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E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig



Note: This is book one of eight of the Submarine Boys Series.




THE SUBMARINE BOYS ON-DUTY

Life on a Diving Torpedo Boat

by

VICTOR G. DURHAM

1909







CONTENTS

CHAPTERS
I. Two Boys Who Planned to Become Great
II. The Fighting Chance
III. Josh Owen Starts Trouble
IV. The Trick of the Flashlight
V. One Man's Dumfounded Face
VI. Along the Trail of Trouble
VII. When Thieves Fall Out
VIII. A Swift Stroke for Honor
IX. The Submarine Makes Its Bow to Old Ocean
X. Under Water, Where Men's Nerves are Tried
XI. The Try-Out in the Depths
XII. The Discovery From the Conning Tower
XIII. A High-Sea Mystery
XIV. An Up-To-Date Revenge
XV. The Courage That Rang True
XVI. The Last Second of the Nick of Time
XVII. In the Grip of Horror
XVIII. The Last Gasp of Despair
XIX. Jack Strikes the Key to the Mystery
XX. "One On" the Watch Officer
XXI. The Man Who Dropped the Glass
XXII. A Dive That was Like Magic
XXIII. Wanted, Badly - One Steward!
XXIV. Conclusion




CHAPTER I

TWO BOYS WHO PLANNED TO BECOME GREAT


"So this is Dunhaven?" inquired Jack Benson.

"Ye-es," slowly responded Jabez Holt, not rising from the chair in which
he sat tilted back against the outer wall on the hotel porch.

"It looks like it," muttered Hal Hastings, under his breath.

"Doesn't look like a very bustling place, does it?" asked Jack, with
a smile, as he set down a black, cloth-covered box on the porch and
leisurely helped himself to a chair.

The box looked as though it might contain a camera. "Tin-type fellers,"
thought Holt to himself, and did not form a very high estimate of the
two boys, neither of whom was more than sixteen years of age.

Just now, both boys were dusty from long travel on foot, which condition,
at a merely first glance, concealed the fact that both were neatly
enough, even if plainly, dressed.

"Huh!" was all the response Jabez Holt made to Jack's pleasant comment.
Hal, however, not in the least discouraged by a reception that was not
wholly flattering, set down a box not unlike Jack's, and also something
hidden in a green cloth cover that suggested a camera tripod. Hal
helped himself to one of the two remaining chairs on the porch
of the little hotel.

"Takin' pictures?" asked Jabez Holt, after a pause spent in chewing at
a tooth-pick.

"Yes, some of the time," Jack assented. "It helps out a bit when two
fellows without rich fathers take a notion to travel."

"I s'pose so," grunted Jabez. He was not usually considered, by his
fellow-townsmen, a disagreeable fellow, but a hotel keeper must always
preserve a proper balance of suspicion when dealing with strangers,
and especially strangers who follow callings that do not commonly lead
to prosperity. Probably "Old Man" Holt, as he was known, remembered
a few experiences with the tribe of itinerant photographers. At any
rate he did not mean to make the mistake of being too cordial with
these young representatives of the snap-shot art.

"Is there any business around here?" asked Jack, after awhile.

"Oh, there's a Main Street, back uptown, that has some real pretty
homes," admitted the hotel keeper, "an' some likely-lookin' cross
streets. Dunhaven ain't an awful homely town, as ye'll see after
you've walked about a bit."

"But is there any business here?" insisted Hal Hastings, patiently.

"I guess maybe you're business photografters, then?" suggested the
hotel keeper.

"What kinds of business are there here?" asked Jack.

Jabez Holt cast away a much-mangled toothpick and placed another in his
mouth before he replied, with a chuckle:

"Well, I reckon about the only business here that the town is doing any
talkin' about at present is one that don't want no photografters
around."

"And what may that business be?" persisted Jack.

"Well, down to Farnum's boatyard they're putting up a craft that's
known as 'Pollard's Folly.'"

"And why wouldn't they want that photographed?" demanded young Benson.

"Because it's one of them sure-death boats they hope to sell the
Government, and the United States Government don't care 'bout havin'
its war craft secrets snap-shotted," replied Jabez Holt.

"Didn't you speak of Pollard's boat?" demanded Jack, his eyes agleam
with sudden interest.

"Ye-es," admitted Mr. Holt, slowly. "A boat that'll drown its score
of men, I reckon, an' then lay somewhere an' eat itself out with rust."

"A submarine boat, isn't it?" continued Jack, quickly.

"Yep; submarine torpedo boat: One of them crazy craft that men _will_
build against all sense of what's decent on salt water."

