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   Chapter 1 A BIG CLOUD ON THE SUBMARINE HORIZON

The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip / Making Good" as Young Experts" By Victor G. Durham Characters: 15077

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"At what time did you say that the 'Pollard' was due to be back, Mr.

Farnum?"

"At two o'clock," replied the owner of the boat-building yard at the little seaport town of Dunhaven.

"It's within five minutes of that hour, now."

"So it is," nodded the owner of the yard, after briefly consulting his watch.

For half an hour, or a little longer, a middle aged man, with the world of business and large affairs imprinted on him, had been walking to and fro along the shore end of the yard. In this walk he was accompanied by his son, a handsome, dark-eyed and dark-haired young fellow of nineteen. George Melville, the father, was attired very much as any prosperous, busy man might have been, with a touch of fastidiousness added, but the son, Don, was dressed and groomed to look just what he wanted to appear to be, the born young aristocrat.

"Punctuality is one of the cardinal virtues with me, you know," continued Mr. Melville, impatiently, as he again glanced at his watch. "I had hoped to be able to see your submarine boat, the 'Pollard,' this afternoon."

"And I certainly hope you will be able to," replied Jacob Farnum, cordially. This builder, a young man in his thirties, allowed a shade of uneasiness to flit across his face.

"However, when Don is in command of the boat," continued Mr. Melville, "things will doubtless be run on a better system. That is, if we should decide to invest the money and place Don on board as captain."

"Your son?" inquired Jacob Farnum, with a quick note of astonishment in his voice.

"Certainly," continued Mr. Melville, in the easy voice of one who is sure of his ground. "If my friends and myself decide to invest the required several hundred thousand dollars in your business, the first step of the reorganization on a broader basis will be the placing of my son in command of your boat."

"Hm!" murmured Jacob Farnum.

"Don is wholly fitted for learning the work that I have cut out for him," pursued Mr. Melville. "He has frequently taken command of my steam yacht, the 'Greyhound,' and my sailing master, Captain Carson, assures me that Don is not only a splendid sailor, but born to command. So, after a little time spent in mastering details, Don will make the ideal captain for the 'Pollard'."

"I have a very capable young man in charge now," said Mr. Farnum. "Captain Jack Benson has already done a few things with the boat that have astonished Naval officers."

"How old is this fellow Benson?" inquired Mr. Melville.

"Sixteen."

"Only sixteen?" queried Mr. Melville, in a voice of amazement. "Bah! He is entirely too young to be entrusted with the hopes of such a great boat-building company as I hope to help you organize. Don, too, is quite young, but he has a great deal of capacity and has had a valuable lot of experience. As to a boy of sixteen-however, your youth, Benson, may no doubt be retained aboard as a member of the crew, if Don likes him. And now, sir, it's two minutes of two."

With another impatient frown Mr. Melville held his watch out before Mr. Farnum's eyes. That younger man hardly saw the dial. He was looking past, out beyond the mouth of the little cove or harbor. As he did so, Mr. Farnum beheld what, at first, looked like a big ripple spreading over the placid water. Then the top of a steel conning tower shot up into sight. It was followed by the emergence of the upper hull of a strange looking cigar-shaped craft.

"Two minutes before the hour, did you say?" asked Jacob Farnum, placidly. "Well, there's the 'Pollard,' just up from the depths, and gliding in to anchorage."

Don Melville had strolled away from the pair, but now, at a call from his father, he turned to watch the oncoming craft, which was none other than the new submarine torpedo boat, the "Pollard."

The elder Melville was judge enough of boats and of boat-handling to understand that the submarine was being brought into harbor in a very clever, seamanlike manner.

"She's still running under electric power, you know," explained Mr. Farnum. "The distance is so short that Captain Benson doesn't consider it worth while to start the gasoline engine."

Now, the boat came to a stop, with a slight reversing of her propellers. At this moment the manhole cover of the conning tower was raised. Out onto the platform deck surrounding the tower Captain Jack Benson nimbly stepped. As he took the wheel in the open, the craft glided on with hardly perceptible motion to a mooring buoy a few yards distant. Out hopped another boy, in dark blue naval uniform and visored cap. This youth, Eph Somers, ran nimbly forward over the hull. At just the right instant Eph bent over, securing the forward tackle to the buoy, then straightened up, saluting the young captain, as he called:

"Single tackle all fast, sir."

