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In the Undercurrents


(ALL RIGHTS Reserved}. In the Undercurrents BY MAX RITTENBERG. It was an evening in the beginning of August. My little half-rater, Redwing, lapped {fently over the waters of the Solent in the Ight" breeze that died away into the calm of Sunset. Behind me lay a scene of striking — the fleets of two great Hat up in grim and sombre lines, and ii the lines a. bustle of naval ac- tivity g place, si cam-pinnaces, vedette- boa .-•r-launch.es scurrying hither and tlut • ver-urgent Messages, weaving a tan* of gossamt r threads that were to ] ;"1" the hearts of the two great fraii I had wearied at length of the igh i' lg to the play of the sunset colo e West, lay idly dreaming, jre", "j Hi-i-i! ) could properly wake from my <lrer,a low dark shape had leapt angr, qjli white foam at me-and I *fa-) r: tg in green depths. A nk had hauled me up into the L, ot :nd I was wringing the s.Jt- -L' my face and hair as I JnUl'(" logeticallv," Thanks awfully! be i'.ss of me, I know." W A .,i < '"i "a laugh in it replied: "You lia e i I a Iway of calling on your <ri I i ;p astonished, to meet the k L'n. and broad Viking form OiiJJY old f- ''ngton Lang, journalist War nt. That is his true n 'e, of co:' the readers of the IS .7. better alf,-)i of weeklies .1 -i sc! -e h is known under another j n that i = -sehold, aye, and a national ivord. "Co the cabin and we'll fint a {ttry-r mi," he said. "My men • ill j ook err ft." JPoI- -hi into the cabin, I charged into r of ser'-faririg garments w. ich he roi or me from adjacent locken. "w I n- •'ct'iilly. He ]• a fask from his pocket, and took- •• .;nkesit;»<' y. U;. jplutten cl > I got rid of he 11<111' stvif. "Is this your idea of hospi- tality?" Lain- looked genuinely concerned. "A I li(-)li 'apologies!" he said. "I had flit a samplr. of a volatile petrol Into the iia.ic, in oTdpr to get a chem: al Analysis -made of it—it contained carbon bi- •nlpiiide, I -and I am ashamed to say that I had forgotten the fact. However, a 'Jittle real Scotch will wash away the mis- take!" ■' When we came on deck again I found that y Rcdwing had been righted and towed IntoCowes Harbour. »"I suggest that we leave her here," said and, if you have nothing better to do, **ke a run around the island." Deli-lited 1" We sped swiftly away in the gathering jf'oom down the Solent. The low shore* tinkled on either side with clusters of oghts that betokened the villages, and ahead 5? us a brilliant flashing light showed where |«e Needles lay. The salt spray whipped our and the swift litheness of the motion glorious. Lang broke the silence. As you have Fobably guessed," he said, "I am engaged the meeting of the fleets for the Newsletter,5 and find a motor-boat indis- ^sable." ,s That I can well understand," I replied, but what object can you have going round Ie island to-night?" .A prrsentiment. An impulse. An in- ?lHct. A. pressing desire to leave the crowded ()flent and search the deserted southern "shore the island. A curious fancy, you would But "—he laid his hand impressively Div shoulder—"I have trusted all my life ?? instincts,' and they have never once Jv^ved 71!C false Men say that I scent 'in. Agents' in the distance as the vulture f.cents carrion, and others that I have the devil's hick. Yes, call it 'luck' if you will, uJSi I pin mv faith to this 'luck' of mine!" jj-'Ialf ail hour later we had rounded the £ ;:nd the liglit on St Catherine's R^mt winked at as through the intense dark Ss of the night. As our boat worked along f U' southern shore of the Island, we aSnieutariiy of our doings since our last ju i'okvo, but all the <ime we wc\r jaJ(-hing keenly—watching, though for what knew not. j la obedience to an order from Lang, we iin P(i sli»r'ply round, and hugging the coast- }. hegan to work our way back from East ,f0 West. A chill wind had'sprung tvp, and I 8ftr or.e felt grateful for the warmth of my fail's jersey and reefer jacket. tut AVas rounding St. Catherine's that Lang t«ed abruptly to the skipper: to Souines," he said, "I should like tin.1^0 qHf.rter-speed, sav six knots, and with \vs ow [' f s'u' noiselessly through the darkness, int Lang gripped my arm with electric folfliS't}- u<l pointed out into the night. I l'L*' direction, but it was some of ?.erits before my eye could find the object sHc> Kazf'- Then I caught it, in a tran- patch of moonlight—a tiny rowing- tar faking for the shore-line, with a soli- lie/ figuie in it. I grvt a low laugh of re- (,e« tension. fisherman," I said. "A e i his fishing-smack?' inateur doing some liae-fi»hing, should he row like that?" .QQW ow v ^o!selessly. So stealthily." went over to the skipper and gave ltead ll, 'ew low-toned directions. The boat's <[uickly shorewards, and before liUipj. hv.d dropped anchor in a lonely cove high cliffs. A dinghy put us and Lang stepped out briskly *alkxr» t "1-1,1 •san^s- Ten minutes rapid the^1 rH,>l £ ht us very close, as we judged, ^ticl ii!1(l'ug-plaec of the mysterious ixiat, ulde>^ 11 M cautiously through some largfe ii i pee,red out across the darkness 4 "D l't}:(l.:ji ,,(l'tt drawn up on the sands — a. it_^ ,'>ilap.sible, to