For several days things went along in about the same course.
I took our position every morning with my crude sextant; but the
results were always most unsatisfactory. They always showed a
considerable westing when I knew that we had been sailing due north.
I blamed my crude instrument, and kept on. Then one afternoon the
girl came to me.
"Pardon me," she said, "but were I you, I should watch this
Benson--especially when he is in charge." I asked her what she
meant, thinking I could see the influence of von Schoenvorts
raising a suspicion against one of my most trusted men.
"If you will note the boat's course a half-hour after Benson goes
on duty," she said, "you will know what I mean, and you will
understand why he prefers a night watch. Possibly, too, you will
understand some other things that have taken place aboard."
Then she went back to her room, thus ending the conversation.
I waited until half an hour after Benson had gone on duty, and then
I went on deck, passing through the conning-tower where Benson sat,
and looking at the compass. It showed that our course was
north by west--that is, one point west of north, which was, for
our assumed position, about right. I was greatly relieved to
find that nothing was wrong, for the girl's words had caused me
considerable apprehension. I was about to return to my room when
a thought occurred to me that again caused me to change my
mind--and, incidentally, came near proving my death-warrant.
When I had left the conning-tower little more than a half-hour
since, the sea had been breaking over the port bow, and it seemed
to me quite improbable that in so short a time an equally heavy
sea could be deluging us from the opposite side of the ship--winds
may change quickly, but not a long, heavy sea. There was only
one other solution--since I left the tower, our course had been
altered some eight points. Turning quickly, I climbed out upon
the conning-tower. A single glance at the heavens confirmed my
suspicions; the constellations which should have been dead ahead
were directly starboard. We were sailing due west.
Just for an instant longer I stood there to check up my
calculations--I wanted to be quite sure before I accused Benson
of perfidy, and about the only thing I came near making quite
sure of was death. I cannot see even now how I escaped it.
I was standing on the edge of the conning-tower, when a heavy
palm suddenly struck me between the shoulders and hurled me
forward into space. The drop to the triangular deck forward of
the conning-tower might easily have broken a leg for me, or I
might have slipped off onto the deck and rolled overboard; but
fate was upon my side, as I was only slightly bruised. As I
came to my feet, I heard the conning-tower cover slam. There is
a ladder which leads from the deck to the top of the tower.
Up this I scrambled, as fast as I could go; but Benson had
the cover tight before I reached it.
I stood there a moment in dumb consternation. What did the
fellow intend? What was going on below? If Benson was a traitor,
how could I know that there were not other traitors among us?
I cursed myself for my folly in going out upon the deck, and then
this thought suggested another--a hideous one: who was it that
had really been responsible for my being here?
Thinking to attract attention from inside the craft, I again ran
down the ladder and onto the small deck only to find that the
steel covers of the conning-tower windows were shut, and then I
leaned with my back against the tower and cursed myself for a
I glanced at the bow. The sea seemed to be getting heavier, for
every wave now washed completely over the lower deck. I watched
them for a moment, and then a sudden chill pervaded my entire being.
It was not the chill of wet clothing, or the dashing spray which
drenched my face; no, it was the chill of the hand of death upon
my heart. In an instant I had turned the last corner of life's
highway and was looking God Almighty in the face--the U-33 was
being slowly submerged!
It would be difficult, even impossible, to set down in writing
my sensations at that moment. All I can particularly recall
is that I laughed, though neither from a spirit of bravado nor
from hysteria. And I wanted to smoke. Lord! how I did want to
smoke; but that was out of the question.
I watched the water rise until the little deck I stood on was awash,
and then I clambered once more to the top of the conning-tower.
From the very slow submergence of the boat I knew that Benson was
doing the entire trick alone--that he was merely permitting the
diving-tanks to fill and that the diving-rudders were not in use.
The throbbing of the engines ceased, and in its stead came the
steady vibration of the electric motors. The water was halfway
up the conning-tower! I had perhaps five minutes longer on the deck.
I tried to decide what I should do after I was washed away. Should I
swim until exhaustion claimed me, or should I give up and end the
agony at the first plunge?
