Victor G. Durham.

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

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pleasure of seeing you until this evening. But that auto car outside,
which I did not order for this hour, and, in fact, cannot use for to-day,
gives me an idea. It is a car that I have hired for a week. Now,
Elinor and I are not going to use the car. Mr. Farnum, can't you and
your friends make use of the car to-day?"

Jacob Farnum would have tried to decline, pleasantly, fearing the
acceptance of the use of the automobile might seem to bind him to
extend courtesies on one of his boats. But Mr. Hodges was so gently,
firmly insistent that, in a very short time, the submarine party found
themselves seated in the car.

There was an abundance of room, for it was a seven-passenger car, large
and roomy.

"This car is a whizzer, I understand," smiled Mr. Hodges, from the

"It certainly is, sir," agreed the chauffeur.

"Well, chauffeur, take my friends wherever they want to go to-day, and
do whatever they want. Above all, when you get out on a country road,
show 'em some of your high speed."

"Yes, sir."

Honk! honk! The car rolled away, going slowly enough through the city
streets. Jacob Farnum, who sat in front with the driver, lighted a
cigar and settled back to enjoy himself.

"Any particular place you want to go, sir?" asked the chauffeur.

"No," replied the shipbuilder. "You know the way around this part of
the world better than we do. Take us out into the surrounding country,
and show us anything you consider of interest."

"Yes, sir."

After a few minutes the car had left Colfax behind. They were out on the
beginning of a country road, now. The chauffeur let out a few notches
of speed.

"Smooth-running car," commented Mr. Farnum.

"Runs just as smoothly, sir, at sixty miles an hour," replied the man.

"When we get a little further out, you can us some of that," smiled
Mr. Farnum, contentedly.

"I will, sir."

"You boys afraid to go at sixty miles an hour?" asked the shipbuilder,
turning to face those in the tonneau.

"Scared to death," laughed Jack Benson, gleefully.

As soon as the chauffeur considered that he had reached a
little-enough-traveled part of the country road he let out the speed.

"My, but we're going some," called Farnum.

"Fifty miles," replied the chauffeur. "Now, I'll show you sixty."

The car seemed to leap forward. Then, it seemed to those in the tonneau
as though they were beating any speed ever reached by an express train.

Whizz-zz! It was wild, exhilarating - dangerous!

"Say!" gasped Farnum. "If - "

That was as far as he got. The forward end of his side of the car sank
to the ground. The car seemed trying to stand on its head.

Then it stopped, and all in it were hurled into the center of awful



In the next instant all had settled.

There had been a brief moment in which the air around the wrecked auto
had seemed full of flying human beings.

Now, they lay by the road side in varying degrees of disaster.

The left front axle had broken, the wheel rolling some yards ere it

Jacob Farnum, seated right over the axle, was hurled out, head first as
nearly as he could afterwards guess. How he avoided landing on his head
and sustaining a broken neck or shattered skull was one of those
miraculous things that no one can explain.

The chauffeur had plunged out over Farnum's head, alighting beyond the
shipbuilder. The chauffeur now lay writhing and groaning.

David Pollard landed first, on one wrist and his chest, a cry of anguish
escaping him.

Eph Somers lay in the road motionless. Jack and Hal fell against the
padded side of the car. Hal remained there during the next second, but
young Benson turned a half-somersault, lightly, landing in the road just

It was young Captain Jack who first got to his feet. Dazed for a few
moments, he rose slowly seeking for signs of injury.

"I - I believe I'm not hurt," he congratulated himself. "Thank heaven
for that, for there are others here who seem in need of the promptest

First of all Jack turned to his chum, young Hastings. But Hal, though
his face was white from the shock of it all, smiled back, then helped
himself out of the wrecked car.

Within the next few minutes it developed that Eph had been stunned.
Beyond this he had suffered no injury except a bruise along the left

Jacob Farnum proved to be only stunned and badly shaken. But David
Pollard displayed a helpless left wrist and complained of severe pain
in the left side of his chest.

The chauffeur had a broken left leg, a broken arm, and a mass of bruises
on his face, where he had struck the hard earth.

"Great Scott, but this is almost like the carnage of war!" muttered Jack
Benson. "Hal, you and Eph help Mr. Farnum with the others. I'm going
down the road to the first house, and send for aid."

