Victor G. Durham.

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

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"Mr. Somers!" shouted Jack, coolly but promptly.

"Aye, sir," called up Eph.

"Take a lantern and get down into the compartments along the keel
forward. See whether we're taking in any water."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"We struck part of a derelict, or something else submerged," guessed
Lieutenant Danvers. "We're lucky, indeed, if our plates are not

Then he called down to Biffens to follow and aid Eph Somers.

It was almost dark now. Jack, reaching over, switched on the electric
sidelights outside, and also the white light at the signal masthead.
Then he turned on the searchlight, sending its bright ray through the
gathering darkness.

"Look over there, sir," muttered Jack, holding the searchlight ray
steadily on an object he believed he saw. "Don't you make out, sir,
bobbing up and down when the waves part, what looks like the stump of
the broken-off mast of a vessel submerged? Is it a death-dealing
derelict in the very path of coastwise navigation!"

"By Jove, yes!" gasped Lieutenant Danvers, hoarsely. "Your eyes are
sharp, Benson, and your judgment sound. That, then, was what we
struck on - the mast-stump of a water-logged, sunken derelict! If our
underhull plates are sprung, down we go to the bottom!"

They waited, in dreadful anxiety, for the report of Eph from the region
of the keel plates.

They were far out to sea, and a submarine cannot carry a lifeboat!



All now waited on Eph's word during the next few moments.

If the "Hastings," striking on that stub of a submerged mast, had had
her plates so badly sprang that pumping would not drive out the water
as fast as it came in, then this newest of the submarines was doomed
to go to the bottom.

All that would then remain to those aboard would be to take to the ocean.

True, they had life-preservers aboard, and with these, officers and men
could keep afloat.

In the icy waters of a February night, however, with something like
fifteen miles to swim to mainland through an ever-roughening sea, it
was almost impossible that the strongest among them could hope to reach
shore alive.

Yet, desperately anxious as he was to know the news, Jack Benson did
not desert his post by the steering wheel. Some one must be there. Nor
had Hal thought of leaving the engine room.

So the naval lieutenant remained with Benson, duplicating, in those
awful moments, the boy's cool courage.

It was Ewald who presently came running up the stairs to report.

"Mr. Somers orders me to report that there's a little trickle of water
coming in between two plates about twelve feet abaft of the bow, sir.
But Mr. Somers believes that, even without pumping, we could run
forty miles without serious danger, sir."

Knowing his friend's ability and good judgment as he did, Jack Benson
stood ready to accept that report, without question. But Lieutenant
Danvers inquired:

"Did you see the leak, Ewald?"

"Yes, sir."

"What do you think about it?"

"Why, sir, I agree with Mr. Somers."

"I believe I'll go down and take a look at the leak," announced Danvers,

"Then, while you're gone," said Benson, "I'll keep the searchlight
steadily on what I can see of the top of that mast-stump."

"Why not keep on in toward the shore?"

"Because, sir," and Jack's jaws snapped, "if we've been insulted in this
fashion by an old derelict, I don't believe in letting the old derelict
get off so easily, sir."

Lieutenant Danvers knitted his brow, thoughtfully, as he hurried down
the stairs, then followed Ewald through a steel trapway into the cramped
compartments under the cabin flooring.

In three or four minutes Mr. Danvers came up again.

"It's all right," he said. "I can't see that the leak threatens to
become serious, unless we should happen to hit that mast-stump again."

"I believed it was all right," the young captain replied, quietly,
"after having heard Mr. Somers's report."

"You three boys certainly stick together and admire each other, don't
you?" laughed Danvers.

"We've every reason to, sir. We three have been trained together in
this work. No one of the three knows anything that the others don't,"
came Benson's matter-of-fact reply.

"When I went below you made some remark about not letting the derelict
off too easily, Benson. What did you mean?"

"Why, I believe we ought to get square with that old sunken hulk,"
retorted Captain Jack, wheeling around and eyeing the naval officer.

"Great Scott! You mean that we ought to blow up the derelict?"

"Isn't it usually the Navy, sir, that gets such jobs to do?"

"Yes, yes, Benson. But the Navy Department always sends out a vessel
fitted for such work."

"This is a submarine boat. We have one loaded torpedo left on board.
Don't you think we answer the description of a vessel fitted for
destroying a derelict?" smiled Captain Jack, coolly. "To say nothing
of the itch, for revenge that we feel."

"It'll be a ticklish business," muttered Danvers, thoughtfully.

