Chapter III. Tom Knocks Out Andy
 

"Do you want me to come in and help you?" asked the young inventor, of Miss Nestor.

"Do you know anything about hiring a cook?" she inquired, with an arch smile.

"I'm afraid I don't," the lad was obliged to confess.

"Then I'm a little doubtful of your ability to help me. But I'm ever so much obliged to you. I'll see if I can engage one. The cook who just left went away because I asked her to make some apple turnovers. Some of the girls who are coming are very fond of them."

"So am I," spoke Tom, with a smile.

"Are you, indeed? Then, if the cook I hope to get now will make them, I'll invite you over to have some, and--also meet my friends."

"I'd rather come when just you, and the turnovers and the cook are there," declared Tom, boldly, and Mary, with a blush, made ready to leave the electric car.

"Thank you," she said, in a low voice.

"If I can't help you select a cook," went on Tom, "at least let me call and take you home when you have engaged one."

"Oh, it will be too much trouble," protested Miss Nestor.

"Not at all. I have only to send a message, and get some piano wire, and then I'll call back here for you. I'll take you and the new cook back home flying."

"All right, but don't fly so fast. The cook may get frightened, and leave before she has a chance to make an apple turnover."

"I'll go slower. I'll be back in fifteen minutes," called Tom, as he swung the car out away from the curb, while Mary Nestor went into the intelligence office.

Tom wrote and sent this message to Mr. Hostner Fenwick, of Philadelphia:

"Will come on to-morrow in my aeroplane, and aid you all I can. Will not promise to make your electric airship fly, though. Father sends regards."

"Just rush that, please," he said to the telegraph agent, and the latter, after reading it over, remarked:

"It'll rush itself, I reckon, being all about airships, and things like that," and he laughed as Tom paid him.

Selecting several sizes of piano wire of great strength, to use as extra guy-braces on the Butterflv, Tom re-entered his electric car, and hastened back to the intelligence office, where he had left his friend. He saw her standing at the front door, and before he could alight, and go to her, Miss Nestor came cut to meet him.

"Oh, Tom!" she exclaimed, with a little tragic gesture, "what do you think?"

"I don't know," he answered good-naturedly. "Does the new cook refuse to come unless you do away with apple turnovers?"

"No, it isn't that. I have engaged a real treasure, I'm sure, but as soon as I mentioned that you would take us home in the electric automobile, she flatly refused to come. She said walking was the only way she would go. She hasn't been in this country long. But the worst of it is that a rich woman has just telephoned in for a cook, and if I don't get this one away, the rich lady may induce her to come to her house, and I'll be without one! Oh, what shall I do?" and poor Mary looked quite distressed.

"Humph! So she's afraid of electric autos; eh?" mused Tom. "That's queer. Leave it to me, Mary, and perhaps I can fix it. You want to get her away from here in a hurry; don't you?"

"Yes, because servants are so scarce, that they are engaged almost as soon as they register at the intelligence office. I know the one I have hired is suspicious of me, since I have mentioned your car, and she'll surely go with Mrs. Duy Puyster when she comes. I'm sorry I spoke of the automobile."

"Well, don't worry. It's partly my fault, and perhaps I can make amends. I'll talk to the new cook," decided the young inventor.

"Oh, Tom, I don't believe it will do any good. She won't come, and all my girl friends will arrive shortly." Miss Nestor was quite distressed.

"Leave it to me," suggested the lad, with an assumed confidence he did not feel. He left the car, and walked toward the office. Entering it, with Miss Nestor in his wake, he saw a pleasant-faced Irish girl, sitting on a bench, with a bundle beside her.

"And so you don't want to ride in an auto?" began Tom.

"No, an' it's no use of the likes of you askin' me, either," answered the girl, but not impudently. "I am afeered of thim things, an' I won't work in a family that owns one."

"But we don't own one," said Mary.

The girl only sniffed.

"It is the very latest means of traveling," Tom went on, "and there is absolutely no danger. I will drive slowly."

"No!" snapped the new cook.

Tom was rather at his wits' ends. At that moment the telephone rang, and Tom and Mary, listening, could hear the proprietress of the intelligence office talking to Mrs. Duy Puyster over the wire.

"We must get her away soon," whispered Mary, with a nod at the Irish girl, "or we'll lose her."

Tom was thinking rapidly, but no plan seemed to come to him. A moment later one of the assistants of the office led out from a rear room another Irish girl,--who, it seems, had just engaged herself to work in the country.

"Good-by, Bridget," said this girl, to the one Mary Nestor had hired. "I'm off now. The carriage has just come for me. I'm goin' away in style."

"Good luck, Sarah," wished Bridget.

Tom looked out of the window. A dilapidated farm wagon, drawn by two rusty-looking horses, just drawing up at the curb.

"There is your employer, Sarah," said the proprietress of the office. "You will have a nice ride to the country and I hope you will like the place."

A typical country farmer alighted from the wagon, leaving a woman, evidently his wife, or the seat. He called out:

"I'll git th' servant-gal, 'Mandy, an' we'll drive right out hum. Then you won't have such hard work any more."

