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due precautions this time. The glass had been removed, and a massive
iron bar, placed across the frame of the scuttle, was secured by
means of the lock-nut, the thread of which had been bent and burred
so that it was impossible, without the aid of a file or hack-saw, to
remove the bar from its position.

"Well, we can look out, and see what's going on; that's one comfort,"
exclaimed Fielding, optimistically. "What have you found, Cardyke?"
For the midshipman, rummaging in a locker, had discovered a loaf of
bread, some ship's biscuits, a jar of water, and a tin pannikin.

"We won't starve just yet, in any case," observed the mid.

The pangs of hunger had rounded off the unappetising appearance of
the stale loaf and the "hard tack," and the water, though not
particularly fresh, tasted sweet to the parched mouths of the
hostages.

"Poison?" asked Oki, interrogatively.

"I think not," replied Fielding. "If they wanted to choke us off they
would have done so before now; besides, the food doesn't look
tempting enough. A sumptuous repast would be more suspicious."

About four o'clock the cruiser eased down. Knowing that something was
about to happen, the captives took turns at looking through the
scuttle. For some time nothing beyond sky and sea was visible, but
when the _Independencia_ described a half circle Cardyke announced
that she had compelled a huge liner to heave-to.

"A Frenchman, by Jove!" exclaimed Fielding. "Now what's the
game - more scuttling?"

The transatlantic liner's decks were crowded with passengers, who
were regarding the cruiser with the greatest interest, for the
_Independencia_ had hoisted the white ensign, and with their faith in
the _entente cordiale_, the Frenchmen never for one moment harboured
any suspicion.

Suddenly a four-pounder boomed out, and a shell hissed betwixt the
huge funnels of _L'Égalité_. Like a crowd of startled rabbits, the
passengers rushed pell-mell for the companion ladders. Had war
suddenly broken out between Great Britain and France? They were not
long left in doubt. As soon as the liner came to a standstill, two
boats were lowered from the cruiser. Into them tumbled fifty men, all
armed to the teeth.

"_Ciel!_" gasped the astounded French captain. "They are not John
Bull's bluejackets. They are pirates."

His worst suspicions were confirmed when the white ensign was struck
and a red flag hoisted in its place, while slowly the 'midships
barbette on the starboard side, actuated by manual power, was turned
till its pair of 12 in. guns were trained upon the luckless liner.

The French captain did not know that the huge weapons were without
breech-blocks, but the frowning muzzles were far more terrifying to
him than the quick-firers. Unresistingly he allowed the boats to come
alongside, and the lawless mob to swarm over the liner's lofty sides.

The pirates went about their work in a systematic manner. Four of
them went straight to the wireless-room, and interrupting an urgent
call for aid, drove out the operators, and put the delicate mechanism
out of action. Others, making the captain prisoner, and driving the
rest of the officers into the smoking-room, compelled the former to
send for the ship's papers. The whole of the specie and bullion was
transferred to the boats, together with the wealthiest and most
influential of the passengers. This done the terrified first and
second-class passengers were made to hand over their money and
jewellery, the steerage being left unmolested.

Very little resistance was shown by the passengers. An American
millionaire who had made a pile in Nevada, promptly whipped out a
six-shooter, vowing he'd send the cowardly Dagoes to blazes. He was
quick and deadly with his pistol, and four of the pirates pitched
forward on the floor of the saloon; but one man against a score was
too long odds, and the tough old backwoodsman fell riddled with
bullets.

Having taken all the bullion and specie, together with the hostages,
to the _Independencia_, the pirates proceeded to cripple the engines,
leaving the liner helpless in the Atlantic. But they had not done
with their prize, for directly the two boats returned to the cruiser
Juan Cervillo ordered _L'Égalité_ to hoist out her own boats, fill
them with provisions and stores, and bring them alongside the
_Independencia_. Under a threat that the liner would be sunk if the
demand were not complied with, the captain of _L'Égalité_ hastened to
carry out Cervillo's order.

Two hours later, with her store-rooms filled to their utmost
capacity, and nearly a million and a quarter pounds' worth of
additional booty in her strong-room, the _Independencia_ bade an
ironical farewell to the helpless liner.

From their place of confinement Fielding and his companions had
watched the work of plunder and wanton destruction. They had seen the
easy way by which the cruiser had replenished her stores, and the
continuation of the policy of bringing off hostages to the ship in
order to prevent any punitive vessel from firing at the modern
buccaneer.

