Chapter IV. Tom and Andy Clash
 

Even a casual observer could have told that an auto had had some part in dragging the log to the place where it blockaded the road. In the dust were many marks of the big rubber tires and even the imprint of a rope, which had been used to tow the tree trunk.

"What fo' yo' t'ink any one put dat log dere?" asked the colored man as he followed Tom. Boomerang, the mule, so called because Eradicate said you never could tell what he was going to do, opened his eyes lazily and closed them again. "I don't know why, Rad, unless they wanted to wreck an automobile or a wagon. Maybe tramps did it for spite."

"Maybe some one done it to make yo' hab trouble, Mistah Swift."

"No, I hardly think so. I don't know of any one who would want to make trouble for me, and how would they know I was coming this way---'

Tom suddenly checked himself. The memory of the scene at the auction came back to him and he recalled what Andy Foger had said about "'getting even."

"Which way did dat auto go?" resumed Eradicate.

"It came from down the road," answered Tom, not completing the sentence he had left unfinished. "They dragged the log up to the foot of the hill and left it. Then the auto went down this way." It was comparatively easy, for a lad of such sharp observation as was Tom, to trace the movements of the vehicle.

"Den if it's down heah, maybe we cotch 'em," suggested the colored man.

The young inventor did not answer at once. He was hurrying along, his eyes on the telltale marks. He had proceeded some distance from the place where the log was when he uttered a cry. At the same moment he hurried from the road toward a thick clump of bushes that were in the ditch alongside of the highway. Reaching them, he parted the leaves and called:

"Here's the auto, Rad!"

The colored man ran up, his eyes wider open than ever. There, hidden amid the bushes, was a large touring car.

"Whose am dat?" asked Eradicate.

Tom did not answer. He penetrated the underbrush, noting where the broken branches had been bent upright after the forced entrance of the car, the better to hide it. The young inventor was, seeking some clew to discover the owner of the machine. To this end he climbed up in the tonneau and was looking about when some one burst in through the screen of bushes and a voice cried: "Here, you get out of my car!"

."Oh, is it your car, Andy Foger?" asked Tom calmly as he recognized his squint-eyed rival. "I was just beginning to think it was. Allow me to return your wrench," and he held out the one he had picked up near the log. "The next time you drag trees across the road," went on the lad in the tonneau, facing the angry and dismayed Andy, "I'd advise you to post a notice at the top of the hill, so persons riding down will not be injured." "Notice--- road---hill---logs!" stammered Andy, turning red under his freckles.

"That's what I said," replied Tom coolly.

"I---I didn't have anything to do with putting a log across any road," mumbled the bully. "I---I've been off toward the creek."

"Have you?" asked Tom with a peculiar smile.

"I thought you might have been looking for the wrench you dropped near the log. You should be more careful and so should Sam Snedecker, who's hiding outside the bushes," went on our hero, for he had caught sight of the form of Andy's crony. "I---I told him not to do it!" exclaimed Sam as he came from his hiding place.

"Shut up!" exclaimed Andy desperately.

"Oh, I think I know your secret," continued the young inventor. "You wanted to get even with me for outbidding you on the motor- boat. You watched which road I took, and then, in your auto, you came a shorter way, ahead of me. You hauled the log across the foot of the hill, hoping, I suppose, that my machine would be broken. But, let me tell you, it was a risky trick. Not only might I have been killed, but so would whoever else who happened to drive down the slope over the log, whether in a wagon or automobile. Fortunately Eradicate discovered it in time and warned me. I ought to have you arrested, but you're not worth it. A good thrashing is what such sneaks as you deserve!"

"You haven't got any evidence against us," sneered Andy confidently, his old bravado coming back.

"I have all I want," replied Tom. "You needn't worry. I'm not going to tell the police. But you've got to do one thing or I'll make you sorry you ever tried this trick. Eradicate will help me, to don't think you're going to escape."

"You get out of my automobile!" demanded Andy. "I'll have you arrested if you don't."

"I'll get out because I'm ready to, but not on account of your threats," retorted Mr. Swift's son. "Here's your wrench. Now I want you and Sam to start up this machine and haul that log out of the way."

"S'pose I won't do it?" snapped Andy.

"Then I'll cause your arrest, besides thrashing you into the bargain! You can take your choice of removing the log so travelers can pass or having a good hiding, you and Sam. Eradicate, you take Sam and I'll tackle Andy."

"Don't you dare touch me!" cried the bully, but there was a whine in his tones.

"You let me alone or I'll tell my father!" added Sam. "I---I didn't have nothin' to do with it, anyhow. I told Andy it would make trouble, but he made me help him."

"Say, what's the matter with you?" demanded Andy indignantly of his crony. "Do you want to---"

"I wish I'd never come with you," went on Sam, who was beginning to be frightened.

"Come now. Start up that machine and haul the log out of the way," demanded Tom again.

"I won't do it I" retorted the red-haired lad impudently.

"Yes, you will," insisted our hero, and he took a step toward the bully. They were out of the clump of bushes now and in the roadside ditch. "You let me alone," almost screamed Andy, and in his baffled rage he rushed at Tom, aiming a blow.

The young inventor quickly stepped to one side, and, as the bully passed him, Tom sent out a neat left-hander. Andy Foger went down in a heap on the grass.