Harrie Hancock.

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



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"I've come on board, sir," laughed the stranger, touching the make-shift for a cap which he wore.

"So I see," nodded Tom Halstead, coming aft from the bow. "What's your name?"

"Ted Dyer."

"Hailing port?"

"'Frisco."

"Sailor, by trade?"

"No," laughed Ted, his eyes twinkling; "a sailor by marriage."

"What's that?" demanded Halstead, almost sharply. He almost suspected that the other boy was making game of him. If Dyer came from the "Victor," such levity was misplaced.

"My mother's sister married a captain of a freight schooner," Ted explained, more soberly.

"Oh. So you, so to speak, ran away to sea with your uncle?"

"No; he ran away from me at sea," answered young Dyer, more soberly.

"How long has your uncle been captain of the 'Victor'?" Halstead demanded, swiftly, hoping to catch this other boy off his guard.

"The 'Victor'?" repeated Ted, opening his eyes wide. If he was shamming, then it was a fine bit of acting.

"Didn't you come from the steam yacht 'Victor'?" demanded Captain Tom, looking hard at the boy.

"Never heard of the craft before," declared Ted. Then: "Hold on, though. I'm lying without meaning to, it would seem. Yes; I know the 'Victor.' She's a hundred and twenty-two foot steam yacht, fine and fast."

"That's the 'Victor' just over to port," went on Tom, still eyeing the other youth, closely.

"Is it?" asked Ted Dyer. "Then your eyesight is sharper than mine."

"Don't try to get funny," warned Halstead.

"I don't want to," protested Ted. "You all strike me as first-rate fellows. And, anyway, you've fished me up out of the vasty deep, so to speak. Where's your captain?"

"You're looking at him," replied Halstead.

"Again," laughed Ted, "you're crediting me with finer eyesight than I possess."

"I am the captain," Tom replied, struggling against an inclination to like this boy. Ted was so brimming over with good humor, that it seemed almost wicked to suspect him of anything worse than being hungry.

"You're the captain?" demanded Ted, taken aback, and staring hard. Then, as he took in the details of Halstead's uniform, and noted the looks on the faces of the others about him, he became convinced.

"Captain – " began Ted.

"Halstead," supplied Tom.

"Captain Halstead, as I'll have to dead-beat my passage back to San Francisco, I shall be mighty glad if you'll assign me to some work to do."

"On your word of honor you didn't come off the 'Victor'?" insisted the young skipper, still looking hard at the new arrival on board.

"On my honor I didn't. Why? Is it a crime to come on board from the 'Victor'?"

"Very nearly," Halstead replied, dryly. "We've got one fellow in the brig on board, charged with that very offense."

"Whew!" muttered Ted, looking grave. "Then what's the sentence for coming on board from a dory?"

"How did you come to be in that dory?" pressed the young skipper of the "Panther."

"You might call it mainly my uncle's offense," replied Ted Dyer, more gravely.

"You see, my parents are dead. They left me a little money, and put me under the guardianship of my uncle. He put the money into the freight schooner, 'Nancy.' However, even at that, some of the earnings of the schooner had to be put aside as belonging to my estate. So my uncle, being a bright man, conceived the idea, night before last, of putting me adrift in the dory you fished me out of. At the time he had only a drunken sailor named Griggs on deck with him. Griggs is a fellow my uncle, Captain Dalton, by name, can depend on. Uncle got me to go into the dory that was towing astern. Made believe he wanted me to see if anything had fouled the rudder. Then he cut the line and left me adrift. I guess he figured that there was a storm coming; that I'd never be heard from again, and that he'd get the schooner all for himself."

"The infernal scoundrel!" breathed Halstead, indignantly. Then, remembering his first suspicions, he shot in, closely:

"So your uncle isn't captain of the 'Victor'?"

"What's the joke?" demanded Ted, gazing at those about him, a look of wonder in his innocent blue eyes.

