Chapter VI. The Contract Signed
 

Tom Swift went to bed that night without the least fear that the man who had twice attacked him in the streets of Shopton would be able to trouble him unless he went abroad again. Koku was on guard.

The giant whom Tom had brought home from one of his distant wanderings was wholly devoted to his master. Koku never had, and he never would, become entirely civilized.

He was naturally a born tracker of men. For generations his people had lived amid the alarms of threat and attack. He could not be made to understand how so many "tribes," as he called them, of civilized men could live in anything like harmony.

That somebody should prowl about the Swift house at night with a desire to rob his young master or injure him, did not surprise Koku in the least. He accepted the fact of the marauder's presence as quite the expected thing.

But the man who had robbed Tom and later tried to repay him for playing what appeared to be a practical joke on the robber, did not trouble the Swift premises with his presence before morning. Koku, thrusting Eradicate Sampson aside and striding to his bedroom to report this fact, was what awoke Tom at eight o'clock.

"Hey! What you want, tromping in here for, man?" demanded old Rad angrily. "An' totin' that spear, too. Where you t'ink yo' is? In de jungle again? Go 'way, chile!"

Both Rad and Koku were rapidly outliving the sudden friendship of Rad's sick days, when it was thought he might be blind for life, and were dropping back into their old ways of bickering and rivalry for Tom's attention.

"I report to the Master," declared the giant, in his deep voice.

"You tell me, I tell him," Rad said pompously. "No need yo' 'sturbing Massa Tom at dis hour."

"Koku go in!" declared the giant sternly.

"Jes' stay out dere on de stair an' res' yo'self," said Rad.

Koku lost his temper with old Rad. There was a feud between them, although deep in their hearts they really were fond of each other. But the two were jealous of each other's services to young Tom Swift.

Suddenly Tom heard the old negro utter a frightened squeal. The door which had been only ajar, burst inward and banged against the door-stop with a mighty smash.

Rad went through the big bedroom like a chocolate-colored streak, entered Tom's bathroom, and the next moment there was the sound of crashing glass as Eradicate Sampson went through the lower sash of the window, headfirst, out upon the roof of the porch!

"What do you mean by this?" shouted Tom, sitting up in bed.

Koku paused in the doorway, bulking almost to the top of the door. His right arm was drawn back, displaying his mighty biceps, and he poised a ten foot spear with a copper head that he had seized from a nest of such implements which was a decoration of the lower hall.

Had the giant ever flung that spear at poor Rad's back, half the length of the staff might have passed through his body. Little wonder that the colored man, having roused the giant's rage to such a pitch, had given small consideration to the order of his going, but had gone at once!

"You want to scare Rad out of half a year's growth?" Tom pursued sternly, slipping out of bed and reaching for his robe and slippers. "And he's broken that window to smithereens."

"Koku come make report, Master," said the giant.

"You go put that spear back where you found it and come up properly," commanded the young fellow, with difficulty hiding his amusement. "Go on now!"

He shuffled into the bathroom while the giant disappeared. He peered out of the broken window. It was a wonder Rad had not carried the sash with him! The broken glass was scattered all about the roof of the porch and the old colored man lay groaning there.

"What did you do this for, Eradicate?" demanded Tom. "You act worse than a ten-year-old boy."

"I's done killed, Massa Tom!" groaned Rad with confidence. "I's blood from haid to foot!"

There was a scratch on his bald crown from which a few drops of blood flowed. But with all his terror, Eradicate had put both arms over his head when he made his dive through the window, and he really was very little injured.

"Come in here," repeated Tom. "Fix something over this broken window so that I can take my bath. And then go and put something on that scratch. Don't you know better yet, than to cross Koku when he is excited?"

"Dat crazy ol' cannibal!" spat out Rad viciously. "I'll fix him yet. I'll pizen his rations, dat's what I'll do."

"You wouldn't be so bad as that, Rad!"

"Well, mebbe not," said the colored man, crawling in through the bathroom window. "It would take too much pizen, anyway, to kill that giant. Take as much as dey has to give an el'phant to kill it. Anyways, I's bound to fix him proper some time, yet."

These quarrels between Eradicate and Koku were intermittent. They almost always arose, too, because of the desire of the two servants to wait upon Tom or his father. They were very jealous of each other, and their clashes afforded Tom and his friends a good deal of amusement.

While the young inventor was in his bath the giant strode back into the bedroom, out of which Rad had scurried by another door, and proceeded to report the result of his night watch about the premises.

He had not much to tell. In fact, after Tom had gone into the house Koku had seen nobody lurking about at all. The fact remained that, earlier in the evening, somebody had made a close surveillance of the Swift house, but the mysterious marauder had not come back.

"All right, Koku. Keep your eyes open. I expect that enemy may return sometime. Too bad," he added to himself, "that I didn't get a better look at him."

"Koku know him next time," declared the giant.

"Why! you didn't even see him this time," cried Tom.

"See him boots. See marks him boots make. Know him boots. Waugh!"

