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Dave Darrin and the German Submarines
Making a Clean-up of the Hun Sea Monsters
H. Irving Hancock
CHAPTER I—ON THE SEA PATROL
CHAPTER II—THE MEETING WITH A PIRATE
CHAPTER III—QUICK “DOINGS” OVER THE SHOAL
CHAPTER IV—THE TRAIL TO STRANGE NEWS
CHAPTER V—DAVE TALKS OUT IN COUNCIL
CHAPTER VI—THE GLOW-WORM OF THE SEA
CHAPTER VII—DARRIN HAS A SPY SCARE
CHAPTER VIII—THE BATTLE FOR THE TROOPSHIP FLEET
CHAPTER IX—WHEN THE ENEMY SCORED
CHAPTER X—THE HOTTEST WORK OF ALL
CHAPTER XI—A TRAP AND ITS PREY
CHAPTER XII—DAVE HUNTS A BIGGER FIGHT
CHAPTER XIII—A BATTLE TRY-OUT FOR SOULS
CHAPTER XIV—TEAM WORK BETWEEN SKY AND WATER
CHAPTER XV—DAN’S TURN TO GRIN
CHAPTER XVI—ABOARD THE MYSTERY SHIP
CHAPTER XVII—THE HUMOROUS ADVENTURE
CHAPTER XVIII—DANNY GRIN PROVES HIS METTLE
CHAPTER XIX—A GERMAN VIEW OF SUBMARINES
CHAPTER XX—DAN STALKS A CAUTIOUS ENEMY
CHAPTER XXI—THE S. O. S. FROM THE “GRISWOLD”
CHAPTER XXII—DAVE’S NIGHT OF AGONY
CHAPTER XXIII—THE FIGHT TO BRING BELLE BACK
A folded piece of paper.
“Anything sighted?” called Lieutenant-Commander Dave Darrin as he stepped briskly from the little chart-room back of the wheel-house and turned his face toward the bridge.
“Nothing, sir, all afternoon,” responded Lieutenant Dan Dalzell from the bridge.
Dave ran lightly up the steps, returning, as he reached the bridge, the salutes of Dalzell, executive officer, and of Ensign Phelps, officer of the deck.
“It’s been a dull afternoon, then?” queried Darrin, his eyes viewing the sea, whose waters rose and fell in gentle swells.
No land was in sight from the bridge of the United States torpedo boat destroyer, “John J. Logan,” which was moving at cruising speed westerly from the coast of Ireland. The course lay through the “Danger Zone” created by the presence of unknown numbers of hidden German submarines.
For a winter day the weather had been warm. Forward the two men of the bow watch and the crews of the rapid-fire guns had removed their coats and had left them below.
Though there was neither enemy nor friendly craft in sight, Darrin noted with swift if silent approval that there was no evidence of lax watch. At port and starboard, amidships, there were men on watch, as also at the stern. Members of gun-crews lounged close to their stations, to which additional men could be summoned in a flash. Aft, also, two men stood by the device from which it might be necessary, at any instant, to drop a depth bomb.
Trained down to the last point of condition by constant work, these officers and men of the torpedo boat destroyer made one think of hard, lean hunting dogs, which, in human guise, they really were. Not only had toil brought this about but sleep was something of a luxury aboard the “Logan.” On a cruise these men of Admiral Speare’s fleet of destroyers slept with their clothes on, the same rule applying to the officers.
Dave Darrin had slept in the chart-room for three hours this afternoon, following eighteen hours of duty on deck.
“Any wireless messages worth reading?” was Darrin’s next question.
“None intended for us, sir, and none others of startling nature, sir,” replied Ensign Phelps, handing his superior a loose-leaf note-book. “I think you saw the last one, sir, and since that came in there were none important enough to be filed.”
Dave read the uppermost message, nodded, then handed back the book.
For the next ten minutes Darrin scanned through his glasses, the surface of the sea in all directions.
“I’d like to bag an enemy before supper,” he sighed.
“And I’d like to see you do it,” came heartily from Dan Dalzell.
“Why don’t you turn in for a nap, Dan?” asked Dave, turning to his chum and second in command, whose eyes looked heavy.
