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Tom Swift And His Electric Runabout by Victor Appleton

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The Speediest Car on the Road



Or Fun and Adventure on the Road

Or the Rivals of Lake Carlopa

Or the Stirring Cruise of the Red Cloud

Or Under the Ocean for Sunken Treasure

Or the Speediest Car on the Road

Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout





"Father," exclaimed Tom Swift, looking up from a paper he was
reading, "I think I can win that prize!"

"What prize is that?" inquired the aged inventor, gazing away
from a drawing of a complicated machine, and pausing in his task
of making some intricate calculations. "You don't mean to say,
Tom, that you're going to have a try for a government prize for a
submarine, after all."

"No," not a submarine prize, dad," and the youth laughed.
"Though our Advance would take the prize away from almost any
other under-water boat, I imagine. No, it's another prize I'm
thinking about."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I see by this paper that the Touring Club of America has
offered three thousand dollars for the speediest electric car.
The tests are to come off this fall, on a new and specially built
track on Long Island, and it's to be an endurance contest for
twenty-four hours, or a race for distance, they haven't yet
decided. But I'm going to have a try for it, dad, and, besides
winning the prize, I think I'll take Andy Foger down a peg.

"What's Andy been doing now?"

"Oh, nothing more than usual. He's always mean, and looking
for a chance to make trouble for me, but I didn't refer to
anything special He has a new auto, you know, and he boasts that
it's the fastest one in this country. I'll show him that it
isn't, for I'm going to win this prize with the speediest car on
the road."

"But, Tom, you haven't any automobile, you know," and Mr. Swift
looked anxiously at his son, who was smiling confidently. "You
can't be going to make your motor-cycle into an auto; are you?"

"No, dad."

"Then how are you going to take part in the prize contest?
Besides, electric cars, as far as I know, aren't specially

"I know it, and one reason why this club has arranged the
contest is to improve the quality of electric automobiles. I'm
going to build an electric runabout, dad."

"An electric runabout? But it will have to be operated with a
storage battery, Tom, and you haven't--"

"I guess you're going to say I haven't any storage battery,
dad," interrupted Mr. Swift's son. "Well, I haven't yet, but I'm
going to have one. I've been working on--"

"Oh, ho!" exclaimed the aged inventor with a laugh. "So that's
what you've been tinkering over these last few weeks, eh, Tom? I
suspected it was some new invention, but I didn't suppose it was
that. Well, how are you coming on with it?"

"Pretty good, I think. I've got a new idea for a battery, and I
made an experimental one. I gave it some pretty severe tests, and
it worked fine."

"But you haven't tried it out in a car yet, over rough roads,
and under severe conditions have you?"

"No, I haven't had a chance. In fact, when I invented the
battery I had no idea of using it on a car I thought it might
answer for commercial purposes, or for storing a current
generated by windmills. But when I read that account in the
papers of the Touring Club, offering a prize for the best
electric car, it occurred to me that I might put my battery into
an auto, and win."

"Hum," remarked Mr. Swift musingly. "I don't take much stock in
electric autos, Tom. Gasolene seems to be the best, or perhaps
steam, generated by gasolene. I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.
All the electric runabouts I ever saw, while they were very nice
cars, didn't seem able to go so very fast, or very far."

"That's true, but it's because they didn't have the right kind
of a battery. You know an electric locomotive can make pretty
good speed, Dad. Over a hundred miles an hour in tests."

"Yes, but they don't run by storage batteries. They have a
third rail, and powerful motors," and Mr. Swift looked
quizzically at his son. He loved to argue with him, for he said
it made Tom think, and often the two would thus thresh out some
knotty point of an invention, to the interests of both.

"Of course, Dad, there is a good deal of theory in what I'm
thinking of," the lad admitted. "But it does seem to me that if
you put the right kind of a battery into an automobile, it could
scoot along pretty lively. Look what speed a trolley car can

"Yes, Tom, but there again they get their power from an
overhead wire."

"Some of them don't. There's a new storage battery been
invented by a New Jersey man, which does as well as the third
rail or the overhead wire. It was after reading about his battery
that I thought of a plan for mine. It isn't anything like his;
perhaps not as good in some ways, but, for what I want, it is
better in some respects, I think. For one thing it can be
recharged very quickly."

"Now Tom, look here," said Mr. Swift earnestly, laying aside
his papers, and coming over to where his son sat. "You know I
never interfere with your inventions. In fact, the more you think
of the better I like it. The airship you helped build certainly
did all that could be desired, and--"

"That reminds me. Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon are out in it now,"
interrupted Tom. "They ought to be back soon. Yes, Dad, the
airship Red Cloud certainly scooted along."

"And the submarine, too," continued the aged inventor. "Your
ideas regarding that were of service to me, and helped in our
task of recovering the treasure, but I'm afraid you're going to
be disappointed in the storage battery. You may get it to work,
but I don't believe you can make it powerful enough to attain any
great speed. Why don't you confine yourself to making a battery
for stationary work?"

"Because, Dad, I believe I can build a speedy car, and I'm
going to try it. Besides I want to race Andy Foger, and beat him,
even if I don't win the prize. I'm going to build that car, and
it will make fast time."

"Well, go ahead, Tom," responded his father, after a pause. "Of
course you can use the shops here as much as you want, and Mr.
Sharp, Mr. Jackson, and I will help you all we can. Only don't be
disappointed, that's all."

"I won't, Dad. Suppose you come out to my shop and I'll show
you a sample battery I've been testing for the last week. I have
it geared to a small motor, and it's been running steadily for
some time. I want to see what sort of a record it's made."

Father and son crossed the yard, and entered a shop which the
lad considered exclusively his own. There he had made many
machines, and pieces of apparatus, and had invented a number of
articles which had been patented, and yielded him considerable of
an income.

"There's the battery, Dad," he said, pointing to a complicated
mechanism in one corner

"What's that buzzing noise?" asked Mr. Swift. "That's the
little motor I run from the new cells. Look here," and Tom
switched on an electric light above the experimental battery,
from which he hoped so much. It consisted of a steel can, about
the size of the square gallon tin in which maple syrup comes, and
from it ran two wires which were attached to a small motor that
was industriously whirring away.

Tom looked at a registering gauge connected with it.

"That's pretty good," remarked the young inventor.

"What is it, Tom?" and his father peered about the shop.

"Why this motor has run an equivalent of two hundred miles on
one charging of the battery! That's much better than I expected.
I thought if I got a hundred out of it I'd be doing well. Dad, I
believe, after I improve my battery a bit, that I'll have the
very thing I want! I'll install a set of them in a car, and it
will go like the wind. I'll --" Tom's enthusiastic remarks were
suddenly interrupted by a low, rumbling sound.

"Thunder!" exclaimed Mr. Swift. "The storm is coming, and Mr.
Sharp and Mr. Damon in the airship--"

Hardly had he spoken than there sounded a crash on the roof of
the Swift house, not far away. At the same time there came cries
of distress, and the crash was repeated.

"Come on, Dad! Something has happened!" yelled Tom, dashing
from the shop, followed by his parent. They found themselves in
the midst of a rain storm, as they raced toward the house, on the
roof of which the smashing noise was again heard.


Tom Swift was a lad of action, and his quickness in hurrying
out to investigate what had happened when he was explaining about
his new battery, was characteristic of him. Those of my readers
who know him, through having read the previous books of this
series, need not be told this, but you who, perhaps, are just
making his acquaintance, may care to know a little more about

As told in my first book, "Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle" the
young inventor lived with his father, Barton Swift, a widower, in
the town of Shopton, New York. Mr. Swift was also an inventor of

In my initial volume of this series, Tom became possessed of a
motor-cycle in a peculiar way. It was sold to him by a Mr.
Wakefield Damon, a wealthy gentleman who was unfortunate in
riding it. On his speedy machine, which Tom improved by several
inventions, he had a number of adventures. The principal one was
being attacked by a number of bad men, known as the "Happy Harry
Gang," who wished to obtain possession of a valuable turbine
patent model belonging to Mr. Swift. Tom was taking it to a
lawyer, when he was waylaid, and chloroformed. Later he traced
the gang, and, with the assistance of Mr. Damon and Eradicate
Sampson, an aged colored man who made a living for himself and
his mule, Boomerang, by doing odd jobs, the lad found the thieves
and recovered a motor-boat which had been stolen. But the men got

In the second volume, called "Tom Swift and His Motor-Boat,"
Tom bought at auction the boat stolen by, and recovered from, the
thieves, and proceeded to improve it. While he was taking his
father out on a cruise for Mr Swift's health, the Happy Harry
Gang made a successful attempt to steal some valuable inventions
from the Swift house. Tom started to trace them, and incidentally
he raced and beat Andy Foger, a rich bully. On their way down the
lake, after the robbery, Tom, his father and Ned Newton, Tom's
chum, saw a man hanging from the trapeze of a blazing balloon
over Lake Carlopa. The balloonist was Mr. John Sharp and he was
rescued by Tom in a thrilling fashion. In his motor-boat, Tom had
much pleasure, not the least of which was taking out a young lady
named Miss Mary Nestor, whose acquaintance he had made after
stopping her runaway horse, which his bicycle had frightened.
Tom's association with Miss Nestor soon ripened into something
deeper than mere friendship.

