The Motor Boys Under the Sea; or, From Airship to Submarine by Young, Clarence
[Illustration: “OH, THERE’S ANOTHER SHARK--A HAMMER-HEAD.”]
THE MOTOR BOYS UNDER THE SEA
From Airship to Submarine
AUTHOR OF “THE MOTOR BOYS,” “THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE BORDER,” “THE RACER BOYS SERIES,” “THE JACK RANGER SERIES,” ETC.
NEW YORK CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
BOOKS BY CLARENCE YOUNG
=THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES=
THE MOTOR BOYS THE MOTOR BOYS OVERLAND THE MOTOR BOYS IN MEXICO THE MOTOR BOYS ACROSS THE PLAINS THE MOTOR BOYS AFLOAT THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE ATLANTIC THE MOTOR BOYS IN STRANGE WATERS THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE PACIFIC THE MOTOR BOYS IN THE CLOUDS THE MOTOR BOYS OVER THE ROCKIES THE MOTOR BOYS OVER THE OCEAN THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE WING THE MOTOR BOYS AFTER A FORTUNE THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE BORDER THE MOTOR BOYS UNDER THE SEA
=THE JACK RANGER SERIES=
12mo. Finely Illustrated.
JACK RANGER’S SCHOOLDAYS JACK RANGER’S WESTERN TRIP JACK RANGER’S SCHOOL VICTORIES JACK RANGER’S OCEAN CRUISE JACK RANGER’S GUN CLUB JACK RANGER’S TREASURE BOX
=THE RACER BOYS SERIES=
THE RACER BOYS THE RACER BOYS AT BOARDING SCHOOL THE RACER BOYS TO THE RESCUE THE RACER BOYS ON THE PRAIRIES THE RACER BOYS ON GUARD THE RACER BOYS FORGING AHEAD
Copyright, 1914, by Cupples & Leon Company
The Motor Boys Under the Sea
Printed in U. S. A.
CHAPTER PAGE I. A STRANGE SIGHT 1 II. A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 9 III. THROUGH THE STORM 19 IV. A NEW QUEST 28 V. A FEARFUL GALE 39 VI. BAD NEWS 46 VII. OFF ON A SEARCH 54 VIII. NODDY AND BILL 63 IX. THE WRECK 73 X. THE LONE SAILOR 80 XI. A QUEER STORY 87 XII. THE DRIFTING BOAT 97 XIII. THE SUBMARINE AGAIN 105 XIV. IN PURSUIT 113 XV. A BOLT FROM THE SKY 119 XVI. THE “SONDERBAAR” 130 XVII. A GLAD SURPRISE 139 XVIII. UNDER WATER 146 XIX. A MARVELOUS BOAT 154 XX. A CRAZED CAPTAIN 165 XXI. PLOTTING 173 XXII. IN DIVING DRESS 181 XXIII. THE DECISION 191 XXIV. THE ALLIES 200 XXV. IN CHAINS 206 XXVI. ENTANGLED 214 XXVII. THE ESCAPE 223 XXVIII. THE LONELY ISLAND 230 XXIX. THE END OF DR. KLAUSS 238 XXX. HOMEWARD BOUND 242
THE MOTOR BOYS UNDER THE SEA
A STRANGE SIGHT
“Look down there! What do you suppose that is?”
“Must be a whale. See how it’s plowing along through the waves!”
“And right on top of the water, too. But if it’s a whale why doesn’t it spout?”
Three boys, who were sailing over the waters of Massachusetts Bay in a large air craft, had seen a strange sight as they looked down through the glass floor of the cabin of their motorship, and their comments and questions followed rapidly. So engrossed were they with the appearance of what seemed to be some marine monster that, for a few moments, they paid no attention to the course of their boat, which was carrying them along just below the clouds.
It was not until Jerry Hopkins, the oldest of the three lads, called the attention of his companions to the need of giving heed to their craft, that the other two--Ned Slade and Bob Baker--turned their eyes from the strange creature below them--if creature it was.
“I say there, Ned!” exclaimed Jerry, “just throw in a little more gas, will you? or we ourselves will be down in those same waves in a little while. We’re sinking!”
“That’s so!” agreed Bob. “But still we wouldn’t be in much danger, for the automatic air planes would set when we began to fall too fast.”
“Even at that,” went on Jerry, who was steering the _Comet_, as the motorship was named, “even then I think it’s just as well not to take too many chances. Turn on a little more gas, Ned.”
“Aye, aye, sir!” exclaimed the one addressed, and with a quick motion of one of many shining levers and wheels in the pilot house he sent some of the compressed gas into the lifting-bags of the _Comet_, thus making her more buoyant.
“There it is again!” cried Bob, once more pointing below. They all looked, Jerry turning his attention away from the wheel that guided the craft. First, however, he looked ahead to make sure there was no danger of a collision, for the boys had come to Boston to attend an aviation meet, and at times there had been so many of the “birdmen” in the sky-space that a collision was really not so unlikely as at first it would seem.
“Yes, it’s there yet,” agreed Ned. “I’m sure it’s a whale!”
“But why doesn’t it spout?” demanded Bob, who had asked that question before. “Then we’d be sure of it. I thought whales had to spout every ten minutes or so, and that one’s been in sight about that time.”
“You’re off on your natural history, Bob,” said Jerry, with a smile. “Whales don’t have to spout oftener than a half-hour. And besides, that’s only when they’ve been swimming under water. This one is on the surface, running awash, you might say, and so doesn’t have to send out a long breath that it’s been holding in a long while. It can breathe naturally.”
“That’s it! I’m never right,” grumbled Bob, whose stout form and good-natured face did not fit well with the scowl with which he regarded his chum. “I guess I know as much about whales as you do, Jerry Hopkins!”
“That isn’t much,” admitted Jerry, frankly. “I don’t claim to be an authority, but I’m sure a whale on the surface doesn’t have to spout--at least, not very often.”
“Are you sure it _is_ a whale?” asked Ned quietly, and there was something in the tone of his voice that caused his companions to look quickly at him. “Why don’t we go lower down so we can have a better look at it. Then we could make certain.”
“I guess that would be the best plan,” admitted Jerry. “We can drop to within a few feet of the surface and----”
“Don’t go too close!” interrupted Bob. “It looks to me like a storm. We may get a squall any minute, and if we go too low down we may not be able to rise quickly enough. I don’t want to see the good old _Comet_ come to grief.”
“Neither do I,” responded Jerry. “But I guess we’ve done harder stunts than that. Get ready to let her down, Ned. See if the rudder planes are all clear.”
“Besides,” went on stout Bob, “we haven’t had lunch yet, and----”
“There he goes!” cried Ned with a laugh, as he left his comfortable seat and prepared to go aft to the motor room. “It wouldn’t be Chunky unless he mentioned the ‘eats’ every so often. I was just waiting to hear you come out with that, Bob.”
“Huh! Well, then, you weren’t disappointed; were you?” demanded the stout lad.
“That’s all right,” interposed Jerry, hastening to pour oil on troubled waters. “Don’t get on your ear, Chunky. Ned didn’t mean anything. Come on, we’ll take a little plane downward, and settle the identity of this mysterious creature of the sea.”
“Listen to him!” exclaimed Ned. “He’s getting poetical!”
“Quit knocking,” advised Jerry. “If Professor Snodgrass were along now he might be able to settle the question for us.”
“Yes, and he’d be sure to want to capture the beast for his private collection,” said Bob, whose ill-humor had disappeared, leaving him with a smile on his round countenance.
“All ready, Ned?” asked Jerry, who was giving his attention to various gear-wheels and levers. “Shall I send her down now?”
“I guess so. Just a minute until I open the gas intake a little wider. You’re going to navigate as a dirigible; aren’t you?”
“No, I was thinking of sailing as an aeroplane,” was the answer.
“Oh, then wait until I throw in the rudder gears.”
The _Comet_, about which I will tell you more presently (that is, you boys who have had no previous acquaintance with her), could be navigated as a dirigible balloon by means of a powerful lifting-gas stored in reservoirs, or she could sail as a biplane, her powerful propellers sending her along on the principle of all “heavier than air” machines.
While waiting for Ned to adjust the machinery, so that the change from one form to the other could be made, Jerry glanced down toward the heaving waters above which the _Comet_ had been sailing, and amid the waves of which had appeared the strange object that had excited the curiosity of the boys. It was still there, plowing slowly through the water, but the air craft was so high up that a good view could not be had of it.
“All ready!” called Ned from the motor room.
Jerry was about to shut off the supply of gas, sending it into the compressors where it could not exert a lifting force, and had stretched his hand toward the lever of the deflecting rudder, when Bob cried:
“Say, I’ve got an idea! Why didn’t we think of it before, fellows?”
“What is it?” asked Jerry, pausing in his intended operations.
“The telescope,” replied Bob. “We can get a view of the mysterious beast with that, and won’t have to go down at all. I’ll get it,” and he started toward a locker.
“Oh, never mind,” said Jerry. “As long as we’re ready we might as well go down anyhow. Besides, only one of us can use the glass at a time. If we get the _Comet_ near enough we can all see. Let her go, Ned.”
“Going she is!” came from Ned.
There was a hissing as the automatic pumps began compressing the lifting-gas, and a few seconds later Jerry yanked on the lever that would tilt the big rudder to such a position that the ship would dive downward. At the same time the propellers, which had been revolving slowly, to keep the _Comet_ from drifting, were whirled with great rapidity as more power was turned into the motor. While navigating as a dirigible balloon the propellers were not needed to keep the ship afloat, but once the lifting-gas was not used they were vitally necessary, for only by keeping in motion can a “heavier than air” machine be prevented from falling.
Bob, who was looking through the glass floor in the main cabin, tracing the course of the object that had so excited the boys, suddenly looked up at Jerry.
“Something’s wrong!” cried the fat lad, and by his tones it could easily be told that he referred to the motorship, and not to the object below him in the water.
“I should say there was!” gasped Jerry, for the _Comet_ had plunged downward with such abruptness that the boys were fairly dizzy.
“What’s the matter?” yelled Ned, making his way from the motor room by fairly pulling himself along. He had to do this as the ship was tilted at such a sharp angle. “What happened?” Ned went on.
“It’s that deflecting rudder again!” answered Jerry. “I thought we had it adjusted too fine. Now it’s jammed again.”
“Shut off the motors! Stop the propellers!” cried Bob.
“I’m doing it as fast as I can!” returned tall Jerry. He had reached over and snapped off a switch that controlled the electric current which fired the gasoline motor.
“We’re heading straight into the sea--bow down!” cried Ned, taking a hasty observation.
“Turn on the gas again!” ordered Jerry. “That’s the only thing that will stop us now! And do it quick, too! I’ll have a new rudder if we ever get out of this alive!”
Ned, with desperate haste, was opening the gas valves. With an angry hiss the vapor rushed from the condensers it had so recently entered, and began filling the lifting-bags. Still the _Comet_ plunged down toward the ocean, in which could still be seen that strange creature. It was circling about now, as though waiting for the destruction of the motorship.
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
“Jerry, we’ve got to do something!” cried Ned.
“And do it quick!” added Bob.
“We’re doing all we can,” responded the tall youth in tense tones. In all the excitement he remained calmer than did his chums, and calmness was a necessary virtue in this emergency. Jerry Hopkins had that one happy faculty of seldom “losing his head.”
Now he was striving desperately, however, in spite of his seeming calm, to prevent the accident which seemed so imminent. And his companions, catching something of his cool self-control, restrained their own excitement and came to Jerry’s aid.
And while strenuous efforts are thus being made to save the _Comet_ from plunging into the sea, I will beg the indulgence of my old readers for a few moments while I describe, for the benefit of my new ones, something about the three chums and their various activities as set forth in the previous books of this series.
As might be guessed the lads were called the “Motor Boys” for obvious reasons. They were always seen on some form of motor, beginning with a bicycle (which in a way is a motor vehicle) and ending with an airship. No, not ending, for the activities of the motor boys are far from ended, I hope.
To describe the boys themselves I will say that Bob Baker was the son of a wealthy banker, while Ned’s father, Aaron Slade, kept a large department store in which Mr. Baker was also interested. The father of Jerry Hopkins was dead, but his mother had been left comfortably off, and by means of wise investments, recommended by Mr. Baker, had managed to accumulate a small fortune. It will thus be seen that my three heroes were well supplied with money to carry out their ideas of sport in motor vehicles. And they did not depend on their parents for all their funds. The boys were part owners of a valuable gold mine, and they received profits from it.
They lived in the New England town of Cresville, not far from Boston, and were well known in the country roundabout, for they made trips far and near. Often on these trips they had unpleasant experiences with Noddy Nixon, a sort of town bully, and his crony, Bill Berry, as well as with Jack Pender, with whom Noddy chummed.
The first book of this series is entitled “The Motor Boys,” and in it is described how our heroes took part in some bicycle races, and eventually obtained motorcycles for themselves, on which they had a number of adventures.
In a later race they won an auto as a prize, and one of their activities was to take a trip overland. Their companion on this, as well as on other journeys, was a certain Professor Uriah Snodgrass, who was an enthusiastic collector of rare specimens of the animal kingdom, from black fleas to luminous snakes. The professor was an odd character, as you will doubtless soon discover.
After an exciting tour the boys went to Mexico, and, coming back from there, they were instrumental in locating the hermit of Lost Lake.
In the fifth book of the series, entitled “The Motor Boys Afloat,” I related what happened when Jerry, Ned and Bob got a motor boat. They had surprising adventures in their voyage on the Atlantic, later in the strange waters of the Florida Everglades, and then on the Pacific.
Naturally, with the gradual perfecting of air craft, the boys turned their thoughts to them, and in the volume called “The Motor Boys in the Clouds,” I had the pleasure of telling you of their adventures above the earth. They had a long trip which ended in both fame and fortune, and in going over the Rockies they solved a mystery of the air, later effecting a rescue near the clouds, over the ocean.
Again they were on the wing, and learning of a strange treasure they went in search of it. In the book that immediately preceded this one, called “The Motor Boys on the Border,” I told how the boys, returning from the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, found new opportunities awaiting them. This was to undertake a search for sixty nuggets of gold that had been secreted by an old prospector when he had to flee from his enemies. He had hidden them in a deep valley, near the border between Montana and Canada, and sought the aid of the boys and their airship to recover them.
How the sixty nuggets were found, how the enemies were outwitted, and how Professor Snodgrass located his luminous snakes--all this you will find set down in the book.
After these adventures the boys returned home, and to while away the time they had again put in commission their motorship _Comet_ and gone to the Boston aviation meet. They had taken some part in it, winning two prizes for all-around efficiency.
Perhaps my new readers will like a brief description of the _Comet_. It was a craft built for comfort, and for long trips rather than for speed, though it could skim along very fast when necessary. The motorship was, as its name indicates, a veritable ship, and the addition of hydroplanes enabled it to navigate on the water as well as in the air. Wheels could be attached, if desired, so that it could also move along on smooth ground, but this was seldom done, and no great speed was attained that way.
As I have said the _Comet_ could be used either as a biplane, or as a dirigible balloon. There was considerable machinery aboard it--motors, dynamos, gas-producing apparatus; and on board the boys and their friends could live comfortably for many days without descending.
There was a main cabin, sleeping berths, the motor room, where most of the machinery was installed, and a pilot house that contained the guiding levers and wheels. The bottom of part of the craft contained heavy plate glass, so observations of the earth could be made through it.
And I must not forget the kitchen and dining room. These places were the especial delight of Bob Baker, for I think I have already indicated that “Chunky,” as Bob was often called, because of his short and plump conformation, was very fond of eating. His chums joked him about it, but he seldom minded that.
And it was in the _Comet_ that our heroes now were, having decided to navigate for a while over the sea after witnessing some sensational flights at the aviation grounds outside of Boston. And it was also in the _Comet_ that danger had now come to the boys as they sought to descend to get a nearer view of what they thought might be a great whale, but which did not act as a whale should.
“How about it, Jerry? Are we gaining any?” cried Ned, as he stood beside the gas machine, trying to hasten the filling of the lifting-bags.
“I think so,” was the answer. Jerry never took his eyes from the pressure gage that told how much gas was being forced out from the containers.
“But we’re still going down!” cried Bob, who was looking at the height-indicator. “And going down fast, too! We’re only five hundred feet up now!”
“I know it, Chunky,” said Jerry, still quietly. “We are doing all we can. Even if we do hit the water you know we still have the hydroplanes.”
“Oh, it isn’t a question of actually sinking,” called Ned, as he opened the gas valve to the limit. “We’d probably float safely enough, but we’re going down so fast that if we hit at this speed, we’ll be sure to rip the planes off, and do no end of other damage to our boat!”
“That’s the point,” agreed Jerry. “It’s only the speed at which we are falling that I’m afraid of. Ordinarily we could volplane down and take the water easily enough, but the jamming of that deflecting rudder came so suddenly that we couldn’t get in position to make a good descent.”
“We’re on a more even keel now,” observed Ned, as he looked at the indicating pendulum.
“Yes,” agreed Bob, “and we’re going slower, too. We’ve got three hundred feet more, Jerry.”
“Then we can do it, fellows! I guess we’re all right now. Is all the gas out, Ned?”
“About all, yes.”
“And just in time,” murmured the stout lad, his eyes again seeking the height indicator. “Two hundred feet is a pretty close call, as fast as we were falling. We’ve almost stopped now, Jerry.”
“That’s good. We won’t lose any time putting on a new kind of rudder, either. I’ve had it in mind a good while to change ours. I wish I hadn’t delayed so long.”
A moment later the motorship ceased her descent, and was floating on an even keel, a short distance above the rolling waves, blown gently along by the wind, for her propellers were not revolving.
“Well, we may as well start again, and make for shore as a dirigible balloon,” said Jerry, after a little pause, in which they all breathed more freely. It had been an exciting time for them, but they had met the emergency bravely, and with the grit and spunk of true American youths.
“I wonder what has become of the cause of all our trouble?” ventured Ned. “I haven’t thought to look for that whale. Let’s take a peep, fellows.”
Before starting the propellers the boys went out on the partially enclosed deck and looked about them. At first they did not see the strange object that had attracted their attention. Then, as he gazed to the North, Bob cried:
“There she is--and, fellows, as I’m alive it isn’t a whale at all! Look! It’s a submarine! See the men on her decks! They’re looking at us!”
With gasps of astonishment, Ned and Jerry turned toward where Bob pointed.
There, lazily rolling with the action of the waves, was indeed a large submarine boat, of the latest type, as the boys could see, for they were well up on naval matters. The half-rounded deck, the sides and blunt stern and bow of the strange craft glistened from the water that had splashed over her, or perhaps it was wet from just having dived, and come to the surface again.
And, as Bob had said, there were several men on the low deck, that was almost awash. They looked curiously at our heroes. The men appeared to be mechanics, for their clothes were rough and grease-covered. But then, in a submarine, even the officers get that way, for the quarters are very cramped.
“That’s a foreign submarine!” exclaimed Ned, suddenly.
“How do you know?” asked Jerry.
“Because I can tell by her build, and by the look of the men. That’s a foreign submarine, and I shouldn’t be surprised if she was the one----”
Ned stopped suddenly.
“What is it? Why don’t you go on?” asked Jerry, turning to his chum.
“Because I think they can hear us. Sound carries very clearly over water, you know. I’ll tell you later, and----”
“There comes another man on deck!” interrupted Bob. The men on top of the submarine turned their gaze away from the airship as someone, evidently their superior officer, appeared among them, coming up by the deck hatch. They saluted him, and pointed toward the _Comet_.
Instantly the newcomer turned. The boys could see that he was a large man, with a stern and forbidding face, and his hair and beard were snow-white.
He started as he beheld the craft of our heroes, and evidently gave a command, for the others at once left the deck of the submarine. Then, with a last look at the _Comet_, the aged commander hurried down through the deck hatch. There was a rattle of metal as the cover was clapped into place, and a second later the submarine disappeared beneath the waters of the bay.
THROUGH THE STORM
“What do you know about that?” cried Ned, looking at his wondering companions.
“That sure was a sudden dive,” agreed Jerry.
“They must have their machinery under pretty good control, and be able to work it quickly,” came from Bob. “Why, that old gentleman wasn’t down inside that hatch more than a quarter of a minute before the whole thing was under water. The hatch must have closed automatically when he went down it.”
“I guess that’s it,” said Jerry. “You can’t see so much as a bubble of her now.”
The boys gazed at the surface of the sea. The heaving and rolling waves were all that was visible.
“She must have gone down deep,” observed Ned. “You couldn’t even see her periscopes.”
“She didn’t have any,” asserted Jerry. “If she had they would have stuck up for a second or two, for usually they’re about twenty feet above the deck. She doesn’t use periscopes, that’s evident.”
“What are periscopes?” asked Bob, who usually didn’t take such an interest in mechanics as did his chums. When taunted with this Bob used to say it kept him so busy cooking for Ned and Jerry that he had no time to brush up on the latest inventions.
“Periscopes are the eyes of a submarine, when it is running in about twenty feet of water,” explained Jerry. “I mean at that depth below the surface. They are hollow tubes, and are just above the surface when the boat is down about twenty feet. They run through the deck, and into the pilot house. By looking into the lower end of them the observer can get a view all around him at the surface.”
“I don’t see how,” spoke the stout lad.
“It is done by means of reflecting mirrors, lenses and prisms,” Ned put in. “I looked through one once on a submarine that was being built. It’s great. It beats a telescope all to pieces. A telescope, you know, means an instrument by which you can see far off--‘tele,’ meaning afar, and ‘scope’ to look--Latin or Greek words, I guess.”
“Say, is this a recitation?” asked Bob, with a smile.
“No, I’m just explaining,” answered Ned. “Periscope is made up in the same way, from Latin or Greek words, and it literally means to ‘look all around’.”
“Good!” exclaimed Jerry. “But even looking all around doesn’t seem to show that submarine. It has completely disappeared. And I’d have given a good deal to have a good look at her.”
“So would I,” spoke Ned. “I’d like to have gone aboard.”
“You would!” cried Bob. “Would you go under in her?”
“I would--yes, if I had the chance,” replied Ned. “But I’d prefer one of our own United States boats to that foreign one. I didn’t like the looks of that man with the white beard, and if what I read is true----”
“Say, what was that you started to say?” interrupted Jerry. “You were on the point of remarking it when the craft went to the bottom.”
“Yes, I was,” admitted Ned. “I saw something in the papers not long ago--it was a foreign dispatch, I think--to the effect that a German had perfected a most wonderful and dangerous submarine. It had motors operated by a new electrical chemical, that could be stored in a small space, and the article intimated that the submarine could even cross the ocean.”
“Of course that’s remarkable, in a way,” admitted Jerry, “but you seemed to have something else on your mind. What was it? Loosen up, Ned.”
“Oh, it’s no great secret. I didn’t just want those fellows on the submarine to hear me; that’s all. But this article went on to say that the inventor was a sort of crank, with a very vindictive disposition, and that he imagined all other nations were the enemy of Germany. He seemed to think that if the German war officials took a sufficient number of his submarines the Kaiser would be Lord of the Sea, and could wipe everything else out of existence. That’s one reason I wouldn’t care to go aboard that boat.”
“That is, if it’s the same one,” suggested Bob.
“Oh, yes,” assented Ned. “Of course it’s only a notion of mine that this craft may be the product of the brain of that eccentric German. But he looked like a foreigner, and the way he seemed to get excited when he saw us--acting as though he feared we were spying on him--made me a bit suspicious.”
“But what does he want over here, in American waters?” asked Bob.
“That’s the point,” responded Ned. “What’s his game--if it is he? But we don’t have to worry about it, I guess.”
“I don’t know about that,” spoke Bob, and his tones were serious. “If he’s going to scoot about under water, practicing evolutions for destroying our ships, it may mean trouble for us.”
“For us?” repeated Jerry, looking at his fat chum curiously. “What do you mean?”
“Well, not exactly trouble for _you_ fellows,” explained Bob, “but for my family. Of course it’s quite remote, but it might happen. My Uncle Nelson Sheldon, and his daughter Grace, are on their way to this country from Germany. They are coming in a small steamer, and my uncle is bringing something very valuable with him. That is, valuable to our family.”
“If it was something valuable for _you_ I suppose it would be a full course dinner; eh, Chunky?” asked Ned with a chuckle.
“Oh, let up; can’t you?” begged the stout lad. “It isn’t anything to eat, I’m sure of that, though I’m hungry enough now. I don’t know just what it is, but I overheard father and mother talking about it. It’s something that Uncle Nelson has been on the lookout for a good many years, and at last he found it in Germany.”
“In Germany!” exclaimed Jerry.
“Yes, and that’s what made me speak as I did when I heard what Ned remarked,” went on the fat youth. “If that’s a crazy German in a submarine he may hit the boat my uncle is on.”
“Say, this is getting mysterious, all right,” spoke Ned. “Not that I think there’s the slightest danger though, Bob. Your uncle has a million chances to one in his favor. What steamer is he and his daughter on?”
“The _Hassen_. It’s a German boat. He said he took that to avoid the crowds. He’s due to land in a few days, I believe, and then I’ll know what it is he’s bringing over that’s so valuable.”
“How about his daughter?” asked Ned. “Have we ever seen her, Chunky?”
“No, and I believe she’s considered a very pretty girl, too,” spoke the stout youth.
“Then you’ve got to introduce us to her as soon as she lands, my boy!” stipulated Jerry. “Pretty girls are too scarce to miss.”
“Oh, you’ll meet her,” said Bob. “I’ve told her about you fellows, and she wants to know you.”
“Good for her!” cried Ned. “Well, we seem to have run into a complication of matters just through sighting that submarine. That’s out of sight, of course, but there’s still your uncle, his pretty daughter, and the mysterious thing he’s bringing over, Bob. It gives us something to look forward to, at any rate.”
“Yes, and we’re going to have something else to look forward to, and that right soon,” spoke Jerry, suddenly.
“What is it?” inquired Bob, looking about. “Is that submarine in sight again?”
“No, but we’re going to have a storm, if I’m any judge, and pretty quickly, too. We’re quite a few miles out to sea, and we’d better run to shore, I think.”
“Same here,” agreed Bob. “But say, what about grub? I can get it while you and Ned manage the _Comet_.”
“Ha! Ha!” laughed Jerry. “I was waiting for you to say that, Chunky. But there--don’t get riled! Of course you can get up a meal. But let it be a simple one, for we may be in the midst of a blow any minute. And we’ll need your help, now that part of our gear is out of order. So don’t fuss too much, Chunky.”
“I won’t. But I’m awful hungry!”
“Just to show that there are no hard feelings I could eat a bit myself,” added Ned. “Go to it, Bob, my boy.”
“Yes, and we’ll have to get busy ourselves, Ned,” spoke Jerry. “We’d better make everything as snug as we can, and then go up. We may get above the storm centre, but I doubt it. It looks as though it was going to be pretty general.”
The weather had indeed changed suddenly. Gray banks of clouds, fringed with ominous black, hung low on the horizon, while above the sky was a coppery-yellowish cast that seemed to indicate the coming of a great wind.
The sea, too, was heaving restlessly, as if anxious to join in the revel of the elements, and there was a low moaning sound that told of the howling gale to come.
But just at present it was calm enough--the threatening calm before the storm--and Jerry was about to take advantage of it to start toward land.
The _Comet_ was still hovering over the spot where the submarine had disappeared. The motorship was moving slowly, her propellers barely revolving enough to give her steerage-way.
Jerry, with one last look at the surface of the sea, to discern, if possible, whether the strange boat had come to the top again, set about making all snug in preparation for the battle with the elements.
This was soon done, and while Bob was busy in the small galley, getting ready a meal, Ned and Jerry started the boat. The big propellers beat the air fiercely, and, as a dirigible balloon, the _Comet_ darted high above the restless sea, and toward the shores of Boston Harbor, now many miles from sight.
But the craft was not to reach a safe haven without a fight. Scarce two miles had been covered before the storm broke, its fury increasing every minute.
The _Comet_ heeled over until, had she been a water ship, she would have been on her beam ends. Jerry and his chums had to grasp supports to avoid falling.
“Throw in the automatic gyroscope balancer!” yelled the tall lad to Ned. “We’ll turn turtle in a minute if you don’t!”
“In she goes!” cried Ned, springing for the motor room.
The gale howled about them. Below the waves were whipped into sudden foam, and they tossed themselves on high as though reaching for the _Comet_, which rushed on through the storm like a frightened bird.
“Some blow!” panted Bob, as he jumped aside in time to avoid the contents of the scalding hot coffee pot on the galley stove. “Some blow!”
“Yes, and it’s getting worse every minute!” Jerry cried.
A NEW QUEST
Fortunately for our heroes the _Comet_ was a staunch craft, even though built to navigate the air, and, like others of her kind, light in construction. But the motorship had passed safely through hard blows before, and Jerry and his chums hoped this would be no exception. Also the boys, when the first warnings of the blow were observed, had made everything as snug as possible. Now all they could do was to remain in shelter and navigate their craft as best they might.
And glad indeed were they of shelter, too, for, after the first fury of the blast had whipped the sea into foam, there came a burst of rain, almost tropical in its volume.
“I should say it _was_ a blow!” gasped Bob, as he righted the coffee pot. “Look at that!” he cried. “All wasted!”
“Don’t worry about that,” advised Jerry, who was having all he could do to hold to the steering wheel, which was twisting and turning in his hands as the wind forced the big rudder this way and that. “We’re lucky to be as right as we are, so say nothing about losing a little coffee.”
“Well, I’m hungry!” exclaimed the stout lad who, it seemed, would not be balked of his meal, even in a bad storm. “I’m going to make some more,” he went on. “That is, unless you need me here, Jerry.”
“No,” panted the tall steersman. “I guess Ned and I can manage things for a while, unless something happens. We’re going up fairly well, and perhaps we can get above the storm.”
The _Comet_ was now under better control, and was steadily mounting under the influence of the powerful lifting-gas, and the push of her propellers, the elevating rudder being tilted in the proper direction. Of course she was also headed toward the shore in order to take her from above the dangerous water, but her progress in that direction was not as rapid as it would have been had it not been necessary to mount in an endeavor to rise above the gale. At least, that was what Jerry was trying to do.
Of course the craft, as I have said, was built to navigate on the water by means of pontoons or hydroplanes, but this could be done only on comparatively calm surfaces. With the sea boiling and seething as it now was, the _Comet_ would have been wrecked had she fallen into it.
“I almost wish we were in that submarine,” said Ned, as he came to stand near Jerry, to aid him if necessary.
“Why?” called Bob from the little galley.
“Because then we wouldn’t mind the storm, no matter how hard it blew. Don’t you remember reading that a comparatively short distance below the surface the effect of a storm is not felt? Those fellows can sail along, deep down under the ocean, and not even know a blow is going on up above.”
