Chapter I. Eradicate in an Airship
 

"Well, Massa Tom, am yo' gwine out in yo' flyin' machine ag'in to- day?"

"Yes, Rad, I think I will take a little flight. Perhaps I'll go over to Waterford, and call on Mr. Damon. I haven't seen very much of him, since we got back from our hunt after the diamond-makers."

"Take a run clear ober t' Waterfield; eh, Massa Tom?"

"Yes, Rad. Now, if you'll help me, I'll get out the Butterfly, and see what trim she's in for a speedy flight."

Tom Swift, the young inventor, aided by Eradicate Sampson, the colored helper of the Swift household, walked over toward a small shed.

A few minutes later the two had rolled into view, on its three bicycle wheels, a trim little monoplane--one of the speediest craft of the air that had ever skimmed along beneath the clouds. It was built to carry two, and had a very powerful motor.

"I guess it will work all right," remarked the young inventor, for Torn Swift had not only built this monoplane himself, but was the originator of it, and the craft contained many new features.

"It sho' do look all right, Massa Tom."

"Look here, Rad," spoke the lad, as a sudden idea came to him, "you've never ridden in an airship, have you?"

"No, Massa Tom, an' I ain't gwine to nuther!"

"Why not?"

"Why not? 'Case as how it ain't healthy; that's why!"

"But I go in them frequently, Eradicate. So does my father. You've seen us fly often enough, to know that it's safe. Why, look at the number of times Mr. Damon and I have gone off on trips in this little Butterfly. Didn't we always come back safely?"

"Yes, dat's true, but dere might come a time when yo' wouldn't come back, an' den where'd Eradicate Sampson be? I axes yo' dat--whar'd I be, Massa Tom?"

"Why, you wouldn't be anywhere if you didn't go, of course," and Tom laughed. "But I'd like to take you for a little spin in this machine, Rad. I want you to get used to them. Sometime I may need you to help me. Come, now. Suppose you get up on this seat here, and I promise not to go too high until you get used to it. Come on, it will do you good, and think of what all your friends will say when they see you riding in an airship."

"Dat's right, Massa Tom. Dey suah will be monstrous envious ob Eradicate Sampson, dat's what dey will."

It was clear that the colored man was being pursuaded somewhat against his will. Though he had been engaged by Tom Swift and his father off and on for several years, Eradicate had never shown any desire to take a trip through the air in one of the several craft Tom owned for this purpose. Nor had he ever evinced a longing for a trip under the ocean in a submarine, and as for riding in Tom's speedy electric car--Eradicate would as soon have sat down with thirteen at the table, or looked at the moon over the wrong shoulder.

But now, somehow, there was a peculiar temptation to take his young employer at his word. Eradicate had seen, many times, the youthful inventor and his friends make trips in the monoplane, as well as in the big biplane and dirigible balloon combined--the Red Cloud. Tom and the others had always come back safely, though often they met with accidents which only the skill and daring of the daring aeronaut had brought to a safe conclusion.

"Well, are you coming, Rad?" asked Tom, as he looked to see if the oil and gasoline tanks were filled, and gave a preliminary twirl to the propeller.

"Now does yo' t'ink it am puffickly safe, Massa Tom?" and the colored man looked nervously at the machine.

"Of course, Rad. Otherwise I wouldn't invite you. But I won't take you far. I just want you to get used to it, and, once you have made a flight, you'll want to make another."

"I don't nohow believe I will, Massa Tom, but as long as you have axed me, an' as yo' say some of dem proud, stuck-up darkies in Shopton will be tooken down a peg or two when de sees me, vhy, I will go wif yo', Massa Tom."

"I thought you would. Now take your place in the little seat next to where I'm going to sit. All start the engine and jump in. Now sit perfectly still, and, whatever you do, don't jump out. The ground's pretty hard this morning. There was a frost last night."