From below came two muffled reports. They sounded not unlike shots.
Was Benson meeting with resistance? Personally it could mean little
to me, for even though my men might overcome the enemy, none would
know of my predicament until long after it was too late to succor me.
The top of the conning-tower was now awash. I clung to the wireless
mast, while the great waves surged sometimes completely over me.
I knew the end was near and, almost involuntarily, I did that
which I had not done since childhood--I prayed. After that I
I clung and waited, but the water rose no higher.
Instead it receded. Now the top of the conning-tower received
only the crests of the higher waves; now the little triangular
deck below became visible! What had occurred within? Did Benson
believe me already gone, and was he emerging because of that
belief, or had he and his forces been vanquished? The suspense
was more wearing than that which I had endured while waiting
for dissolution. Presently the main deck came into view, and
then the conning-tower opened behind me, and I turned to look
into the anxious face of Bradley. An expression of relief
overspread his features.
"Thank God, man!" was all he said as he reached forth and dragged
me into the tower. I was cold and numb and rather all in.
Another few minutes would have done for me, I am sure, but the
warmth of the interior helped to revive me, aided and abetted by
some brandy which Bradley poured down my throat, from which it
nearly removed the membrane. That brandy would have revived a corpse.
When I got down into the centrale, I saw the Germans lined up on
one side with a couple of my men with pistols standing over them.
Von Schoenvorts was among them. On the floor lay Benson,
moaning, and beyond him stood the girl, a revolver in one hand.
I looked about, bewildered.
"What has happened down here?" I asked. "Tell me!"
Bradley replied. "You see the result, sir," he said. "It
have been a very different result but for Miss La Rue. We were
all asleep. Benson had relieved the guard early in the evening;
there was no one to watch him--no one but Miss La Rue. She felt
the submergence of the boat and came out of her room to investigate.
She was just in time to see Benson at the diving rudders. When he
saw her, he raised his pistol and fired point-blank at her, but he
missed and she fired--and didn't miss. The two shots awakened
everyone, and as our men were armed, the result was inevitable as
you see it; but it would have been very different had it not been
for Miss La Rue. It was she who closed the diving-tank sea-cocks
and roused Olson and me, and had the pumps started to empty them."
And there I had been thinking that through her machinations I had
been lured to the deck and to my death! I could have gone on my
knees to her and begged her forgiveness--or at least I could
have, had I not been Anglo-Saxon. As it was, I could only remove
my soggy cap and bow and mumble my appreciation. She made no
reply--only turned and walked very rapidly toward her room.
Could I have heard aright? Was it really a sob that came floating
back to me through the narrow aisle of the U-33?
Benson died that night. He remained defiant almost to the last;
but just before he went out, he motioned to me, and I leaned over
to catch the faintly whispered words.
"I did it alone," he said. "I did it because I hate you--I
all your kind. I was kicked out of your shipyard at Santa Monica.
I was locked out of California. I am an I. W. W. I became a German
agent--not because I love them, for I hate them too--but because
I wanted to injure Americans, whom I hated more. I threw the
wireless apparatus overboard. I destroyed the chronometer and
the sextant. I devised a scheme for varying the compass to suit
my wishes. I told Wilson that I had seen the girl talking with
von Schoenvorts, and I made the poor egg think he had seen her
doing the same thing. I am sorry--sorry that my plans failed.
I hate you."
He didn't die for a half-hour after that; nor did he speak
again--aloud; but just a few seconds before he went to meet his
Maker, his lips moved in a faint whisper; and as I leaned closer
to catch his words, what do you suppose I heard? "Now--I--lay
me--down--to--sleep" That was all; Benson was dead. We threw his
The wind of that night brought on some pretty rough weather with
a lot of black clouds which persisted for several days. We didn't
know what course we had been holding, and there was no way of
finding out, as we could no longer trust the compass, not knowing
what Benson had done to it. The long and the short of it was that
we cruised about aimlessly until the sun came out again. I'll never
forget that day or its surprises. We reckoned, or rather guessed,
that we were somewhere off the coast of Peru. The wind, which had
been blowing fitfully from the east, suddenly veered around into
the south, and presently we felt a sudden chill.
