The Empty Shed
"Bless my dark-lantern! Where are you, Tom?" called Mr.
Damon as he entered the dim shed where the somewhat frail-
appearing aeroplane loomed up in the semi-darkness, for it
was afternoon, and rather cloudy. "Where are you?"
"Here!" called the young inventor. "I'm glad to see you!
"Ah! there it is, eh?" exclaimed the odd man, as he looked
at the aeroplane, for there had been much work done on it
since he had last seen it. "Bless my parachute, Tom! But it
looks as though you could blow it over."
"It's stronger than it seems," replied the lad. "But, Mr.
Damon, I've got something very important to talk to you
Thereupon Tom told all about Mr. Sharp's visit, of Andy's
entry in the big race, and of the suspicions of himself and
"And what is it you wish me to do?" asked Mr. Damon.
"Work up some clues against Andy Foger."
"Good! I'll do it! I'd like to get ahead of that bully and
his father, who once tried to wreck the bank I'm interested
in. I'll help you, Tom! I'll play detective! Let me see--
what disguise shall I assume? I think I'll take the part of
a tramp. Bless my ham sandwich! That will be the very thing.
I'll get some ragged clothes, let my beard grow again--you
see I shaved it off since my last visit--and I'll go around
to the Foger place and ask for work. Then I can get inside
the shed and look around. How's that for a plan?"
"It might be all right," agreed Tom, "only I don't believe
you're cut out for the part of a tramp, Mr. Damon."
"Bless my fingernails! Why not?"
"Oh, well, it isn't very pleasant to go around in ragged
"Don't mind about me. I'll do it." And the odd gentleman
seemed quite delighted at the idea. He and Tom talked it
over at some length, and then adjourned to the house, where
Mr. Swift, who had seemed to improve in the last few days,
was told of the plan.
"Couldn't you go around after evidence just as you are?"
asked the aged inventor. "I don't much care for this
"Oh, it's very necessary," insisted Mr. Damon earnestly.
"Bless my gizzard! but it's very necessary. Why, if I went
around the Foger place as I am now, they'd know me in a
minute, and I couldn't find out what I want to know."
"Well, if you keep on blessing yourself," said Tom, with a
laugh, "they'll know you, no matter what disguise you put
on, Mr. Damon."
"That's so," admitted the eccentric gentleman. "I must
break myself of that habit. I will. Bless my topknot! I'll
never do it any more. Bless my trousers buttons!"
"I'm afraid you'll never do it!" exclaimed Tom.
"It is rather hard," said Mr. Damon ruefully, as he
realized what he had said. "But I'll do it. Bless--"
He paused a moment, looked at Tom and his father, and then
burst into a laugh. The habit was more firmly fastened on
him than he was aware.
For several hours Tom, his father and Mr. Damon discussed
various methods of proceeding, and it was finally agreed
that Mr. Damon should first try to learn what Andy was
doing, if anything, without resorting to a disguise.
"Then, if that doesn't work, I'll become a tramp," was the
decision of the odd character. "I'll wear the raggedest
clothes I can find Bless--" But he stopped in time.
Mr. Damon took up his residence in the Swift household, as
he had often done before, and for the next week he went and
came as he pleased, sometimes being away all night.
"It's no use, though," declared Mr. Damon at the end of
the week. "I can't get anywhere near that shed, nor even get
a glimpse inside of it. I haven't been able to learn
anything, either'. There are two gardeners on guard all the
while, and several times when I've tried to go in the side
gate, they've stopped me."
"Isn't there any news of Andy about town?" asked Tom. "I
should think Sam or Pete would know where he is."
"Well, I didn't ask them, for they'd know right away why I
was inquiring," said Mr. Damon, "but it seems to me as if
there was something queer going on. If Andy Foger is working
in that shed of his, he's keeping mighty quiet about it.
And once more he stopped in time. He was conquering the
habit in a measure.
"Well, what do you propose to do next?" asked Tom.
