E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
Note: This is book six of eight of the Submarine Boys Series.
THE SUBMARINE BOYS FOR THE FLAG
Deeding Their Lives to Uncle Sam
VICTOR G. DURHAM
CHAPTERS I. "Do You Speak German?" II. "French Spoken Here" III. The Man Who Marked Charts IV. Jack's Queer Lot of Loot V. Sighting the Enemy VI. Flank Movement and Rear Attack VII. A Lesson in Security and Information VIII. Eph Feels Like Thirty Tacks IX. Jack Plays with a Volcano X. "Mr. Grey" Makes New Trouble XI. Facing the Secretary of the Navy XII. Navy Officers for an Hour or a Day XIII. Commander of a U.S. Gunboat! XIV. The Bow Gun Booms and Eph Puts Off XV. "The Right Boat and the Right Crew!" XVI. The Duel Through the Door XVII. The Last Hour of Command XVIII. Eph Bets an Anchor Against a Fish-Hook XIX. Jack's Caller at the United Service Club XX. The Girl in the Car XXI. Daisy Huston Decides for the Flag XXII. The Part of Abercrombie R.N. XXIII. "Foreign Trade" Becomes Brisk XXIV. Their Lives Deeded to the Flag
"DO YOU SPEAK GERMAN?"
"Hey, there, Mister!" called out Jabez Holt, from one of the two office windows in the little hotel at Dunhaven.
As there was only one other man in the office, that other man guessed that he might be the one addressed.
With a slight German accent the stranger, who was well-dressed, and looked like a prosperous as well as an educated man, turned and demanded:
"You are calling me?"
"I reckon," nodded Jabez.
"Then my name is Herr Professor—"
"Hair professor?" repeated Jabez Holt, a bit of astonishment showing in his wrinkled old face. "Hair professor? Barber, eh? Why, I thought you was a traveler. But hurry up over here—do you hear me?"
"My good man," began the German, stiffly, drawing himself up to his full six-foot-one, "it is not often I am affronted by being addressed so—"
"There! He'll be outer sight in another minute, while you are arguin' about your dignity!" muttered Holt. "And that's the feller you said you wanted to see—Jack Benson."
"Benson?" cried the German, forgetting his outraged dignity and springing forward. "Benson?"
"That's him—almost up to the corner," nodded Landlord Jabez Holt.
"Run out and bring him back with you," directed Herr Professor Radberg. "Be quick!"
"Waal, I guess you're spryer'n I be," returned old Jabez, with a shrewd look at his guest. "Besides, it's you that wants the boy."
Running back and snatching up his hat, Professor Radberg made for the street without further argument.
Moving along hastily, the German soon came in sight of young Captain Jack Benson, of the Pollard Submarine Torpedo Boat Company.
"Ach, there! Herr Benson!" shouted the Professor.
Hearing the hail, Jack Benson turned, then halted.
"You are Herr Benson, are you not?" demanded Professor Radberg, as soon as he got close enough.
"Benson is my name," nodded Jack, pleasantly.
"Then come back to the hotel with me."
"You are a foreigner, aren't you?" asked Jack, surveying the stranger coolly.
"I am German," replied Radberg, in a tone of surprise.
"I thought so," nodded the boy. "That is, I didn't know from what country you came. But, in this country, when we ask a favor of a stranger, we usually say 'please.'"
"I am Herr Professor—"
"Oh, barbers are just as polite as other folks," Jack assured him, his laughing eyes resting on the somewhat bewildered-looking face of the German.
"Then please, Herr Benson, come back to the hotel with me."
"Yes; if it's really necessary. But why do you want to go to the hotel?"
"Because, Herr Benson, when we are there, I shall have much of importance to say to you."
"Important to me, or to you?" asked Jack, thoughtfully.
He had no intention of answering a much older man disrespectfully. But there was about Herr Radberg the air of a man who expects his greatness to be recognized at a glance, and who demands obedience from common people as a right. This sort of thing didn't fit well with the American boy.
"Oh, it is important to you, and very much so," urged the Professor, somewhat more anxiously. "Besides," added the German, with a now really engaging smile, "I have met your demand, Herr Benson, and have said 'please.'"
"Then I suppose I'll have to meet your demand," nodded Jack, good-humoredly. "Lead the way, sir."
"Ach! You may walk at my side," permitted the German.
It all seemed a bit strange, but Captain Jack Benson had been through more strange experiences than had most Americans of twice or thrice his age. Besides, as he walked beside Herr Professor Radberg Jack imagined that he had guessed at least an inkling of the other's business. The German had announced himself as a professor; probably, therefore, he was a scientist. Being a scientist, the Professor had very likely invented, or nearly invented something intended for use in connection with submarine torpedo boats, and wanted to interest the concern by which the young submarine skipper was employed. Though this guess was a reasonable one, it soon turned out to be the wrong one. The Professor's real reason for seeking this interview was one that was bound to take the submarine boy almost off his feet.
Readers of the preceding volumes in this series need no introduction to Captain Jack Benson, nor to his chums, Hal Hastings and Eph Somers. Such readers recall, as told in "The Submarine Boys on Duty," how Jack and Hal drifted into Dunhaven just at the right moment to fight for an opportunity to work themselves into the submarine boat building business. How the boys helped build the first of the now famous Pollard submarines, and afterwards learned how to man her, was all told, together with all their strange adventures in their new life.
In the "The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip" was related how Jack Benson solved the problem of leaving a submarine boat when it lay on the ocean's bottom, and also the trick of entering that submerged boat again, after diving from the surface of the water. The attempt of shrewd business men to secure control of the new submarine boat company was also described, together with the manner in which the submarine boys outwitted them. Through a successful trial trip, and Captain Jack's ingenious ways of arousing public interest, the government was forced to buy the "Pollard," as the first of the submarines was named.
In "The Submarine Boys and the Middies" was narrated how the submarine boys secured the prize detail of going to the Naval Academy at Annapolis as temporary instructors in submarine boating. Many startling adventures, and some humorous ones, were related in that volume.
Then in "The Submarine Boys and the Spies" was shown how the young men successfully foiled the efforts of spies of foreign governments to learn the secrets of the Pollard craft.
In "The Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise" the adventures of these clever, enterprising boys were carried further. In this book, was told how the boys were trained in the handling of the actual torpedo of, warfare. The Pollard boats, "Benson" and "Hastings" were entered in official government tests in which the submarine craft of several other makes competed. The desperate lengths to which the nearest rival of the Pollards went in order to win were told with startling accuracy. The result of all these tests was that the Pollard company received from the Navy Department an order for eighteen submarine torpedo boats, the "Benson" and the "Hastings" being accepted as the first two boats on that order.
By the time the present narrative opens it was near the first of May. Over at the shipyard, where facilities had been greatly increased, two of the submarines had lately been finished, and four more were under way in long construction sheds. Work on the government's order was being rushed as fast as could be done while keeping up the Pollard standards, of high-class work.
Of late Jack and his young friends, though their pay went on, had little work to do. Whenever a new boat was completed it was the task of the submarine boys to take her out to sea and put her through all manner of tests in order to determine her fitness. But there were days and days when the submarine boys had naught to do but enjoy themselves as their fancy dictated.
"Shall we sit down here?" asked Jack, as he and the tall German entered the hotel office.
Jabez Holt stood behind the desk, bent over the register, on which the Professor's name had been the only new one in a week. The old landlord pretended to be busy, but he was covertly watching and listening.
"Sit here?" repeated Professor Radberg. "Ach, no! Come along with me."
There was something rather disagreeably commanding in the German's invitation, but Jack merely smiled quietly as he followed in the stranger's wake. Up the stairs they went. The Professor unlocked a door, admitting himself and his guest to the outer of a suite of two rooms. Once they were inside Radberg locked the door behind them.
"Come to the other room, Herr Benson," directed the Professor. The door of this inner room the German also locked, remarking:
"Now, if the man, Holt, chooses to follow and listen, he can hear nothing."
"All this sounds mighty mysterious," laughed Jack Benson, good-humoredly.
However, the submarine boy went and stood by a chair near the window and then waited until he saw that the stranger was about to seat himself.
"Now," asked Jack, stretching his legs, "what's the business about? I haven't a whole lot of time to-day."
"Listen, and you shall hear, as soon as I am ready," came, stiffly, from the stranger. "You are a boy, and I am Herr Professor—"
"Oh, you told me all about being a hair professor before," smiled Jack. "Now, see here. Whether you're really a barber, or whether you're just amusing yourself with me, we want to have one thing understood. I came here, sir, as a matter of courtesy to you, and you will have to treat me with just as much courtesy. Otherwise, I shall wish you good-morning."
This was said with a flash of the eye which warned Radberg that, in his rather overbearing way, he was going too for.
"Oh, my dear young friend," he replied, persuasively, "you don't understand. In Germany I am—well, perhaps what you would call a rather distinguished man. At least, my neighbors are good enough to say so. And, in Germany, when a herr professor talks, others listen respectfully."
"Just the same way with the hair professors in this country," chuckled Jack. "When an American barber gets wound up and started, all a fellow can do is to listen. It's no use trying to run away from a barber anywhere, I guess. He has you strapped down to the chair."
"Barber?" repeated Professor Radberg, in disgust. "I don't understand you."