“Well, they may be safer than we are,” exclaimed Bob, as he put on another pot of coffee, taking care to secure it to the electric stove so it would not spill off, “but, all the same, I don’t go in much for submarines. They’re too likely not to come to the top when you want them to.”
“Not the newest models,” defended Ned, who seemed to have taken a sudden interest in the under-water boats. “They rarely have an accident now-a-days. I’d like to take a chance in one.”
“I think I would too,” spoke Jerry, eagerly.
“Well, if you fellows go, of course I’m not going to back out,” asserted Bob, who, to do him credit, was as full of grit, when the test came, as either of his chums.
“Oh, I don’t know that there is any likelihood of our navigating one,” went on Jerry. “Still, you never can tell. It’s about the only kind of locomotion we haven’t tried yet.”
“Well, I only hope one thing,” spoke Bob, as he began to make some sandwiches for himself and his chums, “and that is that this submarine doesn’t try to blow up, or sink, the _Hassen_ with my uncle and cousin on board.”
“Nonsense! There’s about as much danger of that happening as there is of the moon falling on us,” said Jerry, with a laugh.
“I guess Bob means he doesn’t want the submarine to tackle that ship his uncle is on until he finds out what it is that his respected relative is bringing over,” spoke Ned.
“Or until he introduces us to his pretty cousin,” added Jerry with a smile. “Eh, Bob?”
“Oh, you fellows make me tired. Here, take some of this grub. I’m hungry.”
“Your usual state,” commented Ned, drily.
Perhaps my new readers may think it strange that the boys could talk thus lightly while trying to escape from a bad storm in an airship, but my old friends will understand of what sort of material Bob, Ned and Jerry were made. They were used to danger--not that they courted it, but when it came they could meet it face to face, and they seldom allowed it to get on their nerves. And their talk, in this case, was calculated to restore their own confidence for, in a measure, it took their attention from the fury of the elements.
And there was fury and to spare. The wind seemed to increase in violence every moment, and the rain, beating on the roof of the cabin, almost drowned the sound of their voices, and hushed the hum of the machinery and the whine of the dynamos.
It was fortunate, in a way, that the craft was not manœuvering as an aeroplane, for the broad expanse of the wing and rudder planes would have offered so much resistance to the wind that the _Comet_ might have turned turtle. As it was, some of the planes had been folded back out of the way. This was a new improvement in the boys’ craft, and one that enabled it to be used to better advantage as a dirigible balloon.
True it was that the expanse of the gas-bags offered a large surface to the gale, but this could not be avoided. It was absolutely necessary to have them filled, or the ship would have plunged into the sea.
Jerry was operating to the limit the motor which whirled the great propellers, and all the force at his command was needed to make headway against the wind. The _Comet_ was shooting almost into the teeth of it, which was to her disadvantage.
Holding with one hand each to the steering wheel, Jerry and Ned ate their sandwiches and drank their coffee. The last was not easy as the motorship plunged and swayed, spilling part of the beverage.
“But it’s fine--what I can get of it,” said Jerry.
“That’s right--and the sandwiches are bully!” exclaimed Ned. “You’re all to the mustard, Bob!”
“Glad you like them,” responded the stout youth, evidently well pleased.
There came a sudden burst of fury in the gale, and the craft seemed to plunge downward.
“Look out!” cried Ned, glancing toward the glass floor in the pilot house, through which he could see the crests of the angry waves. “Look out, Jerry!”
The tall lad gave a twist to the elevating rudder, which overcame the downward tendency, and once more the _Comet_ was moving upward. The rain still fell, the wind howled and roared and the lightning now began to play about the ship, while the thunder rolled almost incessantly. But the gallant craft held on in spite of all.
Suddenly there came a sharp, breaking sound, accompanying a brilliant pinkish flash of light, and then came an awful roar. For a moment the boys were almost paralyzed, and they felt a tingling as of pins and needles all over their bodies. Their ear drums seemed burst.
“That bolt passed close to us!” yelled Ned, above the thunder-echoes.
“I should say so,” agreed Jerry. “A little bit more and it would have struck us. Smell the sulphur!”
A pronounced odor was noticeable in the cabin.
“Look!” cried Bob, “it put the small dynamo out of business, too. It short-circuited it!”
“That’s right!” cried Jerry, looking at one of the pieces of apparatus used for generating the powerful lifting-gas. “But we won’t need that now, I guess. We ought to be over land pretty soon and able to make a landing.”
“We can’t in this wind,” said Bob, who went over to make a close inspection of the damaged dynamo. “We’d be blown into a tree or house, and smashed.”
“I’m going to try to get out of the path of the storm,” said Jerry, who well understood the danger of going down to earth in this gale. “I think its path is comparatively narrow. Is she much damaged, Bob?” referring to the dynamo.
“No, those new fuses you put in saved her. It just burned out a couple of them. I can connect it up if you say so. We might need it in a hurry.”
“No, we have some gas in the reserve tank yet, and there is no use taking chances monkeying around a dynamo in a thunder-storm. Come away from it!”
That one terrific stroke, which had come so near to the motorship, seemed to have broken the backbone of the storm, in a measure, and there was a noticeable diminution in the force of the wind, while the rain fell less heavily.
It was late afternoon, and night was coming on, so with the clouds to add to the gloom of the sky, it was so dark that the boys could hardly see the water below them.
A little later, when the storm showed more evidence of dying out, they looked down and saw below them the lights of Boston.
“We’re safe!” cried Jerry. “The bay isn’t under us any more.”
“Good!” cried Bob. “Now we can have a regular supper!”
“You sure are the limit, Chunky!” cried Ned. “But never mind. We won’t rub it in. This has been a strenuous afternoon, all right, from the time we sighted that submarine.”
“I wonder where it is now?” asked Bob, and his chums could see that he really was worrying over the safety of his uncle and cousin.
“No telling,” said Jerry. “I don’t believe we will ever see her again.”
Neither he nor his chums realized what fate had in store for them in connection with that same submarine.
Jerry knew the course he wished to take, though it was necessary to steer by compass, and soon, when the storm had quieted down to only a comparatively gentle blow, the tall steersman guided his craft to the ground in a big open field, some miles from Boston. There it was anchored for the night and the boys prepared to stay on board, as they had often done before. They had come down in a lonely neighborhood, so they were not troubled by curious spectators.
In the morning scarcely a trace of the storm was to be seen.
The boys made some necessary repairs, fixing the refractory rudder so that it could be used temporarily.
“And then I’m done with it,” said Jerry, firmly. “I’m going to attach an entirely different kind.”
Again the _Comet_ soared into the air, and this time her blunt nose was pointed toward Cresville, which the boys reached in record time, no happenings worthy of note occurring on the way.
“Well, I’m glad you boys are home!” exclaimed Mrs. Hopkins, as the airship landed near Jerry’s house. “We were just beginning to get anxious about you.”
“Oh, we’re all right, Mother!” exclaimed the tall lad, as he kissed her. “Had a little blow, that’s all.” He seldom told of the dangers through which he and his chums passed.
“There’s someone here to see you,” went on Mrs. Hopkins, with a smile.
“Is it Bob’s uncle?” asked Ned, with a laugh.
At that moment a voice was heard coming from the house. It said:
“One moment now, Susan! Don’t move. Stand very still!”
“What for? Am I going to have my picture took?” asked a voice Jerry recognized as that of his mother’s maid.
“No, I am not going to photograph you,” was the answer. “But there is a very rare specimen of a blue lady-bug on your left shoulder and I want to get it for----”
“A bug! The saints preserve me! Take it off quick!” cried Susan.
“One moment! There, I have it!” was exclaimed triumphantly, and the boys, with one accord, as they looked at each other cried out:
It was indeed he, and a moment later the jolly little bald-headed scientist stepped to the door, holding tightly in one hand the new bug he had captured.
“Ah, good morning, boys!” he exclaimed. “Well, you see I came here again, and this time I think you’ll agree that I have a difficult quest under way.”
“Is it to get more luminous snakes?” asked Jerry, as he and his chums shook hands with the professor.
“No, though that commission was hard enough. This time I have an order from the Boston museum to get a specimen--three or four, if I can--of the hermit crab, the _Pagurus_, or _Eupagurus Bernhardus_. And to do this I shall have to search on the bottom of the sea. So if you have a submarine boat anywhere around, boys, I’d like to use her, for I must get that specimen!”
Jerry, Ned and Bob looked at one another. The professor’s words stirred strange recollections.
A FEARFUL GALE
“Well, boys, you seem to think there is something strange in my new quest,” remarked Professor Snodgrass, looking from one to the other of the motor boys. “Don’t you care to go off on expeditions with me any more? I know you used to be fond of traveling. And now, when I come to you with this proposition, you seem to think it is too much.
“As soon as I received the commission to get a hermit crab--one that lives in the shell of some mollusk--I thought of you boys. I said to myself that you were not afraid to sail through the air, so naturally you wouldn’t back out when it came to going under water. And now----”
“It isn’t that, Professor,” interrupted Jerry, respectfully. “It’s just the suddenness of it, and a peculiar coincidence. We haven’t thought much about a submarine, though I’m sure we could manage one if we tried. It’s just a certain happening that occurred yesterday that made us seem so surprised. We’ll tell you all about it.”
“One moment!” exclaimed Mrs. Hopkins. “I didn’t object very much, Jerry, when you wanted to take up aeroplaning, though I was very anxious. But I am afraid I must draw the line at submarines. I am _so_ afraid of them. Professor Snodgrass, if I had known this was the nature of your new quest, I’d never have let you mention it to the boys,” and she playfully shook her finger at him.
“There will be no danger--no danger in the least, I assure you, Mrs. Hopkins,” said the little scientist, with an old-fashioned bow. “I know the boys are brave and if we do go to the bottom of the sea in a submarine we will come back safely. Don’t worry.”
“I just can’t help it,” Mrs. Hopkins rejoined. “But I feel sure that it will be a long time before the boys will be able to build a submarine and go down in it.”
“I don’t know about that,” answered Jerry, with a smile. “But, Professor, let us tell you how strangely your quest fits in with a little experience we passed through yesterday.”
Then, by turns, each adding something, the boys told of the sight of the submarine, and of the storm through which they had passed.
“Hum! Yes,” said Mr. Snodgrass, when Ned had spoken of reading about the German boat. “I also recollect that. The man’s name is Klauss, I believe.”
“And is his boat really so wonderful?” asked Bob.
“Yes, from the brief accounts I saw of it I should say it was the last word in submarines,” replied the scientist. “I wish I had an opportunity to examine it, and if it is in this country, which seems to be the case, we may get a chance.”
“Not if he acts the way he did when we saw him,” commented Jerry. “He didn’t seem to want to be interviewed, and dived down as soon as he could.”
“Oh, well, maybe he was afraid of the coming storm,” went of Mr. Snodgrass. “Even the best submarine can’t stand being filled with water, you know, and they have very little free-board when running awash. However, let us now consider this new quest of mine. I really must make an attempt to get some of these rare hermit crabs, and the only way I know how to do it is to get to the bottom of the sea in a submarine. If you boys have no idea of making one perhaps I can get someone else. But I would rather go with you.”
“And I think we’d like to go!” cried Jerry, looking about to make sure his mother did not hear him. He knew she would let him go when the time came, after she had been assured of the comparative safety of the cruise.
“Then it’s all settled!” cried the professor, as if that was all that was necessary. “I’ll leave the details to you boys. When you have the submarine ready we will go. Meanwhile, I can be collecting other specimens. At present I must put away this rare lady bug that I got from Susan. It is really quite valuable, and I must make some notes concerning it before I forget them.”
He went into Jerry’s house, where he was always a welcome guest, leaving the boys to stare in surprise at one another.
“Well, if he isn’t the limit!” exclaimed Ned. “He tells us to let him know when the submarine is ready, just as though it was only a call to a meal.”
“Or as if we could produce a submarine at a minute’s notice, the way the magician in the show brings a rabbit out of a hat,” added Jerry. “The professor expects us to do wonders. A submarine, and we haven’t even so much as a ballast tank!”
“Well, maybe we could buy a second-hand submarine, if we could not have one made,” suggested Bob.
“Ha! Chunky is getting up his spunk,” spoke Ned. “Well, we’ll have to think this over. Meanwhile I guess I’d better be getting on home. Come on, Jerry, we’ll put away the _Comet_ and to-morrow, or next day, we can talk over this latest stunt. I’m rather for it, myself.”
“So am I,” said the tall lad.
But the boys were not destined to immediately consider ways and means of obtaining a submarine. Hardly had Jerry and his chums put away the airship in the big shed than the storm through which they had passed, out near Boston, reached Cresville. The blow began gently enough, and for a time it seemed that there would be no special disturbance. But, as the day advanced, the fury of the gale grew until the wind had attained the force of a hurricane.
“Say, we seem to be taking a special course in storms,” remarked Jerry to his mother and the professor that afternoon, when one or two shutters had been blown from the Hopkins house. “This is almost as bad as the one at sea when we saw the submarine.”
But the professor was oblivious to everything but writing out facts concerning the rare lady bug, and with making memoranda concerning the hermit crabs, of which he soon hoped to start in search.
Jerry was kept busy tying back window blinds, and in mending a rain-pipe leader that had become displaced, letting the water flood the cellar.
Attired in a raincoat and rubber boots, the tall lad was working away when Ned came splashing through the storm. He seemed much excited.
“What’s the trouble?” panted Jerry, ceasing from his labors.
“Say, this is a fearful blow!” burst out Ned. “Two or three houses in town have been unroofed, and when I came past the newspaper office just now I saw a bulletin to the effect that out at sea it was much worse. It is feared that a number of ships have been sunk.”
“Then I’m glad we’re safe on land,” remarked Jerry. “Say, lend me a hand for a minute, Ned; will you? Just hold that piece of pipe until I slip this section into it. The wind blew it out of the fastenings.”
“This wind would do almost anything!” cried Ned, as he helped his chum. “I could hardly walk up the street. The chimney blew off the roof of Mr. Black’s house, and some of the bricks just missed me.”
“‘A miss is as good as a mile’,” quoted Jerry with a laugh. “But it sure is some blow, all right! I’m glad we’re not out in it in the _Comet_.”
“Same here. Whew! That was a fierce one!” cried Ned as a blast of wind almost tore the rain pipe from his grasp.
“Look out!” cried Jerry. “Duck!” and he pushed his chum aside just in time, as a slate from the roof sailed past them and crashed to pieces on the stone walk at their side. Ned turned a little pale.
“Thanks, old man,” he said quietly. “You saved me from a bad cut.”
“I saw it just in time,” returned Jerry. “So the bulletin says the storm is even worse out at sea; eh?”
“It does, and say--Bob’s uncle and cousin! They must be out in it. He said their boat would arrive in a day or so!”
“By Jove!” cried Jerry. “I never thought of that. It may be bad for the Sheldons. I wish we could help them, but I don’t see how we can. Poor old Bob will worry, and----”
“Here he comes now!” interrupted Ned, as he saw a figure splashing along the street. “He acts as though he had news, too!”
“What’s the matter, Bob?” yelled Jerry, when his stout chum was near enough to hear above the roar of the wind. “You look worried!”
“I am!” was the answer. “She’s adrift! Come on down and make her fast or she’ll pound to pieces on the rocks!”
“Are you talking about that ship your uncle is supposed to be coming over on?” asked Ned in surprise.
“No! I never thought of them until just now!” panted Bob, coming to a pause. “They _are_ out in this storm, though; aren’t they? I wonder if they’re safe?”
“Then you didn’t mean them?” asked Jerry, who had, by this time, managed to slip the leader pipe into place.
“No, I was speaking about our motor boat!” cried Bob. “Sud Snuffles just yelled at me, as he rushed past our house, that she had chafed through the mooring ropes and was going down stream. Isn’t this an awful storm, though?”
“I should say so!” cried Jerry. “But we’ve got to get busy! Come on, fellows. We don’t want our boat smashed!”
Calling to his mother to let her know where he was going, Jerry led the way, Bob and Ned following through the storm. They had recently purchased a new racing motor boat, in addition to the larger one they used for cruising and general work, and as Bob splashed through the mud and water beside Jerry he informed his tall chum that it was this boat, according to the hasty description of Sud Snuffles (a curious town character), that had gone adrift in the storm.
“That’s too bad!” cried Jerry. “She’s not built for much rough work, and it won’t take much to damage her. I hope she hasn’t gone too far down stream.”
As the motor boys turned out of Jerry’s yard into the street, the three chums almost collided with a small chap, enveloped in a big raincoat, who was coming from the opposite direction.
“Look out!” cried Jerry, catching hold of the small lad so as not to knock him over. Then the newcomer, after a glance into the faces of the three, cried out, gaspingly, and in veritable spasms of words:
“Awful--terrible! Worst storm I ever see! A thousand chimneys blown down! Two houses with no roofs! Whoop! Almost blew me--up a tree! Won’t be any water left in the river! Hear that wind! Great guns! One man caught in barn--it blew down on him--all the ships at sea are sunk! Look out! Hear that rain! Whoop!”
The small lad had to pause for breath, after this outburst, which gave Jerry a chance to say:
“Now then, Andy Rush! Hold on a minute. We’ve got something else to do beside listening to you--at least just now. Our racing boat’s adrift and we’ve got to go after her!”
“Is that so?” cried Andy, who was surely the most easily excited chap in Cresville, or for miles around. “Is that so? Too bad--I’ll go along--I can tie knots well--boat adrift--hundred people drowned--may upset--catch on fire--bang into the dock--knock the dock down--go up on land--blow out a spark plug--what a storm--awful ain’t it! Whoop!”
“Hold him, somebody, and stuff a handkerchief in his mouth,” advised Ned. “Come on, fellows, every second counts!”
“I’ll be good--won’t talk any more--please let me help you!” begged Andy in slower tones. Indeed he had to talk more slowly for his breath was about expended.
“All right, come along,” said Jerry good-naturedly. He and his chums liked Andy Rush, but he sometimes got on their nerves with his rapid, disjointed talking. Occasionally they took him on trips with them.
The four boys hurried on toward the river through the storm, which seemed to be getting worse instead of diminishing. The rain came down in torrents, and, in spite of their waterproof coats the boys were soon drenched.
“Let’s take to the middle of the street,” suggested Ned, when a broken shutter, crashing down, narrowly missed Bob.
“Guess that will be a good idea,” commented Jerry. “It will be a little safer there.”
“Unless a tree falls on us!” put in Andy. “That would be fierce! Smash down--crack your head--pin you fast--make you----”
“Andy!” cried Jerry warningly, “that will do.”
“Oh, yes. I forgot. I’ll remember. I----”
Ned gently, but firmly, placed his hand over the small lad’s mouth as they hurried on.
On every side were evidences of the raging storm. The streets were littered with debris, some thoroughfares being almost blocked. Many chimneys had been blown down, and one or two small frame houses had collapsed. The persons in them had barely escaped with their lives, and several had been injured.
There were pitiful scenes, and the boys made up their minds that they would come back and lend what aid they could to the unfortunates as soon as they had caught and made fast their fine boat.
“This certainly is fierce!” gasped Jerry, as they turned down a street leading to the river and felt the full force of the wind, which, for a space, had been broken by a row of houses. “I’m afraid we’ll never get that boat in time.”
“Oh, yes we will,” asserted Ned, confidently. “Don’t you dare say we won’t, Jerry Hopkins!”
“Well, I don’t want her to smash any more than you do, but just feel that wind, and think what it is out on the river! Even a low motor boat, without any sails, would scud along before it at easily twenty miles an hour. It’s awful!”
“That about describes it,” agreed Bob. “Say, but I’m wet. We’ll all need hot coffee after this.”
The rain and wind were chilling, and this time Bob’s reference to something to eat--or, rather something to drink--passed unnoticed.
A little later the boys were at the river, and soon had taken out their large motor boat, which, fortunately, was all ready to run, and with plenty of gasoline in the tank.
“Now for a chase!” cried Jerry.
“Yes, and a hard one, too,” added Ned. “I wonder which way the _Scud_ went?”
“She could only go one way--that is, with the wind,” declared the tall lad, who had taken his place at the wheel. “No boat, even under power, could make much headway against this gale. Turn her over, boys, and we’ll see what happens.”
With the four lads aboard the staunch motor boat started out on the search, going with the wind. So fierce was the gale, and so swiftly did it send the boat along, that there was hardly need for the propeller, but Jerry kept it going at top speed, for he wanted to make the best time he could, and save the _Scud_, which was the name of the racing boat, before she pounded herself to pieces on the rocks.
The river was deserted by other craft, and the boys realized the risk they were taking in being out on the water in such a storm. But they were used to taking chances, and they simply had to try to save their fine craft.
In a short time they had covered several miles, and they had looked, unavailingly, all along the way for a sight of the _Scud_.
“I’m afraid she’s sunk,” said Bob.
“Too bad,” murmured Andy Rush.
“Look! What’s that?” suddenly cried Ned, pointing through the mist of rain to something afloat ahead of them. “That’s some sort of a boat!”
“She’s the _Scud_!” shouted Bob. “And she’s all right, so far. Hurry up, Jerry!”
[Illustration: “SHE’S THE SCUD!” SHOUTED BOB.]
The tall steersman threw the throttle full over and the motor craft shot ahead, aided by the wind. A little later they were alongside the _Scud_, and had made her fast to the other boat. The racing craft was somewhat scratched from having come in contact with floating debris, or the rocks in the river, but the damage was comparatively slight.
“It’s good to get her back again!” cried Bob. “Good old _Scud_!”
“And we didn’t get her any too soon!” exclaimed Jerry. “A little more and she’d have been on those rocks, and she’d have been a wreck when we got her off,” and he pointed to a menacing ledge of stone just ahead. Indeed it required skillful navigating for the boys themselves to get past the danger point, with the strong wind urging them on.
“We’d better not try to work back against this gale,” said Bob. “Can’t we tie the boats up somewhere along here, and go back in a car or train? We can get them later.”
“Good idea,” said Jerry. “We’ll do it.”
They obtained permission from a friendly boatman to leave their two launches tied at his dock, and making sure they were well fastened, the boys set off on their way to Cresville.
They were fortunate in catching a train, for they had come several miles from home, but in due time they were again trudging the streets of their town.
The storm was still at its height, and considerable more damage had been done to the various buildings. A relief corps had been organized, and the boys were about to offer their services when Bob, who had gone over to look at the bulletin in front of the newspaper office, came back with a serious look on his face.
“What is it?” cried Ned.
“Bad news, fellows. There’s a wireless message there, from Boston. It says that several large steamers are in distress, and that a number of small boats have foundered. But that isn’t the worst. The _Hassen_, with my uncle and cousin on board, has sunk, so the dispatch says,” and the tears came into poor Bob’s eyes.
OFF ON A SEARCH
For a moment Jerry and Ned stared almost uncomprehendingly at the boy who brought such startling news. Then Jerry exclaimed:
“It can’t be possible, Bob! There must be some mistake!”
“I only wish there was,” went on the stout lad. “Not that I want any other vessel to be wrecked, either. But the dispatch says plainly that the _Hassen_ has gone down. It’s a peculiar name, and there’s hardly any likelihood of an error. No, I’m afraid it’s all up with Uncle Nelson and Cousin Grace!”
“Too bad!” sympathized Ned. “Now you won’t know what it was he was bringing over with him.”
“Oh, I fancy my folks know,” said Bob. “But I don’t care so much about that.”
“I should say not,” agreed Jerry. “Think of being out in the ocean in such weather as this! Poor girl!”
“They might have escaped--have taken to the small boats or the life rafts,” suggested Ned. “I wouldn’t give up all hope, Bob, old man.”
“Well, of course there’s a small chance,” admitted the stout youth in a despondent tone; “but not much in such a storm as this. A small boat couldn’t live an hour in such a sea as there must be off this coast. It’s awful!”
“Well, hope for the best,” came from Jerry. “Things are bad enough here. Look at the ruin!” and he gazed about him. The others saw the destruction on every side, caused by the high wind. Scarcely a street but what was littered with debris, and many houses were uninhabitable by reason of being unroofed or through the breaking of water and drain pipes.
“We’ve got to get busy and help!” exclaimed Ned. “See! there’s another volunteer corps being organized. Let’s join it. We can’t get any wetter; and it will help to take Bob’s mind off his trouble,” Ned added in lower tones to Jerry.
“You’re right, old man. Work is the best thing for that. Come on, Bob, let’s get busy. You, too, Andy Rush!”
“That’s what I want to do--help!” cried the excitable lad. “Save lives--put out fire--pump a cellar dry--build up a chimney--here we go--come on, everybody--let her go--whoop!”
“If he keeps on that way he won’t get much done,” commented Bob with a smile.
“Let him go,” advised Jerry. “Talk is his safety valve. I’d hate to think what would happen to him if he couldn’t work off his energy that way.”
Just then Ned saw his father talking to the mayor of the town, and hurried over to them.
“Ah, Ned!” exclaimed Mr. Slade, “we were just beginning to worry about you. This is awful--terrible. I have thrown open my department store to the use of the relief corps. We will house and feed as many there as we can. Other merchants are doing the same. You boys may bring any unfortunates you meet. The salespeople, and everyone there, has orders to spare nothing.”
“That’s bully, Dad!” exclaimed Ned. “We were just going to start in and help. We had to go off after our boat that got adrift.”
“So I understand. Well, I’ll tell your mother you’re all right.”
“And if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you let my mother know I’m safe?” asked Jerry. “Then I won’t have to go home.”
“Yes, I’ll do that, and for you and Andy, too, Bob. Now boys, show what sort of stuff you’re made of. This is quite a calamity for Cresville, but other places have suffered worse, and it’s up to us to meet it bravely. Now, Mr. Mayor, don’t fail to call on me for any aid in my power to give.”
“Thank you, Mr. Slade, I’ll remember. You’re a citizen to be proud of. Mr. Baker has offered me all the funds I need.”
“That’s good,” murmured Bob, glad that his father, too, had taken a hand in helping the unfortunates.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” said Mr. Slade. “Mrs. Hopkins telephoned me a little while ago, Mr. Mayor, to the effect that she and some ladies were organizing a nursing corps, so that any injured persons will receive all the medical attention they need.”
“Good!” cried the town executive. “It’s a comfort to have such citizens in Cresville. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see how our relief work is coming on.”
“Yes, and I guess it’s up to us to get on the job, too!” added Jerry. “Come on, fellows.”
While Mr. Slade hurried off to send word of the safety of the lads, Jerry and his chums placed themselves at the service of one of the several chairmen of the relief corps that had hastily been organized. The boys found much to do, and it was not easy work, as the storm continued to rage.
“I think it’s slacking up a bit, though,” remarked Bob when there came a chance for him and his chums to take a breathing spell. They had worked hard and faithfully, even the excitable Andy Rush proving a real hero.
“Yes, the wind isn’t quite so strong,” agreed Jerry. “I’ll be glad, though, when we can get on something dry.”
“I wouldn’t mind the wet so much if we could get a hot cup of coffee,” spoke Bob, and his chums were so much of his opinion that they made no reference to his allusion to food.
“Speak of coffee and----” began Ned, not finishing the sentence, for with a wave of his hand he indicated a group of women, attired in men’s rubber coats, who were going about with a small cart, in which stood a steaming wash boiler full of it.
“Say, there’s my mother!” cried Jerry, and, sure enough, the wealthy widow, with some of her friends, was going about giving hot coffee to the drenched and weary workers. “That’s the stuff, Mother!” cried Jerry, heartily. “Got any left?”
“Indeed we have, boys!” answered Mrs. Rutledge, a neighbor of the Hopkinses.
A number of the volunteers surrounded the little cart, and soon the coffee was being enjoyed. Jerry hastily told his mother of saving the boat, and then, as there was still much to be done, the boys resumed their rescue labors.
Fortunately no fires had broken out to add to the horror, or the history of Cresville might have been different. As it was, damage was done that took years to repair.
But the storm was really too fierce to last a great while, and the wind gradually died down, though the rain continued to fall for some time.
But now most of the homeless had been given temporary shelter, and the injured sent to hospitals, or were taken care of in private houses. There was no more for the boys to do, and, at Jerry’s suggestion, they adjourned to his house, which was the nearest. There they put on some of his spare clothes, though Bob looked so funny in them that Ned and Jerry laughed.
“I don’t care,” said Bob. “I’m too worried to mind what you fellows say--or do.”
“You mean about your cousin and uncle?” asked Ned, sympathetically.
“Sure. The news will break mother and dad all up, I’m afraid. My uncle was mother’s brother, you know.”
“Well, maybe there’ll be better news in the morning,” said Jerry. “Even if the _Hassen_ sank, some other steamship may have picked up the passengers.”
“Well, we’ll have to wait and see,” said Bob. “What’s that?” he exclaimed, as the sound of a fall came from the next room.
Jerry rushed out, to return a moment later smiling, and remarked:
“You might have known. It was Professor Snodgrass. He was after some sort of a bug on the library wall, and stumbled over a chair. Mother says he started out with her on the rescue work, but every once in a while he’d see something he wanted as a specimen, and he’d stop to get it. Finally she went on without him.”
“Well, I’m glad this day is over,” said Ned. “It’s been a hard one!”
“That’s right,” agreed Bob. “Say,” he went on, “have you fellows thought any more about that submarine trip the professor wants to take?”
“I haven’t,” confessed Jerry. “There hasn’t been time.”
“I don’t see how we’re going to do it,” spoke Ned. “A submarine boat is quite a big proposition. It isn’t like building an aeroplane.”
“Well, we can think about it later,” suggested Jerry. “Just now I want to lie down and rest,” and he stretched out on a couch near the hearth, where a fire had been built.
Gradually something like order came out of the chaos in Cresville. Many willing hands worked hard to repair the damage, and the next day most of the streets were cleared. Then came the slower process of repairing the damaged buildings and the recovery of the injured. But with that this story has nothing to do.
Eagerly the boys looked for further reports of the steamship _Hassen_. The bad news was only too soon confirmed. The next day’s papers contained an account of the wreck of several vessels.
Among the dispatches was a story of the foundering of the ship on which Mr. Sheldon and his daughter Grace had sailed from Germany.
“Well, that ends it,” said Bob, mournfully, when, with his two chums, he had read the account. “Poor Uncle Nelson! That’s the last of him. And he was such a jolly man, too. Poor Grace!”
Jerry seemed to be in a brown study. He seemed to neither hear nor see his friends.
“No!” he suddenly exclaimed.
“What do you mean?” asked Ned curiously.
“It isn’t the end, fellows!” vigorously went on Jerry, springing to his feet, and beginning to pace the room. “There may be a chance yet!”
“For whom?” demanded Bob.
“Your uncle!” was the answer. “Even if the vessel did sink he and his daughter may have taken to a boat. And some of those lifeboats can live through a bad storm. Boys, I’ve got a plan. Let’s take the _Comet_ and sail around the place where the _Hassen_ is supposed to have gone down. It’s a bare chance, but it’s worth taking. Are you with me?”
