"When I first seen him fall," one of the sailors was saying, "I mistook
him for a Navy officer. He was pretty young, but the uniform fooled me."
"He had the uniform, all right but no signs of rank on it," nodded the
other sailor, thoughtfully. "Was he much hurt?"
"Oh, it won't kill him," replied the first sailor. "But - "
"I beg your pardon," interposed Hal, springing in front of the pair.
"It has just struck me that you are speaking of a comrade of mine."
"Well, he had a uniform on, just like your'n, replied the first sailor,
looking Hal Hastings over quickly.
"Only the young feller we're talkin' about has red hair," added the
"What has happened to him?" demanded Hal, a feeling of alarm sweeping
"Oh, he got in a little fight - that's all," responded the first sailor.
"Bit off a little bit bigger chunk of fight than he could handle. He's
kinder dazed and silly, now, and talkin' about queer things. Half an
hour more, though, messmate, and I guess he'll be able to walk down to
the water front all right."
Eph knocked out and dazed - among strangers! That was the sole picture
that appeared to Hal Hastings's mind at that moment.
"He's a friend of mine - messmate, at that," Hal declared, quickly.
"Where is the place? Or, better still, can you take me to it? I'll
"Oh, stow the reward, messmate," replied one of the sailors. "We
fellers that foller seafighting for a trade have got to stand in together
once in a while. When I seen your friend knocked down I jumped in and
floored the big rough that hurt your messmate. We'd have brought your
friend along, but we didn't know just where to take him."
It was hard for Hal to believe that clear-eyed, level-headed Eph Somers
would go into any of the low drinking resorts of the town; but he
thought it best not to ask any questions until he found young Somers.
After some two minutes of brisk walking the two sailors turned down into
"The place we're going to is dark on the ground floor," stated one of
them. "Don't be afraid to go up a dark stairway, messmate. We'll be
with you, anyway."
"I don't believe I'm afraid, thank you," smiled Hal.
One of the sailors, stepping ahead, pushed door open, going in first.
Hal followed, the other sailor bringing up the rear.
Then, like a flash, Hal Hastings felt him self seized on that dark
stairway, and a big hand held over his mouth.
Like a tiger Hal fought for a few moments. As nearly as he could judge,
in the dark, he had four assailants. He was overborne, at last gagged
In the meantime Jack and Mr. Radwin had gone to the hotel dining room,
to find that the last diners had departed, leaving only a few waiters
who were arranging tables.
"No one here," murmured Radwin "Then we'll look through the billiard
room, writing room and other places. Young Somers must be with the
Twenty minutes or more they spent in looking through the various public
parts of the big hotel. Then they returned to the lobby. Radwin was
limping, now, and looked uncomfortable.
"What's the matter?" questioned Jack.
"A nail in my shoe hurts me," lied the other, glibly, sinking into a
chair. "Benson, I reckon I'll sit here a few minutes. Then I'll get to
my room and call a bell-boy, to see if he can find some one to fix the
"Too bad," murmured Jack. "But say, I'll go back to the corner, and
tell Hal, so he won't be standing on the corner all night."
With that Jack Benson walked briskly out. Up at the next corner,
however, instead of finding Hal, the young skipper was accosted by two
sailors in United States naval uniform.
"I reckon your name's Benson, messmate?" hailed one of the pair.
"I reckon it is," nodded Jack, looking sharply at them.
"Got a bit of bad news for you, then," added the first speaker. "It
ain't so awful bad, though. One of your friends - Winter, I think his
name was - "
"No; Somers," corrected the other sailor.
"Well, he saw a row going on, and he had to run down the street and get
into it. Too many fellers in the fight, and Winter - "
"Somers," interposed the second sailor.
"Yes; that was it. Somers got pretty badly used up. His scalp was cut
some considerable. He was taken into a house nearby, and a doctor called
in to stitch him up. Somers sent us to find his messmates. We found
your friend, Hastings, and took him around there. Hastings wanted us to
find you, and bring you there, messmate."
"Poor old Eph!" muttered Jack. "Tough luck, and at a bad time for us."
"We'll take you 'round to where your messmates are," volunteered the
sailor. "Hastings was particular that you come at once."
"I'll get a carriage to bring Mr. Somers home in," Jack suggested.
"Oh, your messmate, Hastings, has sent a feller for a carriage," broke
in the first sailor, hastily.