Tom Halstead was beginning to soften. Despite the grave need of caution and suspicion, Ted's honest good nature was infectious. Besides, as both the yachts were going at eight miles an hour, and the "Victor" was traveling only abeam, anyway, how could a boy in a dory put off from the steam yacht be so far ahead of the position of either boat as to come down upon the "Panther" in the fashion Ted had done? Altogether, Captain Tom felt that he might do well to drop some of his suspicions. That same idea was occurring to some of the others who listened. It was Joe Dawson, however, who first gave voice to this new idea.

"I reckon Ted is all right, Captain," spoke up the young chief engineer. "At any rate, I feel willing to go bail for his good behavior on this craft."

"I guess this youngster is all right, Captain," spoke Joseph Baldwin, next stepping forward. "I'll take a chance with him, if you're willing."

Ted Dyer, meanwhile, was looking from one face to another, as though he wondered what kind of a crowd he had encountered.

"You may think us a bit strange, Dyer," spoke Tom, with a quiet smile. "The truth is, we have the best of reasons for being suspicious of the other yacht you've heard us talking about. You can stay aboard, and we'll try to make you comfortable."

"I haven't anything else to do, sir," said Joe, turning once more to the young captain. "I'll take Dyer in hand if you say so."

"Go ahead," assented Halstead. "First of all, take him below, Mr. Dawson, and introduce him to the cook. I imagine that will be agreeable."

"You're good at guessing, Captain," laughed the San Francisco boy, saluting.

"Come along then, Ted Dyer," proposed Joe, taking him by the arm with a friendly grip. "You can come below to my cabin and chat while you eat."

"I guess I can do a lot of both," admitted the San Francisco boy, going along with Joe after making a bow that was intended to include everyone.

Joe, however, did not at first press the other boy to talk much, but was delighted at seeing Dyer able to stow away so much satisfying food.

"Now," demanded the newcomer, pushing his chair back from the table, "what am I going to do aboard this craft to earn my way?"

"What do you know best how to do?" asked Dawson.

"You said you are the chief engineer?"

"Yes."

"If there's anything I'm crazy about," confessed Ted Dyer, "it's machinery. Why couldn't I go to work in your engine room?"

"That's a rather unfortunate question," returned Joe, feeling a bit uncomfortable. "You see, the fellow who really did come aboard from the 'Victor' got into the engine room and tried to put our machinery into a useless condition. So you can understand why Captain Halstead would stare if I told him I had put you in the engine room."

"What's all this business about the 'Victor,' anyway?" demanded Ted Dyer, curiously.

So Joe told him enough to enable the other boy to understand, including the fact that a United States assistant district attorney and two deputy marshals were aboard intent upon arresting a bank absconder believed to be on board the "Victor."

"And that boat is trying to lose you in the fog, so that Mr. Absconder can get away?" asked Ted Dyer, understandingly.

"That's the case, Dyer."

"Then I can understand why it wouldn't look well for me to ask for a job in the engine room," pondered Ted, thoughtfully. "I suppose, though, I could go in and help the cook. I couldn't do any harm there. Yes, I could, though; I might poison the dishes or the food."

Joe Dawson gave a hearty laugh, so completely was he disarmed of suspicion of the other boy.

"I guess perhaps we'd better leave it all to Captain Halstead," proposed Joe Dawson. "He's a fine, splendid fellow, as you'll find."

"Fine and suspicious," retorted Ted, with a grimace.

"He has to be, on a strange cruise like this. But you'll find Captain Tom Halstead as good as fine gold, Ted. Halstead is my chum."

"If he's your chum," vouchsafed Dyer, heartily, "then I'll take my oath he's all right."

"Come up on deck," nodded Joe, moving toward the companion way.

CHAPTER XX
THE FIND IN THE FOREHOLD

Ted Dyer's place was quickly determined upon.

