Chapter II. The Circus Man
 

Without a word Tom and Ned followed Mr. Damon toward the Swift house. Truth to tell the youths did not know what to say, or they would have been bubbling over with questions. But the talk of the odd man, and his strange request to Tom to go off and capture a giant had so startled the young inventor and his chum that they did not know whether to think that Mr. Damon was joking, or whether he had suddenly taken leave of his senses.

And while I have a few minutes that are occupied in the journey to the house I will introduce my new readers more formally to Tom Swift and his friends.

Tom though only a young man, was an inventor of note, as his father was before him. Father and son lived in a fine house in the town of Shopton, in New York state, and Mrs. Swift being dead, the two were well looked after by Mrs. Baggert their housekeeper. Eradicate Sampson, as I have said, was the man of all work about the place. Ned Newton who had a position in a Shopton bank, was Tom's particular chum, and Mr. Wakefeld Damon, of the neighboring town of Waterfield, was a friend to all who knew him. He had the odd habit of blessing anything and everything he could think of, interspersing it in his talk.

In the first volume of this series, called "Tom Swift and His Motor- Cycle," I related how Tom made the acquaintance of Mr. Damon, afterward purchasing a damaged motor-cycle from the odd gentleman. On this machine Tom had many adventures, incidentally saving some of his father's valuable patents from a gang of conspirators. Later Tom got a motor boat, and had many races with his rivals on Lake Carlopa, beating Andy Foger, the red-haired bully of the town, in signal fashion. After his adventures on the water Tom sighed for some in the air, and he had them in his airship the Red Cloud.

"Tom Swift and His Submarine Boat." is a story of a search after sunken treasure, and, returning from that quest Tom built an electric runabout, the speedest car on the road. By means of a wireless message, later, Tom was able to save himself and the castaways of Earthquake Island, and, as a direct outcome of that experience, he was able to go in search of the diamond makers, and solve the secret of Phantom Mountain, as told in the book dealing with that subject.

When he went to the caves of ice Tom had bad luck, for his airship was wrecked, and he endured many hardships in getting home with his companions, particularly as Andy Foger sought revenge on him.

But Tom pluckily overcame all obstacles and, later, he built a sky racer, in which he made the quickest trip on record. After that, with his electric rifle, he went after elephants in the interior of Africa and was successful in rescuing some missionaries from the terrible red pygmies.

One of the mission workers, later, sent Tom details about a buried city of gold in Mexico, and Tom and his chum together with Mr. Damon located this mysterious place after much trouble, as told in the book entitled, "Tom Swift in the City of Gold." The gold did not prove as valuable as they expected, as it was of low grade, but they got considerable money for it, and were then ready for more adventures.

The adventures soon came, as those of you who have read the book called, "Tom Swift and His Air Glider," can testify. In that I told how Tom went to Siberia, and after rescuing some Russian political exiles, found a valuable deposit of platinum, which to-day is a more valuable metal than gold. Tom needed some platinum for his electrical machines, and it proved very useful.

He had been back from Russia all winter and, now that Spring had come again, our hero sighed for more activity, and fresh adventures. And with the advent of Mr. Damon, and his mysterious talk about giants, Tom seemed likely to be gratified.

The two chums and the odd gentleman continued on to the house, no one speaking, until finally, when they were seated in the library, Mr. Damon said:

"Well, Tom, are you ready to listen to me now, and have me explain what I meant when I asked you to get a giant?"

"I--I suppose so," hesitated the young inventor. "But hadn't I better call dad? And are you sure you don't want to lie down and collect your thoughts? A nice hot cup of tea--"

"There, there, Tom Swift; If you tell me to lie down again, or propose any more tea I'll use you as a punching bag, bless my boxing gloves if I don't!" cried Mr. Damon and he laughed heartily. "I know what you think, Tom, and you, too, Ned," he went on, still chuckling. "You think I don't know what I'm saying, but I'll soon prove that I do. I'm fully in my senses, I'm not crazy, I'm not talking in my sleep, and I'm very much in earnest. Tom, this is the chance of your life to get a giant, and pay a visit to giant land. Will you take it?"

"Mr. Damon, I--er--that is I--"

Tom stammered and looked at Ned.

"Now look here, Tom Swift!" exclaimed the odd man. "When you got word about the buried city of gold in Mexico you didn't hesitate a minute about making up your mind to go there; did you?"

