But he was locked out now. He had no key. He must run the risk of the fine rain and the chill of the night air.
He stepped off the end of the porch and ran around the house. It was to the roof of the rear porch that the marauder had climbed. But peer as he might from down in the yard, Tom could see no moving figure up there near the bathroom window. It was pitch dark against the wall of the house.
He turned to glance up at the window of the sleeping room over the garage where Koku was supposed to spend the night. But Tom knew the giant was seldom there during the dark hours. He was as much of a night-prowler as a wildcat or an owl.
There was no light there in any case. But Koku did not use a light much. He could see in the dark, like a wild animal. Tom did not want to call him. If he must have Koku's help, he would have to climb the stairs to his bedside. The giant always aroused as wide awake as at noonday.
But while the young inventor hesitated a sudden, but muffled, snap—the breaking of metal—sounded. Tom knew instantly the direction from which the sound came.
Although he could see nothing up there at the bathroom window because of the rain and the deep shadow, he knew that the snapping sound meant the severing of the window lock that he had so recently closed. Some instrument had been forced under the bottom of the lower sash and pressure enough been brought to bear to break the thin steel lever.
On the heels of this sound came another. A muffled buzzing somewhere in the house—again! again! And then, startlingly clear from the room over the garage, the burglar alarm went off in Koku's chamber.
"It's all off now!" gasped Tom, and he ran to the foot of the honeysuckle ladder up which he knew the enemy had climbed to get to the roof of the porch. "If he comes down I'll have him!" muttered Tom, staring up into the mist and gloom.
"Fo' de lawsy's sake! 'Tain't mawnin', is it?" Rad's sleepy voice was heard to announce. "No, it's da'k as—" And the voice trailed off into silence.
"Tom! Tom!" the young fellow heard his aroused father shouting.
Tom knew that his father was in no danger. In fact Mr. Swift's voice did not even betray apprehension. It was to the garage Tom looked for an explosion. But none came.
If Koku was up there the prolonged buzzing of the alarm did not awake him. Therefore he could not be there. Tom realized that if the burglar was to be taken the whole affair fell upon his shoulders.
"And I've got my hands full, if it is the fellow with the big feet that we saw on the Waterfield Road the other day," muttered the young inventor.
Nothing stirred on the porch roof. Moment after moment slipped by. Tom began to grow more than amazed. He was worried. What would happen next?
His father had not cried out again. Stepping around to the end of the roofed porch, Tom saw a light in Mr. Swift's room. Rad had evidently gone to sleep again. It would take more than an intermittent buzzer to rouse fully that colored man.
"When old Morpheus has a strangle hold on Rad, Gabriel's trump would scarcely awaken him," Tom muttered.
What had become of the enemy? If it was an ordinary burglar he would have feared the electric alarm instantly. The buzzers were still working. But there was no sign of the man who had set them off at the bathroom window.
Suddenly Tom heard a door slam. It was from the front of the house. Had his father come downstairs to look around and see what the matter was?
The young fellow started around the house on a run. He heard heavy bootsoles spurning the gravel of the path to the front gate. He arrived at the far corner of the house in time to see a man dash through the gateway and run down the street, disappearing finally into the fast-driving rain.
"Fooled me! He went in and right through and down the stairs! Out the front door!" gasped Tom. "Did he get anything? I wonder!"
He sprang up to the front porch and tried the door. It was locked again, of course. Should he ring the bell and get Rad or his father down to the door?
And then, of a sudden, the principal mystery of all this affair bit into Tom Swift's mind. The burglar had made his escape. He could relieve his father's anxiety later. It was his own puzzlement of mind that he first wished to ease.
Where was Koku?
Even had the giant been circling the stockade around the shops he surely must have come up to the home premises by this time. His keen ears could not fail to hear the buzzers. They were still going and would go until the switch was turned.
If the giant was in his room—Tom turned suddenly and started on a run for the rear premises. He still carried the hand-lamp and it lit his way into the garage door and up the narrow stairway. He shot the round beam of the lamp into Koku's room.
He had been obliged to have an iron bedstead made to order for the giant. It stood against one wall of the room. The buzzer was snarling like a huge bumblebee above the head of the couch. Below it sprawled the giant, eyes tightly closed and mouth slightly ajar. From the lips of Koku were emitted sounds worthy of Rad Sampson in his deepest slumbers!
"Asleep?" gasped Tom, stepping cat-like into the room.
And then he was suddenly aware of a sickish, heavy odor in the chamber. The window had been closed. But it was something more than stale air that Tom smelled.
A folded cloth lay on the floor beside the couch. The young fellow saw at once that it had been originally placed over the giant's face, but had slid off. And lucky for Koku that it had been dislodged!
"Chloroform!" muttered Tom. "He's drugged. It is no wonder he did not hear the burglar alarm."
In any event, the incident made one deep impression on Tom's mind. The spies who he believed were working for the Hendrickton & Western Railroad and its owner, Montagne Lewis, were desperate men. Tom could not believe that the fellow with the big feet was alone in Shopton and was unaided in his attempts to find out what Tom was doing.
This attempt to burglarize the house betrayed the caliber of the enemy. In chloroforming Koku he had taken the risk of murdering the giant. Only the fact that the pad of saturated cloth had fallen off Koku's face had, perhaps, saved the man from suffocation.
Tom did not tell the giant when he aroused what the matter with him was. Koku was ill enough! He was wrenched by interior spasms that seemed almost to tear his huge body to pieces.
"What done got into dat big lump o' bone an' grizzle?" demanded Eradicate. "He looks like, he swallowed a volcano, and it just got to wo'kin' right. My lawsy!"
"He is a sick man, all right," admitted Tom. "Looks like he wouldn't try to stab me to deaf wid no spear no mo'," went on Rad, inclined to approve of Koku's sufferings.
"If he died you'd be mighty sorry, old man," declared Tom, sternly.
"Sho' would. Be a mighty hard job to bury him," was the callous response.
Just the same, the crotchety old colored man began to hop around in lively fashion with hot water, and later with coffee and other stimulants; and he nursed Koku all day as though he were a big baby.
Koku, who had never been ill before in his life, was inclined to lay the trouble to an evil genius of some kind. Perhaps, in spite of his half-civilized state, he was still a devil-worshiper. At any rate, he had a vital respect for the forces of evil.
Naturally he considered this unknown and unexpected misery he suffered the result of malignant influences of some kind. Tom did not want him to suspect that the man with the big feet had any possible part in the mystery. Had Koku suspected this, and had he got his hands on the spy, the latter could never have been successfully used in that sort of work again. In all probability he would have said that he had had enough.
Meanwhile Tom made a point of considering each step he took alone thereafter with particular care. He had a bodyguard—usually the giant after the latter had recovered—between the works and the house. He did not bring home any more the schedules or drawings connected with the electric locomotive that he proposed to have built and to test inside the stockade of the Swift Construction Company.
He even put a private detective to work on the matter of finding a man named Andy O'Malley who might be lurking around Shopton. He had a pretty clear description of the fellow, for he had not only seen him once, face to face by daylight, but Tom had written to the president of the H. & P. A. and had got from that gentleman a clear picture in words of the spy whom Mr. Bartholomew believed was working in the interests of Montagne Lewis.
"If O'Malley appears in Shopton, look out. He is a bad character. He is not only a notorious gunman, with several warrants out for him in these parts, but he is a cruel and desperate man in any event. The minute you mark him, have him arrested and telegraph me. We'll get him extradited and put him through for ten years or more right in this county." The private investigator, however, as the weeks went by, could not find any man who filled O'Malley's description.
Meanwhile Tom Swift had got what he called "a lead" and was working day and night upon the invention that he believed might make even the Jandel people respectful, if not a bit envious.
First of all Tom had arranged to have built all around inside the stockade a track of rails heavy enough to stand the wear and tear of the heaviest locomotive built. Meanwhile the various parts of his locomotive were being built in several shops, but would be shipped to the Swift Construction Company and assembled in Tom's try-out shed.
Great secrecy was of course maintained. Aside from the fact that the new invention had something to do with electric motive power, nobody about the shops could say what the new industry portended. Save, of course, the Swifts themselves, Ned Newton, and Mr. Damon, who was the Swifts' closest friend and sometimes had furnished additional capital for Tom's experiments.
There was a thing that Mr. Damon furnished Tom at this time that proved in the end to be of much importance. Before Tom had seized upon this idea of his eccentric friend, and had made proper use of it, something happened that came near to wrecking utterly Tom's invention and completely putting an end to Tom himself as an inventor.
A Strange Conversation
Mr. Wakefield Damon frequently came to the shops, for he was not alone very friendly with the Swifts, but he was greatly interested in Tom's new invention.
"If it goes as good as what you did for my chicken run," he declared, chuckling, "bless my dampers! you'll beat all the electric locomotives in the market."
"That is easy, perhaps," said Tom smiling. "There are not many in the market at the present time. But I don't know what mine will be. This is going to be some job."
"Bless my flues and clinkers!" cried Mr. Damon, "you are not losing hope, Tom Swift? Look what you did for my chicken run. And believe me, that entanglement will give a shock that makes a man stand right up and shake."
"Have you tried it yourself?" asked Tom.
"No. But my servant did. I saw him through the window of my study doing some kind of a shimmy with the shovel. Thought he'd gone crazy. Then I saw what he had done. It was early in the morning and I hadn't turned the current off, and he had put one hand against the wires. When he dropped the shovel as I told him to, bless my plyers and nippers! he was all right."
"The current would not seriously hurt him," said Tom. "I was careful about that."
"It killed two tomcats," said Mr. Damon. "I certainly was glad of that, for those two ash-barrel cats kept the whole neighborhood awake. Bless my claws and whiskers! how those two cats did use to yell. But when one tried to climb the wires and the other sprang on him, it was all over! That is, all over but the burial party."
