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Tom Swift And His Electric Locomotive or Two Miles a Minute on the Rails

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Two Miles a Minute on the Rails





























Chapter I

A Tempting Offer

"An electric locomotive that can make two miles a minute over a
properly ballasted roadbed might not be an impossibility," said
Mr. Barton Swift ruminatively. "It is one of those things that
are coming," and he flashed his son, Tom Swift, a knowing smile.
It had been a topic of conversation between them before the
visitor from the West had been seated before the library fire and
had sampled one of the elder Swift's good cigars.

"It is not only a future possibility," said the latter
gentleman, shrugging his shoulders. "As far as the Hendrickton
and Pas Alos Railroad Company goes, a two mile a minute gait--not
alone on a level track but through the Pas Alos Range--is an
immediate necessity. It's got to be done now, or our stock will
be selling on the curb for about two cents a share."

"You do not mean just that, do you, Mr. Bartholomew?" asked Tom
Swift earnestly, and staring at the big-little man before the

Mr. Richard Bartholomew was just that--a "big-little man." In
the railroad world, both in construction and management, he had
made an enviable name for himself.

He had actually built up the Hendrickton and Pas Alos from a
narrow-gauge, "jerkwater" road into a part of a great cross-
continent system that tapped a wonderfully rich territory on both
sides of the Pas Alos Range.

For some years the H. & P. A. had a monopoly of that territory.
Now, as Mr. Bartholomew intimated, it was threatened with such
rivalry from another railroad and other capitalists, that the
H. & P. A. was being looked upon in the financial market as a
shaky investment.

But Tom Swift repeated:

"You do not mean just that, do you, Mr. Bartholomew?"

Mr. Bartholomew, who was a little man physically, rolled around
in his chair to face the young fellow more directly. His own eyes
sparkled in the firelight. His olive face was flushed.

"That is much nearer the truth, young man," he said, somewhat
harshly because of his suppressed emotion, "than I want people at
large to suspect. As I have told your father, I came here to put
all my cards on the table; but I expect the Swift Construction
Company to take anything I may say as said in confidence."

"We quite understand that, Mr. Bartholomew," said the elder
Swift, softly. "You can speak freely. Whether we do business or
not, these walls are soundproof, and Tom and I can forget, or
remember, as we wish. Of course if we take up any work for you,
we must confide to a certain extent in our close associates and
trusted mechanics."

"Humph!" grunted the visitor, turning restlessly again in his
chair. Then he said: "I agree as the necessity of that last
statement; but I can only hope that these walls are soundproof."

"What's that?" demanded Tom, rather sharply. He was a bright
looking young fellow with an alert air and a rather humorous
smile. His father was a semi-invalid; but Tom possessed all the
mental vigor and muscular energy that a young man should have. He
had not neglected his Athletic development while he made the best
use of his mental powers.

"Believe me," said the visitor, quite as harshly as before, "I
begin to doubt the solidity of all walls. I know that I have been
watched, and spied upon, and that eavesdroppers have played hob
with our affairs.

"Of late, there has been little planned in the directors' room
of the H. & P. A. that has not seeped out and aided the enemy in
foreseeing our moves."

"The enemy?" repeated Mr. Swift, with mild surprise.

"That's it exactly! The enemy!" replied Mr. Bartholomew
shortly. "The H. & P. A. has got the fight of its life on its
hands. We had a hard enough time fighting nature and the elements
when we laid the first iron for the road a score of years ago.
Now I am facing a fight that must grow fiercer and fiercer as
time goes on until either the H. & P. A. smashes the opposition,
or the enemy smashes it."

"What enemy is this you speak of?" asked Tom, much interested.

"The proposed Hendrickton & Western. A new road, backed by new
capital, and to be officered and built by new men in the
construction and railroad game.

"Montagne Lewis--you've heard of him, I presume--is at the head
of the crowd that have bought the little old Hendrickton &
Western, lock, stock and barrel.

"They have franchises for extending the road. In the old days
the legislatures granted blanket franchises that allowed any
group of moneyed men to engage in any kind of business as side
issues to railroading. Montagne Lewis and his
crowd have got a 'plenty-big' franchise.

"They have begun laying iron. It parallels, to a certain
extent, our own line. Their surveyors were smarter than the men
who laid out the H. & P. A. I admit it. Besides, the country out
there is developed more than it was a score of years ago when I
took hold.

"All this enters into the fight between Montagne Lewis and me.
But there is something deeper," said the little man, with almost
a snarl, as he thrashed about again in his chair. "I beat
Montagne Lewis at one big game years ago. He is a man who never
forgets--and who never hesitates to play dirty politics if he has
to, to bring about his own ends.

"I know that I have been watched. I know that I was followed on
this trip East. He has private detectives on my track
continually. And worse. All the gunmen of the old and wilder West
are not dead. There's a fellow named Andy O'Malley--well, never
mind him. The game at present is to keep anybody in Lewis's
employ from getting wise to why I came to see you."

"What you say is interesting," Mr. Swift here broke in quietly.
"But I have already been puzzled by what you first said. Just why
have you come to us--to Tom and me--in reference to your railroad

"And this suggestion you have made," added Tom, "about a
possible electric locomotive of a faster type than has, ever yet
been put on the rails?"

"That is it, exactly," replied Bartholomew, sitting suddenly
upright in his chair. "We want faster electric motor power than
has ever yet been invented. We have got to have it, or the
H. & P. A. might as well be scrapped and the whole territory out
there handed over to Montagne Lewis and his H. & W. That is the
sum total of the matter, gentlemen. If the Swift Construction
Company cannot help us, my railroad is going to be junk in about
three years from this beautiful evening."

His emphasis could not fail to impress both the elder and the
younger Swift. They looked at each other, and the interest
displayed upon the father's countenance was reflected upon the
features of the son.

If there was anything Tom Swift liked it was a good fight. The
clash of diverse interests was the breath of life to the young
fellow. And for some years now, always connected in some way
with the development of his inventive genius, he had been
entangled in battles both of wits and physical powers. Here was
the suggestion of something that would entail a struggle of both
brain and brawn.

"Sounds good," muttered Tom, gazing at the railroad magnate
with considerable admiration.

"Let us hear all about it," Mr. Swift said to Bartholomew.
"Whether we can help you or not, we're interested."

"All right," replied the visitor again. "Whether I was followed
East, and here to Shopton, or not doesn't much matter. I will put
my proposition up to you, and then I'll ask, if you don't want to
go into it, that you keep the business absolutely secret. I have
got to put something over on Montagne Lewis and his crowd, or
throw up the sponge. That's that!"

"Go ahead, Mr. Bartholomew," observed Tom's father,

"To begin with, four hundred miles of our road is already
electrified. We have big power stations and supply heat and light
and power to several of the small cities tapped by the H. & P. A.
It is a paying proposition as it stands. But it is only paying
because we carry the freight traffic--all the freight traffic--of
that region.

"If the H. & W. breaks in on our monopoly of that, we shall
soon be so cut down that our invested capital will not earn two
per cent.--No, by glory! not one-and-a-half per cent.--and our
stock will be dished. But I have worked out a scheme, Gentlemen,
by which we can counter-balance any dig Lewis can give us in the

"If we can extend our electrified line into and through the Pas
Alos Range our freight traffic can be handled so cheaply and so
effectively that nothing the Hendrickton & Western can do for
years to come will hurt us. Get that?"

"I get your statement, Mr. Bartholomew," said Mr. Swift. "But
it is merely a statement as yet."

"Sure. Now I will give you the particulars. We are using the
Jandel locomotives on our electrified stretch of road. You know
that patent?"

"I know something about it, Mr. Bartholomew," said the younger
inventor. "I have felt some interest in the electric locomotive,
though I have done nothing practical in the matter. But I know
the Jandel patent."

"It is about the best there is--and the most recent; but it
does not fill the bill. Not for the H. & P. A., anyway," said Mr.
Bartholomew, shortly.

"What does it lack?" asked Mr. Swift.

"Speed. It's got the power for heavy hauls. It could handle the
freight through the Pas Alos Range. But it would slow up our
traffic so that the shippers would at once turn to the
Hendrickton & Western. You understand that their rails do not
begin to engage the grades that our engineers thought necessary
when the old H. & P. A. was built."

"I get that," said Tom briskly. "You have come here, then, to
interest us in the development of a faster but quite as powerful
type of electric locomotive as the Jandel."

"Stated to the line!" exclaimed Mr. Bartholomew, smiting the
arm of his chair with his clenched fist. "That is it, young man.
You get me exactly. And now I will go on to put my proposition to

"Do so, Mr. Bartholomew," murmured the old inventor, quite as
much interested as his son.

