MoboReader > Literature > The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip / Making Good" as Young Experts"

   Chapter 2 A SUBMARINE STUNT THAT DUMFIOUND THE BEHOLDERS

The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip / Making Good" as Young Experts" By Victor G. Durham Characters: 20044

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"It ain't true! Can't be! I won't believe it!" declared Eph, in a rage.

"We've had such a good time aboard, and have been so proud of what we've been able to do," added Hal, chokingly.

"Mr. Farnum won't put that snob in here!" asserted Eph. "Not in charge, anyway. Why, Mr. Farnum couldn't stand the fellow any more than we could."

"Fellows," rejoined Jack, looking at the hot faces of his mates, "we mustn't be too hasty, even in talking among ourselves."

"That fellow's a snob," asserted Eph. "I'll stand by that anywhere."

"I don't know that I'd say that," replied young Benson, who had recovered his calmness. "In the first place, Don Melville has evidently had a golden spoon in his mouth from the day of his birth. He's used to having things his own way. He may be all right at bottom."

"Then that's where I hope he goes," quivered Eph. "Straight to the bottom! Under a hundred fathoms of good salt water!"

"We may like him better when we know him," ventured Jack.

"I'm betting though," put in Hal, thoughtfully, "that we're much more likely to like him less."

"He's a duffer!" snorted Eph.

"We may have to change our minds about that," smiled Jack, dully.

"Ain't he a rich man's son?" demanded Eph, blazing.

"That doesn't make him out a fool or a dullard," retorted the young captain. "Rich men's sons aren't as often fools as they're suspected of being. Some of them are mighty clever. The number of great American fortunes that are doubled, or trebled, in the second generation, show that."

"Then you're going to side with him?" sneered Eph.

"I don't know what I'm going to do, until the time comes," Captain Jack answered, quietly. "But I do know one thing I'm going to do, at any and all times-and so are you fellows. You couldn't help it, if you tried."

"What's that?" Hal wanted to know.

"We're going to be as square with Jacob Farnum as he has always been with us. That carries with it the idea of a big lot of loyalty."

"Right!" agreed Hal.

"Of course," nodded Eph, less angrily. "Just as long as Farnum runs the business. But, if other folks get in here and get the control-"

"Of course, we can drop out of this business at any time we want to, provided it wouldn't carry with it disloyalty to the employer who's been mighty good to us," supplied Jack Benson.

"Mr. Farnum sent the boat out, to see if you young men want to go ashore," announced a voice from above.

Within two minutes the three submarine boys were making for the shore. After reporting at the office of the yard, and finding that Mr. Farnum would not want them again that afternoon, the young cronies sauntered off up into the village. At Jack's suggestion they talked no more about the Melvilles for the present. Yet each felt as though a lump of lead lay against his heart.

Though they tried to enjoy themselves in the village, there was too great a weight of dread upon them. It began to look as though all the pleasure of their recent life must fade. Though Don Melville, if he secured command of the "Pollard," might tolerate them aboard, all three knew that they would feel the burden of his cool contempt for them as inferiors. Listlessly, at last, the three submarine boys turned back toward the yard, went aboard, cooked a supper for which they had no appetite, and then waited for turning-in time.

In the next few days there were many signs that Melville intended to find and supply the desired capital for the promotion of the yard's business. Don and his father were much about the place, though they rarely came out to the "Pollard." Business friends of Mr. Melville's also appeared. Finally there came an important looking lawyer and an expert accountant.

"I reckon it's all settled except the signing of the papers," ventured

Hal Hastings.

"The toe of the boot for ours, then, or as bad," murmured Eph Somers sardonically.

During these days David Pollard, the inventor who had made this splendid type of submarine boat possible, did not appear. For one thing, he was away in secret, pondering over the invention of further appliances to be tried out on the boat now building. More than that, David Pollard, shy and with no head for affairs, entrusted all new business arrangements to Jacob Farnum, who, he felt sure, could be trusted with a friend's interests.

"It's tough to be poor," grimaced Hal Hastings. "If I had the money, I'd put it into the business for the sake of keeping my berth aboard, and having things as pleasant as we've had 'em all along."

"So would I," grunted Eph. "But what's the use of talking, when this is all the capitalist that I am?"

He took out four paper dollars, passing them ruefully between his fingers.

"Why don't you say something, Jack?" demanded Hal. "Dry of words, for once?"

"I'm thinking," responded young Benson, absently.

