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| Home | Reading Room Tom Swift And His Electric Runabout

Tom Swift And His Electric Runabout
or The Speediest Car on the Road
by Victor Appleton

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The Deep Forest Throng needed no urging to flee from the place

of the mysterious explosion. Their prisoner, helpless as he had

seemed, had proved too much for them. Slipping and stumbling

along in the darkness, the masked lads had but one thought--to

get away before they saw more of that blue fire, and the force of

the concussion.

"Gee! My eyebrows are all singed off!" cried Sam Snedecker, as

he tore loose his mask which had been rent in the explosion, and

felt of his face.

"And my hands are burned," added Pete Bailey. "I stood closer

to the fire than any of you."

"You did not! I got the worst of it!" cried Andy. "I was

knocked down by the explosion, and I'll bet I'm hurt somewhere. I

guess--Oh! Help! I'm falling in a mud hole!"

There was a splash, and the bully disappeared from the sight of

his companions who, now that the moon had risen, could better see

to flee from their prisoner.

"Help me out, somebody!" pleaded Andy. "I'm in a mud hole!"

They pulled him out, a sorry looking sight, and the red-haired lad,

whose locks were now black with muck, began to lament his lot.

"Dry up!" commanded Sid Holton. "It's all your fault, for

proposing such a fool trick as capturing Tom Swift. We might have

known he would get the best of us."

"What was that stuff he used, anyhow?" asked Cecil Hedden, the

lad responsible for the organization of the Deep Forest Throng.

"He must be a wonder. Does he do sleight-of-hand tricks?"

"He does all sorts of tricks," replied Pete Bailey, feeling of

a big lump on his head, caused by falling on a stone in the mad

rush. "I guess we were chumps to tackle him. He must have put

some kind of chemical in the fire, to make it blow up."

"Or else he summoned his airship by wireless, and had that balloonist,

Mr. Sharp, drop a bomb in the blaze," suggested another lad.

"But how could he do anything? Wasn't he tied fast to that

tree?" asked Cecil, the leader.

"You never know when you've got Tom Swift tied," declared Jack

Reynolds. "You think you've got him, and you haven't. He's too

slick for us. It's Andy's fault, for proposing to capture him."

"That's right! Blame it all on me," whined the squint-eyed bully.

"You was just as anxious as I was to tar and feather him."

"Well, we didn't do it," commented Pete Bailey, dryly.

"I s'pose he's loose now, laughin' at us. Gee, but that was an

explosion though! It's a wonder some of us weren't killed!

I guess I've had enough of this Deep Forest Throng business.

No more for mine."

"Aw, don't be afraid," urged Cecil. "The next time we get him

we'll be on our guard."

"You'll never catch Tom Swift again," predicted Pete.

"I'll go back now to where he is, if you will," agreed Cecil,

who was older than the others.

"Not much!" cried Pete. "I've had enough."

This seemed to be the sentiment of all. Away they stumbled

through the woods, and, emerging on the road, scattered to their

several homes, not one but who suffered from slight burns,

contusions, torn and muddy clothes or injured feelings as the

outcome of the "joke" on the young inventor.

But our hero was not yet free from the bonds of his enemies.

When they scattered and ran, after the vivid blue light, and the

dull explosion, which, being unconfined, did no real damage, Tom

was still fast to the tree. As his eyes became accustomed to the

semi-darkness that followed the glare, he remarked:

"Well, I don't know that I'm much better off. I gave those

fellows a good scare, but I'm not loose. But I can work to better

advantage now."

Once more he resumed the effort to free himself, but in spite

of the crude manner in which the knots had been made, the lad

could not get loose. The more he pulled and tugged the tighter

they seemed to become.

"This is getting serious," Tom mused. "If I could only reach my

knife I could cut them, but it's in my pocket on the other side,

and that bond's fast. Guess I'll have to stay here all night.

Maybe I'd better call for help, but--"

His words, spoken half aloud, were suddenly interrupted by a

crash in the underbrush. Somebody was approaching. At first Tom

thought it was Andy and his cronies coming back, but a voice that

called a moment later proved that this was not so.

"Is any one here?" shouted a man. "Any one hurt? What was that

fire and explosion?"

"I'm here," replied Tom. "I'm not hurt exactly, but I'm tied to

a tree. I'll be much obliged if you'll loosen me."

"Who are you?"

"Tom Swift. Is that you, Mr. Mason?"

"Yes. By jinks! I never expected to find you here, Tom. Over

this way, men," he added calling aloud. "I've found him; it's Tom Swift."

There was the flicker of several lanterns amid the trees, and

soon a number of men had joined Mr. Mason, and surrounded Tom.

They were farmers living in the neighborhood.

"What in the name o' Tunket happened?" asked one. "Did you get

hit by a meteor or a comet? Who tied you up; highwaymen?"

"Cut him loose first, and ask questions afterward," suggested Mr. Mason.

"Yes," added Tom, with a laugh, "I wish you would. I'm

beginning to feel cramped."

With their knives, the farmers quickly cut the ropes, and some

of them rubbed the arms of the lad to restore the circulation.

"What was it--highwaymen?" asked a man, unable to longer

restrain his curiosity. "Did they rob you?"

"No, it wasn't highwaymen," replied the youth. "It was a trick

of some boys I know," and to Tom's credit be it said that he did

not mention their names. "They did it for a joke," he added.

"Boys' trick? Joke?" queried Mr. Mason. "Pretty queer sort of a

joke, I think. They ought to be arrested."

"Oh, I fancy I gave them what was coming to them," went on the

young inventor.

"Did they try to blow ye up, too?" asked Mr. Hertford. "What in

th' name of Tunket was that blue light, and that explosion? I

heard it an' saw it way over to my house."

"So did I," remarked Mr. Mason, and several others said the

same thing. "We thought a meteor had fallen," he continued, "and

we got together to make an investigation."

"It's a good thing for me you did," admitted Tom, "or I might

have had to stay here all night."

"But was it a meteor?" insisted Mr. Hertford.

"No," replied the lad, "I did it."


"Yes. You see after they tied me I found I could get one hand

free. I reached in my pocket for my knife, but instead of it I

managed to get hold of a package of powder I had."

"Gunpowder?" asked Mr. Mason.

"No, a chemical powder I use in an electrical battery. The

powder explodes in fire, and makes quite a blue flash, and a lot

of smoke, but it isn't very dangerous, otherwise I wouldn't have

used it. When the boys were some distance away from the fire, I

threw the powder in the blaze. It went off in a moment, and--"

"I guess they run some; didn't they?" asked Mr. Mason with a laugh.

"They certainly did," agreed Tom.



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