Chapter II. Mr. Damon's Steering
 

Tom Swift was a lad of action, and his quickness in hurrying out to investigate what had happened when he was explaining about his new battery, was characteristic of him. Those of my readers who know him, through having read the previous books of this series, need not be told this, but you who, perhaps, are just making his acquaintance, may care to know a little more about him.

As told in my first book, "Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle" the young inventor lived with his father, Barton Swift, a widower, in the town of Shopton, New York. Mr. Swift was also an inventor of note.

In my initial volume of this series, Tom became possessed of a motor-cycle in a peculiar way. It was sold to him by a Mr. Wakefield Damon, a wealthy gentleman who was unfortunate in riding it. On his speedy machine, which Tom improved by several inventions, he had a number of adventures. The principal one was being attacked by a number of bad men, known as the "Happy Harry Gang," who wished to obtain possession of a valuable turbine patent model belonging to Mr. Swift. Tom was taking it to a lawyer, when he was waylaid, and chloroformed. Later he traced the gang, and, with the assistance of Mr. Damon and Eradicate Sampson, an aged colored man who made a living for himself and his mule, Boomerang, by doing odd jobs, the lad found the thieves and recovered a motor-boat which had been stolen. But the men got away.

In the second volume, called "Tom Swift and His Motor-Boat," Tom bought at auction the boat stolen by, and recovered from, the thieves, and proceeded to improve it. While he was taking his father out on a cruise for Mr Swift's health, the Happy Harry Gang made a successful attempt to steal some valuable inventions from the Swift house. Tom started to trace them, and incidentally he raced and beat Andy Foger, a rich bully. On their way down the lake, after the robbery, Tom, his father and Ned Newton, Tom's chum, saw a man hanging from the trapeze of a blazing balloon over Lake Carlopa. The balloonist was Mr. John Sharp and he was rescued by Tom in a thrilling fashion. In his motor-boat, Tom had much pleasure, not the least of which was taking out a young lady named Miss Mary Nestor, whose acquaintance he had made after stopping her runaway horse, which his bicycle had frightened. Tom's association with Miss Nestor soon ripened into something deeper than mere friendship.

It developed that Mr Sharp, whom Tom had saved from the burning balloon, was an aeronaut of note, and had once planned to build an airship. After his recovery from his thrilling experience, he mentioned the matter to Mr. Swift and his son, with whom he took up his residence. This fitted right in with Tom's ideas, and soon father, son and the balloonist were constructing the Red Cloud, as they named their airship. It was finally completed, as related in "Tom Swift and His Airship," made a successful trial trip, and won a prize. It was planned to make a longer journey, and Tom, Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon agreed to go together. Mr. Damon was an odd individual, who was continuously blessing some part of his anatomy, his clothing or some inanimate object but, for all that, he was a fine man.

The night before Tom and his friends started off in their airship, the Shopton Bank vault was blown open and seventy-five thousand dollars was taken. Tom and his friends did not know of this, but, no sooner had the young inventor, Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon sailed away, than the police arrived at Mr. Swift's house to arrest them. They were charged with the robbery, and with having sailed away with the booty.

It appeared that Andy Foger said he had seen Tom hanging around the bank the night of the robbery, with a bag of burglar tools in his possession. Search was immediately begun for the airship, the occupants of which were, meanwhile, speeding on.

Tom and his two friends had trouble. They were nearly burned up in a forest fire, and were fired upon by a crowd of people with rifles, who, reading of the bank robbery and the reward offered for the capture of the thieves, hoped to bring down the airship. The fact that they were fired upon caused Tom and the two aeronauts to descend to make an investigation, and for the first time they learned of the bank theft. How they got track of the real robbers, took the sheriff with them in the airship, and raided the gang will be found set down at length in the book. Also how Tom administered well-deserved thrashing to Andy Foger.

Mr. Swift did not accompany his son in the airship, and when asked why he did not care to make the trip, said he was working on a new type of submarine boat, which he hoped to enter in the government trials, to win a prize. In the fourth volume of the series, called "Tom Swift and his Submarine," you may read how successful Mr. Swift was.

When the submarine, called the Advance, was finished, the party made a trip to recover three hundred thousand dollars in gold from a sunken treasure ship, off the coast of Uruguay, South America. They sailed beneath the seas for many miles, and were in great peril at times. One reason for this was that a rival firm of submarine builders got wind of the treasure, and tried to get ahead of the Swifts in recovering it. How Tom and his friends succeeded in their quest, how they nearly perished at the bottom of the sea, how they were captured by a foreign war vessel, and sentenced to death, how they fought with a school of giant sharks and how they blew up the wreck to recover the money is all told of in the book.

On their return to civilization with the gold, Mr. Swift, Tom, and their friends deposited the money in the Shopton Bank, where Ned Newton worked. Ned was a bright lad, but had not been advanced as rapidly as he deserved, and Tom knew this. He asked his father to speak to the president, Mr. Pendergast, in Ned's behalf, and, as a result the lad was made assistant cashier, for the request of a man who controlled a three hundred thousand dollar deposit was not to be despised.

