Chapter IX. The Whizzer Flies
 

For a moment, Tom gazed after the fleeting figure of the cowardly bully. He was half-minded to give pursuit, and then, realizing that he could find Andy later if he wanted him, the young inventor decided his best plan would be to see what damage had been done. For that damage would follow Andy's secret visit to the shop, Tom was certain.

Nor was his surmise wrong. Stepping into the building, the lad switched on the lights, and he could not repress an exclamation of chagrin as he looked toward his trim little monoplane, the Butterfly.

Now it was a Butterfly with broken wings, for Andy had slashed the canvas of the planes in a score of places.

"The scoundrel!" growled Tom. "I'll make him suffer for this! He's all but ruined my aeroplane."

Tom walked around his pet machine. As he came in front, and saw the propeller, he gave another exclamation. The fine wooden blades of several layers, gracefully curved, which had cost him so much in time and labor to build up, and then fashion to the right shape, had been hacked, and cut with an axe. The propeller was useless!

"More of Andy's work," murmured Tom. "This is about the worst yet!"

There came over him a feeling of great despondency, which was succeeded by a justifiable rage. He wanted to take after the bully, and give him a merciless beating. Then a calmer mood came over Tom.

"After all, what's the use?" he reasoned. "Whipping Andy wouldn't mend the Butterfly. She's in bad shape, but I can repair her, when I get time. Luckily, he didn't meddle with the engine. That's all right." A hasty examination had shown this. "I guess I won't do anything now," went on Tom. "I'll have my hands full getting Mr. Fenwick's airship to run. After that I can come back here and fix up my own. It's a good thing I don't have to depend on her for making the trip to Philadelphia. Poor Butterfly! you sure are in a bad way," and Tom felt almost as if he was talking to some living creature, so wrapped up was he in his trim little monoplane.

After another disheartening look at his air craft, the young inventor started to leave the shop. He looked at a door, the fastening of which Andy had broken to gain admittance.

"I should have had the burglar alarm working, and this would never have happened," reasoned Tom. All the buildings were arranged so that if any one entered them after a certain hour, an alarm would ring in the house. But of late, the alarm had not been set, as Tom and his father were not working on any special inventions that needed guarding. It was due to this oversight that Andy was able to get in undetected.

"But it won't happen again," declared Tom, and he at once began connecting the burglar-apparatus. He went into the house, and told his father and the engineer what had occurred. They were both indignant, and the engineer declared that he would sleep with one eye open all night, ready to respond to the first alarm.

"Oh, there's no danger of Andy coming back right away," said Tom. "He's too frightened. I wouldn't be surprised if he disappeared for a time. He'll be thinking that I'm after him."

This proved true, as Andy had left town next morning, and to all inquiries his mother said he had gone to visit relatives. She was not aware of her son's meanness, and Tom did not tell her.

Mr. Damon arrived from his home in Waterfield that day, and, with many "blessings," wanted to know if Tom was ready for the trial of the electrical airship.

"Yes, we'll leave for Philadelphia to-morrow," was the answer.

"Are we going in the Butterfly? Bless my watch chain, but I like that little machine!"

"It will be some time before you again have a flight in her," said Tom, sorrowfully, as he told of Andy's act of vandalism.

"Why, bless my individuality!" cried Mr. Damon, indignantly. "I never heard of such a thing! Never!"

It did little good to talk of it, however, and Tom wanted to forget about it. He wished he had time to repair the monoplane before he left home, but there was much to do to get ready for the trial of the Whizzer.

"When will you be back, Tom?" asked Mr. Swift, as his son and Mr. Damon departed for the Quaker City the following morning.

"Hard to say, dad. If I can make a long flight in the Whizzer I'll do so. I may even drop down here and pay you a visit. But if I find there are many more changes to make in her construction, which is more than likely, I can't say when I'll return. I'll keep you posted, however, by writing."

"Can't you arrange to send me some wireless messages?" asked the older inventor, with a smile.

"I could, if I had thought to rig up the apparatus on Mr. Fenwick's airship," was the reply. "I'll hardly have time to do it now, though."

"Send wireless messages from an aeroplane?" gasped Mr. Damon. "Bless my gizzard! I never heard of such a thing!"

