John Dudley Frazer was used to such peremptory summonses, and was sitting in the armchair facing his chief long before the latter gentleman had conceived any plan of campaign. I have already notified Ian Graham. She is no longer on our books. She is working for the American people, but we are largely responsible, and, anyway, the American counter service isn't in thorough working order yet, and we have got to get her out.
The last time I came away from Germany I was chased by our destroyers and about twenty thousand motor boats. No, John Dudley, I am afraid you have got to take the risk. Besides," he added callously, "it is jolly good practice for the destroyers. That evening the messroom of H.
Commander Smith swung up to the cramped space of the little bridge, and took his place by the side of the officer of the watch. The dusk was falling, and the eastern skies were grape-blue, but due southward, clearly visible against the seas, which were streaked with purple shadows, was a white, feathery speck—a frothy, white feather which seemed to be floating in a swift current. The bow gun of the destroyer lifted its grim nose slowly as though scenting its quarry, then—. The first shell dropped beyond the distant submarine, the second fell short—she was well and truly straddled.
Two great fountains sprang from the sea to the left and right of a fast-vanishing submarine—the feather was gone now and in its place a thin foam. There she is! On board submarine Z1 a philosophical young-man took a last backward glance through the periscope before all vision was blotted out by a dark swirl of water. He was a tall, good looking young man with fiery red hair, and a complexion like red sandstone. He wore the uniform of the British navy and on his breast was a string of ribbons which began with the blue ribbon of the Victoria Cross—for this adventure occurred in the silly days when the ribbon of the naval V.
He looked down at his companion, a young man in a grey tweed overcoat of smart cut, who sat on a stool, thoughtfully peeling an apple with a silver-bladed pocket-knife. It's a thousand pities we can't take him into our confidence. Who was the artist? He turned to a sub. The submarine rolled from one side to the other, dipped and pitched like a trawler in a heavy sea, and then rolled and pitched together. I'll bet they've got a beastly seaplane upstairs looking for us.
East-north-east, Mr Clark. Both motors full speed, and the Lord ha' mercy on us. We're all right now. Due east, Mr Clark, and cancel all prayer meetings aft. John Dudley Frazer took a pencil from his pocket and marked a dot midway down the Schleswig coast.
He made his way to the berth in the forward battery with the decision of one who was well acquainted with the little ship—as indeed he was. He was accompanied by a sweating soldier in soiled field grey, who carried that mean-looking handbag without which no German officer's kit is complete. A lounging group of naval and military officers watched him as he strode in at the door he stopped to click his heels and salute the company. Who is he? Captain von Sonnenberg booked his room, and with his soldier orderly made his way along the Ringstrasse to the office of the Police Councillor.
He was in the presence of a social inferior, but apparently the name and style he announced demanded an attitude of reverence. He took a notebook from his pocket, and turned the pages with a display of furtiveness which suggested that the book held great and terrible secrets. I see you know him," said the officer testily. We have reason to believe that he is in Germany all the time.
Now, listen attentively, Herr Polizeirat Weber. We have reason to suspect that the man John Dudley Fraser is in Germany or coming to Germany at this moment. We also believe—and, thunder-and- lightning, have we not reason? There are secrets which may not be whispered. Come here.
He led the way to the big window, half-covered with blue paint, that looked out on to the Kaiserstrasse. He dogged me—me. Adolph von Sonnenberg, who it is said, has eyes in the back of his head! The Police Councillor fixed his glasses. He saw a young man of a not disagreeable cast of countenance, and turned, his hand raised to strike the bell on his table, when the officer caught his wrist. You must not think, my little pigeon," said the Hauptmann, suddenly affable.
You have a prisoner here named Brice or Klebber. She has a secret to impart—you understand—which concerns the Witten family; that is the family of my exalted master. You are, I say, a Bavarian. We can trust you. It was due to our master's influence that you were promoted from your office in Munich. If I go to these Prussian swine——". The police officer smiled pleasantly. There never was a Bavarian who did not loathe a Prussian, and he was no exception.
It was also true that he owed his promotion to the whim of the Regent who was now King. Would it be presumptuous to ask what is the secret. Ah, Excellency, forgive me, I see that it would. Police-Councillor Weber drew a long breath. He felt that he was standing very near to the heart of great matters of State. Overwhelmed by the consciousness of his privilege he could only nod. Look outside and see if that infernal servant of mine is listening. He is a shrewd rascal. But the shrewd rascal was standing stiffly to attention gazing blankly through the open door of the outer office.
From this he extracted a heavy sheet of paper, again magnificently headed. There were a few lines of typewriting and a sprawling signature, "Leopold. She may answer or not as she thinks fit. There was a shuffling sound in the outer offices.hotsisychin.ml
The Secret Service Submarine A Story of the Present War
He leapt to the door and tore it open. But the stolid-faced young Prussian was standing to attention, and as attentively staring through the open doorway. I am nervous—look, is that man still where he was? Watch that man, Weber—you will see him again. And now, as to the girl? But she will not talk. We have tried in every way.
Still—you may persuade her. The Police Chief took two printed forms from a locked drawer, filled in the blanks, and signed them. She is in the little gaol on the Holtenau Road. It was observed by a policeman standing on duty outside the Deutsche Bank in Ringstrasse this evidence he gave later before a commission of enquiry that the officer and the soldier were followed at a respectful distance by a man who was not afterwards seen.
It is on evidence that the Hauptmann von Sonnenberg was admitted through the western gate of the Holtenau Gaol, and that he was within the precincts of the gaol for half an hour. Ten minutes after he entered the mysterious man who had been shadowing him rang the electric bell by the side of the wicket gate, and was also admitted.
Certain events transpired which are best described by the principal actor. The police on duty in the vicinity of the gaol heard a succession of heavy explosions, and made their way with all speed in the direction of the sound. As they came to the wicket door it was opened, and an officer staggered out, supported by a nurse.
His face and uniform were covered with blood. As he came out the door closed behind him. The police officers crowded round him, and, though Captain von Sonnenberg was evidently seriously injured, he managed to gasp—"Quick, to the eastern gate. The prisoner has escaped! He leant against the wall, watching with half-closed eyes the men disappearing round the angle of the building.