It developed that Mr Sharp, whom Tom had saved from the burning
balloon, was an aeronaut of note, and had once planned to build
an airship. After his recovery from his thrilling experience, he
mentioned the matter to Mr. Swift and his son, with whom he took
up his residence. This fitted right in with Tom's ideas, and soon
father, son and the balloonist were constructing the Red Cloud,
as they named their airship. It was finally completed, as related
in "Tom Swift and His Airship," made a successful trial trip, and
won a prize. It was planned to make a longer journey, and Tom,
Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon agreed to go together. Mr. Damon was an
odd individual, who was continuously blessing some part of his
anatomy, his clothing or some inanimate object but, for all that,
he was a fine man.

The night before Tom and his friends started off in their
airship, the Shopton Bank vault was blown open and seventy-five
thousand dollars was taken. Tom and his friends did not know of
this, but, no sooner had the young inventor, Mr. Sharp and Mr.
Damon sailed away, than the police arrived at Mr. Swift's house
to arrest them. They were charged with the robbery, and with
having sailed away with the booty.

It appeared that Andy Foger said he had seen Tom hanging around
the bank the night of the robbery, with a bag of burglar tools in
his possession. Search was immediately begun for the airship, the
occupants of which were, meanwhile, speeding on.

Tom and his two friends had trouble. They were nearly burned up
in a forest fire, and were fired upon by a crowd of people with
rifles, who, reading of the bank robbery and the reward offered
for the capture of the thieves, hoped to bring down the airship.
The fact that they were fired upon caused Tom and the two
aeronauts to descend to make an investigation, and for the first
time they learned of the bank theft. How they got track of the
real robbers, took the sheriff with them in the airship, and
raided the gang will be found set down at length in the book.
Also how Tom administered well-deserved thrashing to Andy Foger.

Mr. Swift did not accompany his son in the airship, and when
asked why he did not care to make the trip, said he was working
on a new type of submarine boat, which he hoped to enter in the
government trials, to win a prize. In the fourth volume of the
series, called "Tom Swift and his Submarine," you may read how
successful Mr. Swift was.

When the submarine, called the Advance, was finished, the party
made a trip to recover three hundred thousand dollars in gold
from a sunken treasure ship, off the coast of Uruguay, South
America. They sailed beneath the seas for many miles, and were in
great peril at times. One reason for this was that a rival firm
of submarine builders got wind of the treasure, and tried to get
ahead of the Swifts in recovering it. How Tom and his friends
succeeded in their quest, how they nearly perished at the bottom
of the sea, how they were captured by a foreign war vessel, and
sentenced to death, how they fought with a school of giant sharks
and how they blew up the wreck to recover the money is all told
of in the book.

On their return to civilization with the gold, Mr. Swift, Tom,
and their friends deposited the money in the Shopton Bank, where
Ned Newton worked. Ned was a bright lad, but had not been
advanced as rapidly as he deserved, and Tom knew this. He asked
his father to speak to the president, Mr. Pendergast, in Ned's
behalf, and, as a result the lad was made assistant cashier, for
the request of a man who controlled a three hundred thousand
dollar deposit was not to be despised.

In building the submarine Tom and his father rented a large
cottage on the New Jersey seacoast, but, on returning from their
treasure-quest they went back to Shopton, leaving the submarine
at the boathouse of the shore cottage, which was near the city of
Atlantis. That was in the fall of the year, and all that winter
the young inventor had been busy on many things, not the least of
which was his storage battery. It was now spring, and seeing the
item in the paper, about the touring club prize for an electric
auto, had given him a new idea.

But all thoughts of electric cars, and everything else, were
driven from the mind of the young man, when, with his father, he
rushed out to see the cause of the crash on the roof of the Swift

"There's something up there, Tom," called his father, as he
splashed on through the rain.

"That's right," added his son. "And somebody, too, to judge by
the fuss they're making."

"Maybe the house has been struck by lightning!" suggested the
aged inventor.

"No, the storm isn't severe enough for that; and, besides, if
the house had been struck you'd hear Mrs. Baggert yelling, Dad.

At that moment a woman's voice cried out:

"Mr. Swift! Tom! Where are you? Something dreadful has

"There she goes!" remarked Mr. Swift, as he splashed into a mud

"Bless my deflection rudder!" suddenly cried a voice from the
flat roof of the Swift house. "Hello! I say, is anyone down

"Yes, we are," answered Tom. "Is that you, Mr. Damon?"

"Bless my collar button! It certainly is."

"Where's Mr. Sharp? I don't hear him."

"Oh, I'm here all right," answered the balloonist. "I'm trying
to get the airship clear of the chimney. Mr. Damon--"

"Yes, I steered wrong!" interrupted the odd man. "Bless my
liver pin, but it was so dark I couldn't see, and when that clap
of thunder came I shifted the deflection rudder instead of the
lateral one, and tried to knock over your chimney."

"Are either of you hurt?" asked Mr. Swift anxiously.

"No, not at all," replied Mr. Sharp. "We were moving slowly,
ready for a landing."

"Is the airship damaged?" inquired Tom.

"I don't know. Not much, I guess," was the answer of the
aeronaut. "I've stopped the engine, and I don't like to start it
again until I can see what shape we're in."

"I'll come up, with Mr. Jackson," called Tom, and he hastily
summoned Garret Jackson, an engineer, who had been in the service
of Mr. Swift for many years. Together they proceeded to the roof
by a stairway that led to a scuttle.

"Is anyone killed?" asked Mrs. Baggert, as Tom hurried up the
stairs. "Don't tell me there is, Tom!"

"Well, I don't have to tell you, for no one is," replied the
young inventor with a laugh. "It's all right. The airship tried
to collide with the chimney, that's all."

He was soon on the large, flat roof of the dwelling, and, with
the aid of lanterns he, the engineer, and Mr. Sharp made a hasty

"Anything wrong?" inquired Mr. Damon, looking out from the
cabin of the Red Cloud where he had taken refuge after the crash,
and to get out of the wet.

"Not much," answered Tom. "One of the forward planes is
smashed, but we can rise by means of the gas, and float down. Is
all clear, Mr. Sharp?"

"All clear," replied the balloonist, for the airship had now
been wheeled back from the entanglement with the chimney.

"Then here we go!" cried Tom, as he and the aeronaut entered
the craft, while Mr. Jackson descended through the scuttle.

There came a fiercer burst to the storm, and, amid a series of
dazzling lightning flashes and the muttering of thunder, the
airship rose from the roof. Tom switched on the search-light,
and, starting the big propellers, guided the craft skillfully
toward the big shed where it was housed when not in use.

With the grace of a bird it turned about in the air, and
settled to the ground. It was the work of but a few minutes to
run it into the shed. Then they all started for the house.

"Bless my umbrella! How it rains!" cried Mr. Damon, as he
splashed on through numerous puddles. "We got back just in time,
Mr. Sharp."

"Where did you go?" asked the lad.

"Why we took a flight of about fifty miles and stopped at my
house in Waterfield for supper. Were you anxious about us?"

"A little when it began to storm," replied Tom.

"Anything new since we left?" asked Mr. Sharp, for it was the
custom of himself, or some of his friends, to take little trips
in the airship. They thought no more of it than many do of going
for a short spin in an automobile.

"Yes, there is something new," said Mr. Swift, as the party,
all drenched now, reached the broad veranda.

"Bless my gaiters!" cried Mr. Damon. "What is it? I hope the
Happy Harry gang hasn't robbed you again; nor Berg and his men
tried to take that treasure away from us, after we worked so hard
to get it from the wreck."

"No, it isn't that," replied Mr. Swift. "The truth is that Tom
thinks he has invented a storage battery that will revolutionize
matters. He's going to build an electric automobile, he says."

"I am," declared the lad, as the others looked at him, "and it
will be the speediest one you ever saw, too!"


"Well, Tom," remarked Mr. Sharp, after a pause following the
lad's announcement. "I didn't know you had any ambitions in that
line. Tell us more about the battery. What system do you use;
lead plates and sulphuric acid?"