“Of course!” cried Ned. “We’ll start at once. Maybe we can pick them up--and some other castaways, too. Of course we’re with you, Jerry, old man!”
Bob said nothing, but there was more than words in the manner in which he clasped Jerry’s hand.
NODDY AND BILL
“There, I guess that will do!”
“Should it not be put up a little farther forward?”
“No, it will light up better where it is. Besides, we can’t move it any farther forward, or it will interfere with the hydroplane lever.”
The above colloquy took place between Jerry, Ned and Bob in the big shed that housed the motorship _Comet_, a few hours after their decision to start in their air craft in search of the wreck of the _Hassen_. The boys had lost no time going over their wonderful craft to put her in the best possible condition for a long, and possibly dangerous, flight.
They had determined to start at once on the search, for well they knew the terrible distress the shipwrecked persons might be in--with nothing but an open boat between them and the vast ocean.
But there were a few needful things to be done, and one was the installation of a large searchlight, and it was concerning this that the talk had been.
Bob was of the opinion that the big lamp should go farther toward the bow, but Jerry had his own reasons for placing it where it was. The light was a new one, much larger than the one heretofore in use, and it had been purchased and installed in a hurry.
“For we may have to stay on the wing all night,” said Ned, “and this light may enable us to locate even a small boat on the ocean.”
“But if we do find my uncle and cousin in a small boat, how can we save them?” asked Bob.
“Easily enough, if the sea isn’t too rough,” replied Jerry. “We can drop the hydroplanes, and descend to them. If it’s too rough we can drop a rope, and haul them up, or even tow the boat if we have to. I’m not worrying about that part of it. The thing to do first is to find them.”
“And that isn’t going to be so easy,” observed Bob, with a sigh.
“Oh, don’t be crossing bridges until you can hear the rustling of their wings,” spoke Ned, with a smile at his chum. “Now let’s get busy, stock up, and set out on this cruise. We’ve lost a lot of time as it is.”
“That’s right,” agreed Jerry. “But we’re doing the best we can.”
“I know that,” spoke Bob, with a grateful look. “Our folks say it’s mighty kind of you boys to take this trouble.”
“Huh! Why wouldn’t we?” demanded Ned. “I guess we’re as much interested in this rescue as you are, Bob Baker.”
“Well, it’s good of you. I’m glad it was the storm that sunk the _Hassen_, and not that German submarine. If that boat had rammed the steamer she might have gone down so quickly that no one would have had a chance for life.”
“Oh, try to forget that submarine,” protested Jerry. “You’re getting it on the brain.”
“Like Professor Snodgrass,” spoke Ned. “Only a little while ago, when I went in the house, Jerry, to get some of that high tension wire, he asked me if we had started on it yet.”
“What’d you tell him?”
“That we had other fish to fry. I spoke of our trip in the _Comet_ and of course he wanted to come along. He said if he couldn’t get his hermit crab specimens right away he might find some new bugs up in the air. So I told him he was welcome to come.”
“That’s right,” agreed Jerry. “We may need his help if it comes to a rescue.”
“The only trouble is,” remarked Bob, with a smile, “that if we sight that submarine again the professor may insist on being put aboard so he can get to the bottom of the sea. What will we do then?”
“Wait until it happens--worry then,” advised Jerry, with a laugh. “I don’t imagine that submarine is within a thousand miles of us.”
“Me either,” added Ned.
But neither he nor Jerry realized how soon their idle words were to be proven wrong.
All haste was made in preparing the _Comet_ for her rescue trip. The parents of the boys thoroughly approved of it, for the motor lads had undertaken so many strenuous “stunts” in their craft that even Mrs. Hopkins no longer worried much when Jerry and his chums went out in her.
“Well, I guess we’re ready to start,” announced Jerry, a little later, after a look at the airship. Everything had been put in first class shape, and the rudder, that had given so much trouble before, had been replaced by a different one.
“Look who’s there,” said Bob in a low voice, nodding toward the roadway in front of the Hopkins house.
“Noddy Nixon,” muttered Jerry.
“Yes, and Bill Berry is with him,” went on Bob. “They seem to be looking in here pretty sharply.”
“Yes, they probably see that we’re getting ready for a trip,” spoke Ned. “I hope they won’t try to follow us, and make trouble.”
Jerry looked annoyed. Noddy and Bill were staring insolently in the direction of the open shed which housed the airship. Even a passer-by could see that it was in readiness for a flight.
Jerry, who, with his chums, had not seen much of Noddy since the bully and his crony had vainly tried to get the sixty nuggets of gold, as told in the last volume, started toward the front gate. Noddy saw him coming, but did not move.
“Were you looking for me?” asked Jerry, in no friendly voice.
“I don’t know as I was,” returned Noddy, in surly tones.
“If you are,” put in Ned, who had stepped to the side of his chum, “you won’t find any gold nuggets to try and get away from us this time.”
“Huh! Think you’re mighty smart; don’t you?” sneered Bill Berry.
“We were smart enough to fool you and the Dominion police you set on us,” laughed Bob. “Now will you have gravy on your pancakes?”
“Don’t you talk that way to us!” growled Bill. “If you do----”
“Oh, come on, we don’t want anything to do with them,” said Noddy quickly, taking his crony by the arm and leading him to one side.
“Glad you’ve come to that conclusion,” spoke Jerry, as he turned back toward the airship shed. “Come on, fellows,” he added to his chums, “we’d better get started. Bob, ask Professor Snodgrass if he’s ready.”
Noddy and Bill started down the street. They were talking earnestly together.
“They’re going off on another trip, that’s sure,” Noddy said.
“I guess so,” growled Bill. “But I don’t see that it makes any difference to us.”
“Oh, don’t you?” asked Noddy. “Well, it might. I’ve a notion to get out my airship and follow them.”
“What for? Because I need the money; that’s what for.”
“Money? How do you know they’re going after money?”
“Because they ’most always are. Now, Bill, it’s like this. Everything we’ve done, lately, has been a fizzle. We’ve lost out every time.”
“Well, it was as much your fault as mine,” growled Bill.
“Maybe it was,” assented Noddy, who seemed to have some special reason for not wanting to quarrel with his crony. “But when Jerry and his two chums start off it’s ’most always because they can make something out of it. Now I need money.”
“So do I, for that matter.”
“Our last trip didn’t pan out,” went on Noddy, “and my father has shut down on me. I’ve got to get some cash, and the only way I know to get it is to follow these chaps. They may be going out to locate another gold mine.”
“Well, I’m with you then,” agreed Bill. “Is your airship ready to run?”
“I can make her so in a little while. Let’s go back to our house.”
For a time, after getting into trouble, Noddy had left town with his parents, who thought of remaining away permanently, but Mr. Nixon had since moved back to Cresville, though living in a different house than the one he formerly occupied. Noddy, as my former readers know, had a large airship. It was one of several he had owned, and, though it was nowhere near as complete and powerful as the _Comet_, was quite serviceable.
So, while Noddy and Bill were preparing to follow our friends, in the hope of trailing them to some hidden fortune, Jerry and his chums were getting ready for the rescue flight.
“I’ll be with you in a few minutes!” called Professor Snodgrass when he was told that the start would soon be made. “I just want to get a small net, with a long handle, because I may see some rare insects in the upper air. We’ll have to let the sea crabs go for a time, until you boys can build a submarine.”
“I’m afraid that will be a long while,” said Jerry, as he looked to see that the plane-shifting levers worked properly.
It was decided to navigate at first as an aeroplane, since, after the storm, the weather was very calm. By telegraph, as good a description as possible had been obtained as to where the _Hassen_ had been last seen. The boys intended to cruise around over this spot in ever-increasing circles.
“All aboard!” cried Bob, as he climbed up on the main deck. “We’ve got enough to eat for two weeks.”
“Trust Chunky for that,” commented Ned with a smile. “Are you coming, Professor.”
“Yes!” cried the little scientist. “I think I have everything. I am going----” he had started from the house toward the airship, but stopped suddenly to peer at something on the ground.
“Oh, what a find!” he cried. “Oh, what a lucky find!”
In an instant he was on his knees and was carefully lifting into one of his boxes some little creature.
“What is it?” asked Jerry, with a smile.
“A very rare specimen of a green striped angle-worm,” was the answer. “I have been looking for one for years. Now, if I could only get another,” and the professor began searching on the ground.
“I’m afraid, Professor Snodgrass, that we can’t wait,” said Jerry. “We ought to be under way now.”
“All right,” was the answer. “Though it is a pity to lose this chance. I say, Dick,” called the scientist to the gardener, “if you see a green striped angle-worm----”
“I’ll be sure to kill it, Professor,” interrupted the man. “I know the creatures, eating up the cabbages, and everything else. I’ll kill every one I see.”
“No, no! For the love of science don’t do that!” was the appeal of the professor. “I beg of you not to do that. I will give you two dollars for every one you save for me, Dick!”
“Do you mean that, Professor?”
“I certainly do.”
“Then I’ll search for ’em with a dark lantern to-night,” was the answer. “I’ll have a lot for you when you come back.”
“Ah, what a lucky day!” cried the professor, as he got aboard the _Comet_.
Good-byes were called to Mrs. Hopkins, and to the mothers of Bob and Ned, who had called at Jerry’s house to see the start. The boys took their places, the professor was in the cabin, writing out a description of his latest find, and all was in readiness.
“Here we go!” cried Jerry, as he swung over the lever that started the propeller motor. The _Comet_ rolled across the smooth starting ground. Then, as the elevating rudder was tilted the craft shot into the air like a bird, soon attaining a good height.
At the same time, off to one side of the town, another aeroplane darted forward, trailing the one carrying our friends.
“We’ve got good weather, anyhow,” remarked Ned, as he and his chums stood in the pilot house of the _Comet_, which Jerry was guiding on her aerial way. “It couldn’t be better.”
“That’s right,” agreed Bob. “I’m glad, too, for the sake of Uncle Nelson and Cousin Grace--that is, if they are still alive. Bad weather in an open boat at sea is terrible!”
“Oh, I think they’re alive,” spoke Jerry, cheerfully. “Just think how many cases there have been of shipwrecked persons living for weeks in open boats, with hardly any food and water.”
“But it’s awful, just the same,” sighed Bob.
“Oh, we’ll pick ’em up,” declared Jerry, with more cheerfulness than he really felt.
The _Comet_ sailed steadily onward, high above the earth. It would be an hour or more, on the route Jerry had selected, before they would be over the ocean. Then the real search would begin.
Meanwhile the occupants of the motorship busied themselves about various tasks. Bob, as might be expected, was in the galley, getting ready the next meal. Ned went about the machinery, oiling it, and seeing that all the apparatus was working properly. Jerry remained in the pilot house. All of the boys took turns steering, but Jerry seemed more fitted for this exacting task than either Ned or Bob.
As for Professor Snodgrass he was still engaged in making notes about the new worm he had found. He paid little attention to the working of the airship, though, in case of necessity, he always lent his aid.
The boys had gone on for perhaps ten miles when Ned, looking back, and seeing a speck in the sky, called out:
“I say! What’s that? A bird?”
Bob, who had come out on the rear deck where Ned was, looked long and earnestly.
“That isn’t a bird,” he said. “It’s another airship, or I’m mistaken.”
“Let’s tell Jerry,” suggested Ned.
“And get the glass to make a better observation,” added his chum. “It seems to be following us.”
Jerry set the automatic steering gear, which, for a certain time, would guide the airship without the attention of human hands. Then the tall lad took a long and careful observation through the telescope.
“Well?” asked Ned, somewhat impatiently.
“It’s an airship, all right,” announced Jerry, “and, unless I’m making a big mistake, it’s Noddy Nixon’s.”
“What!” cried Ned and Bob together.
“That’s what I believe,” went on Jerry. “Take a look, you fellows.”
In turn Ned and Bob viewed the speck in the air behind them. Both agreed that it was an airship, but they were not of one opinion as to the ownership. Ned was sure it was not Noddy’s, while Bob agreed with Jerry.
“If it is Noddy, what are you going to do?” asked Ned. “Mind you, I’m not dead positive it isn’t. Just suppose it is--what’ll you do?”
“Nothing,” answered Jerry, as he turned to go back to the pilot house. “Just keep on--that’s all. When he finds that we’re going to stay out over the ocean for several days, maybe he won’t be so anxious to follow us. So we’ll just keep on; that’s all.”
The professor only looked up dreamily when told that they were being followed by an airship. All he said was:
“I hope it doesn’t scare away all the rare insects.”
Then he went outside to sit on the after deck, and look for unusual specimens that he might capture. Bob and Ned took turns watching the other craft through the glass, while Jerry steered. It did not take long for Ned to agreed with his two chums that it was indeed Noddy Nixon’s craft that was following them.
“You fellows are right,” he said. “Are you still going to do nothing, Jerry?”
“Well, we might try a little trick on him.”
“Blanket him, as one sail boat does another in a race,” said Jerry. “We can sail all around him, you know, even if he has a powerful craft. So, when we get near the coast, we’ll just turn back, circle over him, and get low enough down to cut off some of his air. That will stall him, and he’ll be glad enough to volplane down to earth. He can do it, for we’ve seen him lots of times. Then we’ll go on, and I guess Noddy will have enough so he won’t want to follow--especially when he sees us heading out to sea.”
Jerry slowed up the _Comet_ so that Noddy’s craft gained. By means of the glass the figures of Noddy and Bill could be made out plainly now. When Noddy found that he was approaching too close he tried to slacken speed. But he was too late.
Turning on full power Jerry turned, and made a dash for his enemy. At first Noddy feared a collision, and even cried out a protest. But the tall motor lad knew what he was doing. A moment later, and just as the seacoast came in sight, he soared closer to Noddy’s craft, and hovered over it. This, together with the suction caused by the powerful propellers of the _Comet_, created an “air pocket.” Jerry had counted on this.
In an instant Noddy’s craft dived downward, but, as the tall lad well knew, Noddy realized his danger and took the usual precautions. He shut off his engine, and volplaned, or glided, down to earth. As Jerry watched him nearing the white sands of the beach he swerved the _Comet_ and, with the throttles wide open, sent her out to sea.
“There, I guess he’s had enough of trying to follow us this time,” said Jerry, grimly.
And, down on the beach, where they made a safe, but rather sudden landing, Noddy and Bill accused each other of being to blame for the accident.
Meanwhile the _Comet_ kept on, the motor boys chuckling to themselves at the way they had made Noddy take to earth. He could not start upward again in time to follow them, for the _Comet_ was soon out of sight of land.
And now the real search began. Dinner was served by Bob, and a bountiful meal it was. Down below glittered the calm sea--calm after all the turmoil that had sent several gallant ships to the bottom.
Professor Snodgrass busied himself with his scientific work, now and then making a capture of some upper-air insect, or making notes of those already in his possession.
Ned, Bob and Jerry kept watchful eyes on the waters below them. They saw many sailing and steam vessels, and were themselves the cynosure of many eyes which gazed aloft at the fine air craft.
Jerry had worked out, as he best could, the approximate position of the _Hassen_ as it was reported when she was last seen. Getting to a place near this, the airship was sent about in ever-increasing circles, covering a wide area over the surface of the sea.
The motorship worked to perfection. Not a trace of the former trouble was noticeable. Jerry and his chums had done their work well.
The night of the first day of the search began to settle down. The big search lamp was set aglow, and by the aid of its powerful rays the boys looked for a sight of a wreck, or some small boat that might have come from the _Hassen_.
If they expected to have success at once they were mistaken. But Jerry pointed out that this could hardly be.
“It’s a chance--and a bare chance--that we’re taking,” he said. “The only thing to do is to keep on.”
And keep on they did. All that night they circled about, taking watch-and-watch. The morning dawned, finding them far at sea, and without having sighted that which they sought.
It was toward the close of the second day when the professor, who was out on the rear deck, trying to capture a strange bug that had been following the airship, suddenly called:
“Look here, boys! What’s this? The submarine, or a wreck?”
The three rushed to his side, Jerry setting the automatic steerer as he left the pilot house. The professor pointed down toward the water.
There, rising and falling sluggishly on the surface, was some craft. And, at the sight of it Jerry cried:
“That’s no submarine! It’s a wreck, sure enough. A steamship, too. Maybe she’s the _Hassen_! We’ll soon find out!”
THE LONE SAILOR
Down shot the _Comet_, as Jerry shifted the depression rudder. Down, down, closer and closer to the surface of the ocean, where rolling sluggishly, showing her water-logged condition, was the wrecked steamship. Anxiously the boys looked to see if she should prove to be the craft for which they were looking. She seemed silent and deserted--as though all had fled from her, or had, perhaps, been washed away by the angry sea.
“Stand by to lower the hydroplanes!” called Jerry to Ned and Bob. “We’ll try a landing on them.”
“Is it calm enough?” asked Professor Snodgrass, who had, on hearing of the sighting of the wreck, left his scientific work to give the boys any aid that might be needed.
“Yes, there’s only a gentle swell,” answered the tall steersman. “It will be safe to use the hydroplanes.”
On these the motorship could float, motionless if need be, while the boys investigated the wreck.
“All ready there, Ned?” asked Jerry.
“All ready, old man.”
“Here, Bob, you give me a hand with this wheel. I may have to make a sudden turn in case the wreck drifts too close to us.”
“All right, Jerry,” and the stout lad, who had been in the galley up to the time of sighting the steamer, hurried to the pilot house.
“Professor, you might give Ned a little help,” went on the steersman. “Those planes haven’t been used lately, and they may be a trifle stiff.”
“Of course, Jerry,” and the scientist, laying aside his precious notes, went out on the main deck.
Nearer and nearer to the wreck went the _Comet_. Every moment the boys dared spare from the wheels and levers they peered at the steamship, rolling lazily on the swell below them.
Would she prove to be the _Hassen_?
“Can you make out any name?” asked Ned, standing ready with his hand on the hydroplane lever.
“Not yet,” answered the professor.
It was Bob who made the welcome discovery, and perhaps, since it was Bob’s relatives they had come to save, it was very fitting that the stout lad should have had this honor. Bob gave a cry, which caused Jerry to turn and look at him.
“What is it?” asked the tall lad.
“That steamer! She’s the _Hassen_, all right! I just caught a glimpse of the name under her stern as she rolled that time.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive! There! You can see for yourself!”
Jerry looked, as the vessel rolled again, and he, too, saw the name in gold letters on the black paint of the stern. The wreck was indeed that of the _Hassen_.
“Well, we’ve found her,” said Jerry in a low voice. “Now to see if anyone’s aboard. It doesn’t look so. Here we go, Ned! Down with that lever!”
“Down she is!”
A moment later Jerry shut off the power from the big propellers, and the _Comet_ swept gently to the surface of the sea, where she floated close to the wrecked steamer.
“Well, she didn’t sink after all,” said Bob. “I wonder what became of the passengers and crew? For there doesn’t appear to be a soul aboard.”
“That’s right,” agreed Ned, “and she doesn’t seem to be sinking, even. There’s a sort of mystery about her.”
“Perhaps not so much,” put in Jerry, as he watched to note the drift of the wreck and the airship. He did not want a collision which might damage the frailer craft. “Possibly in the storm some water came in, or the engines may have stopped. That would cause a panic, and the boats may have been lowered, and have taken everyone off, although, all the while, the steamer was in good condition. I’ve read of such cases.”
“That is very true,” said Professor Snodgrass. “In time of storm and peril one loses control of one’s self, and does things one would not otherwise do. Probably the poor souls who deserted this ship would have done better to stay aboard.”
“Too bad!” exclaimed Bob, mournfully. “If my uncle and cousin had stayed here they might be alive now.”
“And they may be still!” cried Jerry, quickly. “We’re not going to give up yet. Why, I think it’s good luck that we located the wreck. We did it sooner than I expected. And when we go aboard we may find some message they left--we may even find that mysterious object, or whatever it was, that your uncle was bringing to this country, Bob.”
“Are you going aboard?” asked Ned.
“Certainly. Why not? The sea is calm, and it will be safe to make our craft fast to the ship. We’ll take a look around and then start off again and search for the small boats. It’s them we want, for if any persons were saved from the _Hassen_ they’ll be drifting about in small boats.”
The _Comet_ was some distance from the _Hassen_ now, but Jerry slowly started the propellers, which would take the air craft up to the ship over the surface of the water on the hydroplanes as well as though they were sailing through the air, though not so swiftly.
“Stand by with a line to make her fast, if you can see anything to tie to, Ned,” called Jerry, as they approached closer to the wreck.
“Hadn’t we better go around on the other side? We may find an accommodation ladder down, or part of one, and that will make it easier to board her,” suggested Bob.
“That’s right, Chunky!” exclaimed Jerry. “Hold on there a minute, Ned. I’ll put her around.”
On the other side of the _Hassen_ the boys saw part of a ladder dangling over the side.
“That’s good!” exclaimed Bob, with a sigh of content. He was getting stouter than ever and he did not relish the idea of any unnecessary gymnastics in boarding the wreck.
“Make fast to that, if you can’t see anything else, Ned,” suggested Jerry. Ned, however, found a projection on the side of the wrecked craft, and took a couple of turns of the rope about it. The _Comet_ was now drifting with the _Hassen_.
Up the broken ladder scrambled the boys, followed by the professor. The decks were a scene of confusion, showing the power of the gale, and also the terror that must have inspired passengers and crew as they were leaving what they believed to be an ill-fated ship. One or two life boats were found with their sides or bows stove in, showing that the waves must, at times, have swept over the vessel.
“She’s entirely deserted,” said Jerry, in a low voice. “Not a soul left aboard. And yet, if they had only known she would keep afloat, how much safer they all would have been here.”
“Well, I guess if we’d been here, and had seen the big waves,” suggested Ned, “we’d have gone in the boats, too. Though with a heavy sea running I’d hate to trust myself in even a big life boat.”
“Suppose we go below,” said Jerry. “We may find some trace of Bob’s uncle and cousin.”
“Will it be safe?” asked the stout lad.
“Safe! Why not?” Ned wanted to know.
“I mean she may suddenly sink while we’re below.”
“Nonsense! This steamer, aside from the wreck of her upper works, and possibly of the engines, is sound and tight,” declared Jerry.
“That’s right,” agreed Ned. “She doesn’t seem to have taken in much water, either. This steamer would be valuable if we could get her to port. There’s the cargo, too. It’s a good find for someone.”
Looking about them, and making sure their airship was well fastened so that it would not drift away, the boys and the professor started below. They were wondering what they would find. But even in their wildest imaginings they did not dream of finding what confronted them a moment later.
For, as they started to descend, they heard a noise from below, and up a companionway came a voice calling:
“Who’s there? What do you want? I’m in command here, and I’m going to salvage this craft. Avast and belay! Who are you, anyhow, boarding me on the high seas? Who are you?”
The boys started back, and a moment later there jumped into view a grizzled sailor--who had been in sole possession of the wrecked ship. He held a boiler slicing bar in his hand, and he glared, rather than looked, a welcome at our friends.
“What do you want here?” growled the lone sailor.
A QUEER STORY
For a moment the boys did not know what to do--or what to say. Jerry confessed, afterward, that he feared the lone sailor might be a lunatic--made mad by his sufferings in the storm and wreck--and the tall lad reasoned that it would hardly be safe even to parley with him. Ned and Bob also admitted they felt much the same way. As for Professor Snodgrass, no sooner had he come aboard, than he saw a new kind of bug, and so intent was he on its capture that he paid no further attention to the boys or the sailor, either.
“Well, what do you want?” again growled the latter, advancing in what seemed a menacing way toward our friends. “Are you trying to get in ahead of me?”
Jerry was the first to speak.
“We came here to look for friends,” spoke the tall lad. “We’re not trying to get in ahead of you, or anything like that. In fact we didn’t know that you, or anyone, was aboard. We are seeking friends--perhaps you can tell us something about them?”
“Ha! That’s a likely yarn!” sneered the sailor. “Tell that to the marines! What do you want here, anyhow?”
“I tell you we are looking for friends,” repeated Jerry. “They are the uncle and cousin of Bob Baker, here. We are looking for a Mr. Nelson Sheldon and his daughter Grace, who came from Germany on this ship. Can you tell us what became of them?”
At the sound of the names the sailor started. The iron bar dropped from his hand, and a different look came over his face.
“Is that true?” he cried. “You’re not stringing me; are you? Is that a straight yarn?”
“It certainly is,” said Jerry, a trifle stiffly, for he did not like this talk, nor was he in the habit of having his word doubted. “We live in Cresville, not far from Boston. We heard of this wreck--it was reported by wireless in the papers--and we came in our airship to see if we could pick up any survivors, hoping to find Mr. Sheldon and his daughter among them. We were much surprised when we saw the steamer still afloat. If you like you can look over the side and see our aeroplane--the _Comet_.”
The man did not answer. But he did do as Jerry suggested. He went up on deck and looked over to where the craft of the air floated on the waves, made fast to the _Hassen_. Then the sailor, smiting his thigh with his palm, making a sound like a pistol shot, cried:
“Well, I’ll be hornswoggled! Avast and belay! Davy Jones himself couldn’t beat this! And you came out here in that?”
“We surely did,” said Jerry. “Now do you believe us?”
“I guess I’ll have to,” said the sailor. “I ask your pardon, mates, but you see I’m naturally suspicious. I’ve been through a deal of hardships, like, and this is my first chance to make some money. I’m going to get this ship to port if I can, and claim salvage.”
“But what about the Sheldons?” asked Bob, eagerly. “Were they aboard? Are they drowned? What has become of my uncle and cousin? If they’re not here we’ll have to go in search of them.”
“Easy, son, easy!” exclaimed the old sailor, in gentle tones. “Once more I asks your pardon for the way I received you folks. I didn’t mean anything by it. And to think that I acted that way toward friends of Mr. Sheldon--after all he did for me! It’s too bad!”
“Then he was here?” asked Bob, eagerly.
“He was, son, he and his daughter. But they’re not here now--nobody stayed but myself, though it would have been better for all hands if they had. The old _Hassen_ is tight yet.”
“But where are they--where is my uncle?” cried Bob, a little impatient at the man’s long-winded talk.
“They went off in one of the small boats,” said the sailor. “Sit ye down, lads, and I’ll tell you all about it. Sit ye down. Oh, but it’s good to see friends again! I’ve been lonesome these last days, just drifting along. Sit down and I’ll spin you the yarn in proper fashion.”
“We can’t stay long,” said Jerry, foreseeing a lengthy tale. “If our friends aren’t here we must go aloft and search for them. They may be suffering.”
“I don’t doubt but what they are,” returned the sailor, in a low voice. “They went off in an open boat, and there wasn’t much time to put water and provisions aboard. But I won’t keep you long. I’ll tell you what happened then--at the time of the storm--and since. Your friends may not be as far away as you think.”
“Where? Where are they?” cried Bob, eagerly.
“I’ll tell you, lad. I’ll tell you, only I have to do it in my own way,” said the sailor, and Jerry made his stout chum a sign not to interrupt if he could help it. That would be so much time gained.
The man told, as briefly as he could, how they had sailed from Germany, and had had, until near the close of the voyage, fine weather. Mr. Sheldon and his daughter, Grace, were among the passengers, and the sailor, who gave his name as Jacob Denton, came to know Bob’s uncle quite well, from having rendered him a slight service.
Then one day there had been a fire drill, and the sailor, through some mistake, had been in danger of severe injury by the slipping of a rope. Mr. Sheldon, who was standing near him, acted promptly, and saved him. This made Jacob Denton very grateful, and it was no wonder that he regretted the rather surly way in which he had greeted Bob and his chums.
“But I thought you had come to take away my right to salvage,” said the sailor. “You know, if a vessel is deserted, and someone picks it up at sea, or if he stays aboard, and brings her to port, he is entitled to salvage--that’s a certain percentage of her value and the value of the cargo. If I get mine I’ll never go to sea again.”
“Then I hope you get it,” said Jerry. “But what happened to Mr. Sheldon and his daughter?”
“I’ll tell you,” resumed the sailor. “As I said, we had good weather, and it looked as though we would make port without a hitch. Then came the storm, and everything went wrong.
“For a while our captain held on, and then, when the wind got worse, we plunged and pitched about until there was almost a panic among the passengers. Of course it was a bad storm, but I’ve seen worse, and I didn’t mind it so much.
“Then came a report that we were sinking, and a cry to man the small boats. Some water did come into the engine room, when the ship started some of her plates, but the bulkhead doors were closed and there wasn’t really much danger. But you know how it is when you’re at sea in a storm. It doesn’t take much water inside a ship to scare the passengers, and sometimes the crew, too.
“Things went from bad to worse. Then it really came on to blow hard, and the captain didn’t know what to do. He saw it would be risky to launch the small boats, but more water came in, and the passengers fairly demanded to be set adrift. So the captain had nothing else to do.
“Some of our small boats were smashed, but we managed to get the others over the side--them and some life rafts, and everyone but I took to them--the captain and crew as well as the passengers.”
“Did Mr. Sheldon and his daughter go?” asked Bob eagerly.
“They did, son. I helped them stock their boat, which was one of the small ones. It was No. 7, but it was a good craft, and seaworthy. They went in that.”
“And you didn’t go?” asked Ned.
“No. Mr. Sheldon wanted me to, but I saw that he had a couple of good sailors in his boat, and I said I’d take my chance staying on the old _Hassen_. I’m glad now that I did. I wanted more under my feet in a storm at sea than the inch planking of a small boat. So I stayed--I wish the others had, too,” he added in rather gloomy tones.
“Don’t--don’t you think my uncle has any chance?” Bob asked.
“Yes, son, a chance--a bare chance. I didn’t think so until last evening, but I did then.”
“Why then?” asked Jerry curiously.
“Because I saw him again--he and his daughter in the small boat!” was the unexpected answer.
“You saw them?” cried Bob. “Where?”
“Near this ship. They were drifting about--they’d lost their oars, I guess, and the current set them back here. I saw them plainly, but I couldn’t get to them, and they couldn’t get to me. Then a fog came up and I lost them. But I saw them right off there,” and the sailor pointed to the port side of the wrecked ship.
“Then let’s go in search of them!” cried Bob. “Come on, Jerry, before it’s too late.”
“All right,” agreed the tall lad. “Is that all?” he asked of the sailor.
“About all, lad. After all the boats had gone off in the storm I stayed aboard here. Plenty of ’em wanted me to come in their boats, but I knew I’d be safer here. And I was. The storm blew itself out and--here I am.”
He paused a moment and added:
“Where the others are--who knows? Maybe Davy Jones.”
“But you think Mr. Sheldon and his daughter have a chance; don’t you?” asked Jerry quickly.
“Yes, son. They weathered the storm, that’s sure, for I saw them afterward off to the eastward in their small boat.”
