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Tom Swift and his Motor-boat - or, The Rivals of Lake Carlopa
by Victor Appleton
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"Oh, yes, Mrs. Baggert. I do hope she and Garret will look after the house and shops well," said Mr. Swift, and the old, worried look came like a shadow over his face.

"Now don't be thinking of that, dad," advised Tom, "Of course everything will be all right. Do you think some of those model thieves will return and try to get some of your other inventions?"

"I don't know, Tom. Those men were unscrupulous scoundrels, and you can never tell what they might do to revenge themselves on us for defeating their plans."

"Well, I guess Garret and Mrs. Baggert will look out for them," remarked his son. "Don't worry."

"Yes, it's bad for the digestion," added Ned. "If you don't mind, Tom, I'll have some more coffee and another sandwich myself."

"Nothing the matter with your appetite, either," commented the young inventor as he passed the coffee pot and the plate.

They were soon on their way again, the ARROW making good time up the lake. Tom was at the engine, making several minor adjustments to it, while Ned steered. Mr. Swift reclined on one of the cushioned seats under the shade of the canopy. The young owner of the ARROW looked over the stretch of water from time to time for a possible sight of Andy Foger, but the RED STREAK was not to be seen. The Lakeview Hotel was reached late that afternoon and the boat was tied up to the dock, while Tom and Ned accompanied Mr. Swift to see him comfortably established in his room.

"Won't you stay to supper with me?" invited the inventor to his son and the latter's chum. "Or do you want to start right in on camp life?"

"I guess we'll stay to supper and remain at the hotel to-night," decided Tom. "We got here a little later than I expected, and Ned and I hardly have time to go very far and establish a temporary camp. We'll live a life of luxurious ease to-night and begin to be 'wanderlusters' and get back to nature to-morrow."

In the morning Tom and his chum, full of enthusiasm for the pleasures before them, started off, promising to come back to the hotel in a few days to see how Mr. Swift felt. The trip had already done the man good and his face wore a brighter look.

Tom and Ned, in the speedy ARROW, cruised along the lakeshores all that morning. At noon they, went ashore, made a temporary camp and arranged to spend the night there in the tent. After this was erected they got out their fishing tackle and passed the afternoon at that sport, having such good luck that they provided their own supper without having to depend on canned stuff.

They lived this life for three days, making a new camp each night, being favored with good weather, so that they did not have to sleep in the boat to keep dry. On the afternoon of the third day Tom, with a critical glance at the sky, remarked:

"I shouldn't be surprised if it rained to-morrow, Ned."

"Me either. It does look sort of hazy, and the wind is in a bad quarter."

"Then what do you say to heading for the hotel? I fancy dad will be glad to see us." "That suits me. We can start camp life again after the storm passes."

They started for Sandport that afternoon. When within about two miles of the hotel dock Tom saw, just ahead of them, a small motor-boat. Ned observed it too and called out:

"S'pose that's Andy looking for another race?"

"No, the boat's too small for his. We'll put over that way and see who it is."

The other craft did not appear to be moving very rapidly and the ARROW was soon overhauling it. As the two chums came nearer they could hear the puffing of the motor. Tom listened with critical ears.

"That machine isn't working right," he remarked to his chum.

At that moment there sounded a loud explosion from the other boat and at the same time there came over the water a shrill cry of alarm. "That's a girl in that boat!" exclaimed Ned. "Maybe she's hurt."

"No, the motor only backfired," observed Tom. "But we'll go over and see if we can help her. Perhaps she doesn't understand it. Girls don't know much about machinery."

A little later the ARROW shot up alongside the other craft, which had come to a stop. The two lads could see a girl bending over the motor, twirling the flywheel and trying to get it started. "Can I help you?" asked Tom, shutting off the power from his craft.

The young lady glanced up. Her face was red and she seemed ill at ease. At the sight of the young inventor she uttered an exclamation of relief.

"Why, Mr. Swift!" she cried. "Oh, I'm in such trouble. I can't make the machine work, and I'm afraid it's broken; it exploded."

"Miss Nestor!" blurted out Tom, more surprised evidently to see his acquaintance of the runaway again than she was at beholding him. "I didn't know you ran a motor-boat," he added. "I don't," said she simply and helplessly. "That's the trouble, it won't run."

"How comes it that you are up here?" went on Tom.

"I am stopping with friends, who have a cottage near the Lakeview Hotel. They have a motor-boat and I got Dick Blythe—he's the owner of this—to show me how to run it. I thought I knew, and I started out a little while ago. At first it went beautifully, but a few minutes ago it blew up, or—or something dreadful happened."

"Nothing very dreadful, I guess," Tom assured her. "I think I can fix it." He got into the other boat and soon saw what the trouble was. The carburetor had gotten out of adjustment and the gasoline was not feeding properly. The young inventor soon had it in order, and, testing the motor, found that it worked perfectly.

"Oh, I can't thank you enough," cried Miss Nestor with a flash from her brown eyes that made Tom's heart beat double time. "I was afraid I had damaged the boat, and I knew Dick, who is a sort of second cousin of mine, would never forgive me."

"There's no harm done," Tom assured her. "But you had better keep near us on your way back, that is, if you are going back."

"Oh, indeed I am. I was frightened when I found I'd come so far away from shore, and then, when that explosion took place—well, you can imagine how I felt. Indeed I will keep near you. Are you stopping near here? If you are, I wish you'd come and see me, you and Mr. Newton," she added, for Tom had introduced his chum.

"I'll be very glad to," answered our hero, and he told how he happened to be in the neighborhood. "I'll give you a few lessons in managing a boat, if you like," he added.

"Oh, will you? That will be lovely! I won't tell Dick about it, and I'll surprise him some day by showing him how well I can run his boat."

"Good idea," commented Tom.

He started the motor for Miss Nestor, having stopped it after his first test, and then, with the DOT, which was the name of the small boat Miss Nestor was in, following the larger ARROW, the run back to the hotel was made. The young lady turned off near the Lakeview dock to go to the cottage where she was stopping and the lads tied up at the hotel boathouse.

"Yes, we are in for a storm," remarked Tom as he and his chum walked up toward the hotel. "I wonder how dad is? I hope the outing is doing him good."

"There he comes now," observed Ned, and, looking up, Tom saw his father approaching. The young inventor was at once struck by the expression on his parent's face. Mr. Swift looked worried and Tom anxiously hastened forward to meet him.

"What's the matter dad?" he asked as cheerfully as he could. "Have you been figuring over that gyroscope problem again, against my express orders?" and he laughed a little.

"No, Tom, it's not the gyroscope that's worrying me."

"What is it then?"

"Those scoundrels are around again, Tom!" and Mr. Swift looked apprehensively about him.

"You mean the men who stole the turbine model?"

"Yes. I was walking in the woods near the hotel yesterday and I saw Anson Morse. He did not see me, for I turned aside as quickly as I had a glimpse of him. He was talking to another man."

"What sort of a man?"

"Well, an ordinary enough individual, but I noticed that he had tattooed on the little finger of his left hand a blue ring."

"Happy Harry, the tramp!" exclaimed Tom. "What can he and Morse be doing here?"

"I don't know, Tom, but I'm worried. I wish I was back home. I'm afraid something may happen to some of my inventions. I want to go back to Shopton, Tom."

"Nonsense, dad. Don't worry just because you saw some of your former enemies. Everything is all right at home. Mrs. Baggert and Garret Jackson will look after things. But, if you like, I, can find out for you how matters are."

"How, Tom?"

"By taking a run down there in my motor-boat. I can do it to-morrow and get back by night, if I start early. Then you will not worry."

"All right, Tom; I wish you would. Come up to my room and we will talk it over. I'd rather leave you go than telephone, as I don't like to talk of my business over the wire if I can avoid it."



CHAPTER X

A CRY FOR HELP

"Now, dad, tell me all about it," requested Tom when he and Ned were in Mr. Swift's apartment at the hotel, safe from the rain that was falling. "How did you happen to see Anson Morse and Happy Harry?" My old readers will doubtless remember that the latter was the disguised tramp who was so vindictive toward Tom, while Morse was the man who endeavored to sneak in Mr. Swift's shop and steal a valuable invention.

"Well, Tom," proceeded the inventor, "there isn't much to tell. I was out walking in the woods yesterday, and when I was behind a clump of bushes I heard voices. I looked out and there I saw the two men."

"At first I thought they were trailing me, but I saw that they had not seen me, and I didn't see how they could know I was in the neighborhood. So I quietly made my way back to the hotel."

"Could you hear what they were saying?"

"Not all, but they seemed angry over something. The man with the blue ring on his finger asked the other man whether Murdock had been heard from."

"Who is Murdock?"

"I don't know, unless he is another member of the gang or unless that is an assumed name."

"It may be that. What else did you hear?"

"The man we know as Morse replied that he hadn't heard from him, but that he suspected Murdock was playing a double game. Then the tramp—Happy Harry—asked this question: 'Have you any clew to the sparkler?' And Morse answered: 'No, but I think Murdock has hid it somewhere and is trying to get away with it without giving us our share.' Then the two men walked away, and I came back to the hotel," finished Mr. Swift.

"Sparkler," murmured Tom. "I wonder what that can be?"

"That's a slang word for diamonds," suggested Ned.

"So it is. In that case, dad, I think we have nothing to worry about. Those fellows must be going to commit a diamond robbery or perhaps it has already taken place."

The inventor seemed relieved at this theory of his son. His face brightened and he said: "If they are going to commit a robbery, Tom, we ought to notify the police."

"But if they said that 'Murdock,' whoever he is, had the sparkler and was trying to get away with it without giving them their share, wouldn't that indicate that the robbery had already taken place?" asked Ned.

