Flying swiftly through the air the young inventor and his two companions were soon within sight of Shopton. As they approached the town from over the lake, and a patch of woods, they attracted no attention until they were near home, and the craft settled down easily in the yard of the Swift property.
That the aged inventor was glad to see his son back need not be said, and Mrs. Baggert's welcome was scarcely less warm than that of Mr. Swift. Mr. Sharp and Mr. Damon were also made to feel that their friends were glad to see them safe again.
"We must go at once and see Mr. Pendergast, the bank president," declared Mr. Swift. "We must take the money to him, and demand that he withdraw the offer of reward for your arrest."
"Yes," agreed Tom. "I guess the reward will go to some one besides Andy Foger."
There was considerable surprise on the part of the bank clerks when our hero, and his friends, walked in, carrying a heavy black bag. But they could only conjecture what was in the wind, for the party was immediately closeted with the president.
Mr. Pendergast was so startled that he hardly knew what to say when Tom, aided by Mr. Sharp, told his story. But the return of the money, with documents from Sheriff Durkin, certifying as to the arrest of Morse and Happy Harry, soon convinced him of the truth of the account.
"It's the most wonderful thing I ever heard," said the president.
"Well, what are you going to do about it?" asked Mr. Damon. "You have accused Tom and myself of being thieves, and—"
"I apologize—I apologize most humbly!" exclaimed Mr. Pendergast. "I also—"
"What about the reward?" went on Mr. Damon. "Bless my bank notes, I don't want any of it, for I have enough, but I think Tom and Mr. Sharp and the sheriff are entitled to it."
"Certainly," said the president, "certainly. It will be paid at once. I will call a meeting of the directors. In fact they are all in the bank now, save Mr. Foger, and I can reach him by telephone. If you will just rest yourselves in that room there I will summon you before the board, when it convenes, and be most happy to pay over the five thousand dollars reward. It is the most wonderful thing I ever heard of—most wonderful!"
In a room adjoining that of the president, Tom, his father and Mr. Damon waited for the directors to meet. Mr. Foger could be heard entering a little later.
"What's this I hear, Pendergast?" he cried, rubbing his hands. "The bank robbers captured, eh? Well, that's good news. Of course we'll pay the reward. I always knew my boy was a smart lad. Five thousand dollars will be a tidy sum for him. Of course his chum, Sam Snedecker is entitled to some, but not much. So they've caught Tom Swift and that rascally Damon, eh? I always knew he was a scoundrel! Putting money in here as a blind!"
Mr. Damon heard, and shook his fist.
"I'll make him suffer for that," he whispered.
"Tom Swift arrested, eh?" went on Mr. Foger. "I always knew he was a bad egg. Who caught them? Where are they?"
"In the next room," replied Mr. Pendergast, who loved a joke almost as well as did Tom. "They may come out now," added the president, opening the door, and sending Ned Newton in to summon Tom, Mr. Swift and Mr. Damon, who filed out before the board of directors.
"Gentlemen," began the president, "I have the pleasure of presenting to you Mr. Thomas Swift, Mr. Barton Swift and Mr. Wakefield Damon. I also have the honor to announce that Mr. Thomas Swift and Mr. Damon have been instrumental in capturing the burglars who recently robbed our bank, and I am happy to add that young Mr. Swift and Mr. Wakefeld Damon have, this morning, brought to me all but a small part of the money stolen from us. Which money they succeeded, after a desperate fight."
"A fight partly with seltzer bottles," interrupted Mr. Damon proudly. "Don't forget them."
"Partly with seltzer bottles," conceded the president with a smile. "After a fight they succeeded in getting the money back. Here it is, and I now suggest that we pay the reward we promised."
"What? Reward? Pay them? The money back? Isn't my son to receive the five thousand dollars for informing as to the identity of the thief—isn't he?" demanded Mr. Foger, almost suffocating from his astonishment at the unexpected announcement.