Mr. Damon was on the ground when the mechanical equipment and a part of the electrical equipment of the new locomotive arrived and was set up in the erection shed. The length of the machine was what first impressed Ned Newton as well as Mr. Damon.
"Bless my yardstick!" exclaimed the eccentric man, "it's as long as a gossip's tongue. What a monster it will be!"
"How long is it, Tom?" asked Ned Newton.
"When completed, and standing on its drivers and bogie truck and trailer truck, from cow-catcher to rear bumper it will be a few inches over ninety feet. And that is slightly longer than the biggest electric locomotive so far built. But length does not so much enter into the value of the machine. I would have it built more compactly if I could."
"What is the horsepower?" asked Mr. Damon.
"I figure on forty-four hundred horsepower. The power must be received from a three thousand-volt direct-current trolley. There are twelve driving-wheels, as you can see. Each pair of drivers will be driven by a twin-motor geared to the axles through a system of flexible spring drive. Remember, I have got to obtain both speed as well as power in this locomotive, for it is being built to pull a passenger train—a fast cross-continent express—to compete with the best passenger equipment in the country."
"Bless my combination ticket!" murmured Mr. Damon. "You have picked out some task, and no mistake, Tom Swift."
"He'll do it," cried Ned, with his usual optimism when Tom had once started on any experimental work. "Of course he will. Just as she stands there now, only half put together, I would be willing to bet a farm that she is a better locomotive than the Jandel patent."
"Three cheers!" laughed Tom. "Ned is as enthusiastic as usual. But believe me, friends, we are not going to turn out a better locomotive than the Jandel without both thought and work."
His friends' enthusiasm was heartening, however. No doubt of that. He never let them into his experiment room, any more than he allowed his workmen in there. Aside from his own father, nobody really knew what Tom Swift was doing behind that always-locked door.
The huge structure of the locomotive was set up on the driving wheels and leading and trailing trucks by Tom's chief foreman and a picked crew. Just such another locomotive had never been seen anywhere about Shopton. Naturally the men at work on the monster began to speak of it outside the works.
Not that they betrayed any secrets regarding the locomotive. In fact, as yet none of them knew anything about what Tom intended to do with the big machine. But the story soon circulated that Tom Swift, the young inventor, was about to show all the previous builders of electric locomotives how such machines should be built.
It was even whispered that Tom's objective was a two-mile-a-minute locomotive. And when this was publicly known the information was not long in seeping to the ears of certain men who had been keeping as close a watch as they dared on the Swift Construction Company and the activities of Tom himself.
Ned Newton went to the bank one Friday for money for the payroll of the working and clerical force of the Swift Company. It was an errand he never relegated to any employee.
Ned had once worked himself in the bank, and naturally he knew many of its employees as well as the officials. With his back to the general waiting room, he sat at the vice president's desk discussing some minor matter. Only a railing divided the vice president's enclosure from the long settee on which waiting customers of the bank were seated.
Ned knew that there were two men directly behind him, whispering together; but he paid no attention to them until he heard this phrase:
"It's time to explode in just five hours; then good-night to that invention, whatever it is."
This statement might mean almost anything—or nothing. Ordinarily Ned Newton might not have paid any consideration to the words. But "invention" was a term that he could not overlook. His mind then was fixed upon Tom's invention almost as closely as the mind of the young inventor himself.
Ned turned around slowly, as though idly, indeed, and tried to see the faces of the two men behind him. One was a small, neatly dressed man of professional appearance. He wore a Vandyke beard and eyeglasses. The other's face Ned could not see; but as they both rose just then and strolled toward the door of the bank he could observe that the fellow was big and burly.
Ned wheeled to his friend, the vice president, and asked:
"Who are those men, Mr. Stanley? Do you know them?"
The pair were just going out through the revolving door. The vice president craned his neck for a look at them.
"Don't know the small man, Ned. But the other is named O'Malley, I believe. Somebody introduced him here and he gets a check cashed occasionally. Not a customer of the bank."
At that moment the name "O'Malley" did not mean anything to Ned Newton. But he bade his friend good-bye and went out after the two men. They had disappeared.
Rad was in the electric runabout, waiting for him. The words spoken by O'Malley (Ned thought it must have been he who spoke of the invention because of his deep voice) continued to disturb Ned's thought.
"Rad," he said, as he got into the runabout, "did you ever hear the name O'Malley?"
"Sure has," declared the colored man. "And it's a bad name and a bad man owns it."
"Do you mean that?" exclaimed the financial manager of the Swift Construction Company, with increasing apprehension. "Who is he?"
"Why, Mr. Newton, don't you 'member dat man?"
"Who is he?" repeated Ned.
"Dat Andy O'Malley is de one what tried to hold up Massa Tom dat time. O'Malley is de man what's been spyin' on Massa Tom—"
"Great grief!" exclaimed Ned, breaking in with excitement. "I'll drive as fast as I can, Rad. There is something wrong at the works, I do believe!"
"What's wrong, Mr. Ned?" demanded Rad. "We just come from dere, and everyt'ing was all right."
"I just heard something that O'Malley said. I want to get back in a hurry. I believe that scoundrel is attempting to blow up Tom's locomotive. We've got to get to the works just as quick as we can."
Touch and Go
The mechanical equipment of the new locomotive was now complete and Tom was establishing the electrical equipment as rapidly as possible. He not only acted as overseer of this work, but in overalls and jumper he was doing a good share of the work himself.
The weight of the electrical equipment when it was finally set up was not far from two hundred thousand pounds. Altogether, when the oil, sand, and water tanks were filled, the great machine would weigh two hundred and eighty-five tons—a monster indeed!
"She is going to take a lot of current to run her," said Tom to his father, who was standing by. "When I come to arrange with the Shopton Electric Company for power, it's a question if they can give me all I need. And I must have plenty of current to make sure that my motors till the bill."
"As your tests will be made in the daytime, the company should be able to furnish the power you need," rejoined Mr. Swift. "At night, of course, when they must furnish so much light as well as power, it might be difficult for them to give you the proper current."
"Forty-four hundred horsepower is a big demand," went on Tom. "I've got to have at least a three-thousand-volt direct-current to feed my motors. I will soon have to take up the matter with the Electric Company."
The heavy work of setting the electrical parts of the locomotive had been finished the day previous, and the track-derrick was removed. Tom was engaged in adjusting the more delicate parts of the equipment and had merely stepped down from the cab to speak to Mr. Swift.
Now he climbed back into the interior of the great machine which, in a general way, looked like a box car. An electric locomotive has not much of the appearance of a steam engine. The machinery is all boxed in and the entire floor of the locomotive is above even the drivers.
These six pairs of driving wheels were about seventy inches in diameter, while the diameter of the leading and following truck-wheels was but half that number of inches.
Mr. Swift had turned away from the locomotive when Tom put his head out of the door again.
"Do you hear that, father?" he demanded in a puzzled tone.
"Hear what, Tom?" asked the old inventor, looking up.
"That ticking sound? I declare, I'd think it was one of those death-watch beetles had got in here. Sounds like a big watch ticking. I can't make it out."
"Where is it? What is it?" repeated Mr. Swift. "I hear nothing down here on the floor of the shed."
"Well, it gets me," muttered Tom, and disappeared again. In a moment he called out: "Say, you fellows! who left his bundle of overalls in here? Better take 'em out to be manicured. Whose are these?"
Two or three of the mechanics working near looked up from their tasks. Mr. Swift turned back to the door of the cab again.
"What is the matter now, Tom?" he asked, in added curiosity.
"That bundle, Dad."
Tom once more appeared and addressed the workmen: "Whose bundle of dirty overalls is this in here? Come and take 'em away. They shouldn't have been left here."
"Why, Mr. Tom," said the foreman who was near, "I didn't see any soiled overalls in there when I left last evening. Any of you fellows," he asked the group of hands, "know anything about any overalls?"
"The bundle is here all right. Pushed back against the third series motors. Come up here, one of you fellows—"
Suddenly there was a noise at the end of the shed where the door to the offices lay. Two figures burst through from the glass doors and charged down the lanes between the lathes and cranes. Ned Newton led, Rad Sampson, his face a mouse-gray with fear, followed.
"Massa Tom! Massa Tom!" shouted the colored man. "Look out fo' de bomb! Look out fo' de bomb!"
The foreman sprang toward the high door of the locomotive where Tom stood, staring out. The young inventor, quick as his mind usually functioned, did not understand at all what Eradicate meant.
"There's something wrong in there, Mr. Tom!" shouted the foreman. "Come down, sir, and let me get up there and see what it is."
But Mr. Barton Swift grasped the meaning of what was going on more quickly than anybody else. Tom's father, Tom frequently said, had spent so many years investigating chemical and mechanical mysteries that he saw more clearly and more exactly into and through most problems than other people.
His raised voice now cut through the rumble of machinery and all the other noises of the shop. Even Rad Sampson's delirious cry was dwarfed by Mr. Swift's sharp tone:
"Tom! The ticking of that watch! That means danger!"
The declaration seemed to rip away a curtain from Tom's thoughts. Perhaps Rad's cry about "de bomb" aided the young inventor to understand the peril that threatened.
The faint ticking sound that had begun to annoy him during the past few minutes betrayed the nature of the threatening peril. Tom swung back from the open doorway of the locomotive cab, reached in to the space between the motors, and seized the bundle of overall stuff that he had previously spied.
He knew instantly that the rapid ticking came from that bundle. It could be nothing but a time bomb. He had heard of such things and, indeed, had seen one before, an infernal machine which, set like an alarm clock, would go off at a certain time. That indicated time might be an hour hence, or might be within a few seconds! Ned Newton, almost at the spot, shouted to Tom when the latter reappeared with the bundle in his hands:
"Get down out of that, Tom Swift! Quick! For your life!"