"That's so," agreed Tom. "But it won't do any harm to tell the hotel detective that suspicious characters are around, no matter if the has been committed. Then he can be on the lookout. But I don't think we have anything to worry about, dad. Still, if you like, I'll take a run down to the house to see that everything is all right, though I'm sure it will be found that we have nothing to be alarmed over."

"Well, I will be more relieved if you do," said the inventor, "However, suppose we have a good supper now and you boys can stay at the hotel to-night. Then you and Ned can start off early in the morning."

"All right," agreed Tom, but there was a thoughtful look on his face and he appeared to be planning something that needed careful attention to details.

After supper that night Tom took his chum to one side and asked: "Would you mind very much if you didn't make the trip to Shopton with me?"

"No, Tom, of course not, if it will help you any. Do you want me to stay here?"

"I think it will be a good plan. I don't like to leave dad alone if those scoundrels are around. Of course he's able to look after himself, but sometimes he gets absent minded from thinking too much about his inventions."

"Of course I'll stay here at the hotel. This is just as good a vacation as I could wish."

"Oh, I don't mean all the while. Just a day or so—until I come back. I may be here again by to-morrow night and find that my father is needlessly alarmed. Then something may have happened at home and I would be delayed. If I should be, I'd feel better to know that you were here."

"Then I'll stay, and if I see any of those men—"

"You'd better steer clear of them," advised Tom quickly. "They are dangerous customers."

"All right. Then I'll go over and give Miss Nestor lessons on how to run a motor-boat," was the smiling response. "I fancy, with what she and I know, we can make out pretty well."

"Hold on there!" cried Tom gaily. "No trespassing, you know."

"Oh, I'll just say I'm your agent," promised Ned with a grin. "You can't object to that."

"No, I s'pose not. Well, do the best you can. She is certainly a nice girl."

"Yes, but you do seem to turn up at most opportune times. Luck is certainly with you where she is concerned. First you save her in a runaway—"

"After I start the runaway," interrupted Tom.

"Then you take her for a ride in your motor-boat, and, lastly, you come to her relief when she is stalled in the middle of the lake. Oh you certainly are a lucky dog!"

"Never mind, I'm giving you a show. Now let's get to bed early, as I want to get a good start."

Tom awoke to find a nasty, drizzling rainstorm in progress, and the lake was almost hidden from view by a swirling fog. Still he was not to be daunted from his trip to Shopton by the weather, and, after a substantial breakfast, he bade his father and Ned good-by and started off in the ARROW.

The canopy he had provided was an efficient protection against the rain, a celluloid window in the forward hanging curtains affording him a view so that he could steer.

Through the mist puffed the boat, the motor being throttled down to medium speed, for Tom was not as familiar with the lake as he would like to have been, and he did not want to run aground or into another craft.

He was thinking over what his father had told him about the presence of the men and vainly wondering what might be their reference to the "sparkler." His thoughts also dwelt on the curious removal of the bracing block from under the gasoline tank of his boat.

"I shouldn't be surprised but what Andy Foger did that," he mused. "Some day he and I will have a grand fight, and then maybe he'll let me alone. Well, I've got other things to think about now. The hotel detective can keep a lookout for the men around the hotel, after the warning I gave him, and I'll see that all is right at home."

The fog lifted somewhat and Tom put on more speed. As he was steering the boat along near shore he heard, off to the woods at his right, the report of a gun. It came so suddenly that he jumped involuntarily. A moment later there sounded, plainly through the damp air, a cry for help.

"Some one's hurt—shot!" cried the youth aloud.

He turned the boat in toward the bank. As he shut off the power from the motor he heard the cry again:

"Help! Help! Help!"

"I must go ashore!" he exclaimed. "Probably some one is badly wounded by a gun."

He paused for a moment as the fear came to him that it might be some of the patent thieves. Then, dismissing that idea as the ARROW's prow touched the gravel, Tom sprang out, drew the boat up a little way, fastened the rope to a tree and hurried off into the dripping woods in the direction of the voice that was calling for aid.



CHAPTER XI

A QUICK RUN

"Where are you?" cried Tom. "Are you hurt? Where are you?"

Uttering these words after he had hurried into the woods a short distance, the young inventor paused for an answer. At first he could hear nothing but the drip of water from the branches of the trees; then, as he listened intently, he became aware of a groan not far away.

"Where are you?" cried the lad again. "I've come to help you. Where are you?"

He had lost what little fear he had had at first, that it might be one of the unscrupulous gang, and came to the conclusion that he might safely offer to help.

Once more the groan sounded and it was followed by a faint voice speaking:

"Here I am, under the big oak tree. Oh, whoever you are, help me quickly! I'm bleeding to death!"

With the sound of the voice to guide him, Tom swung around. The appeal had come from the left and, looking in that direction, he saw, through the mist, a large oak tree. Leaping over the underbrush toward it he caught sight of the wounded man at its foot. Beside him lay a gun and there was a wound in the man's right arm.

"Who shot you?" cried Tom, hurrying to the side of the man. "Was it some of those patent thieves?" Then, realizing that a stranger would know nothing of the men who had stolen the model, Tom prepared to change the form of his question. But, before he had an opportunity to do this, the man, whose eyes were closed, opened them, and, as he got a better sight of his face, Tom uttered a cry.

"Why, it's Mr. Duncan!" exclaimed the lad. He had recognized the rich hunter, whom he had first met in the woods that spring shortly after Happy Harry, the tramp, had disabled Tom's motor-cycle. "Mr. Duncan," the young inventor repeated, "how did you get shot?"

"Is that you, Tom Swift?" asked the gunner. "Help me, please. I must stop this bleeding in my arm. I'll tell you about it afterward. Wind something around it tight—your handkerchief will do."

The man sighed weakly and his eyes closed again. The lad saw the blood spurting from an ugly wound.

"I must make a tourniquet," the youth exclaimed. "That will check the bleeding until I can get him to a doctor."

With Tom to think was to act. He took out his knife and cut off Mr. Duncan's sleeves below the injury, slashing through coat and shirts. Then he saw that part of a charge of shot had torn away some of the large muscular development of the upper arm. The hunter seemed to have fainted and the youth worked quickly. Tying his handkerchief above the wound and inserting a small stone under the cloth, so that the pebble would press on the main artery, Tom put a stick in the handkerchief and began to twist it. This had the effect of tightening the linen around the arm, and in a few seconds the lad was glad to see that the blood had stopped spurting out with every beat of the heart. Giving the tourniquet a few more twists to completely stop the flow of blood, Tom fastened the stick-lever in place by a bit of string.

"That's—that's better," murmured Mr. Duncan. "Now if you can go for a doctor—" He had to pause for breath.

"I'll not leave you here alone while I go for a doctor," declared Tom. "I have my motor-boat on the lake. Do you think I could get you down to it and take you home?"

"Perhaps—maybe. I'll be stronger in a moment, now that the bleeding has stopped. But not—not home—frighten my wife. Take me to the sanitarium if you can—sanitarium up the lake, a few miles from here."

The unfortunate man, who had tried to sit upright, had to lean back against the tree again. Tom understood what he meant in spite of the broken sentences. Mr. Duncan did not want to be taken home in the condition he was then in, for fear of alarming his wife. He wanted to be taken to the sanitarium, and Tom knew where this was, a well-known resort for the treatment of various diseases and surgical cases. It was about five miles away and on the opposite shore of the lake.

"Water—a drink!" murmured Mr. Duncan.

Seeing that his patient would be all right, for a few minutes at least, Tom hurried to his motor-boat, got a cup and, filling it with water from a jug he carried, he hastened with it to the hunter. The fluid revived the man wonderfully and now that the bleeding had almost completely stopped, Mr. Duncan was much stronger.

"Do you think you can get to the boat, if I help you?" asked Tom.

"Yes, I believe so. To think of meeting you again, and under such circumstances! It is providential."

"Did someone shoot you?" inquired Tom, who could not get out of his head the notion of the men who had once assaulted him.

"No, I shot myself," answered Mr. Duncan as he got to his feet with Tom's help. "I was out with my gun, practicing just as I was that day when I met you in the woods. I stooped down to crawl under a bush and the weapon went off, the muzzle being close against my arm. I can't understand how it happened. I fell down and called for help. Then I guess I must have fainted, but I came to when I heard you talking to me. I shouldn't have come out to-day as it is so wet, but I had some new shot shells I wished to try in order to test them before the hunting season. But if I can get to the sanitarium, I will be well taken care of. I know one of the doctors there."

With Tom leading him and acting as a sort of support, the journey to the motor-boat was slowly made. Making as comfortable a bed as possible out of the seat cushions, Tom assisted Mr. Duncan to it, and then starting the engine he sent his boat out from shore at half speed, as the fog was still thick and he did not want to run upon a rock.

"Do you know where the sanitarium is?" asked the wounded hunter.

"About," answered Tom a little doubtfully, "but I'm afraid it's going to be hard to locate it in this fog."

"There's a compass in my coat pocket," said Mr. Duncan. "Take it out and I'll tell you how to steer. You ought to carry a compass if you're going to be a sailor."

Tom was beginning to think so himself and wondered that he had not thought of it before. He found the one the hunter had, and placing it on the seat near him, he carefully listened to the wounded man's directions. Tom easily comprehended and soon had the boat headed in the proper direction. After that it was comparatively easy to keep on the right course, even in the fog.

But there was another danger, however, and this was that he might run into another boat. True, there were not many on Lake Carlopa, but there were some, and one of the few motor-boats might be out in spite of the bad weather.

"Guess I'll not run at full speed," decided Tom. "I wouldn't like to crash into the RED STREAK. We'd both sink."

So he did not run his motor at the limit and sat at the steering-wheel, peering ahead into the fog for the first sight of another craft.

He turned to look at Mr. Duncan and was alarmed at the pallor of his face. The man's eyes were closed and he was breathing in a peculiar manner.