judge from the shape "ding by it, motionless, a man fcI,ivJV'V«?n seaman's rig. We waited, and the man f^ispevpl "r" nor moved. Then after it fouj oid -from Lair^, we stepped out ti !Hdow the JiouJders and strbde V stretch of san,d. The l^alidt1 *>u s 'M-xed-itself,- 'not on the C? °? myself, and as we came up ffiftanV ^re#!Sing himself to as<l i* Bilot, i„ not?" "Ja wohl!" I answered. "And him?" pointing to Lang. o Friend." Ach so." he murmured, and without further words began to push the little boat c Jb and signed to to enter. « i 'ku l < and his answering look c 1 111 Keep up your chnrs-^er and t ur.. '-t'-re this is going to i o. i The .owtvc! us silently front the shore. f At a o. • of perhaps half a mile out, there iaio sight a black object on the i' the water, around whi'l' the waves I Svv jr'jec i:-v thcmgh round the top of a sunken J rocc. J it was not. I Ii m ..><v part of a submarine. ■ .dful strokes the boat was I b/evr. the submarine, and e step- fed o. II low-railed decir ler re- of the Berthc ;cav ;»nd j-a.'id into its appointe. place, the '-r r ;] kind of manhole • •• deck into the interior of the boat. I cui. 1 hesitated for a ::eyt be- fo-e A glance at Lang's broad Vil-li' « ard keen confident face braced ire, like a morning pli-, c, into a iV-I-tv and taking my coi- ge into 1; "i I flowed the mall down the irn*, .v riding, I found n (If ,in a -ed with electricity. A h f ltself towards me, and a voico S » i, u, I believe." I s, figure, and flnally his head rt the ladder into the ca'bin, a very J and angry look came rapidly ove:- f; e of our host. The journalist, extending his hand, said suavely, in German: Permit me to introduce myself: Hen A.als"" frifmd of the Cause." Oar host frowned and stared intently for a few moments, making no movement to take Lang's extended hand, and then said: Not a German, I think?" "No, a Norwegian, at your service." Our host frowned again, and chewed his moustache for some little time in silence. Abruptly ho seemed to make up his mind, shook hands with Lang, expressed his glad- ness at seeing him, and offering us seats at the small table in the middle of the cabin, produced some glasses and bottles of lager beer. "Prosit!" we said, as we clicked our glasses. The officer turned to Allington Lang as he emptied his glass at a draught and wiped his coarse moustache, saying easily; You are half an hour early, are you not?" t c Yes, we were walking fast," replied Lang, cahn,ly. "So," he said. Then: "When did you leave Herr Simpson?" It was a ticklish question to answer, but Lang brushed the difficulty aside with his reply: "It was rather Earlier than we had ar- ranged, but Herr Simpson thought we had better be going." He gave you the letter, did he not?" con- tinued the officer. "Naturally," Lang replied, "but unfortu- nately Herr Lindau left it in his other coat:' It is a pity," remarked the officer, "but still it is no matter. Come now, we must be off I" II I^Rsently the officer turned to me and asked, "How far off the Needles shall we keep in rounding?" At what depth are you running?" I osked. Fifteen metres." Keep a good kilometer away," I replied, cautiously. The submarine rose to the surface every how and again, and I did my best to recog- nise points and lights for the guidance of the German in the dark, spray-splashed, shift- ing image formed by the periscope. Slowly but surely we felt our way into the waters of the Solent, and the lights of the French and English fleets were within easy distance ahead of us when the screw slowed and finally stopped. The officer spoke some whispered orders through the speaking-tube into the en- gine-room. Then, turning to Lang: "Would you care now to see over the machinery, Herr Aalsen?"—a response to a request that Lang had made some little time I back. Rising with alacrity, the journalist passed through the door into the engine-room.. My next impression was of a revolver-bar- rel looking me straight in the eye, while I sounds of a violent and prolonged scuffling through the open door of the engine-room told clearly of the trap that had been laid for my friend. A couple of brawny seamen brought him in trussed and helpless, and throwing him on to one of the bunks, pro- ceeded to bind myself up in like manner and deposit1 me on the bunk the other side of the cabin. "And now, my nne pair of spies," snarled the German, throwing aside all his former mask of composure, and letting his coarse passion show in his face, "now what have you to say for yourself?" We said nothing. "Speak, you swine, or you'll regret it," ha shouted at Lang. "Then will you kindly lift me into a more suitable position for conversation?" The German strode over to him and jerked him into an upright position. Who are you?" he demanded. That you will see from the card-case in my breast-poCket." The officer put his hand roughly under- neath the binding-cords into Lang's breast- pocket. "Please don't disturb my flask and letters. I assure you they are only private ones." But tile. officer pulled them all out, threw the flask back on to the bunk, and proceeded to look through the numerous papers. So you claim to be a fournalistt, eh?" "My