Part 1 out of 4
TOM SWIFT AMONG THE FIRE FIGHTERS
Battling with Flames from the Air
I A BAD PLACE FOR A FIRE
II NO USE OF LIVING!
III TOM'S NEW IDEA
IV AN EXPERIMENT
V THE EXPLOSION
VI TOM IS WORRIED
VII A FORCED LANDING
VIII STRANGE TALK
X ANOTHER ATTEMPT
XI THE BLAZING TREE
XII TOM IS LONESOME
XIII A SUCCESSFUL TEST
XIV OUT OF THE CLOUDS
XV COALS OF FIRE
XVI VIOLENT THREATS
XVII A TOWN BLAZE
XVIII FINISHING TOUCHES
XIX ON THE TRAIL
XX A HEAVY LOAD
XXI THE LIGHT IN THE SKY
XXIII TO THE RESCUE
XXIV A STRANGE DISCOVERY
XXV THE LIGHT OF DAY
TOM SWIFT AMONG THE FIRE FIGHTERS
A BAD PLACE FOR A FIRE
"IMPOSSIBLE, Ned! It can't be as much as that!"
"Well, you can prove the additions yourself, Tom, on one of the
adding machines. I've been over 'em twice, and get the same
result each time. There are the figures. They say figures don't
lie, though it doesn't follow that the opposite is true, for
those who do not stick closely to the truth do, sometimes,
figure. But there you have it; your financial statement for the
year," and Ned Newton, business manager for Tom Swift, the
talented young inventor, shoved a mass of papers across the table
to his friend and chum, as well as employer.
"It doesn't seem possible, Ned, that we have made as much as
that this past year. And this, as I understand it, doesn't
include what was taken from the wreck of the Pandora?"
Tom Swift looked questioningly at Ned Newton, who shook his
head in answer.
"You really didn't get anything to speak of out of your
undersea search, Tom," replied the young financial manager, "so I
didn't include it. But there's enough without that."
"I should say so!" exclaimed Tom. "Whew!" he whistled, "I
didn't think I was worth that much."
"Well, you've earned it, every cent, with the inventions of
yourself and your father."
"And I might add that we wouldn't have half we earn if it
wasn't for the shrewd way you look after us, Ned," said Tom, with
a warm smile at his friend. "I appreciate the way you manage our
affairs; for, though I have had some pretty good luck with my
searchlight, wizard camera, war tank and other contraptions, I
never would have been able to save any of the money they brought
in if it hadn't been for you."
"Well, that's what I'm here for," remarked Ned modestly.
"I appreciate that," began Tom Swift. "And I want to say,
But Tom did not say what he had started to. He broke off
suddenly, and seemed to be listening to some sound outside the
room of his home where he and his financial and business manager
were going over the year's statement and accounting.
Ned, too, in spite of the fact that he had been busy going over
figures, adding up long columns, checking statements, and giving
the results to Tom, had been aware, in the last five minutes, of
an ever-growing tumult in the street. At first it had been no
more than the passage along the thoroughfare of an unusual number
of pedestrians. Ned had accounted for it at first by the theory
that some moving picture theater had finished the first
performance and the people were hurrying home.
But after he had finished his financial labors and had handed
Tom the first of a series of statements to look over, the young
financial expert began to realize that there was no moving
picture house near Tom's home. Consequently the passing throngs
could not be accounted for in that way.
Yet the tumult of feet grew in the highway outside. Ned had
begun to wonder if there had been an attempted burglary, a fight,
or something like that, calling for police action, which had
gathered an unusual throng that warm, spring evening.
And then had come Tom's interruption of himself when he broke
off in the middle of a sentence to listen intently.
"What is it?" asked Ned.
"I thought I heard Rad or Koku moving around out there,"
murmured Tom. "It may be that my father is not feeling well and
wants to speak to me or that some one may have telephoned. I told
them not to disturb me while you and I were going over the
accounts. But if it is something of importance--"
Again Tom paused, for distinctly now in addition to the ever-
increasing sounds in the streets could be heard a shuffling and
talking in the hall just outside the door.
"G'wan 'way from heah now!" cried the voice of a colored man.
"It is Rad!" exclaimed Tom, meaning thereby Eradicate Sampson,
an aged but faithful colored servant. And then the voice of Rad,
as he was most often called, went on with:
"G'wan 'way! I'll tell Massa Tom!"
"Me tell! Big thing! Best for big man tell!" broke in another
voice; a deep, booming voice that could only proceed from a
powerfully built man.
"Koku!" exclaimed Tom, with a half comical look at Ned. "He and
Rad are at it again!"
Koku was a giant, literally, and he had attached himself to Tom
when the latter had made one of many perilous trips. So eager
were Eradicate and Koku to serve the young inventor that
frequently there were more or less good-natured clashes between
them to see who would have the honor.
The discussion and scuffle in the hall at length grew so
insistent that Tom, fearing the aged colored man might
accidentally be hurt by the giant Koku, opened the door. There
stood the two, each endeavoring to push away the other that the
victor might, it appeared, knock on the door. Of course Rad was
no match for Koku, but the giant, mindful of his great strength,
was not using all of it.
"Here! what does this mean?" cried Tom, rather more sternly
than he really meant. He had to pretend to be stern at times with
his old colored helper and the impulsive and powerful giant.
"What are you cutting up for outside my door when I told you I
must be quiet with Mr. Newton?"
"No can be quiet!" declared the giant. "Too much noise in
street--big crowds--much big!"
He spoke an English of his own, did Koku.
"What are the crowds doing?" asked Ned. "I thought we'd been
hearing an ever increasing tumult, Tom," he said to the young
"Big crowds--'um go to see big--"
"Heah! Let me tell Massa Tom!" pleaded Rad. Poor Rad! He was
getting old and could not perform the services that once he had
so readily and efficiently done. Now he was eager to help Tom in
such small measure as carrying him a message. So it was with a
feeling of sadness that Tom heard the old man say again,
"Let me tell him, Koku! I know all 'bout it! Let me tell Massa
Tom whut it am, an'--"
"Well, go ahead and tell me!" burst out Tom, with a good-
natured laugh. "Don't keep me in suspense. If there's anything
He did not finish the sentence. It was evident that something
of moment was going on, for the crowds in the street were now
running instead of walking, and voices could be heard calling
back and forth such exclamations as:
"Where is it?"
"Must be a big one
"And with this wind it'll be worse!"
Tom glanced at Ned and then at the two servants.
"Has anything happened?" asked the young inventor.
"Dey's a big fire, Massa Tom!" exploded Rad.
"Heap big blaze!" added Koku.
At the same time, out in the street high and clear, the cry
"Is it any of our buildings?" exclaimed Tom, in his excitement
catching hold of the giant's arm.
"No, it's quite a way off, on de odder side of town," answered
the colored man. "But we t'ought we'd better come an' tell yo',
"Yes! Yes! I'm glad you did, Rad. It was perfectly right for
you to tell me! I wish you'd done it sooner, though! Come on,
Ned! Let's go to the blaze! We can finish looking over the
figures another time. Is my father all right, Rad?"
"Yes, suh, Massa Tom, he's done sleepin' good."
"Then don't disturb him. Mr. Newton and I will go to the fire.
I'm glad it isn't here," and Tom looked from a side window out on
many shops that were not a great distance from the house; shops
where he and his father had perfected many inventions.
The buildings had grown up around the old Swift homestead,
which, now that so much industry surrounded it, was not the most
pleasant place to live in. Tom and his father only made this
their stopping place in winter. In the summer they dwelt in a
quiet cottage far removed from the scenes of their industry.
"We'll take the electric runabout, Ned," remarked Tom, as he
caught up a hat from the rack, an example followed by his friend.
Together the young inventor and the financial manager hurried out
to the garage, where Tom soon had in operation a small electric
automobile, that, more than once, had proved its claim to being
the "speediest car on the road."
As they turned out of the driveway into the street they became
aware of great crowds making their way toward a glow of sinister
red light showing in the eastern sky.
"Some blaze!" exclaimed Tom, as he turned on more power.
"You said it!" ejaculated Ned. "Must be a general alarm," he
added, as they caught the sound from the next street of
additional apparatus hurrying to the fire.
"Well, I'm glad it isn't on our side of town," remarked Tom, as
he looked back at the peaceful gloom surrounding and covering his
own home and work buildings.
"Where do you reckon it is?" asked Ned, as they sped onward.
"Hard to say," remarked the young inventor, as he steered to
one side to pass a powerful imported automobile which, however,
did not have the speed of the electric runabout. "A fire at night
is always deceiving as to direction. But we can locate it when we
get to the top of the hill."
