Percy F. (Percy Francis) Westerman.

Three short stories from 'THE CAPTAIN' volume XXVII online

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THREE SHORT STORIES ***




Produced by R.G.P.M. van Giesen




Three short stories from "THE CAPTAIN" volume XXVII
by Percy F. Westerman




Three short stories from "THE CAPTAIN" volume XXVII
How Dymock Came to Derry; Jack Devereux's Scoop; The Powder Hulk

by
Percy F. Westerman




Mr. Percy F. Westerman has contributed these stories to "THE CAPTAIN,
A MAGAZINE FOR BOYS & 'OLD BOYS.'", volume XXVII, published in 1912,
by George Newnes, Limited, 3 to 12, Southampton Street, Strand,
London.




Contents (in alphabetical order)

How Dymock Came to Derry (original page: 219)
Jack Devereux's Scoop (original page: 482)
The Powder Hulk (original page 175)
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III


List of illustrations

As Dymock rose to the surface the Frenchman snapped his pistol, and
the boatman aimed a vicious blow at his head with an oar.

Suddenly above the beating of the drums came a long-drawn whirr. "An
aeroplane," gasped Devereux. "Right," said his companion, "and we may
be blown sky-high. Look, the fellow is going to drop a bomb!"

He rested his revolver over the horse's body, and took careful aim.
Knowing that a slow and fearful death would follow recapture, he
vowed he would not be taken alive. (_illustrator: George Soper_)

As their boat rubbed sides with the mysterious craft, the boys saw
two motionless figures lying on the bottom-boards. Armitage clambered
in, and cautiously touched the form nearest to him. "They're the
water-police!" he cried. (_illustrator: E.S. Hodgeson_)

Realising he was discovered, the miscreant bounded over the remaining
distance between him and the powder hold, and raised the lighted
fuse. (_illustrator: E.S. Hodgeson_)




HOW DYMOCK CAME TO DERRY

- By -
Percy F. Westerman


"WE'RE here at last, Kirke, and methinks none too soon," exclaimed
Captain Leake, of His Majesty's frigate _Dartmouth_, as he pointed to
the beleaguered city of Londonderry. "Now your part of the business
is to commence."

Colonel Percy Kirke, the defender of Tangiers, the man who had
exercised such diabolical cruelty towards the miserable peasants who
had taken up arms on behalf of the rebel Monmouth, was now about to
succour the Ulstermen, who were fighting for their lives and
liberties against King James - the colonel's former sovereign and
benefactor.

"'Tis not my business to throw troops against yonder entrenchments,
Leake," he replied, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Until you can
force the enemy's defences my men will remain on board the
transports. Those rogues have held out for six weeks, and they can
well do so for another month."

"Does it seem so?" demanded Leake, indicating the smoke-enshrouded
buildings. "However, you have your orders even as I have, and since
you neglect to comply with them I must needs act alone." So saying
the gallant sea-captain turned on his heel and made his way to the
poop, whence he could command a better view of the scene of
hostilities.

It was in April of the year 1689 that the combined French and Irish
forces began what seemed to be a comparatively easy task - the
reduction of Londonderry. A handful of sturdy Ulstermen - of English
and Scottish descent - had bid defiance to the army of the deposed
King James, and, in spite of many a hard-pushed assault, had kept the
besiegers at bay. Then famine was made to do the work that the sword
had failed to accomplish, and in their anxiety the harassed defenders
appealed to King William for aid.

Troops were embarked at Liverpool, and the relieving squadron sailed
on May 16th, but, strange to relate, the English ships, in spite of
their having kept the sea, did not arrive off the mouth of the Foyle
until thirty days after.

Perspective glass in hand, Captain Leake made a careful examination
of the upper reaches of Loch Foyle. For miles on either side
batteries had been thrown up to contest the passage of the ships of
the relieving squadron; while to make doubly sure the French
engineers had constructed a massive boom from bank to bank at a spot
where the river is barely a quarter of a mile wide.

In spite of his redoubtable courage the captain's doubts arose when
he perceived the formidable obstruction. Strong baulks of fir, lashed
together with thick tarred ropes and secured to either shore by means
of twenty 4 in. cables, iron-shod stakes driven into the bed of the
river, and equally dangerous obstructions formed by boats filled with
stones and sunk in the Channel - all combined to present such a
powerful means of defence that at first sight appeared to be
absolutely impregnable.

