Part 2 out of 3
A GLEAM OF HOPE
"Where are they?"
"Who are they?"
"Over this way! There's their canoe!"
"Look out for that motor boat!"
"Who was it ran them down? They ought to be arrested!"
These were only a few of the cries that followed the upsetting of
the frail canoe by the wash from the powerful red boat. On Tom's
Kilo there was a small, electrical searchlight which he had not
yet switched on. But, with his call to Ned Newton to speed up the
motor, that had been slowed down, Tom, with one turn of his
fingers, set the lamp aglow, while, with the other hand, he
whirled the wheel over to head his craft for the spot where he saw
two figures struggling in the water.
Fortunately the lanterns on the various canoes and row-boats, as
well as the light on the bow of Tom's Kilo, made an illumination
that gave the rescuers a good chance to work. Many other boats
besides Tom's had headed for the scene, but his was the more
practical, since the others--all quite small ones--were pretty
"There they are, Ned!" Tom suddenly cried. "Throw out the clutch!
I'll get 'em!"
"Want any help?"
"No, you stay at the engine, and mind what I say. Reverse now!
We're going to pass them!"
Ned threw in the backing gear, and the screw churned the water to
foam under the stern of the Kilo.
Tom leaned over the bow, and made a grab for the gasping,
struggling figure of a girl in the water. At the same time he had
tossed overboard a cork life ring, attached to a rope which, in
turn, was made fast to the forward deck-cleat. "Grab that!" cried
Tom. "Hold on, and I'll have you out in a second! That's enough,
Ned! Shut her off!"
The Kilo came to a standstill, and, a second later, Tom had pulled
into his boat one of the girls. She would have collapsed, and
fallen in a heap on the bottom boards, had not Ned, who had come
forward from the engine, caught her.
Then Tom, again leaning over the side, pulled in the other girl,
who was clinging to the life ring.
"You're all right," Tom assured her, as she came up, gasping,
choking and crying hysterically. "You're all right!"
"Is--is Minnie saved?" she sobbed.
"Yes, Grace! I'm here," answered the one Ned was supporting.
"Oh, wasn't it terrible!" cried the second girl Tom had saved.
"I thought we would be drowned, even though we can swim."
"Yes, it--it was so--so sudden!" gasped her companion. "What
"The wash from that big boat upset you," explained Tom. "That
fellow ought to be ashamed of himself, rushing along the way he
did. Now, can I take you girls anywhere? Your canoe seems to have
"I have it!" someone called. "It's turned over, but I can tow it
"And I'll take the girls home," offered a gentleman in a large
rowboat. "My wife will look after them. They live near us," and he
mentioned his own name and the names of the two girls Tom had
saved. The young inventor did not know them, but he introduced
himself and Ned.
"This is the annual moonlight outing of our little boat club,"
explained the man who had offered to look after the girls, "and it
is the first time we ever had an accident. This was not our fault,
"Indeed it was not," agreed Tom, after he had helped the two
dripping young ladies into the rowboat. "It was due to Mr.
Peters's speed mania."
"I shall make a complaint against him to the navigation
authorities," said Mr. Ralston, who was looking after the girls.
"He must think he, alone, has any rights on this lake."
With renewed thanks to Tom and Ned, the rescued girls were rowed
off to their homes, while the interrupted water carnival was
"Some little excitement; eh, Tom?" remarked Ned, when they were
once more under way.
"Yes. We seem to run into that fellow Peters, or some of his
doings, quite often lately."
"And it isn't a good sign, either," murmured Ned.
For some minutes after that Tom did not speak. In fact he was so
silent that Ned at last inquired:
"What's the matter, Tom--in love?"
"Far from it. But, Ned, I've got an idea."
"And I've got a wet suit of clothes where that nice young lady
fainted in my arms. I'm soaked."
"That's what gave me the idea--the water, I mean. I noticed how
everything was reflected in it, and, do you know, Ned, I believe I
have been working on the wrong principle for my photo telephone."
"Wrong, Tom, how is that?"
"Why, I've been using a dry plate, and I think I should have used
a wet one. You know how even in a little puddle of water on the
sidewalk you can see yourself reflected?"
"Yes, I've often seen that."
"Well then, 'bless my watch chain!' as Mr. Damon would say, I
think I've got just what I want. I'm going to try a wet plate now,
and I think it will work. Come on now. Speed up! I'm in a great
big hurry to get home and try it!"
"Well, Tom, I sure will be glad if you've got the right idea,"
laughed Ned. "It will be worth getting wet through for, if you
strike something. Good luck!"
Tom could hardly wait to fasten up his boat for the night, so
eager was he to get to his shop laboratory and try the new idea. A
gleam of hope had come to him.
It was still early evening, and Tom, when enticed out by Ned, had
left his photo telephone apparatus in readiness to go on with his
trials as soon as he should have come back.
"Now for it, Ned!" exclaimed the young inventor, as he took off
his coat. "First I'll sensitize a selenium plate, and then I'll
wet it. Water is always a good conductor of electricity, and it's
a wonder that I forgot that when I was planning this photo
telephone. But seeing the sparkle of lights, and the reflection of
ourselves in the lake to-night, brought it back to me. Now then,
you haven't anything special to do; have you?"
"Not a thing, Tom."
"That's good. Then you get in this other telephone closet--the one
in the casting shop. I'll put a prepared plate in there, and one
in the booth where I'm to sit. Then I'll switch on the current,
and we'll see if I can make you out, and you notice whether my
image appears on your plate."
It took some little time to make ready for this new test. Tom was
filled with enthusiasm, and he was sure it was going to be
successful this time. Ned watched him prepare the selenium plates
--plates that were so sensitive to illumination that, in the dark,
the metal would hardly transmit a current of electricity, but in
the light would do so readily, its conductivity depending on the
amount of light it received.
"There, I guess we're all ready, Ned," announced Tom, at last.
"Now you go to your little coop, and I'll shut myself up in mine.
We can talk over the telephone."
Seated in the little booth in one of the smaller of Tom's shops,
Ned proceeded with his part in the new experiment. A small shelf
had been fitted up in the booth, or closet, and on this was the
apparatus, consisting of a portable telephone set, and a small
box, in which was set a selenium plate. This plate had been wet by
a spray of water in order to test Tom's new theory.
In a similar booth, several hundred feet away, and in another
building, Tom took his place. The two booths were connected by
wires, and in each one was an electric light.
"All ready, Ned?" asked Tom, through the telephone.
"All ready," came the answer.
"Now then, turn on your switch--the one I showed you--and look
right at the sensitized plate. Then turn out your light, and
slowly turn it on. It's a new kind, and the light comes up
gradually, like gas or an oil lamp. Turn it on easily."
"I get you, Tom."
Ned did as requested. Slowly the illumination in the booth
"Do you get anything, Tom?" asked Ned, over the wire.
"Not yet," was the somewhat discouraged answer. "Go ahead, turn on
more light, and keep your face close to the plate."
Ned did so.
"How about it now?" he asked, a moment later.
"Nothing--yet," was the answer. And then suddenly Tom's voice rose
to a scream over the wire.
"Ned--Ned! Quick!" he called. "Come here--I--I--"
The voice died off into a meaningless gurgle.
Ned Newton never knew exactly how he got out of the telephone
booth. He seemed to give but one jump, tearing the clamped
receiver from his ear, and almost upsetting the photo apparatus in
his mad rush to help Tom. Certain it is, however, that he did get
out, and a few seconds later he was speeding toward the shop where
Tom had taken his position in a booth.
Ned burst in, crying out:
"Tom! What is it? What happened? What's the matter?"
There was no answer. Fearing the worst, Ned hurried to the small
booth, in one corner of the big, dimly lighted shop. He could see
Tom's lamp burning in the telephone compartment,
"Tom! Tom!" called the young banker.
Still there was no answer, and Ned, springing forward, threw open
the double, sound-proof door of the booth. Then he saw Tom lying
unconscious, with his head and arms on the table in front of him,
while the low buzzing of the electrical apparatus in the
transmitting box told that the current had not been shut off.
"Tom! Tom!" cried Ned in his chum's ear He shook him by the
"Are you hurt? What is the matter?"
