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Based on an old print of a British patrol ship (ca. 1915)

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First published by William Collins, London, 1918

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"Pirates and Patrols," William Collins, London, 1918





Keith was already on top of Gurd.

TEDDY BAINES leaned upon the rail of the patrol ship Ceres, and gazed across the empty waters of the North Sea.

"'Nother day gone, Keith, and nothing doing," he observed mournfully. "Nearly a week now since we had the least little bit of excitement, and then it was only that Swede with contraband. It's my belief the submarines have gone out of business altogether."

Keith Hedley turned, with a smile on his good-looking face. He was tall, dark, with well-cut features, and in every way a complete contrast to Teddy, who was short and square, with a smooth pink face, and baby blue eyes.

"You're an ungrateful beggar, Teddy," he answered. "Not much more than a year ago you were ploughed for the Navy. You couldn't pass out of Dartmouth, and you were bound for British Columbia to grow little apples. Now, here you are, practically a full-blown 'Snotty' and yet you kick because you can't get a scrap every day in the week, including Sundays.

"And how d'ye know there's nothing doing?" he went on. "For all you can tell, there may be a packet of Huns within half a mile of us this very minute."

"Mr Keith!"

The deep voice brought both the boys round sharply. A burly boatswain, with a face the colour of old mahogany and a forty-four inch chest, was beckoning from forrard.

"What is it, Ben?" asked Keith, as he hurried towards him.

"That's just what I want to know, sir," said Ben Cripps quietly. "There's something out there to the nor'-west. Take these here glasses, and see if you can make anything of it. Your eyes are younger than mine."

Keith took the pair of powerful binoculars, and focused them carefully. Though still early in the afternoon, the light was none too good. The sky was covered with a pall of gray cloud, and the horizon ringed with a thin mist.

For a quarter of a minute or more Keith stood motionless, staring out in the direction indicated by Cripps. At last he lowered his glasses.

"It looks—mind you, I only say looks—like a submarine on the surface," he said deliberately.

"Why shouldn't it be?" demanded Teddy eagerly.

"Because, my dear Teddy, if we can see her, she can most certainly see us, and if she's an enemy she'd hardly be fool enough to give herself away in such a fashion."

"If she was British, we'd have had her wireless afore now," put in Ben Cripps. "Take another look, Mr Keith."

Keith focused his glasses once more.

"She's a sub all right," he said, a moment later. "Pass the word to Captain Brock, Ben."

Ben sprang to the bridge, and in a moment the Ceres swung round, with her bows pointed to the distant speck under the gray horizon. Her engine beats quickened, a cushion of foam rose under her shapely prow, and her whole fabric quivered as her speed mounted from the eight knots at which she had been cruising to the twenty-two which her powerful compound engines afforded.

The Ceres had begun life as the private yacht of Mr Kenyon Hedley, Keith's father, and a very wealthy man. She was a craft of about twelve hundred tons, roomy, fast, perfectly appointed. At the outbreak of war, Mr Hedley had at once turned her over to the Admiralty. She had been armed with two six-inch guns and several quick-firers, and now for nearly two years had been doing valuable service patrolling in the North Sea.

Her old skipper, Tony Brock, R.N.V.R., was still in command, and he had many of his original yacht hands among his crew. These included Ben Cripps the boatswain, Truman the signaller, Spiller, Jenkins, and others. Consequently the Ceres was what is called a happy ship. Orders were promptly obeyed. There was no sulking or shirking, and the whole routine ran like clockwork.

"She's still on top, Keith," said Teddy Baines presently, in a tone of breathless eagerness.

"So she is, but so far as I can make out, she's hooking it for all she's worth. Bunking straight back east."

"Ay, she's running for her mine fields," agreed Ben Cripps, who had come forward again. "If you asks me, Master Keith, I'd say she'd had some accident which stops her from submerging."

"Just what I was thinking," said Keith, in his quiet way. "The only question is, then, whether we shall be able to overhaul her before she gets in among the mines."

Ben smiled.

"No fear about that, sir. At noon to-day, we was west of 6 east longitude, and jest about forty mile north of Ameland Island. She'll still be a matter o' forty or fifty mile off of them mine fields, and we're doing twenty-two to her fifteen or maybe sixteen. We'll have her in less than a hour."

Cripps was right. The big yacht overhauled the submarine rapidly, and every minute they were able to see her more plainly. The excitement aboard the Ceres was great. Every man whose duty did not keep him below was on deck, and staring at the rusty-looking conning-tower which ploughed along ahead through the long gray waves. The submarine was battened down and there was no sign of life about her.

"I suppose she's not fooling us," suggested Teddy to Keith in a low voice; "not going to duck down at the last minute and slam a steel fish at us."

"I thought that at first, Teddy," responded Keith. "But it's not likely. We're within gun shot of her now."

"Yes,"' he added, "we are training the forward gun on her now."

"Signalling, too," said Teddy. "What's that?—'Heave to, or I'll sink you.'"

The submarine's commander must have seen the signal through his periscope, but he did not obey it. On the contrary, the submarine's speed seemed to increase slightly.

With a crack that nearly split the boys' ear drums the six-inch spoke, and a hundred pound shell whizzed viciously on its errand.

"Got her!" gasped Teddy, as a geyser of white water leaped alongside the submarine.

"No," Keith answered. "Just short. Watch her ricochet!"

"Bet it shook 'em up, anyhow. Ah, it's done the trick. See, they've stopped her engines."

Teddy was right. The spouting wake of the submarine was shortening, and next moment the hatch in the turret was flung open and an arm appeared waving a white flag.

"Jove, we're going to get her!" cried Teddy, his pink and white face aglow with excitement. "What luck! I say, Keith, it will be a bit of a feather in our cap, won't it, to bring her home without so much as a hole in her?"

Keith merely nodded. He was every bit as keen as his chum, but was naturally much more silent. But neither he nor Teddy Baines had the faintest idea what a curious coil they were going to be involved in all on account of this one insignificant-looking craft.

The Ceres twin screws were revolving less rapidly, and the handsome ship was moving slowly, bow on to the submarine. Skipper Brock was taking no chances. He knew full well the use the Germans too often make of the white flag.

Signals fluttered rapidly, and in response a number of Germans in ugly gray duffle appeared on the narrow deck of their craft.

"Queer-looking crowd," observed Teddy. "Not much like navy chaps, are they? And that tall beggar with a face like a hatchet. I wonder who he is."'

"Can't size 'em up a bit," said Keith shortly. "And they've no gun. See, there is no gun hatch in the deck. Yes, it's a queer outfit altogether."

"Hope Brock lets us go aboard her," said Teddy anxiously.

He had hardly spoken before they heard the skipper's voice.

"Mr Hedley, will you take the cutter and board her. You will take arms, and you can warn them that, at the first sign of treachery, I shall sink them."

"Very good, sir," replied Keith, springing to obey. "Come on, Teddy."

Over went the cutter with true navy smartness, and, with half a dozen bluejackets straining at the oars, was soon alongside the submarine. The German seamen on her decks stared at the smart British crew, with faces half frightened, half sulky. Teddy Baines was more than ever struck with their resemblance to mechanics rather than sailors.

Keith instantly singled out the only one among them who appeared to be an officer.

"Are you the commander?" he demanded, in fluent German.

"I am," responded the other, glaring at the boy. "I am Lieutenant Curt Nockler, and this is His Imperial Majesty's vessel, München."

"Ah, a commercial submarine?" said Keith quietly, but inwardly he glowed. This was a prize indeed.

"Yes, a cargo vessel," responded Nockler shortly. "And but for my cursed tank valves getting blocked, neither you nor any of your countrymen would ever have set eyes upon us."

"Fortune of war," said Keith, with cold politeness. "You will consider yourselves prisoners, if you please. All weapons are to be brought up and handed over, and I need hardly remind you that you are directly under the guns of H.M.S. Ceres."

"That is pretty obvious," said Nockler bitterly. "We have no arms but rifles."

"Then bring them up, please. Two men only are to go down, and two of mine will accompany them. Spiller and Jenkins, go below, and just see that they do not play any tricks with the machinery."

Spiller and Jenkins, grinning, obeyed at once, and inside three minutes a dozen rifles were brought up and transferred to the boat.

"That's all the weapons we could see, sir," said Spiller. "Of course I don't know whether any of 'em have got pistols."

"Better make sure," Keith told him.

Before the two men could get to work there came the deep boom of a distant gun, and a heavy shell flung up a spout of water about two hundred yards short of the 'Ceres.'

"A destroyer!" said Teddy to Keith in a quick whisper, "a German destroyer."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before a pistol cracked, and a bullet from Nockler's revolver actually grazed Keith's shoulder.

"You treacherous dog!" roared Spiller, and dashing at the German, drove his fist into his face with such force that he went flying overboard.

But his crew, taking courage from the fact that rescue seemed so near, turned on Spiller and Jenkins in force.

Before Keith could so much as issue an order, Teddy, Ben Cripps, and two others of the boat's crew leaped on to the submarine's deck. They had no weapons but their fists, but no more had the Huns, and though the latter were fourteen to six they never had a dog's chance.

Raging at Nockler's treachery, the British went through them like a whirlwind. Inside a quarter of a minute four of the Germans were overboard, two on their backs on the steel deck, and the rest were shouting Kamerad for all they were worth.

All—that is—but one. The tall, hawk-faced man had taken no part in the struggle. He stood apart, with a cynical smile on his face, and watched the struggle as a spectator in a front seat might watch a prize fight.

It was all over in a very few minutes. The Germans who had been knocked overboard were hauled on deck, all but one who was never seen again, and by Keith's orders, were every one of them tied up.

"Just as well to make sure of them," he said significantly.

"Just as well," echoed Teddy. "The more so because it looks as if this tin tank had got to be our floating home for some time to come. The Ceres has moved on."

Keith looked round sharply. Sure enough, the Ceres was already between two and three miles away, hard in chase of the German destroyer.

The latter, an old and rather small vessel, had got a nasty jar, for her people clearly had had no suspicion of the weight of metal carried by the British ship, and had probably been equally surprised by the accuracy of her firing. At the present moment the Hun was retiring eastwards with all possible speed, with shells from the Ceres six-inchers bursting all around her.

"Look, Keith!" cried Teddy in high delight. "We've knocked one funnel out of her already. And, by Jove, I do believe she's on fire. The skipper will get her yet."

"I only hope he does," said Keith, "but she's not on fire, Teddy. She's only smoking up to hide herself, like a beastly octopus in its own ink. Still, the skipper will have a jolly good try for her. And meantime, as you justly observe, we shall have to make the most of this floating coffin."

"Jenkins," he added, "see those Huns are taken below, and well tied up. And, Ben, you know something of these submarine contraptions, don't you?"

"Ain't many engines I can't tackle, sir," replied Cripps, with quiet confidence. "Spiller, too, he's had his turn in the dockyard. Between us, I reckon we can make the old thing go."

"Question is, where are you going to?" asked Teddy.

"Nowhere, if I can help it. We shall hang round and wait for the 'Ceres.' But it'll be just as well to be able to shove her along."

"We might have to," he added, with a laugh.

Making the cutter fast, they all went below. Teddy, who had never before been in the bowels of a submarine, was astonished. "What a bag of tricks!" he exclaimed, in dismay, as he looked round at the endless array of buttons, levers, organ-like pipes, chain-geared wheels, besides engines, oxygen cylinders, and all sorts of unfamiliar apparatus.

But Cripps' small gray eyes twinkled.

"They're all much of a muchness," he said, "but this here is the first cargo one as ever I've set eyes on. Ain't much stowage room either. Wonder what she's carrying. Letters from Willie to the President o' Mexico or the Emperor of Venezuela, most like."

He plunged off forrard, Spiller with him, and the two got busy at once.

Teddy Baines, whose innocent-looking eyes did not miss much, turned to Keith.

"That long chap's making signs," he whispered. "Wants to speak to you, I fancy."

Keith glanced across to the row of German prisoners. The man with the beak-like nose was certainly making signs.

Keith went up to him.

"Who are you?" he asked in German.

"I am the supercargo, sir," replied the other in perfect English. "If you will take me aft I should be glad to speak to you."

Keith considered a moment. He was studying the man's face. It was clever, capable, yet unpleasant. His eyes were too close together, and his forehead much too low. For all that he looked as if he had twice the brains of any of the rest, and Keith remembered that he had taken no part in the treacherous attack.

"Very well," he said quietly.

The other Germans glared, as they saw Keith release the man and follow him into the little curtained recess aft, which did duty as the captain's cabin.

Once inside, the supercargo turned to Keith.

"I am not a Prussian," he said quietly. "I am Austrian born. My name is Slopan—Max Slopan."

"How do you come here then?" asked Keith brusquely.

"I told you. I am supercargo. I am in charge of the business end of this voyage. I have to sell the cargo, and purchase other commodities to bring back. Since the München is in your hands, my work is at an end."

"Naturally. But you did not bring me here to tell me that," replied Keith.

"Quite so. I am a business man, and, as such, I have a proposal to make to you. The cargo aboard this vessel is of considerable value—much greater, indeed, than Nockler or any of them know. My suggestion is that, in return for my services in putting it at your disposal, you should give me half and my liberty."

Keith's first natural impulse was to turn on the traitor and rend him. But he had sense and self-restraint beyond his years, and he controlled his anger.

"Oh," he said casually, "and what may this cargo be?"

Slopan's narrow eyes glittered. Keith noticed that they were greenish in colour and hard as stones.

"Diamonds," he answered. "They are the stones from the new diggings in German East Africa."

He paused a moment, eyeing Keith keenly.

"The parcel," he went on in an even tone, "is worth something well over two millions in your money."

He paused again.

"Two millions," he continued. "Think of it. And you could carry your share in two pockets. No one need ever know. And you—you would be rich for life—a millionaire."


KEITH bit his lip to keep down the surge of anger that rose within him.

Slopan evidently thought that he was tempted. He spoke again eagerly.

"No one need know but you and I. Think of it! At one stroke, you would become one of the richest men in England. Diamonds will always sell, and, in spite of the war, they are now fetching higher prices than ever before. And all I ask is that you should put me ashore, with my share in my pocket. Anywhere on the Dutch coast will do, and that is only a few miles away. An hour's run perhaps. It is the chance of a lifetime, and one which no man in his senses could possibly refuse."

"No German, perhaps!"

All his pent-up scorn rose in Keith's tone.

"You blackguard!" he exclaimed. "Do you fancy that everyone you meet is a traitor and thief like yourself? Not content with swindling your employers, you try to bribe an Englishman to assist you in your scoundrelly plans!"

Keith rarely lost his temper, but now his eyes fairly blazed, and his face had gone oddly white under its tan. As for Slopan, he stared at the boy as though he could not believe his senses. Then, as he realised that he was in earnest, his face changed, and became ugly as a rattlesnake's in the act of striking.

"I always heard that Englishmen were fools," he sneered. "Now I know it. Here, you have a chance of fortune which does not come to one man in a million. A word is enough, and you are made for life. It is not as if you were taking money out of the pockets of your own country-folk. The diamonds are German state property."

"And now they will be British state property," cut in Keith, who had once more got a hold upon himself. "Faugh! I'm a fool to lose my temper with a thing like you. Get forward again. I wonder what the rest of your companions would do to you if I were to give them half an idea of what you have been saying."

"They would not believe you," sneered Slopan, and Keith realised that the fellow meant what he said. He saw, too, that Slopan showed no signs of fear. Scoundrel that he was, he had pluck of a sort.

"I'd hate to be in the fellow's power," was the thought that passed through his mind. Then he drove him forward, and ordered one of his own men to tie him again securely.

Cripps came aft.

"Fog's drifting across, sir," he said, rather gravely. "And the Ceres is clean out o' sight."

"That means we shan't see her again to-night," replied Keith thoughtfully. "Cripps, I've something to tell you. You and Mr Baines, come into the cabin."

They followed him in, and after pulling the curtains across he told them what he had learned from Slopan.

Teddy's eyes widened.

"Two million pounds' worth of diamonds! My hat, Keith, it's the biggest prize of the war."

"Just about," agreed Keith. "So big it makes me a bit nervous. I shan't feel happy until the stones are safe in England."

"They ain't what you might call safe here, sir," said Cripps, with unusual gravity. "We're a bit too close to enemy waters for one thing, and for another, if I ain't mistook, there's weather brewing. The North Sea in a gale ain't no place for a submarine as won't submerge."

"You're sure you can't get her down?" asked Keith.

"There ain't no manner of doubt about that, sir. The valves of the forward trimming tank is gone up, and it's a dockyard job to set 'em right. Even then it would take the best part of a week."

"That's bad. What about the engines?"

"They're all right, sir. Spiller an' me can get way on her as soon as you like."

Keith looked thoughtful.

"See here, Keith," broke in Teddy quickly. "What do you say to running down to one of those islands on the north coast of Holland?"

"They'd intern us, wouldn't they?"

"No, we are not a war ship. We should class as a neutral trader," declared Teddy. "For that matter we needn't run into the authorities at all. My notion would be to lie up behind one of the islands out of the gale, and wait for the Ceres and better weather."

"What do you think of it, Ben?" asked Keith.

"We might do worse, sir," replied Cripps. "Ever hear o' Baltran Island, Master Keith?"

"Can't say I have."

"Well, it's one o' that there long chain that runs all the way from Vlieland to Borkum. But it ain't much more'n a sand-bank, and no one don't live on it. At least, there wasn't no one on it last time I was there, about five years ago. If we was to run in under lee of Baltran, I reckon no one would bother us."

"And what about the Ceres? She won't know where to look for us."

"There's wireless aboard here, sir, and I reckon we can fetch her if she's not too far away."

Keith looked relieved.

"Very good, Ben. Get under way at once, and we'll try to make your island before night."

Within a very few minutes the München was forging ahead, her oil engines working steadily. The glass was falling fast and the wind hardening out of the west. The clouds seemed to have dropped right down on to the sea, and, so far as Keith and Cripps could see, there was every prospect of a dirty night.

Keith, as soon as he had made sure that the course was correct, turned to Teddy.

"Better look up those diamonds," he suggested.

"Did you notice Slopan's face?" whispered Teddy, as the pair began their search.

"Yes. It's lucky for us that looks can't kill," Keith answered.

"Wish he was overboard," growled Teddy, in a tone that Keith had seldom heard from him. "The chap gives me creeps. He reminds me of that beastly horned viper they've got in the Zoo."

"Yes, he made me think of snakes as soon as I set eyes on him," agreed Keith. "We shall have to keep a precious close watch on him."

By this time they were delving among the cargo which was packed in lockers amidships. It consisted of all sorts of small knick-knacks, just the things that would take least room and be worth most money. There were hundreds of razors, pocket-knives, scissors, and optical instruments. There were also a quantity of dye-stuffs. These alone were of very great value, for in England the prices of dyes had risen a thousand per cent.

At last they hit upon a small safe bolted to the steel ribs of the submarine.

"Here's where the stones are," said Teddy. "Slopan's got the key, I should fancy."

"All right. I'll get it," said Keith.

To his surprise, Slopan gave up the keys at once. There were two of them. It seemed to Keith a little ominous that he should make so little trouble.

But in the excitement of opening the safe he forgot this, and still more so when he and Teddy found and opened the packets of diamonds.

These were all sorted according to size and 'water.' The two boys carried the cases into the cabin and there spread them out.

Their contents covered the whole of the little table, and under the brilliant electric bulbs flashed back such a blaze of multi-coloured light as left Keith and Teddy positively breathless.

In all, there were nearly one thousand stones, and the largest were as big as a thrush's egg. They were mostly cut as brilliants, but some were 'rose' and a few 'table' cut. Among them were several of a beautiful pale blue colour, and a few—a very few—of the rare red tint which makes a diamond of almost incalculable value.

For a minute or more the boys could only stand and stare at this 'Arabian Nights' display. Teddy was the first to speak.

"Pinch me, Keith. I want to know whether I'm awake or dreaming."

"They're real enough," said Keith, rather grimly. "A nice sort of cargo to be carrying round the North Sea in a crocked submarine. I shan't feel easy in my mind until they're safe in the Bank of England or wherever the Government keeps stuff of this sort."

"It is a bit of a responsibility," agreed Teddy, and he spoke more soberly than usual. "But cheer up, Keith, old chap. We'll soon be at Baltran, and then we've nothing to do but lie low until the Ceres comes along."

"And then make for home under forced draught," said Keith.

"Hurray! That'll mean forty-eight hours' leave at least," exclaimed Teddy.

"It'll mean a bit more than that, old chap," Keith told him quietly. "It will mean a lump sum in the way of prize money. If these stones are really worth two millions, it will be a small fortune for every man aboard the 'Ceres.'"

Teddy stiffened.

"I never thought of that," he gasped. "How much do you think I shall get, Keith?"

"Not less than five hundred pounds, Teddy, and perhaps double that."

Teddy went rather white, and Keith, knowing the reason, made no remark.

"A thousand would square the whole business," said Teddy, in a low voice. "It would pay all the debts, and we'd be able to keep the old place after all. Oh, Keith, what a bit of luck!"

Keith nodded. He knew to what Teddy referred, and how he longed to be able to save his old family home, which his father, in debt through no fault of his own, would probably be forced to sell.

"Yes, it would square you up well," he answered. "But don't count too much on it, Teddy, old chap. We've a long way to go yet. However, we'll do our best."

"And now," he added, "we'd best put these things back quietly, and lock them up again. It won't do for any of those Boche blighters to see them."

Teddy nodded, and began to collect the trays and put the lids on.

"I'm not worrying so much about the Huns," he said. "It's that fellow, Slopan, I can't help thinking of. There's something uncanny about him."

He collected the trays as he spoke, and they took them straight back to the safe and locked them up.

It was time, too, for the submarine was beginning to make very bad weather of it. A submarine may be seaworthy, but she is no craft for surface work in really heavy weather.

And now a very ugly sea indeed was running, and the motion of the long narrow craft was something cruel. Even Teddy, who had never been sea-sick in his life, began to feel qualms. Most of the Germans were in agonies, and one or two of the Ceres contingent were decidedly unwell.

What made it worse was the stuffiness. The waves were breaking right over the conning-tower, and they had had to batten down and change over to the accumulators.

"It's all right, sir," said Cripps cheerily, as Keith came up to him, where he was sitting at a sort of switchboard. "We shan't have much more o' this. Ought to be in behind Baltran in less'n an hour."

Keith went and fetched the chart, and they studied it together.

"Plenty o' water for us, Master Keith," said Cripps. "Don't you worry. We'll get in all right."

It was Keith's first command, and considering the value of the prize, it was no wonder that he was anxious. He was devoutly thankful when, looking through the periscope, he caught sight of a long stretch of barren-looking dunes looming through the murk. It was Baltran Island, and they had run straight down to it.

Within another quarter of an hour they were in the comparatively calm channel between Baltran and another desolate-looking island. Porting his helm, Keith ran in behind Baltran, and at once they lay as snug as if behind Plymouth breakwater.

Out on the narrow steel deck, Keith drew long breaths of the keen salt air, and watched his men as they got the anchor down.

"Who'd sell a farm and own a submarine?" exclaimed Teddy, as he joined his chum. He was still rather white about the gills. He had not enjoyed the past two hours. "This is top-hole, Keith," he continued. "We can lie here, snug as you please, until the skipper picks us up again. Wonder how he got on with our friend, the Hun."

"Probably lost her in this thick stuff," replied Keith. "I only hope he'll turn up in the morning. We'll try and get him with our wireless just now, but I mustn't use it too much. There's always the chance that we might attract an enemy instead of a friend. We're a sight nearer Emden than is healthy."

"Meantime, what about supper, old son?" asked Teddy.

"You must be feeling a heap better," laughed Keith. "An hour ago the very look of a sardine would have finished you. All right. Go down and see what you can scoff. I'm told that however hard up for grub Brother Boche may be, these submarine chaps always do themselves well."

It seemed he was right, for later when Keith came below, he found a really noble supper awaiting him. True, it was all tinned stuff, for Teddy had fought shy of German sausages. Still, it was good of its kind, and they set to with real navy appetites. Afterwards, they fed their prisoners, then setting a watch, made themselves as comfortable as might be for the night.

The submarine rested quietly enough under lee of the long, low island, but when Keith turned out at daybreak he found it was blowing as hard as ever. Across Baltran he could see the tall waves breaking in a smother of foam. The sky was covered with a thick pall of driving cloud which at times seemed to drop right down on to the sea, and the glass gave no comfort. It was lower than ever.

"Looks like three days of it," said Keith gravely, as he turned to Teddy, who had just joined him. "And these are no waters for a big craft like the 'Ceres.' They are too shallow altogether. The skipper will probably stand off and on till it clears a bit."

"Did you get him with the wireless?" asked Teddy.

"Not a word. And I daren't go calling again—at least not yet."

"Then we'd better think of brekker," suggested Teddy. "And, afterwards, we could go ashore and stretch our legs a bit."

"You can if you like, Teddy; I stick by the ship. I tell you I'm not taking any chances while I've got those diamonds aboard."

All day long it blew, and Keith's face grew very grave. He did not like his position at all. As he had told Teddy, they were much too close to Emden, and the diamonds weighed on him like a nightmare.

He consulted with Cripps as to the possibility of repairing the tank valves, but Cripps and Spiller, after a second and very thorough examination, decided that it was utterly impossible.

Another day came, and though the wind had dropped somewhat there was no sign of the 'Ceres.' Twice in each twenty-four hours, Keith had tried to call her, but had had no answer at all.

Since taking refuge, they had seen one vessel only, a good-sized steam trawler which passed between them and the mainland. A Dutchman, they concluded.

That afternoon Keith called Cripps and Teddy Baines into the cabin.

"Ben," he said, speaking in a low voice, so that the prisoners might not hear, "I'm afraid something is wrong with the 'Ceres.' We should certainly have seen her or heard from her if she was all right."

Cripps nodded gravely.

"That there German may have got a chance shell into her, sir," he said.

"Or she may have hit a mine in the storm," said Keith. "It's no use blinking facts. At any rate, we are left to our own devices. We can't stick here for ever. What are we to do?"

"Paddle on home, Keith," put in Teddy.

"What—in a craft that can't submerge, that has no guns or torpedoes, and could be picked up by a patrol boat as easily as a fishing smack?"

"It's either that or camp here," returned Teddy.

"What do you say, Cripps?" asked Keith.

"I'd say like Mr Baines—try a run for home, only for them diamonds, sir. But it don't seem right to chance that great fortune falling back into enemy hands."

"That's it exactly, Ben. If it came to that, I'd rather chuck them overboard than let the Germans lay hands on them again. Now, I'll tell you what I suggest."

He leaned forward and spoke in a whisper.

"I propose we go ashore to-night and bury them on the island."

Ben Cripps and Teddy stared in silence for a moment. Then Teddy gave a sudden chuckle.

"You've hit it in one, Keith. Bury 'em and come back for 'em. That's the ticket. Come on. The sooner we get to work the better."


KEITH caught Teddy by the arm.

"You ass!" he said quickly. "We can't go yet. We've got to wait until the prisoners are asleep, and even then we shall have to go to work very carefully indeed. No one must know anything about it except us three, and we've got to give our word not to mention the business to anyone else. Just remember, please, that these diamonds would foot the German bill for a whole day's war."

"You're right, sir," Ben Cripps said gravely. "We've got to go mighty quiet about this business. I reckon we'd best wait till about ten o'clock. There's a moon then, and we'll need light to see to dig and to make some sort of sketch-plan of where we bury the stones."

"Very well, Ben. Ten o'clock be it. You have the boat ready and something to dig with if you can find it. I'll bring the stones. Teddy, you'd better go on watch at nine. The Germans will be less likely to suspect that there's anything up."

So it was arranged, and the three went their separate ways.

It was Slopan of whom Keith was afraid. He laughed at himself for being afraid of a man who was kept safely tied up, and under guard all the time. But Keith was not one to underestimate an enemy, and he knew well that Slopan had more brains than all the rest of the Münchens' crew put together. He felt sure that the man quite realised the fix in which his captors found themselves, and he was most anxious that Slopan should not suspect his purpose.

"I know what I ought to have done," he said suddenly, and hurried on deck after Cripps.

"Ben," he said, "we must have those prisoners out of the way before taking off the diamonds. I should have sent them ashore for exercise."

"It ain't too late yet, sir," replied Cripps, "and, as you say, it would be a good thing to do. They can't come to no harm there, and they'd be out of our way. Send 'em along in the cutter, sir, with Mason and Eccles in charge, and we can follow afterwards in the collapsible."

Keith gave the necessary orders, the prisoners were brought up, and after being carefully searched to make sure that they had no concealed weapons, such as pocket-knives or razors, they were sent ashore under charge of Mason and Eccles.

The two bluejackets sat in state in the stern-sheets, and made their prisoners row. They were armed with rifles, and Keith had given them special orders to keep a good watch on Slopan.

As for Slopan, he seemed to take the expedition as a matter of course. There was no sign of any emotion on his dark face or in his hard green eyes. But that fact did not make Keith any more comfortable.

The moment the prisoners were well out of the way, Keith, Teddy, and Ben Cripps set about their preparations.

They decided that they would not wait for the moon, but get ashore as soon as possible, and use daylight for burying the stones. They would land on a different part of the island from that where the prisoners had been put ashore, and as the whole place was one tumbled mass of sand hills, there was little chance of their being seen.

There was some delay while Cripps beat out a piece of sheet-iron to form a shovel, but as soon as that was done they started in the collapsible. Keith carried the diamonds carefully packed in a small but stout wooden case, and Teddy had paper and pencil to make a chart of the hiding place.

The sun was setting as the three pulled ashore. The wind had now quite gone down, but the surf still pounded on the northern beach of the island. As they pulled towards the land, Keith thought he had never seen anything look more desolate.

No green thing but a little marram grass grew upon Baltran. It was simply a long, sickle-shaped strip of sand which the gales of centuries had curled into dunes and drifts that looked like yellow snow.

The cutter had been sent to the eastern end of the island. Keith's party landed on the western point, where a tall dune laced with withered marram made a rampart against the encroaching sea.

Behind it was a tiny valley where the sand seemed to be fairly firm.

"This ought to do as well as any place," said Keith.

"Teddy, climb up to the top of the next dune and keep a sharp look out, while Ben and I perform the funeral."

Teddy nodded and obeyed, and the other two set to work to dig the hole.

The sand was soft enough, and they soon had a hole about three feet deep. In this they placed the box, then carefully covered it up. Next, came the most important part of the business—making a plan which would ensure their being able to find the spot again. The sand would surely drift across it, and unless they had exact measurements the chances were all against their ever being able to retrieve the buried treasure.

With a tape they took the distance from the crest of each dune and noted down the figures. Then Cripps got two stout sticks of driftwood and planted them, one thirty yards due north, the other twenty-five east of the hole. They put them in pretty deep, so as not to be easily noticed by any one prowling round.

Teddy finished up by making a sketch-plan of the place with all the figures marked, and this he folded up and placed in his pocket.

By this time the sun had set, but as it was still quite light and would be so for another hour, Teddy suggested that they might just as well have a bit of a tramp and a look round the place.

"Simply must stretch my legs," he declared. "I shall lose the use of 'em altogether on that beastly tin tank."

Keith glanced at his watch.

"All right. I'll give you twenty minutes, Teddy. Not a second more. But I don't believe there's a thing to see, anyhow."

"That's all you know," retorted Teddy. "There's a hut not two hundred yards away. I spotted it from the top of the dune."

"A hut," repeated Keith, as he struggled ankle-deep through the soft sand, in Teddy's wake.

"Yes, there it is," said the latter, as he paused on the top of the dune. He pointed to a small but solid-looking building which lay in the next hollow. It was constructed of timber tarred all over, and had a galvanised iron roof also painted black. There were no windows at all, but a door was visible, which was secured by a heavy padlock. It was an odd-looking thing to see planted down on this desolate sand bank.

"Looks like a store-house of some sort," said Keith. "I expect some of the Dutch fishermen use the place. Keep their nets there, most likely."

"Funny place to keep nets!" remarked Cripps doubtfully. "We'll take a look at it anyhow, Master Keith."

"Looks pretty solid," said Teddy, as they reached it. He rapped on the side, and by the sound the planking was evidently very thick and heavy.

Cripps went prowling round the place. There was a somewhat suspicious look in his eyes. Finally, he tried the door.

"Locks fit for a jail," he muttered.

"I'd jolly well like to know what's inside," said Teddy.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea to find out," replied Cripps. "If you don't mind, sir," he said, appealing to Keith, "we'll just have a look."

"What—break in?" exclaimed Keith.

"Just so, sir," Cripps answered, and Keith, knowing that Cripps must have some good reason at the back of his head, at once consented.

The lock, as Cripps had said, was strong enough for a prison, but the sheet-iron shovel came in handy. With its aid, Cripps managed to force out the staple holding the padlock and so open the door.

Inside, the place was very dark. Cripps stepped in first, and Keith, following, heard him give a loud sniff.

"Smell it, Master Keith?" said the big boatswain.

"I should think I do. The place reeks of spirits."

"Bad ones," put in Teddy. "I say," he added, "what have we struck? What's a grog shop doing on this uninhabited island?"

Cripps had struck a match by this time. He was peering round.

"Why, the place is empty, after all!" exclaimed Teddy.

"Don't be too sure of that, sir," responded Cripps. "Where there's a smell like this, there's bound to be gin. Ah, I thought so! Look at this...."

He pointed to a trap door in the floor, and bending down got hold of the ring bolt and pulled. Up came the trap, and out of the hollow below arose the most appalling reek of raw alcohol.

"Wait till it's risen a bit," said Cripps, stepping back. "Likely as not, it 'ud explode with this here light."

They stepped back outside, and waited.

"What do you think it is, Ben?" asked Keith.

"A 'couper's' store," replied Ben grimly.

"'Couper's'?" repeated Keith, in a puzzled tone.

"Aye didn't you never hear tell of the 'coupers' as used to sell grog to the fishing fleets? Dutch they was and some Germans. 'Floating hells' the North Sea trawlers called 'em, and that wasn't no more than the truth."

"I've read of them," said Teddy. "But I thought they were just stories."

"Stories indeed! Whatever you've read, I reckon wasn't the half of the truth. Scores o' lives was lost every year on the Dogger through these here floating gin shops. Nice, peaceful fishing craft when the patrol gun-boats was around, but after night fall running full blast with every kind o' devilment. There'd be smacks left riding to their nets with only one or maybe two hands left aboard, and what chance would they have with a North Sea gale springing up? And what chance would the rest have pulling back in a coble, all of 'em blind to the world?"

The boys listened breathlessly. Neither of them had ever before seen old Cripps so excited. But then neither of them knew that his sister's son, his favourite nephew, had lost his life, drowned while trying to save his skipper after a night aboard one of these 'coupers.'

"If this is one of their stores, the best thing we can do is to put a match to it," declared Teddy.

"And bring down the whole bunch of 'em on top of us?" returned Cripps. "No, sir, that would be a silly thing to do. But we can stave the barrels, and smash the bottles, and that will work just as well, I reckon."

"But surely these fellows are out of business now, Cripps," said Keith. "Gentry of their kidney are not going to risk mines and submarines, to say nothing of our patrols. And in any case, there are mighty few fishing craft on the Dogger these days."

