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what tempted the Hun to keep pumpin' projes at her instead o' givin' more attenshun to the rest o' the divishun trailin' astern. That was what gave Firebran' her first chance o' alterin' the Hun navy list that night.
“The second cru'ser in the Hun line was bearin' right abeam to starboard by now, an' I could see by her gunflashes she was of good size, wi' four long funnels fillin' up all the deck 'tween her two masts. She was firing fast in salvoes wi' all the guns that would bear on the burnin' Killarney. I could just make out by the light from the Killarney, which was growin' stronger every minnit, that the crew of our after torpedo tube was gettin' busy, an' while I was watchin' 'em, over flops the mouldie and starts to run. I knew it was aimed for one or t'other o' the two leadin' Huns, but wasn't dead sure which till I saw the after funnels an' mainmast o' the second toppl' over an' a big flash o' fire take their place.
Then it looked like there was exploshuns right off fore and aft, and then fires broke out all over her from stem to stern. Next thing I knows, she takes a big list to starboard, an' over she goes, wi' more exploshuns throwin' up spouts o steam, as she rolls under. The second mouldie—it got away right after the first—was never needed to finish the job. The Firebran' had evened up the score for the Killarney, wi' a good margin over.
“The captain turned away to reload mouldies after that, an' just as we swung out o'line I saw a salvo straddle the Killarney, and two or three shells hit square 'tween her funnels an' after sup’rstruct'r'. They must have gone off in her engine room, for there was more steam than fire risin' from her as we turned an' left her astern, an' she looked stopped dead. A Hun cru'ser was closin' the blazin' wreck o' her, firin' hard; but, by Gawd, what d'you think I saw? The only patch on the ol' Killarney that was free o' the ragin' fires was her stern, an' from there the steady flashes of her after gun showed it was bein' worked as fast an' reg'lar as ever I seen it done at any night-firin practice. I looked to see her blow up every minnit, but she was still spittin' wi' that littl' after gun when the sudden flashin' up of the fightin' lights for’ard turned my attenshun nearer home.
“I could just make out a line of what looked like 'stroyers headin' cross our bows, an' thought we'd stumbled into 'nother nest o’ Huns till they answered back wi' the signal o' the day, an' I knew it was one of our own flotillas we'd been catchin' up to. That flashin' up o' lights come near to doin' for us tho', for it showed us up to a big Hun steamin' three or four miles off on the port beam, an' he claps a searchlight on us an' chases it up wi' a sheaf o'shells. The only proj that hit us bounced off wi'out doin' much hurt to the ship, but some flyin' hunks o' it smashed the mouldie davit and knocked out most o' the crews o' the after tubes, includin' the T.G.M. That put a stop to reloadin' operashuns wi' a mouldie in only one o' the tubes. By good luck we managed to zigzag out o' the searchlight beam right after that, an' was free to turn back an' try to start a divershun for the poor ol' Killarney.
"Her fires looked to be dyin' down when we first picked her up, but right after that some more projes bust on her an' she started blazin' harder than ever. I watched for the spittin' o' that littl' after gun, but when it come it looked to spurt right out o' the heart o' a 1 Torpedo Gunner's Mate,
blazin' furnace, showin' the fire was now burnin' from stem to stern. One more salvo plastered over her, an' that one got no reply. The good ol' 'Killy' had shot her bolt, an' her finish looked a matter o' minnits.
"It was plain enough if anyone was still livin' they was goin' to need pickin' up in a hurry, an' the captain put the Firebran' at full speed to close her an' stan' by to give a han’. Just then I saw a Hun searchlight turned on and start feelin' its way up to where the Killarney was burning, wi' a cru'ser followin' up the small end o’ the beam, seemin' to be nosin' in to end the mis’ry. She did not bear right for a mouldie, but we opened up wi' the foremost gun, an' I saw the shells bustin' on her bridge and fo'c'sl' like rotten apples chucked 'gainst a wall. The light blinked off as the first proj hit home, but there was no way to tell if it was shot away or no. It was the second time that night that we'd done our bit to ease off the hell turned loose on the Killarney. Likewise it was the last. From then on we had our own partic'lar hell to wriggle out of, wi' no time left to play 'Venging Nemisus' to our stricken sisters. Just a big bonfire sittin' on the sea an' lickin' a hole in the night wi' its flames that was the last I saw of the ol' Kil. larney."