Bickson, the chief quartermaster, who attended to the general "policing" of the yacht – that is, the cleaning up and the sanitary care of the boat, had one seaman assigned to help him. Ted was added as an extra hand in this line, being placed at once under the orders of the quartermaster who was acting in Bickson's place while the latter was out in the launch.

"It looks, now, as though Dyer is all right, from the ground up, quartermaster," Captain Tom said, in a low voice. "At the same time, of course, you'll keep a general eye on the youngster?"

"I certainly will, Captain."

"Above all, don't let him get anywhere near the prisoner in the brig. Don't permit any possibility of communication between Dyer and Cragthorpe."

"I understand, Captain."

Before he had been at work for an hour Ted Dyer was earning golden good opinions from the acting chief quartermaster. Not the slightest curiosity did the new member of the crew display about anything that didn't concern him. As a worker Ted Dyer was number one.

About three o'clock the evidence of a new game on the part of the enemy came to notice. The steam launch of the "Victor" ceased sounding her whistle off at the starboard of the "Panther." Tom Halstead, who was on deck, ready to note the slightest sign, became instantly suspicious.

"Mr. Davis," he called, "sound the agreed-on signal from our own fog-horn for Bickson to come in, post-haste with our power boat."

From the "Panther's" fog-horn sounded four short blasts.

Just a few minutes later Tom Halstead, listening at the rail, heard the "Victor's" machinery moving at faster rate.

"There they go, stealing away from us," muttered the young skipper.

"And not sounding their fog-horn any more, either," commented Joseph Baldwin.

"It won't take 'em long to get out of our hearing, if our tender doesn't get in," predicted Halstead.

"Confound Bickson! Where is he? What's he doing?" demanded the "Panther's" owner, impatiently.

Barely thirty seconds later, however, the "Panther's" power tender shot in alongside. The falls and tackle were lowered swiftly. The instant when the hoisting began Halstead called sharply:

"Mr. Davis, start us forward on the jump. Don't let those tricksters slip us in that fashion."

Second Officer Davis gave the order for increased speed. Then, before it could be carried out, he cried, excitedly:

"What has become of the 'Victor,' sir? Can you hear her machinery, now?"

Tom Halstead listened intently, growing paler. Barely forty-five seconds before he had had the enemy within sound. Now, not a single trace of noise came to him over the waters.

"By Jove! they've slipped us," he groaned, uneasily.

"That's what," confessed Dick, in a hushed, scared voice.

Joseph Baldwin's face was a study in intense anxiety.

"I'm afraid the steam yacht has gotten away from us, Captain," he remarked. "If that really has happened, I don't blame you. The chances, in a game of this sort, and under these conditions, are all with the fugitive."

"Perhaps it isn't a matter of blame," muttered Skipper Tom, his face chalk-white, his hands nervously gripping at the port deck rail. "But I'm chagrined – ashamed, just the same. What have those rascals done? Have they stopped speed altogether? Are they drifting, so that, if we go ahead, we are drawing further away from them all the time? Or did they shoot well ahead of us, then succeed in running with almost no noise, and on a new course, so that they are slipping further away from us every minute? Shall we stop and drift? Or, if we go ahead, what speed and which course shall we take? Confound the wretches!"

"It is a big problem," admitted Joseph Baldwin, his own face as white as that of the young skipper.

"Have you any orders, sir?" asked Halstead, quickly.

"No," replied Joseph Baldwin, slowly. "All I can do is to guess. That's all you can do, either, Captain Halstead; but your guess is just as likely to be the right one as is my own."

The "Panther" was now traveling at a speed of twelve miles, sounding her fog-horn twice in the minute.

"The worst of it is that our horn betrays us to the enemy," muttered Tom. "They have no respect for the laws of the sea, so that we give them guide, while they give us nothing in return."

"We won't quite give up hope," uttered Mr. Baldwin, dispiritedly. "At the same time, I fancy we're now as good as whipped. I don't see any chance for us."