Shopton, the suburb of the town where Tom lived, was named so
because of the many shops that had been erected by the industry
of the young inventor and his father. In fact the town was named
Shopton though of late there had been an effort to change the
name of the strictly residential section, which lay over the hill
toward the river.
Tom's car shot up the slope with scarcely any slackening of
speed, and, as he passed a group of men and boys running onward,
"Where is it?"
"The fireworks factory!" was the answer.
"Fireworks factory!" cried Ned. "Bad place for a fire!"
"I should say so!" exclaimed Tom.
The chums had become gradually aware of the gale that was
blowing, and, as they reached the summit of the hill and caught
sight of the burning factory, they saw the flames being swept far
out from it and toward a collection of houses on the other side
of a vacant lot that separated the fireworks industrial plant
from the dwellings. As Tom Swift glimpsed the fire, noted its
proportions and the fierceness of the flames, and saw which way
the wind was blowing them, he turned on the power to the utmost.
"What are you doing, Tom?" yelled Ned.
"I'm going down there!" cried Tom. "That place is likely to
explode any minute!"
"Then why go closer?" gasped Ned, for his breath was almost
taken away by the speed of the car, and he had to hold his hat to
keep it from blowing away. "Why don't you play safe?"
"Don't you understand?" shouted Tom in his chum's ear. "The
wind is blowing the fire right toward those houses! Mary Nestor
lives in one of them!"
"Oh--Mary Nestor!" exclaimed Ned. Then he understood--Mary and
Tom were engaged to be married.
"They may be all right," Tom went on. "I can't be sure from
this distance. Or they may be in danger. It's a bad fire and--"
His voice was blotted out in the roar of an explosion which
seemed to hurl back the electric runabout and bring it to a
NO USE OF LIVING!
Only momentarily was Tom Swift halted in his progress toward
the scene of the blaze in the fireworks factory. To him, and to
the chum who sat beside him on the seat of the electric runabout,
it appeared that the blast had actually stopped the progress of
the car. But perhaps that was more their imagination than
anything else, for the machine swept on down the hill, at the
foot of which was the conflagration.
"That was a bad one, Ned!" gasped Tom, as he turned to one side
to pass an engine on its way to the scene of excitement.
"I should say so! Must have been somebody hurt in that
"I only hope it wasn't Mary or her folks!" murmured Tom. "The
wind is sweeping the fire right that way!"
"What are you going to do, Tom?" yelled his chum, as the
business manager saw the young inventor heading directly for the
blaze. "What's the idea?"
"To rescue Mary, if she's in danger!"
"I'm with you!" was Ned's quick response. "But you can't go any
closer. The police are stretching the fire lines!"
"I guess they'll let me through!" said Tom grimly.
He slowed his car as he approached a place where an officer was
driving back the throng that sought to come closer to the blaze.
"Git back! Git back, I tell you!" stormed the policeman,
pushing against the packed bodies of men and boys. "There'll be
another blow-up in a minute or two, and a lot more of you
"Are there any killed?" asked Tom, stopping the car near the
"I guess so--yes. And some of the houses are catching. Git back
now! You, too, with that car! You'll have to back up!"
"I've got to go through!" replied Tom, with tightening lips.
"I've got to go through, Cassidy!" He knew the officer, and the
latter now seemed, for the first time, to recognize the young
"Oh, it's you, is it, Mr. Swift?" he exclaimed. "Well, go
ahead. But be careful. 'Tis dangerous there--very dangerous,
His voice was lost in the roar of another explosion, not as
loud or severe as the first, but more plainly felt by Tom and
Ned, for they were nearer to it.
"Now will you git back!" cried Policeman Cassidy, and the crowd
did, without further urging.
Tom started the runabout forward again.
"We've got to rescue Mary!" he said to Ned, who nodded.
In another moment the two young men were lost to sight in a
swirl of smoke that swept across the street. And while they are
thus temporarily hidden may not this opportunity be taken of
telling new readers something of the hero of this story?
The young inventor was introduced in the first volume of this
series, called "Tom Swift and his Motor Cycle." It was Tom's
first venture into the realms of invention, after he had
purchased from Mr. Wakefield Damon a speedy machine that tried to
climb a tree with that excitable gentleman.
Tom, with the help of his father, an inventor of note, rebuilt
the motor cycle adding many improvements, and it served Tom in
good stead more than once.
From then on the career of Tom Swift was steadily onward and
upward. One new invention led to another from his second venture,
a motor boat, through an airship and other marvels, and
eventually to a submarine. In each of these vehicles of motion
and travel Tom and his friends, Ned Newton and Mr. Damon, had
many adventures, detailed in the respective volumes.
His venture in proceeding to save Mary Nestor from possible
danger in the blaze of the fireworks factory was not the first
time Tom had rendered service to the Nestor family. There was
that occasion on which he had sent his wireless message from
Earthquake Island, as related in an earlier volume.
Space forbids the detailing of all that had happened to the
young inventor up to the time of the opening of this story.
Sufficient to say that Tom's latest achievement had been the
recovery of treasure from the depths of the ocean.
Tom Swift's activities in connection with his inventions had
become so numerous that the Swift Construction Company, of which
Ned Newton was financial manager and Mr. Damon one of the
directors, had been formed. And when the rumor came that there
was a chance to salvage some of the untold wealth at the bottom
of the sea, Tom was interested, as were his friends.
It was decided to search for the wreck of the Pandora, sunk in
the West Indies, and one of Tom's latest submarine craft was
utilized for this purpose.
Not to go into all the details, which are given in the last
volume of this series, entitled "Tom Swift and His Undersea
Search," suffice it to say that the venture was begun. Matters
were complicated owing to the fact that Mary Nestor's uncle,
Barton Keith, was in trouble over the loss of valuable papers
proving his title to some oil lands. Mary mentioned that a
person, Dixwell Hardley, was the man who, it was supposed, was
trying to defraud her relative. And the complications may be
imagined when it is said that this same Hardley was the man who
had interested Tom in the undersea search for the riches of the
Tom had been at home some time now, and it was while going over
his accounts with Ned, and, incidentally, planning new
activities, that the cry of fire broke in on them.
"Whew, Tom, some heat there!" gasped Ned, lowering his arm from
his face, an action which had been necessitated by Tom's daring
in driving the car close to the blazing fireworks factory.
"I should say so!" agreed Tom. "I can almost smell the rubber
of my tires burning. But we're out of the worst of it."
"Lucky she didn't take the notion to blow up as we were
passing," grimly commented Ned. "Where are you aiming for now?"
"Mary's house. It's just beyond here. But we can't see it on
account of the smoke."
A few seconds later they had passed through the black pall that
was slashed here and there with red slivers of flame, and, coming
to a more open space, Ned and Tom cleared their eyes of smoke.
"I guess there's no immediate danger," remarked Tom, as he saw
that the home of Mary Nestor and the houses near her residence
were, for the time being, out of the path of the flames. The
explosion had blown down part of the blazing factory nearest the
residential section, and the flames had less to feed on.
But the conflagration was still a fierce one. Not half the big
factory was yet consumed, and every now and then there would
sound dull, booming reports, causing nervous screams from the
women who were out in front of their homes, while the men would
crouch down as though fearing a shower of fiery embers.
"Oh, Tom, I'm so glad you're here!" cried Mary, as the runabout
drew up in front of her home. "Do you think it will be much
worse?" and she clutched his arm, as he got down to speak to her.
"I think the worst is over, as far as you people here are
concerned," the young inventor replied. "The wind has shifted a
"And there are several engines near us, Tom," said Mr. Nestor,
coming forward. "The firemen tell me they will play streams of
water on the roofs and outsides of our houses if the flames start
this way again."
"That ought to do the trick," said Tom, with a show of
confidence. "Anybody hurt around here?" he asked. "One of the
policeman said he heard several were killed."
"They may have been--in the factory," said Mr. Nestor. "Of
course if the fire and explosions had taken place in the daytime
the loss of life would have been great. But most of the workers
had left some time before the blaze was discovered. There are a
few men on a night shift, though, and I shouldn't be surprised
but what some of them had suffered."
"Too bad!" murmured the young inventor. "You're not worried
about your home, are you, Mrs. Nestor?" he asked of Mary's
"Oh, Tom, I certainly am!" she exclaimed. "I wanted to bring
out our things, but Mr. Nestor said it wouldn't be of any use."
