Chapter I. A Strange Offer
 

"Some one to see you, Mr. Tom."

It was Koku, or August, as he was sometimes called, the new giant servant of Tom Swift, who made this announcement to the young inventor.

"Who is it, Koku?" inquired Tom, looking up from his work-bench in the machine shop, where he was busy over a part of the motor for his new noiseless airship. "Any one I know? Is it the 'Blessing Man?'" for so Koku had come to call Mr. Damon, an eccentric friend of Tom's.

"No, not him. A strange man. I never see before. He say he got quick business."

"Quick business; eh? I guess you mean important, Koku," for this gigantic man, one of a pair that Tom had brought with him after his captivity in "Giant Land," as he called it, could not speak English very well, as yet. "Important business; eh, Koku? Did he send in his card?"

"No, Mr. Tom. Him say he have no card. You not know him, but he very much what you call--recited."

"Excited I guess you mean, Koku. Well, tell him to wait a few minutes, and I'll see him. You can show him in then. But I say, Koku," and Tom paused as he looked at the big man, who had attached himself to our hero, as a sort of personal helper and bodyguard.

"Yes, Mr. Tom; what is it?"

"Don't let him go poking around the shop. He might look at some of my machines that I haven't got fully patented yet. Is he in the front office?"

"That's where him am. He be lookin' at pictures on the walls."

"Oh, that's all right then. Just keep him there. And, Koku, don't let him come back in the shop here, until I get ready to see him. I'll ring the bell when I am."

"All right, Mr. Tom."

Koku, very proud of his, mission of keeping guard over the strange visitor, marched from the room with his big strides, his long arms and powerful hands swinging at his sides, for Koku, or August, as Tom had rechristened him, and as he often called him (for it was in the month of August that he had located the giants) was a very powerful man. A veritable giant, being extremely tall, and big in proportion.

"Be sure. Don't let him in here, Koku!" called Tom, in an additional warning, as his new servant left the main shop.

"Sure not!" exclaimed Koku, very earnestly.

"I don't know who he may be," mused Tom, as he began putting away the parts to his new noiseless motor, so that the stranger could not see them, and profit thereby. "It looks rather funny, not sending in his name. It may be some one who thinks he can spring a trick on me, and get some points about my inventions, or dad's.

"It may even be somebody sent on by Andy Foger, or his father. I can't be too careful. I'll just put everything away that isn't fully covered by patents, and then if he wants to infringe on any of the machines I can sue him."

Tom looked about the shop, which was filled with strange machinery, most of which had been made by himself, or his father, or under their combined directions. There was a big biplane in one corner, a small monoplane in another, parts of a submarine boat hanging up overhead, and a small, but very powerful, electric auto waiting to have some repairs made to it, for on his last trip in it Tom Swift had suffered a slight accident.

"There, I guess he can't see anything but what I want him to," mused Tom, as he put away the last part of a new kind of motor, from which he hoped great things. "Let's see, yes, it's out of sight now. I wish Ned Newton, or Mr. Damon were here to be a witness in case he starts anything. But then I have Koku, even if he doesn't speak much English yet. If it comes to blows--well, I wouldn't want that giant to hit me," finished Tom with a laugh, as he rang the bell to announce to his servant that the visitor might be shown in.

There was a sound outside the door that separated the business office from the main shop, and Tom heard Koku exclaim:

"Hold on! Wait! I go first. You wait!"

"What's the matter with me going ahead?" demanded a quick, snappy voice. "I'm in a hurry, and--"

"You wait! I go first," was the giant's reply, and then came the sound of a scuffle.

"Ouch! Say! Hold on there, my man! Take your hand off my shoulder! You're crushing me with those big fingers of yours!"

This was evidently the visitor remonstrating with the giant.

"Humph! I guess Koku must have grabbed him," said Tom softly. "I don't like that sort of a visitor. What's his hurry getting in here?" and our hero looked about, to see if he had a weapon at hand in case of an attack. Often cranks had forced their way into his shop, with pet inventions which they wanted him to perfect after they had themselves failed. Tom saw a heavy iron bar at hand, and knew this would serve to protect him.

"You come after me!" exclaimed Koku, when the voice of the other had ceased. "Do you stand under me?"

"Oh, yes, I understand all right. I'll keep back. But I didn't mean anything. I'm just in a hurry to see Tom Swift, that is all. I'm always in a hurry in fact. I've lost nearly a thousand dollars this morning, just by this delay. I want to see Mr. Swift at once; and have a talk with him."

"Another crank, I guess," mused Tom. "Well, I'm not going to waste much time on him."

A moment later the door opened, and into the shop stepped Koku, followed by a short, stout, fussy little man, wearing a flaming red tie, but otherwise his clothes were not remarkable.

"Is this Mr. Tom Swift?" asked the stranger, as he advanced and held out his hand to the young man.

"Yes," answered Tom, looking carefully at the visitor. He did not seem to be dangerous, he had no weapon, and, Tom was relieved to note that he did not carry some absurd machine, or appliance, that he had made, hoping to get help in completing it. The youth was trying to remember if he had ever seen the stranger before, but came to the conclusion that he had not.

