The Submarine Boys on Duty - Life of a Diving Torpedo Boat
by Victor G. Durham
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig

Note: This is book one of eight of the Submarine Boys Series.


Life on a Diving Torpedo Boat





CHAPTERS I. Two Boys Who Planned to Become Great II. The Fighting Chance III. Josh Owen Starts Trouble IV. The Trick of the Flashlight V. One Man's Dumfounded Face VI. Along the Trail of Trouble VII. When Thieves Fall Out VIII. A Swift Stroke for Honor IX. The Submarine Makes Its Bow to Old Ocean X. Under Water, Where Men's Nerves are Tried XI. The Try-Out in the Depths XII. The Discovery From the Conning Tower XIII. A High-Sea Mystery XIV. An Up-To-Date Revenge XV. The Courage That Rang True XVI. The Last Second of the Nick of Time XVII. In the Grip of Horror XVIII. The Last Gasp of Despair XIX. Jack Strikes the Key to the Mystery XX. "One On" the Watch Officer XXI. The Man Who Dropped the Glass XXII. A Dive That was Like Magic XXIII. Wanted, Badly—One Steward! XXIV. Conclusion



"So this is Dunhaven?" inquired Jack Benson.

"Ye-es," slowly responded Jabez Holt, not rising from the chair in which he sat tilted back against the outer wall on the hotel porch.

"It looks like it," muttered Hal Hastings, under his breath.

"Doesn't look like a very bustling place, does it?" asked Jack, with a smile, as he set down a black, cloth-covered box on the porch and leisurely helped himself to a chair.

The box looked as though it might contain a camera. "Tin-type fellers," thought Holt to himself, and did not form a very high estimate of the two boys, neither of whom was more than sixteen years of age.

Just now, both boys were dusty from long travel on foot, which condition, at a merely first glance, concealed the fact that both were neatly enough, even if plainly, dressed.

"Huh!" was all the response Jabez Holt made to Jack's pleasant comment. Hal, however, not in the least discouraged by a reception that was not wholly flattering, set down a box not unlike Jack's, and also something hidden in a green cloth cover that suggested a camera tripod. Hal helped himself to one of the two remaining chairs on the porch of the little hotel.

"Takin' pictures?" asked Jabez Holt, after a pause spent in chewing at a tooth-pick.

"Yes, some of the time," Jack assented. "It helps out a bit when two fellows without rich fathers take a notion to travel."

"I s'pose so," grunted Jabez. He was not usually considered, by his fellow-townsmen, a disagreeable fellow, but a hotel keeper must always preserve a proper balance of suspicion when dealing with strangers, and especially strangers who follow callings that do not commonly lead to prosperity. Probably "Old Man" Holt, as he was known, remembered a few experiences with the tribe of itinerant photographers. At any rate he did not mean to make the mistake of being too cordial with these young representatives of the snap-shot art.

"Is there any business around here?" asked Jack, after awhile.

"Oh, there's a Main Street, back uptown, that has some real pretty homes," admitted the hotel keeper, "an' some likely-lookin' cross streets. Dunhaven ain't an awful homely town, as ye'll see after you've walked about a bit."

"But is there any business here?" insisted Hal Hastings, patiently.

"I guess maybe you're business photografters, then?" suggested the hotel keeper.

"What kinds of business are there here?" asked Jack.

Jabez Holt cast away a much-mangled toothpick and placed another in his mouth before he replied, with a chuckle:

"Well, I reckon about the only business here that the town is doing any talkin' about at present is one that don't want no photografters around."

"And what may that business be?" persisted Jack.

"Well, down to Farnum's boatyard they're putting up a craft that's known as 'Pollard's Folly.'"

"And why wouldn't they want that photographed?" demanded young Benson.

"Because it's one of them sure-death boats they hope to sell the Government, and the United States Government don't care 'bout havin' its war craft secrets snap-shotted," replied Jabez Holt.

"Didn't you speak of Pollard's boat?" demanded Jack, his eyes agleam with sudden interest.

"Ye-es," admitted Mr. Holt, slowly. "A boat that'll drown its score of men, I reckon, an' then lay somewhere an' eat itself out with rust."

"A submarine boat, isn't it?" continued Jack, quickly.

"Yep; submarine torpedo boat: One of them crazy craft that men will build against all sense of what's decent on salt water."

"Why, I've read about that boat;" Jack ran on, eagerly. "And, from what the newspapers said, I've gathered the idea that David Pollard's boat is going to put the United States completely ahead of all other nations at sea."

"That's the way Dave Pollard talks," returned Mr. Holt, grimly. "But folks 'round Dunhaven, I must say, don't think over an' above of him or his boat. They—"

"Oh, bother the folks around Dunhaven!" broke in Jack Benson, impatiently. "If the place is the best they know how to do in the way of a town, I don't care a heap about their ideas of boats. And—but I beg your pardon, Mr. Holt. My tongue's running a bit ahead of my manners, I guess. So this is where that famous submarine torpedo boat is being built? And she's a diving boat, at that?"

"Well, I guess mebbe she'll dive, all right," chuckled Jabez Holt. "But as to her comin' up again, I reckon the 'Pollard' ain't goin' to be so certain."

"Where are they building her? Farnum's shipyard, you said?"

"Right over yonder," explained Mr. Holt, pointing to a high board fence that enclosed a space down by the water front. Farnum's "boatyard," as thus seen, was about an eighth of a mile from the little hotel, and looked as though it might be considerable of a plant.

"Who's in charge of the boat?" was Jack's next question.

"Well, now, that's a conundrum," replied Jabez Holt, pondering. "Jake Farnum owns the yard. Jake is a young man, only a few years out of college. He inherited the business from his father, who's dead. Jake is considered a pretty good business man, though he don't know much 'bout boats, an' can't seem to learn a heap, nuther. So Jake leans on Asa Partridge, the superintendent, who was also superintendent under old man Farnum. However, old man Farnum's line was building sailing yachts, small schooners, and, once in a while, a tug-boat. That's in Asa Partridge's line, but he won't have nothin' much to do with new schemes like diving torpedo boats."

"Then—" hinted Jack.

"I'm a-comin' on with the yarn," replied Jabez Kolt, patiently. "Now, Dave Pollard, the inventor of the boat, is a powerful bright young man, on theory, some folks says, but he ain't much use with tools in his hands. But he an' young Jake Farnum hang 'round, watching and bossing, and they have a foreman of the gang, Joshua Owen, who knows he knows most everything 'bout buildin' any kind of boat. So, barrin' the fussing of Farnum and Pollard, I guess Josh Owen is the real boss of the job, since the riveters' gang came an' put the hull together, an' went away."

"Then I suppose Mr. Owen—" began Jack.

"Ja-a-abez! Jabez Holt! Come here!" rang a shrill, feminine voice from the interior of the hotel.

"Must be goin', for a few minutes, anyway," grunted Jabez, rising and leaving the two boys. But no sooner was he out of sight than Jack Benson turned upon his chum, his eyes ablaze.

"Hal Hastings," he effused, in a low voice, "I had forgotten that Dunhaven was the home of the Pollard boat. But, since it is, and since we're here—why, here we'd better stay."

"Do you think we can get in on that job?" asked Hal, dubiously.

"Not if we just sit around and wonder, or if we go meekly and ask for a job, and turn sadly away when we're refused," retorted Jack Benson, with a vim that was characteristic of him. "Hal, my boy, we're simply going to shove ourselves into jobs in that boatyard, and we're going to have a whack at the whole game of building and fitting out a submarine torpedo boat. Do you catch the idea? We're just going to hustle ourselves into the one job that would suit us better than anything else on earth!"

"Bully!" agreed Hal, wistfully. "I hope you can work it."

"We can," returned his chum, spiritedly. "Team work, you know. We've worked around machine shops, and at other trades, and we know something about the way boats are handled. Why shouldn't we be able to make Farnum and Pollard believe we know something that will be of use to them?"

"I guess the foreman is the one we want to see, first of all," suggested Hal.

"Well, we'll camp right down here and go at the thing," almost whispered Benson. "And, as this hotel is right at the water front, and within two jumps of the boatyard, I guess we'd better stay here until we get settled."

While the two chums were discussing the whole matter in eager, low tones, a few things may be told about them that will make their present situation clearer. Jack Benson, an only son, had been orphaned, three years before, at the age of thirteen. With the vigor that he always displayed, he had found a home and paid for his keep and schooling, either by doing chores, or by working at various occupations in his native seaport town of Oakport. He had kept at school up to a few months before the opening of this narrative. With marked genius for machinery, he had learned many things about the machinist's trade in odd hours in one of the local shops. He was remarkably quick at picking up new ideas, and had shown splendid, though untrained, talent for making mechanical drawings.

Hal Hastings, of the same age, had a stepmother who did not regard him kindly. Hal, too, had worked at odd jobs, almost fighting for his schooling. His father, under the stepmother's influence, paid little heed to his doings.

For two summers both boys had done fairly well working on yachts and other boats around Oakport. Both had learned how to handle sail craft, to run motors and small marine steam engines.

During the spring just passed Hal Hastings had worked much of his time for an Oakport photographer who, at the beginning of summer, had failed. Hal, with a considerable bill for unpaid services, had taken some photographing material in settlement of his dues.

At the beginning of summer both boys decided that Oakport did not offer sufficient opportunity for their ambitious hopes in life. So they had determined to take Hal's newly acquired camera outfit and "tramp it" from town to town, earning their living by photographing and all the while keeping their eyes open for real chances in life. Both had some money, carefully saved and hidden, from the previous summer's work, so that in point of attire they presented a creditable appearance.

