The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester

Book: The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester Read Free Book Online
Authors: C.S. Forester
Tags: Fiction
barely extended from crest to trough. Krause tried to visualize a wrecked U-boat sinking down into the fathomless depths, gliding down as it were on a long slope, very likely. Her fuel tanks being kept full might take a long time to rupture; then there would be a considerable interval before the escaping oil came welling up to the surface. Krause knew from reports he had read that it might be as much as an hour all told. This little patch would be what was present in a nearly-empty tank at the moment of disaster. And badly battered U-boats often left a slick of oil behind even though they were still capable of manoeuvre. Naval Intelligence suggested that they sometimes purposely let oil escape to disarm pursuit. But his first decision still appeared the correct one to him; it was not worthwhile to leave a valuable destroyer circling the spot, maybe for an hour, to make sure of the evidence. He could forget the presence of this oil for now. No. He could make some use of it in a minute or two, when he had more time. First he must put an end to the drain on his battle reserve.
    “You sure got that sub., sir,” said the starboard-side look-out.
    “Oh, yes, sure,” said Krause. The man was not being impertinent. In this moment of victory Krause could let pass the lapse from strict etiquette, especially with so much more on his mind; but he had to think of the safety of the ship. “Keep your mind on your duty there.”
    He returned to the pilot-house and spoke into the voice-tube to the executive officer.
    “Secure from general quarters, Charlie,” he said. “Set Condition Two, and see if you can manage for some hot chow for the men off watch.”
    “Aye aye, sir,” said Charlie.
    The loudspeaker blared the order through the ship. Now half the men would be able to eat, to rest, to warm up. Krause looked at the clock; circumstances were different from his preceding glances when he was counting minutes. Now he was perceptibly shocked to note the passage of time. It was past thirteen hundred; over four hours since he had been called from his cabin, and nearly three of general quarters. He should not have brought the men to battle stations at all. He was not much better than Carling. But that was water over the dam; no time for regrets at present.
    “Get me a signal-pad and pencil,” he said to the messenger beside him; the crowd in the pilot-house was changing with the setting of the watch.
    He tried to write, and the pencil fell from his hand as he applied it to the paper. His fingers were stiff with cold, numb and completely without sensation. Although he had put on his sheepskin coat he still had not put on the sweater and scarf and gloves he should have worn. His hands were freezing, and all the rest of him was bitterly cold.
    “Write it for me,” he snapped at the messenger, irritated with himself. “ ‘Keeling to Viktor .’ No.”--he was watching over the messenger’s shoulder--”Spell that with a ‘K’. No, not ‘CK.’ Just V-I-K. ‘Have sighted oil patch confirming destruction of U-boat. Stop. Many thanks for your brilliant’--two ‘L’s’ in ‘brilliant,’ damn it--’co-operation’ C-O-O-P. That’s right. Take that to the signal bridge.”
    When the messenger came back he would send him for his gloves and scarf. Meanwhile he must have another look round at the situation. He went out on to the bridge again. There were fresh look-outs at their posts; relieved men were still leaving the gun positions and making their way along the deck, ducking the fountains of spray and timing their dashes from point to point as the ship rolled. Keeling was approaching the front of the convoy; the British corvette on the left flank was rolling hideously in the heavy sea. The leading line of the convoy was fairly straight; as far as he could see the rest of the convoy was fairly well closed up. Out on the right was the Canadian corvette; it was nearly time to give the order for normal screening stations. Above him

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