friends make that claim for me, I be- lieve." The German laughed contemptuously. Yoti- ire a clumsy liar," he said, "With your imaginary Herr Simpson and your imaginart, mislaid letter." "They were imaginary then?" laughed Lang. I acknowledge you caught me out fairly that time. "Yes, I knew you for the spy you are from the moment I set eyes on you, though your companion "—he looked over at me— "deceived me for a little." ,] "Who is paying you for this?" he asked Lang. "The 'Newsletter,' I hope," answered Lang, lightly. "How much?" Reqlly now, isn't your question, a little indelicate?'' When did you hear of our attempt?' I not" heard of your attempt, for the- reason that I have no idea what it is you are attempting. Perhaps you will be good enough to enlighten rs?" "That will come in it* own good time. mv I friend, and after the enlightening the awaken- ing, or rather the ^lumbering." There was a menace in his tone even more than lit his words that left one m little doubt of the- meaning of that phras) the slumbering." He strode over to the levew, and the ftub- marine started on its way once more. Straight on, straight in the direction of the fleets, I remembered. What could we be wanting there? I looked across at Lang, and from his grave face- the clue came to me to the whole diabolical plot! What a blind fool I had been that last hour or so! A submarine, a German-manned sub- marine making secretly at dead of night for the Solent, where the French and English fleets lay for the vital purpose of cementing a friendship in the making between the two nations! Suppose an accident occurring to a French ship, the explosidn of a mine below it for example, who in France would ever be- lieve that it was not due to the treachery of perfidious Albion?" And from there the step to a horrible and bloody war would be small indeed I grew sick with fear as the aw- ful possibilities of the situation forced them- selves upon me. The electric light just by the head of Allington Lang cast strong lights and' deep shadows on to him. He lay propped up against the wall behind the bunk in a seem- ingly relaxed attitude, his feet bound! to- gether, his arms bound behind his back, his head drooping, but from where I lay the twitching of his left elbow and deltoid muscles (the side away from the officer) showed me of the silent but powerful struggle he was making to free his left hand from th3 cords. Now I grasped where his object lay in enticing the German to remove the contents of his breast-pocket. It had loosened a little the grip of the cords around his chest, and given his iron wrists a slight initial play." Could he manage to- feee his- hand? We were now close on to the fleets, pro- bablyamongst them. Since tie last ascent to the surface we had been moving very slowly and cautiously. We stopped. Near the navigating apparatus wfSBe an: electric accumulator-box and coils upon coils' I of electric wire leading finally by two narrow rubber tubes out through the wall of the cabin. A sudden jerk shook the frame of the 'I submarine as though some heavy object had been cast overboard, and the buoyancy of the craft had asserted itself, and simultaneously the twin wires paid out rapidly through the rubber tubes, then stopped. An order through the speaking-tube, and the engines started once more. The submarine began slowly to back in the direction from which we had come, and the twin-wires, carefully tended by the officer, paid out through the tubes once more. The mine had been laid, Allington Lang to all appearance lay just as he had been placed by the German, his back propped up agains; the wall of the cabin, his head just below the electric ligh But out of the shadow I saw his left hanJ steal over the bunk, clutch the flask the,, had been flung carelessly on to it by the officer, and return swiftly into shadow. Thar I a gentle gurgling sound" came to me under the thiob of the engines—the gurgling souuci of a liquid being poured slowly out of a nar- row-neeked vessel. Lang was emptying the contents of the flask down behind the back oi the bunk! A faint disagreeable odour came over tM tne, came stronger and stronger, and in a I flash there crossed my mind the memory of that nauseating gulp of liquid that Lang hac' proffered me on board the motor-boat. What was it Lang had said?—"Patent new petrol" _H Specially volatile — Carbon bi-sul- phide." My pulses dauced hot as i, of his desperate scheme came to Tile. The odour was becoming stronger and stronger, powering it seemed to icie in the narrow con- fined space of that cabin, and I rnarveii^ d t that the German had not yet shown himself aware of it. An order through the speaking tube. The engines stopped their throbbing, the sub- marine lost way slowly, and came to a stop. 7 A pressure on' the battery key, and the wires would convey their deauly message to the mine. The officer turned to Lang, and an exul- tant sneer was in his voice as lie said: "In ten seconds' time the French flagship will have a gaping hole in her side, my tine bungler! It is a thousand pities that they trusted to such a clumsy spy as yourself, is it not? In ten seconds' time!" "I think