The Motor Boat Club off Long Island: or, A Daring Marine Game at Racing Speedñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“He can be wholly depended upon, can’t he, Tom?” Dawson asked.
“Who? Hank Butts? Joe, even though Hank has struggled into one of Jed’s uniforms, he may still look like a Simple Simon, but don’t lose any sleep worrying about Hank!”
Early in the morning the young skipper was astir again. Hiring a bicycle he wheeled rapidly to the next railway station above East Hampton. There the young men sent by Broker Coggswell left the train. Their leader reported to Halstead with the whispered watchword provided by the New York broker. Tom led them off in private, unfolded the map he had brought with him, and assigned to each young man the station he was to watch day and night. For this purpose the young men were sent away in pairs. When the instructions had been given and fully understood, Halstead leisurely pedaled back to East Hampton.
“Those young fellows all look bright,” he thought. “If they serve faithfully, they may be able to give us the very warning that we shall need.”
Eben Moddridge, who rarely slept more than two or three hours at a time, was awake when the young skipper called on him. Moddridge had arranged for a direct wire from his room to Coggswell’s office in New York, and was feverishly awaiting the hour of nine, when the great Stock Exchange would open for the day’s dealings in money.
“I feel as though my death sentence must come through this instrument,” groaned the nervous financier, tapping the telephone.
At last the call came. Now Moddridge had abundant excuse for being nervous. The day in New York opened with P. & Y. at 87.
“Two points lower,” sighed the nervous one, “and the bankers will begin to call in the loans with which Frank and I have been buying Steel.”
Half an hour later P. & Y. touched 85.
“We’ve got to put up some money to the banks now,” stated Coggswell. “But Steel has been doing a little. If you authorize me, I can sell out some Steel and allied securities, and meet the first demand from the banks on your account.”
“What shall I do?” shivered Moddridge, turning appealingly to the “Rocket’s” skipper.
“Why, I don’t know a blessed thing about the game,” Tom admitted, promptly. “But I should take Coggswell’s advice. He seems to have a clear head.”
Eben Moddridge acted on the suggestion. But the New York newspapers were printing columns about the disappearance of Delavan, and more about the shakiness of P. & Y. stock. By noon the P. & Y. stock had dropped to 81. Coggswell had closed out more of the Delavan-Moddridge buyings in Steel, and thus had averted a crash for those interests.
“If Steel will only go up as P. & Y. goes down,” smiled Halstead cheerily, “you will be able to keep even.”
“That is, one debt will wipe out the other, and leave Frank and myself penniless,” replied Eben Moddridge, with a ghastly face.
The Stock Exchange closed for the day with P. & Y. at 76, that is, at a selling price of seventy-six dollars per share, instead of a hundred and two dollars per share as it had been forty-eight hours earlier.
So far, by sales of Steel and its allied securities, Broker Coggswell had been able to keep the Delavan-Moddridge interests from going wholly to smash.
“But there’s to-morrow to face,” almost shrieked the nervous financier. “To-day millions of our money have literally melted away. If to-morrow brings no change in our luck, we shall both be ruined!”
The only change of the next day was to carry P. & Y. as low as 71, where it remained for the time being. Having between three and four millions of dollars left in private funds, Moddridge, shaking like a leaf, had ordered Coggswell to turn this last remnant of his fortune into the joint Delavan-Moddridge interests. Thus again the banks had been staved off for a little while.
“But the next drop in P. & Y. will eat up all our Steel investments, and Frank and I won’t have another penny to turn in,” sobbed the nervous one. “Then the banks will have to close us out to save themselves. Frank Delavan and I will be beggars!”
Tottering to the bed in the adjoining room, Eben Moddridge threw himself across it, sobbing hysterically.
Tom Halstead, however, gazed after the nervous financier with a new, deeper feeling of respect.
“I don’t understand very much about this Wall Street game, and my head is lined with a maze of figures,” the young skipper muttered to himself. “But there’s a heap of the man in you, Moddridge. When you might have saved a very decent fortune to yourself, you threw it into the whirlpool to try to protect your absent friend. Yon may be a nervous wreck, but hang me if you aren’t a whole lot of a man at bottom!”
THE MASTHEAD GAME
WHILE the game that frenzied men were playing in Wall Street had been hurrying Mr. Delavan and Mr. Moddridge into a ruin that would drag scores of others into the crash, Engineer Joe Dawson had been going ahead very methodically under his young captain’s orders.
The “Rocket’s” gasoline tank had been filled. In addition, as many extra cases of the oil had been taken aboard and stored as the boat’s space below could provide for.
“But be mighty careful what you do, Hank, with the galley fire,” urged the young skipper, seriously. “Any blaze that starts aboard this boat when we’re out on the water is pretty sure to blow us a thousand miles past Kingdom Come.”