"Good enough," Jack nodded. "Then say, boys, I'll just run back to the
hotel. I left Radwin in there. I'll be right back with you. You'll
wait for me, surely, won't you?"
"Oh, sure!" chorused both sailors. Then, as Jack Benson scurried down
the street, the two supposed sailors turned to each other, chuckling
"Sure we'll waits" repeated one of the pair.
It was several minutes ere Jack returned, coming up almost breathlessly.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, boys," he spoke, hastily. "But I'm here at
"Oh, that's all right, messmate. Come along and we'll pilot you straight
to your friend, Winter - "
"Somers," corrected the other sailor.
Between the pair, some two minutes later, Jack Benson turned off a side
street into an alleyway. The houses down in this alley were dark. Most
of the little buildings here were occupied only in the daytime, as junk
shops and old rag stores.
"Don't mind the dark," spoke one of the sailors, as he pushed open a
door. "There's light enough on the second floor. That's where you'll
find your friend, Winter."
"Somers," remonstrated the second sailor.
On the dark stairway Jack Benson found himself suddenly attacked, not
only by the sailor pair, but by at least two other men, as well.
BUT SOMETHING HAPPENED NEXT
"Oh, you - " Jack shot out, hoarsely, he felt himself borne under by
"Go easy, messmate, and you'll sleep more peaceful to-night!" chuckled
one of the sailors, holding a big hand over the submarine boy's mouth,
while another unseen assailant pinned Jack's hands at the wrists.
Flare! A sudden glow of light illumined the dark hallway. Then more
"Jerusby!" howled one of the sailor pair, leaping to his feet.
Instantly there was consternation among all the assailants.
In the excitement, young Benson was forgotten. Freed from assault, he
leaped to his feet.
The flare of light had come from two bull's-eye police lanterns, held in
the open doorway below.
"There are the scoundrels, men! Grab them!" shouted a voice of
The speaker and two other men were in police uniforms. Four other men
there were in ordinary civilian garb.
In the excitement Jack Benson let his fist fly, knocking one of the
sailors headlong down the stairs. But the submarine boy did not pause
there. His other fist, landed on the second sailor, sending him after
"Club their heads off, if any of 'em put up a fight," commanded the
police officer in charge.
Two other men, not in sailors' uniform cowered on the stairs, close to
the young submarine captain. There was no fight, beyond the blows that
young Benson struck. Cowed by the unexpected appearance of the law's
force, the quartette of rascals surrendered. There was a clicking of
"Your chief thought I was crazy, or telling him fairy stories over the
telephone," laughed Captain Jack Benson. "Now, I guess - "
"I am the Chief of police," retorted the officer in authority. "I
thought that, if anything such as you described were happening in Colfax,
then I'd better come along myself to investigate. But now, perhaps you
can explain more than you did over the 'phone from the Somerset House?"
"I have the best of reasons," Jack replied, "for imagining that two of
my friends have disappeared by the same trick that was tried on me. If
that is so, I'm mighty anxious to find them as soon as possible."
"Do any of you scoundrels know where this young gentleman's friends are?"
demanded the chief, turning to glare at his prisoners, lined up along
the wall in the lower hallway. "The man that talks quickly now may get
off easier than the rest, later on."
"There's two boys bound and gagged in the sub-cellar of this place,"
spoke one of the two prisoners not in uniform.
"Good enough," nodded the chief of police, looking at the informant.
"Officer Davis, you come with me. You may come, too, Mr. Benson. The
rest of you wait where you are."
The door to the cellar was locked, but the police chief, with a skeleton
key, soon had the lock forced. Passing down into the cellar, their way
lighted by one of the bull's-eye lanterns, they found a trap opening
upon a stairway down into the sub-cellar below.
Here they came upon Hal and Eph, both securely bound and gagged, and
lying on piles of old rags. It was not long ere the two submarine boys
were free and on their feet, wholly overjoyed.
"Great Scott! How did you ever find us here?" quivered Eph Somers.
"I'll tell you when we get away from here," smiled Skipper Jack.
Up the stairs they went. One of the police party, in the meantime, had
gone out to telephone for a covered police van. Into this the four
prisoners were hustled and locked securely in.
Those of the police party who did not go with the van soon vanished, all,
save Chief Ward.
