Tom Swift and his Motor-Cycle or Fun and Adventures on the Road
by Victor Appleton
I. A NARROW ESCAPE II. TOM OVERHEARS SOMETHING III. IN A SMASH-UP IV. TOM AND A MOTOR-CYCLE V. MR. SWIFT IS ALARMED VI. AN INTERVIEW IN THE DARK VII. OFF ON A SPIN VIII. SUSPICIOUS ACTIONS IX. A FRUITLESS PURSUIT X. OFF TO ALBANY XI. A VINDICTIVE TRAMP XII. THE MEN IN THE AUTO XIII. CAUGHT IN A STORM XIV. ATTACKED FROM BEHIND XV. A VAIN SEARCH. XVI. BACK HOME. XVII. MR. SWIFT IN DESPAIR XVIII. HAPPY HARRY AGAIN XIX. TOM ON A HUNT XX. ERADICATE SAWS WOOD XXI. ERADICATE GIVES A CLUE XXII. THE STRANGE MANSION XXIII. TOM IS PURSUED XXIV. UNEXPECTED HELP XXV. THE CAPTURE—GOOD-BY
A NARROW ESCAPE
"That's the way to do it! Whoop her up, Andy! Shove the spark lever over, and turn on more gasolene! We'll make a record this trip."
Two lads in the tonneau of a touring car, that was whirling along a country road, leaned forward to speak to the one at the steering wheel. The latter was a red-haired youth, with somewhat squinty eyes, and not a very pleasant face, but his companions seemed to regard him with much favor. Perhaps it was because they were riding in his automobile.
"Whoop her up, Andy!" added the lad on the seat beside the driver. "This is immense!"
"I rather thought you'd like it," remarked Andy Foger, as he turned the car to avoid a stone in the road. "I'll make things hum around Shopton!"
"You have made them hum already, Andy," commented the lad beside him. "My ears are ringing. Wow! There goes my cap!"
As the boy spoke, the breeze, created by the speed at which the car was traveling, lifted off his cap, and sent it whirling to the rear.
Andy Foger turned for an instant's glance behind. Then he opened the throttle still wider, and exclaimed:
"Let it go, Sam. We can get another. I want to see what time I can make to Mansburg! I want to break a record, if I can."
"Look out, or you'll break something else!" cried a lad on the rear seat. "There's a fellow on a bicycle just ahead of us. Take care, Andy!"
"Let him look out for himself," retorted Foger, as he bent lower over the steering wheel, for the car was now going at a terrific rate. The youth on the bicycle was riding slowly along, and did not see the approaching automobile until it was nearly upon him. Then, with a mean grin, Andy Foger pressed the rubber bulb of the horn with sudden energy, sending out a series of alarming blasts.
"It's Tom Swift!" cried Sam Snedecker. "Look out, or you'll run him down!"
"Let him keep out of my way," retorted Andy savagely.
The youth on the wheel, with a sudden spurt of speed, tried to cross the highway. He did manage to do it, but by such a narrow margin that in very terror Andy Foger shut off the power, jammed down the brakes and steered to one side. So suddenly was he obliged to swerve over that the ponderous machine skidded and went into the ditch at the side of the road, where it brought up, tilting to one side.
Tom Swift, his face rather pale from his narrow escape, leaped from his bicycle, and stood regarding the automobile. As for the occupants of that machine, from Andy Foger, the owner, to the three cronies who were riding with him, they all looked very much astonished.
"Are we—is it damaged any, Andy?" asked Sam Snedecker.
"I hope not," growled Andy. "If my car's hurt it's Tom Swift's fault!"
He leaped from his seat and made a hurried inspection of the machine. He found nothing the matter, though it was more from good luck than good management. Then Andy turned and looked savagely at Tom Swift. The latter, standing his wheel up against the fence, walked forward.
"What do you mean by getting in the way like that?" demanded Andy with a scowl. "Don't you see that you nearly upset me?"
"Well, I like your nerve, Andy Foger!" cried Tom. "What do you mean by nearly running me down? Why didn't you sound your horn? You automobilists take too much for granted! You were going faster than the legal rate, anyhow!"
"I was, eh?" sneered Andy.
"Yes, you were, and you know it. I'm the one to make a kick, not you. You came pretty near hitting me. Me getting in your way! I guess I've got some rights on the road!"
"Aw, go on!" growled Andy, for he could think of nothing else to say. "Bicycles are a back number, anyhow."
"It isn't so very long ago that you had one," retorted Tom. "First you fellows know, you'll be pulled in for speeding."
"I guess we had better go slower, Andy," advised Sam in a low voice. "I don't want to be arrested."
"Leave this to me," retorted Andy. "I'm running this tour. The next time you get in my way I'll run you down!" he threatened Tom. "Come on, fellows, we're late now, and can't make a record run, all on account of him," and Andy got back into the car, followed by his cronies, who had hurriedly alighted after their thrilling stop.
"If you try anything like this again you'll wish you hadn't," declared Tom, and he watched the automobile party ride off.
"Oh, forget it!" snapped back Andy, and he laughed, his companions joining.
Tom Swift said nothing in reply. Slowly he remounted his wheel and rode off, but his thoughts toward Andy Foger were not very pleasant ones. Andy was the son of a wealthy man of the town, and his good fortune in the matter of money seemed to have spoiled him, for he was a bully and a coward. Several times he and Tom Swift had clashed, for Andy was overbearing. But this was the first time Andy had shown such a vindictive spirit.
"He thinks he can run over everything since he got his new auto," commented Tom aloud as he rode on. "He'll have a smash-up some day, if he isn't careful. He's too fond of speeding. I wonder where he and his crowd are going?"
Musing over his narrow escape Tom rode on, and was soon at his home, where he lived with his widowed father, Barton Swift, a wealthy inventor, and the latter's housekeeper, Mrs. Baggert. Approaching a machine shop, one of several built near his house by Mr. Swift, in which he conducted experiments and constructed apparatus. Tom was met by his parent.
"What's the matter, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift. "You look as if something had happened."
"Something very nearly did," answered the youth, and related his experience on the road.
"Humph," remarked the inventor; "your little pleasure-jaunt might have ended disastrously. I suppose Andy and his chums are off on their trip. I remember Mr. Foger speaking to me about it the other day. He said Andy and some companions were going on a tour, to be gone a week or more. Well, I'm glad it was no worse. But have you anything special to do, Tom?"
"No; I was just riding for pleasure, and if you want me to do anything, I'm ready."
"Then I wish you'd take this letter to Mansburg for me. I want it registered, and I don't wish to mail it in the Shopton post-office. It's too important, for it's about a valuable invention."
"The new turbine motor, dad?"
"That's it. And on your way I wish you'd stop in Merton's machine shop and get some bolts he's making for me."
"I will. Is that the letter?" and Tom extended his hand for a missive his father held.
"Yes. Please be careful of it. It's to my lawyers in Washington regarding the final steps in getting a patent for the turbine. That's why I'm so particular about not wanting it mailed here. Several times before I have posted letters here, only to have the information contained in them leak out before my attorneys received them. I do not want that to happen in this case. Another thing; don't speak about my new invention in Merton's shop when you stop for the bolts."
"Why, do you think he gave out information concerning your work?"
"Well, not exactly. He might not mean to, but he told me the other day that some strangers were making inquiries of him, about whether he ever did any work for me."
"What did he tell them?"
"He said that he occasionally did, but that most of my inventive work was done in my own shops, here. He wanted to know why the men were asking such questions, and one of them said they expected to open a machine shop soon, and wanted to ascertain if they might figure on getting any of my trade. But I don't believe that was their object."
"What do you think it was?"
"I don't know, exactly, but I was somewhat alarmed when I heard this from Merton. So I am going to take no risks. That's why I send this letter to Mansburg. Don't lose it, and don't forget about the bolts. Here is a blue-print of them, so you can see if they come up to the specifications."
Tom rode off on his wheel, and was soon spinning down the road.
"I wonder if I'll meet Andy Foger and his cronies again?" he thought. "Not very likely to, I guess, if they're off on a tour. Well, I'm just as well satisfied. He and I always seem to get into trouble when we meet." Tom was not destined to meet Andy again that day, but the time was to come when the red-haired bully was to cause Tom Swift no little trouble, and get him into danger besides. So Tom rode along, thinking over what his father had said to him about the letter he carried.
Mr. Barton Swift was a natural inventor. From a boy he had been interested in things mechanical, and one of his first efforts had been to arrange a system of pulleys, belts and gears so that the windmill would operate the churn in the old farmhouse where he was born. The fact that the mill went so fast that it broke the churn all to pieces did not discourage him, and he at once set to work, changing the gears. His father had to buy a new churn, but the young inventor made his plan work on the second trial, and thereafter his mother found butter-making easy.
From then on Barton Swift lived in a world of inventions. People used to say he would never amount to anything, that inventors never did, but Mr. Swift proved them all wrong by amassing a considerable fortune out of his many patents. He grew up, married and had one son, Tom. Mrs. Barton died when Tom was three years old, and since then he had lived with his father and a succession of nurses and housekeepers. The last woman to have charge of the household was a Mrs. Baggert, a motherly widow, and she succeeded so well, and Tom and his father formed such an attachment for her, that she was regarded as a fixture, and had now been in charge ten years.
Mr. Swift and his son lived in a handsome house on the outskirts of the village of Shopton, in New York State. The village was near a large body of water, which I shall call Lake Carlopa, and there Tom and his father used to spend many pleasant days boating, for Tom and the inventor were better chums than many boys are, and they were often seen together in a craft rowing about, or fishing. Of course Tom had some boy friends, but he went with his father more often than he did with them.
Though many of Mr. Swift's inventions paid him well, he was constantly seeking to perfect others. To this end he had built near his home several machine shops, with engines, lathes and apparatus for various kinds of work. Tom, too, had the inventive fever in his veins, and had planned some useful implements and small machines.
