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

   Chapter 6 THE POLLARD HAS A RIVAL

The Submarine Boys' Trial Trip / Making Good" as Young Experts" By Victor G. Durham Characters: 13220

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Capital, backed by energy, can often accomplish wonders.

On the next day after the Melville squall in the boatyard office, Jacob Farnum, looking out of a window, and through the open gateway, saw three heavily-laden lumber trucks go by.

"That looks like a good deal for little Dunhaven," he thought to himself.

"I wonder what's happening?"

His horse and buggy were in the yard. The young owner presently went out and got into his vehicle, driving slowly along the street to the northward.

About a third of a mile from his yard Mr. Farnum came to the spot where the lumber was being unloaded. That was a hitherto vacant piece of land located at the edge of a small deepwater cove. Mr. Melville and Don were there, and also a gang of workmen. Carpenters were opening tool chests, as though preparing to go to work.

"Hm!" mused Jacob Farnum. Turning up a side street, he drove, by a roundabout way, back to his yard. Thereafter he took pains to keep himself informed of the Melville doings.

By night the foundations of a shipbuilder's shed had been laid by a large force of carpenters. Another gang of carpenters had gone to work building a fence as rapidly as laborers could set up the poles. By the night of the following day the fence was completed, and the shed, so far as outward appearances went, was completed.

And now, though George Melville and his son, preserved an air of great secrecy, the news leaked out that a new boatyard was added to the industries of Dunhaven, coupled with the further information that Mr. Melville was engaged in the manufacture of submarine torpedo boats.

Both Farnum and Pollard looked somewhat grave when this knowledge was first brought to them by Eph Somers, who had a great knack for picking up local news. However, the young builder was quick to cheer up.

"So we're to have a rival yard, and the 'Pollard' is to have a rival?" said Mr. Farnum. "Competition ought to stir us forward to the very best that is in us. Somers, ask Captain Benson and Hastings to come here. We'll talk this matter over."

Twenty minutes later the few devoted friends of the "Pollard" boat were gathered around Mr. Farnum's desk.

"Unless I'm in great error," said the young boatbuilder, "we're in for a lively rumpus, now. Melville is aroused over our refusal to let him in to this enterprise, and he's starting an opposition. He can command a great deal of money, and I understand that he has a good many influential friends in Washington. If he can carry on the most successful rivalry, he may do us a great deal of harm. For instance, if he can build so fine a boat that he can put ours in the shadow. In fact, while I don't mean to be a quitter or a skulker, I'll admit that Melville may possibly be able to dig a hole and drop us into it. If he produces a type of boat that goes far ahead of ours, then the Government is likely to buy his, overlook ours and leave me stranded financially. About all I'm worth is tied up in the present 'Pollard' and in the new torpedo submarine that I'm now building."

"He can't invent or build a finer submarine than the 'Pollard,'" declared

Captain Jack, with conviction.

"Nor get as fine a crew to handle his craft," added David Pollard.

"Don't be too sure of that," warned Jack, Soberly. "I think we fellows have done fairly well with your boat, up to date. But suppose Mr. Melville should be able to get a lot of experienced submarine men, and even, perhaps, an officer, from the United States Navy. We boys could hardly beat such a combination as that."

"I'm not so sure that you're right on this point, Jack," clicked Mr. Farnum. "I'll say this much: It would make me more uneasy to lose the services of you boys than it would to hear that Melville has a Navy crew for the boat he's building."

"Of course," went on Jack, thoughtfully, after a pause, "if you, Mr. Farnum, could interest all the capital you want, on your own fair conditions, you wouldn't have to be afraid of this man Melville."

"No," admitted the boatbuilder, making a wry face. "But getting all that capital together is the problem. You see, Jack, we know just how good a boat we have, but others don't."

"Others don't?" repeated Captain Benson. "That gives me an idea."

"Another trouble," pursued the builder, "is that this submarine business is just something of a speculation. Suppose investors come forward with a lot of ready money to put into this enterprise? Our boat is good, but how do the investors know that, within the next few months, some other inventor won't come forward with a new type of submarine boat that will leave ours hopelessly behind? Then the investors would stand to lose every dollar that they put in with us. That's the thought that makes investors shy."

"Yet Mr. Melville did not seem to be afraid of the chance of losing," remarked Jack Benson.

"He's a gambler all the way through, and he has some moneyed friends of his sort," replied Mr. Farnum. "But it's hard to find such investors."

"Now, for that idea I mentioned," proposed Captain Jack. "You can see what you think of it. Why not get people to talking about our boat? Why not make them talk about it as the most wonderful thing possible in a submarine boat? You know how I managed to leave the boat under water, and to return to it. The thing has never been done before. You know how simple the trick was, and that it was blundered upon by accident. But the people of the country at large don't know. Show the trick is done. When they hear about it, broadcast, won't they think that the 'Pollard' is the only real thing in submarines? Use the 'Pollard' type of boat, and no more men need be killed when a boat won't rise. That's the way the people will talk. So, Mr. Farnum, why not write to the editor of each of the biggest daily papers, inviting him to send a representative here on a near date, to see the thing done? Don't let the editors know just what feat is to be displayed. Simply let them know, in a mysterious, general way, that the thing we will demonstrate revolutionizes the whole art of submarine warfare-as it really does."

"That will make people talk, surely," acknowledged the young boatbuilder.

"And there'll be pressure put upon Congress to buy your boat, and more like it," urged Captain Jack. "All the newspaper talk will be free advertising, and I imagine that the kind of advertising that newspapers are forced to give is all the best paying."

"I haven't had much experience in that line, but I imagine it is the best kind," nodded Mr. Farnum.

