Tom Swift and his Great Searchlight by Victor Appleton
Chapter XII. Warned Away
"Tom, are you sure it's Andy?"
"Take a look yourself," replied the young inventor, passing his chum the binoculars.
"Bless my bottle of ink!" cried Mr. Damon. "Is it possible?"
"Quick, Ned, or you'll miss him!" cried Tom.
The young bank clerk focused the glasses on the rapidly moving airship, and, a moment later, exclaimed:
"Yes, that's Andy all right, but I don't know who the men are with him."
"I couldn't recognize them, either," announced Tom. "But say, Ned, Andy's got a good deal better airship than he had before."
"Yes. This isn't his old one fixed over. I don't believe he ever intended to repair the old one. That hiring of Mr. Dillon to do that, was only to throw him, and us, too, off the track."
Ned passed the glasses to Mr. Damon, who was just in time to get a glimpse of the three occupants of Andy's craft before it passed out of sight over the trees.
"I believe you're right," said Tom to his chum. "And did you notice that there's quite a body, or car, to that craft?"
"Yes. room enough to carry considerable goods," commented Ned. "I wonder where he's going in it?"
"To Logansville, most likely. I tell you what it is, Ned. I think one of us will have to go there, and see if Mr. Whitford has arrived. He may be looking for us. I'm not sure but what we ought not to have done this first. He may think we have not come, or have met with some accident,"
"I guess you're right, Tom. But how shall we go? It isn't going to be any fun to tramp through those woods," and Ned glanced at the wilderness that surrounded the little glade where they had been camping.
"No, and I've about concluded that we might as well risk it, and go in the airship. Mr. Whitford has had time enough to work up his clew, I guess, and Andy will be sure to find out, sooner or later, that we are in the neighborhood. I say let's start for Logansville."
Ned and Mr. Damon agreed with this and soon they were prepared to move.
"Where will you find Mr. Whitford?" asked Ned of his chum, as the Falcon arose in the air.
"At the post-office. That's where we arranged to meet. There is a sort of local custom house there, I believe."
Straight over the forest flew Tom Swift and his airship, with the great searchlight housed on top. They delayed their start until the other craft had had a chance to get well ahead, and they were well up in the air; there was no sight of the biplane in which Andy had sailed over their heads a short time before.
"Where are you going to land?" asked Ned, as they came in view of the town.
"The best place I can pick out," answered Tom. "Just on the outskirts of the place, I think. I don't want to go down right in the centre, as there'll be such a crowd. Yet if Andy has been using his airship here the people must be more or less used to seeing them."
But if the populace of Logansville had been in the habit of having Andy Foger sail over their heads, still they were enough interested in a new craft to crowd around when Tom dropped into a field near some outlying houses. In a moment the airship was surrounded by a crowd of women and children, and there would probably been a lot of men, but for the fact that they were away at work. Tom had come down in a residential section.
"Say, that's a beauty!" cried one boy.
"Let's see if they'll let us go on!" proposed another.
"We're going to have our own troubles," said Tom to his chum. "I guess I'll go into town, and leave the rest of you on guard here. Keep everybody off, if you have to string mildly charged electrical wires about the rail."
But there was no need to take this precaution, for, just as the combined juvenile population of that part of Logansville was prepared to storm, and board the Falcon, Koku appeared on deck.
"Oh, look at the giant!"
"Say, this is a circus airship?"
"Wow! Ain't he big!"
"I'll bet he could lift a house!"
These and other expressions came from the boys and girls about the airship. The women looked on open-mouthed, and murmurs of surprise and admiration at Koku's size came from a number of men who had hastily run up.
Koku stepped from the airship to the ground, and at once every boy and girl made a bee-line for safety.
"That will do the trick!" exclaimed Tom with a laugh. "Koku, just pull up a few trees, and look as fierce as Bluebeard, and I guess we won't be troubled with curiosity seekers. You can guard the airship, Koku, better than electric wires."
"I fix 'em!" exclaimed the giant, and he tried to look fierce, but it was hard work, for he was very good natured. But he proved a greater attraction than the aircraft, and Tom was glad of it, for he did not like meddlers aboard.
"With Koku to help you, and Mr. Damon to bless things. I guess you can manage until I come back, Ned," said the young inventor, as he made ready to go in to town to see if Mr. Whitford had arrived.
"Oh, we'll get along all right," declared Ned. "Don't worry."
Tom found Mr. Whitford in one of the rooms over the post-office. The custom house official was restlessly pacing the floor.
"Well, Tom!" he exclaimed, shaking hands, "I'm glad to see you. I was afraid something had happened. I was delayed myself, but when I did arrive and found you hadn't been heard from, I didn't know what to think. I couldn't get you on the wireless. The plant here is out of repair."
Tom told of their trip, and the wait they had decided on, and asked:
"What about the new clew; the Fogers?"
"I'm sorry to say it didn't amount to anything. I ran it down, and came to nothing."
"You know Andy has a new airship?"
"Yes. I had men on the trail of it. They say Andy is agent for a firm that manufactures them, but I have my doubts. I haven't given up yet. But say, Tom, you've got to get busy. A big lot of goods was smuggled over last night."
"Well, quite a way from here. I got a telegram about it. Can you get on the job to-night, and do some patrol work along the border? You're only half a mile from it now. Over there is Canada," and he pointed to a town on a hill opposite Logansville.
"Yes, I can get right into action. What place is that?"
"Montford, Canada. I've got men planted there, and the Dominion customs officials are helping us. But I think the smugglers have changed the base of their operations for the time being. If I were you I'd head for the St. Lawrence to-night."
"I will. Don't you want to come along?"
"Why, yes. I believe I'm game. I'll join you later in the day," Mr. Whitford added, as Tom told him where the Falcon was anchored.
The young inventor got back to find a bigger crowd than ever around his airship. But Koku and the others had kept them at a distance.
With the government agent aboard Tom sent his craft into the air at dusk, the crowd cheering lustily. Then, with her nose pointed toward the St. Lawrence, the Falcon was on her way to do a night patrol, and, if possible, detect the smugglers.
It was monotonous work, and unprofitable, for, though Tom sent the airship back and forth for many miles along the wonderful river that formed the path from the Great Lakes to the sea, he had no glimpse of ghostly wings of other aircraft, nor did he hear the beat of propellers, nor the throb of motors, as his own noiseless airship cruised along.
It came on to rain after midnight, and a mist crept down from the clouds, so that even with the great searchlight flashing its powerful beams, it was difficult to see for any great distance.
"Better give it up, I guess," suggested Mr. Whitford toward morning, when they had covered many miles, and had turned back toward Logansville.
"All right," agreed Tom. "But we'll try it again to-morrow night."
He dropped his craft at the anchorage he had selected in the gray dawn of the morning. All on board were tired and sleepy. Ned, looking from a window of the cabin, as the Falcon came to a stop, saw something white on the ground.
"I wonder what that is?" he said as he hurried out to pick it up. It was a large white envelope, addressed to Tom Swift, and the name was in printed characters.
"Somebody who wants to disguise their writing," remarked Tom, as he tore it open. A look of surprise came over his face.
"Look here! Mr. Whitford," he cried. "This is the work of the smugglers all right!"
For, staring at Tom, in big printed letters, on a white sheet of paper, was this message:
"If you know what is good for you, Tom Swift, you had better clear out. If you don't your airship will burned, and you may get hurt. We'll burn you in mid-air. Beware and quit. You can't catch us."
"THE COMMITTEE OF THREE."
"Ha! Warned away!" cried Tom. "Well, it will take more than this to make me give up!" and he crumpled the anonymous warning in his hand.