Beyond the enemy's batteries rose the houses of the city, dominated
by the square tower of the cathedral, on which cannons had been
mounted and were keeping up a desultory fire upon the attacking
party. Here and there tall columns of black smoke rose in the still
air, showing that the foemen's mortars had set the houses on fire in
more places than one; but though the damage done by the bombardment
and frequent assaults was apparent, Captain Leake had no visible sign
of the presence of a still more dreaded foe - the famine that lurked
indiscriminately in both mansion and cottage.

Although the captain knew not of the full extent of this insidious
evil, his experience told him that something must be done.
Londonderry appealed for aid - she must not appeal in vain.

"Oh, for a strong northerly breeze," he muttered as he closed his
glass, then, walking to the head of the poop-ladder, he exclaimed
"Pass the word for Dymock to come aft."

In less than a minute Jock Dymock - a tall alert youth of
nineteen - stood bareheaded before his chief. The lad was serving
aboard the _Dartmouth_ frigate in the capacity of acting third mate,
having been chosen for promotion by the gallant Leake himself, who
was ever ready to remark any special signs of ability amongst the men
of his crew.

"Dymock, I've sent for you to undertake a desperate errand. Before I
say more understand that whether you elect to take this business in
hand or not is left entirely to your discretion. I will not order
you - I merely ask. Now, you are a native of Derry, I believe? You
know the coast well?"

"Not Derry born, your honour," replied the young Ulsterman. "Come
from Moville, over yonder. But I claim to know every sandbank and
every current in the loch, betwixt the Tuns and Derrybridge."

"Good. Now what I want you to do is this: take a letter to Governor
Baker, assuring him that we will take the first opportunity of
throwing a stock of provisions into the city. How you will
proceed - if you make the attempt, and knowing you as I do I feel
confident that you will - must rest with yourself; but at the same
time I shall be curious to know how you propose to act. When you have
decided upon that point let me know."

"I' faith, I'll do my best, sir," replied Dymock. "And my plans are
already laid. I mean to swim to Derry."

"It's a good five miles and in the face of the enemy on both banks,"
observed Captain Leake tentatively.

"With the tide 'twill be aisy, your honour. High water at the bridge
is an hour later than here, off McKenny's Bank. That will give me
seven hours' favouring tide, and on a dark night I'll cheat the
rascally Frenchman or my name's not Jock Dymock."

* * * * *

At ten o'clock that same night Jock Dymock, stripped and smeared from
head to foot with soot and tallow, went over the side of the frigate
and entered the long-boat that was waiting alongside. He was unarmed
save for a short keen-bladed dagger slung round his neck, while
placed within a close-fitting cap was Leake's letter to the Governor
of Londonderry.

With muffled oars the boat's crew pulled up stream, guided by the
glare of the enemy's watch-fires. The young flood had just set in,
but on either hand the vast unbeaconed sandbanks still rose high
above the rippling water. Silently the men urged their craft up the
channel, taking their directions from Dymock's outstretched hand. The
creaking of a thole, an involuntary sneeze, or thoughtless word or
exclamation, would be sufficient to draw upon them a heavy fire from
the French and Irish musketeers who lay thick on either shore.

Presently, with an almost imperceptible jar, the long-boat's forefoot
grounded on the edge of McKenny's Bank. The daring messenger leapt
out and waited till the long-boat backed and was lost to view in the
darkness. Then, with every faculty on the alert, he set his face
resolutely towards the city of Derry.

At about every hundred yards Dymock had to cross one of the numerous
deep channels that intersect the sands, till further walking was
impossible at the edge of the main channel. Here he was within a
hundred yards of the northernmost of the enemy's batteries. He could
distinguish the sentries slowly pacing to and fro, their figures
silhouetted against the glare of the camp-fires.

As noiselessly as a water-rat the intrepid messenger glided into the
swift-flowing stream, and, swimming with a powerful breast-stroke,
soon began to visibly lessen the distance 'twixt him and his goal.
Now the outermost battery was left behind. Should the alarm be raised
his retreat would be cut off, for at the faintest suspicion, armed
boats, provided with bright lanterns, would push off and patrol the
narrow channel.

Against the loom of the lights he could see a low-lying dark mass
stretched across the stream from bank to bank. It was the boom. Fifty
strokes brought him up to the obstruction, but in vain his fingers
sought to find a hold upon the slimy weed-covered baulks of timber.
The suction of the current swept his legs beneath the woodwork, and
only by an effort was he able to kick himself clear of the floating
mass.

