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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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"Why, Mr. Pendergast!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, rising quickly as

Tom ushered in the aged president. "Whatever is the matter? You

here at this hour? Bless my trial balance! Is anything wrong?

"I'm afraid there is," answered the bank head. "I have just

received word which made it necessary for me to see you both at

once. I'm glad you're here, Mr. Damon."

He sank wearily into a chair which Tom placed for him, and Mr.

Swift asked:

"Have you been able to raise any cash, Mr. Pendergast?"

"No, I am sorry to say I have not, but I did not come here to

tell you that. I have bad news for you. As soon as we open our

doors in the morning, there will be a run on the bank." "A run on

the bank?" repeated Mr. Swift.

"The moment we begin business in the morning," went on Mr.


"Bless my soul, then don't begin business!" cried Mr. Damon.

"We must," insisted Mr. Pendergast. "To keep the doors closed

would be a confession at once that we have failed. No, it is

better to open them, and stand the run as long as we can. When we

have exhausted our cash--" he paused.

"Well?" asked Mr. Damon.

"Then we'll fail--that's all."

"But we mustn't let the bank fail!" cried Mr. Swift. "I am

willing to put some of my personal fortune into the bank capital

in order to save it. So is my son here."

"That's right," chimed in Tom heartily. "All I've got. I'm not

going to let Andy Foger get ahead of us; nor his father either."

"I'll help to the limit of my ability," added Mr. Damon.

"I appreciate all that," continued the president. "But the

unfortunate part of it is that we need cash. You gentlemen, like

myself, probably, have your money tied up in stocks and bonds. It

is hard to get cash quickly, and we must have cash as soon as we

open in the morning, to pay the depositors who will come flocking

to the doors. We must prepare for a run on the bank."

"How do you know there will be a run?" asked the young inventor.

"I received word this evening, just before I came here,"

replied Mr. Pendergast. "A poor widow, who has a small amount in

the bank, called on me and said she had been advised to withdraw

all her cash. She said she preferred to see me about it first, as

she did not like to lose her interest. She said a number of her

acquaintances, some of whom are quite heavy depositors, had also

been warned that the bank was unsound, and that they ought to

take out their savings and deposits at once."

"Did she say who had thus warned her?" inquired Mr. Swift.

"She did," was the reply, "and that shows me that there is a

conspiracy on foot to ruin our bank. She stated that Mr. Foger

had told her our institution was unsound."

"Mr. Foger!" cried Mr. Damon. "So this is one of his tricks to

bolster up his new bank! He hopes the people who withdraw their

money from our bank will deposit with him. I see his game. He's a

scoundrel, and if it's possible I'm going to sue him for damages

after this thing is over."

"Did he warn the others?" inquired the aged inventor.

"Not all of them," answered the president. "Some received

letters from a man signing himself Addison Berg, warning them

that our bank, was likely to fail any day."

"Addison Berg!" exclaimed Tom. "That must have been the

important business he had with Mr. Foger, the day I showed him

the watch charm! They were plotting the ruin of our bank then,"

and he told his father about his disastrous pursuit of the

submarine agent.

"Very likely Foger is working with Berg," admitted Mr. Damon.

"We will attend to them later. The question is, what can we do to

save the bank?"

"Get cash, and plenty of it," advised Mr. Pendergast. "Suppose

we go over the whole situation again?" and they fell to talking

stocks: bonds, securities, mortgages and interest, until the youth,

interested as he was in the situation, could follow it no longer.

"Better go to bed, Tom," advised his father. "You can't help us

any, and we have many details to go over."

The lad reluctantly consented, and he was soon dreaming that he

was in his electric auto, trying to pull up a thousand pound lump

of gold from the bottom of the sea. He awoke to find the

bedclothes in a lump on his chest, and, removing them, fell into

a deep slumber.

When the young inventor awoke the next morning, Mrs. Baggert

told him that his father and Mr. Damon had risen nearly an hour

before, had partaken of a hearty breakfast, and departed.

"They told me to tell you they were at the bank," said the housekeeper.

"Did Mr. Pendergast stay all night?" inquired Tom.

"I heard some one go away about two o'clock this morning,"

replied the housekeeper. "I don't know who it was."

"They must have had a long session," thought Tom, as he began

on his bacon, eggs and coffee. "I'll take a run down to the bank

in my electric in a little while."

The car was still in rather crude shape, outwardly, but the

mechanism was now almost perfect. Tom charged the batteries well

before starting put.

The youth had no sooner come in sight of the old Shopton bank,

to distinguish it from the Second National, which Mr. Foger had

started, than he was aware that something unusual had occurred.

There was quite a crowd about it, and more persons were

constantly arriving to swell the throng.

"What's the matter?" asked Tom, of one of the few police officers

of which Shopton boasted, though the lad did not need to be told.

"Run on the bank," was the brief answer. "It's failed."

Tom felt a pang of disappointment. Somehow, he had hoped that

his father and his friends might have been able to stave off

ruin. As he approached nearer Tom was made aware that the crowd

was in an ugly mood.

"Why don't they open the doors and give us our money?" cried

one excited woman. "It's ours! I worked hard for mine, an' now

they want to keep it from us. I wish I'd put it in the new bank."