"Mr. Duncan," cried Tom, "are you worse?"

There was no answer. Leaving the helm for a moment, Tom bent over the injured hunter. A glance showed him what had happened. The tourniquet had slipped and the wound was bleeding again. Tom quickly shut off the motor, so that he might give his whole attention to the work of tightening the handkerchief. But something seemed to be wrong. No matter how tightly he twisted the stick the blood did not stop flowing. The lad was frightened. In a short time the man would bleed to death.

"I've got to get him to the sanitarium in record time!" exclaimed Tom. "Fog or no fog, I've got to run at full speed! I've got to chance it!"

Making the bandage as tight as he could and fastening it in place, the young inventor sprang to the motor and set it in motion. Then he went to the wheel. In a few minutes the ARROW was speeding through the water as it had never done before, except when it had raced the RED STREAK. "If I hit anything—good-by!" thought Tom grimly. His hands were tense on the rim of the steering-wheel and he was ready in an instant to reverse the motor as he sat there straining his eyes to see through the curtain of mist that hung over the lake. Now and then he glanced at the compass, to keep on the right course, and from time to time he looked at Mr. Duncan. The hunter was still unconscious.

How Tom accomplished that trip he hardly remembered afterward. Through the fog he shot, expecting any moment to crash into some other boat. He did pass a rowing craft in which sat a lone fisherman. The lad was upon him in an instant, but a turn of the wheel sent the ARROW safely past, and the startled fisherman, whose frail craft was set to rocking violently by the swell from the motor-boat, sent an objecting cry through the fog after Tom. But the youth did not reply. On and on he raced, getting the last atom of power from his motor.

He feared Mr. Duncan would be dead when he arrived, but when he saw the dock of the sanitarium looming up out of the mist and shut off the power to slowly run up to it, he placed his hand on the wounded man's heart and found it still beating.

"He's alive, anyhow," thought the youth, and then his craft bumped up against the bulkhead and a man in the boathouse on the dock was sent on the run for a physician.

Mr. Duncan was quickly taken up to the sanitarium on a stretcher and Tom followed.

"You must have made a record run," observed one of the physicians a little while afterward, when Tom was telling of his trip while waiting in the office to hear the report on the hunter's condition.

"I guess I did," muttered the young inventor "only I didn't think so at the time. It seemed as if we were only crawling along."



CHAPTER XII

SUSPICIOUS CHARACTERS

Under the skill of the physicians at the lake sanitarium Mr. Duncan's wound was quickly attended to and the bleeding, which Tom had partly checked, was completely stopped. Some medicines having been administered, the hunter regained a little of his strength, and, about an hour after he had been brought to the resort, he was able to see Tom, who, at his request, was admitted to his room. The young inventor found Mr. Duncan propped up in bed, with his injured arm bandaged.

"Is the injury a bad one?" asked Tom, entering softly.

"Not as bad as I feared," replied the hunter, while a trained nurse placed a chair for the lad at the bedside. "If it had not been for you, though, I'm afraid to think of what might have happened."

"I am glad I chanced to be going past when you called," replied the lad.

"Well, you can imagine how thankful I am," resumed Mr. Duncan. "I'll thank you more properly at another time. I hope I didn't delay you on your trip."

"It's not of much consequence," responded the youth. "I was only going to see that everything was all right at our house," and he explained about his father being at the hotel and mentioned his worriment. "I will go on now unless I can do something more for you," resumed Tom. "I will probably stay at our house all night to-night instead of trying to get back to Sandport."

"I'd like to send word to my wife about what has happened," said the hunter. "If it would not be too much out of your way, I'd appreciate it if you could stop at my home in Waterford and tell her, so she will not be alarmed at my absence."

"I'll do it," replied our hero. "There is no special need of my hurrying. I have brought your gun and compass up from the boat. They are down in the office."

"Will you do me a favor?" asked Mr. Duncan quickly.

"Of course."

"Then please accept that gun and compass with my compliments. They are both of excellent make, and I don't think I shall use that gun this season. My wife would be superstitious about it. As for the compass, you'll need one in this fog, and I can recommend mine as being accurate."

"Oh, I couldn't think of taking them," expostulated Tom, but his eyes sparkled in anticipation, for he had been wishing for a gun such as Mr. Duncan owned. He also needed a compass.

"If you don't take them I shall feel very much offended," the hunter said, "and the nurse here will tell you that sick persons ought to be humored. Hadn't they?" and he appealed to the pretty young woman, who was smiling at Tom.

"That's perfectly true," she said, showing her white, even teeth. "I think, Mr. Swift, I shall have to order you to take them."

"All right," agreed Tom, "only it's too much for what I did."

"It isn't half enough," remarked Mr. Duncan solemnly. "Just explain matters to my wife, if you will, and tell her the doctor says I can be out in about a week. But I'm not going hunting or practicing shots again."

A little later Tom, with the compass before him to guide him on his course through the fog, was speeding his boat toward Waterford. Now and then he glanced at the fine shotgun which he had so unexpectedly acquired.

"This will come in dandy this fall!" he exclaimed. "I'll go hunting quail and partridge as well as wild ducks. This compass is just what I need, too."

Mrs. Duncan was at first very much alarmed when Tom started to tell her of the accident, but she soon calmed down as the lad went more into details and stated how comparatively out of danger her husband now was. The hunter's wife insisted that Tom remain to dinner, and as he had made up his mind he would have to devote two days instead of one to the trip to his house, he consented.

The fog lifted that afternoon, and Tom, rejoicing in the sunlight, which drove away the storm clouds, speeded up the ARROW until she was skimming over the lake like a shaft from a bow.

"This is something like," he exclaimed. "I'll soon be at home, find everything all right and telephone to dad. Then I'll sleep in my own room and start back in the morning."

When Tom was within a few miles of his own boathouse he heard behind him the "put-put" of a motor craft. Turning, he saw the RED STREAK fairly flying along at some distance from him.

"Andy certainly is getting the speed out of her now," he remarked. "He'd beat me if we were racing, but the trouble with his boat and engine is that he can't always depend on it. I guess he doesn't understand how to run it. I wonder if he'll offer to race now?"

But the red-haired owner of the auto boat evidently did not intend to offer Tom a race. The RED STREAK went on down the lake, passing the ARROW about half a mile away. Then the young inventor saw that Andy had two other lads in the boat with him.

"Sam Snedecker and Pete Bailey, I guess," he murmured. "Well, they're a trio pretty much alike. The farther off they are the better I like it."

Tom once more gave his attention to his own boat. He was going at a fair speed, but not the limit, and he counted on reaching home in about a half hour. Suddenly, when he was just congratulating himself on the smooth-running qualities of his motor, which had not missed an explosion, the machinery stopped.

"Hello!" exclaimed the young inventor in some alarm. "What's up now?"

He quickly shut off the gasoline and went back to the motor. Now there are so many things that may happen to a gasoline engine that it would be difficult to name them all offhand, and Tom, who had not had very much experience, was at a loss to find what had stopped his machinery. He tried the spark and found that by touching the wire to the top of the cylinder, when the proper connection was, made, that he had a hot, "fat one." The compression seemed all right and the supply pipe from the gasoline tank was in perfect order. Still the motor would not go. No explosion resulted when he turned the flywheel over, not even when he primed the cylinder by putting a little gasoline in through the cocks on the cylinder heads.

"That's funny," he remarked to himself as he rested from his labors and contemplated the "dead" motor. "First time it has gone back on me." The boat was drifting down the lake, and, at the sound of another motor craft approaching, Tom looked up. He saw the RED STREAK, containing Andy Foger and his cronies. They had observed the young inventor's plight.

"Want a tow?" sneered Andy.

"What'll you take for your second-hand boat that won't run?" asked Pete Bailey.

"Better get out of the way or you might be run down," added Sam Snedecker.

Tom was too angry and chagrined to reply, and the RED STREAK swept on.

"I'll make her go, if it takes all night!" declared Tom energetically. Once more he tried to start the motor. It coughed and sighed, as if in protest, but would not explode. Then Tom cried: "The spark plug! That's where the trouble is, I'll wager. Why didn't I think of it before?"

It was the work of but a minute to unscrew the spark plugs from the tops of the cylinders. He found that both had such accumulations of carbon on them that no spark could ever have reached the mixture of gasoline and air.

"I'll put new ones in," he decided, for he carried a few spare plugs for emergencies. Inside of five minutes, with the new plugs in place, the motor was running better than before.

"Now for home!" cried Tom, "and if I meet Andy Foger I'll race him this time."

But the RED STREAK was not in sight, and, a little later, Tom had run the ARROW into the boathouse, locked the door and was on his way up to the mansion.

"I suppose Mrs. Baggert and Garret will be surprised to see me," he remarked. "Maybe they'll think we don't trust them, by coming back in this fashion to see that everything is safe. But then, I suppose, dad is naturally nervous about some of his valuable machinery and inventions. I think I'll find everything all right, though."

As Tom went up the main path and swung off to a side one, which was a short cut to the house, he saw in the dusk, for it was now early evening, a movement in the bushes that lined the walk.

"Hello, Garret!" exclaimed the lad, taking it for granted it was the engineer employed by Mr. Swift.

There was no reply, and Tom, with a sudden suspicion, sprang toward the bushes. The shrubbery was more violently agitated and, as the lad reached the screen of foliage, he saw a man spring up from the ground and take to his heels.

"Here! Who are you? What do you want?" yelled Tom.

Hardly had he spoken when from behind a big apple tree another man sprung. It was light enough so that the lad could see his face, and a glimpse of it caused him to cry out:

"Happy Harry, the tramp!"

Before he could call again the two men had disappeared.



