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HOME > Short Stories > The Sunken Isthmus > CHAPTER II. IN WHICH THE PROJECT IS UNDERTAKEN.
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CHAPTER II. IN WHICH THE PROJECT IS UNDERTAKEN.
Mr. Wade reached Readestown in due time. He proceeded at once to a hotel and ate an early breakfast.

Then he called a carriage and rode down to the machine shops of Frank Reade, Jr. At that early hour he did not feel certain of meeting the young inventor.

But at the gate there was a sawed-off, comical little darky, who scraped and bowed and said:

“Yes, sah; I done reckon Marse Frank been lookin’ fo’ yo’ fo’ two days, sah. He am in his office, sah. Show yo’ in, or does yo’ know de way?”

“I know the way, Pomp,” said Wade, alighting from his carriage. “I’ll find him.”

Across the machine shop yard he went rapidly. He was about to enter a small brick building by a half-open door when a man came out.

He was a genuine type of Irishman, with comical mug, dancing blue eyes and a shock of red hair. He stopped at sight of Mr. Wade and exclaimed:

“Begorra, and I belave that is the gintlemin himsilf. Top av the day to ye, sor. Is yer name Misther Wade, sor?”

“It is,” replied the scientist. “And you are Barney?”

“Yis, sor; an’ I was jist on the way to the tillygraph office wid a message from Misther Frank for yez, sor. Shure, there’ll be no use av sindin’ it now.”

“Then he was about to wire me?”

“Yis sor?”

“Well, I must have kept him waiting,” declared Wade. “I will go right in and see him.”

“That’s roight, sor.”

Wade passed through a narrow hallway and entered a 4square, high-ceiled room, hung with curious looking charts and diagrams. A large table was also covered with the same.

At this sat a handsome young man, with a rare type of intellectual features, and the air which belongs to a brainy man.

“Wade!” he exclaimed, putting out his hand. “I was just going to wire you.”

“So I learn,” cried the scientist. “I am more than sorry if I have delayed you.”

“That is all right; you are quite ready for the start?”

“Yes.”

“Good! The Sea Diver is all equipped, and lies out there in the tank. All we have to do is to go aboard, run her down the canal to the river, and be off.”

“For the Sunken Isthmus?”

“Just so.”

“If it exists.”

“At any rate, we shall have a submarine voyage; but there is good reason to believe that it exists.”

“So I believe, though my fellow-members of the World’s Society are a bit incredulous. We had quite an argument at the last session.”

“Ah!”

“But when I informed them that I was going to visit the spot in a real submarine boat, they thought I was daft or gone mad until I mentioned your name. That was like magic.”

Frank laughed.

“Do they know me?” he asked.

“Indeed, yes, as the inventor of the airship. That settled a large measure of doubt in their minds right off. Then there were those who desired to share our fortunes.”

This amused Frank muchly.

“No doubt of it,” he laughed. “They began to see the elements of success in your project. You can afford to snub them well, whether the isthmus is discovered or not.”

“Well,” said Wade, with a thrill of pleasure in his voice, “I look forward with the keenest of pleasure to exploring the waters of the Yucatan Channel. I am in complete readiness to start.”

“Very good,” said Frank; “we will go on board to-night and start with the early morning light. The Sea Diver lies in the tank, all ready. Shall we take a look at her?”

“With pleasure,” replied Wade.

They left the office and crossed the yard to a gate. Passing through this, another and larger yard was seen. In the center of this was a large basin or tank of water.

And in it floated the new submarine boat.

5The tank was connected by a series of locks with a canal which led down to the river. It was thus an easy matter to sail direct from the factory yard for any part of the world.

Frank and Wade went on board the submarine boat. The latter picked out his stateroom and made other necessary arrangements. Then he said:

“I will go back to the hotel, Frank, and get my trunks. Then I will take up my quarters permanently aboard the Sea Diver.”

“Very good,” agreed Frank. “We will sail at an early hour in the morning.”

After Wade had gone, Frank called Barney and Pomp. He told these two servitors of his purpose, and added:

“You must be all in readiness; there must be no delay.”

“All roight,” cried Barney, as he ducked his head and threw a handspring; “it’s mesilf as will be there, sor.”

