A MOTOR-BOAT AUCTION
"Where are you going, Tom?" asked Mr. Barton Swift of his son as the young man was slowly pushing his motor-cycle out of the yard toward the country road. "You look as though you had some object in view."
"So I have, dad. I'm going over to Lanton."
"To Lanton? What for?"
"I want to have a look at that motor-boat."
"Which boat is that, Tom? I don't recall your speaking about a boat over at Lanton. What do you want to look at it for?"
"It's the motor-boat those fellows had who tried to get away with your turbine model invention, dad. The one they used at the old General Harkness mansion, in the woods near the lake, and the same boat that fellow used when he got away from me the day I was chasing him here."
"Oh, yes, I remember now. But what is the boat doing over at Lanton?"
"That's where it belongs. It's the property of Mr. Bently Hastings. The thieves stole it from him, and when they ran away from the old mansion, the time Mr. Damon and I raided the place, they left the boat on the lake. I turned it over to the county authorities, and they found out it belonged to Mr. Hastings. He has it back now, but I understand it's somewhat damaged, and he wants to get rid of it. He's going to sell it at auction to-day, and I thought I'd go over and take a look at it. You see—"
"Yes, I see, Tom," exclaimed Mr. Swift with a laugh. "I see what you're aiming at. You want a motor-boat, and you're going all around Robin Hood's barn to get at it."
"No, dad, I only—"
"Oh, I know you, Tom, my lad!" interrupted the inventor, shaking his finger at his son, who seemed somewhat confused. "You have a nice rowing skiff and a sailboat, yet you are hankering for a motor-boat. Come now, own up. Aren't you?"
"Well, dad, a motor-boat certainly would go fine on Lake Carlopa. There's plenty of room to speed her, and I wonder there aren't more of them. I was going to see what Mr. Hastings' boat would sell for, but I didn't exactly think of buying it' Still—"
"But you wouldn't buy a damaged boat, would you?"
"It isn't much damaged," and in his eagerness the young inventor (for Tom Swift had taken out several patents) stood his motor-cycle up against the fence and came closer to his father. "It's only slightly damaged," he went on. "I can easily fix it. I looked it all over before I gave it in charge of the authorities, and it's certainly a fine boat. It's worth nine hundred dollars—or it was when it was new."
"That's a good deal of money for a boat," and Mr. Swift looked serious, for though he was well off, he was inclined to be conservative.
"Oh, I shouldn't think of paying that much. In fact, dad, I really had no idea of bidding at the auction. I only thought I'd go over and get an idea of what the boat might sell for. Perhaps some day—"
Tom paused. Since his father had begun to question him some new plans had come into the lad's head. He looked at his parent and saw a smile beginning to work around the corners of Mr. Swift's lips. There was also a humorous look in the eyes of the older inventor....