"So is a lot of the Navy's work, isn't it?" persisted Captain Jack.

"See here, lad, do you really mean that you want to make a sure-enough
job of blowing up the derelict?"

"That's what I'm staying here for, sir," rejoined Jack, again swinging
the searchlight. "And over there, three hundred yards yonder, I can
still make out, once in a while, that bit of mast. What do you say,

"Why, if you boys have the grit to go ahead and tackle a job like that
in the night, the Navy isn't going to feel chilled and run away,"
laughed Danvers, shortly. "Yet, my boy, do you think you fully
understand the dangers of the undertaking?"

"I think I do," nodded Captain Jack.

"It's to be a duel between this submarine and the old derelict. You
can't just hang off like this over here, and shoot at that mast. That
wouldn't do any good."

"Yes, I know all that," said Jack, eagerly.

"Then what's your plan, Benson?"

"Why, sir, we've got, first of all, to sail as close as we dare to that
mast-stump. Then we've got to use a sounding line to find out in which
direction the hull of the sunken derelict lies. We must also get an
idea of the length of the hull. Then, having gotten our figures, we'll
have to glide back a little way, so as to give a right-angle broadside
on at the hull of the derelict. Before firing the torpedo we'll first
have to go far enough below water so that we'll know we're in fair line
with that sunken hull yonder, for we've got to make our one loaded
torpedo do the trick."

"You've got the figures down all right," nodded Lieutenant Danvers,
thoughtfully. "The risky part is in trying to run over that derelict's
sunken hull in order to locate it and make your soundings. Now, you
run a big chance of running plumb on to some other stump of a mast.
The 'Hastings' may easily get an injury, from the stump of another
mast, that may tear a real hole in our plates and send us all to the

"There's danger to be considered in any submarine game really worth
the while," assented Captain Jack Benson, coolly. "Do you feel then,
Mr. Danvers, that we should be satisfied to drive back to Dunhaven and
content ourselves with wiring the Navy Department news of the derelict
and of her present position?"

Lieutenant Danvers thoughtfully gazed at the young submarine commander's

"No," he muttered, at last. "I think the best thing for a fellow like
you, Jack Benson, will be to wade in and get your revenge! And make
it as complete as you can!"

"All right, sir," nodded Jack. "Thank you. And now, we'll see how
complete a job we can make of it. Mr. Somers!"

"Aye, aye, sir," answered Eph, from below.

"Are you going to consult with your crew?" whispered Danvers.

"They're not the kind of fellows who need consulting," muttered Captain
Jack. "All they want is their orders. Mr. Somers, bring up the
sounding line."

"Aye, aye, sir."

In a moment more young Somers was in the conning tower, and Jack,
sounding line in hand, was out on the platform deck, where Lieutenant
Danvers followed him.

Eph knew, by this time, what was wanted of him. Hal, in the engine
room, was, as yet, ignorant of the game, but all Hal had to do was to
obey engine room signals promptly.

Sending the submarine craft ahead at very slow speed, Eph steered as
close to the bobbing masthead as the young captain deemed safe. Jack
shouted his orders back as he and Lieutenant Danvers crouched over the
nose of the boat.

In the rough sea that was running their work was doubly hard. But Eph
kept the searchlight all the time turned in the direction of the top
of the bobbing mast stump. In a circle they went around it, barely
thirty feet from the broken mast, Jack heaving the sounding lead.

At last he felt it rest on the deck of the sunken derelict. The distance
below was six fathoms - thirty-six feet.

"Now, we've got the line of the hull," called Benson to the lieutenant.
"Our next job is to find how far back this hull runs under the water."

This knowledge, also, was gained, at last. Then Jack Benson, rising,
hastened back to the conning tower, followed by Danvers. Jack himself
closed the manhole, while Eph still trained the searchlight through the
darkness of the night. Stormy weather was threatening.

"Now, hustle below, Eph, and get that loaded torpedo into the tube,"
commanded Skipper Jack Benson.

"My men will help you," added Lieutenant Danvers.

Jack quickly had his figures made. He knew where the hull lay, in what
direction, and how far below the surface the deck of the sunken
derelict lay. He planned to land the torpedo twelve feet below the
derelict's deck, which, he believed, would strike a full and fair blow.

"Torpedo's loaded, sir," called Eph, while the "Hastings," under slow
speed astern, was gliding back to get into position for the attack.

