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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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Once the current was cut off it was safe to approach the body

of the young inventor. Mr Sharp stooped over and lifted Tom's

form from the floor, for Mr. Swift was too excited and trembled

too much to be of any service. Our hero was as one dead. His body

was limp, after that first rigid stretching out, as the current

ran through him; his eyes were closed, and his face was very pale.

"Is--is there any hope?" faltered Mr. Swift.

"I think so," replied the balloonist. "He is still breathing-

faintly. We must summon a doctor at once. Will you telephone for

one, while I carry him in the house?"

As Mr. Sharp emerged from the shop, bearing Tom's body, an

automobile drew up in front of the place.

"Bless my soul!" exclaimed a voice. "Tom's hurt! How did it

happen? Bless my very existence!"

"Oh, Mr. Damon, you're just in time!" exclaimed Mr. Sharp,

"Tom's had a bad shock. Will you go for a doctor in your auto?"

"Better than that! Let me take Tom in the car to Dr.

Whiteside's office," proposed the eccentric man. "It will be

better that way."

"Yes, yes," agreed Mr. Swift eagerly. "Put Tom in the auto!"

"If only it doesn't break down," added Mr. Damon fervently.

"Bless my spark plug, but it would be just my luck!"

But they started off all right, Mr. Swift riding in front with

Mr. Damon, and Mr. Sharp supporting Tom in the tonneau. Only a

little fluttering of the eyelids, and a slow, faint breathing

told that Tom Swift still lived.

Mr. Damon never guided a car better than he did his auto that

day. Several speed laws were broken, but no one appeared to stop

them, and, in record time they had the young inventor at the

physician's house. Fortunately Dr. Whiteside was at home, and,

under his skillful treatment Tom was soon out of danger. His

heart action was properly started, and then it was only a

question of time. As the doctor had plenty of room it was decided

to let the lad remain that night, and Tom was soon installed in a

spare bedroom, with the doctor's pretty daughter to wait on him


"Oh, I'm all right," the youth insisted, when Miss Whiteside

told him it was time for his medicine. "I'm all right."

"You're not!" she declared. "I ought to know, for I'm going to

be a nurse, some day, and help papa. Now take this or I'll have

to hold your nose, as they do the baby's," and she held out a

spoonful of unpleasant looking mixture, extending her dainty

forefinger and thumb of her other hand, as if to administer dire

punishment to Tom, if he did not obey.

"Well, I give in to superior strength," he said with a laugh,

as he noted, with approval, the laughing face of his nurse.

Then he fell into a deep sleep, and was so much better the next

morning that he could be taken home in Mr. Damon's auto.

"But mind, no hard work for three or four days," insisted the

physician. "I want your heart to get in shape for that big race

you were telling me about. The shock was a severe strain to it."

Tom promised, reluctantly, and, though he did no work, his

first act, on reaching home, was to go out to the shop, to

inspect the battery and motor. To his surprise the motor was

running for the lad had established the connection, in spite of

his shock and his father and Mr. Sharp had decided to let the

machinery run until he came back.

"And look at the record it's made!" cried Tom delightedly as he

glanced at the gauge "Better than I figured on. That battery is a

wonder. I'll have the fastest electric runabout you ever saw."

"If the wires don't get crossed again," put in Mr. Sharp.

"You'd better make an examination, Tom," and, for the first time,

the young inventor learned how he had been shocked.

"Crossed wires! I should say they were crossed!" he exclaimed

as he looked at the switches and copper conductors. "Somebody has

been tampering with them. No wonder I was shocked!"

"Who did it?" asked Mr. Sharp.

Tom considered for a moment, before answering. Then he said:

"I believe it was Addison Berg. He must have wanted to do some

damage, to get even with us for getting that treasure away from him."

"Berg?" questioned the balloonist, and Tom told of the night he

had been tripped into the brook, and exhibited the watch charm he

had secured. Mr. Sharp recognized it at once. A further

examination confirmed the belief that the submarine agent had

sneaked into Tom's workshop, and had altered the wires.

"They were all right when I came out of the shop that night,"

declared Tom. "I left the old connections just as I thought I had

arranged them, and only added the new ones, when I went to try my

battery. The old connections were crossed, but I didn't notice

it. Then when I turned on the current I got the shock. I don't

s'pose Berg thought I'd be so nearly killed. Probably he wanted

to burn out my motor, and spoil it. If it was Andy Foger I could

understand it, but a man like Berg--"

"He's probably wild with anger because his submarine got the

worst of it in the race for the gold," interrupted the

balloonist. "Well, we'll have to be on our guard, that's all.

What was the matter with Eradicate, that he didn't see him enter

the shop?"

"Rad went to a colored dance that night," said Tom. "I let him

off. But after this I'll have the shop guarded night and day. My

motor might have been ruined, if that first charge hadn't gone

through my body instead of into the machinery." The improper

connections were soon removed and others substituted.