"I want you to make a study of electric motive power as applied
to track locomotives, with the idea of utilizing our power plants
and others like them, and even with the possibility in mind of
the continued use of the Jandel locomotives on our more level
stretches of road.

"But I want your investigation to result in the building of
locomotives that will make a speed of two miles a minute, or as
near that as possible, on level rails, and be powerful enough to
snake our heavy freight trains through the hills and over the
steep grades so rapidly that even two engines, a pusher and a
hauler, cannot beat the electric power."

"Some job, that, I'll say," murmured Tom Swift.

"Exactly. Some job. And it is the only thing that will save the
H. & P. A.," said Mr. Bartholomew decidedly. "I put it up to you
Swifts. I have heard of some of your marvelous inventions. Here
is something that is already invented. But it needs development."

"I see," said Mr. Swift, and nodded.

"It interests me," admitted Tom. "As I say, I have given some
thought to the electric locomotive."

"This is the age of speed," said Mr. Bartholomew earnestly.
"Rapidity in handling freight and kindred things will be the
salvation, and the only salvation, of many railroads. Tapping a
rich territory is not enough. The road that can offer the
quickest and cheapest service is the road that is going to keep
out of a receivership. Believe me, I know!"

"You should," said Mr. Swift mildly. "Your experience should
have taught you a great deal about the railroad business."

"It has. But that knowledge is worth just nothing at all
without swift power and cheap traffic. Those are the problems
today. Now, I am going to take a chance. If it doesn't work, my
road is dished in any case. So I feel that the desperate chance
is the only chance."

"What is that?" asked Tom Swift, sitting forward in his chair.
"I, for one, feel so much interested that I will do anything in
reason to find the answer to your traffic problem."

"That's the boy!" ejaculated Richard Bartholomew. "I will give
it to you in a few words. If you will experiment with the
electric locomotive idea, to develop speed and power over and
above the Jandel patent, and will give me the first call on the
use of any patents you may contrive, I will put up twenty-five
thousand dollars in cash which shall be yours whether I can make
use of a thing you invent or not."

"Any time limit in this agreement, Mr. Bartholomew?" asked Tom,
making a few notes on a scratch pad before him on the library

"What do you say to three months?"

"Make it six, if you can," Tom said with continued briskness.
"It interests me. I'll do my best. And I want you to get your
money's worth."

"All right. Make it six," said Mr. Bartholomew. "But the
quicker you dig something up, the better for me. Now, that is the
first part of my proposition."

"All right, sir. And the second?"

"If you succeed in showing me that you can build and operate an
electric locomotive that will speed two miles a minute on a level
track and will get a heavy drag over the mountain grades, as I
said, as surely as two engines of the coal-burning or oil-burning
type, I will pay you a hundred thousand dollars bonus, besides
buying all the engines you can build of this new type for the
first two years. I've got to have first call; but the hundred
thousand will be yours free and clear, and the price of the
locomotives you build can be adjusted by any court of agreement
that you may suggest."

Tom Swift's face glowed. He realized that this offer was not
only generous, but that it made it worth his while dropping
everything else he had in hand and devoting his entire time and
thought for even six mouths to the proposition of developing the
electric locomotive.

He looked at his father and nodded. Mr. Swift said, calmly:

"We take you on that offer, Mr. Bartholomew. Tom has the facts
on paper, and we will hand it to Mr. Newton, our financial
manager, in the morning. If you will remain in town for twenty-
four hours, the contract can be signed."

"Suits me," declared. Richard Bartholomew, rising quickly from
his chair. "I confess I hoped you would take me up quite as
promptly as you have. I want to get back West again.

"We will see you in the office of the company at two o'clock
tomorrow," said Tom Swift confidently.

"Better than good! And now, if that trailer that I am pretty
sure Montagne Lewis sent after me does not get wise to the
subject of our talk, it may be a slick job we have done and will
do. I admit I am rather afraid of the enemy. You Swifts must keep
your plans in utter darkness."

After a little talk on more ordinary affairs, Mr. Bartholomew
took his departure. It was getting late in the evening, and Tom
Swift had an engagement. While old Rad, their colored servant,
was helping him on with his coat preparatory to Tom's leaving the
house, his father called from the library:

"Got those notes in a safe place, Tom?"

"Safest in the world, Dad," his son replied. But he did not go
into details. Tom considered the "safest place in the world" just
then was his own wallet, which was tucked into an inside pocket
of his vest "I'm going to see Mary Nestor, Father," said Tom, as
he went to the front door and opened it.

He halted a moment with the knob of the door in his hand. The
porch was deep in shadows, but he thought he had seen something
move there.

"That you, Koku?" asked Tom in an ordinary voice. Sometimes his
gigantic servant wandered about the house at night. He was a
strange person, and he had a good many thoughts in his savage
brain that even his young master did not understand.

There was no reply to Tom's question, so he walked down the
steps and out at the gate. It was not a long distance to the
Nestor house, and the air was brisk and keen, in spite of the
fact that threatening clouds masked the stars.

Two blocks from the house he came to a high wall which
separated the street from the grounds of an old dwelling. Tom
suddenly noticed that the usual street lights on this block had
been extinguished--blown out by the wind, perhaps.

Involuntarily he quickened his steps. He reached the archway in
the wall. Here was the gate dividing the private grounds from the
street. As he strode into the shadow of this place a voice
suddenly halted Tom Swift.

"Hands up! Put 'em up and don't be slow about it!" A bulky
figure loomed in the dark. Tom saw the highwayman's club poised
threateningly over his head.

Chapter II

Trouble Starts

The fact that he was stopped by a footpad smote Tom Swift's
mind as not a particularly surprising adventure. He had heard
that several of that gentry had been plying their trade about the
outskirts of the town. To a degree he was prepared for this
sudden event.

Then there flashed into Tom's mind the thought of what Mr.
Richard Bartholomew had said regarding the spy he believed had
followed him from the West. Could it be possible that some hired
thug sent by Montagne Lewis and his crooked crowd of financiers
considered that Tom Swift had obtained information from the
president of the H. & P. A. that might do his employers signal

Tom Swift had fallen in with many adventures--and some quite
thrilling ones--since, as a youth, he was first introduced to the
reader in the initial volume of this series, entitled "Tom Swift
and His Motor Cycle." His first experiences as an inventor,
coached by his father, who had spent his life in the experimental
laboratory and workshop, was made possible by his purchase from
Mr. Wakefield Damon, now one of his closest friends, of a broken-
down motor cycle.

Through a series of inventions, some of them of a marvelous
kind, Tom Swift, aided by his father, had forged ahead, building
motor boats, airships, submarines, monoplanes, motion picture
cameras, searchlights, cannons, photo-telephones, war tanks. Of
late, as related in "Tom Swift Among the Fire Fighters," he had
engaged in the invention of an explosive bomb carrying flame-
quenching chemicals that would, in time, revolutionize fire-
fighting in tall buildings.

The matter that Mr. Richard Bartholomew, the railroad magnate,
had brought to Tom's and his father's attention had deeply
interested the young inventor. Thought of the electric
locomotive, the development of which the railroad president
stated was the only salvation of the finances of the H. & P. A.,
had so held Tom's attention as he walked along the street that
being stopped in this sudden way was even more startling than
such an incident might ordinarily have been.

Tom was a muscular young fellow; but a club held over one's
head by a burly thug would have shaken the courage of anybody.
Dark as it was under the archway the young fellow saw that the
bulk of the man was much greater than his own.

"That's right, sonny," said the stranger, in a sneering tone.
"You got just the right idea. When I say 'Stick 'em up' I mean
it. Never take a chance. Ah--ah!"

The fellow ripped open Tom's overcoat, almost tearing the
buttons off. Another masterful jerk and his victim's jacket was
likewise parted widely. He did not lower the club for an instant.
He thrust his left hand into the V-shaped parting of the young
fellow's vest.

It was then that Tom was convinced of what the fellow was
after. He remembered the notes he had made regarding the contract
that was to be signed on the morrow between the Swift
Construction Company and President Richard Bartholomew of the
H. & P. A. Railroad. He remembered, too, the figure he thought he
had seen in the dark porch of the house as he so recently left

Mr. Bartholomew had considered it very possible that he was
being spied upon. This was one of the spies--a Westerner, as his
speech betrayed. But Tom was suddenly less fearful than he had
been when first attacked.

It did not seem possible to him that Mr. Bartholomew's enemies
would allow their henchman to go too far to obtain information of
the railroad president's intentions. This fellow was merely
attempting to frighten him.

