E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
Note: This is book two of eight of the Submarine Boys Series.
THE SUBMARINE BOYS TRIAL TRIP
"Making Good" as Young Experts
VICTOR G. DURHAM
CHAPTERS I. A Big Cloud on the Submarine Horizon II. A Submarine Stunt that Dumfounds the Beholders III. Mr. Melville Hurls the Crash IV. A Squall in an Office V. Don Melville Takes a Hand VI. The "Pollard" has a Rival VII. Missing—A Submarine and Crew VIII. Farnum Stock Goes Up IX. A Rascally Piece of Work X. A Race for Mixed Prizes XI. What Befell, the Real Benson XII. The Capitalist Doesn't Likes the Situation XIII. On trial as Young Experts XIV. Fooling the Navy, But Only Once XV. Serving in the Cause of Peace, Not War XVI. Fighting a Mutiny with Threats XVII. Jack Perpetrates a Practical Sea Joke XVIII. Eph Enjoys Being Rescued XIX. Jack Stumbles Upon a Big Surprise XX. Conclusion
A BIG CLOUD ON THE SUBMARINE HORIZON
"At what time did you say that the 'Pollard' was due to be back, Mr. Farnum?"
"At two o'clock," replied the owner of the boat-building yard at the little seaport town of Dunhaven.
"It's within five minutes of that hour, now."
"So it is," nodded the owner of the yard, after briefly consulting his watch.
For half an hour, or a little longer, a middle aged man, with the world of business and large affairs imprinted on him, had been walking to and fro along the shore end of the yard. In this walk he was accompanied by his son, a handsome, dark-eyed and dark-haired young fellow of nineteen. George Melville, the father, was attired very much as any prosperous, busy man might have been, with a touch of fastidiousness added, but the son, Don, was dressed and groomed to look just what he wanted to appear to be, the born young aristocrat.
"Punctuality is one of the cardinal virtues with me, you know," continued Mr. Melville, impatiently, as he again glanced at his watch. "I had hoped to be able to see your submarine boat, the 'Pollard,' this afternoon."
"And I certainly hope you will be able to," replied Jacob Farnum, cordially. This builder, a young man in his thirties, allowed a shade of uneasiness to flit across his face.
"However, when Don is in command of the boat," continued Mr. Melville, "things will doubtless be run on a better system. That is, if we should decide to invest the money and place Don on board as captain."
"Your son?" inquired Jacob Farnum, with a quick note of astonishment in his voice.
"Certainly," continued Mr. Melville, in the easy voice of one who is sure of his ground. "If my friends and myself decide to invest the required several hundred thousand dollars in your business, the first step of the reorganization on a broader basis will be the placing of my son in command of your boat."
"Hm!" murmured Jacob Farnum.
"Don is wholly fitted for learning the work that I have cut out for him," pursued Mr. Melville. "He has frequently taken command of my steam yacht, the 'Greyhound,' and my sailing master, Captain Carson, assures me that Don is not only a splendid sailor, but born to command. So, after a little time spent in mastering details, Don will make the ideal captain for the 'Pollard'."
"I have a very capable young man in charge now," said Mr. Farnum. "Captain Jack Benson has already done a few things with the boat that have astonished Naval officers."
"How old is this fellow Benson?" inquired Mr. Melville.
"Only sixteen?" queried Mr. Melville, in a voice of amazement. "Bah! He is entirely too young to be entrusted with the hopes of such a great boat-building company as I hope to help you organize. Don, too, is quite young, but he has a great deal of capacity and has had a valuable lot of experience. As to a boy of sixteen—however, your youth, Benson, may no doubt be retained aboard as a member of the crew, if Don likes him. And now, sir, it's two minutes of two."
With another impatient frown Mr. Melville held his watch out before Mr. Farnum's eyes. That younger man hardly saw the dial. He was looking past, out beyond the mouth of the little cove or harbor. As he did so, Mr. Farnum beheld what, at first, looked like a big ripple spreading over the placid water. Then the top of a steel conning tower shot up into sight. It was followed by the emergence of the upper hull of a strange looking cigar-shaped craft.
"Two minutes before the hour, did you say?" asked Jacob Farnum, placidly. "Well, there's the 'Pollard,' just up from the depths, and gliding in to anchorage."
Don Melville had strolled away from the pair, but now, at a call from his father, he turned to watch the oncoming craft, which was none other than the new submarine torpedo boat, the "Pollard."
The elder Melville was judge enough of boats and of boat-handling to understand that the submarine was being brought into harbor in a very clever, seamanlike manner.
"She's still running under electric power, you know," explained Mr. Farnum. "The distance is so short that Captain Benson doesn't consider it worth while to start the gasoline engine."
Now, the boat came to a stop, with a slight reversing of her propellers. At this moment the manhole cover of the conning tower was raised. Out onto the platform deck surrounding the tower Captain Jack Benson nimbly stepped. As he took the wheel in the open, the craft glided on with hardly perceptible motion to a mooring buoy a few yards distant. Out hopped another boy, in dark blue naval uniform and visored cap. This youth, Eph Somers, ran nimbly forward over the hull. At just the right instant Eph bent over, securing the forward tackle to the buoy, then straightened up, saluting the young captain, as he called:
"Single tackle all fast, sir."
Now, a third boy, in uniform similar to those worn by the other two, sprang out through the manhole. Hal Hastings, who had remained behind to shut off the electric motor, waved his cap to Mr. Farnum.
"Well done, Captain Benson and crew!" shouted Jacob Farnum, heartily, across the water.
"It won't take you long to be able to beat that performance, I take it, Don," smiled the elder Melville at his Son. Don's upper lip curled just perceptibly. Jacob Farnum frowned slightly, as he turned his face away. It would not do to offend George Melville without cause, for that gentleman was considering the raising of six or seven hundred thousand dollars of additional working capital for the making of submarine boats.
"We're coming aboard, captain," added Mr. Farnum, shouting between his hands, across the water. "Everything ship-shape for inspection?"
"Aye, aye, sir!" Captain Jack responded.
"It was a shame, really, to ask that question," laughed Mr. Farnum, turning to his companions. "Benson was all but born aboard a boat, and he's a genuine old maid for having things aboard in apple-pie order. His two friends are just like him in that respect."
Upon being signaled two workmen of the yard came hastily down to the water's edge. They seated themselves at the oars of a large yawl, while Mr. Farnum and his guests stepped into the boat.
"Give way, and lay us alongside of the 'Pollard,'" directed the boatbuilder.
Captain Jack, Hal Hastings and Eph Somers still remained standing at ease on the platform deck of the submarine craft. They were but a few weeks older than when they appeared before the readers of the first volume in this series, "The Submarine Boys On Duty." Readers of that volume are familiar with the story of how Jack Benson and Hal Hastings appeared in Dunhaven; how they made the acquaintance, first of David Pollard, the submarine's inventor, and then of Jacob Farnum, the boat's builder and financial backer. Readers of the first volume also remember how Eph Somers appeared unexpectedly on the scene, and just how he coolly put himself into the submarine picture, securing his place aboard that wonderful craft. Those who read the first volume are familiar with the way in which the boys met and vanquished the savage hostility of Josh Owen and Dan Jaggers; they remember the desperate battle, in the ocean's depths, with the crazy boatswain's mate. They recall the dashing, laughable prank that Captain Jack played on one of the big battleships of the Naval maneuvers fleet, and remember the pretty romance, in which the submarine boys aided greatly, through which Mr. Farnum secured beautiful Grace Desmond as his bride. Our readers who have pored over the pages of the preceding volume, in fact, will recall all the many adventures through which Jack, Hal and Eph passed with daring and credit.
All the people in the world move forward—or backward—a bit every day. And so, while, our young friends were still aboard the "Pollard," and happy, affairs were shaping that might alter the whole current of their lives, their ambitions and their hopes. Convinced that he could, by the use of sufficient energy and capital, equip a larger yard and sell the United States Government a solid, efficient fleet of submarine torpedo boats that would constitute a fearful menace on the waves—or under them—to any foreign foe, Jacob Farnum had now begun to look about for the necessary capital with which to expand what he believed to be a highly promising business.
Thus it happened that the two Melvilles now came upon the scene. The elder possessed a good deal of spare money, and could influence several business friends into investing heavily. It was George Melville's habit to acquire control, gradually, of any business in which he invested heavily. He had wonderful skill in that line of conduct, and combined much tact with it. Mr. Melville, going into a new business, and contributing capital heavily, was accustomed to securing whole control of the business before his associates quite realized what was happening.
Now, as this capitalist climbed up the side and stood on the platform deck, looking about him, he began to picture himself as selling a fleet of such boats—all of them practically his—to the Government.
"Not much of a place, this deck, to stand on and handle a vessel through rough weather?" he inquired, looking sharply at Mr. Farnum.
"No," admitted the builder, adding with a smile: "Of course, it takes the cream of our seafaring men to travel in such craft, anyway. Such men can stand discomfort and any amount of danger, at need. Ask Captain Benson."
Young Captain Jack smiled quietly. He and his two comrades guessed that George Melville was one of the capitalists whom Farnum was trying to interest in the business.
"Let us go below," suggested Mr. Melville. "Don, use your eyes to good advantage. You may have need of all you can learn about such boats."
