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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The North Sea - Chapter XX. A MYSTERIOUS CRAFT
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Boy Scouts In The North Sea - Chapter XX. A MYSTERIOUS CRAFT Post by :Kadence Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :825

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Boy Scouts In The North Sea - Chapter XX. A MYSTERIOUS CRAFT


The surprise of the lads at this declaration of their visitor was profound. They stared at the stranger who bore such a striking resemblance to Mackinder and who had just declared that he was not that person. Speechless at the apparent untruth, they could only stare.

Seeing their looks of astonishment at his declaration, the man laughed loudly, apparently enjoying hugely the joke that the boys could not see. Supporting himself against the rail, he gave vent to peals of merriment at the expense of the five young lads.

"So you don't believe me, eh?" he inquired at length, controlling himself with an effort. "I can't blame you, don't you know!"

"Say, Mackinder, you ought to be in vaudeville!" declared Jimmie in reply. "For a lightning change artist, you're decidedly it!"

"Thank you!" acknowledged Mackinder, choosing to accept the boy's words as a compliment. "You're almost too kind, don't you know!"

"And then," the boy went on, "as a monologue artist, you'd certainly have them all backed off the boards. I know a place in New York where you could draw down your two fifty per without half trying!"

"An engagement, do you mean?" queried the man, with interest.

"Just that!" stated Jimmie. "And then, there's another place up the Hudson a ways where you ought to be making little ones out of big ones. They give a fellow a long engagement there and supply costumes!"

"All of which means that you're spoofing me a bit, don't you know!" returned their visitor without resentment. He was apparently enjoying the situation hugely, and meant to make the most of it.

Seeing that his words failed to arouse or draw out the other, Jimmie turned disgustedly away to lean over the rail.

Ned began to question their guest, but was interrupted by Jimmie, who announced that he saw a steamer's smoke on the horizon.

"This water is quite thickly sprinkled with vessels of all sorts," said the alleged Mackinder. "Perhaps we'd better get out, you know!"

"What do you make that vessel out to be?" asked Ned.

"It doesn't make any difference what it is," replied the other, "we shall be better off if they don't find us! We don't need them!"

"Very well," put in Jimmie, "then we'll get up steam on this wagon and slide along. I'm going to say this to you, though, that Mackinder or no Mackinder, we're very grateful for your help. If we get an opportunity to reciprocate, we'll be only too glad to do it!"

With this, the boy turned and offered his hand to the man. It was grasped with a hearty grip that conveyed a sense of friendliness.

"You can help me right now," was the response. "Come aboard my vessel and give me a hand on a little project I have under way."

"I don't think we'd better do that right now," stated Jimmie. "You see, we're neutral, and we don't want to take sides either way!"

"So am I neutral! I care nothing for this awful war except to see it stop. I shall do nothing for either side, so rest easy on that score. But your propellor is broken by having that line jammed in it. You cannot navigate your vessel, and would better come aboard mine!"

Doubting this statement, Jimmie clambered into the small boat and sculled toward the stern of the false "U-13". There he could look into the water to a depth sufficient to confirm the other's statement.

"It's no use, boys," he declared, returning to the conning tower. "The blades of the propellor are damaged beyond use. We might as well go!"

Securing a line to the bow of the false "U-13" the man proposed to tow it to a safe place where it could be anchored to await repairs. Two trips were necessary to transfer the boys to the craft which had been of such signal service in their hour of extreme need.

Led by their recent guest, who was now their host, the lads descended into the interior of the vessel. Here a strange sight met their gaze. In cages canaries were twittering gaily while all about the bulkheads had been fastened pots of plants, some of which were in bloom.

"Now I understand why the air you so kindly pumped into our vessel had the odor of flowers and growing things!" declared Ned as he turned to their host. "You have things fixed pretty cozy here!"

"Just a touch now and again to make it look home-like!" said the man. "I prefer the sight of a flower to that of a cold steel bulkhead. Besides, it's more healthful to have a few plants about."

Harry was lost in admiration of the machinery which he declared to be far superior to that of the vessel they had lately abandoned.

With a touch their strange host sent the craft forward at a good speed. He explained to the lads a gyroscope arrangement by which he controlled the steering gear that kept the vessel on any chosen course and at any desired depth after once being adjusted.

"And now, if you please, Mr. Mackinder," questioned Jimmie at length, "will you be so good as to tell us what your mission may be?"

"Certainly!" replied the other frankly. "I see the steamer is not following us so I will take plenty of time to give you details."

"Thanks!" drily responded the lad. "We'll appreciate it!"

With a laugh the man seated himself on a locker and motioned the lads to do likewise. They listened intently as he proceeded:

"You perhaps all realize that the possession of wealth is the desire of almost every human being. I am not different from the rest in that respect at least. Owing to some family trouble which I shall not at this time detail, I was not given the advantages that accrue ordinarily to heirs. I think you will understand what I mean?"

"You were left out in the cold when they passed the dough?" asked Jimmie with a knowing look. "Just shoved one side?"

"That's about it!" replied the man. "But I resolved to get some money, nevertheless. I had a fertile imagination, some education and a very small amount of money. I did not want to take so cheap a way as to rob or cheat my fellow men. I was not shrewd enough to enter the business world. Therefore, I turned my attention to lost or buried treasure."