"'Waugh!' yourself," returned Tom, shaking his head. "You are altogether too sure, Koku. You couldn't tell a man from his bootprints in the mud."

"Koku know," said the giant, just as confidently. "Wait. Him catch--see--show Master."

"Don't you go to grabbing every stranger who comes around the house or the works for a spy, and make me trouble. Remember now."

Koku nodded gravely and went away. When he met Rad suddenly in the hall with Mr. Swift's breakfast tray, the giant said "boo!" and almost cost the old colored man the loss of the tray.

"Dat big el'phant ought to be livin' in a barn," declared Rad. "Look at dat spear he come near runnin' me t'rough wid! If he had, yo' could ha' driv a tipcart full o' rubbish in after it. Lawsy me!"

But an hour later when Tom and his father started for the offices of the Swift Construction Company down the street, Rad and Koku were sitting before an enormous breakfast in the back kitchen and chatting together as companionably as ever.

The old inventor and his son arrived at the offices of the Swift Construction Company not long ahead of Mr. Richard Bartholomew. Tom had merely found time to read over the contract that had been jointly prepared by Ned Newton and the firm's legal advisers, before the railroad man came.

"No getting out of the provisions of that paper, Tom," Ned had whispered, when he saw Mr. Bartholomew coming into the outer office. "Is this your man

"Yes."

"A sharp looking little fellow," commented Ned. "But even if he were bent on tricking us, this contract would hold him. He is solvent and so is his road--as yet. If it has a bad name in the market that is more because of slander by the Montagne Lewis crowd than from any real cause. I've found that out this morning."

"Faithful Nero!" chuckled Tom. "Aren't going to let the Swifts get done, are you?"

"Not if I can help it," declared Ned Newton emphatically.

A clerk brought Mr. Bartholomew into the private office and he was introduced to Newton. If he considered the financial manager of the Swift Construction Company very young for his responsible position, after he had read the contract he felt considerable respect for Ned Newton.

"You've got me here, young man, hard and fast," Mr. Bartholomew said. "If I was inclined to want to wriggle out, I see no chance of it. But I don't. You have set forth here exactly my meaning and intent. I want your best efforts in this matter, Mr. Swift, and if you give them to me I'll foot the bill as agreed."

"You've got me interested, I confess," said Tom. "By the way, were your friends following you when you came here this morning?"

"My friends?" repeated Mr. Bartholomew, for a moment puzzled.

"The spy that you mentioned," said Tom, smiling.

"That Andy O'Malley?" exclaimed Bartholomew. "Haven't spotted him today."

"He spotted me last night," said Tom grimly, and proceeded to relate what had happened.

"You fooled 'em that time, young man!" exclaimed the railroad president, with satisfaction. "I am convinced that Montagne Lewis is behind it. Look out for these fellows when you get to work, Mr. Swift. They will stop at nothing. I tell you that the fight is on between the Hendrickton & Pas Alos and the Hendrickton & Western. I have either got to break them or they will break me."

"You seem very sure that there is a conspiracy against you, Mr. Bartholomew," said the senior Swift reflectively.

"I am sure," was the reply. "And I am likewise sure that this scheme of electrification of my road through the Pas Alos Range is the only salvation for my railroad."

"I should call it a big contract," Ned Newton said, thoughtfully.

"You have said it! But it is not a visionary scheme I have in mind. You must know--you Swifts--how successful such an electrification through the Rockies has been made by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway."

"I've looked that up," confessed Tom, with enthusiasm. "That was a great piece of work."

"It is. It is. But I hope for even a greater outcome of your experiments, Mr. Swift. Of course, I do not expect to compete with that great road. They had millions to spend, and they spent them. Those Baldwin-Westinghouse locomotives the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul built in nineteen hundred and nineteen are wonderful machines. They have got forty-two freight locomotives, fifteen passenger locomotives and four switchers of that new type.

"The Jandel patent that my road uses is, in some degree, the equal of those Baldwin-Westinghouse locomotives. At least, our machines equal the C., M. & St. P. on our level road. They can reach a mile-a-minute gait. But when it comes to speed and pull on steep grades--Ah! that is where they fail."

"You will have to get power in the hills for your stations," suggested Tom, thoughtfully.

"I know that. I know where the power is coming from. I gathered those waterfalls in years ago. Lewis and his crowd can't shut me off from them. But I have got to have a speedier and more powerful type of electric locomotive than has ever yet been built to protect the Hendrickton & Pas Alos Railroad from any rivalry.

"I am looking to you Swifts to give me that. I am risking this twenty-five thousand dollars upon your succeeding. And I am offering you the hundred thousand dollars bonus for the right to purchase the first successful locomotives that can be built covered by your patents. Is it plain?"

"It is eminently satisfactory," said Mr. Swift, quietly.

"I will do my very best," agreed Tom, warmly. "There isn't a thing the matter with the agreement," declared Ned Newton, with confidence. "Gentlemen, sign on the dotted line."

Five minutes later the twin contracts were in force. One went into the safe of the Swift Construction Company. The other, Mr. Richard Bartholomew bore away with him.