“Just those two?” Ned wanted to know.
“Just them two. Probably them as was in with ’em had been washed out, or leaped overboard. Sometimes they do that in a storm--they get half-crazed, like. The oars, too, must have been lost or else Mr. Sheldon would have rowed over to me. As it was I saw him and his daughter plainly. They waved to me, and then the fog shut them out.”
“But we’ve got a chance to save them--and we’re going to!” cried Bob. “Come on, fellows!”
The old sailor quickly concluded his story.
“When the storm passed,” he said, “I managed to get steam up in one of the pumping engines, and I cleaned out the engine room. But one man can’t work the machinery, so I’m just letting her drift. I’m going to get up a bit of a sail, if I can, to give her steerage way, and then I’ll make for the nearest port. If I can fetch it my salvage money will make me rich.”
“Hadn’t you better let us take you in our airship,” suggested Jerry. “We have plenty of room, and you could hire a tug and get the _Hassen_ to port more quickly.”
“What! Trust myself in an airship? I guess not!” cried the old sailor. “I’ll stick here, thank you just the same. And I hope you find your uncle, son,” he said to Bob.
“If we do, we’ll come back and get you,” promised Ned.
“I may be in port ahead of you,” was the sailor’s answer. “Once I get up a bit of sail I can make pretty good speed. I’m sorry I was so surly when you came aboard. I was below, studying out what to do, and I sure thought I had been boarded by some parties that wanted to cheat me out of my prize.”
“We were surprised to find anyone aboard,” said Jerry. “If you like we’ll help you raise a sail. I guess we can spare that time.”
“Surely,” said Bob. “Now that we know about where to look for my uncle it won’t be such a puzzle.”
A sail was quickly rigged up on one of the stumps of the wireless masts, and then, bidding the lone sailor good-bye, and promising to look for him in case they should be successful in their quest, the boys and Professor Snodgrass boarded the _Comet_ and prepared to start off.
THE DRIFTING BOAT
“Queer yarn that sailor told; wasn’t it,” remarked Ned, when the _Comet_ had soared aloft, leaving the wreck of the _Hassen_ below on the heaving billows.
“It was that,” agreed Jerry, “but it’s mighty lucky we found the ship, and met him. Otherwise we wouldn’t have known where to look for the small boat.”
“As it is it’s going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” commented Bob. “I don’t believe we’ll ever find them. Or, if we do, it will be--too late!”
“Quit giving us such a correct imitation of gloom and despair,” exclaimed Jerry. “Go cook something, Chunky, and you’ll feel better.”
“I guess I will,” agreed the stout lad, with a smile. “I’m hungry.”
“So am I,” admitted Ned. “We all are. Get up a good meal, Chunky. It will do us all good!”
It was getting late in the afternoon, for they had spent more time aboard the wreck than they realized. Now they were on the go once more, seeking the small boat containing Mr. Sheldon and his daughter.
Off to the eastward sailed the _Comet_ in the direction indicated by the lone sailor. Jerry kept his craft far enough down so that there would be no chance of missing the boat. But from her position in the air, those aboard the _Comet_ could easily see even a small object on the surface of the sea, and thus, in this search, the boys would have an advantage over a water craft, for the range of vision of those aboard such a vessel is comparatively limited.
Jerry sent the motorship about in ever-increasing circles, and the eyes of one or another of the boys were constantly directed downward. They would take no chances of missing the small boat.
“Grub’s ready!” called Bob. “Shall I bring yours to the pilot house, Jerry?”
“No, I guess we all might as well sit down at the table and eat in comfort.”
“But we may miss the boat,” objected the stout lad.
“I’ll start the gas machine, and we’ll stay as nearly as we can in one place until after we’ve eaten,” said Jerry. “If the boat drifts within range we can easily see it through the glass floor. I’ll work the propellers just enough against the wind to hold us almost stationary. Get busy on the gas generator, Ned.”
Soon a hissing in the motor room told them that the powerful vapor was being made. It would soon fill the lifting-bags, and the _Comet_ could then navigate as a dirigible balloon.
Until such time, however, Jerry kept her going as an aeroplane, watching below for any small boat.
“It will soon be dark,” Ned remarked.
“Then we’ll start the searchlight,” answered Jerry. “How about the gas?”
“I guess we’ve got pressure enough.”
“Then fill the containers. I’m anxious to get at some of Chunky’s grub.”
In a short time the airship floated almost motionless above the sea, the propellers moving just enough to overcome the slight wind. Then, needing no attention on the part of the boys, the _Comet_ could look after herself while our friends ate.
“Say, this is all to the horse radish!” cried Ned, as he tasted something which Bob put on his plate. “What is it?”
“Fried chicken,” answered the stout youth. “Glad you like it. It’s only canned, of course, but I seasoned it up, and----”
“It’s dandy!” interrupted Jerry. “Got plenty of it, Chunky, my boy?”
“You needn’t ever ask Bob that,” mumbled Ned, with his mouth full. “You can always trust him to cook enough. He’s thinking of himself.”
“Thanks,” returned the amateur cook.
With occasional glances through the glass floor of the dining cabin, the boys finished their meal. They felt much better after it, and, strangely enough, more hopeful.
It is wonderful how a satisfied appetite can make a person feel less gloomy. While before dinner something may seem impossible of execution, after a good meal difficulties vanish as if by magic.
It was so with the motor boys. Of course there was a certain element of luck, or chance, in their quest, as there is in anything in this world, but after Bob’s fine spread they felt that luck was going to be even more with them in the future than it had been in the past.
“Are you going to navigate to-night, or just drift about, Jerry?” asked Ned, as the tall lad went to the pilot house.
“I think we’ll drift. If we sail we might lose too much ground and have to come back over it in the morning. If what the old sailor thought was true--that Mr. Sheldon has no oars in his boat--he can’t make any progress himself. He’ll just have to drift about, at the mercy of the wind and ocean currents.
“Now the wind that blows him will also blow us, so we will be able to go in the same direction. Of course we can’t count on the ocean currents, but we’ll just have to take a chance on them. So I think we’ll keep ourselves up as a dirigible balloon, and only use the propellers if we find the wind is getting too strong for us.”
Jerry’s chums agreed with this line of reasoning. There was no need to appeal to Professor Snodgrass. He was interested only in his collection of bugs, and unless there was actual need of his services he seldom took any share in navigating the _Comet_. Just then he was busy trying to capture a little hopping insect he had seen on the deck.
“Look out!” suddenly cried Ned, as he saw the little scientist make a grab for the bug in question. This was on the after deck, around which was only a light railing, with spaces here and there to minimize the air pressure. The spaces were large enough for a man to slip through, and the professor was in imminent danger of doing this as he made a dart for the specimen.
Ned, alive to the risk Mr. Snodgrass was taking, slid toward him, and grabbed him by the feet. It was only just in time, too, for the professor might easily have gone overboard, falling a thousand feet into the sea below.
“Ah, I have him! The beauty!” cried the little bald-headed man, as he peered between his fingers at something held in his hand. “I have the prize!”
“And I have you!” panted Ned. “Do you realize that you nearly went overboard?”
“No! Did I really?” asked Mr. Snodgrass. “It was very good of you to catch me. I just couldn’t let that prize get away. It is a very rare specimen of a pink flea.”
“Gracious!” cried Jerry, who had run out of the pilot house on hearing Ned’s cry. “I hope there aren’t any more aboard!”
“I wish I could get half a dozen,” said the professor, as he rose from the deck. “I could sell them to various museums for a good sum.”
“Well, if you take many more chances like that,” said Ned with a laugh, “you’ll never get any more specimens--not even the hermit crabs you’re after.”
“Oh, I’ll be careful,” promised the scientist. “I do hope I can get those crabs. Do you think you boys will be able to manage a submarine when this trip is over?”
“We’ll see,” said Jerry, non-committally.
They cruised about a little longer, and then, as darkness came on, the big search-light was set aglow, making a white illumination on the surface of the sea. Jerry let the airship sink lower now, for he realized that to pick up a small boat during the night would be no easy task. They divided the night into watches, as one boy could easily do all that was required to the motors and engines, and, at the same time, keep watch out below.
The night passed without incident, save that the wind sprang up about three o’clock, making it necessary to work the propellers at a higher rate of speed to overcome the air currents. Then morning dawned, but there was no sight, on the heaving sea, of the small boat they sought. The wreck of the _Hassen_ had also disappeared below the horizon.
“And as for that submarine,” said Bob, “I guess that has gone back to Germany.”
“You see how groundless your fears were about her attacking the vessel your uncle was on,” spoke Ned. “You’re almost as bad as Andy Rush, Chunky.”
“Not quite,” said Jerry, with a laugh, defending his stout chum.
After breakfast they again started circling about, trying to locate the small boat. Every minute was precious now, for they all realized that Mr. Sheldon and his daughter might be suffering greatly from lack of food and water. They had been in the open boat for some time.
Noon came, and still no success.
“It doesn’t look very hopeful,” said Bob, with a sigh he could not hide.
“Oh, we’re not going to give up yet,” declared Jerry with a confidence he did not altogether feel. “We’ve got plenty of time yet to find them.”
The afternoon was wearing away. It looked as though the motor boys would have to spend another night floating above the sea.
Jerry, who was alone in the pilot house, called to Ned:
“I say, old fellow, come here a minute. I see something, but I’ve been staring at it so long that my eyes are swimming. Take a look and see what you make of it.”
Ned, with repressed excitement, looked to where his chum pointed. Then he took an observation through a powerful glass.
“It’s a small boat, all right,” he spoke finally, in a low voice, “and it’s drifting about. But whether it’s the one we are looking for is another question.”
“We’ll soon see,” returned Jerry, almost in a whisper. Then he speeded up the motor and headed the _Comet_ for that small speck on the great ocean.
THE SUBMARINE AGAIN
“That’s a boat from the _Hassen_, all right!”
It was Bob Baker who spoke, and his remark was made as the airship neared the small craft heaving up and down on the billows.
“What makes you think so?” asked Jerry, who was at the wheel of the _Comet_, directing her course toward the little boat they had sighted some time before.
“I can make out the name painted on the bows,” replied the stout youth, who was peering through a powerful telescope. “I can see the word ‘_Hassen_’ as plainly as anything.”
“Can you see anyone in the boat? That’s the most important thing,” rejoined Ned, who was standing by, ready to release the hydroplanes when Jerry should give the word.
“No, I can’t make out anyone,” said Bob, and his voice was not very hopeful. And then something of the spirit of his chum seemed to enter his soul, for he added in more hopeful tones: “But then, if it’s the boat my uncle and cousin were in they may be lying down, under a piece of canvas, or something like that. There’s a mass of something in the middle of the boat.”
“That’s the way to talk!” exclaimed Jerry. “We’ll just hope they’re in it until we get up to it and find out they’re not.”
“And, even then,” said Ned, bound to keep up the work of good cheer, “that may not be the boat your folks set out in, Chunky. It’s likely there’d be several lifeboats adrift, and if one of them hung around in this vicinity, there may be more. So if they’re not in that we’ll just look for another.”
“That is, providing this isn’t Boat No. 7,” spoke Bob. “If it is, and they’re not in it----”
He paused suggestively.
“That may not prove anything,” said Jerry quickly, for he noted the distress that had crept into Bob’s voice. “That old sailor may have been mistaken in the number of the boat. In the excitement aboard a ship supposed to be sinking, when everyone was anxious to save himself, I don’t see how he could be quite sure of anything. Well, we’ll know in another minute or so--know something, anyhow.”
The _Comet_ was quite close to the small boat, and now, even without the aid of the glass, the name “_Hassen_” could be made out on her bow. And it was also evident that, unless the two shipwrecked persons were huddled under a pile of sail-cloth amidships, they were not in the boat.
“Still, they may be there,” said Ned, hopefully, with a glance at Bob’s now despondent face.
“Let’s make sure that’s Boat No. 7, first,” suggested Jerry. “Drop the hydroplanes, Ned!”
In another moment the _Comet_ had alighted on the surface of the sea, where she rode lightly and easily, as it was very calm. Then, with the propellers gently revolving, Jerry sent his craft close to the small boat.
There came a cry from Bob.
“It is Lifeboat No. 7!” he gasped, pointing to a small figure under the name, where also appeared the number of persons the craft was supposed to carry. “That’s the boat my uncle and cousin were in,” he added. “But--but, they’re not in it now!”
Truly it did not seem so, for there was no sign of life in that lonely little boat adrift on the great ocean. No sound came from it--there was no stir under that pile of canvas which was spread over the two middle seats. All was silent--the silence that meant desertion.
“They may be--asleep,” said Jerry, in a low voice. “They may be worn out--half exhausted, and be lying under there. We must go aboard and look. Get a line ready to make fast, Ned.”
“What’s this. What’s going on,” asked the voice of Professor Snodgrass, as he came from the little room where he kept and mounted his specimens. “Have you found a submarine?”
“Not quite,” answered Ned. “But we think we have the boat in which Bob’s uncle was--maybe is yet.”
“Ah!” exclaimed the little scientist. He had been so engrossed with making notes about a strange fly he had caught that he was not even aware the small boat had been sighted. And the boys had been too interested to tell him.
The _Comet_ was soon made fast to the small boat and the two drifted together. It seemed to be Bob’s right to be the first aboard, and Jerry and Ned held back, while the stout lad clambered over the gunwale. He hesitated a second, and then slowly raised the edge of the canvas. He almost feared to look at what he might find there.
With a sudden motion, Bob threw back the covering. Then he started, and gave a quick glance at his companions.
“They’re not here!” he cried. “There’s nothing here!”
In a moment Ned and Jerry were at their chum’s side.
“Is there any evidence that anyone has been here?” asked Ned.
A look about soon disclosed that the boat had been occupied, and recently. There were crumbs of bread about, and a tin cup containing a little water.
“Well, that’s a good sign,” spoke Jerry, in tones of relief. “They weren’t hungry, or thirsty, that’s very sure.”
“No, whoever was in this boat had something to eat,” agreed Bob, and his face was brighter.
“If we could only settle for sure that it was your folks,” spoke Ned. “That’s a puzzle; as well as what has become of them. Could they have fallen overboard?”
“Of course not!” exclaimed Jerry quickly, giving Ned a nudge, unseen by Bob. “More likely they’ve been taken off by some other vessel.”
“Oh, of course, I didn’t think of that!” cried Ned, quick to take his chum’s hint. “Of course, that’s it. They saw some other vessel, or some other ship saw them, and picked them up. Naturally the rescuing ship wouldn’t stop to take the boat. That accounts for them not being here; eh, Bob?”
“I--I hope so,” spoke the stout youth, in a low voice. “But I wish I could be sure they _had_ been here. If they had only left some message.”
“Well, of course they didn’t know we were coming in search of them,” remarked Jerry, with a laugh, “or they might have done so. But I’m sure they didn’t fall overboard. All they’d have to do, even in a big storm, would be to lie down in the bottom of this boat, and they’d be safe. Of course the boat could fill with water----”
“No it couldn’t!” interrupted Ned, quickly.
“Why not?” challenged Jerry.
“Because she’s a self-bailer. Nearly all lifeboats are, now-a-days. It couldn’t fill.”
“Good!” cried the tall lad, with enthusiasm. “That settles it then. But, as Bob says, it would be a satisfaction to know whether or not Mr. Sheldon and his daughter were here.”
Bob was looking about the lifeboat in which the three lads were sitting. Professor Snodgrass had remained aboard the _Comet_, but was watching all that went on.
Suddenly Ned, who had been gazing about the small craft, uttered a cry, and sprang to his feet.
“What is it?” asked Jerry.
For answer Ned stooped and picked up a piece of white linen. It had lodged under a seat and was not at first observed.
“Look!” Ned exclaimed. “It’s a lady’s handkerchief!”
Bob uttered a low cry and reached out his hand for it. It was damp with the spray of the sea, and as he spread it out a name, marked in one corner with indelible ink, caught his eye. The others saw it, too--it was “Grace Sheldon!”
There was no doubt of it now. The Sheldons had been in that very boat, but they were not there now. Had the sea claimed them as its own? Had they fallen overboard? Or, better thought, had a passing vessel picked them up?
For a moment the discovery stunned, in a measure, the motor boys. Bob was especially overcome, as was but natural. Then Jerry, rallying to the emergency, said stoutly:
“Look here now. Let’s face this thing right. There seems to be no doubt that your relatives were here, Bob. They aren’t here now; but just stop and think.
“That old sailor on the _Hassen_ saw them the other night, and they were all right then. And since he saw them there has been no storm. The sea has been calm, this boat has not been harmed, so the only natural conclusion is that Mr. Sheldon and his daughter have been taken off, Bob.”
“Maybe,” admitted the stout boy, after considering the matter. “But who did it? Where are they?”
“That’s something we can’t tell,” admitted Jerry frankly. “But I’m positive they are safe.”
“So am I!” exclaimed Ned decidedly.
“And I’m going to hope so,” came from Bob.
There seemed to be now no further use in the boys remaining in the lifeboat. They had found out what they wanted to learn, unsatisfactory as the information was. Bob put in his pocket the handkerchief of his cousin--the handkerchief that had done so much to solve the mystery.
“She must have dropped it when--when she was getting in the other boat to go aboard the vessel that took them off,” he said.
“Of course,” agreed Jerry. “Well, we may as well get back on the _Comet_.”
“Too bad to let this fine boat go adrift, but there’s no help for it,” murmured Ned.
They were about to go back on their own craft, when a cry from Professor Snodgrass startled them.
“Look! Look!” shouted the little scientist. “A whale! There’s a whale, boys! Oh, if we could only get closer so that I might make some observations.”
Jerry stood up on the seat in the lifeboat in order to see better. And, no sooner had he looked closely at the object at which the professor pointed than he cried:
“Whale! That’s no whale. It’s that submarine again!”
The excitement caused by Jerry’s announcement can easily be imagined; and it was of several sorts. To himself the recognition of the strange craft that seemed so fated to be linked with their fortunes proved that the fanatical German who owned it had not left American waters.
To Ned the discovery was startling enough, and, for an instant, he had a wild idea that he would like to interview the captain, and learn whether it would be possible for himself and his chums to own a craft like that.
Bob, when he heard Jerry’s cry, thought of his former fears in regard to the strange craft--fears that he realized now were somewhat foolish.
As for Professor Snodgrass, no sooner did he understand what Jerry had said, and no sooner did he note the glistening metal plates of the under-water craft, than he cried out:
“Boys, please put over there. This is the very chance I want. I must go aboard, sink to the bottom of the sea and try to get one of those hermit crabs. Jerry, signal him, and ask him to take me aboard!”
The little scientist was all excitement. Forgotten was the last strange bug he had been cataloging, in his desire to fulfill his newest quest.
“Are you sure that is the same submarine, Jerry?” asked Ned, as the three lads got aboard the _Comet_ again.
“Of course, I’m not sure it’s the same one we saw first,” was the answer; “but it’s a submarine, all the same, and of a similar type. Perhaps it may be one of Uncle Sam’s fleet. I understand they are to have some practise out this way soon.”
“There’s no doubt of it being a submarine,” added Bob. “Did you see it pop up, Professor?”
“Yes,” answered the scientist, “I was looking over in that direction when I observed a commotion in the water. I thought at first it was some big fish, and when it came well up out of the water, with its rounded back, I made up my mind it was a whale. But when Jerry called out----”
“I’ve seen her--or one like her--before,” interrupted the tall lad. “I could make out the overlapping, riveted plates.”
“Yes, I can see them now, quite plainly,” agreed the scientist. “But, boys, can you possibly put me aboard?”
“I fancy it depends more on the captain of that craft than on us,” said Jerry, with a smile. “It will be easy enough for us to steer the _Comet_ over there, but whether he’ll let us come aboard is another question.”
“We might try it,” suggested Ned, who, the more he thought of it, the more he desired to try a trip in a submarine.
“All right,” assented Jerry. “I’ve no objections.”
“There doesn’t seem to be much life about it,” remarked Bob, as he looked toward the strange craft.
This was very true. The submarine lay on the surface of the sea, moving slightly with the swell. And it was such a submarine as the boys had never seen before, save on that first occasion. There was not a single projection to mar the outer shell, which did indeed look like a whale’s back. There was no conning tower, no periscope tubes, and no projecting hatchway by which access could be had to the interior.
Doubtless there was one of these, for entrance must be made through the top, but it was probably flush with the deck, or else the hatch, in the form of a tube, was collapsible and could be raised or lowered at will.
From their low position, with the _Comet_ on the surface of the ocean, the boys and Professor Snodgrass could not see very well, and Jerry, as were his chums, was anxious to go aloft whence a better view could be had.
“There doesn’t seem to be even a flat place for a deck,” remarked Ned, trying to get a glimpse of it. “The back of that craft is just like the back of a fish without a fin sticking up. I don’t see how those sailors we saw managed to keep their footing on here.”
“That’s so she can make speed,” spoke Jerry. “There must be a slightly flattened place somewhere to allow for getting on and off.”
“Well, let’s get in motion, and see if they’ll take us in,” suggested the professor. “I am exceedingly anxious to get to the bottom of the sea, and capture some of those rare crabs.”
“We can try, but I’m not very hopeful,” observed Jerry, as he remembered how the submarine had fled before at the sight of the airship. “They seem very suspicious.”
“I don’t understand how they can see us, the way she is now,” said Ned. “She seems tightly sealed.”
“Oh, there’s doubtless a way we can’t observe,” spoke Jerry, as he prepared to send the _Comet_ aloft.
The submarine lay sullen and motionless on the surface of the sea. It was like some monster of the depths that had come up for a breath of air and would, on the slightest alarm, dive down to the fastness of some ocean cave again. Not a sign of life was to be observed; not a sound came from the strange craft. She was the personification of mystery.
Silently the _Comet_ rose into the air, Jerry having started the gas generator. He wanted to rise as a balloon--without a sound--so that he might not give the alarm to those in the submarine. In this way they might get close enough to communicate with the captain or crew.
“But from the looks of that fanatical old German,” spoke Bob, “I don’t believe he’d give us a sandwich if we were starving.”
“This may not be the same craft,” observed Jerry.
“That’s right,” admitted Bob, “but she looks just like the one we saw.” All the boys agreed to this.
Higher and higher went the _Comet_, and then Jerry put in motion the propellers that would send her over the half-mile of water that intervened between the air craft and the one from the depths.
As the _Comet_ came nearer and nearer to the submarine there was still no sign aboard the mysterious craft that the boys had been observed. Either their presence was being ignored, or those aboard the fish-like boat were not aware of it.
“What are you going to do, Jerry?” asked Ned, a little later, as he noted that they were right above the submarine. “Are you going to land on her back?” They could now see a small, flat deck.
“I don’t know just what to do,” was the puzzled answer. “I wish they’d give us some sign.”
The boys and the professor were eagerly watching the submarine. All seemed silent aboard her.
Suddenly, though, there was a commotion in the water near what was evidently her stern. There appeared white foam, and a moment later the strange craft began to move through the water, in the position known as “awash,”--that is, with the deck just showing.
“There she goes!” cried Bob. “She’s seen us and off she goes!”
“Yes, and we’re going after her!” responded Jerry, fiercely, as he pulled the lever that speeded up the great propellers. “Boys, we’ll see if we can solve this mystery. We’ll try to catch this boat and see what she’s doing over here!”
On shot the _Comet_, about a hundred feet in the air, while, down below her, the submarine plowed through the water. The strange pursuit was under way.
A BOLT FROM THE SKY
“Are we gaining on them, Jerry?” asked the professor eagerly, when the chase had been on for several minutes.
“Oh, I can easily catch up to them, and pass them; but that’s just the trouble, I don’t want to do that,” replied the tall lad. “If we get beyond them we’d have to turn, and then we might lose sight of them. I don’t know what to do if they won’t be friendly and let us come aboard.”
“They could easily fool us by just sinking,” spoke Ned. “I don’t see why they don’t do that instead of trying to run away from us on the surface. If that submarine captain knows anything about physics he must know that an object can travel through the air quicker than it can in water.”
“That’s right,” agreed Bob, “but he’s going along at a pretty good clip.”
This was indeed so. The submarine was fairly flying over the surface of the sea, a smother of foam at her stern showing where the propeller, or whatever form of propulsion she used, was working, while at her blunt nose was a long ripple as the water was pushed away on either bow.
“She is certainly making time,” conceded Jerry. “She must have powerful engines.”
“I guess those aboard her were watching us all the time,” came from Ned. “They just waited until they saw us getting too close, and then they started off.”
“Yes, but what I can’t understand,” observed Jerry, “is why they don’t dive, if they want to have us guessing. If she went down, even a few feet, we couldn’t see her, and she might come up ten miles from here. Then we would be out of it.”
“That’s right,” admitted Ned. “But perhaps they had to come up for fresh air, and their tanks aren’t quite filled yet. Of course oxygen can be manufactured aboard a submarine, but you can’t breathe artificial air forever--you’ve got to have fresh air, especially if they run gasoline engines, as they probably do, though the main ones may be operated by electricity from a storage battery.”
“Why do they need so much air for gasoline engines?” asked Bob.
“Because gasoline won’t explode unless it’s mixed with air. The engine simply must have it. So that’s why they’re probably staying on the surface so long--to renew the air in the compression tanks to feed to the motors.”
On and on rushed the submarine, but there was no more sign of life from without than there had been at first. Nor could the boys understand how they themselves had been observed.
“Well, something will happen, sooner or later,” said Jerry, as he followed the course of the craft below them. “And if nothing else does it will be darkness coming on, so we’ll lose sight of her.”
“What about the search-light?” asked Bob.
“That will help some, but this submarine is about the color of water, anyhow, and it isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world to follow her after dark, even with our powerful light.”
“Oh, boys, I do hope we won’t lose her!” exclaimed Professor Snodgrass. “I may never have such a chance again to get in a submarine and look for those hermit crabs. Don’t lose her if you can help it.”
“I won’t,” answered Jerry, “but it isn’t going to be easy. Besides, she may, as I said, dive any minute!”
But at present the submarine seemed to have no such intention. She spun along through the water, with the airship following her overhead, Jerry keeping the speed of his craft at such a point as would not cause him to over-run the boat.
“Say, we’re forgetting all about my uncle!” exclaimed Bob at length. “What are we going to do about him?”
“I don’t see that we can do anything, Chunky, my boy!” exclaimed Jerry. “There’s no doubt that he and his daughter have been picked up by some steamer, and they may be in port before we get back home. In fact, after we try out this submarine a bit I think the best thing we can do is to put back to Cresville. I’m sure you’ll find your uncle and cousin waiting there for you.”
“I’m sure I hope so,” returned Bob. “Well, as long as there’s nothing for me to do, I think I’ll----”
“Get something to eat!” interrupted Ned. “Now, don’t get mad, Chunky, I’d like some myself; how about it, Jerry?”
“Yes, go as far as you like in the galley, Bob. I’ll eat when grub is ready, but just now I’m anxious to see how this chase is coming out.”
“Look!” cried Ned, suddenly. “I guess this ends it!”
As he spoke he pointed below. They all looked, and as they did so they saw the submarine suddenly sink. Her blunt nose seemed to poke itself beneath the waves, and in a few seconds all that showed where the strange craft had been were some bubbles and foam on the surface of the heaving sea.
“She’s gone!” cried the professor, in disappointed tones.
“I thought she’d do that,” murmured Jerry. “Well, that settles it as far as we are concerned.”
“You’re not going to give up; are you?” Professor Snodgrass wanted to know. “I simply must have a submarine to get those hermit crabs.”
“Well, it will all be a matter of luck, anyhow, finding this one again,” spoke Ned. “I guess, Professor, it will be easier for us to build you one, or buy a second-hand boat, if there are any such.”
“Anything, so as I can get to the bottom of the sea,” sighed the scientist, still looking at the place where the mysterious submarine had disappeared.
“Get busy with supper, Bob!” called Jerry, as he set the automatic steering gear. “There’s nothing else to do now except eat.”
“And after that?” asked Ned.
“Oh, we’ll hang around here for a few days, and then, if we don’t see any more of the _Hassen’s_ lifeboats, with some of the passengers or crew, or if we don’t sight the submarine once more, I think we may as well go back home,” replied Jerry. “Bob will want to see his uncle, and the folks will get anxious about us if we stay out too long.”
“You seem pretty sure my uncle is safe ashore,” spoke the stout lad.
“I am,” declared Jerry. “You’ll soon be able to satisfy your curiosity regarding that valuable object he brought over with him.”
“I have been wondering what it could be,” admitted Bob. “It’s a family secret, I know that much, and it’s valuable. Well, I may as well get supper, I suppose,” and he finished his remarks in such a naive way that Ned and Jerry laughed.
As for Professor Snodgrass, now that his hope of getting on the submarine was dashed, he went back to his beloved labor of catching any stray bugs and insects that might be aboard the _Comet_, or which he could net out of the air.
Supper was progressing satisfactorily, various appetizing odors that came from the galley testifying to Bob’s activities. Jerry and Ned looked to see if the machinery was running properly and then they kept watch down below for a possible sight of the boat that had eluded them.
But it would soon be too dark to see, and Jerry decided that the chances of picking up the craft in the rays of the powerful search-light were too small to make up for the discomfort that would be caused by standing watch all night.
“We’ll just let her go, and trust to luck for finding her again,” he said. “Evidently she is cruising about in these waters, and the chances are just as good for finding her again by accident as they would be if we made a search. Luck goes in threes, anyhow, you know, fellows. We’ve seen her twice when we least expected it, and I believe we’ll see her again. Now I’m going to take it easy,” and he stretched out on a sofa in the living cabin, through the glass floor of which glimpses could be had of the ocean below them.
Preparations for the evening meal were well under way, and the _Comet_ was shooting along at good speed. The boys were thinking of many things. Ned and Jerry were wondering if it would be possible for them to get a submarine, while Bob, during such time as his attention was taken from his cooking, was wondering if his uncle and cousin were safely home, and what it was Mr. Sheldon had brought from Germany.
Suddenly from the bow of the ship, where Professor Snodgrass had gone to look for specimens, there came a cry of pain. Ned and Jerry leaped to their feet.
“What is it?” cried the tall youth, running forward.
“Have you caught something?” asked Ned eagerly.
“Ha! It would be more correct to say that something has caught me!” returned the professor. “Hurry, boys, it’s a great big beetle, and he’s pinching me. I daren’t knock him off because I want him for a specimen. Oh, how he pinches!”
The two chums saw a comical sight--or, it would have been funny had it not been for the look of pain on the face of the scientist.
He stood near the pilot house, an insect net under one arm, and a cyanide bottle--for painlessly killing his specimens--under the other. His left hand was tightly closed, while, dangling from the other was a large, black and squirming bug, that seemed to be hanging on by the simple process of making his pincers meet in the flesh of the professor’s thumb.
