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- Boy Scouts in a Submarine - 5/31 -
plans of the Government have."
"That will be a big tow for a steamer," Jimmie suggested.
"Yes, it is awkward, but there seemed to be no other way. The Diver will be far in the rear and you take water off the Taya Islands."
"And on the way over," Ned said, "I can live in the Sea Lion and continue my studies of the machinery."
"That is the idea," said the Lieutenant.
"When are we to be picked up?" asked Jack.
The Lieutenant lifted a hand for silence.
From outside, seemingly from underneath the keel of the Sea Lion, came a grating sound, which was followed by a slight, though steady, lifting of the vessel.
"Gee!" cried Jimmie, springing to his feet. "I guess we're up against an earthquake!"
The boys were all moving about now, but Lieutenant Scott remained in his chair, a smile on his face.
The Sea Lion rose steadily, and there was a slight tip to port. Ned sat down with a shamed look on his face.
"I should have known," he said.
"Say," Jack exclaimed, "was the submarine put together on the float that is going to carry her across?"
"Of course she was," laughed the Lieutenant. "The pieces brought on from New York were assembled on the float. Some of the larger pieces, the ones most difficult to handle, were made here from patterns sent on from the east. Then, when all was ready, the float was dropped out of sight so the submarine would lie on the surface, as we found her."
"And now they're lifting the float?" asked Jimmie.
"Exactly," was the reply. "Suppose you go outside, on the conning tower, and look about."
"You bet," cried Jack, and then there was a rush for the stairway, or half-ladder, rather, leading to the tower.
The Sea Lion was still lifting, though where the power came from no one could determine. While Ned studied over the problem Lieutenant Scott laid a hand on his shoulder.
"You want to know what makes the wheels go round?" laughed the officer. "Well, I'll tell you. The bottom of the float forms a tank. Now do you see?"
"And there's a large hose laid from the tank to the shore, and the water is being pumped out! I see."
"That's it," replied the Lieutenant. "Now that we are getting up high and dry, you boys can step down on the floor of the float and look about. I don't think there was ever a contrivance exactly like this. Go and look it over."
Night was falling, and a chill October wind was blowing in from the Pacific. There were banks of clouds, too, and all signs portended rain. It would be a dismal night.
Leaving Lieutenant Scott in the conning tower, the boys all clambered down to the floor of the float to examine the blockings which kept the submarine on a level keel. They were gone only a short time, but when they climbed up the rope ladder to the conning tower again the light was dim, and a slow, cold rain was falling. The Lieutenant was not on the conning tower, and Ned at once descended to the general living room of the submarine. Before he reached the middle of the stairs the lights, which had been burning brightly a moment before, suddenly went out, and the interior of the submarine yawned under his feet like a deep, impenetrable pit.
Fearful that something was amiss, Ned dropped down and reached for his electric searchlight, which he had left on a shelf not far from the stairs. Something passed him in the darkness and he called out to the Lieutenant, but there was no answer. Then, out of the darkness above, came a mingled chorus of anger and alarm.
A WOLF ON THE TRAIL
"That isn't Ned!" cried Jack's voice, in a moment.
"Don't let him get away! He's been up to some mischief!"
That was Frank Shaw's voice.
That could be no one but Jimmie!
Ned, groping about in the darkness, heard the voices faintly. He seemed to be submerged in a sweep of pounding waves, the steady beating of which shut out all individual sounds.
He knew that he staggered and stumbled as he walked. Moving across the floor his feet came in contact with some soft obstruction lying on the rug and he fell down.
There was a strange, choking odor in the place, and he groped on his hands and knees in the direction of the shelf where his searchlight had been left. His senses reeled, and for an instant he lay flat on the floor.
Then he heard the boys clambering down the stairs from the conning tower and called out, feebly, yet with sufficient strength to make himself heard above the sound of shuffling feet.
"Go back!" he cried. "Don't come in here! Leave the hatch open, and let in air. Go back!"
Jimmie recognized a note of alarm, of suffering, in the voice of his chum and dropped headlong into the black pit of the submarine. Ned heard him snap the catch of a searchlight, and then, dimly, heard his voice:
"Gee!" the voice said. "What's comin' off here?"
The round face of the electric searchlight showed at the end of a cylindrical shaft of light which rested on Ned's face, but the boy did not realize what was going on until he felt a gust of wind and a drizzle of rain on his forehead.
Then he opened his eyes to find himself on the conning tower of the submarine, with the boys gathered about him, anxiety showing in their speech and manner. It was too dark for him to see their faces.
"You're all right now," Jimmie said. "What got you down there?"
Then Ned remembered the sudden extinction of the lights as he moved down the stairs, the stifling, choking odor below, and the deadly grip of suffocation which had brought him to the floor.
"Go back into the boat," he said, gaining strength every moment. "I am anxious about Lieutenant Scott."
"We've just come from there," Frank said. "We've done all that can be done for him."
"What do you mean by that?" demanded Ned, moving toward the hatch which sealed the submarine.
"The poison which keeled you over got him!" Jack said.
"Do you mean that he's dead?" asked Ned, a shiver running through his body as he spoke.
"I'm afraid so," was the reply. "We got you out just in time. You would have perished in a moment more."
"Dead!" said Ned. "Lieutenant Scott dead! And he was so gay and so full of life a few moments ago!"
Jack, who had left the little group a moment before, now returned.
"The poison seems to have evaporated from the interior," he said, "so we may as well go below. I'll go ahead and turn on the lights." The body of the naval officer lay in a huddle at the foot of the stairs leading to the conning tower, just far enough to the rear so that the free passage was not obstructed. With all the lights turned on and every aperture which might transmit a ray to the world outside closed, the boys, after placing the body on a couch, began a close examination of the boat.
There were no wounds on the body, so it seemed that he had died from suffocation. There was still a sickening odor in the boat, but the constant manufacture of fresh air was gradually doing away with this.
The door to the room where the dynamos and the gasoline engine were situated was found wide open, and Ned instructed the boys to leave it so and leave everything untouched.
"The first thing to do," he said, "is to discover any clues the assassin may have left here. It is an old theory that no person, however careful he or she may be, can enter and leave a room without leaving behind some evidence of his or her presence there. We'll soon know if this is true in this case."
"There was some one in here, all right," Jimmie said. "He passed us on the conning tower, skipping like to break the speed limit for the city. I tried to trip him as he passed me, an' got this."
The lad turned a bruised face toward his companions. In the confusion no one had observed the cut on his cheek.
"You did get something!" Jack exclaimed. "Why didn't you say something about it?"
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