"Oh, it can be done," Tom assured him. And this was a fact. Tom had installed a wireless apparatus on his Red Cloud recently, and it is well known that several of the modern biplanes can send wireless messages. The crossing and bracing wires of the frame are used for sending wires, and in place of ground conductors there are trailers which hang below the aeroplane. The current is derived directly from the engine, and the remaining things needed are a small step-up transformer, a key and a few other small parts. Tom had gone a step farther than this, and had also arranged to receive wireless messages, though few modern aeroplanes are thus equipped as yet.

But, of course, there was no time now to install a wireless apparatus on Mr. Fenwick's craft. Tom thought he would be lucky if he got the Whizzer to make even a short flight.

"Well, let me hear from you when you can," requested Mr. Swift, and Tom promised. It was some time after that, and many strange things happened before Tom Swift again communicated with his father, at any length.

The young inventor had bidden farewell to Miss Nestor the night previous. She stated that she had a message that day from her parents aboard the Resolute, which spoke a passing steamer. Mr. and Mrs. Nestor, and the other guests of Mr. Hosbrook were well, and anticipated a fine time on reaching the West Indies.

Tom now said good-by to his father, the housekeeper and Mr. Jackson, not forgetting, of course, Eradicate Sampson.

"Don't let Andy Foger come sneaking around here, Rad," cautioned the young inventor.

"'Deed an' I won't!" exclaimed the colored man. "Ef he do, I'll hab Boomerang kick him t' pieces, an' den I'll whitewash him so his own folks won't know him! Oh, don't you worry, Massa Tom. Dat Andy won't do no funny business when I'm around!"

Tom laughed, and started for the station with Mr. Damon. They arrived in Philadelphia that afternoon, the trip being very slow, as compared with the one made by the monoplane. They found Mr. Fenwick anxiously awaiting them, and Tom at once started work on the airship.

He kept at it until late that night, and resumed early the next morning. Many more changes and adjustments were made, and that afternoon, the young inventor said:

"I think we'll give it a try-out, Mr. Fenwick."

"Do you mean make a flight?"

"Yes, if she'll take it; but only a short one. I want to get her up in the air, and see how she behaves."

"Well, if you find out, after you're up, that she does well, you may want to take a long flight," suggested Mr. Fenwick. "If you do, why I have everything aboard necessary for a long voyage. The Whizzer is well stocked with provisions."

An hour later, the big electric machine was wheeled out into the yard, for, in spite of her size, four men could easily move the craft about, so well was she balanced. Aside from a few personal friends of the inventor, himself, his machinists, Tom and Mr. Damon, no one was present at the try-out.

Tom, Mr. Damon and Mr. Fenwick climbed into the car which was suspended below the gas bag, and between the wing-like planes on either side. The young inventor had decided to make the Whizzer rise by scudding her across the ground on the bicycle wheels, with which she was equipped, and then by using the tilting planes to endeavor to lift her off the earth. He wanted to see if she would go up that way, without the use of the gas bag.

All was in readiness. The motor was started and the machinery began to hum and throb. The propellers gained speed with every revolution. The airship had been made fast by a rope, to which was attached a strong spring balance, as it was desired to see how much pull the engine would give.

"Eight hundred pounds," announced one of the machinists.

"A thousand would be better, but we'll try it," Murmured Tom. "Cast off!"

The rope was loosened, and, increasing the speed of the engine, Tom signalled to the men to give a little momentum to the craft. She began running over the smooth ground. There was a cheer from the few spectators. Certainly the Whizzer made good time on the earth.

Tom was anxiously watching the gages and other instruments. He wanted a little more speed, but could not seem to get it. He ran the motor to the utmost, and then, seeing the necessity of making an attempt to get up into the air, before the end of the speeding ground was reached, he pulled the elevating plane lever.

The front of the Whizzer rose, and then settled down. Tom quickly shut off the power, and jammed on the brake, an arrangement of spikes that dug into the earth, for the high board fence loomed up before him.

"What's the matter?" cried Mr. Fenwick, anxiously.

"Couldn't get up speed enough," answered the young inventor. "We must have more momentum to make her rise."

"Can it be gotten?"

"I think so. I'll gear the motor higher."

It took an hour to do this. Once more the scale test was applied. It registered a pull of fifteen hundred pounds now.

"We'll go up," said Tom, grimly.

Once more the motors spit out fire, and the propellers whirled so that they looked like mere circles of light. Once more the Whizzer shot over the ground, but this time, as she neared the fence, she rose up like a bird, cleared it like a trick horse, and soared off into the air!

The Whizzer was flying!