The Dreadnought Boys on a Submarine
ON A SUBMARINE
CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON
AUTHOR OF “THE BOY AVIATORS SERIES,” “THE DREADNOUGHT BOYSON BATTLE PRACTICE,” “THE DREADNOUGHT BOYSABOARD A DESTROYER,” ETC., ETC.
HURST & COMPANY
HURST & COMPANY
|I.||Uncle Sam Gets First Call||5|
|II.||The Dreadnought Boys on Deck||17|
|III.||The Work of a Dastard||31|
|IV.||Anderson Dines on Mud||49|
|V.||Like Thieves in the Night||66|
|VI.||There’s Many a Slip||78|
|VII.||“I Name You ‘Lockyer’”||89|
|VIII.||To the Uttermost Parts of the Sea||105|
|X.||Fighting Sound Pirates||134|
|XI.||Channing Lockyer Files a Message||143|
|XIII.||A Messenger from the Deep||163|
|XIV.||A “Big League” Reported||175|
|XV.||Some Rascals at Work||192|
|XVI.||Into the Thick of It||201|
|XVII.||A Surprise Party with a Vengeance||213|
|XVIII.||“Safe as in a Steel-lined Vault”||224|
|XIX.||Ned is Astonished||236|
|XX.||Tom’s Very Thick Fog||248|
|XXI.||The Shipwrecked Men—and a Box||258|
|XXII.||An Infernal Machine||275|
|XXIII.||The Grim Visage of Danger||288|
|XXIV.||Mutiny on the High Seas||303|
|XXV.||Mr. Lockyer Captures a Prize||311|
The Dreadnought Boys On a
UNCLE SAM GETS FIRST CALL.
“So your final answer is no?”
“Yes. And with a big N, Mr. Ferriss. Ihave put my best work of head and hand intothe Lockyer submarine, and Uncle Sam getsfirst call on her services.”
“You remind me of a copy book with yoursentimental morality,” sneered Jasper Ferriss,with the bitter inflection of a man who hasfought a losing fight and knows it.
“Why,” he went on persuasively, “you knowas well as I do that the government is notoriouslyslow pay. By the time the red tape is unwoundat Washington you’ll be penniless, and the boata rust-eaten wreck. Our concern, on the otherhand, offers you a fat figure, down on the nail.Come, say the word and I’ll write you a checknow.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, Mr. Ferriss,” smiledChanning Lockyer, as the other’s be-diamondedhand sought his breast pocket to produce hischeck book—the magic volume which could havetold many tales of its adventures with JasperFerriss.
“My answer to you and your concern regardingyour proposition is No,—first, last and allthe time,” he went on.
Jasper Ferriss was angered. Despite his experienceand skill in putting through all mannerof “deals” requiring the exercise of the nicestdiplomacy, he could not help showing his chagrin.He showed it in the way his black brows contractedtill they met in one thick band across hispuffy, florid countenance. Showed it, too, in thequick way in which he rubbed his blue, clean-shavenchin, with its triple folds of fat, and inthe sharp, impatient beat of his patent leatherboot on the floor of the dusty shipyard office inwhich they sat talking by Channing Lockyer’sbattered old desk, with its litter of blueprintsand plans.
The question was shot out as if it had been aprojectile.
“Why?” echoed Channing Lockyer. “Becauseyour firm proposes to build submarines ofmy type for a foreign power—a power that maysome day be at war with us. I believe—it maybe an inventor’s conceited folly—but I believethat with a fleet of Lockyer submarines thepower controlling them will be absolute mistressof the seas. Naturally, as a descendant of JeffersonLockyer, I don’t want to see any country butmy own with such powerful engines of war atits disposal.”
The confidence of inventors in their workswas not new to Jasper Ferriss. But somehowthe enthusiasm of this tall, pale young man, withthe workman’s clothes and the long, nervousfingers, infected him. But it made him burnwith an ardent desire to secure possession of thesecret of the Lockyer submarine for his owncompany. However, while Channing Lockyerhad been talking the other had managed to controlhis irritation, and now could speak with hisaccustomed smoothness.
“I understand and honor your feelings, Mr.Lockyer,” he said suavely, “but a man’s firstduty is really to himself, especially to a man inyour position. But when is the government goingto test your craft?”
It was an old trick of Jasper Ferriss’s to abruptlychange the subject when things weren’tgoing his way.
“I am expecting the officer who will be incharge of the experiments, and his picked crew,within a few days,” was the reply. “A shorttime will be spent in making them familiar withthe construction, and then, after she is launched,we shall go ahead with the real tests.”
“And the launching will be?”
“As soon as possible. But there will be nopublic ceremony. Only the workmen, who arepledged to secrecy, will know if she is a successor a failure. Naturally we wish to keep it all asquiet as possible.”
“The men are still working on her?”
The question seemed hardly necessary.Through the open windows there floated the busysounds of activity from the fenced-in yard.From a tall, narrow shed built against the seawardside of the high fence came the loudestdemonstration of activity.
A rattling volley of riveters’ hammers, accompaniedby the snorting snarl of the whirringpneumatic drills eating through steel plates, waspunctuated by shouted orders and the clamor ofmetal on metal.
“We are putting on the finishing touches,”explained Lockyer. He sighed as he spoke. The“finishing touches” he referred to might meanthe last strokes of his own career as well as theend of the preliminary stages of the submarine’sconstruction. Ferriss’s eyes followed the tall,slender young form as the youthful inventorstrode up and down the tiny office, with itstumble-down, dust-covered desks, their pigeon-holescrammed full of blueprints and workingdrawings. No gilt and gingerbread about ChanningLockyer’s office. It was business-like as asteam hammer.
