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Tom Swift and his Motor-boat - or, The Rivals of Lake Carlopa
by Victor Appleton
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TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR-BOAT

Or

The Rivals of Lake Carlopa

By

VICTOR APPLETON



CONTENTS

I A Motor-boat Auction II Some Lively Bidding III A Timely Warning IV Tom And Andy Clash V A Test Of Speed VI Towing Some Girls VII A Brush With Andy VIII Off On A Trip IX Mr. Swift Is Alarmed X A Cry For Help XI A Quick Run XII Suspicious Characters XIII Tom In Danger XIV The ARROW Disappears XV A Damaging Statement XVI Still On The Search XVII "There She Is!" XVIII The Pursuit XIX A Quiet Cruise XX News Of A Robbery XXI The Balloon On Fire XXII The Rescue XXIII Plans For An Airship XXIV The Mystery Solved XXV Winning A Race



CHAPTER I

A MOTOR-BOAT AUCTION

"Where are you going, Tom?" asked Mr. Barton Swift of his son as the young man was slowly pushing his motor-cycle out of the yard toward the country road. "You look as though you had some object in view."

"So I have, dad. I'm going over to Lanton."

"To Lanton? What for?"

"I want to have a look at that motor-boat."

"Which boat is that, Tom? I don't recall your speaking about a boat over at Lanton. What do you want to look at it for?"

"It's the motor-boat those fellows had who tried to get away with your turbine model invention, dad. The one they used at the old General Harkness mansion, in the woods near the lake, and the same boat that fellow used when he got away from me the day I was chasing him here."

"Oh, yes, I remember now. But what is the boat doing over at Lanton?"

"That's where it belongs. It's the property of Mr. Bently Hastings. The thieves stole it from him, and when they ran away from the old mansion, the time Mr. Damon and I raided the place, they left the boat on the lake. I turned it over to the county authorities, and they found out it belonged to Mr. Hastings. He has it back now, but I understand it's somewhat damaged, and he wants to get rid of it. He's going to sell it at auction to-day, and I thought I'd go over and take a look at it. You see—"

"Yes, I see, Tom," exclaimed Mr. Swift with a laugh. "I see what you're aiming at. You want a motor-boat, and you're going all around Robin Hood's barn to get at it."

"No, dad, I only—"

"Oh, I know you, Tom, my lad!" interrupted the inventor, shaking his finger at his son, who seemed somewhat confused. "You have a nice rowing skiff and a sailboat, yet you are hankering for a motor-boat. Come now, own up. Aren't you?"

"Well, dad, a motor-boat certainly would go fine on Lake Carlopa. There's plenty of room to speed her, and I wonder there aren't more of them. I was going to see what Mr. Hastings' boat would sell for, but I didn't exactly think of buying it' Still—"

"But you wouldn't buy a damaged boat, would you?"

"It isn't much damaged," and in his eagerness the young inventor (for Tom Swift had taken out several patents) stood his motor-cycle up against the fence and came closer to his father. "It's only slightly damaged," he went on. "I can easily fix it. I looked it all over before I gave it in charge of the authorities, and it's certainly a fine boat. It's worth nine hundred dollars—or it was when it was new."

"That's a good deal of money for a boat," and Mr. Swift looked serious, for though he was well off, he was inclined to be conservative.

"Oh, I shouldn't think of paying that much. In fact, dad, I really had no idea of bidding at the auction. I only thought I'd go over and get an idea of what the boat might sell for. Perhaps some day—"

Tom paused. Since his father had begun to question him some new plans had come into the lad's head. He looked at his parent and saw a smile beginning to work around the corners of Mr. Swift's lips. There was also a humorous look in the eyes of the older inventor. He understood boys fairly well, even if he only had one, and he knew Tom perfectly.

"Would you really like to make a bid on that boat Tom?" he asked.

"Would I, dad? Well—" The youth did not finish, but his father knew what he meant.

"I suppose a motor-boat would be a nice thing to have on Lake Carlopa," went on Mr. Swift musingly. "You and I could take frequent trips in it. It isn't like a motor-cycle, only useful for one. What do you suppose the boat will go for, Tom?"

"I hardly know. Not a high price, I believe, for motor-boats are so new on our lake that few persons will take a chance on them. But if Mr. Hastings is getting another, he will not be so particular about insisting on a high price for the old one. Then, too, the fact that it is damaged will help to keep the price down, though I know I can easily put it in good shape. I would like to make a bid, if you think it's all right."

"Well, I guess you may, Tom, if you really want it. You have money of your own and a motor-boat is not a bad investment. What do you think ought to be the limit?"

"Would you consider a hundred and fifty dollars too high?"

Mr. Swift looked at Tom critically. He was plainly going over several matters in his mind, and not the least of them was the pluck his son had shown in getting back some valuable papers and a model from a gang of thieves. The lad certainly was entitled to some reward, and to allow him to get a boat might properly be part of it.

"I think you could safely go as high as two hundred dollars, Tom," said Mr. Swift at length. "That would be my limit on a damaged boat for it might be better to pay a little more and get a new one. However, use your own judgment, but don't go over two hundred. So the thieves who made so much trouble for me stole that boat from Mr. Hastings, eh?"

"Yes, and they didn't take much care of it either. They damaged the engine, but the hull is in good shape. I'm ever so glad you'll let me bid on it. I'll start right off. The auction is at ten o'clock and I haven't more than time to get there."

"Now be careful how you bid. Don't raise your own figures, as I've sometimes seen women, and men too, do in their excitement. Somebody may go over your head; and if he does, let them. If you get the boat I'll be very glad on your account. But don't bring any of Anson Morse's gang back in it with you. I've seen enough of them."

"I'll not dad!" cried Tom as he trundled his motor-cycle out of the gate and into the country road that led to the village of Shopton, where he lived, and to Lanton, where the auction was to be held. The young inventor had not gone far before he turned back, leaving his machine standing on the side path.

"What's the matter?" asked his father, who had started toward one of several machine shops on the premises—shops where Mr. Swift and his son did inventive work.

"Guess I'd better get a blank check and some money," replied Tom as he entered the house. "I'll need to pay a deposit if I secure the boat."

"That's so. Well, good luck," and with his mind busy on a plan for a new kind of storage battery, the inventor went on to his workroom. Tom got some cash and his checkbook from a small safe he owned and was soon speeding over the road to Lanton, his motor-cycle making quite a cloud of dust. While he is thus hurrying along to the auction I will tell you something about him.

Tom Swift, son of Barton Swift, lived with his father and a motherly housekeeper, Mrs. Baggert, in a large house on the outskirts of the town of Shopton, in New York State. Mr. Swift had acquired considerable wealth from his many inventions and patents, but he did not give up working out his ideas simply because he had plenty of money. Tom followed in the footsteps of his parent and had already taken out several patents.

Shortly before this story opens the youth had become possessed of a motor-cycle in a peculiar fashion. As told in the first volume of this series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Motor-cycle," Tom was riding to the town of Mansburg on an errand for his father one day when he was nearly run down by a motorcyclist. A little later the same motorcyclist, who was a Mr. Wakefield Damon, of Waterfield, collided with a tree near Tom's home and was severely cut and bruised, the machine being broken. Tom and his father cared for the injured rider, and Mr. Damon, who was an eccentric individual, was so disheartened by his attempts to ride the motor-cycle that he sold it to Tom for fifty dollars, though it had cost much more.

About the same time that Tom bought the motor-cycle a firm of rascally lawyers, Smeak & Katch by name, had, in conjunction with several men, made an attempt to get control of an invention of a turbine motor perfected by Mr. Swift. The men, who were Ferguson Appleson, Anson Morse, Wilson Featherton, alias Simpson, and Jake Burke, alias Happy Harry, who sometimes disguised himself as a tramp, tried several times to steal the model.

Their anxiety to get it was due to the fact that they had invested a large sum in a turbine motor invented by another man, but their motor would not work and they sought to steal Mr. Swift's. Tom was sent to Albany on his motor-cycle to deliver the model and some valuable papers to Mr. Crawford, of the law firm of Reid & Crawford, of Washington, attorneys for Mr. Swift. Mr. Crawford had an errand in Albany and had agreed to meet Tom there with the model.

But, on the way, Tom was attacked by the gang of unscrupulous men and the model was stolen. He was assaulted and carried far away in an automobile. In an attempt to capture the gang in a deserted mansion, in the woods on the shore of Lake Carlopa, Tom was aided by Mr. Damon, of whom he had purchased the motor-cycle. The men escaped, however, and nothing could be done to punish them.

Tom was thinking of the exciting scenes he had passed through about a month previous as he spun along the road leading to Lanton.

"I hope I don't meet Happy Harry or any of his gang to-day," mused the lad as he turned on a little more power to enable his machine to mount a hill. "I don't believe they'll attend the auction, though. It would be too risky for them."

As Tom swung along at a rapid pace he heard, behind him, the puffing of an automobile, with the muffler cut out. He turned and cast a hasty glance behind.

"I hope that ain't Andy Foger or any of his cronies," he said to himself. "He might try to run me down just for spite. He generally rushes along with the muffler open so as to attract attention and make folks think he has a racing car."

