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Tom Swift And His War Tank by Victor Appleton

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to fish, I presume?"

Then, at least for once, the man's suave manner dropped
from him as if it had been a mask. He bared his teeth in a
snarl as he answered:

"Mind your own business!"

"Something I'd advise you also to do," replied Ned
smoothly. "You can't see anything from there," he went on.
"Better go back to the tree and--cut a fishing pole!"

With this parting shot Ned sauntered down the hill, and
swung around to make his way toward Tom's home. He paid no
further attention to the man, save to determine, by
listening, that the fellow was searching among the bushes
for the dropped telescope.

The young inventor was at home, taking a hasty lunch which
Mrs. Baggert had set out for him, the while he poured over
some blueprint drawings that, to Ned's unaccustomed eyes,
looked like the mazes of some intricate puzzle.

"Well, where have you been keeping yourself, old man?"
asked Tom Swift, after he had greeted his friend.

"I might ask the same of you," retorted Ned, with a smile.
"I've been trying to find you to give you some important
information, and I made up my mind, after what happened to-
day, to write it and leave it for you if I didn't see you."

"What happened to-day?" asked Tom, and there was a serious
look on his face.

"You are being spied upon--at least, that part of your
works enclosed in the new fence is," replied Ned.

"You don't mean it!" Cried Tom. "This accounts for some of
it, then."

"For some of what?" asked Ned.

"For some of the actions of that Blakeson, He's been
hanging around here, I understand, asking too many questions
about things that I'm trying to keep secret--even from my
best friends," and as Tom said this Ned fancied there was a
note of regret in his voice.

"Yes, you are keeping some things secret, Tom," said Ned,
determined "to take the bull by the horns," as it were.

"I'm sorry, but it has to be," went on Tom. "In a little

"Oh, don't think that I'm at all anxious to know things!"
broke in Ned. "I was thinking of some one else, Tom--another
of your friends."

"Do you mean Mary?"

Ned nodded.

"She feels rather keenly your lack of explanations," went
on the young bank clerk. "If you could only give her a hint

"I'm sorry, but it can't be done," and Tom spoke firmly.
"But you haven't told me all that happened. You say I am
being spied upon."

"Yes," and Ned related what had taken place in the tree.

"Whew!" whistled Tom. "That's going some with a vengeance!
I must have that tree down in a jiffy. I didn't imagine
there was a spot where the yard could be overlooked. But I
evidently skipped that tree. Fortunately it's on land owned
by a concern with which I have some connection, and I can
have it chopped down without any trouble. Much obliged to
you, Ned. I shan't forget this in a hurry. I'll go right
away and--"

Tom's further remark was interrupted by the hurried
entrance of Eradicate Sampson. The old man was smiling in
pleased anticipation, evidently, at the same time, trying
hard not to give way to too much emotion.

"I's done it, Massa Tom!" he cried exultingly.

"Done what?" asked the young inventor. "I hope you and
Koku haven't had another row."

"No, sah! I don't want nuffin t' do wif dat ornery, low-
down white trash! But I's gone an' done whut I said I'd do!"

"What's that, Rad? Come on, tell us! Don't keep us in

"I's done some deteckertiff wuk, lest laik I said I'd do,
an' I's cotched him! By golly, Massa Tom! I's cotched him
black-handed, as it says!"

"Caught him? Whom have you caught, Rad?" cried Tom. "Do
you suppose he means he's caught the man you saw up the
tree, Ned? The man you think is a German spy?"

"It couldn't be. I left him only a little while ago
hunting for his telescope."

"Then whom have you caught, Rad?" cried Tom. "Come on,
I'll give you credit for it. Tell us!"

"I's cotched dat Dutch Sauerkrauter, dat's who I's
cotched, Massa Tom! By golly, I's cotched him!"

"But who, Rad? Who is he?"

"I don't know his name, Massa Tom, but he's a
Sauerkrauter, all right. Dat's whut he eats for lunch, an'
dat's why I calls him dat. I's cotched him, an' he's locked
up in de stable wif mah mule Boomerang. An' ef he tries t'
git out Boomerang'll jest natchully kick him into little
pieces--dat's whut Boomerang will do, by golly!"

Chapter IX

A Night Test

"Come on, Ned," said Tom, after a moment or two of silent
contemplation of Eradicate. "I don't know what this cheerful
camouflager of mine is talking about, but we'll have to go
to see, I suppose. You say you have shut some one up in
Boomerang's stable, Rad?"

"Yes, sah, Massa Tom, dat's whut I's gone an done."

"And you say he's a German?"

"I don't know as to dat, Massa Tom, but he suah done eat
sauerkraut 'mostest ebery meal. Dat's whut I call him--a
Sauerkrauter! An' he suah was spyin'."

"How do you know that, Rad?"

"'Cause he done went from his own shop on annuder man's
ticket into de secret shop, dat's whut he went an' done!"

"Do you mean to tell me, Rad," went on Tom, "that one of
the workmen from another shop entered Number Thirteen on the
pass issued in the name of one of the men regularly employed
in my new shop?"

"Dat's whut he done, Massa Tom."

"How do you know?"

"'Cause I detected him doin' it. Yo'-all done made me a
deteckertiff, an' I detected."

"Go on, Rad."

"Well, sah, Massa Tom, I seen dish yeah Dutchman git a
ticket-pass offen one ob de reg'lar men. Den he went in de
unlucky place an' stayed fo' a long time. When he come out I
jest natchully nabbed him, dat's whut I done, an' I took him
to Boomerang's stable."

"How'd you get him to go with you?" asked Ned, for the old
colored man was feeble, and most of the men employed at
Tom's plant were of a robust type.

"I done fooled him. I said as how I'd lest brought from
town in mah mule cart some new sauerkraut, an' he could
sample it if he liked. So he went wif me, an' when I got him
to de stable I pushed him in and locked de door!"

"Come on!" cried Tom to his chum. "Rad may be right, after
all, and one of my workmen may be a German spy, though I've
tried to weed them all out.

"However, no matter about that, if he was employed in
another shop, he had no right to go into Number Thirteen.
That's a violation of rules. But if he's in Rad's ramshackle
stable he can easily get out."

"No, sah, dat's whut he can't do!" insisted the
colored man.

"Why not?" asked Tom.

"'Cause Boomerang's on guard, an' yo'-all knows how dat
mule of mine can use his heels!"

"I know, Rad," went on Tom; "but this fellow will find a
way of keeping out of their way. We must hurry."

"Oh, he's safe enough," declared the colored man. "I done
tole Koku to stan' guard, too! Dat low-down white trash ob a
giant is all right fo' guardin', but he ain't wuff shucks at
detectin'!" said Eradicate, with pardonable pride. "By
golly, maybe I's too old t' put on guard, but I kin detect,
all right!"

"If this proves true, I'll begin to believe you can,"
replied Tom. "Hop along, Ned!"

Followed by the shuffling and chuckling negro, Tom and Ned
went to the rather insecure stable where the mule Boomerang
was kept. That is, the stable was insecure from the
standpoint of a jail. But the sight of the giant Koku
marching up and down in front of the place, armed with a big
club, reassured Tom.

"Is he in there, Koku?" asked the young inventor.

"Yes, Master! He try once come out, but he approach his
head very close my defense weapon and he go back again."

"I should think he would," laughed Ned, as he noted the
giant's club.

"Well, Rad, let's have a look at your prisoner. Open the
door, Koku," commanded Tom.

"Better look out," advised Ned. "He may be armed."

"We'll have to take a chance. Besides, I don't believe he
is, or he'd have fired at Koku. There isn't much to fear
with the giant ready for emergencies. Now we'll see who he
is. I can't imagine one of my men turning traitor."

The door was opened and a rather miserable-looking man
shuffled out. There was a bloody rag on his head, and he
seemed to have made more of an effort to escape than Koku
described, for he appeared to have suffered in the ensuing

"Carl Schwen!" exclaimed Tom. "So it was you, was it?"

The German, for such he was, did not answer for a moment
He appeared downcast, and as if suffering. Then a change
came over him. He straightened up, saluted as a soldier
might have done, and a sneering look came into his face. It
was succeeded by one of pride as the man exclaimed:

"Yes, it is I! And I tried to do what I tried to do for
the Fatherland! I have failed. Now you will have me shot as
a spy, I suppose!" he added bitterly.

