A pa.s.sing farmer was prevailed on to take the party in his big wagon to the nearest town, Mr. Hailing going on ahead in his airship. Tom's craft could not be moved, being badly damaged.
Once in town Peters and Boylan were put in jail, on the charges for which Tom carried warrants. Mr. Damon was taken to a hotel and a doctor summoned. It was as Mr. Halling had guessed. His friend had been ill, and so weak that he could not get out of bed. It was this that enabled the plotters to so easily keep him a prisoner.
By degrees Mr. Damon told his story. He had rashly allowed Peters to get control of most of his fortune, and, in a vain hope of getting back some of his losses, had, one night--the night he disappeared, in fact--agreed to meet Peters and some of his men to talk matters over. Of this Mr. Damon said nothing to his wife.
He went out that night to meet Peters in the garden, but the plotters had changed their plans. They boldly kidnapped their victim, chloroformed him and took him away in Tom's airship, which Boylan and some of his tools daringly stole a short time previously. Later they returned it, as they had no use for it at the lonely house.
Mr. Damon was taken to the house, and there kept a prisoner. The men hoped to prevail on the fears of his wife to make her give up the valuable property. But we have seen how Tom foiled Peters.
The experience of Mr. Damon, coupled with rough treatment he received, and lack of good food, soon made him ill. He was so weak that he could not help himself, and with that he was kept under guard. So he had no chance to escape or send his wife or friends any word.
"But I'm all right now, Tom, thanks to you!" said he. "Bless my pocketbook, I don't care if my fortune is lost, as long as I'm alive and can get back to my wife."
"But I don't believe your fortune will be lost," said Tom. "I think I have the picture and other evidence that will save it,"
and he told of his photo telephone, and of what it had accomplished.
"Bless my eyelashes!" cried Mr. Damon. "What a young man you are, Tom Swift!"
Tom smiled gladly. He knew now that his old friend was himself once more.
There is little left to tell. Chance had aided Tom in a most wonderful way--chance and the presence of Mr. Halling with his airship at just the right moment.
Tom made a diligent effort to find out who it was that had chloroformed him in the telephone booth that time, but learned nothing definite. Peters and Boylan were both examined as to this on their trials, but denied it, and the young inventor was forced to conclude that it must have been some of the unscrupulous men who had taken his father's patent some time before.
"They may have heard of your prosperity, and thought it a good chance to rob you," suggested Ned.
"Maybe," agreed Tom. "Well, we'll let it go at that. Only I hope they don't come again."
Mr. Damon was soon home with his wife again, and Peters and Boylan were held in heavy bail. They had secreted most of Mr. Damon's wealth, falsely telling him it was lost, and they were forced to give back his fortune. The evidence against them was clear and conclusive. When Tom went into court with his phonograph record of the talk of Peters, even though the man's voice was hoa.r.s.e from a cold when he talked, and when his picture was shown, in the telephone booth, the jury at once convicted him.
Boylan, when he learned of the missing b.u.t.ton in Tom's possession, confessed that he and some of his men who were birdmen had taken Tom's airship. They wanted a means of getting Mr. Damon to the lonely house without being traced, and they accomplished it.
As Tom had surmised, Peters had become suspicious after his last talk with Mrs. Damon, and had fled. He disguised himself and went into hiding with the others at the lonely house. Then he learned that the authorities of another city, where he had swindled many, were on his trail, and he decided to decamp with his gang, taking Mr. Damon with them. For this purpose Tom's airship was taken the second time, and a wholesale escape, with Mr. Damon a prisoner, was planned.
But fate was against the plotters. Two of them did manage to get away, but they were not really wanted. The big fish were Peters and Boylan, and they were securely caught in the net of the law.
Peters was greatly surprised when he learned of Tom's trap, and of the photo telephone. He had no idea he had been incriminating himself when he talked over the wire.
"Well, it's all over," remarked Ned to Tom, one day, when the disabled auto and the airship had been brought home and repaired.
"The plotters are in prison for long terms, and Mr. Damon is found, together with his fortune. The photo telephone did it, Tom."
"Not all of it--but a good bit," admitted the young inventor, with a smile.
"What are you going to do next, Tom?"
"I hardly know. I think--"
Before Tom could finish, a voice was heard in the hall outside the library.
"Bless my overshoes! Where's Tom? I want to thank him again for what he did for me," and Mr. Damon, now fully recovered, came in.
"Bless my suspender b.u.t.ton, but it's good to be alive, Tom!" he cried.
"It certainly is," agreed Tom. "And the next time you go for a conference with such men as Peters, look out for airships."
"I will, Tom, I will!" exclaimed Mr. Damon. "Bless my watch chain, I will!"
And now, for a time, we will say good-bye to Tom Swift, leaving him to perfect his other inventions.
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