But Tom was cool enough now. He saw his father's white, strained face at one side and the young inventor could even smile at him. Behind the foreman was set a barrel of water in which tools were cooled and tempered.
"Stoop, McAvoy!" Tom shouted, and tossed the bundle from him.
Had the infernal machine exploded in midair Tom would not have been surprised. But McAvoy dodged, Rad clapped his hands over his ears, and, even Ned Newton halted like a bird-dog at point.
The bundle splashed into the barrel of water. It sank to the bottom. There was no explosion. When a few seconds had passed the group of excited men began to relax. The barrel was carried carefully to a neighboring field.
"Fo' de lawsy sake!" gasped Rad, and got a full breath again.
"That was touch and go, sure enough," muttered Ned Newton.
"Those overalls sure went to the wash, Boss," declared the foreman. "What was in 'em? And who put 'em in the cab up there?"
But Tom dropped down the ladder and went to his father. Their hands sought each other and gripped, hard.
"Better not tell Mary about this," whispered Tom. "She's worried enough as it is."
"Right, Tom," agreed the old inventor. "From this time on we cannot be too careful. If there proves to be an infernal machine in that package we may be sure that we are dealing with desperate men. We've got to keep our eyes open."
"Wide open," added Ned.
"I'll say we have," said Tom.
The Try-Out Day Arrives
It did not need Ned Newton's story of what he had overheard at the bank to prove that an attempt had been made to blow to pieces Tom Swift's electric locomotive before even it had been tested.
An examination of the water-soaked package in the open yard of the shops of the Swift Construction Company, proved that there was enough explosive in the bomb to blow the shed itself to pieces. But the stopping of the clockwork attachment of course made the bomb harmless.
"The main thing to be explained," Tom said, when he and his father and Ned discussed the particulars of the affair, "is not who did it, or what it was done for. Those are comparatively easy questions to answer."
"Yes," agreed Ned. "O'Malley did it, or caused it to be done; and it was an attempt to balk Mr. Bartholomew and the H, & P. A. rather than a direct attack upon the Swift Construction Company."
"I am afraid, however," remarked Mr. Swift, "that Tom has aroused the personal antagonism of this spy from the West. We must not overlook that."
"I don't," replied the young inventor. "O'Malley has it in for me. No doubt of that. But he could not be sure that I would be hurt by the explosion he arranged for."
"True," said his father.
"The attempt was against my invention. And O'Malley was doubtless urged to destroy the locomotive that I am building because my success will aid Mr. Bartholomew and his railroad."
"Quite agreed," said Ned. "But—"
"But the important question," interrupted Tom, "is this: How did the bomb get into the interior of the electric locomotive? That is the first and most important problem. Its having been done once warns us that it can be done again until our system of guarding the works is changed."
"We have five watchmen on the job at night, and the gates are never opened in the daytime to anybody for any purpose without a pass," declared Ned. "I don't see how that fellow got in here with the time bomb."
"Exactly. It shows that there is a fault in our system somewhere," said Tom grimly. "We cannot surround the place at night with an armed guard. It would cost too much. Even Koku cannot be everywhere. And I have reason to know that he was wandering about the stockade last night as usual."
"The fellow was pretty sharp to slip by," Ned observed.
"The stockade is no mean barrier, especially with the rows of barbed wire at the top," said Mr. Swift.
"Barbed wire! That's it!" exclaimed Tom. It was just here that Mr. Damon's idea for guarding his prize buff Orpingtons came into play in Tom's scheme of things. "Barbed wire doesn't seem to keep out spies," he added slowly. "But believe me, something else will!"
For Tom to think of a thing was to start action without delay. Immediately he called a gang from the shops and set them to work stringing copper wire along the top of the stockade.
He was sure that the man who had set the time bomb in place had got into the enclosure over the fence. If he tried the same trick again he was very apt to have the surprise of his life!
Each night when the shops closed and the watchmen went on duty, a current of electricity was turned into those copper wires entwined with the barbed wire entanglement at the top of the stockade that would certainly double up any marauder who sought to get over the top.
However, no further attempt was made against Tom's peace of mind and against his invention during the immediate weeks that followed. The young inventor was so closely engaged in his work that he scarcely left the house or the confines of the shops. Even Mary Nestor saw very little of him.
But Mary realized fully that at such a time as this Tom must give all his thought and energy to the task in hand. She was proud of Tom's ability and took a deep interest in his inventions.
"I want to see the test when you try the locomotive, Tom," she told him, when she came to the shops the first time to look at the monster locomotive. "What a wonderful thing it is!"
"Its wonder is yet to be proved," rejoined the young inventor. "I believe I've got the right idea; but nothing is sure as yet."
In addition to his mechanical contrivances inside the locomotive, Tom had to arrange for an increased supply of electric power to drive the huge machine around the track that was being built inside the stockade.
A regular station had to be built for receiving the electricity in a 100,000-volt alternating current and delivering it to the locomotive in a 3,000-volt direct current. Therefore, this station had two functions to perform—reducing the voltage and changing the current from alternating to direct.
The reduction of the voltage was accomplished as follows: The 100,000-volt alternating current was received through an oil switch and was conveyed to a high-tension current distributor made up of three lines of copper tubing, thus forming the source of power for this station.
From the current distributor the current was conducted through other oil switches to the transformers—entering at 100,000 volts and emerging at 2,300 volts. Then the current was conducted from the transformers through switches to the motor-generator sets and became the power employed to operate them.
The motor generator consisted of one alternating current motor driving two direct current generators. The motor Tom established in his station was of the 60-cycle synchronous type, which means that the current changes sixty times each second.
There were two sets, each generating a 1,500 or 2,000 volt direct current; and the two generators being permanently connected, delivered a combined direct current of 3,000 volts—as high a direct voltage current, Tom knew, as had ever been adopted for railroad work. The current voltage for ordinary street railway work is 550 volts.
"I could run even this big machine," Tom explained to Ned Newton, "with a much lighter current. But out there on the Hendrickton & Pas Alos line the transforming stations deliver this high voltage to the locomotives. I want to test mine under similar conditions."
"This is going to be an expensive test, Tom," said Ned, grumbling a little. "The cost-sheets are running high."
"We are aiming at a big target," returned the inventor. "You've got to bait with something bigger than sprats to catch a whale, Ned."
"Humph! Suppose you don't catch the whale after all?"
"Don't lose hope," returned Tom, calmly. "I am going after this whale right, believe me! This is one of the biggest contracts—if not the very biggest—we ever tackled."
"It looks as if the expense account would run the highest," admitted the financial manager.
"All right. Maybe that is so. But I'll spend the last cent I've got to perfect this patent. I am going to beat the Jandels if it is humanly possible to do so."
"I can only hope you will, Tom. Why, this track and the overhead trolley equipment is going to cost a small fortune. I had no idea when you signed that contract with Mr. Bartholomew that so much money would have to be spent in merely the experimental stage of the thing."
Ned Newton possessed traits of caution that could not be gainsaid. That was one thing that made him such a successful financial manager for the Swift Company. He watched expenditures as closely now as he had when the business was upon a much more limited footing.
The rails laid along the inside of the stockade made a two-mile track, as well ballasted as any regular railroad right of way. In addition the overhead equipment was costly.
To eliminate any possibility of the trolley wire breaking, a strong steel cable, called a catenary, was slung just above the trolley wire. To this catenary the trolley wire was suspended by hangers at short intervals.
These cables were strung from brackets so that a single row of poles could be used, save at the curves, at which cross-span construction was used. The trolley wire itself was of the 4/0 size, and was the largest diameter copper wire ever employed for railroad purposes.
Several weeks had now passed since the great locomotive had been assembled in the erection shed and the cab of the locomotive completed. It really was a monster machine, and any stranger coming into the place and seeing it for the first time must have marveled at the grim power suggested by the mere bulk of the structure.
When the day of the first test arrived Tom allowed only his most intimate friends to be present. Mary Nestor accompanied Mr. Swift into the shops at the time appointed, and she was as excited over the outcome of the test as Tom himself.
Ned Newton and the mechanical force of the shops knocked off work to become spectators at the exhibition. The only other outsider was Mr. Damon.
"Bless my alternating current!" cried the eccentric gentleman. "I would not miss this for the world. If you tried to shut me out, Tom, I'd climb over the stockade to get in."
"You'd better not," Tom told him, dryly. "If you tried that you'd get a worse shock than any chicken thief will get that tries to steal your buff Orpingtons."
Hopes and Fears
Tom climbed into the huge cab of the electric locomotive. In fact, the cab was the most of it, for every part of the mechanism save the drivers was covered by the eighty-odd foot structure. From the peak of the pilot to the rear bumper the length was ninety feet and some inches.
As Tom slid the monster out upon the yard track the small crowd cheered. At least, the locomotive had the power to move, and to the unknowing ones, at least, that seemed a great and wonderful thing.
What they saw was apparently a box-car—like a mail coach, only with more high windows—ten feet wide, its roof more than fourteen feet from the rails, its locked pantagraph adding two feet more to its height.
Just what was in the cab—the water and oil tanks, the steam-heating boiler to supply heat and hot water to the train the monster was to draw, the motors and the many other mechanical contrivances—was hidden from the spectators.
In fact, since completing the electrical equipment of the Hercules 0001, as Tom had named the locomotive, the young inventor had allowed nobody inside the cab, any more than he allowed visitors inside his private workshop. Even Mr. Swift did not know all the results of Tom's experimental work. In a general way the older inventor knew the trend of his son's attempts, but the details and the results of Tom's experiments, the latter told to nobody.
But as the huge locomotive rolled into the yard and followed the more or less circular track inside the yard fence, it was plain to all of the onlookers that the motive-power was there all right! Just what speed could be coaxed from the feed-cable overhead was another question.
