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Tom Swift And His Sky Racer by Victor Appleton

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anything, either'. There are two gardeners on guard all the
while, and several times when I've tried to go in the side
gate, they've stopped me."

"Isn't there any news of Andy about town?" asked Tom. "I
should think Sam or Pete would know where he is."

"Well, I didn't ask them, for they'd know right away why I
was inquiring," said Mr. Damon, "but it seems to me as if
there was something queer going on. If Andy Foger is working
in that shed of his, he's keeping mighty quiet about it.
Bless my--"

And once more he stopped in time. He was conquering the
habit in a measure.

"Well, what do you propose to do next?" asked Tom.

"Disguise myself like a tramp, and go there looking for
work," was the firm answer. "There are plenty of odd jobs on
a big place such as the Foger family have. I'll find out
what I want to know, you see.

It seemed useless to further combat this resolution, and,
in a few days Mr. Damon presented a very different
appearance. He had on a most ragged suit, there was a
scrubby beard on his face, and he walked with a curious
shuffle, caused by a pair of big, heavy shoes which he had
donned, first having taken the precaution to make holes in
them and get them muddy.

"Now I'm all ready," he said to Tom one day, when his
disguise was complete. "I'm going over and try my luck."

He left the house by a side door, so that no one would see
him, and started down the walk. As he did so a voice

"Hi, there! Git right out oh heah! Mistah Swift doan't
allow no tramps heah, an' we ain't got no wuk fo' yo', an'
there ain't no cold victuals. I does all de wuk, me an' mah
mule Boomerang, an' we takes all de cold victuals, too! Git
right along, now!"

"It's Eradicate. He doesn't know you," said Tom, with a

"So much the better," whispered Mr. Damon. But the
disguise proved almost too much of a success, for seeing the
supposed tramp lingering near the house, Eradicate caught up
a stout stick and rushed forward. He was about to strike the
ragged man, when Tom called out:

"That's Mr. Damon, Rad!"

"Wh--what!" gasped the colored man; and when the situation
had been explained to him, and the necessity for silence
impressed upon him, he turned away, too surprised to utter a
word. He sought consolation in the stable with his mule.

Just what methods Mr. Damon used he never disclosed, but
one thing is certain: That night there came a cautious knock
on the door of the Swift home, and Tom, answering it, beheld
his odd friend.

"Well," he asked eagerly, "what luck?"

"Put on a suit of old clothes, and come with me," said Mr.
Damon. "We'll look like two tramps, and then, if we're
discovered, they won't know it was you."

"Have you found out anything?" asked Tom eagerly.

"Not yet; but I've got a key to one of the side doors of
the shed, and we can get in as soon as it's late enough so
that everybody there will be in bed."

"A key? How did you get it?" inquired the youth.

"Never mind," was the answer, with a chuckle. "That was
because of my disguise; and I haven't blessed anything to-
day. I'm going to, soon, though. I can feel it coming on.
But hurry, Tom, or we may be too late."

"And you haven't had a look inside the shed?" asked the
young inventor. "You don't know what's there?"

"No; but we soon will."

Eagerly Tom put on tome of the oldest and most ragged
garments he could find, and then he and the odd gentleman
set off toward the Foger home. They waited some time after
getting in sight of it, because they saw a light in one
of the windows. Then, when the house was dark, they stole
cautiously forward toward the big, gloomy shed.

"On this side," directed Mr. Damon in a whisper. "The key
I have opens this door."

"But we can't see when we get inside," objected Tom. "I
should have brought a dark lantern."

"I have one of those pocket electric flashlights," said
Mr. Damon. "Bless my candlestick! but I thought of that."
And he chuckled gleefully.

Cautiously they advanced in the darkness. Mr. Damon
fumbled at the lock of the door. The key grated as he turned
it. The portal swung back, and Tom and his friend found
themselves inside the shed which, of late, had been such an
object of worry and conjecture to the young inventor. What
would he find there?

"Flash the light," he called to Mr. Damon in a hoarse

The eccentric man drew it from his packet He pressed the
spring switch, and in an instant a brilliant shaft of
radiance shot out, cutting the intense blackness like a
knife. Mr. Damon flashed it on all sides.

But to the amazement of Tom and his companion, it did not
illuminate the broad white wings and stretches of canvas of
an aeroplane It only shone on the bare walls of the shed,
and on some piles of rubbish in the corners. Up and down, to
right and left, shot the pencil of light. "There's--there's
nothing here!" gasped Tom,

"I--I guess you're right!" agreed Mr. Damon "The shed is

"Then where is Andy Foger building his aeroplane?" asked
Tom in a whisper; but Mr. Damon could not answer him.

Chapter Nine

A Trial Flight

For a few moments after their exclamations of surprise Tom
and Mr. Damon did not know what else to say. They stared
about in amazement, hardly able to believe that the shed
could be empty. They had expected to see some form of
aeroplane in it, and Tom was almost sure his eyes would meet
a reproduction of his Humming Bird, made from the stolen

"Can it be possible there's nothing here?" went on Tom,
after a long pause. He could not seem to believe it

"Evidently not," answered Mr. Damon, as he advanced toward
the center of the big building and flashed the light on all
sides. "You can see for yourself."

"Or, rather, you can't see," spoke the youth. "It isn't
here, that's sure. You can't stick an aeroplane, even as
small a one as my Humming Bird, in a corner. No; it isn't

"Well, we'll have to look further," went on Mr. Damon. "I

But a sudden noise near the big main doors of the shed
interrupted him.

"Come on!" exclaimed Tom in a whisper. "Some one's
coining! They may see us! Let's get out!"

Mr. Damon released the pressure on the spring switch, and
the light went out. After waiting a moment to let their eyes
become accustomed to the darkness, he and Tom stole to the
door by which they had entered. As they swung it cautiously
open they again heard the noise near the main portals by
which Andy had formerly taken in and out the Anthony, as he
had named the aeroplane in which he and his father went to
Alaska, where, like Tom's craft, it was wrecked.

"Some one is coming in!" whispered Tom.

Hardly had he spoken when a light shone in the direction
of the sound. The illumination came from a big lantern of
the ordinary kind, carried by some one who had just entered
the shed.

"Can you see who it is?" whispered Mr. Damon, peering
eagerly forward; too eagerly, for his foot struck against
the wooden side wall with a loud hang.

"Who's there?" suddenly demanded the person carrying the

He raised it high above his head, in order to cast the
gleams into all the distant corners. As he did so a ray of
light fell upon his face. "Andy Foger!" gasped Tom in a
hoarse whisper.

Andy must have heard, for he ran forward just as Tom and
Mr. Damon slipped out.

"Hold on! Who are you?" came in the unmistakable tones of
the red-haired bully.

"I don't think we're going to tell," chuckled Tom softly,
as he and his friend sped off into the darkness. They were
not followed, and as they looked back they could see a light
bobbing about in the shed.

"He's looking for us!" exclaimed Mr. Damon with an inward
laugh. "Bless my watch chain! But it's a good thing we got
in ahead of him. Are you sure it was Andy himself?"

"Sure! I'd know his face anywhere. But I can't understand
it. Where has he been? What is he doing? Where is he
building his aeroplane? I thought he was out of town."

"He may have come back to-night," said Mr. Damon. "That's
the only one of your questions I can answer. We'll have to
wait about the rest, I'm sure he wasn't around the house
today, though, for I was working at weeding the flower beds,
in my disguise as a tramp, and if he was home I'd have seen
him. He must have just come back, and he went out to his
shed to get something. Well, we did the best we could."

"Indeed we did," agreed Tom, "and I'm ever so much obliged
to you, Mr. Damon."

"And we'll try again, when we get more clues. Bless my
shoelaces! but it's a relief to be able to talk as you

And forthwith the eccentric man began to call down so many
blessings on himself and on his belongings, no less than on
his friends, that Tom laughingly warned him that he had
better save some for another time.

The two reached home safely, removed their "disguises,"
and told Mr. Swift of the result of their trip. He agreed
with them that there was a mystery about Andy's aeroplane
which was yet to be solved.

But Tom was glad to find that, at any rate, the craft was
not being made in Shopton, and during the next two weeks he
devoted all his time to finishing his own machine. Mr.
Jackson was a valuable assistant, and Mr. Damon gave what
aid he could.