Just after dark, on the night of that day when Eben Moddridge threw his last dollars into the frantic game of speculation, Tom was summoned in haste from the boat to the cigar store near the pier. There was a telephone booth there, and the young skipper was wanted at the ’phone.
“This is Theodore Dyer,” announced the speaker at the other end.
“Oh, yes; you’re one of the watchers,” Halstead remembered, swiftly.
“That launch you set us to watching for has just gone into Henderson’s Cove, a mile north of here.”
“Oh, bully for you, Dyer!” throbbed the motor boat boy. “Has she had time to leave yet?”
“One thing more. Was the launch showing all her lights?”
“Every one of them.”
“You’re absolutely certain it’s the launch?”
“Top-sure. My side-partner, Drew, first sighted her coming down the coast just before dark fell. It’s the launch, all right, or her exact twin.”
Captain Tom had only time to thank the watcher up the coast, then bolted back to the boat.
“Get everything ready, Joe,” he called. “We ought to be under way in five minutes. I’m off to speak to Mr. Moddridge.”
“I’m going with you,” cried the nervous one, leaping up as soon as he heard the news in his room at the hotel.
“We may be out a long while, sir,” suggested the young skipper. “How about your broker?”
“I gave Coggswell final orders, two hours ago, to do the best he could and not to communicate with me until he has better news – or everything has gone to smash. Hurry, lad!”
By the time they reached the hotel entrance Moddridge was trembling so that Tom bundled him into a waiting cab. Two minutes later they were at the pier.
“Cast off, Hank,” Halstead called, at once. Then, as he reached the deck:
“Joe, be ready at the speed-ahead.”
In a jiffy the “Rocket” was moving out from the pier.
“Hank,” called the young skipper, at the wheel, “down with that masthead light.”
“Why, it’s against the law to sail at night without a masthead light,” gasped Butts. “And look at the weather out yonder.”
“We can sail with a bow light when we have no mast,” Tom retorted, doggedly. “And in twenty minutes we won’t have a mast. Down with the masthead light.”
Wondering, Hank Butts obeyed.
“Trim the side-lights down to just as little as the law will stand for,” was Tom’s next order. “Just at present they’re too bright – for our purpose.”
This, too, Hank obeyed, though he was plainly enough of a seaman to be disturbed.
“Shall I turn the searchlight on, to pick up the inlet?” Butts next inquired.
“Blazes, no!” the young skipper ejaculated. “I don’t want to show the glimmer of a glow that I don’t have to.”
“How are you going to pick up the inlet in this dark, nasty weather?” Hank inquired.
“Feel for it,” Captain Tom retorted, dryly. “Get up forward, Hank, and pass the word back.”
A native of this section, Hank was a competent pilot. Thus they got out through the inlet from Shinnecock Bay, heading southwest for Henderson’s Cove, ten miles away. As soon as they were safely in deep water Halstead summoned Joe and Hank, sending them forward to unstep the mast. Moddridge looked on in silent wonder at these unusual proceedings. They were going at slow speed after a little, as it was no part of the young skipper’s purpose to show his own boat to those whom he intended to watch and follow.
“You can take the wheel now, Hank,” called the young skipper, and stepped forward, carrying a pair of the most powerful marine glasses, which he had persuaded his employer’s friend to order from New York. Moddridge followed, keeping close to the young skipper.
“Stop the engine!” Tom Halstead soon called back, his eyes at the glasses. “Do you see that searchlight ray against the sky, Mr. Moddridge? That’s over by Henderson’s Cove. The racing launch is coming out. And, by Jove, she’s carrying her masthead light. Bully for her!”
For some little time the young skipper watched the searchlight and moving masthead light of the distant craft with keen interest. Then, out of the dark weather a squall struck the “Rocket,” rolling her over considerably. Sheets of rain began to drive down. Captain Tom made a dive below for his oilskins, bringing up another outfit for Hank Butts. Mr. Moddridge, too, disappeared briefly below, coming up clad for the weather.
“See that masthead light, sir?” called Halstead, jubilantly. “It ought to be easy to follow. That boat is headed due south – putting straight out for the high seas.”
“And do you imagine Frank Delavan is a prisoner on that craft?” demanded Moddridge.
“From what I heard Bolton say I’m sure of it. Bolton has been making his arrangements, and now he’s going to put it beyond Mr. Delavan to escape until P. & Y. has gone clean to the bottom.”
The wind was increasing so that the “Rocket” rolled and pitched in the troubled sea.
“Good heavens!” gasped Eben Moddridge. “This boat can’t live long in such a gale.”
“The ‘Rocket’ ought to be fit to cross the ocean, in any weather, if her fuel lasted,” Captain Tom replied, coolly.
“But this is going to be a regular gale.”
“It looks that way, sir.”
