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In the Undercurrents i


(ÀLL BIGHTS In the Undercurrents BY I MAX RITTENBERG. — It was ah evening in the beginning oi ] August. My little half-rater, Redwing, lapped gently over the waters of the Solent in tlie fight breeze that died away into the calm of Sunset. Behind me lay a scene of striking impressiveness the fleets of two great jiations drawn up in grim and sombre lines, And between the lines a bustle of naval ac- tivity taking place, steam-pinnaces, vedette- boats, motor-lav nches scurrying hither and thither on ever-urgent messages, weaving a tangled skein oi gossamer threads that were to bind together the hearts of the two great I nations. But I had wearied at length of tho sight, and turning to the play of the sunset colours in the West, lay idly dreaming, dreaming. "Hi! Hi!! Hi-i-i!! Before I could properly wake from my j dreaming, a low dark shape had leapt j Angrily through white foam at me—and I was struggling in green depths. i A bcat-hook had hauled me tip into the motor-boat, and I was wringing the salt- water out of my face and hair as I mur- mured, apologetically, "Thanks awfully! Beastly careless of me, I know." I A voice with a laugh in it replied: Yoll have an original way of calling on your friends!" j I looked up astonished, to meet the keen, confident face and broad Viking form of my old friend Allington Lang, journalist and war correspondent. Hint is his true name, of course. To the readers of the News- letter and half a score of weeklies a- 'd monthlies he is known under another nawe.j that is a household., aye, and a national j word. I Come into the cabin and we'll find a i'ury-rig for you," he said. "My men will ook after your craft/' Following him into the cabip, I changed into a medley of sea-faring garments wlm h he routed out for me from adjacent lockers "Whisky?" I nodded gratefully. He handed me a flask from his pocket, add I took a gulp unhesitatingly. Ugh I spluttered, as I got rid of he nauseous stuff. "Is this your idea of hospi- tality?" Lang looked genuinely concerned. "A thousand apologies!" he said. "I had put a sample of a specially volatile pet ■! into the flask, in order to get a chemio U analysis made of it-it contained carbon h¡- sulphide, I think—and I am ashamed to sny that I had forgotten the fact. However, a little real Scotch will wash away the mis- take!" When we came on deck again I found that my Redwing had been righted and towed into Cowes Harbour. "I suggest that we leave her here," said Lang," and, if you have nothing better to do, take a run around the island." Delighted!" J We sped swiftly away in the gathering gloom down the Solent. The low sh>>re« twinkled on either side with clustersf j lights that betokened the villages, and air d of us a brilliant flashing light showed where the Needles lay. The salt spray whipped < fir faces, and the swift litheness o^the mot on { was glorious. Lang broke the silence. As you lutce { probably guessed," he said, "JE am engaged in doing the meeting of the fleets for ti e 'Newsletter,' and find a motor-boat indis- } pensable." "That I can well understand," I rep;i but what object can you have going ro the island to-night?" "A presentiment. An impulse. An >.«.•- stinct. A pressing desire to leave the crov Solent and search the deserted southern of the island. A curious fancy, you wi eay. But"—he laid his hand impressi- r* on my shoulder- I have trusted all my i i- to 'instincts,' and they have never < "■ plaved me false Men my that I scent indents' in the distance as the vulture sc > the carrion, and others that I have the dC'i: own luck. Yes, eali it 'luck' if you w.u, but I pin my faith to this luck of mine Half an hour later we had rounded oc I Needles, and the light on St Cather Point winked at .is through the intense da ness of the night. As our boat worked a the southern shore of the Island, we fragmentarily of our doings since our meeting in Tokyo, but all the time we wom j watching keerly—watching, thox'gh for wlut'i | I knew not. < In obedience to an order from Lang, v; turned sharply round, and hugging the, co; _I' line, began to work our way back from 11". to West. A chill wind had sprung up, an;! for one felt grateful for the warmth of nr teaman's jersey and reefer jacket. It was rounding St. Catherine's that La&fc- turned abruptly to the skipper: j "Captain Soames," he said, "I should In* to go quarter-speed, say six knots, and lights out." We slid noiselessly through the darknp" Suddenly Lang gripped my arm with el eel ■ .intensity and pointed out into the night. ? I followed the direction, but it was so (ay moments before my eye could find the bbj■ of his gaze. Then I caughtin a eitory patch of moonlight—a tiny rowi.u boat making for the shore-line, with a sou- tary figure in it. I gavt, a low laugh of r j lieved tension. J A fisherman," I said. | Where is his fishing-smack?" j An amateur doing some line-fishing, then." Why should he row like that?" "How?" So noiselessly. So stealthily." j Lang went over to the skipper and ga v: j liim a few low-toned directions. The boat head curved quickly shorewards, and before long we had dropped anchor in a lonely co under the high cliffs. A dinghy put t; | quickly ashore, and Lang stepped out briskiy along the firm sands. Ten minutes rapid walking brought us very close, as we judged, to the landing-place of the mysterious boat;, and we moved