"The only chance that's left," replied Skipper Tom, "is the chance of luck. Until you give other orders, sir, I shall keep to the same course, and at the same speed."

Baldwin nodded, turning away. Somehow, the depressing news had passed around. The cabin passengers came pouring out on deck, asking well-nigh innumerable questions of the young captain and of the sadly perplexed owner.

"All I can say," replied Mr. Baldwin to his questioners, "is that we must depend upon the slender chance of – luck."

"And all I can say," added Captain Tom Halstead, "is – wait!"

Gaston Giddings, who, in the morning, had been so insistent on having Cragthorpe set at liberty, now underwent a complete change of feeling in the matter.

"That wretch in the brig could tell us something about this latest trick," declared the young bank president, quivering with wrath. "Mr. Baldwin, why don't you have the fellow brought on deck and made to confess whatever he may know about the plans of the Rollings crowd on the 'Victor'?"

"Even if Cragthorpe should know all about the enemy's plans," demanded the owner, "how could I make him confess if he didn't want to?"

"Torture him, if you have to, until he talks freely," snarled Gaston Giddings.

"That wouldn't do," negatived Baldwin. "This is the twentieth century, and we live under laws. We can't put men to the torture nowadays."

"Then let me go down and see Cragthorpe," cried Giddings, nervously. "I'll find a way to make him talk! Give me the key to the brig."

To this proposition Captain Halstead returned a most emphatic refusal.

"Whoop!" sounded a jubilant voice from below. "Whoo-oo-oopee!"

"Who on earth is that?" demanded Mr. Ross.

"Ted Dyer, the last castaway we picked up out of the ocean," responded Captain Halstead.

"What on earth can he find to be so joyous – "

"Whoo-oop!" interrupted Ted himself, appearing on deck at that instant. His eyes were snapping with excitement, his face fairly glowing with delight.

"Say, do you know what's down in the forehold, sir?" he demanded, facing Captain Tom Halstead.

"No; and how do you?" broke in Joseph Baldwin, interrupting.

"Quartermaster Bickson set me to tidying up there," explained Ted. Then, turning to the young skipper, the San Francisco boy rattled on:

"There's a case there, under a lot of other stuff, marked 'shotguns,' and another case marked 'rifles.' Then there are other boxes labeled 'ammunition.'"

"Great Scott! I had forgotten that stuff – didn't know it was on board, in fact," exclaimed the owner.

"I heard you tell," Ted hastened on, speaking to Tom Halstead, "how you were handicapped, when right alongside the 'Victor,' by not having any firearms except the two revolvers of the deputy marshals. But, now! You've got an arsenal if those boxes are labeled straight."

"I believe the boxes are labeled all right," replied Joseph Baldwin, smiling sadly. "Yet, now that we know we have weapons enough at hand we haven't any steam yacht to board!"

CHAPTER XXI
ON A BLIND TRAIL OF THE SEA

"Those guns were put aboard six months ago, when I was planning to run the 'Panther' down to Guatemala on a jaguar-hunting trip," explained Mr. Baldwin. "Afterwards, when the trip was abandoned, the guns were taken ashore. I'll admit I didn't know the arms were now on board."

"We may catch up with those rascals again, sir," suggested Ted Dyer, hopefully.

"I wish I had your enthusiasm, and your belief in the future, young man," remarked Mr. Baldwin, with a shake of his head.

"Anyway, since the weapons have been found," interjected Halstead, "they may as well be taken out of their cases and cleaned, and the ammunition sorted over. We should have such things where we can get at them in a moment, at need."

"Right enough," nodded the owner.

"I'll go down and have a look at the things," proposed the young skipper. "Lead the way, Dyer."

Ted went below, jubilantly enough, pointing out the cases, which he had dragged out from under other supplies. Then Dyer went to the engine room for hammer, cold chisel and screwdriver, after which the cases were opened.

