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Title: The Dreadnought Boys in Home Waters

Author: John Henry Goldfrap

Illustrator: Charles L. Wrenn

Release date: April 7, 2017 [eBook #54496]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Demian Katz and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (Images courtesy
of the Digital Library@Villanova University



"Great Heavens! He's risking the loss of his commission," exclaimed Ned. Page 117









Copyright, 1914,

[Pg 3]


I.On Special Duty5
II.Red vs. Blue14
III."Are We Awake?"24
IV.Herc "Mixes In"31
V.Off to Their First Command39
VI.Welcome to the "Seneca"48
VII.Midshipman Kenworth58
IX."Your Duty Is to Obey!"76
X."The Eyes of the Red Fleet"84
XI.The Eavesdropper91
XIII.Another Watcher104
XIV.Ned at a Disadvantage113
XV.A Prisoner on "the Neck"121
XVI.The Friendly Sun128
[Pg 4]XVIII.Off for a Cruise144
XIX.The Storm151
XXI.Orders are Orders165
XXII.On the "Twin Sisters"173
XXIII.The Trail185
XXIV.The Japanese Store192
XXV.A Box of Matches200
XXVII.Through the Crack in the Wall214
XXVIII.Herc's Subterfuge222
XXIX.Tables Turned—Twice!228
XXX.In Fresh Terror237
XXXI.Ned's Escape246
XXXII.In the Enemy's Camp254
XXXIII.Waiting for the End261
XXXIV.A New Assignment272
XXXV.The Outcome282

[Pg 5]

The Dreadnought Boys in Home Waters.



There was a sudden stir in the forward section of the stuffy, crowded railway coach.

The interruption to the stolid apathy that had crept over the passengers, for the dust and heat had made them drowsy, came in the form of voices raised in anger and indignant protest.

The racket proceeded from a cross-seat occupied by two young fellows. One of them was a youth of about eighteen with hair of a violent ruddy hue. His seat-mate was, perhaps, a trifle older, heavy set, rather sallow, with close-cropped black hair. Both were sunburned and bore, somehow, the unmistakable look of those who follow the sea.

[Pg 6]

"See here, you, what have you got your hand in my pocket for, hey?"

Thus the red-haired lad, before whom reposed a leather suit-case bearing the name,—neatly stenciled on one end,—"H. Taylor, U.S.N."

"I've lost my wallet," came the rejoinder in angry, high-pitched tones. "It had most of my pay in it, too."

"Well, what's the matter with looking in your own pocket?" sputtered Herc Taylor indignantly.

"I did, but I can't find it."

"So you assume that I'm the thief, do you?"

This was certainly a conversation to attract attention. Both speakers appeared to be in highly belligerent moods. Several of the passengers seated in the vicinity of the excitement began to rise in their seats and crane their necks, the better to behold the "scrap" that appeared imminent.

But those nearest to the pair saw that Herc[Pg 7] Taylor's large, freckled fist had closed on the wrist of the other's investigating hand, so that, for the present at any rate, the latter was not able to attempt retaliation except verbally.

Herc was neatly but quietly dressed in a gray-mixture suit. His seat-mate, the one who had made the ugly accusation, wore clothes that appeared to have been rather neglected recently. They were crumpled and stained and the whole air of the fellow, despite his healthy-looking tan, was slouchy and shiftless.

Herc glared straight into the other's eyes for possibly the space of a minute or so. Before his direct glance the slouchy-looking youth's eyes fell.

"Aw, leggo my hand, will yer?" he muttered.

"Sure, it's no pleasure to me to hold it," rejoined Herc, relaxing his grip. Where he had held the other, a white bracelet of skin appeared, showing that Herc possessed a mighty set of muscles.

[Pg 8]

"I'd advise you to keep your hand where it belongs in the future," added Herc.

A third young fellow, who had been seated behind the quarreling pair, leaned forward. He had been reading a naval-service periodical. But now his attention was distracted, and he tapped the red-headed youth on the shoulder.

"What appears to be the trouble, Herc?"

"Oh, it's all right, Ned," rejoined the younger of the Dreadnought Boys, turning to his cousin, Ned Strong. "This fellow just suffered from a severe case of wandering hand, that's all."

A smile came over Ned Strong's clean-cut, bronzed features. His blue eyes twinkled as he directed a glance to the floor of the section in front of him.

"What's that lying on the floor right there by your feet, my friend?" he asked of Herc's seat-mate.

"Gosh! if it isn't my wallet!" exclaimed the stranger.

[Pg 9]

He stooped and picked it up, looking rather sheepish and foolish as he encountered Ned's smile.

"You see, it isn't a good plan to go up in the air before you make quite sure you won't have to come down again with a hard bump," said the Dreadnought Boy quietly, but with a good-natured intonation.

"Aw, stow that," growled the other. "I didn't do no harm."

"No, but if I hadn't been a young person of marked coolness and restraint, I might have done you some," grinned Herc.

Here the incident appeared to be terminated for the time being. Soon after, the disgruntled neighbor of Herc Taylor arose and sought a seat in another part of the car. The smiling looks of the passengers in the vicinity of the little ruction had proved too much for his sensibilities.

As he rose from his seat, he carried with him[Pg 10] his suit-case. After he was beyond ear-shot, Ned turned to Herc.

"That fellow may be one of our shipmates," he said in low tones.

"How do you make that out?"

"I saw the name 'Dilworth Rankin' and the letters 'U.S.N.' after it," was Ned's rejoinder.

"Can't say that I'm much impressed with what I've seen of young Mr. Rankin," retorted Herc, carelessly. "At any rate we are under special commissions now, so that if he gets gay or anything like that, I'll have him put in the brig in short order. I always said, after I had that little session of mine in the brig, that if I ever got a chance I'd see how it felt to slap somebody else in there; and if he gets fresh it might just as well be Rankin as anyone else."

"You'll do no such thing," retorted Ned seriously. "Just because we're holding little temporary commissions as junior officers, you can't show off your authority like that."

[Pg 11]

"Huh! what's the use of being officers, then?"

"To teach us something. To get some new ideas and experiences into that red head of yours."

"See here, now that I'm an officer, I'll thank you to refer to my locks as auburn," muttered Herc. "I'll feel like using my new sword on anybody who calls attention to the color of my sky-piece hereafter."

"All right," laughed Ned, "I'll call it any color you like. But, hullo! there's blue water. We must be getting near to Miller's Haven. I wonder if the Seneca has arrived yet?"

"Hope so," rejoined Herc. "I want to be boss just as quickly and just as long as possible. I wish some of the old boys on the Manhattan could see us when we start out to sea. Have you opened your orders yet?"

"Not yet. As you know, they are sealed and not to be opened till we have coaled and proceeded to sea. The first thing we must do when[Pg 12] we reach Miller's Haven is to report to Ensign Summerville, at present in command of the Seneca, and hand him his orders."

"His walking papers," interpolated Herc. "I wonder if we'll get orders to join the Red fleet right off?"

"That's impossible to say," replied Ned. "As I understand it, we are to do duty as a scout cruiser, depending largely on our wireless for keeping in touch with the Red fleet and informing them of every move of the Blues."

"Then we may not be with the fleet at all?"

"Not necessarily. But I guess our work as scouts will keep us so busy that we won't notice the lack of company."

"I'd rather be back with the fleet," muttered Herc.

"I wouldn't," rejoined Ned, his eyes flashing and his cheeks flushing under the tan. "Why, Herc, boy, we've got the biggest chance of our lives! To my mind this detail to which we have[Pg 13] been assigned will prove the most interesting work we have ever tackled."

"Miller's Haven!"

The voices of the trainmen rang raucously through the car. The boys arose and made their way to the forward door. As Ned had surmised, they were indeed on the threshold of some of the most interesting experiences they had ever encountered.

[Pg 14]



Within the last week the Dreadnought Boys had taken their first big step upward. They entered Miller's Haven with their commissions on new, crackly parchment, tucked over a pair of as proud and happy hearts as there were in the navy.

Great had been their surprise, when, some four days before we encountered them on the train for Miller's Haven, their commander, Captain Dunham, of the Dreadnought Manhattan, had sent for them. Both lads, as readers of other volumes of this series know, had already gained high non-commissioned ratings.

Captain Dunham's unexpected summons had come on the eve of the long-looked-for "siege" of New York harbor. The Red fleet to which the[Pg 15] Manhattan had been commissioned as flagship, was to have the task of attacking the harbor at the gates of Long Island Sound. The Blue squadron was to have the defense of the port. Final arrangements for the biggest naval war game of its kind ever attempted had been made, with an attention to detail and probable actual conditions of a sea attack on the harbor which was little short of marvelous.

With wireless, big guns, Argand signals, torpedoes and submarines every effort was to be made to duplicate as perfectly as possible conditions of a real attack. The newspapers had been carrying columns of copy concerning the big war game, and public interest was wrought to its highest pitch.

But it was in the navy itself that enthusiasm ran the highest. Strategists from all over the world were to be present, and elaborate precautions had been taken to insure Uncle Sam's carefully guarded naval secrets from leaking out.[Pg 16] In this connection, what practically amounted to a Secret Service had been established, both on board the great sea-fighters of the two squadrons and also at the twin forts, Totten and Schuyler, which guard the Sound entrance to the East River and the port of New York.

Such, as has been said, was the interesting eve of "hostilities" which prevailed, when to Ned and Herc came the orders to report aft in the commander's quarters at once.

The Manhattan lay in the Brooklyn navy yard being groomed, like a thoroughbred on the eve of a great race, for the important part she was to play as the flagship of the Red fleet. Jackies, every one of them with an alert and keen pride in his work, were dismantling and fitting the big craft till everything about her grim, slate-colored hull was attuned to the condition in which she would be placed were she actually answering a summons to defend the Empire City from the invasion of a foreign foe.

[Pg 17]

Captain Dunham sat in his cabin in the midst of a great pile of documents of all kinds. The pictures and other objects usually to be found adorning the commander's comfortable quarters were missing. The cabin had been stripped and everything breakable packed away, just as would have been the case had the Manhattan been going to steam out and engage an actual foe. This had been done so that the earthquake-like shock and tremble of the mighty broadsides,—the grim fangs of this sea bulldog,—might not work havoc with breakable things.

The two young non-commissioned officers were passed by the orderly and then stood smartly at attention, trim heels together, bright eyes looking straight in front of them till the commander looked up from some departmental papers he was perusing.

During this interval they had time to notice that a tall, slender, alertly-built man, with threads of gray in his dark hair, was seated near the[Pg 18] commander. He eyed the boys interestedly with the critical air of a man who is in the habit of making swift appraisal of those with whom he comes in contact.

His keen gray eyes swept the two well-built, clean-cut and reliable-looking young sailors with a look that appeared to spell approval. As a matter of fact, the assistant secretary of the navy, for such was the office of Commander Dunham's companion, was deeply interested in his inspection of the two lads of whom he had heard much.

It will be recalled that not long after they entered the service of Uncle Sam and deeded their lives to the flag, Ned and Herc had had an opportunity to distinguish themselves.

How they foiled a desperate plot against the navy, then assembled in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, at the naval base established there, and also their conspicuous bravery in the panic that followed a disastrous "flare-back" in a thirteen-inch[Pg 19] turret, were told, with many other of their adventures, in the first volume of this series, "The Dreadnought Boys on Battle Practice."

In the next book, devoted to describing the lives of the spruce young jack-tars of to-day on board the big, drab sea-fighters, we followed the lads through a long siege of mystery and intrigue, intermingled with plenty of stern fighting. This book was called "The Dreadnought Boys Aboard a Destroyer."

Grim as the name of "destroyer" that she bore was the Beale; and when she was despatched to South America with the duty of straightening out a peculiar international tangle confronting her commander, the boys were detailed to duty on board her. In the midst of a revolution, involving the lives and property of American citizens, they played their parts right well, and by a display of clever strategy turned a defeat, which had seemed imminent to the interests amicable to the Americans, into a brilliant victory.[Pg 20] Readers of that volume will not soon forget the defense of the hill, with the battery of machine guns breathing flame and destruction from their iron throats.

"The Dreadnought Boys on a Submarine" showed an intimate picture of naval life on a diving torpedo boat. In realistic detail all that befell the lads on the surface and in the depths of old ocean was related, and their many adventures were faithfully set forth. As in previous chapters of their lives, the boys were not found wanting when perils and dangers called for quick, decisive action and cool, alert minds. In the submarine service they added new laurels to their already growing fame, and moved up more steps on the long ladder of promotion.

When the navy department began its experiments with aeroplanes as important auxiliaries to modern battleships, Ned and Herc were among the first in the fleet to volunteer, although such service involved the signing of a grim paper[Pg 21] which absolved the government of all responsibility for the naval aviator's life. As might be expected, the lads found things by no means tame in the aero squad. Ned's great feat of landing on a battleship,—a common enough maneuver now,—was long talked of in the fleet after the boy had successfully made the first attempt in the history of the world to accomplish such a thing.

Naturally, too, the boys who had worked so ambitiously for name and fame had made enemies among small-minded and envious men. These foes made things exciting for the lads for a time; but in the end both Ned and Herc righted themselves and were vindicated from a severe charge which had resulted from the machinations of those who disliked them. This book, which was called "The Dreadnought Boys on Aero Service," teemed with incident and shifting scenes. Much attention was paid to the manipulation and flying of modern aeroplanes, and the[Pg 22] book was instructive as well as interesting.

The famous "Round the World Cruise of the American Navy," a voyage that will go down in history as one of the most effective demonstrations of sea power ever made, formed the theme of the succeeding volume, which was "The Dreadnought Boys' World Cruise." As petty officers of the first rank, Ned and Herc found many opportunities to distinguish themselves. Jack ashore is sometimes a difficult proposition to handle, and Ned, as a non-commissioned officer, had much responsibility to shoulder. In carrying out his duties he incurred the enmity of some of those he had been obliged to discipline, and a thrilling adventure in the pyramids of Egypt was the result.

Then, too, Ned and Herc met with many other experiences in the various countries the fleet visited, including a laughable predicament on the Rock of Gibraltar, when, through the stupidity of an over-officious British army sergeant,[Pg 23] they were compelled to spend some hours in a dungeon excavated in the rock. Herc solved the problem of escape and unlocked the dungeon doors by means of wig-wagged signals to the fleet, lying at anchor below the rock.

And now you are better acquainted with Ned Strong and Herc Taylor, and can understand, by perusal of the preceding long but necessary digression, just why it was that they were admired and loved by their shipmates and respected by their officers; and why, too, Captain Dunham should have singled them out for the duty to which he was about to assign them.

[Pg 24]



The commander of the Manhattan, an imposing, bronzed figure of a man, and a thorough sailor, swung around in his chair and faced the two young Jackies he had summoned.

"These are the lads I was speaking to you about, Mr. Secretary," he said, addressing his companion.

The lads drew themselves up and saluted, not without a quickened action of their hearts. They guessed at once from the manner in which he had been addressed, that the stranger was one of the "big-wigs" of the naval department. Herc turned as red as his thatch, and the freckles stood out on his round and jolly countenance like the famous spots on the sun.

Ned retained his self-possession better, but in[Pg 25] reality he was quite as excited as was his shipmate and chum. Eagerly he waited for words which might offer a key to the meaning of this unusual summons.

They were not long in coming. The Secretary nodded his head and looked approvingly at the boys.

"They quite measure up, sir, to all that I have heard of them," he said. "And now," with a kindly smile at the two embarrassed lads, "I don't think we need keep them in suspense any longer."

"I quite agree with you," rejoined the captain. "Lads, I have sent for you to confer upon you, at the request of the Secretary of the Navy, a most unusual honor. I know you will appreciate it as it merits."

The boys did not utter, in words, a reply. It would not have been proper for them to have made any comments or to have spoken, except in answer to direct orders or to questions. The commander continued:

[Pg 26]

"Your careers in the navy have been marked by more than ordinary devotion to duty and by frequent exhibitions of ability that have made you both appear to be worthy of still higher promotion than you have yet achieved. I think that you both possess executive ability, and the Secretary and myself have decided to assign you to roles in the coming war game that will give you ample opportunity to show of what sort of stuff you are made."

The boys, with burning faces, drew themselves up and saluted. But within their breasts was a wild tumult despite their calm exteriors. What could be coming?

"And now for what you are to do. You are to proceed to Miller's Haven on the Connecticut shore and there join the gunboat Seneca. You will convoy two submarines for use in scout work against the Blue fleet, which, of course, you know, is opposed to us and is defending the harbor of New York. You understand?"

[Pg 27]

"Y-y-yes, sir," rejoined Ned; while Herc, so taken by surprise that he was deprived of articulate speech, merely mumbled something.

"To whom are we to report, sir?" ventured Ned.

Commander Dunham smiled and exchanged glances with the departmental visitor.

"You will report to yourselves. That is, you will be in command of the Seneca."

Even Ned's sense of discipline deserted him at this announcement.

"In—in command? I—I'm afraid, sir, I——"

"I said in command. Practically every commissioned officer in the service will be on other and more important duties. We have, therefore, secured for you temporary commissions, enduring, of course, only during your period of attachment to the Seneca. She is a small boat of not very modern design, but I shall expect to see you perform some important work with her. She is equipped with wireless, of course, and the fact[Pg 28] that both of you understand wireless and the naval code has been another inducement to give you this big chance. You will each get a copy of the special code to be used in the war game when you join the ship."

"Then we—we are officers?" stuttered Herc, unable to keep silent any longer. As for Ned, outwardly cool and collected, his glowing eyes showed what he thought.

"Officers temporarily," was the reply. "Here are your commissions."

From his desk Commander Dunham took the two documents which to the Dreadnought Boys appeared the most wonderful things they had ever set eyes on.

Handing one to Ned, the commander then spoke some words that sent the boy soaring up into the seventh heaven of delight.

"This confers on you, Strong, the rank, pay and authority of a lieutenant, junior grade, in the United States Navy. Taylor, your commission[Pg 29] confers upon you the special rank of ensign.

"That is all. Your uniforms will be secured from the yard tailor. Your instructions are in this sealed package. You are not to open them till you have cleared. From time to time you will get other instructions by wireless, couched in the terms of the secret code adopted by the Red fleet. Your duty, in a nutshell, will be to be the eyes of the Red squadron. Carry on!"

With this crisp expression of dismissal, the commander turned to his table again. The lads saluted, and marched out of the cabin.

They appeared to be traversing fleecy clouds of wonderful brightness as they made their way forward.

"Hello, Red-head," hailed a gunner's mate as Herc strutted with all the pride of a peacock to the forward part of the ship, "what's biting you?"

"Don't talk to me like that, Jenks," returned Herc with some hauteur. "I'm an officer."

[Pg 30]

"A what?" roared Jenks. "Say, turn over. You're on your back. You haven't been working hard enough lately, Brick-top, and you're talking in your sleep."

"Wonderful as it all seems, though, Jenks, it's true," said Ned, with dancing eyes. "But I can't realize yet that I'm not asleep and dreaming the greatest dream a fellow could ever have."

Jenks stared for a minute and then clasped Ned's hand.

"I'm mighty glad, shipmate," said he. "You had it coming to you."

"But it isn't going to last," said Herc plaintively. "It will only hold out as long as the war game, and then we'll be back in the ranks—that is, if we don't fall out of bed first."

Ned said nothing, but he gazed with absent eyes over the busy scene,—the swarming river and the great yard with its life and movement and busy note of preparation. He was indulging in the most delicious reverie he had ever experienced.

[Pg 31]



Miller's Haven was a small place on the Sound shore, several miles up. It boasted a bay full of shoals and tricky channels and a group of islands lying in a cluster near the mouth of this bay.

Ned knew from his previous instructions that the Seneca would be lying in the shelter of one of these islands, as securely moored to avoid observation from the scouts of the Blue squadron as was possible. Miller's Haven was a sleepy spot,—little more than a fishing village, in truth,—and nobody in the place was likely to pay much attention to the fact that a small gunboat, looking more like a yacht than a vessel of the navy, lay, with every appearance of secrecy, off their hamlet.

[Pg 32]

In fact, the Seneca had been used in several capacities. Her latest work, before being told off as a scout and despatch craft, was with the Revenue Service.

In this capacity the Seneca had been deemed worthy of refitting so far as boilers and engines were concerned, so that, although she was not large, she was swift and powerful and just the craft for the work in which she was to be employed during the maneuvers. Her speed had been shown in several chases after motor-boat smugglers, in most cases she having easily overhauled even the fastest of these wasp-like violators of Uncle Sam's customs regulations.

"We'll go to the hotel first," decided Ned as they stood on the wind-swept platform at Miller's Haven.

Out on the Sound the blue water was flecked with white and a brisk wind, salt-laden and delightful to the boys' sea-going nostrils, had left the sky clear and cloudless.

[Pg 33]

"You're going to meet Ensign Summerville there?" asked Herc.

"Yes, he'll come ashore with a boat and take us out and introduce us to our first command."

"Huh! it may be our last, too," grunted Herc. "Say, this thing of being a real, full-fledged officer scares me just a little. Suppose we fall down?"

"We can only attend to our duty the best we know how," rejoined Ned. "If we can carry out the work cut out for us in good shape, it will mean that we'll go a few more rungs up the ladder."

"Yes, if nobody pulls the ladder down," mumbled Herc pessimistically.

The two trim, trig lads, in their quiet, unassuming clothes, attracted little or no attention on the single street that Miller's Haven boasted. True, one or two passers-by looked rather curiously at the yellow leather sword cases that they carried, but that was all.

[Pg 34]

The hotel soon came in sight, a dingy-looking structure sadly in need of paint. A dejected-looking citizen with a drooping mustache, a drooping manner, drooping gray garments and a drooping way of draping himself in his chair, occupied the porch.

"Doesn't look like much of a place," commented Ned, "but we can get a room here that will be good enough to change in, I dare say."

"A room!" demanded Herc. "What do you want a room for? I thought we were going to eat."

"No, we will change into our uniforms first. It would not be the correct thing to board our new command in ordinary clothes. I should think you'd know that."

"Have we got to wear our swords?" inquired Herc with a rebellious look.

"Don't you know enough of navy usages yet to be aware that officers must wear their swords under certain conditions, such as taking command[Pg 35] of a new craft and other ceremonial occasions?"

"Umph! Well, all I hope is I don't tumble over that cheese toaster of mine."

"If you do anything like that, I'll disown you for a brother officer of mine," laughed Ned. "But, seriously, Herc, I want you to be on your best behavior and not make any bad breaks."

"Huh! Just as if you were any more used to carrying a sticker,—I mean a sword,—than I am! I'll be all right. Don't you worry about me, Mister Lieutenant. I bet I will be just as good an officer as there is in the navy."

"We'll wait and see——" began Ned good-naturedly, when Herc cut him short with an exclamation.

"Look who's here! Right behind us!"

"Well, what is it?" asked Ned, for he was half-way up the steps by this time and the drooping eyes of the landlord, as Ned had rightly conjectured[Pg 36] that the dejected man was, were regarding him with languid interest.

"It's that Rankin fellow! He's looking at us disrespectfully. I've a good mind to tell him that we are officers!"

"You'll do no such thing. If he has been detailed to the Seneca, which I think probable, he'll find out our rank for himself soon enough."

"Just the same, I'd like to make him salute me," grumbled Herc.

Rankin ascended the steps behind the two Dreadnought Boys. He was close on their heels, when suddenly Herc's feet flew up and out behind him. In his new dignity he had been holding his head so high that he did not notice a bit of banana peel lying on the untidy steps of the Eagle Hotel.

Crash! The newly created officer performed an almost complete back somersault with great effect. Plump! came down his not over-light form right on top of the ascending Rankin. Together[Pg 37] they rolled down the steps and into the dusty road, while Ned looked on in dismay.

"You done that a-purpose! I'll fix you for it!" bellowed Rankin furiously.

"What are you talking about, you numbskull?" retaliated Herc, as the two rolled on the dusty street. "Don't be a fool! Let me up."

But Rankin clung tightly to Herc, for whom he had conceived an intense dislike ever since the episode on the train.

"You try to make a fool out of me, will you?" he growled; and as they clinched and tumbled about at the foot of the steps, Rankin aimed a vicious blow at Herc, who returned it with right good will.

"Gracious! Here's a fine kettle of fish!" exclaimed Ned in consternation.

He started back down the steps at top speed, determined to stop such a scene at all costs. It was really too bad that their arrival in Miller's[Pg 38] Haven should be marked by such a disgraceful mix-up.

Ned glanced anxiously down the street and was glad to see that no one was in sight. He would not, for the world, have had anyone witness the mêlée who was in any way connected with the navy.

"Get up at once, Herc!" he cried, thoroughly angry. "Stop it instantly. Do you hear?"

But despite Ned's admonitions, the pair on the ground continued their struggle, the noise of their thumps and pantings rising above Ned's voice. Flushed with vexation and indignation at Herc, Ned determined to take decisive action.

He cleared the last two steps of the flight leading to the street in one jump. The next instant his hands shot out.

"Stop this and stop it quick!" he ejaculated. "What sort of a way do you consider this to behave?"

[Pg 39]



Herc felt a strong hand on his collar. The next second he was yanked to his feet "all standing." Flushed, dust-covered and indignant he began a fusillade of irritated speech.

But Ned cut short the flow with a peremptory gesture.

"That's quite enough. Come inside at once."

"But I——"

"At once, I said; march!"

Herc knew it was no use to disobey, and with a backward look at Rankin, he sulkily climbed up the steps. Rankin picked himself up out of the dust. He appeared to be about to say something, but before he could find words, the two Dreadnought Boys were through the door of the hotel and inside the small office.

[Pg 40]

The drooping man, who had watched the battle without a shadow of interest or excitement, betrayed no great change in manner as he came forward.

"'Kin I do fer yer?" he inquired.

"We want to get a room here. Not for very long; just for sufficient time in which to change into our uniforms," explained Ned. "We are expecting a Mr. Summerville of the United States Navy to meet us here."

"Be you in the navy?" inquired the drooping man, allowing himself to betray momentarily a slight, very slight accession of interest.

"We are. We can get a room, I suppose?"

"You kin, an' if you'll pardon my saying so, yer pardner sure needs a change."

Herc colored hotly. The hotel man must have noticed this, for he went on.

"You don't know that feller Rankin, then?"

"We do not," replied Ned shortly.

"'Cause if you did, you'd know he's always[Pg 41] picking quarrels. He's an 'sistant 'gineer on the Senecy, which I reckon is the boat yer goin' ter jine."

"Yes, I believe she is anchored off here. But will you show us to our room right away, please? We don't wish to keep Mr. Summerville waiting."

The drooping and dejected landlord looked more dismal than ever as he showed the boys to a small room. It did not take them long to don the natty uniforms of junior officers in the United States Navy. While they changed their attire, Herc was roundly lectured by Ned for taking part in the scene in front of the hotel.