It was not Andy, however, as Tom saw a little later, as a man passed him in a big touring car. Andy Foger, as my readers will recollect, was a red-haired, squinty-eyed lad with plenty of money and not much else. He and his cronies, including Sam Snedecker, nearly ran Tom down one day, when the latter was on his bicycle, as told in the first volume of this series. Andy had been off on a tour with his chums during the time when Tom was having such strenuous adventures and had recently returned.

"If I can only get that boat," mused Tom as he swung back into the middle of the road after the auto had passed him, "I certainly will have lots of fun. I'll make a week's tour of Lake Carlopa and take dad and Ned Newton with me." Ned was Tom's most particular chum, but as young Newton was employed in the Shopton bank, the lad did not have much time for pleasure. Lake Carlopa was a large body of water, and it would take a moderately powered boat several days to make a complete circuit of the shore, so cut up into bays and inlets was it.

In about an hour Tom was at Lanton, and as he neared the home of Mr. Hastings, which was on the shore of the lake, he saw quite a throng going down toward the boathouse.

"There'll be some lively bidding," thought Tom as he got off his machine and pushed it ahead of him through the drive and down toward the river. "I hope they don't go above two hundred dollars, though."

"Get out the way there!" called a sudden voice, and looking back, Tom saw that an automobile had crept up silently behind him. In it were Andy Foger and Sam Snedecker. "Why don't you get out the way?" petulantly demanded the red-haired lad.

"Because I don't choose to," replied Tom calmly, knowing that Andy would never dare to speed up his machine on the slope leading down to the lake.

"Go ahead, bump him!" the young inventor heard Sam whisper.

"You'd better try it, if you want to get the best trouncing you ever had!" cried Tom hotly.

"Hu! I s'pose you think you're going to bid on the boat?" sneered Andy.

"Is there any law against it?" asked Tom.

"Hu! Well, you'll not get it. I'm going to take that boat," retorted the squint-eyed bully. "Dad gave me the money to get it."

"All right," answered Tom non-committally. "Go ahead. It's a free country."

He stood his motor-cycle up against a tree and went toward a group of persons who were surrounding the auctioneer. The time had arrived to start the sale. As Tom edged in closer he brushed against a man who looked at him sharply. The lad was just wondering if he had ever seen the individual before, as there seemed to be something strangely familiar about him, when the man turned quickly away, as if afraid of being recognized.

"That's odd," thought Tom, but he had no further time for speculation, as the auctioneer was mounting on a soapbox and had begun to address the gathering.



CHAPTER II

SOME LIVELY BIDDING

"Attention, people!" cried the auctioneer. "Give me your attention for a few minutes, and we will proceed with the business in hand. As you all know, I am about to dispose of a fine motor-boat, the property of Mr. Bently Hastings. The reason for disposing of it at auction is known to most of you, but for the benefit of those who do not, I will briefly state them. The boat was stolen by a gang of thieves and recovered recently through the efforts of a young man, Thomas Swift, son of Barton Swift, our fellow-townsman, of Shopton." At that moment the auctioneer, Jacob Wood, caught sight of Tom in the press, and, looking directly at the lad, continued:

"I understand that young Mr. Swift is here to-day, and I hope he intends to bid on this boat. If he does, the bidding will be lively, for Tom Swift is a lively young man. I wish I could say that some of the men who stole the boat were here to-day."

The auctioneer paused and there were some murmurs from those in the throng as to why such a wish should be uttered. Tom felt some one moving near him, and, looking around, he saw the same man with whom he had come in contact before. The person seemed desirous of getting out on the edge of the crowd, and Tom felt a return of his vague suspicions. He looked closely at the fellow, but could trace no resemblance to any of the men who had so daringly stolen his father's model.

"The reason I wish they were here to-day," went on Mr. Wood, "is that the men did some slight damage to the boat, and if they were here to-day we would make them pay for it. However, the damage is slight and can easily be repaired. I mention that, as Mr. Hastings desired me to. Now we will proceed with the bidding, and I will say that an opportunity will first be given all to examine the boat. Perhaps Tom Swift will give us his opinion on the state it is in as we know he is well qualified to talk about machinery."

All eyes were turned on Tom, for many knew him.

"Humph! I guess I know as much about boats and motors as he does," sneered Andy Foger. "He isn't the only one in this crowd! Why didn't the auctioneer ask me?"

"Keep quiet," begged Sam Snedecker. "People are laughing at you, Andy."

"I don't care if they are," muttered the sandy haired youth. "Tom Swift needn't think he's everything."

"If you will come down to the dock," went on the auctioneer, "you can all see the boat, and I would be glad to have young Mr. Swift give us the benefit of his advice."

The throng trooped down to the lake, and, blushing somewhat, Tom told what was the matter with the motor and how it could be fixed. It was noticed that there was less enthusiasm over the matter than there had been, for certainly the engine, rusty and out of order as it was, did not present an attractive sight. Tom noted that the man, who had acted so strangely, did not come down to the dock.

"Guess he can't be much interested in the motor," decided Tom.

"Now then, if it's all the same to you folks, I'll proceed with the auction here," went on Mr. Wood. "You can all see the boat from here. It is, as you see, a regular family launch and will carry twelve persons comfortably. With a canopy fitted to it a person could cruise all about the lake and stay out over night, for you could sleep on the seat cushions. It is twenty-one feet in length and has a five-and-a-half-foot beam, the design being what is known as a compromise stern. The motor is a double-cylinder two-cycle one, of ten horsepower. It has a float-feed carburetor, mechanical oiler, and the ignition system is the jump-spark—the best for this style of motor. The boat will make ten miles an hour, with twelve in, and, of course, more than that with a lighter load. A good deal will depend on the way the motor is managed.

"Now, as you know, Mr. Hastings wishes to dispose of the boat partly because he does not wish to repair it and partly because he has a newer and larger one. The craft, which is named CARLOPA by the way, cost originally nine hundred dollars. It could not be purchased new to day, in many places, for a thousand. Now what am I offered in its present condition? Will any one make an offer? Will you give me five hundred dollars?"

The auctioneer paused and looked critically at the throng. Several persons smiled. Tom looked worried. He had no idea that the price would start so high.

"Well, perhaps that is a bit stiff," went on Mr. Wood. "Shall we say four hundred dollars? Come now, I'm sure it's worth four hundred. Who'll start it at four hundred?"

No one would, and the auctioneer descended to three hundred, then to two and finally, as if impatient, he called out:

"Well, will any one start at fifty dollars?"

Instantly there were several cries of "I will!"

"I thought you would," went on the auctioneer. "Now we will get down to work. I'm offered fifty dollars for this twenty-one foot, ten horsepower family launch. Will any one make it sixty?"

"Sixty!" called out Andy Foger in a shrill voice. Several turned to look at him.

"I didn't know he was going to bid," thought Tom. "He may go above me. He's got plenty of money, and, while I have too, I'm not going to pay too much for a damaged boat."

"Sixty I'm bid, sixty—sixty!" cried Mr. Wood in a sing-song tone, "who'll make it seventy?"

"Sixty-five!" spoke a quiet voice at Tom's elbow, and he turned to see the mysterious man who had joined the crowd at the edge of the lake.

"Sixty-five from the gentleman in the white straw hat!" called Mr. Wood with a smile at his wit, for there were many men wearing white straw hats, the day being a warm one in June.

"Here, who's bidding above me?" exclaimed Andy, as if it was against the law.

"I guess you'll find a number going ahead of you, my young friend," remarked the auctioneer. "Will you have the goodness not to interrupt me, except when you want to bid?"

"Well, I offered sixty," said the squint-eyed bully, while his crony, Sam Snedecker, was vainly, pulling at his sleeve.

"I know you did, and this gentleman went above you. If you want to bid more you can do so. I'm offered sixty-five, sixty-five I'm offered for this boat. Will any one make it seventy-five?"

Mr. Wood looked at Tom, and our hero, thinking it was time for him to make a bid, offered seventy. "Seventy from Tom Swift!" cried the auctioneer. "There is a lad who knows a motor-boat from stem to stern, if those are the right words. I don't know much about boats except what I'm told, but Tom Swift does. Now, if he bids, you people ought to know that it's all right. I'm bid seventy—seventy I'm bid. Will any one make it eighty?"

"Eighty!" exclaimed Andy Foger after a whispered conference with Sam. "I know as much about boats as Tom Swift. I'll make it eighty."

"No side remarks. I'll do most of the talking. You just bid, young man," remarked Mr. Wood. "I have eighty bid for this boat—eighty dollars. Why, my friends, I can't understand this. I ought to have it up to three hundred dollars, at least. But I thank you all the same. We are coming on. I'm bid eighty—"

"Ninety!" exclaimed the quiet man at Tom's elbow. He was continually fingering his upper lip, as though he had a mustache there, but his face was clean-shaven. He looked around nervously as he spoke.

"Ninety!" called out the auctioneer.

"Ninety-five!" returned Tom. Andy Foger scowled at him, but the young inventor only smiled. It was evident that the bully did not relish being bid against. He and his crony whispered together again.

"One hundred!" called Andy, as if no one would dare go above that.

"I'm offered an even hundred," resumed Mr. Wood. "We are certainly coming on. A hundred I am bid, a hundred—a hundred—a hundred—"

"And five," said the strange man hastily, and he seemed to choke as he uttered the words.

