Harrie Hancock.

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



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During the making of these arrangements Mr. Baldwin had strolled aft to his own suite of rooms. These, immediately aft of the chart room, consisted of parlor, bed-room and bath. Aft of these quarters lay the deck dining room, from which a staircase led down to the cabin proper. Off the cabin were eight handsome staterooms for the owner's guests.

All this Tom and his comrades saw as Costigan piloted them over this superb yacht.

Forward of the main cabin, below, was the chief engineer's stateroom, which Joe would occupy by himself. In Joe's room, also, was service for the chief engineer's meals.

Then there was a stateroom for the second and third officers, and another for the engineer's two assistants. For these junior officers, and Mr. Costigan, there was an officers' mess. Further forward was the crew's mess, then the kitchen department. Ahead of this was the engine room, with the crew's forecastle quarters right up in the bow of the craft, below decks.

"You see, sir," explained Mr. Costigan, "there's everything that could be thought of for the comfort of officers and crew."

"It's the most compact boat I could imagine," declared Captain Tom, enthusiastically.

"You may well say that, sir."

They passed on to inspect the engine room. Joe's eyes fairly gleamed as he inspected the twin motors, the dynamos and all the other details of his own department. It was a finer engine room than Joe Dawson had hoped to command for many years to come. He remained below, with his assistants, to inspect their new domain, while Tom, Ab and Dick returned to the deck with Mr. Costigan.

The "Panther" was schooner rigged, with a full set of sails for each of the two masts. There was a short bowsprit, carrying two jibs.

"This craft does pretty well under sail, sir," declared the third officer.

"She looks as though she ought to," replied Captain Tom. "But what gait does she make with her power alone?"

"She's been running, cruising, sir, at about twelve to fourteen miles an hour. She's listed as a twenty-two mile boat at her best, but I believe, sir, that a good engineer could get twenty-four out of her."

"The new chief engineer is one who can get out any speed that the motors will stand."

"He looks it, sir."

Halstead was careful always to use the word "Mister." Watch officers and engineers, who are also officers, are always addressed in that way, by the captain, or even by the owner. Costigan was equally careful to say "sir," when addressing any officer of grade above his own.

"When you can spare the time, Captain, I'll have a few words with you," called Mr. Baldwin, showing his head through the starboard doorway of his suite.

"At once, sir," replied Captain Tom, turning and going to the owner's door. At the threshold the new captain of the "Panther" halted.

"Come right in, Captain. Take a chair," invited the owner. "Now, then, what do you think of your new task?"

"I'm astounded, sir.

Overjoyed, too," Tom replied, with a candid smile.

"Why?"

"Well, sir, this craft represents the height of my dreams. The 'Panther' is twice the length and about four times the total size of any boat I've ever commanded before."

"Are you afraid it's too big an undertaking for you?" asked Mr. Baldwin, regarding his young sailing master keenly.

"No, sir!" came the prompt answer.

"Hm! I'm glad of that. But I wasn't worrying. I've known Delavan a long time. I told him what I wanted, and knew I could bank on his choice. Are all your friends satisfied?"

"They're delighted," Tom nodded. "All they're aching for now, sir, is to get out on the first cruise."

"They'll have their wish this evening," laughed Mr. Baldwin. "Is there anything you want to ask me, Captain?"

"Nothing, unless you'll permit me to be a bit curious."

"That's a bad fault on this yacht," replied Joseph Baldwin, with a slight frown that quickly disappeared. "What is it you want to know?"

"I'm wondering, sir, why you had to send all the way east for officers for the 'Panther'?"

"Because I've had to get rid of two sets of officers," replied Mr. Baldwin, crisply. "One captain was too inquisitive, the other was incapable. Then I began to hear a good deal about your famous Motor Boat Club. That set me to corresponding with Delavan. He told me a lot more about you young men, and I couldn't get it out of my head that you were the sort of people I wanted."

"You weren't afraid on account of our being so – well, youthful?"

"I knew, if you'd suit Frank Delavan, you'd suit me. And I'm just as sure after having seen you all. Now, Captain Halstead, you'll be ready to sail at any time after seven this evening. That is the hour when my guests and I sit down to dinner aboard. At the time I'll give you your general sailing instructions. Remember, Mr. Costigan must be your pilot until you're out through the Golden Gate and clear of the coast."

"Yes, sir," assented Halstead, rising. "Any further orders, sir?"

"That is all, for the present, Captain."

Tom Halstead left the owner's suite and walked forward, filled with a wonderful sense of elation. He passed the pilot house just in time to see Joe Dawson coming up forward.

"Say, are we going to wake up, chum?" breathed young Dawson in his friend's ear.