Don Melville inclined his head, but said nothing. Farnum led them below. Captain Jack helped the builder in explaining the general working details of the boat. Hal and Eph answered such questions as were put to them by father or son.
"It's all very interesting," said Mr. Melville, slowly, at last. "Farnum, let us go up on deck a few minutes. Don, you might remain below. I have no doubt there is still much that you want to see."
So Don remained below. The boys of the submarine's crew, feeling that Mr. Farnum would want to be alone with his guest, also remained below.
"Do you—er—like this sort of thing, Benson?" asked Don Melville.
"The submarine boat work, you mean?" asked Captain Jack, brightly. "Why, it's my life—my very life!"
The glow that came to the cheeks of the young submarine captain bore out his words fully. Jack did love this fine craft. He gloried in having the command of her, though he never made the weight of his authority felt by his two comrades, who, indeed, virtually shared in the command. Captain Benson was especially proud and grateful at the confidence shown in himself and in his mates in being allowed full charge of the "Pollard." Love the life? It wouldn't be life, for him, without the "Pollard!"
Don began to ask some further questions about the boat. His tone was slightly supercilious. It was plain to be seen that he looked upon these daring, tried and proven youngsters as being decidedly his inferiors. Yet Jack fought against a growing feeling of irritation, giving good-humored and attentive answers.
Then Don went over to the little door of a compartment in the wall. Behind this door was some of the delicate mechanism—invention of David Pollard—by means of which the compressed air supply was better regulated than on any other type of submarine craft.
"Why, this place is locked," observed Don.
"Yes," nodded Captain Jack.
"You have the key?"
"I—I believe so."
"Then be good enough to unlock this little door," ordered Don Melville.
"I hope you'll pardon me," said Captain Jack, quickly, yet politely. "It wouldn't be just the thing for me to do."
"Why not?" Don shot at him, coldly.
"Well—because I've no orders from Mr. Farnum to that effect. Because—well, behind that little door are a few mechanisms that amount to about the most important secret about the boat."
"Then you refuse to unlock that little door?" demanded Don, coldly, trying to disconcert the young captain by a steady, cold look into his eyes.
"Oh, no; I don't refuse," answered young Benson, in the same cool, pleasant tone. "But the order should come from Mr. Farnum. He's right overhead. You can call up to him. If he says so, then I'll unlock it with pleasure."
"Benson," retorted Don Melville, again trying to disconcert the young captain with a stare of cold insolence, "I guess you don't understand quite who I am."
"If I don't, I shall be glad to be enlightened," laughed Jack, softly. "Who are you?"
"I'm the son of the man who expects to put a big amount of capital into this enterprise. Farnum wants my father to do it."
"Then I hope your father does," nodded Jack Benson, with a look of polite interest.
"Of course, in that case," pursued Don, "the whole business will be reorganized."
"I should imagine so," nodded Jack.
"And, as a part of that reorganization, I'm to have command of the 'Pollard,' and of any other boats that may be built here!"
Captain Jack Benson's face blanched in an instant. He did not falter, but he felt, for the moment, as though he had been stabbed to the heart. Hal Hastings gave a little, barely perceptible gasp. Eph Somers, with a snort of wrath, turned and stepped through into the motor room.
"I'm to command this boat, and the others that may be built; that's one of my father's conditions in putting up the required capital," continued Don Melville. "Of course, I shall select my own helpers and crews. If you three are really competent, and show sufficient respect for authority over you, I may be able to provide some sort of places for you aboard this boat and the new one that's being built. Now, do you understand who I am?"
"I've heard all you said," replied Captain Jack, dully. He was so dazed, so tormented, that, for the moment, he did not dare trust himself to make more of a reply.
"Don!" called the elder Melville, briskly. "We're going on shore now. You'd better leave your further studies aboard until to-morrow."
"Good-bye, then, lads," said Don Melville, laying a hand on the nickeled railing of the spiral stairway leading up through the conning tower. He spoke with a trace more of cordiality as he started up the steps: "When I come aboard next I trust there will be no misunderstanding of new facts."
Jack Benson still stood by the little cabin table, resting one hand on it. His eyes were turned toward the floor, his chest heaving. The blow had struck him like a bolt from a clear, sunny sky!
"That cold duffer coming aboard to boss us all around like cattle?" burst from Eph Somers, as he stamped out from the engine room.
"Confound it!" growled Hal Hastings, savagely. "I don't believe the yarn. Do you?"
"I'm half afraid," replied Captain Jack, raising his eyes, "that I do."
A SUBMARINE STUNT THAT DUMFIOUND THE BEHOLDERS
"It ain't true! Can't be! I won't believe it!" declared Eph, in a rage.
"We've had such a good time aboard, and have been so proud of what we've been able to do," added Hal, chokingly.
"Mr. Farnum won't put that snob in here!" asserted Eph. "Not in charge, anyway. Why, Mr. Farnum couldn't stand the fellow any more than we could."
"Fellows," rejoined Jack, looking at the hot faces of his mates, "we mustn't be too hasty, even in talking among ourselves."
"That fellow's a snob," asserted Eph. "I'll stand by that anywhere."
"I don't know that I'd say that," replied young Benson, who had recovered his calmness. "In the first place, Don Melville has evidently had a golden spoon in his mouth from the day of his birth. He's used to having things his own way. He may be all right at bottom."
"Then that's where I hope he goes," quivered Eph. "Straight to the bottom! Under a hundred fathoms of good salt water!"
"We may like him better when we know him," ventured Jack.
"I'm betting though," put in Hal, thoughtfully, "that we're much more likely to like him less."
"He's a duffer!" snorted Eph.
"We may have to change our minds about that," smiled Jack, dully.
"Ain't he a rich man's son?" demanded Eph, blazing.
"That doesn't make him out a fool or a dullard," retorted the young captain. "Rich men's sons aren't as often fools as they're suspected of being. Some of them are mighty clever. The number of great American fortunes that are doubled, or trebled, in the second generation, show that."
"Then you're going to side with him?" sneered Eph.
"I don't know what I'm going to do, until the time comes," Captain Jack answered, quietly. "But I do know one thing I'm going to do, at any and all times—and so are you fellows. You couldn't help it, if you tried."
"What's that?" Hal wanted to know.
"We're going to be as square with Jacob Farnum as he has always been with us. That carries with it the idea of a big lot of loyalty."
"Right!" agreed Hal.
"Of course," nodded Eph, less angrily. "Just as long as Farnum runs the business. But, if other folks get in here and get the control—"
"Of course, we can drop out of this business at any time we want to, provided it wouldn't carry with it disloyalty to the employer who's been mighty good to us," supplied Jack Benson.
"Mr. Farnum sent the boat out, to see if you young men want to go ashore," announced a voice from above.
Within two minutes the three submarine boys were making for the shore. After reporting at the office of the yard, and finding that Mr. Farnum would not want them again that afternoon, the young cronies sauntered off up into the village. At Jack's suggestion they talked no more about the Melvilles for the present. Yet each felt as though a lump of lead lay against his heart.
Though they tried to enjoy themselves in the village, there was too great a weight of dread upon them. It began to look as though all the pleasure of their recent life must fade. Though Don Melville, if he secured command of the "Pollard," might tolerate them aboard, all three knew that they would feel the burden of his cool contempt for them as inferiors. Listlessly, at last, the three submarine boys turned back toward the yard, went aboard, cooked a supper for which they had no appetite, and then waited for turning-in time.
In the next few days there were many signs that Melville intended to find and supply the desired capital for the promotion of the yard's business. Don and his father were much about the place, though they rarely came out to the "Pollard." Business friends of Mr. Melville's also appeared. Finally there came an important looking lawyer and an expert accountant.
"I reckon it's all settled except the signing of the papers," ventured Hal Hastings.
"The toe of the boot for ours, then, or as bad," murmured Eph Somers sardonically.
During these days David Pollard, the inventor who had made this splendid type of submarine boat possible, did not appear. For one thing, he was away in secret, pondering over the invention of further appliances to be tried out on the boat now building. More than that, David Pollard, shy and with no head for affairs, entrusted all new business arrangements to Jacob Farnum, who, he felt sure, could be trusted with a friend's interests.
"It's tough to be poor," grimaced Hal Hastings. "If I had the money, I'd put it into the business for the sake of keeping my berth aboard, and having things as pleasant as we've had 'em all along."
"So would I," grunted Eph. "But what's the use of talking, when this is all the capitalist that I am?"
He took out four paper dollars, passing them ruefully between his fingers.
"Why don't you say something, Jack?" demanded Hal. "Dry of words, for once?"
"I'm thinking," responded young Benson, absently.
"Well, it's a sure thing that thinking does less harm than talking," nodded Hal.
"But when a fellow's silent he can't spit out all that's boiling inside of him," snorted Eph Somers.
"I'm getting ready to talk presently," smiled Captain Jack.
"If it's anything strong, say it now," begged Eph.
The three boys were sitting about the cabin table. Eph sat with his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands, his eyes glaring defiantly at the wall opposite. Hal, rather listless, sat low in his chair, his feet well under the table, his hands thrust deep in his pockets. Jack sat leaning slightly forward, his left hand tapping lightly against the polished surface of the table.
"Tell you what I'm going to do," suddenly exploded Eph. "I'm going to Jake Farnum and ask him, straight, whether that snob of a duffer is going to be put in here over us, with leave to kick us out when he chooses."