Along the pleasant country roads on a fine day in April rode Tom Swift on his way to Mansburg to register the letter. As he descended a little hill he saw, some distance away, but coming toward him, a great cloud of dust.
"Somebody must be driving a herd of cattle along the road," thought Tom. "I hope they don't get in my way, or, rather, I hope I don't get in theirs. Guess I'd better keep to one side, yet there isn't any too much room."
The dust-cloud came nearer. It was so dense that whoever or whatever was making it could not be distinguished.
"Must be a lot of cattle in that bunch," mused the young inventor, "but I shouldn't think they'd trot them so on a warm day like this. Maybe they're stampeded. If they are I've got to look out." This idea caused him some alarm.
He tried to peer through the dust-cloud, but could not. Nearer and nearer it came. Tom kept on, taking care to get as far to the side of the road as he could. Then from the midst of the enveloping mass came the sound of a steady "chug-chug."
"It's a motor-cycle!" exclaimed Tom. "He must have his muffler wide open, and that's kicking up as much dust as the wheels do. Whew! But whoever's on it will look like a clay image at the end of the line!"
Now that he knew it was a fellow-cyclist who was raising such a disturbance, Tom turned more toward the middle of the road. As yet he had not had a sight of the rider, but the explosions of the motor were louder. Suddenly, when the first advancing particles of dust reached him, almost making him sneeze, Tom caught sight of the rider. He was a man of middle age, and he was clinging to the handle-bars of the machine. The motor was going at full speed.
Tom quickly turned to one side, to avoid the worst of the dust. The motor-cyclist glanced at the youth, but this act nearly proved disastrous for him. He took his eyes from the road ahead for just a moment, and he did not see a large stone directly in his path. His front wheel hit it, and the heavy machine, which he could not control very well, skidded over toward the lad on the bicycle. The motor-cyclist bounced up in the air from the saddle, and nearly lost his hold on the handle-bars.
"Look out!" cried Tom. "You'll smash into me!"
"I'm—I'm—try—ing—not—to!" were the words that were rattled out of the middle-aged man.
Tom gave his wheel a desperate twist to get out of the way. The motor-cyclist tried to do the same, but the machine he was on appeared to want matters its own way. He came straight for Tom, and a disastrous collision might have resulted had not another stone been in the way. The front wheel hit this, and was swerved to one side. The motor-cycle flashed past Tom, just grazing his wheel, and then was lost to sight beyond in a cloud of dust that seemed to follow it like a halo.
"Why don't you learn to ride before you come out on the road!" cried Tom somewhat angrily.
Like an echo from the dust-cloud came floating back these words:
"I'm—try—ing—to!" Then the sound of the explosions became fainter.
"Well, he's got lots to learn yet!" exclaimed Tom. "That's twice to-day I've nearly been run down. I expect I'd better look out for the third time. They say that's always fatal," and the lad leaped from his wheel. "Wonder if he bent any of my spokes?" the young inventor continued as he inspected his bicycle.
TOM OVERHEARS SOMETHING
"Everything seems to be all right," Tom remarked, "but another inch or so and he'd have crashed into me. I wonder who he was? I wish I had a machine like that. I could make better time than I can on my bicycle. Perhaps I'll get one some day. Well, I might as well ride on."
Tom was soon at Mansburg, and going to the post-office handed in the letter for registry. Bearing in mind his father's words, he looked about to see if there were any suspicious characters, but the only person he noticed was a well-dressed man, with a black mustache, who seemed to be intently studying the schedule of the arrival and departure of the mails.
"Do you want the receipt for the registered, letter sent to you here or at Shopton?" asked the clerk of Tom. "Come to think of it, though, it will have to come here, and you can call for it. I'll have it returned to Mr. Barton Swift, care of general delivery, and you can get it the next time you are over," for the clerk knew Tom.
"That will do," answered our hero, and as he turned away from the window he saw that the man who had been inquiring about the mails was regarding him curiously. Tom thought nothing of it at the time, but there came an occasion when he wished that he had taken more careful note of the well-dressed individual. As the youth passed out of the outer door he saw the man walk over to the registry window.
"He seems to have considerable mail business," thought Tom, and then the matter passed from his mind as he mounted his wheel and hurried to the machine shop.
"Say, I'm awfully sorry," announced Mr. Merton when Tom said he had come for the bolts, "but they're not quite done. They need polishing. I know I promised them to your father to-day, and he can have them, but he was very particular about the polish, and as one of my best workers was taken sick, I'm a little behind."
"How long will it take to polish them?" asked Tom.
"Oh, about an hour. In fact, a man is working on them now. If you could call this afternoon they'll be ready. Can you?"
"I s'pose I've got to," replied Tom good-naturedly. "Guess I'll have to stay in Mansburg for dinner. I can't get back to Shopton in time now."
"I'll be sure to have them for you after dinner," promised Mr. Merton. "Now, there's a matter I want to speak to you about, Tom. Has your father any idea of giving the work he has been turning over to me to some other firm?"
"Not that I know of. Why?" and the lad showed his wonder.
"Well, I'll tell you why. Some time ago there was a stranger in here, asking about your father's work. I told Mr. Swift of it at the time. The stranger said then that he and some others were thinking of opening a machine shop, and he wanted to find out whether they would be likely to get any jobs from your father. I told the man I knew nothing about Mr. Swift's business, and he went away. I didn't hear any more of it, though of course I didn't want to lose your father's trade. Now a funny thing happened. Only this morning the same man was back here, and he was making particular inquiries about your father's private machine shops."
"He was?" exclaimed Tom excitedly.
"Yes. He wanted to know where they were located, how they were laid out, and what sort of work he did in them."
"What did you tell him?"
"Nothing at all. I suspected something, and I said the best way for him to find out would be to go and see your father. Wasn't that right?"
"Sure. Dad doesn't want his business known any more than he can help. What do you suppose they wanted?"
"Well, the man talked as though he and his partners would like to buy your father's shops."
"I don't believe he'd sell. He has them arranged just for his own use in making patents, and I'm sure he would not dispose of them."
"Well, that's what I thought, but I didn't tell the man so. I judged it would be best for him to find out for himself."
"What was the man's name?"
"He didn't tell me, and I didn't ask him."
"How did he look?"
"Well, he was well dressed, wore kid gloves and all that, and he had a little black mustache."
Tom started, and Mr. Merton noticed it.
"Do you know him?" he asked.
"No," replied Tom, "but I saw—" Then he stopped. He recalled the man he had seen in the post-office. He answered this description, but it was too vague to be certain.
"Did you say you'd seen him?" asked Mr. Merton, regarding Tom curiously.
"No—yes—that is—well, I'll tell my father about it," stammered Tom, who concluded that it would be best to say nothing of his suspicions. "I'll be back right after dinner, Mr. Merton. Please have the bolts ready for me, if you can."
"I will. Is your father going to use them in a new machine?"
"Yes; dad is always making new machines," answered the youth, as the most polite way of not giving the proprietor of the shop any information. "I'll be back right after dinner," he called as he went out to get on his wheel.
Tom was much puzzled. He felt certain that the man in the post-office and the one who had questioned Mr. Merton were the same.
"There is something going on, that dad should know about," reflected Tom. "I must tell him. I don't believe it will be wise to send any more of his patent work over to Merton. We must do it in the shops at home, and dad and I will have to keep our eyes open. There may be spies about seeking to discover something about his new turbine motor. I'll hurry back with those bolts and tell dad. But first I must get lunch. I'll go to the restaurant and have a good feed while I'm at it."
Tom had plenty of spending money, some of which came from a small patent he had marketed himself. He left his wheel outside the restaurant, first taking the precaution to chain the wheels, and then went inside. Tom was hungry and ordered a good meal. He was about half way through it when some one called his name.
"Hello, Ned!" he answered, looking up to see a youth about his own age. "Where did you blow in from?"
"Oh, I came over from Shopton this morning," replied Ned Newton, taking a seat at the table with Tom. The two lads were chums, and in their younger days had often gone fishing, swimming and hunting together. Now Ned worked in the Shopton bank, and Tom was so busy helping his father, so they did not see each other so often.
"On business or pleasure?" asked Tom, putting some more sugar in his coffee.
"Business. I had to bring some papers over from our bank to the First National here. But what about you?"
"Oh, I came on dad's account."
"Invented anything new?" asked Ned as he gave his order to the waitress.
"No, nothing since the egg-beater I was telling you about. But I'm working on some things."
"Why don't you invent an automobile or an airship?"
"Maybe I will some day, but, speaking of autos, did you see the one Andy Foger has?"
"Yes; it's a beaut! Have you seen it?"
"Altogether at too close range. He nearly ran over me this morning," and the young inventor related the occurrence.
"Oh, Andy always was too fresh," commented Ned; "and since his father let him get the touring car I suppose he'll be worse than ever."
"Well, if he tries to run me down again he'll get into trouble," declared Tom, calling for a second cup of coffee.
The two chums began conversing on more congenial topics, and Ned was telling of a new camera he had, when, from a table directly behind him, Tom heard some one say in rather loud tones:
"The plant is located in Shopton, all right, and the buildings are near Swift's house."
Tom started, and listened more intently.
"That will make it more difficult," one man answered. "But if the invention is as valuable as—"
"Hush!" came a caution from another of the party. "This is too public a place to discuss the matter. Wait until we get out. One of us will have to see Swift, of course, and if he proves stubborn—"
"I guess you'd better hush yourself," retorted the man who had first spoken, and then the voices subsided.
But Tom Swift had overheard something which made him vaguely afraid. He started so at the sound of his father's name that he knocked a fork from the table.
"What's the matter; getting nervous?" asked Ned with a laugh.
"I guess so," replied Tom, and when he stooped to pick the fork up, not waiting for the girl who was serving at his table, he stole a look at the strangers who had just entered. He was startled to note that one of the men was the same he had seen in the post-office—the man who answered the description of the one who had been inquiring of Mr. Merton about the Swift shops.