"Why, I've read about _that_ boat;" Jack ran on, eagerly. "And, from
what the newspapers said, I've gathered the idea that David Pollard's
boat is going to put the United States completely ahead of all other
nations at sea."

"That's the way Dave Pollard talks," returned Mr. Holt, grimly. "But
folks 'round Dunhaven, I must say, don't think over an' above of him
or his boat. They - "

"Oh, bother the folks around Dunhaven!" broke in Jack Benson,
impatiently. "If the place is the best they know how to do in the way
of a town, I don't care a heap about their ideas of boats. And - but I
beg your pardon, Mr. Holt. My tongue's running a bit ahead of my
manners, I guess. So this is where that famous submarine torpedo boat
is being built? And she's a diving boat, at that?"

"Well, I guess mebbe she'll dive, all right," chuckled Jabez Holt. "But
as to her comin' up again, I reckon the 'Pollard' ain't goin' to be so
certain."

"Where are they building her? Farnum's shipyard, you said?"

"Right over yonder," explained Mr. Holt, pointing to a high board fence
that enclosed a space down by the water front. Farnum's "boatyard,"
as thus seen, was about an eighth of a mile from the little hotel, and
looked as though it might be considerable of a plant.

"Who's in charge of the boat?" was Jack's next question.

"Well, now, that's a conundrum," replied Jabez Holt, pondering. "Jake
Farnum owns the yard. Jake is a young man, only a few years out of
college. He inherited the business from his father, who's dead. Jake
is considered a pretty good business man, though he don't know much
'bout boats, an' can't seem to learn a heap, nuther. So Jake leans on
Asa Partridge, the superintendent, who was also superintendent under
old man Farnum. However, old man Farnum's line was building sailing
yachts, small schooners, and, once in a while, a tug-boat. That's in
Asa Partridge's line, but he won't have nothin' much to do with new
schemes like diving torpedo boats."

"Then - " hinted Jack.

"I'm a-comin' on with the yarn," replied Jabez Kolt, patiently. "Now,
Dave Pollard, the inventor of the boat, is a powerful bright young man,
on theory, some folks says, but he ain't much use with tools in his
hands. But he an' young Jake Farnum hang 'round, watching and bossing,
and they have a foreman of the gang, Joshua Owen, who knows he knows
most everything 'bout buildin' any kind of boat. So, barrin' the
fussing of Farnum and Pollard, I guess Josh Owen is the real boss of
the job, since the riveters' gang came an' put the hull together, an'
went away."

"Then I suppose Mr. Owen - " began Jack.

"Ja-a-abez! Jabez Holt! Come here!" rang a shrill, feminine voice from
the interior of the hotel.

"Must be goin', for a few minutes, anyway," grunted Jabez, rising and
leaving the two boys. But no sooner was he out of sight than Jack
Benson turned upon his chum, his eyes ablaze.

"Hal Hastings," he effused, in a low voice, "I had forgotten that
Dunhaven was the home of the Pollard boat. But, since it is, and since
we're here - why, here we'd better stay."

"Do you think we can get in on that job?" asked Hal, dubiously.

"Not if we just sit around and wonder, or if we go meekly and ask for
a job, and turn sadly away when we're refused," retorted Jack Benson,
with a vim that was characteristic of him. "Hal, my boy, we're simply
going to shove ourselves into jobs in that boatyard, and we're going
to have a whack at the whole game of building and fitting out a
submarine torpedo boat. Do you catch the idea? We're just going to
hustle ourselves into the one job that would suit us better than
anything else on earth!"

"Bully!" agreed Hal, wistfully. "I hope you can work it."

"_We_ can," returned his chum, spiritedly. "Team work, you know.
We've worked around machine shops, and at other trades, and we know
something about the way boats are handled. Why shouldn't we be able
to make Farnum and Pollard believe we know something that will be of
use to them?"

"I guess the foreman is the one we want to see, first of all," suggested
Hal.

"Well, we'll camp right down here and go at the thing," almost whispered
Benson. "And, as this hotel is right at the water front, and within
two jumps of the boatyard, I guess we'd better stay here until we
get settled."

While the two chums were discussing the whole matter in eager, low
tones, a few things may be told about them that will make their present
situation clearer. Jack Benson, an only son, had been orphaned, three
years before, at the age of thirteen. With the vigor that he always
displayed, he had found a home and paid for his keep and schooling,
either by doing chores, or by working at various occupations in his
native seaport town of Oakport. He had kept at school up to a few
months before the opening of this narrative. With marked genius for
machinery, he had learned many things about the machinist's trade
in odd hours in one of the local shops. He was remarkably quick at
picking up new ideas, and had shown splendid, though untrained, talent
for making mechanical drawings.

