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Tom Swift Among The Fire Fighters or Battling with Flames from the Air

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Tom gazed idly but approvingly about as she scanned the list.
The sound of the rumbling and the higher-pitched voices had gone
on throughout the entire meal, and now, as comparative silence
filled the room, the clatter of knives and forks having ceased,
Tom heard more clearly what was being said behind the screen.

"Well, I tell you what it is," said the man whom Tom mentally
dubbed Mr. High. "We got out of that blaze mighty luckily!"

"Yes," agreed he of the rumbly voice, whom Tom thought of as
Mr. Low, "it was a close shave. If it hadn't been for his
chemicals, though, there would have been a cleaner sweep."

"Indeed there would! I never knew that any of them could act as
fire extinguishers."

Tom seemed to stiffen at this, and his hearing became more

"They aren't really fire extinguishers in the real sense of the
word," went on the other man behind the screen. "It must have
been some accidental combination of them. But in spite of that we
put it all over Josephus Baxter in that fire!"

"What's this? What's this?" thought Tom, shooting a glance at
Mary and noting that apparently she had not heard what was said.
"What strange talk is this?"



"What's that?" exclaimed Mary Nestor, giving such a start as
she sat opposite Tom at the restaurant table that she dropped the
bill of fare she had been looking over.

A crash had resounded through the room, but it spoke well for
the state of Tom's nerves that he gave no indication that he had
heard the noise. It was caused by a waiter when he dropped a
plate, which was smashed into pieces on the floor. The noise was
startling enough to excuse Mary for jumping in her chair, and it
seemed to put an end to the strange talk of "Mr. High" and "Mr.
Low" back of the screen, for after the crash of china only
indistinct murmurs came from there. But Tom Swift did not cease
to wonder at the import of the talk about chemicals, fire, and
the mention of the name of Josephus Baxter.

"I think I'll try some of those Murolloas, as they call them,
Tom," announced Mary, having made her selection of the pastry.
"And may I have another cup of tea?"

"Two if you like," answered the young inventor. "They say tea
is good for the nerves, and you seem to need something, judging
by the way you jumped when that plate fell."

"Oh, Tom, that isn't fair! After the way we had to come down in
your 'plane!" objected Mary.

"That's right!" he conceded. "I forgot about that. My fault,

Mary smiled, and seemed to have regained her composure. Tom
glanced at her anxiously, not because of what he thought might be
the state of her nerves, but to see if she had sensed anything
the two men behind the screen had said. But the girl gave no
indication that her mind had been occupied with anything more
than the selection of her dessert.

"I wonder who they are, and what they meant by that talk,"
mused Tom, as the waiter served the Murolloas to him and Mary.
"Poor Baxter! It looks as if he might have more enemies than the
fireworks men he accuses of having taken his valuable formulae. I
must see him soon, and have a talk with him. Yes, I must make a
special point to see Josephus Baxter. But first I'd like to have
a glimpse of these men.

Tom's wish in this respect was soon gratified, for before he
and Mary had finished their pastry and tea there was a scraping
of chairs back of the sheltering screen, and the two men, "Mr.
Low" and "Mr. High," who had finished their meal, came forth.

Tom's judgment as to the statures of the men, based on the
quality of their voices, was not exactly borne out. For it was
the big man who had the high pitched, squeaky voice, and the
little man who had the deep, rumbling tones.

They passed out, without more than a glance at Tom and his
companion, but the young inventor peered at them sharply. As far
as he could tell he had seen neither of them before, though he
had an idea of their identity.

Tom took the chance to make certain this conjecture when Mary
left her seat, announcing that she was going to the ladies'
parlor to arrange her hair, which the run to escape from the rain
had disarranged.

"Some storm," Tom observed to the waiter, who came up when the
young inventor indicated that he wanted his check.

"Yes, sir, it came suddenly. Hope you didn't have to change a
tire in it, sir."

"No, my machine isn't that kind," replied Tom, as he handed out
a generous tip. "If I need a new tire I generally need a whole
new outfit."

"Oh, then--" Obviously the man was puzzled.

"We came in an aeroplane," Tom explained. "But we had to make a
forced landing. Is there a garage near here? I may need some help
getting started."

"We accommodate a few cars in what was once the barn, and we
have a good mechanic, sir. If you'd like to see him--"

"I would," interrupted Tom. "Tell the young lady to wait here
for me. I'll see if I can get the Scud to work. If not, I'll have
to telephone to town for a taxi. Did those men who just left come
in a car?" and he nodded in the direction taken by the two who
had dined behind the screen.

"Yes, sir. And they had engine trouble, I believe. Our man
fixed up their machine."

"Then he's the chap I want to see," thought Tom. "I'll have a
talk with him." He reasoned that he could get more about the
identity of the two mysterious men from the mechanic than from
the waiter. Nor was he wrong in this surmise.

"Oh, them two fellers!" exclaimed the mechanician, after he had
agreed to go with Tom to where the airship Scud was stalled.
"They come from over Shopton way. They own a fireworks factory--
or they did, before it burned."

"Are they Field and Melling?" asked Tom, trying not to let any
excitement betray itself in his voice.

"That's the names they gave me," said the man. "Little man's
Field. He gave me his card. I'm going to get a job overhauling
his car. There isn't enough work here to keep a man busy, and I
told 'em I could do a little on the outside. This place just
started, and not many folks know about it yet."

"So I judge," Tom said. "Well, I'll be glad to have you give me
a hand. I fancy the carburetor is out of order."

And this, when the young inventor and the mechanician from
Meadow Inn reached the stranded Scud, was found to be the case.
The storm had passed, and Mary told Tom she would not mind
waiting at the Inn until he found whether or not he could get his
air craft in working order.

"There you are! That's the trouble!" exclaimed the mechanician,
as he took something out of the carburetor. "A bit of rubber
washer choked the needle valve."

"Glad you found it," said Tom heartily. "Now I guess we can
ride back."

While preparations were being made to test the Scud after the
carburetor had been reassembled, Tom's mind was busy with many
thoughts, and chief among them were suspicions concerning Field
and Melling.

"If their talk meant anything at all," reasoned the young
inventor, "it meant that there was some deal in which Josephus
Baxter got the worst of it. 'Putting it over on him in the fire,'
could only mean that. Of course it isn't any of my business, in a
way, but I don't think it is right to stand by and see a fellow
inventor defrauded.

"Of course," mused Tom, while his helper put the finishing
touches to the carburetor, "it may have been a business deal in
which one took as many chances as the other. There are always two
sides to every story. Baxter says they took his formulae, but he
may have taken something from them to make it even. The only
thing is that I'd trust Baxter sooner than I would those two
fellows, and he certainly had a narrow squeak at the fire.

"But I have my own troubles, I guess, trying to perfect that
fire-fighting chemical, and I haven't much time to bother with
Field and Melling, unless they come my way."

"There, I reckon she'll work," said the mechanician, as he
fastened the last valve in the carburetor. "It was an easier job
than I expected. Wasn't as much trouble as I had over their car
those two fellers you were speaking of--Field and Melling.
They're rich guys!"

"Yes?" replied Tom, questioningly.

"Sure! They've started a big dye company."

"A dye company?" repeated the young inventor, all his
suspicions coming back as he recalled that Baxter had said his
formulae were more valuable for dyes than for fireworks.

"Yes, they're trying to get the business that used to go to the
Germans before the war," went on the man.

"Yes, the Germans used to have a monopoly of the dye industry,"
said Tom, hoping the man would talk on. He need not have worried.
He was of the talkative type.

"Well, if these fellers have their way they'll make a million
in dyes," proceeded the mechanician, as he stepped down out of
the airship. "They've built a big plant, and they have offices in
the Landmark Building."

"Where's that?" asked Tom.

"Over in Newmarket," the man went on, naming the nearest large
city to Shopton. "The Landmark Building is a regular New York
skyscraper. Haven't you seen it?"

"No," Tom answered, "I haven't. Been too busy, I guess. So
Field and Melling have their offices there?"

"Yes, and a big plant on the outskirts for making dyes. They
half offered me a job at the factory, but I thought I'd try this
out first; I like it here."

"It is a nice place," agreed Tom. "Well, now let's see if
she'll work," and he nodded at the Scud.

It needed but a short test to demonstrate this and soon Tom
went back to the Inn for Mary.

"Are you sure we shall not have to make an. other forced
landing?" she asked with a smile, a she took her place in the

"You can't guarantee anything about an aeroplane," said Tom.
"But everything is in our favor, and if we do have to come down I
have a better landing field than this." He glanced over the
meadow near the wayside inn.

"I suppose I'll have to take a chance," said Mary.

