Victor G. Durham.

The Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep online

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reproaches at me, now. You were willing enough to help me send that
torpedo over at the 'Hastings.'"

"I can't understand how the torpedo missed," shivered Rhinds.

"Well, you were at the wheel," retorted Radwin in a low undertone. "You
held the nose of the boat true enough, too, I guess, when I let the
torpedo drive. But that infernal Jack Benson was on the watch, and he
saw the thing coming. Of course he stopped his boat and put the
reverse clutch on just in the nick of time. That young Benson always
appears to be in the nick of time!"

"So much so," wavered John Rhinds, "that I'm beginning to feel decidedly
superstitious about that young fellow. He'll land us, yet, in something,
and ruin us."

"No, he won't!" hissed Radwin, sharply. "Benson hasn't landed us yet,
has he? And he's not going to, either! I've one or two rods in pickle
for that forward young scamp, and I'll serve him to a fare-you-well yet!
Rhinds, I may yet find a way that will insure our getting _all_ the
submarine orders!"

"You're ingenious enough, I know, Fred," admitted the older man, in a
worried voice. "I hope you'll win for us. It will be money enough in
your pocket to satisfy even you, Fred. Still, I'm worried by the way
your plans against Benson have already missed fire."

Out in the hallway, at that moment, they heard a voice that made them
both start. The voice was not loud, but it was angry, determined, and
carried well. It was the voice of a man sweeping aside the objections
of a hotel servant.

"Don't tell me they're not in, you idiot!"

"The servant I paid to be on the lookout is trying to steer away some one
that insists on seeing us," whispered Fred Radwin, listening intently.

"Neither of the gentlemen are in, I tell you, sir," replied the hotel
servant, doggedly.

"Get out of the way, fellow! I know the number of their suite of rooms,
and I'm going to it. I don't want to hurt you, fellow, but I'm the
Chief of Police, and I mean to see Mr. Radwin without delay!"

"The Chief of Police!" gasped Radwin, feeling his knees weaken under him.

He and Rhinds stared uneasily at each other.

"You see him first," whispered Fred Radwin. "I've some things in my
pockets that I wouldn't want the chief of police to find. Hold the
police fellow by telling him I'll be right in."

With that Radwin slipped to the door of a connecting room in the suite.
He passed through, closing the door noiselessly and slipping the key in
the lock.

An instant later John Rhinds opened his door out into the hallway.

"Who is it to see us?" he called.

"It's I, Ward, time Chief of Police," replied the caller, stepping into
the room. "You are Mr. - "


"I wish to see your Mr. Radwin. I have a message for him."

"Be seated, Chief," urged the rascal. "Mr. Radwin will be here in a

"Where is Radwin now?" demanded the chief.

"In the next room. He'll be here in a moment."

"Did he go through that door?" asked Chief Ward.


"Then I'll see him at once," replied the official.

He stepped over and tried the knob of the door. Finding the bolt shot,
Chief Ward promptly put his stalwart shoulder to the door. At the
second bump the door yielded. Ward burst into the next room, then on
to the third.

"Why did you trick me, Mr. Rhinds?" called the chief, angrily.

"I? Why - I - "

Radwin was not to be found.

The Chief of Police, angry at being baffled in his search for Radwin,
went away declaring that he would have an order issued for the arrest
of Rhinds as an accessory.



Radwin did not return.

Though looking outwardly composed, John C. Rhinds passed the next few
hours in a condition of internal unrest.

Why did Chief Ward want to see Fred Radwin? And why had the latter
tricked himself off out of sight?

These questions tormented Rhinds the more because he could not even
invent satisfactory answers to them.

"Is the chief of police acting on anyone else's orders?" quavered the
old man. "Has Fred betrayed himself in anything he has done? Is he
a fugitive from justice? Oh, mercy! What a situation just when I am
trying to put the deals through that shall make the Rhinds Submarine
Company the richest concern of its kind in the world!"

By the middle of the afternoon Rhinds heard the newsboys calling
something excitedly down in the street.

"What's that? What's that?" gasped the old man, holding one hand to
his ear. "Sounds like 'Dastardly plot - submarine mystery.' Can it be
anything to injure our chances?"

As he looked down into the street, from the altitude of the third floor
window, Rhinds saw that, whatever the news, the boys appeared to be
selling papers fast.