"Well, I think I'll be ready for a trial flight in another
week," said Tom one day, as he stepped back to get a view of
the almost completed Humming-Bird.

"Shall you want a passenger?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Yes, I wish you would take a chance with me. I could use
a bag of sand, not that I mean you are to be compared to
that," added Tom quickly, "but I'd rather have a real
person, in order to test the balancing apparatus. Yes,
we'll make a trial trip together."

In the following few days Tom went carefully over the
aeroplane, making some slight changes, strengthening it here
and there, and testing the motor thoroughly. It seemed to
work perfectly.

At length the day of the trial came, and the Humming-Bird
was wheeled out of the shed. In spite of the fact that it
was practically finished, there yet remained much to do on
it. It was not painted or decorated, and looked rather
crude. But what Tom wanted to know was how it would fly,
what control he had over it, what speed it could make, and
how it balanced. For it was, at best, very frail, and the
least change in equilibrium might be fatal.

Before taking his place in the operator's seat Tom started
the motor, and by means of a spring balance tested the
thrust of the propellers. It was satisfactory, though he
knew that when the engine had been run for some time, and
had warmed up, it would do much better.

"All ready, I guess, Mr. Damon!" he called, and the odd
gentleman took his place. Tom got up into his own seat, in
front of several wheels and levers by which he operated the

"Start the propeller!" he requested of Mr. Jackson, and
soon the motor was spitting fire, while the big, fanlike
blades were whirring around like wings of light. The engineer
and Eradicate were holding back the Humming-Bird.

"Let her go!" cried Tom as he turned on more gasoline and
further advanced the spark of the motor. The roar increased,
the propeller looked like a solid circle of wood, and the
trim little monoplane moved slowly across the rising ground,
increasing its speed every second, until, like some graceful
bird, it suddenly rose in the air as Tom tilted the wing
tips, and soared splendidly aloft!

Chapter Ten

A Midnight Intruder

Tom Swift sent his wonderful little craft upward on a
gentle slant. Higher and higher it rose above the ground.
Now it topped the trees; now it was well over them.

On the earth below stood Mr. Swift, Mr. Jack son,
Eradicate and Mrs. Baggert. They were the only witnesses of
the trial flight, and as the aged inventor saw his son's
latest design in aeroplanes circling in the air he gave a
cheer of delight. It was too feeble for Tom to hear, but the
lad, glancing down, saw his father waving his hand to him.

"Dear old dad!" thought Tom, waving in return. "I hope
he's well enough to see me win the big prize."

Tom and Mr. Damon went skimming easily through the air, at
no great speed, to be sure, for the young inventor did not
want to put too sudden a strain on his motor.

"This is glorious!" cried the odd gentleman. "I never
shall have enough of aeroplaning, Tom!"

"Nor I, either," added his companion. "But how do you like
it? Don't you think it's an improvement on my Butterfly, Mr.

"It certainly is. You're a wonder, Tom! Look out! What are
you up to?" for the machine had suddenly swerved in a
startling manner.

"Oh, that's just a new kind of spiral dip I was trying,"
answered Tom. "I couldn't do that with my other machine, for
I couldn't turn sharp enough."

"Well, don't do it right away again," begged Mr. Damon,
who had turned a little white, and whose breath was coming
in gasps, even though he was used to hair-raising stunts in
the frail craft of the air.

Tom did not take his machine far away, for he did not want
to exhibit it to the public yet, and he preferred to remain
in the vicinity of his home, in case of any accident. So he
circled around, did figures of eight, went up and down on
long slants, took sharp turns, and gave the craft a good

"Does it satisfy you?" asked Mr. Damon, when Tom had once
more made the spiral dip, but not at high speed.

"In a way, yes," was the answer. "I see a chance for
several changes and improvements. Of course, I know nothing
about the speed yet, and that's something that I'm anxious
about, for I built this with the idea of breaking all
records, and nothing else. I know, now, that I can construct
a craft that will successfully navigate the air; in fact,
there are any number of people who can do that; but to
construct a monoplane that will beat anything ever before
made is a different thing. I don't yet know that I have done

"When will you?"

"Oh, when I make some changes, get the motor tuned up
better, and let her out for all she's worth. I want to do a
hundred miles an hour, at least. I'll arrange for a speedy
flight in about two weeks more."

"Then I think I will stay home," said Mr. Damon.

"No; I'll need you," insisted Tom, laughing. "Now watch.
I'm going to let her out just a little."

He did, with the result that they skimmed through the air
so fast that Mr. Damon's breath became a mere series of

"We'll have to wear goggles and mouth protectors when we
really go fast!" yelled Tom above the noise of the motor, as
he slowed down and turned about for home.

"Go fast! Wasn't that fast?" asked Mr. Damon.

Tom shook his head.

"You wait, and you'll see," he announced.

They made a good landing, and Mr. Swift hastened up to
congratulate his son.

"I knew you could do it, Tom!" he cried.

"I couldn't, though, if it hadn't been for that wonderful
engine of yours, dad! How do you feel?"

"Pretty good. Oh! but that's a fine machine, Tom!"

"It certainly is," agreed Mr. Jackson.

"It will be when I have it in better trim," admitted the
young inventor modestly.

"By golly!" cried Eradicate, who was grinning almost from
ear to ear, "I's proud oh yo', Massa Tom, an' so will mah
mule Boomerang be, when I tells him. Yes, sah, dat's what
he will be--proud ob yo', Massa Tom!"

"Thanks, Rad."

"Well, some folks is satisfied with mighty little under
'em, when they go up in the air, that's my opinion," said
Mrs. Baggert.

"Why, wouldn't you ride in this?" asked Tom of the buxom

"Not if you was to give me ten thousand dollars!" she
cried firmly. "Oh, dear! I think the potatoes are burning!"
And she rushed back into the house.

The next day Tom started to work overhauling the Humming-
Bird, and making some changes. He altered the wing tips
slightly, and adjusted the motor, until in a thrust test it
developed nearly half again as much power as formerly.

"And I'll need it all," declared Tom as he thought of the
number of contestants that had entered the great race.

For the Eagle Park meet was to be a large and important
one, and the principal "bird-men" of the world were to have
a part in it. Tom knew that he must do his very best, and he
spared no efforts to make his monoplane come up to his
ideal, which was a very exacting one.

"We'll have a real speed test to-morrow," Tom announced to
Mr. Damon one night. "I'll see what the Humming-Bird can
really do. You'll come, won't you?"

"Oh, I suppose so. Bless my insurance policy! I might as
well take the same chance you do. But if you're going to
have such a nerve-racking thing as that on the program,
you'd better get to bed early and have plenty of sleep."

"Oh, I'm not tired. I think I'll go out this evening."


"Oh, just around town, to see some of the fellows." But if
Tom was only going around town merely to see his male
friends, why did he dress so carefully, put on a new
necktie, and take several looks in the glass before he went
out? We think you can guess, and also the girl's name.

The young inventor got in rather late, and after a visit
to the aeroplane shed, to see that all was right there, he
went to bed, first connecting up the burglar-alarm wires
that guarded the doors and windows of the aerodrome.

How long he had been asleep Tom did not know, but he was
suddenly awakened by hearing the buzzing of the alarm at the
head of his bed. At first he took it for the droning and
humming of the aeroplane motor, as he had a hazy notion, and
a sort of dream, that he was in his craft.

Then, with a start, he realized what it was--the burglar

"Some one's in the shed!" he gasped.

Out of bed he leaped, drawing on his trousers and coat,
and putting on a pair of slippers, with speed worthy of a
fireman. He grabbed up a revolver and rushed from his room,
pounding on the door of Mr. Jackson's apartment in passing.

"Some one in the shed, after the Humming-Bird!" shouted
Tom. "Get a gun, and come down!"

Chapter Eleven

Tom Is Hurt

As Tom passed down the hall on his way to the side door,
from which he could more quickly reach the aeroplane shed,
he saw his father coming from his room.

"What's the matter? What is it?" asked Mr. Swift, and
alarm showed on his pale face.

"It's nothing much, dad," said the youth, as quietly as he
could, for he realized that to excite his father might have
a bad effect on the invalid.

"Then why are you in such a hurry? Why have you that
revolver? I know there is something wrong, Tom. I am going
to help you!"