"Oh, come now; we ought to have at least ten-dollar bids from now on," suggested Mr. Wood. "Won't you make it a hundred and ten?" The auctioneer looked directly at the man, who seemed to shrink back into the crowd. He shook his head, cast a sort of despairing look at the boat and hurried away.

"That's queer," murmured Tom. "I guess that was his limit, yet if he wanted the boat badly that wasn't a high price."

"Who's going ahead of me?" demanded Andy in loud tones.

"Keep quiet!" urged Sam. "We may get it yet."

"Yes, don't make so many remarks," counseled the auctioneer. "I'm bid a hundred and five. Will any one make it a hundred and twenty-five?"

Tom wondered why the man bad not remained to see if his bid was accepted, for no one raised it at once, but he hurried off and did not look back. Tom took a sudden resolve.

"A hundred and twenty-five!" he called out.

"That's what I like to hear," exclaimed Mr. Wood. "Now we are doing business. A hundred and twenty-five from Tom Swift. Will any one offer me fifty?"

Andy and Sam seemed to be having some dispute.

"Let's make him quit right now," suggested Andy in a hoarse whisper.

"You can't," declared Sam'

"Yes, I can. I'll go up to my limit right now."

"And some one will go above you—-maybe Tom will," was Sam's retort.

"I don't believe he can afford to," Andy came back with. "I'm going to call his bluffs. I believe he's only bidding to make others think he wants it. I don't believe he'll buy it."

Tom heard what was said, but did not reply. The auctioneer was calling monotonously: "I'm bid a hundred and twenty-five—twenty-five. Will any one make it fifty?"

"A hundred and fifty!" sang out Andy, and all eyes were directed toward him.

"Sixty!" said Tom quietly.

"Here, you—" began the red-haired lad. "You—"

"That will do!" exclaimed the auctioneer sternly. "I am offered a hundred and sixty. Now who will give me an advance? I want to get the boat up to two hundred, and then the real bidding will begin."

Tom's heart sank. He hoped it would be some time before a two hundred dollar offer would be heard. As for Andy Foger, he was almost speechless with rage. He shook off the restraining arm of Sam, and, worming his way to the front of the throng, exclaimed:

"I'll give a hundred and seventy-five dollars for that boat!"

"Good!" cried the auctioneer. "That's the way to talk. I'm offered a hundred and seventy-five."

"Eighty," said Tom quietly, though his heart was beating fast.

"Well, of all—" began Andy, but Sam Snedecker dragged him back.

"You haven't got any more money," said the bully's crony. "Better stop now."

"I will not! I'm going home for more," declared Andy. "I must have that boat."

"It will be sold when you get back," said Sam.

"Haven't you got any money you can lend me?" inquired the squint-eyed one, scowling in Tom's direction. "No, not a bit. There, some one raised Tom's bid."

At that moment a man in the crowd offered a hundred and eighty-one dollars.

"Small amounts thankfully received," said Mr. Wood with a laugh. Then the bidding became lively, a number making one-dollar advances.

The price got up to one hundred and ninety-five dollars and there it hung for several minutes, despite the eloquence of Mr. Wood, who tried by all his persuasive powers to get a substantial advance. But every one seemed afraid to bid. As for the young inventor, he was in a quandary. He could only offer five dollars more, and, if he bid it in a lump, some one might go to two hundred and five, and he would not get the boat. He wished he had secured permission from his father to go higher, yet he knew that as a fair proposition two hundred dollars was about all the motor-boat in its present condition was worth, at least to him. Then he made a sudden resolve. He thought he might as well have the suspense over.

"Two hundred dollars!" he called boldly.

"I'm offered two hundred!" repeated Mr. Wood. "That is something like it. Now who will raise that?"

There was a moment of silence. Then the auctioneer swung into an enthusiastic description of the boat. He begged for an advance, but none was made, though Tom's heart seemed in his throat, so afraid was he that he would not get the CARLOPA.

"Two hundred—two hundred!" droned on Mr. Wood. "I am offered two hundred. Will any of you go any higher?" He paused a moment, and Tom's heart beat harder than ever. "If not," resumed the speaker, "I will declare the bidding closed. Are you all done? Once—twice—three times. Two hundred dollars. Going—going—gone!" He clapped his hands. "The boat is sold to Thomas Swift for two hundred dollars. If he'll step up I'll take his money."

There was a laugh as Tom, blushingly, advanced. He passed Andy Foger, who had worked his way over near him.

"You got the boat," sneered the bully, "and I s'pose you think you got ahead of me."

"Keep quiet!" begged Sam.

"I won't!" exclaimed Andy. "He outbid me just out of spite, and I'll get even with him. You see if I don't!"

Tom looked Andy Foger straight in the eyes, but did not answer, and the red-haired youth turned aside, followed by his crony, and started toward his automobile.

"I congratulate you on your bargain," said Mr. Wood as Tom proceeded to make out a check. He gave little thought to the threat Andy Foger had made, but the time was coming when he was to remember it well.



CHAPTER III

A TIMELY WARNING

"Well, are you satisfied with your bargain, Tom?" asked Mr. Wood when the formalities about transferring the ownership of the motor-boat had been completed.

"Oh, yes, I calculated to pay just what I did."

"I'm glad you're satisfied, for Mr. Hastings told me to be sure the purchaser was satisfied. Here he comes now. I guess he wasn't at the auction."

An elderly gentleman was approaching Mr. Wood and Tom. Most of the throng was dispersing, but the young inventor noticed that Andy Foger and Sam Snedecker stood to one side, regarding him closely.

"So you got my boat," remarked the former owner of the craft. "I hope you will be able to fix it up."

"Oh, I think I shall," answered the new owner of the CARLOPA. "If I can't, father will help me."

"Yes, you have an advantage there. Are you going to keep the same name?" and Mr. Hastings seemed quite interested in what answer the lad would make.

"I think not," replied Tom. "It's a good name, but I want something that tells more what a fast boat it is, for I'm going to make some changes that will increase the speed."

"That's a good idea. Call it the Swift."

"Folks would say I was stuck up if I did that," retorted the youth quickly. "I think I shall call it the ARROW. That's a good, short name, and—"

"It's certainly speedy," interrupted Mr. Hastings. "Well now, since you're not going to use the name CARLOPA, would you mind if I took it for my new boat? I have a fancy for it."

"Not in the least," said Tom. "Don't you want the letters from each side of the bow to put on your new craft?"

"It's very kind of you to offer them, and, since you will have no need for them, I'll be glad to take them off."

"Come down to my boat," invited Tom, using the word "my" with a proper pride, "and I'll take off the brass letters. I have a screw driver in my motor-cycle tool bag."

As the former and present owners of the ARROW (which is the name by which I shall hereafter designate Tom's motor-boat) walked down toward the dock where it was moored the young inventor gave a startled cry.

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Hastings.

"That man! See him at my motor-boat?" cried Tom. He pointed to the craft in the lake. A man was in the cockpit and seemed to be doing something to the forward bulkhead, which closed off the compartment holding the gasoline tank.

"Who is he?" asked Mr. Hastings, while Tom started on a run toward the boat.

"I don't know. Some man who bid on the boat at the auction, but who didn't go high enough," answered the lad. As he neared the craft the man sprang out, ran along the lakeshore for a short distance and then disappeared amid the bushes which bordered the estate of Mr. Hastings. Tom hurriedly entered the ARROW.

"Did he do any damage?" asked Mr. Hastings.

"I guess he didn't have time," responded Tom. "But he was tampering with the lock on the door of the forward compartment. What's in there?"

"Nothing but the gasoline tank. I keep the bulkhead sliding door locked on general principles. I can't imagine what the fellow would want to open it for. There's nothing of value in there. Perhaps he isn't right in his head. Was he a tramp?"

"No, he was well dressed but he seemed very nervous during the auction, as if he was disappointed not to have secured the boat. Yet what could he want in that compartment? Have you the key to the lock, Mr. Hastings?"

"Yes, it belongs to you now, Mr. Swift," and the former owner handed it to Tom, who quickly unlocked the compartment. He slid back the door and peered within, but all he saw was the big galvanized tank.

"Nothing in there he could want," commented the former owner of the craft.

"No," agreed Tom in a low voice. "I don't see what he wanted to open the door for." But the time was to come, and not far off, when Tom was to discover quite a mystery connected with the forward compartment of his boat, and the solution of it was fated to bring him into no little danger.

"It certainly is odd," went on Mr. Hastings when, after Tom had secured the screw driver from his motor-cycle tool bag, he aided the lad in removing the letters from the bow of the boat "Are you sure you don't know the man?"

"No, I never saw him before. At first I thought his voice sounded like one of the members of the Happy Harry gang, but when I looked squarely at him I could not see a bit of resemblance. Besides, that gang would not venture again into this neighborhood."

"No, I imagine not. Perhaps he was only a curious, meddlesome person. I have frequently been bothered by such individuals. They want to see all the working parts of an automobile or motor-boat, and they don't care what damage they do by investigating."

Tom did not reply, but he was pretty certain that the man in question had more of an object than mere curiosity in tampering with the boat. However, he could discover no solution just then, and he proceeded with the work of taking off the letters.

"What are you going to do with your boat, now that you have it?" asked Mr. Hastings. "Can you run it down to your dock in the condition in which it is now?"

