Saturday, November 10, 2007



Author of "The Lady or the Tiger," "Rudder Grange,"
"The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs.
Aleshine," "What Might Have Been
Expected," etc., etc.
In the spring of a certain year, not far from the
close of the nineteenth century, when the political
relations between the United States and Great Britain
became so strained that careful observers on both sides
of the Atlantic were forced to the belief that a
serious break in these relations might be looked for at
any time, the fishing schooner Eliza Drum sailed from
a port in Maine for the banks of Newfoundland.
It was in this year that a new system of protection
for American fishing vessels had been adopted in
Washington. Every fleet of these vessels was
accompanied by one or more United States cruisers,
which remained on the fishing grounds, not only
for the purpose of warning American craft who might
approach too near the three-mile limit, but also to
overlook the action of the British naval vessels
on the coast, and to interfere, at least by protest,
with such seizures of American fishing boats as might
appear to be unjust. In the opinion of all persons of
sober judgment, there was nothing in the condition of
affairs at this time so dangerous to the peace of the
two countries as the presence of these American
cruisers in the fishing waters.
The Eliza Drum was late in her arrival on the
fishing grounds, and having, under orders from
Washington, reported to the commander of the
Lennehaha, the United States vessel in charge at that
place, her captain and crew went vigorously to work to
make up for lost time. They worked so vigorously, and
with eyes so single to the catching of fish, that on
the morning of the day after their arrival, they were
hauling up cod at a point which, according to the
nationality of the calculator, might be two and threequarters
or three and one-quarter miles from the
Canadian coast.
In consequence of this inattention to the apparent
extent of the marine mile, the Eliza Drum, a little
before noon, was overhauled and seized by the British
cruiser, Dog Star. A few miles away the
Lennehaha had perceived the dangerous position of the
Eliza Drum, and had started toward her to warn her to
take a less doubtful position. But before she arrived
the capture had taken place. When he reached the spot
where the Eliza Drum had been fishing, the commander
of the Lennehaha made an observation of the distance
from the shore, and calculated it to be more than three
miles. When he sent an officer in a boat to the Dog
Star to state the result of his computations, the
captain of the British vessel replied that he was
satisfied the distance was less than three miles, and
that he was now about to take the Eliza Drum into
On receiving this information, the commander of the
Lennehaha steamed closer to the Dog Star, and
informed her captain, by means of a speaking-trumpet,
that if he took the Eliza Drum into a Canadian port,
he would first have to sail over his ship. To this the
captain of the Dog Star replied that he did not in
the least object to sail over the Lennehaha, and
proceeded to put a prize crew on board the fishing
At this juncture the captain of the Eliza Drum
ran up a large American flag; in five minutes afterward
the captain of the prize crew hauled it down; in less
than ten minutes after this the Lennehaha and the
Dog Star were blazing at each other with their bow
guns. The spark had been struck.
The contest was not a long one. The Dog Star was
of much greater tonnage and heavier armament than her
antagonist, and early in the afternoon she steamed for
St. John's, taking with her as prizes both the Eliza
Drum and the Lennehaha.
All that night, at every point in the United States
which was reached by telegraph, there burned a
smothered fire; and the next morning, when the regular
and extra editions of the newspapers were poured out
upon the land, the fire burst into a roaring blaze.
From lakes to gulf, from ocean to ocean, on mountain
and plain, in city and prairie, it roared and blazed.
Parties, sections, politics, were all forgotten. Every
American formed part of an electric system; the same
fire flashed into every soul. No matter what might be
thought on the morrow, or in the coming days which
might bring better under-standing, this day the
unreasoning fire blazed and roared.
With morning newspapers in their hands, men rushed
from the breakfast-tables into the streets to meet
their fellow-men. What was it that they should do?
Detailed accounts of the affair came rapidly, but
there was nothing in them to quiet the national
indignation; the American flag had been hauled down by
Englishmen, an American naval vessel had been fired
into and captured; that was enough! No matter whether
the Eliza Drum was within the three-mile limit or
not! No matter which vessel fired first! If it were
the Lennehaha, the more honour to her; she ought to
have done it! From platform, pulpit, stump, and
editorial office came one vehement, passionate shout
directed toward Washington.
Congress was in session, and in its halls the fire
roared louder and blazed higher than on mountain or
plain, in city or prairie. No member of the
Government, from President to page, ventured to oppose
the tempestuous demands of the people. The day for
argument upon the exciting question had been a long
weary one, and it had gone by in less than a week
the great shout of the people was answered by a
declaration of war against Great Britain.
When this had been done, those who demanded war
breathed easier, but those who must direct the war
breathed harder.
It was indeed a time for hard breathing, but the
great mass of the people perceived no reason why this
should be. Money there was in vast abundance. In
every State well-drilled men, by thousands, stood ready
for the word to march, and the military experience and
knowledge given by a great war was yet strong upon the
To the people at large the plan of the war appeared
a very obvious and a very simple one. Canada had given
the offence, Canada should be made to pay the penalty.
In a very short time, one hundred thousand, two hundred
thousand, five hundred thousand men, if necessary,
could be made ready for the invasion of Canada. From
platform, pulpit, stump, and editorial office came the
cry: "On to Canada!"
At the seat of Government, however, the plan of the
war did not appear so obvious, so simple. Throwing a
great army into Canada was all well enough, and that
army would probably do well enough; but the question
which produced hard breathing in the executive branch
of the Government was the immediate protection of the
sea-coast, Atlantic, Gulf, and even Pacific.
In a storm of national indignation war had been
declared against a power which at this period of her
history had brought up her naval forces to a point
double in strength to that of any other country in the
world. And this war had been declared by a nation
which, comparatively speaking, possessed no naval
strength at all.
For some years the United States navy had been
steadily improving, but this improvement was not
sufficient to make it worthy of reliance at this
crisis. As has been said, there was money enough, and
every ship-yard in the country could be set to work to
build ironclad men-of-war: but it takes a long time to
build ships, and England's navy was afloat. It was the
British keel that America had to fear.
By means of the continental cables it was known
that many of the largest mail vessels of the British
transatlantic lines, which had been withdrawn upon the
declaration of war, were preparing in British ports
to transport troops to Canada. It was not impossible
that these great steamers might land an army in Canada
before an American army could be organized and marched
to that province. It might be that the United States
would be forced to defend her borders, instead of
invading those of the enemy.
In every fort and navy-yard all was activity; the
hammering of iron went on by day and by night; but what
was to be done when the great ironclads of England
hammered upon our defences? How long would it be
before the American flag would be seen no more upon the
high seas?
It is not surprising that the Government found its
position one of perilous responsibility. A wrathful
nation expected of it more than it could perform.
All over the country, however, there were
thoughtful men, not connected with the Government, who
saw the perilous features of the situation; and day by
day these grew less afraid of being considered
traitors, and more willing to declare their convictions
of the country's danger. Despite the continuance of
the national enthusiasm, doubts, perplexities, and
fears began to show themselves.
In the States bordering upon Canada a reactionary
feeling became evident. Unless the United States navy
could prevent England from rapidly pouring into Canada,
not only her own troops, but perhaps those of allied
nations, these Northern States might become the scene
of warfare, and whatever the issue of the contest,
their lands might be ravished, their people suffer.
From many quarters urgent demands were now pressed
upon the Government. From the interior there were
clamours for troops to be massed on the Northern
frontier, and from the seaboard cities there came a cry
for ships that were worthy to be called men-of-war,--
ships to defend the harbours and bays, ships to repel
an invasion by sea. Suggestions were innumerable.
There was no time to build, it was urged; the
Government could call upon friendly nations. But wise
men smiled sadly at these suggestions; it was difficult
to find a nation desirous of a war with England.
In the midst of the enthusiasms, the fears, and the
suggestions, came reports of the capture of
American merchantmen by fast British cruisers. These
reports made the American people more furious, the
American Government more anxious.
Almost from the beginning of this period of
national turmoil, a party of gentlemen met daily in one
of the large rooms in a hotel in New York. At first
there were eleven of these men, all from the great
Atlantic cities, but their number increased by arrivals
from other parts of the country, until at last they,
numbered twenty-three. These gentlemen were all great
capitalists, and accustomed to occupying themselves
with great enterprises. By day and by night they met
together with closed doors, until they had matured the
scheme which they had been considering. As soon as
this work was done, a committee was sent to Washington,
to submit a plan to the Government.
These twenty-three men had formed themselves into a
Syndicate, with the object of taking entire charge of
the war between the United States and Great Britain.
This proposition was an astounding one, but the
Government was obliged to treat it with respectful
consideration. The men who offered it were a power
in the land,--a power which no government could afford
to disregard.
The plan of the Syndicate was comprehensive,
direct, and simple. It offered to assume the entire
control and expense of the war, and to effect a
satisfactory peace within one year. As a guarantee
that this contract would be properly performed, an
immense sum of money would be deposited in the Treasury
at Washington. Should the Syndicate be unsuccessful,
this sum would be forfeited, and it would receive no
pay for anything it had done.
The sum to be paid by the Government to the
Syndicate, should it bring the war to a satisfactory
conclusion, would depend upon the duration of
hostilities. That is to say, that as the shorter the
duration of the war, the greater would be the benefit
to the country, therefore, the larger must be the pay
to the Syndicate. According to the proposed contract,
the Syndicate would receive, if the war should continue
for a year, one-quarter the sum stipulated to be paid
if peace should be declared in three months.
If at any time during the conduct of the war by the
Syndicate an American seaport should be taken by
the enemy, or a British force landed on any point of
the seacoast, the contract should be considered at an
end, and security and payment forfeited. If any point
on the northern boundary of the United States should be
taken and occupied by the enemy, one million dollars of
the deposited security should be forfeited for every
such occupation, but the contract should continue.
It was stipulated that the land and naval forces of
the United States should remain under the entire
control of the Government, but should be maintained as
a defensive force, and not brought into action unless
any failure on the part of the Syndicate should render
such action necessary.
The state of feeling in governmental circles, and
the evidences of alarm and distrust which were becoming
apparent in Congress and among the people, exerted an
important influence in favour of the Syndicate. The
Government caught at its proposition, not as if it were
a straw, but as if it were a life-raft. The men who
offered to relieve the executive departments of their
perilous responsibilities were men of great ability,
prominent positions, and vast resources, whose
vast enterprises had already made them known all over
the globe. Such men were not likely to jeopardize
their reputations and fortunes in a case like this,
unless they had well-founded reasons for believing that
they would be successful. Even the largest amount
stipulated to be paid them in case of success would be
less than the ordinary estimates for the military and
naval operations which had been anticipated; and in
case of failure, the amount forfeited would go far to
repair the losses which might be sustained by the
citizens of the various States.
At all events, should the Syndicate be allowed to
take immediate control of the war, there would be time
to put the army and navy, especially the latter, in
better condition to carry on the contest in case of the
failure of the Syndicate. Organization and
construction might still go on, and, should it be
necessary, the army and navy could step into the
contest fresh and well prepared.
All branches of the Government united in accepting
the offer of the Syndicate. The contract was signed,
and the world waited to see what would happen next.
