Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Robert Rowe, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
TOM SWIFT AND HIS PHOTO TELEPHONE
OR THE PICTURE THAT SAVED A FORTUNE
BY VICTOR APPLETON
AUTHOR OF "TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR CYCLE," "TOM SWIFT AND HIS
GIANT CANNON," "THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS," "THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS
IN THE JUNGLE," "THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS' FIRST VENTURE," ETC.
I. A MAN ON THE ROOF
II. BAD NEWS
III. TOM'S FAILURE
IV. RUN DOWN
V. SHARP WORDS
VI. A WARNING
VII. SOFT WORDS
VIII. TOM IS BAFFLED
IX. A GLEAM OF HOPE
X. MIDNIGHT VISITORS
XI. THE AIRSHIP IS TAKEN
XII. A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
XIII. THE TELEPHONE PICTURE
XIV. MAKING IMPROVEMENTS
XV. THE AIRSHIP CLUE
XVII. THE MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE
XVIII. ANOTHER CALL
XIX. THE BUZZING SOUND
XX. SETTING THE TRAP
XXI. THE PHOTO TELEPHONE
XXII. THE ESCAPE
XXIII. ON THE TRAIL
XXIV. THE LONELY HOUSE
XXV. THE AIRSHIP CAPTURE
TOM SWIFT AND HIS PHOTO TELEPHONE
A MAN ON THE ROOF
"Tom, I don't believe it can be done!"
"But, Dad, I'm sure it can!"
Tom Swift looked over at his father, who was seated in an easy
chair in the library. The elderly gentleman--his hair was quite
white now--slowly shook his head, as he murmured again:
"It can't be done, Tom! It can't be done! I admit that you've made
a lot of wonderful things--things I never dreamed of--but this is
too much. To transmit pictures over a telephone wire, so that
persons cannot only see to whom they are talking, as well as hear
them--well, to be frank with you, Tom, I should be sorry to see
you waste your time trying to invent such a thing."
"I don't agree with you. Not only do I think it can be done, but
I'm going to do it. In fact, I've already started on it. As for
wasting my time, well, I haven't anything in particular to do, now
that my giant cannon has been perfected, so I might as well be
working on my new photo telephone instead of sitting around idle."
"Yes, Tom, I agree with you there," said Mr. Swift. "Sitting
around idle isn't good for anyone--man or boy, young or old. So
don't think I'm finding fault because you're busy."
"It's only that I don't want to see you throw away your efforts,
only to be disappointed in the end. It can't be done, Tom, it
can't be done," and the aged inventor shook his head in pitying
Tom only smiled confidently, and went on:
"Well, Dad, all you'll have to do will be to wait and see. It
isn't going to be easy--I grant that. In fact, I've run up against
more snags, the little way I've gone so far, than I like to admit.
But I'm going to stick at it, and before this year is out I'll
guarantee, Father, that you can be at one end of the telephone
wire, talking to me, at the other, and I'll see you and you'll see
me--if not as plainly as we see each other now, at least plainly
enough to make sure of each other."
Mr. Swift chuckled silently, gradually breaking into a louder
laugh. Instead of being angry, Tom only regarded his father with
an indulgent smile, and continued:
"All right, Dad. Go ahead, laugh!"
"Well, Tom, I'm not exactly laughing at YOU--it's more at the
idea than anything else. The idea of talking over a wire and, at
the same time, having light waves, as well as electrical waves
passing on the same conductor!"
"All right, Dad, go ahead and laugh. I don't mind," said Tom,
good-naturedly. "Folks laughed at Bell, when he said he could send
a human voice over a copper spring; but Bell went ahead and to-day
we can talk over a thousand miles by wire. That was the telephone."
"Folks laughed at Morse when he said he could send a message over
the wire. He let 'em laugh, but we have the telegraph. Folks
laughed at Edison, when he said he could take the human voice--or
any other sound--and fix it on a wax cylinder or a hard-rubber
plate--but he did it, and we have the phonograph. And folks
laughed at Santos Dumont, at the Wrights, and at all the other
fellows, who said they could take a heavier-than-air machine, and
skim above the clouds like a bird; but we do it--I've done it--
you've done it."
"Hold on, Tom!" protested Mr. Swift. "I give up! Don't rub it in
on your old dad. I admit that folks did laugh at those inventors,
with their seemingly impossible schemes, but they made good. And
you've made good lots of times where I thought you wouldn't. But
just stop to consider for a moment. This thing of sending a
picture over a telephone wire is totally out of the question, and
entirely opposed to all the principles of science."
"What do I care for principles of science?" cried Tom, and he
strode about the room so rapidly that Eradicate, the old colored
servant, who came in with the mail, skipped out of the library
with the remark:
"Deed, an' Massa Tom must be pow'fully preragitated dis mawnin'!"
"Some of the scientists said it was totally opposed to all natural
laws when I planned my electric rifle," went on Tom. "But I made
it, and it shot. They said my air glider would never stay up, but
"But, Tom, this is different. You are talking of sending light
waves--one of the most delicate forms of motion in the world--over
a material wire. It can't be done!"
"Look here, Dad!" exclaimed Tom, coming to a halt in front of his
parent. "What is light, anyhow? Merely another form of motion;
"Well, yes, Tom, I suppose it is."
"Of course it is," said Tom. "With vibrations of a certain length
and rapidity we get sound--the faster the vibration per second the
higher the sound note. Now, then, we have sound waves, or
vibrations, traveling at the rate of a mile in a little less than
five seconds; that is, with the air at a temperature of sixty
degrees. With each increase of a degree of temperature we get an
increase of about a foot per second in the rapidity with which
"Now, then, light shoots along at the rate of 186,000,000 miles a
second. That is more than many times around the earth in a second
of time. So we have sound, one kind of wave motion, or energy; we
have light, a higher degree of vibration or wave motion, and then
we come to electricity--and nobody has ever yet exactly measured
the intensity or speed of the electric vibrations."
"But what I'm getting at is this--that electricity must travel
pretty nearly as fast as light--if not faster. So I believe that
electricity and light have about the same kind of vibrations, or
"Now, then, if they do have--and I admit it's up to me to prove
it," went on Tom, earnestly--"why can't I send light-waves over a
wire, as well as electrical waves?"
Mr. Swift was silent for a moment. Then he said, slowly:
"Well, Tom, I never heard it argued just that way before. Maybe
there's something in your photo telephone after all. But it never
has been done. You can't deny that!"
He looked at his son triumphantly. It was not because he wanted to
get the better of him in argument, that Mr. Swift held to his own
views; but he wanted to bring out the best that was in his
offspring. Tom accepted the challenge instantly.
"Yes, Dad, it has been done, in a way!" he said, earnestly. "No
one has sent a picture over a telephone wire, as far as I know,
but during the recent hydroplane tests at Monte Carlo, photographs
taken of some of the events in the morning, and afternoon, were
developed in the evening, and transmitted over five hundred miles
of wire to Paris, and those same photographs were published in the
Paris newspapers the next morning."
"Is that right, Tom?"
"It certainly is. The photographs weren't so very clear, but you
could make out what they were. Of course that is a different
system than the one I'm thinking of. In that case they took a
photograph, and made a copper plate of it, as they would for a
half-tone illustration. This gave them a picture with ridges and
depressions in copper, little hills and valleys, so to speak,
according to whether there were light or dark tints in the
picture. The dark places meant that the copper lines stood up
higher there than where there were light colors."
"Now, by putting this copper plate on a wooden drum, and revolving
this drum, with an electrical needle pressing lightly on the
ridges of copper, they got a varying degree of electrical current.
Where the needle touched a high place in the copper plate the
contact was good, and there was a strong current. When the needle
got to a light place in the copper--a depression, so to speak--the
contact was not so good, and there was only a weak current."
"At the receiving end of the apparatus there was a sensitized film
placed on a similar wooden drum. This was to receive the image
that came over the five hundred miles of wire. Now then, as the
electrical needle, moving across the copper plate, made electrical
contacts of different degrees of strength, it worked a delicate
galvanometer on the receiving end. The galvanometer caused a beam
of light to vary--to grow brighter or dimmer, according as the
electrical current was stronger or weaker. And this light, falling
on the sensitive plate, made a picture, just like the one on the
copper plate in Monte Carlo."
"In other words, where the copper plate was black, showing that
considerable printing ink was needed, the negative on the other
end was made light. Then when that negative was printed it would
come out black, because more light comes through the light places
on a photograph negative than through the dark places. And so,
with the galvanometer making light flashes on the sensitive plate,
the galvanometer being governed by the electrical contacts five
hundred miles away, they transmitted a photograph by wire."