In his father's present weakened state Tom desired this
least of all, so he said:

"Now, never mind, dad. I thought I heard a noise out in
the yard, and I'm not going to take any chances. So I roused
Mr. Jackson, and I'm going down to see what it is. Perhaps
it may only be Eradicate's mule, Boomerang, kicking around,
or it may be Rad himself, or some one after his chickens.
Don't worry. Mr. Jackson and I can attend to it. You go back
to bed, father."

Tom spoke with such assurance that Mr. Swift believed him,
and retired to his room, just as the engineer, partly
dressed, came hurrying out in response to Tom's summons. He
had his rifle, and, bad the invalid inventor seen that, he
surely would have worried more.

"Come on!" whispered Tom. "Don't make any noise. I don't
want to excite my father."

"What was it?" asked the engineer.

"I don't know. Burglar alarm went off, that's all I can
say until we get to the shed."

Together the two left the house softly, and soon were
hurrying toward the aeroplane shed.

"Look!" exclaimed Mr. Jackson. "Didn't you see a light
just then, Tom?"


"By the side window of the shed?"

"No, I didn't notice it! Oh, yes! There it is! Some one is
in there! If it's Andy Foger, I'll have him arrested,

"Maybe we can't catch him."

"That's so. Andy is a pretty slippery customer. Say, Mr.
Jackson, you go around and get Eradicate, and have him bring
a club. We can't trust him with a gun. Tell him to get at
the back door, and I'll wait for you to join me, and we'll
go in the front door. Then we'll have 'em between two
fires. They can't get away."

"How about the windows?"

"They're high up, and hard to open since I put the new
catches on them. Whoever got in must have forced the lock of
the door. There goes the light again!"

As Tom spoke there was seen the faint glimmer of a
light. It moved slowly about the interior of the shed, and
with a peculiar bobbing motion, which indicated that some
one was carrying it.

"Go for Eradicate, and don't make any more noise than you
can help in waking him up," whispered Tom, for they were
now close to the shed, and might be heard.

Mr. Jackson slipped off in the darkness, and Tom drew
nearer to the building that housed his Humming-Bird. There
was one window lower than the others, and near it was a box,
that Tom remembered having seen that afternoon. He planned
to get up on that and look in, before making a raid to
capture the intruder.

Tom raised himself up to the window. The light had been
visible a moment before he placed the box in position, but
an instant later it seemed to go out, and the place was in

"I wonder if they've gone away?" thought Tom. "I can't
hear any noise."

He listened intently. It was dark and silent in the shop.
Suddenly the light flashed up brighter than before, and the
young inventor caught sight of a man walking around the new
aeroplane, examining it carefully. He carried, as Tom could
see, a large-sized electric flash-lamp, with a brilliant
tungsten filament, which gave a powerful light.

As the youth watched, he saw the intruder place the light
on a bench, in such a position that the rays fell full upon
the Humming-Bird. Then, adjusting the spring switch so that
the light would continue to glow, the man stepped back and
drew something from an inner pocket.

"I wonder what he's up to?" mused Tom. "I wish Eradicate
and Mr. Jackson would hurry back. Who can that fellow be, I
wonder? I've never seen him before, as far as I know. I
thought sure it was going to turn out to be Andy Foger!"

Tom turned around to look into the dark yard surrounding
the shed. He was anxious to hear the approach of his two
allies, but there was no sound of their footsteps.

As be turned back to watch the man he could not repress a
cry of alarm, for what the intruder had drawn from his
pocket was a small hatchet, and he was advancing with it
toward the Humming-Bird!

"He's going to destroy my aeroplane!" gasped Tom, and he
raised his revolver to fire.

He did not intend to shoot at the man, but only to fire to
scare him, and thus hasten the coming of Mr. Jackson and the
colored man. But there was no need of this, for an instant
later the two came running up silently, Eradicate with a big

"Whar am he?" he asked in a hoarse whisper. "Let me git at
him, Massa Tom!"

"Hush!" exclaimed the young inventor. "We have no time to
lose! He's in there, getting ready to chop my aeroplane to
bits! Go to the back door, Rad, and if he tries to come out
don't let him get away."

"I won't!" declared the colored man emphatically, and he
shook his club suggestively.

"Come on! We'll go in the front door," whispered Tom to
the engineer. "I have the key. We'll catch him red-handed,
and hand him over to the police."

Waiting a few seconds, to enable Eradicate to get to his
place, Tom and the engineer stole softly toward the big
double doors. Every moment the youth expected to hear the
crash of the hatchet on his prize machine. He shivered in
anticipation, but the blows did not fall.

Tom pushed open the door and stepped inside, followed by
Mr. Jackson. As they did so they saw the man standing in
front of the Humming-Bird. He again raised the little
hatchet, which was like an Indian tomahawk, and poised it
for an instant over the delicate framework and planes of the
air craft. Then his arm began to descend.

"Stop!" yelled Tom, and at the same time he fired in the

The man turned as suddenly as though a bullet had struck
him, and for a moment Tom was afraid lest he had hit him by
accident; but an instant later the intruder grabbed up his
flashlight, and holding it before him, so that its rays
shone full on Tom and Mr. Jackson, while it left him in the
shadow, sprang toward them, the hatchet still in his hand.

"Look out, Tom!" cried Mr. Jackson.

"Out of my way!" shouted the man.

Bravely Tom stood his ground. He wished now that he had a
club instead of his revolver. The would-be vandal was almost
upon him. Mr. Jackson clubbed his rifle and swung it at the
fellow. The latter dodged, and came straight at Tom.

"Look out!" yelled the engineer again, but it was too
late. There was the sound of a blow, and Tom went down like
a log. Then the place was in darkness, and the sound of
footsteps in rapid flight could be heard outside the shed.

The intruder, after wounding the young inventor, had made
his escape.

Chapter Twelve

Miss Nestor Calls

"What's de mattah? Shall I come in? Am anybody hurted?"
yelled Eradicate Sampson as he pounded on the rear door of
the aeroplane shed. "Let me in, Massa Tom!"

"All right! Wait a minute! I'm coming!" called Mr.
Jackson. He tried to peer through the darkness, to where a
huddled heap indicated the presence of Tom. Then he thought
of the electric lights, which were run by a storage battery
when the dynamo was shut down, and a moment later the
engineer had switched on the incandescents, filling the big
shed with radiance.

"Tom, are you badly hurt?" gasped Mr. jackson.

There was no answer, for Tom was unconscious.

"Let me in! Let me git at dat robber wif mah club!" cried
the colored man eagerly.

Knowing that he would need help in carrying Tom to the
house, Mr. Jackson hurried to the back door. He had a key to
it, and it was quicker to open it than to send Eradicate
away around the shed to the front portals.

"Whar am he?" gasped the faithful darky, as he took a
firmer grasp of his club and looked around the place. "Let
me git mah hands on him! I'll feed him t' Boomerang, when I
gits froo wif him!"

"He's gone," said the engineer. "Help me look after Tom.
I'm afraid he's badly hurt."

They hastened to the unconscious lad. On one side of his
head was a bad cut, which was bleeding freely.

"Oh! he's daid! I know he's daid!" wailed Eradicate.

"Not a bit of it. He isn't dead, but he may die, if we
don't get him into the house, and have a doctor here soon,"
said Mr. Jackson sternly. "Catch hold of him, Rad, and,
mind, don't carry on, and get excited, and scare Mr. Swift.
Just pretend it isn't very bad, or we'll have two patents on
our hands instead of only Tom."

They managed to get the youth into the house, and,
contrary to their fears, Mr. Swift was not nearly so nervous
as they had expected. Calmly he took charge of matters, and
even telephoned for Dr. Gladby himself, while Mr. Jackson
and Eradicate undressed Tom and got him to bed. Mrs. Baggert
busied herself heating water and getting things in readiness
for the doctor, who had promised to come at once.

Tom was just regaining consciousness when the physician
came in, having driven over at top speed.

"What--what happened? Did the Humming Bird fall?" asked
Tom in a whisper, putting his hand to his head.

"No, something fell on you, I guess," said the doctor, who
had been hurriedly told of the circumstances. "But don't
worry, Tom. You'll be all right in a few days. You got a
bad cut on the head, but the skull isn't fractured, I'm glad
to say. Here, now, just drink this," and he gave Tom some
medicine he had mixed in a glass.

The cut was soon dressed, and Tom felt much better, though
weak and a trifle dizzy.

"Did he hit me with the hatchet?" he asked Mr. Jackson.

