Victor G. Durham.

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

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head as he made that leap for the wheel.

Somers being in the way, young Benson flung him violently aside.

Captain Jack's left hand grasped a spoke of the steering wheel; his
right hand signaled violently for speed astern.

Would Hal respond in time to save them all?



It was a breathless moment.

Captain Jack Benson, resting one hand on the wheel, gazed off at port
side with fascinated stare.

Almost instantly a grating could be heard that must have come from the
propeller shafts, though the young skipper, at that moment, was
incapable of thinking of anything save that tiny fin-line out on the

Then the speed ahead of the submarine boat stopped. In another moment
the little steel craft was creeping backward.

On came that fin-line.

There was nothing more that Jack could do, save to hold the wheel rigid.

On for the bow of the "Hastings" came the fin-line. Would that moving
torpedo strike, hurling them all to destruction?

It must have been by a hair's breath, but that fin-line crossed the bow
of the submarine. It had gone on, beyond - harmlessly, now!

"What's that you're saying, Eph?" demanded Jack. "Oh, yes; you want to
know why I bowled you over in that fashion. Because there wasn't time
to speak. I was crazy to get the reverse gear at work, and take us out
of the path of that torpedo aimed for us."

"Torpedo?" demanded Eph Somers, thunderstruck.

"Torpedo?" repeated Jacob Farnum, in bewilderment.

"Yes," broke in Lieutenant Danvers, stepping forward. "See, its force
is expended, and now it's floating on the water over there off the
starboard bow."

Jacob Farnum stared at it as though utterly unable to comprehend

"I saw the thing coming our way," went on the naval officer, hastily,
"though not as soon as Benson did. By the time that I knew it, he was
acting. So I held my peace, for, if Benson had failed - well, nothing
would have mattered much - then!"

In a few more crisp, swift sentences; Danvers told the rest of it

"It was Benson's quick coolness that saved us all from going skyward."

"No, it wasn't," broke in the youthful skipper, decisively. "It was Hal,
who was right by his engines, who saved us. Had he acted on the signal
a second and a half later that torpedo would have struck us plumb and

"But who could have let a torpedo loose in that fashion?" stammered
Farnum. "What accident - "

"Accident!" broke in Jack, sneeringly.

"Accident!" repeated Danvers, scornfully.

"Well, then, how - "

"Mr. Farnum," broke in Jack Benson, sternly, "that torpedo was fired by
design, with intent to sink us!"

"What? Who - "

"I can't make any positive charge," it was Lieutenant Danvers's turn to
say. "But I can offer certain evidence that I'll stick to anywhere.
Just a few seconds before that torpedo got so close to us I was noting
the Rhinds boat, the 'Thor.' Her course was toward us, briefly. Then
she turned off on another course."

"Do you mean to say that the Rhinds boat was turned our way at just the
time when that torpedo could have left her, headed for us?" demanded
Jacob Farnum.

"That's the whole indication," replied Lieutenant Danvers, firmly.

"Then what are we doing, waiting here?" cried the shipbuilder, angrily.
"Jack, now that that torpedo is spent, and lying harmless on the water,
start up speed and head over that way. Go carefully, for, remember,
any sudden shock against the war-head of the torpedo would set it off."

Jack signaled for slow speed ahead, the response coming promptly.

"Somers," directed Lieutenant Danvers, "get the signal bunting out,
and I'll help you rig a signal to the 'Oakland.'"

It was the first time, on any of the cruises, that Danvers had attempted
to give an order, or to take any part in the handling of the craft. But
now he was about to make a serious report, as an officer of the United
States Navy.

In a very few moments, Danvers and Somers working together, the necessary
flags were out, and knotted to the line in their proper order.

"Hoist away!" ordered the lieutenant, himself giving a hand on the

Up the signal mast went the line of bunting, fluttering. The little
flags spelled out this message to the gunboat:

"Evidence of serious foul play. Join us to investigate."

Almost immediately there came a signal from the bridge of the gunboat,
to show that the message had been read.

Jack was now slowing down speed, making ready to lie to, a hundred yards
or less from the floating torpedo.

"Mr. Farnum, Hal's always at his post," said Jack, "but call down to
him to be sure to stick particularly close for the next few minutes. If
the wind shifts, and heads that torpedo our way, I want to be sure of
instant speed for getting out of the way."