The nurse, gripping his arm, looked up into his face. Chuck away that Red Cross apron I put on you and jump for that car. He indicated a little car which stood by the side of the deserted side-walk. Five minutes later, when the police returned from their fruitless effort to obtain admission by the eastern gate which had been closed for years , officer and nurse had disappeared.
A dozen searchlights pierced the darkness of the Schleswig coast, that night.
A score of motor boats and destroyers searched in vain for a small collapsible boat which had been seen to steal away from the shore in the first hours of darkness, containing a man and a woman. But whilst the lights waved and probed the black night, Submarine Z1 , with both motors going, was heading steadily westward at a depth of ninety feet, and the sound of distant depth bombs brought joy to the soul of Lieut.
Ian Graham. The girl sat on one of the lockers looking with interest at the young man who had risked so much, and Ian, free for a moment from the cares of navigation, was the third member of the audience. I reckoned that the staff of the gaol was twenty. There was also a guard of four soldiers. But, Ian, if you had ever been into a big German pill box with fifty hairy Germans for a garrison you would know how effective is the little Mills bomb when properly applied. Man, they were scared sick. I practically walked out of the gate unmolested. You see, it was easy to get a disguise for Miss Brice.
Any white apron with a red cross will transform the most human woman into something angelic. The blood and the nurse I knew would get me through the biggest crowd. It was rather a close call—the fight in the gaol. Weber had sent a police agent to shadow me, and he showed fight. It was very horrid, but very necessary.
I commandeered him—such is the compelling quality of a captain of Bavarian infantry—he was most useful. He was my cachet and passport. A solitary officer might have excited suspicion, but an officer with a puddin'-faced attendant was obviously the real thing. You wait till that blood-thirsty devil in command of the Kallimachus catches sight of us! John Dudley Frazer had been ushered into the big panelled room of the Minister of Intelligence, who rose with outstretched hand to greet the most trusted of his subordinates.
I have been into Germany, and I have collected the reports of the agents, which I suppose you received by telegram. I sent them off us soon as I landed. He is hungry, he is tobacco-less, he is wearing paper clothing—his cupidity must be colossal. It is a little village on the Baltic, and is chiefly interesting, from my point of view, because the private wire from the Great Headquarters of the German army to the headquarters of the German navy at Wilhelmshaven passes through.
I don't suppose half-a-dozen people in Germany are aware of the fact that amongst the dozen or so wires that sweep past that village is one which connects the Kaiser with his fleet. I found it out by accident some months ago, and now when I go to Germany, if I can spare the time, I make a trip to Stemburg to hear how things are going in the field. You can tap the wire six miles east of the village if you are careful. At this point it runs through a cutting in the wood which is usually deserted except for a couple of hours in the day, when it is patrolled by the rural police.
Mostly they referred to matters which are of no very great interest, promotions, requests that various officers should carry out certain duties, but after about an hour's listening I heard this message. We have a similar quantity, but we are not sure whether this is the best method. Wilhelmshaven replied, 'Small picket posts about two feet long with their tops painted red, yellow, and green. Heaven knows, they have some weird equipment, and probably they also have red, green, and yellow painted picket, posts. Graham picked me up off the Schleswig coast as usual, and we were coming gaily along on the surface, when we sighted a German destroyer, and sent her a wireless in the German naval code.
Her answer to that was to open fire, and immediately afterwards we caught her wireless message, which was wholly unintelligible to us. We didn't wait for her, but Graham froze down, and we submerged P. He dropped a few depth charges to speed us on our way, but none of them were anywhere near us. As soon as it got dark Graham came to the top.
We were then about forty miles from the English coast. We put up our aerials, and began to receive the usual German messages. I say they were the usual, but I mean they were very unusual. Some of them I could read quite plainly, but none of the messages that we understood referred to the movement of ships. He told me he had taken several wires from German ships, but none that he could understand.
I must notify the Admiralty at once," he said. I wouldn't have left if I had known about the code. I nearly stayed to discover what the pegs and the ribbons signified, but in my judgment the change of code makes it absolutely necessary that somebody should go back right away. An hour later he was speeding northward by special train. Submarine Z1 lay by her parent ship, and the commander of submarine Z1 was standing upon the turreted superstructure of the long grim craft consulting his watch when Frazer's boat pulled alongside.
The change has been made in a hurry, too. The people here fished up a drowned submarine four days ago and recovered the code-book intact, and the change had not been made then. What are you going to do? He was referring to the German submarine which on three recent occasions had narrowly missed putting an end to the career of the Secret Service boat.
It is commanded by Lt. Koos, who has apparently promised the naval staff, that he will put an end to our traffic. It was known at Headquarters that Frazer maintained establishments as far apart as Breslau is from Bremen, and that in a dozen towns and villages he was known under some name or other, had a little circle of unsuspecting acquaintances, with whom he would sit in the evenings drinking his beer and playing skat. In one town he was known as a traveller. In another he was suspected of being a German police official.
The mineral springs that made this town a fashionable spa resort in the 19th Century ran dry in The train from Cologne had come in and passed on toward the Dutch frontier when Frazer, with a battered grip in his hand, walked briskly from the direction of the station, along Hagsche Strasse, turned into the Lindenallee, passed the Tiergarten, and presently came to an ornate block of apartment buildings. He opened the outer door with its iron grill and thick glass panels, mounted two flights of stairs, and knocked at a door.
The door was opened by a girl, and for a moment the two stared at one another. He judged her to be about twenty-three, and she was undoubtedly pretty. Her white hands, her trim coiffure, the general stateliness of poise contrasted with the check apron she wore. Now Frazer had not expected to meet a beautiful young woman in his flat. He had left it in charge of Martha, and Martha was short, stout, asthmatic and was delightfully deaf.
I hope you don't mind, but my aunt was very ill, and she did not like to leave your apartment without a caretaker. She knows that you might arrive at any moment. He invited her to the meal. At first she was reluctant, but this reluctance he overcame, and they talked on a variety of subjects until, with a glance at the clock, the girl rose. He heard her patter along the passage, heard her door open and close, and the snap of the key. Then he went to his own room, which opened off the sitting-room, but he did not go to bed. He extinguished the light, changed his boots for soft felt slippers, pulled up a chair so that he secured through the open door a view, not only of a part of the dining-room, but of the door leading to the passage where Minna's room was situated.
