Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: But the Sea Lion was equal to the task set for her, and all the remainder of the night the chase went on.]
BOY SCOUTS IN A SUBMARINE
SEARCHING AN OCEAN FLOOR
By G. HARVEY RALPHSON
BOY SCOUTS IN AN AIRSHIP
BOY SCOUTS IN MEXICO
BOY SCOUTS IN THE NORTHWEST
BOY SCOUTS ON MOTOR CYCLES
I. LOST ON AN OCEAN FLOOR
II. A CONFLICT OF AUTHORITY
III. “THE DANDY SUBMARINE”
IV. A WOLF ON THE TRAIL
V. TWO WOLVES IN A PEN
VI. NIGHT ON AN OCEAN FLOOR
VII. THE SECRET OF THE HOLD
VIII. ON GUARD UNDER THE SEA
IX. “JIMMIE’S FOOLISH–LIKE A FOX” X. A CHASE ON THE OCEAN FLOOR
XI. JIMMIE GOES OUT HUNTING
XII. JACK MAKES A DISCOVERY
XIII. JIMMIE DEMANDS A MEDAL
XIV. A BOY SCOUT WITH A “PUNCH”
XV. A DESPERATE PRISONER
XVI. A BLUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK
XVII. BAD FOR THE SEA CREATURES
XVIII. “MAKING A GOOD JOB OF IT”
XIX. ON THE EDGE OF DISASTER
XX. AN ENDING AND A BEGINNING
LOST ON AN OCEAN FLOOR
The handsome clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol, Boy Scouts of America, in the City of New York, was ablaze with light, and as noisy as healthy, happy boys could well make it.
“Over in the Chinese Sea!” shouted Jimmie McGraw from a table which stood by an open window overlooking the brilliantly illuminated city. “Do we go to the washee-washee land this time?”
“Only to the tub!” Jack Bosworth put in.
“What’s the answer?” asked Frank Shaw, sitting down on the edge of the table and rumpling Jimmie’s red hair with both hands.
Jimmie broke away and, after bouncing a football off his tormentor’s back, perched himself on the back of a great easy chair.
“The answer?” Jack said, after peace had been in a measure restored, “I thought everybody knew that the Chinks wash their clothes in the Gulf of Tong King and hang them out to dry on the mountains of Kwang Tung! Are we going there, Ned?” he added, turning to Ned Nestor, who sat by a nearby window, looking out over the city. “Are we going to the gulf of Tong King?”
Ned left his chair by the window and walked over to the table.
“I hardly know,” he said, taking a roll of maps and drawings from his breast pocket and spreading them out on the table. “When Captain Moore arrives we shall know more about it.”
“Who’s Captain Moore?”
This from Jimmie, still sitting on the back of the chair, elbows on knees, chin on palms.
“Is he going to be the big noise?”
This from Jack Bosworth, who was reaching out with his foot in a vain effort to tip Jimmie’s chair and send him sprawling.
“Is Captain Moore going with us?”
This question was asked by Frank Shaw with a show of anxiety. When out on their trips the Boy Scouts did not relish having older men about to show authority.
“One question at a time!” laughed Ned. “To answer the first query first, Captain Moore is the Secret Service officer who is to post us with regard to our mission to Chinese waters. Second he will, to use the slang adopted by Jack, be the ‘Big Noise’ as long as he is with us. Third, I don’t know whether he is going on the journey with us or not.”
“Here’s hopin’ he don’t!” cried Jimmie.
“He’ll want us to sit in baby chairs at tables and object to our takin’ moonlight walks on the bottom of the sea! Is he covered all over with brass buttons, an’ does he strut like this?”
Jimmie bounded to the floor and walked up and down the room with a mock military stride which set his companions into roars of laughter.
“I have never seen him,” Ned replied. “He is coming here tonight, and you must judge for yourself what kind of a man he is.”
“Here?” asked Frank. “Here to this club-room? The boys won’t do a thing to him if he puts on dog!”
“Is he a submarine expert?” asked Frank.
“Sure!” replied Jack. “He wouldn’t be sent here to post us if he wasn’t, would he?”
“I don’t believe he knows any more about a submarine, right now, than Ned does,” Jimmie exclaimed. “Ned’s been taking walks on the bottom of the Bay every mornin’ for a week!”
Jack and Frank turned to Ned with amazement showing on their faces.
“Have you, Ned?” they asked, in chorus.
“Have you been out training without letting us know about it?”
“You bet he has!” Jimmie grinned. “I’ve been with him most of the time too. This Captain Moore, whoever he is, hain’t got nothin’ on Ned when it comes to makin’ the wheels go round under the water.”
“Oh, you!” laughed Jack, pointing a finger at Jimmie. “You can’t run a submarine, even if Ned can.”
“You wait an’ see!” retorted the boy, indignantly. “You wait until we get into the Chinese sea, then you’ll see what I know about boats that travel on ocean beds!”
“Can he run a submarine, Ned?” asked Jack.
“Well,” was the laughing reply, “he did pretty well on the last trip. If some one hadn’t interfered with his steering I reckon he would have tipped the Statue of Liberty into the Atlantic!”
Jimmie winked when the others roared at him and then looked reproachfully at Ned.
“You promised not to tell about that!” he said, accusingly.
At that moment a knock came on the door of the clubroom, which was on the top of the palatial residence of Jack Bosworth’s father, and a moment later a tall, military-looking man with a white, stern face, thin straight lips and cold blue eyes was shown in. He paused just outside the doorway, and the boy who did not catch the sneer on his chalky face as he looked superciliously over the group must have been very unobservant indeed.
“Gee! He don’t seem to like the looks of us!” Jimmie whispered to Frank Shaw, as Ned stepped forward to greet the newcomer.
“Looks like a false alarm!” Frank replied, in an aside. “I hope we don’t have to lug him along with us.”
“We won’t need any cold storage arrangement on the submarine if he does go!” Jimmie went on. “That face of his would freeze hot steel.”
Captain Moore of the United States Secret Service remained standing near the door until Ned reached his side. Then he lifted a single glass, inserted it in his eye-orbit and stood gazing at the boy who had advanced to welcome him.
Ned stepped back, coldly, and Jimmie nudged Jack delightedly when he saw the lad’s face harden into bare civility.
“Aw,” began the visitor, “I’m looking for–ah!–Mr. Nestor!”
“I’m Ned Nestor,” said the boy, shortly.
Ned pointed toward the table where the other boys were sitting and moved away.
“Fawncy!” repeated the visitor.
Ned made no reply. Instead, he marched to the table, drew a chair forward, and motioned Captain Moore to be seated.
Before complying with this gracious invitation the Captain glanced around the apartment with the supercilious sneer he had shown on entering. The boys watched him with heavy frowns on their faces.
“If we’ve got to take this along in the submarine,” Jimmie whispered to Jack, “I hope the boat will drop down into a deep hole and stay there. Look at it!”
“Hush!” whispered the other. “It has ears!”
Those who have read the first and second volumes of this series will understand without being told here that it was a very fine clubroom upon which the frosty blue eyes of the Secret Service man looked.
The walls were adorned with all manner of hunting and fishing paraphernalia, together with many trophies of the chase. Foils, gloves, ball bats, paddles and many other athletic aids were scattered about the large room.
This clubroom, that of the Black Bear Patrol, as has been said, was the handsomest in New York, the members of the Patrol being sons of very wealthy men. The father of Frank Shaw was editor and owner of one of the important daily newspapers of the metropolis. Jack Bosworth’s father was a prominent corporation lawyer, while Harry Stevens, a lad with a historical hobby, was a prominent automobile manufacturer.
Ned Nestor, the boy just now trying to entertain the very formal Captain Moore, was a member of the Wolf Patrol, also of New York, as was also Jimmie McGraw, who had been a Bowery newsboy before joining fortunes with Ned.
As is well known to most of our readers, Ned had, at one time and another, undertaken and successfully accomplished delicate and hazardous enterprises for the United States Government. Accompanied by Frank, Jack, Jimmie, Harry, and other members of the Boy Scout Patrols of the United States, he had visited Mexico, the Canal Zone, the Philippines, the Great Northwest, had navigated the Columbia river in a motor boat, and had covered the continent of South America in an aeroplane.
