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- The Boy Allies with Uncle Sams Cruisers - 6/34 -


"We didn't try, madam," said the captain. "We fired those guns to notify the Pioneer we had encountered the raider."

"Well, why didn't you shoot at her?" demanded Mrs. Wheaton.

Captain Stoneman was about to make an angry retort, but restrained himself with a visible effort.

The raider's boat scraped alongside the Algonquin.

"Throw down a ladder here," said a voice in English, though with a heavy German accent.

Captain Stoneman growled ominously, but he ordered the command obeyed. A moment later a German naval officer appeared on deck. He was closely followed by half a dozen other figures. The officer approached Captain Stoneman.

"You are the commander of this vessel?" he asked.

"I am," was the reply. "What of it?"

"You'd best keep a civil tongue in your head," said the German. "What's your destination, and the nature of your cargo?"

"Buenos Ayres; oil," growled the captain, answering both questions briefly.

"Good!" said the German. "We are in need of oil." He turned to one of his men. "Below with you," he said. "Take three men and unloosen a hundred barrels of oil. I'll send a boat after them."

The man saluted and went below, followed by several of his companions. The German officer turned again to Captain Stoneman.

"You and your men, and these two ladies," he indicated Mrs. Wheaton and her daughter, "will be prisoners aboard the Vaterland. Captain Koenig will make you as comfortable as possible."

"Thanks," said Captain Stoneman briefly." I know enough about you Germans and what to expect."

"Silence!" thundered the German, "or I shall have you placed in irons."

Captain Stoneman shrugged his shoulders, but he held his tongue.

Now, for the first time, the German officer appeared to notice that Jack and Frank were not members of the Algonquin crew. He motioned them to approach.

"You are passengers?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," said Jack.

The German took a quick step forward as he noticed the little emblem on Jack's coat. He glanced at Frank and saw one there, too. He tapped the one that Jack wore with his finger.

"Where did you get that?" he asked sharply.

"Where could I get it but in one place?" was Jack's reply.

"You are no German," said the officer.

"I was not born in Germany, it is true," said Jack, "but my ancestors were. I am what some people are pleased to call a German-American."

"Good!" exclaimed the German officer. "But what are you doing here?"

"That," said Jack, "is rather a long story and one that I am commanded to tell to Captain Koenig."

The German officer hesitated.

"You come together?" he asked at length, indicating Frank.

"Yes," said Jack.

"Well," said the German, "you will realize that I must be careful. I must see if you are armed."

He examined the lads' clothing carefully.

"You will follow me," he said a few moments later.

The crew of the Algonquin, meantime, was being transferred to the Vaterland. Jack and Frank found themselves in the last boatload to go.

Aboard the Vaterland, as the two lads followed their captor to the cabin of the German commander, Frank saw the disgust in the eyes of Elizabeth Wheaton as he passed her. It was plain that she, at least, took him for what he represented himself to be to the German officer.

"Oh, well," said the lad, as he walked along, "it cannot be helped."

Captain Koenig asked the lads several sharp questions which apparently satisfied him that they were what they claimed to be.

"But I cannot land you yet," he said.

"Any time within the month will do, Captain," said Jack. "We still have a little time. We do not need to reach New York until two days before the meeting. You can set us ashore some place in time enough for us to get there."

"I'll do better than that," said the captain. "I'll set you ashore on the coast of Florida three weeks from today."

"Good!" said Jack.

"Now," said the captain, "if you care to accompany me on deck, you shall see the last of the ship that carried you here."

The lads followed the captain on deck. The latter summoned his first officer.

"Fuses all set?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. The explosion should occur within one minute."

All turned their eyes to the abandoned Alqonquin.

Suddenly there was a terrible explosion. A sheet of flame sprang from the doomed vessel. She seemed to leap high in the sky, then settled down in two pieces. A moment later she disappeared from sight.

"You shall pay for that, Captain Koenig!" said Jack to himself, between clenched teeth.

CHAPTER VI

RECONNOITERING

Jack and Frank leaned against the lifelines, gazing over the stem of the Vaterland as the vessel's triple screws drove her ahead. Jack's eyes were fixed thoughtfully upon the strong if crudely constructed turret on the after deck, from which protruded the glistening nose of an 8-inch gun. His gaze wandered forward past the rakish stacks to the light bridge which spanned the Vaterland's beam. Mounted on the bridge, in addition to the two naval telescopes, were four rapid-fire guns, each capable of spitting bullets at the rate of five hundred a minute, though, sheltered as they were under the tarpaulins, they looked harmless enough.

Frank regarded Jack curiously.

"What's on your mind?" he asked.

"I was thinking," said Jack slowly, "that if I could get my hands on one of those machine guns on the bridge, these Germans would wish they were home in the Kiel Canal."

"You mean?" said Frank.

"I mean that if I had five minutes to man one of those rapid-firers up yonder I could rake this ship from stem to stern. There'd be a few less Germans in this world before they got me. Anyway, it's a point worth remembering."

Frank nodded his head.

"It certainly is," he replied.

Jack resumed his study of the big ship.

Half way up each mast he saw the round-covered dots which denoted the powerful searchlights, and from the tops of the thin masts sagged the wireless aerials. Immediately under the bridge and sheltered somewhat by it was the wireless room. The entire ship, even to the rifle barrels, was painted the dead, neutral gray which is known as "war color."

Frank followed the direction of Jack's gaze.

"They are well prepared, aren't they?" he said.

"They certainly are," declared Jack.

"Well," said Frank, "we must remember that we are to do nothing yet. The time will come, though, and it is as well to know beforehand what we will have to contend with."

"Exactly," said Jack. "That's why I am trying to impress all these things on my memory."

"Come," said Frank, "we'll interview the captain."

Jack followed his friend to the captain's cabin. The captain expressed much pleasure at seeing them.

"How goes everything this morning, Captain?" asked Frank.

"Good!" was the response. "What can I do for you?"

"We've just been looking about the Vaterland," said Jack in German.


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