It was agreed between Tom and Mr. Sharp that they would say

nothing regarding Mr. Berg to Mr. Swift. The aeronaut caused

cautious inquiries to be made, and learned that the agent had

been discharged by the submarine firm, because of some wrong-

doing in connection with the craft Wonder, and it was surmised

that the agent believed Tom to be at the bottom of his troubles.

In a few days the young inventor was himself again, and as

further trials of his battery showed it to be even better than

its owner hoped, arrangements were made for testing it in the car

on the road.

The runabout was nearly finished, but it lacked a coat of

varnish, and some minor details, when Tom, assisted by his

father, Mr Sharp and Mr. Jackson, one morning, about a week

later, installed the motor and battery units. It did not take

long to gear up the machinery, connect the battery and, though

the car was rather a crude looking affair, Tom decided to give it

a try-out.

"Want to come along, Dad?" he asked, as he tightened up some

binding posts, and looked to see that the steering wheel,

starting and reverse levers worked properly, and that the side

chains were well lubricated.

"Not the first time," replied his father. "Let's see how it

runs with you, first."

"Oh, I want some sort of a load in it," went on the lad. "It

won't be a good test unless I have a couple of others besides

myself. How about you, Mr. Damon?" for the old gentleman was

spending a few days at the Swift homestead.

"Bless my shoe buttons! I'll come!" was the ready answer.

"After the experience I've been through in the airship and

submarine, nothing can scare me. Lead on, I'll follow!"

"I don't suppose you'll hang back after that; will you, Mr.

Sharp?" asked the lad, with a laugh.

"I don't dare to, for the sake of my reputation," was the

reply, for the balloonist who had made many ascensions, and

dropped thousands of feet in parachutes, was naturally a brave man.

So he and Mr. Damon climbed into the rear seats of the odd-

looking electric car, while Tom took his place at the steering wheel.

"Are you all ready?" he asked.

"Let her go!" fired back Mr. Sharp.

"Bless my galvanometer, don't go too fast on the start,"

cautioned Mr. Damon, nervously.

"I'll not," agreed the young inventor. "I want to get it warmed

up before I try any speeding."

He turned on the current. There was a low, humming purr, which

gradually increased to a whine, and the car moved slowly forward.

It rolled along the gravel driveway to the road, Tom listening to

every sound of the machinery, as a mother listens to the

breathing of a child.

"She's moving!" he cried.

"But not much faster than a wheelbarrow," said his father, who

sometimes teased his son.

"Wait!" cried the youth.

Tom turned more current into the motor. The purring and humming

increased, and the car seemed to leap forward. It was in the road

now, and, once assured that the steering apparatus was working

well, Tom suddenly turned on much more speed.

So quickly did the electric auto shoot forward that Mr. Damon

and Mr. Sharp were jerked back against the cushions of the rear seats.

"Here! What are you doing?" inquired Mr. Sharp.

"I'm going to show you a little speed," answered Tom.

The car was now moving rapidly, and there was a smoothness and

lightness to its progress that was absent from a gasolene auto.

There was no vibration from the motor. Faster and faster it ran,

until it was moving at a speed scarcely less than that of Mr.

Damon's car, when it was doing its best. Of course that was not

saying much, for the car owned by the odd gentleman was not a

very powerful one, but it could make fast time occasionally.

"Is this the best you can do?" asked Mr. Damon. "Not that it

isn't fast," he hastened to add, "and I was wondering if it was

your limit."

"Not half!" cried Tom, as he turned on a little more power.

"I'm not trying for a record to-day. I just want to see how the

battery and motor behaves."

"Pretty well, I should say," commented Mr. Sharp.

"I'm satisfied--so far," agreed the lad.

They were now moving along the highway at a good speed--moving

almost silently, too, for the motor, save for a low hum, made no

noise. So quiet was the car, in fact, that it was nearly the

cause of a disaster. Tom was so interested in the performance of

his latest invention, that, before he knew it, he had come up

behind a farmer, driving a team of skittish horses. As the big

machine went past them, giving no warning of its approach, the

steeds reared up, and would have bolted, but for the prompt

action of the driver.

"Hey!" he cried, angrily, as Tom speeded past, "don't you know

you got to give warnin' when you're comin' with one of them ther

gol-swizzled things! By Jehossephat I'll have th' law on ye ef ye

do thet ag'in!"

"I forgot to ring the bell," apologized Tom, as he sent out a

peal from the gong, and then, he let out a few more amperes, and

the speed increased.

"Hold on! I guess this is fast enough!" cried Mr. Damon, as his

hat blew off.

"Fast?" answered Tom. "This is nothing to what I'll do when I

use the full power. Then I'll--"

He was interrupted by a sharp report, and a vivid flash of fire

on a switch board near the steering wheel. The motor gave a sort

of groan, and stopped, the car rolling on a little way, and then

becoming stationary.

"Bless my collar button!" ejaculated Mr. Damon.

"What's the matter?" inquired Mr. Sharp.

"Some sort of a blow-out," answered Tom ruefully, as he shoved

the starting handle over, trying to move the car. But it would

not budge. The new auto had "gone dead" on her first tryout. The

young inventor was grievously disappointed.



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