Chapter VIII. Tom's Newest Invention
 

"I got him, Mr. Tom!"

"Oh, please, good Massa Swift! Make him leggo me! He suah am squeezin' de liber outer me!"

"Shall I conflict the club upon him, Mr. Tom?"

It was Koku who asked this last question, as Tom came running toward the giant. In the strange glare from the searchlight, the young inventor saw his big servant holding tightly to a rather small, colored man, while the camera, which was focused full on them, was clicking away at a great rate, taking picture after picture on the roll of films.

"No, don't inflict nor conflict the club on him, Koku," advised Tom. "Who is he?"

"I don't know, Mr. Tom. I was in hiding, in the darkness, waiting for him to come back. He had been here once before in the evening, Eradicate says. Well, he came while I was waiting and I detained him. Then the lights went up. They are very bright lights, Mr. Tom."

"Yes, brighter than I expected they would be. I must look and see what causes it. So you detained him, did you, Koku?"

"Yes, and what exposition shall I make of him?"

"What disposition?" corrected Tom, with a laugh. "Well, did he get any chickens, Koku?"

"Oh, no, I was too tight for him."

"Oh, you mean too fast, or quick. Well, if he didn't get any, I guess you might let him go. I have too much to attend to, to bother with him."

"Oh, bress yo' for dat, Massa Tom!" cried the negro, whom Tom recognized as a worthless character about the town. "I didn't go fo' to do nuffin', Massa Tom. I were jest goin' t' look in de coop, t' count an' see how many fowls mah friend Eradicate had, an' den--"

"Yes, and then I tie you!" broke in Koku.

"You collared him, I guess you mean to say," spoke Tom with a laugh. "Well, I guess, Sam," speaking to the negro, "if you had counted Rad's chickens he couldn't have counted as many in the morning. But be off, and don't come around again, or you might have to count the bars in a jail cell for a change."

"Bress yo' honey. I won't neber come back."

"Shall release him?" asked Koku doubtfully.

"Yes," said Tom.

"And not reflict the club on him?"

The giant raised his club longingly.

"Oh, Massa Tom, protect me!" cried Sam.

"No, don't even reflect the club on him," advised the young inventor with a laugh. "He hasn't done any harm, and he may have been the means of a great discovery. Remember Sam," Tom went on sternly, "I have your picture, as you were trying to break into the coop, and if you come around again, I'll use it as evidence against you."

"Oh, I won't come. Not as long as dat giant am heah, anyhow," said the negro earnestly. "Besides, I were only goin' t' count Eradicate's chickens, t' see ef he had as many as I got."

"All right," responded Tom. "Now, Koku, you may escort him off the premises, and be on the lookout the rest of the night, off and on. Where's Rad?"

"He has what he says is 'de misery' in his back so that he had to go to bed," explained the giant, to account for the faithful colored man not having responded to the alarm.

"All right, get rid of Sam, and then come back."

As Tom turned to go in his shop he saw his aged father coming slowly toward him. Mr. Swift had hastily dressed.

"What is the matter, Tom?" he asked. "Has anything happened? I heard your alarm go off, and I came as quickly as I could."

"Nothing much has happened, father, excepting a chicken thief. But something great may come of it. Do you notice that searchlight, and how powerful it is?"

"I do, Tom. I never knew you had one as big as that."

"Neither did I, and I haven't, really. That's one of my smallest ones, but something seems to have happened to it to make it throw out a beam like that. I'm just going to look. Come on in the shop."

The two inventors, young and old, entered, and Tom quickly crossed to where the wires from the automatic dynamo, extended to the searchlight outside the window of his room. He made a quick inspection.

"Look, father!" he cried. "The alternating current from the automatic dynamo has become crossed with direct current from the big storage battery in a funny way. It must have been by accident, for never in the world would I think of connecting up in that fashion. I would have said it would have made a short circuit at once."

"But it hasn't. On the contrary, it has given a current of peculiar strength and intensity--a current that would seem to be made especially for searchlights. Dad, I'm on the edge of a big discovery."

"I believe you, Tom," said his father. "That certainly is a queer way for wires to be connected. How do you account for it?"

"I can't. That is unless some one meddled with the connections after I made them. That must be it. I'll ask Rad and Koku." Just then the giant came in. "Koku, did you touch the wires?" asked Tom.

"Well, Mr. Tom, I didn't mean to. I accidentally pulled one out a while ago, when I was waiting for the thief to come, but I put it right back again. I hope I did no damage."

"No, on the contrary, you did a fine thing, Koku. I never would have dared make such connections myself, but you, not knowing any better, did just the right thing to make an almost perfect searchlight current. It is wonderful! Probably for any other purpose such a current would be useless, but it is just the thing for a great light."

"And why do you need such a powerful light, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift. "Why, it is of extraordinary brilliancy, and it goes for several miles. Look how plainly you can pick out the trees on Nob's Hill," and he pointed to an elevation some distance away from the Swift homestead, across the woods and meadows.

"I believe I could see a bird perched there, if there was one!" exclaimed Tom enthusiastically. "That certainly is a wonderful light. With larger carbons, better parobolic mirrors, a different resistance box, better connections, and a more powerful primary current there is no reason why I could not get a light that would make objects more plainly visible than in the daytime, even in the darkest night, and at a great distance."

"But what would be the object of such a light, Tom?"

"To play upon the smugglers, dad, and catch them as they come over the border in the airship."

"Smugglers, Tom! You don't mean to tell me you are going away again, and after smugglers?"

"Well, dad, I've had an offer, and I think I'll take it. There's no money in it, but I think it is my duty to do my best for Uncle Sam. The one thing that bothered me was how to get a view of the airship at night. This searchlight has solved the problem--that is if I can make a permanent invention of this accident, and I think I can."

"Oh, Tom, I hate to think of you going away from home again," said his father a bit sadly.

"Don't worry, father. I'm not going far this time. Only to the Canadian border, and that's only a few hundred miles. But I want to see if I can cut the current off, and turn it on again. When a thing happens by accident you never know whether you can get just exactly the same conditions again."

Tom shut off the current from the dynamo, and the powerful beam of light died out. Then he turned it on once more, and it glowed as brightly as before. He did this several times, and each time it was a success.

"Hurrah!" cried Tom. "To-morrow I'll start on my latest invention, a great searchlight!"