"I'm going to keep my ears open," thought Tom as he went on eating his dinner.
IN A SMASH-UP
Though the young inventor listened intently, in an endeavor to hear the conversation of the men at the table behind him, all he could catch was an indistinct murmur. The strangers appeared to have heeded the caution of one of their number and were speaking in low tones.
Tom and Ned finished their meal, and started to leave the restaurant. As Mr. Swift's son passed the table where the men sat they looked up quickly at him. Two of them gave Tom but a passing glance, but one—he whom the young inventor had noticed in the post-office—stared long and intently.
"I think he will know me the next time he sees me," thought Tom, and he boldly returned the glance of the stranger.
The bolts were ready when the inventor's son called at the machine shop a second time, and making a package of them Tom fastened it to the saddle of his bicycle. He started for home at a fast pace, and was just turning from a cross road into the main highway when he saw ahead of him a woman driving a light wagon. As the sun flashed on Tom's shining wheel the horse gave a sudden leap, swerved to one side, and then bolted down the dusty stretch, the woman screaming at the top of her voice.
"A runaway!" cried Tom; "and partly my fault, too!"
Waiting not an instant the lad bent over his handle-bars and pedaled with all his force. His bicycle seemed fairly to leap forward after the galloping horse.
"Sit still! Don't jump out! Don't jump!" yelled the young inventor. "I'll try to catch him!" for the woman was standing up in front of the seat and leaning forward, as if about to leap from the wagon.
"She's lost her head," thought Tom. "No wonder! That's a skittish horse."
Faster and faster he rode, bending all his energies to overtake the animal. The wagon was swaying from side to side, and more than once the woman just saved herself from being thrown out by grasping the edge of the seat. She found that her standing position was a dangerous one and crouched on the bottom of the swaying vehicle.
"That's better!" shouted Tom, but it is doubtful if she heard him, for the rattling of the wagon and the hoofbeats of the horse drowned all other sounds. "Sit still!" he shouted. "I'll stop the horse for you!"
Trying to imagine himself in a desperate race, in order to excite himself to greater speed, Tom continued on. He was now even with the tail-board of the wagon, and slowly creeping up. The woman was all huddled up in a lump.
"Grab the reins! Grab the reins!" shouted Tom. "Saw on the bit! That will stop him!"
The occupant of the wagon turned to look at the lad. Tom saw that she was a handsome young lady. "Grab the reins!" he cried again. "Pull hard!"
"I—I can't!" she answered frightenedly. "They have dropped down! Oh, do please stop the horse! I'm so—so frightened!"
"I'll stop him!" declared the youth firmly, and he set his teeth hard. Then he saw the reason the fair driver could not grasp the lines. They had slipped over the dashboard and were trailing on the ground.
The horse was slacking speed a bit now, for the pace was telling on his wind. Tom saw his opportunity, and with a sudden burst of energy was at the animal's head. Steering his wheel with one hand, with the other the lad made a grab for the reins near the bit. The horse swerved frightenedly to one side, but Tom swung in the same direction. He grasped the leather and then, with a kick, he freed himself from the bicycle, giving it a shove to one side. He was now clinging to the reins with both hands, and, being a muscular lad and no lightweight, his bulk told.
"Sit—still!" panted our hero to the young woman, who had arisen to the seat. "I'll have him stopped in half a minute now!"
It was in less time than that, for the horse, finding it impossible to shake off the grip of Tom, began to slow from a gallop to a trot, then to a canter, and finally to a slow walk. A moment later the horse had stopped, breathing heavily from his run.
"There, there, now!" spoke Tom soothingly. "You're all right, old fellow. I hope you're not hurt"—this to the young lady—and Tom made a motion to raise his cap, only to find that it had blown off.
"Oh, no—no; I'm more frightened than hurt."
"It was all my fault," declared the young inventor. "I should not have swung into the road so suddenly. My bicycle alarmed your horse."
"Oh, I fancy Dobbin is easily disturbed," admitted the fair driver. "I can't thank you enough for stopping him. You saved me from a bad accident."
"It was the least I could do. Are you all right now?" and he handed up the dangling reins. "I think Dobbin, as you call him, has had enough of running," went on Tom, for the horse was now quiet.
"I hope so. Yes, I am all right. I trust your wheel is not damaged. If it is, my father, Mr. Amos Nestor, of Mansburg, will gladly pay for its repair."
This reminded the young inventor of his bicycle, and making sure that the horse would not start up again, he went to where his wheel and his cap lay. He found that the only damage to the bicycle was a few bent spokes, and, straightening them and having again apologized to the young woman, receiving in turn her pardon and thanks, and learning that her name was Mary Nestor, Tom once more resumed his trip. The wagon followed him at a distance, the horse evincing no desire now to get out of a slow amble.
"Well, things are certainly happening to me to-day," mused Tom as he pedaled on. "That might have been a serious runaway if there'd been anything in the road."
Tom did not stop to think that he had been mainly instrumental in preventing a bad accident, as he had been the innocent cause of starting the runaway, but Tom was ever a modest lad. His arms were wrenched from jerking on the bridle, but he did not mind that much, and bent over the handle-bars to make up for lost time.
Our hero was within a short distance of his house and was coasting easily along when, just ahead of him, he saw a cloud of dust, very similar to the one that had, some time before, concealed the inexperienced motor-cyclist.
"I wonder if that's him again?" thought Tom. "If it is I'm going to hang back until I see which way he's headed. No use running any more risks."
Almost at that moment a puff of wind blew some of the dust to one side. Tom had a glimpse of the man on the puffing machine.
"It's the same chap!" he exclaimed aloud; "and he's going the same way I am. Well, I'll not try to catch up to him. I wonder what he's been doing all this while, that he hasn't gotten any farther than this? Either he's been riding back and forth, or else he's been resting. My, but he certainly is scooting along!"
The wind carried to Tom the sound of the explosions of the motor, and he could see the man clinging tightly to the handle-bars. The rider was almost in front of Tom's house now, when, with a suddenness that caused the lad to utter an exclamation of alarm, the stranger turned his machine right toward a big oak tree.
"What's he up to?" cried Tom excitedly. "Does he think he can climb that, or is he giving an exhibition by showing how close he can come and not hit it?"
A moment later the motor-cyclist struck the tree a glancing blow. The man went flying over the handle-bars, the machine was shunted to the ditch along the road, and falling over on one side the motor raced furiously. The rider lay in a heap at the foot of the tree.
"My, that was a smash!" cried Tom. "He must be killed!" and bending forward, he raced toward the scene of the accident.
TOM AND A MOTOR-CYCLE
When Tom reached the prostrate figure on the grass at the foot of the old oak tree, the youth bent quickly over the man. There was an ugly cut on his head, and blood was flowing from it. But Tom quickly noticed that the stranger was breathing, though not very strongly.
"Well, he's not dead—just yet!" exclaimed the youth with a sigh of relief. "But I guess he's pretty badly hurt. I must get help—no, I'll take him into our house. It's not far. I'll call dad."
Leaning his wheel against the tree Tom started for his home, about three hundred feet away, and then he noticed that the stranger's motor-cycle was running at full speed on the ground.
"Guess I'd better shut off the power!" he exclaimed. "No use letting the machine be ruined." Tom had a natural love for machinery, and it hurt him almost as much to see a piece of fine apparatus abused as it did to see an animal mistreated. It was the work of a moment to shut off the gasolene and spark, and then the youth raced on toward his house.
"Where's dad?" he called to Mrs. Baggert, who was washing the dishes.
"Out in one of the shops," replied the housekeeper. "Why, Tom," she went on hurriedly as she saw how excited he was, "whatever has happened?"
"Man hurt—out in front—motor-cycle smash—I'm going to bring him in here—get some things ready—I'll find dad!"
"Bless and save us!" cried Mrs. Baggert. "Whatever are we coming to? Who's hurt? How did it happen? Is he dead?"
"Haven't time to talk now!" answered Tom, rushing from the house. "Dad and I will bring him in here."
Tom found his father in one of the three small machine shops on the grounds about the Swift home. The youth hurriedly told what had happened.
"Of course we'll bring him right in here!" assented Mr. Swift, putting aside the work upon which he was engaged. "Did you tell Mrs. Baggert?"
"Yes, and she's all excited."
"Well, she can't help it, being a woman, I suppose. But we'll manage. Do you know the man?"
"Never saw him before to-day, when he tried to run me down. Guess he doesn't know much about motor-cycles. But come on, dad. He may bleed to death."
Father and son hurried to where the stranger lay. As they bent over him he opened his eyes and asked faintly:
"Where am I? What happened?"
"You're all right—in good hands," said Mr. Swift. "Are you much hurt?"
"Not much—mostly stunned, I guess. What happened?" he repeated.
"You and your motor-cycle tried to climb a tree," remarked Tom with grim humor.
"Oh, yes, I remember now. I couldn't seem to steer out of the way. And I couldn't shut off the power in time. Is the motor-cycle much damaged?"
"The front wheel is," reported Tom, after an inspection, "and there are some other breaks, but I guess—"
"I wish it was all smashed!" exclaimed the man vigorously. "I never want to see it again!"
"Why, don't you like it?" asked Tom eagerly.
"No, and I never will," the man spoke faintly but determinedly.
"Never mind now," interposed Mr. Swift. "Don't excite yourself. My son and I will take you to our house and send for a doctor."
"I'll bring the motor-cycle, after we've carried you in," added Tom.
"Don't worry about the machine. I never want to see it again!" went on the man, rising to a sitting position. "It nearly killed me twice to-day. I'll never ride again."
"You'll feel differently after the doctor fixes you up," said Mr. Swift with a smile.
"Doctor! I don't need a doctor," cried the stranger. "I am only bruised and shaken up."
"You have a bad cut on your head," said Tom.
"It isn't very deep," went on the injured man, placing his fingers on it. "Fortunately I struck the tree a glancing blow. If you will allow me to rest in your house a little while and give me some plaster for the cut I shall be all right again."