The young inventor seemed unconscious, and for a moment Ned had a
wild idea that Tom had been shocked to death, possibly by some
crossed live wire coming in contact with the telephone circuit.
"But that couldn't have happened, or I'd have been shocked
myself," mused Ned.
Then he became aware of a curious, sweet, sickish odor in the
booth. It was overpowering. Ned felt himself growing dizzy.
"I have it--chloroform!" he gasped. "In some way Tom has been
overcome by chloroform. I've got to get him to the fresh air."
Once he had solved the puzzle of Tom's unconsciousness, Ned was
quick to act. He caught Tom under the arms, and dragged him out of
the booth, and to the outer door of the shop. Almost before Ned
had reached there with his limp burden, Tom began to revive, and
soon the fresh, cool night air completed the work.
"I--I," began the young inventor. "Ned, I--I--"
"Now take it easy, Tom," advised his chum. "You'll be all right in
a few minutes. What happened? Shall I call your father, or Koku?"
"No--don't. It would only--only alarm dad," faltered Tom. "I'm
getting all right now. But he--he nearly had me, Ned!"
"He had you? What do you mean, Tom? Who had you?"
"I don't know who it was, but when I was talking to you over the
wire, all of a sudden I felt a hand behind me. It slipped over my
mouth and nose, and I smelled chloroform. I knew right away
something was wrong, and I called to you. That's all I remember. I
guess I must have gone off."
"You did," spoke Ned. "You were unconscious when I got to you. I
couldn't imagine what had happened. First I thought it was an
electrical shock. Then I smelled that chloroform. But who could it
have been, Tom?"
"Give it up, Ned! I haven't the slightest idea."
"Could they have been going to rob you?"
"I haven't a thing but a nickel watch on me," went on Tom. "I left
all my cash in the house. If it was robbery, it wasn't me,
personally, they were after."
"What then? Some of your inventions?"
"That's my idea now, Ned. You remember some years ago Jake Burke
and his gang held me up and took one of dad's patents away from
"Yes, I've heard you mention that. It was when you first got your
motor cycle; wasn't it?"
"That's right. Well, what I was going to say was that they used
chloroform on me then, and--"
"You think this is the same crowd? Why, I thought they were
"No, they got away, but I haven't heard anything of them in years.
Now it may be they have come back for revenge, for you know we got
back the stolen property."
"That's right. Say, Tom, it might be so. What are you going to do
"I hardly know. If it was Jake Burke, alias Happy Harry, and his
crowd, including Appleson, Morse and Featherton, they're a bad
lot. I wouldn't want father to know they were around, for he'd be
sure to worry himself sick. He never really got over the time they
attacked me, and got the patent away. Dad sure thought he was
"Now if I tell him I was chloroformed again to-night, and that I
think it was Burke and his crowd, he'd be sure to get ill over it.
So I'm just going to keep mum."
"Well, perhaps it's the best plan. But you ought to do something."
"Oh, I will, Ned, don't worry about that. I feel much better now."
"How did it happen?" asked Ned, his curiosity not yet satisfied.
"I don't know, exactly. I was in the booth, talking to you, and
not paying much attention to anything else. I was adjusting and
readjusting the current, trying to get that image to appear on the
plate. All at once, I felt someone back of me, and, before I could
turn, that hand, with the chloroform sponge, was over my mouth and
nose. I struggled, and called out, but it wasn't much use."
"But they didn't do anything else--they didn't take anything; did
"I don't know, Ned. We'll have to look around. They must have
sneaked into the shop. I left the door open, you see. It would
have been easy enough."
"How many were there?"
"I couldn't tell. I only felt one fellow at me; but he may have
had others with him."
"What particular invention were they after, Tom?"
"I'm sure I don't know. There are several models in here that
would be valuable. I know one thing, though, they couldn't have
been after my photo telephone," and Tom laughed grimly.
"Why not?" Ned wanted to know.
"Because it's a failure--that's what! It's a dead, sure failure,
Ned, and I'm going to give it up!" and Tom spoke bitterly.
"Oh, don't say that!" urged his chum. "You may be right on the
verge of perfecting it, Tom. Didn't you see any image at all on
"Not a shadow. I must be on the wrong track. Well, never mind
about that now. I'm going to look around, and see if those fellows
Tom was feeling more like himself again, the effects of the
chloroform having passed away. He had breathed the fumes of it for
only a little while, so no harm had been done. He and Ned made an
examination of the shop, but found nothing missing.
There were no traces of the intruders, however, though the two
chums looked carefully about outside the building.
"You were too quick for them, Ned," said Tom. "You came as soon as
I called. They heard me speaking, and must have known that I had
given the alarm."
"Yes, I didn't lose any time," admitted Ned, "but I didn't see a
sign of anyone as I ran up."
"They must have been pretty quick at getting away. Well, now to
decide what's best to do to-night."
After some consultation and consideration it was decided to set
the burglar alarms in every building of the Swift plant. Some time
previous, when he had been working on a number of valuable
inventions, unscrupulous men had tried to steal his ideas and
models. To prevent this Tom had arranged a system of burglar
alarms, and had also fitted up a wizard camera that would take
moving pictures of anyone coming within its focus. The camera
could be set to work at night, in connection with the burglar
The apparatus was effective, and thus an end was put to the
efforts of the criminals. But now it seemed Tom would have to take
new precautionary measures. His camera, however, was not
available, as he had loaned it to a scientific society for
"But we'll attach the burglar wires," decided Tom, "and see what
"It might be a good plan to have Koku on guard," said Tom's chum.
"That giant could handle four or five of the chaps as easily as
you and I could tackle one."
"That's right," agreed Tom. "I'll put him on guard. Whew! That
chloroform is giving me a headache. Guess I'll go to bed. I wish
you'd stay over to-night, Ned, if you haven't anything else to do.
I may need you."
"Then of course I'll stay, Tom. I'll telephone home that I won't
A little later Tom had put away his new photo telephone apparatus,
and had prepared for the warm reception of any unbidden callers.
"I wish I hadn't started on this new invention," said Tom, half
bitterly, as he locked up the main parts of his machine, "I know
it will never work."
"Oh, yes it will," spoke Ned, cheerfully. "You never failed yet,
Tom Swift, in anything you undertook, and you're not going to
"Well, that's good of you to say, Ned, but I think you're wrong
this time. But I'm not going to think any more about it to-night,
anyhow. Now to find Koku and put him on watch."
The giant listened carefully to Tom's simple instructions.
"If any bad men come in the night, Koku," said the young inventor,
"you catch them!"
"Yes, master, me catch!" said Koku, grimly. "Me catch!" and he
stretched out his powerful arms, and clenched his big hands in a
way that boded no good to evildoers.
Nothing was said to Mr. Swift, to Mrs. Baggert, or to Eradicate
about what had happened, for Tom did not want to worry them. The
burglar alarms were set, Koku took his place where he could watch
the signals, and at the same time be ready to rush out, for,
somehow, Tom had an idea that the men who had attacked him would
Tom and Ned occupied adjoining rooms, and soon were ready for bed.
But, somehow, Tom could not sleep. He lay awake, tossing from side
to side, and, in spite of his resolution not to think about his
photo telephone invention, his mind ran on nothing but that.
"I can't see what next to do to make it work," he told himself,
over and over again. "Something is wrong--but what?"
At length he fell into a fitful doze, and he had a wild dream that
he was sliding down hill on a big mirror in which all sorts of
reflections were seen--reflections that he could not get to show
in the selenium plates.
Then Tom felt the mirror bobbing up and down like a motor boat in
a storm. He felt the vibration, and he heard a voice calling in
"Get up, Tom! Get up!"
"Yes! What is it?" he sleepily exclaimed,
"Hush!" was the caution he heard, and then he realized that his
dream had been caused by Ned shaking him.
"Well?" whispered Tom, in tense tones.
"Midnight visitors!" answered his chum "The burglar alarm has just
gone off! The airship hangar drop fell. Koku has gone out. Come
THE AIRSHIP IS TAKEN
Tom leaped silently out of bed, and stood for a moment half
dazed, so soundly had he been sleeping.