"Neither it would, if we've got to burn, but I don't believe we
have--now," said her husband. "That last explosion and the shift
of the wind saved us. I appreciate your coming over, Tom," he
went on. "We might have needed your help. It's queer there isn't
some better, or more effective, way of fighting a fire than just
pouring on a comparatively insignificant bit of water," he added,
as, from what was now a safe distance, they watched the firemen
using many lines of hose.
"They do have chemical extinguishers," said Ned.
"Yes, for little baby blazes that have just started," went on
Mr. Nestor. "But in all the progress of science there has not
been much advance in fighting fires. We still do as they did a
hundred years ago--squirt water on it, and mighty little of it
compared to the blaze. It would take a week to put this fire out
by the water they are using if it were not for the fact that the
blaze eats itself up and has nothing more to feed on."
"We'll have to get Tom to invent a new way of fighting fire,"
The young inventor was about to reply when several firemen,
equipped with smoke helmets which they adjusted as they ran, came
running down the street.
"What's the matter?" asked Tom of one whom he knew.
"Some men are trapped in a small shed back of the factory," was
the answer. "We just heard of it, and we're going in after them.
Oh! Oh--my--my heart!" he gasped, and he sank to the sidewalk.
Evidently he was either overcome by the smoke and poisonous gases
or by his exertions.
Tom grasped the situation instantly. Taking the smoke helmet
from the exhausted fire-fighter, the young inventor shouted:
"I'll fill your place! See if you can grab a hat, Ned, and come
One of the other firemen had two helmets, and he offered Ned
one. Pausing only long enough to see that Mr. Nestor and some
others were looking after the exhausted "smoke-eater," Ned raced
on after Tom. The two young men, following the firemen, made
their way around the end of the factory to the smoke-filled yard
in the rear. But for the helmets, which were like the gas masks
of the Great War, they would not have been able to live.
One of the firemen pointed through the luridly-lighted smoke to
a small structure near the main building. This was beginning to
burn. With quick blows of an axe the door was hewed down, and the
rescue party, including Tom and Ned, made its way inside. In the
light from the blaze, as it filtered through the windows, it
could be seen that a man lay in a huddled heap on the floor.
By motions the leader of the rescue squad made it clear that
the man was to be carried out, and Tom helped with this while
Ned, using an axe, cleared away some debris to enable the door to
be opened fully so the men could pass out carrying their burden.
The man was taken to the Nestor yard and stretched out on the
grass. Word was relayed to one of the ambulance doctors who were
on the scene attending to several injured firemen, and in a short
time the man, who, it appeared, had been overcome by smoke, was
"Well, that was a narrow squeak for you," said one of the
firemen, glad to breathe without a mask on.
"Yes, it was touch and go," remarked the young doctor, who had
used heroic measures to bring the man back from the brink of the
grave. "But you'll live now, all right."
The revived man looked dully about him. He seemed somewhat
"Of what use to live?" he murmured. "You might as well have let
me die in there. Life isn't worth living now," and he sank into a
stupor, while Tom and the others looked wonderingly at one
TOM'S NEW IDEA
"What's the matter with him, Doctor?" asked Tom in a low voice
of the young physician who had been working over the man. "Do you
think he is worse hurt than appears? Is he dying, and is his mind
"I don't believe so," answered the doctor. "At least I don't
believe that he is dying, though his mind may be wandering. He
isn't injured--at least not outwardly. Just temporarily overcome
by smoke is what it looks like to me. But of course I haven't
made a thorough examination."
"Hadn't we better get him into the house, Doctor?" asked Mr.
Nestor, who stood with Tom, Ned and a group of men and boys about
the inert form of the man lying on the grass. The rescued one was
again seemingly unconscious.
"The best medicine he can have is fresh air, the doctor
replied. "He's better off out here than in the house. Though if
he doesn't revive presently I will send him to the hospital."
The man did not appear to be so badly off but what he could
hear, and at these words he opened his eyes again.
"I don't want to go to the hospital," he murmured. "I'll be all
right presently, and can go home, though--Oh, well, what's the
use?" he asked wearily, as though he had given up some fight.
"I've lost everything."
"Well, you've got a deal of life left in you yet; and that's
more than you could say of some who have come out of smaller
fires than this," said one of the firemen who, with Tom, had
carried the man out of the shed. "Come on, we'd better be getting
back," he said to his companion. "The worst of it is over, but
there'll be plenty to do yet."
"You said it!" commented the other grimly.
They went out of the Nestor yard, many of the crowd that had
gathered during the rescue following. The doctor administered
some more stimulant in the shape of aromatic spirits of ammonia
to the man, who, after his momentary revival, had again lapsed
into a state of stupor.
"Who is he?" asked Tom, as the physician knelt down beside the
"I don't know," said Mr. Nestor. "I know quite a number
connected with the fireworks factory, but this man is a stranger
"I've seen him going into the main offices several times,"
remarked Mary, who was standing beside Tom. "He seemed to be one
of the company officers."
"I don't believe so, Mary," stated her father. "I know most of
the fireworks company officials, and I'm sure this man is not one
of them. Poor fellow! He seems to be in a bad way."
"Mentally, as well as physically," put in Ned. "He acted as if
sorry that we had saved his life."
"Too bad," murmured Mary, and then a policeman, who had just
come into the yard to get the facts for his report, looked at the
figure lying on the grass, and said:
"I know him."
"You do?" cried Tom. "Who is he?"
"Name's Baxter, Josephus Baxter. He's a chemist, and he works
in the fireworks factory here. Not as one of the hands, but in
the experiment laboratory. I've seen him there late at night lots
of times. That's how I got acquainted with him. He was going in
around two o'clock one morning, and I stopped him, thinking he
was a thief. He proved his identity, and I've passed the time of
day with him many a time since"
"Where does he live?" asked Mr. Nestor.
"Down on Clay Street," and the officer mentioned the number.
"He lives all alone, so he told me. He's some sort of an
inventor, I guess. At least I judged so by his talk. Do you want
an ambulance, Doctor?" he asked the physician.
"No, I think he's coming around all right," was the answer. "If
we had an auto we could send him home."
"I'll take him in the runabout," eagerly offered Tom. "But if
he lives all alone will it be safe to leave him in his house?"
"He ought to be looked after, I suppose," the doctor stated.
"He'll be all right in a day or so if no complications set in,
but he'll be weak for a while and need attention."
"Then I'll take him home with me!" announced Tom. "We have
plenty of room, and Mrs. Baggert will feel right at home with
some one to nurse. Bring the runabout here, will you please,
As Ned darted off to run up the machine, the man opened his
eyes again. For a moment he did not seem to know where he was or
what had happened. Then, as he saw the lurid light of the flames
which were now dying away and realized his position, he sighed
heavily and murmured:
"It's all over!"
"Oh, no, it isn't!" cheerfully exclaimed the doctor. "You will
be all right in a few days."
"Myself, yes, maybe," said the man bitterly, and he managed to
rise to his feet. "But what of my future? It is all gone! The
work of years is lost."
"Burned in the fire?" asked Tom, wondering whether the man was
a major stockholder in the company. "Didn't you have any
insurance? Though I suppose you couldn't get much on a fireworks
plant," he added, for he knew something of insurance matters in
connection with his own business.
"Oh, it isn't the fire--that is directly," said the man, in the
same bitter tones. "I've lost everything! The scoundrels stole
them! And I--Oh, never mind!" he cried. "What's the use of
talking? I'm down and out! I might just as well have died in the
Tom was about to make some remark, but the doctor motioned to
him to refrain, and then Ned came up with the runabout. At first
Josephus Baxter, which was the name of the man who had been
rescued, made some objections to going to Tom's home. But when it
was pointed out that he might lapse into a stupor again from the
effects of the smoke poisons, in which event he would have no one
to minister to him at his lonely home, he consented to go to the
residence of the young inventor.
"Though if I do lapse into unconsciousness you might as well
let me keep on sleeping until the end," said Mr. Baxter bitterly
to Tom and Ned, as they drove away from the scene of the fire
"Oh, you'll feel better in the morning," cheerfully declared
The man did not answer, and the two chums did not feel much
like talking, for they were worn out and weary from their
exertions at the fire. The factory had been pretty well consumed,
though by strenuous labors the blaze had not extended to
adjoining structures. The home of Mary Nestor was saved, and for
this Tom Swift was thankful.
Mrs. Baggert, the Swift's housekeeper, was indeed glad to have
some one to "fuss over," as Tom put it. She prepared a bed for
Mr. Baxter, and in this the weary and ill man sank with a sigh of
"Can I do anything for you?" asked Tom, as he was about to go
out and close the door.