However, neither of them need have worried, for the Scud tried,
evidently, to redeem herself, and flew back to Shopton without a
hitch. After making sure that his engine was running smoothly,
Tom found his mind more at ease, and again he caught himself
casting about to find some basis for his suspicious thoughts
regarding the two men who had talked behind the screen.

"What is their game?" Tom found himself asking himself over and
over again. "What did they 'put over' on poor Baxter?"

Tom had a chance to find out more about this, or at least start
on the trail sooner than he expected. For when he landed he saw
Koku, the giant, coming toward him with an appearance of

"Is Rad worse? Is there more trouble with his eyes?" asked the
young inventor.

"No, him not much too bad," answered Koku. "I keep him good as
I can. He sleep now, so I come out to swallow some fresh air. But
man come to see you--much mad man."

"Mad?" queried Tom.

"Well, what you say--angry," went on Koku. "Man what was in
Roman Skycracker blaze."

"Oh, you mean Mr. Baxter, who was in the fireworks blaze,"
translated Tom. "Where is he, and what's the matter?"



Koku managed to make Tom understand that the dye inventor was
in the main office of the Swift plant talking to Tom's father.
The young inventor sent Mary home in his electric runabout in
company with Ned Newton, who, fortunately, happened along just
then, and hurried to his office.

"Oh, Tom, I'm glad you have arrived," said his father. "You
remember Mr. Baxter, of course."

"I should hope so," Tom answered, extending his hand. He
noticed that the man whom he had helped save from the fireworks
blaze was under the stress of some excitement.

"I hope he hasn't been getting on dad's nerves," thought Tom,
as he took a seat. The elder Mr. Swift had been quite ill, and it
was thought for a time that he would have to give up helping Tom.
But there had been a turn for the better, and the aged inventor
had again taken his place in the laboratory, though he was frail.

"What's the trouble now?" asked Tom. "At least I assume there
has been some trouble," he went on. "If I am wrong--"

"No, you are right, unfortunately," said Mr. Baxter gloomily.
"The trouble is that everything I do is a failure. Up to a little
while ago I thought I might succeed, in spite of Field and
Melling's theft of the formulae from me. I made a purple dye the
other day, and tested it today. It was a miserable failure, and
it got on my nerves. I came to see if you could help me."

"In what way?" asked Tom, wondering whether or not he had best
tell Mr. Baxter what he had overheard at the Inn.

"Well, I need better laboratory facilities," the man went on.
"I know you have been very kind to me, Mr. Swift, and it seems
like an imposition to ask for more. But I need a different lot of
chemicals, and they cost money. I also need some different
apparatus. You have it in your big laboratory. That wouldn't cost
you anything. But of course to go out and buy what I need--"

"Oh I guess we can stand that, can't we, Dad?" asked Tom, with
a genial smile. "You may have free access to our big laboratory,
Mr. Baxter, and I'll see that you get what chemicals you need."

"Oh, thank you!" exclaimed the inventor. "Now I believe I shall
succeed in spite of those rascals. Just think, Mr. Swift! They
have started a big new dye factory."

"So I have heard," replied Tom.

"And I'm almost sure they're using the secret formulae they
stole from me!" exclaimed Mr. Baxter. "But I'll get the best of
them yet! I'll invent a better dye than they ever can, even if
they use the secrets the old Frenchman gave me. All I need is a
better place to work and all the chemicals at my disposal."

"Then we'll try to help you," offered Tom.

"And if I can do anything let me know," put in Mr. Swift. "I
shall be glad to get in the harness again, Tom!" he added.

"Well, if you're so anxious to work, Dad, why not give me a
hand with my fire extinguisher chemical?" asked Tom. "I haven't
been able to hit on the solution, somehow or other."

"Perhaps I may be able to give you a hint or two after I get
settled down," suggested Mr. Baxter.

"I shall be glad of any assistance you can give," replied Tom
Swift. "And now I'm going to start right in. Dad, you can make
the arrangements for Mr. Baxter to use our big laboratory. And
let him have credit for any chemicals he needs. Have them put on
my bill, for I am buying a lot myself."

"I'll never forget this," said Mr. Baxter, and there were tears
in his eyes as he shook hands with Tom, who tried to make light
of his generous act.

Tom, after the wrecking of his laboratory, in which accident
poor Eradicate was injured, had built himself another--two
others, in fact, after having shared Mr. Baxter's temporary one
for a time. Tom put up the most completely equipped laboratory
that could be devised, and he also erected a smaller one for his
own personal use, the main one being at the disposal of his
father and the various heads of the different departments of the
Shopton plant.

The little conference broke up, and Tom was on his way to his
own special private laboratory when there came the sound of some
excitement in the corridor outside and Mr. Damon burst in.

"Bless my accident policy, Tom! what's this I hear?" he asked,
all in a fluster.

"I'm sure I don't know," answered the young inventor, with a
smile. "What about?"

"About you and Mary Nestor being killed!" burst out Mr. Damon.
"I heard you fell in the aeroplane and were both dashed to

"If you can believe the evidence of your own eyes, I'm far from
being in that state," laughed Tom. "And as for Mary, she just
left here with Ned Newton."

"Thank goodness!" sighed Mr. Damon, sinking into a chair.
"Bless my elevator! I rushed over as soon as I heard the news,
and I was almost afraid to come in. I'm so glad it didn't

"No gladder than I," said Tom. "We had to make a forced
landing, that was all," and he made as light of the incident as
possible when he saw the look of terror in his father's eyes.

"Some people in Waterford saw you going down," went on Mr.
Damon, "and they told me."

"It was a false alarm," replied Tom. "And now, Mr. Damon, if
you want to smell some perfumes come with me."

"Are you going into that line, Tom?" asked the eccentric man.
"Bless my handkerchief, my wife will be glad of that!"

"I mean I'm going to experiment some more with fire-
extinguishing chemicals," laughed the young inventor. "If you
want to--"

"Bless my gas mask, I should say not!" cried Mr. Damon. "I
don't see how you stand those odors, Tom Swift."

"Guess I'm used to 'em," was the answer. And then, leaving his
father to entertain Mr. Damon and to make arrangements for Mr.
Baxter's use of the main laboratory, he betook himself to his own
private quarters.

The next week or so was a busy time for Tom; so busy, in fact,
that he had little chance to see Mr. Baxter. All he knew was that
the unfortunate man was also laboring in his own line, and Tom
wished him success. He knew that if the man made any discoveries
that would help with the fire-extinguishing fluid he would
report, as he had promised.

"Well, Tom, how goes it?" asked Ned one day when he came over
to call on his chum. "Are you ready to accept contracts for
putting out skyscraper blazes in all big cities?"

"Not yet," was the answer. "But I'm going to make another
attempt, Ned."

"You mean another experiment?"

"Yes, I have evolved a new combination of chemicals, using
something of the carbonate idea as a basis. I found that I
couldn't get away from that, much as I wanted to. But my
application is entirely new, at least I hope it will prove so."

"When are you going to try it?" asked Ned.

"Right away. All I have to do is to put the chemicals in the
metal tank."

"Then I'd better get my leather suit on," remarked Ned,
starting to take off his street coat. Tom kept for his chum a
full outfit of flying garments, one suit being electrically

"Oh, we aren't going up in any airship," Tom said.

"Why, I thought you were going to test your aerial fire
fighting dingus!" exclaimed Ned.

"So I am. But I want to stay on the ground and watch the effect
on the blaze as the tank bursts and scatters the chemical fluid."

"Then you want me, and perhaps Mr. Damon to take the stuff up
in the machine? Excuse me. I don't believe I care to run an
airship myself."

"No," went on Tom, "there isn't any question of an airship this
time. No one is going up. Come on out into the yard and I'll show

Ned Newton followed his chum out into the big yard near one of
the shops. Erected in it, and evidently a new structure, was a
large wooden scaffold in square tower shape with a long
overhanging arm and a platform on the extremity. Beneath it was a
pit dug in the earth, and in this pit, which was directly under
the outstanding arm of the tower, was a pile of wood and
shavings, oil-soaked.

"Oh, I see the game," remarked Ned. "You're going to drop the
stuff from this height instead of doing it from an airship."

"Yes," Tom answered. "There will be time enough to go on with
the airship end of it after I get the right combination of
chemicals. And by having a metal container with the stuff in
dropped from this frame work, I can station myself as near the
burning pit as I can get and watch what happens."

"It's a good idea," decided Ned. "I wonder you didn't try that

"Mr. Baxter suggested it," replied Tom. "That helpful idea more
than pays me for what I have done for him. So now, if you're
ready, I'd like to have you watch with me and make some notes,
one of us on one side of the pit, and one on the other. There are
always two sides to a fire, the leeward and the windward, and I
want to see how my chemicals act in both positions."

"I'm with you," said Ned. "Who's going to drop the stuff--

"No, he is a bit too heavy for the framework, which I had put
up in a hurry. I'd have Rad do it, but he's out of the game."