A sense of relief came to Tom Swift's assistance. He opened his
lips to speak and could the thug have seen his face more clearly
in the dark he would have been aware of the fact that the young
inventor smiled.

The fellow's groping hand entered between Tom's vest and his
shirt. The coarse fingers seized upon Tom's wallet. Nobody likes
to be robbed, no matter whether the loss is great or small. There
was not much money in the wallet, nor anything that could be
turned into money by a thief.

These facts enabled Tom, perhaps, to bear his loss with some
fortitude. The highwayman drew forth the wallet and thrust it
into his own coat pocket. He made no attempt to take anything
else from the young inventor.

"Now, beat it!" commanded the fellow. "Don't look back and
don't run or holler. Just keep moving--in the way you were headed
before. Vamoose."

More than ever was Tom assured that the man was from the West.
His speech savored of Mexican phrases and slang terms used mainly
by Western citizens. And his abrupt and masterly manner and
speech aided in this supposition. Tom Swift stayed not to utter a
word. It was true he was not so frightened as he had at first
been. But he was quite sure that this man was no person to
contend with under present conditions.

He strode away along the sidewalk toward the far corner of the
wall that surrounded this estate. Shopton had not many of such
important dwellings as this behind the wall. Its residential
section was made up for the most part of mechanics' homes and
such plain but substantial houses as his father's.

Prospering as the Swifts had during the last few years, neither
Tom nor his father had thought their plain old house too poor or
humble for a continued residence. Tom was glad to make money, but
the inventions he had made it by were vastly more important to
his mind than what he might obtain by any lavish expenditure of
his growing fortune.

This matter of the electric locomotive that had been brought to
his attention by the Western railroad magnate had instantly
interested the young inventor. The possibility of there being a
clash of interests in the matter, and the point Mr. Bartholomew
made of his enemies seeking to thwart his hope of keeping the H.
& P. A. upon a solid financial footing, were phases of the affair
that likewise concerned the young fellow's thought.

Now he was sure that Mr. Bartholomew was right. The enemies of
the H. & P. A. were determined to know all that the railroad
president was planning to do. They would naturally suspect that
his trip East to visit the Swift Construction Company was no idle

Tom had turned so many fortunate and important problems of
invention into certainties that the name of the Swift
Construction Company was broadly known, not alone throughout the
United States but in several foreign countries. Montagne Lewis,
whom Tom knew to be both a powerful and an unscrupulous
financier, might be sure that Mr. Bartholomew's visit to Shopton
and to the young inventor and his father was of such importance
that he would do well through his henchmen to learn the
particulars of the interview.

Tom remembered Mr. Bartholomew's mention of a name like Andy
O'Malley. This was probably the man who had done all that he
could, and that promptly, to set about the discovery of Mr.
Bartholomew's reason for visiting the Swifts.

Without doubt the man had slunk about the Swift house and had
peered into one of the library windows while the interview was
proceeding. He had observed Tom making notes on the scratch pad
and judged correctly that those notes dealt with the subject
under discussion between the visitor from the West and the

He had likewise seen Tom thrust the paper into his wallet and
the wallet into his inside vest pocket. Instead of dogging Mr.
Bartholomew's footsteps after that gentleman left the Swift
house, the man had waited for the appearance of Tom. When he was
sure that the young fellow was preparing to walk out, and the
direction he was to stroll, the thug had run ahead and ensconced
himself in the archway on this dark block.

All these things were plain enough. The notes Tom had taken
regarding the offer Mr. Bartholomew had made for the development
of the electric locomotive might, under some circumstances, be
very important. At least, the highwayman evidently thought them
such. But Tom had another thought about that.

One thing the young inventor was convinced about, as he strode
briskly away from the scene of the hold-up: There was going to be
trouble. It had already begun.

Chapter III

Tom Swift's Friends

Tom was still walking swiftly when he arrived in sight of Mary
Nestor's home. He was so filled with excitement both because of
the hold-up and the new scheme that Mr. Richard Bartholomew had
brought to him from the West, that he could keep neither to
himself. He just had to tell Mary!

Mary Nestor was a very pretty girl, and Tom thought she was
just about right in every particular. Although he had been about
a good deal for a young fellow and had seen girls everywhere,
none of them came up to Mary. None of them held Tom's interest
for a minute but this girl whom he had been around with for years
and whom he had always confided in.

As for the girl herself, she considered Tom Swift the very
nicest young man she had ever seen. He was her beau-ideal of
what a young man should be. And she entered enthusiastically into
the plans for everything that Tom Swift was interested in.

Mary was excited by the story Tom told her in the Nestor
sitting room. The idea of the electric locomotive she saw, of
course, was something that might add to Tom's laurels as an
inventor. But the other phase of the evening's adventure--"Tom,
dear!" she murmured with no little disturbance of mind. "That man
who stopped you! He is a thief, and a dangerous man! I hate to
think of your going home alone."

"He's got what he was after," chuckled Tom. "Is it likely he
will bother me again?"

"And you do not seem much worried about it," she cried, in

"Not much, I confess, Mary," said Tom, and grinned.

"But if, as you suppose, that man was working for Mr.
Bartholomew's enemies

"I am convinced that he was, for he did not rob me of my watch
and chain or loose money. And he could have done so easily. I
don't mind about the old wallet. There was only five dollars in

"But those notes you said you took of Mr. Bartholomew's offer?"

"Oh, yes," chuckled Tom again. "Those notes. Well, I may as
well explain to you, Mary, and not try to puzzle you any longer.
But that highwayman is sure going to be puzzled a long, long

"What do you mean, Tom?"

"Those notes were jotted down in my own brand of shorthand.
Such stenographic notes would scarcely be readable by anybody
else. Ho, ho! When that bold, bad hold-up gent turns the notes
over to Montagne Lewis, or whoever his principal is, there will
be a sweet time."

"Oh, Tom! isn't that fun?" cried Mary, likewise much amused.

"I can remember everything we said there in the library," Tom
continued. "I'll see Ned tonight on my way home from here, and he
will draw a contract the first thing in the morning."

"You are a smart fellow, Tom!" said Mary, her laughter trilling

"Many thanks, Ma'am! Hope I prove your compliment true. This
two-mile-a-minute stunt--"

"It seems wonderful," breathed Mary.

"It sure will be wonderful if we can build a locomotive that
will do such fancy lacework as that," observed Tom eagerly. "It
will be a great stunt!"

"A wonderful invention, Tom."

"More wonderful than Mr. Bartholomew knows," agreed the young
fellow. "An electric locomotive with both great speed and great
hauling power is what more than one inventor has been aiming at
for two or three decades. Ever since Edison and Westinghouse
began their experiments, in truth."

"Is the locomotive they are using out there a very marvelous
machine?" asked the girl, with added interest.

"No more marvelous than the big electric motors that drag the
trains into New York City, for instance, through the tunnels.
Steam engines cannot be used in those tunnels for obvious, as
well as legal, reasons. They are all wonderful machines, using
third-rail power.

"But that Jandel patent that Mr. Bartholomew is using out there
on the H. & P. A. is probably the highest type of such motors. It
is up to us to beat that. Fortunately I got a pass into the
Jandel shops a few months ago and I studied at first hand the
machine Mr. Bartholomew is using."

"Isn't that great!" cried Mary.

"Well, it helps some. I at least know in a general way the
'how' of the construction of the Jandel locomotive. It is simple
enough. Too simple by far, I should say, to get both speed and
power. We'll see," and he nodded his head thoughtfully.

Tom did not stay long with the girl, for it was already late in
the evening when he had arrived at her house. As he got up to
depart Mary's anxiety for his safety revived.

"I wish you would take care now, Tom. Those men may hound you."

"What for?" chuckled the young inventor. "They have the notes
they wanted."

"But that very thing--the fact that you fooled them--will make
them more angry. Take care."

"I have a means of looking out for myself, after all," said Tom
quietly, seeing that he must relieve her mind. "I let that fellow
get away with my wallet; but I won't let him hurt me. Don't

She had opened the door. The lamplight fell across porch and
steps, and in a broad white band even to the gate and sidewalk.
There was a motor-car slowing down right before the open gate.

"Who's this?" queried Tom, puzzled.

A sharp voice suddenly was raised in an exclamatory explosion.

"Bless my breakshoes! is that Tom Swift? Just the chap I was
looking for. Bless my mileage-book! this saves me time and

"Why, it's Mr. Wakefield Damon," Mary cried, with something
like relief in her tones. "You can ride home in his car, Tom."

