Chapter Six. Turning the Tables
 

When the young inventor informed his father what he had overheard Mr. Berg saying, the aged inventor was not as much worried as his son anticipated.

"All we'll have to do, Tom," he said, "is to keep quiet about where we are going. Once we have the Advance afloat, and try her out, we can start on our voyage for the South American Coast and search for the sunken treasure. When we begin our voyage under water I defy any one to tell where we are going, or what our plans are. No, I don't believe we need worry about Mr. Berg, though he probably means mischief."

"Well, I'm going to keep my eyes open for him and Andy Foger," declared Tom.

The days that followed were filled with work. Not only were there many unexpected things to do about the submarine, but Mr. Sharp was kept busy making inquiries about the sunken treasure ship. These inquiries had to he made carefully, as the adventurers did not want their plans talked of, and nothing circulates more quickly than rumors of an expedition after treasure of any kind.

"What about the old sea captain you were going to get to go with us?" asked Mr. Swift of the balloonist one afternoon. "Have you succeeded in finding one yet?"

"Yes; I am in communication with a man think will be just the person for us. His name is Captain Alden Weston, and he has sailed all over the world. He has also taken part in more than one revolution, and, in fact, is a soldier of fortune. I do not know him personally, but a friend of mine knows him, and says he will serve us faithfully. I have written to him, and he will he here in a few days."

"That's good. Now about the location of the wreck itself. Have you been able to learn any more details?"

"Well, not many. You see, the Boldero was abandoned in a storm, and the captain did not take very careful observations. As nearly as it can be figured out the treasure ship went to the bottom in latitude forty-five degrees south, and longitude twenty-seven east from Washington. That's a pretty indefinite location, but I hope, once we get off the Uruguay coast, we can better it. We can anchor or lay outside the harbor, and in the small boat we carry go ashore and possibly gain more details. For it was at Montevideo that the shipwrecked passengers and sailors landed."

"Does Captain Weston know our object?" inquired Tom.

"No, and I don't propose to tell him until we are ready to start," replied Mr. Sharp. "I don't know just how he'll consider a submarine trip after treasure, but if I spring it on him suddenly he's less likely to back out. Oh, I think he'll go."

Somewhat unexpectedly the next day it was discovered that certain tools and appliances were needed for the submarine, and they had been left in the house at Shopton, where Eradicate Sampson was in charge as caretaker during the absence of Mr. Swift and his son and the housekeeper.

"Well, I suppose we'll have to go back after them," remarked Tom. "We'll take the airship, dad, and make a two- days' trip of it. Is there anything else you want?"

"Well, you might bring a bundle of papers you'll find in the lower right hand drawer of my desk. They contain some memoranda I need."

Tom and Mr. Sharp had become so used to traveling in the airship that it seemed no novelty to them, though they attracted much attention wherever they went. They soon had the Red Cloud in readiness for a flight, and rising in the air above the shop that contained the powerful submarine, a craft utterly different in type from the aeroplane, the nose of the airship was pointed toward Shopton.

They made a good flight and landed near the big shed where the bird of the air was kept. It was early evening when they got to the Swift homestead, and Eradicate Sampson was glad to see them.

Eradicate was a good cook, and soon had a meal ready for the travelers. Then, while Mr. Sharp selected the tools and other things needed, and put them in the airship ready for the start back the next morning, Tom concluded he would take a stroll into Shopton, to see if he could see his friend, Ned Newton. It was early evening, and the close of a beautiful day, a sharp shower in the morning having cooled the air.

Tom was greeted by a number of acquaintances as he strolled along, for, since the episode of the bank robbery, when he had so unexpectedly returned with the thieves and the cash, the lad was better known than ever.

"I guess Ned must be home" thought our hero as he looked in vain for his chum among the throng on the streets. "I've got time to take a stroll down to his house."

Tom was about to cross the street when he was startled by the sound of an automobile horn loudly blown just at his side. Then a voice called:

"Hey, there! Git out of the way if you don't want to be run over!"

He looked up, and saw a car careening along. At the wheel was the red-haired bully, Andy Foger, and in the tonneau were Sam Snedecker and Pete Bailey.

"Git out of the way," added Sam, and he grinned maliciously at Tom.

The latter stepped back, well out of the path of the car, which was not moving very fast. Just in front of Tom was a puddle of muddy water. There was no necessity for Andy steering into it, but he saw his opportunity, and a moment later one of the big pneumatic tires had plunged into the dirty fluid, spattering it all over Tom, some even going as high as his face.

"Ha! ha!" laughed Andy. "Maybe you'll get out of my way next time, Tom Swift."

The young inventor was almost speechless from righteous anger. He wiped the mud from his face, glanced down at his clothes, which were all but ruined, and called out:

"Hold on there, Andy Foger! I want to see you!" for he thought of the time when Andy had shut him in the tank.

"Ta! ta!" shouted Pete Bailey.

"See you later," added Sam.

"Better go home and take a bath, and then sail away in your submarine," went on Andy. "I'll bet it will sink."

