Chapter XVIII. After the Cash
 

Tom's proposal as a way out of the difficulty, and the prompt seconding of it by Mr. Damon, seemed to deprive the other bank officials, Mr. Swift included, of the power of speech for a few moments. Then, as there came to the room where the scene had taken place, the sound of the mob outside, clamoring for cash, Mr. Pendergast, the president, remarked in a low voice:

"It seems to be the only way. Do you think you can do it, Tom Swift?"

"I'm sure of it, as far as my electric car is concerned," replied the young inventor. "If we get the cash I'll have it back here on time. The runabout is all ready for a fast trip."

"Then don't lose any time, Tom," advised his father. "Every minute counts."

"Yes," added Mr. Damon. "Come on. I've got the securities in my valise, and we can bring the cash back in the same satchel. Come on, Tom."

The eccentric character caught up his valise, and started from the room. Tom followed.

"Now, my son, be careful," advised his father. "You know the need of haste, but don't take unnecessary risks. You'd better go out the back way, as the crowd is easily excited."

Little more was said. Mr. Swift clasped his son's hand in a firm pressure, and the bank president nervously bade the lad good-by. Then, slipping out of the bank, by the rear entrance, the porter closing the door after them, Tom and Mr. Damon took their places in the electric machine.

"Just imagine you're racing for that three-thousand-dollar prize, offered by the Touring Club of America, Tom," observed Mr. Damon, as he deposited the valise at his feet.

"I don't have to do that," replied the youth. "I'm trying for a bigger prize than that. I want to save the bank, and defeat the schemes of the Fogers--father and son."

Tom turned on the power, and the machine rolled out on the main street. As it turned the corner, leaving the impatient crowd of depositors, now larger than ever, behind, Mr. Damon glanced over at the new bank, and, as he did so, he called to Tom:

"There are the Fogers now."

The young inventor looked, and saw Andy and his father on the steps of the new institution.

At the sight of the electric car, speeding along, Andy turned and spoke to his parent. What he said seemed to impress Mr. Foger, for he started, and looked more intently at Tom and Mr. Damon. Then, as Tom watched, he saw the two excitedly conversing, and a moment later Andy ran off in the direction in which Sam Snedecker and Pete Bailey lived.

"I wonder if he's up to any tricks?" thought Tom, as he turned on more power. "Well, if he is, I'll soon be where he can't reach me."

The young inventor did not dare send his car at full speed through the streets of the town, and it was not until several minutes had passed that they could go at more than the ordinary rate. But once the open country was reached Tom "opened her up full," and the song the motor sung was one of power. The vehicle quickly gathered headway and was soon fairly whizzing along.

"If we keep this up we'll be there and back in good time," remarked Mr. Damon.

"Yes, but we can't do it," replied his companion. "The road to Clayton is a poor one, and we'll soon be on it. Then we'll have to go slow. But I'll make all the time I can until then."

So, for several miles more they crept along, at times having to reduce to almost a walking pace, because of bad roads. Mr. Damon looked at his watch almost every other minute.

"Eleven o'clock," he remarked, as they passed a milestone, "and we're not half way there. Bless my gizzard, but I'm afraid we won't make it, Tom. We left about ten, and we ought to be back by two o'clock to do any good. That's four hours, and it will take some time to transfer the securities, and get the cash. Every minute counts."

"I know it," answered Tom, "and I'm going to count every minute."

With eager eyes he watched every inch of the road, to steer to the best advantage. His hands gripped the wheel until his knuckles showed white with the strain, and, every now and then his right hand adjusted the speed lever or the controller handle, while his foot was on the emergency brake, ready to stop the car at the first sign of danger.

And there was danger, not infrequently, for the road was up and down hill, over frail bridges, and along steep cliffs. It was no pleasure tour they were on.

When a little over half the distance had been made they came to a better road, and Tom was able to use full speed ahead. Then the electric went so fast that, had it not been for the steel wind- shield in front, Mr. Damon, at any rate, would have been short of breath.

"This is going some!" he cried to Tom. The lad nodded grimly, and shoved the controller handle over to the last notch. Then came a bad stretch and they had to slow down again. As they were about out of it there came a little flash of fire and the motor stopped.

"Bless my overshoes!" cried Mr. Damon. "What's that; a fuse blown out?"

"No," replied Tom, with a puzzled air. "But something has gone wrong." Hastily he got out, and made an examination. He found it was only one of the unimportant wires which had short-circuited, and it was soon adjusted. But they had lost five precious minutes. Tom tried to make up for lost time, but came to a hill a little later, and this reduced their speed.

"Do you think we can make it before twelve?" asked Mr. Damon anxiously. "We've got to, if we're to get back before three, Tom."

"I'll try," was the calm answer, and Tom's jaw was shut still more tightly. Once again came more favorable roads and pushing the car to the limit the occupants were rejoiced, a little later, as they topped a hill, to come in sight of a fairly large city.

"There's Clayton!" cried Mr. Damon.

Ten minutes later they were rolling through the main street, and as they stopped in front of the bank, the noon whistles blew shrill and noisily.

"You did it, Tom!" cried Mr. Damon, springing out with the valise of securities. "Now be ready for the return trip. I'll be with you as soon as possible."

He went up the bank steps three at a time, like some boy instead of an elderly man. Tom looked after him for a second and then got down to oil up his car, and make some adjustments that had rattled loose from the rough road. Unmindful of the curious throng that gathered he crawled under the machine with his oil- can.

He had finished his work, and was back in his seat, ready to start, but Mr. Damon had not reappeared.

"It's taking him a good while to get that cash," thought Tom. "Maybe the securities were no good."

But, a few minutes later, Mr. Damon came hurrying from the bank. The valise he carried seemed much heavier than when he went in.

"It's all right, Tom," he said. "I've got it. Now for the trip home, and I hope we don't have any accidents. It took longer than I thought to check over the bonds and receipt for them. But I've got the cash. Now to save the bank!"

He took his place beside the young inventor, holding the valise between his knees, while Tom turned on the power and sent his car dashing down the street, and toward the road that led to Shopton.