"All right, Mary. Don't be afraid for me," replied Tom Swift,
and ran down the walk to the waiting car.

"Bless my vest buttons! Tom Swift, my heart swells when I see

"And is like to burst off the said vest buttons?" chuckled the
young fellow, stepping in beside his eccentric friend who blessed
everything inanimate in his florid speech.

"I am delighted to catch you--although, of course," and Tom
knew the gentleman's eyes twinkled, "I could have no idea that
you were over here at Mary's, Tom."

"Of course not," rejoined the young inventor calmly. "Seeing
that I only come to see her just as often as I get a chance."

"Bless my memory tablets! is that the fact?" chuckled Mr.
Damon. "Anyway, I wanted to see you so particularly that I drove
over in my car tonight--"

"Wait a minute," said Tom, hastily. "Is this important?"

"I think so, Tom."

"Let me get something else off of my mind first, then, Mr.
Damon," Tom Swift said quickly. "Drive around by Ned's house,
will you, please? Ned Newton's. After I speak a minute with him I
will be at your service.

"Surely, Tom; surely," agreed the gentleman.

The automobile had been running slowly. Mr. Damon knew the
streets of Shopton very well, and he headed around the next
corner. As the car turned, a figure bounded out of the shadow
near the house line. Two long strides, and the man was on the
running board of the car upon the side where Tom Swift sat. Again
an ugly club was raised above the young fellow's head.

"You're the smart guy!" croaked the coarse voice Tom had heard
before. "Think you can bamboozle me, do you? Up with 'em!"

"Bless my spark-plug!" gasped Mr. Wakefield Damon.

Either from nervousness or intention, he jerked the steering
wheel so that the car made a sudden leap away from the curb. The
figure of the stranger swayed.

Instantly Tom Swift struck the man's arm up higher and from
under his own coat appeared something that bulked like a pistol
in his right hand. He had intimated to Mary Nestor that he
carried something with which to defend himself from highwaymen if
he chose to. This invention, his ammonia gun, now came into play.

"Bless my failing eyesight!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, as he shot
the motor-car ahead again in a straight line.

The man who had accosted Tom so fiercely fell off the running
board and rolled into the gutter, screaming and choking from the
fumes from Tom's gun.

"Drive on!" commanded the young inventor. "If he keeps
bellowing like that the police will pick him up. I guess he will
let us alone here-after."

"Bless my short hairs and long ones!" chuckled Mr. Damon. "You
are the coolest young fellow, Tom, that I ever saw. That man must
have been a highwayman. And it is of some of those gentry that I
drove over to Shopton this evening to talk to you about."

Chapter IV

Much to Think About

Although it was now nearing ten o'clock on this eventful
evening, Tom knew that he would find Ned Newton at home. When Mr.
Damon's car stopped before the house there was a light in Ned's
room and the front door opened almost as soon as Tom rang. Mr.
Damon left the car and entered with the young inventor at his

"What's up?" was Ned's greeting, looking at the two curiously
as he ushered them in. "I see this isn't entirely a social call,"
and he laughed as he shook the older man's hand.

"Bless my particular star!" exclaimed the latter excitedly. "Of
all the thrilling adventures that anybody ever got into, it is
this Tom Swift who cooks them up! Why, Newton! do you know that
we have been held up by a highwayman within two blocks of this
very house?"

"And that of course was Tom's fault?" suggested Ned, still

"It wouldn't have happened if he had not been with me," said
Mr. Damon.

"I am curious," said Ned, as they seated themselves. "Who was
the footpad? What drew his attention to you two? Tell me about

"Bless my suspender buckles!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "You tell
him, Tom. I don't understand it myself, yet."

"I think I can explain. But whatever I tell you both, you must
hold in secret. Father and I have been entrusted with some
private information tonight and I am going to take you, Ned, and
Mr. Damon, into the business in a confidential way."

"Let's have it," begged Newton. "Anything to do with the

"It is," answered Tom gravely. "We are going to take up a
proposition that promises big things for the Swift Construction

"A big thing financially?"

"I'll say so. And it looks as though we were mixing into a
conspiracy that may breed trouble in more ways than one."

Tom went on to sketch briefly the situation of the Hendrickton
& Pas Alos Railroad as brought to the attention of the Swifts by
the railroad's president. First of all his two listeners were
deeply interested in the proposition Mr. Richard Bartholomew had
made the inventors. Ned Newton jotted down briefly the agreement
to be incorporated in the contract to be drawn and signed, by the
Swift Construction Company and the president of the H. & P. A.

"This looks like a big thing for the company, Tom," the young
manager said with enthusiasm, while Mr. Damon listened to it all
with mouth and eyes open.

"Bless my watch-charm!" murmured the latter. "An electric
locomotive that can travel two miles a minute? Whew!"

"Sounds like a big order, Tom," added Ned, seriously.

"It is a big order. I am not at all sure it can be done,"
agreed Tom, thoughtfully. "But under the terms Mr. Bartholomew
offers it is worth trying, don't you think?"

"That twenty-five thousand dollars is as good as yours anyway,"
declared his chum with finality. "I'll see there is no loophole
in the contract and the money must be placed in escrow so that
there can be no possibility of our losing that. The promise of a
hundred thousand dollars must he made binding as well."

"I know you will look out for those details, Ned," Tom said
with a wave of his hand.

"That is what I am here for," agreed the financial manager.
"Now, what else? I fancy the building of such a locomotive looks
feasible to you and your father or you would not go into it."

"But two miles a minute!" murmured Mr. Damon again. "Bless my
prize pumpkins!"

"The idea of speed enters into it, yes," said Tom thoughtfully.
"In fact electric motor power has always been based on speed, and
on cheapness of moving all kinds of traffic.

"Look here!" he exclaimed earnestly, "what do you suppose the
first people to dabble in electrically driven vehicles were
aiming at? The motor-car? The motor boat? Trolley cars? All those
single motor sort of things? Not much they weren't!"

"Bless my glove buttons!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, dragging off his
gauntlets as he spoke. "I don't get you at all, Tom! What do you

"I mean to say that the first experiments in the use of
electricity as a motive power were along the electrification of
the steam locomotive. Everybody realized that if a motor could be
built powerful enough and speedy enough to drag a heavy freight
or passenger train over the ordinary railroad right of way, the
cost of railroad operation would be enormously decreased.

"Coal costs money--heaps of money now. Oil costs even more. But
even with a third-rail patent, a locomotive successfully built to
do the work of the great Moguls and mountain climbers of the last
two decades, and electrically driven, will make a great
difference on the credit side of any rails road's books."

"Right-o!" exclaimed Ned. "I can see that."

"That was the object of the first experiments in electric
motive power," repeated Tom. "And it continues to be the big
problem in electricity. The Jandel locomotive is undoubtedly the
last word so far as the construction of an electric locomotive is
concerned. But it falls down in speed and power. I thought so
myself when I saw that locomotive and looked over the results of
its work. And this Mr. Bartholomew has assured father and me this
evening that it is a fact.

"It has a record of a mile a minute on a level or easy grade;
but it can't show goods when climbing a real hill. It slows up
both freight and passenger traffic on the Hendrickton & Pas Alos
road. That range of hills is too much for it.

"So the Swift Construction Company is going to step in,"
concluded the young inventor eagerly. "I believe we can do it.
I've the nucleus of an idea in my head. I never had a problem put
up to me, Ned and Mr. Damon, that interested me more. So why
shouldn't I go at it? Besides, I have dad to advise me."

"That's right," agreed Ned. "Why shouldn't you? And with such a
contract as you have been offered--"

"Bless my bootsoles!" ejaculated Mr. Damon, getting up and
tramping about the room in his excitement. "I thought the trolley
cars that run between Shopton and Waterfield were about the
fastest things on rails."

"Not much. The trolley car is a narrow and prescribed manner of
using electricity for motive power. The motor runs but one car--
or one and a trailer, at most," said Tom. "As I have pointed out,
the problem is to build a machine that will transmit power enough
to draw the enormous weight of a loaded freight train, and that
over steep grades.

"A motor for each car is a costly matter. That is why trolley
car companies, no matter how many passengers their cars carry,
are so often on the verge of financial disaster. The margin of
profit is too narrow.

"But if you can get a locomotive built that will drag a hundred
cars! Ah! how does that sound?" demanded Tom. "See the

"Bless my volts and amperes!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I should
say I do! Why, Tom, you make the problem as plain as plain can

"In theory," supplemented Ned Newton, although he meant to
suggest no doubt of his chum's ability to solve almost any

"You've hit it," said Tom promptly. "I only have a theory so
far regarding such a locomotive. But to the inventor the theory
always must come first. You understand that, Ned?"

