The Romance of Elaine by Arthur B. Reeve - HTML preview
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Half carrying, half forcing Elaine down into the water, Del Mar and his two men, all four of the party clad in the outlandish submarine suits, bore the poor girl literally along the bottom of the bay until they reached a point which they knew to be directly under the entrance to the secret submarine harbor.
Del Mar's mind was working feverishly. Though he now had in his power the girl he both loved and also feared as the stumbling- block in the execution of his nefarious plans against America, he realized that in getting her he had been forced to betray the precious secret of the harbor itself.
At the point where he knew that the harbor was above him, hidden safely beneath the promontory, he took from under his arm a float which he released. Upward it shot through the water.
Above, in the harbor, a number of his men were either on guard or lounging about.
"A signal from the chief," cried a sentry, pointing to the float as it bobbed up.
"Kick off the lead shoes," signalled Del Mar to the others, under the water.
They did so and rose slowly to the surface, carrying Elaine up with them. The men at the surface were waiting for them and helped to pull Del Mar and his companions out of the water.
"Come into the office, right away," beckoned Del Mar anxiously, removing his helmet and leading the way.
In the office, the others removed their helmets, while Del Mar took the head-gear off Elaine. She stared about her bewildered.
"Where am I?" she demanded.
"A woman!" exclaimed the men in the harbor in surprise.
"Never mind where you are," growled Del Mar, plainly worried. Then to the men, he added, "We can't stay any longer. The harbor is discovered. Get ready to leave immediately."
Murmurs of anger and anxiety rose from the men as Del Mar related briefly between orders what had just happened.
Immediately there was a general scramble to make ready for the escape. In the corner of the office, Elaine, again in her skirt and shirtwaist which the diving-suit had protected, sat open-eyed watching the preparations of the men for the hasty departure. Some had been detailed to get the rifles which they handed around to those as yet unarmed. Del Mar took one as well as a cartridge belt.
"Guard her," he shouted to one man indicating Elaine, "and if she gets away this time, I'll shoot you."
Then he led the others down the ledge until he came to a submarine boat. The rest followed, still making preparations for a hasty flight.
. . . . . . .
Woodward along with Professor Arnold, in his disguise as a hermit, stood for a moment surrounded by the soldiers, after the disappearance of Elaine and Del Mar in the water.
"I see it all, now," cried the hermit, "the submarine, the strange disappearances, the messages in the water. They have a secret harbor under those cliffs, with an entrance beneath the water line."
Hastily he wrote a note on a piece of paper.
"Send one of your men to my headquarters with that," he said, handing it to Woodward to read:
RODGERS,--Send new submarine telescope by bearer. You will find it in case No. 17, closet No. 3.--ARNOLD.
"Right away," nodded Woodward, comprehending and calling a soldier whom he dispatched immediately with hurried instructions. The soldier saluted and left almost on a run.
Then Woodward turned and with Arnold lead the men up the shore, still conferring on the best means of attacking the harbor.
On a wharf along the shore Woodward, Arnold and the soldiers gathered, waiting for the telescope. Already Woodward had had a fast launch brought up, ready for use.
. . . . . . .
When Woodward, Arnold and the attacking party had discovered me unconscious in Del Mar's study, there had been no time to wait for me to regain full consciousness. They had placed me on a couch and run into the secret passageway after Elaine.
Now, however, I slowly regained my senses and, looking about, vaguely began to realize what had happened.
My first impulse was to search the study, looking in all the closets and table drawers. In a corner was a large chest, I opened it. Inside were several of the queer helmets and suits which I had seen Del Mar use and one of which he had placed on Elaine.
For some moments I examined them curiously, wondering what their use could be. Somehow it seemed to me, if Del Mar had used them in the escape, we should need them in the pursuit.
Then my eye fell on the broken panel. I entered it and groped cautiously down the passageway. At the end I gazed about, trying to discover which way they had all gone.
At last, down on the shore, before a wharf I could see Woodward, the strange old hermit and the rest.
I ran toward them, calling.
. . . . . . .
By this time the soldier who had been sent for the submarine telescope arrived at last, with the telescope in sections in several long cases.
"Good!" exclaimed the old hermit, almost seizing the package which the soldier handed him.
