E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
Note: This is book four of eight of the Submarine Boys Series.
THE SUBMARINE BOYS AND THE SPIES
Dodging the Sharks of the Deep
VICTOR G. DURHAM
CHAPTERS I. "Guess Day" at Spruce Beach II. Trouble in the Making Stage III. On the Edge of the Spider's Web IV. Kamanako Appears on the Scene V. Eph Learns Something New VI. The Little Russian has His Way VII. A Pointer Jolts the Submarine Captain VIII. Even Up for Mr. Kamanako IX. "Dog, Who is Your Master?" X. M. Lemaire Proves His Training XI. Jack's Friends Do Some Fast Guessing XII. In the Power of the Spies XIII. The Fellow Who Showed the White Flag XIV. A Remembrance From Shore XV. Captain Jack Becomes Suspicious XVI. The Government Takes a Hand XVII. Drummond's Little Surprise—For Himself XVIII. "Remember What Happened to the 'Maine'!" XIX. A Joke on the Secret Service! XX. A Bright Look and a Deadly Warning XXI. A French Rat in the Corner XXII. Gallant Even to the Foe XXIII. "Good-Bye, My Captain!" XXIV. Conclusion
"GUESS DAY" AT SPRUCE BEACH
"Has anyone sighted them yet?"
"What can be the matter?"
"You know, their specialty is going to the bottom. Possibly they've gone there once too often."
"Don't!" shuddered a young woman. "Try not to be gruesome always, George."
The young man laughed as he turned aside.
Everyone and his friend at Spruce Beach was asking similar questions. None of the answers were satisfactory, because nobody knew just what reply to make.
Everyone in the North who has the money and leisure to get away from home during a portion of the winter knows Spruce Beach. It is one of nature's most beautiful spots on the eastern coast of Florida, and man has made it one of the most expensive places in the world.
In other words, Spruce Beach is a paradise to look at. The climate, in the winter months, is mild and balmy. Health grows rapidly at this favored spot, and so fashion has seized upon it as her own. True, there are yet a few cottages and boarding houses left where travelers of moderate means may find board.
The whole air of Spruce Beach is one of holiday expectancy. The winter visitors go there to enjoy themselves; they expect it and demand it. They are gratified. From the first of December to the middle of March, life at Spruce Beach makes you think of a great, jolly, unending picnic. The greatest cause for regret is that more people of ordinary means cannot go there and reap some of the plentiful harvest of fun and frolic.
The thousands of tourists, hotel guests and cottagers at Spruce Beach had been promised that by the middle of December they would have a treat the like of which few of them had ever enjoyed before. The Pollard Submarine Boat Company, so named after David Pollard the inventor—the company of which Jacob Farnum, the shipbuilder, was president—had promised that by that date their newest, fastest and most formidable submarine torpedo boat, the "Benson," should arrive at Spruce Beach, there to begin a series of demonstrations and trials.
Still more extraordinary, the captain of this marvelous new submarine craft of war was known to be a boy of sixteen—Jack Benson, after whom the new navy-destroyer had been named.
Newspaper readers were beginning to be familiar with the name of Captain Jack Benson. Though so young he had, after a stern apprenticeship, actually succeeded in making himself a world-known expert in the handling of submarine torpedo boats.
Those lighter readers of newspapers, who scoffed at the very idea of a sixteen-year-old boy handling a costly submarine boat, were sometimes reminded that the same thing happens at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, where the young midshipmen are given instruction and often are qualified as young experts along similar lines.
More remarkable still, as faithful readers of newspapers knew, Captain Jack Benson had associated with him, on the new torpedo boat, two other sixteen-year-old boys, by name Hal Hastings and Eph Somers. It was also rumored, and nearly as often believed, that these three sea-bred young Americans knew as much as anyone in the United States on the special subject of submarine boat handling.
Be that all as it might, it was known to every man, woman and child at Spruce Beach that the "Benson" was due to arrive on this December day and the whole picnicking population was out to watch the incoming from the sea of the strange craft.
More than that, the United States gunboat, "Waverly," had been for two days at anchor in the little, somewhat rockbound harbor just north of the beach. It was to be the pleasant duty of the naval officer commanding the "Waverly" to extend official welcome to the "Benson" as soon as that craft pointed its cigar-shaped nose into the harbor.
The first boat built by the submarine company had been named, after the inventor, the "Pollard." The second had been named the "Farnum," in honor of the enterprising young shipbuilder who had financed this big undertaking. And now Spruce Beach was awaiting the arrival of the company's third boat, the "Benson," so-called in recognition of the hard and brilliant work done by the young skipper himself.
That this was to be something of a social and gala occasion, even on board the gunboat, was evident from the fact that on the naval vessel's decks there now promenaded some two score of ladies and their escorts from shore, and on the hurricane deck lounged musicians from hotel orchestras on shore, these men of music having been combined to form a band, in order to make the occasion more joyous.
"Look at that shore, black with people!" cried a woman to one of the naval officers on the deck of the "Waverly."
"There must be at least ten thousand people in that crowd," laughed Lieutenant Featherstone. "I wonder whether they're more interested in the boat, or its boy officers?"
"Are Captain Benson and his comrades really as clever as some of the newspapers have made them out to be?" asked the woman doubtfully.
"Judging by letters I've had from friends who are officers at the Naval Academy," replied Lieutenant Featherstone, "the young men must be very well versed, indeed, in all the arts of their peculiar profession."
A cheer went up from the principal throng over at the beach. Smoke had been sighted off on the eastern horizon, and this must come from the long expected craft.
From boat to boat the news passed, and so it traveled to the deck of the "Waverly," where the sailors received it with broad smiles. The leader of the impromptu band raised his baton, rapping for attention. But Lieutenant Featherstone, below, caught the leader's eye in time and held up his hand for a pause.
"If you play, leader," called the officer, in a low voice that carried, nevertheless, "don't imagine that your music is to welcome the 'Benson.' Submarine boats don't travel under steam power. They can't."
So, too, on shore, the understanding was quickly reached that the smoke did not indicate the whereabouts of the expected submarine. Half and hour later it was found that the smoke came from the tug of a fruit transporting company.
Where, then, was the "Benson?"
It was not in the least like young Captain Jack Benson to be behind time when he had an appointment to get anywhere. Nor did that very youthful companion expect to arrive late on this day of days.
Some miles away from Spruce Beach the submarine boat, as shown by her submersion gauge, was running along at six miles an hour some fifty-two feet under the surface of the ocean.
Young Eph Somers, auburn-haired and ofttimes impulsive, now looked as sober as a judge as he sat perched up in the conning tower, beyond which, at that depth, he could not see a thing. However, a shaded incandescent light dropped its rays over the surface of the compass by the aid of which Eph was steering with mathematical exactness.
Out in the engine room stood Hal Hastings, closely watching every movement of even as trusted and capable a man as Williamson, one of the machinists from the Farnum shipyards.
At the cabin table sat Captain Jack Benson himself, his head bent low as he scanned a chart. His right hand held a pair of nickeled dividers. Near his left lay a scale rule. A paper pad, half covered with figures, also lay within reach.
On the opposite side of the table sat Jacob Farnum, owner of the Farnum shipyard and president of the Pollard Submarine Boat Company. Beside Mr. Farnum sat David Pollard, the inventor.
Readers of the preceding volumes in this series are familiar with all these people, now decidedly famous in the submarine boat world. In the first volume, "The Submarine Boys on Duty," was related how all these people came together; how the boys, by sheer force of character "broke into" the submarine boating world. In that volume the building of the first of the company's boats, the "Pollard" was described, and all the exciting adventures that were connected with the event were fully narrated.
Our former readers will also remember all the wonderful adventures and the rollicking fun set forth in the second volume, under the title of "The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip." In this book, bristling with adventures, and made lighter, in spots, by accounts of humorous doings, was told how the boys gained fame as submarine experts. It was their fine, loyal work that interested the United States government in buying that first boat, the "Pollard."
The third volume in the series, entitled "The Submarine Boys and the Middies" told how our young friends secured the prize detail at Annapolis; where, for a brief time, the three submarine boys served as instructors in submarine work to the young midshipmen at the Naval Academy. Nor was this accomplished without serious, and even sensational, opposition from the representative of a rival submarine company. Hence the boys went through some rousing adventures. Incidentally, they fell against practical instruction in hazing at the Naval Academy.
Adventures enough had befallen the submarine boys to last any man for a lifetime. Yet, as fate decreed it, Captain Jack Benson and his staunch young comrades were now destined to adventures greater and further reaching than any of which they could have dreamed. In advance, this winter trip to Spruce Beach promised to be little more than a pleasant relaxation for the youngsters. What it really turned out to be will soon be made clear in the pages of this volume.
"It seems a very risky plan that you're trying, Jack," remarked Jacob Farnum, at last.
"Don't you want me to do it, sir?" asked the young skipper, looking up instantly from his chart.
But here David Pollard, the inventor of these boats broke in, eagerly:
"Of course we ought to do it, Farnum. Jack is wholly right. If we enter the harbor at Spruce Beach in this fashion, and carry through our entire plan successfully, what on earth can there be left for opponents of our class of boats to say?"
"Not if we succeed, of course," smiled Farnum. "It's only the pesky little 'if' that's bothering me at all. I don't want any of you to think me a coward—"
"We know, very well, you're not, sir," Captain Jack interposed, very quietly.
"But if we make any slip in our calculations," continued Jacob Farnum, "the first bad thing about it is that we'll smash a fine boat which, otherwise, the United States Government is likely to want at a price around two hundred thousand dollars. That, however, is not the greatest risk that I have in mind. On board this craft are five people without whom it would be rather hopeless for anyone to go on building the Pollard type of boat. Therefore, besides risking a valuable craft and our own rather inconsequential lives, we go further and put the United States Navy in danger of having only a couple of our boats. Now, the fact is, we want the Navy to have three or four dozen of our submarine craft, for we ourselves believe implicitly in the great worth of the Pollard boats."
