Part 3 out of 3
"They're up to something!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Damon a moment
later. "I believe they're going to fire on us, Tom. They are
pointing something this way."
The lad stood up and gazed earnestly at his boat, which seemed to
be slipping away from him so fast. One of the occupants was in
the stern, aiming some glittering object at those in the RED
STREAK. For a moment Tom thought it might be a gun. Then, as the
man turned, he saw what it was.
"A pair of marine glasses," cried the lad. "They're trying to
make out who we are."
"I guess they know well enough," rejoined Mr. Damon. "Can't you
go any faster, Tom?"
"I'm afraid not. But we'll land them, sooner or later. They
can't go very far in this direction without running ashore and
we'll have them. They're cutting across the lake now."
"They may escape us if it gets dark. Probably that's what they're
working for. They want to keep ahead of us until nightfall."
The young inventor thought of this too, but there was little he
could do. The motor was running at top speed. It could be made
to go faster, Tom knew, with another ignition system, but that was
out of the question now.
The man with the glasses had resumed his seat, and the efforts of
the trio seemed concentrated on the motor of the ARROW. They,
too, wished to go faster. But they had not skill enough to
accomplish it, and in about ten minutes, when Tom took another
long and careful look to ascertain if possible whether or not he
was overhauling the thieves, he was delighted to see that the
distance between the boats had lessened.
"We're catching them! We're creeping up on them!" cried Mr.
Damon. "Keep it up, Tom." There was nothing to do, however, save
wait. The boat ahead had shifted her course somewhat and was now
turning in toward the shore, for the lake was narrow at this
point, and abandoning their evident intention of keeping straight
up the lake, the thieves seemed now bent on something else.
"I believe they're going to run ashore and get out!" cried Mr.
"If they do, it's just what I want," declared the lad. "I don't
care for the men. I want my boat back!"
The occupants of the ARROW were looking to the rear again, and
one---Happy Harry, Tom thought---shook his fist.
"Ah, wait until I get hold of you!" cried Mr. Damon, following his
example. "I'll make you wish you'd behaved yourselves, you
scoundrels! Bless my overcoat! Catch them if you can, Tom."
There was now no doubt of the intention of the fleeing ones. The
shore was looming up ahead and straight for it was headed the
ARROW. Tom sent Andy's boat in the same direction. He was
rapidly overhauling the escaping ones now, for they had slowed
down the motor. Three minutes later the foremost boat grated on
the beach of the lake. The men leaped out, one of them pausing an
instant in the bow.
"Here, don't you damage my boat!" cried Tom involuntarily, for the
man seemed to be hammering something.
The fellow leaped over the side, holding something in his hand.
"There they go! Catch them!" yelled Mr. Damon.
"Let them go!" answered the lad as the men ran toward the wood.
"I want my boat. I'm afraid they've damaged her. One of them
tore something from the bow."
At the same instant the two companions of the fellow who had
paused in the forward part of the ARROW saw that he had something
in his hand. With yells of rage they dashed at him, but he,
shaking his fist at them, plunged into the bushes and could be
heard breaking his way through, while his companions were in
"They've quarreled among themselves," commented Mr. Damon as high
and angry voices could be heard from the woods. "There's some
mystery here, Tom."
"I don't doubt it, but my first concern is for my boat. I want to
see if they have damaged her."
Tom had run so closely in shore with the RED STREAK that he had to
reverse to avoid damaging the craft against the bank. In a mass
of foam he stopped her in time, and then springing ashore, he
hurried to his motor-boat.
A QUIET CRUISE
"Have they done any damage?" asked Mr. Damon as he stood in the
bow of the RED STREAK.
Tom did not answer for a moment. His trained eye was looking over
"They yanked out the high tension wire instead of stopping the
motor with the switch," he answered at length, and then, when he
had taken a look into the compartment where the gasoline tank was,
he added: "And they've ripped out two more of the braces I put in.
Why in the world they did that I can't imagine."
"That's evidently what one man had that the others wanted," was
Mr. Damon's opinion.
"Probably," agreed Tom. "But what could he or they want with
That was a puzzler for Mr. Damon, but he answered:
"Perhaps they wanted to damage your boat and those two men were
mad because the other got ahead of them."
"Taking out the braces wouldn't do much damage. I can easily put
others in. All it would do would be to cause the tank to sag down
and maybe cause a leak in the pipe. But that would be a queer
thing to do. No, I think there's some mystery that I haven't
gotten to the bottom of yet. But I'm going to."
"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I'll help you. But can you run
your boat back home?"
"Not without fixing it a bit. I must brace up that tank and put
in a new high-tension wire from the spark coil. I can do it here,
but I'd rather take it to the shop. Besides, with two boats to
run back, for I must return Andy's to him, I don't see how I can
do it very well unless you operate one, Mr. Damon."
"Excuse me, but I can't do it. Bless my slippers, but I would be
sure to run on a rock! The best plan will be for you to tow your
boat and I'll ride in it and steer. I can do that much, anyhow.
You can ride in the RED STREAK."
Tom agreed that this would be a good plan. So, after temporarily
bracing up the tank in the ARROW, it was shoved out into the lake
and attached to Andy's craft.
"But aren't you going to make a search for those men?" asked Mr.
Damon when Tom was ready to start back.
"No, I think it would be useless. They are well away by this
time, and I don't fancy chasing them through the woods, especially
as night is coming on. Besides, I won't leave these boats."
"No doubt you are right, but I would like to see them punished,
and I am curious enough to wish to know what object that scoundrel
could have in ripping out the blocks that served as a brace for
"I feel the same way myself," commented the lad, "especially since
this is the second time that's happened. But we'll have to wait,
A little later the start back was made, Mr. Damon steering the
ARROW skillfully enough so that it did not drag on the leading
boat, in which Tom rode. His course took him not far from the
lake sanitarium, where Mr. Duncan, the hunter, had been brought,
and desiring to know how the wounded man was getting on, the youth
proposed that they make a halt, explaining to Mr. Damon his
"Yes, and while you're about it you'd better telephone your father
that you will join him tomorrow," suggested the other. "I know
what it is to fret and worry. You can fix your boat up in time to
go to Sandport to-morrow, can't you?"
"Yes, I'm glad you reminded me of it. I'll telephone from the
sanitarium, if they'll let me."
Mr. Duncan was not at the institution, Tom was told, his injury
having healed sufficiently to allow of his being removed to his
home. The youth readily secured permission to use the telephone,
and was soon in communication with Mr. Swift. While not telling
him all the occurrences that had delayed him, Tom gave his father
and Ned Newton enough information to explain his absence. Then
the trip to Shopton was resumed in the two boats.
"What are you going to do about your automobile?" asked Tom as
they neared the point where the machine had been left.