It was half past twelve when he heard the faint click of a key being turned in a lock. From beneath the closed door leading to the passage he caught the flash of a light. Presently the door opened, the rays from an electric hand-lamp illuminated one corner of the table and the back of a chair, and in its reflected light he caught a glimpse of a figure. The girl was fully dressed, wearing a long, dark travelling coat. She stepped noiselessly across the room to the door opening upon the hall, and her hand was on the knob when Frazer switched on the light.
She looked round with a startled expression. It is the conventional, polite address which one uses to one's equals and superiors of the opposite sex. It is not respectable. She waited a moment irresolutely, then turned and walked to the door. In two strides he was at her side. Firmly he swung her back to the room, shut the door, and locked it. She retreated to the other side of the table, and looked at him with eyes which for the first time showed a sign of fear. Give it to me," he said sternly.
Without a word she removed the thin gold chain and handed it to him. At its end dangled a flat silver locket the size of a shilling. I knew you for what you were the moment I saw you. I presume they suspected me, removed the unfortunate Martha, and left you to give word of my return, and when you went to the telephone you intended putting through a trunk call.
To Cologne? Her lips curled in a sneer. They sat facing one another—Frazer's revolver before him. He took out his gold case absent-mindedly, extracted a cigarette, lit it, closed the case, and was putting it back when he stopped himself. I have come to Germany to secure a copy of the new naval code. I suppose it's the soldier-blood in me. My father commands the 94th Brigade, and I feel as he felt when war broke out and he invaded a new country and followed the red ribbon.
When we invade a new country like Belgium or like Roumania we put red ribbons along the telegraph lines from pole to pole on the roads where the infantry must march, and yellow ribbons on the roads where the artillery go. You see, all except the one I chose, are drugged. She half-rose to her feet, but his hand shot across the table, and pressed her back to the chair, and she was surprised at her own weakness.
She was conscious too, of a deliciously sleepy feeling, and fought against it. He carried her to a sofa, loosened the collar at her throat, and laid her down. He went into his room and found a pillow, which he pushed under her head. She was sleeping now. He looked at his watch. It was one o'clock. From his grip he took no more than a small flask. He changed his slippers for shoes, and throwing his overcoat over his arm he opened the door, and made his way into the black night. He was opposite the Kirchhof when he heard the tramp of martial feet and drew into the shadow.
He watched a detachment of soldiers swinging past in the direction he had left. He had not made his escape too soon, for in the wake of the soldiers he discerned the helmeted figures of three policemen. He was still tied to Cleve, however. Not until two o'clock could he take his departure. He made his way by a circuitous route to the north of the town, reached a little wood, sat down, and waited.
When the phosphorescent hands of the clock pointed to a quarter to two he took a small electric lamp from his pocket, to which was attached a tiny Morse sounder. He tested the battery, and the lamp emitted a green glow. Five minutes later he heard the drone of an aeroplane overhead. It was the British machine he had arranged should fly over Cleve every morning until further orders, and his little electric lamp began flashing out his message to the skies.
Presently it was finished and a flicker of light in the sky where the invisible aeroplane circled, told him that he had been understood. The lamp he stowed away in his pocket. Groping about in the bushes he discovered the motor-bicycle which had brought him to Cleve; he had timed his arrival to coincide with the arrival of the train, and a few minutes later he was buzzing northward along the hilly road which follows the Dutch frontier. Koos, commanding U received in common with other U-boat and destroyer commanders an order to remain at "the alert.
Dudley alias Smidt will attempt leave Frisian coast this morning by motor boat. He must be arrested or destroyed. Submarines will remain submerged, and a careful watch will be kept through the periscope. Destroyers will open fire at once, the motor boat being very fast and likely to elude pursuit. Koos saw a large motor boat which was evidently in difficulties, and still remaining submerged, he moved in its direction. In an incredibly short space of time the hatch was opened, the forward gun breeched and loaded, and the collapsible boat was put away.
Frazer accepted his capture philosophically. He stepped up on to the whaleback hull of the German submarine and faced its commander. So we haf you, my friend! For a long time I have waited for you. A promise I made to the Great Staff, and now I haf you. Have you ever heard of a Q-boat? The German followed the direction of his outstretched finger and stepped back with a gasp. There had come into view not fifty yards distant a long, grey periscope, and the commander knew that hidden torpedo tubes were aimed straight at the vitals of his craft. Though they had searched him carefully on reaching the submarine a Browning was in Frazer's hand, and its muzzle was pointed to the commander's belt.
Then up to view came the hull of Z1 , the water streaming from her grey sides and Lieutenant Captain Koos, recognising his helplessness, put up his hands. It was not until the British bluejackets were aboard and the crew of the German submarine were mustered aft under the guns of Z1 that Commander Koos remembered something and went white, but Frazer was already in the interior of the German vessel breaking open lockers, examining papers and books, and presently he reappeared on the deck, his arms filled with the interesting literature.
There was a blur of smoke on the horizon and quickly the documents were transferred to the British craft, and she backed away. The motor-boat will hold your crew until you are picked up. He uttered a sharp, rapid warning, which reached the ears of the furthermost and the dullest man, and instantly the sea was filled with swimming figures making for the motor-boat. The last man had reached the grey launch as the Z1 began to submerge.
There was a moment's silence, and then a hideous roar, as the Z1 's torpedo struck the German submarine amidships. With a glance to see if the German crew were safe and another glance southward to the approaching German destroyers Frazer gave the order:—. When Graham came forward to the officers' quarters Frazer was writing the telegram which he would despatch immediately on his arrival in England, and in that laconic narrative was revealed something of his method and that system of organisation of which he was a master.
I have every reason to believe, as reported to liaison aeroplane at Cleve on the 4th instant, an invasion of Britain is contemplated. My object in going to Cleve was to arouse suspicion. I had intended telephoning the Cologne police that I was in the country, in order that a vigilant watch should be kept on the coast, more especially by the Commander of U I left the German Coast at 3 a.