He unwrapped it and joined the various sections together. It was, as I have said, a submarine telescope, but after a design entirely new, differing from the ordinary submarine telescope. It had an arm bent at right angles, with prismatic mirrors so that it was not only possible to see the bottom of the sea but by an adjustment also to see at right angles, or, as it were, around a corner.
It was while he was joining this contrivance together that I came up from the end of the secret passage down to the wharf.
"Why, here's Jameson," greeted Woodward. "I'm glad you're so much better."
"Where's Elaine?" I interrupted breathlessly.
They began to tell me.
"Aren't you going to follow?" I cried.
"Follow? How can we follow?"
Excitedly I told of my discovery of the helmets.
"Just the thing!" exclaimed the hermit. "Send some one back to get them." Woodward quickly detached several soldiers to go with me and I hurried back to the bungalow, while others carried the submarine telescope to the boat.
It was only a few minutes later that in Del Mar's own car, I drove up to the wharf again and we unloaded the curious submarine helmets and suits.
Quickly Woodward posted several of his men to act as sentries on the beach, then with the rest we climbed into the launch and slipped off down the shore.
The launch which Woodward had commandeered moved along in the general direction which they had seen Del Mar and his men take with Elaine. With the telescope over the side, we cruised about slowly in a circle, Arnold gazing through the eyepiece. All of us were by this time in the diving-suits which I had brought from Del Mar's, except that we had not yet strapped on the helmets.
Suddenly Arnold raised his hand and signalled to stop the launch.
"Look!" he cried, indicating the eyepiece of the submarine telescope which he had let down over the side.
Woodward gazed into the eyepiece and then I did, also. There we could see the side of a submerged submarine a short distance away, through the cave-like entrance of what appeared to be a great under-water harbor.
"What shall we do?" queried Woodward.
"Attack it now before they are prepared," replied the hermit decisively. "Put on the helmets."
All of us except those who were running the launch buckled on the head-pieces, wrapping our guns in waterproof covers which we had found with the suits.
As soon as we had finished, one after another, we let ourselves over the side of the boat and sank to the bottom.
On the bottom we gathered and slowly, in the heavy unaccustomed helmets and cumbersome suits, we made our way in a body through the entrance of the harbor.
Upward through the archway we went, clinging to rocks, anything, but always upward.
As we emerged a shot rang out. One of our men threw up his arms and fell back into the water.
On we pressed.
. . . . . . .
Elaine sat in a corner of the office, mute, while the man who was guarding her, heavily armed, paced up and down.
Suddenly an overwhelming desire came over her to attempt an escape. But no sooner had she made a motion as though to run through the door than the man seized her and drove her back to her corner.
"Take your positions here," ordered Del Mar to several of the men. "If you see anybody come up through the water, these hand grenades ought to settle them."
Along the ledge the men were stationed each with a pile of the grenades before him.
"See!" cried one of them from the ledge as he caught sight of one of our helmets appearing.
The others crouched and stared. Del Mar himself hurried forward and gazed in the direction the man indicated. There they could see Woodward, Arnold and the rest of us just beginning to climb up out of the water.
Del Mar aimed and fired. One of the men had thrown up his arms with a cry and fallen back into the water.
Invaders seemed to swarm up now in every direction from the water.
On the semi-circular ledge about one side of the harbor, Del Mar's men were now ranged in close order near a submarine, whose hatch was open to receive them, ready to repel the attack and if necessary retreat into the under-sea boat.
They fired sharply at the figures that rose from the water. Many of the men fell back, hit, but, in turn, a large number managed to gain a foothold on the ledge.
Led by Woodward and Arnold, they formed quickly and stripped off the waterproof coverings of their weapons, returning the fire sharply. Things were more equal now. Several of Del Mar's men had fallen. The smoke of battle filled the narrow harbor.
In the office Elaine listened keenly to the shots. What did it all mean? Clearly it could be nothing less than assistance coming.
The man on guard heard also and his uncontrollable curiosity took him to the door. As he gazed out Elaine saw her chance. She made a rush at him and seized him, wresting the rifle from his hands before he knew it. She sprang back just as he drew his revolver and fired at her. The shot just narrowly missed her, but she did not lose her presence of mind. She fired the rifle in turn and the man fell.