For a few seconds Rhinds wavered. Then he crossed the room to the

"Send me up the latest editions of the newspapers," he 'phoned the
clerk in the office. After that he lighted a big, black cigar - and
waited, mopping the perspiration from his forehead.

After a few moments there came a knock at the door, and Rhinds opened
it. He noticed that the bell-boy looked at him somewhat queerly as the
papers were handed over. Then, having closed the door and locked it,
John Rhinds sank into a chair, holding up three newspapers, in turn,
and scanning the big, black headlines.

Yes; here it all was - the whole story in every essential detail. It
told of the mysterious attempt to destroy the "Hastings" at the end of
the lightning cruise. The stories contained Lieutenant Danvers's
statement that the "Thor" had been headed toward the "Hastings" just
a few seconds before the torpedo passed the Pollard boat's bows.
There was an account of the naval party's search of the "Thor," and
the fact that the latter craft was found to have her full number of
torpedoes on board was set forth in all fairness. Oh, yes! The story
was fair enough! No newspapermen could have been fairer than had the
chroniclers of this exciting submarine news. There were no accusations
against Rhinds or his associates - nothing but the fair, unbiased
telling of facts. And yet, in almost any reader's mind the opinion
would be quick to form that only from the "Thor" could the treacherous
torpedo have been fired.

"Oh, it's - it's awful!" cried John Rhinds, waving the papers over his
head like a madman.

Jack Benson had played his master stroke in this new game.

In former times, when the Pollard boats had been all but unknown,
Captain Jack had been quick to grasp the importance of newspaper fame.
As told in the second volume of this series, Jack had once invited
a big party of newspaper folks to Dunhaven, to observe some startling
performances by the Pollard boat. At that time he had given them a
programme so full of excitement that the fame of the Pollard boat had
been flashed over the country, and the Navy Department had found public
opinion clamoring for the United States Navy to own and control a few of
these wonderful craft.

And now, Jack Benson, wholly and absolutely convinced of the guilt of
Rhinds and Radwin, had gone to the local daily newspaper offices with
his account of what had happened out at sea.

It was a great stroke. Yet Captain Jack had not undertaken it without
first having secured the permission of Jacob Farnum. After Jack went to
the newspaper offices the Colfax reporters had busied themselves with
interviewing naval officers, including members of the naval board.

And now the story was out, for the world to read. Yet it was a statement
only of bare, easily proved facts. The newspapers were glad to have such
a startling yarn, and it had been told in such a way that John Rhinds did
not have a single chance in any suit he might bring for libel.

After the first shock that the discovery caused him, John C. Rhinds
began to suspect Jack's hand in this straight-from-the-shoulder blow.

"It's that young Benson again!" he raged, silently, rising and stamping
on the offending, yet truth-telling, newspapers. "And this will get
beyond Colfax! The newspapers of the larger cities will begin to hear
of this by evening. To-night this whole yarn will be flashing over the
telegraph wires of the country. Tomorrow morning millions of people
will be reading this awful stuff. Oh, if I could only tear that young
fellow to pieces!"

John Rhinds gnashed his teeth in his fury. Had he caught a glimpse of
himself in the mirror, just then, the man would have been afraid of his
own reflection.

Yet, with all his guilty knowledge of what he had encouraged Radwin to
do, it did not occur to Rhinds to lay the blame anywhere except upon the
shoulders of honest, though hard fighting, Captain Jack Benson.

Presently, John Rhinds cooled down.

He even became suave and smiling - though under the smile a ghastly
pallor lay on his cheeks.

This change of outward temper was all because he was forced to become
crafty before others.

It is a common way with many newspapers to leap on a man and trounce him,
figuratively speaking, and then to send reporters around to see how the
victim has enjoyed the flaying.

That was what happened to John Rhinds.

Within half an hour after the newspapers had come to him a message over
the telephone from the hotel office informed the president of the Rhinds
Submarine Company that a reporter was below who wished to interview Mr.

"Ah! Er - huh!" choked the wretch, swallowing hard. "Have the young
gentleman shown up, of course. And send up any other reporters who may
ask for me."