The gunboat was now cruising leisurely over to where the "Hastings"
waited. Danvers signed to the officer on the "Oakland's" bridge to
keep an especial eye on the floating torpedo.

As the "Oakland" slowed up, a cutter, in charge of an ensign, put away
from the gunboat's side.

"Ensign," shouted Lieutenant Danvers, "we shall feel obliged if you can
lie alongside of that torpedo, and render the war-head harmless. We
believe the torpedo to be fully loaded, and ready for instant action."

"I'll do what I can, sir, and as promptly as possible," replied the
ensign, saluting his superior officer.

A few minutes later the working part of the torpedo's war-head had been
removed by the boat's crew, and the torpedo itself was taken in tow.

"Now, Ensign, run in alongside, and take me on board," announced
Lieutenant Danvers. "Mr. Benson, you'll go over to the 'Oakland' with
me, of course?"

By this time the "Thor" had come about, and up within hailing distance
of her Pollard rival.

"What's wrong? What has happened?" demanded John C. Rhinds, in a hoarse,
croaking voice.

None aboard the "Hastings" took the trouble even to look in the direction
of the speaker.

"Can't you hear, aboard the 'Hastings'?" insisted Rhinds.

But he had no better result than from his first hail.

In the meantime, Danvers and Jack, on reaching the gunboat, went at once
before a council composed of the naval board and the commander of the

The two witnesses told their story speedily and clearly.

"Can you swear that the torpedo was fired from the 'Thor,' Lieutenant?"
inquired Captain Magowan, president of the naval board.

"I cannot, sir, but all the evidence points to the truth of my suspicion.
For one thing, while some of the submarines were in line with us, yet
all were too far away to drive a torpedo that far. Besides, as I have
stated, the 'Thor' turned briefly toward us, at just the time when the
torpedo would have been fired from her, then swung around promptly."

All of the naval officers present showed, in their faces, the horror
they felt over the situation.

"It does not seem to me," declared Captain Magowan, glancing around at
his associates, "that there can be any doubt as to our course. The
evidence, though wholly circumstantial, is about as strong as it could

"Besides which, sir," advanced Mr. Danvers, "The 'Thor' was provided
with a stated number of torpedoes."

"Four," nodded Captain Magowan; "just as was the case with each of the
other submarine boats."

"Then, if you search the 'Thor,' and find but three torpedoes aboard,
now - "

"That will be all the evidence needed." admitted Captain Magowan. "We
will make the search, and, on finding but three torpedoes aboard the
'Thor,' we will place everyone on board under arrest, and send the
'Thor' into port under charge of one of our own naval crews. Gentlemen,
there is no need of further delay. Commander Ellis, I will ask of you
a cutter, a crew, a corporal and a file of marines."

"The boat and men shall be ready at once, sir," replied the gunboat's
commander, hastening from the room.

Grimly the three officers comprising the board rose and hooked their
swords to their belts, for they were going on an official visit.

Nor was any time lost. Jack Benson and Lieutenant Danvers were ordered
to accompany the members of the board.

So John Rhinds's question was destined to have a prompt answer, even if
of a kind different from what he had expected.

On the platform deck of the "Thor," as the cutter approached, stood
several men whose faces expressed the utmost astonishment.

And again Rhinds inquired, this time with a little tremor in his voice:

"What's wrong gentlemen? What has happened?"

"We're coming aboard," retorted Captain Magowan. "Have your men stand
by to catch our lines."

John Rhinds submitted, in silence, while the members of the board, the
corporal's file of marine rifles and Lieutenant Danvers boarded the
"Thor." But when Jack started to bring up the rear Rhinds's voice rose
in angry protest.

"That young Benson fellow can't come aboard here!" cried the old man,
his cheeks purple, his eyes aflame with anger. "Benson represents a
rival submarine company!"

"If he represents a dozen companies, he's coming aboard this time,"
retorted Captain Magowan, coldly. "Corporal, see to it that no
interference with Mr. Benson is attempted."

"Yes, sir," replied the corporal, saluting.

So Jack came aboard, and took his place quietly beside Lieutenant

"Mr. Rhinds," began Captain Magowan, solemnly, "a torpedo only just
barely missed striking the 'Hastings' a while ago. We have evidence that
your craft was pointing nose-on to the 'Hastings,' just before the
torpedo appeared by the Pollard craft."

"Do you mean, sir, that we are charged with - or suspected of - firing
a torpedo at a rival submarine boat?" demanded John Rhinds, heavily, in
a voice vibrating with astonishment.