"I don't believe we'll have to," laughed the young skipper, happily. "We're all right, I'm pretty sure, if we don't do something that greatly displeases the boat's owner. Thanks to Mr. Delavan, the owner of this craft is willing to believe, at the start, that we're all that's good and wonderful. But come into my cabin, old fellow, if you have the time. We'll dine together to-night."

Both motor boat boys sighed their supreme contentment as they dropped into arm-chairs facing each other. It was now so dark that Tom switched on the electric lights.

"How are the engines, Joe?" asked Tom, dropping into his old, friendly manner.

"Ready to start at a second's notice. And Jed's on duty there, waiting for the word."

"Gasoline?"

"Tanks bulging with it. Tom, this is a beautifully appointed boat below, and every store of every description is in place."

"That's the kind of a man I'm pretty sure Mr. Baldwin is," nodded Halstead.

Joe surveyed a row of speaking tubes that hung against the forward wall of the captain's room. He picked out one labeled "engine-room," pressing the button beneath it.

"Hello, sir," came the quick response, in Jed Prentiss's unmistakable tones.

"Hello, Mr. Prentiss," Joe returned. "How do you like it down there, on duty?"

"It's perfect!" responded Jed, almost dreamily. "Everything here but my own personal steward. I ain't sure but what he'll blow in, in a minute, and ask me what I'll have for dinner."

"Tell him we're scheduled to start at seven," suggested Halstead.

"I can start in seven seconds, if I'm asked to," promised Prentiss. "Anyway, I can have the propellers turning fast before you can get the anchor up. Crackey! I forgot that I have to supply even the power for hoisting anchor."

Twenty minutes later the two chums, who had begun their career by patching up an old steam launch down at the mouth of the Kennebec River, in Maine, were seated at table in the captain's cabin, doing justice to a meal that was but little short of sumptuous.

The chief steward himself, a man named Parkinson, served the young captain and chief engineer. He hovered about, as attentive as any hotel waiter or private butler could have been.

It was the second steward, however, who came in with the dessert for the two chief officers of the "Panther."

"What has become of the other steward?" inquired the young captain.

"Time for him, sir, to put on the finishing touches in the dining saloon," replied Collins, the second steward, who served also the junior officers and the crew.

"If we eat like this at every meal, Joe," sighed Halstead, contentedly, when the second steward had removed the last of the things, "we'll have to devote all the rest of the time to exercising off extra flesh. Let's get out on deck."

"All right. But I mean to be in the engine-room when the start is made."

At the side gangway the chums stepped quickly past, to make way for half a dozen men who were coming up over the side, while Mr. Costigan stood respectfully by to receive them. They were guests of the owner just coming on board for the night's cruise. One of these newcomers went directly to Mr. Baldwin's suite.

"Owner's compliments, sir," called Parkinson, softly, as he came hurrying after the young sailing master. "Mr. Baldwin wishes to see Captain Halstead on the jump, sir."

The call had come for the brisk beginning of the strangest duties in which young Halstead had ever been employed.

CHAPTER IV
HALSTEAD IS LET INTO A SECRET

"Captain Halstead, my friend, Mr. Jason Ross," announced Mr. Baldwin, crisply, as soon as the young skipper had closed the owner's door behind him.

Mr. Ross was a man of forty-five, and looked like a man who might be of much importance in the financial world. Yet he was presented to Halstead, for on a yacht the captain is considered next in importance to the owner.

Tom modestly greeted Mr. Ross.

"Sit down, Captain," snapped out the owner, though not unkindly. "Now, I've got to take you into my confidence a bit. Delavan's word for you makes me feel that I can safely do it."

Tom had only time to nod ere Mr. Baldwin went on, crisply:

"My guests are on board, with one exception. In a way, the exception is the most important one of us all. He isn't so very important in himself, but Gaston Giddings, though a very weak, foolish young man, happened to succeed his father in the principal control and presidency of the Sheepmen's National Bank. Young Giddings and the funds his bank can supply are of the utmost importance to my associates and myself in some big enterprises we are putting through. Do I make myself clear?"

"Wholly so, sir," Tom answered, quietly.

"Now, Giddings, besides being several kinds of plain and ornamental fool – no, I won't quite say that, but this weak young man has one fearful fault for the head of a bank – "

Joseph Baldwin paused in his rapid speech. He looked sharply at Mr. Ross an instant, then continued:

"Oh, well, Frank Delavan told me I could trust you and Dawson with anything from my yacht to my reputation. You understand that what I'm telling you, Captain, is absolutely confidential?"

"Of course, sir," responded Tom, quietly.