"Poor old Rad!" murmured Ned. "Do you think he'll ever get
better, Tom?"

"I don't know," sighed the young inventor. "All I can do is to
hope. He is very patient, and Koku is devoted to him. All their
little bickerings and squabbles seem to have been forgotten."

Tom called some of his workmen, some of them to start the blaze
of inflammable material in the pit, while one climbed up to the
top of the tower of scantlings and made his way out on the
extended arm, where there was a little platform for him to stand
until it was time to drop the chemicals.

"Light her up!" cried Tom Swift, and a match was thrown in
among the oiled wood. In an instant a fierce blaze shot up, as
hot, in proportion, as would come from any burning building.

For the second time Tom was about to make a test on a fairly
large scale of his experimental extinguisher mixture.

"All ready up there?" he called to his helper perched high in
the air.

"All ready!" came back the answer above the roar and crackle of
the flames that made Tom and Ned step back.

Would success or failure attend the young inventor's project?



Tom Swift hesitated a moment before giving the final word that
would send the metal container of powerful chemicals down into
the midst of the crackling flames. He wanted to make sure, in his
own mind, that he had done everything possible to insure the
success of his undertaking. The young inventor never attempted
the solution of any problem without going into it with his whole
energy. So he wanted this experiment to succeed.

He quickly reviewed, mentally, the composition of the chemical
compound. He had made it as strong as possible, and he had spared
no pains to insure a hot fire, so that the test would not be too

"What's the matter, Tom?" asked Ned, as his chum appeared to
hesitate about giving the word that would send the chemicals
hurtling down into the fire.

"Nothing. I was just making sure I hadn't forgotten anything,"
Tom answered. "I guess I haven't."

He paused a moment, looked up at his assistant on the
overhanging arm of the tower, glanced down at the flames, now at
their height, and then suddenly cried:

"Let her go!"

"Right!" came back the man's voice, and then a dark object,
like a bomb, was seen descending from the skeleton framework
above the flames.

There was a scattering of the fire in the pit as the
extinguisher bomb fell among the blazing embers. Then followed a
slight explosion when the bomb broke, as it was intended it

Tom and Ned leaned forward to peer through the pall of smoke
which swirled this way and that. Here was to come the real test
of the device. Would the fumes of the liberated chemicals choke
the fire, or would it burn on in spite of them? That was the
question to be settled for Tom Swift.

Almost immediately he had his answer. For after a fierce burst
of the tongues of fire following the fall of the bomb, there was
a distinct dying down of the conflagration in the pit. Great
clouds of smoke arose, but the fire was quenched in a great
measure, and as the fire-blanketing gas continued to be generated
from the chemicals liberated from the bomb, there was a further
dying down of the crackling fire.

"Tom, you've struck it!" yelled Ned in delight. "You have the
right combination this time!"

Tom did not answer. He leaned forward and looked eagerly down
into the pit. He was about to join with Ned in agreeing that he
had, indeed, solved the problem, when, to his surprise, the
flames started up again.

"What's this?" asked the young financial manager. Are you going
to have a second test, Tom?"

"Not that I know of," was the puzzled answer. "I don't exactly
understand this myself, Ned. By all calculations this fire ought
to have died a natural death, but now it is breaking out again. I
think what must have happened is that a quantity of the oil they
poured on collected in a pool and didn't get all the effects of
the chemicals from the bomb. Then the oil started to blaze."

"What can you do about it?" Ned wanted to know.

"Oh, I've got another bomb up there," and Tom pointed to his
helper who was still perched on the overhanging arm. "I was
prepared for some such emergency as this. Drop the other one!"
Tom yelled, and again a dark object fell. bursting in the pit and
again liberating the gas that was supposed to choke any fire.

The flames that had started up for the second time instantly
died down, and Ned, leaning over the edge of the pit, cried:

"Hurray, Tom! That does the business!" But the young inventor
shook his head. "I'm not quite satisfied," he remarked. "It
didn't work quickly enough. What I want is a chemical combination
that will choke the fire off first shot."

"Well, you pretty nearly have it," observed Ned.

"Yes. But 'good enough' isn't what I want," Tom said. "I've got
to work on that chemical compound again. I think I know where I
can improve it."

"Well, if I were a fire, and I had this happen to me," remarked
Ned, laughing and pointing to the heap of blackened embers in the
pit, "I should feel very much discouraged."

"But not enough," declared Tom. "I want the fire to be out more
quickly than this one was. I think I can improve that chemical
compound, and I'm going to do it."

"All right! Come on down!" he called to his helper, who was
still perched on the overhanging arm. "We won't do any more

"What is your next move?" asked Ned, as Tom started for his
small, private laboratory.

"Oh, I'm going to fiddle around among those sweet-smelling
chemicals," answered the young inventor.

"Bless my vest buttons! then I'm not coming in, exclaimed a
voice which could proceed from none other than Mr. Damon. And he
it proved to be. He had driven over from Waterford in his
automobile and had arrived just as the fire test was concluded.

"Oh, come on in!" called Tom. "You can visit with dad, and
Eradicate will be glad to see you."

"Poor Rad! How is he?" asked Mr. Damon, walking along with Tom
and Ned.

"No change," was the sad answer of the young inventor, for he
felt responsible for the mishap to the colored man. "They can't
operate on his eyes yet."

"And when they do will he be able to see?" asked Mr. Damon.

"That is what we are all hoping," answered Tom with a sigh.
"But do go in to see him, Mr. Damon. It will cheer him up."

"I will," promised the eccentric man. "At any rate I'll not
venture near your perfume shop, Tom Swift!"

"And I don't see that I can be of any service," added Ned, "so
I'm off to my work."

"All right," assented Tom. "I've got several new schemes to
try. Some of them ought to work."

Tom Swift was very busy for the next few days--so busy, in
fact, that even Mary saw little of him. He was closeted with Mr.
Baxter more than once, and that individual seemed to lose some of
his bitter feelings over the loss of his formulae as he found he
could be of service to the young inventor. For he was of service
in suggesting new ways of combining fire-fighting chemicals,
gained by his association with the fireworks concern.

"And that's about all the benefit I derived from being with
those scoundrels, Field and Melling," said Mr. Baxter gloomily.

"You still think they took your dye formulae?'~ asked Tom.

"I'm positive of it, but I can't prove anything. They
threatened to get the best of me when I would not sell them, for
a ridiculously low sum, an interest in the secrets. And I believe
they did get the best of me during that fire."

"I believe the same!" exclaimed Tom.

"How is that? What do you know? Can you help me prove anything
against them?" eagerly asked the chemist.

"Well, I don't know," answered Tom slowly. "I'll tell you what
I heard."

Thereupon he related the conversation he had overheard while
with Mary at the wayside inn. The eyes of Josephus Baxter gleamed
as he listened to this recital.

"So that was their game!" he cried, as he smote the table with
his fist, thereby nearly upsetting a test tube of acid, which Tom
caught just in time. "I knew something crooked was going on, and
they thought I'd be so badly overcome in the fire that I wouldn't
know, or wouldn't remember, what happened."

"What did happen?" asked Tom. "All I know is that you were
overcome in the laboratory room."

"It's too long a story to tell in detail now," said Mr. Baxter.
"But the main facts are that through misrepresentations I was
induced to associate myself with Field and Melling. They had a
good factory for the making of fireworks, and some of the
chemicals used in that industry also enter into the manufacture
of the kind of dyes I have in mind to make. So I associated
myself with them, they agreeing to let me use their laboratory.

"One night they came to see me as I was working there over my
formulae. They pretended to have discovered something in an
expired patent that nullified what I had. I did not believe this
to be so, and I brought out my formulae to compare with theirs--
or what they said they had. The next thing I remember was that
the fire broke out and my formulae disappeared. Then I was
overcome, and I did not care what happened to me, for, having
lost the valuable dye formulae, I did not think life worth living.

"Perhaps I was foolish," said Mr. Baxter, "but I had tried so
many things and failed, and I counted so much on these formulae
that it seemed as if the bottom dropped out of everything when I
lost them."

"I know," said Tom sympathetically. "I've been in the same boat
myself. But are you sure they took the papers which meant so much
to you?"

"I don't see who else could," answered the chemist. "The papers
were in a tin box on the table in the room where I was overcome
by fire gases, or where, perhaps, they drugged me. I am not clear
on this point. And afterward the tin box could not be found.
There wasn't enough fire in that room to have melted it."

"No," agreed Tom, "it was mostly smoke in there, and smoke
won't melt tin. Nor did I see any box on the table when we
carried you out."

