Part 1 out of 4
TOM SWIFT AND HIS WAR TANK
Doing His Bit For Uncle Sam
Tom Swift and His War Tank
I Past Memories
II Tom's Indifference
III Ned is Worried
IV Queer Doings
V "Is He a Slacker?"
VI Seeing Things
VII Up a Tree
VIII Detective Rad
IX A Night Test
X A Runaway Giant
XI Tom's Tank
XII Bridging a Gap
XIII Into a Trench
XIV The Ruined Factory
XV Across Country
XVI The Old Barn
XVII Veiled Threats
XVIII Ready for France
XIX Tom Is Missing
XX The Search
XXI A Prisoner
TOM SWIFT AND HIS WAR TANK
Ceasing his restless walk up and down the room, Tom Swift
strode to the window and gazed across the field toward the
many buildings, where machines were turning out the products
evolved from the brains of his father and himself. There was
a worried look on the face of the young inventor, and he
seemed preoccupied, as though thinking of something far
removed from whatever it was his eyes gazed upon.
"Well, I'll do it!" suddenly exclaimed Tom. "I don't want
to, but I will. It's in the line of 'doing my bit,' I
suppose; but I'd rather it was something else. I wonder--"
"Ha! Up to your old tricks, I see, Tom!" exclaimed a
voice, in which energy and friendliness mingled pleasingly.
"Up to your old tricks!"
"Oh, hello, Mr. Damon!" cried Tom, turning to shake hands
with an elderly gentleman--that is, elderly in appearance
but not in action, for he crossed the room with the
springing step of a lad, and there was the enthusiasm of
youth on his face. "What do you mean--my old tricks?"
"Talking to yourself, Tom. And when you do that it means
there is something in the wind. I hope, as a sort of side
remark, it isn't rain that's in the wind, for the soldiers
over at camp have had enough water to set up a rival
establishment with Mr. Noah. But there's something going on,
isn't there? Bless my memorandum book, but don't tell me
there isn't, or I shall begin to believe I have lost all my
deductive powers of reasoning! I Come in here, after
knocking two or three times, to which you pay not the least
attention, and find you mysteriously murmuring to yourself.
"The last time that happened, Tom, was just before you
started to dig the big tunnel-- No, I'm wrong. It was just
before you started for the Land of Wonders, as we decided it
ought to be called. You were talking to yourself then, when
I walked in on you, and-- Say, Tom!" suddenly exclaimed Mr.
Damon eagerly, "don't tell me you're going off on another
wild journey like that--don't!"
"Why?" asked Tom, smiling at the energy of his caller.
"Because if you are, I'll want to go with you, of course,
and if I go it means I'll have to start in as soon as I can
to bring my wife around to my way of thinking. The last
time I went it took me two weeks to get her to consent, and
then she didn't like it. So if--"
"No, Mr. Damon," interrupted Tom, "I don't count on going
on any sort of a trip--that is, any long one. I was just
getting ready to take a little spin in the Hawk, and if
you'd like to come along--"
"You mean that saucy little airship of yours, Tom, that's
always trying to sit down on her tail, or tickle herself
with one wing?"
"That's the Hawk!" laughed Tom; "though that tickling
business you speak of is when I spiral. Don't you like it?"
"Can't say I do," observed Mr. Damon dryly.
"Well, I'll promise not to try any stunts if you come
along," Tom went on.
"Where are you going?" asked his friend.
"Oh, no place in particular. As you surmised, I've been
doing a bit of thinking, and--"
"Serious thinking, too, Tom!" interrupted Mr. Damon.
"Excuse me, but I couldn't help overhearing what you said.
It was something about going to do something though you
didn't want to, and that it was part of your 'bit'. That
sounds like soldier talk. Are you going to enlist, Tom?"
"Um! Well, then--"
"It's something I can't talk about, Mr. Damon, even to
you, as yet," Tom said, and there was a new quality in his
voice, at which his friend looked up in some surprise.
"Oh, of course, Tom, if it's a secret--"
"Well, it hasn't even got that far, as yet. It's all up in
the air, so to speak. I'll tell you in due season. But,
speaking of the air, let's go for a spin. It may drive some
of the cobwebs out of my brain. Did I hear you say you
thought it would rain?"
"No, it's as clear as a bell. I said I hoped it wouldn't
rain for the sake of the soldiers in camp. They've had their
share of wet weather, and, goodness knows, they'll get more
when they get to Flanders. It seems to do nothing but rain
"It is damp," agreed Tom. "And, come to think of it, they
are going to have some airship contests over at camp today--
for the men who are being trained to be aviators, you know.
It just occurred to me that we might fly over there and
"Fine!" cried Mr. Damon. "That's the very thing I should
like. I'll take a chance in your Hawk, Tom, if you'll
promise not to try any spiral stunts."
"I promise, Mr. Damon. Come on! I'll have Koku run the
machine out and get her ready for a flight to Camp. It's a
good day for a jaunt in the air."
"Get out the Hawk, Koku," ordered the young inventor, as
he motioned to a big man--a veritable giant--who nodded to
show he understood. Koku was really a giant, one of a race
of strange beings, and Tom Swift had brought the big man
with him when he escaped from captivity, as those will
remember who have read that book.
"Going far, Tom?" asked an aged man, coming to the door of
one of the many buildings of which the shed where the
airship was kept formed one.
"Not very far, Father," answered the young inventor.
"Mr. Damon and I are going for a little spin over to Camp
Grant, to see some aircraft contests among the army
"Oh, all right, Tom. I just wanted to tell you that I
think I've gotten over that difficulty you found with the
big carburetor you were working on. You didn't say what you
wanted it for, except that it was for a heavy duty gasolene
engine, and you couldn't get the needle valve to work as
you'd like. I think I've found a way."
"Good, Dad! I'll look at it when I come back. That
Carburetor did bother me, and if I can get that to work--
well, maybe we'll have something soon that will--"
But Tom did not finish his sentence, for Koku was getting
the aircraft in operation and Mr. Damon was already taking
his place behind the pilot's seat, which would be occupied
"All ready, are you, Koku?" asked the young inventor.
"All ready, Master," answered the giant.
There was a roar like that of a machine gun as the Hawk's
engine spun the propeller, and then, after a little run
across the sod, it mounted into the air, carrying Tom and
Mr. Damon with it.
"Mind you, Tom, no stunts!" called the visitor to the
young inventor through the speaking tube apparatus, which
enabled a conversation to be carried on, even above the roar
of the powerful engine. "Bless my overshoes! if you try,
looping the loop with me--"
"I won't do anything like that!" promised Tom.
Away they soared, swift as a veritable hawk, and soon,
after there had unrolled below their eyes a succession of
fields and forest, there came into view rows and rows of
small brown objects, among which beings, like ants, seemed
"There's the Camp!" exclaimed Tom.
"I see," and Mr. Damon nodded.
As they approached, they saw, starting up from a green
space amid the brown tents, what appeared to be big bugs of
a dirty white color splotched with green.
"The aircraft--and they have camouflage paint on," said
Tom. "We can watch 'em from up here!"
Mr. Damon nodded, though Tom could not see him, sitting in
front of his friend as he was.
Up and up circled the army aircraft, and they seemed to
bow and nod a greeting to the Hawk, which was soon in the
midst of them. Tom and Mr. Damon, flying high, though at no
great speed, looked at the maneuvers of the veterans and
the learners--many of whom might soon be engaging the Boches
in far-off France.
"Some of 'em are pretty good!" called Tom, through the
tube. "That one fellow did the loop as prettily as I've ever
seen it done," and Tom Swift had a right to speak as one of
Tom and his friend watched the aircraft for some time, and
then started off in a long flight, attaining a high speed,
which, at first, made Mr. Damon gasp, until he became used
to it. He was no novice at flying, and had even operated
aeroplanes himself, though at no great height.
