Drill at the guns went on daily. Once they spied and shelled a German submarine, but she escaped. This incident greatly enraged the crew of the gun that missed her. It was not the gun to the crew of which Whistler and Torry belonged.
“Can’t expect to get the Hun every time,” was the soothing remark of one of the division captains.
“Why not?” asked somebody else. “That’s what we are here for, isn’t it? I don’t believe Uncle Sam wants excuses.”
The standard the men set themselves in our Navy is higher than their officers require.
The boys from Seacove, as well as Hans Hertig and Mr. MacMasters, kept a sharp lookout for their beloved Colodia. But they were fated not to meet the destroyer until the great event which had brought the superdreadnaught into European waters.
The Kennebunk steamed into a certain roadstead one evening where lay more huge battleships, cruisers and smaller armored vessels than Whistler and his mates had ever seen before. They flew the flags of three nations, and they were prepared to move en masse upon the enemy at the briefest notice.
IN THE THICK OF THE FIGHT
The methods of strategy by which the German Navy, or a large part of it, was tolled out of its impregnable hiding place the Navy boys did not learn till long afterwards. But Phil, at least, half realized that the German High Command believed that the way to shelling the British coast by her great naval guns was at last opened.
The Allied fleet moved on a certain day and at a certain hour, and with the open sea as its destination. It was a calm and utterly peaceful sea through which the Kennebunk sailed with her sister ships.
The high bow of the superdreadnaught crashed through the seething waters. Her lookouts traced the course of each tiny blot upon the distant sea-line.
Suddenly, out of the north, appeared a scout cruiser, her funnels vomiting volumes of dense smoke that flattened down oilily upon the sea in her wake. Her stern guns spat viciously at some craft of low visibility which followed her.
Immediately everybody aboard the Kennebunk forgot the other ships of the squadron. The enemy was in sight, and the work would be cut out for every man aboard the superdreadnaught.
The cruiser came leaping toward the fleet, her signal flags fluttering messages. A gun boomed on the flagship. Bugles shrilled from every deck of the Kennebunk.
Messages were wigwagged from ship to ship. But aboard the Kennebunk there was just one order that interested every one.
“Clear decks for action!”
The divisions responded to the notes of the bugle with a snappiness that delighted the officers on the bridge. As they had gone through the manoeuvres a thousand times in practice, so now they faced the enemy with the same precision.