"That's just the point, sir," cried Captain Jack Benson.
"Eh? What is?" inquired Mr. Farnum, looking at his young skipper in some bewilderment.
"Why, sir," laughed Jack, "the point is that we believe our boats to be infinitely ahead of anything owned in any other navy on earth. We believe it possible to do things, with boats like this one, that can be accomplished with no other submarine craft in the world. Now, it's a fact that, in all the navies, lest an accident happen to a submarine, that craft is obliged to travel about, always, in the company of a steam craft of war, which is known as the parent ship. Yet we've come, straight from the shipyard at Dunhaven, many hundreds of miles, without any such escort. We've been running along under our own power, night and day, without accident, stop or bother. Thus we've shown that the Pollard boat can do things that no other submarine craft are ever trusted to try alone. And now, all that remains to show is that, at the end of a long voyage, we can approach a coast, unseen, even though thousands of people are probably looking for us, and that we can get into a harbor without being detected; that, in fact, we could do anything we might have a mind to do to an enemy's ships that might be in that harbor. But now, sir, you propose that, lest we have accidents, it will be best to rise to the surface and enter the harbor at Spruce Beach as plainly and stupidly as though the 'Benson' were some mere lumber schooner."
"I see the thing just the way Jack Benson does," murmured David Pollard, thrusting his hands down deep in his trousers pockets.
"Oh, well, if I'm voted down, I'll give in," laughed Jacob Farnum. "I wonder, though, how Hal and Eph feel about this?"
"I don't have to ask them," nodded Captain Jack, confidently.
"We settled it all, days ago, sir."
"And they both agreed with you?"
"Down to the last jot, Mr. Farnum. They saw the beauty and the boldness of the plan."
Oh, well, go ahead, then, responded Mr. Farnum, rising and standing by the cabin table. "Of course, the picturesque and romantic possibilities of the scheme are plain enough to me. We'll have the people at Spruce Beach agape with curiosity, then wild with enthusiasm. And, really, to be sure, we have to arouse the enthusiasm of the American people over this whole game. That's the surest way of forcing Congress to spend more money on our boats."
"Where are you going, Jake?" called the inventor, as his partner started aft.
"To the stateroom, to get a little nap," replied the shipbuilder. "We're not by any means due at Spruce Beach yet."
"Jake Farnum is surely not a coward," chuckled Mr. Pollard, as the stateroom door closed. "Nor is he over anxious about any detail in our little game, or he couldn't go to sleep at this important time. I know I couldn't get a wink of sleep if I turned in now. I've simply got to sit up, wide awake, until I see the finish of your bold stroke, Jack Benson."
Captain Jack laughed easily, then glanced at his watch to note the lapse of time since he had made his last calculation of their whereabouts. It is one thing to be in the open air, navigating a vessel, but it is quite another affair to be fifty-odd feet below the surface, calculating all by the distance covered and the course steered.
"Any deviation in the course, Eph?" Captain Jack called up into the conning tower.
"Not by as much as a hair's breadth," retorted young Somers, almost gruffly, for with him, to depart from a given course, was well nigh equal to a capital crime.
Jack touched a button in the side of the table. Obeying the summons, quiet Hal Hastings thrust his head out into the cabin.
"Just the same speed, Hal?" the young captain asked.
"Hasn't changed a single revolution per minute," Hastings answered, briefly.
With his watch on the table before him, and employing the scale rule and dividers, the young submarine skipper placed a new dot on the chart.
"Something ought to be happening in three quarters of an hour," Benson remarked, with a chuckle, to Mr. Pollard.
Less than half an hour later the young submarine skipper climbed up into the conning tower beside Eph.
"Same old straight course, eh, lad?" asked Jack quietly.
"You know it," retorted Eph.
"Then we're where we ought to be," responded Jack Benson, bending forward. With his right hand on the speed control he shut off speed.
"Now, just sit where you are, Eph, until I come up again," advised the young commander.
"Going to the surface?" demanded Somers, with interest.
"Pretty close," nodded Benson.
Calling Mr. Pollard to his aid, Jack began to operate the machinery that admitted compressed air to the water tanks, expelling the water gradually from those same tanks. This was the means by which the submarine boat rose to the surface. All the time that he was doing this, Jack Benson kept his keen glance on the submersion gauge. At last he stopped.
"How is it up there, Eph?" he called, pleasantly.
"Why, of course there's a lot of good daylight filtering down through the water now," Somers admitted.
Captain Jack went nimbly up the spiral stairway. Now, he had still another piece of apparatus to call into play. This affair is known to naval men as the periscope.
In effect, the periscope is a device which in the main is like a pipe; it can be pushed up through the top of the conning tower, through a special, water-proof cylinder, until the top of the periscope is a foot, or less, above the surface of the water.
The top of this instrument is fitted with lenses and mirrors. Down through the shaft of the periscope are other mirrors, which pass along any image reflected on the uppermost mirror of all. At the bottom of the periscope is the last mirror of the series, and, opening in upon this, there is an eyepiece fitted with a lens.
As Captain Jack Benson applied his right eye to the eyepiece he was able to see anything above the surface of the water that lay in any direction that the periscope was pointing.
"Right opposite Spruce Beach, as the chart showed!" chuckled the young commander. Under the magnifying effect of the eyepiece lens Benson could see the beach, the flag-bedecked hotels, and the moving masses of people on the shore. Yet, all this time, he was out at sea, more than a mile from the beach. The periscope itself, if seen from a boat an eighth of a mile away, would undoubtedly have been taken for a floating bottle.
"Let me have a peep," demanded Somers.
Eph looked briefly, then chuckled:
"Must be thousands of people over yonder, wondering what on earth has happened to us!"
"Do you make out the gunboat, at anchor to the north of the hotel section?" inquired Captain Jack.
"Oh, yes. Say, they'll have an awakening on that gray craft, won't they?"
"If we don't make any slip in our calculations," answered Benson, gravely.
"Well, we're not going to make any slip," asserted Eph Somers, stoutly.
"Now, keep quiet, please, old fellow. I want to do a little calculating before we take the last, desperate step."
All this time the conning tower of the submarine was just a bit below the surface. Nothing but the slender shaft and the small head of the periscope was above the wash of the lazy waves.
Captain Jack soon had his calculation made. Then, with a quiet smile, he remarked:
"I guess you'd better get below, Eph, for your part. I'll take the wheel, now, and Mr. Pollard will attend to the submerging mechanisms."
Eph laughed joyously as he darted below. He had a part assigned to him that was bound to be enjoyable.
"Mr. Pollard!" called down the young skipper, a few moments later.
"Aye, Captain Jack!"
"Let her down slowly, please, until the gauge shows just fourteen feet. That's the greatest depth I dare try for the course we're going to follow."
"Aye, Captain Jack. Fourteen feet it shall be."
For the benefit of some readers who may not understand, it is to be stated that the charts of harbors bear markings that show the exact depth of water at every point in the harbor at low tide. Thus, the chart of the harbor just north of Spruce Beach had already told the young submarine skipper just how far below the surface he could travel with safety to his craft.
Further, he knew the draft of the "Waverly" to be eleven feet. So the youthful commander could feel quite certain that he would be in no danger of colliding, below the water-line, with Uncle Sam's gunboat.
On the deck of the "Waverly" itself there was the same spirit of expectancy that there had been an hour earlier in the afternoon.
Lieutenant Featherstone, executive officer of the gunboat, was not, however, impatient. In fact, he stood at the rail, aft, a pretty girl beside him, and both were looking down musingly at the rippling water below.
"As I was saying," drawled the lieutenant, "when—"
Just then he stopped, though he did not appear startled.
Straight up out of the watery depths shot a Carroty-topped boy, his wet skin glistening in the sun.
"Good gracious!" gasped the girl. "Where did that boy come from?"
"Say, sir," called up Eph Somers, distinguishing the lieutenant in his swift look, "where do you want the submarine boat to anchor?"
"What's that to you, young man?" called down Mr. Featherstone, bluntly.
"Oh, just this much, sir," retorted Eph, treading water, lazily; "I belong aboard the 'Benson,' and I've been sent to inquire where you want us to find our moorings."
"You from the 'Benson'?" snorted the lieutenant, incredulously. "Then where is your craft!"
"Coming?" jeered the lieutenant "So is Christmas!"
"The 'Benson' will be here first, sir," retorted Eph, splashing, then blowing a stream of water from his mouth. "The 'Benson,' sir, is due here in from twenty to thirty seconds!"
"What's that?" demanded the naval officer, sharply. Then a queer look came into his face as a suspicion of the truth flashed into his mind. He was about to speak when his feminine companion pointed, crying:
"What can that commotion mean out there?" There was a little flurry in the waters, then a parting as something dull-colored loomed slowly up.
Barely a hundred feet away from the port rail of the gunboat the new submarine boat, "Benson," rose into sight.
Eph Somers had left the craft, while still below surface, by means of the clever trick worked out by Jack Benson and his comrades, as described in "The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip."
Almost instantly the manhole cover was thrown open. Jack Benson, natty as a tailor's model, in his newest uniform, stepped out on deck, waving his hand to the gunboat.
"You'll have to consider that we got you, won't you, sir?" shouted the young submarine captain.
Then, both on shore and on the decks of many craft, a realization of what had happened dawned in the minds of thousands of people at about the same instant. A great, combined cheer shot up—a cheer that was a vocal cyclone!
TROUBLE IN THE MAKING STAGE
On the hurricane deck of the "Waverly" stood one man, mouth wide open and eyes a-stare, who couldn't seem to get the meaning of it all. That man was the leader of the combined band from the winter hotels.
Turning, glancing upward, the lieutenant looked at the leader with a glance of cool wonder.
"Play, man! Why don't you play? What are you there for?"
Then, all of a sudden, reddening, the band leader rapped his music stand with his baton, next gave the signal, and the band crashed forth into the exultant strains of:
"See! The Conquering Hero comes!"
