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Victor G. Durham.

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the wheel.

While Jack came in the "Benson," which carried the two remaining loaded
torpedoes, Eph had handled the "Hastings," with Ewald as relief.
Williamson had handled the engines of the latter boat. David Pollard
standing relief engine room watch.

The work had been hard and confining. It was a relief to all hands when
they found themselves heading into Groton Bay.

Not far from the city water front lay two United States gunboats, the
"Chelsea" and the "Oakland." Near the gunboats a fleet of seven other
submarine craft lay at moorings.

"We're not the only crowd, then," mused Jacob Farnum, "that has seen fit
to enter more than one boat. I shall have to get busy in the hunt for
information."

"I'm not much worried about the triumph of the Pollard boats over
competitors," declared Danvers, generously. "And, if anything can win
for you, Mr. Farnum, it's the having of such enthusiasts as your
submarine boys to handle your boats in the official tests."

"Oh, I can depend upon my boys," replied Jacob Farnum, quickly. "I know
all about them."

Yet, as the shipbuilder gazed from the conning tower at the rival
submarines actual drops of cold sweat oozed out on his forehead.
Success meant so much to this shipbuilder, who had all his capital, to
the last penny, invested in this submarine game.

"The worst of it is, we've got to keep on the lookout for dirty tricks!"
groaned the shipbuilder, to himself. "We are willing to play fair to
the last gasp. No doubt some of the other competing submarine builders
feel the same way about it. Yet, with so many rivals in the field,
there are sure to be one or two rascally fellows who won't consider
any trick too low to give them an advantage."

Though Mr. Farnum had no particular rival, or rivals, in mind, his fears,
as was afterwards proven, were only too well founded.

"Take the wheel, please, Mr. Farnum," Jack, begged. He ran down the
steps to call:

"On deck, Biffens!"

"Aye, aye, sir!" replied the sailor, scrambling to obey.

Jack was out on the platform deck, megaphone in hand, by the time that
his employer ran up rather close to the "Chelsea."

"Will you direct us to our moorings, sir?" Jack shouted to the watch
officer aboard the gunboat.

"Proceed slowly east. Our launch will follow and show you your
moorings," came the reply. Then the launch glided around the stern of
the gunboat, leading the way.

Ten minutes later the "Benson" and the "Hastings" were moored, at the
extreme eastern end of the line of submarine craft.

Then Hal, mopping his face from the engine room heat, came up on deck
for a breath of air.

"I don't suppose we can get ashore," murmured young Hastings, gazing
wistfully at the city beyond.

"No," muttered Jack, shaking his head. "We're short-handed as it is,
and we've got to be on hand to watch these boats. There are too many
of the enemy about, in the shape of rival builders and their employees,
and among them there may be some mean tricksters who'd do anything in
their power to put the Pollard boats out of the running in the tests
to come. No; I reckon we won't see much of the shore, except from
our decks, though it is mighty cramped and confining on one of these
small craft."

Hal took a couple of turns up and down the deck. No one, until he has
tried it, can realize how cramped such small craft are when one has to
remain any length of time aboard.

Suddenly Hal paused, pointing landward.

"Great Scott!" he gasped. "Look who's here!"

A roomy whaleboat was approaching them. In it, as passengers, sat
Grant Andrews, foreman, and five workmen from the home yard.

"What can have happened?" wondered Captain Jack, as he and his chum
waved their hands in greeting; then stood staring.

"Surprised, eh, lads?" laughingly demanded Jacob Farnum, who had stolen
up behind them.

"Yes; what's wrong?" asked Jack.

"Nothing," replied the shipbuilder.

"Then what are Andrews and the other men doing here?"

"Do you notice," hinted Mr. Farnum, "that the men with Andrews are all
picked from among our older, trusted shipyard men."

"Yes, sir. That's true."

"Well, in the first place," pursued Farnum, "if any sudden repairs,
fixings or other work are required in a hurry, while we're here, we
have a fine lot of our own men to attend to it. Before leaving I told
Grant to bring these men with him. Then they'll serve another purpose.
I want you youngsters to be keyed up to your best performances all the
time we're here. That you can't do if you're kept confined closely
aboard until your very souls ache. So, as much of the time as is
wise, you young fellows will be ashore, stretching your legs, and Grant
Andrews and his men will be on board as guards."

"That's great!" glowed Jack. "And mighty considerate of you, too, sir."

