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were dumped on board the _Hetty_, and the work of transporting the
remainder of the booty from the cruiser to the yacht was put in hand,
Cervillo personally superintending the operations. This done, enough
provisions to keep the pirates in plenty for another month were added
to the _Serena's_ stores. In the midst of the activity some of the
crew found time to taunt the captives on the half-deck, telling them
gleefully that they were destined for a swift plunge to the bed of
the ocean. Three of the Spaniards who had returned in one of the
boats also found time for a little diversion. Under Da Silva's orders
they moved unostentatiously from gun to gun, removing portions of the
delicate mechanism so as to render the weapons harmless.

Everything was now ready for Juan Cervillo's coup.

Ordering a dozen men to maintain a watch over the closed hatchways
above the half-deck, he bade the rest of the pirates go below and
pack up their belongings.

"Have all your bags ready to lower into the boats by the time I
return," he concluded. "I mean to tow the whaler a mile or so to
leeward, so that she will not be able to give assistance to the
prisoners below. Her boats have been stove in, so there is no chance
of her putting off to the rescue of these obstinate dogs."

The men hastened to obey. The engineers, mostly Italians, were told
off to get ready to open the sea-cocks and sink the cruiser. Cervillo
went over the side, entered the waiting boat, and pulled off to the

Instead of towing the _Hetty_ clear of the doomed cruiser he promptly
gave orders for the hawser to be cut, and at fifteen knots the
_Serena_ steamed off, leaving the remainder of the pirates to their

It was the guard on the quarter-deck of the _Independencia_ who first
noticed the yacht's apparently erratic behaviour. For a time the men
watched the rapidly receding _Serena_, till the thought flashed
through their minds that there was something suspicious. The petty
officer in charge, an Italian named Tito, bawled down the nearest
hatchway the astonishing news. Quickly the intelligence that the
yacht was steaming away spread the length of the lower deck, and
seamen and stokers rushed up pell-mell from below.

"We're betrayed!" howled Tito. "Man the guns, and cripple her before
she gets out of range."

Hurriedly the guns' crew ran to the quick-firers. The murmur of
subdued astonishment rose to a roar of anger and baffled fury when
the pirates discovered that the mechanism had been tampered with and
the weapons rendered useless. Some of the exasperated seamen,
snatching up their rifles, and elevating the back-sights to the
utmost capacity, fired an irregular volley at the vessel that was
bearing away their treacherous captain and his Spanish _confrères_.
It was a useless act; the yacht was already out of range, and the
rattle of the rifles was only suggestive of the last nail driven into
the coffin of their dead hopes.



"THEY'RE about to abandon ship!" exclaimed Cardyke, when the first
boat-load of treasure was taken off to the yacht. "It's no idle
threat this time. They'll scuttle the cruiser."

"Guess you're about right, sonny," said Hiram B. Rutter. "We must
look to ourselves, and Old Nick take the hindmost."

"Sh!" admonished Fielding. "There's no necessity to alarm the others
just yet. As soon as we find the ship is actually sinking we'll get
the others through the ports without any fuss. She won't sink in a

"We can't stop her from sinking, so what's the use of going on deck,"
objected the American.

"No, we can't stop her from sinking," admitted the sub. "But if we
can jump clear before the suction is too great we stand a fighting
chance of swimming to the brigantine."

"Not a ghost of a chance. I guess the water's a sight too cold. We'd
be frozen before we covered a quarter of the way," said Rutter,

"Don't meet trouble half-way," replied Fielding, stoutly. "I'll tell
Oki the state of affairs, and you, Mr. Rutter, can let the Dutchmen
and your fellow passengers on __L'Égalité__ know. I would suggest
that every man smother himself with oil and grease. Mukyima knew the
value of oil when he went over the side."

When the news that the ship was about to be scuttled was told to the
others there was very little excitement. Some of the Frenchmen
proposed that an attempt should be made to take possession of the
ship; but to this Fielding objected. The hatches were secured, and it
would be better, under existing circumstances, not to offer any form
of resistance to the pirates.

"If we did they would shoot us while we were in the water," concluded
Fielding. "I don't think they would otherwise deny us a chance of
swimming to yonder whaler."

Without any undue haste or excitement the imprisoned men made their
preparations; then, taking up their positions at the ports, awaited
Fielding's signal to throw themselves into the sea.