"Some of the evidence seems to point that way," returned Captain Magowan,

"Why, sir," began Rhinds, indignantly, "it's preposterous. It's - "

But Captain Magowan cut him short by a wave of the hand.

"What we want, now, Mr. Rhinds, is to go below and examine your stock of
loaded torpedoes. You should have four on board. If you prove to have
only three - "

"Step this way, gentlemen. Follow me," begged Mr. Rhinds, making a
rather ceremonious bow. Then he led the way below. Danvers and Jack
followed the others.

And here all hands encountered a tremendous surprise. The "Thor" still
carried her full supply of four loaded torpedoes!

Over the intense astonishment that followed this discovery came the oily,
tones of John C. Rhinds:

"Now, gentlemen, I won't speak of an apology, for I know you must have
strong seeming reasons before you went so far as to suspect anyone
aboard the 'Thor' of an atrocious crime. But, in the face of the
evidence you have here, you will admit that it is impossible to attach
any guilt to anyone aboard this craft."

"Well, Mr. Benson," broke in Captain Magowan, dumfounded.

"So it would seem," murmured the captain's two puzzled associates on
the board.

"What the deuce can it mean?" was what Lieutenant Danvers said, but he
was discreet enough to say it under his breath.

"Come, young Benson," challenged John Rhinds, "even you must admit that
the 'Thor' shows a clean bill of moral health!"

"I'll admit that two and two make five, and that the moon is made of
sage cheese," retorted Captain Jack. "I'll admit that the north pole
is steam-heated. But - "

"Well, Mr. Benson," broke in Captain Magowan, crisply. "Why do you

"I believe, Captain," Jack went on, "that there are several questions
that can yet be asked."

"Ask them, then, Mr. Benson," directed the president of the naval board.

"Yes, sir. Yet I would prefer that the questions be asked on deck,
in the presence of the entire crew, and also of the naval officer who
had been stationed on this craft during the cruise."

Ensign Pike was the officer of the Navy who had been on board the "Thor."
Pike had remained up on the platform deck during this scene.

"Very good," nodded Captain Magowan. "We will return to the deck. I can
see that there are many questions to be asked."

On the deck, on first boarding, Jack Benson had noticed the absence of
Fred Radwin. While they were below Jack had caught a glimpse of Radwin
in the "Thor's" engine room.

When the naval board and the others reached the deck Captain Magowan had
Captain Driggs, of the "Thor," and the members of the boat's crew lined
up together.

"Have you any questions that you wish to ask, Mr. Benson?" the president
of the board inquired.

"Yes, sir. At the time that the torpedo passed our boat I would like to
know just who of the 'Thor's' complement were below."

"Can you answer that, Mr. Driggs?" demanded Captain Magowan.

Driggs was a bronzed, shrewd-looking man of forty, with a face that
looked rather sound and wholesome.

"Yes, sir," replied Driggs, promptly. "Mr. Radwin had volunteered to
relieve the man on duty in the engine room. Mr. Radwin was below at
the time, sir."

"And who else?"

"No one else at that time, sir."

"I think I can confirm that, Captain," broke in Lieutenant Danvers. "I
had just studied the deck of this craft through my marine glass, and I
remember remarking to myself that Radwin appeared to be the only one of
this boat's complement who was not on deck."

Fred Radwin was now summoned, Captain Magowan and Jack both plying him
with questions. It all came to nothing, however. Radwin remained
wholly cool and gave his inquisitors no satisfaction.

Ensign Pike stated that he had had no knowledge of any torpedo having
been driven from the "Thor." Yet Pike admitted that this might very
easily have happened without his knowing it, since the discharge of a
torpedo would hardly make enough noise to carry from below to the after
part of the platform deck.

"But, anyway," insisted John Rhinds, blandly, "you must admit, Captain,
that our possession of the full number of torpedoes allowed us is proof
positive that we haven't been firing even one of them."

"That showing is certainly in your favor, Mr. Rhinds," admitted the
president of the naval board, coldly. "I cannot see that the evidence
at present available allows of my ordering anyone under arrest. I am
bound, in view of the fact that suspicion has pointed your way, to state
that I intend to leave the corporal and four of the marine privates
aboard. On the home cruise a marine sentry will be posted, all the
time, close to the after port of your torpedo tube."

