Harrie Hancock.

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



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Nor did Joe Dawson fare any better. If anything, he was rather more roughly handled by Jed Prentiss and Jeff Randolph.

"Now, roll 'em!" roared Dick Davis.

Before either of the newcomers could rise to his feet they were rolled together in the middle of the floor. Ab lifted the mattress from the bed, plumping it down over the two victims. Then all four of the gleeful assailants threw themselves across the mattress, shoving it over the floor, using Tom and Joe, underneath, for rollers.

And, over it all, rose the famous club yell:

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

"Oh, but we're glad to see 'em!" yelled Dick Davis, in his deepest tones. "Good old chums! Keep up the welcome, fellows!"

From under the mattress Tom Halstead managed to make himself heard, though his voice sounded muffled indeed.

"Help!" he roared. "Turn out the port watch! Mutiny!"

"Port watch, ahoy! Roll up on deck, you lubbers!" roared Ab Perkins. "Cap'n wants you!"

At that Jed and Jeff left the mattress, darting to where Tom's and Joe's traveling bags lay. These they quickly opened, dumping all the contents on the floor.

"All hands to quell mutiny!" yelled Jed Prentiss. Dick Davis and Ab Perkins joined them on the jump.

That gave Tom and Joe, both very red-faced and much winded, a chance to crawl out from under the mattress.

Yet no sooner did they show their astonished faces than all four of the first-comers began to pelt them with the articles dumped from the traveling bags.

Slippers flew straight and true, landing with swats. Hair brushes, tooth-brushes, cakes of soap, boxes of tooth-powder and numerous other articles filled the air, a veritable cyclone with the fleet captain and the fleet engineer in the middle of it.

"Cut it!" commanded Tom Halstead, sternly. "Oh, if I had my revolver and handcuffs and leg-irons here. This is the last time I'll ever go on deck without 'em. But cut it – anyway!"

Dick Davis, having thrown the last missile that came to hand, and having pitched Halstead's overcoat up in the air so that it now lay hanging from the chandelier, suddenly straightened up, looking very grave as he saluted and roared out:

"Aye, aye, sir!"

At that the other three disturbers of the peace lined up with Dick, all saluting.

"What's the meaning of all this riot?" insisted Halstead, trying to keep back the grin that struggled to his face.

"After not having seen each other for all these moons," demanded Davis, in a hurt voice, "can't we do anything to show you how ding-whanged glad we are to behold you two once more?"

"Your joy takes a strange turn," grimaced Captain Tom.

"I prefer people who put their welcome in writing," retorted Joe.

At that Ab Perkins, with a whoop, made for a table. From it he snatched up a cork, one end of which had been burned to a char.

"Come on, then, fellows," proposed Ab Perkins, gleefully; "we'll write our welcome on Joe's face."

"Will you, though?" demanded Dawson, crouching low, as though for a football tackle.

He caught Ab, and rising with that boisterous youth, toppled him over. Ab Perkins went sprawling; fortunately for him he landed across the mattress.

"Hold on!" expostulated Tom Halstead. "The reception committee is excused – fired – bounced, in fact. Now, stop all this monkey-business, and let's get down to trade topics. But, first of all – "

Tom paused to spit out two or three fragments of down feathers. Then he crossed to where the water pitcher stood on a tray. Pouring out a glass of water, Halstead took a mouthful, while the late mutineers looked on expectantly.

"O-oh! Ugh! Waugh! Wow!" sputtered Tom, expelling his mouthful into a waste-water jar beside the wash-stand. "That water's salt!"

"Well, what of it, you bo'sun's mate of a lobster trap?" demanded Ab Perkins, aggressively. "Is it the first time you've ever hit up against salt water?"

"Now, see here, fellows," grinned Halstead, looking around at the impish faces of the first-comers, "this is all right. We know how glad you are to see us. Your pleasure is far greater than we had ever dared to hope – "

"Oh, we can show more pleasure!" proposed Dick.

