Chapter II. Some Lively Bidding
 

"Attention, people!" cried the auctioneer. "Give me your attention for a few minutes, and we will proceed with the business in hand. As you all know, I am about to dispose of a fine motor- boat, the property of Mr. Bently Hastings. The reason for disposing of it at auction is known to most of you, but for the benefit of those who do not, I will briefly state them. The boat was stolen by a gang of thieves and recovered recently through the efforts of a young man, Thomas Swift, son of Barton Swift, our fellow-townsman, of Shopton." At that moment the auctioneer, Jacob Wood, caught sight of Tom in the press, and, looking directly at the lad, continued:

"I understand that young Mr. Swift is here to-day, and I hope he intends to bid on this boat. If he does, the bidding will be lively, for Tom Swift is a lively young man. I wish I could say that some of the men who stole the boat were here to-day."

The auctioneer paused and there were some murmurs from those in the throng as to why such a wish should be uttered. Tom felt some one moving near him, and, looking around, he saw the same man with whom he had come in contact before. The person seemed desirous of getting out on the edge of the crowd, and Tom felt a return of his vague suspicions. He looked closely at the fellow, but could trace no resemblance to any of the men who had so daringly stolen his father's model.

"The reason I wish they were here to-day," went on Mr. Wood, "is that the men did some slight damage to the boat, and if they were here to-day we would make them pay for it. However, the damage is slight and can easily be repaired. I mention that, as Mr. Hastings desired me to. Now we will proceed with the bidding, and I will say that an opportunity will first be given all to examine the boat. Perhaps Tom Swift will give us his opinion on the state it is in as we know he is well qualified to talk about machinery."

All eyes were turned on Tom, for many knew him.

"Humph! I guess I know as much about boats and motors as he does," sneered Andy Foger. 'He isn't the only one in this crowd! Why didn't the auctioneer ask me?"

"Keep quiet," begged Sam Snedecker. "People are laughing at you, Andy."

"I don't care if they are," muttered the sandy haired youth. "Tom Swift needn't think he's everything."

"If you will come down to the dock," went on the auctioneer, "you can all see the boat, and I would be glad to have young Mr. Swift give us the benefit of his advice."

The throng trooped down to the lake, and, blushing somewhat, Tom told what was the matter with the motor and how it could be fixed. It was noticed that there was less enthusiasm over the matter than there had been, for certainly the engine, rusty and out of order as it was, did not present an attractive sight. Tom noted that the man, who had acted so strangely, did not come down to the dock.

"Guess he can't be much interested in the motor," decided Tom.

"Now then, if it's all the same to you folks, I'll proceed with the auction here," went on Mr. Wood. "You can all see the boat from here. It is, as you see, a regular family launch and will carry twelve persons comfortably. With a canopy fitted to it a person could cruise all about the lake and stay out over night, for you could sleep on the seat cushions. It is twenty-one feet in length and has a five-and-a-half-foot beam, the design being what is known as a compromise stern. The motor is a double- cylinder two-cycle one, of ten horsepower. It has a float-feed carburetor, mechanical oiler, and the ignition system is the jump- spark---the best for this style of motor. The boat will make ten miles an hour, with twelve in, and, of course, more than that with a lighter load. A good deal will depend on the way the motor is managed.

"Now, as you know, Mr. Hastings wishes to dispose of the boat partly because he does not wish to repair it and partly because he has a newer and larger one. The craft, which is named Carlopa by the way, cost originally nine hundred dollars. It could not be purchased new to day, in many places, for a thousand. Now what am I offered in its present condition? Will any one make an offer? Will you give me five hundred dollars?"

The auctioneer paused and looked critically at the throng. Several persons smiled. Tom looked worried. He had no idea that the price would start so high.

"Well, perhaps that is a bit stiff," went on Mr. Wood. "Shall we say four hundred dollars? Come now, I'm sure it's worth four hundred. Who'll start it at four hundred?"

No one would, and the auctioneer descended to three hundred, then to two and finally, as if impatient, he called out:

"Well, will any one start at fifty dollars?"