Hal Hastings, of the same age, had a stepmother who did not regard him
kindly. Hal, too, had worked at odd jobs, almost fighting for his
schooling. His father, under the stepmother's influence, paid little
heed to his doings.

For two summers both boys had done fairly well working on yachts and
other boats around Oakport. Both had learned how to handle sail craft,
to run motors and small marine steam engines.

During the spring just passed Hal Hastings had worked much of his
time for an Oakport photographer who, at the beginning of summer, had
failed. Hal, with a considerable bill for unpaid services, had taken
some photographing material in settlement of his dues.

At the beginning of summer both boys decided that Oakport did not offer
sufficient opportunity for their ambitious hopes in life. So they had
determined to take Hal's newly acquired camera outfit and "tramp it"
from town to town, earning their living by photographing and all the
while keeping their eyes open for real chances in life. Both had some
money, carefully saved and hidden, from the previous summer's work, so
that in point of attire they presented a creditable appearance.

During these few weeks of tramping from place to place they had made
somewhat more money than their expenses had amounted to. Jack Benson,
who was the treasurer, carried their entire hoard in a roll of one and
two-dollar bills.

"I tell you, Hal Hastings," Jack now wound up, "this submarine torpedo
boat business is already a great field. It's going to be bigger and
bigger, for a lot of inventors are at work. If we can hustle our way
into this Dunhaven boatyard, we may be able to - "

"Earn a very good living, I guess," nodded Hal, thoughtfully.

"Earn a living?" sniffed Jack, rather scornfully. "Hal, I've got faith
enough in both of us to believe that we could make our fortunes in a
few years. Look at some of the poor young men who had sense enough to
get into the automobile business early. The prizes go to the fellows
who get into a field early and have ability enough to build up
reputations."

Jabez Holt came out upon the porch at this moment.

"Still here?" he asked, looking at the boys.

"We're going to be here a little while, I guess, if it's agreeable to
you, Mr. Holt," Jack answered; with a smile.

"What d'ye mean? I don't want no tin-types taken."

"We haven't asked you to have any photos made, Mr. Holt," Benson ran
on. "We're just talking about becoming guests here."

"For twenty-four hours," supplied Hal Hastings.

"For at least two days," Jack amended.

"But, see here," explained Landlord Holt. "Rates here are two dollars
a day. If ye hain't got no other baggage I'll have ter look into
them camera boxes before I take 'em as security for board."

"You can't have them as security, Mr. Holt," Jack laughed. "I'm going
to pay our charges two days in advance. For two persons it's eight
dollars, isn't it?"

Then young Benson carelessly produced the young partners' roll of
banknotes. He quickly counted off eight dollars, handing the money
to Mr. Holt.

"Come right in an' register," said Landlord Holt, springing up and
leading the way. The hotel sometimes prospered when yacht owners
or boat designers came this way, but at any season eight dollars were
eight dollars. The boys were now in high standing with their host.
When matters had been settled in the office Holt led them to the wash
room. Here the young men dusted themselves off, washed, polished
their own shoes, donned clean collars and cuffs, and, altogether,
speedily made themselves so tidy that they looked quite different
from the dusty travelers who had trudged into Dunhaven.

Jabez Holt then conducted them back to chairs on the porch, remarking:

"It's after four o'clock now, and supper'll be ready sharp at six."

"What time do they knock off work in the boatyard?" queried Jack.

"Five, sharp," the landlord informed him.

"Does that foreman on the submarine boat job ever come along this way?"

"Goes right by here on his way home," Mr. Holt informed the boys.

"I'd be glad if you'd introduce us to him," Jack suggested.

"I sartain will," nodded Jabez Holt. "An', ye know, Dave Pollard is
stoppin' at this hotel."

"Oh, he is, eh?" Jack snapped up, eagerly. "Then we'll certainly try
to make his acquaintance to-night."

Hal, too, looked pleased at this prospect. Mrs. Holt again calling,
from the depths of the kitchen, the landlord was forced to hurry off.
He left behind two boys who suddenly fell to planning their futures
with all the rosy enthusiasm of youth. The longer they talked about
the submarine boat, the more both Jack and Hal felt convinced that they
were going to succeed in getting into the work. In fact, both planned
to become great in that special field.