“Then, by all that’s certain, that launch can’t weather it,” cried Moddridge, his pallor increasing. “Poor Frank! To be sent to the bottom in that fashion!”
“Why, the launch isn’t a large craft, it’s true, sir,” Captain Tom responded. “But she’s built for a sea-going craft. With decent handling she’ll go through any weather like this.”
“You’re not getting any nearer. You’re not overtaking them,” was Moddridge’s next complaint. The “Rocket” was moving, now, at about eighteen miles an hour.
“I don’t want to overtake that boat,” Captain Halstead replied, with vigor. “I don’t want to get near enough to let them see our lights. We can’t see anything but their masthead light, since they’ve stopped using the searchlight.”
Even had it been daylight, the two boats were now so far apart that from the deck of either, one could not have seen the other’s hull. In the chase that must follow the young motor boat skipper intended to preserve that distance in order to avoid having his pursuit detected. In the thick weather it was not possible to see the launch’s masthead light from the “Rocket’s” deck with the naked eye. An ordinary marine glass might not have shown the light, either, but the one that Captain Tom held in his hand kept the light in sight.
“If Frank is really aboard that launch,” inquired Mr. Moddridge, “where on earth can they be taking him?”
“One guess is as good as another when you don’t know,” smiled Halstead. “It may be that they have picked out some lonely little island in the sea for their purpose. I hope they don’t increase their speed to-night. That other craft could get away from us if our pursuit were suspected.”
All through the night the gale continued. The “Rocket” rolled a good deal, and strained at her propeller, but she was a sea boat and held her own well. When morning dawned the motor craft was getting out toward the edge of the storm. Hours before the course of the quarry ahead had changed to the east, and both boats were now south of regular ocean routes and far east of coast-going vessels.
Daylight brought the racer’s masthead in sight.
“We’ll keep just about the upper two feet of that masthead in sight all day,” proposed the young skipper. Soon afterward he called Hank, who had had three or four hours’ sleep, to the wheel. Joe, when there was nothing to do, slept on a locker beside his engine. Eben Moddridge dozed in a deck chair.
At noon, when Halstead again took the wheel, the relative positions of the two boats were the same. Through the glass only about two feet of the racer’s mast could be made out above the horizon. There was no reason to suppose that those aboard the racer had caught the least glimpse of the “Rocket.”
By sun-down this sea-quarry’s masthead was still in sight, each boat going at about nineteen miles an hour.
“We can carry gasoline to go as far as they can,” laughed Tom Halstead, confidently.
At dark the launch’s masthead light again glowed out, so that the chase continued to be a simple matter of vigilance. The young navigators caught their sleep well enough, only the helm requiring constant attention.
Soon after the second morning out had dawned clear and bright, Captain Tom, who was at the wheel, caught sight of something so interesting that he yelled to Hank Butts, asleep on a mattress on deck:
“Wake up, steward! Hustle Mr. Moddridge on deck. Tell him there’s something ahead of huge interest!”
Joe, just rousing from a nap on an engine room locker, heard and was hastily on deck. He and Halstead were using the glass and their own eyes when Hank appeared with Eben Moddridge in tow.
“What is it?” demanded the nervous one.
“See the tops of a schooner’s masts ahead?” challenged Halstead. “You can make ’em out with your own eyes. And the glass will show you the tip of the launch’s masthead. The power-boat is making for the schooner.”
“For what purpose?” trembled the nervous financier.
“For what purpose?” chuckled Tom, gleefully. “Why, sir, undoubtedly so that those aboard the launch can transfer Mr. Delavan to the sailing craft. The two vessels must have met here for that very trick, and by previous arrangement of Justin Bolton!”
“How is that going to help us any?” queried Eben Moddridge, wonderingly.
“How is that going to help us?” repeated the young skipper of the “Rocket,” staring hard at his questioner. “Why, if the guess is correct, it’s going to be the greatest piece of good luck that could come to us!”
“PUTTING UP” A MARINE JOB
THE “Rocket” was now drifting, while those aboard watched developments in the ocean game ahead.
“I don’t quite understand what it profits us if Frank is sent aboard the schooner as a prisoner,” insisted Mr. Moddridge.
“Well, if the launch crowd do that, and then the launch heads back for the coast, passing out of sight of things hereabouts, it’s going to be rather easy for a fast boat like ours to keep up with a sailing schooner, isn’t it?” Captain Tom propounded.
“Yes, but how are we going to help Frank Delavan any?” demanded the nervous one. “There must be men aboard the schooner, and undoubtedly they’re armed, which we’re not.”
“We’ll have to see what happens, and use our ingenuity,” Tom replied.
“Humph!” said Mr. Moddridge, sadly. “I’d rather have one small cannon than all the ingenuity in the world, just now.”
Knowing that nothing could happen right away, Hank Butts coolly stretched himself on the mattress to finish his interrupted nap. Tom and Joe remained intently watching the mastheads of the two craft that were miles away.
