Chapter XVIII. On the Hendrickton & Pas Alos
 

The transcontinental was delayed three hours by the strewn wreckage of the rear of Number Forty-eight. When she went on the two young fellows from Shopton gazed anxiously at the Hercules 0001, which stood between two gondolas in the forward end of the freight train.

"Just by luck nothing happened to it," muttered Ned.

"Just luck," agreed Tom Swift. "It was a shock to me to learn that Andy O'Malley was right there on the spot when the accident happened."

"And his employer, too," added Ned. "For we must admit that Mr. Montagne Lewis is the man who sicked O'Malley on to you." "True."

"And they were both in the accommodation that was sideswiped by the derailed cars of Number Forty-eight."

"That, likewise is a fact," said Tom, nodding quickly.

"But what puzzles me, as it seemed to puzzle Lewis, more than anything else, is what became of O'Malley?"

"I guess I can see through that knot-hole," Tom rejoined.

"Yes?"

"I bet O'Malley got a squint at me--or perhaps at you--as we walked up the track from this coach, and he lit out in a hurry. There stood the Three-Oughts-One, and there were we. He knew we would raise a hue and cry if we saw him in the vicinity of my locomotive."

"I bet that's the truth, Tom."

"I know it. He didn't even have time to warn his employer. By the way, Ned, what a brute that Montagne Lewis looks to be."

"I believe you! I remember having seen his photograph in a magazine. Oh, he's some punkins, Tom."

"And just as wicked as they make 'em, I bet! Face just as pleasant as a bulldog's!"

"You said it. I'm afraid of that man. I shall not have a moment's peace until you have handed the Hercules Three-Oughts- One over to Mr. Bartholomew and got his acceptance."

"If I do," murmured Tom.

"Of course you will, if that Lewis or his henchmen don't smash things up. You are not afraid of the speed matter now, are you?" demanded Ned confidently.

"I can be sure of nothing until after the tests," said Tom, shaking his head. "Remember, Ned, that I have set out to accomplish what was never done before--to drive a locomotive over the rails at two miles a minute. It's a mighty big undertaking."

"Of course it will come out all right. If Koku is faithful

"That is the smallest 'if' in the category," Tom interposed, with a laugh. "If I was as sure of all else as I am of Koku, we'd have plain sailing before us."

Two days later Tom Swift and Ned Newton were ushered into the private office of the president of the H. & P. A. at the Hendrickton terminal. The two young fellows from the East had got in the night before, had become established at the best hotel in the rapidly growing Western municipality, and had seen something of the town itself during the hours before midnight.

Now they were ready for business, and very important business, too.

Mr. Richard Bartholomew sat up in his desk chair and his keen eyes suddenly sparkled when he saw his visitors and recognized them.

"I did not expect you so soon. Your locomotive arrived yesterday, Mr. Swift. How are you, Mr. Newton?"

He motioned for them to take chairs. His secretary left the room. The railroad magnate at once became confidential.

"Nothing happened on the way?" he asked, pointedly. "There was a freight wreck, I understand?"

"And we chanced to be right at hand when that happened," said Tom.

"So was your friend, Mr. Lewis," remarked Ned Newton.

"You don't mean to say that Montagne Lewis--"

"Was there. And Andy O'Malley," put in Tom.

Then he detailed the incident, as far as he and Ned knew the details, to Mr. Bartholomew, who listened with close attention.

"Well, it might merely have been a coincidence," murmured the railroad president. "But, of course, we can't be sure. Anyhow, it is just as well if your servant, Mr. Swift, keeps close watch still upon that locomotive."

"He will," said Tom, nodding. "He is down there in the yard with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, and I mean to keep Koku right on the job."

"Good! Let's go down and look at her," Mr. Bartholomew said, eagerly.

But first Tom wanted to go into the theoretical particulars of his invention. And he confessed that thus far his tests of the locomotive had not been altogether satisfactory.

"I have got to have a clear track on a stretch of your own line here, Mr. Bartholomew, and under certain conditions, before I can be sure as to just how much speed I can get out of the machine."

"Speed is the essential point, Mr. Swift," said the railroad man, seriously.

