Chapter II. A Man in the Snow Bank
 

Tom Swift looked somewhat in surprise at his strange visitor. It had all happened so suddenly, the offer had been such a strange one, the man himself--Mr. Period--was so odd, that our hero hardly knew what to think. The moving picture agent continued pacing up and down the room now and then looking at his watch as if to note when the five minutes had passed.

"No," said Tom to himself. "I'm not going to take this offer. There's too much work and risk attached to it. I want to stay at home and work on my noiseless motor for the airship. After that-- well--I don't know what I'll do. I'll tell Mr. Period that he needn't wait the five minutes. My mind is made up now!"

But as Tom was about to make this announcement, and dismiss his caller, he looked again at the visitor. There was something attractive about him--about his hasty way of talking, about his manner of interrupting, about the way he proposed matters. Tom was interested in spite of himself.

"Well," he reflected, "I may as well wait until the five minutes are up, anyhow."

Koku, the giant servant, glanced at his young master, as if to ask if there was anything that he could do. Tom shook his head, and then the big man strolled over to the other side of the machine shop, at the same time keeping a careful eye on Mr. Period.

While Tom is waiting for the time to expire, I will take a few minutes to tell you something more about him. Those of my friends who have read the previous books in this series need no introduction to my hero, but those who may chance upon this as their first book in the Tom Swift series, will like to be more formally introduced.

Tom, whose mother had been dead some years, lived with his father, Barton Swift, in the town of Shopton. Mr. Swift was an inventor of prominence, and his son was fast following in his footsteps. A Mrs. Baggert kept house for the Swifts, and another member of the household was Eradicate Sampson, an aged colored man, who said he used to "eradicate" the dirt. He had been with Tom on many trips, but of late was getting old and feeble. Then there was Garret Jackson, an engineer employed by the Swifts. These were all the immediate members of the household.

Tom had a chum, Ned Newton, who used to work in a bank, and there was a girl, Mary Nestor, a daughter of Amos Nestor, in which young lady Tom was much interested.

Eradicate Sampson had a mule, Boomerang, of whom he thought almost as much as he did of Tom. Eradicate was a faithful friend and servant, but, of late, Koku, or August, the giant, had rather supplanted him. I must not forget Mr. Wakefield Damon, of Waterfield, a village near Shopton. Mr. Damon was an odd man, always blessing everything. He and Tom were good friends, and had been on many trips together.

The first book of the series was called "Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle," and related how Tom bought the cycle from Mr. Damon, after the latter had met with an accident on it, and it was in this way that our hero became acquainted with the odd man.

Tom had many adventures on his motor-cycle, and, later on he secured a motor-boat, in which he beat his enemy, Andy Foger, in a race. Next Tom built an airship, and in this he went on a wonderful trip. Returning from this he and his father heard about a treasure sunken under the ocean. In his submarine boat Tom secured the valuables, and made a large sum for himself.

In his electric runabout, which was the swiftest car on the road, Tom was able to save from ruin a bank in which his father was interested, and, a short time after that, he went on a trip in an airship, with a man who had invented a new kind. The airship was smashed, and fell to Earthquake Island, where there were some refugees from a shipwreck, among them being the parents of Mary Nestor. In the volume called "Tom Swift and His Wireless Message," I told how he saved these people.

When Tom went among the diamond makers he had more strange adventures, on that trip discovering the secret of phantom mountain. He had bad luck when he went to the caves of ice, for there his airship was wrecked.

When Tom made the trip in his sky racer he broke all records for an aerial flight, incidentally saving his father's life. It was some time after this when he invented an electric rifle, and went to elephant land, to rescue some missionaries from the red pygmies.

The eleventh volume of the series is called "Tom Swift in the Land of Gold," and relates his adventures underground, while the next one tells of a new machine he invented--an air-glider-- which he used to save the exiles of Siberia, incidentally, on that trip, finding a valuable deposit of platinum.

As I have said, it was on his trip to giant land that Tom got his big servant. This book, the thirteenth of the series, is called "Tom Swift in Captivity," for the giants captured him and his friends, and it was only by means of their airship that they made their daring escape.