Suddenly the Hawk seemed to falter, almost as does a bird
stricken by a hunter's gun. The craft seemed to hang in the
air, losing motion as though about to plunge to earth
"What's the matter?" cried Mr. Damon.
"One of the control wires broken!" was Tom's laconic
answer. "I'll have to volplane down. Sit tight, there's no
Mr. Damon knew that with so competent a pilot as Tom Swift
in the forward seat this was true, but, nevertheless, he was
a bit nervous until he felt the smooth, gliding motion, with
now and then an upward tilt, which showed that Tom was
coming down from the upper regions in a series of long
glides. The engine had stopped, and the cessation of the
thundering noise made it possible for Tom and his passenger
to talk without the use of the speaking tube.
"All right?" asked Mr. Damon.
"All right," Tom answered, and a little later the machine
was rolling gently over the turf of a large field, a mile or
so from the camp.
Before Tom and Mr. Damon could get out of their seats, a
man, seemingly springing up from some hollow in the ground,
walked toward them.
"Had an accident?" he asked, in what he evidently meant
for a friendly voice.
"A little one, easily mended," Tom answered.
He was about to take off his goggles, but at sight of the
man's face a change came over the countenance of Tom Swift,
and he replaced the eye protectors. Then Tom turned to Mr.
Damon, as if to ask a question, but the stranger came so
close, evidently curious to see the aircraft at close
quarters, that the young inventor could not speak without
Tom got out his kit of tools to repair the broken control,
and the man watched him curiously. As he tinkered away,
something was stirring among the past memories of the
inventor. A question he asked himself over and over again
"Where have I seen this man before? His face is familiar,
but I can't place him. He is associated with something
unpleasant. But where have I seen this man before?"
"Did you make this machine yourself?" asked the stranger
of Tom, as the young inventor worked at the damaged part of
Mr. Damon had also alighted, taken off his goggles, and
was looking aloft, where the army aircraft were going
through various evolutions, and down below, where the young
soldiers were drilling under such conditions, as far as
possible, as they might meet with when some of their number
went "over the top." Mr. Damon was murmuring to himself
such remarks as:
"Bless my fountain pen! look at that chap turning upside
down! Bless my inkwell!"
"I beg your pardon," remarked Tom Swift, following the
remark of the man, whose face he was trying to recall. It
was not that Tom had not heard the question, but he was
trying to gain time before answering.
"I asked if you made this machine yourself," went on the
man, as he peered about at the Hawk. "It isn't like any I've
ever seen before, and I know something about airships. It
has some new wrinkles on it, and I thought you might have
evolved them yourself. Not that it's an amateur affair, by
any means!" he added hastily, as if fearing the young
inventor might resent the implication that his machine was a
"Yes, I originated this," answered Tom, as he put a new
turn-buckle in place; "but I didn't actually construct it--
that is, except for some small parts. It was made in the
"Over at the army construction plant, I presume,"
interrupted the man quickly, as he motioned toward the big
factory, not far from Shopton, where aircraft for Uncle
Sam's Army were being turned out by the hundreds.
"Might as well let him think that," mused Tom; "at least
until I can figure out who he is and what he wants."
"This is different from most of those up there," and the
stranger pointed toward the circling craft on high. "A bit
more speedy, I guess, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, in a way," agreed Tom, who was lending over
his craft. He stole a side look at the man. The face was
becoming more and more familiar, yet something about it
puzzled Tom Swift.
"I've seen him before, and yet he didn't look like that,"
thought the young inventor. "It's different, somehow. Now
why should my memory play me a trick like this? Who in the
world can he be?"
Tom straightened up, and tossed a monkey wrench into the
"Get everything fixed?" asked the stranger.
"I think so," and the young inventor tried to make his
answer pleasant. "It was only a small break, easily fixed."
"Then you'll be on your way again?"
"Yes. Are you ready?" called Tom to Mr. Damon.
"Bless my timetable, yes! I didn't think you'd start back
again so soon. There's one young fellow up there who has
looped the loop three times, and I expect him to fall any
"Oh, I guess he knows his business," Tom said easily.
"We'll be getting back now."
"One moment!" called the man. "I beg your pardon for
troubling you, but you seem to be a mechanic, and that's
just the sort of man I'm looking for. Are you open to an
offer to do some inventive and constructive work?"
Tom was on his guard instantly.
"Well, I can't say that I am," he answered. "I am pretty
"This would pay well," went on the man eagerly. "I am a
stranger around here, but I can furnish satisfactory
references. I am in need of a good mechanic, an inventor as
well, who can do what you seem to have done so well. I had
hopes of getting some one at the army plant"
"I guess they're not letting any of their men go," said
Tom, as Mr. Damon climbed to his seat in the Hawk.
"No, I soon found that out. But I thought perhaps you--"
Tom shook his head.
"I'm sorry," he answered, "but I'm otherwise engaged, and
"One moment!" called the man, as he saw Tom about to start
"Is the Swift Company plant far from here?"
Tom felt something like a thrill go through him. There was
an unexpected note in the man's voice. The face of the young
inventor lightened, and the doubts melted away.
"No, it isn't far," Tom answered, shouting to be heard
above the crackling bangs of the motor. And then, as the
craft soared into the air, he cried exultingly:
"I have it! I know who he is! The scoundrel! His beard
fooled me, and he probably didn't know me with these goggles
on. But now I know him!"
"Bless my calendar!" cried Mr. Damon. "What are you
But Tom did not answer, for the reason that just then the
Hawk fell into an "air pocket," and needed all his attention
to straighten her out and get her on a level course again.
And while Tom Swift is thus engaged in speeding his
aircraft along the upper regions toward his home, it will
take but a few moments to acquaint my new readers with
something of the history of the young inventor. Those who
have read the previous books in this series need be told
nothing about our hero.
Tom Swift was an inventor of note, as was his father. Mr.
Swift was now quite aged and not in robust health, but he
was active at times and often aided Tom when some knotty
point came up.
Tom and his father lived on the outskirts of the town of
Shopton, and near their home were various buildings in which
the different machines and appliances were made. Tom's
mother was dead, but Mrs. Baggert, the housekeeper, was as
careful in looking after Tom and his father as any woman
In addition to these three, the household consisted of
Eradicate Sampson, an aged colored servant, and, it might
almost be added, his mule Boomerang; but Boomerang had
manners that, at times, did not make him a welcome addition
to any household. Then there was the giant Koku, one of two
big men Tom had brought back with him from the land where
the young inventor had been held captive for a time.
The first book of this series is called "Tom Swift and His
Motor Cycle," and it was in acquiring possession of that
machine that Tom met his friend Mr. Wakefield Damon, who
lived in a neighboring town. Mr. Damon owned the motor cycle
originally, but when it attempted to climb a tree with him
he sold it to Tom.
Tom had many adventures on the machine, and it started him
on his inventive career. From then on he had had a series of
surprising adventures. He had traveled in his motor boat, in
an airship, and then had taken to a submarine. In his
electric runabout he showed what the speediest car on the
road Could do, and when he sent his wireless message, the
details of which can be found set down in the volume of that
name, Tom saved the castaways of Earthquake Island.
Tom Swift had many other thrilling escapes, one from among
the diamond makers, and another from the caves of ice; and
he made the quickest flight on record in his sky racer.
Tom's wizard camera, his great searchlight, his giant
cannon, his photo telephone, his aerial warship and the big
tunnel he helped to dig, brought him credit, fame, and not a
little money. He had not long been back from an expedition
to Honduras, dubbed "the land of wonders," when he was again
busy en some of his many ideas. And it was to get some
relief from his thoughts that he had taken the flight with
Mr. Damon on the day the present story opens.
"What are you so excited about, Tom?" asked his friend, as
the Hawk alighted near the shed hack of the young inventor's
home. "Bless my scarf pin! but any one would think you'd
just discovered the true method of squaring the circle."
"Well, it's almost as good as that, and more practical,"
Tom said, with a smile, as he motioned to Koku to put away
the aircraft "I know who that man is, now."