During these few weeks of tramping from place to place they had made somewhat more money than their expenses had amounted to. Jack Benson, who was the treasurer, carried their entire hoard in a roll of one and two-dollar bills.

"I tell you, Hal Hastings," Jack now wound up, "this submarine torpedo boat business is already a great field. It's going to be bigger and bigger, for a lot of inventors are at work. If we can hustle our way into this Dunhaven boatyard, we may be able to—"

"Earn a very good living, I guess," nodded Hal, thoughtfully.

"Earn a living?" sniffed Jack, rather scornfully. "Hal, I've got faith enough in both of us to believe that we could make our fortunes in a few years. Look at some of the poor young men who had sense enough to get into the automobile business early. The prizes go to the fellows who get into a field early and have ability enough to build up reputations."

Jabez Holt came out upon the porch at this moment.

"Still here?" he asked, looking at the boys.

"We're going to be here a little while, I guess, if it's agreeable to you, Mr. Holt," Jack answered; with a smile.

"What d'ye mean? I don't want no tin-types taken."

"We haven't asked you to have any photos made, Mr. Holt," Benson ran on. "We're just talking about becoming guests here."

"For twenty-four hours," supplied Hal Hastings.

"For at least two days," Jack amended.

"But, see here," explained Landlord Holt. "Rates here are two dollars a day. If ye hain't got no other baggage I'll have ter look into them camera boxes before I take 'em as security for board."

"You can't have them as security, Mr. Holt," Jack laughed. "I'm going to pay our charges two days in advance. For two persons it's eight dollars, isn't it?"

Then young Benson carelessly produced the young partners' roll of banknotes. He quickly counted off eight dollars, handing the money to Mr. Holt.

"Come right in an' register," said Landlord Holt, springing up and leading the way. The hotel sometimes prospered when yacht owners or boat designers came this way, but at any season eight dollars were eight dollars. The boys were now in high standing with their host. When matters had been settled in the office Holt led them to the wash room. Here the young men dusted themselves off, washed, polished their own shoes, donned clean collars and cuffs, and, altogether, speedily made themselves so tidy that they looked quite different from the dusty travelers who had trudged into Dunhaven.

Jabez Holt then conducted them back to chairs on the porch, remarking:

"It's after four o'clock now, and supper'll be ready sharp at six."

"What time do they knock off work in the boatyard?" queried Jack.

"Five, sharp," the landlord informed him.

"Does that foreman on the submarine boat job ever come along this way?"

"Goes right by here on his way home," Mr. Holt informed the boys.

"I'd be glad if you'd introduce us to him," Jack suggested.

"I sartain will," nodded Jabez Holt. "An', ye know, Dave Pollard is stoppin' at this hotel."

"Oh, he is, eh?" Jack snapped up, eagerly. "Then we'll certainly try to make his acquaintance to-night."

Hal, too, looked pleased at this prospect. Mrs. Holt again calling, from the depths of the kitchen, the landlord was forced to hurry off. He left behind two boys who suddenly fell to planning their futures with all the rosy enthusiasm of youth. The longer they talked about the submarine boat, the more both Jack and Hal felt convinced that they were going to succeed in getting into the work. In fact, both planned to become great in that special field.

It was a bright July day, one of the kind when the world looks at its best to young, hopeful minds. Absorbed in their vague but rosy plans, both boys forgot the flight of time.

They were roused out of their talk, at last, by hearing heavy footsteps on the gravel close at hand. Looking up, they saw a heavy, broad shouldered, dark-complexioned youth of about eighteen years. He had a swaggering way of carrying himself, and undoubtedly considered himself of much importance. His clothing proclaimed him to be a workman. As he caught sight of the two happy looking boys this older and larger youth looked them over with a sneering expression which soon turned to a scowl.

"Strangers here, ain't ye?" demanded the scowling one, as he halted on the edge of the porch.

"Yes," nodded Jack Benson, pleasantly.

"Thought so," vouchsafed the other. "Any body but a stranger hereabouts would know ye were in my chair—the one I sit in when I come along this way."

There was something decidedly insolent both the tone and manner of the stranger. But Benson, not quick at taking offense, inquired:

"Are you a guest of this hotel."

"None of your business," came the rough retort.

"Oh!" said Jack.

"Did ye hear me say ye were sitting in my chair?"


"Going to get up out of it?"

"Not until I know your rights in the matter," replied Jack. "You see, my board is paid in advance at this place."

"Huh!" growled the other, sneeringly. "Reckon ye don't know much 'bout Dan Jaggers's way of doin' things."

"Who on earth is Dan Jaggers?" demanded Benson, curiously.

"That's me! It's my name," rejoined the swagger. "An', sense ye're so fresh—"

Jaggers didn't finish in words, but, taking a firm hold on the back of the chair, he suddenly pulled it out from under Benson. So swiftly was the thing done that Jack went down on all fours on the porch. But, thoroughly aroused, and his eyes flashing indignantly now, that boy was quickly on his feet. Dan, however, with a satisfied grin, had dropped into the chair.

"Going to get up out of that, Jaggers?" challenged Jack Benson.

"Not as I know of," rejoined Dan, with a broader grin. "Why?"

"Because I'd hate to hit you while you're sitting down," replied Jack so quietly that his voice sounded almost mild.

"What's that?" demanded Jaggers, with a guffaw of laughter.

"You heard what I said," Jack insisted. "You'd better get up."

"Spoiling for a fight, are ye?" questioned the bully.

"Not at all," Jack replied, still keeping his temper in check. "I never go about looking for trouble. I suppose you didn't know any better than to do what you did."

"What's that?" scowled Dan Jaggers.

"If you want to apologize, and get out of the chair, I'll let it go at that," pursued Jack, coolly.

"Hey?" demanded Dan Jaggers, aghast. "Me—apologize?"

He sprang up suddenly, resting a broad paw heavily on Jack's shoulder. But Benson, without flinching, or drawing back, returned the ugly look steadfastly.

"You're behaving like a pretty poor grade of tough," spoke Jack, in deep disgust.

"I am, hey?" roared Dan. He drew back, aiming a heavy fist for Benson's chest. It was a mistake, as he quickly realized, for Jack Benson, from much practice in boxing, was as agile and slippery as a monkey and an eel combined. Jack dodged, then came up under with a cleanly aimed though not hard blow on Jaggers's chin.

"I'll learn ye!" roared Dan, returning two ponderous blows in quick succession. To his intense astonishment Jack wasn't in the way of either blow, but came in with a neck blow on Jaggers's left side that sent the bully reeling to the gravel beyond the porch.

"Come right down here!" challenged the bully, hoarsely. "We'll find out about this."

Jack Benson hesitated. He did not care about fighting. Yet, seeing that Jaggers meant to have a final encounter, Jack dropped nimbly down to the gravel.

Dan Jaggers rushed at him, both fists up on guard, his whole attitude more cautious since he had had a taste of the smaller youth's quality. Jack was about two inches shorter and fully thirty pounds lighter, but he made one think of a dancing master as he skipped away before the big fellow's rushes.

"Stand still, won't ye, drat ye?" roared Dan, driving in another heavy blow.

But Benson dodged, then came in under the bully's guard, landing a stinging blow on the tip of his nose. Under punishment Dan let out a noise resembling the bellow of an angry bull. Glowering, he stood uncertain, for a moment, but Jack was tantalizingly just out of his reach, smiling confidently. Then Jaggers leaped forward, hopeful of winding his arms around this foe and crushing him into submission. A second later, however, Dan fell backward, yelling with pain, for Jack Benson had landed a left handed blow just under his opponent's right eye, partly closing it. Dan bent over double, still groaning.

"Well, I swan!" said the astonished Jabez Holt, in the doorway of his hotel.

Jack stood his ground a few moments, watching until he felt sure that his enemy did not intend to carry the affair further. Then the younger boy stepped lightly back to the porch, standing just before the chair from which he had lately been evicted.

"Just bear in mind, I'll git square with ye for this!" uttered Jaggers, wrathfully, glaring at young Benson with his undamaged eye. Then he turned and stalked away, muttering under his breath.

"Well, I swan!" remarked Jabez Holt again, now stepping out onto the porch. "I guess that sartain done Dan Jaggers some good. He needs some of that medicine, friends. An' say, here's Josh Owen coming up from Farnum's boatyard."

Jack and Hal both turned quickly to gaze down the road at a man just coming out through the gate of Farnum's yard.

"He's the man we want to meet," cried Jack Benson, breathlessly.

"I dunno," replied Mr. Holt, shaking his head, ominously. "I dunno as it'll do ye much good, now. Dan Jaggers is Josh Owen's nephew and favorite!"



"My type of torpedo boat is going to rule the seas in naval warfare," declared David Pollard, his eyes a-kindle with the enthusiasm of the sincere inventor.

"I'm sure of it," replied Jack Benson, quietly. "That's why, Mr. Pollard, Hal and I are so anxious to get into this work. Mr. Pollard, when your type of submarine diving torpedo boat is understood by the United States Government you'll need some reliable and intelligent experts. Take us in now. Let us learn the work with you. Let us go ahead, keeping pace with the progress in Pollard torpedo boats, and you will never be sorry you have two young fellows you can depend upon."

"That's so, if you can come near to making as good as you promise," admitted the inventor, thoughtfully. "But you're pretty young."