At the third measure the band was all but drowned out by renewed cheering, that came more uproariously than ever.
Captain Jack Benson had surely chosen a dramatic manner of making his appearance at Spruce Beach. Ten thousand tongues were set wagging all at once. When there came a lull, a man's voice on a tug not far from the gunboat could be heard, asserting loudly:
"Well, that's what submarines are for—to sneak in while you're wiping a speck of dust from your eye!"
That remark, coming just as the band ceased its strains, was plainly audible, and brought a laugh from everyone aboard the submarine, including Eph, who was just climbing, in his bathing suit, up to the platform deck.
Lieutenant Commander Kimball, hurrying from his cabin, had joined Lieutenant Featherstone at the rail, the pretty girl slipping away to join a group of civilians.
"What do you think of us?" called Jacob Farnum, a broad grin of delight on his face.
"You'll do," admitted Kimball.
"Do you consider yourself sunk?" demanded David Pollard, laughingly.
"Theoretically, yes," assented Lieutenant Commander Kimball. "I wonder if you could do it as well in war time?"
"Couldn't possibly do anything like it in war time," called back Captain Jack Benson. "For, sir, you fly the Stars and, Stripes!"
That was a happy speech, delivered at just the right second. It set all within hearing to cheering again. And then the thousands beyond caught it up.
"I'll say this much," shouted back Lieutenant Commander Kimball, as soon as he could make himself heard: "We'd rather have you with us, Mr. Benson, than against us."
"You'll have your wish, sir, as long as I'm alive," Jack answered, turning and lifting his hat in simple yet eloquent salute to the Flag waving at the gunboat's stern.
All this time Hal Hastings stood by the deck wheel, one hand occasionally straying to the engine room signal buttons, as he kept the "Benson" just about a hundred feet from the gunboat and nearly abeam.
"Where shall I anchor, sir?" called Captain Jack, presently.
"Better take it about four points off our port bow and at least four hundred feet away, Mr. Benson," called back the lieutenant commander.
"Four points off port and four hundred feet it is, sir," answered the young submarine skipper, saluting. Then he gave the order to Hal.
"As soon as you're anchored, I'll send you over a boat to be at your disposal this afternoon," called Lieutenant Commander Kimball.
"We'll use the boat, sir, to pay you a visit, if you permit," Jack shouted back.
"By all means come aboard. Then we'll visit you. We're anxious to see the works of such a wonderful little craft."
Within ten minutes a man-o-war's cutter was alongside, rowed by six alert-looking young sailors, while a coxswain held the tiller ropes.
Messrs. Farnum and Pollard, Jack and Hal made up the visiting party, leaving Eph Somers aboard the submarine, with Williamson to help him at need.
Cordial, indeed, was the reception of the submarine folks aboard the gunboat. There was a great amount of handshaking to be done.
In the meantime, Eph Somers was having something in the way of trouble back on the platform deck of the "Benson."
Two small boats, manned by harbor boatmen, and each carrying a few passengers, had put off from shore, and now ranged alongside.
"How do you do, Captain?" shouted a young man at the bow of one of the boats.
"Louder!" begged Eph.
"How do you do, Captain?"
"Louder. I'm afraid the captain can't hear you yet," grinned the carroty-topped submarine boy. "He's over on the gunboat."
"Then who are you?"
"Who? Me?" demanded Eph, innocently. "Oh, I'm only the Secretary of the Navy."
"All right, Mr. Secretary," laughed the same young man. "We are coming aboard."
"Aboard of what?" inquired Eph.
"Why, you're submarine boat, of course," came the answer.
"Guess not!" responded Eph, briskly.
"Why, yes; we're newspaper men, and it's business, not fun with us."
The boat containing the speaker lay lightly alongside at this moment. In another moment the young man in the bow would have clambered up on deck, but Eph called down to him:
"Hold on! Stay where you are. My orders are to hit any fellow with a boathook who tries to come up here in the captain's absence."
"But we've got to have a look at your boat, don't you see?" insisted the newspaper man, though, as Eph carelessly picked up a boathook, the would-be caller waited prudently in the bow of his boat.
Young Somers was surely in a state of uncertainty. He had strict orders to allow no one aboard unless he knew them to be United States naval officers. On the other hand, the auburn-haired boy knew how necessary it was for the submarine folks to keep on good terms with newspaper writers if the American people were to be favorably impressed with the claims of the Pollard boat.
"Now, see here," said Eph, balancing the boathook, "I'm sorry to stand here making a noise like a crank, but have you any idea at all what orders mean on shipboard? And I'm under the strictest orders not to let anyone aboard."
"Get your orders changed, then," proposed another newspaper man, cheerfully.
"If you'll wait, I'll see if I can," muttered Eph, hopefully.
"Oh, we'll wait."
Williamson's head had appeared in the manhole way.
"Come out on deck, and don't let anyone on board unless we get orders to that effect," murmured Somers, passing the conning tower. Then, through a megaphone, the submarine boy hailed the gunboat, asking if it would be possible for him to talk with Jack Benson. Benson soon afterward came forward on the "Waverly." Eph explained the situation. Jack shouted back to allow the visitors on the platform deck, but not to let any of them into the conning tower, or below.
So Eph turned to the two boatloads of visitors, explaining:
"Perhaps you men can get that all changed if you come out to-morrow, when the captain is here. But the best I can do to-day is to let you up here on the platform deck."
"Oh, well," returned the first newspaper man to get up there beside the boy, "you can tell us, as well as anyone, about your trip down the coast and the way you slipped in here."
"And also," chimed in another, "you're the young man who came straight up through the water when she was beneath the surface?"
Eph admitted that he was.
"That's the thing I want to know about," continued the second newspaper man. "I've heard before about that wonderful trick of leaving a submerged submarine, and coming to the surface. How is the thing done?"
Eph regarded this questioner with wondering patience, before he replied:
"You want to know so little that I'm sorry I'm deaf in my front teeth and dumb in my right ear."
"That's on you, Paisley!" chuckled one of the newspaper men.
Then three or four began to ask questions at the same time, which caused young Somers to wait, then remarked blandly:
"Now, if you'll all kindly talk at once, I'll give you, in a few words, a straight account of the plain features of our trip down here, including our run under water. But, if there's any question I don't answer for you, you'll understand, I hope, that it's because I know it would be bad manners for me to tell you anything that only officers of the Navy have a right to know."
"All right, Commodore," nodded one of the newspaper men, good-humoredly. "You're all right. Go ahead and spin your yarn in your own way."
Thereupon, without telling anything that he had no right to tell, Eph managed none the less to give his hearers an entertaining account of the "Benson's" long trip down the coast without stop or help.
"And, unless I'm in a big error, gentlemen, ours is the longest trip that a submarine boat ever took by itself."
"You're right there, too," nodded one of the newspaper men, who made a study of naval affairs and records. "And the way this craft came in this afternoon beat anything, so far as I'm aware, that was ever done with a submarine."
"That's Captain Jack Benson's specialty," replied Eph Somers, his eyes twinkling.
"What's his specialty!"
"Doing things with a submarine boat that have never been done before. Captain Benson is the latest wonder in the submarine line."
"He has a very steady admirer in you, hasn't he?" inquired one of the newspaper men, laughingly..
"Yes; and the same is true of anyone else who knows him well," declared Eph, warmly. "Jack Benson is about the best fellow on earth—and one of the smartest, too, his comrades think."
Thereupon one of the newspaper correspondents began tactfully to draw out young Somers about the history and past performances of the young submarine captain. On this subject Somers talked as freely as they could want.
"It was Benson, too, who discovered the trick of leaving a submarine boat on the bottom, and coming to the top by himself, wasn't it?" slyly asked one of the visitors.
"That was his discovery," nodded Eph, promptly.
"What's the principle of the trick?"
Eph's jaws snapped with a slight noise. He remained silent, for a few moments, before he replied:
"So far, that trick is known only to the Pollard people and a few officers of the Navy. The fewer that know, the better the chance of keeping it a secret. Don't you believe me?"
"That's one way of looking at it, perhaps," nodded a reporter. "But there's another side to that, too, Somers. The United States now own some of your boats, and the money of the people paid for those boats. Now, don't you think the people of this country have a right to know some of the secrets for which they pay good money, and a lot of it?"
On hearing the question put that way Eph looked tremendously thoughtful for a few seconds.
"Why, yes, undoubtedly," admitted the carroty-topped submarine boy. "I never thought of it that way before."
"See here," interrupted Eph, "it was the Secretary of the Navy, who on behalf of the people, bought our boats."
"He acted as the agent of the people," Eph continued.
"Therefore," asserted Eph Somers, with a roguish twinkle in his eyes, "the Secretary of the Navy is the proper official for you to go to in search of that information. And you may tell the Secretary—"
"Stop making fun of us," interposed a newspaper man.
"You may tell the Secretary," finished Eph, "that I said I had no objection to his giving you the information you want."
The newspaper men after gazing briefly at the innocent-looking face of the carroty-topped one, began to grin.
"Young Somers is all right," declared one of the visitors. "He knows when to talk, and also when to hold his tongue."
"I never was sized up so straight before," grinned Eph, "since I was caught stealing grapes behind the Methodist church."
Before the newspaper men departed in their boats they had obtained some amusing and interesting points for a news "story." Yet not one of them had gained any inside information as to the closely guarded secrets of the submarine. Eph, from his very disposition and temperament, made undoubtedly the best press agent the Pollard Company could have had. Hal Hastings, while wishing to be obliging, probably would have said his whole "say" in twenty or thirty words. Jack Benson would have sung the praises of the Pollard boats readily enough. But it was Eph, alone of the three, who could give to such an interview the humor and wit that American newspaper readers enjoy.
One "reporter" in the party that was rowed back to the beach was not known to his associates. Wherever several newspaper men are gathered at a point on business it is generally easy for a stranger, not connected with the press, to push himself into the group. The stranger, in this instance, had given the name of Norton, claiming to be from an Omaha paper.