"I'm sorry it happened," declared Ned; "Rankin being a petty officer of the Seneca, too, doesn't make it any the easier."

"I ought to have lambasted him with my new sword," muttered Herc truculently.

"And made a bad matter worse."

[Pg 42]

"I don't see how it would. That fellow needs a good lesson."

"You'll never teach him one in that way. Besides, naval officers don't behave in such a fashion. You must have dignity and self-control."

"Huh! If I'd had foot control instead of self-control, I wouldn't have tumbled down those steps, and then nothing would have happened," grumbled Herc, tenderly patting a bump on the top of his head.

"You look like an officer, Ned," he went on a few moments later, as, pausing in his own preparations, he gazed at the trim, natty figure of Ned Strong.

Herc was right. The slender, yet strongly built lad did indeed look every inch fitted for the quarter-deck of a naval vessel when, having finished his other sartorial duties, he buckled on his sword and adjusted his cap.

"Well, so do you, don't you?" laughed Ned, watching Herc as, with a face fiery red with his[Pg 43] exertions, his comrade buckled himself into his tightly fitting uniform.

"Don't know," responded Herc briefly, "I feel rather more like a tailor's dummy. How do I look?"

"All right. But cool your face off in that water. It looks as if you'd been taking a turn in the fire room."

"Well, so long as I don't do a flop over my sword, I don't care," rejoined Herc, as he carefully removed the scabbard of that weapon from between his knees where it threatened at any moment to cause disaster.

Not many minutes later they descended from the room, just in time to be greeted by a stalwart coxswain.

"Lieutenant Strong, sir?" asked the man, coming to attention just as Ned and Herc had done so often.

It certainly felt strange to acknowledge the salute in an official way, not to mention being[Pg 44] addressed as Lieutenant. Herc was, in fact, compelled to hide a grin behind his pocket handkerchief. Luckily, Ned did not see this, or Herc might have had another lecture.

"Yes," rejoined Ned, returning the man's salute. "You are from the Seneca?"

"Aye, aye, sir. The gig is waiting to take you aboard, sir. Ensign Summerville sent his regrets, sir, and he is too busy attending to matters wirelessed from the flagship to come ashore himself."

"Very well, we may as well get aboard, then," said Ned.

At this moment Rankin emerged from the hotel. He had evidently been busy removing traces of battle from his face, for his sallow countenance shone with soap. To say that he looked surprised when he saw Ned and Herc transformed into naval officers of rank much above his own, would be to put it mildly. That[Pg 45] expressive word "flabbergasted" better describes the look on Rankin's well-soaped visage.

He was far too well trained in naval usage to put his astonishment into words, however. Returning from a furlough, he knew nothing, of course, of the change in the commanding officers of the Seneca; but he recognized that Ned, as his uniform showed, outranked Ensign Summerville, and from this fact deduced that he must have come to take command of the little gunboat.

He drew himself up and saluted with naval conciseness. The boys returned the salute with perfect gravity. To judge by the countenances of all three, no bystander would ever have guessed how it had been with them not so very long before.

Herc, however, noted, perhaps not without a certain malicious satisfaction, that over Rankin's right eye was a plum-colored discoloration which appeared to be swelling. Once, too, when on the[Pg 46] way to the boat he happened to glance in Rankin's direction, he surprised a glowering look on the assistant engineer's face which was instantly wiped off when Rankin saw that he was being observed.

"Huh, that was a quick change, like sponging something off a slate," thought Herc to himself. "However, Mr. Rankin, I've no idea that you love your second in command any better than you ought to. I guess I'll keep my weather eye on you, for at times you certainly do look most uncommonly like a rattlesnake."

The coxswain had taken charge of the boys' suit and sword cases. Rankin carried his own valise. It did not take them long to reach the little wharf, alongside which lay the Seneca's gig, the four men of her crew smoking and lolling at their ease at her oarlocks.

Like a flash all inertia vanished as Ned and Herc hove in sight. The coxswain saluted once more. The men saluted. Ned and Herc saluted.

[Pg 47]

As the two lads sank into the stern thwart seat, Herc found opportunity to whisper to Ned, "Give me a teeny jab with that sword if you can."

"Why on earth do you want me to do that?" demanded Ned, in astonishment at Herc's seemingly perfectly serious request.

With his hand over his mouth Herc gave a veiled rejoinder.

"Because if it doesn't hurt, I'll know I'm tucked in my little hammock and dreaming!"

"All ready, sir," suggested the coxswain, taking his seat.

"Give way," ordered Ned calmly, and the four oars struck the water like one.

The boys were fairly off on their way to their first command.

[Pg 48]



Swiftly, steadily urged on, like some great beetle moving across the surface of a sheet of burnished glass, the gig was impelled over the smooth expanse of the sheltered waters; for, although outside in the Sound itself the whitecaps were prancing under the lee of the islands, here it was almost a flat calm.

The men rowed in perfect unison, like some accurately timed piece of mechanism. Before long they could make out, lying in under the shoulder of a distant island, the outlines of a slate-colored craft.

"The Seneca?" asked Ned of the coxswain.

"Yes, sir; that's the Seneca."

"She looks a trim little hooker."

"Aye, aye, sir; she's all of that, sir."

[Pg 49]

Ned and Herc gazed with burning eyes and dancing pulses at the little craft. She was certainly not very large or imposing, but to them just then the finest Dreadnought ever launched could not have brought such emotions.

Not more than two hundred and fifty feet long, the Seneca appeared at first glance more like the ideal of a smart yacht than a craft of war. She had a sharp, overhanging bow and a beautifully modeled stern. Her rigging was of the schooner type, with the spider-web outlines of her wireless aerials slung between them.

In respect, doubtless, of her yachty lines, the Seneca had been used by a former President as a sort of official craft to convoy him to maneuvers and reviews.

Ned felt his enthusiasm rising, too, as lying against the Seneca's side, like the young of some sea monster, he made out the porpoise-like backs of the two submarines of which she was the parent ship. The sight of them brought back to[Pg 50] him the stirring days when he and Herc had aided the inventor of that type of diving boat, both in his pioneer voyages and in his romance.

He had only time to drink in this and other details with greedy eyes, when the gig swept around to the starboard gangway, reserved by immemorial custom for officers' embarkation.

From the marine sentry stationed at the head of the gangway came a sharp hail.

"Boat ahoy! What boat is that?"

"Aye! aye!" came from the coxswain.

This showed that there were commissioned officers on board. Had they been non-commissioned passengers, the reply to the hail would have been: "No! no!" For the captain and for other higher naval ranks there were other rejoinders, which have been enumerated in preceding volumes.

The gig was made fast. With a springy step and glowing features, Ned stepped out first. He was followed closely by Herc. A rattling sound[Pg 51] and an exclamation behind him, made Ned pause as he set foot on the gangway platform.

For an instant there was every sign that poor Herc was going to get into hot water for the second time that day. That unlucky sword had become entangled in his long legs, and for a time he hovered on the brink of disaster. But the watchful coxswain caught his arm and saved him the humiliation of tumbling into the water, new uniform and all.

It was all over in a moment and both boys hastened up to the head of the gangway. A corporal and four other marines besides the sentry now stood there. There was a sharp command and the sea-soldiers presented arms smartly.

"Goodness, I'll wear out my new cap with much more of this," thought Herc, as he acknowledged the salute simultaneously with Ned.

Just then a smart looking young naval officer behind the marines saluted. This, of course,[Pg 52] called for another answer. "Lieutenant Strong, I presume?" inquired this personage.

"Yes. And this is Ensign Taylor."

They shook hands and then the young officer, who was Ensign Summerville, suggested that the new arrivals be shown to their quarters.

"You may as well make yourselves at home as soon as possible," he said with a smile.

"Thanks; you are very kind," rejoined Ned, speaking for himself and Herc, for the latter was in a sort of happy daze.

"Then if you will come this way, please."

At a word from the corporal of marines, the boys' baggage was picked up by two of his men who preceded the party along the deck and turned into an alleyway, from which in turn they descended a companionway into the wardroom from which the cabins opened.

Up till the actual moment that he beheld his cabin, Ned still entertained fears that it might all be a vision which was likely to fade out at[Pg 53] any moment. But the sight of the snug cabin with its big double ports and broad berth, bookcase, desk and chairs made him realize that it was no figment of his imagination.

Knowing men-of-war of all types as well as he did, the boy appreciated with a throb of delight that this was no ordinary junior officer's cabin into which he had been ushered. Its size and the elaborateness of its fittings precluded that idea.

"Why—why, this is a magnificent stateroom," he found himself saying.

"It is the room that the commander of this vessel has always occupied," was the smiling rejoinder.

Lieutenant Ned Strong gave one of his winning laughs in return.

"Upon my word, Mr. Summerville," said he, "I can hardly wake up to the fact that I am to command this fine little craft."

"Well, you certainly are, for the purposes of[Pg 54] this war game, anyhow. They've got a notion that I'm rather a dab at strategic navigation, so they've passed me on to the Washington cruiser. Let me congratulate you on the command of a fine little craft."

"Thank you, you are very good," replied Ned; "but I hate to dispossess you."

"Pray don't mention it. You see I have often heard of you and your shipmate, and I am as glad as anyone of your deserved promotion. I only hope that it may be permanent."

An inspection of Herc's cabin next door followed. It was smaller and very much plainer than Ned's and contained no desk and only two chairs. But had it been Aladdin's palace, it could not have gratified Herc's delighted eyes any more than it did.

"But I'm forgetting something," said the Ensign suddenly. "Let us go back to your cabin, Mr. Strong. Your orders are on your desk. You will also find a secret code book, to which[Pg 55] you, only, will possess the key with one of your junior officers, and signed copies of your commissions."

As Ned already knew that the orders under which he sailed were sealed, he did not glance over them just then. Instead, he let his eyes feast on the engrossed copies of their commissions and a document which stated that Lieutenant Edward Strong was to take charge of the gunboat Seneca till "further orders from this department," and that Ensign Hercules Taylor was to be his second in command and assume such duties as were assigned to him on board.

"And now, sir," suggested Ensign Summerville, "the Seneca is under steam. She is ready for your orders."

Ned thrilled at the sound of the words. This trim little craft was absolutely at his command!

"First, however, you will no doubt wish to see your other officers. There is Mr. Drayton, chief[Pg 56] engineer; Mr. Rankin, his assistant, but you have already met him——"

"We have," rejoined Ned with a certain grim note in his voice.

"We most certainly have," added Herc, in a way which made the ensign give him a quick look of understanding. He made no audible comment, but those who knew Ensign Summerville would have guessed from a peculiar expression that came over his face that he recognized and sympathized with the antipathy the boys had formed for the assistant engineer.

"Our only other commissioned officer besides yourselves is Mr. Kenworth, not long out of Annapolis. Ah! there he is now. Kenworth, come here a moment, will you?"

He addressed a tall, slender, very erect young man in a midshipman's uniform who was just passing through the wardroom.

"This is Lieutenant Strong, of whom I have already told you. He assumes my command.[Pg 57] This is Mr. Taylor, the newly commissioned second in command.

"Hullo, you fellows have met before?" he demanded the next instant, for Kenworth had drawn back slightly, a supercilious smile on his thin, dark face.

"Yes, I have met Lieutenant Strong as a boatswain's mate," said Kenworth, with a disagreeable intonation; "Mr. Taylor, too, I have seen before the mast."

It was all true enough; both the Dreadnought Boys had good cause to recollect Mr. Kenworth. For a moment the air in the wardroom appeared charged with electricity.

Ensign Summerville looked from one to the other in surprise. He saw hauteur and dislike on Kenworth's face, a look that might have meant anything on Ned's countenance and undisguised disgust on Herc's freckled features.

[Pg 58]



It had all happened back early in the naval careers of young Strong and his chum Taylor. Kenworth, a sprig just out of Annapolis, had come to the Manhattan with an idea not uncommon among young gentlemen just out of the Academy, that next to the captain he was probably the most important person on the ship.

To strengthen him in this belief, he had influential relatives who had promised to smooth out his path in life for him. Despite this fact, though, Kenworth was still a midshipman. Why was this, when many of his own class had passed him?

Possibly the incident which Ned and Herc had such good cause to recollect will throw a sidelight on Mr. Kenworth's character that may serve to explain this condition.

[Pg 59]

It was one night when the wind was blowing "great guns." Ned and Herc, the former then a coxswain, were part of a crew sent to bring some young officers off to the ship from Guantanamo harbor. As it happened, the young officers were all middies and, by right of length of service, Kenworth outranked them.

He was quarrelsome and inclined to be obstreperous when he came on board. He began by abusing Ned, who had incurred Kenworth's ill-will by his sturdy independence and the steady command of his temper, even under the fledgling officer's insults and slurs.

The boat put off with a sea running that threatened momentarily to swamp her. It required the whole strength of Ned's arm to keep the craft, which was deeply loaded, headed into the seas in such a way as to insure safety.

"Let her off a point there, you," ordered Kenworth, when they had proceeded a short distance.

"It will hardly be safe, sir," rejoined Ned.

[Pg 60]

"Hang your impudence," cried young Kenworth; "do what I tell you, do you hear?"

"Very well, sir," and sorely against his will Ned did let the boat's head swing a trifle.

The instant result was what he had anticipated. The crest of a sea broke on them, drenching Kenworth to the skin. He flew into a frenzy of rage.

"You clumsy, incompetent nincompoop," he sputtered, "I'll have you up at the mast for that."

"I obeyed your orders, sir," rejoined Ned simply, knowing there was nothing to be gained by getting into an argument with an officer.

"Don't answer me, sir!" howled Kenworth. "Confound your impudence!"

"Oh, look here, Kenworth," remonstrated another midshipman. "It wasn't his fault. He told you it wouldn't do and you insisted."

"And got jolly well wet for your pains," came from one of the men at the oars in a low voice intended only for his mate's ears.

[Pg 61]

But Kenworth heard him, heard, too, the smothered laugh from the men, none of whom bore him any liking, his ways having made him the most unpopular officer on the ship.

"How dare you make such a remark to me, sir?" he demanded of Ned, choosing in his anger to make a victim of the man he disliked most.

"I said nothing, sir," rejoined Ned.

"That's right; he didn't utter a word," came from another midshipman.

"He'll sing a different tune at the mast to-morrow, insolent waterfront scum," gritted out Kenworth.

He said no more, but the next day the word was passed forward by the sergeant-at-arms for Ned to appear "at the mast," the man-o'-war tribunal where the captain deals out justice. Luckily Ned had no difficulty in clearing himself, thanks to friendly witnesses, and Kenworth was privately reprimanded by the captain for bringing a trumped-up charge against an enlisted man.

[Pg 62]

From that day on, Kenworth had nourished such a hatred of Ned as only a mean nature like his could cherish. He never, while he remained on the Manhattan, lost a chance to "work him up," as it is called. On one occasion, he went so far as to order Ned to count the sails of every ship in the harbor of Hong Kong and report their number to him.

Ned stood at the rail with a grave face for an hour enjoying the scenery, and then, stepping up to Kenworth, who was swelling with importance as officer of the deck, he saluted with a quiet smile.

"Well, did you do what I told you?" blustered Kenworth.

"Yes, sir; there are just three thousand nine hundred and ninety-five," replied Ned with great gravity.

Kenworth looked sharply at him.

"How do you know?" he asked.

"I counted them, sir," was the reply. "You[Pg 63] can check up my count if you like, sir; you'll find it correct."

As Ned saluted and turned away, he heard a burst of laughter at Kenworth's expense from some Jackies who had heard the little dialogue, and who discreetly vanished before the arrogant middie's wrath could descend on them. Soon after this Kenworth had left the Manhattan and Ned lost all track of him; not, indeed, that he felt any great interest in the matter.

And now, by a strange quip of circumstance, they had come face to face once more in the wardroom of the little gunboat. But now their positions were reversed. Ned was in command, Herc was his second in authority, with Kenworth, although he shaved daily and boasted a blue chin, still a midshipman.

"I'm very glad to meet Mr. Kenworth again," he said, when he had recovered his self-possession; "I recollect him on the Manhattan very well indeed."

[Pg 64]

Kenworth mumbled something about duty aft and hurried off. Ensign Summerville saw that there was an embarrassing situation in the air and hastened to suggest that they go on deck, where he would have the crew mustered and formally turn over the command of the Seneca to Ned.

The crew was piped to quarters and the ensign handed Ned a complete roster of the men. The shrill sounds of the bos'un's whistles filled the air, reminding Ned and Herc of the days when a response was part of their duty.

The inspection did not last long. It was actually more a ceremony of introduction. When it was over, the ensign tarried to help Ned in working out his course into the Sound.

"I would suggest that Mr. Kenworth take the ship out to deep water, as he knows the channels hereabouts thoroughly," said the ensign, as he bade good-by to the new commander of the Seneca.

[Pg 65]

"Mr. Kenworth, you will take the bridge, then," said Ned.

Kenworth saluted and hurried off to take his post. But as he did so, he grinned to himself.

"Good luck!" he exclaimed. "I think I see a chance to take the wind out of your sails before very long, you beggar on horseback, you forecastle Jack on the quarter deck! If I don't fix you and your ambitions and double spike 'em before this cruise is over, my name isn't Raymond Kenworth."

Swords were removed and sent below as soon as Ensign Summerville was over the side.

While waiting for the gig to return, Ned and Herc lingered over the charts and gave a few necessary orders.

"Well, Ned," confided Herc in a lull, "this is actually real after all."

"No doubt of that, old boy. I'm crazy to get under way and look at my orders. Who knows what they may contain and what lies before us?"

[Pg 66]

What, indeed, did the future hold for these two ambitious young officers of Uncle Sam's? They were destined to learn ere long. Over the horizon of that day of life lay new experiences to be met, new problems and dangers to be faced like officers and gentlemen and true Americans.

[Pg 67]



The anchor was hauled up immediately on the return of the gig. The crews of the submarines, already on board the diving craft, took their stations. "Captain" Ned gave the word and the Seneca began to move slowly through the water.

Having superintended the work of getting under way, Ned and Herc ascended to the bridge. They found Midshipman Kenworth there, standing by the side of the quartermaster, who had the wheel.

Behind the wheel, which was a small, light affair controlling the steam steering gear, was a small house in which the machinery that operated the rudder control was situated.

Ned caught Herc by the sleeve just as the red-headed lad was stepping impulsively forward,[Pg 68] and drew him into the doorway of the structure. There was a small port in the place looking out over the bridge. It was open, and through it they could readily see.

"What's the idea of this?" demanded Herc. "I don't like this spying business. I've no use for Kenworth, but——"

"That's all right," responded Ned. "I don't wish to spy on the young man; I merely want to find out what sort of a pilot he is."

They skirted the little cape that formed the end of the island, in the lee of which the Seneca had been anchored. Beyond this island, the boys, somewhat to their surprise, saw that there was still quite an expanse of shoal water threaded by narrow channels between the outer island and the blue of the Sound itself.

"Ticklish work through here," commented Ned in a low tone, as he observed how the darker color of the channels that threaded the numerous shallow places alternated with broad expanses of[Pg 69] yellow water that showed the presence of dangerous sand banks.

"You're dead right," responded Herc; "about as bad a place as I ever clapped eyes on."

The rattle and roar of the steering machinery as the wheel was spun right and left drowned the sound of their voices. Kenworth was looking straight ahead. From time to time they could see him turn slightly and give some order to the helmsman; but what the orders were they could not catch.

The Seneca appeared to be following the channel perfectly, however, winding among the mazes of deeper waterways like a dancer.

"Kenworth is no slouch at this work," said Ned in a low voice as they watched.

"Shucks!" grunted Herc, "I guess the Seneca has been in and out of here a hundred times. Anyhow, a blind man could see those channels."

Ned turned on his companion with a stern look.

[Pg 70]

"See here, Herc Taylor, we want peace and harmony on this craft; do you understand?"

"Even if we have to scrap to get it," muttered Herc. "All right; from now on, I'm the greatest little peace delegate ever you saw."

A minute later, while they were still watching, they saw something that gave them a momentary shock of surprise. Rankin appeared on the bridge. There was nothing extraordinary in his so doing, of course. He probably had something to report to the watch officer.

But somehow Ned, with a quick flash of intuition that he could not explain, felt that more than that lay in this sudden conjunction of their two enemies; for that Rankin disliked them, Ned had no doubt.

He laid a hand on Herc's arm to keep him quiet, for the impulsive red-headed youth was about, apparently, to break forth into some emphatic exclamation at what he had just seen.

Rankin approached Kenworth with an air of[Pg 71] familiarity that showed there existed some friendship between them. Kenworth greeted him with an easy nod, and then, after giving some directions to the man at the wheel, he placed his hand on Rankin's shoulder and drew him back toward the steering-gear house.

"Come back here while we talk," the boys heard him say, "I don't want that quartermaster to overhear us."

For a moment it appeared that they were coming into the steering house, but they merely stood close back against its metal wall. They had taken up positions right under the porthole through which Ned had been making his observations.

But they had not seen their superior officers. Ned had been too quick for that. As the two approached the steering-gear structure, he grabbed Herc and drew him down. Now they crouched quietly under the porthole, through[Pg 72] which they could catch perfectly everything that was said.

"Well, here's a fine how-de-do," they heard Rankin complain in a grumbling tone; "a couple of snips that aren't dry behind the ears been set over us. I thought you were to get the command when Summerville left."

"So did I; but it seems these two interlopers succeeded in getting it for themselves."

"Didn't you tell me that they started in the navy just as enlisted men?"

"Yes, the gutter-snipes never saw even the outside of Annapolis. I'd like to know what the service is coming to when good men are passed over for useless propositions like this!"

"So would I. By the way, I had a row with them on the train coming down. They've no use for me, I fancy. I wish I could hit upon some plan to take them down a peg or two."

"I have," was Kenworth's rejoinder, in a tone which was acid with malignant hatred.

[Pg 73]

"Have what?"

"Formed such a plan. I've got a scheme to discredit them with the department right from the jump."

"Shoal ahead, sir!"

The voice of the man at the wheel cut in raspingly like a file. Kenworth sprang up. Ned also ventured to steal a look through the port. He saw the shoal the helmsman had drawn attention to, a long daub of yellow stretching on their port bow.

He saw in a flash that there was only one way to save the ship from going aground.

"Stay here," he ordered Herc, and then bounded out of the steering-gear house, colliding with Rankin as he did so.

"What, you here, sir?" exclaimed Rankin with a sickly smile as Ned shoved past him. The Dreadnought Boy, with a sinking sense of dread, guessed somehow that already the conspiracy[Pg 74] against him was under way, and that, with the flukes of the anchor not yet dry at the cat-head!

Rankin reeled and staggered as Ned brushed by with scant regard for gentleness. He turned and gazed after the figure of the young officer as he made for the steersman. Kenworth already stood at the man's side.

"Hard a'port!" Ned heard Kenworth roar.

It was precisely the command that, under the circumstances, would bring the bow of the Seneca grating and rasping on the shoal.

"Hard over! Hard over! For your life, man!" shouted Ned.

"Aye, aye, sir!" cried the man, recognizing the superior authority of the temporary commander.

But it was too late. The next instant it happened, even as Ned's hand jerked the engine-room telegraph over to "Full speed astern." With a grating, jarring succession of bumps, the Seneca, Ned's first command, slipped upon the[Pg 75] shoal, even while her reversed engines were frantically biting the water astern.

Before the lad's eyes arose a sickening vision of failure and disgrace, even at the very outset of his important commission.

[Pg 76]



It was no time then to try to fix the blame. Turning to Kenworth, who was standing with chalky-white face by his side, Ned curtly ordered him to go below and summon the engineer and the ship's armorers to the bridge.

When they came, he gave swift, incisive orders to have the ship examined from stem to stern, and any damage she might have sustained reported to him immediately. Herc, who by this time of course was by his young leader's side, was ordered to take charge of this work.

The next half hour was the most anxious Ned had ever passed; but he knew that yet more suspense was bound to follow when it came to testing how hard and fast the Seneca was piled on the shoal.

[Pg 77]

There was a possibility that she might get off under her own steam. But of course this could not be foretold till an actual trial could be made. For the present, with engines that had ceased revolving, the Seneca lay helpless and motionless on the shoal.

Ned's naval training stood him in good stead then. Without a quiver of a lip or a flicker of an eyelid to betray the ordeal through which he was passing, he stood erect on the bridge awaiting the report of the investigators. Only the pallor under his tanned cheeks showed what he was enduring.

If naval tugs had to be sent for to extricate the Seneca from her predicament, Ned knew that his brief career as a naval commander was over before it had well begun. Then, too, with this thought mingled another.

Had Kenworth deliberately given the order that had resulted in the grounding of the ship, or had he lost his head and "piled her up"?[Pg 78] Judging from the conversation he had overheard, Kenworth was determined to stop at nothing to discredit and disgrace Herc and himself with the Navy Department.

But it was inconceivable, almost, that he should have formed his plan and executed it so quickly. Ned was more inclined to put the entire affair down to stupidity. But he knew that as commander of the Seneca, he, and not Kenworth, would assuredly be held responsible for any damage done.

It was at this moment that he was aroused by the clicking and whining of the wireless spark in its little metal house just abaft of the funnel. The stinging, whip-like crack and the crepitant sputter of the spark as it leaped back and forth across its gap like a caged animal was borne with clean-cut distinctness to his ears.

"Somebody working the wireless," decided Ned, for the arrival of a message is not attended by any sound audible outside the ear receivers.[Pg 79] "Who can it be? Trevor, the regular wireless man, is off duty. He was one of the emergency gang I sent below with all the other hands I could spare."

There followed a moment of indecision, and then a flame of anger swept Ned's face.

Whoever was sending out those thundering detonations of electricity that were splitting space like a scimitar was no novice. Moreover, he was trying to raise the Manhattan, the flagship of the Red Squadron, and using the secret code to do it.

"I'll find out what this means in two shakes," exclaimed Ned to himself. "I miss my guess if it isn't somebody trying, absolutely without orders, to flash news of this accident to the flagship and put me in bad."

He hastened from the bridge to the upper deck and through an alleyway to where a short flight of steel steps led to the wireless room, perched like a miniature pilot house astern of the funnel.

[Pg 80]

As he gained the door of the place and looked in, he stopped as abruptly as if he had been struck a blow in the face.

For an instant he stood there rigid, taking in the picture that had suddenly presented itself to his indignant gaze.

Bending over the key and sending out impatient waves of sound into the atmosphere was Kenworth. His pale face was alight with poisonous glee, as again and again he sent out the secret call for the flagship of the Reds.

Ned was into the room in a bound. In another instant he had Kenworth by the collar. The astonished and startled midshipman was as helpless as a puppy in Ned's powerful grasp.

"I—how—what's the matter?" he sputtered.

"What are you doing here, Mr. Kenworth?" demanded Ned sternly. He was in no mood to be trifled with. He fancied now that he saw the whole contemptible plot, swiftly as the storm had broken.