He was now about to enter upon, perhaps, the most important mission ever assigned to him by the Secret Service department. The story of the quest upon which he was about to enter will best be told in the conversation which now took place in the clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol on this evening of the 11th of September.
Presently Captain Moore transferred his gaze from the apartment to the boys gathered about the table and grouped about the place. As a matter of course all conversation in the room had ceased on the arrival of the Captain. While the boys who were not fortunate enough to be planning on the trip in the submarine were too courteous to openly stare at their guest of the moment, it may well be believed that his every look and word was closely noted.
Concluding his rather rude observations, Captain Moore dropped his glass, shrugged his shoulders, which were heavily padded, and gave utterance to his feelings in the one word of comments which he had twice used before:
Ned said not a word, but waited for the visitor to lead out in the talk. Captain Moore was in no haste to begin, but he finally broke the silence by asking:
“You are Ned Nestor?”
Ned bowed stiffly. He did not like the man he was supposed to do business with, and did not try to conceal the fact.
“The Ned Nestor who undertook the Secret Service work in the Canal Zone and South America?”
Ned nodded again.
“You said that before?” broke in Jimmie, who was fuming under the idea that the Captain was not treating his chum with proper courtesy.
The Captain brought his glass into use again and looked the boy over, much as he would have inspected a curio in a museum. Jimmie glared back, and the eyes of the two fenced for a moment before a twinkle of humor appeared in those of the Captain.
“You are Jimmie, eh?” the latter demanded.
Jimmie would have made some discourteous reply only for the tug Ned gave at his sleeve. As it was he only nodded.
“Aw, I’ve heard of you!” the Captain said, then. “Quite remarkable–quite extraordinary!”
“You came to deliver instructions regarding the submarine trip?” Ned asked, feeling revolt in the air of the room.
Unless something was done, the boys, all resenting the manner of the Captain, would be beyond control, and then the Secret Service man would be likely to leave the place in anger.
This, in turn, might endanger the adventure already planned and prepared for, for the chief of the department might see fit to adopt whatever recommendations Captain Moore made in the matter.
The visitor might have sensed the hostility, for he hastened to take from a pocket a sheaf of papers and place them on the table. The next moment the boys all saw that they had not gained a correct estimate of the Secret Service man.
The instant he began talking of the matter which had brought him to the clubroom his manner changed. He was no longer the drawling, supercilious naval officer in resplendent uniform. He was a keen- brained mechanical expert, questioning Ned regarding his knowledge of submarines.
“You are fairly well up in the matter,” the Captain said, going back to his old drawl, in a few moments. “I shall not object to your going on the Diver with me.”
The boys all gasped. So their worst fears were coming true! The Captain was indeed going with them! He would be the commander, and Ned would be obliged to work under his orders if he went at all!
Would Ned do this? Would he submit to the authority of another while practically responsible for the results of the trip? Frank, Jack, and Jimmie saw their cherished plans go glimmering.
Ned made no reply whatever. Instead he began asking questions concerning the Diver as the submarine the Captain had in view was named, and also about the object of the expedition.
“A short time ago,” the Captain said, “the Cutaria, a fast mail boat, went down in the Gulf of Tong King, carrying with her many passengers, the United States mails, and $10,000,000 in gold consigned to the Chinese Government. We are to search the ocean floor for the gold, and also for information sought by the Department of State.”
“Who got careless and dropped $10,000,000 on an ocean floor?” asked Jimmie.
A CONFLICT OF AUTHORITY
The Captain gazed at Jimmie for a moment without answering. Then he parted his thin lips and uttered the old, familiar word:
“The Cutaria went down as the result of a collision?” Ned hastened to ask, observing that Jimmie was growing flushed and angry.
“Yes,” was the reply, “and it is asserted in the diplomatic circles of foreign governments that she was rammed by the orders of a power alleged to be friendly to our Government, and that our department of state does not dare remonstrate and ask for reparation for the reason that an investigation would reveal the fact that the $10,000,000 in gold which was lost was not really, as alleged, on its way from the sub-treasury in New York to the treasurer of the Chinese Empire.”
“But why should Uncle Sam be sending money over there?” asked Ned.
“It is asserted that the money was sent at the command of men high in influence in Washington who understood that it was to be seized while in transit, after reaching Chinese soil, and used to assist the radical fomentation now going on in China.”
“An indirect way, a sly and underhand way, of assisting the revolutionary party in China to get control of the government, eh?” asked Ned.
“Aw, that is what is claimed,” was the reply.
“And you are to have charge of the expedition?” asked Ned, quietly, his eyes fixed keenly on the face of the visitor.
“Orders,” was the slow reply.
“And the Diver has been chosen as the boat?”
“At my request, yes.”
“But,” Ned then said, by way of protest, “I have made all my trial trips in the Sea Lion.”
“You will soon learn to help handle the Diver,” was the lofty reply.
“The Diver is no more like the Sea Lion than she is like the Ark,” was Ned’s reply. “It will take me another fortnight to learn to run her, I’m afraid.”
“You can take lessons from my son on the way over,” was the unsatisfactory reply.
“Why, the submarine is not going to sail across the Pacific,” said the boy. “As I understand it, we are to take passage in a mail steamer at San Francisco and find the submarine in some harbor of the island of Hainan, after she arrives on the other side in a man-of-war which will be detailed to carry her over.”
“I have changed all that,” said the Captain.
Ned said no more on that phase of the matter at that time, but the boys knew that he had not given up his original intention of making the explorations in the Sea Lion, the submarine which the Secret Service chief at New York had placed at his disposal soon after his return from South America.
“You will be permitted to take one of your–ah, Boy Scouts with you,” the Captain went on. “Baby bunch, the Boy Scouts, what?” he added, lifting his glass and surveying the boys grouped about in a manner which brought the hot blood to their cheeks.
“I’m afraid you have never investigated the Boy–“
Ned’s conciliatory remark was cut short by Jimmie.
“Will the Boy Scout who goes with him be allowed to breathe?” the boy asked.
Captain Moore eyed the lad critically through his glass.
“You needn’t concern yourself about that, bub,” he said, after an exasperating silence, “for you won’t be the one to go, don’t you know–not the Boy Scout to go.”
Jimmie was about to make some angry reply, but Frank seized him by the arm and marched him to a distant part of the large room.
“You’ll queer the whole thing!” Frank said.
Jimmie shook himself free of the detaining hand and faced the Captain with flashing eyes.
“I don’t care if I do!” he said. “That thing is not going to make ugly remarks about the Boy Scouts without bein’ called for it. He’s an old false alarm, anyway. I’ll bet he never heard a real gun go off!”
Captain Moore heard the insulting words and arose.
“If you’ll, aw, come to my office tomorrow morning,” he said, to Ned, “we’ll discuss the, aw, mattah. I cawn’t remain here and quarrel with boys who ought to be, aw, spanked and put, aw, to bed as soon as the sun goes down.”
Ned did not rise from his chair to escort the Captain to the door. His face was pale and there was a dangerous light in his eyes.
“It won’t be necessary for me to visit you in the morning,” he said.
The Captain fixed his glass.
“Fawncy!” he exclaimed.
“Anything you like!” Ned said.
“Fawncy!” repeated the Captain.
“As you please,” Ned smiled. “Fawncy anything you like–anything agreeable, you know.”
“And why won’t you come to my office in the morning?” asked the Captain, with a tightening of his thin lips.
“I have decided to withdraw from the enterprise,” was the quiet reply. “I’m out of it.”
The boys gathered about Ned with cheers and words of encouragement.
“Go it, old boy!” cried one.
“Don’t let him bluff you!” cried another.
“Dad will buy you a submarine!” Frank Shaw put in.
The Captain stood in the middle of the group, gazing in perplexity from face to face.
“My word!” he said, presently.
“What about it?” asked Jimmie, edging closer.
“Not going?” continued the Captain; “why?”