“I believe I could,” admitted Dalzell, almost reluctantly. “Mr. Phelps, will you leave word with your relief to have me called just after eight bells?”
Down the steps Dalzell went, to the chart-room, closing the door curtains behind him. It is one of the unwritten rules that, at sea, the commander of a vessel and his executive officer shall not both sleep at the same time.
As for Dave Darrin, he felt that he might be on deck up to midnight, at least. After that he might snatch “forty winks,” leaving orders to be called just before dawn.
Short of sleep always, weighted down with responsibility, young Darrin was happy none the less. First of all, after his wide professional preparation in many quarters of the globe, he was at last actually in the great world war. He was in the very place where big things were being done at sea, and the war had brought him promotion and independent command. What more could so young a naval officer ask, except sufficient contact with the enemy to make life interesting?
An hour passed. Dave and Phelps talked but little, and nothing out of the usual happened, the “Logan” keeping on her course still at cruising speed. But now the sun was well down on the western horizon; the northwesterly wind blew a little harder, though not enough to roughen the surface of the sea noticeably.
“Orderly, there!” called Phelps, quietly from the bridge. “Go to my quarters for my sheepskin coat and bring it here. Do you wish yours, sir?” turning to Darrin.
“I’ll step below and get it,” decided Dave. “I’ll probably be back here with you shortly.”
Going stealthily into the chart-room, Dave took a glance at his chum, now sound asleep in a chair, with a blanket drawn over him. Dave reached for his coat, donned it and buttoned it up, then stepped outside. First of all he moved forward to make a brief but keen inspection of the gun-crews and their pieces; then, to starboard, after which he strolled amidships. For a few minutes he was below to receive the report of the chief engineer, then went aft to inspect the gunners and the watch, returning on the port side to the bridge.
Soon after that the sun sank into the sea, and darkness came rapidly on.
“It’s going to be a fine night, sir,” said Ensign Phelps, as Dave came up on the bridge.
“A fine night for something besides steaming, I hope, Mr. Phelps,” Dave replied, with a smile in which there was something more than mere wistfulness.
“Amen to that!” agreed the young ensign.
“Wind is shifting, sir,” said Mr. Phelps, fifteen minutes later, when darkness had settled down.
“So I observed,” answered the youthful commanding officer. “From nor’west to nor’east. That cloud over to nor’east looks as if it carried a lot of wind.”
Dave took a quick glance at the barometer, but it had not fallen much.
“No storm in sight yet,” said Dave, thoughtfully. “But cloudy.”
“Aye,” nodded Ensign Phelps. “And a black night may aid either us or an enemy.”
“More likely the enemy,” replied Darrin, reflectively. “An observer on a submarine, with the aid of the microphonic or adapted telephonic device, that is now credited with having been perfected, can hear us coming when we’re some distance away.”
“And the same observer can discover our direction as compared with his own position, and can even judge the extent of the distance fairly well,” remarked the ensign.
“True,” Darrin nodded. Then, suddenly, he spoke energetically, as one gripped by a new idea.
“Mr. Phelps, have the word passed to all men on watch to keep a doubly sharp lookout for approaching craft and thus avoid danger of collision. No one carries running lights in these waters. The watch will also be extremely vigilant for submarines.”
Again and again the watch, startled by shadows, of which the sea is ever full at night, called out low-spoken warnings. The officers on the bridge were kept busy investigating these alarms with their night glasses. In fact they frequently were deceived too. Every man’s nerves were on edge; gunners swallowed hard, and with frequency moistened their lips with their tongues. Every man up topside on the “Logan” felt that peril was hovering near. It was not fear; it was perhaps that sixth sense that gives the alarm in moments of unseen danger. So intense was the nervous strain that the creaking of a brace or the sound of a straining plate, as the destroyer rolled, made every man on deck jump.
It was a trying situation and such as brought gray hairs to many a ship’s master in these days of deeds and daring. Better far the rush of a torpedo in their direction than this nerve-racking waiting for something that every man on the destroyer felt was coming.
Lieutenant-Commander Darrin, sensing all this, for the very air was charged with expectancy, frequently steadied the watch with an encouraging word or a sharp, low-spoken command. Dave sympathized with them, for he was in very much the same nervous condition. Of course he could not show it.