"And that's the only fault with the Pollard submarine boat," rejoined Jack Benson, artfully. "You've got to buck your boat against all the older types that the Government already takes an interest in. Yet you feel sure that you can do it. You don't believe the Pollard diving boat is too young. Give us the same show you ask for your boat."

"Well, I've never seen any of your work—except these drawings," replied Mr. Pollard, indicating some sheets that lay on the table before them.

The chums had succeeded in making the inventor's acquaintance through the aid of the landlord. It was now eleven o'clock at night. Jack and Hal had been in the inventor's room for the last three hours. Benson had done most of the talking, though Hal had now and then put in some effective words.

David Pollard was now thirty years of age, tall, lean and of pallid countenance. He was a graduate of a technical school. Though not a practical mechanic, he had a rather good lot of theory stored away in his mind. He had inherited some money, soon after leaving school, but this money had vanished in inventions that he had not succeeded in marketing. Now, all his hopes in life were centered in the submarine torpedo boat that was nearly completed. Pollard had had no money of his own to put into the craft. Jacob Farnum was his friend and financial backer.

No one could grasp how much success with his submarine boat meant to this wearied yet hopeful inventor. For years all his schemes had been laughed at by "practical" men. It was success, more than mere fortune, for which David Pollard hungered. The officials of the Navy Department, at Washington, had promised to inspect and try the boat, when finished, but that was all the encouragement that had come from the national capital.

If the "Pollard," as the new craft was at present named, should prove a failure, then the inventor felt that he would be "down" indeed in the world. Also, he must feel that he had buried one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of the money of his loyal friend, Farnum.

In his present anxious, worried frame of mind, with few real believers in the possible success of his boat, it was little wonder that David Pollard was grateful for any intelligent interest or faith in his plans. These two friends were but boys, nor had they had any experience in submarine boat construction. Yet they had shown the inventor that they knew much about machinery and marine engines in general, and Jack, with his handy knack of sketching machinery, had made a decided hit with poor Pollard.

"Just put us in as apprentices," begged Benson. "We'll be just the plainest sort of helpers, fetching and lifting, and that sort of thing, until we learn how to do more."

"Well, you see, for one thing, boys," replied Pollard, "this building of a submarine boat is very important and confidential work. Now, while I like the looks and talk of you both, I really don't know a thing about either of you."

"Of course you don't," Jack Benson admitted, frankly. "And it's highly important that you should. I know that. But you can telegraph the principal of the school we attended in Oakport, and you can telegraph the minister of our church, too. We'll abide by just what they say about us. And"— here Benson brought his little roll of bills once more into sight—"we'll pay for the telegrams and the answers."

"That looks right," nodded Mr. Pollard, with a slight smile. "There is just one more point. The superintendent of the yard, Mr. Partridge, isn't having anything to do with the building of the 'Pollard.' After the steel workers and the riveters had finished on the hull, then the inside work, including the fitting of the machinery, was turned over to Mr. Owen, our present foreman. Sometimes he's a crotchety fellow, and he might take a dislike to you youngsters."

"I've got to tell you about something that I think will make him take a dislike to us," spoke up Jack Benson, candidly. Then he recounted the afternoon's affair with Dan Jaggers.

"Yes, that certainly will stir up some feeling," replied Mr. Pollard. "In fact, it will make it very difficult for you to get along with Owen, for he thinks a lot of that disagreeable, bullying nephew of his. Yet, Benson, I like you a whole lot better for your honesty."

The inventor was silent for some moments, puffing slowly at a pipe, and then he removed the stem from between his teeth and continued:

"You've made a good impression upon me, both of you, and particularly with what you say about giving young fellows and young boats a chance to prove themselves. You talk like youngsters with some experience and some ideas in the matter of machinery. I admire your honesty. I also like what you say about the need Farnum and I will have, in the future, of young men who will understand our boats thoroughly. I don't know what you can do until we try you out."

He took a few more thoughtful pulls at his pipe and resumed: "See here, you come to the yard at eight o'clock in the morning, ready to do anything that's wanted of you. I won't wire, but I'll write, to-night, to the references you've given. If we find you're not of much use we'll drop you. If your references don't turn out to be unusually good, out you go! But, if you make good, you'll have your chance. It's just your fighting chance, you understand. I'll fix the matter with Mr. Farnum."

"And the foreman?" smiled Jack, wistfully.

Mr. Pollard looked grave as he answered:

"Look out not to invite any trouble with Joshua Owen, and avoid trouble with Jaggers, who works in the boat-fitting crew. I think we can get over the effects of your little trouble this afternoon. And now, boys, give me the addresses of your references, and I'll write at once."

A few moments later the chums bade the inventor good night, then hurried to their own room, though not to retire at once.

"Well!" demanded Jack Benson, his face radiant, as he thought of their "fighting chance."

"It was the way you put the whole matter to Pollard," replied Hal Hastings. "Jack, you're a wonder with your tongue. I believe you could talk a hole through a thick board fence."

"We've got our chance, anyway. And, oh, Hal! I believe it's going to be our real chance in life!"

"You'll soon be as wild about the 'Pollard' as the inventor himself," laughed Hastings, good-naturedly.

"It isn't going to be just the one boat, Hal," urged his chum, seriously. "It's the whole big problem of submarine warfare. It's going to be the warfare of the future, old chum! And, starting this early, we may become Pollard's real experts—his leading men when he's famous, successful and rich! We may even become his partners, through getting up improvements on his ideas. Hal, boy, we may even put through our own design of submarine boat one of these days."

"It'll be huge fun, anyway, if we can get a chance to cruise on a submarine boat-under water and all!" glowed young Hastings. "Say, there must be a wonderful thrill to going down deep in the ocean."

Thus they talked for another hour. It was very late when the two turned in, nor did they go to sleep at once. Yet, when the half-past six call came in the morning, both boys turned out in a jiffy. Excitement took the place of rest with them. They breakfasted with appetite. Shortly after half-past seven, though the yard was so near, Jack and Hal set out for their first day's work at boat building.

The gate was open, though the yard, as they stepped inside, had a deserted look. The partly finished hulls of two schooners lay on the ways down by the water front. There were half a dozen sloops in various stages of completion. There were two houses, close to the water's edge in which, as the boys afterwards learned, motor boats were built. But it was a rough shed, more than twenty feet high, and at least one hundred and twenty feet long, running down to the shore, that instantly caught Jack Benson's glance.

"There's where they must be putting the 'Pollard' in shape," he cried, eagerly, as he pointed. Both youngsters hurried toward that shed. As they reached it the inventor came into sight around the end. He was hollow-eyed, though alert; he looked even more worried than he had looked the night before.

"Ah, good morning, boys," was his greeting. "Early on hand, I see."

"When a fellow's whole heart is set on a thing, he isn't likely to lie abed until the last moment, is he, Mr. Pollard?" inquired Benson.

That speech impressed the inventor most favorably. He could appreciate enthusiasm.

"Come inside, and I'll show you something," he said, producing a key and leading the way to a door in the side of the shed.

Through the long, high windows of the shed an abundance of light fell. But Jack, once inside the door, halted, looking with lips parted and eyes wide open.

"O-o-o-oh!" he murmured.

"What is it?" inquired the inventor, curiously.

"The very, wonder of the thing," replied Benson, frankly, looking over the whole length of the "Pollard" as she lay propped up on the sturdy ways.

Nor did that simple speech make the inventor think any less of the boy. Though Hal Hastings remained silent for some time, his fascinated gaze rested steadily on the strange-looking outlines of the cigar-shaped bull of the boat.

The outer hull was of steel plates, carefully riveted into place. The entire length of the boat was about one hundred and ten feet, which in point of size placed her just about in the class of boats of this type which are being constructed to-day.

Near the center of the boat, on the upper side, was the conning tower, about nine feet in outside diameter, and extending some four feet above the sloping deck of the craft. Around the conning tower extended a flat, circular "platform" deck.

At the bow of the boat the torpedo tube projected a short distance. At the stern the rudder was in place, and all was in readiness for placing the propeller shaft and the propeller itself. On the floor of the shed, near the middle of this strange, dangerous boat, lay miscellaneous small pieces of machinery and fittings.

At the starboard side of the boat stood a ladder that ascended to the platform deck. In the top of the conning tower a man-hole cover stood propped up. It was through this opening that the workmen entered or left the boat.

From outside the shed several wires ran in. In dark weather these wires carried the current for electric lights in shed and boat.

"I won't ask you aboard until the foreman and other workmen arrive," explained Mr. Pollard. "It'll be only a few minutes to wait."

While they were still examining the outer hull, and discussing the submarine, Dan Jaggers, in his workman's clothes, reached the open doorway of the shed. One look inside, and he halted short. He gathered from the talk he heard that Jack Benson and Hal Hastings were to be added to the "Pollard's" working gang.

"Not if I know myself—and the foreman—and I think I do!" growled the Jaggers youth, backing away unseen.

The next of the workmen to arrive was Michael O'brien, red-haired and about twenty-eight years of age. He was good-humored and talkative, and the two boys took an immediate liking to him.

Through the gate of the yard came Joshua Owen, a man of forty-five, of medium height, broad-shouldered, black-haired and with a frame that spoke of great physical power and endurance. Yet he had restless, rather evil-looking eyes. He did not look like the sort of man whom a timid fellow would want for an enemy.

"Hold on there, Unc," greeted Dan Jaggers, motioning his foreman-uncle aside. "Say, you know that cheeky young fellow I told ye about—the tricky one that played the sneak on me, and gave me this black eye?"

