A BLINDING FLASH
Stumbling on through the dark woods, led by his captors, Tom
tried to pierce the gloom and identify the persons who had firm
grips on either side of him. But it was useless. A little light
sifted down from the starlit sky above, but it was not
sufficient. The young inventor was beginning to think, after all,
that he had fallen into the hands of the Happy Harry gang, and he
knew that if this was so he need expect no mercy.
But two things were against this belief. One was that the
principal members of the gang were still in jail, or at least
they were supposed to be, and another was that there were too
many of the captors. Happy Harry's crowd never numbered so many.
"Maybe they're highwaymen," thought our hero, as he was dragged
along "But that can't be," he reasoned further. "If they
to rob me they'd have done it back there in the road, and not
brought me off here in the woods. Besides, I haven't anything for
them to steal."
Suddenly Tom stumbled over a projecting root, and nearly fell,
dragging along with him the person who had hold of his left arm.
"Look out there! What's the matter with you?" exclaimed one of
the throng quickly, and at the sound of the voice Tom started.
"Andy Foger!" cried the young inventor, as he recovered
himself, for he had recognized the voice of the red-haired bully.
"What do you mean by holding me up in this way?" he demanded.
"Quiet!" urged a voice in his ear, and the tones were unfamiliar.
"Mention no names!"
"I'm on to your game!" retorted Tom. "I know you're here,
and Sam and Pete; and Jack Reynolds and Sid Holton," and he named
two rather loose-charactered lads, who were often in the company
of Andy and his cronies. "You'd better quit this nonsense," Tom
went on. "I'll cause the arrest of all of you if you make trouble
for me. I know who you are now!"
"You think you do," answered the voice in his ear, and the
young inventor concluded that it must be some lad whom he did not
know. "Nor is this nonsense," the other went on. "You are
to receive the punishment due you."
Our hero did not answer, but he was doing some hard thinking.
He wondered why Andy and his crowd had captured him.
Suddenly the blackness of the woods was illuminated by the
fitful gleam of a distant fire. Tom could see more plainly now,
and he managed to count about ten dusky figures hurrying along,
four being close to him, to prevent his escape, and the others
running on ahead. The light became stronger, and, a moment later
the prisoner and his captors emerged into a little clearing,
where a fire was burning. Two figures, masked with black cloth,
as were all in the crowd, stood about the blaze, putting on
sticks of wood.
"Did you get him?" asked one of these figures eagerly.
"Yes, they got me, Sam Snedecker," answered Tom quickly,
recognizing Sam's tones. "And they'll wish they hadn't before I'm
done with them."
"Quiet!" ordered an unknown voice. "Members of the Deep Forest
Throng, the prisoner is here!" the lad went on.
"'Tis well, bind the captive to the sacrificial tree," was the
response from some one in the crowd.
Tom laughed. He was at ease now, for he recognized that those
who had taken him prisoner were all lads of Andy's character.
Most of them were Shopton youths, but some, evidently, were
strangers in town. Tom felt he had little to fear.
"Bring him over here," ordered one, and Tom cried out:
"You wouldn't be giving those orders, Andy Foger, if my arms
weren't tied. And if you'll untie me, I'll fight any two of you
at once," offered the young inventor fiercely, for he hated the
humiliation to which he was being subjected.
"Don't do it! Don't untie him!" begged some one.
"No danger, they won't. They're afraid to, Pete Bailey,"
replied Tom quickly, for he had recognized the voice of the other
one of Andy's particular cronies.
"Aw, he knows who we are," whispered Sam, but not so low but
that our hero heard him.
"No matter," was Andy's retort. "Let's go ahead with it.
him to that tree."
It was useless for Tom to struggle. He was bound too tightly by
the rope, and the crowd was too many for him. In a few minutes he
was securely fastened to a tree, not far from the camp-fire,
which was replenished from time to time.
"Now for the judgment!" called one of the masked lads, in what
he meant to be a sepulchral tone. "What is the charge against the
prisoner? Brother Number One of the Deep Forest Throng, what is
"He's a regular snob, that's what's the trouble," answered
Andy Foger, though whether he was "Brother Number One," did not
appear. "He's too fresh and--and--"
"I'll make you wish you felt fresh when I get hold of you,
Andy," murmured Tom.
"Quiet!" cried a tall lad. "What's the next charge?"
"He keeps an old colored man on guard at his place," was the
answer, and Tom had no difficulty in recognizing the voice of Sid
Holton. "The coon throws whitewash all over us. I got some of it."
"You wouldn't have, if you'd minded your own business,"
retorted Tom. "It served you right!"
"What is the verdict on the prisoner?" asked one who seemed to
be the leader.
"I say let's tar and feather him!" cried Andy suddenly.
"There's a barrel of tar back in the woods here, and we can get
some feathers from a chicken coop. That would make him so he
wouldn't be so uppish, I guess!"
"That's right! Tar and feathers!" exclaimed several.
