Chapter III. Abe is Deceived
 

Raising a ladder alone is rather an awkward job. Tom found this so when he tried to aid his friend Ned. But, being a muscular lad, the young inventor did finally succeed in getting the ladder up against the fence where the bank clerk could reach it.

Whack! Down upon the top board came a, stick wielded by Andy Foger from the rear window of his shop.

"Wow!" cried Ned. for the blow had been close to his fingers. "Hurry up with that ladder, Tom."

"There it is! But why don't you drop?"

"Too far. I can't reach the ladder now!"

"Yes, you can. Stretch a bit!"

"Whack!" Once more the stick descended on the fence, this time still closer to Ned's clinging hands.

"Hit him good, Andy!" cried Sam Snedecker, "Give me a shot at him!"

"I will not. I want to attend to him myself. You go tell my father, and he'll have Tom Swift arrested for trying to sneak in and get some of my airship ideas!"

By this time Ned's wiggling feet had found the topmost rung of the ladder. The next moment he was rapidly descending it, and, when on the ground, he and Tom carried it away, to prevent its use by the enemy.

"Whew!" exclaimed the young inventor. "I had no idea they would kick up such a row!"

"Me either. Did you hurt yourself when you jumped, as the ladder fell?"

"No. Did they hit your hands?"

"Came mighty near it. Well, I s'pose it serves us right, yet if I can't look over my own back fence it's a pity!"

"Of course we can, only I'd just as soon they hadn't seen us. However--hello! there's Andy looking over here, now."

The mean face of the bully now topped the fence. It was evident that he had crawled from the window of his shop.

"What are you trying to get into my place for, Tom Swift?" he demanded.

"I wasn't trying to get in, Andy Foger."

"Well, you were looking in."

"Only doing as you've done over at my shop, several times, Andy. I wanted to see what sort of an airship you were building."

"Trying to get some ideas for your own, I guess," sneered Andy.

Tom did not think it worth while to answer this taunt.

"I could have you arrested for this," went on Andy, who felt bolder now that he was reinforced by Sam and Pete on either side of him as he looked over the fence into Ned's yard.

"Arrested for what?" demanded the bank clerk.

"For trespassing on my father's premises," went on Andy.

"We weren't on your premises," declared Ned. "We were on our side of the fence all the while."

"Well, you were looking over in my yard."

"A cat may look at a king, you know, Andy," Tom reminded the bully.

"Yah! Think you're smart, don't you! Well, you can't steal any of my ideas for an airship. They're all patented, and I'll soon be making longer and higher flights than you ever dreamed of! I'll show you what a real airship is, Tom Swift! Monoplanes and biplanes are out of date. The only thing that's any good is a triplane. If mine works well--and I'm sure it will--I may build a quadruplane!"

"I wish you luck," spoke Tom, with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Well, you won't have any luck if you come around here any more," went on Pete Bailey. "We'll be on the watch for you fellows, now, and we'll cover this window, so you can't see in."

"That's what we will," agreed Andy, and Sam Snedecker shook his head vigorously to indicate that he, too, approved of this.

"Come on," spoke Tom in a low tone to Ned, "I've seen enough."

The two chums moved toward Ned's house, followed by the jeers and mocking laughter of Andy and his cronies.

"Can't you get back at them in some way?" asked Ned, for he did not like to see himself or his friend apparently vanquished by the bully.

"He laughs best who laughs last, Ned."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that when Andy tries to fly in his triplane it will be our turn to laugh."

"Won't it fly?"

"Never, the way he has it rigged up. It didn't take but one look to tell me that. He's working on altogether the wrong principle. Wait until he tries to go up, and then we'll have some fun with him."

"Then you got a good view of it through the window?"

"I saw all I wanted to. But say, I was about to take a little trip in my monoplane, to see my friend Mr. Damon, when Abe's letter arrived, and you came along with your news. I started to take Eradicate, but he backed out. Don't you want to come?"

"Sure, I'll go along."