"Haven't you met him and paid him back yet?" demanded Mr. Owen.

"Hadn't seen him again, until just now," complained Dan. "What do you think? Pollard has engaged that feller and his friend to work on the submarine."

"Has, eh? Without speaking to me about it?" demanded Joshua Owen, looking anything but pleased.

"Of course you'll let Pollard know that you're foreman and take on and lay off your own gang," hinted Jaggers.

"Now, you leave me alone, Dan, boy, to know what to do," retorted Mr. Owen. Then he stepped on toward the long shed, a very grim look on his face. Going inside the shed, the foreman looked the two boys over briefly.

"If you young men haven't any business in here," he ordered, "get out and on your way. Work is about to begin here. I'm the foreman."

"Oh, Mr. Owen," hailed the inventor, "these are two very bright young chaps, with some experience, that I've engaged to help us out with installing the machinery in the boat."

"Couldn't you have consulted me, sir?" asked the foreman, again looking keenly at the youngsters.

"When you've found out what they can do, Mr. Owen," replied Pollard. "I believe you'll be rather pleased with them. They're hired only on trial, you understand."

"I can tell whether we want 'em before we start work," grunted the foreman. With that he began to fire all manner of machine-shop questions at both boys. Yet Jack and Hal, paying respectful heed, answered in a way that showed them to be quite well informed about this class of work.

"They won't do Mr. Pollard—won't do at all," announced Foreman Owen, turning to the inventor. "I know their kind. They're glib talkers, and all that, but they belong to the know-it-all class of boys. I've had a lot of experience with that kind of 'prentices, and I don't want 'em bothering our work here. So I say, sir, the only thing for you to do is to send them about their business."

Foreman Owen spoke as though that settled the matter. Jack Benson and Hal Hastings felt their hopes oozing.

"I've told the boys they shall have a chance Mr. Owen," replied Pollard quietly, yet in a tone of authority. "So of course my word must be kept with them."

"But I'm the foreman," exclaimed Joshua Owen, irritably, "and I'm supposed to—"

"Exactly," interposed David Pollard. "You're supposed to obey all instructions from your superiors here, and to give your advice when it's wanted. I have much at stake in the success of this boat, and when I find what looks like good material for our working crew I'm going to try out that material."

"But I don't want to be bothered with boys, like these young fellows," retorted the foreman, angrily. "This is no job for amateurs!"

"The boys remain until they've been well tried out," retorted Pollard, firmly. "If they can't do our kind of work, then of course we'll let them go."

"I'll speak to Mr. Farnum about this business," muttered Foreman Owen, turning on his heel. Three other workmen had arrived during this talk. Now, at the order from Owen all climbed the ladder to the platform deck, thence disappearing through the manhole. Electric light was turned on inside the hull by the time that Jack and Hal appeared at the manhole opening.

Owen looked upward, from the floor of the boat, to scowl at them, but, as Mr. Pollard was right behind them, the foreman said nothing at that moment.

Last of all came Dan Jaggers. As he caught sight of the two newcomers he shot at them a look full of hate.

"I thought ye said those fellers couldn't work here," he muttered to his uncle.

"Keep quiet and watch out," whispered Joshua Owen. "They're not going to work here. I'll fix that!"



"Knock off!"

As the deafening din of hammers lessened David Pollard shouted that order through a megaphone.

Confined in a limited space, inside that bull of steel, the clatter, which outdoors would have been barely noticed, was something infernal in volume and sharpness. Human ear-drums could not stand it for any very great length of time.

By this time Jack Benson and Hal Hastings had had a good chance to see exactly what the interior of a submarine torpedo boat was like.

A level floor extended throughout the entire length of the "Pollard." Below this floor, reached by hatchways, were various small compartments for storage. Under the level of this floor, too, were the "water tanks." These were tanks that, when the craft lay or moved on the surface of the ocean, were to contain only air. Whenever it was desired to sink the torpedo boat, valves operated from the central room of the boat could be opened so that the water tanks would fill, and the weight of the water would sink the boat. In diving, the forward tanks could be filled first, and then, when the desired depth was reached, the other tanks could be filled entirely, or partly, in such a way as to control depth and position.

With the boat below the surface, and the commander wishing to return to the surface, compressed air could be forced into the water tanks, expelling all the water in them, or a part of the water, if preferred. The valves would then operate to keep more water from entering.

On the surface the "Pollard" was intended to be run by a powerful six-cylinder gasoline engine. When below the surface the boat was to be propelled by electric power supplied from storage batteries. Below the waves the gasoline engine could not be used, as such an engine consumes air and also creates bad vapors.

On the morning when our two young friends went to work the electrical engine was fully installed, and had been tested. The gasoline engine was in place, but the fittings had yet to be finished. In the course of this latter work the necessary connections were to be made between gasoline engine and dynamo.

The many strong-walled receivers for compressed air had been placed, and were now being more securely fitted and connected by the workmen. The final work on the compressed air apparatus was yet to be done by a special crew of workmen who were soon to come down from New York. A powerful, compact plant for compressing air was a part of this outfit.

Right up in the bow of the "Pollard" was the tube through which a Whitehead torpedo, fourteen feet in length, could be started on its destructive journey by means of compressed air force. One torpedo was to be carried in the tube, six others in special lockers on either side.

Back of the torpedo room was the rather cramped engine room in which were the gasoline and electric motors, other machinery and work-benches. Then came the central cabin, some twenty feet long and about ten feet wide. Here was a table, while the seats at the side could be arranged also as berths. Out of the cabin, aft, led a narrow passageway. Off this, on either side, were a narrow galley, cupboards, ice-box and toilet room. Nearer the stern were two compact state-rooms, one intended for two "line" or "deck" officers, the other for two engineer officers. There were other features about the "Pollard" that will be described as need arises.

For more than an hour the entire gang had been at work, though Joshua Owen had seen to it that Jack and Hal had nothing more to do than lift or hold heavy articles, fetch tools, etc. Still both boys stood this good-humoredly, paying strict attention to orders. David Pollard, watching them at times, and guessing how they might feel under such treatment, found his good opinion of the two newcomers still rising.

Stopping their work, when the order came, the workmen lighted their pipes. Jack and Hal, not liking the clouds of tobacco smoke, ran up the spiral staircase to the manhole, stepping, out upon the platform. As they did so they encountered a man of about thirty years of age who had just reached the platform deck from the shed flooring.

"Hullo, what are you two doing here?" questioned the new arrival, looking the boys over keenly.

"Are you Mr. Farnum?" asked Benson.

"Yes. Well?"

"Mr. Pollard put us to work here, Mr. Farnum."

"Oh! That's all right, then," replied the owner of the yard, amiably, and entered the conning tower.

"Tumble down here, you two lazy young roustabouts!" sounded Owen's voice a few minutes later.

"We seem to have made a hit with our foreman, don't we?" chuckled Jack to his chum.

"Mr. Owen," Pollard was saying to the foreman, as the boys rejoined the crew below, "we can't stand the ringing of hammers all the time, so, for the next job, I think you'd better fit some of the feed pipes connecting the gasoline tanks with the motor."

"All right, sir," replied Josh Owen, briefly. He turned to order Jaggers and O'brien to bring forward one of the longer pieces of feed pipe. This the foreman helped to fit in place.

"Mr. Pollard," reported Owen, soon, "this pipe is a small botch on the part of the contractor."

"What's wrong" asked the inventor, quickly, springing forward and bending over to examine.

"The pipe is about a half inch too long," replied Owen.

"But one of the superintendent's men over at the machine shop can cut it to fit?" asked the inventor, looking uneasy.

"Oh, he can cut it all right, but there's the new thread to be cut, too," explained the foreman, pointing. "I'm sorry, sir, but if you want a good job, without any danger of botch, you'll have to wire the contractors to rush a new pipe, cut exactly to the specifications."

"But that will delay us at least forty-eight hours, and the launching date is so near at hand," protested the inventor.

"You'd better put your launching off two days, Mr. Pollard, than take any chances of having a bad connection in your fuel feed pipes," argued the foreman.

"Confound such luck!" growled Pollard, turning away. "Well, come over to the office with me, and we'll wire a kick and a prayer to the contractors."

Just as he turned, the inventor barely failed to overhear something that Jack muttered in an aside to Hal.

"What's that you're saying, Benson?" demanded David Pollard.

"Oh, nothing much, sir," replied Jack, quickly. "I'm not foreman here, nor much of anything, for that matter."

"Were you expressing an opinion about this pipe business?"

"Ye-es, sir."

"You agree with me that the pipe can be cut properly at the machine shop of this yard?" insisted the inventor. It was strange to ask such a question of a boy helper, but David Pollard, facing a delay in the launching of his craft, was ready to jump at any hope.

Jack Benson hesitated.

"I want a reply," persisted Mr. Pollard.

"Why, yes," Jack admitted. "I don't want to be forward, but I feel pretty sure the pipe can be measured both for its own length and the length it ought to be. If there's a good metal saw over at the machine shop, and a thread cutter, this pipe ought to be ready for safe fitting in half an hour."

"That's the way it looks to me, too," broke in Mr. Farnum. "Send the pipe over, anyway, with the proper measurements, and Partridge can tell you what's what."

"I won't make the measurements. I won't have anything to do with it, or be responsible for a botched job," snarled the foreman.

"You don't have to, then," replied Farnum, taking a spring steel tape from his pocket. "Benson, you seem to have a clear-headed idea of what you're talking about. Take the measurements. This tape has been standardized."