CHAPTER XIII

TOM IN DANGER

"Garret! Garret Jackson!" cried Tom as he struggled through the hedge of bushes and ran after the men. "Where are you, Garret? Come on and help me chase these men!"

But there came no answer to Tom's hail. He could not hear the sound of the retreating footsteps of the men now and concluded that they had made their escape. Still he would not give up, but dashed on, slipping and stumbling, now and then colliding with a tree.

"What can they be doing here?" thought Tom in great anxiety. "Are they after some more of dad's inventions because they didn't get his turbine motor?"

"Hello! Who's there? Who are you?" called a voice suddenly.

"Oh, Garret! Where have you been?" asked the young inventor, recognizing the tones of his father's keeper. "I've been calling you. Some of those scoundrels are around again!"

"Why if it isn't Tom!" ejaculated the engineer. "However in the world did you get here? I thought you were at Sandport."

"I'll explain later, Garret. Just now I want to catch those men, if I can."

"Which men?"

"Happy Harry and another one. I saw them hiding down by the orchard path. Come on, they're right ahead of us."

But though they hunted as well as they were able to in the fast-gathering darkness, there was no trace of the intruders. They had to give up, and Tom, after going to the boathouse to see that the ARROW was all right, returned to the house, where he told the engineer and housekeeper what had brought him back and how he had surprised the two men.

"Is everything all right, Garret?" he concluded. "Dad is nervous and frightened. I must telephone him at the hotel to-night and let him know, for I promised to come back. I can't, though, until to-morrow."

"Everything is all right as far as I know," answered Jackson. "I've kept a careful watch and the burglar alarm has been in working order. Mrs. Baggert and I haven't been disturbed a single night since you went away. It's curious that the men should be here the very night you come back. Maybe they followed you."

"I hardly think so, for they didn't know I was coming."

"You can't tell what those fellows know," commented the engineer. "But, anyhow, I don't suppose they could have gotten here from Sandport as soon as you did."

"Oh, yes they could, in their automobile," declared Tom. "But I don't believe they knew I was coming. They knew we were away, however, and thought it would be a good time to steal something, I guess. Are you sure nothing has been taken?"

"Perfectly sure, but you and I will take a look around the shop."

They made a hasty examination, but found nothing disturbed and no signs that anyone had tried to break in.

"I think I'll telephone dad that everything is all right," decided Tom. "It is as far as his inventions are concerned, and if I tell about seeing the men it will only worry him. I can explain that part better when I see him. But when I go back, Garret, you will have to be on your guard, since those men are in the neighborhood."

"I will, Tom. Don't worry."

Mr. Swift was soon informed by his son over the telephone that nothing in the shops had been disturbed, and the inventor received the news with evident satisfaction. He requested Tom to come back to the hotel in the morning, in order that the three of them might go for a ride about the lake in the afternoon, and Tom decided to make an early start.

The night passed without incident, though Tom, who kept the gun Mr. Duncan had given him in readiness for use, got up several times, thinking he heard suspicious noises. After an early breakfast, and having once more cautioned the engineer and housekeeper to be on their guard, Tom started back in the ARROW.

As it would not be much out of his way, the young inventor decided to cut across the lake and stop at the sanitarium, that he might inquire about Mr. Duncan. He thought he could speed the ARROW up sufficiently to make up for any time he might lose, and, with this in mind, he headed out toward the middle of Lake Carlopa. The engine was working splendidly with the new spark plugs, and Tom was wondering if there was any possible method of getting more revolutions out of the motor. He had about come to the conclusion that a new propeller might answer his purpose when he heard the noise of an approaching boat. He looked up quickly and exclaimed:

"Andy Foger again, and Pete and Sam are with him. It's a wonder he wouldn't go off on a trip instead of cruising around so near home. Guess he's afraid he'll get stuck."

Idly Tom watched the RED STREAK. It was cutting through the water at a fast rate, throwing up curling foam on either side of the sharp bow. "He seems to be heading this way," mused Tom. "Well, I'm not going to race with him to-day."

Nearer and nearer came the speedy craft, straight for the ARROW. The young inventor shifted his helm in order to get out of Andy's course, but to his surprise he saw that the red haired lad changed the direction of his own boat.

"Guess he wants to see how close he can come to me," thought our hero. "Maybe he wants to show how fast he's going."

The RED STREAK was now so close that the features of the occupants could easily be distinguished. There were grins on the faces of Andy and his cronies.

"Get out of the way or we'll run you down!" cried the bully. "We've got the right of way."

"Don't you try anything like that!" shouted Tom in some alarm, not that he was afraid of Andy, but the RED STREAK was getting dangerously near, and he knew Andy was not a skillful helmsman. The auto-boat was now headed directly at the ARROW and coming on speedily. Andy was bending over the wheel and Tom had begun to turn his, in order to get well out of the way of the insolent, squint-eyed lad and his friends.

Suddenly Andy uttered a cry and leaped up.

"Look out! Look out!" he yelled. "My steering gear has broken! I can't change my course. Look out!"

The RED STREAK was bearing right down on Tom's boat.

"Shut off your power! Reverse!" shouted Tom.

Andy seemed confused and did not know what to do. Sam Snedecker sprang to the side of his crony, but he knew even less about a motor-boat. It looked as if Tom would be run down, and he was in great danger.

But the young inventor did not lose his head. He put his wheel hard over and then, leaping to his motor, sent it full speed forward. Not a moment too soon had he acted, for an instant later the other boat shot past the stern of the ARROW, hitting it a severe but glancing blow. Tom's boat quivered from end to end and he quickly shut off the power. By this time Andy had succeeded in slowing down his craft. The young inventor hastily looked over the side of the ARROW. One of the rudder fastenings had been torn loose.

"What do you mean by running me down?" shouted Tom angrily.

"I—I didn't do it on purpose," returned Andy contritely. "I was seeing how near I could come to you when my steering gear broke. I hope I haven't damaged you."

"My rudder's broken," went on Tom "and I've got to put back to repair it. I ought to have you arrested for this!"

"I'll pay for the damage," replied Andy, and he was so frightened that he was white, in spite of his tan and freckles.

"That won't do me any good now," retorted Tom. "It will delay me a couple of hours. If you try any tricks like that again, I'll complain to the authorities and you won't be allowed to run a boat on this lake."

Andy knew that his rival was in the right and did not reply. The bully and his cronies busied themselves over the broken steering gear, and the young inventor, finding that he could make a shift to get back to his boathouse, turned his craft around and headed for there, in order to repair the damage.



CHAPTER XIV

THE ARROW DISAPPEARS

Paying no heed to the occupants of the bully's boat, who, by reason of their daring, had been responsible for his accident that might have resulted seriously, Tom was soon at his dock. He had it conveniently arranged for hoisting craft out of the water to repair them, and in a few minutes the stern of the ARROW was elevated so that he could get at the rudder.

"Well, it's not as bad as I thought," he remarked when, with critical eye, he had noted the damage done. "I can fix it in about an hour if Garret helps me."

Going up to the house to get some tools and to tell the engineer that he had returned, Tom looked out over the lake and saw Andy's boat moving slowly off.

"They've got her fixed up in some kind of shape," he murmured. "It's a shame for a chump like Andy to have a good boat like that. He'll spoil it in one season. He's getting altogether too reckless. First thing he knows, he and I will have a clash and I'll pay back some of the old scores."

Mr. Jackson was much surprised to see the young inventor home again so soon, as was also Mrs. Baggert. Tom explained what had happened, and he and the engineer went to work repairing the damage done by the RED STREAK. As the owner of the ARROW had anticipated, the work did not take long, and, shortly before dinner time, the boat was ready to resume the interrupted trip to Sandport.

"Better stay and have lunch," urged Mrs. Baggert. "You can hardly get to the hotel by night, anyhow, and maybe it would be better not to start until to-morrow."

"No, I must get back to-night or dad would be worried," declared Tom. "I've been gone longer now than I calculated on. But I will have dinner here, and, if necessary, I can do the last half of the trip after dark. I know the way now and I have a compass and a good searchlight."

The ARROW was let down into the water again and tied outside the boathouse ready for a quick start. The dinner Mrs. Baggert provided was so good that Tom lingered over it longer than he meant to, and he asked for a second apple dumpling with hard sauce on. So it was with a very comfortable feeling indeed and with an almost forgiving spirit toward Andy Foger that our hero started down the path to the lake.

"Now for a quick run to Sandport," he said aloud. "I hope I shan't see any more of those men and that dad hasn't been bothered by them. His suspicions about the house weren't altogether unfounded, for I did see the tramp and some one else sneaking around, but I don't believe they'll come back now."

Tom swung around the path that led to the dock. As he came in sight of the water, he stared as if he could not believe what he saw, or, rather, what he did not see. For there was no craft tied to the string-piece, where he had fastened his motor-boat. He looked again, rubbed his eyes to make sure and then cried out:

"The ARROW is gone!"

There was no doubt of it. The craft was not at the dock. Breaking into a run, Tom hastened to the boathouse. The ARROW was not in there, and a look across the lake showed only a few rowboats in sight.

"That's mighty funny," mused the youth. "I wonder—"

He paused suddenly in his thoughts.

"Maybe Garret took it out to try and see that it worked all right," he said hopefully. "He knows how to run a boat. Maybe he wanted to see how the rudder behaved and is out in it now. He got through dinner before I did. But I should have thought he'd have said something to me if he was going out in it."

This was the one weak point in Tom's theory, and he felt it at once.

"I'll see if Garret is in his shop," he went on as he turned back toward the house.

The first person he met as he headed for the group of small structures where Mr. Swift's inventive work was carried on was Garret Jackson, the engineer.

"I—I thought you were out in my boat!" stammered Tom.

"Your boat! Why would I be out in your boat?" and Mr. Jackson removed his pipe from his mouth and stared at the young inventor.