"Do it at your personal risk, then!" defied the young captain, arming himself with the water pitcher. "Now, then, will you all be quiet?"

"Oh, aye!" promised young Davis, with a sudden assumption of meekness.

"I trust you – trust you all to the death," affirmed Tom, grimly. "But I'm going to keep hold of the water pitcher just the same!"

"This deck doesn't look ship-shape, does it?" demanded Dick Davis, glancing about him. "Hadn't we better change craft? Wait here a moment."

Stepping to the push-button, he pressed twice, for the porter. Tom Halstead remained on guard, armed as before, and Joe keeping rather close to him, until the porter knocked at the door.

"See here, my friend," remarked Dick, holding out a dollar bill to the porter, "there has been a ship-wreck here."

"It looks like it, sir," grinned the porter, pocketing the money. "What'll you have, sir?"

"Find the chambermaid that belongs on this floor," begged Dick, "and bring her here."

The porter was soon back with the chambermaid, who also received a dollar bill from young Davis.

"Now, you two try some team-work, please," begged Dick Davis, "and see whether you can make this place look neat enough to be a captain's cabin. Gentlemen of the Motor Boat Club, will you adjourn to the costly quarters that Ab and myself consider almost good enough for us?"

Tom Halstead laid down the water pitcher and passed out of the room last of all.

"I reckon you'd better go into the other room first, Joe, and let me bring up the rear," called Tom, grimly. "Then we can watch, from both ends of the line, for any new tricks."

Dick Davis produced a key, admitting all hands to the adjoining room.

"Now, be seated," proposed Davis, in his most hospitable tone. The club members found chairs.

"Have you seen Mr. Baldwin?" inquired Captain Tom.

"No; but we've sent him word," Ab replied. "Mr. Baldwin has offices in the Chronicle Building."

"Is that near?" queried Halstead.

"Only a few hawser lengths from here, on the other side of Market Street," put in Jed Prentiss. "Come here to the window. There's the Chronicle Building over yonder."

"Mr. Baldwin has a telephone, of course?" suggested Captain Tom.

"Yes; 9378 Market."

"I can tell him we're here, then," murmured Tom, crossing the room to where a telephone apparatus rested against the wall.

"Don't," prompted Dick. "Mr. Baldwin has sent his orders. You can 'phone him between three and three-thirty to-day. Mustn't bother him at any other time."

"That's right, is it?" demanded Halstead, looking half-suspiciously at Davis.

"Quite right," nodded the latter youth, gravely. Dick was older than the others, being nineteen, as against a general average of sixteen years for the other boys. Dick was different in another respect. While the other five boys followed motor boating as a means of livelihood, depending upon their earnings, young Davis, the son of a ship-builder of Bath, Maine, was at all times well supplied with money. Dick's outline for the future included a possible college course, and then breaking into the ship-building business with his father. It was not yet quite decided whether young Davis should omit the college part of the plan. In the meantime, the elder Davis believed that an active membership in the Motor Boat Club would be the best possible training to fit his son for a position in the ship-yard.

"Well, if those are the instructions, then," replied Captain Tom, returning to his chair, "we'll wait until a few minutes after three."

"And now it's half-past eleven," said Jed, consulting his watch. "Luncheon will not be served until one. We can wait here as well as anywhere. Say, fellows, I'm just crazy to hear some good old yarns of what you others have been through."

With that, yarn-spinning became the order of the day. The young men were still at it when they went down to the gorgeous dining room of the Palace Hotel. The air about their table was thick with yarns all through the meal.

While they sat around the table, absorbed in one another's stories, a dark-visaged, well-dressed man of thirty started to enter the dining room. Just at the threshold, however, he paused, for his glance had alighted on a profile view of Captain Tom Halstead at one of the tables in the center of the dining room.

"That's the cub who struck me this morning," muttered the dark-faced one, drawing back. "I want to know who he is. I want to place him – I want to meet him and settle the account for that blow and the disappointment it brought about!"

