Chapter Twenty-One. "Will He Live?"
 

Soon there were busy scenes in the Swift home, as preparations were made for a serious operation on the aged inventor. Tom's father had sunk into deep unconsciousness, and was stretched out on the bed as though there was no more life in him. In fact, Tom, for the moment, feared that it was all over. But good old Dr. Kurtz, noting the look on the lad's face, said:

"Ach, Dom, doan't vorry! Maybe it vill yet all be vell, und der vater vill hear of der great race. Bluck up your courage, und doan't gif up. Der greatest surgeon in der vorld is here now, und if anybody gan safe your vater, Herr Hendriz gan. Dot vos a great drip you made--a great drip!"

Tom felt a little comforted and, after a sight of his father, and a silent prayer that God would spare his life for years to come, the young inventor went out in the yard. He wanted to be busy about something, for he knew, with the doctors, and a trained nurse who had been hastily summoned, there was no immediate need for him. He wanted to get his mind off the operation that would soon take place, and so he decided to look over his aeroplane.

Mr. Damon came out when Tom was going over the guy wires and braces, to see how they had stood the strain.

"Well, Tom, my lad," said the eccentric man, sadly, as he grasped our hero's hand, "it's too bad. But hope for the best. I'm sure your father will pull through. We will have to begin taking the Humming-Bird apart soon; won't we, if we're going to ship it to Eagle Park?" He wanted to take Tom's mind off his troubles.

"I don't know whether we will or not," was the answer, and Tom tried to speak unbrokenly, but there was a troublesome lump in his throat, and a mist of tears in his eyes that prevented him from seeing well. The Hamming-Bird, to him, looked as if she was in a fog.

"Nonsense! Of course we will!" cried Mr. Damon. "Why, bless my wishbone! Tom, you don't mean to say you're going to let that little shrimp Andy Foger walk away with that ten-thousand-dollar prize without giving him a fight for it; are you?"

This was just what Tom needed, and it seemed good to have Mr. Damon bless something again, even if it was only a wishbone.

"No!" exclaimed Tom, in ringing tones. "Andy Foger isn't going to beat me, and if I find out he is going to race with a machine made after my stolen plans, I'll make him wish he'd never taken them."

"But if the machine he had flying over here when he dropped that bomb on the shed roof, and set fire to it, is the one he's going to race with, it isn't like yours," suggested Mr. Damon, who was glad he had turned the conversation into a more cheerful channel.

"That's so," agreed the young inventor. "We'll, we'll have to wait and see." He was busy now, going over every detail of the Humming-Bird. Mr. Damon helped him, and they discovered the defect in the equilibrium weights, and remedied it.

"We can't afford to have an accident in the race," said Tom. He glanced toward the house, and wondered if the operation had begun yet. He could see the trained nurse hurrying here and there, Mrs. Baggert helping her.

Eradicate Sampson shuffled out from the stable where he kept his mule Boomerang. On the face of the honest colored man there was a dejected look.

"Am Massa Swift any better, Massa Tom?" he asked.

"We can't tell yet," was the answer.

"Well, if he doan't git well, den I'm goin' t' sell mah mule," went on the dirt-chaser, from which line of activity Eradicate had derived his name.

"Sell Boomerang! Bless my curry comb! what for?" asked Mr. Damon.

"'Case as how he wouldn't neber be any good fo' wuk any mo'," explained Eradicate. "He's got so attached t' dis place, an' all de folkes on it, dat he'd feel so sorry ef-- ef--well, ef any ob 'em went away, dat I couldn't git no mo' wuk out ob him, no how. So ef Massa Swift doan't git well, den I an' Boomerang parts!"

"Well, we hope it won't happen," said Tom, greatly touched by the simple grief of Eradicate. The young inventor was silent a moment, and then he softly added: "I--I wonder when--when we'll know?"

"Soon now, I think," answered Mr. Damon, in a low voice.

Silently they waited about the aeroplane. Tom tried to busy himself, but he could not. He kept his eyes fastened on the house.

It seemed like several hours, but it was not more than one, ere the white-capped nurse came to the door and waved her hand to Tom. He sprang to his feet and rushed forward. What would be the message he was to receive?

He stood before the nurse, his heart madly beating. She looked gently at him.

"Will he--will he live?" Tom asked, pantingly.

"I think so," she answered gently. "The operation is over. It was a success, so far. Time alone will tell, now. Dr. Hendrix says you can see your father for lust a moment."