"Considerate? Not a bit of it!" retorted Jacob Farnum, half indignantly.
"Jack Benson, I want to drain the last bit of performance out of you
youngsters that I possibly can while we're here. That's why I am going
to take some good care of you, also. Right this way, Grant!"

The hail was directed at the foreman. The whaleboat put in alongside
of the "Benson," and the foreman with two of his men came aboard.

"And now, everyone else over the side to go ashore!" called the
shipbuilder.

This order was quickly obeyed. Then the whaleboat continued on over to
the "Hastings," where Eph and his companions were taken off and the
remaining three workmen from the home yard left aboard as guards.

Mr. Farnum had already ascertained that the naval board which was to be
in charge of the tests was quartered at the leading hotel on shore.
Hence, in landing, the shipbuilder was really killing two birds with a
single stone, as he intended to report at once to the head of the
board for whatever instructions the latter had to give.

"We may as well go up, to the hotel in style," announced Mr. Farnum,
when the entire party, the naval lieutenant included, had landed at the
wharf. The two sailors, Ewald and Biffens, had already gone away to
places of their own choosing.

There were three or four automobiles for hire near the wharf. Two of
these Mr. Farnum engaged for his own party. In five minutes more they
stood about in the handsome lobby of the Somerset House while their host
registered for the party.

Jack, Hal and Eph stood at ease, some distance from the men of the party.
Despite their easy attitudes there was yet a certain military erectness
about them which was heightened by the handsome, natty uniforms that
they wore.

At the further end of the hotel lobby was a doorway before which stood
a folding screen. Past that was a clump of potted palms.

Behind the palms stood a man who, once seen, was not likely to be
forgotten. He was not a handsome man. About fifty years of age, he
was unusually stout; and, though his clothing was of expensive texture,
it fitted him badly. On his upper lip was a heavy moustache, now
iron-gray. His face was red, almost bloated. There were heavy pouches
under his eyes that told of many hours of senseless, vicious dissipation.
A small wart on the left side of the man's nose emphasized his lack of
good looks. Though the face was large, the eyes were small, beady, and
often full of cunning. There was some iron-gray hair at each side of
the head; the top was bald.

This man was John C. Rhinds, head of the Rhinds Submarine Company. Three
of the boats now at anchor in Groton Bay were his - or, rather, his
company's, though John Rhinds owned nearly all of the stock in the
company.

So far, Rhinds had not succeeded in selling a submarine craft to the
Navy Department. Twice he had been on the point of a sale, but each
time the government had decided upon a Pollard boat, instead.

John C. Rhinds loved money. He was resolved, at any cost, to make the
government buy several of his boats. And he was utterly unscrupulous.

As he stood behind the palms, looking toward the group of new arrivals,
Rhinds's little eyes seemed to grow smaller. He knew the members of
this party, though none of them as yet knew Rhinds. But the cunning
man had made it his business to find out all about the people whom he
hoped to beat in the coming game.

"Here you are, Radwin!"

Mr. Rhinds almost hissed the summons, calling to his side a man of some
thirty years of age, tall, dark, handsome, slender and wearing his fine
clothes with an air of distinction.

At first glance one would be inclined to like the appearance of Fred
Radwin. A closer study of the somewhat shifty eyes and general reckless
expression might have turned one skilled in human nature against Mr.
Fred Radwin, who was secretary to the Rhinds Company.

"That's the crowd, right over there, that have sold two boats under our
noses to the Navy Department," continued Rhinds, a snarl framing about
his thick, ugly lips. "That's the crowd we've got to beat."

"Then those young chaps must be the three young submarine officers with
such fine records," remarked Fred Radwin, in an undertone.

"They are," nodded Rhinds, slowly. "They're bright youngsters, too. I
wish we had them on our side."

"Couldn't they be lured over into our employ, then?" asked Radwin.

"You don't know the youngsters. They're full of fool notions about
loyalty to the Farnum Pollard crowd. And, besides, the boys have an
interest in the rival company."

"Couldn't we offer the boys a bigger interest with us?" suggested Radwin,
as he peered through the palms at the other submarine group.

"No!" retorted Rhinds, sharply. "I know about that crowd. You don't.
Listen to me."

"I'm listening," said Fred Radwin.

