Chapter V. Andy Foger Learns Something
 

Once Tom Swift made up his mind to do a thing, he did not waste time in setting about it. He had decided to go to giant land, and that was all there was to it. His father talked with him about the matter, pointed out the dangers, and suggested that, as the young inventor had had many adventures in the last few years, and had made considerable money from the discovery of the city of gold, and the platinum mines, the prize offered for a giant was not much of an inducement.

"But it isn't that so much, dad," explained Tom. "There's that poor circus man, maybe suffering in the centre of South America. I want to find him, if I can, or get some news that he died a natural death, and is decently buried."

"You never can do it, Tom."

"Well dad, I'm going to make a big try!" he returned; and that settled it as far as Tom was concerned.

For several days after the visit of Mr. Preston Tom was busy making plans for his trip to South America. He wanted to lay out a regular schedule before proceeding. Ned Newton had had hard work to persuade his folks to let him go, but they finally consented, and as for Mr. Damon, his plan was simple.

Without mentioning giants at all, he took Mr. Preston home with him, and the circus man's tale of his assistant lost in the wilds of South America was too much for Mrs. Damon.

"Go? Of course you'll go!" she said to her husband. "I demand that you go, and I want you to find that poor man and rescue him. If you could rescue the exiles from uncivilized Siberia I'm sure you can get a man out of a civilized country."

Mr. Damon did not stop to point out that South America was far less civilized, in some ways, than was Russia. He just kept still, and made his preparations to go. Mr. Preston was a distant relative of the odd man, and that was how he had happened to meet him and hear the story which was destined to play such an important part in the life of Tom Swift.

"Do you think we'll have much trouble after we get to South America, and strike into the interior?" asked Mr. Damon one afternoon, when he and Mr. Preston were helping Tom in the delicate work of packing the wing planes of the Lark.

"No, South America isn't a bad country to travel in," replied the circus man. "The natives are fairly friendly, and with a well- organized party, and plenty of money, which I shall see that you have, you ought to get along swimmingly. Only one thing bothers me."

"What's that?" asked Tom quickly.

"That's my rival, Waydell. He's sure to make trouble if he gets on your trail."

"Have you heard from him?"

"No, and that's what makes me all the more suspicious. If he'd come out and fight me in the open it wouldn't be so bad. But this underhand business gets on my nerves. I don't know what he's up to."

"Maybe he isn't up to anything," suggested Ned. "He may not even know you are going to make another try for the giants."

"Oh, yes, he does," replied the circus man. "He didn't succeed in beating me when poor Jake was after them, for the simple reason that it was a snap case, and even I didn't know that Poddington was trying for the giants until he had started. But Waydell was soon after him, and he knows that when I once set out for a freak or a certain kind of animal I keep on until I get it. So he has probably already figured out that I'm making new plans to get a giant."

"But how will he know that I am going?" inquired Tom.

"I don't know how he will know, but he will. We circus men have queer ways of finding out things. I shouldn't be a bit surprised but what he was already plotting and scheming to send an expedition on my trail, to take advantage of anything you may learn."

"Well, we'll try and fool him, the same as we did the Mexicans when we hunted for the city of gold," spoke Tom; and then putting aside that worry, he and the others labored hard to get matters in shape for a departure to South America.

"I suppose Eradicate is going," remarked Ned, in the intervals of packing the aeroplane.

"Well, I've hinted it to him," replied Tom, "but I haven't asked him outright. He said he wouldn't mind going to a hot country though. Here he comes now. Guess I'll see how he takes it."

The colored man shuffled up with a hammer and nails, for he had been putting covers on packing boxes.

"Then you are coming with us to South America; aren't you, Rad?" asked Tom, winking at Ned.

"Souf America? Am dat de hot country yo'-all was referencin' to?" asked Eradicate.

"That's it, Rad. It's nice and warm there. All you have to do is to lie under a tree and cocoanuts will drop off into your mouth."

"Cocoanuts in mah mouf, Massa Tom! 'Scuse me! I doan't want t' go to no sich country as dat. Cocoanuts in mah mouf! Why I ain't got but a few teef left, an' a cocoanut droppin' offen a tree would shorely knock dem teef out, shorely!"

"Oh, Rad, I didn't mean cocoanuts! I meant oranges and bananas-- they're soft," and Tom glanced quickly at Ned, for he saw that he had made a mistake.

"Oh, well, den dat's diffunt, Massa Tom. I jes lubs oranges an' bananas, an' ef yo'-all is shore dat I'll find some, why, I'll come along."

"Find 'em? Of course you will!" cried Ned.

"And cocoanuts, too," added Tom. "Only, Rad, I meant to say that the monkeys would throw the cocoanuts down to you from the trees. That breaks the hard shells you see, and all you have to do is to take out the meat, and drink the milk. Then the monkeys throw you down a palm leaf fan to cool yourself off, while you're eating it. Oh, I tell you, Rad, South America is the place to go to have a good time."

"I believe you, Massa Tom. When do we-all start?"

"Pretty soon now."

"An' what all am yo' gwine arter, Massa Tom?"

