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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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Around the bend came the six-cylinder touring car. The driver,

with a surprised look on his face, was slacking up. He ran his

machine up alongside of Tom's.

"Say," he asked, in dazed tones, "did you take a short cut, or

anything like that to get ahead of me?"

"No," answered the youth.

"And you didn't jump me in the air?"

"No," was Tom's answer, smilingly given.

"Well, all I've got to say is that you've got a wonderful car

there, Mr.--er--er--" He paused suggestively.

"Swift is my name," our hero answered. "Thomas Swift, of Shopton."

"Ah, I've heard of you. My name is Layton --Paul Layton. I'm

from Netherton. Let's see, you built an airship, didn't you?"

"I helped," Tom admitted modestly.

"Well, you beat me fair and square, and if I do say it myself

I've got a fairly speedy car. Took two firsts at the Indianapolis

meet last month. But you certainly scooted ahead of me. Where did

you buy that electric, if I may ask?"

"I made it."

"I might have known," admitted the man. "But are you going to

put them on the market? If you are I'd like to get one. I want

the fastest car going, and you seem to have it."

"I hadn't thought of manufacturing them for sale," said the

young inventor. "If I do, I'll let you know."

"I wish you would. My! I had no idea you could beat me, but you

did--fair and square."

There was some more talk, and then Mr. Layton started on, after

exacting from Tom a further promise to let him know if any

electrics were to be made for sale.

"You certainly have a wonderful car," complimented Ned, as he

and his chum took a short cut to Shopton.

"Well, I'm not quite satisfied with it," declared Tom.

"Why not?"

"Well, I've set a hundred miles an hour as my limit. I didn't

make but eighty to-day. I've got to have more speed if I go up

against the crowd that will race for the touring club's prize."

"Can you make a hundred miles?"

"I think so. I've got to change my gears, though, and use

heavier fuses. I was afraid every second that one of the fuses

would melt, and leave me stranded. But they stood pretty well. Of

course, when the car, geared as it is now, has been run a little

longer it will go faster, but it won't come up to a hundred miles

an hour. That's what I want, and that's what I'm going to get,"

and the lad looked very determined.

Ned was taken to the bank, and, as Tom turned his machine

around, to go home, he saw, standing on the steps of the new

bank, which was almost across the street from the old one, Andy

Foger, and the bully's father. The red-haired lad laughed at

Tom's rough looking car, and said something to his parent, but

Mr. Foger did not notice Tom. Not that this caused our hero any

uneasiness, however.

But, as he swung away from the bank, he saw, coming up the

street a figure that instantly attracted his attention. It was

that of Mr. Berg, and Tom at once recalled the night he had

pursued the submarine agent, and torn loose his watch charm. Mr.

Berg was evidently going to enter the new bank, for, at the sight

of the former agent, Mr. Foger descended the steps, and went to

meet him.

Tom, however, had decided upon a plan of action. He steered his

machine in toward the curb, ran up the steel wind-shield, and called:

"Mr. Berg!"

"Eh? What's that?" asked the agent, in some surprise. Then, as

he caught sight of Tom, and recognized him, he added: "I'm very

busy now, my young friend. You'll have to excuse me."

"I won't detain you a moment," went on Tom, casually. "I have

something of yours that I wish to return to you."

"Something of mine?" Mr. Berg was evidently puzzled. He

approached the electric car, in spite of the fact that Mr. Foger

was calling him. "Something of mine? What is it?"

"This!" exclaimed Tom suddenly, extending the compass watch

charm, which he always carried with him of late.

"That! Where did you get that. I lost it--"

Mr. Berg paused in some confusion.

"I grabbed it off your watch chain the night you were hiding in

our shrubbery, and tripped me into the brook," answered the lad,

looking the man squarely in the eye.

"Hiding? Tripped you? Grabbed that off my chain--" stammered

Mr. Berg. He had taken the charm up in his fingers, but now he

quickly dropped it back into Tom's hand. "I guess you're

mistaken," he added quickly. "That's not mine. I never had one--

I--er--that's not mine--at least--Oh, you'll have to excuse me,

young man, I'm in a hurry, and I have an important engagement!"

and with that Mr. Berg wheeled off, and joined Mr. Foger, who

stood on the sidewalk, waiting for him.

"I thought sure it was yours," said Tom, easily. "Perhaps Mr.