"Then the only other surmise is that Field and Melling got away
with my formulae during the excitement and when I was half
unconscious," Went on Mr. Baxter bitterly. "But you can see how
foolish I would be to accuse them in court. I haven't a bit of

"Not much, for a fact," agreed Tom. "Well, with what I heard
and what you tell me, perhaps we can work up a case against them
later. I'll go over it with Ned. He has a better head for
business than I."

"Yes, we inventors need some business brains; or at least the
time to give to business problems," agreed the chemist. "But
enough of my troubles. Let's get at this chemical compound of

Tom and Mr. Baxter spent many days and nights perfecting the
fire-extinguisher chemical, and, after repeated tests, Tom felt
that he was nearer his goal.

One afternoon Ned called, and Tom invited him to go for a ride
in a small but speedy aeroplane.

"Anything special on?" asked the young manager.

"In a way, yes," Tom answered. "I'm having a firm in Newmarket
make me some different containers, and they have promised me
samples today. I thought I'd take a fly over and get them. I have
the chemical compound all but perfected now, and I want to give
it another test."

"All right, I'm with you," assented Ned. "Newmarket," he added
musingly. "Isn't that where Field and Melling are now?"

"Yes. They have a factory on the outskirts of the place, and
their offices are in the Landmark Building. But we aren't going
to see them, though we may call on them later, when you have that
case better worked up." For Ned's services had been enlisted to
aid Mr. Baxter.

"I shall need a little more time," remarked Ned. "But I think
we can at least bluff them into playing into our hands. I have a
report to hear from a private detective I have hired."

"I hope we can do something to aid Baxter," remarked Tom. "He
has done me good service in this chemical fire extinguisher

A little later Tom and Ned were speeding through the air on
their way to Newmarket. The rapid flier was making good time at
not a great height when Ned, leaning forward, appeared to be
gazing at something in the near distance.

"What's the matter?" asked Tom, for he had his silencer on this
craft and it was possible for the occupants to converse. "Do you
hear one of the cylinders missing, Ned?"

"No. But what's that smoke down there?" and Ned pointed. "It
looks like a fire!"

"It is a fire!" exclaimed Tom, as he took an observation. "Not
a big one, but a fire, just the same. If only--"

He did not finish what he started to say, but changed the
direction of his air craft and headed directly toward a pall of
smoke about a mile away.

In a few seconds they were near enough to make out the
character of the blaze.

"Look, Tom!" cried Ned. "It's an immense tree on fire!"

"A tree!" exclaimed Tom, half incredulously, for he was leaning
forward to look at one of the aeroplane gages and did not have a
clear view of what Ned was looking at.

"Yes, as sure as Mr. Damon would bless something if he were
here! It's a tree on fire up near the top!"

"That's strange!" murmured Tom. "But it may give me just the
chance I've been looking for."

Ned wondered at this remark on the part of his chum as the
airship drew nearer the blazing monarch in the patch of woods
over which they were then hovering.



"This is certainly the strangest sight I ever saw," remarked
Ned, as he and his chum flew nearer and nearer to the smoking and
blazing tree. "Is the world turning upside down, Tom, when fires
start in this fashion?"

"I fancy it can easily be explained," answered the young
inventor. "We'll go into that later. Here, Ned, grab hold of that
tin can on the floor and take out the screw plug."

"What's the idea?"

"I want you to drop it as nearly as you can right into the
midst of the tree that's on fire."

"Oh, I get your drift! Well, you can count on me."

Ned picked up from the floor of their aeroplane a metal can
similar to those Tom used to hold oil or perhaps spare gasoline
when he was experimenting on airship speed. The opening was
closed with a screw plug, with wings to afford an easier grip. As
Ned unscrewed this his nostrils were greeted by an odor that made
him gasp.

"Don't mind a little thing like that," cried Tom. "Drop it
down, Ned! Drop it down! We're going to be right over the tree in
another second or two!"

Ned leaned over the side of the craft and had a good view of
the strange sight. The tree that was on fire was a dead oak of
great size, dwarfing the other trees in the grove in which it
stood. In common with other oaks this one still retained many of
its dried leaves, though it was devoid, or almost devoid, of
life. Ned noticed in the branches many irregularly shaped
objects, and it appeared to be these that were on fire, blazing

"It looks as though some one had tied bundles of sticks in the
tree and set them on fire," Ned thought as he poised the opened
tin of the evil-smelling compound on the edge of the aeroplane's

"Let her go, Ned!" cried Tom. "You'll be too late in another

Ned raised himself in his seat and threw, rather than let fall,
the can straight for the blazing tree. Like a bomb it shot toward
earth, and Ned and Tom, looking down, could see it strike a limb
and break open, the rupture of the can letting loose the liquid
contained in it.

And then, before the eyes of Tom and Ned, the fire seemed to
die out as a picture melts away on a moving picture screen. The
smoke rolled away in a ball-like cloud, and the flames ceased to
crackle and roar.

"Well, for the love of molasses! what happened, Tom?" cried
Ned, as the young inventor guided his craft about in a big circle
to come back again over the tree. He wanted to make sure that the
fire was out.

It was!

"What sent that blaze to the happy hunting grounds?" asked Ned.

"My new aerial extinguisher," answered Tom, with justifiable
pride in his voice. "This fire happened in the nick of time for
me, Ned. I had a tin of my new combination in the car, not with
any intention of using it, though. I intended to pour it in the
new containers I am having made in Newmarket to see if it would
corrode them, a thing I wish to avoid.

"But when I saw that tree on fire I couldn't resist the
temptation to use my very latest combination of chemicals. It is
so recent that I haven't actually tried it on a blaze yet, though
I had figured out in theory that it ought to work. And it did,
Ned! It worked!"

"Well, I should say so!" agreed his chum. "That blaze was
doused for fair. The test could not have been better. But what in
the name of a volunteer fire department set that tree to blazing,

"I'll tell you in a moment. I want to make some notes before I
forget. That combination seems to be just of the right strength.
It did the trick. Here, take the wheel and hold her steady while
I jot down some memoranda before they get away from me."

Ned was capable of managing an airship, especially under Tom's
watchful eye, and as this craft was one with dual controls there
was no difficulty in shifting from one steersman to the other.

So while Ned guided, now and then gazing down at the tree from
which some smoke still arose, though the fire was all out, Tom
made the necessary scientific notes for future amplification.

"And now," observed Ned, as his chum resumed the wheel,
"suppose you enlighten me on how that tree came to be on fire--if
you didn't set it yourself."

"No, I didn't do that," Tom said, with a laugh. "And I only
have a theory as to the cause of the blaze. But suppose we go
down and take a look. There's a good field around this grove, and
we can get a fine take off. I'll have to go back to Shopton
anyhow, to get some more of the chemical."

So the aeroplane made a landing, and then the mystery was
explained. The dead oak, to which some of its last year's foliage
still clung, was the abiding place of thousands of crows that had
built their nests in it. There were hundreds of the big nests,
made of dried sticks, mostly, and these made an ideal fuel for
the fire.

"But where are the crows, and what started the fire?" asked

"I fancy the birds flew away as soon as they saw their homes on
fire," said Tom. "Or they may not have been at home. Flocks of
crows often go to some distant feeding ground for the day,
returning at night. I fancy that is what happened here.

"As for the cause of the blaze, I believe it was set by some
mischievous boys, who saw a good chance to have some fun without
thought of doing any real damage. For the dead tree was of no
value, and I imagine the farmers would be glad to see the flock
of crows dispersed. Some boys probably climbed up and set fire to
one of the nests, and then, when they saw the whole lot going,
they became frightened and ran away."

And Tom's theory was, eventually, proved to be true. Some
lads, wandering afield, had set fire to the crows' nests and
then, frightened as they saw a bigger blaze than they intended,
ran away.

Tom and Ned did not remain to see what the returning crows
might think about the destruction of their homes, provided they
saw fit to return, but, starting the aeroplane, were again on
their way.

Tom had lingered long enough to make sure that his latest
combination of chemicals had been just what was needed. He felt
sure that by using a larger quantity, no fire, however fierce,
could continue to blaze.

"But I want to give it a good trial, Ned, as we did from the
tower," said Tom. "Though I don't believe there'll be a fizzle
this time."

It did not take long for Tom to secure another supply of the
new chemical. He then went with it to the firm in Newmarket that
was making his containers, or "bombs" as he called them.

On his return he consulted with Mr. Baxter as to the
ingredients of the fluid that had put out the blaze in the tree.

"I believe you have at last hit on the right combination," said
the chemist. "You are on the road to success, Tom. I wish I could
say the same of myself."

"Perhaps your formulae may come back to you as suddenly as they
disappeared, or as quickly as I discovered that I had the right
thing to put out the fire," said Tom hopefully.

Busy days followed for the young inventor. Now that he was
convinced he had at last evolved the right mixture of chemicals,
he prepared to make a test on a larger scale than merely a
blazing tree.