A little shudder ran over her. She had killed a man! But the firing outside grew fiercier. She had no time to think. She stepped over the body, her face averted, and ran out. There she could see Del Mar and his men. Many of them by this time had been killed or wounded.
"We can't beat them; they are too many for us," muttered Del Mar. "We'll have to get away if we can. Into the submarine!" he ordered.
Hastily they began to pile into the open hatch.
Just as Del Mar started to follow them, he caught sight of Elaine running out of the office. Almost in one leap he was at her side. Before she could raise her rifle and fire he had seized it. She managed, however, to push him off and get away from him.
She looked about for some weapon. There on the ledge lay one of the hand grenades. She picked it up and hurled it at him, but he dodged and it missed him. On it flew, landing close to the submarine. As it exploded, another of Del Mar's men toppled over into the water.
Between volleys, Woodward, Arnold and the rest pulled off their helmets.
"Elaine!" cried Arnold, catching sight of her in the hands of Del Mar.
Quickly, at the head of such men as he could muster, the hermit led a charge.
In the submarine the last man was waiting for Del Mar. As the hermit ran forward with several soldiers between Del Mar and the submarine, it was evident that Del Mar would be cut off.
The man at the hatch climbed down into the boat. It was useless to wait. He banged shut and clamped the hatch. Slowly the submarine began to sink.
Del Mar by this time had overcome Elaine and started to run toward the submarine with her. But then he stopped short.
There was a queer figure of a hermit leading some soldiers. He was cut off.
"Back into the office!" he growled, dragging Elaine.
He banged shut the door just as the hermit and the soldiers made a rush at him. On the door they battered. But it was in vain. The door was locked.
In the office Del Mar hastily went to a corner, after barring the door, and lifted a trapdoor in the floor, known only to himself.
Elaine did not move or make any attempt to escape, for Del Mar in addition to having a vicious looking automatic in his hand kept a watchful eye on her.
Outside the office, the soldiers, led by the hermit and Woodward continued to batter at the door.
"Now--go down that stairway--ahead of me," ordered Del Mar.
Elaine obeyed tensely, and he followed into his emergency exit, closing the trap.
"Beat harder, men," urged the hermit, as the soldiers battered at the door.
They redoubled their efforts and the door bent and swayed.
At last it fell in under the sheer weight of the blows.
"By George--he's gone--with Elaine," cried the hermit, looking at the empty office.
Feverishly they hunted about for a means of escape but could find none.
"Pound the floor and walls with the butts of your guns," ordered Arnold. "There must be some place that is hollow."
They did so, going over all inch by inch.
Meanwhile, through the passage, along a rocky stairway, Del Mar continued to drive Elaine before him, up and ever up to the level of the land.
At last Elaine, followed by Del Mar, emerged from the rocky passage in a cleft in the cliffs, far above the promontory.
"Go on!" he ordered, forcing her to go ahead of him.
They came finally to a small hut on a cliff overlooking the real harbor.
"Enter!" demanded Del Mar.
Still meekly, she obeyed.
Del Mar seized her and before she knew it had her bound and gagged.
Down in the little office our men continued to search for the secret exit.
"Here's a place that gives an echo," shouted one of them.
As he found the secret trap and threw it open, the hermit stripped off the cumbersome diving-suit and jumped in, followed by Woodward, myself and the soldiers. Upward we climbed until at last we came to the opening. There we paused and looked about. Where was Del Mar? Where was Elaine? We could see no trace of them.
Finally, however, Arnold discovered the trail in the grass and we followed him, slowly picking up the tracks.
. . . . . . .
Knowing that the submarine would cruise about and wait for him, Del Mar decided to leave Elaine in the hut while he went out and searched for a boat in which to look for the submarine.
Coming out of the hut, he gazed about and moved off cautiously. Stealthily he went down to the shore and there looked up and down intently.
A short distance away from him was a pier in the process of construction. Men were unloading spiles from a cable car that ran out on the pier on a little construction railway, as well as other material with which to fill in the pier. At the end of the dock lay a powerboat, moored, evidently belonging to some one interested in the work on the pier.
The workmen had just finished unloading a car full and were climbing back on the empty car, which looked as if it had once been a trolley. As Del Mar looked over the scene of activity, he caught sight of the powerboat.