The young inventor thought a moment. In times past he had not hesitated to confide in his colored helper, but of late years Eradicate had become somewhat childish, and he talked more than was necessary. Tom wondered whether it would be safe to trust the giant secret to him. After a moment's thought he realized that it would not be. But, at the same time, he knew that if he did not give some kind of an answer Eradicate would become suspicious, and that would be worse. The colored helper had been with Tom on too many trips not to know that his master never went without some object.

"Well, Rad, we're after big game this time," Tom said. "I don't know what it will be that we'll get, whether animals or plants, and--"

"Oh, I knows, Massa Tom. Yo'-all means dem orchard plants that lib on air--dem big orchard plants." Eradicate meant orchids, of which many rare and beautiful kinds are found in South America.

"Yes, Rad, I guess we will get some big orchids," agreed Tom.

"An' I shorely will help climb de trees arter 'em. Or maybe we kin git de monkeys to frow em down, same as dey will de cocoanuts."

"Maybe, Rad. Well, now go ahead and nail up the rest of these boxes. We want to get started as soon as we can," and the colored man got busy, murmuring from time to time something about oranges and bananas and cocoanuts.

Everyone was occupied in getting matters in shape for the trip to South America, even Mr. Swift laying aside his work on his pet invention--a gyroscope--while he helped his son. And had Tom not been quite so engrossed with his preparations he might have gone about town more, in which case he would have learned something that might have saved him and the others considerable trouble and no little danger. And this fact was that Andy Foger had been in Shopton several times lately.

After the trouble which the red-haired bully and his father caused Tom and his friends on their trip to the city of gold, Mr. Foger moved away from Shopton. He had lost his fortune and had to begin all over again. The Foger homestead was closed up, and Andy ceased to be a fixture of the town, for which Tom and Ned were very glad.

But of late Andy had been seen in Shopton several times, and it was noticed that, on one or two occasions, he had a man with him--a man who seemed to have plenty of money--a man with an air about him not unlike that of Mr. Preston. A man with what newspaper men would have called a circus or theatrical "air."

This man had visited Shopton soon after Mr. Preston made the giant proposition to Tom, and before meeting Andy Foger had made special inquiries about Tom Swift.

"Who are the people who have a hard feeling against this young inventor in town?" the man had asked of several persons.

"Tom Swift has more friends than enemies," was the general reply.

"Oh, surely he must have some enemies," the man insisted. "He's been running his aeroplanes and autos around town a long time, and surely there must be some one who has a grudge against him. I suppose he has lots of friends, but who are his enemies?"

Then he learned about Andy Foger, and, hearing that Andy now lived in a nearby town, the man had at once gone there. It was not long before he reappeared--and the red-haired bully was with him.

"And you haven't learned anything yet, Andy?" asked this mysterious man one afternoon, when he met his tool in a quiet resort in Shopton.

"Nothing yet, Mr. Waydell. But give me a little more time."

"Time! You've had more time now than you need. When I agreed to pay you for finding out what part of South America Tom Swift would head for to get some sort of a freak or animal for Preston's circus I thought you'd make good quicker than this."

"So did I. But you see Tom is suspicious of me, and so is his chum, Ned Newton. I can't go to them, and if I'm seen sneaking around the house or shop, after what happened last, I'll be driven off."

"Well, it's up to you. I paid you to get the information and I expect you to do it. Why don't you tackle that old colored man whom, I understand, works for him? He ought to be simple enough to give the game away."

"Eradicate? I will! I never thought of that I'll get that information for you, Mr. Waydell, in a few days."

"You'd better, if you want to keep that money."

The two plotters parted, and that very afternoon gave Andy the chance he wanted. He met Eradicate on his way to the village where he was going after something Tom needed.

"Hello, Rad!" called Andy with a show of good feeling. "I haven't seen you in some time. I suppose you're getting too old to travel around with Tom any more?"

"Gittin' too old!" exclaimed the colored man indignantly, for that was his sore point. "What yo'-all mean, Andy Foger? I ain't gittin' old, an' neider am Boomerang."

"Oh, I thought you were, as you haven't been on any trips lately."

"I ain't, hey? Well I's gwine on one right soon, let me tell you dat, Andy Foger!"

"No! Is that so? Glad to hear it. Up to the North Pole I suppose?"

"No, sah; not much! No cold country for this coon! I's gwine where it's nice an 'warm, an' where de cocoanuts fall in yo' mouf--I mean where de bananas an' oranges fall in you mouf, an' de monkeys frow down cocoanuts an' palm leaf fans to yo'!"

"Where's that, Rad?" asked Andy, and he tried to make his voice sound indifferent, as though the matter did not interest him.

"South America, dat's where it am, an' I's gwine wif Massa Tom. We's gwine t' git a monstrous big orchard plant."

"Oh, yes; I've heard about them. Well, I hope you get all the oranges and bananas you want. South America, eh? I suppose along the Amazon river, where they have crocodiles forty feet long, that are always hungry."

"No, sah! No crockermiles fo' me! We ain't goin' neah de Amerzon riber at all. We's gwine away down in de middle part of South America. It's a place suffin laik Gomeonaway--or Goonaway, or suffin' laik dat."

"Oh, yes; I know where you mean!" and Andy could hardly conceal the note of triumph in his voice. He had the very information he wanted from the simple colored man. "Yes, I guess there are no crocodiles there, and plenty of monkeys and cocoanuts. Well, I hope you have a good time," and Andy hurried away to seek out the rival circus man.