I then cruised about in the motor boat in the hope of being sighted by U, which I knew to be in the neighbourhood. I was followed by Z1 at a distance. I have got an idea that they have a remarkable plan this time. THE little party which gathered about the big library table of Sir Walter Herbert, Minister of Intelligence, did not include a single figure with which the average Briton would be familiar.
Yet these chiefs of departments—they included an old friend of ours in Major Haynes—were discussing the fate of the kingdom and possibly that of the empire. The date of that attempt is unknown. The method by which it will he carried into effect is unknown. Obviously the Hun is playing for a big stake, and just as obviously we must take counter-measures without disturbing the fleet.
The ships will wait with steam up probably far from land. They will provide against the reconnaissance of our light cruisers by filling the seas with submarines. In fact," he smiled, "it's going to be a bit of a job to get back, and Graham is by no means pleased with the prospect of our next little trip. Our coast defence craft may do all that is necessary in the shape of keeping the Huns at bay and yet allow two or three thousand men to land. Those two or three thousand may be destroyed and still the moral damage may be done. He knows the whole machinery of German officialdom.
I suppose you are already at work on the things? That's excellent. As to the—things," he smiled at the mystery, "they were finished this morning. I brought one here to show you. The case was stamped in gold with a "W" and an Imperial Crown, and inside, lying in its bed of white satin, was a neat iron cross, differing only from the iron cross of reality in respect of its ribbon, which was of fine wire woven in the conventional black and white pattern.
Graham is waiting for me, his tin fish quivering with excitement. They shook hands with him and watched him depart, a trim, straight figure, wholly debonair and careless, yet with the fate of forty million people upon his shoulders. For reasons which need not be explained, at the moment the Z1 pursued an erratic course to the east, and a worried Graham standing by his gyroscopic compass, with all his tanks trimmed for diving at the first alarm, heartily cursed the ingenuity of his friend.
Fortunately it was a calm night, and the sky was brilliant with stars. Only once had the Z1 to dive and that to avoid a German patrol boat off the Frisian Islands. But even that experience was the reverse to pleasant, for as they lay doggo on the floor of the sea they heard the distant thud of a depth bomb, and knew that they had been sighted. Mr Jackson," he instructed his subordinate. You can hear a spanner dropped on the floor two miles away, and that distinctly.
They sat in dead silence for a quarter of an hour, then suddenly overhead, and against the outer skin of the submarine, they heard a dull, scraping noise, aa if a chain were being dragged over the submarine bark. They waited tensely for a quarter of an hour, but the sound was not repeated, nor did the expected crash of a depth charge shake the little vessel. Graham was listening intently at a small apparatus which looked like a telephone. Two earpieces were clamped to his head and he was listening with closed eyes. Five minutes later the Z1 also was under way, and when a little before the dawn her periscope nosed cautiously above the grey seas there was not a ship in sight.
When the eastern skies grew pale he straightened his ship and sent her forward at full speed. Unless they have laid a few more eggs in these waters we ought to be in a fairly clear channel. As the sun rose he stopped his engines. He was now to the south of the famous island, and he began a careful scrutiny of the seas, but more particularly towards the mainland. Frater looked. Clearly discernible against the low-lying foreshore were line upon line of curiously assorted ships.
There's the Grier , the Falke —what's that fellow with the three masts? I think. There's the Gefion leading the third line. Graham shook his head, and turned again to the telescopic sight of the periscope. He looked long and earnestly, and at last he whistled. I don't recognise her.
Clipper-bowed, she looks like a yacht. Protected by those mines, the German convoys will steam straight for England. Probably something of the same sort will happen farther south. The sooner I land you with your bag o' tricks the better. Violate the territory of an outraged neutral or walk through the new minefield? By the time he had reported the occurrence to his superiors Frazer had landed, carrying a small black bag which was remarkably heavy. None questioned Mr Frazer when he slung his bag at the foot of the decrepit porter at the Hotel Alberti, which is situated opposite to the Bremen railway station, or doubted his bona fides when he signed with a flourish in the visitors' book and upon the police identification leaflet the good old name of Schmidt.
He was a hydraulic engineer, and he had come to Bremen after a painful journey in connection with certain dredging operations which were being conducted on the River Weser. He had all his food cards, his bread, fat, sugar, milk, and potato tickets, he had his passports which he had already shown at the police office in the Rathaus .
He had a draft of credit on the Disconto-Gesellschaft —in fact, he was as well-equipped a traveller as had ever entered the portals of the Alberti. Founded in , merged with the Deutsche Bank in Bremen in ordinary times is a most prosperous town, a town of bustle and noise, of thronged streets and restless traffic. This cursed war! Bremen is ruined, Herr Schmidt. Oh, if only the English Navy was at the bottom of the sea!
What good has Russia done us if we have not the sea? Answer me that. Where are all the beautiful ships that used to come into Bremen from New York? They are in the hands of the pig-dog Americans, and are carrying troops for them. Bremen is finished. We shall all be ruined. Why, most of the great merchants here are already bankrupt, Herr Schmidt. All the big hotels are in the hands of receivers. You are the first not officially dressed civilian I have seen for a month. There are plenty of officers and plenty of sailors, but they have no money.
Secret weld: How shoddy parts disabled a $ billion submarine
But," he brightened visibly, and struck the side of his large nose with his forefinger, "much may happen soon, Herr Schmidt. I could say many things, for I am well thought of by the officers. Perhaps next week we shall have glorious news. He went for a little walk on the afternoon of his arrival, and passing through the Marktplatz he paused to survey the big Gothic Rathaus.
He stood idly, in an attitude which is peculiar to the idler, with one hand clasping a lamp-post. Had the policeman been suspicious and followed him, using his eyes the while, he would have noticed that where Mr Schmidt's hand had touched the lamp-post he had left a little green gummed wafer, the size of a sixpence affixed to the fluted column. After a while he walked back to his hotel, and dropped another green wafer by the side of the steps which led up to the lobby.
Then he went to his room, and was reported by the aged chamber maid to be deeply immersed in books of a scientific character. He was sipping a cup of Ersatz coffee without sugar or milk when the porter knocked at his door. Herr Water-Work Inspector Keller was a man of middle age, with a long melancholy beard, and he carried under his arm a black portfolio. They bowed to each other three times, little rapid bows, which exactly indicated the equality of their social stations.