"Come on!" urged Ned softly, realizing that his chum had not fully
comprehended. "Koku will hold them until we get there. I haven't
roused anyone else."
"That's right," whispered Tom, as he began putting on his clothes.
"I don't want father to know. When did it happen?"
"Just a little while ago. I couldn't sleep very well, but I fell
into a doze, and then I heard the buzzer of the alarm go off. I
saw that the drop, showing that the hangar had been entered, had
fallen. I got to the window in time to see Koku going toward the
shed from his little coop. Then I came to you."
"Glad you did," answered Tom. "I didn't think I was sleeping so
Together the two chums made their way from their rooms down the
dimly-lighted hall to a side door, whence they could reach the
airship hangar, or shed.
"Won't we need something--a gun or--" began Ned.
"Clubs are better--especially at night when you can't see to aim
very well," whispered back Tom. "I've got a couple of good ones
downstairs. I could use my electric rifle, and set it merely to
disable temporarily whoever the charge hit, but it's a little too
risky. Koku has a habit of getting in the way at the most
unexpected times. He's so big, you know. I think clubs will be
"All right, Tom, just as you say," agreed Ned. "But who do you
think it can be?"
"I haven't the least idea. Probably the same fellows who were
after me before, though. This time I'll find out what their game
is, and what they're after."
The chums reached the lower hall, and there Tom picked out two
African war clubs which he had brought back with him from one of
his many trips into wild lands.
"These are just the thing!" exclaimed Ned, swinging his about.
"Careful," cautioned Tom, "If you hit something you'll rouse the
house, and I don't want my father and Mrs. Baggert, to say nothing
of Eradicate, awakened."
"Excuse me," murmured Ned. "But we'd better be getting a move on."
"That's right," agreed Tom. He dropped into a side pocket a small
but powerful electric flash lamp, and then he and Ned let
There had been a bright moon, but it was now overcast by clouds.
However, there was sufficient light to enable the two lads to see
objects quite clearly. All about them were the various buildings
that made up the manufacturing and experimental plant of Tom Swift
and his father. Farthest away from the house was the big shed
where once Tom had kept a balloon, but which was now given over to
his several airships. In front of it was a big, level grassy
space, needed to enable the aircraft to get a "running start"
before they could mount into the clouds.
"See anything of Koku?" whispered Ned.
"No," answered Tom, in the same cautious voice. "I guess he must
"There he goes now!" hissed Ned, pointing to a big figure that was
approaching the hangar. It was undoubtedly that of the giant, and
he could be seen, in the dim light, stalking cautiously along.
"I wonder where the uninvited guests are?" asked Tom.
"Probably in the airship shed," answered Ned. "Koku was after them
as soon as the alarm went off, and they couldn't have gotten away.
They must be inside there yet. But what can their game be?"
"It's hard to say," admitted Tom. "They may be trying to get
something belonging to me, or they may imagine they can pick up
some valuable secrets. Or they may--" He stopped suddenly, and
"Come on, Ned! They're after one of the airships! That's it! My
big biplane is all ready to start, and they can get it in motion
inside of a few seconds. Oh, why didn't I hurry?" he added,
But the hangar was still some distance away, and it would take two
or three minutes of running to reach it.
Meanwhile, and at the instant Tom had his thought of the possible
theft of his biggest aircraft, something happened.
The doors of the shed were suddenly thrown open, and the two boys
could see the large airship being wheeled out. The hazy light of
the moon behind the clouds shone on the expanse of white planes,
and on the fish-tail rudder, one of Tom's latest ideas.
"Hey, there!" cried Tom, warningly.
"Leave that alone!" yelled Ned.
"Koku! Koku!" shouted Tom, shrilly. "Get after those fellows!"
"Me get!" boomed out the giant, in his deep voice.
He had been standing near the entrance to the hangar, probably
waiting for developments, and watching for the arrival of Tom and
Ned. The big form was seen to leap forward, and then several dark
shadows swarmed from around the airship, and were seen to fling
themselves upon the giant.
"That's a fight!" cried Ned. "They're attacking him!"
"Koku can take care of himself!" murmured Tom. "But come on. I
don't see what their game is."
He understood a moment later, however, for while several of the
midnight visitors were engaged in a hand-to-hand tussle with the
giant there came a sharp, throbbing roar of the airship motor in
motion. The propellers were being whirled rapidly about.
"Koku! Koku!" cried Tom, for he was still some distance off.
"Never mind them! Don't let the airship be taken!"
But Koku could only grunt. Big and strong as he was, half a dozen
men attacking him at once hampered him. He threw them from him,
one after another, and was gradually making his way toward the now
slowly-moving airship. But would he be in time?
Tom and Ned could not hope to reach the machine before Koku,
though they were running at top speed.
"Koku! Koku!" yelled Tom. "Don't let them get away!"
But Koku could only grunt--harder this time--for he fell heavily,
being tripped by a stick thrust between his legs. He lay for a
"They're going to get away!" panted Tom, making an effort to
increase his speed.
"That's what!" agreed Ned.
Even as they spoke the roar of the airship motor increased.
Several of the dark forms which had been engaged in the struggle
with Koku were seen to pick themselves up, and run toward the
airship, that was now in motion, moving on the bicycle wheels over
the grass plot, preparatory to mounting upward in the sky.
"Stop! Stop!" commanded Tom. But it was all in vain.
The men leaped aboard the airship, which could carry six persons,
and a moment later, with a deafening roar, as the engine opened up
full, the big craft shot upward, taking away all but two of the
midnight visitors. These, who had seemingly been stunned by Koku,
now arose from the ground, and staggered off in the darkness.
"Get them!" cried Tom.
"We must see to Koku!" added Ned, "Look, there goes your airship,
"Yes, I know. But we can't stop that now. Let's see if we can get
a clue in these fellows!"
He pointed toward the two who had run off in the dark underbrush
surrounding the hangar plaza, and he and Ned trailed them as well
as they could. But from the first they knew it would be useless,
for there were many hiding places, and, a little way beyond, was a
clump of trees.
After a short search Tom gave up reluctantly, and came back to
where Koku was now sitting on the ground.
"Are you hurt?" he asked of the giant.
"My mind hurt--that all," said the big man.
"I guess he means his feelings are hurt," Tom explained. "Do you
know who they were, Koku?"
"But we must do something!" cried Ned. "They've got your airship,
"I know it," said the young inventor, calmly. "But we can't do
anything now. You can hardly hear her, let alone see her. She's
He pointed upward to the darkness. Like some black bird of prey
the airship was already lost to sight, though it would have seemed
as if her white planes might render her visible. But she had moved
so swiftly that, during the short search, she had already
"Aren't you going to do anything?" asked Ned.
"Certainly," spoke Tom. "I'm going to telephone an alarm to all
the nearby towns. This is certainly a queer game, Ned."
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
Disappointed and puzzled, Tom and Ned went to where Koku was
standing in rather a dazed attitude. The giant, like all large
bodies, moved slowly, not only bodily but mentally. He could
understand exactly what had happened, except that he had not
prevailed over the "pygmies" who had attacked him. They had been
too many for him.
"Let's take a look inside," suggested Tom, when, by another glance
upward, he had made sure that all trace of his big airship was
gone. "Maybe we can get a clue. Then, Koku, you tell us what
"It all happened to me," said the giant, simply. "Me no make
anything happen to them."
"That's about right," laughed Tom, ruefully. "It all happened to
The lights in the hangar were switched on, but a careful search
revealed little. The men, half a dozen or more, had come evidently
well prepared for the taking away of Tom Swift's airship, and they
had done so.
Entrance had been effected by forcing a small side door. True, the
burglar alarm had given notice of the presence of the men, but Tom
and Ned had not acted quite quickly enough. Koku had been at the
hangar almost as soon as the men themselves, but he had watched
and waited for orders, instead of going in at once, and this had
given the intruders time to wheel out the craft and start the
"Why didn't you jump right in on them when you saw what they were
up to, Koku?" asked Tom.
"Me wait for master. Me think master want to see who men were. Me
go in--they run."