It was a bright July day, one of the kind when the world looks at its
best to young, hopeful minds. Absorbed in their vague but rosy plans,
both boys forgot the flight of time.

They were roused out of their talk, at last, by hearing heavy footsteps
on the gravel close at hand. Looking up, they saw a heavy, broad
shouldered, dark-complexioned youth of about eighteen years. He had a
swaggering way of carrying himself, and undoubtedly considered himself
of much importance. His clothing proclaimed him to be a workman. As
he caught sight of the two happy looking boys this older and larger
youth looked them over with a sneering expression which soon turned to
a scowl.

"Strangers here, ain't ye?" demanded the scowling one, as he halted on
the edge of the porch.

"Yes," nodded Jack Benson, pleasantly.

"Thought so," vouchsafed the other. "Any body but a stranger hereabouts
would know ye were in my chair - the one I sit in when I come along
this way."

There was something decidedly insolent both the tone and manner of the
stranger. But Benson, not quick at taking offense, inquired:

"Are you a guest of this hotel."

"None of your business," came the rough retort.

"Oh!" said Jack.

"Did ye hear me say ye were sitting in my chair?"

"Yes."

"Going to get up out of it?"

"Not until I know your rights in the matter," replied Jack. "You see,
my board is paid in advance at this place."

"Huh!" growled the other, sneeringly. "Reckon ye don't know much 'bout
Dan Jaggers's way of doin' things."

"Who on earth is Dan Jaggers?" demanded Benson, curiously.

"That's me! It's my name," rejoined the swagger. "An', sense ye're
so fresh - "

Jaggers didn't finish in words, but, taking a firm hold on the back of
the chair, he suddenly pulled it out from under Benson. So swiftly was
the thing done that Jack went down on all fours on the porch. But,
thoroughly aroused, and his eyes flashing indignantly now, that boy was
quickly on his feet. Dan, however, with a satisfied grin, had dropped
into the chair.

"Going to get up out of that, Jaggers?" challenged Jack Benson.

"Not as I know of," rejoined Dan, with a broader grin. "Why?"

"Because I'd hate to hit you while you're sitting down," replied Jack
so quietly that his voice sounded almost mild.

"What's that?" demanded Jaggers, with a guffaw of laughter.

"You heard what I said," Jack insisted. "You'd better get up."

"Spoiling for a fight, are ye?" questioned the bully.

"Not at all," Jack replied, still keeping his temper in check. "I never
go about looking for trouble. I suppose you didn't know any better than
to do what you did."

"What's that?" scowled Dan Jaggers.

"If you want to apologize, and get out of the chair, I'll let it go at
that," pursued Jack, coolly.

"Hey?" demanded Dan Jaggers, aghast. "_Me_ - apologize?"

He sprang up suddenly, resting a broad paw heavily on Jack's shoulder.
But Benson, without flinching, or drawing back, returned the ugly look
steadfastly.

"You're behaving like a pretty poor grade of tough," spoke Jack, in deep
disgust.

"I am, hey?" roared Dan. He drew back, aiming a heavy fist for Benson's
chest. It was a mistake, as he quickly realized, for Jack Benson, from
much practice in boxing, was as agile and slippery as a monkey and an
eel combined. Jack dodged, then came up under with a cleanly aimed
though not hard blow on Jaggers's chin.

"I'll learn ye!" roared Dan, returning two ponderous blows in quick
succession. To his intense astonishment Jack wasn't in the way of
either blow, but came in with a neck blow on Jaggers's left side that
sent the bully reeling to the gravel beyond the porch.

"Come right down here!" challenged the bully, hoarsely. "We'll find out
about this."

Jack Benson hesitated. He did not care about fighting. Yet, seeing
that Jaggers meant to have a final encounter, Jack dropped nimbly
down to the gravel.

Dan Jaggers rushed at him, both fists up on guard, his whole attitude
more cautious since he had had a taste of the smaller youth's quality.
Jack was about two inches shorter and fully thirty pounds lighter, but
he made one think of a dancing master as he skipped away before the big
fellow's rushes.

"Stand still, won't ye, drat ye?" roared Dan, driving in another heavy
blow.

But Benson dodged, then came in under the bully's guard, landing a
stinging blow on the tip of his nose. Under punishment Dan let out a
noise resembling the bellow of an angry bull. Glowering, he stood
uncertain, for a moment, but Jack was tantalizingly just out of his
reach, smiling confidently. Then Jaggers leaped forward, hopeful of
winding his arms around this foe and crushing him into submission.
A second later, however, Dan fell backward, yelling with pain, for
Jack Benson had landed a left handed blow just under his opponent's
right eye, partly closing it. Dan bent over double, still groaning.