Tom did not answer directly. He looked keenly at the man,
and at last said:

"I am sorry to see this. I knew you were a German, Schwen,
but I kept you employed at work that could not, by any
possibility, be considered as used against your country. You
are a good machinist, and I needed you. But if what I hear
about you is true, it is the end."

"It is the end," said the man simply. "I tried and failed.
If it had not been for Eradicate--Well, he's smarter than I
gave him credit for, that's all!"

The man spoke very good English, with hardly a trace of
German accent, but there was no doubt as to his character.

"What will you do with him, Tom?" asked Ned.

"I don't know. I'll have to do a little investigating
first. But he must be locked up. Schwen," went on the young
inventor, "I'm sorry about this, but I shall have to give
you into the custody of a United States marshal. You are not
a naturalized citizen, are you?"

The man muttered something in German to the effect that he
was not naturalized and was glad of it.

"Then you come under the head of an enemy alien," decided
Tom, who understood what was said, "and will have to be
interned. I had hoped to avoid this, but it seems it cannot
be. I am sorry to lose you, but there are more important
matters. Now let's get at the bottom of this."

Schwen was, after a little delay, taken in charge by the
proper officer, and then a search was made of his room, for,
in common with some of the other workmen, he lived in a
boarding house not far from the plant

There, by a perusal of his papers, enough was revealed to
show Tom the danger he had escaped.

"And yet I don't know that I have altogether escaped it,"
he said to Ned, as they talked it over. "There's no telling
how long this spy work may have been going on. If he has
discovered all the secrets of Shop Thirteen it may be a bad
thing for the Allies and--"

"Look out!" warned Ned, with a laugh. "You'll be saying
things you don't want to, Tom and not at all in keeping with
your former silence."

"That's so," agreed the young inventor, with a sigh. "But
if things go right I'll not have to keep silent much longer.
I may be able to tell you everything."

"Don't tell me--tell Mary," advised his chum. "She feels
your silence more than I do. I know how such things are."

"Well, I'll be able to tell her, too," decided Tom. "That
is, if Schwen hasn't spoiled everything. Look here, Ned,
these papers show he's been in correspondence with Blakeson
and Grinder."

"What about, Tom?"

"I can't tell. The letters are evidently written in code,
and I can't translate it offhand. But I'll make another
attempt at it. And here's one from a person who signs
himself Walter Simpson, but the writing is in German."

"Walter Simpson!" cried Ned. "That's my friend of the

"It is?" cried Tom. "Then things begin to fit themselves
together. Simpson is a spy, and he was probably trying to
communicate with Schwen. But the latter didn't get the
information he wanted, or, if he did get it, he wasn't able
to pass it on to the man in the tree. Eradicate nipped him
just in time."

And, so it seemed, the colored man had done. by accident
he had discovered that Schwen had prevailed on one of the
workmen in Shop 13 to change passes with him. This enabled
the German spy to gain admittance to the secret place, which
Tom thought was so well guarded. The man who let Schwen take
the pass was in the game, too, it appeared, and he was also
placed under arrest. But he was a mere tool in the pay of
the others, and had no chance to gain valuable information.

A hasty search of Shop 13 did not reveal anything missing,
and it was surmised (for Schwen would not talk) that he had
not found time to go about and get all that he was after.

Soon after Schwen's arrest the "Spy Tree," as Tom called
it, was cut down.

"Eradicate certainly did better than I ever expected he
would," declared Tom. "Well, if all goes well, there won't
be so much need for secrecy after a day or so. We're going
to give her a test, and then--"

"Give who a test?" asked Ned, with a smile.

"You'll soon see," answered Tom, with an answering grin.
"I hereby invite you and Mr. Damon to come over to Shop
Thirteen day after to-morrow night and then-- Well, you'll
see what you'll see."

With this Ned had to be content, and he waited anxiously
for the appointed time to come.

"I surely will be glad when Tom is more like himself," he
mused, as he left his chum. "And i guess Mary will be, too.
I wonder if he's going to ask her to the exhibition?"

It developed that Tom had done so, a fact which Ned
learned on the morning of the day set for the test.

"Come over about nine o'clock," Tom said to his chum. "I
guess it will be dark enough then."

Meanwhile Schwen and Otto Kuhn, the other man involved,
had been locked up, and all their papers given into the
charge of the United States authorities. A closer guard than
ever was kept over No. 13 shop, and some of the workmen,
against whom there was a slight suspicion, were transferred.

"Well, we'll see what we shall see," mused Ned on the
appointed evening, when a telephone message from Mr. Damon
informed the young bank clerk that the eccentric man was
coming to call for him before going on to the Swift place.

Chapter X

A Runaway Giant

"What do you think it's all about, Mr. Damon?"

"I'm sure I don't know, Ned."

The two were at the home of the young bank clerk,
preparing to start for the Swift place, it being nearly nine
o'clock on the evening named by the youthful inventor.

"Bless my hat-rack!" went on the eccentric man, "but Tom
isn't at all like himself of late. He's working on some
invention, I know that, but it's all I do know. He hasn't
given me a hint of it."

"Nor me, nor any of his friends," added Ned. "And he acts
so oddly about enlisting--doesn't want even to speak of it.
How he got exempted I don't know, but I do know one thing,
and that is Tom Swift is for Uncle Sam first, last and

"Oh, of course!" agreed Mr. Damon. "Well, we'll soon know,
I guess. We'd better start, Ned."

"It's useless to try to guess what it is Tom is up to. He
has kept his secret well. The nearest any one has come to it
was when Harry figured out that Tom had a band of giant
elephants which he was fitting with coats of steel armor to
go against the Germans," observed Ned, when be and Mr. Damon
were on their way.

"Well, that mightn't be so bad," agreed Mr. Damon. "But--
um--elephants--and wild giant ones, too! Bless my circus
ticket, Ned! do you think we'd better go in that case?"

"Oh, Tom hasn't anything like that!" laughed Ned. "That
was only Harry's crazy notion after he saw something big and
ungainly careening about the enclosed yard of Shop Thirteen.
Hello, there go Mary Nestor and her father!" and Ned pointed
to the opposite side of the street where the girl and Mr.
Nestor could be seen in the light of a street lamp.

"They're going out to see Tom's secret," said Mr. Damon.
"There's plenty of room in my car. Let's ask them to go with

"Surely," agreed Ned, and a moment later he and Mary were
in the rear seat while Mr. Damon and Mr. Nestor were in the
front, Mr. Damon at the wheel, and they were soon speeding
down the road.

"I do hope everything will go all right," observed Mary.

"What do you mean?" asked Ned.

"I mean Tom is a little bit anxious about this test."

"Did he tell you what it was to be?"

"No; but when he called to invite father and me to be
present he seemed worried. I guess it's a big thing, for he
never has acted this way before--not talking about his

"That's right," assented Ned. "But the secret will soon be
disclosed, I fancy. But how is it you aren't going to the
dance with Lieutenant Martin? He told me you had half
accepted for to-night."

"I had." And if it had been light enough Ned would have
seen Mary blushing. "I was going with him. It's a dance for
the benefit of the Red Cross to get money for comfort kits
for the soldiers. But when Tom sent word that he'd like to
have me present to-night, why--"

"Oh, I see!" broke in Ned, with a little laugh. "'Nough

Mary's blushes were deeper, but the kindly night hid them.

Then they conversed on matters connected with the big war-
-the selling of Liberty Bonds, the Red Cross work and the
Surgical Dressings Committee, in which Mary was the head of
a junior league.

"Everybody in Shopton seems to be doing something to help
win the war," said Mary, and as there was just then a lull
in the talk between her father and Mr. Damon her words
sounded clearly.

"Yes, everybody--that is, all but a few," said Mr. Nestor,
"and they ought to get busy. There are some young fellows in
this town that ought to be wearing khaki, and I don't mean
you, Ned Newton. You're doing your bit, all right."

"And so is Tom Swift!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, as if there
had been an implied accusation against the young inventor.
"I heard, only to-day, that one of his inventions--a gas
helmet that he planned--is in use on the Western front in
Europe. Tom gave his patents to the government, and even
made a lot of the helmets free to show other factories how
to turn them out to advantage."