"Well, it's a sure thing that thinking does less harm than talking," nodded Hal.

"But when a fellow's silent he can't spit out all that's boiling inside of him," snorted Eph Somers.

"I'm getting ready to talk presently," smiled Captain Jack.

"If it's anything strong, say it now," begged Eph.

The three boys were sitting about the cabin table. Eph sat with his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands, his eyes glaring defiantly at the wall opposite. Hal, rather listless, sat low in his chair, his feet well under the table, his hands thrust deep in his pockets. Jack sat leaning slightly forward, his left hand tapping lightly against the polished surface of the table.

"Tell you what I'm going to do," suddenly exploded Eph. "I'm going to Jake Farnum and ask him, straight, whether that snob of a duffer is going to be put in here over us, with leave to kick us out when he chooses."

"Don't you do it," advised Hal, with a shake of his head.

"Why not?"

"Our employer is absorbed, and, troubled as much as he wants to be, now," rejoined Hastings. "When there's anything he wants us to know, and he can find time, he'll tell us."

"Huh!" half assented Eph.

"Don't be forward about it," continued Hal. "Just play the waiting game and rely upon Mr. Farnum being as fair and square as he has any chance to be."

"Hum" again nodded Eph. "Well, anyway, with farm labor at a premium, I'm not going to stay aboard to black the duffer's shoes."

"Fellows, listen!" commanded Jack Benson, suddenly looking up.

Then he told them both the thought and the scheme that had been in his mind all that day. While the young captain was talking his two mates were still-Hal, because it was his nature, and Eph Somers because he was actually staggered into silence.

"That's what I've been thinking of," Jack wound up.

"Don't you do it, old fellow-don't you dare!" ordered Hal, sitting up straighter and resting an appealing hand on his chum's shoulder.

"But think of the lives that have been lost on submarine boats during the last few years," pleaded Jack Benson, seriously.

"And you want to add your life to the others," retorted Hal, with mocking irony.

"I want to save, perhaps, hundreds of lives in the future," returned Jack, spiritedly.

"Then, at least, old chum," begged Hal, "tell your scheme to Mr. Farnum, and let him hire a trained diver to make the experiment."

"You think there's a lot of danger in it, do you?" queried Captain Jack, mildly.

"I certainly do," said Hastings, with emphasis.

"Then I'll do the trick myself," contended Jack. "I'm not going to think up a trick too dangerous for myself, and then hire another man to take all the risk for me."

Hal said no more. He knew the folly of trying to persuade his chum out of a decision like the present one.

"I don't believe Farnum will let you try it," hinted Eph. "It sounds too dangerous."

"Mr. Farnum won't know what it is until it's been done," responded young Captain Benson, with a light laugh, as he rose from the table. "Fellows, I'm going on shore for a little while. Look the electric motor over, and test the compressed air apparatus. We want to be sure that everything is working right."

"Let me go ashore with you," suggested Hal, also rising.

"Not this time," laughed Jack. "You might try to say something to Mr. Farnum to queer my plan. Stay here. You and Eph make mighty sure that everything is in running order."

Going on deck, Captain Jack signaled for a shore boat, which was quickly alongside. Landing, the young captain walked slowly up to the yard office, thinking deeply all the time.

Just as the young submarine commander entered the outer office Jacob Farnum stepped out from his private, inner office. He was smoking a cigar, and looked as though he had come out to stretch his legs.

"Hullo, Jack," he greeted the young man, pleasantly. "Say, I hope you haven't come to talk business. Say something foolish, won't you, lad? I'm just in the mood for nonsense. All forenoon I've had my head crammed to bursting with figures and business, and now I'm in the mood for something reckless. You see, Melville is in a position to command a lot of capital, and we need it to expand this business. He's in there, now, with another capitalist, a lawyer and an accountant. But I had to break away. What do you know that's reckless?"

Jacob Farnum was not playing any part of treachery, or deception, in not telling his submarine boys about the proposed shifting of command to Don Melville's shoulders. The fact was that George Melville, after that first hint, had said nothing more about the subject, but was now craftily laying the wires for securing gradual control of the shipyard's enterprises.

"Why, I am glad to find you at leisure, and willing to be amused," smiled Captain Jack, quietly. "Will it be too much like business if I ask you down to the water to watch a little demonstration that we want to make with the 'Pollard'?"

"Is it something brand-new?" laughed Mr. Farnum, resting an arm on the young captain's shoulder.