"They're not running their old business, sir," Cripps answered. "But don't you go thinking they're on any honest lay. There's pickings for their sort in war time. Pirates they've turned and wreckers. I'd most as soon fall into Boche hands as into theirs."

"This is the first I've heard of all this," said Teddy. "Let's spoke their wheel while we can. Come on. We'll bust up this little lot anyhow."

"Ay, we'll do that, sir," Cripps answered. "The air ought to be changed by now."

He was in the act of turning when the sound of a distant rifle shot made him stop short.

Instantly came a second shot, and then a shout came echoing faintly across the dunes.

"Trouble with them Germans!" snapped out Ben. "Come on."


THE whole island was one tangle of steep-sided dunes, and the sand was deep and soft as new fallen snow. Running was almost impossible. For every two feet forward they seemed to slip one back. To Keith, torn by desperate anxiety, that wild rush across the lonely island in the chill twilight, was like a ghastly nightmare.

He stumbled, slipped, fell, picked himself up again, and tore onwards. His legs felt like lead, his heart thumped, and he breathed in quick, hard gasps, while all the time he was racking his brains as to what could possibly have happened.

There was no more shooting now, or shouting, and to Keith the silence seemed more ominous than any amount of noise.

The distance was about a mile. They had covered perhaps half of it when a solitary figure appeared in sight over the crest of a dune, racing wildly towards them.

"It's Eccles," panted Teddy.

Eccles it was, and a pretty figure he looked. His cap was gone, so was his rifle. His face was smeared with blood, and his jumper in rags.

"Germans?" snapped Keith, as the man came up.

"No, sir," gasped Eccles. The man was so done he could hardly speak. His chest was rising and falling like a pair of bellows.

"No, sir. Pirates, I reckon. They come off a pull boat—took us unawares, they did. They got Mason afore he saw 'em. I loosed off at 'em and got one. Then I ran. I knowed I'd got to warn you."

"How many?" demanded Keith.

"Five, I think, sir. But they've set them Germans loose. All on 'em."

Keith asked no more questions. He took his decision instantly.

"Back to the submarine," he ordered. "There's not a second to waste. Can you keep going, Eccles?"

"I'll have to," replied Eccles grimly.

If his first run had been bad, the second was worse. All four knew that their liberty, if not their lives, hung upon the speed with which they could regain their boat and the submarine.

There was no sign of pursuit. This, in itself, was ominous. Their enemies must be feeling sure of them—at least so it seemed to Keith.

At last they were on the open beach where the sand was harder, and they were better able to run. Keith glanced across in the direction of the submarine. There she lay. He could see her conning-tower looming dimly above the fast-darkening sea, and a sigh of relief escaped his labouring lungs. There were three of his men still aboard her, and well-armed as they were with rifles, he had little fear of their being successfully attacked unless the enemy had a gun, and that did not seem likely.

He flung himself into the dinghy and seized a scull. Cripps took the other. Teddy steered and Eccles, done to the world, lay panting in the bottom of the little boat.

The submarine lay about six hundred yards south of the island, and nearer to the east end than the west. They had to pull almost parallel with the beach to reach her.

They had covered less than half the distance when the vicious crack of a rifle came from a dune top, and a bullet sang its deadly song close above their heads.

Instantly Teddy pulled his tiller string, bringing the bow of the dinghy round due south, and so presenting a smaller target to the hidden marksmen.

Three spits of red flame showed at once on the island, and three shots sounded almost as one. The bullets spattered the surface close alongside the dinghy, but without actually hitting her.

"It's them coupers," panted Cripps, as he strained at his scull. "Gosh! I wish we was safe aboard."

Another volley. Keith felt his wrists tingle as though he had received an electric shot. A bullet had passed clean through the blade of his oar.

A moment later the boat itself was hit. A collapsible is a frail thing at best, and this pencil-shaped piece of metal bored right through the stern, and, miraculously missing Teddy, passed through the bottom, making a long splintered gash through which the sea water began to spout.

Eccles set to baling hard, but the little craft, overloaded as she was, rapidly began to settle. Eccles tried to plug the hole with a piece of rag, but it was impossible.

The three of Keith's men left aboard the submarine were now returning the fire from the island. But as it was already nearly dark, and since they could not see their opponents, it was fairly obvious that they could not do much good.

The water bubbled up into the collapsible. In spite of Eccles' best efforts, he could not keep it down. And bullets were still splashing all around the boat. It seemed a miracle that none of her crew was hit.

They were still fifty yards from the submarine when the end came. The flimsy little boat sank under them like a stone and left them struggling in the sea.

Luckily they could all swim, and headed by Keith they struck out for the submarine. Spiller was standing ready with a coil of rope. He sent it whizzing out towards them. Keith caught it, passed the end to his companions, and all four were hauled in like so many fish on the end of a line.

"What's happened, sir?" asked Spiller anxiously, as Keith clambered aboard. "Is it Germans?"

"No. Coupers, Spiller," replied Keith, whose teeth were chattering like castanets. "Do you know what they are?"

"Ay, sir. I've helped chase 'em when I was in the fishery gun boat, Dolphin. Jenkins and me, we saw a boat pulling along to the island. Seemed to come from the mainland, she did. We'd ha' warned you if we could, but you was out o' sight by then. And, of course, we'd no boat. Where's Mason, sir?"

"In their hands, I'm afraid," said Keith gravely.

"And we can't do nothing to help him," growled Cripps. "There ain't another boat."

"If there was, it would be shot to bits before we could get ashore," put in Teddy. "What's to be done, Keith?"

"There's only one thing to be done," Keith answered quietly. "Clear out at once!"

Cripps nodded.

"You're right, sir. If we wants to save this here prize, to say nothing of our own skins, the sooner we shifts the better. Them Huns, now they're loose, will be signalling for their own folk, and it won't be long afore these here waters is alive with enemy craft."

"Then get under way at once," said Keith. "Cripps, you and Spiller go and start the engines, and the rest of us will get the hook up as soon as we can."

Fortunately there is no stoking aboard a submarine, and the big Diesel oil engines are almost as easy to start as those of a motor car. Within five minutes the München was under way, grinding steadily on, and making for the western channel.

The firing from the shore had ceased. By this time it was so dark that the island was only visible as an outline slightly blacker than the surrounding water. It was impossible to see what was going on.

Keith stood in the conning-tower, steering her until clear through the channel. Then he handed her over to Jenkins while he hurried into the little cabin to change his soaking clothes.

Teddy, who had been busy with a dozen things, followed him in and began to strip rapidly.

"One thing, the diamonds are safe, old chap," he said cheerily.

"I hope they are," Keith answered.

"Why shouldn't they be? No one saw us bury them. On the whole, I think, we got out of it pretty well."

"Except for losing poor Mason," said Keith.

Teddy nodded.

"Yes, that was bad. But it couldn't be helped. And, anyhow, he wasn't killed. We might have a chance of rescuing him if we could only strike one of our own patrols. It makes me sick to think we've lost all those Hun prisoners."

"It makes me more sick to think we've lost Slopan," said Keith bitterly. "He's more dangerous than all the rest put together. The fellow has brains, and I'll lay anything he's busy this minute planning to get help to chase us. He'll find some way of doing it, too, I'll be bound."

"Don't worry about that," Teddy replied consolingly. "Even if he did find someone to chivy us, they'd have a job to find is. It's almost pitch dark, and we lie so low in the water they'd have to get pretty near to spot us at all. Besides, we're in neutral waters."

"Much the Huns would care for that!" returned Keith. "I don't want to croak, Teddy, but I'll tell you straight that our only chance is to pick up with some of our own people before morning."

"Poor old Keith, he's got the hump badly," said Teddy to himself, as he pulled on a thick gray jersey which he had found in a locker. "Myself, I think we've done jolly well, and I'll lay we'll be in Yarmouth Harbour before forty-eight hours are past."

Aloud, he said, "What about supper, Keith? We may as well feed while we can, for I don't suppose any of us will get much sleep until we're safe the other side."

"Right you are," replied Keith. "Fix up some grub, if you can. I'm not too worried to be hungry."

Cooking aboard a submarine is a simple matter. Electric stoves will boil water or heat a frying-pan in almost no time. Teddy soon had a kettle bubbling, and made a big pot of hot cocoa. Then he fried some slices of ham.

Keith and he ate rapidly, then Cripps and the others came, one by one, as they could be spared, and each made a hearty meal.

By this time the München had put several miles of water between herself and the island. Teddy climbed the conning-tower and found Keith there.

"Nice night," said Teddy cheerfully, as he looked out across the calm sea.

"Too nice!" replied Keith emphatically.

"What's up, Keith? What are you grousing about?" Keith laughed.

"I'm not grousing, Teddy. Really I'm not. All I say is that it's much too fine and clear. And the moon will be up very shortly. It wouldn't matter a bit if we could submerge, but on the surface we're as helpless as a trawler. The smallest armed launch could pick us up or sink us. We haven't even a gun."

"She's got to find us first," replied Teddy stoutly. "And every mile brings us nearer home."

Keith did not reply. He kept looking back towards the east. Presently the dark sky began to lighten along the horizon and all too soon the moon, only three days past the full, pushed her silver globe above the rim of the sea. She seemed to rise with uncanny swiftness, and within a very few minutes the tops of the small waves, each flung back her gleam, while the long gray bulk of the submarine was outlined darkly against the shining sea.

Even Teddy was impressed by her visibility.

"I see what you mean, Keith," he said rather uncomfortably.

But Keith did not answer. He was focusing his night glasses upon something which Teddy had not yet seen.

"What is it, Keith?" asked Teddy quickly.

Keith handed the glasses to his chum, and Teddy raised them quickly to his eyes.

A low whistle of dismay escaped his lips as he lowered them again.

"A destroyer," he said. "And a Hun, I'm afraid."

"Yes," replied Keith quietly. "Slopan has not lost much time."


"WE must run for the Dutch coast, Teddy," said Keith quietly. "That's our only chance."

Now that danger was actually upon them, his spirits rose again, and he was his cheerful self once more. That was always Keith's way.

"Won't they intern us?" asked Teddy doubtfully.

"Don't suppose there's any one there to do the job, unless we land," said Keith; "and land we can't, for there's not water even for this craft within a mile of the shore."

The destroyer was now visible without glasses. Keith dropped down the ladder, and shouted to Cripps to give her all she would take. The engine beats quickened, but the München had nothing like the speed of the newer fighting submarines. She had been designed and built for cargo work, and the very best they could knock out of her, even on the surface, was between fourteen and fifteen knots. The destroyer, doing something over twenty-five, loomed larger every minute. Teddy glanced at her, then at the Frisian coast which lay, a dark line, some five or six miles to the southward.

"She'll nab us before we can reach the land," he said. "What are we going to do, Keith?"

"We can't do more than we are doing," Keith answered quietly. "We must plug along and take our chances. There's just one comfort. She won't sink us, except as a last resort."

"Why not?"

"What—with all those dyes aboard! And then the diamonds. How are they to know that the diamonds are not still in their safe?"

"Won't Slopan have guessed what we've done?"

"He may," Keith answered. "Yes, he may have guessed that we have buried them. But in that case, he'll know that he can't find them without the plan."

"By the way, what have you done with the plan, Teddy?" he asked. "Wasn't it spoilt by the ducking?"

"It was a bit blurred," replied Teddy. "So I made a fresh copy, and tore up the old one. The new one is in my pocket this minute."

"Hang on to it, then. But if we are taken, destroy it, we can find the place by the posts we stuck in the sand. Mind you, I'd rather they lay there until doomsday than that the Huns got their paws on them again."

"Right," said Teddy.

He looked again at the destroyer. She was now only about three miles away and coming up hand over fist. Though the Münchens' engines were fairly roaring, they could not compete with those of the long, snake-like enemy craft.

Keith was steering straight for the land, but the German, seeing what he was after, had changed course and was cutting in between the submarine and the coast.

"No use, Teddy," remarked Keith quietly; and almost as he spoke came the ringing crack of a four-inch gun, and a shell flung up a fountain of silver foam a hundred yards or so ahead of the 'München.'

Teddy bit his lip.

"If we'd only a gun!" he muttered. "It does seem rotten to have to give in without a fight."

"We'll carry on to the last minute, anyhow," said Keith. "I'll run her aground before I give her up."

Tiny lights began to wink from the Hun's mast-head.

"He's getting annoyed," said Teddy, reading the signal. "Says he'll sink us if we don't heave-to."

"Take better gunners than he's got to hit us in this light, Teddy. We're getting into precious shoal water."

"Ah, Hun knows that. He's slackening up a bit."

Teddy was right. The destroyer's speed was much decreased. All this water off the North Frisian coast is shoal, and most of it a maze of sand banks. Keith, with a chart before him, was driving the submarine through a channel between two great banks.

"Good business, Keith!" exclaimed Teddy, in sudden excitement "I believe we'll do 'em yet. Look! They're going round. They know there's not water enough to run straight down on us."

"Don't build on that, Teddy," said Keith. "We can't go a lot farther, ourselves. And remember, we have no boat."

"That's the rotten part of it," growled Teddy. "If we had, we might pull ashore and warn the Dutchmen. I'll lay they wouldn't see the Huns walking off with all the stuff there is aboard here."

The German had turned and was running northwards up the next channel to the east of the one in which the München was travelling. She could not drive straight down on the submarine, for the crest of the bank was between them, and on top of the shoal there was at present no more than six to seven feet of water, while she drew thirteen. But for all that, she could come within less than half a mile of her victim, and at that range, even in this moonlight, she could blow the submarine out of the water.

A crimson flash spurted from her deck, and with the echoing crash of the report, another shell came whizzing close overhead. It struck the water fifty yards beyond, and went ricocheting away into the distance.

"Teddy," said Keith quickly. "Tell Cripps to give her every ounce. Never mind if he bursts the engines to blazes and melts every bearing. We shall ground if we can keep her going for another mile."

Teddy bolted down below on his errand, and was hardly down the ladder before the Hun began work in earnest. It was clear that her people had guessed Keith's intention, and as they saw they were going to lose their prize in any case, meant to send her to the bottom.

Two guns were turned on the doomed 'München,' and one of the next two shells passed so close overhead that Keith actually felt the wind of it.

He put the helm over, and sent his vessel dodging forward in a series of wild zig-zags. This and the bad light seemed to put the German gunners off, and though shell after shell struck the water within her own length of the submarine, she still remained untouched.

But such luck could not last. Suddenly came a shattering crash, a spout of flame, the submarine quivered all over, and for a moment seemed to stop as dead as though she had hit a cliff. Keith was sent staggering backwards, half stunned by the concussion. When he recovered himself he saw that a yawning hole gaped in the deck some twenty feet forward of the conning-tower. But the engines were still running, and though each wave top crashed through the gap, the München still answered her helm.

Suddenly all was in shadow. Keith glanced up and saw that a cloud had covered the moon. It was only a small cloud, but he believed it would give him the two minutes still necessary to reach the landward end of the channel.

The Germans did not cease shooting for a moment, but now they had no target at all, and they themselves were only visible by the constant flashes of their guns. Teddy came tearing up the ladder. He was choking and coughing.

"No one killed," he gasped out. "Jenkins knocked silly by shock. But the gas is awful. The men can't stick it long. The reek's like the inside of a battery."

"Only a minute more. Then we hit the ground," Keith answered. "Tell 'em to leave the engines running and come on deck. They're as safe here as anywhere. If we get another shell into her, she'll sink like a full bucket."

With his handkerchief over his mouth and nose, Teddy dived once more down the ladder. A moment later the four men came tumbling up. Only Cripps remained below.

All the men were coughing. The sea water acting on the chemicals had caused a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas.

"Dark—that's a bit o' luck!" Keith heard one say.

"Won't be dark long, matey," came another voice. "Cloud's passing."

"And then look out for squalls," returned the first, with a laugh.

"It's all right, men," said Keith. "We shall take the ground inside thirty seconds if this chart's right."

"Pity we couldn't ha' gone a bit farther, sir," said Spiller. "An' put her up on the beach. It's a trifle far for a swim."

Before Keith could reply another shell, a chance shot, got the München right aft, and practically knocked the stern out of her. Cripps came rushing up. He was wet to the knees.

"That sees her finish," he remarked. "Here's a life belt, Master Keith."

"Thanks," said Keith, "but I'm hoping I shan't need it, for we—."

With a heave that sent them all staggering backwards and flung several to the deck, the München took the ground.

Although her engines had ceased working, she still had a lot of way on her, and she slid right up the bank until twenty feet of her bows were cocked clear of the water. There she stuck firmly.

"They'll have a job to sink us now," said Teddy, with a grin, and almost as he spoke the cloud swung clear of the moon, and the shallow sea shimmered in the pale, clear light.

The Germans stopped shooting. They lay to, with engines working just enough to keep their vessel from drifting, and hastily put over a boat.

"So they ain't going to use us for a target," said Spiller. "Well, I am surprised!"

"Tain't out o' consideration for you," retorted Jenkins. "It's them dye stuffs they're a-thinking of. If this was one of our own craft I'll lay they'd do just what they did to our J19 when she went ashore up alongside Jutland last year."

While the men chaffed one another, Keith and Cripps were holding a rapid consultation.

"Couldn't we out them and collar their boat?" Keith was asking.

"What's the use, sir? They'd only shell us," Cripps replied. "Besides, all our rifles are below, and you can lay that boat's crew is well armed."

"Which means we've got to give ourselves up and spend the rest of the war in a Hun prison," said Keith, with a wry smile.

"A live donkey's worth more than a dead lion, sir," remarked Cripps. "And we ain't in Germany yet by a long ways. If Slopan's aboard, you can bet he'll have us back on that there island afore we go farther."

"Then your idea is that we'd best give ourselves up and go quietly back to Baltran?"

"Seems to me 'tis the only thing to do, sir. They won't want much of an excuse to murder the lot of us."

Much as it went against the grain to take it, Keith could not but feel that Cripps's advice was sound.

In any case, there was no time to make plans. The destroyer's boat was rapidly approaching, and next minute came to rest within a dozen yards of the stranded 'München.'

"Up with your hands, all of you!" came a harsh voice in excellent English, and Keith saw an officer standing in the stern of the boat, holding an automatic in each hand.

"No need for your pistols!" he answered, in a clear voice. "We haven't a weapon between us."

"Who is in command?" snapped the other, who, as the boat swung nearer, Keith saw to be a stiff-built, hard-faced man of about twenty-seven.

"I am," replied Keith.

"You! A boy like you!" sneered the other.

Keith bit his lip, but did not answer.

Cripps, however, did so.

"He's spoilt your fine München for you anyhow, mister," he remarked. "She's hard and fast and full of water."

The German swore violently, and ordered Cripps to shut his mouth, threatening awful things if he disobeyed.

"Where's your boat?" he snapped.

"At the bottom," returned Keith briefly. "Some of your friends sank it for us."

"How many of you are there?"

"Seven in all," Keith answered.

"We cannot take more than three. You and two others come aboard. And none of your English tricks, mind! At the first sign of resistance I shall blow your brains out."

"I've no doubt you will," said Keith calmly. "But I shan't give you the chance," he added, in a low voice.

"Come on, Teddy," he said. "You, too, Spiller. The rest of you must wait and see what turns up. Cripps, you look after them."

The boat came alongside, and the three got in. At once the boat turned and pulled rapidly back to the destroyer.

Though his face showed no sign of his feelings, Keith's spirits had never been lower than during that brief row. In spite of the fact that he had nothing for which to blame himself, he had lost his first command, and now he saw the gates of a German prison opening to receive him and his companions. All his hopes of prizes or promotion had gone up in smoke. At the best, there would be nothing but a dreary period of inaction until the war ended.

His thoughts switched to Slopan. He wondered if the man were aboard the destroyer. He did not anticipate with any pleasure meeting the fellow again, especially now that their roles were exchanged.

"Up with you, sharp!" snapped the officer in command of the boat as they came alongside the destroyer.

Keith felt an unpleasant thrill as, for the first time in his life, he trod the deck of an enemy ship, as prisoner. He found himself confronted by a tall man in commander's uniform, wearing the Iron Cross. He had fair hair, china blue eyes, and the supercilious expression typical of your true Prussian.

"Your name and ship," he demanded harshly.

Keith told him.

"And you were put in charge of the München?" sneered the other.

"I was," replied Keith calmly.

"Why did you not heave to when I ordered you?"

"Is an answer necessary?" asked Keith, looking the commander straight in the face.

"I order you to reply," said the other angrily.

"I'm afraid I must decline, if you take that tone," answered Keith.

The commander's face darkened.

"You dare to speak to me like that, you English brat?" he roared.

"I dare to demand common courtesy, even from a Prussian," retorted Keith.

The commander's hand flew to his pistol. His face had turned brick red, and his eyes were suffused with blood. The chances are that he would have shot Keith then and there, had not a third person interposed.

"Pardon me, Captain von Lange," came a smooth voice, and like magic Slopan was at the Prussian's elbow. "Pardon my interference, but I know how to deal with these English-men. If you will allow me, I have no doubt but that I can procure the information you require."

Von Lange swung round upon Slopan, and for a moment it seemed as though he were about to vent his rage upon the supercargo.

But Keith, watching him keenly, saw him restrain himself with an evident effort. It was clear that, for some reason or other, he was afraid of Slopan.

"Yes, take him," he said, with a forced laugh. "I give him to you. You have my permission to do anything you please to get the truth out of him."

"The whole truth," he added significantly.

"I do not anticipate any trouble, Herr Captain," said Slopan, with a smile.

"Will you accompany me, Mr Hedley?" he asked suavely.

Keith did not particularly enjoy the prospect of a tête-å-tête with Mr Maximilian Slopan, yet even that seemed preferable to the sort of conversation he had been having with the unspeakable von Lange.

"Very well," he said. "I am at your service."

"Will Mr Baines accompany us?" continued Slopan, turning to Teddy. And Teddy, who had been standing by, boiling with rage, nodded and followed.

Slopan took them below. There is precious little cabin accommodation in a destroyer, and Keith noted with inward surprise that Slopan had the second best cabin to himself.

He took the boys inside and drew the curtain.

"Well, gentlemen," he said, "we meet under rather different circumstances from last time, but I bear no malice. And since you both look tired and wet, I am going to ask you to join me in some refreshment before we proceed to business. Will you have a little spirits or do you prefer cocoa?"

Keith liked the man's civility as little as his other moods. All the same he did not think it wise to refuse.

"Cocoa, if you please," he said civilly.

Slopan went outside and gave a call. Then he came back, took three cups from a locker, and a tin of cocoa. A moment later a ward room attendant appeared with a kettle of boiling water. Slopan put a spoonful of cocoa in each cup, and mixed the powder carefully. He took out a tin of biscuits and opened it.

"Help yourselves, gentlemen," he said, and lifting his own cup began to sip it.

"You must not pay too much attention to our worthy captain," he said, with a slight sneer on his olive face. "I need hardly tell you that he is a Prussian. Prussians are all pigs, and I like them as little as you do yourself. I have suffered a good deal at their hands, and it was that rather than anything else, which induced me to make the proposal I did aboard the 'München.' Now, of course, that is at an end, and the cargo of the submarine returns into German hands."

"Unless," he added, casting a keen glance at Keith, "you have thrown the diamonds overboard. And, for your own sake, I trust that you have not done anything so foolish."

While Slopan spoke, Keith had been watching him narrowly. He had to confess that the man baffled him. Could it be true that Slopan had no suspicion of the real truth? Had he no idea of what had actually been done with the stones?

Keith hardly believed this possible. He wanted time to think, and went on sipping his cocoa while he racked his brain for the explanation of Slopan's attitude. Naturally, he did not believe for one moment that the man had given up the idea of securing the diamonds for himself. At any rate, he was firmly resolved that he would not under any circumstance allow him or von Lange to get their hands upon them again.

Slopan was speaking again, but there was an odd drumming in Keith's ears which seemed to prevent his hearing. What was it? Were the engines starting up again? He looked across at Teddy, and to his amazement Teddy's eyes were closed, and his head had fallen forward. He tried to rise to his feet, but all his muscles seemed to have turned to lead.

The last sound he heard as he relapsed into unconsciousness was Slopan's laugh.


"SO the beggar doped you, too, did he?"

These words, in Teddy's voice, were the next that came to Keith's ears.

They meant nothing, for, at first, his memory had not come back. All he knew was that his head ached most infernally, and that his mouth tasted of brass. Also, that he had a most dreadful thirst.

"Aren't you awake, old man? I thought I saw you move," said Teddy again.

"Y-yes, I'm awake," said Keith hoarsely. "W-what's happened? Where are we?"

"Back on Baltran," replied Teddy, answering the last question first. "And in the couper's store. Don't you remember that swab doping us?"

Keith sat up. It was very dim in the close, ill-smelling little place, but it was evidently daylight outside, for a certain amount of light leaked through cracks in the walls.

"The cocoa!" he exclaimed. "Yes, I remember now. But how did he do it? He had some, too."

"The powder must have been in the cups when he took them out of the cupboard. Oh, he's a cunning swine. You got the worse dose, Keith, for I've been awake some time. Are you feeling very bad?"

"I'd give a lot for a drink of water," replied Keith. "My throat feels like a lime kiln."

"So does mine, but there's nothing here except spirits."

"They're no use to us," said Keith, passing his hand over his burning forehead.

He was silent a minute.

"What did he do it for?" he asked, at last.

"Need you ask?" said Teddy, with a bitterness very foreign to his usual sunny nature. "It was to get the plan, of course."

Keith gasped.

"Curse me!" begged Teddy, "I deserve it. In the rush, I forgot all about the plan. I never tore it up as you told me. I'm a blamed idiot and I ought to be kicked."

He was so bitterly repentant that Keith could not find a word of blame.

"It can't be helped, Teddy," he said kindly. "The mischief is done, and no amount of grousing will help us. The only thing is to see if we can get it back. Where is Slopan? And how comes he to have got us here?"

"I don't know any more than you," Teddy answered. "The only thing I can imagine is that he has borrowed us of von Lange for some dark purpose of his own. I don't suppose for one minute he means to let that gentleman lay his fingers on the stones."

"It's not likely," agreed Keith. "Phew, if only my head didn't ache so abominably, I might be able to think what he was after."

"Have you tried the door, Teddy?" he added presently.

"Tight as wax," replied Teddy. "Nothing short of a crowbar would be any good."

Keith rose dizzily to his feet. The close air of the hut reeked with the fumes of the spirits stored in the cellar below. It was no place to recover from the effects of the drug, whatever it was, that Slopan had administered.

"If I could only get a breath of fresh air," he groaned.

Teddy suddenly held up his hand.

"That's just what you're going to get," he said, in a quick whisper "Lie down again. There's someone coming, and if it's Slopan, it's just as well to let him think we're still under the drug."

Both dropped silently to the floor. Next moment a key was turned in the lock, and the door opened, letting in a blaze of sunshine, and a gush of exquisitely cool air.

Between half-closed eyelids, Keith saw Slopan enter, and with him—to his amazement—was the big, brutal Prussian, von Lange.

"Our young friends are still a trifle drowsy, Herr Kapitän," remarked Slopan in that suave voice which Keith hated so thoroughly.

"Wake them up. I have no time to waste," returned the other curtly. Keith again got the idea that von Lange disliked and despised Slopan, and yet, for some reason, feared him. Slopan stooped and shook Keith by the shoulder.

"Rouse up, Mr Hedley," he said. "We wish a few words with you."

Keith opened his eyes.

"So it's you, is it?" he said coldly.

"Myself, Mr Englishman, and with me, Kapitän von Lange. We require you to tell us what you have done with the diamonds which were part of the cargo of the 'München.'"

Keith sat up and stared hard at Slopan. He was beginning to get over the numbing effects of the drug, and his brain was working quickly. He was aware that the plan was, in all probability, at present reposing safely in Slopan's pockets and his natural impulse was to denounce him at once to von Lange.

Second thoughts convinced him that this would be a blunder. Even if von Lange believed him, it would only mean that the stones would return to the keeping of the German Government. So far as England was concerned, it would be better if Slopan got them. Again, Slopan could not dig them up while von Lange was about, and that meant delay. Time was on his side.

Slopan returned Keith's gaze with confidence. He seemed to read the boy's thoughts.

"Quickly, please," he said. "We have no time to waste."

"You must give me some water," said Keith resolutely. "I can't talk. My throat is too dry."

"Water!" burst out von Lange. "Himmel! Do you think we are here to act as nurses to British brats. Speak out at once, or—take the consequences."

As on the previous night, his hand moved to the butt of his revolver.

Keith looked him full in the face.

"It won't work," he said scornfully. "If you murder us, the secret dies with us, and you'll never get the stones back. Put your pistol away and get us some water."

It was probably the first time in his life that von Lange had ever been spoken to in such a tone. He looked as if he was going to burst.

"Schweinehund!" he roared, and, stepping forward, aimed a sudden and violent kick at Keith.

It was a silly thing to try on any young Englishman, more especially on one who, like Keith, had won a place in his school soccer team. Keith caught the brute's boot before it reached his side and threw all his strength into a tremendous heave.

Von Lange's legs rose at right angles to his body, his body described a neat curve, and the first portion of him that reached the boards was the back of his head.

"Good for you, Keith!" cried Teddy, and like a flash had flung himself on the bully. But there was no need to hold him. He was completely stunned and lay helpless as a log.

Up sprang Keith, only to find himself looking down the black muzzle of Slopan's automatic.

"Not again, my young friend!" smiled the latter. "You can play a trick like that on a dull-witted ox of a Prussian, but not on Max Slopan."

For a moment the two faced one another, both motionless as statues. Then Slopan spoke again.

"I believe I ought to shoot you both," he said. "It would be wiser. Yes, of course it would be wiser. And yet—yet it might lead to complications, for I believe that big boatswain is also in the secret.

"Besides," he added, with a queer grimace, "I owe you something. You have put the stones where I can reach them comfortably, and you have given that hectoring brute there an excellent lesson."

He laughed outright as he spoke, and it was a laugh that filled Keith with an insane desire to go for him, pistol and all, and treat him as he had already treated von Lange.

Again Slopan seemed to read Keith's thoughts, and once more he laughed. But the finger on the trigger of his automatic never quivered.

"It would really be kinder to put you out of your misery before von Lange recovers," he went on. "I don't know what he will do to you, but I certainly would not be in your shoes even for the diamonds. If I were you, I would make sure he did not come round. A finger and thumb on his wind-pipe—that is all that is necessary."

"Adieu for the present," he ended mockingly, and backed towards the door, still covering the boys with his pistol.

He had taken but one step when the sunlit air quivered to the throb of a heavy gun.

Slopan started violently and half turned.

Keith saw his chance. With one spring, he was on the man, and with a quick blow sent the pistol spinning out o his hand.

With a snarl, Slopan closed. He was taller than Keith and had a wiry strength. Keith, his muscles still numb from the effects of the drug, was no match for him. Slopan caught him round the body, and with a desperate effort raised him and flung him backwards to the floor.

Slopan spun round to recover his pistol.

"No, you don't!" snapped Teddy, and Slopan found himself covered by von Lange's revolver which Teddy had secured from the pocket of his prisoner.

Slopan did not hesitate an instant. With one nimble spring he was outside the door. Teddy pulled the trigger, but Slopan was already round the angle of the doorway. Teddy made a dash after him, but before he could get outside the man was racing away at top speed, and had almost reached the top of the dune.

Boom! Boom! Boom! The guns were going in earnest now, and Teddy was suddenly transfixed by the sight of a big vessel flying British colours, tearing along about half a mile out, and firing hard as she went, at some unseen foe.

"It's the Ceres, Keith!" he yelled, in wild delight. "The dear old Ceres. She's after that destroyer, and I'll bet she's giving her 'beans.'"

Half stunned as he was by the force with which Slopan had thrown him down, Keith staggered out of the hut, and was just in time to see the Ceres vanish across the end of the little valley between the dunes.

In his excitement, he forgot all about von Lange, Slopan, the diamonds, and everything else.

"Come on!" he panted, and went floundering up the steep, sandy slope, intent only on getting a view of the battle.

Teddy and he reached the top together.

"There she is!" gasped Teddy, almost crazy with delight. "Dear old skipper! Look how he's handling her!"

"And the Hun running for all she's worth," rejoined Keith. "Cowardly swabs, it's all they're fit for."

"She's firing, though. And her shooting isn't so bad. Jove, the Ceres has caught it pretty sharply. There's smoke rising aft."

"But she's hulled the Hun. Why, half his bridge is gone. Oh, she'll have him if he can't outrun her."

Teddy did not answer. He was breathlessly watching the duel. It was a wonderful sight, the two ships tearing at full speed across the sunlit sea, with jets of cordite smoke bursting from their decks, and the shells flinging up multi-coloured fountains of foam from the calm surface.

Neither seemed to be gaining. At about a mile and a half distance, they rushed onwards, with almost the speed of two trains, banging away at each other with every gun they could bring to bear.

Suddenly Keith pointed to the eastern horizon.

"Fog!" he exclaimed. "See, it's drifting over from the east. What rotten luck!"

"Weather's always against us," growled Teddy. "If the Hun reaches that bank the Ceres loses her."

"She may get her in some vital spot first. I'd give all I've got to see one of those six-inchers fetch her in the engines."

Teddy did not answer. He was straining his eyes after the two flying vessels. At the pace at which they were travelling they grew smaller every moment. The German, with smoke and sparks pouring from his funnels, was driving desperately for the fog bank. He knew as well as did the boys, that it was his only chance of escape.

Shells pursued him. More than once the boys saw the bright flash which means a hit. But apparently the hits were not vital, for he drove on at undiminished speed, and presently ran straight into the drifting fog bank and vanished like a drawing sponged from a slate. A moment later, the Ceres, too, dashed into the thick and disappeared.

Keith drew a long breath.

"We may get her still. The skipper is still firing. It may not be so thick as it looks."

Teddy caught him suddenly by the arm.

"What about us, Keith? Isn't it about time we found out what Slopan is up to?"

Keith started sharply.

"I must be crazy," he said. "I forgot every blessed thing at sight of the Ceres."

"So did I," confessed Teddy. "But it's about time we remembered. There's that beggar, von Lange, too, and for all we know, there are others of his crew on the island."

"Von Lange first," said Keith quickly. "We must shut the beggar up. He'll be as dangerous as a mad wolf when he comes to. Jove, I hope he hasn't got away while we've been fooling up here."

Forgetting, in his anxiety, the thirst which still tortured him, Keith descended the dune at a run.

"No sign of Slopan," said Teddy.

"Chances are he's after the diamonds," Keith replied. "One thing, we've drawn his teeth. I've got his automatic."

"Don't crow," said Teddy. "He may have another on the island."

Panting with the run, they arrived at the door of the hut.

"It's all right," said Keith in great relief. "The beggar is still there."

"But he's moved," said Teddy. "He's coming round."

It was true. The big German had moved. They had left him flat on his back. Now he had rolled over on his face.

"Got a bit of cord?" asked Teddy quickly. "No? Well never mind. I'll use my tie."


The door slammed to behind them, and before Keith could so much as turn, the key clicked in the lock.

Slopan's high pitched laugh came to their ears through the thick timbers.

"Of all the fools!" he jeered. "Walked into the trap, both of you. Good-bye, my young friends," he continued. "Good-bye, or perhaps I should rather say 'Au revoir'. I am now about to reclaim certain property. Meantime, I wish you joy of your company. Take good care of the Kapitän von Lange."