Herr Keller and sit down," said Herr Schmidt. This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps as most of these works have been housed in our most impor This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.
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Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. He was a naval officer, you will remember, and, though a distinguished one, was as young gentlemen in that Service usually are in both age and inclination. They're as true as steel; I can answer for them. They will be of tremendous help. A minute or two afterwards the girls came in. Doris, as I have already explained, was as pretty as Venus, Cleopatra, and Gertie Millar all in one, and she only beat Marjorie by a short head.
All the other girls I've ever met were simply "also ran. Marjorie's hair was black. She was a brunette with olive-coloured skin and green eyes, like very dark, clear emeralds. She was extraordinarily lovely. Indeed, all three of us had seriously considered starting a picture postcard firm, with the girls as models and I to manage it, so that Doris and I could get married and have Marjorie to live with us.
Rather a good scheme, only it would have needed at least two hundred pounds capital, which we hadn't got! Doris had on her engagement ring, which she generally wore on a string round her neck, underneath her blouse. I had put thirty shillings each way on "Baby Mine" for the Grand National and it had come off—hence the ring. Little Lockhart gasped. To think that I have lived in this house with young John Carey for so long, the house honeycombed with secret wires, and an illicit engagement in progress under my nose, and I knew nothing of it! Lockhart," Marjorie said.
Cook is out for the evening. Amy is in the plot. We've got soup—only tinned, but quite nice; there's a round of cold beef; and we will make an omelette on John's fire.
What is Kobo Super Points?
I'm afraid my arm was round her waist and I had forgotten Lockhart. Lockhart here revealed qualities of an unsuspected nature—I had never really appreciated Lockhart until the night before. I will go and fetch them to grace this feast. I have never been one of those people who kiss and tell, so I will pass over the next minute; but after some business of no importance, she put her hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the face.
I can feel it—and something has happened, too, that I have got to tell you about. Before the Doctor left this morning, he told Marjorie that Mr. Jones had fallen in love with her and that she would have to marry him after the war was over, when he has straightened out his business affairs. I thought you said you rather liked him? You know I had breakfast with the Doctor? Something to do with your brother—I am certain of it. But why do you object to Mr. Jones for Marjorie? Jones had a million a minute and was the last man left on earth after a second flood, she would rather spend her life in the garden eating worms than marry him!
Anyone else in the wind? We live as prisoners here, as you very well know, Johnny, and if it were not for you I should long ago have jumped into Thirty Main Creek and ended it all. I held her close to me. Somehow or other, we shall be able to be married soon, and then you need never see Morstone or the Doctor any more. He has been worse lately, John, far worse. Gaunt has been put to watch us like a spy. I can't tell whether he suspects anything about you and me. He may or may not. At any rate, there is something going on which frightens me. I've no doubt you will think me quite hysterical, quite foolish, and I feel it rather than know it, but I am frightened.
Only this morning, the Doctor said things to dear Marjorie which were awful. He caught her by the arm and twisted it when she defied him, and his voice was so ugly and cruel, it seemed so inhuman, that I felt as if someone had put ice to the back of my neck. Oh, take me away soon, take Marjorie away too! She clung to me in a passion of appeal, and then and there I resolved that, come what might, we would marry and leave this ill-omened and mysterious place.
But it wasn't, it was only Lockhart, who knocked at the door loudly and waited for several seconds before coming in with his contribution to the dinner. I was just the least bit in the world offended, not seeing why I should not hurry up the truants, especially as I was extremely hungry again; but they came at last, carrying two piled trays of provisions. I had never seen Marjorie look prettier. Her eyes were brighter than ever, and she showed not the slightest trace of unhappiness.
Obviously, she had quite forgotten the events of the morning. I cannot tell you what fun the dinner was. The soup was top-hole—mock turtle, and one of Elizabeth Lazenby's finest efforts. Bernard and Marjorie made the omelette over my fire, while the rest of us sat waiting and Lockhart and I smoked a cigarette. Marjorie ordered my brother about most unmercifully. Suddenly, it was nearing a critical moment and both of them were crouching over the pan, I happened to turn my eyes in their direction. They were not looking at the omelette at all.
They were looking at each other and their faces were almost solemn. Then it burst upon me and I fear I was indiscreet. I said aloud: "The very thing! Oh, my holy aunt, the very thing! She understood at once. Girls are so quick, aren't they? When we had eaten the omelette and the round of cold beef had "ebbed some," as I once heard a Rhodes' Scholar say at Oxford, my brother rose, glass in hand. I had dined in the wardroom with Bernard when he was on board the Terrific , and I knew what to do.
Somehow it altered the mood of each individual. A gravity fell upon us, not sadness or boredom, but we stopped to think, as it were. Only two hundred miles away, over the marshes and over the sea, the great German battleships were waiting. Nearer than Penzance is to London, the armies of England at that moment were shivering in the trenches round Ostend. And in Morstone House School—what was there that hung undefined, but heavy and secret, like a miasma upon the air?
It is a bracelet, a little affair of turquoises and pearls, to commemorate our meeting and in the hope that you will always be a good girl and love your brother-in-law. Poor Doris, and Marjorie too, were not in the way of getting many presents. Upjelly saw to that! My brother put his hand in his pocket, and then into another pocket, finally into a third. He hesitated, he stammered, and looked positively frightened.
It was the first and last time I ever saw the old sport thoroughly done in. I remember now I left the case on my dressing-room table at the Morstone Arms. Anything to be out of school at night! I will ring for him. Certainly I should like to send for the bracelet, and if you don't keep Whale Island discipline aboard, it's not my affair. I rang for Dickson max. He arrived, knocked at the door, stepped in, and then his eyes grew very round indeed, but he said not a word. I told him what was wanted and asked him if he would go.
It'll keep you as warm as toast. Of course Dickson max. But the opportunity of wearing the ulster of a Wing-Commander of Submarines, who had been wounded off Heligoland, was too much for the youthful mind. He flushed with pleasure, and I won't swear that, as he went out into the passage, he didn't salute. I went downstairs with him, helped him on with the big coat—he was the same height as Bernard and much the same figure—and pressed the heather-mixture shooting hat on his head.