"Never mind about that," replied Mr. Damon. "It will do it good
to have a night's vacation. I will go on to your house with you,
and perhaps I can get a train back to my friend's home, so that I
can claim my car."
"Won't you stay all night with me?" invited the young inventor.
"I'd be glad to have you."
Mr. Damon agreed, and, Tom putting more speed on the RED STREAK,
was soon opposite his own dock. The ARROW was run in the
boathouse and the owner hastily told Mrs. Baggert and the engineer
what had occurred. Then he took Andy's boat to Mr. Foger's dock
and warmly thanked the red-haired lad for the use of his craft.
"Did you find your boat?" asked Andy eagerly. "How did the RED
"I got my boat and yours runs fine," explained Tom.
"Good! I'll race you again some day," declared Andy.
Mr. Damon enjoyed his visit at our hero's house, for Mrs. Baggert
cooked one of her best suppers for him. Tom and the engineer
spent the evening repairing the motor-boat, Mr. Damon looking on
and exclaiming "Bless my shoe leather" or some other part of his
dress or anatomy at every stage of the work. The engineer wanted
to know all about the men and their doings, but he could supply no
reason for their queer actions regarding the braces under the
In the morning Tom once more prepared for an early start for
Sandport, and Mr. Damon, reconsidering his plans, rode as far with
him as the place where the automobile had been left. There he
took leave of the young inventor, promising to call on Mr. Swift
in the near future.
"I hope you arrive at the hotel where your father is without any
more accidents," remarked the automobilist. "Bless my very
existence, but you seem to have the most remarkable series of
adventures I ever heard of!"
"They are rather odd," admitted Tom. "I don't know that I
particularly care for them, either. But, now that I have my boat
back, I guess everything will be all right."
But Tom could not look ahead. He was destined to have still more
exciting times, as presently will be related.
Without further incident he arrived at the Lakeview Hotel in
Sandport that evening and found his father and Ned very glad to
see him. Of course he had to explain everything then, and, with
his son safely in his sight, Mr. Swift was not so nervous over the
recital as he would have been had Tom not been present.
"Now for some nice, quiet trips," remarked the lad when he had
finished his account. "I feel as if I had cheated you out of part
of your vacation, Ned, staying away as long as I did."
"Well, of course we missed you," answered his chum. "But your
father and I had a good time."
"Yes, and I invented a new attachment for a kitchen boiler," added
Mr. Swift. "I had a chance for it when I passed through the hotel
kitchen one day, for I wanted to see what kind of a range they
"I guess there's no stopping you from inventing," replied his son
with a laugh and a hopeless shake of the head. "But don't let it
happen again when you go away to rest."
"Oh, I only just thought of it," said Mr. Swift. "I haven't
worked the details out yet."
Then he wanted to know about everything at home and he seemed
particularly anxious lest the Happy Harry gang do some damage.
"I don't believe they will," Tom assured him. "Garret and Mrs.
Baggert will be on guard."
The next few days were pleasant ones for Tom, his father and Ned
Newton. They cruised about the lake, went fishing and camped in
the woods. Even Mr. Swift spent one night in the tent and said he
liked it very much. For a week the three led an ideal existence,
going about as they pleased, Ned taking a number of photographs
with his new camera. The ARROW proved herself a fine boat, and
Tom and Ned, when Mr. Swift did not accompany them, explored the
seldom visited parts of Lake Carlopa.
The three had been out one day and were discussing the necessity
of returning home soon when Ned spoke.
"I shall hate to give up this life and go to slaving in the bank
again," he complained. "I wish I was an inventor."
"Oh, we inventors don't have such an easy time," said Mr. Swift.
"You never know when trouble is coming," and he little imagined
how near the truth he was.
A little later they were at the hotel dock. When Tom had tied up
his boat the three walked up the path to the broad veranda that
faced the lake. A boy in uniform met them.
"Some one has just called you on the telephone, Mr. Swift," he
"Some one wants me? Who is it?"
"I think he said his name is Jackson, sir, Garret Jackson, and he
says the message is very important."
"Tom, something has happened at home!" exclaimed the inventor as
he hurried up the steps. "I'm afraid there's bad news."
Unable to still the fear in his heart, Tom followed his father.
NEWS OF A ROBBERY
With a hand that trembled so he could scarcely hold the receiver
of the telephone, Mr. Swift placed it to his ear.
"Hello! Hello!" he cried into the transmitter. "Yes, this is Mr.
Swift---yes, Garret. What is it?"
Then came a series of clicks, which Tom and Ned listened to. The
inventor spoke again.
"What's that? The same men? Broke in early this evening? Oh,
that's too bad! Of course, I'll come at once."
There followed more meaningless clicks, which Tom wished he could
translate. His father hung up the receiver, turned to him and
"I've been robbed again!"
"Robbed again! How, dad?"
"By that same rascally gang, Garret thinks. This evening, when he
and Mrs. Baggert were in the house the burglar alarm went off.
The indicator showed that the electrical shop had been entered,
and the engineer hurried there. He saw a light inside and the
shadows of persons on the windows. Before he could reach the
shop, however, the thieves heard him coming and escaped. Oh, Tom,
I should never have come away!"
"But did they take anything, dad? Perhaps Garret frightened them
away before they had a chance to steal any of your things. Did
you ask him that?"
"I didn't need to. He said he made a hasty exanimation before he
called me up, and he is sure a number of my electrical inventions
are missing. Some of them are devices I never have had patented,
and if I lose them I will have no recovery."
"But just what ones are they? Perhaps we can send out a police
"Garret couldn't tell that," answered Mr. Swift as be paced to and
fro in the hotel office. "He doesn't know all the tools and
machinery I had in there. But it is certain that some of my most
valuable things have been taken."
"Never mind. Don't worry, dad," and Tom tried to speak
soothingly, for he saw that his father was much excited. "We may
be able to get them back. How does Garret know the same men who
stole the turbine model broke in the shop this evening?"
"He saw them. One was Happy Harry, he is positive. The others he
did not know, but he recognized the tramp from our description of
"Then we must tell the police at once."
"Yes, Tom, I wish you would telephone. I'll give you a
description of the things. No, I can't do that either, for I
don't know what was stolen. I must go home at once to find out.
It's a good thing the motor-boat is here. Come, let's start at
once. What is my bill here?" and the inventor turned to the hotel
proprietor, who had come into the office. "I have suffered a
severe loss and must leave at once."
"I am very sorry, sir. I'll have it ready for you in a few
"All right. Tom, is your boat ready for a quick trip?"
"Yes, dad, but I don't like to make it at night with three in. Of
course it might be perfectly safe, but there's a risk, and I don't
like to take it."
"Don't worry about the risk on my account, Tom. I'm not afraid.
I must get home and see of what I have been robbed."