Ned had often ridden in the trim Butterfly, though the trips had not been so frequent that he was tired of them. A little later, Tom, having adjusted the motor that had stalled before, compelling him to vol-plane back to earth, the two chums were sailing through the air toward Waterford.

"Why, bless my shoe laces!" cried Mr. Damon, as they alighted in the yard of his house, about an hour later. "I didn't expect you, Tom. But I'm glad to see you!"

"And I to meet you again. I guess you know Ned Newton."

"Ah, yes. How d'ye do, Ned? Bless my appetite! but it's quite chilly. We'll soon have winter. Won't you come in and have some hot chocolate?"

The boys were glad to accept the invitation, and as they were drinking the beverage, which Mrs. Damon made for them, Tom told of the receipt of the letter from the old miner, and also his experience in seeing Andy's airship.

"Why, bless my pocketbook!" cried Mr. Damon. "I had no idea we'd ever hear from Abe Abercrombie again. And so he is really coming on, to tell us about the valley of gold?"

"So he says," replied Tom. "I was wondering if you'd like to go, Mr. Damon."

"Go? Why, bless my very topknot! Of course I would. I'll go with you--only--only," and he leaned forward and whispered cautiously, "don't speak so loudly. My wife might hear you!"

"Doesn't she want you to go off in the airship any more?" asked Tom.

"Well, she'd rather I wouldn't. But she's going on a visit to her mother, soon, and then I think will come my opportunity to take another trip with you. A valley of gold in Alaska, eh? Up where the icebergs and caves of ice are. Say, Tom, I know some one else who would be glad to go."

"Who?" inquired the young inventor, though he had an idea to whom his friend referred.

"Mr. Parker! You know he's taken up his residence in Waterford, now, and only the other day he spoke to me about wishing he could go to the far north. He has some new theory--"

"About the destruction of something or other; hasn't he, Mr. Damon?" interrupted Tom, with a smile.

"That's it, exactly, my boy. Bless my coffeepot! But Mr. Parker has an idea that the whole northern part of this continent will soon be buried thousands of feet deep under an icy avalanche, and he wants to be there to see it. I know he'd like to go with us, Tom."

The young inventor made a little gesture of dissent, but as he knew Mr. Damon, who was very eccentric himself, had taken a great liking to the gloomy scientist, Tom did not feel like refusing. So he said:

"All right, Mr. Damon. If we go, and I think we shall, we'll expect you and Mr. Parker. I'll let you know the result of Mr. Abercrombie's visit, and I needn't request you to keep quiet about it. If there is a valley of gold in Alaska, we don't want everyone to know about it."

"No, of course not, Tom Swift. I'll keep silent about it. Bless my liverpin! But I'll be glad to on the move again, even if it is toward the Arctic regions."

After some further talk, Tom and Ned took their departure, making good time back to Shopton in the speedy monoplane.

For several days after that Tom busied himself about his big airship the Red Cloud, for it needed quite a few repairs after the long trip to the mountains where the diamond makers had been discovered in their cave.

"And if we're going up amid the ice and snow," reasoned Tom, "I've got to make some different arrangements about the craft, and provide for keeping warmer than we found necessary when we went west."

So it was that Tom had no time to learn anything further about Andy Foger's airship, even had our hero been so inclined, which he was not. He looked for Abe Abercrombie any day now, for though the old miner had given no date as to when he would arrive, he had said, in his letter, that it would be soon.

It was one day, nearly a week after Tom's attempt to make Eradicate like aeroplaning, that there might have been seen, coming along the Shopton road, which led toward Tom's house, the figure of a grizzled old man. His clothes were rather rough, and he carried a valise that had, evidently, seen much service. There was that about him which proclaimed him for a westerner--a cattleman or a miner.

He walked slowly along, murmuring to himself.

"Wa'al, I might better have taken one of them wagons at th' depot," he said, "than t' try t' walk. It's quite a stretch out t' Tom Swift's house. I hope I find him home."

He trudged on, and, a little later, his gaze was attracted by a large shed, in the rear of a white house the pretentious appearance of which indicated that persons of wealth owned it.

