Chapter IV. Mr. Damon's Whizzer
 

Characteristic it was of Tom Swift that he did not seem at all surprised at what most young men would call a liberal offer. Certainly not many youths of Tom's age would be sought out by a big manufacturing concern, and offered ten thousand dollars a year "right off the reel," as Ned Newton expressed it later. But Tom only smiled and shook his head in negation.

"What!" cried Mr. Gale, "you mean you won't accept our offer?"

"I can't," answered Tom.

"You can't!" exclaimed the treasurer, Mr. Ware. "Oh, I see. Mr. Gale, a word with you. Excuse us a moment," he added to Tom and his father.

The two men consulted in a corner of the library for a moment, and then, with smiles on their faces, once more turned toward the young inventor.

"Well, perhaps you are right, Tom Swift," said Mr. Gale. "Of course, we recognize your talents and ability, but you cannot blame us for trying to get talent, as well as material for our airships, in the cheapest market. But we are not hide-bound, nor sticklers for any set sum. We'll make that offer fifteen thousand dollars a year, if you will sign a five-year contract and agree that we shall have first claim on anything and everything you may patent or invent in that time. Now, how does that strike you? Fifteen thousand dollars a year--paid weekly if you wish, and our Mr. Ware, here, has a form of contract which can be fixed up and signed within ten minutes, if you agree."

"Well, I don't like to be disagreeable," said Tom with a smile; "but, really, as I said before, I can't accept your very kind offer. I may say liberal offer. I appreciate that."

"You can't accept!" cried Mr. Gale.

"Are you sure you don't mean 'won't'?" asked Mr. Ware, in a half growl.

"You may call it that if you like," replied Tom, a bit coolly, for he did not like the other's tone, "Only, as I say, I cannot accept. I have other plans."

"Oh, you--" began the brusk treasurer, but Mr. Gale, the president of the Universal Flying Machine Company, stopped his associate with a warning look.

"Just a moment, Mr. Swift," begged the president. "Don't be hasty. We are prepared to make you a last and final offer, and I do not believe you can refuse it."

"Well, I certainly will not refuse it without hearing it," said Tom, with a smile he meant to make good-natured. Yet, truth to tell, he did not at all like the two visitors. There was something about them that aroused his antagonism, and he said later that even if they had offered him a sum which he felt he ought not, in justice to himself and his father, refuse, he would have felt a distaste in working for a company represented by the twain.

"This is our offer," said Mr. Gale, and he spoke in a pompous manner which seemed to say: "If you don't take it, why, it will be the worse for you." He looked at his treasurer for a confirmatory nod and, receiving it, went on. "We are prepared to offer and pay you, and will enter into such a contract, with the stipulation about the inventions that I mentioned before--we are prepared to pay you--twenty thousand dollars a year! Now what do you say to that, Tom Swift?

"Twenty-thousand-dollars-a-year!" repeated Mr. Gale unctuously, rolling the words off his tongue. "Twen-ty-thou-sand-dol-lars-a- year! Think of it!"

"I am thinking of it," said Tom Swift gently, "and I thank you for your offer. It is, indeed, very generous. But I must give you the same answer. I cannot accept."

"Tom!" exclaimed his aged father.

"Mr. Swift!" exclaimed the two visitors.

Tom smiled and shook his head.

"Oh, I know very well what I am saying, and what I am turning down," he said. "But I simply cannot accept. I have other plans. I am sorry you have had your trip for nothing," he added to the visitors, "but, really, I must refuse."

"Is that your final answer?" asked Mr. Gale.

"Yes."

"Don't you want to take a day or two to think it over?" asked the treasurer. "Don't be hasty. Remember that very few young men can command that salary, and I may say you will find us liberal in other ways. You would have some time to yourself."

"That is what I most need," returned Tom. "Time to myself. No, thank you, gentlemen, I cannot accept."

"Be careful!" warned Mr. Gale, and it sounded as though there might be a threat in his voice. "This is our last offer, and your last chance. We will not renew this. If you do not accept our twenty thousand dollars now, you will never get it again."

"I realize that," said Tom, "and I am prepared to take the consequences.

"Very well, then," said Mr. Gale. "There seems nothing for us to do, Mr. Ware, but to go back to New York. I bid you good-day," and he bowed stiffly to Tom. "I hope you will not regret your refusal of our offer."

"I hope so myself," said Tom, lightly.

When the visitors had gone Mr. Swift turned toward his son, and, shaking his head, remarked:

"Of course, you know your own business best, Tom. Yet I cannot but feel you have made a mistake."