"But not a telephone wire, Tom."
"That doesn't make any difference, Dad. It was a wire just the
same. But I'm not going into that just now, though later I may
want to send photographs by wire. What I'm aiming at is to make an
apparatus so that when you go into a telephone booth to talk to a
friend, you can see him and he can see you, on a specially
prepared plate that will be attached to the telephone."
"You mean see him as in a looking-glass, Tom?"
"Somewhat, yes. Though I shall probably use a metal plate instead
of glass. It will be just as if you were talking over a telephone
in an open field, where you could see the other party and he could
"But how are you going to do it, Tom?"
"Well, I haven't quite decided. I shall probably have to use the
metal called selenium, which is very sensitive to light, and which
makes a good or a poor electrical conductor according as more or
less light falls on it. After all, a photograph is only lights and
shadows, fixed on sensitive paper or films."
"Well, Tom, maybe you can do it, and maybe you can't. I admit
you've used some good arguments," said Mr. Swift. "But then, it
all comes down to this: What good will it be if you can succeed in
sending a picture over a telephone wire?"
"What good, Dad? Why, lots of good. Just think how important it
will be in business, if you can make sure that you are talking to
the party you think you are. As it is now, unless you know the
person's voice, you can't tell that the man on the other end of
the wire is the person he says he is. And even a voice can be
"But if you know the person yourself, he can't be imitated. If you
see him, as well as hear his voice, you are sure of what you are
doing. Why, think of the big business deals that could be made
over the telephone if the two parties could not only hear but see
each other. It would be a dead sure thing then. And Mr. Brown
wouldn't have to take Mr. Smith's word that it was he who was
talking. He could even get witnesses to look at the wire-image if
he wanted to, and so clinch the thing. It will prevent a lot of
"Well, Tom, maybe you're right. Go ahead. I'll say no more against
your plans. I wish you all success, and if I can help you, call on
"Thanks, Dad. I knew you'd feel that way when you understood. Now
But what Tom Swift was going to do he did not say just then, for
above the heads of father and son sounded a rattling, crashing
noise, and the whole house seemed to shake Then the voice of
Eradicate was heard yelling:
"Good land! Good land ob massy! Come out yeah, Massa Tom! Come
right out yeah! Dere's a man on de roof an' he am all tangled up
suthin' scandalous! Come right out yeah befo' he falls and
translocates his neck! Come on!"
With startled glances at each other, Tom and his father rushed
from the library to the side of the house, whence came the cries
"What is it, Rad! what is it?" questioned Tom.
"Is someone hurt?" Mr. Swift wanted to know.
"He mighty soon will be!" exclaimed the colored man. "Look where
he am holdin' on! Lucky fo' him he grabbed dat chimbley!"
Tom and his father looked to where Eradicate pointed, and saw a
strange sight. A small biplane-airship had become entangled in
some of the aerials of Tom's wireless apparatus, and the craft had
turned turtle, being held from falling by some of the wire braces.
The birdman had fallen out, but had managed to cling to the
chimney, so that he had not reached the ground, and there he
clung, while the motor of his airship was banging away, and
revolving the propeller blades dangerously close to his head.
"Are you hurt?" cried Tom, to the unknown birdman.
"No, but I'm likely to be unless I get out of here!" was the
"Hold fast!" cried Tom. "We'll have you down in a jiffy. Here,
Rad, you get the long ladder. Where's Koku? That giant is never
around when he's wanted. Find Koku, Rad, and send him here."
"Yas, sah, Massa Tom; directly, sah!" and the colored man hastened
off as fast as his aged legs would take him.
And while preparations are thus under way to rescue the birdman
from the roof, I will take just a few minutes to tell you a little
something more about Tom Swift and his numerous inventions, as set
forth in the previous books of this series.
"Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle" was the first book, and in that I
related how Tom made the acquaintance of a Mr. Wakefield Damon, of
the neighboring town of Waterford, and how Tom bought that
gentleman's motor cycle, after it had tried to climb a tree with
its rider in the saddle. Mr. Wakefield Damon was an odd man, whose
favorite expression was "Bless my shoelaces!" or something equally
absurd. Waterford was not far from Shopton, where Tom and his
father made their home.
Mr. Swift was also an inventor of note, and Tom soon followed in
his father's footsteps. They lived in a large house, with many
shops about it, for their work at times required much machinery.
Mrs. Baggert was the housekeeper who looked after Tom and his
father, and got their meals, when they consented to take enough
time from their inventive work to eat. Another member of the
household was Eradicate Sampson, a genial old colored man, who
said he was named Eradicate because he used to eradicate the dirt
about the place.
Koku, just referred to by Tom, was an immense man, a veritable
giant, whom Tom had brought back with him from one of his trips,
after escaping from captivity. The young inventor really brought
two giants, brothers they were, but one had gone to a museum, and
the other took service with our hero, making himself very useful
when it came to lifting heavy machinery.
Tom had a close friend in Ned Newton, who was employed in the
Shopton bank. Another friend was Miss Mary Nestor, a young lady
whose life Tom had once saved. He had many other friends, and some
enemies, whom you will meet from time to time in this story.
After Tom had had many adventures on his motor cycle he acquired a
motor boat, and in that he and Ned went through some strenuous
times on Lake Carlopa, near Tom's home. Then followed an airship,
for Tom got that craze, and in the book concerning that machine I
related some of the things that happened to him. He had even more
wonderful adventures in his submarine, and with his electric
runabout our hero was instrumental in saving a bank from ruin by
making a trip in the speediest car on the road.
After Tom Swift had sent his wireless message, and saved the
castaways of Earthquake Island, he thought he would give up his
inventive work for a time, and settle down to a life of ease and
But the call of the spirit of adventure was still too strong for
him to resist. That was why he sought out the diamond makers, and
learned the secret of Phantom Mountain. And when he went to the
Caves of Ice, and there saw his airship wrecked, Tom was well-nigh
discouraged, But he managed to get back to civilization, and later
undertook a journey to elephant land, with his powerful electric
Marvelous adventures underground did Tom Swift have when he went
to the City of Gold, and I have set down some of them in the book
bearing the latter title. Later on he sought the platinum treasure
in his air glider. And when Tom was taken captive, in giant land,
only his speedy airship saved him from a hard fate.
By this time moving pictures were beginning to occupy a large
place in the scientific, as well as the amusement world, and Tom
invented a Wizard Camera which did excellent work. Then came the
need of a powerful light, to enable Uncle Sam's custom officers on
the border to detect the smugglers, and Tom was successful in
making his apparatus.
He thought he would take a rest after that, but with the opening
of the Panama Canal came the need of powerful guns to protect that
important waterway, and Tom made a Giant Cannon, which enabled the
longest shots on record to be fired.
Now, some months had passed, after the successful trial of the big
weapon, and Tom longed for new activities. He found them in the
idea of a photo telephone, and he and his father were just talking
of this when interrupted by the accident to the birdman on the
roof of the Swift home.
"Have you got that ladder, Rad?" cried the young inventor,
anxiously, as he saw the dangerous position of the man from the
"Yas, sah, Massa Tom! I'se a-camin' wif it!"
"And where's Koku? We'll need him!"
"He's a-camin', too!"
"Here Koku!" exclaimed a deep voice, and a big man came running
around the corner of the house. "What is it, Master?"
"We must get him down, Koku!" said Tom, simply. "I will go up on
the roof. You had better come, too. Rad, go in the house and get a
mattress from the bed. Put it down on the ground where he's likely
to fall. Lively now!"
"Yas, sah, Massa Tom!"
"Me git my own ladder--dat one not strong 'nuff!" grunted Koku,
who did not speak very good English. He had a very strong ladder,
of his own make, built to hold his enormous bulk, and this he soon
brought and placed against the side of the house.
Meanwhile Tom and his father had raised the one Eradicate had
brought, though Tom did most of the lifting, for his father was
elderly, and had once suffered from heart trouble.
"We're coming for you!" cried the young inventor as he began to
ascend the ladder, at the same time observing that the giant was
coming with his. "Can you hold on a little longer?"
"Yes, I guess so. But I dare not move for fear the propellers will
"I see. I'll soon shut off the motor," said Tom. "What happened,
"Well, I was flying over your house. I was on my way to pay you a
visit, but I didn't intend to do it in just this way," and the
birdman smiled grimly. "I didn't see your wireless aerials until I
was plumb into them, and then it was too late. I hope I haven't
damaged them any."
