Harrie Hancock.

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



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"Nor do I believe we're going to find it – not immediately, anyway," answered Mr. Jephson. "This boat doesn't seem to be full of hiding places, and I believe we have done all the searching we can do out here at sea. We shall have to run the 'Victor' in at anchorage at San Francisco, then put aboard a force of officers under experienced detectives, and leave the search to them."

"Confound it," growled Jason Ross, "I know, as well as I know I'm standing here, that there are three million dollars in actual cash somewhere within a hundred feet of us. It makes me almost frantic to think that we can't put our hands right on it."

"Ahoy, there!" roared a voice off in the fog.

Though the other craft was invisible, and though the voice came through a megaphone, the hearers knew it was Ab Perkins's voice. Jed snatched up a megaphone to shout back:

"Ahoy, 'Panther'!"

"Ahoy! Then you've found the 'Victor'?"

"Aye, and captured her."

"Did you find Rollings!"

"He's a prisoner, under close guard."

"And the money?"

"That's what we all want to know," Jed admitted, sadly.

"You can't find it?"

"Not even a dollar bill!"

There was a pause, during which those on board the steam yacht knew that their friends on the motor yacht were discussing this chilling news.

"What are Captain Halstead's orders?" shouted Ab, finally.

Jed bent over the bridge rail to talk with Captain Tom, then answered:

"Keep about abreast of us, and a quarter of a mile off. Proceed with us, straight for the Golden Gate. Keep your fog-horn sounding at intervals of one minute, or at such other intervals as you may hear us sounding. Three sharp blasts of the whistle will mean for you to stand by to find out what we're doing in the fog."

"Aye, aye," answered Ab Perkins. "Is that all?"

"That's all, Mr. Perkins."

The "Victor" now proceeded on her way to the home port at about eight miles an hour. Though no one on board could see the "Panther," the sound of the latter's fog-horn was always with them.

"The prisoner, Rollings, wants to see you, Mr. Jephson," called the deputy marshal from the deck-house cabin.

Jephson went back.

"Well, Rollings, have you come to your senses? Are you going to tell us where the missing money is?" demanded the assistant district attorney.

"I know nothing about any missing money," replied the bank cashier, doggedly. "See here, man, what I want to ask is: Do you intend to torture me needlessly?"

"No; what do you want?"

"Let me go to my own cabin, and let me have these handcuffs off," pleaded the prisoner. "I need rest; I'm nearly a wreck."

"I can let you go to your cabin, and even remove the handcuffs," agreed Mr. Jephson. "But I'll have to place a guard in there with you.

"All right, then," sighed the prisoner.

He was taken to his own cabin, the handcuffs removed, and the cashier threw himself upon his bed, while the deputy marshal took a seat where he could watch his man.

Captain Blake begged a similar privilege, which was refused.

He was made to go out on deck where he could be watched by all hands.

For half an hour Rollings lay on the bed, his eyes closed, as though asleep. Occasionally he twitched, or made some slight movement. That was all. The deputy seated opposite began to find the situation a dull one. At last the prisoner half sat up, to take off his shoes.

"My feet are burning," he complained, as he dropped the shoes at the foot of the bed, then sank back on the pillow.

"You're nervous; that's why your feet trouble you," observed the deputy, with a knowing smile.

Then Rollings began to breathe heavily; bye and bye two or three snores escaped him. The deputy, finding it duller and duller, unintentionally allowed his eyes to close. Instantly the cashier's own eyes opened a trifle. At last, smiling cunningly, the cashier moved slightly, securing one of his shoes. He poised it, aimed and threw. The heel of the shoe struck the deputy on the head, causing him to drop forward out of the chair and lie apparently senseless on the floor.

Suppressing a cry of exultation, Frank Rollings leaped from the bed. There was now the light of mania in his eyes. This thief, disgraced, about to be despoiled, and presently to be sent to prison for a long term, preferred to die.

This he might have accomplished with the deputy's revolver, but that would not enable him to carry out all of his purpose. On one wall of the cabin stood a rack containing a water-bottle and two glasses.

Over to this rack stole the captured thief. He swung the rack to one side, then pressed a certain nail in the wood-work there. Instantly a door in the wall swung open.

Rollings's eyes eagerly peered into the recess thus laid bare. Then, with a nearly inarticulate cry of joy, he drew out a small though heavy-looking iron box.