"Well, then, within the last three months young Giddings has, in some way we can't understand, fallen a victim to the opium habit. The young man is all but totally wrecked by the vile drug. How, or why, he started, none of us can understand. You see, a good many of us older men, who were fast friends of his father, have tried to stand by the young man. Two of to-night's party are directors in the Sheepmen's Bank. We've tried to get the bank's funds placed in interests that we control, so that young Giddings couldn't go very far wrong, by not having enough money left in his charge to wreck the bank. You follow me?"

"I – I think so, Mr. Baldwin."

"Truth to tell," pursued the owner, "I had planned – my friends on board with me – to go out ostensibly for one night, but really to be gone for several days. One of our friends is a specialist in the opium habit – Dr. Gray. We had hoped, on this trip, to plan some financial enterprises that would use up, for the present, the dangerously large balance at the Sheepmen's Bank. At the same time we were going to try to force young Giddings to agree to heroic medical treatment in order to overcome his fearful vice."

Tom Halstead remained silent, but attentive.

"Now, at the last moment," pursued Mr. Baldwin, "we hear that Giddings was seen in a closed carriage, evidently headed for Chinatown, that vile Oriental section of San Francisco, where the opium vice flourishes at its worst. And in Chinatown a man can disappear so completely that his friends can't find him again in years. Giddings was to be here to-night, but he's in a Chinatown opium den instead. If we appeal to the police, it'll all be in the newspapers. There'll be a scandal that will disgrace Giddings forever, start a run on the Sheepmen's Bank, and – though this is the least of our worries – will delay for some time the pushing of the big financial game in which my friends and myself are interested. Now, we've got to find some way of getting at Giddings, and of bringing him on board without trouble or noise. I've told you this much, Captain Halstead, so that you'll understand the need of secrecy. If we can find Giddings, and get him out here, then we must bring him over the side and get him into his stateroom without his being seen by any of the crew on board, except, possibly, by one or two of your own comrades whom you think you can best trust."

"I can trust every one of 'em, sir," declared Captain Tom, promptly. "So will you, when you know them better."

"Then, Captain, before we make any move to find Giddings in his Chinatown hiding-place, and attempt to get him aboard this yacht, we must have all of the crew safely out of the way, save for your own personal friends among the officers."

"I can plan for the crew to go ashore," declared Tom Halstead. "I have only to state that you've decided to delay putting out to sea, and that you've been good enough to grant the men a night on shore at the theatre at your expense. That will take every one of them over the side. Do you want Mr. Costigan to go?"

"Why, I think Costigan is all right, but he isn't needed here, anyway, so he'd better go ashore also."

"Easily settled, then, Mr. Baldwin. I can send Mr. Costigan off in charge of the shore party. At what hour do you wish them all to return, sir?"

"Not a minute before midnight!"

"Very good, sir. I can tell Mr. Costigan that you've been called ashore, that you will dine there, and that you are very glad of this opportunity to give the older members of the crew a chance to enjoy themselves ashore."

"Excellent, indeed!" cried Mr. Baldwin, in a low tone. "What do you say, Ross?"

"If Captain Halstead can vouch so heartily for the silence and discretion of his own friends, then the plan ought to clear the decks so that we can get Giddings aboard – if we find him – without any comment or scandal at all," agreed Jason Ross.

Joseph Baldwin employed himself stripping a few banknotes from a roll that he drew from a trousers pocket.

"Give this money to Mr. Costigan, Captain, and tell him to see to it that the men have a good time on shore – though no drunkenness! And you, Captain Halstead, I trust to see to it that none but your own friends remain aboard."

Ten minutes later Captain Tom returned to the owner's suite to report that Third Officer Costigan and the crew, including the stewards and cooks, had gone ashore in the tender, Jeff Randolph running the boat in.

"How soon will Randolph be back?" asked Mr. Baldwin.

"Within ten minutes, sir."

"Then I shall want him to put Mr. Ross and myself ashore. We two must take up the seemingly impossible task of locating young Giddings in the heart of Chinatown's slums, and bring him here by force, yet without noise. Once we get him on board, and below, we can keep the young man quiet until morning, when we'll be well out on the ocean. Dr. Gray will attend to that."

"Are your friends going to remain on board, without dinner?" asked Halstead.

"No; they can go ashore and get dinner at a restaurant, returning presently. Mr. Randolph can keep the tender at the landing stage until they return. Then, as soon as he has brought our other friends aboard, Mr. Randolph can return for Ross and myself, when we get back. But Mr. Randolph must not let Costigan or the crew get aboard until after we've returned."

"I'll make his instructions clear on that point," nodded Tom.

"That is all, then. Let me know when the tender returns."

"Hold on, a moment, Baldwin," interposed Mr. Ross.

"Well?"

"Baldwin, neither of us is in what might be called the pink of condition, and young Giddings may put up a fight in his half-crazed way. Don't we need a little real brawn with us?"