His voice died away in the distance, and the two boys, too sick with themselves even to attempt to answer, stood stock still, staring at one another in horror and despair.


VON LANGE stirred. He gave a deep sigh.

Teddy swung round sharply.

"We must make him fast, Keith," he said. "Like as not, he'll try to murder us both if he comes round."

As he spoke, he pulled the German's hands round behind him, and made them fast with his silk handkerchief. As he did so, he noticed that the man had a felt-covered water bottle at his belt. He took it off and handed it to Keith.

"May as well have a drink," he said. "Diamonds or no diamonds, we've got to keep going."

"You first," Keith answered quietly.

Teddy did not argue. He drank, then Keith followed his example. The water was none too cool or very fresh, yet it put new life into them.

"We've got to get out of this, Teddy," said Keith.

Teddy shrugged his shoulders.

"We've tried that before, old chap. Afraid it's N.G."

"We had no pistols then," Keith answered significantly.

"Blow the lock off, you mean?" exclaimed Teddy. "Jove, I never thought of that."

"I don't know whether it will work, but it's our only chance," said Keith. "The worst of it is that Slopan will hear us. The place where the diamonds are buried is barely three hundred yards away."

"He may think we're shooting von Lange," Teddy replied. "Anyhow, as you say, it's our only chance. But that automatic is no good. The bullets are too light. Try this revolver."

He handed over von Lange's revolver.

The German service revolver is a lighter weapon than ours, but it has a heavier bore than the deadly little automatic, such as Slopan carried.

Keith took it, and going to the door put the muzzle close to the lock and fired three shots rapidly. The bullets drove clean through the timber, but when he tried the door it was fast as ever.

"Won't work, I'm afraid," he said. "You see it's a padlock. My only chance is to blow the staple out, and that's just what I can't do."

"Stop shooting. I'm coming in."

The boys both recoiled from the door. They were absolutely struck dumb with amazement. For the voice—the voice was Slopan's, and by the sound of it, the man was in a desperate hurry.

Before they could recover themselves, the key had turned and Slopan slipped in. He was panting as though he had been running hard.

Keith was not to be caught napping a second time. In an instant he had collared the man and jammed his pistol hard against his head.

Slopan grinned sourly.

"Better save the rest of your cartridges," he said. "You'll need them before you are much older."

There was the ring of truth in his voice, yet Keith did not relax his hold.

"Where are the diamonds?" he demanded.

"Where you left them," Slopan answered. "And where they will probably remain till doomsday if you don't believe what I say and help me bar up that door."

"Why?" asked Keith curtly.

"Because about a dozen Dutchmen have landed just opposite. The choicest gang of pirates you ever saw."

"The 'coupers?'" said Keith.

"That's what you call them, I believe."

"Then they're the same who turned you loose yesterday," said Keith, with sudden suspicion.

"One or two may be the same. The rest are different. There's a whole trawler full of them, and this time they are after the diamonds."

"How do they know of them?" demanded Keith.

"How can I tell?" retorted Slopan. "The only thing that matters is that they do know. That I can swear to, for I was within twenty yards of them, and heard what they were saying. If it hadn't been for a patch of bents, they'd have had me."

"They know the stones are on the island, too," he added. "And if they get hold of any of us who know where they are, Heaven help us."

His words had the ring of conviction. Keith no longer doubted.

"It's no use staying here," he said quickly. "This is their store, and about the first place they'll come to. What,—didn't you know?"—as he saw the horror on Slopan's face. "The cellar below is full of spirits which they have stored there. Teddy, catch hold of von Lange. We must get him out of this. Brute as he is, we can't leave him to the coupers."

Slopan snarled like an angry cat.

"What—waste time carrying that swine out? Don't be fools! And, anyhow, he doesn't know where the stones are hidden."

"All the worse for him if they do get hold of him. And since I'm not going to give you a chance of double-crossing us, Mr Slopan, you will be good enough to help Mr Baines to carry him."

Slopan's face was a study in baffled rage. Once more Keith was struck by his curious resemblance to a snake.

But dearly as the man would have liked to disobey, he was helpless. He had no weapon, while Keith and Teddy both, were armed.

"Quickly!" he snapped, and seized Von Lange by the shoulders.

Teddy took the German's legs. The man was so heavy it was all they could do to carry him. And though he had undoubtedly managed to move, he was still in a dull, half-conscious state, and quite unable to help himself.

The two staggered outside with their burden. By this time the fog had swept down over the island. The bright sunlight was replaced by eddying billows of gray mist, and it was impossible to see more than thirty or forty yards in any direction.

"Where do you mean to take him?" growled Slopan. He was in a most evil temper.

"To the nearest place where we can hide. There's a hollow I spotted it just now half-way up the dune to the left. So long as this fog holds, no one will see us there. This way!"

It was slow work carrying von Lange through the deep, soft sand. Keith longed to help Teddy, but dared not risk it. He was certain that Slopan would turn upon him if he got the merest ghost of a chance.

The fog thickened and thinned. At one moment it was as dense as smoke from a bonfire; then it would thin out as though about to blow off altogether, only to beat down again as heavily as ever. The sound of the distant firing had died away. All was silent except for the moan of the breeze in the yellow bents and the plash of the small waves on the shore.

Suddenly Keith heard a fresh sound. A confused murmur of voices.

Slopan heard it, too.

"They're coming," he muttered. "They're after us."

"Don't be a fool, Mr Hedley," he urged desperately. "Let us drop von Lange. It's our only chance of safety."

Keith was inflexible.

"It's not much farther," he answered. "And they can't see us in this smother. Go ahead."

At that very moment a puff of wind off the sea swept up the fog like a curtain, and for a moment everything was clear as before it had come on.

As in a flashlight, Keith's eyes caught a group of men around the hut. A dozen at least, and as villainous a looking crew as any ne could set eyes on. They reminded him of a crowd of buccaneers of two hundred years ago, except that their clothes had none of the magnificence of those days. Long, lean, swart fellows, with hard faces and heavy hands.

"Down!" he muttered. "Drop, Teddy!"

The others did not need his warning. They and he were all down together, and almost at the same instant down swung the fog again. But the mischief was done. The coupers had seen them as plainly as they had seen the coupers.

Shouts rang through the fog. The chase was on.

"I told you," snarled Slopan savagely. "We're done now."

Keith did not answer. There wasn't time. Out of the fog a long Dutchman towered above them. He yelled out something in a language which none of them understood, and instantly four more swung in upon them in a semicircle.

Slopan made a dead bolt for it. Quite useless! No man can do much in the way of speed when he is making up the side of a sandy dune that is nearly as steep as the roof of a house. Besides, Slopan was blown already with the exertion of carrying von Lange. They had him before he had gone ten steps.

Keith had seen from the first that resistance was useless. He had whispered as much to Teddy. Of course they could have shot one or two of the coupers, but that would only have meant their being wiped out instantly by the rest. Each of them was seized by a couple of the big Dutchmen.

"Gurd. Where's Jan Gurd?" shouted one of them. "Tell him we've got them." He spoke in Dutch, but Keith caught the sense of the words.

A man came hurrying up. He was shorter than the rest but immensely broad and square. He had a black beard, a sallow face and fierce, forbidding eyes, which he bent angrily on his prisoners.

"Who are you?" he demanded of Keith. He spoke German of a kind. It was mixed with low Dutch, but Keith, who had once spent a holiday on the Zuider Zee, could just understand him.

"We are English," he answered. "Members of the crew of His Britannic Majesty's ship, Ceres. These two," indicating Slopan and von Lange, "are our prisoners."

"The Ceres, ah? Then you are part of the prize crew of the München?"

"Yes," said Keith.

"Is this the man that commanded her?" pointing to von Lange.

"No, he was in command of the destroyer which our ship has just driven off."

"Was that your ship—the Ceres?" questioned Gurd, frowning.

"I have told you so," Keith replied dryly.

"Not so many questions, Jan," broke in one of his men. "Ask them where the diamonds are?"

Keith's heart sank. It was true—what Slopan had said. This crew of ruffians had somehow got wind of the stones.

Gurd swung round on his man.

"Keep your cursed mouth shut," he ordered fiercely.

"Who is this fellow then?" he continued, pointing to Slopan.

"One of the Münchens' officers," Keith answered. He was getting very sick of this catechism, but he was playing for time, and thought it well to be as polite as he could.

"You ought to know," he added, "seeing that it was some of your people who released the German prisoners when I had sent them ashore."

"I did not know," retorted Gurd harshly. "I wasn't here with that lot, and if I had I'd have slit their throats before I let them loose. I hate a Prussian worse than an Englishman, and that's saying something."

"Now then," he went on in a hectoring tone, "where are those diamonds?"

"You'd best go and search the wreck of the München," Keith told him. "She's ashore not twenty miles from here."

Gurd's sallow face darkened.

"None of that," he growled. "We know better. They're somewhere on this island."

Keith shrugged his shoulders.

"It is possible," he said, with an air of complete unconcern.

Gurd swore savagely.

"If you know where they are, you'll tell me—and that before you're an hour older."

There was a horrible menace in his tone, and Keith, judging from his face the sort of man he was, shivered inwardly.

Gurd swung round on Slopan.

"Do you know where they are?"

"How should I?" asked Slopan, arching his eyebrows. "As the Englishman told you, I am their prisoner. I have not set eyes on the diamonds since the München was taken. I know no more about them than you do."

He lied superbly. For the moment Gurd was clearly at a loss. He stood glaring, first at Keith, then at Slopan with an uncertain look in his scowling eyes.

"I'm going to have the truth out of you," he said. "So you may as well tell me first as last."

"Don't waste time on them, Jan," put in another of his crew. "Peg them out, and try a knotted string round their heads. That will open their mouths as quick as anything."

Keith shivered again, though outwardly he remained cool as ever. He had heard of the torture of the knotted string.

Slopan, plucky as he undoubtedly was, paled perceptibly.

"See here," he said "I was in charge of those diamonds aboard the 'München.' They were in a steel safe bolted to the ribs of the ship, and there were locks on that safe it would take dynamite to shift. When the British took the ship, I threw the keys overboard, so unless a miracle has happened the stones are still in the safe."

"Then what is this story about the British coming ashore to bury them?" demanded the chief of the coupers. "Feukel, one of the crew of the München, said that he and the rest were sent ashore so that the British officers could get them out of the way before getting hold of the diamonds."

"And I know you did come ashore," he continued, turning his smouldering eyes on Keith. "Some of my men fired on your boat and sank it."

"So that was some of your men?" retorted Keith angrily. "I was under the impression that Holland was a neutral Power."

"Bah, do you think we care who are enemies and who are neutrals?" sneered Gurd. "We are our own masters, and owe allegiance to none of your cursed Governments."

"What about those diamonds?" came the cry again from one of the unwashed ruffians behind him. "We can't stand here talking all day. There's only one way to get these men to own up, and we've told you what that is."

Gurd seemed to suddenly make up his mind.

"Peg them out then," he snapped. "This one, first."

Keith found himself seized by two pairs of brawny arms. He ducked, drove his head into the stomach of the nearest and doubled him up. It was useless. Two more had him in an instant.

"Tell them, but tell them wrong." Slopan's sharp whisper was in French, but Keith heard and understood it. For once he was actually grateful to the rascal.

He was flung flat on his back and held down, while others of Gurd's gang drove four stakes deep into the soft sand. A length of cord was produced, and he was spread-eagled with a speed and dexterity which showed that those handled him were no novices at this horrible game.

Poor Teddy was raving. But they had tied him so that he was absolutely helpless.

From a pocket in a pair of baggy trousers came a piece of greasy-looking cord in which, at distances of about four inches apart, hard knots were tied. This was wound around Keith's forehead, and into it was inserted a short stick, a single twist of which tightened the cord so that the knots bit deep into the flesh.

The very first turn was agony.

"Tell them, Keith," almost shrieked Teddy. "If you don't I will. I swear I will."

"Give him another turn," said Gurd.

"No," muttered Keith. "No. I'll tell."

"Ha!" sneered Gurd. "I told you that we understood the art of persuasion. Out with it, and quickly."

"I—I will show you," gasped Keith. His acting was really perfect. "Give me some water."

They untied him and gave him water. Poor Teddy's face was a study. He had not heard Slopan's advice, and naturally he was shocked that Keith had given in so easily.

"What is the use? It is only delaying matters," Keith managed to whisper in French to Slopan.

"Time is on our side," was the quick answer.

Keith staggered as he rose to his feet. It was not all pretence either. He still felt the effects of the drug.

"Now, where is the place?" snapped Gurd.

Keith pointed in a direction exactly opposite to the real hiding place, and Teddy, suddenly understanding, gave a smothered gasp.

"Heaven help you if you try to humbug us," growled Gurd as he took Keith by the arm, and the whole party moved away in the direction in which he led them.


KEITH'S feelings, as he waded through the sand, held by Gurd on one side and one of his lieutenants on the other, could not have been described, even by himself. The whole business seemed an evil dream. Slopan had said "play for time." What was the use of it? There was no chance of rescue. Even if the Ceres came back, her people could not see what was going on. And there was no chance of getting word to them.

He could pick a spot, and tell the 'coupers' to dig. But that only meant a few minutes' respite. And when he thought of what would happen—not only to himself, but to Teddy—his very skin crawled. These 'coupers' were pirates pure and simple. They cared for neither man nor devil. Death—that he could bear as bravely as the next, but such a death as these fiends would give them! At that moment he would actually have welcomed the arrival of a German vessel. Von Lange himself seemed white compared with these black-souled fiends.

"Le brouillard se léve."

Slopan's whisper again. It was true. The fog did seem to be lifting a little. He got a glimpse of a good sized trawler lying a couple of hundred yards out. Gurd's craft, without a doubt.

By this time they had crossed the dune, and were in the hollow beyond.

"Wait a moment," said Keith to Gurd. "I've got to get my bearings."

"Where are your marks?" demanded Gurd.

"Marks! Do you think we put in marks?" Keith retorted scornfully. "We were not such fools. The diamonds are worth millions, and we were not going to risk you or Germans finding them."

"So now you've got to find them for us," returned the couper, with an ugly laugh. "And don't you go making any mistake about the spot, or my chaps will turn nasty."

Keith paid no attention to the threat. He stood still, looking carefully about him.

"Was that the clump of marram, Teddy?" he asked.

"No, the next one, I believe," answered Teddy, playing up at once.

Keith still stared round frowningly.

"We made a plan," he said to Gurd. "But of course I destroyed that when we saw you coming."

"It's no use your cursing," he added sharply, as Gurd burst out furiously. "You'd have done the same in our place."

"You'll find the spot pretty quickly, or you'll get a memory powder," snarled Gurd savagely.

Keith turned on him.

"If you threaten us any more you can go to blazes and do your worst," he flashed out. And this time there was something in his voice and manner which quelled even the savage chief of the coupers.

"You must let me go," he added. "Even when I have my bearings I have to pace out the distance."

Sullenly Gurd obeyed. Keith took his time about his pretence of discovering the non-existent cache. And all the time the fog was thinning. It did not blow away, but grew gradually less dense.

But though he spun out the time as much as possible, the end was bound to come. He could not make the delay last beyond a certain point. At last he stopped at a spot in the centre of the little basin.

"Here it is," he said. "At least so far as I can judge, this is the spot."

"And if it is not, you'd better say your prayers," remarked Gurd, as his men fell upon the place. One had a shovel, some sticks of driftwood. The rest tore up the sand with their bare hands. Keith thought they looked like a pack of hyenas in the act of unearthing a carcass. Once more he wondered what would happen when they found they had been fooled. He could only hope that in their rage the end would come quickly, and not by slow torture.

He glanced at Teddy and then at Slopan. Teddy's face was white and set; Slopan's pale green eyes had a queer glint in them. Now and then he moistened his lips with his tongue.

The sand flew in every direction. The only men not digging were Gurd himself and two others who guarded the prisoners.


Keith's heart jumped, so that he felt half choked.

It was a gun—a signal gun. He could swear to the sound of it, for the report was quite different, flatter than, and not so deep, as a shotted cartridge.

Next instant a man came tearing down the slope behind. Keith recognised him as one of the coupers who had been left in charge of von Lange.

He yelled out some words as he came. They were in Dutch, but Keith distinctly caught something about an English ship.

A furious oath burst from Gurd's lips. He turned on Keith as if he would have liked to kill him. Then he seemed to change his mind, and shouted an order to his crew of diggers.

They looked up. Some stopped digging, but others paid no attention whatever. A mad greed for the buried diamonds possessed them.

"Boom!" It was the gun again. Gurd gave a sort of roar, and rushing in among his rebellious crew, dealt out a storm of kicks and cuffs. Keith fully expected to see them turn and murder him, but no! Nothing of the sort happened. They were like a pack of schoolboys herded by a master with a cane. They filled in the hole, smoothed it over, and taking their prisoners with them, all but von Lange who seemed to have been forgotten, they went off towards the beach at a double.

The relief was so enormous that, for the moment, Keith felt almost dizzy. But he struggled to keep a level head. As yet, they were anything but out of the wood. The fog was not gone. He could not see the Ceres, if, indeed, it was the Ceres which had fired those signal shots. Gurd knew what he was about. It was clear that he meant to take his prisoners aboard his own vessel and make off under cover of the mist.

If the Ceres people failed to see the trawler, she would get clean away, then as soon as the coast was clear, back Gurd would come, and the whole horrid business would be enacted all over again.

The way in which Gurd hustled his men was a caution. Two boats lay on the beach. They were launched and got away with a speed and silence which even the Ceres own crew could hardly have excelled.

As they drove towards the trawler, Keith's spirits rose again a little. For she was not a steamer, but a sailing craft. The breeze was still light. Surely, he thought, the fog would lift before she could get away.

He, Teddy, and Slopan were hustled aboard. The coupers had left von Lange, Gurd's orders rang out sharply, and his men jumped to obey. The anchor was catted, and all of a sudden Keith heard an engine begin to throb, and before a sail was hoisted the big, dirty craft glided away.

"Motor auxiliary," he muttered, glancing across at Teddy.

The latter's face showed that he quite realised the extra blow that had been dealt to their hopes.

Course was set south-west, and as the sails were rapidly spread the speed of the pirate craft increased. It was clear to Keith that Gurd was heading down inside the islands, making no doubt for some lair on the Friesland coast.

The fog showed no sign of clearing completely. It was not so thick as it had been, but the range of visibility was less than half a mile. Keith strained his eyes for sight of the Ceres, but there was no sign of her at all. Nor had she fired again since those first signal shots.

His spirits dropped again to zero. He had not even the consolation of being able to speak to Teddy. Gurd had been careful to distribute his prisoners at a distance from one another, so that they should have no chance of talk.

As they sailed away from the island they got more wind. The tall brown sails filled, and the trawler, a long, lean, black craft, very different in build from the ordinary bluff-bowed Dutch vessel, began to move through the water at a great rate.

Keith grew desperate. Had he been able to speak to Teddy, he would have suggested that they both fling themselves over-board and trust to luck to swim back to the island.

Through the murk to leeward loomed the next island of the long chain which runs from the Texel to the mouth of the Weser. And still no sign of help. What had happened Keith could not imagine, but he began to lose all hope of rescue.

Gurd, who had been steering, left the wheel to one of his men and came across to Keith.

"You counted your chickens before they were hatched," he remarked, with a grin which showed all his yellow teeth. "Your friends are off the scent. They think we are German and have therefore gone east. It is in that direction they are chasing, the poor fools!"

He laughed harshly.

"So soon as they are out of the way we shall return to reclaim the diamonds."

"Somehow I don't think you will ever get those diamonds," said Keith very quietly.

Gurd glared at him as if he thought the boy had gone mad. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say one word, there came a yell from forrard.

Gurd spun round, and saw—what Keith's quick eyes had already spotted—the great, sharp-bowed British yacht looming through the fog right ahead. She had come round Baltran and the next island to the north, and cutting through a channel which gave her plenty of water, got in ahead of the trawler.

Rage and despair were mingled in the fierce oath which burst from Gurd's lips. He saw that all was lost, and turned savagely on Keith, as if he regarded him as the source of his misfortunes.

But Keith divined his intention just in time, and was ready for him. He hit out with all his force, and his fist caught the Dutchman sweetly between the eyes. The blow had all Keith's weight behind it. Gurd heeled over, and his thick set frame thudded on the deck planks.

"Get his gun!"

It was Teddy's voice, and Teddy himself came bounding across.

The warning was not needed. Keith was already on top of Gurd, and had ripped his pistol from its holster. Only just in time, too, for three of the big coupers were in the act of rushing him.

He shot two, one through the shoulder, the other clean through the head. Teddy, with a capstan bar, laid out the third.

"Look out. Here come the rest of them!" cried Teddy, ranging himself alongside Keith. "Come on, you blackguards!"

Boom! Crash! The sham trawler staggered and heeled as a shell from the Ceres struck her square in the bows, hurling splinters in a shower.

Again a roar, and a second shell burst under her stern, smashing her rudder and screw so that she fell off at once, and lay motionless, with her great sails flapping like the wings of a wounded bird.

"Do you want any more?" shouted Keith in German. "There won't be a man jack of you left alive if you don't run up the white flag."

The coupers, leaderless, three of them down, their ship helpless, hesitated. Before they could recover themselves the tall sides of the Ceres loomed above them.

"Surrender, you fools!" roared Skipper Tony Brock.

It was enough. The pirates had no stomach for further resistance. They threw down their arms, and one waved violently a white handkerchief.


THE very first person Keith saw as he came up over the side of the Ceres was Ben Cripps.

"You, Ben!" he cried in delight. "How did you come here? I thought the brutes must have scuppered you."

"Dessay they would if they'd ha' had the time," answered Ben, his face one grin of delight. "Luckily, they shoved us all ashore on Baltran, and that's where we was picked up by Cap'n Brock. But you come right along to the skipper, sir. He's fair aching to hear all about it."

"All right. And you look after Slopan. I needn't warn you what sort of a slippery beggar he is."

"I'll attend to him, sir," Cripps answered, and Keith hurried to the bridge.

The skipper shook his hand warmly.

"I'm afraid you've had a precious tough time of it," he said, glancing sharply at Keith's drawn face.

"Never mind that, sir. Some grub and a few hours' sleep will put me right as rain. Has Cripps told you about the diamonds?"

"He has. He has told me the whole thing up to your grounding of the München and your capture by von Lange."

"Then of course you'll get them at once, sir."

Captain Brock's pleasant face darkened.

"I can't, Hedley. That's the mischief of it."

Keith stared. "What, are the Germans in force, sir?"

"No. The trouble is that we are badly holed, Hedley. The bow compartment is full. Don't you see how down by the head she is? I dare not risk an hour's delay, especially in this uncertain weather. I must push for home as fast as I can go."

"That's bad, sir," said Keith, in dismay. "But it does seem hard luck to have to leave all those diamonds just a few miles astern of us."

"I know it does. But even if we were to go back for them, what about trying to bring them home in a ship that has only one bulkhead between her and the bottom? You would not try it, remember, with the München."

"Jolly glad I didn't, sir," replied Keith. "They'd be in German hands this minute—or at the bottom. Did you sink the Hun, sir?"

"We lost her in the fog. But even if she does stagger into Emden, she won't be much use to Von Tirpitz. She wasn't much but scrap by the time we had done with her."

Keith was silent for a moment or two.

"I hope she didn't get in," he said, at last. "Some of her people must know that the stones are on Baltran."

"But not the exact spot," replied Captain Brock quickly.

"No. There are only four who know that, sir; Cripps, Baines, myself, and that so called Austrian, Slopan. He's a Polish Jew, really, I believe."

"Ah, the fellow whom Cripps told me of?"

"Yes, and a cunning, dangerous beggar, sir. He'll have to be well looked after. You know he has had our plan in his possession since he drugged us last night."

"Cripps will have seen to that, no doubt," said the skipper. "All right, Hedley, we will look after him. Meantime we will get home as fast as we can, and give information in the proper quarter. No doubt, the Admiralty will send out at once to recover the stones. Now, if I were you, I'd go and turn in. You look as if you'd had a rough passage, and you'd better sleep while you can. The glass is falling again, and I'm afraid we're in for more weather."

Keith hesitated. "If I might make a suggestion, sir."

"Do. What is it?"

"Well, as we are not very sound, and as no one else knows where the diamonds are cached, wouldn't it be a good thing to stop one of the other patrols and give them the news?"

Captain Brock nodded.

"Quite a good idea." He took out a chart of the North Sea. It was marked out in squares, and was in fact a map showing each area of the British patrols which cover all the salt water between our islands and the Continental coast.

"Yes," he said thoughtfully. "We ought to be able to speak to the 'Iberia'. But mind you, it will be a chance. We can't communicate unless we get sight of her. I lost my wireless in that first scrap."

"Ah, that's why we couldn't get you from the München, sir. In spite of the risk, I tried hard."

"That was it, Hedley. And we haven't been able to patch up since. Now go below, and take it easy. If it's any satisfaction to you, I'm quite pleased with the way you have managed things during your first command."

"Thank you, sir," replied Keith gratefully, and went below.

Dolan, the Irish steward, was waiting for him with hot soup. Teddy was already tucking in.

"Out of our troubles at last, Keith," remarked that youngster cheerfully. "Cripps has got the plan from Slopan. Now we've nothing to do but get home, and inform according. If the Admiralty don't send a cruiser and the two of us in it, I'll resign the service."

It was on the tip of Keith's tongue to say that there might be several slips between the present moment and their return to Baltran. But he did not like to throw cold water on Teddy's delight.

"Yes, it ought to be all right now," he said, smiling, and set himself to mop up his big bowl of excellent soup.

Now that the excitement was over, he began to feel most desperately sleepy, and it was all he could do to undress and tumble into his bunk. His head was hardly on the pillow before he was asleep, and he did not move for a good twelve hours. It was a heavy roll that roused him at last, and the first thing he saw was his oily, hung against the wall, standing out at a perfectly mad angle. A suit case which had broken loose was sliding up and down the floor like a crazy thing, banging first one wall, then the other. Great green seas raced across the thick glass of his scuttle, and by the roar and thunder above, he knew they were breaking on the decks.

"Phew, the skipper was right!" he said aloud. "We've struck a bad patch this time."

At this moment, Teddy pulled the curtain aside, and thrust his head in. His pink and white face was a shade less cheerful than on the previous evening.

"Keith, old chap, we're getting it in the neck. D'ye know the fore compartment is full?"

"Skipper told me last night," replied Keith. "Do they think the bulkhead will hold?"

"They've shored it up pretty well. But this isn't exactly weather for a craft that's crippled as we are. You'd better come and have some breakfast. There's still hot coffee, but it's a bit doubtful how long the galley stove will last."

"Right! I'll be along inside ten minutes," replied Keith.

Dressing was no easy job, but Keith had had plenty of similar experience. Indeed, he had been aboard the Ceres in almost every sort of weather, and he would not have given a thought to danger if it had not been for the crippled condition of the ship. As it was, however, he was not too happy. The pressure on that bulkhead must, he knew, be very severe, and if it went there would be no warning. The Ceres would simply kick up her heels and go down like a stone.

As soon as he was dressed he went straight on deck. The force of the wind nearly took his breath. It was all he could do to stand against it. It was coming out of the south-west, and the Ceres was boring straight into the teeth of the gale, and getting a terrible dusting from the short, steep waves which are peculiar to the wide, shallow North Sea.

Though the North Sea covers more than three times the area of England and Wales, its average depth is only sixty fathoms, and the average is much less than this between our coast and that of Holland. The consequence is a sea which old sailors vow is the worst in the world, so short and steep that there are cases on record of a long narrow craft like a destroyer actually having its back broken by being hoisted up across one of these extraordinary waves.

Thick scud was driving low over the gray expanse. It was impossible to see anything beyond a radius of about a mile, and Keith made up his mind at once that the chances were all against their being able to speak to any of their sister patrols.

The skipper's hair was white with brine, and his eyes red with the lash of the wind, as he stood behind the canvas dodger on the bridge, but his voice was cheery as ever as he greeted Keith.

"You've had a rotten night, sir," said Keith.

"Well, I must say I'm thankful for daylight, Hedley," answered the other. "Hope you are rested."

"Makes me feel a pig, sir, to have been snoring through it all," said Keith. "I ought to have been standing my watch."

"Nonsense, lad!" smiled Captain Brock. "You deserved a good sleep. Had your breakfast?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Well, go and stoke. Afterwards you can take your watch."

Keith obeyed. The coffee was excellent, far better than you ever got in the ward room of an old-fashioned battleship. There was fried bacon, too, and plenty of bread, butter, and marmalade. Our patrol ships are always well supplied. They need to be, seeing the work demanded of officers and men alike. The crew of the Ceres fared even better than most, for they still had Gilyard, who had been chef in the days of deck chairs and awnings, before the war-cloud had drenched the world with blood.

Then Keith and Teddy went on deck together.

"That bulkhead's holding fine," said the ever cheerful Teddy, "and the chief tells me we're doing eighteen, even in the teeth of this snorter. With any luck, we ought to be in the Humber before dark."

"I hope we shall," said Keith, as he braced himself against a roaring gust. "Must say I shall feel happier when we've got word home about those diamonds. We haven't been able to speak to the 'Iberia', as the skipper hoped to."

"And we're not likely to be able to speak any one else," agreed Teddy. "By the bye, Keith, do you realise that we're coming home without leave?"

"I know that," answered Keith, with a smile. "But I don't fancy there will be any kick when the 'Powers that Be' hear the reason.

"I wish we could get the skipper to take a rest," he went on. "He's been up there all night, and he'll be crocking if he isn't careful."

"Bet you he won't shift farther than the chart-room, and that only for a cup of coffee," replied Teddy. "You try if you like, Keith. He'll listen to you before anybody."

Keith did try, but it was no use, and Captain Brock remained on the bridge while, hour after hour, his crippled ship fought her way westwards against the gale.

The bulkhead held, the engines, in spite of the racking plunges of the ship, sang their steady song. The Ceres never gave better proof of the good stuff that was in her and the skill of her designer than on that day when, crippled as she was, she fought the fury of the westerly gale.

As the afternoon drew on, the sea became a little less steep, though the wind seemed as strong as ever.

"Feeling the land," the skipper told Keith. "We're getting close to the good old Yorkshire cliffs. So far as I can tell from dead reckoning, we're not more than thirty miles off Flamborough Head. I'm keeping in a bit. She will make better speed in calmer water."

Another hour passed, and now the sea was decidedly less heavy. Keith and Teddy slipped below for a cup of tea in the ward room. Coming up again, Keith ran into Cripps.

"Old lady's doing herself proud, sir," said the boatswain cheerfully. "Ought to sight Spurn Head in another hour."

"I shall be jolly glad when we do, Cripps. Can't say I've been feeling too happy all day."

"No more have the rest of us," confessed Cripps. "There isn't one craft in a hundred, crippled as she is, would have stood what she's stood in the past twelve hours. But I reckon our troubles are pretty near over. The captain's done the right thing a-bringing her in under the coast like this. If it was to lift, I reckon we'd see the cliffs."

"I believe it will lift before long," said Keith. "The glass has turned. We shall have it clear for our run up the Humber."

"How's Slopan getting on?" he added.

"He ain't saying much, sir," replied Cripps, with a grin.

"And he mustn't be allowed to say anything. You got the plan from him?"

"You bet I did, Master Keith. The very first thing. But I wouldn't say he hadn't got the details in his head."

"Just so. Which is the reason that he must not be allowed to have a word with anyone else until we have got the stones. There are still plenty of uninterned Germans about."

Cripps frowned.

"The country stinks with 'em, sir. Ain't much Willy don't know of what's going on this side—"

"Hallo!" he broke off, "there are the cliffs. There's a bit o' the good old country again."

Keith, glancing in the direction in which Cripps pointed, caught a glimpse of a great, frowning headland looming through the flying drift.

"Hurray!" he exclaimed, and turned to Teddy, who had just joined them. "See it, Teddy?"

"You bet," returned that youngster. "The old island is still there in spite of Willie's Zepps. I say, Keith, how much leave do you think we shall get?"

"About twelve hours, I should fancy. If the Admiralty has any sense, they'll ship us back for Baltran tomorrow."

"So long as they do that, I don't mind," replied Teddy, "but I haven't had any leave for ages, and I'm just aching to run down home for a few days. You know my people live near Scourport. I don't suppose I'm a dozen miles from home this minute."

"You'll hardly get a chance to see it this trip, Teddy," said Keith, "but after this game is finished there'll be some leave due to all of us."

"We shall get one quiet night's sleep anyhow," returned Teddy, "and a square meal with some real soft tack. There's just a chance we might get ashore for dinner to-night."

"Port! Port your helm!" came a sudden shout from the look out in the bows.

The man at the wheel spun the spokes, but it was too late.

There was a heavy crunching sound and the Ceres seemed to stop suddenly. Her bows heaved upwards.

"She's aground!" exclaimed Keith sharply, as he staggered and caught at the rail to save himself from falling.

Cripps, who had been flung down on hands and knees, sprang to his feet.

"Can't be that. There's ten fathoms here. 'Tisn't the ground we've hit," he answered.

He and the other two went rushing forward.

"It's a wreck we've hit," shouted some one. "A great, big blooming derelict."

Keith stopped and glanced over the side. Through the welter of foam he caught a glimpse of heavy timber rolling over one another. At the same moment he heard from below an ominous rending, hissing sound.

"The bulkhead! The bulkhead's gone," he gasped.


KEITH whirled round, almost knocking over Teddy, who was just behind him.

"The bulkhead's gone!" he repeated.

"I know it," said Teddy. "And the poor old Ceres will go too."

"Come on. We've got to fetch Slopan," said Keith, and now that the first excitement was over, he was cool enough.

"Don't quite know why we should worry about the swab," returned Teddy. "He'll be a lot safer at the bottom of the North Sea than even in an English prison."

"Bah! You can't drown a chap like that," retorted Keith. "I tell you I'm taking no chances."

"Strikes me we're taking a whole lot," muttered Teddy, with a wry smile, but all the same he followed Keith below.

Slopan was imprisoned in a cabin in the lower flat, and the pair had not reached it before they heard the hiss and roar which told them that the sea water had reached the boilers. The doomed ship rolled soggily, and the slope of the deck became so sharp that it was difficult to stand.

"I haven't got the key!" cried Keith, as they reached the door. His tone was sharp with horror.

"You can't get it now, old chap," replied Teddy gravely. "There's no time."

As he spoke there came a thud of feet behind them. It was Cripps coming as hard as he could run.

"Get up with you, quick!" he shouted. "There ain't a minute to waste. She's going under."

"Slopan—we must get him out," Keith answered.

"All right, sir. I got the key. But for any sake, you and Mr Baines get back on deck."

"Plenty of time," returned Teddy calmly. And he and Keith waited until Ben had unlocked the door.

Slopan came out like a rat from an opened trap. And now, in spite of what Teddy had said, it was perfectly clear that the Ceres had not many seconds to float.

No one spoke, but all four went up those ladders as if old Nick were at their heels. They reached the deck to find the bows actually under. All that was keeping the ship afloat was the air still prisoned under the decks.