In another instant he had Kenworth by the collar.—Page 80

[Pg 81]

"Well, you see, sir—I—that is, when——"

"Answer me at once, please. What are you doing here?"

"I—I thought I'd practice up a bit."


Ned's eyes blazed and a dangerous flicker of white came around his nostrils. He despised a liar more than he held contempt for a coward, and if he was not much mistaken, Kenworth was both.

"You see," stuttered Kenworth, absolutely shaken and flaccid, "I'm wireless officer, with Trevor as assistant. I'm not very good yet, and I——"

"On the contrary, it strikes me that you are remarkably efficient, Mr. Kenworth," snapped Ned; "and as for practicing, you assuredly choose an extraordinary time for it when the ship, for anything you know, is in danger."

"Danger?" exclaimed Kenworth, and Ned[Pg 82] thought that he caught an evil glint in the midshipman's eyes.

"That remains to be seen," rejoined Ned coldly. "Tell me if you can, why, without orders and without informing anyone, you were in here trying to raise the Manhattan. You are silent. Then I will tell you myself. You wanted to send out word of the accident."

Kenworth shuffled from foot to foot uneasily.

"My duty——" he began.

Then Ned boiled over.

"Your duty, Mr. Kenworth, is to obey my orders. You will now oblige me by going to your cabin, unless you wish me to adopt harsher measures."

With a half-hearted salute, Kenworth turned and without a word left the wireless room. But as he descended the companionway stairs he muttered to himself:

"I guess I've got you badly worried already, Mr. Monkey-on-a-Stick, and this is only the beginning.[Pg 83] I said I'd fix you and I will, too. If only I could have raised the Manhattan and got that message through with my version of the accident, Master Ned Strong's career would have ended with a hard bump."

[Pg 84]



While Kenworth, in his cabin, was consoling himself for his smart "dressing down" from Ned with the reflection that in the event of the Seneca being badly damaged the lad he so disliked would lose his berth, Ned, on deck, had forgotten in the business of the moment the incident of the intercepted wireless.

Herc reported that no serious strain had been found, and that so far as could be seen the Seneca was resting on the edge of a sand bank. The tide, it had been ascertained, was rising, in itself a fortunate circumstance, and within a short time things would be propitious for an attempt to back the craft off under her own steam.

"I hope to goodness we succeed, old fellow," said Ned fervently, "although I can't tell you[Pg 85] what an unspeakable relief to me it has been to know that we are not damaged."

"You can rest assured of that. Every plate and rivet from fore-peak to shaft tunnel has been gone over. Not a drop of water anywhere."

"In that case, provided we can get afloat again without summoning assistance, we may get by without a reprimand or, even worse, a recall," declared Ned.

"Oh, that would be terrible!" exclaimed Herc. "But say, Ned, have you done any thinking about this accident?"

"What a question to ask! Thinking! I've been doing nothing else since we struck."

"But you know what I mean?"

"Putting two and two together?" asked Ned significantly, with a glance at the steering-wheel house that had been their place of concealment.

"That's it exactly. Have you been doing that?"

"Hum, yes, but they don't make four—yet."

"But you've come to the conclusion that the[Pg 86] accident may not have been quite so accidental as it appeared?"

"I didn't say so. What I do say, though, is this, that there is one person on board who was quite willing to take advantage of it, accident or no accident, to discredit us."

"And that was——?"

"Mr. Midshipman Kenworth. The rascal! caught him in the wireless room trying to send a message to the Manhattan."

Ned went on to relate all that had occurred at that momentous encounter, being frequently interrupted by Herc's exclamations of indignation.

"You ought to have Kenworth put in the brig, or at least keep him in his cabin for the rest of the cruise," blustered Herc.

"How can I do that? I have no proof against the fellow. Suspicion is one thing, proof quite another."

"Anyone who knows the fellow——"

[Pg 87]

"That's quite aside from the question. Kenworth has powerful influences behind him. We don't want to make any more enemies than we have to."

"Oh, pshaw! If I had your powers——"

"If I had the proof, I'd act quick enough, you may be sure. I wouldn't care if his father was Secretary of the Navy—yes, or President. All the more reason for getting rid of such a scalawag. But as it is——"

"All ready, sir!"

The chief bos'un's mate made the announcement.

"Very well, Bowles. You may pass the word."

"Now for the tug-of-war," said Ned grimly, as, warning the man at the wheel to keep his helm hard over, he sent the signal below for the engines to be started at reverse "slow."

Once more the vibration of her machinery thrilled the hull of the Seneca; but—she did not move.

[Pg 88]

Undisturbed, so far as anyone could see, Ned shoved the telegraph over till little by little the pointer stopped at "Full speed astern." He rang up on the bridge telephone.

"Give her every ounce you've got," he ordered.

The water churned whitely; the pipes of the safety valves roared with the pressure of the escaping steam from the high-pressure boilers. The Seneca shook and trembled like a live thing. Then came a sudden impulse. Ned's eyes began to dance, but he dared not speak.

The next instant he knew that he had not been mistaken. The Seneca was moving.

A cheer burst from the men, who knew that Ned had risen from the foredeck, and liked and admired him on that account. Nobody attempted to check it. Below, in his cabin, Kenworth heard the cheer and felt the slight movement.

"Confound him! So he has managed to get her afloat, after all," he muttered. "I didn't pile[Pg 89] her up quick enough. Well, I'll get another chance, and this time I won't fall down."

Little by little the bulk of the gunboat began to slide backward off the shoal.

From the leadsmen posted on the bow, bridge and stern, came every moment cries announcing deeper and deeper water. Herc silently wrung Ned's hand. Ned said nothing, but his face showed what he felt.

At last there came a sudden backward lurch and the gunboat was freed from her sandy prison and floated in deep water once more.

"We'll have no pilot this time," declared Ned, as he himself took the guidance of the ship, scanning the waters ahead with keen eyes and directing the helmsman on his course. They reached open water without accident. And then Ned was at leisure to forward his report of the accident to the Manhattan.

To his relief no comment was made upon it, which he attributed to the fact that there had[Pg 90] been no serious results. But through the air came an order that caused Ned to thrill with delight. He was commanded to peruse his sealed orders and follow them out without delay.

The Manhattan was then some miles north of Block Island, well out to sea with the Red Squadron. Of the Blues, nothing had been heard.

It was for Ned's ship, as the "Eyes of the Red Fleet" to spy out and report the whereabouts of the "enemy."

[Pg 91]



Ned, after the receipt of the message authorizing him to open his orders, lost no time in hastening below.

Herc, as his junior officer, went with him. Kenworth was ordered out of his cabin and told off to assume charge of the after-watch, an assignment on which Ned was sure the evilly disposed midshipman could not do any harm.

In the meantime, the ship was steaming slowly down the Sound in charge of one of the junior warrant officers.

"Now for the big secret," exclaimed Ned, as he opened his desk and took out the slender package. "We'll step into the wardroom to look it over, Herc."

"Look out, somebody may have put a bomb[Pg 92] in it while we were gone," warned Herc, leaning over Ned's shoulder, a look of intense interest on his freckled countenance.

"Hardly any danger of that, I think," laughed Ned.

He ripped open the envelope, glanced hastily at the first sheet of the numerous typewritten pages it contained, and gave vent to a low whistle.

"Well, what do you think of that?" gasped Herc. "I thought we were to——"

"Obey orders," said Ned quietly; "although I must admit this is a bit of a surprise. I suppose a change in plans came late so that we were not forewarned."

"Well, let's hear what it is all about," prompted Herc impatiently.

"Simple enough, apparently. The army folks are protecting the mouth of the harbor. There are important fortifications there, because in time of war the protecting fleet, or part of it, might gather there.

[Pg 93]

"The army folks have planted mines there. While watching for the Blue fleet to arrive, we are to test those mines."

"Phew!" gasped Herc. "There's only one way to test how much kick there is to a mine."

"And what's that?" asked Ned.

"To blow it up and—yourself with it," declared Herc sententiously. "Well, for a nice little holiday job, we have sure picked a dandy."

"Hold on a minute, will you?" interrupted Ned. "Let me finish this. The mines are wired up by a new system. What we have to find out is if we can sneak into the harbor mouth in our submarines and disconnect the firing wires of the mines without blowing ourselves up. If we can do this, the system is a failure."

"Humph! and so are we."

"So are we what?"

"Failures! If one of these mines blew up, what else would we be——"

Ned exploded in a loud laugh.

[Pg 94]

"Why, you chump," he exclaimed, "they are not loaded mines!"

"Then how can they tell if they've been exploded or not when we go submarining around them?"

"It's up to us to see if we can dodge the wires or contrive some way to disconnect them."

"That disconnecting idea doesn't appear very feasible."

"No, it does not," agreed Ned; "but I think I can find a way to evade them, for all that."

"Hum! So long as they're not loaded, I don't care even if we run bumpety-bang into one," declared Herc; "but a loaded mine—no, thank you!"

"Our orders after that are general. We are to use our own discretion entirely, acting as the eyes and ears of the Red fleet, and forwarding to the flagship, via wireless, every scrap of information we think might be valuable to the attacking party."

"That's one thing I don't like about this command," muttered Herc.

[Pg 95]

"What is that?"

"Why, we're supposed to be enemies to the flag."

"But only supposed to be, Herc, for the purposes of perfecting the strength of Uncle Sam's defenses, and playing a useful part in exposing any weakness in our nation's fortifications."

"Huh; well, that's all the kind of enemy I ever want to be—a supposed one."

"I'm going into my cabin to lay out our course," said Ned, after a few more words. "I want you on deck, Herc, to see how things are going on. It won't take me long and—— What on earth is the matter? Got a stroke?"

There was a large glass skylight over the wardroom and, owing to the warmth of the weather, the flaps of this had been raised. With the expression of one who has been suddenly hypnotized, Herc was staring with open eyes and mouth straight up at the wardroom roof.

"What do you see?" demanded Ned, springing[Pg 96] to his feet. "Shall I get you a glass of water? Shall I——"

"Umph! You might get me a gun," snorted Herc.

"A gun! What on earth do you want with a gun?"

"I want it to shoot a skunk!"

"A skunk! Do you think you're back on the farm?"

"No, but just the same I'd like to go gunning with grandpap's old scatter gun."

"I wish we had a doctor on board, Herc. Any fellow who can go around seeing skunks——"

"Ought to shoot 'em on sight," muttered Herc belligerently. "Well, Ned, this was a skunk I saw, all right, all right! And what do you think his name was?"

Without waiting for a reply, Herc rushed on, "Kenworth! He'd been listening to every word we were saying!"

[Pg 97]



For the time being there was no opportunity to investigate the case of the eavesdropper. It was important that they should get under way at once. Herc hastened on deck after a few hurried words with Ned.

Just at that moment two bells—one o'clock—sounded in the slow, deep, mellow tones of the ship's bell. Simultaneously there appeared, through a doorway at one end of the wardroom, the figure of a dapper Japanese, dressed in white garments.

"Hullo! Who are you?" demanded Ned, looking up from a reverie into which he had fallen, following Herc's departure.

"Me Saki. Officer steward. Me getee lunch for honorable capitan," rejoined the Jap with a low bow.

[Pg 98]

"Mr. Summerville made no mention to me of you," said Ned, looking the Jap over.

"No doubt, sir, no doubt," was the reply; "me only joinee ship in New York."

Ned said no more, but, telling the steward to summon him when the meal was ready, he resumed his meditations. Truly the young skipper of the Seneca was in need of time to think and ponder.

This command of his, of which he had been so proud, evidently was not going to prove any sinecure. Then, somehow, the face of the Jap floated before his mind. He had seen it somewhere before, he was certain. Perhaps it was on some other naval craft, for Japanese stewards are much affected in the United States Navy.

It was a striking face, too: thick, bushy hair brushed up above a massive forehead, far squarer and more prominent than Jap's foreheads usually are, forming a sort of bristly aureole for a yellow face with dark, forbidding eyebrows and a heavy[Pg 99] jaw. Saki was not a common type of Jap. He was heavier, less obsequious and smiling, more sure of himself.

But such thoughts quickly flitted from Ned's mind as the problem of Kenworth put itself forward. Mated with this reflection came the image of Rankin. Both were men who disliked and, in one case at least, hated Ned and Herc.

True, Rankin had no cause but a purely unreasonable one—as it were—for his antipathy to the young captain of the Seneca and his first officer, but it was none the less plain, even without taking the overheard conversation on the bridge into account, that the man had made up his mind to do all the harm he could.

How soon he would strike, of course, Ned had no idea; nor what form his malice would take. That Ned had concluded that Kenworth had purposely run upon the shoal, we already know, but with how much justice he had arrived at such a deduction, he could not determine.

[Pg 100]

The course was soon worked out and Ned proceeded to the chart house. He summoned Herc and gave him his sailing directions, and then proceeded to make an inspection of the ship. On his return from this duty, he suddenly recollected that he had left the door of his stateroom unlocked.

He descended the stairs swiftly and almost noiselessly. As he reached the foot of them, he saw a form suddenly emerge from his cabin and glide silently as a cat across the wardroom in the direction of the stern door, where he knew the steward's cabin and pantry, as well as the store-room, were located.

"Who's that?" he called in a sharp, authoritative voice.

"That you, Mr. Capitan, sir?" came in Saki's voice. "Me just go by your cabin, tell you lunch is ready, sir."

"Very well. Come here, Saki."

[Pg 101]

"Yes, sir," rejoined Saki, hurrying back and bowing low.

"You must never enter my cabin, do you understand? That's private ground except when I am in it. And Saki."

"Honorable naval mister." Saki again bowed low, spreading his hands.

"Have I ever seen you before?"

"I have never had the felicity of looking upon the honorable capitan's face."

"Very well. You may call Ensign Taylor." For Ned and Herc, as befitted their respective ranks on board the Seneca, ate their meals in solitary state.

Midshipman Kenworth and the other warrant officers followed them. Such was the strict etiquette of the navy, even on so small a craft as the Seneca.

"Funny," thought Ned, "it's odd, but I can't get it out of my head that I have seen him before somewhere. Jove! I have it! It was at Nagasaki,[Pg 102] on the world cruise. He was found examining guns and firing systems on board the Manhattan. As he could give no satisfactory account of himself, he was ejected. I'm sure it's the same man. I wonder——"

But the entrance of Herc put a stop to further speculation. Saki waited on them during the meal with silent dexterity. Once or twice Ned sought a chance to study his face without being observed, but every time he found that the Jap's eyes were fixed on him, although quickly averted when the Oriental saw that he was being noticed.

After lunch he took an opportunity to make some inquiries concerning the Jap, and learned that he had come on board at New York, as he had said. Midshipman Kenworth was believed to have secured him, the Jap having been highly recommended as a servant by a relative of the former.

"Kenworth, again," muttered Ned to himself. "It's odd, very odd, how he is always bobbing[Pg 103] up. Jove," he broke off suddenly, "I never thought to overhaul that desk of mine. The way that Jap came out of there like a rabbit out of a hole was suspicious, to say the least. I'll go below and have a look."

But a narrow inspection of the cabin showed that nothing had been disturbed. Carefully Ned locked up his orders in his desk, and when he went out, secured the door.

"All right this time, but it's a risk I don't want to chance again," he said to himself as he ascended to the bridge. "Somehow I don't trust that Jap, any more than I do those other fellows."

[Pg 104]



By mid-afternoon the Seneca was well down the Sound. Several times she was in communication with the Red flagship, but no further orders came to Trevor, who was at the key.

Nor had the flagship heard anything of the whereabouts of the Blues. It was generally believed that they had rallied off the Virginia Capes and were playing a game of hide-and-seek with their opponents.

Ned knew the spot to which he had been directed for the mine test very well. Already he had planned just how he would proceed. From the mainland at this point there runs out a long finger of land, on one end of which is perched Fort Schuyler.

It was his intention to leave the Seneca anchored[Pg 105] in a bay far up the Sound and then proceed on one of the submarines, under cover of night, himself commanding the diving boat. But when they had almost reached the snug bay that Ned had decided upon as a good anchoring place for a craft on such an errand, Trevor hastened out of his wireless box with a message in the secret code.

Ned took it below and speedily read it off. He made a wry face of chagrin as he did so. It appeared that other work than going down with the submarine had been laid out for him. He was to get ashore somehow, land on the neck in the early morning, and make certain observations of the work of the diving boat.

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Ned to himself; "too bad! I don't see the object of it all, but I suppose they know best. Well, Herc will have to take command of the submarine, of course, and I will have to do what's laid out for me."

His mind at once began to busy itself with[Pg 106] plans for the morrow's work when Trevor suddenly interrupted again. There had been a mistake in transmitting the details of the last message, it appeared.

The submarine was not to make the tests the next day at all. Through other sources the flagship had learned that the mines had not yet been laid. Ned was to contrive to be on the watch during the process and note carefully where each was planted from a quartermaster's department tug. This was very important, as the mines were to be laid just as they would be for actual defenses. When Ned had secured all this information, the submarine test would come. If they succeeded in dodging the torpedoes, it would be several points for the Red side.

When they reached the bay that Ned had in mind, the Seneca was guided inside, and then, while her crew speculated as to what the next move could possibly be, she lay swinging at her anchor, idly waiting for darkness to fall. For[Pg 107] Ned had decided not to let his crew know of the plans. Herc, of course, was familiar with them, but none of the others, except Trevor, the wireless operator.

It was not long before dusk when Midshipman Kenworth presented himself before Ned. He saluted respectfully and appeared much more obsequious than he had been since the arrival of the boys on board.

"Beg your pardon, sir," he asked, "but would there be any objection to my going ashore to-night? Some of my people live at Oakhurst, about nine miles inland, and I'd like to take this opportunity of seeing them."

Ned thought a moment. Then he decided that if Kenworth was spying about the Seneca with the object of injuring her young skipper, the further off he was during the next day the better.

"Very well, Kenworth," said he, "you may go, but be sure to report on board to-morrow night at four bells."

[Pg 108]

"Yes, sir," said the midshipman, saluting. He turned away and not long after reappeared on deck with his suit case. The shore boat was ordered away and was soon skimming off over the water.

"Confound the fellow," said Ned to Herc as they watched the craft making its way over the bay, "I didn't want to let him go; but after all, I'd rather have his room than his company any day."

"I'd have kept him aboard and worked him up to the king's taste," said Herc with positiveness. "I've no more use for him than I have for a snake in the grass, or for what I compared him to before."

"After all, though, there is no possible way he could injure us," declared Ned. "Such fellows as he is generally end by hurting themselves more than the folks they have it in for."

"That may all be as true as a preacher's words,[Pg 109] Ned," declared Herc, "but we owe it to ourselves to look out for him."

"Oh, that part of it is all right. But come on now, I'm going to get ready for the trip that I'm going to take to-night myself."

"I wish I were going with you," said Herc.

"Just think, you'll be able to lord it over the ship as a skipper all the time I'm gone," laughed Ned.

"I'm afraid a skipper with a red head won't get as much respect as you do, Ned, but I'll do my best."

After dark that night, Ned, clothed in an old suit of civilian clothes, and carrying in a small handbag some necessary instruments and a sketch block for recording his impressions, clambered down into the gig and was rowed ashore by two members of the crew who had been sworn to secrecy.

Once ashore, where there was a community of summer cottages and hotels, he engaged a gasoline[Pg 110] launch to take him to a small island known as Civic Island, not far from the Neck, to which it was joined, in fact, by a bridge.

Going ashore at Civic Island, Ned turned in at a hotel and early in the morning rose, secured some provisions which he placed in his small handbag, and then set out on foot for the scene of his observations.

The Neck was a lonely place and very little frequented. On one end of it was the fort, between which and some wooded heights in which it terminated, stretched the sandy, brush-covered peninsula of the Neck, scrawny and thin as that of a giraffe.

Ned was provided with field glasses, of course, and having reached a point from which he could command a clear view of the fort, he surveyed it for some time to get his bearings. Meanwhile, of course, he concealed his body behind some bushes.

He could see the tug perfectly plainly. There[Pg 111] was a big crane at its bow and it was hoisting on board large metallic shapes of globular form that he knew were mines.

At the top of the mast floated the flag of the quartermaster's department, so that Ned knew that he had the right craft spotted.

"Well, they are in no hurry, anyhow," he said to himself, as he watched the leisurely way in which the craft was being loaded. "I reckon I'll sit down and take a rest. I didn't sleep much at that hotel last night, and I'd be glad of a seat in the shade. I can keep my eyes open just as well under this bush here as standing out there in the sun."

But alas for good intentions! As he cast himself down in the shade, Ned appeared to slip gently out of the present and into the land of Nod. How long he slept he had no idea. But it could not have been very long, for when he opened his eyes again the tug, loaded with the[Pg 112] big, black bulks of the submarine mines, was just leaving the fort.

"Gracious! Lucky I woke up in time! A fine thing it would have been if I had blissfully slept right on!" exclaimed Ned to himself in mortified tones.

He jumped to his feet. The next instant he threw himself just as hastily down again.

He was not alone on the Neck. Not far off was a figure intently watching the tug as it slowly steamed out from the dock.

[Pg 113]



Reconnoitering cautiously from his point of vantage behind the bush, Ned could not suppress a start of surprise.

There was something familiar about the figure of the fellow he was watching. Could it be——? Ned rubbed his eyes and looked again. Then his lips came together in a firm, thin line. His eyes hardened and his hands clenched.

"The infernal rascal!" he muttered.

He had not been mistaken when he thought he recognized the figure that was watching the tug as, with its crane stretched out like a long pointing finger, it steamed out into the center of the bay.

It was Midshipman Kenworth—Kenworth, whom he supposed was visiting his relatives far[Pg 114] inshore. Yet here he was in civilian clothes on this lonesome, sandy spit of land, apparently as much interested in the movements of the army tug as Ned himself.

What could be the solution of the mystery? Why had Kenworth come there?

A sinister thought flashed into Ned's mind. The next instant suspicion became conviction. He saw Kenworth draw out a pair of binoculars and focus them on the moving tug. Then the midshipman cast himself down into a sandy hollow, over the breast of which he pointed his binoculars at the tug.

"So-o-o-o! That's your little game, is it!" breathed Ned disgustedly. "You're even blacker than I thought you, Kenworth. I guess I'll take a hand in this thing myself. Bagging a traitor to Uncle Sam, and one who is entitled to wear the uniform of an officer and a gentleman at that, ought to be even more important than a chart of the mine positions."

[Pg 115]

Between the two, like a series of billows, stretched wave-like sand dunes. They were covered with a scant growth of wind-tortured beach plum and stiff, spiky sea grass.

But yet the growth, scant as it was, afforded a certain amount of cover. Ned's mind was soon made up as to the course he would pursue. At all hazards, it was important to catch Kenworth red-handed.

"And yet, what can his motive be?" wondered Ned to himself. "I can't conceive his purpose. He cannot be making his plans and observations for the benefit of the Blue fleet. If he dared offer them there, he would be booted over the flagship's side in two shakes. No, there is something under all this that I haven't fathomed. But I will."

Ned's firm chin closed on his jaw with a snap. With stern purpose in his eyes, the young follower of the flag began to creep forward over the billowing sand dunes.

[Pg 116]

His progress was slow, for although in the hollows he had no fear of being seen, yet when he breasted a rise he had to be careful. It was when he had attained the summit of one of these sandy acclivities that Ned noticed that the tug had come to a standstill.

The crane arm swung inboard and one of the mines, looking like a huge black shoe button, was slowly hoisted from the pile on the deck. Then through the still air came the rattling sound of chains and the shrieking whir of the steam winch as the mine was lowered.

From this, Ned turned his attention once more to Kenworth. The midshipman was squatting down in his hollow now, and with a note book on his knees, was recording some sort of observations.

Risking detection, Ned centered his binoculars on that note book. What he saw through the powerful lenses caused him to flush angrily. Kenworth was making, not without considerable[Pg 117] draughtsman's skill, a sketch map of the whole situation.

"Oh! you miserable wretch!" exclaimed Ned, gritting his teeth. "I'd give a whole lot to get my hands on you for about five minutes, and that's just what I'm going to do, too."

All unconscious of the concealed watcher, Kenworth sketched on. He actually appeared to take a pride in his work, from time to time holding it at arm's length as if to get a better perspective upon it. Then from his pocket he took a small camera, and made some pictures of the two forts and the stretch of water between.

"Great heavens! He's risking the loss of his commission," exclaimed Ned to himself as he saw. "There must be some uncommon motive behind all this to make him take such chances. What can it be?"

The tug was moving now, crawling like some ungainly black bug across the shimmering water.

Once more the anchor rumbled down, and[Pg 118] again the crane poised, swooped, and deposited another of the globular black objects, piled on the fore-deck, in the water.

Ned, watching Kenworth intently, saw him place a surveyor's instrument to his eye, no doubt to make a rough calculation of the exact spot of the planting. Following a few seconds' observation through this, he jotted down some more notes in his book.

"He's taking pains to be quite accurate," thought Ned. "He goes about his work as if it were some honorable duty he was engaged upon. I wonder how he knew about the mine planting, though? Can it be possible that he heard the message coming over the wireless, or in some manner gained access to a copy of it?"

Loyalty to his flag and country was the Dreadnought Boy's ruling passion. The sight of Kenworth, engaged upon what Ned was certain could only be treacherous work, sent a flame that seethed like a white-hot blast through his frame.

[Pg 119]

Again he moved forward, but faster now. Kenworth, all unconscious that another was creeping up on him, resumed his seat in the hollow and went on with the touching up of his rough drawings.

Ned was close upon him now. Through the grass he glided along like a snake.

But the rustle of some of the stiff grass behind him, or the fall of a miniature cascade of sand into his hollow, must have suddenly apprised Kenworth that somebody was in the vicinity.

He sprang to his feet and looked about him. At the same instant something leaped through the air with the speed of a thunderbolt.

With a roar of rage, Ned had sprung the instant that he saw that discovery was inevitable.

A sharp exclamation broke from Kenworth.

"You fool, I was prepared for you!"

Simultaneously something flashed bright in his hand, glinting in the sunlight.

The next instant Ned felt a hot flash of fire[Pg 120] in his face and the stinging of a shower of needles. He staggered back, his hands to his eyes, as Kenworth, with a cry of triumph, sprang toward the Dreadnought Boy's reeling figure.

"That's the time I got you, Mister Strong!" he exclaimed.

[Pg 121]



But his triumph was just a little bit premature. The bullet from the revolver which Kenworth had so handy had only grazed Ned's cheek. It was the powder grains that had stung him like red-hot points.

The next instant he had recovered from his temporary smoke blindness. As Kenworth jumped for him, Ned sprang at the other. As he did so, his arms shot out and Kenworth's pistol went flying through the air.

Then Ned's strong hands seized the other's wrists with the force of steel handcuffs.

"Confound you!" roared Kenworth. "I didn't get you, did I?"

