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Produced by Annie McGuire

[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.

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"All hands to muster!" rang out from the harsh throats of the
boatswain's mates of the U.S.S. _Kearsarge_, and the crew came tumbling
aft to the quarter-deck. They were as fine-looking a set of bluejackets
as one would care to see, the cream of the navy and the naval reserve.

The new _Kearsarge_ was cruising off the coast of Great Britain for the
purpose of intercepting one of the enemy's finest cruisers, which was
known to have recently left England, and was on the way to join her
sister ships in her own country.

Every one aboard the American ship was wild to meet the enemy, and the
_Kearsarge_'s crew had not a fear that the fight would result
differently from the one fought by her namesake forty-five years before.

The lookout had just reported smoke to the eastward, from which
direction the enemy was expected. When all hands were "up and aft," the
Captain addressed his men upon the impending conflict.

"Men," he said, "we are here to fight the most formidable of our enemy's
cruisers. She is equal in every respect to the mighty ship upon which we
stand. There are no chances in our favor. The battle will depend upon
your coolness and courage.

"Men of the main battery, upon you depends the result of the action.
Your target is the armored sides and turrets.

"Men of the secondary battery, your nerve and endurance are to be put to
the crucial test. Your guns must be directed at the unarmored gun parts
and torpedo tubes.

"Remember, all of you, a lucky shot may turn the tide of battle.

"Officers and men, upon you depends whether the new _Kearsarge_ shall
win a name as lasting and illustrious as did the noble ship from which
that name was inherited.

"The eyes of the world are upon you."

A few minutes later the Captain and the executive officers are upon the
forward bridge, discussing the minor details of the plan of action, and
casting apprehensive glances at the low line of black smoke on the
eastern horizon.

The former is a fine-looking young officer, who has been rapidly
advanced to commanding rank through his zeal and untiring labors to
perfect the navy of his country.

Many an article from his pen on how a ship should be fought has been
published in the scientific papers of America; but now he must put his
theories to the test - to learn by experience, bitter or sweet, whether
he merited the commendation which his numerous articles on naval science
have won for him.

The _Kearsarge_, which was launched in 1900, is an armored cruiser of
9000 tons displacement, 420 feet in length, and 64 feet in breadth. The
main battery consists of four 10-inch breech-loading rifles, firing
projectiles weighing 500 pounds; two mounted in a 10-inch armored turret
forward on midship line, and two in a similarly placed turret aft, and
four 8-inch breech-loading rifles, firing projectiles weighing 250
pounds, mounted two each in a 6-inch armored turret on either beam.

The secondary battery consists of twelve 5-inch rapid-fire guns and
eight 6-pounders mounted in armored sponsons on a covered gun-deck. On
her superstructure rail, about 15 feet above the spar-deck, she carries
twelve 37-millimeter revolver cannon and four long 1-pounders. With this
tremendous battery she can hurl two tons of steel from one broadside of
her main battery every minute, and 362 pounds of steel from her
secondary broadside every five seconds. The velocity of this metal on
striking within battle-range would be about twenty-five miles a minute.
The heavy shells, if striking within the biting angle, can penetrate the
armor of any war-vessel afloat.

On her berth-deck she carries five torpedo-tubes with two automobile
Whitehead torpedoes for each tube. The charge used is sufficient to sink
any cruiser afloat if exploded within ten yards of her bottom plating.
The armor on her sides is 5 inches of steel, and her protective-deck is
3 inches in thickness.

Among the inventions which her Captain has given to his navy is a
sound-detector, by means of which a sound can be magnified to a very
great degree, and its direction accurately ascertained.

The _Kearsarge_ had been fitted with one of these detectors before
leaving the United States, for the Captain knew that many dense fogs
would be met with off the English coast.

She has been cruising about in wait for her prey for over a week. The
crew have been given incessant drill and sub-calibre target practice.
The plan of attack has been discussed so often that it is known by all
the officers.

The ship is "cleared for action." Every stanchion and boat-davit has
been lashed to the deck. Every movable object on the deck below has been
sent to the protective-deck to avoid, as far as possible, the danger
from flying splinters.

