By this they had passed Nagara, and turning due south were rushing past the big fort of Kosi Kale. For the moment the tempest of shell had died away behind them.
‘I told you so,’ said Roy jubilantly. ’They’ve chucked it. If we don’t whack into a beastly mine we shall get clear.’
Indeed, it almost seemed as though he was right. The firing slackened, then stopped completely, and the launch, still untouched, sped through the gloom. Her crew, almost unable to credit such amazing luck, stood about the decks staring out into the darkness, occasionally exchanging a word or two in low voices.
‘We’re in the Narrows,’ said Ken. ’See that luminous patch over to the left. That’s Chanak.’
‘Almost the same spot where the trawlers were scuppered,’ answered Roy.
’Just so. If Fort Hamidieh doesn’t open out, we ought really to be all right. We shall be in broader waters.’ He took out his watch and glanced at its luminous dial.
‘In three minutes we shall know one way or the other,’ he added.
For the next hundred and eighty seconds there was no sound but the steady swish of the bow wave and the beat of the powerful engines.
Ken shut his watch with a snap.
‘All right. We’re past.’
The words were not out of his mouth before there came a ringing report, and a shell, screaming through the air, smacked into the water about a length astern.
‘A twelve-pounder!’ said Ken sharply, as he turned. ‘Ah!’ as a blaze of light sprang out about half a mile aft, ’that’s why they stopped firing. There’s a destroyer after us.’
IN THE NICK OF TIME
Ken was right. That was why the firing had stopped. A destroyer, which must have been lying in some cove up the Straits, had been summoned by wireless to take revenge on the bold intruder. She was now dashing headlong in pursuit.
Roy stared at the dull white glare which came momentarily nearer.
‘Rotten luck!’ he observed disgustedly. ’None of the “conquering hero” in ours, I’m afraid, old man.’
‘Afraid not,’ Ken answered resignedly. ’The brute’s got the legs of us, and it’ll only take one o’ those twelve-pounders to settle our hash. Still, it’s no use crying till we’re hurt, and the Turks ain’t the best gunners in the world.’
‘Crash!’ Another shell screamed out of the mist.
‘Nearer!’ said Roy grimly, as the ugly missile fell alongside, sending up a fountain of brine.
‘Watch her, doing the outside edge!’ he continued, as the launch curved swiftly to port. ’That’ll throw ’em off their shooting. Ah, I told you so’—as the third shell went wide.
‘We can’t shoot back,’ growled Dimmock. ’That’s the worst of these rotten little bow guns.’
‘No, it’s simply a matter of running and dodging,’ said Ken, and turning went back to where his father was standing.