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The Great War Syndicate by Frank Stockton

Part 2 out of 3

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in any way a disgrace.

It may be stated that the Stockbridge, which had
steamed for the open sea as soon as the business which
had detained her was completed, did not go outside the
Cape. When her officers perceived with their glasses
that the Lenox was returning to port stern foremost,
they opined what had happened, and desiring that
their ship should do all her sailing in the natural
way, the Stockbridge was put about and steamed, bow
foremost, to her anchorage behind the Breakwater, the
commander thanking his stars that for once the Lenox
had got ahead of him.

The members of the Syndicate were very anxious to
remove the unfavorable impression regarding what was
called in many quarters their attack upon a United
States vessel, and a circular to the public was issued,
in which they expressed their deep regret at being
obliged to interfere with so many brave officers and
men in a moment of patriotic enthusiasm, and explaining
how absolutely necessary it was that the Lenox should
be removed from a position where a conflict with
English line-of-battle ships would be probable. There
were many thinking persons who saw the weight of the
Syndicate's statements, but the effect of the circular
upon the popular mind was not great.

The Syndicate was now hard at work making
preparations for the grand stroke which had been
determined upon. In the whole country there was
scarcely a man whose ability could be made available in
their work, who was not engaged in their service;
and everywhere, in foundries, workshops, and ship-
yards, the construction of their engines of war was
being carried on by day and by night. No contracts
were made for the delivery of work at certain times;
everything was done under the direct supervision of the
Syndicate and its subordinates, and the work went on
with a definiteness and rapidity hitherto unknown in
naval construction.

In the midst of the Syndicate's labours there
arrived off the coast of Canada the first result of
Great Britain's preparations for her war with the
American Syndicate, in the shape of the Adamant, the
largest and finest ironclad which had ever crossed the
Atlantic, and which had been sent to raise the blockade
of the Canadian port by the Syndicate's vessels.

This great ship had been especially fitted out to
engage in combat with repellers and crabs. As far as
was possible the peculiar construction of the
Syndicate's vessels had been carefully studied, and
English specialists in the line of naval construction
and ordnance had given most earnest consideration to
methods of attack and defence most likely to succeed
with these novel ships of war. The Adamant was
the only vessel which it had been possible to send out
in so short a time, and her cruise was somewhat of an
experiment. If she should be successful in raising the
blockade of the Canadian port, the British Admiralty
would have but little difficulty in dealing with the
American Syndicate.

The most important object was to provide a defence
against the screw-extracting and rudder-breaking crabs;
and to this end the Adamant had been fitted with what
was termed a "stern-jacket." This was a great cage of
heavy steel bars, which was attached to the stern of
the vessel in such a way that it could be raised high
above the water, so as to offer no impediment while
under way, and which, in time of action, could be let
down so as to surround and protect the rudder and
screw-propellers, of which the Adamant had two.

This was considered an adequate defence against the
nippers of a Syndicate crab; but as a means of offence
against these almost submerged vessels a novel
contrivance had been adopted. From a great boom
projecting over the stern, a large ship's cannon was
suspended perpendicularly, muzzle downward. This
gun could be swung around to the deck, hoisted into a
horizontal position, loaded with a heavy charge, a
wooden plug keeping the load in position when the gun
hung perpendicularly.

If the crab should come under the stern, this
cannon could be fired directly downward upon her back,
and it was not believed that any vessel of the kind
could stand many such tremendous shocks. It was not
known exactly how ventilation was supplied to the
submarine vessels of the Syndicate, nor how the
occupants were enabled to make the necessary
observations during action. When under way the crabs
sailed somewhat elevated above the water, but when
engaged with an enemy only a small portion of their
covering armour could be seen.

It was surmised that under and between some of the
scales of this armour there was some arrangement of
thick glasses, through which the necessary observation
could be made; and it was believed that, even if the
heavy perpendicular shots did not crush in the roof of
a crab, these glasses would be shattered by concussion.
Although this might appear a matter of slight
importance, it was thought among naval officers it
would necessitate the withdrawal of a crab from action.

In consequence of the idea that the crabs were
vulnerable between their overlapping plates, some of
the Adamant's boats were fitted out with Gatling and
machine guns, by which a shower of balls might be sent
under the scales, through the glasses, and into the
body of the crab. In addition to their guns, these
boats would be supplied with other means of attack upon
the crab.

Of course it would be impossible to destroy these
submerged enemies by means of dynamite or torpedoes;
for with two vessels in close proximity, the explosion
of a torpedo would be as dangerous to the hull of one
as to the other. The British Admiralty would not allow
even the Adamant to explode torpedoes or dynamite
under her own stern.

With regard to a repeller, or spring-armoured
vessel, the Adamant would rely upon her exceptionally
powerful armament, and upon her great weight and speed.
She was fitted with twin screws and engines of the
highest power, and it was believed that she would be
able to overhaul, ram, and crush the largest vessel
armoured or unarmoured which the Syndicate would be
able to bring against her. Some of her guns were of
immense calibre, firing shot weighing nearly two
thousand pounds, and requiring half a ton of powder for
each charge. Besides these she carried an unusually
large number of large cannon and two dynamite guns.
She was so heavily plated and armoured as to be proof
against any known artillery in the world.

She was a floating fortress, with men enough to
make up the population of a town, and with stores,
ammunition, and coal sufficient to last for a long term
of active service. Such was the mighty English battle-
ship which had come forward to raise the siege of the
Canadian port.

The officers of the Syndicate were well aware of
the character of the Adamant, her armament and her
defences, and had been informed by cable of her time of
sailing and probable destination. They sent out
Repeller No. 7, with Crabs J and K, to meet her off the
Banks of Newfoundland.

This repeller was the largest and strongest vessel
that the Syndicate had ready for service. In addition
to the spring armour with which these vessels were
supplied, this one was furnished with a second coat of
armour outside the first, the elastic steel ribs of
which ran longitudinally and at right angles to those
of the inner set. Both coats were furnished with a
great number of improved air-buffers, and the
arrangement of spring armour extended five or six feet
beyond the massive steel plates with which the vessel
was originally armoured. She carried one motor-cannon
of large size.

One of the crabs was of the ordinary pattern, but
Crab K was furnished with a spring armour above the
heavy plates of her roof. This had been placed upon
her after the news had been received by the Syndicate
that the Adamant would carry a perpendicular cannon
over her stern, but there had not been time enough to
fit out another crab in the same way.

When the director in charge of Repeller No. 7 first
caught sight of the Adamant, and scanned through his
glass the vast proportions of the mighty ship which was
rapidly steaming towards the coast, he felt that a
responsibility rested upon him heavier than any which
had yet been borne by an officer of the Syndicate; but
he did not hesitate in the duty which he had been
sent to perform, and immediately ordered the two crabs
to advance to meet the Adamant, and to proceed to
action according to the instructions which they had
previously received. His own ship was kept, in
pursuance of orders, several miles distant from the
British ship.

As soon as the repeller had been sighted from the
Adamant, a strict lookout had been kept for the
approach of crabs; and when the small exposed portions
of the backs of two of these were perceived glistening
in the sunlight, the speed of the great ship slackened.
The ability of the Syndicate's submerged vessels to
move suddenly and quickly in any direction had been
clearly demonstrated, and although a great ironclad
with a ram could run down and sink a crab without
feeling the concussion, it was known that it would be
perfectly easy for the smaller craft to keep out of the
way of its bulky antagonist. Therefore the Adamant
did not try to ram the crabs, nor to get away from
them. Her commander intended, if possible, to run down
one or both of them; but he did not propose to do this
in the usual way.

As the crabs approached, the stern-jacket of
the Adamant was let down, and the engines were
slowed. This stern-jacket, when protecting the rudder
and propellers, looked very much like the cowcatcher of
a locomotive, and was capable of being put to a
somewhat similar use. It was the intention of the
captain of the Adamant, should the crabs attempt to
attach themselves to his stern, to suddenly put on all
steam, reverse his engines, and back upon them, the
stern-jacket answering as a ram.

The commander of the Adamant had no doubt that in
this way he could run into a crab, roll it over in the
water, and when it was lying bottom upward, like a
floating cask, he could move his ship to a distance,
and make a target of it. So desirous was this brave
and somewhat facetious captain to try his new plan upon
a crab, that he forebore to fire upon the two vessels
of that class which were approaching him. Some of his
guns were so mounted that their muzzles could be
greatly depressed, and aimed at an object in the water
not far from the ship. But these were not discharged,
and, indeed, the crabs, which were new ones of unusual
swiftness, were alongside the Adamant in an incredibly
short time, and out of the range of these guns.

Crab J was on the starboard side of the Adamant,
Crab K was on the port side, and, simultaneously, the
two laid hold of her. But they were not directly
astern of the great vessel. Each had its nippers
fastened to one side of the stern-jacket, near the
hinge-like bolts which held it to the vessel, and on
which it was raised and lowered.

In a moment the Adamant began to steam backward;
but the only effect of this motion, which soon became
rapid, was to swing the crabs around against her sides,
and carry them with her. As the vessels were thus
moving the great pincers of the crabs were twisted with
tremendous force, the stern-jacket on one side was
broken from its bolt, and on the other the bolt itself
was drawn out of the side of the vessel. The nippers
then opened, and the stern-jacket fell from their grasp
into the sea, snapping in its fall the chain by which
it had been raised and lowered.

