Chapter XV. Andy Foger's Black Eye
 

Around the bend came the six-cylinder touring car. The driver, with a surprised look on his face, was slacking up. He ran his machine up alongside of Tom's.

"Say," he asked, in dazed tones, "did you take a short cut, or anything like that to get ahead of me?"

"No," answered the youth.

"And you didn't jump me in the air?"

"No," was Tom's answer, smilingly given.

"Well, all I've got to say is that you've got a wonderful car there, Mr.--er--er--" He paused suggestively.

"Swift is my name," our hero answered. "Thomas Swift, of Shopton."

"Ah, I've heard of you. My name is Layton --Paul Layton. I'm from Netherton. Let's see, you built an airship, didn't you?"

"I helped," Tom admitted modestly.

"Well, you beat me fair and square, and if I do say it myself I've got a fairly speedy car. Took two firsts at the Indianapolis meet last month. But you certainly scooted ahead of me. Where did you buy that electric, if I may ask?"

"I made it."

"I might have known," admitted the man. "But are you going to put them on the market? If you are I'd like to get one. I want the fastest car going, and you seem to have it."

"I hadn't thought of manufacturing them for sale," said the young inventor. "If I do, I'll let you know."

"I wish you would. My! I had no idea you could beat me, but you did--fair and square."

There was some more talk, and then Mr. Layton started on, after exacting from Tom a further promise to let him know if any electrics were to be made for sale.

"You certainly have a wonderful car," complimented Ned, as he and his chum took a short cut to Shopton.

"Well, I'm not quite satisfied with it," declared Tom.

"Why not?"

"Well, I've set a hundred miles an hour as my limit. I didn't make but eighty to-day. I've got to have more speed if I go up against the crowd that will race for the touring club's prize."

"Can you make a hundred miles?"

"I think so. I've got to change my gears, though, and use heavier fuses. I was afraid every second that one of the fuses would melt, and leave me stranded. But they stood pretty well. Of course, when the car, geared as it is now, has been run a little longer it will go faster, but it won't come up to a hundred miles an hour. That's what I want, and that's what I'm going to get," and the lad looked very determined.

Ned was taken to the bank, and, as Tom turned his machine around, to go home, he saw, standing on the steps of the new bank, which was almost across the street from the old one, Andy Foger, and the bully's father. The red-haired lad laughed at Tom's rough looking car, and said something to his parent, but Mr. Foger did not notice Tom. Not that this caused our hero any uneasiness, however.

But, as he swung away from the bank, he saw, coming up the street a figure that instantly attracted his attention. It was that of Mr. Berg, and Tom at once recalled the night he had pursued the submarine agent, and torn loose his watch charm. Mr. Berg was evidently going to enter the new bank, for, at the sight of the former agent, Mr. Foger descended the steps, and went to meet him.

Tom, however, had decided upon a plan of action. He steered his machine in toward the curb, ran up the steel wind-shield, and called:

"Mr. Berg!"

"Eh? What's that?" asked the agent, in some surprise. Then, as he caught sight of Tom, and recognized him, he added: "I'm very busy now, my young friend. You'll have to excuse me."

"I won't detain you a moment," went on Tom, casually. "I have something of yours that I wish to return to you."

"Something of mine?" Mr. Berg was evidently puzzled. He approached the electric car, in spite of the fact that Mr. Foger was calling him. "Something of mine? What is it?"

"This!" exclaimed Tom suddenly, extending the compass watch charm, which he always carried with him of late.

"That! Where did you get that. I lost it--"

Mr. Berg paused in some confusion.

"I grabbed it off your watch chain the night you were hiding in our shrubbery, and tripped me into the brook," answered the lad, looking the man squarely in the eye.

"Hiding? Tripped you? Grabbed that off my chain--" stammered Mr. Berg. He had taken the charm up in his fingers, but now he quickly dropped it back into Tom's hand. "I guess you're mistaken," he added quickly. "That's not mine. I never had one-- I--er--that's not mine--at least--Oh, you'll have to excuse me, young man, I'm in a hurry, and I have an important engagement!" and with that Mr. Berg wheeled off, and joined Mr. Foger, who stood on the sidewalk, waiting for him.