"Because it's gone!"

"Gone!" repeated the engineer, and then Tom told him. The two hurried down to the dock, but the addition of another pair of eyes was of no assistance in locating the ARROW. The trim little motor craft was nowhere to be seen.

"I can't understand it," said Tom helplessly. "I wasn't gone more than an hour at dinner, and yet—"

"It doesn't take long to steal a motor-boat," commented the engineer.

"But I think I would have heard them start it," went on the lad. "Maybe it drifted off, though I'm sure I tied it securely."

"No, there's not much likelihood of that. There's no wind to-day and no currents in the lake. But it could easily have been towed off by some one in a rowboat and then you would not have heard the motor start."

"That's so," agreed the youth. "That's probably how they did it. They sneaked up here in a rowboat and towed the ARROW off. I'm sure of it."

"And I'll wager I know who did it," exclaimed Mr. Jackson energetically.

"Who?" demanded Tom quickly.

"Those men who were sneaking around—Happy Harry and his gang. They stole the boat once and they'd do it again. Those men took your boat, Tom."

The young inventor shook his head.

"No," he answered, "I don't believe they did."

"Why not?"

"Well, because they wouldn't dare come back here when they knew we're on the lookout for them. It would be too risky."

"Oh, those fellows don't care for risk," was the opinion of Mr. Jackson. "Take my word for it, they have your boat. They have been keeping watch, and as soon as they saw the dock unprotected they sneaked up and stole the ARROW."

"I don't think so," repeated Mr. Swift's son.

"Who do you think took it then?"

"Andy Foger!" was the quick response. "I believe he and his cronies did it to annoy me. They have been trying to get even with me-or at least Andy has—for outbidding him on this boat. He's tried several times, but he hasn't succeeded—until now. I'm sure Andy Foger has my boat," and Tom, with a grim tightening of his lips, swung around as though to start in instant pursuit.

"Where are you going?" asked Mr. Jackson.

"To find Andy and his cronies. When I locate them I'll make them tell me where my boat is."

"Hadn't you better send some word to your father? You can hardly get to Sandport now, and he'll be worried about you."

"That's so, I will. I'll telephone dad that the boat—no, I'll not do that either, for he'd only worry and maybe get sick. I'll just tell him I've had a little accident, that Andy ran into me and that I can't come back to the hotel for a day or two. Maybe I'll be lucky to find my boat in that time. But dad won't worry then, and, when I see him, I can explain. That's what I'll do," and Tom was soon talking to Mr. Swift by telephone.

The inventor was very sorry his son could not come back to rejoin him and Ned, but there was no help for it, and, with as cheerful voice as he could assume, the lad promised to start for Sandport at the earliest opportunity.

"Now to find Andy and my boat!" Tom exclaimed as he hung up the telephone receiver.



CHAPTER XV

A DISMAYING STATEMENT

Trouble is sometimes good in a way; it makes a person resourceful. Tom Swift had had his share of annoyances of late, but they had served a purpose. He had learned to think clearly and quickly. Now, when he found his boat stolen, he at once began to map out a plan of action.

"What will you do first?" asked Mr. Jackson as he saw his employer's son hesitating.

"First I'm going to Andy Foger's house," declared the young inventor. "If he's home I'm going to tell him what I think of him. If he's not, I'm going to find him."

"Why don't you take your sailboat and run down to his dock?" suggested the engineer. "It isn't as quick as your motor-boat, but it's better than walking."

"So it is," exclaimed the lad. "I will use my catboat. I had forgotten all about it of late. I'm glad you spoke."

He was soon sailing down the lake in the direction of the boathouse on the waterfront of Mr. Foger's property. It needed but a glance around the dock to show him that the RED STREAK was not there, but Tom recollected the accident to the steering gear and thought perhaps Andy had taken his boat to some wharf where there was a repair shop and there left it to return home himself. But inquiry of Mrs. Foger, who was as nice a woman as her son was a mean lad, gave Tom the information that his enemy was not at home.

"He telephoned to me that his boat was damaged," said Mrs. Foger gently, "and that he had taken it to get fixed. Then, he said, he and some friends were going on a little cruise and might not be back to-night."

"Did he say where he was going?" asked our hero, who did not tell Andy's mother why he wanted to see her son.

"No, and I'm worried about him. Sometimes I think Andy is too—well, too impetuous, and I'm afraid he will get into trouble."

Tom, in spite of his trouble, could hardly forbear smiling. Andy's mother was totally unaware of the mean traits of her son and thought him a very fine chap. Tom was not going to undeceive her.

"I'm afraid something will happen to him," she went on. "Do you think there is any danger being out on the lake in a motor-boat, Mr. Swift? I understand you have one."

"Yes, I have one," answered Tom. He was going to say he had once had one, but thought better of it. "No, there is very little danger this time of year," he added.

"I am very glad to hear you say so," went on Mrs. Foger with a sigh. "I shall feel more at ease when Andy is away now. When he returns home, I shall tell him you called upon him and he will return your visit. I am glad to see that the custom of paying calls has not died out among the present generation. It is a pleasant habit, and I am glad to have my son conform to it. He shall return your kind visit."

"Oh, no, it's of no consequence," replied Tom quickly, thinking grimly that his visit was far from a friendly one. "There is no need to tell your son I was here. I will probably see him in a day or two.

"Oh, but I shall tell him," insisted Mrs. Foger with a kind smile. "I'm sure he will appreciate your call."

There was much doubt concerning this in the mind of the young inventor, but he did not express it and soon took his leave. Up and down the lake for the rest of the day he cruised, looking in vain for a sight of Andy Foger in the RED STREAK, but the racing boat appeared to be well hidden.

"If I only could find where they've taken mine," mused Tom. "Hang it all, this is rotten luck!" and for the first time he began to feel discouraged.

"Maybe you'd better notify the police," suggested Mr. Jackson when Tom returned to the Swift house that night. "They might help locate it."

"I think I can do as well as the police," answered the youth. "If the boat is anywhere it's on the lake, and the police have no craft in which to make a search."

"That's so," agreed the engineer. "I wish I could help you, but I don't believe it would be wise for me to leave the house, especially since those men have been about lately."

"No, you must stay here," was Tom's opinion. "I'll take another day or two to search. By this time Andy and his gang will return, I'm sure, and I can tackle them."

"Suppose they don't?"

"Well, then I'll make a tour of the lake in my sailboat and I'll run up to Sandport and tell dad, for he will wonder what's keeping me. I'll know better next time than to leave my boat at the dock without taking out the connection at the spark coil, so no one can start the motor. I should have done that at first, but you always think of those things afterward."

The lad began his search again the next morning and cruised about in little bays and gulfs looking for a sight of the RED STREAK or the ARROW, but he saw neither, and a call at Andy's house showed that the red-haired youth had not returned. Mrs. Foger was quite nervous over her son's continued absence, but Mr. Foger thought it was all right.

Another day passed without any results and the young inventor was getting so nervous, partly with worrying over the loss of his boat and partly on his father's account, that he did not know what to do.

"I can't stand it any longer," he announced to Mrs. Baggert the night of the third day, after a telephone message had been received from Mr. Swift. The inventor wanted to know why his son did not return to the hotel to join him and Ned. "Well, what will you do?" asked the housekeeper.

"If I don't find my boat to-morrow, I'll sail to Sandport, bring home dad and Ned and we three will go all over the lake. My boat must be on it somewhere, but Lake Carlopa is so cut up that it could easily be hidden."

"It's queer that the Foger boy doesn't come home. That makes it look as if he was guilty."

"Oh, I'm sure he took it all right," returned Tom. "All I want is to see him. It certainly is queer that he stays away as long as he does. Sam Snedecker and Pete Bailey are with him, too. But they'll have to return some time."

Tom dreamed that night of finding his boat and that it was a wreck. He awoke, glad to find that the latter part was not true, but wishing that some of his night vision might come to pass during the day.

He started out right after breakfast, and, as usual, headed for the Foger home. He almost disliked to ask Mrs. Foger if her son had yet returned, for Andy's mother was so polite and so anxious to know whether any danger threatened that Tom hardly knew how to answer her. But he was saved that embarrassment on this occasion, for as he was going up the walk from the lake to the residence he met the gardener and from him learned that Andy had not yet come back.

"But his mother had a message from him, I did hear," went on the man. "He's on his way. It seems he had some trouble."

"Trouble. What kind of trouble?" asked Tom.

"I don't rightly know, sir, but," and here the gardener winked his eye, "Master Andy isn't particular what kind of trouble he gets into."

"That's right," agreed our hero, and as he went down again to where he had left his boat he thought: "Nor what kind of trouble he gets other people into. I wish I had hold of him for about five minutes!"

The sailboat swung slowly from the dock and heeled over to the gentle breeze. Hardly knowing what to do, Tom headed for the middle of the lake. He was discouraged and tired of making plans only to have them fail.

As he looked across the stretch of water he saw a boat coming toward him. He shaded his eyes with his hand to see better, and then, with a pair of marine glasses, took an observation. He uttered an exclamation.

"That's the RED STREAK as sure as I'm alive!" he cried. "But what's the matter with her? They're rowing!"

The lad headed his boat toward the approaching one. There was no doubt about it. It was Andy Foger's craft, but it was not speeding forward under the power of the motor. Slowly and laborious the occupants were pulling it along, and as it was not meant to be rowed, progress was very slow.

"They've had a breakdown," thought Tom. "Serves 'em right! Now wait till I tackle 'em and find out where my boat is. I've a good notion to have Andy Foger arrested!"

The sailing craft swiftly approached the motor-boat. Tom could see the three occupants looking at him, apprehensively as well as curiously, he thought.

"Guess they didn't think I'd keep after 'em," mused the young inventor, and a little later he was beside the RED STREAK.