This disaster occurred so quickly that few persons
on board the Adamant knew what had happened. But the
captain, who had seen everything, gave instant
orders to go ahead at full speed. The first thing
to be done was to get at a distance from those crabs,
keep well away from them, and pound them to pieces with
his heavy guns.

But the iron screw-propellers had scarcely begun to
move in the opposite direction, before the two crabs,
each now lying at right angles with the length of the
ship, but neither of them directly astern of her, made
a dash with open nippers, and Crab J fastened upon one
propeller, while Crab K laid hold of the other. There
was a din and crash of breaking metal, two shocks which
were felt throughout the vessel, and the shattered and
crushed blades of the propellers of the great battle-
ship were powerless to move her.

The captain of the Adamant, pallid with fury,
stood upon the poop. In a moment the crabs would be at
his rudder! The great gun, double-shotted and ready to
fire, was hanging from its boom over the stern. Crab
K, whose roof had the additional protection of spring
armour, now moved round so as to be directly astern of
the Adamant. Before she could reach the rudder, her
forward part came under the suspended cannon, and two
massive steel shot were driven down upon her with a
force sufficient to send them through masses of solid
rock; but from the surface of elastic steel springs and
air-buffers they bounced upward, one of them almost
falling on the deck of the Adamant.

The gunners of this piece had been well trained.
In a moment the boom was swung around, the cannon
reloaded, and when Crab K fixed her nippers on the
rudder of the Adamant, two more shot came down upon
her. As in the first instance she dipped and rolled,
but the ribs of her uninjured armour had scarcely
sprung back into their places, before her nippers
turned, and the rudder of the Adamant was broken in
two, and the upper portion dragged from its fastenings
then a quick backward jerk snapped its chains, and it
was dropped into the sea.

A signal was now sent from Crab J to Repeller No.
7, to the effect that the Adamant had been rendered
incapable of steaming or sailing, and that she lay
subject to order.

Subject to order or not, the Adamant did not lie
passive. Every gun on board which could be
sufficiently depressed, was made ready to fire upon the
crabs should they attempt to get away. Four large
boats, furnished with machine guns, grapnels, and with
various appliances which might be brought into use on a
steel-plated roof, were lowered from their davits, and
immediately began firing upon the exposed portions of
the crabs. Their machine guns were loaded with small
shells, and if these penetrated under the horizontal
plates of a crab, and through the heavy glass which was
supposed to be in these interstices, the crew of the
submerged craft would be soon destroyed.

The quick eye of the captain of the Adamant had
observed through his glass, while the crabs were still
at a considerable distance, their protruding air-pipes,
and he had instructed the officers in charge of the
boats to make an especial attack upon these. If the
air-pipes of a crab could be rendered useless, the crew
must inevitably be smothered.

But the brave captain did not know that the
condensed-air chambers of the crabs would supply their
inmates for an hour or more without recourse to the
outer air, and that the air-pipes, furnished with
valves at the top, were always withdrawn under water
during action with an enemy. Nor did he know that
the glass blocks under the armour-plates of the crabs,
which were placed in rubber frames to protect them from
concussion above, were also guarded by steel netting
from injury by small balls.

Valiantly the boats beset the crabs, keeping up a
constant fusillade, and endeavouring to throw grapnels
over them. If one of these should catch under an
overlapping armour-plate it could be connected with the
steam windlass of the Adamant, and a plate might be
ripped off or a crab overturned.

But the crabs proved to be much more lively fish
than their enemies had supposed. Turning, as if on a
pivot, and darting from side to side, they seemed to be
playing with the boats, and not trying to get away from
them. The spring armour of Crab K interfered somewhat
with its movements, and also put it in danger from
attacks by grapnels, and it therefore left most of the
work to its consort.

Crab J, after darting swiftly in and out among her
antagonists for some time, suddenly made a turn, and
dashing at one of the boats, ran under it, and raising
it on its glistening back, rolled it, bottom upward,
into the sea. In a moment the crew of the boat
were swimming for their lives. They were quickly
picked up by two of the other boats, which then deemed
it prudent to return to the ship.

But the second officer of the Adamant, who
commanded the fourth boat, did not give up the fight.
Having noted the spring armour of Crab K, he believed
that if he could get a grapnel between its steel ribs
he yet might capture the sea-monster. For some minutes
Crab K contented itself with eluding him; but, tired of
this, it turned, and raising its huge nippers almost
out of the water, it seized the bow of the boat, and
gave it a gentle crunch, after which it released its
hold and retired. The boat, leaking rapidly through
two ragged holes, was rowed back to the ship, which it
reached half full of water.

The great battle-ship, totally bereft of the power
of moving herself, was now rolling in the trough of the
sea, and a signal came from the repeller for Crab K to
make fast to her and put her head to the wind. This
was quickly done, the crab attaching itself to the
stern-post of the Adamant by a pair of towing
nippers. These were projected from the stern of the
crab, and were so constructed that the larger
vessel did not communicate all its motion to the
smaller one, and could not run down upon it.

As soon as the Adamant was brought up with her
head to the wind she opened fire upon the repeller.
The latter vessel could easily have sailed out of the
range of a motionless enemy, but her orders forbade
this. Her director had been instructed by the
Syndicate to expose his vessel to the fire of the
Adamant's heavy guns. Accordingly the repeller
steamed nearer, and turned her broadside toward the
British ship.

Scarcely had this been done when the two great bow
guns of the Adamant shook the air with tremendous
roars, each hurling over the sea nearly a ton of steel.
One of these great shot passed over the repeller, but
the other struck her armoured side fairly amidship.
There was a crash and scream of creaking steel, and
Repeller No. 7 rolled over to windward as if she had
been struck by a heavy sea. In a moment she righted
and shot ahead, and, turning, presented her port side
to the enemy. Instant examination of the armour on her
other side showed that the two banks of springs were
uninjured, and that not an air-buffer had exploded
or failed to spring back to its normal length.

Firing from the Adamant now came thick and fast,
the crab, in obedience to signals, turning her about so
as to admit the firing of some heavy guns mounted
amidships. Three enormous solid shot struck the
repeller at different points on her starboard armour
without inflicting damage, while the explosion of
several shells which hit her had no more effect upon
her elastic armour than the impact of the solid shot.

It was the desire of the Syndicate not only to
demonstrate to its own satisfaction the efficiency of
its spring armour, but to convince Great Britain that
her heaviest guns on her mightiest battle-ships could
have no effect upon its armoured vessels. To prove the
absolute superiority of their means of offence and
defence was the supreme object of the Syndicate. For
this its members studied and worked by day and by
night; for this they poured out their millions; for
this they waged war. To prove what they claimed would
be victory.

When Repeller No. 7 had sustained the heavy fire of
the Adamant for about half an hour, it was
considered that the strength of her armour had been
sufficiently demonstrated; and, with a much lighter
heart than when he had turned her broadside to the
Adamant, her director gave orders that she should
steam out of the range of the guns of the British ship.
During the cannonade Crab J had quietly slipped away
from the vicinity of the Adamant, and now joined the

The great ironclad battle-ship, with her lofty
sides plated with nearly two feet of solid steel, with
her six great guns, each weighing more than a hundred
tons, with her armament of other guns, machine cannon,
and almost every appliance of naval warfare, with a
small army of officers and men on board, was left in
charge of Crab K, of which only a few square yards of
armoured roof could be seen above the water. This
little vessel now proceeded to tow southward her vast
prize, uninjured, except that her rudder and propeller-
blades were broken and useless.

Although the engines of the crab were of enormous
power, the progress made was slow, for the Adamant
was being towed stern foremost. It would have been
easier to tow the great vessel had the crab been
attached to her bow, but a ram which extended many feet
under water rendered it dangerous for a submerged
vessel to attach itself in its vicinity.

During the night the repeller kept company,
although at a considerable distance, with the captured
vessel; and early the next morning her director
prepared to send to the Adamant a boat with a flag-of-truce,
and a letter demanding the surrender and subsequent
evacuation of the British ship. It was supposed that
now, when the officers of the Adamant had had time to
appreciate the fact that they had no control over the
movements of their vessel; that their armament was
powerless against their enemies; that the Adamant
could be towed wherever the Syndicate chose to
order, or left helpless in midocean,--they would be
obliged to admit that there was nothing for them to do
but to surrender.

But events proved that no such ideas had entered
the minds of the Adamant's officers, and their action
totally prevented sending a flag-of-truce boat. As
soon as it was light enough to see the repeller the
Adamant began firing great guns at her. She was too
far away for the shot to strike her, but to launch and
send a boat of any kind into a storm of shot and shell
was of course impossible.

The cannon suspended over the stern of the
Adamant was also again brought into play, and shot
after shot was driven down upon the towing crab. Every
ball rebounded from the spring armour, but the officer
in charge of the crab became convinced that after a
time this constant pounding, almost in the same place,
would injure his vessel, and he signalled the repeller
to that effect.