"Well, of course that's so, in a way," admitted Tom. "They
probably would have run, but they'd have run WITHOUT my airship
instead of WITH it, if they hadn't had time to get it outside the
hangar. However, there's no use in crying over lost biplanes. The
next thing is how to get her back. Did you know any of the men,
"Then we haven't any clue that way. They laid their plans well.
They just let you tangle yourself up with them, Koku, while the
head ones got the motor going; an easy matter, since it was all
ready to start. Then they tripped you, Koku, and as many of them
as could, made a jump for the machine. Then they were off."
"Well, what's the next thing to do?" asked Ned, when another look
about the shed had shown that not the slightest clue was
"I'm going to do some telephoning," Tom stated. "A big airship
like mine can't go scooting around the country without being
noticed. And those fellows can't go on forever. They've got to
have gasoline and oil, and to get them they'll have to come down.
I'll get it back, sooner or later; but the question is: Why did
they take her?"
"To sell," suggested Ned.
"I think not," Tom said. "A big airship like mine isn't easy to
sell. People who would buy it would ask questions that might not
easily be answered. I'm inclined to think that some other reason
made them take her, and it's up to us to find out what it was.
Let's go into the house."
"Hark!" suddenly exclaimed Ned, holding up his hand for silence.
They all heard footsteps outside the hangar.
Tom sprang to the door, flashing his electric light, and a voice
"Golly! Chicken thieves!"
"Oh, is it you, Eradicate?" asked the young inventor, with a
laugh. "No, it isn't chicken thieves--they were after bigger game
"Suffin happen?" asked the colored man. "Massa Swift he heah a
noise, an' see a light, an' he sent me out yeah t' see what all am
"Yes, something happened," admitted Tom. "They got the Eagle,
"What! Yo' big airship?"
"Huh! Dat's too bad, Massa Tom. I suah am sorry t' heah dat. Who
"We don't know, Rad."
"Maybe it was dat low-down cousin ob mine what tried t' git mah
"No, Rad, it wasn't your cousin. But I'll telephone the alarm to
the police. They may be able to help me get the Eagle back."
Within the next hour several messages were sent to the authorities
of nearby towns, asking them to be on the watch for the stolen
airship. This was about all that could be done, and after Mr.
Swift had been told the story of the night's happenings, everyone
went back to bed again.
Further search the next morning brought forth no clues, though
Tom, Ned and the others beat about in the bushes where the men had
One or two reports were heard from surrounding towns, to the
effect that several persons had heard a strange throbbing sound in
the night, that, possibly, was caused by the passage of the
airship overhead. One such report came from Waterford, the home
town of Mr. Damon.
"Let's go over there," suggested Ned, to his chum. "I'd like to
see our friend, and maybe we can get some other clues by
circulating around there."
"Oh, I don't know," spoke Tom, rather listlessly.
"Why not?" Ned wanted to know.
"Well, I ought to be working on my photo telephone," was the
answer. "I've got a new idea now. I'm going to try a different
kind of current, and use a more sensitive plate. And I'll use a
tungsten filament lamp in the sending booth."
"Oh, let your experiments go for a little while, Tom," suggested
Ned. "Come on over to Mr. Damon's. The trouble with you is that
you keep too long at a thing, once you start."
"That's the only way to succeed," remarked Tom. "Really, Ned,
while I feel sorry about the airship, of course, I ought to be
working on my telephone. I'll get the Eagle back sooner or later."
"That's not the way to talk, Tom. Let's follow up this clue."
"Well, if you insist on it I suppose I may as well go. We'll take
the little monoplane. I've fixed her up to carry double. I guess--
Tom Swift broke off suddenly, as the telephone at his elbow rang.
"Hello," he said, taking off the receiver. "Yes, this is Tom
Swift. Oh, good morning, Mrs. Damon! Eh! What's that? Mr. Damon
has disappeared? You don't tell me! Disappeared! Yes, yes, I can
come right over. Be there in a few minutes. Eh? You don't know
what to make of it? Oh, well, maybe it can easily be explained.
Yes, Ned Newton and I will be right over. Don't worry."
Tom hung up the receiver and turned to his chum.
"What do you think of that?" he asked.
"What is it?"
"Why, Mr. Damon mysteriously vanished last night, and this morning
word came from his bankers that every cent of his fortune had
disappeared! He's lost everything!"
"Maybe--maybe--" hesitated Ned.
"No, Mr. Damon isn't that kind of a man," said Tom, stoutly. "He
hasn't made away with himself."
"But something is wrong!"
"Evidently, and it's up to us to find out what it is. I shouldn't
be surprised but that he knew of this coming trouble and started
out to prevent it if he could."
"But he wouldn't disappear and make his wife worry."
"No, that's so. Well, we'll have to go over there and find out all
"Say, Tom!" exclaimed Ned, as they were getting the small, but
swift monoplane ready for the flight, "could there be any
connection with the disappearance of Mr. Damon and the taking of
Tom started in surprise.
"How could there be?" he asked.
"Oh, I don't know," answered Ned. "It was only an idea."
"Well, we'll see what Mrs. Damon has to say," spoke the young
inventor, as he took his seat beside Ned, and motioned to Koku to
twirl the propeller.
THE TELEPHONE PICTURE
"Oh, Tom Swift! I'm so glad to see you!"
Mrs. Damon clasped her arms, in motherly fashion, about the young
inventor. He held her close, and his own eyes were not free from
tears as he witnessed the grief of his best friend's wife.
"Now, don't worry, Mrs. Damon," said Tom, sympathetically.
"Everything will be all right," and he led her to a chair.
"All right, Tom! How can it be?" and the lady raised a tear-
stained face. "My husband has disappeared, without a word! It's
just as if the earth had opened and swallowed him up! I can't find
a trace of him! How can it be all right?"
"Well, we'll find him, Mrs. Damon. Don't worry. Ned and I will get
right to work, and I'll have all the police and detectives within
fifty miles on the search--if we have to go that far."
"Oh, it's awfully good of you, Tom. I--I didn't know who else to
turn to in my trouble but you."
"And why shouldn't you come to me? I'd do anything for you and Mr.
Damon. Now tell me all about it."
Tom and Ned had just arrived at the Damon home in the airship, to
find the wife of the eccentric man almost distracted over her
husband's strange disappearance.
"It happened last night," Mrs. Damon said, when she was somewhat
composed. "Last night about twelve o'clock."
"Twelve o'clock!" cried Tom, in surprise "Why that's about the
He stopped suddenly.
"What were you going to say?" asked Mrs. Damon.
"Oh--nothing," answered Tom. "I--I'll tell you later. Go on,
"It is all so confusing," proceeded Mrs. Damon. "You know my
husband has been in trouble of late--financial trouble?"
"Yes," responded Tom, "he mentioned it to me."
"I don't know any of the details," sighed Mrs. Damon, "but I know
he was mixed up with a man named Peters."
"I know him, too," spoke Tom, grimly.
"My husband has been very gloomy of late," went on Mrs. Damon. "He
foolishly entrusted almost his entire fortune to that man, and
last night he told me it was probably all gone. He said he saw
only the barest chance to save it, but that he was going to take
"Did he go into details?" asked Tom.
"No, that was all he said. That was about ten o'clock. He didn't
want to go to bed. He just sat about, and he kept saying over and
over again: 'Bless my tombstone!' 'Bless the cemetery!' and all
such stuff as that. You know how he was," and she smiled through
"Yes," said Tom. "I know. Only it wasn't like him to bless such
grewsome things. He was more jolly."
"He hasn't been, of late," sighed his wife. "Well, he sat about
all the evening, and he kept figuring away, trying, I suppose, to
find some way out of his trouble."
"Why didn't he come to my father?" cried Tom. "I told him he could
have all the money he needed to tide him over."
"Well, Mr. Damon was queer that way," said his wife. "He wanted to
be independent. I urged him to call you up, but he said he'd fight
it out alone."
"As I said, we sat there, and he kept feeling more and more blue,
and blessing his funeral, and the hearse and all such things as
that. He kept looking at the clock, too, and I wondered at that."
"'Are you expecting someone?' I asked him. He said he wasn't,
exactly, but I made sure he was, and finally, about half-past
eleven, he put on his hat and went out."
"'Where are you going?' I asked him."