"Oh, that's out of date long ago," declared the lad.

"Well, I don't know much about electricity," admitted the
aeronaut. "I'll take my chances in an airship or a balloon, but
when it comes to electricity I'm down and out."

"So am I," admitted Mr. Damon. "Bless my gizzard, it's all I
can do to put a new spark plug in my automobile. Where is your
new battery, Tom?"

"Out in my shop, running yet if it hasn't been frightened by
the airship smash," replied the lad, somewhat proudly. "It's an
oxide of nickel battery, with steel and oxide of iron negative

"What solution do you use, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift. "I didn't get
that far in questioning you before the crash came," he added.

"Well I have, in the experimental battery, a solution of
potassium hydrate," replied the lad, "but I think I'm going to
change it, and add some lithium hydrate to it. I think that will
make it stronger."

"Bless my watch chain!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "It's all Greek to
me. Suppose you let us see it, Tom? I like to see wheels go
'round, but I'm not much of a hand for chemical terms."

"If you're sure you're not hurt by the airship smash, I will,"
declared the lad.

"Oh, we're not hurt a bit," insisted Mr. Sharp. "As I said we
were moving slow, for I knew it was about time to land. Mr. Damon
was steering--"

"Yes I thought I'd try my hand at it, as it seemed so easy,"
interrupted the eccentric man. "But never again--not for mine! I
couldn't see the house, and, before I knew it we were right over
the roof. Then the chimney seemed to stick itself up suddenly in
front of us, and--well, you know the rest. I'm willing to pay for
any damage I caused."

"Oh, not at all!" replied Tom. "It's easy enough to put on a
new plane, or, for that matter, we can operate the Red Cloud
without it. But come on, I'll show you my sample battery."

"Here, take umbrellas!" Mrs. Baggert called after them as they
started toward the shop, for it was still raining.

"We don't mind getting wet," replied the young inventor. "It's
in the interests of science."

"Maybe it is. You don't mind a wetting, but I mind you coming
in and dripping water all over the carpets!" retorted the

"Bless my overshoes, I'm afraid we have wet the carpets a
trifle now," admitted Mr. Damon ruefully, as he looked down at a
puddle, which had formed where he had been standing.

"That's the reason I want you to take umbrellas this trip,"
insisted Mrs. Baggert.

They complied, and were soon in the shop, where Tom explained
his battery. The small motor was still running and had, as the
lad had said, gone the equivalent of over two hundred miles.

"If a small battery does as well as that, what will a larger
one do?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Much better, I hope," replied the youth. "But Dad doesn't seem
to have much faith in them."

"Well," admitted Mr. Swift, "I must say I am skeptical. Still,
I acknowledge Tom has done some pretty good work along electrical
lines. He helped me with the positive and negative plates on the
submarine, and, maybe--well, we'll wait and see," he concluded.

"If you build a car I hope you give me a ride in it," said Mr.
Damon. "I've ridden fast in the air, and swiftly on top of, and
under, the water. Now I'd like to ride rapidly on top of the
earth. The gasolene auto doesn't go very fast."

"I'll give you a ride that will make your hair stand up!"
prophesied Tom, and the time was to come when he would make good
that prediction.

The little party in the machine shop talked at some length
about Tom's battery. He showed them how it was constructed, and
gave them some of his ideas regarding the new type of auto he
planned to build.

"Well," remarked Mr. Swift at length, "if you want to keep your
brain fresh, Tom, you must get to bed earlier than this. It's
nearly twelve o'clock."

"And I want to get up early !" exclaimed the lad. "I'm going to
start to build a larger battery to-morrow."

"And I'm going to repair the airship," added Mr. Sharp.

"Bless my night cap, I promised my wife I'd be home early to-
night, too!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I don't fancy making
the trip back to Waterfield in my auto, though. Something will be
sure to happen. I'll blow out a tire, or a spark plug will get
sooty on me and--"

"It's raining harder than ever," interrupted Tom. "Better stay
here to-night. You can telephone home." Which Mr. Damon did.

Tom was up early the next morning, in spite of the fact that he
did not go to bed in good season, and before breakfast he was
working at his new storage battery. After the meal he hurried
back to the shop, but it was not long before he came out,
wheeling his motor-cycle.

"Where are you going, Tom?" asked Mrs. Baggert.

"Oh, I've got to go to Mansburg to get some steel tubes for my
new battery," he replied. "I thought I had some large enough, but
I haven't." Mansburg was a good-sized town, near Shopton.

"Then I wish you'd bring me a bottle of stove polish,"
requested the housekeeper. "The liquid kind. I'm out of it, and
the stove is as red as a cow."

"All right," agreed the lad, as he leaped into the saddle and
pedaled off down the road. A moment later he had turned on the
power, and was speeding along the highway, which was in good
condition on account of the shower of the night before.

Tom was thinking so deeply of his new invention, and planning
what he would do when he had his electric runabout built, that,
almost before he knew it, he had reached Mansburg, purchased the
steel tubes, and the stove polish, and was on his way back again.

As he was speeding along on a level road, he heard, coming
behind him, an automobile. The lad turned to one side, but, in
spite of this the party in the car began a serenade of the
electric siren, and kept it up, making a wild discord.

"What's the matter with those fellows!" inquired Tom of
himself. "Haven't I given them enough of the road, or has their
steering gear broken?"

He looked back over his shoulder, and it needed but a glance to
show that the car was all right, as regarded the steering
apparatus. And it needed only another glance to disclose the
reason for the shrill sound of the siren.

"Andy Foger!" exclaimed Tom. "I might have known. And Sam and
Pete are with him. Well, if he wants to make me get off the road,
he'll find that I've got as much right as he has!"

He kept on a straight course, wondering if the red-haired, and
squint-eyed bully would dare try to damage the motor-cycle.

A little later Andy's car was beside Tom.

"Why don't you get out of the way," demanded Sam, who could
usually be depended on to aid Andy in all his mean tricks.

"Because I'm entitled to half the road," retorted our hero.

"Humph! A slow-moving machine like yours hasn't any right on
the road," sneered Andy, who had slowed down his car somewhat.

"I haven't, eh?" demanded Tom. "Well, if you'll get down out of
that car for a few minutes I'll soon show you what my rights

Now Andy, more than once, had come to personal encounters with
Tom, much to the anguish of the bully. He did not relish another
chastisement, but his mean spirit could not brook interference.

"Don't you want a race?" he inquired of Tom, in a sneering
tone. "I'll give you a mile start, and beat you! I've got the
fastest car built!"

"You have, eh?" asked Tom, while a grim look came over his
face. "Maybe you'll think differently some day."

"Aw, he's afraid to race; come on," suggested Pete. "Don't
bother with him, Andy."

"No, I guess it wouldn't be worth my while," was the reply of
the bully, and he threw the second gear into place, and began to
move away from the young inventor.

Tom was just as much pleased to be left alone, but he did not
want Andy Foger to think that he could have matters all his own
way. Tom's motor-cycle, since he had made some adjustments to it,
was very swift. In fact there were few autos that could beat it.
He had never tried it against Andy's new car, and he was anxious
to do so.

"I wonder if I would stand any chance, racing him?" thought the
young inventor, as he saw the car slowly pulling away from him.
"I think I'll wait until he gets some distance ahead, and then
I'll see how near I can come to him. If I get anywhere near him
I'm pretty sure I can pass him. I'll try it."

When Andy and his cronies looked back, Tom did not appear to be
doing anything save moving along at moderate speed on his

"You don't dare race!" Pete Bailey shouted to him.

"Wait," was what Tom whispered to himself.

Andy's car was now some distance ahead. The young inventor
waited a little longer, and then turned more power into his
machine. It leaped forward and began to "eat up the road," as Tom
expressed it. He had seen Andy throw in the third gear, but knew
that there was a fourth speed on the bully's car.

"I don't know whether I can beat him on that or not," thought
the lad dubiously. "If I try, and fail, they'll laugh at me. But
I don't think I'm going to fail."

Faster and faster he rode. He was rapidly overhauling Andy's
car now, and, as they heard him approach, the three cronies
turned around.

"He's going to race you, after all, Andy!" cried Sam.

"You mean he's going to try," sneered Andy. "I'll give him all
the racing he wants!"

In another few seconds Tom was beside the auto, and would have
passed it, only Andy opened his throttle a little more. For a
moment the auto jumped ahead, and then, as our hero turned on
still more power, he easily held his own.

"Aw, you can never beat us!" yelled Pete.

"Of course not!" added Sam.