"No, I didn't."

"Well, that wasn't any more of a strain on your imagination than this giant business; was it?"

"Well, I don't know, as--"

"Bless my spectacles! Of course it wasn't! Now, look here. Tom, you just make up your mind that I know what I'm talking about, and we'll get along better. I don't blame you for being a bit puzzled at first, but just you listen. You believe there are such things as giants; don't you?"

"I saw a man in the circus once, seven feet high. They called him a giant," spoke Ned.

"A giant! He was a baby compared to the kind of giants I mean," said Mr. Damon quickly. "Tom, we are going after a race of giants, the smallest one of which is probably eight feet high, and from that they go on up to nearly ten feet, and they're not slim fellows either, but big in proportion. Now in giant land--"

"Here's Mrs. Baggert with a quieting cup of tea," interrupted Tom. "I spoke to her as we came in, and asked her to have some ready. If you'll drink this, Mr. Damon, I'm sure--"

"Bless my sugar bowl, Tom! You make a man nervous, with your cups of tea. I'm more quiet than you, but I'll drink it to please you. Now listen to me."

"All right, go ahead."

"A friend of mine has asked me if I knew any one who could undertake to go to giant land, and get him one or two specimens of the big men there. I at once thought of you, and I said I believed you would go. And I'll go with you, Tom! Think of that! I've got faith enough in the proposition to go myself!"

There was no mistaking Mr. Damon's manner. He was very much in earnest, and Tom and Ned looked at each other with a different light in their eyes.

"Who is your friend, and where in the world is giant land?" asked Tom. "I haven't heard of such a place since I read the accounts of the early travelers, before this continent was discovered. Who is your friend that wants a giant?"

"If you'll let me, I'll have him here in a minute, Tom."

"Of course I will. But good land! Have you got him concealed up your sleeve, or under some of the chairs? Is he a dwarf?" and Tom looked about the room as if he expected to see some one in hiding.

"I left him outside in the garden, Tom," replied the odd man. "I told him I'd come on ahead, and see how you took the proposition. Don't tell him you thought me insane at first. I'll have him here in a jiffy. I'll signal to him."

Not waiting for a word from either of the boys, Mr. Damon went to one of the low library windows, opened it, gave a shrill whistle and waved his handkerchief vigorously. In a moment there came an answering whistle.

"He's coming," announced the odd gentleman.

"But who is he?" insisted Tom. "Is he some professor who wants a giant to examine, or is he a millionaire who wants one for a body guard?"

"Neither one, Tom. He's the proprietor of a number of circuses, and a string of museums, and he wants a giant, or even two of them, for exhibition purposes. There's lots of money in giants. He's had some seven, and even eight feet tall, but he has lately heard of a land where the tallest man is nearly ten feet high, and very big, and he'll pay ten thousand dollars for a giant alive and in good condition, as the animal men say. I believe we can get one for him, and--Ah, here he is now," and Mr. Damon interrupted himself as a small, dark-complexioned man, with a very black mustache, black eyes, a watch chain as big around as his thumb, a red vest, a large white hat, and a suit of large-sized checked clothes appeared at the open library window.

"Is it all right?" this strange-appearing man asked of Mr. Damon.

"I believe so," replied the odd gentleman. "Come in, Sam."

With one bound, though the window was some distance from the ground, the little man leaped into the library. He landed lightly on his feet, quickly turned two hand springs in rapid succession, and then, without breathing in the least rapidly, as most men would have done after that exertion, he made a low bow to Tom and Ned.

"Boys, let me introduce you to my friend, Sam Preston, an old acrobat and now a circus proprietor," said Mr. Damon. "Mr. Preston, this is Tom Swift, of whom I told you, and his chum, Ned Newton."

"And will they get the giant for me?" asked the circus man quickly.

"I think they will," replied Mr. Damon. "I had a little difficulty in making the matter clear to them, and that's why I sent for you. You can explain everything."

"Have a chair," invited Tom politely. "This is a new one on me-- going after giants. I've done almost everything else, though."

"So Mr. Damon said," spoke Mr. Preston gravely. He was much more sedate and composed than one would have supposed after his sensational entrance into the room. "I am very glad to meet you, Tom Swift, and I hope we can do business together. Now, if you have a few minutes to spare, I'll tell you all I know about giant land."