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Tom Swift And His Photo Telephone

Project Gutenberg's Tom Swift And His Photo Telephone, by Victor Appleton

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Title: Tom Swift And His Photo Telephone

Author: Victor Appleton

Release Date: October, 2003 [Etext# 4532]
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TOM SWIFT AND HIS PHOTO TELEPHONE

OR THE PICTURE THAT SAVED A FORTUNE

BY VICTOR APPLETON

AUTHOR OF "TOM SWIFT AND HIS MOTOR CYCLE," "TOM SWIFT AND HIS
GIANT CANNON," "THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS," "THE MOVING PICTURE BOYS
IN THE JUNGLE," "THE MOTION PICTURE CHUMS' FIRST VENTURE," ETC.





CONTENTS


     I. A MAN ON THE ROOF
    II. BAD NEWS
   III. TOM'S FAILURE
    IV. RUN DOWN
     V. SHARP WORDS
    VI. A WARNING
   VII. SOFT WORDS
  VIII. TOM IS BAFFLED
    IX. A GLEAM OF HOPE
     X. MIDNIGHT VISITORS
    XI. THE AIRSHIP IS TAKEN
   XII. A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
  XIII. THE TELEPHONE PICTURE
   XIV. MAKING IMPROVEMENTS
    XV. THE AIRSHIP CLUE
   XVI. SUCCESS
  XVII. THE MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE
 XVIII. ANOTHER CALL
   XIX. THE BUZZING SOUND
    XX. SETTING THE TRAP
   XXI. THE PHOTO TELEPHONE
  XXII. THE ESCAPE
 XXIII. ON THE TRAIL
  XXIV. THE LONELY HOUSE
   XXV. THE AIRSHIP CAPTURE





TOM SWIFT AND HIS PHOTO TELEPHONE





CHAPTER I

A MAN ON THE ROOF


"Tom, I don't believe it can be done!"

"But, Dad, I'm sure it can!"

Tom Swift looked over at his father, who was seated in an easy
chair in the library. The elderly gentleman--his hair was quite
white now--slowly shook his head, as he murmured again:

"It can't be done, Tom! It can't be done! I admit that you've made
a lot of wonderful things--things I never dreamed of--but this is
too much. To transmit pictures over a telephone wire, so that
persons cannot only see to whom they are talking, as well as hear
them--well, to be frank with you, Tom, I should be sorry to see
you waste your time trying to invent such a thing."

"I don't agree with you. Not only do I think it can be done, but
I'm going to do it. In fact, I've already started on it. As for
wasting my time, well, I haven't anything in particular to do, now
that my giant cannon has been perfected, so I might as well be
working on my new photo telephone instead of sitting around idle."

"Yes, Tom, I agree with you there," said Mr. Swift. "Sitting
around idle isn't good for anyone--man or boy, young or old. So
don't think I'm finding fault because you're busy."

"It's only that I don't want to see you throw away your efforts,
only to be disappointed in the end. It can't be done, Tom, it
can't be done," and the aged inventor shook his head in pitying
doubt.

Tom only smiled confidently, and went on:

"Well, Dad, all you'll have to do will be to wait and see. It
isn't going to be easy--I grant that. In fact, I've run up against
more snags, the little way I've gone so far, than I like to admit.
But I'm going to stick at it, and before this year is out I'll
guarantee, Father, that you can be at one end of the telephone
wire, talking to me, at the other, and I'll see you and you'll see
me--if not as plainly as we see each other now, at least plainly
enough to make sure of each other."

Mr. Swift chuckled silently, gradually breaking into a louder
laugh. Instead of being angry, Tom only regarded his father with
an indulgent smile, and continued:

"All right, Dad. Go ahead, laugh!"

"Well, Tom, I'm not exactly laughing at YOU--it's more at the
idea than anything else. The idea of talking over a wire and, at
the same time, having light waves, as well as electrical waves
passing on the same conductor!"

"All right, Dad, go ahead and laugh. I don't mind," said Tom,
good-naturedly. "Folks laughed at Bell, when he said he could send
a human voice over a copper spring; but Bell went ahead and to-day
we can talk over a thousand miles by wire. That was the telephone."

"Folks laughed at Morse when he said he could send a message over
the wire. He let 'em laugh, but we have the telegraph. Folks
laughed at Edison, when he said he could take the human voice--or
any other sound--and fix it on a wax cylinder or a hard-rubber
plate--but he did it, and we have the phonograph. And folks
laughed at Santos Dumont, at the Wrights, and at all the other
fellows, who said they could take a heavier-than-air machine, and
skim above the clouds like a bird; but we do it--I've done it--
you've done it."

"Hold on, Tom!" protested Mr. Swift. "I give up! Don't rub it in
on your old dad. I admit that folks did laugh at those inventors,
with their seemingly impossible schemes, but they made good. And
you've made good lots of times where I thought you wouldn't. But
just stop to consider for a moment. This thing of sending a
picture over a telephone wire is totally out of the question, and
entirely opposed to all the principles of science."

"What do I care for principles of science?" cried Tom, and he
strode about the room so rapidly that Eradicate, the old colored
servant, who came in with the mail, skipped out of the library
with the remark:

"Deed, an' Massa Tom must be pow'fully preragitated dis mawnin'!"

"Some of the scientists said it was totally opposed to all natural
laws when I planned my electric rifle," went on Tom. "But I made
it, and it shot. They said my air glider would never stay up, but
she did."

"But, Tom, this is different. You are talking of sending light
waves--one of the most delicate forms of motion in the world--over
a material wire. It can't be done!"

"Look here, Dad!" exclaimed Tom, coming to a halt in front of his
parent. "What is light, anyhow? Merely another form of motion;
isn't it?"

"Well, yes, Tom, I suppose it is."

"Of course it is," said Tom. "With vibrations of a certain length
and rapidity we get sound--the faster the vibration per second the
higher the sound note. Now, then, we have sound waves, or
vibrations, traveling at the rate of a mile in a little less than
five seconds; that is, with the air at a temperature of sixty
degrees. With each increase of a degree of temperature we get an
increase of about a foot per second in the rapidity with which
sound travels."

"Now, then, light shoots along at the rate of 186,000,000 miles a
second. That is more than many times around the earth in a second
of time. So we have sound, one kind of wave motion, or energy; we
have light, a higher degree of vibration or wave motion, and then
we come to electricity--and nobody has ever yet exactly measured
the intensity or speed of the electric vibrations."

"But what I'm getting at is this--that electricity must travel
pretty nearly as fast as light--if not faster. So I believe that
electricity and light have about the same kind of vibrations, or
wave motion."

"Now, then, if they do have--and I admit it's up to me to prove
it," went on Tom, earnestly--"why can't I send light-waves over a
wire, as well as electrical waves?"

Mr. Swift was silent for a moment. Then he said, slowly:

"Well, Tom, I never heard it argued just that way before. Maybe
there's something in your photo telephone after all. But it never
has been done. You can't deny that!"

He looked at his son triumphantly. It was not because he wanted to
get the better of him in argument, that Mr. Swift held to his own
views; but he wanted to bring out the best that was in his
offspring. Tom accepted the challenge instantly.

"Yes, Dad, it has been done, in a way!" he said, earnestly. "No
one has sent a picture over a telephone wire, as far as I know,
but during the recent hydroplane tests at Monte Carlo, photographs
taken of some of the events in the morning, and afternoon, were
developed in the evening, and transmitted over five hundred miles
of wire to Paris, and those same photographs were published in the
Paris newspapers the next morning."

"Is that right, Tom?"

"It certainly is. The photographs weren't so very clear, but you
could make out what they were. Of course that is a different
system than the one I'm thinking of. In that case they took a
photograph, and made a copper plate of it, as they would for a
half-tone illustration. This gave them a picture with ridges and
depressions in copper, little hills and valleys, so to speak,
according to whether there were light or dark tints in the
picture. The dark places meant that the copper lines stood up
higher there than where there were light colors."

"Now, by putting this copper plate on a wooden drum, and revolving
this drum, with an electrical needle pressing lightly on the
ridges of copper, they got a varying degree of electrical current.
Where the needle touched a high place in the copper plate the
contact was good, and there was a strong current. When the needle
got to a light place in the copper--a depression, so to speak--the
contact was not so good, and there was only a weak current."

"At the receiving end of the apparatus there was a sensitized film
placed on a similar wooden drum. This was to receive the image
that came over the five hundred miles of wire. Now then, as the
electrical needle, moving across the copper plate, made electrical
contacts of different degrees of strength, it worked a delicate
galvanometer on the receiving end. The galvanometer caused a beam
of light to vary--to grow brighter or dimmer, according as the
electrical current was stronger or weaker. And this light, falling
on the sensitive plate, made a picture, just like the one on the
copper plate in Monte Carlo."

"In other words, where the copper plate was black, showing that
considerable printing ink was needed, the negative on the other
end was made light. Then when that negative was printed it would
come out black, because more light comes through the light places
on a photograph negative than through the dark places. And so,
with the galvanometer making light flashes on the sensitive plate,
the galvanometer being governed by the electrical contacts five
hundred miles away, they transmitted a photograph by wire."

"But not a telephone wire, Tom."

"That doesn't make any difference, Dad. It was a wire just the
same. But I'm not going into that just now, though later I may
want to send photographs by wire. What I'm aiming at is to make an
apparatus so that when you go into a telephone booth to talk to a
friend, you can see him and he can see you, on a specially
prepared plate that will be attached to the telephone."

"You mean see him as in a looking-glass, Tom?"

"Somewhat, yes. Though I shall probably use a metal plate instead
of glass. It will be just as if you were talking over a telephone
in an open field, where you could see the other party and he could
see you."

"But how are you going to do it, Tom?"

"Well, I haven't quite decided. I shall probably have to use the
metal called selenium, which is very sensitive to light, and which
makes a good or a poor electrical conductor according as more or
less light falls on it. After all, a photograph is only lights and
shadows, fixed on sensitive paper or films."

"Well, Tom, maybe you can do it, and maybe you can't. I admit
you've used some good arguments," said Mr. Swift. "But then, it
all comes down to this: What good will it be if you can succeed in
sending a picture over a telephone wire?"

"What good, Dad? Why, lots of good. Just think how important it
will be in business, if you can make sure that you are talking to
the party you think you are. As it is now, unless you know the
person's voice, you can't tell that the man on the other end of
the wire is the person he says he is. And even a voice can be
imitated."

"But if you know the person yourself, he can't be imitated. If you
see him, as well as hear his voice, you are sure of what you are
doing. Why, think of the big business deals that could be made
over the telephone if the two parties could not only hear but see
each other. It would be a dead sure thing then. And Mr. Brown
wouldn't have to take Mr. Smith's word that it was he who was
talking. He could even get witnesses to look at the wire-image if
he wanted to, and so clinch the thing. It will prevent a lot of
frauds."

"Well, Tom, maybe you're right. Go ahead. I'll say no more against
your plans. I wish you all success, and if I can help you, call on
me."

"Thanks, Dad. I knew you'd feel that way when you understood. Now
I'm going--"

But what Tom Swift was going to do he did not say just then, for
above the heads of father and son sounded a rattling, crashing
noise, and the whole house seemed to shake Then the voice of
Eradicate was heard yelling:

"Good land! Good land ob massy! Come out yeah, Massa Tom! Come
right out yeah! Dere's a man on de roof an' he am all tangled up
suthin' scandalous! Come right out yeah befo' he falls and
translocates his neck! Come on!"





CHAPTER II

BAD NEWS


With startled glances at each other, Tom and his father rushed
from the library to the side of the house, whence came the cries
of Eradicate.

"What is it, Rad! what is it?" questioned Tom.

"Is someone hurt?" Mr. Swift wanted to know.

"He mighty soon will be!" exclaimed the colored man. "Look where
he am holdin' on! Lucky fo' him he grabbed dat chimbley!"

Tom and his father looked to where Eradicate pointed, and saw a
strange sight. A small biplane-airship had become entangled in
some of the aerials of Tom's wireless apparatus, and the craft had
turned turtle, being held from falling by some of the wire braces.

The birdman had fallen out, but had managed to cling to the
chimney, so that he had not reached the ground, and there he
clung, while the motor of his airship was banging away, and
revolving the propeller blades dangerously close to his head.

"Are you hurt?" cried Tom, to the unknown birdman.

"No, but I'm likely to be unless I get out of here!" was the
gasped-out answer.

"Hold fast!" cried Tom. "We'll have you down in a jiffy. Here,
Rad, you get the long ladder. Where's Koku? That giant is never
around when he's wanted. Find Koku, Rad, and send him here."

"Yas, sah, Massa Tom; directly, sah!" and the colored man hastened
off as fast as his aged legs would take him.

And while preparations are thus under way to rescue the birdman
from the roof, I will take just a few minutes to tell you a little
something more about Tom Swift and his numerous inventions, as set
forth in the previous books of this series.

"Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle" was the first book, and in that I
related how Tom made the acquaintance of a Mr. Wakefield Damon, of
the neighboring town of Waterford, and how Tom bought that
gentleman's motor cycle, after it had tried to climb a tree with
its rider in the saddle. Mr. Wakefield Damon was an odd man, whose
favorite expression was "Bless my shoelaces!" or something equally
absurd. Waterford was not far from Shopton, where Tom and his
father made their home.

Mr. Swift was also an inventor of note, and Tom soon followed in
his father's footsteps. They lived in a large house, with many
shops about it, for their work at times required much machinery.

Mrs. Baggert was the housekeeper who looked after Tom and his
father, and got their meals, when they consented to take enough
time from their inventive work to eat. Another member of the
household was Eradicate Sampson, a genial old colored man, who
said he was named Eradicate because he used to eradicate the dirt
about the place.

Koku, just referred to by Tom, was an immense man, a veritable
giant, whom Tom had brought back with him from one of his trips,
after escaping from captivity. The young inventor really brought
two giants, brothers they were, but one had gone to a museum, and
the other took service with our hero, making himself very useful
when it came to lifting heavy machinery.

Tom had a close friend in Ned Newton, who was employed in the
Shopton bank. Another friend was Miss Mary Nestor, a young lady
whose life Tom had once saved. He had many other friends, and some
enemies, whom you will meet from time to time in this story.

After Tom had had many adventures on his motor cycle he acquired a
motor boat, and in that he and Ned went through some strenuous
times on Lake Carlopa, near Tom's home. Then followed an airship,
for Tom got that craze, and in the book concerning that machine I
related some of the things that happened to him. He had even more
wonderful adventures in his submarine, and with his electric
runabout our hero was instrumental in saving a bank from ruin by
making a trip in the speediest car on the road.

After Tom Swift had sent his wireless message, and saved the
castaways of Earthquake Island, he thought he would give up his
inventive work for a time, and settle down to a life of ease and
quiet.

But the call of the spirit of adventure was still too strong for
him to resist. That was why he sought out the diamond makers, and
learned the secret of Phantom Mountain. And when he went to the
Caves of Ice, and there saw his airship wrecked, Tom was well-nigh
discouraged, But he managed to get back to civilization, and later
undertook a journey to elephant land, with his powerful electric
rifle.

Marvelous adventures underground did Tom Swift have when he went
to the City of Gold, and I have set down some of them in the book
bearing the latter title. Later on he sought the platinum treasure
in his air glider. And when Tom was taken captive, in giant land,
only his speedy airship saved him from a hard fate.

By this time moving pictures were beginning to occupy a large
place in the scientific, as well as the amusement world, and Tom
invented a Wizard Camera which did excellent work. Then came the
need of a powerful light, to enable Uncle Sam's custom officers on
the border to detect the smugglers, and Tom was successful in
making his apparatus.

He thought he would take a rest after that, but with the opening
of the Panama Canal came the need of powerful guns to protect that
important waterway, and Tom made a Giant Cannon, which enabled the
longest shots on record to be fired.

Now, some months had passed, after the successful trial of the big
weapon, and Tom longed for new activities. He found them in the
idea of a photo telephone, and he and his father were just talking
of this when interrupted by the accident to the birdman on the
roof of the Swift home.

"Have you got that ladder, Rad?" cried the young inventor,
anxiously, as he saw the dangerous position of the man from the
airship.

"Yas, sah, Massa Tom! I'se a-camin' wif it!"

"And where's Koku? We'll need him!"

"He's a-camin', too!"

"Here Koku!" exclaimed a deep voice, and a big man came running
around the corner of the house. "What is it, Master?"

"We must get him down, Koku!" said Tom, simply. "I will go up on
the roof. You had better come, too. Rad, go in the house and get a
mattress from the bed. Put it down on the ground where he's likely
to fall. Lively now!"

"Yas, sah, Massa Tom!"

"Me git my own ladder--dat one not strong 'nuff!" grunted Koku,
who did not speak very good English. He had a very strong ladder,
of his own make, built to hold his enormous bulk, and this he soon
brought and placed against the side of the house.

Meanwhile Tom and his father had raised the one Eradicate had
brought, though Tom did most of the lifting, for his father was
elderly, and had once suffered from heart trouble.

"We're coming for you!" cried the young inventor as he began to
ascend the ladder, at the same time observing that the giant was
coming with his. "Can you hold on a little longer?"

"Yes, I guess so. But I dare not move for fear the propellers will
strike me."

"I see. I'll soon shut off the motor," said Tom. "What happened,
anyhow?"

"Well, I was flying over your house. I was on my way to pay you a
visit, but I didn't intend to do it in just this way," and the
birdman smiled grimly. "I didn't see your wireless aerials until I
was plumb into them, and then it was too late. I hope I haven't
damaged them any."

"Oh, they are easily fixed," said Tom. "I hope you and your
biplane are not damaged. This way, Koku!" he called to the giant.

"Say, is--is he real, or am I seeing things?" asked the aviator,
as he looked at the big man.

"Oh, he's real, all right," laughed Tom. "Now, then, I'm going to
shut off your motor, and then you can quit hugging that chimney,
and come down."

"I'll be real glad to," said the birdman.

Making his way cautiously along the gutters of the roof, Tom
managed to reach the motor controls. He pulled out the electrical
switch, and with a sort of cough and groan the motor stopped. The
big propellers ceased revolving, and the aviator could leave his
perch in safety.

This he did, edging along until he could climb down and meet Tom,
who stood near the ladder.

"Much obliged," said the birdman, as he shook hands with Tom. "My
name is Grant Halling. I'm a newcomer in Mansburg," he added,
naming a town not far from Shopton. "I know you by reputation, so
you don't need to introduce yourself."

"Glad to meet you," said the young inventor, cordially. "Rather a
queer place to meet a friend," he went on with a laugh and a
glance down to the ground. "Can you climb?"

"Oh, yes, I'm used to that. The next thing will be to get my
machine down."

"Oh, we can manage that with Koku's help," spoke Tom. "Koku, get
some ropes, and see what you and Rad can do toward getting the
aeroplane down," he added to the giant. "Let me know if you need
any help."

"Me can do!" exclaimed the big man. "Me fix him!"

Tom and Mr. Halling made their way down the ladder, while the
giant proceeded to study out a plan for getting the airship off
the roof.

"You say you were coming over to see me, when you ran into my
wireless aerials?" asked Tom, curiously, when he had introduced
his father to the birdman.

"Yes," went on Mr. Halling. "I have been having some trouble with
my motor, and I thought perhaps you could tell me what was wrong.
My friend, Mr. Wakefield Damon, sent me to you."

"What! Do you know Mr. Damon?" cried Tom.

"I've known' him for some years. I met him in the West, but I
hadn't seen him lately, until I came East. He sent me to see you,
and said you would help me."

"Well, any friend of Mr. Damon's is a friend of mine!" exclaimed
Tom, genially. "I'll have a look at your machine as soon as Koku
gets it down. How is Mr. Damon, anyhow? I haven't seen him in over
two weeks."

"I'm sorry to say he isn't very well, Mr. Swift."

"Is he ill? What is the trouble?"

"He isn't exactly ill," went on Mr. Halling, "but he is fretting
himself into a sickness, worrying over his lost fortune."

"His lost fortune!" cried Tom, in surprise at the bad news
concerning his friend. "I didn't know he had lost his money!"

"He hasn't yet, but he's in a fair way to, he says. It's something
about bad investments, and he did speak of the trickery of one
man, I didn't get the particulars. But he certainly feels very
badly over it."

"I should think he would," put in Mr. Swift. "Tom, we must look
into this. If we can help Mr. Damon--"

"We certainly will," interrupted Tom. "Now come in the house, Mr.
Halling. I'm sure you must be quite shaken up by your upset."

"I am, to tell you the truth, though it isn't the first accident
I've had in my airship."

They were proceeding toward the house, when there came a cry from
Koku, who had fastened a rope about the airship to lower it.

"Master! Master!" cried the giant. "The rope am slippin'. Grab the
end of it!"





CHAPTER III

TOM'S FAILURE


"Come on!" cried Tom, quickly, as, turning', he saw the accident
about to happen. "Your craft will surely be smashed if she slips
to the ground, Mr. Halling!"

"You're right! This seems to be my unlucky day!" The birdman,
limping slightly from his fall, hurried with Tom to where a rope
trailed on the ground. Koku had fastened one end to the airship,
and had taken a turn of the cable about the chimney. He had been
lowering the biplane to the ground, but he had not allowed for its
great weight, and the rope had slipped from his big hands.

But Tom and Mr. Halling were just in time. They grabbed the
slipping hempen strands, and thus checked the falling craft until
Koku could get a better grip.

"All right now," said the giant, when he had made fast the rope.
"Me fix now. Master can go."

"Think he can lower it?" asked Mr. Halling, doubtfully.

"Oh, surely," said Tom. "Koku's as strong as a horse. You needn't
worry. He'll get it down all right. But you are limping."

"Yes, I jammed my leg a little."

"Don't you want a doctor?"

"Oh, no, not for a little thing like that."

But Tom insisted on looking at his new friend's wound, and found
quite a cut on the thigh, which the young inventor insisted on
binding up.

"That feels better," said the birdman, as he stretched out on a
couch. "Now if you can look my machine over, and tell me what's
the matter with it, I'll be much obliged to you, and I'll get on
my way."

"Not quite so fast as that!" laughed Tom. "I wouldn't want to see
you start off with your lame leg, and certainly I would not want
to see you use your aircraft after what she's gone through, until
we've given her a test. You can't tell what part you might have
strained."

"Well, I suppose you are right. But I think I'd better go to a
hotel, or send for an auto and go home."

"Now you needn't do anything of the kind," spoke Tom, hospitably.
"We've got lots of room here, and for that matter we have plenty
of autos and airships, too, as well as a motor boat. You just rest
yourself here. Later we'll look over your craft."

After dinner, when Mr. Halling said he felt much better, Tom
agreed to go out with him and look at the airship. As he feared,
he found several things the matter with it, in addition to the
motor trouble which had been the cause for Mr. Halling's call on
the young inventor.

"Can she be fixed?" asked the birdman, who explained that, as yet,
he was only an amateur in the practice of flying.

"Oh, yes, we can fix her up for you," said Tom. "But it will take
several days. You'll have to leave it here."

"Well, I'll be glad to do that, for I know she will be all the
better when you get through with her. But I think I am able to go
on home now, and I really ought to. There is some business I must
attend to."

"Speaking of business," remarked Tom, "can you tell me anything
more of Mr. Damon's financial troubles?"

"No, not much. All I know is that when I called on him the other
day I found him with his check book out, and he was doing a lot of
figuring. He looked pretty blue and downcast, I can tell you."

"I'm sorry about that," spoke Tom, musingly. "Mr. Damon is a very
good friend of mine, and I'd do anything to help him. I certainly
wouldn't like to see him lose his fortune. Bad investments, you
say it was?"

"Partly so, and yet I'm inclined to think if he does lose his
money it will be due to some trickery. Mr. Damon is not the man to
make bad investments by himself."

"Indeed he is not," agreed Tom. "You say he spoke of some man?"

"Yes, but not definitely. He did not mention any name. But Mr.
Damon was certainly quite blue."

"That's unlike him," remarked Tom. "He is usually very jolly. He
must be feeling quite badly. I'll go over and have a talk with
him, as soon as I can."

"Do. I think he would appreciate it. And now I must see about
getting home."

"I'll take you in one of my cars," said Tom, who had several
automobiles. "I don't want to see you strain that injured leg of
yours."

"You're very good--especially after I tangled up your wireless
aerials; but I didn't see them until I was right into them,"
apologized Mr. Halling.

"They're a new kind of wire," said Tom, "and are not very plain to
see. I must put up some warning signs. But don't worry about
damaging them. They were only up temporarily anyhow, and I was
going to take them down to arrange for my photo telephone."

"Photo telephone, eh? Is that something new?"

"It will be--if I can get it working," said Tom, with a smile.

A little later Tom had taken Mr. Halling home, and then he set
about making arrangements for repairing the damaged airship. This
took him the better part of a week, but he did not regret the
time, for while he was working he was busy making plans for his
newest invention--the photo telephone.

