The Motor Boat Club off Long Island: or, A Daring Marine Game at Racing Speed
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“We’ll just drop down to ’Change,” announced their employer. “You can wait outside, if you wish, until I get an idea how the market is going.”
When Mr. Delavan again joined them before the Stock Exchange Building the confident smile had not left his face.
“P. & Y. is up to 74,” he announced, “but all the ‘shorts’ are making savage assaults. Boys, this is a rather interesting game. It means about two million dollars a point for Moddridge and myself. A point up means the money in our pockets; a point down simply means that our pockets are being picked. However, I’m going to stop fussing until to-morrow. I’m off, now, in the auto, so you two will have to walk down to the pier. Expect me aboard with a party at about six o’clock. We’ll sail outside to-night. Tell Hank Butts I want a first-class dinner for six this evening. And now, bye-bye.”
“Well, he’s a wonder,” ejaculated Joe Dawson, as the motor boat boys turned to walk down the street “He may get wiped out yet, but if he does he’ll buy a fresh cigar, laugh and sit down to plan what he’s going to do to make a new fortune.”
“He can have Wall Street all to himself, though, as far as I’m concerned,” declared Tom Halstead. “If I went there every day I’m afraid I’d grow to be more like Mr. Moddridge.”
To the intense astonishment of both boys, when they boarded the “Rocket,” Hank informed them that Eben Moddridge was in his berth below and sound asleep.
“Why, I really believe Mr. Moddridge is acquiring some nerve,” laughed Halstead.
As Hank went below to look over his larder and galley, Halstead and his chum turned to busy themselves with the boat. After her long trip at racing speed there was much to be done in cleaning and trimming up her machinery, and the time was short. Yet, by team work, they accomplished much, and were on deck, in their best uniforms, when two cabs arrived at the pier.
Out of the first stepped Mr. Johnson, Banker Oliver and a stranger, the latter one of Mr. Delavan’s Wall Street friends.
Out of the second cab came Mr. Delavan. He turned while a second gentleman alighted. At sight of this last man Tom Halstead and Joe Dawson looked in swift delight at each other, then straightened up more than ever. For the man with the owner was George Prescott, the Boston broker, who had organized the Motor Boat Club and was now its president.
“How do you do, boys? I’m heartily glad to see you,” was Mr. Prescott’s greeting. Stepping across the gang-plank, he shook hands vigorously with each youth in turn.
“I’ve been hearing some fine things of you both,” he added. “I’m proud of my Motor Boat Club members. I shall have a long talk with each of you on the trip to-night.”
“Down the Bay, through the Narrows, and then anywhere, Captain; say, down along the Jersey coast. We’ll be out all night,” announced Mr. Delavan, “though you’ll not need to put on much speed. Be back at eight in the morning, as you were this morning.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Captain Tom, saluting lightly.
Hank cast off, bow and stern, then hurried below, getting into his white jacket and busying himself with the dinner.
By the time they were a mile from the pier dinner was announced.They were through the Narrows, and some miles down the New Jersey coast when the gentlemen came out of the cabin again. It was a fine, starlit night. While the others seated themselves in chairs on the after deck, Mr. Prescott climbed up the steps, pulling up an arm chair so that he could sit close to the young captain. As the “Rocket” was going along at less than ten miles an hour and the sea was smooth, the young skipper had not much in the way of duty to occupy his attention.
“Tom,” began the Boston broker, “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you have been able to be of such grand service to my friend, Delavan. I recommended Dawson and yourself to him, and he says it has proved to be the greatest service I ever did, or could do him.”
“Is it a proper question if I ask whether Mr. Delavan is now safely on his feet again?” ventured Halstead.
“It’ll take to-morrow’s dealings on ’Change to show whether he’s sage,” replied Mr. Prescott. “But, if he hadn’t been on hand to-day, just as he was, nothing could have saved him. By three o’clock this afternoon the Delavan-Moddridge combination would have been wiped off the slate for good. Frank Delavan will be back and fighting again to-morrow. Perhaps the greatest strain of all will be to-morrow, for the ‘shorts’ are powerful and they simply must fight. But Delavan isn’t by any means cast down.”