"Peru!" snorted Olson. "When were yez after smellin' iceber-rgs
Icebergs! "Icebergs, nothin'!" exclaimed one of the Englishmen.
"Why, man, they don't come north of fourteen here in these waters."
"Then," replied Olson, "ye're sout' of fourteen, me b'y."
We thought he was crazy; but he wasn't, for that afternoon we
sighted a great berg south of us, and we'd been running north, we
thought, for days. I can tell you we were a discouraged lot; but we
got a faint thrill of hope early the next morning when the lookout
bawled down the open hatch: "Land! Land northwest by west!"
I think we were all sick for the sight of land. I know that I was;
but my interest was quickly dissipated by the sudden illness of
three of the Germans. Almost simultaneously they commenced vomiting.
They couldn't suggest any explanation for it. I asked them what
they had eaten, and found they had eaten nothing other than the
food cooked for all of us. "Have you drunk anything?" I asked,
for I knew that there was liquor aboard, and medicines in the
"Only water," moaned one of them. "We all drank water together
this morning. We opened a new tank. Maybe it was the water."
I started an investigation which revealed a terrifying condition--
some one, probably Benson, had poisoned all the running water on
the ship. It would have been worse, though, had land not been
in sight. The sight of land filled us with renewed hope.
Our course had been altered, and we were rapidly approaching what
appeared to be a precipitous headland. Cliffs, seemingly rising
perpendicularly out of the sea, faded away into the mist upon either
hand as we approached. The land before us might have been a continent,
so mighty appeared the shoreline; yet we knew that we must be
thousands of miles from the nearest western land-mass--New Zealand
We took our bearings with our crude and inaccurate instruments;
we searched the chart; we cudgeled our brains; and at last it was
Bradley who suggested a solution. He was in the tower and
watching the compass, to which he called my attention. The needle
was pointing straight toward the land. Bradley swung the helm
hard to starboard. I could feel the U-33 respond, and yet the
arrow still clung straight and sure toward the distant cliffs.
"What do you make of it?" I asked him.
"Did you ever hear of Caproni?" he asked.
"An early Italian navigator?" I returned.
"Yes; he followed Cook about 1721. He is scarcely mentioned even
by contemporaneous historians--probably because he got into
political difficulties on his return to Italy. It was the
fashion to scoff at his claims, but I recall reading one of his
works--his only one, I believe--in which he described a new
continent in the south seas, a continent made up of `some strange
metal' which attracted the compass; a rockbound, inhospitable coast,
without beach or harbor, which extended for hundreds of miles.
He could make no landing; nor in the several days he cruised about
it did he see sign of life. He called it Caprona and sailed away.
I believe, sir, that we are looking upon the coast of Caprona,
uncharted and forgotten for two hundred years."
"If you are right, it might account for much of the deviation of
the compass during the past two days," I suggested. "Caprona
has been luring us upon her deadly rocks. Well, we'll accept
her challenge. We'll land upon Caprona. Along that long front
there must be a vulnerable spot. We will find it, Bradley, for
we must find it. We must find water on Caprona, or we must die."
And so we approached the coast upon which no living eyes had
ever rested. Straight from the ocean's depths rose towering
cliffs, shot with brown and blues and greens--withered moss
and lichen and the verdigris of copper, and everywhere the
rusty ocher of iron pyrites. The cliff-tops, though ragged,
were of such uniform height as to suggest the boundaries of
a great plateau, and now and again we caught glimpses of verdure
topping the rocky escarpment, as though bush or jungle-land had
pushed outward from a lush vegetation farther inland to signal
to an unseeing world that Caprona lived and joyed in life beyond
her austere and repellent coast.
But metaphor, however poetic, never slaked a dry throat.
To enjoy Caprona's romantic suggestions we must have water,
and so we came in close, always sounding, and skirted the shore.
As close in as we dared cruise, we found fathomless depths, and
always the same undented coastline of bald cliffs. As darkness
threatened, we drew away and lay well off the coast all night.