“Looks soft as rubber,” mused Ferriss, “buthe’s tough as Harveyized steel; and a blessedsight less workable.
“Well, Mr. Lockyer,” he went on, rising, “Imust be going. But I am stopping in the village,recollect, so that if you change your mind, orUncle Sam doesn’t appreciate the boat, we standready to negotiate for her.”
“I won’t forget,” laughed the inventor, “butreally, Mr. Ferriss, you are wasting your time.Either the United States gets her, or, if she isn’tgood enough for Uncle Sam, I’ll sink her to thebottom of Long Island Sound.”
“Fine talk! Fine talk!” chuckled the amiableMr. Ferriss, as he stepped into the noisy, bustlingyard, so effectually cut off from outside observationby its high fence with the spikes on top.“But our figures will look mighty comfortable toyou when you are on the brink of ruin. And youwill be if the Lockyer doesn’t come up to governmentrequirements.”
“Time enough to talk about that when thecrash comes,” laughed the young inventor gailyenough. But as Ferriss’s portly, expensivelydressed form vanished through the door he sankinto a chair, and sat staring at the opposite wall,deep in thought. Things were coming to a crisisat the Lockyer boatyard.
Channing Lockyer was in his twenty-fifthyear. Just twelve months before this story openshe had been left a considerable fortune by hisfather, who during his lifetime had done all hecould to discourage his son’s “fantastic mechanicaldreams,” as he called them. With the moneyin his possession, however, young Lockyer, withthe true fire of the inventor, had started out torealize his fondest hope, namely to build a practicablesubmarine boat capable of making extendedcruises without the drawback of the accompanying“parent boat.”
Compressed air had solved the problem ofrunning his engines, but the use of the new drivingforce had necessitated the invention of anentirely novel type of motor. But young Lockyer—agraduate of the Sheffield ScientificSchool of Yale, by the way—had perseveringlyovercome all difficulties, and now, in the long,narrow shed over in one corner of the enclosedyard, stood the realization of his dreams.Through some friends of his late father’s theyoung man had succeeded in “pulling the wires”at Washington. As a consequence, after manywearisome delays, Lieutenant Archer Parry anda picked crew were to be sent to Grayport tomake an extended series of tests with the newcraft.
But in “pulling his wires” Lockyer had necessarilyto allow a part of his secret to leak out.Now, at Washington “walls have ears,” and itwas not long after he received the glad newsthat at last the Navy Department had decided tolook into his type of boat, that Jasper Ferriss, promoterand partner in the Atlas Submarine Company,had come to young Lockyer with a proposalto sell his plant, stock, and experimentalboat outright, for a sum that fairly staggeredthe inventor, who had, as Ferriss had hinted,run through almost his entire fortune in makinghis experiments.
Now, Lockyer was not ignorant that the Atlaspeople, having failed to sell their own gasoleneand electric-driven boats to the government, weremaking diving torpedo boats for a certain FarEastern power. He came of old Revolutionarystock, and the idea of selling his boat, the offspringof his brain and inventive power, for possibleuse against his own country was absolutelyrepugnant to him; wherefore Lockyer, as we haveseen, had informed the Atlas concern in no uncertainterms that he would have nothing to dowith their offers, flattering though they mightseem. Jasper Ferriss had, however, perseveringlyhung on, hoping against hope that somethingmight happen to make the inventor change hismind. The news he had just received that anaval experimental force had actually been orderedto start for Grayport came as a rude shockto him.
In fact, after leaving Channing Lockyer, Mr.Ferriss took the first train to New York. In theBroadway offices of his firm a stormy scene followedhis narrative of his failure to close a dealwith Lockyer.
Camberly—Watson Camberly, the other partnerof the firm—a middle-aged man of the sameaggressive type to which Ferriss himself belonged,took him sharply to task.
“Looks to me as if you’ve bungled this thingbadly, Ferriss,” he growled. “You say that ifthe government decides not to take the boat thatthere is a chance Lockyer will accept our offer?”
“He’ll have to, or be ruined,” was the promptrejoinder.
“Then we’ve got him!” cried the other, bringingdown a ponderous fist on the shiny mahoganydirectors’ table of the Atlas Submarine Company.
“I don’t think so,” rejoined Ferriss quietly;“from what I can gather, the boat is bound tobe an unqualified triumph. The government—althoughof course I didn’t tell Lockyer so—willjump at her.”
“That is if she is a success?” asked Camberly,a peculiar light creeping into his eyes.
“Exactly. But, as I said, there is no doubt ofthat.”
“Well, unless what? You don’t mean tocripple her, as we did the Grampus Concernwhen they began to be serious rivals?”
“That’s what I do,” growled Camberly. “It’sthis way, Ferriss. We’ve got to have money. OurFar Eastern friends stand ready to pay us, youknow how much, for the compressed-air boat.Thinking that Lockyer would be easy, we practicallypromised to close a deal with them. We’vegot to have it.”
“In other words, Lockyer’s boat has got to failin her government tests?”
“You catch my meaning exactly,” said Camberly,a slow smile spreading over his heavy,coarse features. “I think we had better send forGradbarr at once.”
Ferriss shrugged his shoulders.
“Too bad,” he sighed, an almost regretful expressioncoming over his face. “Lockyer is adecent young fellow, but impracticable—quitetoo fanatic in his ideas. I really wish we didn’thave to resort to such measures, Camberly.”
“Rot!” rejoined the other impatiently. “Isn’tit for his own good? We’ll pay him a biggerprice than the government would; but business isbusiness, and if Lockyer won’t come into campwillingly, we’ll have to drive him.”
He tapped a small bell on his desk, and to theobsequious office boy who glided in he gave asharp order:
“Send to the yard for Tom Gradbarr.