Melton paused for a moment as if engrossed in the memories conjured up by his narrative, and I took advantage of the interval to hand him one of those most loved lollipops of Yankee youngsterhood, a plump, hard ball of toothsome saccharinity called-obviously from its resistent resiliency-an "All-day Sucker.” When he spoke again I knew in an instant that a sure instinct had led him to make the proper disposition of the succulent dainty—that it was stowed snugly away in a bulging check like a squirrel's nut, to melt away in its own good time.
“ 'Tween the glare of the burnin' Killarney,” Melton went on after thrashing his hands across his shoulders for a minute to warm them up, "the gleam o' the Hun cru'ser's searchlight an' the flash o' our own gun-fire, we must all have been more or less blinded in the Firebrand, for we had run close to what may have been a part of the main en'my battl' line wi'out nothin' bein' reported. Our firin' had give us away, o' course, an' the nearest ships must have had their guns trained on us, waitin' to be sure what we was. One o' 'em must have made up his mind we was en'my even before we spotted 'em at all, for the first thing I saw was the white o the bow wave an' wake as she turned toward us, prob'ly to ram. She'd have caught us just about midships if the bridge hadn't sighted her an' done the only thing open to do—turned to meet her head on.
"I don't remember that either she or us switched on recognition lights, but the Hun opened with ev'rything that would bear just before we slammed together. It must have been by the gun-flashes that I saw she had three funnels, wi' what looked like some kind o' marks painted on 'em in red. I saw our second funnel give a jump and crumple up as a proj hit it, an' then a spurt o flame—from a big gun fired almost point-blanklooked to shoot right on to the bridge. I thought that it must have killed ev'ry man there an' carried away all the steering gear.
“The old Firebrand wi' helm hard-a-port, went swingin' right on thro' the point or two more that saved her life. I could feel by the way she jumped an' gathered herself that last second that the ol' girl was still
under control. Then we struck wi' a horrible grind an' crash, an' I went sprawlin' Alat.
“If the Hun had hit us half a wink sooner, or if we had turned half a point less, we'd have been swallowed alive and split up in small hunks. As it was, we didn't have a lot the worst o' it, an' p'raps we more than broke even. It was like a mastiff an' terrier runnin' into each other in the dark, an' the terrier only gettin' run over an' the mastiff gettin' a piece bit clean out o' his neck. It was our port bows that come together, an' for only a sort o' glancin' blow. But it was the stem o' the Firebran' that was turned in sharpest, an' it was her that was hittin' up-by a good ten knots --the most speed. She was left in a terribl' mess, but most o' the damage was from her rammin' the Hun, not from the Hun rammin' her. While as for what she did to the Hun, the best proof o' it was the more'n twenty feet of her side-plantin'-an upper strake, wi' scuttl' holes in it an' pieces o' gutterway deck hangin' to it-that we found in the wreck of our fo'c'sl'. If the hole that hunk of steel left behind it didn't put that Hun out o' bus'ness as a fightin' unit till she got back to port an' had a refit, I'll eat it."
I wasn't quite clear in my mind whether Melton meant to imply that he would eat the hole in the Hun cruiser or the hunk of steel that came out of it, but there was no room for doubt that the violent crunch with which he emphasised the assertion had put a period to the life of his “All-Day Sucker," which was never intended to be treated like chewing toffy. Dipping into the grabbag of my “lammy” coat pocket for something with which to replace it, therefore, I brought up a stick of chewing gum, and he resumed his story in an atmosphere