"I'll leave him behind in a second," prophesied Andy. "Wait
until I throw in the other gear," he added to his cronies in a
low voice. "He thinks he's going to beat me. I'll let him think
so, and then I'll spurt ahead."

The two machines were now racing along side by side. Andy's car
was going the limit on third gear, but he still had the fourth
gear in reserve. Tom, too, still had a little margin of speed.

Suddenly Andy reached forward and yanked on a lever. There was
a grinding of cogs as the fourth gear slipped into place, for
Andy did not handle his car skillfully. The effect, however, was
at once apparent. The automobile shot forward.

"Now where are you, Tom Swift?" cried Sam.

Tom said nothing. He merely shifted a lever, and got a better
spark. He also turned on a little more gasolene and opened the
muffler The quickness with which his motor-cycle shot forward
almost threw him from the saddle, but he had a tight grip on the
handle bars. He whizzed past the auto, but, as the latter
gathered speed, it crept up to him, and, once more was on even
terms. Much chagrined at seeing Tom hold pace with him, even for
an instant, Andy shouted;

"Get over on your own side there! You're crowding me!"

"I am not!" yelled back Tom, above the explosions of his

The two were now racing furiously, and Andy, with a savage
look, tried to get more speed out of his car. In spite of all the
bully did, Tom was gradually forging ahead. A little hill was now
in view.

"Here's where I make him take my dust!" cried Andy, but, to his
surprise Tom still kept ahead. The auto began to lose ground, for
it was not made to take hills on high gear.

"Change to third gear quick!" cried Sam.

Andy tried to do it. There was a hesitancy on the part of his
car. It seemed to balk. Tom, looking back, slowed up a trifle. He
could afford to, as Andy was being beaten.

"Go on! Go on!" begged Pete. "You'll have to keep on fourth
gear to beat him, Andy."

"That's what!" murmured the bully. Once more he shifted the
gears. There was a grinding, smashing sound, and the car lost
speed. Then it slowed up still more, and finally stopped. Then it
began to back down hill.

"I've stripped those blamed gears!" exclaimed Andy ruefully.

"Can't you beat him?" asked Pete.

"I could have, easily, if my gears hadn't broken," declared the
bully, but, as a matter of fact, he could not have done so. "I
oughtn't to have changed, going up hill," he added, as he jammed
on the brakes, to stop the car from sliding down the slope.

Tom saw and heard.

"I thought you were so anxious to race," he said, exultantly,
as well he might. "I don't want to try a contest down hill,
though, Andy," and he laughed at the red-haired lad, who was

"Aw, go on!" was all the retort the squint-eyed one could think
of to make.

"I am going on," replied our hero. "Just to show you that I can
go down hill, watch me."

He turned his motor-cycle, and approached Andy's stalled car,
for Tom was some distance in advance of it, up the slope by this
time. As he approached the auto, containing the three
disconcerted cronies, something bounded out of Tom's pocket. It
was the bottle of stove blacking he had purchased for Mrs.
Baggert. The bottle fell in the soft dirt in front of his forward
wheel, and a curious thing happened. Perhaps you have seen a
bicycle or auto tire strike a stone at an angle, and throw it
into the air with great force. That was what happened to the
bottle. Tom's front wheel struck the cork, which fitted tightly,
and, just as when you hit one end of the wooden "catty" and it
bounds up, the bottle described a curve through the air, and flew
straight toward Andy's car. It struck the brass frame of the wind
shield with a crash.

The bottle broke, and in an instant the black liquid was
spattered all over Andy, Sam and Pete. It could not have been
done more effectively if Tom had thrown it by hand. All over
their clothes, their hands and faces, and the front of the car
went the dreary black. Tom looked on, hardly able to believe what
he saw.

"Wow! Wup! Ug! Blug! Mug!" spluttered Sam, who had some of the
stuff in his mouth.

"Oh! Oh!" yelled Pete.

"You did that on purpose, Tom Swift!" shouted Andy, wiping some
of the blacking from his left eye. "I'll have you arrested for
that! You've ruined my car, and look at my suit!"

"Mine's worse!" murmured Sam, glancing down at his light
trousers, which were of the polka-dot pattern now.

"No, mine is," insisted Pete, whose white shirt was of the hue
of a stove pipe.

Andy wiped some of the black stuff from his nose, whence it was
dropping on the steering wheel.

"You just wait!" the bully called to Tom. "I'll get even with
you for this!"

"It was an accident! I didn't mean to do that," explained Tom,
trying not to laugh, as he dismounted from his motorcycle, ready
to render what assistance he could.


The three cronies were in a sorrowful plight. The black fluid
dripped from them, and formed little puddles in the car. Andy had
used his handkerchief to wipe some of the stuff from his face,
but the linen was soon useless, for it quickly absorbed the

"There's a little brook over here," volunteered Tom. "You might
wash in that. The stuff comes off easily. It isn't like ink," and
he had to laugh, as he thought of the happening.

"Here! You quit that!" ordered Andy. "You've gone too far, Tom

"Didn't I tell you it was an accident?" inquired the young

"It wasn't!" cried Sam. "You threw the bottle at us! I saw

"It slipped from my pocket," declared the youth, and he
described how the accident occurred. "I'll help you clean your
car, Andy," he added.

"I don't want your help! If you come near me I'll--I'll punch
your nose!" cried Andy, now almost beside himself with rage.

"All right, if you don't want my help I don't care," answered
Tom, glad enough not to have to soil his hands and clothes. He
felt that it was partly his fault, and he would have done all he
could to remedy matters, but his good offers being declined, he
felt that it was useless to insist further.

He remounted his motor-cycle, and rode off, the last view he
had of the trio being one where they were at the edge of the
brook, trying to remove the worst traces of the black fluid. As
Tom turned around for a final glimpse, Andy shook his fist at
him, and called out something.

"I guess Andy'll have it in for me," mused Tom. "Well, I can't
help it. I owed him something on account, but I didn't figure on
paying it in just this way," and he thought of the time the bully
had locked him in the ballast tanks of the submarine, thereby
nearly smothering him to death.

That night Andy Foger told his father what had happened, for
Mr. Foger inquired the reason for the black stains on his son's
face and hands. But Andy did not give the true version. He said
Tom had purposely thrown the bottle of blacking at him.

"So that's the kind of a lad Tom Swift is, eh?" remarked Andy's
father. "Well, Andy, I think you will soon have a chance to get
even with him."

"How, pop?"

"I can't tell you now, but I have a plan for making Tom sorry
he ever did anything to you, and I will also pay back some old
scores to Mr. Swift and Mr. Damon. I'll ruin their bank for them,
that's what I'll do."

"Ruin their bank, pop? How?"

"You wait and see. The Swift crowd will get off their high
horse soon, or I'm mistaken. My plans are nearly completed, but I
can't tell you about them. I'll ruin Mr. Swift, though, that's
what I'll do," and Mr. Foger shook his head determinedly.

Tom was soon at his home, and Mrs. Baggert, hearing the noise
of his machine, as it entered the front yard, came to the side

"Where's my blacking?" she asked, as our hero dismounted and
untied the bundle of steel tubes he had purchased.

"I--I used it," he answered, laughing.

"Tom Swift! You don't mean to say you took my stove polish to
use in your battery, do you?"

"No, I used it to polish off Andy Foger and some of his
cronies," and the young inventor told, with much gusto, what had
happened. Mrs. Baggert could not help joining in the laugh, and
when Tom offered to ride back and purchase some more of the
polish for her, she said it did not matter, as she could wait
until the next day.

The lad was soon busy in his machine shop, making several
larger cells for the new storage battery. He wanted to give it a
more severe test. He worked for several days on this, and when he
had one unit of cells complete, he attached the motor for an
efficiency trial.

"We'll see how many miles that will make," he remarked to his

"Have you thought anything of the type of car you are going to
build?" asked the aged inventor of his son.

"Yes, somewhat. It will be almost of the regulation style, but
with two removable seats at the rear, with curtains for
protection, and a place in front for two persons. This can also
be protected with curtains when desired."

"But what about the motors and the battery?"

They will be located under the middle of the car. There will be
one set of batteries there, together with the motor, and another
set of batteries will be placed under the removable seats in what
I call the tonneau, though, of course, it isn't really that. A
smaller set will also be placed forward, and there will be ample
room for carrying tools and such things."

"About how far do you expect your car will go with one charging
of the battery?"

"Well, if I can make it do three hundred miles I'll be
satisfied, but I'm going to try for four hundred."

"What will you do when your battery runs out?"

"Recharge it."