"Now, Captain Benson," muttered the chief of police, "I want to
congratulate you on your clever wit and sound judgment. I also want to
thank you for enabling me to run down a gang like that. I fully
understand that in the morning, you have to be away on a very important
submarine test, and that it would be wholly inconvenient for you to have
to appear in court. So I won't expect you. On the testimony that my
men and I can give the judge will continue the case until such time as
you can appear. My men already understand that none of the prisoners are
to be allowed to communicate with outside friends to-night or to-morrow
morning. So you may be sure that no news of their arrest will leak out.
And now, good-night, boys. Congratulations, again, and thanks!"
Nor were Jack Benson and his friends long in vanishing, either. They
did not go back at all by the way of the Somerset House. They went down
to the water-front by a different route. Yet they were fortunate enough
to find a shore boat that put them out on board the "Benson."
"And now, Jack, old fellow," exploded Eph, as they sat in the snug
security of their little cabin, "don't you dare think of anything else
until you tell us how you brought a seeming miracle about."
"Oh, that was easy," laughed Jack Benson, gleefully. "In the first
place, it was mighty queer, Eph, that we left you on that corner - and
you vanished. Then we left Hal on that same corner - and the earth
swallowed him up. Then two fake sailors stopped me at that very same
corner - "
"How did you know they were fake sailors?" broke in Hal. "I never
suspected their genuineness."
"Why, see here," glowed Jack, "a United States Man-of-warsman has
respect for an officer's uniform drilled into him twenty-four hours in
the day. We're not officers of the Navy, but we wear a uniform that is
very much like the uniform of a naval officer, all but the insignia
of rank. What is the consequence? Every sailor we meet sees the
uniform, and says 'sir' to us by sheer force of habit. Why, you both
know that a good many sailors who pass us give us the regular salute.
Yet these two fake sailors hailed me as 'messmate' and were as familiar
in every other way as they knew how to be."
"Gracious! When they spoke to me, I never thought of that little point,"
"So I told the pretended sailors," continued Captain Jack, "that I'd run
down to the hotel, and that I'd be right back."
"Did you tell anyone where you were going?" demanded Eph.
"No one was there that I knew. Instead, I slipped into the telephone
room, at the side of the lobby, and called up the chief of police.
I happened to get the chief himself on the wire. He thought I was a
drunken sailor, or else that I was out of my head. But he finally
agreed to have some detectives on hand to see the sailors take me away
"Then - ?" pursued Eph.
"Why, then I waited long enough to give the detectives a chance to reach
the scene. Then I went back and walked into the trap with the fake
It was a story that was hugely enjoyed by the young submarine captain's
"But who would put up such a queer job on us?" demanded Hal.
"It must be some one who didn't want us to man a Pollard boat in
to-morrow's speed test, of course," nodded Jack. "It seems like a mean
thing to say, and we ought to be sure, but I believe Rhinds and Radwin
are the offenders."
The more the submarine boys talked it over, the more they were inclined
to fall in line with the guess that Rhinds and Radwin had been behind
"Some one has got to suffer for this business, before we get through!"
cried Captain Jack, his eyes flashing ominously. "But come, now,
fellows, we must go to bed, for we must have enough sleep if we're to
be good and fit in to morrow's race."
It was rather late, that evening when Messrs. Farnum and Pollard, still
with John C. Rhinds, returned to the Somerset House.
"I don't see our youngsters about, anywhere," muttered Jacob Farnum.
"But their room keys are gone from the clerk's rack, so I guess they've
turned in, like sensible fellows."
They did not know that Radwin himself had secretly removed the keys in
order to create the impression that the boys were in bed.
Rhinds and Radwin talked in whispers, behind the locked door of another
room. They chuckled a long while, then shook hands and went to bed.
The boys, however, as we know, were safely aboard the submarine.
Mr. Farnum had left a call for eight o'clock in the morning. It was
about twenty minutes later that Farnum and Pollard knocked loudly on
the door of the room occupied by Rhinds.
"Well?" demanded Mr. Rhinds, opening the door, and appearing, minus coat
and vest. "Ah, good morning, gentlemen. Going down to breakfast? I'll
be ready in a few moments."
"Breakfast - nothing!" retorted Jacob Farnum, sharply. "Our young men
are missing. We went to their rooms this morning, and could get no
answer. We've had their doors opened with pass-keys - our three young
submarine officers haven't been in their beds all night long!"
John C. Rhinds allowed his face to express more surprise than concern
over this news.
"Oh, well," he remarked, "boys will be boys, you know - especially when
"Our boys are not that sort," retorted Mr. Farnum, sharply. "They are
not hoodlums or racketers."