All hands set to, to devise a list of n

ewspapers to which invitations should be sent. The stenographer was soon intensely busy with this work.

Down at the new Melville yard affairs went on with a rush. Two tumble-down houses were rented in a little habited part of the town, and in these a gang of close-mouthed Italian laborers was quartered. Jabez Holt felt the new increase in prosperity, for Mr. Melville engaged his entire hotel. Before long there was a constant succession of arrivals at the hotel. Steel salesmen, motor drummers, salesmen in electrical supplies, and a whole host of miscellaneous representatives came to town, putting up at the hotel, where Mr. Melville had reserved a suite of rooms for temporary offices. The strangers in town spent money freely, and all the villagers enjoyed their presence.

In fact, so much business did these new happenings bring that Jacob Farnum speedily became sensible of the fact that the villagers looked upon the Melvilles with decided favor.

"The Melville crowd are at their new enterprise in real and bustling earnest," remarked Farnum, with an air of uneasiness, to his associate, the inventor.

"I imagine those people can control millions of dollars, if they need that much money," hazarded David Pollard.

"Undoubtedly," nodded the boatbuilder "And, though I am seeking for capital that will come in on terms fair to us, it's mighty uphill work."

This conversation was carried on in young Benson's hearing. Captain Jack turned to them with a laugh, to say: "Wait and see, though, if the exhibition before the newspaper correspondents won't take a lot of wind out of the Melville sails."

"It ought to," nodded the builder, "unless the Melvilles, or some of the experts they're dealing with, are shrewd enough to figure out how you left the boat and returned to it."

"Would you have figured that out, Mr. Farnum, if I hadn't told you?"

"Probably not, Jack. It's one of the things that are too simple to guess at easily."

Passers by the Melville yard were now able to hear the hammering of the riveters daily. It looked as though the new yard must be pushing a submarine boat to rapid completion.

"There hasn't been a launching, anyway, so I don't believe the Melville people will be able to do anything to beat our show to-morrow," remarked Captain Jack, on the night before the day that had been set for the show before the newspaper men.

Early the next forenoon newspaper correspondents began to arrive in numbers from half a dozen large cities. As the hotel was monopolized, by the Melville crowd, Mr. Farnum had engaged other quarters at which to entertain the men of the press. Some of the newspapers sent women writers.

None of these visitors were taken direct to the yards. Mr. Farnum and Mr. Pollard took the journalistic visitors in charge and finally conveyed them in carriages to the boatyard, arriving at about a quarter before eleven.

Here Jack, Hal and Eph, looking at their best in their natty uniforms, were on hand to be presented. Of course, the mere fact of a competent, well-trained boy crew was a novelty to the newspaper writers, who made much of the submarine boys and asked them many questions about their work.

"How soon are you going to take us out aboard the 'Pollard'?" inquired one of the women reporters.

"Just as soon as Captain Benson and his young men have had a chance to show you the remarkable feat that you have come here to see," promised Mr. Farnum.

"And what is that remarkable feat?" asked another journalist.

"The wonder of it will strike you all the more if we do not announce it in advance," rejoined David Pollard.

"Captain Benson, what have you to say about it?" pleaded one of the newspaper women. "Won't you give us at least a hint?"

"I'd like to, immensely," smiled Captain Jack, "but I've always had a great respect for Mr. Farnum's judgment."

"Good enough, captain," laughed the boat builder. "And now, signal for the boat that is to put you aboard."

As the boat was coming in Captain Jack turned to the newspaper writers to say:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the thing that is to be done to-day is something that has never been done on any other boat than the 'Pollard.' If it looks a bit dramatic, you will understand, of course, that that is a means toward making it all the more impressive."

"Oh, dear, but you are making me dreadfully inquisitive," complained one of the newspaper women, plaintively.

Embarking in the shore boat, the "Pollard's" crew were soon aboard the submarine. From the platform decks they waved their caps, then, one by one, disappeared through the tower, the manhole cover being pulled down after them.

"Are they going to take the boat out and submerge it?" asked one of the correspondents.

"Yes," nodded Mr. Farnum.

"And what else-please?" asked the particularly impatient newspaper woman.

Mr. Farnum smiled, then added:

"There they go, under electric power. Watch!"

By the time that the boat had gone a little more than a hundred feet one of the correspondents called out:

"They're sinking!"

"All a part of the performance," stated Mr. Pollard.

Before some of the visiting journalists could quite realize it, the tip of the conning tower had disappeared below the surface.

"That's all very interesting to look at," half shuddered one of the women.

"But what if they couldn't bring the boat up again?"

"The boat is built to go up or down, at need," Mr. Farnum assured her.

"Captain Benson has never had an accident yet."

So the group of some thirty newspaper people watched intently, keeping their gaze on the place where they had seen the last ripples close in over the vanishing conning tower.

The minutes passed by. The shore boat, with the hundred-pound anchor and cable in the bow, hovered just where Captain Jack had directed, but what could be going on in the submarine at the bottom of the little harbor?

"Mr. Farnum, don't you sometimes get nervous over such things?" demanded one of the women.

"Never," the boatbuilder assured her.

Yet is was not long before the yard's owner pulled out his watch to look at the dial. Eleven minutes had passed since the disappearance of the submarine. The next time Farnum glanced at his watch the time had lengthened to fifteen minutes. Then the time dragged by to half an hour.

David Pollard was fighting hard to conceal the nervous dread that had seized him.

"Farnum," he found chance to whisper, at last, "something tragic has happened to the boys, at last. What on earth can it be? Whatever it is, we're utterly powerless to help them!"

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