"So far as I know, it's shiningly new," laughed Jack Benson.

"What is it?"

"If you don't mind, Mr. Farnum, I'd rather show it to you first."

"How long will the demonstration take?"

"It ought not to require more than fifteen or twenty minutes, sir."

"I'll take you up, then," agreed Mr. Farnum, pleasantly.

Just at that moment the inner door opened. Mr. Melville came out, followed by his lawyer, Don bringing up the rear of the file.

"I guess you'd better come along with me, gentlemen," called Mr. Farnum. "Captain Benson has just invited me to witness something new in the submarine line."

"What is it?" questioned Mr. Melville.

"I don't know," admitted Jacob Farnum.

"What is it, boy?" demanded Mr. Melville, turning upon Jack. The very tone in which the word "boy" was uttered was meant to reduce the youthful captain to confusion, but it had the opposite effect. Though it brought a quick flush to Jack's cheeks, he answered, courteously:

"It is intended, principally, as a surprise to Mr. Farnum. If I were to tell, now, it would rob him of much of the pleasure of being astonished."

To this George Melville did not deign to reply, though he compressed his lips grimly enough. Don flashed a sneering look at Jack, then observed:

"You're pretty independent for a boy."

"Let Captain Jack alone," drawled Farnum, expelling some cigar smoke between his lips. "He generally knows what he's doing."

Though there was nothing in the builder's tone at which offense could be taken, this reply quieted both Melvilles for the time being.

"Come on. We'll all go down to the shore and see what it is," added the yard's owner.

Captain Jack hurried ahead, entered the shore boat and was rowed out alongside the "Pollard."

"It's all right, fellows," he called, as soon as he boarded. "Everything ready?"

Receiving assurance that all was ready, Captain Jack turned to wave his hand to the little group watching from the shore. Two or three minutes later the "Pollard" slipped slowly away from her moorings, going out where the little harbor was deeper. Then, the manhole being closed, the submarine began to sink. Her conning tower was soon out of sight beneath the surface.

"There's about seventy feet of water, where the boat is going down," observed Farnum, to his guests.

"What's the aim of all this mysterious work?" demanded Mr. Melville, with some irritation.

"You know as much as I do," drawled Farnum, smilingly.

"It seems to me that you allow this young boat tender a good deal of latitude, and tolerate a good deal of mystery in him," cried the capitalist, impatiently.

"I have a good deal of confidence in my young captain," returned Farnum, good-humoredly, though with considerable emphasis on the title. "So far I have never had any need to regret giving Captain Benson rather a free hand."

"Yet you-"

Mr. Melville stopped right there, for Jacob Farnum, his eyes turned in a steady look out over the water, suddenly emitted an incredulous whoop. Then, without explanation, the boatbuilder broke into a dead run that carried him along the shore to the northern edge of the little harbor.

Nor was Mr. Farnum's astonishment to be wondered at, for he had just caught sight of Jack Benson's head, above the water at the point where the submarine had gone down. And now, Captain Jack, after blowing out a mouthful of water, had started to swim ashore with long, easy strokes.

Not quite catching the great significance of it all, the Melvilles and the lawyer hurried after the builder.

Captain Jack Benson, clad only in a bathing suit, stepped out of the water and stood laughing before his employer.

"Jack, how on earth did you-" began Farnum, then stopped, overpowered by another wave of amazement.

"What's the meaning of all this?" demanded the elder Melville, pantingly, as he reached the scene.

"Mr. Melville, and gentlemen," cried the boatbuilder, wheeling upon his guests, "do you even begin to grasp the importance of the marvel you have just witnessed? One of the great indictments found against the submarine torpedo boat is that, when one sinks and cannot be brought to the surface again, the crew must miserably perish. Very humane people shudder at the very idea of ordering men into a craft that may go to the bottom and become the hopeless grave of the crew. Yet the 'Pollard' lies at the bottom of this harbor, and Captain Benson has just come to the surface, laughing and uninjured."

"I suppose he opened the manhole cover, and rose to the surface," hazarded Mr. Melville.

"In that case, sir," smiled Captain Jack, "wouldn't you expect the 'Pollard' to be filled with water, and my companions drowned? Besides, sir, at a depth of seventy feet, the pressure of the water is such that it would be sheer impossibility to raise the manhole cover."

"Then how did you get here?" demanded the capitalist.

"Pardon me, sir," replied Jack, courteously, though firmly.