"Don't you do it," advised Hal, with a shake of his head.
"Our employer is absorbed, and, troubled as much as he wants to be, now," rejoined Hastings. "When there's anything he wants us to know, and he can find time, he'll tell us."
"Huh!" half assented Eph.
"Don't be forward about it," continued Hal. "Just play the waiting game and rely upon Mr. Farnum being as fair and square as he has any chance to be."
"Hum" again nodded Eph. "Well, anyway, with farm labor at a premium, I'm not going to stay aboard to black the duffer's shoes."
"Fellows, listen!" commanded Jack Benson, suddenly looking up.
Then he told them both the thought and the scheme that had been in his mind all that day. While the young captain was talking his two mates were still—Hal, because it was his nature, and Eph Somers because he was actually staggered into silence.
"That's what I've been thinking of," Jack wound up.
"Don't you do it, old fellow—don't you dare!" ordered Hal, sitting up straighter and resting an appealing hand on his chum's shoulder.
"But think of the lives that have been lost on submarine boats during the last few years," pleaded Jack Benson, seriously.
"And you want to add your life to the others," retorted Hal, with mocking irony.
"I want to save, perhaps, hundreds of lives in the future," returned Jack, spiritedly.
"Then, at least, old chum," begged Hal, "tell your scheme to Mr. Farnum, and let him hire a trained diver to make the experiment."
"You think there's a lot of danger in it, do you?" queried Captain Jack, mildly.
"I certainly do," said Hastings, with emphasis.
"Then I'll do the trick myself," contended Jack. "I'm not going to think up a trick too dangerous for myself, and then hire another man to take all the risk for me."
Hal said no more. He knew the folly of trying to persuade his chum out of a decision like the present one.
"I don't believe Farnum will let you try it," hinted Eph. "It sounds too dangerous."
"Mr. Farnum won't know what it is until it's been done," responded young Captain Benson, with a light laugh, as he rose from the table. "Fellows, I'm going on shore for a little while. Look the electric motor over, and test the compressed air apparatus. We want to be sure that everything is working right."
"Let me go ashore with you," suggested Hal, also rising.
"Not this time," laughed Jack. "You might try to say something to Mr. Farnum to queer my plan. Stay here. You and Eph make mighty sure that everything is in running order."
Going on deck, Captain Jack signaled for a shore boat, which was quickly alongside. Landing, the young captain walked slowly up to the yard office, thinking deeply all the time.
Just as the young submarine commander entered the outer office Jacob Farnum stepped out from his private, inner office. He was smoking a cigar, and looked as though he had come out to stretch his legs.
"Hullo, Jack," he greeted the young man, pleasantly. "Say, I hope you haven't come to talk business. Say something foolish, won't you, lad? I'm just in the mood for nonsense. All forenoon I've had my head crammed to bursting with figures and business, and now I'm in the mood for something reckless. You see, Melville is in a position to command a lot of capital, and we need it to expand this business. He's in there, now, with another capitalist, a lawyer and an accountant. But I had to break away. What do you know that's reckless?"
Jacob Farnum was not playing any part of treachery, or deception, in not telling his submarine boys about the proposed shifting of command to Don Melville's shoulders. The fact was that George Melville, after that first hint, had said nothing more about the subject, but was now craftily laying the wires for securing gradual control of the shipyard's enterprises.
"Why, I am glad to find you at leisure, and willing to be amused," smiled Captain Jack, quietly. "Will it be too much like business if I ask you down to the water to watch a little demonstration that we want to make with the 'Pollard'?"
"Is it something brand-new?" laughed Mr. Farnum, resting an arm on the young captain's shoulder.
"So far as I know, it's shiningly new," laughed Jack Benson.
"What is it?"
"If you don't mind, Mr. Farnum, I'd rather show it to you first."
"How long will the demonstration take?"
"It ought not to require more than fifteen or twenty minutes, sir."
"I'll take you up, then," agreed Mr. Farnum, pleasantly.
Just at that moment the inner door opened. Mr. Melville came out, followed by his lawyer, Don bringing up the rear of the file.
"I guess you'd better come along with me, gentlemen," called Mr. Farnum. "Captain Benson has just invited me to witness something new in the submarine line."
"What is it?" questioned Mr. Melville.
"I don't know," admitted Jacob Farnum.
"What is it, boy?" demanded Mr. Melville, turning upon Jack. The very tone in which the word "boy" was uttered was meant to reduce the youthful captain to confusion, but it had the opposite effect. Though it brought a quick flush to Jack's cheeks, he answered, courteously:
"It is intended, principally, as a surprise to Mr. Farnum. If I were to tell, now, it would rob him of much of the pleasure of being astonished."
To this George Melville did not deign to reply, though he compressed his lips grimly enough. Don flashed a sneering look at Jack, then observed:
"You're pretty independent for a boy."
"Let Captain Jack alone," drawled Farnum, expelling some cigar smoke between his lips. "He generally knows what he's doing."
Though there was nothing in the builder's tone at which offense could be taken, this reply quieted both Melvilles for the time being.
"Come on. We'll all go down to the shore and see what it is," added the yard's owner.
Captain Jack hurried ahead, entered the shore boat and was rowed out alongside the "Pollard."
"It's all right, fellows," he called, as soon as he boarded. "Everything ready?"
Receiving assurance that all was ready, Captain Jack turned to wave his hand to the little group watching from the shore. Two or three minutes later the "Pollard" slipped slowly away from her moorings, going out where the little harbor was deeper. Then, the manhole being closed, the submarine began to sink. Her conning tower was soon out of sight beneath the surface.
"There's about seventy feet of water, where the boat is going down," observed Farnum, to his guests.
"What's the aim of all this mysterious work?" demanded Mr. Melville, with some irritation.
"You know as much as I do," drawled Farnum, smilingly.
"It seems to me that you allow this young boat tender a good deal of latitude, and tolerate a good deal of mystery in him," cried the capitalist, impatiently.
"I have a good deal of confidence in my young captain," returned Farnum, good-humoredly, though with considerable emphasis on the title. "So far I have never had any need to regret giving Captain Benson rather a free hand."
Mr. Melville stopped right there, for Jacob Farnum, his eyes turned in a steady look out over the water, suddenly emitted an incredulous whoop. Then, without explanation, the boatbuilder broke into a dead run that carried him along the shore to the northern edge of the little harbor.
Nor was Mr. Farnum's astonishment to be wondered at, for he had just caught sight of Jack Benson's head, above the water at the point where the submarine had gone down. And now, Captain Jack, after blowing out a mouthful of water, had started to swim ashore with long, easy strokes.
Not quite catching the great significance of it all, the Melvilles and the lawyer hurried after the builder.
Captain Jack Benson, clad only in a bathing suit, stepped out of the water and stood laughing before his employer.
"Jack, how on earth did you—" began Farnum, then stopped, overpowered by another wave of amazement.
"What's the meaning of all this?" demanded the elder Melville, pantingly, as he reached the scene.
"Mr. Melville, and gentlemen," cried the boatbuilder, wheeling upon his guests, "do you even begin to grasp the importance of the marvel you have just witnessed? One of the great indictments found against the submarine torpedo boat is that, when one sinks and cannot be brought to the surface again, the crew must miserably perish. Very humane people shudder at the very idea of ordering men into a craft that may go to the bottom and become the hopeless grave of the crew. Yet the 'Pollard' lies at the bottom of this harbor, and Captain Benson has just come to the surface, laughing and uninjured."
"I suppose he opened the manhole cover, and rose to the surface," hazarded Mr. Melville.
"In that case, sir," smiled Captain Jack, "wouldn't you expect the 'Pollard' to be filled with water, and my companions drowned? Besides, sir, at a depth of seventy feet, the pressure of the water is such that it would be sheer impossibility to raise the manhole cover."
"Then how did you get here?" demanded the capitalist.
"Pardon me, sir," replied Jack, courteously, though firmly.
"Do you refuse to answer my question, boy?"
Again the irritating, half-contemptuous use of "boy" made Jack's cheeks flush, though he answered merely:
"I think, sir, Mr. Farnum has a right to the first information."
"Do you understand, boy, that I am about to take a large interest in this business?"
"I have heard so, sir. But I hope you won't mind my saying that this little surprise was thought out by my comrades and myself. It seems to me, therefore, that we have some rights in the disclosing of the secret."
"Humph!" broke in Don Melville. "It's all some deception—some cheap trick, anyway."
Captain Jack held up one hand to signal the shore boat, which, with two workmen in it, was hovering near. As the boat came in, the submarine boy announced:
"Now, I will show you the rest of the principle that my mates and I are demonstrating. Mr. Farnum, by the way, has just spoken of the humane side of this discovery, the making possible the rescue of a crew of a boat that can't be made to rise. Gentlemen, there's still another side to it. Under actual war conditions, with a submarine boat guarding a coast or harbor entrance, if the commander of the boat brought the conning tower above the surface, the presence of the boat would be detected on a clear day. But the head of a swimmer rising from the boat could not be observed at any very great distance. Yet the swimmer could make out the hull or masts of a hostile vessel some miles away. This new trick is likely to make submarine boats much more valuable to the countries owning them. Now, I want to try something else, and see whether I can do it."