The smoke on the horizon has approached, until now it is seen from the
top to come from two smoke-pipes framed by something that looks
suspiciously like two military fighting-masts.

The crew are gathered on the forecastle. The enemy is now in sight, and
the Captain's glass is upon her. A careful scrutiny shows her to be a
war-vessel similar in appearance to his own. At a sign from him the
drummer beats to "quarters." This sound calls every man to some station.
The Captain goes to the conning-tower, a small heavily armored turret
beneath the bridge. An aid enters with him to steer the ship by his
direction from the wheel within. A small opening near the top gives the
occupants a view around the horizon, and numerous speaking-tubes and
telephones put them in communication with all the vital parts of the
ship. Crews of twelve men each enter the turrets in charge of an
officer. Steam is turned on the turret-engines. The guns on the deck
below are divided between two divisions of men, each division in charge
of a lieutenant, who has an ensign and midshipman as assistants.

The men are stripped to the waist, and their guns are ready for battle;
division tubs are filled with water, and the decks are covered with
sand. On the berth-deck hatches and scuttles are opened, tackles are
hooked, and the cooks are hoisting powder and shell for the battery.

The torpedo clews are charging their deadly weapons with compressed air.
Below the protective-deck are half-naked men in the magazines and shell
rooms, handling the missiles that are soon to speed towards the
approaching enemy.

Down in the depths of the steel hull the firemen feed the mighty
furnaces to a white heat. It is all the same to them now as when the
monsters are engaged in a death-struggle. The sounds of the discharges,
of the explosion of shells, and the cries of the wounded will be too
distant and muffled to give them an idea of what is going on in the
world above them. The first news will come when the terrible torpedo
explodes against their ship's side, dooming them to a watery grave, or
the merciless ram sinks into its very bowels, or when a heavy shell
penetrates one of the huge boilers, dooming all hands in the terrific
explosion that will follow.

The stranger has altered her course and is steaming in the direction of
the _Kearsarge_. There are her two military masts, but no flag as yet to
show her nationality. Suddenly something flutters from her mast-head. It
is the flag of England! There is no time now to consider what must be
done. The ships are but five miles apart, steaming for each other at
twenty-knots speed. One minute more and the cruisers will be within

The Captain is a man of quick judgment, and his mind is made up in an

From his point of vantage on the bridge he takes a careful look at the
stranger and then at the drawing he has of her, furnished by the Navy
Department. It is the same vessel; yet why would she be cleared for
action if a British cruiser?


The mighty ship swings around in answer to her helm, and is heading
perpendicularly to the course of the stranger.

Two midshipmen stationed at the range-finders in the tops are pointing
the delicate instruments towards the approaching ship. Dials at each gun
automatically show that the distance is rapidly diminishing. The marines
have taken their rifles to the superstructure-deck, and are crouching
behind a breastwork constructed of closely lashed hammocks. The doctors
have removed their medicines and instruments to the ward-room, and the
long mess-tables are in readiness to receive the dead and wounded. The
chief quartermaster stands ready aft with a spare ensign to hoist over
the ship should his country's flag be shot away.

When the range-finder registers three and a half miles the Captain
orders the forward turret to fire at the stranger. The air is rent
immediately by the blast of the discharge.

The crew wait breathlessly while the shells reach the height of their
trajectories. One strikes the sea short, while the other strikes the
stranger and explodes.

The irrevocable step is taken. England's flag has been fired upon.

All hands wait to see what the stranger will do. Three miles told the

A brown mist shoots from the stranger's forward turret; at the same time
the British flag is hauled down, and the flag of the enemy floats
defiance in its stead. Two 10-inch shells fall but a few yards short of
the _Kearsarge_, and a moment later the sound of the discharge reaches
the ears of her crew.

Two miles and a half registers the range-finder, and all the officers
are directed to open fire. Shot after shot belches forth from the
_Kearsarge_'s broadside and speeds towards the enemy, exploding against
her armor and topsides.

As yet the _Kearsarge_ has not been hit, but now the vapor from the
enemy's smokeless powder shoots from the muzzles of a score of guns not
two thousand yards away, and two tons of steel are launched on their
deadly flight.