"Well," cried Tom angrily, "it's about time you came back!"

"We've had a breakdown," remarked Andy, and he seemed quite humiliated. He was beginning to find out that he didn't know as much about a motor-boat as he thought he did.

"I've been waiting for you," went on Tom.

"Waiting for us? What for?" asked Sam Snedecker.

"What for? As if you didn't know!" blurted out the owner of the ARROW. "I want my boat, Andy Foger, the one you stole from me and hid! Tell me where it is at once or I'll have you arrested!"

"Your boat!" repeated the bully, and there was no mistaking the surprise in his tones.

"Yes, my boat! Don't try to bluff me like that."

"I'm not trying to bluff you. We've been away, three days and just got back."

"Yes, I know you have. You took my boat with you, too."

"Are you crazy?" demanded Pete Bailey.

"No, but you fellows must have been to think you could take my boat and me not know it," and Tom, filled with wrath, grasped the gunwale of the RED STREAK as if he feared it would suddenly shoot away.

"Look here!" burst out Andy, and he spoke sincerely, "we didn't touch your boat. Did we, fellows?"

"No!" exclaimed Sam and Pete at once, and they were very much in earnest.

"We didn't even know it was stolen, did we?" went on Andy.

"No," agreed his chums. Tom looked unconvinced.

"We haven't taken your boat and we can prove it," continued the bully. "I know you and I have had quarrels, but I'm telling you the truth, Tom Swift. I never touched your boat."

There was no mistaking the sincerity of Andy. He was not a skilful deceiver, and Tom, looking into his squint-eyes, which were opened unusually wide, could not but help believing the fellow.

"We haven't seen it since the day we had the collision," added Andy, and his chums confirmed this statement.

"We went off on a little cruise," continued the red-haired bully, "and broke down several times. We had bad luck. Just as we were nearing home something went wrong with the engine again. I never saw such a poor motor. But we never took your boat, Tom Swift, and we can prove it."

Tom was in despair. He had been so sure that Andy was the thief, that to believe otherwise was difficult. Yet he felt that he must. He looked at the disabled motor of the RED STREAK and viewed it with the interested and expert eye of a machinist, no matter if the owner of it was his enemy. Then suddenly a brilliant idea came into Tom's head.



CHAPTER XVI

STILL ON THE SEARCH

"You seem to have lots of trouble with your boat, Andy," said Tom after a few moments of rather embarrassed silence.

"I do," admitted the owner of the RED STREAK. "I've had bad luck ever since I got it, but usually I've been able to fix it by looking in the book. This time I can't find out what the trouble is, nor can any of the fellows. It stopped when we were out in the middle of the lake and we had to row. I'm sick of motor boating."

"Suppose I fix it for you?" went on Tom.

"If you do, I'll pay you well."

"I wouldn't do it for pay—not the kind you mean," continued the young inventor.

"What do you mean then?" and Andy's face, that had lighted up, became glum again.

"Well, if I fix your boat for you, will you let me run it a little while?"

"You mean show me how to run it?"

"No, I mean take it myself. Look here, Andy, my boat's been stolen, and I thought you took it to get even with me. You say you didn't—"

"And I didn't touch it," interposed the squint-eyed lad quickly.

"All right, I believe you. But somebody stole it, and I think I know who."

"Who?" asked Sam Snedecker.

"Well, you wouldn't know if I told you, but I suspect some men with whom I had trouble before," and Tom referred to Happy Harry and his gang. "I think they have my boat on this lake, and I'd like to get another speedy craft to cruise about it and make a further search. How about it, Andy? If I fix your boat, will you let me take it to look for my boat?"

"Sure thing!" agreed the bully quickly, and his voice for once was friendly toward Tom. "Fix the engine so it will run, and you can use the RED STREAK as long as you like."

"Oh, I probably wouldn't want it very long. I could cover the lake in about three days, and I hope by that time I could locate the thieves. Is it a bargain?"

"Sure," agreed Andy again, and Tom got into the motor-boat to look at the engine. He found that it would require some time to adjust it properly and that it would be necessary to take the motor apart.

"I think I'd better tow you to my dock," the young inventor said to Andy. "I can use some tools from the shop then, and by to-night I'll have the RED STREAK in running order."

The breeze was in the right quarter, fortunately, and with the motor-boat dragging behind, the ARROW's owner put the nose of the sailing craft toward his home dock.

When Tom reached his house he found that Mrs. Baggert had received another telephone message from Mr. Swift, inquiring why his son had not returned to Sandport.

"He says if you don't come back by to-morrow," repeated the housekeeper, "that he'll come home by train. He's getting anxious, I believe."

"Shouldn't wonder," admitted Tom. "But I want him to stay there. The change will do him good. I'll soon have my boat back, now that I can go about the lake swiftly, and then I'll join him. I'll tell him to be patient."

Tom talked with his father at some length, assuring him that everything was well at the Shopton house and promising to soon be with him. Then the young inventor began work on the motor of the RED STREAK. He found it quite a job and had to call on Mr. Jackson to help him, for one of the pistons had to be repaired and a number of adjustments made to the cylinders.

But that night the motor was fully mended and placed back in the boat. It was in better shape than it had been since Andy had purchased the craft.

"There," remarked Tom, "now I'm ready to hunt for those scoundrels. Will you leave your boat at my dock to-night, Andy?"

"Yes, so you can start out early in the morning. I'm not going."

"Why not?" demanded Tom quickly.

"Well—er—you see I've had enough of motoring for a while," explained Andy. "Besides, I don't believe my mother would like me to go out on a chase after thieves. If we had to shoot I might hit one of them, and—"

"Oh, I see," answered Tom. "But I don't like to take your boat alone. Besides, I don't fancy there will be much shooting. I know I'm not going to take a gun. In fact, the one Mr. Duncan gave me is in the boat. All I want is to get the ARROW back."

"That's all right," went on Andy. "You take my boat and use it as long as you like. I'll rest up a few days. When you find your boat you can bring mine back."

Tom understood. He was just as glad not to have Andy accompany him in the chase, as he and the red-haired lad had never been good friends and probably never would be. So it would cause some embarrassment to be together in a boat all day. Then again Tom knew he could manage the RED STREAK better alone, but, of course, he did not want to mention this when he asked for the loan of the craft. Andy's own suggestion, however, had solved the difficulty. Tom had an idea that Andy felt a little timid about going in pursuit of the thieves, but naturally it would not do to mention this, for the squint-eyed lad considered himself quite a fighter.

Early the next morning, alone in the RED STREAK, Tom continued the search for his stolen boat. He started out from his home dock and mapped out a course that would take him well around the lake.

"I s'pose I could take a run to Sandport now," mused the youth as he shot in and out of the little bays, keeping watch for the ARROW. "But if I do dad will have to be told all about it, and, he'll worry. Then, too, he might want to accompany me, and I think I can manage this better alone, for the RED STREAK will run faster with only one in. I ought to wind up this search in two days, if my boat is still on the lake. And if those scoundrels have sunk her I'll make them pay for it."

On shot the speedy motor-boat, in and out along the winding shoreline, with the lad in the bow at the steering-wheel peering with eager eyes into every nook and corner where his craft might be hidden.



CHAPTER XVII

"THERE SHE IS!"

Anticipating that he would be some time on his search, the young inventor had gone prepared for it. He had a supply of provisions and he had told Mrs. Baggert he might not be back that night. But he did not intend to sleep aboard the RED STREAK, which, being a racing boat, was not large enough to afford much room for passengers. Tom had planned, therefore, to put up at some hotel near the lake in case his hunt should last beyond one night.

That it would do this was almost certain, for all that morning he searched unavailingly for the ARROW. A distant mill whistle sounding over Lake Carlopa told him it was noon.

"Dinner time," he announced to himself. "Guess I'll run up along shore in the shade and eat."

Selecting a place where the trees overhung the water, forming a quiet, cool nook, Tom sent the boat in there, and, tying it to a leaning tree, he began his simple meal. Various thoughts filled his mind, but chief among them was the desire to overtake the thieves who had his boat. That it was Happy Harry's gang he was positive.

The lad nearly finished eating and was considering what direction he might best search in next when he heard, running along a road that bordered the lake, an automobile.

"Wonder who that is?" mused Tom. "It won't do any harm to take a look, for it might be some of those thieves again. They probably still have their auto or Happy Harry couldn't have gotten from Sandport to Shopton so quickly."

The young inventor slipped ashore from the motor-boat, taking care to make no noise. Stealing silently along toward the road, he peered through the underbrush for a sight of the machine, which seemed to be going slowly. But before the youth had a glimpse of it he was made aware who the occupant was by hearing someone exclaim:

"Bless my shoe laces if this cantankerous contraption isn't going wrong again! I wonder if it's going to have a fit here in this lonely place. It acts just as if it was. Bless my very existence! Hold on now. Be nice! Be nice!"

"Mr. Damon!" exclaimed Tom, and, without knowing it, he had spoken aloud.

"Hold on there! Hold on! Who's calling me in this forsaken locality? Bless my shirt studs! But who is it?" and the eccentric man who had sold Tom the motor-cycle looked intently at the bushes.

"Here I am, Mr. Damon," answered the lad, stepping out into the road. "I knew it was you as soon as I saw you."

"Bless my liver, but that's very true! I suppose you heard my unfortunate automobile puffing along. I declare I don't know what ails it. I got it on the advice of my physician, who said I must get out in the air, but, bless my gears, it's the auto who needs a doctor more than I do! It's continually out of order. Something is going to happen right away. I can tell by the way it's behaving."

Mr. Damon had thrown out the clutch, but the engine was still running, though in a jerky, uncertain fashion, which indicated to the trained ear of the young inventor that something was wrong.