"'Oh, just to get a breath of air. I can't sleep,' he said. I
didn't think much of that, as he often used to go out and walk
about a bit before going to bed. So he went out, and I began to
see about locking up, for I never trust the servants."
"It must have been about an hour later when I heard voices out in
front. I looked, and I saw Mr. Damon talking to a man."
"Who was he?" asked Tom, eagerly, on the alert for the slightest
"I thought at the time," said Mrs. Damon, "that it was one of the
neighbors. I have learned since, however, that it was not. Anyhow,
this man and Mr. Damon stood talking for a little while, and then
they went off together. I didn't think it strange at the time,
supposing he was merely strolling up and down in front with Mr.
Blackson, who lives next door, He often had done that before."
"Well, I saw that the house was locked up, and then I sat down in
a chair to wait for Mr. Damon to come back. I was getting sleepy,
for we don't usually stay up so late. I suppose I must have dozed
off, but I was suddenly awakened by hearing a peculiar noise. I
sat up in alarm, and then I realized that Mr. Damon had not come
"I was frightened then, and I called my maid. It was nearly one
o'clock, and my husband never stays out as late as that. We went
next door, and found that Mr. Blackson had not been out of his
house that evening. So it could not have been he to whom Mr. Damon
"We roused up other neighbors, and they searched all about the
grounds, thinking he might have been overcome by a sudden faint.
But we could not find him. My husband had disappeared--
mysteriously disappeared!" and the lady broke into sobs.
"Now don't worry," said Tom, soothingly, as he put his arms about
her as he would have done to his own mother, had she been alive,
"We'll get him back!"
"But how can you? No one knows where he is."
"Oh, yes!" said Tom, confidently, "Mr. Damon himself knows where
he is, and unless he has gone away voluntarily, I think you will
soon hear from him."
"What do you mean by--voluntarily?" asked the wife.
"First let me ask you a question," came from Tom. "You said you
were awakened by a peculiar noise. What sort of a sound was it?"
"Why, a whirring, throbbing noise, like--like--"
She paused for a comparison.
"Like an airship?" asked Tom, with a good deal of eagerness.
"That was it!" cried Mrs. Damon. "I was trying to think where I
had heard the sound before. It was just like the noise your
airship makes, Tom!"
"That settles it!" exclaimed the young inventor.
"Settles what?" asked Ned.
"The manner of Mr. Damon's disappearance. He was taken away--or
went away--in my airship--the airship that was stolen from my shed
Mrs. Damon stared at Tom in amazement.
"Why--why--how could that be?" she asked.
Quickly Tom told of what had happened at his place.
"I begin to see through it," he said. "There is some plot here,
and we've got to get to the bottom of it. Mr. Damon either went
with these men in the airship willingly, or he was taken away by
force. I'm inclined to think he went of his own accord, or you
would have heard some outcry, Mrs. Damon."
"Well, perhaps so," she admitted. "But would he go away in that
manner without telling me?"
"He might," said Tom, willing to test his theory on all sides. "He
might not have wanted you to worry, for you know you dislike him
to go up an airships."
"Yes, I do. Oh, if I only thought he did go away of his own
accord, I could understand it. He went, if he did, to try and save
"It does look as though he had an appointment with someone, Tom,"
suggested Ned. "His looking at the clock, and then going out, and all
"Yes," admitted the young inventor, "and now I'm inclined to
change my theory a bit. It may have been some other airship than
mine that was used."
"How so?" asked Ned.
"Because the men who took mine were unprincipled fellows. Mr.
Damon would not have gone away with men who would steal an
"Not if he knew it," admitted Ned. "Well, then, let's consider two
airships--yours and the other that came to keep the appointment
with Mr. Damon. If the last is true, why should he want to go away
in an airship at midnight? Why couldn't he take a train, or an
"Well, we don't know all the ins and outs," admitted Tom. "Taking
a midnight airship ride is rather strange, but that may have been
the only course open. We'll have to let the explanation go until
later. At any rate, Mrs. Damon, I feel sure that your husband did
go off through the air--either in my Eagle or in some other
"Well, I'm glad to hear you say so, Tom Swift, though it sounds a
dreadful thing to say. But if he did go off of his own accord, I
know he did it for the best. And he may not have told me, for fear
I would worry. I can understand that. But why isn't he back now?"
Tom had been rather dreading that question. It was one he had
asked himself, and he had found no good answer for it. If there
had been such need of haste, that an airship had to be used. why
had not Mr. Damon come back ere this? Unless, as Tom feared to
admit, even to himself, there had been some accident.
Half a dozen theories flashed through his mind, but he could not
select a good, working one,--particularly as there were no clues.
Disappearing in an airship was the one best means of not leaving a
trace behind. An auto, a motor boat, a train, a horse and
carriage--all these could be more or less easily traced. But an
If Mr. Damon wanted to cover up his tracks, or if he had been
taken away, and his captors wanted to baffle pursuit, the best
means had been adopted.
"Now don't you worry," advised Tom to Mrs. Damon. "I know it looks
funny, but I think it will come out all right. Ned and I will do
all we can. Mr. Damon must have known what he was about. But, to
be on the safe side, we'll send out a general alarm through the
"Oh, I don't know what I'd done if you hadn't come to help me!"
exclaimed Mrs. Damon.
"Just you leave it to me!" said the young inventor, cheerfully.
"I'll find Mr. Damon!"
But, though he spoke thus confidently, Tom Swift had not the
slightest notion, just then, of how to set about his difficult
task. He had had hard problems to solve before, so he was not
going to give up this one. First he wanted to think matters out,
and arrange a plan of action.
He and Ned made a careful examination of the grounds of the Damon
homestead. There was little they could learn, though they did find
where an airship had landed in a meadow, not far away, and where
it had made a flying start off again.
Carefully Tom looked at the marks made by the wheels of the
"They're the same distance apart as those on the Eagle," he said
to his chum, "and the tires are the same. But that isn't saying
anything, as lots of airships have the same equipment. So we won't
jump to any conclusions that way."
Tom and Ned interviewed several of the neighbors, but beyond
learning that some of them had heard the throbbing of the midnight
airship, that was as far as they got on that line.
There was nothing more they could do in Waterford, and, leaving
Mrs. Damon, who had summoned a relative to stay with her, the two
chums made a quick trip back through the air to Shopton. As
Eradicate came out to help put away the monoplane Tom noticed that
the colored man was holding one hand as though it hurt him.
"What's the matter, Rad?" asked the young investor.
"Oh, nuffin--jest natcherly nuffin, Massa Tom."
But Eradicate spoke evasively and in a manner that roused Tom's
"Boomerang, your mule, didn't kick you; did he?"
"No, sah, Massa Tom, no sah. 'Twern't nuffin laik dat."
"But what was it? Your hand is hurt!"
"Well, Massa Tom, I s'pose I done bettah tell yo' all. I'se had a
"Yas, sah. A shock. A lickrish shock."
"Oh, you mean an electrical shock. That's too bad. I suppose you
must have touched a live wire."
"No, sah. 'Twern't dat way."
"How was it, then?"
"Well, yo' see, Massa Tom, I were playin' a joke on Koku."
"Oh, you were; eh? Then I suppose Koku shocked you," laughed Tom.
"No, sah. I--I'll tell you. Dat giant man he were in de telefoam
boof in de pattern shop--you know--de one where yo' all been
tryin' to make pishures."
"Yes, I know. Go on!" exclaimed Tom, impatiently.
"Well, he were in dere, Massa Tom, an' I slipped into de boof in
de next shop--de odder place where yo' all been 'speermentin'. I
called out on de telefoam, loud laik de Angel Gabriel gwine t'
holler at de last trump: 'Look out, yo' ole sinnah!' I yell it
jest t' scare Koku."
"I see," said Tom, a bit severely, for he did not like Eradicate
interfering with the instruments. "And did you scare Koku?"
"Oh, yas, sah, Massa Tom. I skeered him all right; but suffin else
done happen. When I put down de telefoam I got a terrible shock.
It hurts yit!"
"Well," remarked Tom, "I suppose I ought to feel sorry for you,
but I can't. You should let things alone. Now I've got to see if
you did any damage. Come along, Ned."