Arrived at the beach, however, "Norton" did not hasten to the telegraph office. Instead, he hurried to the Hotel Clayton, the largest and most expensive of the hotels at Spruce Beach.
Entering one of the elevators, Norton stepped off at the third floor. He stepped briskly down a corridor, stopping before a door and giving an unusual style of knock.
"Come—in," sounded a drawling voice, and Norton entered.
From a seat by a table, in the center of the large room, rose a man somewhat past middle age This man was tall, not very stout, with a sallow face adorned by a mustache and goatee. The man's eyes were piercing and black. His hair was also black, save where a slight gray was visible at the temples.
As Norton entered, the man, who rose, threw a cigarette into the fire place, then reached over, selected another cigarette and lighted it. The room was thick with the odor of some foreign tobacco.
"Well, Norton?" challenged this stranger, in a low voice.
"I've been aboard the new submarine, Monsieur Lemaire," replied the young man. "I went with a party of newspaper writers, pretending to be one of their calling."
"An excellent idea, Norton. And you saw the very boyish officers of the boat?"
"Only one of them. The other two were paying a call on board the gunboat. I saw Somers."
"You gathered some idea of how to pump him for the information wanted, of course?"
"No; I didn't," retorted Norton, scowling. "I learned, very soon, that Somers is one whom we want to leave out of our count in getting information?"
"Well, M. Lemaire, if you meet that young fellow, and try to draw him out, you'll understand. He can talk longer, and tell less, than any young fellow I've met. He seems to guess just what you want to know, and then he carefully tells you something else."
"Ah, well, out of three young men, we shall find one who will tell us all we need to know," laughed M. Lemaire, gayly. "So it is only a question of learning which of the three to make the first attempt upon."
"If you want a suggestion—" began Norton.
"By all means, my dear fellow."
"Then turn your batteries of inquisitiveness loose upon Jack Benson, first of all. He may be easy game. As for the third, Hal Hastings, I hear that he is a silent fellow, who says little, and generally waits five minutes, to think his answer over, before he gives it."
"Benson it shall be, then," nodded M. Lemaire. "I shall find it easy to meet him. And now, good-bye, Norton, until this evening. You will know what to do then."
After Norton had gone out, closing the door behind him, M. Lemaire carefully flecked the ash from his cigarette as he murmured to himself:
"Then it shall be Captain Benson whom we first attack! Nor do I believe I can do better than to enlist the services of Mademoiselle Sara. Ah, yes! Her eyes are fine—perfect. One looks into her eyes, and trusts her. Captain Jack Benson, you shall have the pleasure of meeting a most charming creature!"
ON THE EDGE OF THE SPIDER'S WEB
An hour after dinner the orchestra of the Hotel Clayton crashed out into the first two-step.
The big ballroom was already two thirds as well filled as it could be with comfort. Potted green palms stood everywhere at the sides. The orchestra in the gallery was nearly concealed behind a fringe of green. The air was sweetly odorous with the fragrance of southern blossoms. Scores of young women in all varieties of handsome evening dress enlivened the appearance of the scene. Their gems cast glitter and enchantment. There were men enough, too, for partners in the dance, the men behind expanses of white shirt-front and clad in the black of evening dress.
Just a few of the men, however, lent additional color to the scene. These were officers and midshipmen from the "Waverly," who came attired in the handsome blue, gold-braided dress uniforms of the service.
Among the guests of the hotel who attended the dance were Jacob Farnum and his two young submarine experts; Jack Benson and Hal Hastings. The shipbuilder had come ashore with his young friends, registering at the Clayton and taking rooms there.
"It's time for you youngsters to get ashore and have a little gaiety," Farnum had declared. "If you don't mix with lively people once in a while, you'll rust even while you keep the 'Benson's' machinery bright."
Jack and Hal had agreed to this. Eph, however, had expressed himself decidedly as preferring to remain on board the submarine for the time. Williamson, too, had elected to remain on board, and so had David Pollard, who rarely cared for anything in the social line.
On the floor, even before the music struck up, was M. Lemaire. He was in the usual black evening dress, though on his wide shirt front glistened the jeweled decoration of some order conferred upon him by a European sovereign.
A handsome and distinguished figure did M. Lemaire present. He nodded affably to many of the ladies in passing, and the interest with which his greetings were acknowledged proved that M. Lemaire was in a gathering where he could boast many acquaintances.
Almost at the first, M. Lemaire had succeeded in having Captain Jack Benson pointed out to him. The tall, sallow man looked over the submarine boys eagerly, though covertly. He beheld them in handsome dress uniforms, very much like those worn by the naval officers, for Jacob Farnum had insisted that his young submarine officers, wherever they went must be appropriately attired.
In the throng, as M. Lemaire passed, stood one handsomely dressed girl. Her face, which was interestingly beautiful, had a slightly foreign look. The jewels that she wore must have cost a fortune. The girl herself was a finished product in the arts of good breeding and grace.
As M. Lemaire approached her, this girl recognized him with a smile and a half-quizzical look.
"Ah, good evening, Mademoiselle Nadiboff," murmured M. Lemaire, as he bent low before the handsome young woman. "I am charmed."
Then he murmured, in a low tone, swiftly:
"Yonder are, the two boys. Jack Benson is the one you will interest. You, Sara, know the arts of conversation well enough. Make him your slave, until he is willing to tell all that we want to know. Invite him to drive with you in your auto car to-morrow. But, bah! You will know how to make him talk!"
All this was said swiftly, unheard by anyone else. Then M. Lemaire, having appeared hardly to pause, passed on.
A minute later Mademoiselle Nadiboff was chatting laughingly with Lieutenant Featherstone.
"Who are those two young men over there?" questioned the young woman. "Are they of the Navy?"
"No, though related to us in interest," replied the lieutenant. "They are the captain and chief engineer of the submarine that arrived this afternoon. Youthful, aren't they?"
"Very," agreed Mademoiselle Sara. "But I like their faces. You will present me, will you not, Lieutenant?"
So Jack and Hal found themselves bowing before the handsome young foreigner. Mlle. Sara had the appearance of being, equally interested in both of them, though she soon managed, with her social arts, in drawing somewhat aside with Jack Benson.
And then the music crashed out. One of the young woman's feet began to tap the floor, her eyes glistening.
"Entrancing music," she murmured.
"If you are not engaged for this dance—" murmured Jack, hesitatingly. This beautiful creature seemed so superior to the usual run of the human kind that the submarine boy felt he was too presuming.
"You are very kind," replied the young woman, with a swift smile. "I shall enjoy it greatly."
Jack took one of her hands in his, resting his other hand lightly at her waist. A moment later they glided over the polished floor.
"Benson is doing famously," laughed Lieutenant Featherstone, half-enviously. "But before I think of myself, Hastings, I must seek an interesting partner for you, also."
"Kind of you," returned Hal, gratefully. "But I fear I must remain a wall-flower, or a human palm to-night. I don't know how to dance."
"You don't?" murmured Featherstone, in amazement. "Good heavens! I thought even the bootblacks knew how to dance in these modern days!"
Jacob Farnum knew how to dance, but did not care for it this evening. He was much in love with his young wife, and, as she was not here, the ballroom floor had no attractions for him. So he and Hal retired to seats at the side of the ballroom.
"Jack is dancing with a famously pretty girl—the loveliest of many that are here to-night," smiled the shipbuilder. "I trust he won't have his head turned."
"Don't worry, sir," Hal rejoined, briefly.
The second dance, also, Jack Benson enjoyed with Mlle. Nadiboff. The young woman herself arranged that gracefully. At the end of the second dance Jack led his partner to a seat. Then she sent him for a glass of water.
Her cobwebby lace handkerchief fell to the floor. M. Lemaire, passing at that instant, espied it, picked it up, and returned it to her with the bow of a polished man of the world.
"Flatter the young fellow! Make him dance attendance on you to the point that he forgets all else," whispered the man.
"Trust me for that," murmured the girl.
"I do." And M. Lemaire was gone, swallowed up in the increasing throng.
As Jack Benson brought the glass of water Mlle. Nadiboff sipped at it daintily. Raising her eyes so that she could read the placard now suspended from the balcony rail, she announced:
"The next number is a waltz, Captain Benson. Truly, I am eager to know how you waltz. It is a sailor's measure."
"Then perhaps you will favor me with a waltz, later in the evening," returned Jack, courteously. "But if I had the impudence to ask you for this waltz, and if you were generous enough to grant it to me, I know what would happen."
"What, my friend?"
The word "friend" was gently spoken, but Jack Benson replied bluntly:
"Some of the men here would lynch me, later in the night, Mlle. Nadiboff."
The young woman laughed musically, though, as Jack glanced away for an instant, a frown flashed briefly over her face.
"You will not disappoint me, I know, Captain," she murmured, persuasively. "Besides, you are too brave to fear lynching for an act that grants pleasure."
This was so direct that Jack Benson could not well escape. Nor, truth to tell, did he want to. He found Mlle. Nadiboff's bright, gentle smile most alluring. So, when the music for the waltz sounded the submarine captain led her forth on to the floor.
At the finish, after Jack had led his partner to a seat, Lieutenant Featherstone joined them. One or two others approached, and Benson slipped away, though just before he did so the young woman's eyes met his with a flash of invitation to seek her again later.
"You've been extremely, attentive, but I, imagine some of the other men are combining to thrash you, Jack," smiled Farnum, when Benson returned to his friends.
"Mlle. Nadiboff is a very delightful young woman," Jack answered, heartily. "I'm sorry you don't dance, Hal."
"If I were very sorry, I'd learn," rejoined Hastings, simply.
During the waltz and the number that followed Jack remained with his friends, looking on.
Then Lieutenant Featherstone, feeling that the Navy must look to the enjoyment of these strangers, came over to them.
"How many of you dance?" inquired the lieutenant.
"Two of us," answered Hal. "I don't."
"Mr. Farnum, I must introduce you to an agreeable partner," urged the Navy officer. "Who shall it be? I know most of the ladies here."