"He did?" cried Mr. Nestor.

"That's what he did. Talk about doing your bit--"

"I didn't know that," observed Mary's father slowly. "Do
you suppose it's a test of another gas helmet that Tom has
asked us out to see to-night?"

"I hardly think so," said Ned. "He wouldn't wait until
after dark for that This is something big, and Tom must
intend to have it out in the open. He probably waited until
after sunset so the neighbors wouldn't come out in flocks.
There's been a lot of talk about what is going on in Shop
Thirteen, especially since the arrest of the German spies,
and the least hint that a test is under way would bring out
a big crowd."

"I suppose so," agreed Mr. Nestor. "Well, I'm glad to know
that Tom is doing something for Uncle Sam, even if it's only
helping with gas helmets. Those Germans are barbarians, if
ever there were any, and we've got to fight them the same
way they fight us! That's the only way to end the war! Now
if I had my way, I'd take every German I could lay my hands

"Father, pretzels!" exclaimed Mary.

"Eh? What's that, my dear?"

"I said pretzels!"

"Oh!" and Mr. Nestor's voice lost its sharpness.

"That's my way of quieting father down when he gets too
strenuous in his talk about the war," explained Mary. "We
agreed that whenever he got excited I was to say 'pretzels'
to him, and that would make him remember. We made up our
little scheme after he got into an argument with a man on
the train and was carried past his station."

"That's right," admitted Mr. Nestor, with a laugh. "But
that fellow was the most obstinate, pig-headed Dutchman that
ever tackled a plate of pig's knuckles and sauerkraut, and
if he had the least grain of common sense he'd--"

"Pretzels!" cried Mary.

"Eh? Oh, yes, my dear. I was forgetting again."

There was a moment of merriment, and then, after the talk
had run for a while in other and safer channels, Mr. Damon
made the announcement:

"I think we're about there. We'll be at Tom's place when
we make the turn and--"

He was interrupted by a low, heavy rumbling.

"What's that?" asked Mr. Nestor.

"It's getting louder--the noise," remarked Mary. "It
sounds as if some big body were approaching down the road--
the tramp of many feet. Can it be that troops are marching

"Bless my spark plug!" suddenly cried Mr. Damon. "Look!"

They gazed ahead, and there, seen in the glare of the
automobile headlights, was an immense, dark body approaching
them from across a level field. The rumble and roar became
more pronounced and the ground shook as though from an

A glaring light shone out from the ponderous moving body,
and above the roar and rattle a voice called:

"Out out of the way! We've lost control! Look out!"

"Bless my steering wheel!" gasped Mr. Damon,
"that was Tom Swift's voice! But what is he
doing in that--thing?"

"It must be his new invention!" exclaimed Ned.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Nestor.

"A giant," ventured Ned. "It's a giant machine of some
sort and --"

"And it's running away!" cried Mr. Damon, as he quickly
steered his car to one side--and not a moment too soon! An
instant later in a cloud of dust, and with a rumble and a
roar as of a dozen express trains fused into one, the
runaway giant--of what nature they could only guess--flashed
and lumbered by, Tom Swift leaning from an opening in the
thick' steel side, and shouting something to his friends.

Chapter XI

Tom's Tank

"What was it?" gasped Mary, and, to her surprise, she
found herself close to Ned, clutching his arm.

"I have an idea, but I'd rather let Tom tell you," he

"But where's it going?" asked Mr. Nestor. "What in the
world does Tom Swift mean by inviting us out here to witness
a test, and then nearly running us down under a Juggernaut?"

"Oh, there must be some mistake, I'm sure," returned his
daughter. "Tom didn't intend this."

"But, bless my insurance policy, look at that thing go!
What in the world is it?" cried Mr. Damon.

The "thing" was certainly going. It had careened from the
road, tilted itself down into a ditch and gone on across the
fields, lights shooting from it in eccentric fashion.

"Maybe we'd better take after it," suggested Mr. Nestor.
"If Tom is--"

"There, it's stopping !" cried Ned. "Come on!"

He sprang from the automobile, helped Mary to get out, and
then the two, followed by Mr. Damon and Mr. Nestor, made
their way across the fields toward the big object where it
had come to a stop, the rumbling and roaring ceasing.

Before the little party reached the strange machine--the
"runaway giant," as they dubbed it in their excitement--a
bright light flashed from it, a light that illuminated their
path right up to the monster. And in the glare of this light
they saw Tom Swift stepping out through a steel door in the
side of the affair.

"Are you all right?" he called to his friends, as they

"All right, as nearly as we can be when we've been almost
scared to death, Tom," said Mr. Nestor.

"I'm surely sorry for what happened," Tom answered, with a
relieved laugh. "Part of the steering gear broke and I had
to guide it by operating the two motors alternately. It can
be worked that way, but it takes a little practice to become

"I should say so!" cried Mr. Damon. "But what in the world
does it all mean, Tom Swift? You invite us out to see

"And there she is!" interrupted the young inventor. "You
saw her a little before I meant you to, and not under
exactly the circumstances I had planned. But there she is!"
And he turned as though introducing the metallic monster to
his friends.

"What is she, Tom?" asked Ned. "Name it!"

"My latest invention, or rather the invention of my father
and myself," answered Tom, and his voice showed the love and
reverence he felt for his parent. "Perhaps I should say
adaptation instead of invention," Tom went on, "since that
is what it is. But, at any rate, it's my latest--dad's and
mine--and it's the newest, biggest, most improved and
powerful fighting tank that's been turned out of any shop,
as far as I can learn.

"Ladies--I mean lady and gentlemen--allow me to present to
you War Tank A, and may she rumble till the pride of the
Boche is brought low and humble!" cried Tom.

"Hurray! That's what I say!" cheered Ned.

"That's what I have been at work on lately. I'll give you
a little history of it, and then you may come inside and
have a ride home."

"In that?" cried Mr. Damon.

"Yes. I can't promise to move as speedily as your car, but
I can make better time than the British tanks. They go about
six miles an hour, I understand, and I've got mine geared to
ten. That's one improvement dad and I have made."

"Ride in that!" cried Mr. Nestor. "Tom, I like you, and
I'm glad to see I've been mistaken about you. You have been
doing your bit, after all; but--"

"Oh, I've only begun!" laughed Tom Swift.

"Well, no matter about that. However much I like you,"
went on Mr. Nestor, "I'd as soon ride on the wings of a
thunderbolt as in Tank A, Tom Swift."

"Oh, it isn't as bad as that!" laughed the young
scientist. "But neither is it a limousine. However, come
inside, anyhow, and I'll tell you something about it. Then
I guess we can guide it back. The men are repairing the

The visitors entered the great craft through the door by
which Tom had emerged. At first all they saw was a small
compartment, with walls of heavy steel, some shelves of the
same and a seat which folded up against the wall made of
like powerful material.

"This is supposed to be the captain's room, where he stays
when he directs matters." Tom explained. "The machinery is
below and beyond here."

"How'd you come to evolve this?" asked Ned. "I haven't
seen half enough of the outside, to say nothing of the

"You'll have time enough," Tom said. "This is my first
completed tank. There are some improvements to be made
before we send it to the other side to be copied.

"Then they'll make them in England as well as here, and
from here we'll ship them in sections."

"I don't see how you ever thought of it!" exclaimed the
girl, in wonder.

"Well, I didn't all at once," Tom answered, with a laugh.
"It came by degrees. I first got the idea when I heard of
the British tanks.

"When I had read how they went into action and what they
accomplished against the barbed wire entanglements, and how
they crossed the trenches, I concluded that a bigger tank,
one capable of more speed, say ten or twelve miles an hour,
and one that could cross bigger excavations--the English
tanks up to this time can cross a ditch of twelve feet--I
thought that, with one made on such specifications, more
effective work could be done against the Germans."

"And will yours do that?" asked Ned. "I mean will it do
ten miles an hour, and straddle over a wider ditch than
twelve feet?"

"It'll do both," promptly answered Tom. "We did a little
better than eleven miles an hour a while ago when I yelled
to you to get out of the way just now. It's true we weren't
under good control, but the speed had nothing to do with
that. And as for going over a big ditch, I think we
straddled one about fourteen feet across back there, and we
can do better when I get my grippers to working."