"There's the villain Cervillo putting off," exclaimed Rutter. "I'd
just like to try this rifle, and put a bullet through his head."

"Don't, for your own sake," said Fielding. "Our opportunity to get
even with him will come in due time, I feel certain."

"There's no time like the present," objected the American.

"Look!" ejaculated Cardyke. "They're sinking the boats."

The three boats belonging to the _Independencia_, having completed
their work of transferring the men and stores from the cruiser to the
yacht, were promptly stove in, pigs of ballast being dropped into
them to send them to the bottom.

"They've found the yacht's boats are better than their own," said
Fielding. "They'll be - - "

"They're off - by Jove!"

"So they are; and there are nearly eighty men of the pirate crew
still on board, I should imagine. What's the game?"

"Cervillo's done a bunk with the rest of the oof," said the mid.

"Guess you've hit it, sonny," exclaimed Hiram B. Rutter. "Reckon we
may as well get rid of this grease; 'tisn't necessary."

"He's off," said Fielding. "The yacht's gathering way. Won't there be
a rumpus when the others find it out? I wonder where their eyes are."

For fully ten minutes the English officers and their companions
watched the disappearing vessel. Then a chorus of shouts and curses
on deck announced that the abandoned pirates had discovered they were

Not until the _Serena_ disappeared beneath the horizon did the
excited crew calm down. The majority drowned their woes in drink,
while a few, realising the importance of fuel supply, brought the
cruiser alongside the _Hetty_ and emptied her cargo of oil into the
_Independencia's_ tanks. There was now sufficient fuel to take the
crippled cruiser a thousand miles. Tito, who had been chosen captain
by his shipmates, resolved to stand south, fall in with another
vessel, and save the remainder of the crew in a similar manner to
that adopted by the recreant Cervillo.

Just before midnight the _Independencia_ raised steam, and at a bare
ten knots plugged laboriously through the water. The _Hetty_ was left
astern. The last Fielding saw of her was that the crew were engaged
in setting the canvas that the gale had spared. It was not much of a
spread, but with the wind in its present quarter there was every
prospect of the whaler fetching the Gulf of St. Lawrence or one of
the harbours on the Newfoundland coast.

The young officers realised that now was the opportunity to recapture
the cruiser. Numerically the pirates were stronger, but by the noise
on deck the Englishmen knew that they were for the most part
indulging in a drunken orgy.

Just before dawn Mukyima and Hokosuka crept through the ports and
hoisted themselves on deck. They were able to discern that most of
the men were below, a few being on watch on the quarter-deck, two
being stationed at the half-deck ladder; but so lax was their
vigilance that the two Japs made a careful examination of the mode of
securing the hatches. The only thing that prevented the steel hatches
from being opened from the inside was an iron bar lashed at each end
to massive ring-bolts in the deck. Lying prone by the side of the
hatchway coamings the Japs quietly severed the ropes, then retraced
their course, and, through General Oki's interpretation, announced
that the hatches were ready to be forced open from the inside.

But Fielding hesitated to commence the attack by means of the
companion ladders. The noise occasioned by the raising of the steel
slabs would arouse their antagonists, and before a sufficient number
of the attackers could emerge there was a strong possibility that the
superior numbers of the crew would gain the day.

Accordingly he selected ten men, including the two Japs, who had just
returned from their tour of investigation. These he was to lead out
by the ports on to the deck, where they were to take cover until the
main body of the attackers removed the hatches. The rest of the
hostages were divided into two parties; one, under Cardyke, was to
take the fore-ladder for the half-deck; the other, under Hiram B.
Rutter, was detailed to the after-ladder. Both sections were to rush
on deck simultaneously, Fielding and his men covering their advance
by a rapid revolver fire.

Unseen and unheard Fielding's little band crept one by one through
the port-hole and gained the deck. Abaft the rearmost turret the deck
was deserted, the men detailed to guard the hatchways having strolled
for'ard to smoke. A continuous roar of ribald laughter announced that
the majority of the pirates still on board were trying to forget
their desperate plight in grog.

Taking shelter behind cowls and coamings, the sub.'s division waited
while their leader gave the pre-arranged signal - three slight taps
upon the deck. Instantly the steel cover of the fore-companion was
heaved back, and Cardyke at the head of his party dashed through the
opening. The after-hatch was opened a bare quarter of a minute later;
then with a united shout the whole band rushed forward.