“I’ve changed my mind,” was the unsatisfactory reply.
“But the submarine is waiting,” urged the Captain.
“I shall never go to the bottom in the Diver,” Ned replied.
The Captain loitered, as if anxious to reopen the whole matter, but Ned turned his back and seemed inclined to consider the case closed.
“And so we’re not going?” asked Frank.
“Rotten shame!” declared Jack.
“So fades me happy, happy dream!” chanted Jimmie.
The Captain stuck his glass in his eye and moved toward the door, an expression of satisfaction on his stern face.
No one opened the door for him, and when he opened it for himself, he found a slender, middle-aged man with a pleasant face and brilliant eyes confronting him. His supercilious manner vanished instantly, and the military cap he had already donned came off with a jerk.
“Admiral!” he exclaimed.
The boys gathered about the doorway, all excitement. A real, live admiral in the Boy Scout clubroom! That was almost too much to expect.
The admiral saluted and stepped inside the room.
“Pardon me,” he said, addressing Ned rather than the Captain, “but I must confess that I have been doing a discourteous thing. I have been listening at your door.”
“I sincerely hope you heard all that was said,” the Captain ventured. “I have been shamefully insulted here.”
“Did you hear all that was said?” asked Nestor.
The Admiral bowed.
“I think so,” he said.
“I’m glad of that,” Frank said, “for this Captain does not tell the truth.”
Captain Moore frowned in the direction of the speaker but said not a word.
“When I reached the door,” the Admiral said, “I heard Captain Moore saying that the trip was to be made in the Diver, and that he was to have charge.”
“That is the way I understand it,” Captain Moore hastened to say. “And,” continued the Admiral, “he said, further, that only one Boy Scout would be permitted to accompany Mr. Nestor.”
“That will be quite enough, judging from the samples we see here,” the Captain observed, with a vicious glance toward Jimmie, whose face was now set in a broad grin.
“Those are the statements made by Captain Moore,” Ned said. “I refused to accept them.”
“Quite right!” said the Admiral.
Captain Moore stuck his glass in his eye again and, saluting, turned toward the door.
“Wait!” commanded the Admiral.
The angry Captain turned back, a scowl on his face.
“Mr. Nestor,” the Admiral continued, “goes in charge of the expedition, and in the Sea Lion, the submarine he has been experimenting with. He will be permitted to take three of his companions with him. Any officer who goes in the Sea Lion will necessarily remain under Mr. Nestor’s orders.”
“Then I ask for a transfer,” scowled the Captain.
“Granted,” answered the Admiral. “You may go now.”
Captain Moore lost no time getting out of the door, and then the Admiral seated himself and motioned Ned to do likewise. The boys gathered about, but Ned asked them to proceed with their sports, and only the ex-newsboy remained at the table.
“I’m sorry to say,” the Admiral began, “that there are hints of the most despicable disloyalty and treachery in this matter. I don’t like to cast suspicions on Captain Moore, who really is an expert submarine officer, but it appears to me that he went beyond his authority in changing the plans for the cruise.”
“He had no authority for changing from the Sea Lion to the Diver?” asked Ned.
“Not the slightest.”
“Or for changing from a steamer ride to China to a long journey on the submarine?”
“Not at all.”
“But he was sent here by the Secret Service department to instruct me,” Ned said.
“Exactly, and that is all he was expected to do in the case. I don’t understand his conduct.”
Jimmie, who had been looking over an afternoon newspaper which lay on the table, now broke into the conversation.
“Just look here,” he said. “This tells why Captain Moore butted into the game wrong. Just read that.”
The Admiral took the newspaper into his hand and read, aloud:
“The Diver, the famous submarine boat invented by Arthur Moore, the talented son of Captain Henry Moore, of the United States navy, is soon to be put in commission for a most extraordinary voyage. Under the command of Captain Moore, who will be accompanied by the inventor, his son, the Diver will make the trip from San Francisco to China, almost entirely under water. It is understood that the submarine goes on secret service for the Government.”
“There you are!” cried Jimmie.
“I rather think that does explain a lot,” laughed Ned.
“The Diver,” said the Admiral, thoughtfully, “has not yet been accepted by the Government, and I see trouble ahead for the Sea Lion.”
“THE DANDY SUBMARINE”
The Sea Lion was a United States submarine, yet she was not constructed along the usual naval lines. It was said of her that she looked more like a pleasure yacht built for under-surface work than anything else.
It is not the purpose of the writer to enter into a minute description of the craft. She was provided with a gasoline engine and an electric motor. She was not very roomy, but her appointments were very handsome and costly.
There were machines for manufacturing pure air, as is common with all submarines of her class, and the apparatus for the production of electricity was modern and efficient. Every compartment could be closed against every other chamber in case of damage to the shell.
The pumps designed to expel the water taken into the hold for the purpose of bringing the craft to the bottom were powerful, so that she seemed to sink and rise as easily as does a bird on the wing. At top speed she would make about twenty miles an hour.
On a trial trip taken by Ned on the day before the visit of Captain Moore to the Black Bear clubroom, the double doors and closet which enabled one to leave or enter the boat while under water had been thoroughly tested and found to work perfectly.
The diving suits–which had been manufactured to fit Ned and Frank, Jack and Jimmie–were also found to be in perfect condition.
On the whole, the Sea Lion and her appurtenances were in as perfect condition as science and experience could make them on the day the four boys, accompanied by a naval officer, left the train at Oakland and proceeded to the navy yard up the bay.
By the middle of the afternoon the boys were on board, receiving their final instructions from Lieutenant Scott, who had arranged for the transportation of the Sea Lion from New York and attended to all other details connected with the trip.
After a long talk regarding the perils to be encountered, Lieutenant Scott drew forth a map of peculiar appearance and laid it on the table in the chamber which was to serve as a general living room.
“I have retained possession of this map until the last moment,” the officer said, “because it is most important that no eyes but those of the occupants of the Sea Lion should rest upon it. It shows where the lost vessel went down, shows the drift there, the depths, and various other details of great moment.
“The Cutaria, as you doubtless know, went down off the Taya Islands, a small group to the east of the large island of Hainan, which, in turn, is off the coast of China, being separated, if that is a good word to use in this connection, from the eastern coast by the Gulf of Tong King.
“Immediately following the sinking of the ship divers were sent down. They found the lost ship resting easily in about sixty feet of water. A few days later, however, when other divers went down, the wreck was not at the place described by the first operators.
“There are drift currents there, but it is remarkable that so heavy a wreck should have been shifted so suddenly. There are no indications that the vessel has been buried in the sands of the bottom. Your duty is to search the ocean floor then and locate the wreck. Having done this you are to secure the treasure, if possible. In case you cannot do this, you are to steam to Hongkong and report what assistance you require.
“And remember this: You are not to destroy or mislay any documents you may find in the gold room. You are not to reveal the purpose of your mission at any port you may touch on the way out, or at any port you may visit for the purpose of reporting progress.
“If at any time you have reason to believe that another submarine is working or loitering about in the vicinity of the wreck, you are to report the fact without delay and a man-of-war will be sent to you.”
“And that means–“
Ned did not complete the sentence, for the officer hastened to explain the meaning of the warning.
“The Diver,” he said, “is somewhere on this coast.”
Ned gave a quick start of surprise.
“I knew it!” shouted Jimmie. “I just knew we were in for somethin’ of the kind! There’ll be doin’s.”
“I reckon we can take care of the Diver,” said Frank, “and Mr. Arthur Moore, son of Captain Henry Moore, with it.”
“Don’t underestimate the Diver,” warned Lieutenant Scott. “She is a peach of a submarine, and Mr. Arthur Moore knows how to operate her. She is almost the latest thing in submarines.”
“Why didn’t the Government buy her, then?” demanded Jack.
“Principally because she was withdrawn from the market,” was the reply.
“I begin to understand,” Ned said.
“Then that son of Captain Moore is after the gold?” asked Jack.
“That is what we suspect.”
“Well,” Frank said, then, “it wouldn’t be any fun to go after the old wreck if all was clear sailing.”