"I'll try it with a fire in the pit," he said to his chum.

Preparations were made, and the day before Tom was to carry out
his plans he received a letter.

"What's the matter? Bad news?" asked Ned, as he saw his
friend's face change after reading the epistle.

"Nothing much. Only Mary is going away, and I had expected her
to be at the test," Tom answered.

"Going away?" echoed Ned. For long?"

"Oh, no, only for a couple of weeks. She is going to visit an
uncle and aunt in Newmarket, or just outside of that city.
Another uncle, Barton Keith, has offices in the Landmark
Building, I believe."

"Landmark Building," murmured Ned. "Isn't that where Field and
Melling hang out?"

"Yes. But don't mention Mary's uncle in connection with them,"
laughed Tom. "He wouldn't like it."

"I should say not!"

Ned well remembered Mary's uncle, who had been associated with
Tom in recovering the treasure in the undersea search.

"Well, if she can't be here, she can't," said Tom, as
philosophically as possible. "I'd better run over and bid her

This Tom did, though Ned noticed that his chum acted as though
lonesome on his return.

"But when he gets to work testing his new chemical he'll be all
right," decided Ned.



"It took you long enough," Ned remarked as Tom entered the main
office of the plant, having been to see Mary off on her trip to
Newmarket. This was following his call of the night before to
learn more particulars of her unexpected visit.

"Yes, I didn't plan to be gone so long," apologized Tom. "But I
thought while I was there I might as well go all the way with

"And did you?"

"Yes. In the electric runabout. I wanted to come back and get
the airship, but she said she wanted to look nice when she met
her relatives, and as yet airship travel is a bit mussy. Though
when I get my cabined cruiser of the clouds I'll guarantee not to
ruffle a curl of the daintiest girl!"

"Getting poetical in your old age!" laughed Ned. "Well, here
is that statement you said you wanted me to get ready. Want to go
over it now?"

"No, I guess not, as long as you know it's all right. I'm going
to start right in and get ready for a bang-up test."

"Of what--your new aerial fire fighting apparatus?"

"Yes. Mr. Baxter and I are going to make up a lot of the
chemical compound that--we discovered through using it on the
blazing tree--will best do the trick. Then I'm going to try it on
a pit fire, and after that on a big blaze with an airship."

"Let me know when you do," begged Ned. "I want to see you do

"I'll send you word," promised the young inventor.

Then he began several days and nights of hard work. And he was
glad to have the chance to occupy himself, for, though Tom
professed not to be much affected by the departure of Mary
Nestor, he really was very lonesome.

"How is her uncle, Barton Keith, by the way?" asked Ned, when
he called on his chum one day, to find him reading a letter which
needed but half an eye to tell was from Mary.

"About as usual," was the answer. "He sends word by Mary that
he'll be glad to see us any time we want to call. He has some
nice offices in the Landmark Building."

"Those papers proving his right to the oil land, which you
recovered from the sunken ship for him, must have made his

"Well, yes--that and other things," agreed Tom. "Say, we had
some exciting times on that undersea search, didn't we?"

"Did you call on Mr. Keith when you went to Newmarket with
Mary?" Ned wanted to know, for he and Tom had taken quite a
liking to Miss Nestor's uncle.

"No, I didn't get a chance. Besides, I wanted to keep away from
the Landmark Building."


"Oh, I might run into Field and Melling, and I don't want to
see them until I can accuse them, and prove it, of having taken
Mr. Baxter's dye formulae."

"Oh, yes, they're in the same building with Mr. Keith, aren't
they? Why do they call it the Landmark? Though I suppose the
answer is obvious."

"Yes," assented Tom. "It's a big building--the tallest ever
erected in that city, and a fine structure. Though while they
were about it I don't see why they didn't make it fireproof."

"Didn't they?" asked Ned, in surprise. "Then the insurance
rates must be unusually high, for the companies are beginning to
realize how fire departments, even in big cities, are hampered in
fighting blazes above the tenth or twelfth stories."

"Yes, it was a mistake not to have the Land mark Building
fireproof," admitted Tom. "And Mr. Keith says the owners are
beginning to realize that now. It is what is called the 'slow
burning' construction."

"Insurance companies don't go much on that," declared Ned, who
was in a position to know. "Well, let us hope it never catches

These were busy days for the young inventor. He laid aside all
his other activities in order to perfect the plans for
manufacturing his new chemical fire extinguisher on a large
scale. For Tom realized that while a small quantity of chemicals
in a compound might act in a certain way on one occasion, if the
bulk should happen to be increased the experimenter could not
always count on invariably the same results.

There appeared to be at times a change engendered when a large
quantity of chemicals were mixed which was not manifest in a
small and experimental batch.

So Tom wanted to mix up a big tank of his new chemical compound
and see if it would work in large quantities as well as it did
with the small amount Ned had dropped on the blazing tree.

To this end Tom worked at night, as well as by day, and finally
he announced to Ned and Mr. Damon, who called one evening, that
he believed he had everything in readiness for an exhaustive test
the next day.

"There's the stuff!" exclaimed Tom, not a little proudly, as he
waved his hand toward an immense carboy in the main shop. "That's
what I hope will do the trick. Just take a--"

"Hold on! Stop! That's enough! Bless my hair brush!" cried Mr.
Damon, holding up a protesting hand. "If you take that cork out,
Tom Swift, you and I will cease to be friends!"

"I wasn't going to open it," laughed the young inventor. "It
has a worse odor and seems to choke you more in a big quantity
than when there's only a little. I was just going to shake the
carboy to let you realize how full it was."

"We'll take your word for it!" laughed Ned. "Now about your
test. How are you going to work it?"

"There are to be two tests," answered Tom. "The first, and the
smaller, will be in the pit, as before, only this time we shall
have what, I believe, will be the successful combination of
chemicals to drop on it.

"The second test will be the main one. In that I plan to have
an old barn which I have bought set ablaze. Then Ned and I will
sail over it in the airship and drop chemicals on it. The barn
will be filled with empty boxes and barrels, to make as hot a
fire as possible. You are invited to accompany us, Mr. Damon."

"Will there be any smell?" asked the eccentric man, who seemed
to have a dislike for anything that was not as agreeable as

"No, the chemicals will be sealed in containers, which will be
dropped from my airship as bombs were dropped in the war," said

"On those conditions I'll go along," agreed Mr. Damon. "But
bless my wedding certificate, Tom! don't tell my wife. She thinks
I'm crazy enough now, associating with you and flying
occasionally. If she thought I would help you battle with flames
from the air she'd likely never speak to me again."

"I'll not tell," promised Tom, laughing.

Preparations for the test went on rapidly. In the morning a
fire was to be started in the same pit where the experiment had
partly failed before.

From the platform over the blazing hole some of the new
combination of chemicals was to be dropped. If it acted with
success, as Tom believed it would, he proposed to go on with the
more important test in the afternoon.

To this end he had purchased from a farmer the right to set on
fire an old ramshackle barn, standing in the midst of a field
about three miles outside of Shopton. The barn was on an untilled
farm, the house having been destroyed some years before, and it
was not near any other structures, so that, even in a high wind,
no damage would result.

Tom had filled the barn with inflammable material, and was
going to spare no effort to have the test as exhaustive as

The time came for the preliminary trial, and there were a few
anxious moments after the oil-soaked boards and boxes in the pit
were set ablaze.

"Let her go!" cried Tom to his man on the elevated platform,
and down fell the container of chemicals. It had no sooner struck
and burst, letting loose a mass of flame-choking vapor, than the
fire died out.

"You've struck it, Tom! You've struck it!" cried Ned.

"It begins to look so," agreed the young inventor. "But I'll
not call myself out of the woods until this afternoon. Though we
can consider it a success so far."

Quite a throng was on hand when the old barn was set ablaze.
Tom and Ned and Mr. Damon were there with the airship which had
been especially fitted to carry the bombs filled with the

In order to insure a quick, hot blaze the barn was fired on all
four sides at once by Tom's men. When it was seen to be a
veritable raging furnace of fire, Tom and his two friends took
their places in the airship and rapidly mounted upward.

Necessarily they had to circle off away from the blaze to get
to the necessary height, but Tom soon brought the airship around
again and headed for the black pall of smoke which marked the
place of the blazing barn.

"We'll all three send down bombs at the same time," Tom told
his friends, as they darted forward. "When I give the word press
the levers, and the chemical containers will drop. Then we'll
hope for the best."

Higher mounted the flames, and more fiercely raged the fire.
The heat of it penetrated even aloft, where Tom and his friends
were scudding along in the airship.

"Now!" cried Tom, as his craft hovered for an instant in a
favorable position for dropping the bombs. The young inventor,
Mr. Damon, and Ned Newton pressed the levers. Looking over the
sides of the craft, they saw three dark objects dropping into the
midst of the burning barn.



