Chapter VIII. Photos from the Airship
 

"Well, Tom, how is it going?" asked a voice at the door of the shop where the young inventor was working. He looked up quickly to behold Mr. Nestor, father of Mary, in which young lady, as I have said, Tom was much interested. "How is the moving picture camera coming on?"

"Pretty good, Mr. Nestor. Come in. I guess Koku knew you all right. I told him to let in any of my friends, but I have to keep him there on guard."

"So I understand. They nearly got in the other night, but I hear that your camera caught them."

"Yes, that proved that the machine is a success, even if we didn't succeed in arresting the men."

"Did you try?"

"Yes, I sent copies of the film, showing Turbot and Eckert trying to break into my shop, to Mr. Period, and he had enlarged photographs made, and went to the police. They said it was rather flimsy evidence on which to arrest anybody, and so they didn't act. However, we sent copies of the pictures to Turbot and Eckert themselves, so they know that we know they were here, and I guess they'll steer clear of me after this."

"I guess so, Tom," agreed Mr. Nestor with a laugh. "But what about the chicken thief?"

"Oh, Eradicate attended to his second cousin. He went to see him, showed him a print from the film, and gave him to understand that he'd be blown up with dynamite, or kicked by Boomerang, if he ever came around here again, and so Samuel 'Rastus Washington Jackson Johnson will be careful about visiting strange chicken coops, after this."

"I believe you, Tom. But how is the camera coming on?"

"Very well. I am making a few changes in it, and I expect to get my biggest airship in readiness for the trip in about a week, and then I'll try taking pictures from her. But I understand that you are interested in Mr. Period's business, Mr. Nestor?"

"Yes, I own some stock in the company, and, Tom, that's what I came over to see you about. I need a vacation. Mary and her mother are going away this Spring for a long visit, and I was wondering if you couldn't take me with you on the trips you will make to get moving pictures for our concern."

"Of. course I can, Mr. Nestor. "I'll be glad to do it."

"And there is another thing, Tom," went on Mr. Nestor, soberly. "I've got a good deal of my fortune tied up in this moving picture affair. I want to see you win out--I don't want our rivals to get ahead of us."

"They shan't get ahead of us."

"You see, Tom, it's this way. There is a bitter fight on between our concern and that controlled by our rivals. Each is trying to get the business of a large chain of moving picture theatres throughout the United States. These theatre men are watching us both, and the contracts for next season will go to the concern showing the best line of films. If our rivals get ahead of us--well, it will just about ruin our company,--and about ruin me too, I guess."

"I shall do my very best," answered our hero.

"Is Mr. Damon going along?"

"Well, I have just written to ask him. I sent the letter yesterday.

"Doesn't he know what you contemplate?"

"Not exactly. You see when he came, that time I was overcome by the fumes from the acids, everything was so upset that I didn't get a chance to tell him. He's been away on business ever since, but returned yesterday. I certainly hope that he goes with us. Ned Newton is coming, and with you, and Koku and myself, it will be a nicer party."

"Then you are going to take Koku?"

"I think I will. I'm a little worried about what these rival moving picture men might do, and if I get into trouble with them, my giant helper would come in very useful, to pick one up and throw him over a tree top, for instance."

"Indeed, yes," agreed Mr. Nestor, with a laugh. "But I hope nothing like that happens."

"Nothing like that happens?" suddenly asked a voice. "Bless my bookcase! but there always seems to be something going on here. What's up now, Tom Swift?"

"Nothing much, Mr. Damon," replied our hero, as he recognized his odd friend. "We were just talking about moving pictures, Mr. Damon, and about you. Did you get my letter?"

"I did, Tom."

"And are you going with us?"

"Tom, did you ever know me to refuse an invitation from you? I guess not! Of course I'm going. But, for mercy sakes, don't tell my wife! She mustn't know about it until the last minute, and then she'll be so surprised, when I tell her, that she won't think of objecting. Don't let her know."

Tom laughed, and promised, and then the three began talking of the prospective trip. After a bit Ned Newton joined the party.

Tom showed the two men how his new camera worked. He had made several improvements on it since the first pictures were taken, and now it was almost perfect. Mr. Period had been out to see it work, and said it was just the apparatus needed.

"You can get films with that machine," he said, "that will be better than any pictures ever thrown on a screen. My fortune will be made, Tom, and yours too, if you can only get pictures that are out of the ordinary. There will be some hair-raising work, I expect, but you can do it."

"I'll try," spoke Tom. "I have--"

"Hold on! I know what you are going to say," interrupted Mr. Period. "You are going to say that you've gone through some strenuous times already. I know you have, but you're going to have more soon. I think I'll send you to India first."

"To India!" exclaimed Tom, for Mr. Period had spoken of that as if it was but a journey downtown.

"Yes, India. I want a picture of an elephant drive, and if you can get pictures of the big beasts in a stampede, so much the better. Then, too, the Durbar is on now, and that will make a good film. How soon can you start for Calcutta?"