"Grippers!" exclaimed Mary.

"What kind of trench slang is that, Tom Swift?" asked Mr.

"Well, that's a new idea I'm going to try out It's
something like this," and while from a distant part of the
interior of Tank A came the sound of hammering, the young
inventor rapidly drew a rough pencil sketch.

It showed the tank in outline, much as appear the pictures
of tanks already in service--the former simile of two wedge-
shaped pieces of metal put together broad end to broad end,
still holding good. From one end of the tank, as Tom drew
it, there extended two long arms of latticed steel

"The idea is," said Tom, "to lay these down in front of
the tank, by means of cams and levers operated from inside.
If we get to a ditch which we can't climb down into and out
again, or bridge with the belt caterpillar wheels, we'll use
the grippers. They'll be laid down, taking a grip on the far
side of the trench, and we'll slide across on them."

"And leave them there?" asked Mr. Damon.

"No, we won't leave them. We'll pick them up after we have
passed over them and use them in front again as we need
them. A couple of extra pairs of grippers may be carried for
emergencies, but I plan to use the same ones over and over

"But what makes it go?" asked Mary. "I don't want all the
details, Tom," she said, with a smile, "but I'd like to know
what makes your tank move."

"I'll be able to show you in a little while," he answered.
"But it may be enough now if I tell you that the main power
consists of two big gasolene engines, one on either side.
They can be geared to operate together or separately. And
these engines turn the endless belts made of broad, steel
plates, on which the tank travels. The belts pass along the
outer edges of the tank longitudinally, and go around cogged
wheels at either end of the blunt noses.

"When both belts travel at the same rate of speed the tank
goes in a straight line, though it can be steered from side
to side by means of a trailer wheel in the rear. Making one
belt--one set of caterpillar wheels, you know--go faster
than the other will make the tank travel to one side or the
other, the turn being in the direction of the slowest moving
belt. In this way we can steer when the trailer wheels are

"And what does your tank do except travel along, not
minding a hail of bullets?" asked Mr. Nestor.

"Well," answered Tom, "it can do anything any other tank
can do, and then some more. It can demolish a good-sized
house or heavy wall, break down big trees, and chew up
barbed-wire fences as if they were toothpicks. I'll show you
all that in due time. Just now, if the repairs are finished,
we can get back on the road--"

At that moment a door leading into the compartment where
Tom and his friends were talking opened, and one of the
workmen said:

"A man outside asking to see you, Mr. Swift."

"Pardon me, but I won't keep you a moment," interrupted a
suave voice. "I happened to observe your tank, and I took
the liberty of entering to see

"Simpson!" cried Ned Newton, as he recognized the man who
had been up the tree. "It's that spy, Simpson, Tom!"

Chapter XII

Bridging a Gap

Such surprise showed both on the face of Ned Newton and
that of the man who called himself Walter Simpson that it
would be hard to say which was in the greater degree. For a
moment the newcomer stood as if he had received all electric
shock, and was incapable of motion. Then, as the echoes of
Ned's voice died away and the young bank clerk, being the
first to recover from the shock, made a motion toward the
unwelcome and uninvited intruder, Simpson exclaimed.

"I will not bother now. Some other time will do as well."

Then, with a haste that could be called nothing less than
precipitate, he made a turn and fairly shot out of the door
by which he had entered the tank.

"There he goes!" cried Mr. Damon. "Bless my speedometer,
but there he goes!"

"I'll stop him!" cried Ned. "We've got to find out more
about him! I'll get him, Tom!"

Tom Swift was not one to let a friend rush alone into what
might be danger. He realized immediately what his chum meant
when he called out the identity of the intruder, and,
wishing to clear up some of the mystery of which he became
aware when Schwen was arrested and the paper showing a
correspondence with this Simpson were found, Tom darted out
to try to assist in the capture.

"He went this way!" cried Ned, who was visible in the
glare of the searchlight that still played its powerful
beams over the stern of the tank, if such an ungainly
machine can be said to have a bow and stern. "Over this

"I'm with you!" cried Tom. "See if you can pick up that
man who just ran out of here!" he cried to the operator of
the searchlight in the elevated observation section of what
corresponded to the conning tower of a submarine. This was a
sort of lookout box on top of the tank, containing, among
other machines, the searchlight. "Pick him up!" cried Tom.

The operator flashed the intense white beam, like a finger
of light, around in eccentric circles. but though this
brought into vivid relief the configuration of the field and
road near which the tank was stalled, it showed no running
fugitive. Tom and Ned were observed--shadows of black in the
glare--by Mary and her friends in the tank, but there was no
one else.

"Come on!" cried Ned. "We can find him, Tom!"

But this was easier said than done. Even though they were
aided by the bright light, they caught no glimpse of the man
who called himself Simpson.

"Guess he got away," said Tom, when he and Ned had circled
about and investigated many clumps of bushes, trees, stumps
and other barriers that might conceal the fugitive.

"I guess so," agreed Ned. "Unless he's hiding in what we
might call a shell crater."

"Hardly that," and Tom smiled. "Though if all goes well
the men who operate this tank later may be searching for men
in real shell holes."

"Is this one going to the other side?" asked Ned, as the
two walked back toward the tank.

"I hope it will be the first of my new machines on the
Western front," Tom answered. "But I've still got to perfect
it in some details and then take it apart. After that, if it
comes up to expectations, we'll begin making them in

"Did you get him?" asked Mr. Damon eagerly, as the two
young men came back to join Mary and her friends.

"No, he got away," Tom answered.

"Did he try to blow up the tank?" asked Mr. Nestor, who
had an abnormal fear of explosives. "Was he a German spy?"

"I think he's that, all right," said Ned grimly. "As to
his endeavoring to blow up Tom's tank, I believe him capable
of it, though he didn't try it to-night--unless he's planted
a time bomb somewhere about, Tom."

"Hardly, I guess," answered the young inventor. "He didn't
have a chance to do that. Anyhow we won't remain here long.
Now, Ned, what about this chap? Is he really the one you saw
up in the tree?"

"I not only saw him but I felt him," answered Ned, with a
rueful look at his fingers. "He stepped right on me. And
when he came inside the tank to-night I knew him at once. I
guess he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him."

"But what was his object?" asked Mr. Nestor.

"He must have some connection with my old enemy,
Blakeson," answered Tom, "and we know he's mixed up with
Schwen. From the looks of him I should say that this
Simpson, as he calls himself, is the directing head of the
whole business. He looks to be the moneyed man, and the
brains of the plotters. Blakeson is smart, in a mechanical
way, and Schwen is one of the best machinists I've ever
employed. But this Simpson strikes me as being the slick one
of the trio."

"But what made him come here, and what did he want?" asked
Mary. "Dear me! it's like one of those moving picture plots,
only I never saw one with a tank in it before--I mean a tank
like yours, Tom."

"Yes, it is a bit like moving picture--especially chasing
Simpson by searchlight," agreed the young inventor. "As to
what he wanted, I suppose he came to spy out some of my
secret inventions--dad's and mine. He's probably been hiding
and sneaking around the works ever since we arrested Schwen.
Some of my men have reported seeing strangers about, but I
have kept Shop Thirteen well guarded.

"However, this fellow may have been waiting outside, and
he may have followed the tank when we started off a little
while ago for the night test. Then, when he saw our mishap
and noticed that we were stalled, he came in, boldly enough,
thinking, I suppose, that, as I had never seen him, he would
take a chance on getting as much information as he could in
a hurry."

"But he didn't count on Ned's being here!" chuckled Mr.

"No; that's where he slipped a cog," remarked Mr. Nestor.
"Well, Tom, I like your tank, what I've seen of her, but
it's getting late and I think Mary and I had better be
getting back home."

"We'll be ready to start in a little while," Tom said,
after a brief consultation with one of his men. "Still,
perhaps it would be just as well if you didn't ride back
with me. She may go all right, and then, again, she may not.
And as it's dark, and we're in a rough part of the field,
you might be a bit shaken up. Not that the tank minds it!"
the young inventor hastened to add "She's got to do her bit
over worse places than this--much worse--but I want to get
her in a little better working shape first. So if you don't
mind, Mary, I'll postpone your initial trip."

"Oh, I don't mind, Tom! I'm so glad you've made this! I
want to see the war ended, and I think machines like this
will help."

