The Motor Boat Club off Long Island: or, A Daring Marine Game at Racing Speedñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
The answer? Hank Butts knew it well enough, and groaned as he watched his own tiny sail.
Down below Joe Dawson, the perspiration standing out in great, cold drops, was working against time. After another trial he had abandoned the idea of making the old valve work even for a few miles. He had opened the repair chest and had taken out the substitute valve that had to be fitted over. The young engineer was now bending over the repair bench, rapidly turning the shank of a thread-cutter. Captain Tom stood by, anxious, useless for the present, yet ready to lend an instant pair of hands as soon as he could help.
“Thread still a bit too large,” reported Dawson, after the second attempt to make it fit.
Back to the work-bench he sprang, while Halstead bounded up into the open so that he could take a brief look astern.
Behind them trailed the schooner, now a bare third of a mile astern, and gaining visibly.
“I’m not going to say a word to hurry you, Joe,” he remarked, dropping below again. “I know you’re working to save even seconds.”
“Ain’t I just, though!” gritted Dawson, as he turned.
“Eb,” demanded Delavan, of his friend, “you’ve simply got to tell me how the stock market is going.”
“I – I – er – haven’t had the least idea for more than forty hours,” replied Mr. Moddridge, embarrassed.
“Hey, there,” called Hank, officiously, from the wheel, “just at the present moment I’m skipper here, and boss. My orders are that no Wall Street slang be talked on board until after the steward has found a chance to serve something to eat. Mr. Delavan, be glad, sir, that you are able to get some of your breath.”
“Are the rascals gaining on us?” was the owner’s next question, as he endeavored to turn himself around in the chair for a look astern.
“Not much,” replied Mr. Moddridge. “Besides, in a moment or two more the boat’s engine will be doing its duty again. The engineer has his repair work almost finished.”
Francis Delavan smiled good-humoredly, though he did not by any means believe this reassuring information.
The schooner was less than an eighth of a mile away when Joe Dawson made one more effort to adjust the substitute valve.
“I think it’s going to fit,” he murmured, a world of hope in his voice, though he squinted vigilantly, watchfully, as he continued the twisting. “By Jove, Tom, I believe it’s O. K. It seems fast and tight. I’ll let a little oil in; give the wheel a few turns.”
A few breathless seconds passed. Then the pistons began to move up and down, slowly, all but noiselessly. Seized with a kind of fearful fascination, both motor boat boys watched the engine, almost afraid to breathe lest the driving cease.
Then Captain Halstead, still looking backward, while Joe’s chest heaved at last, yanked himself up into the hatchway, glancing out over the water.
The schooner was now almost upon the “Rocket,” though hauling off a bit to windward as though intending to make a sudden swoop and bear down crushingly against the motor boat.
“Safe?” Halstead almost whispered down into the engine room.
“Try it, awfully easy,” replied Joe.
“Hank, give the speed-ahead control just a bare turn,” called Halstead.
The propeller shaft began to revolve. At that same instant the schooner came around on a starboard tack, so steered as to intercept the shorter craft.
Captain Tom himself sprang to the speed control, letting out just a notch more, praying under his breath that the motor might stand by them in this moment of greatest crisis.
At them, heeling well over, her crew at the rail ready to board the “Rocket,” came the schooner. Her first man?uvre had been to board by the bows. Now it looked as though the sailing vessel must strike amidships. Halstead gave a quick turn to the speed-ahead control. Answering, the motor boat took a jump ahead, then settled down to steady going. The schooner, left astern, jibed with a noisy flapping of sails.
“I think we can make it,” called up Dawson.
“We have made it,” called back Captain Halstead, joy ringing in his voice. “The only question is whether we can keep it up.”
“Let her out a bit more,” called Joe.
One hand on the wheel, the other on the speed control, the young skipper increased the speed by slow degrees until the “Rocket” had settled down to a steady twelve-mile speed.
Hank, relieved of the helm, ran aft. Standing on the stern rail, one arm wrapped around the flag-pole, young Butts made a lot of gestures at the crew of the schooner. Those gestures were eloquent of derision and contempt.
Five minutes later the schooner had given up the chase, heading off to the southward.
“Ev – everything is all safe now, isn’t it?” asked Eben Moddridge, shakily.
“Trouble seems to be all behind us,” replied Halstead.
“Then – er – I’m – I’m going below and lie down,” quaked Mr. Moddridge. “I never felt more nervous in my life!”
“Go below and enjoy yourself, sir,” laughed Tom, without malice, but without thinking. “You’ve done yourself proud, Mr. Moddridge, and you’re entitled to the best attack of nerves you can find.”
Hank sprang quickly to aid Mr. Moddridge, for the latter was really shaking and tottering as he started aft.
