But there could be no doubt whatever concerning the destroyers; they were self-evident Russians, for they were four-funnelled, the funnels arranged in pairs, which was distinctly characteristic of a certain class of Russian destroyer.
At a short word of command the oarsman backed hard, and the boat slid off the sand into the smooth water of the little cove. Then she shot away and melted into the light haze which hung over the outside sea. The boat stopped under the shadow of the long, low-lying black hull of a four-funnelled destroyer. A rope dropped from the deck and was made fast by Vollmar in the bow.
Try and find out whether or not there was a four-funnelled Russian destroyer anywhere in the neighbourhood of Trelitz on the night of the 6th. Trace as closely as you can the movements of Prince Oscarovitch on that and the two preceding days.
Neither, apparently, had the German sailor, if, indeed, he was even on the bridge at that moment. I rushed to inform the American sailing ship Captain of my discovery, and he confirmed my opinion that it was a four-funnelled warship.
Nor were we disappointed in our expectations; for when we had brought the northernmost island square abeam, a long, black, four-funnelled destroyer suddenly slid out past its southern extremity, heading west, so as to intercept us. And, looking at her through our glasses, we saw that she was flying the International Code signal, "Heave-to. I wish to speak you."
As I did so, our signal was answered by the imperative order: "Stop immediately!" And at the same instant a brilliant and protracted flicker of sheet lightning revealed four large ships, not more than three cables' lengths distant. The leading ship was a big lump of a four-funnelled cruiser, the funnels coloured white, with black tops, and she carried three masts.
He remembered again that the flippant young Frenchman had said, "Un ancien curé, qui a fait quelque bêtise." Was it possible that some tragic sin lay under this gentle life? And was the four-funnelled, twin-screwed Parana but a ghostly ship bearing a cargo of haunted souls into their earthly purgatory? "But listen, monsieur," the old man began next day. But listen! There would be difficulties.
At this moment a cry from my "Number 1" distracted my attention from the interesting little drama which I was eagerly watching, and, turning toward the harbour's mouth, in response to his pointing finger, I saw a big, four-funnelled, two-masted cruiser, which I instantly recognised as the Bayan, coming foaming out of harbour, evidently intent upon driving off our destroyers, which were now busily launching their boats to save the crew of the destroyer, which had by this time foundered.
The artillery was awakening to its evening activity, field guns could be seen firing, and shells bursting on high crests. Heavy shells, learned later to be those from the Goeben in the Dardanelles Channel, shrieked occasionally out of the unknown, and sent up great geysers of water near a four-funnelled cruiser to the right. A steady staccato of rifle fire floated faintly from the heights.
Only a couple of white hospital-ships remained undisturbed. "Submarines damn them!" thought Mac. This was a new and unpleasant development and not to his liking at all. He descried through the haze the anchorage at Cape Helles, and noted that the vessels there among them a huge four-funnelled Atlantic liner were also making off.