"We've got to make the acquaintance of that whole crowd, Fred. We've
got to get personally acquainted with them all. That will be easy
enough, I think. Then we've got to lay our plans. The Pollard boats
must have no show whatever in the coming tests, do you understand?
Their craft must balk, or behave badly. We must destroy all naval
confidence in Pollard boats. Then we must engineer matters so that
none of that crowd will be fit to find out what ails their boats - in
time, anyway. The easiest point of attack will be the boys themselves.
It is absolutely necessary to get them out of the game some way or
other - I don't care what! Radwin, you're fertile enough in ideas,
and reckless enough in deeds. This is to be your task - put the Pollard
boats and those submarine boys wholly out of the running! First of
all, we'll get acquainted with them. Come along!"

The Farnum party were just turning away, to follow a bell-boy to the
rooms assigned to them upstairs, when John C. Rhinds, his face beaming
craftily, approached them, followed by Radwin. Rhinds introduced
himself to Farnum, then presented Radwin as secretary to the Rhinds
Company.

"We're rivals in a way, of course," declared Mr. Rhinds. "But we want
to be good-natured, friendly rivals, my dear Farnum. We hope to see
a good deal of you all while here."

Jacob Farnum replied with equal cordiality. When it came Jack Benson's
turn to be introduced, Rhinds seized him by the hand, patting his
shoulder.

"Captain Benson?" he repeated. "The brainiest young man in
America - with two chums who run him a close race. We must all dine
together to-night," purred this Judas of the submarine boat world.




CHAPTER VII

EPH SOMERS PLAYS GALLANT


"I don't know when I've enjoyed myself as much," exclaimed Rhinds,
looking round beamingly over the dinner party in one corner of the
dining room.

Lieutenant Danvers was not there, having pleaded another engagement. But
Rhinds and his lieutenant, Radwin, Messrs. Farnum and Pollard and all
three of the submarine boys were around the big table. Radwin had
succeeded in seating himself between Jack and Hal.

The dinner had been a fine one. Only one hitch had occurred; that was
when Mr. Rhinds, at the beginning of the meal, had tried to order several
bottles of wine.

"Just a moment, Mr. Rhinds," Farnum broke in. "None of the wine for us,
thank you."

"Oh, then, some lighter kind of wine," proposed Mr. Rhinds, anxiously.
"Something good, in which we can all pledge one another."

"None of that stuff, according to our way of thinking, is any good,"
replied Farnum, with a good-natured smile.

"Well, perhaps not for the boys," conceded the host of this dinner. "But
for the rest of us, as business men ready to cement a friendship."

"Alcohol isn't cement," replied Mr. Farnum, mildly. "At least, not with
our party. The time was, I admit, Mr. Rhinds, when business men often
tried to cement a business friendship with wine or liquor. But those
times have gone by. Drinking is out of date, nowadays. The keenest and
most dependable business men are those who do not drink. In fact, I may
go a little further, and say that, in our business at Dunhaven, we have
come to the point where we no longer have any dealings with business men
whom we know to drink. You will understand, of course, that this is said
without criticism of whatever views you yourself may entertain."

"Oh, well, then," grunted Rhinds, much taken back by the fairly spoken
words of his rival. "I dare say there was too much drinking in the old
days. Yes, Farnum, I am much inclined to agree with you, and we will do
without the wine."

None the less, it was plain that their host was much annoyed.

"I want to get at the members of the naval board," declared Mr. Farnum,
toward the end of the meal. "I want to find out what is planned in the
tests that are to take place here."

"The members of the board," replied Mr. Rhinds, "are the three men, in
citizen dress, who are at the sixth table down from here. They came into
their dinner about ten minutes ago. As to to-morrow, I can tell you
that, beginning at eleven o'clock, all the submarine boats entered are
to take a straight, out-to-sea speed sail for six hours. The gunboat,
'Chelsea' will start the fleet, and the 'Oakland' will go along with the
racers."

"That's short time for us," muttered Mr. Farnum, uneasily.

"Luckily, sir, we're ready, at a single moment's notice," interposed
Captain Jack Benson.

"As soon as we get through," proposed Mr. Rhinds, easily, "I'll take you
over and present you to Captain Magowan and his associates on the board."

"That is kind of you," nodded Mr. Farnum, gratefully.

Accordingly, a few minutes later, Mr. Rhinds arose, sauntering, cigar in
mouth, over to the table of the officers of the naval board. He spoke
with them a few moments, then returned.

"Mr. Farnum, and Mr Pollard," announced Rhinds, "Captain Magowan and his
associates invite you to come over and sit at their table. Radwin, will
you look after our young friends? See whether you can show them any
courtesies."