"Oh, it isn't necessary," laughed Jack. "It's a sort of Yankee joke. And I beg your pardon, Professor, if I am wasting your time. Now, go ahead, please, and tell me why you invited me here."
There was something of salt water breeziness and crispness about Jack's speech that caused the German's brow to cloud for an instant. Then, after a visible effort to compose himself, Radberg leaned forward to ask:
"Do you speak German?"
"No, sir." Jack shook his head.
"Ach, that is too bad!" muttered the German, in a voice suggesting severe disapproval of one who hadn't mastered his own native tongue. "However, you will soon learn."
"Yes; if there's a big enough prize goes with it," agreed Jack.
"Prize?" repeated Professor Radberg. "You will say so!"
Then, leaning forward once more, and speaking in his most impressive voice, Herr Professor Radberg continued:
"Herr Benson, we are going to take you into the German Navy!"
The Professor now leaned back to watch the effect of his words.
"Are you going to do it when I'm awake?" asked Jack, curiously.
"Nein! I do not understand you."
"Are you going to take me in by force, or wait until you catch me asleep?" questioned Captain Jack Benson.
"Ach! Do not be silly, boy!"
"I might say the same to you, Professor," replied Jack Benson, composedly, "but we'll let it pass. How are you going to get me into the German Navy, and what are you going to do with me after you get me there?"
"How?" cried Professor Radberg. "Why we are going to pay you a very handsome sum of money, and we are going to give you a most honorable position in our imperial service. And—"
Here Professor Radberg leaned forward once more, lowering his voice considerably.
"There are three of you boys, all experts at the Pollard works. Well, we are going to take all three of you into the German navy, and we will do something very handsome for you all."
"The other fellows will be delighted when I tell 'em what's coming their way," smiled Captain Jack.
"Ach! So? Of course."
"Now, what do you propose to do with us in your navy?" Jack went on. "Are you going to make officers of us?"
"Officers?" repeated Herr Professor Radberg, slowly. "Well, no, Herr Benson. We could not exactly do that. Our officers are, as you will understand, very—what is your English word?—aristocratic. They could not be quite persuaded to take American commoners as their brother officers. That you would not expect, of course."
"Certainly not," young Benson agreed. If there was a slight tinge of sarcasm in his it was lost on the German, whose brow cleared as he went on, heavily:
"No, no, my young friend; not officers. But you shall all three have very honorable positions, and handsome sums of money to pay you for entering our service. We in Germany know the rank which you young men have won as submarine experts, and we shall not be niggardly, for we have determined to have you in our service."
"I hope you'll pardon me," proposed young Benson. "There is just one point that has been overlooked. You tell me that you are authorized to come to Dunhaven and kidnap my friends and myself. But, really, how do I know that you have such authority from your own side of the water?"
Radberg looked a bit puzzled, for a moment. Then, as he seemed to begin to comprehend, he replied, heavily:
"Herr Benson, I have already told you that I am Herr Professor—"
"Now, don't hang out the striped pole again, please," urged Jack, his face as sober as that of a judge. "Come right down to the points of the compass. How am I to know that you really do represent the German government?"
"Ach! I comprehend," nodded the German. "Of course you will understand that, on an errand of this kind, I do not travel with too many papers. But I shall take you and your two companions on to Washington to-morrow, I think—"
"To-morrow ought to do as well as any time," replied Jack, ironically.
"Yes; I think it will be to-morrow," continued the German. "I shall take you to our German Embassy, and one of our officials there will prove to you that I have been acting with authority."
"That'll be right fine of him," agreed Jack, placidly.
"Ach! It is settled, then," replied the German, all but dismissing the matter with a wave of his hand. "Yet you must bring your two comrades here. They must understand just what is wanted of them. And now, Herr Benson, do you wish to understand what is to be paid to you to transfer your services to our German flag?"
"Why, yes; that will be mighty important—if we go under the German flag."
"If you go?" repeated the Professor. "Why, that is all settled!"
"Then I must have missed something, by not watching you closely enough," murmured Jack. "I shall have to sit up straighter and keep my eyes wider open. When was it all settled, sir?"
"Why, did you not tell me—"
"Haven't had a blessed chance to tell you anything," replied Jack, looking astonished. "You've been doing all the telling."
"But you'll go with me, of course, to Washington?" uttered Radberg, looking much taken aback.
"I doubt it," muttered young Benson, shaking his head. "In fact, sir, I may as well tell you that it's waste of our time to carry this line of talk any further."
"Ach! You are cunning," smiled Professor Radberg, no longer nonplussed. "That is as it should be, too, for you are a clever young man, Herr Benson."
"A thousand thanks," murmured Captain Jack.
"But, instead of talk," pursued the German, "you wish to see some money. Quite right! I should, were I in your place, Herr Benson. Well, then—ach! Look at this."
Thrusting a fat hand down deep in a trousers pocket, Herr Professor Radberg brought up into view a big roll of money. He held this up so that the submarine boy could feast his eyes on it. Jack looked, composedly.
"Did you ever see anything like this—you, who are such a young boy?" smiled the German, teasingly.
"I—I don't know, really," responded Jack, thoughtfully, thrusting a hand down into his own trousers pocket. Young Benson brought up into the light a very comfortable looking handful of banknotes, rolled and surrounded by a broad elastic band. "Let's measure the two, Professor, and see how they compare."
"Ach!" muttered the German, regarding Jack's money with some displeasure. "Where did you get all that?"
"Oh, now, Professor!" cried the young submarine captain, reproachfully. "I didn't ask you where you got yours!"
"Ach! This is all so much foolishness!" cried the German Professor, returning his money to his pocket.
"That's what I think, too," agreed Jack, following suit. "It's what our English cousins call 'bad form,' to go to comparing piles of money."
"Now, sit down, Herr Benson, and I will tell you what a very handsome sum of money, and what excellent wages, the German government will pay you to enter our imperial naval service."
"How much money is there in Germany?" interrupted the submarine boy, thoughtfully.
"How much, in all Germany?" demanded the Professor. "Nein! How should I know?"
"You expect me, of course, to turn my back on this country for good, to tell you Germans whatever I may know about submarine secrets, to drill with your navy, and be prepared to fight in your navy if war comes?"
"Ach, yes! of course," replied Radberg. "Now, we are beginning to understand one another."
"Professor," interrupted Captain Jack Benson, "we've had enough of joking."
"Joking? I assure you—"
"Professor," once more broke in the submarine boy, "I wouldn't sell out my country's flag for all the money you ever saw!"
For a few moments the Professor's face was a study in consternation. Then he broke forth, angrily:
"Ach! You are a fool!"
"I guess so," nodded Jack, without resentment. "That's just the kind of fools we Americans are generally."
Herr Radberg was a good enough reader of human faces to realize that, at all events, there was no use in continuing the conversation at present.
"Very good," he growled. "You can go. I shall see your friends, instead."
"When you get through with 'em you'll think they're idiots," grinned Captain Jack Benson.
Herr Radberg wasn't a fool. Neither was he a rascal, expert in offering bribes. Brought up within the wall's of a German university, he would have been willing to lay down his life instantly for the good of the Fatherland. Yet he couldn't understand that men of other nations could be just as devoted to their own countries. From Herr Professor Radberg's point of view Germany was the only country in the world that was fitted to inspire a real and deep sense of patriotism.
"No harm done, Professor," said Jack, moving toward the door, and turning the key to unlock it. "I'm sorry you had all the trouble and expense of coming to Dunhaven on a useless errand. Good-bye!"
"Ach! You may go, but you will come back," scowled the other. "If not, your comrades will, I hope, prove to be young men of better sense and judgment."
"Oh, they'll listen to you," smiled Jack. "Good-bye!"
"I shall have two of you, anyway," were Radberg's last words before the door of the outer room closed and Jack's footsteps sounded in the corridor.
"FRENCH SPOKEN HERE"
"Well, what do you think of that?"
It was Eph Somers who put the question, and the time was some fifteen minutes later.
Captain Jack had met his two comrades up on the main street of the village. He had told them, with a good deal of amusement, of his late talk with the German.
Hal Hastings didn't say a word, but his eyes twinkled.
"I wouldn't have minded," laughed Jack, "but it was the Professor's cock-sureness that I was to be Germany's oyster."
"Is he an old man?" asked Hal.
"Not very," Jack answered. "Perhaps not old enough to know better. Anyway, if I were going to a foreign government, Germany would be about the last country. Germany is our rival in building a large navy. About every other month the experts in Germany sit down to figure whether they are anything ahead of us in the tonnage of warships, and, if so, whether there is any danger of our catching up with them. Now, unless the Germans have a notion that they may need, to fight us one of these days—"
"Oh, I don't believe anything of that sort," broke in Hal, shaking his head. "I don't believe any country in the world is aching to pick a quarrel with us."
"Not while the United States pocket-book is such a fat one, and so well built for paying war expenses," grinned Eph. Then his look became more solemn, as he added:
"But we don't want ever to get into a naval condition where it will be easy for some other country to snatch that fat pocket-book out of our hands."
"Let's go along, fellows. Drowning and confusion to all possible foes afloat," proposed Hal, the one who could never see "war" on the horizon. "After a winter on hot sodas, it'll be a relief to know that the druggist put in icecream soda to-day."