Nor did Tom Swift try for much speed on this first test of the Hercules 0001. He went around the two-mile track several times before bringing his machine to a stop near the crowd of onlookers. He came to the open door of the cab.
"One thing is sure, Tom!" shouted Ned. "It do move!"
"Bless my slippery skates!" exclaimed Mr. Damon, "it slides right along, Tom. You've done it, my boy—you've done it!"
"It looks good from where I stand, my son," said Mr. Barton Swift.
It was Mary who suspected that Tom was not wholly satisfied—as yet, at least—with the test of the Hercules 0001. She cried:
"Tom! is it all right?"
"Nothing is ever all right—that is, not perfect—in this old world, I guess, Mary," returned the young inventor. "But I am not discouraged. As Ned says, the old contraption 'do move.' How fast she'll move is another thing."
"What time did you make?" asked Mr. Swift.
"Not above fifteen miles an hour."
"Whew!" whistled Ned dolefully. "That is a long way from—"
Tom made an instant motion and Ned's careless lips were sealed. It was not generally known among the men the speed which Tom hoped to obtain with his new invention.
"It is a wide shoot at the target, that is true," Tom said, soberly. "But remember I cannot test it for speed on this short and almost circular track. Right at the start, however, I see that something about the power-feed must be changed."
"What is that?" asked Mary, curiously.
"I have only had rigged here one trolley wire. There must be two attached alternately to the catenary cable. Such a form of twin conductor trolley will permit the collection of a heavy current through the twin contact of the pantagraph with the two trolley wires, and should assure a sparkless collection of the current at any speed. You noticed that when I took the sharper curves there was an aerial exhibition. I want to do away with the fireworks."
The fact that the Hercules 0001 was a going and apparently powerful draught engine satisfied most of the onlookers that Tom Swift was on the road to final and overwhelming success. The mechanics, indeed, saw no reason why the locomotive could not be run right out of the yard on the freight track and coupled to the first train going West. Of course, the Hercules 0001 could not be delivered to the Hendrickton & Pas Alos under its own power.
When the locomotive was run back into the shed and stood once more on the erection track, Tom confessed to Mary and Ned, while Mr. Damon and Mr. Swift were looking through the huge cab, that he was not at all pleased with the action of the machine.
"I have the best equipment of any electric locomotive on the rails today. I am sure of that," he said. "The Hercules Three-Oughts-One is not as long as those electric locomotives of the C. M. &. St. P. But that's all right. I have built mine more compactly and, properly geared, it should have all the power of either the Baldwin-Westinghouse or the Jandel locomotive."
"Then, Tom dear, what is wrong?" cried Mary.
"Speed. That is what troubles me. Have I got anything like the speed I am aiming for?"
"Two miles a minute!" breathed Ned Newton. "Some speed, boy!"
"And must you have such great speed, Tom?" repeated Mary.
"That is in my contract. Not only that, but to be of much use to the H. & P. A. this locomotive must have such speed—or mighty near it. Of course, under ordinary conditions, two miles a minute for a locomotive and train of heavy freights would burn up the track—maybe melt the flanges and throw everything out of gear."
"Why try for it, then?" demanded Mary.
"It is the power suggested by the possession of such speed that we want in the Hercules Three-Oughts-One. That two miles a minute is a fiction of the imagination, cannot be claimed. It is possible. It is humanly possible. It is coming."
"Then you must be the fellow to first accomplish it, Tom Swift," Ned declared.
"Of course, if anybody can do it, you can, Tom," agreed the girl complacently.
"Thanks—many, many thanks," laughed the young inventor. "I'd be able to harness the sun and stars, and put a surcingle around the moon if I came up to my friends' opinion of my ability.
"Nevertheless, two-miles-a-minute is my objective point, and I do not believe it is visionary. Consider the motor-cycle. Ninety miles an hour has long been possible with that, and some tests have shown a speed of over a hundred and ten. That is not far from my mark.
"Some Mallet locomotives of the oil-burning type have achieved from eighty-five to ninety-five miles an hour with a heavy load behind them. They are very powerful machines. The Mogul mountain climbers are powerful, too, although they are not built for speed.
"The electric Goliaths built for the C. M. & St. P., and the Jandels, are both very speedy under certain conditions. The former has a maximum speed of sixty-five miles and the Jandel slightly faster."
"But that is only half what that Mr. Bartholomew demands of your invention, Tom!" Mary cried.
"That is a fact. I must reach twice sixty miles an hour, anyway, to meet his demand and gain that hundred thousand bonus. But I have the advantage of a knowledge of all that has been done before my time in the matter of electrical locomotive construction."
"The world do move," repeated Ned. "You believe that you have the edge on all the other inventors?"
"Along the line of this development—yes," said Tom. "I am taking up the work where former experimenters ended theirs. Why shouldn't I find the right combination to bring about a two-miles-a-minute drive?"
"Oh, Tom!" cried Mary, with clasped hands, "I hope you do."
"I hope I do, too," said Tom, grimly. "At least, if trying will bring it, success is going to come my way."
More than four months had passed since the contract had been signed, when Tom made his first yard-test of the Hercules 0001. For a month nothing had been seen or heard of Andy O'Malley, whose identity as the spy, set by Montagne Lewis to cripple Tom's attempt to help the Hendrickton & Pas Alos Railroad, had been determined beyond any doubt.
The private inquiry agent that Tom had engaged to find O'Malley had been unsuccessful in his work. The spy had disappeared from Shopton and the vicinity. Nevertheless, the inventor did not for a moment overlook the possibility that the enemy might again strike.
Every night the electric current was turned into the wires that capped the stockade of the Swift Construction Company enclosure. Koku beat a path around the enclosure at night, getting such short sleep as he seemed to need in the forenoon.
"Dat crazy cannibal," grumbled Rad, "got it in his haid dat he's gwine to he'p Massa Tom by walkin' out o' nights like he was dis here Western, de great sprinter, Ma lawsy me! Koku ain't got brains enough to fill up a hic'ry nut shell. Dat he ain't."
Nothing anybody else could do for Tom ever satisfied Rad. The colored man fully believed that he was the only person really necessary for Tom's success and peace of mind. In fact, Rad thought that even Ned Newton's duties as financial manager of the firm were scarcely of as much importance.
When he heard that Tom was going West, after a time, with the electric locomotive, to try it out on the tracks of the H. & P. A., Rad was quite sure that if he did not go along, the test would not come out right.
"O' course yo'll need me, Massa Tom," he said, confidently. "Couldn't git along widout me nohow. Yo' knows, sir, I allus has to go 'long wid yo' to fix things."
"Don't you think father will need you here, Rad?" Tom asked the faithful old fellow. "You're getting old—"
"Me gittin' old?" cried, the colored man. "Huh! Yo' don't know 'bout dis here chile. I don't purpose ever to git old. I been gray-haided since befo' yo' was born; but I ain't old yit!"
Mr. Damon chanced to be present at this conversation, and he was highly amused, yet somewhat impressed, too, by the colored man's statement.
"Bless my own antiquity!" he exclaimed. "I agree with Rad, Tom. It's us old fellows who know what to do when an emergency of any kind arises. Experience teaches more than inspiration."
"Oh," said Tom, laughing, "I do not deny the value of old friends at any stage of the game."
"Bless my roving nature! I am glad to hear you say that. For I tell you right now, Tom, I want to be out there when you make your final test of the locomotive."
"Do you mean that you will go West when I take out the Hercules Three-Oughts-One?" cried Tom.
"It's just what I want to do. Bless my traveling bag, Tom! I mean to be present at your final triumph."
"What will happen to your buff Orpingtons while you are gone?" asked the young inventor, gravely.
"I have got my servant trained to look after those chickens," declared Mr. Damon. "And this invention of yours is really more important than even my buff Orpingtons."
"Just the same," remarked Tom to his eccentric friend, when Rad had left the room. "I've got to fix it so that Eradicate stays at home with father. He doesn't really know how old and broken he is—poor fellow."
"His heart is green, Tom. That's what is the matter with Rad."
"He is a loyal old fellow. But I shall take Koku with me, not Rad," and the young inventor spoke decidedly. "And that is going to trouble poor Rad a lot."
The prospect of going West, however, was not the main subject of Tom's thoughts at this time. As the weeks passed and the end of the six months of experiment came nearer, the inventor was more and more troubled by the principal difficulty which had from the first confronted him. Speed.
That was the mark he had set himself. A maximum speed of two miles a minute on a level track for the Hercules 0001. With the speed already attained by both steam and electric locomotives in the more recent past, this was by no means an impossible attainment, as Tom quite well knew.
But he became convinced that the conditions under which he labored made it impossible for him to be positive of just how great a speed on a straight, level track his invention would attain.
There was no electrified stretch of railroad near Shopton on which the Hercules 0001 might be tested. The track inside the Swift Company's enclosure did not offer the conditions the inventor needed. He felt balked.
"I believe I have hit the right idea in my improvements on the Jandel patents," he told Ned Newton when they were discussing the matter. "But believing is one thing. Knowing is another!"
"Theoretically it works out all right, I suppose?" questioned Ned.
"Quite. I can prove on paper that I've got the speed. But that isn't enough. You can see that."
"Impossible to be sure on the trackage already built here, Tom?"
"I haven't dared give her all she'll take," grumbled Tom. "If I did, I fear she'd jump the rails and I'd have a wreck on my hands."
"And maybe kill yourself!" exclaimed Ned. "You want to have a care."
"Oh, that's all right! I've taken risks before. I don't want to risk the safety of the locomotive, which is more important. That machine has cost us a lot of money."
"I'll say so!" agreed Ned. "You'll have to wait till you can get the locomotive out there on the H. & P. A. tracks before you get a fair speed-test."
"And suppose instead of a triumph it is a fiasco?" Tom said, doubtfully. "I tell you straight, Ned: I never was so uncertain about the outcome of one of my inventions since I began dabbling with motive-power."