The havoc aboard the _Kearsarge_ will never be forgotten. The armor is
pierced, the topsides are riddled. The carnage among the unprotected men
on the gun-deck and superstructure is awful. But worst of all, many men
not wounded by shot and shell are laid insensible by some unseen power.

Skulonite is the word that passes from lip to lip. The poisonous gas is
the aftermath of the explosion of shells loaded with this deadly

The men are carried from the compartments filled with the vapor, and the
air-tight doors are closed to prevent the spreading of the noxious fumes
to the magazines and engine-rooms.

The cruisers are now but fifteen hundred yards apart, steaming in
opposite directions. As they circle about one another like mighty birds
of prey they are fast approaching within range at which a new weapon
will be launched against the other's steel hull, the silent but
relentless torpedo. Then the ram will soon crash through one of the
cruisers. Which will it be?

The _Kearsarge_'s fire is becoming more desultory as the crew of one gun
after another succumbs to the terrible influence of the skulonite.

Suddenly a steel fishlike weapon is seen shooting from the enemy's side.
The Captain of the _Kearsarge_ watches with breathless anxiety the line
of bubbles on the water's surface, as the torpedo approaches his ship at
a terrific speed. It suddenly swerves, and goes but a few yards clear of
her stern.

The _Kearsarge_'s breast torpedo is launched at the enemy. With a splash
it leaps from her side and speeds on its errand of destruction. The
bubbles in its wake show the aim is good. It must strike. But no, it has
gone under the enemy's ram.

What is that hazy line to windward, but half a mile distant? It is a
most welcome sight to the brave man in the conning-tower, and he heads
his crippled ship for the oncoming mist. Soon she is swallowed up in the
dense fog-bank, and shut out from her enemy's view.

The enemy gives chase, as the American commander had expected. He turns
the trumpet of his sound-detector in the direction of the pursuing
vessel, and from its dial ascertains her course.

The enemy is still firing, but the guns of the _Kearsarge_ have ceased
to roar, and "silence fore and aft" is commanded of the crew. The
fleeing ship goes on until her Captain is sure that his foe has entered
the fog, then the helm is put hard over, and the ship swings around
until the instrument indicates that the other is dead ahead.

Again the Captain is hopeful of success, as he realizes that the
enshrouding mist and the instrument before him place the advantage in
his favor. His eye is fixed on the pointer of the dial, ever responsive
to the electric current set up by the sound waves beating upon the
sensitive diaphragm in the trumpet. The ship leaps forward until he
hears through the ear-piece the throb of the enemy's engines. His heart
beats fast, but he knows that he must be self-controlled.

The ships are coming together bows on. The American commander causes his
ship to swing to starboard a little so as to point her bow away from the
approaching enemy.

The instant for action has come. He starboards his helm in order to lay
his ship across the course of the enemy. "Prepare to ram" is telephoned
by the aid at his side. The ship swings around. The pointer swerves from
the direction of her starboard bow to dead ahead. Has he been too late?
Will he pass across her wake, or will he cross her path in time to
receive her ram prow in his own broadside? The needle points ahead when
the huge side of the enemy looms up through the fog.

In a moment, with a terrific shock, the ram bow of the victorious
_Kearsarge_ enters the side of the enemy, cleaving armor and
deck-plating as though it were wood.

Slowly the victor backs off from her sinking enemy.

The rammed ship commences to deliver death-dealing shots; but she is
fast sinking.

She can no longer elevate her guns enough to strike the _Kearsarge_. She
has heeled too far. The firing eases.

All the _Kearsarge_'s boats that are not disabled are manned and ready
to render assistance to the vanquished.

Not a moment too soon. The ill-fated ship heels to starboard, her stern
rising high in the air, her screws thrashing the fog in their upward
flight, the flag under which her brave defenders had so well fought
still waving at her trucks, and slowly sinks beneath the waves, sending
up columns of water from her hatchways, and engulfing her crew in the
mighty suction.

But few survivors were saved of the few hundred that had had victory so
nearly in their grasp.