It was not a matter of great difficulty. Jack, with his chum's aid, soon had the measurements taken.

"Since you youngsters know so much about it," growled Joshua Owen, "you two can carry the pipe over to the machine shop."

Other workmen sprang to help in passing the pipe up through the manhole and down over the side of the hull. When Jack and Hal got the pipe up on their shoulders they staggered a bit under its weight. But they were game, and started away with it.

"That's a shame," growled Mike O'brien. "Boss, leave me go 'an be helpin' the b'yes with that load."

"Go ahead," nodded Mr. Farnum. O'brien went nimbly down the ladder, placing one of his own sturdy shoulders under the forward end of the pipe, while Benson got back with Hal Hastings at the other end. In about three-quarters of an hour the trio were back, with the pipe cut to the right length, and with a new screw-thread cut at the shortened end.

"Now, you can demonstrate your own work, Benson," laughed Mr. Farnum. "Fit the pipe yourself, and call on the men for what help you want."

At that, Joshua Owen folded his arms as he stepped back scowling. Yet when the crew, under Jack's direction, had finished fitting the pipe in place, not even this angered foreman dared say that it was not fitted properly.

The next work called for fitting some pipe-joints, and in this a red lead cement was used. One of these joint-makings fell to Benson and Hal.

"Here's yer cement," muttered the scowling Dan Jaggers, passing a rough ball of the stuff to young Benson.

"Is this the best you have?" asked Jack, eyeing the cement with disfavor.

"Yes," growled Dan, "and it's plenty good enough."

"I'd call it too dry," replied Jack, quietly.

"Are you bossing this job all the way through?" demanded Joshua Owen, angrily, stepping forward. "Mr. Farnum, Mr. Pollard, if these boys are to have charge of this work, I may as well stop."

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Farnum, coining forward.

"This younker is grumbling about the red lead cement," snapped the irate foreman.

"What's the complaint, Benson?" asked the boatyard owner.

"No complaint, Mr. Farnum," Jack answered, quickly. "Only, I've got to make the joint fast with red lead cement, and it seemed to me that this stuff is too dry. If I use it, it won't fill out smoothly enough. It's dry and crumbly, and I'm afraid the joint would be very defective."

"Nothing of the sort!" snapped Joshua Owen. "Boy, you've no business trying to do a man's work, anyway. Give me that cement, and I'll make the joint fast myself."

"All right," nodded Benson, stepping back. He started to pass the chunk of cement to the foreman, but Mr. Farnum quickly took it from him, then cast a look upward. Asa Partridge, the yard superintendent, a man past fifty, stood on the platform deck, looking down through the open manhole.

"Come down here, Mr. Partridge," hailed the yard's owner, while Joshua Owen's scowl became deeper than ever. "Mr. Partridge, Benson says this cement is too dry to make a joint tight with. Owen says it isn't. Who wins the bet?" the owner finished, laughingly.

Asa Partridge, a man of long experience in steam-fitting, took the chunk of cement, examining it carefully, then picked it to pieces before he rejoined dryly:

"Why, the boy wins, of course. Any apprentice ought to know that cement as dry as this stuff can't make a tight joint."

"Isn't there some better cement than this around?" called out Mr. Farnum.

"If there isn't," volunteered the superintendent, "I can send you over plenty. But the use of such stuff as that would leave some joints loose, and make a breakdown of the boat's machinery certain."

"You see, Owen," spoke the yard's owner, quietly, turning to the foreman, "you're letting your dislike for these boys spoil your value here as foreman."

"I've stood all I'm going to stand here," shouted Joshua Owen, in a tempest of rage, as he snatched off his apron. "You're letting these boys run the job—"

"Nothing of the sort," broke in Farnum, icily. "They haven't tried to run anything. But any workman is entitled to complain when he's expected to perform impossibilities with poor material."

"There ye go, upholding 'em again," roared the foreman. "I'm through. I've quit!"

"I don't know as that's a bad idea, either, Owen," replied Mr. Farnum, in the same cool voice. "When you don't care how you botch a job it's time for you to walk out. You can call at the office this afternoon, and Mr. Partridge will give you your pay."

Joshua Owen glared, amazedly, at his employer. Then, seeing that his threat had been taken at par, and that he was really through here, the infuriated man wheeled like a flash, leaping at Jack Benson from behind and striking the boy to the floor. But Grant Andrews, O'brien and others leaped at him and pulled him away.

Jacob Farnum pointed up the spiral staircase, as Jack Benson leaped to his feet, hardly hurt at all.

"You can't get out of here too quickly, Owen!" warned the owner. "If you linger, I'll have you helped out of this boat! Grant Andrews, you're foreman here from now on."

"First of all, see that that fellow gets out of here in double-quick time."

"Come along, Dan!" called Owen, hoarsely to his nephew, as he started up the stairway.

"Yes, run along, Danny," added Farnum, mockingly. "You're no better than your uncle!"

After the pair had departed it took all hands at least five minutes to cool down from their indignation. Then they resumed work, and all went smoothly under the quiet, just, alert new foreman, Grant Andrews.

That afternoon, as Jack crossed the yard, going on an errand from Mr. Pollard to the office, he encountered Josh Owen and his nephew. The pair had just collected their pay from the superintendent. They were talking together, in low, ugly tones, when they caught sight of the boy.

Though Benson saw them in season to avoid coming close to them, he neither dodged the pair nor courted a meeting. He would have passed without speaking, but Joshua Owen seized the boy by one arm.

"I s'pose ye feel me and you had trouble, and you got the best of it?" leered the former foreman, then scowled. "But listen to me, younker. Ye're going to run into trouble, and quicker than ye think, at that. That old cigar shaped death-trap won't float—not for long, anyway. All I'm hoping is that ye'll go in for bein' one of the crew of that submarine boat. Then I'll be even with a lot of ye all at the same time!"

With which enigmatic prophecy Joshua Owen let go of the boy's arm, and tramped heavily away, followed by his precious nephew.



"Have you seen anything of Owen, since he was discharged?"

It was David Pollard who put the question, while the crew, under the new foreman, Andrews, was busy the next day with more work on the motor fittings.

Then, for the first time, except to his chum, Jack Benson told of his meeting in the yard.

"Making threats against you, and against the boat, is he?" smiled Mr. Pollard. "Well, he can't get near the boat. Partridge took the precaution of getting the keys back from Owen yesterday afternoon, when the fellow went to get paid off. But as for his threats against you—"

"It will be just as well to look out for the fellow, Benson, and you, too, Hastings," put in young Mr. Farnum, who happened to be aboard. "Owen is an ugly fellow, and a powerful one, and I imagine he possesses a certain amount of rough brute courage."

"I'm not afraid of him, sir," replied Jack, coolly. "At the same time, of course, I'll keep my eyes open."

"Owen probably can't hang around Dunhaven very long, anyway," continued the owner of the yard. "I don't believe he has very much saved. Of course, he can't get any work in his line in Dunhaven, now that this yard is closed to him. So look out for a day or two, and, after that, I guess he'll be gone."

"I'll keep my eye open, but I shan't lose any rest," smiled young Benson, confidently—too confidently, as the sequel proved.

Work was now proceeding at a rapid rate. Andrews was an ideal foreman, quiet, alert, watchful and understanding his trade thoroughly. He was something of a driver, as to speed, but workmen do not resent that if the one in authority be just and capable.

"I wish we had had you as foreman from the start, Andrews," remarked the inventor.

"Well, I was here, and ready to be called at any time," replied the new foreman, with a smile.

"By the way, you don't seem to have any trouble with Benson or Hastings," pursued Mr. Pollard.

"Not a bit. They're good helpers. In fact, young as they are, they are a long way on the road to being real mechanics."

"You don't find them forward, or—well, fresh?"

"They're not the least bit troubled that way," replied the new foreman emphatically. "Owen didn't get along with them, and couldn't have done so, because he's a nagger, and no self-respecting workman will stand for a nagger. There were times when O'brien and I wondered if we hadn't better pitch him out and then leave our jobs."

Thus matters went along most smoothly. Jack Benson and Hal Hastings, with a good general knowledge of mechanics, and willing to work hard and tackle new problems, were learning much. Even before the "Pollard" was launched and sent on her trial trip these two boys showed remarkable proficiency in equipping and handling this wonderful class of craft.

In the meantime the boys had left the hotel, taking up their quarters at a comfortable boarding-house where Foreman Andrews lived. Though Farnum was paying them fair wages, they were thrifty enough to be on the lookout for any outside work with their camera outfit. So it happened that, one evening after supper, Jack and Hal, carrying their outfit, set out on a walk of more than two miles. They had secured an order to go to a wealthy man's summer "cottage," as the great, handsome pile was called, there to make some flashlight photographs of some of the large, expensively furnished rooms.

Time flew, and the owner of the cottage caused many delays by wishing furniture shifted about before the photographs were made. It was after eleven o'clock at night when the two submarine boys left the cottage to tramp back to Dunhaven. As they neared the village they heard the town clock striking midnight. That was the only sound they could hear besides the movement of their own feet. Dunhaven was wrapped in sound slumber.

Their way led the boys close to Farnum's boatyard. As they came around a corner of the fence, Hal, who was slightly in the lead, stepped back quickly, treading on his friend's toes.

"Sh!" whispered Hastings. "Keep quiet and take a sly peep around the corner. Look up along the fence and see what you make out."

Slipping off his hat, Jack took a hasty look, exposing very little of his head, while Hal now crowded close to him from behind.