Now, a third boy, in uniform similar to those worn by the other two, sprang out through the manhole. Hal Hastings, who had remained behind to shut off the electric motor, waved his cap to Mr. Farnum.

"Well done, Captain Benson and crew!" shouted Jacob Farnum, heartily, across the water.

"It won't take you long to be able to beat that performance, I take it, Don," smiled the elder Melville at his Son. Don's upper lip curled just perceptibly. Jacob Farnum frowned slightly, as he turned his face away. It would not do to offend George Melville without cause, for that gentleman was considering the raising of six or seven hundred thousand dollars of additional working capital for the making of submarine boats.

"We're coming aboard, captain," added Mr. Farnum, shouting between his hands, across the water. "Everything ship-shape for inspection?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" Captain Jack responded.

"It was a shame, really, to ask that question," laughed Mr. Farnum, turning to his companions. "Benson was all but born aboard a boat, and he's a genuine old maid for having things aboard in apple-pie order. His two friends are just like him in that respect."

Upon being signaled two workmen of the yard came hastily down to the water's edge. They seated themselves at the oars of a large yawl, while Mr. Farnum and his guests stepped into the boat.

"Give way, and lay us alongside of the 'Pollard,'" directed the boatbuilder.

Captain Jack, Hal Hastings and Eph Somers still remained standing at ease on the platform deck of the submarine craft. They were but a few weeks older than when they appeared before the readers of the first volume in this series, "The Submarine Boys On Duty." Readers of that volume are familiar with the story of how Jack Benson and Hal Hastings appeared in Dunhaven; how they made the acquaintance, first of David Pollard, the submarine's inventor, and then of Jacob Farnum, the boat's builder and financial backer. Readers of the first volume also remember how Eph Somers appeared unexpectedly on the scene, and just how he coolly put himself into the submarine picture, securing his place aboard that wonderful craft. Those who read the first volume are familiar with the way in which the boys met and vanquished the savage hostility of Josh Owen and Dan Jaggers; they remember the desperate battle, in the ocean's depths, with the crazy boatswain's mate. They recall the dashing, laughable prank that Captain Jack played on one of the big battleships of the Naval maneuvers fleet, and remember the pretty romance, in which the submarine boys aided greatly, through which Mr. Farnum secured beautiful Grace Desmond as his bride. Our readers who have pored over the page

s of the preceding volume, in fact, will recall all the many adventures through which Jack, Hal and Eph passed with daring and credit.

All the people in the world move forward-or backward-a bit every day. And so, while, our young friends were still aboard the "Pollard," and happy, affairs were shaping that might alter the whole current of their lives, their ambitions and their hopes. Convinced that he could, by the use of sufficient energy and capital, equip a larger yard and sell the United States Government a solid, efficient fleet of submarine torpedo boats that would constitute a fearful menace on the waves-or under them-to any foreign foe, Jacob Farnum had now begun to look about for the necessary capital with which to expand what he believed to be a highly promising business.

Thus it happened that the two Melvilles now came upon the scene. The elder possessed a good deal of spare money, and could influence several business friends into investing heavily. It was George Melville's habit to acquire control, gradually, of any business in which he invested heavily. He had wonderful skill in that line of conduct, and combined much tact with it. Mr. Melville, going into a new business, and contributing capital heavily, was accustomed to securing whole control of the business before his associates quite realized what was happening.

Now, as this capitalist climbed up the side and stood on the platform deck, looking about him, he began to picture himself as selling a fleet of such boats-all of them practically his-to the Government.

"Not much of a place, this deck, to stand on and handle a vessel through rough weather?" he inquired, looking sharply at Mr. Farnum.

"No," admitted the builder, adding with a smile: "Of course, it takes the cream of our seafaring men to travel in such craft, anyway. Such men can stand discomfort and any amount of danger, at need. Ask Captain Benson."

Young Captain Jack smiled quietly. He and his two comrades guessed that George Melville was one of the capitalists whom Farnum was trying to interest in the business.

"Let us go below," suggested Mr. Melville. "Don, use your eyes to good advantage. You may have need of all you can learn about such boats."

Don Melville inclined his head, but said nothing. Farnum led them below. Captain Jack helped the builder in explaining the general working details of the boat. Hal and Eph answered such questions as were put to them by father or son.