The director of Repeller No. 7 had been considering
the situation. There was only one gun on the Adamant
which could be brought to bear upon Crab K, and it
would be the part of wisdom to interfere with the
persistent use of this gun. Accordingly the bow of the
repeller was brought to bear upon the Adamant, and
her motor gun was aimed at the boom from which the
cannon was suspended.

The projectile with which the cannon was loaded was
not an instantaneous motor-bomb. It was simply a heavy
solid shot, driven by an instantaneous motor
attachment, and was thus impelled by the same power and
in the same manner as the motor-bombs. The
instantaneous motor-power had not yet been used at so
great a distance as that between the repeller and the
Adamant, and the occasion was one of intense interest
to the small body of scientific men having charge of
the aiming and firing.

The calculations of the distance, of the necessary
elevation and direction, and of the degree of motor-
power required, were made with careful exactness, and
when the proper instant arrived the button was touched,
and the shot with which the cannon was charged was
instantaneously removed to a point in the ocean about a
mile beyond the Adamant, accompanied by a large
portion of the heavy boom at which the gun had been

The cannon which had been suspended from the end of
this boom fell into the sea, and would have crashed
down upon the roof of Crab K, had not that vessel, in
obedience to a signal from the repeller, loosened its
hold upon the Adamant and retired a short distance
astern. Material injury might not have resulted from
the fall of this great mass of metal upon the crab, but
it was considered prudent not to take useless risks.

The officers of the Adamant were greatly
surprised and chagrined by the fall of their gun, with
which they had expected ultimately to pound in the roof
of the crab. No damage had been done to the vessel
except the removal of a portion of the boom, with some
of the chains and blocks attached, and no one on board
the British ship imagined for a moment that this injury
had been occasioned by the distant repeller. It was
supposed that the constant firing of the cannon had
cracked the boom, and that it had suddenly snapped.

Even if there had been on board the Adamant the
means for rigging up another arrangement of the kind
for perpendicular artillery practice, it would have
required a long time to get it into working
order, and the director of Repeller No. 7 hoped that
now the British captain would see the uselessness of
continued resistance.

But the British captain saw nothing of the kind,
and shot after shot from his guns were hurled high into
the air, in hopes that the great curves described would
bring some of them down on the deck of the repeller.
If this beastly store-ship, which could stand fire but
never returned it, could be sunk, the Adamant's
captain would be happy. With the exception of the loss
of her motive power, his vessel was intact, and if the
stupid crab would only continue to keep the Adamant's
head to the sea until the noise of her cannonade should
attract some other British vessel to the scene, the
condition of affairs might be altered.

All that day the great guns of the Adamant
continued to roar. The next morning, however, the
firing was not resumed, and the officers of the
repeller were greatly surprised to see approaching from
the British ship a boat carrying a white flag. This
was a very welcome sight, and the arrival of the boat
was awaited with eager interest.

During the night a council had been held on board
the Adamant. Her cannonading had had no effect,
either in bringing assistance or in injuring the enemy;
she was being towed steadily southward farther and
farther from the probable neighbourhood of a British
man-of-war; and it was agreed that it would be the part
of wisdom to come to terms with the Syndicate's vessel.

Therefore the captain of the Adamant sent a
letter to the repeller, in which he stated to the
persons in charge of that ship, that although his
vessel had been injured in a manner totally at variance
with the rules of naval warfare, he would overlook this
fact and would agree to cease firing upon the
Syndicate's vessels, provided that the submerged craft
which was now made fast to his vessel should attach
itself to the Adamant's bow, and by means of a
suitable cable which she would furnish, would tow her
into British waters. If this were done he would
guarantee that the towing craft should have six hours
in which to get away.

When this letter was read on board the repeller it
created considerable merriment, and an answer was sent
back that no conditions but those of absolute
surrender could be received from the British ship.

In three minutes after this answer had been
received by the captain of the Adamant, two shells
went whirring and shrieking through the air toward
Repeller No. 7, and after that the cannonading from the
bow, the stern, the starboard, and the port guns of the
great battle-ship went on whenever there was a visible
object on the ocean which looked in the least like an
American coasting vessel or man-of-war.

For a week Crab K towed steadily to the south this
blazing and thundering marine citadel; and then the
crab signalled to the still accompanying repeller that
it must be relieved. It had not been fitted out for so
long a cruise, and supplies were getting low.

The Syndicate, which had been kept informed of all
the details of this affair, had already perceived the
necessity of relieving Crab K, and another crab, well
provisioned and fitted out, was already on the way to
take its place. This was Crab C, possessing powerful
engines, but in point of roof armour the weakest of its
class. It could be better spared than any other crab
to tow the Adamant, and as the British ship had
not, and probably could not, put out another suspended
cannon, it was considered quite suitable for the
service required.

But when Crab C came within half a mile of the
Adamant it stopped. It was evident that on board the
British ship a steady lookout had been maintained for
the approach of fresh crabs, for several enormous shell
and shot from heavy guns, which had been trained upward
at a high angle, now fell into the sea a short distance
from the crab.

Crab C would not have feared these heavy shot had
they been fired from an ordinary elevation; and
although no other vessel in the Syndicate's service
would have hesitated to run the terrible gauntlet, this
one, by reason of errors in construction, being less
able than any other crab to resist the fall from a
great height of ponderous shot and shell, thought it
prudent not to venture into this rain of iron; and,
moving rapidly beyond the line of danger, it attempted
to approach the Adamant from another quarter. If it
could get within the circle of falling shot it would be
safe. But this it could not do. On all sides of the
Adamant guns had been trained to drop shot and
shells at a distance of half a mile from the ship.

Around and around the mighty ironclad steamed Crab
C; but wherever she went her presence was betrayed to
the fine glasses on board the Adamant by the bit of
her shining back and the ripple about it; and ever
between her and the ship came down that hail of iron in
masses of a quarter ton, half ton, or nearly a whole
ton. Crab C could not venture under these, and all day
she accompanied the Adamant on her voyage south,
dashing to this side and that, and looking for the
chance that did not come, for all day the cannon of the
battle-ship roared at her wherever she might be.

The inmates of Crab K were now very restive and
uneasy, for they were on short rations, both of food
and water. They would have been glad enough to cast
loose from the Adamant, and leave the spiteful ship
to roll to her heart's content, broadside to the sea.
They did not fear to run their vessel, with its thick
roofplates protected by spring armour, through the
heaviest cannonade.

But signals from the repeller commanded them to
stay by the Adamant as long as they could hold
out, and they were obliged to content themselves with a
hope that when night fell the other crab would be able
to get in under the stern of the Adamant, and make
the desired exchange.

But to the great discomfiture of the Syndicate's
forces, darkness had scarcely come on before four
enormous electric lights blazed high up on the single
lofty mast of the Adamant, lighting up the ocean for
a mile on every side of the ship. It was of no more
use for Crab C to try to get in now than in broad
daylight; and all night the great guns roared, and the
little crab manoeuvred.

The next morning a heavy fog fell upon the sea, and
the battle-ship and Crab C were completely shut out of
sight of each other. Now the cannon of the Adamant
were silent, for the only result of firing would be to
indicate to the crab the location of the British ship.
The smoke-signals of the towing crab could not be seen
through the fog by her consorts, and she seemed to be
incapable of making signals by sound. Therefore the
commander of the Adamant thought it likely that until
the fog rose the crab could not find his ship.

What that other crab intended to do could be, of
course, on board the Adamant, only a surmise; but it
was believed that she would bring with her a torpedo to
be exploded under the British ship. That one crab
should tow her away from possible aid until another
should bring a torpedo to fasten to her stern-post
seemed a reasonable explanation of the action of the
Syndicate's vessels.

The officers of the Adamant little understood the
resources and intentions of their opponents. Every
vessel of the Syndicate carried a magnetic indicator,
which was designed to prevent collisions with iron
vessels. This little instrument was placed at night
and during fogs at the bow of the vessel, and a
delicate arm of steel, which ordinarily pointed upward
at a considerable angle, fell into a horizontal
position when any large body of iron approached within
a quarter of a mile, and, so falling, rang a small
bell. Its point then turned toward the mass of iron.

Soon after the fog came on, one of these
indicators, properly protected from the attraction of
the metal about it, was put into position on Crab C.
Before very long it indicated the proximity of the
Adamant; and, guided by its steel point, the
Crab moved quietly to the ironclad, attached itself to
its stern-post, and allowed the happy crew of Crab K to
depart coastward.

When the fog rose the glasses of the Adamant
showed the approach of no crab, but it was observed, in
looking over the stern, that the beggarly devil-fish
which had the ship in tow appeared to have made some
change in its back.

In the afternoon of that day a truce boat was sent
from the repeller to the Adamant. It was allowed to
come alongside; but when the British captain found that
the Syndicate merely renewed its demand for his
surrender, he waxed fiercely angry, and sent the boat
back with the word that no further message need be sent
to him unless it should be one complying with the
conditions he had offered.

The Syndicate now gave up the task of inducing the
captain of the Adamant to surrender. Crab C was
commanded to continue towing the great ship southward,
and to keep her well away from the coast, in order to
avoid danger to seaport towns and coasting vessels,
while the repeller steamed away.