Taken entirely by surprise the men on watch made but a feeble
resistance. A few shots were fired without effect; two of the pirates
were felled by successful blows of Fielding's hammer-like fists, and
the rest broke and fled.

Disturbed at the carouse, the crew for'ard bolted, for the most part,
like terrified sheep, with the victorious crowd at their heels.

Suddenly one of the fugitives wheeled, and, levelling a revolver,
fired at the pursuers. Fielding pitched forward and lay writhing.

Cardyke was by his friend's side in an instant.

"All right, old man," exclaimed the sub., feebly. "Leave me alone.
I'm done for, I fear."

"Don't say that, Fielding."

"It doesn't very much matter now; we've retaken the ship. You're in
command now, Cardyke, so cut off and see that the hatchways are
secured. Keep the stokers down below, and make them work. Don't wait,
time's precious."

With a groan Fielding became unconscious.

The midshipman was torn by the call of duty to his companions and
devotion to his brother officer; but duty came first.

As soon as the pirate seamen were secured under hatches Cardyke
posted a strong guard over the engine-room and stokehold ladders.
This done, the mid. led another party to the fore-bridge, fully
anticipating resistance from the officer of the watch and his
subordinates. But Tito, who happened to be on the bridge at the time
of the attack, seeing things were faring badly, promptly jumped
overboard to avoid an ignominious fate. The quartermasters bolted up
the tripod mast, and sought refuge in the fire-control platform.
Here, had they been armed, they might have been a source of danger,
but being without weapons they kept quiet until hunger compelled them
to give themselves up.



CARDYKE'S first step in the navigation of the vessel was to get her
on her proper course. When the quartermasters deserted their posts
the vessel, left to her own devices, slowly headed to starboard, and
by the time Cardyke could give his attention to the helm, she was
pointing almost due north.

By this time twilight enabled the midshipman to see the state of
affairs on deck. The _Impregnable_ - she was the _Independencia_ no
longer - was driving her crumpled bows against the waves, the jagged
mass of steel offering a tremendous resistance to the water.

Instead of turning the ship back till she pointed due south Cardyke
rang down for half-speed astern. The order was obeyed with
comparative celerity, and the cruiser, gathering sternway, made quite
two knots an hour more than she had done when steaming ahead. The
pressure upon the collision bulkhead was, in consequence,
considerably reduced, and the leakage, instead of gaining, began to
show signs of diminishing in volume.

Stalkart, the master of the Dutch tug, was placed in charge of the
bridge, with two of his men to act as quartermasters. The rest of the
Dutchmen were told off to various professional duties, while the
passengers taken from _L'Égalité_, under Rutter's orders, were placed
to guard the engine-room and stokehold hatchways. Implicitly the men
obeyed Cardyke's orders.

As soon as the midshipman had completed the preliminary arrangements
he hastened to the cabin where his wounded comrade was lying.
Fielding had overrated the magnitude of his wound, which, though
painful, and even dangerous, was by no means likely to prove mortal
unless complications ensued. Mukyima had extracted the bullet and
dressed the wound, and Fielding was sleeping comfortably. The Jap
raised his fore-finger warningly as Cardyke entered. The mid.
understood that absolute quietude was essential for his comrade's
recovery; and, softly withdrawing, made his way towards the place
where Hiram B. Rutter was keeping guard over the engine-room

In a very short time the engineers and stokers, who were ignorant of
the change of masters, would expect to be relieved.

Great was the surprise of one of them on gaining the head of the
steel ladder to find himself confronted by a couple of armed men who
he knew were not members of the pirate crew. Before he could utter a
warning cry he was seized, and handed over to the others to be bound.

The man had come on deck to find out the reason why the watch below
had not been relieved, and failing to return, another of the
engine-room staff clambered up the ladder.

The two Frenchmen who were awaiting him showed themselves a fraction
of a minute too soon. The pirate, guessing that something was amiss,
ran down the ladder and informed his companions. Armed with knives,
revolvers, spanners, and crowbars, the motley throng made a dash on

The struggle at the hatchway was brief but desperate. The engineers
and stokers were driven below. Then, as a protest, the engines were

"Awfully awkward," commented Cardyke, as Rutter sent for him and
explained the situation. "We can't drift about here for another week
or more."