Cardyke turned to the sub.

"This can't go on for long," he remarked. "What will the end be?"

"Goodness only knows," rejoined Fielding; "but we've a tough time
before us!"




CHAPTER X

THE HYDRO-AEROPLANES


MEANWHILE, what had happened to Lieutenant Drake and the rest of the
_Frome's_ crew, after the destruction of that little craft? Directly
the boats pushed off Drake and those of the men who remained with him
gathered on the fo'c'sle and turtle-back deck. Then, as the water
came into contact with the red-hot plates, the destroyer's deck
buckled amidships. Her motors went crashing through the flaming
petrol in the double-bottoms as the vessel tilted and slipped stern
foremost beneath the flaming surface of the sea.

All on board imagined that the end had come, when suddenly that part
of the ship between the for'ard engine-room bulkhead and the bows
shook itself clear of the remainder of the shattered hull and floated
on the surface. The destroyer had literally been torn in twain, and
the watertight bulkhead kept the forepart afloat. True, there was a
perceptible list, but on investigation there was found hardly any
water in the forehold.

As soon as the petrol blazing on the water had burned itself out, the
boats returned to find that Drake and his companions were alive,
though scorched by the terrific heat. Deeming it inexpedient to allow
the boats' complement on board the stumpy vessel, Drake ordered them
to stand off and lay on their oars. Fortunately there was little
wind, although the sea ran high, but guided by an anchor-lamp shown
from the bridge, the boats could keep within hail of the
lieutenant-commander. At frequent intervals rockets were sent up, for
the _Frome_ was not so very far from the regular steamer track, while
it was known that other destroyers and one or two cruisers were
heading in their direction.

Just after dawn H.M.S. _Indus_, a powerful cruiser of 22,000 tons,
bore down. The lieutenant and his men were taken off the wrecked
forepart, and a wireless message was sent to Devonport announcing the
details of the outrage on the high seas, and asking for instructions.

To the surprise of everyone on board, the reply came - "Tow remains to
Devonport." Not a word was said about continuing the chase, so, to
the disappointment of all ranks, the _Indus_ took the sorry remnants
of the _Frome_ in tow, and at an easy ten knots headed towards
Plymouth Sound.

Thousands of people assembled to see the shattered forepart of the
destroyer pass up Drake's Passage. Hundreds of cameras were levelled
at her, shoals of boats accompanied the _Indus_ and her tow, till the
latter was docked, safe from public observation, in the basin at
Keyham.

Then followed several days of irritating official inquiries, which,
while the _Independencia_ still roved the high seas, was an utter
waste of time. Drake wanted to be off again. His one desire was to
retrieve his reputation by capturing the pirate vessel, and rescuing
his brother officers.

Cruisers, scouts, and destroyers were despatched, and, spreading
fanwise, scoured the Atlantic from Rockall to the Azores; but somehow
or other the filibustered ship escaped detection. Then came the news
of the holding up of _L'Égalité_, which, according to the French
captain's report, had taken place within twenty miles of the British
cruiser _Khartoum_.

The immediate result of this affair was that a squadron of fast
cruisers and a flotilla of destroyers left Brest to join in the
hounding-down of the _Independencia_. The Spanish Government, eager
to lay hands upon the notorious anarchist, also despatched two
cruisers and four destroyers; so that there was the keenest rivalry
between the various nations engaged in the enterprise as to who
should have the honour of laying the running and desperate Juan
Cervillo by the heels.

All concerned realised that the business must of necessity be a
peculiar one, for Drake had reported how the hostages from the _Yosen
Maru_, as well as his own officers who had been trapped, were
utilised as screens to prevent the _Independencia_ from being sunk by
gun fire. There were three alternatives: either to overhaul and board
the pirate vessel, a feat that could only be accomplished on a calm
day, and with the _Independencia_ compelled to heave-to; or to sink
the offender by torpedoes, trusting that the pirates would cut their
hostages adrift ere the ship sunk; or else to dog her so tenaciously
that, unable to capture any more liners or tramps, she would be
compelled to haul down the red flag through sheer starvation.

The British Admiralty decided to adopt the last alternative, and
orders were given that once the _Independencia_ was sighted, all
cruisers and destroyers within a certain radius were to be summoned
by wireless, and form a close cordon around the modern buccaneer.

