Chapter 12. Some Startling News
 

"Well, there they go," remarked Mrs. Baggert to Mr. Swift, as she strained her eyes toward the sky, against the blue of which the airship was now only a large, black ball.

"Yes, and a fine start they made," replied the inventor. "I almost wish I had accompanied them, but I must not stop work on my submarine invention."

"I do hope nothing will happen to them," went on the housekeeper. "I declare, though, I feel just as if something was going to happen."

"Nervousness, pure nervousness," commented Mr. Swift. "Better take a little-er-I suppose catnip tea would be good."

"Catnip tea! The very idea!" exclaimed Mrs. Baggert. "That shows how much you know about nervousness, Mr. Swift," and she seemed a little indignant.

"Ha! Hum I Well, maybe catnip tea wouldn't be just the thing. But don't worry about Tom. I'm sure he can look after himself. As for Mr. Sharp he has made too many ascensions to run into any unnecessary danger."

"Nervous!" went on the housekeeper, who seemed to resent this state being applied to her. "I'm sure I'm not half as nervous as that Mr. Damon. He gives me the fidgets."

"Of course. Well, I must get back to my work," said the inventor. "Ah, are you hurt, Eradicate?" he went on, as the colored man came back, driving Boomerang, who had been stopped just before reaching the road.

"No, Mistah Swift, I ain't exactly damaged, but mah feelin's am suah hurted."

"How's that?"

"Well, I thought I had growed strong in de night, when I lifted dat airship, but when I went to stop mah mule I couldn't do it. He won't hab no respect fo' me now."

"Oh, I wouldn't let that worry me," commented Mr. Swift, and he explained to Eradicate how it was that he had so easily lifted the end of the bouyant ship, which weighed very little when filled with gas.

The colored man proceeded with his work of whitewashing, the inventor was in his library, puzzling over tables of intricate figures, and Mrs. Baggert was in the kitchen, sighing occasionally as she thought of Tom, whom she loved almost as a son, high in the air, when two men came up the walk, from the street, and knocked at the side door. Mrs. Baggert, who answered the summons, was somewhat surprised to see Chief of Police Simonson and Constable Higby.

"They probably came to see the airship start," she thought, "but they're too late."

"Ah, good morning, Mrs. Baggert," greeted the chief. "Is Mr. Swift and his son about this morning?"

"Mr. Swift is in his library, but Tom is gone."

"He'll be back though, won't he?" asked Constable Higby quickly- anxiously, Mrs. Baggert thought.

"Oh, yes," she replied. "He and-"

"Just take us to see Mr. Swift," interrupted the chief, with a look of caution at his aide. "We'll explain matters to him."

Wondering what could be the mission of the two officers, Mrs. Baggert led them to the library.

"It's queer," she thought, "that they don't ask something about the airship. I suppose that was what they came for. But maybe it's about the mysterious men who robbed Mr. Swift."

"Ah, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" asked the inventor, as he rose to greet the officials.

"Ahem, Mr. Swift. Ahem-er-that is-well, the fact is, Mr. Swift," stammered the chief, "we have come upon a very painful errand."

"What's that?" cried Tom's father. "I haven't been robbed again, have I?'

"There has been a robbery committed," spoke the constable quickly.

"But you are not the victim," interposed the chief.

"I'm glad of that," said Mr. Swift.

"Where is your son, Tom?" asked the head of the Shopton police force, sharply.

"What do you want with him?" inquired the inventor, struck by some strange tone in the other's voice.

"Mr. Swift," went on the chief, solemnly, "I said we came upon a very painful errand. It is painful, as I have known Tom since he was a little lad. But I must do my duty, no matter how painful it is. I have a warrant for the arrest of your son, Thomas Swift, and I have come to serve it. I need not tell you that it is your duty to give him up to us-the representatives of the law. I call upon you to produce your son."

Mr. Swift staggered to his feet.

"My son! You have come to arrest my son?" he stammered.

The chief nodded grimly.

"Upon what charge?" faltered the father.

"On a charge of breaking into the Shopton National Bank last night, and stealing from the vault seventy-five thousand dollars in currency!"

"Seventy-five thousand dollars! Tom accused of robbing the bank!" faltered Mr. Swift.

"That is the charge, and we've come to arrest him," broke in Constable Higby.

"Where is he?" added the chief.

"This charge is false! Absolutely false!" shouted the aged inventor.

"That may be," admitted the chief shaking his head. "But the charge has been made, and we hold the warrant. The courts will settle it. We must now arrest Tom. Where is he?"

"He isn't here!" cried Mr. Swift, and small blame to him if there was a note of triumph in his voice. "Tom sailed away not half an hour ago in the airship Red Cloudl You can't arrest him!"

"He's escaped!" shouted the constable. "I told you, chief, that he was a slippery customer, and that we'd better come before breakfast!"

"Dry up!" commanded the chief testily. "So he's foiled us, eh? Run away when he knew we were coming? I think that looks like guilt, Mr. Swift."

"Never!" cried the inventor. "Tom would never think of robbing the bank. Besides, he has all the money he wants. The charge is preposterous! I demand to be confronted with the proof."

"You shall be," answered Chief Simonson vindictively. "If you will come to the bank you can see the rifled vault, and hear the testimony of a witness who saw your son with burglar tools in his possession last night. We also have a warrant for Mr. Wakefield Damon. Do you know anything of him?"

"He has gone with my son in the airship."

"Ha! The two criminals with their booty have escaped together!" cried the chief. "But we'll nab them if we have to scour the whole country. Come on, Higby! Mr. Swift, if you'll accompany me to the bank, I think I can give you all the proof you want," and the officials, followed by the amazed and grief-stricken inventor, left the house.