"I couldn't tell," was the engineer's reply, "it all
happened so quickly. In another instant I'd have bowled him
over, instead of him landing on you, but I just missed him.
He either used the hatchet, or some blunt instrument."

"Well, don't talk about it now," urged the doctor. "I want
Tom to get quiet and go to sleep. We'll be much better in
the morning, but I must forbid any aeroplane flights." And
he shook his finger at Tom in warning. "You'll have to lie
quiet for several days," he added.

"All right," agreed the young inventor weakly, and then he
dozed off, for the physician had given him a quieting

"Haven't you any idea who it was?" asked Dr. Gladby of Mr.
Jackson, as he prepared to leave.

"Not the slightest. It was no one Tom or I had ever seen
before. But whoever it was, he intended to destroy the
Humming-Bird, that was evident!"

"The scoundrel! I'm glad you foiled him in time; but it's
too bad about Tom. However, we'll soon have him all right

"I knows who done it!" broke in Eradicate, who was a sort
of privileged character about the Swift home.

"Who?" asked Mr. Jackson.

"It were dat Andy Foger. Leastways, he send dat man heah
t' make mincemeat oh de Hummin'-Bird. I's positib 'bout dat,
so I am!" And Eradicate grinned triumphantly.

"Well, perhaps Andy did have a hand in it," admitted Mr.
Swift, but we have no proof of it, I can't see what his
object would be in wanting to destroy Tom's new craft."

"Pure meanness. Afraid that Tom will beat him in the
race," suggested Mr. Jackson.

"It's too big a risk to take," went on the aged inventor.
"I'm inclined to think it might be one of the gang of men
who made the diamonds in the cave in the mountains. They
might have sent a spy on East, and he might try to damage
the aeroplane to be revenged for what Tom and Mr. Jenks did
to them."

"It's possible," agreed the engineer. "Well, we'll wait
until Tom can talk, and we'll go over it with him."

"Not until he is stronger, though," stipulated the
physician as he went away. "Don't excite Tom for a few

The young inventor was much better the following day, and
when Dr. Gladby called he said Tom could sit up for a little
while. Two days later Tom was well enough to he talked to,
and his father and Mr. Jackson went over all the details of
the matter. Mr. Damon, who had returned home, came to see
his friend as soon as he heard of his plight, and was also a
member of the consulting party.

"Bless my dictionary!" exclaimed the eccentric man. "I
wish I had been here to take a hand in it. But, Tom, do you
believe it was one of the diamond-making gang?"

"I hardly think so," was the reply. "They would take some
other means of revenge than by destroying my new aeroplane.
I'm inclined to think it was some one who is in with Andy

"Then we'll hire detectives, and locate him and them,"
declared Mr. Damon, blessing several things in succession.

Tom, however, did not like that plan, and it was decided
to do nothing right away. In another few days Tom was able
to be up, though he was still a semi-invalid, not venturing
out of the house.

It was one afternoon, when, rather tired of his
confinement, he was wishing he could resume work on his air
craft, that Mrs. Baggert came in, and said:

"Some one to see you, Tom."

"Is it Mr. Damon?"

"No, it's a lady. She--"

"Oh, Tom! How are you?" cried a girlish voice, and Mary
Nestor walked into the room, holding out both hands to the
young inventor. Tom, with a blush, arose hastily.

"No! no! Sit still!" commanded the girl. "Oh! I'm so sorry
to hear about your accident! In fact, I only heard this
morning. We've been away, mamma and I, and we just got back.
Tell me all about it, that is, if you feel able. But don't
exert yourself. Oh! I wish I had hold of that man!"

And Miss Nestor clenched her two pretty little hands and
set her white, even teeth grimly together, as though she
would do most desperate things indeed.

"I wish you did, too!" exclaimed Tom. "That is, so you
could hold him until I had a chance at him. But I'm all
right now. It was very good of you to call. How are you, and
how are your folks?"

"Very well. But I came to hear about you. Tell me," and
she looked anxiously at Tom, while Mrs. Baggert discreetly
withdrew to the adjoining room, and made a great noise,
rattling papers and moving chairs about.

Thereupon Tom told what had happened, while Mary Nestor
listened interestedly and with expressions of fear at times.

"But if Andy had anything to do with it," concluded Tom,
"I can't understand what his object is. Andy is acting very
strangely lately. We can't locate him, nor find out where
he is building his airship. That's what I want to know; but
Mr. Damon and I, after a lot of trouble, only found his
aeroplane shed empty."

"And you want to find out where Andy Foger is building his
aeroplane which he has entered in the big race?" asked Miss

"That's what I'd like to know," declared Tom earnestly.
"Only we can't seem to do it. No one knows."

"Why don't you write to Mr. Sharp, or some one of the
aviation meet committee?" asked the girl simply. "They would
know, for you say Andy made his formal entry with them, and
the rules require him to tell from what city and State he
will enter his craft. Write to the committee, Tom."

For a moment the young inventor stared at her. Then he
banged his fist down on the arm of his chair.

"By Jove, Mary! That's the very thing!" he cried. "I
wonder why I never thought of that, instead of fiddling
around in disguises, and things like that? I wonder why I
never thought of that plan?"

"Perhaps because it was so simple," she answered, with a
pretty blush.

"I guess that's it," agreed Tom. "It takes a woman to jump
across a bridge to a conclusion every time. I'll write to
Mr. Sharp at once."

Chapter Thirteen

A Clash with Andy

Tom lost no time in writing to Mr. Sharp. He wondered more
and more at his own neglect in not before having asked the
balloonist, when the latter was in Shopton, where Andy was
building his aeroplane. But, as it developed later, Mr.
Sharp did not know at that time.

While waiting for a reply to his letter, Tom busied
himself about his own craft, making several changes he had
decided on. He also began to paint and decorate it, for he
wanted to have the Humming-Bird present a neat appearance
when she was officially entered in the great race.

Miss Nestor called on Tom again, and Mr. Damon was a
frequent visitor. He agreed to accompany Tom to the aviation
park when it was time for the race, and also to be a
passenger in the ten-thousand-dollar contest.

"It must be perfectly wonderful to fly through the air,"
said Miss Nestor one day, when Tom and Mr. Damon had the
Humming-Bird out on the testing ground, trying the engine,
which had been keyed up to a higher pitch of speed. "I
consider it perfectly marvelous, and I can't imagine how it
must seem to skim along that way."

"Come and try it," urged Tom suddenly. "There's not a bit
of danger. Really there isn't."

"Oh! I'd never dare do it!" replied the girl, with a gasp.
"That machine is too swift by name and swift by nature for

"Why don't you take Miss Nestor on a grass-cutting flight,
Tom?" suggested Mr. Damon. "Bless my lawn mower! but she
wouldn't be frightened at that."

"Grass cutting?" repeated the girl. "What in the world
does that mean?"

"It means skimming along a few feet up in the air,"
answered the young inventor, who had now fully recovered
from the effects of the blow given him by the midnight
intruder. In spite of many inquiries, no clues to his
identity had been obtained.

"How high do you go when you 'cut grass,' as you call it?"
asked Miss Nestor, and Tom thought he detected a note of
eager curiosity in her voice.

"Not high at all," he said. "In fact, sometimes I do cut
off the tops of tall daisies. Come, Mary! Won't you try
that? I know you'll like it, and when you've been over the
lawn a few times you'll be ready for a high flight. Come!
there's no danger."

"I--I almost believe I will," she said hesitatingly. "Will
you take me down when I want to come?"

"Of course," said Tom. "Get in, and we'll start."

The Humming-Bird was all ready for a trial flight, and Tom
was glad of the chance to test it, especially with such a
pretty passenger as was Miss Nestor.

"Bless my shoelaces!" cried Mr. Damon. "I can see where I
am going to be cut out, Tom Swift. I'll not get many more
rides with you now that Miss Nestor is taking to
aeroplaning, you young rascal!" And he playfully shook his
finger at Tom.

"Oh, I don't expect to get enthusiastic over it," said
Miss Nestor, who, now that she had taken her place in one of
the small seats under the engine, appeared as if she would
be glad of the chance to change her mind. But she did not.

"Now, if you take me more than five feet up in the air,
I'll never speak to you again, Tom Swift!" she exclaimed.