Tom Halstead turned around, a moment later, but he did not see the man he had knocked from the train that morning at the Sixteenth Street station in Oakland. That worthy had drawn quickly back out of sight, and was now looking about for some hotel employ? to question.

Ten minutes later he of the dark visage had all the information he felt he needed.

"Tom Halstead? So that's your name?" snarled the stranger, as he started for the street entrance. "And you're employed by Baldwin – could anything be more favorable to our meeting again, eh?" The stranger smiled darkly, meaningly, as he pronounced the name of Baldwin.

Luncheon over, the yarning motor boat boys embarked in the elevator. This time they went direct to the room assigned to Tom and Joe. The trunks of these two young men had arrived, and now rested in the room.

Once more the yarning went on, until Captain Tom checked it at exactly two minutes past three o'clock.

CHAPTER III
CAPTAIN TOM'S NEW COMMAND

"It's time for Mr. Baldwin to hear from us, now," announced the young skipper, rising and crossing to the room-telephone. He gave the number, waiting briefly.

"Hello," sounded a voice in the receiver.

"Hello," returned Tom, quietly. "Is this Mr. Baldwin?"

"No; wait a moment. I'll connect you."

"Hello," came, an instant later.

"Hello. Mr. Baldwin?"

"Yes."

"I am Captain Tom Halstead, here at the Palace Hotel, awaiting your orders."

"Is Dabson with you?"

"Dawson, sir," Tom corrected. "Yes; Dawson is with me."

"Then your whole crew is on hand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good! Well, as the finishers are about through with their repair work on my boat we shall be ready to get you aboard without delay."

"May I ask, sir, how big a boat – "

"Captain, be at my office, all of you in uniform, at four o'clock exactly."

"Very good, sir. Four o'clock."

"Captain Halstead, punctuality is one of my failings," warned Joseph Baldwin's voice.

"It's one of my studies, Mr. Baldwin."

"Then, at four o'clock?"

"Four o'clock, sharp, sir!"

"Good-bye."

Ting-ling-ling! Tom hung up the receiver.

"Well," came an eager chorus. "What are we going to do?"

"We're going to get into our club sailing uniforms," smiled Captain Tom, "and we're to be at Mr. Baldwin's office at four o'clock to the minute."

"What sort of a boat – "

"Cruising or racing – "

"Coasting or sea-voy – "

"You'll all of you have to cut out the questions," laughed Tom Halstead. "I've told you every blessed thing I've just learned over the 'phone. Fellows, I think our Mr. Baldwin is stingy – "

"Stingy?" broke in Ab Perkins, with fine scorn. "And paying every one of us first-class salaries!"

"Stingy of words," finished Captain Tom, calmly. "If our new employer keeps on as he has begun, we won't know anything he means to do until the time comes to do it. Then he'll give his complete orders in from six to eight words. That's the way it looks. Now, for your uniforms. Come along, Joe, and we'll get into ours. Mr. Baldwin, I omitted to tell you, did inform me – "

Captain Tom paused, looking mysterious.

"Told you what?" chorused Dick, Ab and Jed, eagerly.

"That he's extremely partial to people who are punctual to the minute," finished Tom Halstead, making a sign that brought Joe along in his trail.

Sailors are accustomed to quick dressing, as they are to quick work of all sorts. Hence the six motor boat boys, all looking decidedly neat and important in their uniforms and visored caps, were soon on their way to the elevator shaft. Soon afterwards they stepped from the Palace entrance to the street, making for the other side of Market Street at the first crossing.

More than one swift pedestrian paused long enough to send a look back after these six trim, almost martial-looking young men, who walked in pairs and carried themselves like graduates of the Naval Academy.

It was just five minutes before four o'clock when the sextette halted outside the Chronicle Building.

"A couple of minutes to breathe," announced Halstead, watch in hand. Presently, he marched them into the corridor. Here, after a short wait, they stepped into one of the several elevators, leaving it a few floors from the street.