Before Tom could reply the auto had turned a corner. Disgusted and angry, he tried to sop up some of the muddy water with his handkerchief. While thus engaged he heard his name called, and looked up to see Ned Newton.

"What's the matter? Fall down?" asked his chum.

"Andy Foger," replied Tom.

"That's enough," retorted Ned. "I can guess the rest. We'll have to tar and feather him some day, and ride him out of town on a rail. I'd kick him myself, only his father is a director in the bank where I work, and I'd be fired if I did. Can't afford any such pleasure. But some day I'll give Andy a good trouncing, and then resign before they can discharge me. But I'll be looking for another job before I do that. Come on to my house, Tom, and I'll help you clean up."

Tom was a little more presentable when he left his chum's residence, after spending the evening there, but he was still burning for revenge against Andy and his cronies. He had half a notion to go to Andy's house and tell Mr. Foger how nearly serious the bully's prank at the sub marine had been, but be concluded that Mr. Foger could only uphold his son. "No, I'll settle with him myself," decided Tom.

Bidding Eradicate keep a watchful eye about the house, and leaving word for Mr. Damon to be sure to come to the coast if he again called at the Shopton house, Tom and Mr. Sharp prepared to make their return trip early the next morning.

The gas tank was filled and the Red Cloud arose in the air. Then, with the propellers moving at moderate speed, the nose of the craft was pointed toward the New Jersey coast.

A few miles out from Shopton, finding there was a contrary wind in the upper regions where they were traveling, Mr. Sharp descended several hundred feet. They were moving over a sparsely settled part of the country, and looking down, Tom saw, speeding along a highway, an automobile.

"I wonder who's in it?" he remarked, taking down a telescope and peering over the window ledge of the cabin. The next moment he uttered a startled exclamation.

"Andy Foger, Sam Snedecker and Pete Bailey!" he cried. "Oh, I wish I had a bucket of water to empty on them."

"I know a better way to get even with them than that," said Mr. Sharp.

"How?" asked Tom eagerly.

"I'll show you," replied the balloonist. "It's a trick I once played on a fellow who did me an injury. Here, you steer for a minute until I get the thing fixed, then I'll take charge."

Mr. Sharp went to the storeroom and came back with a long, stout rope and a small anchor of four prongs. It was carried to be used in emergencies, but so far had never been called into requisition. Fastening the grapple to the cable, the balloonist said:

"Now, Tom, they haven't seen you. You stand in the stern and pay out the rope. I'll steer the airship, and what I want you to do is to catch the anchor in the rear of their car. Then I'll show you some fun."

Tom followed instructions. Slowly he lowered the rope with the dangling grapple. The airship was also sent down, as the cable was not quite long enough to reach the earth from the height at which they were. The engine was run at slow speed, so that the noise would not attract the attention of the three cronies who were speeding along, all unconscious of the craft in the air over their heads. The Red Cloud was moving in the same direction as was the automobile.

The anchor was now close to the rear of Andy's car. Suddenly it caught on the tonneau and Tom called that fact to Mr. Sharp.

"Fasten the rope at the cleat," directed the balloonist.

Tom did so, and a moment later the aeronaut sent the airship up by turning more gas into the container. At the same time he reversed the engine and the Red Cloud began pulling the touring car backward, also lifting the rear wheels clear from the earth.

A startled cry from the occupants of the machine told Tom and his friend that Andy and his cronies were aware something was wrong. A moment later Andy, looking up, saw the airship hovering in the air above him. Then he saw the rope fast to his auto. The airship was not rising now, or the auto would have been turned over, but it was slowly pulling it backward, in spite of the fact that the motor of the car was still going.

"Here! You let go of me!" cried Andy. "I'll have you arrested if you damage my car."

"Come up here and cut the rope." called Tom leaning over and looking down. He could enjoy the bully's discomfiture. As for Sam and Pete, they were much frightened, and cowered down on the floor of the tonneau.

"Maybe you'll shut me in the tank again and splash mud on me!" shouted Tom.

The rear wheels of the auto were lifted still higher from the ground, as Mr. Sharp turned on a little more gas. Andy was not proof against this.

"Oh! oh!" he cried. "Please let me down, Tom. I'm awful sorry for what I did! I'll never do it again! Please, please let me down! Don't You'll tip me over!"

He had shut off his motor now, and was frantically clinging to the steering wheel.

"Do you admit that you're a sneak and a coward?" asked Tom, "rubbing it in."

"Yes, yes! Oh, please let me down!"

"Shall we?" asked Tom of Mr. Sharp.

"Yes," replied the balloonist. "We can afford to lose the rope and anchor for the sake of turning the tables. Cut the cable."

Tom saw what was intended. Using a little hatchet, he severed the rope with a single blow. With a crash that could be heard up in the air where the Red Cloud hovered, the rear wheels of the auto dropped to the ground. Then came two loud reports.

"Both tires busted!" commented Mr. Sharp dryly, and Tom, looking down, saw the trio of lads ruefully contemplating the collapsed rubber of the rear wheels. The tables had been effectually turned on Andy Foger. His auto was disabled, and the airship, with a graceful sweep, mounted higher and higher, continuing on its way to the coast.