"Station Biffens by the firing lever, then," called down Captain Benson.
"Tell him to fire on the instant that he gets the order. Now, Mr.
Somers, stand by the submerging apparatus. Drop just forty-two feet
below the surface, then report instantly to me."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Lieutenant Danvers stood by the submarine boy, intently watching,
listening, and digesting Benson's plan. Yet the naval officer ventured
no interference.

In another moment the hull of the "Hastings" began to disappear under
the waves.

"Forty-two feet - sir - and - stopped!" shouted up Eph Somers.

"Ready to fire!" Jack hailed.

"Aye, aye, sir!"


"Fire it is, sir."

"Have you fired, Mr. Somers?" rolled down Jack's next question.

"Yes, sir."

"Then turn on the compressed air, and bring us to the surface."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

The instant that the conning tower stood up, dripping, through the waves,
Jack turned on searchlight again. Slow speed ahead he next signaled.

As the piercing rays of light gleamed out over the waters before them
the surface of the sea ahead was seen to be covered with floating

"Jove, look at the wreckage!" uttered Lieutenant Danvers, jubilantly.
"Everything about that old derelict that could float has come up to
the surface."

"Do you think the derelict is utterly smashed, sir?" inquired Jack
Benson, respectfully, for this trained naval officer knew more about
such things than he did.

"That derelict is blown to kindling wood," exclaimed Danvers, himself
manipulating the searchlight as they sailed through a sea littered with
small wreckage. "That derelict will never menace any skipper afloat,
from now on. Benson, lad, you did a wonderfully keen job."

"You don't think there'd be any risk, then, in sailing back and forth
amid this wreckage?" asked Jack.

"Risk? Not a bit," retorted Danvers. "Why, look over there!" as he
swung the searchlight in a new direction. "There's that submerged
mast-stump, free of the wreck and floating horizontally, now."

Nor was it long before it was clear to trained eyes that the sunken
derelict had been efficiently blown up. That water-logged ghost of a
ship would never again be a source of peril to navigators.

"Now, you can turn your nose for Dunhaven, and with a clear conscience,"
chuckled Lieutenant Danvers. "And, while you're doing that, I'm going
below for another look at the little leak."

Jack ran the "Hastings" the first few miles of her homeward course.
Then he called Eph Somers to the wheel and went below to relax.

It was well on toward eight o'clock when the "Hastings" ran into the
little harbor at Dunhaven and made moorings. The night watchman of the
yard rowed out to meet them, bringing the news that Mr. Farnum, in the
"Benson," had picked up the crew of the "Mary Bond" from two small boats
at sea.

There was a light in the office, so Jack's party went inside. There
they found Jacob Farnum at his desk, putting the finishing touches to
a telegram.

"By Jove, I'm glad we went out after the poor fellows of the 'Mary
Bond,'" cried Mr. Farnum, wheeling around. "We found them in sore
straits, in two small boats, with only a pair of oars to each boat,
and the sea roughening up every minute. They lost their fishing smack.
Their boat struck on the stump of a mast of a sunken derelict. The
smack sprung a big leak, this morning, and went down. I've just written
a telegram to the Navy Department, Mr. Danvers, advising them of the
location of the derelict as well as I could gather it from the captain
of the late 'Mary Bond.'" With this, he handed Danvers the telegram
he had written.

Lieutenant Danvers glanced at the telegram, and then handed it back
with a smile.

"What do you mean, sir?" demanded Jacob Farnum, wonderingly.

"The telegram isn't necessary - that's all," replied the naval officer,
with a smile. "We encountered that same sunken derelict - and Jack
Benson blew her to smithereens!"



That night a machinist was stationed aboard the "Hastings" to watch the
in-coming of water through the slight leak, and to apply the pump

In the morning the submarine was hauled up into an improvised drydock
and her hull plates examined. It was Lieutenant Danvers's first chance
to realize how superbly these Pollard boats were built and put together.
He examined the hull with unbounded enthusiasm. Then a gang of workmen
started in to replace the two injured plates.

For the next three days the "Benson" was used in target practice. Jacob
Farnum scurried up and down the coast, finding and buying suitable old
craft for targets.

All three of the submarine boys had ample practice in the firing of
torpedoes. After it was all over there were but four of the loaded
torpedoes left in the shed labeled "Danger."

"If you could only have a little more practice," grumbled Williamson,
good-humoredly, "this would soon be a safe town for a fellow to take a
quiet smoke in."