"Perhaps I can fix it for you as I did before," ventured Tom.

"Bless my eyebrows! Perhaps you can," cried the eccentric man hopefully. "You always seem to turn up at the right moment. How do you manage it?"

"I don't know. I remember the time you turned up just when I wanted you to help me capture Happy Harry and his gang, and now, by, a strange coincidence, I'm after them again."

"You don't say so! My good gracious! Bless my hatband! But that's odd. There!" he ejaculated suddenly as the automobile engine stopped with a choking sigh, "I knew something was going to happen."

"Let me take a look," proposed the lad, and he was soon busy peering into the interior of the machine. At first he could not find the trouble, but being a persistent youth, Tom went at it systematically and located it in two places. The clutch was not rightly adjusted and the carburetor float feed needed fixing. The young inventor was not long in making the slight repairs and then he assured Mr. Damon that his automobile would run properly.

"Bless my very existence, but what a thing it is to have a head for mechanics!" exclaimed the odd man gratefully. "Now it would bother me to adjust a nutmeg grater if it got out of order, but I dare say you could fix it in no time."

"Yes," answered Tom, "I could and so could you, for there's nothing about it to fix. But you can go ahead now if you wish."

"Thank you. It just shows how ignorant I am of machinery. I presume something will go wrong in another mile or two. But may I ask what you are doing here? I presume you are in your motor-boat, sailing about for pleasure. And didn't I understand you to say you were after those chaps again? Bless my watch charm, but I was so interested in my machine that I didn't think to ask you."

"Yes, I am after those thieves again."

"In your motor-boat, I presume. Well, I hope you catch them. What have they stolen now?"

"My motor-boat. That's why I'm after them, but I had to borrow a craft to chase them with."

"Bless my soul! You don't tell me! How did it happen?"

Thereupon the lad related as much of the story as was necessary to put Mr. Damon in possession of the facts and he ended up with:

"I don't suppose you have seen anything of the men in my boat, have you?"

Mr. Damon seemed strangely excited. He had entered his auto, but as the lad's story progressed the odd gentleman had descended. When Tom finished he exclaimed:

"Don't say a word now—not a word. I want to think, and that is a process, which, for me, requires a little time. Don't speak a word now. Bless my left hand, but I think I can help you!"

He frowned, stamped first one foot, then the other, looked up at the sky, as if seeking inspiration there, and then down at the ground, as if that would help him to think. Then he clapped his hands smartly together and cried out:

"Bless my shoe buttons!"

"Have you seen them?" asked Tom eagerly.

"Was your boat one with a red arrow painted on the bow?" asked Mr. Damon in turn.

"It was!" and the lad was now almost as excited as was his friend.

"Then I've seen it and, what's more, this morning! Bless my spark plug, I've seen it!"

"Tell me about it!" pleaded the young inventor, and Mr. Damon, calming himself after an effort, resumed:

"I was out for an early spin in my auto," he said, "and was traveling along a road that bordered the lake, about fifteen miles above here. I heard a motor-boat puffing along near shore, and, looking through the trees, I saw one containing three men. It had a red arrow on the bow, and that's why I noticed it, because I recalled that your boat was named the DART."

"ARROW," corrected Tom.

"The ARROW. Oh, yes, I knew it was something like that. Well of course at the time I didn't think that it was your boat, but I associated it in my mind with yours. Do you catch my meaning?"

Tom did and said so, wishing Mr. Damon would hurry and get to the point. But the eccentric character had to do things in his own way.

"Exactly," he resumed. "Well, I didn't think that was your boat, but, at the same time, I watched the men out of curiosity, and I was struck with their behavior. They seemed to be quarreling, and, from what I could hear, two of them seemed to be remonstrating with the third one for having taken some sort of a piece of wood from the forward compartment. I believe that is the proper term."

"Yes!" Tom almost shouted. "But where did they go? What became of them? What was the man doing to the forward compartment—where the gasoline tank is?"

"Exactly. I was trying to think what was kept there. That's it, the gasoline tank. Well, the boat kept on up the lake, and I don't know what became of the men. But about that piece of wood. It seems that one of the men removed a block, from under the tank and the others objected. That's why they were quarreling."

"That's very strange," exclaimed the lad. "There must be some mystery about my boat that I don't understand. But that will keep until I get the boat itself. Good-by, Mr. Damon. I must be off."

"Where to?"

"Up the lake after those thieves. I must lose no time," and Tom started to go back to where he had left the RED STREAK.

"Hold on!" cried Mr. Damon. "I have something to propose, Tom. Two heads are better than one, even if one doesn't know how to adjust a nutmeg grate. Suppose I come along with you? I can point out the direction the men took, at any rate."

"I'll be very glad to have you," answered the lad, who felt that he might need help if there were three of the thieves in his craft. "But what will you do with your automobile?"

"I'll just run it down the road a way to where a friend of mine has a stable. I'll leave it in there and join you. Will you let me come? Bless my eye glasses, but I'd like to help catch those scoundrels!"

"I'll be very glad to have you. Go ahead, put the auto in the barn and I'll wait for you."

"I have a better plan than that," replied Mr. Damon. "Run your boat down to that point," and he indicated one about a mile up the lake. "I'll be there waiting for you, and we'll lose no time. I can cover the ground faster in my auto than you can in your boat."

Tom saw the advantage of this and was soon under way, while he heard on shore the puffing of his friend's car. On the trip to the point Tom puzzled over the strange actions of the man in taking one of the braces from under the gasoline tank.

"I'll wager he did it before," thought the lad. "It must be the same person who was tampering with the lock of the forward compartment the day I bought the boat. But why—that's the question—why?"

He could find no answer to this, puzzle over it as he did, and he gave it up. His whole desire now was to get on the trail of the thieves, and he had strong hopes, after the clew Mr. Damon had given him. The latter was waiting for him on the point, and so nimble was the owner of the auto, in spite of his size, that Tom was not delayed more than the fraction of a minute ere he was under way again, speeding up the lake.

"Now keep well in toward shore," advised Mr. Damon. "Those fellows don't want to be observed any more than they can help, and they'll sneak along the bank, They were headed in that direction," and he pointed it out. "Now I hope you won't think I'm in the way. Besides, you know, if you get your boat back, you'll want some one to help steer it, while you run this one. I can do that, at all events, bless my very existence!"

"I am very glad of your help," replied the lad, but he did not take his eyes from the water before him, and he was looking for a sight of his boat with the men in it.

For three hours or more Tom and Mr. Damon cruised in and out along the shore of the lake, going farther and farther up the body of water. Tom was beginning to think that he would reach Sandport without catching sight of the thieves, and he was wondering if, after all, he might not better stop off and see his father when, above the puffing of the motor in the RED STREAK, he heard the put-put of another boat.

"Listen!" cried Mr. Damon, who had heard it at the same time.

Tom nodded.

"They're just ahead of us," whispered his companion.

"If it's them," was the lad's reply.

"Speed up and we'll soon see," suggested Mr. Damon, and Tom shoved the timer over. The RED STREAK forged ahead. The sound of the other boat came more plainly now. It was beyond a little point of land. The young inventor steered out to get around it and leaned eagerly forward to catch the first glimpse of the unseen craft. Would it prove to be the ARROW?

The put-put became louder now. Mr. Damon was standing up, as if that would, in some mysterious way, help. Then suddenly the other boat came into view. Tom saw it in an instant and knew it for the ARROW.

"There she is!" he cried.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE PURSUIT

For an instant after Tom's exultant cry the men in the boat ahead were not aware that they were being pursued. Then, as the explosions from the motor of the RED STREAK sounded over the water, they turned to see who was coming up behind them. There was no mistaking the attitude of the young inventor and his companion. They were leaning eagerly forward, as if they could reach out and grasp the criminals who were fleeing before them.

"Put on all the speed you can, Tom!" begged Mr. Damon. "We'll catch the scoundrels now. Speed up the motor! Oh, if I only had my automobile now. Bless my crank shaft, but one can go so much faster on land than on water."

The lad did not reply, but thought, with grim humor, that running an automobile over Lake Carlopa would be no small feat. Mr. Damon, however, knew what he was saying.

"We'll catch them! We'll nab 'em!" he cried. "Speed her up, Tom."

The youth was doing his best with the motor of the RED STREAK. He was not as well acquainted with it as he was with the one in his boat, but he knew, even better than Andy Foger, how to make it do efficient work. It was a foregone conclusion that the RED STREAK, if rightly handled, could beat the ARROW, but there were several points in favor of the thieves. The motor of Tom's boat was in perfect order, and even an amateur, with some knowledge of a boat, could make it do nearly its best. On the other hand, the RED STREAK's machinery needed "nursing." Again, the thieves had a good start, and that counted for much. But Tom counted on two other points. One was that Happy Harry and his gang would probably know little about the fine points of a motor. They had shown this in letting the motor of the boat they had first stolen get out of order, and Tom knew the ins and outs of a gasoline engine to perfection. So the chase was not so hopeless as it seemed.

"Do you think you can catch them?" asked Mr. Damon anxiously.

"I'm going to make a big try," answered his companion.

"They're heading out into the middle of the lake!" cried the eccentric man.

"If they do, I can cut them off!" murmured Tom as he put the wheel over.

But whoever was steering the ARROW knew better than to send it on a course that would enable the pursuing boat to cut across and shorten the distance to it. After sending the stolen craft far enough out from shore to clear points of land that jutted out into the lake, the leading boat was sent straight ahead.

"A stern chase and a long chase!" murmured Mr. Damon. "Bless my rudder, but those fellows are not going to give up easily."

"I guess not," murmured Tom. "Will you steer for a while, Mr. Damon?"