"How?" asked Tom. "By not taking that money? I can easily make that in a year, with an idea I have in mind for an improvement on an airship. And your new electric motor will soon be ready for the market. Besides, we don't really need the money."

"No, not now, Tom, but there is no telling when we may," said Mr. Swift, slowly. "This big war has made many changes, and things that brought us in a good income before, hardly sell at all, now."

"Oh, don't worry, Dad! We still have a few shots left in the locker--in other words, the bank. I'm expecting Ned Newton over any moment now, to give us the annual statement of our account, and then we'll know where we stand. I'm not afraid from the money end. Our business has done well, and it is going to do better. I have a new idea."

"That's all very well, Tom," said Mr. Swift, who seemed oppressed by something. "As you say, money isn't everything, and I know we shall always have enough to live on. But there is something about those two men I do not like. They were very angry at your refusal of their offer. I could see that. Tom, I don't want to be a croaker, but I think you'll have to watch out for those men. They're going to be your enemies--your rivals in the airship field," and Mr. Swift shook his head dolefully.

"Well, rivalry, when it's clean and above board, is the spice of trade and invention," returned ~Tom, lightly. "I'm not afraid of that."

"No, but it may be unfair and underhand," said Mr. Swift. "I think it would have been better, Tom, to have accepted their offer. Twenty thousand a year, clear money, is a good sum."

"Yes, but I may make twice that with something that occurred to me only a little while ago. Forget about those men, Dad, and I'll tell you my new idea. But wait, I want Mr. Damon to hear it, too. Where is he?"

"He was here a little while ago. He went out when those two men came and--"

At that moment, from the garden at the side of the library, the sound of voices in dispute could be heard.

"Now yo' all g'wan 'way from yeah!" exclaimed some one who could be none other than Eradicate Sampson. "Whut fo' yo' all want to clutter up dish yeah place fo'? Massa Tom said I was to do de garden wuk, an' I'se gwine to do it! G'wan 'way, Giant!"

"Ho! You want me to get out, s'pose you put me, black face!" cried a big voice, that of Koku, the giant.

"There they go! At it again!" cried Tom with a smile. "Might have known if I told Rad to do anything that Koku would be jealous. Well, I'll have to go out now and give that giant something to do that will tax his strength."

But as Tom was about to leave the room another voice was heard in the garden.

"Now, boys, be nice," said some one soothingly. "The garden is large enough for you both to work in. Rad, you begin at the lower end and spade toward the middle. Koku, you begin at the upper end and work down. Whoever gets to the middle first will win."

"Ha! Den I'll show dat giant some spade wuk as is spade wuk!" cried the colored man. "Garden wuk is mah middle name."

"Be careful, Rad!" laughed Mr. Damon, for he it was who was trying to act as peacemaker. "Remember that Koku is very strong."

"Yas, sah! He may be strong, but he's clumsy!" chuckled Eradicate. "You watch me beat him!"

"Ho! Black man get stuck in mud!" challenged Koku. "I show him!"

Then there was silence, and Tom and his father, looking out, saw the two disputants beginning to spade the soil while Mr. Damon, satisfied that he had, for the time being, stopped a quarrel, turned toward the house.

"I was just coming to look for you," said Tom. "Sorry I had to go off in such a hurry and leave you, but I had promised to take Mary for a ride, and as it was her first one, for a distance, I didn't want her to back out."

"That's all right, Tom, that's all right!" said Mr. Damon genially. "Ladies first every time. But I do want to see you, and it's about something important."

"No trouble, I hope?" queried Tom, for the manner of the eccentric man was rather grave.

"Trouble? Oh, no! Bless my frying pan, no trouble, Tom! In fact, it may be the other way about. Tom, I have an idea, and there may be millions in it! That's it--millions!"

"Good!" cried the young inventor. "Might as well bite off a big lump while you're at it. So you have a new idea! Well, I have myself, but I'll listen to yours first. What is it, Mr. Damon?"

"It's a new kind of airship, Tom. I haven't got it all worked out yet, but I can give you a rough outline. On my way over I got to thinking about balloons, aeroplanes and the like, and it occurred to me that the present principles are all wrong."

"So I evolved a new type of machine. I'm going to call it the Damon Whizzer. Maybe Demon Whizzer would be more appropriate, but we won't decide on that now. Anyhow, it's going to be a whizzer, and I want to talk to you about it. There is an entirely new principle of elevation and propulsion involved in my Whizzer, and I--"

At that moment there came a crash and clatter of steel and wood from the garden, out of sight of which Tom and Mr. Damon had walked while talking. Then followed a jangle of words.

"They're at it again!" cried Tom, as he ran toward the side of the house. "I guess it's a fight this time!"