"It is humiliating - very," sighed Mr. Rhinds. "Still, I shall be the
last to offer any objection to any arrangement that seems wise to the
members of the naval board."

The corporal and four of his marines were therefore left under command
of Ensign Pike, with instructions to see to it that constant guard was
kept by the torpedo tube.

No allusion to the evidence could be made before the members of the
cutter's crew on the way back. Captain Magowan led his own party to
the office of the commander of the gunboat.

"Er - gentlemen - " began Magowan, slowly, "I must admit that our most
elaborate case of circumstantial evidence seems to be knocked into a
cocked hat by the one substantial fact that the 'Thor' still has her
full number of torpedoes on board."

"Then you don't believe that torpedo came from the 'Thor's' tube,
Captain?" asked Jack Benson.

"I don't know what I believe," confessed the president of the board,
shaking his head. "It seems to be clearly established that no other
submarine was near enough to have fired a torpedo to cover the range I
have just been informed by Commander Ellis that the recovered torpedo
has been examined, and has proved to have contained the full war charge.
More as a matter of form than anything else we will now order the
remaining submarine boats alongside, and have them searched for a
missing torpedo."

That search was accordingly made, but not one of the boats had a torpedo
less than the four that it was supposed to carry.

The object of the lightning cruise having been accomplished, in the
destruction of the half-sunken derelict, the order was given to sail
back to Groton Bay at less speed than had been used on the outward trip.

As far as evidence went the mystery of the attempt to destroy the
"Hastings" appeared to be as big a mystery as ever.



It was nearly dark, on the day following, when the submarine flotilla
made its way up Groton Bay.

As soon as the craft was at its moorings the "Hastings" was immediately
lighter by the going of one passenger.

Jacob Farnum went post-haste to the hospital, to inquire after David
Pollard's condition.

The inventor was in a good deal of pain, yet cheerful. The surgeons
reported that his broken bones were healing slowly.

The chauffeur, too, was coming along as well as was possible, though he
had been much worse hurt than had the inventor.

Grant Andrews and his workmen were aboard the "Benson." Half of the
party was now prepared to come aboard the "Hastings" whenever called.

"Going ashore, Jack?" inquired Eph Somers.

"Not before Mr. Farnum returns. Nor do I believe any of us had better
go ashore, without his express permission, old fellow," Benson replied.

Three gentlemen who did go ashore almost immediately after arrival were
the members of the naval board.

Soon after, an order came for the removal of all torpedoes from the
Rhinds boats. After that the corporal's guard was relieved from duty
aboard the "Thor."

"And thus ends that chapter of the story, I reckon," grimly ventured
Jack, when he saw the gunboat's cutter convey the corporal's guard away
from the Rhinds submarine.

Jacob Farnum came back in the early evening. Lieutenant Danvers was
ashore, which left only the regular crew of the "Hastings" on board.
Grant Andrews and his men mounted guard over the two Pollard boats
through the night, which left the captain and crew free to sleep - which
they did with a royal good will.

No orders came over from the naval board, which fact made it look as
though no new tests would be required immediately.

The next forenoon, at about ten o'clock, Eph discovered that the Seawold
boat was leaving her moorings. Young Somers watched that lesser rival
start down the bay before he dropped below to report the fact to Benson.

"What can it mean?" wondered the young captain, going hastily on deck.
"Is the Seawold craft going into some test that we're not asked to

"If so," ventured Hal Hastings, "why isn't one of the gunboats putting
out to sea with her."

"Here's Lieutenant Danvers coming off shore," announced Somers. "Perhaps
he'll have some news."

Danvers boarded the "Hastings," but the shore boat waited alongside.

"I'm not going to stay. Just dropped alongside for a moment," explained

"I thought maybe you were coming on board so that we could go out on
some test," suggested Captain Jack.

"There are to be no tests to-day," replied Danvers.

"Then what's that craft of the Seawold Company doing down the bay by
herself?" Benson inquired.

"By Jove, she's going to have company, too," declared Eph. "There
goes the Blackson boat out."

"And, probably, you'll soon see the Griffith and Day craft get under
way," smiled Lieutenant Danvers.

"What does it mean?" insisted Captain Jack.

"That's the news," replied the naval officer.

Jack waited, somewhat open-mouthed.

"The fact is," continued Lieutenant Danvers, "such tests as we have
already had have been sufficient to eliminate four of the six contestants
for the favor of the Navy Department. This morning Captain Magowan, as
president of the board, received a telegram from the Navy Department to
the effect that four of the submarine types had been outclassed. The
contest now lies between the Rhinds and the Pollard boats."