We had not as yet really commenced to suffer for lack of water;
but I knew that it would not be long before we did, and so at the
first streak of dawn I moved in again and once more took up the
hopeless survey of the forbidding coast.
Toward noon we discovered a beach, the first we had seen. It was
a narrow strip of sand at the base of a part of the cliff that
seemed lower than any we had before scanned. At its foot, half
buried in the sand, lay great boulders, mute evidence that in a
bygone age some mighty natural force had crumpled Caprona's
barrier at this point. It was Bradley who first called our
attention to a strange object lying among the boulders above
"Looks like a man," he said, and passed his glasses to me.
I looked long and carefully and could have sworn that the thing
I saw was the sprawled figure of a human being. Miss La Rue was
on deck with us. I turned and asked her to go below. Without a
word she did as I bade. Then I stripped, and as I did so, Nobs
looked questioningly at me. He had been wont at home to enter
the surf with me, and evidently he had not forgotten it.
"What are you going to do, sir?" asked Olson.
"I'm going to see what that thing is on shore," I replied.
"If it's a man, it may mean that Caprona is inhabited, or it
may merely mean that some poor devils were shipwrecked here.
I ought to be able to tell from the clothing which is more
near the truth.
"How about sharks?" queried Olson. "Sure, you ought to carry
"Here you are, sir," cried one of the men.
It was a long slim blade he offered--one that I could carry
between my teeth--and so I accepted it gladly.
"Keep close in," I directed Bradley, and then I dived over the
side and struck out for the narrow beach. There was another
splash directly behind me, and turning my head, I saw faithful
old Nobs swimming valiantly in my wake.
The surf was not heavy, and there was no undertow, so we made
shore easily, effecting an equally easy landing. The beach
was composed largely of small stones worn smooth by the action
of water. There was little sand, though from the deck of the U-33
the beach had appeared to be all sand, and I saw no evidences of
mollusca or crustacea such as are common to all beaches I have
previously seen. I attribute this to the fact of the smallness
of the beach, the enormous depth of surrounding water and the
great distance at which Caprona lies from her nearest neighbor.
As Nobs and I approached the recumbent figure farther up the
beach, I was appraised by my nose that whether or not, the thing
had once been organic and alive, but that for some time it had
been dead. Nobs halted, sniffed and growled. A little later he
sat down upon his haunches, raised his muzzle to the heavens and
bayed forth a most dismal howl. I shied a small stone at him and
bade him shut up--his uncanny noise made me nervous. When I had
come quite close to the thing, I still could not say whether it
had been man or beast. The carcass was badly swollen and
partly decomposed. There was no sign of clothing upon or
about it. A fine, brownish hair covered the chest and abdomen,
and the face, the palms of the hands, the feet, the shoulders and
back were practically hairless. The creature must have been
about the height of a fair sized man; its features were similar
to those of a man; yet had it been a man?
I could not say, for it resembled an ape no more than it did
a man. Its large toes protruded laterally as do those of the
semiarboreal peoples of Borneo, the Philippines and other remote
regions where low types still persist. The countenance might
have been that of a cross between Pithecanthropus, the Java
ape-man, and a daughter of the Piltdown race of prehistoric Sussex.
A wooden cudgel lay beside the corpse.
Now this fact set me thinking. There was no wood of any
description in sight. There was nothing about the beach to
suggest a wrecked mariner. There was absolutely nothing about
the body to suggest that it might possibly in life have known a
maritime experience. It was the body of a low type of man or a
high type of beast. In neither instance would it have been of a
seafaring race. Therefore I deduced that it was native to
Caprona--that it lived inland, and that it had fallen or been
hurled from the cliffs above. Such being the case, Caprona was
inhabitable, if not inhabited, by man; but how to reach the
inhabitable interior! That was the question. A closer view
of the cliffs than had been afforded me from the deck of the
U-33 only confirmed my conviction that no mortal man could scale
those perpendicular heights; there was not a finger-hold, not a
toe-hold, upon them. I turned away baffled.