One afternoon, when Tom had completed the repairs to the airship,
and had spent some time setting up an experimental telephone line,
the young inventor received a call from his chum, Ned Newton.

"Well, well, what are you up to now?" asked Ned, as he saw his
chum seated in a booth, with a telephone receiver to his ear,
meanwhile looking steadily at a polished metal plate in front of
him. "Trying to hypnotize yourself, Tom?"

"Not exactly. Quiet, Ned, please. I'm trying to listen."

Ned was too familiar with his chum's work to take offense at this.
The young banker took a seat on a box, and silently watched Tom.
The inventor shifted several switches, pressed one button after
another, and tilted the polished metal plate at different angles.
Then he closed the door of the little telephone booth, and Ned,
through the ground glass door, saw a light shining.

"I wonder what new game Tom is up to?" Ned mused.

Presently the door opened, and Tom stuck out his head.

"Ned, come here," he invited. "Look at that metal plate and see if
you can notice anything on it. I've been staring at it so steadily
that my eyes are full of sticks. See what you can make out."

"What is this?" asked Ned. "No trick; is it? I won't be blown up,
or get my eyes full of pepper; will I?"

"Nonsense! Of course not. I'm trying to make a photo telephone. I
have the telephone part down pat, but I can't see anything of the
photo image. See if you can."

Ned stared at the polished plate, while Tom did things to it,
making electrical connections, and tilting it at various angles.

"See anything, Ned?" asked Tom.

The other shook his head.

"Whom am I supposed to see?" he asked.

"Why, Koku is at the other end of the wire. I'm having him help
me."

Ned gazed from the polished plate out of a side window of the
shop, into the yard.

"Well, that Koku is certainly a wonderful giant," said Ned, with a
laugh.

"How so?" asked Tom.

"Why he can not be in two places at once. You say he ought to be
at the other end of this wire, and there he is out there, spading
up the garden."

Tom stared for a second and then exclaimed:

"Well, if that isn't the limit! I put him in the telephone booth
in the machine shop, and told him to stay there until I was
through. What in the world is he doing out there?"

"Koku!" he called to the giant, "why didn't you stay at the
telephone where I put you? Why did you run away?"

"Ha!" exclaimed the giant, who, for all his great size was a
simple chap, "little thing go 'tick-tick' and then 'clap-clap!'
Koku no like--Koku t'ink bad spirit in telumfoam--Koku come out!"

"Well, no wonder I couldn't see any image on the plate!" exclaimed
Tom. "There was nobody there. Now, Ned, you try it; will you,
please?"

"Sure. Anything to oblige!"

"Then go in the other telephone booth. You can talk to me on the
wire. Say anything you like--the telephone part is all right. Then
you just stand so that the light in the booth shines on your face.
The machine will do the rest--if it works."

Ned hurried off and was soon talking to his chum over the wire
from the branch telephone in the machine shop. Ned stood in the
glare of an electric light, and looked at a polished plate similar
to the one in the other booth.

"Are you there, Ned?" asked Tom.

"Yes, I'm here."

"Is the light on?"

"Yes."

"And you're looking at the plate?"

"Sure. Can you see any reflection in your plate?"

"No, not a thing," answered Tom, and there was great
discouragement in his voice. "The thing is a failure, Ned. Come on
back," and the young banker could hear his chum hang up the
telephone receiver at the other end.

"That's too bad," murmured Ned, knowing how Tom must feel. "I'll
have to cheer him up a bit."





CHAPTER IV

RUN DOWN


When Ned Newton got back to where Tom sat in the small telephone
booth, the young banker found his chum staring rather moodily at
the polished metal plate on the shelf that held the talking
instrument.

"So it was no go; eh, Tom?"

"No go at all, Ned, and I thought sure I had it right this time."

"Then this isn't your first experiment?"

"Land no! I've been at it, off and on, for over a month, and I
can't seem to get any farther. I'm up against a snag now, good and
hard."

"Then there wasn't any image on your plate?"

"Not a thing, Ned. I don't suppose you caught any glimpse of me in
your plate?" asked Tom, half hopefully.

"No. I couldn't see a thing. So you are going to try and make this
thing work both ways, are you?"

"That's my intention, But I can fix it so that a person can
control the apparatus at his end, and only see the person he is
talking to, not being seen himself, unless he wishes it. That is,
I hope to do that. Just now nobody can see anybody," and Tom
sighed.

"Give it up," advised Ned. "It's too hard a nut to crack, Tom!"

"Indeed, I'll not give it up, Ned! I'm going to work along a new
line. I must try a different solution of selenium on the metal
plate. Perhaps I may have to try using a sensitized plate, and
develop it later, though I do want to get the machine down so you
can see a perfect image without the need of developing. And I
will, too!" cried Tom. "I'll get some new selenium."

Eradicate, who came into the shop just then, heard the end of
Tom's remarks. A strange look came over his honest black face, and
he exclaimed:

"What all am dat, Massa Tom? Yo'ah gwine t' bring de new millenium
heah? Dat's de end of de world, ain't it-dat millenium? Golly!
Dish yeah coon neber 'spected t' lib t' see dat. De millenium! Oh
mah landy!"

"No, Rad!" laughed Tom. "I was speaking about selenium, a sort of
metallic combination that is a peculiar conductor of electricity.
The more light that shines on it the better conductor it is, and
the less light, the poorer."

"It must be queer stuff," said Ned.

"It is," declared Tom. "I think it is the only thing to use in
this photo telephone experiment, though I might try the metal
plate method, as they did between Monte Carlo and Paris. But I am
not trying to make newspaper pictures."

"What is selenium, anyhow?" asked Ned. "Remember, Tom, I'm not up
on this scientific stuff as you are."

"Selenium," went on Tom, "was discovered in 1817, by J. J.
Berzelius, and he gave it that name from the Greek word for moon,
on account of selenium being so similar, in some ways, to
tellurium. That last is named after the Latin word tellus, the
earth."

"Do they dig it?" Ned wanted to know.

"Well, sometimes selenium is found in combination with metals, in
the form of selenides, the more important minerals of that kind
being eucharite, crooksite, clausthalite, naumannite and zorgite--"

"Good night!" interrupted Ned, with a laugh, holding up his hands.
"Stop it, Tom!" he pleaded. "You'll give me a headache with all
those big words."

"Oh, they're easy, once you get used to them," said the young
inventor, with a smile. "Perhaps it will be easier if I say that
sometimes selenium is found in native sulphur. Selenium is usually
obtained from the flue-dust or chamber deposits of some factory
where sulphuric acid is made. They take this dust and treat it
with acids until they get the pure selenium. Sometimes selenium
comes in crystal forms, and again it is combined with various
metals for different uses."

"There's one good thing about it. There are several varieties, and
I'll try them all before I give up."

"That's the way to talk!" cried Ned. "Never say die! Don't give up
the ship, and all that. But, Tom, what you need now is a little
fun. You've been poking away at this too long. Come on out on the
lake, and have a ride in the motor boat. It will do you good. It
will do me good. I'm a bit rusty myself--been working hard lately.
Come on--let's go out on the lake."

"I believe I will!" exclaimed Tom, after thinking it over for a
moment. "I need a little fresh air. Sitting in that telephone
booth, trying to get an image on a plate, and not succeeding, has
gotten on my nerves. I want to write out an order for Koku to take
to town, though. I want to get some fresh selenium, and then I'm
going to make new plates."

Tom made some memoranda, and then, giving Koku the order for the
chemist, the young inventor closed up his shop, and went with Ned
down to Lake Carlopa, where the motor boat was moored.

This was not the same boat Tom had first purchased, some years
ago, but a comparatively new and powerful craft.

"It sure is one grand little day for a ride," remarked Ned, as he
got in the craft, while Tom looked over the engine.

"Yes, I'm glad you came over, and routed me out," said the young
inventor. "When I get going on a thing I don't know enough to
stop. Oh, I forgot something!"

"What?" asked Ned.

"I forgot to leave word about Mr. Railing's airship. It's all
fixed and ready for him, but I put on a new control, and I wanted
to explain to him about it. He might not know how to work it. I
left word with father, though, that if he came for it he must not
try it until he had seen me. I guess it will be all right. I don't
want to go back to the house now."

"No, it's too far," agreed Ned.

"I have it!" exclaimed Tom. "I'll telephone to dad from here, not
to let Halling go up until I come back. He may not come for his
machine; but, if he does, it's best to be on the safe side Ned."

"Oh, sure."

Accordingly, Tom 'phoned from his boat-house, and Mr. Swift
promised to see the bird-man if he called. Then Ned and Tom gave
themselves up to the delights of a trip on the water.

The Kilo, which name Tom had selected for his new craft, was a
powerful boat, and comfortable. It swept on down the lake, and
many other persons, in their pleasure craft, turned to look at
Tom's fine one.

"Lots of folks out to-day," observed Ned, as they went around a
point of the shore.

"Yes, quite a number," agreed Tom, leaning forward to adjust the
motor. "I wonder what's got into her?" he said, in some annoyance,
as he made various adjustments. "One of the cylinders is missing."

"Maybe it needs a new spark plug," suggested Ned.

"Maybe. Guess I'll stop and put one in."

Tom slowed down the motor, and headed his boat over toward shore,
intending to tie up there for a while.

As he shifted the wheel he heard a cry behind him, and at the same
time a hoarse, domineering voice called out:

"Here, what do you mean, changing your course that way? Look out,
or I'll run you down! Get out of my way, you land-lubber, you!"

Startled, Ned and Tom turned. They saw, rushing up on them from
astern, a powerful red motor boat, at the wheel of which sat a
stout man, with a very florid face and a commanding air.

"Get out of my way!" he cried. "I can't stop so short! Look out,
or I'll run you down!"

Tom, with a fierce feeling of resentment at the fellow, was about
to shift the course of the Kilo, but he was too late.

A moment later there came a smashing blow on the stern port
quarter and the Kilo heeled over at a dangerous angle, while, with
a rending, splintering sound of wood, the big red motorboat swept
on past Tom and Ned, her rubstreak grinding along the side of the
Kilo.





CHAPTER V

SHARP WORDS


"Great Scott, Tom! What happened?"

"I know as much as you, Ned. That fellow ran us down, that's all."

"Are we leaking?" and with this question Ned sprang from his place
near the bow, and looked toward the stern, where the heaviest blow
had been struck.

The Kilo had swung back to an even keel again, but was still
bobbing about on the water.

"Any hole there?" cried Tom, as he swung the wheel over to point
his craft toward shore, in case she showed a tendency to sink.

"I can't see any hole," answered Ned. "But water is coming in
here."

"Then there's a leak all right! Probably some of the seams are
opened, or it may be coming in around the shaft stuffing-box.
Here, Ned, take the wheel, and I'll start up the engine again,"
for with the blow the motor had stopped.

"What are you going to do?" asked Ned, as he again made his way
forward.

"Take her to shore, of course. It's deep out here and I don't want
her to go down at this point."

"Say, what do you think of that fellow, anyhow, Tom?"

"I wouldn't like to tell you. Look, he's coming back."

This was so, for, as the boys watched, the big red motor boat had
swung about in a circle and was headed for them.

"I'll tell him what I think of him, at any rate," murmured Tom, as
he bent over his motor. "And, later on, I'll let the lawyers talk
to him."

"You mean you'll sue him, Tom?"

"Well, I'm certainly not going to let him run into me and spring a
leak, for nothing. That won't go with me!"

By this time Tom had the motor started, but he throttled it down
so that it just turned the propeller. With it running at full
speed there was considerable vibration, and this would further
open the leaking seams. So much water might thus be let in that
the craft could not be gotten ashore.

"Head her over, Ned," cried Tom, when he found he had sufficient
headway. "Steer for Ramsey's dock. There's a marine railway next
to him, and I can haul her out for repairs."

"That's the talk, Tom!" cried his chum.

By this time the big, red motor boat was close beside Tom's craft.

The man at the wheel, a stout-bodied and stout-faced man, with a
complexion nearly the color of his boat, glared at the two young
men.

"What do you fellows mean?" called out the man, in deep booming
tones--tones that he tried to make imposing, but which, to the
trained ears of Tom and Ned, sounded only like the enraged bellow
of some bully. "What do you mean, I say? Getting on my course like
that!"

Ned could see Tom biting his lips, and clenching his hands to keep
down his temper. But it was too much. To be run into, and then
insulted, was more than Tom could stand.

"Look here!" he cried, standing up and facing the red-faced man,
"I don't know who you are, and I don't care. But I'll tell you one
thing--you'll pay for the damage you did to my boat!"

"I'll pay for it? Come, that's pretty good! Ha! Ha!" laughed the
self-important man. "Why, I was thinking of making a complaint
against you for crossing my course that way. If I find my boat is
damaged I shall certainly do so anyhow. Have we suffered any
damage, Snuffin?" and he looked back at a grimy-faced mechinician
who was oiling the big, throbbing motor, which was now running
with the clutch out.

"No, sir, I don't think we're damaged, sir," answered the man,
deferentially.

"Well, it's a lucky thing for these land-lubbers that we aren't. I
should certainly sue them. The idea of crossing my course the way
they did. Weren't they in the wrong, Snuffin?"

The man hesitated for a moment, and glanced at Tom and Ned, as
though asking their indulgence.

"Well, I asked you a question, Snuffin!" exclaimed the red-faced
man sharply.

"Yes--yes, sir, they shouldn't have turned the way they did,"
answered the man, in a low voice.

"Well, of all the nerve!" murmured Tom, and stopped his motor.
Then, stepping to the side of his disabled and leaking boat, he
exclaimed:

"Look here! Either you folks don't know anything about navigation
rules, or you aren't heeding them. I had a perfect right to turn
and go ashore when I did, for I found my engine was out of order,
and I wanted to fix it. I blew the usual signal on the whistle,
showing my intention to turn off my course, and if you had been
listening you would have heard it."

"If you had even been watching you would have seen me shift, and
then, coming on at the speed you did, it was your place to warn me
by a whistle, so that I could keep straight on until you had
passed me."

"But you did not. You kept right on and ran into me, and the only
wonder is that you didn't sink me. Talk about me getting in your
way! Why, you deliberately ran me down after I had given the right
signal. I'll make a complaint against you, that's what I will."

If possible the red-faced man got even more rosy than usual. He
fairly puffed up, he was so angry.

"Listen to that, will you, Snuffin!" he cried. "Listen to that! He
says he blew his whistle to tell us he was going to turn in."

"That's what I did!" said Tom, calmly.

"Preposterous! Did you hear it, Snuffin?" puffed the important
man.

"Yes--yes, I think I did, sir," answered the machinist, in a
hesitating voice.

"You did? What! You mean to tell me you heard their whistle?"

"Yes--yes, sir!"

"Why--why--er--I--" the big man puffed and blew, but seemed to
find no words in which to express himself. "Snuffin, I'll have a
talk with you when we get home," he finally said. most
significantly. "The idea of saying you heard a whistle blown!
There was nothing of the kind! I shall make a complaint against
these land-lubbers myself. Do you know who they are, Snuffin?"

"Yes--yes, sir," was the answer, as the man glanced at Tom. "At
least I know one of them, sir."

"Very good. Give me his name. I'll attend to the rest."

Tom looked at the big man sharply. He had never seen him before,
as far as he could recall. As for the machinist, the young
inventor had a dim recollection that once the man might have
worked in his shop.

"Go ahead, Snuffin!" said the big man, mopping his face with a
large silk handkerchief, which, even at that distance, gave out a
powerful perfume. "Go ahead, Snuffin, and we will settle this
matter later," and, adjusting a large rose in his buttonhole, the
self-important individual took his place on the cushioned seat at
the wheel, while the big red motor boat drew off down the river.

"Well, of all the nerve!" gasped Ned. "Isn't he the limit?"

"Never mind," spoke Tom, with a little laugh. "I'm sorry I lost my
temper, and even bothered to answer him. We'll let the lawyers do
the rest of the talking. Take the wheel, Ned."

"But are you going to let him get away like this, Tom? Without
asking him to pay for the damage to your boat, when he was clearly
in the wrong?"

"Oh, I'll ask him to pay all right; but I'll do it the proper way.
Now come on. If we stay here chinning much longer the Kilo will go
down. I must find out who he is. I think I know Snuffin--he used
to work for me, I now recall."

"Don't you know who that big man is?" asked Ned, as he took the
wheel, while Tom again started the motor. The water was now almost
up to the lower rim of the fly wheel.

"No; who is he?" asked Tom.

"Shallock Peters."

"Well, I know as much as I did before," laughed Tom. "That doesn't
tell me anything."

"Why, I thought everybody in the town knew Shallock Peters," went
on Ned. "He tried to do some business with our bank, but was
turned down. I hear he's gone to the other one, though. He's what
we call a get-rich-quick schemer, Tom--a promoter."

"I thought he acted like that sort of a character."

"Well, that's what he is. He's got half a dozen schemes under way,
and he hasn't been in town over a month. I wonder you haven't seen
or heard of him."

"I've been too busy over my photo telephone."

"I suppose so. Well, this fellow Peters struck Shopton about a
month ago. He bought the old Wardell homestead, and began to show
off at once. He's got two autos, and this big motor boat. He
always goes around with a silk hat and a flower in his buttonhole.
A big bluff--that's what he is."

"He acted so to me," was Tom's comment. "Well, he isn't going to
scare me. The idea! Why, he seemed to think we were in the wrong;
whereas he was, and his man knew it, too."

"Yes, but the poor fellow was afraid to say so. I felt sorry for
him."

"So did I," added Tom. "Well, Kilo is out of commission for the
present. Guess we'll have to finish our outing by walking, Ned."

"Oh, I don't mind. But it makes me mad to have a fellow act the
way he did."

"Well, there's no good in getting mad," was Tom's smiling
rejoinder. "We'll take it out of him legally. That's the best way
in the end. But I can't help saying I don't like Mr. Shallock
Peters."

"And I don't either," added Ned.





CHAPTER VI

A WARNING


"There, she's about right now, Ned. Hold her there!"

"Aye, aye, Captain Tom!"

"Jove, she's leaking like a sieve! We only got her here just in
time!"

"That's right," agreed Ned.

Tom and his chum had managed to get the Kilo to Ramsey's dock, and
over the ways of the inclined marine railway that led from the
shop on shore down into the river. Then, poling the craft along,
until she was in the "cradle," Ned held her there while Tom went
on shore to wind up the windlass that pulled the car, containing
the boat, up the incline.

"I'll give you a hand, as soon as I find she sets level," called
Ned, from his place in the boat.

"All right--don't worry. There are good gears on this windlass,
and she works easy," replied Tom.

In a short time the boat was out of the water, but, as Tom grimly
remarked, "the water was not out of her," for a stream poured from
the stuffing-box, through which the propeller shaft entered, and
water also ran out through the seams that had been opened by the
collision.

"Quite a smash, Tom," observed the boat repairer, when he had come
out to look over the Kilo. "How'd it happen?"

"Oh, Shallock Peters, with his big red boat, ran into us!" said
Ned, sharply.

"Ha, Peters; eh?" exclaimed the boatman. "That's the second craft
he's damaged inside a week with his speed mania. There's Bert
Johnson's little speeder over there," and he pointed to one over
which some men were working. "Had to put a whole new stern in her,
and what do you think that man Peters did?"

"What?" asked Tom, as he bent down to see how much damage his
craft had sustained.

"He wouldn't pay young Johnson a cent of money for the repairs,"
went on Mr. Houston, the boatman. "It was all Peters's fault,
too."

"Couldn't he make him pay?" asked Tom.

"Well, young Johnson asked for it--no more than right, too; but
Peters only sneered and laughed at him."

"Why didn't he sue?" asked Ned.

"Costs too much money to hire lawyers, I reckon. So he played you
the same trick; eh. Tom?"

"Pretty much, yes. But he won't get off so easily, I can tell you
that!" and there was a grim and determined look on the face of the
young inventor. "How long will it take to fix my boat, Mr.
Houston?"

"Nigh onto two weeks, Tom. I'm terrible rushed now."

Tom whistled ruefully.

"I could do it myself quicker, if I could get her back to my
shop," he said. "But she'd sink on the home trip. All right, do
the best you can, Mr. Houston."

"I will that, Tom."

The two chums walked out of the boat-repair place.

"What are you going to do, Tom?" asked Ned, as they strolled
along.

"Well, since we can't go motor boating, I guess I may as well go
back and see if that new supply of selenium has come. I do want to
get my photo telephone working, Ned."

"And that's all the outing you're going to take--less than an
hour!" exclaimed Ned, reproachfully.

"Oh, well, all you wanted to do was to get me out of a rut, as you
called it," laughed Tom. "And you've done it--you and Mr. Peters
together. It jolted up my brain, and I guess I can think better
now. Come on back and watch me tinker away, Ned."

"Not much! I'm going to stay out and get some fresh air while I
can. You'd better, too."

"I will, later."

So Tom turned back to his workshop, and Ned strolled on into the
country, for his day's work at the bank was over. And for some
time after that--until far into the night--Tom Swift worked at the
knotty problem of the photo telephone.

But the young inventor was baffled. Try as he might, he could not
get the image to show on the metal plate, nor could he get any
results by using a regular photographic plate, and developing it
afterward.

"There is something wrong with the transmission of the light waves
over the wire," Tom confessed to his father.

"You'll never do it, Tom," said the aged inventor. "You are only
wasting a whole lot of time."

"Well, as I haven't anything else to do now, it isn't much loss,"
spoke Tom, ruefully. "But I'm going to make this work, Dad!"

"All right, son. It's up to you. Only I tell you it can't be
done."

Tom, himself, was almost ready to admit this, when, a week later,
he seemed to be no nearer a solution of the problem than he was at
first. He had tried everything he could think of, and he had
Eradicate and Koku, the giant, almost distracted, by making them
stay in small telephone booths for hours at a time, while the
young inventor tried to get some reflection of one face or the
other to come over the wire.

Koku finally got so nervous over the matter, that he flatly
refused to "pose" any longer, so Tom was forced to use Eradicate.
As for that elderly man of all work, after many trials, all
unsuccessful, he remarked:

"Massa Tom, I reckon I knows what's wrong."

"Yes, Rad? Well, what is it?"

"Mah face am too black--dat's de trouble. You done want a white-
complected gen'man to stand in dat booth an' look at dat lookin'
glass plate. I'se too black! I suah is!"

"No, that isn't it, Rad," laughed Tom, hopelessly. "If the thing
works at all it will send a black man's face over the wire as well
as a white man's. I guess the truth of it is that you're like
Koku. You're getting tired. I don't know as I blame you. I'm
getting a bit weary myself. I'm going to take a rest. I'll send
for another kind of selenium crystals I've heard of, and we'll try
them. In the meanwhile--I'll take a little vacation."

"Get out my small airship, Rad, and I'll take a little flight."

"Dat's de way to talk, Massa Tom," was the glad rejoinder.

"I'm going over to see Mr. Damon, Father," announced Tom to Mr.
Swift a little later, when his speedy monoplane was waiting for
him. "I haven't seen him in some time, and I'd like to get at the
truth of what Mr. Halling said about Mr. Damon's fortune being in
danger. I'll be back soon."

"All right, Tom. And say--"

"Yes, Dad, what is it?" asked Tom, as he paused in the act of
getting in the seat.

"If he wants any ready cash, you know we've got plenty."

"Oh, sure. I was going to tell him we'd help him out."

Then, as Koku spun the propeller blades, Tom grasped the steering
wheel, and, tilting the elevating rudder, he was soon soaring into
the air, he and his craft becoming smaller and smaller as they
were lost to sight in the distance, while the rattle and roar of
the powerful motor became fainter.

In a comparatively short time Tom had made a successful landing in
the big yard in front of Mr. Damon's house, and, walking up the
path, kept a lookout for his friend.

"I wonder why he didn't come out to meet me?" mused Tom, for
usually when the eccentric man heard the throbbing of Tom's motor,
he was out waiting for the young inventor. But this time it was
not the case.

"Is Mr. Damon in?" Tom asked of the maid who answered his ring.

"Yes, Mr. Swift. You'll find him in the library," and she ushered
him in.

"Oh, hello, Tom," greeted Mr. Damon, but the tone was so listless,
and his friend's manner so gloomy that the young inventor was
quite embarrassed.

"Have a chair," went on Mr. Damon. "I'll talk to you in a minute,
Tom. I've got to finish this letter, and it's a hard one to write,
let me tell you."

Now Tom was more astonished than ever. Not once had Mr. Damon
"blessed," anything, and when this did not happen Tom was sure
something was wrong. He waited until his friend had sealed the
letter, and turned to him with a sigh. Then Tom said boldly:

"Mr. Damon, is it true that you're having hard luck--in money
matters?"

"Why, yes, Tom, I'm afraid I am," was the quick answer. "But who
told you?"

"Grant Halling. He was over to get me to fix his airship," and Tom
briefly related what had happened.