"I knows dere was, Massa Tom. Nope, I won't jump. I-I-Oh, golly, Massa Tom! I guess I don't want to go-let me out!"

Eradicate, his heart growing fainter as the time of starting drew nearer, made as if he would leave the monoplane, in which he had taken his seat.

"Sit still!" yelled Tom. At that instant he started the propeller. The motor roared like a salvo of guns, and streaks of fire could be seen shooting from one cylinder to the other, until there was a perfect blast of explosions.

The speed of the propeller increased as the motor warmed up. Tom ran to his seat and opened the gasoline throttle still more, advancing the spark slightly. The roar increased. The lad darted a look at Eradicate. The colored man's face was like chalk, and he was gripping the upright braces at his side as though his salvation depended on them.

"Steady now" spoke Tom, yelling to be heard above the racket. "Here we go."

The Butter-fly was moving slowly across the level stretch of ground which Tom used for starting his airships. The propeller was now a blur of light. The explosions of the motor became a steady roar, the noise from one cylinder being merged into the blast from the others so rapidly that it was a continuous racket.

With a whizz the monoplane shot across the ground. Then, with a quick motion, Tom tilted the lifting planes, and, as gracefully as a bird, the little machine mounted upward on a slant until, coming to a level about two hundred feet above the earth, Tom sent it straight ahead over the roof of his house.

"How's this, Rad?" he cried. "Isn't it great?"

"It--it--er--bur-r-r-r! It's--it's mighty ticklish, Massa Tom-dat's de word--it suah am mighty ticklish!"

Tom Swift laughed and increased the speed. The Butterfly darted forward like some hummingbird about to launch itself upon a flower, and, indeed, the revolutions of the propeller were not unlike the vibrations of the wings of that marvelous little creature.

"Now for some corkscrew twists!" cried the young inventor. "Here we go, Rad!"

With that he began a series of intricate evolutions, making figures of eight, spirals, curves, sudden dips and long swings. It was masterwork in handling a monoplane, but Eradicate

Sampson, as he sat crouched in the seat, gripping the uprights until his hands ached, was in no condition to appreciate it. Gradually, however, as he saw that the craft remained up in the air, and showed no signs of falling, the fears of the colored man left him. He sat up straighter.

"Don't you like it, Rad?" cried Tom.

This time the answer came with more decision.

"It suah am great, Massa Tom! I'm--I'm beginnin' t' like it. Whoop! I guess I do like it! Now if some of dem stuck-up coons could see me--"

"They'd think you were stuck up; eh, Rad? Stuck up in the air!"

"Dat's right, Massa Tom. Ha! Ha! I suah am stuck up in de air! Ha! Ha!"

By this time Tom had guided the machine away from the village, and they were flying over the fields, some distance from his house. The colored man was beginning to enjoy his experience very much.

Suddenly, just as Tom was trying to get a bit more speed out of the motor, the machine stopped. The cessation of the racket was almost as startling as a loud explosion would have been.

"Just my luck!" cried Tom.

"What's de matter?" asked Eradicate, anxiously.

"Motor's stalled," replied the young inventor.

"An', by golly, we's falling!" yelled the colored man.

Naturally, with the stopping of the propeller, there was no further straight, forward motion to the monoplane, and, following the law of nature, it began to drop toward the earth on a slant.

"We's fallin'! We'll be killed!" yelled the negro.

"It's all right, I'll just vol-plane back to earth," spoke Tom, calmly. "I've often done it before, higher up than this. Sit still, Rad, I'm volplaning back to the ground."

"An' I'll jump back to de ground; dat's what I'll do. I ain't goin' t' wait until I falls, no sah! An' I ain't gwine t' do none ob dat ball-playin' yo' speak ob, Massa Swift. It's no time t' play ball when yo' life am in danger. I'se gwine t' jump."

"Sit still!" cried Tom, for the colored man was about to spring from his seat. "There's no danger! I didn't say anything about playing ball. I said I'd vol-plane back to the earth. We'll be there shortly. I'll take you down safe. Sit still, Rad!"