So the three boys turned and made their way to the drugstore. While they were exploring with spoons the bottoms of their glasses, the street door opened. Herr Professor Radberg looked in, then came in, beaming condescendingly on the young men.
"Ach! You young men are just the ones I wish to see," he exclaimed, resting one hand on Eph's shoulder, the other on Hal's.
"Lots of folks will pay for that privilege," declared Eph, solemnly.
"Yes? Well, I will pay, too—you shall see. I shall look for you at the hotel, in just one hour. One hour—remember."
"Have you a telescope?" inquired Eph, calmly.
"A telescope. Eh?" inquired the German. "What for?"
"You might need it in looking for us," Eph replied.
"Then, in one hour, I shall see you—at the hotel!"
"You'll be lucky, if you do," grinned Eph.
"Eh? I do not know that I understand," responded Herr Professor Radberg, slowly.
"If you're figuring on seeing us," Eph went on, gravely, "I'm afraid you're in for bad news."
"Bad news? Ach! What do you mean, young man?"
"Just what I said," replied Eph.
Professor Radberg looked so puzzled that Hal Hastings broke in, quietly:
"Professor, unless I'm much in error, you want to see us about a proposition that we enter the German naval service."
"Hush! Not so loud," warned Radberg, looking suspiciously around.
"There's nothing we have to keep quiet about," Hal went on. "You have already spoken to our captain, Jack Benson, about this matter."
"And Jack has refused."
"Your captain is a fool!" cried the German.
"Then we serve a fool, because he's our captain," retorted Hal, quietly, though there was a flash in his eyes.
"I shall look for you two at the hotel in one hour," declared the German, impressively.
"My friend, Mr. Somers, has already told you that you'll be using your eyesight to poor advantage, then," Hal answered.
"What do you mean?"
"Why, I mean, Professor, that you can't possibly persuade us to go to Germany and tell your people anything that we know about the Pollard submarine boats, or any other type."
"But you shall be well paid!"
"Professor, what would be your price for selling out your country to the United States?" asked Hal, gazing fixedly at the German.
"You insult me!" cried the German, his face growing red. "I am a patriot."
"Yet, you insult us by thinking that we would sell our country," went on Hal, coolly.
"Are you two going to be as big fools as your captain?" demanded Herr Professor Radberg, almost incredulously.
"Bigger!" promised Eph, with a grin.
"Ach! Well, we shall talk this all over when you come to the hotel in an hour," replied the German. He turned and left the store.
"Now, I don't doubt," mocked Hal, "he has gone away firm in the belief that we'll keep his appointment."
"He'll wake up after a while," laughed Eph Somers.
After indulging in a second ice cream soda the submarine boys started down the street toward the Farnum shipyard where the Pollard boats were built.
As they passed a street corner they heard a cautious:
"Now, who threw that our way?" demanded the irrepressible Eph, turning swiftly. Then he added, in a tone so low that only his comrades could hear:
"Say, fellows, I'll bet that cost something!"
"That" was, a rather undersized little man, of perhaps thirty. Dark of hair, and sparkling of eye, the stranger's rather pallid face was partly covered, in front, by a short goatee, of the French "imperial" sort, and a moustache whose points were waxed out in fierce military fashion.
It was the stranger's apparel that had attracted Eph's notice particularly. The stranger was arrayed almost exquisite fashion; his clothes were of finest texture and latest Parisian type. His little, pointed shoes were almost as dainty as a girl's. Though the day was warm the stranger was gloved, and handled a cane in the head of which a handsome amethyst shone.
"I wonder how that got through the custom house?" was Eph Somers's next undertoned question.
"Ah, good morning, gentlemen," greeted the stranger, coming toward them, all smiles and bows. "Av I have not med ze mistake, zen I am address ze torpedo boys."
"Right-o," drawled Eph. "Regular human torpedoes, as touchy as gun-cotton. Why, I am due to explode this moment!"
Though the stranger looked puzzled at first, his face rapidly broke into a cordial smile.
"Oh, ah! I understand. You mek what is call ze American joke, eh? You have little fun wiz me."
The Frenchman, for that he unmistakably was, laughed in the utmost good humor. The boys found themselves much inclined to like this stranger.
"Now, young gentlemen," continued the Frenchman, "I am ze Chevalier Gari d'Ouray."
"Glad to meet you, Chev," volunteered Eph, with suspicious amiability, holding out his hand, which the Frenchman took daintily. "I'm a 'shoveleer' myself, and this awkward, gawky looking boy with me is our engineer."
Eph had a tight grip on the stranger's hand, by this time, and was surely making it interesting for the Frenchman. The Chevalier d'Ouray was doing his best to retain his politeness, but Somers's hearty grip hurt the foreigner's soft little hand.
"What can we do for you, Chev?" demanded Eph, holding to the Frenchman's hand so persistently that Hastings gave his friend a sharp nudge in the back.
"Let us go somewhere," urged the Frenchman. "Some place were we can sit down and have ze talk about important matters. I have ze message for you zat I cannot deliver upon ze street."
"Now, don't say, please," begged Eph, "that you have heard we are wanted in the French Navy."
The Chevalier d'Ouray looked intensely astonished.
"Parbleu! You are one marvel!" gasped the Frenchman. "You read my most secret thought. But yes! You have made ze one right guess. However, I cannot more say upon ze street. Let us go somewhere."
"All right," nodded Eph. "You go along, now, and we'll be along in an hour."
"Wiz pleasure," nodded the chevalier, eagerly. "But we're shall I go?"
"Anywhere you like," suggested Eph, cordially.
"But, zen, how will you know w'ere I am to be found?"
"Oh, we'll take a chance on that," proposed Eph, carelessly.
"But, unless I am able to say, now, w'ere I shall be—" the Frenchman started to argue.
"We'll guess the meeting place as well as we did your errand," proposed Eph.
"Ten thousan' thanks!" cried, the chevalier. "Yet, for fear we mek ze one mistek, suppose I say—"
Eph Somers had struck such a streak of "guying" nonsense that Jack Benson felt called upon to interpose, for he and Hal both liked the twinkling eyes and good-humored face of this dandified little Frenchman.
"Pardon me, sir," Jack accordingly broke in, "but, if we happened to guess your errand, it was because we have just gotten away from the agent of another government."
"How? Is zat posseeble?" cried the Chevalier d'Ouray, a disappointed look coming into his face.
"Yes; it's true," nodded Jack.
"But you did not come to any terms wiz him?"
"Ah, zen, ze coast is steel clear," cried the little Frenchman, delightedly. "So, as to w'ere we can meet and mek ze one talk—"
"We can get that all over with, right here," Jack replied. "We can make you the same answer that we gave the other man. We are Americans, and would never think of serving any other flag, even in peace time. Chevalier, I can save your time by telling you that any arrangement to engage our services away from the United States would be utterly hopeless."
"But ze money—" began the Frenchman, protestingly.
"There isn't money enough across the Atlantic to hire us," Jack answered, bluntly.
"And ze honneur—"
"Honor? What would that word afterwards mean to Americans, Chevalier, after they had left their own country to serve another?"
The Chevalier d'Ouray began to look as though he realized he had a harder task before him than he had expected.
"So you see, sir," Jack went on, "it will not be in the least worth your while to try to tempt us. Come what will or may, we are under the American flag for life. You yourself, Chevalier, wouldn't leave the French flag to serve this country, Great Britain or Germany."
"No; but zat is deeferent, for I, monsieur, am French."
"And we are American," Jack responded.
"I will leave you, now, zen, gentlemen," replied the Frenchman, in a tone of disappointment. "But I shall not go away before to-morrow. If you change ze mind—or weesh to hear w'at I have to mek ze offer—"
"Thank you," nodded Jack. "But don't waste any more time on us, Chevalier. And now—good-bye!"
The Chevalier d'Ouray shook hands with them all most gallantly. Eph felt somewhat ashamed of his late nonsense, and, to prove it, hit the Chevalier d'Ouray a friendly slap on one shoulder that set the Frenchman to coughing.
"Say," muttered Jack, as the three now hurried along the street, "I begin to wish I had a good umbrella."
"Humph! You'd look great with one," retorted Hal. "You, who have stood on the platform deck of a submarine for hours, steering unconcernedly, when the skies were trying to drown you."
"But I feel," remonstrated Jack, "that it's soon going to rain foreign agents. I'd like to get in out of the international wet."
"Oh, we won't see any more of these fellows," smiled Hal.
"Now, there's just where I believe you're wrong, messmate," Jack contended. "These foreign governments hire detectives to watch each other. When we hear from one, we're likely to hear from the whole lot at once. Look around you, Eph. Do you see a Jap anywhere?"
"Not a solitary jiu-jitsu fiend," responded Eph, after halting and staring both ways in turn along the street.
"Well, Japan is about due," laughed Benson. "And now, let's get in through the gate of the shipyard. If any more of these foreign agents show up—well, there are two boats in the harbor that are in commission. We'll find an excuse to put to sea in one of them."
"Just the youngsters I was going out to try to find," hailed Grant Andrews, foreman of the submarine construction work, as he hurried across the yard. "Mr. Farnum told me to get out and find you. He'd have sent some one else, but I guess the business is rather on the quiet."
"Is he in his office?" queried Jack.
"Thank you; we'll go right in, then."
"Now I wonder what country it is whose agent has gotten hold of Mr. Farnum?" asked Eph, plaintively.