"Can you walk, or shall we carry you?" asked Tom's father.
"Oh, I can walk, if you'll support me a little." And the stranger proved that he could do this by getting to his feet and taking a few steps. Mr. Swift and his son took hold of his arms and led him to the house. There he was placed on a lounge and given some simple restoratives by Mrs. Baggert, who, when she found the accident was not serious, recovered her composure.
"I must have been unconscious for a few minutes," went on the man.
"You were," explained Tom. "When I got up to you I thought you were dead, until I saw you breathe. Then I shut off the power of your machine and ran in for dad. I've got the motor-cycle outside. You can't ride it for some time, I'm afraid, Mr.—er—" and Tom stopped in some confusion, for he realized that he did not know the man's name.
"I beg your pardon for not introducing myself before," went on the stranger. "I'm Wakefield Damon, of Waterfield. But don't worry about me riding that machine again. I never shall."
"Oh, perhaps—" began Mr. Swift.
"No, I never shall," went on Mr. Damon positively. "My doctor told me to get it, as he thought riding around the country would benefit my health. I shall tell him his prescription nearly killed me."
"And me too," added Tom with a laugh.
"How—why—are you the young man I nearly ran down this morning?" asked Mr. Damon, suddenly sitting up and looking at the youth.
"I am," answered our hero.
"Bless my soul! So you are!" cried Mr. Damon. "I was wondering who it could be. It's quite a coincidence. But I was in such a cloud of dust I couldn't make out who it was."
"You had your muffler open, and that made considerable dust," explained Tom.
"Was that it? Bless my existence! I thought something was wrong, but I couldn't tell what. I went over all the instructions in the book and those the agent told me, but I couldn't think of the right one. I tried all sorts of things to make less dust, but I couldn't. Then, bless my eyelashes, if the machine didn't stop just after I nearly ran into you. I tinkered over it for an hour or more before I could get it to going again. Then I ran into the tree. My doctor told me the machine would do my liver good, but, bless my happiness, I'd as soon be without a liver entirely as to do what I've done to-day. I am done with motor-cycling!"
A hopeful look came over Tom's face, but he said nothing, that is, not just then. In a little while Mr. Damon felt so much better that he said he would start for home. "I'm afraid you'll have to leave your machine here," said Tom.
"You can send for it any time you want to," added Mr. Swift.
"Bless my hatband!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, who appeared to be very fond of blessing his various organs and his articles of wearing apparel. "Bless my hatband! I never want to see it again! If you will be so kind as to keep it for me, I will send a junk man after it. I will never spend anything on having it repaired. I am done with that form of exercise—liver or no liver—doctor or no doctor."
He appeared very determined. Tom quickly made up his mind. Mr. Damon had gone to the bathroom to get rid of some of the mud on his hands and face.
"Father," said Tom earnestly, "may I buy that machine of him?"
"What? Buy a broken motor-cycle?"
"I can easily fix it. It is a fine make, and in good condition. I can repair it. I've wanted a motor-cycle for some time, and here's a chance to get a good one cheap."
"You don't need to do that," replied Mr. Swift. "You have money enough to buy a new one if you want it. I never knew you cared for them."
"I didn't, until lately. But I'd rather buy this one and fix it up than get a new one. Besides, I have an idea for a new kind of transmission, and perhaps I can work it out on this machine."
"Oh, well, if you want it for experimental purposes, I suppose it will be as good as any. Go ahead, get it if you wish, but don't give too much for it."
"I'll not. I fancy I can get it cheap."
Mr. Damon returned to the living-room, where he had first been carried.
"I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for me," he said. "I might have lain there for hours. Bless my very existence! I have had a very narrow escape. Hereafter when I see anyone on a motor-cycle I shall turn my head away. The memory will be too painful," and he touched the plaster that covered a cut on his head.
"Mr. Damon," said Tom quickly, "will you sell me that motor-cycle?"
"Bless my finger rings! Sell you that mass of junk?"
"It isn't all junk," went on the young inventor. "I can easily fix it; though, of course," he added prudently, "it will cost something. How much would you want for it?"
"Well," replied Mr. Damon, "I paid two hundred and fifty dollars last week. I have ridden a hundred miles on it. That is at the rate of two dollars and a half a mile—pretty expensive riding. But if you are in earnest I will let you have the machine for fifty dollars, and then I fear that I will be taking advantage of you."
"I'll give you fifty dollars," said Tom quickly, and Mr. Damon exclaimed:
"Bless my liver—that is, if I have one. Do you mean it?"
Tom nodded. "I'll fetch you the money right away," he said, starting for his room. He got the cash from a small safe he had arranged, which was fitted up with an ingenious burglar alarm, and was on his way downstairs when he heard his father call out:
"Here! What do you want? Go away from that shop! No one is allowed there!" and looking from an upper window, Tom saw his father running toward a stranger, who was just stepping inside the shop where Mr. Swift was constructing his turbine motor. Tom started as he saw that the stranger was the same black-mustached man whom he had noticed in the post-office, and, later, in the restaurant at Mansburg.
MR. SWIFT IS ALARMED
Stuffing the money which he intended to give to Mr. Damon in his pocket, Tom ran downstairs. As he passed through the living-room, intending to see what the disturbance was about, and, if necessary, aid his father, the owner of the broken motor-cycle exclaimed:
"What's the matter? What has happened? Bless my coat-tails, but is anything wrong?"
"I don't know," answered Tom. "There is a stranger about the shop, and my father never allows that. I'll be back in a minute."
"Take your time," advised the somewhat eccentric Mr. Damon. "I find my legs are a bit weaker than I suspected, and I will be glad to rest a while longer. Bless my shoelaces, but don't hurry!"
Tom went into the rear yard, where the shops, in a small cluster of buildings, were located. He saw his father confronting the man with the black mustache, and Mr. Swift was saying:
"What do you want? I allow no people to come in here unless I or my son invites them. Did you wish to see me?"
"Are you Mr. Barton Swift?" asked the man.
"Yes, that is my name."
"The inventor of the Swift safety lamp, and the turbine motor?"
At the mention of the motor Mr. Swift started.
"I am the inventor of the safety lamp you mention," he said stiffly, "but I must decline to talk about the motor. May I ask where you obtained your information concerning it?"
"Why, I am not at liberty to tell," went on the man. "I called to see if we could negotiate with you for the sale of it. Parties whom I represent—"
At that moment Tom plucked his father by the sleeve.
"Dad," whispered the youth, "I saw him in Mansburg. I think he is one of several who have been inquiring in Mr. Merton's shop about you and your patents. I wouldn't have anything to do with him until I found out more about him."
"Is that so?" asked Mr. Swift quickly. Then, turning to the stranger, he said: "My son tells me—"
But Mr. Swift got no further, for at that moment the stranger caught sight of Tom, whom he had not noticed before.
"Ha!" exclaimed the man. "I have forgotten something—an important engagement—will be back directly—will see you again, Mr. Swift—excuse the trouble I have put you to—I am in a great hurry," and before father or son could stop him, had they any desire to, the man turned and walked quickly from the yard.
Mr. Swift stood staring at him, and so did Tom. Then the inventor asked:
"Do you know that man? What about him, Tom? Why did he leave so hurriedly?"
"I don't know his name," replied Tom, "but I am suspicious regarding him, and I think he left because he suddenly recognized me." Thereupon he told his father of seeing the man in the post-office, and hearing the talk of the same individual and two companions in the restaurant.
"And so you think they are up to some mischief, Tom?" asked the parent when the son had finished.
"Well, I wouldn't go quite as far as that, but I think they are interested in your patents, and you ought to know whether you want them to be, or not."
"I most certainly do not—especially in the turbine motor. That is my latest invention, and, I think, will prove very valuable. But, though I have not mentioned it before, I expect to have trouble with it. Soon after I perfected it, with the exception of some minor details, I received word from a syndicate of rich men that I was infringing on a motor, the patent of which they controlled."
"This surprised me for two reasons. One was because I did not know that any one knew I had invented the motor. I had kept the matter secret, and I am at a loss to know how it leaked out. To prevent any further information concerning my plans becoming public, I sent you to Mansburg to-day. But it seems that the precaution was of little avail. Another matter of surprise was the information that I was infringing on the patent of some one else. I had a very careful examination made, and I found that the syndicate of rich men was wrong. I was not infringing. In fact, though the motor they have is somewhat like mine, there is one big difference—theirs does not work, while mine does. Their patents are worthless."
"Then what do you think is their object?"
"I think they want to get control of my invention of the turbine motor, Tom. That is what has been worrying me lately. I know these men to be unscrupulous, and, with plenty of money, they may make trouble for me."
"But can't you fight them in the courts?"
"Yes, I could do that. It is not as if I was a poor man, but I do not like lawsuits. I want to live quietly and invent things. I dislike litigation. However, if they force it on me I will fight!" exclaimed Mr. Swift determinedly.
"Do you think this man was one of the crowd of financiers?" asked Tom.
"It would be hard to say. I did not like his actions, and the fact that he sneaked in here, as if he was trying to get possession of some of my models or plans, makes it suspicious."
"It certainly does," agreed Tom. "Now, if we only knew his name we could—"
He suddenly paused in his remark and sprang forward. He picked up an envelope that had dropped where the stranger had been standing.
"The man lost this from his pocket, dad," said Tom eagerly. "It's a telegram. Shall we look at it?"
"I think we will be justified in protecting ourselves. Is the envelope open?"
"Then read the telegram."
Tom drew out a folded yellow slip of paper. It was a short message. He read:
"'Anson Morse, Mansburg. See Swift to-day. Make offer. If not accepted do the best you can. Spare no effort. Don't give plans away.'"
"Is that all?" asked Mr. Swift.
"All except the signature."
"Who is the telegram signed by?"
"By Smeak & Katch," answered Tom.