"No--thank you," was the halting reply. "I guess nothing can be
done. Field and Melling have me where they want me now--down and
"Do you mean Amos Field and Jason Melling of the fireworks
firm?" asked Tom, for the names were familiar to him in a
"Yes, the--the scoundrels!" exclaimed Mr. Baxter, and from his
voice Tom judged that he was growing stronger. "They pretended to
be my friends, giving me a shop in which to work and experiment,
and when the time came they took my secret formulae. I believe
that is what they started the fire for--to conceal their crime!"
"You don't mean that!" cried Tom. "Deliberately to start a fire
in a factory where there was powder and other explosives! That
would be a terrible crime!"
"Field and Melling are capable of just such crimes as that!"
said Josephus Baxter, bitterly. "If they took my formulae they
wouldn't stop at arson."
"Were your formulae for the manufacture of fireworks?" asked
"Not altogether," was the reply. "I had several formulae for
valuable chemical combinations. They could be used in fireworks,
and that is why I could use the laboratory here. But the main use
of my discoveries is in the dye industry. I would have been a
millionaire soon, with the rise of the American dye industry
following the shutting out of the Germans after the war. But now,
with my secret formulae gone, I am no better than a beggar!"
"Perhaps it will not be as bad as you think," said Tom,
recognizing the fact that Mr. Baxter was in a nervous and excited
state. "Matters may look brighter in the morning."
"I don't see how they can," was the grim answer. "However, I
appreciate all that you have done for me. But I fear my case is
"I'll see you again in the morning," Tom said, trying to infuse
some cheerfulness into his voice.
He found Ned waiting for him when he came downstairs.
"How is he?" asked the young business manager.
"In rather a bad way--mentally, at least," and Tom told of the
lost formulae. "Do you know, Ned," he went on, "I have an idea!"
"You generally do have--lots of 'em!" Ned rejoined.
"But this is a new one," went on Tom. "You saw what trouble
they had this evening to get a stream of water to the top stories
of that factory, didn't you?"
"Yes, the pressure here isn't what it ought to be," Ned agreed.
"And some of our engines are old-timers."
"Why is it necessary always to fight a fire with water?" Tom
continued. "There are plenty of chemicals that will put out a
fire much quicker than water."
"Of course," Ned answered. "There are plenty of chemical fire
extinguishers on the market, too, Tom. If your idea is to invent
a new hand grenade, stay off it! A lot of money has been lost
"I wasn't thinking of a hand grenade," said Tom, as he drew
some sheets of paper across the table to him. "My idea is on a
bigger scale. There's no reason, Ned, why a big fire in a tall
building, like a sky-scraper, shouldn't be fought from above, as
well as from below. Now if I had the right sort of chemicals I
Tom paused in a listening attitude. There was the rush of feet
and a voice cried:
"I'll get them! I'll get the scoundrels!"
"That can't be Koku and Rad in one of their periodic squabbles,
can it?" asked Ned.
"No. It's probably Mr. Baxter," Tom answered. "The doctor said
he might get violent once or twice, until the effects of his
shock wore off. There is some quieting medicine I can give him.
I'll run up."
"Guess I'd better go along," remarked Ned. "Sounds as if you'd
And it did appear so, for again the frenzied shouts sounded:
"I'll get 'em! I'll get the scoundrels who stole my secret
formulae that I worked over so many years! Come back now! Don't
put the match near the powder!"
Tom and Ned hurried to the room where the unfortunate chemist
had been put to bed, to find him out in the hall, wrapped in a
bedquilt, and with Mrs. Baggert vainly trying to quiet him. Mr.
Baxter stared at Tom and Ned without seeing them, for he was in a
delirium of fever.
"Have you my formulae?" he asked. "I want them back!"
"You shall have them in the morning," replied Tom soothingly.
"Lie down, and I'll bring them to you in the morning. And drink
this," he added, holding out a glass of soothing mixture which
the doctor had ordered in case the patient should become violent.
Josephus Baxter glared about with wild eyes, but between them
Tom and Mrs. Baggert managed to get him to drink the mixture.
"Bah! It's as bad as some of my chemicals!" spluttered the
chemist, as he handed back the glass. "You are sure you'll have
my formulae in the morning?" he asked, as he turned to go back to
"I'll do my best," declared Tom cheerfully. "Now please lie
Which, after some urging, Mr. Baxter consented to do. Eradicate
wanted to lie down in the hall outside the excited chemist's door
to guard against his emerging again, but Tom decided on Koku. The
giant, though not as intelligent as the colored man, was more
efficient in an emergency because of his great strength.
Eradicate was getting old, and there was a pathetic droop to his
figure as he shuffled off when Koku superseded him.
"Ah done guess Ah ain't wanted much mo'," muttered Rad sadly.
"Oh, yes, you are!" cried Tom, as, the excitement over, he
walked downstairs with Ned. "I'm going to start something new,
Rad, and I'll need your help."
"Will yo', really, Massa Tom?" exclaimed faithful Rad, his face
lighting up. "Dat's good! Is yo' goin' off after mo' diamonds, or
up to de caves of ice?"
"Not quite that," answered the young inventor, recalling the
stirring experiences that had fallen to him when on those
voyages. "I'm going to work around home, Rad, and I'll need your
"Anyt'ing yo' wants, Massa Tom! Anyt'ing yo' wants!" offered
the now delighted Rad, and he went to bed much happier.
"Well, to resume where we left off," began Ned, when he and Tom
were once more by themselves, "what's the game?"
"Oh, I don't know that it's much of a game," was the answer.
"But I just have an idea that a big fire in a towering building
can be fought from above with chemicals, as well as from the
ground with streams of water.
"Well, I guess it could be," Ned agreed. "But how are you going
to get your chemicals in at the top? Shoot 'em up through a hose?
If you do that you'll need a special kind of hose, for the
chemicals will rot anything like rubber or canvas."
"I wasn't thinking of a hose," returned Tom. "What then?" asked
the young financial manager.
"An airship!" Tom exclaimed with such sudden energy that Ned
started. "It just came to me!" explained the youthful inventor.
"I was wondering how we could get the chemicals in from the top,
and an airship is the solution. I can sail over the burning
building and drop the chemicals down. That will douse the blaze
if my plans go right."
Ned was silent a moment, considering Tom's daring plan and
project. Then, as it became clearer, the young banker cried:
"Blamed if I don't think that's just the thing, Tom! It ought
to work, and, if it does, it will save a lot of lives, to say
nothing of property! A fire in a sky-scraper ought to be fought
from above. Then the extinguisher element, whether chemicals or
water, could be dropped where they'd do the most good. As it is
now, with water, a lot of it is wasted. Some of it never reaches
the heart of the fire, being splashed on the outside of the
building. A lot more turns to steam before it hits the flames,
and only a small percentage is really effective."
"That's my notion," Tom said.
"Then go ahead and do it!" urged his friend. "You have my
"Thanks," commented Tom dryly. "But there are several things to
be worked out before we can start. I've got to devise some scheme
for carrying a sufficient quantity of chemicals, and invent some
way of releasing them from an airship over the blaze. But that
last part ought to be easy, for I think I can alter my warfare
bomb-dropping attachment to serve the purpose.
"What I really need, however, is some new chemical combination
that will quickly put a really big blaze out of business. There
are any number of these chemicals, but most of them depend on the
production of carbon dioxide. This is the product of some
solution of a carbonate and sulphuric acid, and I suppose,
eventually, I'll work out something on that order. But I hope I
may get something better."
"You haven't delved much into chemistry, have you?"
"No. And I wish now that I had. I see my limitations and
realize my weakness. But I can brush up a little on my chemistry.
As for the mechanical part, that of dropping the extinguisher on
the blaze, I'm not worrying over that end."
"No," agreed Ned. "You have enough types of airships to be able
to select just the best one for the purpose. But, say, Tom!" he
suddenly cried, "why not ask him to help you?"
"Mr. Baxter. He's a chemist. And though he says his formulae
are about dyes and fireworks, maybe he can put you in the way of
inventing a chemical solution that will be death to fires."
"He might," Tom agreed. "But I think he'll be out of business
for some time. This shock--being overcome by smoke and his secret
formulae having been stolen--seem to have affected his mind. I
don't know that I could depend on him."
"It's worth trying," declared Ned. "What do you suppose he
means, Tom, saying that Field and Melling stole his formulae?"
"Haven't the least idea. I only know those fireworks firm
members slightly, if at all. I'm not sure I'd recognize them if I
met them. But they are reputed to be wealthy, and I hardly think
they would stoop to stealing some inventor's formulae.