Foger will keep it in one of the safety-deposit boxes of his

bank, until the owner claims it," and he looked at the banker.

"What's that?" asked Andy's father.

"This watch charm which I grabbed off Mr. Berg's chain the

night he was sneaking around our house, and crossed the electric

wires," went on the lad.

"Don't listen to him. He doesn't know what he is saying!"

exclaimed the former submarine boat agent. "It's not my charm.

He's crazy!"

"Oh, am I?" thought Tom, with a grim look on his face. "Well,

we'll see about that, Mr. Berg," and, putting the charm back in

his pocket, Tom swung his machine toward home, while the agent

and the banker entered the new institution.

"So they're getting chummy," mused Tom. "Andy and Berg were

friends when Andy shut me up in the submarine tank, and now Berg

comes here to do business, and Foger and his associates are

trying to put the old bank out of business. I wonder if there's

any connection there? I must keep my eyes open. Berg is an

unscrupulous man, and so is Andy's father, to say nothing of the

red-haired bully himself. He had nerve to deny that was his

charm. Well, maybe I'll catch him some day."

Tom spent a busy week making new adjustments to his electric

car, changing the gear and providing for heavier fuses. He was

planning for another trip on the road, as the time for the great

race was drawing near, and he wanted the mechanism to be in

perfect shape.

One evening, as he was preparing for a short night trip to

Mansburg, where he had promised to call for Miss Nestor, Tom left

his machine standing in the road in front of the house, while he

went back to get a robe, as it threatened to be chilly.

As he came back to enter the car, he saw some one standing near it.

"Is that you, Ned?" he called. "Come, take a spin."

Hardly had he spoken than there sounded from the machine a

whirr that told of the current being turned on.

"Don't do that!" cried Tom, knowing at once that it could not

be Ned, who never meddled with the machinery.

A blinding flash and a loud report followed, and Tom saw some

one leap from his car, and try to run away. But the figure

stumbled, and, a moment later the young inventor was upon him,

grappling with him.

"Here! Let me go!" cried a voice, and Tom uttered an

exclamation of surprise.

"Andy Foger!" he cried. "I've caught you! You tried to damage

my car!"

"Yes, and I'm hurt, too!" whined Andy. "My father will sue you

for damages if I die."

"No danger of that; you're too mean," murmured Tom, as he

maintained a tight grip on the bully.

"You let me go!" demanded Andy, squirming to get away.

"Wait until I see what damage you've done,'~ retorted the young

inventor. "The worst, though, would be the blowing out of a fuse,

for I had the gear disconnected. You wait a minute now. Maybe

it's you who'll have to pay damages."

"You let me go!" fairly screamed Andy, and he aimed a blow at

Tom. It caught our hero on the chest and Tom's fighting blood was

up in an instant. He drew back his left hand, and delivered a

blow that landed fairly on Andy's right eye. The bully staggered

and went down in the dust.

"There!" cried Tom, righteously angry. "That will teach you not

to try to damage my car, and then hit me into the bargain! Now

clear out, before I give you some more!"

Whining and blubbering Andy arose to his feet.

"You just wait. I'll get square with you for this," he threatened.

"You can accept part of that as pay for what you did in the tar

and feathering game," added Tom. Then, as Andy moved in front of

one of the electric side lamps on the car, Tom uttered a whistle

of surprise. For both of Andy's eyes were bruised and swollen,

though Tom had only hit him once.

"Look at me!" cried the bully, more squint-eyed than ever.

"Look at me! You hit me in one eye, and that explosion hit me in

the other! My father will sue you for this."

As he hurried off down the road Tom understood. Andy coming

along, had seen Tom's car standing there, and, thinking to do

some mischief, had climbed in, and turned on the power. Perhaps

he hoped it would run into the roadside ditch and be smashed. But

as the gear was out, turning on the electric current had a

different effect. As the bully pulled the handle over too

quickly, throwing almost the entire force of the battery into the

wires at once, the load was too heavy for them. A safety fuse

blew out, causing the flare and the explosion, and a piece of the

soft lead-like metal had hit the red-haired lad in the eye. Tom's

fist had completed the work on the other optic, and for several

days thereafter Andy Foger remained in seclusion. When he did go

out there were many embarrassing questions put to him, as to when

he had had the fight. Andy didn't care to answer. As for Tom, it

did not take long to put a new fuse in his car, and he greatly

enjoyed his ride with Miss Nestor that night.



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