Nobs and I met with no sharks upon our return journey to
the submarine. My report filled everyone with theories and
speculations, and with renewed hope and determination. They all
reasoned along the same lines that I had reasoned--the
conclusions were obvious, but not the water. We were now
thirstier than ever.
The balance of that day we spent in continuing a minute and
fruitless exploration of the monotonous coast. There was not
another break in the frowning cliffs--not even another minute
patch of pebbly beach. As the sun fell, so did our spirits.
I had tried to make advances to the girl again; but she would
have none of me, and so I was not only thirsty but otherwise sad
and downhearted. I was glad when the new day broke the hideous
spell of a sleepless night.
The morning's search brought us no shred of hope. Caprona was
impregnable--that was the decision of all; yet we kept on. It must
have been about two bells of the afternoon watch that Bradley called
my attention to the branch of a tree, with leaves upon it, floating
on the sea. "It may have been carried down to the ocean by a river,"
"Yes, " I replied, "it may have; it may have tumbled or been
off the top of one of these cliffs."
Bradley's face fell. "I thought of that, too," he replied, "but
I wanted to believe the other."
"Right you are!" I cried. "We must believe the other until
prove it false. We can't afford to give up heart now, when we
need heart most. The branch was carried down by a river, and we
are going to find that river." I smote my open palm with a
clenched fist, to emphasize a determination unsupported by hope.
"There!" I cried suddenly. "See that, Bradley?" And
I pointed at
a spot closer to shore. "See that, man!" Some flowers and
grasses and another leafy branch floated toward us. We both
scanned the water and the coastline. Bradley evidently
discovered something, or at least thought that he had. He called
down for a bucket and a rope, and when they were passed up to
him, he lowered the former into the sea and drew it in filled
with water. Of this he took a taste, and straightening up,
looked into my eyes with an expression of elation--as much as to
say "I told you so!"
"This water is warm," he announced, "and fresh!"
I grabbed the bucket and tasted its contents. The water was very
warm, and it was fresh, but there was a most unpleasant taste to it.
"Did you ever taste water from a stagnant pool full of tadpoles?"
"That's it," I exclaimed, "--that's just the taste exactly,
though I haven't experienced it since boyhood; but how can water
from a flowing stream, taste thus, and what the dickens makes it
so warm? It must be at least 70 or 80 Fahrenheit, possibly higher."
"Yes," agreed Bradley, "I should say higher; but where does
"That is easily discovered now that we have found it," I answered.
"It can't come from the ocean; so it must come from the land.
All that we have to do is follow it, and sooner or later we shall
come upon its source."
We were already rather close in; but I ordered the U-33's prow
turned inshore and we crept slowly along, constantly dipping up
the water and tasting it to assure ourselves that we didn't get
outside the fresh-water current. There was a very light off-shore
wind and scarcely any breakers, so that the approach to the shore
was continued without finding bottom; yet though we were already
quite close, we saw no indication of any indention in the coast
from which even a tiny brooklet might issue, and certainly no
mouth of a large river such as this must necessarily be to freshen
the ocean even two hundred yards from shore. The tide was running
out, and this, together with the strong flow of the freshwater
current, would have prevented our going against the cliffs even
had we not been under power; as it was we had to buck the combined
forces in order to hold our position at all. We came up to within
twenty-five feet of the sheer wall, which loomed high above us.
There was no break in its forbidding face. As we watched the face
of the waters and searched the cliff's high face, Olson suggested
that the fresh water might come from a submarine geyser. This, he
said, would account for its heat; but even as he spoke a bush,
covered thickly with leaves and flowers, bubbled to the surface
and floated off astern.
"Flowering shrubs don't thrive in the subterranean caverns from
which geysers spring," suggested Bradley.
Olson shook his head. "It beats me," he said.
