Harrie Hancock.

The Motor Boat Club at the Golden Gate: or, A Thrilling Capture in the Great Fog



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CHAPTER I
TOM HALSTEAD, KNIGHT OF THE OVERLAND MAIL

"I feel it in my bones," announced Joe Dawson, quietly though positively.

"That's no talk for an engineer," jibed Tom Halstead. "Tell me, instead, that you read it in your gauge."

"Oh, laugh, if you want to," nodded Dawson, showing no offense. "But you'll find that I'm right. You know, I don't often make predictions."

"Yet, this time, you feel that something disastrous is going to happen before this train rolls out on the mole at Oakland? In other words, before we set foot in San Francisco?"

"No, I don't say quite that," objected Joe, thoughtfully. "There's a heap of the navigator about you, Tom Halstead, and you're pinning me down to the map and the chronometer. I won't predict quite as closely as that. But, either before we reach 'Frisco, or mighty soon after we get there, something is going to happen."

"And it's going to be a disaster?" questioned Tom, closely.

"For someone, yes; and we're going to be in it, at great risk."

"Well, it's a comfort to have it narrowed down even as closely as that," smiled Tom Halstead. "I hope it isn't going to be another earthquake, though."

"No," agreed Joe, thoughtfully.

"Oh, well, that much of your prediction will comfort the people of San Francisco, anyway."

"Now, you're laughing at me again," grinned Joe, good-naturedly.

"No; I'm not," protested Halstead, but belied himself by the twinkle in his eyes, and by whistling softly the air of a popular song that the boys had heard in a New York theatre just before leaving for the West.

At the present moment both boys were sitting comfortably facing each other in their section in a sleeping car on the luxurious Overland Mail. It was early forenoon. They had left Sacramento behind some time before, on the last stretch of the run across the state of California.

Joe Dawson was riding facing forward. Tom Halstead, in the seat opposite, half lolled at the window-ledge, with his back toward the engine. Both boys had slept well on their last night out from San Francisco. Both had breakfasted heartily, that morning, in the dining car now left behind at the state capital. The next thing that would interest them, so far as they could now guess, would be their arrival at Oakland, and the subsequent ferry trip that would land them in San Francisco.

It may seem a curious fact to the reader, but neither Tom Halstead nor Joe Dawson knew just what new phases of life awaited them in the City by the Golden Gate. They were engaged to enter the employment of a man who owned a motor yacht. The owner had agreed to their own terms in the way of salary, and he was paying all their expenses on this luxurious trip westward. Moreover, the same owner had engaged some of the other members of the Motor Boat Club of the Kennebec, as will soon be told.

Readers of the preceding volumes of this series are already well acquainted with bright, energetic, loyal and capable Tom Halstead, who, from the start, had held the post of fleet captain of the Motor Boat Club.

The same readers are equally familiar with the career of Joe Dawson, fleet engineer of the Club.

As narrated in "The Motor Boat Club of the Kennebec," Tom and Joe were two boys of seafaring stock, and natives of Maine, having been born near the mouth of the Kennebec River. That first volume detailed how the two young men served aboard the "Sunbeam," the motor yacht of a Boston broker, and how the boys aided the Government officers in solving the mystery of Smugglers' Island. Out of those adventures arose the founding of the Club, with Tom and Joe at its head.

In "The Motor Boat Club at Nantucket" the two boys were again seen to great advantage. There they had some most lively sea adventures, all centering around the abduction of the Dunstan heir. Next, as told in "The Motor Boat Club off Long Island," the motor boat boys played an exciting part in the balking of a great Wall Street conspiracy. In recognition of their services at this time, the man whom they most helped presented them with a fifty-five foot cruising motor boat, which the two proud young owners named the "Restless." Afterwards they installed a wireless telegraph apparatus on the boat, and then came one of their truly famous cruises, as related in "The Motor Boat Club and the Wireless," wherein wireless telegraphy was employed in ferreting out one of the great mysteries of the sea.

"The Motor Boat Club in Florida" described the sea wanderings of Captain Tom and Engineer Joe in the Gulf waters, and their subsequent adventures in the Everglades and at Tampa, including the laying of the Ghost of Alligator Swamp.

From time to time other seafaring boys, whose experience aboard motor yachts qualified them, were elected members of the Motor Boat Club, an organization which now boasted some forty members along the Atlantic seaboard. Several of these boys had made themselves barely less famous than had Halstead and Dawson.

Broker George Prescott, of Boston, their first employer and founder of the Club, was still their staunch friend. So, too, in scarcely less degree, was Francis Delavan, a Wall Street financier to whom Tom and Joe had rendered most valuable services.