Jimmie delivered a broad wink toward Ned. It was not lost by their observant entertainer, who laughed much to the boy's confusion.

"Amongst other inventions that were in my brain was an instrument for detecting the presence of gold similar to the instrument called a compass. In this instance electricity had nothing to do with its action.

"To make a long story short, you know, I finally succeeded in perfecting the arrangement. It was an amusing circumstance that I had a very hard struggle preserving my last gold piece with which to test the device," he went on with a laugh at the recollection of his trials.

"At last, I thought I had my instrument perfected. I next needed only something on which to practice. With my precious treasure carefully guarded I succeeded in reaching the Gulf of Mexico, where it is said so much pirate gold has been buried. Wonderful to relate, I actually located and recovered a small amount. It was not large but helped me to fit out a vessel in which to make other cruises."

"And it really worked?" inquired Jimmie in a tone of unbelief.

"How well I shall presently demonstrate, you know," was the reply. "But I found that the crew was tricky. They helped me get a treasure aboard then calmly turned pirates themselves and ran away with the treasure. For nearly a year I had hard luck. Then I succeeded in locating a large sum of gold that had been buried by a man's grandfather.

"My past experiences had taught me that I could not trust anyone. Therefore I determined to prosecute my search in other channels.

"Piece by piece in different shops I had this vessel constructed after my own designs. The pieces were assembled in a part of the Gulf of Mexico little frequented. There I tried out the undersea boat, named it the 'U-13'--the 'U' standing for Undersea and the '13' in defiance of the popular superstition. But I found a new difficulty.

"The instrument, although working perfectly on land, was not reliable under the ocean, for as you know there is a large amount of suspended gold in sea water. That made the instrument unreliable."

"What did you want to go under water for, anyway?" asked Ned.

"Gold!" was the curt reply. "So I had to construct another device that would neutralize the local attraction of the sea water just on the same principle that the mariner has the two iron balls near his compass to overcome the local attraction on his vessel.

"Then I was prepared to pursue my quest for treasure undisturbed. My first venture was the recovery of a large sum from a sunken ship in Havana harbor. This provided me sufficient funds so that I put stores aboard and came across to seek for the vessels of the Spanish Armada."

"How did you get across the Atlantic?" asked Jimmie incredulously.

"In this vessel!" was the reply. "And most of the way under water, too, you know! I didn't want anyone to see me!"

"But you had to come up once in a while to get air!"

"Oh, no! Here is a contrivance," indicating a huge box-like affair, "with which I separate the oxygen from the hydrogen by electricity. Water, as you know, is composed of two gases--oxygen and hydrogen. Two atoms of hydrogen combined with one atom of oxygen and make a tiny bit of water. By the aid of this special device I segregate the two gases, use the oxygen and discharge the hydrogen overboard."

"I'm going to take my hat off to you!" declared Jimmie. "But you had to have some means to prevent discomfort from the storage batteries!"

"Not with these!" smiled the other. "I'm using, without permission, of course, a new storage battery that does away with the lead-sulphuric acid type of battery. The inventor is a man whose name is familiar to you all. He uses a nickel, iron oxide and steel combination in a solution of potash. This battery, instead of causing inflammation or even proving deadly as is the case with the old type, is actually a benefit to a person. It is exactly opposite in its effect to the old style."

"And you manage to make a cruise of days and days under water?"

"Surely!" smiled their host. "There's nothing to prevent it!"

"That's going some!" declared Jimmie. "But I don't believe you managed to dig up a lot of gold from the bottom of the ocean!"

"What is there to hinder?" questioned the other.

"Everything!" declared Jimmie. "In the first place there is all the water about. Then, too, it would be easier to take this instrument into the regions where gold is usually discovered on land. You could prospect with it in almost the positive knowledge that you would locate a vein. Digging then would be easy."

"Yes, but I don't like to dig!" laughed the other. "Perhaps I'm too lazy to do that sort of thing!"

"There's something queer here that I don't quite get," stated Jimmie. "Can't you explain a little more in detail?"

"Why, certainly, I'll be glad to elucidate!" was the answer. "You have in mind the securing of free gold in nuggets and dust. I go about it in quite another way. My purpose is to recover the minted coins that have been placed aboard ships. When the ships sink, no diver yet has been able to reach those in deep water. Therefore, most of the gold that has been carried to the bottom in sunken vessels is forever lost. I intend to recover a great deal of it!"

"Then when you know approximately where the vessel was wrecked or sunk," put in Ned, "you go to that neighborhood. Your instrument indicates the presence of gold and you follow its directions until the exact spot is reached. Then you step out and carry the money aboard your own craft. Is that the correct explanation?"

"You have it exactly. And I have done pretty well so far!"

"I don't believe it!" declared Jimmie flatly. "The whole thing sounds mighty fishy--not meaning any disrespect," he added addressing the man who sat leaning back against a bulkhead.

"But I assure you that what I have said is absolutely true!"

"I'm from Missouri!" stated Jimmie in a tone of doubt.

Their host stepped to a locker which he opened.

"Great Frozen Hot Boxes!" cried Jimmie.

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