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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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More surprised than hurt, and with a feeling of chagrin and

anger at the trick which had been played on him, Tom managed to

scramble out of the brook. The water was not deep, but he had

splashed in with such force that he was wet all over. And, as he

got up, the water drip-ping from his clothes, the lad was

conscious of a pain in his head. He put up his hand, and found

that contact with a stone had raised a large lump on his

forehead. It was as big as a hen's egg.

"Humph! I'll be a pretty sight to-morrow," murmured Tom. "I

wonder who that fellow was, anyhow, and what he wanted? He

tripped me neatly enough, whoever he was. I've a good notion to

keep on after him."

Then, as he realized what a start the fleeing one had, the

young inventor knew that it would be fruitless to renew the

chase. Slowly he ascended the sloping bank, and started for home.

As he did so he realized that he had, clasped in his fingers,

something he had grabbed from the person he was pursuing just

before his unlucky tumble.

"It's part of his watch chain!" exclaimed Tom, as he felt of

the article. "I must have ripped it loose when I fell. Wonder

what it is? Evidently some sort of a charm. Maybe it will be a

clue." He tried to discern of what style it was, but in the dark

woods this was impossible. Then the lad tried to strike a match,

but those in his pocket had become wet from his unexpected bath.

"I'll have to wait until I get home," he went on, and he hastened

his steps, for he was anxious to see what he had torn loose from

the person who appeared to be spying on him.

"Why Tom, what's the matter?" exclaimed Mrs. Baggert, when he

entered the kitchen, dripping water at every step. "Is it raining

outside? I didn't hear any storm."

"It was raining where I was," replied Tom angrily. "I fell in

the brook. It was so hot I thought I'd cool off."

"With your best suit on!" ejaculated the housekeeper.

"It isn't my best," retorted the lad. "But I went in before I

thought. It was an accident; I fell," he added, lest Mrs. Baggert

take his joking remarks seriously. He did not want to tell her of

the chase.

The chief concern of the lad now was to look at the charm and,

as soon as Mrs. Baggert's attention was attracted elsewhere, Tom

glanced at the object he still held tightly clenched in his hand.

As the light from the kitchen fell upon it he could hardly

repress an exclamation of astonishment.

For the charm that he held in his hand was one he had seen

before dangling from the watch chain of Addison Berg, the agent

for Bentley & Eagert, submarine boat builders, which firm had, as

told in "Tom Swift and His Submarine," tried unsuccessfully to

secure the gold treasure from the sunken wreck. Berg and his

associates had even gone so far as to try to disable the Advance,

the boat of Tom and his father, by ramming her when deep down

under the ocean, but Mr. Swift's use of an electric cannon had

broken the steering gear of the Wonder, the rival craft, and from

that time on Tom and his friends had a clear field to search for

the bullion held fast in the hold of the Boldero. "Addison Berg,"

murmured Tom, as he looked at the watch charm. "What can he be

doing in this neighborhood? Hiding, too, as if he wanted to

overhear something. That's the way he did when we were building

our submarine, and now he's up to the same trick when I'm

constructing my electric car. I'm sure this charm is his. It is

such a peculiar design that I'm positive I can't be mistaken. I

thought, when I was chasing after him, that it would turn out to

be Andy Foger, or some of the boys, but it was too big for them.

Addison Berg, eh? What can he be doing around here? I must not

tell Dad, or he'd worry himself sick. But I must be on my guard."

Tom examined the charm closely. It was a compass, but made in

an odd form, and was much ornamented.

The young inventor had noticed it on several occasions when he

had been in conversation with Mr. Berg previous to the attempt on

the part of the owners of the rival submarine to wreck Tom's boat.

He felt that he could not be mistaken in identifying the charm.

"Berg was afraid I'd catch him, and ask for an explanation that

would have been awkward to make," thought the lad, as he turned

the charm over in his hand. "That's why he tripped me up. But

I'll get at the bottom of this yet. Maybe he wants to steal my

ideas for an electric car."

Tom's musings were suddenly interrupted by Mrs. Baggert.

"I hope you're not going to stand there all night," she said,

with a laugh. "You're in the middle of a puddle now, but when you

get over dreaming I'd like to mop it up."

"All right," agreed the young inventor, coming to himself

suddenly. "Guess I'd better go get some dry clothes on."

"You'd better go to bed," advised Mrs. Baggert. "That's where

your father and Mr. Sharp are. It's late."

The more Tom thought over the strange occurrence the more it

puzzled him. He mused over the presence of Berg as he went about

his work the next day, for that it was the agent whom he had

pursued he felt positive.

"But I can't figure out why he was hanging around here," mused Tom.

Then, as he found that his thoughts over the matter were

interfering with his work, he resolutely put them from him, and

threw himself energetically into the labor of completing his

electric car. The new batteries, he found, were working well, and

in the next two days he had constructed several more, joining

them so as to get the combined effect.

It was the afternoon of the third day from Tom's unexpected

fall into the brook that the young inventor decided on the first

important test of his new device. He was going to try the motor,

running it with his storage battery. Some of the connections were

already in place, the wires being fastened to the side of the

shop, where they were attached to switches. Tom did not go over

these, taking it for granted that they were all right. He soon

had the motor, which he was to install in his car, wired to the

battery, and then he attached a gauge, to ascertain, by

comparison, how many miles he could hope to travel on one

charging of the storage battery.

"Guess I'll call Dad and Mr. Sharp in to see how it works,

before I turn on the current," he said to himself. He was about

to summon his parent and the aeronaut from an adjoining shop,

where they were working over a new form of dynamo, when the lad

caught sight of the watch charm he had left on his desk, in plain


"Better put that away," he remarked. "Dad or Mr. Sharp might

see it, and ask questions. Then I'd have to explain, and I don't

want to, not until I get further toward the bottom of this thing."

He put the charm away, and then summoned his father and the


"You're going to see a fine experiment," declared Tom. "I'm

going to turn on the full strength of my battery."

"Are you sure it's all right, Tom?" asked his father. "You

can't be too careful when you're dealing with electricity of high

voltage, and great ampere strength.

"Oh, it's all right, Dad," his son assured him "Now watch my

motor hum."

He walked over to a big copper switch, and grasped the black

rubber handle to pull it over which would send the current from

the storage battery into the combination of wheels and gears that

he hoped, ultimately, would propel his electric automobile along

the highways, or on a track, at the rate of a hundred miles an hour.

"Here she goes!" cried Tom. For an instant he hesitated and

then pulled the switch. At the same time his hand rested on

another wire, stretched across a bench.

No sooner had the switch closed than there was a blinding

flash, a report as of a gun being fired, and Tom's body seemed to

straighten out. Then a blue flame appeared to encircle him and he

dropped to the floor of the shop, an inert mass.

"He's killed!" cried Mr. Swift, springing forward.

"Careful!" cautioned the balloonist. "He's been shocked! Don't

touch him until I turn off the current!" As he pulled out the

switch, the aeronaut gave a glance at the apparatus.

"There's something wrong here!" he cried. "The wires have been

crossed! That's what shocked Tom, but he never made the wrong

connections! He's too good an electrician! There's been some one

in this shop, changing the wires!"



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