"Suppose you're not near a charging station?" "Well, Dad, of
course those are some of the details I've got to work out. I'm
planning a register gauge now, that will give warning about fifty
miles before the battery is run down. That will leave me a margin
to work on. And I'm going to have it fixed so I can take current
from any trolley line, as well as from a regular charging
station. My battery will be capable of being recharged very
quickly, or, in case of need, I can take out the old cells and
put in new ones.

"That's a very good idea. Well, I hope you succeed."

A few evenings after this, when Tom was busy in his machine
shop, he heard some one enter. He looked up from the gauge of the
motor, which he was studying, and, for a moment, he could make
out nothing in the dark interior of the shop, for he was working
in a brilliant light.

"Who's there?" he called sharply, for, more than once
unscrupulous men had endeavored to sneak into the Swift shops to
steal ideas of inventions; if not the actual apparatus itself.

"It's me--Ned Newton," was the cheerful reply.

"Oh, hello, Ned! I was wondering what had become of you,"
responded Tom. "Where have you been lately?"

"Oh, working overtime."

"What's the occasion?"

"We're trying out a new system to increase the bank business."

"What's the matter? Aren't you folks getting business enough,
after the big deposits we made of the bullion from the wreck?"

"Oh, it's not that. But haven't you heard the news? There is
talk of starting a rival bank in Shopton, and that may make us
hustle to hold what business we have, to say nothing of getting
new customers."

"A new bank, eh? Who's going to start it?" "Andy Foger's
father, I hear. You know he was a director in our bank, but he
got out last week."

"What for?"

"Well, he had some difficulty with Mr. Pendergast, the
president. I fancy you had something to do with it, too."

"I?" Tom was plainly surprised.

"Yes, you know you and Mr. Damon and Mr. Sharp captured the
bank robbers, and got back most of the money."

"I guess I do remember it! I wish you could have seen the gang
when we raided them from the clouds, in our airship!"

"Well, you know Andy Foger hoped to collect the five thousand
dollars reward for telling the police that you were the thief,
and of course he got fooled, for you got the reward. Mr. Foger
expected his son would collect the money, and when Andy got left,
it made him sore. He's had a grudge against Mr. Pendergast, and
all the other bank officials ever since, and now he's going to
start a rival bank. So that's why I said it was partly due to

"Oh, I see. I thought at first you meant that it was on account
of something that happened the other day."

"What was that?"

"Andy, Sam and Pete got the contents of a bottle of stove
blacking," and Tom related the occurrence, at which Ned laughed

"I wouldn't be surprised though," added Ned, "to learn that Mr.
Foger started the new bank more for revenge than anything else."

"So that's the reason you've been working late, eh?" went on
Tom. "Getting ready for competition. Do you think a new bank will
hurt the one you're with?"

"Well, it might," admitted Ned. "It's bound to make a change,
anyhow, and now that I have a good position I don't want to lose
it. I take more of an interest in the institution now that I'm
assistant cashier, than I did when I was a clerk. So, naturally,
I'm a little worried."

"Say, don't let it worry you," begged Tom, earnestly.

"Why not?"

"Because I know my father and Mr. Damon will stick to the old
bank. They won't have anything to do with the one Andy Foger's
father starts. Don't you worry."

"Well, that will help some," declared Ned. "They are both heavy
depositors, and if they stick to the old bank we can stand it
even if some of our smaller customers desert us."

"That's the way to talk," went on the young inventor. "Let
Foger start his bank. It won't hurt yours."

"What are you making now?" asked Ned, a little later, looking
with interest at the machinery over which Tom was bending, and to
which he was making adjustments.

"New electric automobile. I want to beat Andy Foger's car worse
than I did on my motorcycle, and I also want to win a prize," and
the lad proceeded to relate the incidents leading up to his
construction of the storage battery.

Tom and Ned were in the shop until long past midnight, and then
the bank employee, with a look at his watch, exclaimed:

"Great Scott! I ought to be home."

"I'll run you over in Mr. Damon's car," proposed Tom. "He left
it here the other day, while he and his wife went off on a trip,
and he said I could use it whenever I wanted to."

"Good!" cried Ned.

The two lads came from Tom's particular workshop. As the young
inventor closed the door he started suddenly, as he snapped shut
the lock.

"What's the matter?" asked Ned quickly.

"I thought I heard a noise," replied Tom.

They both listened. There was a slight rustling in some bushes
near the shop.

"It's a dog or a cat," declared Ned.

Tom took several cautious steps forward. Then he gave a spring,
and made a grab for some one or something.

"Here! You let me be!" yelled a protesting voice.

"I will when I find out what you mean by sneaking around here,"
retorted Tom, as he came back toward Ned, dragging with him a
lad. "It wasn't a dog or a cat, Ned," spoke the young inventor.
"It's Sam Snedecker," and so it proved.

"You let me alone!" demanded Andy Foger's crony. "I ain't done
nothin' to you," he whined.

"Here, Ned, you hold him a minute, while I make an
investigation," called Tom, handing his prisoner over to his
chum. "Maybe Pete or Andy are around."

"No, they ain't. I came alone," said Sam quickly, but Tom, not
heeding, opened the shop, and, after turning on the electric
lights, procured a lantern. He began a search of the shrubbery
around the shop, while Ned held to the struggling Sam.


The moment Tom disappeared behind his machine shop, Sam
Snedecker began a desperate struggle to escape from Ned Newton.
Now Ned was a muscular lad, but his work in the bank was
confining, and he did not have the chance to get out doors and
exercise, as Sam had. Consequently Ned had his hands full in
holding to the squirming crony of Andy Foger.

"You let me go!" demanded Sam, as he tried to twist loose.

"Not if I know it!" panted Ned.

Sam gave a sudden twist. Ned's foot slipped in the grass, and
in a moment he went down, with Sam on top of him. Still he did
not let go, and, finding he was still a prisoner Sam adopted new

Using his fists Sam began to pound Ned, but the bank employee,
though suffering, would not call for help, to summon back Tom,
who was, by this time, at the rear of the shop, looking about.
Silently in the dark the two fought, and Ned found that Sam was
getting away. Then Ned's hand came in contact with Sam's ear. It
was the misfortune of the bully to have rather a large hearing
apparatus, and once Ned got his fingers on an ear there was room
enough to afford a good grip. He closed his hold tightly, and
began to twist. This was too much for Sam. He set up a lusty

"Wow! Ouch! Let go!" he pleaded, and he ceased to pound Ned,
and no longer tried to escape. Tom came back on the run.

"What's the matter?" he cried. Then his light flashed on the
two prostrate lads, and he understood without asking any further

"Get up!" he cried, seizing Sam by the back of his neck, and
yanking him to his feet. Ned arose, and secured a better grip on
the sneaking lad.

"What's up?" demanded Tom, and Ned explained, following it by
the question:

"See any more of 'em?"

"No, I guess he was here all alone," replied the young
inventor. "What do you mean by sneaking around here this time of
night?" he demanded of the captive.

"Don't you wish you knew?" was Sam's answer, with a leer. He
realized that he had a certain advantage.

"You'd better tell before I turn you over to the police!" said
Tom, sternly.

"You--you wouldn't do that; would you?" and Sam's voice that
had been bold, became shaky.

"You were trespassing on our property, and that's against the
law," declared Tom. "We have signs posted, warning people to keep

"I didn't mean any harm," whined Sam.

"Then what were you doing here, at this hour?"

"I was just taking a short cut home. I was out riding with Andy
in his auto, and it broke down. I had to walk home, and I came
this way. I didn't know you didn't allow people to cross your
back lot. I wasn't doin' anything."

Tom hesitated. Sam might be telling the truth, but it was

"What happened to Andy's auto?" the young inventor asked.

"He broke a wheel, going over a big stone on Berk's hill. He
went to tell some one in the repair shop to go after the car, and
I came on home. You've got no right to arrest me."

"I ought to, on general principles," commented Tom. "Well, skip
out, and don't you come around here again. I'm going to get a
savage bull dog, and the first one who comes sneaking around here
after dark will be sorry. Move along now!"

Tom and Ned released their holds of Sam, and the latter lost no
time in obeying the injunction to make himself scarce. He was
soon lost to sight in the darkness.

"Think he was up to some mischief?" asked Ned.

"I'm almost sure of it," replied Tom, "but I can't see anything
wrong. I guess we were too quick for him. I believe he, Andy and
Pete Bailey tried to put up some job on me."

"Maybe they wanted to damage your new battery or car,"
suggested Ned.