"Don't think me a bear, Mr. Featherstone, but I don't believe I'll dance to-night, though I thank you tremendously," replied the shipbuilder.
"Then, Benson, you must uphold the honor of your party," laughed the lieutenant, linking his arm in Jack's and drawing him forward.
Captain Benson's next dance was with a California girl; after that he led out a jolly young woman from New York. As he left the latter partner, Mlle. Nadiboff, on the arm of a gentleman, passed close enough to murmur:
"Captain, you are neglecting me—and I have saved the next, a waltz, for you."
Not being engaged for that waltz, Jack could hardly do, otherwise than claim it. Indeed, he greatly enjoyed dancing with this gracious, handsome young woman. Yet, soon after he had taken Mlle. Nadiboff to her seat, and another partner appeared to claim her favor, Benson slipped away.
"Go after Captain Benson, I beg of you, and bring him back here for a moment," requested the young woman of her new partner. That gentleman obeyed, even if with a poor grace. Jack returned, bowing, while the gentleman walked away a few feet.
"Captain, you are a stranger here at Spruce Beach?" murmured Mlle. Nadiboff, directing the full gaze of her luminous eyes at Jack's.
"I go motoring at eleven in the morning. I shall expect you here, at that hour, to drive with me."
Jack looked as regretful as he felt.
"I'm very, very sorry, Mademoiselle" he replied. "But I am here on duty, and—"
"Duty?" she interrupted, with a light laugh. "And pray what is duty, Captain, but a something with which to flavor our pleasures in life?"
"With me, Mlle. Nadiboff," Jack Benson replied, earnestly, "duty is everything, pleasure included."
"I am not accustomed to having my commands disregarded," exclaimed the young woman, though in a low tone, while her eyes flashed some of her displeasure.
"You are giving me pain, Mademoiselle," Jack responded, gravely. "Perhaps, at another time—"
"Enough sir!" the young woman interposed. "And now I behold my next partner glancing this way appealingly. I shall speak with you the next time we meet, Captain."
Jack bowed, withdrawing. Making his way around the ballroom, he dropped into a seat beside Mr. Farnum.
Even before Mlle. Nadiboff's partner could rejoin her, M. Lemaire appeared around a palm at Mlle. Nadiboff's back as naturally as though he had not been playing the eavesdropper.
"Have a care, Sara," he whispered, mockingly, "or you will fail in making a fool of that young fellow!"
Half way through the next dance Jack and his friends remained in their seats. Then Hal, stifling a yawn behind his hand, remarked:
"I've a notion that I shall be asleep in a few minutes. Late hours, except on duty, don't jibe with our line of work."
"They don't," admitted Captain Jack, rising.
"Good, boys!" nodded Mr. Farnum, approvingly, as he also rose. "The more rest you have the keener your wits will be for your work."
So they left the ballroom, observed by but few.
Five minutes later Mlle. Nadiboff sat surrounded by three men, with whom she was chatting gayly. M. Lemaire approached her. She greeted him so pointedly that the other three men soon fell away.
"I can hardly congratulate you, Sara," hissed M. Lemaire, speaking in French.
"You think I have not made young Benson attentive enough to my whims?" the young woman asked, plaintively.
"Attentive?" sneered M. Lemaire. "Do you know where he is now?"
"No," admitted Mlle. Nadiboff.
"He has gone away upstairs with his friends, that they may all be prepared for an early and full day's work."
"You are jesting with me," protested Mlle. Nadiboff, indignantly.
"Take my arm, then, if you will," requested M. Lemaire. "We will stroll about, and we shall see if your eyes are keen enough to discover your young submarine captain."
The young woman defiantly accepted the challenge. By the time that they had strolled around the ballroom scarlet spots glowed in her cheeks. In either eye a tear of anger glistened behind the lash.
"Are you satisfied?" murmured M. Lemaire, in a low voice.
"I fear that I shall have to teach the young cub a lesson or two in the art of showing devotion to a woman's wishes," Mlle. Nadiboff answered, tremulously.
"Shall we walk in the grounds?"
"I beg you to take me out into the air," replied the young woman.
"Yes, it will be better," whispered her companion, cruelly. "Your face is aflame. You will attract too much attention here, and too much curiosity. The American naval officers have sharp eyes—sometimes!"
Procuring his companion's wrap at the coatroom, and throwing a light topcoat about himself, M. Lemaire led the way to a distant settee from which they could look out over the star lit waters beyond the beach. The man had an especial reason for choosing this seat. From that place they could quickly catch sight of anyone who came near enough to overhear.
"Sara," began M. Lemaire, less brutally than his companion had expected him to speak, "for once I fear that you are going to fail utterly."
"Then you do, not know me," she replied, with spirit. "I shall win! I shall have Captain Jack Benson carrying my fan and craving my smile. And that shall be quickly, too!"
"If you do not succeed, Sara," retorted the man, "then sterner measures will have to be tried. This youthful Benson may even have to lose his life in the attempt that must be made, at all hazards, to wrest from him a set of drawings of the boat he commands, and a description of all her working parts, and all the secrets of managing the boat!"
"If he could hear you, he would be charmed with the outlook," muttered the young woman, shrugging her shoulders.
"Sara, do you comprehend the situation altogether? The Pollard type of submarine boat is now the most formidable and dangerous in the world—and only the United States Government can buy boats from the makers! Any country in the world that goes to war with the United States must be beaten unless that country knows how to provide itself with submarine boats equal to those of the Pollard make. You may be sure that, at this moment, Spruce Beach is overrun with spies representing every great government in the world. The first country to buy, steal, coax or drag out the Pollard secrets wins! You know the master we serve, Sara, among the governments. We must be the spies who win—even though all the Pollard crew have to be destroyed!"
KAMANAKO APPEARS ON THE SCENE
Had Jack Benson or Hal Hastings heard that strange talk, perhaps neither of them would have slept as soundly that night.
As it was, both submarine boys slept more soundly and sweetly than any other human being in that great hotel, unless, possibly, it were Jacob Farnum.
At daylight all three were astir.
Wrapped in bathrobes that concealed their bathing suits the three made their way down to the beach. There, for ten minutes, they enjoyed themselves in the surf.
"Seems mighty queer to be bathing in salt water in December, doesn't it?" demanded Hal, gleefully, as, with both hands, he launched a column of salt water that caught Jack neatly in the face.
"Anyway, I believe it's just what the family medical man ordered," chuckled Mr. Farnum, as he stepped shoreward, then ran briskly up and down the beach before he went in again for a final plunge.
Over to the bath house, where an attendant had carried their clothing, the three now hastened. After a brisk rub-down and dressing, these three from the "Benson" presented themselves in the hotel dining room, where, at this very early hour, they were privileged to breakfast all by themselves.
"The way my appetite feels," laughed Jack, enjoyably, "I pity the guests who have to follow us at table."
"There won't be any breakfast left. They can have lunch," declared Hal Hastings, gravely.
Hardly had the food been placed before them when Mr. Farnum glanced up, to find at his elbow a bowing, smiling little Japanese.
"Honorable sir, may I address you while you eat?" inquired the little brown man.
"Why not?" asked Farnum, good-humoredly. "Take a chair, won't you, Mr.—"
"Kamanako is my name, honorable sir," replied the Japanese, with three more bows.
"Take a seat, won't you, Mr. Kamanako?" Mr. Farnum invited him again.
"It is much better, honorable sir, that I stand."
"Because I am servant."
"Not here, surely," replied the shipbuilder. "All the waiters here are negroes."
"Not all in kitchen, honorable sir," responded the Japanese, with an air of great deference. "Some in kitchen are Japanese."
"Are you employed in the kitchen, Mr. Kamanako?" asked the shipbuilder.
"Until to-day, honorable sir."
"Meaning you have left the employ of the hotel?"
"Yes, honorable sir."
"Then you're going away from here?"
"I hope to follow the sea, honorable sir. I am a sailor. All my ancestors before me were sailors. We love the salt water."
"There is something, then, that I can do for you, isn't there?" guessed the shipbuilder.
"If you will be so good, honorable sir. I seek to become steward aboard your boat."
"Oh," replied M. Farnum, understanding, at last. "You will have to speak to Captain Benson about that."
He indicated Jack by a nod, so the little Japanese turned to Benson with another bow.
Now, as it happened, a steward was just what Captain Benson wanted. Such duties, formerly, had fallen upon Eph Somers. But now cooking and serving meals did not exactly jibe with Eph's present position aboard the "Benson" Eph was really first officer or mate.
"Yes, we want a steward," Jack admitted. "There's just one drawback, though, Kamanako. We can carry very few people aboard, so that everyone who does ship with us has to count. In other words, our steward must also cook the meals in the galley."
"I think that will be all right, honorable Captain," replied the Japanese, thoughtfully. "How many have you on board?"
"Six," answered the young submarine commander.
Kamanako thoughtfully counted that number on his fingers.
"It is not too many," replied the Japanese. "What do you pay, honorable Captain?"
"Forty dollars, and found."
"I will accept, honorable Captain."
"Are you sure that you can cook well enough for hungry sailors?"
"I am satisfied that I can cook for anyone, honorable Captain," rejoined the little brown man, rather proudly.
"That sounds well enough," smiled Jack. "Have you had your breakfast, Kamanako?"
"Oh, yes, honorable Captain."
"Then, if you'll wait for us, we'll take you aboard. We shall be going in a half an hour, or sooner."
"Would it not be as well, honorable Captain, if I go out before you?" asked Kamanako, respectfully.
"No," smiled, Benson. "Our first officer, Mr. Somers, does not take kindly to strangers who are not introduced."
"Then, if I may suggest—if honorable Captain will write note for me—then I might go out sooner."
"If you want to go aboard, Kamanako, we'll take you out when we go," Jack replied. He was annoyed, though he could not have told why, by the little brown man's insistence.
Smiling and bowing again, Kamanako left the dining room. He was waiting, though, when the others came out. As all three carried dress suit cases the Japanese quietly took those belonging to Mr. Farnum and Captain Benson.
