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- The Boy Scounts on a Submarine - 20/24 -
think that was insubordination. I knew the Colonel wanted them. He was so careful of them."
"All right," said the Colonel. "What happened then?"
"Why, the Firefly rolled around for a minute and then she went down. Say, Colonel, were you ever on a sinking ship? We got sucked right in with her. I thought we never would come up. I got out first, and I didn't see Beany, and Gee! I was never so seared in my life. I was just thinking about diving for him when he popped up all out of breath, same as I was. We had to float awhile, we were so used up. Then we happened to look up. We hadn't said a word yet, and there was that submarine. It had come up on the other side of us, between us and where the ship had been. So we couldn't get around to where you must have been in the boats. There was a man on the little top deck place, and he had a boat hook, and first I knew he was sticking for me with that boat hook, just as though I was, somebody's hat lost overboard. He didn't care whether he stuck his old hook into a meat boy or not. I saw he wanted us anyhow; so I said, 'Come on!' to Beany, and swum up the side of the submarine, and clambered onto the little deck, and Beany followed. Mr. Boy-sticker grunted something at us, and shoved us down the little steep ladder, and there we were in the inside of that submarine!
"The boy-sticker shoved us over to a table, and there was an officer sitting with a bottle and glass, and a small chunk of a sort of black bread."
"That stuff is made of sawdust and oatmeal, I'll bet," said Beany. "It was worse than we would give the pigs!"
"Well," said Porky, "we stood where we had been shoved, and pretty soon the officer looked up, and the boy-sticker commenced to talk to him in German.
"The officer commenced to look real bright and interested. He said, 'Goot! Goot!' three or four times, and then he said something to us in German. I shook my head, and he tried French. He said, 'Parley voos Frongsay?' and I said, 'Wee wee!' and Beany he butted in and said, 'Better not be so fresh with your wees unless he's got a dictionary to lend you,' and the officer jumped and said, 'Himmel! Where have you come from?' in just as good English as that. We both said Syracuse; and he laughed, and said, 'What a small world! Why, I went to Syracuse University!'
"You would never think a guy that had chances in a real country like ours would act like he did. He kept us standing there, and he asked us all about everything back home, and just as we thought he was getting real friendly he said cool as anything, 'We saved you because we are short handed. Do as you are told. Obey. It's your one chance. We will shoot you, no doubt, when we get to port.'
"Wasn't that nice and encouraging," asked Beany of the attentive audience. "They made us take off all our clothes and put on those old things that had belonged to the two fellows who had died. And then we went to work. Well, he set me to fixing up the little bunk place he slept in, when he did sleep. The rest of us just laid down anywhere. There's not a lot of room in a submarine."
"Yes, and first thing," said Beany, "Porky was wigwagging me to be careful what I did, and to try to keep the Captain from looking."
"Yes, because what do you think I had found? A wad of papers that looked like plans just lying around on his locker, and a whole row of bottles. Medicines I suppose, and one of them said Anesthetique, and I made up my mind that was dope."
"The next thing happened, he set me to oiling up the torpedoes. Gee, it made me so mad to see those great smooth things lying there on their shelves ready to roll into the tubes and be shot at some good American ship! All at once it came to me what to do if I could work it. So I took that knife Mr. Leffingwell gave me, the one with a whole tool-chest in it, and I opened it behind my hand, and found a dandy screw-driver. Then I took a look over the torpedo I was fussing with, and I saw it steered by its tail. I knew it must be carefully adjust, and I sort of memorized where all the screws were."
"They can remember anything," said Colonel Bright to Captain Greene. "Go on!"
"Well, sir, that night I went to sleep, or pretended to, right under the torpedo shelves, and when I heard everybody snore, I went to work, and twisted all those screws a little."
The Captain burst out into a roar of laughter.
"Well, son," cried Captain Greene, "it certainly worked! Could you see the result of your scheme?"
"No, sir, we couldn't see a thing. But I thought it must have worked because--well, I felt it must!
