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

ATHLETICS

“Can you fight?”

The speaker was a young British midshipman. Jack and Frank stood at the rail, gazing off toward the distant horizon, when the young man approached them. The lads turned quickly.

“Can you fight?” demanded the young man again. His eyes rested on Jack.

“Well,” said the latter with a smile, “I can if I’m pushed to it. Who wants to lick me now?”

The young midshipman also smiled.

“It’s not that kind of a fight I’m talking about,” he said. “You’re new aboard, so I’ll explain.”

“Do,” said Jack.

“Well, there has been considerable rivalry between the men of our ship and the crew of the Indefatigable. We had an athletic contest last year and they beat us, carrying everything but the standing broad jump. This year we are better fortified and we hope to get even. Among other things there will be a boxing match. Jackson, that’s the man we had entered in that event, is ill. I have been elected to find a substitute. I sized you up as being able to hold your own with most.”

“Well, if that’s the way of it, you can count me in, of course,” said Jack. “When does this come off?”

“As soon as we come up with the Indefatigable. Probably tomorrow.”

“What other events are there?” asked Frank.

“Plenty,” was the reply. “Besides the boxing match and standing broad jump are the running broad jump; high jumping, a match with foils and a revolver contest.”

“And are your lists filled?” asked Frank.

“I believe so. Why?”

“Well, I’d like to get in the revolver contest,” replied the lad. “I’m pretty handy with a gun.”

“I’ll see what can be done,” returned the midshipman. “By the way, my name is Lawrence.”

They shook hands and walked off.

“Well, that’s something to liven things up a bit,” said Frank.

“Yes; but I didn’t know they were doing such things in time of war.”

“Neither did I; but it seems they are.”

It was late that evening when Lawrence again approached the two lads.

“You’re in luck,” he said to Frank. “We are still one man shy on our revolver team. I have named you for the place.”

“Thanks,” said Frank. “I’ll promise to do the best I can. By the way, where is this match to take place?”

“Right here. Last year it was pulled off on the Indefatigable.”

It was drawing toward night when the Queen Mary, steaming swiftly, sighted smoke upon the horizon. Two hours later she slowed down a short distance from three other vessels, which proved to be the Indefatigable, the Invincible and the Lion, the latter the flagship of Vice-Admiral Beatty.

The commanders exchanged salutations; and among other things made arrangements for the athletic contest that was to take place aboard the Queen Mary the following day. This was explained to the men.

The day’s events were to begin at nine o’clock. They were to come in this order: Standing broad jump, running broad jump, high jump, foil match, revolver contest and boxing match.

“You’re last on the card, Jack,” said Frank, with a laugh, when they were informed of the manner in which the events were to be pulled off.

“Hope I’m last on my feet, too,” said Jack, with a laugh.

“Oh, I’m not worrying about you. You’ll come through with flying colors. I hope I am not nervous, though.”

“You won’t be,” said Jack, positively. “I know you and that revolver of yours too well.”

“Guess we had better turn in early so as to be fit,” said Frank.

And they did, retiring several hours after mess.

Every man aboard the Queen Mary was astir bright and early the following morning. Each man was filled with enthusiasm and each was ready to wager his next year’s pay on the outcome of each event. But there was to be no gambling. Admiral Beatty had issued orders to that effect.

At eight o’clock the championship entrants from the Indefatigable came aboard, accompanied by many of their companions, who would be present to cheer them on. Officers as well as men were greatly interested in the day’s sports. Admiral Beatty could not be present, but Captain Reynolds, of the Indefatigable, stood by Captain Raleigh, of the Queen Mary, as the first event was called.

“We’re going to get even with you this time, Reynolds,” said Captain Raleigh.

“Oh, no you won’t. The score will be two in our favor after today.”

They became silent as four men, two from each ship, made ready for the standing broad jump.

The jumping was superb. After eight attempts one man from each ship was eliminated; and at length the Indefatigable man won.

“Two points for us, Raleigh,” said Captain Reynolds, jotting down something on the back of an envelope.

“Don’t crow, we’ll get you yet, Reynolds,” was Captain Raleigh’s reply.

The running broad jump was won by the Queen Mary’s entrants. Then it was Captain Raleigh’s time to smile.