The influence which for years had been exerted by
the interests controlled by the men composing the
Syndicate, had its effect in producing a popular
confidence in the power of the members of the Syndicate
to conduct a war as successfully as they had conducted
other gigantic enterprises. Therefore, although
predictions of disaster came from many quarters, the
American public appeared willing to wait with but
moderate impatience for the result of this novel
The Government now proceeded to mass troops at
important points on the northern frontier; forts were
supplied with men and armaments, all coast defences
were put in the best possible condition, the navy was
stationed at important ports, and work at the shipyards
went on. But without reference to all this, the
work of the Syndicate immediately began.
This body of men were of various politics and of
various pursuits in life. But politics were no more
regarded in the work they had undertaken than they
would have been in the purchase of land or of railroad
iron. No manifestoes of motives and intentions were
issued to the public. The Syndicate simply went to
work. There could be no doubt that early success
would be a direct profit to it, but there could also be
no doubt that its success would be a vast benefit and
profit, not only to the business enterprises in which
these men were severally engaged, but to the business
of the whole country. To save the United States from a
dragging war, and to save themselves from the effects
of it, were the prompting motives for the formation of
the Syndicate.
Without hesitation, the Syndicate determined that
the war in which it was about to engage should be one
of defence by means of offence. Such a war must
necessarily be quick and effective; and with all the
force of their fortunes, their minds, and their bodies,
its members went to work to wage this war quickly and
All known inventions and improvements in the art of
war had been thoroughly considered by the Syndicate,
and by the eminent specialists whom it had enlisted in
its service. Certain recently perfected engines of
war, novel in nature, were the exclusive property of
the Syndicate. It was known, or surmised, in certain
quarters that the Syndicate had secured possession of
important warlike inventions; but what they were
and how they acted was a secret carefully guarded and
The first step of the Syndicate was to purchase
from the United States Government ten war-vessels.
These were of medium size and in good condition, but
they were of an old-fashioned type, and it had not been
considered expedient to put them in commission. This
action caused surprise and disappointment in many
quarters. It had been supposed that the Syndicate,
through its agents scattered all over the world, would
immediately acquire, by purchase or lease, a fleet of
fine ironclads culled from various maritime powers.
But the Syndicate having no intention of involving, or
attempting to involve, other countries in this quarrel,
paid no attention to public opinion, and went to work
in its own way.
Its vessels, eight of which were on the Atlantic
coast and two on the Pacific, were rapidly prepared for
the peculiar service in which they were to be engaged.
The resources of the Syndicate were great, and in a
very short time several of their vessels, already
heavily plated with steel, were furnished with an
additional outside armour, formed of strips of elastic
steel, each reaching from the gunwales nearly to
the surface of the water. These strips, about a foot
wide, and placed an inch or two apart, were each backed
by several powerful air-buffers, so that a ball
striking one or more of them would be deprived of much of its
momentum. The experiments upon the steel spring and
buffers adopted by the Syndicate showed that the force
of the heaviest cannonading was almost deadened by the
powerful elasticity of this armour.
The armament of each vessel consisted of but one
gun, of large calibre, placed on the forward deck, and
protected by a bomb-proof covering. Each vessel was
manned by a captain and crew from the merchant service,
from whom no warlike duties were expected. The
fighting operations were in charge of a small body of
men, composed of two or three scientific specialists,
and some practical gunners and their assistants. A few
bomb-proof canopies and a curved steel deck completed
the defences of the vessel.
Besides equipping this little navy, the Syndicate
set about the construction of certain sea-going vessels
of an extraordinary kind. So great were the facilities
at its command, and so thorough and complete its
methods, that ten or a dozen ship-yards and foundries
were set to work simultaneously to build one of these
ships. In a marvellously short time the Syndicate
possessed several of them ready for action.
These vessels became technically known as "crabs."
They were not large, and the only part of them which
projected above the water was the middle of an
elliptical deck, slightly convex, and heavily mailed
with ribs of steel. These vessels were fitted with
electric engines of extraordinary power, and were
capable of great speed. At their bows, fully protected
by the overhanging deck, was the machinery by which
their peculiar work was to be accomplished. The
Syndicate intended to confine itself to marine
operations, and for the present it was contented with
these two classes of vessels.
The armament for each of the large vessels, as has
been said before, consisted of a single gun of long
range, and the ammunition was confined entirely to a
new style of projectile, which had never yet been used
in warfare. The material and construction of this
projectile were known only to three members of the
Syndicate, who had invented and perfected it, and it
was on account of their possession of this secret
that they had been invited to join that body.
This projectile was not, in the ordinary sense of
the word, an explosive, and was named by its inventors,
"The Instantaneous Motor." It was discharged from an
ordinary cannon, but no gunpowder or other explosive
compound was used to propel it. The bomb possessed, in
itself the necessary power of propulsion, and the gun
was used merely to give it the proper direction.
These bombs were cylindrical in form, and pointed
at the outer end. They were filled with hundreds of
small tubes, each radiating outward from a central
line. Those in the middle third of the bomb pointed
directly outward, while those in its front portion were
inclined forward at a slight angle, and those in the
rear portion backward at the same angle. One tube at
the end of the bomb, and pointing directly backward,
furnished the motive power.
Each of these tubes could exert a force sufficient
to move an ordinary train of passenger cars one mile,
and this power could be exerted instantaneously, so
that the difference in time in the starting of a train
at one end of the mile and its arrival at the other
would not be appreciable. The difference in
concussionary force between a train moving at the rate
of a mile in two minutes, or even one minute, and
another train which moves a mile in an instant, can
easily be imagined.
In these bombs, those tubes which might direct
their powers downward or laterally upon the earth were
capable of instantaneously propelling every portion of
solid ground or rock to a distance of two or three
hundred yards, while the particles of objects on the
surface of the earth were instantaneously removed to a
far greater distance. The tube which propelled the
bomb was of a force graduated according to
circumstances, and it would carry a bomb to as great a
distance as accurate observation for purposes of aim
could be made. Its force was brought into action
while in the cannon by means of electricity while the
same effect was produced in the other tubes by the
concussion of the steel head against the object aimed
What gave the tubes their power was the jealously
guarded secret.
The method of aiming was as novel as the bomb
itself. In this process nothing depended on the
eyesight of the gunner; the personal equation was
entirely eliminated. The gun was so mounted that its
direction was accurately indicated by graduated scales;
there was an instrument which was acted upon by the
dip, rise, or roll of the vessel, and which showed at
any moment the position of the gun with reference to
the plane of the sea-surface.
Before the discharge of the cannon an observation
was taken by one of the scientific men, which
accurately determined the distance to the object to be
aimed at, and reference to a carefully prepared
mathematical table showed to what points on the
graduated scales the gun should be adjusted, and the
instant that the that the muzzle of the cannon was in
the position that it was when the observation was
taken, a button was touched and the bomb was
instantaneously placed on the spot aimed at. The
exactness with which the propelling force of the bomb
could be determined was an important factor in this
method of aiming.
As soon as three of the spring-armoured vessels and
five "crabs" were completed, the Syndicate felt itself
ready to begin operations. It was indeed time. The
seas had been covered with American and British
merchantmen hastening homeward, or to friendly
ports, before the actual commencement of hostilities.
But all had not been fortunate enough to reach safety
within the limits of time allowed, and several American
merchantmen had been already captured by fast British
The members of the Syndicate well understood that
if a war was to be carried on as they desired, they
must strike the first real blow. Comparatively
speaking, a very short time had elapsed since the
declaration of war, and the opportunity to take the
initiative was still open.
It was in order to take this initiative that, in
the early hours of a July morning, two of the
Syndicate's armoured vessels, each accompanied by a
crab, steamed out of a New England port, and headed for
the point on the Canadian coast where it had been
decided to open the campaign.
The vessels of the Syndicate had no individual
names. The spring-armoured ships were termed
"repellers," and were numbered, and the crabs were
known by the letters of the alphabet. Each repeller
was in charge of a Director of Naval Operations; and
the whole naval force of the Syndicate was under the
command of a Director-in-chief. On this momentous
occasion this officer was on board of Repeller No. 1,
and commanded the little fleet.
The repellers had never been vessels of great
speed, and their present armour of steel strips, the
lower portion of which was frequently under water,
considerably retarded their progress; but each of them
was taken in tow by one of the swift and powerful
crabs, and with this assistance they made very good
time, reaching their destination on the morning of the
second day.
It was on a breezy day, with a cloudy sky, and the
sea moderately smooth, that the little fleet of the
Syndicate lay to off the harbour of one of the
principal Canadian seaports. About five miles away the
headlands on either side of the mouth of the harbour
could be plainly seen. It had been decided that
Repeller No. 1 should begin operations. Accordingly,
that vessel steamed about a mile nearer the harbour,
accompanied by Crab A. The other repeller and crab
remained in their first position, ready to act in case
they should be needed.
The approach of two vessels, evidently men-of-war,
and carrying the American flag, was perceived from the
forts and redoubts at the mouth of the harbour,
and the news quickly spread to the city and to the
vessels in port. Intense excitement ensued on land and
water, among the citizens of the place as well as its
defenders. Every man who had a post of duty was
instantly at it; and in less than half an hour the
British man-of-war Scarabaeus, which had been lying
at anchor a short distance outside the harbour, came
steaming out to meet the enemy. There were other naval
vessels in port, but they required more time to be put
in readiness for action.
As soon as the approach of Scarabaeus was
perceived by Repeller No. 1, a boat bearing a white
flag was lowered from that vessel and was rapidly rowed
toward the British ship. When the latter saw the boat
coming she lay to, and waited its arrival. A note was
delivered to the captain of the Scarabaeus, in which
it was stated that the Syndicate, which had undertaken
on the part of the United States the conduct of the war
between that country and Great Britain, was now
prepared to demand the surrender of this city with its
forts and defences and all vessels within its harbour,
and, as a first step, the immediate surrender of the
vessel to the commander of which this note was delivered.
The overwhelming effrontery of this demand caused
the commander of the Scarabaeus to doubt whether he
had to deal with a raving lunatic or a blustering fool;
but he informed the person in charge of the flag-oftruce
boat, that he would give him fifteen minutes in
which to get back to his vessel, and that he would then
open fire upon that craft.
The men who rowed the little boat were not men-ofwar's
men, and were unaccustomed to duties of this
kind. In eight minutes they had reached their vessel,
and were safe on board.
Just seven minutes afterward the first shot came
from the Scarabaeus. It passed over Repeller No. 1,
and that vessel, instead of replying, immediately
steamed nearer her adversary. The Director-in-chief
desired to determine the effect of an active cannonade
upon the new armour, and therefore ordered the vessel
placed in such a position that the Englishman might
have the best opportunity for using it as a target.
The Scarabaeus lost no time in availing herself
of the facilities offered. She was a large and
powerful ship, with a heavy armament; and, soon getting
the range of the Syndicate's vessel, she hurled ball
after ball upon her striped side. Repeller No. 1 made
no reply, but quietly submitted to the terrible
bombardment. Some of the great shot jarred her from
bow to stern, but not one of them broke a steel spring,
nor penetrated the heavy inside plates.