Week after week the Adamant moved southward,
roaring away with her great guns whenever an American
sail came within possible range, and surrounding
herself with a circle of bursting bombs to let any crab
know what it might expect if it attempted to come near.
Blazing and thundering, stern foremost, but stoutly,
she rode the waves, ready to show the world that she
was an impregnable British battle-ship, from which no
enemy could snatch the royal colours which floated high
above her.

It was during the first week of the involuntary
cruise of the Adamant that the Syndicate finished its
preparations for what it hoped would be the decisive
movement of its campaign. To do this a repeller and
six crabs, all with extraordinary powers, had been
fitted out with great care, and also with great
rapidity, for the British Government was working night
and day to get its fleet of ironclads in readiness for
a descent upon the American coast. Many of the British
vessels were already well prepared for ordinary naval
warfare; but to resist crabs additional defences were
necessary. It was known that the Adamant had been
captured, and consequently the manufacture of
stern-jackets had been abandoned; but it was believed
that protection could be effectually given to rudders
and propeller-blades by a new method which the
Admiralty had adopted.

The repeller which was to take part in the
Syndicate's proposed movement had been a vessel of the
United States navy which for a long time had been out
of commission, and undergoing a course of very slow and
desultory repairs in a dockyard. She had always been
considered the most unlucky craft in the service, and
nearly every accident that could happen to a ship had
happened to her. Years and years before, when she
would set out upon a cruise, her officers and crew
would receive the humorous sympathy of their friends,
and wagers were frequently laid in regard to the
different kinds of mishaps which might befall this
unlucky vessel, which was then known as the

The Syndicate did not particularly desire this
vessel, but there was no other that could readily be
made available for its purposes, and accordingly the
Tallapoosa was purchased from the Government and
work immediately begun upon her. Her engines and
hull were put into good condition, and outside of her
was built another hull, composed of heavy steel armour-
plates, and strongly braced by great transverse beams
running through the ship.

Still outside of this was placed an improved system
of spring armour, much stronger and more effective than
any which had yet been constructed. This, with the
armour-plate, added nearly fifteen feet to the width of
the vessel above water. All her superstructures were
removed from her deck, which was covered by a curved
steel roof, and under a bomb-proof canopy at the bow
were placed two guns capable of carrying the largest-
sized motor-bombs. The Tallapoosa, thus transformed,
was called Repeller No. 11.

The immense addition to her weight would of course
interfere very much with the speed of the new repeller,
but this was considered of little importance, as she
would depend on her own engines only in time of action.
She was now believed to possess more perfect defences
than any battle-ship in the world.

Early on a misty morning, Repeller No. 11, towed by
four of the swiftest and most powerful crabs, and
followed by two others, left a Northern port of the
United States, bound for the coast of Great Britain.
Her course was a very northerly one, for the reason
that the Syndicate had planned work for her to do while
on her way across the Atlantic.

The Syndicate had now determined, without
unnecessarily losing an hour, to plainly demonstrate
the power of the instantaneous motor-bomb. It had been
intended to do this upon the Adamant, but as it had
been found impossible to induce the captain of that
vessel to evacuate his ship, the Syndicate had declined
to exhibit the efficiency of their new agent of
destruction upon a disabled craft crowded with human

This course had been highly prejudicial to the
claims of the Syndicate, for as Repeller No. 7 had made
no use in the contest with the Adamant of the motor-
bombs with which she was said to be supplied, it was
generally believed on both sides of the Atlantic that
she carried no such bombs, and the conviction that the
destruction at the Canadian port had been effected by
means of mines continued as strong as it had ever been.
To correct these false ideas was, now the duty of
Repeller No. 11.

For some time Great Britain had been steadily
forwarding troops and munitions of war to Canada,
without interruption from her enemy. Only once had the
Syndicate's vessels appeared above the Banks of
Newfoundland, and as the number of these peculiar craft
must necessarily be small, it was not supposed that
their line of operations would be extended very far
north, and no danger from them was apprehended,
provided the English vessels laid their courses well to
the north.

Shortly before the sailing of Repeller No. 11, the
Syndicate had received news that one of the largest
transatlantic mail steamers, loaded with troops and
with heavy cannon for Canadian fortifications, and
accompanied by the Craglevin, one of the largest
ironclads in the Royal Navy, had started across the
Atlantic. The first business of the repeller and her
attendant crabs concerned these two vessels.

Owing to the power and speed of the crabs which
towed her, Repeller No. 11 made excellent time; and on
the morning of the third day out the two British
vessels were sighted. Somewhat altering their
course the Syndicate's vessels were soon within a few
miles of the enemy.

The Craglevin was a magnificent warship. She was
not quite so large as the Adamant, and she was
unprovided with a stern-jacket or other defence of the
kind. In sending her out the Admiralty had designed
her to defend the transport against the regular vessels
of the United States navy; for although the nature of
the contract with the Syndicate was well understood in
England, it was not supposed that the American
Government would long consent to allow their war
vessels to remain entirely idle.

When the captain of the Craglevin perceived the
approach of the repeller he was much surprised, but he
did not hesitate for a moment as to his course. He
signalled to the transport, then about a mile to the
north, to keep on her way while he steered to meet the
enemy. It had been decided in British naval circles
that the proper thing to do in regard to a repeller was
to ram her as quickly as possible. These vessels were
necessarily slow and unwieldy, and if a heavy ironclad
could keep clear of crabs long enough to rush down upon
one, there was every reason to believe that the
"ball-bouncer," as the repellers were called by British
sailors, could be crushed in below the water-line and
sunk. So, full of courage and determination, the
captain of the Craglevin bore down upon the repeller.

It is not necessary to enter into details of the
ensuing action. Before the Craglevin was within half
a mile of her enemy she was seized by two crabs, all of
which had cast loose from the repeller, and in less
than twenty minutes both of her screws were extracted
and her rudder shattered. In the mean time two of the
swiftest crabs had pursued the transport, and, coming
up with her, one of them had fastened to her rudder,
without, however, making any attempt to injure it.
When the captain of the steamer saw that one of the
sea-devils had him by the stern, while another was near
by ready to attack him, he prudently stopped his
engines and lay to, the crab keeping his ship's head to
the sea.

The captain of the Craglevin was a very different
man from the captain of the Adamant. He was quite as
brave, but he was wiser and more prudent. He saw that
the transport had been captured and forced to lay to;
he saw that the repeller mounted two heavy guns at
her bow, and whatever might be the character of those
guns, there could be no reasonable doubt that they were
sufficient to sink an ordinary mail steamer. His own
vessel was entirely out of his control, and even if he
chose to try his guns on the spring armour of the
repeller, it would probably result in the repeller
turning her fire up on the transport.

With a disabled ship, and the lives of so many men
in his charge, the captain of the Craglevin saw that
it would be wrong for him to attempt to fight, and he
did not fire a gun. With as much calmness as the
circumstances would permit, he awaited the progress of

In a very short time a message came to him from
Repeller No. 11, which stated that in two hours his
ship would be destroyed by instantaneous motor-bombs.
Every opportunity, however, would be given for the
transfer to the mail steamer of all the officers and
men on board the Craglevin, together with such of
their possessions as they could take with them in that
time. When this had been done the transport would be
allowed to proceed on her way.

To this demand nothing but acquiescence was
possible. Whether or not there was such a thing as an
instantaneous motor-bomb the Craglevin's officers did
not know; but they knew that if left to herself their
ship would soon attend to her own sinking, for there
was a terrible rent in her stern, owing to a pitch of
the vessel while one of the propeller-shafts was being

Preparations for leaving the ship were, therefore,
immediately begun. The crab was ordered to release the
mail steamer, which, in obedience to signals from the
Craglevin, steamed as near that vessel as safety
would permit. Boats were lowered from both ships, and
the work of transfer went on with great activity.

There was no lowering of flags on board the
Craglevin, for the Syndicate attached no importance
to such outward signs and formalities. If the captain
of the British ship chose to haul down his colours he
could do so; but if he preferred to leave them still
bravely floating above his vessel he was equally
welcome to do that.

When nearly every one had left the Craglevin, a
boat was sent from the repeller, which lay near by,
with a note requesting the captain and first
officer of the British ship to come on board Repeller
No. 11 and witness the method of discharging the
instantaneous motor-bomb, after which they would be put
on board the transport. This invitation struck the
captain of the Craglevin with surprise, but a little
reflection showed him that it would be wise to accept
it. In the first place, it was in the nature of a
command, which, in the presence of six crabs and a
repeller, it would be ridiculous to disobey; and,
moreover, he was moved by a desire to know something
about the Syndicate's mysterious engine of destruction,
if, indeed, such a thing really existed.

Accordingly, when all the others had left the ship,
the captain of the Craglevin and his first officer
came on board the repeller, curiously observing the
spring armour over which they passed by means of a
light gang-board with handrail. They were received by
the director at one of the hatches of the steel deck,
which were now all open, and conducted by him to the
bomb-proof compartment in the bow. There was no reason
why the nature of the repeller's defences should not be
known to world nor adopted by other nations. They
were intended as a protection against ordinary shot and
shell; they would avail nothing against the
instantaneous motor-bomb.