"I'll ride back with you, Tom, if you don't mind," put in
Ned. "I guess a little shaking up won't hurt me."

"All right--stick. We're going to start very soon."

"Well, I'm coming over to-morrow to have a look at it by
daylight," said Mr. Damon, as he started toward his car.

"So am I," added Mary. "Please call for me, Mr. Damon."

"I will," he promised.

Mr. Nestor, his daughter, and Mr. Damon went back to the
automobile, while Ned remained with Tom. In a little while
those in the car heard once more the rumbling and roaring
sound and felt the earth tremble. Then, with a flashing of
lights, the big, ungainly shape of the tank lifted herself
out of the little ditch in which she had come to a halt, and
began to climb back to the road.

Ned Newton stood beside Tom in the control tower of the
great tank as she started on her homeward way.

"Isn't it wonderful!" murmured Mary, as she saw Tank A
lumbering along toward the road. "Oh, and to think that
human beings made that To think that Tom should know how to
build such a wonderful machine!"

"And run it, too, Mary! That's the point! Make it run!"
cried her father. "I tell you, that Tom Swift is a wonder!"

"Bless my dictionary, he sure is!" agreed Mr. Damon.

Along the road, back toward the shop whence it had
emerged, rumbled the tank. The noise brought to their doors
inhabitants along the country thoroughfare, and some of them
were frightened when they saw Tom Swift's latest war
machine, the details of which they could only guess at in
the darkness.

"She'll butt over a house if it gets in her path, knock
down trees, chew up barbed-wire, and climb down into ravines
and out again, and go over a good-sized stream without a
whimper," said Tom, as he steered the great machine.

There was little chance then for Ned to see much of the
inside mechanism of the tank. He observed that Tom, standing
in the forward tower, steered it very easily by a small
wheel or by a lever, alternately, and that he communicated
with the engine room by means of electric signals.

"And she steers by electricity, too," Tom told his friend.
"That was one difficulty with the first tanks. They had to
be steered by brute force, so to speak, and it was a
terrific strain on the man in the tower. Now I can guide
this in two ways: by the electric mechanism which swings the
trailer wheels to either side, or by varying the speed of
the two motors that work the caterpillar belts. So if one
breaks down, I have the other."

"Got any guns aboard her--I mean machine guns?" asked Ned.

"Not yet. But I'm going to install some. I wanted to get
the tank in proper working order first. The guns are only
incidental, though of course they're vitally necessary when
she goes into action. I've got 'em all ready to put in. But
first I'm going to try the grippers."

"Oh, you mean the gap-bridgers?" asked Ned.

"That's it," answered Tom. "Look out, we're going over a
rough spot now."

And they did. Ned was greatly shaken up, and fairly tossed
from side to side of the steering tower. For the tank
contained no springs, except such as were installed around
the most delicate machinery, and it was like riding in a
dump cart over a very rough road.

"However, that's part of the game," Tom observed.

Tank A reached her "harbor" safely--in other words, the
machine shop enclosed by the high fence, inside of which she
had been built.

Tom and Ned made some inquiries of Koku and Eradicate as
to whether or not there had been any unusual sights or
sounds about the place. They feared Simpson might have come
to the shop to try to get possession of important drawings
or data.

But all had been quiet, Koku reported Nor had Eradicate
seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.

"Then I guess we'll lock up and turn in," decided Tom.
"Come over to-morrow, Ned."

"I will," promised the young bank clerk. "I want to see
more of what makes the wheels go round." And he laughed at
his own ingenuousness.

The next day Tom showed his friends as much as they cared
to see about the workings of the tank. They inspected the
powerful gasolene engines, saw how they worked the endless
belts made of plates of jointed steel, which, running over
sprocket wheels, really gave the tank its power by providing
great tractive force.

Any self-propelled vehicle depends for its power, either
to move itself or to push or to pull, on its tractive force-
-that is, the grip it can get on the ground.

In the case of a bicycle little tractive power is needed,
and this is provided by the rubber tires, which grip the
ground. A locomotive depends for its tractive power on its
weight pressing on its driving wheels, and the more driving
wheels there are and the heavier the locomotive, the more it
can pull, though in that case speed is lost. This is why
freight locomotives are so heavy and have so many large
driving wheels. They pull the engine along, and the cars
also, by their weight pressing on the rails.

The endless steel belts of a tank are, the same as the
wheels of a locomotive. And the belts, being very broad,
which gives them a large surface with which to press on the
ground, and the tank being very heavy, great power to
advance is thus obtained, though at the sacrifice of speed.
However, Tom Swift had made his tank so that it would do
about ten miles and more an hour, nearly double the progress
obtained up to that time by the British machines.

His visitors saw the great motors, they inspected the
compact but not very attractive living quarters of the crew,
for provision had to be made for the men to stay in the tank
if, perchance, it became stalled in No Man's Land,
surrounded by the enemy.

The tank was powerfully armored and would be armed. There
were a number of machine guns to be installed, quick-firers
of various types, and in addition the tank could carry a
number of riflemen.

It was upon the crushing power of the tank, though, that
most reliance was placed. Thus it could lead the way for an
infantry advance through the enemy's lines, making nothing
of barbed wire that would take an artillery fire of several
days to cut to pieces.

"And now, Ned," said Tom, about a week after the night
test of the tank, "I'm going to try what she'll do in
bridging a gap."

"Have you got her in shape again?"

"Yes, everything is all right. I've taken out the weak
part in the steering gear that nearly caused us to run you
down, and we're safe in that respect now. And I've got the
grippers made. It only remains to see whether they're strong
enough to bear the weight of my little baby," and Tom
affectionately patted the steel sides of Tank A.

While his men were getting the machine ready for a test
out on the road, and for a journey across a small stream not
far away, Torn told his chum about conceiving the idea for
the tank and carrying it out secretly with the aid of his
father and certain workmen.

"That's the reason the government exempted me from
enlisting," Tom said. "They wanted me to finish this tank. I
didn't exactly want to, but I considered it my 'bit.' After
this I'm going into the army, Ned."

"Glad to hear it, old man. Maybe by that time I'll have
this Liberty Bond work finished, and I'll go with you. We'll
have great times together! Have you heard anything more of
Simpson, Blakeson and Scoundrels?" And Ned laughed as he
named this "firm."

"No," answered Tom. "I guess we scared off that slick
German spy."

Once more the tank lumbered out along the road. It was a
mighty engine of war, and inside her rode Tom and Ned. Mary
and her father had been invited, but the girl could not
quite get her courage to the point of accepting, nor did Mr.
Nestor care to go. Mr. Damon, however, as might be guessed,
was there.

"Bless my monkey wrench, Tom!" cried the eccentric man, as
he noted their advance over some rough ground, "are you
really going to make this machine cross Tinkle Creek on a
bridge of steel you carry with you?"

"I'm going to try, Mr. Damon."

A little later, after a successful test up and down a
small gully, Tank A arrived at the edge of Tinkle Creek, a
small stream about twenty feet wide, not far from Tom's
home. At the point selected for the test the banks were high
and steep.

"If she bridges that gap she'll do anything," murmured
Ned, as the tank came to a stop on the edge.

Chapter XIII

Into a Trench

Tom cast a hasty glance over the mechanism of the machine
before he started to cross the stream by the additional aid
of the grippers, or spanners, as he sometimes called this
latest device.

Along each side, in a row of sockets, were two long
girders of steel, latticed like the main supports of a
bridge. They were of peculiar triangular construction,
designed to support heavy weights, and each end was broadly
flanged to prevent its sinking too deeply into the earth on
either side of a gully or a stream.

The grippers also had a sort of clawlike arrangement on
either end, working on the principle of an "orange-peel"
shovel, and these claws were designed to grip the earth to
prevent slipping.

The spanners would be pulled out from their sockets on the
side of the tank by means of steel cables, which were
operated from within. They would be run out across the gap
and fastened in place. The tank was designed to travel along
them to the other side of the gap, and, once there. to pick
tip the girders, slip them back into place on the sides, and
the engine of war would travel on.

"You are mightily excited, Tom.