"An' so that's the style you was tellin' me of; eh, Sarah?" asked the cook whom Miss Nestor had engaged. "That's queer style, Sarah."

Sarah was blushing from shame and mortification. Tom was quick to seize the advantage thus offered.

"Bridget, if you appreciate style," he said, "you will come in the automobile. I have one of the very latest models, and it is very safe. But perhaps you prefer a farm wagon."

"Indade an' I don't!" was the ready response. "I'll go wid you now if only to show Sarah Malloy thot I have more style than her! She was boastin' of the fine place she had, an' th' illigant carriage that was comin' t' take her to the counthry. If that's it I want none of it! I'll go wid you an' th' young gintleman. Style indade!" and, gathering up her bundle she followed Tom and Mary to the waiting auto.

They entered it and started off, just as Mrs. Duy Puyster drove up in her elegantly appointed carriage, while Sarah, with tears of mortification in her eyes, climbed up beside the farmer and his wife.

"You saved the day for me, Tom," whispered Miss Nestor, as the young inventor increased the speed of his car. "It was only just in time."

"Don't forget the apple turnovers," he whispered back.

Once she had made the plunge, the new cook seemed to lose her fears of the auto, and enjoyed the ride. In a short time she had been safely delivered at Miss Nestor's home, while that young lady repeated her thanks to Tom, and renewed her invitation for him to come and sample the apple turnovers, which Tom promised faithfully to do, saying he would call on his return from Philadelphia.

Musing on the amusing feature of his trip, Tom was urging his auto along at moderate speed, when, as he turned down a country road, leading to his home, he saw, coming toward him, a carriage, drawn by a slow-moving, white horse, and containing a solitary figure.

"Why, that looks like Andy Foger," spoke Tom, half aloud. "I wonder what he's doing out driving? His auto must be out of commission. But that's not strange, considering the way he abuses the machine. It's in the repair shop half the time."

He slowed down still more, for he did not know but that Andy's horse might be skittish. He need have no fears, however, for the animal did not seem to have much more life than did Eradicate's mule, Boomerang.

As Tom came nearer the carriage, he was surprised to see Andy deliberately swing his horse across the road, blocking the highway by means of the carriage and steed.

"Well, Andy Foger, what does that mean?" cried Tom, indignantly, as he brought his car to a sudden stop. "Why do you block the road?"

"Because I want to," snarled the bully, taking out a notebook and pencil, and pretending to make some notes about the property in front of which he had halted. "I'm in the real estate business now," went on Andy, "and I'm getting descriptions of the property I'm going to sell. Guess I've got a right to stop in the road if I want to!"

"But not to block it up," retorted Tom. "That's against the law. Pull over and let me pass!"

"Suppose I don't do it?"

"Then I'll make you!"

"Huh! I'd like to see you try it!" snapped Andy. "If you make trouble for me, it will be the worse for you."

"If you pull to one side, so I can pass, there'll be no trouble," said Tom, seeing that Andy wished to pick a quarrel.

"Well, I'm not going to pull aside until I finish putting down this description," and the bully continued to write with tantalizing slowness.

"Look here!" exclaimed Tom Swift, with sudden energy. "I'm not going to stand for this! Either you pull to one side and let me pass, or--"

"Well, what will you do?" demanded the bully.

"I'll shove you to one side, and you can take the consequences!"

"You won't dare to!"

"I won't, eh? Just you watch."

Tom threw forward the lever of his car. There was a hum of the motor, and the electric moved ahead. Andy had continued to write in the book, but at this sound he glanced up.

"Don't you dare to bunk into me!" yelled Andy. "If you do I'll sue you for damages!"

"Get out of the way, or I'll shove you off the road!" threatened Tom, calmly.

"I'll not go until I get ready."

"Oh, yes you will," responded our hero quietly. He sent his car ahead slowly but surely. It was within a few feet of the carriage containing Andy. The bully had dropped his notebook, and was shaking his fist at Tom.

As for the young inventor he had his plans made. He saw that the horse was a quiet, sleepy one, that would not run away, no matter what happened, and Tom only intended to gently push the carriage to one side, and pass on.

The front of his auto came up against the other vehicle.

"Here, you stop!" cried Andy, savagely.

"It's too late now," answered Tom, grimly.

Andy reached for the horsewhip. Tom put on a little more power, and the carriage began to slide across the road, but the old horse never opened his eyes.

"Take that!" cried Andy, raising his whip, with the intention of slashing Tom across the face, for the front of the auto was open. But the blow never fell, for, the next instant, the carriage gave a lurch as one of the wheels slid against a stone, and, as Andy was standing up, and leaning forward, he was pitched head first out into the road.

"By Jove! I hope I haven't hurt him!" gasped Tom, as he leaped from his auto, which he had brought to a stop.

The young inventor bent over the bully. There was a little cut on Andy's forehead, and his face was white. He had been most effectually knocked out entirely by his own meanness and fault, but, none the less, Tom was frightened. He raised up Andy's head on his arm, and brushed back his hair. Andy was unconscious.