"Then if I can't climb I must needs dive under it," muttered Dymock,
for he felt that in the struggle his strength was failing him, and
unless something was done he would be pinned by the dark torrent
against the side of the boom.

Taking a deep breath he swam downwards. Dark as was the night the
utter blackness of the water was still more so. He was groping
blindly beneath the waves.

Already he had lost all sense of direction. He realised that he must
keep to the required depth and trust to the current to sweep him
beneath the floating mass of timber. He felt that he must rise - yet
dared not. His breath was well-nigh exhausted.

Suddenly he felt his body come in contact with a sharp pointed
object. It was one of the stakes fixed in the bed of the river. Then
the terrible thought assailed him - was the space enough betwixt the
tips of the stakes and the bottom of the boom?

Rising slightly he felt the tide sweep him past the obstruction. The
iron point scraped his flesh, but in his anxiety and with the
numbness of his body the pain was not worth noticing. It was mental
not bodily torment that he felt. Even as he rose his head struck a
barnacle-covered baulk, but with barely six inches to spare he was
swept betwixt his Scylla and Charybdis: then up and up he swam till
his head emerged above the surface and he drank in pure night air.

Turning on his back Dymock floated, breathing deeply and resting his
tired limbs. The worst of his journey was now over, thought he; with
the tide the passage betwixt the remaining batteries was merely a
question of time. Now he could discern the low ramparts, the
shattered houses, and the battered cathedral tower of the beleaguered
city. With renewed energy, fired by the sense of duty, he once more
struck out, though his strokes were more feeble than of yore.

But Dymock's assurances were short-lived. Rowing straight in his
direction was a boat - not one of the besiege's patrol craft, but a
small skiff manned by two rowers, who were taking a French officer
across the river.

Ceasing to strike out the swimmer allowed himself to sink till the
water rose to his lips, trusting that in the darkness his
soot-smeared face would escape notice. As he did so some salt water
entered his mouth, and, in spite of his efforts to suppress it, he
gave vent to a cough.

"Hey! What was that?" demanded the French officer, and bidding the
rowers desist he drew a lantern from beneath the stern bench and held
it aloft.

"There. On your bow!" shouted the Frenchman. "A rat-eating rebel!
Smite him over the head with your oar, Gaston."

The bowman stood up and aimed a vicious blow at Dymock's head, but
the swimmer dived.

"Back your oars, rascals!" exclaimed the officer. "He must come up,
then, _ma foi_, I'll wing him."

Drawing a pistol the Frenchman cocked the weapon and held it at the
ready, while the rowers backed, following the swirl that denoted the
course of the hunted man.

At length Dymock rose; only to find that his dive had proved of
little avail. The boat was within an oar's length of him.

The officer snapped his pistol, but the flint refused to draw fire.
With an oath he threw the weapon into the boat, and shouted to his
men to run down the fugitive.

Dymock dared not risk another dive. His breath would not last
sufficiently for him to gain any material advantage. He realised that
he must act - and that quickly.

_Swish_. The bowman's oar struck the water barely two inches from the
swimmer's shoulder. Ere the man could recover himself Dymock seized
the blade, and placing his feet against the side of the boat, tugged
lustily at the oar. The next instant his antagonist was struggling in
the water, but weighted down by his thigh-boots, the man sank ere he
could regain the boat.

Once more the scale turned in the Ulsterman's favour, for, having
only one oar remaining and the boat being unprovided with a
sculling-notch, the officer and his companion could not hope to
overtake the fugitive.


[Illustration: As Dymock rose to the surface the Frenchman snapped
his pistol, and the boatman aimed a vicious blow at his head with an
oar.]


By this time the noise had alarmed the troops on shore, and, seeing a
boat with a lantern partially concealed by its sides, they concluded
that 'twas an English craft attempting to gain the city. Immediately
a heavy fire was opened upon the luckless Frenchman, while Dymock,
swimming desperately, was already beyond the zone of the falling
missiles.

Without further adventure the swimmer gained the city quay, where the
gallant Governor Baker, to whom sleep seemed a stranger, was at the
head of his men, who, hearing the firing, had stood to their arms.

"We can give you but a sorry welcome, young sir, yet none the less
hearty," quoth Baker. "But what says Colonel Kirke?"

"'Tis from Captain Leake that I am come," replied Dymock, producing
the letter, which in spite of its oiled wrapper resembled a limp rag.

"Read it! Read it!" shouted the crowd of famished yet undaunted
citizens.