"Well, I swan!" said the astonished Jabez Holt, in the doorway of his
hotel.

Jack stood his ground a few moments, watching until he felt sure that
his enemy did not intend to carry the affair further. Then the younger
boy stepped lightly back to the porch, standing just before the chair
from which he had lately been evicted.

"Just bear in mind, I'll git square with ye for this!" uttered Jaggers,
wrathfully, glaring at young Benson with his undamaged eye. Then he
turned and stalked away, muttering under his breath.

"Well, I swan!" remarked Jabez Holt again, now stepping out onto the
porch. "I guess that sartain done Dan Jaggers some good. He needs
some of that medicine, friends. An' say, here's Josh Owen coming up
from Farnum's boatyard."

Jack and Hal both turned quickly to gaze down the road at a man just
coming out through the gate of Farnum's yard.

"He's the man we want to meet," cried Jack Benson, breathlessly.

"I dunno," replied Mr. Holt, shaking his head, ominously. "I dunno
as it'll do ye much good, now. Dan Jaggers is Josh Owen's nephew and
favorite!"




CHAPTER II

THE FIGHTING CHANCE


"My type of torpedo boat is going to rule the seas in naval warfare,"
declared David Pollard, his eyes a-kindle with the enthusiasm of the
sincere inventor.

"I'm sure of it," replied Jack Benson, quietly. "That's why, Mr.
Pollard, Hal and I are so anxious to get into this work. Mr. Pollard,
when your type of submarine diving torpedo boat is understood by the
United States Government you'll need some reliable and intelligent
experts. Take us in now. Let us learn the work with you. Let us
go ahead, keeping pace with the progress in Pollard torpedo boats,
and you will never be sorry you have two young fellows you can depend
upon."

"That's so, if you can come near to making as good as you promise,"
admitted the inventor, thoughtfully. "But you're pretty young."

"And that's the only fault with the Pollard submarine boat," rejoined
Jack Benson, artfully. "You've got to buck your boat against all the
older types that the Government already takes an interest in. Yet you
feel sure that you can do it. You don't believe the Pollard diving
boat is too young. Give us the same show you ask for your boat."

"Well, I've never seen any of your work - except these drawings,"
replied Mr. Pollard, indicating some sheets that lay on the table
before them.

The chums had succeeded in making the inventor's acquaintance through
the aid of the landlord. It was now eleven o'clock at night. Jack and
Hal had been in the inventor's room for the last three hours. Benson
had done most of the talking, though Hal had now and then put in some
effective words.

David Pollard was now thirty years of age, tall, lean and of pallid
countenance. He was a graduate of a technical school. Though not a
practical mechanic, he had a rather good lot of theory stored away in
his mind. He had inherited some money, soon after leaving school, but
this money had vanished in inventions that he had not succeeded in
marketing. Now, all his hopes in life were centered in the submarine
torpedo boat that was nearly completed. Pollard had had no money of
his own to put into the craft. Jacob Farnum was his friend and
financial backer.

No one could grasp how much success with his submarine boat meant to
this wearied yet hopeful inventor. For years all his schemes had been
laughed at by "practical" men. It was success, more than mere fortune,
for which David Pollard hungered. The officials of the Navy Department,
at Washington, had promised to inspect and try the boat, when finished,
but that was all the encouragement that had come from the national
capital.

If the "Pollard," as the new craft was at present named, should prove a
failure, then the inventor felt that he would be "down" indeed in the
world. Also, he must feel that he had buried one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars of the money of his loyal friend, Farnum.

In his present anxious, worried frame of mind, with few real believers
in the possible success of his boat, it was little wonder that David
Pollard was grateful for any intelligent interest or faith in his plans.
These two friends were but boys, nor had they had any experience in
submarine boat construction. Yet they had shown the inventor that they
knew much about machinery and marine engines in general, and Jack, with
his handy knack of sketching machinery, had made a decided hit with
poor Pollard.

"Just put us in as apprentices," begged Benson. "We'll be just the
plainest sort of helpers, fetching and lifting, and that sort of thing,
until we learn how to do more."

"Well, you see, for one thing, boys," replied Pollard, "this building
of a submarine boat is very important and confidential work. Now,
while I like the looks and talk of you both, I really don't know a thing
about either of you."

"Of course you don't," Jack Benson admitted, frankly. "And it's highly
important that you should. I know that. But you can telegraph the
principal of the school we attended in Oakport, and you can telegraph


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