"What man, Tom?"
"The one who was questioning me when I was fixing the
airship. I kept puzzling and puzzling as to his identity,
and, all at once, it came to me. Do you know who he is, Mr.
"No, I can't say that I do, Tom. But, as you say, there
was something vaguely familiar about him. It seemed as if I
must have seen him before, and yet--"
"That's just the way it struck me. What would you say if I
told you that man was Blakeson, of Blakeson and Grinder, the
rival tunnel contractors who made such trouble for us?"
"You mean down in Peru, Tom?"
Mr. Damon started in surprise, and then exclaimed:
"Bless my ear mufflers, Tom, but you're right! That was
Blakeson! I didn't know him with his beard, but that was
Blakeson, all right! Bless my foot-warmer! What do you
suppose he is doing around here?"
"I don't know, Mr. Damon, but I'd give a good deal to
know. It isn't any good, I'll wager on that. He didn't seem
to know me or you, either--unless he did and didn't let on.
I suppose it was because of my goggles--and you were gazing
up in the air most of the time. I don't think he knew either
"It didn't seem so, Tom. But what is he doing here? Do you
think he is working at the army camp, or helping make
Liberty Motors for the aircraft that are going to beat the
"Hardly. He didn't seem to be connected with the camp. He
wanted a mechanic, and hinted that I might do. Jove! if he
really didn't know who I was, and finds out, say! won't he
"Rather," agreed Mr Damon. "Well, Tom, I bad a nice little
ride. And now I must be getting back. But if you contemplate
a trip anywhere, don't forget to let me know."
"I don't count on going anywhere soon," Tom answered. "I
have something on hand that will occupy all my time, though
I don't just like it. However, I'm going to do my best," and
he waved good-bye to Mr. Damon, who went off blessing
various parts of his anatomy or clothing, an odd habit he
As Tom turned to go into the house, the unsettled look
still on his face, some one hailed him.
"I say, Tom. Hello! Wait a minute! I've got something to
"Oh, hello, Ned Newton!" Called back the young inventor.
"Well, if it's Liberty Bonds, you don't need to show me any,
for dad and I will buy all we can without seeing them."
"I know that, Tom, and it was a dandy subscription you
gave me. I didn't come about that, though I may be around
the next time Uncle Sam wants the people to dig down in
their socks. This is something different," and Ned Newton, a
young banker of Shopton and a lifelong friend of Tom's, drew
a paper from his pocket as he advanced across the lawn.
"There, Tom Swift!" he cried, flipping out an illustrated
page, evidently from some illustrated newspaper. "There's
the very latest from the other side. A London banker friend
of mine sent it to me, and it got past the censor all right.
It's the first authentic photograph of the newest and
biggest British tank. Isn't that a wonder?"
Ned held up the paper which had in it a fullpage
photograph of a monster tank--those weird machines traveling
on endless steel belts of caterpillar construction, armored,
riveted and plated, with machine guns bristling here and
"Isn't that great, Tom? Can you beat it? It's the most
wonderful machine of the age, even counting some of yours.
Can you beat it?"
Tom took the paper indifferently, and his manner surprised
"Well, what's the matter, Tom?" asked Ned. "Don't you
think that great? Why don't you say something? You don't
mean to say you've seen that picture before?"
"Then what's the matter with you? Isn't that wonderful?"
Ned is Worried
Tom Swift did not answer for several seconds. He stood
holding the paper Ned had given him, the sun slanting on the
picture of the big British tank. But the young inventor did
not appear to see it. Instead, his eyes were as though
contemplating something afar off.
"Well, this gets me!" cried Ned, his voice showing
impatience. "Here I go and get a picture of the latest
machine the British armies are smashing up the Boches with,
and bring it to you fresh from the mail--I even quit my
Liberty Bond business to do it, and I know some dandy
prospects, too--and here you look at it like a--like a
fish!" burst out Ned.
"Say, old man, I guess that's right!" admitted Tom. "I
wasn't thinking about it, to tell you the truth."
"Why not?" Ned demanded. "Isn't it great, Tom? Did you
ever see anything like it?"
"You did?" Cried Ned, in surprise. "Where? Say, Tom Swift,
are you keeping something from me?"
"I mean no, Ned. I never have seen a British tank."
"Well, did you ever see a picture like this before?" Ned
"No, not exactly like that But--"
"Well, what do you think of it?" cried the young banker,
who was giving much of his time to selling bonds for the
Government. "Isn't it great?"
Tom considered a moment before replying. Then he said
"Well, yes, Ned, it is a pretty good machine. But--"
"'But!' Howling tomcats! Say, what's the 'matter with you,
anyhow, Tom? This is great! 'But!' 'But me no buts!' This
is, without exception, the greatest thing out since an
airship. It will win the war for us and the Allies, too, and
don't you forget it! Fritz's barbed wire and dugouts and
machine gun emplacements can't stand for a minute against
these tanks! Why, Tom, they can crawl on their back as well
as any other way, and they don't mind a shower of shrapnel
or a burst of machine gun lead, any more than an alligator
minds a swarm of gnats. The only thing that makes 'em
hesitate a bit is a Jack Johnson or a Bertha shell, and it's
got to be a pretty big one, and in the right place, to do
much damage. These tanks are great, and there's nothing like
"Oh, yes there is, Ned!"
"There is!" cried Ned. "What do you mean?"
"I mean there may be something like them--soon."
"There may? Say, Tom--"
"Now don't ask me a lot of questions, Ned, for I can't
answer them. When I say there may be something like them, I
mean it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that some
one--perhaps the Germans--may turn out even bigger and
"Oh!" And Ned's voice showed his disappointment. "I
thought maybe you were in on that game yourself, Tom. Say,
couldn't you get up something almost as good as this?" and
he indicated the picture in the paper. "Isn't that
"Oh, well, it's good, Ned, but there are others. Yes, Dad,
I'm coming," he called, as he saw his father beckoning to
him from a distant building.
"Well, I've got to get along," said Ned. "But I certainly
am disappointed, Tom. I thought you'd go into a fit over
this picture--it's one of the first allowed to get out of
England, my London friend said. And instead of enthusing
you're as cold as a clam;" and Ned shook his head in puzzled
and disappointed fashion as he walked slowly along beside
the young inventor.
They passed a new building, one of the largest in the
group of the many comprising the Swift plant. Ned looked at
the door which bore a notice to the effect that no one was
admitted unless bearing a special permit, or accompanied by
Mr. Swift or Tom.
"What's this, Tom?" asked Ned. "Some new wrinkle?"
"Yes, an invention I'm working on. It isn't in shape yet
to be seen."
"It must be something big, Tom," observed Ned, as he
viewed the large building.
"And say, what a whopping big fence you've got around the
back yard!" went on the young banker. "Looks like a baseball
field, but it would take some scrambling on the part of a
back-lots kid to get over it."
"That's what it's for--to keep people out."
"I see! Well, I've got to get along. I'm a bit back in my
day's quota of selling Liberty Bonds, and I've got to
hustle. I'm sorry I bothered you about that tank picture,
"Oh, it wasn't a bother--don't think that for a minute,
Ned! I was glad to see it."
"Well, he didn't seem so, and his manner was certainly
queer," mused Ned, as he walked away, and turned in time to
see Tom enter the new building, which had such a high fence
all around it "I never saw him more indifferent. I wonder if
Tom isn't interested in seeing Uncle Sam help win this war?
That's the way it struck me. I thought surely Tom would go
up in the air, and say this was a dandy," and Ned unfolded
the paper and took another look at the British tank
photograph. "If there's anything can beat that I'd like to
see it," he mused.
"But I suppose Tom has discovered some new kind of air
stabilizer, or a different kind of carburetor that will
vaporize kerosene as well as gasolene. If he has, why
doesn't he offer it to Uncle Sam? I wonder if Tom is pro-
German? No, of Course he can't be!" and Ned laughed at his
"At the same time, it is queer," he mused on. "There is
something wrong with Tom Swift."