"Someone trying to scale the fence," whispered Jack. "By Jove, there he goes. He has a good hold, and is going—now he's over in the yard."

Such stealthy prowling could mean little else than mischief brewing. To both the boys came instantly the same thought:

"The submarine boat!"

"Did you recognize him?" whispered Hal, quivering.

"No; too dark for that, and, besides, he was too quick. But we must hustle to alarm someone."

"There's a watchman in the yard," Hal replied. "He ought to be getting busy."

"I don't hear any hail, or any shot," Jack replied. "Hal, old fellow, we've got to do something ourselves."

"Well, we can climb the fence as well as that stranger did."

"We'd better. Here, take the flashlight gun. Pass that and the camera up as soon as I get to the top of the fence. We can't leave our outfit outside—it's worth too much money."

With that Jack Benson swiftly found a knothole in which he could get a slight foot-hold. With that start he was quickly up on top of the ten-foot fence. Bending down he took camera and flashlight "gun." Hal hurriedly followed. Down in the yard, they started speedily though softly forward, going by impulse straight toward the submarine's shed, though keeping in the shadow of other buildings.

Arrived at one corner of the office building, young Benson, who was in the lead, signaled a stop. Hal halted just behind him.

"It's the submarine, all right, that the fellow's after," whispered Jack excitedly, as he peeped. "Make him out over there, at the door? Gracious! He's unlocking and throwing the padlock off. And, blazes! Can't you make out who it is, Hal?"

"Josh Owen! But he gave up his keys."

"He had at least one duplicate, then," declared Jack, in a tremulous whisper. "There, he's gone inside. Come on, Hal—soft-foot! We'll take a near look at what he's doing."

There was some distance to be traveled, and it had to be done with the utmost stealth. Whatever Josh Owen—if it was truly he—was doing in the submarine shed, the young shadows did not wish to put him on his guard until they had caught him red-handed.

"Where's the night watchman while all this is going on?" wondered Jack as he tip-toed forward. It was afterwards discovered that the watchman, who sometimes drank liquor, was at this moment sound asleep in one of the sheds. There was no time to be squandered in looking for him if Josh Owen was to be followed and foiled.

Creeping to the now open door of the submarine's shed, Jack, who was in the lead, took a peep inside.

There was a dim light in there, though it came from the further side of the hull. Benson signaled, and his friend followed him, stealthily, a step or two at a time, around to the stern of the "Pollard" as she lay on the stocks.

By this time a noise that plainly proceeded from the use of tools came to the ears of the boys. Their nerves were on the keenest tension as they reached the stern of the propped-up hull.

Then they came in sight of the quarry. Almost in the same flash they realized what the night's mischief was.

Depending wholly on the light of a dark lantern that lay on the floor of the shed, Owen, with two or three tools, was swiftly, wickedly tampering with one of the sea-valves belonging to one of the forward water compartments of the submarine.

This valve, if leaking badly when the craft lay submerged, would let in enough water to cause the "Pollard" to lurch and then go, nose-first, to the bottom. It was wholly possible, too, that a capable workman could tamper with the valve so that, on casual inspection, the damage would not be detected.

Hal Hastings's heart beat fast as he viewed this dimly illumined piece of cowardly treachery. His fingers itched to lay hold of Josh Owen, uneven though the fight might be with both boys for assailants.

But Jack Benson, though his first impulse was to let out a Comanche yell, and then dart forward into the fray, instantly conceived a plan that he thought would work better.

Gripping his chum's arm for silence, Jack whispered in his ear:

"Can you set the camera for universal focus, here in the shadow?"

"I—I think so," came Hal's low, quivering reply.

"Do it—like lightning, then!"

In his hand Jack held the flashlight "gun." It was one of those patent affairs, arranged to fire a charge of magnesium powder by the explosion of a cap when the trigger was pressed.

Dropping to one knee, Hal set the camera, half by instinct, half by guess. While he did so, Jack fixed a charge of the powder in the firing pan of the "gun."

These preparations made hardly any noise; such as might have been heard in a silent room was drowned by the tap-tap of a small hammer that Josh Owen was at the moment using.

And now, without glancing back at the stern, the ex-foreman half-turned his head, so as to give a profile view of his face.

Hal, kneeling, turned up quickly to nod the signal that the camera was ready.

Pop! Flare!

As the cap exploded, a blinding flash filled that side of the shed for a brief instant. It was as through a lightning bolt had plunged into the place.

Wholly unprepared for any such happening, Josh Owen let out a yell of fear, rose up and leaped back so that he upset and extinguished his dark lantern.

"Wha-wha-what was that?" he faltered.

In the intense darkness that followed the flash Jack and Hal stole away.

Suffering all the terrors of a guilty conscience, increased by the terror of the inky darkness under such circumstances, Josh Owen tremblingly felt for his momentarily useless lantern. It took him some moments to find it. Even then his fingers shook so convulsively that it needed several trials before he got the light going.

By this time Jack and Hal were safely outside. More than that, Jack held in his hand the padlock of the door, with the false key in it.

"Why not slam the padlock shut over the door and lock him in there until we can get someone here?" whispered Hal Hastings.

By this time the two boys were hiding behind the corner of a nearby building.

"I thought of that," whispered Jack, "and I'd like to do it. But Owen has a fearful temper. If we locked him in there, and he knew he had to be caught, he'd do thousands of dollars' worth of damage. As it is, if you watch out, you'll soon see him quitting that shed and getting away as fast as he can."

Not more than a few seconds later Josh Owen appeared at the door of the shed. He shut off the light from his dark lantern, then stole swiftly towards the fence. Going up and over, he vanished from sight.

"Now, we'll lock the shed, take this false key to Mr. Andrews, and let him decide whether to rouse Mr. Pollard or Mr. Farnum," announced Jack Benson.

Grant Andrews, as soon as he was aroused at the boarding house, and had been made to understand, took the false key, saying:

"I'll go over to the hotel and call Dave Pollard. Then I'll do whatever he says."

The inventor was greatly excited over the news borne to him by the new foreman. Together they hurried to the Farnum yard, unlocked the door to the submarine's shed, entered and made a hasty examination.

Thanks to the promptness of Jack Benson and Hal Hastings, Josh Owen had not had time to inflict more damage to the forward sea-valve than could be readily repaired.

"I guess that was what the infernal rascal meant when he told Jack Benson that the 'Pollard' would dive to the bottom and stay there," exclaimed the inventor, in a shaking voice. He smiled a ghastly smile.

"We'll put a stop to such pranks after this," replied the new foreman. "Until your craft is launched, sir, I'll sleep here nights, beginning with what's left of to-night."

Before the inventor left the yard, he hunted for and found the drunken night watchman, who was still asleep. That worthless guard was discharged the following day.



When the new foreman's gang started on the "Pollard," at eight in the morning, there was no outward ripple to show that anything unusual had happened. True, Jacob Farnum arrived at the shed earlier than he was accustomed to do, but those of the workmen who were not in the secret thought nothing of that.

Half an hour later Josh Owen, a peculiar, gleaming look in his eyes, showed his head at the manhole opening over their heads.

"Good morning, Mr. Farnum," he called.

"Good morning, Owen," answered the yard's owner. "Come right down."

Owen came down the spiral staircase, looking curiously about him.

"I got your note, Mr. Farnum," began the ex-foreman. "What's the matter? Find you need me here, after all?"

"Not for long," replied Mr. Farnum, coldly. "Owen, before you gave your keys in to Mr. Partridge you must have taken an impression of one of them and must have fitted a key to the pattern. Why were you here last night?"

"Me? I wasn't here last night—nor any other night," Josh Owen made haste to answer, though a look of guilty alarm crept into his face. All of the workmen had ceased their toil, and stood looking on at this unusual scene.

"You say you weren't here last night?" demanded Mr. Farnum, sternly. "And you didn't use any false key to get into this shed?"

"Of course I didn't," retorted the ex-foreman, defiantly. "You wrote a note to me that, if I'd come around here this morning, I'd hear of a job. I didn't come here to be insulted."

"The job I mentioned in my note," rejoined Mr. Farnum, with a meaning smile, "is over at the penitentiary. Owen, you did come here last night. You scaled the fence at the west side, crossed the yard, opened the door of this building with this key—"

Here the yard's owner held out the false key, that all might see it.

"—and," finished Mr. Farnum, "you came in here and went to work to damage a sea-valve forward on this craft. The valve shows, this morning, very plain traces of having been tampered with."

Josh Owen was summoning all his courage, all his craft. Instead of looking frightened, he glared boldly at his accuser.

"Who says I did such a thing?" he demanded, hotly.

"Benson and Hastings saw you at your rascally work, my man."

"Humph!" snorted the ex-foreman. "Who? Those boys?"


"Humph! I wouldn't believe those boys under oath, and you'll make a huge mistake if you do, Mr. Farnum," continued Josh Owen, hotly.

"Then you deny that you were here, and that you tampered with a sea-valve last night?" insisted the yard's owner, looking his man keenly in the eyes.

"I'll deny it with my dying breath," asserted the former foreman, boldly. "As for those lying boys—"

"Do you believe this can lie?" inquired Mr. Farnum, passing the accused man a photograph print.

Josh Owen took the print, staring at it hard. In an instant his eyes began to open as wide as it was possible for them to do. A sickly, greenish pallor crept into the man's face. Beads of cold perspiration appeared on his forehead and temples.

