Chapter III. Andy is Whitewashed
 

The parlor where Mr. Swift had asked Andy to wait, adjoined the library, and there was a connecting door, over which heavy curtains were draped. Tom quickly pulled them aside and stepped into the parlor. The connecting door had been open slightly, and in a flash the young inventor realized that it was perfectly possible for any one in the next room to have heard most of the talk about the city of gold.

A glance across the room showed Andy seated on the far side, apparently engaged in reading a book.

"Did you want to see me?" asked Tom sharply. His father and the others in the library listened intently. Tom wondered what in the world Andy could want of him, since the two were never in good tame, and Andy cherished a resentment even since our hero had rescued him from the African jungle.

"No, I didn't come to see you," answered Andy quickly, laying aside the book and rising to face Tom.

"Then what--"

"I came to see your father," interrupted the red-haired bully. "I have a letter for him from my father; but I guess Mr. Swift misunderstood me when he let me in."

"Did you tell him you wanted to see me?" asked Tom suspiciously, thinking Andy had made a mistatement in order to have a longer time to wait.

"No, I didn't, but I guess your father must have been thinking about something else, for he told me to come in here and sit down. I've been waiting ever since, and just now Mrs. Baggert passed and saw me. She--"

"Yes, she said you were here," spoke Tom significantly. "Well, then it's my father you want to see. I'll tell him."

Tom hurried back to the library.

"Dad," he said, "it's you that Andy wants to see. He has a letter from Mr. Foger for you."

"For me? What in the world can it be about? He never wrote to me before. I must have misunderstood Andy. But then it's no wonder for my head is so full of my new gyroscope plans. There is a certain spring I can't seem to get right--"

"Perhaps you'd better see what Andy wants," suggested Mr. Damon gently. He looked at Tom. They were both thinking of the same thing.

"I will," replied Mr. Swift quickly, and he passed into the library.

"I wonder how much Andy heard?" asked Ned, in a low voice.

"Oh, I don't believe it could have been very much," answered Tom.

"No, I stopped you just in time," rejoined his chum, "or you might have blurted out the name of the city near where the buried gold is."

"Yes, we must guard our secret well, Tom," put in Mr. Damon.

"Well, Andy couldn't have known anything about the letter I got," declared Tom, "and if he only heard snatched of our talk it won't do him much good."

"The only trouble is he's been there long enough to have heard most of it." suggested Ned. They could talk freely now, for in going into the parlor Mr. Swift had tightly closed the door after him. They could just hear the murmur of his voice speaking to Andy.

"Well, even if he does guess about the city of gold, and its location, I don't believe he'll try to go there," remarked Tom, after a pause.

A moment later they heard Mr. Swift letting Andy out of the front door, and then the inventor rejoined his son and the others. He held an open letter in his hand.

"This is strange--very strange," he murmured.

"What is it?" asked Tom quickly.

"Why. Mr. Foger has written to me asking to be allowed to sell some of our patents and machines on commission."

"Sell them on commission!" exclaimed his son. "Why does a millionaire like Mr. Foger want to be selling goods on commission? It's only a trick!"

"No, it's not a trick," said Mr. Swift slowly. "He is in earnest. Tom, Mr. Foger has lost his millions. His fortune has been swept away by unfortunate investments, he tells me, and he would be glad of any work I could give him. That's why Andy brought the letter to- night. I just sent him back with an answer."

"What did you say, dad?"

"I said I'd think it over."

"Mr. Foger's millions gone," mused Tom.

"And Andy in there listening to what we said about the city of gold," added Ned. "No wonder he was glad the door was open. He'd be there in a minute, Tom, if he could, and so would Mr. Foger, if he thought he could get rich. He wouldn't have to sell goods on commission if he could pick up a few of the golden images."

"That's right," agreed Tom, with an uneasy air. "I wish I knew just how much Andy had heard. But perhaps it wasn't much."

The time was to come, however, when Tom was to learn to his sorrow that Andy Foger had overheard a great deal.

"Bless my bankbook!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "I never dreamed of such a thing! Andy had every reason in the world for not wanting us to know he was in there! No wonder he kept quiet. I'll wager all the while he was as close to the open door as he could get, hoping to overhear about the location of the place, so he could help his father get back his lost fortune. Bless my hatband! It's a good thing Mrs. Baggert told us he was there."