"That is what I have been telling Ned," Tom rejoined. "I believe my improvements over the Jandel patents are worthy. I know I have a very powerful locomotive. But that is not enough."

"We have got to shoot our trains through the Pas Alos Range faster than trains were ever shot over the grades before, or we have failed," said Mr. Bartholomew, with decision.

"But--" began Ned; but Tom put up an arresting hand and his financial manager ceased speaking.

"I have not forgotten the details of our contract, Mr. Bartholomew," he said, quietly. "Two-miles-a-minute is the target I have aimed for. Whether I have hit it or not, well, time will show. I have got to try the locomotive out on the tracks of the H. & P. A. in any case. The Hercules Three-Oughts-One has been dragged a long distance, and has been through at least one wreck. I want to see if she is all right before I test her officially."

"I'll arrange that for you," said Mr. Bartholomew, briskly, putting away his papers. "I will go with you, too, and take a look at the marvel."

"And a marvel it is," grumbled Ned. "Don't let him fool you, Mr. Bartholomew. Tom never does consider what he's done as being as great as it really is."

"Everything must be proved," Tom said, cautiously. "If it was a financial problem, Mr. Bartholomew, believe me it would be Ned who displayed caution. But I have seldom built anything that could not--and has not--later been improved."

"You do not consider your electric locomotive, then, a completed invention?" asked Mr. Bartholomew, as the three walked down the yard.

"I have too much experience .to say it is perfect," returned Tom. "I can scarcely believe, even, that it is going to suit you, Mr. Bartholomew, even if the speed test is as promising as I hope it may be."

"Humph!"

"But before I shall be willing to throw up the sponge and say that I have failed, I shall monkey with the Hercules Three- Oughts-One quite a little on your tracks."

"Your six months isn't up yet," said Mr. Bartholomew, more cheerfully. "And it doesn't matter if it is. If you see any chance of making a success of your invention, you are welcome to try it out on the tracks of the H. & P. A. for another six months."

"All right," Tom said, smiling. "Now, there is the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, Mr. Bartholomew. And there is Koku looking longingly through the window."

In fact, the giant, the moment he saw Tom, ran to unbar and open the door of the cab on that side.

"Master! If no let Koku out, Koku go amuck -Äcrazy! No can breathe in here! No can eat! No can sleep!"

"The poor fellow!" ejaculated Ned.

"What's the matter with him?" asked Mr. Bartholomew, curiously.

"Get out, if you want to, Koku. I'll stay by while you kick up your heels."

No sooner had the inventor spoken than the giant leaped from the open door of the locomotive and dashed away along the cinder path as though he actually had to run away. Tom burst into a laugh, as he watched the giant disappear beyond the strings of freight cars.

"What is the matter with him?" repeated the railroad president.

"He's got the cramp all right," laughed Tom Swift. "You don't understand, Mr. Bartholomew, what it means to that big fellow to be housed in for so many days, and unable to kick a free limb. I bet he runs ten miles before he stops."

"The police will arrest him," said the railroad man.

It was then Ned's turn to chuckle. "I am sorry for your railroad police if they tackle Koku right now," he said. "He'd lay out about a dozen ordinary men without half trying. But, ordinarily, he is the most mild-mannered fellow who ever lived."

"He will come back, if he is let alone, as harmless as a kitten," Tom observed. "And when I am not with the Hercules Three-Oughts-One, and while I continue making my tests, Koku will be on guard. You might tell your police force, Mr. Bartholomew, to let him alone. Now come aboard and let me show you what I have been trying to do."

They spent two hours inside the cab of the great locomotive. Mr. Richard Bartholomew was possessed of no small degree of mechanical education. He might not be a genius in mechanics as Tom Swift was, but he could follow the latter's explanations regarding the improvements in the electrical equipment of this new type of locomotive.

"I don't know what your speed tests will show, Mr. Swift," said the railroad president, with added enthusiasm. "But if those parts will do what you say they have already done, you've got the Jandels beat a mile! I'm for you, strong. Yes, sir! like your friend, Newton, here, I believe that you have hit the right track. You are going to triumph."