"Well, I've got to overhaul the airship," said Tom. "That will take about three weeks. The camera is practically finished. I can leave in a month, I guess."

"Good. We'll have fine weather by that time. Are you going all the way by your airship?"

"No, I think it will be best to take that apart, ship it by steamer, and go that way ourselves. I can put the airship together in India, and then use it to get to any other part of Europe, Asia or Africa you happen to want pictures from."

"Good! Well, get to work now, and I'll see you again."

In the days that followed, Tom and Ned were kept busy. There was considerable to do on the airship, in the way of overhauling it. This craft was Tom's largest, and was almost like the one in which he had gone to the caves of ice, where it was wrecked. It had been, however, much improved.

The craft was a sort of combined dirigible balloon, and aeroplane, and could be used as either. There was a machine on board for generating gas, to use in the balloon part of it, and the ship, which was named the Flyer, could carry several persons.

"Bless my shoe laces!" cried Mr. Damon one day as he looked at Koku. "If we take him along in the airship, will we be able to float, Tom?"

"Oh, yes. The airship is plenty big enough. Besides, we are not going to take along a very large party, and the camera is not heavy. Oh, we'll be all right. I suppose you'll be on hand to- morrow, Mr. Damon?"

"To-morrow? What for?"

"We're going to take the picture machine up in the airship, and get some photos from the sky. I expect to make some films from high in the air, as well as some in the regular way, on the ground, and I want a little practice. Come around about two o'clock, and we'll have a trial flight."

"All right. I will. But don't let my wife know I'm going up in an airship again. She's read of so many accidents lately, that she's nervous about having me take a trip."

"Oh, I won't tell," promised Tom with a laugh, and he worked away harder than ever, for there were many little details to perfect. The weather was now getting warm, as there was an early spring, and it was pleasant out of doors.

The moving picture camera was gotten in readiness. Extra rolls of films were on hand, and the big airship, in which they were to go up, for their first test of taking pictures from high in the air, had been wheeled out of the shed.

"Are you going up very far?" asked Mr. Nestor of Tom, and the young inventor thought that Mary's father was a trifle nervous. He had not made many flights, and then only a little way above the ground, with Tom.

"Not very high," replied our hero. "You see I want to get pictures that will be large, and if I'm too far away I can't do it."

"Glad to hear it, replied Mr. Nestor, with a note of relief in his voice. "Though I suppose to fall a thousand feet isn't much different from falling a hundred when you consider the results."

"Not much," admitted Tom frankly.

"Bless my feather bed!" cried Mr. Damon. "Please don't talk of falling, when we're going up in an airship. It makes me nervous."

"We'll not fall!" declared Tom confidently.

Mr. Period sent his regrets, that he could not be present at the trial, stating in his letter that he was the busiest man in the world, and that his time was worth about a dollar a minute just at present. He, however, wished Tom all success. Tom's first effort was to sail along, with the lens of the camera pointed straight toward the earth. He would thus get, if successful, a picture that, when thrown on the screen, would give the spectators the idea that they were looking down from a moving balloon. For that reason Tom was not going to fly very high, as he wanted to get all the details possible.

"All aboard!" cried the young inventor, when he had seen to it that his airship was in readiness for a flight. The camera had been put aboard, and the lens pointed toward earth through a hole in the main cabin floor. All who were expected to make the trip with Tom were on hand, Koku taking the place of Eradicate this time, as the colored man was too aged and feeble to go along.

"All ready?" asked Ned, who stood in the steering tower, with his hand on the starting lever, while Tom was at the camera to see that it worked properly.

"All ready," answered the young inventor, and, an instant later, they shot upward, as the big propellers whizzed around.

Tom at once started the camera to taking pictures rapidly, as he wanted the future audience to get a perfect idea of how it looked to go up in a balloon, leaving the earth behind. Then as the Flyer moved swiftly over woods and fields, Tom moved the lens from side to side, to get different views.

"Say! This is great!" cried Mr. Nestor, to whom air-riding was much of a novelty. "Are you getting good pictures, Tom?"

"I can't tell until we develop them. But the machine seems to be working all right. I'm going to sail back now, and get some views of our own house from up above."

They had sailed around the town of Shopton, to the neighboring villages, over woods and fields. Now they were approaching Shopton again.

"Bless my heart!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Damon, who was looking toward the earth, as they neared Tom's house.

"What is it?" asked our hero, glancing up from the picture machine, the registering dial of which he was examining.

"Look there! At your shop, Tom! There seems to be a lot of smoke coming from it!"

They were almost over Tom's shop now, and, as Mr. Damon had said, there was considerable smoke rolling above it.

"I guess Eradicate is burning up papers and trash," was Ned's opinion.

Tom looked to where the camera pointed, he was right over his shop now, and could see a dense vapor issuing from the door.

That isn't Eradicate!" cried the young inventor. "My shop is on fire! I've got to make a quick drop, and save it! There are a lot of valuable models, and machines in there! Send us down, Ned, as fast as she'll go!"