It was through Mr. Delavan that Halstead and Dawson had secured their present engagement, the details of which they did not yet know. This engagement had come just as the young men were leaving Florida waters in January, preparatory to making their way to New York, near which great city the "Restless" was now laid up, out of commission at present, though as seaworthy a boat as ever.

Tom had been allowed to engage Jeff Randolph, the Florida member of the Club, for this new, unknown enterprise. Jeff was believed to be either on his way, or already in San Francisco, at the Palace Hotel, on Market Street, which was to be the meeting place of the motor boat boys.

Yet there were other old friends due to meet the fleet captain and fleet engineer. Mr. Delavan had also engaged, by wire, Dick Davis and Ab Perkins, of Maine, now back from a famous trip to Brazil as told in "The Motor Boat Club and the Wireless." Jed Prentiss, a Nantucket member of the Club, was also on his way to or in San Francisco to join them, thanks to Mr. Prescott's interest. How Jed joined the Club, and proved himself more than worthy, was all told in "The Motor Boat Club at Nantucket."

The name of the San Francisco man who had engaged six members of the Motor Boat Club to cross the continent was Joseph Baldwin. Beyond this the boys knew nothing of him, save that Francis Delavan had vouched for him. That was enough. Not even the name of Baldwin's craft was known to the seafaring boys who were crossing the continent.

"I wonder if Mr. Baldwin will be at Oakland, to meet us?" asked Joe, as the train sped evenly, swiftly along.

"It isn't likely," replied Tom. "He has told us where to report. I fancy he considers that enough."

"A man might get a boat's crew together a good deal more cheaply," mused Joe, aloud. "Our fellows that Mr. Baldwin has engaged are all top-notchers in the way of salary. With such a crew it's going to cost our man a good deal to keep his boat running."

"You know the reputation that California millionaires have, Joe," laughed his chum. "It is said of them that they'd sooner spend money than keep it drawing interest."

"Still," pondered Joe Dawson, "I don't believe California people like to pitch money out of the window any better than people of other sections do."

"It has struck me," Tom went on, "that we're engaged by a man who is running a racing boat. If that is so, and we can get the top speed out of his craft, then I suppose Mr. Baldwin wouldn't consider the matter of expense at all. All he wants, in that case, is to win cups and build a big reputation for his boat."

"I hope it is a racer," cried Joe, his eyes glistening. "Whew! How our crowd, pulling together in team work, could make a boat everlastingly sprint over the waves!"

The car in which the two boys sat was the last of the train. It had an observation platform at the rear. In this observation compartment the motor boat boys had spent much time while the train was rolling along through the highly picturesque scenery of the Rocky Mountains. This morning, however, going swiftly past sun-lit sections of California, over a nearly level road, both young travelers were content to remain in their seats by the window.

In the car were a dozen other passengers. Only one other besides the motor boat boys was especially young. She was a girl of about eighteen, blond, rather plump and very pretty. She appeared to be traveling alone, having boarded the train at Kansas City. Tom and Joe had been able to offer her a few travelers' courtesies, which had been graciously accepted. Neither young man, however, knew the girl's name. Both motor boat boys were too well bred to attempt to force an acquaintance.

Just now, as Tom happened to lean over his seat and glance down the aisle, he saw that this young lady was in the observation compartment. She appeared to be alone there. Something in the expression on her face made her seem highly uneasy about something.

"I hope she isn't in any trouble," murmured Halstead, to himself, "and that she isn't going to find anything unpleasant at the end of her journey."

The next time he glanced down the aisle Halstead again caught a glimpse of her face.

"By Jove, I believe she's been crying, or else is about to begin," muttered the young captain. "I wonder if it's real trouble, or just something that she's afraid of."

Then Tom made haste to look away, lest the young lady should see that he had been studying her and take offense.

"Look at the roses," commented Joe, glancing out of the window at a pretty little California village through which the train was passing at somewhat lessened speed. "Great Scott, there are violets growing in the garden we've just passed. February! Think of the deep feet of snow on either bank of the Kennebec just now!"

"It's the land of roses and other posies, all right," agreed Halstead, himself looking out with a good deal of interest at the bright scene under the soft haze of the California winter day.

"Say, these are real days! This beats Florida!" exclaimed Joe, enthusiastically.

"When it doesn't rain," remarked the practical Halstead. "You know, this is the rainy season in California."

"I don't care," contended Joe. "Even on a rainy day it must be beautiful in this fine old state."

"And on a foggy one, also," laughed Tom. "You know, at this time of the year, there are likely to be some great old fogs around San Francisco Bay. I've heard that it takes a clever pilot to guess correctly whether he's landing at San Francisco or Oakland."