"Yes, that's the best place," added another. "That Mr. Foger

has lots of money."

"I can see the hand of Andy's father, and that of Mr. Berg, at

work here," thought Tom, "They have spread rumors of the bank's

trouble, and hope to profit by it. I wish I could find a way to

beat them at their own game."

As the minutes passed, and the bank was not opened, the ugly

temper of the crowd increased. The few police could do nothing

with the mob, and several, bolder than the rest, advocated

battering down the doors. Some went up the steps and began to

pound on the portals. Tom looked for a sight of his father or Mr.

Damon, but could not see either.

It was not the regular hour for opening the bank, but when the

police reminded the people of this they only laughed.

"I guess they ain't going to open anyhow!" shouted a man.

"They've got our money, and they're going to keep it. What

difference is an hour, anyway?"

"Yes, if they have the money, why don't they open, and not wait

until ten o'clock?" cried another. "I've got a hundred and five

dollars in there, and I want it!"

More excited persons were arriving every minute. The crowd

surged this way, and that. Many looked anxiously at the clock in

the tower of the town hall. The gilded hands pointed to a few

minutes of ten. Would the bank open its doors when the hour

boomed out? Many were anxiously asking this question.

Tom sat in his electric car, near the front of the bank. The

interest of the crowd, which under ordinary circumstances would

have been centered in the queer vehicle, was not drawn toward it.

The people were all thinking of their money.

Suddenly one of the two doors of the bank slowly opened. There

was a yell from the crowd, and a rush to get in. But the police

managed to hold the leaders back, and then Tom saw that it was

Ned Newton, who stood in the partly-opened portal. He held up his

hand to indicate silence, and a hush fell over the mob.

"The bank is open for business," Ned announced, "but there must

be no rush. The building is not large enough to accommodate you

all. If you form a line, you will be admitted in turn. The bank

hopes to pay you all."

"Hopes!" cried a woman scornfully. "We can't eat hopes, young

man, nor yet pay the rent with it. Hopes indeed!"

But Ned had said all he cared to, and, with rather a white

face, he went back inside. The one door remained open and, with a

policeman on either side, a line of anxious depositors was slowly

formed. Tom watched them crowding and surging forward, all eager

to be first to get their cash out, lest there be not enough for

all. As he watched, the young inventor was aware that some was

signaling to him from the big window of the bank. He looked more

closely and saw Ned Newton beckoning to him, and the young

cashier was motioning Tom to go around to the rear, where a door

of the bank opened on a small alley. Wondering what was wanted,

Tom slowly ran his machine down the side street, and up the

alley. No one paid any attention to him.

A porter admitted the lad, and he made his way to the private

offices, where he knew his father and Mr. Damon would be. In the

corridors he could hear the murmur of the throng and the chink of

money, as the tellers paid it out.

"Well, Tom, this is bad business," remarked Mr. Swift, as he

saw his son. The lad noticed that Mr. Damon was in the telephone


"Yes, Dad," admitted Tom. "It's a run, all right. What are you

going to do?"

"The best we can. Pay out all the cash we have, and hope that

before that time, the people will come to their senses. The bank

is all right if they would only wait. But I'm afraid they won't

and, after we pay out all the cash we have, we'll have to close

the doors. Then there's sure to be an unpleasant scene, and maybe

some of the more hot-headed ones will advocate violence. We have

given orders to the tellers to pay out as slowly as possible, so

as to enable us to gain some time."

"And all you need is money; is that it, Dad?"

"That's it, Tom, but we have exhausted every possibility.

Mr. Damon is trying a forlorn hope now, but, even if he is


Before Mr. Swift had ceased speaking, Mr. Damon fairly burst

from the telephone booth. He was much excited.

"I've got it! I've got it!" he cried.

"What?" asked Mr. Swift and Tom in the same breath.

"The cash, or, what's just as good, the promise of it. I called

up Mr. Chase, of the Clayton National Bank, and he has agreed to

take the railroad securities I offered him as collateral, and let

me have sixty thousand dollars on them! That will give us cash

enough to weather the storm. Hurrah! We're all right now. Bless

my check book!"

"The Clayton National Bank," remarked Mr. Swift, and his voice

was hopeless. "It's forty miles away, Mr. Damon, and no railroad

around here runs anywhere near it. No one could get there and

back with the cash to-day, in time to save us from ruin. It's

impossible! Our last chance is gone."

"How far did you say it was, Dad?" asked Tom quickly.

"Forty miles there, over forty, I guess, and not very good

roads. We would need to have the cash here before three o'clock

to be of any service to us. No, it's out of the question. The

bank will have to fail!"

"No!" cried the young inventor, and his voice rang out through

the room. "I'll get the cash for you!"

"How?" gasped Mr. Damon. "You can't get there and back in time?"

"Yes, I can!" cried Tom. "In my electric runabout! I can make

it go a hundred miles an hour, if necessary! Probably I'll have

to run slow over the bad roads; but I can do it! I know I can.

I'll get the sixty thousand dollars for you!"

For a moment there was silence. Then Mr. Damon cried:

"Good! And I'll go with you and deliver the securities to Mr.

Chase. Come on, Tom Swift! Bless my collar button, but maybe we

can yet save the old bank after all!"



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