"Then of course you'll find 'em safe on one of your boats," proposed Mr.
Rhinds, innocently. "Just two minutes, and I'll go down to breakfast
Radwin, too, joined them. He also expressed surprise, artfully. All
four went to the breakfast room together. Messrs. Farnum and Pollard
ate well enough, though they seemed badly worried.
"There's just one thing about it, of course," sighed Jacob Farnum, as
the party left the table. "If our youngsters are not on one of our boats,
then we've got to lose the speed race to-day. None of us can handle the
boats the way they do."
"Oh, you'll find the boys all right on one of the boats," asserted Fred
The rivals went down to the water front together. It was well after
nine o'clock when they entered a shore boat.
"We'll go out to your craft, first," proposed Mr. Rhinds, "You'll feel
so much better, gentlemen, when you find your crew all right. I'll feel
better, too, for I wouldn't want to beat you unfairly to-day."
Grant Andrews and two of his workmen stood on the platform deck of the
"Benson," leaning against the conning tower, when the shore boat came
"I am afraid to call out to Grant, and ask him," faltered the
"Then don't do it," returned Mr. Rhinds, sympathetically. "Just wait
until we get alongside, and you'll see your young men popping out of the
conning tower, rested and as bright as new buttons."
A moment later the shore boat rounded in alongside. Then, quite
suddenly, the three submarine boys projected themselves through the
manhole, and stood in full view on the platform deck.
"Eh? Hey?" gasped John C. Rhinds, utterly nonplussed.
Fred Radwin's lower jaw seemed to drop several inches. He stared as
though he were seeing ghosts, while a sickly, greenish pallor crept into
his handsome face.
"By Jove, you were right, Rhinds!" gasped Jacob Farnum, turning. "Thank
you, old man, for keeping our courage up."
"Good morning, Mr. Farnum! Good Morning Mr. Pollard!" chorused the three
submarine boys. Then, favoring Rhinds and Radwin with brief glances:
"Good morning - _gentlemen!_"
"Gentlemen?" repeated Eph, disgustedly, under his breath. "I think not!"
Though Rhinds and his agent speedily managed to look pleasant, they
hadn't gotten their spirits back when the shore boat pulled away.
Farnum and Pollard went hurriedly below, where Jack and his comrades
"Jack! Jack! Thank you a million times!" gasped Farnum, seizing the young
captain's hand, then giving the other boys the same hearty gripping
handshake. "Your note that we got, this morning, gave us the information
we needed and we knew just how to act."
"And, from the way Rhinds and his fellow acted, when they caught sight
of you boys," added David Pollard, "we can form a pretty good idea of who
tried to shanghai you three last night."
"The scoundrels!" glowered Farnum, in righteous rage.
"Now, sir," cried Jack, laughing savagely, "why did those fellows try
such a trick on us? Because they hoped, thereby, to beat us in the
distance speed race to-day."
"Of course," nodded the shipbuilder, still savage. "Rhinds builds fast
submarines. I know that, from the reports I've had. Plainly, the
Pollard boats are the only craft he feels much afraid of."
"He'll be more than afraid, to-night," vaunted Jack Benson, proudly.
"More than afraid, sir. When the figures of to-day's distance speed
course are in John C. Rhinds will be frozen cold!"
"If we have to turn on gasoline and run the engines so hot we blow the
whole deck off!" confirmed Hal Hastings, explosively.
"If I should be inclined to forget to-day," growled Eph Somers, "I have
a pain in my head, from a crack I received last night, that will put me
in mind of the whole outrage, and keep me strictly on the job of
"I guess you youngsters have the winning fire all right, for to-day,"
smiled Jacob Farnum, grimly.
"Are you going to enter both boats in to-day's race?" asked Jack, more
"We can't," replied the shipbuilder. "Captain Magowan told me, last
night, that, since the Rhinds people and ourselves are the only makers
who have more than one boat here, today's race will be confined to one
craft representative of each make. So, which boat do you prefer to take
out to-day, Jack?"
"It doesn't make a bit of difference which one," returned young Captain
Benson. "Between the 'Hastings' and the 'Benson' there isn't a hair's
breadth to choose. But with either boat, sir, I believe that, to-day, we
can run any Rhinds boat off the surface of the ocean!"
It was all very good to have such confidence in their boat. Yet was it
to be justified?
