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   Chapter 3 MR. MELVILLE HURLS THE CRASH

The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip / Making Good" as Young Experts" By Victor G. Durham Characters: 11553

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was really a wonderful, even if a very simple, revolution in the handling of submarine boats that Jack Benson had thought out.

Up to that time many scores of lives had been lost, in different parts of the world, when the crews of submarine boats had found, for one reason or another, that they could not raise their craft from the bottom of the depths. Formerly, when crews found themselves placed in that predicament, death followed.

Jack's solution was wonderfully simple. In brief, when the "Pollard" lay on the bottom of the little harbor at Dunhaven, the young captain had crawled into the long tube through which torpedoes were to be discharged in war time.

One end of this torpedo tube projects slightly into the water, at the bow of the submarine boat. The other end of the tube is well inside the craft. Two doors, or "ports," as they are called, close the tube at the ends. Ordinarily the forward port is closed, to keep water from entering the boat. When a torpedo is placed in the tube for firing, the outer or forward port is opened automatically just at the instant of discharging the torpedo. Enough compressed air is turned into the tube to force the torpedo out, after which the torpedo goes on its deadly journey propelled by its own motor. The presence of the air thus turned into the tube at the instant of firing keeps out the water until the tube's forward port is once more closed. Then the rear port of the tube, inside the submarine boat, may be opened whenever it is desired.

Captain Jack Benson, when he reached bottom with the "Pollard," and had donned his bathing suit, crawled into the tube through the rear port. This port was then closed. Hal Hastings simultaneously opened the outer port and discharged compressed air into the tube. Thus Jack forced his way out into the water, and, with the aid of his natural buoyancy, made a quick swim for the surface.

In returning, he had dived down, close to the anchor cable. Nearer the bottom he seized the cable, thus hauling himself down to the outer port of the torpedo tube. He had quickly crawled into the tube, where the presence of air still kept the water out. As he knocked heavily at the rear port with both hands, Hal swiftly turned in a moderate discharge of compressed air, while Eph, controlling mechanism inside, swung the forward port shut. Then the rear port was swung back, Captain Jack crawling back into the forward compartment of the boat.

"The whole trick is rather easy," Jack informed Mr. Farnum, as they walked that night in the village and discussed the matter in undertones.

"But you were in not more than seventy feet of water there," suggested the builder. "You couldn't do it at much greater depth."

"At eighty feet of water I could do it," replied Benson, thoughtfully.

"But at a greater depth than eighty feet-?"

"Of course, the deeper one gets, the more tremendous the pressure of the water is," answered the young captain. "At a depth of a hundred feet, say, the pressure of the water would be enough to crowd me back into the tube, crushing my body."

"And killing you," clicked Mr. Farnum.

"Undoubtedly. Yet seventy feet is as deep as one need go. Fifty feet is far enough below the surface, for that matter. And we have the splendid little 'Pollard' under such perfect control that we can drop to fifty feet below the surface, as shown by our submersion gauge, and keep just at that depth."

"It's all wonderful," cried the boatbuilder. "Jack, you are a genius at this work!"

"There are some rather big problems to be worked out, in connection with this new idea," hinted Benson.

"What are the problems?"

"Well, in observing a stretch of water, for the position or approach of a hostile battleship, it might be necessary for the swimmer to go up several times."

"Yes-?"

"That would call for a very considerable use of compressed air."

"Naturally."

"So, in the boat now building, Mr. Farnum, I think Mr. Pollard and yourself should provide for the carrying of greater quantities of compressed air. For, when a submarine is below, you must always have reserve tanks of compressed air to be used in bringing the boat to the surface. Of course, once on the surface, with the motor going, more compressed air can be quickly stored."

"You've been doing some busy thinking, Jack," spoke Mr. Farnum, approvingly.

"I haven't been doing it all, sir," was Benson's quick reply. "Hal and

Eph have been talking it all over with me."

"The Melvilles are very anxious to find out how you performed the seemingly wonderful feat of leaving the submerged boat and then returning to it."

"Are you going to tell them, sir."

"Not, at any rate, until I've taken more time to think about it. Yet, you understand, Jack, I can't be too offish with them. They are able to control the investment of a good deal of money, and that money I am afraid we are going to need if we are to go as steeply as we'd like into the building of submarines."

Jacob Farnum, it will be remembered, had married Grace Desmond, an heiress. Her affairs were not yet fully settled through the probate court, but she would presently be entitled to about a half million dollars in her own right. To many it would have seemed that, with a wife so rich, the inventor would not have to look far to find abundant capital. Jacob Farnum, however, knew the hazards that surround even the best conducted business concerns, and he had determined that not a penny of his young wife's fortune should be risked in his own ventures. In other words, it was a point of honor with him not to take the slightest risk of involving his wife's private fortune.