"No, I shall have to go back home, get some tools and fix up the motor. It will take half a day, at least. I will come back this afternoon and, have the boat at my house by night. That is if I may leave it at your dock here."

"Certainly, as long as you like."

The young inventor had many things to think about as he rode toward home, and though he was somewhat puzzled over the actions of the stranger, he forgot about that in anticipating the pleasure he would have when the motor-boat was in running order.

"I'll take dad off on a cruise about the lake," he decided. "He needs a rest, for he's been working hard and worrying over the theft of the turbine motor model. I'll take Ned Newton for some rides, too, and he can bring his camera along and get a lot of pictures. Oh, I'll have some jolly sport this summer!"

Tom was riding swiftly along a quiet country road and was approaching a steep hill, which he could not see until he was close to it, owing to a sharp turn.

As he was about to swing around it and coast swiftly down the steep declivity he was startled by hearing a voice calling to him from the bushes at the side of the road.

"Hold on, dar I Hold on, Mistah Swift!" cried a colored man, suddenly popping into view. "Doan't go down dat hill."

"Why, it's Eradicate Sampson!" exclaimed Tom, quickly shutting off the power and applying the brakes. "What's the matter, Rad? Why shouldn't I go down that hill?"

"Beca'se, Mistah Swift, dere's a pow'ful monstrous tree trunk right across de road at a place whar yo' cain't see it till yo' gits right on top ob it. Ef yo' done hit dat ar tree on yo' lickity-split machine, yo' suah would land in kingdom come. Doan't go down dat hill!"

Tom leaped off his machine and approached the colored man. Eradicate Sampson did odd jobs in the neighborhood of Shopton, and more than once Tom had done him favors in repairing his lawn mower or his wood-sawing machine. In turn Eradicate had given Tom a valuable clue as to the hiding place of the model thieves.

"How'd the log get across the road, Rad?" asked Tom.

"I dunno, Mistah Swift. I see it when I come along wid mah mule, Boomerang, an' I tried t' git it outer de way, but I couldn't. Den I left Boomerang an' mah wagon at de foot ob de hill an' I come up heah t' git a long pole t' pry de log outer de way. I didn't t'ink nobody would come along, case dis road ain't much trabeled."

"I took it for a short cut," said the lad. "Come on, let's take a look at the log."

Leaving his machine at the top of the slope, the young inventor accompanied the colored man 'down the hill. At the foot of it, well hidden from sight of any one who might come riding down, was a big log. It was all the way across the road.

"That never fell there," exclaimed Tom in some excitement. "That never rolled off a load of logs, even if there had been one along, which there wasn't. That log was put there!"

"Does yo' t'ink dat, Mistah Swift?" asked Eradicate, his eyes getting big.

"I certainly do, and, if you hadn't warned me, I might have been killed."

"Oh, I heard yo' lickity-split machine chug-chuggin' along when I were in de bushes, lookin' for a pryin' pole, an' I hurried out to warn yo. I knowed I could leave Boomerang safe, 'case he's asleep."

"I'm glad you did warn me," went on the youth solemnly. Then, as he went closer to the log, he uttered an exclamation.

"That has been dragged here by an automobile!" he cried. "It's been done on purpose to injure some one. Come on, Rad, let's see if we can't find out who did it."

Something on the ground caught Tom's eye. He stooped and picked up a nickle-plated wrench.

"This may come in handy as evidence," he murmured.



CHAPTER IV

TOM AND ANDY CLASH

Even a casual observer could have told that an auto had had some part in dragging the log to the place where it blockaded the road. In the dust were many marks of the big rubber tires and even the imprint of a rope, which had been used to tow the tree trunk.

"What fo' yo' t'ink any one put dat log dere?" asked the colored man as he followed Tom. Boomerang, the mule, so called because Eradicate said you never could tell what he was going to do, opened his eyes lazily and closed them again. "I don't know why, Rad, unless they wanted to wreck an automobile or a wagon. Maybe tramps did it for spite."

"Maybe some one done it to make yo' hab trouble, Mistah Swift."

"No, I hardly think so. I don't know of any one who would want to make trouble for me, and how would they know I was coming this way—"

Tom suddenly checked himself. The memory of the scene at the auction came back to him and he recalled what Andy Foger had said about "'getting even."

"Which way did dat auto go?" resumed Eradicate.

"It came from down the road," answered Tom, not completing the sentence he had left unfinished. "They dragged the log up to the foot of the hill and left it. Then the auto went down this way." It was comparatively easy, for a lad of such sharp observation as was Tom, to trace the movements of the vehicle.

"Den if it's down heah, maybe we cotch 'em," suggested the colored man.

The young inventor did not answer at once. He was hurrying along, his eyes on the telltale marks. He had proceeded some distance from the place where the log was when he uttered a cry. At the same moment he hurried from the road toward a thick clump of bushes that were in the ditch alongside of the highway. Reaching them, he parted the leaves and called:

"Here's the auto, Rad!"

The colored man ran up, his eyes wider open than ever. There, hidden amid the bushes, was a large touring car.

"Whose am dat?" asked Eradicate.

Tom did not answer. He penetrated the underbrush, noting where the broken branches had been bent upright after the forced entrance of the car, the better to hide it. The young inventor was, seeking some clew to discover the owner of the machine. To this end he climbed up in the tonneau and was looking about when some one burst in through the screen of bushes and a voice cried: "Here, you get out of my car!"

"Oh, is it your car, Andy Foger?" asked Tom calmly as he recognized his squint-eyed rival. "I was just beginning to think it was. Allow me to return your wrench," and he held out the one he had picked up near the log. "The next time you drag trees across the road," went on the lad in the tonneau, facing the angry and dismayed Andy, "I'd advise you to post a notice at the top of the hill, so persons riding down will not be injured." "Notice—road—hill—logs!" stammered Andy, turning red under his freckles.

"That's what I said," replied Tom coolly.

"I—I didn't have anything to do with putting a log across any road," mumbled the bully. "I—I've been off toward the creek."

"Have you?" asked Tom with a peculiar smile.

"I thought you might have been looking for the wrench you dropped near the log. You should be more careful and so should Sam Snedecker, who's hiding outside the bushes," went on our hero, for he had caught sight of the form of Andy's crony. "I—I told him not to do it!" exclaimed Sam as he came from his hiding place.

"Shut up!" exclaimed Andy desperately.

"Oh, I think I know your secret," continued the young inventor. "You wanted to get even with me for outbidding you on the motor-boat. You watched which road I took, and then, in your auto, you came a shorter way, ahead of me. You hauled the log across the foot of the hill, hoping, I suppose, that my machine would be broken. But, let me tell you, it was a risky trick. Not only might I have been killed, but so would whoever else who happened to drive down the slope over the log, whether in a wagon or automobile. Fortunately Eradicate discovered it in time and warned me. I ought to have you arrested, but you're not worth it. A good thrashing is what such sneaks as you deserve!"

"You haven't got any evidence against us," sneered Andy confidently, his old bravado coming back.

"I have all I want," replied Tom. "You needn't worry. I'm not going to tell the police. But you've got to do one thing or I'll make you sorry you ever tried this trick. Eradicate will help me, to don't think you're going to escape."

"You get out of my automobile!" demanded Andy. "I'll have you arrested if you don't."

"I'll get out because I'm ready to, but not on account of your threats," retorted Mr. Swift's son. "Here's your wrench. Now I want you and Sam to start up this machine and haul that log out of the way."

"S'pose I won't do it?" snapped Andy.

"Then I'll cause your arrest, besides thrashing you into the bargain! You can take your choice of removing the log so travelers can pass or having a good hiding, you and Sam. Eradicate, you take Sam and I'll tackle Andy."

"Don't you dare touch me!" cried the bully, but there was a whine in his tones.

"You let me alone or I'll tell my father!" added Sam. "I—I didn't have nothin' to do with it, anyhow. I told Andy it would make trouble, but he made me help him."

"Say, what's the matter with you?" demanded Andy indignantly of his crony. "Do you want to—"

"I wish I'd never come with you," went on Sam, who was beginning to be frightened.

"Come now. Start up that machine and haul the log out of the way," demanded Tom again.

"I won't do it!" retorted the red-haired lad impudently.

"Yes, you will," insisted our hero, and he took a step toward the bully. They were out of the clump of bushes now and in the roadside ditch. "You let me alone," almost screamed Andy, and in his baffled rage he rushed at Tom, aiming a blow.

The young inventor quickly stepped to one side, and, as the bully passed him, Tom sent out a neat left-hander. Andy Foger went down in a heap on the grass.



CHAPTER V

A TEST OF SPEED

Whether Tom or Andy was the most surprised at the happening would be hard to say. The former had not meant to hit so hard and he certainly did not intend to knock the squint-eyed youth down. The latter's fall was due, as much as anything, to his senseless, rushing tactics and to the fact that he slipped on the green grass. The bully was up in a moment, however, but he knew better than to try conclusions with Tom again. Instead he stood out of reach and spluttered:

"You just wait, Tom Swift! You just wait!"

"Well, I'm waiting," responded the other calmly.

"I'll get even with you," went on Andy. "You think you're smart because you got ahead of me, but I'll get square!"