"I've got it!" I exclaimed suddenly. "Look there!" And
at the base of the cliff ahead of us, which the receding tide was
gradually exposing to our view. They all looked, and all saw
what I had seen--the top of a dark opening in the rock, through
which water was pouring out into the sea. "It's the subterranean
channel of an inland river," I cried. "It flows through a land
covered with vegetation--and therefore a land upon which the
sun shines. No subterranean caverns produce any order of plant
life even remotely resembling what we have seen disgorged by
this river. Beyond those cliffs lie fertile lands and fresh
"Yis, sir," said Olson, "behoind the cliffs! Ye spoke a true
Bradley laughed--a rather sorry laugh, though. "You might as
well call our attention to the fact, sir," he said, "that science
has indicated that there is fresh water and vegetation on Mars."
"Not at all," I rejoined. "A U-boat isn't constructed to
space, but it is designed to travel below the surface of the water."
"You'd be after sailin' into that blank pocket?" asked Olson.
"I would, Olson," I replied. "We haven't one chance for life
a hundred thousand if we don't find food and water upon Caprona.
This water coming out of the cliff is not salt; but neither is it
fit to drink, though each of us has drunk. It is fair to assume
that inland the river is fed by pure streams, that there are
fruits and herbs and game. Shall we lie out here and die of
thirst and starvation with a land of plenty possibly only a few
hundred yards away? We have the means for navigating a
subterranean river. Are we too cowardly to utilize this means?"
"Be afther goin' to it," said Olson.
"I'm willing to see it through," agreed Bradley.
"Then under the bottom, wi' the best o' luck an' give 'em hell!"
cried a young fellow who had been in the trenches.
"To the diving-stations!" I commanded, and in less than a minute
the deck was deserted, the conning-tower covers had slammed to
and the U-33 was submerging--possibly for the last time. I know
that I had this feeling, and I think that most of the others did.
As we went down, I sat in the tower with the searchlight
projecting its seemingly feeble rays ahead. We submerged very
slowly and without headway more than sufficient to keep her nose
in the right direction, and as we went down, I saw outlined ahead
of us the black opening in the great cliff. It was an opening
that would have admitted a half-dozen U-boats at one and the same
time, roughly cylindrical in contour--and dark as the pit of perdition.
As I gave the command which sent the U-33 slowly ahead, I could
not but feel a certain uncanny presentiment of evil. Where were
we going? What lay at the end of this great sewer? Had we bidden
farewell forever to the sunlight and life, or were there before
us dangers even greater than those which we now faced? I tried to
keep my mind from vain imagining by calling everything which I
observed to the eager ears below. I was the eyes of the whole
company, and I did my best not to fail them. We had advanced a
hundred yards, perhaps, when our first danger confronted us.
Just ahead was a sharp right-angle turn in the tunnel. I could
see the river's flotsam hurtling against the rocky wall upon the
left as it was driven on by the mighty current, and I feared for
the safety of the U-33 in making so sharp a turn under such
adverse conditions; but there was nothing for it but to try.
I didn't warn my fellows of the danger--it could have but caused
them useless apprehension, for if we were to be smashed against
the rocky wall, no power on earth could avert the quick end that
would come to us. I gave the command full speed ahead and went
charging toward the menace. I was forced to approach the
dangerous left-hand wall in order to make the turn, and I
depended upon the power of the motors to carry us through the
surging waters in safety. Well, we made it; but it was a
narrow squeak. As we swung around, the full force of the current
caught us and drove the stern against the rocks; there was a thud
which sent a tremor through the whole craft, and then a moment of
nasty grinding as the steel hull scraped the rock wall. I expected
momentarily the inrush of waters that would seal our doom; but
presently from below came the welcome word that all was well.
In another fifty yards there was a second turn, this time toward
the left! but it was more of a gentle curve, and we took it
without trouble. After that it was plain sailing, though as far
as I could know, there might be most anything ahead of us, and my
nerves strained to the snapping-point every instant. After the
second turn the channel ran comparatively straight for between
one hundred and fifty and two hundred yards. The waters grew
suddenly lighter, and my spirits rose accordingly. I shouted
down to those below that I saw daylight ahead, and a great shout
of thanksgiving reverberated through the ship. A moment later we
emerged into sunlit water, and immediately I raised the periscope
and looked about me upon the strangest landscape I had ever seen.