"Those rascally lawyers!" exclaimed his father. "I was beginning to suspect this. That is the firm which represents the syndicate of wealthy men who are trying to get my turbine motor patents away from me. Tom, we must be on our guard! They will wage a fierce fight against me, for they have sunk many thousands of dollars in a worthless machine, and are desperate."
"We'll fight 'em!" cried Tom. "You and I, dad! We'll show 'em that the firm of Swift & Son is swift by name and swift by nature!"
"Good!" exclaimed the inventor. "I'm glad you feel that way about it, Tom. But we are going to have no easy task. Those men are rich and unscrupulous. We shall have to be on guard constantly. Let me have that telegram. It may come in useful. Now I must send word to Reid & Crawford, my attorneys in Washington, to be on the lookout. Matters are coming to a curious pass."
As Mr. Swift and his son started for the house, they met Mr. Damon coming toward them.
"Bless my very existence!" cried the eccentric man. "I was beginning to fear something had happened to you. I am glad that you are all right. I heard voices, and I imagined—"
"It's all right," Mr. Swift reassured him. "There was a stranger about my shop, and I never allow that. Do you feel well enough to go? If not we shall be glad to have you remain with us. We have plenty of room."
"Oh, thank you very much, but I must be going. I feel much better. Bless my gaiters, but I never will trust myself in even an automobile again! I will renounce gasolene from now on."
"That reminds me," spoke Tom. "I have the money for the motor-cycle," and he drew out the bills. "You are sure you will not regret your bargain, Mr. Damon? The machine is new, and needs only slight repairs. Fifty dollars is—"
"Tut, tut, young man! I feel as if I was getting the best of you. Bless my handkerchief! I hope you have no bad luck with it."
"I'll try and be careful," promised Tom with a smile as he handed over the money. "I am going to gear it differently and put some improvements on it. Then I will use it instead of my bicycle."
"It would have to be very much improved before I trusted myself on it again," declared Mr. Damon. "Well, I appreciate what you have done for me, and if at any time I can reciprocate the favor, I will only be too glad to do so. Bless my soul, though, I hope I don't have to rescue you from trying to climb a tree," and with a laugh, which showed that he had fully recovered from his mishap, he shook hands with father and son and left.
"A very nice man, Tom," commented Mr. Swift. "Somewhat odd and out of the ordinary, but a very fine character, for all that."
"That's what I say," added the son. "Now, dad, you'll see me scooting around the country on a motor-cycle. I've always wanted one, and now I have a bargain."
"Do you think you can repair it?"
"Of course, dad. I've done more difficult things than that. I'm going to take it apart now, and see what it needs."
"Before you do that, Tom, I wish you would take a telegram to town for me. I must wire my lawyers at once."
"Dad looks worried," thought Tom as he wheeled the broken motor-cycle into a machine shop, where he did most of his work. "Well, I don't blame him. But we'll get the best of those scoundrels yet!"
AN INTERVIEW IN THE DARK
While Mr. Swift was writing the message he wished his son to take to the village, the young mechanic inspected the motor-cycle he had purchased. Tom found that a few repairs would suffice to put it in good shape, though an entire new front wheel would be needed. The motor had not been damaged, as he ascertained by a test. Tom rode into town on his bicycle, and as he hurried along he noticed in the west a bank of ugly-looking clouds that indicated a shower.
"I'm in for a wetting before I get back," he mused, and he increased his speed, reaching the telegraph office shortly before seven o'clock.
"Think this storm will hold off until I get home?" asked Tom.
"I'm afraid not," answered the agent. "You'd better get a hustle on."
Tom sprinted off. It was getting dark rapidly, and when he was about a mile from home he felt several warm drops on his face.
"Here it comes!" exclaimed the youth. "Now for a little more speed!"
Tom pressed harder on the pedals, too hard, in fact, for an instant later something snapped, and the next he knew he was flying over the handlebars of the bicycle. At the same time there was a metallic, clinking sound.
"Chain's busted!" exclaimed the lad as he picked himself up out of the dust. "Well, wouldn't that jar you!" and he walked back to where, in the dusk, he could dimly discern his wheel.
The chain had come off the two sprockets and was lying to one side. Tom picked it up and ascertained by close observation that the screw and nut holding the two joining links together was lost.
"Nice pickle!" he murmured. "How am I going to find it in all this dust and darkness?" he asked himself disgustedly. "I'll carry an extra screw next time. No, I won't, either. I'll ride my motor-cycle next time. Well, I may as well give a look around. I hate to walk, if I can fix it and ride."
Tom had not spent more than two minutes looking about the dusty road, with the aid of matches, for the screw, when the rain suddenly began falling in a hard shower.
"Guess there's no use lingering here any longer," he remarked. "I'll push the wheel and run for home."
He started down the road in the storm and darkness. The highway soon became a long puddle of mud, through which he splashed, finding it more and more difficult every minute to push the bicycle in the thick, sticky clay.
Above the roar of the wind and the swishing of the rain he heard another sound. It was a steady "puff-puff," and then the darkness was cut by a glare of light.
"An automobile," said Tom aloud. "Guess I'd better get out of the way."
He turned to one side, but the auto, instead of passing him when it got to the place where he was, made a sudden stop.
"Want a ride?" asked the chauffeur, peering out from the side curtains which somewhat protected him from the storm. Tom saw that the car was a large, touring one. "Can I give you a lift?" went on the driver.
"Well, I've got my bicycle with me," explained the young inventor. "My chain's broken, and I've got a mile to go."
"Jump up in back," invited the man. "Leave your wheel here; I guess it will be safe."
"Oh, I couldn't do that," said Tom. "I don't mind walking. I'm wet through now, and I can't get much wetter. I'm much obliged, though."
"Well, I'm sorry, but I can hardly take you and the bicycle, too," continued the chauffeur.
"Certainly not," added a voice from the tonneau of the car. "We can't have a muddy bicycle in here. Who is that person, Simpson?"
"It's a young man," answered the driver.
"Is he acquainted around here?" went on the voice from the rear of the car. "Ask him if he is acquainted around here, Simpson."
Tom was wondering where he had heard that voice before. He had a vague notion that it was familiar.
"Are you acquainted around here?" obediently asked the man at the wheel.
"I live here," replied Tom.
"Ask him if he knows any one named Swift?" continued the voice from the tonneau, and the driver started to repeat it.
"I heard him," interrupted Tom. "Yes, I know a Mr. Swift;" but Tom, with a sudden resolve, and one he could hardly explain, decided that, for the present, he would not betray his own identity.
"Ask him if Mr. Swift is an inventor." Once more the unseen person spoke in the voice Tom was trying vainly to recall.
"Yes, he is an inventor," was the youth's answer.
"Do you know much about him? What are his habits? Does he live near his workshops? Does he keep many servants? Does he—"
The unseen questioner suddenly parted the side curtains and peered out at Tom, who stood in the muddy road, close to the automobile. At that moment there came a bright flash of lightning, illuminating not only Tom's face, but that of his questioner as well. And at the sight Tom started, no less than did the man. For Tom had recognized him as one of the three mysterious persons in the restaurant, and as for the man, he had also recognized Tom.
"Ah—er—um—is—Why, it's you, isn't it?" cried the questioner, and he thrust his head farther out from between the curtains. "My, what a storm!" he exclaimed as the rain increased. "So you know Mr. Swift, eh? I saw you to-day in Mansburg, I think. I have a good memory for faces. Do you work for Mr. Swift? If you do I may be able to—"
"I'm Tom Swift, son of Mr. Barton Swift," said Tom as quietly as he could.
"Tom Swift! His son!" cried the man, and he seemed much agitated. "Why, I thought—that is, Morse said—Simpson, hurry back to Mansburg!" and with that, taking no more notice of Tom, the man in the auto hastily drew the curtains together.
The chauffeur threw in the gears and swung the ponderous machine to one side. The road was wide, and he made the turn skilfully. A moment later the car was speeding back the way it had come, leaving Tom standing on the highway, alone in the mud and darkness, with the rain pouring down in torrents.
OFF ON A SPIN
Tom's first impulse was to run after the automobile, the red tail-light of which glowed through the blackness like a ruby eye. Then he realized that it was going from him at such a swift pace that it would be impossible to get near it, even if his bicycle was in working order.
"But if I had my motor-cycle I'd catch up to them," he murmured. "As it is, I must hurry home and tell dad. This is another link in the queer chain that seems to be winding around us. I wonder who that man was, and what he wanted by asking so many personal questions about dad?"
Trundling his wheel before him, with the chain dangling from the handle-bar, Tom splashed on through the mud and rain. It was a lonesome, weary walk, tired as he was with the happenings of the day, and the young inventor breathed a sigh of thankfulness as the lights of his home shone out in the mist of the storm. As he tramped up the steps of the side porch, his wheel bumping along ahead of him, a door was thrown open.
"Why, it's Tom!" exclaimed Mrs. Baggert. "Whatever happened to you?" and she hurried forward with kindly solicitude, for the housekeeper was almost a second mother to the youth.
"Chain broke," answered the lad laconically. "Where's dad?"
"Out in the shop, working at his latest invention, I expect. But are you hurt?"
"Oh, no. I fell easily. The mud was like a feather-bed, you know, except that it isn't so good for the clothes," and the young inventor looked down at his splashed and bedraggled garments.
Mr. Swift was very much surprised when Tom told him of the happening on the road, and related the conversation and the subsequent alarm of the man on learning Tom's identity.
"Who do you suppose he could have been?" asked Tom, when he had finished.
"I am pretty certain he was one of that crowd of financiers of whom Anson Morse seems to be a representative," said Mr. Swift. "Are you sure the man was one of those you saw in the restaurant?"
"Positive. I had a good look at him both times. Do you think he imagined he could come here and get possession of some of your secrets?"
"I hardly know what to think, Tom. But we will take every precaution. We will set the burglar alarm wires, which I have neglected for some time, as I fancied everything would be secure here. Then I will take my plans and the model of the turbine motor into the house. I'll run no chances to-night."