"Look here!" burst out the young inventor determinedly, taking a step toward his antagonist, at which Andy quickly retreated, "I don't want any more of that talk from you, Andy Foger. That's twice you've made threats against me to-day. You put that log across the road, and if you try anything like it for your second attempt I'll make you wish you hadn't. That applies to you, too, Sam," he added, glancing at the other lad.

"I—I ain't gone' to do nothin'," declared Sam.

"I told Andy not to put that tree—"

"Keep still, can't you!" shouted the bully. "Come on. We'll get even with him, that's all," he muttered as he went back into the bushes where the auto was. Andy cranked up and he and his crony getting into the car were about to start off.

"Hold on!" cried Tom. "You'll take that log from across the road or I'll have you arrested for obstructing traffic, and that's a serious offense."

"I'm goin' to take it away!" growled Andy. "Give a fellow a show can't you?"

He cast an ugly look at Tom, but the latter only smiled. It was no easy task for Sam and Andy to pull the log out of the way, as they could hardly lift it to slip the rope under. But they finally managed it, and, by the power of the car, hauled it to one side. Then they speed off.

"I 'clar t' gracious, dem young fellers am most as mean an' contrary as mah mule Boomerang am sometimes," observed Eradicate. "Only Boomerang ain't quite so mean as dat."

"I should hope not, Rad," observed Tom. "I'm ever so much obliged for your warning. I guess I'll be getting, home now. Come around next week; we have some work for you."

"'Deed an' I will," replied the colored man. "I'll come around an' eradicate all de dirt on yo' place, Mistah Swift. Yais, sah, I's Eradicate by name, and dat's my perfession—eradicatin' dirt. Much obleeged, I'll call around. Giddap, Boomerang!"

The mule lazily flicked his ears, but did not stir, and Tom, knowing the process of arousing the animal would take some time, hurried up the hill to where he had left his motor-cycle. Eradicate was still engaged on the task of trying to arouse his steed to a sense of its duty when the young inventor flashed by on his way home.

"So now you own a broken motor-boat," observed Mr. Swift when Tom had related the circumstances of the auction. "Well, now you have it, what are you going to do with it?"

"Fix it, first of all," replied his son. "It needs considerable tinkering up, but nothing but what I can do, if you'll help me."

"Of course I will. Do you think you can get any speed out of it?"

"Well, I'm not so anxious for speed. I wart a good, comfortable boat, and the ARROW will be that. I've named it, you see. I'm going back to Lanton this afternoon, take some tools along, and repair it so I can run the boat over to here. Then I'll get at it and fix it up. I've got a plan for you, dad."

"What is it?" asked the inventor, his rather tired face lighting up with interest.

"I'm going to take you on a vacation trip."

"A vacation trip?"

"Yes, you need a rest. You've been working, too hard over that gyroscope invention."

"Yes, Tom, I think I have," admitted Mr. Swift. "But I am very much interested in it, and I think I can get it to work. If I do it will make a great difference in the control of aeroplanes. It will make them more stable able to fly in almost any wind. But I certainly have puzzled my brains over some features of it. However, I don't quite see what you mean."

"You need a rest, dad," said Mr. Swift's son kindly. "I want you to forget all about patents, invention, machinery and even the gyroscope for a week or two. When I get my motor-boat in shape I'm going to take you and Ned Newton up the lake for a cruise. We can camp out, or, if we had to, we could sleep in the boat. I'm going to put a canopy on it and arrange some bunks. It will do you good and perhaps new ideas for your gyroscope may come to you after a rest."

"Perhaps they will, Tom. I am certainly tired enough to need a vacation. It's very kind of you to think of me in connection with your boat. But if you're going to get it this afternoon you'd better start if you expect to get back by night. I think Mrs. Baggert has dinner ready."

After the meal Tom selected a number of tools from his, own particular machine shop and carried them down to the dock on the lake, where his two small boats were tied.

"Aren't you going back on your motor-cycle?" asked his father.

"No, Dad, I'm going to row over to Lanton, and, if I can get the ARROW fixed, 'I'll tow my rowboat back."

"Very well, then you won't be in any danger from Andy Foger. I must speak to his father about him."

"No, dad, don't," exclaimed the young inventor quickly. "I can fight my own battles with Andy. I don't fancy he will bother me again right away."

Tom found it more of a task than he had anticipated to get the motor in shape to run the ARROW back under her own power. The magneto was out of order and the batteries needed renewing, while the spark coil had short-circuited and took considerable time to adjust. But by using some new dry cells, which Mr. Hastings gave him, and cutting out the magneto, or small dynamo which produces the spark that exploded the gasoline in the cylinders, Tom soon had a fine, "fat" hot spark from the auxiliary ignition system. Then, adjusting the timer and throttle on the engine and seeing that the gasoline tank was filled, the lad started up his motor. Mr. Hastings helped him, but after a few turns of the flywheel there were no explosions. Finally, after the carburetor (which is the device where gasoline is mixed with air to produce an explosive mixture) had been adjusted, the motor started off as if it had intended to do so all the while and was only taking its time about it.

"The machine doesn't run as smooth as it ought to," commented Mr. Hastings. "No, it needs a thorough overhauling," agreed the owner of the ARROW. "I'll get at it to-morrow," and with that he swung out into the lake, towing his rowboat after him.

"A motor-boat of my own!" exulted Tom as he twirled the steering wheel and noted how readily the craft answered her helm. "This is great!"

He steered down the lake and then, turning around, went up it a mile or more before heading for his own dock, as he wanted to see how the engine behaved.

"With some changes and adjustments I can make this a speedy boat," thought Tom. "I'll get right at it. I shouldn't wonder if I could make a good showing against Mr. Hastings' new CARLOPA, though his boat's got four cylinders and mine has but two."

The lad was proceeding leisurely along the lakeshore, near his home, with the motor throttled down to test it at low speed, when he heard some one shout. Looking toward the bank, Tom saw a man waving his hands.

"I wonder what he wants?" thought our hero as he put the wheel over to send his craft to shore. He heard a moment later, for the man on the bank cried:

"I say, my young friend, do you know anything about automobiles? Of course you do or you wouldn't be running a motor-boat. Bless my very existence, but I'm in trouble! My machine has stopped on a lonely road and I can't seem to get it started. I happened to hear your boat and I came here to hail you. Bless my coat-pockets but I am in trouble! Can you help me? Bless my soul and gizzard!"

"Mr. Damon!" exclaimed Tom, shutting off the power, for he was now near shore. "Of course I'll help you, Mr. Damon," for the young inventor had recognized the eccentric man of whom he had purchased the motor-cycle and who had helped him in rounding up the thieves.

"Why, bless my shoe-laces, if it isn't Tom Swift!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, who seemed very fond of calling down blessings upon himself or upon articles of his dress or person.

"Yes '. I'm here," admitted Tom with a laugh.

"And in a motor-boat, too! Bless my pocketbook, but did that run away with some one who sold it to you cheap?"

"No, not exactly," and the lad explained how he had come into possession of it. By this time he was ashore and had tied the ARROW to an overhanging tree. Then Tom proceeded to where Mr. Damon had left his stalled automobile. The eccentric man was wealthy and his physician had instructed him to ride about in the car for his health. Tom soon located the trouble. The carburetor had become clogged, and it was soon in working order again.

"Well, now that you have a boat ', I don't suppose you will be riding about the country so much," commented Mr. Damon as he got into his car. "Bless my spark-plug! But if you ever get over to Waterfield, where I live, come and see me. It's handy to get to by water."

"I'll come some day," promised the lad.

"Bless my hat band, but I hope so," went on the eccentric individual as he prepared to start his car.

Tom completed the remainder of the trip to his house without incident and his father came down to the dock to see the motor-boat. He agreed with his son that it was a bargain and that it could easily be put in fine shape.

The youth spent all the next day and part of the following working on the craft. He overhauled the ignition system, which was the jump-spark style, cleaned the magneto and adjusted the gasoline and compression taps so that they fitted better. Then he readjusted the rudder lines, tightening them on the steering wheel, and looked over the piping from the gasoline tank.

The tank was in the forward compartment, and, upon inspecting this, the lad concluded to change the plan by which the big galvanized iron box was held in place. He took out the old wooden braces and set them closer together, putting in a few new ones.

"The tank will not vibrate so when I'm going at full speed," he explained to his father.

"Is that where the strange man was tampering with the lock the day of the auction?" asked Mr. Swift.

"Yes, but I don't see what he could want in this compartment, do you dad?"

The inventor got into the boat and looked carefully into the rather dark space where the tank fitted. He went over every inch of it, and, pointing to one of the thick wooden blocks that supported the tank, asked:

"Did you bore that hole in there, Tom?"

"No, it was there before I touched the braces. But it isn't a hole, or rather, someone bored it and stopped it up again. It doesn't weaken the brace any."

"No, I suppose not. I was just wondering weather that was one of the new blocks or an old one."

"Oh, an old one. I'm going to paint them, too, so in case the water leaks in or the gasoline leaks out the wood won't be affected. A gasoline tank should vibrate as little as possible, if you don't want it to leak. I guess I'll paint the whole interior of this compartment white, then I can see away into the far corners of it."

"I think that's a good idea," commented Mr. Swift.