“The launch is surely making straight for the schooner,” Joe Dawson ventured. “Your guess is all right, Tom.”
Within a few minutes more the mastheads were mingled to the view of the young observers aboard the “Rocket.” The two suspected craft remained together for nearly half an hour.
“Now, they’re breaking apart,” Halstead reported, at last, watching through the glass. “The launch is turning. She’s making back west. And now, old fellow, it’s us for a more southerly course. We must keep out of the launch’s sight, but never for an instant lose the schooner’s mastheads. For, if Francis Delavan isn’t aboard that schooner now I shall never feel at liberty to make a guess again. Take the wheel, Joe, and start her up. Keep to the southwest. I’ll keep my eye mainly on the launch’s masthead.”
This they did, for fifteen minutes. Then Tom laid the glass down in its rack by the wheel.
“The launch has just gone out of sight,” he announced. “Not even the button on her masthead is visible through the glass. Now, head about for that schooner’s tops, Joe.”
After a few minutes more they could make out the schooner’s cross-trees. Bit by bit more of her masts became visible. Then followed the first glimpse of the schooner’s upper hull.
Throwing on the speed to full eighteen miles an hour, Captain Tom now gave fast pursuit. The schooner had now observed the “Rocket’s” chase and was using all sail, but could not make more than seven knots.
“We’ve surely kicked up some excitement on that other craft,” laughed the young skipper, gleefully.
“How many men can you make out on her decks?” queried Joe.
In a stern chase of this kind the “Rocket” was not long in coming to close quarters with the sailing vessel. But now eleven men were visible on her decks.
“And all rough, hard-looking customers, too,” chuckled Halstead.
“Hm! I can’t quite understand what you’re so merry about,” said Mr. Moddridge, wonderingly.
“Force of habit,” replied Captain Tom, with a smile.
He ran the “Rocket” up parallel with the schooner, shutting down speed considerably. There was now a distance of barely five hundred feet between the two craft. The crew of the schooner lined up at her port rail, surveying the “Rocket” and those aboard, but no hail was passed between the two craft.
“They’re not allowing Mr. Delavan the freedom of the deck, anyway,” declared Tom. He now ran the “Rocket” a little further to the northward, every eye on the schooner’s deck following the man?uvre.
“Joe, shut off speed jerkily,” ordered the young skipper, by the time the two craft were almost a mile apart. “Shut off as though something were happening to our engine.”
“Why – er – what – ” began Eben Moddridge, hesitatingly, as Joe vanished below after turning the wheel over to his chum.
“I’m going to try the value of putting up a marine job on those fellows yonder,” replied Halstead, very quietly.
Eben Moddridge asked no more questions, though there was a most wondering look in his eyes. The “Rocket’s” speed began to dwindle.
“Hank,” called Tom, “get up and rush about, into the engine room and out. Mr. Moddridge, show all the excitement you can yourself. That ought to be easy,” the young captain added, under his breath.
“Why – why – why – ” came from the nervous one.
“Act as though our engine had broken down, and we were simply crazy over our luck.”
By this time the motor boat was lying all but motionless, moving only under the impulse of recent headway. Leaving the wheel at a bound, Halstead leaped down into the engine room.
“If the fellows on the schooner are holding a glass on us, they saw me do that,” laughed Tom, as he landed beside his chum. Hank rushed up on deck, vanishing aft. After a few moments he flew forward again, diving down into the engine room.
“I say,” called Eben Moddridge, from the hatchway, “this conduct of yours is about as hard to understand as – ”
“That’s right, sir,” replied Tom, coolly. “Stand there, looking down at us as though you’re all broken up. That’ll help fool the fellow with the glass aboard the schooner.”
“It’s working bully, fine!” reported Joe, gleefully, looking out of one of the starboard port-holes. “The schooner’s skipper is easing off his sheets. He’s going to lie to and watch us. Hank, you’d better start another excited merry-go-round between here and aft.”
Young Butts was surely in his element doing things that looked crazy. The way he raced over the deck and bobbed in and out must have made the schooner’s people believe that there was extraordinary excitement aboard the motor boat. Halstead now joined his chum in looking out to starboard.
“Say,” he roared, suddenly, “that’s just what we wanted!”
Eben Moddridge turned to stare over the water.
“Why, they seem to be lowering a boat,” he observed.
“Just what,” retorted Captain Halstead, springing up on deck and bringing the marine glass to bear. “One, two, three – say, they’re putting eight men over the side to man that boat. They’re going to send that hard-looking crowd to board us.”
“What for?” demanded Moddridge, beginning to tremble.
“They think our engine has broken down temporarily. They’re going to board us and finish the job by putting our engine out of business for good,” laughed Tom Halstead, happily.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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