"We inventors are a suspicious lot, Ned, as you probably have
found out," he added with a smile. "We imagine the rest of the
world is out to cheat us, and I presume Josephus Baxter is no
exception. Still, there may be some truth in his story. I'll give
him all the help I can. But I'm going into the aerial fire-
fighting game. I've been waiting for something new, and this may
"You may count on me!" declared Ned. "And now, unless you're
going to sit up all night and start studying chemistry, you'd
better come to bed."
"That's right. Tomorrow is another day. I hope Mr. Baxter gets
some rest. Sleep will improve him a lot, the doctor said."
"I know one friend of yours who will be glad to know that you
are going to start something," remarked Ned, as he and Tom
started for their rooms, for the young manager was staying with
his friend for the night.
"Who?" Tom wanted to know.
"Mr. Wakefield Damon," was the answer. "He hasn't been over
"No, he's been off on a little trip, blessing everything from
his baggage check to his suspender buttons," laughed the young
inventor, as he recalled his eccentric acquaintance. "I shall be
glad to see him again."
"He'll be right over as soon as he learns what's in the wind,"
The hopes that Mr. Baxter would be greatly improved in the
morning were doomed to disappointment. He was in no actual
danger, the doctor said, but his recovery from the effects of the
smoke he had breathed was not as rapid as desired or hoped for.
"He's suffering from some shock," said the physician, "and his
mental condition is against him. He ought to be kept quiet, and
if you can't have him here, Mr. Swift, I can arrange to have him
sent to a hospital."
"I wouldn't dream of it!" Tom exclaimed. "Let him stay here by
all means. We have plenty of room, and Mrs. Baggert has been
wishing for some one to nurse. Now she has him."
So it was arranged that the chemist should remain at the Swift
home, and he gave a languid assent when they spoke to him of the
matter. He really was much more ill than seemed at first.
But as everything possible had been done, Tom decided to go
ahead with the new idea that had come to him--that of inventing
an aerial chemical fire-fighting machine.
"And if we get a chance, Ned, we'll try to get back those
secret formulae Mr. Baxter claims to have lost," Tom declared. "I
have heard some stories about that fireworks firm, which make me
believe there may be something in Baxter's story."
"All right, Tom, I'm with you any time you need me," Ned
The young inventor lost little time in beginning his
operations. As he had said, the chief need was a fire
extinguishing chemical solution or powder. Tom resolved to try
the solution first, as it was easier to make. With this end in
view he proceeded to delve into old and new chemistry books. He
also sought the advice of his father.
And one day, when Ned called, Tom electrified his chum with the
"Well, I'm going to give it a try!"
"My aerial chemical fire-fighting apparatus. Of course I only
have the chemical yet. I haven't worked on the carrying apparatus
nor decided how I will attach it to an airship. But I'm going up
now with some of my new solution and drop it on a blaze from
"Where are you going to get the fire?" asked Ned. "You can't
have a sky-scraper blaze made to order, you know."
"No, but as this is only an experiment," Tom said, "a big
bonfire will answer the purpose. I'm having Koku and Rad make one
now down in our big meadow. As soon as it gets hot enough and
fierce enough, I'll sail over it in my small machine, drop the
extinguisher on it, and see what happens. Want to come?"
"Sure thing!" cried Ned. "And I hope the experiment is a
"Thanks," murmured Tom. "I'm about ready to start. All I have
to do is to take this tank up with me," and he pointed to one
containing his new mixture. "Of course the arrangement for
dumping it out of the aircraft is very crude," Tom said. "But I
can work on that later."
Ned and he were busy putting the can of Tom's new chemical
extinguisher in the airship when the door of the hangar was
suddenly opened and a very much excited man entered crying:
"Fire! Fire! Bless my kitchen sink, your meadow's on fire, Tom
Swift! It's blazing high! Fire! Fire!"
Tom and Ned were so startled by the entrance of the excited man
with his cry of "Fire!" that the young inventor nearly dropped
the tank of liquid extinguisher he was helping to hoist into the
aeroplane. Then, as he caught sight of his visitor, Tom
"Hello, Mr. Damon! We were wondering whether you'd be along to
witness our first experiment."
"Experiment, Tom Swift! Experiment! Bless my Latin grammar! but
you'd much better be calling out the fire department to play on
that blaze down in your meadow. What is it--your barns or one of
your new shops?"
"Neither one, Mr. Damon," laughed Ned. "It's only a blaze that
Koku and Rad started."
"And the fire department is here," added Tom.
"Where?" inquired the eccentric man.
"Here," and Tom pointed to his airship--one of the smaller
craft--into which the tank of chemicals had been hoisted.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Something new, eh, Tom?" His eyes
"Yes. Fighting fires from the air. I got the idea after the
fireworks factory went up in smoke. Will you come along? There's
plenty of room."
"I believe I will," assented Mr. Damon. It was not the first
time, by any means, that he had gone aloft with Tom. "I happened
to be coming over in my auto," he went on to explain, "when I
happened to see the fire down in the meadow. I was afraid you
didn't know about it."
"Oh, yes," replied Tom. "I had Rad and Koku light a big pile of
packing boxes, to represent, as nearly as possible, on a small
scale, a burning building. I plan now to sail over it and drop
the tins of chemicals. They are arranged to burst as they fall
into the blaze, and I hope the carbon dioxide set loose will
blanket out the fire."
"Sounds interesting," commented Mr. Damon. "I'll go along."
The airship was wheeled out of the hangar and was soon ready
for the flight. A big cloud of black vapor down in the meadow
told Tom and Ned that Koku and Eradicate had done their work
well. The giant and the colored man had poured oil over the wood
to make a fierce blaze that would give Tom's new chemical
combination a severe test.
A mechanic turned the propeller of the airship until there was
an accumulation of gas in the different cylinders. Then he
stepped back while Tom threw on the switch. This was not one of
the self-starting types, of which Tom possessed one or two.
"Contact!" cried Tom sharply, and the man stepped forward to
give the big blades a final turn that would start the motor.
There was a muffled roar and then a steady staccato blending of
explosions. Tom raced the motor while his men held the machine in
place, and then, satisfied that all was well, the young inventor
gave the word, and the craft raced over the ground, to soar aloft
a little later.
Tom, Ned and Mr. Damon could look down to the meadow where the
bonfire was blazing. A crowd had collected, but the heat of the
blaze kept them at a good distance. Then, as many of the throng
caught sight of the airship overhead, there was a new interest
Tom had told Ned and Mr. Damon, before the trio had entered the
machine, what he wanted them to do. This was to toss the
chemicals overboard at the proper time. Of course in his
perfected apparatus Tom hoped to have a device by which he could
drop the fire extinguishing elements by a mere pressure of his
finger or foot, as bombs were released from aircraft during the
war. But this would serve for the time being.
Nearer and nearer the blaze the airship approached until it was
almost above it. Tom had had some experience in bomb-dropping,
and knew when to give the signal.
At last the signal came. Mr. Damon and Ned heaved over the side
the metal containers of the powerful chemicals.
Down they went, unerring as an arrow, though on a slant, caused
by the impetus given them by the speed of the airship.
Tom and his friends leaned over the side of the machine to
watch the effect. They could see the chemicals strike the blaze,
and it was evident from the manner in which the fire died down
that the containers had broken, as Tom intended they should to
scatter their contents.
"Hurray!" cried Ned, forgetting that he could not be heard, for
no head telephones were used on this occasion and the roar of the
motor would drown any human voice. "It's working, Tom!"
Truly the effect of the chemicals was seemingly to cause the
fire to go out, but it was only a momentary dying down. Koku and
Rad had made a fierce, yet comparatively small, conflagration,
and though for a time the gas generated by Tom's mixture dampened
the blaze, in a few seconds--less than half a minute--the flames
were shooting higher than ever.
Tom made a gesture of disappointment, and swung his craft
around in a sharp, banking turn. He had no more chemicals to
drop, as he had thought this supply would be sufficient. However,
he had guessed badly. The fire burned on, doing no damage, of
course, for that had been thought of when it was started in the
"Something wrong!" declared the young inventor, when they were
back at the hangar, climbing out of the machine.
"What was it?" asked Ned.
"Didn't use the right kind of chemicals," Tom answered. "From
the way the flames shot up, you'd think I had poured oil on the
blaze instead of carbon dioxide."
"Bless my insurance policy, Tom!" cried Mr. Damon, "but I'd
hate to trust to your apparatus if my house caught."
"Don't blame you," Tom assented. "But I'll do the trick yet!
This is only a starter!"
During the next two weeks the young inventor worked hard in his
laboratory, Mr. Swift sometimes helping him, but more often Koku
and Eradicate. Mr. Baxter had recovered sufficiently to leave the
Swift home. But though the chemist seemed well physically, his
mind appeared to be brooding over his loss.
