The submarine rocked, dipped, and seemed about to sink. The helm of the destroyer was changed instantly and she shot straight for her quarry.
“She’ll sink her! She’s going down!” yelled Al Torrance, clinging to a stay beside Whistler, as the cutter bobbed through the rather choppy seas.
But the Germans had no desire for a glorious death. Up went the white flag, and the men on her deck put up their hands, signifying that they had surrendered. Probably they were already crying “Kamerad!”
The destroyer did not even drop a boat to send aboard a crew. She steamed right up beside the submarine, put out a ladder for her captain, and then sent a hawser aboard for the German crew to fasten. She would tow her prize to port without risking any of her own crew aboard the wabbly undersea boat.
When the cutter drew near, her ship’s company cheered and jeered the bluejackets on the destroyer with good-natured enthusiasm. The destroyer was then steaming away with the U-boat in tow.
“Something’s fouled your patent log!” yelled one seaman aboard the cutter.
“Hey, there, garby!” shouted another. “What’s that the cat brought in?”
The crew of the destroyer, evidently mightily swelled with pride, refused to reply to these scoffing remarks.
As long as the twilight held the cutter steamed into the east and south. By dark the destroyer and her tow were out of sight. The cutter began to burn occasional lights. Then the wireless chattered again.
“Hurrah, boys!” whispered Whistler to his three mates. “I believe the Kennebunk is near.”
Nor was he mistaken in this supposition. The night was dark, the stars were overcast, merely a fitful light played upon the surface of the sea.
The horizon ahead was quite indistinguishable from the water itself. But at last a faint glowing point appeared upon it. Ensign MacMasters and the commander of the cutter showed excitement as they watched this spot through their night glasses.
“Is it a star?” asked Frenchy.
“A star your grandmother!” snorted Torry. “That’s a ship.”
“A big steamship under forced draft,” added Whistler. “And I believe it is the Kennebunk.”
It was the glow above her smokestacks that they saw. Within half an hour the fact that a huge steam craft was storming across the cutter’s course could not be doubted.
Mr. MacMasters gave some sharp orders to his men. The latter had nothing with them but the water-shrunk garments they stood in; so it took but a moment for Mr. Mudge to line them up properly along the rail.
The great battleship began to slow down when the cutter was at least three miles from her. Otherwise she would have passed, and the revenue craft would have been a long time catching up.
The cutter was run in to the side of the towering hull of the superdreadnaught. The port ladder was down. A number of the watch on deck were strung along the rail, and the officers did not forbid their cheering the members of the wrecked tender’s crew.