"We've beaten the Rhinds boats, too," muttered Jack.

"Yes; though not by such large margins as to rule the Rhinds boats out
of all consideration," replied Lieutenant Danvers.

"So the Rhinds boat is to be our rival in future tests - our only rival?"
cried Jack, eagerly.

"Yes, and - not speaking as an official, Mr. Benson - I very much
incline to the belief that you can go on beating any one of the three
Rhinds submarines with either of the pair that you have here. But the
point is that the national government may prefer to have two types of
boats. It begins to look, as far as indications can point, as though
the Secretary of the Navy has some idea of ordering some Pollard boats
for the Navy, and also some Rhinds boats."

"I wonder if the Secretary of the Navy has heard anything about the
nasty way in which the Rhinds outfit tried to sink us at sea day before
yesterday?" muttered Captain Jack, half savagely.

"I imagine some word of the kind has gone on to the Navy Department,"
replied Danvers, "I really don't know though."

"That nasty trick ought to be enough to bar the Rhinds boats," grumbled
Captain Benson.

"But, you see, my dear fellow, there's just one trouble," answered the
naval officer. "Think whatever you may please about the guilt of Rhinds,
or of Radwin, or some one under them, but where's the proof. On search
the 'Thor' was found to have the full number of torpedoes issued to her.
Now, government departments must be guided by evidence."

"Humph!" sighed Jack. "As things have turned out, I'd sooner beat the
Rhinds crowd than all the other submarine crowds together."

"I hope you do," rejoined the Lieutenant. "However, my belief is that
the government will order some of your company's boats, and some of the
Rhinds craft. About the only question, really, is who gets the larger
order - and how much larger."

Jacob Farnum had come from his stateroom, and had listened to this talk
in silence.

"How do you feel about it, Mr. Farnum?" asked the naval officer.

"I shall have to be satisfied with whatever share of the business my
company can secure, of course," replied the shipbuilder. "Yet we know,
and so does everyone, that we have proved the Pollard type of boat to be
better than its nearest rival."

"Well, success to you all, and the largest measure of it possible!"
wished Lieutenant Danvers, rising and shaking hands warmly all around.
"For my part, I'd like to see you get orders, at once, for fifty
boats, leaving all your rivals out in the cold. And now I must go
on over to the 'Oakland.'"

Messrs. Rhinds and Radwin were on shore, at the hotel, but they had
received word of the departure of four of the rival boats, and knew the
reason for that departure.

"This," cried John Rhinds, getting up and pacing the room, while he
smoked fast, "is the stage at which the game gets on my nerves!"

"Yes," agreed Radwin, though he spoke rather lazily. "It's fine to have
only one rival left in the field, but it's discouraging to know that
we're number two, and that the other fellow holds number one rank.
Rhinds, I wonder if we can really get an order for any of our boats from
the government. I hope that we can, at least, get rid of the three that
we have on hand."

"Three?" uttered the president of the Rhinds Submarine Company,
scornfully. "I'm going to sell the government at least a dozen!"

As he spoke, he struck his clenched fists together angrily.

"How?" asked Radwin.

"And, on the strength of having the United States' order for a dozen
boats, I'm certain then, of being able to place orders for two or three
dozen more boats with foreign governments."

"How are you going to place the order for a dozen with the United States
government?" insisted Fred Radwin.

"How? By the very simple method of getting all the Congressmen and
Senators of our state at work. Fred, I have just about all of the
Congressional delegation from our state pestering the Secretary of the
Navy until we get our order. The Congressmen from our own state will
be glad to see me get the business."


"Don't be a simpleton, Radwin! If we have to build a dozen submarines,
we have to hire a lot of workmen, don't we? And I'm always careful to
engage workmen who have votes. Besides, such a volume of business
would turn loose a lot of new capital and wages in our part of the state.
Oh, we can trust our Congressmen, Fred, to get us a big slice of this
submarine business."

"I hope our miss-fire trick, out at sea day before yesterday, won't hurt
our chances any," whispered Fred Radwin, musingly. "Why did you do
that fool thing?" whispered Rhinds, with a dark look at his secretary.

"Why did I fail, you mean?" hissed Radwin. "Oh, don't try to throw any

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Online LibraryVictor G. DurhamThe Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep → online text (page 9 of 12)