The British officers were shown the motor-bomb to
be discharged, which, externally, was very much like an
ordinary shell, except that it was nearly as long as
the bore of the cannon; and the director stated that
although, of course, the principle of the motor-bomb
was the Syndicate's secret, it was highly desirable
that its effects and its methods of operation should be
generally known.

The repeller, accompanied by the mail steamer and
all the crabs, now moved to about two miles to the
leeward of the Craglevin, and lay to. The motor-bomb
was then placed in one of the great guns, while the
scientific corps attended to the necessary calculations
of distance, etc.

The director now turned to the British captain, who
had been observing everything with the greatest
interest, and, with a smile, asked him if he would like
to commit hari-kari?

As this remark was somewhat enigmatical, the
director went on to say that if it would be any
gratification to the captain to destroy his vessel with
his own hands, instead of allowing this to be done by
an enemy, he was at liberty to do so. This offer was
immediately accepted, for if his ship was really to be
destroyed, the captain felt that he would like to do it

When the calculations had been made and the
indicator set, the captain was shown the button he must
press, and stood waiting for the signal. He looked
over the sea at the Craglevin, which had settled a
little at the stern, and was rolling heavily; but she
was still a magnificent battleship, with the red cross
of England floating over her. He could not help the
thought that if this motor mystery should amount to
nothing, there was no reason why the Craglevin should
not be towed into port, and be made again the grand
warship that she had been.

Now the director gave the signal, and the captain,
with his eyes fixed upon his ship, touched the button.
A quick shock ran through the repeller, and a black-
gray cloud, half a mile high, occupied the place of the
British ship.

The cloud rapidly settled down, covering the water
with a glittering scum which spread far and wide,
and which had been the Craglevin.

The British captain stood for a moment motionless,
and then he picked up a rammer and ran it into the
muzzle of the cannon which had been discharged. The
great gun was empty. The instantaneous motor-bomb was
not there.

Now he was convinced that the Syndicate had not
mined the fortresses which they had destroyed.

In twenty minutes the two British officers were on
board the transport, which then steamed rapidly
westward. The crabs again took the repeller in tow,
and the Syndicate's fleet continued its eastward
course, passing through the wide expanse of glittering
scum which had spread itself upon the sea.

They were not two-thirds of their way across the
Atlantic when the transport reached St. John's, and the
cable told the world that the Craglevin had been

The news was received with amazement, and even
consternation. It came from an officer in the Royal
Navy, and how could it be doubted that a great man-of-
war had been destroyed in a moment by one shot
from the Syndicate's vessel! And yet, even now,
there were persons who did doubt, and who asserted that
the crabs might have placed a great torpedo under the
Craglevin, that a wire attached to this torpedo ran
out from the repeller, and that the British captain had
merely fired the torpedo. But hour by hour, as fuller
news came across the ocean, the number of these
doubters became smaller and smaller.

In the midst of the great public excitement which
now existed on both sides of the Atlantic,--in the
midst of all the conflicting opinions, fears, and
hopes,--the dominant sentiment seemed to be, in America
as well as in Europe, one of curiosity. Were these six
crabs and one repeller bound to the British Isles? And
if so, what did they intend to do when they got there?

It was now generally admitted that one of the
Syndicate's crabs could disable a man-of-war, that one
of the Syndicate's repellers could withstand the
heaviest artillery fire, and that one of the
Syndicate's motor-bombs could destroy a vessel or a
fort. But these things had been proved in isolated
combats, where the new methods of attack and defence
had had almost undisturbed opportunity for
exhibiting their efficiency. But what could a repeller
and half a dozen crabs do against the combined force of
the Royal Navy,--a navy which had in the last few years
regained its supremacy among the nations, and which had
made Great Britain once more the first maritime power
in the world?

The crabs might disable some men-of-war, the
repeller might make her calculations and discharge her
bomb at a ship or a fort, but what would the main body
of the navy be doing meanwhile? Overwhelming,
crushing, and sinking to the bottom crabs, repeller,
motor guns, and everything that belonged to them.

In England there was a feeling of strong resentment
that such a little fleet should be allowed to sail with
such intent into British waters. This resentment
extended itself, not only to the impudent Syndicate,
but toward the Government; and the opposition party
gained daily in strength. The opposition papers had
been loud and reckless in their denunciations of the
slowness and inadequacy of the naval preparations, and
loaded the Government with the entire responsibility,
not only of the damage which had already been done
to the forts, the ships, and the prestige of Great
Britain, but also for the threatened danger of a sudden
descent of the Syndicate's fleet upon some unprotected
point upon the coast. This fleet should never have
been allowed to approach within a thousand miles of
England. It should have been sunk in mid-ocean, if its
sinking had involved the loss of a dozen men-of-war.

In America a very strong feeling of dissatisfaction
showed itself. From the first, the Syndicate contract
had not been popular; but the quick, effective, and
business-like action of that body of men, and the
marked success up to this time of their inventions and
their operations, had caused a great reaction in their
favour. They had, so far, successfully defended the
American coast, and when they had increased the number
of their vessels, they would have been relied upon to
continue that defence. Even if a British armada had
set out to cross the Atlantic, its movements must have
been slow and cumbrous, and the swift and sudden
strokes with which the Syndicate waged war could have
been given by night and by day over thousands of miles
of ocean.

Whether or not these strokes would have been quick
enough or hard enough to turn back an armada might be a
question; but there could be no question of the
suicidal policy of sending seven ships and two cannon
to conquer England. It seemed as if the success of the
Syndicate had so puffed up its members with pride and
confidence in their powers that they had come to
believe that they had only to show themselves to
conquer, whatever might be the conditions of the

The destruction of the Syndicate's fleet would now
be a heavy blow to the United States. It would produce
an utter want of confidence in the councils and
judgments of the Syndicate, which could not be
counteracted by the strongest faith in the efficiency
of their engines of war; and it was feared it might
become necessary, even at this critical juncture, to
annul the contract with the Syndicate, and to depend
upon the American navy for the defence of the American

Even among the men on board the Syndicate's fleet
there were signs of doubt and apprehensions of evil.
It had all been very well so far, but fighting one ship
at a time was a very different thing from steaming
into the midst of a hundred ships. On board the
repeller there was now an additional reason for fears
and misgivings. The unlucky character of the vessel
when it had been the Tallapoosa was known, and not a
few of the men imagined that it must now be time for
some new disaster to this ill-starred craft, and if her
evil genius had desired fresh disaster for her, it was
certainly sending her into a good place to look for it.

But the Syndicate neither doubted nor hesitated nor
paid any attention to the doubts and condemnations
which they heard from every quarter. Four days after
the news of the destruction of the Craglevin had been
telegraphed from Canada to London, the Syndicate's
fleet entered the English Channel. Owing to the power
and speed of the crabs, Repeller No. 11 had made a
passage of the Atlantic which in her old naval career
would have been considered miraculous.

Craft of various kinds were now passed, but none of
them carried the British flag. In the expectation of
the arrival of the enemy, British merchantmen and
fishing vessels had been advised to keep in the
background until the British navy had concluded
its business with the vessels of the American Syndicate.

As has been said before, the British Admiralty had
adopted a new method of defence for the rudders and
screw-propellers of naval vessels against the attacks
of submerged craft. The work of constructing the new
appliances had been pushed forward as fast as possible,
but so far only one of these had been finished and
attached to a man-of-war.

The Llangaron was a recently built ironclad of
the same size and class as the Adamant; and to her
had been attached the new stern-defence. This was an
immense steel cylinder, entirely closed, and rounded at
the ends. It was about ten feet in diameter, and
strongly braced inside. It was suspended by chains from
two davits which projected over the stern of the
vessel. When sailing this cylinder was hoisted up to
the davits, but when the ship was prepared for action
it was lowered until it lay, nearly submerged, abaft of
the rudder. In this position its ends projected about
fifteen feet on either side of the propeller-blades.

It was believed that this cylinder would
effectually prevent a crab from getting near enough to
the propeller or the rudder to do any damage. It
could not be torn away as the stern-jacket had been,
for the rounded and smooth sides and ends of the
massive cylinder would offer no hold to the forceps of
the crabs; and, approaching from any quarter, it would
be impossible for these forceps to reach rudder or

The Syndicate's little fleet arrived in British
waters late in the day, and early the next morning it
appeared about twenty miles to the south of the Isle of
Wight, and headed to the north-east, as if it were
making for Portsmouth. The course of these vessels
greatly surprised the English Government and naval
authorities. It was expected that an attack would
probably be made upon some comparatively unprotected
spot on the British seaboard, and therefore on the west
coast of Ireland and in St. George's Channel
preparations of the most formidable character had been
made to defend British ports against Repeller No. 11
and her attendant crabs. Particularly was this the
case in Bristol Channel, where a large number of
ironclads were stationed, and which was to have been
the destination of the Llangaron if the Syndicate's
vessels had delayed their coming long enough to allow
her to get around there. That this little fleet
should have sailed straight for England's great naval
stronghold was something that the British Admiralty
could not understand. The fact was not appreciated
that it was the object of the Syndicate to measure its
strength with the greatest strength of the enemy.
Anything less than this would not avail its purpose.