"Not just yet," panted Ned, "nor for some time to come. You're my prisoner, and if you[Pg 122] don't want to accompany me quietly I'll find means to make you."

Kenworth's reply was an odd one. He uttered a peculiar whistle.

"Now what's that for?" wondered Ned. The question had hardly taken shape in his mind before it was answered, and in a surprising manner.

A loop was thrown over him, he fell forward, and his arms were pinioned by an irresistible force to his side, while a knee pressed into the small of his back.

"Honorable capitan lie quiet? No?" came a voice in his ear.

"It's Saki! Let me go instantly," demanded Ned.

A soft, gurgling laugh was the rejoinder.

"Yes, me Saki all right, honorable capitan; but no can let you go. You lie down lilly while."

With a trick that Ned recognized as one employed by the jiu-jitsu expert he had vanquished in the Far East, the yellow-skinned rascal, as he[Pg 123] spoke, threw Ned sprawling on his back on the sand. Before he could make any defense another loop was slipped over his legs.

"Help!" shouted the boy. "Help! Help!"

There was a chance that his voice might carry to the distant tug.

"Ah! That velly bad to make noise, honorable sir," came Saki's soft voice, and into the struggling lad's mouth was thrust a not over-clean rag.

Effectually silenced now, Ned lay there with blazing eyes. He was beaten, as he realized with a bitter feeling at his heart. Saki and Kenworth were in league, as he had half guessed before.

Kenworth's harsh laugh made him turn his eyes in that worthy's direction.

"Well, how do you like it, eh?" he chuckled. "And you thought you could overreach me and give me orders, did you? Just take that!"

The young ruffian swung a fist crashingly into his helpless victim's face. Again and again he[Pg 124] struck, while Saki stood by, grinning. But suddenly the Jap interfered.

"That plenty for now. We finish our work. Then maybe soon we go way lilly while. Come back night time. Takee honorable capitan nice hotel."

The yellow man broke into a laugh as he spoke, and Kenworth, flushed and vicious from his display of vindictive fury, ceased belaboring Ned. He turned again to his sketch book and spy glasses. Saki took the opportunity to retrieve the pistol, which he handed back to Kenworth.

"Maybe good thing you not better shot," he chuckled, with sinister meaning.

The wind blew his coat aside as he stooped over, and Ned saw that, pinned within it, the Jap had a peculiar decoration. Ned knew what it was. He had seen similar ones in the Far East on the world cruise.

It was the badge denoting that the wearer belonged to Samurai, or warrior caste of Japan. It[Pg 125] also was conferred as a decoration on certain leaders after the Russo-Japanese war.

This Saki, then, was not the ship's steward, as he had been masquerading. Instead, he was a soldier and a veteran, and evidently, too, of high rank.

The whole thing came over Ned in a flash. What a fool he had been not to see through the plot before. The Jap, whose creature Kenworth plainly was, had seized the opportunity of the great naval maneuvers to smuggle himself into the midst of things and secure information about Uncle Sam's fighting ships and war methods that he could have gained in no other way.

The careful maps that Kenworth was drawing were destined to be sent across the Pacific, for what purpose Ned could guess. He turned eyes that blazed slow fires of contempt upon Kenworth.

The latter laughed harshly.

"Thinking you'd like to nail me, aren't you?"[Pg 126] he sneered. "But you'd have to get up a little earlier in the morning to do that. We knew every one of your plans long ago. Saki got them in your cabin——"

The Japanese held up a warning hand.

"No talk any more. Hurry up your map," he urged.

"Pshaw! what harm does it do to tell him a few wholesome truths?" snarled Kenworth. "He's had a swelled head too long altogether. This is the time that he learns he's not as smart as he thinks, by a whole lot."

But he regarded the Jap's hint and addressed no more remarks to Ned. The Dreadnought Boy lay on the hot sands with an ardent sun burning down upon him. But he was careful to give no sign of suffering, although his thirst was beginning to be excessive.

As if he knew this, and delighted in torturing the helpless lad, Saki, from time to time, drew[Pg 127] out an elaborately chased bottle and drank from it with much satisfaction.

"Ah! nice, cool. Veree nice," he would say, smacking his lips and proffering it to Kenworth. "Lemonade, veree good 'Merican drink."

But Ned, without the quiver of an eyelid, lay gazing up into the blazing firmament, although his throat felt as if it were cracking from a drought of centuries.

[Pg 128]



The sun grew hotter and hotter. From the whirring of winches and the clanking rattle of chains that was borne shoreward from time to time, Ned knew that the work of mine-laying was still going on. The work he had been sent to report!

What would be thought of him by his superiors? He felt that it was doubtful if they would believe his story, even supposing he ever got back to his ship and was able to tell it.

He wondered what his captors meant to do with him. Reasoning it out, he had not much fear that they would attempt any desperate course, but they were certain to place him where he could not give the alarm and cause their pursuit before they had had an opportunity to get clear away.

[Pg 129]

Mingled with these reflections came others. Ned speculated vainly as to how long this treachery had been going on. Probably for some time; Kenworth's note book appeared well filled. Doubtless he had become disgusted with what he deemed the unfair treatment accorded him in the navy, and had fallen an easy prey to the foreign agents who are constantly trying to discover for their countries the secrets of Uncle Sam's coast defenses and naval arrangements.

But it is rarely indeed that there is found in either branch of the service men who have fallen low enough to coöperate with these fellows. From time to time, though, such dastards are found and promptly weeded out. There was no doubt but that Kenworth belonged to the latter class.

"I wonder if Rankin does, also," thought Ned. "He was a friend of Kenworth's. It's natural he should be mixed up in his nefarious schemes and plots."

[Pg 130]

It must have been well after noon when Kenworth reported that the tug had finished her work and was going back.

"Then we go 'way," decided Saki. "Me plenty hungry. Bimeby when get dark we come back and keep you company, Honorable Strong."

"Yes, don't be afraid we'll forget you," sneered Kenworth, putting up his note book; "you've suddenly become important in my eyes."

Bestowing a parting kick on Ned's helpless form, the miserable traitor followed Saki off across the sand hills. Ned turned his eyes and watched them as they went.

So they were going to leave him there on the parching sand till nightfall, and then——

"Ned, old boy, you're sure in a bad fix," said the captive lad to himself. "There's not a chance on earth of getting away from here, and even if I could, I have failed in my mission."

The thought that he had not accomplished the duty laid out for him pained the Dreadnought[Pg 131] Boy far more than the contemplation of his predicament. With Ned, and with Herc, too, devotion to their ideals of duty was almost a religion. It is so with most of Uncle Sam's Jackies. But, as we know, a few black sheep are bound to crop up in every fold. Ned thought grimly that he had certainly encountered his share.

The sun beat down hotter and hotter upon the boy. Its rays burned his eyes. His lips were swollen, his every bone aching. The tortures of his thirst had almost reached the point of delirium.

Suddenly he felt an acute pain upon his hand. It stung like the thrust of a red-hot knife.

"Ouch!" exclaimed Ned, and rolled over a little.

The pain ceased, and the next instant he discovered what had caused it. His binoculars had been laid upon a rock, one of a few that cropped out here and there in the arid sand.

Clearly the Jap and Kenworth had forgotten[Pg 132] to take the glasses with them, for following his binding Ned had been stripped of everything he possessed. They lay with the small ends toward him. The sun streaming through the large lenses became concentrated into two tiny, burning dots of white light at the small end of the glasses.

The binoculars had, in fact, become converted into a burning glass, and the sharp sting on Ned's hand had been caused by one of the discs of concentrated heat. Ned was still engaged on this explanation of his pained hand when there was borne to his nostrils the sharp, acrid odor of burning cloth.

He realized in a flash what had happened. When he rolled over, the disc of burning essence of light had left his hand, but centered itself on some portion of his garments. The cloth was on fire and was smoldering.

He was powerless to feel with his hands where the cloth had ignited and could feel as yet no[Pg 133] pain. But the odor of the burning fabric was unmistakable.

It is a curious fact, but it was not until some seconds later that Ned realized, with a thrill of horror, what that odor of burning cloth really meant.

If he could not extinguish that slowly consuming fire, it might presently burst into flame. Powerless to save himself, he would be burned alive!

For an instant he felt sick and faint. Then he rallied his faculties and began to roll over and over in the sand. After some moments of this, the odor of burning ceased.

"Thank heaven for that," thought the boy with a shudder, as he sensed his terribly narrow escape.

Suddenly his heart gave an exultant throb. A glad thought had been born in his mind. From whence the inspiration came, he did not know. It was enough that it had come.

[Pg 134]

If the rays of the binoculars that had been so providentially placed would ignite cloth, they would surely set fire to rope!

Ned rolled over once more till he could settle the tiny burning spot upon his wrist bonds. It was tedious work, and by the time he had the white hot circlet focused on the ropes, his hands were covered with tiny red burns that stung like hornets.

But in the excitement of the moment he scarcely paid any attention to these. With shining eyes he watched the rope begin to smoke. It glowed red. The air was filled with a pungent odor.

Ned gave a quick wrench. Like burned flax the charred and smoldering wrist gyves gave way. With his hands free, Ned sat up. He felt sick and dizzy, but his heart bounded with overflowing gratitude. He cast the burning ropes far from him.

A jagged clam shell lay not far off. He made[Pg 135] his way to it, half rolling and half staggering. Then, with the sharp shell edges he swiftly cut his leg bonds.

He found himself shaking all over. There was an odd swimming feeling in his head. The sand about him flashed red as blood and the sun reeled through it like a blazing ball of copper.

He spat the gag out of his mouth as the fit of weakness passed from him.

"Now," he said half aloud, as he rose on his aching ankles, "now to try conclusions with two of the vilest traitors it has ever been my ill fortune to encounter."

He stood thus a moment looking about him. Then, with painful footsteps, for his circulation was not yet fully restored, he set off along the Neck to where the squat, grim pile of dull red buildings marked the location of the fort.

[Pg 136]




The command came like the crack of a pistol. Facing Ned stood a sentry in the uniform of the Coast Artillery. In his hands he gripped a carbine with a sinister-looking, blue-steel bayonet attached to its barrel.

"Here's where you turn back, friend, and pronto, too," grinned the sentry. He was a young fellow, with light blue eyes, stupid in expression, and a nose of the type generally described as "pug."

"I've got to get to the fort, I tell you," protested Ned.

His voice came from his parched throat like the cracked, whistling accents of a very old man. His clothes were torn in places from the beach plums, through which he had come with furious[Pg 137] haste, his eyes were red-rimmed and wild, and his hat was gone.

The sentry regarded him contemptuously. But his was a lonely post, a quarter of a mile out on the sandy Neck, and he decided to waste a little time with this peculiar stranger.

"Say, friend, you don't want the fort. It's your cage you want. Why don't you go right back to the Bronx, climb in, and shut the gate?"

"Look here," protested Ned, "I'm Lieutenant Strong of the Navy, at least I hold that temporary commission. I've been attacked by rascals while on duty and I'm suffering frightfully from thirst."

"I guess you are suffering from thirst," grinned the sentry. "Be a good boy and get back to the bug-house now, or I'll have to help you."

He glanced significantly at his bayonet.

"Great Scott! Do you think I'm crazy!" cried poor Ned.

[Pg 138]

"Think it?" the sentry raised his thin, pale eyebrows, "I know it, old pal. Run along and roll your hoop now, and don't give me no more trouble. If I was to let you into the fort, I'd be put in the guard-house for a month for letting a crank through."

"But I'm Lieutenant Strong, I tell you——"

The sentry interrupted by tapping his forehead.

"Sure you are. That's all right. You can be the President if you like; it's none of my funeral."

There was a sort of soothing intonation in his voice, as if he were trying to quiet a fractious child. The stupidity of the fellow almost drove Ned wild.

He plunged a hand into his pocket. He would show the fellow by documents that he was not an impostor.

"I'll show you papers that will prove who I am," he exclaimed.

Then, with a sudden chill of horror, he recollected[Pg 139] that all his papers—none of them, luckily, very important ones—had been taken from him by Saki and Kenworth. The sentry was watching him, as he frantically searched, with an amused expression.

"Say, what kind of a game are you trying to work, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines?" he asked.

"It's not a game, I tell you," cried Ned furiously. "Those rascals who tied me took my papers. They have run off with them——"

"I guess it's you that have run off from your keepers," said the sentry, nodding his head sententiously.

It was hopeless. Even Ned, sore pressed as he was, saw that. The man was convinced that he was a crank or a crazy man of some sort and would have no dealings with him. Ned spied a canteen hung round the man's shoulder.

"At least, you'll give me a drink," he almost begged, so keen was his need.

[Pg 140]

"It ain't the sort of drink you want. Nothing but water," said the artilleryman.

"Good heavens, man, that's what I want!" rasped Ned through his parched lips. "Give me just a little. Then I'll go."

"Well, if that's all, drink hearty," said the man, in more friendly tones.

He cast a look behind him to make sure he was not observed, and then, unslinging his canteen, he passed it to Ned. The water was warm and tasted leathery, but to Ned it was unspeakably delicious. He threw back his head and let it stream over his parched palate and down his cracked throat.

"Cracky! I can hear it sizzle!" exclaimed the sentry. "Go on, take it all if you need it as badly as that. I ain't that thirsty, and besides I'll be relieved in a short time."

Ned needed no second invitation. He drained the canteen to the last drop.

"I'm ever so much obliged to you," he said[Pg 141] turning away; "maybe some day I'll be able to reward you with more than thanks."

"That's all right," replied the sentry heartily. "I hope you'll get over that bug of yours about being a lootenant. Why, friend, you might be an orficer in Coxey's army, but I guess that's the only branch of the service you ever had any dealings with."

Ned said nothing in reply, but with a wave of his hand walked off. He had plenty of opportunity, as he plodded along the Neck, for philosophical reflections on the part that clothes play in this world. Had he worn his uniform, he could have marched past the sentry without question. But, as it was, the man more than suspected him of being an escaped lunatic.

Ned's intention in going to the fort had been to establish instant communication with the authorities and warn them to look out for Kenworth and Saki. Of course, the fort was technically the enemy's country, but the lad rightly[Pg 142] deemed that the capture of two such renegades as the Jap and the midshipman took precedence of every other consideration.

Now, as he made his way back over the shifting sands, his mind was busy revolving plans for the arrest of the two who had served him in such rascally fashion.

Musing thus, he was pressing steadily on, when, on topping a rise, he came in sight of a small, sandy cove. Drawn well up into it was a sharp-bowed motor boat. A long engine hood forward showed that she carried powerful engines. On shore, beside her, lay a figure dozing in the shade. The tide rippled pleasantly and the sand alongside the beached craft afforded a cool resting place.

"The very thing!" exclaimed Ned. "Goodness knows how long it would take me to walk to Civic Island. Some time, anyhow, even if I felt in the humor to do it. I'm pretty sure those[Pg 143] rascals must have made for there, and if I hurry up I might catch them yet."

"Hello, there!" he hailed, running down the bank to where the man lay. "Can you start your motor on the jump? I'm in a big hurry and——"

At the sound of a voice the dozing man rolled over.

Right then Ned experienced the surprise of his life. The man was Saki!

The shock of this discovery had hardly had time to sink in, and the two were still staring at each other, when from the boat came another voice.

"If you're in a big hurry, come right aboard and save us the trouble of fetching you."

Ned looked up from Saki and faced Kenworth. The renegade midshipman was regarding him with a sardonic grin. Ned saw that he held a revolver. The weapon was pointed straight at the Dreadnought Boy's heart.

[Pg 144]



Kenworth had a look of triumph on his face. While Ned, dumbfounded at the turn events had taken, faced him, Saki sprang to his feet and also jerked out a pistol.

"I advise you not to run, my honorable capitan, or to make resistance," said the Jap, smiling amiably. "It would not by any means suit our purposes to have you get away just now. We must, therefore, claim you as our guest."

Ned feigned an indifference he was far indeed from feeling.

"It seems that rascals do have all the luck on their side sometimes, doesn't it?" he said.

The Jap did not reply. Instead, he turned to Kenworth, who was still standing on board the motor boat and keeping Ned relentlessly covered with his pistol.

[Pg 145]

"Put over that gangplank," he said. "We are to have the honor of an unexpected visit from clever Mr. Strong. I cannot imagine how he managed to free himself, but it is greatly to our advantage that, after having done so, he took the path that he did. Now, my honorable sir, if you will give yourself the great trouble to walk up that plank I shall be your most obedient servant. Remember I am close behind you, and if you should feel tempted to jump or run, pray recollect that I am excessively nervous, and in my excitement I might press this trigger."

"You mean you would do so," returned Ned. "I know you and your breed."

"Complimentary, is he not?" grinned the Jap, addressing Kenworth.

"It doesn't matter what he is," was the grumbling rejoinder, "we've got him tight this time, and by hookey, I mean to keep him safe and sound."

[Pg 146]

"Oh, yes, there must be no more promenades, honorable Ned," chuckled the Jap.

Ned could have throttled the grinning rascal then and there. But he reflected that to make any break to escape would probably result in serious consequences for himself. It was a lonely part of the Neck and concealed from the view of the little-traveled path that led through the brush.

Besides, he thought that possibly another chance to get away might present itself. If he proved troublesome, the two rascals would take double pains to secure him, whereas if they thought he was thoroughly subdued they might not be so particular.

With this thought in mind, he threw back his head proudly and walked across the rickety gangway with a firm step.

"At least, I won't let them see that they can scare a sailor of Uncle Sam's," he thought, looking[Pg 147] defiantly into the grimacing face of Kenworth.

As soon as he was on board, the gangplank was drawn in. Then Saki addressed the involuntary guest.

"Hold out your hands, please, honorable sir."

"What for?" demanded Ned, although he guessed what was coming. They were going to bind him again.

But this time Ned guessed wrong. That is, on the present occasion the two worthies had clearly decided to use no ordinary methods of insuring the safety of their prisoner.

"I wish to present you with some jewelry," said Saki, with a grin that made Ned wild to give the oily, grimacing ruffian a good drubbing.

The next instant he produced a pair of handcuffs. Ned, situated as he was, had no choice but to submit to being manacled.

"It's what I might have expected of you," he[Pg 148] said, as Saki snapped the locks shut. "May I ask what you mean to do with me?"

"We will take a little cruise out into open water till it gets dark, and then we shall return to—to—well, we shall return you to a safe place on shore for the night."

As the Jap spoke, Kenworth started the engine and then drew in the anchor. The clutch was slipped into forward speed and the motor boat moved out of the little cove, splitting the water at a good rate.

"You said you were going to take a cruise?" inquired Ned.

"Such is our intention," rejoined Kenworth, who had the wheel, with a scowl.

"I should advise you not to," was the quiet rejoinder.

"Why not?"

For answer Ned pointed to great castellated clouds piled up in majestic masses on the horizon.[Pg 149] They towered whitely against the blue sky and appeared to be traveling at some speed.

"Well, what about those clouds?" asked Kenworth, with his customary sneer.

"Thunder heads. We are in for a bad storm, or I miss my guess," said Ned, in the same quiet tones.

"Hark at the scare-cat!" chuckled Kenworth. "Say, Ned Strong, for a braggart upstart you show the white feather mighty soon."

"If only you were concerned," retorted Ned, "I shouldn't care what became of this craft or those in it. But I'd hate to be drowned, when some day I confidently expect to be the means of bringing you two traitors to justice."

It was perhaps an unwise speech, but Ned was mad clear through. Kenworth looked at him keenly.

"So that's your little plan, eh?" he asked. "Well, I guess we know ways to checkmate that, Saki."

[Pg 150]

"Undoubtedly," responded the Jap, gravely nodding his head.

"That's all I have to say," said Ned; "go ahead and work out your own salvation. I've warned you."

"I always knew you were a coward at bottom, Strong," scoffed Kenworth, "and now I'm going to give you a cruise that will take the starch out of you for the rest of your life."

He touched the control, which was on the steering wheel like that of an automobile. The craft leaped forward like a flying fish. The spray flew high on either bow. Kenworth, a wicked gleam in his eyes, headed straight up the Sound.

[Pg 151]



As Ned had foreseen, a storm was brewing. It was one of those sudden summer storms that come up almost without warning and rage furiously over the Sound. The big thunder heads rolled up rapidly till the entire sky was overcast.

Saki was sitting on the stern seat. Ned, with a gleam of satisfaction, saw that the Jap looked frightened. Indeed the weather promised to be bad enough to alarm even an experienced sailor, which Saki surely was not.

Under the dark clouds the sky was shot with an angry, lurid, copper color. The sea had turned leaden and began to heave suddenly. Still Kenworth, driven by his hatred of Ned, kept on.

It appeared that he hardly cared what became[Pg 152] of himself or his companion, so that he could have his revenge upon Ned. As a matter of fact, Kenworth by no means liked the looks of the weather himself. But it would have been unsafe to remain ashore with Ned, as neither the midshipman nor Saki knew with whom he had been conversing during his brief liberty. For all they could tell, although it did not appear probable, an ambush might have been laid for them. Therefore, they had decided to cruise about till it grew dark.

Ned, for his part, determined to say nothing more. He sat on a midship seat, the handcuffs on his wrists, watching the coming storm.

The wind began to moan in an eerie sort of way. It sounded like the actual voice of the coming tempest. The sea began to whip up into white caps. Suddenly the black storm curtain was ripped and rent from top to bottom by a jagged streak of livid lightning.

Saki turned a sort of pasty green. His knees[Pg 153] almost knocked together. The motor boat was a narrow-waisted, wasp-like craft, and did not appear to be suited for heavy weather.

"Maybe so we better go back," suggested the Jap in a shaky voice. He glanced apprehensively at the mighty canopy of the storm overhead.

Kenworth turned on him almost savagely.

"We'll go back when I get good and ready," he said. "I want to see how much this white-livered braggart can stand. Yes, I mean you, Strong."

There was a sweeping blast of wind. It was followed by a blinding flash and then a roar like the rumble of a million celestial chariot wheels. The Jap hid his face while the lightning seared and streaked the sky as if an egg had been spattered to smithereens on a blackboard. The very air smelled sulphurous.

"I—I guess we'll go back," said Kenworth.

Just then a wave struck the side of the bow and reared its white crest high above the tossing[Pg 154] craft. Saki sprang to his feet as the salt water came dousing down in a regular cloudburst. It drenched Kenworth to the skin and tore from the Jap a frightened shout.

"Hope you like it," grinned Ned, the only collected person on the boat. The dark frenzy of Kenworth's mad passion had passed and now he saw with panic-stricken eyes the danger they were in. The wind was howling furiously and the waves were piling up on every side. It seemed impossible that the lightly built craft could live much longer in the tumult of waters.

Saki was in a panic of fear. Crouched on the bottom of the boat, his yellow face looked, in the glare of the almost incessant lightning, like some hideous war-mask of the old Samurai.

Ned gazed about him. The outlook was bad, very bad. And then there were those handcuffs. If only he could get them off. He addressed the terrified Saki.

"You drop that wheel, and we'll all go to Davy Jones!" shouted Ned.—Page 155

[Pg 155]

"Here, you, take these handcuffs off. At once, do you hear me?"

He felt no fear of the groveling wretch at his feet. He even emphasized his remarks by a threatening gesture of his foot.

"Oh! Oh! Honorable Saki much frightened!" wailed the Jap.

"You contemptible yellow cur," snapped Ned, "brace up! Do you hear me? Come now, quick, the key."

The Jap actually managed to struggle to his feet and produce the key. Kenworth saw what he was doing.

"Stop that!" he yelled, and began to let go of the wheel. A shout from Ned brought him to his senses.

"You drop that wheel, and we'll all go to Davy Jones!" shouted Ned.

Kenworth gripped the spokes again. If ever fear was written on a face, it was on his. The thought of the death that was so near paralyzed[Pg 156] him. Perhaps he thought of that other storm off the Cuban coast when Ned had brought them safely aboard through a wilder sea than this.

The Jap's teeth chattered as he unfastened the handcuffs and Ned jerked his hands free.

"Now hand over that gun. Quick, now," snapped out Ned.

The Jap was so terrified that he would have done anything he was told. With hands that shook, he handed over the pistol. Ned took possession of it with grim satisfaction.

The chance that he had hoped against hope might come had arrived. He was on even terms with his foes. But would that fact do him any good? The storm was raging so furiously that Ned, with all his optimism, could not hope that the motor craft would live through it.

The only thing to be done, as he saw it, was to run for the lee of a point of land some distance off. If they could reach this in safety, they might have a chance. If not, and the storm[Pg 157] continued to increase in violence, there was hardly one chance in a thousand for them.

The angry lightning hissed and crackled and the thunder boomed with ear-splitting clamor as Ned made his way forward to Kenworth's side. When he arrived there, he seized the other by the shoulder and shouted in his ear.

"Steer for that point yonder! It's the only chance we've got."

Kenworth, in his fear forgetting everything but the instinct of self-preservation, obediently headed the storm-stressed craft around.

It was at that moment that another sea broke upon the little vessel.

There was a sputter and a series of coughs from the engine, and simultaneously the motor, upon which all depended, went dead.

[Pg 158]



"This is the finish!"

Ned gasped out the words as he heard the last expiring cough of the motor. It was hopelessly short-circuited. The battery box was drenched, the spark-plugs dripping.

Kenworth turned a white face on him.

"You mean——"

"That your wicked schemes have ended in this, Kenworth—a miserable death for us all. This tinder box cannot live more than five minutes longer, if that. You had best prepare to meet your Maker."

Kenworth, moaning like the arrant coward he was, threw himself groveling on the floor of the boat.

"Oh—oh—oh! Can nothing save us?" he[Pg 159] moaned. "Listen, Strong, I have been wicked, I know. But I was poor, and gambling took away whatever money I could scrape together. I was threatened with exposure to my relatives if I did not pay my debts.

"That would have meant ruin, for, influential as they were, they had become disgusted with the poor showing I had made in the navy. It was at this crisis that I met Saki. He tempted me to betray naval secrets with promises of money. He helped me pay my debts and gave me money lavishly. In return, I furnished him with every scrap of information I could pick up. He has secret code books, fire-control plans, night signals, and details of our ammunition resources."

Ned looked at the wretch that groveled at his feet as if he could have struck him.

"How long has this been going on?" he demanded.

[Pg 160]

"For a long time. Saki had me in his power. I was helpless."

"Don't be a weakling in addition to your other faults," said Ned imperiously. "Have you that book of drawings you have been making?"


"Give it to me."

"B-b-b-but it is meant for——"

"Give it to me. If I should be saved, I will see that the proper authorities get it. If not, there will no harm come of it. Come, hand it over."

Quivering from head to foot, white-faced and limp-fingered, Kenworth fumbled in his pockets. He drew out a book and handed it over to Ned. The Dreadnought Boy took it and thrust it into his pocket.

Hardly had he done so before a giant wave swept down on the motor boat. Caught in the trough of the seas, the craft wallowed helplessly.