One winter, when mamma was ill,
And scarce could move at all,
There used to come a little mouse
From out the bedroom wall.

Mamma would scatter crumbs for it;
'Twas company, she said;
She liked to see it run about
While she was there in bed.

And when mamma was well again,
The mouse would still come out,
And nose around in search of food,
And scamper all about.

At last one day - oh dear! oh dear! -
A naughty boy was I;
I set a trap to catch that mouse;
I'm sure I don't know why.

I'd hardly closed the cupboard door
Before the thing went, Snap!
I was afraid to go and look
At what was in the trap.

At last I looked; the mouse was there!
I carried it away;
I never told a soul of it;
I could not play all day.

And after that mamma would say,
"Why, where's our little mouse?
It must have found some other place
I think, about the house."

But, oh, I'd give my bat and ball,
My kite and jackknife too,
To see that mouse run round again
The way it used to do.



More swiftly than the lightest-feathered swallow wings her flight
southward in the fall, more rapidly than any railroad train in the world
sweeps along its iron road, you speed down a long slide at an angle of
about thirty-seven degrees. Your heart leaps into your throat as the
boat you are in strikes the water and skims unevenly over the surface of
a small pond, and then your heart comes back to its right place as you
find you are unhurt. Then you give a gasp of pleasure, and are ready to
try it all over again. For you have "shot the chute."

"Shooting the chute" is the invention of that intrepid swimmer and bold
paddler Captain Paul Boyton. Captain Boyton, who is as brave as he is
modest, is the man who has paddled over twenty five thousand miles on
the principal rivers of the world in a peculiarly constructed rubber
suit, over great falls, and through dark caƱons, in Europe, Africa, and
America; who has fought sharks and seals, and has had all sorts of
strange adventures. The idea of the "chute" first came to him, he says,
while shooting down the raging Tagus in Spain. In his book he says:

"The thought struck me as I was going into some subterranean passage,
the perpendicular walls seeming to close in and swallow up the entire
river. I was swept down by the mighty current, and was beginning to feel
sure that I was being carried into some underground rapids, when I was
suddenly dumped into a deep pool, where the course of the river was
running smooth and placidly along."

The first chute in America was built in Chicago, and opened for business
on July 4, 1894. It is nothing more nor less than an inclined roadway of
wood or iron, starting at a height of from 60 to 75 feet, which, with a
run of about 250 feet, descends to the surface of the water. On this
roadway there are tracks upon which boats, each holding eight
passengers, glide rapidly down. When the boat strikes the water, the
impetus acquired in the descent causes it to "skim" over the water in a
series of bounds, like a stone thrown by a boy in "ducks and drakes,"
some 300 feet to a landing-stage, where the passengers are disembarked.

But such a brief description doesn't even suggest the fun and the
excitement of "shooting the chute." It is a sport where old and young
can meet on common ground. In fact one poet has recently told how

"Little Jimmy was a scholar,
And his aptitude was such
That his parents and his teacher
Were afraid he'd know too much.
So his grandmamma said, 'Bless him,
I will take him into town,
And we'll go to Captain Boyton's,
Where they'll water-shoot us down.'"


Suppose you were to go down to the chute - for there are four chutes in
different parts of the country now, in Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and
at Coney Island - you would see something like this: There is a big
enclosure, with a high board fence around it, from which a huge incline
stretches up. It looks like a toboggan slide, only far bigger than most.
The man at the stile-gate says, "Tickets, please." So you pay twenty
cents for each ticket, admitting you to the grounds and one ride each on
the chute. Just as you go in you hear a roaring, rattling sound, and a
boat comes rushing down the slide into the lake in front of you. You see
the boat leap forty feet at a jump over the surface of the water, like
some ocean demon, until it finally quiets down and allows itself to be
paddled easily up to the bank. As the people in the boat are helped out
by several of the fifty attendants dressed in sailor suits, you expect
them to cry out some expression of disapproval, for you certainly heard
them shouting out in a frightened manner as they rode down the chute.
But no.

"Wasn't it perfectly splendid?" says one woman.

"It beats tobogganing!" exclaims another.

"Let's do it again!" says a small boy.