"I admit it, Ned. You see, I have not tried the grippers
out except on a small model. They worked there, but whether
they will work in practice remains to be seen. Of course, at
this stage, I'm willing to stake my all on the results. but
there is always a half-question until the final try-out
under practical conditions."

"Well, we'll soon see," said one of the workmen. "Are you
ready, Mr. Swift?"

"All ready," answered Tom.

Tank A, as she was officially known, had come to a stop,
as has been said, on the very edge of Tinkle Creek. The
banks were fairly solid here, and descended precipitously to
the water ten feet below. The shores were about twenty feet

"Suppose the spanners break when you're halfway over,
Tom?" asked his chum.

"I don't like to suppose anything of the sort. But if they
do, we're going down!"

"Can you get up again?"

"That remains to be seen," was the non-committal reply.
"Well, here goes, anyhow!"

Going up into the observation tower, which was only
slightly raised above the roof of the highest part of the
tank, Tom gave the signal for the motors to start. There was
a trembling throughout the whole of the vast structure. Tom
threw back a lever and Ned, peering from a side observation
slot, beheld a strange sight.

Like the main arm of some great steam shovel, two long,
latticed girders of steel shot out from the sides of the
tank. They gave a half turn, as they were pulled forward by
the steel ropes, so that they lay with their broader
surfaces uppermost.

Straight across the stream they were pulled, their
clawlike ends coming to a rest on the opposite bank. Then
they were tightened into place by a backward pull on the
operating cables, and Tom, with a sigh of relief, announced:

"Well, so far so good!"

"Do we go over now?" inquired Ned.

"Over the top--yes, I hope," answered Tom, with a laugh.
"How about you down there?" he called to the engine room
through a telephone which could only be used when the
machinery was not in action, there being too much noise to
permit the use of any but visual signals after that.

"All right," came back the answer. "We're ready when you

"Then here we go!" said Tom. "Hold fast, Ned! Of course
there's no real telling what will happen, though I believe
we'll come out of it alive."

"Cheerful prospect," murmured Ned.

The grippers were now in place. It only remained for the
tank to propel herself over them, pick them up on the other
side of Tinkle Creek, and proceed on her course.

Tom Swift hesitated a moment, one hand on the starting
lever and the other on the steering wheel. Then, with a
glance at Ned, half whimsical and half resolute, Tom started
Tank A on what might prove to be her last journey.

Slowly the ponderous caterpillar belts moved around on the
sprocket wheels. They ground with a clash of steel on the
surface of the spanners. So long was the tank that the
forward end, or the "nose," was halfway across the stream
before the bottom part of the endless belts gripped the
latticed bridge.

"If we fall, we'll span the creek, not fall into it,"
murmured Ned, as he looked from the observation slot.

"That's what I counted on," Tom said. "We'll get out, even
if we do fall."

But Tank A was not destined to fall. In another moment her
entire weight rested on the novel and transportable bridge
Tom Swift had evolved. Then, as the gripping ends of the
girders sank farther into the soil, the tank went on her

Slowly, at half speed, she crawled over the steel beams,
making progress over the creek and as safely above the water
as though on a regularly constructed bridge.

On and on she went. Now her entire weight was over the
middle of the temporary structures. If they were going to
give way at all, it would be at this point But they did not
give. The latticed and triangular steel, than which there is
no stronger form of construction, held up the immense
weight of Tank A, and on this novel bridge she propelled
herself across Tinkle Creek.

"Well, the worst is over," remarked Ned, as he saw the
nose of the tank project beyond the farthermost bank.

"Yes, even if they collapse now nothing much can happen,"
Tom answered. "It won't be any worse than wallowing down
into a trench and out again. But I think the spanners will

And hold they did! They held, giving way not a fraction of
an inch, until the tank was safely across, and then, after a
little delay, due to a jamming of one of the recovery
cables, the spanners were picked up, slid into the receiving
sockets, and the great war engine was ready to proceed

"Hurrah!" cried Ned. "She did it, Tom, old man!" and he
clapped his chum resoundingly on the back.

"She certainly did!" was the answer. "But you needn't
knock me apart telling me that. Go easy!"

"Bless my apple pie!" cried Mr. Damon, who was as much
pleased as either of the boys, "this is what I call great!"

"Yes, she did all that I could have hoped for," said Tom.
"Now for the next test."

"Bless my collar button! is there another?"

"Just down into a trench and out again." Tom said. "This
is comparatively simple. It's only what she'll have to do
every day in Flanders."

The tank waddled on. A duck's sidewise walk is about the
only kind of motion that can be compared to it. The going
was easier now, for it was across a big field, and Tom told
his friends that at the other end was a deep, steep and
rocky ravine in which he had decided to give the tank
another test.

"We'll imagine that ravine is a trench," he said, "and
that we've got to get on the other side of it. Of course, we
won't be under fire, as the tanks will be at the front, but
aside from that the test will be just as severe."

A little later Tank A brought her occupants to the edge of
the "trench."

"Now, little girl," cried Tom exultingly, patting the
rough steel side of his tank, "show them what you can do!"

"Bless my plum pudding!" cried Mr. Damon, "are you really
going down there, Tom Swift?"

"I am," answered the young inventor. "It won't be
dangerous. We'll crawl down and crawl out. Hold fast!"

He steered the machine straight for the edge of the
ravine, and as the nose slipped over and the broad steel
belts bit into the earth the tank tilted downward at a
sickening angle.

She appeared to be making the descent safely, when there
was a sudden change. The earth seemed to slip out from under
the broad caterpillar belts, and then the tank moved more

"Tom, we're turning over!" shouted Ned. "We're capsizing!"

Chapter XIV

The Ruined Factory

Only too true were the words Ned Newton shouted to his
chum. Tank A was really capsizing. She had advanced to the
edge of the gully and started down it, moving slowly on the
caterpillar bands of steel. Then had come a sudden lurch,
caused, as they learned afterward, by the slipping off of a
great quantity of shale from an underlying shelf of rock.

This made unstable footing for the tank. One side sank
lower than the other, and before Tom could neutralize this
by speeding up one motor and slowing down the other the tank
slowly turned over on its side.

"But she isn't going to stop here!" cried Ned, as he found
himself thrown about like a pill in a box. "We're going all
the way over!"

"Let her go over!" cried Tom, not that he could stop the
tank now. "It won't hurt her. She's built for lust this sort
of thing!"

And over Tank A did go. Over and over she rolled,
sidewise, tumbling and sliding down the shale sides of the
great gully.

"Hold fast! Grab the rings!" cried Tom to his two
companions in the tower with him. "That's what they're for!"

Ned and Mr. Damon understood. In fact, the latter had
already done as Tom suggested. The young inventor had read
that the British tanks frequently turned turtle, and he had
this in mind when he made provision in his own for the
safety of passengers and crew.

As soon as he felt the tank careening, Tom had pressed the
signal ordering the motors stopped, and now only the force
of gravity was operating. But that was sufficient to carry
the big machine to the bottom of the gulch, whither she slid
with a great cloud of sand, shale and dust.

"Bless my--bless my--" Mr. Damon was murmuring, but he was
so flopped about, tossed from one side to the other, and it
took so much of his attention and strength to hold on to the
safety ring, that he could not properly give vent; to one of
his favorite expressions.

But there comes an end to all things, even to the descent
of a tank, and Tom's big machine soon stopped rolling,
sliding, and turning improvised somersaults, and rested in a
pile of soft shale at the bottom of the gully. And the
tank was resting on her back!

"We've turned turtle!" cried Ned, as he noted that he was
standing on what, before, had been the ceiling of the
observation tower. But as everything was of steel, and as
there was no movable furniture, no great harm was done. In
fact, one could as well walk on the ceiling of the tank as
on the floor.

"But how are you going to get her right side up?" asked
Mr. Damon.

"Oh, turning upside down is only one of the stunts of the
game. I can right her," was the answer.

"How?" asked Ned.

"Well, she'll right herself if there's ground enough for
the steel belts to get a grip on.

"But can the motors work upside down?"

"They surely can!" responded Tom. "I made 'em that way on
purpose. The gasolene feeds by air pressure, and that works
standing on its head, as well as any other way. It's going
to be a bit awkward for the men to operate the controls, but
we won't be this way long. Before I start to right her.
though, I want to make sure nothing is broken."