"Oh, they are easily fixed," said Tom. "I hope you and your
biplane are not damaged. This way, Koku!" he called to the giant.
"Say, is--is he real, or am I seeing things?" asked the aviator,
as he looked at the big man.
"Oh, he's real, all right," laughed Tom. "Now, then, I'm going to
shut off your motor, and then you can quit hugging that chimney,
and come down."
"I'll be real glad to," said the birdman.
Making his way cautiously along the gutters of the roof, Tom
managed to reach the motor controls. He pulled out the electrical
switch, and with a sort of cough and groan the motor stopped. The
big propellers ceased revolving, and the aviator could leave his
perch in safety.
This he did, edging along until he could climb down and meet Tom,
who stood near the ladder.
"Much obliged," said the birdman, as he shook hands with Tom. "My
name is Grant Halling. I'm a newcomer in Mansburg," he added,
naming a town not far from Shopton. "I know you by reputation, so
you don't need to introduce yourself."
"Glad to meet you," said the young inventor, cordially. "Rather a
queer place to meet a friend," he went on with a laugh and a
glance down to the ground. "Can you climb?"
"Oh, yes, I'm used to that. The next thing will be to get my
"Oh, we can manage that with Koku's help," spoke Tom. "Koku, get
some ropes, and see what you and Rad can do toward getting the
aeroplane down," he added to the giant. "Let me know if you need
"Me can do!" exclaimed the big man. "Me fix him!"
Tom and Mr. Halling made their way down the ladder, while the
giant proceeded to study out a plan for getting the airship off
"You say you were coming over to see me, when you ran into my
wireless aerials?" asked Tom, curiously, when he had introduced
his father to the birdman.
"Yes," went on Mr. Halling. "I have been having some trouble with
my motor, and I thought perhaps you could tell me what was wrong.
My friend, Mr. Wakefield Damon, sent me to you."
"What! Do you know Mr. Damon?" cried Tom.
"I've known' him for some years. I met him in the West, but I
hadn't seen him lately, until I came East. He sent me to see you,
and said you would help me."
"Well, any friend of Mr. Damon's is a friend of mine!" exclaimed
Tom, genially. "I'll have a look at your machine as soon as Koku
gets it down. How is Mr. Damon, anyhow? I haven't seen him in over
"I'm sorry to say he isn't very well, Mr. Swift."
"Is he ill? What is the trouble?"
"He isn't exactly ill," went on Mr. Halling, "but he is fretting
himself into a sickness, worrying over his lost fortune."
"His lost fortune!" cried Tom, in surprise at the bad news
concerning his friend. "I didn't know he had lost his money!"
"He hasn't yet, but he's in a fair way to, he says. It's something
about bad investments, and he did speak of the trickery of one
man, I didn't get the particulars. But he certainly feels very
badly over it."
"I should think he would," put in Mr. Swift. "Tom, we must look
into this. If we can help Mr. Damon--"
"We certainly will," interrupted Tom. "Now come in the house, Mr.
Halling. I'm sure you must be quite shaken up by your upset."
"I am, to tell you the truth, though it isn't the first accident
I've had in my airship."
They were proceeding toward the house, when there came a cry from
Koku, who had fastened a rope about the airship to lower it.
"Master! Master!" cried the giant. "The rope am slippin'. Grab the
end of it!"
"Come on!" cried Tom, quickly, as, turning', he saw the accident
about to happen. "Your craft will surely be smashed if she slips
to the ground, Mr. Halling!"
"You're right! This seems to be my unlucky day!" The birdman,
limping slightly from his fall, hurried with Tom to where a rope
trailed on the ground. Koku had fastened one end to the airship,
and had taken a turn of the cable about the chimney. He had been
lowering the biplane to the ground, but he had not allowed for its
great weight, and the rope had slipped from his big hands.
But Tom and Mr. Halling were just in time. They grabbed the
slipping hempen strands, and thus checked the falling craft until
Koku could get a better grip.
"All right now," said the giant, when he had made fast the rope.
"Me fix now. Master can go."
"Think he can lower it?" asked Mr. Halling, doubtfully.
"Oh, surely," said Tom. "Koku's as strong as a horse. You needn't
worry. He'll get it down all right. But you are limping."
"Yes, I jammed my leg a little."
"Don't you want a doctor?"
"Oh, no, not for a little thing like that."
But Tom insisted on looking at his new friend's wound, and found
quite a cut on the thigh, which the young inventor insisted on
"That feels better," said the birdman, as he stretched out on a
couch. "Now if you can look my machine over, and tell me what's
the matter with it, I'll be much obliged to you, and I'll get on
"Not quite so fast as that!" laughed Tom. "I wouldn't want to see
you start off with your lame leg, and certainly I would not want
to see you use your aircraft after what she's gone through, until
we've given her a test. You can't tell what part you might have
"Well, I suppose you are right. But I think I'd better go to a
hotel, or send for an auto and go home."
"Now you needn't do anything of the kind," spoke Tom, hospitably.
"We've got lots of room here, and for that matter we have plenty
of autos and airships, too, as well as a motor boat. You just rest
yourself here. Later we'll look over your craft."
After dinner, when Mr. Halling said he felt much better, Tom
agreed to go out with him and look at the airship. As he feared,
he found several things the matter with it, in addition to the
motor trouble which had been the cause for Mr. Halling's call on
the young inventor.
"Can she be fixed?" asked the birdman, who explained that, as yet,
he was only an amateur in the practice of flying.
"Oh, yes, we can fix her up for you," said Tom. "But it will take
several days. You'll have to leave it here."
"Well, I'll be glad to do that, for I know she will be all the
better when you get through with her. But I think I am able to go
on home now, and I really ought to. There is some business I must
"Speaking of business," remarked Tom, "can you tell me anything
more of Mr. Damon's financial troubles?"
"No, not much. All I know is that when I called on him the other
day I found him with his check book out, and he was doing a lot of
figuring. He looked pretty blue and downcast, I can tell you."
"I'm sorry about that," spoke Tom, musingly. "Mr. Damon is a very
good friend of mine, and I'd do anything to help him. I certainly
wouldn't like to see him lose his fortune. Bad investments, you
say it was?"
"Partly so, and yet I'm inclined to think if he does lose his
money it will be due to some trickery. Mr. Damon is not the man to
make bad investments by himself."
"Indeed he is not," agreed Tom. "You say he spoke of some man?"
"Yes, but not definitely. He did not mention any name. But Mr.
Damon was certainly quite blue."
"That's unlike him," remarked Tom. "He is usually very jolly. He
must be feeling quite badly. I'll go over and have a talk with
him, as soon as I can."
"Do. I think he would appreciate it. And now I must see about
"I'll take you in one of my cars," said Tom, who had several
automobiles. "I don't want to see you strain that injured leg of
"You're very good--especially after I tangled up your wireless
aerials; but I didn't see them until I was right into them,"
apologized Mr. Halling.
"They're a new kind of wire," said Tom, "and are not very plain to
see. I must put up some warning signs. But don't worry about
damaging them. They were only up temporarily anyhow, and I was
going to take them down to arrange for my photo telephone."
"Photo telephone, eh? Is that something new?"
"It will be--if I can get it working," said Tom, with a smile.
A little later Tom had taken Mr. Halling home, and then he set
about making arrangements for repairing the damaged airship. This
took him the better part of a week, but he did not regret the
time, for while he was working he was busy making plans for his
newest invention--the photo telephone.
One afternoon, when Tom had completed the repairs to the airship,
and had spent some time setting up an experimental telephone line,
the young inventor received a call from his chum, Ned Newton.
"Well, well, what are you up to now?" asked Ned, as he saw his
chum seated in a booth, with a telephone receiver to his ear,
meanwhile looking steadily at a polished metal plate in front of
him. "Trying to hypnotize yourself, Tom?"
"Not exactly. Quiet, Ned, please. I'm trying to listen."
Ned was too familiar with his chum's work to take offense at this.
The young banker took a seat on a box, and silently watched Tom.
The inventor shifted several switches, pressed one button after
another, and tilted the polished metal plate at different angles.
Then he closed the door of the little telephone booth, and Ned,
through the ground glass door, saw a light shining.
"I wonder what new game Tom is up to?" Ned mused.
Presently the door opened, and Tom stuck out his head.
"Ned, come here," he invited. "Look at that metal plate and see if
you can notice anything on it. I've been staring at it so steadily
that my eyes are full of sticks. See what you can make out."