"Taking Captain Halstead with us, do you mean?"

"That was the idea that had come into my head," nodded Mr. Ross.

"Yes; it would be an excellent idea. Captain, you will go with us. Leave your first officer in command here until we return."

"Very good, sir."

Tom Halstead saluted, then withdrew. He gave his orders quickly, not deeming it necessary to mention any phase of the story of young Gaston Giddings to his comrades of the Motor Boat Club.

As soon as the launch was alongside Tom hastened to inform Mr. Baldwin. The entire party thereupon came out on deck, gathering at the side gangway. They speedily embarked in the tender, in which Jeff sat where he could handle both engine and steering gear.

"Your instructions are clear, Mr. Perkins?" called Tom Halstead, softly, from the launch.

"Quite clear, sir," Ab replied. "The instructions will be followed to the letter."

"Shove off, then," Tom commanded. "To the landing stage, Mr. Randolph."

It would have been almost laughable, to anyone who had witnessed the frolicsome motor boat boys going through their hazing affair of the forenoon, had he now been at hand to hear them using the stately "mister" and "sir" with all the gravity of naval officers.

Jeff speedily had the party ashore.

Twenty minutes later a closed cab rolled slowly in at one corner of gayly-lighted, malodorous Chinatown. The vehicle contained Messrs. Baldwin and Ross and young Captain Tom Halstead. In this poisonous atmosphere they sought a young human wreck, Gaston Giddings.

CHAPTER V
A HUNT IN THE UNDER-WORLD

During the ride from the water front Captain Tom Halstead had sat on the front seat of the cab, quiet and reserved.

Now, as they entered the outer confines of Chinatown, Halstead leaned slightly forward, peering out at the shops and at the queer Oriental jumble, mixed here and there with white people, that thronged the narrow sidewalks.

"Are you headed for any particular place, sir?" queried the young skipper, after a few moments.

"No," admitted Mr. Baldwin. "I know nothing of Chinatown. We must drive through, first of all, at a venture. Presently an idea may come to us. Whatever we do, our plans must soon be formed. If I dared speak to a police officer – but the risk is too great."

"There's a restaurant," murmured the boy, suddenly. "It looks like a big and clean place. Why don't you and Mr. Ross slip in there, have some tea or something, and let me prowl about in these queer, crooked streets for a few minutes? Chinatown is only a few blocks in extent, I understand. I may be able to learn something that way, unless you have a better plan, sir."

"I am afraid you'll run into danger, alone in this barbarous crowd," objected Mr. Baldwin.

"I'm not in the least afraid," smiled Tom, confidently. "Two prosperous looking men like you might attract attention, but, as for me, the people hereabouts will think only that I'm some young sailor ashore for a lark. Shall I stop the cab, sir?"

"Yes," agreed Joseph Baldwin, though he spoke doubtfully.

Tom's hand shot up at once, grabbing the check string. The driver pulled up his horses, then came to the door, opening it.

"This will be as good a place for you to remain, driver, as anywhere," said Halstead, as he stepped out. Then he turned, waiting for Messrs. Baldwin and Ross to alight.

"Shall I find you in that restaurant, sir?" the young skipper inquired.

"Yes; but don't be too long away, Halstead, or we shall be more uneasy than ever."

"Trust a sailor to take care of himself in any crowd, sir," laughed Tom Halstead, jauntily. With that he stepped off, at a more rolling gait than he usually employed on shore.

The young motor boat captain carried in his mind a good personal description of Gaston Giddings. He had secured this from Mr. Baldwin before leaving the yacht.

"Ugh! The smell here is worse than in New York's Chinatown," Tom told himself, disgustedly.

From upper windows of some of the buildings that lined the narrow, dirty streets came the squawkings of Chinese fiddles and other discordant "musical" instruments of a wholly Oriental type. There seemed to be two or three joss-houses, or temples, in every short block. On the street floors, however, stores offering all kinds of Chinese merchandise were most common. Tom suspected that the gambling places and opium joints lay in the rear of these stores.

"Want a guide to Chinatown? Show ye everything, boss, for two dollars. Show ye every real sight in Chinatown," appealed a seedy, dirty, young white man who now held Tom by one sleeve.

"Anything really worth seeing?" asked Halstead, smilingly.

"Oh, everything worth seeing," responded the seedy guide, with a wide wave of one arm. "Best two dollars' worth you ever had. Most curious sights you ever saw in any part of the world. Sailor, ain't ye?"

"Yes."

"Sailors are my specialty," declared the seedy guide, grimly. "Come, ye'd better haul up the two dollars and let me take you about."

"What about opium joints, for instance?" asked Tom Halstead, speaking as though he had not enthused much as yet.



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