Almost as though some giant hand had dropped an immense cloak
over the fire in the barn, so did the blaze die down instantly
after Tom Swift's extinguishing liquid had been dropped into the
seething caldron of flame. For a moment there was even no smoke,
but as the embers remained hot and glowing for a time, though the
flames themselves were quenched, a rolling vapor cloud began to
ascend shortly after the first cessation of the fire. But this
only lasted a little while.

"You've turned the trick, Tom!" cried Ned, leaning far over to
look at what was left of the barn and its contents.

"Bless my insurance policy, I should say so!" exclaimed Mr.
Damon. "It was certainly neat work, Tom!"

"It does look as if I'd struck the right combination," admitted
Tom, and he felt justifiable pride in his achievement.

"Look so! Why, hang it all, man, it is so!" declared Ned. "That
fire went out as if sent for by a special delivery telegram to
give a hurry-up performance in another locality. Look, there's
hardly any smoke even!"

This was so, as the three occupants of the rapidly moving
airship could see when Tom circled back to pass again over the
almost destroyed structure. He had waited until it was almost
consumed before dropping his chemicals, as he wished to make the
test hard and conclusive. Now the fire was out except for a few
small spots spouting up here and there, away from the center of
the blaze.

"Yes, I guess she doesn't need a second dose," observed Tom,
when he saw how effective had been his treatment of the fire. "I
had an additional batch of chemicals on hand, in case they were
needed," he added, and he tapped some unused bombs at his feet.

"I call this a pretty satisfactory test," declared Ned. "If you
want to form a stock company, Tom, and put your aerial fire-
fighting apparatus on the market, I'll guarantee to underwrite
the securities."

"Hardly that yet," said Tom, with a laugh. "Now that I have my
chemical combination perfected, or practically so, I've got to
rig up an airship that will be especially adapted for fighting
fires in sky-scrapers."

"What more do you want than this?" asked Ned, as his chum
prepared to descend in the speedy machine.

"I want a little better bomb-releasing device, for one thing.
This worked all right. But I want one that is more nearly
automatic. Then I am going to put on a searchlight, so I can see
where I am heading at night."

"Not your great big one!" cried Ned, recalling the immense
electric lantern that had so aided in capturing the Canadian

"No. But one patterned after that." Tom answered.

"Bless my candlestick!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "what do you want
with a searchlight at a fire, Tom? Isn't there light enough at a
blaze, anyhow?"

"No," answered the young inventor, as he made his usual
skillful landing. "You know all the big city fire departments
have searchlights now for night work and where there is thick
smoke. It may be that some day, in fighting a sky-scraper blaze
from the clouds at night, I'll have need of more illumination
than comes from the flames themselves."

"Well, you ought to know. You've made a study of it," said Mr.
Damon, as he and Ned alighted with Tom, the latter receiving
congratulations from a number of his friends, including members
of the Shopton fire department who were present to witness the

"Mighty clever piece of work, Tom Swift!" declared a deputy
chief. "Of course we won't have much use for any such apparatus
here in Shopton, as we haven't any big buildings. But in New
York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and other cities--why, it will be just
what they need, to my way of thinking."

"And he needn't go so far from home," said Mr. Damon. "There is
one tall building over in Newmarket--the Landmark. I happen to
own a little stock in the corporation that put that up, along
with other buildings, and I'm going to have them adopt Tom
Swift's aerial fire-fighting apparatus."

"Thank you. But you don't need to go to that trouble," asserted
Tom. "My idea isn't to have every sky-scraper equipped with an
airship extinguisher."

"No? What then?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Well, I think there ought to be one, or perhaps two, in a big
city like New York," Tom answered. "Perhaps one outfit would be
enough, for it isn't likely that there would be two big fires in
the tall building section at the same time, and an airship could
easily cover the distance between two widely separated blazes.
But if I can perfect this machine so it will be available for
fires out of the reach of apparatus on the ground, I'll be

"You'll do it, Tom, don't worry about that!" declared the
deputy chief. "I never saw a slicker piece of work than this!"

And that was the verdict of all who had witnessed the

With the successful completion of this exacting test and the
knowledge that he had perfected the major part of his aerial
fire-extinguisher--the chemical combination--Tom Swift was now
able to devote his attention to the "frills" as Ned called them.
That is, he could work out a scheme for attaching a searchlight
to his airship and make better arrangements for a one-man control
in releasing the chemical containers into the heart of a big

Tom Swift owned several airships, and he finally selected one
of not too great size, but very powerful, that would hold three
and, if necessary, four persons. This was rebuilt to enable a
considerable quantity of the fire-extinguishing liquid to be
stored in the under part of the somewhat limited cockpit.

This much done, and while his men were making up a quantity of
the extinguisher, using the secret formula, and storing it in
suitable containers, Tom began attaching a searchlight to his
"cloud fire-engine," as Koku called it.

The giant was aching to be with Tom and help in the new work,
but Koku was faithful to the blinded Eradicate, and remained
almost constantly with the old colored man.

It was touching to see the two together, the giant trying, in
his kind, but imperfect way, to anticipate the wishes of the
other, with whom he had so often disputed and quarreled in days
past. Now all that was forgotten, and Koku gave up being with Tom
to wait on Eradicate.

While the colored man was, in fact, unable to see, following
the accident when Tom was experimenting with the fire
extinguisher, it was hoped that sight might be restored to one
eye after an operation. This operation had to be postponed until
the eyes and wounds in the face were sufficiently healed.

Meanwhile Rad suffered as patiently as possible, and Koku
shared his loneliness in the sick room. Tom came to see Rad as
often as he could, and did everything possible to make his aged
servant's lot happier. But Rad wanted to be up and about, and it
was pathetic to hear him ask about the little tasks he had been
wont to perform in the past.

Rad was delighted to hear of Tom's success with the new
apparatus, after having been told how quickly the barn fire was
put out.

"Yo'--yo' jest wait twell I gits up, Massa Tom," said Rad. "Den
Ah'll help make all de contraptions on de airship."

"All right, Rad, there'll be plenty for you to do when the time
comes," said the inventor. And he could not help a feeling of
sadness as he left the colored man's room.

"I wonder if he is doomed to be blind the rest of his life,"
thought Tom. "I hope not, for if he does it will be my fault for
letting him try to mix those chemicals."

But, hoping for the best, Tom plunged into the work ahead of
him. He did not want to offer his aerial fire extinguisher to any
large city until he had perfected it, and he was now laboring to
that end.

One day, in midsummer, after weary days of toil, Tom took Ned
out for a ride in the machine which had been fitted up to carry a
large supply of the chemical mixture, a small but powerful
searchlight, and other new "wrinkles" as Tom called them, not
going into details.

"Any special object in view?" asked Ned, as Tom headed across
country. "Are you going to put out any more tree fires?"

"No, I haven't that in mind," was the answer. "Though of course
if we come across a blaze, except a brush fire, I may put it out.
I have the bombs here," and Tom indicated the releasing lever.

"What I want to try now is the stability of this with all I
have on board," he resumed. "If she is able to travel along, and
behave as well as she did before I made the changes, I'll know
she is going to be all right. I don't expect to put out any fires
this trip."

In testing the ship of the air Tom sent her up to a good
height, heading out over the open country and toward a lake on
the shores of which were a number of summer resorts. It was now
the middle of the season, and many campers, cottagers and hotel
folk were scattered about the wooded shore of the pretty and
attractive body of water.

Tom and Ned had a glimpse of the lake, dotted with many motor
boats and other craft, as the airship ascended until it was above
the clouds. Then, for a time, nothing could be seen by the
occupants but masses of feathery vapor.

"She's working all right," decided Tom, when he found that he
could perform his usual aerial feats with his craft, laden as she
was with apparatus, as well as he had been able to do before she
was so burdened. "Guess we might as well go down, Ned. There
isn't much more to do, as far as I can see."

Down out of the heights they swept at a rapid pace. A few
moments later they had burst through the film of clouds and once
more the lake was below them in clear view.

Suddenly Ned pointed to something on the water and cried:

"Look, Tom! Look! A motor boat in some kind of trouble! She's



Tom Swift saw the craft almost as soon as did his chum. It was
rather a large-sized motor boat, quite some distance out from
shore, and there was no other craft near it at this time. From
the quick, first view Tom and Ned had of it, they decided that a
party of excursionists were on a pleasure trip.

But that an accident had happened, and that trouble, if not,
indeed, danger, was imminent, was at once apparent to the young
inventor and the other occupant of the swiftly moving airship.

For as Tom shut off his motor, to volplane down, thus reducing
all noise on his craft, they could dimly hear the shouts and
calls for help, coming from the water craft below them.