When I got back there was a curious silence. Somehow or other we none of us seemed to know what to say. I can't account for it, but there it was. It was then that my brother came in and I found a side of him I had only suspected but never seen before. Leaning forward in his chair, he began to talk very quietly, but with great earnestness. I saw what he was up to. He was leading the conversation very near home indeed. It was astonishing how he dominated us all, how we hung on his words and how the sense of sinister surroundings grew and grew as he spoke.
It was the girls who responded. The skill with which he introduced the subject was enormous, but they were marvellously "quick in the uptake. You have turned our thoughts into a new channel.
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She was wearing a blouse with loose sleeves, ending in some filmy lace. Suddenly, with her right hand, she pulled up the left-arm sleeve. There were three dark purple marks upon her white arm. Speak without fear! Then Bernard, in crisp, low sentences, told the girls and Lockhart exactly what he believed. The wind howled outside and hissing drops of rain fell upon the window-pane. The fire crackled on the hearth, the smoke of our cigarettes rose in grey spirals in the pleasant, lamp-lit room. It was a strange night, how fraught with consequences to England, the two beautiful girls, the little cripple, the third-rate schoolmaster, and even the young naval officer himself, did not know!
There is in existence, our Intelligence Department has had indubitable evidence of it, a King of Spies, so subtle of brain, so fertile in resource, that, even now, we cannot find him. We do not know for certain, but it is rumoured that this man's real name is Graf Botho von Vedal, though what name he passes under now none can say.
The name was familiar. My sister and I speak German as well as we speak English, you know. We all knew that name. The papers had been full of it at the beginning of the war. Kiderlen-Waechter was the chief of the German Submarine Flotillas. It was owing to his ingenuity and resource that ship after ship of our gallant Navy had been torpedoed, even in the Straits of Dover themselves.
For, unless I am much mistaken—of course, I may easily be mistaken—the gentleman who drove away with Doctor Upjelly to London this morning is that very man. The two were looking at each other very strangely when there was a knock at the door. It opened and Dickson max. I looked up sharply. There was something unusual in the lad's voice. He caught hold of the back of Lockhart's chair and swayed as he stood. Then we saw that beneath the upturned collar of the overcoat one cheek was all red and bleeding.
There was a line across it like the cut from a knife. I turned round, and just as I did so there was a noise like a banjo string, and something went past my head singing like a wasp. Then I found my cheek all cut. Then I pulled out my electric torch, and, sticking in the trunk of a tree, I found this. The boy unbuttoned his coat and held out a long, slim shaft. It was an arrow, such as is used in archery competitions, but the edge had been filed sharp. I bent over him and forced some wine between his lips. Bernard looked round the room with a set, stern face. It divides itself into three parts quite naturally, as I think my readers will agree when they have read it all.
At any rate, on this night was formed that oddly assorted, but famous, companionship which led to such great results. We swore no oaths, we made no protestations. There was no need for that. Doctor Upjelly returned on the afternoon of the third day after he left for London. Directly I heard his trap drive away and knew that he was in his study, I went into his house and knocked at the door.
He started. I distinctly saw him start and he flashed a quick look at me. One might almost have thought that he was frightened, but he swallowed something in his throat and his voice was calm and cold as ever when he answered. There was a momentary silence. I could almost have sworn it was one of relief on the big man's part.
He got out of his window on the very night you went. We did not discover it until the next morning. We scoured the country round, thinking it was merely a mischievous escapade, but found no traces of him. I then thought it my duty to acquaint his father at once, so I went to Norwich on my bicycle during the afternoon of the day after the discovery. To my immense surprise, I found the boy there. He had walked to Heacham station and taken the train. He stated that he was tired of school and it was his intention to enlist.
His father seemed to concur in the view after we had had a long talk together. Of course, I endeavoured to get the boy back, for the sake of the school, but it was useless. Dickson seems a weak sort of man, and he says that he is going to do his best to get an equipment and pay what is necessary for Dickson to join the Public Schools Corps. The Doctor, who was sitting down, his hand clutching a little brown travelling-bag on the table near him, did his best to show some concern. It was poorly done, however, and I could see that he did not care a rap one way or the other. It has never happened before.
Not in the least, Mr. I am sure you acted most promptly and wisely in going at once to the boy's father. And his brother? As far as I have been able to find out, he was quite in ignorance of his brother's intentions. Of course, I am sorry to lose the boy, but I like his spirit," said Doctor Upjelly, without a gleam in his eyes or any warmth in his voice. I shook my head.
What I saw was significant. Now, indeed, the little black eyes gleamed for an instant, and the big, cruel mouth twitched—once. I felt, as surely as if I had been told, that Upjelly knew something of what had happened on the night of his departure. My brother was coming up to see me at the school during preparation and I had previously directed him to follow the short cut through the Sea Wood. It was quite dark, and as he was coming along, finding his way as well as he could, a most unprovoked attack was made upon him.
He says he heard a sort of twanging noise, unlike anything he had ever heard before. Then something struck him on the cheek, cutting it deeply. He shouted and ran about in the dark, but could hear no sound, nor could he find anyone. He arrived at the school with a bad cut on his face, bleeding profusely. I bandaged it up as well as I could, gave him a little whisky-and-water, and then accompanied him home, taking my ten-bore with me, though we went by the road.
Nothing happened, and the thing is a complete mystery. My brother is, of course, not in a very good state of health after his wound. He is confined to the inn, and will be so for some days, so I fear he will get very little shooting at present. He's afraid of the cold getting into his cheek. I could have sworn the great, fat face wrinkled with relief, and after we had discussed the incident for some little time, the Doctor advancing all sorts of ingenious theories, I turned to leave.
Just as I was going, he asked me if I were going to shoot that night. I said that I should very much like to, as the geese were working well and there were reports of many widgeon about. Still, I thought it my duty to be with my brother; so that, after preparation, I was going down to the inn and should stay there for some time.
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He swallowed the bait like a fat trout. You will certainly not be wanted here. A good idea! Why don't you get Mrs. Wordingham to put you up a bed? And, for my part, I think I shall go out and try my luck. I must see if I can't shoot for both of you and bring back a goose or two. Lockhart and I had tea with the boys as usual. There was an air of suppressed excitement in the dining-hall. The exploit of Dickson max. I had always thought that a weak spot in our plan.