As if to prove this, Mr. Delavan’s voice was heard, at that moment, as he broke into a roar of laughter over a story that had just been told by one of his guests.
“He doesn’t seem to know what fear or nerves mean,” smiled Captain Tom. “I never knew a man who seemed to care so little about the things that worry most men to death.”
“I think most likely,” replied Mr. Prescott, musingly, “he is no more a stranger to worry than other men. But he has wonderful courage and perfect control of himself. Frank Delavan will never allow himself to be frightened until he has found out just what it was that scared him.”
Tom took a look up at the sky to see how the weather lay. Mr. Prescott took a few puffs at his cigar before he continued:
“By the way, Tom, I saw Horace Dunstan the other day, and, for the first time, got a complete account of all you and Dawson were able to do to serve him and his interests – perhaps I should say, his son’s interests – down at Nantucket. It was a thrilling yarn to hear, but made four-fold more interesting by the knowledge that boys of mine – that’s what I call you Motor Boat Club boys – were the ones who had acquitted themselves so magnificently.”
Then the two fell to talking over the happenings at Nantucket. Readers of the second volume in this series are already familiar with the occurrences at Nantucket. Then, by degrees, the two went back to the subject of those days in the Kennebec waters, which resulted in the organization of the famous Club, as told in the first book of this series.
When they had exhausted other topics Tom Halstead ventured to inquire:
“Can you tell me how Justin Bolton came out to-day?”
“Oh, Bolton is still putting up a big fight on ’Change, or was when the gong sounded this afternoon. Yet he is a few millions of dollars poorer than he was this morning. He will put up a plucky fight, for in the battle of finance he is very nearly as game as Delavan himself.”
After an hour’s chat Mr. Prescott dropped down into the engine room and enjoyed a long talk with Joe Dawson. When the Boston broker came on deck again the “Rocket’s” young steward was standing beside the youthful skipper at the wheel.
“Mr. Prescott,” spoke Captain Tom, respectfully, “Butts is very anxious to be enrolled as a member of the Club. He can handle a boat like this from the deck as well as anyone, and he promises to pitch in and study the running of a motor hard.”
“You’re a member, then, Butts,” laughed Mr. Prescott. “Tom Halstead’s nomination of a young man for membership is as good as election into the Motor Boat Club.”
“Thank you, sir, and thank you, Tom,” said Hank, very earnestly. “I am going to do everything I know how to become one of the members of the Club.”
“Then you like motor boating, do you?” inquired the Boston broker.
“Like it?” echoed Hank. “Why, sir, motor boating is the only sport for a rich man, and the only job for a poor one. I came near saying I’d sooner be cabin boy on a motor craft than a member of Congress. And I’m not sure, sir, but what that’s right.”
Eleven o’clock found the cabin darkened, and all but the necessary lights out. Owner and guests were in their berths. Halstead was soon sound asleep and Joe dozed in a berth in the engine room, where he could be ready for duty instantly if the engine needed his attention.
Hank, at the wheel, handled the craft carefully, though he was dreaming a goodly bit under that fine August night sky.
“A member of the Club,” he repeated to himself over and over again. “Whee! I hope I’m skipper of a craft like this myself one of these days. Being steward and crew ain’t so bad, yet I surely do envy Tom Halstead.”
In the morning, as on the day before, the “Rocket” was berthed punctually. This time Tom and Joe were not invited to go up to the Stock Exchange. They would have liked immensely to have seen the day’s doings, but there was an abundance of work to be done aboard.
“I shall probably have the same party again to-night,” said Mr. Delavan, before going ashore. “Coggswell will be with us, too, if it is possible to get him to come.”
At one o’clock that afternoon Captain Tom was summoned to the telephone office nearest the pier to talk with his employer.
“That you, Captain Halstead?” came the voice of Delavan over the wire. “Good enough. What I have to say is that I’m going to give the ‘Rocket’ a rest for a little while.”