We were in the middle of a broad and now sluggish river the banks
of which were lined by giant, arboraceous ferns, raising their
mighty fronds fifty, one hundred, two hundred feet into the
quiet air. Close by us something rose to the surface of the river
and dashed at the periscope. I had a vision of wide, distended jaws,
and then all was blotted out. A shiver ran down into the tower as
the thing closed upon the periscope. A moment later it was gone,
and I could see again. Above the trees there soared into my vision
a huge thing on batlike wings--a creature large as a large whale,
but fashioned more after the order of a lizard. Then again
something charged the periscope and blotted out the mirror. I will
confess that I was almost gasping for breath as I gave the commands
to emerge. Into what sort of strange land had fate guided us?
The instant the deck was awash, I opened the conning-tower hatch
and stepped out. In another minute the deck-hatch lifted, and
those who were not on duty below streamed up the ladder, Olson
bringing Nobs under one arm. For several minutes no one spoke;
I think they must each have been as overcome by awe as was I.
All about us was a flora and fauna as strange and wonderful to us
as might have been those upon a distant planet had we suddenly
been miraculously transported through ether to an unknown world.
Even the grass upon the nearer bank was unearthly--lush and high
it grew, and each blade bore upon its tip a brilliant flower--
violet or yellow or carmine or blue--making as gorgeous a sward
as human imagination might conceive. But the life! It teemed.
The tall, fernlike trees were alive with monkeys, snakes, and lizards.
Huge insects hummed and buzzed hither and thither. Mighty forms
could be seen moving upon the ground in the thick forest, while
the bosom of the river wriggled with living things, and above
flapped the wings of gigantic creatures such as we are taught have
been extinct throughout countless ages.
"Look!" cried Olson. "Would you look at the giraffe comin'
out o' the bottom of the say?" We looked in the direction he
pointed and saw a long, glossy neck surmounted by a small head
rising above the surface of the river. Presently the back of the
creature was exposed, brown and glossy as the water dripped from it.
It turned its eyes upon us, opened its lizard-like mouth, emitted
a shrill hiss and came for us. The thing must have been sixteen
or eighteen feet in length and closely resembled pictures I had
seen of restored plesiosaurs of the lower Jurassic. It charged
us as savagely as a mad bull, and one would have thought it
intended to destroy and devour the mighty U-boat, as I verily
believe it did intend.
We were moving slowly up the river as the creature bore down upon
us with distended jaws. The long neck was far outstretched, and
the four flippers with which it swam were working with powerful
strokes, carrying it forward at a rapid pace. When it reached
the craft's side, the jaws closed upon one of the stanchions of
the deck rail and tore it from its socket as though it had been
a toothpick stuck in putty. At this exhibition of titanic
strength I think we all simultaneously stepped backward, and
Bradley drew his revolver and fired. The bullet struck the thing
in the neck, just above its body; but instead of disabling it,
merely increased its rage. Its hissing rose to a shrill scream
as it raised half its body out of water onto the sloping sides of
the hull of the U-33 and endeavored to scramble upon the deck to
devour us. A dozen shots rang out as we who were armed drew our
pistols and fired at the thing; but though struck several times,
it showed no signs of succumbing and only floundered farther
aboard the submarine.
I had noticed that the girl had come on deck and was standing not
far behind me, and when I saw the danger to which we were all
exposed, I turned and forced her toward the hatch. We had not
spoken for some days, and we did not speak now; but she gave me
a disdainful look, which was quite as eloquent as words, and
broke loose from my grasp. I saw I could do nothing with her
unless I exerted force, and so I turned with my back toward her
that I might be in a position to shield her from the strange
reptile should it really succeed in reaching the deck; and as I
did so I saw the thing raise one flipper over the rail, dart its
head forward and with the quickness of lightning seize upon one
of the boches. I ran forward, discharging my pistol into the
creature's body in an effort to force it to relinquish its prey;
but I might as profitably have shot at the sun.
Shrieking and screaming, the German was dragged from the deck,
and the moment the reptile was clear of the boat, it dived
beneath the surface of the water with its terrified prey.