Mr. Swift, who was adjusting some of the new bolts that Tom had brought home that day; began to gather up his tools and material.
"I'll help you, dad," said Tom, and he began connecting the burglar alarm wires, there being an elaborate system of them about the house, shops and grounds.
Neither Tom nor his father slept well that night. Several times one or the other of them arose, thinking they heard unusual noises, but it was only some disturbance caused by the storm, and morning arrived without anything unusual having taken place. The rain still continued, and Tom, looking from his window and seeing the downpour, remarked:
"I'm glad of it!"
"Why?" asked his father, who was in the next room.
"Because I'll have a good excuse for staying in and working on my motor-cycle."
"But you must do some studying," declared Mr. Swift. "I will hear you in mathematics right after breakfast."
"All right, dad. I guess you'll find I have my lessons."
Tom had graduated with honors from a local academy, and when it came to a question of going further in his studies, he had elected to continue with his father for a tutor, instead of going to college. Mr. Swift was a very learned man, and this arrangement was satisfactory to him, as it allowed Tom more time at home, so he could aid his father on the inventive work and also plan things for himself. Tom showed a taste for mechanics, and his father wisely decided that such training as his son needed could be given at home to better advantage than in a school or college.
Lessons over, Tom hurried to his own particular shop, and began taking apart the damaged motor-cycle.
"First I'll straighten the handle-bars, and then I'll fix the motor and transmission," he decided. "The front wheel I can buy in town, as this one would hardly pay for repairing." Tom was soon busy with wrenches, hammers, pliers and screw-driver. He was in his element, and was whistling over his task. The motor he found in good condition, but it was not such an easy task as he had hoped to change the transmission. He had finally to appeal to his father, in order to get the right proportion between the back and front gears, for the motor-cycle was operated by a sprocket chain, instead of a belt drive, as is the case with some.
Mr. Swift showed Tom how to figure out the number of teeth needed on each sprocket, in order to get an increase of speed, and as there was a sprocket wheel from a disused piece of machinery available, Tom took that. He soon had it in place, and then tried the motor. To his delight the number of revolutions of the rear wheel were increased about fifteen per cent.
"I guess I'll make some speed," he announced to his father.
"But it will take more gasolene to run the motor; don't forget that. You know the great principle of mechanics—that you can't get out of a machine any more than you put into it, nor quite as much, as a matter of fact, for considerable is lost through friction."
"Well, then, I'll enlarge the gasolene tank," declared Tom. "I want to go fast when I'm going."
He reassembled the machine, and after several hours of work had it in shape to run, except that a front wheel was lacking.
"I think I'll go to town and get one," he remarked. "The rain isn't quite so hard now."
In spite of his father's mild objections Tom went, using his bicycle, the chain of which he had quickly repaired. He found just the front wheel needed, and that night his motor-cycle was ready to run. But it was too dark to try it then, especially as he had no good lantern, the one on the cycle having been smashed, and his own bicycle light not being powerful enough. So he had to postpone his trial trip until the next day.
He was up early the following morning, and went out for a spin before breakfast. He came back, with flushed cheeks and bright eyes, just as Mr. Swift and Mrs. Baggert were sitting down to the table.
"To Reedville and back," announced Tom proudly.
"What, a round trip of thirty miles!" exclaimed Mr. Swift.
"That's what!" declared his son. "I went like a greased pig most of the way. I had to slow up going through Mansburg, but the rest of at time I let it out for all it was worth."
"You must be careful," cautioned his father. "You are not an expert yet."
"No, I realize that. Several times, when I wanted to slow up, I began to back-pedal, forgetting that I wasn't on my bicycle. Then I thought to shut off the power and put on the brake. But it's glorious fun. I'm going out again as soon as I have something to eat. That is, unless you want me to help you, dad."
"No, not this morning. Learn to ride the motor-cycle. It may come in handy."
Neither Tom nor his father realized what an important part the machine was soon to play in their lives.
Tom went out for another spin after breakfast, and in a different direction. He wanted to see what the machine would do on a hill, and there was a long, steep one about five miles from home. The roads were in fine shape after the rain, and he speeded up the incline at a rapid rate.
"It certainly does eat up the road," the lad murmured. "I have improved this machine considerably. Wish I could take out a patent on it."
Reaching the crest of the slope, he started down the incline. He turned off part of the power, and was gliding along joyously, when from a cross-road he suddenly saw turn into the main highway a mule, drawing a ramshackle wagon, loaded with fence posts. Beside the animal walked an old colored man.
"I hope he gets out of the way in time," thought Tom. "He's moving as slow as molasses, and I'm going a bit faster than I like. Guess I'll shut off and put on the brakes."
The mule and wagon were now squarely across the road. Tom was coming nearer and nearer. He turned the handle-grip, controlling the supply of gasolene, and to his horror he found that it was stuck. He could not stop the motor-cycle!
"Look out! Look out!" cried Tom to the negro. "Get out of the way! I can't stop! Let me pass you!"
The darky looked up. He saw the approaching machine, and he seemed to lose possession of his senses.
"Whoa, Boomerang!" cried the negro. "Whoa! Suffin's gwine t' happen!"
"That's what!" muttered Tom desperately, as he saw that there was not room for him to pass without going into the ditch, a proceeding that would mean an upset. "Pull out of the way!" he yelled again.
But either the driver could not understand, or did not appreciate the necessity. The mule stopped and reared up. The colored man hurried to the head of the animal to quiet it.
"Whoa, Boomerang! Jest yo' stand still!" he said.
Tom, with a great effort, managed to twist the grip and finally shut off the gasolene. But it was too late. He struck the darky with the front wheel. Fortunately the youth had managed to somewhat reduce his speed by a quick application of the brake, or the result might have been serious. As it was, the colored man was gently lifted away from the mule's head and tossed into the long grass in the ditch. Tom, by a great effort, succeeded in maintaining his seat in the saddle, and then, bringing the machine to a stop, he leaped off and turned back.
The colored man was sitting up, looking dazed.
"Whoa, Boomerang!" he murmured. "Suffin's happened!"
But the mule, who had quieted down, only waggled his ears lazily, and Tom, ready to laugh, now that he saw he had not committed manslaughter, hurried to where the colored man was sitting.
"Are you hurt?" asked Tom as he leaned his motor-cycle against the fence and stood beside the negro.
"Hurt?" repeated the darky. "I'se killed, dat's what I is! I ain't got a whole bone in mah body! Good landy, but I suttinly am in a awful state! Would yo' mind tellin' me if dat ar' mule am still alive?"
"Of course he is," answered Tom. "He isn't hurt a bit. But why can't you turn around and look for yourself?"
"No, sah! No, indeedy, sah!" replied the colored man. "Yo' doan't catch dis yeah nigger lookin' around!"
"Why not? 'Cause I'll tell yo' why not. I'm so stiff an' I'm so nearly broke t' pieces, dat if I turn mah head around it suah will twist offen mah body. No, sah! No, indeedy, sah, I ain't gwine t' turn 'round. But am yo' suah dat mah mule Boomerang ain't hurted?"
"No, he's not hurt a bit, and I'm sure you are not. I didn't strike you hard, for I had almost stopped my machine. Try to get up. I'm positive you'll find yourself all right. I'm sorry it happened."
"Oh, dat's all right. Doan't mind me," went on the colored man. "It was mah fault fer gittin in de road. But dat mule Boomerang am suttinly de most outrageous quadruped dat ever circumlocuted."
"Why do you call him Boomerang?" asked Tom, wondering if the negro really was hurt.
"What fo' I call him Boomerang? Did yo' eber see dem Australian black mans what go around wid a circus t'row dem crooked sticks dey calls boomerangs?"
"Yes, I've seen them."
"Well, Boomerang, mah mule, am jest laik dat. He's crooked, t' begin wid, an' anudder t'ing, yo' can't never tell when yo' start him whar he's gwine t' land up. Dat's why I calls him Boomerang."
"I see. It's a very proper name. But why don't you try to get up?"
"Does yo' t'ink I can?"
"Sure. Try it. By the way, what's your name?"
"My name? Why I was christened Eradicate Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Sampson, but folks most ginnerally calls me Eradicate Sampson, an' some doan't eben go to dat length. Dey jest calls me Rad, fo' short."
"Eradicate," mused Tom. "That's a queer name, too. Why were you called that?"
"Well, yo' see I eradicates de dirt. I'm a cleaner an' a whitewasher by profession, an' somebody gib me dat name. Dey said it were fitten an' proper, an' I kept it eber sence. Yais, sah, I'se Eradicate Sampson, at yo' service. Yo' ain't got no chicken coops yo' wants cleaned out, has yo'? Or any stables or fences t' whitewash? I guarantees satisfaction."
"Well, I might find some work for you to do," replied the young inventor, thinking this would be as good a means as any of placating the darky. "But come, now, try and see if you can't stand. I don't believe I broke any of your legs."
"I guess not. I feels better now. Where am dat work yo' was speakin' ob?" and Eradicate Sampson, now that there seemed to be a prospect of earning money, rose quickly and easily.
"Why, you're all right!" exclaimed Tom, glad to find that the accident had had no serious consequences.
"Yais, sah, I guess I be. Whar did yo' say, yo' had some whitewashin' t' do?"
"No place in particular, but there is always something that needs doing at our house. If you call I'll give you a job."
"Yais, sah, I'll be sure to call," and Eradicate walked back to where Boomerang was patiently waiting.
Tom told the colored man how to find the Swift home, and was debating with himself whether he ought not to offer Eradicate some money as compensation for knocking him into the air, when he noticed that the negro was tying one wheel of his wagon fast to the body of the vehicle with a rope.
"What are you doing that for?" asked Tom.
"Got to, t' git downhill wid dis load ob fence posts," was the answer. "Ef I didn't it would be right on to de heels ob Boomerang, an' wheneber he feels anyt'ing on his heels he does act wuss dan a circus mule."