* * * * * * * * * *
Almost immediately came the first blow. A telegram came on board,
addressed to Williamson. The latter's brother was seriously ill at home,
and the machinist had to leave at once, going north by the next train.
As it happened, the brother speedily recovered, but this incident for
the time left the Farnum forces the losers of a highly useful man in the
JOHN C. RHINDS ADVOCATES FAIR SPORT!
Boom! From over the port rail of the "Oakland" a dense cloud of grayish
white smoke belched out.
Through it flashed a streak of red.
As the "Oakland" was the temporary flagship of this fleet of two
gunboats, this gunfire was the signal for the submarines to move on out
of the bay.
Lieutenant Danvers had already come over to the "Benson" from the
flagship. Danvers bore with him the orders of the naval board.
Moreover, the lieutenant was to remain on the Pollard craft that day.
Each submarine that was entered for the race had a naval officer on
board, who was to give directions, at need, and to act as judge of
"Just get under way easily, and move out, Mr. Benson," advised Danvers.
"Eight or nine miles will be fast enough to go."
Jack and the naval officer stood by the platform deck steering wheel as
the "Benson" left her moorings.
Back by the conning tower stood Messrs. Farnum and Pollard. Eph was
below, until otherwise needed, to render Hal any necessary help in the
"There goes the Rhinds boats" called Mr Farnum, as one of the other
submarines left her moorings, making for sea in the wake of the
"Chelsea," which gunboat was to act as the starter's boat for that day.
"What's the name of that particular Rhinds boat?" asked Jack.
"The 'Zelda'," replied Lieutenant Danvers.
"Nice, lady-like name for a fighting boat," mocked Jack.
"You don't seem to like the Rhinds people," hinted the naval officer.
"I don't," Jack admitted, bluntly.
"Well, I suppose it isn't human nature to be fond of our rivals,"
assented the naval officer, slowly.
"I've other reasons, of my own, for disliking Rhinds," muttered the
"He hasn't what you could call a wholesome face," smiled Danvers. "In
fact, I think Mr. Rhinds must be a self-made man, made very badly. I
can't quite think that he has anything of the human face divine."
Jack laughed, but bitterly.
"The 'Zelda' is the boat we have to beat today," he added.
"I wonder if you'll do it?" muttered Lieutenant Danvers, gazing suddenly
over at the "Zelda," now well ahead and cutting a white path of foam.
"Great guns, look at her go!"
Jack did glance up and ahead. He felt a sinking at heart, for the
moment. For the "Zelda" was showing a burst of speed that was calculated
to make any rival thoughtful.
"Mr. Farnum," Jack called back, "will you pass the word for Hal to come
Young Hastings was up in a moment!
"They're forcing that boat," muttered Hal, gazing after the "Zelda"
uneasily. "I can overtake her, though, Jack, if you say the word."
"Do you think so?" asked Lieutenant Danvers, dubiously.
"Don't try it, Hal," Jack advised, quietly. "Save all overheated pistons
and other parts for the final test."
The "Zelda" was now well ahead of the "Chelsea," which was putting out
at cruising speed only.
Too-oot! toot! toot! sounded sharply, hoarsely, from the deep throat
of the "Chelsea's" whistle.
"Good enough," muttered Lieutenant Danvers. "They've ordered the Rhinds
scooter to slow clown and fall into line behind the gunboat."
"I'm sorry," muttered Hal.
"Why?" asked the naval lieutenant.
"I wish they had let old Rhinds go ahead and get all his machinery
red-hot at the outset."
Then, slowly shaking his head, Hal Hastings went back to his post.
"Do you really think we can beat that scooter to-day, Hal?" inquired
the shipbuilder, anxiously.
"What makes you so certain, lad?"
"Why, we'll beat her just because we've got to do it, sir," Hastings
replied, then hurried below.
"Hal isn't any too sure," muttered David Pollard, restlessly. "Neither
am I. Jake, we have a strong fight to make to-day. Somehow, Rhinds has
managed to put a pretty lively engine in that boat of his. I had an
idea she'd be two or three miles an hour slower."
"Probably we haven't been shown anything like the 'Zelda's' best speed,
yet," replied Farnum, moodily.
Building and trying out submarine torpedo boats is the kind of work to
make many a man's hair turn prematurely white. As success depends
solely upon actual showings made, the anxiety of any builder during a
series of competitive tests in which several makes of boat are entered
can be easily understood.
Messrs. Farnum and Pollard were plainly on tenterhooks that day. They