Arrived at a farm-house that proved to be connected with the telephone
service, Jack 'phoned for the two nearest doctors, and for men to come
and help the injured. Then he called up the garage from which the auto
had been hired; this address being supplied by the chauffeur.

Then, accompanied by the man of the house, young Benson hurried back to
the scene of the wreck. The submarine captain found that he had at
least been so bruised and shaken up that speed on his feet hurt.

The first to arrive, of those summoned, was the owner of the garage in
Colfax. He came in a large car, burning gasoline fast.

"I'm Graves, from the garage," he introduced himself, shutting off power
and leaping out. "Jove, what a smash this is!"

Until two doctors and several men arrived Graves devoted himself to
helping make the injured victims as comfortable as possible.

When the doctors and helpers appeared on the scene Graves soon called
Jack Benson aside.

"There's something about this affair that must be investigated," declared
the garage man, in an undertone. "The cars that I keep are all of one
make, and there are no stauncher, safer cars made in the world. No such
accident has ever before happened to one of my cars. Come; let's see
what we can find out."

Graves didn't have to look far. He halted at the broken axle, staring
at it hard. Then he looked over the broken casting from all sides.

"See here," Graves ground out, between his teeth, "all the axles on my
cars are branded with the trade-mark of the maker, and the number of the
inspector who passes the axles. Yet this axle is unbranded! Now, I
happen to know that the left forward axle on this car - last
night - was branded as usual, for I had the wheel off and looked it over.
That I can swear to."

"Then another axle has been substituted?" demanded Jack, his eyes

"Yes, sirree."

"How long, after you saw the right axle in place here, was it before the
car was taken from your garage?"

"According to the office books this car was taken from the garage at
three o'clock this morning," replied Graves.

"By one of your own men?"

"No, sir! By a stranger who rented the car for a week, paid the rental
price, and gave his name as Hodges. He seemed to understand all about
running a car. He brought it back at six this morning."

"Was that time enough in which to substitute a defective axle?" Jack

"Oh, yes; a man expert at such work could do it in considerably less

"Such a defective axle might run along smoothly, quite a while at low
speed?" Benson persisted.


"But at high speed - ?"

"Look at this axle!" continued the garage man, excitedly. "You know
something about steel, don't you, young man?"

"Enough to run machinery."

"You see what a flawed piece of steel this is - unsuited to any strain?
I don't believe this axle could stand the strain of high speed in a big
auto for the distance of a mile."

"That's about all it stood with us," muttered Jack Benson, his face
white, his jaws firmly set.

"There's been some nasty work here," continued the garage man. "It
wasn't done by my chauffeur, either. He's probably the worst hurt of any
in your party, which assures his innocence of a hand in the despicable

"Oh, I don't suspect your man - not for an instant," Jack assured the
garage owner. "The truth is, I think I can guess just where to place
the blame."

"Hodges turned this car over to you for a pleasure jaunt, didn't he?"
demanded the garage owner.


"And it was the same fellow who took this car out before daylight. It
wasn't used again until it was sent around for your party. Mr. Benson,
I think we can both guess whom to suspect in this desperately wicked
piece of business. If I can find that rascal, Hodges, I'll certainly
lay violent hands on him!"

"Don't!" advised Jack, quietly. "In the first place, Mr. Graves, if you
took the law into your own hands, you'd only get yourself into trouble.
In the second place" - Jack Benson lowered his voice still more - "I
know, as well as I know I'm living, that Hodges was only the agent of
some one else. Mr. Graves, do me a great favor - a great favor to all
our party. For the present, if you must say anything, say just as
little as possible about the accident. Let it go at that. Don't throw
out any suspicions against Hodges. Don't let anyone know that I have
any suspicions. Just keep the whole thing quiet - and in that way
we'll get the authors of this outrage."

"Are you sure?" demanded Graves, his look still darkly vengeful.

"You might talk to just one person - when there's no one else around to
overhear you," Jack agreed. "That man is the chief of police in
Colfax. In view of some other things that he knows the chief will agree
with my view, and will thank you for keeping quiet and looking puzzled
over this affair."

"All right," grumbled Mr. Graves. "I'll do as you ask, Mr.
Benson - until I've talked with the chief of police, anyway."