They all agreed with this, and then, as there was no further danger of being overheard, they resumed their talk about the city of gold. It was decided that they would have to wait the arrival of another letter from Mr. Illingway before starting for Mexico.

"Well, as long as that much is settled, I think I'd better be going home," suggested Mr. Damon. "I know my wife will be anxious about me."

"I'll get out the sky racer and you'll be in Waterford in a jiffy," said Tom, and he kept his word, for the speedy aeroplane carried him and his guest rapidly through the night, bringing Tom safely back home.

It was several days after this, during which time Tom and Ned had had many talks about the proposed trip. They had figured on what sort of a craft to use in the journey. Tom had about decided on a small, but very powerful, dirigible balloon, that could be packed in a small compass and taken along.

"This city may be in some mountain valley, and a balloon will be the only way we can get to it," he told Ned.

"That's right," agreed his chum. "By the way, you haven't heard any more about Andy; have you?"

"Not a thing. Haven't even seen him. None of us have."

"There goes Rad, I wonder if he's seen him."

"No, or he'd have mentioned it to me. Hey, Rad," Tom called to the colored man, "what are you going to do?"

"Whitewash de back fence, Massa Tom. It's in a mos' disrupted state ob disgrace. I'se jest natchally got t' whitewash it."

"All right, Rad, and when you get through come back here. I've got another job for you."

"A'right, Massa Tom, I shorely will," and Rad limped off with his pail of whitewash, and the long-handled brush.

It may have been fate that sent Andy Foger along the rear road a little later, and past the place where Eradicate was making the fence less "disrupted." It may have been fate or Andy may have just been sneaking along to see if he could overhear anything of Tom's plans--a trick of which he was frequently guilty. At any rate, Andy walked, past where Eradicate was whitewashing. The colored man saw the red-haired lad coming and murmured:

"Dere's dat no 'count white trash! I jest wish Massa Tom was hear now. He'd jest natchally wallop Andy," and Eradicate moved his longhandled brush up and down, as though he were coating the Foger lad with the white stuff.

As it happened, Eradicate was putting some of the liquid on a particularly rough spot in the fence, a spot low down, and this naturally made the handle of his brush stick out over the sidewalk, and at this moment Andy Foger got there.

"Here, you black rascal!" the lad angrily exclaimed. "What do you mean by blocking the sidewalk that way? It's against the law, and I could have you arrested for that."

"No, could yo' really now?" asked Eradicate drawlingly for he was not afraid of Andy.

"Yes, I could, and don't you give me any of your back-talk! Get that brush out of the way!" and Andy kicked the long handle.

The natural result followed. The other end of the brush, wet with whitewash, described a curve through the air, coming toward the mean bully. And as the blow of Andy's foot jarred the brush loose, the next moment it fell right on Andy's head, the white liquid trickling down on his clothes, for Eradicate was not a miser when it came to putting on whitewash.

For a moment Andy could not speak. Then he burst out with:

"Hi! You did that on purpose! I'll have you in jail for that! Look at my hat, it's ruined! Look at my clothes! They're ruined! Oh, I'll make you pay for this!"

"Deed, it shore was a accident," said Eradicate, trying not to laugh. "You done did it yo'se'f!"

"I did not! You did it on purpose; Tom Swift put you in on this! I'll--I'll--"

But Andy had to stop and splutter for some of the lime ran down off his hat into his mouth, and he yelled:

"I'll--I'll--Ouch! Phew! Woof! Oof! Oh!"

Then, in his rage, he made a blind rush for Eradicate. Now the colored man had no fear of Andy, but he did not want the pail of whitewash to upset, and the said pail was right in the path of the advancing youth.

"Look out!" cried Eradicate.

"I'll make you look out!" spluttered Andy. "I'll thrash you for this!"

Eradicate caught up his pail. He did not want to have the trouble of mixing more of the liquid. Just as he lifted it Andy aimed a kick for him. But he mis-calculated, and his foot struck the bottom of the pail and sent it flying from the hands of the colored man. Sent it flying right toward Andy himself, for Eradicate jumped back out of the way.

And the next moment a veritable deluge of whitewash was sprayed and splashed and splattered over Andy, covering him with the snowy liquid from head to foot!