The shore boat put in when called. In the bow was a hundred-pound anchor, with plenty of cable to pay out after it. Captain Jack entered the boat, looked over the anchor tackle, then returned to shore.
"Come to me where I stop," he directed the men in the boat. With that, after getting his bearings fully, he swam out, counting his strokes as he went.
"It's about here that I came up," he called, pausing and treading water easily. "Bring the boat here."
Clambering aboard, he directed the casting of the anchor overboard. Then, poising himself at the bow, he made a strong dive, vanishing under the water.
"What's he going to do now?" asked Mr. Melville, curiously.
"I'd rather wait than guess," smiled Mr. Farnum.
For just an instant Don Melville looked, as he felt, green with envy.
Some moments passed. Then, not far from the spot where the "Pollard" had gone down, her conning tower appeared once more. That was followed by the emergence of the platform deck and upper hull above the water. In another moment the tower manhole was opened, and Jack Benson, with a wave of the hand, stepped out, his bathing suit changed for his uniform. He lifted his cap in a joyous salute to those on shore.
"By Jove, Jack, but you're a wonder!" shouted Mr. Farnum across the water. "I'll have Dave Pollard excited when I write him about this thing. But you have me guessing how the trick was done."
Once more Benson signaled the small boat in close, after the anchor had been lifted. Now, the young submarine captain came in to shore.
"You come on board with me, Mr. Farnum?" invited Jack.
"Are you going to show him how you worked the trick?" demanded Mr. Melville, quickly.
"Then I believe we'll all come on board."
"I—I am sorry, sir." Jack hesitated. "If anyone but Mr. Farnum comes aboard I shall show nothing. Later on, when Mr. Farnum and I have talked this matter over—"
"Are you going to stand for this boy's nonsense, Farnum?" broke in the capitalist, angrily.
"I guess I shall have to," responded the builder, with the pronounced drawl which, with him, was a sign that he was close to inward anger. "Mr. Melville, I must beg you to remember that the secret, whatever it is, belongs, so far, to Captain Benson. You may not approve, but I think he is wholly right in this instance."
The capitalist bowed stiffly. He and his son remained on the shore as Farnum embarked with his young employe. They were soon on board the "Pollard," which was not long in sinking. Then, after a few minutes, Jack's head once more shot above the water. The shore boat was waiting, and again dropped the anchor close to where the boy had come up. Jack stood in the boat for a few minutes, taking in deep breaths and sunning his wet skin. Then, for the second time, he dived below the surface.
Five minutes afterward the "Pollard" was at the surface and moving back to her moorings. Mr. Farnum and Captain Jack returned to the shore. The boatbuilder's face was glowing with delight.
"You saw our young captain come up while I was with the 'Pollard' down on the bottom, didn't you?" inquired the yard's owner.
"Yes," admitted Mr. Melville, grudgingly, while Don half scowled, then turned his head away. "But how is the thing done?"
"That," replied Jacob Farnum, courteously, "at the request of Captain John Benson, must remain a secret for the present."
"Oh!" said the capitalist, but his tone was ominous.
MR. MELVILLE HURLS THE CRASH
It was really a wonderful, even if a very simple, revolution in the handling of submarine boats that Jack Benson had thought out.
Up to that time many scores of lives had been lost, in different parts of the world, when the crews of submarine boats had found, for one reason or another, that they could not raise their craft from the bottom of the depths. Formerly, when crews found themselves placed in that predicament, death followed.
Jack's solution was wonderfully simple. In brief, when the "Pollard" lay on the bottom of the little harbor at Dunhaven, the young captain had crawled into the long tube through which torpedoes were to be discharged in war time.
One end of this torpedo tube projects slightly into the water, at the bow of the submarine boat. The other end of the tube is well inside the craft. Two doors, or "ports," as they are called, close the tube at the ends. Ordinarily the forward port is closed, to keep water from entering the boat. When a torpedo is placed in the tube for firing, the outer or forward port is opened automatically just at the instant of discharging the torpedo. Enough compressed air is turned into the tube to force the torpedo out, after which the torpedo goes on its deadly journey propelled by its own motor. The presence of the air thus turned into the tube at the instant of firing keeps out the water until the tube's forward port is once more closed. Then the rear port of the tube, inside the submarine boat, may be opened whenever it is desired.
Captain Jack Benson, when he reached bottom with the "Pollard," and had donned his bathing suit, crawled into the tube through the rear port. This port was then closed. Hal Hastings simultaneously opened the outer port and discharged compressed air into the tube. Thus Jack forced his way out into the water, and, with the aid of his natural buoyancy, made a quick swim for the surface.
In returning, he had dived down, close to the anchor cable. Nearer the bottom he seized the cable, thus hauling himself down to the outer port of the torpedo tube. He had quickly crawled into the tube, where the presence of air still kept the water out. As he knocked heavily at the rear port with both hands, Hal swiftly turned in a moderate discharge of compressed air, while Eph, controlling mechanism inside, swung the forward port shut. Then the rear port was swung back, Captain Jack crawling back into the forward compartment of the boat.
"The whole trick is rather easy," Jack informed Mr. Farnum, as they walked that night in the village and discussed the matter in undertones.
"But you were in not more than seventy feet of water there," suggested the builder. "You couldn't do it at much greater depth."
"At eighty feet of water I could do it," replied Benson, thoughtfully.
"But at a greater depth than eighty feet—?"
"Of course, the deeper one gets, the more tremendous the pressure of the water is," answered the young captain. "At a depth of a hundred feet, say, the pressure of the water would be enough to crowd me back into the tube, crushing my body."
"And killing you," clicked Mr. Farnum.
"Undoubtedly. Yet seventy feet is as deep as one need go. Fifty feet is far enough below the surface, for that matter. And we have the splendid little 'Pollard' under such perfect control that we can drop to fifty feet below the surface, as shown by our submersion gauge, and keep just at that depth."
"It's all wonderful," cried the boatbuilder. "Jack, you are a genius at this work!"
"There are some rather big problems to be worked out, in connection with this new idea," hinted Benson.
"What are the problems?"
"Well, in observing a stretch of water, for the position or approach of a hostile battleship, it might be necessary for the swimmer to go up several times."
"That would call for a very considerable use of compressed air."
"So, in the boat now building, Mr. Farnum, I think Mr. Pollard and yourself should provide for the carrying of greater quantities of compressed air. For, when a submarine is below, you must always have reserve tanks of compressed air to be used in bringing the boat to the surface. Of course, once on the surface, with the motor going, more compressed air can be quickly stored."
"You've been doing some busy thinking, Jack," spoke Mr. Farnum, approvingly.
"I haven't been doing it all, sir," was Benson's quick reply. "Hal and Eph have been talking it all over with me."
"The Melvilles are very anxious to find out how you performed the seemingly wonderful feat of leaving the submerged boat and then returning to it."
"Are you going to tell them, sir."
"Not, at any rate, until I've taken more time to think about it. Yet, you understand, Jack, I can't be too offish with them. They are able to control the investment of a good deal of money, and that money I am afraid we are going to need if we are to go as steeply as we'd like into the building of submarines."
Jacob Farnum, it will be remembered, had married Grace Desmond, an heiress. Her affairs were not yet fully settled through the probate court, but she would presently be entitled to about a half million dollars in her own right. To many it would have seemed that, with a wife so rich, the inventor would not have to look far to find abundant capital. Jacob Farnum, however, knew the hazards that surround even the best conducted business concerns, and he had determined that not a penny of his young wife's fortune should be risked in his own ventures. In other words, it was a point of honor with him not to take the slightest risk of involving his wife's private fortune.
The following morning David Pollard was on hand, in response to a telegram from his friend. Things were now about in shape for final discussion between Melville, the builder and the inventor.
In the private inner office of the shipyard the group of those most interested gathered. Jacob Farnum seated himself beside his desk, Pollard taking a chair close by. Lawyer Demarest, with a pile of impressive looking documents before him, sat at a large flat-top desk. Melville, senior, and two business friends, sat a little apart, while Don Melville stood behind his father.
"I will say, in beginning," commenced George Melville, in his smoothest, blandest tones, "that we have talked so far, you and I, Mr. Farnum, only in general terms. We will now come to the definite proposition under which my friends and myself are willing to contribute the share of new capital that you want in your business."
"That is what I most want, before we go any further," assented Mr. Farnum. "I will say, however, that I have in mind a proposition that I would like to submit, before we hear from your side."
"I am listening," nodded Mr. Melville, suavely.
"We have already decided," continued Mr. Farnum, "that my boat yard, with all its equipment, and including the ownership of the 'Pollard,' may be fairly rated at three hundred thousand dollars."
"That is quite true," nodded Mr. Melville. "That figure is in accordance with the estimates made by our expert accountant."
"In the boat itself," continued Jacob Farnum, "my friend Pollard has a stated amount of interest. To come quickly to the point, then, I propose that Pollard and myself, with the aid of a necessary third party—my superintendent, Partridge, for instance—form a stock company with a capital stock of three hundred thousand dollars. Then the six hundred and fifty thousand dollars that you and your associates are to advance, Mr. Melville, may be secured by an issue of bonds, which the company will secure authority to issue. These bonds will bear the unusually high interest of seven per cent., and this interest, of course, will have to be paid before any dividend can be declared on the capital stock of the company. That will retain the control of the company in my hands, and in Pollard's, and that is what we want."