"If I could only get my secret formulae back!" he sighed, as he
thanked Tom for his kindness. "I'm sure Field and Melling have
them. And I believe they got them the night of the fireworks
blaze; the scoundrels!"
"Well, if I can help you, please let me," begged Tom. And then
he dismissed the matter from his mind in his anxiety to hit upon
the right chemical mixture for putting out fires from the air.
One afternoon, at the end of a week in which he had been busily
and steadily engaged on this work, Tom finally moved away from
his laboratory table with a sigh of relief, and, turning to
Eradicate, who had been helping him, exclaimed:
"Well, I think I have it now!"
"Good lan' ob massy, I hopes so!" exclaimed the colored man.
"It sho' do smell bad enough, Massa Tom, to make any fire go an'
run an' drown hisse'f! Whew-up! It's turrible stuff!"
"Yes, it isn't very pleasant," Tom agreed, with a smile.
"Though I am getting rather used to it. But when it's in a metal
tube it won't smell, and I think it will put out any fire that
ever started. We'll give it a test now, Rad. Just take that flask
of red stuff and pour it into this one of yellow. I'll go out and
light the bonfire, and we'll make a small test."
Leaving Rad to mix some of the chemicals, a task the colored
man had often done before, Tom went out into the yard near his
laboratory to start a blaze on which his new mixture could be
He had not got far from the laboratory door when he felt a
sudden jar and a rush of air, and then followed the dull boom of
an explosion. Like an echo came the voice of Eradicate:
"Oh, Massa Tom, I'se blowed up! It done sploded right in mah
TOM IS WORRIED
Dropping what he had in his hands, Tom Swift raced back to the
laboratory where he had left Eradicate to mix the chemicals.
Again the despairing, frightened cry of the colored man rang out.
"I hope nothing serious has happened," was the thought that
flashed through Tom's mind. "But I'm afraid it has. I should have
mixed those new chemicals myself."
Koku, the giant, who was at work in another part of the shop
yard, heard Rad's cry and came running up. As there was always
more or less jealousy between Eradicate and Koku, the latter now
thought he had a chance to crow over his rival, not, of course,
understanding what had happened.
"Ho! Ho!" laughed Koku. "You much better hab me work, Master
Tom. I no make blunderstakes like dat black fellow! I never no
"I don't know whether Rad has made a mistake or not," murmured
Tom. "Come along, Koku, we may need your help. There has been an
"Yep, dat Rad he don't as know any more as to blow up de whole
place!" chuckled Koku.
He thought he would have a chance to make fun of Eradicate, but
neither he nor Tom realized how serious had been the happening.
As the young inventor reached the laboratory, which he had left
but a few seconds before, he saw the interior almost in ruins. All
about were scattered various pieces of apparatus, test tubes,
alembics, retorts, flasks, and an electric furnace.
But what gave Tom more concern than anything else was the sight
of Eradicate lying in the midst of broken glass on the floor. The
colored man was moaning and held his hands over his face, and the
young inventor could see that the hands, which had labored so
hard and faithfully in his service, were cut and bleeding.
"Rad! Rad! what has happened?" cried Tom quickly.
"It sploded! It done sploded right in mah face!" moaned
Eradicate. "I--I can't see no mo', Massa Tom! I can't see to help
yo' nevah no mo'!"
"Don't worry about that, Rad!" cried Tom, as cheerfully as
possible under the circumstances. "We'll soon have you fixed up!
Come in here, Koku, and help me carry Rad out!"
Though the fumes from the chemicals that had exploded were
choking, causing both Tom and Koku to gasp for breath, they never
hesitated. In they rushed and picked up the limp figure of the
helpless colored man.
"Poor Rad!" murmured the giant Koku tenderly. "Him bad hurt! I
carry him, Master Tom! I take him bed, an' I go for doctor! I run
like painted pig!"
Probably Koku meant "greased pig," but Tom never thought of
that. All his concern was for his faithful Eradicate.
"Me carry him, Master Tom!" cried Koku, all the petty jealousy
of his rival passing away now. "Me take care ob Rad. Him no see,
me see for him. Anybody hurt Rad now, got to hurt Koku first!"
It was a fine and generous spirit that the giant was showing,
though Tom had no time to speculate on it just then.
"We must get him into the house, Koku," said the young
inventor. "And two of us can carry him better than one. After we
get him to a bed you can go for the doctor, though I fancy the
telephone can run even quicker than you can, Koku."
"Whatever Master Tom say," returned the giant humbly, as he
looked with pity at the suffering form of his rival--a rival no
longer. It seemed that Rad's working days were over.
Tenderly the aged colored man was laid on a lounge in the
living room, Mr. Swift and Mrs. Baggert hovering over him.
"Where are you worst hurt, Rad?" asked Tom, with a view to
getting a line on which physician would be the best one to
"It's all in mah face, Massa Tom," moaned the colored man.
"It's mah eyes. Dat stuff done sploded right in 'em! I can't see
--nevah no mo'!"
"Oh, I guess it isn't as bad as that," said Tom. But when he
had a glimpse of the seared and wounded face of his faithful
servant he could not repress a shudder.
A physician was summoned by telephone, and he arrived in his
automobile at the same time that Mr. Damon reached Tom's house.
"Bless my bottle of arnica, Tom!" exclaimed the eccentric man,
with sympathy in his voice. "What's this I hear? One of your men
tells me old Eradicate is killed!"
"Not as bad as that, yet," replied Tom, as he came out, leaving
the doctor to make his first examination. "It was an explosion of
my new aerial fire-fighting chemicals that I left Rad to mix for
me. If anything serious results to him from this I'll drop the
whole business! I'll never forgive myself!"
"It wasn't your fault, Tom. Perhaps he did something wrong,"
said Mr. Damon.
"Yes, it was my fault. I should not have let him take the
chance with a mixture I had tried only a few times. But we'll
hope for the best. How is he, Doctor?" Tom asked a little later
when the physician came out on the porch.
"He's doing as well as can be expected for the present," was
the answer. "I have given him a quieting mixture. His worst
injury seems to be to his face. His hands are cut by broken
glass, but the hurts are only superficial. I think we shall have
to get an eye specialist to look at him in a day or two."
"You mean that he--that he may go blind?" gasped Tom.
"Well, we'll not decide right away," replied the doctor, as
cheerfully as he could. "I should rather have the opinion of an
oculist before making that statement. It may be only temporary."
"That's bad enough!" muttered Tom. "Poor old Rad!"
"Me take care ob him," put in Koku, who had been humbly
standing around waiting to hear the news. "Me never be mad at dat
black man no more! Him my best friend! I lub him like I did my
"Thank you, Koku," said Tom, and his mind went back to the time
when he had escaped in his airship from the gigantic men, of whom
Koku and his brother were two specimens. The brother had gone
with a circus, and Koku, for several years, only saw him
Everything possible was done for Eradicate, and the doctor said
that it would be several days, until after the burns from the
exploding chemicals had partly healed, before the eye-doctor
could make an examination.
"Then we can only wait and hope," said Tom.
"And hope for the best!" advised Mr. Damon.
"I'll try," promised Tom. He went back to the laboratory with
his eccentric friend and with Ned, who had come over as soon as
he heard the news. Not much of an examination could be made, as
the place was in such ruins. But it was surmised that in
combining the two chemical mixtures a new one had been created,
or at least one that Tom had not counted on. This had exploded,
blowing Eradicate down, flaring a sheet of flame up into his
face, scattering broken glass about, and generally creating
"I can't understand it," said Tom. "I was trying to make a fire
extinguishing liquid, and it turned out to be a fire creator. I
don't see what was wrong."
"One chemical might have been impure," suggested Ned.
"Yes," agreed Tom. "I'll check them over and try to find out
where the mistake happened."
"This place will have to be rebuilt," observed Ned. "It's in
bad shape, Tom."
"I don't mind that in the least, if Rad doesn't lose his
eyesight," was the answer of the young inventor, and his friends
could see that he was much worried, as well he might be.
In silence Tom Swift looked about the ruins of what had been a
fine chemical laboratory.
"It will take a month to get this back in shape," he said
ruefully. "I guess I shall have to postpone my experiments."
"Why not ask Mr. Baxter to help you?" suggested Ned.
"What can he do?" Tom wanted to know. "He hasn't any
"He has a sort of one," Ned rejoined. "You know you told me to
keep track of him and give him any help I could."
"Yes," Tom nodded.