"But why don't you use your brake? I see you have one on the wagon. Use the brake to hold back going downhill."
"'Scuse me, Mistah Swift, 'scuse me!" exclaimed Eradicate quickly. "But yo' doan't know dat brake. It's wuss dan none at all. It doan't work, fer a fact. No, indeedy, sah. I'se got to rope de wheel."
Tom was interested at once. He made an examination of the brake, and soon saw why it would not hold the wheels. The foot lever was not properly connected with the brake bar. It was a simple matter to adjust it by changing a single bolt, and this Tom did with tools he took from the bag on his motor-cycle. The colored man looked on in open-mouthed amazement, and even Boomerang peered lazily around, as if taking an interest in the proceedings.
"There," said Tom at length, as he tightened the nut. "That brake will work now, and hold the wagon on any hill. You won't need to rope the wheel. You didn't have the right leverage on it."
"'Scuse me, Mistah Swift, but what's dat yo' said?" and Eradicate leaned forward to listen deferentially.
"I said you didn't have the right leverage."
"No, sah, Mistah Swift, 'scuse me, but yo' made a slight mistake. I ain't never had no liverage on dis yeah wagon. It ain't dat kind ob a wagon. I onct drove a livery rig, but dat were some years ago. I ain't worked fo' de livery stable in some time now. Dat's why I know dere ain't no livery on dis wagon. Yo'll 'scuse me, but yo' am slightly mistaken."
"All right," rejoined Tom with a laugh, not thinking it worth while to explain what he meant by the lever force of the brake rod. "Let it go at that. Livery or no livery, your brake will work now. I guess you're all right. Now don't forget to come around and do some whitewashing," and seeing that the colored man was able to mount to the seat and start off Boomerang, who seemed to have deep-rooted objections about moving, Tom wheeled his motor-cycle back to the road.
Eradicate Sampson drove his wagon a short distance and then suddenly applied the brake. It stopped short, and the mule looked around as if surprised.
"It suah do work, Mistah Swift!" called the darky to Tom, who was waiting the result of his little repair job. "It suah do work!"
"I'm glad of it."
"Mah golly! But yo' am suttinly a conjure-man when it comes t' fixin' wagons! Did yo' eber work fer a blacksmith?"
"No, not exactly. Well, good-by, Eradicate. I'll look for you some day next week."
With that Tom leaped on his machine and speeded off ahead of the colored man and his rig. As he passed the load of fence posts the youth heard Eradicate remark in awestricken tones:
"Mah golly! He suttinly go laik de wind! An' t' t'ink dat I were hit by dat monstrousness machine, an' not hurted! Mah golly! T'ings am suttinly happenin'! G'lang, Boomerang!"
"This machine has more possibilities in it than I suspected," mused Tom. "But one thing I've got to change, and that is the gasolene and spark controls. I don't like them the way they are. I want a better leverage, just as Eradicate needed on his wagon. I'll fix them, too, when I get home."
He rode for several hours, until he thought it was about dinner time, and then, heading the machine toward home, he put on all the speed possible, soon arriving where his father was at work in the shop.
"Well, how goes it?" asked Mr. Swift with a smile as he looked at the flushed face of his son.
"Fine, dad! I scooted along in great shape. Had an adventure, too."
"You didn't meet any more of those men, did you? The men who are trying to get my invention?" asked Mr. Swift apprehensively.
"No, indeed, dad. I simply had a little run-in with a chap named Eradicate Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Sampson, otherwise known as Rad Sampson, and I engaged him to do some whitewashing for us. We do need some white washing done, don't we, dad?"
"What's that?" asked Mr. Swift, thinking his son was joking.
Then Tom told of the happening.
"Yes, I think I can find some work for Eradicate to do," went on Mr. Swift. "There is some dirt in the boiler shop that needs eradicating, and I think he can do it. But dinner has been waiting some time. We'll go in now, or Mrs. Baggert will be out after us."
Father and son were soon at the table, and Tom was explaining what he meant to do to improve his motor-cycle. His father offered some suggestions regarding the placing of the gasolene lever.
"I'd put it here," he said, and with his pencil he began to draw a diagram on the white table cloth.
"Oh, my goodness me, Mr. Swift!" exclaimed Mrs. Baggert. "Whatever are you doing?" and she sprang up in some alarm.
"What's the matter? Did I upset my tea?" asked the inventor innocently.
"No; but you are soiling a clean tablecloth. Pencil-marks are so hard to get out. Take a piece of paper, please."
"Oh, is that all?" rejoined Mr. Swift with a smile. "Well, Tom, here is the way I would do that," and substituting the back of an envelope for the tablecloth, he continued the drawing.
Tom was looking over his father's shoulder interestedly, when Mrs. Baggert, who was taking off some of the dinner dishes, suddenly asked:
"Are you expecting a visitor, Mr. Swift?"
"A visitor? No. Why?" asked the inventor quickly.
"Because I just saw a man going in the machine shop," went on the housekeeper.
"A man! In the machine shop!" exclaimed Tom, rising from his chair. Mr. Swift also got up, and the two hurried from the house. As they reached the yard they saw a man emerging from the building where Mr. Swift was constructing his turbine motor. The man had his back turned toward them and seemed to be sneaking around, as though desirous of escaping observation.
"What do you want?" called Mr. Swift.
The man turned quickly. At the sight of Mr. Swift and Tom he made a jump to one side and got behind a big packing-box.
"That's queer," spoke Tom. "I wonder what he wants?"
"I'll soon see," rejoined Mr. Swift, and he started on a run toward where the man was hiding. Tom followed his father, and as the two inventors reached the box the man sprang from behind it and down the yard to a lane that passed in back of the Swift house. As he ran he was seen to stuff some papers in his pocket.
"My plans! He's stolen some of my plans!" cried Mr. Swift. "Catch him, Tom!"
Tom ran after the stranger, whose curious actions had roused their suspicions, while Mr. Swift entered the motor shop to ascertain whether anything had been stolen.
A FRUITLESS PURSUIT
Down through the yard Tom speeded, in and out among the buildings, looking on every side for a sight of the bold stranger. No one was to be seen.
"He can't be very far ahead." thought Tom. "I ought to catch him before he gets to the woods. If he reaches there he has a good chance of getting away."
There was a little patch of trees just back of the inventor's house, not much of a woods, perhaps, but that is what they were called.
"I wonder if he was some ordinary tramp, looking for what he could steal, or if he was one of the gang after dad's invention?" thought Tom as he sprinted ahead.
By this time the youth was clear of the group of buildings and in sight of a tall, board fence, which surrounded the Swift estate on three sides. Here and there, along the barrier, were piled old packing-cases, so that it would be easy for a fugitive to leap upon one of them and so get over the fence. Tom thought of this possibility in a moment.
"I guess he got over ahead of me," the lad exclaimed, and he peered sharply about. "I'll catch him on the other side!"
At that instant Tom tripped over a plank and went down full length, making quite a racket. When he picked himself up he was surprised to see the man he was after dart from inside a big box and start for the fence, near a point where there were some packing-cases piled up, making a good approach to the barrier. The fugitive had been hiding, waiting for a chance to escape, and Tom's fall had alarmed him.
"Here! Hold on there! Come back!" cried the youth as he recovered his wind and leaped forward.
But the man did not stay. With a bound he was up on the pile of boxes, and the next moment he was poised on top of the fence. Before leaping down on the other side, a jump at which even a practiced athlete might well hesitate, the fleeing stranger paused and looked back. Tom gazed at him and recognized the man in an instant. He was the third of the mysterious trio whom the lad had seen in the Mansburg restaurant.
"Wait a minute! What do you want sneaking around here?" shouted Tom as he ran forward. The man returned no answer, and an instant later disappeared from view on the other side of the fence.
"He jumped down!" thought Tom. "A big leap, too. Well, I've got to follow. This is a queer proceeding. First one, then the second, and now the third of those men seem determined to get something here. I wonder if this one succeeded? I'll soon find out."
The lad was up on the pile of packing-cases and over the fence in almost record time. He caught a glimpse of the fugitive running toward the woods. Then the boy leaped down, jarring himself considerably, and took after the man.
But though Tom was a good runner he was handicapped by the fact that the man had a start of him, and also by the fact that the stranger had had a chance to rest while hiding for the second time in the big box, while Tom had kept on running. So it is no great cause for wonder that Mr. Swift's son found himself being distanced.
Once, twice he called on the fleeing one to halt, but the man paid no attention, and did not even turn around. Then the youth wisely concluded to save his wind for running. He did his best, but was chagrined to see the man reach the woods ahead of him.
"I've lost him now," thought Tom. "Well, there's no help for it."
Still he did not give up, but kept on through the patch of trees. On the farther side was Lake Carlopa, a broad and long sheet of water.
"If he doesn't know the lake's there," thought our hero, "he may keep straight on. The water will be sure to stop him, and I can catch him. But what will I do with him after I get him? That's another question. I guess I've got a right to demand to know what he was doing around our place, though."
But Tom need not have worried on this score. He could hear the fugitive ahead of him, and marked his progress by the crackling of the underbrush.
"I'm almost up to him," exulted the young inventor. Then, at the same moment, he caught sight of the man running, and a glimpse of the sparkling water of Lake Carlopa. "I've got him! I've got him!" Tom almost cried aloud in his excitement. "Unless he takes to the water and swims for it, I've got him!"
But Tom did not reckon on a very simple matter, and that was the possibility of the man having a boat at hand. For this is just what happened. Reaching the lake shore the fugitive with a final spurt managed to put considerable distance between himself and Tom. Drawn up on the beach was a little motor-boat. In this, after he had pushed it from shore, the stranger leaped. It was the work of but a second to set the engine in motion, and as Tom reached the edge of the woods and started across the narrow strip of sand and gravel that was between the water and the trees, he saw the man steering his craft toward the middle of the lake.
"Well—I'll—be—jiggered!" exclaimed the youth. "Who would have thought he'd have a motor-boat waiting for him? He planned this well."