"What is this?" asked Ned. "No trick; is it? I won't be blown up,
or get my eyes full of pepper; will I?"
"Nonsense! Of course not. I'm trying to make a photo telephone. I
have the telephone part down pat, but I can't see anything of the
photo image. See if you can."
Ned stared at the polished plate, while Tom did things to it,
making electrical connections, and tilting it at various angles.
"See anything, Ned?" asked Tom.
The other shook his head.
"Whom am I supposed to see?" he asked.
"Why, Koku is at the other end of the wire. I'm having him help
Ned gazed from the polished plate out of a side window of the
shop, into the yard.
"Well, that Koku is certainly a wonderful giant," said Ned, with a
"How so?" asked Tom.
"Why he can not be in two places at once. You say he ought to be
at the other end of this wire, and there he is out there, spading
up the garden."
Tom stared for a second and then exclaimed:
"Well, if that isn't the limit! I put him in the telephone booth
in the machine shop, and told him to stay there until I was
through. What in the world is he doing out there?"
"Koku!" he called to the giant, "why didn't you stay at the
telephone where I put you? Why did you run away?"
"Ha!" exclaimed the giant, who, for all his great size was a
simple chap, "little thing go 'tick-tick' and then 'clap-clap!'
Koku no like--Koku t'ink bad spirit in telumfoam--Koku come out!"
"Well, no wonder I couldn't see any image on the plate!" exclaimed
Tom. "There was nobody there. Now, Ned, you try it; will you,
"Sure. Anything to oblige!"
"Then go in the other telephone booth. You can talk to me on the
wire. Say anything you like--the telephone part is all right. Then
you just stand so that the light in the booth shines on your face.
The machine will do the rest--if it works."
Ned hurried off and was soon talking to his chum over the wire
from the branch telephone in the machine shop. Ned stood in the
glare of an electric light, and looked at a polished plate similar
to the one in the other booth.
"Are you there, Ned?" asked Tom.
"Yes, I'm here."
"Is the light on?"
"And you're looking at the plate?"
"Sure. Can you see any reflection in your plate?"
"No, not a thing," answered Tom, and there was great
discouragement in his voice. "The thing is a failure, Ned. Come on
back," and the young banker could hear his chum hang up the
telephone receiver at the other end.
"That's too bad," murmured Ned, knowing how Tom must feel. "I'll
have to cheer him up a bit."
When Ned Newton got back to where Tom sat in the small telephone
booth, the young banker found his chum staring rather moodily at
the polished metal plate on the shelf that held the talking
"So it was no go; eh, Tom?"
"No go at all, Ned, and I thought sure I had it right this time."
"Then this isn't your first experiment?"
"Land no! I've been at it, off and on, for over a month, and I
can't seem to get any farther. I'm up against a snag now, good and
"Then there wasn't any image on your plate?"
"Not a thing, Ned. I don't suppose you caught any glimpse of me in
your plate?" asked Tom, half hopefully.
"No. I couldn't see a thing. So you are going to try and make this
thing work both ways, are you?"
"That's my intention, But I can fix it so that a person can
control the apparatus at his end, and only see the person he is
talking to, not being seen himself, unless he wishes it. That is,
I hope to do that. Just now nobody can see anybody," and Tom
"Give it up," advised Ned. "It's too hard a nut to crack, Tom!"
"Indeed, I'll not give it up, Ned! I'm going to work along a new
line. I must try a different solution of selenium on the metal
plate. Perhaps I may have to try using a sensitized plate, and
develop it later, though I do want to get the machine down so you
can see a perfect image without the need of developing. And I
will, too!" cried Tom. "I'll get some new selenium."
Eradicate, who came into the shop just then, heard the end of
Tom's remarks. A strange look came over his honest black face, and
"What all am dat, Massa Tom? Yo'ah gwine t' bring de new millenium
heah? Dat's de end of de world, ain't it-dat millenium? Golly!
Dish yeah coon neber 'spected t' lib t' see dat. De millenium! Oh
"No, Rad!" laughed Tom. "I was speaking about selenium, a sort of
metallic combination that is a peculiar conductor of electricity.
The more light that shines on it the better conductor it is, and
the less light, the poorer."
"It must be queer stuff," said Ned.
"It is," declared Tom. "I think it is the only thing to use in
this photo telephone experiment, though I might try the metal
plate method, as they did between Monte Carlo and Paris. But I am
not trying to make newspaper pictures."
"What is selenium, anyhow?" asked Ned. "Remember, Tom, I'm not up
on this scientific stuff as you are."
"Selenium," went on Tom, "was discovered in 1817, by J. J.
Berzelius, and he gave it that name from the Greek word for moon,
on account of selenium being so similar, in some ways, to
tellurium. That last is named after the Latin word tellus, the
"Do they dig it?" Ned wanted to know.
"Well, sometimes selenium is found in combination with metals, in
the form of selenides, the more important minerals of that kind
being eucharite, crooksite, clausthalite, naumannite and zorgite--"
"Good night!" interrupted Ned, with a laugh, holding up his hands.
"Stop it, Tom!" he pleaded. "You'll give me a headache with all
those big words."
"Oh, they're easy, once you get used to them," said the young
inventor, with a smile. "Perhaps it will be easier if I say that
sometimes selenium is found in native sulphur. Selenium is usually
obtained from the flue-dust or chamber deposits of some factory
where sulphuric acid is made. They take this dust and treat it
with acids until they get the pure selenium. Sometimes selenium
comes in crystal forms, and again it is combined with various
metals for different uses."
"There's one good thing about it. There are several varieties, and
I'll try them all before I give up."
"That's the way to talk!" cried Ned. "Never say die! Don't give up
the ship, and all that. But, Tom, what you need now is a little
fun. You've been poking away at this too long. Come on out on the
lake, and have a ride in the motor boat. It will do you good. It
will do me good. I'm a bit rusty myself--been working hard lately.
Come on--let's go out on the lake."
"I believe I will!" exclaimed Tom, after thinking it over for a
moment. "I need a little fresh air. Sitting in that telephone
booth, trying to get an image on a plate, and not succeeding, has
gotten on my nerves. I want to write out an order for Koku to take
to town, though. I want to get some fresh selenium, and then I'm
going to make new plates."
Tom made some memoranda, and then, giving Koku the order for the
chemist, the young inventor closed up his shop, and went with Ned
down to Lake Carlopa, where the motor boat was moored.
This was not the same boat Tom had first purchased, some years
ago, but a comparatively new and powerful craft.
"It sure is one grand little day for a ride," remarked Ned, as he
got in the craft, while Tom looked over the engine.
"Yes, I'm glad you came over, and routed me out," said the young
inventor. "When I get going on a thing I don't know enough to
stop. Oh, I forgot something!"
"What?" asked Ned.
"I forgot to leave word about Mr. Railing's airship. It's all
fixed and ready for him, but I put on a new control, and I wanted
to explain to him about it. He might not know how to work it. I
left word with father, though, that if he came for it he must not
try it until he had seen me. I guess it will be all right. I don't
want to go back to the house now."
"No, it's too far," agreed Ned.
"I have it!" exclaimed Tom. "I'll telephone to dad from here, not
to let Halling go up until I come back. He may not come for his
machine; but, if he does, it's best to be on the safe side Ned."
Accordingly, Tom 'phoned from his boat-house, and Mr. Swift
promised to see the bird-man if he called. Then Ned and Tom gave
themselves up to the delights of a trip on the water.
The Kilo, which name Tom had selected for his new craft, was a
powerful boat, and comfortable. It swept on down the lake, and
many other persons, in their pleasure craft, turned to look at
Tom's fine one.
"Lots of folks out to-day," observed Ned, as they went around a
point of the shore.
"Yes, quite a number," agreed Tom, leaning forward to adjust the
motor. "I wonder what's got into her?" he said, in some annoyance,
as he made various adjustments. "One of the cylinders is missing."
"Maybe it needs a new spark plug," suggested Ned.
"Maybe. Guess I'll stop and put one in."
Tom slowed down the motor, and headed his boat over toward shore,
intending to tie up there for a while.
As he shifted the wheel he heard a cry behind him, and at the same
time a hoarse, domineering voice called out:
"Here, what do you mean, changing your course that way? Look out,
or I'll run you down! Get out of my way, you land-lubber, you!"
Startled, Ned and Tom turned. They saw, rushing up on them from
astern, a powerful red motor boat, at the wheel of which sat a
stout man, with a very florid face and a commanding air.