"Sixty seconds yet to spare," whispered Captain Tom, smilingly, holding up his watch.

Precisely at the dot of four o'clock the six motor boat boys filed in at the door of the Baldwin offices, after Halstead had turned the knob.

In the outer office were several clerks, behind a railing. An office boy sat at a desk close by the gate of the railing.

"Mr. Baldwin expects us at four," stated Tom to the boy. "Will you please tell him that Captain Halstead and party are here?"

The boy disappeared. When he returned a briskly-moving man of fifty was at his heels. It was Joseph Baldwin, one of the rich men of the Pacific Coast, and one of its most daring promoters. He was a man who acted, ordinarily, as though the day were but five minutes long and crowded with business. Mr. Baldwin looked like a prosperous business man, though there was nothing foppish in his attire.

"Captain Halstead?" he demanded, holding out a hand. The act was gracious enough, though hurried. In less than a minute Tom had presented his friends and all had been through the handshake.

Back of Mr. Baldwin stood a clerk, holding his employer's hat.

"I'm off for the day, Johnson," he announced. "Is the transportation at the door?"

"Yes, sir. I just looked out of the window. Your transportation is ready."

"Come along, Captain Halstead and gentlemen," directed Mr. Baldwin.

Though he led them swiftly, another clerk had slipped out ahead of them, and now stood by the elevator shaft. A car was just stopping at the floor. Down the party whizzed. Mr. Baldwin led the boys to a street door, outside of which two automobile touring cars stood.

"Captain, I want you and Dawson in the car with me. Let your friends follow in the other."

Two tonneau doors closed with bangs. Off whizzed the cars. Speed laws did not appear to be made for the concern of a man like Joseph Baldwin. It seemed as though the cars had barely started when they ran out onto a dock not much to the westward of the ferry houses.

A man in plain blue uniform and visored cap, wearing the insignia of a quartermaster, stood at the far end of the dock. He saluted as soon as he espied Joseph Baldwin hastening toward him.

"I see you're on time, Bickson."

"Yes, sir."

By this time Mr. Baldwin was going down a short flight of steps to a landing stage. There lay moored a trim-looking sixteen-foot power tender.

"Fall aboard," briefly directed Mr. Baldwin, and the motor boat boys, rather enjoying this systematized bustle, obeyed.

Bickson, without waiting for orders, cast off, started the motor and sent the boat gliding out into the stream.

"Quite a motor yacht that carries a quartermaster," observed Captain Halstead, with a smile.

"I carry three," rejoined Mr. Baldwin, thrusting a cigar into his mouth and lighting it with a "blazer" match.

In and out among the shipping the tender glided. Then, at last, Captain Tom caught sight of a graceful craft some hundred and twenty feet long. She looked like a miniature liner.

"I wonder if I'll ever command a handsome craft like that?" thought the young motor boat skipper, with a brief pang of envy. "Jove! what a boat!"

The next thing the motor boat boys knew they were running up alongside this hundred-and-twenty-footer. A young man of twenty-five or twenty-six, whose uniform proclaimed him to be a watch officer, stood at the top of a side gangway.

"This can't be the boat – such a beauty!" gasped Tom Halstead, inwardly. Joe Dawson's eyes were full of wonder. Ab Perkins's lower jaw was hanging down in proof of his bewilderment. Dick Davis's face was flushing. Jed was staring. Only Jeff Randolph appeared indifferent.

"How do you do, Mr. Costigan?" hailed Mr. Baldwin, leading the way up the side gangway. "Mr. Costigan, pay your respects to the new captain of the 'Panther.' Captain Halstead, Mr. Costigan, your third officer."

If Mr. Costigan appeared astonished, Tom Halstead did not look less so. That he was really to command this big, handsome craft seemed to Tom like a dream. A moment before, when he had realized that the "Panther" was Mr. Baldwin's craft, the most the Maine boy had expected was that he and his companions would be allowed to stand watch in the engine room and on the bridge. But – captain!