Instantly there were several cries of "I will!"

"I thought you would," went on the auctioneer. "Now we will get down to work. I'm offered fifty dollars for this twenty-one foot, ten horsepower family launch. Will any one make it sixty?"

"Sixty!" called out Andy Foger in a shrill voice. Several turned to look at him.

"I didn't know he was going to bid," thought Tom. "He may go above me. He's got plenty of money, and, while I have too, I'm not going to pay too much for a damaged boat."

"Sixty I'm bid, sixty---sixty!" cried Mr. Wood in a sing-song tone, "who'll make it seventy?"

"Sixty-five!" spoke a quiet voice at Tom's elbow, and he turned to see the mysterious man who had joined the crowd at the edge of the lake.

"Sixty-five from the gentleman in the white straw hat!" called Mr. Wood with a smile at his wit, for there were many men wearing white straw hats, the day being a warm one in June.

"Here, who's bidding above me?" exclaimed Andy, as if it was against the law.

"I guess you'll find a number going ahead of you, my young friend," remarked the auctioneer. "Will you have the goodness not to interrupt me, except when you want to bid?"

"Well, I offered sixty," said the squint-eyed bully, while his crony, Sam Snedecker, was vainly, pulling at his sleeve.

"I know you did, and this gentleman went above you. If you want to bid more you can do so. I'm offered sixty-five, sixty-five I'm offered for this boat. Will any one make it seventy-five?"

Mr. Wood looked at Tom, and our hero, thinking it was time for him to make a bid, offered seventy. "Seventy from Tom Swift!" cried the auctioneer. "There is a lad who knows a motor-boat from stem to stern, if those are the right words. I don't know much about boats except what I'm told, but Tom Swift does. Now, if he bids, you people ought to know that it's all right. I'm bid seventy--- seventy I'm bid. Will any one make it eighty?"

"Eighty!" exclaimed Andy Foger after a whispered conference with Sam. "I know as much about boats as Tom Swift. I'll make it eighty."

"No side remarks. I'll do most of the talking. You just bid, young man," remarked Mr. Wood. "I have eighty bid for this boat-- -eighty dollars. Why, my friends, I can't understand this. I ought to have it up to three hundred dollars, at least. But I thank you all the same. We are coming on. I'm bid eighty---"

"Ninety!" exclaimed the quiet man at Tom's elbow. He was continually fingering his upper lip, as though he had a mustache there, but his face was clean-shaven. He looked around nervously as he spoke.

"Ninety!" called out the auctioneer.

"Ninety-five!" returned Tom. Andy Foger scowled at him, but the young inventor only smiled. It was evident that the bully did not relish being bid against. He and his crony whispered together again.

"One hundred!" called Andy, as if no one would dare go above that.

"I'm offered an even hundred," resumed Mr. Wood. "We are certainly coming on. A hundred I am bid, a hundred---a hundred--- a hundred---"

"And five," said the strange man hastily, and he seemed to choke as he uttered the words.

"Oh, come now; we ought to have at least ten-dollar bids from now on," suggested Mr. Wood. "Won't you make it a hundred and ten?" The auctioneer looked directly at the man, who seemed to shrink back into the crowd. He shook his head, cast a sort of despairing look at the boat and hurried away.

"That's queer," murmured Tom. "I guess that was his limit, yet if he wanted the boat badly that wasn't a high price."

"Who's going ahead of me?" demanded Andy in loud tones.

"Keep quiet!" urged Sam. "We may get it yet."

"Yes, don't make so many remarks," counseled the auctioneer. "I'm bid a hundred and five. Will any one make it a hundred and twenty-five?"

Tom wondered why the man bad not remained to see if his bid was accepted, for no one raised it at once, but he hurried off and did not look back. Tom took a sudden resolve.

"A hundred and twenty-five!" he called out.

"That's what I like to hear," exclaimed Mr. Wood. "Now we are doing business. A hundred and twenty-five from Tom Swift. Will any one offer me fifty?"