"Get out of my way!" he cried. "I can't stop so short! Look out,
or I'll run you down!"
Tom, with a fierce feeling of resentment at the fellow, was about
to shift the course of the Kilo, but he was too late.
A moment later there came a smashing blow on the stern port
quarter and the Kilo heeled over at a dangerous angle, while, with
a rending, splintering sound of wood, the big red motorboat swept
on past Tom and Ned, her rubstreak grinding along the side of the
"Great Scott, Tom! What happened?"
"I know as much as you, Ned. That fellow ran us down, that's all."
"Are we leaking?" and with this question Ned sprang from his place
near the bow, and looked toward the stern, where the heaviest blow
had been struck.
The Kilo had swung back to an even keel again, but was still
bobbing about on the water.
"Any hole there?" cried Tom, as he swung the wheel over to point
his craft toward shore, in case she showed a tendency to sink.
"I can't see any hole," answered Ned. "But water is coming in
"Then there's a leak all right! Probably some of the seams are
opened, or it may be coming in around the shaft stuffing-box.
Here, Ned, take the wheel, and I'll start up the engine again,"
for with the blow the motor had stopped.
"What are you going to do?" asked Ned, as he again made his way
"Take her to shore, of course. It's deep out here and I don't want
her to go down at this point."
"Say, what do you think of that fellow, anyhow, Tom?"
"I wouldn't like to tell you. Look, he's coming back."
This was so, for, as the boys watched, the big red motor boat had
swung about in a circle and was headed for them.
"I'll tell him what I think of him, at any rate," murmured Tom, as
he bent over his motor. "And, later on, I'll let the lawyers talk
"You mean you'll sue him, Tom?"
"Well, I'm certainly not going to let him run into me and spring a
leak, for nothing. That won't go with me!"
By this time Tom had the motor started, but he throttled it down
so that it just turned the propeller. With it running at full
speed there was considerable vibration, and this would further
open the leaking seams. So much water might thus be let in that
the craft could not be gotten ashore.
"Head her over, Ned," cried Tom, when he found he had sufficient
headway. "Steer for Ramsey's dock. There's a marine railway next
to him, and I can haul her out for repairs."
"That's the talk, Tom!" cried his chum.
By this time the big, red motor boat was close beside Tom's craft.
The man at the wheel, a stout-bodied and stout-faced man, with a
complexion nearly the color of his boat, glared at the two young
"What do you fellows mean?" called out the man, in deep booming
tones--tones that he tried to make imposing, but which, to the
trained ears of Tom and Ned, sounded only like the enraged bellow
of some bully. "What do you mean, I say? Getting on my course like
Ned could see Tom biting his lips, and clenching his hands to keep
down his temper. But it was too much. To be run into, and then
insulted, was more than Tom could stand.
"Look here!" he cried, standing up and facing the red-faced man,
"I don't know who you are, and I don't care. But I'll tell you one
thing--you'll pay for the damage you did to my boat!"
"I'll pay for it? Come, that's pretty good! Ha! Ha!" laughed the
self-important man. "Why, I was thinking of making a complaint
against you for crossing my course that way. If I find my boat is
damaged I shall certainly do so anyhow. Have we suffered any
damage, Snuffin?" and he looked back at a grimy-faced mechinician
who was oiling the big, throbbing motor, which was now running
with the clutch out.
"No, sir, I don't think we're damaged, sir," answered the man,
"Well, it's a lucky thing for these land-lubbers that we aren't. I
should certainly sue them. The idea of crossing my course the way
they did. Weren't they in the wrong, Snuffin?"
The man hesitated for a moment, and glanced at Tom and Ned, as
though asking their indulgence.
"Well, I asked you a question, Snuffin!" exclaimed the red-faced
"Yes--yes, sir, they shouldn't have turned the way they did,"
answered the man, in a low voice.
"Well, of all the nerve!" murmured Tom, and stopped his motor.
Then, stepping to the side of his disabled and leaking boat, he
"Look here! Either you folks don't know anything about navigation
rules, or you aren't heeding them. I had a perfect right to turn
and go ashore when I did, for I found my engine was out of order,
and I wanted to fix it. I blew the usual signal on the whistle,
showing my intention to turn off my course, and if you had been
listening you would have heard it."
"If you had even been watching you would have seen me shift, and
then, coming on at the speed you did, it was your place to warn me
by a whistle, so that I could keep straight on until you had
"But you did not. You kept right on and ran into me, and the only
wonder is that you didn't sink me. Talk about me getting in your
way! Why, you deliberately ran me down after I had given the right
signal. I'll make a complaint against you, that's what I will."
If possible the red-faced man got even more rosy than usual. He
fairly puffed up, he was so angry.
"Listen to that, will you, Snuffin!" he cried. "Listen to that! He
says he blew his whistle to tell us he was going to turn in."
"That's what I did!" said Tom, calmly.
"Preposterous! Did you hear it, Snuffin?" puffed the important
"Yes--yes, I think I did, sir," answered the machinist, in a
"You did? What! You mean to tell me you heard their whistle?"
"Why--why--er--I--" the big man puffed and blew, but seemed to
find no words in which to express himself. "Snuffin, I'll have a
talk with you when we get home," he finally said. most
significantly. "The idea of saying you heard a whistle blown!
There was nothing of the kind! I shall make a complaint against
these land-lubbers myself. Do you know who they are, Snuffin?"
"Yes--yes, sir," was the answer, as the man glanced at Tom. "At
least I know one of them, sir."
"Very good. Give me his name. I'll attend to the rest."
Tom looked at the big man sharply. He had never seen him before,
as far as he could recall. As for the machinist, the young
inventor had a dim recollection that once the man might have
worked in his shop.
"Go ahead, Snuffin!" said the big man, mopping his face with a
large silk handkerchief, which, even at that distance, gave out a
powerful perfume. "Go ahead, Snuffin, and we will settle this
matter later," and, adjusting a large rose in his buttonhole, the
self-important individual took his place on the cushioned seat at
the wheel, while the big red motor boat drew off down the river.
"Well, of all the nerve!" gasped Ned. "Isn't he the limit?"
"Never mind," spoke Tom, with a little laugh. "I'm sorry I lost my
temper, and even bothered to answer him. We'll let the lawyers do
the rest of the talking. Take the wheel, Ned."
"But are you going to let him get away like this, Tom? Without
asking him to pay for the damage to your boat, when he was clearly
in the wrong?"
"Oh, I'll ask him to pay all right; but I'll do it the proper way.
Now come on. If we stay here chinning much longer the Kilo will go
down. I must find out who he is. I think I know Snuffin--he used
to work for me, I now recall."
"Don't you know who that big man is?" asked Ned, as he took the
wheel, while Tom again started the motor. The water was now almost
up to the lower rim of the fly wheel.
"No; who is he?" asked Tom.
"Well, I know as much as I did before," laughed Tom. "That doesn't
tell me anything."
"Why, I thought everybody in the town knew Shallock Peters," went
on Ned. "He tried to do some business with our bank, but was
turned down. I hear he's gone to the other one, though. He's what
we call a get-rich-quick schemer, Tom--a promoter."
"I thought he acted like that sort of a character."
"Well, that's what he is. He's got half a dozen schemes under way,
and he hasn't been in town over a month. I wonder you haven't seen
or heard of him."
"I've been too busy over my photo telephone."
"I suppose so. Well, this fellow Peters struck Shopton about a
month ago. He bought the old Wardell homestead, and began to show
off at once. He's got two autos, and this big motor boat. He
always goes around with a silk hat and a flower in his buttonhole.
A big bluff--that's what he is."
"He acted so to me," was Tom's comment. "Well, he isn't going to
scare me. The idea! Why, he seemed to think we were in the wrong;
whereas he was, and his man knew it, too."
"Yes, but the poor fellow was afraid to say so. I felt sorry for
"So did I," added Tom. "Well, Kilo is out of commission for the
present. Guess we'll have to finish our outing by walking, Ned."
"Oh, I don't mind. But it makes me mad to have a fellow act the
way he did."
"Well, there's no good in getting mad," was Tom's smiling
rejoinder. "We'll take it out of him legally. That's the best way
in the end. But I can't help saying I don't like Mr. Shallock
"And I don't either," added Ned.
"There, she's about right now, Ned. Hold her there!"
"Aye, aye, Captain Tom!"
"Jove, she's leaking like a sieve! We only got her here just in
"That's right," agreed Ned.