"Yet do you expect that it will be easy to secure such an understanding with capital?" inquired Mr. Melville, easily. "The proposition amounts to this: That you put in the smaller amount of capital, and yet expect to reap the greater profits."
"By no means," replied Jacob Farnum, seriously. "We have demonstrated the value of our type of boat, and we have some valuable knowledge and ideas that cannot be appraised in dollars. So, though our amount of material capital is less than you and your associates would contribute, we feel that we are bringing to the enterprise the larger share."
"I see your point," nodded Mr. Melville, pleasantly. "Yet there is much to be discussed from our side."
So the contest was on—the quiet, polite battle that is as old as capital itself. The men who contribute the money expect the control of the business; the men who contribute the ideas and knowledge expect, capital to be satisfied with a good return on its money.
Both sides were silent for awhile. The lawyer, tapping a pencil against his lips, knew that George Melville did not intend to go into the enterprise on any arrangement that did not allow him to gain business control swiftly and surely.
"We have much to discuss, along these lines," pursued Mr. Melville, in his smoothest tones and with his friendliest air. "But I have no doubt at all, Mr. Farnum, that we shall presently reach a basis that will be wholly agreeable to both sides."
Which, on the contrary, was what the capitalist knew to be impossible. Melville found himself wishing that something else would come into the conversation, in order to get the boatbuilder's mind briefly away from the main proposition.
Steps were heard, at this moment, in the outer office, and then the faces of Jack and Hal appeared close to the glass in the door. Eph was not far behind them.
"Oh, my crew," nodded Mr. Farnum, looking up. "You remember our experiment, the other day, of having a man leave the boat while under water? Some other problems have come up in that connection. So I sent word to the young men, asking them to step over to the office as soon as convenient. I guess they did not quite understand, and were busy at the time, so that they have come over a little too late. I will step to the door, and so inform them."
Here was the diversion for which Mr. Melville had just been wishing.
"Don't dismiss them, please," urged the capitalist. "On the contrary, will you be good enough to ask them to step in here? There is something that it might be as well to make clear before them."
Bowing slightly, as he rose, Jacob Farnum stepped to the door, opening it.
"Come right in, boys," he requested. "Mr. Melville wishes to say something before you."
Each of the three submarine boys felt a quick throb at the heart. All had a suspicion that a blow might be about to fall. So they stepped inside, halting not far from Mr. Farnum's desk, and turning to face the Melville group.
Mr. Melville cleared his throat before he began:
"In the reorganization of affairs here, my investing friends and myself will be obliged to expect that the command of the 'Pollard' submarine boat will pass to my son, who will actively represent our group. My son, Don, will have charge and knowledge of the boat, its successors, and of all new ideas tried aboard, and he will safeguard, so far as may be necessary our interests. It is possible, however, that he may find it advisable to employ some or all of the present crew. That will, of course, be for him to decide in the near future."
A SQUALL IN AN OFFICE
Jack Benson paled, clenching his hands tightly. Hal Hastings raised his eyebrows slightly; he, too, changed color swiftly. Eph's face reddened; he had all he could do to keep from shouting outright.
Jacob Farnum flushed, half rose from his chair, then seated himself again and turned to look at the boys.
But George Melville appeared to have eyes, at that moment, for no one but young Captain John Benson.
Don stood just beyond his father's chair, regarding the leader of the submarine boys with a supercilious stare.
There was such silence, for a few seconds, that the ticking of the big clock in the corner sounded almost like hammer-blows.
"You understand fully, do you not, Benson?" demanded George Melville, breaking the silence.
"I heard you, sir," Jack replied, not without an effort.
"And what have you to say, Captain Benson?" inquired Mr. Farnum, speaking with some effort.
Captain Jack turned around to face his employer; the other two submarine boys wheeled with him.
"Mr. Farnum, we have been in your employ, and we have always taken your orders. If you say we are to be dropped from the boat's crew, we bow to what we can't prevent."
"No one has spoken—definitely, that is—of dropping you boys from the 'Pollard's' crew," interposed Mr. Melville, slowly. "I have only announced that in the reorganization of this enterprise the group that I represent will require that my son, Don, be placed in command of the 'Pollard,' and of any other submarine boats that may be built. If you do not like to work aboard the submarines, very likely we can find work for you at something in this yard."
Jacob Farnum exchanged a few words in an undertone with David Pollard. Now, the boat builder faced about.
"Mr. Melville," he began, "Mr. Pollard and I feel under a debt of deep obligation to Captain Benson and his mates. Boys though they are, they have done much to make the 'Pollard' as famous as it already is. Between an intelligent employer and a capable, honest employe there can be no question about gratitude. I speak for both Mr. Pollard and myself, therefore, when I say that it is our feeling that Captain Benson and his mates must continue in their present positions."
The color came back to Jack's face. Joy beamed out in his eyes. Hal looked as though he had been given a new lease of life.
"Hooray!" roared Eph. He gave two vigorous jig steps, then stopped, abashed.
"Excuse me, Mr. Farnum," he begged, shamefacedly.
"I do not think you quite understand," went on Mr. Melville, regarding the boatbuilder coldly. "The placing of my son as I have indicated is an absolute condition on the part of our group."
"And I have declined it," returned Mr. Farnum rising, and standing easily.
"Then you do not want our capital, Mr. Farnum?" sternly demanded Mr. Melville.
"Not on your conditions, sir!" came, sharply, from the boatbuilder.
"Oh, you will come to your senses, soon," rejoined the capitalist, coolly. "You need a good deal of money for the extension of your business, and we stand ready to supply it. All that is needed is the conceding of certain conditions, and we are ready to pass our checks for all the money you need. My associates and myself ask for nothing that is unfair. Now, will you take our money into your business, or will you go on in the old, slow way?"
David Pollard had risen, in some agitation, and had walked to the further end of the private office.
"Pardon me a moment," begged Farnum, then followed his friend. The two conversed in low tones.
"You may leave the room, boys," announced Mr. Melville, turning to eye Jack Benson.
Not one of the three stirred.
"Did you hear me?" insisted the capitalist, sharply.
"Yes, sir," answered Jack, quietly.
"Then why don't you go?"
"Mr. Farnum sent for us, and we are waiting to learn whether he is through with us for the present."
"You may take my word for it," snapped Mr. Melville. "Go!"
The submarine boys paid no heed to him.
"The impudent young beggars," sneered Don Melville. "Low-born, and no manners!"
Jack Benson turned, fixing his gaze upon Don's face Jack's look was full of contempt, though he spoke no word.
"Don't try any impudent airs on me," warned Don, flushing, then paling, as his fists doubled.
"Mr. Melville," broke in Jacob Farnum, returning, while David Pollard remained where he was, looking out of the window, "I think we can cut this scene very short. In the first place, in joining us, you demand that we treat with utter injustice bright young employees who have been extraordinarily faithful and devoted."
"You will soon come to see the need of that," replied the capitalist, with a light wave of his hand.
"We do not see it," replied Farnum. "Nor do we intend to. Further, we are disturbed by what you have made only too plain, that you intend to get complete control of this business, and make Pollard and myself merely subordinates in the affairs here."
"Not as bad as that," protested the capitalist, with a smile. "Of course, in view of the very large amount of money we are offering, we must have some voice in the management of—"
"Not this business!" interjected the boatbuilder, with emphasis.
"But, man, you must have the money!"
"We'll do without it, or get it somewhere else," went on the boatbuilder, patiently. "We thank you, Mr. Melville, and those associated with you, but Mr. Pollard and I have decided to go no further in the present negotiations."
"What's that?" demanded George Melville, springing to his feet. "You don't want our money?"
"We won't take it—not at the price you set on it," responded Farnum, bluntly.
For the first time the capitalist appeared decidedly uneasy.
"You don't mean this, Farnum," he answered. "You're excited; perhaps alarmed over something that I have said, or which you thought I intimated."
"I mean just what I have said, take my word for it, sir," retorted the boatbuilder. "We do not intend to look to you for any money that we need. That is final, and, therefore, that is all."
"All this change of front because of these wretched boys?" demanded George Melville, incredulously.
"Partly on account of your attitude toward these boys," admitted Mr. Farnum, "and also because Pollard and I now realize that you had intended to wrest control of this business from us."
"You're losing your senses," Stormed the capitalist, angrily. "Unless you at once come to a realization of it, all we can do is to wish you good morning."
Mr. Farnum bowed, silently, then moved toward the office door, opening it.
"Come on, gentlemen," cried Melville, stiffly, turning toward his own friends.
In silence the members of that group started across the floor. Mr. Farnum, surveying them inscrutably, still held the door open.
"This is dramatic—and suicidal," said Mr. Melville, haughtily.
"You take it too seriously," replied the boatbuilder, with a slight smile. "It is only good morning."
"You're a fool, Farnum!" came the answer as Mr. Melville, in a rage, halted just inside the door. "And I warn you that, if we leave here, now, we shall not return, no matter how changed your attitude may become later. Have you any answer to that, sir?"
"Good morning," replied Jacob Farnum, with another courteous bow.
Stiffly, snorting but without words, George Melville walked out of the office, across the outer office, and out into the yard.