A highly significant look passed between the portly rascal and his
secretary. None of the Farnum party, however, noted it.

"Well, what shall we do, boys?" inquired Radwin, genially, as, the four
sauntered down the lobby toward the hotel entrance.

"I reckon taking things easily and restfully will suit us as well as
anything," smiled Jack. "That is, unless you have some plan you
particularly wish to suggest."

"Well," continued Radwin, thoughtfully, "the town is rather full of
sailors, just at present, and they're making the nights lively in some
sections. Do you care to go around with me, and see what the sailors are
doing to drive dull care away?"

"Well, that is a question," said Jack Benson quickly. "We're boys, you
know!"

"Sensible young fellows," cried Fred Radwin, in a tone so full of
approval as to disarm all suspicion. "Then, for a while, what do you say
if we take window seats here near the entrance, and note whatever may be
passing on the street? By that time your employers may be through with
the board members and come out."

"Why not go outside in the air, and walk up and down the block?"
suggested Jack.

"Excellent!" agreed Radwin, readily. He accompanied them outside,
though, a few moments later, he excused himself, saying that he had to go
to the nearest drugstore to write a short letter and post it.

"What do you think of Radwin?" Hal asked.

"Why, I guess he's a good deal the sort of fellow that Rhinds wants,"
Captain Jack answered, slowly.

"Don't you like Rhinds?" demanded Eph.

"Now, would it be just right to say that?" asked Jack, slowly. "Mr.
Rhinds has tried to be very pleasant to us to-night. So has Mr. Radwin.
Probably they're both good fellows, in their own way. Only - "

"Well?" insisted Hal.

"Why, to tell the truth," confessed Captain Benson, "Rhinds impresses me
as being just a bit coarse, and Radwin a little too smooth and slick.
To put it another way, they're not just our kind of people. That is,
they're not at all in the same class with gentlemen like Jake Farnum and
Dave Pollard. Now, that's every word I'm going to say against Rhinds or
Radwin, for they've certainly been agreeable to us to-night."

Chatting thus, as they strolled slowly back and forth, none of the
submarine boys noted how long Radwin was gone. As a matter of fact, that
enterprising, rapidly-moving young man was away for nearly half an
hour - and he was tremendously busy on their account.

The Somerset stood on one of the older, quieter streets of Colfax. At
this time of the night there were not many passers.

"Here comes Radwin," discovered Hal, at last. "I had almost forgotten
that he was coming back to us."

"I thought he had forgotten," laughed Jack.

Then all three turned to greet Mr. Radwin.

"How's this?" he asked. "Haven't Mr. Rhinds and your friends come out
yet?"

"They must be talking, yet, with the officers of the naval board,"
suggested Eph Somers.

"They're sure to be out presently," nodded Radwin, after he had walked
the submarine boys to the next corner. "At least, Mr. Rhinds is, for he
always takes a walk in the evening, after dinner. Now, I've discovered
the place where they serve the finest hot soda - chocolate, at that. I
wanted to invite all hands there. But I'm afraid Rhinds and your
employers may come out and be looking for us. Benson, do you feel like
remaining here, to guide them along, while I take your comrades up to
the place? You can tell the older men where we are, and then Mr Rhinds
will bring you all around. He knows the place. Come along, Somers and
Hastings. Benson, bring the older ones as soon as you see them come out
of the hotel."

"Why, say, Jack, you go along now," urged Eph. "You know I don't care
much about chocolate, and you do. So run along. I'll stay right here
until I see our people."

"Good boy, Eph!" murmured Jack, gratefully. "You know my weakness for
hot chocolate. I feel as if I could punish four or five of 'em right
now."

As he turned away with Jack and Hal, Mr. Radwin looked rather
disappointed. In fact, he was exceedingly disappointed, for he had hoped
to leave Captain Jack Benson at this corner on the block below the hotel.

The street was practically deserted there. Yet barely two minutes had
passed when, about a block away, in the opposite direction from that of
the hotel, Eph heard a quick little feminine scream.

Wheeling about, Somers saw something that aroused his blood.

A girl, or young woman, he could not tell which, at the distance, cowered
back from a short, thick-set young man who had raised his hand to strike
her.

The next instant Eph saw the blow fall. Again the young woman cried out,
though not very loudly. But the brute seemed on the point of once more
striking her.

"Wow!" sputtered Eph, angrily. "We'll see about that."

On the run Somers went down the short block. The bully, hearing him
come, turned for a look, then darted away down the side street.