"There are at least forty of the skunks below, but that don't
signify," observed the American. "With a dozen men to back me up I
guess I'd put the fear of Old Nick into their black hearts. Shall I
whip up a crowd, and tackle the reptiles?"

Cardyke shook his head.

"It's too risky," he replied.

"Too risky, eh?" exclaimed the American. "I thought you chaps didn't
count risks. But I'm willing to go, and I guess I stand the racket if
I make a mess of this business."

"You misunderstand me, Mr. Rutter. I quite realise that you are
capable of tackling these rascals. You might succeed; on the other
hand, you might fail. By failing it is quite possible that you might
be compelled to leave prisoners in their hands, and then, you see,
they would have a hold over us."

"Didn't think of that," replied Hiram B. Rutter. "Of course they
would. But what are we to do?"

"Summon them to surrender; if they don't, well, we'll starve them
out. You speak their lingo, so you might let them know what we intend
to do."

Accordingly Rutter shouted to the men that he wanted to say a few
words. He told them what Cardyke had threatened to do, adding on his
own responsibility the threat that should any man tamper with the
machinery he would be treated to a liberal dose of the cat as soon as
his capture was effected.

The men debated amongst themselves, and eventually promised to
surrender. They were, they asserted, in a very different position
from the rest of the pirate crew. For the most part Italians, they
had been "signed on" in ignorance of the _rôle_ the captured cruiser
was to play; they had taken no active part in the deeds of violence,
and were under compulsion to a certain extent. Cardyke promised that
their plea would be given careful consideration at the trial that
must inevitably ensue should the vessel reach port. He also agreed to
segregate them from the rest of the pirates, lest the latter should
intimidate or offer violence to their former comrades.

The terms were accepted, and the engineers and stokers were marched
aft and confined on the orlop-deck, stringent precautions being taken
to prevent treachery. Thus all resistance was at an end. The Dutch
engineers and firemen from the _Vulkan_ and her consort were sent
below in watches, and although short-handed and unused to the turbine
engines and the oil-fed furnaces, stuck bravely to their task. Then,
at a speed of twelve knots, the _Impregnable_ steamed stern-foremost
towards the port of Halifax.

* * * * *

Although nothing had been heard of the pirate-cruiser for several
days, the British vessels engaged in patrolling the Atlantic did not
relax their vigilance.

The captain of the scout _Cerberus_ was of opinion that the quarry
had gone north, and Drake was also of the same mind. Accordingly,
having obtained permission from the commander of the cruiser squadron
to take an independent course, the _Cerberus_ pelted northwards.

Every day the four aero-hydroplanes were exercised, the little craft
often making extended passages and ascending to a great height. Being
fitted with wireless and taking different directions, they were able
to keep observation over a wide area, returning every night to their
parent ship.

Flight after flight was made, but nothing to break the vast circle of
open sea was visible. Nevertheless Drake, always optimistic, felt
confident of success. He had a presentiment that he was destined to
bring the pirate cruiser to book.

"If that's not a vessel, I'm a Dutchman!" he exclaimed, lapsing into
his favourite expression. He pointed to a faint blur on the horizon
fully forty miles off. The atmosphere was exceptionally clear, and at
the elevation of 1,000 ft. at which the _Mosquito_ flew, the cloud of
distant vapour was bound to attract the crew's attention.

"Yes, sir, it's a craft of some sorts," replied the chief petty
officer who was responsible for the working of the planes and
rudders. "But 'tisn't to say it's the pirate."

"We'll soon see," said Drake, cheerfully, and at a speed of fifty
knots the aero-hydroplane dashed on her errand of investigation.

Drake had definite orders not to attack - he was merely to locate the
much-looked-for cruiser and summon the _Cerberus_ by wireless. This
done the scout was to take possession of the pirate-cruiser by a plan
that had been carefully worked out beforehand.

But in less than a quarter of an hour the lieutenant's hopes were
dashed to the ground, for instead of the _Impregnable_ the stranger
proved to be a steam yacht.

"May as well hail her; she might give us some information," muttered
Drake, and turning to the chief petty officer he ordered the
_Mosquito_ to descend to within 50 ft. of the surface of the sea.

Gracefully the aerial craft swept towards the approaching yacht.
Drake kept the latter well under observation with his glasses,
looking so intently that the petty officer wondered what possessed
him to take such an interest in a craft that certainly was not the
pirate cruiser.

"By Jove!" thought the lieutenant. "I don't think I'm mistaken.
That's the _Serena_."