"I not only appreciate that fact," said his chum warmly; "but I
believe that you are the fellow to show something definite along
the line of an improved electric locomotive. But, whether you can
reach the high mark set by the president of that railroad--"

"Two miles a minute!" breathed Mr. Damon in agreement. "Bless
my wind-gauge! It doesn't seem possible!"

Tom Swift shrugged his shoulders. "It is the impossible that
inventors have to overcome. If we experimenters believed in the
impossible little would be done in this world, to advance
mechanical science at least. Every invention was impossible until
the chap who put it through built his first working model."

"That's understood, old boy," said Ned, already busily
scratching off the form of the contract he proposed to show the
company's legal advisers early in the morning.

When he had read over the notes he had made Tom O.K.'d them.
"That is about as I had the items set down myself on the sheet
that fellow stole from me."

"Wait!" exclaimed Ned, as Tom arose from his chair. "Do you
know what strikes me after your telling me about your second

"What's that?" asked his chum.

"Are you sure that was the same fellow who stole your wallet?"

"Quite sure."

"Then his second attack on you proves that he got wise to the
fact that your notes were in shorthand. He had a chance to study
them while you visited with Mary Nestor."

"Like enough."

"I wonder if it doesn't prove that the fellow has somebody in
cahoots with him right here in Shopton?" ruminated Ned.

"Bless my spare tire!" ejaculated Mr. Damon, who had already
started for the door but now turned back.

"That's an idea, Ned," agreed Tom Swift. "It would seem that he
had consulted with some superior," said the young manager of the
Swift Construction Company. "This hold-up man may be from the
West; but perhaps he did not follow Bartholomew alone."

"I'd like to know who the other fellow is," said Tom
thoughtfully. "I would know the man who attacked me, both by his
bulk and his voice.

"Me, too," put in Mr. Damon. "Bless my indicator! I'd know the
scoundrel if I met him again."

"The thing to do," said Ned Newton confidently, "is to identify
the man who robbed you tonight as soon as possible and then, if
he hangs around Shopton, to mark well anybody he associates

"Perhaps they will not bother me any more," said Tom, rather

"And perhaps they will," grumbled Mr. Damon. "Bless my self-
starter! they may try something mean again this very night. Come
on, Tom. I want to run you home. And on the way, I tell you, I've
got something to put up to you myself. It may not promise a small
fortune like this electric locomotive business; but bless my
barbed wire fence! my trouble has more than a little to do with
footpads, too."

He led the way out of the house and to the motor car again. In
a minute he had started his engine, and Tom, jumping in beside
him, was borne away toward his own home.

Chapter V

Barbed Wire Entanglements

"This gets us to your particular trouble, Mr. Damon," Tom Swift
said, while the motor car was rolling along. "You intimated that
you had something to consult me about."

"Bless my windshield! I should say I had," exclaimed the
eccentric gentleman, swinging around a corner at rather a fast

"And has it to do with highwaymen?" asked Tom, much amused.

"Some of the same gentry, Tom," declared Mr. Damon. "I haven't
any peace of my life, I really haven't!"

"Who is troubling you, sir?"

"Why, what nonsense that is, to ask that!" ejaculated the
gentleman. "If I knew who they were I wouldn't ask odds of
anybody. I'd go after them. As it is, I've left my servant with a
gun loaded with rock-salt watching for them now."

"Burglars?" exclaimed Tom, with real interest.

"Chicken-house burglars! That's the kind of burglars they are,"
growled Mr. Damon. "Two or three times they have tried to get my
prize buff Orpingtons. Last night they got me out of bed twice
fooling around the chicken house and yard. Other neighbors have
lost their hens already. I don't mean to lose mine. Want you to
help me, Tom."

"Is that all that is worrying you, Mr. Damon?" laughed the
young fellow.

"Bless my radiator! isn't that enough?"

"I know you set your clock by those buff Orpingtons," agreed

"That's right. That ten-months cockerel, Blue Ribbon Junior,
never fails to crow at three-thirty-three to the minute. Bless my
combs and spurs; a wonderful bird!"

"But let's see how I can help you regarding the chicken
thieves," Tom said, as they sighted the lights of the Swift house
beyond the long stockade fence that surrounded the Construction
Company's premises.

"You know I have a barbed wire entanglement around the whole
yard and hen-house. I don't take any more chances than I can
help. Those prize huff Orpingtons are a great temptation to
chicken lovers--both blond and brunette," and in spite of his
anxiety, Mr. Damon could chuckle at his own joke. "Even your old
Eradicate's friend fell for chickens, you know"

"And Rad promptly cured him of the disease," laughed Tom.

"And I'm trying to cure these others. I've charged my shotgun
with rock-saltas he did. My servant has orders to shoot anybody
who tampers with my chicken house tonight.

"But bless my shirt!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "I'll never be able
to sleep comfortably until I know that no thief can get at my
buff Orpingtons. I want you to fix it so I can sleep in peace,

He slowed to a stop in front of the Swift's door. Tom stared at
his eccentric friend questioningly.

"Bless my gaiters!" ejaculated Mr. Damon, "don't you see what I
want? And your head already full of this electrified locomotive
you are going to build?"

"Hush!" murmured Tom, with his hand upon his companion's arm.
"But what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to fix it so that I can turn a current of
electricity into that barbed wire chicken fence at night that
will shock any thief that touches the wires. Not kill 'em--though
they ought to be killed!" declared the eccentric man. "But shock
'em aplenty. Can't you do it for me, Tom Swift?"

"Of course it can be done," said the young fellow. "You use
electricity in your house. There is a feed cable in the street.
We will have to change your lighting switch for another. Fix it
with the Electric Supply Company. It will cost you more--"

"Bless my pocketbook! I don't care how much it costs. It will
be ample satisfaction to see just one low-down chicken thief
squirming on those wires.

Tom laughed again. He meant to help his friend; but he did not
propose to rig the wires so that anybody, even a chicken thief,
would be seriously injured by the electric current passing
through the strands.

"I'll come down to Waterfield tomorrow in the electric runabout
and fix things up for you. Get a permit from the Electric Supply
Company early in the morning. Tell them I will rig the thing
myself. They can send their inspector afterward."

"That's fine, Tom! What--Ugh! what's this? Another footpad?"

Out of the darkness beside the fence a bulky figure started.
For a moment Tom thought it was the same man who had attacked him
twice. Then the very size of this new assailant proved that
suspicion to be unfounded.

"Koku!" exclaimed Tom. "What's the matter with you, Koku?"

The huge and only half-tamed giant gained the side of the car
in seemingly a single stride. In the dark they could not see his
face, but his voice distinctly showed excitement.

"Master come good. 'Cause there be enemy. Koku find--Koku

"Bless my magnifying glass!" ejaculated Mr. Damon. "That fellow
is the most bloodthirsty individual that I ever saw."

"All in his bringing up," chuckled Tom who knew, as the saying
is, that Koku's bark was a deal worse than his bite. "Killing and
maiming his enemies used to be Koku's principal job. But he has
his orders now. He doesn't kill anybody without consulting me

"Bless my buttons!" murmured Mr. Damon. "That is certainly a
good thing too. What's the matter with him now?"

That is exactly what Tom himself wanted to know. He had dropped
a hand upon the arm of the giant as he stood beside the car.

"Who is the enemy, Koku?" he asked.

"Not know, Master. See him footmarks. Follow him footmarks. Not
find. When do find--kill!"

"That is, after first obtaining my permission," said Tom dryly.

"It is so," agreed the imperturbable Koku. "See! Show Master
footmarks. Him look in at window. See! Koku have got the wonder

He flashed the electric torch in his hand. He left the car and
strode into the yard. Tom followed him, and Mr. Damon's curiosity
brought him along.

The giant pointed the ray of the flashlight at the ground below
the porch. Several footprints --the marks of boots at least
number twelve in size--were imbedded in the soil. Koku went
around the house to the other side, following repeated marks of
the same boots.

"How came you to find them, Koku?" asked Tom softly.

"Me look. All around stockade," and he waved a generous gesture
with his free hand including the fence about the works. "Enemy
may come. Anytime he come. Now he come."

"Bless my slippery shoes!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, who had hard
work to keep up both physically and mentally with the giant.
"What does he mean

"Koku has always had it in his head," explained Tom, "that we
built that fence about the works to keep out enemies. And, to
tell the truth, we did! But all that is over--"

"Is it?" asked Mr. Damon pointedly. "Enemy here," added Koku,
flashing the lamplight upon the footprints on the ground.