"I - I beg your pardon," stammered Eph, as the young woman turned,
flashing a look at him through a thin veil. "I - I don't want to
interfere, but - "

"I'm very glad you did, sir," responded the young woman, in a voice
whose sweetness charmed the submarine boy. "That wretch - "

"I wonder if I can overtake him and thrash him," pondered Eph, glancing
down the side street. The bully had disappeared.

"Oh, don't think of that," begged the girl, in a quick, anxious way. "I
don't want to set people's tongues to wagging."

"No; of course not," Eph assented, quickly.

"But, if you will escort me safe home - "

"Gladly, miss," nodded young Somers, again lifting his cap.

"Oh, that will be so kind of you," she murmured. "For I am afraid Tom
might be waiting for me, on the way to my home - "

"If he gets within hailing distance," uttered Eph, valiantly, "I'll plant
a torpedo fist under him!"

"Will you let me take your arm?" begged the girl; for, from her voice and
her slight, trim she appeared to be no more. That she was indeed afraid
was testified to by the way in which her hand trembled on his arm. It
was such a tender little hand, too! Eph was not a flirt. He did not
give much thought to girls, as a rule, but he wasn't going to see one
struck by a street bully.

So he walked along, down the side street, turning, also, at two or three
other corners, talking cheerily to make the girl forget her late fright.
Her face Eph couldn't see very well, on account of the veil, but he
decided that the young woman possessed beautiful, flashing eyes, as he
caught their expression dimly through the veil.

Down another quiet side street they were passing, when they came to the
head of an alley-way. Just as they reached it the girl let go of Eph's
arm, uttering a little scream as she darted away. Eph didn't follow her.
He found himself face to face with the thick set young man, Tom. Just
of that worthy were two other sturdy-looking young hoodlums.

"Now, you an' me have got something to settle, younker," glared Tom.

"All right," retorted Eph, undauntedly. "But fair play - one at a time."

Eph's fists were up, and he sailed in, fighting manfully, sailor-fashion.
Then the other two closed in behind young Somers. He was struck on the
back of the head, and darkness came over him and he fell insensible to
the ground.

When luckless Eph came to his senses he found himself lying, bound hand
and foot, on a pile of rags. The darkness around him was complete.

"Well, this is a puzzle to unravel!" muttered the astounded submarine
boy.

Yet, think and ponder as he would, it never occurred to him to see, in
his misfortune, the guiding hand of Fred Radwin!




CHAPTER VIII

ONE, TWO, THREE - A FULL BAG!


At the hot soda place even Jack Benson, fond as he was of such
decoctions, at last had his fill.

"Funny Eph hasn't brought the others here," muttered Jack.

"Pardon me, a moment," urged Radwin, rising. "I'll be back directly."

Radwin slipped out to the sidewalk, for he had seen a hovering figure at
the curb. However, Radwin kept on down the street, turning in at the
third doorway beyond. Now, the hovering figure sauntered past.

"We got the cub," whispered the prowler.

"Good!" whispered Radwin. "Then you're ready for the rest?"

"Huh! It'll be like sleeping on a haymow, if the other two are as easy
as that one was."

"All right, then! Be off, and see that you do your work well!"

With that Radwin walked briskly back and into the hot soda place.

"I'm ashamed to tell you what took me out," he laughed, easily. "Boys,
after writing that letter in the drug-store, I forgot to mail it, and
just felt it in my coat pocket. Well, it's safe in the mail-box, at
last."

"We were just saying," Hal announced, "that it's funny the others haven't
come along. We better go back and get Eph, anyway?"

"It will be a good idea," nodded Radwin.

Of course, when they reached the corner at which they had left young
Somers, he was not there.

"I wonder if he has gone back and joined the party at the hotel?"
queried Hal.

"We can soon find out," declared Jack.

"Suppose you and I walk down there, then, Hastings?" suggested Radwin.
"We can leave Benson here, to tell Somers where we are, if he comes back
this way."

"You wait here, Hal," suggested Jack. "There's a little matter I want
to speak to Mr. Farnum about, anyway."

So Hastings was left at the corner. He saw Jack and the Rhinds man go
in through the hotel entrance.

Then, hearing steps, Hal turned to see two sailors approaching. They
wore the uniform of the United States Navy. Hastings regarded them with
the friendly interest that he, like most other Americans, always felt
for sailors. But the two sailors came along, talking earnestly, and did
not appear to see young Hastings, who stood in close to the wall.


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