Notwithstanding that so many vessels had been sent
to different parts of the coast, there was still in
Portsmouth harbour a large number of war vessels of
various classes, all in commission and ready for
action. The greater part of these had received orders
to cruise that day in the channel. Consequently, it
was still early in the morning when, around the eastern
end of the Isle of Wight, there appeared a British fleet
composed of fifteen of the finest ironclads, with several
gunboats and cruisers, and a number of torpedo-boats.

It was a noble sight, for besides the warships
there was another fleet hanging upon the outskirts of
the first, and composed of craft, large and small, and
from both sides of the channel, filled with those who
were anxious to witness from afar the sea-fight which
was to take place under such novel conditions. Many of
these observers were reporters and special
correspondents for great newspapers. On some of the
vessels which came up from the French coast were men
with marine glasses of extraordinary power, whose
business it was to send an early and accurate report of
the affair to the office of the War Syndicate in New York.

As soon as the British ships came in sight, the
four crabs cast off from Repeller No. 11. Then with
the other two they prepared for action, moving
considerably in advance of the repeller, which now
steamed forward very slowly. The wind was strong from
the north-west, and the sea high, the shining tops of
the crabs frequently disappearing under the waves.

The British fleet came steadily on, headed by the
great Llangaron. This vessel was very much in
advance of the others, for knowing that when she was
really in action and the great cylinder which formed
her stern-guard was lowered into the water her speed
would be much retarded, she had put on all steam, and
being the swiftest war-ship of her class, she had
distanced all her consorts. It was highly important
that she should begin the fight, and engage the
attention of as many crabs as possible, while
certain of the other ships attacked the repeller with
their rams. Although it was now generally believed
that motor-bombs from a repeller might destroy a man-
of-war, it was also considered probable that the
accurate calculations which appeared to be necessary to
precision of aim could not be made when the object of
the aim was in rapid motion.

But whether or not one or more motor-bombs did
strike the mark, or whether or not one or more vessels
were blown into fine particles, there were a dozen
ironclads in that fleet, each of whose commanders and
officers were determined to run into that repeller and
crush her, if so be they held together long enough to
reach her.

The commanders of the torpedo-boats had orders to
direct their swift messengers of destruction first
against the crabs, for these vessels were far in
advance of the repeller, and coming on with a rapidity
which showed that they were determined upon mischief.
If a torpedo, shot from a torpedo-boat, and speeding
swiftly by its own powers beneath the waves, should
strike the submerged hull of a crab, there would be one
crab the less in the English Channel.

As has been said, the Llangaron came rushing on,
distancing everything, even the torpedo-boats. If,
before she was obliged to lower her cylinder, she could
get near enough to the almost stationary repeller to
take part in the attack on her, she would then be
content to slacken speed and let the crabs nibble
awhile at her stern.

Two of the latest constructed and largest crabs, Q
and R, headed at full speed to meet the Llangaron,
who, as she came on, opened the ball by sending a
"rattler" in the shape of a five-hundred-pound shot
into the ribs of the repeller, then at least four miles
distant, and immediately after began firing her
dynamite guns, which were of limited range at the roofs
of the advancing crabs.

There were some on board the repeller who, at the
moment the great shot struck her, with a ringing and
clangour of steel springs, such as never was heard
before, wished that in her former state of existence
she had been some other vessel than the Tallapoosa.

But every spring sprang back to its place as the
great mass of iron glanced off into the sea. The
dynamite bombs flew over the tops of the crabs,
whose rapid motions and slightly exposed surfaces gave
little chance for accurate aim, and in a short time
they were too close to the Llangaron for this class
of gun to be used upon them.

As the crabs came nearer, the Llangaron lowered
the great steel cylinder which hung across her stern,
until it lay almost entirely under water, and abaft of
her rudder and propeller-blades. She now moved slowly
through the water, and her men greeted the advancing
crabs with yells of defiance, and a shower of shot from
machine guns.

The character of the new defence which had been
fitted to the Llangaron was known to the Syndicate,
and the directors of the two new crabs understood the
heavy piece of work which lay before them. But their
plans of action had been well considered, and they made
straight for the stern of the British ship.

It was, of course, impossible to endeavour to grasp
that great cylinder with its rounded ends; their
forceps would slip from any portion of its smooth
surface on which they should endeavour to lay hold, and
no such attempt was made. Keeping near the
cylinder, one at each end of it, the two moved slowly
after the Llangaron, apparently discouraged.

In a short time, however, it was perceived by those
on board the ship that a change had taken place in the
appearance of the crabs; the visible portion of their
backs was growing larger and larger; they were rising
in the water. Their mailed roofs became visible from
end to end, and the crowd of observers looking down
from the ship were amazed to see what large vessels
they were.

Higher and higher the crabs arose, their powerful
air-pumps working at their greatest capacity, until
their ponderous pincers became visible above the water.
Then into the minds of the officers of the Llangaron
flashed the true object of this uprising, which to the
crew had seemed an intention on the part of the sea-
devils to clamber on board.

If the cylinder were left in its present position
the crab might seize the chains by which it was
suspended, while if it were raised it would cease to be
a defence. Notwithstanding this latter contingency,
the order was quickly given to raise the cylinder; but
before the hoisting engine had been set in motion,
Crab Q thrust forward her forceps over the top of the
cylinder and held it down. Another thrust, and the
iron jaws had grasped one of the two ponderous chains
by which the cylinder was suspended.
The other end of the cylinder began to rise, but at
this moment Crab R, apparently by a single effort,
lifted herself a foot higher out of the sea; her
pincers flashed forward, and the other chain was

The two crabs were now placed in the most
extraordinary position. The overhang of their roofs
prevented an attack on their hulls by the Llangaron,
but their unmailed hulls were so greatly exposed that a
few shot from another ship could easily have destroyed
them. But as any ship firing at them would be very
likely to hit the Llangaron, their directors felt
safe on this point.

Three of the foremost ironclads, less than two
miles away, were heading directly for them, and their
rams might be used with but little danger to the
Llangaron; but, on the other hand, three swift crabs
were heading directly for these ironclads.

It was impossible for Crabs Q and R to operate
in the usual way. Their massive forceps, lying flat
against the top of the cylinder, could not be twisted.
The enormous chains they held could not be severed by
the greatest pressure, and if both crabs backed at once
they would probably do no more than tow the Llangaron
stern foremost. There was, moreover, no time to waste
in experiments, for other rams would be coming on, and
there were not crabs enough to attend to them all.

No time was wasted. Q signalled to R, and R back
again, and instantly the two crabs, each still grasping
a chain of the cylinder, began to sink. On board the
Llangaron an order was shouted to let out the
cylinder chains; but as these chains had only been made
long enough to allow the top of the cylinder to hang at
or a little below the surface of the water, a foot or
two of length was all that could be gained.

The davits from which the cylinder hung were thick
and strong, and the iron windlasses to which the chains
were attached were large and ponderous; but these were
not strong enough to withstand the weight of two crabs
with steel-armoured roofs, enormous engines, and iron
hull. In less than a minute one davit snapped
like a pipe-stem under the tremendous strain, and
immediately afterward the windlass to which the chain
was attached was torn from its bolts, and went crashing
overboard, tearing away a portion of the stern-rail in
its descent.

Crab Q instantly released the chain it had held,
and in a moment the great cylinder hung almost
perpendicularly from one chain. But only for a moment.
The nippers of Crab R still firmly held the chain, and
the tremendous leverage exerted by the falling of one
end of the cylinder wrenched it from the rigidly held
end of its chain, and, in a flash, the enormous stern-
guard of the Llangaron sunk, end foremost, to the
bottom of the channel.

In ten minutes afterward, the Llangaron,
rudderless, and with the blades of her propellers
shivered and crushed, was slowly turning her starboard
to the wind and the sea, and beginning to roll like a
log of eight thousand tons.

Besides the Llangaron, three ironclads were now
drifting broadside to the sea. But there was no time
to succour disabled vessels, for the rest of the fleet
was coming on, and there was great work for the

Against these enemies, swift of motion and sudden
in action, the torpedo-boats found it almost impossible
to operate, for the British ships and the crabs were so
rapidly nearing each other that a torpedo sent out
against an enemy was more than likely to run against
the hull of a friend. Each crab sped at the top of its
speed for a ship, not only to attack, but also to
protect itself.

Once only did the crabs give the torpedo-boats a
chance. A mile or two north of the scene of action, a
large cruiser was making her way rapidly toward the
repeller, which was still lying almost motionless, four
miles to the westward. As it was highly probable that
this vessel carried dynamite guns, Crab Q, which was
the fastest of her class, was signalled to go after
her. She had scarcely begun her course across the open
space of sea before a torpedo-boat was in pursuit.
Fast as was the latter, the crab was faster, and quite
as easily managed. She was in a position of great
danger, and her only safety lay in keeping herself on a
line between the torpedo-boat and the gun-boat,
and to shorten as quickly as possible the distance
between herself and that vessel.