"It's all very interesting," said Mr. Melville, slowly, at last.

"Farnum, let us go up on deck a few minutes. Don, you might remain below.

I have no doubt there is still much that you want to see."

So Don remained below. The boys of the submarine's crew, feeling that

Mr. Farnum would want to be alone with his guest, also remained below.

"Do you-er-like this sort of thing, Benson?" asked Don Melville.

"The submarine boat work, you mean?" asked Captain Jack, brightly. "Why, it's my life-my very life!"

The glow that came to the cheeks of the young submarine captain bore out his words fully. Jack did love this fine craft. He gloried in having the command of her, though he never made the weight of his authority felt by his two comrades, who, indeed, virtually shared in the command. Captain Benson was especially proud and grateful at the confidence shown in himself and in his mates in being allowed full charge of the "Pollard." Love the life? It wouldn't be life, for him, without the "Pollard!"

Don began to ask some further questions about the boat. His tone was slightly supercilious. It was plain to be seen that he looked upon these daring, tried and proven youngsters as being decidedly his inferiors. Yet Jack fought against a growing feeling of irritation, giving good-humored and attentive answers.

Then Don went over to the little door of a compartment in the wall.

Behind this door was some of the delicate mechanism-invention of

David Pollard-by means of which the compressed air supply was better

regulated than on any other type of submarine craft.

"Why, this place is locked," observed Don.

"Yes," nodded Captain Jack.

"You have the key?"

"I-I believe so."

"Then be good enough to unlock this little door," ordered Don Melville.

"I hope you'll pardon me," said Captain Jack, quickly, yet politely. "It wouldn't be just the thing for me to do."

"Why not?" Don shot at him, coldly.

"Well-because I've no orders from Mr. Farnum to that effect. Because-well, behind that little door are a few mechanisms that amount to about the most important secret about the boat."

"Then you refuse to unlock that little door?" demanded Don, coldly, trying to disconcert the young captain by a steady, cold look into his eyes.

"Oh, no; I don't refuse," answered young Benson, in the same cool, pleasant tone. "But the order should come from Mr. Farnum. He's right overhead. You can call up to him. If he says so, then I'll unlock it with pleasure."

"Benson," retorted Don Melville, again trying to disconcert the young captain with a stare of cold insolence, "I guess you don't understand quite who I am."

"If I don't, I shall be glad to be enlightened," laughed Jack, softly.

"Who are you?"

"I'm the son of the man who expects to put a big amount of capital into this enterprise. Farnum wants my father to do it."

"Then I hope your father does," nodded Jack Benson, with a look of polite interest.

"Of course, in that case," pursued Don, "the whole business will be reorganized."

"I should imagine so," nodded Jack.

"And, as a part of that reorganization, I'm to have command of the

'Pollard,' and of any other boats that may be built here!"

Captain Jack Benson's face blanched in an instant. He did not falter, but he felt, for the moment, as though he had been stabbed to the heart. Hal Hastings gave a little, barely perceptible gasp. Eph Somers, with a snort of wrath, turned and stepped through into the motor room.

"I'm to command this boat, and the others that may be built; that's one of my father's conditions in putting up the required capital," continued Don Melville. "Of course, I shall select my own helpers and crews. If you three are really competent, and show sufficient respect for authority over you, I may be able to provide some sort of places for you aboard this boat and the new one that's being built. Now, do you understand who I am?"

"I've heard all you said," replied Captain Jack, dully. He was so dazed, so tormented, that, for the moment, he did not dare trust himself to make more of a reply.

"Don!" called the elder Melville, briskly. "We're going on shore now.

You'd better leave your further studies aboard until to-morrow."

"Good-bye, then, lads," said Don Melville, laying a hand on the nickeled railing of the spiral stairway leading up through the conning tower. He spoke with a trace more of cordiality as he started up the steps: "When I come aboard next I trust there will be no misunderstanding of new facts."

Jack Benson still stood by the little cabin table, resting one hand on it. His eyes were turned toward the floor, his chest heaving. The blow had struck him like a bolt from a clear, sunny sky!

"That cold duffer coming aboard to boss us all around like cattle?" burst from Eph Somers, as he stamped out from the engine room.

"Confound it!" growled Hal Hastings, savagely. "I don't believe the yarn.

Do you?"

"I'm half afraid," replied Captain Jack, raising his eyes, "that I do."

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