Andy and Sam seemed to be having some dispute.

"Let's make him quit right now," suggested Andy in a hoarse whisper.

"You can't," declared Sam'

"Yes, I can. I'll go up to my limit right now."

"And some one will go above you---maybe Tom will," was Sam's retort.

"I don't believe he can afford to," Andy came back with. "I'm going to call his bluffs. I believe he's only bidding to make others think he wants it. I don't believe he'll buy it."

Tom heard what was said, but did not reply. The auctioneer was calling monotonously: "I'm bid a hundred and twenty-five---twenty- five. Will any one make it fifty?"

"A hundred and fifty!" sang out Andy, and all eyes were directed toward him.

"Sixty!" said Tom quietly.

"Here, you---" began the red-haired lad. You---"

"That will do!" exclaimed the auctioneer sternly. "I am offered a hundred and sixty. Now who will give me an advance? I want to get the boat up to two hundred, and then the real bidding will begin."

Tom's heart sank. He hoped it would be some time before a two hundred dollar offer would be heard. As for Andy Foger, he was almost speechless with rage. He shook off the restraining arm of Sam, and, worming his way to the front of the throng, exclaimed:

"I'll give a hundred and seventy-five dollars for that boat!"

"Good!" cried the auctioneer. "That's the way to talk. I'm offered a hundred and seventy-five."

"Eighty," said Tom quietly, though his heart was beating fast.

"Well, of all---" began Andy, but Sam Snedecker dragged him back.

"You haven't got any more money, " said the bully's crony. "Better stop now."

"I will not! I'm going home for more," declared Andy. "I must have that boat."

"It will be sold when you get back," said Sam.

"Haven't you got any money you can lend me?" inquired the squint- eyed one, scowling in Tom's direction.

"No, not a bit. There, some one raised Tom's bid."

At that moment a man in the crowd offered a hundred and eighty-one dollars.

"Small amounts thankfully received," said Mr. Wood with a laugh. Then the bidding became lively, a number making one-dollar advances.

The price got up to one hundred and ninety-five dollars and there it hung for several minutes, despite the eloquence of Mr. Wood, who tried by all his persuasive powers to get a substantial advance. But every one seemed afraid to bid. As for the young inventor, he was in a quandary. He could only offer five dollars more, and, if he bid it in a lump, some one might go to two hundred and five, and he would not get the boat. He wished he had secured permission from his father to go higher, yet he knew that as a fair proposition two hundred dollars was about all the motor- boat in its present condition was worth, at least to him. Then he made a sudden resolve. He thought he might as well have the suspense over.

"Two hundred dollars!" he called boldly.

"I'm offered two hundred!" repeated Mr. Wood. "That is something like it. Now who will raise that?"

There was a moment of silence. Then the auctioneer swung into an enthusiastic description of the boat. He begged for an advance, but none was made, though Tom's heart seemed in his throat, so afraid was he that he would not get the Carlopa.

"Two hundred---two hundred!" droned on Mr. Wood. "I am offered two hundred. Will any of you go any higher?" He paused a moment, and Tom's heart beat harder than ever. "If not," resumed the speaker, "I will declare the bidding closed. Are you all done? Once---twice---three times. Two hundred dollars. Going---going-- -gone!" He clapped his hands. "The boat is sold to Thomas Swift for two hundred dollars. If he'll step up I'll take his money."

There was a laugh as Tom, blushingly, advanced. He passed Andy Foger, who had worked his way over near him.

"You got the boat," sneered the bully, "and I s'pose you think you got ahead of me."

"Keep quiet!" begged Sam.

"I won't!" exclaimed Andy. "He outbid me just out of spite, and I'll get even with him. You see if I don't!"

Tom looked Andy Foger straight in the eyes, but did not answer, and the red-haired youth turned aside, followed by his crony, and started toward his automobile.

"I congratulate you on your bargain," said Mr. Wood as Tom proceeded to make out a check. He gave little thought to the threat Andy Foger had made, but the time was coming when he was to remember it well.