All day the boats had been kept swung out in readiness. Now every single one had been launched, and in the dim and stormy twilight they could just see them surging in the rough water alongside. Cripps pulled up short.

"Four of us still aboard!" he bellowed at the top of his voice.

"You'll have to jump for it," came back a voice out of the gloom. It was that of Mr Matthews, the second officer.

"All right!" shouted back Keith. "You collar this chap."

Without a second's delay he ran Slopan to the side and fairly flung him overboard. He saw a bluejacket lean over, drive a boat hook through some part of Slopan's clothes and haul him in.

"Come on, Teddy!" he called.

As he spoke he felt the stern lifting under, him. The Ceres was making her last plunge.

"All right!" he heard Teddy answer, and the two jumped at the same moment.

They were not a second too soon. Even as Keith rose, he felt the suck of the great bulk of the ship as she went under. If it had not been for the same active bluejacket, he would have been dragged down with her. As it was, this man managed to hook him exactly as he had already hooked Slopan, and he was lugged, bodily, over the side.

"Teddy! Where's Teddy?" he cried gaspingly. He had swallowed so much salt water that he could hardly speak.

"All right, I'm here," came Teddy's voice from somewhere close at hand, and to Keith's intense relief, he saw that Teddy was already aboard.

"Pull, men! Pull!" shouted Matthews.

The men dipped their oars and dug out for all they were worth. It was time, too, for the boat was spinning on the edge of the great foaming vortex caused by the sinking Ceres.

Keith got his breath back a little.

"Where's Cripps?" he demanded, looking round.

No one answered.

"He was with us," said Keith sharply. "He can't be far off."

"Stern all!" shouted Matthews.

A violent rain squall broke, blotting out everything beyond a radius of a few yards.

"Cripps!" shouted Keith. "Ben, where are you?"

There was no answer—nothing but the dull roar of the wind and waves, and the rattle and hiss of the heavy rain drops.

"I'm afraid he's been sucked down," said Matthews. "But of course there's the chance he may have been picked up by one of the other boats."

Keith groaned. None of the other boats were in sight, and he knew how slim the chances were that the boatswain had been saved. There was a lump in his throat. Poor, dear, old Cripps! It was Cripps who had taught him all his seamanship, Cripps who had been his tutor and his friend ever since he could remember. It was beyond belief that the big, splendid fellow should be down there, beneath the cold, gray waves.

"It's no use waiting, I'm afraid," Said Matthews sadly. "And we're overloaded, as it is. Give way, men."

They set to Pulling in silence. Keith and Teddy, who were not rowing, had to bale their hardest, for the tops of the short waves kept breaking over the boat.

The squall was fierce, and showed no sign of passing. All sight of the cliffs was lost, but Matthews had a compass, so was able to keep a course for land. The tide was on the flood, which helped them landwards, and they knew they were not more than two miles out.

Even so, during the next twenty minutes, they were in constant danger of swamping.

"Land!" cried Teddy Baines suddenly. "I can see the cliffs."

"Any idea where we are, Baines?" asked Matthews.

"Somewhere north of Scourport. That's all I can tell you," Teddy answered.

"What sort of a coast?"

"Cliffs. A cove here and there, but mighty few places fit to land."

"There's a point of rocks to looard," said one of the men.

"The quicker we get behind it the better," remarked Matthews, changing his course.

"Be careful, sir!" cried Teddy. "There's a nasty cross sea running. I think it would be better to pull farther down and see whether it's a cove or merely a gap in the cliffs. Most of these places, there's deep water right up to the foot of the cliffs."

"We can't see much," said Matthews. "It's nearly dark. I think we'd better chance it."

Before Teddy could speak again, the boat, driven by six pairs of stout arms, shot up under a sharp point, a great spur running out from the cliffs which towered dimly overhead.

Before she could reach safety under lee of the spur, a cross sea caught her. A tower of white foam loomed ghost-like overhead to fall with a crash on the boat.

It filled her to the thwarts, and Keith felt her sinking away beneath him.

"Jump, Teddy!" he cried, and the two, side by side, made a flying leap. Caught by a second wave, they were whirled clean past the point, and as the rush passed, found themselves swimming in comparatively calm water right under the shelter of the point.

Keith stopped and trod water.

"The others! Do you see anything of them?"

"Not a thing," Teddy answered. "Here, hang on. I've got hold of a trail of seaweed."

Keith caught hold and got his wind again. Both strained their eyes through the spray-filled dusk for any sign of the boat or its occupants.

There was none.

"Afraid they're all gone," said Teddy. "It was just a chance our getting swept round like this."

"Not that it's going to help us much," he added bitterly.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't think there's any beach, old chap. I know this coast, and by the look of the rock, I'm afraid this is just a dent in the cliffs, so to speak. You see there's no curve. The cliff runs in at a sharp angle."

"Then we'd better have gone with the rest," replied Keith grimly. It was not like him to chuck up the sponge, but the loss of Cripps had upset him badly, and at the present moment he hardly cared whether he swam or sank.

"Steady, old chap!" replied Teddy quietly. "That's not the way to talk. I can't tell for certain what there is beyond, but there's always a chance we may find something to climb on to. If you've got your wind again, come on."

"All right," said Keith briefly, "I'm ready."

He let go of the long trail of weed, and swam inwards in Teddy's wake. Although the water heaved and fell in long rollers, there were no breaking waves here. The great spur cut them and the wind off completely.

Teddy kept close under the cliff foot, and they swam on for perhaps a hundred yards. Then the cliff curved sharply to the left.

"You were right, Teddy. There's no beach here," Keith said, and now that he knew the worst, he was as calm as ever.

"Wait a jiffy. What's that?" said Teddy keenly.

A strange, deep, moaning sound came from somewhere close at hand. It sounded like the drone of some enormous organ. A moment later it came again, and Keith, though not in the least superstitious, felt his hair bristle on his scalp.

"What the mischief is it?" he asked in a low voice.

Teddy gave a short laugh.

"Don't be scared. It's only the waves playing tricks in some hole in the rocks. It's my belief there's a cave here."

"A cave?" repeated Keith.

"Yes, a sea cave. Lots of them in these limestone cliffs."

"Think we can land in it?"

"May as well try," replied Teddy, "for it's a sure thing we can't anywhere else. There don't seem to be foothold for a goat on these cliffs."

He struck out as he spoke, and Keith followed.

Keith was under no delusions. He knew well enough that the chances were all against finding firm ground. Next moment he found himself passing under the roof of a black archway. The gloom beyond was intense and the swells made strange booming, sucking sounds as they rolled slowly among the hollows and crannies of the tunnel.

A shudder ran through him. He was chilled to the bone, but it was not so much cold as a horror of the utter blackness which surrounded him.

He could no longer see Teddy, or even hear him.

"Are you there, Teddy?" he said sharply.

"Yes, all right," came back Teddy's voice, and the echo seized it and sent it whispering weirdly under the arched roof above.

"That you, Mr Hedley?"

Keith gasped, and for the moment could not answer. It was Slopan's voice, or that of his ghost. And from the seeming impossibility of Slopan being in this place, Keith half fancied it must be the latter.

It was Teddy who first found his voice.

"Is that Slopan?" he cried.

"Yes." Weak and hoarse as the answer was, it was undoubtedly Slopan. "I'm here. I have a belt on, and I was washed into this place. Where are we?"

"It's a cave, a sea cave. Swim on. It's your only chance. There may be some place to land at the inner end."

"All right, I'll try," replied Slopan, and Keith could hear the man's teeth chattering in the darkness. He himself had a feeling of sudden anger. Cripps, Matthews—all those good fellows were drowned, and this treacherous hound left alive.

He swam on in silence, guided by Teddy's splashing ahead.

On and on they went, still in the same intense darkness. Keith, who was swimming in all his clothes, began to feel deadly tired. Once or twice he put his legs down, but there was no bottom. Indeed, the water gave him the impression of being very deep, and from the echoes he gathered that the roof was a considerable height above him.

"Look out!"

It was a cry from Teddy.

"What's up?"

"I'm up against rock."

"Any place to land?"

"Not yet. Wait a minute. I'm feeling my way along."

Teddy's tone was cheery as ever, but Keith drew no comfort from that. He felt sure that they had struck the inner end of the cave. Since there was no landing-place, it followed that the whole of the floor was water. They were fated to drown like rats in a trap, for it was out of the question to swim back against the flood.

"Is there no landing-place?"

Slopan's voice came from somewhere behind Keith.

"Doesn't seem like it," Keith answered,

"There is," came a shout from Teddy. "I've found bottom. Here—to your left."

Keith struck out quickly. Next moment he had bumped into Teddy.

"Put your feet down. I'm on rock," said Teddy. "Here you are, Slopan."

"This is a bit of luck," said Keith, as he found his feet. "To tell the truth, Teddy, I couldn't have kept going much longer."

"No more could I," confessed Teddy. "Let's wade along a bit. It seems to be quite shallow. I expect this is only a ledge in front of me, but I can't reach the top yet."

As they moved to the left, the water continued to shallow until it was only knee-deep. Then Teddy, who was still leading, gave a joyful shout.

"Here's shingle. Quite an easy slope. Come on."

A moment later Keith followed him out of the water on to a shingly beach. How shingle got up so far into the heart of the cliff neither of them stopped to think. They were both too grateful to be out of the water.

"Are you all right, Slopan?" asked Keith briefly.

"Yes, I'm out, thank you. If—if only it wasn't so abominably dark!"

That was just what Keith had been feeling, but he had not said so. The darkness was, in fact, absolute. One talks of a dark night, but no one knows what darkness is who has not been in a cave or mine without a light.

"I have matches, but they're wet, of course," said Keith.

"That's because you never would carry them in a bottle, old man," replied Teddy cheerfully. "Just wait a jiffy and I'll illuminate."

The scratch of the match on a piece of dry rock was followed at once by a tiny glimmer of light. Tiny as it was, it seemed to dazzle Keith's eyes as though it had been the sun.

He caught a glimpse of a wide crescent of beach, with black water beyond, of a great rocky slope running inland and of stars, great shining stars, high in the gloom above.

Stars! How could they be stars? There had been no sign of stars before the match was lighted. All of a sudden the truth flashed upon him. They were stalactites—stalactites hanging like chandeliers from the lofty roof overhead, and reflecting back the gleam of the match light from their glassy points. Teddy never saw the stalactites. With a joyful shout he swooped back towards the water's edge.

"Driftwood!" he cried. "Tons of it! Keith, our luck's in. Wait two two's and I'll lay our teeth won't be chattering any longer."

He was right. Inside ten minutes a great fire was leaping and crackling, sending its snapping echoes through the vast spaces of the cave, and flinging out a wide circle of warmth and radiance in that dark and gloomy place.

The three, the two English boys and the dark-skinned, green-eyed alien, sat close around it, while the steam rose in clouds from their sodden clothes.

"This is great!" said Teddy. "I say, Keith, as soon as we're dry, we must see about getting out of this place."

Keith was not looking at Teddy. He had his eyes on Slopan, and he was just thinking again how extraordinary it was that he and not Cripps or any of the others from the boat should have been saved. There seemed to him something almost uncanny about it.

At Teddy's words he saw a curious glint in Slopan's jade green eyes, and it came to him with a shock that, whatever they did in the way of escape, they must take this fellow with them.

He turned to Teddy.

"Yes, the sooner we get out the better. D'ye think there's likely to be a way out on the landward side?"

"Sure to be," said Teddy, and pointed to a tiny brook which, sparkling in the light from the glowing logs, ran down through the cave into the sea. "That brook comes down from the land, and though you may not believe it, that tiny stream has hollowed out this cave. Whether we can follow it back to daylight is another question."

"We shall have to have light," said Keith. "Suppose we make some torches while we wait."

"Good egg! There's lots of tarry stuff among the driftwood. We ought to be able to fix up something."

He got up as he spoke, and began hunting among the mass of broken timber that lay just along high water mark. Keith followed.

It was extraordinary what a lot there was! Some of it was bleached white as ivory, and was evidently centuries old.

Keith waited until they had got some distance from the fire, then bending down he spoke in a quick whisper.

"Keep your eye on Slopan, Teddy. The beggar has something in that long head of his. Remember, he mustn't give us the slip."

"I shouldn't think he's likely to try it just now," replied Teddy. "Looks to me as if he was pretty well done. That was the dickens of a long swim."

"He may be done in body," said Keith, in the same low voice, "but his brain is active enough. When you spoke of escape just now, I caught a queer gleam in his eye. Have you got your pistol?"

"No. I've nothing but my knife."

"Luckily I've got Slopan's own automatic, and the cartridges are waterproof. Just remember what I say. Don't let on that you suspect him, but watch him all the time. You needn't fancy that he's given up all hope of getting those diamonds. I'll lay he's planning some way of doing it this very minute."


TEDDY stopped on a narrow ledge. It was so narrow that he had to cling to a projecting knob above it in order to save himself from slipping.

"Wish we'd got a rope," he panted.

"We can manage," replied Keith, who was clinging against the rock face a little higher up. "Here, give me your hand, and I'll help you across the next bit."

"Wait. I've got to get Slopan up first," said Teddy.

"Come on Slopan," he cried.

Slopan, on a much broader ledge some distance below, looked up at the two boys. Each of them carried a flaring torch, but he had none. The light from Teddy's torch fell upon his upturned face and was reflected in those strange jade green eyes.

"I am coming," he answered. His voice was still weak and hoarse. He seemed to have suffered more from the long swim than either Keith or Teddy. And yet he ought not to have, for he had been the only one of the three to be provided with a belt.

He came clambering up off his broad and comparatively safe ledge towards the much narrower one on which Keith and Teddy were clinging. He moved slowly and stiffly, and Keith wondered at his clumsiness. He could not, Keith thought, be very tired, for they had all had several hours' rest beside the fire, and, though Keith himself felt hungry, he was comparatively fresh.

Slopan reached up, got the fingers of his left hand into a cranny overhead, and began to work his way up.

Suddenly there was a slight crunch. A point of the rough limestone on which he had put his weight broke away, and Slopan was hanging by one hand.

"Quick, Teddy!" cried Keith.

Teddy had already dived swiftly to seize Slopan's wrist. He was just too late. With a cry of alarm, Slopan slipped back and fell in a heap on the ledge he had just quitted.

"Hurt?" asked Teddy sharply.

Slopan struggled to his feet, only to collapse again with a groan of pain.

"I have twisted my ankle," he said.

"Idiot!" muttered Keith beneath his breath. Then, aloud, "Teddy, get down again. Let's see what the damage is."

They both climbed back again down to the broad ledge on which Slopan was sitting, huddled up and apparently in much pain.

"Let's see," said Keith sharply. "Get your boot off."

Slopan quietly unlaced his boot and pulled off his sock.

Keith gave a whistle of dismay. The ankle was already discoloured. A bluish patch showed above the instep.

"I'm very sorry," said Slopan. "It was infernally clumsy of me. But the mischief is done, and I'm afraid I can't climb any farther."

"That's clear as mud," said Teddy. "What's to be done, Keith?"

Keith considered a moment. Then he drew his chum aside.

"You'll have to stay with him, Teddy," he whispered. "I'll go on and try to get out. If I do I'll bring help at once."

"Can't we leave him here?" urged Teddy. "I hate to let you go alone. I don't mind telling you it's likely to be beastly awkward for one chap by himself. And what harm can the fellow come to, alone, here?"

Keith shook his head.

"No, Teddy. One of us must stay. I know you think I'm a bit dotty on the subject, but I simply dare not trust the fellow alone. You can go, if you like, but I'd better, I think. You see I'm a good deal taller than you, and that makes a lot of difference when it comes to reaching up for hand holds.

"All right, Keith. I'll stay. But don't be too long. Can't say I relish squatting here on this ledge, alongside that sweep, and the torch won't last for ever."

"You'd better get back to the fire. If you can't get him down leave him here. Keep the fire going anyhow. It's no joke being left in the dark in a place like this."

"Right you are, Keith. I say, be careful when you get higher up. You must follow the run of the ledges. I think you'll be all right, if you do that."

Keith nodded.

"So long, old man. I shan't be long," he said, and without more delay started upwards again.

Inside a minute he became too busy to give a thought to Teddy or Slopan. Every energy had to be devoted to the task of keeping his footing on a series of narrow, slippery, and abominably difficult ledges. These sloped up to the right, along the face of what was almost sheer cliff. Each in its turn petered out, and then there was the ugly and dangerous job of gaining the next.

Two things made the climb much worse than it would otherwise have been. One was that Keith had no nails in his boots; the other that he had to carry his torch. There was also the pleasant reflection that, at any moment, he might come to some spot that was absolutely impassable or that, when he reached the top of the slope, the funnel through which the brook came down might be too small to let him through.

Over and over again he was forced to take the most appalling chances. It was only the feeling that his life and Teddy's hung on his getting out, which kept him going at all.

At last he reached a deep recess in the rock, where he was able to stop and take a breath.

He looked back. Far beneath him, in the gloomy depths, he caught the glow of the fire, and against its flames a little figure looking no larger than a squirrel. It was Teddy.

Keith waved his torch, and saw Teddy pick up a burning stick and wave back. Then Keith turned once more and set himself to the last part of his task.

He was now close to the brook again. It came leaping down in a series of small waterfalls from ledge to ledge. But the spray from it soaked all the rocks near-by, and made them so slippery that Keith dared not trust himself upon them.

Yet it was clear enough that he would have to do so now, for the only entrance to the cave from above was that through which the brook descended.

He clambered across towards it, only to find his feet slide away from under him, and to escape a fall by the mere chance of finding a projecting ledge to cling to.

There he hung for a moment, panting, while big drops of perspiration rolled down his face. Then he made his way carefully back to safety, took off his boots and hung them around his neck.

It took all his pluck to return to the spot which had so nearly finished him. But he set his teeth and did it. With bare feet, he found he could get a better grip. He got foothold, raised his torch over his head, and looked up.

Above him was a funnel, not perpendicular like a chimney, for in that case it would of course have been beyond climbing. It sloped away inland, but even so was so steep that his heart sank. He did not believe it was possible to ascend it. Yet since the stream came pouring down it, it was clearly the only road to safety.

All this time he had been climbing on the right or north side of the little stream. Now he looked across, wondering if the rocks might perhaps be easier on the other side. He held his torch so that its light fell upon those rocks and could hardly believe his eyes when he saw a ladder—a stout ladder—running up just opposite.

He stared and stared again. But there it was—a ladder, or rather a series of ladders, firmly clamped to the rocks and running upwards as far as his light allowed him to see.

What it was for, who used it?—These were questions he hardly gave a thought to. His one feeling was intense relief.

The next thing was to reach it. He could not cross the waterfall where he was, for there was no hold of any sort. He looked down, and saw that, some score of feet below, a sharp rock jutted out, reaching almost across the stream.

It meant going back once more across the bad bit, but even this was far better than trying to climb farther up on his own side. The thought that he had at last found a way to safety cheered him so much that he scrambled back with hardly a thought to the danger.

A couple of minutes later he had reached the rock. The ladder was within three Yards and making a flying jump he reached it safely.

He looked back, and saw the ladder running far back down into the depths of the cave. He and Teddy had missed it at the start because they had never even tried that side. It had looked so steep. For a moment he thought of going back and telling Teddy.

But it was a long way down and he himself was quite near the top. Besides, he reflected that, in any case, Slopan, with his sprained ankle, could not climb it. It seemed best to go straight ahead and find help.

Up he went, rattling from rung to rung. It was pure joy to climb so easily after his hair-raising experiences on the opposite slope. Quite soon he became conscious that a stronger light was dimming his torch. He knocked the torch out, and found himself in a wonderful green twilight.

Looking up, he saw green branches which met overhead, shutting off the sky.

Another thirty steps and he was at the top, and standing on the rim of a small and almost circular shaft into which a little beck tumbled and disappeared. All around were trees—birch, mountain ash, and hazel. They grew thick as a hedge, but through them ran a narrow and evidently well used pathway. The path, which kept close alongside the brook, rose steeply, and led up through a little ravine where great limestone crags jutted out on either side.

Little shafts of sunlight broke through the thick branches overhead, the air was deliciously fresh and sweet. In spite of his sorrow at the loss of Cripps and the others, Keith's spirits rose, and he quickened his pace.

Quite suddenly he was out of the wood and in an open glen, with heather clad hills on either side. And opposite, and not two hundred yards away, was a lonely-looking house built of gray limestone with a blue slate roof. It had narrow windows; no ivy or creepers grew upon its bare walls; what had once been a garden was now a tangle of weeds.

Keith pulled up short.

"Desolate-looking outfit!" he said doubtfully. "Still there's smoke from the chimney. Must be some one there."

He hurried towards the house, but before he reached the garden gate, a pair of gaunt-looking collies came rushing out, barking furiously. They came bounding over the wall, and made for Keith in the most vicious manner.

At the same moment a man came out of the house, a big, dour-looking fellow, very roughly dressed.

"Call your dogs off," shouted Keith.

"You're trespassing," was the gruff answer.

"I can't help that," returned Keith, and snatched up a stone to keep the dogs at bay.

"You dare throw that at my dogs!" roared the big man.

"Then call them off," said Keith, trying to curb his anger at the inhospitable way in which he was being received. "Call them off and sharp about it."

One of the brutes made a sudden rush at him. He got the stone in his ribs and retired, howling.

The big man came rushing up, in a furious rage.

"I'll learn ye," he bellowed. "Seize him, Tiger!"

Keith suddenly remembered Slopan's automatic. He whipped it out.

"I warn you I shall shoot the dog if you don't call it off," he said.

At sight of the pistol, the man's face changed.

"Here! Come here, Tiger! Here, Teaser!" he called.

The dogs slunk back, but the man came rapidly forward.

"I'll have the law on you for this," he threatened. His long, lantern-jawed face was brick red with rage, the veins stood out on his forehead.

"Don't talk rot!" snapped Keith. "A pretty fellow you are. First you set your dogs on a shipwrecked man who comes to your house to ask for help. Then you threaten to sue him."

At the word "shipwrecked," an extraordinary change came over the gaunt man's face.

"Wrecked!" he repeated. "I didn't know you was wrecked. Where was you wrecked?"

But Keith had had enough of him.

"Clear out!" he said curtly. "I'm off to find someone with a civil tongue in his head."

"Don't you be so sharp," whined the man. "I thought you was after my rabbits. I been worried sick with poachers. Here, you come along into the house. I'll do what I can for you, if so be you've come out o' the sea."

Keith hesitated. He liked the man's new mood as little as his other. But the need for help was urgent. He could not leave Teddy alone with Slopan down in the cave.

"It ain't no good your going farther," said the fellow. "There isn't no one within two mile o' this. Come along in. I'll be glad to give you a meal and summat to drink."

"It's a rope I want, and someone to help get a hurt man out of that cave, replied Keith.

"I got plenty o' rope, and I'll give ye a hand, and gladly. Come along in."

Keith decided to accept his offer. He did not like the man, but he was not afraid of his playing the fool. Besides, what earthly reason could he have for doing so?

"You be navy?" said the man, as they walked towards the house.

"That's pretty plain, isn't it?" replied Keith dryly.

"Ay, but we don't see a lot o' navy folk up here. Nor anyone else for that matter. 'Tis a lonely sort o' place for a chap to live in. Specially a bachelor, as I be."

"You farm, I suppose?" said Keith.

"Aye Sheep, I run. My name's Middleton, Seth Middleton. What might your ship be?"

"My ship's at the bottom," Keith answered.

"Then you come ashore in the sea cave, I reckon?"

"Yes. And had a job to find my way out, too. What are those ladders for?"

"They was put there fust by smugglers, folk say. I keeps 'em mended so's to bring up driftwood. Fine fuel it makes for winter nights."

By this time they were in the house. Middleton led the way into a gloomy room, a sort of kitchen. It was horribly untidy and dirty. He went to a cupboard and got out a loaf, cheese, and butter.

"Help yourself," he said. "I reckon you're hungry."

Keith was, and though the food was none too tempting, he ate.

Meantime, Middleton went off to fetch a rope, as he explained, and five minutes later Keith heard him calling.

"D'ye mind coming along here, mister? I hardly knows whether this here rope is stout enough."

Keith went through into a back room. It was a lean-to, and at one side was a door opening into another smaller room. He saw Middleton inside, heaving out a coil of thick rope.

"Jest have a look at this, mister," said the man.

Keith walked into the room. Something caught his feet. He stumbled forward and fell on hands and knees. Like a flash Middleton leaped back. He dashed through the door and before Keith could reach it he heard bolts slide in their socket.

He flung himself against the door. It was two inches thick and solid as a rock.

"Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!" came a burst of jeering laughter. "Walked right into it! You stay there, mister. You stay right there till I needs you."


FOR once Keith lost his temper thoroughly. Whipping out his pistol, he pointed it at the centre of the door and pressed the trigger.

An automatic is like a machine gun. So long as you keep your finger on the trigger, so long the wicked little weapon goes on spitting lead up to the limit of its magazine capacity. So deadly a weapon is it that the Germans have put an embargo on it, and extend no mercy to any prisoner found in possession of one.

What is more, although the bore is small, the charge is a heavy one, and the little bullets will pass through timber as if it were wax.

Middleton, of course, knew that Keith had a pistol. He had seen him threaten to use it on the dog. But no doubt he had considered it so small and innocent-looking that he had never dreamed that it would carry through the heavy door.

At any rate he was speedily undeceived. Instantly Keith heard a yell of agony followed by the sound of a heavy fall.

He stopped shooting.

"I—I've killed him," he gasped.

To kill a German is one thing. To shoot an Englishman on English ground is quite another, and Keith, realising what he had done, felt suddenly sick.

He stood quite still, listening. There came a sound outside—a groan followed by a sort of shuffling.

Keith sighed with relief.

"Middleton!" he shouted.

A volley of blood-curdling oaths was the reply. Keith had never heard quite such appalling language. There were threats, too, of a kind that even a Hun would hardly think of.

"Dry up, you brute," he said forcibly. "Dry up or you'll get some more of the same."

Middleton shut up like a knife. Keith, with his ear close to the door, heard him crawling again, and suspected that he had shot him through the leg.

The sound ceased. Keith strained his ears, wondering what the fellow was at. He caught a faint clink as of something made of metal being moved. Then a low—a very low click.

All in a flash Keith realised what was up, and made a great jump to one side, away from the door.

It was only his quickness that saved his life. With a roar which, in that confined space, sounded like a cannon shot, a double charge of buck shot, fired at a distance of only ten feet or so, crashed through the door, knocking a hole as big as his own head, and sending a shower of splinters all over the room. If Keith had been standing where he had been two seconds earlier, he would have been blown into a jelly.

"You beauty!" he muttered, and like a flash was back opposite the hole in the door, and had thrust his pistol through it.

"Drop that gun!" he ordered. "Drop it, or this time I'll finish you."

Middleton, crouching on the floor in the middle of the room, was grasping a heavy ten bore fowling-piece in both hands, and was in the very act of reloading. At sight of the pistol, he gave a gasp of dismay, and let the gun slide out of his hands on the floor.

"Now, you murderous beggar, come and open this door," continued Keith.

"Hurry!" he said, as Middleton hesitated. "Hurry, or I shall plug you again.

"And it won't be in the leg this time," he added grimly.

Middleton's face was a study, and not a pretty one either. He was savagely angry, but even worse frightened.

"All right!" he quavered, and began to struggle to his feet. He moved with difficulty, and Keith saw that blood was dripping from his left leg. Already there was a considerable pool on the floor.

He gained his feet, staggered a couple of steps forward, then suddenly collapsed and fell on his face with a crash that shook the bare boards.

Keith did not move, but kept his pistol full on the man.

"None of your foxing!" he said.

But Middleton did not stir, and after a minute or so Keith realised there was no shamming about it. The man had fainted from loss of blood. What was more, he was still bleeding badly, as the dark stain on the floor showed. If he was not tied up soon, he would probably bleed to death.

Keith looked round. It was the first time since his trapping that he had had a chance to do so. He got little comfort. There was no window at all in the place, and the hole in the door was of course nothing like big enough to get through.

He put his arm through it and tried to reach the bolts. Of these there were two; one near the bottom, the other at the top of the door. The lower he could just touch, but the upper was far beyond his reach.

He got up and began groping round to see if he could find any tool with which to enlarge the hole. It was of course very dark in the place, and it was all cumbered up with odds and ends. It struck him that it was hardly likely that Middleton would have left anything like an axe or a hatchet about, in a place which was evidently meant for a prison, and he was surprised as well as delighted when at last he stumbled upon one of those little hammers which have a hammer at one side and a hatchet blade at the other.

The blade was badly chipped and frightfully blunt, but it was better than nothing, and Keith set to work energetically.

The door was thick, the timber tough. It was a slow job and perspiration was streaming down Keith's forehead long before he had finished. Indeed, it was nearly an hour before at last the ragged hole was big enough to creep through, and Keith slid out into the larger room.

Middleton lay where he had fallen. He was barely breathing, and at first Keith thought that he was dead.

He hated touching the man, but it had to be done. Ripping up his trouser leg, he found a clean hole bored through the thigh. The bone was not damaged, but a small artery seemed to have been cut. He put on a tourniquet made of a handkerchief and a bit of stick, then tied the wound up as well as he could.

Summoning all his strength, he lifted the man and laid him on a dirty bed in the corner of the living room. There he covered him up and left him.

By this time the sun was high in the sky. Keith went outside and looked round. There was not a soul in sight. The only living things were a few sheep and the two dogs, the latter no longer hostile.

"Teddy and I will have to do the job ourselves," said Keith, and going back into the house, got the rope. He rolled up some bread and cheese in a piece of paper, slipped the parcel into his pocket, and started back towards the cave.

Just before he reached the wood, he heard a distant shout, and looking up saw a man mounted on a skinny-looking horse on the top of the hill to the south. A big, square-set man, and so far as Keith could see, wearing a naval uniform of some sort.

Keith pulled up short.

"Hallo!" he shouted back.

The other gave his steed a kick in the ribs, and came down through the heather and rocks at the rate of knots.

"Master Keith!" he bellowed in a voice which filled the whole valley with its joyful roar.

Keith passed his hand vaguely across his eyes. If he could believe them, this was Cripps.

"Master Keith!" came the great shout again. There was no longer any room for doubt, and Keith, dropping his rope, rushed forward to meet the other.

"Ben!" he gasped as they met, "Ben, is it really you?"

Cripps came out of his saddle like an avalanche. He seized Keith's hand in a grip which crushed his fingers.

"So help me!" he cried. "I never was so glad in all my life."

"Same here, Ben," said Keith. "Even now I can hardly believe it. We all made up our minds that you had gone down with the ship."

"Catch me drowning when there's a week's leave due me!" Cripps chuckled, grinning from ear to ear. "No, sir, I'll allow I had a pretty close squeeze of it, but I was picked up by the gig, and all three boats landed down close to Scourport. They're out a-looking for you all over the place. But I says to myself, 'Mr Teddy, he knows this coast. He'll likely have come straight ashore in some little cove,' so I gets a horse and up I comes, making a course due north.

"And seems I was right after all. Where is Mr Baines and the rest, sir?"

Keith's smile faded.

"He's in a cave below here, Ben. He and I and Slopan are the only ones saved out of Mr Matthews' boat. But let us take your horse to the farm and put him up. I'll tell you the story on the way."

Cripps listened silently to Keith's description of what had happened during the night. But Middleton's conduct made him very angry indeed.

"Why a Hun couldn't ha' done worse!" he exclaimed. "A good job if you have finished the swab, Master Keith. But don't you worry about him. Just wait till I've given this old bag of bones a feed of hay, then we'll go on down and fetch out Mr Baines. I reckon he'll be wondering what's come to you."

When they reached the top of the ladder, Cripps paused a moment to examine it.

"Smugglers' ladder, eh, Master Keith. Is that what that swab Middleton said?"

"He did say so, but it doesn't look old enough, does it?"

"Old! It's been built in the past twelve months, by the look of it. Anyways, it ain't five years old, I'll lay."

He rattled down at a great rate, and Keith followed. Reaching the bottom of the funnel, where the cave widened out, Keith stopped and glanced downwards.

"Hallo!" he said sharply. "The fire's out."

"Teddy!" he shouted.

The echoes picked up his voice and sent it booming in thunder through the vast spaces of the great sea cave.

"Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!" came back a score of times. Keith and Cripps were nearly deafened.

"Beats that there gallery in St Paul's," muttered Cripps, half awed by the din.

At last the tumult died, and Keith waited for an answer.

There was none.

"Something wrong!" he said uneasily. "Ben, I ought never to have left him alone with that wolf, Slopan."

"But Slopan was hurt, you say?"

"He did seem to be," allowed Keith, and without pausing was off away down the long tier of ladders as hard as he could go.

He reached the bottom, and held up his candle.

"Teddy!" he called again.

As before, there were echoes, but no answer.

"He might ha' found the ladder, sir, an' got out," suggested Cripps.

"It's not likely. Slopan couldn't move, and Teddy would never have left him. Besides, he agreed to wait for me."

He hurried forward, and reached the spot where the fire had been. It was nothing but a black space with some charred wood lying around.

"Look at this." he said sharply. "The fire's been put out. Water has been poured on it."

"That's true," replied Cripps. "Let's see if there's any message, sir."

They began casting around, and suddenly Keith caught sight of something white lying among the driftwood near the water. He snatched it up.

"Teddy's handkerchief," he said, "and a knot in it."

"A knot's for remembrance," Cripps answered.

Suddenly the big man threw up his head and sniffed the air. It was like a fox-hound catching the scent.

"D'ye smell it, sir?" he exclaimed sharply.

"What? Yes, by Jove, I do—Petrol!"

"Petrol or oil, sir," Cripps answered.

For an instant the two stood staring at one another. Then Keith spoke.

"A submarine!" he muttered.


"A SUBMARINE," echoed Cripps. "Not a doubt about it. This here cave must be one o' their nests."

"What—right on our coast!"

"Yes, sir," said Cripps grimly. "Them Huns knows a deal more about the cliffs of old England than we ever did. There ain't no doubt about it, sir."

"Over this side the place fair reeks with petrol," he continued. "If we searches, I make no doubt we'll find where the stuff was stored. Besides, it all fits in. The ladders, that there murdering beggar as calls hisself Middleton, the secret way out o' the cave, and all. You can't make no mistake."

"I'm afraid you can't," Keith answered slowly. "Then the Huns have been here while I was away, and they've collared Teddy and carried him off."

"That's the way I look at it, Master Keith. It's poor luck, but there it is, and by this time him and them is somewheres out there, lying doggo at the bottom."

"They'll never wait," returned Keith. "Why, Ben, they'll be beating all records back to Baltran."

"They may," said Cripps, "and again they mayn't. It's pretty weather to-day after the gale. The sea's gone down and the water's cleared something wonderful. With this bright sun shining, the subs don't stand much show if so be a plane happens to fly across."

Keith nodded, frowning.

"That's true, Cripps. But we're wasting time. We've got to get to Scourport as fast as your horse's legs will take us. Is there any sort of a craft in there at present?"

"Nothing but a couple o' them M.L.'s.," replied Cripps. "And they ain't no use to us."

Cripps, like many other naval men, had but a poor opinion of the little motor launches which came to us originally from American ship yards.

"At any rate, we can wire from there," said Keith quickly. "And the quicker we are, the better chance we stand of saving Teddy—to say nothing of the diamonds."