“Curtin, we’re in for some work to-night, or else I have an attack of nerves. I feel it,” said Dave without taking his eyes from observation of the sea.
“So do I. Queer how a fellow can sense danger when he neither can hear, see, feel nor smell it,” said Mr. Curtin.
“Submarine hunting is hard on the nerves, but it’s worth while,” returned Dave. “I think that must be what makes life on a destroyer so attractive to us. It is the real sporting game. I—What’s that?”
“Sh-h-h!” Dave suddenly stiffened, bringing his glasses quickly to his eyes. “Bow watch there, did you hail?” he demanded in a low, sharp voice.
“Aye, aye, sir,” came the prompt reply, also pitched in a low tone, though full of repressed excitement.
Whatever wind there had been in the cloud Dave had observed to the northeast, had passed. Only the gentlest of breezes blew, though the sky remained overcast, giving an almost ink-black night—a night for dark deeds.
So long did the “Logan” drift that probably every wakeful soul on board felt irritated by the monotony. Suddenly Dave stiffened, bringing his glass quickly to his eyes.
“Sounds and looks like a craft two points off starboard and about half a mile away, sir,” reported the bow watch.
“Aye,” Dave responded. “I see it. Mr. Curtin, pass the word for all hands to quarters.”
Silently officers and men were soon streaming over the decks, on their way to their various stations. Curtin stood with one hand on the engine-room telegraph, awaiting the order for headway.
The three-inch guns were loaded, and also the one-pounders and the machine guns. Two men stood by the darkened searchlight.
“Searchlight men!” Dave called, in a low voice. “You know where we’re looking?”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Stand by to put a beam squarely across its conning tower if it proves to be a submarine.”
Again Dave took a long, careful, steady look through his night glass. Secretly he was a-quiver with excitement; outwardly he was wholly calm.
“Throw the beam!” called Dave sharply, a few seconds later. “Gun-crews in line with the enemy, stand by!”
A broad band of light from the searchlight played into the sky, then descended. As the beam reached the water it revealed the tower and deck of a large submarine rolling awash a little more than half a mile away. A muffled cheer rose from some of the members of the watch. The men at the guns were too much occupied to open their mouths.
“Silence in the watch!” Dave commanded, sternly. “Mr. Curtin, half-speed ahead. Bear straight down on the enemy! Ram him if possible! Ram him at all hazards if he is submerging when we reach him,” commanded Lieutenant Commander Darrin.
“Aye, aye,” answered the quartermaster at the wheel.
Like a bloodhound the “Logan” sprang forward.
“Bow guns fire!”
Boom! Roared one sharp-tongued three-inch gun. Bang! Sounded a one-pounder. The larger shell threw up a column of spray beyond the submarine; the small shell struck the water on the nearer side.
“Full speed ahead, Mr. Curtin. Hold her steady there, quartermaster!”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
The “Logan” was soon racing at more than thirty knots an hour, her nose burrowing into the sea, throwing up great volumes of water.
The enemy submarine had plainly been taken utterly by surprise by the first flash of the “Logan’s” searchlight, for the warning sound that had come across the water had been caused by an oil-burning engine that was supplying power for the recharging of the submarine’s storage batteries.
Such a craft, however, hated and at all times hunted, carries crews trained to swift work. Soon after the “Logan’s” second three-inch gun had fired without registering a hit, a five-inch gun of the submarine was brought into action. Overhead whizzed a shell that just missed the “Logan’s” wireless aerials. A second shot, aimed at the destroyer’s water line, passed hardly more than four feet to starboard.
“Get him!” roared Dave Darrin. “Gunners have their wits about ’em!”
Dan Dalzell took the door curtains with him as he leaped out and ran for the bridge.
The submarine had swung around, and at the same time brought her after gun into action. The submarine swung again bow on. There was no time to dive. She was caught and must fight.
“Torpedo coming, sir!” reported the bow watch, but Darrin had already caught sight, under the searchlight’s glare, of a trail of foam heading straight for the destroyer.
