Harrie Hancock.

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



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CHAPTER XI
GASTON GIDDINGS MAKES TROUBLE

THE second pair of bullets passed overhead, though close enough for their whistling song to be heard.

In a jiffy there was a mad scramble to get away from the bridge. Captain Tom Halstead and Third Officer Costigan had that place to themselves.

"Throw the wheel over three points to the starboard! Hold to a course three points off the present one," called Halstead, sharply.

"You men answer with your revolvers," was Mr. Jephson's order.

"Our revolvers wouldn't carry that far, sir," objected one of the deputy marshals.

"I know it, but let those scoundrels discover that we have firearms too," retorted the district attorney's assistant.

So the futile revolver shots flashed out. In answer a rifle bullet carried away the hat of one of the deputies.

"That's confounded close shooting," coolly uttered the unhatted one, running down the deck after his head gear.

Another shot flew by close to the searchlight.

"That's the mark the scoundrels are aiming at," muttered the young skipper, angrily. "Turn off the current, Mr. Costigan, and I'll unship the light."

This done, the big reflector and the bulb behind it were taken down to the pilot house by one of the sailors.

"You confounded pirates!" roared the district attorney, shaking his fist in the direction of the "Victor."

"That was actual piracy, wasn't it?" questioned Mr. Baldwin.

"Nothing else!" retorted the assistant, angrily, as he came down aft to place the wheel house between himself and that other craft. "If we ever get that captain and crew on shore we'll make 'em smart in a trial for piracy!"

Having veered off the course of direct pursuit, Captain Halstead was now steering ahead, meaning to run parallel with the "Victor." He kept half a mile away, but, even had the other craft lowered its running lights, the starlight was bright enough to enable the bridge officer to keep the "Victor" in sight.

"Try to keep just this distance, Mr. Costigan," directed Tom Halstead.

"Aye, aye, sir."

Tom then descended to the deck, where he sauntered up to the excited group.

"What's your guess, Halstead, as to the meaning of those shots?" questioned Mr. Baldwin.

"Well, of course," replied Tom, slowly, "the master of that other yacht would be glad to see our searchlight smashed. That was one reason for the firing."

"And another?"

"Why, I imagine, sir, those people want us to know that they carry rifles. They want to show us the folly of thinking we can pursue and board them."

"This pursuit should really have been undertaken by a naval vessel or revenue cutter," said Mr. Jephson, rather disgustedly. "One shot from the bowgun of an armed vessel would bring that yacht lying to in a jiffy."

"Humph!" grunted the practical Mr. Baldwin. "There isn't a cutter or gunboat in San Francisco waters fast enough to overtake either of these boats."

"I don't understand, sir," put in Halstead, quietly, "why you haven't had a wireless telegraph apparatus installed aboard this yacht.

Why, even the little fifty-five foot boat that Dawson and I own has a wireless installation."

"What would you do with one, if you had it on board now?" asked Mr. Baldwin.

"Do?" repeated Halstead. "Why, we could signal in all directions. There may be some fast cruiser or torpedo boat destroyer, out of our sight, yet within reach by wireless. If we could pick up one such vessel now, we could soon end this chase, and without bloodshed. Even any foreign war vessel would answer, for all war vessels have the right to overhaul and capture pirates. Any warship of any nation in the world would act, now, on a request from Mr. Jephson, who represents the United States. And such help may be not twenty miles off, but we have no wireless with which to find out."

"As we haven't a wireless installation," pursued Mr. Baldwin, "what are we going to do now, Mr. Jephson?"

"I trust you'll continue to keep that other yacht in sight," replied the assistant district attorney. "We may yet meet a warship or a revenue cutter."

"Any kind of a vessel we meet may have a few rifles on board that we could borrow or buy," suggested Captain Tom.

"Anyway," decided Mr. Baldwin, "we'll keep that pirate craft right in sight if we can, and as long as we can. We'll trust for something to turn up that will throw luck in our way."

The "Victor" which was of some ten feet greater length than the "Panther," looked like a boat which, despite her speed, was built to carry a good deal of coal.

Yet, through the next few hours that followed, no attempt was made by those handling the steam craft to get her best speed out of her. It looked as though her sailing master and engineer meant to save some coal, now that the "Panther" had caught up and could keep up. Both vessels continued at a speed of some sixteen miles per hour.

Mr. Baldwin and his guests remained on deck. So did young Halstead, who had decided that he must now do with but little sleep while the chase continued in its present phase.

"Any sharp little sea-trick might enable the other fellows to slip away from us," he declared to the owner. "Every man on board ought to help in the good work on hand."

At about eleven o'clock the young skipper left Mr. Costigan on the bridge, and went below, though he did not turn in.