"Hardly that. The car hasn't been started yet, and as for the
battery, no one knows of it outside of you and my friends here.
I'm keeping it secret. Well, if I'm going to take you home I'd
better get a move on. Wait here and I'll run out Mr. Damon's

In a short time Tom was guiding the machine over the road to
Shopton, Ned on the seat beside him. The young assistant cashier
lived about a mile the other side of the village, and the two
chums were soon at his house. Asking his friend to come and see
him when he had a chance. Ned bid his chum good night, and the
young inventor started back home.

He was driving slowly along, thinking more of his new invention
than anything else, even more than of the mysterious visit of Sam
Snedecker, when the lights on Mr. Damon's car flashed upon
something big, black and bulky on the road just ahead of him.
Tom, brought suddenly out of his fit of musing, jammed on the
brakes, and steered to one side. Then he saw that the object was
a stalled auto. He had only time to note this when a voice hailed

"Have you a tire pump you could lend us? Ours doesn't work, and
we have had a blowout."

There was something about the voice that was strangely
familiar, and Tom was wondering where he had heard it before,
when into the glare of the lamps on his machine stepped Mr.
Foger--Andy's father!

"Why, Mr. Foger!" exclaimed Tom. "I didn't know it was you."

"Oh, it's Tom Swift," remarked the man, and he did not seem
especially pleased.

"Hey! What's that?" cried another voice, which Tom had no
difficulty in recognizing as belonging to Andy. "What's the
matter, Dad?"

"Why it happens to be your--ahem! It's Tom Swift in this other
auto," went on Mr. Foger. "I didn't know you had a car," he

"I haven't," answered the lad. "This belongs to Mr. Damon. But
can you see to fix your tire in the dark?" for Mr. Foger and his
son had no lamps lighted.

"Oh, we have it all fixed," declared the man, "and, just as we
were going to pump it up out lamps went out. Then we found that
our pump wouldn't work. If you have one I would be obliged for
the use of it," and he spoke somewhat stiffly.

"Certainly," agreed Tom, cheerfully, for he had no special
grudge against Mr. Foger, though had he known Andy's father's
plans, perhaps our hero would not have so readily aided him. The
young inventor got down, removed one of his oil lamps in order
that there might be some light on the operation, and then brought
over his pump.

"I heard you had an accident," said Tom, a chain of thoughts
being rapidly forged in his mind, as he thought of what Sam had
told him.

"You heard of it?" repeated Mr. Foger, while Andy was busy
pumping up the tire.

"Yes, a friend who was out riding with you said you had broken
a wheel on Berk's hill. But I see he was slightly wrong. You're a
good way from Berk's hill, and it's a tire that is broken, not a

"But I don't understand," said Mr. Foger. "No friend has been
out riding with us. My son and I were out on a business trip,

"Come on, pop. I've got it all pumped up. Jump in. There's your
pump, Tom Swift. Much obliged," muttered Andy hastily. It was
very evident that he wanted to prevent any further conversation
between his parent and Tom.

"But I don't understand," went on the banker, clearly puzzled.
"What friend gave you such information, Mr.--er--Tom Swift?"

"Sam Snedecker," replied the lad quickly. "I caught him
sneaking around my machine shop about an hour ago, and when I
asked him what he was doing he said he'd been out riding with
Andy, and that they broke a wheel. I'm glad it was only a blown-
out tire," and Tom's voice had a curious note in it.

"But there must be some mistake," insisted Mr. Foger. "Sam
Snedecker was not riding with us this evening. We have been over
to Waterfield--my son and I, and--"

"Come on, pop!" cried Andy desperately. "We must hurry home.
Mom will be worried."

"Yes, I think she will. But I can't understand why Sam should
say such a thing. However, we are much obliged for the use of
your pump, Swift, and--"

But Andy prevented any further talk by starting the car with
the muffler open, making a great racket, and he hurriedly drove
off, almost before his father was seated, leaving Tom standing
there in the road, beside his pump and lantern.

"So," mused the young inventor, "there's some game on. Sam
wasn't with Andy, yet Andy evidently knew where Sam was, or he
wouldn't have been so anxious to choke off talk. Mr. Foger knew
nothing of Sam, naturally. But why have Andy and his father been
on a midnight trip to Waterfield?"

That last question caused Tom to adopt a new line of thought.

"Waterfield," he mused. "That's where Mr. Damon lives. Mr.
Damon is a heavy depositor in the old bank. Mr. Foger is going to
start a new bank. I wonder if there's any connection there? This
is getting mysterious. I must keep my eyes open. I never expected
to meet Andy and his father tonight, any more than I expected to
find Sam Snedecker sneaking around my shop, but it's a good thing
I discovered both parties. I guess Andy must have had nervous
prostration when I was talking to his father," and Tom grinned at
the thought. Then, picking up the pump, and fastening the lantern
in place, he drove Mr. Damon's auto slowly back home.

Tom said nothing to his father or Mr. Sharp, the next morning,
about the incidents of the previous night. In the first place he
could not exactly understand them, and he wanted to devote more
time to thinking of them, before he mentioned the matter to his
parent. Another reason was that Mr. Swift was a very nervous
person, and the least thing out of the ordinary worried him. So
the young inventor concluded to keep quiet.

His first act, after going to look at the small motor, which
was being run with the larger, experimental storage battery, was
to get out pencil and paper.

"I've got to plan the electric auto now that my battery is in a
fair way to success," he said, for he noted that the one cell he
had constructed had done over twice as much mileage in
proportion, as had the small battery. "I'll soon start building
the car," mused Tom, "and then I'll enter it in the race. I must
write to that touring club and find how much time I have."

All that morning the young inventor drew plan after plan for an
electric runabout, and rejected them. Finally he threw aside
paper and pencil and exclaimed:

"It's no use. I can't think to-day. I'm dwelling too much on
what happened last night. I must clear my brain.

"I know what I'll do. I'll get in my motor-boat and take a run
over to Waterfield to see Mr. Damon. Maybe he's home by this
time. Then I can ask him what Mr. Foger wanted to see him about,
if he did call."

It was a fine May morning, and Tom was soon in his boat, the
Arrow, gliding over Lake Carlopa, the waters of which sparkled in
the sun. As he speeded up his craft, the lad looked about,
thinking he might catch sight of Andy Foger, for the bully also
owned a boat, called the Red Streak and, more than once, in spite
of the fact that Andy's craft was the more powerful, Tom had
beaten him in impromptu races. But there was no sign of his rival
this morning, and Tom kept on to Waterfield. He found that Mr.
Damon had not yet returned home.

"So far I've had my run for nothing," mused the youth. "Well, I
might as well spend the rest of the morning in the boat."

He swung his craft out into the lake, and headed back toward
Mansburg, intending to run up to the head of the body of water,
which offered so many attractions that beautiful morning.

As Tom passed a small dock he saw a girl just putting out in a
rowboat. The figure looked familiar and, having nothing special
to do, the lad steered over closer. His first view was confirmed,
and he called out cheerfully:

"Good morning, Miss Nestor. Going for a row?"

"Oh! Mr. Swift!" exclaimed the girl with a blush. "I didn't
hear you coming. You startled me."

"Yes, the engine runs quite silently since I fixed it," resumed
Tom. "But where are you going?"

"I was going for a row," answered the girl, "but I have just
discovered that one of the oar locks is broken, so I am not going
for a row," and she laughed, showing her white, even teeth.

"That's too bad!" remarked the lad. "I don't suppose," he added
doubtfully, "that I could induce you to accept a motor-boat as a
substitute for a rowing craft, could I?" and he looked
quizzically at her.

"Are you asking me that as a hypothetical question?" she

"Yes," said Tom, trying not to smile.

"Well, if you are asking for information, merely, I will say
that I could he induced to make such a change," and her face was
nearly as grave as that of the young inventor's.

"What inducement would have to be used?" he asked.

"Suppose you just ask me in plain English to come and have a
ride?" she suggested.

"All right, I will!" exclaimed the youth.

"All right, then I'll come!" she retorted with a laugh, and a
few minutes later the two were in the Arrow, making a pretty
picture as they speeded up the lake.


"Well," remarked Tom to himself, about two hours later, when he
had left Mary Nestor at her dock, and was on his way home, "I
feel better than I did, and now I must do some hard thinking
about my runabout. I want to get it the right shape to make the
least resistance." He began to make some sketches when he got
home, and at dinner he showed them to his father and Mr. Sharp.
He said he had gotten an idea from looking at the airship.