"Of course I will. If I could get out and pull the boat after me, to make it go faster, I would. But as I always lose my breath when I run, perhaps it's just as well that I stay in here." Tom thought so too, but his attention was soon given to the engine. He adjusted the timer to get if possible a little more speed out of the boat he had borrowed from Andy, and he paid particular attention to the oiling system.

"We're going a bit faster!" called Mr. Damon' encouragingly, "or else they're slacking up."

Tom peered ahead to see if this was so. It was hard to judge whether he was overhauling the ARROW, as it was a stern chase, and that is always difficult to judge. But a glimpse along shore showed him that they were slipping through the water at a faster speed.

"They're up to something!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Damon a moment later. "I believe they're going to fire on us, Tom. They are pointing something this way."

The lad stood up and gazed earnestly at his boat, which seemed to be slipping away from him so fast. One of the occupants was in the stern, aiming some glittering object at those in the RED STREAK. For a moment Tom thought it might be a gun. Then, as the man turned, he saw what it was.

"A pair of marine glasses," cried the lad. "They're trying to make out who we are."

"I guess they know well enough," rejoined Mr. Damon. "Can't you go any faster, Tom?"

"I'm afraid not. But we'll land them, sooner or later. They can't go very far in this direction without running ashore and we'll have them. They're cutting across the lake now."

"They may escape us if it gets dark. Probably that's what they're working for. They want to keep ahead of us until nightfall."

The young inventor thought of this too, but there was little he could do. The motor was running at top speed. It could be made to go faster, Tom knew, with another ignition system, but that was out of the question now.

The man with the glasses had resumed his seat, and the efforts of the trio seemed concentrated on the motor of the ARROW. They, too, wished to go faster. But they had not skill enough to accomplish it, and in about ten minutes, when Tom took another long and careful look to ascertain if possible whether or not he was overhauling the thieves, he was delighted to see that the distance between the boats had lessened.

"We're catching them! We're creeping up on them!" cried Mr. Damon. "Keep it up, Tom." There was nothing to do, however, save wait. The boat ahead had shifted her course somewhat and was now turning in toward the shore, for the lake was narrow at this point, and abandoning their evident intention of keeping straight up the lake, the thieves seemed now bent on something else.

"I believe they're going to run ashore and get out!" cried Mr. Damon.

"If they do, it's just what I want," declared the lad. "I don't care for the men. I want my boat back!"

The occupants of the ARROW were looking to the rear again, and one—Happy Harry, Tom thought—shook his fist.

"Ah, wait until I get hold of you!" cried Mr. Damon, following his example. "I'll make you wish you'd behaved yourselves, you scoundrels! Bless my overcoat! Catch them if you can, Tom."

There was now no doubt of the intention of the fleeing ones. The shore was looming up ahead and straight for it was headed the ARROW. Tom sent Andy's boat in the same direction. He was rapidly overhauling the escaping ones now, for they had slowed down the motor. Three minutes later the foremost boat grated on the beach of the lake. The men leaped out, one of them pausing an instant in the bow.

"Here, don't you damage my boat!" cried Tom involuntarily, for the man seemed to be hammering something.

The fellow leaped over the side, holding something in his hand.

"There they go! Catch them!" yelled Mr. Damon.

"Let them go!" answered the lad as the men ran toward the wood. "I want my boat. I'm afraid they've damaged her. One of them tore something from the bow."

At the same instant the two companions of the fellow who had paused in the forward part of the ARROW saw that he had something in his hand. With yells of rage they dashed at him, but he, shaking his fist at them, plunged into the bushes and could be heard breaking his way through, while his companions were in pursuit.

"They've quarreled among themselves," commented Mr. Damon as high and angry voices could be heard from the woods. "There's some mystery here, Tom."

"I don't doubt it, but my first concern is for my boat. I want to see if they have damaged her."

Tom had run so closely in shore with the RED STREAK that he had to reverse to avoid damaging the craft against the bank. In a mass of foam he stopped her in time, and then springing ashore, he hurried to his motor-boat.



CHAPTER XIX

A QUIET CRUISE

"Have they done any damage?" asked Mr. Damon as he stood in the bow of the RED STREAK.

Tom did not answer for a moment. His trained eye was looking over the engine.

"They yanked out the high tension wire instead of stopping the motor with the switch," he answered at length, and then, when he had taken a look into the compartment where the gasoline tank was, he added: "And they've ripped out two more of the braces I put in. Why in the world they did that I can't imagine."

"That's evidently what one man had that the others wanted," was Mr. Damon's opinion.

"Probably," agreed Tom. "But what could he or they want with wooden braces?"

That was a puzzler for Mr. Damon, but he answered:

"Perhaps they wanted to damage your boat and those two men were mad because the other got ahead of them."

"Taking out the braces wouldn't do much damage. I can easily put others in. All it would do would be to cause the tank to sag down and maybe cause a leak in the pipe. But that would be a queer thing to do. No, I think there's some mystery that I haven't gotten to the bottom of yet. But I'm going to."

"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I'll help you. But can you run your boat back home?"

"Not without fixing it a bit. I must brace up that tank and put in a new high-tension wire from the spark coil. I can do it here, but I'd rather take it to the shop. Besides, with two boats to run back, for I must return Andy's to him, I don't see how I can do it very well unless you operate one, Mr. Damon."

"Excuse me, but I can't do it. Bless my slippers, but I would be sure to run on a rock! The best plan will be for you to tow your boat and I'll ride in it and steer. I can do that much, anyhow. You can ride in the RED STREAK."

Tom agreed that this would be a good plan. So, after temporarily bracing up the tank in the ARROW, it was shoved out into the lake and attached to Andy's craft.

"But aren't you going to make a search for those men?" asked Mr. Damon when Tom was ready to start back.

"No, I think it would be useless. They are well away by this time, and I don't fancy chasing them through the woods, especially as night is coming on. Besides, I won't leave these boats."

"No doubt you are right, but I would like to see them punished, and I am curious enough to wish to know what object that scoundrel could have in ripping out the blocks that served as a brace for the tank."

"I feel the same way myself," commented the lad, "especially since this is the second time that's happened. But we'll have to wait, I guess."

A little later the start back was made, Mr. Damon steering the ARROW skillfully enough so that it did not drag on the leading boat, in which Tom rode. His course took him not far from the lake sanitarium, where Mr. Duncan, the hunter, had been brought, and desiring to know how the wounded man was getting on, the youth proposed that they make a halt, explaining to Mr. Damon his reason.

"Yes, and while you're about it you'd better telephone your father that you will join him to-morrow," suggested the other. "I know what it is to fret and worry. You can fix your boat up in time to go to Sandport to-morrow, can't you?"

"Yes, I'm glad you reminded me of it. I'll telephone from the sanitarium, if they'll let me."

Mr. Duncan was not at the institution, Tom was told, his injury having healed sufficiently to allow of his being removed to his home. The youth readily secured permission to use the telephone, and was soon in communication with Mr. Swift. While not telling him all the occurrences that had delayed him, Tom gave his father and Ned Newton enough information to explain his absence. Then the trip to Shopton was resumed in the two boats.

"What are you going to do about your automobile?" asked Tom as they neared the point where the machine had been left.

"Never mind about that," replied Mr. Damon. "It will do it good to have a night's vacation. I will go on to your house with you, and perhaps I can get a train back to my friend's home, so that I can claim my car."

"Won't you stay all night with me?" invited the young inventor. "I'd be glad to have you."

Mr. Damon agreed, and, Tom putting more speed on the RED STREAK, was soon opposite his own dock. The ARROW was run in the boathouse and the owner hastily told Mrs. Baggert and the engineer what had occurred. Then he took Andy's boat to Mr. Foger's dock and warmly thanked the red-haired lad for the use of his craft.

"Did you find your boat?" asked Andy eagerly. "How did the RED STREAK run?"

"I got my boat and yours runs fine," explained Tom.

"Good! I'll race you again some day," declared Andy.

Mr. Damon enjoyed his visit at our hero's house, for Mrs. Baggert cooked one of her best suppers for him. Tom and the engineer spent the evening repairing the motor-boat, Mr. Damon looking on and exclaiming "Bless my shoe leather" or some other part of his dress or anatomy at every stage of the work. The engineer wanted to know all about the men and their doings, but he could supply no reason for their queer actions regarding the braces under the gasoline tank.

In the morning Tom once more prepared for an early start for Sandport, and Mr. Damon, reconsidering his plans, rode as far with him as the place where the automobile had been left. There he took leave of the young inventor, promising to call on Mr. Swift in the near future.

"I hope you arrive at the hotel where your father is without any more accidents," remarked the automobilist. "Bless my very existence, but you seem to have the most remarkable series of adventures I ever heard of!"

"They are rather odd," admitted Tom. "I don't know that I particularly care for them, either. But, now that I have my boat back, I guess everything will be all right."

But Tom could not look ahead. He was destined to have still more exciting times, as presently will be related.

Without further incident he arrived at the Lakeview Hotel in Sandport that evening and found his father and Ned very glad to see him. Of course he had to explain everything then, and, with his son safely in his sight, Mr. Swift was not so nervous over the recital as he would have been had Tom not been present.

"Now for some nice, quiet trips," remarked the lad when he had finished his account. "I feel as if I had cheated you out of part of your vacation, Ned, staying away as long as I did."

"Well, of course we missed you," answered his chum. "But your father and I had a good time."

"Yes, and I invented a new attachment for a kitchen boiler," added Mr. Swift. "I had a chance for it when I passed through the hotel kitchen one day, for I wanted to see what kind of a range they used."

"I guess there's no stopping you from inventing," replied his son with a laugh and a hopeless shake of the head. "But don't let it happen again when you go away to rest."

"Oh, I only just thought of it," said Mr. Swift. "I haven't worked the details out yet."

Then he wanted to know about everything at home and he seemed particularly anxious lest the Happy Harry gang do some damage.

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