“Right you are!” cried Jimmie.
“But how did they get the Diver here so quickly?” asked Ned.
“The same way I got the Sea Lion here,” was the Lieutenant’s reply. “They engaged a special train, took the boat to pieces as far as practicable and sent her over.”
“But she is something of a whale as compared with the little Sea Lion,” urged Ned. “It was easy enough to get our boat across the continent.”
“Not quite so easy as you think,” laughed the officer. “Still,” he added, “here she is, all ready for the trip. There are plenty of provisions, and everything is in fine working order. You, Mr. Nestor, took a hand in taking the submarine to pieces, and you ought to know all about her.”
“I think I do,” was the reply, “still, I should have liked the chance of putting her together again.”
“It is all right as it is,” was the reply. “You doubtless had a good time in New York while the work was being done here. When I left for the big city to ride over with you she was nearly ready, and now, on our arrival, she is, as you see, right and fit.”
“But I thought we were to cross the Pacific in a steamer and pick up the Sea Lion over there,” Ned observed.
“Right you are,” the Lieutenant answered, “but the Sea Lion is to be taken over by the big steamer, too.”
“Then they’ve got to take her to pieces again,” wailed Jimmie, “and it will be weeks before we get started.”
“You are wrong there,” the officer replied. “The Sea Lion will be picked up by something like a floating dock and towed over. How does that strike you?”
“Out of water?” asked Frank.
“Of course. Novel way of carrying a submarine, eh?”
“I should say so.”
“Over there,” the Lieutenant went on, “there would be no facilities for assembling the parts. That is why the work was done here.”
“Of course,” laughed Frank.
“And this floating dry dock,” continued the officer, “will be roofed over and its contents kept secret. A short distance from the Taya Islands, she will be shucked of her shell and take to the water. No one will know what her mission is.”
“It seems to me that everything is pretty cleverly planned,” Ned remarked. “I hope all my plans will come together as nicely as the plans of the Government have.”
“That will be a big tow for a steamer,” Jimmie suggested.
“Yes, it is awkward, but there seemed to be no other way. The Diver will be far in the rear and you take water off the Taya Islands.”
“And on the way over,” Ned said, “I can live in the Sea Lion and continue my studies of the machinery.”
“That is the idea,” said the Lieutenant.
“When are we to be picked up?” asked Jack.
The Lieutenant lifted a hand for silence.
From outside, seemingly from underneath the keel of the Sea Lion, came a grating sound, which was followed by a slight, though steady, lifting of the vessel.
“Gee!” cried Jimmie, springing to his feet. “I guess we’re up against an earthquake!”
The boys were all moving about now, but Lieutenant Scott remained in his chair, a smile on his face.
The Sea Lion rose steadily, and there was a slight tip to port. Ned sat down with a shamed look on his face.
“I should have known,” he said.
“Say,” Jack exclaimed, “was the submarine put together on the float that is going to carry her across?”
“Of course she was,” laughed the Lieutenant. “The pieces brought on from New York were assembled on the float. Some of the larger pieces, the ones most difficult to handle, were made here from patterns sent on from the east. Then, when all was ready, the float was dropped out of sight so the submarine would lie on the surface, as we found her.”
“And now they’re lifting the float?” asked Jimmie.
“Exactly,” was the reply. “Suppose you go outside, on the conning tower, and look about.”
“You bet,” cried Jack, and then there was a rush for the stairway, or half-ladder, rather, leading to the tower.
The Sea Lion was still lifting, though where the power came from no one could determine. While Ned studied over the problem Lieutenant Scott laid a hand on his shoulder.
“You want to know what makes the wheels go round?” laughed the officer. “Well, I’ll tell you. The bottom of the float forms a tank. Now do you see?”
“And there’s a large hose laid from the tank to the shore, and the water is being pumped out! I see.”
“That’s it,” replied the Lieutenant. “Now that we are getting up high and dry, you boys can step down on the floor of the float and look about. I don’t think there was ever a contrivance exactly like this. Go and look it over.”
Night was falling, and a chill October wind was blowing in from the Pacific. There were banks of clouds, too, and all signs portended rain. It would be a dismal night.
Leaving Lieutenant Scott in the conning tower, the boys all clambered down to the floor of the float to examine the blockings which kept the submarine on a level keel. They were gone only a short time, but when they climbed up the rope ladder to the conning tower again the light was dim, and a slow, cold rain was falling. The Lieutenant was not on the conning tower, and Ned at once descended to the general living room of the submarine. Before he reached the middle of the stairs the lights, which had been burning brightly a moment before, suddenly went out, and the interior of the submarine yawned under his feet like a deep, impenetrable pit.
Fearful that something was amiss, Ned dropped down and reached for his electric searchlight, which he had left on a shelf not far from the stairs. Something passed him in the darkness and he called out to the Lieutenant, but there was no answer. Then, out of the darkness above, came a mingled chorus of anger and alarm.
A WOLF ON THE TRAIL
“That isn’t Ned!” cried Jack’s voice, in a moment.
“Don’t let him get away! He’s been up to some mischief!”
That was Frank Shaw’s voice.
That could be no one but Jimmie!
Ned, groping about in the darkness, heard the voices faintly. He seemed to be submerged in a sweep of pounding waves, the steady beating of which shut out all individual sounds.
He knew that he staggered and stumbled as he walked. Moving across the floor his feet came in contact with some soft obstruction lying on the rug and he fell down.
There was a strange, choking odor in the place, and he groped on his hands and knees in the direction of the shelf where his searchlight had been left. His senses reeled, and for an instant he lay flat on the floor.
Then he heard the boys clambering down the stairs from the conning tower and called out, feebly, yet with sufficient strength to make himself heard above the sound of shuffling feet.
“Go back!” he cried. “Don’t come in here! Leave the hatch open, and let in air. Go back!”
Jimmie recognized a note of alarm, of suffering, in the voice of his chum and dropped headlong into the black pit of the submarine. Ned heard him snap the catch of a searchlight, and then, dimly, heard his voice:
“Gee!” the voice said. “What’s comin’ off here?”
The round face of the electric searchlight showed at the end of a cylindrical shaft of light which rested on Ned’s face, but the boy did not realize what was going on until he felt a gust of wind and a drizzle of rain on his forehead.
Then he opened his eyes to find himself on the conning tower of the submarine, with the boys gathered about him, anxiety showing in their speech and manner. It was too dark for him to see their faces.
“You’re all right now,” Jimmie said. “What got you down there?”
Then Ned remembered the sudden extinction of the lights as he moved down the stairs, the stifling, choking odor below, and the deadly grip of suffocation which had brought him to the floor.
“Go back into the boat,” he said, gaining strength every moment. “I am anxious about Lieutenant Scott.”
“We’ve just come from there,” Frank said. “We’ve done all that can be done for him.”
“What do you mean by that?” demanded Ned, moving toward the hatch which sealed the submarine.
“The poison which keeled you over got him!” Jack said.
“Do you mean that he’s dead?” asked Ned, a shiver running through his body as he spoke.
“I’m afraid so,” was the reply. “We got you out just in time. You would have perished in a moment more.”
“Dead!” said Ned. “Lieutenant Scott dead! And he was so gay and so full of life a few moments ago!”
Jack, who had left the little group a moment before, now returned.
“The poison seems to have evaporated from the interior,” he said, “so we may as well go below. I’ll go ahead and turn on the lights.” The body of the naval officer lay in a huddle at the foot of the stairs leading to the conning tower, just far enough to the rear so that the free passage was not obstructed. With all the lights turned on and every aperture which might transmit a ray to the world outside closed, the boys, after placing the body on a couch, began a close examination of the boat.
There were no wounds on the body, so it seemed that he had died from suffocation. There was still a sickening odor in the boat, but the constant manufacture of fresh air was gradually doing away with this.
The door to the room where the dynamos and the gasoline engine were situated was found wide open, and Ned instructed the boys to leave it so and leave everything untouched.
“The first thing to do,” he said, “is to discover any clues the assassin may have left here. It is an old theory that no person, however careful he or she may be, can enter and leave a room without leaving behind some evidence of his or her presence there. We’ll soon know if this is true in this case.”