After half an hour of this, work the Director-inchief
became satisfied that the new armour had well
acquitted itself in the severe trial to which it had
been subjected. Some of the air-buffers had been
disabled, probably on account of faults in their
construction, but these could readily be replaced, and
no further injury had been done the vessel. It was not
necessary, therefore, to continue the experiment any
longer, and besides, there was danger that the
Englishman, perceiving that his antagonist did not
appear to be affected by his fire, would approach
closer and endeavour to ram her. This was to be
avoided, for the Scarabaeus was a much larger vessel
than Repeller No. 1, and able to run into the latter
and sink her by mere preponderance of weight.
It was therefore decided to now test the powers of
the crabs. Signals were made from Repeller No. 1 to
Crab A, which had been lying with the larger vessel between it
and the enemy. These signals were made by jets of
dense black smoke, which were ejected from a small pipe
on the repeller. These slender columns of smoke
preserved their cylindrical forms for some moments, and
were visible at a great distance by day or night, being
illumined in the latter case by electric light. The
length and frequency of these jets were regulated by an
instrument in the Director's room. Thus, by means of
long and short puffs, with the proper use of intervals,
a message could be projected into the air as a
telegraphic instrument would mark it upon paper.
In this manner Crab A was ordered to immediately
proceed to the attack of the Scarabaeus. The almost
submerged vessel steamed rapidly from behind her
consort, and made for the British man-of-war.
When the latter vessel perceived the approach of
this turtle-backed object, squirting little jets of
black smoke as she replied to the orders from the
repeller, there was great amazement on board. The crab
had not been seen before, but as it came rapidly on
there was no time for curiosity or discussion, and
several heavy guns were brought to bear upon it. It
was difficult to hit a rapidly moving flat object
scarcely above the surface of the water; and although
several shot struck the crab, they glanced off
without in the least interfering with its progress.
Crab A soon came so near the Scarabaeus that it
was impossible to depress the guns of the latter so as
to strike her. The great vessel was, therefore, headed
toward its assailant, and under a full head of steam
dashed directly at it to run it down. But the crab
could turn as upon a pivot, and shooting to one side
allowed the surging man-of-war to pass it.
Perceiving instantly that it would be difficult to
strike this nimble and almost submerged adversary, the
commander of the Scarabaeus thought it well to let it
alone for the present, and to bear down with all speed
upon the repeller. But it was easier to hit the crab
than to leave it behind. It was capable of great
speed, and, following the British vessel, it quickly
came up with her.
The course of the Scarabaeus was instantly
changed, and every effort was made to get the vessel
into a position to run down the crab. But this was not
easy for so large a ship, and Crab A seemed to have no
difficulty in keeping close to her stern.
Several machine-guns, especially adopted for
firing at torpedo-boats or any hostile craft which
might be discovered close to a vessel, were now brought
to bear upon the crab, and ball after ball was hurled
at her. Some of these struck, but glanced off without
penetrating her tough armour.
These manoeuvres had not continued long, when the
crew of the crab was ready to bring into action the
peculiar apparatus of that peculiar craft. An enormous
pair of iron forceps, each massive limb of which
measured twelve feet or more in length, was run out in
front of the crab at a depth of six or eight feet
below the surface. These forceps were acted upon by an
electric engine of immense power, by which they could
be shut, opened, projected, withdrawn, or turned and
The crab darted forward, and in the next instant
the great teeth of her pincers were fastened with a
tremendous grip upon the rudder and rudder-post of the
Then followed a sudden twist, which sent a thrill
through both vessels; a crash; a backward jerk; the
snapping of a chain; and in a moment the great rudder,
with half of the rudder-post attached, was torn from
the vessel, and as the forceps opened it dropped to
leeward and hung dangling by one chain.
Again the forceps opened wide; again there was a
rush; and this time the huge jaws closed upon the
rapidly revolving screw-propeller. There was a
tremendous crash, and the small but massive crab turned
over so far that for an instant one of its sides was
plainly visible above the water. The blades of the
propeller were crushed and shivered; those parts of the
steamer's engines connecting with the propeller-shaft
were snapped and rent apart, while the propellershaft
itself was broken by the violent stoppage.
The crab, which had quickly righted, now backed,
still holding the crushed propeller in its iron grasp,
and as it moved away from the Scarabaeus, it
extracted about forty feet of its propeller-shaft;
then, opening its massive jaws, it allowed the useless
mass of iron to drop to the bottom of the sea.
Every man on board the Scarabaeus was wild with
amazement and excitement. Few could comprehend what
had happened, but this very quickly became evident. So
far as motive power was concerned, the Scarabaeus was
totally, disabled. She could not direct her course,
for her rudder was gone, her propeller was gone, her
engines were useless, and she could do no more than
float as wind or tide might move her. Moreover, there
was a jagged hole in her stern where the shaft had
been, and through this the water was pouring into the
vessel. As a man-of-war the Scarabaeus was worthless.
Orders now came fast from Repeller No. 1, which had
moved nearer to the scene of conflict. It was to be
supposed that the disabled ship was properly furnished
with bulk-heads, so that the water would penetrate
no farther than the stern compartment, and that,
therefore, she was in no danger of sinking. Crab A was
ordered to make fast to the bow of the Scarabaeus,
and tow her toward two men-of-war who were rapidly
approaching from the harbour.
This proceeding astonished the commander and
officers of the Scarabaeus almost as much as the
extraordinary attack which had been made upon their
ship. They had expected a demand to surrender and haul
down their flag; but the Director-in-chief on board
Repeller No. 1 was of the opinion that with her
propeller extracted it mattered little what flag she
flew. His work with the Scarabaeus was over; for it
had been ordered by the Syndicate that its vessels
should not encumber themselves with prizes.
Towed by the powerful crab, which apparently had no
fear that its disabled adversary might fire upon it,
the Scarabaeus moved toward the harbour, and when it
had come within a quarter of a mile of the foremost
British vessel, Crab A cast off and steamed back to
Repeller No. 1.
The other English vessels soon came up, and
each lay to and sent a boat to the Scarabaeus. After
half an hour's consultation, in which the amazement of
those on board the damaged vessel was communicated to
the officers and crews of her two consorts, it was
determined that the smaller of these should tow the
disabled ship into port, while the other one, in
company with a man-of-war just coming out of the
harbour, should make an attack upon Repeller No. 1.
It had been plainly proved that ordinary shot and
shell had no effect upon this craft; but it had not
been proved that she could withstand the rams of
powerful ironclads. If this vessel, that apparently
carried no guns, or, at least, had used none, could be
crushed, capsized, sunk, or in any way put out of the
fight, it was probable that the dangerous submerged
nautical machine would not care to remain in these
waters. If it remained it must be destroyed by torpedoes.
Signals were exchanged between the two English
vessels, and in a very short time they were steaming
toward the repeller. It was a dangerous thing for two
vessels of their size to come close enough together for
both to ram an enemy at the same time, but it was
determined to take the risks and do this, if possible;
for the destruction of the repeller was obviously the
first duty in hand.
As the two men-of-war rapidly approached Repeller
No. 1, they kept up a steady fire upon her; for if in
this way they could damage her, the easier would be
their task. With a firm reliance upon the efficacy of
the steel-spring armour, the Director-in-chief felt no
fear of the enemy's shot and shell; but he was not at
all willing that his vessel should be rammed, for the
consequences would probably be disastrous. Accordingly
he did not wait for the approach of the two vessels,
but steering seaward, he signalled for the other crab.
When Crab B made its appearance, puffing its little
black jets of smoke, as it answered the signals of the
Director-in-chief, the commanders of the two British
vessels were surprised. They had imagined that there
was only one of these strange and terrible enemies, and
had supposed that she would be afraid to make her
peculiar attack upon one of them, because while doing
so she would expose herself to the danger of being run
down by the other. But the presence of two of these
almost submerged engines of destruction entirely
changed the situation.
But the commanders of the British ships were brave
men. They had started to run down the strangely
armoured American craft, and run her down they would,
if they could. They put on more steam, and went ahead
at greater speed. In such a furious onslaught the
crabs might not dare to attack them.
But they did not understand the nature nor the
powers of these enemies. In less than twenty minutes
Crab A had laid hold of one of the men-of-war, and Crab
B of the other. The rudders of both were shattered and
torn away; and while the blades of one propeller were
crushed to pieces, the other, with nearly half its
shaft, was drawn out and dropped into the ocean.
Helplessly the two men-of-war rose and fell upon the
In obedience to orders from the repeller, each crab
took hold of one of the disabled vessels, and towed it
near the mouth of the harbour, where it was left.
The city was now in a state of feverish excitement,
which was intensified by the fact that a majority of
the people did not understand what had happened, while
those to whom this had been made plain could not
comprehend why such a thing should have been allowed to
happen. Three of Her Majesty's ships of war, equipped
and ready for action, had sailed out of the harbour,
and an apparently insignificant enemy, without firing a
gun, had put them into such a condition that they were
utterly unfit for service, and must be towed into a dry
dock. How could the Government, the municipality, the
army, or the navy explain this?
The anxiety, the excitement, the nervous desire to
know what had happened, and what might be expected
next, spread that evening to every part of the Dominion
reached by telegraph.
The military authorities in charge of the defences
of the city were as much disturbed and amazed by what
had happened as any civilian could possibly be, but
they had no fears for the safety of the place, for the
enemy's vessels could not possibly enter, nor even
approach, the harbour. The fortifications on the
heights mounted guns much heavier than those on the
men-of-war, and shots from these fired from an
elevation might sink even those "underwater devils."
But, more than on the forts, they relied upon their
admirable system of torpedoes and submarine batteries.
With these in position and ready for action, as they
now were, it was impossible for an enemy's vessel,
floating on the water or under it, to enter the harbour
without certain destruction.
Bulletins to this effect were posted in the city,
and somewhat allayed the popular anxiety, although many
people, who were fearful of what might happen next,
left by the evening trains for the interior. That
night the news of this extraordinary affair was cabled
to Europe, and thence back to the United States, and
all over the world. In many quarters the account was
disbelieved, and in no quarter was it thoroughly
understood, for it must be borne in mind that the
methods of operation employed by the crabs were not
evident to those on board the disabled vessels. But
everywhere there was the greatest desire to know what
would be done next.
It was the general opinion that the two armoured
vessels were merely tenders to the submerged machines
which had done the mischief. Having fired no guns, nor
taken any active part in the combat, there was every
reason to believe that they were intended merely as
bomb-proof store-ships for their formidable consorts.
As these submerged vessels could not attack a town, nor
reduce fortifications, but could exercise their power
only against vessels afloat, it was plain enough to see
that the object of the American Syndicate was to
blockade the port. That they would be able to maintain
the blockade when the full power of the British navy
should be brought to bear upon them was generally
doubted, though it was conceded in the most wrathful
circles that, until the situation should be altered, it
would be unwise to risk valuable war vessels in
encounters with the diabolical sea-monsters now lying
off the port.
In the New York office of the Syndicate there was
great satisfaction. The news received was incorrect
and imperfect, but it was evident that, so far,
everything had gone well.
About nine o'clock the next morning, Repeller No.
1, with her consort half a mile astern, and preceded by
the two crabs, one on either bow, approached to within
two miles of the harbour mouth. The crabs, a quarter
of a mile ahead of the repeller, moved slowly; for
between them they bore an immense net, three or
four hundred feet long, and thirty feet deep, composed
of jointed steel rods. Along the upper edge of this
net was a series of air-floats, which were so graduated that they
were sunk by the weight of the net a few feet below the
surface of the water, from which position they held the
net suspended vertically.