"Those bootmarks," added Mr. Damon, "are doubtless those of
that fellow who jumped upon the running board of the car."

"Humph! And who robbed me of my wallet," added Tom musingly.
"Well, it might be. And, if so, Koku is right. The enemy has

"Me kill!" exclaimed the giant, stretching himself to his full

"We'll consider the killing later," said Tom, who well knew his
influence with this big fellow. "You are forbidden to kill
anybody, or chase anybody away from here, until I have a talk
with them. Enemy or not--understand?"

"Me understand," said Koku in his deep voice. "Master say--me

"Just the same," Tom said, aside to Mr. Damon, "there has been
somebody around here. I guess Mr. Bartholomew was right. He is
being spied upon. And now that we Swifts are going to try to do
something for him, we are likely to be spied upon too."

"Bless my statue of Nathan Hale!" murmured the eccentric
gentleman. "I believe you. And you've been already attacked twice
by some thug! You are positively in danger, Tom."

"I don't know about that. Save that the fellow who robbed me
was sore because I fooled him. Naturally he might like to get
square about those shorthand notes. He knows no more now about
Mr. Bartholomew's business with us than he did before he held me

"That is a fact," agreed Mr. Damon.

"And that brings me to another warning, Mr. Damon," added Tom
earnestly, as his friend climbed into the motor car again. "Keep
all that has happened, and all that I told you and Ned about the
H. & P. A. railroad, to yourself."

"Surely! Surely!"

"If Mr. Bartholomew's rivals continue to keep their spies
hanging around the works here, we'll handle them properly. Trust
Koku for that," and Tom chuckled.

"And don't forget my barbed wire entanglements," put in Mr.
Damon, starting his engine. "I want to fix those chicken

"All right. I'll be over tomorrow," promised Tom Swift.

Then he stood a minute on the curb and looked after the
disappearing lights of Mr. Damon's car. The latter's problem
dovetailed, after all, into this discovery of possible marauders
lurking about the Swift premises. Koku had made no mistake in
bringing his attention to the matter of the footprints. Tom had
seen somebody dodging into the darkness outside the house when he
had come out on his way to visit Mary Nestor.

"And sure as taxes," muttered Tom, as he finally turned toward
the front door again, "the fellow who twice attacked me this
evening wore the boots the prints of which Koku found.

"Those fellows, whoever they are, whether Montagne Lewis and
his associates, or not, have bitten off several mouthfuls that
they may be unable to chew. Anyhow, before they get through they
may learn something about the Swifts that they never knew

Chapter VI

The Contract Signed

Tom Swift went to bed that night without the least fear that
the man who had twice attacked him in the streets of Shopton
would be able to trouble him unless he went abroad again. Koku
was on guard.

The giant whom Tom had brought home from one of his distant
wanderings was wholly devoted to his master. Koku never had, and
he never would, become entirely civilized.

He was naturally a born tracker of men. For generations his
people had lived amid the alarms of threat and attack. He could
not be made to understand how so many "tribes," as he called
them, of civilized men could live in anything like harmony.

That somebody should prowl about the Swift house at night with
a desire to rob his young master or injure him, did not surprise
Koku in the least. He accepted the fact of the marauder's
presence as quite the expected thing.

But the man who had robbed Tom and later tried to repay him for
playing what appeared to be a practical joke on the robber, did
not trouble the Swift premises with his presence before morning.
Koku, thrusting Eradicate Sampson aside and striding to his
bedroom to report this fact, was what awoke Tom at eight o'clock.

"Hey! What you want, tromping in here for, man?" demanded old
Rad angrily. "An' totin' that spear, too. Where you t'ink yo' is?
In de jungle again? Go 'way, chile!"

Both Rad and Koku were rapidly outliving the sudden friendship
of Rad's sick days, when it was thought he might be blind for
life, and were dropping back into their old ways of bickering and
rivalry for Tom's attention.

"I report to the Master," declared the giant, in his deep

"You tell me, I tell him," Rad said pompously. "No need yo'
'sturbing Massa Tom at dis hour."

"Koku go in!" declared the giant sternly.

"Jes' stay out dere on de stair an' res' yo'self," said Rad.

Koku lost his temper with old Rad. There was a feud between
them, although deep in their hearts they really were fond of each
other. But the two were jealous of each other's services to young
Tom Swift.

Suddenly Tom heard the old negro utter a frightened squeal. The
door which had been only ajar, burst inward and banged against
the door-stop with a mighty smash.

Rad went through the big bedroom like a chocolate-colored
streak, entered Tom's bathroom, and the next moment there was the
sound of crashing glass as Eradicate Sampson went through the
lower sash of the window, headfirst, out upon the roof of the

"What do you mean by this?" shouted Tom, sitting up in bed.

Koku paused in the doorway, bulking almost to the top of the
door. His right arm was drawn back, displaying his mighty biceps,
and he poised a ten foot spear with a copper head that he had
seized from a nest of such implements which was a decoration of
the lower hall.

Had the giant ever flung that spear at poor Rad's back, half
the length of the staff might have passed through his body.
Little wonder that the colored man, having roused the giant's
rage to such a pitch, had given small consideration to the order
of his going, but had gone at once!

"You want to scare Rad out of half a year's growth?" Tom
pursued sternly, slipping out of bed and reaching for his robe
and slippers. "And he's broken that window to smithereens."

"Koku come make report, Master," said the giant.

"You go put that spear back where you found it and come up
properly," commanded the young fellow, with difficulty hiding his
amusement. "Go on now!"

He shuffled into the bathroom while the giant disappeared. He
peered out of the broken window. It was a wonder Rad had not
carried the sash with him! The broken glass was scattered all
about the roof of the porch and the old colored man lay groaning

"What did you do this for, Eradicate?" demanded Tom. "You act
worse than a ten-year-old boy."

"I's done killed, Massa Tom!" groaned Rad with confidence. "I's
blood from haid to foot!"

There was a scratch on his bald crown from which a few drops of
blood flowed. But with all his terror, Eradicate had put both
arms over his head when he made his dive through the window, and
he really was very little injured.

"Come in here," repeated Tom. "Fix something over this broken
window so that I can take my bath. And then go and put something
on that scratch. Don't you know better yet, than to cross Koku
when he is excited?"

"Dat crazy ol' cannibal!" spat out Rad viciously. "I'll fix him
yet. I'll pizen his rations, dat's what I'll do."

"You wouldn't be so bad as that, Rad!"

"Well, mebbe not," said the colored man, crawling in through
the bathroom window. "It would take too much pizen, anyway, to
kill that giant. Take as much as dey has to give an el'phant to
kill it. Anyways, I's bound to fix him proper some time, yet."

These quarrels between Eradicate and Koku were intermittent.
They almost always arose, too, because of the desire of the two
servants to wait upon Tom or his father. They were very jealous
of each other, and their clashes afforded Tom and his friends a
good deal of amusement.

While the young inventor was in his bath the giant strode back
into the bedroom, out of which Rad had scurried by another door,
and proceeded to report the result of his night watch about the

He had not much to tell. In fact, after Tom had gone into the
house Koku had seen nobody lurking about at all. The fact
remained that, earlier in the evening, somebody had made a close
surveillance of the Swift house, but the mysterious marauder had
not come back.

"All right, Koku. Keep your eyes open. I expect that enemy may
return sometime. Too bad," he added to himself, "that I didn't
get a better look at him."

"Koku know him next time," declared the giant.

"Why! you didn't even see him this time," cried Tom.

"See him boots. See marks him boots make. Know him boots.

"'Waugh!' yourself," returned Tom, shaking his head. "You are
altogether too sure, Koku. You couldn't tell a man from his
bootprints in the mud."

"Koku know," said the giant, just as confidently. "Wait. Him
catch--see--show Master."

"Don't you go to grabbing every stranger who comes around the
house or the works for a spy, and make me trouble. Remember now."

Koku nodded gravely and went away. When he met Rad suddenly in
the hall with Mr. Swift's breakfast tray, the giant said "boo!"
and almost cost the old colored man the loss of the tray.

"Dat big el'phant ought to be livin' in a barn," declared Rad.
"Look at dat spear he come near runnin' me t'rough wid! If he
had, yo' could ha' driv a tipcart full o' rubbish in after it.
Lawsy me!"

But an hour later when Tom and his father started for the
offices of the Swift Construction Company down the street, Rad
and Koku were sitting before an enormous breakfast in the back
kitchen and chatting together as companionably as ever.