Third Officer Costigan, however, saluted in a most proper manner. Tom held out his hand cordially.

"Presently, Mr. Costigan, I shall ask you to show me about this craft."

"At your orders, sir," replied Costigan, again saluting his commanding officer, then making his way forward.

"Here's the captain's cabin. I have the key," announced Mr. Baldwin, leading the way to a door immediately aft of the pilot house. The owner unlocked the door, then led the way inside. Again Captain Tom wondered if he could be dreaming. Though everything was compact in this stateroom, yet all the conveniences were there, too. There was a double bed, a wardrobe locker, running water, two easy chairs, a desk, and a table just under a well-stocked China and glass cupboard.

"Your stateroom runs right through the deck-house from starboard to port," explained Mr. Baldwin, who now appeared less pressed for time. "Bathroom and chart-room open out of this cabin aft. I think, Captain, you will be comfortable."

"Comfortable!" murmured Tom, then smiled in sheer delight.

The other motor boat boys stood about the doorway, not offering to enter while the owner was there. Mr. Baldwin dropped into one of the arm chairs.

"Now, Captain, I'll tell you what we have aboard," continued the owner. "Costigan is third officer. He's a good fellow, and a capable sailor, but he has his limitations, and – well, I don't believe he'll ever be much more than a third officer. You'd better keep him in that grade – unless you find he's better than some of your comrades. One good thing about Costigan is that he has a pilot's license for San Francisco Bay and the coast hereabouts. He's a good pilot, too. Another good thing about Costigan is that he's loyal, and a man who knows how to keep his tongue resting in the back of his mouth.

"Besides Costigan, there are three quartermasters and seven men in the crew. We have also a cook and helper, a cabin steward and a men's steward. That's the whole outfit. We have no one, at present, in the engine-room department. You have men with you to fill out those positions, haven't you, Captain?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then let me see how you'll go to work to place them," shot out Mr. Baldwin, instantly.

"Mr. Perkins, first officer; Mr. Davis, second officer," replied Halstead, promptly. "Mr. Costigan, of course, third officer."

"And in the engine room?" pressed the owner.

"Mr. Dawson, chief engineer; Mr. Prentiss, first assistant; Mr. Randolph, second assistant engineer."

"All right," nodded Joseph Baldwin. "That makes our complement complete, I think. Now, Captain, publish your selections to the crew and take command. There's the bell at the side of your desk."

Hardly had Tom Halstead, still feeling as though in a trance, pressed the button, when a jauntily uniformed sailor appeared at the doorway, saluting.

"My compliments to Mr. Costigan; ask him to come here," ordered Tom.

From the speed with which he reported, Third Officer Costigan must have been awaiting the summons.

"Pipe the crew forward of the pilot house, Mr. Costigan. All hands. I've something to say to them."

The third officer's whistle rang out shrilly forward. A few moments later Captain Halstead was notified that all hands were on deck.

Tom thereupon went forward, accompanied by the new officers of the "Panther," who were proclaimed to the crew, including even the stewards and cooks.

"And I now invite the officers to my cabin," said Captain Halstead as he wound up his harangue to the men. "The details of the deck and engine room watches will be decided at once."

This was soon done. Following the practice that now obtains on many yachts, the watches were made eight hours long, instead of four. This enabled each member of a watch to get a full sleep between watches. In ordinary weather neither the captain nor first officer stands watch. The captain's, or starboard, watch was to be taken by Dick Davis as second officer. Mr. Costigan, third officer, was to stand the first officer's, or port, watch. Joe Dawson, as chief engineer, was generally responsible for the engineering department, but stood no watch in the engine room, the starboard watch at the motors falling to Jed Prentiss, and the port watch to Jeff Randolph. Bickson, as chief quartermaster, was made responsible for the general policing of the craft, the other two quartermasters taking watch trick at the wheel in the pilot house.



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