Tom was the first to enter the telephone booth where Eradicate had
played the part of the Angel Gabriel. He looked at the wires and
apparatus, but could see nothing wrong.
Then he glanced at the selenium plate, on which he hoped, some
day, to imprint an image from over the wire. And, as he saw the
smooth surface he started, and cried.
"Ned! Ned, come here quick!"
"What is it?" asked his chum, Crowding into the booth.
"Look at that plate! Tell me what you see!"
"Why--why it's Koku's picture!" he gasped.
"Exactly!" cried Tom. "In some way my experiment has succeeded
when I was away. Eradicate must have made some new connection by
his monkeying. Ned, it's a success! I've got my first photo
telephone picture! Hurray!"
Tom Swift was so overjoyed and excited that for a few moments he
capered about, inside the booth, and outside, knocking against his
chum Ned, clapping him on the back, and doing all manner of boyish
"It's a success, Ned! I've struck it!" cried Tom, in delight.
"Ouch! You struck ME, you mean!" replied Ned, rubbing his
shoulder, where the young inventor had imparted a resounding blow
"What of it?" exclaimed Tom. "My apparatus works! I can send a
picture by telephone! It's great, Ned!"
"But I don't exactly understand how it happened," said Ned, in
some bewilderment, as he gazed at the selenium plate.
"Neither do I," admitted Tom, when he had somewhat calmed down.
"That is, I don't exactly understand what made the thing succeed
now, when it wouldn't work for me a little while ago. But I've got
to go into that. I'll have to interview that rascal Eradicate, and
learn what he did when he played that trick on Koku. Yes, and I'll
have to see Koku, too. We've got to get at the bottom of this,
"I suppose so. You've got your hands full, Tom, with your photo
telephone, and the disappearance of Mr. Damon."
"Yes, and my own airship, too. I must get after that. Whew! A lot
of things to do! But I like work, Ned. The more the better."
"Yes, that's like you, Tom. But what are you going to get at
"Let me see; the telephone, I think. I'll have Rad and Koku in
here and talk to them. I say, you Eradicate!" he called out of the
door of the shop, as he saw the colored man going past, holding
his shocked arm tenderly.
"Yas, sah, Massa Tom, I'se comin'! What is it yo' all wants, Massa
"I want you to show me exactly what you did to the wires, and
other things in here, when you played that Angel Gabriel trick on
your partner Koku."
"Partner! He ain't mah partner!" exclaimed Eradicate with a scowl,
for there was not the best of feeling between the two. Eradicate
had served in the Swift family many years, and he rather resented
the coming of the giant, who performed many services formerly the
province of the colored man.
"Well, never mind what he is, Rad," laughed Tom. "You just show me
what you did. Come now, something happened in here, and I want to
find out what it was."
"Oh, suffin done happened all right, Massa Tom. Yas, sah! Suffin
done happened!" cried Eradicate, with such odd emphasis that Tom
and Ned both laughed.
"An' suffin happened to me," went on the colored man, rubbing his
"Well, tell us about it," suggested Tom.
"It was dish yeah way," proceeded Eradicate. And he told more in
detail how, seeing Koku cleaning and sweeping out the other
telephone booth, he had thought of the trick to play on him. Both
telephones had what are called "amplifiers" attached, that could
be switched on when needed. These amplifiers were somewhat like
the horn of a phonograph--they increased, or magnified the sound,
so that one could hear a voice from any part of the shop, and need
not necessarily have the telephone receiver at his ear.
Seeing Koku near the instrument, Eradicate had switched on the
amplifier, and had called into his instrument, trying to scare the
giant. And he did startle Koku, for the loud voice, coming so
suddenly, sent the giant out of the booth on the run.
"But you must have done something else," insisted Tom. "Look here,
Rad," and the young inventor pointed to the picture on the plate.
"Mah gracious sakes!" gasped the colored man. "Why dat's Koku
hisse'f!" and he looked in awe at the likeness.
"That's what you did, Rad!"
"Me? I done dat? No, sah, Massa Tom. I neber did! No, sah!"
Eradicate spoke emphatically.
"Yes you did, Rad. You took that picture of Koku over my photo
telephone, and I want you to show me exactly what you did--what
wires and switches you touched and changed, and all that."
"Yo--yo' done say I tuck dat pishure, Massa Tom?"
"You sure did, Rad."
"Well--well, good land o' massy! An' I done dat!"
Eradicate stared in wonder at the image of the giant on the plate,
and shook his head doubtingly.
"I--I didn't know I could do it. I never knowed I had it in me!"
Tom and Ned laughed long and loud, and then the young inventor
"Now look here, Rad. You've done me a mighty big service, though
you didn't know it, and I want to thank you. I'm sorry about your
arm, and I'll have the doctor look at it. But now I want you to
show me all the things you touched when you played that joke on
Koku. In some way you did what I haven't been able to do, You took
the picture. There's probably just one little thing I've
overlooked, and you stumbled on it by accident. Now go ahead and
Eradicate thought for a moment, and then said:
"Well, I done turned on de current, laik I seen you done, Massa
"Yes, go on. You connected the telephone."
"Yas, sah. Den I switched on that flyer thing yo' all has rigged
"You switched on the amplifier, yes. Go on."
"An'--an' den I plugged in dish year wire," and the colored man
pointed to one near the top of the booth.
"You switched on that wire, Rad! Why, great Scott, man! That's
connected to the arc light circuit--it carries over a thousand
volts. And you switched that into the telephone circuit?"
"Dat's what I done did, Massa Tom; yas, Bah!"
"Why, I done want t' make mah voice good an' loud t' skeer dat
Tom stared at the colored man in amazement.
"No wonder you got a shock!" exclaimed the young inventor. "You
didn't get all the thousand volts, for part of it was shunted off;
but you got a good charge, all right. So that's what did the
business; eh? It was the combination of the two electrical
circuits that sent the photograph over the wire."
"I understand it now, Rad; but you did more than I've been able to
do. I never, in a hundred years, would have thought of switching
on that current. It never occurred to me. But you, doing it by
accident, brought out the truth. It's often that way in
discoveries. And Koku was standing in the other telephone booth,
near the plate there, when you switched in this current, Rad?"
"Yas, sah, Massa Tom. He were. An' yo' ought t' see him hop when
he heard mah voice yellin' at him. Ha! ha! ha!"
Eradicate chuckled at the thought. Then a pain in his shocked arm
made him wince. A wry look passed over his face.
"Yas, sah, Koku done jump about ten feet," he said. "An'--an' den
I jump too. Ain't no use in denyin' dat fact. I done jump when I
got dat shock!"
"All right, Rad. You may go now. I think I'm on the right track!"
exclaimed Tom. "Come on, Ned, we'll try some experiments, and
we'll see what we can do."
"No shocks though--cut out the shocks, Tom," stipulated his chum.
"Oh, sure! No shocks! Now let's bet busy and improve on
Eradicate's Angel Gabriel system."
Tom made a quick examination of the apparatus.
"I understand it, I think," he said. "Koku was near the plate in
the other booth when Rad put on the double current. There was a
light there, and in an instant his likeness was sent over the
wire, and imprinted on this plate. Now let's see what we can do.
You go to that other booth, Ned. I'll see if I can get your
picture, and send you mine. Here, take some extra selenium plates
along. You know how to connect them."
"I think so," answered Ned.
"This image is really too faint to be of much use," went on Tom,
as he looked at the one of Koku. "I think I can improve on it. But
we're on the right track."
A little later Ned stood in the other booth, while Tom arranged
the wires, and made the connections in the way accidently
discovered by Eradicate. The young inventor had put in a new
plate, carefully putting away the one with the picture of the
giant, This plate could be used again, when the film, into which
the image was imprinted, had been washed off.
"All ready, Ned," called Tom, over the wire, when he was about to
turn the switch. "Stand still, and I'll get you."
The connection was made, and Tom uttered a cry of joy. For there,
staring at him from the plate in front of him was the face of Ned.
It was somewhat reduced in size, of course, and was not extra
clear, but anyone who knew Ned could have told he was at the other
end of the wire.
"Do you get me, Tom?" called Ned, over the telephone.
"I sure do! Now see if you can get me."