"Mighty little chance we've got of saving either," was on the tip of Cripps's tongue. But he did not say the words. Instead, he hurried up the long ladders close at Keith's heels.

At the farm they found a two wheel trap. A rickety old springless thing, but at any rate the wheels and shafts were all right. There was harness, too, of a sort, and with the aid of rope to patch up missing buckles, they managed to attach Cripps's bony steed to the cart, and within a very few minutes were rattling up the rough track towards the main road.

Cripps, who was a true handy man, drove. Keith sat beside him, very silent. His spirits were down in the depths again. It was bad enough to know that Matthews, and six of the fine fellows with him, were at the bottom of the sea, but the thought of Teddy in the hands of the Huns depressed him terribly. Not only was he a prisoner, but he was in Slopan's company, and knowing Slopan as he did, Keith was miserably anxious. He was only too well aware that Slopan would have no scruples in sacrificing Teddy if by so doing he could advance his own interests.

Slopan, he knew well, meant to have the diamonds for himself, and the chances were that he would be able to find them if he could get back to Baltran. But as he did not mean the Germans to have them, would he take the submarine straight back to Baltran, and if he did so, how would he put her crew off the scent? Would he make Teddy the scapegoat, saying that he was the only person who knew where the cache was, and trust to Teddy refusing to speak?

These and a score of other questions raced through his mind, but he could find no answer to any of them. He left with one idea, and one only—namely to get to Baltran with all possible speed. If he could only beat the submarine to the island, he felt there might be a chance, however slight of saving Teddy from the fate that threatened him.

The road was fearfully hilly. Though Cripps got the best he could out of his ancient steed it was past midday before they reached Scourport.

Coming over the top of the hill, Keith could see the whole place. It was nothing but a fishing village, lying around a small harbour, which was protected by a sea-wall. Inside the harbour lay a few fishing boats and a long low craft with sharp straight bows and a sawed-off stern. She looked like a miniature torpedo boat, and was painted battle-ship gray.

"There's only one M.L. now," said Keith.

"The other's left, sir. Ay, I can see her." He pointed as he spoke, and Keith caught a glimpse of the other little craft darting away across the horizon.

"They belongs to the Dogger Patrol," said Cripps. "It's a young gent called Bellingham as commands that one, so they told me."

"Bellingham—Tim Bellingham," exclaimed Keith. "Why, he and I were at Rossall together. A topping chap, Tim was. Jove, I wish I'd had a chance to see him before he left! He'd be a useful man in a job like this, Ben."

"Ay, but not in that little tin pot craft of his, sir. Only thing they're good for is to lap up petrol and carry mail bags."

"I'd sooner have an M.L. than nothing, Ben," replied Keith. "They're fast anyhow, and it seems to me our only chance is to get back to Baltran ahead of Slopan. There's nothing here to take us, and if we have to go on south to Hull, we may just as well give up all hope of ever catching the Hun."

"Don't you worry, sir," said Cripps philosophically. "We'll do something afore we're much older."

In spite of Cripps' optimism, the outlook when they reached the village, was none too cheerful. Captain Brock, it seemed, had already gone to Hull to report, and there was no one in the place with any authority except a very elderly officer of coastguards, a Captain Hervey.

Keith went straight to him, but the old fellow could only shake his head.

"I can't help you, Mr Hedley," he said. "There's only that one M.L. in the harbour, and she's crippled. A valve has fetched loose in her auxiliary. And if she was fit to travel, it would be beyond my powers to send her off across the North Sea. My advice to you is to go to Hull and see the Admiral. He's the only one who can deal with a situation like this."

Keith went out heavily. He was nearly at his wits' end. Every minute made a difference. Cripps had been looking up the trains, and had found that it would take nearly four hours to get down to Hull. They would have to go all the way up to Bridlington and round by Great Driffeld.

"Isn't there a car in the place?" demanded Keith.

"Not in the village, sir. But a chap at the inn said there was one up at the white house on the hill, there."

"More than a mile away," groaned Keith. "Never mind, Ben, we must have it. It will save us an hour or more."

They had just started when the crake-like drone of an aeroplane came faintly to their ears, and far out over the blue sea and very high up, they saw a large biplane skimming through the sky.

Keith glanced at her with longing eyes.

"If we were only aboard of her!" he said.

"She's coming from the north," said Cripps, shading his eyes from the sun glare with curved palms. "A sea plane she is. Wonder if she's seed anything o' the Hun."

Keith did not answer. He was staring hard at the big R.N.A.S. machine.

"She's turning," he said sharply. "Watch her! 'Pon my Sam, I believe she's coming in here."

"Looks like you were right, sir," said Cripps. "Ay, she's planing down."

With straining eyes they watched her swooping down from the great height at which she had been flying. There was no longer any doubt about it. She was headed for the harbour mouth.

Two minutes later, her floats struck the surface of the water just outside, flinging up two jets of spray. Then she came taxi-ing in through the channel, dragging a boiling wake behind her.

Keith waited no longer. He set to running down the narrow street towards the quay. Cripps followed, puffing, behind.

Keith reached the quay just as the seaplane came alongside, and a longshoreman flung a rope to her.

The man who caught it was a tall, dark-skinned man, with cheek-bones as high as an Indian's and extraordinarily keen gray eyes. American without a doubt.

"Say, don't you go hauling on that," he remarked sharply to the loafer, as the latter began to pull on the rope. "Gee, but the fellow thinks I can lie alongside like a trawler!"

Keith jumped into a dinghy that lay at the foot of the steps, pushed out and lent a hand. The big plane was made fast to a buoy, and her two occupants climbed out of their seats and into the dinghy.

"I'm real obliged to you," said the tall man cordially to Keith. "Rutherfurd my name is, and this is Falconer."

"My name is Hedley," said Keith, as he jumped out on the steps and pulled up the dinghy. "But don't be too much obliged to me. My help is not disinterested."

Rutherfurd laughed.

"You're mighty honest, Mr Hedley. And now what can I do for you? Be quick, though, for I'm in a rush."

"I hardly know yet. But tell me, first, have you seen anything of a German submarine seven or eight miles north of here."

Rutherfurd gave Keith a quick, searching glance.

"Now, that's real odd," he said. "Yes, we did. I should say, Falconer did. He reckoned there was one lying at the bottom in about eight fathom about a mile off the coast. Couldn't see her plain, for the water isn't what you might call clear yet after yesterday's breeze.

"The trouble is," he went on, speaking in his quiet American drawl. "The trouble is that we were plumb out of bombs, and mighty near out o' juice, too. It went to our hearts to leave her, and we came in here to see if we could fill up so as to go back and tackle her. Can we get any stuff here?"

"I know as little of that as you do," confessed Keith. "Cripps, you go and see, will you?"

"And you go along with him, Jim," said Rutherfurd. "Make things hum, Jim. We don't want to lose her."

They both went off hot foot. Then Rutherfurd lit a cigarette and turned to Keith.

"Out with it, Mr Hedley. I see you've got something on your chest."

"I should rather think I had," answered Keith. "It's a long story, too, but I'll put it as short as I can."

Merely mentioning the diamonds and their adventures on Baltran, Keith told of the wreck of the Ceres, of their landing in the cave, of his strange meeting with Seth Middleton, and then of the disappearance of Teddy and Slopan.

Rutherfurd listened in silence. When Keith finished, he took his cigarette from his mouth, threw the fag end into the harbour, and emitted a long, low whistle.

"Phew, but you've been mixing it!" he said. "Some chaps have all the luck. Not that I ought to complain, for Jim Falconer and me had a lovely scrap with a gas bag not more than two hours ago.

"But, see here," he continued, "how am I going to help you?"

"I thought you might perhaps take me as far as Hull," said Keith, hesitating a little. "You see time is everything. If I want to get Teddy—Baines, I mean—out of this mess, it seems the thing is to get back to Baltran before this chap Slopan can get there. And to do that I must see the Admiral, and get something fast."

Rutherfurd nodded.

"I see what you mean, but why don't you use the 'phone? I reckon you can get the Admiral that way quicker'n even I could fly you there."

"Mustn't do that. I daren't mention the diamonds over the wire. It's too important, altogether. They're worth about two millions."

"Suffering cats!" exclaimed the other. "That's some money."

He paused and considered a moment.

"'Fraid I can't do it for you, partner," he said. "You see, it's up to Jim and me to have that U-boat, if she's still lying up, and if we can get the bombs to do it."

"But, Teddy!" exclaimed Keith, in sudden dismay. "You forget that Baines is almost certain to be aboard her."

Rutherfurd's face darkened. His jaw set sternly.

"No, sir," he said emphatically. "It's the one thing I don't forget. But I reckon Mr Baines would be the last one to be thinking of himself when it came to wiping out a pack like there is aboard that U-boat."

Keith gasped as though a bucket of cold water had been flung over him. But he recovered himself almost at once.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "You are right, of course."

The tall American laid his hand on the boy's arm.

"I wouldn't worry, sonny," he said gently. "In the first place the odds are we won't find a bomb in this little one horse show. In the second, it's likely the Huns will have shifted by now. But even so, I can't take you to Hull. My job is to get out again as soon as I've got the gasoline, and warn the nearest patrols. If I can tell 'em where the U-boat is bound, it gives 'em a show of catching her."

Keith started up from the bollard on which he had been sitting. He looked first at the big biplane, then at Rutherfurd.

Rutherfurd lifted his eyebrows slightly.

"What's biting you?" he asked.

"An idea," replied Keith eagerly. "You spoke of patrols. There's an M.L. just gone out, about half an hour ago. Her skipper is Tim Bellingham, an old pal of mine. Could you take me along and put me aboard her?"

Rutherfurd's eyes widened.

"Well, now," he drawled. "That's some notion—that is. I reckon I might chance doing that much for you."


CARRY you, repeated Rutherfurd, with his dry yet very pleasant smile. "Let me tell you something, Mr Hedley. Last time Jim and me were over Zeebrugge, and that wasn't a month ago, we dropped five hundredweight of stuff on to that wasp's nest.

"Yes, sir," he continued, as he clambered into his driving seat, "we toted a quarter of a ton of stuff across the channel that night. She's a Handyside, she is, and one or two passengers, more or less, don't make much odds to her except so far as height goes. The Place where weight begins to tell is when you're above the ten thousand level. We can take Mr Cripps along, too, if you want him."

"I want him badly," replied Keith. "Unluckily, he must go down to Hull to explain matters. As I told you before, this is really too big a business to trust to the post or anything of that sort."

"Get right in, then," said the long American. "You all right, Jim? Off she goes."

The great 250 horse-power engine burst into a shattering roar, the tractor spun dizzily, and presently the broad winged plane with tanks refilled shot forward across the water. Her pace increased until her floats drew level with the surface, moving across it like sleigh runners over ice. Then, like a bird, she lifted, and rising swiftly slanted towards the blue.

Rutherfurd rose to about two thousand feet and headed due north.

"Going to have a squint for the U-boat," shouted Falconer in Keith's ear.

Keith knew it, and was already craning over the side.

The distance which had taken Cripps and himself over an hour to cover in the morning now shot away from under them at amazing speed. Sea and land lay beneath like a map, and Keith, who had never before been up over water, noticed with amazement that the sea appeared flat as a pond and that every rock and reef, even though far below the surface, showed up almost as clearly as though the water were transparent.

Middleton's bleak little house appeared, looking about the size of a rabbit hutch, and now they were almost over the tiny bay in which he and Teddy had struggled so hard for life on the previous evening.

Here Rutherfurd turned, and began wheeling in wide circles while Falconer, leaning over the rim of the nacelle, carefully surveyed every yard of the sea bottom.

After about five minutes of this sort of thing, he leaned forward and spoke through his telephone to Rutherfurd.

"No use!" he told him. "No use at all, Sam. She's hopped it."

"Right!" was the answer. "Not that we could have done any darned good, seeing we've got no pills. Then I guess we'll move on, too."

Move they did, and at a pace which almost took Keith's breath. The cliffs dwindled. England fell away behind them like a lantern slide.

Keith signed to Falconer that he wished to speak to Rutherfurd, and Falconer passed him the mouthpiece of the telephone.

"I say," said Keith. "What a pity you can't take me all the way! We'd be at Baltran and back before Slopan was well started."

"I could take you right enough," was the answer. "But I wouldn't have juice to get back. Besides, you want to wait there for Baines, don't you?"

"Yes, of course. I was only chaffing. Still, this is a top hole way of travelling. What are we doing?"

"Just on ninety. Say, I reckon I can see your little M.L. along out there. I'll drop a bit. Tell Falconer to keep his eyes open."

"Yes, she's the craft we're looking for, I believe," agreed Falconer, after a moment's inspection with his glasses. "But I tell you what, Hedley. I fancy you'll have to wait a while before we can put you aboard her."

"Why?" asked Keith, in surprise.

"Just cast your eyes up northwards and tell me what you see."

Keith stared in the direction indicated.

"Smoke," he answered. "Smoke, and the dickens of a lot of it?"

"And what do you make of it?"

"A tramp burning soft coal, I should say. You couldn't make a fog like that with any possible brand of steam coal."

Falconer chuckled.

"You may be right," he said. "But in these days of U-boats it's a fool of a skipper who advertises himself like that, and specially in these waters. It's worth looking into, anyhow."

He picked up the telephone to speak to Rutherfurd, but their pilot had already spotted the smother, and had turned in that direction. At a mile and a half a minute, the great Handyside ate up the air, and each moment the smoke cloud thickened and darkened, hanging black and foul across the pale blue of the sea.

"Ha! I thought so," exclaimed Falconer suddenly. "There's a scrap on. That was a gun."

Keith was wearing a pair of goggles which Rutherfurd had lent him. He took them off, but the fierce rush of air made the tears stream down his face.

"I can't see anything," he said.

"You will in a minute. Yes, it's a U-boat, and she's tackling some other craft. But what the other craft is, I'm hanged if I know. She's like a blessed cuttlefish, all hidden up in her own smoke.

"And not a bomb left in the frame," he added bitterly.

"I see her now," exclaimed Keith. "She's coming out the other side of the smoke."

"Wait. I'll send out a wireless," said Falconer, and got busy at once.

The big plane was fitted with wireless, and the call for help went snapping out into space.

Keith glanced back. He picked up the glasses and focused them on a dot on the eastern horizon.

"Tim's coming," he said presently, "Bellingham, I mean. He's got you all right."

"That's good." Falconer was slipping a fresh drum into his neat little Lewis gun. By this time the plane was beginning to swoop towards the scene of action.

"There's the U-boat!" cried Keith.

The Hun, long, low, and sinister, was lying on top of the water. Her guns—she had two—were mounted, and though the roar of the aeroplane engines drowned the reports, Keith could see the flashes through the smoke which almost hid the scene. The breeze, north-west, was drifting the smoke down towards them, and it formed a wide dark band which moved sluggishly across the sea.

Almost instantly the plane, swooping low, was in the smoke. The thick oily stuff blinded Keith, and half suffocated him. For the moment he wondered what on earth Rutherfurd was up to.

She was through it in a matter of seconds, and out the other side.

Then he saw.

Curving sharply to the left, Rutherfurd had come out well to the west of the submarine, and had taken her completely. Her gun crews busily engaged in blazing away at a good-sized tramp which was now more than a mile away to the eastward, never saw the plane until she was almost on them.

Next instant Falconer's finger was on the nob of his Lewis gun, and with a chattering rattle a storm of bullets swept the deck of the submarine, hosing her with lead from stern to stem. It was brilliant shooting. Three out of the four men visible toppled over at once, two going clean overboard. The fourth dropped to his knees, evidently hard hit.

"We've got her! We've got her if we only had a bomb."

Falconer's tone was tragic. It was maddening indeed to see the enemy lying there on the surface at their mercy, yet to be unable to sink her.

Rutherfurd swung down so low that Keith could have counted the rivets in the ugly brute's plates, and Falconer lashed her with lead. It was no use. The modern submarine is not the frail thing that her predecessors were, ten years ago. The bullets merely dotted her with gray splashes, and before their eyes she cocked her diving fins and dived swiftly out of sight. The wounded man was swept away and vanished in the foam.

"Rotten!" said Falconer savagely. "That's the worst luck I've ever struck."

"Don't worry too much," Keith told him. "You've spoilt her shooting for this trip. You got all four of her gunners."

Falconer turned and looked at Keith.

"I say," he exclaimed suddenly. "I wonder if your pal is aboard her."

Keith went rather white. The idea had never even occurred to him.

"I wonder," he muttered.

Rutherfurd hailed them.

"Hedley, here's your M.L. coming. We'd best go and meet him, and tell him it's all right."

He turned the plane as he spoke, rising steeply above the smoke cloud.

Keith looked at the black fog, then at the tramp which, after signalling her thanks, was now steaming steadily on her way.

"She's burning good enough steam coal," he said to Falconer. "How on earth did she contrive to kick up all that smother?"

Falconer laughed.

"Smoke box," he answered.

"Smoke box?" repeated Keith, puzzled.

"Yes, haven't you heard of 'em? They're the latest little dodge for bunkering the Boche. Just a bag of tricks that you light and chuck overboard. Pretty good egg, too! This time, you see, it blinded the beast, and saved that craft. They say all our cargo boats will have them before next year is out."

Keith wanted to know all about the smoke box, but there was little time to talk. Already they were almost above the little M.L. Another moment, and the plane settled light as a gull on the sparkling wavelets.

The M.L. came tearing up, but as she approached she slackened speed.

"Did you get the swab?" came a shout through a megaphone.

"No, worse luck! We hadn't a pill left," answered Falconer.

"They're too modest, Tim," cried Keith. "They slew all the Hun gunners."

The young man with the megaphone dropped it from his mouth, and stared. He was a slim, bright-eyed youth, with a face burnt brown as a berry.

"Who the blazes are you?" he demanded.

"Gent says he's a friend o' yours," said Rutherfurd. "That is, if you own the name of Bellingham."

"Bellingham, yes, I'm Bellingham." Then in a shout, "Why, it's little Keith Hedley!'

"Not so much of your 'little' Hedley," replied Keith, with a laugh, as he rose to his feet. "I can give you two stone and a few inches, Tim. Here, let me come aboard. It's the least you can do after I've chased you all over the North Sea."

"Thought you were hunting U-boats, not M.L.'s," replied Bellingham. "But I'm jolly glad to see an old pal. Here, wait, I'll get the dinghy over and send after you."

A tiny dinghy was swung over, and was alongside the plane in a minute.

Keith shook hands cordially with Rutherfurd and Falconer.

"I'm no end obliged to you for the lift," he said. "I wish you both luck and a good bag."

Then he stepped carefully into the dinghy and was wafted aboard the M.L.

Tim Bellingham greeted him with a mixture of cordiality and curiosity.

"Haven't you got a ship of your own, old son?" he asked plaintively. "Or has the Admiralty got fed up with me, and handed over M.L. 99 of the Dogger Patrol to your lordship?"

"My ship's at the bottom, and I want your help," replied Keith, as he glanced at the big seaplane now just rising from the water, and waved his hand to Rutherfurd and Falconer. "It's a long story, Tim, and not for anyone's ear but yours."

"Come below, then; cabin's empty. I say, you're looking a bit peaked. Had any grub lately?"

Keith started slightly.

"Come to think of it, I've not had a square meal since yesterday. I could do with a cup of cocoa and a sardine."

"You shall have them, my son," declared Tim, and gave rapid directions to the member of his crew who happened to be acting as cook. Then he led the way to the snug little cabin.

Before they went below Keith glanced at the course. It was due east. All in the right direction; so feeling satisfied on that score, he followed Bellingham.

For the second time that day he reeled out the story of Baltran and the diamonds, the wreck of the Ceres, and the disappearance of Teddy and Slopan.

"So you see, Tim," he ended, "my job is to get to Baltran ahead of the Huns. If I can only do that, there's a chance—a slim one I know, but still a chance—of getting Teddy out of their clutches. And to tell you the honest truth, I'm a jolly sight keener on that than on the diamonds."

Tim Bellingham nodded.

"I don't wonder, Keith. I'd be the same in your shoes. And you want me to ferry you over."

"That's the notion. Can you make it?"

"Make it! Bless you, I could go round the world in this craft," returned Bellingham proudly. Then his look grew graver. "The trouble will be to get leave."

"Whom do you apply to?"

"My commodore, Jerry Ayers."

"How do you get at him?"

"Wireless, I suppose."

"Not good enough, Tim. You mustn't let a whisper of the diamonds get out."

Bellingham looked thoughtful.

"No, I suppose not. Two million pounds' worth of shiners is rather a large order, and enough to corrupt the morals of a saint. Then I shall have to find Jerry—that's all."

"Think he'll say yes?"

"Oh, Jerry's a sportsman. And after all, what's an M.L. compared with this parcel of boodle? Sit tight, Keith, while I go and tell my chief tiffy to whack her up. We've got to find Jerry before dark, or it'll mean a lot of delay."

He started out of the cabin, but Keith called him back.

"One moment. You could wireless your commodore and tell him you want to speak to him. That would be all right so long as you don't tell him what it's about."

"All right. I'll do it. You stay here and take it easy. Your grub will come in a minute."

It did. Hot cocoa, bread and butter, a tinned tongue and a dish of bananas and apples.

Keith had almost forgotten how hungry he was. Barring the mouthful of unpleasant food at Middleton's that morning, he had had nothing since tea aboard the Ceres the previous evening. In spite of his anxieties, he made an excellent meal, and felt fifty percent better when he had finished.

He also felt uncommonly drowsy. Not wonderful, seeing how little sleep he had had in the past twenty-four hours. He stretched himself on the narrow, hard-cushioned sofa bunk, and in a moment was sound asleep.

While the smart little craft drove forward at full twenty-five knots, Keith lay quietly, dreaming of Teddy. And so Bellingham found him when he returned to the cabin.


"IT'S lunacy—sheer lunacy!"

The speaker was Captain Gerald Ayers, commodore of the Dogger Patrol. He was a hard bitten man of thirty, with eyes deep set under heavy brows, a big Roman nose, and a grim jaw and chin.

"Midsummer madness," he repeated, frowning. "You've about as much chance of getting to Baltran as Berlin."

"I don't see that, sir," urged young Bellingham. "We can beat that U-boat, hands down."

"The U-boat's got nothing to do with it. What about this chap, von Lange—to say nothing of his men? Apparently, there must have been at least half a dozen Huns left on the island.

"Do you think they've been sitting there with their hands folded?" he continued sarcastically. "Why, the chances are a hundred to one that von Lange reached Emden within twenty-four hours, and that von Tirpitz is moving Heaven and Germany to make sure of those diamonds. There'll be a ring of U-boats all round the island by this time, to say nothing of Zepps hung up all over the sky."

"Von Lange was pretty badly damaged, sir," put in Keith. "And we had four of his men in the Ceres—Captain Brock caught them when he took off Cripps. There weren't more than two left at the outside. Besides, Baltran is Dutch and—"

"Dutch?" repeated Ayers. "Much the Huns care about that! They'd tear up all Holland to get back those stones."

"Then do you forbid us to try it, sir?" inquired Bellingham.

"No!" snapped back Ayers. "I'm not going to forbid you. But I hate to waste a perfectly good M.L. on a crazy game like this."

"To say nothing of her perfectly able and efficient officer sir," added Tim Bellingham, with the utmost gravity.

Ayers stared at him a moment. Then his grim mouth relaxed in a smile.

"Go ahead, you able and efficient pair of idiots," he said. "And if you come back without those diamonds—"

He did not finish his sentence, but drove the two youngsters before him out of the cabin.

"Get on!" he said. "Off with you. Up you go, and the best of luck."

The distance from the Humber to Baltran is roughly three hundred and thirty miles. M.L. 99 had still about two hundred ahead of her—say eight or nine hours' travelling if all went well.

"We ought to get there by midnight with any luck," said Bellingham to Keith as the two stood together on the tiny bridge of the M.L. "Then, if we aren't interfered with, we can dig up the boodle and clear out at once. We ought to be well on our way home again before light."

"Yes, but what about Teddy?" Keith said quickly.

"We can't risk the diamonds, if we get them, for anybody," replied Bellingham, with decision. "But if we can run into any of our own folk we can hand the stones over and go back to look for him. Jerry has given us a free hand, remember.

"There's another thing in Baines's favour," he added. "You sent Cripps to the Admiral and you can just bet the latter's been busy already and that something pretty big and fast will be on our track by this time. Shouldn't wonder if it was the 'Artemis', or one of the new forty-knotters."

Keith felt a little comforted. But as he stood there watching the luminous water hiss past the sides of the racing craft, his thoughts were of Teddy rather than the diamonds. It was bad enough to think of Teddy in a German prison for the rest of the war, but there might be far worse than that in store for him. He shuddered to think of him in the hands of Slopan.

For Keith had no illusions about Slopan. Plucky the man might be and outwardly possessed of decent manners. Yet at heart he believed him to be a wolf—savage and dangerous as any Prussian of them all.

His thoughts came back to himself and Bellingham, and their chances of succeeding in their desperate mission. Slim they must be. That he did not hide from himself. Baltran, though nominally Dutch, lay almost in enemy waters, and what earthly chance would tiny M.L. 99 stand against any sort of enemy craft! Even the smallest torpedo boat could make hay of her.

His eyes wandered over her.

Sixty-five feet long, frail as a biscuit box, she had nothing but her little three-pounder gun and her speed. And even her speed, though tremendous for a craft of her size, was nothing to that of a destroyer. The smallest and oldest destroyer would swallow her at a mouthful.

Altogether, the prospects were none too bright, and Keith found it difficult to keep his spirits at their usual steady level.

"Glass still rising," remarked Bellingham, coming up alongside Keith. "Looks like a spell of decent weather at last. About time, too, after all the filth we've been having."

"Hope it won't be too fine," said Keith, glancing at the sky. "There's a moon, you know, and if it's as clear as this, it'll be most uncomfortably light."

"Oh, well, the Huns don't venture far out of their lairs," replied Bellingham comfortingly. "Don't suppose we shall knock up against anything. Come down and share a pot of tea," he added. "It's past five."

Keith was quite ready, and they had their tea and a cheery chat over old days at Rossall. When they came on deck again, the sun was getting low, and there was nothing in sight. The two 250 horse-power motor engines were working to perfection, and the knife-like bows of M.L. 99 clove the calm water with a steady, relentless hiss. Astern, a great wave hung constantly yet never broke.

"She's doing fine," said her commander, with an air of much satisfaction. "We shall be there in about five hours if we keep this up."

The sun dipped in a glory of crimson. All across the sky to the eastern horizon trailed long streamers of rose-tinted cirrus. These were reflected in the calm sea, so that sea and sky alike were all stained with red.

"Red at night, sailor's delight," quoted Tim.

Keith grunted.

"Too much of it. I've seen fog after this sort of thing."

"Don't croak," laughed the other.

Keith did not answer, and for some time they drove on in a silence broken only by the steady beat of the engines and the swish and bubble of the parted water.

Dusk had begun to brood over the calm sea when Keith touched Tim's arm.

"What's that?" he said, pointing up into the north-east.

Tim quickly picked up his glasses and focused them on the spot to which Keith was pointing. After about a quarter of a minute's inspection he lowered them again.

"You've got eyes," he said. "Yes, it's a Zepp."

"I thought so," replied Keith quietly. "And looking for us I'll lay."

"'And that's where the trouble began to brew'," quoted Tim. "Keith, we'll have to change our course a bit as soon as it's dark."

"That means delay," Keith answered.

"Of course it will hang us up a bit, but that can't be helped. I think we'd best dodge in by the Vlie Stroom."

"Behind Terschelling, you mean?"

"Exactly. It may put 'em off the scent."

"All right. It's good enough to try, anyhow."

The Zepp, to the naked eye, was a mere dot against the fading pink of the evening sky. For a little while the dot grew in size, but the big gas bag was still miles away when she turned and made off again in the direction of Heligoland.

For another half hour M.L. 99 held her course, then as dusk began to deepen into night, Tim turned her three points southward.

"With any luck we'll sneak by," he said to Keith.

"Afraid you've left it a bit too late," Keith answered. "If I'm not mistaken, there's one of the brutes laying for us already."

Tim gave vent to an exclamation that was not a blessing.

"You're right again, I'm afraid, Keith. Yes, and a destroyer, too. We'll have to bunk. There's nothing else for it."

"Infernal nuisance!" growled Keith. "Just as we were getting on so well, too. But, as you say, there's nothing else for it. Since we can't fight, we've got to run."

What Keith had seen would have meant nothing to a landsman. It was merely a minute ruddy glow far away to the east. He knew, however, and so did Bellingham, that the light came from the funnels of a destroyer, and that, though there was just a possibility of her being British, the chances were strong that she was an enemy ship. More than that, she had probably been warned already by the Zeppelin. Within less than five minutes all doubt was at an end. She had changed course and was chasing the little British Scout.

"Going right back, Tim?" inquired Keith.

"No, I shall run north. There's always the chance we may be able to call up some of our own folk. Or if you're right, and fog comes, we can dodge her and move on."

"How about petrol?"

"Luckily I filled up this morning. No need to worry on that score. Wait a minute. I'll just see that Besley is sending out the call."

Left alone on the bridge, Keith focused a pair of night-glasses on the enemy. She was too distant to make much of her. All he could see was that she had three funnels, and by the red-hot glow that danced above them, she was clearly cracking on for all she was worth.

Still, she did not seem to be gaining much, and Keith knew that, unless she was pretty modern, she was not likely to have any very great advantage. Tim's little craft was one of the newest of her kind. Her engines were working to perfection, and unless any accident happened, there was a chance of her keeping her lead.

"How goes it?" asked Tim, as he returned to his post.

"Don't think she's gaining much," was the reply.

"Hang that moon!" growled Tim, glancing up at the broad crescent hanging high in the western sky. "If it wasn't for that, we might give him the slip."

It was no good abusing the moon which, as the daylight failed completely, cast a silver sheen on the wide expanse of water. It was as wonderful a night as Keith had ever seen on the North Sea, and an amazing contrast to the weather of twenty-four hours earlier. Keith could not help feeling aggrieved that the change could not have come sooner, and saved the dear old Ceres from the fate which had befallen her.

Time passed. Number 99 kept on at the same wonderful rate of speed, but now every minute that passed was carrying her farther and farther from Baltran.

Tim spoke at last.

"She's picking up a bit, Keith."

"Yes, I've noticed it. But even so, it will be a jolly long time before she overhauls us."

Half an hour later, Keith, still watching the destroyer, saw a flash leap red from her bows. Through the night came the distant thud of the explosion, then the rocket-like scream of the shell. A white splash burst against the dark surface far astern.

"Half a mile short," muttered Tim.

Keith did not speak. Half a mile was not much to make up. If something did not happen within the next twenty minutes or so, they would be within range.

The seconds ticked by. Ten endless minutes dragged away. Then again the flash, the thud, the whine, the splash. And this time the white jet was barely three hundred yards astern.

It was no use urging the engineer to crack on. M.L. 99 was doing her best—her very best. But her best was not quite so good as the Hun's, and the logical consequence was that M.L. 99 had nearly run her race. Keith did not need to be told that one shell—one only—would do the trick. The little patrol boat would melt to pieces like an egg-shell under a heavy heel and Germans—Germans do not pick up enemies.

It was barely five minutes before the third shell came whistling through the night sky. It struck the sea almost level with the launch's stern, but a good hundred yards to the left.

"Rotten shooting!" observed Tim.

It was rather severe criticism, for the Hun gunner had but a tiny mark and only the moon to guide him.

"They'll be turning their blessed searchlight on us in a jiffy," he added, and the words were hardly out of his mouth before a cone of blinding white light burst out from the Hun and fixed itself upon the flying M.L.

"Now look out for squalls," said Keith grimly.

Tim Bellingham was doing so already. He himself had taken the wheel and M.L. 99 was swerving like a skater doing the Dutch roll.

Now the shells began to fly in earnest. Two guns were at work, and the night was rent by their rapid flashes and heavy reports.

"Rotten, not being able to hit back," growled Tim. "But my pea-shooter wouldn't even reach 'em at this range. What wouldn't I give for something with a six-inch aboard!"

For a time his clever swerves saved them. Shells fell near enough to fling the spray on the deck of 99, but nothing actually hit her. The worst of it was that the dodging tactics enabled the enemy to close the distance, and Keith knew it was now only a matter of a very few minutes before the end must come. A shell whizzed so close overhead that they actually felt the wind of it.

"There goes the aerial," said Tim, and Keith saw that the little mast had gone, switched away like a dry twig.

Next moment the launch gave a heave that nearly threw them both off their feet. A tremendous column of salt water sprang up and fell across the deck with a rattle like hail. For a moment Keith thought the end had come. But when he had dashed the spray out of his eyes he found the launch was still flashing forward at the same speed as ever.

"Exploded alongside," Tim explained. "They ought to get us with the next." As he spoke he put his helm hard over and skated away to the west at such a curve that for a moment the slope of the deck was like the roof of a house.

Wop! came the next shell on the very spot where the curve of the white wake showed they had turned. So speedy was their spin that for a moment they were out of the blinding dazzle of the searchlight.

Before it could wheel and pick them up again there was a roar that seemed to shake the skies, and the place of their enemy was taken by a gigantic fountain of fire and foam.

"She's blowed up!" yelled one of Tim's men. "She's blowed up!"

The roar died thundering across the sea, and the column of foam dropped back with a huge splash. In the white circle which it formed a long black object was seen sliding downwards into the depths.

The silence that followed was broken only by one dull boom as the water rushed in over the furnaces of the enemy ship. No one aboard 99 said a word. Indeed they hardly breathed.

Then Tim wheeled his craft, and headed her in a close circle for the scene of the catastrophe.


A WIDE space of bubbling water iridescent with oil, in which bobbed all sorts of miscellaneous odds and ends—broken timbers, smashed boats, barrels, and life belts.

That was all.

"Not a living soul left!" said Tim, in a voice that was little more than a whisper.

"Make quite sure," said Keith.

"I mean to," replied Tim as, moving at reduced speed, the launch slowly circled the scene of the catastrophe.

Keith's eyes wandered across the sea.

"Can't spot a periscope, he said.

"That wasn't a torpedo," replied Tim, with decision. "It was a mine."

"How do you know?"

"Saw it," said Tim briefly. "We only missed it ourselves by a matter of yards. I didn't say anything about it, for I hardly dreamed we could have such luck. But they were watching us, not the water, and it came off."

"Then it was on the top?"

"Yes, one of their own. Got adrift, no doubt. A bit of a judgment, eh, Keith?"

Keith nodded. He had never been quite so grateful.

"Luck's with us," continued Tim. "That's quite clear. And now we'd best get on our course again. This has hung us a bit, but even now we may fetch the island before daylight."

"You'd best take a calk, Tim, said Keith. That is, if you'll trust her to me for a bit."

But Tim would not hear of turning in, and the two remained upon the bridge.

For the next two hours all went well. Then suddenly speed slackened.

"She's missing," exclaimed Tim, and leaving the wheel to Keith, plunged down into the engine-room.

The engines stopped altogether, and it was half an hour or more before they resumed work. Tim came up, hot and annoyed.

"Poisonous petrol we got at that little one-horse place," he growled. "Plugs were all sooted up. Had to change the lot. This is an infernal nuisance, Keith. We shall hardly do it by daylight."