"The King's ships are in the Foyle, and Captain Leake promises that
an attempt will be made to break the boom at the first possible
moment," announced the Governor.

"And what of Kirke? What are his troops doing?" vociferated the
crowd. "Are we to be fed on promises?"

"Ay, what is Kirke doing, young sir?" asked Governor Baker. "A month
ago we heard that his troops were on their way to our aid."

"That I cannot say, sir." replied Dymock. "But concerning Captain
Leake's promises I can stake my life that he'll carry them out.
Further, to prove my faith in my chief, I'll right willingly remain
with you till I see the ships of the squadron break the
boom - fighting with you and faring with you, come good or ill."

* * * * *

But in spite of Captain Leake's resolution the wind kept in a
south-westerly direction day after day, and the squadron remained
inactive in Loch Foyle. Meanwhile the deposed King James determined
to expedite the work of investment, and accordingly sent de Rosen - a
barbarous soldier whose instincts were little better than those of a
savage - to supersede Hamilton, who had hitherto exerted himself to
the utmost to subdue the city.

De Rosen behaved with such brutality that his methods even appalled
his royal master, and once again Hamilton assumed command over the
French and Irish allies.

Within the city things were going badly. Following famine came
pestilence; till with wounds, hunger, and disease the stout-hearted
Ulstermen's numbers were rapidly thinning.

Yet in spite of these adversities, the beleaguered garrison kept up
their courage: "No surrender" was their watchword. Londonderry would
hold out for King William till the last man perished behind the
crumbling defences. As for Dymock his energy was unbounded. Working
on the shattered ramparts during the brief intervals when the enemy
relaxed their activities, rushing to man the gaping breech caused by
the springing of a mine, or assisting in quenching one of the
numerous fires that the enemy's shot had caused with persistent
frequency, he behaved like a hero amongst heroes. Yet in common with
his comrades in arms he cast many anxious, longing glances towards
the loch, where the topmasts of the English squadron were to be seen
day after day in apparent inactivity.

At length, in the afternoon of July 28th, the wind backed suddenly to
the northward. The city was in a state of feverish excitement, and
the watchers on the cathedral tower were kept busily engaged in
satisfying the anxious inquiries of their fellows on the shattered
ramparts.

"No sign of any movement," was the answer, with monotonous and
depressing frequency, till at sundown the joyous cry arose, "The
ships are setting sail."

Soon Dymock, standing on the summit of one of the least damaged
bastions, saw the topsails of three large vessels rounding Muff
Point, while on either side of the river the allies were standing to
their guns ready to give the English ships a warm reception.

On and on they came till Dymock could see their black and yellow
hulls, as with wind and tide the rescuing vessels sped swiftly up the
Foyle.

"There's the _Dartmouth_," he exclaimed to those nearest him. "But i'
faith, I cannot say what the others are."

"They carry no ordnance," muttered one of the defenders gloomily.
"Perchance 'tis only a feint after all."

"Nay," replied Dymock, reassuringly. "My captain will never turn
back."

Silence fell upon the group of watchers. On and on came the three
ships, the frigate exchanged shots with the shore batteries.
Splinters flew in showers from the _Dartmouth's_ bulwarks and spars,
her canvas was shot through and through, but her well-directed fire,
dismounting guns and shelling the stone breastworks with equal ease,
drove the Frenchmen from their batteries.

Her two consorts, the _Mountjoy_ and the _Phoenix_, being unarmed
merchantmen, could not reply to the fire that was directed at them,
but taking their punishment with fortitude, bore steadily onwards in
dignified silence.

And now, under a hard squall, the _Mountjoy_ leapt ahead, as if the
elements meant her to accomplish her work. Amid a turmoil of
foam-lashed water and a rending of timber, her stout cutwater struck
the massive boom. There was a dead-weight of over 300 tons behind the
merchantman's stem; the best work of the French engineers was useless
to stop her, and with a barely perceptible pause she sheared her way
through the formidable obstruction.

The tense silence was broken by a cheer given with the last remaining
energy of the famished citizens, but the cheer froze on their lips,
for the next moment the _Mountjoy_ stuck hard and fast on the mud.

Instantly the French and Irish troops rushed for their boats that
lined the river bank.

"They're going to board her!" exclaimed the onlookers, as the troops
pushed off towards the stranded merchantman.

"Sure, they won't, I'm thinking," replied Dymock.

