“Don’t listen to anything, Geraldine,” he begged her. “They will nearly all be saved. Can’t you hear the sirens already? There are plenty of ships coming up. Remember, we can’t go down so long as we keep hold here.”
“But you’ve no lifebelt on,” she faltered.
“I don’t need it,” he assured her. “I can keep afloat perfectly well. You’re not cold?”
“No,” she gasped, “but I feel so low down. The sky seems suddenly further away. Oh, if some one would come!”
There were sirens now, and plenty of them, close at hand. Out of the mist they saw a great black hull looming.
“They’re here all right!” he cried. “Courage, Geraldine! It’s only another five minutes.”
Thirty miles an hour into a fog of mist, with the spray falling like a fountain and the hiss of the seawater like devil’s music in their ears. Then the haze lifted like the curtain before the stage of a theatre, and rolled away into the dim distance. An officer stood by Conyers’ side.
“Hospital ship Princess Hilda just torpedoed by a submarine, sir. They’re picking up the survivors already. We’re right into ’em sir.”
Even as he spoke, the moonlight shone down. There were two trawlers and a patrol boat in sight, and twenty or thirty boats rowing to the scene of the disaster. Suddenly there was a shout.
“Submarine on the port bow!”
They swung around. The sea seemed churned into a mass of soapy foam. Conyers gripped the rail in front of him. The orders had scarcely left his lips before the guns were thundering out. The covered-in structure on the lower deck blazed with an unexpected light. The gun below swung slowly downwards, moved by some unseen instrument. Columns of spray leapt into the air, the roar of the guns was deafening. Then there was another shout—a hoarse yell of excitement. Barely a hundred yards away, the submarine, wobbling strangely, appeared on the surface. An officer in the stern held up the white flag.
“We are sinking!” he shouted. “We surrender!”
For a single second Conyers hesitated. Then he looked downwards. The corpse of a woman went floating by; a child, tied on to a table, was bobbing against the side. The red fires flashed before his eyes; the thunder of his voice broke the momentary stillness. In obedience to his command, the guns belched out a level line of flame,—there was nothing more left of the submarine, or of the men clinging on to it like flies. Conyers watched them disappear without the slightest change of expression.
“Hell’s the only place for them!” he muttered. “Send out the boats, Johnson, and cruise around. There may be something else left to be picked up.”
The word of command was passed forward and immediately a boat was lowered.
“A man and a woman clinging to a table, sir,” an officer reported to Conyers. “We’re bringing them on board.”