"I'm going to make the front part, or what corresponds to the
engine-hood in a gasolene car, pointed," he explained. "It will
be just like the front of the aluminum gas container of the
airship, only built of steel. In it will be a compartment for a
set of batteries, and there will be a searchlight there. From the
top of some supporters in front of the two rear seats, a slanting
sheet of steel will come right down to meet the sloping nose of
the car. First I was going to have curtains close over the top of
the driver's seat, but I think a steel covering, with a celluloid
opening will be better and make less wind resistance. I'll use
leather side curtains when it rains. Under the front seats will
be a compartment for more batteries, and there will be a third
place under the rear seats, where I will also carry spare wheels
and a repair kit. The motors will be slung under the body of the
car, amidships, and there will also be room for some batteries

"How are you going to drive the car?" asked Mr. Sharp. "By a

"Chain drive," explained Tom. "I can get more power that way,
and it will be more flexible under heavy loads. Of course it will
be steered in the usual way, and near the wheel will be the
starting and reversing levers, and the gear handle."

"Gears!" exclaimed the aged inventor. "Are you going to gear an
electric auto? I never heard of that. Usually the motor directly
connected is all they use."

"I'm going to have two gears on mine," decided Tom.

"That's a new idea," commented the aeronaut.

"It is," admitted the lad, "and that's why my car is going to
be so speedy. I'll make her go a hundred miles an hour, if

"Nonsense!" exclaimed his father.

"I will!" cried the young inventor, enthusiastically. "You just
wait and see. I couldn't do it but for the gears, but by using
them I'll secure more speed, especially with the big reserve
battery power I'll have. I know I've got the right idea, and I'm
going to get right to work."

His father and Mr. Sharp were much interested, and closely
examined his sketches. In a few days Tom had made detailed
drawings, and the aged inventor looked at them critically. He had
to admit that his son's theory was right, though how it would
work out in practice was yet to be demonstrated. Mr. Swift
offered some suggestions for minor changes, as did Mr. Sharp, and
the lad adopted some of them. Then, with Mr. Jackson to help him,
work was started on constructing the car.

Certain parts of it could be better purchased in the open
market instead of being manufactured in Mr. Swift's shop, and
thus Tom was able to get his new invention into some sort of
shape sooner than would otherwise have been the case. He also
started making the batteries, many of which would be needed.

Gradually the car began to take form on the floor of Tom's
shop. It was rather a curious looking affair, the sharp forward
part making it appear like some engine of war, or a projectile
for some monster gun. But Tom cared little for looks. Speed,
strength and ease of control were the chief features the lad
aimed at, and he incorporated many new ideas into his electric

He was busy in the shop, one morning, when, above the noise
caused by filing a piece of steel he heard some one exclaim:

"Bless my gizzard! If you aren't as busy as ever!"

"Mr. Damon!" cried Tom in delight. "When did you get back?"

"Last night," replied the eccentric man. "My wife and I stayed
longer than we meant to. And whom do you think we met when we
were off on our little trip?"

"Some of the Happy Harry gang?"

"Oh no. You'd never guess, so I'll tell you. It was Captain

"Indeed! And how has he been since he went in the submarine
with us, and helped recover the gold from the wreck?"

"Very well. The first thing he said to me was: 'How is Tom
Swift and his father, if I may be permitted to ask?'"

"Ha! Ha!" laughed the lad, at the recollection of the odd sea
captain, who generally tagged on an apologetic expression to most
of his remarks.

"He was getting ready to take part in some South American
revolution," went on Mr. Damon. "He used most of his money that
he got from the wreck to help finance their cause."

"I must tell Mr. Sharp," went on the lad. "He'll be

"Anything new since I've been away?" asked the odd man. "Bless
my shoe laces, but I'm glad to get back!"

Tom told of the prospect of a new bank being started, and of
Sam's midnight visit, as well as the encounter with Mr. Foger and

"I went over to see what Mr. Foger wanted of you," went on the
young inventor, "but you weren't home. Did he call?"

"The servant said he had been there, not once, but several
times," remarked Mr. Damon. "That reminds me. He left a note for
me, and I haven't read it yet. I'll do so now."

He tore open the letter, and hastily perused the contents.

"Ha!" he exclaimed. "So that's what he wanted to see me about!"

"What?" inquired Tom, with the privilege of and old friend.

"Mr. Foger says he's going to start a new bank, and he wants me
to withdraw my deposit from the old one, and put it in his
institution. Says he'll pay me bigger interest. And he adds that
some of the old employees have gone with him."

"I hope you're not going to change," spoke Tom, thinking of his
chum, Ned.

"Indeed I'm not. The old bank is good enough for me. By the
way, doesn't a friend of yours work there?"

"Yes, Ned Newton. I'm wondering how he'll be affected?"

"Don't you worry!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Bless my check book!
I'll speak to Pendergast about your friend. Maybe there'll be a
chance to advance him further. I've got some mortgages falling
due pretty soon, and I'll deposit the money from them in the old
bank. Then we'll see what we can do about Ned."

"They'll make you a bank director, if you keep on putting in
money," remarked our hero, with a smile.

"Not much they won't!" was the quick answer

"Bless my stocks and bonds! I've got trouble enough without
becoming a bank director.

My doctor says my liver is out of order again, and I've got to
eat a lemon every morning before breakfast."

"Eat a lemon?"

"Well, drink the juice! It's the same thing. But how is the
electric runabout coming on?"

"Pretty good."

"Have you entered it in the races yet?"

"No, but I've written for information. I have until September
to finish it. The races take place then."

"Let's see; they're on Long Island; aren't they? How do you
calculate to do; run from here to there?"

"No, Dad still has the cottage he rented when we built the
submarine and I think I'll make that my headquarters during the
race. It's easy to run from there over to the Long Island track.
They're building a new one, especially for the occasion.

"Well, I hope you win the prize. I must go to town now, as I
have to attend to some business. I don't s'pose you want to come
in my auto. I'm pretty sure something will break before I get
there, and I'd like to have you along to fix it."

"Sorry, but I'm afraid I can't go," replied the lad. "I must
get this car done, and then I've got to start on the batteries."

Mr. Damon rather reluctantly went off alone, looking anxiously
at his car, for the machine got out of order on every trip he

It was a few days after this that Tom received a call from Ned
one evening. The bank employee's face wore a happy smile.

"What's the matter; some one left you a fortune?" asked Tom.

"Pretty nearly as good. I've got a better position."

"What? Have you left the old bank, and gone to the new one?"

"No, I'm still in the same bank, but I'm one of the two
cashiers now. Mr. Foger took several of the old employees when he
opened his new bank, and that left vacancies. I was promoted, and
so were one or two others. Mr. Damon spoke a good word for me."

"That's fine! He's a friend worth having."

"That's right. Your father also recommended me. But how are
things with you? Has Andy made any more trouble?"

"No, and I don't believe he will. I guess he'll steer clear of

But Tom was soon to learn he was mistaken.


Meanwhile the young inventor, aided by his father, Mr. Sharp
and Garret Jackson, the engineer, worked hard over his new car,
and the powerful batteries. A month passed, and such was the
progress made that Tom felt justified in making formal entry of
his vehicle for the races to be held by the Touring Club of

He paid a contingent fee and was listed as one of the
competitors. As is usual in an affair of this kind, the promoters
of it desired publicity, and they sought it through the papers.

Consequently each new entrant's name was published. In addition
something was said about his previous achievements in the speed

No sooner was the name of Tom Swift received by the officials
of the club, than it was at once recalled that young Swift had
had a prominent part in the airship Red Cloud, and the submarine
Advance. This gave an enterprising reporter a chance for a
"special" for the Sunday supplement of a New York newspaper.

Tom, it was stated, was building a car which would practically
annihilate distance and time, and there were many weird pictures,
showing him flying along without touching the ground, in a car,
the pictorial construction of which was at once fearful and

Tom and his friends laughed at the yarn, at first, but it soon
had undesirable results. The young inventor had desired to keep
secret the fact that he was building a new electric vehicle, and
a novel storage battery, but the article in the paper aroused
considerable interest. Many persons came a long distance, hoping
for a sight of the wonderful car, as pictured in the Sunday
supplement, but they had to be denied. The news, thus leaking
out, kept the Swift shops almost constantly besieged by many
curious ones, who sought, by various means, to gain admission.
Finally Tom and his father, after posting large signs, warning
persons to keep away, added others to the effect that undesirable
visitors might find themselves unexpectedly shocked by
electricity, if they ventured too close. This had the desired
effect, though the wires which were strung about carried such a
mild charge that it would not have harmed a child. Then the only
bothersome characters were the boys of the town, and, fearless
and careless lads, they persisted in hanging around the Swift
homestead, in the hope of seeing Tom dash away at the rate of
five hundred miles an hour, which one enthusiastic writer
predicted he would do.

"I've got a plan!" exclaimed Tom one day when the boys had been
particularly troublesome.

"What is it?" asked his father.