The young inventor was in a quandary. He wanted to do as his
father requested and to aid him all he could, yet he knew that an
all-night trip in the boat down the lake would be dangerous, not
only from the chance of running on an unknown shore or into a
hidden rock, but because Mr. Swift was not physically fitted to
stand the journey.
"Come, Tom," exclaimed the aged inventor impatiently, "we must
start at once!"
"Won't morning do as well, dad?"
"No, I must start now. I could not sleep worrying over what has
happened. We will start---"
At that instant there came a low, rumbling peal of thunder. Mr.
Swift started and peered from a window. There came a flash of
lightning and another vibrant report from the storm-charged
"There is your bill, Mr. Swift," remarked the proprietor, coming
up, "but I would not advise you to start to-night. There is a bad
storm in the west, and it will reach here in a few minutes.
Storms on Lake Carlopa, especially at this open and exposed end,
are not to be despised, I assure you."
"But I must get home!" insisted Tom's father.
The lace curtain over the window blew almost straight out with a
sudden breeze, and a flash of lightning so bright that it
reflected even in the room where the incandescent electrics were
glowing made several others jump. Then came a mighty crash, and
with that the flood-gates of the storm were opened, and the rain
came down in torrents. Tom actually breathed a sigh of relief.
The problem was solved for him. It would be impossible to start
to-night, and he was glad of it, much as he wanted to get on the
trail of the thieves.
There was a scurrying on the part of the hotel attendants to close
the windows, and the guests who had been enjoying the air out on
the porches came running in. With a rush, a roar and a muttering,
as peal after peal of thunder sounded, the deluge continued.
"It's a good thing we didn't start," observed Ned.
"I should say so," agreed Tom. "But we'll get off the first thing
in the morning, dad."
Mr. Swift did not reply, but his nervous pacing to and fro in the
hotel office showed how anxious he was to be at home again. There
was no help for it, however, and, after a time, finding that to
think of reaching his house that night was out of the question,
the inventor calmed down somewhat,
The storm continued nearly all night, as Tom could bear witness,
for he did not sleep well, nor did his father. And when he came
down to breakfast in the morning Mr. Swift plainly showed the
effects of the bad news. His face was haggard and drawn and his
eyes smarted and burned from lack of sleep.
"Well, Tom, we must start early," he said nervously. "I am glad
it has cleared off. Is the boat all ready?"
"Yes, and it's a good thing it was under shelter last night or
we'd have to bail it out now, and that would delay us."
An hour later they were under way, having telephoned to the
engineer at the Swift home that they were coming. Garret Jackson
reported over the wire that he had notified the Shopton police of
the robbery, but that little could be done until the inventor
arrived to give a description of the stolen articles.
"And that will do little good, I fear," remarked Tom. "Those
fellows have evidently been planning this for some time and will
cover their tracks well. I'd like to catch them, not only to
recover your things, dad, but to find out the mystery of my boat
and why the man took the tank braces."
THE BALLOON ON FIRE
Down Lake Carlopa speeded the ARROW, those on board watching the
banks slip past as the motor-boat rapidly cut through the water.
"What time do you think we ought to reach home, Tom?" asked Mr.
"Oh, about four o'clock, if we don't stop for lunch."
"Then we'll not stop," decided the inventor. "We'll eat what we
have on board. I suppose you have some rations?" and he smiled,
the first time since hearing the bad news.
"Oh, yes, Ned and I didn't eat everything on our camping trips,"
and Tom was glad to note that the fine weather which followed the
storm was having a good effect on his father.
"We certainly had a good time," remarked Ned. "I don't know when
I've enjoyed a vacation so."
"It's too bad it had to be cut short by this robbery," commented
"Oh, well, my time would be up in a few days more," went on the
young bank employee. "It's just as well to start back now."
Tom took the shortest route he knew, keeping in as close to shore
as he dared, for now he was as anxious to get home as was his
father. On and on speeded the ARROW, yet fast as it was, it
seemed slow to Mr. Swift, who, like all nervous persons, always
wanted to go wherever he desired to go instantly.
Tom headed his boat around a little point of land, and was urging
the engine to the top notch of speed, for now he was on a clear
course, with no danger from shoals or hidden rocks, when he saw,
darting out from shore, a tiny craft which somehow seemed familiar
to him. He recognized a peculiar put-putter of the motor.
"That's the DOT," he remarked in a low voice to Ned, "Miss
Nestor's cousin's boat."
"Is she in it now?" asked Ned.
"Yes," answered Tom quickly.
"You've got good eyesight," remarked Ned dryly, "to tell a girl at
that distance. It looks to me like a boy."
"No, it's Mary---I mean Miss Nestor," the youth quickly corrected
himself, and a close observer would have noticed that he blushed a
bit under his coat of tan.
Ned laughed, Tom blushed still more, and Mr. Swift, who was in a
stern seat, glanced up quickly.
"It looks as if that boat wanted to hail us," the inventor
Tom was thinking the same thing, for, though he had changed his
course slightly since sighting the DOT, the little craft was put
over so as to meet him. Wondering what Miss Nestor could want,
but being only too willing to have a chat with her, the young
inventor shifted his helm. In a short time the two craft were
within hailing distance.
"How do you do?" called Miss Nestor, as she slowed down her motor.
"Don't you think I'm improving, Mr. Swift?"
"What's that? I---er---I beg your pardon, but I didn't catch
that," exclaimed the aged inventor quickly, coming out of a sort
of day-dream. "I beg your pardon." He thought she had addressed
Miss Nestor blushed and looked questioningly at Tom.
"My father," he explained as he introduced his parent. Ned needed
none, having met Miss Nestor before. "Indeed you have improved
very much," went on our hero. "You seem able to manage the boat
"Yes, I'm doing pretty well. Dick lets me take the DOT whenever I
want to, and I thought I'd come out for a little trial run this
morning. I'm getting ready for the races. I suppose you are
going to enter them?" and she steered her boat alongside Tom's,
who throttled down his powerful motor so as not to pass his
"Races? I hadn't heard of them," he replied.
"Oh, indeed there are to be fine ones under the auspices of the
Lanton Motor Club. Mr. Hastings, of whom you bought that boat, is
going to enter his new CARLOPA, and Dick has entered the DOT, in
the baby class of course. But I'm going to run it, and that's why
"I hope you win," remarked Tom. "I hadn't heard of the races, but
I think I'll enter. I'm glad you told me. Do you want to race
now?" and he laughed as he looked into the brown eyes of Mary
"No, indeed, unless you give me a start of several miles."
They kept together for some little time longer, and then, as Tom
knew his father would be restless at the slow speed, he told Miss
Nestor the need of haste, and, advancing his timer, he soon left
the DOT behind. The girl called a laughing good-by and urged him
not to forget the races, which were to take place in about two
"I suppose Andy Foger will enter his boat," commented Ned.
