Chapter IV. Talk of a New Bank
 

The three cronies were in a sorrowful plight. The black fluid dripped from them, and formed little puddles in the car. Andy had used his handkerchief to wipe some of the stuff from his face, but the linen was soon useless, for it quickly absorbed the blacking.

"There's a little brook over here," volunteered Tom. "You might wash in that. The stuff comes off easily. It isn't like ink," and he had to laugh, as he thought of the happening.

"Here! You quit that!" ordered Andy. "You've gone too far, Tom Swift!"

"Didn't I tell you it was an accident?" inquired the young inventor.

"It wasn't!" cried Sam. "You threw the bottle at us! I saw you!"

"It slipped from my pocket," declared the youth, and he described how the accident occurred. "I'll help you clean your car, Andy," he added.

"I don't want your help! If you come near me I'll--I'll punch your nose!" cried Andy, now almost beside himself with rage.

"All right, if you don't want my help I don't care," answered Tom, glad enough not to have to soil his hands and clothes. He felt that it was partly his fault, and he would have done all he could to remedy matters, but his good offers being declined, he felt that it was useless to insist further.

He remounted his motor-cycle, and rode off, the last view he had of the trio being one where they were at the edge of the brook, trying to remove the worst traces of the black fluid. As Tom turned around for a final glimpse, Andy shook his fist at him, and called out something.

"I guess Andy'll have it in for me," mused Tom. "Well, I can't help it. I owed him something on account, but I didn't figure on paying it in just this way," and he thought of the time the bully had locked him in the ballast tanks of the submarine, thereby nearly smothering him to death.

That night Andy Foger told his father what had happened, for Mr. Foger inquired the reason for the black stains on his son's face and hands. But Andy did not give the true version. He said Tom had purposely thrown the bottle of blacking at him.

"So that's the kind of a lad Tom Swift is, eh?" remarked Andy's father. "Well, Andy, I think you will soon have a chance to get even with him."

"How, pop?"

"I can't tell you now, but I have a plan for making Tom sorry he ever did anything to you, and I will also pay back some old scores to Mr. Swift and Mr. Damon. I'll ruin their bank for them, that's what I'll do."

"Ruin their bank, pop? How?"

"You wait and see. The Swift crowd will get off their high horse soon, or I'm mistaken. My plans are nearly completed, but I can't tell you about them. I'll ruin Mr. Swift, though, that's what I'll do," and Mr. Foger shook his head determinedly.

Tom was soon at his home, and Mrs. Baggert, hearing the noise of his machine, as it entered the front yard, came to the side door.

"Where's my blacking?" she asked, as our hero dismounted and untied the bundle of steel tubes he had purchased.

"I--I used it," he answered, laughing.

"Tom Swift! You don't mean to say you took my stove polish to use in your battery, do you?"

"No, I used it to polish off Andy Foger and some of his cronies," and the young inventor told, with much gusto, what had happened. Mrs. Baggert could not help joining in the laugh, and when Tom offered to ride back and purchase some more of the polish for her, she said it did not matter, as she could wait until the next day.

The lad was soon busy in his machine shop, making several larger cells for the new storage battery. He wanted to give it a more severe test. He worked for several days on this, and when he had one unit of cells complete, he attached the motor for an efficiency trial.

"We'll see how many miles that will make," he remarked to his father.

"Have you thought anything of the type of car you are going to build?" asked the aged inventor of his son.

"Yes, somewhat. It will be almost of the regulation style, but with two removable seats at the rear, with curtains for protection, and a place in front for two persons. This can also be protected with curtains when desired."

"But what about the motors and the battery?"

They will be located under the middle of the car. There will be one set of batteries there, together with the motor, and another set of batteries will be placed under the removable seats in what I call the tonneau, though, of course, it isn't really that. A smaller set will also be placed forward, and there will be ample room for carrying tools and such things."

"About how far do you expect your car will go with one charging of the battery?"

"Well, if I can make it do three hundred miles I'll be satisfied, but I'm going to try for four hundred."

"What will you do when your battery runs out?"

"Recharge it."

"Suppose you're not near a charging station?" "Well, Dad, of course those are some of the details I've got to work out. I'm planning a register gauge now, that will give warning about fifty miles before the battery is run down. That will leave me a margin to work on. And I'm going to have it fixed so I can take current from any trolley line, as well as from a regular charging station. My battery will be capable of being recharged very quickly, or, in case of need, I can take out the old cells and put in new ones.

"That's a very good idea. Well, I hope you succeed."