"Most sorry I have not three hands, honorable officer," Kamanako assured Hal Hastings.
There were always plenty of shore boats at Spruce Beach. Just now, on account of the visit of the submarine, there appeared to be more of the small craft than usual. So the submarine party had no difficulty in finding transportation at once. Looking out into the harbor they beheld the "Benson," surrounded by more than a score of rowboats containing sight-seers. Eph Somers, backed by Williamson, stood on the platform deck, doggedly driving away people who wanted to come on board. Yet Eph kept wholly good-natured about it, for he could quite appreciate the curiosity of the sight-seers.
As this last boat from shore made its way, through the concourse of boats Jack heard a sudden, joyous hail in a woman's voice.
"Oh, here he is—my gallant young captain."
"Mlle. Nadiboff!" ejaculated Jack, under his breath.
Jacob Farnum turned his head away for an instant, but the young captain heard the unmistakable sound of a chuckle from the shipbuilder.
Kamanako turned his mild eyes inquiringly in the direction of the handsome young woman, as though he wondered who she might be.
"Good morning, Mademoiselle," was Jack's greeting, as he courteously lifted his uniform cap. Hal and Mr. Farnum also uncovered. Then the boat ran alongside, and all four clambered on the deck.
In another instant. Mlle. Nadiboff's boat was also alongside.
"You are going to be kind, my Captain, and invite me aboard?" asked the young woman. Eph Somers, who was never intentionally rude to a woman, found himself staring with all his eyes, whereat he colored hotly.
"I shall be very glad to invite you as far as I am permitted to invite visitors," Benson replied. Then, turning briefly to Eph, he muttered:
"The Japanese is to be cook and steward. Take him below, and show him the galley and the supplies."
Then Benson turned to reach down his hand to Mlle. Sara Nadiboff, who trustingly extended her hand to him. She slipped. Jack was obliged to throw his left arm lightly around her waist in order to draw her in safety to the platform deck. Mr. Farnum, after seeing her safely aboard, vanished inside the conning tower, going below to smile quietly to himself.
"As gallant as ever, my Captain!" murmured the handsome young woman spy, gazing almost tenderly into Jack's face. "What a very strange craft! And now, conduct me below, please. I am much interested in seeing how you all live aboard such a little and odd vessel of war."
"I am utterly sorry, Mademoiselle," Jack Benson replied. "But my orders are that no visitors except naval officers, or those brought aboard by naval officers, may see the interior of the boat."
"Yet that Japanese has just gone below!" remonstrated Mlle. Nadiboff.
"The Japanese," replied the young captain, "is our cook and steward, and belongs below."
A light glowed swiftly in Mlle. Nadiboff's eyes, but disappeared almost instantly.
The handsome young woman opened her mouth as though to speak, then compressed her lips tightly.
EPH LEARNS SOMETHING NEW
"You are not as gallant as you were last night," murmured Mlle. Sara, in a low tone.
"Last night I was ashore, on social pleasures bent," replied Jack. "To-day, I am on duty, and duty must go ahead of everything else."
"And I am hungry," continued the young woman, pathetically. "In my eagerness to see that boat that you command, my Captain, I came away from the shore before going through the ceremony of breakfast. Do you mean to say, Captain Benson, that you cannot conduct me to your cabin, there to have that—your Japanese—serve me with at least a sandwich?"
"Mademoiselle," cried Jack, apologetically, "you can't have the faintest idea how sorry I am that my instructions are what they are I feel wicked as I look at your distress, but it is simply wholly impossible for me to ask you below. I can have food served to you on deck, however."
"What? Eat here before the eyes of all Spruce Beach? And have it made perfectly plain to every onlooker that I am not welcome here?" cried the woman spy, reproachfully.
"Oh, but, indeed, you are welcome here," protested Jack. "As welcome as I am permitted to make anyone. My orders, you know—I am a slave to those orders."
"Yet there is some one aboard," urged Mlle. Nadiboff, in her most pleading voice, while there was an almost tearful look in her pretty eyes, "some one who can change the orders. Your Mr. Farnum, I take it. Go to him, won't you, and plead with him for me? Go!"
One of her little, gloved hands rested on his arm, pushing gently.
But Jack Benson, though she made him feel inwardly at odds with himself, thought more of his duty than of anything else.
"I am very sorry—awfully sorry, Mlle. Nadiboff. But won't you understand that what you ask is wholly impossible?"
"Good-bye, then!" she said, resentfully, though gently, half turning from him.
"You'll shake hands, won't you?" asked Jack, holding out his own right hand.
"Perhaps, after I have talked with you on shore—when we meet again," she replied, a bit distantly. Then she turned to Williamson as her boat came in close alongside. "Your hand, please. I am afraid I may slip."
Williamson helped that most attractive young woman down over the side, lifting his cap after he had seen her safe aboard the rowboat. As the harbor craft veered off, Captain Jack Benson lifted his cap with all courtesy. Mlle. Sara Nadiboff bowed to him rather coldly.
"I suppose," sighed Jack, to himself, as he turned away, "a woman can't begin to understand why we must be so secret aboard a submarine craft that all the naval men in the world would like to know about. If she only could understand!"
Had Benson been able to guess just how well the handsome young spy did understand, and how much she had hoped to learn through appealing to his interest in her, he would have been furious at the thought of his own great simplicity.
"Your charming partner of last night was rather disappointed," observed Hal Hastings.
"Yes; she must feel that I have used her mighty shabbily," Jack responded. "I am afraid she won't forgive me."
"Oh, well, after a few days you'll never see her again," murmured Hal. "Just because a girl is pleasant—and pretty—one can't forget all the orders that he's working under."
Captain Jack Benson talked to himself in about the same strain, yet he couldn't wholly get over the notion that he had been—though helplessly—rude to a woman.
"You won't need me on deck any more, will you, sir?" asked Williamson, saluting.
"No; I shall be on deck," Jack replied, returning the salute. "Very likely Mr. Hastings will be here with me, for that matter."
Soon after the machinist had gone below Eph Somers returned to the deck.
"I've been posting that Kimono," Eph explained.
"Kamanako," laughed Captain Jack.
"Oh, it's all the same to me," sighed Eph. "To my untrained ear all Japanese names sound alike."
"Whatever you do," warned Jack, "don't, hurt the poor fellow's feelings by calling him Kimono."
"Well, the Japanese are a proud and sensitive race.
"Suppose they are?"
"Do you know what 'Kimono' means, Eph?"
"Haven't even a guilty suspicion."
"It's the Japanese name for a woman's dress."
"Wow!" muttered Somers. "I shall surely have to, forget 'Kimono,' then. What do you call his truly name?"
"Kamanako," Jack responded, and spelled it. Eph wrote the name down on a slip of paper, saying:
"Thank you, Jack. I'll try to commit this name to memory. I don't want to hurt the feelings of a sensitive little fellow. It would be a shame to have to punch him if he felt insulted and made a pass at me."
"Punch him, eh?" laughed Jack in genuine enjoyment. "Eph! Eph! Don't make any false start like that!"
"What are you talking about?" questioned Somers.
"Don't make the mistake, at any time, Of trying to punch that Japanese."
"Trying to?" gasped Somers. "Say, if I made a swing at that light colored little chocolate drop, do you think I'd make a false pass and hit my own nose?"
"You might be lucky if nothing worse happened," grinned Jack. "Eph, did you never hear of the Japanese jiu-jitsu?"
"What's that?" demanded young Somers. "Slang name for something else in the Jap wardrobe?"
"No; it's the Jap way of fighting," Captain Benson explained. "And you want to remember, Eph, that's it's a mighty sudden system, too. It hits like lightning. When the smoke clears away you see a little Japanese bowing over you, and apologizing for having rudely tipped you over."
"And little Cabbage-Jacko could do that?" Eph grinned, incredulously. "Say, it's wrong to tell me such funny things when I have a cracked lip."
"All right," sighed Jack. "But at least you've been warned."
Truth to tell, the young submarine commander wasn't much worried about Eph's deliberately provoking any fistic encounter with a fellow much smaller than himself. In the first place, the carroty-haired boy wasn't quarrelsome, unless actually driven into a fight. At all times Somers was too manly to take out wrath on anyone merely up to his own shoulder height.
Nearly an hour later Jack Benson stepped through into the conning tower; then moved down the spiral staircase.
His rubber-soled deck shoes made no noise. Thus it happened that the young submarine commander came upon the new steward most un expectedly, and without being seen by the little, brown man.
"Kamanako—you scoundrel!" shouted the young captain, beside himself with sudden wrath.
For the Japanese, wholly absorbed in his present task, had deftly removed the gauge from the midships submergence apparatus, and was now dissecting the gauge itself, eyeing the parts with the knowing look of an expert.
At sound of the captain's voice Kamanako wheeled calmly about, holding up the gauge. The smile on the face of the Japanese was childlike and bland.
"This very queer thing," he murmured. "What for you use it—thermometer."
"No," retorted Jack Benson, frigidly, eyeing the detected one. "It's a barometer, and it shows which way a meddler blows in!"
"I don't understand," remarked the Japanese, looking perplexed.
"Then I'll help you to understand. First of all, put that gauge down on the table!"
Kamanako did so, then made a little bow.
"Now," continued Jack Benson, "take cap and go up on deck."
"What shall I do there, Captain?" asked Kamanako, politely.
"Well, you'll stand there until I see if you've done anything else on board. If you haven't, you can then take a boat to the shore—and stay there."
"What this mean, honorable Captain?" demanded Kamanako, a look of offense beginning to creep into his little, brown face.
"Well, if you must have it," returned Benson, coldly, "it means that I've found you spying into our mechanisms here. Now, a spy is a creature no one cares to have about—least of all on a warship."
"You call me spy—call me ugly name like that?" cried Kamanako, showing his teeth.
"Get your hat and go up on deck. Do you hear me?" insisted Captain Jack.