"Naturally," agreed Tom. "It's a racer, and he'll probably think
it can beat anything on the lake. But if he doesn't manage his
motor differently, it won't."
The distance from Sandport to Shopton had been more than half
covered at noon, when the travelers ate a lunch in the boat. Mr.
Swift was looking anxiously ahead to catch the first glimpse of
his dock and Tom was adjusting the machinery as finely as he dared
to get out of it the maximum speed.
Ned Newton, who happened to be gazing aloft, wondering at the
perfect beauty of the blue sky after the storm, uttered a sudden
exclamation. Then he arose and pointed at some object in the air.
"Look!" be cried, "A balloon! It must have gone up from some
Tom and his father looked upward. High in the air, almost over
their heads, was an immense balloon. It was of the hot-air
variety, such as performers use in which to make ascensions from
fair grounds and circuses, and below it dangled a trapeze, upon
which could be observed a man, only he looked more like a doll
than a human being.
"I shouldn't like to be as high as that," remarked Ned.
"I would," answered Tom as he slowed down the engine the better to
watch the balloon. "I'd like to go up in an airship, and I intend
to some day."
"I believe he's going to jump!" suddenly exclaimed Ned after a few
minutes. "He's going to do something, anyhow."
"Probably come down in a parachute," said Tom. "They generally do
"No! No!" cried Ned. "He isn't going to jump. Something has
happened! The balloon is on fire! He'll be burned to death!"
Horror stricken, they all gazed aloft. From the mouth of the
balloon there shot a tongue of fire, and it was followed by a
cloud of black smoke. The big bag was getting smaller and seemed
to be descending, while the man on the trapeze was hanging
downward by his hands to get as far as possible away from the
"Jump! Jump!" cried Mr. Swift, leaping to his feet and motioning
to the man on the trapeze of the balloon. But it is doubtful
whether or not the performer heard him. Certainly he could not
see the frantic motions of the inventor. "Why doesn't he jump?"
Mr. Swift went on piteously to the two lads. "He'll surely be
burned to death if he hangs on there!"
"It's too far to leap!" exclaimed Tom. "He's a good way up in the
air, though it looks like only a short distance. He would be
killed if he dropped now."
"He ought to have a parachute," added Ned. "Most of those men do
when they go up in a balloon. Why doesn't he come down in that?
I wonder how the balloon took fire?"
"Maybe he hasn't a parachute," suggested Tom, while he slowed down
the motor-boat still more so as to remain very nearly under the
"Yes, he has!" cried Ned. "See, it's hanging to one side of the
big bag. He ought to cut loose. He could save himself then. Why
The balloon was slowly twisting about, gradually settling to the
surface of the lake, but all the while the flames were becoming
fiercer and the black clouds of smoke increased in size.
"There, see the parachute!" went on Ned.
The twisting of the bag had brought into view the parachute or
big, umbrella-shaped bag, which would have enabled the man to
safely drop to the surface of the lake. Without it he would have
hit the water with such force that he would have been killed as
surely as if he had struck the solid earth. But the boys and Mr.
Swift also saw something else, and this was that the balloon was
on fire on the same side where the parachute was suspended.
"Look! Look!" shouted Tom, bringing his boat to a stop. "That's
why he can't jump! He can't reach the parachute!"
By this time the balloon had settled so low that the actions of
the man could be plainly seen. That he was in great agony of
fear, as well as in great pain from the terrific heat over his
head was evident. He shifted about on the trapeze bar, now
hanging by one hand, so as to bring his body a little farther
below the blazing end of the bag, then, when one arm tired, he
would hang by the other. If the balloon would only come down more
quickly it would get to within such a short distance of the water
that the man could safely make the drop. But the immense canvas
was settling so slowly, for it was still very buoyant, that
considerable time must elapse before it would be near enough to
the water to make it safe for the unfortunate man to let go the
"Oh, if we could only do something!" cried Tom. "We have to
remain here helpless and watch him burn to death. It's awful!"
The three in the boat continued to gaze upward. They could see
the man making frantic efforts to reach his parachute from time to
time. Once, as a little current of air blew the flames and smoke
to one side, he thought he had a chance. Up on the trapeze bar he
pulled himself and then edged along it in an endeavor to grasp the
ring of the parachute. Once he almost had hold of that and also
the cord, which ran to a knife blade. This cord, being pulled,
would sever the rope that bound it to the balloon, and he would be
comparatively safe, so he might drop to the lake. But, just as he
was about to grasp the ring and cord the smoke came swirling down
on him and the hungry flames seemed to put out their fiery tongues
to devour him. He had to slide back and once more hung by his
"I thought he was saved then," whispered Tom, and even the whisper
sounded loud in the silence.
Several men came running along the shore of the lake now. They
saw the occupants in the ARROW and cried out:
"Why don't you save him? Go to his rescue!"
"What can we do?" asked Ned quietly of his two friends, but he did
not trouble to answer the men on shore, who probably did not know
what they were saying.
The motor-boat had drifted from a spot under the unfortunate
balloonist, and at a word from his father the young inventor
started the engine and steered the craft back directly under the
blazing bag again.
"If he does drop, perhaps we may be able to pick him up," said Mr.
wish we could save him!"
A cry from Ned startled Tom and his father, and their eyes, that
had momentarily been directed away from the burning bag high in
the air, were again turned toward it.
"The balloon is falling apart!" exclaimed Ned. "It's all up with
Indeed it did seem so, for pieces of the burning canvas, blazing
and smoking, were falling in a shower from the part of the bag
already consumed, and the fiery particles were fairly raining down
on the man. But he still had his wits about him, though his
perilous position was enough to make any one lose his mind, and he
swung from side to side on the bar, shifting skillfully with his
hands and dodging the larger particles of blazing canvas. When
some small sparks fell on his clothing he beat them out with one
hand, while with the other he clung to the trapeze.
There was scarcely any wind or the man's plight might have been
more bearable, for the current of air would have carried the smoke
and fire to one side. As it was, most of the smoke and flames
went straight up, save now and then, when a draught created by the
heat would swirl the black clouds down on the performer, hiding
him from sight for a second or two. A breeze would have carried
the sparks away instead of letting them fall on him.
Nearer and nearer to the surface of the lake sank the balloon. By
this time the crowd on the bank had increased and there were
excited opinions as to what was best to do. But the trouble was
that little could be done. If the man could hold out until be got
near enough to the water to let go he might yet be saved, but this
would not be for some time at the present rate the balloon was
falling. The performer realized this, and, as the fire was
getting hotter, he made another desperate attempt to reach the
parachute. It was unavailing and he had to drop back, hanging
below the slender bar.
Suddenly there came a puff of wind, fanning the faces of those in
the motor-boat, and they looked intently to observe if there was
any current as high as was the balloonist. They saw the big bag
sway to one side and the flames broke out more fiercely as they
caught the draught. The balloon moved slowly down the lake.
