Chapter XXIV. Putting the Enemy to Flight

The pilot and headlight of the freight locomotive came around the turn and the freight thundered on toward the switch. Seeing the group of men standing by the stalled electric locomotive, and the locomotive itself in the clear of the siding, the driver of the freight did not suppose the switch was open. Nobody who was not a criminal would have stood by idly in such an emergency and let the freight run into an open switch.

Therefore, for the first minute, the coming engineer did not observe his danger. Lewis and his gang stared at the head of the freight and did nothing. They had moved hastily back from the siding so as to be clear of the wreckage. Mr. Damon was in the front of the cab of Hercules 0001 and had no idea of the approaching menace.

But of a sudden a loud shout echoed through the wood. Tom Swift came over the ridge and started toward his invention at top speed. From that height he saw the freight train coming, he observed the men standing at the siding, and he recognized Montagne Lewis, roughly as the railroad magnate was dressed.

Instantly Tom realized what was about to happen--what would surely occur--and he saw what must be done if the utter wreck of his locomotive was to be averted. Yelling at the top of his voice, he leaped down the slope.

"That's Swift!" shouted Lewis. "Stop him!" But the men he had hired to do his wicked work fell back instead of trying to halt the young inventor. It was not Tom's appearance that made them quail. Over the ridge there appeared a second figure--and a more fearful or threatening apparition none of them had ever before seen!

Koku came running with the limp body of Andy O'Malley slung over his shoulder like a bag of meal. The fellows knew it was Andy from his dress.

The giant came down the slope after Tom as though he wore the seven-league boots. The fellows Lewis had hired to wreck the electric locomotive shrank back from before both Tom and the giant.

"Get him!" yelled the half blinded Lewis again.

"Get your grandmother!" bawled one of the men suddenly. "Good- night!"

He turned tail and ran, disappearing almost instantly into the thicker woods. And his mates, after a moment of wavering, sped after him. Lewis was left alone, quite helpless because of the ammonia fumes.

As a matter of fact not all of O'Malley's predicament was due to Koku. The rascal, exhausted by his run and half blind through fright and rage, had stumbled, fallen, and struck his head on a root, which rendered him unconscious.

This, of course, Lewis and his ruffians did not know. All the men of the railroad president's gang saw was the gigantic Koku coming along in great strides, bearing the unconscious O'Malley, who was a burly fellow, as though he were a featherweight. No wonder they fled from such a monster.

Tom had reached the switch, and he was several seconds ahead of the freight locomotive. The engineer saw the open switch then; but he was too late to stop his train.

Going into reverse, however, helped some. Tom seized the switch lever and threw it over, locking it in place, just as the forward trucks thundered upon the joint. The train swept by in safety, and the engineer leaned from his cab window to wave a grateful hand at the young inventor.

Neither the engineer nor the crew of the freight understood the meaning of the scene at the timber siding. All they learned was that Tom Swift had saved the freight from a possible wreck.

The young inventor turned sharply from the switch and motioned with his hand to Koku.

"Throw that fellow into the cab, Koku," he commanded.

The giant did as he was told, just as Ned Newton came panting to the spot.

"Did they do any harm, Tom?" he cried. Then he saw Montagne Lewis standing by, and he seized his chum's arm. "Do you see what I see, Tom?" he demanded, earnestly.

"I guess we both see the same snake," rejoined his chum. "And I mean to scotch it."

"Montagne Lewis!" murmured Ned. "And we've got his chief tool."

Tom said nothing to his chum, hut he approached Lewis with determined mien.

"I can see something has happened to you, Mr. Lewis, and I can guess what it is. The effect of that ammonia will blow away after a time. Ask your friend, Andy O'Malley. He knows all about it, for he sampled it back East, in Shopton."

"I'm going to get square for this, young man," growled the railroad magnate. "You know who I am. And that fellow in the cab knew me, too. How dared he shoot that stuff into my face and eyes?"