Tom signaled to the engine room, and, as the power was off
and the speaking tube could be used, he called through it:

"How are you down there?"

"Right-o!" came back the answer from a little Englishman
Tom had hired because he knew something about the British
tanks. "'Twas a bit of nastiness for a while, but it won't
take us long to get up ag'in."

"That's good!" commented Tom. "I'll come down and have a
look at you."

It was no easy matter, with the tank capsized, to get to
the main engine room, but Tom Swift managed it. To his
delight, aside from a small break in one of the minor
machines, which would not interfere with the operation or
motive force of the monster war engine, everything was in
good shape. There was no leak from the gasolene tanks, which
was one of the contingencies Tom feared, and, as he had
said, the motors would work upside down as well as right
side up, a fact he had proved more than once in his Hawk.

"Well, we'll make a start," he told his chief engineer.
"Stand by when I give the signal, and we'll try to crawl out
of this right side up."

"How are you going to do it?" asked Ned, as his chum
crawled back into the observation tower.

"Well, I'm going to run her part way up the very steepest
part of the ravine I can find--the side of a house would do
as well if it could stand the strain. I'm going to stand the
tank right up on her nose, so to speak, and tip her over so
she'll come right again."

Slowly the tank started off, while Tom and his friends in
the observation tower anxiously awaited the result of the
novel progress. Ned and Mr. Damon clung to the safety rings.
Tom put his arm through one and hung on grimly, while he
used both hands on the steering apparatus and the controls.

Of course the trailer wheels were useless in a case of
this kind, and the tank had to be guided by the two belts
run at varying speeds.

"Here we go!" cried Tom, and the tank started. It was a
queer sensation to be moving upside down, but it did not
last very long. Tom steered the tank straight at the
opposite wail of the ravine, where it rose steeply. One of
the broad belts ran up on that side. The other was revolved
in the opposite direction. Up and up, at a sickening angle,
went Tank A.

Slowly the tank careened, turning completely over on her
longer axis, until, as Tom shut off the power, he and his
friends once more found themselves standing where they
belonged--on the floor of the observation tower.

"Right side up with care!" quoted Ned, with a laugh. "Well,
that was some stunt--believe me!"

"Bless my corn plaster, I should say so!" cried Mr. Damon.

"Well, I'm glad it happened," commented Tom. "It showed
what she can do when she's put to it. Now we'll get out of
this ditch."

Slowly the tank lumbered along, proper side up now, the
men in the motor room reporting that everything was all
right, and that with the exception of a slight unimportant
break, no damage had been done.

Straight for the opposite steep side of the gully Tom
directed his strange craft, and at a point where the wall of
the gulch gave a good footing for the steel belts, Tank A
pulled herself out and up to level ground.

"Well, I'm glad that's over," remarked Ned, with a sigh of
relief, as the tank waddled along a straight stretch. "And
to think of having to do that same thing under heavy fire !"

"That's part of the game," remarked Tom. "And don't forget
that we can fire, too--or we'll be able to when I get the
guns in place. They'll help to balance the machine better,
too, and render her less likely to overturn."

Tom considered the test a satisfactory one and, a little
later, guided his tank back to the shop, where men were set
to work repairing the little damage done and making some

"What's next on the program?" asked Ned of his chum one
day about a week later. "Any more tests in view?"

"Yes," answered Tom. "I've got the machine guns in place
now. We are going to try them out and also endeavor to
demolish a building and some barbed wire. Like to come

"I would!" cried Ned.

A little later the tank was making her way over a field.
Tom pointed toward a deserted factory, which had long been
partly in ruins, but some of the walls of which still stood.

"I'm going to bombard that," he announced, and then try to
batter it down and roll over it like a Juggernaut. Are you

"Do your worst!" laughed Ned. "Let me man one of the
machine guns!"

"All right," agreed Tom. "Concentrate your fire. Make
believe you're going against the Germans!"

Slowly, but with resistless energy, the tank approached
the ruined factory.

"Are you sure there's no one in it, Tom?"

"Sure! Blaze away!"

Chapter XV

Across Country

Ned Newton sighted his machine gun. Tom had showed him how
to work it, and indeed the young bank clerk had had some
practice with a weapon like this, erected on a stationary
tripod. But this was the first time Ned had attempted to
fire from the tank while it was moving, and he found it an
altogether different matter.

"Say, it sure is hard to aim where you want to!" he
shouted across to Tom, it being necessary, even in the
conning tower, where this one gun was mounted, to speak
loudly to make one's self heard above the hum, the roar and
rattle of the machinery in the interior of Tank A, and
below and to the rear of the two young men.

"Well, that's part of the game," Tom answered. "I'm
sending her along over as smooth ground as I can pick out,
but it's rough at best. Still this is nothing to what you'll
get in Flanders."

"If I get there!" exclaimed Ned grimly. "Well, here goes!"
and once more he tried to aim the machine gun at the middle
of the brick wall of the ruined factory.

A moment later there was a rattle and a roar as the quick-
firing mechanism started, and a veritable hail of bullets
swept out at the masonry. Tom and Ned could see where they
struck, knocking off bits of stone, brick and cement

"Sweep it, Ned! Sweep it!" cried Tom. "Imagine a crowd of
Germans are charging out at you, and sweep 'em out of the

Obeying this command, the young man moved the barrel of
the machine gun from side to side and slightly up and down.
The effect was at once apparent. The wall showed spatter-
marks of the bullets over a wider area, and had a body of
Teutons been before the factory, or even inside it, many of
them would have been accounted for, since there were several
holes in the wall through which Ned's bullets sped, carrying
potential death with them.

"That's better!" shouted Tom. "That'll do the business!
Now I'm going to open her up, Ned!"

"Open her up?" cried the young bank clerk, as he ceased

"Yes; crack the wall of that factory as I would a nut!
Watch me take it on high--that is, if the old tank doesn't
go back on me!"

"You mean you're going to ride right over that building,
Tom ?"

"I mean I'm going to try! If Tank A does as I expect her
to, she'll butt into that wall, crush it down by force and
weight, and then waddle over the ruins. Watch!"

Tom sent some signals to the motor room. At once there was
noticed an increase in the vibrations of the ponderous

"They're giving her more speed," said Tom. "And I guess
we'll need it."

Straight for the old factory went Tank A. In spite of its
ruined condition, some of the walls were still firm, and
seemed to offer a big obstacle to even so powerful an engine
of war as this monstrous tank.

"Get ready now, Ned," Tom advised. "And when I crack her
open for you cut loose with the machine gun again. This gun
is supposed to fire straight ahead and a little to either
side. There are other guns at left and right, amidships, as
I might say, and there's also one in the stern, to take care
of any attack from that direction.

"The men in charge of them will fire at the same time you
do, and it will be as near like a real attack as we can make
it--with the exception of not being fired back at. And I
wouldn't mind if such were the case, for I don't believe
anything, outside of heavy artillery, will have any effect
on this tank."

Tank A was now almost at her maximum speed as she
approached closer to the deserted factory. Ned and Tom, in
the conning tower, saw the largest of the remaining walls
looming before them. Straight at it rushed the ponderous
machine, and the next moment there came a shock which almost
threw Ned away from his gun and back against the steel wall
behind him.

"Hold fast!" cried Tom. "Here we go! Fire. Ned! Fire!"

There was a crash as the blunt nose of the great war tank
hit the wall and crumpled it up.

A great hole was made in the masonry, and what was not
crushed under the caterpillar belts of the tank fell in a
shower of bricks, stone and cement on top of the machine.

Like a great hail storm the broken masonry pelted the
steel sides and top of the tank. But she felt them no more
than does an alligator the attacks of a colony of ants.
Right on through the dust the tank crushed her way. Added to
the noise of the falling walls was that of the machine guns,
which were barking away like a kennel of angry hounds eager
to be unleashed at the quarry.

Ned kept his gun going until the heat of it warned him to
stop and let the barrel cool, or he knew he would jam some
of the mechanism. The other guns were firing, too, and the
bullets sent up little spatter points of dust as they hit.

"Great jumping hoptoads!" yelled Ned above the riot of
racket outside and inside. "Feel her go, Tom!"

"Yes, she's just chewing it up, all right!" cried the
young inventor, his eyes shining with delight.

