The wireless was snapping. Messages were being sent out announcing the sinking of the U-boat and warning other craft, especially merchant vessels, of the possibility of other undersea boats being in the vicinity.
It was proved, at least, that the Germans had sent more submarines to this side of the ocean. The visit of the Deutschland and of U-53 to America before the United States got into the war, had been in the nature of a warning as to what the Hun could really do. Now perhaps a squadron of U-boats was to be sent across to prey upon American shipping or to shell helpless seaboard towns.
The two younger Seacove boys, who had come so near committing a huge piece of folly by their small practical joke, slipped down to the lower deck again to recover Frenchy’s knife. If it should be found by the master-at-arms, or was handed to him, it would go into the lucky bag; and then Frenchy would have to explain how he lost it in that unused compartment of the ship if he wished to get back the knife again.
Just as they got to the passage abaft the compartment in question, Ikey uttered a warning “hist!” and drew Frenchy back. Somebody was coming out of the room in which they built the dummy that had so fooled the ship’s company.
“Who is it?” gasped Michael.
“Oi, oi!” murmured Ikey, peering again, “It’s Seven Knott.”
“Shucks! I’m not afraid of him,” said Frenchy stepping forth into the passage. The next moment he cried out: “What’s the matter, Hansie?”
The petty officer was plainly frightened. He turned with rolling eyes and a pasty countenance to the two boys.
“What you seen?” demanded Ikey, likewise disturbed by the petty officer’s appearance.
“No—nothin’,” murmured the frightened Seven Knott. “But—but it’s a ghost.”
“What’s a ghost?” demanded the boys together, and although they did not believe in ghosts, they could not help being shaken a bit by Seven Knott’s earnestness.
“It’s what I heard,” whispered the older man, still trembling.
“Oi, oi!” exclaimed Ikey Rosenmeyer suddenly. “Was it a clock ticking?”
“That’s it! That’s what it sounded like. But there’s no clock there,” the boatswain’s mate said. “I couldn’t find anything. It’s all about you—in the air! I tell you it’s a ghost, a ghost-clock. ’The death watch.’ They say you hear it on board a ship when she’s doomed to sink. Something bad is going to happen to the Kennebunk,” finished Seven Knott earnestly.
“Crickey!” cried Frenchy under his breath. “Something bad just happened to that German U-boat. Maybe this death watch you talk about was counting out the submarine, not the battleship.”
But Hertig was not to be easily pacified. He was superstitious anyway. He believed that he could not be drowned himself, for instance, because he had been born with a caul over his face.
Frenchy went into the room, presumably to listen for the “tick-tock” sound; but actually to find his knife. He came out with the latter in his pocket; but he also showed a rather pale face and he had not much to say until Seven Knott went away.