"I fancy it didn't take much daring on Mr. Damon's part," and Tom actually chuckled. "A big crook isn't any more important in our eyes than a little crook. We've got your henchman, O'Malley--"

"And you'd better let him go. I'm telling you," snarled Lewis. "I'll ruin you in this country, Tom Swift. I've got influence--"

"You won't have much after this thing comes out. And believe me, I mean to spread it abroad. I've got nothing to win or lose from you, Mr. Lewis. As for O'Malley, I'll put him behind the bars for a good long term."

"You'll do a lot--"

"More than you think," said Tom. "Koku!" The giant had pitched O'Malley, who was still senseless, into the cab, and now was coming up behind Lewis.

"Yes, Master," said the giant.

"Get him!"

"Yes, Master," said Koku, and to Lewis' startled amazement, the next instant he was in the hands of the giant!

He screamed and threatened, and even kicked, to no avail. When he was pitched into the electric locomotive he was held under the threat of Mr. Damon's ammonia pistol until Tom and Ned and the giant entered and the door was shut. Then Koku proceeded to tie both the prisoners by wrist and ankle while the others examined the mechanism of the Hercules 0001.

The pantagraph had been torn off the trolley wires when the locomotive had gone on the siding. But now Tom climbed to the roof of the locomotive, and with Koku's aid managed to set the rear pantagraph at such an angle that its wheels caught the trolley cables again, and once more the current was pumped into the Hercules 0001.

Tom tried out the several parts of the mechanism and found that, despite the jar of the collision, nothing was really injured.

"I built this thing to withstand hard usage," he declared with pride. "The Swift Hercules Electric Locomotives will not be built for parlor ornaments. She is going to run into Hendrickton under her own power, in spite of a smashed cows catcher and target lights."

"Is nothing really injured, Tom?" asked Mr, Damon. "Bless my dinner set! I thought everything had gone to smash when she hit that bumper."

"She will be as good as new in a week," declared Tom, with conviction.

This prophecy of the young inventor proved to be true. A week from that day the public test of the electric locomotive on the Hendrickton & Pas Alos Railroad was held. A picked delegation of railroad men was present to observe and marvel, with Mr. Bartholomew; but Montagne Lewis, the president of the H. & W., was not one of those who attended.

Of course, Lewis soon got out of jail on bail. But the accusation against him was a serious one. His guilt would be proved by his own employee, Andy O'Malley, who was in a hospital for the time being.

O'Malley had got enough. He had turned State's evidence and implicated his employer. Influential and wealthy as Lewis was, he could not escape trial with O'Malley when the time came.

"One thing sure, Lewis has got all he wants. He isn't likely to try any more crooked work against the H. & P. A.," Mr. Bartholomew said. "I can thank you for that, Torn. Swift, as well as for your invention. You have saved the day for my railroad."

"You can thank Koku," chuckled Tom. "If he hadn't spied and identified 'Big Feet,' we might not have caught O'Malley, and, through O'Malley, implicated Montagne Lewis. You give Koku a new suit of clothes, Mr. Bartholomew, and we will call it square. But be sure and have the pattern of the goods loud enough."

This conversation took place while the party of guests was gathering to board Mr. Bartholomew's private car, attached to the Hercules 0001. Mr. Damon was one of the guests and so was Ned Newton. Tom took into the cab a crew of H. & P. A. men who would hereafter drive the huge locomotive and take care of her.

The semaphore signal dropped and the electric locomotive started as quietly as a baby going to sleep! There was not a jar as the train moved off the siding and over the switches to the main line.

The dispatcher had arranged a clear road for them. Tom knew that he had a free track ahead of him--a level of ninety-odd miles to the Hammon yards. As he passed the Hendrickton shops he touched the siren lever for a moment, and the shrill voice of the Hercules 0001 bade the town good-bye.

The next minute the visitors in the private car grabbed out their split-second watches and began to murmur. The electric locomotive had begun to travel!