"We could build several miles of straight track in the waste ground behind the works," Ned said, thoughtfully.
"Not a chance! There is neither time nor money for such work. Besides, I should have to rebuild my transforming station if I supplied longer conduit wires with current."
"You don't really consider that you have failed, do you, Tom?" and Ned's anxiety made his voice sound very woeful indeed.
"I tell you that my belief doesn't satisfy me. I hate to go West without being sure—positive. I want to know! I have tried the locomotive out in the yard half a dozen times. It runs like a fine watch. There doesn't seem to be a thing the matter with it now. But what speed can I attain?"
"I don't see but you'll have to risk it, Tom."
"I mean to give her one more test. I'll run her out tonight when there is nobody about but the watchmen—and you, if you want to come. I'll arrange with the Electric Company for all the current they can spare. By ginger! I've got to take some risk."
"By the way, Tom," said his chum, "did it ever strike you as odd that that private detective agency never got any trace of O'Malley?"
"Well, he's gone away. We needn't worry about him. Maybe the detective wasn't very smart, at that."
"And yet he was here in town after you put the inquiry on foot. I saw him in the bank. He came there occasionally. And either he, or somebody he hired, placed that bomb in the locomotive."
"All those being facts, what of it?"
"Besides, there was that other fellow—the man with the Vandyke beard. Might be a shyster lawyer, or something of the kind. He wasn't spotted, either."
"To tell the truth, I didn't bother to give the Detective Agency the description of that fellow, although you gave it to me," and Tom laughed. "I must confess that I depend more upon my man-trap electric wires to protect the invention than I do on the private inquiry agent."
"It's funny, just the same. If I had another job for a detective I should not submit it to the Blatz Agency," grumbled Ned.
"I fancy Montagne Lewis and his crowd called off their Wild West gunman," said Tom. "In any case, every attempt he made to bother us turned out a fizzle. I am not, however, forgetting precautions, my boy."
Ned Newton realized that his chum had determined to make this night test of the electric locomotive the pivotal trial of the whole affair. He came back to the works after dinner and was let in by the office watchman at about nine o'clock.
"Mr. Tom here yet?" he asked the man.
"Yes, Mr. Newton. The young boss didn't go home to supper, even. That colored man brought something down for him, and he's in the shed yet."
"Rad is here, you mean?"
"Yes, sir. At least, he didn't go out this way, and we watchmen have instructions to let nobody in or out by the yard gates at night."
"I'll say Tom is being careful," thought Ned, as he stepped out through the runway toward the erection shed.
Before he reached the entrance to the huge shed, however, Ned chanced to look down the enclosure. There were several arc lights burning, but even these only furnished a dim illumination for the whole yard.
He supposed that four watchmen were tramping their several beats along the inside of the stockade and close to the trolley-track. But when he saw an instant gleam of light down there, close to the ground, Ned did not believe that it was the flash of a torch in the hand of any sentry.
"Funny," he muttered. "That's outside the fence, or I'm much mistaken. I wonder now—"
He turned from the door of the shed, left the runway, and began walking toward the distant point at which he had seen the mysterious flash of light.
The Enemy Still Active
Ned was dressed in a dark business suit, so he was not likely to be observed from a distance, for it was a starless night. Half way to the end of the great yard he began to wonder if the light he had seen might not have been an hallucination.
He doubted very much if anybody was creeping about outside the fence. The boards were close together, with scarcely a crack half an inch wide anywhere. A light out there—
It flashed again. He was positive of it this time, and of its locality as well. It could be nobody who had any honest business about the Swift Construction Company's premises. It was not Koku, for ordinarily the giant would not use an electric torch.
Ned did not know where any of the watchmen were who were acting as sentinels. In fact, as it appeared later, three of them had been called off their beats by Tom himself to help in some necessary task inside the shed. The young inventor was getting ready to run the huge locomotive out upon the yard-track.
Remembering vividly the attempt which had been made some weeks before to blow up the Hercules 0001, it was only natural that Ned should suspect that the flash of light he had seen revealed the presence of some ill-conditioned person lurking just beyond the fence.
A man might be crouching there prepared to hurl an explosive bomb over the fence when the locomotive was brought around as far as that spot. Or was the villain foolish enough to attempt to enter the enclosure by surmounting the fence?
Ned, keeping close to the ground, crossed the rails in the fortunate shadow of one of the posts. There he found a place where, with his back to a pole-prop right at this curve in the trolley system, the shadow enfolded him completely.
Had his movements been marked by the person outside the fence? Ned waited several long and anxious minutes for some move from out there. Then something rather unexpected occurred. For the past ten minutes he had forgotten about the test of the Hercules 0001 which Tom had promised.
With a blast of its siren the huge electric locomotive burst out of the shed and thundered around the track. It smote Ned Newton's mind suddenly that the inventor was going to "take a chance" on this evening and try to get some speed out of the huge machine.
The electric headlight cast a broad cone of white and dazzling light across the yard. It suddenly struck full upon the spot where Ned Newton crouched; but the upright against which he leaned was broad enough to hide him completely.
Looking up at the top of the stockade at that moment of illumination, the young financial manager of the Swift Construction Company beheld a crawling figure nearing the wire entanglements on the summit of the fence.
The unknown man was climbing by means of a notched pole. Ned could not see that he bore any bulky object in his hands; indeed, he needed both of them to aid him to climb. But the man's right hand was reaching upward, above his head.
The Hercules 0001 came roaring on. Its cone of light passed beyond Ned's station. In a few seconds it reached the spot, and roared on. Ned had not made a move. It seemed to him that he could not move or speak.
The onrush of the electric locomotive all but swept the young fellow from his feet. It had come and gone in an instant!
"He's making more than fifteen or twenty miles an hour, all right," muttered Ned.
Then he flashed another glance up at the figure outside the fence. The man's cap showed above the top of the boards. He seemed to be dragging something up to him from below—something that hung and swung around and around a few feet from the ground.
Ned was about to dart out of concealment and hail the fellow. He was not armed, nor could he get out of the stockade near this point. He feared what the marauder intended, and he felt that he must frighten him away.
"Suppose that is a bomb and he means to fling it in front of Tom's locomotive?" thought the anxious Ned.
He again saw the stranger's right hand reach up above his head. But he had no bomb in his hand. Ned suddenly shrieked a word of warning! It had come to him what the man was doing and what the result of his act would be.
The wire-cutters bit on one of the copper wires. There followed a flash of blue flame, and the man screamed. He dropped the thing swinging below him and involuntarily grabbed at the wires with his left hand.
He was caught, then! The crackling intermittent shocks of electric fluid passed through his body in fiery sequence. His limbs writhed. He mouthed horribly, and croaking gasps came from between his wide open jaws.
The Hercules 0001 had rounded the enclosure and was coming down upon its second lap. The cone of white radiance from the headlight fell upon the writhing body of the victim on the wires. The locomotive siren emitted a blast that almost deafened Ned.
The monster ground to a stop. Tom swung himself half out of the cab window beside the controller.
"Who's that?" he yelled. Then he saw Ned below him. "Who is that fellow?"
"No friend of yours, Tom, I believe," returned his financial manager in a shaking voice.
"Where's Rad? Rad!" Tom shouted at the top of his voice.
"I's comm', Massa Tom," rejoined the colored man.
"Never mind coming here! Get a move on, and get to the switchboard. Turn the current out of the fence wires.
"Yis, sir, I'll go Massa Tom," declared the old man.
"Is he a spotter, Ned?" demanded the inventor.
"He's no friend. I am going out by the gate. He's got something there that means harm, I believe. Do you think he's killed, Tom?"
"Only ought to be. Not enough current to kill him. But he's badly burned and—and—well! I bet he won't care to fool around the works again."
Ned dashed away to an entrance. A watchman came running, opened the small gate, and followed Ned into the open.
Before they arrived at the vicinity of the accident Rad had got to the switchboard. The electricity was shut out of the stockade wires.
Ned uttered another shout. He saw the writhing body of the shocked man fall from the stockade. When he and the watchman got to the spot the fellow lay upon his back, groaning and sobbing; but Ned saw at once that he was more frightened than hurt.
"Well, you did it that time!" exclaimed the young financial manager. "And I hope you got enough."
"You—you demons!" gasped the man. "I'll have the law on you—"
"Sure you will," cackled the watchman. "You had every right in the world to try to cut those wires, of course, and get into the yard of the works. Sure! The judge will believe you all right."
Ned was, meanwhile, staring closely at the fallen man. Tom had come down from the locomotive and was close to the fence.
"Who is he?" demanded the inventor. "Not O'Malley?"
Ned stepped to the fence and whispered:
"It's the other fellow. The little chap with the Vandyke. He's dressed like a tramp, but it's the same man."
"Is he badly hurt?" demanded Tom.
"His temper is, Boss," said the watchman callously. "And say! I know this fellow. He works for the Blatz Detective Agency. I used to work for those folks myself. His name is Myrick—Joe Myrick."
"Ned," said Tom sternly, "go to the office and call the police. I'll make him tell why he was here. And I'll make the Blatz people explain, too. Hullo! what's that?"
Ned had seized the rope he had seen in Myrick's hand, and from a patch of weeds drew a two-gallon oil-can.
"What you got there, Ned?" repeated the young inventor.
"Whatever it is, I am going to be mighty easy with it. I think this scoundrel was trying to get it over the fence and into the way of the locomotive."
"You can't hang anything on me," said Myrick, suddenly. "I was just climbing up to the top of the fence to get a squint at that contraption you've built. You can't hang anything on me."
"He's evidently feeling better," said Tom, scornfully. "Nugent, don't let him get away from you. Go call the police, Ned. And take care of that can until we can find out what's in it."