During a previous commission on the North American station Drake had
made the acquaintance of Mr. Rignold, and had frequently been his
guest upon the yacht.

"If it is the _Serena_ I'll have a yarn with Rignold for the sake of
old times," he continued, then aloud he gave the order to bring the
_Mosquito_ down to the surface of the water.

The aero-hydroplane rested on the sea at a distance of about three
hundred yards from the yacht's port bow. The _Serena_ made no attempt
to slow down, but her bulwarks were lined with men, who regarded the
marine novelty with considerable interest. Drake noticed that in
spite of the cold atmosphere the men were rigged out in canvas suits
and red jersey caps, but by the aid of his glasses he discovered that
the crew had donned the white suits over their thick clothing.

"Distinctly funny. Rignold never used to rig his men out like that,"
commented the lieutenant, "and he's got a pretty large crew on board.
But perhaps the yacht's changed hands. I'll soon find out."

Meanwhile the _Mosquito's_ aerial planes had been folded, and gliding
rapidly through the water the little craft overhauled and gradually
converged upon the stately yacht.

"Yacht ahoy!" bawled Drake. "Is that the _Serena?_"

"Yes," was the reply. "What do you want?"

"Is Mr. Charles Rignold on board?"

"Yes; do you want him? We'll slow down and you can come alongside."

This reply added to Drake's perplexity. The accent of the speaker was
not British, and the "Yes" instead of the nautical "Ay, ay, sir!" was
somewhat suspicious.

Cervillo, on sighting the aero-hydroplane, was thrown into a state of
terror. He was afraid that the little craft would immediately call
upon its parent ship for assistance; but when the _Mosquito_ - which
was evidently operating unsupported by her consorts - descended to the
surface of the sea, he took courage. If he could but lure the
_Mosquito_ alongside, he might be able to repeat his tactics by
having hostages on board. To his surprise and delight the little
craft was coming unsuspiciously under his lee, like a bird to the
fowler's net.

Under the _Serena's_ bulwarks crouched half-a-dozen men with pigs of
ballast ready to drop into the frail craft, and ropes to rescue the
English officer and his crew.



SUDDENLY Drake whispered to the artificer-engineer to drive full
speed ahead, and, springing aft, he thrust the helm hard over.
Heeling outwards till her coamings were awash, the _Mosquito_ swung
round, then, steadying herself, "planed" swiftly through the water
with quite two-thirds of her keel in the air. Not till the little
craft had put a mile betwixt her and the dumbfounded Cervillo did the
lieutenant order speed to be reduced.

"Lads," he exclaimed, "we're in luck! We may not find the
_Impregnable_, but yonder is the pirate Cervillo. I had my
suspicions, but I managed to get a peep at his lovely features just
in time."

"Then they've scuttled the cruiser, sir?"

"Goodness knows. If they've played any dirty tricks with my comrades
it will go pretty badly with them. Call up the _Cerberus_, Stevens,
and tell them to pile on speed. We'll keep the yacht under
observation until the ship arrives."

"Officer commanding acknowledges, sir," replied the wireless man.
"Asks for course."

"Tell him nor'-nor'-east, roughly ninety miles; that's good enough,"
replied Drake. "The _Gnat_ will pick us up before long, and give the
_Cerberus_ our position. By Jove! The _Serena_ is actually trying to
run away. All right, my hearties, you're only provoking the fun. Rig
out the planes, Blake. We'll dance round her a bit."

Rising obliquely, the _Mosquito_ attained an attitude of 500 ft.,
and, circling swiftly over the doomed yacht, soon showed the pirates
the sheer uselessness of seeking safety in flight. Four or five
rifle-shots came from the _Serena's_ decks, but unaccustomed to
firing at a swiftly moving object immediately overhead, and at an
unknown height, the men's aim was erratic. Nevertheless, to be on the
safe side, Drake gave orders for the aero-hydroplane to ascend
another thousand feet.

If ever a man was tempted to use the potential weapons at his command
Lieutenant Drake was. He knew that the pirates fully now expected an
attack from the sky, and since they had not reverted to their former
tactics of displaying their prisoners as a human screen, he naturally
and rightly concluded that Fielding, Cardyke, and Coxswain Hardy were

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Online LibraryPercy F. (Percy Francis) WestermanThe Stolen Cruiser → online text (page 10 of 12)