"Keep after it, Tom!" urged his father. "We may be able to save
The lad increased the speed of his engine and Ned, who was at the
wheel, gave it a little twist. Then, with a suddenness that was
startling, the blazing canvas airship began to settle swiftly
toward the water. It had lost much of its buoyancy.
"Now he can jump! He's near enough to the water now!" cried Tom.
But a new danger arose. True, the balloon was rapidly approaching
the surface of the lake and in a few seconds more would be within
such a short distance that a leap would not be fatal. But the
burning bag was coming straight down and scarcely would the man be
in the water ere the fiery canvas mass would be on top of him.
In such an event he would either be burned to death or so held
down that drowning must quickly follow.
"If there was only wind enough to carry the balloon beyond him
after he jumped he could do it safely!" cried Ned.
Tom said nothing. He was measuring, with, his eye, the distance
the balloon had yet to go and also the distance away the motor-
boat was from where it would probably land.
"He can do it!" exclaimed the young inventor.
"How?" asked his father.
For answer Tom caught up a newspaper he had purchased at the hotel
that morning. Rolling it quickly into a cone, so that it formed a
rough megaphone, he put the smaller end to his mouth, and,
pointing the larger opening at the balloonist, he called out:
"Drop into the lake! We'll pick you up before the bag falls on
you! Jump! Let go now!"
The balloonist heard and understood. So did Ned and Mr. Swift.
Tom's quick wit had found a way to save the man.
Faster and faster the blazing bag settled toward the surface of
the water. It was now merely a mushroom-shaped piece of burning
and smoking canvas, yet it was supporting the man almost as a
parachute would have done.
With one look upward to the burning mass above him and a glance
downward to the lake, the aeronaut let go his hold. Like a shot
he came down, holding his body rigid and straight as a stick, for
he knew how to fall into water, did that balloonist.
Tom Swift was ready for him. No sooner had the lad called his
directions through the megaphone than the young inventor had
speeded up his engine to the top notch.
"Steer so as to pick him up!" Tom cried to Ned, who was at the
wheel. "Pass by him on a curve, and, as soon as I grab him, put
the wheel over so as to get out from under the balloon."
It was a risky thing to do, but our hero had it all planned out.
He made a loop of the boat's painter, and, hurrying to the bow,
leaned over as far as he could, holding the rope in readiness.
His idea was to have the balloonist grab the strands and be pulled
out of danger by the speedy motor-boat, for the blazing canvas
would cover such an extent of water that the man could not have
swum out of the danger zone in time.
Down shot the balloonist and down more slowly settled the
collapsed bag, yet not so slowly that there was any time to spare.
It needed only a few seconds to drop over the performer, to burn
and smother him.
Into the water splashed the man, disappearing from sight as when a
stick is dropped in, point first. Ned was alert and steered the
boat to the side in which the man's face was, for he concluded
that the aeronaut would strike out in that direction when he came
up. The ARROW was now directly under the blazing balloon and
cries of fear from the watchers on shore urged upon Tom and his
companions the danger of their position. But they had to take
some risk to rescue the man.
"There he is!" cried Mr. Swift, who was on the watch, leaning over
the side of the boat. Tom and Ned saw him at the same instant.
Ned shifted his wheel and the young inventor bent over, holding
out the rope for the man to grasp. He saw it and struck out
toward the ARROW. But there was no need for him to go far. An
instant more and the speeding motor-boat shot past him. He
grabbed the rope and Tom, aided by Mr. Swift, began to lift him
out of the water.
"Quick! To one side, Ned!" yelled Tom, for the heat of the
descending mass of burning canvas struck him like a furnace blast.
Ned needed no urging. With a swirl of the screw the ARROW shot
herself out of the way, carrying the aeronaut with her. A moment
later the burning balloon, or what there was left of it, settled
down into the lake, hissing angrily as the fire was quenched by
the water and completely covering the spot where, but a few
seconds before, the man had been swimming. He had been saved in
the nick of time.
PLANS FOR AN AIRSHIP
"Slow her down, Ned!" cried Tom, for the ARROW was shooting so
swiftly through the water that the young inventor found it
impossible to pull up the balloonist. Ned hurried back to the
motor, and, when the boat's way had been checked, it was an easy
matter to pull the dripping and almost exhausted man into the
"Are you much hurt?" asked Mr. Swift anxiously, for Tom was too
much out of breath with his exertion to ask any questions. For
that matter the man was in almost as bad a plight. He was
breathing heavily, as one who had run a long race.
"I---I guess I'm all right," he panted. "Only burned a little on
my hands. That---that was a close call!"
The boat swung around and headed for shore, on which was quite a
throng of persons. Some of them had cheered when they saw the
"I'm afraid we can't save your balloon," gasped Tom as he looked
at the place where the canvas was still floating and burning.
"No matter. It wasn't worth much. That's the last time I'll ever
go up in a hot-air balloon," said the man with more energy than he
had before exhibited. "I'm done with 'em. I've had my lesson.
Hereafter an aeroplane or a gas balloon for me. I only did this
to oblige the fair committee. I'll not do it again."
The man spoke in short, crisp sentences, as though he was in too
much of a hurry to waste his words.
"Let it sink," he went on. "It's no good. Glad to see the last
Almost as he spoke, with a final hiss and a cloud of steam that
mingled with the black smoke, the remains of the big bag sunk
beneath the surface of the lake.
"We must get you ashore at once and to a doctor," said Mr. Swift.
"You must be badly burned."
"Not much. Only my hands, where some burning pieces of canvas
fell on' em. If I had a little oil to put on I'd be all right."
"I can fix you up better than that," put in Tom. "I have some
"Good! Just the thing. Pass it over," and the man, though he
spoke shortly, seemed grateful for the offer. "My name's Sharp,"
he went on, "John Sharp, of no place in particular, for I travel
all over. I'm a professional balloonist. Ha! That's the stuff!"
This last was in reference to a bottle of Vaseline, which Tom
produced. Mr. Sharp spread some over the backs of his hands and
"That's better. Much obliged. I can't begin to thank you for
what you did for me---saved my life. I thought it was all up with
me---would have been but for you. Mustn't mind my manner---it's a
way I have---have to talk quick when you're balloonin'---no time--
-but I'm grateful all the same. Who might you people be?"
Tom told him their names and Mr. Swift asked the aeronaut if he
was sure he didn't need the services of a physician.
"No doctor for me," answered the balloonist. "I've been in lots
of tight places, but this was the worst squeeze. If you'll put me
ashore, I guess I can manage now."
"But you're all wet," objected Tom. "Where will you go? You need
some other clothes," for the man wore a suit of tights and
"Oh, I'm used to this," went on the performer. "I frequently have
to fall in the water. I always carry a little money with me so as
to get back to the place where I started from. By the way, where
"Opposite Daleton," answered Tom. "Where did you go up from?"
