anti-aircraft gun. The gunner had taken his range at the moment the flashlight revealed the airship.

The shot brought no noticeable result.

“Fifteen knots ahead, Mr. Harrison!” ordered the captain.

He was afraid that the Zeppelin might drop a bomb on the ship; and from that moment until the end of the battle the Queen Mary did not pause. First she headed to port and then to starboard, manoeuvering rapidly that the German airmen might not be able to reach her with a bomb.

“Another shot!” commanded Captain Raleigh.

Still no result.

“Funny she doesn’t rise and try and escape,” said Frank.

“No, it’s not,” returned Jack. “They don’t know anything about this new anti-aircraft gun. They believe they are out of range.”

“Well, they’re likely to hit us with one of those bombs, and then where will we be?” said Frank.

“If they hit us you won’t know anything about it,” was Jack’s response.

Again the Queen Mary tried a shot at the Zeppelin.

A cheer went up from the members of the crew who stood upon deck; for the Zeppelin was seen to wabble.

“Nicked her,” shouted the first officer.

Jack, standing near the rail, heard something whiz by his head. Instinctively the lad ducked. He knew in a moment what had passed him; he heard something splash into the sea.

“Bomb just missed us, sir!” he cried, stepping forward.

“Where?” demanded Captain Raleigh.

“Right here, forward, sir,” replied Jack.

Captain Raleigh gave a quick command to his first officer, who passed it to the man at the wheel.

“Hard a-port!” he cried.

The ship veered crazily; and at the some moment, Frank, who was standing where Jack had been a moment before, heard something swish past.

“Another bomb, sir!” he reported.

There was no reply from the bridge. Captain Raleigh felt that, by bringing the ship’s head hard to port, he had spoiled the range of the enemy in the air.

For some time no more bombs dropped near.

Again the Queen Mary fired at the Zeppelin; and again and again.

The last shot was rewarded by another cheer from the crew. The giant
Zeppelin was seen to drop suddenly.

The crew cheered loud and long for it appeared that the Zeppelin was about to drop into the sea. Down she came and still down; and then her descent suddenly halted.

To those aboard the Queen Mary this was unexplainable.

“Fire again, quickly!” shouted the captain.

The air gun boomed. At the same moment a man was seen to lean over the side of the Zeppelin. He dropped something.

Again Captain Raleigh acted promptly and brought the head of the Queen Mary around. The German bomb missed. Before another could be dropped, the man who manned the anti-aircraft gun fired again.

Another cheer from the crew.

The Zeppelin began to sink slowly.

“Full speed ahead!” cried Captain Raleigh. “They’ll sink us!”

The Queen Mary leaped ahead just in time.

And then the Zeppelin dropped.

With a splash it hit the water perhaps a quarter of a mile from the British battleship. Came cries from the men, caught beneath the gas bag. At that moment Jack stood close to the bridge. Captain Raleigh saw him.

“Man a boat, Mr. Templeton,” he called, “and rescue those fellows in the water.”

Quickly Jack sprang to obey. Frank leaped after him. Hurriedly a small boat was gotten out and launched. A half dozen sailors sprang in and took up the oars. Frank and Jack leaped in after them.

The oars glistened in the glare of the searchlight as the men raised them and awaited the word.

“Give way,” said Jack.

The boat sped over the smooth surface of the sea.

Close to the wreckage of the Zeppelin it approached; and cries told Jack that some of the Germans still lived.

“Hurry!” he cried, and the men increased their stroke.

Near the wreckage Jack gave the command to cease rowing. A German swam toward the boat. Hands helped him in and he lay in the bottom panting. Other forms swam toward them. These, too, were lifted in the boat. And at last Jack counted fifteen Germans who had been saved.

“Are you all here?” he asked of a German officer.

“All but Commander Butz, sir,” was the man’s reply.

Jack commanded his men to row closer to the wreckage.

“Ahoy there!” he shouted, when he had come close.

The lad thought he heard a muffled answer, but he could not make sure. He called again. This time the answer came plainer.

“Where are you?” asked Jack.

“Under the wreckage,” was the reply.

Jack scrutinized the wreckage closely.

“Looks like it might sink any minute,” he said “But we can’t leave him there.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Frank.

For answer Jack arose in the boat. Quickly he threw off his coat and kicked off his shoes. Then he poised himself on the edge of the boat.

“I’m going after him,” he replied.

Before Frank could reply, he had dived head first into the sea.

With a cry of alarm, Frank also sprang to his feet and divested himself of his coat and shoes.

“Stay close, men!” he commanded. “I’ll lend a hand if it’s needed.”

He, too, leaped into the water.

Rapidly, Jack swam close to the wreckage. He continued to call to the German, and while he received an answer each time, he could not locate the man. Twice he swam around all that remained of the huge Zeppelin. By this time Frank had come up with him.

“Can’t you find him?” he asked.

“No,” returned Jack, “and I am rather afraid to swim under there. The balloon may sink and carry me under. But if I were certain in exactly what spot the man is imprisoned, I’d have a try at it.”

Frank listened attentively; and directly the German’s voice came again. To Frank it seemed that the voice came from directly ahead of him.

“Lay hold of this end here,” he said to Jack. “If you can lift it a bit I’ll go under and have a look.”

“Better let me do it, Frank,” said Jack.

“No; you’re stronger than I am. You can hold this up better.”

Jack did as his chum requested and a moment later Frank disappeared under the wreckage, diving first to make sure that he got under.

Under the water the lad swam forward. His hand touched something that was threshing about.

He felt sure it was the German. He rose. His head came in contact with something, but the lad opened his eyes and saw that he was above the surface. The imprisoned German was close beside him.

“Dive!” said Frank. “You can come out all right.”

“Can’t,” was the reply. “My arm is caught.”

Frank made a quick examination.

“I can loosen it,” he said at last, “but I’ll probably break the arm.”

“Loosen it,” said the German, quietly.

Frank took a firm hold on the arm at the elbow and gave a quick wrench. He felt something give, and when he released his hold on the man’s arm, the latter sank suddenly.

Frank dived after him quickly. It was even as the lad feared. The German had fainted from the pain of the arm, which Frank had broken cleanly as he released it.

Frank dived deep and his outstretched hand encountered the German. The lad grasped the man firmly by the collar and then struck upwards. A moment later he succeeded in making his way to where Jack still tugged at the balloon.

Jack lent a hand and they dragged the German from beneath the wreckage. Then they towed him to the boat and other hands lifted him in. Frank and Jack clambered aboard.

“Give way!” said Jack, sharply.

The boat moved toward the battleship; and even as it did so, the mass of wreckage suddenly disappeared from sight with a loud noise.

Jack shuddered.

“Pretty close, Frank,” he said quietly. “You can see what would have happened if you had still been under there.”