“Still no one seems able to tell me about the thing I want most of all to know about – the condition of the market, and of securities in particular,” complained Francis Delavan, in a much stronger voice.
“No one knows well enough how to tell you,” laughed Skipper Tom, “except Mr. Moddridge. If you only knew, sir, what a trump he’s been lately, you wouldn’t begrudge him one first-class nervous fit now.”
Mr. Delavan laughed, though he added, with a comical sigh:
“I don’t see but I shall have to wait.”
“Something to eat, did you say, sir?” asked Hank, suddenly appearing at the owner’s elbow. “Yes, sir; as fast as possible for all hands. Why, we’ve been so rattled this morning we didn’t even think about food. And now my stomach is reading the riot act to my teeth. O-o-oh!”
Hands clutched over his abdomen, Hank made a swift disappearance into the galley. There was an abundance of food in the “Rocket’s” larder that could be prepared hastily. But as Mr. Moddridge was “enjoying” himself in his own especial way, and Mr. Delavan was still feeling the effects of the chloroform too much to have any appetite, the crew fell in for the first chance at table.
When that food had been disposed of, Joe cautiously worked the engine on until the boat was making twenty miles an hour. The new valve proved fully equal to the strain put upon it.
Mr. Moddridge remained below more than two hours. When he came on deck again he appeared to be in shape to tell Mr. Delavan the latest news he had of the state of their affairs.
The owner listened with a face that became graver every moment.
“It looks black for us, Eben, and we may be wiped out by this time, or, anyway, by the time we can get back to the battle-field. But it was grand of you, Eb, to throw in the last dollars of your private fortune to save us both. Whatever happens, I won’t forget your act. But, good heavens, how we must hustle and move now! Captain Halstead, just where are you heading?”
“As straight as the crow flies, sir, for New York harbor. But I can change the course if there’s any other point you’d rather make.”
“No; keep straight on, captain. New York is our battle-field. And, by all that’s sure, we’ll win out yet if there’s a fighting spar left standing when we hit Wall Street!”
With a vigorous bound this fighting Wall Street man was on his feet again, pacing the deck, not a glimpse of fear in his strong face.
Then, a little later, he and Moddridge found their appetites, and Hank Butts served them enthusiastically.
As the afternoon passed, and all hands gathered near the wheel, the stories of all were told.
Mr. Delavan, for his part, explained that, on that morning when he had taken the “Rocket’s” port boat and had gone out for a row, he had gone past the inlet. While out beyond, he had been overtaken by the nameless racing launch. A hail from the deck of the other craft had followed, and then an invitation to take a look aboard. Thinking that he might possibly penetrate the mystery as to who was really running that craft, Mr. Delavan had rowed alongside, intending only to stand up in his own little boat and look aboard the launch.
But, while doing so, he had been seized by both the boat handlers and dragged aboard. There he became mixed in a fight with two others who, from their descriptions, must have been Rexford and Ellis. When the fight stopped Francis Delavan was under the hood, his hands tied behind him. He remembered that, later on, the small port boat had been overturned and set adrift, and that his own hat and coat had been taken from him and cast into the water.
“Later, that forenoon,” continued Mr. Delavan, “I saw my own ‘Rocket’ following us. By stealth I had succeeded in freeing my hands. Now, I made a dash for freedom, intending to leap overboard and try to swim to you. But I was caught and held, just at the edge of the hood. I found chance only to snatch my wallet from an inner vest pocket and hurl it out into the water. I was in hopes you’d see it, pick it up, and understand.”
“We did,” nodded Mr. Moddridge.
Mr. Delavan went on to explain how, after the throwing of the wallet, he had been more carefully bound, hand and foot, and gagged. When taken ashore at Cookson’s Inlet he had also been blindfolded, his removal from the boat not taking place until a carriage had been brought.
Then the story of the final chase was told, even how Hank Butts had done so much to carry the day aboard the schooner by his artless trick of dropping the hitching weight where it would do the most harm to the enemy.
“Say, Hank,” put in Joe Dawson, who had taken little part in the talk, “wherever did you learn the easy way that you drop that weight?”
“A feller from New York taught us that last summer,” Butts replied. “Some of us fellows over in East Hampton practiced it until we couldn’t miss.”
“But how did you learn to land it on another fellow’s foot so easily that it looks almost like an accident?”
“I’ve been telling you,” Hank insisted. “We kept on dropping weights on each other’s toes until we got the trick down fine.”
“What?” ejaculated Dawson, opening his eyes wider. “You practised by dropping iron weights on each other’s feet? You fellows must be wonders, if you could stand that!”
“Oh, no,” Hank confessed. “We practised with small sandbags.”