All merchant ships fitted with wireless were informed of this new
terror of the seas, and requested to "speak" with other vessels not
so equipped, as well as to transmit news of the appearance of any
suspicious craft answering to the _Independencia's_ description, so
that aid could be quickly forthcoming from the nearest warships. Yet
in spite of these precautions the officers of the trans-atlantic
liners and tramps had an anxious time. Never had the deck officers
kept such a keen look-out, especially at night, when the pirate,
steaming without navigation lights, might at any moment loom through
the darkness and peremptorily order her prey to heave-to.

At Lloyd's the insurance rates went up 60 per cent. The "Atlantic
ferry" paid heavily, for would-be passengers, as a matter of
precaution, deferred their journey until the time when the danger
ceased to exist. Grain-laden tramps from the States and Canada either
remained in port or else sailed under convoy, as in the days of the
Napoleonic war. The price of food, in consequence, rose tremendously,
and coming as it did after a succession of disastrous strikes, the
effects of the modern pirate-ship's depredations began to be felt by
all classes of the community.

Two days after the receipt of the wireless message from the French
cruiser _Desaix_, announcing the outrage upon _L'Égalité_, the liner
arrived at Cherbourg in tow of the armoured cruiser _Chanzy_. Then
followed the customary Press interviews with the passengers and crew,
with the stock of conflicting and of ten misleading reports. Some of
the eye-witnesses, partly through a love of exaggeration, and partly
through the result of a highly strung temperament, told ghastly tales
of butchery, some even going to the length of asserting that they had
seen the passengers who had been removed from the liner being made to
walk the plank. No satisfactory explanation could be given as to why,
if the pirates were so bloodthirsty as they had been made out to be,
the liner had not been scuttled with all hands, until someone
explained that Juan Cervillo had spared the ship on account of the
third-class passengers.

Then it was that a Socialist Parisian newspaper appeared with a
eulogistic three columns and a half on Cervillo's record and aims,
and calling upon the Anarchists to give him their moral and active
support. The offices of the paper were raided by the gendarmes, and
before night the military and the canaille were engaged in
hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Paris. Similar disturbances
took place in Madrid, Barcelona, and Naples, and the French, Spanish,
and Italian Governments had good cause to wish that the notorious
Juan Cervillo was at the bottom of the sea.

At Barcelona the news spread that the _Independencia_ had appeared
off that port. The authorities knew that such was impossible, partly
on account of the distance from British waters, and also that the
Straits of Gibraltar were too well guarded by a strong flotilla
cruising betwixt Tarifa and Ceuta. But amongst the ignorant
population it was accepted that Cervillo had appeared to proclaim the
anarchist rule in Spain, and that night the town was at the mercy of
the mob.

It was not until it was found that the ship was the British cruiser
_Indefatigable_ - the sea-going instructional vessel for naval cadets,
and which bore a striking resemblance to the _Independencia_ - that
the disorder ceased. Even then it required four regiments of Spanish
infantry to quell the insurrection.

As soon as the new scout _Cerberus_, could be passed out of dockyard
hands, she was commissioned in order to participate in the search for
the pirate-cruiser, and to Drake's unbounded satisfaction he was
appointed to her for duties in the hydro-aeroplanes, of which the
scout carried four.

Vast strides had been made in the construction and efficiency of the
hydro-aeroplanes since their demonstration before the King in
Portland Roads in 1912. Instead of being, like the first of this
class, clumsy aeroplanes fitted with floats, those of the later
pattern were swift motor-boats, provided with folding air-planes and
propellers, so that they could either keep the sea in fairly heavy
weather, or they could soar into the air and perform a thousand-mile
flight. Each hydro-aeroplane consisted of an aluminium hull, 35 ft.
in length, 6 ft. in breadth, and of a draught when at rest of 9 ins.
These were completely decked in, with the exception of a small, open
well, which could, if necessity arose, be covered with a water-tight
hatch. At one-third the distance from its bows was a small
observation turret, the top of which served as one of the bearings,
or the shafting of the aerial propeller. The planes, when not in use,
folded into recesses in the sides of the hull, the actuation of a
pair of tension wires serving to extend and keep them in position for
flight. Whereas the original hydro-aeroplanes could not descend to
rest upon the surface of a choppy sea, those carried by the
_Cerberus_ could not only be relied upon to descend or ascend from
the water, but could by reason of their strength and rigid
construction safely withstand the impact of a fall from a
considerable height. For armament they carried a one-pounder
automatic gun, and gear for dropping small bombs charged with high
explosives.