By the time that the first reporter reached the door Rhinds had carefully
removed all traces of the torn newspapers. The old man was calm. He
even smiled slightly, though he affected to be stung to the soul by the
thought that any American could think that he, or any of his party
aboard the "Thor" could have been guilty of such a fearful attempt of

"But of course, young man," urged Rhinds, suavely, "you will be able,
through the great power of the press for right, to set all suspicions
at rest. You will, I beg of you, give renewed publicity to the fact that
we were found to have our full number of torpedoes aboard. That one
fact, of course, disposes of any suspicion that we could have thought
of doing such a fearful thing."

The reporter was young, but he was not lacking in shrewdness. This
boyish-looking journalist had interviewed smooth-talking scoundrels

"There is one little point I would like to inquire about, Mr. Rhinds,"
hinted this reporter, chewing at the end of his pencil.

"A dozen - a hundred points - anything you want to know!" protested the
man who was being interviewed.

"Thank you," nodded the reporter, coolly. "Now, it is a well-established
fact that you had your full number of torpedoes aboard, when the naval
officers searched. But have you any place on board the 'Thor' that
would serve as a hiding place for an extra torpedo - an extra torpedo
that might, let us say, have been obtained in any one of a number of

John C. Rhinds began to feel great waves of chill passing up and down
his spine. Hang this smiling, boyish reporter! Rhinds began to feel
that he hated this young man next to Jack Benson!

"No!" shouted the interviewed one, hoarsely, angrily. "We have no such
hiding place on board. We have no place that could be used for hiding
an extra torpedo."

The reporter nodded, then continued with a cool smile:

"Thank you, Mr. Rhinds, for answering so important a question on such a
vitally important point. It is very important to have the suspicion
disposed of that such a hiding place might exist."

"Very important," confirmed John Rhinds, leaning forward in his most
impressive manner. "And you have my authority for settling the point
for good and all."

"So that, of course, Mr. Rhinds," pursued the cool, smiling young
reporter, "you will be most glad when I suggest to you the importance
of allowing a commission composed of, say, an editor and two reporters
from the 'Gazette' to go aboard the 'Thor,' search for such a hiding
place, and then be prepared to inform the world that no such hiding
place exists on the 'Thor.'"

That proposition came like a torpedo itself; it struck, too, below the
water-line of John Rhinds's hard-won composure.

"Why do you - ?" he stammered. Then the wretch forced himself to be
cool again.

"No, my young friend, I am sorry to say that that would not be
practicable. You see, a submarine craft is full of secrets. Outside of
our own crew none but officers of the Navy can be permitted to go below
the platform deck of any of my boats."

"Oh, well, then," nodded the reporter, "the 'Gazette' can clamor for a
naval board to be appointed to make the search, and at once. That will
serve the purpose as well, Mr. Rhinds - and it will answer the most
burning question that the public will want to ask."

Then came the other reporters. Rhinds saw them all, wore before them
all the mask of wounded innocence, showed them all how easily they might
allay all public suspicions.

Then, when the last reporter had departed, John Rhinds, feeling too weak
to stand, sank down upon a sofa, covering his face with his hands.
Thus, for some time he lay, hardly giving signs of life. His fright
was great, indeed.

In striking this blow young Captain Jack Benson had struck far harder
than he had even dreamed.

When Rhinds began to realize things once more he missed Fred
Radwin - Radwin, the seeming fugitive, who had run away from his foul
leader at the first sound of a police voice.

Still, it was possible that Radwin was not far away. Possible, also,
that in this fact lay time greatest danger that had ever menaced Jack



There was no thought of dinner for John Rhinds that evening.

After the newspaper men had gone the artful schemer spent a long time in
drafting two or three telegrams that he felt it necessary to send to
members of his state's Congressional delegation at Washington.

In the telegrams that were finally sent, the president of the Rhinds
Submarine Company referred to himself as apparently the victim of a
very clever but diabolical plot to ruin his company. He asked the
members of Congress for his state to see to it that he was given a
full opportunity for justice.

"Justice? Ugh!" muttered the old man, as he scanned one of his
telegrams. "Well - er - not if it means punishment!"

Hardly had he sent away these telegrams, and even as he was giving
thought to sending down an order to have dinner served in his rooms,
Rhinds received a telegram from the editor of a New York daily, asking
for his version of the torpedo mystery.

From the wording of the telegram, it was plain that the story had gotten
as far as New York, and that the editor regarded it as the big,
sensational news story of the hour.