"Ten splendid repeating rifles, the same number of dandy shot-guns, and ammunition enough to keep these guns firing for a week," muttered Halstead when half an hour's work had resulted in displaying all the contents of the cases. "Oh, if we had only had these the other night, or at any time when we were out of the great fog and in sight of the 'Victor'!"

Regrets were, however, utterly useless.

All of the weapons were taken on deck. Some were stacked in the wheel house, others in Tom's cabin and some in the owner's suite. Boxes of cartridges and shells were also placed with the guns.

"I shall hate these things every time I see them," muttered Joseph Baldwin. "I should have remembered, and have had a search made. But it's no use fussing now."

"Oh, if we only could meet up with those fellows, now!" sighed Tom.

"Humph! If hens would only lay eggs of solid gold," snorted Mr. Baldwin, "there'd be no sense in a bank cashier running away with the stuffing of the bank's vault! Captain Halstead, we won't pick that steam yacht up again in this fog."

"Then, sir, we may do it when the fog lifts," predicted Halstead, hopefully.

Baldwin shook his head.

"All we can do, young man, is to keep on in a general course toward San Francisco, as we're doing. This fog will probably hang to us all the way to our anchorage off Market Street. If the fog should lift before that, there isn't one chance in a thousand that we'll find the 'Victor' in sight."

"I'm on this cruise, sir," rejoined the young captain, "with the notion that the cruise can't end until we've run alongside the 'Victor' somewhere. It may be that we'll sight some other vessel that has seen the steam yacht. In that way we may get the news that will send us hustling down the coast to Mexico, or across the ocean to Japan."

Joseph Baldwin grinned wistfully.

"Well, one thing, Captain; we have enough gasoline to go 'most anywhere. My friends thought I was almost crazy to have such big tanks put aboard to hold gasoline. But I replied that, when we didn't need the extra oil, it would serve as ballast. If we have to burn that oil we can fill the tanks with salt water and still keep ballasted."

"In any clear weather we can use the sails a good deal, and save oil at that, sir," suggested the young skipper.

However, they continued on through the fog the rest of that afternoon, and through the night, without discovering a sign of any other craft. The loneliness of that great ocean about them began to get somewhat on the nerves of some of the passengers. Gaston Giddings, suffering infernal tortures for want of the drug to which he had become such a pitiful slave, kept to the cabin.

Through the long night the "Panther" kept plodding on her way, rolling a good deal in the sea. Tom spent much of his time on the bridge with the watch officer. So morning came around again, and it was Third Mate Costigan's deck watch.

Tom, who had been below in his cabin for the last three hours, came on deck again at about nine in the morning. Somehow, he could not sleep. The sense of failure preyed upon his nerves.

For some minutes Captain Tom stood at the bridge rail, one hand at his ear. He was trying to catch even the faintest sound of another foghorn than the "Panther's."

At last he started.

"Did you hear that, Mr. Costigan?" he demanded.

"I heard nothing, sir."

"Then keep perfectly quiet, and listen hard."

Within two minutes both officers were sure they heard a fog-horn.

"But it's the fog-horn of a sailing vessel," muttered Tom, disappointedly.

"Coming this way, too, sir," replied Mr. Costigan.

"The people on the 'Victor' wouldn't hesitate to use a sailing vessel's signals in order to fool us," muttered Halstead.

"Shall I pass well to starboard of the sailing craft, sir?" asked the third officer.

"No; get in her path. When we're near enough, signal that we want to speak the other vessel," Halstead answered.

Within seven or eight minutes the "Panther" was signaling the other craft by sound for the desired marine interview. The "all right" signal came back. Then the two vessels were cautiously man?uvred to meet each other without collision.

At last a big bowsprit loomed up out of the white gloom, close at hand.

"Put your helm hard-a-starboard!" roared Mr. Costigan through the wheel house speaking-tube. Then, after some further man?uvring, during which the "Panther's" propellers reversed, the two craft lay hazily in sight of each other.



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