Later, when the police had removed Joe Myrick and the mysterious can had been deposited in a tub of water in the open lot until its contents could be examined, Tom said to his chum:
"I was just working up some speed on the locomotive. The speedometer indicated fifty-five when I saw that fellow sprawling up there on the fence. I would not have dared go much faster in any case."
"Why, you weren't half trying, Tom!" cried the delighted Ned.
"She did slide around easy, didn't she? Fifty-five on an almost circular track is a good showing. I am not so scared as I was, my boy."
"You think that on a straight track you might accomplish what you set out to do?"
"It looks like it. At any rate, I shall risk a trial on the H. & P. A. tracks. I'm going to take her West. Be ready on Monday, Ned, for I shall want you with me," declared Tom Swift.
Off for the West
Of course, as Tom supposed they would, the Blatz Detective Agency denied that Joe Myrick, their one-time operative, had been engaged through their bureau either to spy upon the Swift Construction Company or to injure Tom's invention of the electric locomotive.
Nevertheless, three points were indisputable: Myrick had been caught spying; in his possession was a can of explosive which could be set off by concussion; and it was a fact that to Myrick had been first entrusted the matter of hunting for Andy O'Malley when Tom had put the search for the Westerner up to the Blatz people.
"He played traitor both to you, Mr. Swift, and to our agency," declared Blatz to Tom. "I wash my hands of him. I hope the police send him away for life!"
"He'll go to prison all right," said Tom, confidently. "But the main point is that one of your operatives fell down on a simple job. I wanted that Andy O'Malley traced. He's out of the way, now, of course. If you had put an honest man to work for me, O'Malley would be behind the bars himself."
"Some doubt of that, Mr. Swift," grumbled Blatz.
"Where's your evidence that this O'Malley was connected with the attempt to blow up your locomotive the first time? Mr. Newton's testimony would need corroboration."
"Never mind that," rejoined the young inventor, with a smile. "I'd have him for highway robbery. I recognized him. He robbed me of a wallet. Guess we could put O'Malley away for awhile on that charge. And by the time he got out again my job for that Western railroad would be completed."
"Humph! Nothing personal in your going after the fellow, then?" queried the head of the detective agency.
"No. But I frankly confess that I am afraid of O'Malley. He is undoubtedly in the employ of men who will pay him well if he wrecks my invention. But there really is no personal grudge between O'Malley and me. At least, I feel no particular enmity against the fellow."
There was a pause.
"If you say so we will give you a couple of good men as bodyguards on your trip West," suggested Blatz, licking his lips hungrily.
"As good men as Myrick?" retorted Tom, rather scornfully. "No, thank you. Just make your bill out to the Swift Construction Company to date, and a check will be sent you the first of the month. I will take my own precautions hereafter."
And those precautions Tom considered sufficient. When the Hercules 0001 was towed out of the enclosure belonging to the Swift Construction Company early on Monday morning, each door and window of the huge cab was barred and locked. Inside the cab rode Koku, the giant.
Koku had his orders to allow nobody to enter the Hercules 0001 until Tom or Ned Newton came to relieve him of his responsibility as guard. The giant had a swinging cot to sleep on and sufficient food—of a kind—to last him for a fortnight if necessary.
He was not armed, for Tom did not often trust him with weapons. The young inventor, however, did not expect that any armed force would attack the electric locomotive.
If Montagne Lewis desired to wreck the new invention which might mean so much to Mr. Bartholomew and the H. & P. A., he surely would not allow his hirelings to attack openly the locomotive while it was en route.
On the other hand, Tom did not really believe that Andy O'Malley would attempt any reprisal against him personally. Of course, the Western desperado might feel himself abused by Tom, especially in the matter of Tom's use of his ammonia pistol.
But that had happened months ago. O'Malley had undoubtedly been hired by Mr. Bartholomew's enemies to obtain knowledge of the contract signed between the young inventor and the railroad president; and later it was certain that the spy had tried his best to wreck the electric locomotive.
As for any personal assault so many weeks after O'Malley had clashed with him Tom Swift did not expect it. With Ned in his company on this journey to Hendrickton, the young inventor had good reason to consider that he was perfectly safe.
Mary Nestor and Mr. Swift came to the station to see the two young men off on Monday evening. Mary had heard about the second attempt made to blow up the Hercules 0001 and she begged Tom to take every precaution while he was in the West.
"You will be in the enemy's country out there, Tom dear," she warned him. "You won't be careless?"
"I know I shall be mighty busy," he told her, laughing. "I'll let Ned play watch-dog. And you know, his is a cautious soul, Mary."
"I've every confidence in Ned's faithfulness," the girl said, still with anxious tone. "But those men who are trying to ruin Mr. Bartholomew's road will stop at nothing. I must hear from you frequently, Tom, or I shall worry myself ill."
"Don't lose your courage, Mary," rejoined the inventor, more gravely. "I do not think they will attack me personally again. Remember that Koku is on the job, as well as Ned. And Mr. Damon declares he will follow us West very shortly," and again Tom chuckled.
"Even Mr. Damon may be a help to you, Tom," declared Mary, warmly. "At least, he is completely devoted to you."
"So is Rad Sampson," said Tom, with a little grimace. "I certainly had my hands full convincing him that father needed him here at home. At that, Rad is pretty warm over the fact that I sent Koku on with the locomotive. If anything should chance to happen to my invention, Eradicate Sampson is going to shout 'I told you so!' all over the shop."
Mary dabbed her eyes a little with her handkerchief, and Tom patted her shoulder.
"Don't worry, Mary," he said more cheerfully. "There won't a thing happen to me out there at Hendrickton. I'll keep the wires hot with telegrams. And I'll write to both you and father, and give you the full particulars of how we get along. You'll keep your eye on father, Mary, won't you?"
"You may be sure of that," said the girl. "I will not leave him entirely to the care of Rad," and she tried hard to smile again. But it was a difficult matter.
Such a parting as this is always hard to endure. Tom wrung his father's hand and warned him to be careful of his health. The train came along and the two young men boarded it with their personal luggage.
They had a flash of the two faces—that of Mr. Swift's and Mary's blooming countenance—as the express started again, and then the outlook from the Pullman coach showed them the fast-receding environs of Shopton.
"We're on our way, my boy," said Tom to his chum.
"We certainly are," said Ned, thoughtfully. "I wonder what the outcome of the trip will be? It may not be all plain sailing."
"Don't croak," rejoined the young inventor, with a grin.
"I don't see how you can appear so cheerful., Why! you don't even know if that electric locomotive is safe. Something may have already happened to it. The freight train might be wrecked. A dozen things might happen."
"I am not crossing any bridges before I come to them," declared Tom. "Besides, I propose to keep in touch with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One in a certain way—Hullo! Here it is."
"Here what is?" demanded Ned.
The Pullman conductor at that moment came in through the forward corridor. He had a telegram in his hand, and intoned loudly as he approached:
"Mr. Swift! Mr. Thomas Swift! Telegram for Mr. Swift."
"That is for me, Conductor," said Tom briskly, offering his card.
"All right, Mr. Swift. Just got it at Shopton. Operator said you had boarded my car. This is railroad business, you'll notice. Have you any reply, sir?"
Tom ripped open the envelope and unfolded the telegram. He held it so that Ned could read, too. It was signed: "N. G. Smith, Conductor, Number 48."
"What's that?" exclaimed Ned, reading the message.
"'Locomotive and crazy man in it all right at Lingo,'" repeated Tom aloud, and chuckled.
"No, Conductor, there is no answer."
"Good!" exclaimed Ned. "You arranged to get reports en route from the conductors handling the Hercules Three-Oughts-One?"
"Surest thing you know," replied Tom. "And I guess, from the wording of this message, that the crew of Forty-eight have already found out that Koku is not an ordinary guard."
"He's a great boy," smiled Ned. "Glad he is on the job."
The Wreck of Forty-Eight
The two chums sought their berths that night in high fettle. Even Ned sloughed off his mood of apprehension which he had worn on boarding the train at Shopton.
For, true to the arrangement Tom had made with the railroad people, another reassuring telegram was brought to him before bedtime. The second conductor responsible for the management of the Western bound freight to which the Hercules 0001 was attached, sent back a brief statement of the safety of the electric locomotive.
Naturally the two chums would have passed the freight and got well ahead of it before reaching Hendrickton. But Tom had business in Chicago, and they stayed over in that city for twenty-four hours. The freight train went around the city, of course. But the telegrams continued to reach Tom promptly, even at the hotel where he and Ned stopped in the city.
Occasionally the trainmen in charge of the freight mentioned Koku. His eccentric behavior doubtless somewhat puzzled the railroaders.
"That's all right," chuckled Ned. "Let them think Koku is dangerous if they want to. That O'Malley person believed he was!"
"I'll say so!" replied Tom. "The way he ran when Koku started after him that time on the Waterfield Road seemed to prove that he didn't want to mix with Koku."
"If he—or other spies—learns that Koku is with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, it ought to warn them away from the locomotive."
This was Ned's final speech before getting into his berth. He, as well as Tom, slept quite as calmly on this first night out of Chicago as they had before.
They knew exactly where the electric locomotive was. It was on the same road as this train they were traveling in, and, although on a different track, it was not many miles ahead. In fact, if the two trains kept to schedule, the transcontinental passenger train would pass the freight in question about five o'clock in the morning.
It lacked half an hour of that time when the Pullman train came suddenly to a jolting stop. Both Tom and Ned were awakened with the rest of the passengers in their coach.
Heads were poked out between curtains all along the aisle and a chorus of more or less excited voices demanded:
"What's the matter?"
"Nothin's the matter wid dis train, gen'lemens an' ladies," came in the porter's important voice. "Jest nothin' at all's happened. It's done happened up ahead of us, das all."
"Well, what has happened ahead of us, George?" asked Ned.