This net, which was intended to protect the
repeller against the approach of submarine torpedoes,
which might be directed from the shore, was anchored at
each end, two very small buoys indicating its position.
The crabs then falling astern, Repeller No. 1 lay to,
with the sunken net between her and the shore, and
prepared to project the first instantaneous motor-bomb
ever used in warfare.
The great gun in the bow of the vessel was loaded
with one of the largest and most powerful motor-bombs,
and the spot to be aimed at was selected. This was a
point in the water just inside of the mouth of the
harbour, and nearly a mile from the land on either
side. The distance of this point from the vessel being
calculated, the cannon was adjusted at the angle called
for by the scale of distances and levels, and the
instrument indicating rise, fall, and direction was
then put in connection with it.
Now the Director-in-chief stepped forward to the
button, by pressing which the power of the motor was
developed. The chief of the scientific corps then
showed him the exact point upon the scale which would
be indicated when the gun was in its proper position,
and the piece was then moved upon its bearings so
as to approximate as nearly as possible this direction.
The bow of the vessel now rose upon the swell of
the sea, and the instant that the index upon the scale
reached the desired point, the Director-in-chief
touched the button.
There was no report, no smoke, no visible sign that
the motor had left the cannon; but at that instant
there appeared, to those who were on the lookout, from
a fort about a mile away, a vast aperture in the waters
of the bay, which was variously described as from one
hundred yards to five hundred yards in diameter. At
that same instant, in the neighbouring headlands and
islands far up the shores of the bay, and in every
street and building of the city, there was felt a sharp
shock, as if the underlying rocks had been struck by a
gigantic trip-hammer.
At the same instant the sky above the spot where
the motor had descended was darkened by a widespreading
cloud. This was formed of that portion of
the water of the bay which had been instantaneously
raised to the height of about a thousand feet. The
sudden appearance of this cloud was even more terrible
than the yawning chasm in the waters of the bay or
the startling shock; but it did not remain long in
view. It had no sooner reached its highest elevation
than it began to descend. There was a strong seabreeze
blowing, and in its descent this vast mass of
water was impelled toward the land.
It came down, not as rain, but as the waters of a
vast cataract, as though a mountain lake, by an
earthquake shock, had been precipitated in a body upon
a valley. Only one edge of it reached the land, and
here the seething flood tore away earth, trees, and
rocks, leaving behind it great chasms and gullies as it
descended to the sea.
The bay itself, into which the vast body of the
water fell, became a scene of surging madness. The
towering walls of water which had stood up all around
the suddenly created aperture hurled themselves back
into the abyss, and down into the great chasm at the
bottom of the bay, which had been made when the motor
sent its shock along the great rock beds. Down upon,
and into, this roaring, boiling tumult fell the
tremendous cataract from above, and the harbour became
one wild expanse of leaping maddened waves, hissing
their whirling spray high into the air.
During these few terrific moments other things
happened which passed unnoticed in the general
consternation. All along the shores of the bay and in
front of the city the waters seemed to be sucked away,
slowly returning as the sea forced them to their level,
and at many points up and down the harbour there were
submarine detonations and upheavals of the water.
These were caused by the explosion, by concussion,
of every torpedo and submarine battery in the harbour;
and it was with this object in view that the
instantaneous motor-bomb had been shot into the mouth
of the bay.
The effects of the discharge of the motor-bomb
astonished and even startled those on board the
repellers and the crabs. At the instant of touching
the button a hydraulic shock was felt on Repeller No.
1. This was supposed to be occasioned the discharge of
the motor, but it was also felt on the other vessels.
It was the same shock that had been felt on shore, but
less in degree. A few moments after there was a great
heaving swell of the sea, which tossed and rolled the
four vessels, and lifted the steel protecting net
so high that for an instant parts of it showed
themselves above the surface like glistening sea-ghosts.
Experiments with motor-bombs had been made in
unsettled mountainous districts, but this was the first
one which had ever exerted its power under water.
On shore, in the forts, and in the city no one for
an instant supposed that the terrific phenomenon which
had just occurred was in any way due to the vessels of
the Syndicate. The repellers were in plain view, and
it was evident that neither of them had fired a gun.
Besides, the firing of cannon did not produce such
effects. It was the general opinion that there had
been an earthquake shock, accompanied by a cloud-burst
and extraordinary convulsions of the sea. Such a
combination of elementary disturbances had never been
known in these parts; and a great many persons were
much more frightened than if they had understood what
had really happened.
In about half an hour after the discharge of the
motor-bomb, when the sea had resumed its usual quiet, a
boat carrying a white flag left Repeller No. 1, rowed
directly over the submerged net, and made for the
harbour. When the approach of this flag-of-truce was
perceived from the fort nearest the mouth of the
harbour, it occasioned much surmise. Had the
earthquake brought these Syndicate knaves to their
senses? Or were they about to make further absurd and
outrageous demands? Some irate officers were of the
opinion that enemies like these should be considered no
better than pirates, and that their flag-of-truce
should be fired upon. But the commandant of the fort
paid no attention to such counsels, and sent a
detachment with a white flag down to the beach to meet
the approaching boat and learn its errand.
The men in the boat had nothing to do but to
deliver a letter from the Director-in-chief to the
commandant of the fort, and then row back again. No
answer was required.
When the commandant read the brief note, he made no
remark. In fact, he could think of no appropriate
remark to make. The missive simply informed him that
at ten o'clock and eighteen minutes A. M., of that day,
the first bomb from the marine forces of the Syndicate
had been discharged into the waters of the harbour.
At, or about, two o'clock P.M., the second bomb would
be discharged at Fort Pilcher. That was all.
What this extraordinary message meant could not be
imagined by any officer of the garrison. If the people
on board the ships were taking advantage of the
earthquake, and supposed that they could induce British
soldiers to believe that it had been caused by one of
their bombs, then were they idiots indeed. They would
fire their second shot at Fort Pilcher! This was
impossible, for they had not yet fired their first
shot. These Syndicate people were evidently very
tricky, and the defenders of the port must therefore be
very cautious.
Fort Pilcher was a very large and unfinished
fortification, on a bluff on the opposite side of the
harbour. Work had been discontinued on it as soon as
the Syndicate's vessels had appeared off the port, for
it was not desired to expose the builders and workmen
to a possible bombardment. The place was now,
therefore, almost deserted; but after the receipt of
the Syndicate's message, the commandant feared that the
enemy might throw an ordinary shell into the
unfinished works, and he sent a boat across the bay to
order away any workmen or others who might be lingering
about the place.
A little after two o'clock P.M., an instantaneous
motor-bomb was discharged from Repeller No. 1 into Fort
Pilcher. It was set to act five seconds after impact
with the object aimed at. It struck in a central
portion of the unfinished fort, and having described a
high curve in the air, descended not only with its own
motive power, but with the force of gravitation, and
penetrated deep into the earth.
Five seconds later a vast brown cloud appeared on
the Fort Pilcher promontory. This cloud was nearly
spherical in form, with an apparent diameter of about a
thousand yards. At the same instant a shock similar to
that accompanying the first motor-bomb was felt in the
city and surrounding country; but this was not so
severe as the other, for the second bomb did not exert
its force upon the underlying rocks of the region as
the first one had done.
The great brown cloud quickly began to lose its
spherical form, part of it descending heavily to the
earth, and part floating away in vast dust-clouds borne
inland by the breeze, settling downward as they moved, and
depositing on land, water, ships, houses, domes, and
trees an almost impalpable powder.
When the cloud had cleared away there were no
fortifications, and the bluff on which they had stood
had disappeared. Part of this bluff had floated away
on the wind, and part of it lay piled in great heaps of
sand on the spot where its rocks were to have upheld a
The effect of the motor-bomb was fully observed
with glasses from the various fortifications of the
port, and from many points of the city and harbour; and
those familiar with the effects of explosives were not
long in making up their minds what had happened. They
felt sure that a mine had been sprung beneath Fort
Pilcher; and they were now equally confident that in
the morning a torpedo of novel and terrible power had
been exploded in the harbour. They now disbelieved in
the earthquake, and treated with contempt the pretence
that shots had been fired from the Syndicate's vessel.
This was merely a trick of the enemy. It was not even
likely that the mine or the torpedo had been
operated from the ship. These were, in all
probability, under the control of confederates on
shore, and had been exploded at times agreed upon
beforehand. All this was perfectly plain to the
military authorities.
But the people of the city derived no comfort from
the announcement of these conclusions. For all that
anybody knew the whole city might be undermined, and at
any moment might ascend in a cloud of minute particles.
They felt that they were in a region of hidden traitors
and bombs, and in consequence of this belief thousands
of citizens left their homes.
That afternoon a truce-boat again went out from
Repeller No. 1, and rowed to the fort, where a letter
to the commandant was delivered. This, like the other,
demanded no answer, and the boat returned. Later in
the afternoon the two repellers, accompanied by the
crabs, and leaving the steel net still anchored in its
place, retired a few miles seaward, where they prepared
to lay to for the night.
The letter brought by the truce-boat was read by
the commandant, surrounded by his officers. It stated
that in twenty-four hours from time of writing it,
which would be at or about four o'clock on the next
afternoon, a bomb would be thrown into the garrisoned
fort, under the command of the officer addressed. As
this would result in the entire destruction of the
fortification, the commandant was earnestly counselled
to evacuate the fort before the hour specified.
Ordinarily the commandant of the fort was of a calm
and unexcitable temperament. During the astounding
events of that day and the day before he had kept his
head cool; his judgment, if not correct, was the result
of sober and earnest consideration. But now he lost
his temper. The unparalleled effrontery and impertinence
of this demand of the American Syndicate was too much for
his self-possession. He stormed in anger.
Here was the culmination of the knavish trickery of
these conscienceless pirates who had attacked the port.
A torpedo had been exploded in the harbour, an
unfinished fort had been mined and blown up, and all
this had been done to frighten him--a British soldier--
in command of a strong fort well garrisoned and fully
supplied with all the munitions of war. In the fear
that his fort would be destroyed by a mystical
bomb, he was expected to march to a place of safety
with all his forces. If this should be done it would
not be long before these crafty fellows would occupy
the fort, and with its great guns turned inland, would
hold the city at their mercy. There could be no
greater insult to a soldier than to suppose that he
could be gulled by a trick like this.
No thought of actual danger entered the mind of the
commandant. It had been easy enough to sink a great
torpedo in the harbour, and the unguarded bluffs of
Fort Pilcher offered every opportunity to the
scoundrels who may have worked at their mines through
the nights of several months. But a mine under the
fort which he commanded was an impossibility; its
guarded outposts prevented any such method of attack.
At a bomb, or a dozen, or a hundred of the Syndicate's
bombs he snapped his fingers. He could throw bombs as
Nothing would please him better than that those
ark-like ships in the offing should come near enough
for an artillery fight. A few tons of solid shot and
shell dropped on top of them might be a very
conclusive answer to their impudent demands.