Tom made other connections, and then looked at the sending plate
of his instrument, there being both a sending and receiving plate
in each booth, just as there was a receiver and a transmitter to
"Hurray! I see you, Tom!" cried Ned, over the wire. "Say, this is
"It isn't as good as I want it," went on Tom. "But it proves that
I'm right. The photo telephone is a fact, and now persons using
the wire can be sure of the other person they are conversing with.
I must tell dad. He wouldn't believe I could do it!"
And indeed Mr. Swift was surprised when Tom proved, by actual
demonstration, that a picture could be sent over the wire.
"Tom, I congratulate you!" declared the aged inventor. "It is good
"Yes, but we have bad news of Mr. Damon," said Tom, and he told
his father of the disappearance of the eccentric man. Mr. Swift at
once telephoned his sympathy to Mrs. Damon, and offered to do
anything he could for her.
"But Tom can help you more than I can," he said. "You can depend
"I know that," replied Mrs. Damon, over the wire.
And certainly Tom Swift had many things to do now. He hardly knew
at what to begin first, but now, since he was on the right road in
regard to his photo telephone, he would work at improving it.
And to this end he devoted himself, after he had sent out a
general alarm to the police of nearby towns, in regard to the
disappearance of Mr. Damon. The airship clue, he believed, as did
the police, would be a good one to work on.
For several days after this nothing of moment occurred. Mr. Damon
could not be located, and Tom's airship might still be sailing
above the clouds as far as getting any trace of it was concerned.
Meanwhile the young inventor, with the help of Ned, who was given
a leave of absence from the bank, worked hard to improve the photo
THE AIRSHIP CLUE
"Now Ned, we'll try again. I'm going to use a still stronger
current, and this is the most sensitive selenium plate I've turned
out yet. We'll see if we can't get a better likeness of you--one
that will be plainer."
It was Tom Swift who was speaking, and he and his chum had just
completed some hard work on the new photo telephone. Though the
apparatus did what Tom had claimed for it, still he was far from
satisfied. He could transmit over the wire the picture of a person
talking at the telephone, but the likeness was too faint to make
the apparatus commercially profitable.
"It's like the first moving pictures," said Tom. "They moved, but
that was about all they did."
"I say," remarked Ned, as he was about to take his place in the
booth where the telephone and apparatus were located, "this
double-strength electrical current you're speaking of won't shock
me; will it? I don't want what happened to Eradicate to happen to
"Don't worry. Nothing will happen. The trouble with Rad was that
he didn't have the wires insulated when he turned that arc current
switch by mistake--or, rather, to play his joke. But he's all
"Yes, but I'm not going to take any chances," insisted Ned. "I
want to be insulated myself."
"I'll see to that," promised Tom. "Now get to your booth."
For the purpose of experiments Tom had strung a new line between
two of his shops, They were both within sight, and the line was
not very long; but, as I have said, Tom knew that if his apparatus
would work over a short distance, it would also be successful over
a long one, provided he could maintain the proper force of
current, which he was sure could be accomplished.
"And if they can send pictures from Monte Carlo to Paris I can do
the same," declared Tom, though his system of photo telephony was
different from sending by a telegraph system--a reproduction of a
picture on a copper plate. Tom's apparatus transmitted the
likeness of the living person.
It took some little time for the young inventor, and Ned working
with him, to fix up the new wires and switch on the current. But
at last it was complete, and Ned took his place at one telephone,
with the two sensitive plates before him. Tom did the same, and
they proceeded to talk over the wire, first making sure that the
vocal connection was perfect.
"All ready now, Ned! We'll try it," called Tom to his chum, over
the wire. "Look straight at the plate. I want to get your image
first, and then I'll send mine, if it's a success,"
Ned did as requested, and in a few minutes he could hear Tom
"It's better, Ned! It's coming out real clear. I can see you
almost as plainly as if you were right in the booth with me. But
turn on your light a little stronger."
Tom could hear, through the telephone, his chum moving about, and
then he caught a startled exclamation.
"What's the matter?" asked Tom anxiously.
"I got a shock!" cried Ned. "I thought you said you had this thing
fixed. Great Scott, Tom! It nearly yanked the arm off me! Is this
"No, old man. No, of course not! Something must be wrong. I didn't
mean that. Wait, I'll take a look. Say, it does seem as if
everything was going wrong with this invention. But I'm on the
right track, and soon I'll have it all right. Wait a second. I'll
be right over."
Tom found that it was only a simple displacement of a wire that
had given Ned a shock, and he soon had this remedied.
"Now we'll try again," he said. This time nothing wrong occurred,
and soon Tom saw the clearest image he had yet observed on his
telephone photo plate.
"Switch me on now, Ned," he called to his chum, and Ned reported
that he could see Tom very plainly.
"So far--so good," observed Tom, as he came from the booth. "But
there are several things I want yet to do."
"Such as what?" questioned Ned.
"Well, I want to arrange to have two kinds of pictures come over
the wire. I want it so that a person can go into a booth, call up
a friend, and then switch on the picture plate, so he can see his
friend as well as talk to him. I want this plate to be like a
mirror, so that any number of images can be made to appear on it.
In that way it can be used over and over again. In fact it will be
exactly like a mirror, or a telescope. No matter how far two
persons may be apart they can both see and talk to one another."
"That's a big contract, Tom."
"Yes, but you've seen that it can be done. Then another thing I
want to do is to have it arranged so that I can make a photograph
of a person over a wire."
"Meaning that if a certain person talks to me over the wire, I can
turn my switch, and get a picture of him here at my apparatus
connected with my telephone. To do that I'll merely need a sending
apparatus at the other end of the telephone line--not a receiving
"Could you arrange it so that the person who was talking to you
would have his picture taken whether he wanted it or not?" asked
"Yes, it might be done," spoke Tom, thoughtfully. "I could conceal
the sending plate somewhere in the telephone booth, and arrange
the proper light, I suppose."
"That might be a good way in which to catch a criminal," went on
Ned. "Often crooks call up on the telephone, but they know they
are safe. The authorities can't see them--they can only hear them.
Now if you could get a photograph of them while they were
"I see!" cried Tom, excitedly. "That's a great idea! I'll work on
And, all enthusiasm, Tom began to plan new schemes with his photo
The young inventor did not forget his promise to help Mrs. Damon.
But he could get absolutely no clue to her husband's whereabouts.
Mr. Damon had completely and mysteriously disappeared. His
fortune, too, seemed to have been swallowed up by the sharpers,
though lawyers engaged by Tom could fasten no criminal acts on Mr.
Peters, who indignantly denied that he had done anything unlawful.
If he had, he had done it in such a way that he could not be
brought to justice. The promoter was still about Shopton, as well
groomed as ever, with his rose in his buttonhole, and wearing his
silk hat. He still speeded up and down Lake Carlopa in his
powerful motor boat. But he gave Tom Swift a wide berth.
Late one night, when Tom and Ned had been working at the new photo
telephone, after all the rest of the household had retired, Tom
suddenly looked up from his drawings and exclaimed:
"What's what?" inquired Ned.
"That sound? Don't you hear it? Listen!"
"It's an airship--maybe yours coming back!" cried the young
As he spoke Ned did hear, seemingly in the air above the house, a
curious, throbbing, pulsating sound.
"That's so! It is an airship motor!" exclaimed Tom. "Come on out!"
Together they rushed from the house, but, ere they reached the
yard, the sound had ceased. They looked up into the sky, but could
see nothing, though the night was light from a full moon.
"I certainly heard it," said Tom.
"So did I," asserted Ned. "But where is it now?"
They advanced toward the group of work-buildings. Something
showing white in the moonlight, before the hangar, caught Ned's
"Look!" he exclaimed. "There's an airship, Tom!"
The two rushed over to the level landing place before the big
shed. And there, as if she had just been run out for a flight, was
the Eagle. She had come back in the night, as mysteriously as she
had been taken away.
"Well, this gets me!" exclaimed Tom.
"It sure is strange," agreed Ned. "How did she come here?"