By this time the badly-injured members of the party had received first
attention from the doctors, and were now being lifted into a big farm
wagon that had been brought to the scene. In this vehicle they were
taken to the nearest house, where they were placed on beds for better

"I'm going back to the city, now," announced the garage man to the young
submarine captain. "I'm going to the chief of police, and I'll also see
to it that a big auto ambulance is sent out to take your friends and my
man to the hospital in town. Hang it, I hate to keep the truth in this
matter quiet, even for a moment, and I wouldn't do it, only to see
justice worked out. You see, Mr. Benson, such a fearful accident, from
one of my cars, will hurt my business until the whole truth is known.
But I'll stick to my word, and keep quiet."

In three quarters of an hour's time the ambulance had arrived, and also
a car that Graves had sent to bring back Farnum and the three submarine

"Don't run back at anything like speed, please," begged Mr. Farnum, with
a wan smile. It had cut the shipbuilder to the marrow to find his
friend, Pollard, so badly hurt.

"Nothing faster than ten miles an hour," promised the chauffeur.

Once in the city the auto followed the ambulance to the hospital, where
Farnum went to see that every possible attention was given his friend.
But Mr. Graves had already made splendid arrangements for the care of
both injured men.

Then down to the Somerset went the able bodied survivors of the submarine
party. Though they said nothing in the hearing of the strange chauffeur,
they were no more than inside Jacob's Farnum's room when they let loose
their indignation.

It was not many minutes, however, ere the chief of police arrived.

"I've been talking with Graves, gentlemen," announced the chief, "and
I'm wholly satisfied that the rascal, Hodges, is the first one we want
to find. When we get him we'll try to make him tell who's behind him."

"Did you get anything out of the four fellows you caught night before
last?" asked Jack Benson.

"Not a word to amount to anything, so far," replied the chief. "But
their case was continued a week by the court, and I'll find a way to
make 'em talk! Just now, my whole thought is centered on finding

"He isn't stopping at this hotel?" asked Jack.

"Not much! He wouldn't wait for us to come and gather him in like
that," answered the chief. "No; I'm dragging the town, and I also have
a man at the railway station, and another watching the water front."

"I can't understand how the fellow who called himself Hodges ever got
Judson to write him a letter of introduction to me," muttered Mr. Farnum.

"Do you know Judson's writing?" asked the police chief, suspiciously.

"No-o-o," admitted Mr. Farnum. "But the letter was written on the
letter-head of Judson's hotel."

"Anyone can get a hotel letter-head," retorted the police official,
sagely. "You'd better let me have that letter, and I'll write Judson
to wire me whether he ever signed it."

Farnum passed over the letter, though he muttered, disgustedly:

"Good heavens, have I reached my present only to be taken in with a
faked letter of introduction?"

"If you have," responded the chief of police, grimly, "you won't be the
only traveled, wide awake business man who has been caught by a trick
like that. In this country, where letters of introduction are passed
around as freely as cigars, it's very seldom that a man stops to wonder
whether the letter handed him is genuine."

An hour later the chief was back, to report that a man answering Hodges'
description had taken a train north bound, not buying a ticket.

"I've telegraphed to have the fellow arrested at a point along the
route," continued the police official. "I don't expect to get Hodges
as easily as that, though. He undoubtedly will have left the train
before it gets to where I have some one waiting to receive him."

"But the young woman he called his daughter?" asked Jack

"She wasn't with him. The fellow traveled alone. Of course, the
handsome daughter was only borrowed for the occasion."

From the hospital came the word that unfortunate David Pollard was
resting comfortably.

"The scheme was one that was intended to put our whole party out of
business," declared Jack Benson, his eyes shining savagely. "I won't
go so far as to say the Rhinds crowd wanted us killed, but they hoped
we'd all be too badly hurt to go on with the submarine tests. Oh, what
a rascally way to succeed in business!"



Late in the afternoon Farnum went up to the hospital to see David
Pollard again.

As too many visitors would not be wise the shipbuilder represented, also,
his young submarine officers. He left them in the lobby of the Somerset.

"Don't go away from here," smiled Mr. Farnum, wearily. "Don't let
anybody coax you away from here. Just stay right here, and I won't have
to worry about you while I'm away. We can't take any chances - can't
lose any more of our crowd."

