So it was actually a race. The cutter must reach a certain point in the open ocean to meet the superdreadnaught; if they missed her, in all probability the party from the Kennebunk would have to be returned to port and be assigned to some other duty for the time being.
“Oi, oi!” groaned Ikey when he heard Whistler’s report. “I never did have any luck. If they had delicatessen shops on board ships, I’d be made to police the pickle barrels yet.”
The day did not pass without some additional excitement. The cutter passed and signaled several Government vessels; but toward evening the lookout picked up the smoke of a small destroyer ahead which, within the next half hour, acted very strangely, indeed.
She seemed to be steaming in circles, and as the cutter raced nearer those circles narrowed. Then her guns began to pop.
The cutter’s crew and their guests became much excited. Surely the gun crews of the destroyer were not at target practice. Yet they seemed to have found a target in the middle of that circle the destroyer was furrowing through the sea.
At last they saw an answering shot fired from the midst of the circle. The destroyer was traveling at top speed and her own guns continued to keep up a wicked cannonading of the central object.
“A Hun submarine!” shouted somebody. “They’re circling it, and they are going to get it, too!”
“If it is a submarine why doesn’t she sink?” demanded Torry the sceptical.
“I see why,” Whistler said. “If the U-boat goes down the destroyer will dart in and drag depth bombs. Then—good-night!”
“Wow, wow!” cried Frenchy. “She’s so fast she can cut circles around the U-boat, eh?”
“Sure as you live!” said Torry. “My! that’s a pretty fight. If that destroyer was the old Colodia, and we were only aboard of her! What fun!”
The destroyer was narrowing her circles; the U-boat was in a pocket, and unless the Hun put a lucky shell into the destroyer’s engines, she seemed doomed to capture or destruction.
The cutter raced nearer. Her course would take her directly into the circle of battle unless her helm was changed.
UNDER SPECIAL ORDERS
It was like bombarding a whale with bomb lances. One after another the shells from the destroyer’s guns shrieked over the sea to fall around the more sluggishly manoeuvring U-boat.
The captain of the submarine handled his craft with skill; but his gunners were poor marksmen. They kept both the U-boat’s deckguns smoking; but the shots went wild.
Torpedoes could not be used against the destroyer, for the latter was steaming too swiftly. Around and around she went, and each time she finished a lap the circle had narrowed.
The spectators on the revenue cutter were highly interested. They climbed upon the upperworks and cheered and yelled in their excitement. At last a shell from the destroyer dropped fairly upon the deck of the U-boat, just abaft the conning tower.