The following morning David Pollard was on hand, in response to a telegram from his friend.

Things were now about in shape for final discussion between Melville, the builder and the inventor.

In the private inner office of the shipyard the group of those most interested gathered. Jacob Farnum seated himself beside his desk, Pollard taking a chair close by. Lawyer Demarest, with a pile of impressive looking documents before him, sat at a large flat-top desk. Melville, senior, and two business friends, sat a little apart, while Don Melville stood behind his father.

"I will say, in beginning," commenced George Melville, in his smoothest, blandest tones, "that we have talked so far, you and I, Mr. Farnum, only in general terms. We will now come to the definite proposition under which my friends and myself are willing to contribute the share of new capital that you want in your business."

"That is what I most want, before we go any further," assented Mr. Farnum. "I will say, however, that I have in mind a proposition that I would like to submit, before we hear from your side."

"I am listening," nodded Mr. Melville, suavely.

"We have already decided," continued Mr. Farnum, "that my boat yard, with all its equipment, and including the ownership of the 'Pollard,' may be fairly rated at three hundred thousand dollars."

"That is quite true," nodded Mr. Melville. "That figure is in accordance with the estimates made by our expert accountant."

"In the boat itself," continued Jacob Farnum, "my friend Pollard has a stated amount of interest. To come quickly to the point, then, I propose that Pollard and myself, with the aid of a necessary third party-my superintendent, Partridge, for instance-form a stock company with a capital stock of three hundred thousand dollars. Then the six hundred and fifty thousand dollars that you and your associates are to advance, Mr. Melville, may be secured by an issue of bonds, which the company will secure authority to issue. These bonds will bear the unusually high interest of seven per cent., and this interest, of course, will have to be paid before any dividend can be declared on the capital stock of the company. That will retain the control of the company in my hands, and in Pollard's, and that is what we want."

"Yet do you expect that it will be easy to secure such an understanding with capital?" inquired Mr. Melville, easily. "The proposition amounts to this: That you put in the smaller amount of capital, and yet expect to reap the greater profits."

"By no means," replied Jacob Farnum, seriously. "We have demonstrated the value of our type of boat, and we have some valuable knowledge and ideas that cannot be appraised in dollars. So, though our amount of material capital is less than you and your associates would contribute, we feel that we are bringing to the enterprise the larger share."

"I see your point," nodded Mr. Melville, pleasantly. "Yet there is much to be discussed from our side."

So the contest was on-the quiet, polite battle that is as old as capital itself. The men who contribute the money expect the control of the business; the men who contribute the ideas and knowledge expect, capital to be satisfied with a good return on its money.

Both sides were silent for awhile. The lawyer, tapping a pencil against his lips, knew that George Melville did not intend to go into the enterprise on any arrangement that did not allow him to gain business control swiftly and surely.

"We have much to discuss, along these lines," pursued Mr. Melville, in his smoothest tones and with his friendliest air. "But I have no doubt at all, Mr. Farnum, that we shall presently reach a basis that will be wholly agreeable to both sides."

Which, on the contrary, was what the capitalist knew to be impossible. Melville found himself wishing that something else would come into the conversation, in order to get the boatbuilder's mind briefly away from the main proposition.

Steps were heard, at this moment, in the outer office, and then the faces of Jack and Hal appeared close to the glass in the door. Eph was not far behind them.

"Oh, my crew," nodded Mr. Farnum, looking up. "You remember our experiment, the other day, of having a man leave the boat while under water? Some other problems have come up in that connection. So I sent word to the young men, asking them to step over to the office as soon as convenient. I guess they did not quite understand, and were busy at the time, so that they have come over a little too late. I will step to the door, and so inform them."

Here was the diversion for which Mr. Melville had just been wishing.

"Don't dismiss them, please," urged the capitalist. "On the contrary, will you be good enough to ask them to step in here? There is something that it might be as well to make clear before them."

Bowing slightly, as he rose, Jacob Farnum stepped to the door, opening it.

"Come right in, boys," he requested. "Mr. Melville wishes to say something before you."

Each of the three submarine boys felt a quick throb at the heart. All had a suspicion that a blow might be about to fall. So they stepped inside, halting not far from Mr. Farnum's desk, and turning to face the Melville group.

Mr. Melville cleared his throat before he began:

"In the reorganization of affairs here, my investing friends and myself will be obliged to expect that the command of the 'Pollard' submarine boat will pass to my son, who will actively represent our group. My son, Don, will have charge and knowledge of the boat, its successors, and of all new ideas tried aboard, and he will safeguard, so far as may be necessary our interests. It is possible, however, that he may find it advisable to employ some or all of the present crew. That will, of course, be for him to decide in the near future."

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