He was right. Dawn was showing pink in the east before they were even in sight of Baltran. But if there was no sight of the island, there was another and less welcome object in view. This was a large seaplane wheeling high in the east.

"A Hun," said Tim, as he got her in the focus of his glasses. "Jerry was right, Keith. There's half the German empire on the watch."

"She can't hurt us," Keith answered, "and there's nothing else in sight."

The big plane wheeled near, circling like some huge hawk above her quarry.

"If we could only get a smack at her!" said Tim longingly. "Cardew, take the cover off the pom-pom."

Nearer and nearer came the plane until she was right overhead.

"The cheek of the brute! She's going to bomb us!" exclaimed Tim, and almost as he spoke a small black object came whizzing out of the skies, to explode with a splitting crack as it struck the sea some couple of hundred yards away.

"Let him have it, Cardew," cried Tim, and the little Maxim, cocked to almost extreme elevation, hurled a shower of small one pound shells into the sky.

"Not so dusty!" said Keith, as tiny circles of dark smoke appeared close alongside the plane. "I say, that shook her up. See, he's going higher."

In quick succession the gun flung its deadly little missiles high into the sky, and to Keith it seemed that the range constantly improved.

The Hun thought so, too. That was clear, for he went wheeling up into the blue at a great rate.

"Keep to it, Cardew!" shouted Tim. "She's almost out of range, but you never know."

The rattle was deafening. Keith, his eyes on the plane, saw her stagger, then suddenly up end and come spinning downwards in a corkscrew dive.

"Got her—- oh, got her!" yelled Tim, almost beside himself with delight. "Topping shooting!"

Keith did not answer. His eyes were on the plane which, completely out of control, was shooting downwards like a rocket stick. As she fell, one of her people was either flung out or jumped. A dark speck against the dawn, he whirled over and over in the air, and falling faster than the plane, struck the flat water with a smack that was quite clearly audible.

"That finishes him," said Tim grimly. "It don't make much odds whether you fall on a pavement or on water when it's from a height like that. You're smashed to pulp anyhow.

"And there goes the plane!" he added. "Hardly worth while going to look at the remains, but I suppose we'd better."

"I don't think you had," remarked Keith quietly. "There's something worse than the plane arriving on the scene."

He pointed as he spoke. To the southward one of the low sandy islands belonging to the chain of which Baltran was a part, showed yellow in the dawn light, and through the wide channel which separated her from the next island a vessel was in sight.

She was long and low like a destroyer, but had no funnels. Her bow was high and knife-like, and by the way it flung up the gray water on either side she was clearly coming at a tremendous pace.

Tim stared at her a moment.

"One of their new oil burners!" he exclaimed "I've heard of 'em, but never seen one. Keith, they say they can do thirty-seven, and she's twice our size. I believe she carries four-inch guns."

"We shall jolly soon know," replied Keith dryly. "What are you going to do, Tim?"

"This island is Schiermonnikoog. I'm going to run back west and see if I can dodge him through the Fische Gat. It's no manner o' use running out to sea. If the brute can do thirty-seven, he'd be all over us inside half an hour."

"But he can-follow you, can't he?"

"All depends on whether he knows it as I do. The Fische Gat is a brute of a place, a regular maze of sand banks."

"And you know it?"

"Luckily, I do. I was up here the year before the war with that chap Ferrers, in his barge yacht. He's the man who wrote the book, you know, 'North Sea Sands and Channels'. The Huns were mad as hornets about it. Believe they thought they had a monopoly of these waters. Anyhow, it was luck for me, for I know all these rummy little passages backwards.

"We draw less than he does," Tim went on, "so we ought to be able to cut the corners a bit closer than he can."

"If we can reach them," was on the tip of Keith's tongue but he kept his thoughts to himself and his eyes on the weird-looking craft that was chasing them.

She could travel. There was no mistake about that. Whether she could actually do thirty-seven, there was no means of knowing, but one thing was speedily certain, which was that she had the legs of Ninety-nine. Still, she had been a good five miles away when Keith had first spotted her, and that would take some making up.

Headed due west, the little launch flew along parallel with the low sandy coast, and gradually edging in towards it. They were already within the three mile limit, and therefore in Dutch territorial waters. But Keith and Tim knew just how much or rather how little that would count for with the Huns. So they kept going at the top of their speed.

The frail launch quivered in every plate under the tremendous drive of her twin screws. Her bows rose, while her stern settled lower in the water. Now that it was broad daylight, Keith was better able to appreciate the way in which she travelled, when really driven.

But great as her speed was, it did not equal that of the oil-burner, and to make matters worse, the latter was cutting in closer to the land than the British craft. Her commander seemed to have divined Tim's purpose, and meant if possible to cut him off before he could reach the Gat or Strait which divided Schiermonnikoog from the nameless islet which hangs between it and Ameland.

"She'll range us before we can round the corner, Tim," said Keith presently.

"Perhaps," replied Tim. He was very calm and collected and Keith wondered if he had anything up his sleeve. Meantime he kept his course, driving always a little nearer to the long line of marram-clad dunes which edged the southern horizon.

Slowly but steadily the Hun gained on them. To Keith it seemed that it was going to be last night all over again. Only this time they could not hope for another miracle to save them.

Keith noticed that the sea was changing colour. It was more yellow. He knew that they were getting into very shallow waters. He looked back at the Hun, and saw at once that she was no longer following directly. Clearly, her people were afraid of going aground, and were therefore keeping at a more respectful distance out.

Suddenly he felt a slight jar. The little craft seemed to check for a second, then leaped forward again.

"Touched, didn't you?" he said to Tim.

"Yes, I thought we should. We're skating on pretty thin ice, old man, but the tide is still making, and I think we shall just do it. Anyhow, it's our only chance, for we've another three miles to go before we reach the Gat."

On they tore. The wave they flung up aft was something prodigious. In this very shallow water the M.L. seemed to split the sea to the very bottom.

There was a deep boom astern. The oil-burner had opened fire, but the shell fell very short. Keith strained his eyes for the end of the island, and the strait. He could just see it.

Tim was paying attention to nothing but his steering. It seemed to Keith that he was taking fearful risks. The water was so shallow that the sand boiled up yellow in the wake. Yet Tim evidently knew what he was about, for she did not touch again.

Keith glanced round once more at their pursuer. She was now quite a mile farther from land than they, and this meant that the M.L. would gain pretty nearly two in the run for the Gat. Yet it was clear that she would need it, for the Hun had a tremendous turn of speed.

The yellow dunes flashed by in an endless procession. On all that bare and desolate coast, Keith saw no sign of life.

Five minutes after her first shot, the enemy began firing again. She was still short, yet much nearer than before. Keith saw it was going to be nip and tuck whether they could round that distant corner before they were hit.

But Tim said nothing, only kept going for all he was worth.

The turn of the land was now in Plain sight, but the swell was breaking white over a long line of banks which ran out for more than a mile beyond the western end of the island.

Keith did not feel happy. It looked to him as though that last mile was just what would scupper them.

The shells fell closer and closer, and at last just as Ninety-nine came opposite the last point of land, one struck the water right under the stern, ricocheted, and went splashing out of sight across the end of the island.

Almost at the same moment, Tim put his helm hard over and the launch went tearing straight towards the jutting line of shoals.

Keith held his breath. He glanced at Tim's face, but that young man appeared cool and collected as ever.

The Hun, evidently under the impression that their last shot had smashed the rudder of the M.L., and that she was no longer under control, ceased firing. They were not going to waste shells on a craft which was on her way to pile herself up, a hopeless wreck, on the stone-hard banks of the Fische Gat.

It was a bad blunder on their part, for it gave Tim just the few moments he needed. Swerving in and out along a perfectly invisible channel, he went at the sands like a hunter at a fence. At the last moment, just when Keith felt certain that the next few turns of the screw would land them high and dry on the sloping bank, a tiny blue channel opened up under the bow. It was the merest swatch-way, not more than thirty feet wide, but scoured out to a sufficient depth by some whim of the tides.

And through it Ninety-nine fled like a scared cat, and a moment later was threading her way through a much wider and deeper channel beyond.

Keith drew a long breath.

"You weren't boasting, Tim."

"Oh, I know this bit all right. I've been through it before, but I must say I never thought it would come in quite so handy. But don't begin to buck, old man. We're not out of the wood yet."

His words were emphasised by a storm of shells from the Hun. Savagely disappointed, they were loading and firing for all they were worth, hoping against hope that they might cripple their cunning little adversary before she got quite out of range.

But whether they were upset by Tim's unexpected manoeuvre, or whatever was the cause, their shooting went all to pieces, and though shells fell well beyond Ninety-nine, not one struck her.

In less than five minutes she was again out of range.

"First trick to us, Keith," said Tim. "But there's the rest of the hand to be played, and I confess I don't see my way clear yet."


KEITH'S eyes were on the Hun. Having at last realised that her nimble little adversary was out of range, she had turned westwards, and was racing savagely along the northern edge of the long spit.

"She's wasted jolly near five minutes shelling us, Tim," he said, "and it will take her more than five to round the spit. That gives us nearly five miles start."

"Yes, just about that, Keith. But as she's about seven knots faster than we, she ought to be within range again in about half an hour."

"I suppose she would if I were in command of this hooker, Tim," allowed Keith. "But as I'm not—"

Tim Bellingham laughed.

"You mean you think I've got something else up my sleeve," he answered. "Well, I'll allow that I have. It isn't much—but probably I know this water a little better than the Hun, and I may be able to keep him guessing. Even so, I'll not guarantee that we can run away from him."

"I fancy we shall come pretty near it," said Keith calmly. He had the most complete confidence in Tim, and knew that he would not have said even as much as he had without very good reason.

"Don't build on it. That's all," remarked Tim. "And just bear in mind that this ain't the only Hun in these waters. Those beggars aren't going to let us slip with two million pounds' worth of loot without putting up a pretty good struggle."

While he talked, Tim was still at the wheel, and M.L. 99, under his guidance, was performing the most amazing evolutions. In front of Tim was a large scale chart, and looking at it, Keith saw that they were in a comparatively narrow channel, with banks on either side.

It was a channel that wound like a river through an endless maze of sand banks. Sometimes it widened out to a hundred yards or more, and then would narrow to less than the same number of feet.

Being nearly high tide, the banks were covered, and it needed a master hand to keep a ship going at full speed through such waters.

Keith glanced back again at the oil-burner. She had made a big cast to the southwards, and was only now turning east again.

"She don't like your channel, Tim," he said.

"No such luck," replied Tim dolefully. "If she'd only have tried it I'll lay she'd have left her bones here."

"What's it like where she is?"

"None too nice. There's more water than there is here, of course, still unless her navigator knows his job pretty well, she's not going to crack on these like she did outside."

Keith picked up the glasses, and watched their pursuer carefully for some moments.

"You're right, Tim," he said presently. "She's not gaining now, and if your channel don't peter out we ought to reach the eastern end of the island a goodish way ahead of her.

"All the same," he went on doubtfully, "I don't quite see how that's going to help us. The beggar knows where we are bound just as well as you and I do. And we certainly can't gain enough on him to give us time to pick up the diamonds and skip again before he's on top of us."

Tim nodded.

"That's clear as mud, old man. We've got to snooker this Hun before we can even think of picking up those shiners."

"With that?" inquired Keith, pointing to the little three-pounder which, together with the pom-pom for anti-aircraft work, were the only weapons of offence carried by Number Ninety-nine.

"Don't be an ass, Keith," said Tim blandly. "Kindly observe the chart and tell me what you see."

Keith studied the chart for a little.

"There's nothing very wonderful about it. This channel we are in widens out a bit, then divides into three channels, one of which bends northward to the Gat between this island and the next. That's the one you'll take, I suppose."

"I shan't," replied Tim.

"Why not?" queried Keith. "There's a fathom of water there at low and we only draw five foot six. Besides, if you take the middle one, it means a much longer distance to cover, and into the bargain brings you right into the track of the Hun."

"All the same, that's the one I mean to take," said Tim. "And if you'll follow out the run of it into the Gat, you may get a notion why."

Keith studied the chart again.

"I see it shallows out over the end of a shoal. But as the tide is three quarters flood there'll be water enough even for the Hun, so I don't see it helps us much. Of course there's a nasty tangle of shoals, but the weather is so clear that he can see the banks as well as we can. If you think he is going to pile himself up, you're counting on a pretty slim chance, Tim."

Bellingham grinned, and put his finger on a particular spot on the chart. It was where the channel narrowed to a width of no more than thirty feet.

Keith shook his head.

"Why, there's two fathoms there!" he said. "Pretty nearly four with the tide where it is at present. I confess I don't know what you're playing at, Tim."

"You wait!" replied Tim. "As I told you, I've got a card up my sleeve. Two, to be exact. I'm not going to say that they'll work, but I'm going to try 'em. If they do, I'll guarantee that this beggar won't worry us anymore."

He would say no more, and Keith was content to wait.

Carrying on at pretty nearly full speed, Tim's craft kept her lead of the Hun. She did not gain, but on the other hand did not seem to lose, and so the chase went on.

The sun sparkled brightly on the tiny wavelets, the low dunes on the south shore of Schiermonnikoog flashed by in endless procession, and at last the eastern end of the long, sickle-shaped island appeared in sight.

Keith kept his eyes on the chart, and when they reached the point where the channel branched, saw that Tim, as he had said, picked the middle course, instead of keeping to the left.

It seemed a queer performance, for by keeping to the left, he would have gained at least a mile. He wondered much what Tim was after.

He had not long to wait.

Tim called up his coxswain, a quiet, competent-looking man, appropriately named Parsons, and gave him certain directions in a low voice, and also a key.

"Very good, sir," Parsons answered without the quiver of an eyelid, and immediately went forrard to a small iron tank which was fastened to the deck. This he unlocked, and from it took out half-a-dozen small metallic cylinders. They looked rather like cases of preserved meat, but had no labels.

"What's the game?" asked Keith.

Tim winked.

"Wait and see." He remarked with a grin.

Aft, was a thing that looked like the boiler you see in a farm-house kitchen, and beside it a kind of funnel rose from the deck.

Parsons took the lid off the boiler, and deftly set to work on a tin with an ordinary can opener.

Keith noticed that he was wearing gloves.

The moment the tin was open a thick, white vapour began to rise from it, and at once Parsons turned its contents into the boiler.

Up shot a cloud of white smoke of incredible thickness and density, and began to drift away to leeward before the light nor'-westerly breeze.

A second tin and a third were quickly opened, and emptied into the boiler. Then with a whistling sound a current of air began to drive through the funnel, lifting the smoke and flinging it high into the air.

Keith stared at Tim.

"What the mischief have you got there?" he demanded.

"Pure phosphorus, old son. That's why folks ashore are paying a penny a box for matches. Makes a pretty little smother, don't it?"

"I never saw anything to touch it. Looks like a sea fog," replied Keith.

"That's what the Huns took it for the first time we tried it on 'em," said Tim.

"Pile it on, Parsons," he shouted. "Don't spare the stuff."

The great coils of dense white smoke went pouring across the water in eddying masses, and within a few minutes the whole sea, for acres to windward, was absolutely hidden.

Keith glanced back at the Hun.

She was still coming on, but he saw that she must either stop short or else drive right into the heart of this artificial fog. And he thought to himself that, if he were in command of her, he would think twice before venturing, blind, into such treacherous waters.

Suddenly he became aware that the M.L. was slackening speed.

"What's up, Tim? Aren't you going to take your chance and hook it?" he asked in surprise.

Tim winked again.

"I said I had two cards, didn't I?"

Then, more seriously,—

"The smoke would give us a chance to get away, Keith," he said, "but what's the use? As you said yourself the Hun knows where we are bound as well as we do ourselves, and this smoke screen won't delay him long enough to do any good. We want a couple of hours, and this will only give us twenty minutes. It's the second card I rely on."

He shouted to one of his men to heave the lead, and rang the engines to dead slow.

"Take the wheel, Keith," he went on. "Keep her head as it is. She's just got steerage way, and no more."

He dropped down off the little hooded bridge and went aft. Parsons, meantime, kept up the supply of phosphorus and the smoke rolled out in ever-thickening masses.

The stern of an M.L. is square as if cut off with an axe. Near the stern of Number 99 lay two good-sized metal cylinders, perhaps a yard long and eight inches in diameter. They were rather like large, blunt-headed shells, but were painted battle-ship gray, like the rest of the craft.

Tim stooped and worked a moment over one of these. Then he set his foot on a lever, and the cylinder rose a little, and slipped over the stern, disappearing into the sea with a heavy plop.

"And that's that," he observed, with a grim little chuckle, then turning hurried back to the bridge.

"What's that you slung over?" inquired Keith.

"A depth charge, my son," replied the other. "It's meant for U-boats, but on this occasion I'm hoping it may bag heavier game."

As Bellingham spoke, he rang for speed, and Number 99 leaped forward under the full drive of her two 250 h.p. motors.

"A depth charge?" repeated Keith. "I've heard of them, but I've never seen one work. I thought the charge went off the moment it reached the depth it's set to explode at."

"So it does. But as it happens, it hasn't reached that depth yet.

"You see, old chap," he went on, as he noticed the puzzled look on Keith's face, "the trigger is set to four fathoms. There isn't quite four fathoms yet in that part of the channel, but there will be jolly soon. The tide's running up like anything just at this moment."

"Surely you can't gamble on its going off just as the Hun crosses it," objected Keith.

"True. I can't. But that's the narrowest part of the Gat, and I'm reckoning on his doing a crawl just there, especially in this smother. I tell you, Keith, I shan't be a hundred miles out."

Keith nodded, and the launch tore forward up the channel which here was widening and deepening with every yard they went. Parsons had ceased feeding the furnace, and they were now running clear of the smoke. Behind them, however, it lay like a fog for two miles or more across the surface. It was so thick that it completely hid their pursuer from their sight.

For some minutes there was silence. Keith was waiting breathlessly for what might happen. Tim, though outwardly as cool as ever, was really equally anxious. Both knew that the success or failure of their enterprise would almost certainly hinge on the working of Tim's trap.

"I see her," Keith exclaimed suddenly. "There's her wireless just showing above the smoke."

Tim frowned.

"She's come up faster than I reckoned," he said, in a low voice. "I'm afraid she'll be too quick for us, Keith."

Keith stared fixedly at the mast just visible above the slowly thinning wreaths of phosphorus smoke.

"She's cracking on. No mistake about that. I believe she means to chance it," he said. "That, or else she's got as good a chart as we have."

Tim glanced back over his shoulder.

"You're right," he said. "You're right, Keith. I'm afraid we've done nothing but waste time. We shall have to turn and bunk westward as soon as we get out of the Gat."

Keith did not answer. He was still gazing at the mast of their pursuer.

"She—she's stopped!" he cried suddenly. "She's stopped, Tim. My word, I believe she's aground."

Tim looked back once more. He gave a sudden gleeful shout.

"Hurray, Keith. She's hard on it. And, by Jove, I believe she's taken it bang alongside of my booby trap."


A PUFF of wind caught the smoke fog, broke it and flung it aside, and through the scattering eddies they saw the oil-burner hard and fast on the bank on the eastern side of the channel.

Her bows were cocked drunkenly in the air, while around her stern the water creamed and boiled as, with reversed screws, she strove desperately to drag herself clear.

"She'll only burst her engines," said Keith, with shining eyes. "It would take a couple of tugs to shift her. I say, Tim, do you really think she's over your bomb?"

"There or thereabouts," was the answer. "Anyhow, we shall know jolly soon."

He glanced at his watch.

"She's due in about two minutes," he added. "What do you say? Shall we wait and see?"

"Two minutes can't make much odds," said Keith, and Tim at once called down to reduce speed.

By this time every one on the launch, with the one exception of the man who was tending the engines, was on deck and staring eagerly in the direction of the Hun. They all knew what was up. The one question was whether she was really over the depth charge or not.

"Will it smash her up, Tim?" asked Keith.

"Not like a mine or a torpedo," Tim answered. "You see, it's at the bottom. But there's sixty pounds of T.N.T., and you know what that will do. She'll be worth nothing but her weight in scrap iron if she's anywhere within a hundred and fifty feet of it. It'll open out every plate in her bottom."

"Anyhow she won't trouble us anymore," said Keith almost as he spoke there was a thud, and the Hun's foremost gun flung a tiny puff of smoke from its muzzle. The four-inch shell, fired at a big elevation, came screaming through the sky, and dropped heavily into the water almost level with Ninety-nine, but a long way wide.

"Spiteful!' grinned Tim, and the word was hardly out of his mouth before the sea lifted, and all sight of the German was blotted out by a huge geyser of white water which spouted up seemingly under her very bows.

"There she goes!" cried Tim.

Down came the great spout, flinging up masses of spray, while short waves rose and fell around a wide yellow circle of muddy, sand-stained sea. At the same time Ninety-nine, although by this time some miles away, quivered as though a giant fist had struck her.

"Feel that?" exclaimed Tim. "Feel that, Keith? How would you like to have been on top of it, eh?"

"She's still there," said Keith doubtfully.

"Still there. Of course she is. And there she'll stay. I'll lay the water's running through her like a sieve. Ah, watch! There go their boats. Good-bye, little Hun, good-bye! And I hope the Dutch intern the whole bunch of you."

He rang again for speed, and off went M.L. 99, as though she were as pleased as her crew at the fate of her pursuer.

"Bagged a brace anyhow," said Tim, in high delight.

"And now, Keith, we'd best do a bit of stoking. We'll sight Baltran within an hour, and it's just as well to be prepared for emergencies."

He left the wheel to Parsons, with strict injunctions to let him know the moment anything else was sighted, and he and Keith went below for a feed.

"Wonder if Slopan has got there yet," said Keith thoughtfully, as he helped himself to a grilled herring.

"Every chance of it," replied Tim. "On the surface those new U-boats are nearly as fast as we, and I expect they used their oil engines all night."

"That means a scrap, then," said Keith.

"All depends on whether he's there still," Tim answered. "If he knew just where the cache was, it's quite on the cards that Slopan has got the stuff and gone off with it."

Keith looked very grave.

"You're thinking of poor old Baines?" said Tim.

"That's it, Tim. It's simply beastly to think of him in one of those Hun prison camps. He'd fret his soul out, the dear chap."

Tim nodded.

"It's rotten," he agreed. "But it's no use worrying, Keith. We couldn't help being hung up as we have been. The only thing now is to sit tight, and trust to luck that we shall get there before they've cleared out."

"I hope to goodness we do," said Keith. "I say, Tim, some of our own people might be hereabouts by this time."

"Quite likely. You can just bet that the Admiral will have sent off something pretty sharp when he's heard from Cripps what we were after."

At this moment there came a call from Parsons, and both dropped their knives and forks, and went flying up on deck.

"Something in sight up to nor'rard, sir," said the coxswain pointing, and in a moment Tim had his glasses focused on the dim blur which showed against the northern horizon.

As so often happens in the North Sea, a brilliant morning was changing into a dull afternoon. A haze was slowly covering the sky, and although the sun was still visible, the day had lost all its sparkling brightness.

Tim stared for some moments at the smoke trail.

"Can't make much of it," he said at last. "You take the glasses, Keith. Your eyes are better than mine."

Keith put the glasses to his eyes and stared long and earnestly.

"She's a big tramp, Tim. All alone, too, so far as I can see."

"A tramp. That's queer. If she were bound for Denmark she'd hardly be running in as close as this."

"She's a tramp all right," declared Keith. "A big beast of four or five thousand tons, with one funnel. And she seems to be running due east."

"That's a course which would take her slap into Heligoland," said Tim, with a puzzled frown. "Can't be a Hun raider, I suppose?"

"None been signalled out lately, and this one's going in, not out. Hallo! What's that?"

A flash of fire, red against the dull sky, had darted from the distant ship, and many seconds later a faint report came thudding across the graying sea.

"She's armed, anyhow," said Keith sharply. "And if I'm not jolly well mistaken, that's a destroyer beyond her. Ah, there they go again! The destroyer's firing now."

"Jove, I wish we knew which was which," cried Tim in sudden excitement.

"Then I'll tell you," said Keith, who still had the glasses to his eyes. "The big un's British—I can see the flag. And if you ask me, she's a 'hush' ship."

Parsons and Tim stared at Keith.

"A 'hush' ship!' repeated Tim.

"Yes." Keith lowered the glasses and his eyes were shining; "That's what she is, and I'll bet you she's been sent out or wirelessed to give us a hand."

"A scrap—and we can't chip in, groaned Tim.

"Don't worry," said Keith dryly. "I'll lay her people can look after themselves. She's got guns fit to blow up a town and torpedoes to burn. Tim, it's the biggest luck yet. This lets us in at Baltran."

"I suppose it does," sighed Tim, but he was still disconsolate. If it had not been for the business they were engaged upon, nothing could have prevented him from flinging his little hornet into the fray.

"I suppose it does," he repeated. "All right. Let's crack on and get those shiners. Then perhaps we shall be able to have a little peace."

Keith laughed outright. Tim's idea of peace was delightful.

There was no longer any doubt about the 'scrap'. The flashes were constant, and one after another the reports of heavy guns rumbled down wind. The sham tramp had suddenly developed an astonishing turn of speed, and the destroyer had turned about, and was retreating, hotly pursued by the big Britisher.

M.L. 99, meantime, had cleared the shallows and was now splitting the waves at the top of her speed. Already Baltran was visible, a dim blur on the eastern horizon.

Tim took the wheel, but Keith still watched the fight through the glasses and kept Tim and Parsons informed of its progress. But this lasted only a few minutes. Their courses diverged so sharply that very soon the details became invisible, even through the powerful lenses, and the sound of the firing dwindled to a dull thudding like the distant strokes of a heavy forge hammer.

"I never saw one of those 'hush' ships close," said Tim presently.

"I have," said Keith. "You can go right alongside and be none the wiser."

"That's what a few U-boats have done, I fancy," replied Tim, with a grin.

"Only they were wiser—when it was too late," laughed Keith. "Oh, they're a great scheme!'

"This old war's full of schemes," said Tim. "There's every bit as much brains as brawn about it. I've seen a submarine with mast and sails, and a Zepp painted blue to match the sky."

"How did you see it then?" inquired Keith.

"The sky didn't happen to stay blue," chuckled Tim. "And the old Arabis strafed the Zepp so that she went away with her tail down. They picked up the remains of her next day, floating off the Texel."

As Number 99 sped onwards the clouds grew thicker and the horizon began to close in. There was promise of fog, but it was still clear enough to get a plain view of the island for which they were bound.

Keith turned his glasses upon it.

"See anything?" questioned Tim.

"Not a thing. Still, the U-boat may be hanging about for all we know. I wouldn't trust myself in deeper water than was necessary, Tim."

"I'm not going to. I shall cut in on the south side, I think. If she's lying there, we're almost bound to spot her periscope."

"Always supposing the fog doesn't hide her," replied Keith.

"It's drifting across all right," said Tim, frowning. "It'll be thick as soup before another hour."

"Who cares?" returned Keith. "If you ask me, it's all to the good. The fog won't stop us from getting the diamonds, and it may come in jolly handy if we have to cut and run for it afterwards."

"There's something in that," allowed Tim. "All the same, I hate fog. I was in the 'Dolphin' when she got piled up in Start Bay. That was a fog, if you like. We were ten miles out of our reckoning, and went ashore at twelve knots. Took four tides and three tugs to get her off again."

The sound of the firing had now died out completely. So far as they could see, there was not a craft of any sort within sight, and Baltran, now quite near at hand, looked as empty and desolate as the day it was made.

Tim steered southwards once more, and running through the strait at the western end of the island, brought his little ship to rest in three fathoms of water about a couple of hundred yards from the beach.


"SEEMS too good to be true," said Tim, as he lowered the glasses and turned to Keith. "There's nothing whatever in sight."

"It's a state of affairs that's not likely to last very long," Keith answered rather grimly.

Tim glanced at him quickly. He knew well enough what was passing in Keith's mind. Keith was thinking of Teddy Baines, and had been secretly hoping to find the submarine lying somewhere near the island.

Tim was very sorry for him.

"Don't worry, old man," he said quietly. "It's quite on the cards that we are ahead of the U-boat. Or she may come up while we are here, and if she does we'll collect her all right. Just remember that we're not alone any longer. I'll lay that big 'hush' ship will be down here as soon as she's finished strafing that destroyer."

"You think there's a chance?" said Keith eagerly.

"I do, indeed. And there's another thing in our favour. Remember, Slopan wants the diamonds for himself. He won't be in too much of a hurry to dig them up and hand them over to his Hun friends."

"I'd clean forgotten that for the minute. But you are right, Tim. He won't give 'em up unless he has to, and that does give us a chance. Let's go ahead, then, and try the cache."

"Who's to go?" asked Tim. "I can't. My job is to stick here and look after the ship."

Keith nodded.

"That's true. Well, see here, I shall only want one man. Let me have Parsons."

"Right you are. He shall go with you.

"You won't find a better chap," he added, in a lower voice. "Parsons looks a solemn old bird, but he's absolutely all there. And if it comes to a scrap, I wouldn't ask a better man to have alongside me."

"He strikes me as one of the best," Keith answered. "Shall I tell him, Tim?"

"Do. And I'll have the boat out."

The anchor had already been dropped. Now the stout little dinghy which was carried on chocks amidships was quickly got over the side. Keith jumped in, and Parsons followed. Both had pistols, and Parsons had managed to find a shovel somewhere below.

"Good luck!" cried Tim. "What about a hail, if there's anything wrong?"

"Three shots as fast as can be fired. That will be the signal on either side," Keith answered. "And keep your eyes lifting for the U-boat," he added.

"You bet," was the answer, and the dinghy, driven by Parsons' powerful strokes, shot away towards the beach.

The fog had now covered everything. It was not very thick, however, and the launch was still visible to Keith and Parsons as they reached the shore.

The tide was still making, so they pulled the dinghy well up and made her hook fast in the sand. Then, with Keith leading, they went straight inland.

"Wonderful quiet, sir, ain't it?" remarked Parsons.

The same thought had just occurred to Keith. The stillness was almost uncanny. With the approach of the fog, the light breeze which had been blowing all the morning, had dropped, and now the only sound to be heard was the soft lapping of the ripples on the beach, and somewhere away in the mist the faint crying of unseen gulls.

"Yes, it's quiet enough, Parsons," Keith answered. "Too quiet, I was thinking. It will be just as well to keep our eyes peeled and our ears wide open."

"Ay, ay, sir, responded Parsons.

"Will it be far to the place?" he added.

"No, not far. It's only a little way up this valley. But the fog makes it difficult to pick up landmarks and we shall have to go slow."

"There's some sort of a building over there to the right, sir," said Parsons presently.

"That's a couper's liquor store, Parsons. It's where we had a set-to with an unpleasant person called von Lange when we were last here. But I'm glad you have spotted the place. It's just the landmark I needed. The diamonds are in the next little valley to the westward."

As he spoke Keith turned to the left and presently the pair entered the hollow between the steep dunes, where the diamonds were buried. Here he stopped and listened.

It was quiet as ever—quieter, for here he could no longer hear the waves on the beach. The fog was thickening and everything was shut out beyond a radius of about a hundred yards.

"Looks like there hadn't been no one here since the place was made, sir," said Parsons.

"But there have, Parsons. Lots of people. And there may be some here still for all we know. Still, I don't think there can be any very near at hand, and the sooner we get this job finished the better. Follow straight after me and keep your eyes lifting for a length of driftwood buried in the sand, with the end just sticking up."

"Was that your mark, sir?"

"Yes, we put in two. The trouble is that it blew so hard the night before last I'm greatly afraid that the sand has drifted over the head of the pegs."

"This here place is pretty well sheltered, sir," replied Parsons. "It don't seem to me as the sand has shifted a deal. Here's footmarks showing plain."

"So there are!" said Keith, and bent down to examine the marks. But the sand was so loose and soft that it was impossible to say whether they were recent or not.

He moved on slowly, following the steps and wondering greatly whether they were those of himself and Teddy or whether they were fresh ones made that morning.

Suddenly he stumbled over something almost hidden in the sand.

"Here's one of the pegs, Parsons," he said eagerly. "The southern one. This was put in exactly twenty-five yards south of the cache, and the other is thirty due east. Here, take one end of the string."

Not being able to find a regular measuring tape aboard Number 99, Keith had got a length of cord and made a knot at every yard. One end of the cord he fastened to the peg, then he laid a compass on the ground and gave Parsons his direction as he unrolled the coils.

"That's right, Parsons," he said at last. "You must be almost on top of it. But just to make certain, we had better take our direction from the other side as well."

"Don't fancy there's any need to do that, sir," Parsons answered. "Looks to me like the ground has been stirred up pretty recent just where I am standing."

"Is that so? All right, then, we'll chance it. Wait a moment. I'll do the digging."

Leaving the line where it was, Keith hurried across, took the spade from Parsons and set to work. Now that he was actually on the spot, he felt the old thrill which he remembered so well when he had first set eyes on those wonderful stones.

Were they there still, or had Slopan got them? That was the question—a question so important that, for the moment Keith forgot everything else, even Teddy Baines.

"How deep are they, sir?" asked Parsons. The solemn-faced, quiet-spoken man was almost as excited as Keith himself.

"About three feet," Keith answered.

"Let me take a hand, sir."

"No need. It's nothing but sand, and I can easily shift it. I must be careful, too, for I don't want to smash the box. If the stones got loose in all this soft stuff it would take us hours to pick them out."

"They do say as there's two million pounds' worth of them diamonds," said Parsons in an awed tone.

"Quite that," Keith answered, as he sent the sand flying in rapid spadefuls.

"Enough to build a Dreadnought, nearly," Parsons muttered.

He stood gazing down into the rapidly deepening hole. The sand began to slip back, and he went down on his knees and scooped it up with his hands. The treasure-hunting fever had got hold of him, and he had no eyes or ears for anything else. Keith was now waist deep in the excavation he had made. Cool as the fog was, the perspiration was streaming down his forehead.

Suddenly his spade struck something solid which gave out a dull, hollow sound.

"That's it, sir!" exclaimed Parsons, in a voice which quivered with eagerness. "That's it, sir. Don't use the spade no more. Scrape the stuff off of it with your hands. Here, let me help, sir."

Before Keith could answer he had slipped down beside him, and was at work, scooping the loose sand aside with both hands.

The lid of the box became visible.

"Hurray!" cried Keith. "She's here. She's quite safe."

"Ach, yes. She is quite safe," came a harsh voice from just overhead, and Keith looking up saw von Lange, standing over him, holding a large, ugly-looking revolver, the business end of which was pointed full at his—Keith's—head.

"She is quite safe," repeated the German, fixing his cold blue eyes on Keith, "and so she is likely to remain. Up with your hands, Englishman!"

Keith hesitated for an instant. Next moment the cold muzzle of the pistol was jammed hard against his forehead.

"Up with your hands!" snarled von Lange savagely. "Pig-dog, it is my turn now, and dearly as I would like to blow your brains out, I mean to reserve you for a worse fate."

Keith saw that von Lange had no fewer than four men with him. Resistance was out of the question. He put his hands above his head.

"Krout, take his pistol from him," ordered von Lange, and one of his men, stepping down into the pit, slipped Keith's pistol out of his pocket. He then disarmed Parsons.