THE COUNCIL OF WAR
IT was Saturday morning when the “Rocket’s” crew boarded the schooner out on the high seas. Late Sunday evening the motor boat moved in through the Narrows of lower New York Bay. The cruise had been at racing speed, without a single hitch after Engineer Joe had fitted that new valve.
On the way Francis Delavan, who had thoroughly recovered, formed his plans in case his fortunes had not gone entirely to smash in Wall Street. But it was still needful to consult Broker Coggswell and others, in order to learn just how far the plans were likely to succeed.
As the “Rocket” was intended, in ordinary times, to be a “one-man” boat – that is, to be handled from the bridge by the helmsman, the three members of the crew had managed to divide up the watches so that all had had plenty of sleep.
As Captain Tom dropped anchor at ten o’clock that August Sunday night, near Bedloe’s Island, and Hank hung out the anchor light, all three of the boys were wide awake and eager to see what was to follow.
Hank was to row Mr. Delavan ashore in the same little port boat that had figured in the Shinnecock Bay affair. The owner intended going to one of the cheapest of the downtown hotels, whence he would telephone Broker Coggswell and some others.
“Expect a party of us back by midnight,” was the last word the owner left with the young skipper. “We’ll want a little cruise out to sea, to-night, where we can talk things over with no danger of any eavesdroppers about.”
Mr. Moddridge and the two remaining members of the crew stretched themselves out comfortably in arm-chairs on the bridge deck.
“It’s hard to realize that we can rest,” sighed Captain Tom. “It seems to me that I still hear the throb-throb-throb of the engine and hear the continual turning of the propeller shaft. Still, we really are having a brief rest.”
“Rest?” snorted Eben Moddridge, getting up and pacing within the short limits of that deck. “What does rest mean, I wonder? I feel as though this Wall Street game I’m in had been going on, night and day, for ten years, with never a pause for breath. Rest! Is there such a thing?”
A few days before Halstead would have been either amused or bored by this exhibition of nervousness. But he had seen Mr. Moddridge come out with surprising strength when things had been darker. There was a good deal of hidden manhood in this undersized, nervous little fellow who had had the hard luck to be born with too much money.
“You can feel pretty easy, sir, with a man like Mr. Delavan,” Captain Tom went on, after a few moments. “If there’s a single foot of ground left for him to fight on, you can feel pretty sure that he’ll pull at least a goodly portion of both your fortunes out of the panic that has struck the money market.”
“I can hardly believe that we have a dollar left in the game,” rejoined Mr. Moddridge, shaking his head moodily. “Of course, Coggswell is capable and honest, and he has done his best, whatever that was. But with such a terrific run on P. & Y. stock, and with such an overwhelming part of our assets bound up in that stock, I haven’t the least belief that Coggswell has been able to hold our heads above water for us. This long suspense, this awful wait for news, is killing me,” went on the nervous one, sinking weakly back into his chair. “Oh, why didn’t I go ashore with Frank, the sooner to know how we stand?”
“Mr. Delavan thought it would be better for him to go alone, and to move quickly,” hinted Tom Halstead, gently.
“Oh, yes, I know,” retorted Moddridge, with a sickly smile. “Frank was certain that my nerves would go to pieces on shore, and that I’d make a fool of myself and be in the way.”
Hank came back at last, alone in the port boat.
“What’s the news ashore, Butts?” cried the nervous one, anxiously.
“If you mean the stock market news,” Hank replied, as he brought the port boat around under the davits, “I don’t know. Mr. Delavan left me at the pier where I landed him. Told me he’d get a launch to bring his friends out here in.”
So Mr. Moddridge took to another long stretch of pacing the bridge deck.
Almost punctually as the “Rocket’s” ship’s bell tolled out the eight bells of midnight the lights of a small launch were to be seen approaching. It came alongside, bringing Mr. Delavan and three other gentlemen. One was Coggswell, the broker. A second was Lyman Johnson, a middle-aged man and managing vice-president of the P. & Y. The third stranger was a banker named Oliver.
“What news?” was the quaking question that Eben Moddridge shot over the waters as soon as the little craft was within hail.
“Things right down to the bottom,” replied Broker Coggswell, plainly.
“But there’s a fighting chance, Eb,” broke in Francis Delavan, “and a chance to fight is all I want for winning.”
As soon as the party had boarded, and the launch was speeding back to town, Mr. Moddridge began to shake again.
“Look at that little boat scoot,” he shivered. “That boatman is going back as fast as he can, to trade the information he has overheard.”
“Nonsense,” laughed Mr. Delavan. “A passenger boatman like that fellow hears all kinds of talk in twenty-four hours. If he tried to remember a hundredth part of what he hears it would drive him into an insane asylum. Captain Halstead, get up anchor and take us outside, anywhere. We’re going to sit up and talk for a while. Then we’ll turn in below and sleep. We don’t want to berth the boat in New York earlier than eight in the morning, but must be there sharp at that hour.”