"Five feet it shall be, unless you yourself ask to go
higher," was the youth's reply, as he winked at Mr. Damon.
Well he knew the fascination of aeroplaning, and he was
almost sure of what would happen. "You can take a tape
measure along, and see for yourself," he added to his fair
passenger. "The barograph will hardly register such a little

"Well, it's as high as I want to go," said the girl. "Oh!"
with a scream, as Tom started the propeller. "Are we going?"

"In a moment," was his reply. He took his seat beside the
girl. The motor was speeded up until it sounded like the
roar of the ocean surf in a storm.

"Let her go!" cried Tom to Mr. Damon and Mr. Jackson, who
were holding back the Humming-Bird. They gave her a slight
shove to over-come the inertia, and the trim little craft
darted across the ground at every increasing speed.

Miss Nestor caught her breath with a gasp, glanced at Tom,
and noted how cool he was, and then her frantic grip of the
uprights slightly relaxed.

"We'll go up a little way in a minute!" shouted Tom in her
ear as they were speeding over the level ground.

He pulled a lever slightly, and the Humming-Bird rose a
little in the air, but only for a short distance, not more
than five feet, and Tom held her there, though he had to run
the engine at a greater speed than would have been the case
had he been in the sustaining upper currents. It was as if
the Humming-Bird resented being held so closely to the

Around in a big circle, back and forth went the craft, at
no time being more than seven feet from the ground. Tom
glanced at Miss Nestor. Her cheeks were unusually red, and
there was a bright sparkle in her eyes.

"It's glorious!" she cried. "Do you--do you think there's
any danger in going higher? I believe I'd like to go up a

"I knew it!" cried Tom. "Up we go!" And he pulled the
wind-bending plane lever toward him. Upward shot the craft,
as if alive.

"Oh!" gasped Mary.

"Sit still! It's all right!" commanded Tom.

"It's glorious; glorious!" she cried. I'm not a bit afraid

"I knew you wouldn't be," declared the young inventor, who
had calculated on the fascination which the motion through
the air, untrammeled and free, always produces. "Shall we go

"Yes!" cried Miss Nestor, and she gazed fearlessly down at
the earth, which was falling away from beneath their feet.
She was in the grip of the air, and it was a new and
wonderful sensation.

Tom went up to a considerable distance, for, once a person
loses his first fright, one hundred feet or one thousand
feet elevation makes little difference to him. It was this
way with Miss Nestor.

Now, indeed, could Tom demonstrate to her some of the fine
points of navigation in the upper currents, and though he
did no risky "stunts," he showed the girl what it means to
do an ascending spiral, how to cut corners, how to twist
around in the figure eight, and do other things. Tom did not
try for the great speed of which he knew his craft was
capable, for he knew there was some risk with Miss Nestor
aboard. But he did nearly everything else, and when he sent
the Humming-Bird down he had made another convert and
devotee to the royal sport of aeroplaning.

"Oh! I never would dared believe I could do it!' exclaimed
the girl, as with flushed cheeks and dancing eyes she
dismounted from the seat. "Mamma and papa will never believe
I did it!"

"Bring them over, and I'll take them for a flight," said
Tom, with a laugh, as Mary departed.

Tom received an answer to his letter to Mr. Sharp that

"Andy Foger's entry blank states," wrote the balloonist,
"that he is constructing his aeroplane in the village of
Hampton, which is about fifty miles from your place. If
there is anything further I can do for you, Tom, let me
know. I will see you at the meet. Hope you win the prize."

"In Hampton, eh?" mused Tom. "So that's where Andy has
been keeping himself all this while. His uncle lives there,
and that's the reason for it. He wanted to keep it a secret
from me, so he could use my stolen plans for his craft. But
he shan't do it! I'll go to Hampton!"

"And I'll go with you!" declared Mr. Damon, who was with
Tom when he got the note from the balloonist. "We'll get to
the bottom of this mystery after a while, Tom."

Delaying a few days, to make the final changes in his
aeroplane, Tom and Mr. Damon departed for Hampton one
morning. They thought first of going in the Butterfly, but
as they wanted to keep their mission as secret as possible,
they decided to go by train, and arrive in the town quietly
and unostentatiously. They got to Hampton late that

"What's the first thing to be done?" asked Mr. Damon as
they walked up from the station, where they were almost the
only persons who alighted from the train.

"Go to the hotel," decided Tom. "There's only one, I was
told, so there's not much choice."

Hampton was a quiet little country town of about five
thousand inhabitants, and Tom soon learned the address of
Mr. Bentley, Andy's uncle, from the hotel clerk.

"What business is Mr. Bentley in?" asked Tom, for he
wanted to learn all he could without inquiring of persons
who might question his motives.

"Oh, he's retired," said the clerk. "He lives on the
interest of his money. But of late he's been erecting some
sort of a building on his back lot, like a big shed, and
folks are sort of wondering what he's doing in it. Keeps
mighty secret about it. He's got a young fellow helping

"Has he got red hair?" asked Tom, while his heart beat
strangely fast.

"Who? Mr. Bentley? No. His hair's black."

"I mean the young fellow."

"Oh! his? Yes, his is red. He's a nephew, or some relation
to Mr. Bentley. I did hear his name, but I've forgotten it.
Sandy, or Andy, or some such name as that."

This was near enough for Tom and Mr. Damon, and they did
not want to risk asking any more questions. They turned away
to go to their rooms, as the clerk was busy answering
inquiries from some other guests. A little later, supper
was served, and Tom, having finished, whispered to Mr. Damon
to join him upstairs as soon as he was through.

"What are you going to do?" asked the eccentric man.

"We're going out and have a look at this new shed by
moonlight," decided Tom. "I want to see what it's like, and,
if possible, I want to get a peep inside. I'll soon be able
to tell whether or not Andy is using my stolen plans."

"All right. I'm with you. Bless my bill of fare! But we
seem to be doing a lot of mysterious work of late."

"Yes," agreed Tom. "But if you have to bless anything to-
night, Mr. Damon, please whisper it. Andy, or some of his
friends, may be about the shed, and as soon as they hear one
of your blessings they'll know who's coming."

"Oh, I'll be careful," promised Mr. Damon.

"Andy will find out, sooner or later, that we are in
town," went on Tom, "but we may be able to learn to-night
what we want to know, and then we can tell how to act."

A little later, as if. they were merely strolling about,
Mr. Damon and Tom headed for Mr. Bentley's place, which was
on the outskirts of the town. There was a full moon, and the
night was just right for the kind of observation Tom wanted
to make. There were few persons abroad, and the young
inventor thought he would have no one spying on him.

They located the big house of Andy's uncle without
trouble. Going down a side street, they had a glimpse of a
shed, built of new boards, standing in the middle of a large
lot. About the structure was a new, high wooden fence, but
as Tom and his friend passed along it they saw that a gate
in it was open.

"I'm going in!" whispered Tom.

"Will it be safe?" asked Mr. Damon.

"I don't care whether it will be or not. I've got to know
what Andy is doing. Come on! We'll take a chance!"

Cautiously they entered the enclosure. The big shed was
dark, and stood out conspicuously in the moonlight.

"There doesn't seem to be any one here," whispered Tom. "I
wonder if we could get a look in the window?"

"It's worth trying, anyhow," agreed Mr. Damon. "I'm with
you, Tom."

They drew nearer to the shed. Suddenly Tom stepped on a
stick, which broke with a sharp report.

"Bless my spectacles!" cried Mr. Damon, half aloud.

There was silence for a moment, and then a voice cried

"Who's there? Hold on! Don't come any farther! It's

Tom and Mr. Damon stood still, and from behind the shed
stepped Andy Foger and a man.

"Oh! it's you, is it, Tom Swift?" exclaimed the red-haired
bully. "I thought you'd come sneaking around. Come on, Jake!
We'll make them wish they'd stayed home!" And Andy made a
rush for Tom.

Chapter Fourteen

The Great Test

"Bless my gizzard!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, who hardly knew
what to do. "We'd better be getting out of here, Tom!"

"Not much!" exclaimed the young inventor. "I never ran
from Andy Foger yet, and I'm not going to begin now."

He assumed an attitude of defense, and stood calmly
awaiting the onslaught of the bully; but Andy knew better
than to come to a personal argument with Tom, and so the
red-haired lad halted some paces off. The man, who had
followed young Foger, also stopped.

"What do you want around here, Tom Swift?" demanded Andy.