"Come out of that," ordered von Lange, and Keith, realising that he had no choice in the matter, climbed up out of the pit.

The German, still holding his pistol pointed at Keith, stood opposite him, gloating over him.

"So you thought the trick was yours, you brat!" he sneered. "You fancied you had been too clever for me. It never entered your calculations that a German can think as well as fight. You had not even sense enough to look round and see that no one was watching you."

He laughed, and Keith thought that he had never heard a more unpleasant sound.

"And now, my young friend," went on the Prussian scornfully, "I am going to teach you what it means to resist the sovereign might of Germany. You shall learn your lesson slowly and painfully. You shall live to repent bitterly the day that you meddled with the property of my Imperial master and still more the hour when you dared to strike his representative!"

"I am doing that already," cut in Keith dryly. "I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I did not trip you a bit harder when I had the chance. If I had, I might have saved myself all this tiresome talk on your part."

Von Lange's large, fair face assumed a dull crimson hue. His small pale eyes glowed with rage.

"Insolent cub!" he roared, and for a moment Keith thought he was going to strike him.

But von Lange perhaps remembered how poor a figure he had cut on the last occasion when he had come to grips with the English boy. And there were his own men to be considered.

He bit his lip fiercely.

"Take the Englishmen aside," he snapped. "I will deal with them later. Shoot them at once if they attempt to escape, or if they make any outcry."

Keith and Parsons were dragged back roughly to a distance of about ten paces from the hole, and two of the German blue-jackets stood over them with loaded rifles.

Von Lange spoke again.

"Krout, you and Ficke come here, and lift this box from the Pit."

"My fault, sir," said Parsons to Keith in a low voice. "I ought to have kept my eyes open like you said and spotted these here Huns afore—"

"Silence, pig of an Englishman!" growled one of their guard, with a threatening motion.

Keith signed to Parsons to obey. It was no use making matters any worse than they were already. But he himself was sick at heart and savage. It was he who was to blame far more than Parsons. He had yielded for the moment to the fascination of the diamonds, and this was the result. He had lost not only the diamonds, but his liberty, and seemingly everything else worth having. Life itself would be intolerable in the hands of this Prussian bully, von Lange.

Von Lange was speaking again. Even at that moment Keith could not help noticing the hectoring tone the fellow employed in speaking to his men, and contrasting it with that which British officers use.

"Sharp with you, Krout," went on von Lange. "Ach, one would think your legs were made of wood, you move so slowly."

Krout and the man called Ficke were already in the pit, while their commanding officer leaned over and watched them. He himself was of course far too much of a fine gentleman to soil his fingers by lifting even a box of diamonds.

Krout had stooped and got hold of the box. He was trying to lift it, but it seemed strangely heavy. Keith felt a momentary surprise that this should be so, for the box as he remembered it weighed only a few pounds, and could have been raised with one hand.

"Hurry!" said von Lange angrily. "Hurry, you fool, our ship may be back for us at any moment."

Spurred by his officer's taunt, Krout, who was a big, loose-jointed fellow, drove his fingers well in under the lower edges of the box, and put his back into it.

"I've got it," Keith heard him say, and almost before the words were out of his mouth came a crash like the bursting of a shell, and an explosion which sent the sand spouting upwards in a great dark cone. The wind of the explosion struck Keith with such force as nearly upset him, but he regained his balance before either of his guards.

What had happened he had no idea, nor was there time to consider the matter. All he knew was that his chance had come, a chance that, if he did not make use of it, might never come again.

His guard, the one nearest to him, was standing with a dazed, stupid look on his pasty face, and long before he had a chance to collect his senses, Keith scattered them effectually by a blow on the point of the jaw.

He put every ounce of his weight behind his fist, and the wretched Hun went down like a sack of coal.

Parsons, solemn as he looked, was very little behind Keith. But the other German was quicker in the uptake than his fellow, and before Parsons could reach him he had pulled the trigger.

Parsons went reeling away and dropped on his knees. He seemed to be badly hurt, for though he tried hard he could not rise again.

Keith saw there was not a moment to waste. He made a flying jump at the German, and caught him just as he was swinging round. With one arm he knocked up the rifle so that the second bullet flew harmlessly over his head; with the other he caught the man round the neck.

Closing instantly, he crooked his left leg behind the other's right, and tripped him.

The man went down, but so did Keith, falling on top of him. The German fell soft on the sand, and dropping his rifle got Keith round the body with both arms and pinned him.

He was a big fellow, pretty nearly six feet, and weighing a lot more than Keith, and when he closed his grip, Keith realised that he was as strong as he was big.

Keith strained and wrenched, struggling desperately to break the fellow's grip, but soon found that this was impossible. The bear-like hug tightened, and Keith felt his very ribs cracking under the terrific strain.

He could not breathe.

At last he got one arm loose, and drove his elbow with all his force into the face of his antagonist. The man flinched a trifle, but did not relax his hold.

Keith felt his strength failing. The German felt it, too. With a great effort he managed to roll over, and Keith found himself underneath crushed into the sand.

"Schweinehund!" growled the German, and shifted his grip to Keith's throat.


KEITH still struggled, but in the soul of him he knew that it was useless. The big German's fingers were tightening on his wind pipe, and he could no longer breathe. His head began to swim; there was a roaring in his ears as though he were drowning.

The savage face of the Hun, contorted with rage, swam before his eyes. The man meant to kill him. Of that he was sure.

Then, just as his senses were leaving him, he was conscious of a thud, and suddenly the German's grip relaxed and he fell forward, crushing Keith with his weight.

"Come off it, you ugly beggar!" came a voice, and stooping, Parsons dragged the big brute off Keith, and rolled him aside. He lay like a log.

"Are you hurt, sir?" asked Parsons.

Keith could not move or speak. He lay flat on his back, breathing thickly and looking up at the coxswain.

The latter was not a pretty sight. His face was covered with blood, which was still running down from under his hair and staining his jumper a dull crimson.

"Are you much hurt?" asked Parsons again, and his tone was very anxious.

Keith found his voice.

"Seems to me it's I should ask you that," he said hoarsely.

"Me! I'm right enough, sir. Bullet just parted my hair, so to speak. Ay, it bleeds, but it ain't anything to signify. It stunned me, like, at first, and that's why I couldn't do nothing to help you."

"You came round in time at any rate," said Keith, sitting up and feeling his throat. "And that was lucky for me. Another ten seconds, and the fellow would have finished me."

"He won't do much more harm to nobody," growled Parsons, glancing at the fallen German. "It were his own rifle I used on him, and if his skull ain't cracked, all I got to say is, it's thicker than mine.

"But what's to do now, sir?" he asked. "This here's a funny game, altogether."

Keith rose slowly to his feet. He was still feeling decidedly shaky; his ribs ached and it hurt him to draw a full breath.

"I should think it was a funny game," he agreed. "I'm not clear yet what has happened except that it seemed to me that a shell burst almost on top of us."

"It wasn't no shell, sir. Some one had set a trap in that there hole, and it was the mercy o' Heaven that you and me wasn't blowed up instead of them Boches."

Keith gave a low whistle.

"So that was the game? Then that was Slopan, depend on it

"Any of 'em alive?" he continued, turning towards the pit.

"Yes, sir; the officer, he ain't killed. But the two chaps as was in the hole—well, they're dead and buried, too."

Parsons was right. Von Lange was still alive, but that was about all that could be said for him. He lay on his back a little way from the scene of the explosion. His face was perfectly black; his moustache, hair, even his eyebrows and eyelashes were scorched clean away, leaving his head as bare as a billiard ball. He still breathed, but was quite unconscious.

"Poor devil!" said Keith, with a shudder. "We must get him off as quick as we can. And the others. I suppose there is no doubt they are done for."

"Hardly worth digging to see, I reckon," Parsons answered as he pointed to the spot where they lay.

The small pit which Keith had dug had been changed to a wide, shallow crater with a rim of blackened sand piled all around it. There was not a sign of Krout or Ficke. And judging by the state of von Lange who had not been in the pit at all, it was certainly useless to dig for their remains.

"A clever trap," said Keith. "I wonder for whom Slopan set it."

"Ay, it was a smart trick, sir," Parsons answered. "I reckon the chap as set it stole the diamonds first, and fixed up this here trap so as to stop the chaps as he reckoned was after him."

"That's about the size of it," said Keith. "And now, since the diamonds are gone the best thing we can do is to collect our prisoners and get back to the launch."

"This chap I knocked out," he continued, "seems to be coming round. Just have a look at the other, and see if he is worth retrieving."

Parsons bent over the fellow who had so nearly finished Keith, and examined him briefly.

"No need to trouble about him, sir. You see I didn't wait to think how hard I was hitting. There wasn't no time for that. Fact is I don't think he ever knew what struck him."

Keith shivered a little. Though he had seen plenty of fighting in the past year, this was almost his first experience of killing hand to hand.

"We must take von Lange," he said. "We can carry him between us."

"No need for us to worry with him, sir. This chap as you knocked out. Let him do it."

Keith glanced at the big lout whom he had punched. The fellow was sitting up, gazing round him with a half dazed expression on his large, foolish face. He did not seem able to realise what had happened.

Keith spoke to him in German, and ordered him to pick up von Lange, and bring him down to the boat. He made no objection, but rising to his feet lifted his late commander and, with Parsons' help, got him on to his back. Keith made him walk in front of him down to the beach.

Keith himself was still in a confused state. What between the shock of the explosion and the mauling he had had in his fight with the German, his brain was muddled, and he could not think clearly.

There were only two things he was sure of. The first was that the trap had been set by Slopan. It was clear that Slopan must have arrived at the island some hours previously, that he must somehow have got rid of his Hun friends in the submarine, and come ashore alone.

How he had managed it, where he had got the necessary explosives, and in what way he had arranged them—these were matters beyond guessing.

The other point that seemed certain was that he had got away with the diamonds. But for the life of him, Keith could not guess what he had done with them, or with himself either for that matter.

It hardly seemed likely that he could have taken the stones aboard the submarine, for that would be equivalent to handing them over to the Huns. Had he then hidden them again on Baltran, or was he himself hidden somewhere in this maze of sandhills?

Vividly as a meteor, an idea suddenly flashed across Keith's mind.

The hut—the couper's store! That might possibly have been chosen by Slopan as a hiding-place. At any rate it would be worth a search.

He pulled up short.

"Parsons," he said, "I want to have a look at that hut we saw just now. Will you go down to the boat with your prisoners and wait for me? I won't be many minutes."

"Ay, ay, sir," responded Parsons.

Feeling sure that Parsons was well able to manage his German single-handed, Keith turned and hurried back to the couper's store. The fog had become so thick that, long before he reached the place, he had lost sight of Parsons, and it was lucky for him that he knew his way so well as he did. Otherwise, he might easily have been lost.

Presently the hut loomed up, a dark patch in the white smother. Keith drew his pistol before he went up. He had already taken more than enough chances for one day, and had no intention of being trapped a second time.

The door was closed, but not fastened. In fact, it looked just as he and Teddy had left it three days earlier.

He pushed it open, and looked in.

The place was bare as ever, and the stone trap set in the centre of the floor was still in place.

Keith bent down and was in the act of taking hold of the ring to raise the stone when, one after another, three shots rang out in rapid succession.

"That's Tim!" he exclaimed, and without a moment's hesitation dashed out of the hut and away down to the landing as hard as he could go.

As he neared the water's edge he caught sight of Parsons standing by the boat. His prisoner was beside him.

"Hear that, Parsons?" asked Keith.

"Yes, sir. It was the signal right enough. Reckon Mr Bellingham wants us aboard."

"In you get, then. Sharp's the word!"

So saying Keith sprang into the boat, Parsons pushed off and the little craft slid out into the gray sea. Von Lange was already aboard, and lying in the bottom where Parsons had laid him.

Parsons took the sculls, and set to pulling. Keith strained his eyes for sight of the launch. But the fog was thicker than ever. He could not see her.

Parsons pulled hard, digging in the oars with short, quick, deep sea strokes.

There was a minute of silence. Then Keith spoke again.

"I can't see her, Parsons. Where has she got to?" he asked anxiously.

Parsons stopped pulling and looked seawards over his shoulder. Suddenly he pointed to an object floating on the calm sea. It was a buoy.

"Gone, sir!" he said, in his solemn way. "She's slipped her moorings and made off in a hurry. Listen! I believe I can hear her."

Straining his ears, Keith could just catch the quick beat of the motor engines in the distance. They were working at full speed. Whatever had happened, Tim had had to make off in a desperate hurry.


"THIS is a nice go, sir," remarked Parsons.

"It does seem rather a mix up," replied Keith dryly. "But you may be sure that Mr Bellingham did not leave us without good reason."

"Ay, I'm sure of that. I reckon he was tackled by some enemy craft."

"I think it more likely that he spotted a U-boat and has gone after her," Keith answered.

"It may be the very one that brought Slopan here, or possibly it is the one in which this beauty, von Lange, arrived."

"Whichever it was, he's away, sir," said Parsons. "So I suppose we may as well get on back to the island and wait for him."

"That seems to be the only thing to do. Pull her round, Parsons, and be careful of your direction. The fog's so thick we may very easily go astray."

"Oh, I've got my bearings all right," replied Parsons, as he dipped his oars. He was not boasting, for in a few minutes the little boat grounded again on the Baltran beach, and they pulled her up.

"And what's the next move, sir?" inquired Parsons.

"To have a good look round the island," Keith told him. "I'm not sorry to have the chance, and you know why."

"Ay, I know very well, sir," Parsons answered, with something faintly resembling a smile on his solemn face. "But what about these here Huns, sir? I don't suppose as you wants to lug them around with you."

"Fortunately, there's no need," said Keith. "We have a prison ready-made. Here, Fritz," he continued, speaking in German, "you take your commander and carry him again. I'll show you where to go."

The stupid-looking German shouldered the still insensible von Lange, and Keith led the way back to the couper's hut, and opened the door.

Parsons looked round with a puzzled air.

"Thought you said it were a liquor store, sir," he said.

"So it is, Parsons. But the stuff is all down below. However, we won't mention that fact to Fritz, and I don't suppose he'll have sense enough to go exploring. Meantime, my idea is to lock him up here with von Lange while you and I go round the island."

"Ay, he won't get out of here very easy," said Parsons. "These here walls is good and solid. You got the key, sir?"

"It's in the lock."

"Now then, Fritz," he said, speaking German again. "You and your commander have got to stop here a bit. You must look after Herr von Lange, and just remember that the better you behave the better you'll be treated when we come back for you. Understand?"

The fellow signified in surly fashion that he did understand, so Keith and Parsons went out, locked the door behind them, and started off on their tour of the island. The fog was still thick as ever, and Keith soon realised that their expedition was likely to prove a wild goose chase. They might pass Slopan within fifty yards and never see a hair of him.

All the same, there was nothing else to do, so they both kept moving. Stumbling through the deep soft sand, they reached the northern beach of the island and began to walk along it. To the left, small waves broke with a low rustle on the gently-sloping sand, while to their right low dunes loomed through the gray wreaths of shifting fog. Now and then came a hoarse cry from some invisible gull, but so far as mankind was concerned, the island seemed utterly deserted.

Keith glanced at his watch.

"Nearly six, Parsons," he said. "Upon my word, I shouldn't be sorry for a cup of tea."

"Nor me, sir," agreed Parsons. "I don't know as I'd mind a drop of that there gin, sir, if—"

He stopped short, as Keith caught him by the arm, and held up the other hand for silence.

Next moment came a sound of voices—harsh, guttural voices, and very close at hand.

"This way!" whispered Keith urgently, and, ducking low, ran swiftly up the beach towards the dunes, where he flung himself down in a patch of dry marram grass. Parsons followed his example, and the two were hardly hidden before a figure loomed up through the mist not more than fifty yards away. It was a German bluejacket, and he was tramping steadily along the beach in a westerly direction. Another followed and another. Keith counted them.

"Half a dozen," he whispered to Parsons. Then suddenly he crouched lower, for the first man had stopped suddenly, and had spoken to the next. The others all drew up, and talked between themselves for some moments.

Then they moved forward again.

"What were they saying, sir?" inquired Parsons as the Germans passed on.

"They are some of von Lange's men," Keith answered, in a low tone. "So far as I can make out, they were patrols left at different places on the island. They have heard the explosion and the shooting, and are coming down to see what's up."

"Then they'll find the dead chap, sir," said Parsons uneasily. "And, most like, our boat, too?"

"Very likely they will." Keith paused and thought hard for a moment. Then suddenly he jumped up.

"Come along, Parsons," he said. "I believe I see a way of snookering them. But to do it, we must reach the coupers' hut ahead of them."

"Can we manage that, sir?"

"Yes, if we cut straight across. They'll stick to the beach in a fog like this, but I think I can find my way straight across."

A moment later, the two were over the crest of the low dune, and running through the sand in the direction from which they had come.

It was lucky that Keith knew the lie of the land so well as he did, for the fog was still heavy as ever. Once or twice he paused to listen, but heard nothing of the Huns, and so well did he keep his direction that it was not more than five minutes before he and Parsons saw the hut looming in front of them. Unlocking the door, he hurried in. The stupid-looking sailor was sitting with his back against the wall; von Lange, still insensible, lay on his back on the floor.

Keith hurried to the trap-door.

"Give me a hand with this, Parsons," he said sharply. "We must put these two in the cellar below."

With Parsons' aid, it was only a moment before the trap was raised. Then Keith explained to the sailor that he was to carry von Lange below. The man was frightened and unwilling, but Keith drove him down.

"You'll find a candle there," he told him. "We shall be back before long to let you out."

"I'll have a nip of that spirit, if you've no objection, sir," said Parsons. "This fog sticks in a man's throat."

"Yes, certainly," Keith answered, "and bring up four or five bottles. That's part of the game."

The solemn Parsons winked—actually winked. "I see, sir," he said, with something almost approaching a chuckle.

He was down the ladder in a moment, and up again almost as quickly, now carrying in his arms half a dozen bottles of the villainous square-face gin which the coupers had stored in their subterranean retreat.

"My word, sir, there's enough down there to finish a regiment. But it's a pity we haven't a drop of dope with us. That'd settle 'em proper."

"The stuff itself will do that without anything else," Keith answered dryly. "Lay five of these bottles along the wall there. Then take the other and come along. You can't tell how soon those beggars will be on our trail."

"Ay, ay, sir," Parsons replied readily, and having laid out the five bottles in full view of the door, he joined Keith again, and the two hurried away up the dune side, and hid in the same shelter in which Teddy and Keith and Slopan had concealed themselves on the day the coupers, under Jan Gurd, had caught them.

"We'll be safe enough here so long as the fog holds," whispered Keith, as he dropped among the marram. "Hallo, I believe I can hear them already."

"Ay, they're down on the beach, sir. And it's our boat they've found—worse luck!'

"That's it, I'm afraid," Keith answered. "I wish we'd had time to pull it up and hide it. Still, if they don't stave her, I fancy we shall reach her again without trouble."

Quite unmoved by the nearness of their enemies, Parsons took a knife from his pocket, opened it, and began to work out the cork from the bottle he carried. He did the job with sailor like neatness, and politely handed the bottle to Keith.

"Take a nip, sir. It'll do you good. No, sir, this ain't the same sort o' tanglefoot like the rest. It's good Hollands. I know the brand of it. You'd best take a little sip, sir. It'll keep you from catching cold."

Keith decided that the advice was good, and took a swallow of the gin. It struck him as extremely nasty, but all the same the strong spirit sent a glow of warmth through him. He handed the bottle back, and Parsons took one good drink, then corked the bottle again and laid it aside.

"Not bad stuff, sir," he said. "But enough's as good as a feast, and I reckon we'll need all our wits for what's coming."

"I'm quite sure we shall," Keith agreed. "And I only wish we had something to eat as well as drink. We ought to have brought some bread and cheese with us."

"So we ought, sir, and I was a fool not to think of it. But maybe them Huns have got something along with them. And if they has, we'll have it off them sooner or later."

"Hush!" whispered Keith. "Here they come!"

He was right. Although the fog was too thick to see the Germans, yet by the sound of their voices they were evidently coming inland. They had no doubt spotted the boat as British, and putting two and two together, had decided that the firing they had heard must have been going on somewhere in this direction. Also, as Keith realised, they must be aware that the crew of the boat was still on the island.

On they came through the smother. From their hiding-place on the dune side Keith and Parsons could hear them plainly, yet were quite unable to see them.

Parsons leaned across and whispered in Keith's ear, "They're going up the other hollow, sir."

Keith nodded, but did not answer. He was listening with all his ears. Some minutes dragged by. All that could be heard was an occasional low call as the Germans, working abreast through the mist, kept in touch with one another.

Then, quite suddenly, a hoarse, startled shout.

"They've found the dead man, sir," muttered Parsons.

"Yes, they've found him," replied Keith. "And now they'll be doing their best to find us. Keep your pistol ready."

Although the German sailors were as utterly invisible as though they had been in an unlit coal mine, yet by the sounds Keith could realise what was going on as plainly as though he stood among them. The first cry had brought up the rest in a hurry, and they were standing in a ring around the man whom Parsons had killed, jabbering like so many monkeys.

Oaths, Keith caught, and threats. But one thing he took comfort from. By the way they all talked at once, he was quite sure that there was no officer with them. A coxswain possibly, but no one with any real authority.

Presently the angry voices died down.

"Now they're coming, sir," whispered Parsons.

"But the hut's between them and us," replied Keith.

"Ay, that's so," said Parsons. "And a sight easier to find, too."

Again there was a long pause broken only by an occasional hoarse German voice. It seemed to Keith that the men were keeping pretty close together.

"Scared!" he said to himself, and smiled grimly. They could not know of course how many Englishmen there were on the island, for the boat would have held half a dozen at a pinch, and these men knew that five of their companions had been captured or killed. Keith hardly blamed them for feeling nervous. The fog had thinned a trifle, and from where he lay he could just see the outline of the coupers' store, a darker blot in the gray gloom.

A shout. One of the Germans had spotted it.

"There they are, sir," Parsons whispered in Keith's ear.

He pointed as he spoke, and Keith caught a glimpse of dim figures cautiously approaching the hut. He chuckled softly.

"It works, Parsons. Once let them get inside, and I'll lay we shan't have much more trouble with them."

"I don't reckon we shall," Parsons answered. The solemn coxswain of M.L. 99 had quite waked up, and was almost as keen as Keith himself.

Slowly and very cautiously the Hun sailors approached the hut. Keith could see that they all had their rifles at the ready. It was clear that they were nervous and uneasy.

"The door's open!' said the first sharply. So still was the air that Keith heard the words quite plainly.

"Go on in, Schwarz," said another.

Schwarz paused uncertainly.

"You come along with me," he said.

There was some argument; then two at once entered the hut. Keith waited eagerly, and after a few moments saw all the rest except one follow.

"They got sense enough to leave a sentry, sir," said Parsons.

"Somehow I don't fancy he will stay there very long," replied Keith, with a smile. "Ah, they have found the bottles!"

There was no doubt about it. The word 'schnapps' was repeated several times in excited tones, and the sentry was seen to be looking in through the open door. Then came a sharp tinkle of breaking glass as one of the men knocked the head off a bottle.

Parsons was leaning forward eagerly. Keith pulled him back. "Sit tight, Parsons," he said. "We've got some time to wait still, I fancy."

Parsons dropped back, and the two lay quiet in their little hollow nest behind the low screen of withered marram. A little breeze was beginning to blow and the fog rose and fell in billowing waves. Sometimes it was so thick that all sight of the hut was hidden; then again the thick vapour would be broken and flung aside so that even the beach was visible. The wind was shifting northerly, and Keith felt pretty sure that it would blow off clear before night. A burst of song came from the hut. Parsons turned to Keith.

"It's beginning to work, sir."

"Yes, it's working," Keith answered. "If that sentry would only go inside, we might try to lock them in."

"I don't think we'd have a lot of trouble with him, sir. I've seen 'em hand him out some o' the stuff. Why, he's got a bottle to his mouth this minute."

Parsons was right. The sentry was in the act of pouring a quantity of raw spirit down his throat. As he lowered the bottle he dropped it, and staggered slightly.

"Don't look as if he was in shape to put up much of a fight," continued Parsons, "do he, sir?"

Keith nodded. "Come on," he said briefly. "Follow me, and mind you don't show yourself."

The fog had closed down again for the moment, and before it lifted Keith and Parsons were crouching on the sand, close behind the hut.

"They're at it proper, sir," whispered Parsons in his ear.

They were. From the row going on inside the place, it sounded as though a dog-fight were in full blast. There were shouts, shrieks, poundings of feet, and now and then bursts of foolish laughter.

"Yes, I don't think they'll give us a lot of trouble," replied Keith dryly. "All the same, there's no use in taking unnecessary risks. Wait for the fog, and then we'll rush the sentry. There's no need to damage him. Just shove him inside and slam the door on him."

Down came the fog, a cloud of thick, wet vapour, and instantly Keith was on his feet. With Parsons close behind him, he ran round to the front of the hut.

The sentry was still outside, but was hanging on to the open door, with his glassy eyes on his companions inside, and trying feebly to join in a chorus. His rifle was leaning against the wall.

Keith was on him before he had the least idea that any one was near. Catching him under the arms, he gave him one tremendous shove, and sent him flying inside.

The fellow pitched forward on his face right on top of his companions, and before he could even yell, Parsons had slammed the door and turned the key in the lock.

"Easy as catching rabbits," observed the coxswain calmly.


THERE was a roar from inside the hut. The door shook as some one hurled himself violently against it.

Keith picked up the sentry's rifle, and aiming at the top of the door, deliberately pulled the trigger. The bullet crashed through the stout timber, and silence complete and utter followed the shot.

"That was over your heads," said Keith speaking loudly and deliberately in German. "The next one of you that tries to break out will get it lower down. You quite understand?"

Not a sound.

Parsons chuckled audibly.

"That's put the fear into 'em, sir," he said. "I'll lay we won't hear much more from them from this on."

"I don't suppose we shall," Keith answered dryly. "And now, Parsons, if you will be good enough to stay and keep watch I will go over to the spot where von Lange's men were hidden and see if there is any food to be found. I shan't be far, and a shout or a shot will bring me at once."

"Very good, sir," Parsons answered. "I hopes you do find some tucker, sir. I won't deny I'm pretty peckish."

Keith felt fairly easy in his mind as he went off. If there were any other Germans about they must surely have come up long before this. The fog had lifted sufficiently to make surprise impossible, but all the same he kept a keen look out as he made his way across to the spot where the diamonds had been buried.

Reaching the top of the dune, he stopped and glanced round.

But the mist still hung heavily over the water and he could see nothing of Tim's craft, nor for that matter of any other. As he walked down the far side he wondered much what had become of the launch, and—still more—where Slopan had got to with the diamonds. The whole business was a most amazing mix up, and at present he could see no way out of it.

The big Hun sailor who had so nearly killed him still lay where Parsons had stretched him. There were marks of many footsteps all around the body.

Keith hated touching him, but it had to be done. He went through the man's clothes, only to find that every pocket was empty. His lip curled with disgust. Apparently, his precious companions had stripped him of everything worth having.

He turned and followed the tracks back to the dune next to the sea. That was where von Lange had evidently been hiding. Presently he came upon a hollow scooped out in the sand among the marram.

A thick, warm coat lay there and, close by, a small haversack.

"This looks more like it," he said, and quickly unstrapped it.

Inside, neatly wrapped in paper, was a loaf of ryebread, a packet of sliced ham, another packet containing sausage, and—last but not least—a thermos flask still more than half full of hot coffee.

"We shan't starve, at any rate," smiled Keith, as he re-packed the things, and picking up the coat and the haversack, made his way back towards the hut.

"They're keeping quiet enough inside there," said Parsons, as Keith came back. "Did you find any victuals, sir?"

Keith showed his plunder, and Parsons' eyes widened.

"That's a proper lot, sir!' he declared.

"I think we might as well share up some of this at once," said Keith. "I'm precious hungry. I know that."

"Same here, sir," replied Parsons; so the two sat down on the sand, and, carving up the bread with a clasp knife, made some capital sandwiches.

By the time they had finished the fog was nearly gone. It was not quite clear yet, for the mist still hung over the sea, but it was possible to see for a mile or more. The sun, however, was getting low, and it began to look as though they would have to spend the night on the island.

Keith got up.

"Tell you what, Parsons, I'll just go down and have a look at the boat," he said. "I want to make sure that she's all right. If Mr Bellingham comes back we shall need her."

"All right, sir," replied Parsons. "I'll wait. These here Huns don't seem to be giving any trouble. They're lying pretty low."

"I expect they're all asleep," said Keith, laughing. "Still you never know. One of us had better watch."

It was only two or three hundred yards down to the water's edge, and to Keith's relief, he found the dinghy quite uninjured. But the sculls had been taken out of her.

Since the Germans had not been carrying them when they arrived at the hut, it seemed clear that they had hidden them, and he started out to find them.

On the firm, wet sand of the beach, footprints were easily followed, and noticing one set which went off towards a little dune to the eastward, he followed these.

They went for about two hundred yards and ended in the edge of the soft sand. Keith fossicked about, found a spot where the sand seemed to have been recently disturbed, and burrowed with his hands.

Sure enough, there were the sculls, and he was in the act of unearthing them when a loud shout from Parsons made him drop them and start running back towards the hut.

"There's a rare row on inside, sir," the coxswain told him. "I don't know what the trouble is, but if you ask me they've pulled the trap up and got at the liquor down below. I heard a sort of thump a while back, like the stone being lifted back."

"The hogs! I ought to have thought of that," said Keith as he hurried back alongside Parsons.

Sure enough, the racket inside the place was terrific. They could distinctly hear the crash of breaking bottles, and wild yells and shouts.

"You are right, Parsons," said Keith briefly. "We shall have to go in and stop this."

As he spoke he took the key from his pocket and unlocked the door.

"Keep close behind me, Parsons," he said, "and have your pistol handy. There's no saying what sort of maniac drink will make of a Hun."

The first thing Keith saw as he entered the hut was that Parsons had been right. The Germans had pulled up the trap, and every mother's son of them was down below in the cellar. The reek of gin which rose from the open trap was sickening, and was mixed with the fumes of bad tobacco. The howls that came from the depths were hardly human.

"Mad drunk, the lot of 'em!" said Parsons. "You be careful, sir, for just remember as they've got their rifles and maybe pistols, too."

"And Dutch courage enough to use them," added Keith. "All right, Parsons, I'll be careful."

He drew his pistol as he spoke, went to the head of the ladder, and looked down.

It was not a pretty sight. By the light of one solitary candle stuck in a bottle neck, the Germans, seven in all, were sprawling all over the place. Every single one of them had a bottle in his hand, though two or three were too drunk even to pour more liquor down their throats. They were yelling and shrieking like lunatics. In a corner von Lange lay close under the wall. One glance was enough to convince Keith that his late opponent was almost certainly dead.

But dead or not, this hideous orgy had to be stopped.

"Drop those bottles!" Keith shouted in German. "Drop them at once and stand up!"

So strong is the instinct of obedience among Germans that two of the men, not quite so tipsy as the rest, staggered to their feet and stood swaying foolishly.

But a third, a red-haired, fox-faced fellow who was probably the most sober of them all, reached out quickly for his rifle which lay on the floor beside him.

"Drop that!" snapped Keith. "If you touch it, I shall shoot you."

Instead of obeying, the fellow snatched up the rifle and raised it to his shoulder. Before he could pull the trigger, Keith fired, and the man, shot through the leg, gave a yell of pain and fell back with a crash.

In falling he upset the candle, and the candle, still alight, toppled over into a shallow pool of spirit lying on the floor. Instantly up shot a flash of blue flame, and in the twinkling of an eye the whole place was a furnace.

With an exclamation of horror, Keith sprang for the ladder, but he was hardly on it before Parsons had hold of him and, exerting all his strength, dragged him bodily away.

Keith tore himself loose.

"Let me go," he cried angrily. "We can't leave the men to perish."

"And how much do you reckon you can help 'em, sir?" retorted Parsons. "Look at it, sir! There ain't no thing as could go down there and live."

Horrible as it seemed, Parsons was undoubtedly right. Already a spout of blue flame like that from a Bunsen burner, only enormously larger, was rising straight up through the hatchway, and licking the ceiling of the hut. From below came a deep, steady, furnace-like roar mingled with the sharp reports of bottles bursting in rapid succession. Of human voice or cry there was not a sound.

In spite of the fearful heat, Keith shivered.

"It's ghastly!' he said hoarsely.

"It 'ud be a deal more ghastly if you was down there," replied the coxswain dryly. "And seeing as how the roof's red hot already, I reckon we'd as well move outside."

Again Keith had to acknowledge that Parsons was right. The coupers' hut was doomed. It was too late to close down the trap and confine the fire to the cellar. Not even a fireman in a fireman's helmet could have attempted the job.

With a vicious roar, the leaping fountain of blue flame seized upon the roof, and in spite of himself Keith was forced back outside the building.

"Don't you worry, sir," said Parsons, seeing Keith's distress. "I reckon it were over so quick that most on 'em never knew what was the matter. And it weren't your fault anyhow."

"It was horrible," Keith answered hoarsely. "I shall never forget it."

He passed his hand across his eyes as if to wipe away the terrible scene.

"Let us go down to the boat, Parsons," he said. "Let us get off this horrible island."

Parsons gave a quick gasp, and caught Keith by the arm.

"We got something else to do first, sir," he whispered urgently. "There's one of 'em got out and escaping."

By this time it was growing dusk, but there was still light enough for Keith to see a long, lean, stooping figure running hard towards the right hand dune.

"Slopan!" gasped Keith, and was after him as hard as he could go.

Slopan, realising that he was seen, straightened himself and ran for his life. But he was no match for Keith. Racing ahead of Parsons, Keith gained rapidly on the fugitive, and soon was so close that he could hear the man's sobbing breath as he tore along.

Slopan reached the head of the gully, and went straight up the slope. The sand was so deep and soft that he sank in over his boots. At each step he slipped back, and Keith gained by leaps and bounds.

All of a sudden the man seemed to realise that his capture was only a matter of a few seconds. He stopped, whipped round, and his hand flew to his coat pocket.

Keith saw the movement, flung himself down like a baseball player hurling himself at a base, and with outstretched hand caught the other by the ankle.

The pistol cracked with a report like a whip lash, but the bullet flew harmlessly high in air. Slopan himself dropped heavily on his back and Keith, flinging himself on top of him, wrenched the pistol from his grasp.

"My trick this time, Slopan," said Keith grimly. "Where is Baines, and what have you done with those diamonds?"

Slopan, too breathless with his run even to struggle, lay flat on the sand and glared up at Keith. There was a very ugly gleam in those jade green eyes of his.

"Since you are so clever, Herr Keith," he panted, "you can find out for yourself."

Parsons came tearing up.

"There's a trap door outside the hut, sir. Must be another cellar. That's where this chap came from."

"And—and the smoke's a pouring out of it like steam from a kettle."

Keith leaped to his feet.

"And Teddy must be there," he gasped. "Hold this man, Parsons."

Without another word he spun round and darted back.