It was four days after his purchase of the boat before Tom was ready to make a long trip in it. Up to that time he had gone on short spins not far from the dock, in order to test the engine adjustment. The lad found it was working very well, but he decided with a new kind of spark plugs for the two cylinders that he could get more speed out of it. Finally the forward compartment was painted and a general overhauling given the hull and Tom was ready to put, his boat to a good test.

"Come on, Ned," he said to his chum early one evening after Mr. Swift had said he was too tired to go out on a trial run. "We'll see what the ARROW will do now."

From the time Tom started up the motor it was evident that the boat was going through the water at a rapid rate. For a mile or more the two lads speeded along, enjoying it hugely. Then Ned exclaimed:

"Something's coming behind us."

Tom turned his head and looked. Then he called out:

"It's Mr. Hastings in his new CARLOPA. I wonder if he wants a race?"

"Guess he'd have it all his own way," suggested Ned.

"Oh, I don't know. I can get a little more speed out of my boat."

Tom waited until the former owner of the ARROW was up to him.

"Want a race?" asked Mr. Hastings good-naturedly.

"Sure!" agreed Tom, and he shoved the timer ahead to produce quicker explosions.

The ARROW seemed to leap forward and for a moment was ahead of the CARLOPA, but with a motion of his hand to the spark lever Mr. Hastings also increased his speed. For a moment the two boats were on even terms and then the larger and newer one forged ahead. Tom had expected it', but he was a little disappointed.

"That's doing first rate," complimented Mr. Hastings as he passed them. "Better than I was ever able to make her do even when she was new, Tom."

This made the present owner of the ARROW feel somewhat consoled. He and Ned ran on for a few miles, the CARLOPA in the meanwhile disappearing from view around a bend. Then Tom and his chum turned around and made for the Swift dock.

"She certainly is a dandy!" declared Ned. "I wish I had one like it."

"Oh, I intend that you shall have plenty of rides in this," went on his friend. "When you get your vacation, you and dad and I are going on a tour," and he explained his plan, which, it is needless to say, met with Ned's hearty approval.

Just before going to bed, some hours later, Tom decided to go down to the dock to make sure he had shut off the gasoline cock leading from the tank of his boat to the motor. It was a calm, early summer night, with a new moon giving a little light, and the lad went down to the lake in his slippers. As he neared the boathouse he heard a noise.

"Water rat," he murmured, "or maybe muskrats. I must set some traps."

As Tom entered the boathouse he started back in alarm, for a bright light flashed up, almost in his eyes.

"Who's here?" he cried, and at that moment someone sprang out of his motor-boat, scrambled into a rowing craft which the youth could dimly make out in front of the dock and began to pull away quickly.

"Hold on there!" cried the young inventor. "Who are you? What do you want? Come back here!"

The person in the 'coat returned no answer. With his heart doing beats over-time Tom lighted a lantern and made a hasty examination of the ARROW. It did not appear to have been harmed, but a glance showed that the door of the gasoline compartment had been unlocked and was open. Tom jumped down into his craft.

"Some one has been at that compartment again!" he murmured. "I wonder if it was the same man who acted so suspiciously at the auction? What can his object be, anyhow?"

The next moment he uttered an exclamation of startled surprise and picked up something from the bottom of the boat. It was a bunch of keys, with a tag attached, bearing the owner's name.

"Andy Foger!" murmured Tom. "So this is, how he was trying to get even! Maybe he started to put a hole in the tank or in my boat."



CHAPTER VI

TOWING SOME GIRLS

With a sense of anger mingled with an apprehension lest some harm should have been done to his craft, the owner of the ARROW went carefully over it. He could find nothing wrong. The engine was all right and all that appeared to have been accomplished by the unbidden visitor was the opening of the locked forward compartment. That this had been done by one of the many keys on Andy Foger's ring was evident.

"Now what could have been his object?" mused Tom. "I should think if he wanted to put a hole in the boat he would have done it amidships, where the water would have a better chance to come in, or perhaps he wanted to flood it with gasoline and—"

The idea of fire was in Tom's mind, and he did not finish his half-completed thought.

"That may have been it," he resumed after a hasty examination of the gasoline tank, to make sure there were no leaks in it. "To get even with me for outbidding him on the boat, Andy may have wanted to destroy the ARROW. Well, of all the mean tricks, that's about the limit! But wait until I see him. I've got evidence against him," and Tom looked at the key ring. "I could almost have him arrested for this."

Going outside the boathouse, Tom stood on the edge of the dock and peered into the darkness. He could hear the faint sound of someone rowing across the lake, but there was no light.

"He had one of those electric flash lanterns," decided Tom. "If I hadn't found his keys, I might have thought it was Happy Harry instead of Andy."

The young inventor went back into the house after carefully locking the boat compartment and detaching from the engine an electrical device, without which the motor in the ARROW could not be started.

"That will prevent them from running away with my boat, anyhow," decided Tom. "And I'll tell Garret Jackson to keep a sharp watch to-night." Jackson was the engineer at Mr. Swift's workshop.

Tom told his father of the happening and Mr. Swift was properly indignant. He wanted to go at once to see Mr. Foger and complain of Andy's act, but Tom counseled waiting.

"I'll attend to Andy myself," said the young inventor. "He's getting desperate, I guess, or he wouldn't try to set the place on fire. But wait until I show him these keys."

Bright and early the next morning the owner of the motor-boat was down to the dock inspecting it. The engineer, who had been on watch part of the night, reported that there had been no disturbance, and Tom found everything all right. "I wonder if I'd better go over and accuse Andy now or wait until I see him and spring this evidence on him?" thought our hero. Then he decided it would be better to wait. He took the ARROW out after breakfast, his father going on a short spin with him.

"But I must go back now and work on my gyroscope invention," said Mr. Swift when about two hours had been spent on the lake. "I am making good progress with it."

"You need a vacation," decided Tom, "I'll be ready to take you and Ned in about two weeks. He will have two weeks off then and, we'll have some glorious times together."

That afternoon Tom put some new style spark plugs in the cylinders of his motor and found that he had considerably increased the revolutions of the engine, due to a better explosion being obtained. He also made some minor adjustments and the next day he went out alone for a long run.

Heading up the lake, Tom was soon in sight of a popular excursion resort that was frequently visited by church and Sunday-school organizations in the vicinity of Shopton. The lad saw a number of rowing craft and a small motor-boat circling around opposite the resort and remarked: "There must be a picnic at the grove to-day. Guess I'll run up and take a look."

The lad was soon in the midst of quite a flotilla of rowboats, most of them manned by pretty girls or in charge of boys who were giving sisters (their own or some other chap's) a trip on the water. Tom throttled his boat down to slow speed and looked with pleasure on the pretty scene. His boat attracted considerable attention, for motor craft were not numerous on Lake Carlopa.

As our hero passed a boat, containing three very pretty young ladies, Tom heard one of them exclaim:

"There he is now! That's Tom Swift."

Something in the tones of the voice attracted his attention. He turned and saw a brown-eyed girl smiling at him. She bowed and asked, blushing the while:

"Well, have you caught any more runaway horses lately?"

"Runaway horses—why—what? Oh, it's Miss Nestor!" exclaimed the lad, recognizing the young lady whose steed he had frightened one day when he was on his bicycle. As told in the first volume of this series, the horse had run away, being alarmed at the flashing of Tom's wheel, and Miss Mary Nestor, of Mansburg, was in grave danger.

"So you've given up the bicycle for the motor-boat," went on the young lady.

"Yes," replied Tom with a smile, shutting off the power, "and I haven't had a chance to save any girls since I've had it."

The two boats had drifted close together, and Miss Nestor introduced her two companions to Tom.

"Don't you want to come in and take a ride?" he asked.

"Is it safe?" asked Jennie Haddon, one of the trio.

"Of course it is, Jennie, or he wouldn't be out in it," said Miss Nestor hastily. "Come on, let's get in. I'm just dying for a motor-boat ride."

"What will we do with our boat?" asked Katie Carson.

"Oh, I can tow that," replied the youth. "Get right in and I'll take you all around the lake."

"Not too far," stipulated the girl who had figured in the runaway. "We must be back for lunch, which will be served in about an hour. Our church and Sunday-school are having a picnic."

"Maybe Mr. Swift will come and have some lunch with us," suggested Miss Carson, blushing prettily.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," answered Tom, and then he laughed at his formal reply, the girls joining in.

"We'd be glad to have you," added Miss Haddon. "Oh!" she suddenly screamed, "the boat's tipping over!"

"Oh, no," Tom hastened to assure her, coming, to the side to help her in. "It just tilts a bit, with the weight of so many on one side. It couldn't capsize if it tried."

In another moment the three were in the roomy cockpit and Tom had made the empty rowboat fast to the stern. He was about to start up when from another boat, containing two little girls and two slightly larger boys, came a plaintive cry:

"Oh, mister, give us a ride!"

"Sure!" agreed Tom pleasantly. "Just fasten your boat to the other rowboat and I'll tow you."

One of the boys did this, and then, with three pretty girls as his companions in the ARROW and towing the two boats, Tom started off.

The girls were very much interested in the craft and asked all sorts of questions about how the engine operated. Tom explained as clearly as he could how the gasoline exploded in the cylinders, about the electric spark and about the propeller. Then, when he had finished, Miss Haddon remarked naively:

"Oh, Mr. Swift, you've explained it beautifully, and I'm sure if our teacher in school made things as clear as you have that I could get along fine. I understand all about it, except I don't see what makes the engine go."