Quick as was the helmsman’s obedience of orders, the “Logan” escaped the torpedo by little more than a hair’s breadth as it rushed on past. Then came a second torpedo. The “Logan,” still driving bow on, save for swerves to avoid torpedoes, escaped the second one by what appeared to breathless watchers to be an even closer margin.
Lieutenant Beatty had taken personal charge of sighting one of the forward guns. He now let fly a shell that tore part of the top of the enemy’s conning tower away.
“That settles him for diving!” cried Darrin, tensely. “Land a shell in the hull and force him to take the dive he doesn’t want!”
Onward came a third rushing torpedo. As the “Logan” swerved to avoid it, a shell from the submarine’s after gun struck and tore away a one-pounder aft on the destroyer, fragments stretching two men on the deck, seriously but not fatally injured. An instant later a shell aimed at the destroyer’s water line forward pierced the hull just below the gun-deck. A fair hit at the water line would have put the “Logan” in a sinking condition, but, owing to the oblique position of the target, the shell, as it struck, glanced off.
“Great work, Mr. Beatty!” shouted Dave hoarsely, as another three-inch shell struck the enemy, this time at the waterline. “Mr. Curtin, half speed ahead!”
As the destroyer began to lose headway and slowly circle the undersea boat, the “Logan’s” crew cheered, this time without rebuke from the bridge. The submarine craft was rapidly filling and sinking.
At a safe distance Darrin watched, for he was humane enough to wish to rescue the German survivors, should there be any. So swift was the sinking of the enemy, however, that there was no time for them to launch and man the collapsible lifeboat that they undoubtedly carried.
Then the seas closed over the hated craft. A few moments later Lieutenant-Commander Darrin gave the order to steam forward slowly, the watch standing by to discover and heave lines to any swimmers there might be afloat. Not a head was seen, however. Three men at the after gun had been observed to jump before the submarine went down, but no trace of them could now be found.
“We’ll never know how many hundreds of decent lives the work of the last minute has saved,” declared Dalzell hoarsely as he reported on the bridge.
“Find out as promptly as possible what damage we have suffered,” Dave ordered. “We were struck several times.”
As Dan saluted and hurried away, Darrin picked up his night glass and once more resumed his scanning of the sea. Lieutenant Curtin had already received orders that the destroyer was to cruise slowly back and forth over and around the spot where the submarine had gone down.
“It seems almost wasted sympathy to try to pick up enemy survivors,” muttered Mr. Curtin rather savagely.
“But it’s humanity just the same,” Darrin returned. “And Americans must practise it.”
“Of course, sir.”
Dalzell, who had summoned the aid of other officers and some of the warrant officers, soon returned.
“Two breaches, one just above water line, and the other below it, sir,” was Dan’s beginning of the report. “I wasn’t aware that a torpedo touched us. If it did, it made a dent, but glanced off without the explosion that a direct hit would have produced. That may account for the dent below the water line. But a shell hit us above water line. Is it possible that a large fragment glanced low enough to make the dent under water? It doesn’t seem possible.”
“Not likely,” smiled Darrin.
“The hole above the water line has been repaired, but men are still working at the one below the line,” Dalzell went on, “and the pumps are working hard. The chief engineer was about to report it to you when I reached him. We have been hit at other points, but no serious damage has been done.”
“We are not in danger of sinking?”
“Doesn’t look like it to me, sir,” Dan replied, “and the chief engineer is of the same opinion.”
“Take the bridge with Mr. Curtin.”
Not more than two minutes was Dave below decks, half of that time with the chief engineer. Then he hurried back, disappearing into the radio room. In a code message he notified destroyer headquarters of the encounter, its result, and the nature of the damage to the “Logan.”
Within five minutes the answer came back through the air:
“Return to repair. Keep alert for enemy craft understood to be more numerous in your waters than usual.”
The order bore the signature of Admiral Speare’s flag-lieutenant.
“Home, James,” smiled Darrin, after reading the order.
So the “Logan” was put about. Dave did not steam fast, for it had been found impossible wholly to stop the hole below water line. Water still came in, though in diminished quantity. Fast speed would be likely to spring the damaged plates.
It was near dawn when land was sighted, and the sun was well up when the “Logan” steamed limpingly into port. Half an hour later American dock authorities had taken charge of the destroyer. Dave waited until he saw his beloved craft in dry dock and the water receding from under her as it was pumped out of the basin in which the “Logan” now lay.