“Told you so,” he said to Captain Reynolds.

“Oh, you won one event last year,” was the reply. “This high jump comes to us.”

And it did. The score was now four to two in favor of the Indefatigable. Then came the match with foils and this also went to the Indefatigable, making the score nine to two, for this match carried five points for the winner. Also, the pistol contest and the boxing match carried five points each.

“We’ve got you now, Raleigh,” laughed Captain Reynolds. “Nine to two. You’ve got to take both of the next two events to win. It can’t be done.”

“It has been done,” was the reply.

“It won’t be this time,” was the reply. “I think we will win the revolver contest, for I have some pretty fair shots, but if we don’t, we are sure to take the boxing match. We’ve a surprise for you there. Here they go.”

The revolver match was on. There were three men on each team. The first mark was set, a target at twenty yards with a six-inch bull’s eye. Frank fired first. He hit the bull’s eye easily. So did the others, all except one of the Indefatigable crew, who was thus eliminated, much to his disgust, as the spectators jeered him.

The next shot at a smaller mark eliminated one of the Queen Mary’s crew. An Indefatigable man and a Queen Mary man both missed the next mark and there remained but Frank for the Queen Mary and a man named Simpson for the Indefatigable.

The target had been removed to sixty yards and the bull’s eye was but two inches. Frank fired and scored a hit. So did Simpson. Next both hit the mark ten yards farther back.

A one-inch bull’s eye was substituted. Frank fired first. He scored a clean hit. Simpson also hit the eye, though not so squarely. Still it counted a hit.

Now the bull’s eye was reduced to half an inch, and at seventy yards it seemed almost impossible to hit it. This time Simpson was to fire first. Carefully he took deliberate aim and fired.

A shout went up from the Queen Mary men who stood near.

“Missed it by a hair,” said one. “Beat it, Chadwick! Beat it!”

“He can’t beat it! Hooray! We’ve won!” This from the Indefatigable’s crew.

“Good shooting, old man,” said Frank, quietly, as he took his position.

Carefully he measured the distance with his eye.

Then he raised his revolver slowly, and seeming scarcely to take aim, fired.

And a yell went up from the Queen Mary’s crew.

“Bull’s eye! Bull’s eye!” they cried, and danced and capered about the deck.

Frank had won. He had hit the bull’s eye squarely.

The men rushed up and danced about him.

“Good work!” they cried. “Five points for us. Nine to seven now. We’ll win this yet!”

Simpson approached Frank and extended a hand.

“Good shooting, son,” he exclaimed.

Simpson was a man well along in years, and he put this touch of familiarity to his words to make Frank realize that they were sincere. “I used to be something of a shot myself,” he said. “But I guess you are better than I ever was.”

Frank took Simpson’s hand.

“You would probably beat me next time,” he said.

Simpson shook his head.

“Not in a thousand years,” he said, and walked off.

Meantime, Captain Raleigh and Captain Reynolds were having it out.

“Told you so! Told you so!” exclaimed the former, as pleased as a boy. “We’ll beat you yet, sure.”

“No, you won’t, Raleigh,” said Reynolds, with a wink. “I’ll tell you something. Ever hear of a man named Harris?”

“Yes; I know several men by that name.”

“Ever hear of Tim Harris?”

“By George! You mean Tim Harris, of the Queen Elizabeth?”

“The same.”

“The champion of the British fleet, eh? You mean to tell me you have rung him in on us?”

“We didn’t ring him in,” was the reply. “He was transferred to the Indefatigable before the Queen Elizabeth went to the Dardanelles. We’ve been saving this up as a little surprise.”

Captain Raleigh had lost his look of optimism.

“Then our man should be warned,” he said. “He may wish to withdraw.”

“It is only fair to tell him who his opponent is,” agreed Captain Reynolds. “I guess we should have done it long ago.”

“I’ll tell him,” said Captain Raleigh.

At this moment there was a loud cheer from the crew of the Queen Mary.

“Here he comes!” they shouted.

Jack, stripped to the waist and wearing a pair of trunks, had appeared on deck. Two men accompanied him. These, it seemed, were to be his seconds. Jack caught sight of Frank and smiled.

And again the crew of the Queen Mary went wild.