SHORT as the time had been since Keith had left the hut in chase of Slopan, it was long enough for the fire to have gained enormously. It had got hold of the whole of the upper part of the building, and the thick, tarred timbers were blazing like a huge bonfire, flinging up a spout of flame fifty feet into the air. A column of smoke, tinted crimson on its under-side, rolled slowly away before the light breeze, and the heat thrown out was so fierce that it scorched Keith's face as he came near.

The glare lit up the pale-coloured sand for a wide circle all around, and almost the first thing that Keith saw was a small square patch black against the whiteness, which was evidently the opening through which Slopan had escaped.

This hatchway was not more than a dozen feet from the back wall of the hut, and, as Parsons had said, smoke was pouring out of it.

It was the opening to a second cellar. Not a doubt of it. But Keith did not stop to think about the geography of the place. The one idea in his head was that, since Slopan had come out of this hole, the chances were that Teddy was somewhere below.

The cover to the opening, a wooden arrangement that seemed to be a hatch taken from some old ship, had been pushed aside, and lay on the sand. The hole itself was barely two feet square. Below, Keith caught a glimpse of a ladder leading down into the depths.

"Teddy!" he shouted, but there was no answer. The pungent smoke curling upwards stung his eyes and almost blinded him. He did not hesitate, but plunged down through the opening.

The ladder, stoutly built of solid timber, was still sound, and Keith rattled down it as hard as he could go. Speed was everything, for he knew he could not live in such an atmosphere for more than a few moments.

"Teddy!" he cried again, and began groping around the floor.

The heat was fearful. Little darts of crimson flame flickered through the smother. The partition between this and the other cellar was fast burning through. At any moment the whole thing might collapse, and he would share the fate of the wretched Germans whose bones were by this time turning to powder in the spirit store.

"Teddy!" he called once more. "He can't be here," he muttered, and as he spoke he stumbled over something soft which lay upon the rough planking, and nearly fell.

It was quite impossible to see anything. He turned and, groping vaguely in the smother, found that it was a human figure. But who or what, and whether alive or dead, it was impossible to say.

There was not a moment to spare. Already Keith's lungs felt as though they were bursting. His eyes were streaming, his throat was like sand-paper, and his head was beginning to spin.

He bent down, and with an effort of strength of which he hardly believed himself capable heaved the helpless figure on to his back, and made for the ladder.

He could not see the ladder. All he could see was a ruddy patch of light through the smoke fog. It was the glare of the fire shining down through the opening overhead.

He grasped a rung with his free hand, and began to climb.

The effort was terrific. Before he reached the fourth rung his head was going. He stopped and struggled desperately to pull himself together. But the hot smoke tortured his aching lungs. He felt as though a band of iron was tightening round his chest.

"I can't do it," he gasped, in despair. "I'm done!"

"Hold on, sir. Hold on a minute! Where are you?"

"Here," panted Keith. "I've found some one here. Can't tell who. I can't carry him."

Parsons, for it was he, came hastily down the ladder.

"Give him to me, sir," he said sturdily, and next moment Keith felt the weight lifted from his back.

"I've got him. Can you manage, sir?"

"Yes," gasped Keith, and with a last effort managed to drag himself up the remaining rungs.

At the top the heat from the flaring hut struck him like a furnace blast. He staggered, then was off after Parsons at a blind, stumbling run. He managed to get just out of the worst of it before he collapsed and pitched face downwards on the sand.

IT was cold sea water splashed on his scorched forehead that brought him back to his senses. He opened his eyes, and there was Teddy—Teddy Baines, with a very black face and wearing a shapeless suit of German lammies—bending over him.

"How are you, old chap?" inquired Teddy anxiously.

Keith paid no attention to the question. He put one hand out gingerly and touched the other.

"What's the matter?" asked Teddy, looking rather alarmed.

"So it is you?" said Keith, with a deep sigh.

"Of course it's me, you old juggins," retorted Teddy, trying to laugh, but making a very bad attempt at it. "Who did you think it was?"

"I didn't know," Keith answered simply. "You see, I'd no idea you were still alive, old chap, when I found you down in that hole."

"And yet you jolly nearly slew yourself trying to get me out. Keith, you are an old ass."

Teddy paused and swallowed, then went on in a hurry.

"I was all right really, only that swab Slopan had tied me up and gagged me. That's why I couldn't help myself or even sing out. And that smoke—my aunt, it was beastly!"

He paused a moment.

"Sure you're better, old chap?" he asked.

"Quite all right, Teddy, only wickedly thirsty."

"That's soon remedied," said Teddy, producing the thermos bottle which Keith had found, and in which there was still about a pint of coffee. "Take a pull at this."

A few swallows of the hot stuff did Keith all the good in the world. His brain which had seemed quite muddled, began to work again.

"What about Slopan?" was his first question, as he recorked the thermos.

"He's all right," said Ted, with a grin. "At any rate, he's not likely to get far. Your man Parsons is distinctly annoyed with him, and has tied him up in just the same way the beggar tied me. If it hadn't been for me, I believe Parsons would have dropped him down into that cellar to grill."

"I half wish you hadn't interfered," said Keith. "Fancy the swine bolting, and leaving you there to smoke like a ham! If Parsons hadn't chanced to see him we should never have known where you were."

"What about the diamonds, Teddy? Has the blighter got them about him?"

"You bet he has. He spent most of to-day sewing them up in the lining of his coat."

"What—down in that cellar?"

"Yes, we were there all the time. I tell you, Keith, it was simple Hades. There's only a wooden partition between the two cellars, and I could hear almost everything that went on. I heard your voice quite clearly the first time you opened the inside trap, and made that chap carry von Lange down."

"And you couldn't shout?"

"Couldn't make a sound. And there was Slopan grinning at me, and picking out the diamonds one by one and sewing them in his coat. Jove, I wouldn't care to go through that last two hours again!"

"How did he get you—in the first place, I mean?"

"From the cave. Surely, you spotted that it was a U-boat. But fancy a place like that right on our own coast, and after two years of war, too! Doesn't it beat the band?"

"It's not the only one, I'm afraid," said Keith. "But you haven't told me yet what happened. How did Slopan get hold of you?"

"That was my own fool fault," Teddy answered angrily. "The fellow was shamming the whole time. There was nothing the matter with his beastly ankle."

"He fooled me, too," put in Keith. "It looked like a nasty bruise."

"Well, it didn't stop him from jumping on me like a tiger cat, and knocking me out. When I came to, I was triced up like a sausage, and then they slung me aboard the U-boat.

"After that," he went on, "I don't know much about what did happen, only that we started off here at a tearing rate. I think we were on the surface most of the time, though once we dived pretty steeply."

"When did you get here?"

"About ten this morning. Then they sent Slopan and me and one other man ashore in the dinghy. What tale Slopan pitched to the U-boat skipper I don't know. All I do know is that there was something wrong with the U-boat, and that her people were busy with repairs."

"That's rum!" said Keith. "Slopan seems to have an unfortunate effect on U-boats. The München, remember, wouldn't submerge."

Teddy's eyes met Keith's with a startled expression.

"You don't mean—?" he began slowly.

"I certainly do," asserted Keith. "You can take it from me that Slopan did the trick in both cases. It's just what he would have done, for if everything had been right you may be jolly sure that the U-boat skipper would have come ashore with him.

"And that explains Tim going off," he added sharply, "He must have spotted the U-boat sneaking in to take Slopan off, and has bolted off in chase of her."

"Who's Tim?"

"Tim Bellingham. M.L. 99. I came over with him. But never mind that. I want to know just what happened to you."

"Nothing at all. Slopan waited till we were ashore, then jammed his pistol against my head, while the other chap tied me up. Between 'em, they shoved me down into that poisonous cellar, and there I've been ever since."

Keith frowned thoughtfully.

"What did he do that for? Ah, I think I see. He wouldn't leave you aboard for fear that you might blow the gaff, and tell the U-boat skipper just what was up."

"You don't need a microscope to see that," replied Teddy. "That was it, of course. The question that remains to be solved is how Slopan meant to make his get-away. He's not the sort to have left that to chance."

"Not he!" agreed Keith. "He's got that cut and dried, I'm convinced."

"It might be coupers," suggested Teddy. But Keith shook his head.

"We've bagged Gurd's lot. Besides, Slopan would never trust himself to crooks of that kind. They'd slit his throat for a single one of those shiners."

"Well, it won't be Huns," said Teddy. "You see he got into that cellar so as to hide from the U-boat people."

"It may be Dutchmen or Danes or anybody," Keith answered "But I don't think it makes much odds. Tim Bellingham or some of our people are sure to be here before long."

"The sooner the better," said Teddy, with emphasis. "I'm fed up with this place, Keith. I'd give a good deal if we and the diamonds were safe back on our side of the water."

"We shall get back all right," declared Keith confidently. "That blaze"—indicating the still flaring hut—"will bring some of our folk up. And now, suppose we go and see how Slopan is getting on. We've got to collect the diamonds from him in any case."

He picked up the thermos, rose to his feet, and the two walked back to the spot under the dune where Parsons was looking after his prisoner.

By this time it was quite dark, and it was not until they got close up that they could see Parsons.

The solemn coxswain had made a sort of little dug-out to shelter himself from the breeze which, though light, was decidedly chilly. There he sat in great comfort, smoking his pipe, which glowed redly through the gloom.

He rose as Keith came up.

"Glad to see you're all right again, sir," he said. "I knew Mr Baines'd look after you, so I came back to keep an eye on this chap."

"But what have you done with Slopan?" inquired Keith, puzzled. He could see nothing of the man.

"There he is," Parsons answered calmly, pointing to the bottom of the little trench.

Keith struck a match and peered down into the hollow. The wretched Slopan lay like a mummy. He was tied hand and foot, and gagged into the bargain.

"I knowed what a slippery customer he was," explained Parsons, "so I thought I wouldn't take no chances."

"You certainly are not," said Keith, "but I think you are overdoing it. The fellow will suffocate with the sand slipping down on him like that."

"It ain't so bad for him as it was for Mr Baines down in that there cellar," responded Parsons, quite unrepentant.

"Well, have him out of it now," said Keith. "I want his coat."

"Want his coat, sir?"

"Yes, it's rather well worth having. It's got all those diamonds sewed up in it."

Parsons sprang up.

"Them diamonds in his coat!" he exclaimed, roused for once out of his usual calm. "And I never knowed it. Lor bless you, sir, we'll have that off him pretty quick."

With sailor-like quickness, he untied the cord round Slopan's wrists, and whipped his coat off.

"Ay, they're there all right, sir," he said. "It ain't no wonder the chap couldn't run."

The coat, as Keith took it, felt almost as hard as a suit of chain mail.

"They're all there," said Teddy. "I watched him sew the last one of them into the lining."

"Take the gag out, Parsons," said Keith. "The man may as well have a chance to breathe."

Parsons obeyed, though with no good will.

Slopan stretched himself and sat up. He rubbed his lips and jaw which was stiffened with the gag.

"You might let me have my handkerchief," he said. "It's in my coat pocket."

Keith handed the handkerchief over, and Slopan removed the sand from his eyes and ears.

"I'm afraid you'll be rather cold," said Keith politely, "but you will understand why I can't give you back your coat just at present."

"Perfectly," replied Slopan.

He seemed so much at ease that Keith was puzzled. But he did not speak.

He waited to see what Slopan would say.

Slopan looked at him with a queer, twisted smile.

"And now that you have got the diamonds," he said, "what do you propose to do with them?"

"Isn't that rather a foolish question?" returned Keith. "They are going to pay for half a day's war against your country."

Slopan laughed outright.

"I should like to bet you they will do nothing of the sort. The chances are ten to one that if they ever leave this island, they will go east and not west."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I know more about it than you do. I will admit that luck has been with you so far, but seeing that von Tirpitz himself by this time knows all about it, you may be perfectly certain that he is not going to let the stones remain in English hands."

"What's the chap talking about?" growled Parsons. "If they ain't in English hands this minute, why I'm a Dutchman."

"I will explain," said Slopan smoothly. "At the present moment there are certainly not fewer than a dozen U-boats within four or five miles of us. This island will be blockaded until an opportunity comes for landing a sufficient force."

It was Keith's turn to laugh.

"Two can play at that game," he said.

"I beg your pardon. Your people can never hope to get here again. By this time a ring of mines surrounds Baltran. Many of the German submarines are minelayers pure and simple."

"Sounds healthy," growled Teddy. "But, see here, Slopan, if this is the case how did you expect to get off with your plunder?"

"That," replied Slopan, with his queer grin, "that, as you English say, would be telling. This much I will say. My plans for getting away are all arranged."

"Bluff!" muttered Teddy.

All the same neither he nor Keith really thought so. Slopan's voice and manner had convinced them both that he was telling the truth.

Slopan eyed them both keenly.

"I have tried to bargain with you once before," he remarked, in a would-be casual way.

"I shouldn't try that again, if I were you," Keith said very dryly.

"Not even if I leave the diamonds out of it," said Slopan.

Keith glanced up sharply.

"What do you mean?"

Slopan shrugged his shoulders.

"I mean this: that if Germans land here you will lose your liberty and I—I shall almost certainly lose my life. I set more store on my life than I do even on the diamonds. To put it shortly, I offer you your liberty for my life."

"Sounds very nice and convincing," said Keith, "but I'm afraid you'll have to make it a little clearer."

"Very well. I will. There is a boat coming for me to-night."

"How can a boat come for you?" cut in Teddy. "You have just told us that the island is ringed in with submarines."

"Let me explain," said Slopan, with a wave of his hand. "The boat that is to come for me is a hydroplane. She is too fast and too shallow draft for submarines to hurt her. Let me get away in her, and I will give you three a free trip in her and either land you on the Dutch coast, or put you aboard one of your own craft."

"And the diamonds?" questioned Keith.

"I shall only ask for a couple of small stones—enough to pay my passage to South America and for the hire of the hydroplane."

"I think that Mr Baines and I will talk this matter over, he said quietly, and rising to his feet drew Teddy aside.

"What do you think of it, Teddy?" he asked.

"Too good to be true. There's some catch about it," said Teddy gruffily.

"Still we have our pistols, and the hydroplane won't have a crew of more than two."

"You do as you like, Keith, but much as I hate this beastly sand bank, I'd sooner stay here than trust myself to Slopan.

"Hallo!" he broke off sharply. "What's that?"

"It's Tim's launch, I believe," exclaimed Keith, as the clatter of a motor engine came from out the night.

"I wish it were," said Teddy, and pointed skyward.

Keith looked up. High against the stars a long cigar-shaped object crawled across the sky.


"A ZEPP!" said Keith, in a tone of dismay.

"A Zepp," repeated Teddy. "And bound for Baltran, for any money."

"So Slopan wasn't bluffing as much as usual," remarked Keith. "I suppose there can be no doubt she's after us."

"Slopan, too," put in Teddy. "You see, even he realises that his fellow-countrymen have got on to his little games by this time. Well, what's to be done?"

"There's a gas bag a-coming over, sir," sang out Parsons.

Keith and Teddy came back to Parsons and his prisoner.

"We've seen it, Parsons," said Keith.

He turned to Slopan.

"This puts the hat on your hydroplane," he told him.

Slopan looked up at the great air ship. Every moment the sound of the huge Maybach motors grew louder, while the long bulk increased in size.

"Yes," he said bitterly. "She'll be over us before my craft can get here. There's nothing for it but to take cover."

"That's more easily said than done," Keith answered. "There's no cover left on the island."

"No cover!" repeated Slopan. "There is still the cellar."

Keith glanced at the ruins of the coupers' hut. The blaze had died down, and nothing but a smouldering heap of ash remained.

"The second cellar," went on Slopan eagerly. "If we hide the hatch with plenty of sand they will never find it."

"It'll be poisonously hot and smoky," growled Teddy.

Keith glanced once more at the Zeppelin. She was coming up like a cloud before a gale. The harsh clatter of her motors filled the sky.

"Slopan is right," he said briefly. "It's our only chance. Come on, all of you."

Carrying the coat full of diamonds himself, Keith led the way at a run towards the ruins.

Plunging down the ladder, he found that the smoke had pretty well cleared and that the hollow below, though still uncomfortably hot, was at least habitable.

"It'll do all right," he called up to Teddy. "You come on down. I'll fix that trap door."

It was Parsons who brought Slopan down. He held on to him firmly. It was quite clear that he did not trust the man beyond arm's length.

As soon as the others were below, Keith got hold of the hatch cover and began piling sand on it. He piled the loose stuff three or four inches thick all over it, then dragged it carefully across the opening.

As he did so the night was lit by a sudden white glare sprouting down from above. The Zeppelin had turned her searchlight downwards upon the island.

Keith let the trap drop into its place, gave it a thump or two with his fist to spread the sand evenly, then followed the others down into the hot, stuffy depths.

Teddy, who had been snuffing around, turned to him.

"The partition's burnt through in lots of places," he grumbled.

"I hope to goodness the beggars don't go digging about and find the other trap."

"Hardly likely," Keith answered consolingly. "Those ashes are pretty hot still. Besides, they are not to know there's anything underneath."

It was very trying, waiting down there in the black darkness, especially as they had no idea of what was happening above. The heat was so great that they were soon dripping with perspiration, and the air was anything but good.

Time dragged on endlessly, but when at last Keith struck a match and looked at his watch, he found that they had only been down there for a little over half an hour.

Suddenly Teddy caught hold of Keith's arm.

"I hear 'em," he whispered tensely. "They're scratching about in the ashes."

They were. There was not a doubt about it, and Keith became horribly uneasy. If the Germans really cleared the ashes they must find the first cellar, and if they went down into it, the chances were heavy that they would discover the second.

Keith drew Teddy aside so that Slopan might not hear what he said.

"I'm going to bury the diamonds under the floor," he whispered in the lowest possible voice.

"Can you?" whispered back Teddy.

"Yes, I've been thinking of it ever since we came down, and I've found a hole under the flooring. There's plenty of loose sand to cover 'em up with."

"Right you are," Teddy answered.

The scraping sounds up above grew louder. They were enough to quite drown the slight rustlings which Keith made as he thrust the two million pound coat into a hole under the rotten flooring, and scratched sand to cover it.

He had just finished the job when he distinctly heard a sharp exclamation above, then the clang of metal on stone.

"That's torn it," whispered Teddy. "The beggars have found the trap-door."

"Take this," Keith told him, pushing Slopan's pistol into his hand. "But don't shoot till you have to."

A grinding sound from above. Then through the charred partition wall beams of faint light filtered.

"A cellar!" came a voice in German.

"But empty," answered another voice. "And it has been burnt out like the upper part of the building."

"There's something down there—something white!" said the first speaker, who was evidently holding an electric torch. "I'm going down, Henkel. I'm going down to see what it is."

"It's not the diamonds, anyhow," growled the other. "If they were ever down there, there's not much left of them now."

"Or of those cursed Englanders," was the reply, as Number One started down the ladder.

Through the chinks in the partition the light of his torch danced oddly, the rays falling at intervals on the faces of the four who crouched there, still as mice and almost breathless with suspense.

Keith caught a glimpse of Slopan's face. It was set like a mask. His white teeth showed in a fixed and wolf-like grin, and his strange green eyes glared in a most unpleasant fashion. In spite of his own suspense, Keith wondered what thoughts were passing in the mind of this strange man, and suddenly it occurred to him that it might have been wiser to gag him again.

And yet he hardly thought so, Slopan had surely been serious enough when he had declared that the Germans would kill him if they caught him. It was to his interest as much as to Keith's and Teddy's and Parsons' to keep silence.

The German had reached the floor of the inner cellar, and Keith heard something crackle beneath his heavy boots.

"Bones!" the man cried out sharply. "Bones, Henkel! Men have been burnt here."

"Then let's trust it's the Englanders," was the brutal answer. "If they were all burnt to blazes it would be the better for the Fatherland."

A pause. Keith could almost hear his own heart beating.

Then the man in the cellar spoke again.

"No. They are not Englanders. Here are German buttons."

"Donner!" growled Henkel. "Wait! I will come and see."

There was the sound of his boots scraping on the ladder, then after a while, his voice again.

"You are right, Krause. It is our own men who have perished here."

"Then where are the Englishmen?" growled Krause. "They cannot have escaped."

"No, they are somewhere on this island. Himmel, but we will find them if we have to go through it with a fine toothed comb."

"Well, let us be about it," snapped out Krause. "There is nothing more to be learnt here. And the heat is still enough to fry a sausage."

They turned towards the ladder, and Keith heaved a silent sigh of the most intense relief.

He heard the feet of the first German on the ladder, then, just as the man was beginning to ascend, the silence was broken by a low, choking cough. And the man who coughed was Slopan!

"What's that?" cried Henkel, whirling round. "Krause, there's some one here. Quickly!"

Next instant he had rushed at the partition, and there was a crash as his heavy boot burst through the charred timbers of the partition wall.

"Another cellar!" he cried, and putting his shoulder to it burst his way through.

It was the last thing he ever did in this life, for Keith, who, at Slopan's cough, had leaped to his feet, brought the butt of his pistol down on the fellow's head with such force that the skull split, and he dropped like a log.


HENKEL'S companion heard the crash of the other's fall, and in the darkness Keith heard him turn and make a dash for the ladder.

"Hold Slopan!" he snapped out, and plunged through the gap in the boarding.

A faint patch of light showed the opening overhead and against it was outlined the burly form of Henkel as he scrambled wildly up the ladder.

Keith was just too quick for him. Springing after him, he caught him by both legs at once and jerked with all his might. Henkel's grip on the rungs above gave way and with a smothered yell he fell backwards.

Keith ducked his head, and Henkel's body struck him between the shoulders, bounded off, and fell with a heavy thud on the floor.

Before Keith could turn, Teddy was on top of Henkel.

"All right, Keith. I've got him," he said sharply.

"Gag him and tie him," ordered Keith. "Quick about it. I'll go up and see if there are any more about."

He was up the ladder in a flash, and stuck his head out over the top. A great glare of white light caught his eyes. Barely half a mile away the Zeppelin hung some fifty feet above the ground, anchored, with her searchlight directed downwards.

He caught a glimpse of figures moving against the light, but there were none near at hand.

"All clear, Teddy!" he said quickly. "Come on, sharp!"

"What are you going to do?"

"Make for the boat. If we can pull out to sea we may dodge them. It's no use staying here. They're sure to find us."

Teddy came scuttling up.

"What about the diamonds?" he whispered.

"Leave them where they are. Slopan doesn't know where I hid them."

"Did he cough on purpose?"

"Can't tell. But I'll bet he don't do it again. Don't waste time talking. It's a chance as it is whether we reach the boat without being spotted."

Parsons came up, pushing Slopan in front of him. He was not too gentle with the man.

"The dirty swine!" he growled. "I'll teach him."

Slopan spoke to Keith.

"I regret greatly that I coughed. Let me assure you that It was not intentional."

"Take care you don't do it again," said Keith curtly. "If you do, I can assure you that it's the last time you'll ever cough."

Slopan's green eyes lit with a sudden gleam, but Keith hardly noticed. He was hurrying away down to the beach.

"Look out!" said Teddy suddenly, and pointed to two men on the opposite dune.

"Down, all of you!" hissed Keith.

There followed some seconds of desperate suspense; then the two Germans disappeared beyond the dune, and Keith led a fresh dash for the boat.

This time they reached it.

"It's all right, sir," said Parsons.

"But where are the oars?" asked Teddy.

Keith groaned. "I forgot. Von Lange's men hid them. They are buried over in the sand there. Lie down behind the boat. I will fetch them."

He darted away, making for the point where the oars were hidden, at the top of his speed. He reached it unseen, and, burrowing frantically, found the sculls and unearthed them.

He was racing back when suddenly the ray from the anchored Zeppelin began to swing. He saw the great white glare moving towards him, and flung himself flat again, lying still as a limpet on the sand.

The ray missed him by a matter of yards only, and he saw it strike the water's edge, turning the little gray waves to silver. It moved westwards, and he held his breath in horrible suspense. Next moment it fell full upon the boat and the three stretched beside it, flinging them out in strongest relief against the pale sand.

There was a shout from somewhere inland, the snap of a rifle shot. Then he himself was on his feet again and running for all he was worth towards the boat.

Seeing themselves detected, Teddy had thrown concealment to the winds, and as Keith raced up, he and Parsons were rushing the boat down to the water.

It was low tide now, and they had some distance to push her, but between them they rushed the little craft down at a great pace.

Her bow was in the edge of the little waves as Keith flung the sculls aboard.

"Shove her off!" shouted Teddy, and as he spoke another shot came from up above and Parsons gave a queer groan, staggered and sank down.

There was the soft thud of feet on sand, and into the circle of radiance three Germans rushed.

"Surrender or we shoot you all!" cried their leader harshly.

Teddy was still trying hard to get the boat afloat, but Keith had let go of her and stooped to lift Parsons out of the water into which he had fallen. Before either he or Teddy could draw their pistols, the enemy were on top of them, and a revolver was jammed hard against Keith's head.

"Up with your hands!" snarled the man who held it.

Keith's temper flared up.

"Oh, go to blazes!" he said. "Can't you see I'm attending to a wounded man?"

"Dog of an Engländer!" cried the German. And seizing Keith by the arm, he strove to force him to his feet.

Up came Keith like a flash, and equally rapidly out shot his right arm. His fist caught the Hun sweetly between the eyes, and for a time at least the man lost all interest in what was happening around him.

It was the end of things, too, so far as Keith was concerned. Before he could recover his balance and spring aside something whirled over his head and dropped upon his skull with crushing force. A shower of coloured lights flashed before his eyes, and down he went alongside poor Parsons.

"WHERE are the diamonds? Pig-dog of an Engländer, where are the diamonds?"

To Keith, rousing slowly from his stunned condition, it seemed that the question was being repeated over and over and over again until his whole brain rang with it.

With a great effort he pulled himself together to find that he was lying on the beach only a few feet from the water's edge. There was the boat, and Parsons, dreadfully still, lay close beside him.

"Where are the diamonds?" came the voice again, harsh and guttural. Unmistakably German, although the words were in English.

With a fresh effort, for his head ached abominably, Keith turned himself round a little, and saw Teddy standing a little behind, held by two Germans, while a third, the man who had spoken, was in front of him.

This third man. Never had Keith seen anything like him. He was only about five foot five, but what he lacked in height he made up in breadth. He had a huge head bald as a billiard ball, and it and his face were just about the colour of old ivory. Deep set eyes were sunk on either side of a huge beak-like nose, while his chin was sunk on his broad breast. He was, Keith thought, the very picture of a roosting vulture.

"You speak English well enough," Teddy answered the man. "Can't you understand it? I have told you that, even if I knew where the diamonds were, you would be the very last person I should inform."

The German thrust his hideous face close to Teddy's.

"I will give you one half minute more," he said, in his thick, heavy voice. "Half a minute. You understand me?"

"Half a minute or half an hour—it's all the same thing," Teddy answered. "I shan't tell you."

"Fool!" retorted the German. "You are in my power. I shall force you to do so."

"Try!" said Teddy, briefly.

Keith heaved himself up from the ground.

"He doesn't know where the stones are," he said. This, of course, was literally true, for Teddy was not aware in which corner of the cellar Keith had buried them.

"And you do?" growled the German, turning on Keith.

"You silly ass, Keith," cried Teddy fiercely. "Why couldn't you have kept your mouth shut?"

"All right, Teddy. Don't lose your wool. The beggar won't get much out of me."

The unpleasant-looking German lost his temper. His ugly face became positively diabolical.

"Miserable brats," he said, "do you think I have all the night to waste over you? A taste of the lash will open your mouths."

For a moment or two he glared at Keith, then all of a sudden a cruel smile parted his thin lips.

He pointed to Teddy.

"Strip him and peg him out," he ordered.

Keith started. His face went very white.

"I have told you he does not know where the stones are," he said sharply.

"But you do," retorted the German, with his evil grin. "You do. And I—I have dealt before with you pig-headed Englanders. I know the way to get information out of you. You, yourself—yes, you would die under the lash. But you will not see your friend die."

"Don't you dare to tell, Keith!" cried Teddy, who was struggling violently with the two powerful Germans who were tearing his clothes off him. "Don't you dare tell him."

Keith made a frantic effort to gain his feet. If he had had any sort of weapon handy, he would have killed that vulture-faced fiend, and taken the consequences. But he was too dizzy. He only fell back.

And now suddenly he became aware that there was a fifth person present. Slopan stood a little behind, watching the scene. He looked calm enough, yet Keith fancied that there was an uneasy gleam in his green eyes. What lies he had been telling the Zeppelin man Keith could not know, but evidently he must have disclaimed all knowledge of the diamonds.

But Keith had little attention to spare for him, for Teddy's shirt was already being torn from his back. Next moment he was flung down on his face on the sand, and while one man sat on his legs, the other pulled his arms out so that he was stretched flat and helpless.

The vulture-faced beast produced a stick; a long, pliant malacca cane.

"Your last chance," he said, speaking to Keith.

"Don't tell him, Keith. Don't tell him!" cried Teddy.

Down came the cane across Teddy's naked back. A red weal started up across the white skin, and Teddy's whole body twitched under the cruel force of the blow.

A very fury of indignation sent the blood throbbing through Keith's whole frame. Somehow he found the needed strength, and leaping to his feet, flung himself on the Hun.

Down went the man under his rush, and Keith's ten fingers were buried in his throat, choking the life out of him. Strong as the German was, he had not a chance.

"Help!" he gurgled. "Pull him off!"

His cry died in a gurgle.

His men, slow-witted Prussians, were too paralysed with amazement to do anything for the moment. Then both together they leaped up and flung themselves on Keith.

But Keith saw red. They might as well have tried to tear a bull-dog from the throat of its enemy. He clung desperately to the German officer whose face, by this time, had turned deep purple, and whose eyes were nearly popping from his head.


It was like the blow of a pile driver, and one of the Huns toppled over sideways and lay still. Another crash, and the second, with his skull split, rolled the other way.

Teddy, clean berserk with rage, had snatched up a rifle and finished the two of them in less time than it takes to tell it.

"Come on, you swine!" he roared, as a dozen more of the Zeppelin crew came charging down the beach.

Keith staggered to his feet. His adversary was quiet enough. He glanced round for some weapon.

Suddenly he found Slopan beside him.

"Here's a rifle," said Slopan quietly. "All right. I've got a pistol. You'd better lie down."

So saying, Slopan flung himself flat on the beach and deliberately opened fire on the approaching Germans.

There was no time even to be amazed at this extraordinary change of front. Keith and Teddy followed Slopan's example, and the Zeppelin men were met with a blast of bullets which stretched half of them before they were anywhere near.

The rest pulled up short and flung themselves down.

"Hurray, Keith. We'll finish in style, anyhow," cried Teddy jubilantly. "Good for you, Slopan! Can't say I ever thought there was white blood in you, but one never knows."

"Don't flatter yourself," snapped back Slopan, as he quickly reloaded his pistol. "It's only that I hate Prussians one degree worse than English."

They were the last words he spoke. A scattering volley came from the Germans, and he rolled over with a bullet through his head.

At the same moment Keith felt a blow on his left shoulder which knocked him flat.

As he tried to struggle up again, the night was rent by the roar of a heavy gun. Through the sky came the rocket-like screech of a great shell, followed by the splitting crash of its explosion.

There were shrieks of alarm from the Germans.

"They're running, Keith," cried Teddy, as he sprang up and blazed vigorously after the fugitives. "That's one of our guns."

Out went the searchlight, leaving everything in pitchy darkness.

But instantly it was replaced by a second and far more powerful light which, stabbing the night from some point far to the north, flung up the long cigar-shaped form of the great airship onto a shape of silver.

Boom! Went the big gun again, and the shell bursting just above the Zeppelin made her quiver like a frightened horse.

"They'll get her next time," yelled Teddy, half frantic with excitement.

Boom! High explosive this time, and right on the mark.

The great Zeppelin was suddenly outlined in flame. Came a glare which lit the whole of Baltran and the wide sea for miles around.

"That's done it!" said Keith.

Then everything went black before him, and he collapsed limply on the blood-stained sand.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Long job? Yes, it will be a month or so before he's fit for much. But never mind. We can save the arm all right, and that's the main thing."

The words came to Keith as if from a great distance, and he wondered vaguely who was talking.

"By Jove, I'm glad of that," exclaimed someone else.

There was no doubt in Keith's mind about this latter voice. He opened his eyes.

"Hallo, Teddy!" he said vaguely.

"Hurray! He's come round, doctor!"

"So I see. But don't make so much row about it," retorted the doctor, getting up and bending over Keith. Keith saw that he was a lean, capable-looking man of about thirty.

"Well, young fellow," said the doctor. "How do you find yourself?"

"A jolly sight more comfy than I've been for ages," replied Keith, smiling. "It's the first time I've been between blankets since I couldn't tell when."

"And there you are going to stay for some time to come," the doctor answered. "So you can make up your mind to that."

"Where am I?" inquired Keith, as he looked round the big comfortable cabin. "This isn't M.L. 99, anyhow."

"Not quite. You're aboard H.M.S. Scipio, if you want to know, and half-way back to England."

"She's the hush ship, Keith," put in Teddy.

Keith heaved a sigh of relief.

"Thanks be we're away from Baltran anyhow."

Then suddenly his face changed.

"The diamonds! Teddy, what about the diamonds?"

"Don't you worry about them, old chap. They're in the ship's safe this minute."

"That's good. And Tim—have you heard of Tim?"

"He's all right. He got the U-boat, and then his engines broke down. One of our destroyers has him in tow."

"And the Zeppelin? And Slopan?"

"The Zeppelin's down and Slopan's dead," Teddy answered.

"Dead, is he?" said Keith quietly. "Well, he might have done worse, eh, Teddy?"

Teddy nodded gravely.

The doctor interrupted.

"You must get to sleep, Hedley," he said. "There's an ugly hole in your shoulder, and a lump like a hen's egg on your head."

"I'm frightfully hungry, for all that," smiled Keith.

"Very well, you shall have some soup," said the doctor, and went quickly out of the cabin.

"Parsons, what about him?" asked Keith quickly.

"He'll be well sooner than you," replied Teddy. "Keith, old man," he went on, and his eyes were shining, "everything's turned up trumps. The skipper says that we shall both be recommended for promotion. And that we ought to get about a thousand a piece prize money."

Keith thrust out his uninjured arm.

"It's not a penny more than you deserve, Teddy," he said. "And if you want any more to clear up things at home, you're welcome to my share."

"Now then!" interrupted the doctor, coming in accompanied by a sick bay steward carrying a tray. "Clear out, Baines. No, not another word from either of you. You youngsters may run Baltran, but I'm boss here. Drink this, Hedley, and then get to sleep. I've promised to mend you in a month, and I mean to do it."

"All right, sir," said Keith. "I'll obey orders."

"You'd better, my young friend," retorted the doctor. With a twinkle in his eyes. And slipping his arm around Keith, he lifted him gently so that he could drink his soup.

Then he turned out the light and left him.

Ten minutes later, he joined Teddy in the ward-room.

"Is he all right, sir?" inquired Teddy, anxiously.

"Sound asleep," was the answer. "And "—with a sharp glance at Teddy's pinched face—"the sooner you follow his good example the better."

"I only wanted to know he was all right first," said Teddy. "Good-night, sir, and thank you."

And staggering from sheer weariness, Teddy walked off to his own quarters, where he tumbled into his bunk, to dream gloriously of patrols, promotion, and prize money.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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