Puslapio vaizdai
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

"I tell you, with my own eyes I saw!" he expostulated, in a frenzy of exasperation. "A ship; a big ship, right back there!" pointing excitedly. "I do not see her now, no; but before God I have seen her twice this night with my own eyes! Herr Kapitän,"-turning in desperation to Koenig,-"have I sailed the seas all these years that I should at this time have visions?" And Koenig, who had known him in Atlantic passenger service as a man of extraordinarily keen sight, had enough confidence to shut down the Deutschland's engines, submerge all but the conning-tower, and lie there listening for thirty minutes.

But no sound reached them, nor did any ship materialize out of the hazy blackness.

Dawn told another story. Koenig on re-starting had kept his course, so that the lookouts on the Amphion caught the outline of the sub against a lightening horizon many minutes before those on Koenig's vessel again detected the cruiser. Once more it was Kurt who gave the warning, and this time nothing could hold him.

"There! there! Don't you see! She is following us! Ach, Gott! it is a warship! I can see-"

Those who still doubted were instantly convinced. Out of the nothingness into which the sharp-eyed Kurt was pointing came a burst of flame, and the shell, striking the water a nicely calculated twenty feet to one side of the sub, drenched them to the skin. Whatever her previous best record for submerging, the Deutschland on that occasion bettered it materially, and not one of those on deck but sustained some injury in the mad scramble to get below. Koenig, his hand covered with blood, his clothing torn, his legs quivering, stood beneath the conning-tower vilifying his enemies.


'Englisches Schwein!" he snarled. "Englisches Schwein! Gott strafe England!" And lacking all sense of humor, he set about finding fault with the marksmanship. "Incompetent fools! A German artillery student of but one year would have found me with the first shot! Verdammte Schweine!"

The great problem before him was to lose the war-ship, whatever she was, and wherever she had come from. Koenig did not think she had been following him, not for any length of time, anyway. He half doubted Kurt's phantom ship of the earlier hours, or if the man had really seen something, it must have been some other vessel crossing the Deutschland's course at an angle. That there was nothing at that time following the submarine was proved conclusively by the half-hour stop, since a ship on the same course must have caught up with him in such a period. Probably it was just a case of bull-headed English luck, and one of their cruisers had had the undeserved good fortune to be close to the Deutschland when a breaking day revealed her position. Since this explanation seemed

logical and carried a modicum of comfort, Koenig very naturally concluded it to be correct, and set about solving his difficulty.

This particular "cur" differed from the others met on previous voyages in mid-ocean. She was not of the runing breed, evidently, though probably not one whit less stupid. Hence Koenig figured that if an Englishman were in command of the Deutschland, a decided alteration of the course would be made, and therefore the fool on the cruiser would probably conclude that Koenig would likewise make such an alteration. Consequently Koenig did nothing of the sort, but held the Deutschland to the original course on which she had been running on the surface. For three solid hours he drove her at the hundred-foot level, using every ounce of power he dared. Batteries so forced throw off large volumes of very irritating gas, so that by the end of this time the men were literally gasping, and it became highly desirable to get to the surface. With almost twenty-five miles placed between the sub and the point at which the cruiser had been encountered, Koenig felt it wise to have a look around. The war-ship would doubtless be completely out of sight, though if she were still visible, a course could be set to place an effective distance between them.

So the Deutschland was run cautiously upward until fairly close to the surface; the motors were stopped, and, when the vessel was almost without motion, a very little water was forced out from the ballast-tanks. Inch by inch she rose, the movement being almost imperceptible. Koenig could take no chance; a periscope traveling through the water even at a few knots throws up a feather of spray visible at a considerable distance, whereas the tube rising without horizontal motion is very difficult to detect.

But fate was not siding with the Hun that day. No sooner was the periscope clear of the water than Koenig at its lower end detected some sort of war-vessel. His face reddened in impotent anger, and then blanched as he saw a burst of white smoke from one of her guns. The Deutschland

quivered from stem to stern as the shell burst close alongside.

"Down! down!" he shrieked. "Down if you would live! Gott! Is it that the sea is full mit diesen verdammten Kreuzern?"

Diving-rudders were thrown to their greatest angle, and the motors, spitting and smoking at their brushes, drove the Deutschland down into the safety of the deep water.

It was nine o'clock when Koenig made his forced descent, and already he had had three hours running under conditions not good for either the batteries or the crew. Now he headed the Deutschland south, and, driving her hard, kept to this course for two hours. It is probable that a species of sheer fright then overcame what remained of his judgment, for he turned almost completely around and ran madly for the American coast, in whose neutral waters he evidently hoped for sanctuary. The least consideration of the facts would have shown him the futility of this move. German-like, he had expected his superior strategy would throw off the cruiser at the very first attempt, and so there had followed the prodigal and devastating three-hour drain upon the batteries. To this he had added two hours more, though at a lesser rate, and now, at this moment, the total energy remaining could not, in any circumstances or at any speed, carry him half the distance to the coast. He was totally unaware of the true state of affairs on the surface, though he had the demoralizing conviction that some condition existed which boded ill for the vessel in his keeping.

"Let him run his own course until so far out to sea that he can't possibly double back on you," had counseled Wilson. "Keep from scaring him as long as you can; but once he sees you, let loose! Pester him! Plague him! Don't miss a chance! Shoot every time he shows his head, quick and hard! Hit him or not, as you want, that 's your business; but give him no moment's peace. That sort of thing drives a Deutscher clean off his head; he 'll do wild and crazy things. Keep him crazy, and he 'll run his

batteries out quick. But don't you forget for a minute that you 're dealing with a clever man, and if you give him half a chance to do any real thinking, there's no telling what may happen."