“Oh, boys! Take him off! He is hurting me dreadfully!” cried the scientist. “But be very careful, as he is a most rare and valuable specimen.”
“Why don’t you take him off yourself--you know how to handle those creatures,” suggested Ned, who did not much fancy plucking off the vicious-looking black beetle.
“I--I can’t,” said the professor. “I have a new kind of upper-air fly in this other hand, and if I open it he’ll get away. I had caught that, and was reaching for the beetle, when he pinched me. I’m glad he’s holding on, though, for it will give you a chance to get him.”
“Uh--I don’t know as I want to,” replied Ned, hanging back. “He might transfer his affections to me.”
“Oh, please get him!” begged the scientist.
“I’ll show you how,” said Jerry. “Let me get that cyanide bottle from under your arm, Professor. I’ll open it and hold it near the beetle. The fumes will stupefy him, and he’ll drop in. Then I can cork him up.”
“Good!” cried Professor Snodgrass.
Jerry took the poison bottle, which contained in the bottom plaster of Paris, mixed with the deadly cyanide of potassium. The fumes of this are deadly to all insects in a very short time, killing them without pain.
Holding the open bottle close under the beetle that was clinging to the professor’s thumb, but taking care to keep his own face well away from the vial, Jerry waited. In a few seconds the pincers of the beetle relaxed. A few seconds more and it fell off into the wide-mouthed bottle. Jerry quickly corked it up, and handed it to the professor.
“Ah, thank you, my boy, thank you!” exclaimed the scientist. “That is a very rare specimen. I am glad to get it.”
“As glad as he was to get you,” said Jerry with a smile. “It certainly is a large beetle.”
“And he certainly pinched,” murmured the professor, rubbing his thumb, on which were a few drops of blood. “I think I had better use a little peroxide to avoid infection.”
This excitement over, supper was served. As they all stood on the main deck, with darkness settling down, Jerry, looking over to the west, while the motorship moved slowly along, remarked:
“I think we’re in for a storm. I saw a flash of lightning just then.”
“Bur-r-r-r!” exclaimed Ned with a little shiver. “I don’t fancy a blow in this exposed place.”
“Oh, I guess we can weather it,” spoke Jerry.
“Anyhow, I’m glad my uncle and cousin are not out in an open boat,” added Bob.
Jerry’s prophecy of a storm was borne out. It came up rapidly and soon there was quite a gale of wind, while the lightning flashes grew more and more frequent. The accompanying thunder roared alarmingly.
It grew darker rapidly, and the storm seemed likely to last through the night. Rain began to fall, but the boys did not mind that.
Everything was made snug aboard the craft, which scudded along through the blackness of the night, illuminated by the flashes from the sky.
“I wonder where that submarine is now?” said Bob musingly.
“Probably far down beyond the influence of the waves,” answered Jerry.
It must have been about midnight, when none of those on the _Comet_ had cared to turn in that, following several slight flashes, there came one of vivid brilliancy. There was that same crackling sound at first, as the boys had noticed once before, and then a terrific crash, that seemed to split right through the airship.
In an instant the hum of the propeller motor ceased, and the benumbed boys and Professor Snodgrass, unable to move for a second, so paralyzing had been the shock, felt the craft sinking with them toward the ocean.
“We’ve been struck!” cried Jerry. “We’re disabled!”
“Yes, and we’re going down!” yelled Ned.
Down and down went the crippled _Comet_, down through the storm that was crashing all around her.
Jerry, whom the shock of the lightning bolt had knocked to one side, jumped for the lever of the elevating rudder, hoping, if nothing else could be done, to cause the _Comet_ to volplane more easily to the surface of the sea. At the same time he called out:
“The hydroplanes, Ned! Set them quick! Bob, see if the gas generator is working! There’s something wrong!”
“It’s cracked!” shouted Professor Snodgrass, getting up from where he had been thrown against a locker. “The generator is cracked right across, Jerry!”
“Then we can’t depend on that!”
There was a look almost of despair in Jerry’s eyes, but he was not going to give up yet. In a flash he threw over the switch that connected the storage battery with the propeller motor.
But there was not even a spark to show that the electric current was available.
“Not an ampere!” groaned Jerry. “Everything is dead!”
The entire electrical equipment of the _Comet_ had been disabled by the bolt from the sky. She was as helpless as a collapsed balloon. No gas could be generated to fill the lifting-bags, and the small supply that was already in them had leaked out through rents caused by the lightning. It was the worst accident that had ever befallen the boys, and they had been in dire straits often enough.
Down the motorship was plunging toward the sea that seemed eagerly awaiting her.
“It’s all up with us, I guess!” shouted Ned. “Can you do anything, Jerry?”
“Volplane down--that’s about all. But something seems to be wrong. I’m afraid some of our side planes are split. We are falling so fast that it shows they’re not helping to keep us up.”
A glance at the barograph height gage on the wall of the pilot house showed the hand to be moving swiftly around, indicating how fast the _Comet_ was falling.
“The hydroplanes will keep us afloat a little while,” said Jerry in a tense voice, as he looked about as if for some other means of averting the disaster that was about to overtake them. “But I’m afraid it’s so rough down there we won’t float long. The pontoons will be wrenched off by the waves.”
“Then we’d better get on our bathing suits!” put in Bob, with grim humor.
“You mean life preservers, Chunky!” cried Ned. “And that’s a good stunt, too. I’ll get them out.”
Ever since the motor boys had arranged their craft to navigate over water they had carried life preservers aboard, and it was the work of only a few seconds for Ned to get them out.
“Here, Professor!” he called to the scientist, who was nervously packing up his collection of specimens, as though he could take them with him; “here, put on one of these. We may have to swim for it!”
“We’ll be lucky if we can swim,” muttered Jerry.
Fortunately, when the _Comet_ was struck by the bolt of lightning she had been well up in the air, and now, as she began to fall, there was a considerable distance for her to go. This gave the boys and Professor Snodgrass a little time to prepare for whatever fate had in store for them.
There were looks of despair on all their faces, for not only did they fear for their lives, but it was heart-breaking to know that their fine craft had to meet such an end. And there seemed no way of saving her.
Plunging down toward the ocean as she was, about to be engulfed far from the shore, there appeared to be no hope for her. In the semi-darkness of the cabin the motor boys looked at one another. All the electric lights had been put out by the shock, and only one emergency oil lamp, always kept going in anticipation of some accident, gave illumination.
Once more Jerry tried to start the propellers, so that he might guide the craft upward, but there was no power. He had hoped that perhaps the storage battery might have been only temporarily polarized, but this was not the case. It was “dead.”
“I guess we’re in for it,” murmured the tall lad. “Better get outside, boys,” he went on. “She may go all to pieces when we strike, and we don’t want to get tangled up in the wreckage. Get out on the main deck, and stand ready to jump clear. We can float for some time in the life preservers, and in the morning a steamship may pick us up. It’s our only chance.”
It was still raining hard, but the storm did not seem to be quite as severe as at first. There were many flashes of lightning, and the thunder still rolled and crashed about, but after that one terrific stroke the elements seemed to be satisfied with the damage they had wrought, and were now subsiding.
When a particularly bright and far-illuminating flash came Jerry looked down through the glass cabin floor.
“Only a few seconds left!” he cried, as he saw the waves of the ocean close to them. “Come on out, boys. Professor, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave your specimens.”
“Never!” cried the brave little scientist. “I’ll take them with me, or----”
It was no time for ceremony. Jerry took hold of his scientific friend, who had consented to don a life preserver, and fairly carried him out on the deck. Fortunately the _Comet_ had assumed an even keel after her first sickening plunge, so the boys could move about unhampered.
They all reached the deck in safety, and not a moment too soon. A second later and with a splash that sent a shower of spray high into the air, the _Comet_ landed on the surface of the sea.
There was a crash--a sound of splitting and rending wood--then a silence.
“We struck something!” cried Ned. “We sure hit something as we came down, Jerry! What was it?”
No one could tell, for the lone lamp in the cabin had fallen and gone out. But when the next lightning flash came the boys, who were standing near the rail, ready to jump, saw some dark object, setting low in the water. One of their hydroplanes had hit it, and had broken off.
“It’s a raft!” cried Bob. “Fellows, we’ve landed on a raft! Of all the luck!”
“Quick then!” shouted Ned. “Get aboard it. The _Comet_ is sinking!”
Indeed it did seem so. The gallant craft of the air, caught crippled as she was in the grip of the sea, was fast settling in the water.
“I guess we’d better take to the raft,” said Jerry, mournfully. “Oh! if we only had a good light, and could see what we are doing we might save her yet! The sea isn’t as rough as I thought!”
As if in answer to his plea there seemed to come from the centre of that dark mass they had struck--a raft, as Bob thought--a soft glow of radiance, that seemed to spread all about them.
“Look!” cried Ned. “That’s no raft! See the riveted plates. Boys, it’s the submarine again! Three times and out. We’ve landed on the deck of that mysterious submarine!”
“By Jove you’re right!” yelled Jerry. “Fellows, it’s our only chance. Jump over there, and pound for all you’re worth. They’ve got to take us in before they sink, or we’ll go down in the suction. Jump and pound! It’s our last chance. The _Comet_ is going down!”
Ned and Bob lost no time in obeying. Part of the wrecked motorship rested on the deck of the submarine. So it was easy for the boys and the professor to make the change.
And it was from this deck that the strange radiance came--a glow, as the boys could see, from beneath some thick glass bullseye.
Quickly the four sprang to the deck of the submarine. As they did so the _Comet_, relieved of their weight, rose slightly but almost immediately sank lower in the water.
[Illustration: QUICKLY THE FOUR SPRANG TO THE DECK OF THE SUBMARINE.]
“Pound--make a racket!” cried Jerry. “Make them hear us and take us in. It’s our only chance!”
Ned and Bob kicked with their heels on the steel plates that formed the deck. Jerry made his way to the glass which covered the light, and rapped on that with his knife. At the same time he looked around for the hatchway by which admittance could be gained to the interior of the mysterious vessel.
Even while he was looking for it--and not seeing it--there was a noise almost at his feet. It was the sound of steel moving on steel, and an opening appeared, flush with the deck. It was a round opening, large enough to admit a man, and framed in it was the face of the same white-bearded and snowy-haired commander they had seen on the submarine when the boys had had their first view of her.
“Well, what is it? Why have you dared to board my vessel without being invited?” growled, rather than asked the man, speaking with a strong German accent. “What do you want?”
“To save our lives!” exclaimed Jerry, talking rapidly. “Our airship was struck by lightning, and disabled. We fell into the ocean, fortunately for us, landing partly on your submarine.”
“Ach! So!” exclaimed the German, in surprise.
“And you can’t refuse to take us in,” went on Jerry. “We will pay you for your time and trouble--if you wish. We appeal to you for help. Surely you’ll take us in.”
The commander seemed to hesitate.
“As one scientist to another I appeal to you!” broke in Professor Snodgrass. “I am connected with several museums, and I am a member of several societies to which you, no doubt, belong. You may have heard of me,” and he mentioned his name.
“Ach! So!” exclaimed the German again.
“The _Comet_ is sinking!” cried Ned, who was watching their beloved airship.
“The _Comet_! Are you from the _Comet_?” asked the commander of the submarine quickly.
“We are,” answered Jerry, wondering what that had to do with it.
“Then I invite you aboard my vessel. Welcome to the _Sonderbaar_!” came the quick answer. “I heard something strike my deck, and came up to see what it was. Will you not come below?” and he stepped down out of the way, affording a passage to Jerry and his friends.
A GLAD SURPRISE
For a moment Jerry hesitated, but for a moment only. He realized that this was the only means of salvation for himself and his friends, and, though there was a suspicion that the commander of the submarine was perhaps a vindictive crank, there was no choice. So Jerry started down the iron stairs that led into the interior of the vessel.
“One moment, please,” said the commander, “you’ll not need your life preserver here. It takes up too much room, and we have not much to spare. We have to utilize every inch in a submarine. Besides, I have preservers of my own. Kindly discard it, if you please.”
Jerry did so, calling to his companions to do the same. Then, taking a last look at the _Comet_, he went down the hatchway.
The others followed, Professor Snodgrass being the last to go down. And as he entered the hole that led into the boat Ned, who was just ahead of him, heard him say:
“Oh, that lovely black beetle. I have lost him. Oh, what a calamity.”
“Better lose him than your life,” commented Ned. “And we couldn’t have stayed aboard the _Comet_ another minute. It’s too bad we had to desert her. Dear old _Comet_! There’ll never be another like her.”
“Yes, she served us well,” spoke the scientist. “But perhaps all is for the best. At least I am in a submarine, and now I may get those crabs. Yes, I’m sure everything is for the best,” and he seemed quite resigned to the change.
The four had descended into a plainly furnished room at the foot of the companionway leading to the opening in the deck. As soon as the Professor was standing beside the three boys the German stepped to where several levers and wheels were set into the wall, and moved a small handle. Immediately a grinding sound was heard overhead, the sliding of steel on steel, and the refugees realized that the hatch-cover was closed--hermetically sealed, of necessity. They were bottled up in the submarine, and with a strange man of whom they knew little.
“But there must be others,” reasoned Jerry. “He can’t run this all alone, and his crew can’t all be as crusty as he seems to be. I guess we’ll be all right. Anyhow, it’s all we could do--come aboard her.”
The aged commander turned and faced his guests.
“Perhaps,” he said, “I had better ask your names, and then I will tell you all that is necessary to know about myself--and my vessel.”
Jerry responded to the implied request by giving the names of his companions and himself. He also briefly related their object in being so far to sea in their airship, and told how they were practically assured of the safety of Mr. Sheldon and his daughter. They had intended to return home in a day or so, but the bolt of lightning had wrecked their craft.
“And you thought to have a little sport in chasing me; eh? Did you not?” asked the German gruffly.
“Well, we meant no harm,” said Jerry, in some confusion. “To tell you the truth we are much interested in submarines. We had some idea of getting one of our own, and we wanted to talk to you about it.”
“I see,” said the German, a little mollified. “I have a wonderful craft here, even though I invented her myself. Allow me to tell you my name. I am Dr. Emanuel Klauss, of Hamburg, and I----”
“I have heard of you!” interrupted Professor Snodgrass, eagerly, while Ned looked at his chums as much as to say: “This is the man I was telling you about.”
“Are you not the inventor of the Klauss refracting microscope?” went on Professor Snodgrass. “That instrument which has been such an invaluable aid to the proper study of insect life. Are you that Dr. Klauss?”
“I am,” was the answer, “but I count that among the least of my achievements. I am devoting all my time now to submarines.” He did not seem ill-pleased that his fame was known to one he had strangely picked up at random out of the sea.
“This boat has only recently been completed,” went on Dr. Klauss, “and I am giving it a severe test. You have seen me before, I believe.”
“Twice before,” replied Jerry with a smile. “We were just saying that there must be one more, for luck goes in threes.”
“Bah! I have no use for luck!” exclaimed the German, snapping his fingers. “But I must not forget that you are my guests. As I said, we have not too much room aboard, but I will try to make you comfortable. First you will want dry garments. I think some of my crew are small enough so that their clothes will fit you--temporarily, at least,” and he glanced at stout Bob.
“If you could arrange to stand by our craft until morning,” spoke Jerry, eagerly, “we might get some of our things off her. I think she will keep afloat until then.”
“I shall be far away from here in the morning,” said Dr. Klauss, coldly. “It is impossible for me to grant your request. I am sorry, but you will have to make the best of it.”
“Oh, we don’t want to put you out,” returned Ned, “and we realize that it was providential of you to be here at all and save us. I guess we’ll just have to stand our loss--that’s all.”
“And my specimens!” exclaimed the professor. “It is too bad that I could not get my black beetle; but there was such confusion I could not find him. However, I am glad to be with you, Dr. Klauss. I think we shall be mutually helpful. Tell me--can you go to the bottom of the sea in your vessel?”
“Yes. I have been there several times--of course not in the deepest part, but at a good depth.”
“And have you diving dress--any arrangement for getting out of here to the very sea bottom itself?” asked the scientist eagerly.
“Yes, that can be done. But----”
“Then it is all right,” interrupted Professor Snodgrass, with a sigh of contentment. “I shall be able to get my hermit crabs, and when I do, and write a monograph on them I shall, in it, acknowledge my indebtedness to you, my dear Dr. Klauss.”
“Humph!” exclaimed the crusty German, and he did not seem any too well pleased with the intended honor.
“Then you can’t stand by the wreck of our craft until morning?” asked Jerry, with a last hope. “I don’t mean to save her, but merely to allow us to get off some of our possessions.”
“I am sorry to say I cannot,” was the answer. “I should be on my way now. I merely came to the surface to replenish my air supply. That will be completed in a few minutes, and then we will go below.”
“Under the ocean?” queried Bob, with a gasp.
“Certainly under the ocean. Are you afraid?”
“No--no. Only it’s our first experience.”
“Not that we mind,” put in Ned. “We were going to take up submarine traveling next, anyhow.”
“Humph!” exclaimed the German. “Well, I do not mind showing you about my craft. There are some secrets, of course, but I am not afraid of you finding them out. I think you will enjoy seeing the workings of the _Sonderbaar_.”
“I am sure we shall,” said Jerry, wondering if Dr. Klauss was always so grouchy.
“Now to get you more comfortable,” went on the German commander. “If you will come with me I will see if my men cannot fit you out with dry garments.”
He opened a sliding door that led from the compartment, which seemed to be as much a reception room as anything else. At once a wonderful sight was revealed to the boys.
They stood in a long passageway that ran lengthwise of the craft, amidships. At one end could be seen a glittering array of machinery, at the sight of which Jerry’s heart beat with delight. Between them and the engine room could be seen other compartments, evidently living, sleeping and dining quarters.
Forward were other pieces of apparatus, tanks for the storage of air, other tanks for the holding of water ballast and at the extreme bow was the pilot house, the walls of which were a maze of wheels, gears, levers, switches and controls.
Just aft of the pilot house there seemed to be a main cabin, and in this, seated at a table, on which were spread books and papers, sat a man and a girl. A soft light glowed over their heads, revealing their features clearly.
And, at the sight of them Bob Baker uttered a cry--a cry of surprise and joy.
“My uncle!” he exclaimed, starting forward. “My Uncle Nelson Sheldon, and my Cousin Grace! How in the world did they get here? I--I----”
But words failed Bob, while his chums were also too stunned to be able to say anything.
At the sound of Bob’s voice the man and girl at the table started to their feet, and gazed in the direction of our friends. But because the latter were in comparative darkness, while the light shone brightly in the cabin, the features of the boys and Professor Snodgrass could not be made out. As a matter of fact Mr. Sheldon would not have known anyone but Bob, anyhow, since he had never seen the two chums.
“Uncle Nelson--Uncle Nelson!” called Bob. “And Cousin Grace! Is it possible?”
“Who--who are you?” asked Mr. Sheldon, sharply.
“Your nephew, Bob Baker,” was the answer. “How in the world did you get here? We’ve been looking all over for you.”
“You looking for us?” asked Mr. Sheldon, while Grace gasped in astonishment.
“Yes; ever since we heard of the _Hassen_ being wrecked. We were looking for you in our airship, the _Comet_, and we found the steamer--it didn’t sink after all. Then we found the small boat you had been in, but it was empty. We thought----”
“We were picked up by Dr. Klauss,” interrupted Mr. Sheldon, as he came forward to greet his nephew. “It was providential, as we had no means of progressing, and our food and water were about gone. But how did you get here, and who are your friends?”
“Our airship was struck by lightning a little while ago,” Bob explained briefly, “and we fell down, almost on top of this submarine. Dr. Klauss took us in.”
“He seems to be in the rescuing business,” said Grace, with a smile, but Jerry thought he detected a look of fear on her face as her eyes looked toward the German inventor.
“This is Professor Snodgrass,” went on Bob, motioning to the little scientist, “and these are my best chums--Jerry Hopkins and Ned Slade. You must have heard of them, Uncle Nelson.”
“Of course I have!” exclaimed the gentleman, cordially.
“And so have I,” added Grace, with a welcoming smile. “Oh, how good it is to meet you all this way--and in such a strange way!”
“Yes, it is quite a coincidence,” agreed Dr. Klauss, and though he smiled there was no warmth in it--rather it was cold and calculating. “You mentioned that you had a nephew of an inventive turn of mind,” he said to Mr. Sheldon, “and you spoke of his airship--the _Comet_. As soon as you boys named the craft,” he said to Jerry, “I realized that I had a surprise in store for you. But I decided to let you find it out for yourselves.”
“And now for more detailed explanations,” remarked Mr. Sheldon. “I expect all our friends think we are drowned, Bob?”
“I’m afraid so. But they’ll soon know differently. We can send them word.”
“I don’t know about that,” said Mr. Sheldon in a low voice, as Dr. Klauss stepped back a moment, evidently to communicate with one of his crew. “Bob,” went on his uncle in a low, tense voice, “we’re in a peculiar position here. We’re practically prisoners of a madman aboard this submarine. He won’t set us ashore, nor put us on some other vessel. I don’t know what to do. But I’m glad you and your friends are here. Perhaps we can find some way of escape.
“Hush! Don’t say anything now! Don’t show that I have told you anything. Here he comes back. Act naturally. Yes, as I was saying, Bob, I’m very glad to see you,” and Mr. Sheldon spoke the last in loud tones.
Poor Bob, not much used to plotting and planning, did not know what to do. Fortunately, however, he realized the necessity for acting as though he had not just heard startling news. Jerry and Ned had seen that something was wrong, but they gave no sign. As for Professor Snodgrass, he was busy looking around the main cabin, where they had all assembled, in search of any stray bugs. He took no part in the talk then.
“Dr. Klauss was very kind to take us off our lonely little boat,” went on Mr. Sheldon.
“How did it happen?” asked Jerry.
“It was a mere accident,” said the German. “I had come up to renew my supply of air, and one of my men saw the small boat. Out of curiosity I went up to it, and found your friends.”
“And we were almost in despair,” said Grace.
“Oh, those few days were awful! Awful!” and she covered her eyes with her hands as though to shut out the sight and memory of what she and her father had passed through.
“You would have done better had you stayed on the _Hassen_, Uncle Nelson,” said Bob. “We found her afloat, and in good condition. That sailor said he was going to stick to her.”
“Good old Jacob Denton!” cried Grace. “He was very kind to us. We wanted him to come in our boat, but he would not.”
“What happened after you took to the lifeboat?” asked Ned.
“We drifted about at the mercy of the storm for a long time,” replied Mr. Sheldon. “Then we lost our oars--one pair was tossed overboard by a sailor who became crazed, and who leaped into the sea himself. Then the two other sailors, seeing a larger boat, jumped over the side to swim to her, using the other pair of oars as buoys. They reached her, and that left Grace and me alone.
“Gradually we lost sight of the other boats, and, having no way of propelling our craft, we had to drift. We had some food and water, which we used as sparingly as we could. We took shelter under the canvas at night, and just drifted--drifted. Oh, it was terrible! I want to forget it! Sometimes we would sight a vessel, but we could not seem to make anyone aboard see us. They did not come near enough.
“Then, when we were giving up in despair, we saw what seemed to be a whale approaching. Grace was very much frightened, fearing it was going to attack us. I was alarmed, too, but it proved to be this submarine. We were glad, indeed, to be taken aboard,” and he smiled at Dr. Klauss, who was looking sternly at his visitors, his arms folded, and standing erect, like a man posing for his statue.
“And so here we are,” concluded Mr. Sheldon, “but as if _our_ rescue was not enough, here you boys come and are saved in the same way.”
“And in the nick of time, too,” added Jerry, gratefully.
“It was most fortunate for me,” said Professor Snodgrass, who had not been successful in finding any specimens, “very fortunate, for I need a submarine to enable me to get some hermit crabs from the bottom of the sea.”
Mr. Sheldon looked at Bob inquiringly, as though to ask if the scientist was altogether right in his mind.
“Oh, he’s always getting specimens,” explained the stout lad in a low voice, as Mr. Snodgrass went off in a hurry to get a green fly he saw crawling on the wall. “He’d go to the moon for a rare bug--if he could get there.”
“I see,” exclaimed Mr. Sheldon, with a laugh. “We all have our peculiarities.”
Bob wanted very much to ask his uncle what it was he had brought over from Germany with him, but the presence of Dr. Klauss deterred him. The youth realized that perhaps it was a secret that it would not be well to share with the strange commander of the _Sonderbaar_. And, too, Bob wanted to hear more about what his uncle had said as to their being prisoners. If the Sheldons were detained on board the boys and Professor Snodgrass would probably be in the same plight.
“There’s something queer here,” mused Bob. “I’ll have to talk it over with Jerry and Ned.”
“If you will excuse me for a little while,” said Dr. Klauss, rather stiffly, “I will see if we have air enough. I will also send you some dry clothing,” he added to the boys, for they had been drenched by the rain.
“How did you know the open boat you found was the one we had been in?” asked Grace of her cousin.
“Because of this,” Bob answered, holding out her handkerchief. “It has your name on it. But when we saw that no one was in the boat we feared, for a time, that you might have been drowned.”
“I was sure you had been picked up,” put in Jerry, “and I was right.”
“In a way, yes,” admitted Mr. Sheldon. “Though, more properly speaking, we were ‘picked down,’ for we had to go down to get into this boat. And we’ve been under water several times since.”
“Have you really navigated under water?” asked Ned with interest.
“Of course,” replied Grace. “At first I was horribly afraid, but now I don’t mind it very much.”
There was a sudden click, at which they all started, and the light went out. At the same time there was a queer lunging to the vessel. She seemed to be trying to stand on her bow’s end. Then on either side of the cabin appeared a glow of light, and the boys could see steel shutters sliding back from heavy plate glass windows.
Then, as the light near these windows increased, the motor boys found themselves gazing out into the sea, illuminated in some strange manner by hidden electric lamps on the side of the submarine. They could see fishes swimming about.
“Look!” cried Grace, clutching Bob by the arm, “we are under water now! The _Sonderbaar_ is going to the bottom of the sea!”
A MARVELOUS BOAT
So many new and strange sensations had crowded on the motor boys in the last few days that it hardly needed the additional one of traveling in a submarine to thrill them. Nevertheless the three lads did feel strange as they stood there in the half-darkened cabin, and looked at the greenish water slipping past the thick plate-glass side windows--windows illuminated in such a way that the very life of the sea was visible.
“Look--look!” exclaimed Bob, in a low voice. “See that shark!”
And indeed, at that moment, a great sand shark that was keeping pace with the marvelous boat looked in through the glass window, as if to ask what manner of sea companion he had fallen in with.
“Oh--oh!” cried Grace, as she clutched her father’s arm. “Suppose that window should break!”
“I don’t want to suppose anything like that,” spoke Jerry solemnly. “It’s too--too unpleasant. Oh, but this is wonderful--wonderful!”
“It’s the greatest thing ever!” declared Ned with conviction. “I never dreamed we should ever see anything like this. Oh, there’s another shark--a hammer-head,” and the hideous creature, with its bulging eyes on projections that give it the name, resembling a double-ended hammer, swam up, also to peer in at the windows.
“Wonderful--wonderful,” murmured Professor Snodgrass. “This will just suit my purpose. I must have a talk with Dr. Klauss, and arrange to have him take us on a long trip. I will not only be able to get my hermit crabs, but I can make many other valuable discoveries. Science will be greatly the gainer by our accidental finding of this submarine. Yes, I hope this trip will be a long one.”
“You are not likely to be disappointed in that, sir,” observed Mr. Sheldon, and there was in his tone such a peculiar meaning that Bob asked:
“Why do you say that, Uncle Nelson?”
“Because it’s true. This man--hush, here he comes now. I can’t tell you any more at present. We must have a talk together, presently.”
The sound of someone coming along a steel-floored passage warned them to talk in low tones.
“But what does it all mean?” asked Jerry, in bewilderment.
“Oh, we don’t know--we can hardly guess,” spoke Grace in his ear. “Papa will tell you. I can only say that this Dr. Klauss, in spite of his seeming politeness, is a terrible man. I’m so glad you boys are with us. Perhaps now we can escape!”
“Escape!” gasped Jerry. “Why--why----”
“Hush! Here he is!” warned Grace.
It was not Dr. Klauss, however, but one of his men with a supply of dry clothing for the boys and the professor.
“I will take you to the cabins you are to occupy,” said this man, who spoke without any German accent. Jerry was glad to note this. It meant, in case of trouble, that perhaps they could count on this American to aid them. Jerry was sorely puzzled.
“You are to come with me,” the man went on, respectfully. “After you are dressed I will take your clothing to the engine room to dry. Then you will be served with a meal, Dr. Klauss says. Come.”
“Supper, eh?” cried Bob. “That sounds good, anyhow.”
“I see you haven’t gotten over your old habit,” laughed Mr. Sheldon. “Well, come back when you can, boys. We are certainly glad to see you.”
“Yes, indeed,” echoed Grace, and she looked at Jerry particularly. He understood what she meant.
“And to think that we are actually traveling under water!” marveled Ned. “About how deep are we?” he asked of the man who had brought the clothing.
“Oh, about three hundred feet, I should judge. I didn’t notice the gage as I came through the engine room. But Dr. Klauss will probably let you see for yourselves soon.”
“Are we still going down?” asked Jerry.
“A little, yes. About five hundred feet is as deep as we can go, for, even in this wonderful boat, which is the best submarine I ever saw or heard of, the weight of water much below five hundred feet would crush us like an egg shell. In fact there are very few boats of this class that go more than two hundred feet down, and really that depth isn’t necessary even in war time. But we members of the crew are not supposed to give out information. Dr. Klauss would not like it. So you’ll have to excuse me.”
“That’s all right,” said Jerry. The man seemed a pleasant chap, and spoke like a person of intelligence. Jerry was glad he was aboard, for somehow, the tall lad felt an indefinable sense of danger.
The boys were taken to small adjoining staterooms, where they were told to change, and put their wet garments outside. The clothing that had been supplied to them was all sorts of odds and ends, evidently collected from different members of the crew. But it was dry and warm, and a welcome relief from their drenched garments, the wearing of which much longer would have given them all colds.
“This is some change from out in that storm, on the back of this submarine, knocking to be let in; isn’t it, fellows?” called Jerry from his stateroom.
“I should say yes,” agreed Ned. “Poor old _Comet_! What do you suppose happened to her?”
“I’m afraid she’s broken up,” answered Jerry, mournfully. “Once the pontoons give way, the weight of the engines will sink her. Well, we can build another.”
“Or a submarine,” added Ned.
“First we’ve got to see if we can get off of this one,” said Jerry in a low voice.
“What do you mean?” asked Ned, who had dressed quickly, and now stood at the door of his chum’s stateroom.