"Jest another train, Boss, been splatterin' itself all ober de right of way. We sort o' bein' held up, das all," replied the porter.
"That's good news—for us," said Ned, preparing to climb back into his berth. But he halted where he was when he heard his chum ask:
"What train left the track, George?"
"A freight train, sah. Yes, sah. Number Forty-eight. She jumped de rails, side-swiped de accommodation dat was holdin' us back, and has jest done spread herself all over de right of way."
"My goodness!" gasped Ned.
"Hear that, Ned?" exclaimed Tom. "Scramble into your clothes, boy. The Hercules Three-Oughts-One is hitched to Forty-eight."
"Suppose she's off the track?" murmured Ned.
"It's lucky if she isn't smashed to matchwood," groaned Tom, and almost immediately left the Pullman coach on the run.
Ned was not far behind him. When they reached the cinder path beside the freight train it was just sunrise. Long arms of rosy light reached down the mountain side to linger on the tracks and what was strewed across them. A glance assured the two young fellows from the East that it was a bad smash indeed.
Several of the rear boxcars were slung athwart the passenger tracks. The passenger train that had been ahead of the Pullman train on which Tom and Ned rode, had been badly beaten in all along its side. Scarcely a whole window was left on the inner side of the five cars. But those cars were not derailed. It was merely some of the freight cars that retarded the further progress of the transcontinental flyer. A derrick car must be brought up to lift away the debris before the fast train could move on.
Tom and Ned walked forward along the length of the wreck. Suddenly the anxious young inventor seized Ned's arm.
"Glory be!" he ejaculated. "It's topside up, anyway."
"The Hercules Three-Oughts-One?" gasped Ned.
"That's what it is!"
Tom quickened his pace, and his financial manager followed close upon his heels. The forward end of Forty-eight had not left the track and the electric locomotive stood upright upon the rails, being near the head end of the train.
"If this wreck was intentional, and aimed at your invention, Tom," whispered Ned Newton, "it did not result as the wreckers expected."
Tom scouted the idea suggested by his chum. And in a few moments they learned from a railroad employee that a broken flange on a boxcar wheel had caused the wreck.
"So that disposes of your suspicion, Ned," said Tom, approaching the huge electric locomotive.
"Hey, gents!" exclaimed another railroad man, one of the crew of the wrecked freight. "Better keep away from that locomotive."
"What's the matter with it?" Ned asked, curiously.
"Got some kind of an aborigine caged up in it. You put your hand on any part of it and he's likely to jump out and bite your hand off, or something. Believe me, he's some savage."
Both Tom and Ned burst into laughter. The former went forward to the door of the cab and knocked in a peculiar way. It was a signal that the giant recognized instantly.
"Master!" Koku cried from inside the cab. "Master! Him come in?"
"No, Koku," said Tom. "I'm not coming in. Are you all right?"
"Yes. Koku all right. Him come out?"
"No, no!" laughed Tom. "You are not at your journey's end yet, Koku. Keep on the job a while longer."
"Sure. Koku stay here forever, if Master say so."
"Forever is a long word, Koku," said Tom, more seriously. "I'll tell you when to open the door. I'll be at the end of the journey to meet you."
"It all right if Master say so. But Koku no like to travel in box," grumbled the giant.
Tom turned from the electric locomotive to see Ned staring across the tracks at a man who was talking to several of the train crew of the side-swiped accommodation train. That train was about to be moved on under its own power. None of the wreckage of the freight interfered with the progress of the accommodation.
Tom stepped to Ned's side and touched his arm. "Who is he?" the inventor asked.
The man who had attracted Ned's attention and now held Tom's interest as well was a solid looking man with gray hair and a dyed mustache. He was chewing on a long and black cigar, and he spoke to the train hands with authority.
"Well, why can't you find him?" he wanted to know in a hoarse and arrogant voice.
"Who is he?" asked Tom again in Ned's ear.
"I've seen him somewhere. Or else I've seen somebody that looks like him. Maybe I've seen his picture. He's somebody of importance."
"He thinks he is," rejoined the young inventor, with some disdain.
In answer to something one of the railroad men said the important looking individual uttered an oath and added:
"There's nobody been killed then? He's just missing? He was sitting in the coach ahead of me. I saw him just before the wreck. You know O'Malley yourself. Do you mean to say you haven't seen him, Conductor?"
"I assure you he disappeared like smoke, sir," said the passenger conductor. "I haven't an idea what became of him."
"Humph! If you see him, send him to me," and the solid man stepped heavily aboard the nearest coach and disappeared inside.
Tom and Ned stared at each other with wondering gaze. O'Malley! The spy who had represented Montagne Lewis and the Hendrickton & Western Railroad in the East.
"What do you know about that?" demanded Ned, wonderingly.
"Hold on!" exclaimed Tom. He sprang across the rails after the conductor of the accommodation train that was just starting on. "Let me ask you a question."
"Yes, sir?" replied the conductor
"Who was that man who just spoke to you?" "That man? Why, I thought everybody out this way knew Montagne Lewis. That is his name, sir—and a big man he is. Yes, sir," and the conductor, giving the watching engineer of his train the "highball," caught the hand-rail of the car and swung himself aboard as the train started.
On the Hendrickton & Pas Alos
The transcontinental was delayed three hours by the strewn wreckage of the rear of Number Forty-eight. When she went on the two young fellows from Shopton gazed anxiously at the Hercules 0001, which stood between two gondolas in the forward end of the freight train.
"Just by luck nothing happened to it," muttered Ned.
"Just luck," agreed Tom Swift. "It was a shock to me to learn that Andy O'Malley was right there on the spot when the accident happened."
"And his employer, too," added Ned. "For we must admit that Mr. Montagne Lewis is the man who sicked O'Malley on to you." "True."
"And they were both in the accommodation that was sideswiped by the derailed cars of Number Forty-eight."
"That, likewise is a fact," said Tom, nodding quickly.
"But what puzzles me, as it seemed to puzzle Lewis, more than anything else, is what became of O'Malley?"
"I guess I can see through that knot-hole," Tom rejoined.
"I bet O'Malley got a squint at me—or perhaps at you—as we walked up the track from this coach, and he lit out in a hurry. There stood the Three-Oughts-One, and there were we. He knew we would raise a hue and cry if we saw him in the vicinity of my locomotive."
"I bet that's the truth, Tom."
"I know it. He didn't even have time to warn his employer. By the way, Ned, what a brute that Montagne Lewis looks to be."
"I believe you! I remember having seen his photograph in a magazine. Oh, he's some punkins, Tom."
"And just as wicked as they make 'em, I bet! Face just as pleasant as a bulldog's!"
"You said it. I'm afraid of that man. I shall not have a moment's peace until you have handed the Hercules Three-Oughts-One over to Mr. Bartholomew and got his acceptance."
"If I do," murmured Tom.
"Of course you will, if that Lewis or his henchmen don't smash things up. You are not afraid of the speed matter now, are you?" demanded Ned confidently.
"I can be sure of nothing until after the tests," said Tom, shaking his head. "Remember, Ned, that I have set out to accomplish what was never done before—to drive a locomotive over the rails at two miles a minute. It's a mighty big undertaking."
"Of course it will come out all right. If Koku is faithful
"That is the smallest 'if' in the category," Tom interposed, with a laugh. "If I was as sure of all else as I am of Koku, we'd have plain sailing before us."
Two days later Tom Swift and Ned Newton were ushered into the private office of the president of the H. & P. A. at the Hendrickton terminal. The two young fellows from the East had got in the night before, had become established at the best hotel in the rapidly growing Western municipality, and had seen something of the town itself during the hours before midnight.
Now they were ready for business, and very important business, too.
Mr. Richard Bartholomew sat up in his desk chair and his keen eyes suddenly sparkled when he saw his visitors and recognized them.
"I did not expect you so soon. Your locomotive arrived yesterday, Mr. Swift. How are you, Mr. Newton?"
He motioned for them to take chairs. His secretary left the room. The railroad magnate at once became confidential.
"Nothing happened on the way?" he asked, pointedly. "There was a freight wreck, I understand?"
"And we chanced to be right at hand when that happened," said Tom.
"So was your friend, Mr. Lewis," remarked Ned Newton.
"You don't mean to say that Montagne Lewis—"
"Was there. And Andy O'Malley," put in Tom.
Then he detailed the incident, as far as he and Ned knew the details, to Mr. Bartholomew, who listened with close attention.
"Well, it might merely have been a coincidence," murmured the railroad president. "But, of course, we can't be sure. Anyhow, it is just as well if your servant, Mr. Swift, keeps close watch still upon that locomotive."
"He will," said Tom, nodding. "He is down there in the yard with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, and I mean to keep Koku right on the job."
"Good! Let's go down and look at her," Mr. Bartholomew said, eagerly.
But first Tom wanted to go into the theoretical particulars of his invention. And he confessed that thus far his tests of the locomotive had not been altogether satisfactory.
"I have got to have a clear track on a stretch of your own line here, Mr. Bartholomew, and under certain conditions, before I can be sure as to just how much speed I can get out of the machine."
"Speed is the essential point, Mr. Swift," said the railroad man, seriously.
"That is what I have been telling Ned," Tom rejoined. "I believe my improvements over the Jandel patents are worthy. I know I have a very powerful locomotive. But that is not enough."
"We have got to shoot our trains through the Pas Alos Range faster than trains were ever shot over the grades before, or we have failed," said Mr. Bartholomew, with decision.
"But—" began Ned; but Tom put up an arresting hand and his financial manager ceased speaking.
"I have not forgotten the details of our contract, Mr. Bartholomew," he said, quietly. "Two-miles-a-minute is the target I have aimed for. Whether I have hit it or not, well, time will show. I have got to try the locomotive out on the tracks of the H. & P. A. in any case. The Hercules Three-Oughts-One has been dragged a long distance, and has been through at least one wreck. I want to see if she is all right before I test her officially."