"Nonsense!" mocked Jack.
"That's what we try to tell 'em all," mocked Eph. "But the Germans are the hardest."
All three of the submarine boys were laughing so heartily, as they entered the shipbuilder's private office that Jacob Farnum, a youngish looking man to be at the head of so large a manufacturing plant, glanced up quickly.
"What's the joke, boys?" he asked. "I haven't had a laugh since I pounded my thumbnail with a sledge-hammer."
Captain Jack Benson quickly detailed the meetings with Radberg and d'Ouray.
"The Frenchman didn't look a bit like a 'shovelee' either," muttered Eph. "If anything, that looked more in the German's line."
"Well, you'll have a chance to get rid of nonsense, now, for a while," went on Mr. Farnum, after having enjoyed a few laughs with the boys. "I've some serious business in hand for you, and the time has come."
That was like the shipbuilder. Whatever he was planning, at any time, he kept strictly to himself until the time came to put the plan into operation.
"There's quite an important little job for you up at Craven's Bay," continued Mr. Farnum. "You know, there are important fortifications there, because the Navy people expect, in wartime, to use Craven's Bay as a possibly important naval station and shelter for vessels that have to put in. Now, for some time the Army engineer officers have been perfecting a system of submarine mines for the bay. The engineers have a problem on hand as to whether an enemy's submarine boats could sneak into the bay and blow up the submarine mines before the Army woke up to the danger."
"There's a chance that that could be done," nodded Jack, musingly.
"Jest so," nodded Mr. Farnum. "So I want you to go up in one of the boats. To-morrow the engineer officers at that station will test it out with you whether a submarine can destroy the mines, or the mines could be made to destroy the submarine boats."
"Then the Army engineer officers will use dummy submarine mines, I hope," broke in Eph.
"Oh, of course," nodded Mr. Farnum. "Now, the trip to Craven's Bay is only an eight-hour sail at a good gait, so you won't really need to start until after dark to-night."
"I believe I'd rather start now, though, and go at less speed," suggested Jack, thoughtfully.
"That's just as you please, of course," nodded the shipbuilder.
"It will take us out on the water, for one thing," Captain Jack continued, "and we've been growing stale on shore, of late." Then he added, whimsically: "Besides, if the agents of any more foreign governments show up, they won't find us here."
"And there's a Jap just about due now," grimaced Eph.
"Take Williamson with you, for use in the engine room," advised Mr. Farnum. "That will allow you to take the boat through with two watches above and below. Which boat will you take?"
"The 'Spitfire,' unless you'd rather have us take the other one," young Benson replied.
"Take the 'Spitfire,' by all means," nodded the owner.
Twenty minutes later, Williamson having been found, the crew was all ready for the start for Craven's Bay.
Eph and Williamson cast off from moorings while Hal Hastings, down below at the gasoline motors, started the twin propellers as soon as Jack Benson, at the deck wheel, signaled for speed ahead.
Right after the start, Williamson, a grown man and machinist, dropped below. Eph Somers stood beside the young submarine captain.
For some minutes both boys gazed out over the waters. Then Eph remarked:
"Well, we got away without being overhauled by a Jap or a Russian, didn't we?"
"I don't know," smiled Jack, unsuspectingly. "See that launch over to port? Hanged if she doesn't seem to be putting toward us."
"She does," admitted Eph, solemnly. "Oh, well, with a few more turns of the screw we can easily get away from that launch."
For some moments Captain Jack paid no especial heed to the launch bearing down upon them on the port side. He noted only, at the distance, that the launch contained two men. Presently, however, as the launch came nearer, Captain Benson made a discovery.
"Eph," he gasped, "look over there! Are my eyes going back on me, or is that a Japanese in the bow of the launch?"
"Japanese?" gasped Eph Somers, in turn. "Nothing but!"
Eph made a swift dive for the box that contained the signal flags used in the international marine signaling code. Moving swiftly, young Somers selected the two flags representing "N" and "D." These he strung to the halliard of the short signal mast forward. Nor was he ahead of time, for by this time the launch had described part of a circle, and was coming up alongside.
In the bow of the launch stood the Japanese, smiling, and holding a megaphone in his hand.
"Submarine, a-ho-o-o-oy!" came the hail. "Will you slow down? I have something to say to you."
Up flew the signal flags, fluttering in the breeze. Then Eph snatched up a megaphone, holding the smaller end to his mouth.
"Launch ahoy!" he shouted back. "Just tell your folks that you saw our signal!"
The Japanese read the fluttering flags, then called back:
"N.D.? What does that mean?"
Hoarsely Eph Somers bellowed back:
THE MAN WHO MARKED CHARTS
It was a little before midnight when the "Spitfire" came to anchor in Craven's Bay, after having been piloted to anchorage by a quartermaster's tug that put off from Fort Craven on signal.
"Fine place, if your searchlight is keen enough," yawned Eph, gazing off into the darkness.
Eph and Williamson had slept through the evening, after supper, and were now to take the night watch tricks, the machinist's deck watch beginning at once and lasting until four in the morning.
About an hour after daylight, Eph Somers deserted the deck, except for occasional intervals. After a while the odor of coffee and steak was in the air. Then, snatching up a bugle, Somers sounded the reveille tumultuously through the small cabin of the submarine torpedo boat.
Not long did the other members of the crew take to turn out and dress. They came out into the cabin to find Eph trotting between table and galley, putting things on the table.
"This seems like old times," chuckled Williamson, as he seated himself with the boys.
"Yes; because you don't have to cook," grimaced Eph. "Wait until after breakfast, when you have to clear away and wash dishes!"
"Even so, I have the best of it," laughed the machinist, good-humoredly. "I have something in my stomach to work on."
"I always do get the tough end of any job, don't I?" grumbled Eph, resignedly, then buried his troubles under a plateful of steak and fried potatoes.
"You hoisted the signal, 'N.D.', yesterday afternoon," laughed Captain Jack, laying down his coffee cup. "If you don't watch out, Eph, I'll hoist the 'N.G.' flag over this table."
"Breakfast no good?" demanded Eph, looking much offended.
"No; 'N.G.' will stand for 'no grouch.'"
Somers joined heartily in the laugh that followed.
Just as they were finishing a really good meal, for which every breakfaster had a royal, salt-water appetite, a steamer's whistle was heard, not far off to port.
"I'll bet that's the Army tug!" muttered Captain Jack, rising hastily from the table. "Tell you what, fellows, we've got to begin to have something like Navy discipline aboard this craft. In that case, we'd have had breakfast over an hour ago."
Jack was off up the steps as though pursued. Eph went after him as soon as that youth with the sun-kissed hair had time to pull on his visored cap and button his blouse. No matter what the need of haste, Somers never appeared on deck looking less natty than a veteran naval officer.
Forward, on the tug, stood a major of engineers, a young lieutenant beside him.
"Good morning, Mr. Benson," hailed Major Woodruff. "We're going to try to come in close enough to put a gang-plank over. Can you take a bow line from us?"
"Yes, sir," Captain Jack saluted the Army officer, and Eph hurried to receive the line.
In less than two minutes Major Woodruff and Lieutenant Kline were on the platform deck of the "Spitfire."
"This is the first one of your craft we've seen," declared the major, as Eph cast off the bow line, and the tug backed water. "Will you show us over?"
This the submarine boys gladly did, as the Army shares with the Navy in the defense of the country.
"You see what you have to do, Kline," said Major Woodruff, presently. Then the older officer turned to Jack to say:
"Mr. Benson, since Mr. Farnum has been kind enough to place you and the boat at our orders, Kline is going to remain on board, today, during the tests. He will give Mr. Somers whatever orders are necessary in order to make the tests most successful."
"Why not give the orders to me, sir?" Jack asked.
"Why, you see, Mr. Benson," replied the major, "I plan for you to be on shore, out on the neck, to make certain observations regarding the work of your craft. Those observations you will turn in to me."
"Very good, sir. The neck, I take it, is the narrow strip of land that separates this part of the bay from the ocean?"
"Quite right, Mr. Benson."
It was to be observed that the major, like naval officers, addressed Jack by the title of "mister," not "captain." This was because, in the military service, Army and Navy titles are not recognized unless conferred by government appointment or commission. Hence, though young Benson was "captain" to his crew and to civilians, officers of the United Service could address, him only as "mister."
"The neck, Mr. Benson," continued Major Woodruff, "is the land best suited for watching our work from to-day. And now, I will state what the object of to-day's tests is. This morning our tug will be engaged in planting certain submarine mines. Mr. Somers will watch our work of planting. Of course the mines will contain no explosives. You young men have, I understand, solved the problem of leaving a submarine boat while it lies on the bottom? You are also able to enter the submarine again from the surface?"
"Quite right, Major," Jack nodded.
"Then, if Mr. Somers watches the planting of the dummy mines, he will have the same advantage as would the commander of an enemy's submarine in knowing where our mines are planted. We shall plant four of them, this morning, and Mr. Somers, after seeing each mine planted, will mark down its position on a chart of the bay. He will then take the boat outside, enter under water, and, without touching any of our mines, while handling the boat, will see if he can stop close by and cut the connecting wires."
"If your mines contain no explosive, Major," Eph inquired, "how are you going to be able to tell whether I collide gently with one of your submarine mines?"