“Golly, dis chile neber miss de chance, Marse Frank,” cried Pomp, cutting a double-shuffle.

These two comical characters had been associated with all the thrilling experiences of Frank Reade, Jr., in his world-wide travels.

Barney and Pomp were his faithful companions, and he would hardly have been able to fill their places. Barney was an expert engineer and electrician, and Pomp was the prince of cooks and a generally handy man.

They were excellent company, and Frank never felt at a loss for entertainment while in their company. He could ill have spared Barney and Pomp.

Barney and Pomp were the best of friends in all things, but each was as full of fun as a nut is of meat. Consequently there was nothing they enjoyed more than a rough and tumble wrestle or the playing of a practical joke.

If half the things they said to each other could have been taken seriously, there would have been good ground for a duel at most any time. But they knew better.

So there were to be four people in the crew of the Sea Diver. Besides Barney and Pomp, there were Frank Reade, Jr., and Wilbur Wade.

All were on board the boat that night and all was in readiness for the early start. It is safe to say that none in the party slept much that night.

Barney and Pomp were first astir.

As they made things ship-shape and breakfast was announced by Pomp, Frank and Wade came tumbling out. Then, after a light meal, Frank went into the pilot-house.

There were men on hand to open the locks and the 6boat was locked down into the canal. Thence it glided on down into the river.

It was an easy matter for Frank to place his finger upon an electric button and direct the course of the boat where he chose.

When they emerged into the river they were surprised to see a great throng upon the river banks. Thousands of people were there gathered to get a look at the new submarine boat.

They cheered vociferously as the Sea Diver appeared. Down the river the submarine boat glided.

Soon Readestown was left behind. Other towns were passed, and in due course the river widened and the open sea was spread out to their view.

The great submarine cruise was really begun.

Out into the Atlantic the Sea Diver ran. Frank still kept her to the surface.

For he knew that she could travel faster and easier there. There would be enough deep-sea traveling later on.

The course of the Diver was set for the Gulf of Mexico.

Land faded quickly from view and soon only the boundless expanse of the sea was on every hand. The horizon was at times dotted with sails, and once one of the vessels in passing spoke the Sea Diver.

For two days the submarine boat kept her southward course. Then one morning as the voyagers tumbled out on deck Frank noted that the wind was in the east and was beginning to kick up a nasty sea.

The little boat rode the water like a cork. There was no question as to her seaworthiness.

But great, lowering clouds overhung the sky and pattering drops of rain fell. Distant vessels were seen scudding under bare poles.

“It’s my opinion,” said Wade who was something of a sailor, “that we are going to have a big blow.”

“I agree with you,” said Frank.

“However, I reckon the Diver is well able to cope with any such a storm?”

“Indeed, yes,” said Frank. “If it gets too rough on the surface we can take a trip below.”

“Sure enough; we would never feel the storm there.”

“It is hardly likely. Heigho! What is that? On my word, I believe those were signals of distress!”

Frank pointed to a distant vessel which had the appearance of a large schooner-yacht. There was no doubt but that the signal of distress was at her masthead.

“She’s in trouble, surely,” cried Wade. “Can she have struck a leak?”

7“Begorra, she’s carryin’ too much sail fer the loikes av this breeze,” cried Barney. “Shure, it’s crazy they are!”

This was true. The schooner carried every rag of canvas. This was plainly a reckless thing.

It looked as if the crew were panic-stricken, or else ignorant of the proper course of safety. Certainly the yacht was in a dangerous strait.

The submarine voyagers were in a bit of a quandary. What should they do?

Humanity dictated that they go to her assistance. Prudence, however, asserted the policy of keeping away from her.

There was no means of knowing how many were in her crew. They would doubtless have to leave the schooner and would all pile aboard the Sea Diver. This would be a perilous thing for the submarine voyagers. Moreover, what would be done with them?

Frank reflected some moments, then he said, with sudden resolution:

“Humanity demands it. I cannot conscientiously refuse to give them aid.”

“That’s right,” cried Wade. “We ought not to hesitate.”

Frank stepped into the pilot-house, but even as his fingers touched the keyboard a warning cry came from Wade.

“It is too late,” he cried.
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