“You’ll see soon enough,” was the answer. “There’s something strange going on here, boys. Grace and Mr. Sheldon could only give a hint of it. We’ll have to be on the watch. This man Klauss----”
“Cheese it!” interrupted Ned, effectively if not elegantly. “He’s coming!”
Jerry halted his remarks just in time, for the inventor of the submarine came along a second later.
“Well, boys,” he asked, in a tone he tried to make cordial, “how are you making out? Will those clothes answer until your own are dry?”
“Very well indeed, yes; thank you,” replied Jerry. “We are sorry to have to put you to so much trouble----”
“It could not be helped,” was the response of the German. “I could not leave you there to drown. Now if you will come with me I will tell you something about my ship--it is my one hobby!”
“And you will not forget about giving me a chance to get to the bottom of the sea, and capture some crabs; will you?” asked Professor Snodgrass.
“I will do what I can for you--as a fellow scientist,” said Dr. Klauss.
The boys found Grace and her father eagerly awaiting them, and a hasty midnight meal was served in the main cabin. Dr. Klauss left the little party to themselves, saying that he had to go to see about some of the mechanism.
“Say, I don’t see what we’ve got to complain of,” remarked Bob, with his mouth half full. “Here we are, warm and dry, even if we are under water, and we’ve got plenty to eat----”
“Which, I suppose, excuses many evils in your eyes, Bob, my boy,” interrupted his uncle. “Oh, Dr. Klauss will not starve us--of that Grace and I have had excellent proof.”
“Well, then we’ll be all right,” spoke Chunky, with a contented sigh, as he helped himself to some more cake, for the menu included even that. “They have a good cook here,” went on the stout lad.
“We must find time and the chance for a consultation,” remarked Mr. Sheldon, speaking rapidly, and in a low voice. “I want to explain certain things, and plan what to do.”
“Is there any danger?” asked Jerry.
“Yes--I think so--of a certain kind--though I do not mean that our lives are actually at stake. But our liberty certainly is.”
“You mean----” began Ned.
“I mean that this fanatic refuses to set Grace and me ashore, or to let us go aboard some other vessel. I want you boys to make that same request, when the time comes, and see what he says. Then we will have something to go on. But be very careful. Oh, it is good to be with friends again!” and Mr. Sheldon looked affectionately at the lads.
Dr. Klauss came in before the meal was finished. All this time the _Sonderbaar_ was plowing along beneath the surface, but at what depth, or in what direction the boys could only guess. There were no indicators in this main cabin.
“Would you lads like to see something of my submarine?” asked the German.
“Indeed we would!” exclaimed Jerry with an enthusiasm that was echoed by his chums.
“Then come with me,” invited their strange host, and he led the way toward the engine room, as could be told by the hum and throb that came from it. “Will you accompany us, Mr. Sheldon?”
“Thank you, no. I will stay with my daughter. It is late, and she ought to retire.”
Indeed it was long past midnight, but in that depth of water time did not seem to count for much. There was perpetual darkness at all hours.
But the boys and Professor Snodgrass, though tired after what they had passed through, were not too weary to view the interior of this marvelous boat.
I do not wish to tire my readers with a technical description of the _Sonderbaar_, so I will merely say that she was, like most submarines, of elliptical shape, tapering to blunt points on either end, though the stern, where the two propellers were, was wider than the bow.
The boat was about two hundred feet long and about forty feet in diameter, her dimensions being greatly in excess of most submarines. It was this that enabled her to be made strong enough to stand the pressure of five hundred feet of water, which pressure is enormous on every square inch of surface.
This large size also gave more room inside for engines, and quarters for captain and crew. Thus there was much more comfort than in the usual submarine.
There were no periscopes, or tubes, elevated above the deck on the _Sonderbaar_. Observation, when running awash, was by means of a lens flush in the deck, a peculiar arrangement of mirrors and prisms giving the effect of periscopes without their disadvantages.
There was also an automatic arrangement of diaphragms, similar to those in telephone receivers, so that when the craft was running under water, and approached some obstacle, its presence would be made manifest in time to avoid it. Nor was this all. Dr. Klauss had perfected a powerful lamp which was located in the bow of his craft, projecting its beams through the water. This would also disclose any object that might endanger a collision. But the diaphragms acted over a wider area than the lamp, the beams of which were necessarily dimmed by the density of the water.
As in all submarines, it was necessary to let water into ballast tanks in order to make her sink, and to rise it was only necessary to pump out this same water, by means of compressed air. But Dr. Klauss had made many improvements even in this simple and fundamental principle.
The propulsion of the _Sonderbaar_ was by means of twin screws at the stern, and each screw had its own engine--a gasoline one when running on the surface, and an electrical motor, run by a new type of storage battery, when submerged. The propeller shafts passed through the armatures of the motors, which were mounted directly on the shafts, revolving with them, and acting as flywheels when the gasoline engines were being used. At such times the circuits of the field windings were open, and no current was generated.
There were also dynamos for the making of electric illumination and charging the storage battery, and small motors to work pumps and other devices. In fact the craft was complete, mechanically.
She was steered by two rudders, one to guide her to port or starboard--or left and right, as the new navy regulations specify--and another rudder to send her to the surface or toward the bottom of the sea.
All this Dr. Klauss showed the boys, explaining many things, for he saw they were greatly interested; but, of course, there were some secrets he did not reveal. And one of these was the method of firing the deadly torpedoes.
The ship could be controlled from the engine room, or from the pilot house, in the bow, and here there was a perfect maze of levers, wheels, switches and other devices. Gages told of the boat’s speed, of her depth, and gave all the information it was necessary for the pilot to know.
“And now I think you need rest,” said the inventor, when the tour of the boat was completed. “I shall see you in the morning.”
“You have a marvelous boat, Dr. Klauss,” said Jerry, sincerely. “I congratulate you.”
“Thank you, my lad. I am sorry we had to leave your own air craft at the mercy of the sea, for, from what Mr. Sheldon told me of her, in our conversations after I rescued him, I understand it was a wonder of its own kind. But I had my own reasons for not lingering longer there.”
“Oh, well, it couldn’t be helped,” said Jerry, but he could not refrain from sighing.
“Say, I don’t see what’s the matter with Dr. Klauss. He seems very decent,” remarked Bob, when the boys had reached their staterooms.
“Better wait,” remarked Jerry, significantly. “Mr. Sheldon didn’t make his remark for nothing.”
A CRAZED CAPTAIN
“Say, wouldn’t it have been a joke if he had followed us all the way?” chuckled Bob Baker, as he awoke late in the morning, and called to Jerry.
“Who?” asked the tall lad, yawning, for he had slept well after the day of excitement, with its various happenings.
“Noddy Nixon,” went on the stout lad. “You know he started to follow us--he and Bill Berry. Wouldn’t they have had the surprise of their lives if they’d seen us get aboard this submarine.”
“They sure would,” agreed Ned. “And I reckon they’d be glad because our _Comet_ went to smash. Poor old ship! Will we ever have another?”
“I think we’ll go in for submarines,” announced Jerry. “This boat is a marvel! If we could only get one like this--or half the size, we could have no end of adventures!”
“And think of the service you could render science,” broke in Professor Snodgrass. “There are wonders of the sea never even dreamed of, and we could bring them to light. Oh, I must see when Dr. Klauss can let me get after those hermit crabs.”
“Are we still moving?” asked Bob, beginning to dress.
“We seem to be,” said Jerry, as he felt a tremor throughout the craft that showed her engines to be working. “No telling where we are, though.”
“Well, let’s get up, and see what Mr. Sheldon has to say, boys,” advised Jerry.
They were about to don the borrowed garments when a member of the crew--the same one who had taken away their own clothes to dry--came back with them. The boys were glad to get into their own things again.
“How large a crew is there aboard?” asked Jerry.
“There are five of us, but really three men can work the whole ship,” replied the sailor. “There are two old German scientists aboard, who will help if they are needed, but I and my two mates generally work together. My name is Ted Rowland, and my mates’ names are Bill Burke and Tom Flynn. We’re machinists, and we’re all wishing we hadn’t signed for this voyage. But we’re in for it now. You see we’re all Irish,” he explained with a twinkle in his blue eyes, “and the Dutch and the Irish never mix any too well. Still I shouldn’t talk so. Dr. Klauss pays us well.”
“What about his German friends?” asked Bob.
“Oh, we don’t see much of them. They keep to their own quarters, all the time figuring something on paper, drawing plans, and the like. Dr. Klauss spends a lot of time with them, too. They’re planning something, but we’re not supposed to know what it is.”
“How did you come to get in with the doctor?” asked Jerry, who thought it would be a good plan to obtain all the information he could.
“Oh, it was just by chance. I and my mates had been on one of Uncle Sam’s submarines, and a short time ago we saw an advertisement to take a private berth at a good figure, so we answered it. In that way we met Dr. Klauss and his two foreign friends.
“It seems he built this vessel in Germany, and brought it over here with a foreign crew. But there was a quarrel and he fired them. He had to have help, so he got us.”
“Who steers her?” asked Ned.
“Dr. Klauss, mostly, though I’ve taken a hand at it. I understand navigation, though you have to go pretty much by dead reckoning when you’re under water. Then, too, there’s an automatic steering apparatus that will work for a limited time.”
“Has Dr. Klauss any special object in cruising about?” Jerry wanted to know.
“If he has he hasn’t told me and my mates,” was the man’s answer. “He’s just been scooting about here, there--anywhere. I recall the time we first sighted you--he got away from that vicinity in a hurry. Seemed afraid, like.”
“I wonder why?” mused Ned.
“Well, I’ll be getting back to quarters,” said Ted Rowland. “I have to look after the oiling. See you again,” and he took away with him the borrowed garments.
“Well, what’s the program?” asked Ned, when he and his chums had had breakfast. They ate alone save for Professor Snodgrass, Mr. Sheldon and his daughter having eaten earlier.
“I fancy we had better first have a talk with your uncle, Bob,” replied the tall lad. “He may be able to advise us. It is all very nice to be aboard here, scooting along under the sea, but we ought to be home. Our folks will surely be worried about us, especially if any part of our wrecked motorship is picked up by some vessel. Word will go back to Cresville that we are lost.”
“And my uncle, too,” added Bob. “Probably father and mother have already given him up for lost.”
“Then we’ve got to make a bid to get back to land,” decided Ned. “Let’s look up Mr. Sheldon.”
Professor Snodgrass was so busy over some of his scientific notes that he paid little attention to the boys, and they felt they could leave him for the time being.
They found Bob’s uncle and cousin in the main cabin. Dr. Klauss, Mr. Sheldon said, had gone to the engine room, as there was some difficulty with one of the motors.
“And where are we?” asked Jerry anxiously.
“Well, we’re running along, about three hundred feet under the surface,” answered Mr. Sheldon. “I was just in the pilot house, and noted the depth gage. As for our exact location, I can’t say. Somewhere beneath the Atlantic ocean.”
“That’s a big place,” remarked Bob. “And have we been under water all night?”
“The air is very fresh,” observed Ned.
“Oh, we carry enough for several days,” remarked Mr. Sheldon. “The _Sonderbaar_ could be submerged nearly a week at a pinch, so Dr. Klauss says.”
“I wouldn’t want to stay down here that long,” came from Jerry. “What are we going to do, Mr. Sheldon? We have come to you for advice. We feel that we ought to go back home.”
“That’s exactly how I feel about it, my boy. But the difficulty is that Dr. Klauss won’t put us ashore.”
“No. He refused in my case; decently enough, but firmly. Now my plan is to have you boys ask him. If he acts in the same way he must have some reason for it. If he acts and talks differently it may indicate what I have begun to suspect.”
“What’s that?” inquired Bob.
“Wait until you make your request,” was the reply. “Then you can judge for yourselves. He is a very strange man. Ask him the first chance you get.”
The opportunity came sooner than the boys expected. Shortly after their talk with Mr. Sheldon, Dr. Klauss came into the main cabin.
“Doctor,” began Jerry, “can you spare us a few moments?”
“What for?” and the words came with a snap.
“We wish to find out when you are going to set us ashore, or put us on some other vessel. You have been very kind, but we must not tax your hospitality further. We want to get back to America.”
“And I say you shall not go!” fairly shouted the captain. “I am not going back to the United States until I come again with a fleet that will destroy all their ships!”
“Doctor!” cried Mr. Sheldon, leaping to his feet. “What do you mean?”
“Just what I say! I am going back to my own country, and build more submarines. I have proved what this one will do. With her, and more like her, I can destroy the whole United States navy. And I’m going to do it! I’m going to do it!
“I hate you! I hate all Americans. They shot my brother in the Spanish-American War, and I am going to revenge him. They called him a spy. He was not! I say he was not!
“America! You shall never see it again. I did not ask you to come aboard my vessel, but, since you are here, you must take the consequences. I shall not turn you free to have you reveal my secrets--the secrets I have guarded for years. I shall keep you with me forever. You shall never see home again!
“America! Bah! How I hate her!” and he stamped his feet with rage. “I shall wipe her from the face of the earth. No, I will not put you ashore! I shall not put you aboard some other vessel, to let her crew pry into my secrets! I tell you I will not! You are here--here you shall stay. Don’t ask me again!
“When my brother was shot--shot unjustly as a spy--I vowed to be revenged. Now my chance has come. After many years I have perfected my submarine. In it I can carry enough torpedoes to destroy a whole flotilla of United States warships, and some day I will do it.
“I hate Americans! I have three in my crew, but they shall never see their own land again. Nor will you! Don’t ask me again.”
“But, Dr. Klauss,” said Mr. Sheldon, endeavoring to speak calmly, “please consider----”
“No! I will consider nothing! Here you are--and here you will remain--aboard my submarine. I did not ask you to come--I did not want you. I am a monster, perhaps--a monster when I think of my wrongs; but I could not leave you to drown. You owe me a debt for saving your lives.
“Very well! You will pay that debt by never seeing your own country again. I have you--I shall keep you!” and his voice rose to a scream as, clapping his hands together, he rushed from the cabin.
With fear in their hearts the refugees stared at one another. Grace Sheldon shrank close to her father, who silently patted her shoulder.
“There, there, Grace,” he said, soothingly, “I dare say we shall find a way out of this. Don’t worry.”
“But, Papa, I can’t help it,” she replied in tremulous tones. “He--I’m afraid--yes, I’m sure he’s insane--Dr. Klauss is certainly insane.”
Mr. Sheldon looked at Jerry and his chums.
“What is your opinion, boys?” he asked. “You heard what he said; what do you think?”
“I think as Grace does,” declared Bob. “We are in a submarine with a madman!”
Jerry nodded his head slowly.
“That is my view,” he stated, in a low voice. “Either his imaginary wrongs, or his labors over this craft have turned his brain. He is certainly insane.” Ned indicated his acquiescence.
“Then, since we are agreed on that--and I may say I came to this conclusion some time ago,” went on Mr. Sheldon, “the next question is--what can we do?”
“We’ve got to do something,” declared Jerry, firmly. “It is risking our lives to stay here.”
“But how can we get away?” asked Ned. “If we were on an ordinary ship we would have some chance. We could drop overboard, if worse came to worst, and swim. Or we might lower a boat some dark night, and get away in that.
“But here we are, five hundred feet, more or less, under water. We don’t even know how to get out of this boat, save by the hatchway, and to open that under water would mean the death of all of us.”
“Of course!” exclaimed Jerry. “That is not to be thought of. But there must be some other way of getting out of this boat while under water, if what Dr. Klauss told Professor Snodgrass is true. You remember he spoke of going out in diving suits on the bottom of the sea. There must be some arrangement of double doors, and a water chamber in the side of the boat.”
“But, even if we did get out, what good would that do?” asked Ned. “We couldn’t swim home, and we couldn’t all live in diving suits. There must be some other way.”
“There is but one way that I can see,” spoke Mr. Sheldon.
“And that is----” began Jerry.
“To compel this madman, by some means, to put us ashore or on some vessel.”
“But how can we?” asked Bob.
“That’s what we’ve got to plan,” said Jerry, who seemed to fall in with Mr. Sheldon’s plan. “That’s what we’ve got to talk over.”
“And if he refuses again, as he most likely will?”
Jerry looked around the cabin before answering. Then, in a low voice he said:
“There’s but one course left--mutiny!”
“Mutiny!” gasped Grace.
“I mean that we shall have to try to influence the crew against their captain. I know that is considered contrary to marine law, but in dealing with a maniac there is no law. We have to save our lives, and that is the first law of nature.”
“But will the crew help us?” queried Ned.
“That’s what we’ve got to find out,” returned Jerry. “I fancy they haven’t any love for their captain, and they can hardly refuse to help us--especially when we tell them what he said. Why, their own case is as bad as ours.”
“But there are two other Germans aboard,” spoke Bob. “They would doubtless side with Dr. Klauss.”
“That would only make three,” remarked Jerry, “and if we can get the crew to side with us we’d have nine on our side. That ought to answer. Even if the crew won’t help us, we three fellows, and Mr. Sheldon and the professor, ought to be able to hold our own against the six. Those two Germans are likely to be old men.”
“But Rowland and his mates are probably husky chaps,” objected Bob.
“I don’t believe Ted Rowland will be against us when he hears what has happened,” said Mr. Sheldon. “At worst we can but try, and really we must do something.
“When Dr. Klauss first rescued Grace and me,” he went on, “I suspected that all was not right with him. He had a most peculiar air. But it was not until I spoke of wanting to get to my friends that opposition developed. Even then it was not very strong. Dr. Klauss merely made various excuses, and I thought perhaps he wanted to complete some experimental tests before turning back to shore.
“But as a day or so passed his actions became more peculiar. Then he flatly refused to let Grace and me go. I then feared I had to do with a madman, though I did not disclose my apprehension. I did not know what to do.
“When you boys so unexpectedly and providentially arrived I took heart. It was a trick of fate. We had been traveling all that day, and at night went to the surface for air. We could hear the storm raging. Suddenly something struck the submarine, and Dr. Klauss grew much excited. He seemed to think he was being attacked. Then he investigated, turned on the light and--well, you know the rest, for you boys came in.”
“Yes, we came in,” spoke Bob, with grim humor, “and now the puzzle is how to get out again. It’s like a trap.”
“Oh, we’ll get out somehow,” declared Jerry, with more confidence than he felt.
“One thing we might do,” said Mr. Sheldon. “And that is to wait one more day. Then we can renew our request.”
“Why wait?” asked Bob.
“Because,” answered his uncle, “the mind of an insane person changes. At one time he may refuse to do something, and later he will grant your request. Dr. Klauss is no doubt crazy on only one subject. That is his fancied grievance against our country. That has made him insane. We will make another request, to-morrow, to be set ashore, and if he refuses--why, we will see what we can do with the crew. Fortunately we have our freedom on board, and that means a lot. If he locked us up we would have hard work to perfect our plot.”
“And now, Uncle Nelson,” said Bob, “while we are having this conference, won’t you tell me what it is that you were bringing from Germany that was so valuable?”
“It is valuable yet, Bob,” was the reply. “I still have it, for I saved it from the shipwreck. But, if it’s all the same to you, I had rather not mention it here. We can’t tell who may be listening, and if Dr. Klauss knew I had this he might take such precautions to prevent me from ever getting away that it would spoil all our plans.”
“Why, is it his?”
“Well, he claims it, but it is not his. Some time later I will tell you,” and with this Bob and his chums had to be content.
As there was nothing that could be done for the present the little party sat about the cabin, talking. Mr. Sheldon had been shown by Dr. Klauss how to open the shutters of the side windows, and how to illuminate the water so that the fishes might be observed.
“It will give us something to do--something to take our minds off our troubles--to watch the denizens of the deep,” he said as he opened the slides.
The _Sonderbaar_ was plowing along far below the surface, but in what direction, or in what locality, the boys could not tell. Nor could they say whither they were eventually going, save perhaps back toward Germany.
But the wonderful sight that greeted their eyes--the illuminated waters swarming with ocean life--so interested them that, for the time, they forgot their troubles.
“Oh, if I could but go out there, and get some specimens!” sighed Professor Snodgrass. “I must make notes of what I see, at least,” and he busied himself with pencil and paper.
“I wouldn’t want to go out with that fellow around,” observed Bob, with a shudder, as an immense tiger shark swam into view. “He could bite a man in twain at one clip.”
“And see that octopus!” cried Ned, pointing.
For some time the boys, Grace and Mr. Sheldon watched the marvelous sight. Then Jerry suggested:
“I wonder if we would be stopped if we went to the pilot house or engine room? I should like to see how the ship is navigated.”
“Yes, and it might come in useful if we carry out our mutiny,” added Ned.
“Hush!” spoke Jerry quickly. “Not so loud. Dr. Klauss may come upon us at any time.”
Ned looked around apprehensively, but the fanatical captain had not entered the darkened cabin.
“Well, I’m going to make a try, anyhow,” went on Jerry. “He can’t do more than order me out. Besides, I may get a chance to sound the crew.”
“I think it would be a good idea,” agreed Mr. Sheldon. “We have no time to lose. While we are fairly comfortable here, think of the anxiety of our friends and relatives--of the parents of you boys. We simply _must_ get away from this madman!”
So far as the boys could tell they had the run of the ship. No restrictions had been placed on them, and they felt free to go where they liked. Especially were they anxious to observe how the strange craft was operated. It was knowledge that might be of vital necessity soon.
If their next request to be set free was met with a refusal, then it would be time to put their plot into execution.
Jerry, Ned and Bob had risen to go to the engine room, when Grace, who was standing near one of the glass windows in the side of the cabin gave a startled cry:
“What is it?” asked her father.
“Look!” she gasped. “A whale--a great whale, and he seems about to hit us! Oh, tell Dr. Klauss--quick!”
She pointed to the window where could be seen, keeping pace with the submarine, a monster whale that was fairly rubbing against the side of the boat.
IN DIVING DRESS
The presence of the whale, which was almost half the size of the _Sonderbaar_, so close to the submarine, and the menacing attitude of the great mammal, which easily kept pace with the under-water ship, were enough to alarm our friends, and cause them to fear for the safety of the boat.
“Jove! He is a big one!” gasped Jerry.
“And he looks wicked, too,” added Ned.
“Shall I call Dr. Klauss?” inquired Bob, glancing at Mr. Sheldon, to whom Grace was clinging in fright.
“I think you had better,” was the reply. “There may be no danger, but it is best to be on the safe side. Dr. Klauss may be insane on one subject, but he probably will know what to do to get rid of this whale.”
The German commander had not been in the main cabin for some time, nor had any of the crew been seen. As for the doctor’s two countrymen it yet remained for our friends to have a glimpse of them.
“I’ll get him!” cried Bob, hastening toward the pilot house, along a well-lighted passage way. The whole interior of the submarine was illuminated by incandescents, which were always kept aglow. Naturally this was necessary for, speeding along under water as she had been ever since Jerry and his chums came aboard, the craft was in utter darkness.
As he sped to summon the commander Bob saw the whale draw off a little to one side, though still keeping pace with the submarine.
“He’s getting ready to charge!” cried Jerry.
Bob lost no time. He found Dr. Klauss in the pilot house, peering ahead into the dimly lighted path of radiance along which his craft was speeding. The commander had before him a bewildering array of controls, while near his ears were the diaphragms that, by their buzzing sound, would give telephonic warning of any obstruction.
“Dr. Klauss! Dr. Klauss!” gasped Bob. “There’s a big whale alongside the main cabin! He acts as though he was going to ram us. Can he do any damage? Hadn’t you better do something?”
“Ach! So!” exclaimed the German in his deep, guttural voice. He glanced at Bob with rather a friendly look. In fact Dr. Klauss seemed to have forgotten his recent insane outburst.
“A whale; eh? Well, it is not the first time I have been rammed by one, but it is not pleasant, and deranges the machinery. I think we must stop this one.”
Setting the automatic steering gear, which, in a way, was like the one that had been on the _Comet_, Dr. Klauss hastened after Bob.
“If the whale is still there,” said the German as they went along the passage, “you shall see a curious sight. I have no desire to take animal life except in the interest of science, but I cannot have my craft damaged.”
“How can you kill him? By ramming--going at him full speed?” asked Bob.
“No, I shall use the electric gun that I have rigged up for this very purpose. Watch and you shall see.”
They entered the cabin, outside the window of which the whale still held his place, swimming along with the submarine. Once again, as they watched, they saw the great animal draw back as though to come full tilt, head on against the side of the vessel.
“And if he hits that glass it will be all up with us!” exclaimed Ned.
“Oh, the glass is strong, but still I do not wish to have him hit it,” remarked Dr. Klauss. “Now, if you will watch you will see something.”
He went to a small cabinet set in the wall of the cabin, and when it was opened there was disclosed a dial, not unlike that of a clock, with a movable pointer in the centre. Around the edge of the dial were letters and figures.
“This is my under-water electric gun,” said Dr. Klauss. “By moving this pointer about the dial I can point the muzzle of the gun in any direction. There are three guns, one on either side, and one in the bow. I will use the one on the side nearest the whale. You cannot see the gun, but you will see what it does.”
The boys, Professor Snodgrass, who had come into the main cabin, and Grace and her father looked on with interested and anxious eyes. The submarine was still shooting along under water, and the whale was keeping pace, every now and then drawing back as if for an attack.
“Watch!” suddenly cried Dr. Klauss. He quickly glanced out at the whale, as if to judge of his aim, and then swung the pointer of the dial about. There was a slight click, and the whale seemed to disappear in a smother of red foam. The submarine rushed on, but the great animal was nowhere to be seen.
“Why--why!” gasped Bob. “It--it’s gone!”
“I thought it would,” remarked the doctor, calmly. “I fired an electric bomb into the whale, and it exploded inside, killing the brute instantly. What you saw was really a slight lightning stroke hitting the creature.”
“Jove!” murmured Jerry. “That’s some gun, all right!”
“I am glad you like it,” said Dr. Klauss, and his tone was so different from that he had used before that a gleam of hope came to Mr. Sheldon and the others. Possibly the commander would let his prisoners go without the necessity of taking extreme measures.
“And that is the end of the whale,” remarked Ned.
“Yes, and I am glad you called me,” said Dr. Klauss. “He might have damaged us.”
Mr. Sheldon resolved to pursue the seeming advantage, and asked:
“How much longer is this voyage going to last, Dr. Klauss?”
“That I cannot say,” was the somewhat stiff answer. “I am not in a position to decide yet. But I will say one thing, that, if you like, you will witness some interesting events. I am soon going to the bottom of the sea, and as I wish to make some close observations I am going out of the boat in a diving suit. You may come with me, if you like,” he said to Professor Snodgrass.
“May I?” cried the little scientist eagerly. “Then I certainly shall. I must get those specimens of hermit crabs. Oh! what an opportunity has come to me. I would not have missed it for a fortune!”
The three chums looked at one another and at Mr. Sheldon. The same thought was in the minds of all. If the German left the ship might they not easily gain control of her? Then their problem would be solved. But if Professor Snodgrass went out also that would make it more difficult.
Mr. Sheldon made a sign to Jerry that he would speak to Professor Snodgrass, and Jerry nodded comprehendingly.
Dr. Klauss did not seem to have seen this byplay. He closed the little cabinet containing the gun pointer, and remarked:
“If you will come with me now, I will show you how we leave the ship and walk on the bottom of the sea. We are about at the place.”
They went with him to the engine room, where the three Americans were busy over the machinery. On the way the party, including Grace, who kept close to her father, passed a small room in which could be seen two elderly Germans, busy over books and papers. Dr. Klauss said something to them in a foreign tongue--not German, as the boys could tell, for they had studied that language at school.
The two men, who seemed like learned professors, got up and followed the party to the engine room.
“I always have them near at hand when I leave the ship to go out in my diving dress,” explained the commander. “There might be an--accident, you know,” and Jerry thought the fanatic regarded his guests in a peculiar manner.
Mr. Sheldon found a chance to hurriedly whisper to Professor Snodgrass that it might not be wise for him to go out on the bottom of the sea, and the scientist, who quickly grasped the reason, agreed not to take advantage of the offer of Dr. Klauss at this time.
“As you may have realized,” said the inventor to his guests, “a very strong diving dress is needed in working at great depths, in order to sustain the enormous pressure of water. The greatest depth to which an ordinary diver can descend is two hundred feet--seldom this. But I am going to reach the bottom of the sea at a point where it is about six hundred feet deep, and so the pressure will increase in proportion. It will be perfectly safe in my diving suit, though, and if any of you would like to try it----”
He paused suggestively.
“I think we will wait,” said Mr. Sheldon.
“Yes, and I have also changed my mind,” added Professor Snodgrass. “There are no hermit crabs in these waters, anyhow.”
“No,” assented Dr. Klauss, with a smile. “Well, some other time I hope to have the pleasure of taking you to the bottom of the sea with me.”
The commander seemed so pleasant and affable that it was hard to realize his mood of a short time before.
“We could have a dandy time here, if he was only all right,” thought Jerry. “If we could go when we pleased, and could send word to our folks, I’d like a submarine voyage.”
But, under the circumstances, the very lives of Jerry and his chums might be in danger.
“Get ready!” called the inventor to his three engineers. “Sink the boat!”
There was a hissing as more water was pumped into the ballast tanks, and the forward motion of the craft ceased, to give place to a downward one. For a moment the visitors felt a queer sensation as when an elevator drops suddenly, but they soon grew used to this. In a few minutes the boat came to a rest with a slight shock.
“We are now on the bottom of the sea,” explained Dr. Klauss. “I shall now don my diving suit, and go out of the boat. Probably you have anticipated how this is done.
“I enter a small opening in the side of my ship--a sort of niche that opens inside. The inner door is then hermetically sealed. I am in a sort of closet. By means of valves, water is then admitted until it equals the pressure outside. The outer door is then opened, and I can step upon the bottom of the sea. I carry about with me, on my back, a tank of compressed air, so I have no need of the air hose ordinarily used by divers.”
“Say! That’s great!” cried Jerry, almost wishing he could try on one of the suits.
“All ready now!” called the doctor, and one of the machinists began taking out a diving dress from a compartment. It was a heavy affair, with lead-soled shoes, and it took two men to help the doctor into it. In appearance it was not unlike the usual diving dress, save that the helmet was more complicated, as it had to be because of its detachment from the usual air hose.
The doctor was soon encased in his modern suit of water-armor, and with the screwing shut of his helmet he could no longer communicate with his men except by signs. But they understood him.
The boys were fascinated by the strangeness of the proceeding, and hardly stopped to consider their position. Nor did they realize that they were resting upon the bottom of the sea.
Dr. Klauss moved slowly toward a steel-studded door in the side of the engine room. It opened, disclosing a closet-like compartment. Beyond the outer door of this was the sea, pressing with enormous force.
Dr. Klauss made a sign--he seemed to be bidding farewell to those in the submarine. Then he stepped into the compartment, the door was shut and sealed. Jerry and his chums drew long breaths. They had not realized the nervous strain they were under.