Once more Ned looked at the picture. It was a
representation of one of the newest and largest of the
British tanks. In appearance these are not unlike great
tanks, though they are neither round nor square, being
shaped, in fact, like two wedges with the broad ends put
together, and the sharper ends sticking out, though there is
no sharpness to a tank, the "noses" both being blunt.
Around each outer edge runs an endless belt of steel
plates, hinged together, with ridges at the joints, and
these broad belts of steel plates, like the platforms of
some moving stairways used in department stores, moving
around, give motion to the tank.
Inside, well protected from the fire of enemy guns by
steel plates, are the engines for driving the belts, or
caterpillar wheels, as they are called. There is also the
steering apparatus, and the guns that fire on the enemy.
There are cramped living and sleeping quarters for the
tank's crew, more limited than those of a submarine.
The tank is ponderous, the smallest of them, which were
those first constructed, weighing forty-two tons, or about
as much as a good-sized railroad freight car. And it is this
ponderosity, with its slow but resistless movement, that
gives the tank its power.
The tank, by means of the endless belts of steel plates,
can travel over the roughest country. It can butt into a
tree, a stone wall, or a house, knock over the obstruction,
mount it, crawl over it, and slide down into a hole on the
other side and crawl out again, on the level, or at an
angle. Even if overturned, the tanks can sometimes right
themselves and keep on. At the rear are trailer wheels,
partly used in steering and partly for reaching over gaps or
getting out of holes. The tanks can turn in their own
length, by moving one belt in one direction and the other
Inside there is nothing much but machinery of the gasolene
type, and the machine guns. The tank is closed except for
small openings out of which the guns project, and slots
through which the men inside look out to guide themselves or
direct their fire.
Such, in brief, is a British tank, one of the most
powerful and effective weapons yet loosed against the
Germans. They are useful in tearing down the barbed-wire
entanglements on the Boche side of No Man's Land, and they
can clear the way up to and past the trenches, which they
can straddle and wriggle across like some giant worm.
"And to think that Tom Swift didn't enthuse over these!"
murmured Ned. "I wonder what's the matter with him!"
There was a subdued air of activity about the Swift plant.
Subdued, owing to the fact that it was mostly confined to
one building--the new, large one, about which stretched a
high and strong fence, made with tongue-and-groove boards so
that no prying eyes might find a crack, even, through which
In and out of the other buildings the workmen went as they
pleased, though there were not many of them, for Tom and his
father were devoting most of their time and energies to what
was taking place in the big, new structure. But here there
was an entirely different procedure.
Workmen went in and out, to be sure, but each time they
emerged they were scrutinized carefully, and when they went
in they had to exhibit their passes to a man on guard at the
single entrance; and the passes were not scrutinized
Near the building, about which there seemed to be an air
of mystery, one day, a week after the events narrated in the
opening chapters, strolled the giant Koku. Not far away,
raking up a pile of refuse, was Eradicate Sampson, the aged
colored man of all work. Eradicate approached nearer and
nearer the entrance to the building, pursuing his task of
gathering up leaves, dirt and sticks with the teeth of his
rake. Then Koku, who had been lounging on a bench in the
shade of a tree, Called:
"No more, Eradicate!"
"No mo' whut?" asked the negro quickly. "I didn't axt yo'
fo' nuffin yit!"
"No more come here!" said the giant, pointing to the
building and speaking English with an evident effort.
"Master say no one come too close."
"Huh! He didn't go fo' t' mean me!" exclaimed Eradicate.
"I kin go anywheres; I kin!"
"Not here!" and Koku interposed his giant frame between
the old man and the first step leading into the secret
building. "You no come in here."
"Who say so?"
"Me--I say so! I on guard. I what you call special
policeman--detectiff--no let enemies in!"
"Huh! You's a hot deteckertiff, yo' is!" snorted
Eradicate. "Anyhow, dem orders don't mean me! I kin go
anywhere, I kin!"
"Not here!" said Koku firmly. "Master Tom say let nobody
come near but workmen who have got writing-paper. You no
"No, but I kin git one, an' I's gwine t' hab it soon! I'll
see Massa Tom, dat's whut I will. I guess yo' ain't de only
deteckertiff on de place. I kin go on guard, too!" and
Eradicate, dropping his rake, strolled away in his temper to
seek the young inventor.
"Well, Rad, what is it?" asked Tom, as he met the colored
man. The young inventor was on his way to the mysterious
shop. "What is troubling you?"
"It's dat dar giant. He done says as how he's on guard--a
deteckertiff--an' I can't go nigh dat buildin' t' sweep up
"Well, that's right, Rad. I'd prefer that you keep away.
I'm doing some special work in there and it's--"
"Am it dangerous, Massa Tom? I ain't askeered! Anybody
whut kin drive mah mule Boomerang--"
"I know, Eradicate, but this isn't so dangerous. It's just
secret, and I don't want too many people about. You can go
anywhere else except there. Koku is on guard."
"Den can't I be, Massa Tom?" asked the colored man
eagerly. "I kin guard an' detect same as dat low-down, good-
fo'-nuffin white trash Koku!"
"I suppose I could get you a sort of officer's badge," he
mused, half aloud.
"Dat's whut I want!" eagerly exclaimed Eradicate. "I ain't
gwine hab dat Koku--dat cocoanut--crowin' ober me! I kin
guard an' detect as good's anybody!"
And the upshot of it was that Eradicate was given a badge,
and put on a special post, far enough from Koku to keep the
two from quarreling, and where, even if he failed in keeping
a proper lookout, the old servant could do no harm by his
"It'll please him, and won't hurt us," said Tom to his
father. "Koku will keep out any prying persons."
"I suppose you are doing well to keep it a secret, Tom,"
said Mr. Swift, "but it seems as if you might announce it
"Perhaps we may, Dad, if all goes well. I've given her a
partial shop-tryout, and she works well. But there is still
plenty to do. Did I tell you about meeting Blakeson?"
"Yes, and I can't understand why he should be in this
vicinity. Do you think he has had any intimation of what you
"It's hard to say, and yet I would not be surprised. When
Uncle Sam couldn't keep secret the fact of our first
soldiers sailing for France. How can I expect to keep this
secret? But they won't get any details until I'm ready, I'm
sure of that."
"Koku is a good discourager," said Mr. Swift, with a
chuckle. "You couldn't have a better guard, Tom."
"No, and if I can keep him and Eradicate from trying to
pull off rival detective stunts, or 'deteckertiff,' as Rad
calls it, I'll be all right. Now let's have another go at
that carburetor. There's our weak point, for it's getting
harder and harder all the while to get high-grade gasolene,
and we'll have to come to alcohol of low proof, or kerosene,
"I wouldn't be surprised, Tom. Well, perhaps we can get up
a new style of carburetor that will do the trick. Now look
at this needle valve; I've given it a new turn," and father
and son went into technical details connected with their
These were busy days at the Swift plant. Men came and
went--men with queerly shaped parcels frequently--and they
were admitted to the big new building after first passing
Eradicate and then Koku, and it would be hard to say which
guard was the more careful. Only, of course, Koku had the
final decision, and more than one person was turned back
after Eradicate had passed him, much to the disgust of the
"Pooh! Dat giant don't know a workman when he sees 'im!"
snorted Eradicate. "He so lazy his own se'f dat he don't
know a workman! Ef I sees a spy, Massa Tom, or a crook, I's
gwine git him, suah pop!"
"I hope you do, Rad. We can't afford to let this secret
get out," said the young inventor.
It was one evening, when taking a short cut to his home,
that Mr. Nestor. the father of Mary Nestor, in whom Tom was
more than ordinarily interested, passed not far from the big
enclosure which was guarded, on the factory side, day and
night. Inside, though out of sight and hidden by the high
fence, were other guards.