"Then everybody in the boat seemed to be mad at everybody else; and everything they said sounded as though they were threatening each other. Once the Captain laughed when the boy-sticker man said something to me, and he said,
"'Do you know what he said?' And I said no; and the Captain said, 'Well, it's too bad you never learned German! He was telling you just what he intends to do to you as soon as I give him leave. He's a faithful soul, is Heinrich, and he wants you for his very own.'
"I said, 'Well, what you going to do about it? I guess it made me sort of mad to have him sit there and poke fun at me. He looked at me a minute, and then he up and shied his glass at me. It was a big heavy glass, but he was a little full as usual, and didn't aim very well."
"It took him on the side of the head, just the same," said Beany.
"Well, anyhow," continued Porky, "he looked at me and he said, 'When you speak to me say Sir or next time I'll kill you.' Porky grinned. "He looked as though he meant it, too."
"You bet he meant it!" said Beany. "He was just aching to shoot us through the torpedo tube, the way they always get rid of dead ones. Gee, I was seared to death for Porky. That Captain seemed to pick on Porky, and he mixed us so, us looking just alike, that he put a white band around my arm, so he could tell which wasn't Porky."
"Well, I guess you don't want to hear all this junk," said Porky.
"We want every bit of it," said Captain Greene.
"Tell them about the fight they had," said Beany, shifting his bandaged hand.
"We saw one thing right off," said Porky. "The Captain was the whole push, just as if he was king. He sat there with a big revolver beside him on the table, and I can tell you he didn't trust his own shadow. The way Beany, and I doped it out, he was running in hard luck. He had been sent out to sink a certain number of ships before he could report, and all he had torpedoed was just the Firefly. Grub was getting low, two of his men were dead, and another one was curled up on the locker sicker than a pup. Once in awhile the Captain would look at him, and say to us in English, 'About twenty-four hours more, eh? Then he goes through the tube.'"
"He just didn't have any heart at all," shuddered Beany. "Of course that was why they didn't kill us; they couldn't run the boat and tend to the torpedoes and the periscope and the engines all at once in a case of a fight, with three men short. And then they had to fight."
"Tell us about that," said Colonel Bright.
"I don't know when it was," said Porky. "Night and day was all alike down there, but there was one big yellow-haired fellow that ran the engine. He had been ordered to show me about it; and, say, I will say I can run a submarine now. It was what you call intensive training. When I was slow, he gave me a clip on the head. He could just do anything with machinery. But they certainly have got that submarine engine perfected so it will do everything but talk. Any child could run it as soon as he learned the different levers. I don't believe we have anything like it; but we can have now because there's the pattern outside there. You didn't shell it, did you?"
"Certainly not," said Captain Greene. "It is in charge of a picked crew of our men right outside."
"Well, don't let 'em take her down until I get a chance to show them how she works. There is just one lever that controls the diving gear, and that is hidden, so you can't find it if you don't know about it. I came near turning the old thing over. I got beaten up that trip."
"Get to the fight," said Beany.
"The engineer was nutty. He talked all the time and muttered to himself, and it got on the Captain's nerves or what he had left of them. He stared at the engineer half the time; and that made Louie peevish, I suppose. He took it out on me more or less--kept me sweating over that engine every minute he was awake. He wanted a drink too. It was sort of raw the way that Captain would sit there and guzzle and never give the others a bit of it. Louie would watch and watch and swallow hard; and the Captain would watch him back again and grin. hey were just like a lot of savage dogs."
"Well, they didn't have enough to eat, to begin with," said Beany, "and then the air was so bad, and they were all cooped up in that little space, and you couldn't hear any outside noises at all. You don't know how funny that is.
"They took our watches, so we couldn't tell the time, and, honest, I thought we must have been there a month. And they all knew that something pretty fierce would happen to them it they went back home without sinking the ships that had been required of them. They have it all down to a system.
"Well, pretty soon Louie took to leaving me with the engine, and
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