"Oh," said Tom faintly, and he wondering what would be the best remark to make under the circumstances, when Miss Nestor created a diversion by looking at her watch and exclaiming:

"Oh, girls, it's lunch time! We must go ashore. Will you kindly put about, Mr. Swift—I hope that is the proper term—and—land us—is that right?" and she looked archly at Tom.

"That's perfectly right," he admitted with a laugh and a glance into the girl's brown eyes. "I'll put you ashore at once," and he headed for a small dock.

"And come yourself to take lunch with us, added Miss Haddon.

"I'm afraid I might be in the way," stammered Tom. "I—I have a pretty good appetite, and—"

"I suppose you think that girls on a picnic don't take much lunch," finished Miss Nestor. "But I assure you that we have plenty, and that you will be very welcome," she added warmly.

"Yes, and I'd like to have him explain over again how the engine works," went on Miss Haddon. "I am so interested."

Tom helped the girls out, receiving their thanks as well as those of the children in the second boat. But as he walked with the young ladies through the grove the young inventor registered a mental vow that he would steer clear of explaining again how a gasoline engine worked.

"Now come right over this way to our table," invited Miss Nestor. "I want you to meet papa and mamma."

Tom followed her. As he stepped from behind a clump of trees he saw, standing not far away, a figure that seemed strangely familiar. A moment later the figure turned and Tom saw Andy Foger confronting him. At the sight of our hero the bully turned red and walked quickly away, while Tom's fingers touched the ring of keys in his pocket.



CHAPTER VII

A BRUSH WITH ANDY

So unexpected was his encounter with Andy that the young inventor hardly knew how to act, especially since he was a guest of the young ladies. Tom did not want to do or say anything to embarrass them or make a scene, yet he did want to have a talk, and a very serious talk, with Andy Foger.

Miss Nestor must have noticed Tom's sudden start at his glimpse of Andy, for she asked: "Did you see some one you knew, Mr. Swift?"

"Yes," replied Tom, "I did—er—that is—" He paused in some confusion.

"Perhaps you'd like—-that is prefer—to go with them instead of taking lunch with girls who don't know anything about engines?" she persisted.

"Oh, no indeed," Tom hastened to assure her. "He—that is—the person I saw wouldn't care to have me lunch with him," and the youth smiled grimly.

"Would you like to bring him over to our table?" inquired Miss Carson. "We have plenty for him."

"No, I think that would hardly do," continued the lad, who tried not to smile at the picture of the red-haired and squint-eyed Andy Foger making one of a party with the girls. The young ladies fortunately had not noticed the bully, who was out of view by this time.

Tom was presented to Mr. and Mrs. Nestor, who told him how glad they were to meet the young man who had been instrumental in saving their daughter from injury, if not death. Tom was a bit embarrassed, but bore the praise as well as he could, and he was very glad when a diversion, in the shape of lunch, occurred.

After a meal on tables under the trees in the grove Tom took the girls and some of their friends out in his motor-boat again. They covered several miles around the lake before returning to the picnic ground.

As Tom was starting toward home in his boat, wondering what had become of Andy and trying to think of a reason why the bully should attend anything as "tame" as a church picnic, the object of his thoughts came strolling through the trees down to the shore of the lake. The moment he saw Tom the red-haired lad started back, but the young inventor, leaping out of his boat, called out:

"Hold on there, Andy Foger, I want to see you!" and there was menace in Tom's tone.

"But, I don't want to see you!" retorted the other sulkily. "I've got no use for you."

"No more have I for you," was Tom's quick reply. "But I want to return you these keys. You dropped them in my boat the other night when you tried to set it afire. If I ever catch you—"

"My keys! Your boat! On fire!" gasped Andy, so plainly astonished that Tom knew his surprise was genuine.

"Yes, your keys. You were a little, too quick for me or I'd have caught you at it. The next time you pick a lock don't leave your keys behind you," and he held out the jingling ring.

Andy Foger advanced slowly. He took the bunch of keys and looked at the tag.

"They are mine," he said slowly, as if there was some doubt about it.

"Of course they are," declared Tom. "I found them where you dropped them—in my boat."

"Do you mean over at the auction?"

"No, I mean down in my boathouse, where you sneaked in the other night and tried to do some damage.

"The other night!" cried Andy. "I never was near your boathouse any night and I never lost my keys there! I lost these the day of the auction, on Mr. Hastings' ground, and I've been looking for them ever since."

"Didn't you sneak in my boathouse the other night and try to do some mischief? Didn't you drop them then?"

"No, I didn't," retorted Andy earnestly. "I lost those keys at the auction, and I can prove it to you. Look, I advertised for them in the weekly Gazette."

The red-haired lad pulled a crumpled paper from his pocket and showed Tom an advertisement offering a reward of two dollars for a bunch of keys on a ring, supposed to have been lost at the auction on Mr. Hastings' grounds in Lanton. The finder was to return them to Andy Foger.

"Does that look as if I lost the keys in your boathouse?" demanded the bully sneeringly. "I wouldn't have advertised them that way if I' been trying to keep my visit quiet. Besides, I can prove that I was out of town several nights. I was over to an entertainment in Mansburg one night and I didn't get home until two o'clock in the morning, because my machine broke down. Ask Ned Newton. He saw me at the entertainment."

Andy's manner was so earnest that Tom could not help believing him. Then there was the evidence of the advertisement. Clearly the squint-eyed youth had not been the mysterious visitor to the boathouse and had not unlocked the forward compartment. But if it was not he, who could it have been and how did the keys get there? These were questions which racked Tom's brain.

"You can ask Ned Newton," repeated Andy. "He'll prove that I couldn't have been near your place, if you don't believe me."

"Oh, I believe you all right," answered Tom, for there could be no doubting Andy's manner, even though he and the young inventor were not on good terms. "But how did your keys get in my boat?"

"I don't know, unless you found them, kept them and dropped them there," was the insolent answer.

"You know better than that," exclaimed Tom.

"Well, I owe you a reward of two dollars for giving them back to me," continued the bully patronizingly. "Here it is," and he hauled out some bills.

"I don't want your money!" fired back Tom.

"But I'd like to know who it was that was in my boat."

"And I'd like to know who it was took my keys," and Andy stuffed the money back in his pocket. Tom did not answer. He was puzzling over a queer matter and he wanted to be alone and think. He turned aside from the red-haired lad and walked toward his motor-boat.

"I'll give you a surprise in a few days," Andy called after him, but Tom did not turn his head nor did he inquire what the surprise might be.

Mr. Swift was somewhat puzzled when his son related the outcome of the key incident. He agreed with Tom that some one might have found the ring and kept it, and that the same person might have been the one whom Tom had surprised in the boathouse.

"But it's idle to speculate on it," commented the inventor. "Andy might have induced some of his chums to act for him in harming your boat, and the key advertisement might have been only a ruse."

"I hardly think so," answered his son, shaking his head. "It strikes me as being very curious, and I'm going to see if I can't get at the bottom of it."

But a week or more passed and Tom had no clew. In the meanwhile he was working away at his motor-boat, installing several improvements.

One of these was a better pump, which circulated the water around the cylinders, and another was a new system of lubrication under forced feed.

"This ought to give me a little more speed," reasoned Tom, who was not yet satisfied with his craft. "Guess I'll take it out for a spin."

He was alone in the ARROW, taking a long course up the lake when, as he passed a wooded point that concealed from view a sort of bay, he heard the puffing of another motor-boat.

"Maybe that's Mr. Hastings," thought Tom. "If I raced with him now, I think the ARROW could give a better account of herself."

The young inventor looked at the boat as it came into view. It needed but a glance to show that it was not the CARLOPA. Then, as it came nearer, Tom saw a familiar figure in it—a red-haired, squint-eyed chap.

"Andy Foger!" exclaimed Tom. "He's got a motor-boat! This is the surprise he spoke of."

The boat was rapidly approaching him, and he saw that it was painted a vivid red. Then he could make out the name on the bow, RED STREAK. Andy was sending the craft toward him at a fast rate.

"You needn't think you're the only one on this lake who has a gasoline boat!" called Andy boastfully. "This is my new one and the fastest thing afloat around here. I can go all around you. Do you want to race?"

It was a "dare," and Tom never took such things when he could reasonably enter a contest. He swung his boat around so as to shoot alongside of Andy and answered:

"Yes, I'll race you. Where to?"

"Down opposite Kolb's dock and back to this point," was the answer. "I'll give you a start, as my engine has three cylinders. This is a racing boat."

"I don't need any start," declared Tom. "I'll race you on even terms. Go ahead!"

Both lads adjusted their timers to get more speed. The water began to curl away from the sharp prows, the motors exploded faster and faster. The race was on between the ARROW and the RED STREAK.



CHAPTER VIII

OFF ON A TRIP

Glancing with critical eyes at the craft of his rival, Tom saw that Andy Foger had a very fine boat. The young inventor also realized that if he was to come anywhere near winning the race he would have to get the utmost speed out of his engine, for the new boat the bully had was designed primarily, for racing, while Tom's was an all-around pleasure craft, though capable of something in the speed line.