"Those are orders, sir," Jack Benson answered. "You'll be obeyed."

For the better part of an hour the boys remained where Farnum had left

Then something happened that brought the flush of anger to all their
bronzed, honest young faces.

One of the outer doors opened, and Fred Radwin, catching sight of the
submarine boys as he entered, hastened over to where they sat, a look
of pretended sympathy on his handsome but snake-like face.

"Boys," he called, in a low voice, as all three rose as though to ward
off blows, "it was only little while ago that I heard of the fearful
accident. Poor Pollard! I want to tell you how heartily sorry I am to
hear - "

"Stop right where you are, sir!"

Jack Benson's voice thundered out. The young submarine captain did not
realize that he was using even more than a quarter-deck tone. Everyone
in the lobby turned to look on. A few, more curious than the others,
hastened to where the little group stood.

"What - what do you mean?" stammered Fred Radwin, looking mightily

"In the future, sir," and Jack's voice barely fell, "do us the honor not
to speak to us."

"What on earth - " protested Radwin.

"If you don't heed my request," Jack continued, angrily, "I don't
believe I shall be able to curb my desire to land both fists in your

Radwin drew back before the darkening, menacing glare in the eyes of
the young submarine captain.

Hal, however, turned white - though from a cause that few would have

"Hold on, Benson! One moment - " protested Fred Radwin.

"Oh, get out of my sight, this instant," quivered Jack, taking another
step toward his enemy.

Before all the curious throng Fred Radwin, strangely enough, felt too
abashed, for the moment, to persist in his expressions of surprise.

"I'll talk with you later," he muttered, with a sickly smile, then
turned away.

"If you do," Jack called after him, "I'll - "

Benson's voice died down as the young captain felt Hal Hastings's strong,
impassioned grip on his arm.

Radwin, fortunately, did not turn, but kept on until he had taken himself
out of sight.

Jack turned an inquiring glance on his chum's face. But Hal's warning
look seemed to say:

"Silence! Wait!"

"What was the row about?" asked a stranger among those who had pressed
about the boys.

"Nothing," returned Eph Somers, shortly, glaring at his questioner.

At a mute signal from Hal all three of the submarine boys seated
themselves once more.

By degrees the little crowd melted away.

Then Jack Benson turned to his chum, to ask, in a low voice:

"What did you mean, Hal, old fellow? I know you had some good reason
for checking me as you did."

"I was afraid you would hit Radwin," Hal murmured.

"A case of nothing struck, if I had!" uttered Captain Jack, bitterly.

"Oh, yes! You would have struck at our chances of winning out in these
submarine tests," murmured Hal Hastings.

"What do you mean?" demanded Jack, looking startled.

"If you had hit Radwin, in the presence of all those witnesses, you
would have been right in line to be arrested for assault."

"Pooh!" jeered Captain Jack. "A small fine, which I could easily pay."

"But the inconvenience of being locked up, at such a time!" asked Hal

"Mr. Farnum would bail me out, quickly enough."

"I don't believe you see all of the point yet," murmured Hal, earnestly.
"Suppose Radwin swore out a warrant against you for striking him. Then
suppose he paid a court officer to wait and serve the warrant just as
the boats were starting out on some new test cruise? Then you'd go
ashore, and we'd either have to go on without our captain, or else draw
out of the test. Fine business, that, when our first and only business
is to make the Pollard boats the number-one winners in as many tests as

"Great Caesar!" exploded Jack, realizing, now, what a narrow escape he
had had from another disaster to their common interests.

"So you be on your guard," Hal went on with his wise counsel. "No
one - at least, no one in your own crowd - doubts your grit, or your
willingness to clinch with Radwin and fight it out to a copper-riveted
finish. I don't blame you for wanting to thrash Radwin every time you
think of poor Dave Pollard up at the hospital. I want to do it myself.
Radwin didn't think fast enough, or he'd have sneered at you, and
provoked you into hitting him. That was why I grabbed your right
arm - to stop you. It'll come to Radwin before long, what a fine
chance he missed. Then he'll put himself in your way - when there
are witnesses around."