In the private office the three submarine boys stood as though riveted to the floor. They were astounded, and knew not what to say. They were overjoyed, but incapable of expressing any word of the gratitude that filled their young hearts.
David Pollard walked to a chair, dropping into it and studying the ceiling.
As for the boatbuilder, he stepped briskly across the room, pulling open the door of a cupboard. Taking out a broom, he began to sweep very carefully where the Melville group had sat or stood, and continued his sweeping across the threshold of the doorway. Then, returning, he tossed the broom into the cupboard. Stepping springily over, he dropped into his desk chair, letting out a hearty laugh.
"Well, that's over with, and a narrow escape," he announced.
"But you couldn't quite sweep all their dirt out after them," declared David Pollard, looking up with a smile.
"What do you think of that crowd, boys?" asked Jacob Farnum, cheerily.
"I'm not giving much thought to them, sir," Jack replied, adding warmly: "But we fellows, Mr. Farnum, simply can't think of words that will express how we appreciate the splendid way Mr. Pollard and yourself have stood up for us."
Jacob Farnum eyed the boys quizzically, then turned to the young captain of the submarine to inquire:
"Wouldn't you stand by me in anything? Wouldn't you yell for this yard and its product with your last gasp? Answer me."
"Why, of course we would," Jack Benson admitted.
"Then I take just offense, if you expect me to be any less of a man than yourself," declared Farnum, with a pretense of anger.
"The same sentiment puts me on record," chuckled David Pollard:
"Then let us forget the low comedy, the melodrama, or whatever it was," proposed the boatbuilder. "Let us get down to the regular business of the day. We want more money here, if we can get it on a fair and square basis. If we can't, we'll do our best to go along as we've been going. And now, Jack, and the rest of you, Pollard and I have a few little things to whisper over."
DON MELVILLE TAKES A HAND
"Are we at liberty to go up into the village, sir?" asked Jack Benson, pausing at the door.
"Fun?" demanded the boatbuilder, regard them with a dry smile.
"Yes, sir," Jack nodded. "That is, the kind of fun we find in our work. We want to get some metal, a few tools and other things, to rig up something that we think may serve well aboard the 'Pollard.'"
"Run right along then," rejoined Mr. Farnum. "Get a bill for whatever you spend at the toolshop and turn the bill in as expense account."
"Thank you. Good morning, sir."
"Say, did you ever see that beat?" demanded Eph, all aglow with enthusiasm, as the boys stepped across the yard. "My, but didn't Mr. Farnum call the trick with those fellows?"
"We've been doing a heap of useless worrying over what Don Melville let drop the other day, haven't we?" asked Hal, quietly.
"Fellows," stated Captain Jack, earnestly, "as long as we work for this pair of men I'm never going to be uneasy again over anything but displeasing them. They're bricks! They can count on us, every time!"
Up the street, a little way past the gate of the boatyard, the Melville party had halted to light cigars.
"I'm afraid, Melville," said one of the capitalist's associates, "you didn't go at the matter with quite your usual tact. You showed your hand too soon. You came out a little to hard, just a little, too early in the proceedings.
"Pooh!" retorted the capitalist. "We'll go to the hotel. Farnum will cool down soon enough, and realize what we represent to him. Inside of two hours he'll have people out to find out whether we've left town. Gentlemen, I don't know but it might be a good idea for us actually to leave Dunhaven."
"An excellent idea," replied Lawyer Demarest, dryly, "for we shall only waste our time by remaining here."
"What do you mean?" questioned the capitalist, quickly.
"Farnum won't send for us."
"He surely will, when he cools down."
"I'm positive that he won't," asserted the lawyer. "If I know anything about men Farnum will get along without us from now on."
"But he needs the money."
"He can get it, Melville, I am inclined to think," returned the man of the law.
"And we need the investment," continued George Melville. "Why, with my influential connections at Washington, and some other connections that I have, I can see a return of millions on our investment."
"You will never make the investment, as long as Jacob Farnum has the deciding word," insisted Mr. Demarest.
"I'm sure of that, too," added Mr. Faulkner.
"And all on account of those rascally boys!" uttered Don Melville, in a tone of disgust. "Isn't it funny how some folks will cling to muckers? Why, anyone would think that the fellow Benson and his chums are so necessary that the business couldn't go on without them. They're the—"
"Hush!" murmured the lawyer. "Here come the boys."
Jack and his mates were at this moment coming out of the yard. They had turned on the sidewalk, and started along ere they caught sight of the group ahead.
"There's that infernal gang!" uttered Eph, wrathfully.
"Keep your eyes away from them, and don't say anything, then," whispered Jack. "Don't say or do anything that can possibly spoil the morning by putting us in the wrong."
But Don Melville, wrathful over the morning's happenings, and keenly disappointed over the knowledge that he could not hope to command the "Pollard," was not disposed to let the submarine boys go unchallenged.
On came Jack, Hal and Eph, walking abreast, yet ready to break and pass in silence.
"Dewey, Sampson & Schley!" jeered Don Melville, in a low tone, yet loud enough to be heard by Jack's party.
Yet the boys paid no heed, but would have passed in silence, had not Don added, insultingly:
"The three little muckers!"
That was too much for Eph. He couldn't help turning, the flush mounting to his cheeks, to retort:
"Speak for yourself!"
Don took a step forward. Eph, unable to ignore the implied challenge, wheeled about.
"Don't bother with the fellow, Eph," muttered Jack, gripping his bellicose chum by the arm.
"'Fellow'?" cried Don, hotly. "Do you mean that for me?"
"Well," demanded Jack, dryly, "you're not a girl, are you?"
At that Don Melville lost his temper hopelessly. Burning at a white heat, he hissed:
"I'll show you whether I am, or not, you cur!"
That word "cur" went far toward shattering Jack Benson's good resolutions. Letting go of Eph's arm he turned to glare at his tormentor.
"You need a lesson, mucker," added Don, hotly.
"Don't soil your hands on the fellow, Don," cried his father, sharply.
"I must, sir, after he has insulted me," cried Don, in a rage. "I must kick him, anyway."
"Nonsense, Don! No brawling with people of this class," commanded his father, sternly.
The elder Melville reached out to restrain his son, but that seemed only to render the young man more furious. He rushed at Jack, aiming a kick.
"Don't you dare try that!" warned young Benson, his eyes flashing.
But Don, despite both warnings, did swing his foot. Jack dodged the impact, then darted in at the side, landing a blow on young Melville's chest that sent him staggering back.
"Strike me, will you?" flashed Don, throwing himself on guard.
George Melville, aghast at Jack's presumption in attacking his son, now stepped back, satisfied that Don must avenge the insult.
A dozen boys, talking over baseball nearly a block away, saw the start of this encounter.
"Fight! fight!" they yelled, gleefully, and raced down the street.
The cries readied the private office in the boatyard. Suspecting, partly, what might be up, Jacob Farnum snatched his hat, running out. David Pollard followed.
"You young puppy!" almost screamed. "I'll teach you a lesson that you need."
"I'm usually particular about where I get my training," retorted Jack Benson, insulted and stung past his power to endure.
Yet Captain Jack did not attempt to follow up that first blow. Throwing himself into the attitude of defense, he waited.
Don Melville did not keep him long waiting, but rushed at the shorter youth, intent on sending him to earth.
"Hit him like a gentleman, Don!" called his father.
Whatever way that might be, Don Melville struck out, his blood at the white heat of rage. With such force did he aim the blow that, when nimble Captain Jack failed to be in the way to stop it, Don pitched forward, falling to his knees.
"Hooray!" yelled some of the on looking boys, derisively.
Jack halted before his foe, smiling at him quietly.
"Know any more stunning tricks like that one?" Benson inquired.
"I'll show you!" panted Don, leaping up. As he did so, he caught sight of the smiling faces of Messrs. Farnum and Pollard, strolling up from the boatyard gateway.
As he faced the smiling submarine boy, young Melville was quick to realize that he must cool down if he did not want to become a laughing stock for the street crowd that was swiftly forming. Half a dozen workmen employed in the yard had climbed up onto the fence.
"Mind you," said Jack, coolly, "I don't want to hurt you. You started this, Melville."
The sheer coolness of this speech once more carried Don Melville out of the bounds of reason. On the "gym" floor Don had studied the art of boxing well, but he had not learned all he needed to know about coolness.
"You young hound!" he snapped.
"You said something like that before," Jack laughed. "Is that all you can do? I feel as though I were wasting my time."
"Do you?" mocked Don. "Take that, then!"
This time he leaped forward, feinting with his left hand. But Jack was not to be caught like that. Instead, he parried against the real blow delivered with Don's right fist. The force of the parry threw Don to his left. Just at that instant Benson passed behind his opponent, landing a stinging blow on the other's neck. Down flat to the ground went the Melville heir, hitting his nose roughly and starting the blood.
"Hooray!" yelled a gleeful boy in the throng. "Say, ain't he fine at jiu-jitsu, though?"
A yell of great joy went up from some of the boys, who are always delighted at seeing the larger fellow thrashed, especially when he is the one who has started the trouble.
"Don't you think you'd better wait and cool down?" inquired Jack, dryly. "You're only making a show of yourself."
That taunt stung Don into rising and squaring off, while his father looked unutterably disgusted and angry over the ridiculous turn affairs had taken.