Our hero's heart sank. He was not afraid, but he did not relish
the indignity that was proposed. He resolved to fight to the last
ounce of his strength against the masked lads.
"Can we get a kettle to heat the tar in?" asked some one.
"We'll find one," answered Sam Snedecker. "Come on, let's
it. You'll look pretty, Tom Swift, when we're through with you,"
Tom did not answer, but there was fierce anger in his heart.
The tar and feather proposal seemed to meet with general favor.
"Members of the Deep Forest Throng, we will hold a
consultation," proposed the leader, in his assumed deep voice.
"Come over here, to one side. Brother Number Six, guard the
"There ain't no need to," answered a lad who had been
instructed to mount guard over Tom. "He's tied so tight he can't
move. I want to hear what you say."
"Very well then," assented the leader, "But look to his bonds."
The lad made a hasty examination of the ropes binding the young
inventor to the tree, and Tom was glad that the examination was a
hasty one. For he feared the guard might discover that one hand
had been worked nearly free. The young inventor had done this
while he leered at his captors.
Tom was not going to submit tamely to the nonsense, and from
the moment he had been tied, he had been trying to get loose. He
had nearly succeeded in freeing one hand when the crowd of masked
boys moved off to one side, where they presently began to talk in
"I wonder how they came to catch me," thought the prisoner, as
he worked feverishly to further loosen the ropes. "This looks as
if it was a put-up job, with the masks, and everything." Later
he learned that the idea was the outcome of a proposal of one of
the new arrivals in town. He had organized the "Deep Forest
Throng," as a sort of secret society, and Andy and his cronies
had been induced to join. It was Andy's proposal to capture Tom,
though, and, having seen him depart for Mansburg on his motor-
cycle, and knowing that he would return along a road that ran
near the woods where the Throng met, suggested that they take Tom
captive. The idea was enthusiastically received, and Andy and his
cronies thought they saw a chance to be revenged.
Tom, while he picked at the ropes, listened to what the boys
were saying. He heard frequent mention of tar and feathers, and
began to believe, that unless he could get free, while they were
off there consulting, he might be forced to submit to the
He managed to get one hand comparatively free, so that he could
move it about, but then he struck several hard knots, and could
make no further progress. The conference seemed on the point of
"One of you go for a big kettle to boil the tar in," ordered
the leader, "and the rest of you dig up some feathers."
"I must get loose!" thought Tom desperately. "If they try
tar and feather me it will be a risky business. I've got to get
loose! They may burn me severely!"
But, though he tried with all his strength, the ropes would not
loosen another bit. He had one hand free, and that was all. The
crowd was moving back toward him.
"My knife!" thought the captive quickly. "If I can reach
in my pocket I can cut the ropes! Once I get loose I'll fight the
He managed to get his free hand into his pocket. His fingers
touched something. It was not his knife, and, for a moment he
felt a pang of disappointment. Then, as he realized what it was
that he had grasped, a new idea came to him.
"This will be better than the knife!" he thought exultantly.
The crowd of lads was now surrounding him, some distance from the
fire, which burned in front of the captive.
"Sentence has been passed upon you," remarked the leader.
"Prepare to meet thy doom! Get the materials, brothers!"
"One moment!" called Tom, for he wanted the crowd all present
to witness what he was about to do. "I'll give you one chance to
let me go peaceably. If you don't--"
"Well, what will you do?" demanded Andy sneeringly, as he
pulled his mask further over his face. "I guess you won't do
anything, Tom Swift."
"I'll give you one chance to let me go, and I'll agree to say
nothing about this joke," went on Tom. "If you don't I'll blow
this place up!"
For a moment there was a silence.
"Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!" laughed Sam Snedecker. "Listen to him!
blow the place up! I'd like to see you do it! You can't get loose
in the first place, and you haven't anything to blow it up with
in the second. I'd like to see you do it; hey, fellers?"
"Sure," came the answering chorus.
"Would you?" asked Tom quickly. "Then watch. Stand back if
don't want to get hurt, and remember that I gave you a chance to
let me go!"
Tom made a rapid motion with the hand he had gotten loose. He
threw something to ward the blazing fire, which was now burning well.
Something white sailed through the air, and fell amid the hot embers.
There was a moment's pause, and then a blinding flash of blue
fire lighted up the woods, and a dull rumble, as when gun-powder
is lighted in the open followed. A great cloud of white smoke
arose, as the vivid blue glare died away, and it seemed as if a
great wind swept over the place. Several of the masked lads were
knocked down by the explosion, and when the rumble died away, and
deep blackness succeeded the intense blue light, there came cries
of pain and terror. The fire had been scattered, and extinguished
by the explosion which Tom, though still bound to the tree had
caused to happen in the midst of the Deep Forest Throng. Then, as
the smoke rolled away, Andy Foger cried:
"Come on, fellows! Something's happened. I guess a volcano blew up!"
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Swift And His Electric Runabout