"We shall know at once," smiled Major Woodruff. "If you should collide with one, you will cause, a bell to be rung in the camera obscura room over at the fort. The bell that rings will show us which one of the mines you touched against."
The "camera obscura," as used at a modern fort, is in itself a most interesting contrivance. While no elaborate description of it can be attempted here, it will be enough to explain to the reader that, in the camera room, which is darkened, is a large white table covered with white oil-cloth, or other white substance. On this white surface is drawn a plan of the harbor to be defended. The position of each mine sunk under the water's surface is indicated on this map against the white background. Each mine is numbered. Overhead is a revolving shutter, somewhat on the plan of a camera's lens shutter. This shutter, which turns a reflecting lens on the harbor, can be turned in any direction. Any vessel in the harbor can thus be "caught," and its reflection, in miniature, thrown upon the white map surface.
Suppose an enemy's battleship to be entering the harbor. The camera obscura shutter, in being turned about, suddenly throws upon the white screen-map the miniature picture of the hostile battleship. Henceforth the officer in command sees to it that the shutter is so operated as to keep the image of the battleship always upon the white screen map. Thus the course of the battleship is followed—absolutely. At any second the exact position of that battleship in the harbor is known.
Let us suppose that the officer in command at the white, map-covered table finds that the battleship is gradually approaching the position indicated in the harbor as mine number nineteen; as the officer watches the moving image of the battleship, he sees it going closer and closer to the exact spot numbered nineteen or the white map.
"Be ready, Sergeant," calls the officer, warningly, to a non-commissioned officer who stands before a board on the wall on which are several electric push-buttons, each numbered.
"Yes, sir," replies the sergeant.
At this moment the officer sees the image of the battleship passing fairly over the dot on the white map that is numbered nineteen.
"Fire nineteen, Sergeant," calls the Army officer in charge.
The non-commissioned officer quickly presses electric button numbered nineteen. As he does so the electric current is sent flashing, perhaps along four or five miles of insulated wire on the bottom of the harbor. At the other end of that wire is submarine mine number nineteen. In a breathless instant the current traverses the whole length of the wire. The spark has reached the gun-cotton! There is a dull, booming sound; a great column of water shoots up from the surface. In the midst of the commotion the enemy's battleship is rent, and all on board, perhaps killed. The cool, dry-eyed Army officer bending over the white screen-map sees all this scene of horror depicted under the white surface beneath his eyes. He knows that submarine mine number nineteen, planted out there in the harbor, has done its duty in protecting this portion of the coast of the United States.
Here, at Fort Craven, it was desired to find whether an enemy's submarine boat could creep in, below the surface, find the mine, whose location was already known through spies, and effectively cut the firing wire. If this could be done, then, in war-time, it might be that the sergeant at the wall-board would press the button in vain. No explosion would follow. With the current thus cut off, the officer bending over the white screen would not see the miniature reproduction of the destruction of the enemy's battleship.
A submarine torpedo boat, coming into a harbor underneath the surface, is not pictured on the white table under the camera obscura. So it was desired to see whether Eph could come in, knowing the exact locations of each of the four dummy mines, and quickly cut the firing electric wires. If this could be done, the Army would have to revise its method of firing such submarine mines by means of the camera obscura detection.
As Eph listened to the explanation his mind began to revolve plans rapidly whereby he hoped to succeed in cutting the mine wires.
"You will keep sufficiently below the surface, too, Mr. Somers," continued Major Woodruff. "We do not want you so close to the surface of the water that a ripple would show on the camera obscura table. You cannot, of course, rise and use your periscope to see where you are. Even the periscope would betray you."
The "periscope" is a device also of the nature of a camera obscura. In the case of the periscope a narrow metallic tube is thrust above the water and the shutter turned about, reflecting all the scene about on a white-covered table in the boat's cabin.
"I think I can beat you, Major," smiled Eph.
"I certainly hope you can," replied Major Woodruff. "That is what we want to see today. We shall watch closely, too, and see whether any plan can be devised for beating a submarine torpedo boat at its own game."
Lieutenant Kline was to remain on board the "Spitfire," both in order to watch the work and to give Eph any instructions that might be necessary in order to make the tests more conclusive.
"If you will come along with me, then, Mr. Benson," suggested Major Woodruff, "I will put you ashore on the neck. On the way over I will give you your instructions."
As the tug came alongside again Jack followed the major over the gang plank to the deck of the other craft.
"Good-bye, Captain Somers," called Jack, laughingly. "Give a fine account of yourself as an enemy of the United States!"
"Oh, you—" began Eph, flaring red, but wisely cutting his speech short.
On the way over to the strip of land known as the "neck" Major Woodruff managed to make his instructions wholly clear to young Benson.
"Now, you know what to watch for, and what observations, to report to me," finished the major of engineers, as the tug came to a stop. A small boat was lowered, and, in this, Captain Jack Benson was put on the desolate shore.
Then the tug went back over by the fort. Jack grew tired of waiting, for it was some two hours ere the tug finally left the ordinance wharf at Fort Craven.
It was warm out there, on the low, sandy cliffs, provided one got into a position sheltered from the ocean winds. So Jack, in the weariness of his waiting, threw himself down in a sheltered hollow.
Finding that the sun shone disagreeably in his eyes, the submarine boy pulled his cap forward over his face.
Then, in the course of a very few minutes, the inevitable happened. Jack Benson drifted off into sleep.
He awoke with a fearful start, for he had no idea how long he had slept. Yanking out his watch and noting the time, the submarine boy concluded that he had not been asleep more than twenty or thirty minutes.
"But I might just as easily have slept for hours," Benson reproached himself. "Then what a hero I'd have felt. Asleep on post!"
At that moment Jack Benson heard a faraway whistle, across the bay. Showing just the top of his head above a ridge of sand, Captain Jack saw the Army tug just pulling out from the dock across the bay.
But Jack saw something else, too, in that brief instant.
A slim, soldierly-looking man of perhaps thirty, tall and of naturally good carriage, was skulking along in front of the submarine boy, yet hidden from the bay by a sand ridge.
Under one arm the stranger carried a draughtsman's board and a book. A strap over one shoulder held a field-glass case.
"Where in blazes have I seen that chap before?" wondered Captain Jack Benson, staring hard. "For I have seen him—somewhere. I'd declare that under oath."
Figure, carnage and face all strangely haunted the submarine boy, who crouched lower, watching.
"By the great turret gun! He's skulking for a reason!" muttered Benson. "Is he spying on the mine-planting? I wonder? Yes! That must be his work! Long-legs, I'll keep my eyes on you!"
The stranger hastened along for perhaps a quarter of a mile further. Then he threw himself down on the sand, choosing a position in which he could lie flat, his head fairly well hidden behind a low ridge of sand.
Unslinging the field-glass, the stranger brought it to his eyes, closely watching the progress of the tug.
"Ha-ha!" muttered watchful Jack, who had followed, keeping behind another sand ridge. "So, sir!"
The minutes passed, though Jack Benson was so absorbed in watching this long stranger that the boy had but the vaguest notions of the flight of time.
The tug had halted, now. A great crane at the bow swung around, and a submarine mine hung poised in the air. Then, with a rattle of chains not audible at the distance, the mine was slowly lowered until it touched on bottom.
While this was going on, the long-legged stranger, wholly absorbed in his own work, made some observations and some hurried calculations. Then he pulled the drawing-board toward him, jotting down a point.
Jack Benson, standing stealthily, got a good look, for the first time, at the top of that drawing board.
"A chart of the bay, of course," muttered Benson, savagely, between his teeth. "The fellow is marking down the exact position of that mine!"
Still, the submarine boy did nothing to betray his own presence. He watched and wondered. The thought struck him that this long-legged one might be an officer of the Army, on observation duty like the submarine boy himself.
"But that isn't right; I'm sure it isn't," decided young Benson, quickly. "If they fellow were here on honest business, he wouldn't have sneaked out here to get in position. Besides, I have a vague remembrance of this fellow, and I don't connect him with anything honest!"
The Army tug, out on the bay, was now engaged in planting a second mine. Again the slim stranger was all attention. When the crane began to lower the mine, a second mark was made on the chart on the drawing board.
Now, once more, the fellow lay at full length, watching intently off over the bay. At his right hand lay drawing-board, the book and the field-glasses.
"I'll give him a little excitement!" grimaced Jack Benson, stealing softly forward.
Suddenly the boy swooped down upon drawing board, book and glasses, then, with a panting whoop, wheeled and started off on a dead run.
"Here you—stop!" yelled the slim one, hoarse with sudden anger.
Like a flash the stranger was up and in pursuit. As he quickened in the chase this stranger drew a revolver that glinted in the sun.
JACK'S QUEER LOT OF LOOT
Jack Benson only sped onward the faster.
"Halt, you young rascal!" roared the long-legged one, in pursuit.
"The fellow who can call names like that, under the circumstances, has no sense of humor!" chuckled the submarine boy, inwardly.
"Drop that chart and book!" panted the one in chase. "You're stealing government property!"
"Yes, but which government?" Jack shot back at his pursuer.
"Are you going to stop?"
Jack's answer was to increase his burst of speed slightly.
"Then I'm going to fire!" came the warning. Glancing over his shoulder the submarine boy saw the long-legged one still running after him. At the same time the pursuer was raising his revolver, sighting.