"Benson's advice is good—sound," approved Lawyer Demarest, stepping in. "Don, you're no match for your opponent, at least not in your present temper. Don't try to carry this any further."
"Do you think I'm going to let this young mucker make a fool of me?" demanded the Melville youth, huskily. "I've just got to settle with him."
"Yes, yes, Don; stop this. It's unseemly," insisted his father, red-faced through his humiliation. "Come on!"
Mr. Melville's other friends also interposed. Don, surrounded, yet not very anxious to carry the fight on any further, chafed hopelessly. Jack Benson, seeing the new turn of affairs, and realizing how ridiculous his foe must feel, turned to Hal to say:
"I guess we're not needed here any longer. Come on."
"As for you, Benson," choked the elder Melville, "we shall see what can be done about this. You ought to be arrested."
Jack's only answer was a tantalizing grin, after which he turned, his back, as he and his mates started off up the street, followed by a little cheer from some of the boys gathered there.
"What can the law do about this?" demanded the elder Melville of the lawyer, in a low tone.
"A warrant could be issued against your son for disturbing the peace," came the disgusted reply of Lawyer Demarest. "As for Benson, all he did was to protect himself when insulted and assaulted unjustly. It was a disgraceful affair, my dear sir. Now, let us get away from here before we're exposed to more ridicule."
Neither Mr. Farnum nor Mr. Pollard had said a word. Now, smiling quietly, they returned to the yard. The crowd broke up. The Melville party kept on to the hotel of Jabez Holt not far away.
THE "POLLARD" HAS A RIVAL
Capital, backed by energy, can often accomplish wonders.
On the next day after the Melville squall in the boatyard office, Jacob Farnum, looking out of a window, and through the open gateway, saw three heavily-laden lumber trucks go by.
"That looks like a good deal for little Dunhaven," he thought to himself. "I wonder what's happening?"
His horse and buggy were in the yard. The young owner presently went out and got into his vehicle, driving slowly along the street to the northward.
About a third of a mile from his yard Mr. Farnum came to the spot where the lumber was being unloaded. That was a hitherto vacant piece of land located at the edge of a small deepwater cove. Mr. Melville and Don were there, and also a gang of workmen. Carpenters were opening tool chests, as though preparing to go to work.
"Hm!" mused Jacob Farnum. Turning up a side street, he drove, by a roundabout way, back to his yard. Thereafter he took pains to keep himself informed of the Melville doings.
By night the foundations of a shipbuilder's shed had been laid by a large force of carpenters. Another gang of carpenters had gone to work building a fence as rapidly as laborers could set up the poles. By the night of the following day the fence was completed, and the shed, so far as outward appearances went, was completed.
And now, though George Melville and his son, preserved an air of great secrecy, the news leaked out that a new boatyard was added to the industries of Dunhaven, coupled with the further information that Mr. Melville was engaged in the manufacture of submarine torpedo boats.
Both Farnum and Pollard looked somewhat grave when this knowledge was first brought to them by Eph Somers, who had a great knack for picking up local news. However, the young builder was quick to cheer up.
"So we're to have a rival yard, and the 'Pollard' is to have a rival?" said Mr. Farnum. "Competition ought to stir us forward to the very best that is in us. Somers, ask Captain Benson and Hastings to come here. We'll talk this matter over."
Twenty minutes later the few devoted friends of the "Pollard" boat were gathered around Mr. Farnum's desk.
"Unless I'm in great error," said the young boatbuilder, "we're in for a lively rumpus, now. Melville is aroused over our refusal to let him in to this enterprise, and he's starting an opposition. He can command a great deal of money, and I understand that he has a good many influential friends in Washington. If he can carry on the most successful rivalry, he may do us a great deal of harm. For instance, if he can build so fine a boat that he can put ours in the shadow. In fact, while I don't mean to be a quitter or a skulker, I'll admit that Melville may possibly be able to dig a hole and drop us into it. If he produces a type of boat that goes far ahead of ours, then the Government is likely to buy his, overlook ours and leave me stranded financially. About all I'm worth is tied up in the present 'Pollard' and in the new torpedo submarine that I'm now building."
"He can't invent or build a finer submarine than the 'Pollard,'" declared Captain Jack, with conviction.
"Nor get as fine a crew to handle his craft," added David Pollard.
"Don't be too sure of that," warned Jack, Soberly. "I think we fellows have done fairly well with your boat, up to date. But suppose Mr. Melville should be able to get a lot of experienced submarine men, and even, perhaps, an officer, from the United States Navy. We boys could hardly beat such a combination as that."
"I'm not so sure that you're right on this point, Jack," clicked Mr. Farnum. "I'll say this much: It would make me more uneasy to lose the services of you boys than it would to hear that Melville has a Navy crew for the boat he's building."
"Of course," went on Jack, thoughtfully, after a pause, "if you, Mr. Farnum, could interest all the capital you want, on your own fair conditions, you wouldn't have to be afraid of this man Melville."
"No," admitted the boatbuilder, making a wry face. "But getting all that capital together is the problem. You see, Jack, we know just how good a boat we have, but others don't."
"Others don't?" repeated Captain Benson. "That gives me an idea."
"Another trouble," pursued the builder, "is that this submarine business is just something of a speculation. Suppose investors come forward with a lot of ready money to put into this enterprise? Our boat is good, but how do the investors know that, within the next few months, some other inventor won't come forward with a new type of submarine boat that will leave ours hopelessly behind? Then the investors would stand to lose every dollar that they put in with us. That's the thought that makes investors shy."
"Yet Mr. Melville did not seem to be afraid of the chance of losing," remarked Jack Benson.
"He's a gambler all the way through, and he has some moneyed friends of his sort," replied Mr. Farnum. "But it's hard to find such investors."
"Now, for that idea I mentioned," proposed Captain Jack. "You can see what you think of it. Why not get people to talking about our boat? Why not make them talk about it as the most wonderful thing possible in a submarine boat? You know how I managed to leave the boat under water, and to return to it. The thing has never been done before. You know how simple the trick was, and that it was blundered upon by accident. But the people of the country at large don't know. Show the trick is done. When they hear about it, broadcast, won't they think that the 'Pollard' is the only real thing in submarines? Use the 'Pollard' type of boat, and no more men need be killed when a boat won't rise. That's the way the people will talk. So, Mr. Farnum, why not write to the editor of each of the biggest daily papers, inviting him to send a representative here on a near date, to see the thing done? Don't let the editors know just what feat is to be displayed. Simply let them know, in a mysterious, general way, that the thing we will demonstrate revolutionizes the whole art of submarine warfare—as it really does."
"That will make people talk, surely," acknowledged the young boatbuilder.
"And there'll be pressure put upon Congress to buy your boat, and more like it," urged Captain Jack. "All the newspaper talk will be free advertising, and I imagine that the kind of advertising that newspapers are forced to give is all the best paying."
"I haven't had much experience in that line, but I imagine it is the best kind," nodded Mr. Farnum.
All hands set to, to devise a list of newspapers to which invitations should be sent. The stenographer was soon intensely busy with this work.
Down at the new Melville yard affairs went on with a rush. Two tumble-down houses were rented in a little habited part of the town, and in these a gang of close-mouthed Italian laborers was quartered. Jabez Holt felt the new increase in prosperity, for Mr. Melville engaged his entire hotel. Before long there was a constant succession of arrivals at the hotel. Steel salesmen, motor drummers, salesmen in electrical supplies, and a whole host of miscellaneous representatives came to town, putting up at the hotel, where Mr. Melville had reserved a suite of rooms for temporary offices. The strangers in town spent money freely, and all the villagers enjoyed their presence.
In fact, so much business did these new happenings bring that Jacob Farnum speedily became sensible of the fact that the villagers looked upon the Melvilles with decided favor.
"The Melville crowd are at their new enterprise in real and bustling earnest," remarked Farnum, with an air of uneasiness, to his associate, the inventor.
"I imagine those people can control millions of dollars, if they need that much money," hazarded David Pollard.
"Undoubtedly," nodded the boatbuilder "And, though I am seeking for capital that will come in on terms fair to us, it's mighty uphill work."
This conversation was carried on in young Benson's hearing. Captain Jack turned to them with a laugh, to say: "Wait and see, though, if the exhibition before the newspaper correspondents won't take a lot of wind out of the Melville sails."
"It ought to," nodded the builder, "unless the Melvilles, or some of the experts they're dealing with, are shrewd enough to figure out how you left the boat and returned to it."
"Would you have figured that out, Mr. Farnum, if I hadn't told you?"
"Probably not, Jack. It's one of the things that are too simple to guess at easily."
Passers by the Melville yard were now able to hear the hammering of the riveters daily. It looked as though the new yard must be pushing a submarine boat to rapid completion.
"There hasn't been a launching, anyway, so I don't believe the Melville people will be able to do anything to beat our show to-morrow," remarked Captain Jack, on the night before the day that had been set for the show before the newspaper men.
Early the next forenoon newspaper correspondents began to arrive in numbers from half a dozen large cities. As the hotel was monopolized, by the Melville crowd, Mr. Farnum had engaged other quarters at which to entertain the men of the press. Some of the newspapers sent women writers.
None of these visitors were taken direct to the yards. Mr. Farnum and Mr. Pollard took the journalistic visitors in charge and finally conveyed them in carriages to the boatyard, arriving at about a quarter before eleven.