In the meantime Dalzell, who had had two hours’ sleep on the way to port, was busy granting shore leave to such men of the crew as were entitled to have it. More than half of the officers also received leave.
As soon as luncheon had been finished, and after Darrin had conferred with the dock officer, he and Dan went ashore.
“Where shall we go?” asked Dan, when they had left the naval yard behind them.
“Anywhere that fancy takes us,” Darrin answered, “and by dark, of course, to a hotel for as good a shore dinner as war times permit.”
“We’d have a better dinner on board,” laughed Dan, sometimes known in the service as Danny Grin. “These British hotels are all feeling the effects of the enemy’s submarine campaign, and can’t put up a half-way good meal.”
Once in the streets of the port town, the two young American naval officers strolled slowly along. The crowds had a distinctly war-time appearance. Hundreds of British and American jackies and two or three score French naval seamen were to be seen.
“Whoever invented saluting doesn’t have my unqualified gratitude,” grumbled Danny Grin. “My arm is aching now from returning so many salutes.”
“It’s a trifling woe,” Darrin assured him. “Look more sharply, Dan. You missed those two French sailors who saluted you.”
Too good a service man to do a thing like that without regret, Dalzell turned around to discover that the two slighted French sailors were glancing backward. He wheeled completely around, bringing his right hand smartly up to his cap visor and inclining his head forward. Facing forward once more he was just in time to “catch” and return the salutes of three British jackies.
“Quite a bore, isn’t it?” asked a drawling, friendly voice, as the two young officers paused to look in at a shop window’s display.
The young man who had hailed them was attired in a suit and coat of quite distinctly American cut. He was good-looking, agreeable in manner, and possessed of an air of distinction.
“The salute is a matter of discipline, not of opinion,” Dave Darrin answered, pleasantly. “It isn’t as troublesome as it looks.”
“I have sometimes wondered if you didn’t find it tedious,” continued the stranger.
“Sometimes,” Dave admitted, with a nod. “But it shouldn’t be.”
“You are an American, aren’t you?” asked Dalzell.
“Yes. Matthews is my name. I’m over here on what appears to be the foolish mission of trying to buy a lot of fine Irish linen, and that is a commodity which seems to have disappeared from the market.”
Somehow, it didn’t seem quite easy to escape introducing themselves, so Dan performed that office for the naval pair. Darrin would rather not have met strangers in the port that was the destroyer base. Mr. Matthews walked along with them, and presently it developed that he was staying at the hotel where Dave and Dan had decided to dine. So, after an hour’s stroll, the three turned toward the hotel.
“I’ll see you later,” declared Matthews, affably, starting for the elevator on his way to his room.
“Dan,” said Darrin, laying a kindly arm on his chum’s coat-sleeve and speaking in a low voice, “I’d just as soon you wouldn’t introduce us to chance acquaintances.”
“That struck me afterwards,” Dalzell admitted, soberly. “Yet, for once, I do not believe that my bad habit of friendliness with strangers has done any harm. Matthews appears to be all right.”
“I hope he is,” Dave answered.
Later Matthews joined them below.
“It struck me, gentlemen,” he declared, “that my introduction was rather informal. Permit me to offer you my card.”
He tendered to each a bit of pasteboard that neither could very well decline. It was a business card that he had offered, and its legend stated that Matthews was connected with a well-known Chicago dry-goods house.
“But in these times,” smiled their new acquaintance, “an American passport is a better introduction than a mere card.”
Whereupon he produced his passport. After a glance at it the two young naval officers did not see how they could escape offering their own cards, which Matthews gladly accepted and deposited in his own card-case.
He did not intrude, however, but soon moved off, after a cheery word of parting. Dave and Dan went out for another stroll, returning in time for dinner.
Hardly had they seated themselves when Matthews, fresh and smiling, stopped at their table in the dining room.
“I’m afraid you’ll vote me a bore,” he apologized, “but American company is such a treat in this town that I’m going to inquire whether my presence would be distasteful. If not, may I dine with you?”
“Be seated, by all means,” Darrin responded, with as much heartiness as he could summon.