Tired of the motion of the boat so long at racing speed. Captain Tom got under way at a speed of about eight miles an hour. The newcomers and Mr. Moddridge sat in a close group on the bridge deck, to hold their council of war for the morrow.
“In the first place, Moddridge,” began Mr. Coggswell, “P. & Y. closed yesterday noon, on the Stock Exchange, at 68.”
“We must be closed out, then – ruined!” cried the nervous one, aghast. “You figured, you know, that the stock touching 71 would wind us up.”
“And so it would have done,” replied the broker, “but Steel and the other stocks that are traveling with it behaved rather better than I had expected. So, as things stand to-night you and Delavan have, perhaps, a few hundred thousand dollars left out of the game. But if P. & Y., at the opening on the Board to-morrow, goes down to 65 – well, Oliver, as the head of the bankers’ syndicate that has been furnishing money to the Delavan-Moddridge interests, suppose you tell what must happen.”
“If the stock drops to 65 to-morrow morning,” took up the banker, “our pool will have to call in the loans, Mr. Moddridge. Delavan and yourself will have to heave all your P. & Y. stock overboard in order to meet the call of the loans. Then, but not until then, as I understand Mr. Coggswell’s statement, you will both be cleaned out.”
“But that isn’t going to happen,” declared Francis Delavan, coolly lighting a fresh cigar and puffing slowly. “There have, of course, been all sorts of stories out that I’ve been robbing the P. & Y. railroad and that I’ve smuggled the money out of the country. But Johnson, our vice president, has had a firm of the most respected and trusted accountants in New York going over all the railroad’s accounts. By to-morrow forenoon the reports of the accountants will be ready, and will show that every dollar of the P. & Y.’s money is safe.”
“That will help,” replied Mr. Coggswell, “if the buying and selling public believe the statement at once. But you never can tell how small dealers in stocks will accept any report. They may think the move only a trick to bolster up confidence until the inside operators can slip out of their holdings in P. & Y. If that view is taken, the stock may fall off a dozen points in the first half hour that ’Change is open.”
“It can all be summed up in these words,” announced Banker Oliver, gravely. “Delavan, start P. & Y. going up in the morning, and you’re safe for a while, with a big chance for fortune left. But let the stock start downward at the opening to-morrow morning, and you won’t be able to get the stock up again in season to do you any good.”
Breathing hard, shaking all over, Eben Moddridge rose and left the council, tottering below and seeking his berth.
“Now that the poor, shaken fellow is gone,” murmured Francis Delavan, sending a sympathetic glance in the direction his friend had taken, “I’ll tell you, gentlemen, the plan I have for to-morrow.”
The council did not break up until an hour later.
THE BATTLE OF THE DOLLARS
ALMOST at the minute of eight o’clock next morning the “Rocket” was made fast in berth at an East River pier.
Just about three minutes later a closed automobile rolled out on the wharf. Tom Halstead and Joe Dawson had been invited to go on shore and see the finish of this notable battle of the dollars. Hank, of his own choice, remained behind as watchman over the boat.
The two motor boat boys had changed their uniforms for ordinary street dress, straw hats included. It would have taken a very close friend, indeed, to have recognized Francis Delavan as that gentleman stepped ashore from his boat. Over his natty suit he wore an enveloping linen duster. His eyes and much of his face were obscured behind a pair of automobile goggles. A cap, the peak pulled well down over his eyes, completed the concealment. Few of Mr. Delavan’s most intimate friends would have known him at first or second glance.
The employer and his two young men entered the closed car, which, first of all, rolled away to the bank of which Mr. Oliver was president. Here there were some papers that required the signature of the “Rocket’s” owner.
From the bank the automobile went straight down to the big, grim-looking building in which the New York Stock Exchange is located. Here they arrived five minutes before the opening hour, nine o’clock. Mr. Delavan was already provided with three tickets admitting strangers to the visitors’ gallery.
As they entered the trio found that, at this hour, they had the gallery to themselves. Down on the floor, however, some two or three hundred members of ’Change were already present, gathered in little groups. Though these men talked mostly in undertones, it was evident that there was much excitement.
P. & Y. had not alone suffered. Many other stocks had gone down, “in sympathy.” The outlook was for a gloomy week in financial circles. Many of the more cautious investors of the country at large were watching Wall Street and dreading a panic.
Clang! As a sonorous stroke of a gong opened the morning session the scene became instantly one of turmoil. Bellowing voices broke loose. At that instant Broker Coggswell slipped into the gallery, taking a seat behind Mr. Delavan. The entire little party was well out of range of vision from most of the floor.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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