Tom had been back from the strange land some time now. One giant he had turned over to the circus representative for whom he had undertaken the mission, and the other he retained to work around his shop, as Eradicate was getting too old. It was now winter, and there had been quite a fall of snow the day before Mr. Period, the odd moving picture man, called on Tom. There were many big drifts outside the building.

Tom had fitted up a well-equipped shop, where he and his father worked on their inventions. Occasionally Ned Newton, or Mr. Damon, would come over to help them, but of late Tom had been so busy on his noiseless motor that he had not had time to even see his friends.

"'Well, I guess the five minutes have passed, and my mind is made up," thought Tom, as he looked at his watch. "I might as well tell Mr. Period that I can't undertake his commission. In the first place it isn't going to be an easy matter to make an electric moving picture camera. I'd have to spend a lot of time studying up the subject, and then I might not be able to get it to work right.

"And, again, I can't spare the time to go to all sorts of wild and impossible places to get the pictures. It's all well enough to talk about getting moving pictures of natives in battle, or wild beasts fighting, or volcanoes in action, but it isn't so easy to do it. Then, too, I'd have to make some changes in my airship if I went on that trip. No, I can't go. I'll tell him he'll have to find some one else."

Mr. Period pulled out his watch, opened it quickly, snapped it shut again, and exclaimed:

"Well, how about it, Tom Swift? When can you start! The sooner the better for me! You'll want some money for expenses I think. I brought my check book along, also a fountain pen. I'll give you a thousand dollars now, for I know making an electric moving picture camera isn't going to be cheap work. Then, when you get ready to start off in your airship, you'll need more money. I'll be Johnny-on-the-spot all right, and have it ready for you. Now when do you think you can start?"

He sat down at a bench, and began filling out a check.

"Hold on!" cried Tom, amused in spite of himself. "Don't sign that check, Mr. Period. I'm not going."

"Not going?" The man's face showed blank amazement.

"No," went on Tom. "I can't spare the time. I'm sorry, but you'll have to get some one else."

"Some one else? But who can I get?"

"Why, there are plenty who would be glad of the chance."

"But they can't invent an electric moving picture camera, and, if they could, they wouldn't know enough to take pictures with it. It's got to be you or no one, Tom Swift. Look here, I'll make it fifteen thousand dollars above expenses."

"No, I'm sorry, but I can't go. My work here keeps me too busy.

"Oh, pshaw! Now, look here, Tom Swift! Do you know who sent me to see you?"

"It was Mr. Nestor, who has a daughter named Mary, I believe. Mr. Nestor is one of the directors in our company, and one day, when he told me about you sending a wireless message from Earthquake Island, I knew you would be the very man for me. So now you see you'll be doing Mr. Nestor a favor, as well as me, if you go on this trip."

Tom was somewhat surprised, yet he realized that Mr. Period was speaking the truth. Mr. Nestor was identified with many new enterprises. Yet the youth was firm.

"I really can't go," said our hero. "I'd like to, but I can't. I'd like to oblige Mr. Nestor, for--well, for more reasons than one," and Tom blushed slightly. "But it is out of the question. I really can't go."

"But you must!" insisted the camera man. "I won't take 'no' for an answer. You've got to go, Tom Swift, do you hear that? You've go to go?"

Mr. Period was apparently very much excited. He strode over to Tom and smote his hands together to emphasize what he said. Then he shook his finger at Tom, to impress the importance of the matter on our hero.

"You've just got to go!" he cried. "You're the only one who can help me, Tom. Do go! I'll pay you well, and--oh, well, I know you don't need the money, exactly, but--say, you've got to go!"

In his earnestness Mr. Period laid his hand on Tom's arm. The next instant something happened.

With a few big strides Koku was beside the picture man. With great quickness he grasped Mr. Period by the coat collar, lifted him off his feet with one hand, and walked over to a window with him, easily lifting him above the floor.

With one fling the giant tossed the short, stout gentleman out into a snow bank, while Tom looked on, too surprised to do anything, even if he had had the chance.

"There. You touch Tom Swift again, and I sit on you and keep you under snow!" cried the giant, while Mr. Period kicked and squirmed about in the drift, as Tom made a leap forward to help him out.