There was nothing to do but turn back. Tom had a small rowboat and a sailing skiff on the lake, but his boathouse was some distance away, and even if he could get one of his craft out, the motor-boat would soon distance it.
"He's gone!" thought the searcher regretfully.
The man in the motor-boat did not look back. He sat in the bow, steering the little craft right across the broadest part of Lake Carlopa.
"I wonder where he came from, and where he's going?" mused Tom. "That's a boat I never saw on this lake before. It must be a new one. Well, there's no help for it, I've got to go back and tell dad I couldn't catch him." And with a last look at the fugitive, who, with his boat, was becoming smaller and smaller every minute, Tom turned and retraced his steps.
OFF TO ALBANY
"Did you catch him, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift eagerly when his son returned, but the inventor needed but a glance at the lad's despondent face to have his question answered without words, "Never mind," he added, "there's not much harm done, fortunately."
"Did he get anything? Any of your plans or models, dad?"
"No; not as far as I can discover. My papers in the shop were not disturbed, but it looked as if the turbine model had been moved. The only thing missing seems to be a sheet of unimportant calculations. Luckily I had my most valuable drawings in the safe in the house."
"Yet that man seemed to be putting papers in his pocket, dad. Maybe he made copies of some of your drawings."
"That's possible, Tom, and I admit it worries me. I can't imagine who that man is, unless—"
"Why, he's one of the three men I saw in Mansburg in the restaurant," said Tom eagerly. "Two of them tried to get information here, and now the third one comes. He got away in a motor-boat," and Tom told how the fugitive escaped.
Mr. Swift looked worried. It was not the first time attempts had been made to steal his inventions, but on this occasion a desperate and well-organized plan appeared to be on foot.
"What do you think they are up to, dad?" asked Tom.
"I think they are trying to get hold of my turbine motor, Tom. You know I told you that the financiers were disappointed in the turbine motor they bought of another inventor. It does not work. To get back the money they spent in building an expensive plant they must have a motor that is successful. Hence their efforts to get control of mine. I don't know whether I told you or not, but some time ago I refused a very good offer for certain rights in my invention. I knew it was worth more. The offer came through Smeak & Katch, the lawyers, and when I refused it they seemed much disappointed. I think now that this same firm, and the financiers who have employed them, are trying by all the means in their power to get possession of my ideas, if not the invention and model itself."
"What can you do, dad?"
"Well, I must think. I certainly must take some means to protect myself. I have had trouble before, but never any like this. I did not think those men would be so unscrupulous."
"Do you know their names?"
"No, only from that telegram we found; the one which the first stranger dropped. One of them must be Anson Morse. Who the others are I don't know. But now I must make some plans to foil these sharpers. I may have to call on you for help, Tom."
"And I'll be ready any time you call on me, dad," responded Tom, drawing himself up. "Can I do anything for you right away?"
"No; I must think out a plan."
"Then I am going to change my motor-cycle a bit. I'll put some more improvements on it."
"And I will write some letters to my lawyers in Washington and ask their advice." It took Tom the remainder of that day, and part of the next, to arrange the gasolene and spark control of his machine to his satisfaction. He had to make two small levers and some connecting rods. This he did in his own particular machine shop, which was fitted up with a lathe and other apparatus. The lathe was run by power coming from a small engine, which was operated by an engineer, an elderly man to whom Mr. Swift had given employment for many years. He was Garret Jackson, and he kept so close to his engine and boiler-room that he was seldom seen outside of it except when the day's work was done.
One afternoon, a few days after the unsuccessful chase after the fugitive had taken place, Tom went out for a spin on his motor-cycle. He found that the machine worked much better, and was easier to control. He rode about fifteen miles away from home, and then returned. As he entered the yard he saw, standing on the drive, a ramshackle old wagon, drawn by a big mule, which seemed, at the time Tom observed him, to be asleep.
"I'll wager that's Boomerang," said Tom aloud, and the mule opened its eyes, wiggled its ears and started forward.
"Whoa dar, Boomerang!" exclaimed a voice, and Eradicate Sampson hurried around the corner of the house. "Dat's jest lake yo'," went on the colored man. "Movin' when yo' ain't wanted to." Then, as he caught sight of Tom, he exclaimed, "Why, if it ain't young Mistah Swift! Good lordy! But dat livery brake yo' done fixed on mah wagon suttinly am fine. Ah kin go down de steepest hill widout ropin' de wheel."
"Glad of it," replied Tom. "Did you come to do some work?"
"Yais, sah, I done did. I found I had some time t' spah, an' thinks I dere might be some whitewashin' I could do. Yo' see, I lib only 'bout two mile from heah."
"Well, I guess you can do a few jobs," said Tom. "Wait here."
He hunted up his father, and obtained permission to set Eradicate at work cleaning out a chicken house and whitewashing it. The darky was soon at work. A little later Tom passing saw him putting the whitewash on thick. Eradicate stopped at the sight of Tom, and made some curious motions.
"What's the matter, Rad?" asked the young inventor.
"Why, de whitewash done persist in runnin' down de bresh handle an' inter mah sleeve. I'm soakin' wet from it now, an' I has t' stop ebery onct in a while 'case mah sleeve gits full."
Tom saw what the trouble was. The white fluid did run down the long brush handle in a small rivulet. Tom had once seen a little rubber device on a window-cleaning brush that worked well, and he decided to try it for Eradicate.
"Wait a minute," Tom advised. "I think I can stop that for you."
The colored man was very willing to take a rest, but it did not last long, for Tom was soon back at the chicken coop. He had a small rubber disk, with a hole in the center, the size of the brush handle. Slipping the disk over the wood, he pushed it about half way along, and then, handing the brush back to the negro, told him to try it that way.
"Did yo' done put a charm on mah bresh?" asked Eradicate somewhat doubtfully.
"Yes, a sort of hoodoo charm. Try it now."
The darky dipped his brush in the pail of whitewash, and then began to spread the disinfectant on the sides of the coop near the top. The surplus fluid started to run down the handle, but, meeting the piece of rubber, came no farther, and dripped off on the ground. It did not run down the sleeve of Eradicate.
"Well, I 'clar t' goodness! That suttinly am a mighty fine charm!" cried the colored man. "Yo' suah am a pert gen'men, all right. Now I kin work widout stoppin' t' empty mah sleeve ob lime juice ebery minute. I'se suttinly obliged t' yo'."
"You're welcome, I'm sure," replied Tom. "I think some day I'll invent a machine for whitewashing, and then—"
"Doan't do dat! Doan't do dat!" begged Eradicate earnestly. "Dis, an' makin' dirt disappear, am de only perfessions I got. Doan't go 'ventin' no machine, Mistah Swift."
"All right. I'll wait until you get rich."
"Ha, ha! Den yo' gwine t' wait a pow'ful long time," chuckled Eradicate as he went on with his whitewashing.
Tom went into the house. He found his father busy with some papers at his desk.
"Ah, it's you, is it, Tom?" asked the inventor, looking up. "I was just wishing you would come in."
"What for, dad?"
"Well, I have quite an important mission for you. I want you to go on a journey."
"A journey? Where?"
"To Albany. You see, I've been thinking over matters, and I have been in correspondence with my lawyers in regard to my turbine motor. I must take measures to protect myself. You know I have not yet taken out a complete patent on the machine. I have not done so because I did not want to put my model on exhibition in Washington. I was afraid some of those unscrupulous men would take advantage of me. Another point was that I had not perfected a certain device that goes on the motor. That objection is now removed, and I am ready to send my model to Washington, and take out the complete patent."
"But I thought you said you wanted me to go to Albany."
"So I do. I will explain. I have just had a letter from Reid & Crawford, my Washington attorneys. Mr. Crawford, the junior member of the firm, will be in Albany this week on some law business. He agrees to receive my model and some papers there, and take them back to Washington with him. In this way they will be well protected. You see, I have to be on my guard, and if I send the model to Albany, instead of the national capital, I may throw the plotters off the track, for I feel that they are watching every move I make. As soon as you or I should start for Washington they would be on our trail. But you can go to Albany unsuspected. Mr. Crawford will wait for you there. I want you to start day after to-morrow."
"All right, dad. I can start now, if you say so."
"No, there is no special need for haste. I have some matters to arrange. You might go to the station and inquire about trains to the State capital."
"Am I going by train?"
"Certainly. How else could you go?"
There was a look of excitement in Tom's eyes. He had a sudden idea.
"Dad," he exclaimed, "why couldn't I go on my motor-cycle?"
"Yes. I could easily make the trip on it in one day. The roads are good, and I would enjoy it. I can carry the model back of me on the saddle. It is not very large."
"Well," said Mr. Swift slowly, for the idea was a new one to him, "I suppose that part would be all right. But you have not had much experience riding a motor-cycle. Besides, you don't know the roads."
"I can inquire. Will you let me go, dad?"
Mr. Swift appeared to hesitate.
"It will be fine!" went on Tom. "I would enjoy the trip, and there's another thing. If we want to keep this matter secret the best plan would be to let me go on my machine. If those men are on the watch, they will not think that I have the model. They will think I'm just going for a pleasure jaunt."
"There's something in that," admitted Mr. Swift, and Tom, seeing that his father was favorably inclined, renewed his arguments, until the inventor finally agreed.
"It will be a great trip!" exclaimed Tom. "I'll go all over my machine now, to see that it's in good shape. You get your papers and model ready, dad, and I'll take them to Albany for you. The motor-cycle will come in handy."
But had Tom only known the dangers ahead of him, and the risks he was to run, he would not have whistled so light heartedly as he went over every nut and bolt on his machine.
Two days later, the valuable model, having been made into a convenient package, and wrapped in water-proof paper, was fastened back of the saddle on the motor-cycle. Tom carefully pinned in an inside pocket the papers which were to be handed to Mr. Crawford. He was to meet the lawyer at a hotel in Albany.