The tank had actually burst her way through the solid wall
of the old factory, permission to complete the demolition of
which Tom had secured from the owners. Then the great
machine kept right on. She fairly "walked" over the piles of
masonry, dipped down into what had been a basement, now
partly filled with debris, and kept on toward another wall.

"I'm going through that, too!" cried Tom.

And he did, knocking it down and sending his tank over the
piled-up ruins, while the machine guns barked, coughed and
spluttered, as Ned and the others inside the tank held back
the firing levers.

Right through the opposite wall, as through the one she
had already demolished, the tank careened on her way, to
emerge, rather battered and dust-covered, on the other side
of what was left of the factory. And there was not much of
it left. Tank A had well-nigh completed its demolition.

"If there'd been a nest of Germans in there," said Tom, as
he brought the machine to a stop in a field beyond the
factory, "they'd have gotten out in a hurry."

"Or taken the consequences," added Ned, as he wiped the
sweat from his powder-blackened and oil-smeared face. "I
certainly kept my gun going."

"Yes, and so did the others," reported one of the
mechanics, as he emerged from the "cubby hole," where the
great motors had now ceased their hum and roar.

"How'd she stand it?" asked Tom.

"All right inside," answered the man. "I was wondering how
she looks from the outside."

"Oh, it would take more than that to damage her," said
Tom, with pardonable pride. "That was pie for her! Solid
concrete, which she may have to chew up on the Western
front, may present another kind of problem, but I guess
she'll be able to master that too. Well, let's have a look."

He and Ned, with some of the crew and gunners, went
outside the tank. She was a sorry-looking sight, very
different from the trim appearance she had presented when
she first left the shop. Bricks, bits of stone, and piles of
broken cement in chunks and dust lay thick on her broad
back. But no real damage had been done, as a hasty
examination showed.

"Well, are you satisfied, Tom?" asked his chum.

"Yes, and more," was the answer. "Of course this wasn't
the hardest test to which she could have been submitted, but
it will do to show what punishment she can stand. Being shot
at from big guns is another matter. I'll have to wait until
she gets to Flanders to see what effect that will have. But
I know the kind of armor skin she has, and that doesn't
worry me. There's one thing more I want to do while I have
her out now."

"What's that?" asked Ned.

"Take her for a long trip cross country, and then shove
her through some extra heavy barbed wire. I'm certain she'll
chew that up, but I want to see it actually done. So now, if
you want to come along, Ned, we'll go cross country."

"I'm with you!"

"Get inside then. We'll let the dust and masonry blow and
rattle off as we go along."

The tank started off across the fields, which stretched
for many miles on either side of the deserted factory, when
suddenly Ned, who was again at his post in the observation
tower, called:

"Look, Tom!"

"What at?"

"That corner of the factory which is still standing. Look
at those men coming out and running away!"

Ned pointed, and his chum, leaning over from the steering
wheel and controls, gave a start of surprise as he saw three
figures clambering down over the broken debris and making
their way out of what had once been a doorway.

"Did they come out of the factory, Ned?"

"They surely did! And unless I miss my guess they were in
it, or around it, when we went through like a fellow
carrying the football over the line for a touchdown."

"In there when the tank broke open things?"

"I think so. I didn't see them before, but they certainly
ran out as we started away."

"This has got to be looked into!" decided Tom. "Come on,
Ned! It may be more of that spy business !"

Tom Swift stopped the tank and prepared to get out

Chapter XVI

The Old Barn

"There's no use chasing after 'em, Tom," observed Ned, as
the two chums stood side by side outside the tank and gazed
after the three men running off across the fields as fast as
they could go. "They've got too much a start of us."

"I guess you're right, Ned," agreed Tom. "And we can't
very well pursue them in the tank. She goes a bit faster
than anything of her build, but a running man is more than a
match for her in a short distance. If I had the Hawk here,
there'd be a different story to tell."

"Well, seeing that you haven't," replied Ned, suppose we
let them go--which we'll have to, whether we want to or not-
-and see where they, were hiding and if they left any traces

"That's a good idea," returned Tom.

The place whence the men had emerged was a portion of the
old factory farthest removed from the walls the tank had
crunched its way through. Consequently, that part was the
least damaged.

Tom and Ned came to what seemed to have been the office of
the building when the factory was in operation. A door, from
which most of the glass had been broken, hung on one hinge,
and, pushing this open, the two chums found themselves in a
room that bore evidences of having been the bookkeeper's
department. There were the remains of cabinet files, and a
broken letter press, while in one corner stood a safe.

"Maybe they were cracking that," said Ned.

"They were wasting their time if they were," observed Tom,
"for the combination is broken--any one can open it," and he
demonstrated this by swinging back one of the heavy doors.

A quantity of papers fell out, or what had been papers,
for they were now torn and the edges charred, as if by some
recent fire.

"They were burning these!" cried Ned. "You can smell the
smoke yet. They came here to destroy some papers, and we
surprised them!"

"I believe you're right," agreed Tom. "The ashes are still
warm." And he tested them with his hand. "They wanted to
destroy something, and when they found we were here they
clapped the blazing stuff into the safe, thinking it would
burn there.

"But the closing of the doors cut off the supply of air
and the fire smouldered and went out. It burned enough so
that it didn't leave us very much in the way of evidence,
though," went on Tom ruefully, as he poked among the charred

"Maybe you can read some of 'em," suggested Ned.

"Part of the writing is in German," Tom said, as he looked
over the mass. "I don't believe it would be worth while to
try it. Still, I can save it. Here, I'll sweep the stuff
into a box, and if we get a chance we can try to patch it
together," and finding a broken box in what had been the
factory office the young inventor managed to get into it the
charred remains of the papers.

A further search failed to reveal anything that would be
useful in the way of evidence to determine what object the
three men could have had in hiding in the ruins, and Tom and
Ned returned to the tank.

"What do you think about them, Tom?" asked Ned, as they
were about to start off once more for the cross-country

"Well, it seems like a silly thing to say--as if I
imagined my tank was all there was in this part of the
country to make trouble--but I believe those men had some
connection with Simpson and with that spy Schwen!"

"I agree with you!" exclaimed Ned. "And I think if we
could get head or tail of those burned papers we'd find that
there was some correspondence there between the man I saw up
the tree and the workman you had arrested."

"Too bad we weren't a bit quicker," commented Tom. "They
must have been in the factory when we charged it--probably
came there to be in seclusion while they talked, plotted and
planned. They must have been afraid to go out when the tank
was walking through the walls."

"I guess that's it," agreed Ned. "Did you recognize any of
the men, Tom?"

"No, I didn't see 'em as soon as you did, and when they
were running they had their backs toward me. Was Simpson

"I can't be sure. If one was, I guess he'll think we are
keeping pretty closely after him, and he may give this part
of the country a wide berth."

"I hope he does," returned Tom. "Do you know, Ned, I have
an idea that these fellows--Schwen Simpson, and those back
of them, including Blakeson--are trying to get hold of the
secret of my tank for the Germans."

"I shouldn't be surprised. But you've got it finished now,
haven't you? They can't get your patents away from you."

"No, it isn't that," said Tom. "There are certain secrets
about the mechanism of the tank--the way I've increased the
speed and power, the use of the spanners, and things like
that--which would be useful for the Germans to know. I
wouldn't want them to find out these secrets, and they could
do that if they were in the tank a while, or had her in
their possession."

"They couldn't do that, Tom--get possession of her--could

"There's no telling. I'm going to be doubly on the watch.
That fellow Blakeson is in the pay of the plotters, I
believe. He has a big machine shop, and he might try to
duplicate my tank if he knew how she was made inside."

"I see! That's why he was inquiring about a good
machinist, I suppose, though he'll be mightily surprised
when he learns it was you he was talking to the time your
Hawk met with the little mishap."

"Yes, I guess maybe he will be a bit startled," agreed
Tom. "But I haven't seen him around lately, and maybe he has
given up."

"Don't trust to that!" warned Ned.

The tank was now progressing easily along over fields,
hesitating not at small or big ditches, flow going uphill
and now down, across a stretch of country thinly settled,
where even fences were a rarity. When they came to wooden
ones Tom had the workmen get out and take down the bars. Of
course the tank could have crushed them like toothpicks, but
Tom was mindful of the rights of farmers, and a broken fence

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