"Sorry to take up your time," went on the man, "but I just had to see you. No one else will do. I've heard lots about you. That was a great stunt you pulled off, getting those giants for the circus. This is one; isn't he?" and he nodded toward Koku.

"Yes," replied Tom, wondering if the little man was in such a hurry why he did not get down to business.

"I thought so," the caller went on, as he shook hands with Tom. "Once you felt his grip you'd know he was a giant, even if you didn't see him. Yes, that was a great stunt. And going to the caves of ice, too, and that diamond-making affair. All of 'em great. I--"

"How did you know about them?" interrupted Tom, wishing the man would tell his errand.

"Oh, you're better known than you have any idea of, Tom Swift. As soon as I got this idea of mine I said right away, to some of the others in my business, I says, says I, 'Tom Swift is the boy for us. I'll get him to undertake this work, and then it will be done to the Queen's taste. Tom's the boy who can do it,' I says, and they all agreed with me. So I came here to-day, and I'm sorry I had to wait to see you, for I'm the busiest man in the world, I believe, and, as I said, I've lost about a thousand dollars waiting to have a talk with you. I--"

"I am sorry," interrupted Tom, and he was not very cordial. "But I was busy, and--"

"All right! All right! Don't apologize!" broke in the man in rapid tones, while both Tom, and his servant, Koku, looked in surprise at the quick flow of language that came from him. "Don't apologize for the world. It's my fault for bothering you. And I'll lose several thousand dollars, willingly, if you'll undertake this job. I'll make money from it as it is. It's worth ten thousand dollars to you, I should say, and I'm willing to pay that."

He looked about, as though for a seat, and Tom, apologizing for his neglect in offering one, shoved a box forward.

"We don't have chairs in here," said the young inventor with a smile. "Now if you will tell me what you--"

"I'm coming right to it. I'll get down to business in a moment," interrupted the man as he sat down on the box, not without a grunt or two, I for he was very stout. "I'm going to introduce myself in just a second, and then I'm going to tell you who I am. And I hope you'll take up my offer, though it may seem a strange one."

The man took out a pocketbook, and began searching through it, evidently for some card or paper.

"He's as odd as Mr. Damon is, when he's blessing everything," mused Tom, as he watched the man.

"I thought I had a card with me, but I haven't," the visitor went on. "No matter. I'm James Period--promoter of all kinds of amusement enterprises, from a merry-go-'round to a theatrical performance. I want you to--"

"No more going after giants," interrupted. Tom. "It's too dangerous, and I haven't time--"

"No, it has nothing to do with giants," spoke Mr. Period, as he glanced up at Koku, who towered over him as he sat on the box near Tom.

"Well?" returned Tom.

"This is something entirely new. It has never been done before, though if you should happen to be able to get a picture of giants don't miss the opportunity."

"Get a picture?" exclaimed Tom, wondering if, after all, his visitor might not be a little insane.

"Pictures, yes. Listen. I'm James Period. Jim, if you like it better, or just plain 'Spotty.' That's what most of my friends call me. Get the idea? A period is a spot. I'm a Period, therefor I'm a spot. But that isn't the real reason. It's because I'm always Johnny on the Spot when anything is happening. If it's a big boxing exhibition, I'm there. If it's a coronation, I'm there, or some of my men are. If it's a Durbar in India, you'll find Spotty on the spot. That's me. If there's going to be a building blown up with dynamite--I'm on hand; or some of my men. If there's a fire I get there as soon as the engines do--if it's a big one. Always on the spot--that's me--James Period--Spotty for short. Do you get me?" and he drew a long breath and looked at Tom, his head on one side.

"I understand that you are--"

"In the moving picture business," interrupted Mr. Period, who never seemed to let Tom finish a sentence. "I'm the biggest moving picture man in the world--not in size, but in business. I make all the best films. You've seen some of 'em I guess. Every one of 'em has my picture on the end of the film. Shows up great. Advertising scheme--get me?"

"Yes," replied Tom, as he recalled that he had seen some of the films in question, and good ones they were too. "I see your point, but--"

"You want to know why I come to you; don't you?" again interrupted "Spotty," with a laugh. "Well, I'll tell you. I need you in my business. I want you to invent a new kind of moving picture camera. A small light one--worked by electricity--a regular wizard camera. I want you to take it up in an airship with you, and then go to all sorts of wild and strange countries, Africa, India--the jungles--get pictures of wild animals at peace and fighting--herds of elephants--get scenes of native wars-- earthquakes--eruptions of volcanoes--all the newest and most wonderful pictures you can. You'll have to make a new kind of camera to do it. The kind we use won't do the trick.

"Now do you get me? I'm going to give you ten thousand dollars, above all your expenses, for some films such as I've been speaking of. I want novelty. Got to have it in my business! You can do it. Now will you?"

"I hardly think--" began Tom.

"Don't answer me now," broke in Mr. Period. "Take four minutes to think it over. Or even five. I guess I can wait that long. Take five minutes. I'll wait while you make up your mind, but I know you'll do it. Five minutes--no more,' and hastily getting up off the box Mr. Period began impatiently pacing up and down the shop.