"Neither me nor the money shall they have!" uttered the wretch, in insane joy.

With a last look at the still unconscious deputy, Frank Rollings threw his cabin door open.

As he sprang to the deck three or four watchers saw him.

"Look out! There's the prisoner trying to escape!" shouted Joseph Baldwin.

There was not time for anyone to reach Rollings ere that crafty, unbalanced wretch, clutching desperately at the iron box, bounded to the rail, stood there tottering for an instant, and then leaped far out into the water.

It was Tom Halstead who first saw the iron box and comprehended the meaning of the scene.

"There he goes!" yelled Halstead. "And the box with the three millions in it will sink like a stone!"

CHAPTER XXIV
CONCLUSION

Never slow to act, Captain Tom darted aft, intent on leaping overboard also.

Ted Dyer, however, chanced to be standing close to the stern. Ted saw Rollings when the latter first leaped to the rail.

As quickly as it flashed upon Dyer what was happening, the San Francisco boy scrambled to the rail. Almost at the instant that Rollings jumped Ted's own feet left the rail. The two struck the water within thirty feet of each other.

Nothing but the slow speed of the steam yacht, perhaps, saved both from being dragged under by the force of suction. In a moment or two the pair were left astern.

Feeling the shock of the cold water, Rollings's first instinctive act was to try to keep himself afloat. Curiously, he would not, at first, let go of the iron box, which, with its contents, weighed many pounds.

Now, over the top of a rolling wave Ted Dyer's head appeared. All this had taken place in a few seconds.

"You want to catch me – you want the money!" sputtered Rollings, expelling a spray of water from his mouth. "You shall do neither!"

Clutching tightly at the box as an aid to his own drowning, Frank Rollings let himself go beneath the surface.

Promptly Ted went down after him, swimming straight and lustily.

Another figure sprang forward and downward, shark-like, through the water. This was Tom Halstead, who, with his stoutest strokes, had just reached the scene.

Between them Tom and Ted succeeded in seizing the box. By a common impulse, for they could not talk, they forced it from Rollings, rising to the surface.

"Blub-bub-bub – whew!"

Rollings, rising to the surface, made that noise as he fought for breath. The cashier, an excellent swimmer, saw the two boys, a dozen feet away, swimming and holding up the box.

"Neither me nor the money shall you have!" he roared, striking out at a strong overhand swimming gait. He was almost upon them like a flash.

But there was another there, too. Joe Dawson had also leaped over from the rail of the motor yacht. Joe got along just in time to swim between Rollings and the two boys who were doing their best to keep up and hold the iron box, too.

"Back for yours! Go away back and float!" cried Joe, pushing one of his fighting hands against the cashier's face.

"I'll take you down, then, or the box!" screamed Rollings.

"Oh, all right, then. Take me," mocked Joe. "I'm used to it."

Furiously the pair fought in that rolling sea. Joe devoted every energy, first of all, to keeping the cashier from winding his arms around him.

Presently Rollings gave up that effort, trying to dodge around Joe and get at the other pair, who, swimming slowly, were at the same time managing to keep that precious iron box afloat. This latter task, easy at first, soon became difficult. As the minutes passed the box became more and more of a burden, until it threatened to drag both swimmers under. Yet they hung to it manfully.

Up on the bridge of the "Victor" Jed Prentiss had his own hard task to perform.

Almost at the outset the swimmers had vanished in the fog astern. Jed Prentiss instantly gave orders for the steam yacht to stop and reverse the screw. At the same time he ordered the "Victor" to go around hard-a-port. Even this circle had to be one of large diameter.

"No hails down there on the deck!" rang Jed's voice, sternly. "No confusion of calls. Let me do all the hailing."

Megaphone in hand, young Prentiss stood at the port bridge rail.

"Ahoy!" he roared, through the megaphone.

Again and again he repeated the call. At last he thought he heard an answer out of the deeps.

"Louder!" he roared. "Give us your position."

Suddenly, some sixty feet off the rail, Jed just made out the heads of Joe Dawson and Frank Boilings.

The cashier was floating, now, making no resistance, for Joe had struck him a blow across the head with his clenched fist. Rollings, stunned, floated unresistingly, supported by Dawson.

"We'll have a boat to you in a jiffy!" shouted Jed, while Bickson threw a life preserver with almost perfect aim.

Now, the "Victor," whose speed had been slowing down, was stopped.