But Tom's triumph did not come at once. He knew more about the uncertainties of mechanical contrivances than did either Mr. Bartholomew or Ned Newton.

The very next day the Hercules 0001 was got out upon a section of the electrified system of the Hendrickton & Pas Alos Railway, and the pantagraphs of the huge locomotive for the first time came into connection with the twin conductor trolleys which overhung the rails.

Ned accompanied Tom as assistant. Koku was allowed by the inventor to roam about the hills as much as he pleased during the hours in which his master was engaged with the Hercules 0001. Tom did not think any harm would come to Koku, and he knew that the giant would enjoy immensely a free foot in such a wild country. The two young fellows, dressed in working suits of overall stuff, spent long hours in the cab of the electric locomotive. Their try-outs had to be made for the most part on sidetracks and freight switches, some miles outside Hendrickton, where the invention would not be in the way of regular traffic.

Speed on level tracks had been raised in one test to over ninety-five miles an hour and Mr. Bartholomew cheered wildly from the cab of a huge Mallet that paced Tom's locomotive on a parallel track. No steam locomotive had ever made such fast time.

But Tom was after something bigger than this. He wanted to show the president of the H. & P. A. that the Hercules 0001 could drag a load over the Pas Alos Range at a pace never before gained by any mountain-hog.

Therefore he coaxed the electric locomotive out into the hills, some hundred or more miles from headquarters. He had to keep in touch with the train dispatcher's office, of course; the new machine had often to take a sidetrack. Nor was much of this hilly right-of-way electrified. The Jandels locomotive had been found to be a failure on the sharp grades; so the extension of the trolley system had been abandoned.

But there was one steep grade between Hammon and Cliff City that had been completed. The current could be fed to the cables over this stretch of track, and for a week Tom used this long and steep grade just as much as he could, considering of course the demands of the regular traffic.

The telegraph operator at Half Way (merely a name for a station, for there was not a habitation in sight) thrust his long upper-length out of the telegraph office window one afternoon and waved a "highball" to the waiting electric locomotive on the sidetrack.

"Dispatcher says you can have Track Number Two West till the four-thirteen, westbound, is due. I'll slip the operator at Cliff City the news and he'll be on the lookout for you as well as me, Mr. Swift. Go to it."

Every man on the system was interested, and most of them enthusiastic, about Tom's invention. The latter knew that he could depend upon this operator and his mate to watch out for the western-bound flyer that would begin its climb of the grade at Hammon less than half an hour hence.

The electric locomotive was coaxed out across the switch. Tom was earnestly inspecting the more delicate parts of the mechanism while Ned (and proud he was to do it) handled the levers. Once on the main line he moved the controller forward. The machine began to pick up speed.

The drumming of the wheels over the rail joints became a single note--an increasing roar of sound. The electric locomotive shot up the grade. The arrow on the speedometer crept around the dial and Ned's eye was more often fastened on that than it was on the glistening twin rails which mounted the grade.

Black-green hemlock and spruce bordered the right of way on either hand. Their shadows made the tunnel through the forest almost dark. But Tom had not seen fit to turn on the headlight.

"How is she making out?" asked the inventor, coming to look over his chum's shoulder.

"It's great, Tom!" breathed Ned Newton, his eyes glistening. "She eats this grade up."

And it's within a narrow fraction of a two per cent.," said the inventor proudly. "She takes it without a jar--Hold on! What's that ahead?"

The locomotive had traveled ten miles or more from Half Way. The summit of the grade was not far ahead. But the forest shut out all view of the station at Cliff City and the structures that stood near it.

Right across the steel ribbons on which the hercules 0001 ran, Tom had seen something which brought the question to his lips. Ned Newton saw it too, and he shouted aloud:

"Tree down! A log fallen, Tom!"

He did not lose completely his self-control. But he grabbed the levers with less care than he should. He tried to yank two of them at once, and, in doing so, he fouled the brakes!

He had shut off connection with the current. But the brake control was jammed. The locomotive quickly came to a halt. Then, before Tom could get to the open door, the wheels began spinning in reverse and the great Hercules 0001 began the descent of the steep grade, utterly unmanageable!