"We'll hire Eradicate Sampson to stand guard with a bucket of
whitewash. He'll keep the boys away."

The plan was put into operation, and Eradicate and his mule,
Boomerang, were installed on the premises.

"Deed an' Ah'll keep dem lads away," promised the colored man.
"Ah'll splash white stuff all ober 'em, if dey comes traipsin'
around me."

He was as good as his word, and, when one or two lads had
received a dose of the stuff, which punishment was followed by
more severe from home, for having gotten their clothes soiled,
the nuisance ceased, to a certain extent. Sam Snedecker and Pete
Bailey were two who received a liberal sprinkling of the lime,
and they vowed vengeance on Tom.

"And Andy Foger will help us, too," added Sam, as he withdrew,
after an encounter with Eradicate.

"Doan't let dat worry yo', Mistah Swift!" exclaimed the darkey.
"Jest let dat low-down-good-fo-nuffin' Andy Foger come 'round me,
an' Ah'll make him t'ink he's de inside ob a chicken coop, dat's
what Ah will."

Perhaps Andy heard of this, and kept away. In the meanwhile Tom
kept on perfecting his car and battery. From the club secretary
he learned that a number of inventors were working on electric
cars, and there promised to be many of the speedy vehicles in the

After considerable labor Tom had succeeded in getting together
one set of the batteries. He had them completed one afternoon,
and wanted to give them a test that night. But, when he went to
his father's chemical laboratory for a certain powder, which he
needed to use in the battery solution, he found there was none.

"I'll have to ride in to Mansburg for some," he decided. "I'll
go after supper, on my motorcycle, and test the battery to-

The young inventor left his house immediately after the evening
meal. Along the road toward Mansburg he speeded, and, as he came
to the foot of a hill, where once Andy Foger had put a big tree,
hoping Tom would run into it and be injured, the youth recalled
that circumstance.

"Andy has been keeping out of my way lately," mused Tom. "I
wonder if he's up to any mischief? I don't like the way Sam
Snedecker is hanging around the shop, either. It looks as if they
were plotting something. But I guess Eradicate and his pail of
whitewash will scare them off."

Tom got the powdered chemical he wanted in the drug store, and,
after refreshing himself with some ice cream soda, he started
back. As he rode along through the streets of the town he kept a
lookout, and those of you who know how fond the lad was of a
certain young lady, do not need to be told for whom he was
looking. But he did not see her, and soon turned into the main
highway leading to Shopton.

It was dark when he reached the hill, where once he had been so
near an accident, and he slowed up as he coasted down it, using
the brake at intervals.

Tom got safely to the bottom of the declivity, and was about to
turn on the power of his machine, when, from the bushes that
lined either side of the roadway, several figures sprang
suddenly. They ranged themselves across the road, and one cried:
"Halt!" in tones that were meant to be stern, but which seemed to
Tom, to tremble somewhat. The young inventor was so surprised
that he did not open the gasolene throttle, nor switch on his
spark. As a consequence his motor-cycle lost momentum, and he had
to take one foot from the pedal and touch the ground, to prevent
himself from toppling over.

"Hold on there!" cried another voice. "We've got you where we
want you, now! Hold on! Don't go!"

"I wasn't going to go," responded Tom calmly, trying to
recognize the voice, which seemed to be unnatural. "What do you
want, and who are you?"

"Never mind who we are. We want you and we've got you! Get off
that wheel!"

"I don't see why I should!" exclaimed Tom, and he suddenly
shifted his handle bars, so as to flash the bright headlight he
carried, upon the circle of dark figures that opposed his
progress. As the light flashed on them he was surprised to see
that all the figures wore masks over their faces.

Tom started. Was this the Happy Harry gang after him again? He
hoped not, yet the fact that the persons had on masks made the
hold-up have an ugly look. Once more Tom flashed the light on the
throng. There were exclamations of dismay.

"Douse that glim, somebody!" called a sharp voice, which Tom
could not recognize.

A stone came whizzing through the air, from some one in the
crowd. There was a smashing of glass as it hit the lantern, and
the road was plunged in darkness. Tom tried to throw one leg over
the saddle, and let down the supporting stand from the rear
wheel, so the motorcycle would remain upright without him holding
it. He determined to have revenge for that act of vandalism in
breaking his lamp.

But, just as he was free of the seat, he was surrounded by a
dozen persons, and several hands were laid on him.

"We've got you now!" some one fairly hissed in his ear. "Come
along, and get what's coming to you!"

Tom tried to fight, but he was overpowered by numbers and, a
little later, was dragged off into the woods in the darkness by
the masked figures. His arms were securely bound with ropes, and
a handkerchief was tied over his eyes. Tom Swift was a prisoner.


Stumbling on through the dark woods, led by his captors, Tom
tried to pierce the gloom and identify the persons who had firm
grips on either side of him. But it was useless. A little light
sifted down from the starlit sky above, but it was not
sufficient. The young inventor was beginning to think, after all,
that he had fallen into the hands of the Happy Harry gang, and he
knew that if this was so he need expect no mercy.

But two things were against this belief. One was that the
principal members of the gang were still in jail, or at least
they were supposed to be, and another was that there were too
many of the captors. Happy Harry's crowd never numbered so many.

"Maybe they're highwaymen," thought our hero, as he was dragged
along "But that can't be," he reasoned further. "If they wanted
to rob me they'd have done it back there in the road, and not
brought me off here in the woods. Besides, I haven't anything for
them to steal."

Suddenly Tom stumbled over a projecting root, and nearly fell,
dragging along with him the person who had hold of his left arm.

"Look out there! What's the matter with you?" exclaimed one of
the throng quickly, and at the sound of the voice Tom started.

"Andy Foger!" cried the young inventor, as he recovered
himself, for he had recognized the voice of the red-haired bully.
"What do you mean by holding me up in this way?" he demanded.

"Quiet!" urged a voice in his ear, and the tones were
unfamiliar. "Mention no names!"

"I'm on to your game!" retorted Tom. "I know you're here, Andy,
and Sam and Pete; and Jack Reynolds and Sid Holton," and he named
two rather loose-charactered lads, who were often in the company
of Andy and his cronies. "You'd better quit this nonsense," Tom
went on. "I'll cause the arrest of all of you if you make trouble
for me. I know who you are now!"

"You think you do," answered the voice in his ear, and the
young inventor concluded that it must be some lad whom he did not
know. "Nor is this nonsense," the other went on. "You are about
to receive the punishment due you."

Our hero did not answer, but he was doing some hard thinking.
He wondered why Andy and his crowd had captured him.

Suddenly the blackness of the woods was illuminated by the
fitful gleam of a distant fire. Tom could see more plainly now,
and he managed to count about ten dusky figures hurrying along,
four being close to him, to prevent his escape, and the others
running on ahead. The light became stronger, and, a moment later
the prisoner and his captors emerged into a little clearing,
where a fire was burning. Two figures, masked with black cloth,
as were all in the crowd, stood about the blaze, putting on
sticks of wood.

"Did you get him?" asked one of these figures eagerly.

"Yes, they got me, Sam Snedecker," answered Tom quickly,
recognizing Sam's tones. "And they'll wish they hadn't before I'm
done with them."

"Quiet!" ordered an unknown voice. "Members of the Deep Forest
Throng, the prisoner is here!" the lad went on.

"'Tis well, bind the captive to the sacrificial tree," was the
response from some one in the crowd.

Tom laughed. He was at ease now, for he recognized that those
who had taken him prisoner were all lads of Andy's character.
Most of them were Shopton youths, but some, evidently, were
strangers in town. Tom felt he had little to fear.

"Bring him over here," ordered one, and Tom cried out:

"You wouldn't be giving those orders, Andy Foger, if my arms
weren't tied. And if you'll untie me, I'll fight any two of you
at once," offered the young inventor fiercely, for he hated the
humiliation to which he was being subjected.

"Don't do it! Don't untie him!" begged some one.

"No danger, they won't. They're afraid to, Pete Bailey,"
replied Tom quickly, for he had recognized the voice of the other
one of Andy's particular cronies.

"Aw, he knows who we are," whispered Sam, but not so low but
that our hero heard him.

"No matter," was Andy's retort. "Let's go ahead with it. Tie
him to that tree."

It was useless for Tom to struggle. He was bound too tightly by
the rope, and the crowd was too many for him. In a few minutes he
was securely fastened to a tree, not far from the camp-fire,
which was replenished from time to time.

"Now for the judgment!" called one of the masked lads, in what
he meant to be a sepulchral tone. "What is the charge against the
prisoner? Brother Number One of the Deep Forest Throng, what is

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