Groaning, Rhinds bent over to begin work on this new telegram that was
demanded of him. It proved to be a hard message to write. Even while
he worked over the difficult problem, a second telegram arrived, this
from the editor of a Philadelphia morning paper. Then came two from

"Good heavens! I can't keep up this pace," groaned John Rhinds. "These
editors won't even give me time for sleep."

Sudden blackness came over his eyes as he sat back, trying to think it
all out.

"I can't answer any of these telegrams," he muttered, tearing up the
offending messages. "Oh, why did Radwin have to take wings at the
very time when I need him most! Fred Radwin, with his cool nerve, his
steely eyes and his glib, lying tongue, would have been ready with
answers for all these questions. But I can't do it. I'll need a
strait-jacket, if these telegrams continue to arrive!"

Yet several more telegrams did come in, from newspapers in various
Eastern states. Rhinds read them, groaned and tore up the messages.

Then he smoked strong cigars, one after another, but that only made his
nerves worse. When he went to bed, late that night, he slept some, yet
it was mainly to dream hideous dreams.

In the early morning Rhinds sent for morning newspapers. These contained
what he had said to local reporters, but his version, with the
newspapers' comments added, only made matters worse. "That infernal
'Gazette,'" in especial, printed, in bold type, the account of his
refusal to let a committee of newspapermen examine his boat for a
secret hiding place large enough to hold an extra torpedo.

That forenoon shore boats did a thriving business in carrying people out
on trips around the Pollard and Rhinds submarines. Trains brought in
folks from other towns, all anxious for a glimpse of the submarine craft.

"This will drive me wild, yet," groaned Mr. Rhinds. "It's an outrageous

Still, there was little realization, on his part, that he deserved all
this, and more.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Jack, my boy," muttered Jacob Farnum, looking up from a batch of
morning newspapers in the cabin of the "Hastings," "You've been the
means of stirring up a bigger hurricane than ever raged at sea."

"Are you sorry?" asked the young submarine captain, coolly.

"Well, considering my private opinion of Mr. John C. Rhinds, and my
belief as to what he did - or tried to do - to us, I can't say I'm
deeply grieved," returned the shipbuilder.

Then time shipbuilder looked around him, at all three of the submarine
boys, as he went on:

"Lads, we've been cramped up on this boat long enough, so I'm going to
take you ashore this evening. But remember - not a word to reporters,
or to anyone else. If any one of you opens his mouth on this subject,
I shall consider that young man no longer a friend of mine."

All this while Chief Ward, of the Colfax police department, was busily
engaged in seeking tidings of the missing Fred Radwin. But Radwin,
after entering that adjoining room, appeared to have been swallowed up.

Jack had heard, from the chief of police, of the disappearance of Radwin.
This was one feature of the story that the newspapers had as yet failed
to discover. However, Ward believed that Radwin was now hundreds of
miles away, and still traveling. So, when the Pollard submarine party
came ashore that evening, none of them gave much thought to Radwin.

Farnum led his young friends, as heretofore, to the Somerset House.

"We might possibly meet Rhinds in the lobby, or in the dining room,"
said the shipbuilder, "but I don't deem it likely. Rhinds is undoubtedly
keeping hid within his own walls upstairs."

This guess proved to be a good one. Farnum and his friends dined at the
Somerset without being offended by a sight of the face of their rival
in business.

A special waiter was stationed to head off reporters or other curious
people who might attempt to interview the submarine diners. So the meal
proceeded in peace, though it was rather late when the diners finished.

"Whew! Nearly nine o'clock," muttered Farnum, glancing up at a big
clock on a near-by wall. "And I haven't been out to the hospital,
to-day, to see how Dave is coming along."

"Would it do to telephone, and ask the hospital people to let Mr.
Pollard know you had inquired?" suggested Hal.

"Don't just like that idea," replied Mr. Farnum, shaking his head. "It
doesn't sound just like using Dave Pollard right. I'll tell you what,
however. I've been the only one to go out to the hospital, so far.
Dave always asks after the rest of you. Jack, suppose you take a hack
and make the trip out. If they won't let you see Dave at this hour,
then inquire how he is getting along, and leave your card to be sent in
to him. But, if you can see Dave Pollard, he'll be delighted to have
a look at your face. There's a cab standing out in front of the hotel,
and it won't take you but a few minutes to get out to the hospital."