The old inventor and his son arrived at the offices of the
Swift Construction Company not long ahead of Mr. Richard
Bartholomew. Tom had merely found time to read over the contract
that had been jointly prepared by Ned Newton and the firm's legal
advisers, before the railroad man came.

"No getting out of the provisions of that paper, Tom," Ned had
whispered, when he saw Mr. Bartholomew coming into the outer
office. "Is this your man


"A sharp looking little fellow," commented Ned. "But even if he
were bent on tricking us, this contract would hold him. He is
solvent and so is his road--as yet. If it has a bad name in the
market that is more because of slander by the Montagne Lewis
crowd than from any real cause. I've found that out this

"Faithful Nero!" chuckled Tom. "Aren't going to let the Swifts
get done, are you?"

"Not if I can help it," declared Ned Newton emphatically.

A clerk brought Mr. Bartholomew into the private office and he
was introduced to Newton. If he considered the financial manager
of the Swift Construction Company very young for his responsible
position, after he had read the contract he felt considerable
respect for Ned Newton.

"You've got me here, young man, hard and fast," Mr. Bartholomew
said. "If I was inclined to want to wriggle out, I see no chance
of it. But I don't. You have set forth here exactly my meaning
and intent. I want your best efforts in this matter, Mr. Swift,
and if you give them to me I'll foot the bill as agreed."

"You've got me interested, I confess," said Tom. "By the way,
were your friends following you when you came here this morning?"

"My friends?" repeated Mr. Bartholomew, for a moment puzzled.

"The spy that you mentioned," said Tom, smiling.

"That Andy O'Malley?" exclaimed Bartholomew. "Haven't spotted
him today."

"He spotted me last night," said Tom grimly, and proceeded to
relate what had happened.

"You fooled 'em that time, young man!" exclaimed the railroad
president, with satisfaction. "I am convinced that Montagne Lewis
is behind it. Look out for these fellows when you get to work,
Mr. Swift. They will stop at nothing. I tell you that the fight
is on between the Hendrickton & Pas Alos and the Hendrickton &
Western. I have either got to break them or they will break me."

"You seem very sure that there is a conspiracy against you, Mr.
Bartholomew," said the senior Swift reflectively.

"I am sure," was the reply. "And I am likewise sure that this
scheme of electrification of my road through the Pas Alos Range is
the only salvation for my railroad."

"I should call it a big contract," Ned Newton said,

"You have said it! But it is not a visionary scheme I have in
mind. You must know--you Swifts--how successful such an
electrification through the Rockies has been made by the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway."

"I've looked that up," confessed Tom, with enthusiasm. "That
was a great piece of work."

"It is. It is. But I hope for even a greater outcome of your
experiments, Mr. Swift. Of course, I do not expect to compete
with that great road. They had millions to spend, and they spent
them. Those Baldwin-Westinghouse locomotives the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul built in nineteen hundred and nineteen are
wonderful machines. They have got forty-two freight locomotives,
fifteen passenger locomotives and four switchers of that new

"The Jandel patent that my road uses is, in some degree, the
equal of those Baldwin-Westinghouse locomotives. At least, our
machines equal the C., M. & St. P. on our level road. They can
reach a mile-a-minute gait. But when it comes to speed and pull
on steep grades--Ah! that is where they fail."

"You will have to get power in the hills for your stations,"
suggested Tom, thoughtfully.

"I know that. I know where the power is coming from. I gathered
those waterfalls in years ago. Lewis and his crowd can't shut me
off from them. But I have got to have a speedier and more
powerful type of electric locomotive than has ever yet been built
to protect the Hendrickton & Pas Alos Railroad from any rivalry.

"I am looking to you Swifts to give me that. I am risking this
twenty-five thousand dollars upon your succeeding. And I am
offering you the hundred thousand dollars bonus for the right to
purchase the first successful locomotives that can be built
covered by your patents. Is it plain?"

"It is eminently satisfactory," said Mr. Swift, quietly.

"I will do my very best," agreed Tom, warmly. "There isn't a
thing the matter with the agreement," declared Ned Newton, with
confidence. "Gentlemen, sign on the dotted line."

Five minutes later the twin contracts were in force. One went
into the safe of the Swift Construction Company. The other, Mr.
Richard Bartholomew bore away with him.

Chapter VII

The Man with Big Feet

The consultation in the private office of the Swift
Construction Company after the departure of Mr. Richard
Bartholomew between the two Swifts and Ned Newton had more to do
with a vision of the future than with mere present finances.

"I expect you know just about how you are going to work on this
new invention, Tom?" suggested the financial manager, and Tom's

"Haven't the first idea," rejoined the young inventor,

"What do you mean?" ejaculated Ned. "You talked just now as
though you knew all about electric locomotives."

"I know a good deal about those that have been built, both
under the Jandel patent and those built for the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul in the great Philadelphia shops.

"But when you ask me if I know how I am going to improve on
those patents so as to make my locomotive twice as speedy and
quite as powerful as those other locomotives--well, I've got to
tell you flat that I have not as yet got the first idea."

"Humph!" grumbled Ned. "You say it coolly enough."

"No use getting all heated up about it," returned his friend.
"I have got to consider the situation first. I must look over the
field of electrical invention as applied to motive power. I must
study things out."

"I don't just see myself," Ned Newton remarked thoughtfully,
"why there should be such a great need for the electrification of
locomotives, anyway. Those great mountain-hogs that draw most of
the mountain railroad trains are very powerful, aren't they? And
they are speedy."

"Locomotives that use coal or oil have been developed about as
far as they can be," said Mr. Swift, quietly. "A successful
electric locomotive has many advantages over the old-time

"What are those advantages?" asked the business manager,
quickly. "I confess, I do not understand the matter, Mr. Swift."

"For instance," proceeded the old gentleman, "there is the coal
question alone. Coal is rising in price. It is bulky. Using
electricity as motive power for railroads will do away with fuel
trains, tenders, coal handling, water, and all that. Of course,
Mr. Bartholomew will generate his electricity from water power--
the cheapest power on earth."

"Humph! I've got my answer right now," said Ned Newton. "If
there is no other good reason, this is sufficient."

"There are plenty of others," drawled Tom, smiling. "Good ones.
For instance, heat or cold has nothing to do with the even
running of an electric locomotive. It can bore right through a
snowbank--a thing a steam engine can't do. It runs at an even
speed. Really, grade should have nothing to do with its speed.
There is a fault somewhere in the construction of the Jandel
machine or the H. & P. A. would have little trouble with those
locomotives on its grades.

"Then, all you have to do to start an electrified locomotive is
to turn a handswitch. No stoking or water-boiling. Does away with
the fireboy. One man runs it!"

"Why!" cried Ned, "I never stopped to think of all these

"No ashes to dump," went on Tom. "No flues to clean, no boilers
to inspect, and none to wear out. And they say that on the
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, at least, their freight
locomotives handle twice the load of a steam locomotive at a
greatly reduced cost."

"Sounds fine. Don't wonder Mr. Bartholomew is eager to
electrify his entire tine."

"On the side of passenger traffic," continued Tom Swift, "the
electric locomotive is smokeless, noiseless, dirtless, and
doesn't jerk the coaches in either stopping or starting. And in
addition, the electric locomotive is much easier on track and
roadbed than the old 'iron horse' driven by steam generated
either from coal or oil."

"It is a great field for your talents, Tom!" cried Ned, warmly.

"It is a big job," admitted Tom, and he said this with modesty.
"I don't know what I may be able to do--if anything. I would not
feel right in taking Mr. Bartholomew's twenty-five thousand
dollars for nothing."

"Quite right, my boy," said Mr. Swift, approvingly.

"Never mind that," said the financial manager, rather grimly.
"It was his own offer and his risk. That twenty-five thousand
comes to our account."

Tom laughed. "All business, Ned, aren't you? But there is more
than business for the Swift Construction Company in this. Our
reputation for fair dealing as well as for inventive powers is
linked up with this contract.

"I want to show the Jandel people--to say nothing of the bigger
firms--that the Swifts are to be reckoned with when it comes to
electric invention. Other roads will be electrifying their lines
as fast as it is proved that the electric-driven locomotive has
the bulge on the steam-driven.

"In the case of the Hendrickton & Pas Alos there are very steep
grades to overcome. Supposedly an electric motor-drive should
achieve the same speed on a hill as on the level. But there is
the weight of the train to be counted on.

"The H. & P. A. has a two per cent. grade in more than one
place. Mr. Bartholomew confessed as much to me last night. The
electric-driven locomotive of the powerful freight type, which
the Jandel people built for Mr. Bartholomew, can make about
sixteen miles an hour on those grades, although they can hit it
up to thirty miles an hour on level track.