Tom and his chum had managed to get the Kilo to Ramsey's dock, and
over the ways of the inclined marine railway that led from the
shop on shore down into the river. Then, poling the craft along,
until she was in the "cradle," Ned held her there while Tom went
on shore to wind up the windlass that pulled the car, containing
the boat, up the incline.
"I'll give you a hand, as soon as I find she sets level," called
Ned, from his place in the boat.
"All right--don't worry. There are good gears on this windlass,
and she works easy," replied Tom.
In a short time the boat was out of the water, but, as Tom grimly
remarked, "the water was not out of her," for a stream poured from
the stuffing-box, through which the propeller shaft entered, and
water also ran out through the seams that had been opened by the
"Quite a smash, Tom," observed the boat repairer, when he had come
out to look over the Kilo. "How'd it happen?"
"Oh, Shallock Peters, with his big red boat, ran into us!" said
"Ha, Peters; eh?" exclaimed the boatman. "That's the second craft
he's damaged inside a week with his speed mania. There's Bert
Johnson's little speeder over there," and he pointed to one over
which some men were working. "Had to put a whole new stern in her,
and what do you think that man Peters did?"
"What?" asked Tom, as he bent down to see how much damage his
craft had sustained.
"He wouldn't pay young Johnson a cent of money for the repairs,"
went on Mr. Houston, the boatman. "It was all Peters's fault,
"Couldn't he make him pay?" asked Tom.
"Well, young Johnson asked for it--no more than right, too; but
Peters only sneered and laughed at him."
"Why didn't he sue?" asked Ned.
"Costs too much money to hire lawyers, I reckon. So he played you
the same trick; eh. Tom?"
"Pretty much, yes. But he won't get off so easily, I can tell you
that!" and there was a grim and determined look on the face of the
young inventor. "How long will it take to fix my boat, Mr.
"Nigh onto two weeks, Tom. I'm terrible rushed now."
Tom whistled ruefully.
"I could do it myself quicker, if I could get her back to my
shop," he said. "But she'd sink on the home trip. All right, do
the best you can, Mr. Houston."
"I will that, Tom."
The two chums walked out of the boat-repair place.
"What are you going to do, Tom?" asked Ned, as they strolled
"Well, since we can't go motor boating, I guess I may as well go
back and see if that new supply of selenium has come. I do want to
get my photo telephone working, Ned."
"And that's all the outing you're going to take--less than an
hour!" exclaimed Ned, reproachfully.
"Oh, well, all you wanted to do was to get me out of a rut, as you
called it," laughed Tom. "And you've done it--you and Mr. Peters
together. It jolted up my brain, and I guess I can think better
now. Come on back and watch me tinker away, Ned."
"Not much! I'm going to stay out and get some fresh air while I
can. You'd better, too."
"I will, later."
So Tom turned back to his workshop, and Ned strolled on into the
country, for his day's work at the bank was over. And for some
time after that--until far into the night--Tom Swift worked at the
knotty problem of the photo telephone.
But the young inventor was baffled. Try as he might, he could not
get the image to show on the metal plate, nor could he get any
results by using a regular photographic plate, and developing it
"There is something wrong with the transmission of the light waves
over the wire," Tom confessed to his father.
"You'll never do it, Tom," said the aged inventor. "You are only
wasting a whole lot of time."
"Well, as I haven't anything else to do now, it isn't much loss,"
spoke Tom, ruefully. "But I'm going to make this work, Dad!"
"All right, son. It's up to you. Only I tell you it can't be
Tom, himself, was almost ready to admit this, when, a week later,
he seemed to be no nearer a solution of the problem than he was at
first. He had tried everything he could think of, and he had
Eradicate and Koku, the giant, almost distracted, by making them
stay in small telephone booths for hours at a time, while the
young inventor tried to get some reflection of one face or the
other to come over the wire.
Koku finally got so nervous over the matter, that he flatly
refused to "pose" any longer, so Tom was forced to use Eradicate.
As for that elderly man of all work, after many trials, all
unsuccessful, he remarked:
"Massa Tom, I reckon I knows what's wrong."
"Yes, Rad? Well, what is it?"
"Mah face am too black--dat's de trouble. You done want a white-
complected gen'man to stand in dat booth an' look at dat lookin'
glass plate. I'se too black! I suah is!"
"No, that isn't it, Rad," laughed Tom, hopelessly. "If the thing
works at all it will send a black man's face over the wire as well
as a white man's. I guess the truth of it is that you're like
Koku. You're getting tired. I don't know as I blame you. I'm
getting a bit weary myself. I'm going to take a rest. I'll send
for another kind of selenium crystals I've heard of, and we'll try
them. In the meanwhile--I'll take a little vacation."
"Get out my small airship, Rad, and I'll take a little flight."
"Dat's de way to talk, Massa Tom," was the glad rejoinder.
"I'm going over to see Mr. Damon, Father," announced Tom to Mr.
Swift a little later, when his speedy monoplane was waiting for
him. "I haven't seen him in some time, and I'd like to get at the
truth of what Mr. Halling said about Mr. Damon's fortune being in
danger. I'll be back soon."
"All right, Tom. And say--"
"Yes, Dad, what is it?" asked Tom, as he paused in the act of
getting in the seat.
"If he wants any ready cash, you know we've got plenty."
"Oh, sure. I was going to tell him we'd help him out."
Then, as Koku spun the propeller blades, Tom grasped the steering
wheel, and, tilting the elevating rudder, he was soon soaring into
the air, he and his craft becoming smaller and smaller as they
were lost to sight in the distance, while the rattle and roar of
the powerful motor became fainter.
In a comparatively short time Tom had made a successful landing in
the big yard in front of Mr. Damon's house, and, walking up the
path, kept a lookout for his friend.
"I wonder why he didn't come out to meet me?" mused Tom, for
usually when the eccentric man heard the throbbing of Tom's motor,
he was out waiting for the young inventor. But this time it was
not the case.
"Is Mr. Damon in?" Tom asked of the maid who answered his ring.
"Yes, Mr. Swift. You'll find him in the library," and she ushered
"Oh, hello, Tom," greeted Mr. Damon, but the tone was so listless,
and his friend's manner so gloomy that the young inventor was
"Have a chair," went on Mr. Damon. "I'll talk to you in a minute,
Tom. I've got to finish this letter, and it's a hard one to write,
let me tell you."
Now Tom was more astonished than ever. Not once had Mr. Damon
"blessed," anything, and when this did not happen Tom was sure
something was wrong. He waited until his friend had sealed the
letter, and turned to him with a sigh. Then Tom said boldly:
"Mr. Damon, is it true that you're having hard luck--in money
"Why, yes, Tom, I'm afraid I am," was the quick answer. "But who
"Grant Halling. He was over to get me to fix his airship," and Tom
briefly related what had happened.
"Oh, yes, I did mention the matter to him," went on Mr. Damon, and
his tone was still listless. "So he told you; did he? Well,
matters aren't any better, Tom. In fact, they're worse. I just had
to write to a man who was asking for help, and I had to refuse
him, though he needs it very much. The truth is I hadn't the
money. Tom, I'm afraid I'm going to be a very poor man soon."
"Impossible, Mr. Damon! Why, I thought your investments--"
"I've made some bad ones of late, Tom. I've been pretty foolish,
I'm afraid. I drew out some money I had in government bonds, and
invested in certain stocks sold by a Mr. Shallock Peters."
"Shallock Peters!" cried Tom, almost jumping out of his chair.
"Why, I know him--I mean I've met him."
"Have you, Tom? Well, then, all I've got to say is to steer clear
of him, my boy. Don't have anything to do with him," and, with
something of a return of his usual energy Mr. Damon banged his
fist down on his desk. "Give him a wide berth, Tom, and if you see
him coming, turn your back. He'd talk a miser into giving him his
last cent. Keep away from Shallock Peters, Tom. Bless my necktie,
he's a scoundrel, that's what he is!" and again Mr. Damon banged
his desk forcibly.
"Well, I'm glad of one thing!" exclaimed Tom, when the ink bottle
and the paper cutter on Mr. Damon's desk had ceased rattling,
because of the violence of the blow. "I'm glad of one thing."
"What's that, Tom?" asked his friend.
"I heard you bless something at last--the first time since I came
"Oh!" and Mr. Damon laughed. "Well, Tom, I haven't been blessing
things lately--that's a fact. I haven't had the heart for it.
There are too many business complications. I wish I'd never met
"So do I," said Tom. "My motor boat would not have been damaged
"Did he do that, Tom?"
