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- The Boy Allies Under Two Flags - 4/39 -
the torpedo boats sped by without touching her. Now the Loyal launched a torpedo at the first German craft. It sped swift and true, and a moment later there was but one German left in condition to continue the fight. Thinking to avoid unnecessary loss of life, Captain Fox called upon the German to surrender. The kindly offer was rewarded with a defiant reply, and the German made another swift attack upon the Undaunted.
For a moment it seemed that a collision was unavoidable, but Captain Fox managed to get his ship out of the way just as the enemy plowed by. It was close work and required great coolness.
Meantime the Sylph was close on the heels of the other German vessel. Salvo after salvo the British poured into the apparently helpless German torpedo boat, which, however, continued its flight rather than surrender.
Frank and Jack, both happening to be on the bridge at the same moment, stood for a brief second to watch the effect of the Sylph's fire. The damage to the German had been terrific. The vessel listed badly, and seemed in imminent danger of sinking.
"By Jove!" ejaculated Jack, and would have said more but for a sudden interruption.
There was a terrific explosion on the German vessel, and as if by magic, it disappeared beneath the sea. The Sylph's battle was over.
"Get out the boats, men!" came Lord Hastings command. "It may be that we can save some of them."
Jack and Frank leaped quickly into the same boat, and a moment later were rushing to the spot where the German torpedo destroyer had disappeared. For perhaps five minutes they cruised about, unable to find a single survivor, and then both were startled by the sound of something whistling overhead.
Looking up they beheld the cause of this trouble. The last German destroyer had come almost upon them, and the British gunners, evidently not seeing the little boat, were continuing their fire at the enemy.
The lads were in imminent danger of being struck by a British shell. The German launched a torpedo, and it went skimming right by the little boat in which the boys sat.
"Quick!" cried Jack. "We must get out of here or one of those things will hit us."
The men bent to their oars; but they were not quick enough. Struck by some missile, the boat suddenly sank beneath them, and the boys found themselves in the water, swimming.
And still they were between the two fighting ships.
Looking over his shoulder, Jack could make out the Sylph, and calling to Frank to follow him, he struck out in that direction.
They swain rapidly, but seemed to make little progress. Lord Hastings, standing on the bridge of the Sylph, discovered the two forms in the water. A second boat was hastily launched, and put off toward them.
When it was within a few yards of them a fragment of a shell struck it and it also disappeared. It went to the bottom with all on board, nor did any of its ill-fated victims come to the surface again.
The two lads, now clinging to pieces of wreckage, continued at the mercy of the sea, and also in constant danger of being struck by an exploding shell, while they swam slowly toward the Sylph.
In one final despairing, attempt to sink the Undaunted, the last German destroyer launched another torpedo. By a wonderful maneuver the British cruiser again avoided the projectile, which sped on through the water.
Swimming, the boys could plainly follow its flight. As the Undaunted swung out of the way to avoid it they could see that the missile had a clear path to the Sylph.
With a gasp the boys saw the torpedo speed toward the little scout cruiser. Lord Hastings had not seen the projectile launched -- because a view of the German ship had been obstructed until the Undaunted swung out of the way -- and no effort was made to avoid it.
The torpedo crashed into the Sylph on the water line, and the explosion which followed must have torn through all the various compartments to the engine room, for there was a second loud explosion, steam leaped up on all sides of the Sylph, and when it had cleared away, there was no Sylph to be seen.
The little scout cruiser had disappeared; vanished, had been destroyed.
Of Lord Hastings and the other officers and men, the lads could see nothing.
For a moment the boys were unable to speak, so astounded were they at the suddenness of this terrible disaster.
"Great Scott!" gasped Frank at last. "Do you realize what has happened?"
Jack was more calm.
"Perfectly," he replied faintly, with a sob in his voice. "The Sylph has gone, and with her Lord Hastings and all on board -- all our friends, the only ones we have in the world."
The two boys unconsciously swam closer together.
"The fortunes of war," said Jack, more quietly now. "It is a terrible thing."
Further conversation was interrupted by the sound of another terrific explosion. Startled, the boys turned in the water just in time to see the last German destroyer disappear beneath the sea.
"Good!" exclaimed Jack, in fierce joy. "I am glad of that."
Frank also gritted his teeth, and muttered fervent congratulations to the British gunners.
And now the British ships proceeded on their course. None had been seriously damaged. They turned their backs upon the scene of the engagement and made off in the direction from which they had come.
The boys shouted loud and long for assistance; but their cries were not heard aboard the British ships of war, which, gradually gathering more headway, steamed off to the south. Not until they were almost out of sight did the lads cease their shouting, and resign themselves to their fate.
In despair, they turned to each other for comfort. Jack was first to speak.
"Well, Frank," he said quietly. "We shall soon join Lord Hastings and our other good friends in a place where there is no war and no losing of friends."
"Isn't there something we can do?" asked Frank, trembling with cold.
"I am afraid not."
There was a sudden stirring of the water beneath them. Jack cried out suddenly:
Frank had regained his coolness now.
"Probably a shark come to finish us up quickly," he replied calmly.
Both lads, with a last effort, swam desperately from the place.
But suddenly the waters of the North Sea parted, and a long, cigar-shaped object came to the top and rested lightly on the water.
"What is it?" asked Jack again in no little alarm
Before Frank could reply, a man suddenly appeared on the top of the object, apparently from nowhere, and glanced about. He espied them, and as suddenly disappeared. He reappeared almost in an instant, however, followed by another.
And now both lads discovered what the object was, an object that had arrived just in time to save them from a watery grave. They could see that the two men wore the uniform of the German navy.
The long, cigar-shaped object was a German submarine.
ABOARD THE X-9
There was a hoarse command from aboard the submarine, and a moment later a small boat floated alongside the two German officers who clambered in. Frank and Jack swam toward them as rapidly as their exhausted condition would permit.
"What are you two lads doing here in the middle of the North Sea?" asked one of the officers in great surprise, after the boys had been pulled aboard the small boat.
"We're here because our ship was sunk by one of your blamed torpedo boats," replied Jack, with some heat.
"Only one sunk?" inquired the officer in excellent English.
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