“Are you going to lay the boat up, sir?” asked Tom, feeling a start of disappointment, for he had grown very fond of his present work.
“Oh, I am going to keep on the water,” replied the Wall Street man. “But I’m going to make a change for a day or two anyway. Take your crew and go over to Macklin’s shipyard, South Brooklyn. There’s a boat over there, the ‘Soudan,’ that I want you to bring around to Pier Eight, North River, by six o’clock to-night. I’ve arranged it all by telephone. You’ll find gasoline, provisions and everything aboard, ready for a start. As you’ll have some time to spare, you can try the boat up the Hudson a little way, if you like, in order to get used to running her. Macklin has your description from me, and will turn the boat over to you, all right.”
“Am I too forward, Mr. Delavan, if I ask how things are going on ’Change?” Halstead ventured.
“Oh, things are coming our way, I believe,” was the cheery response. “It’s too early to be wholly sure, but we’re a lot more ahead in the two million dollars a point game. Oh, by the way, I came near forgetting poor Moddridge. Give him my compliments, please, and ask him to go over to South Brooklyn with you.”
After everything had been locked up aboard the “Rocket” the start for South Brooklyn was made.
“I’m more than glad of this programme,” confessed the nervous one. “I have an idea that a change of boat will make our change of luck a complete one.”
Arrived at the ship-yard Mr. Macklin at once conducted the party down to the slip in which the “Soudan” lay. She proved to be an extremely handsome boat, five feet shorter than the “Rocket,” though broader of beam in proportion. In other words, she was fifty-five feet over all, and fifteen wide at the broadest part of her hull.
“You’ll find everything shipshape and ready, I think,” said Mr. Macklin, fitting the keys to cabin door, the hatchways and other locked places. “I hope you’ll like the boat, Captain.”
“From the little I’ve seen of her she looks as though she had been built for a gentleman’s boat,” replied Halstead.
“You may well say that,” replied the shipyard man. “For example, just step into the cabin.”
This part of the craft was found to be fitted up with much luxury. Besides berths in the cabin proper, there were a stateroom and bath-room.
“I’ll leave you in possession, Captain,” announced Mr. Macklin. “You will find everything ready for starting at a moment’s notice.”
“We won’t start until I’ve had a little time to study the motor of this new craft,” declared Joe. “I’m not going to be caught with a motor on a boat under way until I understand something about that motor.”
In two or three minutes more he had the engine running.
“It’s a smooth mote, all right,” Dawson declared, after a few minutes more of observation. “I guess you can cast off, Captain, whenever you feel like moving us out of here.”
So the “Soudan” moved out into the stream. The craft behaved beautifully as the young skipper turned her nose toward the Battery.
“How do you like this boat, Mr. Moddridge?” asked the young skipper, as the nervous one sauntered by on the bridge deck.
“Oh, as well as any other craft,” replied Eben Moddridge. “She’s a handsome and comfortable vessel, but I’ve had so many horrors on the salt water lately that, if I get out of Wall Street with my fortune, as I now have some hopes of doing, I think it will be the mountains or the Middle West for me. Anything to be away from the salt water for a good, long while.”
As Moddridge turned away Captain Tom could not help sending after him a look of sympathy. Anyone who could not love the sea and the smell of salt water was much to be pitied!
The short spin up the Hudson River, over the same route taken three hundred years before by Hendrik Hudson – though our friends did not at this time go as far up the river – proved the excellence of the “Soudan” as a well-behaved craft. Then the young skipper turned back for Pier eight.
A little before six o’clock Mr. Delavan and his friends came aboard, Mr. Coggswell among them. The boat left the pier right afterward.
“How do you like this boat, boys?” asked Mr. Delavan, approaching the chums as they stood together by the wheel after passing below the Battery.
“She’s a fine craft, sir,” Tom Halstead answered.
“I’m glad you like her,” nodded Francis Delavan, smiling. “I’ve bought the ‘Soudan,’ but I bought her in order to present her to you, Halstead, and to you, Dawson.”