"You know very well what I want," said the young inventor,
calmly. "I want to know what you did with the aeroplane
plans you took from my house."

"I never took any!" declared Andy vigorously

"Well, there's no use discussing that," went on Tom. "What
I came here to find out, and I don't mind telling you, is
whether or not you are building a monoplane to compete
against me, and building it on a model invented by me; and
what's more, Andy Foger, I intend to find this out, too!"

Tom started toward the big shed, which loomed up in the

"Stand back!" cried Andy, getting in Tom's way. "I can
build any kind of an aeroplane I like, and you can't stop

"We'll see about that," declared the young inventor, as he
kept on. "I'm not going to allow my plans to be stolen, and
a monoplane made after them, and do nothing about it."

"You keep away!" snarled Andy, and he grabbed Tom by the
shoulder and struck him a blow in the chest. He must have
been very much excited, or otherwise he never would have
come to hostilities this way with Tom, whom he well knew
could easily beat him.

The blow, together with the many things he had suffered at
Andy's hands, was too much for our hero. He drew back his
fist, and a moment later Andy Foger was stretched out on the
grass. He lay there for a moment, and then rose up slowly to
his knees, his face distorted with rage.

"You--you hit me!" he snarled.

"Not until you hit first," said Tom calmly.

"Bless my punching bag! That's so!" exclaimed Mr. Damon.

"You'll suffer for this!" whined Andy, getting to his
feet, but taking care to retreat from Tom, who stood ready
for him. "I'll get square with you for this! Jake, come on,
and we'll get our guns!"

Andy turned and hurried back toward the shed, followed by
the evil-looking man, who had apparently been undecided
whether to attack Mr. Damon or Tom. Now the bully and his
companion were in full retreat.

"We'll get our guns, and then we'll see whether they'll
want to stay where they're not wanted!" went on Andy,

"Bless my powderhorn! What had we better do?" asked Mr.

"I guess we'd better go back," said Tom calmly. "Not that
I'm afraid of Andy. His talk about guns is all bluff; but I
don't want to get into any more of a row, and he is just ugly
and reckless enough to make trouble. I'm afraid we can't
learn what we came to find out, though I'm more convinced
than ever that Andy is using my plans to make his

"But what can you do?"

"I'll see Mr. Sharp, and send a protest to the aviation
committee. I'll refuse to enter if Andy flies in a model of
my Humming-Bird, and I'll try to prevent him from using it
after he gets it on the ground. That is all I can do, it
seems, lacking positive information. Come on, Mr. Damon.
Let's get back to our hotel, and we'll start for home in the

"I have a plan," whispered the odd man.

"What is it?" asked Tom, narrowly watching
for the reappearance of Andy and the man.

"I'll stay here until they come, then I'll pretend to run
away. They'll chase after me, and get all excited, and you
can go up and look in the shed windows. Then you can join me
later. How's that?"

"Too risky. They might fire at you by mistake. No. We'll
both go. I've found out more than enough to confirm my

They turned out of the lot which contained the shed, and
walked toward the road, just as Andy and his crony came

"Huh! You'd better go!" taunted the bully.

Tom had a bitter feeling in his heart. It seemed as if he
was defeated, and he did not like to retreat before Andy.

"You'd better not come back here again, either," went on

Tom and Mr. Damon did not reply, but kept on in silence.
They returned to Shopton the next day.

"Well," remarked Tom, when he had gone out to look at his
Humming-Bird, "I know one thing. Andy Foger may build a
machine something like this, but I don't believe he can put
in all the improvements I have, and certainly he can't equal
that engine; eh, dad?"

"I hope not, Tom," replied his father, who seemed to be
much improved in health.

"When are you going to try for speed?" asked Mr. Damon.

"To-morrow, if I can get it tuned up enough," replied Tom,
"and I think I can. Yes, we'll have the great test to-
morrow, and then I'll know whether I really have a chance
for that ten thousand dollars."

Never before had Tom been so exacting in his requirements
of his air craft as when, the next day, the Humming-Bird was
wheeled out to the flight ground, and gotten ready for the
test. The young inventor went over every bolt, brace, stay,
guy wire and upright. He examined every square inch of the
wings, the tips, planes and rudders. The levers, the
steering wheel, the automatic equilibrium attachments and
the balancing weights were looked at again and again.

As for the engine, had it been a delicate watch, Tom could
not have scrutinized each valve, wheel, cam and spur gear
more carefully. Then the gasoline tank was filled, the
magneto was looked after, the oil reservoirs were cleaned
out and freshly filled, and finally the lad remarked:

"Well, I guess I'm ready. Come along, Mr. Damon."

"Am I going with you in the test?"

"Surely. I've been counting on you. If you're to be with
me in the race, you want to get a sample of what we can do.
Take your place. Mr. Jackson, are you ready to time us?"

"All ready, Tom."

"And, dad, do you feel well enough to check back Mr.
Jackson's results? I don't want any errors."

"Oh, yes, Tom. I can do it."

"Very well, then. Now this is my plan. I'm going to mount
upward on an easy slant, and put her through a few stunts
first, to warm up, and see that everything is all right.
Then, when I give the signal, by dropping this small white
ball, that means I'm ready for you to start to time me. Then
I'll begin to try for the record. I'll go about the course
in a big ellipse, and--well, we'll see what happens."

While Mr. Damon was in his seat the young inventor started
the propeller, and noted the thrust developed. It was
satisfactory, as measured on the scale, and then Tom took
his place.

"Let her go!" he cried to Mr. Jackson and Eradicate, after
he had listened to the song of the motor for a moment. The
Humming-Bird flew across the course, and a moment later
mounted into the air.

Tom quickly took her up to about two thousand feet, and
there, finding the conditions to his liking, he began a few
evolutions designed to severely test the craft's stability,
and to learn whether the engine was working properly.

"How about it?" asked Mr. Damon anxiously.

"All right!" shouted Tom in his ear, for the motor was
making a great racket. "I guess we'll make the trial next
time we come around. Get ready to drop the signal ball."

Tom slowly brought the aeroplane around in a graceful
curve. He sighted down, and saw the first tall white pole
that marked the beginning of the course.

"Drop!" he called to Mr. Damon.

The white rubber ball went to the earth like a shot. Mr.
Jackson and Mr. Swift saw it, and started their timing-
watches. Tom opened the throttle and advanced the spark. The
great test was on!

The Humming-Bird trembled and throbbed with the awful
speed of the motor, like a thing alive. She seemed to rush
forward as an eagle dropping down from a dizzy height upon
some hapless prey.

"Faster yet!" murmured Tom. "We must go faster yet!"

The motor was warming up. Streaks of fire came from it.
The exhaust of the explosions was a continuous roar. Faster
and faster flew the frail craft.

Around and around the air course she circled. The wind
appeared to be rushing beneath the planes and rudders with
the velocity of a hurricane. Had it not been for the face
protectors they wore, Tom and Mr. Damon could not have
breathed. For ten minutes this fearful speed was kept up.
Then Tom, knowing he had run the motor to the limit, slowed
it down. Next he shut it off completely, and prepared to
volplane back to earth. The silence after the terrific
racket was almost startling. For a moment neither of the
aviators spoke. Then Mr. Damon said:

"Do you think you did it, Tom?"

"I don't know. We'll soon find out. They'll have the
record." And he motioned toward the earth, which they were
rapidly nearing.

Chapter Fifteen

A Noise in the Night

"Well, did I make it? Make any kind of a record?" asked
Tom eagerly, as he brought the trim little craft to a stop,
after it had rolled along the ground on the bicycle wheels.

"What do you think you did?" asked Mr. Jackson, who had
been busy figuring on a slip of paper.

"Did I get her up to ninety miles an hour?" inquired Tom
eagerly. "If I did, I know when the motor wears down a bit
smoother that I can make her hit a hundred in the race,
easily. Did I touch ninety, Mr. Jackson?"

"Better than that, Tom! Better than that!" cried his

"Yes," joined in Mr. Jackson. "Allowing for the difference
in our watches, Tom, your father and I figure that you did
the course at the rate of one hundred and twelve miles an

"One hundred and twelve!" gasped the young inventor,
hardly able to believe it.

"I made it a hundred and fifteen," said Mr. Swift, who was
almost as pleased as was his son, "and Mr. Jackson made it
one hundred and eleven; so we split the difference, so to
speak. You certainly have a sky racer, Tom, my boy!"