The letter from the Syndicate, together with his
own convictions on the subject, were communicated by
the commandant to the military authorities of the port,
and to the War Office of the Dominion. The news of
what had happened that day had already been cabled
across the Atlantic back to the United States, and all
over the world; and the profound impression created by
it was intensified when it became known what the
Syndicate proposed to do the next day. Orders and
advices from the British Admiralty and War Office sped
across the ocean, and that night few of the leaders in
government circles in England or Canada closed their
The opinions of the commandant of the fort were
received with but little favour by the military and
naval authorities. Great preparations were already
ordered to repel and crush this most audacious attack
upon the port, but in the mean time it was highly
desirable that the utmost caution and prudence should
be observed. Three men-of-war had already been
disabled by the novel and destructive machines of the
enemy, and it had been ordered that for the present
no more vessels of the British navy be allowed to
approach the crabs of the Syndicate.
Whether it was a mine or a bomb which had been used
in the destruction of the unfinished works of Fort
Pilcher, it would be impossible to determine until an
official survey had been made of the ruins; but, in any
event, it would be wise and humane not to expose the
garrison of the fort on the south side of the harbour
to the danger which had overtaken the works on the
opposite shore. If, contrary to the opinion of the
commandant, the garrisoned fort were really mined, the
following day would probably prove the fact. Until
this point should be determined it would be highly
judicious to temporarily evacuate the fort. This could
not be followed by occupation of the works by the
enemy, for all approaches, either by troops in boats or
by bodies of confederates by land, could be fully
covered by the inland redoubts and fortifications.
When the orders for evacuation reached the
commandant of the fort, he protested hotly, and urged
that his protest be considered. It was not until the
command had been reiterated both from London and
Ottawa, that he accepted the situation, and with
bowed head prepared to leave his post. All night
preparations for evacuation went on, and during the
next morning the garrison left the fort, and
established itself far enough away to preclude danger
from the explosion of a mine, but near enough to be
available in case of necessity.
During this morning there arrived in the offing
another Syndicate vessel. This had started from a
northern part of the United States, before the
repellers and the crabs, and it had been engaged in
laying a private submarine cable, which should put the
office of the Syndicate in New York in direct
communication with its naval forces engaged with the
enemy. Telegraphic connection between the cable boat
and Repeller No. 1 having been established, the
Syndicate soon received from its Director-in-chief full
and comprehensive accounts of what had been done and
what it was proposed to do. Great was the satisfaction
among the members of the Syndicate when these direct
and official reports came in. Up to this time they had
been obliged to depend upon very unsatisfactory
intelligence communicated from Europe, which had been
supplemented by wild statements and rumours
smuggled across the Canadian border.
To counteract the effect of these, a full report
was immediately made by the Syndicate to the Government
of the United States, and a bulletin distinctly
describing what had happened was issued to the people
of the country. These reports, which received a worldwide
circulation in the newspapers, created a popular
elation in the United States, and gave rise to serious
apprehensions and concern in many other countries. But
under both elation and concern there was a certain
doubtfulness. So far the Syndicate had been
successful; but its style of warfare was decidedly
experimental, and its forces, in numerical strength at
least, were weak. What would happen when the great
naval power of Great Britain should be brought to bear
upon the Syndicate, was a question whose probable
answer was likely to cause apprehension and concern in
the United States, and elation in many other countries.
The commencement of active hostilities had been
precipitated by this Syndicate. In England
preparations were making by day an by night to send
upon the coast-lines of the United States a fleet
which, in numbers and power, would be greater than that
of any naval expedition in the history of the world.
It is no wonder that many people of sober judgment in
America looked upon the affair of the crabs and the
repellers as but an incident in the beginning of a
great and disastrous war.
On the morning of the destruction of Fort Pilcher,
the Syndicate's vessels moved toward the port, and the
steel net was taken up by the two crabs, and moved
nearer the mouth of the harbour, at a point from which
the fort, now in process of evacuation, was in full
view. When this had been done, Repeller No. 2 took up
her position at a moderate distance behind the net, and
the other vessels stationed themselves near by.
The protection of the net was considered necessary,
for although there could be no reasonable doubt that
all the torpedoes in the harbour and river had been
exploded, others might be sent out against the
Syndicate's vessels; and a torpedo under a crab or a
repeller was the enemy most feared by the Syndicate.
About three o'clock the signals between the
repellers became very frequent, and soon afterwards
a truce-boat went out from Repeller No. 1. This was
rowed with great rapidity, but it was obliged to go
much farther up the harbour than on previous occasions,
in order to deliver its message to an officer of the
This was to the effect that the evacuation of the
fort had been observed from the Syndicate's vessels,
and although it had been apparently complete, one of
the scientific corps, with a powerful glass, had
discovered a man in one of the outer redoubts, whose
presence there was probably unknown to the officers of
the garrison. It was, therefore, earnestly urged that
this man be instantly removed; and in order that this
might be done, the discharge of the motor-bomb would be
postponed half an hour.
The officer received this message, and was disposed
to look upon it as a new trick; but as no time was to
be lost, he sent a corporal's guard to the fort, and
there discovered an Irish sergeant by the name of
Kilsey, who had sworn an oath that if every other man
in the fort ran away like a lot of addle-pated sheep,
he would not run with them; he would stand to his post
to the last, and when the couple of ships outside
had got through bombarding the stout walls of the fort,
the world would see that there was at least one British
soldier who was not afraid of a bomb, be it little or big.
Therefore he had managed to elude observation, and to remain
The sergeant was so hot-headed in his determination
to stand by the fort, that it required violence to
remove him; and it was not until twenty minutes
past four that the Syndicate observers perceived that
he had been taken to the hill behind which the garrison
was encamped.
As it had been decided that Repeller No. 2 should
discharge the next instantaneous motor-bomb, there was
an anxious desire on the part of the operators on that
vessel that in this, their first experience, they might
do their duty as well as their comrades on board the
other repeller had done theirs. The most accurate
observations, the most careful calculations, were made
and re-made, the point to be aimed at being about the
centre of the fort.
The motor-bomb had been in the cannon for nearly an
hour, and everything had long been ready, when at
precisely thirty minutes past four o'clock the signal
to discharge came from the Director-in-chief; and in
four seconds afterwards the index on the scale
indicated that the gun was in the proper position, and
the button was touched.
The motor-bomb was set to act the instant it should
touch any portion of the fort, and the effect was
different from that of the other bombs. There was a
quick, hard shock, but it was all in the air. Thousands
of panes of glass in the city and in houses
for miles around were cracked or broken, birds fell
dead or stunned upon the ground, and people on
elevations at considerable distances felt as if they
had received a blow; but there was no trembling of the
As to the fort, it had entirely disappeared, its
particles having been instantaneously removed to a
great distance in every direction, falling over such a
vast expanse of land and water that their descent was
In the place where the fortress had stood there was
a wide tract of bare earth, which looked as if it had
been scraped into a staring dead level of gravel and
clay. The instantaneous motor-bomb had been arranged
to act almost horizontally.
Few persons, except those who from a distance had
been watching the fort with glasses, understood what
had happened; but every one in the city and surrounding
country was conscious that something had happened of a
most startling kind, and that it was over in the same
instant in which they had perceived it. Everywhere
there was the noise of falling window-glass. There were
those who asserted that for an instant they had
heard in the distance a grinding crash; and there were
others who were quite sure that they had noticed what
might be called a flash of darkness, as if something
had, with almost unappreciable quickness, passed
between them and the sun.
When the officers of the garrison mounted the hill
before them and surveyed the place where their fort had
been, there was not one of them who had sufficient
command of himself to write a report of what had
happened. They gazed at the bare, staring flatness of
the shorn bluff, and they looked at each other. This
was not war. It was something supernatural, awful!
They were not frightened; they were oppressed and
appalled. But the military discipline of their minds
soon exerted its force, and a brief account of the
terrific event was transmitted to the authorities, and
Sergeant Kilsey was sentenced to a month in the guardhouse.
No one approached the vicinity of the bluff where
the fort had stood, for danger might not be over; but
every possible point of observation within a safe
distance was soon crowded with anxious and terrified
observers. A feeling of awe was noticeable
everywhere. If people could have had a tangible idea
of what had occurred, it would have been different. If
the sea had raged, if a vast body of water had been
thrown into the air, if a dense cloud had been suddenly
ejected from the surface of the earth, they might have
formed some opinion about it. But the instantaneous
disappearance of a great fortification with a little
more appreciable accompaniment than the sudden tap, as
of a little hammer, upon thousands of window-panes, was
something which their intellects could not grasp. It
was not to be expected that the ordinary mind could
appreciate the difference between the action of an
instantaneous motor when imbedded in rocks and earth,
and its effect, when opposed by nothing but stone
walls, upon or near the surface of the earth.
Early the next morning, the little fleet of the
Syndicate prepared to carry out its further orders.
The waters of the lower bay were now entirely deserted,
craft of every description having taken refuge in the
upper part of the harbour near and above the city.
Therefore, as soon as it was light enough to make
observations, Repeller No. 1 did not hesitate to
discharge a motor-bomb into the harbour, a mile or
more above where the first one had fallen. This was
done in order to explode any torpedoes which might have
been put into position since the discharge of the first
There were very few people in the city and suburbs
who were at that hour out of doors where they could see
the great cloud of water arise toward the sky, and
behold it descend like a mighty cataract upon the
harbour and adjacent shores; but the quick, sharp shock
which ran under the town made people spring from their
beds; and although nothing was then to be seen, nearly
everybody felt sure that the Syndicate's forces had
begun their day's work by exploding another mine.
A lighthouse, the occupants of which had been
ordered to leave when the fort was evacuated, as they
might be in danger in case of a bombardment, was so
shaken by the explosion of this motor-bomb that it fell
in ruins on the rocks upon which it had stood.
The two crabs now took the steel net from its
moorings and carried it up the harbour. This was
rather difficult on account of the islands, rocks, and
sand-bars; but the leading crab had on board a
pilot acquainted with those waters. With the net
hanging between them, the two submerged vessels, one
carefully following the other, reached a point about
two miles below the city, where the net was anchored
across the harbour. It did not reach from shore to
shore, but in the course of the morning two other nets,
designed for shallower waters, were brought from the
repellers and anchored at each end of the main net,
thus forming a line of complete protection against
submarine torpedoes which might be sent down from the
upper harbour.
Repeller No. 1 now steamed into the harbour,
accompanied by Crab A, and anchored about a quarter of
a mile seaward of the net. The other repeller, with
her attendant crab, cruised about the mouth of the
harbour, watching a smaller entrance to the port as
well as the larger one, and thus maintaining an
effective blockade. This was not a difficult duty, for
since the news of the extraordinary performances of the
crabs had been spread abroad, no merchant vessel, large
or small, cared to approach that port; and strict
orders had been issued by the British Admiralty that no
vessel of the navy should, until further
instructed, engage in combat with the peculiar
craft of the Syndicate. Until a plan of action had
been determined upon, it was very desirable that
English cruisers should not be exposed to useless
injury and danger.
This being the state of affairs, a message was sent
from the office of the Syndicate across the border to
the Dominion Government, which stated that the seaport
city which had been attacked by the forces of the
Syndicate now lay under the guns of its vessels, and in
case of any overt act of war by Great Britain or Canada
alone, such as the entrance of an armed force from
British territory into the United States, or a capture
of or attack upon an American vessel, naval or
commercial, by a British man-of-war, or an attack upon
an American port by British vessels, the city would be
bombarded and destroyed.