Nor had any of the passengers sought their berths. All of Mr. Baldwin's friends were on deck. Young Gaston Giddings, however, paced nervously, apart from the rest.

"He's fretting over his folly in keeping Rollings in such an important post, and giving the rascal the chance to run away with all that money, I suppose," thought the young skipper.

Somehow, Tom could not help watching Giddings a good deal. It was the nervous hitch in the young man's gait that first caught Halstead's eye. Presently the young captain of the "Panther" strolled slowly by Gaston Giddings.

"Confound it, what a queer, restless look there is in the fellow's eyes," thought Tom, uneasy, though he could hardly have explained why.

After that Halstead watched the young bank president even more closely, though he took pains to hide the scrutiny.

A request from Mr. Jephson called the cabin party over to the port rail to watch the "Victor." The instant the last of his companions had gone forward, and had passed around the pilot house, Giddings, after a swift look about him, stole into the dining saloon.

Tom Halstead, ostensibly lounging behind one of the life-boats, saw this move.

"Now, what's he up to?" muttered Tom. "Mischief, judging by his queer antics. We've mischief enough to deal with, without having it take place right on board our own boat!"

Halstead stole forward in time to see Giddings darting down the staircase into the main cabin.

"I'll just get down where I can watch this," muttered Tom. Concealed near the foot of the staircase, he saw Giddings, with some sort of a small tool, prying the lock of Dr. Gray's medicine case open.

"Oho!" muttered Halstead, as he saw young Mr. Giddings abstract a small, screw-capped vial. "There's morphine in that doctor's outfit, and Giddings has guessed it!"

Tossing the medicine case back into the doctor's stateroom, Gaston Giddings stole up the after-companionway to the deck aft.

"With all our other troubles aboard, I don't believe we want any morphine maniacs here!" muttered Tom Halstead, excitedly.

Giddings, quivering with eagerness, trembling with aggravated nervousness, leaned against the stern rail, glancing out over the water as he drew the screw-capped vial from his pocket.

Just as he started to remove the cap from the bottle, a hand shot around him from the rear.

The young skipper of the "Panther" snatched the vial, remarking coolly:

"Mr. Giddings, you don't need that stuff, and no one on board wants you to have it."

With a swift movement, Halstead dropped the vial into one of his pockets.

"You confounded thief!" hissed Gaston Giddings.

Swift as a flash, in his rage, the young man sprang at the youthful skipper of the yacht.

"You'll give that back to me, or go overboard!" snarled the victim of the drug habit.

"If you get it, it'll be after I'm overboard," snapped back Tom.

In another instant Giddings's fingers were wrapped in a tight hold about Tom's throat. The drug maniac seemed possessed, for the instant, of the strength of half a dozen men.

The young skipper himself was no weakling, but now he had his hands full.

Even had he been so minded, he could not have called for help. Backward and forward the pair struggled for a few seconds. Then the young skipper found himself growing weaker for lack of air.

With a triumphant snarl Gaston Giddings forced his antagonist to the stern rail. Still Tom Halstead fought furiously, silently, with that tight grip at his throat making his brain reel. He realized that Gaston Giddings was winning the victory!

CHAPTER XII
TOO-WHOO-OO! IS THE WORD

In that last desperate moment Tom Halstead employed the trick he had hesitated to use.

He raised one of his feet, kicking smartly at the left knee-cap of his assailant.

With a groan, Giddings weakened his hold, for the pain following the kick was intense.

Throwing both his arms tightly around the young man, Halstead held on, drawing himself back to the deck as Giddings fell back.

"You're not going to fool me that way!" snarled the young drug maniac. He made another spring, trying to forget the pain in his knee.

But Halstead had regained his footing fully. Now, he dodged, then closed in, tripping Giddings and throwing him heavily to the deck.

"What's this? What's this going on?" demanded Joseph Baldwin, running back along the port side, followed by Mr. Ross and Dr. Gray.

Halstead was now on top of his assailant, and, though Giddings still tried to fight with fury, his strength was deserting him.

"One of you hold him," urged Captain Tom, "and I'll get up and explain."

"Did he attack you?" insisted Mr. Baldwin.

"Well, rather," grunted Halstead.

"Let him up. He won't dare attack you again, with so many about."

"No; but he may try to jump overboard," retorted Halstead. "Mr. Giddings has another drug streak on him. He's not responsible for what he does."

"I guess that's right," nodded Dr. Gray. "Baldwin, you and Mr. Ross hold him, while the captain gets up and tells us what has happened."

The young skipper quickly explained, producing the vial he had snatched from the young bank president.

"That's all the morphine I have with me," remarked Dr. Gray. "I'll make sure of keeping that, hereafter, where no one but myself can find it. Mr. Baldwin, you'd better get the young man below. Use force, if you find it necessary."

