Chapter VI. Building the Car
 

"Well," remarked Tom to himself, about two hours later, when he had left Mary Nestor at her dock, and was on his way home, "I feel better than I did, and now I must do some hard thinking about my runabout. I want to get it the right shape to make the least resistance." He began to make some sketches when he got home, and at dinner he showed them to his father and Mr. Sharp. He said he had gotten an idea from looking at the airship.

"I'm going to make the front part, or what corresponds to the engine-hood in a gasolene car, pointed," he explained. "It will be just like the front of the aluminum gas container of the airship, only built of steel. In it will be a compartment for a set of batteries, and there will be a searchlight there. From the top of some supporters in front of the two rear seats, a slanting sheet of steel will come right down to meet the sloping nose of the car. First I was going to have curtains close over the top of the driver's seat, but I think a steel covering, with a celluloid opening will be better and make less wind resistance. I'll use leather side curtains when it rains. Under the front seats will be a compartment for more batteries, and there will be a third place under the rear seats, where I will also carry spare wheels and a repair kit. The motors will be slung under the body of the car, amidships, and there will also be room for some batteries there."

"How are you going to drive the car?" asked Mr. Sharp. "By a shaft?"

"Chain drive," explained Tom. "I can get more power that way, and it will be more flexible under heavy loads. Of course it will be steered in the usual way, and near the wheel will be the starting and reversing levers, and the gear handle."

"Gears!" exclaimed the aged inventor. "Are you going to gear an electric auto? I never heard of that. Usually the motor directly connected is all they use."

"I'm going to have two gears on mine," decided Tom.

"That's a new idea," commented the aeronaut.

"It is," admitted the lad, "and that's why my car is going to be so speedy. I'll make her go a hundred miles an hour, if necessary!"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed his father.

"I will!" cried the young inventor, enthusiastically. "You just wait and see. I couldn't do it but for the gears, but by using them I'll secure more speed, especially with the big reserve battery power I'll have. I know I've got the right idea, and I'm going to get right to work."

His father and Mr. Sharp were much interested, and closely examined his sketches. In a few days Tom had made detailed drawings, and the aged inventor looked at them critically. He had to admit that his son's theory was right, though how it would work out in practice was yet to be demonstrated. Mr. Swift offered some suggestions for minor changes, as did Mr. Sharp, and the lad adopted some of them. Then, with Mr. Jackson to help him, work was started on constructing the car.

Certain parts of it could be better purchased in the open market instead of being manufactured in Mr. Swift's shop, and thus Tom was able to get his new invention into some sort of shape sooner than would otherwise have been the case. He also started making the batteries, many of which would be needed.

Gradually the car began to take form on the floor of Tom's shop. It was rather a curious looking affair, the sharp forward part making it appear like some engine of war, or a projectile for some monster gun. But Tom cared little for looks. Speed, strength and ease of control were the chief features the lad aimed at, and he incorporated many new ideas into his electric car.

He was busy in the shop, one morning, when, above the noise caused by filing a piece of steel he heard some one exclaim:

"Bless my gizzard! If you aren't as busy as ever!"

"Mr. Damon!" cried Tom in delight. "When did you get back?"

"Last night," replied the eccentric man. "My wife and I stayed longer than we meant to. And whom do you think we met when we were off on our little trip?"

"Some of the Happy Harry gang?"

"Oh no. You'd never guess, so I'll tell you. It was Captain Weston."

"Indeed! And how has he been since he went in the submarine with us, and helped recover the gold from the wreck?"

"Very well. The first thing he said to me was: 'How is Tom Swift and his father, if I may be permitted to ask?'"

"Ha! Ha!" laughed the lad, at the recollection of the odd sea captain, who generally tagged on an apologetic expression to most of his remarks.

"He was getting ready to take part in some South American revolution," went on Mr. Damon. "He used most of his money that he got from the wreck to help finance their cause."

"I must tell Mr. Sharp," went on the lad. "He'll be interested."

"Anything new since I've been away?" asked the odd man. "Bless my shoe laces, but I'm glad to get back!"

Tom told of the prospect of a new bank being started, and of Sam's midnight visit, as well as the encounter with Mr. Foger and Andy.

"I went over to see what Mr. Foger wanted of you," went on the young inventor, "but you weren't home. Did he call?"

"The servant said he had been there, not once, but several times," remarked Mr. Damon. "That reminds me. He left a note for me, and I haven't read it yet. I'll do so now."

He tore open the letter, and hastily perused the contents.

"Ha!" he exclaimed. "So that's what he wanted to see me about!"

"What?" inquired Tom, with the privilege of and old friend.

"Mr. Foger says he's going to start a new bank, and he wants me to withdraw my deposit from the old one, and put it in his institution. Says he'll pay me bigger interest. And he adds that some of the old employees have gone with him."

"I hope you're not going to change," spoke Tom, thinking of his chum, Ned.

"Indeed I'm not. The old bank is good enough for me. By the way, doesn't a friend of yours work there?"

"Yes, Ned Newton. I'm wondering how he'll be affected?"

"Don't you worry!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Bless my check book! I'll speak to Pendergast about your friend. Maybe there'll be a chance to advance him further. I've got some mortgages falling due pretty soon, and I'll deposit the money from them in the old bank. Then we'll see what we can do about Ned."

"They'll make you a bank director, if you keep on putting in money," remarked our hero, with a smile.

"Not much they won't!" was the quick answer

"Bless my stocks and bonds! I've got trouble enough without becoming a bank director.

My doctor says my liver is out of order again, and I've got to eat a lemon every morning before breakfast."

"Eat a lemon?"

"Well, drink the juice! It's the same thing. But how is the electric runabout coming on?"

"Pretty good."

"Have you entered it in the races yet?"

"No, but I've written for information. I have until September to finish it. The races take place then."

"Let's see; they're on Long Island; aren't they? How do you calculate to do; run from here to there?"

"No, Dad still has the cottage he rented when we built the submarine and I think I'll make that my headquarters during the race. It's easy to run from there over to the Long Island track. They're building a new one, especially for the occasion.

"Well, I hope you win the prize. I must go to town now, as I have to attend to some business. I don't s'pose you want to come in my auto. I'm pretty sure something will break before I get there, and I'd like to have you along to fix it."

"Sorry, but I'm afraid I can't go," replied the lad. "I must get this car done, and then I've got to start on the batteries."

Mr. Damon rather reluctantly went off alone, looking anxiously at his car, for the machine got out of order on every trip he took.

It was a few days after this that Tom received a call from Ned one evening. The bank employee's face wore a happy smile.

"What's the matter; some one left you a fortune?" asked Tom.

"Pretty nearly as good. I've got a better position."

"What? Have you left the old bank, and gone to the new one?"

"No, I'm still in the same bank, but I'm one of the two cashiers now. Mr. Foger took several of the old employees when he opened his new bank, and that left vacancies. I was promoted, and so were one or two others. Mr. Damon spoke a good word for me."

"That's fine! He's a friend worth having."

"That's right. Your father also recommended me. But how are things with you? Has Andy made any more trouble?"

"No, and I don't believe he will. I guess he'll steer clear of me."

But Tom was soon to learn he was mistaken.