This message, which was, of course, instantly
transmitted to London, placed the British Government in
the apparent position of being held by the throat by
the American War Syndicate. But if the British
Government, or the people of England or Canada,
recognized this position at all, it was merely as a
temporary condition. In a short time the most
powerful men-of-war of the Royal Navy, as well as a
fleet of transports carrying troops, would reach the
coasts of North America, and then the condition of
affairs would rapidly be changed. It was absurd to
suppose that a few medium-sized vessels, however
heavily armoured, or a few new-fangled submarine
machines, however destructive they might be, could
withstand an armada of the largest and finest armoured
vessels in the world. A ship or two might be disabled,
although this was unlikely, now that the new method of
attack was understood; but it would soon be the ports
of the United States, on both the Pacific and Atlantic
coasts, which would lie under the guns of an enemy.
But it was not in the power of their navy that the
British Government and the people of England and Canada
placed their greatest trust, but in the incapacity of
their petty foe to support its ridiculous assumptions.
The claim that the city lay under the guns of the
American Syndicate was considered ridiculous, for few
people believed that these vessels had any guns.
Certainly, there had been no evidence that any shots
had been fired from them. In the opinion of
reasonable people the destruction of the forts and the
explosions in the harbour had been caused by mines--
mines of a new and terrifying power--which were the
work of traitors and confederates. The destruction of
the lighthouse had strengthened this belief, for its
fall was similar to that which would have been
occasioned by a great explosion under its foundation.
But however terrifying and appalling had been the
results of the explosion of these mines, it was not
thought probable that there were any more of them. The
explosions had taken place at exposed points distant
from the city, and the most careful investigation
failed to discover any present signs of mining
This theory of mines worked by confederates was
received throughout the civilized world, and was
universally condemned. Even in the United States the
feeling was so strong against this apparent alliance
between the Syndicate and British traitors, that there
was reason to believe that a popular pressure would be
brought to bear upon the Government sufficient to force
it to break its contract with the Syndicate, and to
carry on the war with the National army and navy.
The crab was considered an admirable addition to the
strength of the navy, but a mine under a fort, laid and
fired by perfidious confederates, was considered
unworthy an enlightened people.
The members of the Syndicate now found themselves
in an embarrassing and dangerous position--a position
in which they were placed by the universal incredulity
regarding the instantaneous motor; and unless they
could make the world believe that they really used such
a motor-bomb, the war could not be prosecuted on the
plan projected.
It was easy enough to convince the enemy of the
terrible destruction the Syndicate was able to effect;
but to make that enemy and the world understand that
this was done by bombs, which could be used in one
place as well as another, was difficult indeed. They
had attempted to prove this by announcing that at a
certain time a bomb should be projected into a certain
fort. Precisely at the specified time the fort had
been destroyed, but nobody believed that a bomb had
been fired.
Every opinion, official or popular, concerning what
it had done and what might be expected of it, was
promptly forwarded to the Syndicate by its agents, and
it was thus enabled to see very plainly indeed that the
effect it had desired to produce had not been produced.
Unless the enemy could be made to understand that any
fort or ships within ten miles of one of the
Syndicate's cannon could be instantaneously dissipated
in the shape of fine dust, this war could not be
carried on upon the principles adopted, and therefore
might as well pass out of the hands of the Syndicate.
Day by day and night by night the state of affairs
was anxiously considered at the office of the Syndicate
in New York. A new and important undertaking was
determined upon, and on the success of this the hopes
of the Syndicate now depended.
During the rapid and vigorous preparations which
the Syndicate were now making for their new venture,
several events of interest occurred.
Two of the largest Atlantic mail steamers, carrying
infantry and artillery troops, and conveyed by two
swift and powerful men-of-war, arrived off the coast of
Canada, considerably to the north of the blockaded
city. The departure and probable time of arrival of
these vessels had been telegraphed to the
Syndicate, through one of the continental cables, and a
repeller with two crabs had been for some days waiting
for them. The English vessels had taken a high
northern course, hoping they might enter the Gulf of
St. Lawrence without subjecting themselves to injury
from the enemy's crabs, it not being considered
probable that there were enough of these vessels to
patrol the entire coast. But although the crabs were
few in number, the Syndicate was able to place them
where they would be of most use; and when the English
vessels arrived off the northern entrance to the gulf,
they found their enemies there.
However strong might be the incredulity of the
enemy regarding the powers of a repeller to bombard a
city, the Syndicate felt sure there would be no present
invasion of the United States from Canada; but it
wished to convince the British Government that troops
and munitions of war could not be safely transported
across the Atlantic. On the other hand, the Syndicate
very much objected to undertaking the imprisonment and
sustenance of a large body of soldiers. Orders were
therefore given to the officer in charge of the
repeller not to molest the two transports, but to
remove the rudders and extract the screws of the two
war-vessels, leaving them to be towed into port by the
This duty was performed by the crabs, while the
British vessels, both rams, were preparing to make a
united and vigorous onset on the repeller, and the two
men-of-war were left hopelessly tossing on the waves.
One of the transports, a very fast steamer, had already
entered the straits, and could not be signalled; but
the other one returned and took both the war-ships in
tow, proceeding very slowly until, after entering the
gulf, she was relieved by tugboats.
Another event of a somewhat different character was
the occasion of much excited feeling and comment,
particularly in the United States. The descent and
attack by British vessels on an Atlantic port was a
matter of popular expectation. The Syndicate had
repellers and crabs at the most important points; but,
in the minds of naval officers and a large portion of
the people, little dependence for defence was to be
placed upon these. As to the ability of the War
Syndicate to prevent invasion or attack by means of
its threats to bombard the blockaded Canadian port,
very few believed in it. Even if the Syndicate could
do any more damage in that quarter, which was
improbable, what was to prevent the British navy from
playing the same game, and entering an American
seaport, threaten to bombard the place if the Syndicate
did not immediately run all their queer vessels high
and dry on some convenient beach?
A feeling of indignation against the Syndicate had
existed in the navy from the time that the war contract
had been made, and this feeling increased daily. That
the officers and men of the United States navy should
be penned up in harbours, ports, and sounds, while
British ships and the hulking mine-springers and
rudder-pinchers of the Syndicate were allowed to roam
the ocean at will, was a very hard thing for brave
sailors to bear. Sometimes the resentment against this
state of affairs rose almost to revolt.
The great naval preparations of England were not
yet complete, but single British men-of-war were now
frequently seen off the Atlantic coast of the United
States. No American vessels had been captured by
these since the message of the Syndicate to the
Dominion of Canada and the British Government. But one
good reason for this was the fact that it was very
difficult now to find upon the Atlantic ocean a vessel
sailing under the American flag. As far as possible
these had taken refuge in their own ports or in those
of neutral countries.
At the mouth of Delaware Bay, behind the great
Breakwater, was now collected a number of coastwise
sailing-vessels and steamers of various classes and
sizes; and for the protection of these maritime
refugees, two vessels of the United States navy were
stationed at this point. These were the Lenox and
Stockbridge, two of the finest cruisers in the
service, and commanded by two of the most restless and
bravest officers of the American navy.
The appearance, early on a summer morning, of a
large British cruiser off the mouth of the harbour,
filled those two commanders with uncontrollable
belligerency. That in time of war a vessel of the
enemy should be allowed, undisturbed, to sail up and
down before an American harbour, while an American
vessel filled with brave American sailors lay inside
like a cowed dog, was a thought which goaded the
soul of each of these commanders. There was a certain
rivalry between the two ships; and, considering the
insult offered by the flaunting red cross in the
offing, and the humiliating restrictions imposed by the
Naval Department, each commander thought only of his
own ship, and not at all of the other.
It was almost at the same time that the commanders
of the two ships separately came to the conclusion that
the proper way to protect the fleet behind the
Breakwater was for his vessel to boldly steam out to
sea and attack the British cruiser. If this vessel
carried a long-range gun, what was to hinder her from
suddenly running in closer and sending a few shells
into the midst of the defenceless merchantmen? In
fact, to go out and fight her was the only way to
protect the lives and property in the harbour.
It was true that one of those beastly repellers was
sneaking about off the cape, accompanied, probably, by
an underwater tongs-boat. But as neither of these had
done anything, or seemed likely to do anything, the
British cruiser should be attacked without loss of
When the commander of the Lenox came to this
decision, his ship was well abreast of Cape Henlopen,
and he therefore proceeded directly out to sea. There
was a little fear in his mind that the English cruiser,
which was now bearing to the south-east, might sail off
and get away from him. The Stockbridge was detained
by the arrival of a despatch boat from the shore with a
message from the Naval Department. But as this message
related only to the measurements of a certain deck gun,
her commander intended, as soon as an answer could be
sent off, to sail out and give battle to the British
Every soul on board the Lenox was now filled with
fiery ardour. The ship was already in good fighting
trim, but every possible preparation was made for a
contest which should show their country and the world
what American sailors were made of.
The Lenox had not proceeded more than a mile out
to sea, when she perceived Repeller No. 6 coming toward
her from seaward, and in a direction which indicated
that it intended to run across her course. The
Lenox, however, went straight on, and in a short time
the two vessels were quite near each other. Upon
the deck of the repeller now appeared the director in
charge, who, with a speaking-trumpet, hailed the
Lenox and requested her to lay to, as he had
something to communicate. The commander of the
Lenox, through his trumpet, answered that he wanted
no communications, and advised the other vessel to keep
out of his way.
The Lenox now put on a greater head of steam, and
as she was in any case a much faster vessel than the
repeller, she rapidly increased the distance between
herself and the Syndicate's vessel, so that in a few
moments hailing was impossible. Quick signals now shot
up in jets of black smoke from the repeller, and in a
very short time afterward the speed of the Lenox
slackened so much that the repeller was able to come up
with her.
When the two vessels were abreast of each other,
and at a safe hailing distance apart, another signal
went up from the repeller, and then both vessels almost
ceased to move through the water, although the engines
of the Lenox were working at high speed, with her
propeller-blades stirring up a whirlpool at her stern.
For a minute or two the officers of the Lenox
could not comprehend what had happened. It was first
supposed that by mistake the engines had been
slackened, but almost at the same moment that it was
found that this was not the case, the discovery was
made that the crab accompanying the repeller had laid
hold of the stern-post of the Lenox, and with all the
strength of her powerful engines was holding her back.
Now burst forth in the Lenox a storm of frenzied
rage, such as was never seen perhaps upon any vessel
since vessels were first built. From the commander to
the stokers every heart was filled with fury at the
insult which was put upon them. The commander roared
through his trumpet that if that infernal sea-beetle
were not immediately loosed from his ship he would
first sink her and then the repeller.
To these remarks the director of the Syndicate's
vessels paid no attention, but proceeded to state as
briefly and forcibly as possible that the Lenox had
been detained in order that he might have an
opportunity of speaking with her commander, and of
informing him that his action in coming out of the
harbour for the purpose of attacking a British
vessel was in direct violation of the contract between
the United States and the Syndicate having charge of
the war, and that such action could not be allowed.
