The Admirable Commander

PRESENTLY I had the honour to meet a Lieutenant-Commander-Admiral who had retired from the service, but, like others, had turned out again at the first flash of the guns, and now commands—he who had great ships erupting at his least signal—a squadron of trawlers for the protection of the Dogger Bank fleet. At present prices—let alone the chance of the paying submarine—men would fish in much warmer places. His flagship is a multi-millionaire’s private yacht. In her mixture of stark, carpetless, curtainless, carbolised present with voluptuously curved, broad-decked, easy-stairwayed past, she might be Queen Guinevere in the convent at Amesbury. And her Lieutenant-Commander, most careful to pay all due compliments to Admirals who were midshipmen when he was a Commander, leads a congregation of very hard men indeed. They do precisely what he tells them to, and with him go through strange experiences, because they love him and because his language is volcanic and wonderful, what you might call Popocatapocalyptic. I saw the Old Navy making ready to lead out the New under a grey sky and a falling glass—the wisdom and cunning of the old man backed up by the passion and power of the younger breed, and the discipline which had been his soul for half a century binding them all.

“What’ll he do this time?” I asked of one who might know.

“He’ll cruise between Two and Three East; but if you’ll tell me what he won’t do, it ’ud be more to the point! He’s mine-hunting, I expect, just now.”