"Humph!" grunted Joe.

Dawson turned, looking out of the window for some time without speaking.

"We're getting near some big town," he remarked, at last. Then, after glancing at his watch: "It must be Oakland."

"Yes," nodded Tom. "I guess we'll soon be making our stop at the Sixteenth Street station."

"Anything special about that station?"

"It's the last stop before we run out onto the mole at Oakland."

The train had now begun to run, at greatly lessened speed, through one of the streets of the city. Joe found less to interest him. He glanced upward at the rack, toward his traveling bag and overcoat.

"That overcoat seems like an insult to the climate," he remarked.

"Don't throw it away," advised Tom Halstead, "until you see whether some of the 'Frisco nights are chilly. I've sort of an idea they will be."

"I wonder whether we're going to have much time ashore, or whether it will be all spent on the water?" suggested Joe. But Tom, of course, didn't know the answer.

"Sixteenth Street next stop!" called the porter through the car.

"Might as well stretch our legs," hinted Tom, rising. Joe also left his seat.

As several of the passengers in the car were heading toward the front end, the motor boat boys started for the observation compartment at the rear end.

The young lady was still standing there. It looked as though she intended to step down outside as soon as the train should come to a stop. Not wishing to intrude, Tom Halstead halted, a few feet away, Joe doing the same.

Hardly had the train stopped when a porter opened the door of the observation compartment. The young lady quickly descended, the boys following. The young lady remained close to the steps, glancing about her. Lifting their hats, Tom and Joe stepped past her, mingling in the throng at the station. There wasn't much here to see, but it was a relief to be quit of the train for a minute or two.

"There's the engine bell ringing," nudged Joe, at last. "We may as well hustle back."

As the two motor boat boys turned once more, Tom saw the young woman standing beside the rear steps, one hand holding to the brass rail. She appeared rather frightened. Before her, talking rapidly, was a man of perhaps thirty years of age and some five feet nine inches in height. On his smooth-shaven, dark face rested an ugly, black look. Something that the man said just as Tom glanced that way caused the girl to wince and grow paler.

"Why, that fellow has been on the train, though not in our car, for the last two days," occurred to Halstead, swiftly. "And now I remember I saw the young lady talking to him back at Battle Mountain. Jove! but she seems afraid of him. There, she's trying to leave him, and he has caught at her sleeve to hold her. Confound the ugly look in his eyes! I wish she were my sister for five minutes!"

Almost unconsciously, in his indignation, Captain Tom increased his pace. Joe, looking in another direction, did not at once perceive this, and so fell a bit behind.

"I'm not going to listen to you any longer," cried the young woman, in a voice that sounded tearful, though she was resolutely keeping the tears back out of her eyes. "You are talking like a coward!"

"Pardon me," said Captain Tom, rather stiffly, brushing past the young man. The girl edged to give the motor boat boy room on the steps, and, as he passed her, started to follow him up into the car.

"You're not going to leave me in that fashion," snapped the dark young man, angrily. "See here – "

Again he caught at the girl's sleeve, after leaping up onto the lowest step.

"Let me go," commanded the girl, indignantly.

"Not until – "

She wrenched herself free, then bounded after Halstead.

"Don't let him come into the car," begged the girl.

"Out of my way, young fellow," ordered the dark man, gaining the second step up.

"Is this man annoying you?" asked Tom, in a friendly tone of the girl, though he turned a cool, hostile stare upon the young man.

"Yes, he is," the young woman answered.

"Get out of the way, boy," commanded the man, reaching out a hand.

Tom Halstead's right hand closed instantly. His fist shot out, landing on the fellow's neck. That persecutor fell back, missed his footing, and went sprawling to the station platform. The girl had started to dart into the car, but now she turned, watching with fearful eyes.

"Oh, don't let him hurt you!" she cried to Tom.

"Thank you," responded the young captain, dryly; "I don't believe he will."

The train was beginning to move as the man fell sprawling on the platform. Joe, who had seen the blow struck, darted in, dragging the fellow swiftly to his feet.

"You'll have to hustle, mister, if you're going to get your car forward," Joe advised him.

"This car is the one I – " began the man.

But Joe coolly swung in ahead of him, elbowing the fellow out of the way. The next moment the porter, grinning, reached over with the key and locked the door of the car, which Dawson had closed.

Looking the picture of rage, the man darted swiftly down the platform. The train was now moving too rapidly, however, for the stranger to get aboard, and the last car rolled by him as he stood, baffled, on the platform.

"I – I don't know how to thank you both," faltered the girl.

"I assure you it didn't even put us to any inconvenience," smiled Captain Tom.