As Mr. Nestor passed along the fence, rather vaguely
wondering why it was so high, tight and strong, he felt the
ground trembling beneath his feet. It rumbled and shook as
though a distant train were passing, and yet there was none
due now, for Mr. Nestor had just left one, and another would
not arrive for an hour.
"That's queer," mused Mary's father. "If I didn't know to
the contrary, I'd say that sounded like heavy guns being
fired from a distance, or else blasting. It seems to come
from the Swift place," he went on. "I wonder what they're up
to in there."
Suddenly the rumbling became more pronounced, and mingled
with it, in the dusk of the evening, were the shouts of men.
"Look out!" some one cried. "She's going for the fence!"
A second later there was a cracking and straining of
boards, and the fence near Mr. Nestor bulged out as though
something big, powerful and mighty were pressing it from the
But the fence held, or else the pressure was removed, for
the bulge went back into place, though some of the boards
"Have to patch that up in the morning," called another
voice, and Mr. Nestor recognized it as that of Tom Swift.
"What queer doings are going on here?" mused Mary's
father. "Have they got a wild bull shut up in there, and is
he trying to get out? Lucky for me he didn't," and he
hurried on, the rumbling noise become fainter until it died
That night, after his supper and while reading the paper
and smoking a cigar, Mr. Nestor spoke to his daughter.
"Mary, have you seen anything of Tom Swift lately?"
"Why, yes, Father. He was over for a little while the
other night, but he didn't stay long. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing special. I just came past his place and I
heard some queer noises, that's all. He's up to some more of
his tricks, I guess. Has be enlisted yet?"
"Is he going to?"
"I don't know," and Mary seemed a bit put out by this
simple question. "What do you mean by his tricks?" she
asked, and a close observer might have thought she was
anxious to get away from the subject of Tom's enlistment.
"Oh, like that one when he sent you something in a box
labeled 'dynamite,' and gave us all a scare. You can't tell
what Tom Swift is going to do next. He's up to something
now, I'll wager, and I don't believe any good will come of
"You didn't think so after he sent his wireless message,
and saved us from Earthquake Island," said Mary, smiling.
"Hum! Well, that was different," snapped Mr. Nestor. "This
time I'm sure he's up to some nonsense! The idea of crashing
down a fence! Why doesn't he enlist like the other chaps, or
sell Liberty Bonds like Ned Newton?" and Mr. Nestor looked
sharply at his daughter. "Ned gave up a big salary as the
Swifts financial man--a place he had held for a year--to go
back to the bank for less, just so he could help the
Government in the financial end of this war. Is Tom doing as
much for his country?"
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Mary; and soon after,
with averted face, she left the room.
"Hum! Queer goings on," mused Mr. Nestor. "Tom Swift may
be all right, but he's got an unbalanced streak in him that
will bear looking out for, that's what I think!"
And having settled this matter, at least to his own
satisfaction, Mr. Nestor resumed his smoking and reading.
A little later the bell rang. There was a murmur of voices
in the hall, and Mr. Nestor, half listening, heard a voice
"There's Tom Swift now!" he exclaimed. "I'm going to find
out why he doesn't enlist!"
"Is He a Slacker?"
Mr. Nestor, whatever else he was, proved to be a prudent
father. He did not immediately go into the front room,
whither Mary and Tom hastened, their voices mingling in talk
Mr. Nestor, after leaving the young folks alone for a
while, with a loud "Ahem!" and a rattling of his paper as he
laid it aside, started for the parlor.
"Good-evening, Mr. Nestor!" said Tom, rising to shake
hands with the father of his young and pretty hostess.
"Hello, Tom!" was the cordial greeting, in return. "What's
going on up at your place?" went on Mr. Nestor, as he took a
"Oh, nothing very special," Tom answered. "We're turning
out different kinds of machines as usual, and dad and I are
experimenting, also as usual"
"I suppose so. But what nearly broke the fence to-night?"
Tom started, and looked quickly at his host.
"Were you there?" he asked quickly.
"Well, I happened to be passing--took a short cut home--
and I heard some queer goings on at your place. I was
speaking to Mary about them, and wondering--"
"Father, perhaps Tom doesn't want to talk about his
inventions," interrupted Mary. "You know some of them are
"Oh, I wasn't exactly asking for information!" exclaimed
Mr. Nestor quickly. "I just happened to hear the fence
crash, and I was wondering if something was coming out at
me. Didn't know but what that giant of yours was on a
rampage, Tom," and he laughed.
"No, it wasn't anything like that," and Tom's voice was
more sober than the occasion seemed to warrant. "It was one
of our new machines, and it didn't act just right. No great
damage was done, though. How do you find business, Mr.
Nestor, since the war spirit has grown stronger?" asked Tom,
and it seemed to both Mary and her father that the young
inventor deliberately changed the subject.
"Well, it isn't all it might be," said the other. "It's
hard to get good help. A lot of our boys enlisted, and some
were taken in the draft. By the way, Tom, have they called
on you yet?"
"No. Not yet"
"You didn't enlist?"
"Ned Newton tried to," broke in Mary, "but the quota for
this locality was filled, and they told him he'd better wait
for the draft. He wouldn't do that and tried again. Then the
bank people heard about it and had him exempted. They said
he was too valuable to them, and he has been doing
remarkably well in selling Liberty Bonds!" and Mary's eyes
sparkled with her emotions.
"Yes, Ned is a crackerjack salesman!" agreed Tom, no less
enthusiastically. "He's sold more bonds, in proportion, for
his bank, than any other in this county. Dad and I both took
some, and have promised him more. I am glad now that we let
him go, although we valued his services highly. We hope to
have him back later."
"He can put me down for more bonds too!" said Mr. Nestor.
"I'm going to see Germany beaten if it takes every last
dollar I have!"
"That's what I say!" Cried Mary. "I took out all my
savings, except a little I'm keeping to buy a wedding
present for Jennie Morse. Did you know she was going to get
married, Tom?" she asked.
"I heard so."
"Well, all but what I want for a wedding present to her
has gone into Liberty Bonds. Isn't this a history-making
"Indeed it is, Mary!"
"Everybody who has a part in it--whether he fights as a
soldier or only knits like the Red Cross girls--will be
telling about it for years after," went on the girl, and she
looked at Tom eagerly.
"Yes," he agreed. "These are queer times. We don't know
exactly where we're at. A lot of our men have been called.
We tried to have some of them exempted, and did manage it in
a few cases."
"You did?" cried Mr. Nestor, as if in surprise. "You
stopped men from going to war!"
"Only so they could work on airship motors for the
Government," Tom quietly explained.
"Oh! Well, of course, that's part of the game," agreed
Mary's father. "A lot more of our boys are going off next
week. Doesn't it make you thrill, Tom, when you see them
marching off, even if they haven't their uniforms yet? Jove,
if I wasn't too old, I'd go in a minute!"
"Father!" cried Mary.
"Yes, I would!" he declared. "The German government has
got to be beaten, and we've got to do our bit; everybody
has--man, woman and child!"
"Yes," agreed Tom, in a low voice, "that's very true. But
every one, in a sense, has to judge for himself what the
'bit' is. We can't all do the same."
There was a little silence, and then Mary went over to the
piano and played. It was a rather welcome relief, under the
circumstances, from the conversation.
"Mary, what do you think of Tom?" asked Mr. Nestor, when
the visitor had gone.
"What do I think of him?" And she blushed.
"I mean about his not enlisting. Do you think he's a
"A slacker? Why, Father!"
"Oh, I don't mean he's afraid. We've seen proof enough of
his courage, and all that. But I mean don't you think he
wants stirring up a bit?"
"He is going to Washington to-morrow, Father. He told me
so to-night. And it may be--"
"Oh. well, then maybe it's all right," hastily said Mr.
Nestor. "He may he going to get a commission in the engineer
corps. It isn't like Tom Swift to hang back, and yet it does
begin to look as though he cared more for his queer
inventions--machines that butt down fences than for helping
Uncle Sam. But I'll reserve judgment."