The commander of the Lenox paid no more attention
to these words than the Syndicate's director had given
to those he had spoken, but immediately commenced a
violent attack upon the crab. It was impossible to
bring any of the large guns to bear upon her, for she
was almost under the stern of the Lenox; but every
means of offence which infuriated ingenuity could
suggest was used against it. Machine guns were trained
to fire almost perpendicularly, and shot after shot was
poured upon that portion of its glistening back which
appeared above the water.
But as these projectiles seemed to have no effect
upon the solid back of Crab H, two great anvils were
hoisted at the end of the spanker-boom, and dropped,
one after the other, upon it. The shocks were
tremendous, but the internal construction of the crabs
provided, by means of upright beams, against injury
from attacks of this kind, and the great masses of iron
slid off into the sea without doing any damage.
Finding it impossible to make any impression upon
the mailed monster at his stern, the commander of the
Lenox hailed the director of the repeller, and swore
to him through his trumpet that if he did not
immediately order the Lenox to be set free, her
heaviest guns should be brought to bear upon his
floating counting-house, and that it should be sunk, if
it took all day to do it.
It would have been a grim satisfaction to the
commander of the Lenox to sink Repeller No. 6, for he
knew the vessel when she had belonged to the United
States navy. Before she had been bought by the
Syndicate, and fitted out with spring armour, he had
made two long cruises in her, and he bitterly hated
her, from her keel up.
The director of the repeller agreed to release the
Lenox the instant her commander would consent to
return to port. No answer was made to this
proposition, but a dynamite gun on the Lenox was
brought to bear upon the Syndicate's vessel. Desiring
to avoid any complications which might ensue from
actions of this sort, the repeller steamed ahead, while
the director signalled Crab H to move the stern of
the Lenox to the windward, which, being quickly done,
the gun of the latter bore upon the distant coast.
It was now very plain to the Syndicate director
that his words could have no effect upon the commander
of the Lenox, and he therefore signalled Crab H to
tow the United States vessel into port. When the
commander of the Lenox saw that his vessel was
beginning to move backward, he gave instant orders to
put on all steam. But this was found to be useless,
for when the dynamite gun was about to be fired, the
engines had been ordered stopped, and the moment that
the propeller-blades ceased moving the nippers of the
crab had been released from their hold upon the sternpost,
and the propeller-blades of the Lenox were
gently but firmly seized in a grasp which included the
rudder. It was therefore impossible for the engines of
the vessel to revolve the propeller, and,
unresistingly, the Lenox was towed, stern foremost,
to the Breakwater.
The news of this incident created the wildest
indignation in the United States navy, and throughout
the country the condemnation of what was considered the
insulting action of the Syndicate was general. In
foreign countries the affair was the subject of a good
deal of comment, but it was also the occasion of much
serious consideration, for it proved that one of the
Syndicate's submerged vessels could, without firing a
gun, and without fear of injury to itself, capture a
man-of-war and tow it whither it pleased.
The authorities at Washington took instant action
on the affair, and as it was quite evident that the
contract between the United States and the Syndicate
had been violated by the Lenox, the commander of that
vessel was reprimanded by the Secretary of the Navy,
and enjoined that there should be no repetitions of his
offence. But as the commander of the Lenox knew that
the Secretary of the Navy was as angry as he was at
what had happened, he did not feel his reprimand to be
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 shipyards,
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 battleship
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 battleship
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 propellerblades
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 motorpower
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 armourplates,
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 largestsized
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 motorbombs
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 blackgray
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-ofwar
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 manof-
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 seadevils
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 sternguard
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 torpedoboat
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 oncoming
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 lookoutglass,
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 turtleback
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 gunboat,
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 torpedoboat
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 torpedovessel.
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 motorgun
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 motorgun.
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
repeller, instead of bombarding, should send men in
boats to take possession of the evacuated
fortifications, or should attempt any mining
operations. The gunners for this battery were
stationed at a safe place to the rear, whence they
could readily reach their guns if necessary.
The next day was one of supreme importance to the
Syndicate. On this day it must make plain to the
world, not only what the motor-bomb could do, but that
the motor-bomb did what was done. Before leaving the
English Channel the director of Repeller No. 11 had
received telegraphic advices from both Europe and
America, indicating the general drift of public opinion
in regard to the recent sea-fight; and, besides these,
many English and continental papers had been brought to
him from the French coast.
From all these the director perceived that the
cause of the Syndicate had in a certain way suffered
from the manner in which the battle in the channel had
been conducted. Every newspaper urged that if the
repeller carried guns capable of throwing the bombs
which the Syndicate professed to use, there was no
reason why every ship in the British fleet should
not have been destroyed. But as the repeller had not
fired a single shot at the fleet, and as the battle had
been fought entirely by the crabs, there was every
reason to believe that if there were such things as
motor-guns, their range was very short, not as great as
that of the ordinary dynamite cannon. The great risk
run by one of the crabs in order to disable a dynamite
gun-boat seemed an additional proof of this.
It was urged that the explosions in the water might
have been produced by torpedoes; that the torpedo-boat
which had been destroyed was so near the repeller that
an ordinary shell was sufficient to accomplish the
damage that had been done.
To gainsay these assumptions was imperative on the
Syndicate's forces. To firmly establish the prestige
of the instantaneous motor was the object of the war.
Crabs were of but temporary service. Any nation could
build vessels like them, and there were many means of
destroying them. The spring armour was a complete
defence against ordinary artillery, but it was not a
defence against submarine torpedoes. The claims
of the Syndicate could be firmly based on nothing but
the powers of absolute annihilation possessed by the
instantaneous motor-bomb.
About nine o'clock on the appointed morning,
Repeller No. 11, much to the surprise of the spectators
on the high grounds with field-glasses and telescopes,
steamed away from Caerdaff. What this meant nobody
knew, but the naval military observers immediately
suspected that the Syndicate's vessel had concentrated
attention upon Caerdaff in order to go over to Ireland
to do some sort of mischief there. It was presumed
that the crabs accompanied her, but as they were now at
their fighting depth it was impossible to see them at
so great a distance.
But it was soon perceived that Repeller No. 11 had
no intention of running away, nor of going over to
Ireland. From slowly cruising about four or five miles
off shore, she had steamed westward until she had
reached a point which, according to the calculations of
her scientific corps, was nine marine miles from
Caerdaff. There she lay to against a strong breeze
from the east.
It was not yet ten o'clock when the officer in
charge of the starboard gun remarked to the director
that he suppose that it would not be necessary to give
the smoke signals, as had been done in the channel, as
now all the crabs were lying near them. The director
reflected a moment, and then ordered that the signals
should be given at every discharge of the gun, and that
the columns of black smoke should be shot up to their
greatest height.
At precisely ten o'clock, up rose from Repeller No.
11 two tall jets of black smoke. Up rose from the
promontory of Caerdaff, a heavy gray cloud, like an
immense balloon, and then the people on the hill-tops
and highlands felt a sharp shock of the ground and
rocks beneath them, and heard the sound of a terrible
but momentary grinding crush.
As the cloud began to settle, it was borne out to
sea by the wind, and then it was revealed that the
fortifications of Caerdaff had disappeared.
In ten minutes there was another smoke signal, and
a great cloud over the castellated structure on the
other side of the bay. The cloud passed away, leaving
a vacant space on the other side of the bay.
The second shock sent a panic through the crowd of
spectators. The next earthquake bomb might strike
among them. Down the eastern slopes ran hundreds of
them, leaving only a few of the bravest civilians, the
reporters of the press, and the naval and military men.
The next motor-bomb descended into the fishing
village, the comminuted particles of which, being
mostly of light material, floated far out to sea.
The detachment of artillerists who had been deputed
to man the guns on the heights which commanded the bay
had been ordered to fall back to the mountains as soon
as it had been seen that it was not the intention of
the repeller to send boats on shore. The most
courageous of the spectators trembled a little when the
fourth bomb was discharged, for it came farther inland,
and struck the height on which the battery had been
placed, removing all vestiges of the guns, caissons,
and the ledge of rock on which they had stood.
The motor-bombs which the repeller was now
discharging were of the largest size and greatest
power, and a dozen more of them were discharged at
intervals of a few minutes. The promontory on which
the fortifications had stood was annihilated, and
the waters of the bay swept over its foundations. Soon
afterward the head of the bay seemed madly rushing out
to sea, but quickly surged back to fill the chasm which
yawned at the spot where the village had been.
The dense clouds were now upheaved at such short
intervals that the scene of devastation was completely
shut out from the observers on the hills; but every few
minutes they felt a sickening shock, and heard a
momentary and horrible crash and hiss which seemed to
fill all the air. The instantaneous motor-bombs were
tearing up the sea-board, and grinding it to atoms.
It was not yet noon when the bombardment ceased.
No more puffs of black smoke came up from the distant
repeller, and the vast spreading mass of clouds moved
seaward, dropping down upon St. George's Channel in a
rain of stone dust. Then the repeller steamed
shoreward, and when she was within three or four miles
of the coast she ran up a large white flag in token
that her task was ended.
This sign that the bombardment had ceased was
accepted in good faith; and as some of the military and
naval men had carefully noted that each puff from
the repeller was accompanied by a shock, it was
considered certain that all the bombs which had been
discharged had acted, and that, consequently, no
further danger was to be apprehended from them. In
spite of this announcement many of the spectators would
not leave their position on the hills, but a hundred or more of
curious and courageous men ventured down into the plain.
That part of the sea-coast where Caerdaff had been
was a new country, about which men wandered slowly and
cautiously with sudden exclamations, of amazement and
awe. There were no longer promontories jutting out
into the sea; there were no hillocks and rocky terraces
rising inland. In a vast plain, shaven and shorn down
to a common level of scarred and pallid rock,
there lay an immense chasm two miles and a half long,
half a mile wide, and so deep that shuddering men could
stand and look down upon the rent and riven rocks upon
which had rested that portion of the Welsh coast which
had now blown out to sea.
An officer of the Royal Engineers stood on the
seaward edge of this yawning abyss; then he walked over
to the almost circular body of water which occupied the
place where the fishing village had been, and into
which the waters of the bay had flowed. When this
officer returned to London he wrote a report to the
effect that a ship canal, less than an eighth of a mile
long, leading from the newly formed lake at the head of
the bay, would make of this chasm, when filled by the
sea, the finest and most thoroughly protected inland
basin for ships of all sizes on the British coast. But
before this report received due official consideration
the idea had been suggested and elaborated in a dozen
Accounts and reports of all kinds describing the
destruction of Caerdaff, and of the place in which it
had stood, filled the newspapers of the world. Photographs
and pictures of Caerdaff as it had been and
as it then was were produced with marvellous rapidity,
and the earthquake bomb of the American War Syndicate
was the subject of excited conversation in every
civilized country.
The British Ministry was now the calmest body of
men in Europe. The great opposition storm had died
away, the great war storm had ceased, and the wisest
British statesmen saw the unmistakable path of national
policy lying plain and open before them. There was no
longer time for arguments and struggles with opponents
or enemies, internal or external. There was even no
longer time for the discussion of measures. It was the
time for the adoption of a measure which indicated
itself, and which did not need discussion.