In building the submarine Tom and his father rented a large cottage on the New Jersey seacoast, but, on returning from their treasure-quest they went back to Shopton, leaving the submarine at the boathouse of the shore cottage, which was near the city of Atlantis. That was in the fall of the year, and all that winter the young inventor had been busy on many things, not the least of which was his storage battery. It was now spring, and seeing the item in the paper, about the touring club prize for an electric auto, had given him a new idea.

But all thoughts of electric cars, and everything else, were driven from the mind of the young man, when, with his father, he rushed out to see the cause of the crash on the roof of the Swift homestead.

"There's something up there, Tom," called his father, as he splashed on through the rain.

"That's right," added his son. "And somebody, too, to judge by the fuss they're making."

"Maybe the house has been struck by lightning!" suggested the aged inventor.

"No, the storm isn't severe enough for that; and, besides, if the house had been struck you'd hear Mrs. Baggert yelling, Dad. She--"

At that moment a woman's voice cried out:

"Mr. Swift! Tom! Where are you? Something dreadful has happened!"

"There she goes!" remarked Mr. Swift, as he splashed into a mud puddle.

"Bless my deflection rudder!" suddenly cried a voice from the flat roof of the Swift house. "Hello! I say, is anyone down there?"

"Yes, we are," answered Tom. "Is that you, Mr. Damon?"

"Bless my collar button! It certainly is."

"Where's Mr. Sharp? I don't hear him."

"Oh, I'm here all right," answered the balloonist. "I'm trying to get the airship clear of the chimney. Mr. Damon--"

"Yes, I steered wrong!" interrupted the odd man. "Bless my liver pin, but it was so dark I couldn't see, and when that clap of thunder came I shifted the deflection rudder instead of the lateral one, and tried to knock over your chimney."

"Are either of you hurt?" asked Mr. Swift anxiously.

"No, not at all," replied Mr. Sharp. "We were moving slowly, ready for a landing."

"Is the airship damaged?" inquired Tom.

"I don't know. Not much, I guess," was the answer of the aeronaut. "I've stopped the engine, and I don't like to start it again until I can see what shape we're in."

"I'll come up, with Mr. Jackson," called Tom, and he hastily summoned Garret Jackson, an engineer, who had been in the service of Mr. Swift for many years. Together they proceeded to the roof by a stairway that led to a scuttle.

"Is anyone killed?" asked Mrs. Baggert, as Tom hurried up the stairs. "Don't tell me there is, Tom!"

"Well, I don't have to tell you, for no one is," replied the young inventor with a laugh. "It's all right. The airship tried to collide with the chimney, that's all."

He was soon on the large, flat roof of the dwelling, and, with the aid of lanterns he, the engineer, and Mr. Sharp made a hasty examination.

"Anything wrong?" inquired Mr. Damon, looking out from the cabin of the Red Cloud where he had taken refuge after the crash, and to get out of the wet.

"Not much," answered Tom. "One of the forward planes is smashed, but we can rise by means of the gas, and float down. Is all clear, Mr. Sharp?"

"All clear," replied the balloonist, for the airship had now been wheeled back from the entanglement with the chimney.

"Then here we go!" cried Tom, as he and the aeronaut entered the craft, while Mr. Jackson descended through the scuttle.

There came a fiercer burst to the storm, and, amid a series of dazzling lightning flashes and the muttering of thunder, the airship rose from the roof. Tom switched on the search-light, and, starting the big propellers, guided the craft skillfully toward the big shed where it was housed when not in use.

With the grace of a bird it turned about in the air, and settled to the ground. It was the work of but a few minutes to run it into the shed. Then they all started for the house.

"Bless my umbrella! How it rains!" cried Mr. Damon, as he splashed on through numerous puddles. "We got back just in time, Mr. Sharp."

"Where did you go?" asked the lad.

"Why we took a flight of about fifty miles and stopped at my house in Waterfield for supper. Were you anxious about us?"

"A little when it began to storm," replied Tom.

"Anything new since we left?" asked Mr. Sharp, for it was the custom of himself, or some of his friends, to take little trips in the airship. They thought no more of it than many do of going for a short spin in an automobile.

"Yes, there is something new," said Mr. Swift, as the party, all drenched now, reached the broad veranda.

"Bless my gaiters!" cried Mr. Damon. "What is it? I hope the Happy Harry gang hasn't robbed you again; nor Berg and his men tried to take that treasure away from us, after we worked so hard to get it from the wreck."

"No, it isn't that," replied Mr. Swift. "The truth is that Tom thinks he has invented a storage battery that will revolutionize matters. He's going to build an electric automobile, he says."

"I am," declared the lad, as the others looked at him, "and it will be the speediest one you ever saw, too!"