Then, half full of water, she sidled down the[Pg 161] other side. Ned saw that the end was at hand. With a white, set face he ripped out some life preservers from under the seats.

"Here, put these on," he commanded Kenworth and the Jap.

As he spoke, he flung one to each. They seized them, their teeth chattering and their throats uttering sounds that were hardly human. Ned took one himself and buckled it on.

"At least the stolen secrets of the United States Navy are in safe hands now," he muttered; "if I go to the bottom, there is no better keeper of confidences than old Davy Jones. If I should save my life, no power on earth will separate me from them till I have placed them in the hands of the naval authorities."

The half-filled boat kept afloat with wonderful seaworthiness, considering her narrow build. Wave after wave, that it appeared must engulf her half water-logged hull, she rode right gallantly.

[Pg 162]

Ned actually began to entertain a ray of hope that, after all, she might weather the tempest. But it was still blowing with malignant fury, and there did not appear to be any sign of abatement in the huge seas and constant display of angry lightning.

"D-d-d-do you think she can live?" stammered Kenworth.

Ned shook his head. He turned a glance of contempt upon the conscience-stricken coward.

"Do you mean to tell me that you care for life after what you have confessed to me?" he demanded. "Why, Kenworth, if I had done one half of what you admit, I should not wish ever to meet one of my fellow men again.

"Why, man, you had a glorious chance in the finest sea service in the world! What did you do with it? Chucked it away and became a pawn, a creature of your country's enemies."

Kenworth whimpered like a whipped cur.

"I—I needed the money," he stuttered; "I was[Pg 163] helpless in the hands of the Jap. I tried to do better, but somehow I couldn't break away. I—I always liked you, Strong. I did indeed. Can you save us?"

"Yes, you liked me so much that on every occasion you could you took advantage of the fact that you were an officer to insult and abuse me! Kenworth, now that you are frightened at the face of death, you are willing to cringe and cow to me.

"If we were all to be saved, and our positions could ever be the same again, you would be just the same. It is the nature of such men as you. But we never shall be the same again, Kenworth. Your career is ended. Driven from the navy, branded as a traitor, you will find no peace."

"B-b-b-but life is sweet, Strong. Can't you save us? Saki will give you money. Plenty of money."

"Yes, yes, honorable sir," cried the Jap eagerly. "My emperor will reward you. I, too, am rich.[Pg 164] I will give you much money. Only save us. There is nothing——"

A scream of terror from Kenworth's white lips split the air. It sounded above the rumble of the thunder chariots.

"Look! Look!" he shrieked, high above the noises of the storm.

Towering over them, looming up through the flying wrack like the tremendous figure of fate itself, was a gigantic black form. It was right upon them.

"It's a schooner!" shouted Ned. "She's——"

There was a horrible crunching sound and the motor boat was no more. Severed clean in two, she sank, the storm-racked sea carrying with her those who a moment before had been of her company.

[Pg 165]



Meantime, on board the Seneca, Herc had been feeling intense anxiety over the non-return of Midshipman Kenworth. To add to his uneasiness, also, Saki, who had been sent ashore to order some fresh provisions, had not returned.

The crew of the gig had waited for the Jap that evening (the evening of Ned's departure) for more than two hours. The village was some little distance back from the shore and they allowed him ample time to go and return, considering the fact that a trolley line connected with the place.

When he did not return within that time, the coxswain ordered a return to the ship to receive further orders from Herc, acting commandant. Herc, in some perplexity as to the best course to[Pg 166] pursue, finally decided to order a picket party to find out what had become of the Oriental.

A thorough search of the village was made and at length, in a garage, they struck the trail of the yellow man. It appeared that he had rented a car there and departed for parts unknown.

Herc decided to wait for the return of the driver. He felt in a vague yet positive way that there was more underlying the disappearance of the Japanese than could be accounted for on the supposition that he had gone off on an undisciplined joy ride.

The chauffeur returned at last. He had taken Saki to a town where the Jap had boarded a train of the main line of the Long Island Railroad. That was all he knew. He had been well paid, he volunteered, and also added that the Jap had paid him from a roll that "would trip a greyhound."

[Pg 167]

"Now what would the steward of a gunboat be doing with all that money?" mused Herc.

He pondered for a time the advisability of trying to follow the trail of the Jap; but reflection convinced him that this would be useless.

Besides, the fact that he was responsible for the Seneca would have precluded the idea. He could not make it an excuse for deserting his post that he had been in pursuit of a mere steward; and they had not any actual proof against Saki to show that he was anything more than a deserter.

His description was, however, sent out broadcast, as a renegade from the navy. This done, Herc, feeling downcast and uneasy, returned to the ship. He felt depressed. Influences of evil were at work, he felt sure of it. But the very indefiniteness of his suspicions made them the harder to bear.

"At least, I can find out if Saki was lying about being short of fresh vegetables," he said.

[Pg 168]

The assistant steward, a negro named after the ship where he had last served, Tennessee, was summoned. Herc made an inspection with him and found his worst suspicions verified. Far from being short of fresh provisions, the ship's refrigerators were amply stocked. There was no shortage anywhere that would justify the decamping steward's excuse to get ashore.

"Huh! if I'd only had horse sense enough to do this a while ago," mused Herc gloomily, "that fellow would have stood no more chance to get off this ship than a man would have to sell refrigerators at the North Pole. I'm a fine dunderhead, I am."

No wireless messages came that night, and the morning brought no news of Ned. Nor did Kenworth reappear at the appointed time.

Herc began to be seriously worried. What could have happened? The survey of the mine planting operations could not have taken more than a day. Ned should certainly have been[Pg 169] heard from. The silence and mystery that were closing in about Herc began to get on his nerves.

Still he attended dutifully to the routine of the ship, and Trevor, the operator, was under orders to report to him the instant anything came over the wireless. So the day wore away and with nightfall the wireless began to spit and splutter.

What Herc had dreaded had happened. The flagship was asking for Ned. Herc was in a terrible quandary. He could not tell a lie and pretend that Ned was on board or had been heard from. Yet if he did not shield his comrade in some way, Ned was almost certain, unless he had an excellent excuse for his absence, to get into serious trouble. Even a courtmartial might result.

At length the wireless became imperative.

"If Lieutenant Strong not on board, get in instant communication with him. Important.—Dunham."

[Pg 170]

"Try and get the flagship again," Herc ordered.

Trevor bent over his key. For a long time he kept sending his crackling waves out into space. But no answer came.

"Can't you get 'em?" demanded Herc impatiently.

The operator shook his head dismally.

"No use trying. The air is full of messages. They're buzzing like flies round a honey-pot. I'll try again later on, sir."

Herc began to see that the command of the Seneca was not going to prove any bed of roses. Already he was plunged into the middle of a puzzle to which there appeared to be no key.

Not only had Kenworth and the Jap vanished, but Ned Strong was not to be found. Yet there were the orders: "Get in instant communication with him."

Herc gave a dismal groan. The more he[Pg 171] thought matters over, the more complicated did they become.

"By the bald-headed American steer," he grunted, in the seclusion of his cabin, "this beats anything I ever tackled. However, orders are orders and must be obeyed to the letter. I've got to get into communication with Ned. Just as if I wouldn't have done that long ago if I'd had the chance!"

Turning the command of the ship over to one of the warrant officers, Herc changed into plain clothes and then summoned the crew of his gig. He was rowed ashore and sought out the man from whom Ned had rented the gasoline craft which took him to Civic Island.

The man could shed no light on the matter, beyond saying that he had taken Ned to his destination. A sudden determination came over Herc.

Ned had, then, arrived at Civic Island. He must go there at once and take up the trail.

[Pg 172]

"It's a blind one," he muttered, "but I'll follow it to the end if it costs me my commission."

Some time later the same gasoline craft that had conveyed Ned, landed Herc at Civic Island. It had fought its way alongshore through the same storm that had brought disaster to Ned. Despite the idea he had formed of the difficulties of the task in front of him, Herc did not imagine, even in his more despondent moments, what a trail of trouble it was that he had set out upon.

[Pg 173]



Ned opened his eyes. His first thought was that he was in his bunk on the Seneca. But an instant's glance about at his surroundings soon dispelled that idea.

He lay on a rough shelf, rather than bunk, on a pile of dirty blankets. Another frowsy covering was thrown over him. Above him were beams and cross planks by which he would have known, even had it not been for the motion, that he was on board a vessel of some sort.

The place in which he found himself was clearly a small cabin. In the center of the forward bulkhead stood a rusty stove with a high rail to keep the pots and pans simmering on it from sliding off under the motion of the ship.

Some sea clothes swung from a line stretched[Pg 174] across the ceiling. In a corner, against a locker, stood some hip boots, above which oil-skin coats were hung. The place was dirty, stuffy and smoky to the last degree. The last mentioned attribute was not improved by the sooty radiance from a dim lantern swinging from one of the carlines.

"Where on earth—what——?" muttered Ned, raising himself on one arm as he made his survey.

And then, like the inrush of the tide, memory came back.

The storm, the wild ride of the motor boat! The confession of Kenworth, the yielding of the note book, and then the last terrible scene when the immense black mountain that towered above them for a flash had engulfed and broken them!

Ned felt weak and dizzy. But his mind rapidly cleared. He had a vague recollection of having been struck a blow when the motor boat was cut in half. Beyond that he knew nothing more.[Pg 175] Yet he must have been rescued. Determined to unravel the mystery and also to ascertain if possible what had become of Kenworth and Saki, he made an effort to rise.

But he was so weak that it was some moments after he had made the first attempt that he succeeded. His coat hung near him on a hook. His shirt and trousers he had on. His first action, when he reached for his coat, was to dive into its pockets in search of the book he had forced from Kenworth.

He gave an exclamation of satisfaction as he felt its outlines and drew it forth. It was damp, but not wet within its covers, for the outside of the volume that contained so many of Uncle Sam's secrets was clasped tightly by a strong rubber band. This had kept the water from smudging any of the drawings or writing.

But Ned just then did not give much thought to the book, precious to him though it was. His main object was to discover just where he was[Pg 176] and how he came there. There was a steep little stairway, or ladder, opposite the stove.

Ned climbed it and found himself on the stern deck of a small schooner. She was spanking along, eating her way up against a head breeze while great clouds of sparkling spray tossed over her thundering, pounding bow.

Standing beside the wheel was a short, thick-set man with iron-gray whiskers shot with reddish hair. He was roughly dressed and a pipe,—short and thick like himself,—was in his mouth.

By his side sat a one-eyed black and white dog, with one ear cropped and the other hanging down dejectedly. Forward, Ned saw two men attending to the jib sheets as the schooner came about and went away on another tack.

The man at the wheel being too busy in attending to this maneuver to notice Ned, the Dreadnought Boy, with the thunder of the shivering sails in his ears, looked about him.[Pg 177] He instantly recognized their whereabouts. The schooner was crossing New York Bay.

Looking back he could see the battlemented spires and domes of the skyscrapers on the lower end of Manhattan Island, and further up the East River the spidery outlines of Brooklyn Bridge. Ferryboats moved rapidly to and from Staten Island, and close at hand a big tramp was coming along, making for her dock in the Erie Basin.

As the rattle and bang of the sails ceased as they took the wind and the schooner filed off on the other tack, the thick-set man at the wheel gave his attention to Ned. So did the dog. It came sniffing around his ankles growling ominously.

The bearded man removed his pipe.

"Here you, Tops'l, go off on another tack, d'ye hear? Starboard, hard over!"

The sea-going canine appeared to understand,[Pg 178] for it relinquished its scrutiny of Ned and came over to its master.

"Inter drydock with you, you flea-chawed stepson of a coyote," grunted the man, and then he was free to turn his attention to Ned.

"Hello!" he grunted gruffly. "How yer feelin'?"

"Pretty good, thanks," responded Ned. "I guess it's you I have to thank for saving me from the Sound last night, for I see by the sun that its near noon of another day."

"'Tis that. We lost a lot of time down ther East River. It's gittin' so that tugs clutters up the river worser nor taxicabs does the streets. But we come down under sail. No fifteen dollars down fer me, thank you."

He looked oddly at Ned from under his bushy eyebrows.

"Can you anyways recall jes' what happened las' night?" he asked presently.

Ned shook his head.

[Pg 179]

"I've not the least idea," he said. "All I know is that something cut our motor boat in two and then everything got dark. By the bump I've got on my head, I imagine something hit me. But there were two other men in the boat with me. Do you know anything about them?"

The bushy brows contracted. The man looked away, removed his pipe, spat reflectively and then faced Ned again.

"I don't know nuthin' about nobody but you," he said, in the same odd way, and then he returned to his previous question.

"You don't recklect nuthin' more'n what you told me?"

"That is absolutely all," rejoined Ned, puzzled by the man's insistence on this one question.

"Well, then it weren't me as run you down. I don't want no claim for damages on the Twin Sisters."

"You won't have any, so far as I'm concerned,"[Pg 180] said Ned, a light beginning to dawn upon him; "but tell me how you came to pick me up?"

"I'll tell you the way of it, no deception and no lies," said the bushy-browed man. "Cap'n Lemuel Briggs ain't the man to lie. Look at me. Do I look like a man who would inwent of malice aforethought a faberrycation?"

"You don't," replied Ned, inwardly thinking that Captain Briggs did not to any vast extent measure up to his description of himself.

"Very well, then, matey, you shall have the truth on it," said Captain Briggs, with a fine open air. "There ain't a man from here plumb to the Pearly Gates that could ever accuse me of ex-er-ager-ation.

"Arter we—that is, arter we seen that other schooner run yer down, I puts my wheel hard over. Then I sends a man up in the bow to look out fer anyone that he could save, me being one of the most humane skippers that ever used a handspike on a frisky deckhand. He climbs[Pg 181] down into the bobstay riggin' and the first thing he catches sight of is you, right under the bow. He grabs you and we gets you on deck and puts you to bed, and now here you are up again, bright and spry, and ready to pay liberal for yer rescue, I hopes."

Ned looked embarrassed. Although he was pretty sure that Captain Briggs' schooner, despite the captain's asseverations to the contrary, was the one that had run down the motor boat, he still felt grateful to the man for being the means of saving his life. But his pocketbook had been stolen by Kenworth and Saki, no doubt in the hope that it might contain papers of value.

He was penniless. His embarrassment must have showed pretty plainly on his face, for Captain Briggs gave a wave of his hand.

"That's all right, matey," he said magnanimously. "I kin see that you come of good folks and kin pay well. If you ain't got much with[Pg 182] you now, you can write me a check or we'll wait till you can take me to your folks."

"But I haven't any folks here, nor have I a check-book or any large sums of money anywhere," said Ned, perplexed about getting out of this unforeseen difficulty. "Where are you bound for?" he added.

The captain looked cunning. He laid his finger to one side of his pimply, bottle-shaped nose.

"That's a bit of a secret, my lad. But I don't mind telling you this. It's on the Jersey shore above Perth Amboy."

"Very well, then," said Ned relieved, "you put me ashore in Perth Amboy and I'll send you whatever money I can raise to any address you give."

The captain stared at him as if in deep thought. For a moment he said nothing. Then he found words.

"Ain't you a nice one ter try yer deceivin' ways on poor ole Cap'n Briggs?" said he in an injured[Pg 183] tone. "Fellers like you ain't ridin' roun' in motor boats with no money to do it on. You'll stay right here with me till you send for a messenger or telegraft or find some way to have the money paid right over to me."

"How much do you want?" asked Ned.

"Three hundred dollars, my lad, and little enough that is to a young millionaire like you."

"But I couldn't get that much, anyhow," gasped Ned.

"Then I'm werry sorry to be obleeged to state that you'll stay here with me until yer do," responded Cap'n Briggs.

He cast a cunning glance at Ned from under his bushy brows out of his bleary, blood-shot eyes. Then he dived into his pocket and produced a large flask.

"I won't treat you no ways mean. Have a drink, matey?" he asked.

"I wouldn't touch the stuff," said Ned, who[Pg 184] began to see a partial reason for the captain's obstinacy.

The captain shrugged his shoulders and took a long pull. Then, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he replaced the bottle and gave an order to "Haul sheets and go about once more."

"Looks like I'm destined to get into tight places that I can never explain to anyone's satisfaction," mournfully muttered Ned to himself, as the little schooner yawed and pitched and finally clawed her way round on the other tack.

[Pg 185]



Herc decided to begin his investigation into Ned's mysterious disappearance by making a canvass of the hotels on Civic Island. There were not so very many of them, and by chance the third or fourth that he struck was the one in which Ned had put up.

But he could not glean much information there. They informed him of the hour that Ned had left the place, and further questioning elicited the fact that, as we know, Ned had engaged a hack to convey him part way to his destination.

Armed with this information, Herc, feeling not at all eased in his mind, started out to find the hackman. He had a long search for the man, but at last he discovered him in the person of a bulbous-nosed, bibulous-looking old specimen of the genus hack-driver.

[Pg 186]

Yes, the man recollected Ned. Knew the very place he had dropped him. Would he drive Herc out there? Certainly. Ned jumped into the rickety old conveyance owned by the bulbous-nosed man, who rejoiced in the name of Chuck Chiggins.

Chuck's bony old nag, in due time, landed the cab at the place where Ned had left it. Herc could see the Neck stretching out tenuously across the shining water. Telling Chuck to wait, he walked about for an hour or more trying rather vaguely to locate at least some clew to Ned's whereabouts. Needless almost is it to say, that he did not succeed in his purpose. In fact it was more for the sake of doing something to work off his anxiety that Herc made the idle search at all.

"The Neck appears ter be gittin' a pop'lar place lately," volunteered Chuck, when Herc returned.

"How's that?" asked Herc disinterestedly, as[Pg 187] he resumed his place and told Chuck to drive back to the island.

"Why, it's jes' this way. Right arter your friend drove down this way, I meets a Jap pluggin' along the road. He asks me to drive him to some point near to the Neck."

"What's that?" Herc had suddenly galvanized into interest. A Jap! And in the vicinity of the place where Ned was carrying on his confidential observations! There was food for thought here.

The old cabby, with a look of astonishment at Herc's sudden and vehement interest, repeated his story.

"He were a mighty onery looking Jap, too," he volunteered; "but, Lord bless yer, if I was ter inquire into the character of everyone that rode in this here cab, it's not much business that I'd be doin'."

As they jogged along over the sandy road, Herc had plenty of material for reflection. Of course, it might be only a far-fetched conclusion,[Pg 188] but it appeared reasonable to suppose that the Jap whom Chuck had driven was none other than Saki.

If this was the case, Herc was almost certain that the Oriental and Kenworth had an appointment on the Neck. It was not likely, either, that they were there for any legitimate purpose, inasmuch as one had deserted from his ship and the other had overstayed his leave for the purpose.

"I'm certain that their presence there meant harm to good old Ned," muttered Herc gloomily. "My! what a tangle this thing is getting into."

The old hack jolted over the bridge and began traversing the streets of Civic Island. Ordinarily Herc would have found much to look at. The Island is one of the most remarkable places in the vicinity of New York. In summer the inlet between the island and the main land is crowded with houseboats and pleasure craft of all kinds.

Its one main street, bordered by gimcrack[Pg 189] restaurants and rickety boarding-houses, interspersed with a few stores, is thronged with white-garbed yachtsmen and girls in brightly colored blazers and duck skirts. There is music everywhere, from wheezy orchestrions to wandering string orchestras. It is a veritable summer city by the sea. With the first blast of cold weather the pageant vanishes, and Civic Island is deserted of its butterfly population almost overnight.

But there is another aspect to life on this remarkable island. On the side opposite to that devoted to catering to the summer guests, is a strange colony of beach-combers, fishermen and more or less languishing boat-works. In this part of the island, too, are laid up the gaunt skeletons of various yachts which have competed for the America Cup.

Useless for any purpose but that for which they were built, racing machines pure and simple, the hulls of the once splendid sailing cracks lie[Pg 190] moldering on ancient ways, dreaming of the days when they skimmed the seas with pyramids of snowy canvas rising above their deep-keeled bodies. In this part of the island can be found gaunt, rat-haunted factory buildings once devoted to sail-lofts and rope-walks. But with the passing of this branch of maritime trade from Civic Island the rickety structures with gaping windows and cracking boards stand tenantless and moss-grown like so many stranded hulks, the tide washing at the piles on which some of them extend out over the water.

They were passing along the lower end of the "summer resort" street of the island when Herc gave a sudden exclamation. Before Chuck could utter a word, Herc was out of the rig and bounding off down the thoroughfare.

The old cabby had not even time to shout out indignantly that Herc had forgotten the formality of paying his fare, before the tall, red-headed[Pg 191] youth had vanished round a corner, his long legs going like piston rods.

The cause of Herc's sudden change from the cab to the street was this:

Rounding the corner, past which he himself dashed a moment later, he had caught a glimpse of two backs that appeared strikingly familiar to him.

Like a flash, the reason for this familiar appearance had come over him.

The two pedestrians who excited his attention were Kenworth, the renegade midshipman, and Saki, the mysterious Jap.

[Pg 192]



When Herc hit the sidewalk he utterly forgot all else in his anxiety to follow and trace out the destination of the two he had so providentially, he felt, sighted from the cab.

He had a feeling that if he could run them down without their observing him, he would be able to discover the whereabouts of Ned, for the more he pondered it, the more the Dreadnought Boy felt certain that the two worthies he was trailing knew what had become of his chum.

He was perfectly correct in his prompt recognition of the two men. A second glance as he cautiously negotiated the corner showed him that.

The pair, who no doubt felt perfectly secure,[Pg 193] were walking along at a moderate gait. From time to time they cast sharp glances at some shabby-looking little shops as if in search of something.

It will, of course, be recalled that the last time we saw Saki and his accomplice they were on the point of being precipitated into the stormy sea, following the death-blow the schooner had dealt the frail motor boat.

How they escaped a grave in the tumbling water rows we shall also learn before long. But just now let us follow Herc as, slipping in and out of doorways and taking advantage of every bit of cover, like a trained detective, he follows them.

As they did not look back, Herc's task was rendered considerably more easy of accomplishment than would otherwise have been the case. He kept, however, some yards to the rear in order to guard against the danger of being recognized.

The fact that he was in "mufti" or citizen's[Pg 194] clothes was in his favor. Young Taylor, in his not very stylish gray suit, was an inconspicuous person compared with the somewhat swaggering air he bore when he was in Uncle Sam's uniform.

They were leaving behind them the street that was crowded with summer-garbed promenaders. The stores were small and of no attraction. Dingy, uncleaned windows and slatternly-looking merchants began to make their appearance.

At the foot of the down-at-heel side street, Herc could catch a glimpse of water and could sight the barn-like outlines of some of the deserted factories already referred to.

"Where in the world can they be bound?" he found himself wondering.

Could he have known the events of the last twelve hours, he would also have wondered at their being there at all. It is not given to everyone to come as close to the grim scythe of death and to escape scot-free as Saki and Kenworth had done.

[Pg 195]

As it happened, Herc was not destined to have to wait long before his curiosity was, at least in part, gratified. The two men came to an abrupt halt in front of a store that was even more dingy in appearance than its neighbors. Grass was sprouting through the cracks in the rickety wooden sidewalk in front of it, and, so far as Herc could see, from the distance he was obliged to keep, the establishment bore no outward and visible sign of the goods for sale within. Yet its big, dirty window showed that it was a store of some sort.

Herc dodged into a doorway as the two men came to a standstill in front of this place. By peeping cautiously out he was able to ascertain that they had apparently reached their destination. At any rate, he saw Saki step up to the door and open it.

Then the portal swallowed them both, and Herc was left alone on the solitary by-street.

"Umph, what's the next move?" he muttered[Pg 196] to himself. "Looks like it's up to me to do something, but I'll be keel-hauled if I can think right now just what that 'something' is."

He paused irresolute. Then suddenly he came to action. He had decided to cross the street and reconnoiter from there, where he could obtain a view of the place the two men he was tracking had entered.

The maneuver did not take long, and was accomplished so far as the lad could see, without his being detected, or indeed the slightest notice being taken of him. So far, so good. Herc gazed across the street at the forlorn-looking place the two men had entered.

It was painted a dirty red, the pigment blistered and peeling off in big patches as if the structure was suffering from some sort of unclean leprosy. A jagged crack ran across the show window, which was too thickly grimed with dirt to permit the goods offered within to be displayed to passers-by, if, indeed, any stock in trade was[Pg 197] on view. Above the lower floor, the second story was equally inscrutable. The windows were veiled like closed eyes, with dark green shades of a faded hue. Above, came the roof, a steep-pitched, shingled affair, which surmounted the house like a battered hat on a shabby man.

"Now what," mused Herc, "now what business can take a midshipman of Uncle Sam's navy into such a place in company with a yellow-skinned deserter of a wardroom steward?"

Although it had not at first attracted his attention, he now became aware that there was a name over the door. It was in letters that had once been gilt but were now almost as black and faded as the board that bore them.

"H. Nagasaki. Dealer in Cigars and Tobacco, Candy and Notions," was what Herc read.

"Sounds innocent enough," he said. "I know that fellow Kenworth is an inveterate cigarette smoker,—which accounts for his narrow chest[Pg 198] and pasty face,—and maybe they went in there to get some."

For an instant or two Herc stood at pause, undetermined what course to pursue, but eying the doorway through which the two men had passed. While he stood thus, hesitant, the figure of another customer appeared in front of the Japanese store and passed within.

This gave Herc, situated as he was, a chance to observe the interior of the place. He saw that within was a counter and at the further end of the store a flight of stairs.

Up this flight of stairs, Herc glimpsed in the brief time the door was open the figures of Kenworth and Saki. They were in the act of ascending the stairway.

"Now what——?" mused Herc, and then he stopped short.

A bold thought had sprung unbidden into his mind. That the tumble-down, blighted store on the opposite side of the street held the secret of[Pg 199] Ned's whereabouts, Herc felt suddenly convinced.

Acting almost without conscious volition, he crossed the street, and the next instant boldly flung open the door of "H. Nagasaki's" place and passed within.

[Pg 200]



The change from the bright sunlight without to the dim and dusty interior of the store was, at first, almost blinding to Herc. Before entering he had taken the precaution to pull the front of his soft hat down over his eyes, for, as will be recalled, he was wearing civilian clothing. This did not help to make things clearer to his vision in the gloom.

His first impression was of a large apartment, bare of floor and wall, with a set of dusty show cases placed at one side behind a rickety counter. It did not look like a store where much business of the kind it ostensibly catered to was transacted.

All this confirmed Herc's growing suspicions that the place was conducted as a blind. That[Pg 201] it was nothing more than a haunt for Japanese spies and those allied with them in their schemes against Uncle Sam.

A soft voice, a voice with a purring inflection as silky as that of a cream-fed cat, broke on his ears.

"What will the gentleman please to 'ave?"