An instant later there was a hissing sound, as the water rushed in through the valves. It lasted only a short time. Then came a slight click.
“He is out!” exclaimed Ted Rowland.
Dr. Klauss was walking around on the bottom of the ocean!
“Can we see him?”
“Where will he go?”
“What is he going to do?”
Jerry, Ned and Bob thus eagerly questioned the three machinists, and Ted Rowland answered:
“If you go into the forward cabin you can look out through the side windows and watch him. Don’t turn on the light, or you can’t see as well. Dr. Klauss carries a submarine lamp with him, and you can make him out by that.”
“Come on!” cried Jerry, eagerly, and he and his chums, followed by Grace, Mr. Sheldon and Professor Snodgrass, went into the main cabin. The two stolid Germans remained in the motor room, seemingly on guard.
“Why did you not want me to go out there in a diving suit?” asked the scientist of Mr. Sheldon, when they were away from the doctor’s friends and his crew.
“There were two reasons,” was the answer. “In the first place I feared some harm might befall you. You are not used to going into deep water, and he is. Then, too, he might suddenly go mad out there alone with you, and do you some injury. We could not save you.
“Another reason was that I thought if we all stayed together there might be some chance of getting away--of making our escape. But the only way, I suppose, would be to go off and leave Dr. Klauss to his fate. That would be too horrible. We could not do it except, perhaps, as a last resort.”
“I see,” said Professor Snodgrass, who seemed to take more of an interest in the affairs of his friends, now that he could not be actively engaged in getting specimens. “We might keep him a prisoner in the diving chamber until we took the boat to shore, and escaped,” he added.
“Well, that might be a good plan,” admitted Mr. Sheldon, “but I dislike to try it. I think we ought to give him one more chance to set us free. If he does not, then we will act. What do you say, boys?”
“I agree to that,” spoke Jerry. “Besides, we don’t know where we are now. We ought to make an observation from the surface of the sea, and I think the boat will soon go up. Our air must need replenishing.”
“Then we’ll wait,” decided Mr. Sheldon. “Now for a look at the doctor on the bottom of the sea.”
“Say,” spoke Bob in a low voice to Ned, “suppose we do get control of the submarine. Do you think we can run her?”
“I think so--if the crew will help us, and those two old Germans don’t interfere,” was the reply. “We’ll have to sound the crew soon.”
“There he is!” suddenly exclaimed Grace, as she peered out of the darkened windows in the side of the cabin. “See him walking along!”
They all beheld the figure of the doctor, in his strange suit, on the sandy bottom of the sea, carrying his electric lamp with him. He turned and flashed it toward the now motionless submarine, and waved his rubber-encased hand, as if in greeting of those watching him.
“Say, that’s great!” exclaimed Ned.
“Look at the fishes around him!” cried Bob.
“Yes, and there’s a big shark coming behind him!” suddenly gasped Jerry. “Say, if that monster ever attacks him----”
He did not finish.
Walking along on the sand, which was strewn with shells and stones, while about him waved sinuous seaweed, Dr. Klauss did not seem aware of the near presence of the monster fish. But an instant later something must have warned him, for he turned, and those watching saw the flash of a knife in his hand--a long, keen blade.
“That’s better!” whispered Jerry, tensely.
But there was no need for Dr. Klauss to defend himself. The shark seemed afraid, now that it had come close to the human fish, and with a sweep of its big tail it turned and was lost in the gloom of the sea. Then the German moved on. Other fishes nosed him, or swam at his side, apparently curious about the lamp, but none offered to attack him.
The doctor seemed to be looking about, as though studying the configuration of the sea bottom.
“What do you suppose can be his object?” asked Grace.
“He is looking for rare specimens,” declared Professor Snodgrass. “Oh, that I were with him! If I could not get a hermit crab, perhaps I could find something else of value.”
“He’s looking for treasure,” was Bob’s opinion.
“More likely a place where he can safely sink some of Uncle Sam’s ships!” exclaimed Jerry. “If ever we get out of this we’ll have to inform the war authorities, to put them on their guard.”
“That is right,” assented Mr. Sheldon. “I hardly believe though, that Dr. Klauss is looking for a marine graveyard. I think he has some scientific object in view.”
Just what the German’s object was, those watching him could not determine. He soon disappeared around the bow of the boat, and became lost to sight. Jerry, who had learned how to do it, then turned on the lights to illuminate the space around the boat, and for some time they watched the fishes, and other forms of life, at the bottom of the sea.
They talked over their precarious situation, and agreed that if another appeal to Dr. Klauss should not be heeded they would see if the crew would not join them in a mutiny--a justifiable mutiny.
“We’ll have to secure this madman,” said Mr. Sheldon, “and do the best we can to navigate the boat ourselves. I only wish I knew where we are.”
“I think we will soon learn,” spoke Jerry. “We can’t stay under water forever.”
Dr. Klauss came back into the submarine in about an hour, the process being reversed to give him entrance. He said nothing about his trip, nor whether he had accomplished his purpose, but remarked:
“The next time, Professor Snodgrass, I hope you will come with me. And some of you boys--I have several diving suits and, you have seen, they are perfectly safe.”
“I think I may come--next time,” agreed the little scientist. “Did you see any hermit crabs?”
“No, but I can take you to a place where they are plentiful.”
The remainder of the day passed uneventfully. Mr. Sheldon did not think it wise to renew the request to be set free.
“We will try him to-morrow,” he said.
The _Sonderbaar_ was again put in motion, speeding along at a depth of about three hundred feet, as the boys could tell from the gage. They had practically the run of the craft, and their presence was seemingly not noticed by the two old Germans. Nor did Dr. Klauss introduce his foreign friends to his prisoner-guests. He simply did not mention them.
“When are we going up to get some fresh air?” asked Jerry of Dr. Klauss the next morning, meeting the inventor near the pilot house.
“Very soon after breakfast,” was the answer. “My tanks need refilling.”
Jerry hastened to find Mr. Sheldon to tell him what was to happen, and the refugees ate rather an excited meal. The cooking on board was done by one of the three machinists--usually Bill Burke--and Bob bore testimony that the food was most excellent, in which, indeed, they all agreed.
Shortly after the meal Dr. Klauss came into the main cabin to announce:
“We are going up, now, and those who wish may go on deck. But be careful, for we are in the middle of the Atlantic and if you fall overboard I may not be able to rescue you.”
Jerry wondered if there was any significance in the grim words, or in the smile that accompanied them. But Dr. Klauss turned away.
There was a new motion to the _Sonderbaar_. She seemed to tilt her bow toward the surface, and soon she shot from the water, and lay inert on the bosom of the sea. There was a clank of metal and the German called:
“The hatch is open--those who wish may go up.”
“Me for some fresh air!” cried Jerry, and the others followed, one at a time, all glad to be in the open, and under the blue sky once more.
They looked about in wonder. The submarine, her deck only slightly above the surface, was in the midst of the boundless ocean. There was not another craft in sight, and no land visible. They were indeed in the middle of the Atlantic.
“Well, it’s good to get your nose outside; even if we are held by the enemy,” remarked Ned.
“Yes, and I think we must soon put our plan to the test,” spoke Mr. Sheldon. “I will again make a request of Dr. Klauss.”
Bob’s uncle was about to go down the hatchway to seek the German, but, at that moment, Dr. Klauss came up. He seemed to have forgotten all about his burst of passion, but when Mr. Sheldon, a moment later, made his request that he and his friends and daughter be set ashore, the doctor’s face flamed red, and in an excited manner he exclaimed:
“Now, that will do! No more of that! I told you that you would never see your country again--and you will not! I shall keep my word. I shall return and destroy all the Yankee ships, but you will not. I will maroon you on a desert island if I have to! I will not have my plans betrayed!”
“But, Dr. Klauss!” began Jerry. “If we----”
“Silence! Not another word!” was the sharp retort. “I shall never let you go. I hate you Americans! Bah! Now go below!” and he pointed to the open hatch.
Jerry hesitated a moment. He was debating in his mind whether it would not be well to attack the madman then and there and settle matters. But the small open deck was no place for a struggle. Then, too, there was Grace to consider. Mr. Sheldon made Jerry a single sign to obey, and the tall youth started down the narrow hatch. The others followed.
“Well,” remarked Ned, when they were by themselves in the main cabin, “what’s to be done?”
“Only one thing can now be done,” returned Mr. Sheldon, solemnly. “We must try to get the crew on our side, and seize this madman. Then we will take possession of the boat and sail for home!”
And in this decision they all agreed.
“Now,” said Mr. Sheldon, a little later, when they had gone more into detail as to what they would do, “now, the question is, how shall we approach the crew--and when?”
“I think we had better take the first chance that offers itself,” spoke Jerry. “We haven’t any time to spare. Dr. Klauss is as crazy as ever--that’s sure, and there’s no telling what he may do.”
“He said something about landing us on a desert island,” remarked Bob.
“Well, if he’d do that it might not be so bad,” came from Ned. “We might escape from there. But the trouble is there’s no certainty that he’d do that. I think the best plan is to get possession of the submarine.”
“Providing the crew will help us,” added Mr. Sheldon. “If they will not we shall have to adopt another plan.”
There was a sudden motion to the submarine, and the little daylight that had filtered in through the top of the side windows of the main deck was dispelled.
“We are going down!” exclaimed Grace. “Oh dear! We are going under water again! Oh, Father, I can’t stand it!” and she sobbed on his shoulder.
“There, there, Grace, my girl,” he comforted her. “We are doing the best we can. Possibly in another day we will be our own masters.”
Jerry and his chums were indignant at Dr. Klauss for causing Grace so much anguish, but they realized that nothing could be gained by being rash. They must carefully work out their plans.
The _Sonderbaar_ sank lower and lower in the water. Soon she was completely submerged and again, tightly closed, she surged ahead through the dark sea. Whither were they going? What had fate in store for the refugees? None could answer.
The remainder of that day Dr. Klauss was not seen. The meals were served without him, nor did his two foreign friends come to the table. Jerry, his chums, Mr. Sheldon and Grace had the dining cabin to themselves. Grace, in a measure, had recovered her composure, and begged the boys not to think her a nuisance for having given way to her feelings.
“That’s all right!” exclaimed Bob, stoutly. “We’ll soon have the upper hand of this crazy--submarinist.”
“That’s a new word,” laughed Grace, and they all felt better to hear her cheerful voice.
Watching his chance, Jerry slipped into the engine room when he noted that Dr. Klauss was not there. The German kept mostly to the pilot house, guiding his marvelous craft under water. But what was his object, and for what port he was headed, no one seemed to know. As he went in to see if there was a chance to speak privately to Ted Rowland and his mates, Jerry saw the two old Germans in their cabin, poring over books and papers, seemingly making intricate calculations.
Jerry saw the three machinists in consultation in one corner of the engine room. They started at the sight of him.
“Well, how are things going?” asked the lad, with a smile.
“Oh, well enough, I s’pose,” answered Ted, in no very cheerful tones. Jerry thought he looked at him in a peculiar way.
“Say, why don’t you tell him?” suddenly burst out Bill Burke. “I’m getting sick and tired of this business! Tell him, and maybe he’ll help us out!”
“That’s what I say!” added Tom Flynn. “What’s the use of holding back any longer.”
“What’s up?” asked Jerry, quickly, though in a flash an inkling of the truth came to him.
“Lots is up!” exclaimed Ted, vindictively. “We’re in a submarine run by a lunatic--that’s what’s up!”
“Have you just found that out?” asked Jerry, realizing that now was the time to strike for liberty.
“No, we’ve suspected it for some time,” said Bill. “But since you folks came aboard he’s got worse.”
“And now it’s the limit!” added Tom Flynn.
“Why?” Jerry asked.
“He’s just given orders,” went on Ted, “that he’s going to test this boat to the limit. He says he’s going to try to get to the bottom of the sea in a place where it’s two miles, or more, deep, and he’s going to see how long he can go without refilling the air tanks. We’ve got orders to hold on until something busts, and if I had my way something would bust right soon--and it would be crazy Dr. Klauss, too!”
“Hush!” warned Bill.
“I don’t care if he does hear me!” went on Ted. “I’m sick and tired of him!” and he tossed a monkey wrench down with a bang. “I say let’s take these boys and their friends into our plan.”
“What plan is that?” asked Jerry, hopefully, though he could almost guess, now.
“A plan to take possession of this boat, run her back to America and then get off!” cried Bill. “We’re tired of being cooped up here with a lunatic. No telling what he may do! Why, this boat will never stand the pressure at two miles. And as for that air test--well, I don’t want to go through it.”
“Nor do we!” cried Jerry, quickly. “Listen! I came in here to sound you, and see if you would join with us in the very same sort of plan. Dr. Klauss has threatened that we shall never see our homes again. He is going to maroon us on a desert island. He hates Americans--he hates you--his brother was shot as a spy in the Spanish-American War and he says he’s going to blow up our navy!”
“Does he!” cried Ted. “Then he sure is crazy, and I’ll do all I can to put him in irons! Blow up our navy; eh? What do you think of that, fellows?”
“That’s the limit!” cried Bill. Though the men had left Uncle Sam’s service, it was only temporarily, and they were still loyal, though working for a foreigner.
“Then you’re with us?” asked Jerry, eagerly.
“Every time!” cried Ted. “We’ll help you lock up this crazy captain, and then help you navigate the ship back home. I guess we can do it.”
“What about those other two Germans?” asked Bill.
“Just give them some problem to work on--say to figure how many drops of water there are in the ocean, and they’ll keep at that day and night--wouldn’t even eat if you didn’t make ’em. They won’t bother us.”
“Then,” said Jerry, “we’ll take Dr. Klauss into custody as soon as possible, and gain possession of this boat. I think we have a right, under the circumstances, especially after his latest order to run us all into such risks.”
“Boy, we’re with you!” cried Ted. “Shake!” and he held out his hand.
As Jerry clasped it there was a sound behind them, and they turned to behold Dr. Klauss regarding them with a strange light in his eyes.
The conspirators--they were really that, though it was a conspiracy to save their own lives--the conspirators, then, started half-guiltily as they beheld the form of the insane commander. Had he overheard their plot?
Jerry gave a quick glance at his allies--the machinists. He seemed to be saying:
“If he has heard us we must act now. We must overpower him at once if he tries to attack us.”
Ted Rowland nodded as if he understood, and for a few seconds they all seemed to be waiting.
It was an awkward moment. Then Dr. Klauss spoke.
“How are the motors running?” he asked, and his voice sounded perfectly natural.
“All--all right, sir,” answered Ted, hesitating slightly. It was evident that Dr. Klauss had not overheard, or, if he had, he was going to ignore the matter--for the time being at least--and for his own purposes.
“I’m glad of that,” he went on. “I want to try and run at top speed soon, and I am going to give my ship a most severe test. I spoke to you before about this,” he said, looking at the other two machinists, who nodded. Jerry understood. It meant the taking of the _Sonderbaar_ to a dangerous depth.
“I see you still hold your interest in my machines,” said the German commander to Jerry.
“Yes, I--I came in to see how the engines were running. I only wish,” went on Jerry, with a whimsical smile, “that they were running us toward our homes--instead of away from them.”
“That will do!” cried the commander, harshly. “You have heard my decision in this matter. Never speak of it again! I did not ask you to come aboard my vessel, but since you are here you must take the consequences. This ends the subject forever!”
“Oh, no it doesn’t,” said Jerry to himself, and with a meaning look at Ted and his companions. “This is only the beginning, Dr. Klauss. We are going to see our homes again in spite of you.”
“Work the engines up to top speed gradually,” ordered the commander to the members of the crew. “See that the bearings do not get hot. And you, Bill Burke, will look after the ballast tanks. Make sure there are no leaks, and that the valves are tight. They may be a bit strained when we go farther down than we have ever been before.”
“I should say they would!” burst out Ted Rowland. “Look here, Dr. Klauss, I wish you would give up this plan. Of course you know your own ship better than we do--and know what she will stand. But we’re machinists, too, and we know that the terrible pressure you’ll be sure to meet with at even a mile in depth, to say nothing of two, or three, will do serious damage. We may all lose our lives. We don’t like it, and we wish you’d give it up!”
“Enough of that!” cried the German, sternly. “You are under my orders. When you shipped with me you agreed to obey. I order you to take this craft to a great depth, that I may test it, and you will do so. You have no choice. I am in command.”
“But the danger!” cried Tom Flynn.
“Bah! There is no danger!” exclaimed the insane commander. “You will be as safe at the bottom of the sea as here. Now remember--this ends all objections! You will do as I say! I am going to the pilot house, to run my boat from there. And I want my every order and signal obeyed promptly. That will be all.”
He turned abruptly on his heel, and went out. The men looked after him with anger on their faces, while Jerry showed not a little fear.
“Well, that settles it!” exclaimed Ted, in a low voice. “We both gave him a chance to back down, and let us out,” he said to the tall lad. “He refused. Now we’ll take matters into our own hands, and he’ll have to stand the consequences. We’re all agreed on that?” and he looked questioningly at his companions.
“Sure--certainly,” they answered.
“Then you can tell your friends,” went on Ted to Jerry. “We’ll make the captain a prisoner, and we’ll be justified in law--if we ever get to where there are laws again.”
“What about his two German friends?” asked Jerry.
“Don’t worry about them. If we have to we can secure them too, but all we’ll have to do will be to lock them in their room, with pencils and papers, and they’ll start figuring on how long they’ll be likely to remain there, or how much the sun weighs, or how long it would take the submarine to get there. That will dispose of them. Meanwhile we’ll turn this ship about and sail for home.”
“And when--when shall we make the--attack?” asked Jerry.
“As soon as he gives an order to send this boat any deeper in the ocean,” answered Ted promptly. “That will be the signal. She is now running as deep as is safe,” and he glanced at the gage on the wall of the engine room. “The minute he signals to fill the ballast tanks more, and send her down, we’ll attack him in the pilot house. Better go tell your friends what our plan is,” he concluded to Jerry.
“I was afraid he had heard us,” spoke the tall lad. “We had a narrow escape.”
“That’s what we did,” agreed Ted.
The news was received by Ned and Bob with satisfaction.
“I’m glad we’re going to do something besides sit around this submarine waiting,” commented Ned.
“And I’d like to try my hand at cooking again,” confessed Bob, with a sigh. “They won’t let me in the galley here.”
“Well, that all may be changed in a few hours,” said Jerry hopefully.
“Oh, I’m so glad!” cried Grace, whose face showed traces of tears. “Then we will see our friends again, Papa.”
“Yes, my girl! It has been a severe strain on you, but you’ve borne up well. It was a lucky day when the boys came aboard.”
Jerry rapidly told of his experience with the crew, and the decision arrived at. On Mr. Sheldon’s advice the boys got together a quantity of stout rope, which was placed in readiness to bind Dr. Klauss after he should have been subdued.
“We’ll lock him in his own cabin,” went on Bob’s uncle, “and we’ll have to arrange to stand guard over him. Maniacs are very tricky, and he may escape. About his two friends--I think, with the members of the crew, that they will give no trouble. Now, who is going to do the actual attacking, Jerry?”
“Oh, we all may have to take a hand,” was the answer. “But I think Miss Grace had better keep to her own cabin.”
“So do I,” spoke her father gravely.
“And I’m going to stuff cotton in my ears so I can’t hear it,” said the girl, smiling slightly. “It’s a terrible thing to do, but it is more to feel that we may always be prisoners on this fearful ship.”
There was another consultation with the crew. Meanwhile Dr. Klauss kept to the pilot house and his two foreign friends had not left the cabin where they seemed to be always working over some intricate problem.
It was decided that Ned and Bob, with Mr. Sheldon, should remain near the pilot house. Jerry would go to the engine room, and, when the signal came to send the boat deeper, he and the three men would rush forward, and attack Dr. Klauss. They agreed to use no more force than was necessary to safely bind him.
“Then all we have to do is to wait,” said Jerry, as he sat down near one of the humming dynamos.
The submarine was running along at about her usual depth. It was only a question of time when her fanatical commander would signal to have her sent to the bottom.
Suddenly there came a buzzing sound from one of the electric signals. Then, in the glass-fronted box below it, appeared a certain number.
“That means to go down to the limit!” cried Ted. “Come on, friends! It’s now or never!”
There was a moment of hesitation and then Jerry and the three men started. Mr. Sheldon, Bob and Ned heard them coming, and held themselves in readiness.
At the end of the lighted corridor they could all see the big German in the pilot house. He was manipulating various levers and turning wheels.
“Come on!” said Jerry in a low voice.
As noiselessly as possible they advanced on the crazed commander. Just as they reached the door he heard them and turned.
He started, and something in the attitude and looks of the men and boys must have told Dr. Klauss what was their intention. He sprang up, and his hand sought a certain lever.
“Don’t let him reach that!” yelled Ted. Jerry fairly threw himself on the infuriated man, and Ned followed. Then Ted and his companions closed in.
There was a short, sharp fight, and several of the attackers were knocked down, but they got up again, and renewed the struggle. Dr. Klauss was very strong, and his madness added to it, but four men and three boys were more than a match for him, especially in such contracted quarters.
In a few seconds the maniac, panting and disheveled, as indeed they all were, was held by many hands.
“The ropes!” called Jerry, and Mr. Sheldon passed them in.
“They’ll do temporarily,” said Ted Rowland, “but we’ll have to use chains. That’s the only thing that will hold him. He’ll break these ropes. There are some chains in the engine room.”
“What--what does this mean?” gasped the enraged commander. “Unbind me at once! You shall pay dearly for this outrage! Help!” he called, and then, adding something in a foreign tongue he struggled with all his might to break his bonds.
The ropes strained and creaked, and Ted at once sent for the chains. These were placed about the unfortunate doctor, and, just as they were made secure, and he had been lifted up to be carried to his cabin, the two old Germans came running from their rooms. They were greatly excited.
Dr. Klauss, seeing his two friends, called to them something in the language he and they used between them. It seemed to be an appeal for help.
“Look out for them!” cried Mr. Sheldon, who had gone on ahead. He had an iron bar for a weapon.
“Don’t you two interfere!” yelled Ted. “If you do it will be worse for you.”
“What is it; we don’t understand,” said one of the men in German.
“We have had to subdue Dr. Klauss,” answered Jerry, who could manage to speak a little of the language of the Fatherland. “He has threatened to take us down to the bottom of the sea at a depth that would kill us all.
“We are doing this as a precautionary measure,” went on Jerry, struggling with the German language. “We intend to turn the ship about, and land ourselves. Then we will give Dr. Klauss his liberty, and he can do as he pleases. But we will not let you interfere with our plans now!”
Jerry’s stand was determined.
“Good!” cried Mr. Sheldon, who had understood part of the talk. “That’s the way to handle them!”
Dr. Klauss, still struggling somewhat in the binding chains, shouted something in that strange tongue. The two elderly Germans seemed to hesitate, and Jerry feared they might try to effect a rescue, though he had little doubt of the ability of himself and the others to overpower them.
“Don’t try anything rash!” Jerry shouted. “We intend no harm to Dr. Klauss. We are only anxious to save ourselves. It will be best for you to do nothing.”
The old men appeared to think so, too. They talked between themselves in low voices and then spoke to the commander in the secret language. What they said appeared to displease the fanatic, but his entreaties were in vain.
“First class in arithmetic!” called Ted, in grim humor, and this seemed to settle it. The old men went back to their cabin and when the party passed it, carrying the captive commander, they were again bent over their papers, calculating, in all probability, the weight of the salt in the ocean.
“Well, so far so good!” Jerry exclaimed in relief, as they deposited Dr. Klauss in his cabin.
“I order you to release me! This is an outrage!” cried the insane man. “You shall all be punished for this.”
“We deeply regret the necessity for it,” said Mr. Sheldon courteously, for, after all, Dr. Klauss had really saved their lives. “We are only doing this,” Bob’s uncle went on, “to protect ourselves. If you would agree to set us ashore, or on some vessel that would take us to America----”
“No--no! You must not go!” screamed the commander wildly.
“Then we cannot release you,” said Mr. Sheldon firmly. “But understand, we mean you no harm, and as soon as we have landed we will restore your liberty--or allow your friends to do it for us. Then you may do as you please with your boat!”
Dr. Klauss struggled as only a madman can, but the chains were too strong. He could not escape. The successful plotters placed their captive in as comfortable a position as possible, securing him in such a manner that he could move about. But the chains were locked on him, and arrangements were made to stand watch-and-watch outside his cabin door.
“Now!” cried Ned, when this had been done, “the next thing to do is to see about getting back home. Whereabouts are we, anyhow?”
“Somewhere in mid-Atlantic, about three hundred feet down,” announced Ted. “We can soon go up, and take an observation.”
“Go up!” cried Professor Snodgrass, who had taken no part in the capture and subduing of Dr. Klauss. “Oh, I had hopes, before this voyage ended, that I could get my crab specimens from the bottom of the sea. Would it not be safe to go down just once? I should like to put on a diving dress and see if I could not get what I want.”
“Well, I suppose we could do that,” agreed Jerry slowly. “Now that we are in possession of the ship we can do as we please, within certain limits.”
“But are you sure that if once you get on the bottom of the ocean you can raise the craft again?” asked Mr. Sheldon, anxiously. “I don’t begrudge the professor a chance to get his specimens, but we must take no chances. Our condition has been desperate enough. Now we have an opportunity to get back home, and we must not let it slip.”
“Oh, we can get up again, easily enough,” said Ted Rowland. “I’ll guarantee that. With a free hand my mates and I can navigate this boat all right. We’ll have to get out the charts and maps, though. Dr. Klauss always kept them to himself. Then I can take an observation, work out our position, and we’ll know where we are--in which direction to sail. I guess it will be safe to get your crabs, Professor Snodgrass.”
“Good!” cried the scientist. “You do not know how happy you have made me. Let us go down at once, and I will get into one of the diving suits.”
“And so will I!” cried Jerry.
“What! Are you going to take a chance?” asked Bob.
“It isn’t much of a risk,” declared the tall lad. “I watched Dr. Klauss do it.”
“I think I’ll try it, too,” decided Ned.
“Well, let’s first find a place where the bottom is not too far down,” suggested Mr. Sheldon, with a smile. “Then after the professor gets his crabs we will start for home.”
“Oh, how glad I will be!” cried Grace, who, now that the struggle was over, had joined her father. “Oh, to be safe ashore once again!”
“Yes, it will seem good,” agreed Jerry. “I only wish we could arrange to keep this boat, though.”
“We sure could have good times in her,” added Ned. “I wonder if we couldn’t go back, and pick up our _Comet_ on the way?”
“The _Comet_ must have sunk long ago,” declared Bob. “But we might rescue that old sailor.”
“Oh, I fancy he has, by this time, been picked up and towed to port,” put in Jerry. “Well, shall we go down?”
“First go up, and renew our air supply,” suggested Ted. “We can’t have too much of that. Then we’ll work out our observations, and decide where we are.”
This was voted a good plan, and in a short time, under the manipulation of the boys and the members of the crew, the _Sonderbaar_ was tossing about on the sun-lit waves. She was in the midst of a watery waste, no other craft being in sight.
While the air tanks were being filled, Ted Rowland worked out their position. They were about a thousand miles from the coast of America, and not far from the Bermuda Islands.
“Not so bad,” announced Ted. “We will soon be home now.”
“But not before I get my crabs,” stipulated the professor. “Can we go down here?”
“It is too deep just at this point,” said Ted, as he consulted a chart obtained from the pilot house. “But about fifty miles from here there is a bank that is only about four hundred feet down. We can safely make that, I think.”
Meanwhile Dr. Klauss had seemed to accept his fate with resignation. He remained quietly in his cabin, and his two foreign friends were in theirs.
The deck hatch of the _Sonderbaar_ was closed, and she sank below the surface. She was then headed for the comparatively shallow part of the ocean, and speeded up.
“We can run as well as if Dr. Klauss were here,” said Ned, who was allowed to attend to one of the motors.
“Yes, your experience in your motorship comes in well,” observed Ted. The boys were beginning to be delighted with their experience on the submarine, now that there was a chance to escape and get home.
In due time they reached the place where it was decided to descend to the bottom of the sea, and in a little while the _Sonderbaar_ was resting on the white sand. About her swam big and little fishes--all curious about this new monster of the deep.
Jerry and the professor decided to go out together in diving suits, and later, if he wished, Ned could take a turn. No one else seemed to want to.
The diving suits were soon brought out and Jerry and the scientist, donning them, shut themselves up in the water chamber. Everything went along without a hitch, and a few minutes later the heavy steel door swung open, and the two could step out on the ocean bed.
It was a novel sensation, and Jerry enjoyed it to the utmost, although there was a spice of danger to the adventure. He could not help wondering what would happen should an accident take place, or if the _Sonderbaar_ should suddenly go off and leave them.
But he put these thoughts out of his mind, and followed the professor. They had their lanterns, and they could look through the glass windows, and see their friends in the cabin, waving their hands. Of course Jerry and the professor could not talk to each other, but there was no need.
Professor Snodgrass lost no time in looking for his crab specimens. At first he was not successful, though he did find some rare shellfish which gave him manifest delight. Then he came close to where Jerry was standing on the bed of the ocean, looking at a great fish, of an unknown species, that was eyeing the intruders as if in doubt what to do.
The professor stooped down and picked up something. He held it so Jerry could see, and the lad beheld a large crab, comfortably established in the vacant shell of some other creature. The professor had found what he wanted--a hermit crab.
“I guess he wishes he could talk now,” thought Jerry. “He sure will make up for it, though, when we get on board again. Well, I’m glad he’s found it. I don’t fancy staying down here too long, though it certainly is a wonderful thing to have done.”
The professor walked on a little farther, finding more specimens which he placed in a net he had brought along for the purpose. Jerry kept pace with him.
Suddenly the lad saw what seemed to be a dark rope dart out, and encircle the professor’s waist. The scientist turned about, and Jerry could see that he was surprised. Then another rope was entwined about Professor Snodgrass. Quickly the scientist pulled out the long, keen knife with which the diving suit was equipped, but, before he could use it Jerry saw a third rope-like appendage whip itself about the professor’s arm.
Then Jerry understood. Professor Snodgrass had been attacked by a giant octopus. With a cry of horror which almost deafened him, reflected back as it was from the sides of his copper helmet, Jerry strode to the rescue of his companion. But before he had taken two steps he felt the giant arms about himself also.
He and Professor Snodgrass were entangled in living ropes at the bottom of the sea!
Jerry felt the horrid arm of the creature of the deep squeezing him tighter and tighter. He could also note that Professor Snodgrass was in terrible danger; but, so far, the lad had not a glimpse of the globular body of the fish itself. He had no doubt that the octopus was hidden in some crevice of the rocks behind him and his companion, and, following its usual method, had reached out and seized the invaders of its haunts.