On the afternoon of the day of the bombardment of
Caerdaff, Repeller No. 11, accompanied by her crabs,
steamed for the English Channel. Two days afterward
there lay off the coast at Brighton, with a white flag
floating high above her, the old Tallapoosa, now
naval mistress of the world.
Near by lay a cable boat, and constant
communication by way of France was kept up between
the officers of the American Syndicate and the
repeller. In a very short time communications were
opened between the repeller and London.
When this last step became known to the public of
America, almost as much excited by the recent events as
the public of England, a great disturbance arose in
certain political circles. It was argued that the
Syndicate had no right to negotiate in any way with the
Government of England; that it had been empowered to
carry on a war; and that, if its duties in this regard
had been satisfactorily executed, it must now retire,
and allow the United States Government to attend to its
foreign relations.
But the Syndicate was firm. It had contracted to
bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion. When it
considered that this had been done, it would retire and
allow the American Government, with whom the contract
had been made, to decide whether or not it had been
properly performed.
The unmistakable path of national policy which had
shown itself to the wisest British statesmen appeared
broader and plainer when the overtures of the
American War Syndicate had been received by the British
Government. The Ministry now perceived that the
Syndicate had not waged war; it had been simply
exhibiting the uselessness of war as at present waged.
Who now could deny that it would be folly to oppose the
resources of ordinary warfare to those of what might be
called prohibitive warfare.
Another idea arose in the minds of the wisest
British statesmen. If prohibitive warfare were a good
thing for America, it would be an equally good thing
for England. More than that, it would be a better
thing if only these two countries possessed the power
of waging prohibitive warfare.
In three days a convention of peace was concluded
between Great Britain and the American Syndicate acting
for the United States, its provisions being made
subject to such future treaties and alliances as the
governments of the two nations might make with each
other. In six days after the affair at Caerdaff, a
committee of the American War Syndicate was in London,
making arrangements, under the favourable auspices of
the British Government, for the formation of an
Anglo-American Syndicate of War.
The Atlantic Ocean now sprang into new life. It
seemed impossible to imagine whence had come the
multitude of vessels which now steamed and sailed upon
its surface. Among these, going westward, were six
crabs, and the spring-armoured vessel, once the
Tallapoosa, going home to a triumphant reception,
such as had never before been accorded to any vessel,
whether of war or peace.
The blockade of the Canadian port, which had been
effectively maintained without incident, was now
raised, and the Syndicate's vessels proceeded to an
American port.
The British ironclad, Adamant, at the conclusion
of peace was still in tow of Crab C, and off the coast
of Florida. A vessel was sent down the coast by the
Syndicate to notify Crab C of what had occurred, and to
order it to tow the Adamant to the Bermudas, and
there deliver her to the British authorities. The
vessel sent by the Syndicate, which was a fast coaststeamer,
had scarcely hove in sight of the objects of
her search when she was saluted by a ten-inch shell
from the Adamant, followed almost immediately by
two others. The commander of the Adamant had no idea
that the war was at an end, and had never failed,
during his involuntary cruise, to fire at anything
which bore the American flag, or looked like an
American craft.
Fortunately the coast steamer was not struck, and
at the top of her speed retired to a greater distance,
whence the Syndicate officer on board communicated with
the crab by smoke signals.
During the time in which Crab C had had charge of
the Adamant no communication had taken place between
the two vessels. Whenever an air-pipe had been
elevated for the purpose of using therein a speakingtube,
a volley from a machine-gun on the Adamant was
poured upon it, and after several pipes had been shot
away the director of the crab ceased his efforts to
confer with those on the ironclad. It had been
necessary to place the outlets of the ventilating
apparatus of the crab under the forward ends of some of
the upper roof-plates.
When Crab C had received her orders, she put about
the prow of the great warship, and proceeded to tow her
north-eastward, the commander of the Adamant
taking a parting crack with his heaviest stern-gun at
the vessel which had brought the order for his release.
All the way from the American coast to the Bermuda
Islands, the great Adamant blazed, thundered, and
roared, not only because her commander saw, or fancied
he saw, an American vessel, but to notify all crabs,
repellers, and any other vile invention of the enemy
that may have been recently put forth to blemish the
sacred surface of the sea, that the Adamant still
floated, with the heaviest coat of mail and the finest
and most complete armament in the world, ready to sink
anything hostile which came near enough--but not too near.
When the commander found that he was bound for the
Bermudas, he did not understand it, unless, indeed,
those islands had been captured by the enemy. But he
did not stop firing. Indeed, should he find the
Bermudas under the American flag, he would fire at that
flag and whatever carried it, as long as a shot or a
shell or a charge of powder remained to him.
But when he reached British waters, and slowly
entering St. George's harbour, saw around him the
British flag floating as proudly as it floated above
his own great ship, he confessed himself utterly
bewildered; but he ordered the men at every gun to
stand by their piece until he was boarded by a boat
from the fort, and informed of the true state of affairs.
But even then, when weary Crab C raised herself
from her fighting depth, and steamed to a dock, the
commander of the Adamant could scarcely refrain from
sending a couple of tons of iron into the beastly seadevil
which had had the impertinence to tow him about
against his will.
No time was lost by the respective Governments of
Great Britain and the United States in ratifying the
peace made through the Syndicate, and in concluding a
military and naval alliance, the basis of which should
be the use by these two nations, and by no other
nations, of the instantaneous motor. The treaty was
made and adopted with much more despatch than generally
accompanies such agreements between nations, for both
Governments felt the importance of placing themselves,
without delay, in that position from which, by means of
their united control of paramount methods of
warfare, they might become the arbiters of peace.
The desire to evolve that power which should render
opposition useless had long led men from one warlike
invention to another. Every one who had constructed a
new kind of gun, a new kind of armour, or a new
explosive, thought that he had solved the problem, or
was on his way to do so. The inventor of the
instantaneous motor had done it.
The treaty provided that all subjects concerning
hostilities between either or both of the contracting
powers and other nations should be referred to a Joint
High Commission, appointed by the two powers; and if
war should be considered necessary, it should be
prosecuted and conducted by the Anglo-American War
Syndicate, within limitations prescribed by the High
The contract made with the new Syndicate was of the
most stringent order, and contained every provision
that ingenuity or foresight of man could invent or
suggest to make it impossible for the Syndicate to
transfer to any other nation the use of the
instantaneous motor.
Throughout all classes in sympathy with the
Administrative parties of Great Britain and the United
States there was a feeling of jubilant elation on
account of the alliance and the adoption by the two
nations of the means of prohibitive warfare. This
public sentiment acted even upon the opposition; and
the majority of army and navy officers in the two
countries felt bound to admit that the arts of war in
which they had been educated were things of the past.
Of course there were members of the army and navy in
both countries who deprecated the new state of things.
But there were also men, still living, who deprecated
the abolition of the old wooden seventy-four gun ship.
A British artillery officer conversing with a
member of the American Syndicate at a London club, said
to him:--
"Do you know that you made a great mistake in the
beginning of your operations with the motor-guns? If
you had contrived an attachment to the motor which
should have made an infernal thunder-clap and a storm
of smoke at the moment of discharge it would have saved
you a lot of money and time and trouble. The work of
the motor on the Canadian coast was terrible enough,
but people could see no connection between that
and the guns on your vessels. If you could have sooner
shown that connection you might have saved yourselves
the trouble of crossing the Atlantic. And, to prove
this, one of the most satisfactory points connected
with your work on the Welsh coast was the jet of smoke
which came from the repeller every time she discharged
a motor. If it had not been for those jets, I believe
there would be people now in the opposition who would
swear that Caerdaff had been mined, and that the
Ministry were a party to it."
"Your point is well taken," said the American, "and
should it ever be necessary to discharge any more
bombs,--which I hope it may not be,--we shall take care
to show a visible and audible connection between cause
and effect."
"The devil take it, sir!" cried an old captain of
an English ship-of-the-line, who was sitting near by.
"What you are talking about is not war! We might as
well send out a Codfish Trust to settle national
disputes. In the next sea-fight we'll save ourselves
the trouble of gnawing and crunching at the sterns of
the enemy. We'll simply send a note aboard
requesting the foreigner to be so good as to send
us his rudder by bearer, which, if properly marked and
numbered, will be returned to him on the conclusion of
peace. This would do just as well as twisting it off,
and save expense. No, sir, I will not join you in a
julep! _I_ have made no alliance over new-fangled
inventions! Waiter, fetch me some rum and hot water!"
In the midst of the profound satisfaction with
which the members of the American War Syndicate
regarded the success of their labours,--labours alike
profitable to themselves and to the recently contending
nations,--and in the gratified pride with which they
received the popular and official congratulations which
were showered upon them, there was but one little
cloud, one regret.
In the course of the great Syndicate War a life had
been lost. Thomas Hutchins, while assisting in the
loading of coal on one of the repellers, was
accidentally killed by the falling of a derrick.
The Syndicate gave a generous sum to the family of
the unfortunate man, and throughout the United States
the occurrence occasioned a deep feeling of sympathetic
regret. A popular subscription was started to build a monument
to the memory of Hutchins, and contributions came, not only
from all parts of the United States, but from many
persons in Great Britain who wished to assist in the
erection of this tribute to the man who had fallen
in the contest which had been of as much benefit to
their country as to his own.
Some weeks after the conclusion of the treaty, a
public question was raised, which at first threatened
to annoy the American Government; but it proved to be
of little moment. An anti-Administration paper in
Peakville, Arkansas, asserted that in the whole of the
published treaty there was not one word in regard to
the fisheries question, the complications arising from
which had been the cause of the war. Other papers took
up the matter, and the Government then discovered that
in drawing up the treaty the fisheries business had
been entirely overlooked. There was a good deal of
surprise in official circles when this discovery was
announced; but as it was considered that the fisheries
question was one which would take care of itself, or be
readily disposed of in connection with a number of
other minor points which remained to be settled between
the two countries, it was decided to take no notice of
the implied charge of neglect, and to let the matter
drop. And as the opposition party took no real
interest in the question, but little more was said
about it.
Both countries were too well satisfied with the
general result to waste time or discussion over small
matters. Great Britain had lost some forts and some
ships; but these would have been comparatively useless
in the new system of warfare. On the other hand, she
had gained, not only the incalculable advantage of the
alliance, but a magnificent and unsurpassed landlocked
basin on the coast of Wales.
The United States had been obliged to pay an
immense sum on account of the contract with the War
Syndicate, but this was considered money so well spent,
and so much less than an ordinary war would have cost,
that only the most violent anti-Administration journals
ever alluded to it.
Reduction of military and naval forces, and gradual
disarmament, was now the policy of the allied nations.
Such forces and such vessels as might be demanded for
the future operations of the War Syndicate were
retained. A few field batteries of motor-guns were all
that would be needed on land, and a comparatively small
number of armoured ships would suffice to carry
the motor-guns that would be required at sea.
Now there would be no more mere exhibitions of the
powers of the instantaneous motor-bomb. Hereafter, if
battles must be fought, they would be battles of
This is the history of the Great Syndicate War.
Whether or not the Anglo-American Syndicate was ever
called upon to make war, it is not to be stated here.
But certain it is that after the formation of this
Syndicate all the nations of the world began to teach
English in their schools, and the Spirit of
Civilization raised her head with a confident smile.

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