"You'd better, Father!" and Mary laughed--a little. Yet
there was a worried look on her face.
During the next few nights Mr. Nestor made it a habit to
take the short cut from the railroad station, coming past
the big fence that enclosed one particular building of the
"I wonder if there's a hole where I could look through,"
said Mr. Nestor to himself. "Of course I don't believe in
spying on what another man is doing, and yet I'm too good a
friend of Tom's to want to see him make a fool of himself.
He ought to be in the army, or helping Uncle Sam in some
way. And yet if he spends all his time on some foolish
contraption, like a new kind of traction plow, what good is
that? If I could get a glimpse of it, I might drop a
friendly hint in his ear."
But there were no cracks in the fence, or, if there were,
it was too dark to see them, and also too dark to behold
anything on the other side of the barrier. So Mr. Nestor,
wondering much, kept on his way.
It was a day or so after this that Ned Newton paid a visit
to the Swift home. Mr. Swift was not in the house, being out
in one of the various buildings, Mrs. Baggert said.
"Where's Tom?" asked the bond salesman.
"Oh, he hasn't come back from Washington yet," answered
"He is making a long stay."
"Yes, be went about a week ago on some business. But we
expect him back to-day."
"Well, then I'll see him. I called to ask if Mr. Swift
didn't want to take a few more bonds. We want to double our
allotment for Shopton. and beat out some of the other towns
in this section. I'll go to see Mr. Swift."
On his way to find Tom's father Ned passed the big
building in front of which Eradicate and Koku were on guard.
They nodded to Ned, who passed them, wondering much as to
what it was Tom was so secretive about.
"It's the first time I remember when he worked on an
invention without telling me something about it," mused Ned.
"Well, I suppose it will all come out in good time. Anything
"No, Massa Ned, nuffin much. I'm detectin' around heah;
keepin' Dutchmen spies away!"
"And Koku is helping you, I suppose?"
"Whut, him? Dat big, good-fo'-nuffin white trash? No,
sah! I's detectin' by mahse'f, dat's whut I is!" and
Eradicate strutted proudly up and down on his allotted part
of the beat, being careful not to approach the building too
closely, for that was Koku's ground.
Ned smiled, and passed on. He found Mr. Swift, secured his
subscription to more bonds, and was about to leave when he
heard a call down the road and saw Tom coming in his small
racing car, which had been taken to the depot by one of the
"Hello, old man!" cried Ned affectionately, as his chum
alighted with a jump. "Where have you been?"
"Down to Washington. Had a bit of a chat with the
President and gave him some of my views."
"About the war, I suppose?" laughed Ned.
"Did you get your commission?"
"Commission?" And there was a wondering look on Tom's
"Yes. Mary Nestor said she thought maybe you were going to
Washington to take an examination for the engineering corps
or something like that. Did you get made an officer?"
"No," answered Tom slowly. "I went to Washington to get
"Exempted?" Cried Ned, and his voice sounded strained.
For a moment Tom Swift looked at his chum. Then something
of what was passing in the mind of the young bond salesman
must have been reflected to Tom, for he said
"Look here, old man; I know it may seem a bit strange to
go to all that trouble to get exempted from the draft, to
which I am eligible, but, believe me, there's a reason. I
can't say anything now, but I'll tell you as soon as I can--
tell everybody, in fact Just now it isn't in shape to talk
"Oh, that's all right, Tom," and Ned tried to make his
voice sound natural. "I was just wondering, that's all. I
wanted to go to the front the worst way, but they wouldn't
let me. I was sort of hoping you could, and come back to
tell me about it."
"I may yet, Ned."
"You may? Why, I thought--"
"Oh, I'm only exempted for a time. I've got certain things
to do, and I couldn't do 'em if I enlisted or was drafted.
So I've been excused for a time. Now I've got a pile of work
to do. What are you up to Ned? Same old story?"
"Liberty Bonds--yes. Your father just took some more."
"And so will I, Ned. I can do that, anyhow, even if I
don't enlist. Put me down for another two thousand dollars'
"Say, Tom, that's fine! That will make my share bigger
than I counted on. Shopton will beat the record."
"That's good. We ought to pull strong and hearty for our
home town. How's everything else?"
"Oh, so-so. I see Koku and Eradicate trying to outdo one
another in guarding that part of your plant," and Ned nodded
toward the big new building.
"Yes, I had to let Rad play detective. Not that he can do
anything--he's too old. But it keeps him and Koku from
quarreling all the while. I've got to be pretty careful
about that shop. It's got a secret in it that-- Well, the
less said about it the better."
"You're getting my curiosity aroused, Tom," remarked Ned.
"It'll have to go unsatisfied for a while. Wait a bit and
I'll give you a ride. I've got to go over to Sackett on
business, and if you're going that way I'll take you."
"That's me!" cried Ned. "I haven't been in an aircraft for
"Tell Miles to run her out," requested Tom. "I've got to
go in and say hello to dad a minute, and then I'll be with
"Seems like something was in the wind, Tom --big doings?"
"Yes, maybe there is. It all depends on how she turns out"
"You might be speaking of the Hawk or--Mary Nestor!" said
Ned, with a sidelong look at his chum.
"As it happens, it's neither one," said Tom, and then he
hastened away, to return shortly and guide his fleet little
airship, the Hawk, on her aerial journey.
From then on, at least for some time, neither Tom nor Ned
mentioned the matters they had been discussing--Tom's
failure to enlist, his exemption, and what was being built
in the closely guarded shop.
Tom's business in Sackett did not take him long, and then
he and Ned went for a little ride in the air.
"It's like old times!" exclaimed Ned, his eyes shining,
though Tom could not see them for two reasons. One was that
Ned was sitting behind him, and the other was that Ned wore
heavy goggles, as did the young pilot. Also, they had to
carry on their talk through the speaking tube arrangement
"Yes, it is a bit like old times," agreed Tom. "We've had
some great old experiences together, Ned, haven't we?"
"We surely have! I wonder if we'll have any more? When we
were in the submarine, and in your big airship Say, that big
one is the one I always liked! I like big things."
"Do you?" asked Tom. "Well, maybe, when I get--"
But Tom did not finish, for the Hawk unexpectedly poked
her nose into an empty pocket in the air just then, and
needed a firm hand on the controls. Furthermore, Tom decided
against making the confidence that was on the tip of his
At last the aircraft was straightened out and the pilot
guided her on toward the army encampment
"That's the place I'd like to be," called Ned through the
tube as the faint, sweet notes of a bugle floated up from
the parade ground.
"Yes, it would be great," admitted Tom. "But there are
other things to do for Uncle Sam besides wearing khaki."
"Tom's up to some game," mused Ned. "I mustn't judge him
too hastily, or I might make a mistake. And Mary mustn't,
either. I'll tell her so."
For Mary Nestor had spoken to Ned concerning Tom, and the
curiously secretive air about certain of his activities. And
the girl, moreover, had spoken rather coldly of her friend.
Ned did not like this. It was not like Mary and Tom to be at
Once more the Hawk came to the ground, this time near the
airship sheds adjoining the Swift works. Just as Tom and Ned
alighted, one of the workmen summoned the young inventor
toward the shop, which was so closely guarded by Koku and
Eradicate on the outside.
"I'll have to leave you, Ned," remarked Tom, as he turned
away from his chum. "There's a conference on about a new
"Oh, that's all right. Business is business, you know.
I've got some bond calls to make myself. I'll see you
"Oh, by the way, Ned!" exclaimed Tom, turning back for a
moment, "I met an old friend the other day; or rather an old
"Hum! When you spoke first, I thought you might mean
Professor Swyington Bumper, that delightful scientist,"
remarked Ned. "But he surely was no enemy."
"No; but I meant some one I met about the same time. I met
Blakeson, one of the rival contractors when I helped dig the
"Is that so? Where'd you meet him?"
"Right around here. It was certainly a surprise, and at
first I couldn't place him. Then the memory of his face came
back to me," and Tom related the incident which had taken
place the day he and Mr. Damon were out in the Hawk.