"Help! Help!" came the impassioned appeals, floating up to Tom
and Ned.

"We're coming!" Tom answered, though it is doubtful if his
voice was heard. Sound does not seem to carry downward as well as
upward, and though Tom's craft was making scarcely any noise,
save that caused by the rush of wind through the struts and
wires, there was so much confusion on the motor boat, to say
nothing of the engine which was going, that Tom's encouraging
call must have been unheard.

"What are you going to do, Tom?" asked Ned, "You can't land on
the water!"

"I know it; worse luck! If I only had the hydroplane, now, we
could make a thrilling rescue--land right beside the other boat
and take 'em all off. But, as it is, I'll have to land as near as
I can and then we will look for a boat to go out to them in."

Ned saw, now, what Tom's object was. On one shore of the lake
was a large, level field, suitable for a landing place for the
craft of the air. At least it looked to be a suitable place, but
Tom would be obliged to take a chance on that. This field sloped
down to the beach of the lake, and as Ned and his chum came
nearer to earth they could see several boats on shore, though no
persons were near them. Had there been, probably they would have
gone to the rescue.

Tom cast a rapid look across the sheet of water, to make sure
his services were really needed. The motor boat was lower in the
lake now, and was, undoubtedly, sinking. And no other craft was
near enough to render help. Though distant whistles, seeming to
come from approaching craft, told of help on the way.

"Hold fast, Ned!" cried Tom, as they neared the earth. "We may

But Tom Swift was too skillful a pilot to cause his craft to
sustain much of a crash. He made an almost perfect "three point
landing," and there would have been no unusual shaking, except
for the fact that the field was a bit bumpy, and the craft more
heavily laden than usual.

"Good work, Tom!" cried Ned, as the Lucifer slackened her
speed, the young inventor having sent her around in a half circle
so that she now faced the lake. Then Tom and Ned climbed from the
cockpit, throwing off goggles and helmets as they ran to the
shore where there were several rowboats moored.

"And a little old-fashioned naphtha launch! By all that's
lucky!" cried Tom. "I didn't think they made these any more. If
she only works now!"

There was a little dock at this point on the lake, and the
boats appeared to be held at it for hire. But no one was in
charge, and Tom and Ned made free with what they found. They
considered they had this right in the emergency.

The naphtha launch was chained and padlocked to the dock, but
using an oar Tom burst the chain.

"Get one of the rowboats and fasten it to the back of the
launch!" Tom directed Ned. "I don't believe this craft will hold
them all," and he nodded toward those aboard the sinking boat --
for it was only too plainly sinking now.

"All right!" voiced Ned. "I'm with you. Can you get that engine
to work?"

"She's humming now," announced Tom, as he turned on the
naphtha, and threw in a blazing match to ignite it, this act
saving his hand. Naphtha engines are a trifle treacherous.

A few moments later, though not as quickly as a gasoline craft
could have been gotten under way, Tom was steering the small
launch out and away from the dock, and toward the craft whence
came the faint calls for help. Behind them Tom and Ned towed a
large rowboat.

Tom speeded the naphtha craft to its limit, and, fortunately
for those in danger, it was a fast boat. In less time than they
had thought possible, the young inventor and his chum were near
the boat that was now low in the water--so low, in fact, that her
rail was all but awash.

"Oh, take us out! Save us!" screamed some of the girls.

"Take it easy now," advised Tom, approaching with care. "We've
got room for you all. Ned, get back in the rowboat and bring that
alongside--on the other side. We'll take you all in," he added.

"Girls first!" called Ned sternly, as he saw one young fellow
about to scramble into the naphtha boat.

"Sure, girls first!" agreed the skipper of the disabled craft.
"Hit a submerged log," he explained to Tom, as the work of rescue
proceeded. "Stove a hole in the bow, but we stuffed coats and
things in, and made it a slow leak. Kept the engine going as long
as we could, but I thought no one would ever come! Lucky you
happened to see us from up there!"

"Yes," assented Tom shortly. He and Ned were too busy to talk
much, as they were aiding in getting some hysterical girls and
young women into the two sound craft. And when the last of the
picnic party had been taken off, the boat with a hole in it gave
a sudden lurch, there was a gurgling, bubbling sound, and she
sank quickly.

Tom and Ned had anticipated this, however, and had their craft
well out of the way of the suction.

"You'll all have to sit quiet," Tom warned his passengers as he
took Ned's boat, with her load, in tow. "I've got about all the
law allows me to carry," he added grimly.

"Oh, what ever would we have done without you?" half sobbed one

"I guess you could have managed to swim ashore," Tom answered,
not wanting to make too much of his effort.

Then more rescue boats came up, but those in the naphtha craft,
and Ned's smaller one, refused to be transferred, and remained
with our friends until safely landed at the dock.

Receiving the half-hysterical thanks of the party, and leaving
them to explain matters to the owner of the borrowed boats, Ned
and Tom went back to the Lucifer, and were soon aloft again.

"Pretty slick act, Tom," remarked Ned.

"Oh, it's all in the day's work," was the answer. He had all
but perfected his big fire-extinguishing aeroplane, and was
contemplating means by which he could give a demonstration to the
fire department of some big city, when Mr. Baxter asked to see
Tom one day. There was a look on the face of the chemist that
caused Tom to exclaim with a good deal of concern:

"What's the matter?"

"Only the same old trouble," was the discouraged answer. "I
can't get on the track of my lost secret formulae. If I had Field
and Melling here now I--I'd--"

He did not finish his threat, but the look on his face was
enough to show his righteous anger.

"I wish we could do something to those fellows!" exclaimed Tom
energetically. "If we only had some direct evidence against

"I've got evidence enough--in my own mind!" declared Mr.

"Unfortunately that doesn't do in law," returned Tom. "But now
that I have this airship firefighter craft so nearly finished, I
can devote more time to your troubles, Mr. Baxter."

"Oh, I don't want you bothered over my troubles," said the
chemist. "You have enough of your own. But I'm at my wit's end
what to do next."

"If it is money matters," began Tom.

"It's partly that, yes," said the other, in a low voice. "If I
had those dye formulae, I'd be a rich man."

"Well, let me help you temporarily," begged Tom. And the upshot
of the talk was that he engaged Mr. Baxter to do certain research
work in the Swift laboratories until such time as the chemist
could perfect certain other inventions on which he was working.

In return for his kindness to a fellow laborer, Tom received
from Mr. Baxter some valuable hints about fire-extinguishing
chemicals, one hint, alone, serving to bring about a curious

It was several days after the accident to the motor boat from
which the young inventor and Ned Newton had rescued the party of
pleasure seekers that Tom was visited by Mr. Damon, who drove
over in his car.

"Have you anything special to do, Tom?" asked the eccentric
man. "If you haven't I wish you'd take a ride with me. Not for
mere pleasure! Bless my excursion ticket, don't think that, Tom!"
cried his friend quickly.

"I know better than to ask you out for a pleasure jaunt. But I
have become interested in a certain candy-making machine that a
man over in Newmarket is anxious to sell me a share in, and I'd
like to get your opinion. Can you run over?"

"Yes," Tom answered. "As it happens I am going to Newmarket

"Oh, I forgot about Mary Nestor being there!" laughed Mr.
Damon. "Sly dog, Tom! Sly dog!" and he nudged the youth in the

"It isn't altogether Mary. Though I am going to see her," Tom
admitted. "It has to do with a little apparatus I am getting up.
I can capture several birds in the same auto, so I'll go along."

This pleased Mr. Damon, and he and Tom were soon speeding over
the road. It was just outside Newmarket that they saw an
automobile stalled at the foot of a hill which they topped. It
needed but a glance to show that there was serious trouble. As
Mr. Damon's car went down the slope two men could be seen leaping
from the other machine. And, as they did so, flames burst out of
the rear of the stalled machine.

"Fire! Fire!" cried Mr. Damon, rather needlessly it would seem,
as any one could see the blaze.

"Another chance!" exclaimed Tom, reaching down between his feet
for a wrapped object he had placed in Mr. Damon's car. "It's
Field and Melling!" he cried. "The two men who boasted of having
put it over on Mr. Baxter. Their car is blazing. Here's where I
get a chance to heap coals of fire on their heads!"



Tom Swift's companion in the automobile was sufficiently
acquainted with this old expression to understand readily what it
meant. And as he directed his car as close as was safe to the
blazing car, Mr. Damon asked:

"Are you going to put out that fire for them, Tom?"

"I'm going to try," was the grim answer.

The young inventor was rapidly taking out of wrapping paper a
metal cylinder with a short nozzle on one end and a handle on the
other. It was, obviously, a hand fire extinguisher of a type
familiar to all.

"Wait Tom, I'll slow up a little more," said Mr. Damon, as he
applied the brakes with more force. "Bless my court plaster!
don't jump and injure yourself."