“There was some one in here, all right,” Jimmie said. “He passed us on the conning tower, skipping like to break the speed limit for the city. I tried to trip him as he passed me, an’ got this.”
The lad turned a bruised face toward his companions. In the confusion no one had observed the cut on his cheek.
“You did get something!” Jack exclaimed. “Why didn’t you say something about it?”
“Nothin’ doin’!” answered the boy. “Only a scratch!”
Notwithstanding the boy’s claim that the wound was of small importance, Ned insisted on its being dressed at once.
“Now,” Ned said, after the cut had been properly cared for, “what sort of a man was it that passed you boys on the conning tower? The circular platform is so small that he must have crowded you pretty closely when he stepped out.”
“He did,” Jimmie answered. “I thought it was you, and stepped aside to make room for him.”
“I had a feeling that it wasn’t you. Then, he was makin’ for the wharf so fast that I thought it would do no harm to have a look at him, and so called out.”
“Then’s when you got the slash across the cheek?”
“Yes; he cut me then.”
“What about the size of the fellow?” asked Ned.
“Oh, I should think he was slender and light, the way he bounded off the platform and made for the wharf.”
“Do you think he went there to kill Lieutenant Scott?” asked Jack, a moment later.
“It is more probable that he came here to put the Sea Lion out of commission,” Frank replied.
“I’ll bet well find somethin’ all busted up!” Jimmie predicted.
“Ned can soon determine that,” Jack remarked.
“Yes,” Ned went on, “but the first thing to do is to see if this murderer left any visiting cards here. After that, we must notify the Coroner and have the body removed.”
Ned went into the dynamo room and looked about.
“Here is where any enemy would have to do his work,” he said, “so we must look for clues here. Keep your hands off the machinery, for he may have left finger marks somewhere.”
Ned searched long and carefully without reward. Finally he turned to the waiting boys.
“There’s quite a lot of waste lying around,” he said. “Secure every fiber of it and examine it under the microscope. You would better attend to that, Frank, as you are familiar with the instrument. If you discover anything foreign to a place like this, let me know.”
While Ned continued his search about the interior of the submarine, Frank busied himself inspecting the bits of waste the other boys brought to him. At last an exclamation of astonishment brought Ned to his side.
“There’s something funny about this,” Frank said, as Ned bent over his shoulder. “That stuff is not oil, and I’d like to know how it got in here.”
“What does it look like?” asked Ned.
“I can’t say,” was the hesitating reply.
Ned took the microscope and looked at the object to which his attention had been called.
“Rubber!” he said, in a moment.
“Rubber!” repeated Frank. “How could rubber be in the waste in that shape?”
“All the same,” Ned replied, “this is some rubber composition, and it has been wiped into the waste. Now, what could any person want with rubber here?”
“It is used quite a lot around electric apparatus,” suggested Frank Shaw.
“But not in this form,” Ned replied.
Then, remembering certain smooth blurs on the polished machinery he had recently examined, he took the microscope and made another examination of the spots. Presently he called Frank to his side.
“Look through the glass,” he said, handing the instrument to Frank, “and tell me what you see.”
“Rubber!” cried the boy, after a short examination. “There are a few traces here of the same rubber composition I found on the waste. Can you tell me what it means?”
“Quite simple,” Ned replied, as the boys gathered about him. “The use of rubber composition by men engaged in nefarious undertakings dates back to the time of the utilization of the whorls and lines of the human fingers as aids in the detection of crime.”
“I guess I know what you are going to say,” cried Frank.
“When the thumb- and finger-print experts got busy with their photographs and their enlarged reproductions, the criminals began studying on methods to offset this dangerous aid to detective work.”
“I knew it,” cried Frank.
“And so,” Ned went on, “they conceived the idea of filling the lines on the fingers and hands and making them perfectly smooth. This is rubber paint,” he went on. “The man who was hidden in here when we came in did not care to leave any finger marks behind him.”
“But he did leave smooth blurs on the machines where his fingers touched them!” said Jack.
“Certainly, and so pointed out the location of his efforts. Still, I do not think he meditated disabling the Sea Lion. It is more probable that he believed Lieutenant Scott to be the expert in charge of the boat and sought to kill or disable him.”
“See where the chump wiped his hands on waste,” Jimmie cried.
Ned now made a still closer inspection of the room and was rewarded for his thoroughness by discovering a tiny pool of the rubber composition on the floor, close to the giant iron frame of the big dynamo. Looking at the pool through his glass he discovered bits of wool mixed with it. He put up his glass with a smile.
“We ought to be able to find this fellow now,” he said, “if we get busy before he has time to change his clothes.”
“Got him, have you?” asked Jack.
“I think I could pick him out of a thousand provided he is captured in the clothes he wore while here. His hand trembled while he was putting the rubber composition on his fingers and some of it dropped on his clothing and dripped off to the floor.
“There are shreds of blue wool in this composition on the floor–so you see he wore a blue woolen garment–probably a coat or pair of trousers. And, see here, the fellow lost all caution when he bounded out of the submarine, after extinguishing the lights, on my entrance.
“He had already wiped the rubber off his hands on the waste, and so his finger marks showed on the steel railing of the staircase. I’ll just take a photo of them.”
When this was accomplished, Ned and Jimmie drew the Sea Lion’s boat to the edge of the float and launched it. Then, leaving Frank and Jack in charge of the submarine, with instructions to keep a close watch for suspicious characters, they turned the prow of the rowboat toward South Vallejo. The distance to the wharf was not great. In fact, the intruder seemed to have cleared it in a minute, either in a boat, which was improbable, or by swimming.
The Sea Lion lay off the United States Navy Yard, on the west of Mare Island, in the straits of the same name. The nearest landing place on the mainland, therefore, was South Vallejo.
It was after 8 o’clock when the boys reached the main street of the town and encountered a policeman in uniform. Ned at once asked for the office of the Coroner of Salano County.
“What’s doing?” asked the policeman.
“I have business with him,” Ned replied, not caring to create a sensation by reciting there in the street the details of what had taken place.
“Well,” replied the policeman, “if you’re so mighty close-mouthed regarding your business with the Coroner, you may find him yourself.”
“All right,” Ned replied. “I’ll go to police headquarters. Perhaps the night desk man won’t be so fresh.”
“Say,” growled the policeman, “you needn’t get gay. I know my duty. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll take you to headquarters, saving you the trouble of asking for the place.”
“I refuse to go with you,” Ned replied.
“Oh, well,” announced the other, “I’ll take you along, just the same. I’m used to kids of your stamp. You’re both under arrest, so you’d better come along without making any trouble.”
As he spoke the policeman seized both boys roughly.
TWO WOLVES IN A PEN
“Take it quietly,” Ned advised Jimmie, as the little fellow began struggling with the arm of the law. “We’ll come out on top in the end, I take it.”
“I’d like to knock the head off this fool cop!” Jimmie cried. “What right has he to go an’ arrest us?”
“If it will take any load off your mind,” the policeman replied, as the three waited on a corner for a patrol wagon, “I’ll tell you what right I had to arrest you. There’s a report at the office that a man who went into that submarine of yours never came out again.”
“When was this report sent in?” asked Ned.
“Just a few moments ago,” was the reply. “All the officers in the city are either watching for you or heading toward the boat. What have you done with Lieutenant Scott?”
“Who sent in the report?” asked Ned.
“I don’t know his name, but the chief does. He says he went to the water front, on the island side, with the Lieutenant, that the Lieutenant went on board the Sea Lion with you and the others, and that he has not been seen since. What about it? Better confess and get an easy sentence.”
“The officers who are on their way to the submarine will find out why the Lieutenant never came out,” Ned said. “But about this man who made the report. Why was he waiting for Scott to leave the boat?”
“Said he had an understanding with him that he was to watch outside, as Scott did not exactly trust you New York kids. A little while ago he heard a commotion and calls for help on board, so he came up to report.”
“Thank you for the information,” Ned said. “Now, you can’t get us to headquarters any too quickly.”