If the Doctor had known anything at all about the characters of his pupils, he would have realised that where Dickson max. Fortunately the Doctor did not. At half-past eight I dressed in fowling kit, a grey sweater, a coat of nondescript colour, grey flannel trousers, and great thigh boots for the marsh. My headgear was an old, dun-coloured shooting hat, the lining of which could be pulled down to make a mask for the face, with two holes to see through; for it is essential to the wild-fowler to wear nothing too light or too dark, to show no glimpse of a pink face, because the wild goose, as even the greatest big-game hunters of the day allow, is the wariest of all created things.
Then I took my heavy ten-bore, with its dulled barrels and oxydised furniture, slipped my three-inch brass "perfects" loaded with B. It was all right. The Doctor was in his own room having supper, and Marjorie was with him. It was impossible that he could see me leave in fowling kit, and in a moment more I had wished my dear girl good-night and was out in the dark.
The wind cried in the chimneys of the old house with a strange and wailing note. The moon was not yet up, and the far-distant sea drummed like an army. As I turned towards the Sea Wood, some great night-bird passed overhead with an eerie cry, like a man in pain. For myself, my heart was beating rapidly, my teeth were set and I felt nothing of the cold. To-night, if ever, we were to discover the secret of the marshes. My brother had taken the helm of the ship, and his decks were cleared for action. His foresight and resource were admirable.
Nothing escaped him, and we were meeting the dark plot with another which allowed nothing to chance. This is what had happened. We patched up Dickson max. What he said to the lad I did not know, even now I do not know, but they came back with the boy's eyes sparkling. He walked like a man—in those ten minutes something had transformed him from a laughing schoolboy into a different being. We took him at once to the Morstone Arms, and there my brother spent a long time with Sam Wordingham and his wife. They were as true as steel, this worthy couple. They were not told everything, but it was explained to them that this was "Government business" of the highest importance, and that in the King's name they must aid Bernard in every possible way.
It did me good to see Sam's nut-brown face hardening into resolve, and the excitement in his eyes. Dickson was put to bed in an attic of the rambling old inn and the door was locked. Before it was light that morning my brother stole out, walked five miles in the opposite direction to Blankington-on-Sea, caught the fish train from a village in the neighbourhood of Cromer, and was in London at the Admiralty by mid-day.
He returned in a fast motor car that night. The car was housed in the garage of the Lieutenant of Coastguards at Cockthorpe, four miles away. It was to be ready for any emergency, and by eleven o'clock my brother was back at the Morstone Arms. On the morning of that day, I indeed went to Norwich on my snorter. She seemed to rise to the occasion, for she did the forty miles to Norwich in two hours and without any mishap.
I interviewed the Rev. Harold Dickson and swore him to secrecy, and I never saw a parson more delighted. His sons were true chips of the old block, and after lunch at the "Maiden's Head" the clergyman almost cursed his age and cloth that he was not also available for the service of his country. Finally, and this provision of my brother was extraordinarily wise, as it afterwards appeared—though he could have had no idea of what we were to discover at that moment—three of the crew of his own submarine, all recovering from wounds, but all taught and handy men, were, even now, upon their way from Harwich to lodge unobtrusively at the coastguard station at Cockthorpe, where they could await Bernard's orders.
I went through the Sea Wood, towards the inn. This was a place that had been planted to shelter the cultivated fields behind from the keen marsh winds. As one advanced into it from the coast side, the furze, among which innumerable rabbits played, gave way to elders and other hardy shrubs. It was about a quarter of a mile long and not more than two hundred yards in breadth. The timber was all stunted and bushy, the undergrowth was rank and thick. The trees led a life of conflict; they were accustomed to swing there all night long in fierce winter tempests; it was a remote and savage place, where even the pheasants of Lord Blankington hardly ever came.
I pressed through the narrow path until I came to a little open space, a cup or hollow through which a sluggish stream wound its way on to the marsh. Here, the bushes were thicker than ever and the stream widened into a pool covered with innumerable water-hen that made cheeping noises in the night. It was covered with them as I came up noiselessly; one could see the little black dots upon the livid, leaden expanse.
I sat down, looked at my watch—I had a fowlers' watch with what is called the "radium dial" that showed the time in any darkness—and found it was just half-past nine. Waiting till a gust of wind had died away, I whistled the first three bars of "It's a long way to Tipperary.
The last note had hardly shivered away when I felt a hand upon my shoulder and I jumped like a shot man. He was in a black suit. I fear it was his Sunday-best. He wore no collar and his face and hands were covered with burnt cork—a grimy, sooty apparition the young imp looked, but, nevertheless, one couldn't have seen him a yard away. The Doctor isn't such a marshman as I am, and if you come up to him like that—well, you won't have a difficult task.
You know where I and my brother will be? I gave him a pat on the back, and as I looked round he had already melted noiselessly into the dark and I was alone. In the inn I found my brother. The kitchen was full of labourers drinking their last pint before closing hour at ten. In the private bar old Pugmire was babbling over his gin, but in the sitting-room beyond, with curtains drawn, Bernard was all ready for the enterprise, dressed just as I was. I've met Dickson and he is watching the Doctor now. In about three-quarters of an hour the inn will be closed and all the men gone home.
Then we can set out. Wordingham came in with two bottles of that famous strong ale which is kept for twenty years and which is the best antidote against the cold of the marshes known to the wild-fowler—only an amateur takes spirits upon the saltings. But remember this, old soul, it is not a lark of any sort. We shall be in the gravest danger. I cannot exaggerate the importance of what we are doing. The Admiralty itself is waiting for news.
I am not dramatic in any way, Heaven knows! I believe, John, that it may well be that we two, and the others who are helping us, hold the destinies of England in our hands. God grant that we shall be successful! But there is one thing I want to say. Supposing, just supposing, that one of us does not come back to-night, and assuming it is me"—here Bernard hesitated and looked at me rather ferociously.