"Thank you, Hal," nodded Jack Benson, his voice unusually quiet. "You've
given me a good, big hint. I won't forget it. Until the tests are all
over Radwin may parade before me, and mock at me, if he wants. But
afterward - !"



On three different days, thereafter, there were various tests in which
the submarine craft entered, each striving for points and leadership.

On one of these days the event was firing with "dummy" torpedoes. This
work was carried on out in the bay. Then there were two other days of
firing, with actual, loaded torpedoes, the work, one day, being with
stationery naval targets. On the other day the work with loaded
torpedoes was directed against moving targets - perpendicular floats
towed by a tug with a very long hawser.

While some of the firing was done by the crews of the respective
submarines, a good deal more was performed by members of the naval board,
in order that the boats, rather than the crews, might be tested.

In each of these events the Pollard boats were the winners. At the
moving targets the Day Submarine took second place away from the Rhinds
boats; in the other events the Rhinds craft came in second, though
rather close to the records achieved by the Pollard submarines.

Farnum was elated, of course. So were his young officers. Lieutenant
Danvers, who was on board at each test, was also much pleased, though he
did not express it. The cheering news was taken to David Pollard, in
hospital, and greatly lightened his days of suffering and waiting.

And now, for two days, the grim-looking little submarine fleet had lain
at moorings. Not one was there among their crews but wondered whether
any further competitive tests were to be ordered.

There had been no more meetings, on shore, between the Rhinds party and
our friends. Radwin had hoped for such a meeting, for, as Hal had
predicted, the dark-faced rascal had soon reasoned out that it would be
an excellent thing to stop a few blows delivered by Captain Jack Benson.

But Farnum had kept his party on the "Benson" and the "Hastings."

"Fred, I wonder whether we are going to have any more tests," demanded
Mr. Rhinds, as he and his secretary lingered over their breakfast
at the Somerset.

"I wish I knew," sighed Radwin.

"We've been beaten, a few points, by that Pollard crowd," muttered
Rhinds, his face lowering. "But we're not altogether walloped, Fred.
The government is going to buy a good many submarine boats. Now, it
isn't necessary for the government to have the boats all of one type,
is it?"

"Of course not," Radwin assented.

"Just so," continued the older man, "now, we've made a pretty good
showing, after all. So I have already begun with some telegrams to the
Senators and Congressmen of our state - Oh, you mustn't feel that you
always have advance information on all I'm doing, young man," chuckled
Rhinds, noting the look of surprise in his companion's face. "I've
started with our state's members in Congress, and soon I shall begin
to go at 'em harder. Now, despite the fact that the Pollard boats have
been able to gain a few points over us, I believe I can engineer
matters so that the government will order two types of submarine,
instead of one. In fact, Fred, when the government gives out its big
orders for submarine boats, I hope to land forty per cent., at least,
of the business."

Fred Radwin glanced cautiously around him, to make sure that no waiters
stood within hearing distance. Then he hissed, sharply:

"Forty per cent. of the business, you say? I still intend to land one
hundred per cent. of the submarine business for our company?"

"How?" asked the older man, eagerly.

"I'll think it over a while, before I tell you my definite plans."

"Be careful, Fred," warned Rhinds, "not to make any moves that will be
our undoing!"

"Have I gotten you into any trouble yet, Mr. Rhinds?"

"No," admitted the older man, though he added, half-jeeringly:

"Nor have you beaten the Pollard crowd at any point along the road, that
I can remember."

"Wait!" retorted Radwin, mysteriously.

These two villains were just sipping from their last cups of coffee when,
even in the dining room, there reached their ears the muffled sound of
gunfire from the bay.

"What's that?" demanded Radwin. "I want to hear the rest of that!"

He hurried through the dining room to the front of the lobby.

"There it goes," he cried, as Rhinds, puffing somewhat, joined him.
"First, the gunfire, then seven long whistles, followed by - wait!"

As the whistling ceased another gun boomed forth.

"That's the emergency signal, to call all hands back who belong on
submarines," uttered Radwin, wheeling about. "We must get our hats and
coats, and hustle down to the water front."

Radwin, had in truth, read the signal aright. It was the signal that
the naval board had announced in case, at any time, there should be
sudden, official news for the officers and crews of the rival submarines.

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Online LibraryVictor G. DurhamThe Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep → online text (page 7 of 12)