"Oh, yes, I did mention the matter to him," went on Mr. Damon, and
his tone was still listless. "So he told you; did he? Well,
matters aren't any better, Tom. In fact, they're worse. I just had
to write to a man who was asking for help, and I had to refuse
him, though he needs it very much. The truth is I hadn't the
money. Tom, I'm afraid I'm going to be a very poor man soon."

"Impossible, Mr. Damon! Why, I thought your investments--"

"I've made some bad ones of late, Tom. I've been pretty foolish,
I'm afraid. I drew out some money I had in government bonds, and
invested in certain stocks sold by a Mr. Shallock Peters."

"Shallock Peters!" cried Tom, almost jumping out of his chair.
"Why, I know him--I mean I've met him."

"Have you, Tom? Well, then, all I've got to say is to steer clear
of him, my boy. Don't have anything to do with him," and, with
something of a return of his usual energy Mr. Damon banged his
fist down on his desk. "Give him a wide berth, Tom, and if you see
him coming, turn your back. He'd talk a miser into giving him his
last cent. Keep away from Shallock Peters, Tom. Bless my necktie,
he's a scoundrel, that's what he is!" and again Mr. Damon banged
his desk forcibly.





CHAPTER VII

SOFT WORDS


"Well, I'm glad of one thing!" exclaimed Tom, when the ink bottle
and the paper cutter on Mr. Damon's desk had ceased rattling,
because of the violence of the blow. "I'm glad of one thing."

"What's that, Tom?" asked his friend.

"I heard you bless something at last--the first time since I came
in."

"Oh!" and Mr. Damon laughed. "Well, Tom, I haven't been blessing
things lately--that's a fact. I haven't had the heart for it.
There are too many business complications. I wish I'd never met
this Peters."

"So do I," said Tom. "My motor boat would not have been damaged
then."

"Did he do that, Tom?"

"He certainly did, and then he accused me of being at fault."

"That would be just like him. Tell me about it, Tom."

When the young inventor finished the story of the collision Mr.
Damon sat silent for a moment. Then he remarked slowly:

"That's just like Peters. A big bluff--that's what he is. I wish
I'd discovered that fact sooner--I'd be money in pocket. But I
allowed myself to be deceived by his talk about big profits. At
first he seemed like a smart business man, and he certainly had
fine recommendations. But I am inclined to believe, now, that the
recommendations were forged."

"What did he do to you, Mr. Damon?" asked Tom, with ready
sympathy.

"It's too complicated to go into details over, Tom, but to make a
long story short, he got me to invest nearly all my fortune in
some enterprises that, I fear, are doomed to failure. And if they
do fail, I'll be a ruined man."

"No, you won't!" exclaimed Tom. "That's one reason why I came here
to-day. Father told me to offer you all the ready money you needed
to get out of your trouble. How much do you need, Mr. Damon?"

"Bless my collar button! That's like your father, Tom," and now
Mr. Damon seemed more like his old self. "Bless my shoes, a man
never knows who his real friends are until trouble comes. I can't
say how I thank you and your father, Tom. But I'm not going to
take advantage of him."

"It wouldn't be taking any advantage of him, Mr. Damon. He has
money lying idle, and he'd like to have you use it."

"Well, Tom, I might use it, if I had only myself to think about.
But there's no use in throwing good money after bad. If I took
yours now this fellow Peters would only get it, and that would be
the last of it."

"No, Tom, thank you and your father just the same, but I'll try to
weather the storm a bit longer myself. Then, if I do go down I
won't drag anybody else with me. I'll hang on to the wreck a bit
longer. The storm may blow over, or--or something may happen to
this fellow Peters."

"Has he really got you in his grip, Mr. Damon?"

"He has, and, to a certain extent, it's my own fault. I should
have been suspicious of him. And now, Tom, let me give you a
further word of warning. You heard me say to steer clear of this
Peters?"

"Yes, and I'm going to. But I'm going to make him pay for damaging
my boat, if I possibly can."

"Maybe it would be wiser not to try that, Tom. I tell you he's a
tricky man. And one thing more. I have heard that this man Peters
makes a specialty of organizing companies to take up new
inventions."

"Is that so?" asked Tom, interestedly.

"Yes, but that's as far as it goes. Peters gets the invention, and
the man, out of whose brain it came, gets nothing."

"In other words, he swindles them?"

"That's it, Tom. If not in one way, then in another. He cheats
them out of the profits of their inventions. So I want to warn you
to be on the lookout."

"Don't worry," said Tom. "Peters will get nothing from my father
or me. We'll be on our guard. Not that I think he will try it, but
it's just as well to be warned. I didn't like him from the moment
he ran into me, and, now that I know what he has done to you, I
like him still less. He won't get anything from me!"

"I'm glad to hear you say so, Tom. I wish he'd gotten nothing out
of me."

"Are you sure you won't let my father help you, financially, Mr.
Damon?"

"No, Tom, at least not for the present. I'm going to make another
fight to hold on to my fortune. If I find I can't do it alone,
then I'll call on you. I'm real glad you called. Bless my
shoestring! I feel better now."

"I'm glad of it," laughed Tom, and he saw that his friend was in a
better state of mind, as his "blessings" showed.

Tom remained for a little longer, talking to Mr. Damon, and then
took his leave, flying back home in the airship.

"Gen'man t' see yo', Massa Tom," announced Eradicate, as he helped
Tom wheel the monoplane back into the shed.

"Is that so, Rad? Where is he?"

"Settin' in th' library. Yo' father am out, so I asted him in
dere."

"That's right, Rad. Who is he, do you know?"

"No, sah, Massa Tom, I doan't. He shore does use a pow'ful nice
perfume on his pocket hanky, though. Yum-yum!"

"Perfume!" exclaimed Tom, his mind going back to the day he had
had the trouble with Mr. Peters. "Is he a big, red-faced man,
Rad?"

"No, sah, Massa Tom. He's a white-faced, skinny man."

"Then it can't be Peters," mused Tom. "I guess perhaps it's that
lawyer I wrote to about bringing suit to get back what it cost me
to have the Kilo fixed. I'll see him at once. Oh, by the way, it
isn't Mr. Grant Halling; is it? The gentleman who got tangled up
in our aerials with his airship? Is it he?"

"No, sah, Massa Tom. 'Tain't him."

"I thought perhaps he had gotten into more trouble," mused Tom, as
he took off his airship "togs," and started for the house. For Mr.
Halling had called for his repaired airship some time ago, and had
promised to pay Tom another and more conventional visit, some
future day.

Tom did not know the visitor whom he greeted in the library a
little later. The man, as Eradicate had said, was rather pale of
face, and certainly he was not very fleshy.

"Mr. Tom Swift, I think?" said the man, rising and holding out his
hand.

"That's my name. I don't believe I know you, though."

"No, I haven't your reputation," said the man, with a laugh that
Tom did not like. "We can't all be great inventors like you," and,
somehow, Tom liked the man less than before, for he detected an
undertone of sneering patronage in the words. Tom disliked praise,
and he felt that this was not sincere.

"I have called on a little matter of business," went on the man.
"My name is Harrison Boylan, and I represent Mr. Shallock Peters."

Instinctively Tom stiffened. Receiving a call from a
representative of the man against whom Mr. Damon had warned him
only a short time before was a strange coincidence, Tom thought.

"You had some little accident, when your motor boat and that of
Mr. Peters collided, a brief time ago; did you not?" went on Mr.
Boylan.

"I did," said Tom, and, as he motioned the caller to be seated Tom
saw, with a start, that some of the drawings of his photo
telephone were lying on a desk in plain sight. They were within
easy reach of the man, and Tom thought the sheets looked as though
they had been recently handled. They were not in the orderly array
Tom had made of them before going out.

"If he is a spy, and has been looking at them," mused Tom, "he may
steal my invention." Then he calmed himself, as he realized that
he, himself, had not yet perfected his latest idea. "I guess he
couldn't make much of the drawings," Tom thought.

"Yes, the collision was most unfortunate," went on Mr. Boylan,
"and Mr. Peters has instructed me to say--"

"If he's told you to say that it was my fault, you may as well
save your time," cut in Tom. "I don't want to be impolite, but I
have my own opinion of the affair. And I might add that I have
instructed a lawyer to begin a suit against Mr. Peters--"

"No necessity for that at all!" interrupted the man, in soft
accents. "No necessity at all. I am sorry you did that, for there
was no need. Mr. Peters has instructed me to say that he realizes
the accident was entirely his own fault, and he is very willing--
nay, anxious, to pay all damages. In fact, that is why I am here,
and I am empowered, my dear Mr. Swift, to offer you five hundred
dollars, to pay for the repairs to your motor boat. If that is not
enough--"

The man paused, and drew a thick wallet front his pocket. Tom felt
a little embarrassed over what he had said.

"Oh," spoke the young inventor, "the repair bill is only about
three hundred dollars. I'm sorry--"

"Now that's all right, Mr. Swift! It's all right," and the man,
with his soft words, raised a white, restraining hand. "Not
another word. Mr. Peters did not know who you were that day he so
unfortunately ran into you. If he had, he would not have spoken as
he did. He supposed you were some amateur motor-boatist, and he
was--well, he admits it--he was provoked."

"Since then he has made inquiries, and, learning who you were, he
at once authorized me to make a settlement in full. So if five
hundred dollars--"

"The repair bill," said Tom, and his voice was not very cordial,
in spite of the other's persuasive smile, "the bill came to three
hundred forty-seven dollars. Here is the receipted bill. I paid
it, and, to be frank with you, I intended bringing suit against
Mr. Peters for that sum."

"No need, no need at all, I assure you!" interrupted Mr. Boylan,
as he counted off some bills. "There you are, and I regret that
you and Mr. Peters had such a misunderstanding. It was all his
fault, and he wants to apologize to you."

"The apology is accepted," said Tom, and he smiled a trifle. "Also
the money. I take it merely as a matter of justice, for I assure
you that Mr. Peters's own machinist will say the accident was his
employer's fault."

"No doubt of it, not the least in the world," said the caller.
"And now that I have this disagreeable business over, let me speak
of something more pleasant."

Instinctively Tom felt that now the real object of the man's call
would be made plain--that the matter of paying the damages was
only a blind. Tom steeled himself for what was to come.

"You know, I suppose," went on Mr. Boylan, smiling at Tom, "that
Mr. Peters is a man of many and large interests."

"I have heard something like that," said Tom, cautiously.

"Yes. Well, he is an organizer--a promoter, if you like. He
supplies the money for large enterprises, and is, therefore, a
benefactor of the human race. Where persons have no cash with
which to exploit their--well, say their inventions. Mr. Peters
takes them, and makes money out of them."

"No doubt," thought Tom, grimly.

"In other cases, where an inventor is working at a handicap, say
with too many interests, Mr. Peters takes hold of one of his
ideas, and makes it pay much better than the inventor has been
able to do."

"Now, Mr. Peters has heard of you, and he would like to do you
good."

"Yes, I guess he would," thought Tom. "He would like to do me--and
do me good and brown. Here's where I've got to play a game
myself."

"And so," went on Mr. Boylan, "Mr. Peters has sent me to you to
ask you to allow him to exploit one, or several, of your
inventions. He will form a large stock company, put one of your
inventions on the market, and make you a rich man. Now what do you
say?" and he looked at Tom and smiled--smiled, the young inventor
could not help thinking, like a cat looking at a mouse. "What do
you say, Mr. Swift?"

For a moment Tom did not answer. Then getting up and opening the
library door, to indicate that the interview was at an end, the
young inventor smiled, and said:

"Tell Mr. Peters that I thank him, but that I have nothing for him
to exploit, or with which to form a company to market."

"Wha--what!" faltered the visitor. "Do you mean to say you will
not take advantage of his remarkable offer?"

"That's just what I mean to say," replied Tom, with a smile.

"You won't do business with Mr. Peters? You won't let him do you
good?"

"No," said Tom, quietly.

"Why--why, that's the strangest--the most preposterous thing I
ever heard of!" protested Mr. Boylan. "What--what shall I say to
Mr. Peters?"

"Tell him," said Tom, "tell him, from me, and excuse the slang, if
you like, but tell him there is--nothing doing!"





CHAPTER VIII

TOM IS BAFFLED


Amazement held Mr. Boylan silent for a moment, and then, staring
at Tom, as though he could not believe what he had heard the young
inventor say, the representative of Mr. Peters exclaimed:

"Nothing doing?"

"That's what I said," repeated Tom, calmly.

"But--but you don't understand, I'm afraid."

"Oh, but indeed I do."

"Then you refuse to let my friend, Mr. Peters, exploit some of
your inventions?"

"I refuse absolutely."

"Oh, come now. Take an invention that hasn't been very
successful."

"Well, I don't like to boast," said Tom with a smile, "but all of
my inventions have been successful. They don't need any aid from
Mr. Peters, thank you."

"But this one!" went on the visitor eagerly, "this one about some
new kind of telephone," and he motioned to the drawings on the
table. "Has that been a success? Excuse me for having looked at
the plans, but I did not think you would mind. Has that telephone
been a success? If it has not perhaps Mr. Peters could form a
company to--"

"How did you know those drawings referred to a telephone?" asked
Tom, suspiciously, for the papers did not make it clear just what
the invention was.

"Why, I understood--I heard, in fact, that you were working on a
new photo telephone, and--"

"Who told you?" asked Tom quickly.

"Oh, no one in particular. The colored man who sent me here
mentioned--"

"Eradicate!" thought Tom. "He must have been talking. That isn't
like him. I must look into this."

Then to his caller he said:

"Really, you must excuse me, Mr. Boylan, but I don't care to do
any business with Mr. Peters. Tell him, with my thanks, that there
is really nothing doing in his line. I prefer to exploit my own
inventions."

"That is your last word?"

"Yes," returned Tom, as he gathered up the drawings.

"Well," said Mr. Boylan, and Tom could not help thinking there was
a veiled threat in his tones, "you will regret this. You will be
sorry for not having accepted this offer."

"I think not," replied Tom, confidently. "Good-day."

The young inventor sat for some time thinking deeply, when his
visitor had gone. He called Eradicate to him, and gently
questioned the old colored man, for Eradicate was ageing fast of
late, and Tom did not want him to feel badly.

It developed that the servant had been closely cross-questioned by
Mr. Boylan, while he was waiting for Tom, and it was small wonder
that the old colored man had let slip a reference to the photo
telephone. But he really knew nothing of the details of the
invention, so he could have given out no secrets.

"But at the same time," mused Tom, "I must be on guard against
these fellows. That Boylan seems a pretty slick sort of a chap. As
for Peters, he's a big 'bluff,' to be perfectly frank. I'm glad I
had Mr. Damon's warning in mind, or I might have been tempted to
do business with him."

"Now to get busy at this photo telephone again. I'm going to try a
totally different system of transmission. I'll use an alternating
current on the third wire, and see if that makes it any better.
And I'll put in the most sensitive selenium plate I can make. I'm
going to have this thing a success."

Tom carefully examined the drawings of his invention, at which
papers Mr. Boylan had confessed to looking. As far as the young
inventor could tell none was missing, and as they were not
completed it would be hard work for anyone not familiar with them
to have gotten any of Tom's ideas.

"But at the same time I'm going to be on my guard," mused Tom.
"And now for another trial."

Tom Swift worked hard during the following week, and so closely
did he stick to his home and workshop that he did not even pay a
visit to Mr. Damon, so he did not learn in what condition that
gentleman's affairs were. Tom even denied himself to his chum Ned,
so taken up was the young inventor with working out the telephone
problem, until Ned fairly forced himself into the shop one day,
and insisted on Tom coming out.

"You need some fresh air!" exclaimed Ned. "Come on out in the
motor boat again. She's all fixed now; isn't she?"

"Yes," answered Tom, "but--"

"Oh, 'but me no buts,' as Mr. Shakespeare would say. Come on, Tom.
It will do you good. I want a spin myself."

"All right, I will go for a little while," agreed Tom. "I am
feeling a bit rusty, and my head seems filled with cobwebs."

"Can't get the old thing to come out properly; eh?"

"No. I guess dad was more than half right when he said it couldn't
be done. But I haven't given up. Maybe I'll think of some new plan
if I take a little run. Come along."

They went down to the boat house, and soon were out on the lake in
the Kilo.

"She runs better since you had her fixed," remarked Ned.

"Yes, they did a good job."

"Did you sue Peters?"

"Didn't have to. He sent the money," and Tom told of his interview
with Mr. Boylan. This was news to Ned, as was also the financial
trouble of Mr. Damon.

"Well," said the young banker, "that bears out what I had heard of
Peters--that he was a get-rich-quick chap, and a good one to steer
clear of."

"Speaking of steering clear," laughed Tom, "there he is now, in
his big boat," and he pointed to a red blur coming up the lake.
"I'll give him a wide enough berth this time."

But though Mr. Peters, in his powerful motor boat, passed close to
Tom's more modest craft, the big man did not glance toward our
hero and his chum. Nor did Mr. Boylan, who was with his friend,
look over.

"I guess they've had enough of you," chuckled Ned.

"Probably he wishes he hadn't paid me that money," said Tom. "Very
likely he thought, after he handed it over, that I'd be only too
willing to let him manage one of my inventions. But he has another
guess coming."

Tom and Ned rode on for some distance, thoroughly enjoying the
spin on the lake that fine Summer day. They stopped for lunch at a
picnic resort, and coming back in the cool of the evening they
found themselves in the midst of a little flotilla of pleasure
craft, all decorated with Japanese lanterns.

"Better slow down a bit," Ned advised Tom, for many of the
pleasure craft were canoes and light row boats. "Our wash may
upset some of them."

"Guess you're right, old man," agreed Tom, as he closed the
gasoline throttle, to reduce speed. Hardly had he done so than
there broke in upon the merry shouts and singing of the pleasure-
seekers the staccato exhaust of a powerful motor boat, coming
directly behind Tom's craft.

Then came the shrill warning of an electrical siren horn.

"Somebody's in a hurry," observed Tom.

"Yes," answered Ned. "It sound's like Peters's boat, too."

"It is!" exclaimed Tom. "Here he comes. He ought to know better
than to cut through this raft of boats at that speed."

"Is he headed toward us?"

"No, I guess he's had enough of that. But look at him!"

With undiminished speed the burly promoter was driving his boat
on. The big vibrating horn kept up its clamor, and a powerful
searchlight in front dazzled the eyes.

"Look out! Look out!" cried several.

Many of the rowers and paddlers made haste to clear a lane for the
big, speedy motor craft, and Peters and his friends (for there
were several men in his boat now) seemed to accept this as a
matter of course, and their right.

"Somebody'll be swamped!" exclaimed Ned.

Hardly had he spoken than, as the big red boat dashed past in a
smother of foam, there came a startled cry in girls' voices.

"Look!" cried Tom. "That canoe's upset! Speed her up, Ned! We've
got to get 'em!"





CHAPTER IX

A GLEAM OF HOPE


"Where are they?"

"Who are they?"

"Over this way! There's their canoe!"

"Look out for that motor boat!"

"Who was it ran them down? They ought to be arrested!"

These were only a few of the cries that followed the upsetting of
the frail canoe by the wash from the powerful red boat. On Tom's
Kilo there was a small, electrical searchlight which he had not
yet switched on. But, with his call to Ned Newton to speed up the
motor, that had been slowed down, Tom, with one turn of his
fingers, set the lamp aglow, while, with the other hand, he
whirled the wheel over to head his craft for the spot where he saw
two figures struggling in the water.

Fortunately the lanterns on the various canoes and row-boats, as
well as the light on the bow of Tom's Kilo, made an illumination
that gave the rescuers a good chance to work. Many other boats
besides Tom's had headed for the scene, but his was the more
practical, since the others--all quite small ones--were pretty
well filled.

"There they are, Ned!" Tom suddenly cried. "Throw out the clutch!
I'll get 'em!"

"Want any help?"

"No, you stay at the engine, and mind what I say. Reverse now!
We're going to pass them!"

Ned threw in the backing gear, and the screw churned the water to
foam under the stern of the Kilo.

Tom leaned over the bow, and made a grab for the gasping,
struggling figure of a girl in the water. At the same time he had
tossed overboard a cork life ring, attached to a rope which, in
turn, was made fast to the forward deck-cleat. "Grab that!" cried
Tom. "Hold on, and I'll have you out in a second! That's enough,
Ned! Shut her off!"

The Kilo came to a standstill, and, a second later, Tom had pulled
into his boat one of the girls. She would have collapsed, and
fallen in a heap on the bottom boards, had not Ned, who had come
forward from the engine, caught her.

Then Tom, again leaning over the side, pulled in the other girl,
who was clinging to the life ring.

"You're all right," Tom assured her, as she came up, gasping,
choking and crying hysterically. "You're all right!"

"Is--is Minnie saved?" she sobbed.

"Yes, Grace! I'm here," answered the one Ned was supporting.

"Oh, wasn't it terrible!" cried the second girl Tom had saved.

"I thought we would be drowned, even though we can swim."

"Yes, it--it was so--so sudden!" gasped her companion. "What
happened?"

"The wash from that big boat upset you," explained Tom. "That
fellow ought to be ashamed of himself, rushing along the way he
did. Now, can I take you girls anywhere? Your canoe seems to have
drifted off."

"I have it!" someone called. "It's turned over, but I can tow it
to shore."

"And I'll take the girls home," offered a gentleman in a large
rowboat. "My wife will look after them. They live near us," and he
mentioned his own name and the names of the two girls Tom had
saved. The young inventor did not know them, but he introduced
himself and Ned.

"This is the annual moonlight outing of our little boat club,"
explained the man who had offered to look after the girls, "and it
is the first time we ever had an accident. This was not our fault,
though."

"Indeed it was not," agreed Tom, after he had helped the two
dripping young ladies into the rowboat. "It was due to Mr.
Peters's speed mania."

"I shall make a complaint against him to the navigation
authorities," said Mr. Ralston, who was looking after the girls.
"He must think he, alone, has any rights on this lake."

With renewed thanks to Tom and Ned, the rescued girls were rowed
off to their homes, while the interrupted water carnival was
continued.

"Some little excitement; eh, Tom?" remarked Ned, when they were
once more under way.

"Yes. We seem to run into that fellow Peters, or some of his
doings, quite often lately."

"And it isn't a good sign, either," murmured Ned.

For some minutes after that Tom did not speak. In fact he was so
silent that Ned at last inquired:

"What's the matter, Tom--in love?"

"Far from it. But, Ned, I've got an idea."

"And I've got a wet suit of clothes where that nice young lady
fainted in my arms. I'm soaked."

"That's what gave me the idea--the water, I mean. I noticed how
everything was reflected in it, and, do you know, Ned, I believe I
have been working on the wrong principle for my photo telephone."

"Wrong, Tom, how is that?"

"Why, I've been using a dry plate, and I think I should have used
a wet one. You know how even in a little puddle of water on the
sidewalk you can see yourself reflected?"

"Yes, I've often seen that."

"Well then, 'bless my watch chain!' as Mr. Damon would say, I
think I've got just what I want. I'm going to try a wet plate now,
and I think it will work. Come on now. Speed up! I'm in a great
big hurry to get home and try it!"

"Well, Tom, I sure will be glad if you've got the right idea,"
laughed Ned. "It will be worth getting wet through for, if you
strike something. Good luck!"

Tom could hardly wait to fasten up his boat for the night, so
eager was he to get to his shop laboratory and try the new idea. A
gleam of hope had come to him.

It was still early evening, and Tom, when enticed out by Ned, had
left his photo telephone apparatus in readiness to go on with his
trials as soon as he should have come back.

"Now for it, Ned!" exclaimed the young inventor, as he took off
his coat. "First I'll sensitize a selenium plate, and then I'll
wet it. Water is always a good conductor of electricity, and it's
a wonder that I forgot that when I was planning this photo
telephone. But seeing the sparkle of lights, and the reflection of
ourselves in the lake to-night, brought it back to me. Now then,
you haven't anything special to do; have you?"

"Not a thing, Tom."

"That's good. Then you get in this other telephone closet--the one
in the casting shop. I'll put a prepared plate in there, and one
in the booth where I'm to sit. Then I'll switch on the current,
and we'll see if I can make you out, and you notice whether my
image appears on your plate."

It took some little time to make ready for this new test. Tom was
filled with enthusiasm, and he was sure it was going to be
successful this time. Ned watched him prepare the selenium plates
--plates that were so sensitive to illumination that, in the dark,
the metal would hardly transmit a current of electricity, but in
the light would do so readily, its conductivity depending on the
amount of light it received.

"There, I guess we're all ready, Ned," announced Tom, at last.
"Now you go to your little coop, and I'll shut myself up in mine.
We can talk over the telephone."

Seated in the little booth in one of the smaller of Tom's shops,
Ned proceeded with his part in the new experiment. A small shelf
had been fitted up in the booth, or closet, and on this was the
apparatus, consisting of a portable telephone set, and a small
box, in which was set a selenium plate. This plate had been wet by
a spray of water in order to test Tom's new theory.