The "Hastings" was now in the water once more, as sound and staunch as
on the first day she was launched.

Then came a few days of idleness. Lieutenant Danvers left Dunhaven,
intending apparently to return soon. Ewald and Biffens, the two sailors,
were quartered at the hotel at government expense, and were likely to
enjoy themselves until orders came.

Eph went home for two or three days. Jack and Hal slept on board the
"Benson," while Williamson quartered himself aboard the "Hastings,"
which craft no longer carried any torpedoes.

One afternoon, as Jack Benson was strolling through the shipyard, Jacob
Farnum, in the doorway of the office building, called to the young

"I suppose both boats are ready, Jack?" asked the shipbuilder.

"Quite, sir," nodded Benson.

He did not inquire for what they were expected to be ready. Jacob
Farnum was one who liked to plan by himself, and to announce a new move
only when he was ready for it.

"All right, lad," nodded Farnum. "Keep both boats ready for any instant
move that may be required of them. That's all."

Again young Benson nodded, then strolled on out of the yard. Up on the
Main street of the village he encountered his chum.

"There's something in the wind, Hal, for the boats," Jack announced.

"All right," nodded Hal. "We're ready when needed."

Nor did either one of them waste any time in wondering what the new move
was to be. When Jacob Farnum wanted them to know he would tell them and
not before.

The chums visited a moving picture show for an hour. Then, tiring of
that, they came out into the street. The first, man they encountered,
almost, was Lieutenant Danvers, in citizen dress.

"Back from your trip, sir?" Jack asked.

"Yes. Has Farnum told you what's in the wind?"

"He has only given us a hint, sir, that something may happen."

"Oh!" replied the naval officer, next adding: "That's rather queer on
the whole."

"Not at all, sir," replied young Benson. "Mr. Farnum has a habit of
telling us things only when he's ready."

"Yet when - " began Danvers, but checked himself.

"No matter what is in the wind, Mr. Danvers, there's no real need of
posting us about anything until the time comes. Suppose Mr. Farnum
wants us to start for China within an hour? The galley cupboard is
already as full of provisions as it will hold. Both boats are in the
best possible trim. We need only time, perhaps, to fill the gasoline
tanks as full as they'll hold. Then we're ready to cast off and sail
far the first stopping place on the route."

"You're great fellows for system, then. So I understand why Mr. Farnum
doesn't have to post you far in advance."

"He certainly doesn't have to," Jack relied.

"Where are you going? Down to the yard?"

"Not yet. Mr. Farnum hasn't given us any instructions about hanging

"Oh!" responded Lieutenant Danvers, with a quizzical smile. "Well, I
must be leaving you, now."

Hal gazed after the shore-bound naval officer for a few moments, then
observed, dryly:

"I'm not a bit curious. Are you, Jack?"

"Of course not," smiled the young skipper. "All I want to know is what's
in the air so suddenly."

"Going back to the yard earlier?"

"No; later," retorted Benson. "What is the use of letting folks suppose
they have our curiosity aroused?"

In fact, when evening came on, instead of going to the "Benson" for
supper, Jack and Hal stopped at the hotel.

Ewald and Biffens were there, at one of the tables, but the sailors
seemed to be eating in more haste than usual. Then, as they left the
dining room, they saluted the young captain and engineer.

"Hurrying back to the yard, sir?" asked Ewald.

"No," said Jack, quietly.

"That's queer. Them's our orders. We're going now, sir," replied Ewald.

"You and I appear to be the only two in Dunhaven who don't know what is
up," observed Hal Hastings, dryly.

"I don't believe Ewald or Biffens know what is on hand," Jack answered.
"They've orders to report back in haste. That's all."

"Then hadn't we better hurry back to the yard, too?" inquired Hastings.

"No; we haven't any orders."

"But Mr. Farnum may be wondering where we are."

"Then the sailors can tell him; they know."

Jack dawdled over his supper.

"Going back to the yard now?" asked Hal.

"No; to the bookstore."

"Hm!" muttered Hal. "I begin to think you're going to keep Mr. Farnum
guessing, to pay him back in his own coin."

"No; I'm going up to the store to pick out a small stack of books. Hal,
I believe we're going on a cruise, and I mean to have something to

"I wonder if you know more than you've told me?" mused Hal, aloud.

"Not a blessed thing. I'm on the guessinglist, and I'm doing the best
I know how at guessing."

Hal didn't say any more, but accompanied his chum to the book-store.
There was a package for each of them to carry when they came out. Then
they headed down, toward the shipyard.