When the soup had been taken away and fish set before them, Matthews asked:
“Don’t you find the patrol work a dreadful bore?”
“It’s often monotonous,” Dave agreed, “but there are some exciting moments that atone for the dulness of many of the hours.”
“And frightfully dangerous work,” Matthews suggested.
“Fighting, I believe, has never been entirely separated from danger,” retorted Dalzell, with a grin.
“Have you sunk anything lately?”
Both naval officers appeared to be too busy with their fish to hear the question.
Matthews looked astonished for only a moment. Then he waited until they were half through with the roast before he inquired:
“How do you like the work of the depth bombs? Are they as useful as it was believed they would be?”
Dave Darrin glanced up quickly. There was no glint of hostility in his eyes. He smiled, and his voice was agreeable as he rejoined:
“Now, I know you will not really expect an answer to that question, Mr. Matthews. The officers and men of the service are under orders not to discuss naval matters with those not in the service.”
“P-p-pardon me, won’t you?” stammered Matthews, a flush appearing under either temple.
“Certainly,” Dave agreed. “Men not in the service do not readily comprehend how necessary it is for Navy men not to discuss their work, especially in war-time.”
Matthews soon changed the subject. After they had gone forth from the dining room he shook hands with them cordially, and took his leave.
“Is he genuine?” asked Dalzell.
“Must be,” Dave replied. “His passport was in form. You know how it is with civilians, Danny-boy. Knowing themselves to be decent and loyal, they cannot understand why service men cannot take them at their own valuation.”
Just as the two were going out for another stroll the double doors flew briskly open to admit a group of more than a dozen British naval officers.
“Hullo, there, Darrin! I say there, Dalzell!”
Surrounded by Britain’s naval officers, our two Americans had to undergo almost an ordeal of handshaking in the lobby.
“But I thought you were far out on the water, Chetwynd,” Dave remarked to one of the officers.
“And so I was, but a bad break in a shaft sent me in,” grumbled the commander of an English destroyer. “Beastly luck! And I was needed out there,” he added, in a whisper, “for the Germans are attempting a big drive underseas. We’ve new information, Darrin, that they’ve more than twice the usual number of submersibles loose in these waters.”
“I’ve been told the same,” Dave nodded, quietly.
“What brought you in?”
“Shell hits, I think they were, though one dent might have been made by a torpedo,” Darrin answered.
“Then you had a fight.”
“A short one.”
“And the German pest?”
“Went to the bottom. I know, for we saw her sink, and her conning tower was so damaged that she couldn’t have kept the water out, once she went under. Besides, we found the surface of the water covered with oil.”
“I’ll wager you did,” agreed Chetwynd, heartily. “You Yankee sailors have sunk dozens of the pests.”
“And hope to sink scores more,” Darrin assured him.
“Oh, you’ll do it,” came the confident answer. “But come on upstairs with us. We’ve a private parlor and a piano, and plan a jolly hour or two.”
From one end of the room, in a lull in the singing, an exasperated English voice rose on the air.
“What I can’t understand,” the speaker cried, “is that the enemy appear to have every facility for getting the latest gossip right out of this port. And they know every time that a liner, a freighter or a warship sails from this port. There is some spy service on shore that communicates with the German submarine commanders.”
“I’d like to catch one of the rascally spies!” Dan uttered to a young English officer.
“What would you do with him?” bantered the other.
“Cook him!” retorted Dan, vengefully. “I don’t know in just what form; probably fricassee him.”
Little did Dalzell dream how soon the answer to the spy problem would come to him.
Thirty-six hours’ work at the dry dock, with changing shifts, put the “Logan” in shape to start seaward again.
Under another black sky, moving into thick weather, the “Logan” swung off at slow speed, with little noise from engines or propellers.
“I feel as if something were going to happen to-night,” said Dalzell, coming to the bridge at midnight after a two-hour nap. A little shudder ran over his body.
“I hope something does,” agreed Darrin, warmly. “But remember—no Jonah forebodings!”
“I—I think it will be something good!” hesitated Dalzell.
“Good or bad, have me called at six bells,” Dave instructed his second in command. “Before that, of course, if anything turns up.”