"I'll be giving you a tow in a few minutes, as soon as my engine gets warmed up!" sneered Andy.

"Maybe," said Tom, and then he crouched down to make as little resistance as possible to the wind. Andy, on the contrary, sat boldly upright at the auto steering wheel of his boat.

On rushed the two motor craft, their prows exactly even and the propellers tossing up a bulge in the water at their sterns. Rapidly acquiring speed after the two lads had adjusted the timers on their motors, the boats were racing side by side, seemingly on even terms.

The RED STREAK had a very sharp prow, designed to cut through the water. It was of the type known as an automobile launch. That is, the engine was located forward, under a sort of hood, which had two hinged covers like a bat's wings. The steering-wheel shaft went through the forward bulkhead, slantingly, like the wheel of an auto, and was arranged with gasoline and sparking levers on the center post in a similar manner. At the right of the wheel was a reversing lever, by which the propeller blades could be set at neutral, or arranged so as to drive the boat backward. Altogether the RED STREAK was a very fine boat and had cost considerably more than had Tom's, even when the latter was new. All these things the young owner of the ARROW thought of as he steered his craft over the course.

"I hardly think I can win," Tom remarked to himself in a whisper. "His boat is too speedy for this one. I have a chance, though, for his engine is new, and I don't believe he understands it as well as I do mine. Then, too, I am sure I have a better ignition system."

But if Tom had any immediate hopes of defeating Andy, they were doomed to disappointment, for about two minutes after the race started the RED STREAK forged slowly ahead.

"Come on!" cried the red-haired lad. "I thought you wanted a race."

"I do," answered the young inventor. "We're a long way from the dock yet, and we've got to come back."

"You'll be out of it by the time I get to the dock," declared Andy.

Indeed it began to look so, for the auto boat was now a full length ahead of Tom's craft and there was open water between them. But our hero knew a thing or two about racing, though he had not long been a motor-boat owner. He adjusted the automatic oiler on the cylinders to give more lubrication, as he intended to get more speed out of his engine. Then he opened the gasoline cock a trifle more and set his timer forward a few notches to get an earlier spark. He was not going to use the maximum speed just yet, but he first wanted to see how the motor of the ARROW would behave under these conditions. To his delight he saw his boat slowly creeping up on Andy's. The latter, with a glance over his shoulder, saw it too, and he advanced his spark. His craft forged ahead, but the rate of increase was not equal to Tom's. "If I can keep up to him I suppose I ought to be glad," thought the young inventor, "for his boat is away ahead of mine in rating."

Through the water the sharp bows cut. There were only a few witnesses to the race, but those who were out in boats saw a pretty sight as the two speedy craft came on toward the dock, which was the turning point.

Andy's boat reached it first, and swung about in a wide circle for the return. Tom decided it was time to make his boat do its best, so he set the timer at the limit, and the spark, coming more quickly, increased the explosions.

Up shot the ARROW and, straightening out after the turn, Tom's craft crept along until it lapped the stern of the RED STREAK. Andy looked back in dismay. Then he tried to get more speed out of his engine. He did cause the screw to revolve a little faster, and Tom noted that he was again being left behind. Then one of those things, which may happen at any time to a gasoline motor, happened to Andy's. It began to miss explosions. At first it was only occasionally, then the misses became more frequent.

The owner of the RED STREAK with one hand on the steering wheel, tried with the other to adjust the motor to get rid of the trouble, but he only made it worse. Andy's boat began to fall back and Tom's to creep up. Frantically Andy worked the gasoline and sparking levers, but without avail. At last one cylinder went completely out of service.

The two boats were now on even terms and were racing along side by side toward the wooded, point, which marked the finish.

"I'll beat you yet!" exclaimed Andy fiercely.

"Better hurry up!" retorted Tom.

But the young inventor was not to have it all his own way. With a freakishness equal to that with which it had ceased to explode the dead cylinder came to life again, and the RED STREAK shot ahead. Once more Andy's boat had the lead of a length and the finish of the race was close at hand. The squint-eyed lad turned and shouted: "I told you I'd beat you! Want a tow now?"

It began to look as though Tom would need it, but he still had something in reserve. One of the improvements he had put in the ARROW was a new auxiliary ignition system. This he now decided to use.

With a quick motion Tom threw over the switch that put it into operation. A hotter, "fatter" spark was at once produced, and adjusting his gasoline cock so that a little more of the fluid would be drawn in, making a "richer" mixture, the owner of the ARROW saw the craft shoot forward as if, like some weary runner, new life had been infused.

In vain did Andy frantically try to get more speed out of his motor. He cut out the muffler, and the explosions sounded loudly over the lake. But it was no use. A minute later the ARROW, which had slowly forged ahead, crossed the bows of the RED STREAK opposite the finishing point, and Tom had won the race.

"Well, was that fair?" our hero called to Andy, who had quickly shut off some of his power as he saw his rival's daring trick. "Did I beat you fair?"

"You wouldn't have beaten me if my engine hadn't gone back on me," grumbled Andy, chagrin showing on his face. "Wait until my motor runs smoother and I'll give you a big handicap and beat you. My boat's faster than yours. It ought to be. It cost fifteen hundred dollars and it's a racer."

"I guess it doesn't like racing," commented Tom as he swung the prow of his craft down the lake toward his home. But he knew there was some truth in what Andy had said. The RED STREAK was a more speedy boat, and, with proper handling, could have beaten the ARROW. That was where Tom's superior knowledge came in useful. "Just you wait, I'll beat you yet," called Andy, after the young inventor, but the latter made no answer. He was satisfied.

Mr. Swift was much interested that night in his son's account of the race.

"I had no idea yours was such a speedy boat," he said.

"Well, it wasn't originally," admitted Tom, "but the improvements I put on it made it so. But, dad, when are we going on our tour? You look more worn out than I've seen you in some time, not excepting when the turbine model was stolen. Are you worrying over your gyroscope invention?"

"Somewhat, Tom. I can't seem to hit on just what I want. It's a difficult problem."

"Then I tell you what let's do, dad. Let's drop everything in the inventive line and go off on a vacation. I'll take you up the lake in my boat and you can spend a week at the Lakeview Hotel at Sandport. It will do you good."

"What will you do, Tom?"

"Oh, Ned Newton and I will cruise about and we'll take you along any time you want to go. We're going to camp out nights or sleep in the boat if it rains. I've ordered a canopy with side curtains. Ned and I don't care for the hotel life in the summer. Will you go?"

Mr. Swift considered a moment. He did need a rest, for he had been working hard and his brain was weary with thinking of many problems. His son's program sounded very attractive.

"I think I will accept," said the inventor with a smile. "When can you start, Tom?"

"In about four days. Ned Newton, will get his vacation then and I'll have the canopy on. I'll start to work at it to-morrow. Then we'll go on a trip."

Sandport was a summer resort at the extreme southern end of Lake Carlopa, and Mr. Swift at once wrote to the Lakeview Hotel there to engage a room for himself. In the meanwhile Tom began to put the canopy on his boat and arrange for the trip, which would take nearly a whole day. Ned Newton was delighted with the prospect of a camping tour and helped Tom to get ready. They took a small tent and plenty of supplies, with some food. They did not need to carry many rations, as the shores of the lake were lined with towns and villages where food could be procured.

Finally all was ready for the trip and the night before the start Ned Newton stayed at Tom's house so as to be in readiness for going off early in the morning. The day was all that could be desired, Tom noted, as he and his chum hurried down to the dock before breakfast to put their blankets in the boat. As the young inventor entered the craft he uttered an exclamation.

"What's the matter?" asked Ned.

"I was sure I locked the sliding door of that forward compartment," was the reply. "Now it's open." He looked inside the space occupied by the gasoline tank and cried out: "One of the braces is gone! There's been some one at my boat in the night and they tried to damage her."

"Much harm done?" asked Ned anxiously.

"No, none at all, to speak of," replied Tom. "I can easily put a new block under the tank. In fact, I don't really need all I have. But why should any one take one out, and who did it? That's what I want to know."

The two lads looked carefully about the dock and boat for a sign of the missing block or any clews that might show who had been tampering with the ARROW, but they could find nothing.

"Maybe the block fell out," suggested Ned.

"It couldn't," replied Tom. "It was one of the new ones I put in myself and it was nailed fast. You can see where it's been pried loose. I can't, understand it," and Tom thought rapidly of several mysterious occurrences of late in which the strange man at the auction and the person he had surprised one night in the boathouse had a part.

"Well, it needn't delay our trip," resumed the young inventor. "Maybe there's a hoodoo around here, and it will do us good to get away a few days. Come on, we'll have breakfast, get dad and start."

A little later the ARROW was puffing away up the lake in the direction of Sandport.



CHAPTER IX

MR. SWIFT IS ALARMED

"Don't you feel better already, dad?" asked Tom that noon as they stopped under a leaning, overhanging tree for lunch on the shore of the lake. "I'll leave it to Ned if you don't look more contented and less worried."

"I believe he does," agreed the other lad. "Well, I must say I certainly have enjoyed the outing so far," admitted the inventor with a smile. "And I haven't been bothering about my gyroscope. I think I'll take another sandwich, Tom, and a few more olives."

"That's the way to talk!" cried the son. "Your appetite is improving, too. If Mrs. Baggert could see you she'd say so."

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