"But – oh! I hope you won't meet him in San Francisco," cried the girl, in sudden alarm. "He's dangerous, ugly, vengeful!"

"We've met such men before," laughed Captain Tom, quietly. "And yet – well, we're here."

"But you don't know that man!" shuddered the girl.

"That we don't is something to brag about, I reckon," smiled Joe.

"If you ever do come face to face with him, or catch him, anywhere, watching you, beware of him!" begged the young lady, earnestly. "He never forgives anything – that wretch!"

"Are you uneasy over the remainder of your journey?" asked Tom, politely. "Will you feel safer for escort?"

"Oh, I shall be all right, now," replied the girl, with a grateful smile, though her cheeks were still pallid. "He is no longer on the train."

"Command us, if you will," begged Captain Tom Halstead, gallantly. He and Joe Dawson lifted their hats courteously, then passed on to their own section.

"One of the little dramas of life that are being enacted all around us," muttered Halstead.

"I wouldn't have minded seeing that one through," returned Joe.

Neither boy, at that moment, suspected that they would yet "see it through."

CHAPTER II
HAZING, M. B. C. K. STYLE

At the ferry slip on the San Francisco side the two motor boat boys saw the young woman again.

A big, broad-shouldered, well-dressed, wholesome looking young man of twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, came forward eagerly, hat in hand, to meet her.

"She's all right, now," declared Joe, with satisfaction. "Gracious! That husky young fellow could eat up two or three muckers like the one you punched, Tom."

"Yes; our young lady of the journey is surely all right," nodded Halstead, delighted with what he had seen. "So come along, Joe. We'll probably never see any of that party again."

Through a throng of eager cabmen the two young motor boat boys plodded sturdily. Neither had ever been in San Francisco before, but they knew that the ferry came in at the foot of Market Street, and that the Palace Hotel was but a few blocks from the water-front on the same great artery of traffic.

"Might as well walk up, and get a little bit of a look at the town," proposed Halstead.

"Which side of the street is the Palace on?" queried Joe.

"East."

"Then we'll cross over. I don't believe we can miss it."

It was a bustling crowd through which the boys steered their way. The man on the San Francisco sidewalk who is under eighty years of age is engaged in making his fortune, and has no time to lose. After he has made it, he buys an automobile, and has comparatively little need of a sidewalk.

Men from every country in Europe and the Orient passed them. There was, of course, a large sprinkling of native Americans, yet even the chance passer knew that he was moving through a throng recruited from the four quarters of the world.

To Tom the walk ended all too soon. However, they were bent on business, not pleasure, so they turned in briskly through the main entrance of the Palace Hotel as soon as a policeman had pointed it out to them.

Captain Tom Halstead stepped to the desk, picking up a pen to register. "Are Davis, Perkins, Prentiss and Randolph here ahead of us?" queried Halstead, as soon as he had written his name and his chum's.

"All of 'em," smiled the clerk, after glancing at the entry on the hotel register. "Davis, who got here first, with Perkins, engaged rooms close together for the whole party. Front! I'll have you shown right up, Captain Halstead."

The colored boy in blue uniform and brass buttons confiscated the bags and overcoats of the two young travelers, leading the way to the elevator. That bell-boy turned his head to conceal a grin that illumined his face.

"So our friends are all here ahead of us, and have everything ready?" remarked young Dawson.

The bell-boy, his head still turned away, seemed to be choking.

"I wonder if they've seen Mr. Baldwin, or heard from him?" mused Tom, aloud.

"Right dis way, sah," begged the bell-boy, stepping out of the elevator ahead of them at the third floor.

He led them down a long corridor, turned into another corridor, then halted before a door. That bell-boy gave three distinct knocks; a pause, then two more knocks.

"I reckon yo' can go right in, sah," announced the bell-boy, dropping some of his burden in order to throw the door open.

Utterly unsuspicious, Tom and Joe passed through the doorway. The instant they had done so, the bell-boy tossed their bags and coats in after them, yanked the door shut and fled, chuckling.

"Here they come! Welcome!" roared Dick Davis's deep, hearty voice.

A short hallway led from the door to the room proper. As Tom Halstead passed over the inner threshold a pair of arms reached out from either side, yanking him into the room out of Joe's sight. Dawson leaped after his chum, only to be similarly seized.

Then it snowed! At least, for a brief instant, that was what the victims thought.

Tom was neatly, ruthlessly tripped, being sent sprawling to the floor, while Ab Perkins, snatching up a bolster, which he had ripped open, shook all the fine, downy feathers over him. They sifted down the young captain's neck; they obscured his vision; some of the small feathers fell into his mouth. He fell to spitting them out with vigor, even before he tried to get up.



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