Sixteen thousand five hundred chaunted the range

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"Sixteen thousand five hundred," chaunted the range-findinglieutenant, the moment the battleship had emerged from the slowlydispersing wall of spray."Train fifteen red," sang out another voice in a lower key.The two for'ard turrets swung a few degrees to the left. The longlean guns rose slowly, as if roused from slumber.Again the distant rumble. This time Peter could see the massivehostile projectiles approaching. The air seemed stiff with them,...and they were coming _his_ way. Instinctively he ducked behind thethin steel plating of the fore-top--a protection hardly moreserviceable than brown paper. The beastly shells seemed in no great
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hurry....He could see the bright copper rifling bands on the darkgrey bodies of the projectiles."Train twenty-five green," came the clear level tones again.The _Rebound_ had starboarded helm, and the enemy, instead of beingon her port, were now well on her starboard bow.With an infernal screech, the salvo trundled past the flagship'sforemast, falling within a radius of fifty yards, a good threecables' lengths astern."Straddled, by Jove!" ejaculated a midshipman with Peter in thefore-top. "Why the----?"His question was interrupted by a deafening crash that shook thetripod mast like a bamboo in a hurricane. The steel platform seemedto jump bodily. A whiff of acrid-smelling cordite flicked over theedge of the steel breastwork.Peter gave a sidelong glance at the midshipman. It was the youngsterwho, but a short while before, was gloating over the prospect ofbeing in action. The boy's face was pale underneath the tan. Helaughed--it was a forced laugh without any ring of sincerity aboutit. His heart was doubtless in his boots, but he was making agallant effort to get it back into its right place.Retrieving his binoculars, Corbold brought them to bear upon thedistant target. The terrific concussion was the simultaneousdischarge of the four 15-inch guns of A and B turrets. Already thesalvo was on its way towards a target unseen by the fifty odd mencooped up within the two turrets. Eight miles away those shells, bythe latest workings of the science of gunnery, were calculated tofall--and they did.Through his glasses, Peter watched the receding flight of the hugemissiles, each weighing more than a ton. The impact came. At firstthere was little to indicate to the observer's eye that they haddone their work--just a few dark splashes on the light grey hull ofa Rioguayan battleship--no more. But the next instant the scene hadchanged considerably. The projectiles had burst, not on impact, butafter they had eaten into the vitals of the enemy ship. Luridflashes leapt from her superstructure and from different parts ofher lofty hull. One of her funnels sagged, hung irresolute, and thencrashed across her port battery. Then flame-tinged smoke pouredthrough a dozen unauthorized outlets. Reeling like a drunken man,the Rioguayan battleship hauled out of line and disappeared behindthe ship next astern.
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