"Well, the other day he came to me and said he had a chance to
set up a small laboratory in a vacant shop near the river. He
needed a little capital and I lent it to him, as you told me to."
"Glad you did," returned Tom. "But do you suppose his plant is
large enough to enable me to work there until mine is in shape
"It wouldn't do any harm to take a look," suggested Ned.
"I'll do it!" decided Tom, more hopefully than he had spoken
since the accident.
A FORCED LANDING
Josephus Baxter seemed to have recovered some of his spirits
after his narrow escape from death in the fireworks factory
blaze. He greeted Tom and Ned with a smile as they entered the
improvised laboratory he had been able to set up in what had once
been a factory for the making of wooden ware, an industry that,
for some reason, did not flourish in Shopton.
"I'm glad to see you, Mr. Swift," said the chemist, who seemed
to have aged several years in the few weeks that had intervened
since the fire. "I want to thank you for giving me a chance to
start over again."
"Oh, that's all right," said Tom easily. "We inventors ought to
help one another. Are you able to do anything here?"
"As much as possible without my secret formulae," was the
answer. "If I only had those back from the rascals, Field and
Melling, I would be able to go ahead faster. As it is, I am
working in the dark. For some of the formulae were given to me by
a Frenchman, and I had only one copy. I kept that in the safe of
the fireworks concern, and after the fire it could not be found."
"Was the safe destroyed?" asked Tom.
"No. But the doors were open, and much of what had been inside
was in ashes and cinders. Amos Field claimed that the explosion
had blown open the safe and burned a lot of their valuable
fireworks formulae too."
"And you believe they have yours?" asked Ned.
"I'm sure of it!" was the fierce answer. "Those men are
unprincipled rogues! They had been at me ever since I was foolish
enough to tell them about my formulae to get me to sell them a
share. But I refused, for I knew the secret mixtures would make
my fortune when I could establish a new dye industry. Field and
Melling claimed they wanted the formulae for their fireworks, but
that was only an excuse. The formulae were not nearly so valuable
for pyrotechnics as for dyes. The fireworks business is not so
good, either, since so many cities have voted for a 'Sane Fourth
"I can appreciate that," said Tom. "But what we called for, Mr.
Baxter, is to find if you have room enough to let me do a little
experimenting here. I am working on a new kind of fire
extinguisher, to be dropped on tall buildings from an airship."
"Sounds like a good idea," said the chemist, rather dreamily.
"Well, I have the airship, and I can see my way clear to
perfecting a device to drop the chemicals in metal tanks or
bombs," went on Tom. "But what bothers me is the chemical mixture
that will put out fires better than the carbon dioxide mixtures
now on the market."
"I haven't given that much study myself," said Mr. Baxter. "But
you are welcome to anything I have, Mr. Swift. The whole place,
such as it is, will be at your disposal at any time. I intend to
have it in better shape soon, but I have to proceed slowly, as I
lost nearly everything I owned in that fire. If I could only get
those formulae back!" he sighed.
"Perhaps you may recall the combinations, suggested Ned. "Or
can't you get them from that Frenchman?"
"He is dead," answered the chemist. "Everything seems to be
"Well, it's always darkest just before daylight," said Tom. "So
let us hope for the best. We both have had a bit of bad luck. But
when I think of Rad, who may lose his eyesight, I can stand my
"Yes," agreed Mr. Baxter, "you have big assets when you have
your health and eyesight."
Three days later the eye specialist looked at Rad. Tom stood by
anxiously and waited for the verdict. The doctor motioned to the
young inventor to follow him out of the room, while Mrs. Baggert
replaced the bandages on the colored man's eyes and Koku stood
near him, sympathetically patting Rad on the back.
"Well?" asked Tom nervously, as he faced the physician.
"I am sorry, Mr. Swift, that I can not hold out much hope that
your man will ever regain his sight," was the answer.
Tom could not repress a gasp of pity.
"I do not say that the case is altogether hopeless," the doctor
went on; "but it would be wrong to encourage you to hope for
much. I may be able to save partly the sight of one eye."
"Poor Rad!" murmured Tom. "This will break his heart."
"There is no need for telling him at once," Dr. Henderson said.
"It will only make his recovery so much the slower. It will be
weeks before I am able to operate, and, meanwhile, he should be
kept as comfortable and cheerful as possible."
"We'll see to that," declared Tom. "Is he otherwise injured?"
"No, it is merely his eyesight that we have to fear for. And,
as I said, that is not altogether hopeless, though it would not
be honest to let you look for much success. I shall see him from
time to time until his eyes are ready to operate on."
Tom and his friends were forced to take such comfort as they
could from this verdict, but no hint of their downcast feelings
were made manifest to Eradicate.
"Whut de doctor man done say, Massa Tom?" asked Eradicate when
the young inventor went back into the sick room.
"Oh, he talked a lot of big Latin words, Rad--bigger words than
you used to use on your mule Boomerang," and Tom forced a laugh.
"All he meant was that you'd have to stay in bed a while and let
Koku wait on you."
"Huh! Am dat--dat big--dat big nice man heah now?" asked Rad,
feeling around with his bandaged hand; and a smile showed beneath
the cloth over his eyes.
"I here right upsidedown by you, Rad," said Koku, and his big
hand clasped the smaller one of the black man.
"Koku--yo'--yo' am mighty good to me," murmured Eradicate. "I
reckon I been cross to yo' sometimes, but I didn't mean nuffin'
"Huh! me an' you good friends now," said the giant. "Anybody
what hurt my Rad, I--I--bust 'im! Dat I do!" cried the big
"Come on," whispered Tom to Ned. "They'll get along all right
But Eradicate caught the sound of his young employer's
footsteps and called:
"Yo' goin', Massa Tom?"
"Yes, Rad. Is there anything you want?"
"No, Massa Tom. I jest wanted to ast if yo' done 'membered de
time mah mule Boomerang got stuck in de road, an' yo' couldn't
git past in yo' auto? Does yo' 'member dat?"
"Indeed I do!" laughed Tom, and Eradicate also chuckled at the
"That laugh will do him more good than medicine," declared the
doctor, as he took his leave. "I'll come again, when I can make a
more thorough examination," he added.
For Tom the following days, that lengthened into weeks, were
anxious ones. There was a constant worry over Eradicate. Then,
too, he was having trouble with his latest invention--his aerial
fire-fighting apparatus. It was not that Tom was financially
dependent on this invention. He was wealthy enough for his needs
from other patented inventions he and his father owned.
But Tom Swift was a lad not easily satisfied. Once embarked on
an enterprise, whether it was the creation of a gigantic
searchlight, an electric rifle, a photo telephone or a war tank,
he never rested until he had brought it to a successful
But there was something about this chemical fire extinguishing
mixture that defied the young inventor's best efforts. Mixture
after mixture was tried and discarded. Tom wanted something
better than the usual carbonate and sulphuric combination, and he
was not going to rest until he found it.
"I think you've struck a blind lead, Tom," said Ned, more than
"Well, I'm not going to give up," was the firm answer.
"Bless my shoe laces!" cried Mr. Damon, when he had called on
Tom once at the Baxter laboratory and had been driven out,
holding his breath, because of the chemical fumes, "I should
think you couldn't even start a fire with that around, Tom, much
less need to put one out."
"Well, it doesn't seem to work," said the young inventor
ruefully. "Everything I do lately goes wrong."
"It is that way sometimes," said Mr. Baxter. "Suppose you let
me study over your formulae a bit, Mr. Swift. I haven't given
much thought to fire extinguishers, but I may be able, for that
very reason, to approach the subject from a new angle. I'll lay
aside my attempt to get back the lost formulae and help you."
"I wish you would!" exclaimed Tom eagerly. "My head is woozie
from thinking! Suppose I leave you to yourself for a time, Mr.
Baxter? I'll go for an airship ride."
"Yes, do," urged the chemist. "Sometimes a change of scene is
of benefit. I'll see what I can do for you."
"Will you come along, Ned--Mr. Damon?" asked Tom, as he
prepared to leave the improvised laboratory, the repairs on his
own not yet having been finished.
"Thank you, no," answered Ned. "I have some collections to
"And I promised my wife I'd take her riding, Tom," said the
jolly, eccentric man. "Bless my umbrella! she'd never forgive me
if I went off with you. But I'll run you to your first stopping
place, Ned, and you to your hangar, Tom."
His invitation was accepted, and, in due season, Tom was
soaring aloft in one of his speedy cloud craft.
"Guess I'll drop down and get Mary Nestor," he decided, after
riding about alone for a while and finding that the motor was
running sweetly and smoothly. "She hasn't been out lately."