“Where is Scott?” asked the officer.
“Dead,” was the reply.
“Holy smoke!” cried the policeman. “Then I’ve arrested a couple of murderers!”
“If you’ll hurry us to headquarters,” Ned replied, “and the man who made this report is still there, I’ll help you to arrest a real murderer. Here comes the wagon.”
“Drive fast,” ordered the policeman as the three entered the patrol wagon and the driver turned to inspect the boys. “I’ve got the fellows we’re after,” he added.
“Great luck!” the driver replied. “There’ll be a big reward.”
“Oh, I guess I know my business!” said the policeman, with a boastful chuckle.
The station was soon reached, and, without the least ceremony, the boys were pushed along to the cell block and locked up. Ned’s demand that they be taken before the chief was not heeded.
“This is fine!” Jimmie said, from the next cell to the one occupied by Ned. “I like this.”
Before Ned could reply, the chief of police made his appearance in the corridor outside, a great ring of keys in one hand. He unlocked the cell doors without speaking a word and motioned the boys out into the corridor.
Then, still without speaking, he pointed the way to his private office, ushered the lads in, closed and locked the door.
“Well?” he said, then.
“Will you send for the Coroner?” asked Ned.
“So Scott is dead?”
“Why did you kill him?”
Before opening his mouth to reply, Ned caught sight of a dark stain on the arm of the chair in which he was seated.
“Have you a microscope handy?” he asked.
The chief opened his eyes in amazement.
The question, coming at that time, seemed almost the raving of a mad man. This is the view the chief took of it, and he decided to conciliate the maniac.
“What do you want of a microscope?” he asked.
“I want to see if this spot is caused by the application of a certain rubber composition, and if there are shreds of blue wool mixed with it.”
“I guess,” the chief said, “that your proper place is the foolish house.”
“While your men are bringing the microscope,” Ned went on, coolly, “I want to ask you a few questions.”
“Go ahead,” laughed the chief, wondering what sort of insanity this was.
“Who sat in this chair last?” asked Ned.
“Why, the last visitor, of course.”
“Can you now recall his name?”
“How was he dressed?”
“In a blue suit.”
“Where is he now?”
“I don’t know. He said he would return as soon as the officers came back from the submarine.”
“Yes he will!” Jimmie broke in.
“Does he belong here?” asked Ned.
The chief pointed to the west.
“Over in the navy yard,” he said.
“So the blue suit he wore was a naval uniform?”
The chief touched a bell on his desk and a policeman opened the door at the back of the room, connecting with the sergeant’s room, and looked in.
“Get a microscope,” the chief ordered, “and keep quiet about what is going on in here.”
The sergeant nodded and went out.
“What did you say about that smear on the arm of the chair?” asked the chief, then.
He was beginning to understand that there was something besides mental trouble at the bottom of Ned’s inquiries.
“I think,” was the reply, “that an inspection of the spot will reveal a rubber composition used principally by the thieves of Paris as a paint to prevent palm and finger lines and whorls showing on things they take hold of.”
The chief looked at the spot critically.
“Also, shreds from a blue uniform,” Ned continued.
“We shall see,” replied the chief.
The microscope was soon brought in, and then a close examination of the spot on the arm of the chair was made by the chief.
“What do you find?” asked Ned.
“I really can’t say what it is,” was the reply.
Ned took from a pocket a bit of the waste he had brought from the dynamo room of the submarine.
“Look at this,” he said, “and see if the material in it appears to be the same as that on the chair. I mean, of course, the smudge on it.”
The chief turned his instrument on the waste.
“It is the same,” he declared, in a moment, “and I’d like to know where you got it.”
“Do you find blue threads–well, not threads, exactly, but bits of fuzz–in the waste, too?”
“Yes, but the trace is faint.”
“Well,” Ned said, “the man who killed Lieutenant Scott is the man who gave you the information you speak of. He sat in this chair not long ago. I would advise a search for him.”
“But he agreed to come back.” “Of course he never will,” Ned said. “Now, here is another point. You are going to have the Sea Lion searched?”
“Well, your men will find the body of Lieutenant Scott lying on a couch there. In that case, they will doubtless arrest the two boys I left on watch there?”
“And that will give the man who left this blur on the arm of this chair not long ago a chance to make off with the boat. I reckon you’ll do well to look after that part of the case, for the submarine belongs to the Secret Service department of the Government, and Uncle Sam has use for it just at this time.”
“The Secret Service department?” repeated the chief. “He said she was a scout boat Lieutenant Scott was going to coast south with.”
“Did he say why he suspected that Lieutenant Scott was in danger?” asked Ned.
“He said you boys were suspicious characters who claimed to be able to operate a submarine, and that Scott was inclined to try you out.”
Ned took a long envelope from a pocket of his coat and passed it, unopened, to the chief.
“Read the letter inside,” he said, “and then get me to the Sea Lion as quickly as possible.”
The chief opened the envelope and read the single sheet of typewritten paper it held.
“From the Secretary of the Navy!” he exclaimed.
“I don’t need to ask if you are the Ned Nestor mentioned in the letter, then. I saw a picture of you in a San Francisco newspaper, not long ago, and now recognize you as the boy referred to.”
“Then take us to the submarine,” urged Ned.
“It won’t do no good to take us there after that cheap skate has geezled the boat,” Jimmie cut in.
“And you are Jimmie,” the chief went on. “I saw your picture, too. Well, this is quite a surprise for me,” the chief added.
“You’ll get a greater surprise if you let that murderer get off with the Sea Lion,” Jimmie remarked.
The chief called the sergeant again and in a moment all was confusion in the police station. A wagon was called, and the chief and his ex- prisoners were soon on their way to the wharf, followed by the eyes of the policemen left behind.
“That’s Ned Nestor, of New York,” the boys heard one of the men on the iron steps in front saying as they passed, “and the little fellow is Jimmie McGraw. Great hit Preston made arresting them!”
But the minds of the boys were too full of anxiety regarding the fate of Scott and the Sea Lion to pay much attention to the words of flattery they overheard. If the unknown murderer succeeded in securing the arrest of Jack and Frank and getting away in the submarine, the whole trip would have to be abandoned, at least for the present.
Besides, Ned had no idea of going back to New York and reporting that he had been robbed of his boat under the very guns of the Mare Island Navy Yard. He urged the driver to make greater speed, and in a short time the wharf was in sight.
Half a dozen policemen were gathered about the end nearest the float which upheld the Sea Lion, and the figure of another showed at the top of the conning tower. As the police wagon dashed up to the wharf another rig came up on a run and halted close at the side of it.
“Hello,” called the chief, recognizing a man on the seat, “how did you manage to get here so soon?”
“Some one ‘phoned for me,” was the hurried reply. “Where is the dead man?”
“In the submarine,” answered an officer who had drawn closer to the official’s buggy.
Without another word the newcomer leaped out and was conveyed to the Sea Lion in the rowboat Ned had left tied to the wharf.
“That’s the Coroner,” the chief said, in explanation. “He’ll soon get at the bottom of this.”
“Suppose we get aboard the Sea Lion,” suggested Ned.
“Of course,” said the chief, “you’ll remain here a few days and assist in the capture of this fellow?”
“I shall have to ask for instructions from Washington,” was the reply. “I really ought to get away on the steamer which sails in the morning.”
When the three, using a boat an officer found nearby, reached the main cabin of the Sea Lion they found Jack and Frank sitting by the table, handcuffed, repeating over and over again their individual and collective opinion of the police of Vallejo. Jimmie seemed to take great delight in taunting them.
“Black Bears in chains!” he roared.
“Huh, where have you Wolves been?” demanded Jack. “These cops said they had you in a pen!”
While the Coroner was making his examination the chief ordered the irons removed from the wrists of the boys. For a time the Coroner appeared to be puzzled. He lifted the hands of the apparently dead man and dropped them again. Then he held a pocket mirror before his lips.
“Look here,” he said, presently, “I don’t believe this man is dead.”
“I hope you are right,” Ned said, hopefully. “Still, the poison I got near killed me, while he must have gotten much more.”