"He certainly did, and then he accused me of being at fault."
"That would be just like him. Tell me about it, Tom."
When the young inventor finished the story of the collision Mr.
Damon sat silent for a moment. Then he remarked slowly:
"That's just like Peters. A big bluff--that's what he is. I wish
I'd discovered that fact sooner--I'd be money in pocket. But I
allowed myself to be deceived by his talk about big profits. At
first he seemed like a smart business man, and he certainly had
fine recommendations. But I am inclined to believe, now, that the
recommendations were forged."
"What did he do to you, Mr. Damon?" asked Tom, with ready
"It's too complicated to go into details over, Tom, but to make a
long story short, he got me to invest nearly all my fortune in
some enterprises that, I fear, are doomed to failure. And if they
do fail, I'll be a ruined man."
"No, you won't!" exclaimed Tom. "That's one reason why I came here
to-day. Father told me to offer you all the ready money you needed
to get out of your trouble. How much do you need, Mr. Damon?"
"Bless my collar button! That's like your father, Tom," and now
Mr. Damon seemed more like his old self. "Bless my shoes, a man
never knows who his real friends are until trouble comes. I can't
say how I thank you and your father, Tom. But I'm not going to
take advantage of him."
"It wouldn't be taking any advantage of him, Mr. Damon. He has
money lying idle, and he'd like to have you use it."
"Well, Tom, I might use it, if I had only myself to think about.
But there's no use in throwing good money after bad. If I took
yours now this fellow Peters would only get it, and that would be
the last of it."
"No, Tom, thank you and your father just the same, but I'll try to
weather the storm a bit longer myself. Then, if I do go down I
won't drag anybody else with me. I'll hang on to the wreck a bit
longer. The storm may blow over, or--or something may happen to
this fellow Peters."
"Has he really got you in his grip, Mr. Damon?"
"He has, and, to a certain extent, it's my own fault. I should
have been suspicious of him. And now, Tom, let me give you a
further word of warning. You heard me say to steer clear of this
"Yes, and I'm going to. But I'm going to make him pay for damaging
my boat, if I possibly can."
"Maybe it would be wiser not to try that, Tom. I tell you he's a
tricky man. And one thing more. I have heard that this man Peters
makes a specialty of organizing companies to take up new
"Is that so?" asked Tom, interestedly.
"Yes, but that's as far as it goes. Peters gets the invention, and
the man, out of whose brain it came, gets nothing."
"In other words, he swindles them?"
"That's it, Tom. If not in one way, then in another. He cheats
them out of the profits of their inventions. So I want to warn you
to be on the lookout."
"Don't worry," said Tom. "Peters will get nothing from my father
or me. We'll be on our guard. Not that I think he will try it, but
it's just as well to be warned. I didn't like him from the moment
he ran into me, and, now that I know what he has done to you, I
like him still less. He won't get anything from me!"
"I'm glad to hear you say so, Tom. I wish he'd gotten nothing out
"Are you sure you won't let my father help you, financially, Mr.
"No, Tom, at least not for the present. I'm going to make another
fight to hold on to my fortune. If I find I can't do it alone,
then I'll call on you. I'm real glad you called. Bless my
shoestring! I feel better now."
"I'm glad of it," laughed Tom, and he saw that his friend was in a
better state of mind, as his "blessings" showed.
Tom remained for a little longer, talking to Mr. Damon, and then
took his leave, flying back home in the airship.
"Gen'man t' see yo', Massa Tom," announced Eradicate, as he helped
Tom wheel the monoplane back into the shed.
"Is that so, Rad? Where is he?"
"Settin' in th' library. Yo' father am out, so I asted him in
"That's right, Rad. Who is he, do you know?"
"No, sah, Massa Tom, I doan't. He shore does use a pow'ful nice
perfume on his pocket hanky, though. Yum-yum!"
"Perfume!" exclaimed Tom, his mind going back to the day he had
had the trouble with Mr. Peters. "Is he a big, red-faced man,
"No, sah, Massa Tom. He's a white-faced, skinny man."
"Then it can't be Peters," mused Tom. "I guess perhaps it's that
lawyer I wrote to about bringing suit to get back what it cost me
to have the Kilo fixed. I'll see him at once. Oh, by the way, it
isn't Mr. Grant Halling; is it? The gentleman who got tangled up
in our aerials with his airship? Is it he?"
"No, sah, Massa Tom. 'Tain't him."
"I thought perhaps he had gotten into more trouble," mused Tom, as
he took off his airship "togs," and started for the house. For Mr.
Halling had called for his repaired airship some time ago, and had
promised to pay Tom another and more conventional visit, some
Tom did not know the visitor whom he greeted in the library a
little later. The man, as Eradicate had said, was rather pale of
face, and certainly he was not very fleshy.
"Mr. Tom Swift, I think?" said the man, rising and holding out his
"That's my name. I don't believe I know you, though."
"No, I haven't your reputation," said the man, with a laugh that
Tom did not like. "We can't all be great inventors like you," and,
somehow, Tom liked the man less than before, for he detected an
undertone of sneering patronage in the words. Tom disliked praise,
and he felt that this was not sincere.
"I have called on a little matter of business," went on the man.
"My name is Harrison Boylan, and I represent Mr. Shallock Peters."
Instinctively Tom stiffened. Receiving a call from a
representative of the man against whom Mr. Damon had warned him
only a short time before was a strange coincidence, Tom thought.
"You had some little accident, when your motor boat and that of
Mr. Peters collided, a brief time ago; did you not?" went on Mr.
"I did," said Tom, and, as he motioned the caller to be seated Tom
saw, with a start, that some of the drawings of his photo
telephone were lying on a desk in plain sight. They were within
easy reach of the man, and Tom thought the sheets looked as though
they had been recently handled. They were not in the orderly array
Tom had made of them before going out.
"If he is a spy, and has been looking at them," mused Tom, "he may
steal my invention." Then he calmed himself, as he realized that
he, himself, had not yet perfected his latest idea. "I guess he
couldn't make much of the drawings," Tom thought.
"Yes, the collision was most unfortunate," went on Mr. Boylan,
"and Mr. Peters has instructed me to say--"
"If he's told you to say that it was my fault, you may as well
save your time," cut in Tom. "I don't want to be impolite, but I
have my own opinion of the affair. And I might add that I have
instructed a lawyer to begin a suit against Mr. Peters--"
"No necessity for that at all!" interrupted the man, in soft
accents. "No necessity at all. I am sorry you did that, for there
was no need. Mr. Peters has instructed me to say that he realizes
the accident was entirely his own fault, and he is very willing--
nay, anxious, to pay all damages. In fact, that is why I am here,
and I am empowered, my dear Mr. Swift, to offer you five hundred
dollars, to pay for the repairs to your motor boat. If that is not
The man paused, and drew a thick wallet front his pocket. Tom felt
a little embarrassed over what he had said.
"Oh," spoke the young inventor, "the repair bill is only about
three hundred dollars. I'm sorry--"
"Now that's all right, Mr. Swift! It's all right," and the man,
with his soft words, raised a white, restraining hand. "Not
another word. Mr. Peters did not know who you were that day he so
unfortunately ran into you. If he had, he would not have spoken as
he did. He supposed you were some amateur motor-boatist, and he
was--well, he admits it--he was provoked."
"Since then he has made inquiries, and, learning who you were, he
at once authorized me to make a settlement in full. So if five
"The repair bill," said Tom, and his voice was not very cordial,
in spite of the other's persuasive smile, "the bill came to three
hundred forty-seven dollars. Here is the receipted bill. I paid
it, and, to be frank with you, I intended bringing suit against
Mr. Peters for that sum."
"No need, no need at all, I assure you!" interrupted Mr. Boylan,
as he counted off some bills. "There you are, and I regret that
you and Mr. Peters had such a misunderstanding. It was all his
fault, and he wants to apologize to you."
"The apology is accepted," said Tom, and he smiled a trifle. "Also
the money. I take it merely as a matter of justice, for I assure
you that Mr. Peters's own machinist will say the accident was his
"No doubt of it, not the least in the world," said the caller.
"And now that I have this disagreeable business over, let me speak
of something more pleasant."
Instinctively Tom felt that now the real object of the man's call
would be made plain--that the matter of paying the damages was
only a blind. Tom steeled himself for what was to come.
"You know, I suppose," went on Mr. Boylan, smiling at Tom, "that
Mr. Peters is a man of many and large interests."
