And since we are dealing in nightmares, here are two more—one genuine, the other, mercifully, false. There was a boat not only at, but in the mouth of a river—well home in German territory. She was spotted, and went under, her commander perfectly aware that there was not more than five feet of water over her conning-towerso that even a torpedo-boat, let alone a destroyer, would hit it if she came over. But nothing hit anything. The search was conducted on scientific principles while they sat on the silt and suffered. Then the commander heard the rasp of a wire trawl sweeping over his hull. It was not a nice sound, but there happened to be a couple of gramophones aboard, and he turned them both on to drown it, And in due time that boat got home with everybody’s hair of just the same colour as when they had started!
The other nightmare arose out of silence and imagination. A boat had gone to bed on the bottom in a spot where she might reasonably expect to be looked for, but it was a convenient jumping off, or up, place for the work in hand. About the bad hour of 2.30 A.M. the commander was waked by one of his men, who whispered to him: “They’ve got the chains on us, sir!” Whether it was pure nightmare, an hallucination of long wakefulness, something relaxing and releasing in that packed box of machinery, or the disgustful reality, the commander could not tell, but it had all the makings of panic in it, So the Lord and long training put it into his head to reply! “Have they? Well, we shan’t be coming up till nine o’clock this morning. We’ll see about it then. Turn out that light, please.”
He did not sleep, but the dreamer and the others did; and when morning came and he gave the order to rise, and she rose unhampered, and he saw the grey smeared seas from above once again, he said it was a very refreshing sight.
Lastly, which is on all fours with the gamble of the chase, a man was coming home rather bored after an uneventful trip. It was necessary for him to sit on the bottom for awhile, and there he played patience. Of a sudden it struck him, as a vow and an omen, that if he worked out the next game correctly he would go up and strafe something. The cards fell all in order. He went up at once and found himself alongside a German, whom, as he had promised and prophesied to himself, he destroyed, She was a mine-layer, and needed only a jar to dissipate like a cracked electriclight bulb. He was somewhat impressed by the contrast between the single-handed game fifty feet below, the ascent, the attack, the amazing result, and when he descended again, his cards just as he had left them.
THE SHIPS destroy us above|
And ensnare us beneath.
We arise, we lie down, and we move
In the belly of Death.
The ships have a thousand eyes