not," replied Lang, quietly. "You think not, eh And your reason?" "Mv reason is that there will first be u .gaping hole in the side of your submarine." An angry flush came over the face of the German, but it died away into a contemptu- ous sneer, as he said "One permits the luxury of speech to the spy about to be executed. Speak on, boaster!" "You have heard, I presume, of the fate of the submarine A5 at Haulbowline? And the cause?" The German seemed to become aware for the first, time of the powerful odour filliIJg the Inarrow cabin, and his face suddenly blanched. "I am now about to repeat the by smashing the electric light lamp above me with my head," went on La g, coolly, his hands behind his back, still apparently bound. But the German had whipped out a re- volver, and was covering him with the barrel. Lang did not stir. I "A revolver-flash will serve equally veil for the ignition of the inflammable mixture in this cabin," he said. Then the German dashed down his revolver with an oath, and turning, switched off the liglit with a jerk. The cabin was plunged in darkness. But the after-glow of an extinguished elec- tric lamp lasts for an appreciable of time, and by it I saw the German snatch up a sailor's knife lying on a bracket a-id rush with it towards Lang. An instant later the journalist, one hand free, flung himself from off the hunk under the table in the centre of the cabin. As the German, blind with rage, rushed forward to the bunk, Lang tripped him up with his free hand, and in the swift, horrible struggle that ensued in the darkness, I heard the snap of a broken bone, aud a shrill scream of pain from the German. Then the engine-room door cm shed open, and a sailor, amazed to find the cabin in darkness, rushed to the electric switch and turned up the lights. Lang was lying on top of the German, pin- luug him down by sheer weight, nti.1 with the knife in his left hand. the oificerJs: neck. "Out of the cabiu -'he called out to the man. Ir, this- knife gbesi straight ihi o,< yoifr officer's throat!" The man hesitated for a second, then obeyed. Matters were now plain sailing. Quickly Lang cut through the cords that. bound up his right arm and the cords that bound his ttgt together, and then picking up the re- volver from the floor where the German had thrown it, lie was master of the situation. Bolting the engine-room door, he quickly out through tlie twin electric wires that led out W the mine, sjsad releasing myself. hancW we!* the knife as a weapon. Then through the speaking-tube; "I want one man to come In here and navi- gate. There will be no harm done to him. Unless this order ÍIiI obeyed, I will leave you locked in the engine-room and sink the sub- marine It was a Blnfliilg' threat, for we were quite unversed in the handling of the craft, but fortunately it had the desired effect. I un- bolted the door, a sailor came in, and I bolted it again. The first necessity for the safety of all in the boat was that we should reach the surface and open the man-hole, so that the evetf-|>re3eiit danger of an accidental ex- plosion of the petrol and carbon bisulphide vapour might be removed. This done, we proceeded to attend to the officer, who had fainted from the pain of his wound, and im- provised a rough splint and bandages for his broken arm. "How did you manage, -it"" I asked of Lang, pointing to the broken limb. "I did not altogether waste those weary months in Tok,yct," he replied. "Jiu-jitsu is well worth the learning." Then turning to the seaman lie asked, is German: "Where i the other mine?" "There is no other mine on board," re- plied* the sailor sullenly, and it seemed as if he were speaking the truth, for at all eventf there were no further efectrical connections to be seen. "Tlieir r think that having drawn their ifongs we níight leave them to return and make their report to their masters," said Lang tb me. "Will you go up the ladder, please, and' get the Berthon collapsible ready for ■usT' What a blhssed" rrfffef it was to breathe once more the free air of Heaven! I took it in in deep, long-drawn inspirations as I made the small boat ready for the water in the c first faint light of dawn. "All ready! I called dotes to Lang, and Ty lie came up qtiiekly, the revolver in one hand. "If you will take the oars," he said, "I will Keep. my revolver ready for possible treachery. I be»t to the oars and had soon put a com- fortable distance between ourselves and the submarine. "Now for the all-night telegraph-office!" I crifed light-heartedly,, thinking of the fine journalistic splash our adventure would make. But Anihgton Hang looked at me queerly for a moment. am a journalist second, and an Englishman first, I hope," he said.' "Not a telegraph-office, but an admiral, is what we want." We heard the t'lirasli of a screw across the waters, and the low, black, vicious-looking form of a destroyer came in -sight. "Hey Hey cried5 Lang at the top of his voice, but it did not seem to attract atten- tion. Then he fired the revolver in the air, and the destroyer swung quickly round to- wards us. "What the devils the matter?" called out a voice. "Despatches for the Vice- Admiral!" re- plied Lang.