"What's he doing around here?" asked Ned.
"That's more than I can say," Tom answered.
"Up to no good, I'll wager!"
"I agree with you," came from Tom. "But I'm on the watch."
"That's wise, Tom. Well, I'll see you later."
During the week which followed this talk Ned was very busy
on Liberty Bond work, and, he made no doubt, his chum was
engaged also. This prevented them from meeting, but finally
Ned, one evening, decided to walk over to the Swift home.
"I'll pay Tom a bit of a call," he mused. "Maybe he'll
feel more like talking now. Some of the boys are asking why
he doesn't enlist, and maybe if I tell him that he'll make
some explanation that will quiet things down a bit. It's a
shame that Tom should be talked about."
With this intention in view, Ned kept on toward his chum's
house, and he was about to turn in through a small grove of
trees, which would lead to a path across the fields, when
the young bond salesman was surprised to hear some one
running toward him. He could see no one, for the path wound
in and out among the trees, but the noise was plain.
"Some one in a hurry," mused Ned.
A moment later he Caught sight of a small lad named Harry
Telford running toward him. The boy had his hat in his hand,
and was speeding through the fast-gathering darkness as
though some one were after him.
"What's the rush?" asked Ned. "Playing cops and robbers?"
That was a game Tom and Ned had enjoyed in their younger
"I--I'm runnin' away!" panted Harry. "I--I seen
"You saw something?" repeated Ned. "What was it--a ghost?"
and he laughed, thinking the boy would do the same.
"No, it wasn't no ghost!" declared Harry, casting a look
over his shoulder. "It was a wild elephant that I saw, and
it's down in a big yard with a fence around it."
"Where's that?" asked Ned. "The circus hasn't come to town
this evening, has it?"
"No," answered Harry, "it wasn't no circus. I saw this
elephant down in the big yard back of one of Mr. Swift's
"Oh, down there, was it!" exclaimed Ned. "What was it
"Well, I was walking along the top of the hill," explained
Harry, "and there's one place where, if you climb a tree,
you can look right down in the big fenced-in yard. I guess
I'm about the only one that knows about it."
"I don't believe Tom does," mused Ned, "or he'd have had
that tree cut down. He doesn't want any spying, I take it.
Well, what'd you see?" he asked Harry aloud.
"Saw an elephant, I tell you!", insisted the younger boy.
"I was in the tree, looking down, for a lot of us kids has
tried to peek through the fence and couldn't I wanted to see
what was there."
"And did you?" asked Ned.
"I sure did! And it scared me, too," admitted Harry. "All
at once, when I was lookin', I saw the big doors at the back
of the shed open, and the elephant waddled out."
"Are you sure you weren't 'seeing things,' like the little
boy in the story?" asked Ned.
"Well, I sure did see something!" insisted Harry. "It was
a great big gray thing, bigger'n any elephant I ever saw in
any circus. It didn't seem to have any tail or trunk, or
even legs, but it went slow, just like an elephant does, and
it shook the ground, it stepped so hard!"
"Nonsense!" cried Ned.
"Sure I saw it!" cried Harry. "Anyhow," he added, after a
moment's thought, "it was as big as an elephant, though not
like any I ever saw."
"What did it do?" asked Ned.
"Well, it moved around and then it started for the fence
nearest me, where I was up in the tree. I thought it might
have seen me, even though it was gettin' dark, and it might
bust through; so I ran!"
"Hum! Well, you surely were seeing things," murmured Ned,
but, while he made light of what the boy told him, the young
bank Clerk was thinking: "What is Tom up to now?"
Up a Tree
"Want to come and have a look?" asked Harry, as Ned paused
in the patch of woods, which were in deeper darkness than
the rest of the countryside, for night was fast falling.
"Have a look at what?" asked Ned, who was thinking many
thoughts just then.
"At the elephant I saw back of the Swift factory. I
wouldn't be skeered if you came along."
"Well, I'm going over to see Tom Swift, anyhow," answered
Ned, "so I'll walk that way. You can come if you like. I
don't care about spying on other people's property--"
"I wasn't spyin'!" exclaimed Harry quickly. "I just
happened to look. And then I seen something."
"Well, come on," suggested Ned. "If there's anything
there, we'll have a peep at it."
His idea was not to try to see what Tom was evidently
endeavoring to conceal, but it was to observe whence Harry
had made his observation, and be in a position to tell Tom
to guard against unexpected lookers-on from that direction.
During the walk back along the course over which Harry had
run so rapidly a little while before, Ned and the boy talked
of what the latter had seen.
"Do you think it could be some new kind of elephant?"
asked Harry. "You know Tom Swift brought back a big giant
from one of his trips, and maybe he's got a bigger elephant
than any one ever saw before."
"Nonsense!" laughed Ned. "In the first place, Tom hasn't
been on any trip, of late, except to Washington, and the
only kind of elephants there are white ones."
"Really?" asked Harry.
"No, that was a joke," explained Ned. "Anyhow, Tom hasn't
any giant elephants concealed up his sleeve, I'm sure of
"But what could this be?" asked Harry. "It moved just like
some big animal."
"Probably some piece of machinery Tom was having carted
from one shop to another," went on the young bank clerk.
"Most likely he had it covered with a big piece of canvas to
keep off the dew, and it was that you saw."
"No, it wasn't!" insisted Harry, but he could not give any
further details of what he had seen so that Ned could
recognize it. They kept on until they reached the hill, at
the bottom of which was the Swift home and the grounds on
which the various shops were erected.
"Here's the place where you can look down right into the
yard with the high fence around it," explained Harry, as he
indicated the spot.
"I can't see anything."
"You have to climb up the tree," Harry went on. "Here,
this is the one, and he indicated a stunted and gnarled
pine, the green branches of which would effectually screen
any one who once got in it a few feet above the ground.
"Well, I may as well have a look," decided Ned. "It can't
do Tom any harm, and it may be of some service to him. Here
Up into the tree he scrambled, not without some
difficulty, for the branches were close together and stiff,
and Ned tore his coat in the effort. But he finally got a
position where, to his surprise, he could look down into the
very enclosure from which Tom was so particular to keep
"You can see right down in it!" Ned exclaimed.
"I told you so," returned Harry. "But do you see--it?"
Ned looked long and carefully. It was lighter, now that
they were out of the clump of woods, and he had the
advantage of having the last glow of the sunset at his back.
Even with that it was difficult to make out objects on the
surface of the enclosed field some hundred or more feet
"Do you see anything?" asked Harry again.
"No, I can't say I do," Ned answered. "The place seems to
"Well, there was something there," insisted Harry. "Maybe
you aren't lookin' at the right place."
"Have a look yourself, then," suggested Ned, as he got
down, a task no more to his liking than the climb upward had
Harry made easier work of it, being smaller and more used
to climbing trees, a luxury Ned had, perforce, denied
himself since going to work in the bank.
Harry peered about, and then, with a sigh that had in it
somewhat of disappointment, said:
"No; there's nothing there now. But I did see something."
"Are you sure?" asked Ned.
"Positive!" asserted the other.
"Well, whatever it was--some bit of machinery he was
moving, I fancy--Tom has taken it in now," remarked Ned.
"Better not say anything about this, Harry. Tom mightn't
like it known."
"No, I won't."
"And don't come here again to look. I know you like to see
strange things, but if you'll wait I'll ask Tom, as soon as
it's ready, to let you have a closer view of whatever it was
you saw. Better keep away from this tree."
"I will," promised the younger lad. "But I'd like to know
what it was--if it really was a giant elephant Say! if a
fellow had a troop of them he could have a lot of fun with
'em, couldn't he?"
"How?" asked Ned, hardly conscious of what his companion
"Why, he could dress 'em up in coats of mail, like the old
knights used to wear, and turn 'em loose against the
Germans. Think of a regiment of elephants, wearin' armor
plates like a battleship, carryin' on their backs a lot of
soldiers with machine guns and chargin' against Fritz!