Herc saw that a small, spectacled Japanese had glided rather than stepped in behind the counter, and now stood regarding the new customer with a face that might as well have been a mask for all the expression it conveyed.

It is a curious fact, but Herc, who up to that moment had acted the part of a bold investigator, suddenly found himself embarrassed. He struggled to find an answer to the simple question that had been put to him. This Jap behind the counter regarded him with growing suspicion.

"You come in for something—a cigar, maybe?" he purred.

[Pg 202]

"Yes—oh, yes,—give me—give me a box of matches," blurted out Herc desperately.

"A box of matches? Veree well."

The Jap turned deftly to the show cases behind him, and inserting a long fingered hand in a drawer, drew out the required article. Herc fumbled in his pocket for the change necessary, but in so doing he drew out a navy button, cut from his first uniform, with the small silver.

As he extended a nickel across the counter, with no very clear idea as to what he was to do next, he had the misfortune, for so he presently perceived it to be, to drop this pocket piece.

It fell with a jingling sound and before he could pick it up, the Jap was out from behind the counter and had grasped and was extending it to him.

"A navee button," said he suavely. "The honorable gentleman is in the service of the so estimable Uncle Sam?"

There was one thing that Herc could not do,[Pg 203] at no matter what cost, and that was to lie. Yet he had important reasons for not wishing his service to become known to the Jap. So he compromised.

"Yes, it's a navy button," he said pocketing it.

"Ah; it is a fine service," said the Jap, with a swift appraising look at Herc, and at the red hair that showed under his pulled-down hat. "I often deplore that I am Japanese and so cannot to enter it."

"Yet there are Japs in the navy," said Herc, and then with one of those incautious bursts which Ned so often deprecated, he rushed on, "one came in here just now,—Saki, do you know him?"

From behind the spectacles a swift look of comprehension flashed into the Jap's eyes, and then died out again like a suddenly extinguished fire.

"Saki? I no know heem," he said.

"Humph, I am on the right trail," exclaimed[Pg 204] Herc to himself. "This fellow knows all about Ned. I'm afraid, also, that he is suspicious of me, but that can't be helped now."

"If you will wait one minute, I will bring you change," came the silky voice of the Jap. "Matches are one penny, you give me one nickel."

"All right, get the change. I'll wait for you," said Herc, trying to mask his anxiety to penetrate the secrets of this place under an appearance of indifference.

The Jap, with one swift backward glance at Herc, glided off and up the same stairway that Herc had seen Saki and Kenworth ascend. So he was going to join them and doubtless tell them of his suspicions. Herc was in a quandary.

If he left the place to give the alarm to the authorities, by the time he came back the birds might have flown and with them all clew to Ned. On the other hand, he could not, single-handed, face the whole nest of them.

But the next instant came another thought. After all, the place was not on the outposts of[Pg 205] civilization. It was policed just as any other well-ordered district. Not a block away were gay summer cafés and promenaders. What harm could come to him here?

It was while his mind was busied with these reflections that Herc's eye fell on the door at the end of the store, already mentioned.

Where did it lead to? Perhaps to Ned's prison place. Herc glanced about him. The store was empty. Outside someone passed along whistling gaily. After all, he had nothing to fear and all to gain, if he could ascertain something concerning Ned's fate.

With half a dozen swift strides, Herc was across the store and at the rear door.

He fumbled with the latch an instant and then the portal swung open. Beyond was a dark passage. This rather surprised Herc, who had surmised that the door gave on to a back yard or another street, and who had thought that in case of emergency it might be utilized as a means of escape.

[Pg 206]

It was at this moment that a murmur of voices reached his ears. Several persons were seemingly descending the stairway up which the spectacled Jap had passed to procure change.

Herc was about to dart for the front door when he heard a sudden sharp clicking sound.

As if by intuition he guessed what it meant. By some mechanical means a bolt had been shot and he was trapped. He sped back again to the rear door. Darting through it, he dashed into the dark passage beyond. Then he suddenly checked himself. Why not secure that rear door from the inside?

But a second's fumbling in the dark showed him that there was no means of doing this.

The voices grew louder. They swelled to an angry clamor. Herc hastily slammed the door and plunged forward into the blackness. As he ran, he heard the trample of feet behind him and knew that the hunt was up and that he was the quarry.

[Pg 207]



All that day, against head winds and tides, Captain Briggs' schooner clawed her way around Staten Island. Nightfall found her making her way up the staked channel in Raritan Bay with a fair breeze, and the bibulous skipper was in good humor. He even condescended to joke and laugh with Ned, who stood glumly by the wheel, watching the clumsy handling of the broad-beamed old craft.

Ned had indulged in much speculation concerning Captain Briggs and his craft since he had become what he felt was virtually a prisoner on board her. He was puzzled to make out the vessel's mission. Captain Briggs waxed more and more mysterious as the contents of the bottle and the sun together grew lower. From time[Pg 208] to time he threw out hints, which only served the purpose of further mystification.

The Dreadnought Boy began to think that he was on board a smuggler. It was the only conclusion he could reach, although he was actually miles beside the mark in his guess.

As it grew dusk, the schooner was brought up opposite a sandy, desolate-looking stretch of ground on the Jersey shore. It was a brush-grown point with here and there steep, reddish-colored miniature cliffs, where landslides had occurred in the sandy earth.

On the summit of the point a tall, white semaphore, like some grotesque skeleton, spread its arms against the sky. A chill wind blew off shore. Ned felt that he had reached the last spot in civilization, even though off in the distance on the Staten Island shore the smoke from the factory chimneys of Tottenville could be seen like a dark and sooty pall.

Ned was wondering whether they were going[Pg 209] to anchor there, when his unspoken question was answered by the rattle of the schooner's hawser as the rusty mud-hook dropped into the yellow, turbid tide.

"Well, of all queer cruises, this is the queerest," mused Ned, as he leaned against the rail and watched Captain Briggs bringing his craft to an anchorage.

He could not forbear smiling at the captain's importance as he issued his orders. A rear admiral on his own quarter-deck could not have been a bit more pompous or consequential.

At last all was arranged to Captain Briggs' satisfaction, and the schooner, under bare poles, swung at anchor.

"What's coming now?" wondered Ned, as he saw the captain come sidling toward him like a red-nosed crab, if such a thing can be imagined.

He was not left long in doubt. The captain eyed him with an oddly embarrassed air for a few seconds and then he spoke.

[Pg 210]

"Seeing as how I'm looking to get a bit of money out of you, mate," he said at length, with a sidewise squint out of his red-rimmed eyes, "maybe what I'm agoin' to do ain't just right. But," and here the captain strengthened his resolution with a draft out of his bottle, "but," he resumed, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, "what's got to be has got to be, ain't it?"

"Certainly," said Ned, with a smile at the captain's rather obvious logic.

"And that bein' the case, it will be, I reckon?" pursued the captain with the air of one propounding a profound question.

Again Ned agreed. This time he signified his entire understanding of the captain's views by a nod of his head.

"Well," resumed the skipper, "it's got to be that you've got to go below, and——"

"Go below?" repeated Ned indignantly. "See here, Captain Briggs, don't you think you're carrying this thing a little far?"

[Pg 211]

"I dunno as I am, and if I am, why, then, I dunno as it's any of your clamjamfried business," retorted the captain. "You wasn't asked to come on board this here fine vessel, was yer?"

"Certainly not, and as you know I'm more grateful than I can say to you for saving my life. But when——"

The captain shut Ned off with a wave of his hand.

"Least said, soonest mended," he remarked. "You an' me 'ull have our talk 'bout that later on. Cap'n Briggs, he gets paid fer his salvage, be it human or 'totherwise. The p'int is this, you've got to go below."

"But what is your object in confining me in that stuffy cabin?" objected Ned. "Let me stay on deck and I'll pledge you my word that I wouldn't have a chance to escape from you,—that is, if you persist in your insane idea that I have wealthy relatives who will pay handsomely for my ransom."

[Pg 212]

"'Tain't ransom, it's a man's rights," objected Captain Briggs; "but as I said before, tain't no manner o' use wasting of words. Below I want yer to go, and below you will go."

"If I refuse?"

"Wa'al," insinuated Captain Briggs, with a glance at his crew, who, as if they had been warned in advance, stood watching the scene, "wa'al, I op-pine t'wouldn't be just healthy like fer you to refuse. There's a heap of persuasion in a handspike and plenty of good argument in a capstan bar."

"What, you would dare to use violence on me? Maybe two can play at that game."

Ned's eyes flashed; his fists clenched. Yet he knew that he must control his temper with this pig-headed old mariner.

"I'll use violence, or anything else I please, to hev my orders carried out," flared out Captain Briggs. "Now then, are you going below peaceable or do we hev ter make yer?"

[Pg 213]

"Why are you so anxious to have me out of the way?" asked Ned. "What sort of nefarious business are you in?"

"Ain't in no 'farious business," bellowed the captain. "I'm an honest man, I am. But I'm on secret business,—business of the navy, ef you must know. Business fer the Blue fleet, as they calls it, ef you must know. Now will you go below?"

"Very well, if I must, I must," muttered Ned, with feigned reluctance, for at that instant he would not have left Captain Briggs' shabby little schooner for a king's ransom.

"Business for the Blue fleet." Could it be that Fate, by ways devious for even that uncertain goddess, had led his feet into the arcanum of the Blue fleet's secrets?

As Ned descended the cabin stairs into the malodorous little cabin, he determined to find out before he was many hours older the exact meaning of Captain Briggs' remark.

[Pg 214]



As Ned's feet sounded on the boards of the stuffy little cuddy, he heard a sharp "bang" above him and then the grating of a rusty iron bolt, as it was shot to, making him a prisoner.

The sound of the grating bolt and the sense that he was a captive, even though in a sense a voluntary one, made Ned see "red" for an instant.

"So they couldn't even trust to my word!" he muttered angrily to himself; and then, "All this precaution shows that there is something very out of the ordinary going forward. Something, too, that unless I miss my guess is in the line of my commission to find out. Gee whiz, I'd give a lot to know right now what is at the bottom of all this how-d'ye-do!"

[Pg 215]

Ned cast himself down on a transom. For a time silence reigned on deck. Then he became aware of a trampling of feet above him and the sound of hoarse voices hailing.

"Somebody coming alongside," surmised Ned, with ready apprehension of what was going forward. "It must be dark by this time. Clearly whatever their business is, it is such that does not bear the light of day for its transaction."

The noise on deck continued. Ned scrutinized his place of captivity for some means of seeing without its confines. But except for the scuttle which had been secured, the cabin was without openings. No port-holes or air vents were visible.

"If only I could see out," he muttered, "that would help some."

Then came more voices outside. Above them sounded sharp, authoritative tones.

"By the great bow gun, whoever is giving orders out there is a man-o'-war's-man!" exclaimed[Pg 216] the Dreadnought Boy. "Something is in the wind in connection with the Blue fleet beyond a doubt. By hookey, I may be on the verge of making some discovery which will be invaluable to our side."

He listened greedily now. His trained ears had not deceived him. It was a man-o'-war "steamer" that had glided up to Captain Briggs' down-at-heel craft. She now lay alongside, while her crew of Jackies hustled up upon the schooner's dirty decks and their leader, a petty officer, greeted Captain Briggs.

"We'll get to work just as soon as you're ready," grunted Captain Briggs to this individual, who had introduced himself as Gunner's Mate Steffens of the destroyer Truxton.

Presently, to Ned in the cabin below, came the sounds of hurrying action on deck. He heard the blows of hammers as the battens were ripped off hatchways and the cargo of the[Pg 217] schooner, whatever it was, lay ready for the broachers.

There was a partition forward in the cabin, and Ned guessed that beyond it must lie the hold with its mysterious contents. He stationed himself against the bulkhead awaiting developments.

While he stood there listening to the creaking of blocks and tackles, as apparatus for transferring the cargo of the schooner to the "steamer" was in process of rigging, his eye was caught by a sudden gleam of light.

The cabin was dark, so he the more easily saw the long, thin slice of radiance that he was not long in finding out leaked through a longitudinal crack in the bulkhead, which was of the flimsiest construction.

Clearly enough, the hold was illuminated by the cargo broachers and this light filtered through from it. Ned lost no time in applying an eye to the crack thus luckily revealed.

[Pg 218]

He stood at gaze for a moment or two, his optic riveted to the crack. Then he started back with an exclamation.

"Great ginger! Talk about luck! Why, this is the very thing the commander was anxious to find out about. I heard him talking it over with some of the officers. He mentioned it, too, in my instructions."

Ned applied himself afresh to the crack. He might have been carved out of stone, so motionless did he stand there.

In the hold beyond, all was confusion, shouts, trampling feet and activity.

One after another big boxes and bales were hoisted out to be lowered into the waiting steamer. Through his crack Ned overheard enough to show him that the cargo was being transferred as fast as was possible under cover of the night.

As soon as she was filled to her capacity, the steamer scurried off and then returned again for[Pg 219] a fresh cargo. From the brevity of these intervals of absence, Ned was able to argue that wherever the mysterious cargo was being taken, that place at least was not very far off.

More than likely it was some spot along the lonesome shore. In fact, Ned now recalled that below the skeleton-like semaphore he had noticed the decaying remnants of what had plainly enough once been a dock. If it was desired to land the schooner's cargo in secret, what more likely spot would offer for the disposal of it than this abandoned dock on a desolate shore?

Ned had seen enough of what was going forward in the hold and overheard enough, too, to convince him of the nature of the cargo that was being landed.

By a stroke of fortune that seemed almost miraculous, he had, or he was very much mistaken, stumbled upon the headquarters of the Aero division of the Blue fleet.

The cargo of the schooner consisted of supplies[Pg 220] brought from the government station at Newport for the "Flying Squadron." There is hardly a boy in the land who does not know of the tremendous importance attached by modern governments to the aeroplane, or the hydro-aeroplane, as an adjunct to a battle fleet in time of war.

Readers of "The Dreadnought Boys on Aero Service" are aware that Ned was proficient enough in this branch of the service to realize at once the importance of the discovery he had made. He knew, too, that according to reports, the Blue fleet's main attack was to be made by war-aeroplanes. It was ignorance of the number and location of these flying harpies of the air that had caused the authorities of the Red fleet much anxiety. To be "technically dynamited" by a squadron of aeroplanes would result in almost certain defeat.

Small wonder was it then that Ned's heart leaped in elation as he realized that he had stumbled[Pg 221] by sheer good luck upon the information wanted. But mingled with his delight came a sobering reflection.

He might have located the Blue's Aero fleet; but he was hardly in a position to put his knowledge to much practical use.

[Pg 222]



On down the dark passage dashed Herc. As he sped he extended both hands in front of him. For all he knew he might be dashing into an ambush. It was all too plain now that the place into which he had so cheerfully blundered was of a sinister character.

Suddenly his finger tips encountered something solid that the next instant gave way before them.

A door swung open. Herc found himself in a large room, cluttered with rusty tools, benches, and boxes. High on one wall was a window, through the unwashed panes of which a gray light sifted wanly into the vacant room beneath.

The room was plainly enough a cul-de-sac. There was no means of entering or leaving it,[Pg 223] except by the door through which Herc had come,—that is, if the lofty window be excepted.

Pantingly the Dreadnought Boy looked about him. He must have a hiding place and that quickly. If he was to be of any use to Ned, it would be the worst thing that could happen if he, too, were to be made prisoner.

Poor Herc, if he had only known the true state of affairs! But with his customary impulsiveness the red-headed boy had followed his nose, and as not infrequently happened in Herc's affairs, it had led him into trouble.

"This place must be a perfect nest of Japanese spies," he mused to himself, as he gazed swiftly about. "Poor old Ned, they've trapped him and got him hidden away some place. But they won't get me so easily!"

He listened an instant. Footsteps were coming down the passage now.

"They've guessed I came this way. In fact,[Pg 224] they couldn't very well help doing it," thought Herc.

He glanced up at the window above him. Would it be possible to escape that way?

With frenzied haste he began pulling a dusty bench from one corner and flinging upon it the old boxes with which the room was littered. But his time was all too short. Herc had to give over his labors half completed at the nearer approach of footsteps.

"I've got to hide some place, and that right quickly," he muttered, glancing about him in every direction.

Herc darted for the dimmest corner and crouched behind a large open box that stood there.

He had just time to squeeze himself back of it and draw it over him like the shell of a tortoise when the door was burst open.

Half a dozen men, headed by Kenworth, Saki[Pg 225] and the spectacled Jap, burst into the room. They gazed wildly about them.

"Why—why, he's not here!" gasped out Kenworth. "The red-headed fox has escaped!"

"Eem-poss-ible," the spectacled Jap informed him. "There is no way of getting out this room."

"Then he must be here," declared Saki sententiously; "we must find him. He is one of the most dangerous enemies we have got. He is even worse than that Ned Strong, whose body now lies at the bottom of the Sound, for the meddling fool that he was."

"Yes, he is drowned and out of the way," rejoined Kenworth, "and it was we, after all, that had the good fortune to be picked up by a fishing boat after drifting about in our life belts for hours, and to be brought ashore here. And now, confound it, just when everything looks like smooth sailing, Mister Red Head has to bob up and spoil it all."

[Pg 226]

"Never mind that now," said Saki briskly, "he cannot have gone far. We must find him."

"He must be in this room," declared the spectacled Jap; "he could not get out except——"

He stopped short, gazing at the pile of boxes on the rickety bench. They stood right under the high window.

Kenworth was the first to read his thoughts.

"Could he have escaped that way?" he asked.

"I will ask you another question, honorable Kenworth," was the reply. "Could he climb?"

"Climb!" repeated the renegade midshipman with scorn. "Why, man, both those Dreadnought Boys would go in places that it would puzzle a cat to find a footing."

"Then there is your answer. He has escaped by the window."


"Yes; but he cannot get far."

"Why not?"

"That window opens on to a roof."

[Pg 227]


"The roof was once an extension, but now it is blocked in on all sides by the high walls of abandoned sail lofts."

"Then if he did get up there, he is a prisoner?"

"Without doubt."

"Good." The midshipman's face was flushed with malicious triumph. "He can't escape us this time. Saki, somebody, help me up, quick. This time he'll not get away. One Dreadnought Boy is at the bottom of the Sound. In a few minutes the other will be our prisoner."

[Pg 228]



Herc, crouched within the stifling confines of the upturned packing case, heard the recorded conversation with a sinking heart. After all, then, he had been mistaken. Ned was not in the place.

Some casualty of which he had no knowledge had occurred and in the catastrophe in some way Ned, his chum, his shipmate, had been drowned. Right then Herc would not have given a straw for his own life. The thought that Ned had perished, beat into his heart like a death knell.

Careless of what the consequences to himself might be, he was about to declare himself and trust to his fists to fight his way to liberty, when he hesitated.

Kenworth, he knew by this time to be a miscreant[Pg 229] and perverter of the truth. Was it not possible, then, that he had purposely aired the report of Ned's supposed death in the hope that he (Herc) might hear him and in a moment of desperation give himself up?

The theory, based on what the Dreadnought Boy knew of the renegade midshipman, was at least tenable. After a moment's reflection Herc, now that the first shock was over, found himself unable to entertain the thought of Ned's death. It was impossible to believe that Ned Strong, the resourceful, the brave, had perished as Kenworth had described. If a weakling like the midshipman had escaped whatever disaster had happened, it was incredible that Ned had not saved himself.

"Give me a leg up, Saki,—quick; I want to be the first to confront that red-headed idiot."

It was Kenworth speaking again. Herc heard the others hoist more boxes on the top of his pile[Pg 230] and then came the sound of scrambling feet ascending the wobbly pyramid.

"Oh, what a sell for them when they find the roof is empty," chuckled Herc to himself. "I'd give a whole lot just to see their faces."

But with this reflection came another thought. When they found the roof tenantless, would they not make a further search of the room? Undoubtedly, and once they began turning things over, one of the first things they would discover would be Herc.

Under certain conditions Herc's mind worked quickly. It did so now. A sudden idea flashed into his head.

In a trice he had slipped out of his box and stood free. Kenworth had already chinned himself through the window and Saki was following him. In the room were only the spectacled Jap, the white man whom Herc had observed enter the place earlier, and one or two other Japs and white men, all hard-looking characters.

[Pg 231]

As Herc emerged from his box there came a shout from Kenworth on the roof.

"Confound it all, he's not here!"

"Whoop-ee! No, he isn't; he's right here! Wow!" Like a human battering ram, Herc charged at the pile of boxes. Crash! Bang!

The Dreadnought Boy's broad shoulder struck the wobbly pedestal like the prow of a battleship.

"Look out for squalls!" he yelled, as the boxes, in a crashing avalanche, came toppling down. The uproar was deafening.

Stricken temporarily to immobility by the suddenness of the whole thing, the spectacled Jap and the others stood spellbound for an instant as the red-headed youth, having demolished the pile of boxes, came charging at them with his bullet head bent over like a young bull's. As he rushed ferociously at them Herc gave vent to a blood curdling yell.

"Wow! Whoop-ee! Stand aside for the human torpedo!" he bellowed.

[Pg 232]

Saki, who had been in the act of clambering from the boxes through the window when the box pile collapsed, hung teetering from its ledge with his feet beating a tattoo on thin air. He was howling piteously for aid.

But right then things were moving far too swiftly for anyone to pay the least attention to the luckless Jap.

Herc's red head struck the spectacled Jap in the stomach and butted him clean across the room. He fell jammed into one of the empty packing cases and remained there, his legs waving feebly as though imploring help. One of the hard-looking white men tried to intercept Herc as he dashed for the door, but at the same instant he felt as if a tornado had struck him and he, too, doubled up and went to the floor with a crash.

From the roof came a loud shout from Kenworth.

"What the dickens——!"

[Pg 233]

He did not need to ask any more. One glance through the window showed him what was happening in the room below him: showed him, too, that he was marooned on the roof even as he had hoped to find Herc.

"Help me! help me!" howled Saki. "No can hold on much longer!"

"Confound you, this is all your fault," shouted Kenworth, beside himself with chagrin. "Hey there! Kester! Vaux! hold that fellow! Don't let him get away; it means all our necks in a halter if you do!"

The two men addressed attempted to seize Herc. But they might as well have tried to capture a young hurricane. The red-headed lad's fighting blood was up. As they tried to intercept him, he rushed them and catching them both around the legs, he brought them down in one grand smash.

As they fell, their heads bumped together with a noise like a pistol shot.

[Pg 234]

"No more trouble from them," chuckled Herc gleefully.

The red-headed lad was beginning to enjoy himself. The Japs who alone were left standing, were huddled in one corner of the room out of the way of the "white demon with the head of flames."

"Any more?" howled Herc gleefully, and went charging for the door leading into the dark passage. His plan was made. Once he gained the front shop, he meant to force his way out to the street, if possible through the locked portal. If he could not batter his way out there, he meant to smash a window and run at top speed for the authorities.

But as he dashed for the door, there came a yell of dismay and the noise of a heavy fall behind him. Kenworth, half through the window, had been trying to assist Saki. But he lost his balance just as the weight of the Jap came on[Pg 235] him, and together he and Saki had come crashing down to the floor of the room below.

Luckily for them, the two men that Herc had just attended to lay there and their bodies broke the force of the fall. Not injured in the least, owing to this—for him—lucky accident, Kenworth was on his feet again in the wink of an eyelid.

As Herc's form vanished through the doorway, he drew a revolver and in the insane fury of his rage, fired a shot at the Dreadnought Boy's fleeing form. Herc felt the breeze of the bullet as it winged past him and buried itself harmlessly in the wall.

"Blaze away!" he shouted. "In five minutes' time I'll have the whole boiling of you in——"

The sentence was not completed. In the room he had left behind him, the spectacled Jap, who had recovered his wits, had darted for a lever in the wall. He pulled it toward him.

[Pg 236]

At the same instant, Herc felt the floor of the passage drop from under his feet and found himself falling, falling, falling into a black void, while fires and lightnings wheeled and darted wildly through his confused brain.

[Pg 237]



Herc landed with a crash on something soft and yielding. For an instant or two he actually found himself wondering if he had been killed, but as soon as his rudely jolted senses reasserted themselves he found that, thanks to the soft substance he had landed upon, he was not even sprained.

"Well, here's a nice kettle of fish!" exclaimed Herc to himself, rubbing his head ruefully. "I'm a whole lot worse off now than I was before."

He sat up and tried to collect his thoughts. A moment's reflection placed him pretty well in possession of the facts as they were. He had been dashing at top speed down the dark passage when he suddenly found himself precipitated into space. There had been no trap-door or opening[Pg 238] in the passage when he came down it before, of that he was certain; therefore it was plain that some sort of device must have been operated to open a pitfall under his feet and prevent his escape.

"The question now is, though, where am I?" mused Herc.

All about him was velvety blackness, so dark that it could almost be felt. The air was filled with an odd kind of musty odor, a damp reek as of some place infested with fungus growth and unclean things.

"Some sort of a cellar," thought the lad, "and it's not likely there's any way out of it but the way I came. There might be a ladder there, of course, but I didn't notice it as I came down. Ouch! what a bump! I'm lucky it didn't break every bone in my body."

Herc felt in his pockets for his matchbox. Having found it, he struck a lucifer. By its light[Pg 239] he made a brief but comprehensive survey of his surroundings.

He had fallen on a rotting pile of what appeared to be old sails, or canvas from which sails were made. From this he judged that the structure above him must have been at some time occupied by sail-makers, and that this cellar had formed a sort of rubbish heap for the refuse of the place.

For the rest, the lighting of another match showed him that the cellar was about eighty feet square and evidently extended under the whole of the house above. There was no means of egress, and he could not even see the trap-door above him through which he had made such a hasty entrance into the place.

The walls were smooth, and made of some sort of cement. There was no hope of scaling them, even had there been anything to gain by such a proceeding. So far as he could see, Herc was in as effectual a trap as it would have been possible[Pg 240] to devise. Only a ladder could do him any good, and so far as obtaining that was concerned, he felt that he might just as well wish for anything impossible of attainment.

But Herc was not the sort of lad to give anything up without making a try to better his condition. As soon as his head, which had been sadly shaken in his fall, stopped aching a little, he got up from the pile of old sails and began a further examination of the cellar.

The first thing that struck him was that the floor was very wet. Slimy, slippery mud was under foot and a green weed grew wherever it could secure a roothold. His next discovery was that the walls were marked near to the top of the cellar by a distinct line.

Above this line their color was the dirty gray of the cement; but below, it was stained green as if from the action of water. Herc puzzled a good deal over this. He could not account for it by any theory of mere dampness. Just then[Pg 241] he was far indeed from guessing its true significance.

One thing, however, he was sure of: the cellar was close to the sea, for the sharp, acrid tang of the salt water mingled with the damp, decaying odor of the place, like a healthy, wholesome influence in a fever-stricken hospital ward.