"I thought sure it was yours," said Tom, easily. "Perhaps Mr. Foger will keep it in one of the safety-deposit boxes of his bank, until the owner claims it," and he looked at the banker.

"What's that?" asked Andy's father.

"This watch charm which I grabbed off Mr. Berg's chain the night he was sneaking around our house, and crossed the electric wires," went on the lad.

"Don't listen to him. He doesn't know what he is saying!" exclaimed the former submarine boat agent. "It's not my charm. He's crazy!"

"Oh, am I?" thought Tom, with a grim look on his face. "Well, we'll see about that, Mr. Berg," and, putting the charm back in his pocket, Tom swung his machine toward home, while the agent and the banker entered the new institution.

"So they're getting chummy," mused Tom. "Andy and Berg were friends when Andy shut me up in the submarine tank, and now Berg comes here to do business, and Foger and his associates are trying to put the old bank out of business. I wonder if there's any connection there? I must keep my eyes open. Berg is an unscrupulous man, and so is Andy's father, to say nothing of the red-haired bully himself. He had nerve to deny that was his charm. Well, maybe I'll catch him some day."

Tom spent a busy week making new adjustments to his electric car, changing the gear and providing for heavier fuses. He was planning for another trip on the road, as the time for the great race was drawing near, and he wanted the mechanism to be in perfect shape.

One evening, as he was preparing for a short night trip to Mansburg, where he had promised to call for Miss Nestor, Tom left his machine standing in the road in front of the house, while he went back to get a robe, as it threatened to be chilly.

As he came back to enter the car, he saw some one standing near it.

"Is that you, Ned?" he called. "Come, take a spin."

Hardly had he spoken than there sounded from the machine a whirr that told of the current being turned on.

"Don't do that!" cried Tom, knowing at once that it could not be Ned, who never meddled with the machinery.

A blinding flash and a loud report followed, and Tom saw some one leap from his car, and try to run away. But the figure stumbled, and, a moment later the young inventor was upon him, grappling with him.

"Here! Let me go!" cried a voice, and Tom uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"Andy Foger!" he cried. "I've caught you! You tried to damage my car!"

"Yes, and I'm hurt, too!" whined Andy. "My father will sue you for damages if I die."

"No danger of that; you're too mean," murmured Tom, as he maintained a tight grip on the bully.

"You let me go!" demanded Andy, squirming to get away.

"Wait until I see what damage you've done,'~ retorted the young inventor. "The worst, though, would be the blowing out of a fuse, for I had the gear disconnected. You wait a minute now. Maybe it's you who'll have to pay damages."

"You let me go!" fairly screamed Andy, and he aimed a blow at Tom. It caught our hero on the chest and Tom's fighting blood was up in an instant. He drew back his left hand, and delivered a blow that landed fairly on Andy's right eye. The bully staggered and went down in the dust.

"There!" cried Tom, righteously angry. "That will teach you not to try to damage my car, and then hit me into the bargain! Now clear out, before I give you some more!"

Whining and blubbering Andy arose to his feet.

"You just wait. I'll get square with you for this," he threatened.

"You can accept part of that as pay for what you did in the tar and feathering game," added Tom. Then, as Andy moved in front of one of the electric side lamps on the car, Tom uttered a whistle of surprise. For both of Andy's eyes were bruised and swollen, though Tom had only hit him once.

"Look at me!" cried the bully, more squint-eyed than ever. "Look at me! You hit me in one eye, and that explosion hit me in the other! My father will sue you for this."

As he hurried off down the road Tom understood. Andy coming along, had seen Tom's car standing there, and, thinking to do some mischief, had climbed in, and turned on the power. Perhaps he hoped it would run into the roadside ditch and be smashed. But as the gear was out, turning on the electric current had a different effect. As the bully pulled the handle over too quickly, throwing almost the entire force of the battery into the wires at once, the load was too heavy for them. A safety fuse blew out, causing the flare and the explosion, and a piece of the soft lead-like metal had hit the red-haired lad in the eye. Tom's fist had completed the work on the other optic, and for several days thereafter Andy Foger remained in seclusion. When he did go out there were many embarrassing questions put to him, as to when he had had the fight. Andy didn't care to answer. As for Tom, it did not take long to put a new fuse in his car, and he greatly enjoyed his ride with Miss Nestor that night.