On board the _Cerberus_ these four hydro-aeroplanes were carried on
the space hitherto occupied by the funnel-casings, for the scout had
internal combustion engines, and, save for a small exhaust pipe, was
without funnels. Each tender could be hoisted in less than
half-a-minute by means of a single-purchase wire rope passing through
a block at the end of a derrick, and wound round a motor-capstan.
Constructed at one-twentieth of the cost of a submarine, the
hydro-aeroplane had already virtually superseded those craft. Save at
night, the crews of the hydro-aeroplanes could from a height easily
locate the presence of a submarine, and by means of her bombs could
destroy it with ease. Before long it was recognised that the era of
the submarine, as a destructive means of offence, was past.

Lieutenant Douglas Drake lost no time in reporting himself on board
the _Cerberus_, and within twenty hours of being passed out of
dockyard hands the scout left Portsmouth Harbour to join in the
search for the pirate-cruiser.

But before the ship had passed through the Needles Channel she was,
to the disgust of all on board, ordered to return. That morning the
owners of the ss. _Duke of Negropont_ had received a wireless message
from the captain of that vessel. It was brief and to the point: -

"_Independencia_ in collision with unknown
vessel, 4.45 a.m. Lat. 40-22-10 N., Long.
22-9-16 W. Both sank; no survivors."




CHAPTER XI

HOKOSUKA'S SLEIGHT-OF-HAND


AFTER leaving the French liner _L'Égalité_ helpless in the distance,
the _Independencia_ steamed in a south-easterly direction till out of
sight; then altering helm, she plugged away at an easy eighteen knots
in the direction of the West Indies. Here Juan Cervillo knew that for
a time he would be fairly safe. There were no British warships
capable of doing him much damage, and amid the cays of the Bahamas
there was little chance of meeting with Uncle Sam's battleships or
cruisers. On the other hand, he could rely on being able to intercept
some of the traders in and out of Galveston and New Orleans while, if
things became too hot for him, there would be a more than possible
chance of slipping off to the coast of Venezuela or Columbia, where
the ship could be run ashore, and her rascally crew, with their
ill-gotten booty, could disperse.

Many plans were suggested by Fielding and his companions whereby they
might regain their liberty, but none seemed at present feasible.
Whenever their meals were brought into the cabin armed men stood
without; while, in order to prevent a repetition of their escape
through the scuttle, a sentry was stationed on the poop; orders to
examine the bar across the scuttle every hour were also given to a
petty officer, who was lowered over the side in order that he might
test the condition of the metalwork.

"Couldn't we signal in Morse, sir?" asked Cardyke: "We can easily rig
up a shutter from the scuttle. It might attract the notice of some
passing vessel, and we could give her warning to clear out?"

"A good idea," replied the sub. "But unfortunately, unless the other
vessel approaches without steaming lights, the probability is that
she will be discovered long before we can call her up. Besides,
unless a ship is well abeam, or on our starboard quarter, all the
signalling possible from this cabin won't be seen."

"Still, it will be something to do," continued the mid. "Something to
pass the time."

"Carry on, then," replied Fielding. "But I honestly think it won't
help us much - or anyone else."

During the afternoon the two British officers dozed for a couple of
hours. As Fielding remarked, it was advisable to sleep all you can,
for you never know when you might have to do without it. Besides, it
cured the terrible _ennui_ - the tedious waiting for something to turn
up to break the deadly monotony.

Cardyke woke to find Hokosuka sitting on the floor, and carefully
nursing a large revolver. There was a very faint suspicion of
satisfaction in the Jap's eyes, but his immobile face gave no sign of
elation or otherwise. The mid. could not help wondering how the man
gained possession of such a powerful weapon, and his curiosity urged
him to appeal to General Oki.

"The English say they love the sea," observed the Jap. "Britannia,
she rule waves with eel-spear. That what you say. Me think
ninety-nine of all one hundred Englishmen know how to love the sea by
come to sit on seaside and throw stones in water. That English
holiday; but put ninety-nine Englishmen in boat they no know how to
sail."