Barely were the words out of his mouth than the roar of a tremendous
broadside rose high above the crackle of musketry and the shouts of
the infuriated foes. The _Dartmouth_ had brought the whole of her
starboard guns to bear upon the would-be boarders. One broadside was
enough; the French and Irish broke and fled, leaving the _Phoenix_ to
profit by the _Mountjoy's_ misfortune and sail right up to the city
quays.

All that night the English warships cannonaded the batteries, while
in the relieved city the famished inhabitants were swarming round the
cargoes of provisions brought by the two gallant merchantmen, to the
accompaniment of a joyous peal from the bells of the cathedral.

Next morning the allied forces were to be seen in full retreat
towards Dublin, two long lines of smoking huts marking the site of
their encampment for the last hundred days.

At the first opportunity Dymock was rowed off to the _Dartmouth_
frigate. As he came over the side he saw Captain Leake standing on
the quarter-deck.

"Come aboard, sir," he reported, bringing his hand to his hat.

The captain turned and looked at the haggard and famished features of
his third mate.

"Back again, Mr. Dymock - good!"

That was all he said. Leake was a man of few words; but his
subsequent treatment of the young officer showed that the captain was
not slow to reward the man who swam to Derry.


THE END.




JACK DEVEREUX'S SCOOP

The Story of a Young War Correspondent's Thrilling Experience
in Morocco

By PERCY F. WESTERMAN


[Illustration: Suddenly above the beating of the drums came a
long-drawn whirr. "An aeroplane," gasped Devereux. "Right," said his
companion, "and we may be blown sky-high. Look, the fellow is going
to drop a bomb!"]


"IT'S very unfortunate," remarked the editor of the _Intelligence_ to
his sub. "Arnold is in Tripoli in anticipation of a good 'story'
when a real fight does take place. He may get it or he may not - time
will prove. Baker is away in Panama waiting for developments. Cole is
down with some childish complaint or other, and the doctor won't let
him do a stroke. But Cole always was a man to knuckle under easily.
To cap it all there's this Morocco business taking everybody by
surprise, and the _Intelligence_ hasn't a man on the staff fit to be
sent. I'd go myself, by George! if I were twenty years younger."

"Why not give Devereux a chance?"

"Devereux? Why, he's only a youngster."

"Not more than twenty years younger than you are," replied Wilcox,
the sub-editor, slily. "He's eighteen, fairly smart at his work - - "

"We want men who are more than _fairly_ smart."

"And trustworthy," continued Wilcox, ignoring his chief's
interruption. "You remember he's done some very good specials for us
on military matters."

"So he did; so he did. H'm, yes; he might do."

"I'll send for him," said the sub., eager to follow up his move, for
he took a big and good-natured interest in Jack Devereux.

Wilcox took up the telephone receiver.

"That you, Evans? Good! Tell Devereux to come up here."

A minute later a tall, alert-looking youngster walked briskly into
the chief's sanctum.

"Ah, Devereux! Wilcox has just suggested that you might represent us
in Morocco. There's every likelihood of something important taking
place there within the next few weeks. The attack on Fez has
completely taken us all by surprise. We want a man who will be able
to seize his chance if there is the remotest possibility of making a
good scoop. Are you willing?"

Devereux was; he had no home ties, and his ambition lay solely in his
work. "I'll go, sir."

"Good. You must catch the Calais boat-train this evening. Wilcox will
put you up to anything you feel shaky about. But, remember, the
interests of the _Intelligence_ are to be your chief consideration."

* * * * *

"So you are the _Intelligence_ man? Say, we may as well chum up
together; only don't forget, sonny, we are rivals in the game, you
know. All's fair in the news hunt, you'll find out."

It was in the city of Fez - after Devereux had successfully completed
the five days' strenuous journey from Tangier. The speaker was Arnold
B. Craddock, the veteran war correspondent of the _Moonshine_, a
tall, gaunt individual of about forty years of age, whose
leather-like features, tanned by exposure to all sorts and conditions
of climate from the Arctic Circle to the Equator, were permanently
puckered into a thousand wrinkles. He was a citizen of the U.S.A.,
but had been acquired by the _Moonshine_ in order to introduce
hustling methods into that journal, and its proprietors, knowing
Craddock's reputation, looked for great things from their "special."

Craddock was dressed in a serviceable suit of khaki, with
double-breasted pockets. His legs were encased in untanned cowhide
boots and leggings. Across his shoulders were slung his prismatic


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Online LibraryPercy F. (Percy Francis) WestermanThree short stories from 'THE CAPTAIN' volume XXVII → online text (page 1 of 4)