"Where'll I find you?" asked Jack, rising at once.

"We'll wait in the lobby of the hotel until you get back. Use the cab
both ways."

There was, as Mr. Farnum had said, a cab outside the hotel. That cab,
in fact, had been hanging about since just before dark.

Most of the time it stood drawn up at the curb on the opposite side of
the street.

Three or four times, during the early evening, different persons had
tried to engage the use of this cab.

Yet, to each prospective customer, the driver had shaken his head,
uttering the one word:


So the cab still waited, the driver occasionally moving to a somewhat
new position, though always keeping well in sight of the hotel entrance.

As Captain Jack Benson stepped out through the broad doorway, however,
on his errand of friendship, the driver, throwing away a half-smoked
cigar, suddenly whipped up his horse, driving close to the entrance.

"Cab, sir" hailed the driver. "To any part of the city."

"You know where the hospital is?" inquired Jack Benson.

"Oh, yes."

"How long will it take to drive me there?"

"Ten or twelve minutes."

"All right. And I shall want you to wait there, a little while, and
then bring me back. How much will that be?"

"Dollar and a half, sir."

"Go ahead," directed Jack, springing inside and pulling the door shut.

The only time Benson had been to the hospital before was on the morning
of the accident.

At that time he had not noticed the road very closely. Now, at night,
all looked so different to him that he had no idea whether or not he was
being driven in the right direction. He left all that to the driver, as
most people do when employing cabs.

"I'd like just a little peep-in at Rhinds tonight," thought Jack, as he
settled back against the comfortable upholstery. "I reckon he knows,
by this time, something of the way of the transgressor."

If the young submarine captain noticed anything at all of the way the
driver was taking him, he saw only that the vehicle was rolling through
a quiet, rather shabby, ill-lighted portion of the city.

Thus the cab went, down street after street, the horses moving only at
the slowest trot.

"What this cab needs is one of our gasoline engines," thought Jack,
lazily. Then, suddenly:

"No, sir! By gracious, no! That would make an automobile out of this
old tub on wheels, and, until Mr. Pollard gets whole again, anyway,
we've had enough of automobiles. One of our crowd in hospital, at a
time, is plenty!"

Then there came a moment in which the cab stopped so suddenly that the
young skipper was all but thrown from his seat.

"Gracious!" uttered the submarine boy. "Who's torpedoing us?"

But, at that instant, Jack Benson received a more genuine shock.

For the left-hand door of the vehicle was wrenched suddenly open. In
the doorway appeared the white, ugly, desperate face of Fred Radwin!

Without a word, Radwin threw himself forward, making a leap into the



"You - get - out!"

Quick as thought Jack Benson raised his left foot, planting it, as
vigorously as his sitting position allowed, against the ribs of Fred

That worthy, one foot on the sill, and bent in the act of entering fell
back, going in a heap to the sidewalk.

Benson fairly hurled himself through the open door in his need of
reaching the sidewalk in time.

He stood, now waiting for a second or so.

Then Fred Radwin jumped up, prepared to grapple with this young foeman.

But Jack was ready for that. He had ready a handy sailor jab - a
short-arm blow with the fist that sent Radwin once more to the sidewalk.

Then, as scientific boxing rules were not called for in an encounter of
this kind, Jack followed up his advantages with two severe kicks.

Down from the seat leaped the driver, heavy whip in hand.

"Oh, you're in this, are you?" panted Jack, seeing that the driver was
headed straight for him.

Down low ducked the submarine boy; then came up straight at close
quarters. Benson's sudden grapple deprived the driver of a chance to
use the butt of his whip in the manner the fellow had intended.

Yet the driver was a powerful fellow, his strength making him about a
match for the greater agility of the bronzed young skipper.

Jack managed to land a blow or two against his big assailant, though
without doing much harm.

Yet the submarine boy was undismayed and confident, until, out of the
corner of one eye, he saw Radwin rising and advancing cautiously to
close in.

Young Benson's opportunity came at just that instant. Smack! He
landed his right fist in the driver's face, almost dazing him. With
the left fist Jack struck himself free.

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Online LibraryVictor G. DurhamThe Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep → online text (page 10 of 12)