"You see, your face shows up very clearly," went on the yard's owner, in the same cold, crushing voice. "Moreover, it shows you right at one of the sea-valves, and in the very act of tapping with a hammer. You didn't know that Benson and Hastings are very fair photographers, did you?"

"I don't care what they are," cried Owen, in a passionate voice, as before the print to small bits. "That isn't a photograph of me, even if it does look like me, and I wasn't here last night. I—"

"Any judge and jury will believe the evidence against you, my man," cried Farnum, sternly. "As for the boys, maybe you don't like them, nor they you. They've reason enough for not liking you. Besides, they couldn't photograph anything that wasn't here to be photographed."

"Then it was that flash—" began Josh Owen.

He stopped instantly, biting his lips savagely.

"Yes, they took the picture by flashlight, and you've just admitted remembering the flash that interrupted your rascally labor," exclaimed Mr. Farnum, triumphantly. "As for the print you've just torn up, Owen, it doesn't make any difference. There are other copies of it. Now, my fine fellow, you've been trapped just as nicely as the law requires, and, in addition, you know you're guilty of the whole thing. Now—"

But Owen leaped up the spiral staircase, shouting:

"I won't be taken alive! I—"

Andrews, O'brien and another workman sprang forward to seize the fellow, but Mr. Farnum called them back. Josh Owen got down from the platform deck, and out of the shed in a twinkling.

"Let him go," ordered, the yard's owner. "He won't be seen around Dunhaven after this. If he is, I can quickly enough put the law's officers on his track. But he'll vanish and stay vanished."

"I shan't soon forget the absolutely dumfounded look on his face when he saw that photograph," laughed Mr. Pollard. "It was a look of complete, incredulous amazement."

"I'm sorry for the wretch's family," sighed Mr. Farnum. "However, if Owen clears out promptly, and stays away from this part of the country, I'll give him an opportunity for a new chance."

Then the work went on again. Even with the thorough examination of the sea-valve that had been, tampered with, there was not so much to be done, for this was the last day of the work. On the morrow Dunhaven was to be more or less alive, for the "Pollard" was to be launched then. Many visitors, including a swarm of newspaper men, were expected. An officer of the United States Navy was also booked to be present, to witness the launching, and to note how the "Pollard" might sit on the water afterwards.

Before four o'clock the last stroke of work had been done. Mr. Farnum, the anxious, inventor, the foreman and the others went all over the submarine marine craft, inside and out, locking for any detail of the work that might have been slighted.

"It's all done—finished," cried David Pollard, nervously.

"And, Mr. Andrews, you'll have a real guard here to-night to help you keep watch," announced Jacob Farnum. "We've heard the last of Owen, without a doubt, but we won't take a single chance to-night. Now, men, all be here at seven in the morning, ready for work. The launching is to be at ten o'clock, but at the last moment we may find that something needs overhauling. Now, you've all worked hard and faithfully." "Here's a little present for each of you, with much more to come if the boat proves the success we hope."

As the men passed him, Jacob Farnum handed each a crisp ten-dollar banknote. Even Jack and Hal were thus remembered.

"But we haven't been here, sir, long enough to earn this present," protested Jack Benson.

"You haven't been here long, perhaps," smiled Mr. Farnum. "But think of what you did last night. By the way, Benson, and Hastings, I want to see you at my office at once."

Wondering somewhat, the youngsters followed their employer, and David Pollard accompanied them.

"Now, then, boys," began their employer, seating himself at his desk, "I want to say to you that my friend Pollard hired you on the strength of your general appearance and the impression you both made. At the same time Pollard was careful to write to the references you gave in your home town. This noon he received letters from your former school teacher and your minister. Both speak in the nicest terms of you both, as honorable, upright, hard-working young men."

"It's fine to know that one is remembered in that way," Jack replied, his face, and Hal's, showing their pleasure.

"Now, to go on," continued Mr. Farnum, "as soon as the boat is in the water there comes up the question of a crew for the 'Pollard.' Some of our good hands, especially those with families, say very frankly that their taste doesn't run to going down in diving boats, on account of the possible chance that the Pollard might not be able to get up to the surface again. But Pollard tells me that you've applied for a chance to belong to the crew of the boat."

"That's our biggest wish, gentlemen!" cried Jack Benson, his eyes glowing.

"Nothing else could give us half the delight," confirmed Hal Hastings.

"Then we're going to give you the chance," announced Mr. Farnum, while David Pollard nodded. "But, of course, you're not blind to the fact that, even on the most perfect submarine torpedo boat, there's some risk to your lives."

"One isn't wholly safe, either," retorted Jack, coolly, "in crossing a crowded city street."

"Then you're both alive to the danger, but not afraid to chance it?"

"We're ready for anything in the submarine boat line," declared Jack and Hal, in the same breath.

"Then that's settled. You're both engaged to serve aboard the 'Pollard' when she floats—and dives," wound up Mr. Farnum, dropping back into his matter-of-fact tone, and mopping his face, for the July afternoon was exceedingly hot. "By the way, boys, how do you feel about taking a little pleasure trip to-night? How'd you like to take one of my horses and a buggy, after supper?"

"Fine and splendid," replied Jack, with enthusiasm.

"And, by the way, since your references are so good, I can give you a chance to try to make a little extra money, if you like."

"Extra money is highly prized in the town where we come from, sir," laughed young Benson.

"Well, see here, over at Waverly Center, eight miles from here, is a man named George Forrester. Now, Forrester owes me, and has owed me, for some time, eight hundred dollars for a little boat we built him here. Forrester was always considered a safe man, but for some reason he has let this bill run. If you care to, you may take the bill and drive over to see him to-night. I'll pay you a commission of five per cent. on the whole bill, or any part that you can collect. But I warn you that you may find Forrester a bit shy about settling."

No matter! A chance to get in forty dollars in an evening looked extremely attractive to these young submarine boys.



"I wonder if we shall find our man at home?" remarked Jack Benson, as he and his chum drove over the road to Waverly Center in the early evening.

"I wonder if he'll settle the bill!" rejoined Hal.

"If he has the money, and doesn't settle, it'll show what poor collectors we are," laughed Jack.

"Very few men keep eight hundred dollars around the house," objected young Hastings.

"And our man won't have that amount in cash, either. I'd be almost afraid to take that amount of real money, at night. If Mr. Forrester is willing to do something pleasant for us, it will be in the form of a check, of course."

"I'd like to come out all right with Mr. Forrester, of course," Hal admitted. "But, to tell the truth, I haven't been thinking much about Jack, old fellow, all my real thoughts are on our wonderful chance to be part of the trial crew of the 'Pollard.'"

"Same here," admitted Benson. "Say, money does look rather small, compared with a chance like ours. Now, doesn't it?"

So they hardly mentioned Mr. Forrester on the rest of that cool, delightful drive. Arrived at Waverly Center, however, they had to inquire the way to the Forrester house. They found it, a comfortable though not pretentious house. The owner was at home, and saw them at once.

"May we see you alone, Mr. Forester?" asked Jack Benson, respectfully.

"Is it as bad as all that?" laughed their host, I a pleasant-faced, rather bald man past forty. "Come into my little den, then."

He conducted them to a small room that looked as though it served partly the purposes of library and partly of office.

"Now, what can I do for you?" inquired Mr. Forrester.

"We represent Mr. Farnum, of Dunhaven," began Jack, slowly.

"Farnum? Oh, yes, the boat-builder. He must know that I don't want anything new in his line, and on any other business I imagine he would have sent someone—er—older."

"Mr. Farnum believed you would find it wholly convenient, now, to settle the account for the last bill," Benson went on, slipping the statement from an inner pocket and laying it on the desk before Mr. Forrester. That gentleman frowned slightly.

"I trust we haven't called at the wrong time, and that it will be wholly convenient for you this evening," Jack continued.

"But, see here, young man, I know nothing about you. You have the bill, true, but it is not receipted."

"I will receipt it, in Mr. Farnum's name."

"All well and good," replied Mr. Forrester. "But—pardon me—how do I know that you have any authority to receipt for this account?"

"Then I think you will appreciate my painstaking care to make everything regular and satisfactory," laughed Jack, very quietly. "Here is a paper, signed by Mr. Farnum, authorizing me to receipt this account in his name. You may keep this authorization along with the receipt. Mr. Forrester, it is growing late, and we are obliged to be at business early in the morning. You will oblige us by letting us have your check, won't you?"

Benson spoke as though he had not a doubt of immediate settlement. Yet his tone and his manner were such as not to give the least offense to the man who was being "dunned."

"Why, this—er—is rather a late time in the day to collect bills," hinted Mr. Forrester, in an uncertain voice.

"Had the matter not been just a little pressing we wouldn't have ventured over as late," Benson replied, softly. "However, you understand what I would say, don't you, Mr. Forrester?"

There was something about the young speaker's manner, his tone, the look in his eyes, that proclaimed him to be anything but a "quitter." Mr. Forrester began to feel that, if he succeeded in evading payment this evening, he would only have to see these young men frequently.

"Well, you see, Benson," he said, at last, "I don't want to draw for such a sum against my check account before to-morrow."

"I think we could come again to-morrow, if we have to," responded young Benson, as though thinking it over.

"I am going to make a deposit in my bank in the morning," continued the man.

"Then we are to come again to-morrow evening?" insisted Jack.

"Why, hang it, no. If you'll take cash, instead of check, I can let you have the money to-night."

But that gentleman added, under his breath:

"I may as well settle to-night as have them coming again to-morrow."