"She didn't come alone--that's sure," went on Tom. "Someone
brought her here, made a landing, and got away before we could get
The two chums were standing near the Eagle, which had come back so
"Just a couple of seconds sooner and we'd have seen who brought
her here," went on Tom. "But they must have shut off the motor
some distance up, and then they volplaned down. That's why we
didn't hear them."
Ned went over and put his hand on the motor.
"Ouch!" he cried, jumping back. "It's hot!"
"Showing that she's been running up to within a few minutes ago,"
said Tom. "Well, as I said before, this sure does get me. First
these mysterious men take my airship, and then they bring her back
again, without so much as thanking me for the use of her."
"Who in the world can they be?" asked Ned.
"I haven't the least idea. But I'm going to find out, if it's at
all possible. We'll look the machine over in the morning, and see
if we can get any clues. No use in doing that now. Come on, we'll
put her back in the hangar."
"Say!" exclaimed Ned, as a sudden idea came to him. "It couldn't
be Mr. Damon who had your airship; could it, Tom?"
"I don't know. Why do you ask that?"
"Well, he might have wanted to get away from his enemies for a
while, and he might have taken your Eagle, and--"
"Mr. Damon wouldn't trail along with a crowd like the one that
took away my airship," said Tom, decidedly. "You've got another
guess coming, Ned. Mr. Damon had nothing to do with this."
"And yet the night he disappeared an airship was heard near his
"That's so. Well, I give up. This is sure a mystery. We'll have a
look at it in the morning. One thing I'll do, though, I'll
telephone over to Mr. Damon's house and see if his wife has heard
any news. I've been doing that quite often of late, so she won't
think anything of it. In that way we can find out if he had
anything to do with my airship. But let's run her into the shed
This was done, and Koku, the giant, was sent to sleep in the
hangar to guard against another theft. But it was not likely that
the mysterious men, once having brought the airship back, would
come for it again.
Tom called up Mrs. Damon on the telephone, but there was no news
of the missing man. He expressed his sympathy, and said he would
come and see her soon. He told Mrs. Damon not to get discouraged,
adding that he, and others, were doing all that was possible. But,
in spite of this, Mrs. Damon, naturally, did worry.
The next morning the two chums inspected the airship, so
mysteriously returned to them. Part after part they went over, and
found nothing wrong. The motor ran perfectly, and there was not so
much as a bent spoke in the landing wheels. For all that could be
told by an inspection of the craft she might never have been out
of the hangar.
"Hello, here's something!" cried Tom, as he got up from the
operator's seat, where he had taken his place to test the various
"What is it?" asked Ned.
"A button. A queer sort of a button. I never had any like that on
my clothes, and I'm sure you didn't. Look!" and Tom held out a
large, metal button of curious design.
"It must have come off the coat of one of the men who had your
airship, Tom," said his chum. "Save it. You may find that it's a
"I will. No telling what it may lead to. Well, I guess that's all
we can find."
And it was. But Tom little realized what a clue the button was
going to be. Nothing more could be learned by staring at the
returned airship, so he and Ned went back to the house.
Tom Swift had many things to do, but his chief concern was for the
photo telephone. Now that he was near the goal of success he
worked harder than ever. The idea Ned had given him of being able
to take the picture of a person at the instrument--without the
knowledge of that person--appealed strongly to Tom.
"That's going to be a valuable invention!" he declared, but little
he knew how valuable it would prove to him and to others.
It was about a week later when Tom was ready to try the new
apparatus. Meanwhile he had prepared different plates, and had
changed his wiring system. In the days that had passed nothing new
had been learned concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Damon, nor of
the men who had so mysteriously taken away Tom's airship.
All was in readiness for the trial. Tom sent Ned to the booth that
he had constructed in the airship hangar, some distance away from
the house. The other booth Tom had placed in his library, an
entirely new system of wires being used.
"Now Ned," explained Tom, "the idea is this! You go into that
booth, just as if it were a public one, and ring me up in the
regular way. Of course we haven't a central here, but that doesn't
matter. Now while I'm talking to you I want to see you. You don't
know that, of course."
"The point is to see if I can get your picture while you're
talking to me, and not let you know a thing about it."
"Think you can do it, Tom?"
"I'm going to try. We'll soon know. Go ahead."
A little later Ned was calling up his chum, as casually as he
could, under the circumstances.
"All right!" called Tom to his chum. "Start in and talk. Say
anything you like--it doesn't matter. I want to see if I can get
your picture. Is the light burning in your booth?"
"All right then. Go ahead."
Ned talked of the weather--of anything. Meanwhile Tom was busy.
Concealed in the booth occupied by Ned was a sending plate. It
could not be seen unless one knew just where to look for it. In
Tom's booth was a receiving plate.
The experiment did not take long. Presently Tom called to Ned that
he need stay there no longer.
"Come on to the house," invited the young inventor, "and we'll
develope this plate." For in this system it was necessary to
develope the receiving plate, as is done with an ordinary
photographic one. Tom wanted a permanent record.
Eagerly the chums in the dark room looked down into the tray
containing the plate and the developing solution.
"Something's coming out!" cried Ned, eagerly.
"Yes! And it's you!" exclaimed Tom. "See, Ned, I got your picture
over the telephone. Success! I've struck it! This is the best
At that moment, as the picture came out more and more plainly,
someone knocked on the door of the dark room.
"Who is it?" asked Tom.
"Gen'man t' see you," said Eradicate. "He say he come from Mistah
"Mr. Peters--that rascally promoter!" whispered Tom to his chum.
"What does this mean?"
THE MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE
Tom Swift and his chum looked at one another strangely for a
moment in the dim, red light of the dark room. Then the young
"I'm not going to see him. Tell him so, Rad!"
"Hold on a second," suggested Ned. "Maybe you had better see him,
Tom. It may have something to with Mr. Damon's lost fortune."
"That's so! I didn't think of that. And I may get a clue to his
disappearance, though I don't imagine Peters had anything to do
with that. Wait, Rad. Tell the gentleman I'll see him. Did he give
any name, Rad?"
"Yas, sah. Him done say him Mistah Boylan."
"The same man who called to see me once before, trying to get me
to do some business with Peters," murmured Tom. "Very well, I'll
see him as soon as this picture is fixed. Tell him to wait, Rad."
A little later Tom went to where his caller awaited in the
library. This time there were no plans to be looked at, the young
inventor having made a practice of keeping all his valuable papers
locked in a safe.
"You go into the next room, Ned," Tom had said to his chum. "Leave
the door open, so you can hear what is said."
"Why, do you think there'll be trouble? Maybe we'd better have
Koku on hand to--"
"Oh, no, nothing like that," laughed Tom. "I just want you to
listen to what's said so, if need be, you can be a witness later.
I don't know what their game is, but I don't trust Peters and his
crowd. They may want to get control of some of my patents, and
they may try some underhanded work. If they do I want to be in a
position to stop them."
"All right," agreed Ned, and he took his place.
But Mr. Boylan's errand was not at all sensational, it would seem.
He bowed to Tom, perhaps a little distantly, for they had not
parted the best of friends on a former occasion.
"I suppose you are surprised to see me," began Mr. Boylan.
"Well, I am, to tell the truth," Tom said, calmly.
"I am here at the request of my employer, Mr. Peters," went on the
caller. "He says he is forming a new and very powerful company to
exploit airships, and he wants to know whether you would not
reconsider your determination not to let him do some business for
"No, I'm afraid I don't care to go into anything like that," said
"It would be a good thing for you," proceeded Mr. Boylan, eagerly.
"Mr. Peters is able to command large capital, and if you would
permit the use of your airships--or one of them--as a model, and
would supervise the construction of others, we could confidently
expect large sales. Thus you would profit, and I am frank to admit
that the company, and Mr. Peters, also, would make money. Mr.
Peters is perfectly free to confess that he is in business to make
money, but he is also willing to let others share with him. Come
now, what do you say?"
"I am sorry, but I shall have to say the same thing I said
before," replied Tom. "Nothing doing!"
Mr. Boylan glanced rather angrily at the young inventor, and then,
with a shrug of his shoulders, remarked:
"Well, you have the say, of course. But I would like to remind you
that this is going to be a very large airship company, and if your
inventions are not exploited some others will be. And Mr. Peters
also desired me to say that this is the last offer he would make