Here Jack, Hal and Eph, looking at their best in their natty uniforms, were on hand to be presented. Of course, the mere fact of a competent, well-trained boy crew was a novelty to the newspaper writers, who made much of the submarine boys and asked them many questions about their work.
"How soon are you going to take us out aboard the 'Pollard'?" inquired one of the women reporters.
"Just as soon as Captain Benson and his young men have had a chance to show you the remarkable feat that you have come here to see," promised Mr. Farnum.
"And what is that remarkable feat?" asked another journalist.
"The wonder of it will strike you all the more if we do not announce it in advance," rejoined David Pollard.
"Captain Benson, what have you to say about it?" pleaded one of the newspaper women. "Won't you give us at least a hint?"
"I'd like to, immensely," smiled Captain Jack, "but I've always had a great respect for Mr. Farnum's judgment."
"Good enough, captain," laughed the boat builder. "And now, signal for the boat that is to put you aboard."
As the boat was coming in Captain Jack turned to the newspaper writers to say:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the thing that is to be done to-day is something that has never been done on any other boat than the 'Pollard.' If it looks a bit dramatic, you will understand, of course, that that is a means toward making it all the more impressive."
"Oh, dear, but you are making me dreadfully inquisitive," complained one of the newspaper women, plaintively.
Embarking in the shore boat, the "Pollard's" crew were soon aboard the submarine. From the platform decks they waved their caps, then, one by one, disappeared through the tower, the manhole cover being pulled down after them.
"Are they going to take the boat out and submerge it?" asked one of the correspondents.
"Yes," nodded Mr. Farnum.
"And what else—please?" asked the particularly impatient newspaper woman.
Mr. Farnum smiled, then added:
"There they go, under electric power. Watch!"
By the time that the boat had gone a little more than a hundred feet one of the correspondents called out:
"All a part of the performance," stated Mr. Pollard.
Before some of the visiting journalists could quite realize it, the tip of the conning tower had disappeared below the surface.
"That's all very interesting to look at," half shuddered one of the women. "But what if they couldn't bring the boat up again?"
"The boat is built to go up or down, at need," Mr. Farnum assured her. "Captain Benson has never had an accident yet."
So the group of some thirty newspaper people watched intently, keeping their gaze on the place where they had seen the last ripples close in over the vanishing conning tower.
The minutes passed by. The shore boat, with the hundred-pound anchor and cable in the bow, hovered just where Captain Jack had directed, but what could be going on in the submarine at the bottom of the little harbor?
"Mr. Farnum, don't you sometimes get nervous over such things?" demanded one of the women.
"Never," the boatbuilder assured her.
Yet is was not long before the yard's owner pulled out his watch to look at the dial. Eleven minutes had passed since the disappearance of the submarine. The next time Farnum glanced at his watch the time had lengthened to fifteen minutes. Then the time dragged by to half an hour.
David Pollard was fighting hard to conceal the nervous dread that had seized him.
"Farnum," he found chance to whisper, at last, "something tragic has happened to the boys, at last. What on earth can it be? Whatever it is, we're utterly powerless to help them!"
MISSING—A SUBMARINE AND CREW
Fifteen minutes more dragged by.
"Where's your show, Mr. Farnum?"
"Something has gone wrong, eh?"
The correspondents were pressing about the worried builder and the uneasy inventor.
"There's a tragedy going on over there, isn't there?" demanded another journalist, pointing out across the water.
"I—I'm afraid there is a chance of it," nodded Mr. Farnum, dejectedly, again looking at the watch in his hand. "It's getting on toward an hour since the 'Pollard' went down."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Is there no way to rescue the crew?"
"Don't let those boys die, without lifting a finger to save them."
"Get busy, man—in heaven's name, get busy!"
Such were the comments, questions and advice that poured in on the builder. David Pollard, his sensitive nature suffering extremely, shrank back out of the crowd.
"Gentlemen—and ladies, too—don't you understand that nothing really can be done—at least not in a rush?" cried Jacob Farnum, the cold sweat standing out on his face. "There isn't a diver in or near Dunhaven, and that unfortunate boat is down in seventy feet of water. I'm going to rush a wire to the nearest place where I know a diver to be, but I—I am certain that it will be hours before we can hope to have one here. That is all—all that can possibly be done."
"Oh, this is dreadful!" sobbed one of the women writers. "Those brave, splendid boys—such a fearful fate!"
"Must they be asphyxiated down there, below?" cried another woman.
"Don't," choked Jacob Farnum. "I must rush for the telegraph station and get off a message for a diver—also for a wrecking company to send tugs and floats here for raising the 'Pollard.' Yet it will take a wretchedly long time."
"And the boys? Rescue will come too late to save them?" asked a newspaper man, with a decided choke in his voice.
Jacob Farnum made a wild dash for his office, telephoning for a messenger boy. While waiting he wrote two telegrams in feverish haste.
Several of the newspaper people wrote hasty, excited dispatches to their papers for the evening editions. The messenger boy, when he arrived on a run, was all but loaded down with paper. Then the yard's owner and the newspaper folks dashed back to the shore.
Out on the harbor the water lay unruffled. There was not a sign of the suspected tragedy that lay beneath the waves.
"It's an hour and a half since the boat sank," called one of the correspondents.
"What were the boys supposed to do, anyway?" insisted another.
Jacob Farnum opened his mouth, as though to speak, then closed it again.
"Tell us," insisted one woman.
"Yes, tell us," insisted a man.
Just then, there came a shout over the waters. "Say, you lubbers, what did you move that boat for?"
There was an instant gasp from all who turned so swiftly to look out over the water.
Only Jack Benson's brown-haired head showed above the surface of the harbor, but his look was laughing, utterly care-free.
The boatmen who had allowed their craft to drift while waiting, now thrust out their oars, making quick time to where the submarine boy stood treading water.
In his sudden revulsion of feeling the inventor all but fainted. Jacob Farnum, his gnawing suspense over, felt as though his knees must give way under him. Then, by a mighty effort, just as the deafening cheering started, he led the race around the harbor.
"Here, you—Jack Benson!" gasped the yard's owner. "You come in here mighty quick! Give an account of yourself. What was wrong below?"
"Wrong?" hailed back Benson, standing in the bow of the shore boat as it made for shore.
"What were you doing down below, all this time?" demanded Mr. Farnum.
"Doing? Oh, Eph was taking a nap—"
"Taking a nap?"
"Hal was tinkering with the gasoline motor, and I was reading."
"Reading?" fumed Mr. Farnum. "What were you trying to do? Torment the life out of us?"
"Were any of you folks worried?" asked Jack, smiling innocently at the excited crowd.
"Worried?" ejaculated the boatbuilder. "I've telegraphed for a diver and a wrecking company's outfit."
"Better countermand the order, air," advised Jack, dryly.
"But what on earth caused all the delay? What did it mean?" persisted the boatbuilder. "Answer me, Benson."
"Why," laughed Jack, "when we started, I dropped a word or two about trying to make the exhibition dramatic, didn't I?"
"If that's what you tried to do, young man," grunted one of the correspondents, "you've certainly succeeded. Why, in five or ten minutes more the evening papers in half a dozen cities will have extras out announcing that one more big submarine boat disaster has occurred!"
"Did you really send that to your papers?" asked Jack Benson, some of his glee showing.
"Of course we did."
"And that reminds me," shouted another. "We've got to send the follow-up news, at once. I have, anyway."
That roused the newspaper people to a sense of what they were there for, though one man broke in:
"Just a second, folks! Let's find out what the show was intended for."
"Why, it's intended to show," replied Jack, "that a boat built and equipped like the 'Pollard' isn't a death-trap for the crew, if it should happen, through some accident, that the boat refuses to rise to the surface."
"That's the trick," confirmed Mr. Farnum. "But, Jack, why did you wait so long before coming up."
"So that you could all realize something of the anxiety of people over such accidents to submarines, and the great dread over the fate of the crew," laughed the boy. "I think our delay made you all realize something of that."
"You have something of the dramatic instinct, truly," murmured the newspaper woman who had sobbed. "You had us all scared nearly to the fainting point."
"Now," continued Captain Jack, "just to show you that the boat didn't get disabled in any way, I'm going down again and then come up with the boat."
"It won't take you as long as it did this last time, will it?" demanded one of the reporters.
"Wait right where you are," promised Jack Benson, "and you'll see me once more before you've really had time to realize it."
"No more dramatic business, eh, and needless tears on our part?" insisted another.
"This time," laughed Jack, "the dramatic will be confined to speed of operation."
He motioned to the men to row out. Jack calculated, finely, just where he had come up, and there the heavy anchor was dropped, the end of the cable being made fast in the boat.
Then overboard dived the submarine captain, going straight down. A tug at the line showed when he seized hold of it, down in the depths.
A little time passed, but now the newspaper folks, accustomed to all manner of sensations, were not apprehensive.
"Here she comes!" shouted David Pollard, gleefully.
More and mote of the conning tower showed above the water, the platform deck and hull coming next into view. Then, as the manhole cover was raised, Eph Somers stepped into view at the steering wheel. The "Pollard" moved over to her moorings, and Hal came up to aid in making fast. Soon afterward, Jack Benson, in complete uniform, appeared on deck.