Jack felt a little shiver. He had never been suspected of being a coward, yet he was willing to admit that he didn't want to feel a chunk of lead plowing its way through him.
"Last word to halt!" yelled the pursuer, in an ugly tone.
"Fire, then!" dared Jack Benson.
Crack! Whizz-zz! Chug! The weapon was discharged promptly. Jack, still in flight, heard the bullet whistle by him. Then it struck the sand, fifty feet ahead, throwing up a spurt of the fine particles.
"That was for a caution. The next shot will be to hit!" panted the pursuer.
"I wonder if you can do it?" Jack taunted backward over his shoulder.
There was method in the submarine boy's tactics. He hoped, by making the stranger angry, to spoil his aim.
Crack! The bullet sped by, fanning the fugitive's face. The close aim, however, had the reverse of the effect expected by the marksman. It roused all the submarine boy's anger. He might be hit, but he would stop, now, only if a bullet laid him low.
Two more shots sped after the fugitive. Their aim was too close for comfort, though not true enough to score a hit. Each of the shots sounded a bit further back, too.
"He's getting winded," gritted the running submarine boy. "With his long legs that chap ought to get over ground faster than I. The difference is that that fellow is out of condition, and my hard work keeps me about up to the mark of condition all the time. He—"
Crack! Jack happened to turn, just as the fellow fired, and the boy was able to see that the bullet struck the ground behind him.
"Out of range!" clicked Benson. "What's the good of carrying a pocket revolver for service work? Now, if he had a dozen shots more left he would be wasting his cartridges to fire at me."
In fact, it was plain enough that the pursuer had given up the chase for the time being. Not only was he out of range of his quarry, but the long-legged one lacked the wind to keep on on foot.
"Say, what a fool I'd have been, to give up this plunder!" cried Jack, mockingly. "That chap couldn't catch me; he couldn't hit me. So I've gotten away with the stuff he was so anxious to have—and which the Army, I'll bet, would a thousand times rather he didn't have!"
"Now, how am I going to get back to the Army people?" wondered young Benson, slowing down to a walk, though keeping a vigilant lookout to the rear. "I don't want to walk something like a million miles to find a place from which I can get across the bay."
It was desolate country, over here. Jack and the long-legged one, well to his rear, now, might be the only human beings within some miles. The outlook was not an encouraging one.
"Say! Wow! Whoop! Blazes!" uttered Captain Jack, suddenly. "Now, I remember Long-legs! Millard was the name he gave when he came to us, at Dunhaven, last Fall. He was the chap who wanted to work on the submarine construction. Said he'd do any kind of work, but Grant Andrews put him in a separate shed, sorting and counting steel rivets, and never let him get near a submarine boat. That's the same fellow—Millard. Or, at least, that was the name he gave them. But, when Millard found he wasn't going to do anything but take care of rivets, he threw up the job four days after. He had pretended to be mighty hard up, too, and wanted work at any sort of wages."
Jack's face began to glow as he remembered more and more of the brief career of Millard at Dunhaven.
"And Dave Pollard, when he was over in Washington later, said he ran across Millard living at the swell Arlington Hotel! Millard had a different name in Washington, and refused to recognize Mr. Pollard—said there was some mistake. By hookey! There isn't any mistake. Millard was trying to steal submarine secrets at Dunhaven, and now he's trying to map out harbor defenses in Craven Bay!"
Again Captain Jack glanced backward over his shoulder, but Millard was no longer in sight.
"He knew me, probably, in a flash," muttered the submarine boy. "I'm sorry I didn't recognize him sooner."
Having gotten his wind back, Jack broke into a run again. Just because Millard had dropped out of sight was no reason for taking chances of a sudden swoop from the stranger.
For some five minutes Jack Benson jogged along. Then he came in sight of a little semicove. Here lay a small motor launch, whose skipper, somewhat of the fisherman type, was busily engaged with the engine.
"Say," hailed young Benson, running down to the water's edge, "can you start your engine at once?"
"I reckon," nodded the fisherman, looking up.
"Run your bow in, so I can get aboard, then," directed Captain Jack, briskly. "I want to get over to where the Army tug is at work. Do you know where that is—over to the southeast ward?"
"Yep," nodded the fisherman.
"I'll give you three dollars to take me over there in a hustle," proposed Jack.
"You're easy enough," grinned the man in the boat, starting the engine, then lightly driving the bow of the boat upon the sand. "But you'll pay me in advance."
"Certainly," nodded the submarine boy, taking out the money, as he stepped into the boat, and handing it over.
"Now, pick up that boathook, and shove off, and we'll start," added the master of the little launch.
As Jack snatched up the boathook he caught, sight of Millard, three hundred yards away, just coming in sight on a run.
"You'd better get your engine going fast," warned Jack, "or that fellow headed this way will make trouble for us both. He's carrying a gun."
The skipper took just one look at Millard, who was racing along, pistol in hand, and was prepared to believe his present passenger. That little launch stole out of the cover under its reverse gear until the master of the craft thought himself far enough from shore for him to be out of range of Millard's weapon.
"Who is that feller?" asked the fisherman, when satisfied that he was at a safe distance and increasing it every instant.
"From the way he's dancing up and down, it looks as if he were crazy," laughed Jack, coolly.
"What's his particular specialty in craziness?" asked the master of the launch, looking shrewdly at the submarine boy.
"Now, see here," protested Benson, good humoredly, "as I understand it, you're paid to take me over to the Army tug—not to ask questions. Am I right?"
"You're right," nodded the fisherman, then surveyed the boy's uniform curiously.
"Your uniform looks like you was in the Navy?" suggested the man at the stern of the boat.
"Does it?" queried Jack.
"Are you in the Navy?" persisted the boat man.
"Just now, I'm serving with the Army," Captain Jack replied, evasively.
"Are you—" started in the human interrogation point, anew.
"See here," broke in the submarine boy, "I thought we agreed you had just one job to do for me, and that questions formed no part of it."
"That's right," agreed the fisherman. "But say, there's just one question I wish you'd answer me. Are you—"
"No!" interrupted Benson, decisively. "I am not. I never was."
"You didn't let me finish," complained the man.
"Wait until I'm out of the boat," proposed the submarine boy. "Then ask all the questions you like. Maybe you're paid to ask questions, but I'm paid to hold my mouth shut."
It went a good deal against the submarine boy's grain to be so brusque with an inquisitive stranger, but there seemed to be no other defense.
"Oh, well, if you're ashamed of your business—" retorted the fisherman, falling into a sullen silence.
This turn of affairs just suited Benson. He compressed his lips and sat back, looking out across the bay at the tug, which was at work some three miles away.
"Can you put on a little more speed?" inquired Jack.
"No," answered the fisherman, sulkily. "Doin' all the gait she'll kick now."
So Jack possessed his soul in patience until the wheezy little launch had covered the whole distance.
While still some two hundred yards off Jack caught sight of Major Woodruff coming out of the after cabin of the tug.
"Ahoy, Major!" yelled the submarine boy, holding his hands to his lips. "Perhaps you'd better stop work until I've reported."
Then the launch ran in alongside, and Jack stepped up to the deck of the tug, holding tightly to the loot he had taken from Millard.
The master of the launch manifested a disposition to hang about in the near vicinity, until curtly ordered away by Major Woodruff.
"I suppose you thought, Major, that I took a good deal upon myself in advising you to suspend work," Jack hinted. "Yet I've something to show you, and much to tell you. And I'm wagering an anchor to a fish-hook that you'll be glad you stationed me over on that neck of sand."
Major Woodruff led the way back into the cabin. There he examined the chart, with a start of astonishment.
"The fellow was marking down all our mine positions," came savagely from between the Army officer's teeth.
Then he picked up the book.
"A nice little assortment of notes on matters of military interest along this coast," muttered the soldier. "Your long-legged fellow has been busy at other points than Craven's Bay."
Then, closing the book with a snap, Major Woodruff looked keenly at the submarine boy as he remarked:
"Mr. Benson, I think our present submarine tests can be well suspended. We have a much more important task ahead of us—to catch this impudent thief of military secrets! And, in this undertaking, Benson, you can be of the greatest sort of help!"
SIGHTING THE ENEMY
"You can count on me, sir," declared Captain Jack Benson, eagerly.
"I can count on every one of you submarine boys, can't I?" asked Major Woodruff, thoughtfully.
"You can count on us," declared Benson, earnestly, "as though every one of us were sworn into the service and had a record of being tried and tested!"
In an instant after speaking the submarine boy realized that this must have had a boastful sound. So he added, quickly:
"Please don't suspect me, Major, of being a braggart. But Hal, Eph and I have always taken our work with seriousness. We have always acted just as though the Flag depended upon us for its protection. We have the desire, every minute of our lives, to be great Americans—that is, great in our devotion to the Flag, even if we cannot be great in deeds."
"By Jove, I believe you!" cried Major Woodruff, reaching forward and clasping Jack's hand tightly in his own.
The major went on heartily:
"No, no, Benson, I don't consider you boastful. You're talking the way I heard some youngsters talk when I was a boy. It's refreshing and encouraging to hear you talk that way. Do you know, boy, when we older fellows sometimes get to thinking of the country's past glories, we wonder whether the boys of to-day are going to make such men as have carried the United States of America forward in the past? The thought makes us solemn and anxious. I suppose every man who is grown and on toward middle life has always, in every generation, wondered whether boys were as serious and dependable, as staunch and loyal as the boys of the day before yesterday. Look here, lad!"