Quickly Jerry drew his knife, as he had seen the professor do, but before he could use it, to slash through the snake-like tentacle, another was whipped around him, pinning both his arms to his sides.
The lantern dropped from his hand, but it was attached to his waist by a light chain, and did not go out. The right hand of Professor Snodgrass--that containing the knife--was the only one that had been caught by the creature. His other was free, and yet not free, for it held the lantern and the net into which the sea specimens had been put.
Then began a terrible struggle at the bottom of the sea. The octopus, which they afterward judged must have been a gigantic specimen, much larger than usual, began to pull Jerry and the professor backward. With horror they realized that they might be drawn into some ocean cave, and killed, in spite of their strong diving suits, by the powerful suckers attached to the arms of the creature. It was only the exceptional size of the beast that made it formidable, for with a smaller one either Jerry or the professor could have coped.
[Illustration: THEN BEGAN A TERRIBLE STRUGGLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.]
Silently the struggle went on, but, fortunately, not in darkness, for both the submarine electric lamps still glowed, and now they were within range of the light that streamed from the glass windows of the cabin of the _Sonderbaar_. Someone had switched them on.
In vain Jerry tried to free his arms. They were too tightly held, another feeler whipping itself about him. The remaining tentacles of the creature, the lad realized, must be clinging to a rock to give it an anchorage.
Jerry glanced at Professor Snodgrass. The scientist had now dropped his lantern so that it dangled at the end of the chain about his waist, and was making fast to the same chain the net containing his specimens. Then Jerry had a gleam of hope, for he saw the little man transfer the long, keen knife from his right to his left hand, reaching for it with the latter.
“Oh, if he can only cut off the arms of the octopus!” thought Jerry. And yet, as he glanced down on his chest, and beheld the horrid muscular object, like some snake, with its spasmodically working suckers, Jerry had his doubts. Could a knife cut through in time to save their lives--his life?
There was danger of the pressure of the arms working some damage to the compressed air apparatus carried at the back of the helmet. Already Jerry felt a choking sensation, as the arms drew tighter and tighter about him.
Professor Snodgrass raised the knife to slash the tentacle of the beast that held him captive. Then he seemed to hesitate, and Jerry thought he understood. The diving suit was partly made of rubber, and the least rent in this, if the knife should slip, would mean death by drowning.
What could be done?
Tighter and tighter pressed the terrible tentacles. Closer and closer to the unseen cave the creature drew its prey. Neither Jerry nor the professor could turn about, but they knew the horrid monster of the deep was back of them.
Then the lad glanced toward the submarine. Grouped about the glass cabin window were all his friends--horror showing on their faces.
“Oh, if they could only do something--use the electric gun, as Dr. Klauss did on the whale,” thought Jerry. Then he realized that this would not be safe. The charge that would kill the octopus would also kill them.
Suddenly Ned Slade pushed his way close to the cabin glass. He made a sign to Jerry, and then, using his fingers to give a message in the deaf and dumb alphabet (which the chums often practiced) Ned spelled out this:
“I am coming to save you!”
Jerry’s heart gave a bound. He felt that help was coming. He called the attention of Professor Snodgrass to their friends.
The little scientist, however, decided to chance an attack on the monster’s tentacle. He would slash it, even though the beast in its throes might do them serious harm. Jerry realized that he could not stand it much longer. He felt as though he were being squeezed to death.
Again he looked toward the glass window, and saw Ned, with a hopeful gesture, leaving it, accompanied by two of the machinists.
“He must be going to put on a diving suit and come out here!” thought Jerry. “Good old Ned! But he’d better hurry!”
It seemed an hour, but really it was not more than two minutes before Jerry felt behind him a commotion in the water that told of a change in the situation. He could not turn to see what it was. The pressure of the tentacles of the octopus had increased to what was an almost unendurable point, and then the arms seemed suddenly to relax. There was a swirl in the water, and Jerry felt himself grasped in friendly arms. He turned to see Ned gazing at him through the glass windows of the helmet, and another glance showed Ted Rowland helping to pull off the clinging suckers from Professor Snodgrass.
The two had come to the rescue, and on the bottom of the sea had advanced upon the octopus in its lair, stabbing it to death with long, spear-like knives. Jerry and the professor had been saved.
Little time was lost in getting back to the side of the submarine, the water being stained with the blood of the octopus so that it could not be seen clearly.
But Ned, who, with the machinist, had had a glimpse of the creature before attacking it, said it was a monster in size, and, as Jerry had feared, had been pulling him and the professor backward into a crevice between the rocks.
Two at a time the party entered the water-gate in the side of the _Sonderbaar_, and soon they were safely within. The others crowded about the rescued ones as the diving suits were taken off.
“Oh, what an awful experience for you!” cried Grace, while Bob grasped his chum’s hand in a manner that meant much.
“Yes, it wasn’t very pleasant,” agreed the tall lad.
“But I got my specimens,” said the professor proudly when he could get his breath, for he was well-nigh exhausted, as was his companion.
“And now that you have been successful, let us go up and start for home,” suggested Mr. Sheldon. “I am sure we have had enough under-water horrors.”
There was no dissent from this, and in a little while the _Sonderbaar_ began to ascend. Up and up she went, until once more she rested on the waves in the bright sunlight.
Then a course was laid that would take them back to Boston. It was decided not to cruise about to try to find any possible parts of the wrecked _Comet_, and as for picking up the lone sailor on the _Hassen_, it was agreed that he must have been rescued by this time.
“We’ll head for home!” cried Jerry.
“And what will we do with Dr. Klauss?” asked Ned.
“I don’t care what happens to him, once we are safe,” answered the tall lad.
Her tanks filled with plenty of fresh, compressed air, the submarine was again sent down, as they decided to travel under water. She was sunk to a depth of about three hundred feet, and her engines started at full speed.
“And now let’s have something to eat,” cried Bob, a little later. “We haven’t had a good meal--that is, one where we didn’t have to worry--in some time.”
“Right you are, Chunky!” cried Ned, slapping him on the shoulder.
They were all at the table, save the two Germans, who said they preferred to dine in their cabin, and the automatic steering apparatus had been set so that no one need be in the pilot house for the time being.
Suddenly the craft seemed to pitch forward. She assumed a sloping attitude, her nose pointed downward, at a steep angle.
“What’s the matter?” cried Jerry.
“Something’s wrong,” shouted Ned.
Ted Rowland hurried to the corridor and looked into the pilot house. The door was open, and there, standing before the levers and switchboard, was Dr. Klauss!
“He has escaped!” cried the engineer. “He’s in possession of the boat again! Quick, boys, or he’ll send us to the bottom where we can’t get up!”
THE LONELY ISLAND
Only an instant was needed for the full meaning of this information to sink into the minds of all. Jerry and his chums rushed into the corridor after Ted.
“We must recapture him!” cried Mr. Sheldon. “He is capable of doing all some terrible harm after what we did to him!”
“How did he get out of the chains?” asked Bob.
“No time to think of that now!” panted Ned. “The question is how to get him back in them again. Come on, fellows!”
“Grace, go to your stateroom!” commanded her father, quickly. “There may be some danger----”
“I’ll look after her,” volunteered Professor Snodgrass.
“All right,” assented Bob’s uncle. They knew they would hardly need Professor Snodgrass’s assistance in the coming struggle, and it was better to have someone at hand to look after Grace, in case the two German friends of Dr. Klauss should take it into their heads to render him aid in his mad project.
All this time (comparatively short, though it may seem long in the telling) the _Sonderbaar_ was behaving in a peculiar manner. She was rolling, pitching and tossing, though she continued to sink toward the bottom of the sea on a long slant.
“What’s his game?” queried Jerry.
“We’ll have to stop it, whatever it is,” answered Ted.
They made a rush toward the pilot house, while Professor Snodgrass closed the door of the cabin containing himself and Grace.
Dr. Klauss, who was still busy manipulating the various levers before him, turned at the sound of rushing feet. A sneer showed around his cruel mouth, and he laughed.
“Ha!” he cried. “You thought you had me a prisoner! But I fooled you! Now who is master? I am going to put an end to all of you. Had you let me alone, you would, at worst, have been but captives. Now you shall all die!”
“Not if we know it!” cried Jerry, bravely.
“Rush him!” yelled Ned, and tragic as the situation was, he could not, for the life of him, help thinking that it was like an impending scrimmage on the football field.
But the refugees were not destined to capture the insane commander as easily as they had before. With a mocking laugh Dr. Klauss shoved over a lever and the steel sliding door of the pilot house closed. It was locked from within.
“There!” cried Ted. “Why didn’t I think he’d do that? I should have wedged that door open. Now we can’t get at him!”
“Isn’t there any way of opening the door from the outside?” asked Jerry, pausing, crestfallen, with his companions.
“No, he can lock it securely from within,” answered Bill Burke.
“Well, we can’t stop him now!” exclaimed Tom Flynn. “We’ll have to batter it down. That maniac will send us all to the bottom and keep us there!”
Indeed there was grave danger of this. The submarine, under the influence of the mad commander, was plunging downward at a terrific rate.
“Batter down the door!” cried Tom. “I’ll get a sledge hammer----”
“No!” interrupted Jerry. “We might damage the ship, or spring the plates and cause a leak. Isn’t there any other way?”
“Stop the motors!” cried Ned. “We can do that from the engine room and then he can’t do us any harm. Disconnect them from the pilot house control.”
“That’s it!” agreed Ted. “Come on, boys!”
The submarine was now rolling at a sickening angle. It was as though she was in the trough of the sea, on top, but the boys knew she was several hundred feet down. A glance at an auxiliary depth gage told them that.
“It’s he who is doing it!” cried Ted. “He’s crazy--he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s filling the ballast tanks unequally, and she’s got a bad list to starboard. And he’s set the port and starboard planes at different angles, which makes her go down this way. Oh, he’s surely crazy! He’ll kill us all!”
White-faced they stared at one another. It seemed that the end had come.
Suddenly they all became aware of a peculiar odor--a choking, suffocating smell, while there seemed to be floating about them a vapor of greenish-yellow tint. They began to gasp for breath.
“What--what is it?” panted Bob. “I--I can’t breathe!”
“None of us will in a few minutes!” choked Jerry. “It’s chlorine gas! Some sea water must have gotten into the sulphuric acid of the storage battery solution. That will make chlorine!”
“That--that’s right, lad!” gasped Ted. “That’s what happened. I’ve smelled it before when we had an accident on board Uncle Sam’s submarines. There’s a leak near the storage tanks!”
“What--what can be done?” queried Mr. Sheldon. “That gas will soon be deadly.”
“It’s getting worse,” spoke Ned in a low voice. Bob, whose stoutness made him more susceptible to the effects of the chlorine gas, was staggering about weakly.
“Quick!” cried Jerry. “We must stop the motors, and then see if we can’t force the ship to the surface. Fresh air is the only thing that will save us now. We must get rid of the chlorine gas!”
Staggering they made their way to the engine room. The motors were humming away at top speed, being controlled and regulated by Dr. Klauss, shut up in the pilot house. The pointer of the depth gage showed that the _Sonderbaar_ was going swiftly down. Already she was nearing a thousand feet, and as this was close to the margin of safety there was no telling when the terrific weight of the water would crush her like an egg shell.
True, she was strongly built, and might be able to stand the pressure, but it was a terrible risk that the madman was taking, and all realized it save himself.
Weak from the effects of the gas, which constantly grew thicker, filling the interior of the submarine with its sickly, greenish-yellow tint, Jerry reached up, and pulled out the switch that stopped the main motor--the one connected with the propellers. This at once halted the progress of the craft. But she was still far below the surface.
No sooner, however, had Jerry stopped the motor than Dr. Klauss, in the pilot house, made an attempt to start it again, there being an auxiliary arrangement for doing this.
“The madman!” cried Ted, and reaching for a hammer with one blow he broke the connection leading to the pilot house. That rendered it impossible for Dr. Klauss to operate the motor from his position.
“Empty the ballast tanks! Get us to the surface!” cried Mr. Sheldon. “We are suffocating!”
It took but an instant to open the valve that forced compressed air into the tanks containing the tons of water. The air forced out the liquid ballast, and, while the boys and the others watched eagerly, the needle of the depth gage began moving backward.
“We’re going up!” cried Ned.
“Thank heaven for that!” murmured Mr. Sheldon, earnestly.
“Get up--as high as you can--near the ceiling!” cried Jerry. “Chlorine is nearly two and a half times as heavy as air. There may be some fresh air near the ceiling.”
Choking and gasping, they all climbed up on various parts of the machinery. The air higher up was better, but even there it was hard to breathe.
However, the submarine would be at the surface in a few moments, and none too soon, either.
“I--I hope Grace is all right,” gasped her father.
“I’ll go tell her to get up as high as she can,” volunteered Bob.
“Professor Snodgrass will know enough for that,” declared Jerry. “He knows the smell of chlorine and how to avoid it. Stay where you are.”
“Yes, do,” assented Mr. Sheldon. “Take no unnecessary risks, Bob.”
“Hark!” cried Jerry, motioning for silence. They heard someone rushing along the steel-floored corridor leading to the motor room, and the next instant Dr. Klauss staggered in on them.
“What--what does this mean?” he cried. “You are interfering with my boat. We are going--to the--bottom of--the sea!”
His voice trailed off into nothingness, and he fell unconscious on the floor.
“The chlorine!” said Ted. “That did it! We’ll be out of it in another minute, though.”
Up shot the _Sonderbaar_. They could all tell when she reached the surface and bounded out into the open sea. In an instant Jerry had pulled the lever that removed the hatch cover. In rushed the fresh air, quickly reviving the sufferers. But Dr. Klauss still lay in a faint on the floor of the motor room.
“We must get him on deck,” said Jerry. “We can’t let him die, even if he is a maniac and sought our lives.”
It was hard work, but they managed to get the unconscious form up the hatchway. Mr. Sheldon quickly ascertained that Grace and Professor Snodgrass, though suffering, were safe.
As Jerry and his chums lifted the limp form of the insane commander out into the open, they gave a cry of surprise. For there, directly before them, and so close to the submarine that a few yards would have rammed her into it, lay a lonely island--an island in mid-ocean.
THE END OF DR. KLAUSS
They all rubbed their eyes, scarcely believing what they saw. They had been traveling along beneath the dark ocean, unaware that they were approaching land, and they had suddenly come upon the island.
“We--we might have run into it, and smashed all to pieces,” spoke Ned, in a low voice.
“No, the detectors would have given us warning in time,” replied Bob. “They probably did, but we were so busy over other matters that we didn’t notice them. I wonder what place this is?”
“We’ll have to look it up on the maps,” said Jerry. “Just now we’ll have to attend to Dr. Klauss. He seems in a bad way.”
Indeed the poor, mad commander appeared to be very ill. Probably he had remained in the small pilot house until it had been almost filled with the chlorine fumes, and had then rushed out.
But gradually, as the fresh air entered his lungs, and dispelled the poison, his eyelids fluttered and his breathing became stronger.
“He’s coming around all right,” said Ned, with a sigh of relief.
“What about those other two old men?” asked Mr. Sheldon. “We ought to see to them.”
They were found to be nearly overcome, and were helped out on deck. There they, too, were revived.
“It was a close call,” said Jerry, solemnly, as he helped prop up Dr. Klauss, who had not yet fully recovered consciousness. “We must see how he escaped, and whether that water leak is a bad one. We may have to stay on this island for a time.”
“It looks an interesting and romantic place to stay,” spoke Grace Sheldon. “Isn’t it beautiful!”
It was a semi-tropical island of great charm, but the coast, of hard sand, with a heavy surf, made a landing--at least at the spot where the submarine was--out of the question.
A hurried examination of the interior of the craft showed that some sea water had leaked into the storage batteries from a sea cock, opened probably by Dr. Klauss in his mad intention of putting an end to his companions. The cock was closed, and no more water came in. The breaking of the connection between the engine room and the pilot house could easily be repaired.
“Now the question is, what are we going to do?” spoke Mr. Sheldon, when it was safe to again venture into the interior of the ship.
“Go home, by all means,” answered Jerry.
“And we’ll take good care that he doesn’t escape again!” added Ned.
“Yes, we didn’t think it was necessary to stand guard over his door in the daytime,” said Jerry. “That’s how he got away without being detected. He must have filed off his chains.”
This was afterward ascertained to be the case. The madman had managed to conceal a file about him, and though it seemed impossible of performance, had managed to cut his links.
“I guess he’ll be so weak for a while that he won’t have to be bound very strongly,” observed Bob.
“We’ll take no chances,” decided Jerry. “As soon as he recovers fully we’ll take him below.”
But this was never destined to be done.
Dr. Klauss suddenly leaped to his feet, and rushed to the edge of the deck. Raising his hands high above his head he cried out:
“I defy you all!” And then, before anyone could prevent him, plunged overboard.
“Poor fellow!” cried Mr. Sheldon. “We must save him!”
But there was no way. No small boat was available, and it would have been folly for anyone to have jumped into the sea to try to save a maniac.
But Dr. Klauss had no intention of ending his life, it seemed. He disappeared under water for a few seconds, and then was seen to be swimming for the island.
They watched him make his perilous way through the surf to the beach. He seemed strong, even after his trying experience.
Reaching shore, the madman stood up, and shook his fist at those on the deck of the submarine. Then the unfortunate man rushed into the dense growth that came down close to the water’s edge.
And that was the end of Dr. Klauss. The boys and their friends never saw him again.
“What--what in the world did he do that for?” asked Ned, in puzzled tones.
“He’s insane--he doesn’t know what he is doing,” declared Mr. Sheldon. “Poor man!”
“Those two Germans! We must get them up here and have them call to him!” cried Jerry. “We’ll have them tell him we will treat him as kindly as he will let us. All we ask is to be allowed to go home. Then he can do as he likes with his boat. We must get them up here and have them call to him in that queer language they use.”
Trembling, blinking in the strong light, which must have hurt their eyes after spending so much time in the dimness of their cabins, the two old Germans were again summoned to the deck. Jerry gently explained to them what had happened. The old men seemed greatly startled, and spoke rapidly together in their strange language. Then, at Jerry’s request, they called in the direction of the island.
There was no response. A megaphone was made of some cardboard, and that was given to them. But though they shouted again and again the name of the unfortunate commander, adding what was assumed to be assurances that he would be well cared for, there was no answer.
“I guess he doesn’t want to come back,” remarked Jerry.
“But what are we to do?” asked Ned. “This is his boat and----”
“It’s going to be ours long enough for us to get back to Boston,” declared Jerry, firmly. “Then Dr. Klauss can claim it--if he likes.”
“I almost wish we could keep it,” sighed Ned. “I’m beginning to like this under-water travel.”
“Do you mean to go off and leave him on the island?” asked Bob.
“What else can we do?” responded his tall chum. “He won’t come when we call. And, as a matter of fact, it looks as though one could live on that island for some time. There is plenty of fruit, and probably birds he can snare. Besides, he can make some sort of a signal, and a passing ship will take him off. We owe it to ourselves, and to our friends and families, not to stay here any longer than we have to.”
“I think that is so,” assented Mr. Sheldon, after some thought.
They explained matters to the old Germans, who agreed that Dr. Klauss was not entitled to further consideration. On their part, they said, they had had enough of him, and wanted to go back to their Fatherland. They related briefly that they had been fellow scientific workers with Dr. Klauss, who had asked them to make the submarine trip with him to get valuable data. But they had had enough.
“Then we’ll start for home!” decided Jerry.
They remained at the surface for some hours, to allow a few repairs to be made, to get rid of the last of the chlorine gas, and with the faint hope that Dr. Klauss might consent to be rescued. But he did not show himself. Everything was in readiness for the start.
Slowly the _Sonderbaar_, with her crazed commander absent, sank beneath the waves.
“Homeward bound!” exclaimed Jerry with a sigh of relief.
“And I’m going to cook a dandy meal!” cried Bob, whereat the others laughed. It was really the first meal they expected to eat with calm minds, for even with Dr. Klauss in chains there was a constant worry. Now he was gone.
“I say, Uncle Nelson, can’t you tell us that secret now?” asked Bob that evening, when they were speeding homeward a short distance below the surface. “What was it you were bringing from Germany?”
Mr. Sheldon opened a case that he took from his pocket. There was a flash of light, and he held up to view a magnificent diamond necklace.
“This!” exclaimed Bob’s uncle. “It is an heirloom that our family has long been trying to get. It has been stolen several times, and there was a legal tangle as to the real owner. Finally I came into possession of facts that proved my right to it--or, rather the right of myself and your mother, Bob, and I went to Germany to prosecute the case.
“The odd part of it was that a German family also claimed the necklace, and, had the case gone against me, Dr. Klauss would have had a share in these jewels.”
“Dr. Klauss!” cried Jerry.
“Yes. And when I won the suit, and the necklace was awarded to me, the doctor vowed to get it back. He did not know that I actually had it, being only told that it had gone to an American. That is why I did not want to mention it while he was aboard. He would have had a double reason for hating me--and all of us. But it is safe now, and I hope soon to be at home with this fortune in diamonds.”
“Well, that’s one mystery cleared up,” remarked Bob, while, Grace, with shining eyes, tried on the gorgeous necklace.
“Yes, and if we could get back our _Comet_, and rescue the old sailor on the _Hassen_, we’d clear up the other two,” spoke Ned.
“Well, I’m afraid we’ll have to build another _Comet_,” came from Jerry.
I will not tire you with a description of the voyage home. Sufficient to say that it was made, without accident, though once, when in deep water, a gigantic shark tried to ram the boat. But it was killed with the electric bomb gun, as the whale had been.
The boys and the three machinists were able to run the submarine to their entire satisfaction. After the first few days Jerry and his chums ran it alone, to get the experience. They also halted once, went to the bottom, and donned diving suits, for the professor wanted to get a few more specimens. He secured some rare ones.
“Oh, this has been a most fortunate trip for me!” he cried, with enthusiasm.
And finally the _Sonderbaar_ entered Boston Harbor, creating no end of excitement. Great crowds watched her, and when her story was known the excitement increased. The boys were overwhelmed by reporters.
“But before we tell anything let them tell us if the old sailor was saved, and whether our airship was picked up,” stipulated Jerry.
“I can tell you about that,” volunteered an old reporter. “I had the story of both. Your airship was picked up, badly damaged, but in the main intact. Everyone supposed you were all drowned.”
“No wonder!” cried Bob. “We must send off telegrams at once to our folks.”
After this was done, and the safety of Mr. Sheldon and Grace told of to Bob’s mother, the newspaper men again begged for particulars of the remarkable voyage.
“First tell us--was that old sailor saved?” asked Ned.
“You mean the one on the _Hassen_?” queried a reporter. “He was--a few days after you left him. He was picked up, the vessel towed to this harbor, and he got big salvage money. Most of the passengers and crew were also saved.”
“Good!” cried Jerry. “Now give ’em our yarn, boys.”
And that it was a “yarn” well worth telling may well be believed. Columns of it were printed.
“Oh! what a time we’ve had!” cried Jerry, when he and his chums finally reached home, and were received by their tearful parents, who had almost given up hope.
“Yes, it was tough part of the time, but I’m not sorry we went through it,” spoke Ned. “I only wish we could get that submarine--or one like it--and make other trips.”
“Well, we’ll be sure to do something more--soon,” said Bob. “We’ve got to keep active!”
“Indeed--you’ll do nothing more for a long while!” cried his mother.
But the boys were destined for other adventures, and what they were will be related in the next volume of this series, to be called “The Motor Boys on Road and River; Or, Racing to Save a Life.”
The two elderly Germans left the submarine as soon as it was docked in Boston Harbor. They said they were going back to their native land. They had had enough of under-water life, they declared.
The boys watched the papers eagerly for news of Dr. Klauss, nor was it long in coming. A small steamer, passing near the lonely island, stopped for water. There they found the body of the unfortunate man. He had died from natural causes, it seemed--probably from some ailment that may have affected his mind. He was decently buried, and a stone cairn marked his grave.
“Poor Dr. Klauss,” murmured Jerry. “I wonder who will get his submarine now?”
“Why can’t we make a bid for it?” asked Ned, eagerly. “Probably his family--if he has one--will be glad to sell it. And it’s over here now. Let’s see if we can’t buy her.”
“Say, if we only could!” cried Bob, all enthusiasm now. “I never saw a better place for cooking meals!”
“Or for having things happen!” added Jerry. And so, thus planning for more thrilling adventures, we will take leave of the Motor Boys.
[Illustration: Polly says “JELL-O for me”]
If cast upon a desert isle Like Crusoe long ago, How dull the diet soon would be How jaded you would grow!
Your gun would get you meat enough, Your line would catch your fish, But what a hunger you would have For some nice snappy dish.
Then just suppose one sunny day, While striding on the beach, You’d hear your jolly Polly give A most delightful screech.
And this is what old Pol would say-- For he’s a jolly fellow-- “I don’t want crackers, no-sir-ee, When I can feast on Jell-O.
“We’ve lots of nuts on this here isle; Go pick ’em, Mr. Crusoe, We’d like to eat a good dessert, Get busy and we’ll do so.”
There are six pure fruit flavors of Jell-O: Strawberry, Raspberry, Lemon, Orange, Cherry, Chocolate. Every child wants the little book, “Miss Jell-O Gives a Party,” and we will send it free upon request, but be sure your name and address are plainly written.
_America’s most famous dessert_
JELL-O THE JELL-O COMPANY. Inc. Le Roy, N. Y. Bridgeburg, Ont.
_Reprinted by permission of John Martin’s Book, the Child’s Magazine_ ]
THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES
BY CLARENCE YOUNG
_12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_
THE MOTOR BOYS _or Chums Through Thick and Thin_
THE MOTOR BOYS OVERLAND _or A Long Trip for Fun and Fortune_
THE MOTOR BOYS IN MEXICO _or The Secret of the Buried City_
THE MOTOR BOYS ACROSS THE PLAINS _or The Hermit of Lost Lake_
THE MOTOR BOYS AFLOAT _or The Cruise of the Dartaway_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE ATLANTIC _or The Mystery of the Lighthouse_
THE MOTOR BOYS IN STRANGE WATERS _or Lost in a Floating Forest_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE PACIFIC _or The Young Derelict Hunters_
THE MOTOR BOYS IN THE CLOUDS _or A Trip for Fame and Fortune_
THE MOTOR BOYS OVER THE ROCKIES _or A Mystery of the Air_
THE MOTOR BOYS OVER THE OCEAN _or A Marvelous Rescue in Mid-Air_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE WING _or Seeking the Airship Treasure_
THE MOTOR BOYS AFTER A FORTUNE _or The Hut on Snake Island_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE BORDER _or Sixty Nuggets of Gold_
THE MOTOR BOYS UNDER THE SEA _or From Airship to Submarine_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON ROAD AND RIVER _or Racing to Save a Life_
THE MOTOR BOYS AT BOXWOOD HALL _or Ned, Bob and Jerry as Freshmen_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON A RANCH _or Ned, Bob and Jerry Among the Cowboys_
THE MOTOR BOYS IN THE ARMY _or Ned, Bob and Jerry as Volunteers_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON THE FIRING LINE _or Ned, Bob and Jerry Fighting for Uncle Sam_
THE MOTOR BOYS BOUND FOR HOME _or Ned, Bob and Jerry on the Wrecked Troopship_
THE MOTOR BOYS ON THUNDER MOUNTAIN _or The Treasure Box of Blue Rock_
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers New York
THE BOB DEXTER SERIES
BY WILLARD F. BAKER
_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors_
_=Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid=_
_This is a new line of stories for boys, by the author of the Boy Ranchers series. The Bob Dexter books are of the character that may be called detective stories, yet they are without the objectionable features of the impossible characters and absurd situations that mark so many of the books in that class. These stories deal with the up-to-date adventures of a normal, healthy lad who has a great desire to solve mysteries._
1. BOB DEXTER AND THE CLUB-HOUSE MYSTERY _or The Missing Golden Eagle_
This story tells how the Boys’ Athletic Club was despoiled of its trophies in a strange manner, and how, among other things stolen, was the Golden Eagle mascot. How Bob Dexter turned himself into an amateur detective and found not only the mascot, but who had taken it, makes interesting and exciting reading.
2. BOB DEXTER AND THE BEACON BEACH MYSTERY _or The Wreck of the Sea Hawk_
When Bob and his chum went to Beacon Beach for their summer vacation, they were plunged, almost at once, into a strange series of events, not the least of which was the sinking of the Sea Hawk. How some men tried to get the treasure off the sunken vessel, and how Bob and his chum foiled them, and learned the secret of the lighthouse, form a great story.
3. BOB DEXTER AND THE STORM MOUNTAIN MYSTERY _or The Secret of the Log Cabin_
Bob Dexter came upon a man mysteriously injured and befriended him. This led the young detective into the swirling midst of a series of strange events and into the companionship of strange persons, not the least of whom was the man with the wooden leg. But Bob got the best of this vindictive individual, and solved the mystery of the log cabin, showing his friends how the secret entrance to the house was accomplished.
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CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, PUBLISHERS New York
THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES
BY LESTER CHADWICK
_12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_
1. BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS _or The Rivals of Riverside_
Joe is an everyday country boy who loves to play baseball and particularly to pitch.
2. BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE _or Pitching for the Blue Banner_
Joe’s great ambition was to go to boarding school and play on the school team.
3. BASEBALL JOE AT YALE _or Pitching for the College Championship_
In his second year at Yale Joe becomes a varsity pitcher.
4. BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE _or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher_
From Yale College to a baseball league of our Central States.
5. BASEBALL JOE IN THE BIG LEAGUE _or A Young Pitcher’s Hardest Struggles_
From the Central League Joe goes to the St. Louis Nationals.
6. BASEBALL JOE ON THE GIANTS _or Making Good as a Twirler in the Metropolis_
Joe was traded to the Giants and became their mainstay.
7. BASEBALL JOE IN THE WORLD SERIES _or Pitching for the Championship_
What Joe did to win the series will thrill the most jaded reader.
8. BASEBALL JOE AROUND THE WORLD _or Pitching on a Grand Tour_
The Giants and the All-Americans tour the world.
9. BASEBALL JOE: HOME RUN KING _or The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record_
Joe becomes the greatest batter in the game.
10. BASEBALL JOE SAVING THE LEAGUE _or Breaking Up a Great Conspiracy_
Throwing the game meant a fortune but also dishonor.
11. BASEBALL JOE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM _or Bitter Struggles on the Diamond_
Joe is elevated to the position of captain.
12. BASEBALL JOE CHAMPION OF THE LEAGUE _or The Record that was Worth While_
A plot is hatched to put Joe’s pitching arm out of commission.
13. BASEBALL JOE CLUB OWNER _or Putting the Home Town on the Map_
Joe developes muscle weakness and is ordered off the field for a year.
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CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers New York
--Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_); text in bold by “equal” signs (=bold=).
--Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.
--Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.
--Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.