A few evenings after this, when Tom was busy in his machine shop, he heard some one enter. He looked up from the gauge of the motor, which he was studying, and, for a moment, he could make out nothing in the dark interior of the shop, for he was working in a brilliant light.

"Who's there?" he called sharply, for, more than once unscrupulous men had endeavored to sneak into the Swift shops to steal ideas of inventions; if not the actual apparatus itself.

"It's me--Ned Newton," was the cheerful reply.

"Oh, hello, Ned! I was wondering what had become of you," responded Tom. "Where have you been lately?"

"Oh, working overtime."

"What's the occasion?"

"We're trying out a new system to increase the bank business."

"What's the matter? Aren't you folks getting business enough, after the big deposits we made of the bullion from the wreck?"

"Oh, it's not that. But haven't you heard the news? There is talk of starting a rival bank in Shopton, and that may make us hustle to hold what business we have, to say nothing of getting new customers."

"A new bank, eh? Who's going to start it?" "Andy Foger's father, I hear. You know he was a director in our bank, but he got out last week."

"What for?"

"Well, he had some difficulty with Mr. Pendergast, the president. I fancy you had something to do with it, too."

"I?" Tom was plainly surprised.

"Yes, you know you and Mr. Damon and Mr. Sharp captured the bank robbers, and got back most of the money."

"I guess I do remember it! I wish you could have seen the gang when we raided them from the clouds, in our airship!"

"Well, you know Andy Foger hoped to collect the five thousand dollars reward for telling the police that you were the thief, and of course he got fooled, for you got the reward. Mr. Foger expected his son would collect the money, and when Andy got left, it made him sore. He's had a grudge against Mr. Pendergast, and all the other bank officials ever since, and now he's going to start a rival bank. So that's why I said it was partly due to you."

"Oh, I see. I thought at first you meant that it was on account of something that happened the other day."

"What was that?"

"Andy, Sam and Pete got the contents of a bottle of stove blacking," and Tom related the occurrence, at which Ned laughed heartily.

"I wouldn't be surprised though," added Ned, "to learn that Mr. Foger started the new bank more for revenge than anything else."

"So that's the reason you've been working late, eh?" went on Tom. "Getting ready for competition. Do you think a new bank will hurt the one you're with?"

"Well, it might," admitted Ned. "It's bound to make a change, anyhow, and now that I have a good position I don't want to lose it. I take more of an interest in the institution now that I'm assistant cashier, than I did when I was a clerk. So, naturally, I'm a little worried."

"Say, don't let it worry you," begged Tom, earnestly.

"Why not?"

"Because I know my father and Mr. Damon will stick to the old bank. They won't have anything to do with the one Andy Foger's father starts. Don't you worry."

"Well, that will help some," declared Ned. "They are both heavy depositors, and if they stick to the old bank we can stand it even if some of our smaller customers desert us."

"That's the way to talk," went on the young inventor. "Let Foger start his bank. It won't hurt yours."

"What are you making now?" asked Ned, a little later, looking with interest at the machinery over which Tom was bending, and to which he was making adjustments.

"New electric automobile. I want to beat Andy Foger's car worse than I did on my motorcycle, and I also want to win a prize," and the lad proceeded to relate the incidents leading up to his construction of the storage battery.

Tom and Ned were in the shop until long past midnight, and then the bank employee, with a look at his watch, exclaimed:

"Great Scott! I ought to be home."

"I'll run you over in Mr. Damon's car," proposed Tom. "He left it here the other day, while he and his wife went off on a trip, and he said I could use it whenever I wanted to."

"Good!" cried Ned.

The two lads came from Tom's particular workshop. As the young inventor closed the door he started suddenly, as he snapped shut the lock.

"What's the matter?" asked Ned quickly.

"I thought I heard a noise," replied Tom.

They both listened. There was a slight rustling in some bushes near the shop.

"It's a dog or a cat," declared Ned.

Tom took several cautious steps forward. Then he gave a spring, and made a grab for some one or something.

"Here! You let me be!" yelled a protesting voice.

"I will when I find out what you mean by sneaking around here," retorted Tom, as he came back toward Ned, dragging with him a lad. "It wasn't a dog or a cat, Ned," spoke the young inventor. "It's Sam Snedecker," and so it proved.

"You let me alone!" demanded Andy Foger's crony. "I ain't done nothin' to you," he whined.

"Here, Ned, you hold him a minute, while I make an investigation," called Tom, handing his prisoner over to his chum. "Maybe Pete or Andy are around."

"No, they ain't. I came alone," said Sam quickly, but Tom, not heeding, opened the shop, and, after turning on the electric lights, procured a lantern. He began a search of the shrubbery around the shop, while Ned held to the struggling Sam.