It was well on toward one o'clock by the time that the chums stepped
through the gate into the yard.

"Mr. Farnum is still at his office. That's late for him," remarked Hal.

"Maybe some one has him on the guessinglist, too," laughed Benson

The night watchman came forward out of a shadow.

"Boss wants to see you young gentlemen," announced the watchman.

So Jack and Hal turned in there. As they entered the office a scene of
"solid comfort" met their eyes. Shipbuilder and naval officer were
lounging in easy chairs, smoking Havanas until the air was thick and
white with the smoke.

"Sailing orders, Jack," announced Farnum.

"All right, sir," nodded the young skipper, looking at his watch. "I can
pull out inside of twelve minutes."

"But you don't have to," laughed Farnum. "You have until morning.
Where do you suppose you're going?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Curious, Jack?"

"I don't care where we're going," Benson smiled back. "When it's a
matter of business all parts of the earth look alike to me."

Lieutenant Danvers laughed heartily.

"Benson, lad," exclaimed the naval officer, "you've got the real make-up
to serve in the Navy. It's a pity we had to lose you."

"Don't be too sure yet, sir, that the Navy has escaped having me,"
smiled back Skipper Jack.

"You don't start until eight in the morning," went on the shipbuilder.
"Pollard got back this evening, and he goes with us. We take both the
'Benson' and the 'Hastings.' Eph will have to command one of the boats,
I suppose?"

"Yes, sir; and he'll have to be notified at once, too," replied the
young submarine commander.

"He's on one of the craft now," replied Mr. Farnum. "Lieutenant Danvers
goes with us, but he's a guest, only, and will not have to help in
handling the boats. His two men, Ewald and Biffens, will take steering
turns. We've a four hundred and eighty mile sail before us, down to
Groton Bay."

"I know of the place, sir," nodded Jack, without emotion or enthusiasm.
But Jacob Farnum's next words all but lifted the submarine boys from
their feet.

"Jack, my boy, and you, too, Hal, at Groton Bay you will have to make
the very efforts of your lives. We're to go through an official test
for the United States Government. We shall be in competition with five
other types of submarine boats - the Rhinds, the Seawold, the Griffith,
and the Blackson and Day. We shall have to meet - and I hope,
vanquish - all the recognized types of submarine boats made in the
United States."

"And we will beat them, too!" glowed Jack Benson, his eyes flashing and
his fists clenching.

"By the way, Jack," continued Mr. Farnum, "I had two applications for
work this afternoon, from men who appear to know all about gasoline
marine engines. As we'll be shorthanded for such a long cruise, do you
suppose it would be worth while to look these fellows over and make up
our minds about them?"

"Great Dewey - no!" burst, vehemently, from the young submarine captain.
"If we're going into the test of our lives - for our very lives, I might
say - then we don't want aboard any strangers who show up looking for
jobs at the last moment. No, sir; I won't have them aboard - that is,
not if I go, too!"

"I guess that's sensible enough," nodded Mr. Farnum. "Well, get aboard,
boys. Lieutenant Danvers will be out by ten o'clock. Don't lie awake
to-night, thinking too hard of what's before you."

"Don't you expect us to, sir," smiled Captain Jack. "We need our sleep
to-night, if we've got such work ahead of us. It's big, work, sir."

"Big enough," nodded Jacob Farnum. "If we come out of this big official
test with all the points of the game, then Uncle Sam is likely to buy
all the submarine boats we can make for a couple of years to come - and
our fortunes will be made - yours, too, boys!"

This talk of the boys' fortunes being at stake was not a matter of idle
words. Jack, Hal and Eph well understood that, if they came out
successful, they would also be at least moderately well off. Messrs.
Farnum and Pollard were not of the kind to be niggardly in giving
rewards fairly won.



Groton Bay, as every student of geography knows, is a nearly landlocked,
well sheltered body of water, some seven miles long and three wide. At
the mouth of the Groton river stands Colfax, a city of more than thirty
thousand inhabitants.

This was about all that the submarine boys knew of their destination,
until they arrived in the bay on the afternoon of the day after they
left, Dunhaven.

Their run down had been a continuous one. Jack had had Biffens to
relieve him at the wheel, while Mr. Farnum had helped Hal in the engine
room. Besides, Besides, Lieutenant Danvers had stood a few tricks at

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Online LibraryVictor G. DurhamThe Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep → online text (page 3 of 12)