If the torpedo-boat shot to one side in order to
get the crab out of line, the crab, its back sometimes
hidden by the tossing waves, sped also to the same
side. When the torpedo-boat could aim a gun at the
crab and not at the gun-boat, a deadly torpedo flew
into the sea; but a tossing sea and a shifting target
were unfavourable to the gunner's aim. It was not
long, however, before the crab had run the chase which
might so readily have been fatal to it, and was so near
the gun-boat that no more torpedoes could be fired at

Of course the officers and crew of the gun-boat had
watched with most anxious interest the chase of the
crab. The vessel was one which had been fitted out for
service with dynamite guns, of which she carried some
of very long range for this class of artillery, and she
had been ordered to get astern of the repeller and to
do her best to put a few dynamite bombs on board of

The dynamite gun-boat therefore had kept ahead at
full speed, determined to carry out her instructions if
she should be allowed to do so; but her speed was not
as great as that of a crab, and when the torpedo-
boat had given up the chase, and the dreaded crab was
drawing swiftly near, the captain thought it time for
bravery to give place to prudence. With the large
amount of explosive material of the most tremendous and
terrific character which he had on board, it would be
the insanity of courage for him to allow his
comparatively small vessel to be racked, shaken, and
partially shivered by the powerful jaws of the on-
coming foe. As he could neither fly nor fight, he
hauled down his flag in token of surrender, the first
instance of the kind which had occurred in this war.

When the director of Crab Q, through his lookout-
glass, beheld this action on the part of the gun-boat,
he was a little perplexed as to what he should next do.
To accept the surrender of the British vessel, and to
assume control of her, it was necessary to communicate
with her. The communications of the crabs were made
entirely by black-smoke signals, and these the captain
of the gun-boat could not understand. The heavy
hatches in the mailed roof which could be put in use
when the crab was cruising, could not be opened when
she was at her fighting depth, and in a tossing sea.

A means was soon devised of communicating with the
gun-boat. A speaking-tube was run up through one of
the air-pipes of the crab, which pipe was then elevated
some distance above the surface. Through this the
director hailed the other vessel, and as the air-pipe
was near the stern of the crab, and therefore at a
distance from the only visible portion of the turtle-
back roof, his voice seemed to come out of the depths
of the ocean.

The surrender was accepted, and the captain of the
gun-boat was ordered to stop his engines and prepare to
be towed. When this order had been given, the crab
moved round to the bow of the gun-boat, and grasping
the cut-water with its forceps, reversed its engines
and began to back rapidly toward the British fleet,
taking with it the captured vessel as a protection
against torpedoes while in transit.

The crab slowed up not far from one of the foremost
of the British ships, and coming round to the quarter
of the gun-boat, the astonished captain of that vessel
was informed, through the speaking-tube, that if
he would give his parole to keep out of this fight, he
would be allowed to proceed to his anchorage in
Portsmouth harbour. The parole was given, and the
dynamite gun-boat, after reporting to the flag-ship,
steamed away to Portsmouth.

The situation now became one which was unparalleled
in the history of naval warfare. On the side of the
British, seven war-ships were disabled and drifting
slowly to the south-east. For half an hour no advance
had been made by the British fleet, for whenever one of
the large vessels had steamed ahead, such vessel had
become the victim of a crab, and the Vice-Admiral
commanding the fleet had signalled not to advance until
farther orders.

The crabs were also lying-to, each to the windward
of, and not far from, one of the British ships. They
had ceased to make any attacks, and were resting
quietly under protection of the enemy. This, with the
fact that the repeller still lay four miles away,
without any apparent intention of taking part in the
battle, gave the situation its peculiar character.

The British Vice-Admiral did not intend to remain
in this quiescent condition. It was, of course,
useless to order forth his ironclads, simply to
see them disabled and set adrift. There was another
arm of the service which evidently could be used with
better effect upon this peculiar foe than could the
great battle-ships.

But before doing anything else, he must provide for
the safety of those of his vessels which had been
rendered helpless by the crabs, and some of which were
now drifting dangerously near to each other.
Despatches had been sent to Portsmouth for tugs, but it
would not do to wait until these arrived, and a
sufficient number of ironclads were detailed to tow
their injured consorts into port.

When this order had been given, the Vice-Admiral
immediately prepared to renew the fight, and this time
his efforts were to be directed entirely against the
repeller. It would be useless to devote any further
attention to the crabs, especially in their present
positions. But if the chief vessel of the Syndicate's
fleet, with its spring armour and its terrible
earthquake bombs, could be destroyed, it was quite
possible that those sea-parasites, the crabs, could
also be disposed of.

Every torpedo-boat was now ordered to the front,
and in a long line, almost abreast of each other,
these swift vessels--the light-infantry of the sea--
advanced upon the solitary and distant foe. If one
torpedo could but reach her hull, the Vice-Admiral, in
spite of seven disabled ironclads and a captured gun-
boat, might yet gaze proudly at his floating flag, even
if his own ship should be drifting broadside to the

The line of torpedo-boats, slightly curving inward,
had advanced about a mile, when Repeller No. 11 awoke
from her seeming sleep, and began to act. The two
great guns at her bow were trained upward, so that a
bomb discharged from them would fall into the sea a
mile and a half ahead. Slowly turning her bow from
side to side, so that the guns would cover a range of
nearly half a circle, the instantaneous motor-bombs of
the repeller were discharged, one every half minute.

One of the most appalling characteristics of the
motor-bombs was the silence which accompanied their
discharge and action. No noise was heard, except the
flash of sound occasioned by the removal of the
particles of the object aimed at, and the subsequent
roar of wind or fall of water.

As each motor-bomb dropped into the channel, a
dense cloud appeared high in the air, above a roaring,
seething cauldron, hollowed out of the waters and out
of the very bottom of the channel. Into this chasm the
cloud quickly came down, condensed into a vast body of
water, which fell, with the roar of a cyclone, into the
dreadful abyss from which it had been torn, before the
hissing walls of the great hollow had half filled it
with their sweeping surges. The piled-up mass of the
redundant water was still sending its maddened billows
tossing and writhing in every direction toward their
normal level, when another bomb was discharged; another
surging abyss appeared, another roar of wind and water
was heard, and another mountain of furious billows
uplifted itself in a storm of spray and foam, raging
that it had found its place usurped.

Slowly turning, the repeller discharged bomb after
bomb, building up out of the very sea itself a barrier
against its enemies. Under these thundering cataracts,
born in an instant, and coming down all at once in a
plunging storm; into these abysses, with walls of water
and floors of cleft and shivered rocks; through this
wide belt of raging turmoil, thrown into new
frenzy after the discharge of every bomb,--no vessel,
no torpedo, could pass.

The air driven off in every direction by tremendous
and successive concussions came rushing back in
shrieking gales, which tore up the waves into blinding
foam. For miles in every direction the sea swelled and
upheaved into great peaked waves, the repeller rising
upon these almost high enough to look down into the
awful chasms which her bombs were making. A torpedo-
boat caught in one of the returning gales was hurled
forward almost on her beam ends until she was under the
edge of one of the vast masses of descending water.
The flood which, from even the outer limits of this
falling-sea, poured upon and into the unlucky vessel
nearly swamped her, and when she was swept back by the
rushing waves into less stormy waters, her officers and
crew leaped into their boats and deserted her. By rare
good-fortune their boats were kept afloat in the
turbulent sea until they reached the nearest torpedo-

Five minutes afterward a small but carefully aimed
motor-bomb struck the nearly swamped vessel, and with
the roar of all her own torpedoes she passed into

The British Vice-Admiral had carefully watched the
repeller through his glass, and he noticed that
simultaneously with the appearance of the cloud in the
air produced by the action of the motor-bombs there
were two puffs of black smoke from the repeller. These
were signals to the crabs to notify them that a motor-
gun had been discharged, and thus to provide against
accidents in case a bomb should fail to act. One puff
signified that a bomb had been discharged to the north;
two, that it had gone eastward; and so on. if,
therefore, a crab should see a signal of this kind, and
perceive no signs of the action of a bomb, it would be
careful not to approach the repeller from the quarter
indicated. It is true that in case of the failure of a
bomb to act, another bomb would be dropped upon the
same spot, but the instructions of the War Syndicate
provided that every possible precaution should be taken
against accidents.

Of course the Vice-Admiral did not understand these
signals, nor did he know that they were signals, but he
knew that they accompanied the discharge of a motor-
gun. Once he noticed that there was a short
cessation in the hitherto constant succession of water
avalanches, and during this lull he had seen two puffs
from the repeller, and the destruction, at the same
moment, of the deserted torpedo-boat. It was,
therefore, plain enough to him that if a motor-bomb
could be placed so accurately upon one torpedo-boat,
and with such terrible result, other bombs could quite
as easily be discharged upon the other torpedo-boats
which formed the advanced line of the fleet. When the
barrier of storm and cataract again began to stretch
itself in front of the repeller, he knew that not only
was it impossible for the torpedo-boats to send their
missives through this raging turmoil, but that each of
these vessels was itself in danger of instantaneous

Unwilling, therefore, to expose his vessels to
profitless danger, the Vice-Admiral ordered the
torpedo-boats to retire from the front, and the whole
line of them proceeded to a point north of the fleet,
where they lay to.