"Pratonia. Big fair there. I was one of the features."
"Then you're about fifteen miles away," commented Mr. Swift. "You
can hardly get back before night. Must you go there?"
"Left my clothes there. Also a valuable gas balloon. No more
hot-air ones for me. Guess I'd better go back," and the aeronaut
continued to speak in his quick, jerky sentences.
"We'd be very glad to have you come with us, Mr. Sharp," went on
the inventor. "We are not far from Shopton, and if you would like
to remain over night I'm sure we would make you comfortable. You
can proceed to Pratonia in the morning."
"Thanks. Might not be a bad idea," said Mr. Sharp. "I'm obliged
to you. I've got to go there to collect my money, though I
suppose they won't give it all to me."
"Why not?" demanded Ned.
"Didn't drop from my parachute. Couldn't. Fire was one reason---
couldn't reach the parachute, and if I could have, guess it
wouldn't have been safe. Parachute probably was burned too. But
I'm done with hot-air balloons though I guess I said that before."
The boys were much interested in the somewhat odd performer, and,
on his part, he seemed to take quite a notion to Tom, who told him
of several things that he had invented. "Well," remarked Mr.
after a while, during which the boat had been moving slowly down
the lake, "if we are not to go ashore for a doctor for you, Mr.
Sharp, suppose we put on more speed and get to my home? I'm
anxious about a robbery that occurred there," and he related some
facts in the case.
"Speed her up!" exclaimed Mr. Sharp. "Wish I could help you catch
the scoundrels, but afraid I can't---hands too sore," and he
looked at his burns. Then he told how he had made the ascension
from the Pratonia fair grounds and how, when he was high in the
air, he had discovered that the balloon was on fire. He described
his sensations and told how he thought his time had surely come.
Sparks from the hot air used to inflate it probably caused the
blaze, he said.
"I've made a number of trips," he concluded, "hot air and gas
bags, but this was the worst ever. It got on my nerves for a few
minutes," he added coolly.
"I should think it would," agreed Tom as he speeded up the motor
and sent the ARROW on her homeward way.
The boys and Mr. Swift were much interested in the experiences of
the balloonist and asked him many questions, which he answered
modestly. Several hours passed and late that afternoon the party
"Here we are!" exclaimed Mr. Swift, relief in his tones. "Now to
see of what I have been robbed and to get the police after the
When the boat was nearing the dock Mr. Sharp, who had been silent
for some time, suddenly turned to Tom and asked:
"Ever invent an airship?"
"No," replied the lad, somewhat surprised. "I never did."
"I have," went on the balloonist. "That is, I've invented part of
it. I'm stuck over some details. Maybe you and I'll finish it
some day. How about it?"
"Maybe," assented Tom, who was occupied just then in making a good
landing. "I am interested in airships, but I never thought I
could build one."
"Easiest thing in the world," went on Mr. Sharp, as if it was an
everyday matter. "You and I will get busy as soon as we clear up
this robbery." He talked as though he had been a friend of the
family for some time, for he had a genial, taking manner.
A little later Mr. Swift was excitedly questioning Garret Jackson
concerning the robbery and making an examination of the electrical
shop to discover what was missing.
"They've taken some parts of my gyroscope!" he exclaimed, "and
some valuable tools and papers, as well as some unfinished work
that will be difficult to replace."
"Much of a loss?" asked Mr. Sharp with a business-like air.
"Well, not so large as regards money," answered the inventor, "but
they took things I can never replace, and I will miss them very
much if I cannot get them back."
"Then we'll get them back!" snapped the balloonist, as if that was
all there was to it.
The police were called up on the telephone and the facts given to
them, as well as a description of the stolen things. They
promised to do what they could, but, in the light of past
experiences, Tom and his father did not think this would be much.
There was little more that could be done that evening. Ned Newton
went to his home, and, after Mr. Swift had insisted in calling in
his physician to look after Mr. Sharp's burns the balloonist was
given a room next to Tom's. Then the Swift household settled
"Well," remarked Tom to his father, as he got ready for bed, "this
sure has been an exciting day."
"And my loss is a serious one," added the inventor somewhat sadly.
"Don't worry, dad," begged his son. "I'll do my best to recover
those things for you."
Several days passed, but there was no clew to the thieves. That
they were the same ones who had stolen the turbine model there was
little doubt, but they seemed to have covered their tracks well.
The police were at a loss, and, though Tom and Mr. Sharp cruised
about the lake, they could get no trace of the men. The
balloonist had sent to Pratonia for his clothing and other baggage
and was now installed in the Swift home, where he was invited to
stay a week or two.
One night when he was looking over some papers he had taken from
his trunk the balloonist came over to where Tom was making a
drawing of a new machine he was planning and said:
"Like to see my idea for an airship? Different from some. It's a
dirigible balloon with an aeroplane front and rear to steer and
balance it in big winds. It would be a winner, only for one
thing. Maybe you can help me."
"Maybe I can," agreed Tom, who was at once interested.
"We ought to be able to do something. Look at our names---Swift
and Sharp---quick and penetrating---a good firm to build
airships," and he laughed genially. "Shall we do it?"
"I'm willing," agreed Tom, and the balloonist spread his plans out
on the table, he and the young inventor soon being deep in a
discussion of them.
THE MYSTERY SOLVED
>From then on, for several days, the young inventor and his new
friend lived in an atmosphere of airships. They talked them from
morning until night, and even Mr. Swift, much as he was exercised
over his loss, took part in the discussions.
In the meanwhile efforts had not ceased to locate the robbers and
recover the stolen goods, but so far without success.
One afternoon, about two weeks after the thrilling rescue of John
Sharp, Tom said to the balloonist:
"Wouldn't you like to come for a ride in the motor-boat? Maybe it
will help us to solve the puzzle of the airship. We'll take a
trip across and up the opposite shore."
"Good idea," commented Mr. Sharp. "Fine day for a sail. Come on.
Blow the cobwebs from our brains."
Mr. Swift declined an invitation to accompany them, as he said he
would stay home and try to straighten out his affairs, which were
somewhat muddled by the robbery.
Out over the blue waters of Lake Carlopa shot the ARROW. It was
making only moderate speed, as Tom was in no hurry, and he knew
his engine would last longer if not forced too frequently. They
glided along, crossed the lake and were proceeding up the opposite
shore when, as they turned out from a little bay and rounded a
point of land, Mr. Sharp exclaimed:
"Look out, Tom, there's rowboat just ahead!"
"Oh, I'll pass well to one side of that," answered the young
inventor, looking at the craft. As he did so, noting that there
were four men in it, one of the occupants caught a glimpse of the
ARROW. No sooner had he done so than he spoke to his companions,
and they all turned to stare at Tom. At first the lad could
scarcely believe his eyes, but as he looked more intently he
uttered a cry.