His survey completed, Herc sank back on his pile of old sails to think matters over further. Not that he felt that there was really anything to be considered, save the fact that he was helpless and must depend upon outside aid for escaping from his predicament.

But no outside aid, he knew, was likely to reach him there. He wondered what was going to become of him. Since he had taken that plunge through the suddenly opened trap, he had heard nothing from above, no trample of feet, no sound of voices.

Was it possible that those in the house had deserted it precipitately and had left him there[Pg 242] to perish miserably like a rat in a hole? The thought chilled the hot blood in his veins and started the cold perspiration on his forehead. Herc was no coward, but the thought of facing death alone in that dark, dank hole might have unmanned many a sterner soul than he.

In his despair at the thought that he had been abandoned to his fate, Herc set up shout upon shout. But after a time he stopped this as being a useless waste of strength which it behooved him to husband for he knew not what emergency. Herc was not a lad given to beating about the bush. He faced the bald facts as he found them, and in the present situation he was unable to discover one crumb of comfort.

Then, too, what Kenworth had said about Ned kept recurring to his mind with disquieting effect. He could not bring himself to believe that Ned was, as the midshipman had said, dead at the bottom of the Sound; but nevertheless the[Pg 243] idea kept repeating itself over and over in his mind dishearteningly.

"What a fool I was ever to come in here at all," he muttered to himself bitterly. "It all comes of following my nose. Every time I do it, I land in trouble—but this is just about the worst ever. I wonder——"

He broke off short in his half spoken meditations.

A sudden sound had arrested his attention. At first he could not identify it and then suddenly he realized what it was. The tinkle of running water! Water was coming into the cellar from somewhere.

Ned stretched out his fingers for his matchbox, which he had placed near to him, and struck a light. As the lucifer flared up an exclamation of dismay broke from the Dreadnought Boy's lips.

"Good gracious!"

Over the floor of the cellar a thin layer of[Pg 244] water, perhaps an inch deep, had spread like a liquid carpet. It had not yet reached Herc on his pile of sails, but even while the match burned, he could see that the water was rising.

Chilled with a nameless dread he struck another match. This time he saw where the water was coming from. It was flowing in from an iron-barred vent near the floor of the place, which had escaped him on his previous survey.

At the same instant, Herc thought of the green stain on the cellar walls; that regular line of demarcation limned with greenish water-weed.

Then like a thunder-clap the hideous truth burst upon him: The cellar was below the water level and the water flowing into it was tidal. It came from the sea and rose till it reached that regular high-water mark he had noticed on the cellar wall.

As he realized all this, a shout of terror broke, despite himself, from Herc's lips. Was this to be his fate, his destiny, to perish in this dark,[Pg 245] hidden place beneath the waters of the incoming tide?

"Help!" he shouted at the top pitch of his lungs. "Help!"

But the lapping of the water as it slowly and remorselessly rose was the only reply to his wild outburst.

[Pg 246]



At length the confusion and uproar in the hold of Captain Briggs' schooner died away. The work of unloading the craft was completed.

Ned glanced at his watch. It was close on midnight. He wondered if now that the schooner had been emptied of her secret cargo, his hour of release had come.

But apparently it was no part of Captain Briggs's plan to set his prisoner at liberty just then. At any rate, nobody came near Ned.

He felt strangely lonely now that the tumult had died out, to be succeeded by a death-like stillness. But after a time, during which he sought in vain for a lamp to light up the cabin, Ned was able to distinguish some sounds that broke the silence.

[Pg 247]

The sounds were nasal and were in three keys. In fact, it did not take Ned long to distinguish in his own mind the loud snoring of Captain Briggs from the gruntings and snortings of his crew.

The night was warm and they were plainly enough taking their rest on deck after the arduous labors of the night. Inasmuch as the schooner lay in a lonely cove out of the path of navigation, it was also evident that Captain Briggs had not bothered to set a bright watch.

"Now is my chance," thought Ned, "if only I could figure on some way of getting out of this coop."

He sat on the transom a while, buried in thought. He was revolving in his mind the strange events of the last twenty-four hours and the possible effect they would have upon his future.

Well did Ned know that his absence from his ship must have been noticed by this time. He[Pg 248] wondered what Commander Dunham was thinking. He speculated, and the thought was not a pleasant one, on the chances of his being deemed derelict to his duty, and being supplanted by someone else.

The Dreadnought Boy knew the iron rules of the navy, laws as inflexible as those of the Medes and Persians. He might be deprived of his temporary commission without even a chance to explain all that had happened. One thought cheered him. Come what might, he at least had safe within his pocket the book of plans by which Kenworth and Saki set such store.

He hoped that if the worst came to the worst, the signal service he had rendered his country in redeeming these from the desperate hands of the spy and the renegade would at least plead some extenuation for him.

"Confound that old shell-back of a Briggs," growled Ned to himself; "if it hadn't been for[Pg 249] him I might have been back with my ship by this time. As it is——"

Captain Briggs' stentorian snore filled in the pause eloquently. "At any rate," muttered Ned, "he's safe off in the land of Nod; so, to judge by the sounds, are his crew. What's the matter with—Jove! I'll try it."

He ascended the cabin stairway and began cautiously to fumble with the fastenings of the companionway scuttle. He did not dare make much noise, as, although he was fairly sure that Captain Briggs was beyond an easy awakening, yet the risk of rousing him was an imminent one.

Like everything else about Captain Briggs' schooner, the scuttle, now that Ned came to prove it, did not appear to be over and above secure.

"I believe that with good luck I can force it clean off its hinges," murmured Ned as he investigated.

Indeed it seemed so. The door worked about on its hinges so freely, it showed that those attachments[Pg 250] were not securely fastened or else, as was more likely, the wood had rotted about the screws.

Ned possessed a good stock of patience and he took plenty of time, working the door about till it moved easily. Then he placed his shoulder to it and gave a gentle but strong heave. The screws drew out of the rotten wood as if they had been fastened into cheese.

Five minutes after he had first applied his strength, Ned, feeling like a modern Samson, lifted off the door of his place of captivity and was ready to step out on deck.

But first he took a cautious look about him. There was a bright moon. By its beams Ned saw that, as he had suspected, Captain Briggs and his crew, worn out by their night's work, were sleeping the sleep of the just. They had turned in "all standing" and lay sprawled on the deck in any but picturesque attitudes.

"So far, so good," murmured Ned to himself,[Pg 251] "and the dinghy's out astern, too. Better and better. I believe that this is going to go through without a hitch."

He cautiously replaced the hatchway and stepped boldly out on the deck. Captain Briggs stirred in his slumbers and growled out some orders that came to him in his dreams.

"Stand by to go about! Mind sheets and braces!" he muttered.

"My! but he's going to be a surprised man when he wakes up!" grinned Ned to himself. "I'm sorry for his crew; he'll take it out on them, for I verily believe that the old shell-back thought I was some boy millionaire and worth at least a thousand in reward money to him."

But as chance would have it, it was Ned who was destined to be surprised first.

Hardly had he stepped on deck, when from forward a squat shape came bounding across the moonlit decks. Simultaneously a low, angry growl greeted the Dreadnought Boy's ears.

[Pg 252]

"Great guns! The skipper's dog! I'd clean forgotten him," exclaimed Ned in dismay.

The dog hesitated a minute, sniffed and then, with an angry snarl, came bounding on again.

"If I can't silence him, he'll have them all awake in a minute, and then I'll have a fine hornet's nest about my ears," muttered Ned.

Ur-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! The dog sprang straight for Ned's throat. Luckily, the creature was not one of the barking kind. He plainly preferred action to noise.

Ned saw him coming. Saw the white flash of his teeth in the moonlight. Swift as thought he stooped and picked up a barrel stave which happened to be lying near his feet.

As the dog was in mid-spring, Ned let fly with his improvised weapon. Crack! It struck the dog right across the nose and sent him hurtling back in a coiled-up ball.

"Jove! I hated to do that, old fellow," cried[Pg 253] Ned in a low tone; "but it had to be, and you'll soon get over it."

The dog lay crouched in a whimpering heap not far from Captain Briggs' side. Ned dared not delay longer. With swift, silent strides he made for the stern, dropped overboard and landed deftly in the dinghy.

The oars were in it, and to cast off was the work of an instant only. Then with strong, noiseless strokes, he pulled toward the shore. There was not a sound of pursuit from the schooner and Ned's heart leaped exultingly as he threw his strength into the oars.

Ten minutes later the dinghy's nose scraped the beach. At precisely the same instant the bow of Ned's craft was grasped by a pair of strong hands, and a gruff voice demanded to know his business.

[Pg 254]



"Whew! Out of the frying pan into the fire!" was Ned's instant thought.

Facing him in the moonlight was a Jackie in uniform. He was armed with a carbine and looked very business-like. He regarded Ned with no friendly air.

There was good reason for this, from the man's standpoint, anyway. He had been placed on guard duty there, and to be surprised after midnight by a stalwart youth who had sculled himself ashore in a small dinghy was a suspicious circumstance.

"Who are you? Give an account of yourself," he said gruffly.

"It's all right. I'm on business connected with the aero camp up above," said Ned glibly, making[Pg 255] use of information he had gained through the crack in the bulkhead.

"Humph! In the service?"

"Certainly. Aero squad."

"How am I to know you are not one of those newspaper fellows. We've been pestered to death with them for the last week. Fine thing it would be if they got hold of the Blue fleet's secrets and printed them."

"Oh, you needn't have any fear of me. I'm not connected with any paper."

"No, now I come to look at you, you appear like one of Uncle Sam's boys. But where have you come from?"

"From that schooner out there."

"Oh, the one we unloaded this evening?"

"That's the idea. My business is urgent."

"I should judge so. Everybody's is right now. The Red fleet is reported moving up on New York. The aero squadron sails to-morrow. Maybe we won't give 'em a surprise, eh?"

[Pg 256]

Ned gave an inward chuckle. This was just the information he was after.

"Oh, that'll surprise 'em all right, shipmate," said he, and struck off up a trail that appeared to lead over the little point of land. He had to trust to luck for it being the right one, for he did not dare disclose his unfamiliarity with the camp by asking the sentry questions.

But the sentry suddenly halted him. Ned's heart sank. After all he had been discovered.

The next instant his worst fears were realized.

"You'll have to give me the password, shipmate," declared the sentry.

Ned's heart sank into his boots. But suddenly he gave a glad exclamation, although not so loud as to attract the sentry's notice. While listening to the unloading of the cargo, he had heard the password given out by the petty officer in charge of the men.

For the moment he had forgotten it, but now it came suddenly back to him.

[Pg 257]

"Aerolite!" he said confidently.

"Pass on, shipmate, you're all right," declared the sentry, and Ned, breathing freely once more, continued on his way.

It was a daring enterprise, this that he had undertaken of penetrating into the "enemy's" camp and discovering just the strength of their aero fleet, and the exact method of attack that they meant to pursue.

But Ned felt that it was up to him to "make good." His absence from his ship, he felt might be open to evil construction by his enemies. If he returned with the information, he hoped at least they could not say that whatever had been his ill luck, he had neglected his duty.

With this thought in mind, Ned kept on along the trail which wound in eccentric fashion through brush and tall grass.

"I ought surely to be nearing the camp now," he thought at length as the trail, after doubling and twisting upon itself like a chased rabbit,[Pg 258] brought him out at a point overlooking a little bay.

And there below him he saw that for which he was searching. Screened by trees, the tents lay in orderly rows,—big, high-walled canvas structures, housing, so Ned guessed, the aero fleet of the Blue squadron.

Some little distance out from the shore were the lights of vessels. After some straining of his eyes, Ned made the craft out to be a flotilla of destroyers. They lay there waiting for the dawn, it appeared, hidden from the prying eyes of the scribes of the metropolitan papers who would have given their eyes, almost, to know the facts which Ned was now learning.

He counted the tents. There were twenty of them, each housing a flying boat or a naval aeroplane. Truly a formidable fleet, and one which, swooping down upon the Reds unexpectedly, might "technically" blow up the whole squadron before action could be taken. But now Ned possessed[Pg 259] knowledge which would be of incalculable value to his officers. He could not have felt more exultant had it been in actual war time.

Standing there, carefully concealed, he made voluminous mental notes. It was then, and not till then, that he suddenly realized what in the haste of his flight he had forgotten: He was penniless and in the "enemy's" country without means of rejoining his ship. His delight turned to ashes. Of what use was all the information he had acquired if he could not communicate it to the fleet.

"Bother the luck," exclaimed Ned. "What on earth am I to do?"

It was truly a quandary. The camp was located in a lonely bit of country and it was without doubt a long walk to the nearest place of civilization.

"Marooned, and all for the lack of a few dollars!" groaned Ned. "If only I had some money along, I might easily get some fisherman to run[Pg 260] me to the nearest town, and once there, I could get hold of a telegraph wire and send some despatches. But now——"

He stopped short. His gaze had lighted on something standing outside one of the tents. It did not take him long to make out what it was. The moonlight showed up its butterfly-like outlines to perfection.

"Great hookey!" muttered Ned, "a flying boat! If—if—I only dared, I'd——"

He paused irresolute a moment, and then, squaring his shoulders and thrusting out his chin with his old determined gesture, he strode off down the hill.

A daring plan had come into Ned's mind and with his characteristic energy he was proceeding to act upon it at once.

But it was a scheme so risky, so desperate, that sanguine as the Dreadnought Boy usually was, he had to admit that the chances were about five hundred to one against his putting it through successfully.

[Pg 261]



An hour had passed since Herc's despairing cry had reverberated through the gloomy cellar.

Since his vain appeal for help, the Dreadnought Boy had sat, sunk in a sort of lethargy, on the pile of sail. As the water grew higher, he had mechanically dragged the heap of canvas closer together, raising it and forming a sort of island above the rising inundation.

It was the instinct of life fighting against despair, for that he could ever escape from his prison Herc had long since deemed an impossibility.

He sat there in the darkness listening to the lapping of the water against the walls. His head was sunk in his hands and as the heavy minutes went by, from time to time he would feel the[Pg 262] water to convince himself that it actually was rising.

The high water mark on the cellar walls told him how high the tide usually climbed. Long before it had reached that mark the water would be over his head.

It was true that Herc was a first-rate swimmer, strong of limb and sound of wind. But what would that avail him, except to prolong his misery?

Already in prospect he had tasted the bitterness of the last struggle against the incoming flood of waters, the battle that grew hourly less vigorous, and then the final chapter when, too exhausted to fight longer for his life, the slimy waters would engulf him.

He wondered dully if they would ever find him. It seemed hardly likely. Who would dream of looking for him in that place? Again and again he reproached himself bitterly for the mad folly that had led him into such a trap.

[Pg 263]

The fault was his. There was no one else to blame for it. Had he not acted so hastily on impulse, all might have been well with him. Too late he realized that he had accomplished no useful purpose by penetrating into the haunt of the spies. It would have been wisdom's part first to have notified the authorities and then made his attack on the place.

"Well, I've been a chump and this is what I get for it," muttered the lad bitterly. "Good old Ned, I can't believe that he is really dead. I wonder if he'll ever learn how I ended my life in this wretched rat-hole of a place. It's a tough way to die. I wouldn't mind facing death in battle or in line of duty, but to die like this alone, in the dark, with the tide water waiting to drag me down——"

Herc pursued this line of thought no further. It bade fair to unman him. He felt a desperate desire to hurl himself against the walls, to shout, to scream, to do anything to avert his fate. But[Pg 264] he knew that nothing short of a miracle could save him now.

He struck one of his few remaining matches. The water was up to his feet!

Herc gave a groan. It was fairly forced from him. As the match spluttered out, he knew that before very long he would feel the chilly grasp of the tide at his knees, then at his waist, and then as it rose inch by inch, it would engulf him to his neck.

Then would come the struggle for life, the hopeless battle against overwhelming odds, and then—the end.

Fairly driven wild by these reflections, the unfortunate lad shouted and raved till his voice grew hoarse. But there was no answer except the ripple of the water against the cement walls and the hollow echo of his shouts as they were flung back mockingly at him.

He felt a sharp shock as the water whelmed[Pg 265] over his island of canvas. In a few minutes more it was at his waist.

Herc stood up erect and stepped off his little pile of canvas, now useless as an isle of safety. He kindled another match.

The yellow flame sputtered up and showed him the water all about him. It was knee deep and appeared to be coming in more rapidly. Over its surface was spread an oily scum from the damp floor.

Herc was glad when the match died out. He determined not to light any more, but to wait his end with as much courage as he could muster.

"I'll fight it out like a man-o'-war's-man, anyhow," he muttered, "but it's tough—tough to have to go this way."

The water rose inch by inch as remorselessly as destiny itself. Herc stood in stoical silence and felt it creeping up his body till it had reached his chest.

[Pg 266]

Only a few moments more, now, and then—the end.

Herc found himself growing strangely calm. He wondered what they would think on the ship when he failed to return. If his messmates would miss him, if Ned was safe and sound and would ever learn how his shipmate had perished.

The water was up to his chin.

A slight movement on the lad's part and a tiny wavelet spattered against his mouth. He tasted the brackish water of the tide. Herc wished that it would end right then and there. He felt that it was hardly worth while even to swim. If he was to drown, he might as well not resist his fate, but meet it passively.

But the instinct of self-preservation prevails even among the most pusillanimous. It can turn a coward into a dangerous foe. Herc struck out as the water reached his mouth.

He swam easily about, hardly thinking. His mind felt dulled and bruised. He swam mechanically.[Pg 267] He knew that the end was not far off now.

And now, in the hope that he might have overlooked some projection on the walls to which he might cling, he began feeling along them. But the cement was smooth as glass, slimy to the touch, and cold as ice.

Herc began to feel chilled. His limbs felt heavy. He no longer swam strongly about seeking, like a cornered rat, for some means of escape, but allowed himself to float or else tread water.

Bit by bit his efforts began to grow weaker. He felt that he could not keep up much longer, and somehow he did not much care.

It was just at that moment that something struck him a violent blow under the chin.

It was an old plank. Thrown into the cellar at some forgotten time, it was floating on the top of the water and had rocked against the lad at a critical moment.

[Pg 268]

Herc reached out and grasped it. Somehow the touch of it was almost as comforting to him as human companionship. Once more the tide of life, the desire to live, swelled through his veins. He was again a fighter.

Supporting himself on the plank, he began to think. By stretching out his hand he could touch the ceiling of the cellar.

Suddenly a thought flashed into his mind. If he could locate the trap-door, and it was not locked, he had a fighting chance for his life.

The thought acted on him like a stimulant. All his apathy forgotten now, Herc began feeling about the ceiling of the place. Far from wishing that the tide would recede, he was now afraid that it would do so before he had had time to locate the trap-door.

How he wished that he had a match! It was terribly tedious work feeling about that ceiling in the pitchy darkness. The planking above was rough, too, and Herc was by no means sure that[Pg 269] he could distinguish the trap-door when he came to it.

But at last, after what seemed to be an eternity of fumbling, his fingers encountered what felt like the under end of some bolts.

He guessed that he had found the fastenings of the trap-door at last. Raising himself on his friendly plank, Herc exerted his strength and pushed upward.

Sosh! The effort sent him under water. But he didn't mind that. He was sure that the door had yielded a little.

The next time he tried, he braced himself on a supporting ceiling beam by one hand while he shoved upward with the other. He almost uttered a shout of joy as he did so.

The door moved!

He inserted his fingers in the crack, and then, using his head as a lever, he drew himself up till he could rest his chest on the flooring of the passage.

[Pg 270]

The rest was easy. Within five minutes, Herc, dripping wet and chilled to the bone, was standing in the passage—safe and sound. As he stood there, he did not forget to offer up a fervent prayer of thankfulness to Providence for his deliverance.

He made his way down the passage to the front shop. It was empty. As he had suspected, the conspirators, who had made it their headquarters, had decamped.

On the floor near the door, which had been left open, Herc spied a scrap of paper. He picked it up and saw that there was writing upon it. With some difficulty he deciphered the scrawl:

"Yacht Halcyon. Erie Basin. Thence Panama."

"Now what does that mean?" said Herc to himself, scratching his head perplexedly. "I guess I'll keep this, anyhow; it may give the police a clew."

A few moments later the nattily dressed summer[Pg 271] residents of the island were astonished at the spectacle of a red-headed youth in dripping garments hurrying down the main street, inquiring anxiously the direction of the police station.

When it was found, Herc had a story to tell that resulted in detectives being scattered broadcast through the island. But all efforts to locate the conspirators were unavailing.

They had had a good start and had made the most of it.

In the meantime, Herc made his way to a wireless station maintained on the island and secured communication with the gunboat. What he learned did not decrease his uneasiness on Ned's account.

The young skipper had not returned and an officer had been detailed from the fleet to command the craft. Herc was peremptorily ordered to report on board the Manhattan at once and give an account of himself.

[Pg 272]



It was the next morning. In Captain Dunham's cabin on the Manhattan, Herc had just concluded reciting his story to the commander and to no less a person than the Secretary of the Navy.

It had been a badly embarrassed boy who had at first faced the stern questioning of his commanding officer; but by degrees, as his story went on, Captain Dunham's manner relaxed. His stern air gave place to one of deep interest. And now, at the conclusion of Herc's narrative, he spoke:

"I was at first inclined to very grave suspicions of you, Taylor, but your previous good record and your manner convince me that you are telling the truth, more particularly as the department[Pg 273] has been aware for some time of the existence of a band of spies who had, in some way, secured the coöperation of renegades in our navy. We have been trying through the night to get some word of Strong; but we have failed. I'm afraid, my lad, that you must resign yourself to the inevitable. At any rate, Strong, so far as we know, died in the pursuit of his duty and lived up to the best traditions of the navy."

"Then you believe that he is dead, sir?" Herc blurted out, his freckles showing like scars against his pale cheeks.

"There is no other conclusion to be reached, Taylor. His long absence from duty, and the lack of all word from him, convince me of the worst. Strong is not the sort of lad to remain out of touch, if he were in the land of the living. You may go now, and the Secretary and myself will talk over the details of rounding up this gang of miscreants. If they had anything to do with Strong's death, I will give you the satisfaction[Pg 274] of taking part in the pursuit and apprehension of them."

The Secretary broke in.

"That clew that Taylor has in the shape of that scrap of paper, I regard as valuable, Captain," he said. "I would recommend that inquiries be sent out concerning the yacht Halcyon. It is quite possible that the conspirators may be meaning to make good their escape on her. In that case, if we can trace her, she can be intercepted at sea and the men apprehended."

"I shall see that it is done, Mr. Secretary. Taylor, you may carry on and—— Well, orderly?"

Captain Dunham looked up inquiringly as his orderly entered the cabin in some haste, and, after saluting, stood respectfully at attention. But it was plain from the man's manner that he was laboring under some excitement.

"The officer of the deck reports an airship[Pg 275] coming this way, sir," said the orderly. "He told me to inform you at once, sir."

"An airship!"

"Yes, sir, or else a flying boat. We can't quite make out yet, sir."

"I will come on deck at once. Mr. Secretary, this may prove interesting. Possibly it is one of the Blue scouts; if so, I hope to bring the craft down, 'technically,' of course."

Herc saluted and hastened forward, while the captain and the Secretary of the Navy emerged on the deck. The Red fleet lay off Rock Island. They were awaiting word as to the movements of the "Blues" before steaming down the Sound to the attack.

So far, the wireless had been barren of news, and the movements of the defending squadron were surrounded with considerable mystery. The suspense had been wearing, and so every eye in the squadron, from Dreadnought, battleship, cruiser, destroyer, and torpedo boat, was centered[Pg 276] on the strange aeroplane that was flying toward them.

Opinion was divided as to whether the distant flying machine was an aerial scout, or was a friendly craft bearing despatches from a portion of the squadron which had been sent around on the Atlantic side.

On came the flying craft, and as it neared the grim fleet that lay swinging with smoking funnels at anchor on the blue tide, it was seen to swerve downward like a swooping fish-hawk. For a mile or more it skimmed along the surface of the water and then struck it with a splash.

"A flying boat!" exclaimed Captain Dunham, who had the binoculars on it.

The craft drove straight on over the water at a rapid rate of speed. As it drew closer, Captain Dunham exclaimed in a voice that trembled with excitement, despite his efforts to control it:

"Great Scott! That's one of our men!"

[Pg 277]

"A man attached to the Red fleet?" asked the Secretary.

"Yes, he is wig-wagging with his free arm. It's—it's—great Scott! It's Ned Strong, by all that's wonderful!"

It was half an hour later, and Ned had told his story. It was a concise, crisp statement occupying no more time than was necessary, but embodying a wonderful amount of important information. When he came to relate how he had "appropriated" one of the Blue fleet's aeroplanes and had flown straight to the Manhattan in it, the enthusiasm of his hearers knew no bounds.

For the time being, interest in this phase of his adventures even overtopped the recovery of the book of plans and coast defences taken from Kenworth. The book was found to contain full details of fire-control systems, gun tests, and other naval data of the utmost importance.

"By Neptune, lad, the United States Navy[Pg 278] owes you a debt of gratitude it can hardly repay," exclaimed Captain Dunham, with shining eyes.

"I shall see, however, that the service does what is in its power to recognize the signal ability you have displayed, Mr. Strong," remarked the Secretary.

"Thank you, sir," responded Ned, with glowing cheeks, "but the knowledge that I have been of service to the Flag is in itself reward enough."

"Hardly substantial, however," smiled the Secretary.

A few moments later Ned was dismissed and joined Herc. Their greeting was not an effusive one on the surface. Both had been trained in a school where men are taught to restrain and control their emotions. But in the hearty handclasp, and the few spoken words, each friend recognized the glad emotion that the other was feeling over their reunion.

[Pg 279]

Later in the day both lads were summoned to the captain's cabin.

"Here is where we lose our commands," said Herc, with dismal foreboding.

He was right. Captain Dunham's first words apprised both boys that they were no longer officers.

"You are relieved of the command of your gunboat," said the captain crisply; and then, as the boys' faces fell, despite all their efforts to maintain "stiff upper lips," he added, "to take charge of an expedition which will be explained to you."

The boys longed to exchange glances, but they stood stiffly at "eyes front." What could be coming now?

"We have located the yacht Halcyon," said the Secretary briefly. "The secret service men have placed us in possession of facts which make it certain that Saki and the rest are on board her. She is to sail to-night."

[Pg 280]

"Shall you not intercept her, sir?" asked Ned, betrayed by his interest into a breach of naval etiquette.

"Of course. That will be your duty."

"Our duty, sir?"

"Yes. You are assigned, in virtue of your commissions, to the command of the Henry, second-class destroyer. You will intercept and place under arrest the men on board the Halcyon and bring the craft back to New York harbor."

"When do we start, sir?"

"At once. The crew of the Henry have been notified. Steam is up and everything in readiness. You will, of course, keep in constant communication by wireless, using the code. When you overhaul the Halcyon, use no half-way measures. Arrest everyone on board, seize all documents and denounce the ship. In particular, apprehend the man calling himself Saki. He is in reality Captain Hasamira of the Japanese Navy and a most dangerous man."