Major Woodruff rose, stepping to the door aft and throwing it open. The stern of the tug was visible. From the pole that slanted out over the stern, hung the Stars and Stripes.
"You don't need to glance at that fine old bit of bunting more than a second, lad," continued the major, "before you feel all that it can ever make you feel. In your case, I believe the sight of the Flag is always an inspiration to you. I pray it is so with every boy who grows up in this country. But is it?"
Standing there before the Flag, Jack quietly doffed his cap.
"Thank you, Benson," acknowledged the major, also doffing his own cap. Then, closing the door, Major Woodruff stepped back to the table on which lay chart and book.
"This chart, Benson, shows what the rascal Millard, has been doing out on the neck. This book proves that he has been at work at some other points. The book doesn't tell much of the story, though. Of that I am certain. Millard, if he has been at work long, has compiled other notes in other written volumes. If so, then he has also made other charts of our coast defenses. For what other government has he thus marked a series of charts with our secrets? And has Millard succeeded in getting other charts, and other books of notes, off to the foreign government he is serving—or has he them hidden somewhere in this country, awaiting his chance to take the results of his spying out of the United States?"
"I wish I knew!" muttered Jack.
"I'm coming to the point," continued Major Woodruff, briskly. "Now, of course, when we discover evidence that spies of other governments are at work along our lines of national defenses, the first thing we try to do is to catch these foreign agents and all the material they have succeeded in getting together."
Major Woodruff, who was becoming considerably excited, paused to light a cigar, ere he continued, more slowly:
"Now, you and your two friends, Benson, know this fellow Millard. You will spot him instantly, wherever you go. I shall communicate with Washington, at once, by means of a telegram in cipher. The War Department will order me to use all speed in catching Millard, and in finding out where he keeps his other stolen records. Men and money will be used in running down this fellow. Yet you and your two chums should be in the front ranks of pursuit, for you will know him the instant you lay eyes on him."
"You want me to take my friends ashore, then, Major, and lay the 'Spitfire' up?"
"By no means," answered Major Woodruff, decisively. "In reality operations will be suspended at this point until we have run Millard down. Yet we must have the appearance of being as busy as ever. The submarine will hover about, and this tug will be busy, apparently, in laying the bay with mines. You have a fourth man on your boat?"
"Yes, sir; Williamson, the machinist."
"Can he run the engines all right?"
"As well as any of us, Major."
"Then I will put aboard a man who can steer. Thus the 'Spitfire' will be seen moving about the bay, and apparently at work. I'll also put aboard a guard of a sergeant and three or four soldiers of the engineer corps, and they'll guard that boat from harm with their lives. That will leave all three of you young officers of the 'Spitfire' free for shore duty."
"It will, Major. And now, sir, what is that shore duty to be?"
"Simply to locate Millard. He may be at one of the hotels in Radford."
Radford was the busy, important little port four miles farther up the bay.
"He's likely to be somewhere in Radford, anyway," nodded young Benson.
"Wherever the fellow is found, he must be seized at once," continued Major Woodruff, warmly. "Any policeman will seize him on your request. I will give each of you three a written statement that you have been asked to locate Millard and have him arrested. If you run across Millard anywhere, turn him over to a policeman, then show my written authorization. On that the police authorities will hold the scoundrel and notify the military authorities. Then, once we have Millard out at Fort Craven, securely under lock and key, by authority from Washington, we will make every effort under the sun to locate his charts and notebooks."
"Why, the work you want us to do is going to be easy enough," murmured Captain Jack.
"It is going to be easy, if you succeed in finding the fellow, and in turning him over to a policeman," replied Major Woodruff. "And, by the way, I have just remembered that Lieutenant Ridder, of the engineer corps, reported last night from a former station in the West. No one around here will know him. Good enough! I'll have Ridder get into citizen's clothes and go about with you three. He can give you instructions on any point about which you're in doubt."
"We ought to run that rascal down, sir," answered Jack Benson, rising. "Unless—"
"Unless what, Benson?"
"Why, sir, unless he's more clever than a rascal usually succeeds in being. I haven't lived so very long, Major Woodruff, but, from what little I've seen of the world, it has struck me that the cleverest scoundrels are always just a little less smart, in the end, than the average of honest men."
"I hope you'll prove it, in this case," replied the major. "And now, to signal your boat. We'll run both craft in at the ordnance dock at Fort Craven."
A couple of miles away Eph Somers was slowly running the submarine back and forth over the water in seeming aimlessness. In response to sharp blasts from the whistle of the Army tug, the "Spitfire" was seen to turn and head for the tug.
"Mr. Somers, you will follow in our wake," shouted Major Woodruff, when the two craft were within hailing distance of each other. "We will show you where to make fast at the ordnance dock."
"Very good, sir," Eph responded, with a salute.
A little later in the forenoon both boats docked at the water front of Fort Craven.
"You'll come up to my quarters, now, and meet Lieutenant Ridder," announced the Major, when he had gathered the submarine boys together, and when Jack had given necessary explanations to Williamson.
"You may not see us again, for a few days," Jack informed the machinist, in winding up.
"That won't surprise me so very much, either," laughed the machinist. "Things are always happening, where you are, and mysteries have ceased to puzzle me."
"Have you young men ever been on a military post before?" inquired Major Woodruff, as he led them up from the dock.
"Never sir," replied Jack. "We have seen considerable of Navy life, but this is the first time we've ever been at a fort."
"You don't see much about this place, do you," laughed the engineer officer, "that makes you think of a fort?"
"Not much," Benson admitted.
"Yet we have a fighting plant here that could prevent a big fleet, indeed, from getting far up the bay at the important cities beyond. That is," Woodruff continued, thoughtfully, in a low voice, "if the enemy, in advance of his coming here, doesn't know all about our defenses through the work of spies."
Just at the point near the dock, Fort Craven looked not unlike the yard of a big factory plant. Wagons going and coming constantly heightened this effect. Beyond, past the plain, on one side, Major Woodruff pointed out the barracks of the Coast Artillery, of the Engineers soldiers, and of the Infantry. There were also laborers' quarters, several office buildings, a hospital, a chapel, and two streets of cottages that served as quarters for the officers stationed at Fort Craven.
It was into one of these officers' streets that Major Woodruff soon led his three young companions. Admitting the boys to his home, the major took them to the library on the ground floor.
"Now, I'll telephone for Lieutenant Ridder to come over in citizen's dress," announced the major. "At the same time, I must advise Colonel Totten, who is commander of the post. He may come over here, or he may order us all over to headquarters."
Colonel Totten elected to come over to the major's quarters. He arrived just after Lieutenant Ridder, who proved to be a rather boyish looking young man, not long out of West Point.
The plans were quickly laid by which Lieutenant Ridder was to take an automobile up to Radford, going to one of the hotels and registering.
Jack and his two chums were to make the journey in another auto. They would go to still other hotels, perhaps to three different ones. At any moment when instructions were needed, any one of the three could call up Lieutenant Ridder on the telephone.
In addition, Major Woodruff gave each of the three submarine boys a written and signed authorization for them to call upon the police to seize Millard, if found, and hold the fellow for the United States military authorities.
"Now, you young men may start for Radford," continued the major. "Colonel Totten and I will busy ourselves with the despatches that must be sent to Washington about this affair. But I trust, lads, you will not fail to realize the importance of prompt success."
"It's a special duty to the Flag, sir," Captain Jack answered, simply.
The automobiles were waiting outside. Lieutenant Ridder was given a three minutes' start. Then the submarine boys followed after, in a second car.
As Radford was but four miles distant from the post the trip was not to be a long one.
"This is the sort of job that has me by the ears," glowed Eph Somers, enthusiastically. "I won't be selfish enough to say I hope to be the fellow to catch Millard. But, if he does stray my way, I hope I won't be idiot enough to let him slip through my fingers."
"I don't care if Lieutenant Ridder is the one who nabs him," remarked Hal, coolly. "All that I'm particular about is to see this foreign agent nabbed before he succeeds in getting any information out of the country."
The car that bore the boys was soon driving through the streets of Radford. Jack held in his hand a list of the better grade and middle-class hotels that Colonel Totten had given him.
"Which hotel are we going to first?" asked Hal.
"I don't know," uttered Jack, suddenly, sharply. "I know what I'm going to do, however."
Leaning slightly forward the young submarine captain prodded the chauffeur lightly, twice, in the back—a signal that had been agreed upon at need.
In response, the chauffeur ran the car slowly in at the curb.
Captain Jack, opening the tonneau door, was quickly out on the sidewalk, without any need having risen for wholly stopping the car, which then shot forward again.
"Now, what on earth was that for?" demanded Eph Somers, as the car sped on.
"Don't look back," replied Hal.
"Well, a certain party would see you looking at him."
"Why, Jack had the good luck to see Millard going along on the sidewalk. We've just passed the fellow!"
"Are we going to nab him?" demanded Somers, breathlessly.
"You'll have to leave that decision to good old Jack," chuckled Hal Hastings. "He's out there, dogging Millard from the rear. It's Jack Benson's affair just at this moment."