Cracky, that would be a sight!"
"I should say so!" agreed Ned, with a laugh. "There's
nothing the matter with your imagination, Harry, my boy!"
"And maybe that's what Tom's doin'!"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean maybe he is trainin' elephants to fight in the
war. You know he made an aerial warship, so why couldn't he
have a lot of armor plated elephants?"
"Oh, I suppose he could if he wanted to," admitted Ned.
"But I guess he isn't doing that. Don't get to going too
fast in high speed, Harry, or you may have nightmare. Well,
I'm going down to see Tom."
"And you won't tell him I was peekin'?"
"Not if you don't do it again. I'll advise him to have
that tree cut down, though. It's too good a vantage spot."
Harry turned and went in the direction of his home, while
Ned kept on down the hill toward the house of his chum. The
young bond salesman was thinking of many things as he
tramped, along, and among them was the information Harry had
But Ned did not pay a visit to his chum that evening. When
he reached the house he found that Tom had gone out, leaving
no word as to when he would be back.
"Oh, well, I can tell him to-morrow," thought Ned.
It was not, however, until two days later that Ned found
the time to visit Tom again. On this occasion, as before, he
took the road through the clump of woods where he had seen
"And while I'm about it," mused Ned, "I may as well go on
to the place where the tree stands and make sure, by
daylight, what I only partially surmised in the evening--
that Tom's place can be looked down on from that vantage
Sauntering slowly along, for he was in no special hurry,
having the remainder of the day to himself, Ned approached
the hill where the tree stood from which Harry had said he
had seen what he took to be a giant elephant, perhaps in
"It's a good clear day," observed Ned, "and fine for
seeing. I wonder if I'll be able to see anything."
It was necessary first to ascend the hill to a point where
it overhung, in a measure, the Swift property, though the
holdings of Tom and his father were some distance beyond the
eminence. The tree from which Ned and Harry had made their
observations was on a knob of the hill, the stunted pine
standing out from among others like it
"Well, here goes for another torn coat," grimly observed
Ned, as he prepared to climb. "But I'll be more careful.
First, though, let's see if I can see anything without
He paused a little way from the pine, and peered down the
hill. Nothing could be seen of the big enclosed field back
of the building about which Tom Was so careful.
"You have to be up to see anything," mused Ned. "It's up a
tree for me! Well, here goes!"
As Ned started to work his way up among the thick, green
branches, he became aware, suddenly and somewhat to his
surprise, that he was not the only person who knew about the
observation spot. For Ned saw, a yard above his head, as he
started to climb, two feet, encased in well-made boots,
standing on a limb near the trunk of the tree.
"Oh, ho!" mused Ned. "Some one here before me! Where there
are feet there must be legs, and where there are legs, most
likely a body. And it isn't Harry, either! The feet are too
big for that. I wonder--"
But Ned's musings were suddenly cut short, for the person
up the tree ahead of him moved quickly and stepped on Ned's
fingers, with no light tread.
"Ouch!" exclaimed the young bank clerk involuntarily, and,
letting go his hold of the limb, he dropped to the ground,
while there came a startled exclamation from the screen of
pine branches above him.
"Who's there?" came the demand from the unseen person in
"I might ask you the same thing," was Ned's sharp retort,
as he nursed his skinned and bruised fingers. "What are you
doing up there?"
There was no answer, but a sound among the branches
indicated that the person up the tree was coming down. In
another moment a man leaped to the ground lightly and stood
beside Ned. The lad observed that the stranger was clean
shaven, except for a small moustache which curled up at the
"For all the world like a small edition of the Kaiser's,"
Ned described it afterward.
"What are you doing here?" demanded the man, and his voice
had in it the ring of authority. It was this very quality
that made Ned bristle up and "get on his ear," as he said
later. The young clerk did not object to being spoken to
authoritatively by those who had the right, but from a
stranger it was different
"I might ask you the same thing," retorted Ned. "I have as
much right here as you, I fancy, and I can climb trees, too,
but I don't care to have my fingers stepped on," and he
looked at the scarified members of his left hand.
"I beg your pardon. I'm sorry if I hurt you. I didn't mean
to. And of course this is a public place, in a way, and you
have a right here. I was just climbing the tree to--er--to
get a fishing pole!"
Ned had all he could do to keep from laughing. The idea of
getting a fishing pole from a gnarled and stunted pine
struck him as being altogether novel and absurd. Yet it was
not time to make fun of the man. The latter looked too
serious for that.
"Rather a good view to be had from up where you were, eh?"
asked Ned suggestively.
"A good view?" exclaimed the other. "I don't know what you
"Oh, then you didn't see anything," Ned went on. "Perhaps
it's just as well. Are you fond of fishing?"
"Very. I have-- But I forget, I do not know you nor you
me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mr. Walter Simpson,
and I am here on a visit I just happened to walk out this
way, and, seeing a small stream, thought I should like to
fish. I usually carry lines and hooks, and all I needed was
the pole. I was looking for it when I heard you, and--"
"I felt you!" interrupted Ned, with a short laugh. He told
his own name, but that was all, and seemed about to pass on.
"Are there any locomotive shops around here?" asked Mr.
"Locomotive shops?" queried Ned. "None that I know of.
"Well, I heard heavy machinery being used down there;" and
he waved his hand toward Tom's shops, "and I thought--"
"Oh, you mean Shopton!" exclaimed Ned. "That's the Swift
plant. No, they don't make locomotives, though they could if
they wanted to, for they turn out airships, submarines,
tunnel diggers, and I don't know what."
"Do they make munitions there--for the Allies?" asked Mr.
Simpson, and there was an eager look on his face.
"No, I don't believe so," Ned answered; "though, in fact,
I don't know enough of the place to be in a position to give
you any information about it," he told the man, not deeming
it wise to go into particulars.
Perhaps the man felt this, as he did not press for an
The two stood looking at one another for some little time,
and then the man, with a bow that had in it something of
insolence, as well as politeness, turned and went down the
path up which Ned had come.
The young bank clerk waited a little while, and then
turned his attention to the tree which seemed to have
suddenly assumed an importance altogether out of proportion
to its size.
"Well, since I'm here I'll have a look up that tree,"
Favoring his bruised hand, Ned essayed the ascent of the
tree more successfully this time. As he rose up among the
branches he found he could look down directly into the yard
with the high fence about it. He Could see only a portion,
good as his vantage point was, and that portion had in it a
few workmen--nothing else.
"No elephants there," said Ned, with a smile, as he
remembered Harry's excitement. "Still it's just as well for
Tom to know that his place can be looked down on. I'll go
and tell him."
As Ned descended the tree he caught a glimpse, off to one
side among some bushes, of something moving.
"I wonder if that's my Simp friend, playing I spy?" mused
Ned. "Guess I'd better have a look."
He worked his way carefully close to the spot where he had
seen the movement. Proceeding then with more caution,
watching each step and parting the bushes with a careful
hand, Ned beheld what he expected.
There was the late occupant of the pine tree the man who
had stepped on Ned's fingers, applying a small telescope to
his eye and gazing in the direction of Tom Swift's home.
The man stood concealed in a screen of bushes with his
back toward Ned, and seemed oblivious to his surroundings.
He moved the glass to and fro, and seemed eagerly intent on
"Though what he can see of Tom's place from there isn't
much," mused Ned. "I've tried it myself, and I know; you
have to be on an elevation to look down. Still it shows
he's after something, all right. Guess I'll throw a little
scare into him."
As yet, Ned believed himself unobserved, and that his
presence was not suspected was proved a moment later when he
"Hey! What are you doing there?"
He had his eye on the partially concealed man, and the
latter. as Ned said afterward, jumped fully two feet in the
air, dropping his telescope as he did so, and turning to
face the lad.
"Oh, it's you, is it?" he faltered.
"No one else;" and Ned grinned. "Looking for a good place