"I hear you, but I please myself about when I do it," retorted the Japanese, drawing himself up to his full though not very imposing height.
"Then you'll go without waiting for your hat," retorted Benson, his patience rapidly oozing now. He started toward the Japanese, just as Eph, hearing the sound of talking, looked in and down the staircase.
"Gunpowder and smoke!" ejaculated the carroty-topped boy. "It's little chocolate drop!"
"Are you going up on deck quietly and in an orderly way?" demanded Benson, a resolute glitter in his clear, blue eyes.
"I please myself," retorted Kamanako, defiantly.
At that Jack Benson promptly forgot the warning he had given Eph, and sprang at the inquisitive steward.
"You'll go—" began Benson.
He was in error, though. It was he himself who "went." As he reached out with his right hand to seize Kamanako something happened. Exactly what it was the young submarine captain never quite knew. But he found himself sprawling under the seat at the opposite side of the cabin.
"Hi, yi! Wow!" exploded Eph, darting down the stairs. "Save some of that for me!"
It was ready and waiting.
The carroty-topped boy crouched low, resting his hands on his knees, after the manner of a football player awaiting an assault.
Kamanako slid in close. Ere Eph could seize him the Japanese let himself fall lightly on one side. One of his feet hooked itself behind Eph's advanced left ankle, the other foot pressing against the knee of the same leg. Eph's ankle was yanked forward, his knee pressed back, and Somers went toppling as a tree in the forest does.
Kamanako was so quickly on his feet again to suggest that he had fallen and risen in the same movement. There was a quiet, yet dangerous, smile on the face of the Japanese.
The door of the engine room opened swiftly though noiselessly. Williamson, the machinist, took in the whole scene instantly. Hardly a full step forward he took when his fist landed between the shoulders of Kamanako, sending that young Japanese through the air, to land sprawling.
As Kamanako leaped to his feet he found himself blinking at the muzzle of a revolver that the machinist held in his right hand.
THE LITTLE RUSSIAN HAS HER WAY
"Don't get troublesome," advised the machinist, softly. "I've never shot a Jap, but I've always wanted to."
There was a flicker of a grin in Williamson's face that found a reflection in Kamanako's own features.
By this time Jack Benson was on his feet, a bit ruffled though with all his wits about him. At the same time Hal Hastings peered down from the top of the staircase.
"You've had all the fun so far, Kamanako," Jack admitted. "But now you've got to get off this boat mighty quick. Do you choose to go without any more fuss?"
"I go when I get ready," retorted the Japanese, sullenly.
"What's the matter, Jack?" asked Hal, slowly.
"I've caught a dirty spy at work overhauling our mechanisms," replied the young submarine boat commander.
With something of a snarl Kamanako turned as though to spring at Benson again. The sight of Williamson, immovable as a piece of marble, yet holding that revolver suggestively, cooled the Japanese ardor.
"How will it do, Captain," queried Hal, "if I pass the word to the gunboat and, have a file of marines come over to take charge of this spy?"
"First rate," clicked Benson, and Kamanako looked decidedly uneasy. He had his own reasons why he didn't care to be placed under arrest by United States troops.
Eph, striking on his head, had been knocked senseless. He was too strong, however, too full of vitality, to remain knocked out for long. Now, he half opened his eyes, as he murmured:
"How beautifully the birds are singing today! And there's mother, letting down the bars so the cows can go to the milking shed!"
Jack laughed, in spite of himself. Then he turned to the Japanese.
"Kamanako, do you want to go quietly, or remain to see what the Navy officers do with you?"
"I go now," replied the Japanese, with a shrug of his shoulders.
Turning, he started up the step, while Hal Hastings, regaining the deck before him, hailed one of the harbor boats.
Jack darted to where Eph was trying to sit up, and raised him to one of the cabin seats.
"What do you think, now, of jiu-jitsu?" asked the young captain.
"I don't know," confessed Somers, sheepishly. "I didn't see any of it."
At this moment a stateroom door opened and Jacob Farnum thrust his head out.
"Anything happening?" inquired the ship builder.
"No, sir," Jack answered. "It's all over."
Mr. Farnum came out, to ask further particulars. Williamson, as soon as he had seen the Japanese disappear up aloft, dropped his revolver back into his pocket, closing the engine room door.
Eph, however, had his own private idea of vengeance to execute. Up the stairs he went, holding hard to the spiral rail, for he was still a bit dizzy. Kamanako, having dropped into the stern of a shore boat, looked unconcerned as he was pulled away.
"Yah!" grunted Eph, shaking his fist. "You kimono! Kimono! Kimono!"
"What does that mean when it's translated?" inquired Hal, looking interested.
"That's a Japanese insult," grinned young Somers.
"Do you think Kamanako understands it?" queried Hastings.
"If he doesn't then what good does it do him to be Japanese?" Eph demanded.
Jacob Farnum listened with great interest to what his young captain had to tell him. David Pollard, being still asleep, had no notion, as yet, of what had happened.
"I reckon," muttered the shipbuilder, "It won't be any use to have any Japanese aboard here as steward, or as anything else."
"I shan't hire any more of them," Benson replied. "I shall always suspect a spy, after this, when I see any Japanese aboard any kind of a war craft, or serving at any military post."
"I'm sorry I missed seeing Eph do the flying somersault act, though," laughed Mr. Farnum.
"I missed it as much as you did," admitted Jack Benson. "At the moment my face was buried in the carpet."
When the two ascended to the platform deck Captain Jack asked, soberly:
"Well, Eph, what is your present opinion about the ability of a Japanese to look after himself?"
"Don't rub it in," muttered Somers, with another sheepish grin.
"Oh, that's all right," retorted Jack. "I came in for pretty nearly as much as you did. I may meet Kamanako again, however. If I do, I'll pay him back."
"What?" gasped young Somers. "Jack Benson, I thought you knew enough to be sure when you've had plenty!"
"I'll pay that little fellow back, just the same, if I ever get a half-way chance," insisted Benson.
"Please yourself," muttered Eph, grimly. "As for me, I'm not looking for any damages. I've had plenty of 'em already."
Not much later the submarine people were favored by a visit from some of the officers of the gunboat.
Plans were discussed for making some displays of the submarine's strong points on another day. When the officers had gone, Mr. Farnum turned to the boys to propose:
"You've never seen any of the country around Spruce Beach. Neither have I. What do you say if we go ashore? I'll charter an auto, and we can have quite a trip before it's luncheon time. Then we'll come back and eat at the hotel."
Right under the shadow of the gunboat, Williamson could be relied upon as being sufficient guard. But David Pollard declined to go ashore, on the plea that he had some letters to write, which left a guard of two on board.
It was eleven o'clock, just to the minute, as the automobile chartered by Mr. Farnum came around the corner of the hotel veranda. At that same instant another and handsomer car came rolling into sight. The door of the ladies' parlor opened, and Mlle. Sara Nadiboff, arrayed with unusually pleasing effect, came out.
As she caught sight of Jack she started, then came eagerly over to him, holding out her hand.
"Here comes my car," she murmured. "And I see, my Captain, that you have changed your mind. You will drive with me this morning."
"I'm sorry that I can't," Benson replied, and he meant it. "But I am engaged to go with Mr. Farnum and our party."
"You prefer to avoid me?" cried Mlle. Nadiboff, reproachfully, raising her eyes swiftly to his.
"Now, please don't say that," begged Benson. "I wish you could understand, Mademoiselle, how far from the truth it is."
"Say but the word, and Mr. Farnum will pardon you," coaxed the charming young Woman.
"I couldn't even think of that," replied Benson. "It is business to go with one's employer."
"Business?" repeated Mlle. Nadiboff, with an accent half of disdain. "Surely, you are not sufficiently a petty shop-keeper or serf to think always of that word, 'business!'"
"I fear I am," Jack nodded.
"Bah! Then you will never be a success with the ladies," taunted Mlle. Nadiboff, though her eyes were laughing, challenging.
"Of course, I'm only a green country boy," Jack replied, with admirable coolness, and without any tone of offence. "So my highest ambition is to be a success in the submarine business."
The young woman had tact enough to perceive that she had not quite scored by her contempt for business. She was about to change subject adroitly, when Mr. Farnum called, laughingly:
"Are you coming with us, captain? Or, have you found pleasanter company for a drive?"
Jack's hand started toward his uniform cap. He was about to excuse himself, when the young woman answered for him:
"He was just assuring me, Mr. Farnum, that he would gladly go with me, but that you had the right of prior engagement."
"Oh, I'll release, him," volunteered Mr. Farnum, his eyes twinkling.
"Now, my Captain, you can no longer find excuse, unless you truly prefer other company to mine."
Though Jack was interested in the vivacious manner of Mlle. Nadiboff, he had not yet lost his head under any of her flatteries. He was secretly irritated against Mr. Farnum for letting him off so easily. So Jack swiftly determined upon his own plan of evening matters.
"The way the affair has turned out, Mademoiselle, I shall be delighted to go in your cars. Yet I am going to ask one every great favor."
"A thousand, if you wish!" cried the young woman spy, graciously.
"Will you permit me to invite my chum, Mr. Hastings?"
"Assuredly," she replied, with a very pretty pout, "if you feel that you will find my company, alone, too dull."
"It isn't that," Jack replied, with ready gallantry. "I am anxious to have Hastings share my rare good fortune."
Then raising his voice he called:
"Hal, Mlle. Nadiboff desires me to invite you to come, too."
Young Hastings was quick-witted enough to understand that this was all but a command from his chum. So he hastily left Mr. Farnum, stepping over to join the other party. Mlle. Nadiboff's little booted right foot tapped the flooring of the veranda impatiently, but that was the only sign of displeasure she gave. Her eyes were as laughing and as gracious as ever. She extended her hand to Hal, who bowed low over it in knightly style—a trick he had caught from his observation of naval officers.
Then, as though to punish Jack, Mlle. Nadiboff asked:
"You will hand me into the car, Mr. Hastings?"