"Disguise myself like a tramp, and go there looking for
work," was the firm answer. "There are plenty of odd jobs on
a big place such as the Foger family have. I'll find out
what I want to know, you see.
It seemed useless to further combat this resolution, and,
in a few days Mr. Damon presented a very different
appearance. He had on a most ragged suit, there was a
scrubby beard on his face, and he walked with a curious
shuffle, caused by a pair of big, heavy shoes which he had
donned, first having taken the precaution to make holes in
them and get them muddy.
"Now I'm all ready," he said to Tom one day, when his
disguise was complete. "I'm going over and try my luck."
He left the house by a side door, so that no one would see
him, and started down the walk. As he did so a voice
"Hi, there! Git right out oh heah! Mistah Swift doan't
allow no tramps heah, an' we ain't got no wuk fo' yo', an'
there ain't no cold victuals. I does all de wuk, me an' mah
mule Boomerang, an' we takes all de cold victuals, too! Git
right along, now!"
"It's Eradicate. He doesn't know you," said Tom, with a
"So much the better," whispered Mr. Damon. But the
disguise proved almost too much of a success, for seeing the
supposed tramp lingering near the house, Eradicate caught up
a stout stick and rushed forward. He was about to strike the
ragged man, when Tom called out:
"That's Mr. Damon, Rad!"
"Wh--what!" gasped the colored man; and when the situation
had been explained to him, and the necessity for silence
impressed upon him, he turned away, too surprised to utter a
word. He sought consolation in the stable with his mule.
Just what methods Mr. Damon used he never disclosed, but
one thing is certain: That night there came a cautious knock
on the door of the Swift home, and Tom, answering it, beheld
his odd friend.
"Well," he asked eagerly, "what luck?"
"Put on a suit of old clothes, and come with me," said Mr.
Damon. "We'll look like two tramps, and then, if we're
discovered, they won't know it was you."
"Have you found out anything?" asked Tom eagerly.
"Not yet; but I've got a key to one of the side doors of
the shed, and we can get in as soon as it's late enough so
that everybody there will be in bed."
"A key? How did you get it?" inquired the youth.
"Never mind," was the answer, with a chuckle. "That was
because of my disguise; and I haven't blessed anything to-
day. I'm going to, soon, though. I can feel it coming on.
But hurry, Tom, or we may be too late."
"And you haven't had a look inside the shed?" asked the
young inventor. "You don't know what's there?"
"No; but we soon will."
Eagerly Tom put on tome of the oldest and most ragged
garments he could find, and then he and the odd gentleman
set off toward the Foger home. They waited some time after
getting in sight of it, because they saw a light in one
of the windows. Then, when the house was dark, they stole
cautiously forward toward the big, gloomy shed.
"On this side," directed Mr. Damon in a whisper. "The key
I have opens this door."
"But we can't see when we get inside," objected Tom. "I
should have brought a dark lantern."
"I have one of those pocket electric flashlights," said
Mr. Damon. "Bless my candlestick! but I thought of that."
And he chuckled gleefully.
Cautiously they advanced in the darkness. Mr. Damon
fumbled at the lock of the door. The key grated as he turned
it. The portal swung back, and Tom and his friend found
themselves inside the shed which, of late, had been such an
object of worry and conjecture to the young inventor. What
would he find there?
"Flash the light," he called to Mr. Damon in a hoarse
The eccentric man drew it from his packet He pressed the
spring switch, and in an instant a brilliant shaft of
radiance shot out, cutting the intense blackness like a
knife. Mr. Damon flashed it on all sides.
But to the amazement of Tom and his companion, it did not
illuminate the broad white wings and stretches of canvas of
an aeroplane It only shone on the bare walls of the shed,
and on some piles of rubbish in the corners. Up and down, to
right and left, shot the pencil of light. "There's--there's
nothing here!" gasped Tom,
"I--I guess you're right!" agreed Mr. Damon "The shed is
"Then where is Andy Foger building his aeroplane?" asked
Tom in a whisper; but Mr. Damon could not answer him.
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