There was a short silence, during which the Coroner held his watch.
NIGHT ON AN OCEAN FLOOR
“Over there, straight to the west,” Ned said, pointing from the conning tower of the submarine, “is the coast of China, not far from seventy-five miles away.”
“And there, to the north,” Frank said, “lie the Taya Islands. The big fellow beyond is Hainan.”
The sun was going down into the Gulf of Tong King like a ball of red fire, and the night was far from cool.
Jimmie declared he could hear the water hiss as the sun dipped its red rim under the waves. The boy now stood by Ned’s side, looking over the wonderful scene.
“We’ve been somewhere near here before,” he said. “You remember the time we came over to this side of the world and found a key to a treaty box? Well, we wasn’t far from this spot at one time.”
“Right you are,” Frank replied. “Only we hope to find something more important than a key now. I hope they’ve had use for a cell key in connection with that mix-up at Mare Island Navy Yard.”
“It was rotten to let that fellow get away!” Jimmie declared. “I just knew they would.”
“We were all so astonished at the recovery of Lieutenant Scott,” Ned observed, “that we overlooked a few things we ought to have kept in mind. Wasn’t it glorious! Think of Scott coming out of it all right at last!”
“Well, he said he was a fixture on the coast until he found the man who came so near killing him,” Frank said, in a moment, “and I hope he’ll make good.”
“Huh,” Jimmie interrupted, “if you think that fellow is on the Pacific coast yet, you’ve got another think comin’. You remember the Diver left San Francisco just about the time we did.”
“What has that to do with it?”
“Most nothin’ at all, only he sailed in her.”
“You’re a wise little man!”
“And, what’s more, we’ll see the Diver come pluggin’ along here before we get this job done,” Jimmie went on. “That Captain Moore and his son are out for blood.”
“But the Diver will require at least a couple of months to get here,” urged Frank. “We can get away before that time.”
“You don’t know what the Moores will do,” Ned said. “I rather agree with Jimmie, that we shall see something of the Diver before we leave this part of the world.”
“I hope so,” Frank said.
“Well, who’s for the bottom of the sea?” demanded Jimmie. “I want to see what’s down there before the Bogy Man gets me.”
“I don’t mind going down,” Ned said. “Come on, we’ll close the top hatch and drop to the bottom, then, if conditions are right, we’ll enter the water closet, put on the diving suits, and take a walk on the floor of the big water.”
“Suppose we all go,” suggested Frank.
“Perhaps it may be well for two to remain aboard in order to help the others out, if necessary,” Ned observed.
“All right,” Frank said. “Catch a fish by the tail and bring him in for supper.”
“To-morrow,” Jimmie said, “you can take a run on the riparian rights an’ chase whales.”
“I’ll wait and see whether you boys come out alive,” laughed Frank. “I’m a little leary about mixing with the funny little fishes. Some of ’em may bite!”
After a thoroughly interesting voyage, the boys had at last reached the scene of their labors. It was now the 2oth of October. The Sea Lion had rode securely on the float, and Ned and his companions had spent most of the time during the journey under the great hood which covered the submarine, studying the mechanism and making themselves thoroughly familiar with the big machine.
Arriving off the Taya Islands, the float had been submerged by opening the sluiceways and filling the tanks with water. The Sea Lion behaved admirably when she came to the surface after cutting away from the companion of her voyage.
As there were no appliances for lifting the big float, she was now at the bottom of the sea for all time, unless broken away from the water- filled tanks by divers, in which case the upper works would come to the surface. It was with feelings of keen regret that the boys saw the great barge, as it might well be called, lying, deserted, on the ocean floor.
As has been shown by the conversation between the boys in the conning tower, Lieutenant Scott had fully recovered from the effects of the poisonous fumes he had inhaled in the submarine on the night of Ned’s arrest at South Vallejo. Physicians stated at the time that his recovery was due to the fact that the conning tower hatch was open when the deadly gas was released. Ned, it was also stated, would have been dead in a few moments if the hatch had been closed.
Search had been made, both by the police and the naval detectives, for the author of the mischief, but he had not been found. It was believed that his purpose in reporting the result of his own deviltry to the chief of police was to secure the arrest of the boys on the Sea Lion and make off with her.
Ned did not say so, when discussing the matter with the officers, but he was satisfied that the Moores were at the bottom of the trouble. The Captain had resigned, and had been observed lounging about the wharf in New York where the Sea Lion lay, and had, it was afterwards learned, been seen in San Francisco on the day before the arrival of Lieutenant Scott and the Boy Scouts.
In reaching this conclusion Ned assigned envy as the prime motive on the part of the Captain and his son. They had expected to be assigned the duty of searching the ocean floor for the wreck of the mail steamer. In their great disappointment nothing was more probable than that they had resolved to hamper the efforts of their successful rivals in every way.
But there was still another view of the case which might be considered. The gold in the hull of the wrecked steamer would become the spoil of the first submarine to reach her.
With the double incentive, greed joined to a thirst for revenge, it would not be at all strange if the Moores had risked everything in their efforts to prevent the Sea Lion leaving the Navy Yard on her long trip. It was Ned’s private opinion, too, that the son had been the one to sneak into the submarine and attack the Lieutenant with the poisonous gas.
Leaving Frank and Jack in the machine room, Ned and Jimmie entered the water chamber and closed the door, which, however, was provided with a plate glass panel of great thickness, so that light from the other room supplied plenty of illumination.
It was not designed to submerge the Sea Lion until the boys were all ready to step out. Four deep-sea suits hung on hooks in the water chamber, one for each of the boys.
These suits were not much different from those usually worn by deep- sea divers. They were of seamless rubber composition, braced across the breast with bars of steel in order to offset the great pressure of the lower levels and give the lungs plenty of room for expansion.
The helmets, which fitted on the neck of the suits, were lighter than those in ordinary use, but fully as strong. The cords attached to the helmets were very long, and the air-hose admitted of a range of at least three hundred feet.
By the side of each suit lay an electric searchlight of special construction and a long steel pole, shaped something like a crowbar, but very slender and strong. This latter for defense in case attack should be made by some monster of the deep.
“Say,” Jimmie grinned, slipping on his suit, “these spring suits look to me like someone to button us up in the back.”
“I don’t see where you find buttons,” replied Ned.
“Look here, then!”
The boy pointed to the screws designed to secure the helmets.
“You button me up, and I’ll button you up,” Ned laughed. “We’ve got to learn to do such things.”
“I’ll catch a shark an’ get him to learn how,” cried Jimmie. “I wonder how I would look in this suit walkin’ down the Bowery. Gee! I bet the boys would jump out of their skins if they saw me comin’. They’d think their master had come to claim ’em!”
The boys worked industriously for a time, settling themselves in the rather clumsy suits, and then all was ready save putting on the heavy helmets. Jimmie pointed to a belt about the waist of his suit.
“What’s that for?” he asked, pulling at a hook which was suspended from the steel circlet.
“That’s to hang your searchlight on,” was the reply. “There may come a time when you’ll want both hands to operate that spike thing you’ve got to carry.”
At last the helmets were adjusted, the cords and air-hose attached, and then Ned motioned to the boys, watching with grinning eyes through the plate glass panel, to turn on the air. The first sensation on receiving the air was one of exhilaration, but this soon passed off.
Ned saw, by looking through the immense goggles which Jimmie wore, that the lad was almost bursting with laughter, but he knew that this effect would soon pass away. He pushed a button, and signaled to Frank to fill the water tanks.
As the water chamber filled the boys felt a cold circle rise from their toes to their heads. They felt a sinking motion, and soon the mysterious life of the ocean became visible through the outer glass door of the water chamber.
The Sea Lion dropped evenly to the bottom. The supply of air was as perfect as it could well be. When the faint jar told Ned that the submarine was at last resting on the bed of the tropical sea he released a heavy bar which held the door, pushed it back against considerable pressure, and stepped out.
Jimmie followed, and Ned stopped long enough to point to the lines as a warning that they should not be allowed to become tangled, and struck off. It was early in the evening, and there was a moon, almost at the full.
