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| Home | Reading Room Tom Swift And His Sky Racer

Tom Swift And His Sky Racer
or The Quickest Flight on Record
by Victor Appleton

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Chapter Eight

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!

Come in!"

"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

the balloonist.

"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

disguising business."

"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.

Bless my--"

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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