In a similar booth, several hundred feet away, and in another
building, Tom took his place. The two booths were connected by
wires, and in each one was an electric light.

"All ready, Ned?" asked Tom, through the telephone.

"All ready," came the answer.

"Now then, turn on your switch--the one I showed you--and look
right at the sensitized plate. Then turn out your light, and
slowly turn it on. It's a new kind, and the light comes up
gradually, like gas or an oil lamp. Turn it on easily."

"I get you, Tom."

Ned did as requested. Slowly the illumination in the booth
increased.

"Do you get anything, Tom?" asked Ned, over the wire.

"Not yet," was the somewhat discouraged answer. "Go ahead, turn on
more light, and keep your face close to the plate."

Ned did so.

"How about it now?" he asked, a moment later.

"Nothing--yet," was the answer. And then suddenly Tom's voice rose
to a scream over the wire.

"Ned--Ned! Quick!" he called. "Come here--I--I--"

The voice died off into a meaningless gurgle.





CHAPTER X

MIDNIGHT VISITORS


Ned Newton never knew exactly how he got out of the telephone
booth. He seemed to give but one jump, tearing the clamped
receiver from his ear, and almost upsetting the photo apparatus in
his mad rush to help Tom. Certain it is, however, that he did get
out, and a few seconds later he was speeding toward the shop where
Tom had taken his position in a booth.

Ned burst in, crying out:

"Tom! What is it? What happened? What's the matter?"

There was no answer. Fearing the worst, Ned hurried to the small
booth, in one corner of the big, dimly lighted shop. He could see
Tom's lamp burning in the telephone compartment,

"Tom! Tom!" called the young banker.

Still there was no answer, and Ned, springing forward, threw open
the double, sound-proof door of the booth. Then he saw Tom lying
unconscious, with his head and arms on the table in front of him,
while the low buzzing of the electrical apparatus in the
transmitting box told that the current had not been shut off.

"Tom! Tom!" cried Ned in his chum's ear He shook him by the
shoulder,

"Are you hurt? What is the matter?"

The young inventor seemed unconscious, and for a moment Ned had a
wild idea that Tom had been shocked to death, possibly by some
crossed live wire coming in contact with the telephone circuit.

"But that couldn't have happened, or I'd have been shocked
myself," mused Ned.

Then he became aware of a curious, sweet, sickish odor in the
booth. It was overpowering. Ned felt himself growing dizzy.

"I have it--chloroform!" he gasped. "In some way Tom has been
overcome by chloroform. I've got to get him to the fresh air."

Once he had solved the puzzle of Tom's unconsciousness, Ned was
quick to act. He caught Tom under the arms, and dragged him out of
the booth, and to the outer door of the shop. Almost before Ned
had reached there with his limp burden, Tom began to revive, and
soon the fresh, cool night air completed the work.

"I--I," began the young inventor. "Ned, I--I--"

"Now take it easy, Tom," advised his chum. "You'll be all right in
a few minutes. What happened? Shall I call your father, or Koku?"

"No--don't. It would only--only alarm dad," faltered Tom. "I'm
getting all right now. But he--he nearly had me, Ned!"

"He had you? What do you mean, Tom? Who had you?"

"I don't know who it was, but when I was talking to you over the
wire, all of a sudden I felt a hand behind me. It slipped over my
mouth and nose, and I smelled chloroform. I knew right away
something was wrong, and I called to you. That's all I remember. I
guess I must have gone off."

"You did," spoke Ned. "You were unconscious when I got to you. I
couldn't imagine what had happened. First I thought it was an
electrical shock. Then I smelled that chloroform. But who could it
have been, Tom?"

"Give it up, Ned! I haven't the slightest idea."

"Could they have been going to rob you?"

"I haven't a thing but a nickel watch on me," went on Tom. "I left
all my cash in the house. If it was robbery, it wasn't me,
personally, they were after."

"What then? Some of your inventions?"

"That's my idea now, Ned. You remember some years ago Jake Burke
and his gang held me up and took one of dad's patents away from
me?"

"Yes, I've heard you mention that. It was when you first got your
motor cycle; wasn't it?"

"That's right. Well, what I was going to say was that they used
chloroform on me then, and--"

"You think this is the same crowd? Why, I thought they were
captured."

"No, they got away, but I haven't heard anything of them in years.
Now it may be they have come back for revenge, for you know we got
back the stolen property."

"That's right. Say, Tom, it might be so. What are you going to do
about it?"

"I hardly know. If it was Jake Burke, alias Happy Harry, and his
crowd, including Appleson, Morse and Featherton, they're a bad
lot. I wouldn't want father to know they were around, for he'd be
sure to worry himself sick. He never really got over the time they
attacked me, and got the patent away. Dad sure thought he was
ruined then."

"Now if I tell him I was chloroformed again to-night, and that I
think it was Burke and his crowd, he'd be sure to get ill over it.
So I'm just going to keep mum."

"Well, perhaps it's the best plan. But you ought to do something."

"Oh, I will, Ned, don't worry about that. I feel much better now."

"How did it happen?" asked Ned, his curiosity not yet satisfied.

"I don't know, exactly. I was in the booth, talking to you, and
not paying much attention to anything else. I was adjusting and
readjusting the current, trying to get that image to appear on the
plate. All at once, I felt someone back of me, and, before I could
turn, that hand, with the chloroform sponge, was over my mouth and
nose. I struggled, and called out, but it wasn't much use."

"But they didn't do anything else--they didn't take anything; did
they, Tom?"

"I don't know, Ned. We'll have to look around. They must have
sneaked into the shop. I left the door open, you see. It would
have been easy enough."

"How many were there?"

"I couldn't tell. I only felt one fellow at me; but he may have
had others with him."

"What particular invention were they after, Tom?"

"I'm sure I don't know. There are several models in here that
would be valuable. I know one thing, though, they couldn't have
been after my photo telephone," and Tom laughed grimly.

"Why not?" Ned wanted to know.

"Because it's a failure--that's what! It's a dead, sure failure,
Ned, and I'm going to give it up!" and Tom spoke bitterly.

"Oh, don't say that!" urged his chum. "You may be right on the
verge of perfecting it, Tom. Didn't you see any image at all on
the plate?"

"Not a shadow. I must be on the wrong track. Well, never mind
about that now. I'm going to look around, and see if those fellows
took anything."

Tom was feeling more like himself again, the effects of the
chloroform having passed away. He had breathed the fumes of it for
only a little while, so no harm had been done. He and Ned made an
examination of the shop, but found nothing missing.

There were no traces of the intruders, however, though the two
chums looked carefully about outside the building.

"You were too quick for them, Ned," said Tom. "You came as soon as
I called. They heard me speaking, and must have known that I had
given the alarm."

"Yes, I didn't lose any time," admitted Ned, "but I didn't see a
sign of anyone as I ran up."

"They must have been pretty quick at getting away. Well, now to
decide what's best to do to-night."

After some consultation and consideration it was decided to set
the burglar alarms in every building of the Swift plant. Some time
previous, when he had been working on a number of valuable
inventions, unscrupulous men had tried to steal his ideas and
models. To prevent this Tom had arranged a system of burglar
alarms, and had also fitted up a wizard camera that would take
moving pictures of anyone coming within its focus. The camera
could be set to work at night, in connection with the burglar
alarms.

The apparatus was effective, and thus an end was put to the
efforts of the criminals. But now it seemed Tom would have to take
new precautionary measures. His camera, however, was not
available, as he had loaned it to a scientific society for
exhibition.

"But we'll attach the burglar wires," decided Tom, "and see what
happens."

"It might be a good plan to have Koku on guard," said Tom's chum.
"That giant could handle four or five of the chaps as easily as
you and I could tackle one."

"That's right," agreed Tom. "I'll put him on guard. Whew! That
chloroform is giving me a headache. Guess I'll go to bed. I wish
you'd stay over to-night, Ned, if you haven't anything else to do.
I may need you."

"Then of course I'll stay, Tom. I'll telephone home that I won't
be in."

A little later Tom had put away his new photo telephone apparatus,
and had prepared for the warm reception of any unbidden callers.

"I wish I hadn't started on this new invention," said Tom, half
bitterly, as he locked up the main parts of his machine, "I know
it will never work."

"Oh, yes it will," spoke Ned, cheerfully. "You never failed yet,
Tom Swift, in anything you undertook, and you're not going to
now."

"Well, that's good of you to say, Ned, but I think you're wrong
this time. But I'm not going to think any more about it to-night,
anyhow. Now to find Koku and put him on watch."

The giant listened carefully to Tom's simple instructions.

"If any bad men come in the night, Koku," said the young inventor,
"you catch them!"

"Yes, master, me catch!" said Koku, grimly. "Me catch!" and he
stretched out his powerful arms, and clenched his big hands in a
way that boded no good to evildoers.

Nothing was said to Mr. Swift, to Mrs. Baggert, or to Eradicate
about what had happened, for Tom did not want to worry them. The
burglar alarms were set, Koku took his place where he could watch
the signals, and at the same time be ready to rush out, for,
somehow, Tom had an idea that the men who had attacked him would
come back.

Tom and Ned occupied adjoining rooms, and soon were ready for bed.
But, somehow, Tom could not sleep. He lay awake, tossing from side
to side, and, in spite of his resolution not to think about his
photo telephone invention, his mind ran on nothing but that.

"I can't see what next to do to make it work," he told himself,
over and over again. "Something is wrong--but what?"

At length he fell into a fitful doze, and he had a wild dream that
he was sliding down hill on a big mirror in which all sorts of
reflections were seen--reflections that he could not get to show
in the selenium plates.

Then Tom felt the mirror bobbing up and down like a motor boat in
a storm. He felt the vibration, and he heard a voice calling in
his ear:

"Get up, Tom! Get up!"

"Yes! What is it?" he sleepily exclaimed,

"Hush!" was the caution he heard, and then he realized that his
dream had been caused by Ned shaking him.

"Well?" whispered Tom, in tense tones.

"Midnight visitors!" answered his chum "The burglar alarm has just
gone off! The airship hangar drop fell. Koku has gone out. Come
on!"





CHAPTER XI

THE AIRSHIP IS TAKEN


Tom leaped silently out of bed, and stood for a moment half
dazed, so soundly had he been sleeping.

"Come on!" urged Ned softly, realizing that his chum had not fully
comprehended. "Koku will hold them until we get there. I haven't
roused anyone else."

"That's right," whispered Tom, as he began putting on his clothes.
"I don't want father to know. When did it happen?"

"Just a little while ago. I couldn't sleep very well, but I fell
into a doze, and then I heard the buzzer of the alarm go off. I
saw that the drop, showing that the hangar had been entered, had
fallen. I got to the window in time to see Koku going toward the
shed from his little coop. Then I came to you."

"Glad you did," answered Tom. "I didn't think I was sleeping so
soundly."

Together the two chums made their way from their rooms down the
dimly-lighted hall to a side door, whence they could reach the
airship hangar, or shed.

"Won't we need something--a gun or--" began Ned.

"Clubs are better--especially at night when you can't see to aim
very well," whispered back Tom. "I've got a couple of good ones
downstairs. I could use my electric rifle, and set it merely to
disable temporarily whoever the charge hit, but it's a little too
risky. Koku has a habit of getting in the way at the most
unexpected times. He's so big, you know. I think clubs will be
best."

"All right, Tom, just as you say," agreed Ned. "But who do you
think it can be?"

"I haven't the least idea. Probably the same fellows who were
after me before, though. This time I'll find out what their game
is, and what they're after."

The chums reached the lower hall, and there Tom picked out two
African war clubs which he had brought back with him from one of
his many trips into wild lands.

"These are just the thing!" exclaimed Ned, swinging his about.

"Careful," cautioned Tom, "If you hit something you'll rouse the
house, and I don't want my father and Mrs. Baggert, to say nothing
of Eradicate, awakened."

"Excuse me," murmured Ned. "But we'd better be getting a move on."

"That's right," agreed Tom. He dropped into a side pocket a small
but powerful electric flash lamp, and then he and Ned let
themselves out.

There had been a bright moon, but it was now overcast by clouds.
However, there was sufficient light to enable the two lads to see
objects quite clearly. All about them were the various buildings
that made up the manufacturing and experimental plant of Tom Swift
and his father. Farthest away from the house was the big shed
where once Tom had kept a balloon, but which was now given over to
his several airships. In front of it was a big, level grassy
space, needed to enable the aircraft to get a "running start"
before they could mount into the clouds.

"See anything of Koku?" whispered Ned.

"No," answered Tom, in the same cautious voice. "I guess he must
be hiding--"

"There he goes now!" hissed Ned, pointing to a big figure that was
approaching the hangar. It was undoubtedly that of the giant, and
he could be seen, in the dim light, stalking cautiously along.

"I wonder where the uninvited guests are?" asked Tom.

"Probably in the airship shed," answered Ned. "Koku was after them
as soon as the alarm went off, and they couldn't have gotten away.
They must be inside there yet. But what can their game be?"

"It's hard to say," admitted Tom. "They may be trying to get
something belonging to me, or they may imagine they can pick up
some valuable secrets. Or they may--" He stopped suddenly, and
then exclaimed:

"Come on, Ned! They're after one of the airships! That's it! My
big biplane is all ready to start, and they can get it in motion
inside of a few seconds. Oh, why didn't I hurry?" he added,
bitterly.

But the hangar was still some distance away, and it would take two
or three minutes of running to reach it.

Meanwhile, and at the instant Tom had his thought of the possible
theft of his biggest aircraft, something happened.

The doors of the shed were suddenly thrown open, and the two boys
could see the large airship being wheeled out. The hazy light of
the moon behind the clouds shone on the expanse of white planes,
and on the fish-tail rudder, one of Tom's latest ideas.

"Hey, there!" cried Tom, warningly.

"Leave that alone!" yelled Ned.

"Koku! Koku!" shouted Tom, shrilly. "Get after those fellows!"

"Me get!" boomed out the giant, in his deep voice.

He had been standing near the entrance to the hangar, probably
waiting for developments, and watching for the arrival of Tom and
Ned. The big form was seen to leap forward, and then several dark
shadows swarmed from around the airship, and were seen to fling
themselves upon the giant.

"That's a fight!" cried Ned. "They're attacking him!"

"Koku can take care of himself!" murmured Tom. "But come on. I
don't see what their game is."

He understood a moment later, however, for while several of the
midnight visitors were engaged in a hand-to-hand tussle with the
giant there came a sharp, throbbing roar of the airship motor in
motion. The propellers were being whirled rapidly about.

"Koku! Koku!" cried Tom, for he was still some distance off.
"Never mind them! Don't let the airship be taken!"

But Koku could only grunt. Big and strong as he was, half a dozen
men attacking him at once hampered him. He threw them from him,
one after another, and was gradually making his way toward the now
slowly-moving airship. But would he be in time?

Tom and Ned could not hope to reach the machine before Koku,
though they were running at top speed.

"Koku! Koku!" yelled Tom. "Don't let them get away!"

But Koku could only grunt--harder this time--for he fell heavily,
being tripped by a stick thrust between his legs. He lay for a
moment stunned.

"They're going to get away!" panted Tom, making an effort to
increase his speed.

"That's what!" agreed Ned.

Even as they spoke the roar of the airship motor increased.
Several of the dark forms which had been engaged in the struggle
with Koku were seen to pick themselves up, and run toward the
airship, that was now in motion, moving on the bicycle wheels over
the grass plot, preparatory to mounting upward in the sky.

"Stop! Stop!" commanded Tom. But it was all in vain.

The men leaped aboard the airship, which could carry six persons,
and a moment later, with a deafening roar, as the engine opened up
full, the big craft shot upward, taking away all but two of the
midnight visitors. These, who had seemingly been stunned by Koku,
now arose from the ground, and staggered off in the darkness.

"Get them!" cried Tom.

"We must see to Koku!" added Ned, "Look, there goes your airship,
Tom!"

"Yes, I know. But we can't stop that now. Let's see if we can get
a clue in these fellows!"

He pointed toward the two who had run off in the dark underbrush
surrounding the hangar plaza, and he and Ned trailed them as well
as they could. But from the first they knew it would be useless,
for there were many hiding places, and, a little way beyond, was a
clump of trees.

After a short search Tom gave up reluctantly, and came back to
where Koku was now sitting on the ground.

"Are you hurt?" he asked of the giant.

"My mind hurt--that all," said the big man.

"I guess he means his feelings are hurt," Tom explained. "Do you
know who they were, Koku?"

"No, master."

"But we must do something!" cried Ned. "They've got your airship,
Tom."

"I know it," said the young inventor, calmly. "But we can't do
anything now. You can hardly hear her, let alone see her. She's
moving fast!"

He pointed upward to the darkness. Like some black bird of prey
the airship was already lost to sight, though it would have seemed
as if her white planes might render her visible. But she had moved
so swiftly that, during the short search, she had already
disappeared.

"Aren't you going to do anything?" asked Ned.

"Certainly," spoke Tom. "I'm going to telephone an alarm to all
the nearby towns. This is certainly a queer game, Ned."





CHAPTER XII

A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE


Disappointed and puzzled, Tom and Ned went to where Koku was
standing in rather a dazed attitude. The giant, like all large
bodies, moved slowly, not only bodily but mentally. He could
understand exactly what had happened, except that he had not
prevailed over the "pygmies" who had attacked him. They had been
too many for him.

"Let's take a look inside," suggested Tom, when, by another glance
upward, he had made sure that all trace of his big airship was
gone. "Maybe we can get a clue. Then, Koku, you tell us what
happened."

"It all happened to me," said the giant, simply. "Me no make
anything happen to them."

"That's about right," laughed Tom, ruefully. "It all happened to
us."

The lights in the hangar were switched on, but a careful search
revealed little. The men, half a dozen or more, had come evidently
well prepared for the taking away of Tom Swift's airship, and they
had done so.

Entrance had been effected by forcing a small side door. True, the
burglar alarm had given notice of the presence of the men, but Tom
and Ned had not acted quite quickly enough. Koku had been at the
hangar almost as soon as the men themselves, but he had watched
and waited for orders, instead of going in at once, and this had
given the intruders time to wheel out the craft and start the
motor.

"Why didn't you jump right in on them when you saw what they were
up to, Koku?" asked Tom.

"Me wait for master. Me think master want to see who men were. Me
go in--they run."

"Well, of course that's so, in a way," admitted Tom. "They
probably would have run, but they'd have run WITHOUT my airship
instead of WITH it, if they hadn't had time to get it outside the
hangar. However, there's no use in crying over lost biplanes. The
next thing is how to get her back. Did you know any of the men,
Koku?"

"No, master."

"Then we haven't any clue that way. They laid their plans well.
They just let you tangle yourself up with them, Koku, while the
head ones got the motor going; an easy matter, since it was all
ready to start. Then they tripped you, Koku, and as many of them
as could, made a jump for the machine. Then they were off."

"Well, what's the next thing to do?" asked Ned, when another look
about the shed had shown that not the slightest clue was
available.

"I'm going to do some telephoning," Tom stated. "A big airship
like mine can't go scooting around the country without being
noticed. And those fellows can't go on forever. They've got to
have gasoline and oil, and to get them they'll have to come down.
I'll get it back, sooner or later; but the question is: Why did
they take her?"

"To sell," suggested Ned.

"I think not," Tom said. "A big airship like mine isn't easy to
sell. People who would buy it would ask questions that might not
easily be answered. I'm inclined to think that some other reason
made them take her, and it's up to us to find out what it was.
Let's go into the house."

"Hark!" suddenly exclaimed Ned, holding up his hand for silence.
They all heard footsteps outside the hangar.

Tom sprang to the door, flashing his electric light, and a voice
exclaimed:

"Golly! Chicken thieves!"

"Oh, is it you, Eradicate?" asked the young inventor, with a
laugh. "No, it isn't chicken thieves--they were after bigger game
this time."

"Suffin happen?" asked the colored man. "Massa Swift he heah a
noise, an' see a light, an' he sent me out yeah t' see what all am
gwine on."

"Yes, something happened," admitted Tom. "They got the Eagle,
Rad."

"What! Yo' big airship?"

"Yes."

"Huh! Dat's too bad, Massa Tom. I suah am sorry t' heah dat. Who
done it?"

"We don't know, Rad."

"Maybe it was dat low-down cousin ob mine what tried t' git mah
chickens, onct!"

"No, Rad, it wasn't your cousin. But I'll telephone the alarm to
the police. They may be able to help me get the Eagle back."

Within the next hour several messages were sent to the authorities
of nearby towns, asking them to be on the watch for the stolen
airship. This was about all that could be done, and after Mr.
Swift had been told the story of the night's happenings, everyone
went back to bed again.

Further search the next morning brought forth no clues, though
Tom, Ned and the others beat about in the bushes where the men had
disappeared.

One or two reports were heard from surrounding towns, to the
effect that several persons had heard a strange throbbing sound in
the night, that, possibly, was caused by the passage of the
airship overhead. One such report came from Waterford, the home
town of Mr. Damon.

"Let's go over there," suggested Ned, to his chum. "I'd like to
see our friend, and maybe we can get some other clues by
circulating around there."

"Oh, I don't know," spoke Tom, rather listlessly.

"Why not?" Ned wanted to know.

"Well, I ought to be working on my photo telephone," was the
answer. "I've got a new idea now. I'm going to try a different
kind of current, and use a more sensitive plate. And I'll use a
tungsten filament lamp in the sending booth."

"Oh, let your experiments go for a little while, Tom," suggested
Ned. "Come on over to Mr. Damon's. The trouble with you is that
you keep too long at a thing, once you start."

"That's the only way to succeed," remarked Tom. "Really, Ned,
while I feel sorry about the airship, of course, I ought to be
working on my telephone. I'll get the Eagle back sooner or later."

"That's not the way to talk, Tom. Let's follow up this clue."

"Well, if you insist on it I suppose I may as well go. We'll take
the little monoplane. I've fixed her up to carry double. I guess--
"

Tom Swift broke off suddenly, as the telephone at his elbow rang.

"Hello," he said, taking off the receiver. "Yes, this is Tom
Swift. Oh, good morning, Mrs. Damon! Eh! What's that? Mr. Damon
has disappeared? You don't tell me! Disappeared! Yes, yes, I can
come right over. Be there in a few minutes. Eh? You don't know
what to make of it? Oh, well, maybe it can easily be explained.
Yes, Ned Newton and I will be right over. Don't worry."

Tom hung up the receiver and turned to his chum.

"What do you think of that?" he asked.

"What is it?"

"Why, Mr. Damon mysteriously vanished last night, and this morning
word came from his bankers that every cent of his fortune had
disappeared! He's lost everything!"

"Maybe--maybe--" hesitated Ned.

"No, Mr. Damon isn't that kind of a man," said Tom, stoutly. "He
hasn't made away with himself."

"But something is wrong!"

"Evidently, and it's up to us to find out what it is. I shouldn't
be surprised but that he knew of this coming trouble and started
out to prevent it if he could."

"But he wouldn't disappear and make his wife worry."

"No, that's so. Well, we'll have to go over there and find out all
about it."

"Say, Tom!" exclaimed Ned, as they were getting the small, but
swift monoplane ready for the flight, "could there be any
connection with the disappearance of Mr. Damon and the taking of
the Eagle?"

Tom started in surprise.

"How could there be?" he asked.

"Oh, I don't know," answered Ned. "It was only an idea."

"Well, we'll see what Mrs. Damon has to say," spoke the young
inventor, as he took his seat beside Ned, and motioned to Koku to
twirl the propeller.





CHAPTER XIII

THE TELEPHONE PICTURE


"Oh, Tom Swift! I'm so glad to see you!"

Mrs. Damon clasped her arms, in motherly fashion, about the young
inventor. He held her close, and his own eyes were not free from
tears as he witnessed the grief of his best friend's wife.

"Now, don't worry, Mrs. Damon," said Tom, sympathetically.
"Everything will be all right," and he led her to a chair.

"All right, Tom! How can it be?" and the lady raised a tear-
stained face. "My husband has disappeared, without a word! It's
just as if the earth had opened and swallowed him up! I can't find
a trace of him! How can it be all right?"

"Well, we'll find him, Mrs. Damon. Don't worry. Ned and I will get
right to work, and I'll have all the police and detectives within
fifty miles on the search--if we have to go that far."

"Oh, it's awfully good of you, Tom. I--I didn't know who else to
turn to in my trouble but you."

"And why shouldn't you come to me? I'd do anything for you and Mr.
Damon. Now tell me all about it."

Tom and Ned had just arrived at the Damon home in the airship, to
find the wife of the eccentric man almost distracted over her
husband's strange disappearance.

"It happened last night," Mrs. Damon said, when she was somewhat
composed. "Last night about twelve o'clock."

"Twelve o'clock!" cried Tom, in surprise "Why that's about the
time--"

He stopped suddenly.

"What were you going to say?" asked Mrs. Damon.

"Oh--nothing," answered Tom. "I--I'll tell you later. Go on,
please."

"It is all so confusing," proceeded Mrs. Damon. "You know my
husband has been in trouble of late--financial trouble?"

"Yes," responded Tom, "he mentioned it to me."

"I don't know any of the details," sighed Mrs. Damon, "but I know
he was mixed up with a man named Peters."

"I know him, too," spoke Tom, grimly.

"My husband has been very gloomy of late," went on Mrs. Damon. "He
foolishly entrusted almost his entire fortune to that man, and
last night he told me it was probably all gone. He said he saw
only the barest chance to save it, but that he was going to take
that chance."

"Did he go into details?" asked Tom.

"No, that was all he said. That was about ten o'clock. He didn't
want to go to bed. He just sat about, and he kept saying over and
over again: 'Bless my tombstone!' 'Bless the cemetery!' and all
such stuff as that. You know how he was," and she smiled through
her tears.

"Yes," said Tom. "I know. Only it wasn't like him to bless such
grewsome things. He was more jolly."

"He hasn't been, of late," sighed his wife. "Well, he sat about
all the evening, and he kept figuring away, trying, I suppose, to
find some way out of his trouble."

"Why didn't he come to my father?" cried Tom. "I told him he could
have all the money he needed to tide him over."

"Well, Mr. Damon was queer that way," said his wife. "He wanted to
be independent. I urged him to call you up, but he said he'd fight
it out alone."

"As I said, we sat there, and he kept feeling more and more blue,
and blessing his funeral, and the hearse and all such things as
that. He kept looking at the clock, too, and I wondered at that."

"'Are you expecting someone?' I asked him. He said he wasn't,
exactly, but I made sure he was, and finally, about half-past
eleven, he put on his hat and went out."

"'Where are you going?' I asked him."

"'Oh, just to get a breath of air. I can't sleep,' he said. I
didn't think much of that, as he often used to go out and walk
about a bit before going to bed. So he went out, and I began to
see about locking up, for I never trust the servants."

"It must have been about an hour later when I heard voices out in
front. I looked, and I saw Mr. Damon talking to a man."

"Who was he?" asked Tom, eagerly, on the alert for the slightest
clue.

"I thought at the time," said Mrs. Damon, "that it was one of the
neighbors. I have learned since, however, that it was not. Anyhow,
this man and Mr. Damon stood talking for a little while, and then
they went off together. I didn't think it strange at the time,
supposing he was merely strolling up and down in front with Mr.
Blackson, who lives next door, He often had done that before."

"Well, I saw that the house was locked up, and then I sat down in
a chair to wait for Mr. Damon to come back. I was getting sleepy,
for we don't usually stay up so late. I suppose I must have dozed
off, but I was suddenly awakened by hearing a peculiar noise. I
sat up in alarm, and then I realized that Mr. Damon had not come
in."

"I was frightened then, and I called my maid. It was nearly one
o'clock, and my husband never stays out as late as that. We went
next door, and found that Mr. Blackson had not been out of his
house that evening. So it could not have been he to whom Mr. Damon
was speaking."

"We roused up other neighbors, and they searched all about the
grounds, thinking he might have been overcome by a sudden faint.
But we could not find him. My husband had disappeared--
mysteriously disappeared!" and the lady broke into sobs.

"Now don't worry," said Tom, soothingly, as he put his arms about
her as he would have done to his own mother, had she been alive,
"We'll get him back!"

"But how can you? No one knows where he is."

"Oh, yes!" said Tom, confidently, "Mr. Damon himself knows where
he is, and unless he has gone away voluntarily, I think you will
soon hear from him."

"What do you mean by--voluntarily?" asked the wife.

"First let me ask you a question," came from Tom. "You said you
were awakened by a peculiar noise. What sort of a sound was it?"

"Why, a whirring, throbbing noise, like--like--"

She paused for a comparison.

"Like an airship?" asked Tom, with a good deal of eagerness.

"That was it!" cried Mrs. Damon. "I was trying to think where I
had heard the sound before. It was just like the noise your
airship makes, Tom!"

"That settles it!" exclaimed the young inventor.

"Settles what?" asked Ned.

"The manner of Mr. Damon's disappearance. He was taken away--or
went away--in my airship--the airship that was stolen from my shed
last night!"

Mrs. Damon stared at Tom in amazement.

"Why--why--how could that be?" she asked.

Quickly Tom told of what had happened at his place.

"I begin to see through it," he said. "There is some plot here,
and we've got to get to the bottom of it. Mr. Damon either went
with these men in the airship willingly, or he was taken away by
force. I'm inclined to think he went of his own accord, or you
would have heard some outcry, Mrs. Damon."

"Well, perhaps so," she admitted. "But would he go away in that
manner without telling me?"

"He might," said Tom, willing to test his theory on all sides. "He
might not have wanted you to worry, for you know you dislike him
to go up an airships."

"Yes, I do. Oh, if I only thought he did go away of his own
accord, I could understand it. He went, if he did, to try and save
his fortune."

"It does look as though he had an appointment with someone, Tom,"
suggested Ned. "His looking at the clock, and then going out, and all
that."

"Yes," admitted the young inventor, "and now I'm inclined to
change my theory a bit. It may have been some other airship than
mine that was used."

"How so?" asked Ned.

"Because the men who took mine were unprincipled fellows. Mr.
Damon would not have gone away with men who would steal an
airship."

"Not if he knew it," admitted Ned. "Well, then, let's consider two
airships--yours and the other that came to keep the appointment
with Mr. Damon. If the last is true, why should he want to go away
in an airship at midnight? Why couldn't he take a train, or an
auto?"

"Well, we don't know all the ins and outs," admitted Tom. "Taking
a midnight airship ride is rather strange, but that may have been
the only course open. We'll have to let the explanation go until
later. At any rate, Mrs. Damon, I feel sure that your husband did
go off through the air--either in my Eagle or in some other
craft."

"Well, I'm glad to hear you say so, Tom Swift, though it sounds a
dreadful thing to say. But if he did go off of his own accord, I
know he did it for the best. And he may not have told me, for fear
I would worry. I can understand that. But why isn't he back now?"

Tom had been rather dreading that question. It was one he had
asked himself, and he had found no good answer for it. If there
had been such need of haste, that an airship had to be used. why
had not Mr. Damon come back ere this? Unless, as Tom feared to
admit, even to himself, there had been some accident.

Half a dozen theories flashed through his mind, but he could not
select a good, working one,--particularly as there were no clues.
Disappearing in an airship was the one best means of not leaving a
trace behind. An auto, a motor boat, a train, a horse and
carriage--all these could be more or less easily traced. But an
airship--

If Mr. Damon wanted to cover up his tracks, or if he had been
taken away, and his captors wanted to baffle pursuit, the best
means had been adopted.

"Now don't you worry," advised Tom to Mrs. Damon. "I know it looks
funny, but I think it will come out all right. Ned and I will do
all we can. Mr. Damon must have known what he was about. But, to
be on the safe side, we'll send out a general alarm through the
police."

"Oh, I don't know what I'd done if you hadn't come to help me!"
exclaimed Mrs. Damon.

"Just you leave it to me!" said the young inventor, cheerfully.
"I'll find Mr. Damon!"

But, though he spoke thus confidently, Tom Swift had not the
slightest notion, just then, of how to set about his difficult
task. He had had hard problems to solve before, so he was not
going to give up this one. First he wanted to think matters out,
and arrange a plan of action.

He and Ned made a careful examination of the grounds of the Damon
homestead. There was little they could learn, though they did find
where an airship had landed in a meadow, not far away, and where
it had made a flying start off again.

Carefully Tom looked at the marks made by the wheels of the
airship.

"They're the same distance apart as those on the Eagle," he said
to his chum, "and the tires are the same. But that isn't saying
anything, as lots of airships have the same equipment. So we won't
jump to any conclusions that way."

Tom and Ned interviewed several of the neighbors, but beyond
learning that some of them had heard the throbbing of the midnight
airship, that was as far as they got on that line.

There was nothing more they could do in Waterford, and, leaving
Mrs. Damon, who had summoned a relative to stay with her, the two
chums made a quick trip back through the air to Shopton. As
Eradicate came out to help put away the monoplane Tom noticed that
the colored man was holding one hand as though it hurt him.

"What's the matter, Rad?" asked the young investor.

"Oh, nuffin--jest natcherly nuffin, Massa Tom."

But Eradicate spoke evasively and in a manner that roused Tom's
suspicions.

"Boomerang, your mule, didn't kick you; did he?"

"No, sah, Massa Tom, no sah. 'Twern't nuffin laik dat."

"But what was it? Your hand is hurt!"

"Well, Massa Tom, I s'pose I done bettah tell yo' all. I'se had a
shock!"

"A shock?"

"Yas, sah. A shock. A lickrish shock."

"Oh, you mean an electrical shock. That's too bad. I suppose you
must have touched a live wire."

"No, sah. 'Twern't dat way."

"How was it, then?"

"Well, yo' see, Massa Tom, I were playin' a joke on Koku."

"Oh, you were; eh? Then I suppose Koku shocked you," laughed Tom.

"No, sah. I--I'll tell you. Dat giant man he were in de telefoam
boof in de pattern shop--you know--de one where yo' all been
tryin' to make pishures."

"Yes, I know. Go on!" exclaimed Tom, impatiently.

"Well, he were in dere, Massa Tom, an' I slipped into de boof in
de next shop--de odder place where yo' all been 'speermentin'. I
called out on de telefoam, loud laik de Angel Gabriel gwine t'
holler at de last trump: 'Look out, yo' ole sinnah!' I yell it
jest t' scare Koku."

"I see," said Tom, a bit severely, for he did not like Eradicate
interfering with the instruments. "And did you scare Koku?"

"Oh, yas, sah, Massa Tom. I skeered him all right; but suffin else
done happen. When I put down de telefoam I got a terrible shock.
It hurts yit!"

"Well," remarked Tom, "I suppose I ought to feel sorry for you,
but I can't. You should let things alone. Now I've got to see if
you did any damage. Come along, Ned."

Tom was the first to enter the telephone booth where Eradicate had
played the part of the Angel Gabriel. He looked at the wires and
apparatus, but could see nothing wrong.

Then he glanced at the selenium plate, on which he hoped, some
day, to imprint an image from over the wire. And, as he saw the
smooth surface he started, and cried.

"Ned! Ned, come here quick!"

"What is it?" asked his chum, Crowding into the booth.

"Look at that plate! Tell me what you see!"

Ned looked.

"Why--why it's Koku's picture!" he gasped.

"Exactly!" cried Tom. "In some way my experiment has succeeded
when I was away. Eradicate must have made some new connection by
his monkeying. Ned, it's a success! I've got my first photo
telephone picture! Hurray!"





CHAPTER XIV

MAKING IMPROVEMENTS


Tom Swift was so overjoyed and excited that for a few moments he
capered about, inside the booth, and outside, knocking against his
chum Ned, clapping him on the back, and doing all manner of boyish
"stunts."

"It's a success, Ned! I've struck it!" cried Tom, in delight.

"Ouch! You struck ME, you mean!" replied Ned, rubbing his
shoulder, where the young inventor had imparted a resounding blow
of joy.

"What of it?" exclaimed Tom. "My apparatus works! I can send a
picture by telephone! It's great, Ned!"

"But I don't exactly understand how it happened," said Ned, in
some bewilderment, as he gazed at the selenium plate.

"Neither do I," admitted Tom, when he had somewhat calmed down.
"That is, I don't exactly understand what made the thing succeed
now, when it wouldn't work for me a little while ago. But I've got
to go into that. I'll have to interview that rascal Eradicate, and
learn what he did when he played that trick on Koku. Yes, and I'll
have to see Koku, too. We've got to get at the bottom of this,
Ned."

"I suppose so. You've got your hands full, Tom, with your photo
telephone, and the disappearance of Mr. Damon."

"Yes, and my own airship, too. I must get after that. Whew! A lot
of things to do! But I like work, Ned. The more the better."

"Yes, that's like you, Tom. But what are you going to get at
first?"

"Let me see; the telephone, I think. I'll have Rad and Koku in
here and talk to them. I say, you Eradicate!" he called out of the
door of the shop, as he saw the colored man going past, holding
his shocked arm tenderly.

"Yas, sah, Massa Tom, I'se comin'! What is it yo' all wants, Massa
Tom?"

"I want you to show me exactly what you did to the wires, and
other things in here, when you played that Angel Gabriel trick on
your partner Koku."

"Partner! He ain't mah partner!" exclaimed Eradicate with a scowl,
for there was not the best of feeling between the two. Eradicate
had served in the Swift family many years, and he rather resented
the coming of the giant, who performed many services formerly the
province of the colored man.

"Well, never mind what he is, Rad," laughed Tom. "You just show me
what you did. Come now, something happened in here, and I want to
find out what it was."

"Oh, suffin done happened all right, Massa Tom. Yas, sah! Suffin
done happened!" cried Eradicate, with such odd emphasis that Tom
and Ned both laughed.

"An' suffin happened to me," went on the colored man, rubbing his
shocked arm.

"Well, tell us about it," suggested Tom.

"It was dish yeah way," proceeded Eradicate. And he told more in
detail how, seeing Koku cleaning and sweeping out the other
telephone booth, he had thought of the trick to play on him. Both
telephones had what are called "amplifiers" attached, that could
be switched on when needed. These amplifiers were somewhat like
the horn of a phonograph--they increased, or magnified the sound,
so that one could hear a voice from any part of the shop, and need
not necessarily have the telephone receiver at his ear.

Seeing Koku near the instrument, Eradicate had switched on the
amplifier, and had called into his instrument, trying to scare the
giant. And he did startle Koku, for the loud voice, coming so
suddenly, sent the giant out of the booth on the run.

"But you must have done something else," insisted Tom. "Look here,
Rad," and the young inventor pointed to the picture on the plate.

"Mah gracious sakes!" gasped the colored man. "Why dat's Koku
hisse'f!" and he looked in awe at the likeness.

"That's what you did, Rad!"

"Me? I done dat? No, sah, Massa Tom. I neber did! No, sah!"
Eradicate spoke emphatically.

"Yes you did, Rad. You took that picture of Koku over my photo
telephone, and I want you to show me exactly what you did--what
wires and switches you touched and changed, and all that."

"Yo--yo' done say I tuck dat pishure, Massa Tom?"

"You sure did, Rad."

"Well--well, good land o' massy! An' I done dat!"

Eradicate stared in wonder at the image of the giant on the plate,
and shook his head doubtingly.

"I--I didn't know I could do it. I never knowed I had it in me!"
he murmured.

Tom and Ned laughed long and loud, and then the young inventor
said:

"Now look here, Rad. You've done me a mighty big service, though
you didn't know it, and I want to thank you. I'm sorry about your
arm, and I'll have the doctor look at it. But now I want you to
show me all the things you touched when you played that joke on
Koku. In some way you did what I haven't been able to do, You took
the picture. There's probably just one little thing I've
overlooked, and you stumbled on it by accident. Now go ahead and
show me."

Eradicate thought for a moment, and then said:

"Well, I done turned on de current, laik I seen you done, Massa
Tom."

"Yes, go on. You connected the telephone."

"Yas, sah. Den I switched on that flyer thing yo' all has rigged
up."

"You switched on the amplifier, yes. Go on."

"An'--an' den I plugged in dish year wire," and the colored man
pointed to one near the top of the booth.

"You switched on that wire, Rad! Why, great Scott, man! That's
connected to the arc light circuit--it carries over a thousand
volts. And you switched that into the telephone circuit?"

"Dat's what I done did, Massa Tom; yas, Bah!"

"What for?"

"Why, I done want t' make mah voice good an' loud t' skeer dat
rascal Koku!"

Tom stared at the colored man in amazement.

"No wonder you got a shock!" exclaimed the young inventor. "You
didn't get all the thousand volts, for part of it was shunted off;
but you got a good charge, all right. So that's what did the
business; eh? It was the combination of the two electrical
circuits that sent the photograph over the wire."

"I understand it now, Rad; but you did more than I've been able to
do. I never, in a hundred years, would have thought of switching
on that current. It never occurred to me. But you, doing it by
accident, brought out the truth. It's often that way in
discoveries. And Koku was standing in the other telephone booth,
near the plate there, when you switched in this current, Rad?"

"Yas, sah, Massa Tom. He were. An' yo' ought t' see him hop when
he heard mah voice yellin' at him. Ha! ha! ha!"

Eradicate chuckled at the thought. Then a pain in his shocked arm
made him wince. A wry look passed over his face.

"Yas, sah, Koku done jump about ten feet," he said. "An'--an' den
I jump too. Ain't no use in denyin' dat fact. I done jump when I
got dat shock!"

"All right, Rad. You may go now. I think I'm on the right track!"
exclaimed Tom. "Come on, Ned, we'll try some experiments, and
we'll see what we can do."

"No shocks though--cut out the shocks, Tom," stipulated his chum.

"Oh, sure! No shocks! Now let's bet busy and improve on
Eradicate's Angel Gabriel system."

Tom made a quick examination of the apparatus.

"I understand it, I think," he said. "Koku was near the plate in
the other booth when Rad put on the double current. There was a
light there, and in an instant his likeness was sent over the
wire, and imprinted on this plate. Now let's see what we can do.
You go to that other booth, Ned. I'll see if I can get your
picture, and send you mine. Here, take some extra selenium plates
along. You know how to connect them."

"I think so," answered Ned.

"This image is really too faint to be of much use," went on Tom,
as he looked at the one of Koku. "I think I can improve on it. But
we're on the right track."

A little later Ned stood in the other booth, while Tom arranged
the wires, and made the connections in the way accidently
discovered by Eradicate. The young inventor had put in a new
plate, carefully putting away the one with the picture of the
giant, This plate could be used again, when the film, into which
the image was imprinted, had been washed off.

"All ready, Ned," called Tom, over the wire, when he was about to
turn the switch. "Stand still, and I'll get you."

The connection was made, and Tom uttered a cry of joy. For there,
staring at him from the plate in front of him was the face of Ned.

It was somewhat reduced in size, of course, and was not extra
clear, but anyone who knew Ned could have told he was at the other
end of the wire.

"Do you get me, Tom?" called Ned, over the telephone.

"I sure do! Now see if you can get me."

Tom made other connections, and then looked at the sending plate
of his instrument, there being both a sending and receiving plate
in each booth, just as there was a receiver and a transmitter to
the telephone.

"Hurray! I see you, Tom!" cried Ned, over the wire. "Say, this is
great!"

"It isn't as good as I want it," went on Tom. "But it proves that
I'm right. The photo telephone is a fact, and now persons using
the wire can be sure of the other person they are conversing with.
I must tell dad. He wouldn't believe I could do it!"

And indeed Mr. Swift was surprised when Tom proved, by actual
demonstration, that a picture could be sent over the wire.

"Tom, I congratulate you!" declared the aged inventor. "It is good
news!"

"Yes, but we have bad news of Mr. Damon," said Tom, and he told
his father of the disappearance of the eccentric man. Mr. Swift at
once telephoned his sympathy to Mrs. Damon, and offered to do
anything he could for her.

"But Tom can help you more than I can," he said. "You can depend
on Tom."

"I know that," replied Mrs. Damon, over the wire.

And certainly Tom Swift had many things to do now. He hardly knew
at what to begin first, but now, since he was on the right road in
regard to his photo telephone, he would work at improving it.

And to this end he devoted himself, after he had sent out a
general alarm to the police of nearby towns, in regard to the
disappearance of Mr. Damon. The airship clue, he believed, as did
the police, would be a good one to work on.

For several days after this nothing of moment occurred. Mr. Damon
could not be located, and Tom's airship might still be sailing
above the clouds as far as getting any trace of it was concerned.

Meanwhile the young inventor, with the help of Ned, who was given
a leave of absence from the bank, worked hard to improve the photo
telephone.





CHAPTER XV

THE AIRSHIP CLUE


"Now Ned, we'll try again. I'm going to use a still stronger
current, and this is the most sensitive selenium plate I've turned
out yet. We'll see if we can't get a better likeness of you--one
that will be plainer."

It was Tom Swift who was speaking, and he and his chum had just
completed some hard work on the new photo telephone. Though the
apparatus did what Tom had claimed for it, still he was far from
satisfied. He could transmit over the wire the picture of a person
talking at the telephone, but the likeness was too faint to make
the apparatus commercially profitable.

"It's like the first moving pictures," said Tom. "They moved, but
that was about all they did."

"I say," remarked Ned, as he was about to take his place in the
booth where the telephone and apparatus were located, "this
double-strength electrical current you're speaking of won't shock
me; will it? I don't want what happened to Eradicate to happen to
me, Tom."

"Don't worry. Nothing will happen. The trouble with Rad was that
he didn't have the wires insulated when he turned that arc current
switch by mistake--or, rather, to play his joke. But he's all
right now."

"Yes, but I'm not going to take any chances," insisted Ned. "I
want to be insulated myself."

"I'll see to that," promised Tom. "Now get to your booth."

For the purpose of experiments Tom had strung a new line between
two of his shops, They were both within sight, and the line was
not very long; but, as I have said, Tom knew that if his apparatus
would work over a short distance, it would also be successful over
a long one, provided he could maintain the proper force of
current, which he was sure could be accomplished.

"And if they can send pictures from Monte Carlo to Paris I can do
the same," declared Tom, though his system of photo telephony was
different from sending by a telegraph system--a reproduction of a
picture on a copper plate. Tom's apparatus transmitted the
likeness of the living person.

It took some little time for the young inventor, and Ned working
with him, to fix up the new wires and switch on the current. But
at last it was complete, and Ned took his place at one telephone,
with the two sensitive plates before him. Tom did the same, and
they proceeded to talk over the wire, first making sure that the
vocal connection was perfect.

"All ready now, Ned! We'll try it," called Tom to his chum, over
the wire. "Look straight at the plate. I want to get your image
first, and then I'll send mine, if it's a success,"

Ned did as requested, and in a few minutes he could hear Tom
exclaim, joyfully:

"It's better, Ned! It's coming out real clear. I can see you
almost as plainly as if you were right in the booth with me. But
turn on your light a little stronger."

Tom could hear, through the telephone, his chum moving about, and
then he caught a startled exclamation.

"What's the matter?" asked Tom anxiously.

"I got a shock!" cried Ned. "I thought you said you had this thing
fixed. Great Scott, Tom! It nearly yanked the arm off me! Is this
a joke?"

"No, old man. No, of course not! Something must be wrong. I didn't
mean that. Wait, I'll take a look. Say, it does seem as if
everything was going wrong with this invention. But I'm on the
right track, and soon I'll have it all right. Wait a second. I'll
be right over."

Tom found that it was only a simple displacement of a wire that
had given Ned a shock, and he soon had this remedied.

"Now we'll try again," he said. This time nothing wrong occurred,
and soon Tom saw the clearest image he had yet observed on his
telephone photo plate.

"Switch me on now, Ned," he called to his chum, and Ned reported
that he could see Tom very plainly.

"So far--so good," observed Tom, as he came from the booth. "But
there are several things I want yet to do."

"Such as what?" questioned Ned.

"Well, I want to arrange to have two kinds of pictures come over
the wire. I want it so that a person can go into a booth, call up
a friend, and then switch on the picture plate, so he can see his
friend as well as talk to him. I want this plate to be like a
mirror, so that any number of images can be made to appear on it.
In that way it can be used over and over again. In fact it will be
exactly like a mirror, or a telescope. No matter how far two
persons may be apart they can both see and talk to one another."

"That's a big contract, Tom."

"Yes, but you've seen that it can be done. Then another thing I
want to do is to have it arranged so that I can make a photograph
of a person over a wire."

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning that if a certain person talks to me over the wire, I can
turn my switch, and get a picture of him here at my apparatus
connected with my telephone. To do that I'll merely need a sending
apparatus at the other end of the telephone line--not a receiving
machine."

"Could you arrange it so that the person who was talking to you
would have his picture taken whether he wanted it or not?" asked
Ned.

"Yes, it might be done," spoke Tom, thoughtfully. "I could conceal
the sending plate somewhere in the telephone booth, and arrange
the proper light, I suppose."

"That might be a good way in which to catch a criminal," went on
Ned. "Often crooks call up on the telephone, but they know they
are safe. The authorities can't see them--they can only hear them.
Now if you could get a photograph of them while they were
telephoning--"

"I see!" cried Tom, excitedly. "That's a great idea! I'll work on
that, Ned."

And, all enthusiasm, Tom began to plan new schemes with his photo
telephone.

The young inventor did not forget his promise to help Mrs. Damon.
But he could get absolutely no clue to her husband's whereabouts.
Mr. Damon had completely and mysteriously disappeared. His
fortune, too, seemed to have been swallowed up by the sharpers,
though lawyers engaged by Tom could fasten no criminal acts on Mr.
Peters, who indignantly denied that he had done anything unlawful.

If he had, he had done it in such a way that he could not be
brought to justice. The promoter was still about Shopton, as well
groomed as ever, with his rose in his buttonhole, and wearing his
silk hat. He still speeded up and down Lake Carlopa in his
powerful motor boat. But he gave Tom Swift a wide berth.

Late one night, when Tom and Ned had been working at the new photo
telephone, after all the rest of the household had retired, Tom
suddenly looked up from his drawings and exclaimed:

"What's that?"

"What's what?" inquired Ned.

"That sound? Don't you hear it? Listen!"

"It's an airship--maybe yours coming back!" cried the young
banker.

As he spoke Ned did hear, seemingly in the air above the house, a
curious, throbbing, pulsating sound.

"That's so! It is an airship motor!" exclaimed Tom. "Come on out!"

Together they rushed from the house, but, ere they reached the
yard, the sound had ceased. They looked up into the sky, but could
see nothing, though the night was light from a full moon.

"I certainly heard it," said Tom.

"So did I," asserted Ned. "But where is it now?"

They advanced toward the group of work-buildings. Something
showing white in the moonlight, before the hangar, caught Ned's
eyes.

"Look!" he exclaimed. "There's an airship, Tom!"

The two rushed over to the level landing place before the big
shed. And there, as if she had just been run out for a flight, was
the Eagle. She had come back in the night, as mysteriously as she
had been taken away.





CHAPTER XVI

SUCCESS


"Well, this gets me!" exclaimed Tom.

"It sure is strange," agreed Ned. "How did she come here?"

"She didn't come alone--that's sure," went on Tom. "Someone
brought her here, made a landing, and got away before we could get
out."

The two chums were standing near the Eagle, which had come back so
mysteriously.

"Just a couple of seconds sooner and we'd have seen who brought
her here," went on Tom. "But they must have shut off the motor
some distance up, and then they volplaned down. That's why we
didn't hear them."

Ned went over and put his hand on the motor.

"Ouch!" he cried, jumping back. "It's hot!"

"Showing that she's been running up to within a few minutes ago,"
said Tom. "Well, as I said before, this sure does get me. First
these mysterious men take my airship, and then they bring her back
again, without so much as thanking me for the use of her."

"Who in the world can they be?" asked Ned.

"I haven't the least idea. But I'm going to find out, if it's at
all possible. We'll look the machine over in the morning, and see
if we can get any clues. No use in doing that now. Come on, we'll
put her back in the hangar."

"Say!" exclaimed Ned, as a sudden idea came to him. "It couldn't
be Mr. Damon who had your airship; could it, Tom?"

"I don't know. Why do you ask that?"

"Well, he might have wanted to get away from his enemies for a
while, and he might have taken your Eagle, and--"

"Mr. Damon wouldn't trail along with a crowd like the one that
took away my airship," said Tom, decidedly. "You've got another
guess coming, Ned. Mr. Damon had nothing to do with this."

"And yet the night he disappeared an airship was heard near his
house."

"That's so. Well, I give up. This is sure a mystery. We'll have a
look at it in the morning. One thing I'll do, though, I'll
telephone over to Mr. Damon's house and see if his wife has heard
any news. I've been doing that quite often of late, so she won't
think anything of it. In that way we can find out if he had
anything to do with my airship. But let's run her into the shed
first."

This was done, and Koku, the giant, was sent to sleep in the
hangar to guard against another theft. But it was not likely that
the mysterious men, once having brought the airship back, would
come for it again.

Tom called up Mrs. Damon on the telephone, but there was no news
of the missing man. He expressed his sympathy, and said he would
come and see her soon. He told Mrs. Damon not to get discouraged,
adding that he, and others, were doing all that was possible. But,
in spite of this, Mrs. Damon, naturally, did worry.

The next morning the two chums inspected the airship, so
mysteriously returned to them. Part after part they went over, and
found nothing wrong. The motor ran perfectly, and there was not so
much as a bent spoke in the landing wheels. For all that could be
told by an inspection of the craft she might never have been out
of the hangar.

"Hello, here's something!" cried Tom, as he got up from the
operator's seat, where he had taken his place to test the various
controls.

"What is it?" asked Ned.

"A button. A queer sort of a button. I never had any like that on
my clothes, and I'm sure you didn't. Look!" and Tom held out a
large, metal button of curious design.

"It must have come off the coat of one of the men who had your
airship, Tom," said his chum. "Save it. You may find that it's a
clue."

"I will. No telling what it may lead to. Well, I guess that's all
we can find."

And it was. But Tom little realized what a clue the button was
going to be. Nothing more could be learned by staring at the
returned airship, so he and Ned went back to the house.

Tom Swift had many things to do, but his chief concern was for the
photo telephone. Now that he was near the goal of success he
worked harder than ever. The idea Ned had given him of being able
to take the picture of a person at the instrument--without the
knowledge of that person--appealed strongly to Tom.

"That's going to be a valuable invention!" he declared, but little
he knew how valuable it would prove to him and to others.

It was about a week later when Tom was ready to try the new
apparatus. Meanwhile he had prepared different plates, and had
changed his wiring system. In the days that had passed nothing new
had been learned concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Damon, nor of
the men who had so mysteriously taken away Tom's airship.

All was in readiness for the trial. Tom sent Ned to the booth that
he had constructed in the airship hangar, some distance away from
the house. The other booth Tom had placed in his library, an
entirely new system of wires being used.

"Now Ned," explained Tom, "the idea is this! You go into that
booth, just as if it were a public one, and ring me up in the
regular way. Of course we haven't a central here, but that doesn't
matter. Now while I'm talking to you I want to see you. You don't
know that, of course."

"The point is to see if I can get your picture while you're
talking to me, and not let you know a thing about it."

"Think you can do it, Tom?"

"I'm going to try. We'll soon know. Go ahead."

A little later Ned was calling up his chum, as casually as he
could, under the circumstances.

"All right!" called Tom to his chum. "Start in and talk. Say
anything you like--it doesn't matter. I want to see if I can get
your picture. Is the light burning in your booth?"

"Yes, Tom."

"All right then. Go ahead."

Ned talked of the weather--of anything. Meanwhile Tom was busy.
Concealed in the booth occupied by Ned was a sending plate. It
could not be seen unless one knew just where to look for it. In
Tom's booth was a receiving plate.

The experiment did not take long. Presently Tom called to Ned that
he need stay there no longer.

"Come on to the house," invited the young inventor, "and we'll
develope this plate." For in this system it was necessary to
develope the receiving plate, as is done with an ordinary
photographic one. Tom wanted a permanent record.

Eagerly the chums in the dark room looked down into the tray
containing the plate and the developing solution.

"Something's coming out!" cried Ned, eagerly.

"Yes! And it's you!" exclaimed Tom. "See, Ned, I got your picture
over the telephone. Success! I've struck it! This is the best
yet!"

At that moment, as the picture came out more and more plainly,
someone knocked on the door of the dark room.

"Who is it?" asked Tom.

"Gen'man t' see you," said Eradicate. "He say he come from Mistah
Peters!"

"Mr. Peters--that rascally promoter!" whispered Tom to his chum.
"What does this mean?"





CHAPTER XVII

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE


Tom Swift and his chum looked at one another strangely for a
moment in the dim, red light of the dark room. Then the young
inventor spoke:

"I'm not going to see him. Tell him so, Rad!"

"Hold on a second," suggested Ned. "Maybe you had better see him,
Tom. It may have something to with Mr. Damon's lost fortune."

"That's so! I didn't think of that. And I may get a clue to his
disappearance, though I don't imagine Peters had anything to do
with that. Wait, Rad. Tell the gentleman I'll see him. Did he give
any name, Rad?"

"Yas, sah. Him done say him Mistah Boylan."

"The same man who called to see me once before, trying to get me
to do some business with Peters," murmured Tom. "Very well, I'll
see him as soon as this picture is fixed. Tell him to wait, Rad."

A little later Tom went to where his caller awaited in the
library. This time there were no plans to be looked at, the young
inventor having made a practice of keeping all his valuable papers
locked in a safe.

"You go into the next room, Ned," Tom had said to his chum. "Leave
the door open, so you can hear what is said."

"Why, do you think there'll be trouble? Maybe we'd better have
Koku on hand to--"

"Oh, no, nothing like that," laughed Tom. "I just want you to
listen to what's said so, if need be, you can be a witness later.
I don't know what their game is, but I don't trust Peters and his
crowd. They may want to get control of some of my patents, and
they may try some underhanded work. If they do I want to be in a
position to stop them."

"All right," agreed Ned, and he took his place.

But Mr. Boylan's errand was not at all sensational, it would seem.
He bowed to Tom, perhaps a little distantly, for they had not
parted the best of friends on a former occasion.

"I suppose you are surprised to see me," began Mr. Boylan.

"Well, I am, to tell the truth," Tom said, calmly.

"I am here at the request of my employer, Mr. Peters," went on the
caller. "He says he is forming a new and very powerful company to
exploit airships, and he wants to know whether you would not
reconsider your determination not to let him do some business for
you."

"No, I'm afraid I don't care to go into anything like that," said
Tom.

"It would be a good thing for you," proceeded Mr. Boylan, eagerly.
"Mr. Peters is able to command large capital, and if you would
permit the use of your airships--or one of them--as a model, and
would supervise the construction of others, we could confidently
expect large sales. Thus you would profit, and I am frank to admit
that the company, and Mr. Peters, also, would make money. Mr.
Peters is perfectly free to confess that he is in business to make
money, but he is also willing to let others share with him. Come
now, what do you say?"

"I am sorry, but I shall have to say the same thing I said
before," replied Tom. "Nothing doing!"

Mr. Boylan glanced rather angrily at the young inventor, and then,
with a shrug of his shoulders, remarked:

"Well, you have the say, of course. But I would like to remind you
that this is going to be a very large airship company, and if your
inventions are not exploited some others will be. And Mr. Peters
also desired me to say that this is the last offer he would make
you."

"Tell him," said Tom, "that I am much obliged, but that I have no
business that I can entrust to him. If he wishes to make some
other type of airship, that is his affair. Good-day."

As Mr. Boylan was going out Tom noticed a button dangling from the
back of his caller's coat. It hung by a thread, being one of the
pair usually sewed on the back of a cutaway garment.

"I think you had better take off that button before it falls,"
suggested Tom. "You may lose it, and perhaps it would be hard to
match."

"That's so. Thank you!" said Mr. Boylan. He tried to reach around
and get it, but he was too stout to turn easily, especially as the
coat was tight-fitting.

"I'll get it for you," offered Tom, as he pulled it off. "There is
one missing, though," he said, as he handed the button to the man.
And then Tom started as he saw the pattern of the one in his hand.

"One gone? That's too bad," murmured Mr. Boylan. "Those buttons
were imported, and I doubt if I can replace them. They are rather
odd."

"Yes," agreed Tom, gazing as if fascinated at the one he still
held. "They are rather odd."

And then, as he passed it over, like a flash it came to him where
he had seen a button like that before. He had found it in his
airship, which had been so mysteriously taken away and returned.

Tom could hardly restrain his impatience until Mr. Boylan had
gone. The young inventor had half a notion to produce the other
button, matching the one he had just pulled off his visitor's
coat, and tell where he had found it. But he held himself back. He
wanted to talk first to Ned.

And, when his chum came in, Tom cried:

"Ned, what do you think? I know who had my airship!"

"How?" asked Ned, in wonder.

"By that button clue! Yes, it's the same kind--they're as alike as
twins!" and Tom brought out the button which he had put away in
his desk. "See, Boylan had one just like this on the back of his
coat. The other was missing. Here it is--it was in the seat of my
airship, where it was probably pulled off as he moved about. Ned,
I think I've got the right clue at last."

Ned said nothing for several seconds. Then he remarked slowly:

"Well, Tom, it proves one thing; but not the other."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that it may be perfectly true that the button came off Mr.
Boylan's coat, but that doesn't prove that he wore it. You can be
reasonably sure that the coat was having a ride in your Eagle, but
was Boylan in the coat? That's the question."

"In the coat? Of course he was in it!" cried Tom.

"You can't be sure. Someone may have borrowed his coat to take a
midnight ride in the airship."

"Mr. Boylan doesn't look to be the kind of a man who would lend
his clothes," remarked Tom.

"You never can tell. Someone may have borrowed it without his
knowledge. You'd better go a bit slow, Tom."

"Well, maybe I had. But it's a clue, anyhow."

Ned agreed to this.

"And all I've got to do is to find out who was in the coat when it
was riding about in my airship," went on Tom.

"Yes," said Ned, "and then maybe you'll have some clue to the
disappearance of Mr. Damon."

"Right you are! Come on, let's get busy!"

"As if we hadn't been busy all the while!" laughed Ned. "I'll lose
my place at the bank if I don't get back soon."

"Oh, stay a little longer--a few days," urged Tom. "I'm sure that
something is going to happen soon. Anyhow my photo telephone is
about perfected. But I've just thought of another improvement."

"What is it?"

"I'm going to arrange a sort of dictaphone, or phonograph, so I
can get a permanent record of what a person says over the wire, as
well as get a picture of him saying it. Then everything will be
complete. This last won't be hard to do, as there are several
machines on the market now, for preserving a record of telephone
conversations. I'll make mine a bit different, though."

"Tom, is there any limit to what you're going to do?" asked Ned,
admiringly.

"Oh, yes, I'm going to stop soon, and retire," laughed the young
inventor.

After talking the matter over, Tom and his chum decided to wait a
day or so before taking any action in regard to the button clue to
the takers of the airship. After all, no great harm had been done,
and Tom was more anxious to locate Mr. Damon, and try to get back
his fortune, as well as to perfect his photo telephone, than he
was to discover those who had helped themselves to the Eagle.

Tom and Ned put in some busy days, arranging the phonograph
attachment. It was easy, compared to the hard work of sending a
picture over the wire. They paid several visits to Mrs. Damon, but
she had no news of her missing husband, and, as the days went by,
she suffered more and more under the strain.

Finally Tom's new invention was fully completed. It was a great
success, and he not only secured pictures of Ned and others over
the wire, as he talked to them, but he imprinted on wax cylinders,
to be reproduced later, the very things they said.

It was a day or so after he had demonstrated his new attachment
for the first time, that Tom received a most urgent message from
Mrs. Damon.

"Tom," she said, over the telephone, "I wish you would call.
Something very mysterious has happened."

"Mr. Damon hasn't come back; has he?" asked Tom eagerly.

"No--but I wish I could say he had. This concerns him, however.
Can you come?"

"I'll be there right away."

In his speedy monoplane Tom soon reached Waterford. Ned did not
accompany him this time.

"Now what is it, Mrs. Damon?" asked the young inventor.

"About half an hour before I called you," she said, "I received a
mysterious message."

"Who brought it?" asked Tom quickly.

"No one. It came over the telephone. Someone, whose voice I did
not know, said to me: 'Sign the land papers, and send them to us,
and your husband will be released.'"

"That message came over the wire?" cried Tom, excitedly.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Damon. "Oh, I am so frightened! I don't know
what to do!" and the lady burst into tears.





CHAPTER XVIII

ANOTHER CALL


Tom Swift, for the moment, did not know what to do. It was a
strange situation, and one he had never thought of. What did the
mysterious message mean? He must think it all out, and plan some
line of action. Clearly Mrs. Damon was not able to do so.

"Now let's get at this in some kind of order," suggested the
youth, when Mrs. Damon had calmed herself. It was his habit to
have a method about doing things. "And don't worry," he advised.
"I am certain some good will come of this. It proves one thing,
that's sure."

"What is it, Tom?"

"That Mr. Damon is alive and well. Otherwise the message would not
have said he would be 'released.' It wasn't from anyone you know;
was it?"

"No, I'm sure I never heard the voice before."

Tom paused a moment to think how useful his photo telephone and
phonograph arrangement might have been in this case.

"How did the telephone call come in?" inquired the young inventor.

"In the usual way," answered Mrs. Damon. "The bell rang, and, as I
happened to be near the instrument, I answered it, as I often do,
when the maid is busy. A voice asked if I was Mrs. Damon, and of
course I said I was. Then I heard this: 'Sign the land papers, and
send them to us, and your husband will be released.'"

"Was that all?" Tom asked.

"I think so--I made a note of it at the time." Mrs. Damon looked
into a small red book. "No, that wasn't all," she said, quickly.
"I was so astonished, at hearing those strange words about my
husband, that I didn't know what to say. Before I could ask any
questions the voice went on to say, rather abruptly: 'We will call
you again.'"

"That's good!" cried Tom. "I only hope they do it while I am here.
Perhaps I can get some clue as to who it was called you. But was
this all you heard?"

"Yes, I'm sure that was all. I had forgotten about the last words,
but I see I have them written down in my note book."

"Did you ask any questions?" inquired Tom.

"Oh, indeed I did! As soon as I got over being stunned by what I
heard, I asked all sorts of questions. I demanded to know who was
speaking, what they meant, where they were, and all that. I begged
them to tell me something of my husband."

"And what did they say?"

"Not a thing. There wasn't a sound in the telephone. The receiver
was hung up, breaking the connection after that message to me--
that mysterious message."

"Yes, it was mysterious," agreed Tom, thoughtfully. "I can't
understand it. But didn't you try to learn from the central
operator where the call had come from?"

"Oh, yes, indeed, Tom! As soon as I found out the person speaking
to me had rung off, I got the girl in the exchange."

"And what did she say?"

"That the call came from an automatic pay station in a drug store
in town. I have the address. It was one of those telephones where
you put your money for the call in a slot."

"I see. Well, the first thing to do is for me to go to that drug
store and find out, if I can, who used the telephone about that
time. It's a slim chance, but we'll have to take it. Was it a
man's voice, or a woman's?"

"Oh, a man's, I'm sure. It was very deep and heavy. No woman could
speak like that."

"So much is settled, anyhow. Now about the land papers--what was
meant?"

"I'll tell you," said Mrs. Damon. "You know part of our property--
considerable land and some buildings--is in my name. Mr. Damon had
it fixed so a number of years ago, in order to protect me. No one
could get this property, and land, unless I signed the deeds, or
agreed to sign them. Now all of Mr. Damon's fortune is tied up in
some of Mr. Peters's companies. That is why my husband has
disappeared."

"He didn't disappear--he was taken away against his will; I'm
positive of that!" exclaimed Tom.

"Perhaps so," agreed Mrs. Damon, sadly. "But those are the papers
referred to, I'm sure."

"Probably," assented Tom. "The rascals want to get control of
everything--even your possessions. Not satisfied with ruining Mr.
Damon, they want to make you a beggar, too. So they are playing on
your fears. They promise to release your husband if you will give
them the land."

"Yes, that must be it, Tom. What would you advise me to do? I am
so frightened over this!"

"Do? Don't you do anything!" cried Tom. "We'll fool these rascals
yet. If they got those papers they might release Mr. Damon, or
they might not--fearing he would cause their arrest later. But
we'll have him released anyhow, and we'll save what is left of
your fortune. Put those land papers in a safe-deposit box, and let
me do the rest. I'm going to catch those fellows!"

"But how, Tom? You don't know who they are. And a mere message
over a telephone won't give you a clue to where they are."

"Perhaps not an ordinary message," agreed Tom. "But I'm going to
try some of my new inventions. You said they told you they were
going to call again?"

"That's what they said, Tom."

"Well, when they do, I want to be here. I want to listen to that
message. If you will allow me, I'll take up my residence here for
a while, Mrs. Damon."

"Allow you? I'll be only too glad if you will, Tom. But I thought
you were going to try to get some clue from the drug store where
the mysterious message came from."

"I'll let Ned Newton do that. I want to stay here."

Tom telephoned to Ned to meet him at Mrs. Damon's house, and also
to bring with him certain things from the laboratory. And when Ned
arrived in an auto, with various bits of apparatus, Tom put in
some busy hours.

Meanwhile Ned was sent to the drug store, to see if any clues
could be obtained there as to who had sent the message. As Tom had
feared, nothing could be learned. There were several automatic
'phones in the place, and they were used very often during the day
by the public. The drug clerks took little or no notice of the
persons entering or leaving the booths, since the dropping of a
coin in the slot was all that was necessary to be connected with
central.

"Well, we've got to wait for the second call here," said Tom, who
had been busy during Ned's absence. He had fitted to Mrs. Damon's
telephone a recording wax phonograph cylinder, to get a record of
the speaker's voice. And he had also put in an extension
telephone, so that he could listen while Mrs. Damon talked to the
unknown.

"There, I guess we're ready for them," said Tom, late that
afternoon. But no queer call came in that day. It was the next
morning. about ten o'clock, after Mrs. Damon had passed a restless
night, that the telephone bell rang. Tom, who was on the alert,
was at his auxiliary instrument in a flash. He motioned to Mrs.
Damon to answer on the main wire.

"Hello," she spoke into the transmitter. "Who is this?"

"Are you Mrs. Damon?" Tom heard come over the wire in a deep
voice, and by the manner in which Mrs. Damon signalled the young
inventor knew that, at the other end of the line, was the
mysterious man who had spoken before.





CHAPTER XIX

THE BUZZING SOUND


"Are you Mrs. Damon?" came the question again--rather more
impatiently this time, Tom thought.

"Yes," answered the lady, glancing over at Tom. The extension
telephone was in the same room. Softly Tom switched on the
phonograph attachment. The little wax cylinder began to revolve
noiselessly, ready to record the faintest word that came over the
wire.

"You got a message from me yesterday," went on the hoarse voice.
In vain Tom tried to recall whether or not he had heard it before.
He could not place it.

"Who are you?" asked Mrs. Damon. She and Tom had previously agreed
on a line of talk. "Tell me your name, please."

"There's no need for any names to be used," went on the unknown at
the other end of the wire. "You heard what I said yesterday. Are
you willing to send me those land title papers, if we release your
husband?"

"But where shall I send them?" asked Mrs. Damon, to gain time.

"You'll be told where. And listen--no tricks! You needn't try to
find out who I am, nor where I am. Just send those papers if you
want to see your husband again."

"Oh, how is he? Tell me about him! You are cruel to keep him a
prisoner like this! I demand that you release him!"

Tom had not told Mrs. Damon to say this. It came out of her own
heart--she could not prevent the agonized outburst.

"Never mind about that, now," came the gruff voice over the wire.
"Are you willing to send the papers?"

Mrs. Damon looked over to Tom for silent instructions. He nodded
his head in assent.

"Yes, I--I will send them if you tell me where to get them to you
--if you will release Mr. Damon," said the anxious wife. "But tell
me who you are--and where you are!" she begged.

"None of that! I'm not looking to be arrested. You get the papers
ready, and I'll let you know to-morrow, about this time, where to
send them."

"Wait a minute!" called Mrs. Damon, to gain more time. "I must
know just what papers you want."

"All right, I'll tell you," and he began to describe the different
ones.

It took a little time for the unknown to give this information to
Mrs. Damon. The man was very particular about the papers. There
were trust deeds, among other things, and he probably thought that
once he had possession of them, with Mrs. Damon's signature, even
though it had been obtained under a threat, he could claim the
property. Later it was learned that such was not the case, for
Mrs. Damon, with Tom's aid, could have proved the fraud, had the
scoundrels tried to get the remainder of the Damon fortune.

But at the time it seemed to the helpless woman that everything
she owned would be taken from her. Though she said she did not
care, as long as Mr. Damon was restored to her.

As I have said, the telephoning of the instructions about the
papers took some time. Tom had counted on this, and had made his
plans accordingly.

As soon as the telephone call had come in, Tom had communicated
with a private detective who was in waiting, and this man had gone
to the drug store whence the first call had come. He was going to
try to make the arrest of the man telephoning.

But for fear the scoundrel would go to a different instrument, Tom
took another precaution. This was to have one of the operators in
the central exchange on the watch. As soon as Mrs. Damon's house
was in connection with another telephone, the location of the
latter would be noted, and another private detective would be sent
there. Thus Tom hoped to catch the man at the 'phone.

Meanwhile Tom listened to the hoarse voice at the other end of the
wire, giving the directions to Mrs. Damon. Tom hoped that soon
there would be an arrest made.

Meanwhile the talk was being faithfully recorded on the phonograph
cylinder. And, as the man talked on, Tom became aware of a curious
undercurrent of sound. It was a buzzing noise, that Tom knew did
not come from the instrument itself. It was not the peculiar
tapping, singing noise heard in a telephone receiver, caused by
induced electrical currents, or by wire trouble.

"This is certainly different," mused Tom. He was trying to recall
where he had heard the noise before. Sometimes it was faint, and
then it would gradually increase, droning off into faintness once
more. Occasionally it was so loud that Mrs. Damon could not hear
the talk about the papers, and the man would have to repeat.

But finally he came to an end.

"This is all now," he said, sharply. Tom heard the words above the
queer, buzzing, humming sound. "You are keeping me too long. I
think you are up to some game, but it won't do you any good, Mrs.
Damon. I'll 'phone you to-morrow where to send the papers. And if
you don't send them--if you try any tricks--it will be the worse
for you and Mr. Damon!"

There was a click, that told of a receiver being placed back on
the hook, and the voice ceased. So, also, did the queer, buzzing
sound over which Tom puzzled.

"What can it have been?" he asked. "Did you hear it, Mrs. Damon?"

"What, Tom?"

"That buzzing sound."

"Yes, I heard, but I didn't know what it was. Oh, Tom, what shall
I do?"

"Don't worry. We'll see if anything happened. They may have caught
that fellow. If not I'll plan another scheme."

Tom's first act was to call up the telephone exchange to learn
where the second call had come from. He got the information at
once. The address was in the suburbs. The man had not gone to the
drug store this time.

"Did the detective get out to that address?" asked Tom eagerly of
the manager.

"Yes. As soon as we were certain that he was the party you wanted,
your man got right after him, Mr. Swift."

"That's good, I hope he catches him!" cried the young inventor. "We'll
have to wait and find out."

"He said he'd call up and let you know as soon as he reached the
place," the telephone manager informed Tom.

There was nothing to do but wait, and meanwhile Tom did what he
could to comfort Mrs. Damon. She was quite nervous and inclined to
be hysterical, and the youth thought it wise to have a cousin, who
had come to stay with her, summon the doctor.

"But, Tom, what shall I do about those papers?" Mrs. Damon asked
him. "Shall I send them?"

"Indeed not!"

"But I want Mr. Damon restored to me," she pleaded. "I don't care
about the money. He can make more."

"Well, we'll not give those scoundrels the satisfaction of getting
any money out of you. Just wait now, I'll work this thing out, and
find a way to catch that fellow. If I could only think what that
buzzing sound was--"

Then, in a flash, it came to Tom.

"A sawmill! A planing mill!" he cried. "That's what it was! That
fellow was telephoning from some place near a sawmill!"

The telephone rang in the midst of Tom's excited comments.

"Yes--yes!" he called eagerly. "Who is it--what is it?"

"This is Larsen--the private detective you sent."

"Oh, yes, you were at the drug store."

"Yes, Mr. Swift. Well, that party didn't call up from here."

"I know, Larsen. It was from another station. We're after him.
Much obliged to you. Come on back."

Tom was sure his theory was right. The man had called up the Damon
house from some telephone near a sawmill. And a little later Tom's
theory was proved to be true. He got a report from the second
detective. Unfortunately the man had not been able to reach the
telephone station before the unknown speaker had departed.

"Was the place near a sawmill?" asked Tom, eagerly.

"It was," answered the detective over the wire. "The telephone is
right next door to one. It's an automatic pay station and no one
seems to have noticed who the man was who telephoned. I couldn't
get a single clue. I'm sorry."

"Never mind," said Tom, as cheerfully as he could. "I think I'm on
the right track now. I'm going to lay a trap for this fellow."





CHAPTER XX

SETTING THE TRAP


Troublesome problems seemed to be multiplying for Tom Swift. He
admitted as much himself after the failure to capture the man who
had telephoned to Mrs. Damon. He had hoped that his plan of
sending detectives to the location of the telephones would
succeed. Since it had not the youth must try other means.

"Now, Ned," he said to his chum, when they were on their way from
Mrs. Damon's, it being impossible to do anything further there.
"Now, Ned, we've got to think this thing out together."

"I'm willing, Tom. I'll do what I can."

"I know you will. Now the thing to do is to go at this thing
systematically. Otherwise we'll be working around in a circle, and
won't get anywhere. In the first place, let's set down what we do
know. Then we'll put down what we don't know, and go after that."

"Put down what you don't know?" exclaimed Ned. "How are you going
to put down a thing when you don't know it?"

"I mean we can put a question mark after it, so to speak. For
instance we don't know where Mr. Damon is, but we want to find
out."

"Oh, I see. Well, let's start off with the things we do know."

The two friends were at Tom's house by now, having come from
Waterford in Tom's airship. After thinking over all the exciting
happenings of the past few days, Tom remarked: "Now, Ned, for the
things we do know. In the first place Mr. Damon is missing, and
his fortune is about gone. There is considerable left to Mrs.
Damon, however, but those scoundrels may get that away from her,
if we don't watch out. Secondly, my airship was taken and brought
back, with a button more than it had when it went away. Said
button exactly matched one off Mr. Boylan's coat."

"Thirdly, Mr. Damon was either taken away or went away, in an
airship--either in mine or someone else's. Fourthly, Mrs. Damon
has received telephonic communications from the man, or men, who
have her husband. Fifthly, Mr. Peters, either legally or
illegally, is responsible for the loss of Mr. Damon's fortune.
Now: there you are--for the things we do know."

"Now for the things we don't know. We don't know who has taken
Mr. Damon away, nor where he is, to begin with the most important."

"Hold on, Tom, I think you're wrong," broke in Ned.

"In what way?"

"About not knowing who is responsible for the taking away of Mr.
Damon. I think it's as plain as the nose on your face that Peters
is responsible."

"I can't see it that way," said Tom, quickly. "I will admit that
it looks as though Boylan had been in my airship, but as for
Peters taking Mr. Damon away--why, Peters is around town all the
while, and if he had a hand in the disappearance of Mr. Damon, do
you think he'd stay here, when he knows we are working on the
case? And would he send Boylan to see me if Boylan had been one of
those who had a hand in it? They wouldn't dare, especially as they
know I'm working on the case."

"Peters is a bad lot. I'll grant you, though, he was fair enough
to pay for my motor boat. I don't believe he had anything to do
with taking Mr. Damon away."

"Do you think he was the person who was talking to Mrs. Damon
about the papers?"

"No, Ned. I don't. I listened to that fellow's voice carefully. It
wasn't like Peters's. I'm going to put it in the phonograph, too,
and let you listen to it. Then see what you say."

Tom did this, a little later. The record of the voice, as it came
over the wire, was listened to from the wax cylinder, and Ned had
to admit that it was not much like that of the promoter.

"Well, what's next to be done?" asked the young banker.

"I'm going to set a trap," replied Tom, with a grin.

"Set a trap?"

"Yes, a sort of mouse-trap. I'm glad my photo telephone is now
perfected, Ned."

"What has that got to do with it?"

"That's going to be my trap, Ned. Here is my game. You know this
fellow--this strange unknown--is going to call up Mrs. Damon
to-morrow. Well, I'll be ready for him. I'm going to put in the booth
where he will telephone from, one of my photo telephones--that is, the
sending apparatus. In Mrs. Damon's house, attached to her telephone,
will be the receiving plate, as well as the phonograph cylinder."

"When this fellow starts to talk he'll be sending us his picture,
though he won't know it, and we'll be getting a record of his
voice. Then we'll have him just where we want him."

"Good!" cried Ned. "But, Tom, there's a weak spot in your mouse-
trap."

"What is it?"

"How are you going to know which telephone the unknown will call
up from? He may go to any of a hundred, more or less."

"He might--yes. But that's a chance we've got to take. It isn't so
much of a chance, though when you stop to think that he will
probably go to some public telephone in an isolated spot, and,
unless I'm much mistaken he will go to a telephone near where he
was to-day. He knows that was safe, since we didn't capture him,
and he's very likely to come back."

"But to make the thing as sure as possible, I'm going to attach my
apparatus to a number of public telephones in the vicinity of the
one near the sawmill. So if the fellow doesn't get caught in one,
he will in another. I admit it's taking a chance; but what else
can we do?"

"I suppose you're right, Tom. It's like setting a number of
traps."

"Exactly. A trapper can't be sure where he is going to get his
catch, so he picks out the place, or run-way, where the game has
been in the habit of coming. He hides his traps about that place,
and trusts to luck that the animal will blunder into one of them."

"Criminals, to my way of thinking, are a good bit like animals.
They seem to come back to their old haunts. Nearly any police
story proves this. And it's that on which I am counting to capture
this criminal. So I'm going to fit up as many telephones with my
photo and phonograph outfit, as I can in the time we have. You'll
have to help me. Luckily I've got plenty of selenium plates for
the sending end. I'll only need one at the receiving end. Now
we'll have to go and have a talk with the telephone manager, after
which we'll get busy."

"You've overlooked one thing, Tom."

"What's that, Ned?"

"Why, if you know about which telephone this fellow is going to
use, why can't you have police stationed near it to capture him as
soon as he begins to talk?"

"Well, I did think of that, Ned; but it won't work."

"Why not?"

"Because, in the first place this man, or some of his friends,
will be on the watch. When he goes into the place to telephone
there'll be a look-out, I'm sure, and he'd either put off talking
to Mrs. Damon, or he'd escape before we had any evidence against
him."

"You see I've got to get evidence that will stand in the courts to
convict this fellow, and if he's scared off before we get that,
the game will be up."

"That's what my photo telephone will do--it will get the evidence,
just as a dictaphone does. In fact, I'm thinking of working it out
on those lines, after I clear up this business."

"Just suppose we had detectives stationed at all the telephones
near the sawmill, where this fellow would be likely to go. In the
first place no one has seen him, as far as we know, so there's no
telling what sort of a chap he is. And you can't go up to a
perfect stranger and arrest him because you think he is the man
who has spirited away Mr. Damon."

"Another thing. Until this fellow has talked, and made his offer
to Mrs. Damon, to restore her husband, in exchange for certain
papers, we have no hold over him."

"But he has done that, Tom. You heard him, and you have his voice
down on the wax cylinder."

"Yes, but I haven't had a glimpse of his face. That's what I want,
and what I'm going to get. Suppose he does go into the telephone
booth, and tell Mrs. Damon an address where she is to send the
papers. Even if a detective was near at hand he might not catch
what was said. Or, if he did, on what ground could he arrest a man
who, very likely, would be a perfect stranger to him? The
detective couldn't say: 'I take you into custody for telephoning
an address to Mrs. Damon.' That, in itself, is no crime."

"No, I suppose not," admitted Ned. "You've got this all thought
out, Tom."

"I hope I have. You see it takes quite a combination to get
evidence against a criminal--evidence that will convict him.
That's why I have to be so careful in setting my trap."

"I see, Tom. Well, it's about time for us to get busy; isn't it?"

"It sure is. There's lots to do. First we'll go see the telephone
people."

Tom explained to the 'phone manager the necessity for what he was
about to do. The manager at once agreed to let the young inventor
have a free hand. He was much interested in the photo telephone,
and Tom promised to give his company a chance to use it on their
lines, later.

The telephone near the sawmill was easily located. It was in a
general store, and the instrument was in a booth. To this
instrument Tom attached his sending plate, and he also substituted
for the ordinary incandescent light, a powerful tungsten one, that
would give illumination enough to cause the likeness to be
transmitted over the wire.

The same thing was done to a number of the public telephones in
that vicinity, each one being fitted up so that the picture of
whoever talked would be transmitted over the wire when Tom turned
the switch. To help the plan further the telephone manager marked
a number of other 'phones, "Out of Order," for the time being.

"Now, I think we're done!" exclaimed the young inventor, with a
sigh, late that night. He and Ned and the line manager had worked
hard.

"Yes," answered the young banker, "the traps are set. The question
is: Will our rat be caught?"





CHAPTER XXI

THE PHOTO TELEPHONE


Tom Swift was taking, as he afterward confessed, "a mighty big
chance." But it seemed the only way. He was working against
cunning men, and had to be as cunning as they.

True, the man he hoped to capture, through the combination of his
photo telephone and the phonograph, might go to some other
instrument than one of those Tom had adjusted. But this could not
be helped. In all he had put his new attachment on eight 'phones
in the vicinity of the sawmill. So he had eight chances in his
favor, and as many against him as there were other telephones in
use.

"It's a mighty small margin in our favor," sighed Tom.

"It sure is," agreed Ned. They were at Mrs., Damon's house,
waiting for the call to come in.

"But we couldn't do anything else," went on Tom.

"No," spoke Ned, "and I have a great deal of hope in the
proverbial Swift luck, Tom."

"Well, I only hope it holds good this time!" laughed the young
inventor.

"There are a good many things that can go wrong," observed Ned.
"The least little slip-up may spoil your traps, Tom."

"I know it, Ned. But I've got to take the chance. We've just got
to do something for Mrs. Damon. She's wearing herself out by
worrying," he added in a low voice, for indeed the wife of his
friend felt the absence of her husband greatly. She had lost
flesh, she ate scarcely anything, and her nights were wakeful ones
of terror.

"What if this fails?" asked Ned.

"Then I'm going to work that button clue to the limit," replied
Tom. "I'll go to Boylan and see what he and Peters have to say."

"If you'd done as I suggested you'd have gone to them first,"
spoke Ned. "You'll find they're mixed up in this."

"Maybe; but I doubt it. I tell you there isn't a clue leading to
Peters--as yet."

"But there will be," insisted Ned. "You'll see that that I'm right
this time."

"I can't see it, Ned. As a matter of fact, I would have gone to
Boylan about that button I found in my airship only I've been so
busy on this photo telephone, and in arranging the trap, that I
haven't had time. But if this fails--and I'm hoping it won't--I'll
get after him," and there was a grim look on the young inventor's
face.

It was wearying and nervous work--this waiting. Tom and Ned felt
the strain as they sat there in Mrs. Damon's library, near the
telephone. It had been fitted up in readiness. Attached to the
receiving wires was a sensitive plate, on which Tom hoped would be
imprinted the image of the man at the other end of the wire--the
criminal who, in exchange for the valuable land papers, would give
Mr. Damon his liberty.

There was also the phonograph cylinder to record the man's voice.
Several times, while waiting for the call to come in, Tom got up
to test the apparatus. It was in perfect working order.

As before, there was an extension telephone, so that Mrs. Damon
could talk to the unknown, while Tom could hear as well. But he
planned to take no part in the conversation unless something
unforeseen occurred.

Mr. Damon was an enthusiastic photographer, and he had a dark room
adjoining his library. It was in this dark room that Tom planned
to develop the photo telephone plate.

On this occasion he was not going to use the metal plate in which,
ordinarily, the image of the person talking appeared. That record
was but a fleeting one, as in a mirror. This time Tom wanted a
permanent picture that could, if necessary, be used in a court of
justice.

Tom's plan was this: If the person who had demanded the papers
came to one of the photo telephones, and spoke to Mrs. Damon, Tom
would switch on the receiving apparatus. Thus, while the man was
talking, his picture would be taken, though he would not know of
the thing being done.

His voice would also be recorded on the wax cylinder, and he would
be equally unaware of this.

When Tom had imprinted the fellow's image on the prepared plate,
he would go quickly to the dark room and develop it. A wet print
could be made, and with this as evidence, and to use in
identification, a quick trip could be made to the place whence the
man had telephoned. Tom hoped thus to capture him.

To this end he had his airship in waiting, and as soon as he had
developed the picture he planned to rush off to the vicinity of
the sawmill, and make a prisoner of the man whose features would
be revealed to him over the wire.

It was a hazardous plan--a risky one--but it was the best that he
could evolve. Tom had instructed Mrs. Damon to keep the man in
conversation as long as possible, in order to give the young
inventor himself time to rush off in his airship. But of course
the man might get suspicious and leave. That was another chance
that had to be taken.

"If I had thought of it in time," said Tom, musingly, as he paced
up and down in the library waiting for the 'phone to ring, "if I
had thought of it in time I would have rigged up two plates--one
for a temporary, or looking-glass, picture, and the other for a
permanent one. In that way I could rush off as soon as I got a
glimpse of the fellow. But it's too late to do that now. I'll have
to develop this plate."

Waiting is the most wearisome work there is. Tom and Ned found
this to be the case, as they sat there, hoping each moment that
the telephone bell would ring, and that the man at the other end
of the wire would be the mysterious stranger. Mrs. Damon, too,
felt the nervous strain.

"This is about the hour he called up yesterday," said Tom, in a
low voice, after coming back from a trip to the window to see that
his airship was in readiness. He had brought over to help in
starting it, for he was using his most powerful and speedy craft,
and the propellers were hard to turn.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Damon. "It was just about this hour, Tom. Oh,
I do hope--"

She was interrupted by the jingle of the telephone bell. With a
jump Tom was at the auxiliary instrument, while Mrs. Damon lifted
off the receiver of her own telephone.

"Yes; what is it?" she asked, in a voice that she tried to make
calm.

"Do you know who this is?" Tom heard come over the wire.

"Are you the--er--the person who was to give me an address where I
am to send certain papers?"

"Yes. I'm the same one. I'm glad to see that you have acted
sensibly. If I get the papers all right, you'll soon have your
husband back. Now do as I say. Take down this address."

"Very well," assented Mrs. Damon. She looked over at Tom. He was
intently listening, and he, too, would note the address given. The
trap was about to be sprung. The game had walked into it. Just
which telephone was being used Tom could not as yet tell. It was
evidently not the one nearest the planing mill, for Tom could not
hear the buzzing sound. It was well he had put his attachment on
several instruments.

"One moment, please," said Mrs. Damon, to the unknown at the other
end of the wire. This was in accordance with the pre-arranged
plan.

"Well, what is it?" asked the man, impatiently. "I have no time to
waste."

Tom heard again the same gruff tones, and he tried in vain to
recognize them.

"I want you take down a message to Mr. Damon," said his wife.
"This is very important. It can do you no harm to give him this
message; but I want you to get it exact. If you do not promise to
deliver it I shall call all negotiations off."

"Oh, all right I'll take the message; but be quick about it. Then
I'll give you the address where you are to send the papers."

"This is the message," went on Mrs. Damon. "Please write it down.
It is very important to me. Have you a pencil?"

"Yes, I have one. Wait until I get a bit of paper. It's so dark in
this booth--wait until I turn on the light."

Tom could not repress a pleased and joyful exclamation. It was
just what he had hoped the man would do--turn on the light in the
booth. Indeed, it was necessary for the success of the trap that
the light be switched on. Otherwise no picture could be
transmitted over the wire. And the plan of having the man write
down a message to Mr. Damon was arranged with that end in view.
The man would need a light to see to write, and Tom's apparatus
must be lighted in order to make it work. The plot was coming
along finely.

"There!" exclaimed the man at the other end of the wire. "I have a
light now. Go ahead with your message, Mrs. Damon. But make it
short. I can't stay here long."

Then Mrs. Damon began dictating the message she and Tom had agreed
upon. It was as long as they dared make it, for they wanted to
keep the man in the booth to the last second.

"Dear Husband," began Mrs. Damon. What the message was does not
matter. It has nothing to do with this story. Sufficient to say
that the moment the man began writing it down, as Tom could tell
over the sensitive wire, by the scratching of the pencil--at that
moment Tom, knowing the light was on in the distant telephone
booth, switched on the picture-taking apparatus. His receiving
apparatus at once indicated that the image was being made on the
sensitive plate.

It took only a few seconds of time, and with the plate in the
holder Tom hastened to the dark room to develop it. Ned took his
chum's place at the telephone, to see that all worked smoothly.
The photo telephone had done it's work. Whose image would be found
imprinted on the sensitive plate? Tom's hands trembled so that he
could scarcely put it in the developing solution.





CHAPTER XXII

THE ESCAPE


Ned Newton, listening at the auxiliary telephone heard the man, to
whom Mrs. Damon was dictating her message to her husband, utter an
exclamation of impatience.

"I'm afraid I can't take down any more," he called. "That is
enough. Now you listen. I want you to send me those papers."

"And I am willing to," went on Mrs. Damon, while Ned listened to
the talk, the phonograph faithfully recording it.

"I wonder whose picture Tom will find," mused Ned.

The unknown, at the other end of the wire, began giving Mrs. Damon
a description of just what papers he wanted, and how to mail them
to him. He gave an address that Ned recognized as that of a cigar
store, where many persons received their mail under assumed names.
The postal authorities had, for a long time, tried to get evidence
against it

"That's going to make it hard to get him, when he comes for the
papers," thought Ned. "He's a foxy criminal, all right. But I
guess Tom will turn the trick."

Mrs. Damon was carefully noting down the address. She really
intended to send the papers, if it proved that there was no other
way in which she could secure the release of her husband. But she
did not count on all of Tom's plans. "Why doesn't he develop that
plate?" thought Ned. "He'll be too late, in spite of his airship.
That fellow will skip."

It was at that moment that Tom came into the library. He moved
cautiously, for he realized that a loud sound in the room would
carry to the man at the other end of the wire. Tom motioned for
Ned to come to him. He held out a dripping photographic plate.

"It's Peters!" said Tom, in a hoarse whisper.

"Peters?" gasped Ned. "How could it be? His voice--"

"I know. It didn't sound a bit like Peters over the 'phone, but
there's his picture, all right!"

Tom held up the plate. There, imprinted on it by the wonderful
power of the young inventor's latest appliance, was the image of
the rascally promoter. As plainly as in life he was shown, even to
his silk hat and the flower in his button-hole. He was in a
telephone booth--that much could be told from the photograph that
had been transmitted over the wire, but which booth could not be
said--they were nearly all alike.

"Peters!" gasped Ned. "I thought he was the fellow, Tom."

"Yes, I know. You were right, and I was wrong. But I did not
recognize his voice. It was very hoarse. He must have a bad cold."
Later this was learned to have been the case. "There's no time to
lose," whispered Tom, while Mrs. Damon was doing her best to
prolong the conversation in order to hold the man at the other end
of the wire. "Ned, get central on the other telephone, and see
where this call came from. Then we'll get there as fast as the
airship will take us."

A second and temporary telephone line had been installed in the
Damon home, and on this Ned was soon talking, while Tom, putting
the photographic plate away for future use, rushed out to get his
airship in shape for a quick flight. He had modified his plans.
Instead of having a detective take a print of the photo telephone
image, and make the arrest, Tom was going to try to capture Peters
himself. He believed he could do it. One look at the wet plate was
enough. He knew Peters, though it upset some of his theories to
learn that it was the promoter who was responsible for Mr. Damon's
disappearance.

The man at the other end of the wire was evidently getting
impatient. Possibly he suspected some trick. "I've got to go now,"
he called to Mrs. Damon. "If I don't get those papers in the
morning it will be the worse for Mr. Damon."

"Oh, I'll send you the papers," she said.

By this time Ned had gotten into communication with the manager of
the central telephone exchange, and had learned the location of
the instrument Peters was using. It was about a mile from the one
near the sawmill.

"Come on!" called Tom to his chum, as the latter gave him this
information. "The Firefly is tuned up for a hundred miles an hour!
We'll be there in ten minutes! We must catch him red-handed, if
possible!"

"He's gone!" gasped Mrs. Damon as she came to the outer door, and
watched Tom and Ned taking their places in the airship, while Koku
prepared to twirl the propellers.

"Gone!" echoed Tom, blankly.

"Yes, he hung up the receiver."

"See if you can't get him back," suggested the young inventor.
"Ask Central to ring that number again. We'll be there in a jiffy.
Maybe he'll come to the telephone again. Or he may even call up
his partners and tell them the game is working his way. Try to get
him back, Mrs. Damon."

"I will," she said.

And, as she hurried back to the instrument, Tom and Ned shot up
toward the blue sky in an endeavor to capture the man at the other
telephone.

"And to think it was Peters!" cried Tom into Ned's ear, shouting
to be heard above the roar of the motor exhaust.

"I thought he'd turn out to be mixed up in the affair," said Ned.

"Well, you were right. I was off, that time," admitted Tom, as he
guided his powerful craft above the trees. "I was willing to admit
that he had something to do with Mr. Damon's financial trouble,
but as for kidnapping him--well, you never can tell."

They drove on at a breath-catching pace, and it seemed hardly a
minute after leaving Mrs. Damon's house before Tom called:

"There's the building where the telephone is located."

"And now for that rascal Peters!" cried Ned.

The airship swooped down, to the great astonishment of some
workmen nearby.

Hardly had the wheels ceased revolving on the ground, as Tom made
a quick landing, than he was out of his seat, and running toward
the telephone. He knew the place at once from having heard Ned's
description, and besides, this was one of the places where he had
installed his apparatus.

Into the store Tom burst, and made a rush for the 'phone booth. He
threw open the door. The place was empty!

"The man--the man who was telephoning!" Tom called to the
proprietor of the place.

"You mean that big man, with the tall hat, who was in there so
long?"

"Yes, where is he?"

"Gone. About two minutes ago."

"Which way?"

"Over toward Shopton, and in one of the fastest autos that ever
scattered dust in this section."

"He's escaped us!" said Tom to Ned. "But we'll get him yet! Come
on!"

"I'm with you. Say, do you know what this looks like to me?"

"What?"

"It looks as if Peters was scared and was going to run away to
stay!"





CHAPTER XXIII

ON THE TRAIL


Such a crowd had quickly gathered about Tom's airship that it was
impossible to start it. Men and boys, and even some girls and
women, coming from no one knew where, stood about the machine,
making wondering remarks about it.

"Stand back, if you please!" cried Tom, good-naturedly. "We've
got to get after the fellow in the auto."

"You'll have hard work catching him, friend, in that rig,"
remarked a man. "He was fracturing all the speed laws ever passed.
I reckon he was going nigh onto sixty miles an hour."

"We can make a hundred," spoke Ned, quietly.

"A hundred! Get out!" cried the man. "Nothing can go as fast as
that!"

"We'll show you, if we once get started," said Tom. "I guess we'll
have to get one of these fellows to twirl the propellers for us,
Ned," he added. "I didn't think, or I'd have brought the self-
starting machine," for this one of Tom's had to be started by
someone turning over the propellers, once or twice, to enable the
motor to begin to speed. On some of his aircraft the young
inventor had attached a starter, something like the ones on the
newest autos.

"What are you going to do?" asked Ned, as Tom looked to the
priming of the cylinders.

"I'm going to get on the trail of Peters," he said. "He's at the
bottom of the whole business; and it's a surprise to me. I'm going
to trail him right down to the ground now, and make him give up
Mr. Damon and his fortune,"

"But you don't know where he is, Tom."

"I'll find out. He isn't such an easy man to miss--he's too
conspicuous. Besides, if he's just left in his auto we may catch
him before he gets to Shopton."

"Do you think he's going there?"

"I think so. And I think, Ned, that he's become suspicious and
will light out. Something must have happened, while he was
telephoning, and he got frightened, as big a bluff as he is. But
we'll get him. Come on! Will you turn over the propellers, please?
I'll show you how to do it," Tom went on to a big, strong man
standing close to the blades.

"Sure I'll do it," was the answer. "I was a helper once at an
airship meet, and I know how."

"Get back out of the way in time," the young inventor warned him.
"They start very suddenly, sometimes."

"All right, friend, I'll watch out," was the reply, and with Tom
and Ned in their seats, the former at the steering wheel, the
craft of the air was soon throbbing and trembling under the first
turn, for the cylinders were still warm from the run from Mrs.
Damon's house.

The telephone was in an outlying section of Waterford--a section
devoted in the main to shops and factories, and the homes of those
employed in various lines of manufacture. Peters had chosen his
place well, for there were many roads leading to and from this
section, and he could easily make his escape.

"But we'll get after him," thought Tom, grimly, as he let the
airship run down the straight road a short distance on the bicycle
wheels, to give it momentum enough so that it would rise.

Then, with the tilting of the elevation rudder, the craft rose
gracefully, amid admiring cheers from the crowd. Tom did not go up
very far, as he wanted to hover near the ground, to pick out the
speeding auto containing Peters.

But this time luck was not with Tom. He and Ned did sight a number
of cars speeding along the highway toward Shopton, but when they
got near enough to observe the occupants they were disappointed
not to behold the man they sought. Tom circled about for some
time, but it was of no use, and then he headed his craft back
toward Waterford.

"Where are you going?" asked Ned, yelling the words into the ear
of his chum.

"Back to Mrs. Damon's," answered Tom, in equally loud tones.

It was impossible to talk above the roaring and throbbing of the
motor, so the two lads kept silent until the airship had landed
near Mrs. Damon's home.

"I want to see if Mrs. Damon is all right," Tom explained, as he
jumped from the still moving machine. "Then we'll go to Shopton,
and cause Peters's arrest. I can make a charge against him now,
and the evidence of the photo telephone will convict him, I'm
sure. And I also want to see if Mrs. Damon has had any other
word."

She had not, however, though she was more nervous and worried than
ever.

"Oh, Tom, what shall I do?" she exclaimed. "I am so frightened!
What do you suppose they will do to Mr. Damon?"

"Nothing at all!" Tom assured her. "He will be all right. I think
matters are coming to a crisis now, and very likely he'll be with
you inside of twenty-four hours. The game is up, and I guess
Peters knows it. I'm going to have him arrested at once."

"Shall I send those land papers, Tom?"

"Indeed you must not! But I'll talk to you about that later. Just
put away that phonograph record of Peters's talk. I'll take along
the photo telephone negative, and have some prints made--or, I
guess, since we're going in the airship, that I'd better leave it
here for the present. We'll use it as evidence against Peters.
Come on, Ned."

"Where to now?"

"Peters's house. He's probably there, arranging to cover up his
tracks when he lights out."

But Shallock Peters did better than merely cover up his tracks. He
covered himself up, so to speak. For when Ned and Tom, after a
quick flight in the airship, reached his house, the promoter had
left, and the servants, who were quite excited, did not know where
he had gone.

"He just packed up a few clothes and ran out," said one of the
maids. "He didn't say anything about our wages, either, and he
owes me over a month."

"Me too," said another.

"Well, if he doesn't pay me some of my back wages soon, I'll sue
him!" declared the gardener. "He owes me more than three months,
but he kept putting me off."

And, so it seemed, Peters had done with several of his employes.
When the promoter came to Shopton he had taken an elaborate house
and engaged a staff of servants. Peters was not married, but he
gave a number of entertainments to which the wealthy men of
Shopton and their wives came. Later it was found that the bills
for these had never been paid. In short, Peters was a "bluff" in
more ways than one.

Tom told enough of his story to the servants to get them on his
side. Indeed, now that their employer had gone, and under such
queer circumstances, they had no sympathy for him. They were only
concerned about their own money, and Tom was given admittance to
the house.

Tom made a casual search, hoping to find some clue to the
whereabouts of Mr. Damon, or to get some papers that would save
his fortune. But the search was unsuccessful.

There was a safe in the room Peters used for an office, but when
Tom got there the strong box was open, and only some worthless
documents remained.

"He smelled a rat, all right," said Tom, grimly. "After he
telephoned to Mrs. Damon something happened that gave him an
intimation that someone was after him. So he got away as soon as
he could."

"But what are you going to do about it, Tom?"

"Get right after him. He can't have gotten very far. I want him
and I want Boylan. We're getting close to the end of the trail,
Ned."

"Yes, but we haven't found Mr. Damon yet, and his fortune seems to
have vanished."

"Well, we'll do the best we can," said Tom, grimly. "Now I'm going
to get a warrant for the arrest of Peters, and one for Boylan, and
I'm going to get myself appointed a special officer with power to
serve them. We've got our work cut out for us, Ned."

"Well, I'm with you to the end."

"I know you are!" cried Tom.





CHAPTER XXIV

THE LONELY HOUSE


The young inventor had little difficulty in getting the warrants
he sought. In the case of Boylan, who seemed to be Peters's right-
hand man, when it came to criminal work, Tom made a charge of
unlawfully taking the airship. This would be enough to hold the
man on until other evidence could be obtained against him.

As for Peters, he was accused of taking certain valuable bonds and
stocks belonging to Mr. Damon. Mrs. Damon gave the necessary
evidence in this case, and the authorities were told that later,
when Peters should have been arrested, other evidence so
skillfully gotten by Tom's photo telephone, would be brought
before the court.

"It's a new way of convicting a man--by a photo telephone--but I
guess it's a good one," said the judge who signed the warrants.

"Well, now that we've got what we want, the next thing to do is to
get the men--Peters, and the others," said Tom, as he and Ned sat
in Tom's library after several hours of strenuous work.

"How are you going to start?" the young banker wanted to know. "It
seems a strange thing that a man like Mr. Damon could be made away
with, and kept in hiding so long without something being heard of
him. I'm afraid, Tom, that something must have happened to him."

"I think so too, Ned. Nothing serious, though," Tom added,
quickly, as he saw the look of alarm on his chum's face. "I think
Mr. Damon at first went away of his own accord."

"Of his own accord?"

"Yes. I think Peters induced him to go with him, on the pretense
that he could recover his fortune. After getting Mr. Damon in
their power they kept him, probably to get the rest of his fortune
away from him."

"But you stopped that, Tom," said Ned, proud of his chum's
abilities.

"Well, I hope so," admitted the young inventor. "But I've still
got plenty to do."

"Have you a starting point?"

"For one thing," Tom answered, "I'm going to have Mrs. Damon mail
a fake package to the address Peters gave. If he, or any of his
men, call for it, we'll have a detective on the watch, and arrest
them."

"Good!"

"Of course it may not work," spoke Tom; "but it's something to
try, and we can't miss any chances."

Accordingly, the next day, a package containing only blank paper,
made up to represent the documents demanded by Peters as the price
of releasing Mr. Damon, was mailed to the address Mrs. Damon had
received over the wire from the rascally promoter. Then a private
detective was engaged to be on the watch, to take into custody
whoever called for the bundle. Tom, though, had not much hope of
anything coming of this, as it was evident that Peters had taken
the alarm, and left.

"And now," said Tom, when he had safely put away the wax record,
containing the incriminating talk of Peters, and had printed
several photographs, so wonderfully taken over the wire, "now to
get on the trail again."

It was not an easy one to follow. Tom began at the deserted home
of the alleged financier. The establishment was broken up, for
many tradesmen came with bills that had not been paid, and some of
them levied on what little personal property there was to satisfy
their claims. The servants left, sorrowful enough over their
missing wages. The place was closed up under the sheriff's orders.

But of Peters and his men not a trace could be found. Tom and Ned
traveled all over the surrounding country, looking for clues, but
in vain. They made several trips in the airship, but finally
decided that an automobile was more practical for their work, and
kept to that.

They did find some traces of Peters. As Tom had said, the man was
too prominent not to be noticed. He might have disguised himself,
though it seemed that the promoter was a proud man, and liked to
be seen in flashy clothes, a silk hat, and with a buttonhole
bouquet.

This made it easy to get the first trace of him. He had been seen
to take a train at the Shopton station, though he had not bought a
ticket. The promoter had paid his fare to Branchford, a junction
point, but there all trace of him was lost. It was not even
certain that he went there.

"He may have done that to throw us off," said Tom. "Just because
he paid his way to Branchford, doesn't say he went there. He may
have gotten off at the next station beyond Shopton."

"Do you think he's still lingering around here?" asked Ned.

"I shouldn't be surprised," was Tom's answer. "He knows that there
is still some of the Damon property left, and he is probably
hungry for that. We'll get him yet, Ned."

But at the end of several days Tom's hopes did not seem in a fair
way to be realized. He and Ned followed one useless clue after
another. All the trails seemed blind ones. But Tom never gave up.

He was devoting all his time now to the finding of his friend Mr.
Damon, and to the recovery of his fortune. In fact the latter was
not so important to Tom as was the former. For Mrs. Damon was on
the verge of a nervous collapse on account of the absence of her
husband.

"If I could only have some word from him, Tom!" she cried,
helplessly.

To Tom the matter was very puzzling. It seemed utterly impossible
that Mr. Damon could be kept so close a prisoner that he could not
manage to get some word to his friends. It was not as if he was a
child. He was a man of more than ordinary abilities. Surely he
might find a way to outwit his enemies.

But the days passed, and no word came. A number of detectives had
been employed, but they were no more successful than Tom. The
latter had given up his inventive work, for the time being, to
devote all his time to the solution of the mystery.

Tom and Ned had been away from Shopton for three days, following
the most promising clue they had yet received. But it had failed
at the end, and one afternoon they found themselves in a small
town, about a hundred miles from Shopton. They had been motoring.

"I think I'll call up the house," said Tom. "Dad may have received
some news, or Mrs. Damon may have sent him some word. I'll get my
father on the wire."

Connection to Tom's house was soon made, and Ned, who was
listening to his chum's remarks, was startled to hear him cry out:

"What's that you say? My airship taken again? When did it happen?
Yes, I'm listening. Go on, Father!"

Then followed a silence while Tom listened, breaking in now and
then with an excited remark, Suddenly he called:

"Good-by, Dad! I'm coming right home!"

Tom hung up the receiver with a bang, and turned to his chum.

"What do you think!" he cried. "The Eagle was taken again last
night! The same way as before. Nobody got a glimpse of the
thieves, though. Dad has been trying to get in communication with
me ever since. I'm glad I called up. Now we'll get right back to
Shopton, and see what we can do. This is the limit! Peters and his
crowd will be kidnapping us, next."

"That's right," agreed Ned.

He and Tom were soon off again, speeding in the auto toward
Shopton. But the roads were bad, after a heavy rain, and they did
not make fast time.

The coming of dusk found them with more than thirty miles to go.
They were in an almost deserted section of the country when
suddenly, as they were running slowly up a hill, there was a
sudden crack, the auto gave a lurch to one side of the roadway and
then settled heavily. Tom clapped on both brakes quickly, and gave
a cry of dismay.

"Broken front axle!" he said. "We're dished, Ned!"

They got out, being no more harmed than by the jolting. The car
was out of commission. The two chums looked around Except for a
lonely house, that bore every mark of being deserted, not a
dwelling was in sight where they might ask for aid or shelter.

And, as they looked, from that lonely house came a strange cry--a
cry as though for help!





CHAPTER XXV

THE AIRSHIP CAPTURE


"Did you hear that?" cried Ned.

"I certainly did," answered Tom. "What was it."

"Sounded to me like a cry of some sort."

"It was. An animal, I'd say."

The two chums moved away from the broken auto, and looked at each
other. Then, by a common impulse, they started toward the lonely
house, which was set back some distance from the road.

"Let's see who it was," suggested Tom, "After all, though it looks
deserted, there may be someone in the house, and we've got to have
some kind of help. I don't want to leave my car on the road all
night, though it will have to be repaired before I can use it
again."

"It sure is a bad break," agreed Ned.

As they walked toward the deserted House they heard the strange
cry again. It was louder this time, and following it the boys
heard a sound as if a blow had been struck.

"Someone is being attacked!" cried Tom. "Maybe some poor tramp has
taken shelter in there and a dog is after them. Come on, Ned,
we've got to help!"

They started on a run for the lonely house, but while still some
distance away a curious thing happened.

There was a sudden cry--an appeal for help it seemed--but this
time in the open. And, as Tom and Ned looked, they saw several men
running from the rear of the old house. Between them they carried
an inert form,

"Something's wrong!" exclaimed Tom, "There's crooked work going on
here, Ned."

"You're right! It's up to us to stop it! Come on!"

But before the boys had taken half a dozen more steps they heard
that which caused them great surprise. For from a shed behind the
house came the unmistakable throb and roar of a motor.

"They're going off in an auto!" cried Ned.

"And they're carrying someone with them!" exclaimed Tom.

By this time they had gotten to a point where they could see the
shed, and what was their astonishment to see being rolled from it
a big biplane. At the sight of it Tom cried:

"It's the Eagle! That's my airship, Ned!"

"You're right! How did it get here?"

"That's for us to find out. I shouldn't wonder, Ned, but what
we're at last on the trail of Peters and his crowd!"

The men--there were four or five of them, Ned guessed--now broke
into a run, still carrying among them the inert form of another.
The cries for help had ceased, and it seemed as if the unfortunate
one was unconscious.

A moment later, and before the boys could do anything, had they
the power, the men fairly jumped aboard Tom Swift's biggest
airship. The unconscious one was carried with them.

Then the motor was speeded up. The roar and throbbing were almost
deafening.

"Stop that! Hold on! That's my machine!" yelled Tom.

He might as well have spoken to the wind. With a rush and a roar
the big Eagle shot away and upward, carrying the men and their
mysterious, unconscious companion. It was getting too dark for Tom
and Ned to make out the forms or features of the strangers.

"We're too late!" said Ned, hopelessly.

"Yes, they got away," agreed Tom. "Oh, if only I had my speedy
little monoplane!"

"But who can they be? How did your airship get here? And who is
that man they carried out of the house?" cried Ned.

"I don't know the last--maybe one of their crowd who was injured
in a fight."

"What crowd?"

"The Peters gang, of course. Can't you see it, Ned?"

Unable to do anything, the two youths watched the flight of the
Eagle. She did not move at her usual speed, for she was carrying
too heavy a load.

Presently from the air overhead, and slightly behind them, the
boys heard the sound of another motor. They turned quickly.

"Look!" cried Ned. "Another airship, by all that's wonderful!"

"If we could only stop them!" exclaimed Tom. "That's a big
machine, and they could take us aboard. Then we could chase the
Eagle. We could catch her, too, for she's overloaded!"

Frantically he and Tom waved their caps at the man who was now
almost overhead in his airship. The boys did not call. They well
knew, with the noise of the motor, the occupant of the airship
could not hear them. But they waved and pointed to the slowly-
moving Eagle.

To their surprise and delight the man above them shut off his
engine, and seemed about to come down. Then Tom cried, knowing he
could be heard:

"Help us capture that airship? It's mine and they've stolen it!"

"All right! Be with you in a minute!" came back the answer from
above.

The second biplane came down to earth, ands as it ceased running
along on its bicycle wheels, the occupant jumped out.

"Hello, Tom Swift!" he called, as he took off his goggles.

"Why--why it's Mr. Halling!" cried the young inventor, in delight,
recognizing the birdman who had brought him the first news of Mr.
Damon's trouble, the day the airship became entangled in the
aerials of the wireless on Tom's house.

"What are you doing here, Tom?" asked Mr. Hailing. "What has
happened?"

"We're looking for Mr. Damon. That's a bad crowd there," and he
pointed toward the other aircraft. "They have my Eagle. Can you
help me catch them?"

"I certainly can--and will! Get aboard! I can carry four."

"Then you have a new machine?"

"Yes, and a dandy! All the latest improvements--self-starter and
all! I'm glad of a chance to show it to you."

"And I'm glad, too!" cried Tom. "It was providential that you
happened along. What were you doing here?"

"Just out on a trial spin. But come on, if we're going to catch
those fellows!"

Quickly Tom, Ned, and Mr. Halling climbed into the seats of the
new airship. It was started from a switch, and in a few seconds it
was on the wing, chasing after the Eagle.

Then began a strange race, a race in the air after the unknown
strangers who had Tom's machine. Had the Eagle not been so heavily
laden it might have escaped, for Tom's craft was a speedy one. But
this time it had to give the palm to Mr. Grant Halling's. Faster
and faster in pursuit flew the Star, as the new craft was called.
Faster and faster, until at last, coming directly over the Eagle,
Mr. Halling sent his craft down in such a manner as to "blanket"
the other. In an instant she began to sink, and with cries of
alarm the men shut off the motor and started to volplane to the
earth.

But they made an unskillful landing. The Eagle tilted to one side,
and came down with a crash. There were cries of pain, then
silence, and a few seconds later two men ran away from the
disabled airship. But there were three senseless forms on the
ground beside the craft when Tom, Ned and Mr. Halling ran up. In
the fading light Tom saw a face he knew--three faces in fact.

"Mr. Damon!" he cried. "We've found him, Ned!"

"But--too late--maybe!" answered Ned, in a low voice, as he, too,
recognized the man who had been missing so long.

Mr. Halling was bending over the unconscious form of his friend.

"He's alive!" he cried, joyfully. "And not much hurt, either. But
he has been ill, and looks half starved. Who are these men?"

Tom gave a hasty look.

"Shallock Peters and Harrison Boylan!" he cried. "Ned, at last
we've caught the scoundrels!"

It was true. Chance had played into the hands of Tom Swift. While
Mr. Halling was looking after Mr. Damon, reviving him, the young
inventor and Ned quickly bound the hands and feet of the two
plotters with pieces of wire from the broken airship.

Presently Mr. Damon opened his eyes.

"Where am I? What happened? Oh, bless my watch chain--it's Tom
Swift! Bless my cigar case, I--"

"He's all right!" cried Tom, joyfully. "When Mr. Damon blesses
something beside his tombstone he's all right."

Peters and Boylan soon revived, both being merely stunned, as was
Mr. Damon. They looked about in wonder, and then, feeling that
they were prisoners, resigned themselves to their fate. Both men
were shabbily dressed, and Tom would hardly have known the once
spick and span Mr. Peters. He had no rose in his buttonhole now.

"Well, you have me, I see," he said, coolly. "I was afraid we were
playing for too high a stake."

"Yes, we've got you," replied Tom,

"But you can't prove much against me," went on Peters. "I'll deny
everything."

"We'll see about that," added the young inventor, grimly, and
thought of the picture in the plate and the record on the wax
cylinder.

"We've got to get Mr. Damon to some place where he can be looked
after," broke in Mr. Halling. "Then we'll hear the story."

A passing farmer was prevailed on to take the party in his big
wagon to the nearest town, Mr. Hailing going on ahead in his
airship. Tom's craft could not be moved, being badly damaged.

Once in town Peters and Boylan were put in jail, on the charges
for which Tom carried warrants. Mr. Damon was taken to a hotel and
a doctor summoned. It was as Mr. Halling had guessed. His friend
had been ill, and so weak that he could not get out of bed. It was
this that enabled the plotters to so easily keep him a prisoner.

By degrees Mr. Damon told his story. He had rashly allowed Peters
to get control of most of his fortune, and, in a vain hope of
getting back some of his losses, had, one night--the night he
disappeared, in fact--agreed to meet Peters and some of his men to
talk matters over. Of this Mr. Damon said nothing to his wife.

He went out that night to meet Peters in the garden, but the
plotters had changed their plans. They boldly kidnapped their
victim, chloroformed him and took him away in Tom's airship, which
Boylan and some of his tools daringly stole a short time
previously. Later they returned it, as they had no use for it at
the lonely house.

Mr. Damon was taken to the house, and there kept a prisoner. The
men hoped to prevail on the fears of his wife to make her give up
the valuable property. But we have seen how Tom foiled Peters.

The experience of Mr. Damon, coupled with rough treatment he
received, and lack of good food, soon made him ill. He was so weak
that he could not help himself, and with that he was kept under
guard. So he had no chance to escape or send his wife or friends
any word.

"But I'm all right now, Tom, thanks to you!" said he. "Bless my
pocketbook, I don't care if my fortune is lost, as long as I'm
alive and can get back to my wife."

"But I don't believe your fortune will be lost," said Tom. "I
think I have the picture and other evidence that will save it,"
and he told of his photo telephone, and of what it had
accomplished.

"Bless my eyelashes!" cried Mr. Damon. "What a young man you are,
Tom Swift!"

Tom smiled gladly. He knew now that his old friend was himself
once more.

There is little left to tell. Chance had aided Tom in a most
wonderful way--chance and the presence of Mr. Halling with his
airship at just the right moment.

Tom made a diligent effort to find out who it was that had
chloroformed him in the telephone booth that time, but learned
nothing definite. Peters and Boylan were both examined as to this
on their trials, but denied it, and the young inventor was forced
to conclude that it must have been some of the unscrupulous men
who had taken his father's patent some time before.

"They may have heard of your prosperity, and thought it a good
chance to rob you," suggested Ned.

"Maybe," agreed Tom. "Well, we'll let it go at that. Only I hope
they don't come again."

Mr. Damon was soon home with his wife again, and Peters and Boylan
were held in heavy bail. They had secreted most of Mr. Damon's
wealth, falsely telling him it was lost, and they were forced to
give back his fortune. The evidence against them was clear and
conclusive. When Tom went into court with his phonograph record of
the talk of Peters, even though the man's voice was hoarse from a
cold when he talked, and when his picture was shown, in the
telephone booth, the jury at once convicted him.

Boylan, when he learned of the missing button in Tom's possession,
confessed that he and some of his men who were birdmen had taken
Tom's airship. They wanted a means of getting Mr. Damon to the
lonely house without being traced, and they accomplished it.

As Tom had surmised, Peters had become suspicious after his last
talk with Mrs. Damon, and had fled. He disguised himself and went
into hiding with the others at the lonely house. Then he learned
that the authorities of another city. where he had swindled many,
were on his trail, and he decided to decamp with his gang, taking
Mr. Damon with them. For this purpose Tom's airship was taken the
second time, and a wholesale escape, with Mr. Damon a prisoner,
was planned.

But fate was against the plotters. Two of them did manage to get
away, but they were not really wanted. The big fish were Peters
and Boylan, and they were securely caught in the net of the law.
Peters was greatly surprised when he learned of Tom's trap, and of
the photo telephone. He had no idea he had been incriminating
himself when he talked over the wire.

"Well, it's all over," remarked Ned to Tom, one day, when the
disabled auto and the airship had been brought home and repaired.
"The plotters are in prison for long terms, and Mr. Damon is
found, together with his fortune. The photo telephone did it,
Tom."

"Not all of it--but a good bit," admitted the young inventor, with
a smile.

"What are you going to do next, Tom?"

"I hardly know. I think--"

Before Tom could finish, a voice was heard in the hall outside the
library.

"Bless my overshoes! Where's Tom? I want to thank him again for
what he did for me," and Mr. Damon, now fully recovered, came in.
"Bless my suspender button, but it's good to be alive, Tom!" he
cried.

"It certainly is," agreed Tom. "And the next time you go for a
conference with such men as Peters, look out for airships."

"I will, Tom, I will!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Bless my watch chain,
I will!"

And now, for a time, we will say good-bye to Tom Swift, leaving
him to perfect his other inventions.




End of the Project Gutenberg Etext of Tom Swift And His Photo Telephone
by Victor Appleton