They accomplished this without having attracted the attention of any of the sailors or stewards. Mr. Giddings was then unceremoniously thrust into his stateroom, and the door locked, though this was not until the physician had searched the young man, removing his pocket knife and also the tool that the drug victim had used in forcing the lock of the medicine case.

"I did what I thought was right," Halstead explained.

"And I'm mighty glad you saw him, and acted so promptly," replied the physician.

Through the rest of the night the physician had a battle with his patient, working hard to keep a more pronounced streak of mania from coming on. It is to such fearful torments that "hop-fiends" and morphine users are always exposed in the end.

At midnight Dick Davis again went on the bridge, beginning his eight hours' watch. Though Halstead had the utmost faith in the skill and judgment of his friend, he, also, remained up until nearly four o'clock in the morning. Then he turned to leave the bridge.

"I'm going to my cabin now, Mr. Davis, to turn in on my sofa for a while. If I am needed for anything at all, don't hesitate to call me instantly."

"Aye, aye, Captain," Dick replied.

Barely two hours had the young skipper slept when the sharp, jarring tones of the vibrating electric bell from the bridge rang over his head. Tom was up in an instant, pulling on his shoes. As he reached for his deck ulster and cap there came from overhead a note that told him at once why he was wanted.

Too-whoo-oo-oo!

"Fog!" gasped the young yacht captain. "Of all the confounded luck!"

With his ulster over his arm he threw open the door of his cabin, making for the bridge steps.

The mist was yet light and curling as Captain Halstead reached the open. Second Officer Dick Davis met him at the head of the steps.

"How long has this been coming on?" demanded Halstead.

"The first little puffs rolled in half an hour ago," replied Dick. "You see, I've put in closer to the enemy. We're still well in sight, or I'd have called you earlier."

The motor yacht was now running along abreast of the "Victor," and less than three hundred yards distant. The steam yacht's lights were in plain sight, save when occasional puffs of fog obscured them briefly.

Tom groaned with excitement.

"This is going to get heavier," he muttered.

"Yes, sir," nodded Davis. "Still, I didn't believe it necessary to call you until I had to use the whistle."

Too-whoo-oo-oo! sounded the auto fog-horn, controlled by the sailor on watch in the pilot-house with the quartermaster.

"You did right, Mr. Davis," the young skipper nodded. "But we're going to be up against it in half an hour. Where's your extra man of the watch?"

Davis blew a thrilling blast on his mate's whistle. In answer the third sailor of the watch came running to the bridge steps.

"My man," called down Halstead, "go at once to Mr. Baldwin's stateroom door, and tell him, with my compliments, that I believe he'd better come to the bridge at once."

Even with so imperative a summons as this, five or six minutes passed before the owner appeared on the scene.

"Good heavens, Captain!" gasped Joseph Baldwin. "And this white curtain is thickening all the time, isn't it?"

"The fog is beginning to roll in fast, now, sir. Mr. Davis, alter the course so as to bring us a hundred yards closer to the 'Victor.' We've got to keep her in sight to the last moment."

"We've got to keep that other boat in sight all the time," retorted Mr. Baldwin.

"As close as we can go without running her down," Halstead answered. "We've the rules of the sea to obey, sir, at any cost."

"Go and call Mr. Jephson here," shouted down Mr. Baldwin, to the sailor, who was still standing by at the port rail.

In another five minutes the representative of the United States district attorney at San Francisco was beside them on the bridge.

Dick Davis had now man?uvred the "Panther" in within one hundred and fifty yards of the "Victor." Closer than that Tom Halstead did not dare to go. Even this he considered almost too little sea-way.

"May the furies consume the luck!" growled the man of the law. "Yet, of course, we might have looked for this! It's bound to happen on this coast. A genuine, four-ply, real old 'Frisco fog reaching out to encompass us and let those blackguards yonder get away!"

Aboard the other yacht few signs of human life showed. One figure, wrapped in a great coat and topped by a sou'wester, huddled in the bow. That was the bow watch of the "Victor." As the light of coming morning began to filter through the increasing fog, it was possible, now and then, to make out a figure in the steam yacht's wheel house. A watch officer tramped the bridge. No other figures appeared. Once the steam yacht's watch officer looked directly over at his foes, and a cunning grin illumined his face.

"That's a great face to show above the hangman's noose!" bellowed Mr. Jephson, angrily, through the megaphone that he snatched up.

Captain Tom suddenly darted from the bridge, running to his cabin. When he came back he carried a pair of revolvers, one of which he handed to Dick Davis.

"Mr. Jephson, the fellows on that craft may open fire on us, at any moment, hoping to make us drop back into the fog. If they do, we'd better shoot back, eh, sir?"