At a quarter past ten we slipped out of the big door of the inn, skirted the Sea Wood without entering it, and went down upon the foreshore. It is necessary that I should give you some idea of the famous Morstone marshes, and to the description I will add a rough-drawn map which will help to make things clear. If you look at the map of England, you will see Wells marked at the top right-hand corner of the Wash. Then comes a long, blank space till you get to Sheringham and finally to Cromer. Blankington-on-Sea was the next town to Wells on the west.
Then five miles east of it comes Morstone. So much for our geographical position. Looking north, there was nothing between us and Iceland; looking a little north-east, we were only three hundred miles from Cuxhaven, about three hundred and twenty miles to Heligoland, and nothing like that to the Frisian Islands just below the mouth of the Kiel Canal. So much for that, and now to be more local. From the foreshore, it was about a mile and a half over the marshes to the sea at low tide. At ordinary high tide it was about a mile.
With spring tides and a rare off-sea wind blowing due north, the marshes were covered right up to the foreshore. This happened about twice in the year, and then they were only covered for a depth of about five or six feet, if that. The foreshore, as it is called, is a somewhat misleading term. It did not in the least resemble what one generally associates with the word. It was simply a grassy bank covered with furze bushes and with a grass road going right along it.
The coarse grass sloped down till the mud was met. Now this mud was a sort of turfy peat on the surface, covered with marrum grass. One could walk on it with perfect safety, it was as hard as an ordinary field, but it was everywhere intersected with creeks of varying depth. Some of these were little runnels a foot deep, some of them had steep sides of ten or twelve feet and were crossed by narrow planks in permanent position.
The sides were of mud as black as a truffle—I have really no other simile which so exactly fits the case—and at the bottom was two or three feet of water covering softer and more dangerous mud. At high tide these deeper creeks had seven or eight feet of water in them. Then, at various points upon the marsh, were creeks which were really like tidal rivers, only that they ended at the foreshore, as a railway line ends at a terminus.
These were huge trenches, wider than the widest canal, some of them seventy or eighty yards across. The walls of mud were precipitous, twenty and even thirty feet high. The largest of these had many feet of water in them at all states of the ebb and flow, but when the tide was full they were almost brimming and could have floated a fair-sized ship. Anything more utterly desolate and forlorn, even on a bright, sunlit day, than these sullen, winding waterways, so far from the habitations of man, can hardly be conceived.
They were the haunt of innumerable fowl. Herons stood on the brink and transfixed flat-fish with their long, spear-like beaks. The wild duck gathered in the little bays and estuaries formed by their convolutions. The red-shank and the green-shank whistled over them at all hours. The two largest creeks of all were known as Garstrike and Thirty Main.
It was from the heads of these waters that the gun-punts started on their dangerous nightly mission, following this or that creek in and out, wherever there was water. Garstrike had always ten feet of water in it at low tide, but Thirty Main was the largest by far. It stretched straight away from the sea to the foreshore. There was always at least thirty feet of water in its black, evil-looking depths. At high tide, sixty would have been nearer the mark.
It wound among the marsh, the centre of endless smaller creeks which ran into it, the great ganglion of the whole system of nerves. It was the study of months to know the marsh. Death had come to many fowlers there who did not know its complexities and who omitted to carry an illuminated compass for night work. Many men had been cut off on an island of mud covered with the purple sea-thistles, the bronze-green marrum grass, and the rank vegetation of the saltings. And some had been waiting in a minor creek when the tide came fast and swift through all the intricate waterways, who were unable to climb the steep sides of slippery mud, and so met their fate.
We crossed the foreshore in a minute and a half and came down upon the mud. The frozen grass crackled under our boots like little rods of glass. The shallow pools were all frozen over as we made our way round the curving shore of Garstrike. We were on the right bank, and here and there we had to go along some of the smaller creeks that flowed into it. It is no joke to walk over a twelve-inch plank in the pitch dark with a ten-foot ditch of mud and water below. As an old marshman, I was used to it, though I had known many new-comers give these bridges a miss at the first start off.
But Bernard skipped over like a bird, and after a quarter of a mile or more of slow progress, aided by my illuminated compass and a faint, ghostly light from the rising moon, we got to the gun-pit marked upon the map. Immediately to our left was a low punt-house dug into the steep mud-bank of Garstrike and entered at the shore end by a rough ladder.
The pit was five feet deep; there was a rough board for a seat and there was about a foot of water in the bottom—rain-water, which had fallen during the last few days. This, however, was nothing, and we scrambled in and sat down. I had taken my ten-bore to the Morstone Arms, but Bernard had told me to leave it there. He had given me a heavy Service pistol, which fired ten shots in as many seconds, together with an extra clip of cartridges for the magazine. He had another in the pocket of his coat.
So we sat and waited. Bent on more pleasant business, we should have had our guns ready in our hands, waiting for the sound of birds flighting overhead as the moon rose, coming from the sand-banks out at sea inland to the stubbles. But now our ears were tuned to a different music, and I am not ashamed to say that I heard some artery within me beating like a drum. It was a solemn hour and strange indeed was the business we were upon. The whole marsh was alive with voices. There was the long, hushed roar of the sea, the fifing of the wind, and then the countless cries of the night-birds. A great heron flapped away somewhere over Thirty Main, with its hoarse "frank, frank"; there was a rustling whistle far overhead as a company of widgeon flashed by at thirty miles an hour; a paddle of duck were quacking somewhere on the other side of the creek; and then, faint at first, but growing nearer and nearer, came that sound which, to the wild-fowler, is the finest in the world and which many and many a man and woman has said to be the strangest sound in nature.
The wild geese were coming. I can never think of that sound without a tightening of the muscles, almost a lump in the throat. It is like a vast pack of ghostly hounds up in the sky, which cuts into the night like nothing else can do, and instinctively I felt for my gun.
But it was not to be that night. They passed over us not more than eighty yards high—well within the range of a heavy gun—and the noise was deafening in our ears as the great wedge-shaped formation sped by. It was the one chance of the night. No more geese worked our way, and for an hour we sat motionless, growing colder and colder, but patient still. He came out of the school with his gun and went straight on to the foreshore.
He walked for nearly a mile towards Cockthorpe. I crouched behind the furze bushes and he never saw me. He was walking very fast. He passed the head of Thirty Main and then went down on to the mud, following the bank until he came to the Hulk. The bridge was out and he went on board.
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