The depth at that point was not great, scarcely more than sixty feet. The pressure of the water overhead made walking rather difficult, and the boys were strange to the lines they were drawing after them, but they made good progress until they came to the end of the air-hose.
It was not as dark under the waves as might have been expected. The light of the sun penetrates, ordinarily, to a depth of not far from forty feet, and the moon’s rays on this night were very strong. It was not light enough for the boys to see objects around them, but there was a soft illumination above their heads not dissimilar to the faint haze of light which lies over a country landscape situated at no great distance from a city bright with electricity.
By using the searchlights, however, the boys were able to distinguish objects directly about them. They were on a level plain of pure white sand. Ages and ages ago this pavement laid so smoothly on the ocean floor had existed in the form of rocks.
Through countless years it had faced the assaults of the waves, until at last, in utter defeat, it had succumbed to the mighty force and dropped in fine grains to the lower levels of the world. It seemed to Ned that it had lain there for centuries, with never a storm to pile it into ridges or break its level surface into pits.
The scene about the boys was indescribably beautiful. The inhabitants of the sea rivaled the rainbow in brilliancy of coloring. There were more forms of life in sight than either of the boys had ever imagined in existence.
Queer-shaped sea creatures with long tails darted about the rubber- clad figures, and now and then an inquisitive fish with curious eyes poked its nose against the eye plates, as if intent on discovering what sort of creature it was that carried a sunrise in its head.
There were monster creatures in sight, too, and Jimmie jabbed at one of them and brought blood. This brought others, and in a short time the boys found themselves surrounded by a school of sharks.
Ned threw himself down on the sandy bottom and motioned to Jimmie to do likewise. This seemed to surprise the sharks, for they nosed around for only a moment longer. Seeing no opportunity of getting under their prospective dinners, they switched their tails angrily, like a cat in a temper, and swam off about their business, if they had any.
But Ned had little interest in the sea life about him. At another time, and under other conditions, he would have enjoyed the novelty of the scene to the fullest, but now he was anxiously watching for some indication of the presence of the wreck of the Cutaria.
He was as certain as it was possible to be that the Sea Lion had descended almost at the exact spot where the ill-fated vessel went down. The hull should be out there in the sand somewhere, and he lost no time in making his investigations.
But there was nothing on the smooth surface to show that any vessel had ever rested there. Away to the north, however, the boy finally saw what looked like an elevation.
His flashlight, however, would not throw its beams to the point of interest, and he decided to return to the Sea Lion, rest for the remainder of the night, and shift the submarine in the morning.
Motioning to his companion, therefore, he turned toward the door to the water chamber. They had proceeded only a few steps when something seemed to pass over their heads.
It was as if a heavy cloud had drifted over a summer sky, outlining its shape on the fields below for an instant and then passing on. Jimmie caught Ned’s arm and pointed upward.
It was plain that the little fellow had caught sight of something his companion had missed, but of course he could not explain then and there what it was. Ned hastened his steps, and soon stood at the door of the water chamber, which had been left open.
As Jimmie pushed into the water-filled apartment by his side and Ned was about to close the door and expel the water from the chamber, as well as from the tanks of the submarine, something which flashed like polished steel hurtled through the water and struck the bottom just outside the doorway.
Ned stepped out and picked it up. It was a keen-edge knife, such as sailors carry. On the handle was a single initial–“D.”
Ned knew what that meant. Through some strange agency, by means of some unaccountable assistance, the Diver had reached the scene of the proposed operations of the Sea Lion.
From this time on, it would be a battle of wits–perhaps worse!
THE SECRET OF THE HOLD
In response to Ned’s hand on the lever, the water door closed and the pumps in the next compartment soon cleared not only the sea vestibule but the tanks of the submarine of seawater.
In a moment the Sea Lion lifted to the surface, and Ned lost no time in relieving himself of his helmet. Then, still attired in the rubber suit, he hastened to the conning tower, where he found Jack, glass in hand, sweeping the moonlit sea eagerly. There was a faint haze off to the west, but nothing more. Whatever had passed above the submerged boat, on the surface, had wholly disappeared, though the time had been very short.
“What did you see?”
Ned asked the question because Jack’s manner indicated excitement, if not anxiety.
“Just a shadow,” was the reply.
“It might have been a shadow, passing over the moon, the shadow of a cloud, or a cloud itself,” suggested Frank, sticking his head out of the hatchway.
Ned pointed to the sky. There was not a cloud in sight.
“It must have been something of the kind,” Jack mused, “for no boat could get out of sight so soon.”
“Not even a submarine?” asked Ned.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Did you see a submarine?”
Both questions were asked in a breath.
“No,” replied Ned, “I did not see a submarine, but I don’t believe any cloud passing over the sky would drop anything like this.”
He passed the knife to Jack and took the glass. Jack opened his eyes wide as he examined the weapon and noted the initial on the handle. He turned impulsively to Ned.
“Where did you get it?” he asked.
“At the bottom.”
“Did you find it lying there?”
“It fell just as I reached the water chamber.”
“Then how the dickens did the Diver get away so soon?” demanded the boy.
“It sure did fall from the Diver,” agreed Frank, taking the knife and examining it.
“It would seem so,” Ned replied, “but, of course, the initial may be merely a coincidence.”
“I guess we’re in for it.”
“But how did the Diver get here so soon after our arrival?” asked one of the boys.
Ned looked grave for a moment, and then replied, his manner showing how fully he appreciated the importance of his words:
“What I fear is that she got here first.”
“And found the wreck?”
“She might have done so.”
“Did you see anything of the Cutaria down there?” asked Frank.
“Not a bloomin’ thing,” answered Jimmie, making his appearance on the conning tower.
“The Diver might have towed it away,” suggested Jack.
“Impossible!” cried the others, in chorus.
“Anyway,” Jack continued, “we’re up against the real goods now. If the Diver is here we’ll have a scrap.”
“But suppose it should be some other outfit?” asked Frank. “Some pirate outfit after the gold?”
“Still there would be a scrap.”
“That’s one advantage of goin’ with Ned,” Jimmie edged in. “You most always get into a scrap!”
“Well,” Ned said, presently, “we may as well drop down and keep our lights low. If the Diver is here, the Moores are aware of our presence, and we must be prepared for anything.”
In ten minutes the submarine lay at the bottom of the sea, with no lights showing, every plate glass window having been shuttered on the outside by a system of protection which was one of the best features of the craft. Then Ned explained that he had seen, at some distance, an apparent elevation rising from the sand.
“That may be the wreck,” he said.
“I move we go and see,” shouted Jimmie.
“In the darkness?” asked Frank.
“It is as light out there now,” Jack declared, “as it will ever be, unless some subterranean volcano lights up and makes fireworks on the bottom, so we may as well be off.”
“All right,” Ned said, in a moment. “I was meditating a little rest to-night, but it may be advisable to get to work at once. For all we know the Moores may be stripping the wreck, even now.”
“What I can’t understand,” Jack said, sticking to the first proposition, “is how the Diver got here in such good time.”
“As has been said, it may be some other craft,” Frank consoled.
“Don’t believe it,” insisted Jimmie. “The boat that dropped that knife is a submarine, else how could she disappear so suddenly? She may be watching us now.”
“Or her divers may be prowling around the Sea Lion!” Jack created a little sensation by saying.
“What would be the use of prowling around outside the boat?” asked Jimmie. “They couldn’t hear anything, or see anything.”
“But a torpedo will act under water,” suggested Frank. “Those chaps are equal to anything.”
“Shall we go out and look around?” asked Jack.
Ned hesitated. He really was alarmed at the situation. He knew how desperate the Moores must be, and he had no doubt that in some strange way the Diver had been brought to the scene of the wreck.
“If you and Frank are partial to a moonlight stroll under sixty feet of water,” he finally said, “you may as well put on your water suits and look around.”
“Leave Jimmie here to watch the boat and come with us,” urged Jack.
“Go on,” Jimmie advised. “I can run this shebang, all right. Go on and see what you can see.”