"And I'll need it, too, dad, if I'm to compete with Andy
Foger, who may have a machine almost like mine."

"But I thought you were going to object to him if he has,"
said Mr. Damon, who had hardly recovered from the speedy
flight through space.

"Well, I was just providing for a contingency, in case my
protest was overruled," remarked Tom. "But I'm glad the
Humming-Bird did so well on her first trial. I know she'll do
better the more I run her. Now we'll get her back in her
'nest,' and I'll look her over, when she cools down, and see
if anything has worked loose."

But the trim little craft needed only slight adjustments
after her tryout, for Tom had built her to stand up under a
terrific strain.

"We'll soon be in shape for the big race," he announced,
"and when I bring home that ten thousand dollars I'm going
to abandon this sky-scraping business, except for occasional

"What will you do to occupy your mind?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Oh, I'm going to travel," announced Tom. "Then there's my
new electric rifle, which I have not perfected yet. I'll
work on that after I win the big race."

For several days after the first real trial of his sky
racer Tom was busy going over the Humming-Bird, making
slight changes here and there. He was the sort of a lad who
was satisfied with nothing short of the best, and though
neither his father nor Mr. Jackson could see where there was
room for improvement, Tom was so exacting that he sat up for
several nights to perfect such little details as a better
grip for the steering-lever, a quicker way of making the
automatic equilibriumizer take its position, or an improved
transmitter for the wireless apparatus.

That was a part of his monoplane of which Tom was justly
proud, for though many aeroplanes to-day are equipped with
the sending device, few can receive wireless messages in
mid-air. But Tom had seen the advantage of this while making
a trip in the ill-fated Red Cloud to the cave of the diamond
makers, and he determined to have his new craft thus
provided against emergencies. The wireless outfit of the
Humming-Bird was a marvel of compactness.

Thus the days passed, with Tom very busy; so busy, in
fact, that he hardly had time to call on Miss Nestor. As for
Andy Foger, he heard no more from him, and the bully was not
seen around Shopton. Tom concluded that he was at his
uncle's place, working on his racing craft.

The young inventor sent a formal protest to the aviation
committee, to be used in the event of Andy entering a craft
which infringed on the Humming-Bird, and received word from
Mr. Sharp that the interests of the young inventor would be
protected. This satisfied Tom.

Still, at times, he could not help wondering how the first
plans had so mysteriously disappeared, and he would have
given a good deal to know just how Andy got possession of
them, and how he knew enough to use them.

"He, or some one whom he hired, must have gotten into our
house mighty quickly that day," mused Tom, "and then skipped
out while dad fell into a little doze. It was a mighty queer
thing, but it's lucky it was no worse."

The time was approaching for the big aviation meet. Tom's
craft was in readiness, and had been given several other
trials, developing more speed each time. Additional locks
were put on the doors of the shed, and more burglar-alarm
wires were strung, so that it was almost a physical
impossibility to get into the Humming-Bird's "nest" without
arousing some one in the Swift household.

"And if they do, I guess we'll be ready for them," said
Tom grimly. He had been unable to find out who it was that
had attempted once before to damage the monoplane, but he
suspected it was the ill-favored man who was working with

As for Mr. Swift, at times he seemed quite well, and again
he required the services of a physician.

"You will have to be very careful of your father, Tom,"
said Dr. Gladby. "Any sudden shock or excitement may
aggravate his malady, and in that case a serious operation
will be necessary."

"Oh, we'll take good care of him," said the lad; but he
could not help worrying, though he tried not to let his
father see the strain which he was under.

It was some days after this, and lacking about a week
until the meet was to open, when a peculiar thing happened.
Tom had given his Humming-Bird a tryout one day, and had
then begun to make arrangements for taking it apart and
shipping it to Eagle Park. For he would not fly to the meet
in it, for fear of some accident. So big cases had been

"I'll take it apart in the morning," decided Tom, as he
went to his room, after seeing to the burglar alarm, "and
ship her off. Then Mr. Damon and I will go there, set her
up, and get ready to win the race."

Tom had opened all the windows in his room, for it was
very warm. In fact it was so warm that sleep was almost out
of the question, and he got up to sit near the windows in
the hope of feeling a breeze.

There it was more comfortable, and he was just dozing off,
and beginning to think of getting back into bed, when he was
aware of a peculiar sound in the air overhead.

"I wonder if that's a heavy wind starting up?" he mused.
"Good luck, if it is! We need it." The noise increased,
sounding more and more like wind, but Tom, looking out into
the night, saw the leaves of the trees barely moving.

"If that's a breeze, it's taking its own time getting
here," he went on.

The sound came nearer, and then Tom knew that it was not
the noise of the wind in the trees. It was more like a
roaring and rumbling,

"Can it be distant thunder?" Tom asked himself. "There is
no sign of a storm." Once more he looked from the window.
The night was calm and clear--the trees as still as if they
were painted.

The sound was even more plain now, and Tom, who had sharp
ears, at once decided that it was just over the house--
directly overhead. An instant later he knew what it was.

"The motor of an aeroplane, or a dirigible balloon!" he
exclaimed. "Some one is flying overhead!"

For an instant he feared lest the shed had been broken
into, and his Humming-Bird taken, but a glance toward the
place seemed to show that it was all right.

Then Tom hastily made his way to where a flight of stairs
led to a little enclosed observatory on the roof.

"I'm going to see what sort of a craft it is making that
noise," he said.

As he opened the trap door, and stepped out into the
little observatory the sound was so plain as to startle him.
He looked up quickly, and, directly overhead he saw a
curious sight.

For, flying so low as to almost brush the lightning rod on
the chimney of the Swift home, was a small aeroplane, and,
as Tom looked up, he saw in a light that gleamed from it,
two figures looking down on him.

Chapter Sixteen

A Mysterious Fire

For a few moments Tom did not know what to think. Not that
the sight of aeroplanes in flight were any novelty to him,
but to see one flying over his house in the dead of night
was a little out of the ordinary. Then, as he realized that
night-flights were becoming more common, Tom tried to make
out the details of the craft.

"I wish I had brought the night glasses with me," he said

"Here they are," spoke a voice at his side, and so
suddenly that Tom was startled. He looked down, and saw Mr.
Jackson standing beside him.

"Did you hear the noise, too?" the lad asked the engineer.

"Yes. It woke me up. Then I heard you moving around, and I
heard you come up here. I thought maybe it was a flight of
meteors you'd come to see, and I knew the glasses would be
handy, so I stopped for them. Take a look, Tom. It's an
aeroplane; isn't it?"

"Yes, and not moving very fast, either. They seem to be
circling around here."

The young inventor was peering through the binoculars,
and, as soon as he had the mysterious craft in focus, he

"Look, Mr. Jackson, it's a new kind of monoplane. I never
saw one like it before. I wonder who could have invented
that? It's something like a santos-Dumont and a Bleriot,
with some features of Cornu's Helicopter. That's a queer

"It certainly is," agreed the engineer, who was now
sighting through the glasses. In spite of the darkness the
binoculars brought out the peculiarities of the aeroplane
with considerable distinctness.

"Can you make out who are in it?" asked Tom.

"No," answered Mr. Jackson. "You try."

But Tom had no better luck. There were two persons in the
odd machine, which was slowly flying along, moving in a
great circle, with the Swift house for its center.

"I wonder why they're hanging around here?" asked Tom,

"Perhaps they want to talk to you," suggested Mr. Jackson.
"They may be fellow inventor--perhaps one of them is that
Philadelphia man who had the Whizzer."

"No," replied the lad. "He would have sent me word if he
intended calling on me. Those are strangers, I think. There
they are, coming back again."

The mysterious aeroplane was once more circling toward the
watchers on the roof. There was a movement on the steps,
near which Tom was standing, and his father came up.

"Is anything the matter?" he asked anxiously.

"Only a queer craft circling around up here," was the
reply. "Come and see, dad."

Mr. Swift ascended to the roof. The aeroplane was higher
now, and those in her could not so easily be made out. Tom
felt a vague sense of fear, as though he was being watched
by the evil eyes of his enemies. More than once he looked
over to the shed where his craft was housed, as though some
danger might threaten it. But the shed of the Humming-Bird
showed no signs of invaders.