He spoke so earnestly that the fears of his colored passenger were quelled. With a quick motion Tom threw up the head planes, to check the downward sweep. The Butterfly shot forward on a gradual slant. Repeating this maneuver several times, the young inventor finally brought his machine to within a short distance of the earth, and, also, considerably nearer his own home.

"I wonder if we can make it?" he murmured, measuring the distance with his eye. "I think so. I'll shoot her up a bit and then let her down on a long slant. Then, with another upward tilt, I ought to fetch it."

The monoplane tilted upward. Eradicate gave a cry of terror. It was stilled at a look from Tom. Once more the air machine glided forward. Then came another long dip, another upward glide and the Butterfly came gently to earth almost on the very spot whence it had flown upward a few minutes before.

Eradicate gave one mad spring from his seat, almost before the bicycle wheels had ceased revolving, as Tom jammed on the earth- brake.

"Here, where are you going, Rad?" cried the lad.

"Whar am I goin'? I'se goin' t' see if mah mule Boomerang am safe. He's de only kind ob an airship I wants arter dis!" and the colored man disappeared into the shack whence came a loud "hee-haw!"

"Oh, pshaw! Wait a minute, Rad. I'll soon have the motor fixed, and we'll make another try. I'll take you over to Mr. Damon's with me."

"No, sah, Massa Tom. Yo' don't catch dis coon in any mo' airships. Mah mule am good enough fo' me!" shouted Eradicate from the safe harbor of the mule's stable.

Tom laughed, and turned to inspect the motor. As he was looking it over, to locate the trouble, the door of the house opened and a pleasant-faced woman stepped out.

"Oh, Tom," she called. "I looked for you a moment ago, and you weren't here!"

"No, Mrs. Baggert," Tom replied, waving his hand in greeting to the housekeeper, "Rad and I just came back--quite suddenly--sooner than we expected to. Why? Did you want me?"

"Here's a letter that came for you," she went on.

Tom tore open the envelope, and rapidly scanned the contents of the missive.

"Hello!" he ejaculated half aloud. "It's from Abe Abercrombie, that miner I met when we were after the diamond-makers! He says he is on his way east to get ready to start on the quest for the Alaskan valley of gold, in the caves of ice. I had almost forgotten that I promised to make the attempt in the big airship. How did this letter come, Mrs. Baggert?" he asked.

"By special delivery. The messenger brought it a few minutes ago."

"Then we may see Abe any day now. Guess I'd better be looking over the Red Cloud to see if it's in shape for a trip to the Arctic regions."

Tom's attention for the moment was taken off his little monoplane, and his memory went back to the strange scenes in which he and his friends had recently played a part, in searching for the cave of the diamond-makers on Phantom Mountain. He recalled the promise he had made to the old miner.

"I wonder if he expects us to start for Alaska with winter coming on?" thought Tom.

His musings were suddenly interrupted by the entrance into the yard, surrounding the aeroplane shed, of a lad about his own age.

"Hello, Ned Newton!" called Tom, heartily.

"Hello, yourself," responded Ned. "I've got a day off from the bank, and I thought I'd come over and see you. Say, have you heard the latest?"

"No. What is it?"

"Andy Foger is building an airship."

"Andy Foger building an airship?"

"Yes, he says it will beat yours."

"Humph! It will, eh? Well, Andy can do as he pleases as long as he doesn't bother me. I won't be around here much longer, anyhow."

"Why not, Tom?"

"Because I soon expect to start for the far north on a strange quest. Come on in the shed, and I'll tell you about it. We're going to try to locate a valley of gold, and I guess Andy Foger won't follow me there, even if he does build an airship."

Tom and his chum started toward the shed, the young inventor still holding the letter that was to play such an important part in his life within the next few months. And, had he only known it, the building of Andy Foger's airship was destined to be fraught with much danger to our hero.