"There they are!"
"Who?" inquired Mr. Sharp.
"Those men---the thieves! We must catch them!"
Tom had spoken loudly, but even though the men in the rowboat did
hear what he said, they would have realized without that that they
were about to be pursued, for there was no mistaking the attitude
of our hero.
Two of the thieves were at the oars, and, with one accord, they at
once increased their speed. The boat swung about sharply and was
headed for the shore, which they seemed to have come from only a
short time previous, as the craft was not far out in the lake.
"No, you don't!" cried Tom. "I see your game! You want to get to
the woods, where you'll have a better chance to escape! If this
isn't great luck, coming upon them this way!"
It was the work of but a moment to speed up the engine and head
the ARROW for the rowboat. The men were pulling frantically, but
they had no chance.
"Get between them and the shore!" cried Mr. Sharp. "You can head
them off then." This was good advice and Tom followed it. The
among whom the lad could recognize Happy Harry and Anson Morse,
were all excited. Two of them stood up, as though to jump
overboard, but their companions called to them to stop.
"If we only had a gun now, not to shoot at them but to intimidate
them," murmured the balloonist, "maybe they'd stop."
"Here's one," answered Tom, pointing to the seat locker, where he
kept the shotgun Mr. Duncan had given him. In a moment Mr. Sharp
had it out.
"Surrender!" he cried, pointing the weapon at the men in the small
"Don't shoot! Don't fire on us! We'll give up!" cried Happy
Harry, and the two with the oars ceased pulling.
"Don't take any chances," urged Mr. Sharp in a low voice. "Keep
between them and the shore. I'll cover them." Tom was steering
from an auxiliary side wheel near the motor, and soon the ARROW
had cut off the retreat of the men. They could not land and to
row across the lake meant speedy capture.
"Well, what do you want of us?" growled Morse. "What right have
you got to interfere with us in this fashion?"
"The best of right," answered Tom. "You'll find out when you're
landed in jail."
"You can't arrest us," sneered Happy Harry. "You're not an
officer and you haven't any warrant."
Tom hadn't thought of that, and his chagrin showed in his face.
Happy Harry was quick to see it.
"You'd better let us go," he threatened "We can have you arrested
for bothering us. You haven't any right to stop us, Tom Swift."
"Maybe he hasn't, but I have!" exclaimed John Sharp suddenly.
"You! Who are you?" demanded Featherton, alias Simpson, the man
who had run the automobile that carried Tom away.
"Me. I'm a special deputy sheriff for this county," answered the
balloonist simply. "Here's my badge," and, throwing back his
coat, he displayed it. "You see I got the appointment in order to
have some authority in the crowds that gather to watch me go up,"
he explained to Tom, who plainly showed his astonishment. "I
found it very useful to be able to threaten arrest, but in this
case I'll do more than threaten. You are my prisoners," he went
on to the men in the boat, and he handled the shotgun as if he
knew how to use it. "I'll take you into custody on complaint of
Mr. Swift for robbery. Now will you go quietly or are you going
to make a fuss?" and Mr. Sharp shut his jaw grimly.
"Well, seeing as how you have the drop on us, I guess we'll have
to do as you say," admitted Happy Harry, alias Jim Burke. "But
you can't prove anything against us. We haven't any of Mr.
"Well, you know where it is then," retorted Tom quickly.
Under the restraining influence of the gun the men made no
resistance. While Mr. Sharp covered them, Tom towed their boat
toward shore. Then, while the young inventor held the gun, the
balloonist tied the hands and feet of the thieves in a most
scientific manner, for what he did not know about ropes and knots
was not worth putting into a book.
"Now, I guess they'll stay quiet for a while," remarked Mr. Sharp
as he surveyed the crestfallen criminals. "I'll remain on guard
here, Tom, while you go notify the nearest constable and we'll
take them to jail. We bagged the whole lot as neatly as could be
"No, you didn't get all of us!" exclaimed Happy Harry, and there
was a savage anger in his tones.
"Keep quiet!" urged Morse.
"No, I'll not keep quiet! It's a shame that we have to take our
medicine while that trimmer, Tod Boreck, goes free. He ought to
have been with us, and he would be, only he's trying to get away
with that sparkler!"
"Keep quiet," again urged Morse.
Tom was all attention. He had caught the word "sparkler," and he
at once associated it with the occasion he had heard the men use
it before. He felt that he was on the track of solving the
mystery connected with his boat.
He looked at the men. They were the same four who had been
involved in the former theft---Appleson, Featherton, Morse and
Burke. Were there five of them? He recalled the man who had been
caught tampering with his boat---the man who had tried to bid on
the ARROW at the auction. Where was he?
"Boreck didn't get what he was after," resumed Happy Harry, "and
I'm going to spoil his game for him. Say, kid," he went on to
Tom, "look in the front part of your boat---where the gasoline
Tom felt his heart beating fast. At last he felt that he would
solve the puzzle. He opened the forward compartment. To his
disappointment it seemed as usual. Morse and the others were
making a vain effort to silence Happy Harry.
"I don't see anything here," said Tom.
"No, because it's hidden in one of those blocks of wood you use
for a brace," continued the man. "Which one it is, Boreck didn't
know, so he pulled out two or three, only to be fooled each time.
You must have shifted them, kid, from the way they were when we
had the boat."
"I did," answered the young inventor, recollecting how he had
taken out some of the braces and inserted new ones, then painted
the interior of the compartment. "What is in the braces, anyhow?"
"The sparkler---a big diamond---in a hollow place in the wood,
kid!" exclaimed Happy Harry, blurting out the words. "I'm not
going to let Tod Boreck get away with it while we stay in jail."
"Take out all the braces that haven't been moved and have a look,"
suggested Mr. Sharp. Tom only had to remove two, those farthest
back, for all the others had, at one time or another, been changed
or taken away by the thief.
One of the blocks did not seem to have anything unusual about it,
but at the sight of the other Tom could not repress a cry. It was
the one that seemed to have had a hole bored in it and then
plugged up again. He remembered his father noticing it on the
occasion of overhauling the boat.
"The sparkler's in there," said the tramp as he saw the brace.
"Boreck was after it several times, but he never pulled out the
With his knife Tom dug out the putty that covered the round hole
in the block. No sooner had he done so than there rolled out into
his hand a white object. It was something done up in tissue
paper, and as he removed the wrapper, there was a flash in the
sunlight and a large, beautiful diamond was revealed. The mystery
had been solved.
WINNING A RACE
"Where did this diamond come from?" demanded Mr. Sharp of the
quartette of criminals.
"That's for us to know and you to find out," sneered Happy Harry.
"I don't care as long as that trimmer Boreck didn't get it. He
tried to do us out of our share."