Hal did so, taking the seat beside her in the tonneau. Jack Benson, suppressing a twinkle that struggled to his eyes, closed the tonneau door, then stepped in on the front seat beside the chauffeur.
Despite her own cleverness, the young woman gave a slight gasp of astonishment over this swift arrangement.
"Decidedly, my young captain is not wholly, a fool," she told herself. "When I seek to snub him, he puts it past my power. However, it may be that this young engineer will be better suited to my purpose. I will study him."
"Toot! toot!" The Farnum auto, getting away first, went past them, sounding its whistle while Mr. Farnum and Eph lifted their hats.
"Our gallant friend, the captain, must feel out of conceit with me," laughed Mlle. Nadiboff to Hal. "He prefers the chauffeur's company to mine. So we must console ourselves."
Though he had not been able to hear any of the conversation, M. Lemaire, looking out from behind the lace curtains of a parlor window, had seen what had happened.
"Sara is doing better this morning," he muttered to himself. "Though why should she take two of the young men with her? Ah, I see that she has the engineer at her side, while young Benson rides on the front seat. Clever little woman! She is going to make the young captain jealous! Well enough does she know how to do that!"
Not quite so well pleased was the young woman herself, as the drive proceeded. Though she did all in her power to charm Hal, and though she did succeed in interesting him, she could not draw the boy out into much conversation. Hal usually had little to say. Though he answered Mlle. Nadiboff courteously from time to time, he did not utter many words. Indeed, he appeared to be thinking of something far remote from the present scene.
"Are you bored, Mr. Hastings? Does the sound of my voice annoy you?" asked Mlle. Nadiboff, as the auto flew over the quiet country roads inland from Spruce Beach.
"Good gracious, no!" replied Hal.
"Then why do you say so little?"
"Because you say it so much better, Mademoiselle."
"But flattery will never take the place of interested conversation."
"Engineers don't talk much," protested Hal.
"So they think a great deal. Of what were you thinking?"
"Oh?" murmured Hal. "Oh, I was thinking of my engine, I guess."
Mlle. Nadiboff bit her lips in secret rage. If she had felt that she was doing poorly with Captain Jack Benson, evidently she was now seated beside an absent-minded sphinx.
"What place is that over there?" inquired Hal, coming out of a brown study as he felt some reproach in the stiffening attitude of his companion.
Hal's eye had been caught by what looked like the ruins of an old castle. Such sights are at least rare in the United States.
"That ruin, do you mean?" asked Mlle. Nadiboff. "Oh, it is a quaint bit of a castle, only some three hundred years old, though long past in ruins. I believe it was erected as a stronghold by some wealthy man, in the old days when the pirates from Havana now and then swept along the coast on their raids. Would you like to see the place, Mr. Hastings?"
"Very much indeed," Hal admitted, "if you have the time."
"The time?" Mlle. Nadiboff's laughter rippled out merrily. "Why, I have all the time in the world, Mr. Hastings. I live only to enjoy myself."
"That must be rather a dull existence, then," thought Hal, while his pretty companion leaned forward to give the order to the chauffeur, who turned up a road leading to the ruined castle of the old piratical days.
Jack had heard the conversation, and so knew, without asking, for what they were now heading.
As they drew closer they discovered other automobiles near the old castle.
"The place has several visitors to-day?" hinted Hal.
"Oh, yes; it is one of the show spots of this section," replied Mlle. Nadiboff. "It does well enough to look about there for a few minutes. But a ruin like that suggests death and decay, and I—I love life."
"Still, that castle is now a part of history," suggested Hal, "and history, it seems to me, should always be interesting."
"This stupid young engineer!" fumed Mlle. Nadiboff, to herself. "He would drive me wild, if I saw much of him. I think even my slow little captain will prove more romantic."
Though neither of the submarine boys could yet suspect it, they were soon to stumble into much more than relics of the past.
They were destined to find themselves exposed to one of the greatest surprises of their already eventful lives.
"Here we are," cried Mlle. Nadiboff, as the auto stopped near the north end of the castle. "May you discover something to interest you!"
The submarine boys certainly did!
A POINTER "JOLTS" THE SUBMARINE CAPTAIN
There was not much left of the old castle, save the walls, and some badly crumbled ruins of inner buildings.
"The Florida climate doesn't seem to agree with castles," suggested Jack. "I have, an idea that, in Europe, a castle only three hundred years old would last much longer and keep much better."
"In Europe?" repeated Mlle. Nadiboff. "Oh, yes; much better. But then, perhaps in Europe there would be a feeling of veneration for the old that would lead the people to take much better care of their castles. It would be so in my country, I know."
"May I ask what is your country, Mademoiselle?" asked Jack, looking up and into her face.
"Guess, Mr. Yankee!"
"Why, I would guess that you are a Russian."
"You are worthy of the name of Yankee, then. Yes; I am a Russian."
Another party of sight-seers passed them at that moment, and one man was heard to remark:
"At the south end of the castle is a stairway leading down to an underground dungeon. Legend tells us that some forty Spanish pirates were once confined there, for a month, before permission was received from the governor to hang the Spaniards."
"Did you hear that?" murmured Jack, interestedly. "A real, old dungeon, with an interesting history."
"Such a history merely afflicts me with a shudder," replied Mlle. Nadiboff, shrugging her shoulders.
"By Jove, I believe I'd like to have just a glimpse of that old dungeon, Mademoiselle, if I am not tiring you or wasting your time."
"You will have to go alone, then," replied the young woman. "I will wait, my Captain."
"I will remain with Mlle. Nadiboff," volunteered Hal.
So Jack Benson, after raising his cap, stepped off rapidly toward the southern end of the old ruin.
With much difficulty he found the entrance to the stairway leading below. At the head of the stairs two youngish men were standing. The face of one of them looked familiar.
"How do you do, Captain?" nodded that one. "You don't recall me, I guess. I saw you, yesterday, only for a moment at the rail of the gunboat. My name is Hennessy, one of the newspaper men who visited your wonderful craft yesterday."
"I am glad to meet you again," Jack replied, "and sorry that we couldn't show you more."
"This is my friend, Mr. Graham," continued the newspaper man. "Graham is the Washington correspondent for my paper, so of course he has heard of your boats before."
"If you had been aboard," smiled Jack, "you might have seen something in the way of a little news happening."
"What was that?"
"Why, we found a new Japanese steward, whom we had engaged, absorbed in his study of some of our mechanisms. So we had to induce him to quit our service and go back to shore again."
"A spy, eh?" smiled Graham. "There are many of them about. Wherever there is anything connected with our national defense the spies of Europe are sure to flock, until they have learned all they want to know. And I suspect that they rarely fail, in the end. You were fortunate to catch your Japanese at his tricks at so early a stage in the game."
"I wish all these spies could be herded together and hanged!" muttered Captain Jack, in honest indignation.
"Do you?" asked Graham, looking at the boy, with a queer smile.
"Can you doubt it?" challenged Jack.
Graham was silent for a few moments, puffing at his cigar. Then, speaking very slowly, he went on:
"Captain Benson, I wonder if you would be much offended if I offered you some information that might prove of much value to you?"
"What makes you think, sir, I'm such a fool as that?" asked Jack, gazing at the Washington correspondent in great astonishment.
"One sometimes has to use a good deal of caution, even in offering well-intended information," replied the Washington correspondent, "Benson, I've been stationed at the national capital for eight years, now. I meet all kinds of people, and I see a good many others whom I don't get to know, and don't want to know, and yet I become familiar with their histories."
"I don't doubt that, sir," Jack assented. "The life of a Washington correspondent must be full of interesting things and experiences."
"Washington itself is full of foreign spies," pursued Graham, studying the ash on the end of his cigar. "After a newspaper man has been in Washington a while he begins to have people pointed out to him who are either known or believed to be in the employ of foreign governments for the purpose of getting information that our national authorities would much rather conceal."
"That must be true," agreed Benson. "And I suppose there are some very clever men engaged in that peculiar line of business."
"Some of the smartest of them are not men, but women," continued Mr. Graham. "Men, perhaps, direct them, but the women spies, when they are young and good-looking, can usually coax a lot of information."
"Oho! I'd like to get a look, some time, at one of these clever women spies," declared Jack, much interested.
"That's just what I'm coming to," pursued the Washington correspondent. "I hope you won't be offended, Benson, but I understand you have already paid some attention to one of the brightest women in this line."
"Mlle. Nadiboff?" cried Jack, guessing instantly what the other sought to convey.
"Yes," nodded Graham. "Though I believe, when I first saw her, eight years ago, she was using some other name than Nadiboff."
"Eight years ago," smiled Jack, "she must have been about thirteen years old. Do they employ, spies at such a tender age?"
"Eight years ago," retorted Graham, "this young woman was, I should say, about twenty-one years old. I am aware that she looks hardly older to-day. When I saw you with her ten minutes ago it was the first hint I had that she was in Florida."
"So she's a spy?" muttered Jack Benson, speaking more to himself. "Then I can understand why she seemed so anxious to interest me. I was not wrong about that."
"No," laughed Graham. "Beyond a doubt the young woman is very anxious to please you, and to keep your interest. You happen to command a type of submarine torpedo boat in which all the world is at present much interested. By the way, I wonder if Mlle. Nadiboff, as you call her, works under the directions of the same chief? He was a man—"
Here the Washington correspondent gave a description that caused Jack Benson to exclaim:
"Why, that's M. Lemaire, to a dot!"
"I guess there's no doubt about it, then," laughed Mr. Graham. "You've fallen into the hands of a pair of the boldest, wickedest and cleverest of foreign spies."
"I thank you heartily for informing me about them," breathed Jack Benson, his eyes gleaming as he thought of the pair. "But there's one thing that puzzles me. Mlle. Nadiboff is a Russian, and M. Lemaire must be a Frenchman. Then which country owns that precious pair?"
"Spies rarely have any country," smiled the washington correspondent. "They work for whichever government will pay them best. Today they will sell out their employers of yesterday."