cautiously through some large boulders and peered out across the darkness of a bay. A small boat drawn up on the sands — a Berthon collapsible, to judge from the shape of it—and standing by it, m,ionless, a man in some foreign seaman's rig. Five minutes we waited, and the man neither stirred nor moved. Then after a whispered word from Lang, we stepped out from the shadow of the boulders and strode i across the intervening stretch of sand. The strange man's gaze fixed itself, not on the journalist, but on myself, and, as we came up tie said, addressing himself to me, and in German: "The pilot, is it not?" j a I answered. "And him?" pointing to Lang. j Friend." Aeli so," he murmured, and without further words began to push the little boat off from ,the sands, and signed to us to enter. I looked at Lang, and uis answering look said .plainly: Seep up' your character and let tjj* see where this is going to lead to." f The man vowed us silently, from the shore. ? At a distance of perhaps half a mile out, there came into, sight a black object on the J surface of the water, around which the waves swirled as tiiough round the top of a sunken j rock. But rock it was not. | It was the upper part of a submarine. I With a few skilful strokes the boat was brought close to the submarine, and we step- j ped on to a small lov -railed deck. After re- ] leasing the springs of the Berthon boat and j packing it away into its appointed place, the seaman opened a kind of manhole in the deck and descended into the interior of the boat. I confess that I hesitated for a moment be- fore following. A glance at Lang's broad Viking frame and keen confident face braced t me, however, like a morning plunge into a 1 j mill-stream, and taking my courage into I both hands, I followed the man down the iron ladder. Descending, I found myself in a small cabin lighted with electricity. A hand extended itself towards me, and a voice said in Gernion: Herr Lindau, I believe." I shcok hands. As lumg's boots, figure, and finally his bead tame down the ladder into the cabin, a very surprised and angry look came rapidly over the face of our boat. The journalist, extending his hand, said suavely, in German: "Permit me to introduce myself: Herr Aalsen. a friend of the Cause." Our famt frowned and stared intently for a few moments, making no movement to take Lamg'a extended hand, and then said: "Not a German, I think?" -No, a Norwegian, at your service." Onr host frowned again, and chewed his moustache for some little time in silence. Abruptly he seemed to make up his mind, shook laands 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. "PrositI" we said, as we clicked our I glasses. j The officer turned to Allington Lang as he emptied his glass at a draught and wiped his j eoarse moustache, saying easily: j Yoa are half an hour early, are you not?" Yes, we were walking fast," replied Lang, calmly. "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." Ho 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 a* r Presently the officer turned to me and asked, "How far off the Needles shall we keep in rounding?" "At what depth are you running?" I IIsked, "Fifteen metres." Keep a good kilometer away," I replied, cautiously. The submarine rose to the surface every now 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 periscopc. 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 back, Bising 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 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 deposit me on the bunk the other side of the cabin. And now, my fine 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," he shouted at Lang. "Then will you kindly lift me into a more suitable position for conversation?" TIle German strode over to him and jerked him into an upright position.' Who are you P" 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 the 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 journalist, eh?" "My friends make that claim for me, I be- lieve." The German laughed contemptuously. You- are a clumsy liar," he said, with your imaginary Herr Simpson and your imaginary mislaid letter." "They were imaginary then?" laughed Lang. "Well, 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?" Beally now, isn't your question a little indelicate?" When did you hear of our attempt?" "I have 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 us?" That will come in it; own good time, my friend, and after' the enlightening the awaken- tug,, oar ystlier the slumbering." There was -&r' a menace in his tone even more than In his words that left one in little doubt of the meaning of that phras3 the slumbering He strode over to the levers, and the sub- 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 friendship in the making between the two nations! Suppose an accident occurring to a French ship, the explosion 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 free his hand? We were now close on to the fleets, pro- bably amongst them. Since the last ascent to the surface we had been moving very slowly and cautieusly. We stopped. Near the navigating apparatus were an electric accumulator-box and coils upon coils 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 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 hand steal over the bunk, clutch the flask tha had been flung carelessly on to it by the officer, and return swiftly into shadow. Thar a gentle gurgling sound came to me under the throb of the engines—the gurgling sound of a liquid being pourei slowly out of a nar- row-necked vessel. Lang was emptying the contents of the flask down behind the back of the bunk! 11 A faint disagreeable odour came over tfr me, came stronger and stronger, and in a flash there crossed my mind the memory of that nauseating gulp of liquid that Lang bad proffered me on board the motor-boat. Wha, was it Lang had said?