"If they open fire on us," replied the assistant district attorney, promptly, "I order Mr. Davis and yourself to return it."

To make matters more emphatic, Mr. Jephson passed the word to have his two deputy marshals aroused at once and ordered to the deck.

Still, though the day broadened, the fog rolled in so thick and heavy that the steam yacht, nearby though it was, became more and more obscured.

Both yachts sounded their fog-horns simultaneously just as a final big, thick, white blanket of mist rolled in and shut them out of each other's view.

"Done! Beaten out!" groaned Mr. Jephson, savagely. "It's only a question of minutes, now, when we shall have lost all trail of that craft on this hidden waste of water!"

"Only a question of minutes?" repeated Tom Halstead, grimly. "Is it?"

CHAPTER XIII
THE CALL FROM OUT OF THE FOG

Out of the dense fog to port came a chorus of derisive yells, then a prolonged blast of the "Victor's" fog-horn.

"That's as much as saying it's the last time we'll hear their toot," burst, savagely, from Mr. Baldwin.

"Maybe it is the last time," admitted Tom.

Mr. Jephson and the owner began to talk excitedly.

"Sh!" warned the young skipper. "We don't want a tone aboard louder than a whisper. If we can keep this interval, or pretty near it, we can follow the steam yacht by the sound of her machinery. Mr. Davis, keep your ears strained for it, and shape our course accordingly."

In the hush that followed the keen-eared listeners could hear the now invisible "Victor" slowing down her speed. Captain Tom, the engine room speaking tube at his mouth, called down the orders softly for a similar slowing of speed. The "Panther" fell back close to the "Victor."

"Captain, they're likely to stop altogether, soon," whispered Mr. Jephson. "Then we won't hear a sound to guide us."

"We'd do the same," murmured Halstead. "Then the yachts would be likely to drift together and bump. No; I hardly believe the steam yacht's captain will try that trick. If he does, we must match it."

The two craft engaged in this marine game of blind man's buff were now going forward along their respective courses at not more than eight miles an hour. Greater speed was not advisable, for they were in the possible track of vessels plying between San Francisco and Hawaii, New Zealand or Australia.

For the next ten minutes there was no sound from the "Victor's" fog-horn. To run without this precaution was all but tantamount to piracy in itself. Skipper Tom and Second Officer Davis, however, managed to keep within sound of the steam craft's machinery. So, presently, the "Victor's" steam fog-horn again sounded on the air.

Breakfast was served late, that morning, on board the motor yacht. All hands were too much interested in the difficult chase to think of eating before Nature made her demands clamoring.

At eight o'clock, when Third Officer Costigan again came up on the bridge to take his watch trick, Dick Davis declared he had no interest in sleep.

"You'd better go below," advised Tom. "This search through the fog may be a long one. We'll want all hands to be fresh and bright. Get four or five hours' sleep, anyway. I shall be on the bridge most of the time until you're called again."

So Dick went below and turned in, though almost with a grumble.

For the next three hours Halstead was almost constantly on the bridge. The blind pursuit kept up along the same lines. The steam yacht's machinery still sent its dull clatter across the waters. The quartermaster of the "Panther," with the help of the mate's orders, still steered by that sound.

"It'd be fierce to have a big, noisy liner rumble up close to us now, making noise enough to drown out the sound of our enemy," grumbled Captain Tom to the owner.

Mr. Jephson, standing close by, heard, and his eyes snapped.

"I hadn't thought of that," he growled. "Since that would be the toughest sort of luck, that's what is almost sure to happen."

"Don't complain of your luck," advised the young skipper, gravely. "We've been able to keep right along with the steam craft for some hours now. If we can do so for a few hours more, we're highly likely to run out of this fog and be under a clear sky again. So far, Mr. Jephson, our luck has been wondrously kind to us."

Halstead remained on deck until nearly two o'clock. Then he passed word for Ab Perkins. To that young first officer, in the presence of Baldwin, Ross and Jephson, he said:

"Mr. Perkins, my eyes are getting heavy, and I expect to be on deck most of the night. I'm going to turn in, now, for an hour or two. Call me, anyway, at the changing of the watches. You know the general orders, and I look to you not to let the 'Victor' slip away from us."

"If I do let her slip," affirmed Ab, "I'll eat the starboard life-boat."

"Mr. Perkins used to be the most famous 'hoodoo' at the mouth of the Kennebec," Tom laughed, softly, as he turned to Mr. Baldwin. "His luck changed, however, the day he went into the motor boating business. He's about the luckiest young navigator afloat these days."

Nor did Ab, left in temporary full command, intend to lose his later laurels. He soon left the bridge, however, feeling that he could listen more effectively from the port rail forward. Occasionally he turned to signal, silently, to Third Officer Costigan, who still kept to the bridge.



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