"Hardly," answered Mr. Pendergast dryly. "Your son's information happened to be very wrong. The tools he saw Tom have in the bag were airship tools, not burglar's. And the same gang that once robbed Mr. Swift robbed our bank. Tom Swift captured them, and is entitled to the reward. It will be necessary for us directors to make up the sum, personally, and I, for one, am very glad to do so."
"So am I," came in a chorus from the others seated at the table.
"But—er—I understood that my son—" stammered Mr. Foger, who did not at all relish having to see his son lose the reward.
"It was all a mistake about your son," commented Mr. Pendergast. "Gentlemen, is it your desire that I write out a check for young Mr. Swift?"
They all voted in the affirmative, even Mr. Foger being obliged to do so, much against his wishes. He was a very much chagrined man, when the directors' meeting broke up. Word was sent at once, by telegraph, to all the cities where reward posters had been displayed, recalling the offer, and stating that Tom Swift and Mr. Damon were cleared. Mr. Sharp had never been really accused.
"Well, let's go home," suggested Tom when he had the five-thousand-dollar check in his pocket.
"I want another ride in the Red Cloud as soon as it's repaired."
"So do I!" declared Mr. Damon.
The eccentric man and Mr. Swift walked on ahead, and Tom strolled down toward the dock, for he thought he would take a short trip in his motor-boat.
He was near the lake, not having met many persons, when he saw a figure running up from the water. He knew who it was in an instant Andy Foger. As for the bully, at the sight of Tom he hesitated, than came boldly on. Evidently he had not heard of our hero's arrival.
"Ha!" exclaimed the red-haired lad, "I've been looking for you. The police want you, Tom Swift."
"Oh, do they?" asked the young inventor gently.
"Yes; for robbery. I'm going to get the reward, too. You thought you were smart, but I saw those burglar tools in your valise. I sent the police after you. So you've come back, eh? I'm going to tell Chief Simonson. You wait."
"Yes," answered Tom, "I'll wait. So the police want me, do they?"
"That's what they do," snarled Andy. "I told you I'd get even with you, and I've done it."
"Well," burst out Tom, unable to longer contain himself, as he thought of all he had suffered at the hands of the red-haired bully, "I said I'd get even with you, but I haven't done it yet. I'm going to now. Take off your coat, Andy. You and I are going to have a little argument."
"Don't you dare lay a finger on me!" blustered the squint-eyed one.
Tom peeled off his coat. Andy, who saw that he could not escape, rushed forward, and dealt the young inventor a blow on the chest. That was all Tom wanted, and the next instant he went at Andy hammer and tongs. The bully tried to fight, but he had no chance with his antagonist, who was righteously angry, and who made every blow tell. It was a sorry-looking Andy Foger who begged for mercy a little later.
Tom had no desire to administer more than a deserved reward to the bully, but perhaps he did add a little for interest. At any rate Andy thought so.
"You just wait!" he cried, as he limped off. "I'll make you sorry for this."
"Oh, don't go to any trouble on my account," said Tom gently, as he put on his coat. But Andy did go to considerable trouble to be revenged on the young inventor, and whether he succeeded or not you may learn by reading the fourth book of this series, to be called "Tom Swift and His Submarine Boat; or, Under the Ocean for Sunken Treasure," in which I shall relate the particulars of a voyage that was marvelous in the extreme.
Tom reached home in a very pleasant frame of mind that afternoon. Things had turned out much better than he thought they would. A few weeks later the two bank robbers, who were found guilty, were sentenced to long terms, but their companions were not captured. Tom sent Sheriff Durkin a share of the reward, and the lad invested his own share in bank stock, after giving some to Mr. Sharp. Mr. Damon refused to accept any. As for Mr. Swift, once he saw matters straightened out, and his son safe, he resumed his work on his prize submarine boat, his son helping him.
As for Tom, he alternated his spare time between trips in the airship and his motor-boat, and frequently a certain young lady from the Rocksmond Seminary was his companion. I think you know her name by this time. Now, for a while, we will take leave of Tom Swift and his friends, trusting to meet them again.