"Just what I want," he muttered to himself. "I must get Elaine. I can get away in that."
The workmen signalled to the engineer above and the car ran up the wharf and up an incline at the shore-end.
The moment the car disappeared, Del Mar hurried away in the direction he had come.
At the top of the grade, he noticed, was a donkey engine which operated the cable that drew the car up from the dock, and at the top of the incline was a huge pile of material.
The car had been drawn up to the top of the grade by this time. There the engineer who operated the engine stopped it.
Just then the whistle blew for the noon hour. The men quit work and went to get their dinner pails, while the engineer started to draw the fire. Beside the engine, he began to chop some wood, while the car was held at the top of the grade by the cable.
. . . . . . .
In our pursuit we came at last in sight of a lonely hut. Evidently that must be a rendezvous of Del Mar. But was he there? Was Elaine there? We must see first. While we were looking about and debating what was the best thing to do, who should appear hurrying up the hill but Del Mar himself, going toward the hut.
As we caught sight of him, Arnold sprang forward. Woodward and I, followed by the soldiers also jumped out.
Del Mar turned and ran down the hill again with us after him, in full cry.
While we had been waiting, some of the soldiers had deployed down the hill and now, hearing our shouts, turned, and came up again.
Beside his engine, we could see an engineer chopping wood. He paused now in his chopping and was gazing out over the bay. Suddenly he had seen something out in the water that had attracted his attention and was staring at it. There it moved, nothing less than a half-submerged submarine.
As the engineer gazed off at it, Del Mar came up, unseen, behind him and stood there, also watching the submarine, fascinated.
Just then behind him Del Mar heard us pursuing. He looked about as we ran toward him and saw that we had formed a wide circle, with the men down the hill, that almost completely surrounded him. There was no chance for escape. It was hopeless.
But it was not Del Mar's nature to give up. He gave one last glance about. There was the trolley car that had been converted into a cable way. It offered just one chance in a thousand. Suddenly his face assumed an air of desperate determination.
He sprang toward the engineer and grappled with him, seeking to wrest the axe from his hand. Every second counted. Our circle was now narrowing down and closing in on him.
Del Mar managed to knock out the engineer, taken by surprise, just as our men fired a volley. In the struggle, Del Mar was unharmed. Instead he just managed to get the axe.
An instant later a leap landed him on the cable car. With a blow of the axe he cut the cable. The car began to move slowly down the hill on the grade.
Some of the men were down below in its path. But the onrushing cable car was too much for them. They could only leap aside to save themselves.
On down the incline, gathering momentum every second, the car dashed, Del Mar swaying crazily but keeping his footing. We followed as fast as we could, but it was useless.
Out on the wharf it sped at a terrific pace. At the end it literally catapulted itself into the water, crashing from the end of the pier. As it did so, Del Mar gave a flying leap out into the harbor, struck the water with a clean dive and disappeared.
On down the hill we hurried. There in the water was Del Mar swimming rapidly. Almost before we knew it, we saw him raise his hand and signal, shouting.
There only a few yards away was the periscope of a submarine. As we watched, we could see that it had seen him, had turned in his direction. Would they get him?
We watched, fascinated. Some of our men fired, as accurately as they could at a figure bobbing so uncertainly on the water.
Meanwhile the submarine approached closer and rose a bit so that the hatchway cleared the waves. It opened. One of the foreign agents assisted Del Mar in.
He had escaped at last!
. . . . . . .
It was most heart-breaking to have had Del Mar so nearly in our grasp and then to have lost him. We looked from one to another, in despair.
Only Arnold, in his disguise as a hermit, seemed undiscouraged. Suddenly he turned to Woodward.
"What time is it?" he asked eagerly.
"A little past noon."
"The Kennedy wireless torpedo!" he exclaimed. "It arrived to-day. Burnside is trying it out."
Suddenly there flashed over me the recollection of the marvellous invention that Kennedy had made for the Government just before his disappearance, as well as the memory of the experience I had had once with the intrepid Burnside.
Woodward's face showed a ray of interest and hope in the overwhelming gloom that had settled on us all.