And in strict accordance Everett played his hand. Koenig's batteries showed marked signs of weakness by noon. At four o'clock he attempted to emerge, he had been down ten hours, and clearly divining the move, the Amphion ran up to within a furlong of the spot. The periscope was barely above water when machine-guns and the lighter batteries opened upon it in a vicious roar, and the entire top of the instrument was shot away. Koenig dived. He had a second periscope, it is true, but he dared not risk it at that moment. He knew what had hit him, though the blow had come so quickly that he had not even seen the cruiser.

All night long he ran submerged, his speed dropping lower and lower as the batteries approached exhaustion. All night long the Amphion followed, relentless, inexorable, running close up now, so as to take no slightest chance.

Down in a perfect hell, strangling, gasping, suffocating, half of Koenig's crew lay unconscious, while the rest, their hands clutching their throats, and their eyes bulging, fought against the terrible choking death which already stretched forth a clawlike hand.

In the last few hours of darkness they once more approached the surface, but the periscope was scarcely up before its delicate lenses and prisms were shattered into a thousand pieces, leaving the sub utterly blind. She submerged again, but this time so slowly that the movement told its own vivid story. The hunt was almost over.

DAY came at last. A bitter, penetrating wind whipped the drizzling rain into the faces of the watchers. It was Everett who first saw the Deutschland's periscopes, one broken stump and then the other. Then came the conning-tower hatch, and then slowly, very slowly, the conning-tower itself. Inch by inch she rose, until the whole of her deck was above water. The action was so deliberate and so unmis

takably significant that the Amphion witheld all fire. She merely pulled over a little closer and waited. Slowly the hatch was opened, and there emerged, evidently at great physical effort, the figure of Kurt, he of the clear vision. Above his head he held a soiled white handkerchief.

Koenig, a broken and crushed man, was assisted aboard the cruiser with the utmost difficulty. As he came over the rail, a seaman supporting him on each side, he saw and stared at the apparatus in the war-ship's bow.

"Our deep-sea fishing outfit," smilingly explained Everett. "The reel is a little large, of course, but then it has to hold such a long, strong line."

Koenig, uncomprehending, glared in silence.

"Our fish is still on the hook, so to speak. If you could follow the 'line' over our bow and down through the water, you'd find the far end firmly attached to the Deutschland's keel."

"Ach, Gott! that is fool's talk! Not one minute before sailing I passed a hand-line under her."

"Yes, I know; but one minute was all we needed."

Gradually the light broke in upon the slow-moving German mind. He turned upon Everett like a savage dog. "Gott!" he cursed-"Gott strafe England!" Then as in quick succession he recalled the bothersome newspaper man, the alleged press tug, the electric sign, the telegram, the blowing of the siren, and the following out to sea, and as the significance of the whole thing. dawned upon him, he raised his two clenched fists to heaven.

"Amerika! Amerika!" he cried. "Gott -strafe-Amerika!"

Back in Providence, Rhode Island, in the bleak, desolate office of the Providence "Ledger," a nondescript man in nondescript clothes sat silently contemplating a half-sheet of note-paper. It was a wireless message, in from the seven seas and caught by a suitcase outfit which boasted no Federal license. From time to time the man smiled, just a little ghost of a smile, such as might be warranted when, looking back upon an arduous labor, one knows his effort has not been in vain.

Our Erratic Idealism


"The trouble with the American reformer, as has often been said, is that he has more energy than reason; and this is because he incarnates the instinctive, irrational will of which I have been writing. The trouble with the American materialist is that he has kept his common sense while losing his vision.”

But it can

S American idealism a virtue, a disease, or an illusion? The question cannot be answered in an essay. It is like the inquiry with which Tennyson threatened the flower in the crannied wall-what man is, and what God is? be turned and twisted; it can be made ready for answering. The writer, and perhaps the reader, can seek an answer to it; and that is better than the inner feeling of many an American just now, who, weary of five years of idealistic oratory, profoundly believes that American idealism is first of all a nuisance.

Yet it was never so easy to make a case for the virtue of idealism as in retrospect of the years 1914-18. What many have never grasped in the confusion of the times is that exactly the same idealistic prime motive made us join hearts from the first with Great Britian and France, kept us out of war for two years and a half, and brought us in on that April of 1917. There is always a complex of motives behind every war, but there is also, with few exceptions, a primum mobile, and with us it was the distrust, the fear, the hatred that were the reactions of our idealism against arbitrary violence. The invasion of Belgium settled our will for Belgium and her allies. Our distrust of war, especially European

war, as a means by which we could bring about justice and peace kept us out of the struggle despite clamorous, and perhaps far-sighted, minorities. Our final conviction that violence was a fire loose in the world, which must be stamped out, drove us from easy neutrality into war. And if in the last of these three stages dread of the future and the need of immediate self-defense had their large part, they did no more than sharpen the angle of our resolve. Idealism kept us out of war, and idealism drove us into it.

The fume and spume of idealism is oratory, sermonizing, talk about morality, duty, patriotism, rights, and noble purposes. All such gushing rhetoric is no more the thing itself than foam is the ocean. But, like smoke, there is seldom much of it without cause. Men and women who were abroad in 1918 must reflect curiously on the, shall we say, wearisome prevalence of the moralistic, idealistic note in American speech and writing in contrast to its restraint and frequent absence in France and England. When an Englishman orated upon the war to stop war he was usually talking for American consumption. This does not mean that Great Britian and France were sordid, we sincere; on the contrary, it is proof of a tincture of the sentimental in our idealism, to which I shall later return. But it is

« AnkstesnisTęsti »