"Do you refuse to answer my question, boy?"

Again the irritating, half-contemptuous use of "boy" made Jack's cheeks flush, though he answered merely:

"I think, sir, Mr. Farnum has a right to the first information."

"Do you understand, boy, that I am about to take a large interest in this business?"

"I have heard so, sir. But I hope you won't mind my saying that this little surprise was thought out by my comrades and myself. It seems to me, therefore, that we have some rights in the disclosing of the secret."

"Humph!" broke in Don Melville. "It's all some deception-some cheap trick, anyway."

Captain Jack held up one hand to signal the shore boat, which, with two workmen in it, was hovering near. As the boat came in, the submarine boy announced:

"Now, I will show you the rest of the principle that my mates and I are demonstrating. Mr. Farnum, by the way, has just spoken of the humane side of this discovery, the making possible the rescue of a crew of a boat that can't be made to rise. Gentlemen, there's still another side to it. Under actual war conditions, with a submarine boat guarding a coast or harbor entrance, if the commander of the boat brought the conning tower above the surface, the presence of the boat would be detected on a clear day. But the head of a swimmer rising from the boat could not be observed at any very great distance. Yet the swimmer could make out the hull or masts of a hostile vessel some miles away. This new trick is likely to make submarine boats much more valuable to the countries owning them. Now, I want to try something else, and see whether I can do it."

The shore boat put in when called. In the bow was a hundred-pound anchor, with plenty of cable to pay out after it. Captain Jack entered the boat, looked over the anchor tackle, then returned to shore.

"Come to me where I stop," he directed the men in the boat. With that, after getting his bearings fully, he swam out, counting his strokes as he went.

"It's about here that I came up," he called, pausing and treading water easily. "Bring the boat here."

Clambering aboard, he directed the casting of the anchor overboard. Then, poising himself at the bow, he made a strong dive, vanishing under the water.

"What's he going to do now?" asked Mr. Melville, curiously.

"I'd rather wait than guess," smiled Mr. Farnum.

For just an instant Don Melville looked, as he felt, green with envy.

Some moments passed. Then, not far from the spot where the "Pollard" had gone down, her conning tower appeared once more. That was followed by the emergence of the platform deck and upper hull above the water. In another moment the tower manhole was opened, and Jack Benson, with a wave of the hand, stepped out, his bathing suit changed for his uniform. He lifted his cap in a joyous salute to those on shore.

"By Jove, Jack, but you're a wonder!" shouted Mr. Farnum across the water. "I'll have Dave Pollard excited when I write him about this thing. But you have me guessing how the trick was done."

Once more Benson signaled the small boat in close, after the anchor had been lifted. Now, the young submarine captain came in to shore.

"You come on board with me, Mr. Farnum?" invited Jack.

"Are you going to show him how you worked the trick?" demanded Mr.

Melville, quickly.

"Yes, sir."

"Then I believe we'll all come on board."

"I-I am sorry, sir." Jack hesitated. "If anyone but Mr. Farnum comes aboard I shall show nothing. Later on, when Mr. Farnum and I have talked this matter over-"

"Are you going to stand for this boy's nonsense, Farnum?" broke in the capitalist, angrily.

"I guess I shall have to," responded the builder, with the pronounced drawl which, with him, was a sign that he was close to inward anger. "Mr. Melville, I must beg you to remember that the secret, whatever it is, belongs, so far, to Captain Benson. You may not approve, but I think he is wholly right in this instance."

The capitalist bowed stiffly. He and his son remained on the shore as Farnum embarked with his young employe. They were soon on board the "Pollard," which was not long in sinking. Then, after a few minutes, Jack's head once more shot above the water. The shore boat was waiting, and again dropped the anchor close to where the boy had come up. Jack stood in the boat for a few minutes, taking in deep breaths and sunning his wet skin. Then, for the second time, he dived below the surface.

Five minutes afterward the "Pollard" was at the surface and moving back to her moorings. Mr. Farnum and Captain Jack returned to the shore. The boatbuilder's face was glowing with delight.

"You saw our young captain come up while I was with the 'Pollard' down on the bottom, didn't you?" inquired the yard's owner.

"Yes," admitted Mr. Melville, grudgingly, while Don half scowled, then turned his head away. "But how is the thing done?"

"That," replied Jacob Farnum, courteously, "at the request of Captain

John Benson, must remain a secret for the present."

"Oh!" said the capitalist, but his tone was ominous.

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