—"Patent new petrol" —" Specially volatile, "Carbon bi-sul- phide." My pulses danced hot as a glimpse of his desperate scheme came to me. The odour was becoming stronger and stronger, over- powering it seemed to me in the narrow con- fined space of that cabin, and I marvelled 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 caine to a stop. A pressure on the battery key, and the wires would convey their deadly message to the mine. The officer turned to Lang, and an exul- tant sneer was in his voice as he said: "In ten seconds' time the French flagship will have a gaping hole in her side, my fine 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?" "My reason is that there will first be a 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 Hauibov/Iine? And the cause?" The V-.erinan seemed to become aware for the first time of the powerful odour filling the narrow cabin, and his face suddenly blanched. "I am now about to repeat the incident by smashing the electric light lamp above me with my bead," w.ent on Lang, coolly, his hands behind his back, still apparently bound. i But the German had whipped out a re- volver, and was covering him with the barrel. Lang did not stir. D "A revolver-flash will serve equally well for the ignition of the mixture in I this cabin," he said. Then the German dashed down his revolver with an oath, and turning, switched off the electric light with a jerk. The cabin was I plunged in darkness. But the after-glow of an extinguished elec- trie lamp lasts for an appreciable fraction of time, and by it I saw the German snatch up a sailor's knife lying on a bracket and rush with it towards Lang. An instant later the journalist, one hand free, flung himself from off the bunk under the table in the centre of the cabin. As the German, blind with rage, rushed forward to the bunk, Lang tripped him up j with his free hand, and in the swift, horrible struggle that ensued in the darkness, I heard the$nap of a broken bone, and a shrill scream of pain from the German. Then the engine-room door crashed open, and a sailor, amazed to find, the cabin in darkness, rushed to the electric switch and j turned up the light < Lang was lying on top of the German, pin- ( ning him down. 'J, sheer weight, and with the knife in his lr-ff at the officer's neck. "Out of the ci-.lsitt!" he called out to the man. "Or thir. knife goes straight into your officer's throat!" The man hesitated for a second, then The man hesitated for a second, then obeyed. Matters were no v.- plain sailing. Quickly Lang cut thro,i,b *• cords that bound up his right arm u;id the cords that bound his lags togethor, and then pickins; up the re- I volver fro-m the floor where the German had thrown it, he was master of the situation. Bolting the engine-room door, he quickly cut through the twin electric wires that led out so the mine, and releasing myself, i hand. bw tee knif* as a weapon. Then through (.iiie speaking-tube: "I want one man to come in here and navi- gate. There- will be no harm done to him. II Unless this order is obeyed, I; will leave you locked in the engine-room and sink the 3ub- marine I It was a bluffing 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, 30 that the ever-present danger of an accidental ex- plosion of the petrol and carbon bi-sulphide 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 I Lang, pointing to the broken limb. "I did not altogether waste those weary I months in Tokyo." he replied. Jju-jihm is ¡ well worth the learning." Then turning to the seaman he asked, in German: "Where is 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 event? there were no further electrical connections to be seen. "Then I think, that having drawn their fangs we might leave them to return and make their report to their masters," said Lang to me. "Will you go up the ladder, please, and get the Berthon collapsible ready for us 1" What a blessed relief 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 first faint light of dawn. "All readý 1" I ea|led down to Lang, and he came up quickly, the revolver in one hand. "If. you will take the oars," he said, "I will kesp my revolver ready for possible treachery." I bent to the oafs and had soon put a com- fortable distance' between ourselves and the submarine. "Now for the all-night telegraph-office!" I cried light-heartedly, thinking of the fine journalistic splash our adventure would make. But Allington Lang looked at me queerly for a moment. "I 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 thrash of a screw across the waters, and the low, black, vicious-looking form of a destroyer came in sight. "II Hey I" cried Lang at the top of his voice our, it did not seem to attract atten- tion. Then he fired fh" revolver in the air, and destroyer swung quickly round to- Vftriif U.S. HV, flat the tfevil's the matter?" called out a e. „• ifches for the Vice Admiral!" re- pEe, i Ling.






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