"That's quite true," thought Cardyke; "but what on earth has that to
do with the question how Hokosuka got hold of that revolver? They are
trying to bamboozle me for some reason. I'll mention the matter to
Fielding when he wakes up. In the meantime I'll keep a watch on Mr.
Hokosuka."

Accordingly the mid. turned on his bunk, and was soon to all
appearances sound asleep, but out of the corners of his almost closed
eyelids he followed the movements of the mysterious Japanese.

Hokosuka had removed the cartridges from the weapon, and was
carefully examining its mechanism. Placing the corner of his coat
under the hammer in order to deaden the sound, he tried the trigger
in a most methodical fashion, so as to get the correct "pull." Then,
replacing the cartridges, he handed the weapon over to his
compatriot.

Oki took the revolver in his hand, and to all appearances it
vanished. Cardyke could swear that from the time the general's
fingers closed over the butt his arm never moved, but where could a
bulky object like that go to?

Neither of the Japs seemed to treat the occurrence otherwise than as
an ordinary transaction; one might have been handing the other a
cigarette-case. The mid.'s curiosity was increasing rapidly.

Having rid himself of the weapon, Hokosuka rose from the floor,
crossed the cabin, and took his stand just below the scuttle. There
he waited as motionless as a statue.

Presently the light that poured through the opening became obscured.
The man detailed to attend to the iron bar was being lowered to make
his hourly examination. As far as Cardyke could see the pirate was
seated in a bos'un's chair, which was let down till the man's
shoulders were level with the scuttle. Steadying himself with his
left hand, the seaman tried the bar with his right; then, satisfied
that it had not been tampered with, he called to his comrades to haul
up.

Instantly, with a rapid, gliding, noiseless motion, Hokosuka's left
hand shot through the aperture. When his arm was withdrawn the Jap
had another revolver in his grasp. He had dexterously removed the
weapon from the seaman's holster, as he had done to the man who had
previously been doing the duty.

Just then Fielding awoke. Oki pointed to the revolver that his
compatriot held.

"By Jove!" exclaimed the sub., in astonishment. "However did you get
hold of that?"

"We have two," replied Oki, calmly. "One you have, other we will
keep. Now put out of way - hide. Lil boy" - and to Cardyke's disgust he
heard himself referred to in that strain - "lil boy, him ask where you
get. I no tell; you no must tell. If he no know, then he no can
tell."


[Illustration: HALF A DOZEN SEAMEN HEADED BY THE RENEGADE ENGLISHMAN
BURST INTO THE ROOM.
[_Page_ 131.
]


"I see," agreed Fielding. "But these rascals will ransack the place
when they miss these revolvers."

"Let look everywhere," replied General Oki; "revolver all gone."

And Fielding's astonishment was no less than his junior's when the
weapon seemed to disappear from sight.

Barely a quarter of an hour later the cabin door was thrown open, and
half-a-dozen seamen, headed by the renegade Englishman, burst into
the room.

"No hanky-panky tricks, sir!" exclaimed the bo'sun. "You've sneaked a
couple of revolvers. We missed one, and didn't know where it had
gone; but the fellow who was lowered over the side made sure he had
his when he went down, and when he came up it had gone. And I saw
that his holster was fastened when he started. So no beating about
the bush. Hand them pistols over, and save yourself a sight of
trouble. You can't get the weather side of me, sir."

"I have no revolvers," replied Fielding. "I wish I had. I'd make sure
of your losing the number of your mess."

"None of your cheek!" replied the man, fiercely. "Get over there."

Hustling the five occupants of the cabin into one corner the bo'sun
directed his men to search the room, and soon all the scanty
furniture was turned over and over again, but without result. This
done the British officers, the coxswain, and the other two Japs were
subjected to a search, their coats being removed for that purpose.

"Confound it, we're on the wrong tack!" grumbled the pirate bo'sun.
And, ordering his men to clear out, he went to make his report to
Juan Cervillo that a systematic search convinced him that no weapons
were to be found in the prisoners' cabin.

Hokosuka waited to make sure that none of the unwelcome visitors were
returning, then produced a couple of revolvers and a large
sheath-knife.

"Not same 'volvers," explained General Oki. "These toll. Hokosuka
make pirates pay for coming here."

"Not the same revolvers?" asked Fielding, in astonishment. "Where are
the first two you had?" For it seemed incredible that after the


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