Suddenly the mysterious aeroplane increased its speed. It
circled about more quickly, and shot upward, as though to
show the watchers of what it was capable. Then, with a quick
swoop it darted downward, straight for the building where
Tom's newest invention was housed.

"Look out! They'll hit something!" cried the young
inventor, as though those in the aeroplane could hear him.

Then, just as though they had heeded his warning, the
pilots of the mysterious craft shot her upward, after she
had hovered for an instant over the big shed.

"That was a queer move," said Tom. "It looked as if they
lost control of her for a moment."

"And they dropped something!" cried Mr. Jackson. "Look!
something fell from the aeroplane on the roof of the shed."

"Some tool, likely," spoke Tom. "I'll get it in the
morning, and see what sort of instruments they carry. I'd
like to examine that machine, though."

The queer aeroplane was now shooting off in the darkness
and Tom followed it with the glasses, wondering what its
construction could be like. He was to have another sight of
it sooner than he expected.

"Well, we may as well get back to bed," said Mr. Jackson.
"I'm tired, and we've got lots to do to-morrow."

"Yes," agreed Tom. "It's cooler now. Come on, dad."

Tom fell into a light doze. He thought afterward he could
not have slept more than half an hour when he heard a
commotion out in the yard. For an instant he could not tell
what it was, and then, as he grew wider awake he knew that
it was the shouting of Eradicate Sampson, and the braying of

But what was Eradicate shouting?

"Fire! Fire! Fire!"

Tom leaped to his window.

"Wake up, Massa Tom! Wake up! De areoplane shed am on
fire, an' de Humming-Bird will burn up! Hurry! Hurry!"

Tom looked out. Flames were shooting up from the roof of
the shed where his precious craft was kept.

Chapter Seventeen

Mr. Swift is Worse

Almost before the echoes of Eradicate's direful warning
cry had died away, Tom was on his way out of the house,
pausing only long enough to slip on a pair of shoes and his
trousers. There was but one thought in his mind. If he could
get the Humming-Bird safely out he would not care if the
shed did burn, even though it contained many valuable tools
and appliances.

"We must save my new aeroplane!" thought Tom, desperately.
"I've got to save her!"

As he raced through the hall he caught up a portable
chemical fire-extinguisher. Tom saw his father's door open,
and Mr. Swift looked out.

"What is it?" he called anxiously.

"Fire!" answered the young inventor, almost before he
thought of the doctor's warning that Mr. Swift must not be
excited. Tom wished he could recall the word, but it was too
late. Besides Eradicate, down in the yard was shouting at
the top of his voice:

"Fire! Fire! Fire!"

"Where, Tom?" gasped Mr. Swift, and his son thought the
aged inventor grew suddenly paler.

"Aeroplane shed," answered the lad. "But don't worry dad.
It's only a small blaze. We'll get it out. You stay here.
We'll attend to it--Mr. Jackson and Eradicate and I."

"No--I'm going to help!" exclaimed Mr.
Swift, sturdily. "I'll be with you, Tom. Go on!"

The lad rushed down to the yard, closely followed by the
engineer, who had caught up another extinguisher. Eradicate
was rushing about, not knowing what to do, but still keeping
up his shouting.

"It's on de roof! De roof am all blazin'!" he yelled.

"Quit your noise, and get to work!" cried Tom. "Get out a
ladder, Rad, and raise it to the side of the shed. Then play
this extinguisher on the blaze. Mr. Jackson, you help me run
the Humming-Bird out. After she's safe we'll tackle the

Tom cast a hurried look at the burning shed. The flames
were shooting high up from the roof, now, and eating their
way down. As he rushed toward the big doors, which he
intended to open to enable him to run out his sky racer, he
was wondering how the fire came to start so high up as the
roof. He wondered if a meteor could have fallen and caused

As the doors, which were quickly unlocked by Tom, swung
back, and as he and the engineer started to go in, they were
met by choking fumes as if of some gas. They recoiled for
the moment.

"What--what's that?" gasped Tom, coughing and sneezing.

"Some chemical--I--I don't know what kind," spluttered Mr.
Jackson. "Have you any carboys of acid in there Tom, that
might have exploded by the heat?"

"No; not a thing. Let's try again."

Once more they tried to go in, but were again driven back
by the distressing fumes. The fire was eating down, now.
There was a hole burned in the roof, and by the leaping
tongues of flame Tom could see his aeroplane. It was almost
in the path of the blaze.

"We must get her out!" he shouted. "I'm going in!"

But it was impossible, and the daring young inventor
nearly succumbed to the choking odors. Mr. Jackson dragged
him back.

"We can't go in!" he cried. "There has been some
mysterious work here! Those fumes were put here to keep us
from saving the machine. This fire has been set by some
enemy! We can't go in!"

"But I am going!" declared Tom. "We'll try the back door."

They rushed to that, but again were driven out by the
gases and vapors, which were mingled with the smoke.
Disheartened, yet with a wild desire to do something to save
his precious craft, Tom Swift drew back for a moment.

As he did so he heard a hiss, as Eradicate turned the
chemical stream on the blaze. Tom looked up. The faithful
colored man was on a ladder near the burning roof, acting
well his part as a fireman.

"That's the stuff!" cried Tom. "Come on, Mr. Jackson.
Maybe if we use the chemical extinguishers we can drive out
those fumes!"

The engineer understood. He took up the extinguisher he
had brought, and Tom got a second one from a nearby shed.
Then Mr. Swift came out bearing another.

"You shouldn't have come, dad! We can attend to it!" cried
Tom, fearing for the effect of the excitement on his invalid

"Oh, I couldn't stay there and see the shed burn. Are you
getting it under control? Why don't you run out the Humming-

Tom did not mention the choking fumes. He passed up a full
extinguisher to Eradicate, who had used all the chemical in
his. Then Tom got another ladder, and soon three streams
were being directed on the flames. They had eaten, a pretty
big hole in the roof, but the chemicals were slowly telling
on them.

As soon as he saw that Eradicate and Mr. Jackson could
control the blaze, Tom descended to the ground, and ran once
more to the big doors. He was determined to make another try
to wheel out the aeroplane, for he saw from above that the
flames were now on the side wall, and might reach the craft
any minute. And it would not take much to inflict serious
damage on the sky racer.

"I'll get her, fumes or no fumes!" murmured Tom, grimly.
And, whether it was the effect of the chemical streams, or
whether the choking odors were dissipated through the hole
in the roof was not manifested, but, at any rate, Tom found
that he could go in, though he coughed and gasped for

He wheeled the aeroplane outside, for the Humming-Bird was
almost as light as her namesake. A hurried glance by the
gleam of the dying fire assured Tom that his craft was not
damaged beyond a slight scorching of one of the wing tips.

"That was a narrow escape!" he murmured, as he wheeled the
sky racer far away, out of any danger from sparks. Then he
went back to help fight the fire, which was extinguished in
about ten minutes more.

"It was a mighty queer blaze," said Mr. Jackson, "starting
at the top that way. I wonder what caused it?"

"We'll investigate in the morning," decided Tom. "Now,
dad, you must get back to your room." He turned to help his
father in, but at that moment Mr. Swift, who was trying to
say something, fell over in a dead faint.

"Quick! Help me carry him into the house!" cried Tom.
"Then telephone for Dr. Gladby, Mr. Jackson."

The physician looked grave when, half an hour later, he
examined his patient.

"Mr. Swift is very much worse," he said in a low voice.
"The excitement of the fire has aggravated his ailment. I
would like another doctor to see him, Tom."

"Another doctor?" Tom's voice showed his alarm.

"Yes, we must have a consultation. I think Dr. Kurtz will
be a good one to call in. I should like his opinion before I
decide what course to take."

"I'll send Eradicate for him at once," said the young
inventor, and he went to give the colored man his
instructions, while his heart was filled with a great fear
for his father.

Chapter Eighteen

The Broken Bridge

Dr. Kurtz looked as grave as did Dr. Gladby when he had
made an examination of the patient. Mr. Swift was still in a
semi-conscious condition, hardly breathing as he rested on
the bed where they had placed him after the fire.

"Vell," said the German physician, after a long silence,
"vot is your obinion, my dear Gladby?"

"I think an operation is necessary."

"Yes, dot is so; but you know vot kind of an operation
alone vill safe him; eh, my dear Gladby?"

Dr. Gladby nodded.

"It will be a rare and delicate one," he said. "There is
but one surgeon I know of who can do it."

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