"You and Jameson go to Fort Dale, quick," directed Arnold eagerly. "I'm not fit. Get Burnside. Have him bring the torpedo in the air- boat."
We needed no further urging. It was a slender chance. But I reflected that the submarine could not run through the bay totally submerged. It must have its periscope in view. We hurried away, leaving Arnold, who slowly mounted the hill again.
How we did it, I don't know, but we managed to get to the Fort in record time. There near the aeroplane hangar, sure enough, was Burnside with some other men adjusting the first real wireless Kennedy torpedo, the last word in scientific warfare, making an aerial torpedo-boat.
We ran up to the hangar calling to Burnside excitedly. It was only a moment later, that he began to issue orders in his sharp staccato. His men swarmed forward and took the torpedo from the spot where they had been examining it, adjusting it now beneath the hydroaeroplane.
"Jameson, you come with me," he asked. "You went before."
We rose quickly from the surface and planed along out over the harbor. Far off we could see the ripple from the periscope of the submarine that was bearing Del Mar away. Would Kennedy's invention for which Del Mar had dared so much in the first place prove his final undoing? We sped ahead.
Down below in the submersible Del Mar was giving hasty orders to his men, to dip down as soon as all the shipping and the sand bars were cleared.
I strained my eyes through the glasses reporting feverishly to Burnside what I saw so that he could steer his course.
"There it is," I urged. "Keep on--just to the left."
"I see it," returned Burnside a moment later catching with his naked eye the thin line of foam on the water left by the periscope. "Would you mind getting that torpedo ready?" he continued. "I'll tell you just what to do. They'll try to duck as soon as they see us, but it won't be any use. They can't get totally submerged fast enough."
Following Burnside's directions I adjusted the firing apparatus of the torpedo.
"Let it go!" shouted Burnside.
I did so, as he volplaned down almost to the water. The torpedo fell, sank, bobbed up, then ran along just tinder the surface. Already I was somewhat familiar with the wireless device that controlled it, so that while Burnside steadied the aircraft I could direct it, as he coached me.
The submarine saw it coming now. But it was too late. It could not turn; it could not submerge in time.
A terrific explosion followed as the torpedo came in contact with the boat, throwing a column of water high in the air. A yawning hole was blown in the very side of the submarine. One could see the water rush in.
Inside, Del Mar and his men were now panic-stricken. Some of them desperately tried to plug the hole. But it was hopeless. Others fell, fainting, from the poisonous gases that were developed.
Of them all, Del Mar's was the only cool head.
He realized that all was over. There was nothing left to do but what other submarine heroes had done in better causes. He seized a piece of paper and hastily wrote:
Tell my emperor I failed only because Craig Kennedy was against me.--DEL MAR.
He had barely time to place the message in a metal float near-by. Down the submarine, now full of water, sank.
With his last strength he flung the message clear of the wreckage as it settled on the mud on the bottom of the bay.
Burnside and I could but stare in grim satisfaction at the end of the enemy of ourselves and our country.
. . . . . . .
Up the hillside plodded Professor Arnold still in his wild disguise as the hermit. Now and then he turned and cast an anxious glance out over the bay at the fast disappearing periscope of the submarine.
Once he paused. That was when he saw the hydroaeroplane with Burnside and myself carrying the wireless torpedo.
Again he paused as he plodded up, this time with a gasp, of extreme satisfaction. He has seen the water-spout and heard the explosion that marked the debacle of Del Mar.
The torpedo had worked. The most dangerous foreign agent of the coalition of America's enemies was dead, and his secrets had gone with him to the bottom of the sea. Perhaps no one would ever know what the nation had been spared.
He did not pause long, now. More eagerly he plodded up the hill, until he came to the hut.
He pushed open the door. There lay Elaine, still bound. Quickly he cut the cords and tore the gag from her mouth.
As he did so, his own beard fell off. He was no longer the hermit. Nor was he what I myself had thought him, Arnold.
"Craig!" cried Elaine in eager surprise. Kennedy said not a word as he grasped her two hands.
"And you were always around us, protecting Walter and me," she half laughed, half cried hysterically. "I knew it--I knew it!"
Kennedy said nothing. His heart was too happy.
"Yes," he said simply, as he gazed deeply into her great eyes, "my work on the case is done."