"Why, certainly we'll take the cash, to-night," replied young Benson, his face beaming at thought of how easily a fine commission was to be earned as part of an evening's pleasure.

Mr. Forrester, having made the offer, began secretly to regret it. He was a man who meant to pay his debts, but just now he felt that he would really like to have the money to use in other directions.

Jack, however; began to suspect that some such thought was in the other's mind.

"With your permission, Mr. Forrester," said the boy, reaching over the desk, "I'll borrow one of your pens."

In a firm, clear hand Jack Benson promptly receipted the bill, dating the receipt as well, and affixing his own name as the collector.

"Now, that's all done," smiled Jack, pleasantly, putting back the pen, blotting the fresh ink and passing the paper half forward.

Stifling a sigh, Mr. Forrester rose, going to his safe. A few turns of the combination lock and he pulled the steel door open.

"Nine hundred and fifty dollars that came in this afternoon. I intended to bank it in the morning," he said, then began to count "If a burglar broke in to-night and cracked the safe," he added, with a laugh, "I'd be glad, in the morning, that I had settled this bill with cash."

Jack received the bills with a rapidly beating heart. He counted them, found the amount correct, and passed half the money to Hal Hastings.

"For safety, Hal," he suggested, "I think we'd better divide the money, and then each of us put half of his own pile in each shoe."

Mr. Forrester watched with something like an amused smile as the two youngsters crossed the room, removing their shoes, and putting small packets of bills down inside.

"I suppose that's in order that a hold-up artist would pass the money by," he chuckled. "Well, boys, I wish you a safe journey back with your money. We don't often have any hold-ups on these quiet roads, anyway."

Before leaving, Jack took pains to thank his host again, very courteously, for the settlement of the account. Then the boys went outside, untied the horse, got into the buggy and drove away.

"Well, that's a pretty smooth profit for one evening," laughed Jack, as he turned the horse's head into the highway.

"Forty dollars you make, in one evening," commented Hal.

"Twenty apiece, you mean, old fellow. You were with me in this."

"But I didn't have to do any of the talking, or anything else."

"Just the same, Hal, you know we're still partners."

"Whew!" said Hastings, uneasily. "I shall be nervous until we reach Mr. Farnum's house and hand him the money. Hold up a minute, Jack, while we're near houses."

"What's the game?" inquired Benson, as his chum leaped down into the road and began to rummage about.

"These may be of some use to us in the buggy; just possibly," replied Hal, returning with a half dozen stones, the size of hens' eggs, which he placed on the seat between them. "It's the only form of arms we have, Jack," he whispered, "and we're carrying a heap more money than we could make good in a long time."

"We've got only a few miles to go," laughed Jack, easily. "Besides who'd ever think of holding up boys? And no one but Mr. Forrester knows that we have the cash."

In the first five miles that they drove from Waverly Center the boys passed only two other horse-drawn vehicles and one automobile. Then, suddenly, the keen ears of both boys heard a sound as of some human being wailing in acute distress.

A moment later they came in sight of the cause of the sounds. A hatless, dirty, illy-dressed youngster of perhaps ten years stood by the roadside, howling and digging his soiled fists into his eyes as he blubbered. At sight of the horse and buggy this small sample of human misery looked up to call, appealingly:

"Hey! Oh, mister!"

"Well," demanded Jack, reining in the horse, "what's the matter?"

"Oh, mister, mister! It's me mother!"

"What's the matter with her? Where is she?"

"She's in there," pointing under the trees just off the road. "We was walkin' along, an' one o' them otterbubbles must ha' hit her. She give a yell, then crawled inter them bushes. She hain't said nuthin' lately—an' oh! I'm dreadful scared!"

"Poor little chap!" muttered Jack, handing the reins to his friend. "I'll go in and see what's wrong."

But Hal also jumped out, hastily hitching the horse. Then they followed their youthful guide in under the trees, to a clump of bushes. There in the dark Jack and Hal saw a huddled mass of something lying on the ground. Benson was the first to bend over, but Hal, also peering intently, was close at his side.

"Why, this isn't anything human," called Jack. "It's just a—"

Thump! A jarring blow fell upon him from behind, knocking the boy nearly unconscious. Hal, struck at the same moment, felt his head reel, and then did lose consciousness for a few moments.

"Ha, ha! Ho! ho!" roared the elfin youngster, his tears suddenly giving place to laughter as he fled.

It was Joshua Owen, aided by his bullying nephew, Dan Jaggers, who had made this sudden, treacherous assault. That both were well prepared for the miserable trick was shown by the speed with which they tied the hands of the helpless boys behind them.

"Now, bring your prize along," directed Owen, jubilantly, as he picked up Hal Hastings, bearing that youth on his shoulder.

Jaggers, though not a giant, was strong enough to do the same with Jack Benson. Further and further into the thicket they bore their captives, pausing only once, to gag their charges as soon as the latter showed a disposition to yell.

At last the rascally pair halted in the depths of the woods, dumping their human burdens on the ground.

"You're not the lightest thing I ever carried," growled Josh Owen, panting somewhat, as he reached for his pipe and filled it.

"Now!" clicked Dan Jaggers, shaking a dirty, heavy fist over Jack's face. "I can pay you back for that black eye, and all the other mean things you done to me, you sneak!"

"Oh, we'll pay ye both back," gritted Owen, lighting his pipe and puffing. "An' say! I hear ye're both slated for the launchin' of the 'Pollard' to-morrow, and that ye're to have a try as members of the crew. Well, ye won't be at the launching! Take it from me that, if ye ever git back to Dunhaven, 'twon't be for many a day yet. We've got a fine place to hide ye, near here. Nobody'll ever find ye, even if they take the trouble t'look. And, as the days go by, Dan and me will take plenty of chance t'show ye just how we feel about ye. We'll pay ye back, with loads of interest, younkers, for the mean things ye've done to us!"

As if to emphasize his spite, Owen gave each of them a kick as he stood over the boys, glaring down at them.

In the minds of Jack and Hal, torment was raging. Ordinarily, it would have been bad enough to be certain of missing the launching of the submarine boat, and of possibly losing their places in the crew. But now, a far greater terror assailed them. They had collected the eight hundred dollars. If they failed to appear and to turn it over, Jacob Farnum would have the best reason in the world for believing them defaulters.

"Wondering what I'm going to do t'ye, to square matters, ain't ye?" demanded Dan Jaggers, bending over and glaring into Jack's eyes. "Well, go on guessin'. My hate's that great that I'm goin' ter take plenty o' time to think it over 'fore I do a thing t'ye."

"I guess, first-off, Dan," observed his uncle, "ye'd better go back t' the road an' leave that horse somewheres further off. Probably, if ye do, it'll trot back into Dunhaven, and that'll be good enough."

"Got any money for licker?" demanded Dan. "I can git some an' bring it back."

"Go through the boys' pockets. Ye ought to find some cash there," hinted Owen.

Dan looted a few dollars from the pockets of each captive. Jack and Hal, however, were satisfied that their captors knew nothing of the great sum of money they had collected.

"And, while I think of it, Dan," continued Owen, "ye know where to leave them boys' shoes. Ye know who they'll fit."

Josh Owens started by unlacing Jack's shoes roughly and hauling them off. As he did so, oven in the darkness, he saw something fall the ground.

"Money!" gasped Josh Owen, in evil delight. "Look at the piles of it! Hurry with your younker, Dan. Maybe ye'll have the same luck."

Almost in a twinkling, it seemed to the groaning captives, the rascally pair had the whole sum of eight hundred dollars in their greedy hands.

Now, what would going back to Dunhaven be like for these two hapless submarine boys?

Even though they returned, manfully, at the first chance, how would their story of having been robbed sound? What a thin, hollow mockery it would seem, backed only by their own word!

To the two chums it almost seemed as though death would be sweeter!



"By the great sledge-hammer! Here's a whole bale of money!" gasped Dan Jaggers, after having emptied Hal's shoes.

Wholly unmindful of the one he had just robbed, Jaggers sat down on the ground, passing the banknotes between his fingers.

"I found a small hay-mow of money where I looked, too," observed Josh Owen, with intense satisfaction, though his manner was calmer.

"How much did you get?" demanded Dan, instantly prepared to be suspicious that his rascally uncle had happened upon the lion's share.

Josh Owen thrust his findings deep down in a trousers pocket before he replied:

"No one will see our light 'way in here. Wait till I light the dark lantern. Then we can count up. But—don't you try to hide any on me, Dan!"

So keenly did the older man watch the younger one that the former burned his fingers twice in attempting to light the lantern. Yet at last the lantern was lighted, the wick turned up not too high, and then the older man invited:

"Sit down in front of me, Dan, sociable like, so I can keep track of yer hands."

"D'ye think I'm the only one'll bear watching?" demanded Jaggers, hoarsely. "I ain't taken my eyes off that pocket o' your 'n. Now, pull out that money, an' be sure ye git it all out. Turn the pocket inside out. That's right. Now, you count your money, an' I'll watch. Then I'll count mine, an' you can watch, if ye wanter."

Mutual confidence being thus established between the rogues, the counting proceeded. Josh found that he had just four hundred dollars in his "findings." Dan Jaggers's count proved that that young bully possessed an exactly equal sum.

"Then there ain't no need o' dividing," declared Dan, thrusting his money into a trousers pocket and fumbling for a pin with which to close the top of the pocket. "Now, I'll go back to the road, find the hoss, an' drive him most of the way into town. Then I'll turn the hoss loose, to do his home-findin' an' I'll keep on until I can buy something in bottles."

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse