Tom Swift and His Airship
Part 2 out of 3
airship, so that several persons could live, eat and sleep in it for
two weeks, if necessary. The third day after this task had been
commenced the mail brought an unusual communication to Tom and Mr.
Sharp. It was from an aero club of Blakeville, a city distant about a
hundred miles, and stated that a competition for aeroplanes and
dirigible balloons was to be held in the course of two weeks. The
affair was designed to further interest in the sport, and also to
demonstrate what progress had been made in the art of conquering the
air. Prizes were to be given, and the inventors of the Red Cloud, the
achievements of which the committee of arrangements had heard, were
invited to compete.
"Shall we go in for it, Tom?" asked the balloonist.
"I'm willing if you are."
"Then let's do it. We'll see how our craft shows up alongside of
others. I know something of this club. It is all right, but the
carnival is likely to be a small one. Once I gave a balloon exhibition
for them. The managers are all right. Well, we'll have a try at it.
Won't do us any harm to win a prize. Then for a long trip!"
As it was not necessary to have the car, or cabin, completely fitted
up in order to compete for the prize, work in that direction was
suspended for the time being, and more attention was paid to the
engine, the planes and rudders. Some changes were made and, a week
later the Red Cloud departed for Blakeville. As the rules of the
contest required three passengers, Ned Newton was taken along, Mr.
Swift having arranged with the bank president so that the lad could
have a few days off.
The Red Cloud arrived at the carnival grounds in the evening, having
been delayed on the trip by a broken cog wheel, which was mended in
mid-air. As the three navigators approached, they saw a small machine
flying around the grounds.
"Look!" cried Ned excitedly. "What a small airship."
"That's a monoplane," declared Tom, who was getting to be quite an
"Yes, the same kind that was used to cross the English Channel,"
interjected Mr. Sharp. "They're too uncertain for my purposes, though;
they are all right under certain conditions."
Hardly had he spoken than a puff of wind caused the daring manipulator
of the monoplane to swerve to one side. He had to make a quick
descent-so rapid was it, in fact, that the tips of one of his planes
"It'll take him a day to repair that," commented the aeronaut dryly.
The Red Cloud created a sensation as she slowly settled down in front
of the big tent assigned to her. Tom's craft was easily the best one
at the carnival, so far, though the managers said other machines were
on the way.
The exhibition opened the next day, but no flights were to be
attempted until the day following. Two more crafts arrived, a large
triplane, and a dirigible balloon. There were many visitors to the
ground, and Tom, Ned and Mr. Sharp were kept busy answering questions
put by those who crowded into their tent. Toward the close of the day
a fussy little Frenchman entered, and, making his way to where Tom
"Air you ze ownair of zis machine?"
"One of them," replied the lad.
"Ha! Sacre! Zen I challenge you to a race. I have a monoplane zat is
ze swiftest evaire! One thousand francs will I wager you, zat I can
fly higher and farther zan you."
"Shall we take him up, Mr. Sharp?" asked Tom.
"We'll race with him, after we get through with the club entries."
decided the aeronaut. "but not for money. It's against my principles,
and I don't believe your father would like it. Racing for prizes is a
"Well, we will devote ze money to charity," conceded the Frenchman.
This was a different matter, and one to which Mr. Sharp did not
object, so it was arranged that a trial should take place after the
That night was spent in getting the Red Cloud in shape for the
contests of the next day. She was "groomed" until every wire was taut
and every cog, lever and valve working perfectly. Ned Newton helped
all he could. So much has appeared in the newspapers of the races at
Blakeville that I will not devote much space here to them. Suffice it
to say that the Red Cloud easily distanced the big dirigible from
which much was expected. It was a closer contest with the large
triplane, but Tom's airship won, and was given the prize, a fine
As the carnival was a small one, no other craft in a class with the
Red Cloud had been entered, so Tom and Mr. Sharp had to be content
with the one race they won. There were other contests among monoplanes
and biplanes, and the little Frenchman won two races.
"Now for ze affaire wis ze monstaire balloon of ze rouge color!" he
cried, as he alighted from his monoplane while an assistant filled the
gasolene tank. "I will in circles go around you, up and down, zis side
zen ze ozzer, and presto! I am back at ze starting place, before you
have begun. Zen charity shall be ze richair!"
"All right, wait and see," said Tom, easily. But, though he showed
much confidence he asked Mr. Sharp in private, just before the
impromptu contest: "Do you think we can beat him?"
"Well," said the aeronaut, shrugging his shoulders, "you can't tell
much about the air. His machine certainly goes very fast, but too much
wind will be the undoing of him, while it will only help us. And I
think," he added, "that we're going to get a breeze."
It was arranged that the Red Cloud would start from the ground,
without the use of the gas, so as to make the machines more even. At
the signal off they started, the motors making a great racket. The
monoplane with the little Frenchman in the seat got up first.
"Ah, ha!" he cried gaily, "I leave you in ze rear! Catch me if you
"Don't let him beat us," implored Ned.
"Can't you speed her up any more?" inquired Tom of Mr. Sharp.
The aeronaut nodded grimly, and turned more gasolene into the twenty-
cylindered engine. Like a flash the Red Cloud darted forward. But the
Frenchman also increased his speed and did, actually, at first, circle
around the bigger machine, for his affair was much lighter. But when
he tried to repeat that feat he found that he was being left behind.
"That's the stuff! We're winning!" yelled Tom, Ned joining in the
Then came a puff of wind. The monoplane had to descend, for it was in
danger of turning turtle. Still the navigator was not going to give
up. He flew along at a lower level. Then Mr. Sharp opened up the Red
Cloud's engine at full speed, and it was the big machine which now
sailed around the other.
"I protest! I protest!" cried the Frenchman, above the explosions of
his motor. "Ze wind is too strong for me!"
Mr. Sharp said nothing, but, with a queer smile on his face he sent
the airship down toward the earth. A moment later he was directly
under the monoplane. Then, quickly rising, he fairly caught the
Frenchman's machine on top of a square platform of the gas container,
the bicycle wheels of the monoplane resting on the flat surface. And,
so swiftly did the Red Cloud fly along that it carried the monoplane
with it, to the chagrin of the French navigator.
"A trick! A trick!" he cried. "Eet is not fair!"
Then, dropping down, Mr. Sharp allowed the monoplane to proceed under
its own power, while he raced on to the finish mark, winning, of
course, by a large margin.
"Ha! A trick! I race you to-morrow and again to-morrow!" cried the
beaten Frenchman as he alighted.
"No, thanks," answered Tom. "We've had enough. I guess charity will be
The little Frenchman was a good loser, and paid over the money, which
was given to the Blakeville Hospital, the institution receiving it
At the request of the carnival committee, Mr. Sharp and Tom gave an
exhibition of high and long flights the next day, and created no
little astonishment by their daring feats.
"Well, I think we have reason to be proud of our ship," remarked Mr.
Sharp that night. "We won the first contest we were ever in, and beat
that speedy monoplane, which was no small thing to do, as they are
"But wait until we go on our trip," added Tom, as he looked at the cup
they had won. He little realized what danger they were to meet with in
the flight that was before them.
Chapter 9 - The Runaway Auto
Had the inventors of the Red Cloud desired, they could have made
considerable money by giving further exhibitions at the Blakeville
Aero Carnival, and at others which were to be held in the near future
at adjoining cities. The fame of the new machine had spread, and there
were many invitations to compete for prizes.
But Tom and Mr. Sharp wished to try their skill in a long flight, and
at the close of the Blakeville exhibition they started for Shopton,
arriving there without mishap, though Tom more than half hoped that
they might happen to strike the tower of a certain school. I needn't
The first thing to be done was to complete the fitting-up of the car,
or cabin. No berths had, as yet, been put in, and these were first
installed after the Red Cloud was in her shed. Then an electrical
heating and cooking apparatus was fitted in; some additional
machinery, tanks for carrying water, and chemicals for making the gas,
boxes of provisions, various measuring instruments and other supplies
were put in the proper places, until the cabin was filled almost to
its capacity. Of course particular attention had been paid to the ship
proper, and every portion was gone over until Mr. Sharp was sure it
was in shape for a long flight.
"Now the question is," he said to Tom one evening, "who shall we take
with us? You and I will go, of course, but I'd like one more. I wonder
if your father can't be induced to accompany us? He seemed to like the
"I'll ask him to-morrow," said the lad. "He's very busy to-night. If
he doesn't care about it, maybe Garret Jackson will go."
"I'm afraid not. He's too timid."
"I'd like to take Ned Newton, but he can't get any more time away from
the bank. I guess we'll have to depend on dad."
But, to the surprise of Tom and Mr. Sharp, the aged inventor shook his
head when the subject was broached to him next day.
"Why won't you go, dad?" asked his son.
"I'll tell you," replied Mr. Swift. "I was keeping it a secret until I
had made some advance in what I am engaged upon. But I don't want to
go because I am on the verge of perfecting a new apparatus for
submarine boats. It will revolutionize travel under the water, and I
don't want to leave home until I finish it. There is another point to
be considered. The government has offered a prize for an under-water
boat of a new type, and I wish to try for it."
"So that's what you've been working on, eh, dad?" asked his son.
"That's it, and, much as I should like to accompany you, I don't feel
free to go. My mind would be distracted, and I need to concentrate
myself on this invention. It will produce the most wonderful results,
I'm sure. Besides, the government prize is no small one. It is fifty
thousand dollars for a successful boat."
Mr. Swift told something more about his submarine, but, as I expect to
treat of that in another book, I will not dwell on it here, as I know
you are anxious to learn what happened on the trip of the Red Cloud.
"Well," remarked Mr. Sharp, somewhat dubiously, "I wonder who we can
get to go? We need someone besides you and I, Tom."
"I s'pose I could get Eradicate Sampson, and his mule Boomerange,"
replied the lad with a smile. "Yet I don't know-"
At that instant there was a tremendous racket outside. The loud
puffing of an automobile could be heard, but mingled with it was the
crash of wood, and then the whole house seemed jarred and shaken.
"Is it an earthquake?" exclaimed Mr. Swift, springing to his feet, and
rushing to the library windows.
"Something's happened!" cried Tom.
"Maybe an explosion of the airship gas!" yelled Mr. Sharp, making
ready to run to the balloon shed. But there was no need. The crashing
of wood ceased, and, above the puffing of an auto could be heard a
"Bless my very existence! Bless my cats and dogs! Good gracious! But I
never meant to do this!"
Tom, his father and Mr. Sharp rushed to the long, low windows that
opened on the veranda. There, on the porch, which it had mounted by
way of the steps, tearing away part of the railing, was a large
touring car; and, sitting at the steering wheel, in a dazed sort of
manner, was Mr. Wakefield Damon.
"Bless my shirt studs!" he went on feebly. "But I have done it now!"
"What's the matter?" cried Tom, hastening up to him. "What happened?
Are you hurt?"
"Hurt? Not a bit of it! Bless my moonstone!
It's the most lucky escape I ever had! But I've damaged your porch,
and I haven't done my machine any good. Do you see anything of another
machine chasing me?"
Tom looked puzzled, but glanced up and down, the road. Far down the
highway could be discerned a cloud of dust, and, from the midst of it
came a faint "chug-chug."
"Looks like an auto down there," he said.
"Thank goodness! Bless my trousers, but I've escaped 'em!" cried the
eccentric man from whom Tom had purchased his motor-cycle.
"Escaped who?" asked Mr. Swift.
"Those men. They were after me. But I may as well get out and explain.
Dear me! However will I ever get my car off your porch?" and Mr. Damon
seemed quite distressed.
"Never mind," answered Tom. "We can manage that. Tell us what
"Exactly," replied Mr. Damon, growing calmer, "Bless my shoe buttons,
but I had a fright, two of them, in fact.
"You see," he went on, "I was out partly on pleasure and partly on
business. The pleasure consisted in riding in my auto, which my
physician recommended for my health. The business consisted in
bringing to the Shopton Bank a large amount of cash. Well, I deposited
it all right, but, as I came out I saw some men hanging around. I
didn't like their looks, and I saw them eyeing me rather sharply. I
thought I had seen them before and, sure enough I had. Two of the men
belonged to that Happy Harry gang. I".
Tom made a quick motion of a caution, pointing to his father, but it
was not necessary, as Mr. Swift was absently-mindedly calculating an a
piece of paper he had taken from his pocket, and had not heard what
Mr. Damon said. The latter, however, knew what Tom meant, and went on.
"Well, I didn't like the looks of these men, and when I saw them
sizing me up, evidently thinking I had drawn money out instead of
putting it in, I decided to give them the slip. I got in my auto, but
I was startled to see them get in their car. I headed for here, as I
was coming to pay you a visit, anyhow, and the mysterious men kept
after me. It became a regular race. I put on all the speed I could and
headed for your house, Tom, for I thought you would help me. I went
faster and faster, and so did they. They were almost up to me, and I
was just thinking of slowing down to turn in here, when I lost control
of my machine, and-well, I did turn in here, but not exactly as I
intended. Bless my gaiters! I came in with rather more of a rush than
I expected. It was awful-positively awful, I assure you. You've no
idea how nervous I was. But I escaped those scoundrels, for they
rushed on when they saw what I had done-smashed the porch railing".
"Probably they thought you'd smash them," observed Tom with a laugh.
"But why did they follow you?"
"Can't imagine! Haven't the least idea. Bless my spark-plug, but they
might have imagined I had money. Anyhow I'm glad I escaped them!"
"It's lucky you weren't hurt," said Mr. Sharp.
"Oh, me? Bless my existence! I'm always having narrow escapes." Mr.
Damon caught sight of the Red Cloud which was out in front of the big
shed. "Bless my heart! What's that?" he added.
"Our new airship," answered Tom proudly. "We are just planning a long
trip in it, but we can't find a third member of the party to go
"A third member!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Do you really mean it?"
"Bless my shoe laces! Will you take me along?"
"Do you mean that?" asked Tom in turn, foreseeing a way out of their
"I certainly do," answered the eccentric man. "I am much interested in
airships, and I might as well die up in the clouds as any other way.
Certainly I prefer it to being smashed up in an auto. Will you take
"Of course!" cried Tom heartily, and Mr. Sharp nodded an assent. Then
Tom drew Mr. Damon to one side. "We'll arrange the trip in a few
minutes," the lad said. "Tell me more about those mysterious men,
Chapter 10 - A Bag of Tools
Wakefield Damon glanced at Mr. Swift. The inventor was oblivious to
his surroundings, and was busy figuring away on some paper. He seemed
even to have forgotten the presence of the eccentric autoist.
"I don't want father to hear about the men," went on Tom, in a low
tone. "If he hears that Happy Harry and his confederates are in this
vicinity, he'll worry, and that doesn't agree with him. But are you
sure the men you saw are the same ones who stole the turbine model?"
"Very certain," replied Mr. Damon. "I had a good view of them as I
came from the bank, and I was surprised to see them, until I
remembered that they were out of jail."
"But why do you think they pursued you?"
"Bless my eyes! I can't say. Perhaps they weren't after me at all. I
may have imagined it, but they certainly hurried off in their auto as
soon as I left the bank, after leaving my money there. I'm glad I
deposited it before I saw them. I was so nervous, as it was, that I
couldn't steer straight. It's too bad, the way I've damaged your
"That doesn't matter. But how about the trip in the airship? I hope
you meant it when you said you would go."
"Of course I did. I've never traveled in the air, but it can't be much
worse than my experience with my motor-cycle and the auto. At least I
can't run up any stoop, can I?" and Mr. Damon looked at Mr. Sharp.
"No," replied the aeronaut, as he scratched his head, "I guess you'll
be safe on that score. But I hope you won't get nervous when we reach
a great height."
"Oh, no. I'll just calm myself with the reflection that I can't die
but once," and with this philosophical reflection Mr. Damon went back
to look at the auto, which certainly looked odd, stuck up on the
"Well, you'd better make arrangements to go with us then," went on
Tom. "Meanwhile I'll see to getting your car down. You'll want to send
it home, I suppose?"
"No, not if you'll keep it for me. The fact is that all my folks are
away, and will be for some time. I don't have to go home to notify
them, and it's a good thing, as my wife is very nervous, and might
object, if she heard about the airship. I'll just stay here, if you've
no objection, until the Red Cloud sails, if sails is the proper term."
" 'Sails' will do very well," answered Mr. Sharp. "But, Tom, let's see
if you and I can't get that car down. Perhaps Mr. Damon would like to
go in the house and talk to your father," for Mr. Swift had left the
The eccentric individual was glad enough not to be on hand when his
car was eased down from the veranda and disappeared into the house.
Tom and Mr. Sharp, with the aid of Garret Jackson, then released the
auto from its position. They had to take down the rest of the broken
railing, and their task was easy enough. The machine was stored in a
disused shed, and Mr. Damon had no further concern until it was time
to undertake the trip through the air.
"It will fool those men if I mysteriously disappear," he said, with a
smile. "Bless my hat band, but they'll wonder what became of me. We'll
just slip off in the Red Cloud, and they'll never be the wiser."
"I don't know about that," commented Tom. "I fancy they are keeping
pretty close watch in this vicinity, and I don't like it. I'm afraid
they are up to some mischief. I should think the bank authorities
would have them locked upon suspicion. I think I'll telephone Ned
He did so, and his chum, in turn, notified the bank watchman. But the
next day it was reported that no sign of the men had been seen, and,
later it was learned that an auto, answering the description of the
one they were in, had been seen going south, many miles from Shopton.
The work of preparing the Red Cloud for the long trip was all but
completed. It had been placed back in the shed while a few more
adjustments were made to the machinery.
"Bless my eyelashes!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, a few days before the one
set for the start, "but I haven't asked where we are bound for. Where
are we going, anyhow, Mr. Sharp?"
"We're going to try and reach Atlanta, Georgia," replied the
balloonist. "That will make a fairly long trip, and the winds at this
season are favorable in that direction."
"That suits me all right," declared Mr. Damon. "I'm all ready and
anxious to start."
It was decided to give the airship a few more trials around Shopton
before setting out, to see how it behaved with the car heavier loaded
than usual. With this in view a trip was made to Rocksmond, with Mr.
Swift, Mr. Damon and Ned, in addition to Mr. Sharp and Tom, on board.
Then, at Tom's somewhat blushing request, a stop was made near the
Seminary, and, when the pupils came trooping out, the young inventor
asked Miss Nestor if she didn't want to take a little flight. She
consented, and with two pretty companions climbed rather hesitatingly
into the car. No great height was attained, but the girls were fully
satisfied and, after their first alarm really enjoyed the spin in the
air, with Tom proudly presiding at the steering wheel, which Mr. Sharp
relinquished to the lad, for he understood Tom's feelings.
Three days later all was in readiness for the trip to Atlanta. Mr.
Swift was earnestly invited to undertake it, both Tom and Mr. Sharp
urging him, but the veteran inventor said he must stay at home, and
work on his submarine plans.
The evening before the start, when the aeronaut and Tom were giving a
final inspection to the craft in the big shed, Mr. Sharp exclaimed "I
declare Tom, I believe you'll have to take a run into town."
"Why to get that kit of special tools I ordered, which we might need
to make repairs. There are some long-handled wrenches, some spare
levers, and a couple of braces and bits. Harrison, the hardware
dealer, ordered them for me from New York, and they were to be ready
this afternoon, but I forgot them. Take an empty valise with you, and
you can carry them on your motorcycle. I'm sorry to have forgotten it,
"That's all right, Mr. Sharp, I'd just as soon go as not. It will make
the time pass more quickly. I'll start right off."
An hour later, having received the tools, which made quite a bundle,
the lad put them in the valise, and started back toward home. As he
swung around the corner on which the bank was located-the same bank in
which Ned Newton worked-one of the valves on the motor-cycle began to
leak. Tom dismounted to adjust it, and had completed the work, being
about to ride on, when down the street came Andy Foger and Sam
Snedecker. They started at the sight of our hero.
"There he is now!" exclaimed Sam, as if he and the red-haired bully
had been speaking of the young inventor.
"Let's lick him!" proposed Andy. "Now's our chance to get even for
throwing that paint and soot on us."
Tom heard their words. He was not afraid of both the lads, for, though
each one matched him in size and strength, Tom knew they were cowards.
"If you're looking for anything I guess I can accommodate you," he
"Come on, Andy," urged Sam. But, somehow Andy hung back. Perhaps he
didn't like the way Tom squared off. The young inventor had let down
the rear brace of his motor-cycle, and was not obliged to hold it, so
he had both hands free.
"We ought to lick him good and proper," growled the squint-eyed lad.
"Well, why don't you?" invited Tom.
He moved to one side, so as not to be hampered by his wheel. As he did
so he knocked from the handle bars the valise of tools. They fell with
a clatter and a thud to the pavement, and the satchel came open. It
was under a gas lamp, and the glitter of the long-handled wrenches and
other implements caught the eyes of Andy and his crony.
"Huh! If we fought you, maybe you'd use some of them on us," sneered
Andy, glad of an excuse not to fight.
Tom quickly picked up his valise, shutting it, but he was aware of the
close scrutiny of the two vindictive lads.
"I don't fight with such things," he said, somewhat annoyed, and he
hung the tools back on the handle bars.
"What you doing around the bank at this hour?" asked Sam, as if to
change the subject. "First thing you know the watchman will order you
to move on. He might think you were a suspicious character."
"The same to you," retorted Tom, "but I'm going to ride on now, unless
you want to have a further argument with me."
"You'd better be careful how you hang around a bank," added Andy. "The
police are on the lookout here. There's been some mysterious men seen
Tom did not care to go into that, and, seeing that the two bullies had
lost all desire to attack him, he put up the brace and mounted his
"Good-by," he called to Andy and Sam, as he rode off, the tools
rattling and jingling in the valise, but it was a sarcastic farewell,
and the two cronies did not reply.
"I hope I didn't damage any of the tools when I let them fall that
time," mused the young inventor. "My, the way Sam and Andy stared at
them it would make it seem as if I had a lot of weapons in the bag!
They certainly took good note of them."
The time was to come, and very shortly, when Andy's and Sam's
observation of the tools was to prove disastrous for our hero. As Tom
turned the corner he looked back, and saw, still standing in front of
the bank, the two cronies.
Chapter 11 - The Red Cloud Departs
"Well, dad, I wish you were going along with us," said Tom to his
father next morning. "You don't know what you're going to miss. A fine
trip of several hundred miles through the air, seeing strange sights,
and experiencing new sensations."
"Yes, I wish you would reconsider your determination, and accompany
us," added Mr. Damon. "I would enjoy your company."
"There's plenty of room. We can carry six persons with ease," said Mr.
Mr. Swift shook his head, and smiled.
"I have too much work to do here at home," he replied. "Perhaps I may
astonish you with something when you come back. I have nearly
perfected my latest invention."
There was no combating such a resolution as this, and Tom and the
others considered the decision of the aged inventor as final. The
airship was ready for the start, and every one had arisen earlier than
usual on this account. The bag of tools, for which Tom had gone to
town, were put in their proper place, the last of the supplies were
taken abroad, final tests were made of the various apparatus, the
motor had been given a trial spin, disconnected from the propellers,
and then the balloonist announced
"Well, Tom and Mr. Damon, you had better begin to think of starting.
We've had breakfast here, but there's no telling where we will eat
"Bless my soul! Don't you talk that way!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "You
make me exceedingly nervous. Why shouldn't we know where we are going
to eat dinner?"
"Oh, I meant we couldn't tell over just what part of the United States
we would be when dinner time came," explained the aeronaut.
"Oh, that's different. Bless my pocket knife, but I thought you meant
we might be dashed to pieces, and incapable of eating any dinner."
"Hardly," remarked Mr. Sharp. "The Red Cloud is not that kind of an
airship, I hope. But get aboard, if you please."
Tom and Mr. Damon entered the car. It was resting on the ground, on
the small wheels used to start the airship when the gas inflation
method was not used. In this case, however, it had been decided to
rise in the air by means of the powerful vapor, and not to use the
wings and planes until another time. Consequently the ship was swaying
slightly, and tugging at the restraining cables.
As Tom and Mr. Damon entered the cabin there drove into the Swift yard
a dilapidated wagon, drawn by a bony mule, and it did not need the
addition of a colored man's voice, calling: "Whoa, dar, Boomerang!" to
tell Tom that his friend Eradicate Sampson was on hand. As for
Eradicate, as soon as he saw the great airship, which he had never
before beheld fully rigged, all ready for a flight, his eyes became
big with wonder.
"Is dat yo' flyin' machine, Mistah Swift?" he asked.
"That's it, Rad," answered Tom. "Don't you want to come and take a
ride with us?"
"Me? Good land a' massy! No indeedy, Mistah Swift," and the
whitewasher, who had descended from his wagon, edged away, as if the
airship might suddenly put out a pair of hands and grab him. "No
indeedy I doant! I come t' do a little whitewashin' an' when I do dat
I'se gwine on mah way. But dat's a pow'ful fine ship; it suah am!"
"Better come and try a flight, Rad," added Mr. Damon. "I'll look after
"No, sag, an' I doan't take it kind ob yo' all t' tempt me dat way,
nuther," spoke Eradicate. But, when he saw that the craft was
stationary, he ventured to approach closer. Gingerly he put out one
hand and touched the framework of the wheels, just forward of the
cabin. The negro grasped the timber, and lifted it slightly. To his
astonishment the whole front of the airship tilted up, for it was
about ready to fly, and a child might have lifted it, so buoyant was
it. But Eradicate did not know this. Wonderingly he looked at the
great bulk of the ship, looming above him, then he glanced at his arm.
Once more, noting that the attention of his friends was elsewhere, he
lifted the craft. Then he cried "Look yeah, Mistah Swift! Look yeah!
No wonder day calls me Sampson. I done lifted dis monstrousness
airship wif one hand, See, I kin do it! I kin do it!"
Once more he raised the Red Cloud slightly, and a delighted grin, not
unmixed with a look of awe, spread over his honest countenance.
"I suppose you'll give up whitewashing and join a circus as a strong
man, now," observed Mr. Sharp, with a wink at his companions.
"Days what I will!" announced Eradicate proudly. "I neber knowed I was
dat strong, but ob course I allers knowed I had some muscle. Golly, I
must hab growed strong ober night! Now, Boomerang, yo' suah has got t'
look out fo' yo' sef. No mo' ob yo' cuttin' up capers, or I'll jest
lift you up, an' sot yo' down on yo' back, I suah will," and the negro
feeling of his biceps walked over to where the mule stood, with its
"I guess you can cast off, Tom," called Mr. Sharp, as he entered .the
car, having seen that everything was all right. "We'll not go up very
far at first, until Mr. Damon gets used to the thin air."
"Bless my soul, I believe I'm getting nervous," announced the
eccentric man. "Bless my liver, but I hope nothing happens."
"Nothing will happen," Mr. Sharp assured him. "Just keep calm, when it
feels as if the bottom was dropping out of everything and you'll soon
get over it. Are you casting off those ropes, Tom? Is all clear?"
"All but the bow and stern lines."
"You attend to the bow line, and I'll go to the stern," and, going
over to the gas generator, Mr. Sharp started it so as to force more
vapor into the red aluminum container. This had the effect of
rendering the airship more bouyant, and it tugged and strained harder
than ever at the ropes.
"Good-by, Tom," called Mr. Swift, reaching up to shake hands with his
son. "Drop me a line when you get a chance."
"Oh, Tom, do be careful," implored Mrs. Baggert, her kind face showing
her anxiety. "May I kiss you good-by?"
"Of course," answered the young inventor, though the motherly
housekeeper had not done this since he was a little chap. She had to
stand on a soap box, which Eradicate brought in order to reach Tom's
face, and, when she had kissed him she said:
"Oh, I'm so worried! I just know you'll be killed, risking your lives
in that terrible airship!"
"Ha! Not a very cheerful view to take, madam," observed Mr. Damon.
"Don't hold that view, I beg of you. Bless my eyelashes, but you'll
see us coming home, covered with glory and star dust."
"I'm sure I hope so," answered Mrs. Baggert, laughing a little in
spite of herself.
The last ropes were cast off. Good-bys were shouted as the airship
shot into the air, and Mr. Sharp started the motor, to warm it up
before the propellers were thrown into gear. The twenty cylinders
began exploding with a terrific racket, as the muffler was open, and
Tom, looking down, saw Boomerang awaken with a jump. The mule was so
frightened that he started off on a dead run, swinging the rickety,
old wagon along behind him.
Eradicate Sampson, who had been feeling his muscle since he discovered
what he thought was his marvelous strength, saw what was happening.
"Whoa, dar, Boomerang!" he shouted. Then, as the tailboard of the
wagon swung past him, he reached out and grabbed it. Perhaps he
thought he could bring the runaway mule up standing, but, if he did,
he was grievously disappointed. Boomerang pulled his master along the
gravel walk, and kept running in spite of Eradicate's command to
It might have gone hard with him, had not Garret Jackson, the
engineer, running in front of Boomerang, caught the animal. Eradicate
picked himself up, and gazed sadly at his arms. The navigators of the
air could not hear what he said, but what he thought was evident to
Then, as Mr. Sharp deadened the explosions of the powerful motor. Tom,
looking at a gauge, noted that their height was seven hundred feet.
"High enough!" called Mr. Sharp, and it was time, for Mr. Damon, in
spite of his resolution, was getting pale.
The gas was shut off, the propellers thrown into gear, and, with a
rush the Red Cloud shot toward the south, passing over the Swift
homestead, and high above the heads of the crowd that had gathered to
witness the start. The eventful voyage of the air had begun.
Chapter 12 - Some Startling News
"Well, there they go," remarked Mrs. Baggert to Mr. Swift, as she
strained her eyes toward the sky, against the blue of which the
airship was now only a large, black ball.
"Yes, and a fine start they made," replied the inventor. "I almost
wish I had accompanied them, but I must not stop work on my submarine
"I do hope nothing will happen to them," went on the housekeeper. "I
declare, though, I feel just as if something was going to happen."
"Nervousness, pure nervousness," commented Mr. Swift. "Better take a
little-er-I suppose catnip tea would be good."
"Catnip tea! The very idea!" exclaimed Mrs. Baggert. "That shows how
much you know about nervousness, Mr. Swift," and she seemed a little
"Ha! Hum I Well, maybe catnip tea wouldn't be just the thing. But
don't worry about Tom. I'm sure he can look after himself. As for Mr.
Sharp he has made too many ascensions to run into any unnecessary
"Nervous!" went on the housekeeper, who seemed to resent this state
being applied to her. "I'm sure I'm not half as nervous as that Mr.
Damon. He gives me the fidgets."
"Of course. Well, I must get back to my work," said the inventor. "Ah,
are you hurt, Eradicate?" he went on, as the colored man came back,
driving Boomerang, who had been stopped just before reaching the road.
"No, Mistah Swift, I ain't exactly damaged, but mah feelin's am suah
"Well, I thought I had growed strong in de night, when I lifted dat
airship, but when I went to stop mah mule I couldn't do it. He won't
hab no respect fo' me now."
"Oh, I wouldn't let that worry me," commented Mr. Swift, and he
explained to Eradicate how it was that he had so easily lifted the end
of the bouyant ship, which weighed very little when filled with gas.
The colored man proceeded with his work of whitewashing, the inventor
was in his library, puzzling over tables of intricate figures, and
Mrs. Baggert was in the kitchen, sighing occasionally as she thought
of Tom, whom she loved almost as a son, high in the air, when two men
came up the walk, from the street, and knocked at the side door. Mrs.
Baggert, who answered the summons, was somewhat surprised to see Chief
of Police Simonson and Constable Higby.
"They probably came to see the airship start," she thought, "but
they're too late."
"Ah, good morning, Mrs. Baggert," greeted the chief. "Is Mr. Swift and
his son about this morning?"
"Mr. Swift is in his library, but Tom is gone."
"He'll be back though, won't he?" asked Constable Higby quickly-
anxiously, Mrs. Baggert thought.
"Oh, yes," she replied. "He and-"
"Just take us to see Mr. Swift," interrupted the chief, with a look of
caution at his aide. "We'll explain matters to him."
Wondering what could be the mission of the two officers, Mrs. Baggert
led them to the library.
"It's queer," she thought, "that they don't ask something about the
airship. I suppose that was what they came for. But maybe it's about
the mysterious men who robbed Mr. Swift."
"Ah, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" asked the inventor, as he rose
to greet the officials.
"Ahem, Mr. Swift. Ahem-er-that is-well, the fact is, Mr. Swift,"
stammered the chief, "we have come upon a very painful errand."
"What's that?" cried Tom's father. "I haven't been robbed again, have
"There has been a robbery committed," spoke the constable quickly.
"But you are not the victim," interposed the chief.
"I'm glad of that," said Mr. Swift.
"Where is your son, Tom?" asked the head of the Shopton police force,
"What do you want with him?" inquired the inventor, struck by some
strange tone in the other's voice.
"Mr. Swift," went on the chief, solemnly, "I said we came upon a very
painful errand. It is painful, as I have known Tom since he was a
little lad. But I must do my duty, no matter how painful it is. I have
a warrant for the arrest of your son, Thomas Swift, and I have come to
serve it. I need not tell you that it is your duty to give him up to
us-the representatives of the law. I call upon you to produce your
Mr. Swift staggered to his feet.
"My son! You have come to arrest my son?" he stammered.
The chief nodded grimly.
"Upon what charge?" faltered the father.
"On a charge of breaking into the Shopton National Bank last night,
and stealing from the vault seventy-five thousand dollars in
"Seventy-five thousand dollars! Tom accused of robbing the bank!"
faltered Mr. Swift.
"That is the charge, and we've come to arrest him," broke in Constable
"Where is he?" added the chief.
"This charge is false! Absolutely false!" shouted the aged inventor.
"That may be," admitted the chief shaking his head. "But the charge
has been made, and we hold the warrant. The courts will settle it. We
must now arrest Tom. Where is he?"
"He isn't here!" cried Mr. Swift, and small blame to him if there was
a note of triumph in his voice. "Tom sailed away not half an hour ago
in the airship Red Cloudl You can't arrest him!"
"He's escaped!" shouted the constable. "I told you, chief, that he was
a slippery customer, and that we'd better come before breakfast!"
"Dry up!" commanded the chief testily. "So he's foiled us, eh? Run
away when he knew we were coming? I think that looks like guilt, Mr.
"Never!" cried the inventor. "Tom would never think of robbing the
bank. Besides, he has all the money he wants. The charge is
preposterous! I demand to be confronted with the proof."
"You shall be," answered Chief Simonson vindictively. "If you will
come to the bank you can see the rifled vault, and hear the testimony
of a witness who saw your son with burglar tools in his possession
last night. We also have a warrant for Mr. Wakefield Damon. Do you
know anything of him?"
"He has gone with my son in the airship."
"Ha! The two criminals with their booty have escaped together!" cried
the chief. "But we'll nab them if we have to scour the whole country.
Come on, Higby! Mr. Swift, if you'll accompany me to the bank, I think
I can give you all the proof you want," and the officials, followed by
the amazed and grief-stricken inventor, left the house.
Chapter 13 - Mr. Damon In Danger
The sensations of the voyagers in the airship, who meanwhile, were
flying along over the country surrounding Shopton, were not very
different than when they had undertaken some trial flights. In fact
Mr. Damon was a little disappointed after they had waved their
farewells to Mr. Swift and Mrs. Baggert.
"I declare I'm not at all nervous," he remarked, as he sat in an easy
chair in the enclosed car or cabin, and looked down at the earth
through the plate-glass windows in the floor.
"I thought you'd be all right once we got started," commented Mr.
Sharp. "Do you think you can stand going a trifle higher?"
"Try it,." suggested the eccentric man. "Bless my watch chain, but, as
I said, I might as well die this way as any other. Hitting a cloud-
bank is easier than trying to climb a tree on a motorcycle, eh, Tom?"
"Very much so, Mr. Damon," conceded the young inventor, with a laugh.
"Oh, we'll not attempt any cloud heights for a day or two," went on
Mr. Sharp. "I want you, to gradually get used to the rarefied
atmosphere, Mr. Damon. Tom and I are getting to be old hands at it.
But, if you think you can stand it, I'll go up about a thousand feet
"Make it two thousand, while you're at it," proposed the odd
character. "Might as well take a long fall as a short one."
Accordingly, the elevation rudder was used to send the Red Cloud to a
greater height while she was still skimming along like some great
bird. Of course the desired elevation could have been obtained by
forcing more gas from the machine into the big, red container
overhead, but it was decided to be as sparing of this vapor as
possible, since the voyagers did not want to descend to get more
material, in case they used up what they had. It was just as easy to
rise by properly working the rudders, when the ship was in motion, and
that was the method now employed.
With the great propellers, fore and aft, making about a thousand
revolutions a minute the craft slanted up toward the sky.
The ship was not being run at top speed as Mr. Sharp did not care to
force it, and there was no need for haste. Long distance, rather than
high speed was being aimed at on this first important flight.
Tom was at the steering wheel, and, with his I hand on the lever
controlling the elevation rudder, kept watch of the face of Mr. Damon,
occasionally noting what height the hand on the gauge registered. He
fancied he saw the cheeks of his friend growing pale, and, when a
height of thirty-five hundred feet was indicated, with a yank the
young inventor put the airship on a level keel.
"Are you distressed, Mr. Damon?" he asked.
"Ye-yes, I-I have-some-some difficulty in breathing," was the answer.
Tom gave his friend the same advice the aeronaut had given the lad on
his first trip, and the eccentric man soon felt better.
"Bless my buttons!" he ventured to explain. "But I feel as if I had
lost several pounds of flesh, and I'm glad of it."
Mr. Sharp was busy with the motor, which needed some slight
adjustments, and Tom was in sole charge of navigating the airship. He
had lost the nervous feeling that first possessed him, and was
becoming quite an expert at meeting various currents of wind
encountered in the upper regions.
Below, the voyagers could see the earth spread out like a great map.
They could not tell their exact location now, but by calculating their
speed, which was about thirty miles an hour, Tom figured out that they
were above the town of Centreford, near where he had been attacked
once by the model thieves.
For several hours the airship kept on her way, maintaining a height of
about a mile, for when it was found that Mr. Damon could accommodate
himself to thirty-five hundred feet the elevation rudder was again
shifted to send the craft upward.
By using glasses the travelers could see crowds on the earth watching
their progress in the air, and, though airships, dirigible balloons
and aeroplanes are getting fairly common now, the appearance of one as
novel and as large as the Red Cloud could always be depended upon to
"Well, what do you say to something to eat?" proposed Mr. Sharp,
coming into the main cabin, from the motor compartment. "It's twelve
o'clock, though we can't hear the factory whistles up, here."
"I'm ready, any time you are," called Tom, from the pilot house.
"Shall I cook grub, Mr. Sharp?"
"No, you manage the ship, and I'll play cook. We'll not get a very
elaborate meal this time, as I shall have to pay occasional visits to
the motor, which isn't running just to suit me."
The electrical stove was set going, and some soup and beefsteak from
among the stores, was put on the fire. In spite of the fact that the
day was a warm one in October, it was quite cool in the cabin, until
the stove took off the chill. The temperature of the upper regions was
several degrees below that of the earth. At times the ship passed
through little wisps of vapor-clouds in the making.
"Isn't this wonderful!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, as he sat in an easy
chair, partaking of some of the food. "To think that I have lived to
see the day when I can take my lunch a mile in the air, with a craft
flying along like a bird. Bless my knife and fork but it certainly is
Mr. Sharp relieved Tom at the wheel, while the young inventor ate, and
then, with the airship heading southwest, the speed was increased a
trifle, the balloonist desiring to see what the motor could accomplish
under a heavy load.
A drop of several hundred feet was made about an hour later, and, as
this made it warmer, Mr. Damon, who was a great lover of fresh air,
decided to go out on the platform in front of the cabin. This
platform, and a similar one at the rear, was railed about, to prevent
accidents. A fine view could be had from them much better than through
the floor windows of the car.
"Be careful of the propeller," advised Tom, as his friend went
outside. "I don't believe you're tall enough to be hit by the blades,
but don't take any chances of standing on your tiptoes."
"Bless my pocket handkerchief, indeed I'll not," came the answer. "But
I think I shall wrap up my throat in the scarf I brought along. I am
subject to neuralgia, and the breeze may bring on an attack of it."
Wrapping along, woolen scarf about his neck, the eccentric man
ventured out on the open platform. About the middle of it, but
sufficiently high to be above a person's head, was the forward
propeller, whirring around at swift speed.
Tom, with his eye on the various gauges and the compass, was steering
the airship. He glanced at Mr. Damon, who appeared to be enjoying the
view from the platform. For an instant the eyes of the lad were taken
from the form of his friend. He looked back suddenly, however, his
attention attracted by a smothered cry. He was horrified by what he
Mr. Damon was leaning far over the edge of the railing, with nothing
between him and the earth a thousand feet below. He seemed to have
lost his balance and had toppled forward, being doubled up on the iron
pipe railing, his hands hanging limply over. Then, as Tom cried to Mr.
Sharp to shut off the motor, the lad saw that, hanging to the blade of
the propeller, and being whirled around in its revolutions, was a part
of Mr. Damon's red scarf.
"Hurry! Hurry, Mr. Sharp!" yelled Tom, not daring to let go the
steering wheel, for fear the ship would encounter a treacherous
current and tilt. "Hurry to Mr. Damon!"
"What's the matter?" asked the balloonist.
"He's dead-or unconscious-hanging over the railing. He seems to be
slipping! Hurry, or it will be too late!"
Chapter 14 - Andy Gives The Clue
When Mr. Swift followed the chief of police and the constable to the
town hall his mind was filled with many thoughts. All his plans for
revolutionizing submarine travel, were, of course, forgotten, and he
was only concerned with the charge that had been made against his son.
It seemed incredible, yet the officers were not ones to perpetrate a
joke. The chief and constable had driven from town in a carriage, and
they now invited the inventor to ride back with them.
"Do you mean to tell me a warrant has actually been sworn out against
my son, Chief?" asked the father, when they were near the town hall.
"That's just what I mean to say, Mr. Swift, and, I'm sorry, on your
account, that I have to serve it."
"Hub! Don't look like you was goin' to serve it," remarked the
constable. "He's skipped out."
"That's all right, Higby," went on the chief. "I'll catch em both.
Even if they have escaped in an airship with their booty, I'll nab
'em. I'll have a general alarm out all over the country in less than
an hour. They can't stay up in the air forever."
"A warrant for Tom-my son," murmured Mr. Swift, as if he could not
"Yes, and for that Damon man, too," added the chief. "I want him as
well as Tom, and I'll get 'em."
"Would you mind letting me see the warrants?" asked the inventor, and
the official passed them over. The documents were made out in regular
form, and the complaints had been sworn to by Isaac Pendergast, the
"I can't understand it," went on Tom's father. "Seventy-five thousand
dollars. It's incredible! Why!" he suddenly exclaimed, "it can't be
true. Just before he left, Mr. Damon-"
"Yes, what did he do?" asked the chief eagerly, thinking he might
secure some valuable evidence.
"I guess I'll say nothing until I have seen the bank president,"
replied Mr. Swift, and the official was obviously disappointed.
The inventor found Mr. Pendergast, and some other bank officials in
the town hall. The financiers were rather angry when they learned that
the accused persons had not been caught, but the chief said he would
soon have them in custody.
"In the meanwhile will you kindly explain, what this means?" asked Mr.
Swift of the president.
"You may come and look at the looted vault, if you like, Mr. Swift,"
replied Mr. Pendergast. "It was a very thorough job, and will
seriously cripple the bank."
There was no doubt that the vault had been forced open, for the locks
and bars were bent and twisted as if by heavy tools. Mr. Swift made a
careful examination, and was shown the money drawers that had been
"This was the work of experts," he declared.
"Exactly what we think," said the president. "Of course we don't
believe your son was a professional bank robber, Mr. Swift. We have a
theory that Mr. Damon did the real work, but that Tom helped him with
the tools he had. There is no doubt about it."
"What right have you to accuse my son?" burst out the aged inventor.
"Why have you any more cause to suspect him than any other lad in
town? Why do you fix on him, and Mr. Damon? I demand to know."
"Mr. Damon's eccentric actions for a few days past, and his well-known
oddity of character make him an object of suspicion," declared the
president in judicial tones. "As for Tom, we have, I regret to say,
even better evidence against him."
"But what is it? What? Who gave you any clues to point to my son?"
"Do you really wish to know?"
"I certainly do," was the sharp reply. Mr. Swift, the police and
several bank officials were now in the president's office. The latter
pressed an electric bell, and, when a messenger answered, he said
"Send young Foger here."
At the mention of this name, Mr. Swift started. He well knew the red-
haired bully was an enemy of his son. Andy entered, walking rather
proudly at the attention he attracted.
"This is Mr. Swift," said the president.
"Aw, I know him," blurted out Andy.
"You will please tell him what you told us," went on Mr. Pendergast.
"Well, I seen Tom Swift hanging around this bank with burglar tools in
his possession last night, just before it was robbed," exclaimed the
squint-eyed lad triumphantly.
"Hanging around the bank last night with burglar tools?" repeated Mr.
Swift, in dazed tones.
"That's right," from Andy.
"How do you know they were burglar tools?"
"Because I saw 'em!" cried Andy. "He had 'em in a valise on his motor-
cycle. He was standing at the corner, waiting for a chance to break
into the bank, and when me and Sam Snedecker saw him, he pretended to
be fixin' his machine. Then the bag of burglar tools fell off, the
satchel came open, and I seen 'em! That's how I know."
"And you're sure they were burglar tools?" asked the chief, for he
depended on Andy to be his most important witness.
"Sure I am. I seen a picture of burglar tools once, and the ones Tom
had was just like 'em. Long-handled wrenches, brace an' bits, an' all.
He tried to hide 'em, but me an' Sam was too quick for him. He wanted
to lick me, too."
"No doubt you deserved it," murmured Mr. Swift. "But how do you know
my son was waiting for a chance to break into the bank?"
"'Cause, wasn't it robbed right after he was hangin' around here with
the burglar tools?" inquired Andy, as if that was unanswerable.
"What were you hanging around here for?" Mr. Swift demanded quickly.
"Me? Oh, well, me an' Sam Snedecker was out takin' a walk. That's
"You didn't want to rob the bank, did you?" went on the inventor,
"Of course not," roared the bully, indignantly. "I ain't got no
Andy told more along the same line, but his testimony of having seen
Tom near the bank, with a bag of odd tools could not be shaken. In
fact it was true, as far as it went, but, of course, the tools were
only those for the airship; the same ones Mr. Sharp had sent the lad
after. Sam Snedecker was called in after Andy, and told substantially
the same story.
Mr. Swift could not understand it, for he knew nothing of Tom being
sent for the tools, and had not heard any talk at home of the bag of
implements ordered by the balloonist. Still, of course, he knew Tom
had nothing to do with the robbery, and he knew his son had been at
home all the night previous. Still this was rather negative evidence.
But the inventor had one question yet to ask.
"You say you also suspect Mr. Damon of complicity in this affair?" he
went on, to the chief of police.
"We sure do," replied Mr. Simonson.
"Then can you explain?" proceeded the inventor, "how it is that Mr.
Damon has on deposit in this bank a large sum. Would he rob the bank
where his own funds were?"
"We are prepared for that," declared the president. "It is true that
Mr. Damon has about ten thousand dollars in our bank, but we believe
he deposited it only as a blind, so as to cover up his tracks. It is a
deep-laid scheme, and escaping in the airship is part of it. I am
sorry, Mr. Swift, that I have to believe your son and his accomplice
guilty, but I am obliged to. Chief, you had better send out a general
alarm. The airship ought to be easy to trace."
"I'll telegraph at once," said the official.
"And you believe my son guilty, solely on the testimony of these two
boys, who, as is well known, are his enemies?" asked Mr. Swift.
"The clue they gave us is certainly most important," said the
president. "Andy came to us and told what he had seen, as soon as it
became known that the bank had been robbed."
"And I'm going to get the reward for giving information of the
robbers, too!" cried the bully.
"I'm going to have my share!" insisted Sam.
"Ah, then there is a reward offered?" inquired Mr. Swift.
"Five thousand dollars," answered Mr. Pendergast. "The directors, all
of whom are present save Mr. Foger, Andy's father, met early this
morning, and decided to offer that sum."
"And I'm going to get it," announced the redhaired lad again.
Mr. Swift was much downcast. There seemed to be nothing more to say,
and, being a man unversed in the ways of the world, he did not know
what to do. He returned hone. When Mrs. Baggert was made acquainted
with the news, she waxed indignant.
"Our Tom a thief!" she cried. "Why don't they accuse me and Mr.
Jackson and you? The idea! You ought to hire a lawyer, Mr. Swift, and
prosecute those men for slander."
"Do you think it would be a good plan?"
"I certainly do. Why they have no evidence at all! What does that
mean, sneaking Andy Foger amount to? Get a lawyer, and have Tom's
interests looked after."
Mr. Swift, glad to have sane one share the responsibility with, felt
somewhat better when a well-known Shopton attorney assurred him that
the evidence against Tom was of such a flimsy character that it would
scarcely hold in a court of justice.
"But they have warrants for him and Mr. Damon," declared the inventor.
"Very true, but it is easy to swear out a warrant against any one.
It's a different matter to prove a person guilty."
"But they can arrest my son."
"Yes--if they catch him. However, we can soon have him released on
"It's disgraceful," said Mrs. Baggert.
"Not at all, my dear madam, not at all. Good and innocent persons have
"They are going to send out a general alarm for my son," bewailed Mr.
"Yes, but I fancy it will be some time before they catch him and Mr.
Damon, if the airship holds together. I can't think of a better way to
keep out of the clutches of the police, and their silly charge,"
chuckled the lawyer. "Now don't worry, Mr. Swift. It will all come out
The inventor tried to believe so, but, though he knew his son was
innocent, it was rather hard to see, within the next few days, big
posters on all the vacant walls and fences, offering a reward of five
thousand dollars for the arrest of Tom Swift and Wakefield Damon, who
were charged with having flown away in an airship with seventyfive
thousand dollars of the bank's money.
"I guess Tom Swift will wish he'd been more decent to me when I
collect that money for his arrest," said Andy to his crony, Sam, the
day the bills were posted.
"Yes, but I get my share, don't I?" asked Sam.
"Sure," answered the bully. "I wish they'd hurry up and arrest him."
Within the next few days the country was covered with posters telling
of the robbery and the reward, and police officials in cities large
and small, and in towns and villages, were notified by telegraph to
arrest and capture, at any cost the occupants of a certain large, red
Mr. Swift, on the advice of his lawyer, sent several telegrams to Tom,
apprising him of what had happened. The telegraph company was asked to
rush the telegrams to the first city when word came in that the Red
Cloud had landed.
Chapter 15 - Fired Upon
Tom's excited call to the aeronaut, telling of the mishap to Mr.
Damon, was answered immediately. Mr. Sharp jumped forward from the
motor compartment, and, passing on his way the electric switch, he
yanked it out, stopping the machinery, and the great propellers. Then
he leaped out on the platform.
But something else happened. Just before the accident to the eccentric
man, desiring to give a further test to the planes, the gas had been
shut off, making the airship an aeroplane instead of a dirigible
balloon. Consequently, as soon as the forward motion ceased the great
ship began falling.
"We're sinking! We're sinking!" cried Tom, forgetting for a moment
that he was not in his motor-boat.
"Slant your rudder up, and glide downward as slowly as you can!"
directed Mr. Sharp. "I'll start the engine again as soon as I rescue
him," for it was risky to venture out on the platform with the
propeller whirring, as the dangling piece of scarf might whip around
the balloonist and toss him off.
Mr. Sharp was soon at Mr. Damon's side. He saw that the man was
unconscious, whether from fright or some injury could not then be
determined. There was, however, no sign of a wound.
It was no easy task to carry, half dragging it, the heavy body of Mr.
Damon off the platform, but the aeronaut was a muscular individual,
and long hanging from a trapeze, at great heights, stood him in good
He brought the unconscious man into the cabin, and then, quickly
returning to the platform, he detached the piece of scarf from the
propeller blade. Next he started the motor, and also turned on the gas
tank, so that the airship, in a few minutes, could float in space
"You needn't steer now, Tom," said the balloonist. "Just give me a
"Is-is he dead?" inquired the lad, his voice faltering.
"No, his heart's beating. I can't understand what happened."
Mr. Sharp was something of a rough and ready surgeon and doctor, and a
small box of medicines had been brought along in case of emergencies.
With the Red Cloud now lazily floating in the air, for, once the
falling motion had been checked by the engine, the motor had been
stopped again, Mr. Sharp set about restoring Mr. Damon to
It was not long before the man opened his eyes. The color that had
left his cheeks came back, and, after a drink of cold water he was
able to sit up.
"Did I fall?" he asked. "Bless my very existence, but did I tumble off
"No indeed," replied Tom, "though you came pretty near it. How do you
feel? Were you hurt?"
"Oh, I'm all right now-just a trifle dizzy. But I thought sure I was a
goner when I fell over the platform railing," and Mr. Damon could not
repress a shudder. Mr. Sharp administered some more medicine and his
patient was soon able to stand, and move about.
"How did it happen?" inquired the balloonist.
"I hardly know," answered Mr. Damon. "I was out on the platform,
looking at the view, and thinking how much better my neuralgia was,
with the scarf on. Suddenly the wind whipped loose one end of the
scarf, and, before I knew it the cloth had caught on the propeller
blade. I was blown, or drawn to one side, tossed against the railing,
which I managed to grab, and then I lost my senses. It's a good thing
I wasn't whirled around the propeller."
"It's a good thing you weren't tossed down to the earth," commented
Tom, shivering as he thought of his friend's narrow escape.
"I became unconscious, partly because the wind was knocked from me as
I hit the platform railing," went on Mr. Damon, "and partly from
fright, I think. But I'm all right now, and I'm not going out on that
platform again with a loose scarf on."
"I wouldn't go out at all again, if I were you, though, of course, I'm
used to dizzy heights," spoke Mr. Sharp.
"Oh, I'm not so easily frightened," declared Mr. Damon. "If I'm going
to be a balloonist, or an aeroplanist I've got to get used to certain
things. I'm all right now," and the plucky man was, for the blow to
his side did not amount to much. It was some time, however, before Tom
got over the fright his friend had caused him.
They spent that night moving slowly south, and in the morning found
they had covered about a hundred miles, not having run the ship to
anything like its maximum speed. Breakfast was served above the
clouds, for a change, Mr. Damon finding that he could stand the great
height with comfort.
It was three days after the start, and the travelers were proceeding
slowly along. They were totally unaware, of course, of the sensation
which their leaving, conjointly with the bank robbery, had caused, not
only in Shopton but in other places.
"We're over a good-sized city," announced Tom, on the noon of the
third day. "Suppose we drop down, and leave some message? Dad will be
anxious to hear from us."
"Good idea," commented Mr. Sharp. "Down it is. Shift the rudder."
Tom proceeded to do so, and, while Mr. Damon relieved him at the wheel
the young inventor prepared a message to his father. It was placed in
a weighted envelope, together with a sum of money, and the person
picking it up was requested to send the letter as a telegram,
retaining some money for his trouble.
As the ship got lower and lower over the city the usual crowds could
be seen congregating in the streets, pointing and gazing upward.
"We're creating quite a stir," observed Tom.
"More than usual, it seems," added Mr. Sharp, peering down. "I
declare, there seems to be a police parade under way."
"That's right," put in Mr. Damon, for, looking down, a squad of
uniformed officers, some on horseback, could be seen hurrying along
the main street, trying to keep pace with the airship, which was
"They're looking at us through telescopes," called Tom. "Guess they
never saw a balloon down this way."
Nearer and nearer to the city dropped the Red Cloud. Tom was about to
let go the weighted envelope, when, from the midst of the police came
several puffs of white smoke. It was followed by vicious, zipping
sounds about the cabin of the ship, the windows of which were open.
Then came the reports of several rifles.
"They're firing at us!" yelled Tom.
"So they are!" cried Mr. Sharp. "They must be crazy! Can't they see
that we're not a bird."
"Maybe they take us for a war balloon," suggested Mr. Damon.
Another volley was directed at the airship, and several bullets struck
the big aluminum gas holder glancing blows.
"Here! Quit that!" yelled Tom, leaning out of the window. "Are you
crazy? You'll damage us!"
"They can't hear you," called Mr. Sharp.
A third volley was fired, and this time several persons other than
police officers seemed to be shooting at the airship. Revolvers as
well as rifles were being used.
"We're got to get out of this!" shouted Mr. Sharp, as a bullet sang
uncomfortably close to his head. "I can't imagine what's gotten into
the people. Send her up, Tom!"
The lad quickly shifted the elevation rudder, and the Red Cloud sailed
majestically aloft. The young inventor had not dropped his message,
concluding that citizens who would fire on travelers of the air for no
reason, would not be likely to accommodate them in the matter of
The craft mounted rapidly upward, but before it was beyond rifle shot
another volley was fired, one bullet sending some splinters flying
from the wooden framework.
"Whew! That was a narrow escape!" exclaimed Mr. Sharp. "What in the
world can those people be up to, anyhow?"
Chapter 16 - Over a Fiery Furnace
Down below, the aeronauts could see the crowd, led by the police,
scurrying to and fro. Many individuals beside the officers appeared to
be holding weapons, and, from the puffs of smoke that spurted out, it
was evident that more shots were being fired. But the bullets could do
no harm, and the Red Cloud, under the force of the rapidly revolving
propellers, was soon beyond the center of the city.
"Well, if that isn't the limit!" cried Tom. "They must have taken us
for a German war balloon, about to drop explosives on them."
"Bless my liver!" ejaculated Mr. Damon, "I believe you're right. Eh,
The veteran balloonist took a careful look over the craft before
replying. Then he spoke:
"It couldn't be that," and he shook his head, as if puzzled. "They
would know no foreign airship would try any trick like that. Beside,
if by some remote possibility they did imagine it, there would be
soldiers shooting at us, instead of the police. As it was, the whole
population seemed anxious to bring us down."
"And they nearly did," added Mr. Damon. "If they had shot a few holes
in the gas bag where would we be?"
"Right in the air," answered the balloonist. "It would take several
volleys of bullets to damage our aluminum container. It is in sections
and when one, or even five compartments, for that matter, are pierced,
there is enough gas in the others to sustain us. So they could not
have damaged us much, even if they had shot a lot of holes in us. Even
without the gas container we can keep afloat by constantly moving, for
the planes will serve their purpose. Of course they could damage us,
and maybe put some of our machinery out of business, and that would be
a serious thing. But what puzzles me is why they fired at us at all."
"It couldn't be out of pure mischief; could it?" asked the young
"Hardly. If we were in a savage country I could understand the natives
firing at some such object as this airship, but the people of that
city must have known what our craft was. They probably have read
something about it in the news papers, and to deliberately fire on us,
with the chance of disabling us, seems worse than barbarous."
"Well, we won't give 'em another opportunity," commented Mr. Damon.
"No, indeed, not this city, but who knows but what the example may
spread? We may be fired at the next town we sail over."
"Then steer clear of the towns," advised Tom.
"Impossible. We must pass over some, but I'd like to solve this
The day passed without further incident, though they did not go low
enough down over any city to drop any messages. It was decided that it
would not be safe.
"We'll take a chance at night," suggested Tom, and that evening,
approaching a good-sized town in the dusk, several of the weighted
envelopes were dropped overboard. Doubtless persons walking along the
street, who were startled by hearing something fall with a "thud" at
their feet, were much startled to look up and see, dimly, a great,
ghostly shape moving in the air. But there was no shooting, and,
eventually, some of the messages reached Mr. Swift, in Shopton. But he
could not answer them for the airship kept on the move.
The night was spent floating in the air, with the engine stopped, and
the Red Cloud floating lazily this way and that as the gentle winds
shifted, for it was calm. The "anchorage" if such it may be called,
was above a sparsely settled part of the country, and if the lights of
the airship were seen from below, the farmers doubtless took them for
some new stars or, possibly, a comet.
"Now then for a fast, straight run!" cried Tom, after breakfast had
been served, and the big motor, with its twenty cylinders, started.
"We'll be able to make the turn to-day, and then make for home, won't
we, Mr. Sharp?"
"Well, we could do it, Tom," was the answer, "but I like this mode of
traveling so that I think I'll lengthen the voyage. Instead of turning
at Atlanta, what do you say to making for Key West, and then starting
back? That will be something of a trip. The Red Cloud is behaving much
better than I hoped she would."
"I'm willing to go further if Mr. Damon is."
"Oh, bless my shoe strings, I'm game!" exclaimed the eccentric man. "I
always did want to go to Key West, anyhow."
The craft was speeding along at a fast clip, and dinner that day was
served about three miles in the air. Then, desiring to test the
gliding abilities of the airship, it was sent down on a long slant,
with the propellers stationary, the shifting planes and rudders alone
As the craft fairly slid down out of the sky, like a sled on a bank of
fleecy snow, Tom, who was peering ahead, with his hand on the steering
wheel, cried out "I say! It looks as if we were going to run into a
"How's that?" inquired Mr. Sharp, poking his head from the motor
"He says there's a big storm ahead," repeated Mr. Damon, "and I guess
he's right. I see a big bank of dark clouds, and there is a roaring in
Mr. Sharp, who had been making some adjustments to the motor went
forward to take a look. The Red Cloud was swiftly gliding downward on
a slant, straight toward a dark mass of vapor, that seemed to be
rolling first one way, and then another, while as Mr. Damon had said,
there was a low rumbling proceeding from it.
"That doesn't seem to be a thunder storm," spoke the balloonist, with
a puzzled air.
They all regarded the dark mass of vapor intently for a few seconds.
Tom had brought the airship to a more level keel, and it was now
spinning along under its own momentum, like a flat piece of tin,
scaled by some lead. But it was headed for the clouds, if such they
were, though losing speed by degrees.
"I'll have to start the motor!" exclaimed Mr. Sharp. "We don't want to
run into a storm, if we can help it, though I don't ever remember
seeing a thunder disturbance like that."
"Whew! It's getting warm," suddenly announced the youth, and he let go
of the steering wheel for a moment, while he took off his coat.
"That's what it is," agreed Mr. Damon, who also divested himself of
his garments. "Bless my spark plug, but it's like a July day. No
wonder there's a thunderstorm ahead."
Then Mr. Sharp uttered a cry. "That's no storm!" he fairly shouted.
"It's a big forest fire! That's smoke we see! We must get out of this.
Turn around Tom, while I start the engine. We must rise above it!"
He fairly leaped for the motor, and Tom and Mr. Damon could hear him
turning the levers and wheels, ready to start. But before the
explosions came something happened. There was a sound as of some
great, siren whistle blowing, and then, with a howl of the on rushing
air, the Red Cloud, the propellers of which hung motionless on their
shafts, was fairly sucked forward toward the fire, as the current
sucks a boat over a water fall.
"Start the motor! Start the motor, Mr. Sharp!" cried Tom.
"I'm trying to, but something seems to be the matter."
"We're being drawn right over the fire!" yelled Mr. Damon. "It's
getting hotter every minute! Can't you do something?"
"You take the wheel," called the balloonist to Mr. Damon. "Steer
around, just as if it was an auto when we start the engine. Tom, come
here and give me a hand. The motor has jammed!"
The young inventor sprang to obey. Mr. Damon, his face showing some of
the fear he felt, grasped the steering wheel. The airship was now
about a quarter of a mile high, but instead of resting motionless in
the air, sustained by the gas in the container, she was being pulled
forward, right toward the heart of the mass of black vapor, which it
could now be seen was streaked with bright tongues of flame.
"What's making us go ahead, if the motor isn't going?" asked Tom, as
he bent over the machine, at which the aeronaut was laboring.
"Suction-draught from the fire!" explained Mr. Sharp. "Heated air
rises and leaves a vacuum. The cold air rushes in. It's carrying us
with it. We'll be right in the fire in a few minutes, if we can't get
started with this motor! I don't see what ails it."
"Can't we steer to one side, as it is?"
"No. We're right in a powerful current of air, and steering won't do
any good, until we have some motion of our own. Turn the gasolene
lever on a little more, and see if you can get a spark."
Tom did so, but no explosion resulted. The twenty cylinders of the big
engine remained mute. The airship, meanwhile, was gathering speed,
sucked onward and downward as it was by the draught from the fire. The
roaring was plainer now, and the crackling of the flames could be
heard plainly. The heat, too, grew more, intense.
Frantically Tom and Mr. Sharp labored over the motor. With the
perverseness usual to gas engines, it had refused to work at a
"What shall I do?" cried Mr. Damon from his position in the pilot
house. "We seem to be heading right for the midst of it?"
"Slant the elevation rudder," called Tom. "Send the ship up. It will
be cooler the higher we go. Maybe we can float over it!"
"You'd better go out there," advised Mr. Sharp. "I'll keep at this
motor. Go up as high as you can. Turn on more gas. That will elevate
us, but maybe not quick enough. The gas doesn't generate well in great
heat. I'm afraid we're in for it," he added grimly.
Tom sprang to relieve Mr. Damon. The heat was now intense. Nearer and
nearer came the Red Cloud to the blazing forest, which seemed to cover
several square miles. Great masses of smoke, with huge pieces of
charred and blazing wood carried up by the great draught, circled
around the ship. The Red Cloud was being pulled into the midst of the
fire by the strong suction. Tom yanked over the elevation rudder, and
the nose of the craft pointed upward. But it still moved downward,
and, a moment later the travelers of the air felt as if they were over
a fiery furnace.
Chapter 17 - "Wanted For Robbery!"
Choking and gasping for breath, feeling as if they could not stand the
intense heat more than a moment longer, the young inventor and his
companions looked at each other. Death seemed ready to reach out and
grasp them. The mass of heated air was so powerful that it swung and
tossed the Red Cloud about as if it were a wisp of paper.
"We must do something!" cried Mr. Damon, beginning to take off his
collar and vest. "I'm choking!"
"Lie down in the bottom of the car," suggested Mr. Sharp. "The smoke
won't trouble you so much there."
The eccentric man, too startled, now, to use any of his "blessing"
expressions, did so.
"Can't you start the motor?" asked Tom frantically, as he stuck to his
post, with his hand on the steering wheel, the elevation lever jammed
back as far as it would go.
"I've done my best," answered the balloonist, gasping as he swallowed
some smoke. "I'm afraid--afraid it's all up with us. We should have
steered clear of this from the first. My, how it roars!"
The crackling and snapping of the flames below them, as they fed on
the dry wood, which no rain had wet for weeks, was like the rush of
some great cataract. Up swirled the dark smoke-clouds, growing hotter
and hotter all the while as the craft came nearer and nearer to the
center of the conflagration.
"We must rise higher!" cried Tom. "It's our only chance. Turn on the
gas machine full power, and fill the container. That will carry us
"Yes, it's our only hope," muttered Mr. Sharp. "We must go up, but the
trouble is the gas doesn't generate so fast when there's too much
heat. We're bound to have to stay over this fiery pit for some time
"We're going up a little!" spoke Tom hopefully, as he glanced at a
gauge near him. "We're fifteen hundred feet now, and we were only
twelve a while ago."
"Good! Keep the elevation rudder as it is, and I'll see what I can do
with the gas," advised the balloonist. "It's our only hope," and he
hurried into the engine room, which, like the other parts of the
cabin, was now murky with choking vapor and soot.
Suddenly the elevation gauge showed that they were falling. The
airship was going down.
"What's the matter?" called Mr. Damon, from the cabin floor.
"I don't know," answered Tom, "unless the rudder has broken."
He peered through the haze. No, the big elevation rudder was still in
place, but it seemed to have no effect on the shim
"It's a down draught!" cried Mr. Sharp. "We're being sucked down. It
won't last but a few seconds. I've been in 'em before."
He seemed to have guessed rightly, for, the next instant the airship
was shooting upward again, and relief came to the aeronauts, though it
was not much, for the heat was almost unbearable, and they had taken
off nearly all their clothing.
"Lighten ship!" sung out Mr. Sharp. "Toss over all the things you
think we can spare, Tom. Some of the cases of provisions-we can get
more-if we need 'em. We must rise, and the gas isn't generating fast
There was no need for the young inventor at the steering wheel now,
for the craft simply could not be guided. It was swirled about, now
this way, now that, by the currents of heated air. At times it would
rise a considerable distance, only to be pulled down again, and, just
before Tom began to toss overboard some boxes of food, it seemed that
the end had come, for the craft went down so low that the upward
leaping tongues of flame almost reached the lower frame.
"I'll help you," gasped Mr. Damon, and while he and Tom tossed from
the cabin windows some of their stores, Mr. Sharp was frantically
endeavoring to make the gas generate faster.
It was slow work, but with the lightening of the ship their situation
improved. Slowly, so slowly that it seemed an age, the elevation
pointer went higher and higher on the dial.
"Sixteen hundred feet!" sung out Tom, pausing for a look at the gauge.
"That's the best yet!"
The heat was felt less, now, and every minute was improving their
situation. Slowly the hand moved. The gas was being made in larger
quantities now that the heat was less. Ten minutes more of agony, and
their danger was over. They were still above the burning area, but
sufficiently high so that only stray wisps of smoke enveloped them.
"Whew! But that was the worst ever!" cried Tom, as he sank exhausted
on a bench, and wiped his perspiring face. "We sure were in a bad
"I should say so," agreed Mr. Sharp. "And if we don't get a breeze we
may have to stay here for some time."
"Why, can't you get that motor to work yet?" asked Mr. Damon. "Bless
my gaiters, but I'm all in, as the boys say."
"I'll have another try at the machine now," replied Mr. Sharp.
"Probably it will work now, after we're out of danger without the aid
His guess proved correct, for, in a few minutes, with the aid of Tom,
the motor started, the propellers revolved, and the Red Cloud was sent
swiftly out of the fire zone.
"Now we'd better take account of ourselves, our provisions, and the
ship," said Mr. Sharp, when they had flown about twenty miles, and
were much refreshed by the cooler atmosphere. "I don't believe the
craft is damaged any, except some of the braces may be warped by the
heat. As for the provisions, you threw over a lot; didn't you, Tom?"
"Well, I had to."
"Yes, I guess you did. Well, we'll make a landing."
"Do you think it will be safe?" asked Mr. Damon anxiously. "We might
be fired upon again."
"Oh, there's no danger of that. But I'll take precautions. I don't
want a big crowd around when we come down, so we'll pick out a
secluded place and land just at dusk. Then in the morning we can look
over the ship, and go to the nearest town to buy provisions. After
that we can continue our journey, and we'll steer clear of forest
fires after this."
"And people who shoot at us," added Mr. Damon.
"Yes. I wish I knew what that was done for," and once again came that
puzzled look to the face of the balloonist.
The airship gently descended that evening in a large level field, a
good landing being made. just before the descent Tom took an
observation and located, about two miles from the spot they selected
for an "anchorage," a good-sized village.
"We can get provisions there," he announced.
"Yes, but we must not let it be known what they are for," said Mr.
Sharp, "or we'll have the whole population out here. I think this will
be a good plan: Tom, you and Mr. Damon go into town and buy the things
we need. I'll stay here with the airship, and look it all over. You
can arrange to have the stuff carted out here in the morning, and left
at a point say about a quarter of a mile away. Then we can carry it to
the ship. In that way no one will discover us, and we'll not be
bothered with curiosity-seekers."
This was voted a good idea, and, when the landing had been made, and a
hasty examination showed that the ship had suffered no great damage
from the passage over the fire, the young inventor and Mr. Damon
They soon found a good road, leading to town, and tramped along it in
the early evening. The few persons they met paid little attention to
them, save to bow in a friendly fashion, and, occasionally wish them
"I wonder where we are?" asked Tom, as they hurried along.
"In some southern town, to judge by the voices of the people, and the
number of colored individuals we've met," answered Mr. Damon.
"Let's ask," suggested Tom.
"No, if you do they'll know we're strangers, and they may ask a lot of
"Oh, I guess if it's a small place they'll know we're strangers soon
enough," commented Tom. "But when we get to the village itself we can
read the name on the store windows."
A few minutes later found them in the midst of a typical southern
town. It was Berneau, North Carolina, according to the signs, they
"Here's a restaurant," called Tom, as they passed a neat-appearing
one. "Let's go inside and get some supper before we buy our supplies."
"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Bless my flapjacks, but I am beginning
to feel hungry."
The eating place was a good one, and Tom's predictions about their
being taken for strangers was verified, for, no sooner had they given
their orders than the pretty, white girl, who waited on the table
"Ah reckon yo' all are from th' no'th; aren't yo'?"She smiled, as she
spoke, and Tom smiled back as he acknowledged it.
"Have you a paper-a newspaper I could look at?" he asked.
"Ah guess Ah can find one," went on the girl. "Ah reckon yo' all are
from N' York. N' Yorkers are so desperant bent on readin' th' news."
Her tones were almost like those of a colored person.
"Yes, we're from a part of New York," was Tom's reply.
When a newspaper was brought to him, after they had nearly finished
their meal, the young inventor rapidly scanned the pages. Something on
the front sheet, under a heading of big, black type caught his eye. He
started as he read it
WANTED FOR ROBBERY!
BANK LOOTERS ESCAPE IN RED AIRSHIP-FIRED AT
"Great Jehosophat!" exclaimed Tom, in a low voice. "What on earth can
"What?" inquired Mr. Damon. "Has anything happened?"
"Happened? I should say there had," was the answer. "Why, we're
accused of having robbed the Shopton Bank of seventy-five thousand
dollars the night before we left, and to have taken it away in the Red
Cloud. There's a general alarm out for us! Why this is awful!"
"It's preposterous!" burst out Mr. Damon. "I'll have my lawyers sue
this paper. Bless my stocks and bonds, I!"
"Hush! Not so loud," cautioned Tom, for the pretty waitress was
watching them curiously. "Here, read this, and then we'll decide what
to do. But one thing is certain, we must go back to Shopton at once to
clear ourselves of this accusation."
"Ha!" murmured Mr. Damon, as he read the article rapidly. "Now I know
why they fired at us. They hoped to bring us down, capture us, and get
the five thousand dollars reward!"
Chapter 18 - Back For Vindication
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