"Well, I guess the police will make you tell," went on the
balloonist. "Go for the constable, Tom."
Leaving his friend to guard the ugly men, who for a time at least
were beyond the possibility of doing harm, Tom hurried off through
the woods to the nearest village. There he found an officer and
the gang was soon lodged in jail. The diamond was turned over to
the authorities, who said they would soon locate the owner.
Nor were they long in doing it, for it appeared the gem was part
of a large jewel robbery that had taken place some time before in
a distant city. The Happy Harry gang, as the men came to be
called, were implicated in it, though they got only a small share
of the plunder. Search was made for Tod Boreck and he was
captured about a week after his companions. Seeing that their
game was up, the men made a partial confession, telling where Mr.
Swift's goods had been secreted, and the inventor's valuable
tools, papers and machinery were recovered, no damage having been
done to them.
It developed that after the diamond theft, and when the gang still
had possession of Mr. Hastings' boat, Boreck, sometimes called
Murdock by his cronies, unknown to them, had secreted the jewel in
one of the braces under the gasoline tank. He expected to get it
out secretly, but the capture of the gang and the sale of the boat
prevented this. Then he tried to buy the craft to take out the
diamond, but Tom overbid him. It was Boreck who found Andy's
bunch of keys and used one to open the compartment lock when Tom
surprised him. The man did manage to remove some of the blocks,
thinking he had the one with the diamond in it, but the fact of
Tom changing them, and painting the compartment deceived him. The
gang hoped to get some valuables from Mr. Swift's shops, and, to a
certain extent, succeeded after hanging around for several nights
and following him to Sandport, but Tom eventually proved too much
for them. Even stealing the Arrow, which was taken to aid the
gang in robbing Mr. Swift, did not succeed, and Boreck's plan then
to get possession of the diamond fell through.
It was thought that the gang would get long terms in prison, but
one night, during a violent storm, they escaped from the local
jail and that was the last seen of them for some time.
A few days after the capture as Tom was in the boathouse making
some minor repairs to the motor he heard a voice calling:
"Mistah Swift, am yo' about?"
"Hello, Rad, is that you?" he inquired, recognizing the voice of
the colored owner of the mule Boomerang.
"Yais, sa, dat's me. I got a lettah fo' yo'. I were passin' de
post-office an' de clerk asted me to brung it to yo' 'case as how
it's marked 'hurry,' an' he said he hadn't seen yo' to-day."
"That's right. I've been so busy I haven't had time to go for the
mail," and Tom took the letter, giving Eradicate ten cents for his
"Ha, that's good!" exclaimed Tom as he read it.
"Hab some one done gone an' left yo' a fortune, Mistah Swift?"
asked the negro.
"No, but it's almost as good. It's an invitation to take part in
the motor-boat races next week. I'd forgotten all about them. I
must get ready."
"Good land! Dat's all de risin' generation t'inks about now,"
observed Eradicate, "racin' an' goin' fast. Mah ole mule
Boomerang am good enough fo' me," and, shaking his head in a
woeful manner, Eradicate went on his way.
Tom told Mr. Sharp and his father of the proposed races of the
Lanton Motor-boat Club, and, as it was required that two persons
be in a craft the size of the ARROW, the young inventor arranged
for the balloonist to accompany him. Our hero spent the next few
days in tuning up his motor and in getting the ARROW ready for the
The races took place on that side of Lake Carlopa near where Mr.
Hastings lived, and he was one of the officials of the club.
There were several classes, graded according to the horse-power of
the motors, and Tom found himself in a class with Andy Foger.
"Here's where I beat you," boasted the red-haired youth
exultantly, though his manner toward Tom was more temperate than
usual. Andy had learned a lesson.
"Well, if you can beat me I'll give you credit for it," answered
The first race was for high-powered craft, and in this Mr.
Hastings' new CARLOPA won. Then came the trial of the small
boats, and Tom was pleased to note that Miss Nestor was on hand in
the tiny DOT.
"Good luck!" he called to her as he was adjusting his timer, for
his turn would come soon. "Remember what I told you about the
spark," for he had given her a few lessons.
"If I win it will be due to you," she called brightly.
She did win, coming in ahead of several confident lads who had
better boats. But Miss Nestor handled the DOT to perfection and
crossed the line a boat's length ahead of her nearest competitor.
"Fine!" cried Tom, and then came the warning gun that told him to
get ready for his trial.
This was a five-mile race and had several entrants. The affair
was a handicap one and Tom had no reason to complain of the rating
"Crack!" went the starting pistol and away went Tom and one or two
others who had the same allowance as did he. A little later the
others started and finally the last class, including Andy Foger.
The RED STREAK shot ahead and was soon in the lead, for Andy and
Sam had learned better how to handle their craft. Tom and Mr.
Sharp were worried, but they stuck grimly to the race and when the
turning stake was reached Tom's motor had so warmed up and was
running so well that he crept up on Andy. A mile from the final
mark Andy and Tom were on even terms, and though the red-haired
lad tried to shake off his rival he could not. Andy's ignition
system failed him several times and he changed from batteries to
magneto and back again in the hope of getting a little more speed
out of the motor.
But it was not to be. A half-mile away from the finish Tom, who
had fallen behind a little, crept up on even terms. Then he
slowly forged ahead, and, a hundred rods from the stake, the young
inventor knew that the race was his. He clinched it a few minutes
later, crossing the line amid a burst of cheers. The ARROW had
beaten several boats out of her own class and Tom was very proud
"My, but we certainly did scoot along some!" cried Mr. Sharp.
"But that's nothing to how we'll go when we build our airship, eh,
Tom?" and he looked at the flushed face of the lad.
"No, indeed," agreed the young inventor. "But I don't know that
we'll take part in any races in it. We'll build it, however, as
soon as we can solve that one difficulty."
They did solve it, as will be told in the next book of this
series, to be called "Tom Swift and His Airship; or, The Stirring
Cruise of the RED CLOUD." They had some remarkable adventures in
the wonderful craft, and solved the mystery of a great bank
This ended the contests of the motor-boats and the little fleet
crowded up to the floats and docks, where the prizes were to be
awarded. Tom received a handsome silver cup and Miss Nestor a
"Now I want all the contestants, winners and losers, to come up to
my house and have lunch," invited Mr. Hastings.
As Tom and the balloonist strolled up the walk to the handsome
house Andy Foger passed them.
"You wouldn't have beaten me if my spark coil hadn't gone back on
me," he said, somewhat sneeringly.
"Maybe," admitted Tom, and just then he caught sight of Mary
Nestor. "May I take you in to lunch?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "because you helped me to win," and she blushed
prettily. And then they all sat down to the tables set out on the
lawn, while Tom looked so often at Mary Nestor that Mr. Sharp said
afterward it was a wonder he found time to eat. But Tom didn't
care. He was happy.