"I have heard something like that," said Tom, cautiously.
"Yes. Well, he is an organizer--a promoter, if you like. He
supplies the money for large enterprises, and is, therefore, a
benefactor of the human race. Where persons have no cash with
which to exploit their--well, say their inventions. Mr. Peters
takes them, and makes money out of them."
"No doubt," thought Tom, grimly.
"In other cases, where an inventor is working at a handicap, say
with too many interests, Mr. Peters takes hold of one of his
ideas, and makes it pay much better than the inventor has been
able to do."
"Now, Mr. Peters has heard of you, and he would like to do you
"Yes, I guess he would," thought Tom. "He would like to do me--and
do me good and brown. Here's where I've got to play a game
"And so," went on Mr. Boylan, "Mr. Peters has sent me to you to
ask you to allow him to exploit one, or several, of your
inventions. He will form a large stock company, put one of your
inventions on the market, and make you a rich man. Now what do you
say?" and he looked at Tom and smiled--smiled, the young inventor
could not help thinking, like a cat looking at a mouse. "What do
you say, Mr. Swift?"
For a moment Tom did not answer. Then getting up and opening the
library door, to indicate that the interview was at an end, the
young inventor smiled, and said:
"Tell Mr. Peters that I thank him, but that I have nothing for him
to exploit, or with which to form a company to market."
"Wha--what!" faltered the visitor. "Do you mean to say you will
not take advantage of his remarkable offer?"
"That's just what I mean to say," replied Tom, with a smile.
"You won't do business with Mr. Peters? You won't let him do you
"No," said Tom, quietly.
"Why--why, that's the strangest--the most preposterous thing I
ever heard of!" protested Mr. Boylan. "What--what shall I say to
"Tell him," said Tom, "tell him, from me, and excuse the slang, if
you like, but tell him there is--nothing doing!"
TOM IS BAFFLED
Amazement held Mr. Boylan silent for a moment, and then, staring
at Tom, as though he could not believe what he had heard the young
inventor say, the representative of Mr. Peters exclaimed:
"That's what I said," repeated Tom, calmly.
"But--but you don't understand, I'm afraid."
"Oh, but indeed I do."
"Then you refuse to let my friend, Mr. Peters, exploit some of
"I refuse absolutely."
"Oh, come now. Take an invention that hasn't been very
"Well, I don't like to boast," said Tom with a smile, "but all of
my inventions have been successful. They don't need any aid from
Mr. Peters, thank you."
"But this one!" went on the visitor eagerly, "this one about some
new kind of telephone," and he motioned to the drawings on the
table. "Has that been a success? Excuse me for having looked at
the plans, but I did not think you would mind. Has that telephone
been a success? If it has not perhaps Mr. Peters could form a
"How did you know those drawings referred to a telephone?" asked
Tom, suspiciously, for the papers did not make it clear just what
the invention was.
"Why, I understood--I heard, in fact, that you were working on a
new photo telephone, and--"
"Who told you?" asked Tom quickly.
"Oh, no one in particular. The colored man who sent me here
"Eradicate!" thought Tom. "He must have been talking. That isn't
like him. I must look into this."
Then to his caller he said:
"Really, you must excuse me, Mr. Boylan, but I don't care to do
any business with Mr. Peters. Tell him, with my thanks, that there
is really nothing doing in his line. I prefer to exploit my own
"That is your last word?"
"Yes," returned Tom, as he gathered up the drawings.
"Well," said Mr. Boylan, and Tom could not help thinking there was
a veiled threat in his tones, "you will regret this. You will be
sorry for not having accepted this offer."
"I think not," replied Tom, confidently. "Good-day."
The young inventor sat for some time thinking deeply, when his
visitor had gone. He called Eradicate to him, and gently
questioned the old colored man, for Eradicate was ageing fast of
late, and Tom did not want him to feel badly.
It developed that the servant had been closely cross-questioned by
Mr. Boylan, while he was waiting for Tom, and it was small wonder
that the old colored man had let slip a reference to the photo
telephone. But he really knew nothing of the details of the
invention, so he could have given out no secrets.
"But at the same time," mused Tom, "I must be on guard against
these fellows. That Boylan seems a pretty slick sort of a chap. As
for Peters, he's a big 'bluff,' to be perfectly frank. I'm glad I
had Mr. Damon's warning in mind, or I might have been tempted to
do business with him."
"Now to get busy at this photo telephone again. I'm going to try a
totally different system of transmission. I'll use an alternating
current on the third wire, and see if that makes it any better.
And I'll put in the most sensitive selenium plate I can make. I'm
going to have this thing a success."
Tom carefully examined the drawings of his invention, at which
papers Mr. Boylan had confessed to looking. As far as the young
inventor could tell none was missing, and as they were not
completed it would be hard work for anyone not familiar with them
to have gotten any of Tom's ideas.
"But at the same time I'm going to be on my guard," mused Tom.
"And now for another trial."
Tom Swift worked hard during the following week, and so closely
did he stick to his home and workshop that he did not even pay a
visit to Mr. Damon, so he did not learn in what condition that
gentleman's affairs were. Tom even denied himself to his chum Ned,
so taken up was the young inventor with working out the telephone
problem, until Ned fairly forced himself into the shop one day,
and insisted on Tom coming out.
"You need some fresh air!" exclaimed Ned. "Come on out in the
motor boat again. She's all fixed now; isn't she?"
"Yes," answered Tom, "but--"
"Oh, 'but me no buts,' as Mr. Shakespeare would say. Come on, Tom.
It will do you good. I want a spin myself."
"All right, I will go for a little while," agreed Tom. "I am
feeling a bit rusty, and my head seems filled with cobwebs."
"Can't get the old thing to come out properly; eh?"
"No. I guess dad was more than half right when he said it couldn't
be done. But I haven't given up. Maybe I'll think of some new plan
if I take a little run. Come along."
They went down to the boat house, and soon were out on the lake in
"She runs better since you had her fixed," remarked Ned.
"Yes, they did a good job."
"Did you sue Peters?"
"Didn't have to. He sent the money," and Tom told of his interview
with Mr. Boylan. This was news to Ned, as was also the financial
trouble of Mr. Damon.
"Well," said the young banker, "that bears out what I had heard of
Peters--that he was a get-rich-quick chap, and a good one to steer
"Speaking of steering clear," laughed Tom, "there he is now, in
his big boat," and he pointed to a red blur coming up the lake.
"I'll give him a wide enough berth this time."
But though Mr. Peters, in his powerful motor boat, passed close to
Tom's more modest craft, the big man did not glance toward our
hero and his chum. Nor did Mr. Boylan, who was with his friend,
"I guess they've had enough of you," chuckled Ned.
"Probably he wishes he hadn't paid me that money," said Tom. "Very
likely he thought, after he handed it over, that I'd be only too
willing to let him manage one of my inventions. But he has another
Tom and Ned rode on for some distance, thoroughly enjoying the
spin on the lake that fine Summer day. They stopped for lunch at a
picnic resort, and coming back in the cool of the evening they
found themselves in the midst of a little flotilla of pleasure
craft, all decorated with Japanese lanterns.
"Better slow down a bit," Ned advised Tom, for many of the
pleasure craft were canoes and light row boats. "Our wash may
upset some of them."
"Guess you're right, old man," agreed Tom, as he closed the
gasoline throttle, to reduce speed. Hardly had he done so than
there broke in upon the merry shouts and singing of the pleasure-
seekers the staccato exhaust of a powerful motor boat, coming
directly behind Tom's craft.
Then came the shrill warning of an electrical siren horn.
"Somebody's in a hurry," observed Tom.
"Yes," answered Ned. "It sound's like Peters's boat, too."
"It is!" exclaimed Tom. "Here he comes. He ought to know better
than to cut through this raft of boats at that speed."
"Is he headed toward us?"
"No, I guess he's had enough of that. But look at him!"
With undiminished speed the burly promoter was driving his boat
on. The big vibrating horn kept up its clamor, and a powerful
searchlight in front dazzled the eyes.
"Look out! Look out!" cried several.
Many of the rowers and paddlers made haste to clear a lane for the
big, speedy motor craft, and Peters and his friends (for there
were several men in his boat now) seemed to accept this as a
matter of course, and their right.
"Somebody'll be swamped!" exclaimed Ned.
Hardly had he spoken than, as the big red boat dashed past in a
smother of foam, there came a startled cry in girls' voices.
"Look!" cried Tom. "That canoe's upset! Speed her up, Ned! We've
got to get 'em!"