Tom made a landing in a field not far from the home of the girl
he hoped to marry some day, and walked over to her house.
"Go for a ride? I just guess. I will!" cried Mary, with
sparkling eyes. "Just wait until I get on my togs."
She had a leather suit, as had Tom, and they were soon in the
machine, which, being equipped with a self-starter, did not need
the services of a mechanician to whirl the propellers.
"Oh, isn't it glorious!" said Mary, as she sat at Tom's side.
They were in a little enclosed cabin of the craft--which carried
just two--and, thus enclosed, they could speak by raising their
voices somewhat, for the noise of the motor was much muffled, due
to one of Tom's inventions.
Other rides on other days followed this one, for Tom found more
rest and better refreshment after his hours of toil and study in
these rides with Mary than in any other way.
"I do love these rides, Tom!" the girl cried one day when the
two were soaring aloft. "And this one I really believe is better
than any of the rest. Though I always think that," she added,
with a slight laugh.
"Glad you like it," Tom answered, and there was something in
his voice that caused Mary to look curiously at him.
"What's the matter, Tom?" she asked. "Has anything happened? Is
Rad's case hopeless?"
"Oh, no, not yet. Of course it isn't yet sure that he will ever
see again, but, on the other hand, it isn't decided that he
can't. It's a fifty-fifty proposition."
"But what makes you so serious?"
"I should say so! You haven't told me one funny thing that Mr.
Damon has said lately."
"Oh, haven't I? Well, let me see now," and he sent the machine
up a little. "Well, the other day he--"
Tom suddenly stopped speaking and began rapidly turning several
valve wheels and levers.
"What--what's the matter?" gasped Mary, but she did not clutch
his arm. She knew better than that.
"The motor has stopped," Tom answered, and the girl became
aware of a cessation of the subdued hum.
"Is it--does it mean danger?" she asked.
"Not necessarily so," Tom replied. "It means we have to make a
forced landing, that's all. Sit tight! We're going down rather
faster than usual, Mary, but we'll come out of it all right!"'
There was a rapid and sudden drop. Mary, sitting beside Tom
Swift in the speedy aeroplane, watched with fascinated eyes as he
quickly juggled with levers and tried different valve wheels. The
girl, through her goggles, had a vision of a landscape shooting
past with the speed of light. She glimpsed a brook, and, almost
instantly, they had skimmed over it.
A jar, a nerve-racking tilt to one side, the creaking of wood
and the rattle of metal, a careening, and then the machine came
to a stop, not exactly on a level keel, but at least right side
up, in the midst of a wide field.
Tom shut off the gas, cut his spark, and, raising his goggles,
looked down at Mary at his side.
"Scared?" he asked, smiling.
"I was," she frankly admitted. "Is anything broken, Tom?"
"I hope not," answered the young inventor. "At least if it is,
the damage is on the under part. Nothing visible up here. But let
me help you out. Looks as if we'd have to run for it."
"Run?" repeated Mary, while proving that she did not exactly
need help, for she was getting out of her seat unaided. "Why? Is
it going to catch fire?"
"No. But it's going to rain soon--and hard, too, if I'm any
judge," Tom said. "I don't believe I'll take a chance trying to
get the machine going again. We'll make for that farmhouse and
stay there until after the storm. Looks as if we could get
shelter there, and perhaps a bit to eat. I'm beginning to feel
"It is going to rain!" decided Mary, as Tom helped her down
over the side of the fusilage. "It's good we are so near
Tom did not answer. He was making a hasty but accurate
observation of the state of his aeroplane. The landing wheels had
stood the shock well, and nothing appeared to be broken.
"We came down rather harder than I wanted to," remarked Tom, as
he crawled out after his inspection of the machine. "Though I've
made worse forced landings than that."
"What caused it?" asked Mary, glancing up at the clouds, which
were getting blacker and blacker, and from which, now and then,
vivid flashes of lightning came while low mutterings of thunder
rolled nearer and nearer. "Something seemed to be wrong with the
carburetor," Tom answered. "I won't try to monkey with it now.
Let's hike for that farmhouse. We'll be lucky if we don't get
drenched. Are you sure you're all right, Mary?"
"Certainly, Tom. I can stand a worse shaking up than that. And
you needn't think I can't run, either!"
She proved this by hastening along at Tom's side. And there was
need of haste, for soon after they left the stranded aeroplane
the big drops began to pelt down, and they reached the house just
as the deluge came.
"I don't know this place, do you, Tom?" asked Mary, as they ran
in through a gateway in a fence that surrounded the property. A
path seemed to lead all around the old, rambling house, and there
was a porch with a side entrance door. This, being nearer, had
been picked out by the young inventor and his friend.
"No, I don't remember being here before," Tom answered. "But
I've passed the place often enough with Ned and Mr. Damon. I
guess they won't refuse to let us sit on the porch, and they may
be induced to give us a glass of milk and some sandwiches--that
is, sell them to us."
He and Mary, a little breathless from their run, hastened up on
the porch, slightly wet from the sudden outburst of rain. As Tom
knocked on the door there came a clap of thunder, following a
burst of lightning, that caused Mary to put her hands over her
"Guess they didn't hear that," observed Tom, as the echoes of
the blast died away. "I mean my knock. The thunder drowned it.
I'll try again."
He took advantage of a lull in the thundering reverberations,
and tapped smartly. The door was almost at once opened by an aged
woman, who stared in some amazement at the young people. Then she
"Guests must go to the front door."
"Guests!" exclaimed Tom. "We aren't exactly guests. Of course
we'd like to be considered in that light. But we've had an
accident--my aeroplane stopped and we'd like to stay here out of
the storm, and perhaps get something to eat."
"That can be arranged--yes," said the old woman, who spoke with
a foreign accent. "But you must go to the front door. This is the
Mary was just thinking that they used considerable formality
for casual wayfarers, when the situation dawned on Tom Swift.
"Is this a restaurant--an inn?" he asked.
"Yes," answered the old woman. "It is Meadow Inn. Please go to
the front door."
"All right," Tom agreed good-naturedly. "I'm glad we struck the
The porch extended around three sides of the old, rambling
house. Proceeding along the sheltered piazza, Tom and Mary soon
found themselves at the front door. There the nature of the place
was at once made plain, for on a board was lettered the words
"I see what has happened," Tom remarked, as he opened the old-
fashioned ground glass door and ushered Mary in. "Some one has
taken the old farmhouse and made it into a roadhouse--a wayside
inn. I shouldn't think such a place would pay out here; but I'm
mighty glad we struck it."
"Yes, indeed," agreed Mary.
The old farmhouse, one of the best of its day, had been
transformed into a roadhouse of the better class. On either side
of the entrance hall were dining rooms, in which were set small
tables, spread with snowy cloths.
"In here, sir, if you please," said a white-aproned waiter,
gliding forward to take Tom's leather coat and Mary's jacket of
like material. The waiter ushered them into a room, in which at
first there seemed to be no other diners. Then, from behind a
screen which was pulled around a table in one corner, came the
murmur of voices and the clatter of cutlery on china, which told
of some one at a meal there.
"Somebody is fond of seclusion," thought Tom, as he and Mary
took their places. And as he glanced over the bill of fare his
ears caught the murmur of the voices of two men coming from
behind the screen. One voice was low and rumbling, the other
high-pitched and querulous.
"Talking business, probably," mused Tom. "What do you feel like
eating?" he asked Mary.
"I wasn't very hungry until I came in," she answered, with a
smile. "But it is so cozy and quaint here, and so clean and neat,
that it really gives one an appetite. Isn't it a delightful
place, Tom? Did you know it was here?"
"It is very nice. And as this is the first I have been here for
a long while I didn't know, any more than you, that it had been
made into a roadhouse. But what shall I order for you?"
"I should think you would have had enough experience by this
time," laughed Mary, for it was not the first occasion that she
and Tom had dined out.
Thereupon he gave her order and his own, too, and they were
soon eating heartily of food that was in keeping with the
appearance of the place.
"I must bring Ned and Mr. Damon here," said Tom. "They'll
appreciate the quaintness of this inn," for many of the quaint
appointments of the old farmhouse had been retained, making it a
charming resort for a meal.
"Mr. Damon will like it," said Mary. "Especially the big
fireplace," and she pointed to one on which burned a blaze of
hickory wood. "He'll bless everything he sees."
"And cause the waiter to look at me as though I had brought in
an escaped inmate from some sanitarium," laughed Tom. "No use
talking, Mr. Damon is delightfully queer! Now what do you want
"Let me see the card," begged Mary. "I fancy some French
pastry, if they have it."