"I guess that must be the place," he remarked. "That shed is big enough to hold the airship. Now to present myself."

As he walked up the front path of the house, he was met by one of the gardeners, who was raking up the leaves.

"Is this the airship place?" asked the miner.

"Yes, that's where the young master is making his triplane," answered the man.

"Is he in?"

"Yes, I guess so. You can walk right back to the shed."

The miner did so. Through the open door of the building he had a glimpse of big stretches of wings, propellers, rudders, and some machinery.

"That's it," he murmured, "though it looks some different than I remembered it. However, maybe Tom's changed it about. I wonder where he is?"

As he spoke a lad came from the shed to meet him--a lad on whose face there was a look of suspicion.

"What do you want?" he demanded.

"I'm lookin' for Tom Swift," was the simple reply. "But I take it you're one of his partners in this airship business. I guess he must have told you about me. I'm Abe Abercrombie, the miner, and I've come to show him the way to that valley of gold in Alaska."

At the mention of Tom Swift's name, Andy Foger, for it was he, had started to utter a denial. But, at the next words of the miner, and as Mr. Abercrombie mentioned "gold" and "Alaska," there came a cunning look over Andy's face.

"Tom Swift isn't here just now," he said, wondering how he could turn to advantage the unexpected visit, and the impending information that the guileless old man was about to give under the mistaken idea that Andy was Tom's friend.

"That's all right, I reckon he'll be along presently. You'll do just as well, I reckon. You're in partnership with him, I take it. So this is the place where he makes his airships, eh? It's a big one," and Mr. Abercrombie looked in at the odd triplane of Andy's--for the airship was almost finished.

"But it'll need to be big if we're to go to Alaska in it," went on the miner. "It's quite a journey t' th' valley where th' gold is. No way t' get t' it except by an airship. An' here I be an' ready to start, I've brought th' map of th' place, jest as I promised. Here it is, better take good care of it. Now, let's talk business," and the miner, having guilelessly handed Andy Foger a folded parchment, sat down on a box at the door of the airship shed, and placed his heavy valise on the ground beside him.

"What's this?" asked the bully, wondering whether he had heard aright.

"It's the map of th' valley of gold--directions how t' git there, an' all that. I guess it's plain enough. Now, when can we start?"

Andy did not know what to say. Fate had, most unexpectedly, placed in his hands a valuable paper. The miner had made a mistake. Andy's house was on the same road as was Tom's and, seeing the airship shed, had deceived the aged man. He had not expected to find two airship manufactories in the same village.

"The map of the valley of gold, "murmured Andy, as he put it in his pocket.

"Yes, jest as I told Tom about when I met him out West. I said I'd bring it with me, an' I did. When will Tom be back? He never spoke of you, though I reckoned he'd have to have some help in makin' his airships. Where is he?"

"He--he--" stammered Andy. He did not know what to say.

At that instant Tom Swift himself passed by in the road. He had been over to Shopton on an errand. One look into the yard of Andy's house showed to our hero the old miner sitting at the door of the airship shed.

"Mr. Abercrombie--Abe!" cried Tom, almost, before he thought.

"Hello, Tom! I got here!" cried the miner, heartily. "I was jest talking to your partner."

"My partner!" spoke Tom in amazement

"Yes--partner in th' airship business. I should think you'd need about three partners to build these machines!"

"My partner! Andy Foger isn't my partner!" cried Tom, wondering what would happen next. "I have no partner! If he said he was he deceived you!"

"No partner? Ain't he your partner?" cried Mr. Abercrombie. "Why, I thought he was. I told him about th' valley of gold--I--I--give him the map--"

"The map?"

"Yes, the map t' tell how to get there. He's got it!"

There was a mocking smile on Andy's face.

"Give that map back at once!" cried Tom, sternly, now understanding something of the situation. "Hand it over at once, Andy Foger!"

"I will--when I get ready! He gave it to me!" cried the bully, and then, before either Tom or Abe could stop him, Andy darted into the big shed, and slammed shut the door.