A little reassured, you move around with the crowd towards the entrance
to the slide, and, after giving your tickets to the gateman, you all get
into little cars - similar to those in use at Niagara Falls running down
to the whirlpool rapids - attached to endless chains, which drag you up
to the top of the chute as slowly as the boats in the other part go
rapidly. As you get a little more than half-way up, a boatload of people
rattles by within ten feet of you, and you wonder again whether you will
have the courage to make the first trial.

Once up, you follow the others around to the other side of the chute,
where boats are sent down every fifteen seconds. You glance down the
slide. It looks very long, and the water, which the steersman says is
only three feet deep, seems very far away and very deep. At last, with a
sudden gulp of courage, you jump in, holding tight to the railings as
the guard bids you. You see little streams of water bubbling up and
trickling down every few inches or so along the slide, and 'way below
the big pool of water looks yawningly upward. The boat-despatcher has
his hand on the lever which holds the boat back. And now that is

"Hold fast, ladies and gentlemen. Hats under the seat! Now, then, you're

[Illustration: THE "CHUTE."]

[Illustration: THE FIRST JUMP.]

Quickly the boat rattles into the incline. A fraction of a second, and
you are rushing along so fast that you almost scream. A second or two
more, and you are going at the rate of seventy-four miles an hour. You
have lost your breath, but the fresh air that rushes into your lungs
gives you a delicious sensation. You feel as if you were flying through
the air.

[Illustration: THE SECOND JUMP.]

[Illustration: "TRYING IT AGAIN."]

Boom! Splash! The boat strikes the water, almost jolting you off your
seat, and whirling the spray high into the air. The people on the banks
of the little pond whiz by, for the speed is still terrific, and the
boat jumps forward in crazy leaps. After two or three of these spasmodic
efforts the boat glides to the landing, thanks to the assistance of the
man in the stern. Your breath comes back. You find you weren't hurt a
bit, or even wet. You feel as if you jumped from the top of the barn
into the lowest but softest hay-mow. You give an ecstatic gasp, this
time of extreme delight, and plead with papa or Uncle Tom to "try it

You "try it again," and this time you are not scared a bit, just simply
delighted. As you are being paddled over to the shore after the last
violent plunge of the ride, you take a look at the boat, and notice that
it is very strongly built - of hickory and oak, the boatman says, and
costing over a hundred dollars. It has a long slope upward in the prow,
less sharp than a yacht's bow, and thus the danger of getting wet is
almost entirely done away with. Each boat has four seats, seating eight
people altogether, besides the man who steers.

Perhaps you go down the chute a few times more. If you do, you will have
acquired the "chute craze," and then it is only a question of how much
money you can have spent for you. Abroad, several of the royal families
acquired the "chute craze," and some of them have had amusing times on
it. When the present Emperor of Russia, then the Czarovitch, was
visiting England in July, 1893, he, the Prince of Wales, and the King of
Denmark, went to Captain Boyton's water-show to "shoot the chute." An
eye-witness, who wrote about it to a Chicago paper, said:

"They climbed to the top of the high incline, and the Czarovitch, with a
twinkle in his eye, invited the King of Denmark to take the front seat
in the boat in which they were to make the swift descent. His Majesty
took the place, and his nephew quietly stepped in behind and put his
silk hat under the seat. The Indian guide pushed off, and in a moment
the boat was flying like mad down the steep incline. The King, who
thought the boat would certainly plunge under the waters of the lake
when it struck, crouched down and held on like grim death. The
Czarovitch stood up and yelled with excited glee. The flat-bottomed boat
dashed into the water with a tremendous splash, leaped four or five feet
into the air, and a drenching shower of spray covered his Majesty on the
front seat. As the boat approached the opposite shore the Czarovitch
turned to the Indian who was steering, grinned, and put out his hand;
the Indian grinned wickedly, and something slipped into his fingers.
There had been a similar bit of pantomime before the boat started, and
as skilful guides can take their boats through the exciting trips
without wetting their passengers, it is supposed that the young
Czarovitch played a little joke on his royal uncle. The Prince of Wales

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Online LibraryVariousHarper's Round Table, September 3, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 7)