Joe and his charge had drifted just out of sight, but a boat was quickly lowered, under command of Bickson, and reached the pair, after hailing.

"Where's the captain?" demanded the quartermaster, as Joe and Rollings were hauled in.

"Hail 'em. They're close at hand," Joe replied.

The first hail brought an answer. In a few moments more the iron box was carefully brought over the side into the small boat. Finally Tom and Ted nimbly joined the others.

"Get back to the yacht as quickly as you can. Rollings may come to, and, fighting in a small boat like this, he could make it unsafe – for the money," Captain Tom Halstead added, with a wan grin.

Little time passed before strong hands bore the iron box up over the side of the "Victor." Then Frank Rollings, just beginning hazily to come to, was carried up. This time he was handcuffed, to remain so until San Francisco should be reached.

It was an anxious conference that gathered in the main cabin as Assistant District Attorney Jephson proceeded to force the iron box that had come within a hair's breadth of going to the bottom of the ocean. The three boys who had gone overboard after it stood by in their dripping garments.

As the lid of the sheet-iron box went up, a subdued cheer arose. This increased in volume to a din as Mr. Jephson swiftly tore the paper wrappings from one of the packages that he had lifted out. The first tightly-packed bale of crisp, new thousand-dollar bills was in view.

"All of the stolen money – the whole three million dollars – appears to be here," announced Mr. Jephson, presently, as he began placing the bales back in the iron box, which, now that it was open, proved not to be as thick or solid as it looked when closed.

"Then I'm off to where I can get dry and warm," muttered Tom Halstead. "Come along, fellows."

It was all over but making the anchorage at San Francisco. There was a somewhat long, though uneventful cruise, through fog that lasted to the end. With the "Panther's" crew divided up between two boats, the work was hard, indeed. It was a welcome hour to all when anchorage was finally made not far from the foot of Market Street, San Francisco.

Frank Rollings was afterwards tried, convicted, and sentenced to twenty years' confinement, which he is now serving.

Captain Blake was convicted of firing upon the "Panther," of running without lights or signals, and of attempting to resist United States officers. He was sent to prison for twelve years. Blake confessed that the idea in turning back on the course was to elude the "Panther," and then seek a lonely point on the coast of Mexico for landing.

Nor did Cragthorpe escape, his sentence being ten years for the part he had played. Yet, before he was sent away, this wretch gave the evidence which cleared Robert Gentry of the crime of which the latter stood accused. Young Gentry was released, exonerated, and Rose Gentry, whom Tom Halstead had briefly befriended on the Overland Mail at Oakland, wedded her own heart's choice, the broad-shouldered young man who had met her at the San Francisco ferry mole.

Cragthorpe, as it was afterwards learned, had been serving Rollings for some time, and Cragthorpe it was who, having made the acquaintance of Gaston Giddings, lured the latter into the opium dens of Chinatown. Had Cragthorpe succeeded in wedding Rose Gentry – and her fortune – he might have discarded Rollings. As it was, he participated deeply in Rollings's crimes, and had absconded from San Francisco with him on board the "Victor" as a fighting man and trusted agent.

Gaston Giddings has been broken of the fearful curse of the opium habit, but he is no longer president of the Sheepmen's Bank. He is naturally too weak-willed for prominent service in the financial world.

Ted Dyer, you may be sure, became a member of the Motor Boat Club, going into its engineer squad. Ted's worthless, heartless uncle was arrested on his return to San Francisco, and a new guardian, who was appointed for Ted, secured the young man's full inheritance back out of the property of the uncle.

All of our young Motor Boat Club friends remained aboard the "Panther" for the balance of the winter and well into the spring. They had many enjoyable cruises, though none as exciting as the one just closed.

The reward that the directors of the Sheepmen's Bank voted to all hands for the recovery of the three million dollars, made the bank accounts of these sturdy, brave young navigators swell considerably. Not, however, that any of Captain Tom Halstead's comrades needed money, for they have that which is worth far more – the power that strong hands, brave hearts and fearless, truthful eyes bring to any human being when rightly employed.

It is possible, even very likely, that we may yet again meet up with these splendid young fellows, who stand for the new type in American power of the seas in the twentieth century.

In the meantime, let us hail Tom Halstead, Joe Dawson, and all the other resourceful, capable and brave lads with their own famous club yell:

"M. B. C. K.! M. B. C. K.! Motor Boat Club. WOW!"

The End

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