"His passenger locomotives turn off a mile a minute and more,
on the level road; but they can not climb those steep grades at a
much livelier pace than the freight engines. That is why he is
talking about two-mile-a-minute locomotives. He must get a mighty
speedy locomotive, for both freight and passenger service, to
keep ahead of Montagne Lewis's rival road, the Hendrickton &

"You don't suppose it can be done, do you?" demanded Ned. "The
two-mile-a-minute locomotive, I mean, Tom."

"That is the target I am to aim for," returned his friend,
soberly. "At any rate, I hope to improve on the type of
locomotive Mr. Bartholomew is now using, so that the hundred
thousand dollars bonus will come our way as well as this first
twenty-five thousand."

"That wouldn't pay for one engine, would it?" cried Ned.

"Nor is it expected to. The bonus has nothing to do with
payment for any model, or patent, or anything of the kind. To
tell you the truth, Ned, I understand those big locomotives used
by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul cost them about one hundred
and twelve thousand dollars each."

"Whew! Some price, I'll tell the world!" murmured the youthful
financial manager of the Swift Construction Company.

When the conference was over, and Tom had been through the
workshop to overlook several little jobs that were in process of
completion by his trusted mechanics, it was lunch time. He left
word that he would not be back that day, for this new task he was
to attack was not to be approached with any haphazard thought.

Tom knew quite as well as his father knew that the idea of
improving the Jandel patent on electric locomotives was no small
thing. The Jandel people had claimed that their patent was the
very last word in electric motor-power. And Tom was quite willing
to acknowledge that in some ways this claim was true.

But in invention, especially in the field of electric
invention, what is the last word today may be ancient history

It was because this field is so broad and the possibility of
improvement in every branch of electrical science so exciting,
that Tom had accepted Mr. Bartholomew's challenge with such

Tom went back to the house for lunch, and as he joined his
father in the dining room he remarked to Eradicate:

"I want the electric runabout brought around after lunch. I am
going to Waterfield. Tell Koku, will you, Rad?"

"Tell that crazy fellow?" demanded the old colored man
heatedly. "Why should I tell him, Massa Tom? Ain't I able to
bring dat runabout out o' de garbarge? Shore I is!"

"You can't do everything, Rad," said Tom, soberly. "That is
humanly impossible."

"But dat Koku can't do nothin' right. Dat's inhumanly possible,
Massa Tom."

"Give him a chance, Rad. I have to take Koku with me this
afternoon. You must give your attention to the house and to

"Huh! Umm!" grunted Eradicate.

Rad was jealous of anybody who waited on Tom besides himself.
Yet he was proud of responsibility, too. He teetered between the
pride of being in charge at home and accompanying his young
master, and finally replied:

"Well, in course, you ain't going to be gone long, Massa Tom.
And yo' father does like to get his nap undisturbed. And he'll
want his pot o' tea afterwards. So I'll let dat irresponsible
Koku go wid yo'. But yo' got to watch him, Massa Tom. Dat giant
don't know what he's about half de time."

As Koku was not within hearing to challenge that statement,
things went all right. When Tom came out of the house after
eating, he found his very fast car waiting for him, with the
giant standing beside it at the curb.

"Get in at the back, Koku," said Tom. "I am going to take you
with me."

"Master is much wise," said Koku. "That man with big feet will
not hurt Master while Koku is with him."

To tell the truth Tom had quite forgotten the supposed spy that
had attacked him the night before. He needed Koku for a purpose
other than that of bodyguard. But he made no comment upon the
giant's remark.

They stopped at one of the gates of the works, and Tom
instructed Koku to bring out and put into the car certain boxes
and tools that he wished to take with him. Then he drove on,
taking the road to Waterfield.

This way led through farmlands and patches of woods, a rough
country in part. A mile out of the limits of Shopton the road
edged a deep valley, the sidehill sparsely wooded.

Almost at once, and where there was not a dwelling in sight,
they saw a figure tramping in the road ahead, a big man, roughly
dressed, and wearing a broad-brimmed hat. Somehow, his appearance
made Tom reduce speed and he hesitated to pass the pedestrian.

The man did not hear the runabout at first; or, at least, he
did not look over his shoulder. He strode on heavily, but
rapidly. Suddenly the young inventor heard the giant behind him
emit a hissing breath.

"Master!" whispered the giant.

"What's up now?" demanded Tom, but without glancing around.

"The big feet!" exclaimed Koku.

The giant's own feet were shod with difficulty in civilized
footgear, but compared with his other physical dimensions his
feet did not seem large. The man ahead wore coarse boots which
actually looked too big for him! Koku started up in the back of
the car as the latter drew nearer to the stranger.

The man looked back at last and Tom gained a clear view of his
features--roughly carved, dark as an Indian's, and holding a grim
expression in repose that of itself was far from breeding
confidence. In a moment, too, the expression changed into one of
active emotion. The man glared at the young inventor with
unmistakable malevolence.

"Master!" hissed Koku again. "The big feet!" The fellow must
have seen Koku's face and understood the giant's expression. In a
flash he turned and leaped out of the roadway. The sidehill was
steep and broken here, but he went down the slope in great
strides and with every appearance of wishing to evade the two in
the motor-car.

The giant's savage war cry followed the fugitive. Koku leaped
from the moving car. Tom yelled:

"Stop it, Koku! You don't know that that is the man."

"The big feet!" repeated the giant. "Master see the red mud
dried on Big Feet's boots? That mud from Master's garden."

Again Koku uttered his savage cry, and in strides twice the
length of those of the running man, started on the latter's

Chapter VIII

An Enemy in the Dark

The situation offered suggestions of trouble that stung Tom to
immediate action. The impetuousness of his giant often resulted
in difficulties which the young inventor would have been glad to

Now Koku was following just the wrong path. Tom Swift knew it.

"Koku, you madman!" he shouted after the huge native. "Come
back here! Hear me? Back!"

Koku hesitated. He shot a wondering look over his shoulder, but
his long legs continued to carry him down the slope after the
dark-faced stranger.

"Come back, I say!" shouted Tom again. "Have I got to come
after you? Koku! If you don't mind what you're told I'll send you
back to your own country and you'll have to eat snakes and
lizards, as you used to. Come here!"

Whether it was because of this threat of a change of diet,
which Koku now abhorred, or the fact that he had really become
somewhat disciplined and that he fairly worshiped Tom, the giant
stopped. The man with the big shoes disappeared behind a hedge of
low trees.

"Get back up here!" ejaculated Tom sternly. "I'll never take
you away from the house with me again if you don't obey me."

"Master!" ejaculated the giant, slowly approaching. "That Big

"I don't care if he made those footprints in the yard last
night or not. I don't want him touched. I didn't even want him to
know that we guessed he had been sneaking about the house.

"Of a courseness," grumbled Koku. "Koku understand everything
Master say."

"Well, you don't act as though you did. Next time when I want
any help I may have to bring Rad with me."

"Oh, no, Master! Not that old man. He don't know how to help
Master. Koku do just what Master say."

"Like fun you do," said Tom, still apparently very angry with
the simple-minded giant. "Get back into the car and sit still, if
you can, until we get to Mr. Damon's house." Then to himself he
added: "I don't blame that fellow, whoever he is, for lighting
out. I bet he's running yet!"

He knew that Koku would say nothing regarding the incident. The
giant had wonderful powers of silence! He sometimes went days
without speaking even to Rad. And that was one of the sources of
irritation between the voluble colored man and the giant.

"'Tain't human," Rad often said, "for nobody to say nothin' as
much as dat Koku does. Why, lawsy me! if he was tongue-tied an'
speechless, an' a deaf an' dumb mute, he couldn't say nothin'
more obstreperously dan he does--no sir! 'Tain't human."

So Tom had not to warn the giant not to chatter about meeting
the stranger on the road to Waterfield. If that person with dried
red mud on his boots was the spy who had followed Mr. Richard
Bartholomew East and was engaged by Montagne Lewis to interfere
with any attempt the president of the H. & P. A. might make to
pull his railroad out of the financial quagmire into which it was
rapidly sinking, Tom would have preferred to have the spy not
suspect that he had been identified after his fiasco of the
previous evening.

For if this Western looking fellow was Andy O'Malley, whose
name had been mentioned by the railroad man, he was the person
who had robbed Tom of his wallet and had afterward attempted
reprisal upon the young inventor because the robbery had resulted
in no gain to the robber.

Of course, the fellow had been unable to read Tom's shorthand
notes of the agreement that he had discussed with Mr.

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