But Tom Swift was sufficiently agile to leap from the
automobile when it was still making good speed. He did not want
Mr. Damon to approach too close to the burning car, for there
might be an explosion. At the same time, he rather discounted the
risk to himself, for he ran right in, while the two men, who had
leaped from the blazing machine, hurried to a safe distance.

Tom held in readiness a small hand extinguisher. It was one he
had constructed from an old one found in the shop, but it
contained some of his own chemicals, the original solution having
been used at some time or other. It was the intention of the
young inventor to put on the market a house-size extinguisher
after he had disposed of his big airship invention.

"Look out there! The gasoline tank may go up!" cried Field, the
small man with the big voice.

Tom did not answer, but ran in as close as was necessary and
began to play a small stream from his hand extinguisher on the
blazing car. He was thus able to direct the white, frothy
chemical better than when he had shot it from the airship, and in
a few seconds only some wisps of curling smoke remained to tell
of the presence of the fire. The automobile was badly charred,
but the damage was not past redemption.

"Bless my check book! you did the trick, Tom," cried Mr. Damon,
as he alighted and came up to congratulate his companion.

"Yes. But this wasn't much," Tom said. "I didn't use half the
charge. Short circuit?" he asked Field and Melling who were now
returning, having seen that the danger was passed.

"I--I guess so," replied Melling, in his squeaky voice. "We--we
are much obliged to you."

"No thanks necessary," said Tom, a bit shortly, as he turned to
go back with Mr. Damon to their car. "It's what any one would do
under like circumstances."

"Only you did it very effectively," observed Field.

Tom was wondering if they knew who he was and of his
association with Josephus Baxter. He did not believe the men
recognized him as the person who had been at the Meadow Inn one
day with Mary. They had hardly glanced at him then, he thought.

"That's a mighty powerful extinguisher you have there, young
man," said Melling. "May I ask the make of it? We ought to carry
one like it on our car," he told his companion.

"It is the Swift Aerial Fire Extinguisher," said Tom gravely,
with a glance at Mr. Damon.

"The Swift--Tom Swift?" exclaimed Melling. "Do you mean--"

"I am Tom Swift," put in the young inventor quickly. "And this
is one of my inventions. I might add," he said slowly, looking
first Melling and then Field full in the face, "that I was aided
in perfecting the chemical extinguisher by Josephus Baxter."

The effect on the two men, whom Tom believed were scoundrels,
was marked.

"Baxter!" cried Field.

"Is he associated with you?" demanded Melling.

"Not officially," Tom answered, delighted at the chance to "rub
it in," as he expressed it later. "I have been helping him, and
he has been helping me since he lost his dye formulae in--in your

"Does he say he lost them in the fire of our factory?" demanded
Field aggressively.

"He believes he did," asserted Tom. "I helped carry him out of
the laboratory of your place when he was almost dead from
suffocation. He remembers that he had the formulae then, but since
has been unable to find them."

"He'd better be careful how he accuses us!" blustered Field, in
his big voice.

"We could have the law on him for that!" squeaked the bigger

"He hasn't accused you," said Tom easily. "He only says the
formulae disappeared during the fire in your place, and he is
just wondering. that is all--just wondering!"

"Well, he--we, I--that is, we haven't anything from Baxter that
we didn't pay for," declared Field. "And if he goes about saying
such things he'd better be careful. I am going--"

But he suddenly became silent as his companion's elbow nudged
him. And then Melling took up the talk, saying:

"We're much obliged to you, Mr. Swift, for putting out the fire
in our car. But for you it would have been destroyed. And if you
ever want to sell the extinguisher process of yours, you'll find
us in the market. We are going into the dye business on a large
scale, and we can always use new chemical combinations."

"My extinguisher is not for sale," said Tom dryly. "Come on,
Mr. Damon. We can take you into town, I suppose," Tom went on,
looking at his eccentric friend for confirmation, and finding it
in a nod. "But I doubt if we could tow you, as we are in a hurry,

"Oh, thank you, we'll look over our machine before we leave
it," said Melling. "It may be that we can get it to go."

Tom doubted this, after a look at the charred section, but he
easily understood the dislike of the men, upon whose heads he had
heaped coals of fire, to ride with him and Mr. Damon.

So Field and Melling were left standing in the road near their
stranded car, which, but for Tom Swift's prompt action, would
have been only a heap of ruins.

Tom first visited the man who had a candy machine, in which the
owner wanted to interest Mr. Damon. After seeing a demonstration
and giving his opinion, he attended to his own affairs, in which
his hand extinguisher played a part. Then he called on Mary
Nestor at her relative's home.

"Oh, but it's good to see you again, Tom!" cried Mary, after
the first greeting. "What have you been doing, and what's all
that white stuff on your coat?"

"Fire extinguisher chemical," Tom answered, and he related what
had happened.

"What's the matter with your aunt, Mary? She seems worried
about something," he said, after the aunt with whom Mary was
staying had come in, greeted Tom briefly, and gone out again.

"Oh, she and Uncle Jasper are worried over money matters, I
believe," Mary said. "Uncle Jasper invested heavily in the
Landmark Building here, and now, I understand, it is discovered
that it was put up in violation of the building laws--something
about not being fire-proof. Uncle Jasper is likely to lose
considerable money.

"It isn't that it will make him so very poor," Mary went on.
"But Uncle Barton Keith--you remember you went on the undersea
search with him--Uncle Barton warned Uncle Jasper not to go into
the Landmark Building scheme."

"And Uncle Jasper did, I take it," said Tom.

"Yes. And now he's sorry, for not only may he lose money, but
Uncle Barton will laugh at him, and Uncle Jasper hates that worse
than losing a lot. But tell me about yourself, Tom. What have you
been doing? And is Eradicate going to get better?"

"I hope so," Tom said. "As for me--"

But he was interrupted by loud voices in the hall. He
recognized the tones of Mary's Uncle Jasper saying:

"They're scoundrels, that's what they are! Just plain
scoundrels! When I accuse them of swindling me and others in that
Landmark Building deal they have the nerve to ask me to invest
money in some secret dye formulae they claim will revolutionize
the industry! Bah! They're scoundrels, that's what they are--
Field and Melling are scoundrels, and I'm going to have them



Mary's uncle, Jasper Blake, always an impetuous man, opened the
door so quickly that Tom, who was standing near it talking to
Mary, barely had time to move aside.

"Oh, Tom, excuse me! Didn't see you!" bruskly went on Mr.
Blake. "But this thing has gotten on my nerves and I guess I'm a
bit wrought up.

"There isn't any guessing about it, Uncle Jasper," said Mary,
with a laugh and a look at Tom to warn him not to tell her
relative that he had just befriended Field and Melling. "For," as
Mary said to Tom later, "he would positively rave at you."

Tom was wise enough to realize this, and so, after some
laughing reference to the effect that he would have to wear
protective armor if he stood near doors when Mary's uncle opened
them so suddenly, the conversation became general.

"I hope you never get roped in as I have been," said Mr. Blake,
as he sat down. "Those scoundrels, Field and Melling, would rob a
baby of his first tooth if they had the chance!"

"No, I am not likely to have anything to do with them; though I
have met them," and Tom gave Mary a glance. "But did I hear you
say they are embarking on a dye enterprise?" he asked. "I
couldn't help overhearing what you said in the hall," he

"That's the story they tell," said Uncle Jasper. "I was foolish
enough to invest in the Landmark Building, and now I'm likely to
lose it all in a lawsuit."

"I mentioned it," said Mary.

"And that isn't the worst," went on Mr. Blake. "But Barton--
that's your friend of the submarine--will give me the laugh, for
he was asked to invest in the same building, and didn't."

"Oh, maybe it will all turn out right," said Tom consolingly.
"My friend Mr. Damon has a little stock in the same structure."

"Nothing those two scoundrels have anything to do with will
turn out right," declared Mary's uncle. "And to think of their
nerve when they ask me to go in with them on a dye scheme!"

"That's what interests me," said Tom.

"Well, take my advice and don't become interested to the extent
of investing any money," warned Mr. Blake. "I'm not going to."

"I didn't mean that way," said Tom. "But I happen to be
acquainted with an expert dye maker who lost some secret formulae
during a fire in Field and Melling's factory."

"You don't say so!" cried Mr. Blake. "Tom Swift, there's
something wrong here! Let you and me talk this over. I begin to
see how I may be able to take a peep through the hole in the
grindstone," a colloquial expression which was as well understood
by Tom as were some of Mr. Damon's blessing remarks.

"If you're going to talk business I think I'll excuse myself,"
said Mary.

"Don't go," urged Tom, but she said to him that she would see
him before he left, and then she went out, leaving her uncle and
the young inventor busily engaged in talking.

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