When this had been done, the repeller ceased the
discharge of bombs; but the sea was still heaving and
tossing after the storm, when a despatch-boat
brought orders from the British Admiralty to the
flagship. Communication between the British fleet and
the shore, and consequently London, had been constant,
and all that had occurred had been quickly made known
to the Admiralty and the Government. The orders now
received by the Vice-Admiral were to the effect that it
was considered judicious to discontinue the conflict
for the day, and that he and his whole fleet should
return to Portsmouth to receive further orders.

In issuing these commands the British Government
was actuated simply by motives of humanity and common
sense. The British fleet was thoroughly prepared for
ordinary naval warfare, but an enemy had inaugurated
another kind of naval warfare, for which it was not
prepared. It was, therefore, decided to withdraw the
ships until they should be prepared for the new kind of
warfare. To allow ironclad after ironclad to be
disabled and set adrift, to subject every ship in the
fleet to the danger of instantaneous destruction, and
all this without the possibility of inflicting injury
upon the enemy, would not be bravery; it would be stupidity.
It was surely possible to devise a means
for destroying the seven hostile ships now in British
waters. Until action for this end could be taken, it
was the part of wisdom for the British navy to confine
itself to the protection of British ports.

When the fleet began to move toward the Isle of
Wight, the six crabs, which had been lying quietly
among and under the protection of their enemies,
withdrew southward, and, making a slight circuit,
joined the repeller.

Each of the disabled ironclads was now in tow of a
sister vessel, or of tugs, except the Llangaron.
This great ship had been disabled so early in the
contest, and her broadside had presented such a vast
surface to the north-west wind, that she had drifted
much farther to the south than any other vessel.
Consequently, before the arrival of the tugs which had
been sent for to tow her into harbour, the Llangaron
was well on her way across the channel. A foggy night
came on, and the next morning she was ashore on the
coast of France, with a mile of water between her and
dry land. Fast-rooted in a great sand-bank, she lay
week after week, with the storms that came in from
the Atlantic, and the storms that came in from the
German Ocean, beating upon her tall side of solid iron,
with no more effect than if it had been a precipice of
rock. Against waves and winds she formed a massive
breakwater, with a wide stretch of smooth sea between
her and the land. There she lay, proof against all the
artillery of Europe, and all the artillery of the sea
and the storm, until a fleet of small vessels had taken
from her her ponderous armament, her coal and stores,
and she had been lightened enough to float upon a high
tide, and to follow three tugs to Portsmouth.

When night came on, Repeller No. 11 and the crabs
dropped down with the tide, and lay to some miles west
of the scene of battle. The fog shut them in fairly
well, but, fearful that torpedoes might be sent out
against them, they showed no lights. There was little
danger, of collision with passing merchantmen, for the
English Channel, at present, was deserted by this class
of vessels.

The next morning the repeller, preceded by two
crabs, bearing between them a submerged net similar to
that used at the Canadian port, appeared off the
eastern end of the Isle of Wight. The anchors of the
net were dropped, and behind it the repeller took her
place, and shortly afterward she sent a flag-of-truce
boat to Portsmouth harbour. This boat carried a note
from the American War Syndicate to the British Government.

In this note it was stated that it was now the
intention of the Syndicate to utterly destroy, by means
of the instantaneous motor, a fortified post upon the
British coast. As this would be done solely for the
purpose of demonstrating the irresistible destructive
power of the motor-bombs, it was immaterial to the
Syndicate what fortified post should be destroyed,
provided it should answer the requirements of the
proposed demonstration. Consequently the British
Government was offered the opportunity of naming the
fortified place which should be destroyed. If said
Government should decline to do this, or delay the
selection for twenty-four hours, the Syndicate would
itself decide upon the place to be operated upon.

Every one in every branch of the British
Government, and, in fact, nearly every thinking person
in the British islands, had been racking his
brains, or her brains, that night, over the astounding
situation; and the note of the Syndicate only added to
the perturbation of the Government. There was a strong
feeling in official circles that the insolent little enemy
must be crushed, if the whole British navy should have
to rush upon it, and all sink together in a common grave.

But there were cooler and more prudent brains at
the head of affairs; and these had already decided that
the contest between the old engines of war and the new
ones was entirely one-sided. The instincts of good
government dictated to them that they should be
extremely wary and circumspect during the further
continuance of this unexampled war. Therefore, when
the note of the Syndicate was considered, it was agreed
that the time had come when good statesmanship and wise
diplomacy would be more valuable to the nation than
torpedoes, armoured ships, or heavy guns.

There was not the slightest doubt that the country
would disagree with the Government, but on the latter
lay the responsibility of the country's safety.
There was nothing, in the opinion of the ablest
naval officers, to prevent the Syndicate's fleet from
coming up the Thames. Instantaneous motor-bombs could
sweep away all forts and citadels, and explode and
destroy all torpedo defences, and London might lie
under the guns of the repeller.

In consequence of this view of the state of
affairs, an answer was sent to the Syndicate's note,
asking that further time be given for the consideration
of the situation, and suggesting that an exhibition of
the power of the motor-bomb was not necessary, as
sufficient proof of this had been given in the
destruction of the Canadian forts, the annihilation of
the Craglevin, and the extraordinary results of the
discharge of said bombs on the preceding day.

To this a reply was sent from the office of the
Syndicate in New York, by means of a cable boat from
the French coast, that on no account could their
purpose be altered or their propositions modified.
Although the British Government might be convinced of
the power of the Syndicate's motor-bombs, it was not
the case with the British people, for it was yet
popularly disbelieved that motor-bombs existed.
This disbelief the Syndicate was determined to
overcome, not only for the furtherance of its own
purposes, but to prevent the downfall of the present
British Ministry, and a probable radical change in the
Government. That such a political revolution, as
undesirable to the Syndicate as to cool-headed and
sensible Englishmen, was imminent, there could be no
doubt. The growing feeling of disaffection, almost
amounting to disloyalty, not only in the opposition
party, but among those who had hitherto been firm
adherents of the Government, was mainly based upon the
idea that the present British rulers had allowed
themselves to be frightened by mines and torpedoes,
artfully placed and exploded. Therefore the Syndicate
intended to set right the public mind upon this
subject. The note concluded by earnestly urging the
designation, without loss of time, of a place of operations.

This answer was received in London in the evening,
and all night it was the subject of earnest and anxious
deliberation in the Government offices. It was at last
decided, amid great opposition, that the Syndicate's
alternative must be accepted, for it
would be the height of folly to allow the repeller to
bombard any port she should choose. When this
conclusion had been reached, the work of selecting a
place for the proposed demonstration of the American
Syndicate occupied but little time. The task was not
difficult. Nowhere in Great Britain was there a
fortified spot of so little importance as Caerdaff, on
the west coast of Wales.

Caerdaff consisted of a large fort on a promontory,
and an immense castellated structure on the other side
of a small bay, with a little fishing village at the
head of said bay. The castellated structure was rather
old, the fortress somewhat less so; and both had long
been considered useless, as there was no probability
that an enemy would land at this point on the coast.

Caerdaff was therefore selected as the spot to be
operated upon. No one could for a moment imagine that
the Syndicate had mined this place; and if it should be
destroyed by motor-bombs, it would prove to the country
that the Government had not been frightened by the
tricks of a crafty enemy.

An hour after the receipt of the note in
which it was stated that Caerdaff had been
selected, the Syndicate's fleet started for that place.
The crabs were elevated to cruising height, the
repeller taken in tow, and by the afternoon of the next
day the fleet was lying off Caerdaff. A note was sent
on shore to the officer in command, stating that the
bombardment would begin at ten o'clock in the morning
of the next day but one, and requesting that
information of the hour appointed be instantly
transmitted to London. When this had been done, the
fleet steamed six or seven miles off shore, where it
lay to or cruised about for two nights and a day.

As soon as the Government had selected Caerdaff for
bombardment, immediate measures were taken to remove
the small garrisons and the inhabitants of the fishing
village from possible danger. When the Syndicate's
note was received by the commandant of the fort, he was
already in receipt of orders from the War Office to
evacuate the fortifications, and to superintend the
removal of the fishermen and their families to a point
of safety farther up the coast.

Caerdaff was a place difficult of access by land,
the nearest railroad stations being fifteen or
twenty miles away; but on the day after the arrival of
the Syndicate's fleet in the offing, thousands of
people made their way to this part of the country,
anxious to see--if perchance they might find an
opportunity to safely see--what might happen at ten
o'clock the next morning. Officers of the army and
navy, Government officials, press correspondents, in
great numbers, and curious and anxious observers of all
classes, hastened to the Welsh coast.

The little towns where the visitors left the trains
were crowded to overflowing, and every possible
conveyance, by which the mountains lying back of
Caerdaff could be reached, was eagerly secured, many
persons, however, being obliged to depend upon their
own legs. Soon after sunrise of the appointed day the
forts, the village, and the surrounding lower country
were entirely deserted, and every point of vantage on
the mountains lying some miles back from the coast was
occupied by excited spectators, nearly every one armed
with a field-glass.

A few of the guns from the fortifications were
transported to an overlooking height, in order that
they might be brought into action in case the

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