"I'll arrange that for you," said Mr. Bartholomew, briskly, putting away his papers. "I will go with you, too, and take a look at the marvel."
"And a marvel it is," grumbled Ned. "Don't let him fool you, Mr. Bartholomew. Tom never does consider what he's done as being as great as it really is."
"Everything must be proved," Tom said, cautiously. "If it was a financial problem, Mr. Bartholomew, believe me it would be Ned who displayed caution. But I have seldom built anything that could not—and has not—later been improved."
"You do not consider your electric locomotive, then, a completed invention?" asked Mr. Bartholomew, as the three walked down the yard.
"I have too much experience to say it is perfect," returned Tom. "I can scarcely believe, even, that it is going to suit you, Mr. Bartholomew, even if the speed test is as promising as I hope it may be."
"But before I shall be willing to throw up the sponge and say that I have failed, I shall monkey with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One quite a little on your tracks."
"Your six months isn't up yet," said Mr. Bartholomew, more cheerfully. "And it doesn't matter if it is. If you see any chance of making a success of your invention, you are welcome to try it out on the tracks of the H. & P. A. for another six months."
"All right," Tom said, smiling. "Now, there is the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, Mr. Bartholomew. And there is Koku looking longingly through the window."
In fact, the giant, the moment he saw Tom, ran to unbar and open the door of the cab on that side.
"Master! If no let Koku out, Koku go amuck—crazy! No can breathe in here! No can eat! No can sleep!"
"The poor fellow!" ejaculated Ned.
"What's the matter with him?" asked Mr. Bartholomew, curiously.
"Get out, if you want to, Koku. I'll stay by while you kick up your heels."
No sooner had the inventor spoken than the giant leaped from the open door of the locomotive and dashed away along the cinder path as though he actually had to run away. Tom burst into a laugh, as he watched the giant disappear beyond the strings of freight cars.
"What is the matter with him?" repeated the railroad president.
"He's got the cramp all right," laughed Tom Swift. "You don't understand, Mr. Bartholomew, what it means to that big fellow to be housed in for so many days, and unable to kick a free limb. I bet he runs ten miles before he stops."
"The police will arrest him," said the railroad man.
It was then Ned's turn to chuckle. "I am sorry for your railroad police if they tackle Koku right now," he said. "He'd lay out about a dozen ordinary men without half trying. But, ordinarily, he is the most mild-mannered fellow who ever lived."
"He will come back, if he is let alone, as harmless as a kitten," Tom observed. "And when I am not with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, and while I continue making my tests, Koku will be on guard. You might tell your police force, Mr. Bartholomew, to let him alone. Now come aboard and let me show you what I have been trying to do."
They spent two hours inside the cab of the great locomotive. Mr. Richard Bartholomew was possessed of no small degree of mechanical education. He might not be a genius in mechanics as Tom Swift was, but he could follow the latter's explanations regarding the improvements in the electrical equipment of this new type of locomotive.
"I don't know what your speed tests will show, Mr. Swift," said the railroad president, with added enthusiasm. "But if those parts will do what you say they have already done, you've got the Jandels beat a mile! I'm for you, strong. Yes, sir! like your friend, Newton, here, I believe that you have hit the right track. You are going to triumph."
But Tom's triumph did not come at once. He knew more about the uncertainties of mechanical contrivances than did either Mr. Bartholomew or Ned Newton.
The very next day the Hercules 0001 was got out upon a section of the electrified system of the Hendrickton & Pas Alos Railway, and the pantagraphs of the huge locomotive for the first time came into connection with the twin conductor trolleys which overhung the rails.
Ned accompanied Tom as assistant. Koku was allowed by the inventor to roam about the hills as much as he pleased during the hours in which his master was engaged with the Hercules 0001. Tom did not think any harm would come to Koku, and he knew that the giant would enjoy immensely a free foot in such a wild country. The two young fellows, dressed in working suits of overall stuff, spent long hours in the cab of the electric locomotive. Their try-outs had to be made for the most part on sidetracks and freight switches, some miles outside Hendrickton, where the invention would not be in the way of regular traffic.
Speed on level tracks had been raised in one test to over ninety-five miles an hour and Mr. Bartholomew cheered wildly from the cab of a huge Mallet that paced Tom's locomotive on a parallel track. No steam locomotive had ever made such fast time.
But Tom was after something bigger than this. He wanted to show the president of the H. & P. A. that the Hercules 0001 could drag a load over the Pas Alos Range at a pace never before gained by any mountain-hog.
Therefore he coaxed the electric locomotive out into the hills, some hundred or more miles from headquarters. He had to keep in touch with the train dispatcher's office, of course; the new machine had often to take a sidetrack. Nor was much of this hilly right-of-way electrified. The Jandels locomotive had been found to be a failure on the sharp grades; so the extension of the trolley system had been abandoned.
But there was one steep grade between Hammon and Cliff City that had been completed. The current could be fed to the cables over this stretch of track, and for a week Tom used this long and steep grade just as much as he could, considering of course the demands of the regular traffic.
The telegraph operator at Half Way (merely a name for a station, for there was not a habitation in sight) thrust his long upper-length out of the telegraph office window one afternoon and waved a "highball" to the waiting electric locomotive on the sidetrack.
"Dispatcher says you can have Track Number Two West till the four-thirteen, westbound, is due. I'll slip the operator at Cliff City the news and he'll be on the lookout for you as well as me, Mr. Swift. Go to it."
Every man on the system was interested, and most of them enthusiastic, about Tom's invention. The latter knew that he could depend upon this operator and his mate to watch out for the western-bound flyer that would begin its climb of the grade at Hammon less than half an hour hence.
The electric locomotive was coaxed out across the switch. Tom was earnestly inspecting the more delicate parts of the mechanism while Ned (and proud he was to do it) handled the levers. Once on the main line he moved the controller forward. The machine began to pick up speed.
The drumming of the wheels over the rail joints became a single note—an increasing roar of sound. The electric locomotive shot up the grade. The arrow on the speedometer crept around the dial and Ned's eye was more often fastened on that than it was on the glistening twin rails which mounted the grade.
Black-green hemlock and spruce bordered the right of way on either hand. Their shadows made the tunnel through the forest almost dark. But Tom had not seen fit to turn on the headlight.
"How is she making out?" asked the inventor, coming to look over his chum's shoulder.
"It's great, Tom!" breathed Ned Newton, his eyes glistening. "She eats this grade up."
"And it's within a narrow fraction of a two per cent.," said the inventor proudly. "She takes it without a jar—Hold on! What's that ahead?"
The locomotive had traveled ten miles or more from Half Way. The summit of the grade was not far ahead. But the forest shut out all view of the station at Cliff City and the structures that stood near it.
Right across the steel ribbons on which the hercules 0001 ran, Tom had seen something which brought the question to his lips. Ned Newton saw it too, and he shouted aloud:
"Tree down! A log fallen, Tom!"
He did not lose completely his self-control. But he grabbed the levers with less care than he should. He tried to yank two of them at once, and, in doing so, he fouled the brakes!
He had shut off connection with the current. But the brake control was jammed. The locomotive quickly came to a halt. Then, before Tom could get to the open door, the wheels began spinning in reverse and the great Hercules 0001 began the descent of the steep grade, utterly unmanageable!
Peril, The Mother of Invention
Tom Swift's first thought was one of thankfulness. Thankfulness that he did not have a drag of fifty or sixty steel gondolas or the like to add their weight to the down-pull. The locomotive's own weight of approximately two hundred and seventy tons was enough.
For when the inventor pushed Ned aside and tried to handle the controllers properly, he found them unmanageable. There was not a chance of freeing them and getting power on the brakes. The Hercules 0001 was hacking down the mountain side with a speed that was momentarily increasing, and without a chance of retarding it!
The young inventor at that moment of peril, knew no more what to do to avert disaster than Ned Newton himself.
It flashed across his mind, however, that others beside themselves were in peril because of this accident. The fast express from the East that should pass Half Way at four-thirteen, might already be climbing the hill from Hammon. Hammon, at the foot of the grade, was twenty-five miles away. Nor was the track straight.
If the operator at Half Way did not see the runaway locomotive and telephone the danger to the foot of the grade, when the Hercules 0001 came tearing down the track it might ram something in the Hammon yard, if it did not actually collide with the approaching westbound express.
Such an emergency as this is likely either to numb the brains of those entangled in the peril or excite them to increased activity. Ned Newton was apparently stunned by the catastrophe. Tom's brain never worked more clearly.
He seized the siren lever and set it at full, so that the blast called up continuous echoes in the forest as the locomotive plunged down the incline. He ran to the door again, on the side where Half Way station lay, and hung out to signal the operator who had so recently given him right of way on this stretch of mountain road.
"We're going to smash! We're going to smash!" groaned Ned Newton.
Tom read these words on his chum's lips, rather than heard them, for the roar of the descending locomotive drowned every other sound. Tom waved an encouraging hand, but did not reply audibly.
Meanwhile his brain was working as fast as ever it had. He had instantly comprehended all the danger of the situation. But in addition he appreciated the fact that such an accident as this might happen at any time to this or any other locomotive he might build.
Automatic brakes were all right. If there had been a good drag of cars behind the Hercules 0001, on which the compressed air brakes might have been set, the present manifest peril might have been obliterated. The brakes on the cars would have stopped the whole train.
But to halt this huge monster when alone, on the grade, was another matter. Once the locomotive brake lever was jammed, as in this case, there was no help for the huge machine. It had to ride to the foot of the grade—if it did not chance to hit something on the way!
And with this realization of both the imminent peril and the need of averting it, to Tom's active brain came the germ of an idea that he determined to put into force, if he lived through this accident, on each and every electric locomotive that he might in the future build.