It was mighty hard for Eph to refrain from looking back. But he restrained his curiosity.
FLANK MOVEMENT AND REAR ATTACK
When Jack Benson first touched the sidewalk, and the automobile glided on, leaving him in the wake of Millard, it was the young submarine captain's intention to follow his instructions to the letter.
Millard, having no especial reason of his own for feeling in danger, was walking along at a moderate gait, occasionally glancing into shop windows or gazing at the people whom he passed.
He did not look behind, so it was easy for Jack, less than half a block to the rear, and keeping close to the buildings, to follow without being detected.
"Hullo," muttered the submarine boy. "There's a policeman on the crossing at the next corner. In another moment our long-legged one will be safely in custody."
Feeling in his inner coat pocket for the written authorization, Benson's fingers touched the envelope.
"He's easily caught;" murmured the boy.
There is sometimes a big slip between a wish and its fulfillment. Just as Captain Jack was on the point of darting out into the street to hail the policeman a street car whizzed by. With a flying leap the policeman landed on the front platform and was whirled along the thoroughfare.
"Lesson number one about being too sure," grumbled disappointed young Benson. "However, we'll soon come upon another policeman."
Two blocks more were covered, however, without sighting a bluecoat. Jack even began to wonder how it would do to leap upon Millard, calling upon passing citizens to aid him until a policeman arrived.
"But that would be a two-edged sword, that might cut too keenly on the wrong side," reflected the submarine boy. "Millard would be sure to claim that I was assaulting him. It would look like that, too, and I'd probably get a thumping from the crowd, while Millard slipped away. Then he would be warned that he was wanted, and he'd make himself mighty scarce after that."
Still no policeman came into sight.
"Gracious!" muttered Jack Benson, suddenly. He had just glanced into a store's show window, where a mirror was set at an angle. The submarine boy, looking into that mirror, became aware that he could see people at a considerable distance behind him down the street.
"I wonder if Millard has been taking sights, too, and has had a peep at me, that way?" muttered the boy.
At the next corner the long-legged one, after a brief look down the side street, turned into it.
"Now, that we're getting away from the main street there'll be far less chance of finding a police officer," sighed Jack, at last wholly discontented with luck.
Millard led without, apparently, ever thinking to glance back. He turned a second corner, into another small street, and kept on.
"This is getting more exciting," muttered the young trailer. "Yet all signs point to the fact that I've got to make the grab all by myself. I wonder if I can down that chap and get the upper hand of him? I don't mind a thumping, but I'd be sadly ashamed of myself to let the fellow get away from me."
Millard was walking briskly, now. Next, he turned sharply to the left.
"Ah!" Then Jack Benson shot swiftly forward on tip-toe, trying to make no noise as he ran.
For the long-legged one had, to all seeming, at the distance, wheeled and gone through the wall of a brick building.
Just an instant later, however, this impossible feat was explained. The submarine boy found himself at the street-end of a narrow alley between two brick buildings.
"He has gone into the rear house, at the end of the alleyway," decided Benson, peering down this narrow thoroughfare. "He has left the door partly open, too. I'll have to have a look-in."
As he stole down the alley-way Jack Benson was too sensible, and by this time, too much experienced in the ways of a rougher world, not to suspect that there might be some trap in that door partly open. "He may have seen me, and may have left that door open on purpose," Benson reflected. "He may be lying in wait for me, inside. Or else he may have left that door open, just to make me suspect a trap and keep out. In the meantime, he may be slipping through a door on the other side of the house, and sneaking away from me."
For a few seconds Jack Benson paused thoughtfully on the step just outside the door that was partly ajar.
"I may walk into a trap, by going inside, or I may be letting that wretch walk out of one by staying out here," wavered Benson, torn between two impulses.
Then, just as suddenly, this thought flashed through his mind:
"What you're doing is for the Flag! Never mind what happens to you, Jack Benson. Just rash in and say 'here goes'!"
There was not another second's hesitation. Jack Benson softly pushed the door far enough open to admit him. At the back of the hallway he saw stairs leading below.
"Basement stairs, with a rear basement door letting out on another alleyway!" suspected the submarine boy.
Though he had determined to be as reckless as seemed necessary in order to get quickly on the trail of the vanished one, Jack moved on tip-toe. He had all but reached the head of the stairs when a ground-floor door behind him opened noiselessly. The long-legged one, who had an equally good reach of arm, thrust out a noose that fell over the boy's head.
"Ug-g-g-gh!" rattled in Jack Benson's throat, as Millard, in grim silence, jerked the rope noose tight about the boy's neck. A sharp pull, a twist, and Millard had the boy face down in that hallway, and was kneeling on the victim's back.
"You ought to have known enough to keep away from me," growled the wretch, as he tightened on the noose.
That was about the last that the young submarine captain heard or knew, just then, for things were rapidly growing black before his eyes. Jack tried to fight, but the choking was too severe. He couldn't get even a breath of air into his lungs to give him fighting strength.
Finding that the boy's struggles had ceased, the long-legged one eased off on the noose. He bent Jack's arms behind him so that the wrists crossed. Then, pulling another cord from one of his pockets, the wretch tied the youngster's hands with a few deft movements. Oh, but this rascal was an expert artist with ropes and cords.
Jack felt himself being prodded just over the pit of the stomach, and his senses slowly wandered back to him under the disturbing handling. He was lying on his back, when his eyes opened once more. His throat felt sore, but he could breathe again.
Then the submarine boy discovered that his hands and feet were securely lashed. Beyond that, he discovered Millard squatting on the floor, close by, in Japanese fashion, for the foreign agent was sitting back on his own crossed heels.
"Feel wholly comfortable?" mockingly inquired the foreign agent, when he saw the boy's eyes open.
"Not especially, thank you," mumbled the boy, dryly.
Jack had discovered, by this time, that he was lying on a wooden floor, very likely in the basement of the house. The room contained no furniture, beyond an old table. Daylight was excluded by wooden shutters fastened into place over the windows. On the table a single candle burned in a candlestick.
"Why didn't you bring along with you, Benson," sneered the long fellow, "the property of mine that you stole from me?"
It was plain, then, that the foreign agent remembered the submarine boy well.
"Why are you playing this fool trick on me?" counter-questioned Captain Jack. "You knew I didn't have the—the things with me. You could see that."
"I put you to this inconvenience," replied the foreign agent, "because I wanted to know a few things. In the first place, why are you bothering with me, or with my plans?"
Jack remained silent.
"Won't talk, eh? Oh, well, then, perhaps we can find out a few things without any very especial help from you."
Millard bent over, thrusting his hand into one after another of young Benson's pockets. In so doing he brought to light the envelope in the lad's inner coat pocket. Just an instant later, the wretch snatched the folded sheet from the envelope, spread the paper open and held it up to the light.
"Ho-ho!" sneered the rascal, "an order authorizing you to cause my arrest? This disposes of your case, then, young Mr. Benson!"
A LESSON IN SECURITY AND INFORMATION
Despite the savageness of his utterance Millard continued to gaze thoughtfully, for a few moments, at the submarine boy's face.
As the rascal gazed, however, a grayness came into his cheeks that, somehow, smote Captain Jack with secret terror.
"I—I don't see how it can be helped," gasped Millard, at last, in an altered tone that came as another dash of ice water over the submarine boy. "Benson, I hate to do it. I'd hate to use a dog in such a way, but—but there's no help for it!"
A long-drawn-out sigh, a still queerer look in his face, then the scoundrel broke forth again:
"It's your own fault, after all, boy, and there's no help for it."
"By and by I suppose you'll enlighten me as to what 'it' means?" hinted Jack, trying hard to bolster up a courage that, none the less, would ooze and drop.
Millard's only answer was to bend over the boy and roll him somewhat in examining the prisoner's bonds. It was through this that Jack discovered what he had not known before—namely, that his wrists, besides being bound behind his back, were also lashed fast to something in the flooring.
There was a queer little choke in Millard's breathing as he went out of the room and returned with a bushel basket of shavings. These he dumped on the floor, close to a wall. Then, again, he went out. When he returned he was carrying a can of coal-oil. The contents he poured over the shavings, then against the wall. Next, over the shavings, he heaped three or four newspapers.
Jack Benson didn't ask questions. Millard went at it all in such a business-like way that the submarine boy felt the words sticking in his throat; they couldn't be uttered.
Finally, when all else was ready, Millard took the lighted candle out of the candlestick.
"This candle will burn for thirty minutes yet," guessed the wretch, noting its unburned length with the air of an expert "That will be time enough. Poor lad!"
He set the lighted candle down on top of the papers, over the pile of oil-soaked shavings. It fitted nicely into a place that the wretch had made ready for it. Then, without a word, the long-legged one tip-toed softly over and bent beside the submarine boy.
"Open your mouth," he ordered.
Of course Captain Jack didn't propose to do anything of the sort. With one hand, however, Millard gripped the boy's nostrils, pressing tightly. Just a little later Jack had to open his mouth for air.
"Thank you," mocked the other, and neatly shoved a handkerchief between the boy's jaws. This he tied in place, and rising, looked down upon a gagged foe. Then, with a last look over at the candle, the long-legged one darted from the room.
Left alone, Jack Benson watched that candle on top of the prepared heap. His eyes gleamed with the fascination of terror. When that candle burned down to the right point it would set fire to the paper, and then—!