I think we were all more or less shaken by the frightfulness o
the tragedy--until Olson remarked that the balance of power now
rested where it belonged. Following the death of Benson we had
been nine and nine--nine Germans and nine "Allies," as we called
ourselves, now there were but eight Germans. We never counted
the girl on either side, I suppose because she was a girl, though
we knew well enough now that she was ours.
And so Olson's remark helped to clear the atmosphere for the
Allies at least, and then our attention was once more directed
toward the river, for around us there had sprung up a perfect
bedlam of screams and hisses and a seething caldron of hideous
reptiles, devoid of fear and filled only with hunger and with rage.
They clambered, squirmed and wriggled to the deck, forcing
us steadily backward, though we emptied our pistols into them.
There were all sorts and conditions of horrible things--huge,
hideous, grotesque, monstrous--a veritable Mesozoic nightmare.
I saw that the girl was gotten below as quickly as possible, and
she took Nobs with her--poor Nobs had nearly barked his head off;
and I think, too, that for the first time since his littlest
puppyhood he had known fear; nor can I blame him. After the girl
I sent Bradley and most of the Allies and then the Germans who
were on deck--von Schoenvorts being still in irons below.
The creatures were approaching perilously close before I dropped
through the hatchway and slammed down the cover. Then I went
into the tower and ordered full speed ahead, hoping to distance
the fearsome things; but it was useless. Not only could any of
them easily outdistance the U-33, but the further upstream we
progressed the greater the number of our besiegers, until fearful
of navigating a strange river at high speed, I gave orders to
reduce and moved slowly and majestically through the plunging,
hissing mass. I was mighty glad that our entrance into the
interior of Caprona had been inside a submarine rather than in
any other form of vessel. I could readily understand how it
might have been that Caprona had been invaded in the past by
venturesome navigators without word of it ever reaching the
outside world, for I can assure you that only by submarine could
man pass up that great sluggish river, alive.
We proceeded up the river for some forty miles before darkness
overtook us. I was afraid to submerge and lie on the bottom
overnight for fear that the mud might be deep enough to hold us,
and as we could not hold with the anchor, I ran in close to
shore, and in a brief interim of attack from the reptiles we made
fast to a large tree. We also dipped up some of the river water
and found it, though quite warm, a little sweeter than before.
We had food enough, and with the water we were all quite
refreshed; but we missed fresh meat. It had been weeks, now,
since we had tasted it, and the sight of the reptiles gave me
an idea--that a steak or two from one of them might not be
bad eating. So I went on deck with a rifle, twenty of which were
aboard the U-33. At sight of me a huge thing charged and climbed
to the deck. I retreated to the top of the conning-tower, and
when it had raised its mighty bulk to the level of the little deck
on which I stood, I let it have a bullet right between the eyes.
The thing stopped then and looked at me a moment as much as to
say: "Why this thing has a stinger! I must be careful." And then
it reached out its long neck and opened its mighty jaws and grabbed
for me; but I wasn't there. I had tumbled backward into the tower,
and I mighty near killed myself doing it. When I glanced up, that
little head on the end of its long neck was coming straight down on
top of me, and once more I tumbled into greater safety, sprawling
upon the floor of the centrale.
Olson was looking up, and seeing what was poking about in the
tower, ran for an ax; nor did he hesitate a moment when he
returned with one, but sprang up the ladder and commenced
chopping away at that hideous face. The thing didn't have
sufficient brainpan to entertain more than a single idea at once.
Though chopped and hacked, and with a bullethole between its
eyes, it still persisted madly in its attempt to get inside the
tower and devour Olson, though its body was many times the
diameter of the hatch; nor did it cease its efforts until after
Olson had succeeded in decapitating it. Then the two men went on
deck through the main hatch, and while one kept watch, the other
cut a hind quarter off Plesiosaurus Olsoni, as Bradley dubbed
the thing. Meantime Olson cut off the long neck, saying that it
would make fine soup. By the time we had cleared away the blood
and refuse in the tower, the cook had juicy steaks and a steaming
broth upon the electric stove, and the aroma arising from P. Olsoni
filled us an with a hitherto unfelt admiration for him and all his kind.
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Land that Time Forgot