[Pg 281]

"He certainly proved so to these lads," smiled Captain Dunham. "Now be off with you, boys, and bring back the men you are going after. We shall rely on you."

"Aye, aye, sir," said both Dreadnought Boys saluting, though their hearts were in such a wild tumult that they hardly knew what they were saying.

[Pg 282]



In the gray of the next morning the Henry, a squat, low craft of the destroyer type, with three fat funnels, lay tossing uneasily on the sweeping combers of the Atlantic some sixty-two miles south of Sandy Hook.

She had lain there most of the night, using her searchlight freely. But no craft answering to the description of the Halcyon had passed within her ken.

On the conning tower, Ned and Herc, for the twentieth time at least, went over the last wireless they had received from the Secret Service squad,—via the Manhattan.

"Cruise slowly about off Sandy Hook. Sixty-two miles to the south about. Halcyon should pass out in early morning. Is painted black, yellow[Pg 283] deck houses, two masts, black stack amidships."

"It isn't possible that she has slipped by us in the night, do you think?" exclaimed Herc, gazing anxiously about at the rolling waste of gray water.

"Not likely. That despatch came only an hour ago. If we remain here we are almost bound to intercept her."

"And if she does slip past us?"

"Then I'll keep after her, if I have to crack on clear down to the South Pole," said Ned grimly. "I don't intend to let that gang slip through my fingers!"

"I've got a few scores to settle myself," cried Herc. "When I think of that cellar——"

He gritted his teeth and clenched his freckled fists. It would have fared ill with any of the gang within reach of his hands at that moment.

"Well, let's go below to breakfast," said Ned[Pg 284] presently. "The watch will notify us of anything unusual."

"Breakfast!" scoffed Herc. "I suppose it will be the same as supper last night. Business of eating with one hand while you claw on to a stanchion with the other. Tell you what, Ned, these destroyers are too lively a type of craft for me."

"They're just the type to overhaul those rascals we're after, and that's good enough for me," rejoined Ned. "I wouldn't care if I had to eat standing on my head just to get a chance at those fellows."

"'Use no half-way measures,'" said Herc musingly, repeating the Secretary's instructions. "I guess we won't, Ned, eh?"

"Well, if they should happen to want trouble, they'll get all that they're looking for," laughed Ned, as they descended the pitching, swinging iron ladder that led to the cramped cabin of the Henry.

[Pg 285]

They had had hardly time to down some coffee and eat some bacon when there came a report from the bow watch.

"Smoke to the north'ard, sir."

Breakfast was forgotten in a flash. Snatching up his binoculars, Ned sprang for the iron ladder. Herc was right at his heels.

On the northern horizon lay a smudge of black smoke. For some moments it was hard to make out whether it was receding or coming toward them. But presently Ned, with a cry of delight, announced that the stranger was coming due south.

Not long after, the strange craft swam into the field of vision of the binoculars. Herc happened to be holding them on her at that moment. He gave an exclamation of disgust.

"It's a yacht, all right, but not the right one."

"How do you know?"

"That description. I've got it by heart. Two[Pg 286] masts, black funnel. This fellow's got three masts and a yellow stack."

"Let me have a look at her."

"Go ahead if you want to; you won't see any more than I've been telling you."

"Well?" inquired Herc, after a somewhat long interval. The yacht had come closer now. She was being driven hard as they could see by the constant cloud of black smoke that came rolling out of her funnel. The crew of the destroyer, who in some mysterious way had some inkling of the mission of the Henry, watched the oncoming yacht with as much interest as their young officers.

"Well, what do you make of her?" demanded Herc, repeating his question.

"Hold on a minute! I'm studying her."

"Studying her! There's not much to study over. It's the wrong craft; anyone could see that with half an eye."

"I'm not so sure of that. She's a funny looking[Pg 287] tub. Do you notice anything odd about her, Herc?"

"Not I; except that she isn't the craft we are looking for, confound her."

"Well, there is something queer about her. Notice that after mast. It doesn't appear to fit, somehow, and that stern looks funny, too."

"Jove! now that you speak of it, it does look queer. Say, Ned, you don't think they could have disguised her, do you?"

"I don't know. I've heard of such things. I don't want to make any blunder, and yet that vessel looks to me as if she had been thimble-rigged in some sort of way."

Midshipman Fuller, junior officer to the Dreadnought Boys, came on the bridge. Ned turned to him.

"Mr. Fuller, what do you make of that yacht yonder?" asked Ned.

"She's a queer looking craft, sir. Looks awkward by the stern," said the midshipman.

[Pg 288]

"Just what I think. Mr. Fuller, you will take the bridge."

"You are going to board her?" demanded Herc.

"Yes, there's something wrong about her. I wouldn't dare to take a chance and let her get by."

"Bully for you," said Herc under his breath.

"Mr. Fuller, please have the boarding launch lowered with the regular crew. The bow gun may be uncovered and when I give you the order, you may fire a shot across that craft's bow. First, however, I'll signal her to heave to."

The boarding launch referred to was a small power launch carried amidships on the destroyer. The sea was rather rough for such a small craft, but she was staunch, and Ned had no fear but that she would ride the combers without difficulty.

In obedience to his command, a string of[Pg 289] brightly colored bunting presently crawled up the destroyer's military mast.

It was the signal to "heave to."

But the strange yacht showed no inclination to obey. She kept right on plowing through the big seas with a crest of foam at her bow.

"You may fire, Mr. Fuller."

Ned's voice was perfectly calm; but Herc could hardly keep still. The bow rapid-fire gun had been stripped of its waterproof cover and its crew was "standing by." The order to fire came crisply.

"Let her have it across the bows!"

Bang! The gun barked out viciously. They could see the shot go ricocheting off over the waves.

But the stranger kept serenely on.

"Give it to her again," ordered Ned.

Bang! Once more a shot whizzed across the recalcitrant stranger's prow. It struck the water not more than twenty-five feet ahead of her.

[Pg 290]

"Concern 'em, that ought to stop 'em," growled Herc.

But it didn't. More smoke rolled out of the yacht's stack. Her speed was increased, if anything.

"I'm certain now that we're on the right track," grated out Ned; "no honest craft would ignore a signal like that."

Then a moment later he turned to Herc.

"Mr. Taylor, go below and sight that gun yourself. Let her have it across the fore-deck. I'll make them heave to if I have to blow a hole in them."

Herc was nothing loath. Repressing a grin in virtue of the dignity of his office, he took charge of the gun. He pointed it carefully and as the destroyer rose on the crest of a wave, Ned gave the command.



The next instant an exultant cheer broke from[Pg 291] the excited Jackies. The foremast of the stranger toppled, and then in a tangled wreck, came smashing down to the deck.

"Bull's eye!" remarked Herc coolly, flicking a powder stain off his gloves.

"Stopped her, sir!" exclaimed Midshipman Fuller an instant later.

He was right. The last "hint" had been too strong to ignore. The stranger slackened speed and lay sullenly tossing on the sea.

"Mr. Fuller, sir, take the bridge," ordered Ned, as he and Herc hastened to board the little power launch that lay tossing alongside, held off from crashing against the steel sides of the Henry by the stalwart arms of its crew.

Tossing like an eggshell, hurled dizzily skyward and then plunged downward, the dory-shaped power boat rapidly skimmed the distance between the destroyer and the yacht. Ned had ordered "side-arms," and the crew of six was fully armed.

[Pg 292]

"Yacht, ahoy!" hailed Ned as they drew near and a uniformed figure appeared on the yacht's bridge. "What craft is that?"

"The Spendthrift of New London for New Orleans," came the reply. "What's the matter with you navy fellows?"

"You'll soon find out," said Ned grimly. "Lay alongside, men. Be prepared for a surprise."

An accommodation ladder had been lowered by order of the man on the bridge, a stout, bearded individual. Ned was just preparing to climb it, when there came a warning shout from Herc. The red-headed lad pulled his chum back just in time to dodge a heavy iron weight which some unseen hand had hurled from above.

The weight fell harmlessly into the water.

"It was a Jap threw that; I saw him sneaking along the deck," cried one of the men.

"Hurrah! We've got the right craft, then!" cried Herc.

"What is the matter, gentlemen?" demanded[Pg 293] the man on the bridge. He appeared much agitated.

"The matter is that you will consider yourself under arrest," cried Ned. "Remain where you are and order your crew forward."

"You take things with a high hand. Who do you think we are?"

"I don't know anything about you; but I know that this craft is the Halcyon with a faked stern, a false mizzen-mast and a repainted funnel," retorted Ned angrily. "I shall hold you responsible for the behavior of your crew."

The bearded man appeared to be about to collapse. In a feeble voice they heard him order his crew forward.

"I call you to witness that this is a chartered yacht," he cried, "and that I'm obeying your orders. I don't want to get into trouble with Uncle Sam."

"I guess you're in pretty bad," muttered Herc grimly.

[Pg 294]

Without further opposition they boarded the yacht, which there was no longer reason to doubt was the Halcyon.

As they gained the deck, some figures darted along it and vanished.

Headed by Ned and Herc, three of the men dashed after them. The rest were left to guard the deck.

"That was Kenworth and Saki," gasped Herc as they rushed down the companionway stairs and into the main saloon of the yacht.

Ned nodded grimly.

"We've rounded them up at last," he said drawing his revolver and ordering Herc to do the same.


Just as they gained the saloon, the door of a stateroom opening from it was banged to. An instant later came the click of a bolt as it was shot.

"Open that door, Kenworth," cried Ned with[Pg 295] perfect coolness. "You're at the end of your rope."


Ned dodged just in time to avoid a bullet fired through the panel of the door. Desperate, with nothing to hope for but a federal prison, Kenworth was fighting like a cornered rat.

But Ned's voice did not shake, in spite of the narrowness of his escape, as he addressed the wretched man within the stateroom.

"Kenworth, it is useless to resist. Be sensible and give yourself up. You are bound to be taken, and to try to stave it off makes it all the worse."

Bang! Another bullet was the only answer vouchsafed. The missile fanned Herc's ear and buried itself in the moulding of the saloon wall.

"I'll stand no more nonsense!" cried Ned sternly. "Are you going to surrender?"

"Never. I'll die before I'll rot in a federal prison," cried Kenworth wildly.

Ned turned to Herc.

[Pg 296]

"We've got to force the door," he said in a low voice.

"But, Ned, the man is half insane. Why not shoot him down from outside here?"

"As if I'd do a thing like that! Come on!"

Right then the Jackies standing behind the two young officers beheld an exhibition of pure nerve that they had never seen excelled. Ned raised his revolver and fired through the top of the stateroom door where his bullet would be certain to hurt no one. As he expected, it drew Kenworth's fire.

Bang-Bang-Bang! came three shots. Ned knew that the cylinder of the crazed midshipman's revolver must be empty.

"Now!" he shouted. "Stand by, men!"

Rip-p-p-p! Cr-ash-h-h-h! The door was carried clean off its hinges as Ned and Herc rushed it. As it fell, the interior of the stateroom, reeking with blue powder smoke, was revealed. Huddled on the bunk in postures of abject terror were[Pg 297] Saki and the spectacled Jap who had caused Herc so much trouble.

Rip-p-p-p! Cr-ash-h-h-h! The door was carried off its hinges as Ned and Herc rushed in.—Page 296

In the center of the room stood Kenworth. His eyes blazed with a wild fire and he flourished an empty revolver, while he yelled incoherently.

At the sight of Ned and Herc, the half insane man uttered a piercing cry.

"I thought you were both dead!" he cried. "But you have risen from the grave to confront me!"

He slipped another cartridge into his revolver, and Ned leaped forward just in time to dash the weapon from the wretched renegade's hand. He had turned the pistol on himself.

Within half an hour, Kenworth, by that time a raging maniac, had been secured, and the two Japs in sullen silence had been escorted with the renegade midshipman on board the Henry. A search of the Halcyon revealed several men among the crew whom Herc recalled having seen in the plotters' headquarters at Civic Island.[Pg 298] Many papers and documents which there was not time to examine just then were also recovered.

Ned placed three men in charge of the Halcyon with orders to make her captain follow him into New York harbor. Then he wirelessed news of his success to the Manhattan and received a warm reply of congratulation that made his blood glow and his eyes shine. Herc, too, came in for a share of commendation. With the congratulations, came orders to proceed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and see that Kenworth was placed in a hospital, for he was no longer responsible.

It was two days later. The Dreadnought Boys stood facing the Secretary of the Navy in the office of the commander of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. What was to come, they did not know. They had not yet been relieved of their command of the Henry, and they feared that the summons to present themselves to the Secretary was for that purpose.

[Pg 299]

"Well, gentlemen," said the Secretary, looking approvingly at the two spruce, smart, young officers, "I suppose that you have no wish to take off those uniforms?"

"Naturally not, sir," returned Ned, for Herc was too embarrassed to speak. "It is the finest uniform in the world and no one would willingly doff it."

"Just what I think, Strong," said the Secretary, "and I'm going to see to it that you do not change these uniforms except for those of a higher rank in the service."

Ned's eyes grew dim. The room swam before him. He could hardly believe his ears. But the Secretary continued,

"As I said the other day, both you young men have shown ability of no common order, native qualities that cannot be inducted by Naval Academies or colleges. I have therefore made arrangements to have your present appointments made permanent, and you will, hereafter, by[Pg 300] special act, assume them with their rank, pay and dignity until you are ready for the next step upward; and I promise you that I shall keep my eye upon you."

"Mr. Secretary, I—we—that is—we don't know what to say, except to thank you and assure you that it is the proudest moment of our lives," stammered Ned hoarsely in a voice that sounded to him faint and far away. As for Herc, he stood like one stunned, his freckles coming and going on his alternately ruddy and pale cheeks like pictures in a kaleidoscope.

To relieve the situation, the Secretary changed the subject.

"After the maneuvers, you will be granted a furlough of one month. For the present, you will retain command of the Henry and will rejoin the Red fleet with all speed. By the way, I may tell you that Kenworth can never recover his reason. His mind is a total wreck. I suppose it is charitable to attribute his treachery to[Pg 301] his weakened intellect. As for the Japanese spies, the government can only quietly see to it that they are escorted out of the country never to return. I understand that in Japan the life of a detected spy is not a happy one, so that they will meet their punishment even if the government of this country cannot inflict a penalty upon them. Against Rankin, of whose actions on the Seneca we know, we have proved nothing; but he will be watched."

And here, with the glory of their new honors upon them, we must say "Good-by" once more to the Dreadnought Boys. The events just chronicled are so recent that it may be some time before we can set down their further adventures. The lads have been accepted most cordially by their brother officers and are loved and respected by their men.

Success has not turned their heads and as officers they are proving the same modest, self-respecting lads as ever. The Secretary and their[Pg 302] immediate superiors are keeping their eyes on the two young officers, and ere long they will doubtless have further chances to distinguish themselves.

But whether they are assigned to routine duty or to exciting, adventurous cruises, the Dreadnought Boys will always devote themselves, heart and soul, to the defence of one standard—the Flag of their country.



Stories of Modern School Sports


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Ben Stone at Oakdale


Under peculiarly trying circumstances Ben Stone wins his way at Oakdale Academy, and at the same time enlists our sympathy, interest and respect. Through the enmity of Bern Hayden, the loyalty of Roger Eliot and the clever work of the "Sleuth," Ben is falsely accused, championed and vindicated.


"One thing I will claim, and that is that all Grants fight open and square and there never was a sneak among them." It was Rodney Grant, of Texas, who made the claim to his friend, Ben Stone, and this story shows how he proved the truth of this statement in the face of apparent evidence to the contrary.


Baseball is the main theme of this interesting narrative, and that means not only clear and clever descriptions of thrilling games, but an intimate acquaintance with the members of the teams who played them. The Oakdale Boys were ambitious and loyal, and some were even disgruntled and jealous, but earnest, persistent work won out.


The typical vacation is the one that means much freedom, little restriction, and immediate contact with "all outdoors." These conditions prevailed in the summer camp of the Oakdale Boys and made it a scene of lively interest.


The "Sleuth" scents a mystery! He "follows his nose." The plot thickens! He makes deductions. There are surprises for the reader—and for the "Sleuth," as well.


A new element creeps into Oakdale with another year's registration of students. The old and the new standards of conduct in and out of school meet, battle, and cause sweeping changes in the lives of several of the boys.

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Stories of Skill and Ingenuity


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The Boy Inventors' Wireless Telegraph


Blest with natural curiosity,—sometimes called the instinct of investigation,—favored with golden opportunity, and gifted with creative ability, the Boy Inventors meet emergencies and contrive mechanical wonders that interest and convince the reader because they always "work" when put to the test.


A thought, a belief, an experiment; discouragement, hope, effort and final success—this is the history of many an invention; a history in which excitement, competition, danger, despair and persistence figure. This merely suggests the circumstances which draw the daring Boy Inventors into strange experiences and startling adventures, and which demonstrate the practical use of their vanishing gun.


As in the previous stories of the Boy Inventors, new and interesting triumphs of mechanism are produced which become immediately valuable, and the stage for their proving and testing is again the water. On the surface and below it, the boys have jolly, contagious fun, and the story of their serious, purposeful inventions challenge the reader's deepest attention.

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The Bungalow Boys


How the Bungalow Boys received their title and how they retained the right to it in spite of much opposition makes a lively narrative for lively boys.


A real treasure hunt of the most thrilling kind, with a sunken Spanish galleon as its object, makes a subject of intense interest at any time, but add to that a band of desperate men, a dark plot and a devil fish, and you have the combination that brings strange adventures into the lives of the Bungalow Boys.


The clever assistance of a young detective saves the boys from the clutches of Chinese smugglers, of whose nefarious trade they know too much. How the Professor's invention relieves a critical situation is also an exciting incident of this book.


The Bungalow Boys start out for a quiet cruise on the Great Lakes and a visit to an island. A storm and a band of wreckers interfere with the serenity of their trip, and a submarine adds zest and adventure to it.

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Mexican and Canadian Frontier Series


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The Border Boys on the Trail


What it meant to make an enemy of Black Ramon De Barios—that is the problem that Jack Merrill and his friends, including Coyote Pete, face in this exciting tale.


Read of the Haunted Mesa and its mysteries, of the Subterranean River and its strange uses, of the value of gasolene and steam "in running the gauntlet," and you will feel that not even the ancient splendors of the Old World can furnish a better setting for romantic action than the Border of the New.


As every day is making history—faster, it is said, than ever before—so books that keep pace with the changes are full of rapid action and accurate facts. This book deals with lively times on the Mexican border.


The Border Boys have already had much excitement and adventure in their lives, but all this has served to prepare them for the experiences related in this volume. They are stronger, braver and more resourceful than ever, and the exigencies of their life in connection with the Texas Rangers demand all their trained ability.

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The Motor Rangers' Lost Mine


This is an absorbing story of the continuous adventures of a motor car in the hands of Nat Trevor and his friends. It does seemingly impossible "stunts," and yet everything happens "in the nick of time."


Enemies in ambush, the peril of fire, and the guarding of treasure make exciting times for the Motor Rangers—yet there is a strong flavor of fun and freedom, with a typical Western mountaineer for spice.

THE MOTOR RANGERS ON BLUE WATER; or, The Secret of the Derelict.

The strange adventures of the sturdy craft "Nomad" and the stranger experiences of the Rangers themselves with Morello's schooner and a mysterious derelict form the basis of this well-spun yarn of the sea.


From the "Nomad" to the "Discoverer," from the sea to the sky, the scene changes in which the Motor Rangers figure. They have experiences "that never were on land or sea," in heat and cold and storm, over mountain peak and lost city, with savages and reptiles; their ship of the air is attacked by huge birds of the air; they survive explosion and earthquake; they even live to tell the tale!

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Tales of the New Navy



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The Dreadnought Boys on Battle Practice


Especially interesting and timely is this book which introduces the reader with its heroes, Ned and Herc, to the great ships of modern warfare and to the intimate life and surprising adventures of Uncle Sam's sailors.


In this story real dangers threaten and the boys' patriotism is tested in a peculiar international tangle. The scene is laid on the South American coast.


To the inventive genius—trade-school boy or mechanic—this story has special charm, perhaps, but to every reader its mystery and clever action are fascinating.


Among the volunteers accepted for Aero Service are Ned and Herc. Their perilous adventures are not confined to the air, however, although they make daring and notable flights in the name of the Government; nor are they always able to fly beyond the reach of their old "enemies," who are also airmen.

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Twentieth Century Athletic Stories


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Frank Armstrong's Vacation


How Frank's summer experience with his boy friends make him into a sturdy young athlete through swimming, boating, and baseball contests, and a tramp through the Everglades, is the subject of this splendid story.


We find among the jolly boys at Queen's School, Frank, the student-athlete, Jimmy, the baseball enthusiast, and Lewis, the unconsciously-funny youth who furnishes comedy for every page that bears his name. Fall and winter sports between intensely rival school teams are expertly described.


The gymnasium, the track and the field make the background for the stirring events of this volume, in which David, Jimmy, Lewis, the "Wee One" and the "Codfish" figure, while Frank "saves the day."


With the same persistent determination that won him success in swimming, running and baseball playing, Frank Armstrong acquired the art of "drop kicking," and the Queen's football team profits thereby.

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Clean Aviation Stories


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The Girl Aviators and the Phantom Airship


Roy Prescott was fortunate in having a sister so clever and devoted to him and his interests that they could share work and play with mutual pleasure and to mutual advantage. This proved especially true in relation to the manufacture and manipulation of their aeroplane, and Peggy won well deserved fame for her skill and good sense as an aviator. There were many stumbling-blocks in their terrestrial path, but they soared above them all to ultimate success.


That there is a peculiar fascination about aviation that wins and holds girl enthusiasts as well as boys is proved by this tale. On golden wings the girl aviators rose for many an exciting flight, and met strange and unexpected experiences.


To most girls a coaching or yachting trip is an adventure. How much more perilous an adventure a "sky cruise" might be is suggested by the title and proved by the story itself.


The delicacy of flight suggested by the word "butterfly," the mechanical power implied by "motor," the ability to control assured in the title "aviator," all combined with the personality and enthusiasm of girls themselves, make this story one for any girl or other reader "to go crazy over."

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Molly Brown's Freshman Days


Would you like to admit to your circle of friends the most charming of college girls—the typical college girl for whom we are always looking but not always finding; the type that contains so many delightful characteristics, yet without unpleasant perfection in any; the natural, unaffected, sweet-tempered girl, loved because she is lovable? Then seek an introduction to Molly Brown. You will find the baggage-master, the cook, the Professor of English Literature, and the College President in the same company.


What is more delightful than a re-union of college girls after the summer vacation? Certainly nothing that precedes it in their experience—at least, if all class-mates are as happy together as the Wellington girls of this story. Among Molly's interesting friends of the second year is a young Japanese girl, who ingratiates her "humbly" self into everybody's affections speedily and permanently.


Financial stumbling blocks are not the only things that hinder the ease and increase the strength of college girls. Their troubles and their triumphs are their own, often peculiar to their environment. How Wellington students meet the experiences outside the class-rooms is worth the doing, the telling and the reading.

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Wholesome Stories of Adventure


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The Motor Maids' School Days


Billie Campbell was just the type of a straightforward, athletic girl to be successful as a practical Motor Maid. She took her car, as she did her class-mates, to her heart, and many a grand good time did they have all together. The road over which she ran her red machine had many an unexpected turning,—now it led her into peculiar danger; now into contact with strange travelers; and again into experiences by fire and water. But, best of all, "The Comet" never failed its brave girl owner.


Wherever the Motor Maids went there were lively times, for these were companionable girls who looked upon the world as a vastly interesting place full of unique adventures—and so, of course, they found them.


It is always interesting to travel, and it is wonderfully entertaining to see old scenes through fresh eyes. It is that privilege, therefore, that makes it worth while to join the Motor Maids in their first 'cross-country run.


South and West had the Motor Maids motored, nor could their education by travel have been more wisely begun. But now a speaking acquaintance with their own country enriched their anticipation of an introduction to the British Isles. How they made their polite American bow and how they were received on the other side is a tale of interest and inspiration.

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Splendid Motor Cycle Stories


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The Motor Cycle Chums Around the World


Could Jules Verne have dreamed of encircling the globe with a motor cycle for emergencies he would have deemed it an achievement greater than any he describes in his account of the amusing travels of Philias Fogg. This, however, is the purpose successfully carried out by the Motor Cycle Chums, and the tale of their mishaps, hindrances and delays is one of intense interest, secret amusement, and incidental information to the reader.


The Great Northwest is a section of vast possibilities and in it the Motor Cycle Chums meet adventures even more unusual and exciting than many of their experiences on their tour around the world. There is not a dull page in this lively narrative of clever boys and their attendant "Chinee."


The gold fever which ran its rapid course through the veins of the historic "forty-niners" recurs at certain intervals, and seizes its victims with almost irresistible power. The search for gold is so fascinating to the seekers that hardship, danger and failure are obstacles that scarcely dampen their ardour. How the Motor Cycle Chums were caught by the lure of the gold and into what difficulties and novel experiences they were led, makes a tale of thrilling interest.

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The Boy Scouts on the Range.

Connected with the dwellings of the vanished race of cliff-dwellers was a mystery. Who so fit to solve it as a band of adventurous Boy Scouts? The solving of the secret and the routing of a bold band of cattle thieves involved Rob Blake and his chums, including "Tubby" Hopkins, in grave difficulties.

There are few boys who have not read of the weird snake dance and other tribal rites of Moquis. In this volume, the habits of these fast vanishing Indians are explained in interesting detail. Few boys' books hold more thrilling chapters than those concerning Rob's captivity among the Moquis.

Through the fascinating pages of the narrative also stalks, like a grim figure of impending tragedy, the shaggy form of Silver Tip, the giant grizzly. In modern juvenile writing, there is little to be found as gripping as the scene in which Rob and Silver Tip meet face to face. The boy is weaponless and,—but it would not be fair to divulge the termination of the battle. A book which all Boy Scouts should secure and place upon their shelves to be read and re-read.

Sold by Booksellers Everywhere.

Hurst & Co.,    Publishers    New York

Transcriber's Notes:

Images may be clicked to view larger versions.

Some inconsistent hyphenation has been retained from the original (e.g. "foredeck" vs. "fore-deck").

Frontispiece caption, moved comma inside quotes.

Page 22, removed duplicate "the" from "the book was instructive as well as interesting."

Page 178, changed single to double quote after "Can you anyways recall jes' what happened las' night?"

"Dreadnought Boys Series" ad, corrected "Areo Service" to "Aero Service" in plot summary.

"Girl Aviators Series" ad, corrected "terrestial" to "terrestrial" and "abiltity" to "ability."

"Molly Brown Series" ad, corrected "SOPHMORE" to "SOPHOMORE."